An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
My Other Websites
Blog Entries [10 - 19]
Sunday, December 25, 2016
A day late from the usual Sunday, but having missed last week, I figured the exercise would be worthwhile. Like our trash collection, we're running a day late this week.
Growing up we always had a special dinner on Christmas Eve, then gathered around the tree in the living room and opened presents. I gave up on shopping and presents after my parents died in 2000 -- partly, I suppose, because we moved to Wichita in 1999 to be closer to my family, but after doing serious shopping I got sick and missed that last Christmas. We tried to keep the tradition going, but it fizzled out when my brother and his family moved away. The only thing I kept was the Christmas Eve dinner, which I've ever since subjected my sister and her son to. I rustled up a bit pot of paella last night, with a lobster, some shrimp and scallops instead of the usual clams. I figured I'd do some tapas on the side, but didn't come up with much: potatoes with tuna and egg, a white bean salad, a pisto (onions, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, cooked down to a paste), sauteed mushrooms in garlic sauce, some olives, a loaf of "bake it yourself" garlic bread. Per a tradition that only started after we returned to Wichita, I made date pudding (topped with caramel sauce and whipped cream) for dessert. I was feeling pretty depressed, but the sensation vanished as soon as I started cooking. That's pretty much all I have to show for 2017, but it feels like I'm accomplishing something when I do it.
Biggest story from the last couple weeks were the Republican tax bill: a massive giveaway to corporations, proprietors who can take advantage of the "pass-through income" provisions, and to the growth and consolidation of aristocracy, and eventually a drain on the economy and an excuse for cutting back on actually useful services the government provides. But also very important are the end of FCC "net neutrality" rules and the latest round of sanctions against North Korea. Of course, the latter could instantly jump to the head of the list.
Some scattered links this week:
Saturday, December 23, 2017
The Incredible Honk
One of the great trombonists of all jazz history, Roswell Rudd, has just died, at 82, evidently of cancer. He was a major figure in the 1960s avant-garde, later refocusing his sense of the tradition into two especially great albums -- 1974's Flexible Flyer, which restarted Sheila Jordan's brilliant career, and 1982's Regeneration, which rekindled interest in the music of Herbie Nichols -- and after a dozen years away from the studio mounted a marvelously wide-ranging comeback. For all his range, he had a singular sound on trombone -- unflinching, a deep and dirty growl -- which made trombone one of my favorite horns, and set a standard: searching for his name in my writings, I've found myself repeatedly trying to measure up other trombonists to him.
I have no time to write anything that does justice to his music, but I figured the least I could do would be to pluck my various reviews of his work out of my Jazz Guides. In this task, I've been helped by Mindspring's discography, although it unaccountably ends around 2002. All I've managed to do is to make a quick pass to weed out some redundancies and asides. I've also added stubs for a few albums I haven't heard (but by no means all of the ones Rudd played on).
Eli's Chosen Six (1955, Columbia) Rudd started off in this Dixieland group. I've only heard one cut on a compilation, and they seem to be an amusing bunch -- not that I wouldn't rather hear more trombone and less vocals.
Eli's Chosen Six: Ivy League Jazz (1957, Columbia)
Cecil Taylor/Buell Neidlinger: New York City R&B (1961, Candid) Originally issued under the bassist's name, Taylor's name added later as the pianist is the draw, especially on the two shorter trio cuts with Billy Higgins; the other two cuts add horns: Archie Shepp (tenor sax) on both; Clark Terry (trumpet), Steve Lacy (soprano sax), Roswell Rudd (trombone), and Charles Davis (baritone sax) on the closer. 
Cecil Taylor/Buell Neidlinger: Jumpin Punkins' (1961, Candid) [+]
Cecil Taylor: Cell Walk for Celeste (1961, Candid) Outtakes from the New York City R&B and Jumpin' Punkins sessions that didn't appear in album form until 1988, most quartet with Shepp, Neidlinger, and Dennis Charles, but two tracks with the extra horn quartet, with Steve Lacy's soprano sax by far the most noteworthy. 
The Gil Evans Orchestra: Into the Hot (1961, Impulse -99) Evans' masterpiece was his 1960 Out of the Cool, so this title makes sense as the next step, but the album itself is schizo, with two dull orchestral tracks led by trumpeter John Carisi (they do seem to wake up for the third), and three slices of something else by Cecil Taylor's quintet (Archie Shepp, Jimmy Lyons, Henry Grimes, and Sunny Murray, adding Ted Curson and Roswell Rudd on the closer). [The Taylor tracks were later reissued along with a Rudd session as Mixed.] 
Steve Lacy/Roswell Rudd: School Days (1963, Hat Art -94) Ken Vandermark named one of his best quartets after this album. 
Albert Ayler/Don Cherry/John Tchicai/Roswell Rudd/Gary Peacock/Sunny Murray: New York Eye and Ear Control (1964, ESP-Disk -08) Ayler's record, but all names are on the cover and all are notable, the four horns churning tumultuously, with Ayler's tenor sax reaching for the sacred, and Rudd's trombone plumbing the profane. 
Archie Shepp: Four for Trane (1964, Impulse -97) 
New York Art Quartet (1964, ESP-Disk -08) One-shot avant-garde group, at least until they reunited for a 35th Reunion record, but an important item in trombonist Roswell Rudd's discography -- he dominates the rough interplay with alto saxophonist John Tchicai, while percussionist Milford Graves is at least as sparkling; the sole artiness is the cut that frames a poem, but it too is a signpost of the times, "Black Dada Nihilismus," by Amiri Baraka. 
The Jazz Composers Orchestra: Communication (1964, Fontana) A pathbreaking large group assembled by Carla Bley and Michael Mantler to play their pieces and arrangements, which over the next few years rotated to feature other composers, including Rudd (see Numatik Swing Band, below).
New York Art Quartet: Mohawk (1965, Fontana)
New York Art Quartet: Old Stuff (1965, Cuneiform -10) Short-lived group, long remembered. Danish alto saxophonist John Tchicai teamed with trombonist Roswell Rudd to cut two 1964-65 albums, an eponymous one on ESP-Disk that has remained in print more often than not, and a second that soon vanished, leaving us with nothing more until the pair got together in 1999 and cut 35th Reunion. These radio shots add significantly to their legacy, another 70 minutes (compared to 43 on the first album). The bass and drums slots were variable: Finn von Eyben plays bass here, and Louis Moholo drums. Rudd was working out the logic of free jazz trombone, and Tchicai lets him run with it, filling in and edging around. 
New York Art Quartet: Call It Art (1964-65, Triple Point 5LP -13) Extravagant packaging, with the 5 LPs each in its own jacket, packed alongside a 156-page clothbound book, both enclosed in a very handsome plywood box. The group, with Roswell Rudd on trombone and John Tchicai on alto sax, was more at home in Copenhagen than in New York. They cut the one album they're known for on ESP-Disk, another for Fontana in England, but other recordings have leaked out over the years -- notably Old Stuff, released by Cuneiform in 2010, and now this stack of "previously uncirculated" vinyl. Hard for me to evaluate -- among other things I'm no longer accustomed to 15-20 minute chunks -- but everything I play has its fascinating points. 
Roswell Rudd (1965, Free America/Verve -05) The great trombonist trades lines with alto saxophonist John Tchicai, creating a bouncy polyphony that never quite slips into a groove; a radio shot tape, sound quality so-so. [+]
Archie Shepp: Live in San Francisco (1966, Impulse -98) 
Roswell Rudd: Everywhere (1966, Impulse -67) The trombonist's only name album for a major label in the 1960s, a session -- four cuts, 47:15 -- that has only been reissued as part of Mixed, co-headlined by Cecil Taylor (prepends three Taylor cuts, one with Rudd). With Giuseppi Logan (flute/bass clarinet), Robin Kenyatta (alto sax), Lewis Worrell/Charlie Haden (bass), and Beaver Harris (drums). 
Archie Shepp: Three for a Quarter/One for a Dime (1966, Impulse -69) 
Archie Shepp: Mama Too Tight (1966, Impulse -98) 
Cecil Taylor/Roswell Rudd: Mixed (1961-66, Impulse -08) [+]
The Jazz Composer's Orchestra (1968, JCOA)
Charlie Haden: Liberation Music Orchestra (1969, Impulse -96) [+]
Gato Barbieri: The Third World (1969, Flying Dutchman -70) Front cover just says "Gato" under the title. Album opens with flute, then a little vocal, before blossoming into one of the most identifiable tenor sax tones ever. Interesting line up here, with the first hints of his Latin/tango rhythm melded with Roswell Rudd's trombone growl. 
Carla Bley/Paul Haines: Escalator Over the Hill (1968-71, JCOA) 
Roswell Rudd and the Jazz Composer's Orchestra: Numatik Swing Band (1973, JCOA) Sheila Jordan sings. 
Roswell Rudd: Flexible Flyer (1974, Black Lion -95) One of my all-time favorite albums, with Sheila Jordan singing and Rudd's the only horn voice, remarkably tasteful piano by Hod O'Brien and a rhythm section that could swing free but doesn't. 
Steve Lacy/Roswell Rudd/Kent Carter/Beaver Harris: Trickles (1976, Black Saint) 
Roswell Rudd: Blown Bone (1976, Phillips)
Roswell Rudd: Inside Job (1976, Arista/Freedom) 
Carla Bley: Dinner Music (1976, Watt)
The Carla Bley Band: European Tour 1977 (1977, Watt -78) [+]
Enrico Rava Quartet (1978, ECM) 
Laboratorio Della Quercia (1978, Horo)
The Carla Bley Band: Musique Mechanique (1978, Watt -79) The title piece here is broken into three movements, each marked by a striking mechanicalism in the movement: the rhythm lurches in small, sharp locksteps, while there is much huffing and puffing -- notably from the lower reaches of the bass section, especially Bob Stewart's tuba. Roswell Rudd sings during the middle movement, with a similar mechanical thrust. And Karen Mantler's glockenspiel adds something to the final movement. The two other pieces are less distinctive, and less obviously humorous, and for that matter less obviously interesting. 
The Definitive Roswell Rudd (1979, Horo)
Roswell Rudd/Steve Lacy/Misha Mengelberg/Kent Carter/Han Bennink: Regeneration (1982, Soul Note -83) 
That's the Way I Feel Now: A Tribute to Thelonious Monk (1984, A&M -85) [One track, credited to Terry Adams and Friends.] [+]
Allen Lowe/Roswell Rudd: Dark Was the Night -- Cold Was the Ground (1993, Music & Arts) [+]
Allen Lowe/Roswell Rudd: Woyzeck's Death (1994, Enja -95) The second collaboration, with Lowe (tenor sax) composing up to the title piece and the trombonist contributing the last two pieces. With Randy Sandke (trumpet) and Ben Goldberg (clarinets) backed by piano-bass-drums. A meditation on Georg Buchner's famous play (left unfinished at the playwright's death), a bit awkward and dramatic, but great to hear Rudd. 
Steve Swell Quartet: Out and About (1996, CIMP) Probably the best avant-trombonist to come along since Rudd starts his career by entertaining the master.
Elton Dean Quartet + Roswell Rudd: Rumours of an Incident (1996, Slam)
Elton Dean/Paul Dunmall/Tony Levin/Paul Rogers/Roswell Rudd/Keith Tippett: Bladik (1996, Cuneiform)
Roswell Rudd: The Unheard Herbie Nichols, Vol. 1 (1996, CIMP) 
Roswell Rudd: The Unheard Herbie Nichols, Vol. 2 (1996, CIMP) 
Elton Dean's Newsense (1997, Slam -98) The saxophonist in early 1970's prog-rock group Soft Machine, although that barely (and rather obliquely) hints at his jazz career (up to his death in 2006). It helps here to know that Dean led a 1976-81 nonet called Elton Dean's Ninesense (including South Africans Harry Miller, Louis Moholo, and Mongezi Feza, also Harry Beckett from Barbados), so the name here introduces a new nonet. The horns are dense and thick, but few stand out. 
Ab Baars Trio + Roswell Rudd: Four (1998, Data)
Steve Lacy/Roswell Rudd: Monk's Dream (1999, Verve -00) [+]
Roswell Rudd: Broad Strokes (1999-2000, Knitting Factory) Eclectic, it sez here. Big groups, small groups, too many vocals (awful ones at that), some great trombone. A mishmash. 
Archie Shepp and Roswell Rudd: Live in New York (2001, Verve) Ten or so years ago, Roswell Rudd was working in a Catskills hotel when Francis Davis tracked him down to write a "whatever happened to?" article about him. Since then he's come back big enough to share top billing in this reunion of Archie Shepp's '60s quintet, soon after sharing top billing with Steve Lacy on 2000's Monk's Dream. This is the better album, partly for the obvious reason that Shepp's run-of-the-mill blues vocals are infintely preferable to Aëbi's stilted operatics. But top-of-the-line billing is not just newfound recognition for the doyen of avant-garde trombonists, this record rides on Rudd's compositions, and resounds with trombone (abetted by second trombonist Grachan Moncur). 
Steve Lacy-Roswell Rudd Quartet: Early and Late (1962-2002, Cuneiform 2CD -07) One thing that distinguished both Lacy and Rudd is that they vaulted directly from trad jazz to the avant-garde, pausing only to snatch up the songbooks of Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols. Instrumentation had something to do with this: before Lacy, the only known soprano sax master was Sidney Bechet, while, pace J.J. Johnson, the trombone had long been a New Orleans staple for dirtying up the lead trumpet -- Louis Armstrong never went anywhere without a Kid Ory or Trummy Young or Jack Teagarden. The first Lacy-Rudd quartet only cut one album, School Days (1963), but it was landmark enough that Ken Vandermark named his trombone-powered pianoless quartet after it (and everything School Days released was golden). The four early cuts here are unreleased demos -- three takes on Monk and one on Cecil Taylor -- and they are major finds, keys to how to turn a song inside out and make something new of it. The group broke up with Lacy moving to France and Rudd teaming up with Archie Shepp and others before fading into obscurity. Finally, they regrouped for tours in 1999 and 2002, with a new album, Monk's Dream. The rest are live shots from the tours -- long pieces, mostly Lacy's improv frameworks, plus Monk and Nichols and a sprightly pseudo-African riff from Rudd. They don't blow you away so much as they resonate with the authoritative voices of two major careers bound together at their ends. 
Sex Mob: Dime Grind Palace (2003, Ropeadope) Group formed in 1998 -- Steven Bernstein (trumpet), Briggan Krauss (sax), Tony Scherr (bass), and Kenny Wollesen (drums -- with nine albums through 2016, this their fifth, joined here and there by various guests, notably Peter Apfelbaum, John Kruth, Scott Robinson, Marcus Rojas, and Roswell Rudd (the latter brings the grind to 10 of 16 cuts). 
Roswell Rudd's Malicool (2003, Sunnyside) The veteran avant-garde trombonist meets Toumani Diabate and friends for some rather atmospheric kora, balophone, ngone, djembe, guitar, bass and 'bone. Rudd sounds fine in this context, and Diabate sounds much like he always does, but you'd think the meeting ought to have generated a little more edge. Like maybe they could use a drummer? [+]
Roswell Rudd & the Mongolian Buryat Band: Blue Mongol (2005, Sunnyside) The great jