An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, October 15, 2018
Music: current count 30473  rated (+43), 286  unrated (+4).
Another week with much more old music than new. One chunk of old music was an attempt to fill in a few holes after baritone sax great Hamiet Bluiett's death. Other A- Bluiett records my database:
I didn't follow up with World Saxophone Quartet albums I may have missed. I didn't care for their early work -- thought they needed something extra beyond the four-sax harmonics, as the few records I wound up liking proved. Still, Napster filed a couple under Bluiett's name, reminding me that I was missing some.
I was pointed to the rest of the "old music" by Will Friedland's new book, The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums. I made a list of the 57 albums reviewed at great depth there, found that I had only heard a third of them (19/57), and vowed to improve myself. Usually I went straight to the selected album, but sometimes I dug a little deeper -- e.g., wound up playing all of Blossom Dearie's Verve albums, a couple of extras from Doris Day and Rosemary Clooney, and a second Matt Dennis album (that got compiled into a single CD with the pick). On the other hand, I figured Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald would have turned into vast time sinks (plus I already have 15 Cole and 36 Fitzgerald albums graded; Ella at Zardi's was a vault music album from last year, and too good to skip). I felt more need to check out Billy Eckstine (4 records), but I've never been that much of a fan. As for Robert Goulet, his is a name I remembered from my youth but hadn't heard in as many years -- a mistake I'm not likely to repeat soon.
I'll try to knock off some more this week: Judy Garland, Eydie Gormé, Dick Haymes, Peggy Lee, Marilyn Maye, Carmen McRae, Anita O'Day, Della Reese, a dozen more. Friedland's list is skewed pretty strongly to the string-drenched pop of the first few years of the LP era -- basically the pre-rock and anti-rock I grew up rebelling against, so it's not very promising ground for me. Also not finding everything, so I'll probably stop close to 80% (missing so far: Lena Horne, Barb Jungr, Bobby Troup).
I did manage a milestone on one months-long project. I've spent a couple years now collecting bits of text from my on-line notebook. My first pass picked up all the capsule reviews of jazz albums, which I sorted into two book files: one on records from 2000 forward, the other on records recorded earlier (20th century). Those volumes added up to 765 pp (pre-2000) and 1650 pp (post-2000). I then went back through the notebooks and started pulling out all of the political notes (four volumes: 1590 pp 2001-08, 1768 pp for 2009-12, 1666 pp for 2013-16, and 858 pp since 2017), plus another file for various personal notes (memoir, health crises, dinners, deaths, plus some movies and tv: another 780 pp).
When I finished those, I realized that there were still a couple of major chunks of writing unarchived from the notebook: non-jazz capsule reviews (1863 pp) and miscellaneous music writings (e.g., intros to my CG posts, year-end notes, obits: 1735 pp). I finished my initial pass on Sunday, so the total for the nine volumes is 12,685 pages, which works out to about 5.4 million words.
While most of what I've written since 2001 is either in the notebook or accessibly linked from it, I still need to look at other files on the website and fold them in where appropriate. Biggest chunk here is probably the longer music reviews, but I also have fragments of book drafts and project plans, and other things. Would be nice if I can recover my email files -- lost in my early-summer server crash, but perhaps not hopelessly. Other things I need to do:
Ultimately, I see these files as resources for constructing various other books and/or websites. Laura has read through the first of the political files (2001-08), but we haven't yet had any substantial discussions on where she thinks it should go. I have various scattershot ideas on these things, but won't try to develop them here and now. I understand that essentially no one will want to sit down and read any of these "books" straight through, I find that a fair amount of the writing has held up over time (some still useful, some even amusing). One good thing for me about this process is that it's given me something tangible (and relatively non-taxing) to do over the past two year. But now it's starting to come to a point where I need to move on: pick a project (or two or three) and focus on that. End of the year might be a good deadline for wrapping this up and figuring that out.
A couple more notes:
Allen Lowe (on Facebook) recommended a 20-CD box from Sony (Canada) called The Perfect Roots & Blues Collection. This looks like a series of CDs Sony/Legacy issued in the early 1990s. If so, I've heard (and own) nearly all of them, and I agree that they've been a really superb series. Even at Amazon's own price ($93.99) it's a bargain, but they have dealers in the UK offering it for much less.
When I looked it up, I noticed another tempting 20-CD box, Jazz From America on Disques Vogue -- jazz recorded by American artists in Paris late 1940s/early 1950s. RCA released a series of these in the early 1990s. I have a dozen or more, most quite good.
I've never bought any of Sony's massive boxes, so I can't speak as to packaging and documentation, but I did write a bit about The Perfect Jazz Collection back in November 2011. For me, and possibly for you, the problem's always been owning so many of the packaged albums the big boxes, even when quite cheap, are still not cost-effective. Still, one can imagine others these sets would be perfect for. Sony also has massive collections of Miles Davis and Johnny Cash, as you can well imagine.
I also want to point out two books that came out last week, that my wife, Laura Tillem, edited:
Both authors live here in Wichita, and are good friends of ours.
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Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Sunday, October 14, 2018
The big story of the week seems to be the evident murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He had moved from Saudi Arabia to Virginia, but entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to "finalize some paperwork for his upcoming marriage to his Turkish fiancée." He never emerged from the consulate. The Turkish government has much evidence of foul play, and there are reports that "US intelligence intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to 'capture' Khashoggi" -- something they made no attempt to warn Khashoggi about.
Some links (quotes above are from Hill, below):
The week started with Nikki Haley's resignation as US ambassador to the UN, but a week later it's hard to find any mention of it. Then the Florida panhandle got demolished by Hurricane Michael. Then there was some sort of White House summit between Trump and Kanye West. Meanwhile, elections are coming.
Some scattered links this week:
Monday, October 8, 2018
Music: current count 30430  rated (+40), 282  unrated (+2).
Everything below is jazz. Most of it is new stuff I wasn't serviced on (unless someone sent me a download link which I didn't open; i.e., it was streamed, either from Napster or Bandcamp). Only a couple of CDs I did receive, mostly because I took so long making up my mind about the Jonathan Finlayson record (A-, but just barely). Most of my tips came from Phil Freeman's monthly Ugly Beauty column at Stereogum. Biggest find there was the trove of Japanese jazz from the 1970s (for once, the sampler is the place to start). The only old music was a Penguin Guide 4-star I had missed, by a saxophonist who showed up on at least three of this week's new discs (to best effect with Matt Penman).
I've walked Freeman's columns back to March, which gets increasingly into things I've already heard. One thing I didn't know was that Buell Neidlinger died back on March 16. He was the bassist in Cecil Taylor's 1956-61 groups -- in at least one case the album was initially under his name (New York City R&B). My database credits him with four A- records from the 1980s: Swingrass '83, Across the Tracks, Rear View Mirror, and Locomotive (all recorded 1979-87, but most got delayed releases -- Swingrass '83 was the first I noticed, and fell in love with.
The great baritone saxophonist Haimet Bluiett also died last week. I need to take some time and dive into his dicography -- I see, for instance, that Napster has Birthright, a PG 4-star from 1977. Some A- records I have heard: Live at Carlos I: Last Night; Young Warrior, Old Warrior; Makin' Whoopee: Tribute to the Nat King Cole Trio; The Calling. Bluiett also batted clean up in the World Saxophone Quartet, and he was particularly prominent on their best-ever Political Blues.
I did a little work on my project of collecting the last bits from my on-line notebook into book form. I'm up to February 2015 with a volume of miscellaneous music notes (1343 pp) and another of non-jazz capsule reviews (1515 pp). I doubt the former (which largely consists of introductions like this one) will be of any real interest, but think it would be handy to get it into searchable form. It turns out that 2011-13 were big years for misc. notes, mostly because that was when Robert Christgau's Expert Witness at MSN encouraged comments, and that resulted in a lot of community commentary. I jotted down pretty much everything I contributed -- often answering questions on recommended CDs, or extemporaneously venting on subjects like Charlie Parker.
I always figured my non-jazz capsule reviews were too spotty for any sort of reference book/website, but it turns out that there are enough of them to provide a decent starting point if other people got interested in adding to them.
I interrupted work on this to post another batch of Robert Christgau's Xgau Sez questions and answers. At some point I'd like to adapt that framework to offer a similar service here. I've struggled for many years to crank out pieces I think might be of public interest. It might be a relief to let other people direct me for a while.
I noticed this week that Tom Smucker has finally published a whole book on what's long been one of his favorite topics: Why the Beach Boys Matter. I have a copy on order. Ironically, my own original foray into rock criticism came from arguing with Don Malcolm over the Beach Boys. I'm surprised he never got around to writing his own book. Also noticed and ordered a copy of a new edition of Vince Alletti's The Disco Files 1973-78. I actually knew both Vince and Tom during my few years in New York, so I consider them old friends.
Posting of this got delayed as I was trying to figure out when I was done with Weekend Roundup. I had started intending to write something different on Brett Kavanaugh, but never really got past the preface. I have some sympathy for the argument that something that happened over 35 years ago shouldn't permanently tar a person. I think that many interactions between the sexes are confusing, and best forgotten. I think we should be more tolerant and forgiving of what are often just human foibles. On the other hand, I'm not sure that of my general sensitivities actually offer Kavanaugh much benefit. I could see why a normal person might not recall details or motives of the charges, but such a person would at least recognize the horror and pain behind the charges, and sympathized with the victim. Kavanaugh didn't do that. His blanket denial effectively repeated the original attacks. And his insistence that the charges were purely political, a "hit job" ordered by the Democrats, pure "borking," effectively said that he thought he should be exempt from his actions and consequences purely because of his politics.
As it turned out, Kavanaugh's final testimony was one of the most disgusting performances I have ever seen -- something that should have disqualified him all by itself. Before you can forgive sins, you first must recognize them and make amends. Kavanaugh didn't come close to doing that. Indeed, his entire career, and the broader agenda of the political movement he furthers, offers little more than repeated examples of the strong trampling the weak and the rich abusing the poor.
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Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Sunday, October 7, 2018
Story of the week: It's official: Brett Kavanaugh just became the least popular Supreme Court justice in modern history. The Senate vote was 50-48, almost a straight party vote. The Republican advantage in the Senate is 51-49 (counting Angus King and Bernie Sanders as Democrats). Trump's first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed by 54-45, with all Republicans and three Democrats (Manchin, Heitkamp, and Donnelly). Opposition was clearly political: Republicans had made it so by their refusal to even hold so much as a hearing on Merrick Garland, Obama's moderate nominee for the seat, turning it into a spoil for the 2016 election winner. But other than being cut from the same political cloth, Gorsuch had no personal baggage that made his nomination controversial.
Republicans have dreamed and schemed of reversing the Court's "liberal bent" -- really just an honest belief that the Constitution protects individual and minority civil rights -- ever since Nixon's "southern strategy" nominated Clement Haynsworth and, failing that, G. Harrold Carswell in 1969. The Republican campaign took an even more extremist turn when Reagan nominated the blatantly ideological Robert Bork in 1987 (after having slipped Antonin Scalia by in 1986). But only with GW Bush did Republicans consistently apply a rigorous ideological litmus test to their nominees. (Bush's nomination of Harriet Myers was quashed by hard-liners who didn't trust her to be conservative enough. They were still livid that his father's appointment didn't turn out to be as reliably reactionary as Scalia and Clarence Thomas.)
Kavanaugh turned out to be a very different story (from Gorsuch), yet the result was nearly the same. Only one Democrat (Manchin) voted for Kavanaugh, while one Republican opposed the nomination (Murkowski, who wound up not voting in an offset deal with an absent Republican senator). The first problem Kavanaugh faced was that he would replace Anthony Kennedy, who's run up a dreadful record in recent years but was still regarded as a moderate swing vote between the two polarized four-member camps. Kavanaugh would tilt that balance 5-4, allowing conservatives to rule almost arbitrarily for their political sponsors. Second, he was a person whose entire career was spent as a political operative: most notably as part of the Ken Starr prosecution of Bill Clinton, and later in the Bush White House where he argued for ever greater presidential power (at least for Republicans). A big part of the early debate over his nomination concerned discover of the paper trail of his partisan activities against Clinton and for Bush. His supporters in the White House and Congress made sure that those documents were never made available, and as such the extent of his partisan corruption was never properly aired.
His record as a DC Circuit Court judge was also largely unexamined, although his ruling, since overturned, against a detained immigrant girl who wanted to obtain an abortion, is a pretty clear signal that his views on abortion show no respect for "settled law." This case also shows his contempt for immigrants and refugees, his willingness to apply the law differently for different classes of people, and his reticence to restrain abuses of government power (at least against some people). I've long believed that the proper role for the Supreme Court is to build on the best aspirations of the Constitution to make government serve all the people, to protect the rights of minorities and individuals from the all-too-common abuses of power. Through much of my life, the Court at least leaned in that direction -- often not as hard as I would like, but their rulings against segregation, to defend a free press, to establish a nationwide right to abortion and most recently to marriage, have been major accomplishments, consistent with the understanding of America I grew up with, as a free, just, and egalitarian nation (ideals we haven't always achieved, but that we most often aspired to).
So, when I'm faced with the question of whether a given person should be given the responsibility of serving on the Supreme Court, the only question that matters to me is whether that person will understand and shape the rule of law in ways that promote greater freedom, equality, and justice, or not. After a fair investigation, I see nothing whatsoever that suggests to me that Brett Kavanaugh is a person who should be entrusted with that responsibility. In fact, what evidence I've seen suggests that he would actually be worse than any of the four partisan conservative judges currently on the court. To my mind, that should have been enough to settle the matter -- although between the fact that Republicans tend to vote as an arbitrary pack, and the tendency of many "moderate" Democrats to defer to Republican leadership, that wouldn't have been enough to defeat Kavanaugh.
However, Kavanaugh's confirmation didn't solely hinge on whether he'd be a good or bad Justice. It wound up turning on whether he was guilty of sexual assault, and whether he lied under oath about that charge (and ultimately about many other things). With these charges, Kavanaugh's confirmation wound up recapitulating that of Clarence Thomas back in 1991. The charges are slightly different. Thomas was accused of making grossly inappropriate office comments, which was especially grievous given that he ran (or mis-managed) the Reagan administration office responsible for regulating such matters. The initial charge against Kavanaugh was that as a high school student he had committed a drunken assault on a girl, which stopped barely short of rape. (Others subsequently came forward to charge Kavanaugh with other acts of drunken, sexually charged loutishness, but none of those women were allowed to testify or further investigated.)
You can read or spin these charges in various ways. On the one hand, sexual assault (Kavanaugh) is a graver charge than sexual harassment (Thomas); on the other, Kavanaugh was younger at the time and the event took place at a party when he was drunk, whereas Thomas was at work, presumably sober, and effectively the boss of the person he harassed. It is unclear whether this was an isolated incident for Kavanaugh, or part of a longer-term pattern (which is at least suggested by subsequent, uninvestigated charges, plus lots of testimony as to his drinking). Still, the one thing that was practically identical in both cases is that both nominees responded with the same playbook: blanket denials, while their supporters orchestrated a smear campaign against the women who reluctantly aired the complaints, while trying to portay the nominees as the real victims. Thomas called the charges against him a "lynching." Kavanaugh's preferred term was "hit job." Neither conceded that as Supreme Court nominees they should be held to a higher standard than criminal defendants. In the end, in both cases, marginal Senators wound up defending their vote as "reasonable doubt" against the charges. There was, after all, nothing admirable about being charged or defending themselves in such a disingenuous way. Both cases have wound up only adding to the cynicism many of us view the Courts with.
I'll tack on a bunch of links at the end which will round up the details as we know them, as well as other aspects of the process, not least the political rationalizations and consequences. But one thing that I think has been much less discussed than it should be is that neither Thomas nor Kavanaugh promoted or defended themselves on their own. I don't know who was the first Supreme Court nominee to hire lawyers and publicists to coach in the confirmation process, but the practice goes back before Thomas. I was reminded of this when John Kyl was appointed to fill the late John McCain's Senate seat. At the time Kyl was working for a DC law form representing Kavanaugh for his confirmation, so Kyl instantly became Kavanaugh's most secure vote. That nominees need help managing their egos and loose tongues was certainly proved by Bork, who managed to alienate and offend 58 Senators (almost all of whom had previously voted for Scalia, not exactly known for his tact). Mostly this handling means to make sure that the nominee doesn't say anything substantive about the law that may raise the hackles of uncommitted Senators, so the handlers only get noticed in the breech of an inadvertent gaffe. However, when something does go wrong, the first decision is whether to fight or flee -- since Nixon fought for Haynsworth (and lost), over a dozen nominees have simply withdrawn, often when faced with far less embarrassing charges than Thomas or Kavanaugh. As we saw with Myers, a nominee with no natural Democratic support can be brought down by a handful of vigilant Republicans, allowing the fringe of the party to insist on a harder candidate.
With a 51-49 majority, it wouldn't have taken much more than two Republicans to force Trump to withdraw Kavanaugh, but in the end only Murkowski opposed, and she was offset by Manchin (not that Pence wouldn't have been thrilled to cast a 50-50 tiebreaker). A couple of Republicans waffled a bit, but Collins and Flake have a long history of feigning decency then folding, and most simply don't care how bad a candidate looks (e.g., they voted for Betsy DeVos). They're quite happy to win with a bare minimum of votes, even when the polls are against them (e.g., their corporate income tax giveaway), figuring they can always con the voters again come election day. The problem with replacing Kavanaugh with a less embarrassing candidate came down to timing: restarting the process would have pushed it past the election into lame-duck territory, and possibly into the next Congress, which will likely have fewer Republicans (although not necessarily in the Senate). Never let it be said that the Republicans have missed an opportunity to gain an advantage -- and there are few prize they covet more than control of the Supreme Court.
Further links on the Cavanaugh Nomination:
Some scattered links this week:
Monday, October 1, 2018
Music: current count 30390  rated (+25), 280  unrated (+7).
Week got wiped out several different ways. Helped a friend fix a huge Russian dinner on Friday. Shopped for that on Wednesday, having to hit up nine (or was it eleven?) stores along the way, then spent from Thursday afternoon to something like 4AM doing prep for another 6-7 hours of cooking on Friday. Wound up with way too much food, but much of it was magnificent. Only the dessert disappointed, an attempt at Prague cake which I now understand doesn't resemble the real thing at all.
Then Saturday I developed a fever with no other symptoms, and I basically shut down over the weekend -- so no Weekend Roundup, even following one of the more outrageous weeks of the Trump era. (Not like there won't be plenty more as bad or worse.) I started reading Jill Lepore's massive (or schematic, depending on your point of view) These Truths: A History of the United States. She starts by quoting the preamble to the US Constitution, and I realized it to offer not a practical description of the federal government but a vision statement of what that government should aspire to. The same, of course, could be said of the first lines of the Declaration of Independence, which Lepore also mentions.
What I then realized is that the standard for all three "separate and equal" branches of government should be their efforts to achieve these founding aspirations. We were fortunate, at least for the first half of my life, to have a Supreme Court that took those aspirations seriously, especially in its assertion of civil rights even while the other branches dragged their heels. Since Nixon, the right-wing has made a determined effort to overturn those rulings and to strip us of our rights, not least by stacking the courts with people who oppose the aspirations the nation was founded on. With the hearings on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, we got a good view of just what kind of person would gladly do such things. Regardless of whether Kavanaugh has committed sexual assault and/or perjury, he's made it abundantly clear that he's unfit for the Supreme Court, or for that matter for the judgeship he currently holds.
Maybe I'll write more on that later in the week. My most immediate task is to get September's Streamnotes organized and posted. Thinking about the dinner, then not thinking at all, I totally missed the end of the month. I can backdate what I have, making it look like I did it on time and before doing this. The latter, at least, is mostly true.
I'm not sure what comes next. I can always return to compiling my last two books from the notebooks (non-review music notes, non-jazz reviews; I'm currently stalled in May, 2013). I could take a look at Pitchfork's The 2000 Best Albums of the 1980s -- the music decade I paid the least attention to at the time. Another possible source of unheard records is Will Friedland's latest book, The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums. I picked up the book at the library, and while there is zero chance that I'll read it through, the actual album list isn't prohibitively long (probably 40-50 albums, half already heard). On the other hand, the new jazz queue has grown a bit (26 albums at the moment), so I should pay some attention to that.
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Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Sunday, September 30, 2018
Streamnotes (September 2018)
Blanked out and wasn't conscious when the calendar turned, so this has been a rush job to close, and back date. Aside from the lost last week, a healthy count -- helped by quite a bit of old music. Some (especially the singletons) were picked by Nate Chinen for his "129 Essential Albums of the Twenty-First Century" (only one I might have picked was Trio 3, but with four other A- records eligible, I'm not sure that's the one I'd pick).
Two musicians in the Old Music section died recently. For Big Jay McNeely, I picked out a compilation with dates in the title, since it's hard to sort out his discography otherwise, and the early 1950s were the heyday for sax honkers. I took a deeper dive into Randy Weston, but didn't come up with anything to match his previous A-list records: Blue Moses (1972), Carnival (1974), The Spirits of Our Ancestors (1991), Khepara (1998), and The African Nubian Suite (2012). (In writing this sentence, the one I was tempted to revisit was the Destry Rides Again/Little Niles twofer on Fresh Sound, but it seems to have vanished on Napster.)
I don't have time to compile the lists, but other Old Music artists have multiple A/A- albums, including Gene Ammons, Roland Kirk, Bud Powell, Irène Schweizer, and Zoot Sims. Bikini Kill is the odd artist in Old Music, but their records only recently showed up on Napster, and Robert Christgau gave them four A- grades (I have the two 1993-96 albums at B/B+, graded at the time).
Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on August 30. Past reviews and more information are available here (11817 records).
Dmitry Baevsky/Jeb Patton: We Two (2018, Jazz & People): Alto saxophonist, from St. Petersburg, Russia; half-dozen albums since 2004, earliest recorded in US, so probably was based in NY then (this one was recorded in France, but pianist Patton is American). Mainstream player, does an especially lovely job on the standards. Piano less impressive on solos, but fine accompaniment. A-
Bali Baby: Baylor Swift (2018, Twin, EP): Atlanta rapper, 20, "grew up listening to Lana Del Rey, memorizing all the songs on the Rock Band video game." Looks like she has a couple of mixtapes and a bunch of singles since 2016, with this meant as a commercial ploy. Sketchy, but pretty hooky, with eight tracks adding up to 26:39. A-
Dave Ballou & BeepHonk: The Windup (2017 , Clean Feed): Trumpet player, discography starts in 1998 on mainstream SteepleChase label but has lately moved more avant. Quartet, with guitar (Anthony Pirog), bass (Adam Hopkins), and drums (Mike Kuhl) -- the notes claim that the latter three came together in 2011 to form BeepHonk. (I'm not finding any previous records by them, although Pirog has a 2014 album, and a trio with a 2018 eponymous album, The Messthetics.) B+(**)
Tony Bennett & Diana Krall: Love Is Here to Stay (2018, Verve/Columbia): He's still sounding pretty good at 92, at least as long as he stays within his limits. She doesn't sound as excited about this mega-merger as Lady Gaga did, but she's a pro, and that makes all the difference. Her piano is perfect support, and her unaffected voice lets his limited eccentricities shine. B+(**)
Carlos Bica & Azul: Azul in Ljubljana (2015 , Clean Feed): Portuguese bassist, based in Berlin, released his first Azul album in 1996, a trio with Frank Möbus on guitar and Jim Black on drums -- same here. B+(*)
Black Art Jazz Collective: Armor of Pride (2018, HighNote): Hard bop consolidation, can't quite call it a supergroup although Jeremy Pelt (trumpet) and Wayne Escoffery (tenor sax) have never lacked for chops, James Burton offers solid trombone, and the rhythm section is filled with names you probably know: Xavier Davis, Vicente Archer, Johnathan Blake. Second album, short on ideas, not such great chops either. B
Geof Bradfield: Yes, and . . . Music for Nine Improvisers (2018, Delmark): Tenor saxophonist (also soprano and bass clarinet), originally from Houston, based in Chicago, a postbop player with a lot of range and a mixed inside/out nonet to stretch him out. B+(**)
Randy Brecker & Mats Holmquist With UMO Jazz Orchestra: Together (2018, Summit): Finnish big band, founded in 1975 by Heikki Sarmanto and Esko Linnavalli, a national treasure and a prime destination for composers all around the world. Holmquist is the arranger/conductor here, also composer of five tracks -- three others are by Chick Corea, the other is "Never Let Me Go." Trumpet player Brecker is the guest star, something he's much better at than writing his own albums. I found this pretty irritating when I played it last week, but approached in a better mood it verges on magnificent. B+(***) [cd]
Jonathan Butler: Close to You (2018, Mack Avenue): From South Africa, played in the jazz-rock group Pacific Express there, moved to England in early 1980s, wound up in California, has released twenty-some albums since 1985 with a cross-cultural mélange that is perhaps longest on gospel. I noticed this one when it showed up on various jazz lists -- mostly because that's where the label markets. Mostly David-Bacharach songs given a jazzy gloss, which sometimes makes them less icky, sometimes more. C+
Daniel Carter/Hilliard Greene/David Haney: Live Constructions (2017 , Slam): Carter plays trumpet and tenor sax (not his usual alto sax), in kind of an avant-chamber group with double bass and piano. The five "constructions," short at 31:04, never build into much. B
Cyrus Chestnut: Kaleidoscope (2018, High Note): Mainstream pianist, quickly became a star when he signed on Atlantic in 1994. Trio here, Eric Wheeler (bass) and Chris Beck (drums), with eight (of 13) pieces written by claslsical composers (Mozart, Debussy, Ravel, Satie) -- none as impressive as "Turkish Rondo," or even "Smoke on the Water." B
George Colligan: Nation Divided (2017 , Whirlwind): Solo piano, all original material. Impressed with the density, just not enough to penetrate it. B+(*)
Mia Dyberg Trio: Ticket! (2017 , Clean Feed): Alto saxophonist, from Denmark, based in Berlin, first album as leader, free jazz with Asger Thomsen on double bass and Dag Magnus Narvesen on drums. She has an imposing sound, more like a tenor. Some improv pieces stall, but overall quite impressive. B+(***)
Yelena Eckemoff: Better Than Gold and Silver (2018, L&H Production, 2CD): Pianist, from Russia. wrote music for a number of Biblical Psalms, presenting them on two discs, one vocal, the other just instrumental. I really dislike the vocal disc, which draws on classical European church singing, losing whatever musicality the words might ever have had by wrapping them awkwardly around the arbitrarily crafted melodies. So I was surprised to find that I like the instrumental versions a lot. Those melodies that easily thwart the words and singers suit Ralph Alessi's trumpet just fine. B+(**) [cd]
Eminem: Kamikaze (2018, Aftermath/Shady/Interscope): Touchy, revolving as it is around the critical trashing of his 2017 album, Revival. I actually thought Revival was pretty great. This is pretty good to, at least until he subcontracts a pair of tracks to Jesie Reyez. B+(**)
The Equity & Social Justice Quartet: Argle-Bargle or Foofaraw (2018, Edgetone): Colorado quartet, songs by bassist Markus Hurst (one by non-member Bill Noertker), with two saxophonists -- Glenn Ritta and Paul Riola -- plus Jay Ellis on bass. Postbop leans free. B+(***) [cd]
Fred Frith Trio: Closer to the Ground (2018, Intakt): British guitarist, his 1974 Guitar Solos could be traced as one of the founding ventures in what came to be called "experimental rock." Close to a hundred albums later, he most often shows up on jazz labels, enough so that's probably where he should be slotted. Trio here, with on bass (electric and double) and Jordon Glenn on drums, a stutter-step percussion run serves as a hook, his searching runs layered on top. A- [cd]
Billy F Gibbons: The Big Bad Blues (2018, Concord): Longtime singer-guitarist for Texas rock megalith ZZ Top, a group that was always best served when they kept their blues straight and basic. Second solo album, still fiddling with his name credit, but has the blues down pat, if a little loud. B+(*)
Gordon Grdina's the Marrow: Ejdeha (2018, Songlines): Vancouver guitarist, has played oud all along and exclusively here for a Middle Eastern vibe, with Hank Roberts (cello), Mark Helias (bass), and Hamin Honari (tombak, daf, frame drum). Irresistible when the rhythms heats up, abstract chamber-ish when it doesn't. B+(***)
Gordon Grdina/François Houle/Kenton Loewen: Live at the China Cloud (2017, Big in Japan): Guitar/clarinet/drums. Same group plus Benoît Delbecq has a 2017 Songlines album, Ghost Lights, which I haven't found. Guitar hard-edged, leaving the others free to shade and accent. B+(*)
Tord Gustavsen Trio: The Other Side (2018, ECM): Norwegian pianist, has recorded for ECM since 2001, mostly trios, always seems to be on solid ground. Another fine one here, with Sigurd Hole (double bass) and Jarle Vespestad (drums). More than half originals. Fave cover composer: J.S. Bach, followed by Trad. B+(**)
Scott Hamilton: Moon Mist (2018, Blau): Mainstream tenor sax great, in a standards-heavy set with Dena DeRose (piano), Ignasi Gonzalez (bass), and Jo Krause (drums) -- quartet first played together in a theatre in Spain in 2015, but no info on when or where this was recorded. Lovely work, but unexceptional by his standards. B+(**)
Scott Hamilton: The Shadow of Your Smile (2017, Blau): Same group, same lack of recording info but DeRose gets second-tier type and sings a verse to finish "How Deep Is the Ocean" -- an unexpected pleasure on top of many more. A-
Scott Hamilton: Meets the Piano Players (2016 , Organic): Recorded in Munich, with Rudi Engel on bass and Michael Kaul on drums, auditioning local pianists who get two cuts each: Thilo Wagner, Claud Raible, Tizian Jost, Bernard Pichl, and Joe Kienemann -- only name I recognized there was Raible's (co-led a good quartet album with Brad Leali), but Pichl has the longest discography by far, including previous records with Red Holloway, Charlie Mariano, and Hamilton with/without Dusko Goykovich. Easy, common standards, and the saxophonist makes all the pianists sound good. B+(***)
Scott Hamilton/Paolo Birro/Aldo Zunino/Alfred Kramer: Ballads for Audiophiles (2016 , Fonè Jazz): Antique tenor sax playing venerable ballds backed by piano-bass-drums -- looks like Hamilton can pick up a credible rhythm section anywhere he goes. I'll have to take the audiophile recording on faith, but even streamed through average computer speakers this easily predicted album is pretty damn gorgeous. B+(***)
Shay Hazan: Good Morning Universe (2017 , NoBusiness, EP): Israeli bassist, plays in the group Bones (which has a couple albums on Leo), also has a Quintet album. This is a sextet with two saxophonists (Albert Beger and Eyal Netzer), cello, two drummers. Vinyl-only, four cuts, 28:15, unhurried but fundamentally sound. B+(*) [cdr]
Bjørn Marius Hegge Trio: Assosiasjoner (2018, Particular): Norwegian bassist-composer, leads a trio with Oscar Grönberg (piano) and Hans Hulbaekmo (drums). One of the better piano trios I've heard lately, but haven't given it enough time to really sink in. A- [sc]
Hegge: Vi Är Ledsna Men Du Får Inte Längre Vara Barn (2017, Particular): Norwegian bassist's group, the rhythm section -- Vijleik Storass on piano and Håkon Mjåset Johansen on drums -- fronted by two exuberantly jousting saxophonists: Jonas Kulhammar and Martin Myhre Olsen. B+(***) [sp]
Hieroglyphic Being: The Replicant Dream Sequence (2018, Moog Recordings Library): Jamal Moss, electronica producer based in Chicago, prolific since 2008 (Discogs lists 44 albums). This is a fairly minor exercise, eight pieces called 'Sequence 01" through "08," mostly Moog synth with occasional mixins. B+(*)
Hinds: I Don't Run (2018, Mom + Pop): Indie pop band from Madrid, Spain, originally named Deers, opted for the female noun after a legal threat. Second album, in English, Carlotta Cosials and Ana Perrote play guitar and sing, the lead a distinctive voice with a lot of harmony. B+(***)
Art Hirahara: Sunward Bound (2017 , Posi-Tone): Pianist, based in New York after studying in Ohio and Caifornia, fourth album, starts as a trio with Linda May Han Oh (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums), then blossoms as Donny McCaslin (tenor sax) enters, doing what he was always meant to do. A-
William Hooker Trio: Remembering (2017 , Astral Spirits): Drummer-led trio, with Ava Mendoza (guitar) and Damon Smith (bass). Hooker has led free jazz groups since 1977, Smith has 50+ side credits since 1999. Mendoza first surfaced in 2008, making a strong impression here. B+(***) [bc]
Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra: Down a Rabbit Hole (2015-17 , Summit): Composer/arranger, based in Boston, studied at New England Conservatory, teaches at Berklee, fourth album with her big band, although I first ran across her name when another group, Colours Jazz Orchestra, recorded a collection of her music. Guests here are John Fedchock (trombone), George Garzone (tenor sax), and Sean Jones (trumpet). Ends memorably with the one cover, "I'll Be There." B+(***) [cd]
Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra: Flyin' Through florida (2018, Summit): Directed by Mike Vax, this ghost band does a nice job of honoring Kenton's legacy, keeping the arrangements light and just a bit frothy, toning down his pretentiousness and pomposity, while playing up the nostalgia. The Puccini, for instance, is pure pop, as is the Hamlisch. Peaks in the center with a mix of "How High the Moon" and "Ornithology," followed by "Young at Heart." And they break out the maraccas for the closer. B+(**) [cd]
John Kruth & La Società dei Musici: Forever Ago (2018, Ars Spoletium): Singer-songwriter, main instrument mandolin, which gets him filed under folk but he's studied in India, married a woman from Croatia, and recorded this one with a group in Spoletto, Italy. I'm ambivalent about the early songs -- maybe just can't pigeonhole them -- but this gets a big lift from "Checkers with My Cat," and while I haven't fully parsed it yet, "The Old Communist" is a marvelous piece of songcraft. A-
Pablo Ledesma/Pepa Angelillo/Mono Hurtado/Carlo Brandán: Gato Barbieri Revisitado (2017 , Discos ICM): Buenos Aires quartet -- alto/soprano sax, piano, bass, drums -- half pieces by their late hometown hero, the other half split between Ledesma and Angelillo. The saxophonist doesn't have Barbieri's power or swagger, and not just because he's toting a lighter horn. Nor does the rhythm section play up their Latino roots. Yet little by little they slip under the skin and slide it in new directions. B+(**) [bc]
Lyrics Born: Quite a Life (2018, Mobile Home): Tom Shimura, Bay Area rapper, tenth album, quite possibly the biggest big beat anywhere, explodes on the first cut, delivers an even bigger band on the second. Not sure I approve of the glosses on James Brown and the Rolling Stones, but they sure are glossy. Nor do I care to wallow in the cancer story, but they all sort of work out in the end. A-
Yves Marcotte: Always Know Monk (2017, self-released): Bassist, first album, officially credited to eponymous group but Marcotte is the arranger of these seven tracks (13 Monk songs). With Shems Bendahl (trumpet/flugelhorn), Zacharie Canut (tenor/alto sax), and Nathan Vandenbulcke (drums). B+(**) [bc]
Paul McCartney: Egypt Station (2018, Capitol): Not someone I've followed at all regularly for a long time now -- database shows three albums 1970-73, one in 1979, one in 1999, a C+ in 2005, a C- in 2007, one more in 2012. I was tipped off to this one when the label sent me a download link (can't recall that ever happening for a comparable artist). Still can't say as I searched this out. Rather, I picked it from Napster's featured pop albums list, in preference to a new one from Paul Simon (very likely the better album, but an artist I've never actually liked). Starts out fairly upbeat, then slows down for one cut I can relate to, and find utterly charming ("Happy With You"). Deteriorates after that. "People Want Peace" is true, but not as McCartney formulates it so unconvincingly. B-
Ernest McCarty Jr./Theresa Davis: I Remember Love (2018, Blujazz): Second album for McCarty, very different from the where he paid tribute to Erroll Garner as his former bassist. Here he plays piano and guitar, and composes love songs sung by Theresa Davis, formerly in the Emotions (in 1977, at least, on their best selling album, Rejoice). B+(*) [cd]
Joey Morant: Forever Sanctified (2018, Blujazz): Trumpet player, flugelhorn (of course), sings some, credited on most songs with "horns" (no idea what else that means). Wrote most of these pieces, drawing on blues and swing. B+(*) [cd]
Mike Moreno: 3 for 3 (2016 , Criss Cross): Guitarist, half-dozen previous albums since 2007, trio here with Doug Weiss on bass and Kendrick Scott on drums. B+(*)
Al Muirhead's Canadian Quintet: Undertones (2018, Chronograph): Subtitled (back cover) "The Art of the Bass Trumpet." Canadian, from Regina, born 1935, only stepped out front as a leader in 2014, winning a Juno in 2016. A bop-to-swing quintet, with Kelly Jefferson on tenor sax, Reg Schwager on guitar; two originals, familiar covers, nicely done. B+(**) [cd]
Myriad 3: Vera (2018, ALMA): Canadian piano trio: Chris Donnelly (piano, keyboards), Dan Fortin (bass), Ernesto Cervini (drums). Accessible, with a popular appeal not unlike EST. B+(*) [cd]
Willie Nelson: My Way (2018, Legacy): Eleven standards, all associated with Frank Sinatra, dispatched efficiently in 35:25, one a duet with Norah Jones. Haven't seen anything on the arrangements, which are pretty generic -- some strings, some horns, some guitar leads -- and anonymous (so far, anyway). I've heard these songs done by dozens of singers. No surpise that Nelson is credible, distinctive, and over any awe he may once have felt for Sinatra. Indeed, when they appeared together in Las Vegas, Sinatra was the opening act. B+(**)
Noname: Room 25 (2018, self-released): Chicago rapper Fatima Warner, "debut album" following her "debut mixtape" Telefone, which sure sounded like an album to me -- both are self-released downloads, but Telefone was the one that also came out on vinyl. This didn't make much of an impression at first, but developed notably on second spin, then trailed off a bit when the guests showed up. Barely (hopefully): A- [bc]
Uwe Oberg/Heinz Sauer: Sweet Reason (2017 , Jazzwerkstatt): German piano/tenor sax duo, Oberg in his mid-50s, Sauer up around 85, taking their sweet time. B+(*)
Eddie Palmieri: Full Circle (2018, Ropeadope): Salsa pianist/big band leader, from the Bronx, still active at 82, band has 26 members, at least half names I recognize from elsewhere (e.g., the baritone saxophonists are Ronnie Cuber and Gary Smulyan; the trombones include Conrad Herwig, Doug Beavers, and Joe Fiedler), with Herman Olivera the lead vocal. B+(***)
Ivo Perelman/Jason Stein: Spiritual Prayers (2018, Leo): Tenor sax/bass clarinet duets, instruments which harmonize easily yet don't add up to much -- a problem generic to all larger sax/clarinet ensembles. B+(*) [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Rudi Mahall: Kindred Spirits (2018, Leo, 2CD): More tenor sax/bass clarinet duets, much more, the generic mix problem still evident but seems less debilitating, no doubt a credit to Mahall -- surprised I don't have anything under his name in my database, as I've run across him at least a dozen times, always on superb records. Also surprised he's only ten years older than Stein, five years younger than Perelman. B+(***) [cd]
Chris Pitsiokos CP Unit: Silver Bullet in the Autumn of Your Years (2017 , Clean Feed): Alto saxophonist, released a 2017 album as CP Unit but spells his leadership out here, not least because the band has almost completely turned over (bassist Tim Dahl held on for 4/10 tracks, giving way to Henry Fraser). Sam Lisabeth takes over on guitar, and drums are split between Jason Nazary (on Dahl's tracks) and Connor Baker. Last record struck me as "post-rock, post-industrial fusion," but while this is similar, it's jazzier -- at least until it falls off the deep end.. B+(**)
Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble: From Maxville to Vanport (2018, PJCE): Music by Ezra Weiss, lyrics by S. Renee Mitchell, sung by Marilyn Keller. The two towns of the title were created as worker housing, the former by a lumber company in 1923, the latter by the US government in 1942. Both were largely occupied by blacks, and shut down after they had served their purposes -- Vanport was literally wiped out by a flood in 1948. PJCE is a 12-piece orchestra directed by Ryan Meagher and Douglas Detrick, and also a label with 30+ albums, most under individual names although the group as a whole has another called Oregon Stories. I didn't care for the vocals until I started paying attention, and learned something. B+(**) [cd]
Dafnis Prieto Big Band: Back to the Sunset (2018, Dafnison): Cuban drummer, moved to US at 25 in 1999 and immediately wowed everyone with his technique. First big band album, standard grouping minus guitar plus congas (Roberto Quintero). Actually quite impressive, with towering horns piled on top of more rhythm than you can shake a stick at. B+(***) [sp]
Kristjan Randalu: Absence (2017 , ECM): Pianist, from Estonia, has a couple of previous albums, including a duo on FSNT with guitarist Ben Monder, expanded to a trio here with drummer Markku Ounaskari. B+(**)
Ratatet: Heroes, Saints and Clowns (2017 , Ridgeway): Sextet, led by drummer-composer Alex Hall. Bassist Jeff Denson is also credited as producer. Paul Hanson lists bassoon ahead of tenor sax, with the others on trombone, vibes, and keyboards, plus nearly a dozen guests -- most famous Paul McCandless on English horn and oboe. B
Dave Rempis/Matt Piet/Tim Daisy: Throw Tomatoes (2017 , Astral Spirits): Chicago avant-garde, sax-piano-drums, two improv pieces, 28:26 + 27:22, both powerhouses. Pianists normally comp behind sax leads, but in free jazz the piano makes more sense as percussive counterpoint, and Piet's become a master at that. A- [bc]
Logan Richardson: Blues People (2018, Ropeadope): Alto saxophonist from Kansas City. I thought his 2007 debut was terrific, but this is only his third album since, and this is very different: two electric guitars, electric bass, drums, the sax blending into the thick layering, which sinks like a rock. B-
Ned Rothenberg/Hamid Drake: Full Circle: Live in Lodz (2016 , Fundacja Sluchaj): Duets: Rothenberg playing clarinet, alto sax, and shakuhachi; Drake: drums, frame drum, vocals (more of a chant). The sax feels much more substantial. Closes with a striking "Amazing Grace." B+(*)
Scott Routenberg Trio: Supermoon (2018, Summit): Pianist, teaches at Ball State in Indiana, fifth album since 2000, a trio with Nick Tucker on bass and Cassius Goens III on drums. All original material, nicely done. B+(*) [cd]
Schnell: Live at Sowieso (2017 , Clean Feed): Avant-sax trio, based in Berlin, with Pierre Borel (alto sax), Antonio Borghini (bass), and Christian Lillinger (drums). After the fact, I'm tempted to take Schnell as the title: the surnames are also on the cover, "Schnell" is title of three parts, totalling all but 6:31, most of the rest a non-obvious Billy Strayhorn cover. And they are fast, burning rubber throughout. A-
Trygve Seim: Helsinki Songs (2018, ECM): Norwegian saxophonist (tenor/soprano), on ECM since 2000, quartet with Kristjan Randalu (piano), Mats Eilertsen (bass), and Markku Ounaskari (drums). All pieces by Seim, unclear what the Finnish connection is (aside from the drummer). Atmospherics are lovely, and sometimes they build on that. B+(***)
Cory Smythe: Circulate Susanna (2018, Pyroclastic): Pianist, also autoharp and electronics, has several albums since 2011, leans avant but this is hard to peg, with Daniel Lippel on detuned acoustic guitar and electronics and vocalist Sofia Jernberg -- arty, abstract, irritating. B- [cd]
Swamp Dogg: Love, Loss, and Auto-Tune (2018, Joyful Noise): Jerry Williams, one-time Atlantic soul producer, moved to the fringe c. 1970 and has stayed there ever since, pulling off some neat tricks, and sometimes falling flat. His use of auto-tune here is odd, meant to alienate, and, I suppose, succeeds at that. B
Szun Waves: New Hymn to Freedom (2018, The Leaf Label): British trio (London, I think), second album, can be taken as jazz or electronica but strikes me as prog-ish instrumental rock. Luke Abbott (synth) appears to be the leader, with Jack Wyllie (sax) and Laurence Pike (drums). B+(*)
Steven Taetz: Drink You In (2018, Flatcar/Fontana North): Jazz singer-songwriter from Toronto (assuming the six tracks credited to "Tetz" are his), first album, five covers, nor really standards (Sondheim barely counts). Varied studio help, likable voice, only strong reaction I had was to Leonard Cohen's "Everyboy Knows," which is has no business going anywhere near. B [cd]
The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: The Jazz Heritage Series 2018 Radio Broadcasts (2018, self-released, 3CD): Three shows, each starting with the same boilerplate about how the US Air Force exemplifies "precision" (mentioning music but not wedding parties), introducing all the musicians by their rank, and playing competent but utterly ordinary jazz. Each show has a special guest -- singer Nnenna Freelon, drummer Peter Erskine, and trombonist Marshall Gilkes -- and they get interviewed as well as introducing a couple songs. Erskine isn't uninteresting. C
University of Toronto 12Tet: When Day Slips Into Night (2018, UofT Jazz): University program, large group because students are plentiful and big band charts are fun. Some nice stuff, everything passes, nothing much sticks. B+(*) [cd]
Andrés Vial: Andrés Vial Plays Thelonious Monk: Sphereology Volume One (2017 , Chromatic Audio): Pianist, based in Montréal, fourth album plus side credits since 2005. Ten Monk tunes, recorded in two sessions with as many bassists and drummers, but most important, guitarist Peter Bernstein, shaping and shading. B+(**) [cd]
Fay Victor's SoundNoiseFUNK: Wet Robots (2017 , ESP-Disk): Avant vocalist, most similar to Betty Carter (not that anyone really is, and vice versa), with a dozen or so albums since 1998. As noted on cover, with Joe Morris (guitar), Sam Newsome (soprano sax), and Reggie Nicholson (drums). Waxes hot and cold, with some remarkable passages. Like the spoken word much more than the screechy scat. B+(**)
Jay T. Vonada: United (2017 , Summit): Trombone player, backed by piano trio, mostly originals but two covers -- "Summertime," "Darn That Dream" -- anchor it firmly in the mainstream, where it sounds splendid. B+(***) [cd]
VWCR [Ken Vandermark/Nate Wooley/Sylvie Courvoisier/Tom Rainey]: Noise of Our Time (2017 , Intakt): Reeds, trumpet, piano, drums, all but Rainey bringing songs. The pianist is central here, setting the pace, fracturing time, shooting off flairs, a bit of abstract comping when Vandermark finally gets his monster solo, then wraps it up with a dazzling flourish. A- [cd]
Marcin Wasilewski Trio: Live (2016 , ECM): Polish piano trio, together since 2005, with Slawomir Kurkiewicz (bass) and Michal Miskiewicz (drums), recorded in Antwerp. Six pieces, including one each by Sting ("Message in a Bottle") and Herbie Hancock. B+(***)
Doug Webb: Fast Friends (2018, Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist, moved to Los Angeles at age 3, did a lot of studio work before moving mainstream with this label in 2010. Quintet with trombone (Michael Dease), piano (Mitchel Forman), bass, and drums. Went all the way back to bebop this time, including covers of "Ah-Leu-Cha" and "A Night in Tunisia," fast indeed. B+(**)
Bugge Wesseltoft/Prins Thomas: Bugge Wesseltoft & Prins Thomas (2018, Smalltown Supersound): Norwegian duo, keyboards and beats, the former long established in jazz, the latter with five numbered electronica albums. More on the latter's turf, with a nice, seductive flow. Drummer Jon Christensen guests on four (of five) cuts. B+(**)
Mike Westbrook: Starcross Bridge (2017 , Hatology): English pianist, a big Penguin Guide favorite with fifty or so records since 1967. I've only heard two, and wasn't especially taken by them, so he is a fairly major SFFR (also his wife, vocalist Kate Westbrook). I doubt this bit of solo piano is a good place to start, but it's current, measured, thoughtful. B+(*)
Western Michigan University Jazz Orchestra: Turkish Delight (2018, Blujazz): Big band, directed by Dr. Scott Cowan, more trumpets than usual. Aside from Cowan's title piece, standard big band repertory, from Ellington and Basie to Gillespie and D'Rivera. Some fine moments. B+(*) [cd]
Tom Zé: Sem Você Não A (2017, Circus): Antônio José Santana Martins, b. 1938 in Bahia in Northeast Brazil, infleuential in the Tropicália movement from 1968 on, continuing to evolve in ever more eccentric ways, even into his 80s. B+(***)
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Kaoru Abe/Sabu Toyozumi: Mannyoka (1976 , NoBusiness): Japanese alto saxophonist (also sopranino and soprano here), self-taught, one of the first notable free jazz players in Japan, died quite young (29, in 1978), most of his records issued posthumously. Duo with drums, two sets (73:58 total), can get rough but is often inspired. B+(***) [cd]
Choi Sun Bae Quartet: Arirang Fantasy (1995 [2018[, NoBusiness): Trumpet player, I know very little about him, probably Korean but this was recorded in Tokyo, with Junji Hirose (tenor/soprano sax), Motoharu Yoshizawa (upright 5-string electric bass), and Kim Dae Hwan (percussion). B+(***) [cd]
Stella Chiweshe: Kasahwa: Early Singles (1974-83 , Glitterbeat): Singer from Zimbabwe, plays mbira, indeed her first singles were mostly instrumental, with a narrow, primitivist feel. B+(**)
Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard: Sing Me Back Home: The DC Tapes, 1965-1969 (1965-69 , Free Dirt): Partially fills the gap between their classic 1965 sessions (reissued as Pioneering Women of Bluegrass) and their even better 1973 sessions (reissued as Hazel and Alice), mostly picking out old country tunes. The opening "Bye Bye Love" seems like a misstep, and they never quite manage to do something special, although "In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)" is right up their alley. B+(**)
Bobby Naughton/Leo Smith/Perry Robinson: The Haunt (1976 , NoBusiness): Vibraharp player, played in Jazz Composers Orchestra and Anthony Braxton's Creative music Orchestra, recorded a handful of albums from 1969-79, plus several since 2002. Doesn't provide a lot of structure for the trumpet and clarinet. B+(*) [cd]
Prince: Piano and a Microphone 1983 (1983 , NPG/Warner Bros.): First vault release since Prince Rogers Nelson's death in 2016, with dozens more likely to follow as his heirs have no reason not to suck every ounce of profit from his estate. Plain descriptive title, a demo tape from shortly before Purple Rain, should be a fertile period, maybe "a glimpse of a notoriously private artist doing his mysterious work," but not a very revealing one -- even less fun. B
Gene Ammons: The Gene Ammons Story: Gentle Jug (1961-62 , Prestige): Two fairly ordinary albums by the tenor saxophonist, each backed by a different piano-bass-drums trio: Nice an' Cool (1961) and The Soulful Mood of Gene Ammons (1962). Mostly ballads, not his best work but sound unmistakably his own. B+(**)
Gene Ammons: Gentle Jug Volume 2 (1960-71 , Prestige): A more proper ballad compilation, picking twelve songs from ten albums. B+(***)
Gene Ammons: The Boss Is Back! (1969 , Prestige): Another 2LP-on-1CD reissue, the title album (with Junior Mance, Buster Williams, and Frankie Jones) and Brother Jug!, also recorded in 1969 but released in 1970. B+(**)
Bikini Kill: Revolution Girl Style Now (1991 , Bikini Kill): Pioneering grrrl punk band from Olympia, WA, led by Kathleen Hanna. This started as demo, initially released as an 8-cut cassette, and forgotten when Kill Rock Stars reissued the group's two 1992-93 EPS as The C.D. Version of the First Two Records (1994). This adds three extra tracks for a solid 31:12. B+(***)
Bikini Kill: Bikini Kill (1992, Kill Rock Stars, EP): Official debut, a six-track, 16:06 EP, repeating five tracks from the demo tape, mostly shorter versions, adds a live new one "Thurston Hearts the Who" -- not quite ready. B+(**)
Bikini Kill: Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah (1992 , Kill Rock Stars, EP): Seven tracks, 14:15, originally released as half of an album filled out by Huggy Bear (Our Troubled Youth). B+(**)
Bikini Kill: The Singles (1993-95 , Kill Rock Stars, EP): Nine tracks, 17:24, the first three with Joan Jett in the background, all striking in their intensity. B+(***)
David Binney: South (2000 , ACT): Alto/soprano saxophonist, seventh album since 1989, mostly quartet with Uri Caine (piano), Scott Colley (bass), and Brian Blade (drums), plus extras on three tracks -- "Von Joshua" is one that breaks out of the postbop rut. B+(**)
Brian Blade Fellowship: Perceptual (2000, Blue Note): Drummer from Louisiana, named his first album Fellowship and kept that as his group name. Second album retains Myron Walden (alto sax/bass clarinet), Melvin butler (tenor/soprano sax), Jon Cowherd (piano/keyboards), and Christopher Thomas (bass), with new guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. Sly postbop, sneaks up on you. B+(**)
Terence Blanchard: Bounce (2003, Blue Note): Trumpet player from New Orleans, just a year younger than Wynton Marsalis but seemed to come up in his wake -- indeed, after starting with Lionel Hampton, Blanchard followed Marsalis in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. After a dozen albums with Sony/Columbia, moved to Blue Note here with an upbeat hard bop album. B+(**)
Chicago Underground Quartet: Chicago Underground Quartet (2000 , Thrill Jockey): Originally a duo (7 albums 1998-2014) of Chad Taylor (drums) and Rob Mazurek (trumpet/electronics), added bassist Noel Kupersmith in 1999 to make Trio (4 albums through 2007), and Jeff Parker (guitar) for this single Quartet album. B+(**)
The Cookers: Warriors (2011, Jazz Legacy): Hard bop supergroup, second album (after Cast the First Stone in 2010): two trumpets (Eddie Henderson, David Weiss), two saxes (Billy Harper, Craig Handy), backed by George Cables, Cecil McBee, and Billy Hart. McBee composed 3 tunes, Cables and Harper 2 each, but they open with a Freddie Hubbard piece. A little cluttered, but at least one really monster sax solo here (Harper, I presume). B+(***)
Tord Gustavsen Trio: Changing Places (2001-02 , ECM): First album after a few side credits, with Harald Johnsen (bass) and Jarle Vespestad (drums), all originals. First impression is that this is overly quiet, nothing really amiss but too subtle to engage. B+(**)
Barry Guy/London Jazz Composers Orchestra/Irène Schweizer: Radio Rondo/Schaffhausen Concert (2008 , Intakt): Two pieces, the 15:25 "Schaffhausen Concert" is solo piano, some of her finset, then the 30:01 "Radio Rondo" is played by bassist Guy's long-running avant-big band, LJCO, with Schweizer again on piano. B+(***)
Huggy Bear: Our Troubled Youth (1992 , Kill Rock Stars, EP): British riot grrrl group, joined to Bikini Kill when the label decided to package both group's EPs together. Seven cuts, 16:30. Rant tends to fall apart. B
Ahmad Jamal: In Search of Momentum (2003, Birdology/Dreyfus): Pianist, born Frederick Russell Jones in Pittsburgh, changed his name when he converted to Islam, started recording in 1951, continuing at least through 2016. Trio with James Cammack (bass) and Idris Muhammad (drums), slightly more originals than standards. B+(**)
Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: Always Let Me Go: Live in Tokyo (2001 , ECM, 2CD): His usual piano trio, pushing eight songs to 135+ minutes. Took a while before starting to catch my ear. Even when it does, it doesn't impress me as much as the Live at Montreux 2-CD from the same year, but they released this one in 2002 and held the other back until 2007. B+(**)
Roland Kirk: Introducing Roland Kirk (1960, Argo): Saxophonist, later added Rahsaan to his name, actually his second album here, pictured on the cover playing three horns simultaneously -- tenor sax, manzello, and stritch -- a gimmick he soon became notorious for. Also on the cover is a featuring credit for Ira Sullivan (trumpet and tenor sax), only five years older, and probably the last moment when he was more famous. Backed by William Burton on piano and organ, Donald Garrett on bass, and Sonny Brown on drums. A little swing, a bit more swagger. B+(*)
Roland Kirk: Domino (1962, Mercury): Adds flute, nose flute, and a siren to his usual trio of sax options. Two quartets, with bassist Vernon Martin in both: first half has Andrew Hill on piano and Henry Duncan on drums, second Wynton Kelly and Roy Haynes. B+(*)
Roland Kirk: Reeds & Deeds (1963, Mercury): Two sessions from February 1963, the first with Virgil Jones on trumpet, Harold Mabern on piano, plus trombone, bass, and drums. Some personnel changes for the second, plus Benny Golson takes over arrangements, so it goes a bit more smoothly (not necessarily better). B+(**)
Roland Kirk: Kirk in Copenhagen (1963 , Mercury): Looks like he showed up with bass and drums, then found out that there's some kind of law or union rule requiring Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen to play bass, so they doubled up. Even more fortunate was the local they sat at the piano: Tete Montoliu, terrific throughout. Kirk is in high spirits, although he cautiously selects "Mood Indigo" to show off the multi-horn thing. And someone credited as Big Skol wanders on stage with harmonica -- his mama knew him as Rice Miller (aka Sonny Boy Williamson). A-
Roland Kirk: I Talk With the Spirits (1964 , Limelight): Just flute here: not his strong suit, but he has some fun with his distinctive sound. Big help from Horace Parlan on piano. B+(*)
Roland Kirk: Left & Right (1969, Atlantic): Kirk moved to Atlantic in 1965, staying there through 1976 (a year before he died), with a very mixed bag of albums. This was his third, with brilliant bits mixed into pretty mundane Gil Fuller orchestrations. The centerpiece is the medley of "Expansions, with seven extra guests including Alice Coltrane on harp. Closes with five covers from Mingus to Strayhorn -- "Hot Cha" is the pick hit. B+(*)
Rahsaan Roland Kirk & the Vibration Society: Rahsaan Rahsaan (1970, Atlantic): Here is where he added "Rahsaan" to his name, having heard it in a dream, and was so excited he doubled down on the title. First half is a 17:18 medley from "Black Classical Rap" to "New Orleans," with a guest list that includes Howard Johnson (tuba) and Leroy Jenkins (violin). Rest is a Village Vanguard live set with piano-bass-drums-percussion. His intro and vocal to "Baby Let Me Shake Your Tree" is a lark, but also a delight. B+(***)
Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Natural Black Inventions: Root Strata (1971, Atlantic): Aside from some piano on the only cover ("Day Dream"), just Kirk (on an extended array of reeds and percussion) backed by drums and even more percussion. B+(**)
Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Blacknuss (1972, Atlantic): Mostly black music covers, ranging from "Old Rugged Cross" to Bill Withers including a generous sampling of Motown, mostly played to session musicians who straddle those worlds, and quite a few vocals -- this avoids pop mostly because Kirk is such a gruff blues shouter, and because his horns dart off in all sorts of directions. Strong cuts include "One Nation" and "Make It With You." B+(***)
Joëlle Léandre/Yves Robert/Irène Schweizer/Daunik Lazro: Paris Quartet (1985-87 , Intakt): Bass, trombone, piano, alto sax, Léandre also credited with voice and compositions. Of course, we could do without the bad opera voice. But the bass leads suffice to kick off the horns, and the pianist doubles as a percussionist. B+(**)
Lionel Loueke: Virgin Forest (2006 , ObliqSound): Guitarist-singer, from Benin, made his way to Paris, got a scholarship to Berklee, then to Los Angeles. Some sort of folk-jazz hybrid, hard to place as indeed the musicians stradle four continents and are never wholly contained in their own. B+(*)
Rudi Mahall: Quartett (2006 , Jazzwerkstatt): German bass clarinetist, rarely leads his own groups but gets top billing here, with all four sharing writing credits: Johannes Bauer (trombone), Aki Takase (piano), and Tony Buck (drums). [3/5 cuts] B+(*)
Big Jay McNeely: The Best Of (1948-1956) (1948-56 , Master Classics): Tenor saxophonist, an r&b honker who excited fans with his ecstatic displays, sometimes writing on the stage floor while wailing. This was his prime period, before guitar replaced the saxophone as the featured instrument in rock and roll, but his discography is so checkered -- with early 78s and 10-inch LPs -- it's hard to figure out just what came from where. This offers 32 cuts, mostly Federal 45s, some with vocals -- most notably Ted Shirley on "Road House Boogie." That's about where the energy level really kicks up. B+(***)
Maggie Nicols/Irène Schweizer/Joëlle Léandre: Les Diaboliques (1993 , Intakt): Voice-piano-bass trio, kept the album name for two more group albums (to 2000), also intersecting for a bunch of other albums. Nicols is from Scotland, original name Margaret Nicholson, her mother French-Berber, was part of Spontaneous Music Ensemble and Keith Tippetts' Centipede. She tends to produce an opera reflex in me, but that isn't really sustained here -- just feels scattered, a bit arch. B
Uwe Oberg: Work (2008 , Hatology): German pianist, solo here, six tracks but three of them pair up two songs -- in two cases originals which segue in Coltrane in one case, Robert Wyatt's "Muddy Mouse" in the other. The other pairing mashed Mingus and Coleman together, while two of the three standalone pieces were Monk tunes. B+(**)
Danilo Pérez: Danilo Pérez (1992 , Jive/Novus): Pianist, from Panama, won a Fulbright USA scholarship to study in US, studied at Berklee, joined Dizzy Gillespie's United Nations Orchestra. First album, starts out with an all-star band -- Joe Lovano and David Sanchez on tenor/soprano sax, Santi Debriano on bass, Jack DeJohnette on drums -- with Panamanian hero Ruben Blades taking a few vocals. B+(*)
Danilo Pérez: PanaMonk (1996, Impulse!): Third album, piano trio with Avishai Cohen (bass) and either Jeff Watts or Terri Lyne Carrington (drums), playing seven Monk compositions and four originals. A much flashier piano player than Monk ever was, which lets him glide over the glitches that made Monk so bedeviling. B+(**)
Danilo Pérez: Motherland (2000, Verve): Fifth album since 1993. Tricky rhythm with lots of extra percussion, Regina Carter the focal player on violin, although Chris Potter (sax) and Diego Urcola (trumpet) have their moments. I took an instant dislike to the vocals (Luciana Souze and Claudia Acuna), got to where I could tolerate the scat shading, then they mutated into everything from spoken word to torch songs to hot salsa. I'm not unimpressed; just not very pleased. B+(*)
Bud Powell: Jazz Giant (1949 , Verve): The bebop piano virtuoso's recordings start in 1944 with Cootie Williams, resume in 1946 with Dexter Gordon, J.J. Johnson, and others. In 1947 he recorded with Charlie Parker and cut his own trio for Roost. This collects his next trio sessions, with Max Roach on drums and either Ray Brown or Curly Russell on bass. I've never been blown away by Powell's sessions for Norman Granz (unlike some of his Blue Notes), but these are quite nice. B+(***)
Bud Powell: Piano Interpretations by Bud Powell (1955 , Verve): Trio with George Duvivier (bass) and Art Taylor (drums). Standards. B+(**)
Bud Powell: The Ultimate Bud Powell (1949-56 , Verve): The Complete Bud Powell on Verve box runs five CDs, which this reduces to sixteen cuts, all trios, starting with five cuts from Jazz Giant. A good selection, but still can't touch the Blue Notes from the same period, especially the first two volumes of The Amazing Bud Powell. B+(***)
Bud Powell: The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol. 4: Time Waits (1958 , Blue Note): Another piano trio, this one with Sam Jones (bass) and Philly Joe Jones (drums). Drummers often make the difference with Powell, but so does starting off with something upbeat and irresistibly catchy like "Buster Rides Again." A-
Bud Powell: Strictly Confidential (1964 , Black Lion): Solo piano, one of many informal recordings Francis Paudras made after Powell moved to Paris, at some point released as At Home, in Paris. B+(***)
Bud Powell: Salt Peanuts (1964 , Black Lion): Recorded in Edenville, France by Paudras, opens with four piano trio cuts, with Guy Hayat (bass) and Jacques Gervais (drums), then adds Johnny Griffin (tenor sax) for three longer cuts (30:46). The sound leaves much to be desired, and the crowd noise is distracting. The music deserved better. B
Irène Schweizer: Wilde Señoritas (1976 , FMP): First solo piano album, following two group albums with saxophonist Rüdiger Carl. Two side-long pieces (34:07 total), recorded live in Berlin. Doesn't show off the flashy technique she later developed, which makes the logic and integrity all the more remarkable. B+(***)
Irène Schweizer: Hexensabbat (1977 , FMP): Solo again, starting with some novel sounds she teased out of the piano, expanding them in the first side, then running through six relatively short sketches on the second. B+(***)
Irène Schweizer: Wilde Señoritas/Hexensabbat (1976-77 , Intakt, 2CD): Reissue combines her two early solo albums. B+(***)
Irène Schweizer: Live at Taktlos (1984 , Intakt): Swiss pianist, early albums -- including Early Tapes from 1967 -- on FMP, with only unreviewable fragments on Bandcamp -- found a long-term home label here, numbered "001." Three cuts (not counting the 0:55 Lindsay Cooper-Maggie Nicols duo): with George Lewis (trombone), with Nicols (voice) and Günter Sommer (percussion), with Joëlle Léandre (bass, voice) and Paul Lovens (percussion). Terrific piano, a strong spot for Lewis, but the singers can be grating. B+(**)
Irène Schweizer: Piano Solo Vol. 1 (1990 , Intakt): From Switzerland, a tremendous free jazz pianist, her best work duos with drummers, which adds an edge that solo work cannot quite achieve, even for one so focused on rhythmic complexity. B+(***)
Irène Schweizer: Piano Solo Vol. 2 (1990 , Intakt): More solo piano, a live set after the two days in the studio that produced Vol. 1. Seven originals plus covers of Berlin and Monk. Penguin Guide prefers Vol. 1 to Vol. 2, but I think I'd give this one a (very) slight edge. B+(***)
Irène Schweizer: Many and One Direction (1996, Intakt): Yet another piano solo. Hard for me to sort out these many titles -- I doubt I could even if I did manage to invest the time to compare, but while most of this is as good as all the rest, the last two pieces lift it a notch above: "Bleu Foncé" sounds a bit like Monk might if he had Pete Johnson's left hand (and maybe James P. Johnson's right), while "Chordially" is a short ballad piece where everything is perfect. A-
Irène Schweizer/Fred Anderson/Hamid Drake: Live Willisau & Taktlos (1998-2004 , Intakt): Two sets in Switzerland, with the pianist hosting Chicago's legendary avant-saxophonist and his brilliant nephew-percussionist. Basically, the meeting you'd imagine. A-
John Scofield: Works for Me (2000 , Verve): Guitarist, started around 1978 and was a pretty big deal by this point, a master of groove and flow, with an all-star band which makes it all look easy: Kenny Garrett (alto sax), Brad Mehldau (piano), Christian McBride (bass), Billy Higgins (drums). B+(**)
John Scofield: Blue Matter (1986 , Gramavision): Guitarist, his groove choppier in the '80s than a decade later. With Mitchell Forman (keyboards), bass, drums, extra percussion (Don Alias), sometimes extra rhythm guitar. B+(*)
John Scofield: Hand Jive (1993 , Blue Note): Rather straightforward groove album, but with Larry Goldings on organ and piano, and Eddie Harris on tenor sax, this picks up extra soul jazz cred. B+(***)
Trygve Seim: Different Rivers (1998-99 , ECM): Norwegian tenor saxophonist, previously recorded as The Source, and played in Oslo 13, but first album under own name. Groups range from two to ten pieces, the duets with trumpeter Arve Henriksen. Nice spoken word piece with Sidsel Endresen. B+(*)
Zoot Sims: Hawthorne Nights (1977 , Pablo/OJC): Bill Holman arranged and conducted this near-big band outing, playing two of his own pieces, two Ellingtons, one Jobim, "More Than You Know," "Only a Rose," only one piece he leader had a hand in. Sims is flanked by three more reed players (Richie Kamuca, Jerome Richardson, Bill Hood), three brass (Oscar Brashear, Snooky Young, Frank Rosolino), with Ross Tompkins on piano. B+(*)
Zoot Sims: Suddenly It's Spring (1983 , Pablo/OJC): He died in 1985 (at 59), making this quartet with Jimmy Rowles (piano), George Mraz (bass), and Akira Tana (drums) one of his last. Mostly ballads, lovely tone (as always), still feels a bit too much like going through the motions. B+(**)
Loren Stillman + Bad Touch: Going Public (2012 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Alto saxophonist, first album (as a teenager) 1997. Backed here by Nate Radley (guitar/pedal steel), Gary Versace (organ), and Ted Poor (drums), who also contribute two songs each (of nine). B+(***)
Co Streiff/Irène Schweizer: Twin Lines (1999-2000 , Intakt): Swiss alto saxophonist, has a short discography which includes a group co-led by Russ Johnson. Duo with piano here, from two radio shots, thoughtful, probing, nice balance. B+(***)
Trio 3: Encounter (1999 , Passin' Thru): Alto sax trio, although supergroup is more like it: Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman (bass), and Andrew Cyrille (drums). First studio album after a Live in Willisau (1997), to be followed by nine more through 2017, including a series with pianists (Irène Schweizer, Geri Allen, Jason Moran, Vijay Iyer). Seven pieces, one by each and four by fellow travelers (Bobby Braddock, Ade Steve Colson, John Carter, Andrew Hill). A-
Trio 3 + Irène Schweizer: Berne Concert (2007 , Intakt): Live at Taktlos, in Switzerland, the Oliver Lake/Reggie Workman/Andrew Cyrille alto sax trio with the great Swiss pianist. The first of (to date) five albums with guest pianists. Probably the most imposing of those (actually four) pianists, but not quite optimally meshed. B+(***)
Trio 3 + Geri Allen: At This Time (2008 , Intakt): First song -- one of the pianist's -- indicates that she might mean to slow them down, but after that they rebound, faster and more furious than ever. She not only keeps up; she pushes them along. A-
Bugge Wesseltoft: New Conception of Jazz (1995-96 , Jazzland): Norwegian pianist, father a jazz guitarist, played punk as a teenager, moving on to various jazz and pop projects. This was his first album, and first of five under this rubric: a scattered mix of pop/dance moves, including a couple vocals (most notably, Michy), with exotic flares from around the world, jazz included. B+(***)
Bugge Wesseltoft: It's Snowing on My Piano (1997, ACT): Solo piano, very quiet, solemn even, with several songs recognizable to make this some kind of Christmas special. B+(*)
Randy Weston: Solo, Duo & Trio (1954-56 , Milestone): Cover goes further: "featuring Art Blakey/Sam Gill." Some of the pianist's first recordings, collected from three 10-inch EPs. Starts with the 1955 trio, then 1956 solo cuts, then winds up with his first record of piano-bass duets, Cole Porter in a Modern Mood. B+(*)
Randy Weston: Get Happy With the Randy Weston Trio (1955 , Riverside/OJC): First 12-inch LP, a piano trio with Sam Gill (bass) and Wilbert Hogan (drums). The title song is upbeat as you'd expect, Gill's "A Ballad" delicate, Ellington's "C-Jam Blues" right in his wheelhouse. B+(**)
Randy Weston Trio + Cecil Payne: With These Hands . . . (1956 , Riverside/OJC): Cut in Rudy Van Gelder's Hackensack studio, with Ahmed Abdul-Malik on bass and Wilbert Hogan on drums, with the baritone saxophonist on 6/8 cuts. Nice spots for Payne, especially on "The Man I Love." B+(***)
Randy Weston Trio/Cecil Payne: Jazz A La Bohemia (1956 , Riverside/OJC): Recorded live at Café Bohemia in Greenwich Village, released in 1957 then reissued in 1960 as Greenwich Village Jazz before eventually reverting to its original title. Trio includes Ahmed Abdul-Malik (bass) and Al Dreares (drums), with Payne on baritone sax on 6/8 cuts. B+(**)
Randy Weston: Little Niles (1958 , United Artists): This is the first album in a long partnership with Melba Liston, who plays trombone and arranged seven Weston originals for septet -- Johnny Griffin (tenor sax), Ray Copeland/Idrees Sulieman (trumpets), George Joyner (bass), and Charlie Persip (drums). [Short album at 31:01] B+(***)
Randy Weston Trio + 4 Trombones: Destry Rides Again (1959, United Artists): Music from Harold Rome's 1939 musical comedy, arranged by trombonist Melba Liston, with extra percussionist Willie Rodriguez not accounted for in the credit. B+(***)
Randy Weston: Destry Rides Again/Little Niles (1958-59 , Fresh Sound): Two albums on one CD. B+(***)
Randy Weston: African Cookbook (1964 , Atlantic): Originally released as Randy! (Bap!! Beep Boo-Bee Bap Beep-M-Boo Bee Bap!) in 1966, although the cover could be parsed differently, but as Weston's fascination with Africa developed this repackaging seemed like a better idea -- 3/7 songs clearly refer to various parts of Africa. With Ray Copeland (trumpet), Booker Ervin (tenor sax), Bill Wood (bass), Lenny McBrowne (drums), and extra percussion by Big Black and Sir Harold Murray (with Big Black vocal on "Congolese Children's Song"). B+(***)
Randy Weston: Portraits of Thelonious Monk: Well You Needn't (1989 , Verve): Six (or seven) Monk tunes, "Functional" stretched out to 15:30, "Misterioso" to 10:56, none less than 5:23, by which point they've started to lose their Monk-ness. With bass, drums, and extra percussion. B+(**)
Randy Weston: Portraits of Duke Ellington: Caravan (1989 , Verve): Same trio + percussion as the Monk session, recorded one day later. Again, six pieces, stretched out, to what point I'm not really sure. B+(*)
Randy Weston: Self Portraits: The Last Day (1989 , Verve): A third straight day of trio + percussion, this time playing Weston's own tunes. B+(*)
Randy Weston: Marrakech in the Cool of the Evening (1992 , Verve): Recorded in the ballroom of the La Mamounia Hotel in Marrakech, Morocco, but just solo piano. Perhaps the setting suggested that he was overdue for a Dizzy Gillespie portrait -- a medley starting with "A Night in Tunisia" -- and I'm glad to hear a little Fats Waller: anything to spark up all this cocktail cool. B+(*)
Randy Weston: Earth Birth (1995 , Verve): Piano trio, with Christian McBride and Billy Higgins, plus strings, arranged by Melba Liston and played by the Montreal String Orchestra. B+(*)
Cassandra Wilson: Blue Skies (1988, JMT): Jazz singer, from Mississippi, original name Fowlkes, moved to Ne York and briefly married Anthony Wilson, worked with M-Base Collective, her own discography starting in 1986. Deep voice linked her to Abbey Lincoln and Betty Carter. Third album, standards, backed by Mulgrew Miller (piano), Lonnie Plaxico (bass), and Terri Lyne Carrington (drums). B+(**)
Cassandra Wilson: Belly of the Sun (2002, Blue Note): After seven albums (1986-92) on JMT and one on DIW/Columbia, signed to Blue Note and became more famous (and more mainstream). Wrote or co-wrote four (of 13) songs here, buried in a mix of blues, Jobim, Dylan/Band, and others (James Taylor and Jimmy Webb the best known). B+(*)
Sometimes further listening leads me to change an initial grade, usually either because I move on to a real copy, or because someone else's review or list makes me want to check it again:
Bugge Wesseltoft: New Conception of Jazz: Live (2000-02 , Jazzland): Seven tracks averaging 10+ minutes, recorded with various groups, at least four separate occasions and/or locales, but the electronic drum effects keep them all flowing -- a rhythm I find irresistible. No horns, only one cut with guitar (the longest, "Live at Blå," with John Scofield), but the keyboardist can go there whenever he wants. A-
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:
Monday, September 24, 2018
Music: current count 30365  rated (+37), 273  unrated (-4).
Seemed likely to me that the rated count would fall this week, but I kept plugging at it, mostly picking records from Napster's Featured list, and they added up, even offering a couple surprises. Actually, early on I wrapped up the last of the Nate Chinen picks I could find, winding up with only 5 (of 129) records unrated (Ben Allison, Tim Berne, Wynton Marsalis, Hedvig Mollestad, Mike Moreno). I also checked out one of the late Big Jay McNeely's compilations -- picked the one with dates in the title, although I checked them against his singles discography to be sure. Don't recall why I didn't go further, but it wasn't easy figuring out when various things were recorded.
The Featured list did get me to new vault tapes from Stella Chiweshe, Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerard, and Prince -- none extraordinary. I also noticed a Bikini Kill album -- one that I had already heard, but I took another look for two that I had missed that Christgau had A-listed, and found them (after having missed them previously). I actually wound up liking their early demo tape (Revolution Girl Style Now) even more. Also new on Napster is Posi-Tone, a mainstream jazz label run by Marc Free. I got their records for a while, but largely stopped paying them any heed when service went to download-only. Streaming is enough easier to get me interested again, and the Art Hirahara album is a big step forward -- I would say a big surprise, but I never doubted Donny McCaslin could play this well. (I've just never heard it on any of his own records.)
Best of the B+(***) records is probably Dafnis Prieto's album. I'm feeling a little guilty about not giving it another spin, but just not that up for Latin big band. (Could say the same thing for Eddie Palmieri's Full Circle, which could be one of his best.) Didn't pay much attention to the new jazz queue this past week -- partly due to a clutter/misfiling lapse, and partly because I've been playing Ben Webster's Soulville nearly every morning. Guess it's time to nudge that grade up to A+.
Rough week for me, both physically and mentally. Had to work on the old car to get it to start, and decided I also needed to wash it. Also wound up washing the not-quite-so-old car -- jobs that were easy a decade ago but grueling these days. Another task I finally tackled last week was installing new insulation on the coolant pipes on a mini-split air conditioner. Back in July when the main AC went out, we noticed that the insulation on the mini had worn out and split, causing it to ice up and reducing its effectiveness. Back then a friend helped me tear out the old and install new, but I couldn't find the right size material, and made a mess out of it, with the oversized material not fitting into the raceway.
I had to go shopping for new insulation tubes and possibly a new raceway. I eventually found some 3/8-inch split tubes with tape closure, so bought them. I tore the old mess out, installed the new insulation, and eventually was able to tuck it all inside the old raceway (with a few extra cuts). Took 4-5 hours, plus another trip to the hardware store, but finally got it done. Another day I was worn out at the end of. Also doesn't totally fix the cooling problem, but does make it a bit better. By the time I got it done, the heat spell had broken, so I may be able to put off getting it serviced until next year.
Mental stress is harder to explain. Did a couple of things on the server, but still way short of the necessary tasks. Did a minor update, including a new XgauSez, on the Robert Christgau website, but still haven't straightened out the links and filled in the missing stubs for Carola Dibbell. One of the XgauSez questions was about jazz albums of the 1950s/1960s, and Christgau referred to my website for suggestions. Best link I could offer him was this one, but it really doesn't answer the question. So after fretting several days, I started working on a better answer page, but that's turned out to be a lot more work than I've been able to do. I did a preliminary sort for the 1950s and 1960s, but only based on the one database file linked above. Took a lot of time to get next to nothing.
Also spent some time collecting music notes and non-jazz album reviews from the Notebook. Picked up about a year over the course of a week, bringing me up to February 2013. Close to 1000 pages in each volume (actually, 1015 + 1308). At least those projects are straightforward, things I can keep plodding at, and in fairly short order get done.
What bothers me more are the things I can't get started. I still have people I want to call about my sister's death back in March, and others I called them but haven't since. I've been hoping to visit family in Oklahoma and Arkansas since, well, it's been more than two years since I've gotten out of town. I've been meaning to reorganize my cookbooks, and clean out and update my spice racks -- bought new bottles for that more than a year ago. I'm bothered that I haven't even looked at the stack of library books I have due Wednesday (including Chris Hedges' America: The Farewell Tour and David Cay Johnston's It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America; probably nothing in those I don't already know, but I'm certainly could learn something from Ajax Hacks: Tips & Tools for Creating Responsive Web Sites -- well, pub date was 2006, so may be kind of obsolete.) Probably going to wind up sending them all back, only one (mostly) read.
Nor do I anticipate this week becoming suddenly productive. Actually, just the opposite. A Russian friend wanted me to help do some down-home cooking, so I'll be whipping up an assortment of zakuski, side dishes, and a dessert for Friday night dinner. Will probably do something horrible to my back, but otherwise should be fun . . . at last.
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Sunday, September 23, 2018
Got a late start this week, figuring I'd just go through the motions, but got overwhelmed, as usual.
Was reminded on twitter that Liz Fink died three years ago. Also pointed to this video biography. I couldn't tell whether the dog snoring sounds were in the video, given that the same dog was camped out under my desk (not the poodle pictured in the video, the legendary Sheldon).
Some scattered links this week:
Monday, September 17, 2018
Music: current count 30328  rated (+33), 277  unrated (+6).
Had a rough week, including a moment when all of the stress I had been accumulating seemed to implode, then emanate outward in a scream and a shudder. One thing that did break was my progress through the new jazz queue. I ran into an album that under the circumstances was unbearable. I imagine I'll go back to it later this week and give it a fair shake, but that wasn't going to happen last week. Instead, I slipped two CDs into the changes, choice encounters between saxophonist and pianist -- Lester Young and Oscar Peterson for starters, then Ben Webster with Art Tatum -- and that's remained my wake-up ritual ever since: long enough for breakfast, reading what's left of the local newspaper, and a little work on the jigsaw puzzle. Later in the day I'd pull up some jazz on Napster, or if I needed to get away from the computer, some r&b from the travel cases. Somehow managed to fix a nice dinner for the people who were kind enough to tear down and pack my late sister's big art project -- currently in a truck on the road to Vancouver, WA. Greek shrimp, green beans, salad, rice, and an applesauce cake, as I recall.
Wound up with mostly old jazz this week, in most cases starting with albums Nate Chinen picked as the "129 Essential [Jazz] Albums of the Twenty-First Century." I copied them down, checked my database, and figured out I hadn't heard nearly a sixth of them (21, so 16.2%). I've since knocked that down to five that don't seem to be on Napster. In some cases my curiosity led me to related albums, picking up two extra albums by Danilo Pérez and John Scofield, one by Cassandra Wilson, but none of those cases filled in all of the holes in my listening. The one exception was Trio 3 (Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman, Andrew Cyrille) -- not coincidentally the only of the 16 records to get an A- -- and they got me to take another look at the great Swiss pianist Irène Schweizer. I've made a couple of previous dives through her catalog, especially the piano-drum duos (I especially recommend the ones with Han Bennink and Pierre Favre), so much of what was left was solo -- something I rarely follow well let alone get into, but she's really special. Also gave me an excuse to dig deeper into her label, Intakt -- something I've long wanted to do.
One thing I did manage to do (in an unsatisfying, hacked up way) last week was set up WordPress for Notes on Everyday Life. I had previously built websites for this domain in 2004 based on Drupal and in 2014 based on WordPress, but both were eventually wiped out in server catastrophes. Neither was a major loss, in that the writing also existed in my notebook. So I was pleased that I found the "Intro" I wrote in 2014, but I got confused by the default widget setup so it's still not usable. I have a half-assed idea to fill it up with fragments from old notebooks, hoping that the category and tag system will bind those bits into more coherent wholes. Given that I've already gone through and collected the political writings, it should be relatively straightforward to start picking things out.
I have two more WordPress blogs to set up, including one for music writings. Would like some advice and direction on the latter, and ultimately some help. I've continued to collect music writings and non-jazz reviews into book form. I'm up to 2012 now, with close to 2000 pages in two books, so there's quite a bit of content that could be used as a starting point.
New records rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Sunday, September 16, 2018
Once again, way too much to report to cover in the limited time I left myself this weekend. Especially given that I had to take a few hours out to attend a talk by Lawrence Wittner on How Peace Activists Saved the World from Nuclear War. As Wittner, author of at least three books on anti-nuke protests, pointed out, the main factor inhibiting nuclear powers from using their expensive weapons was fear of public reproach, something that was made most visible by the concerted efforts of anti-war and anti-nuke activists. Needless to say, he pointed out that this struggle is far from over, and arguably may have lost some ground with Trump in power. Trump, indeed, seems to be triply dangerous on this score: fascinated with the awesome power of nuclear weapons, convinced of his instincts for holding public opinion, and indifferent to whatever harm he might cause.
Some scattered links this week: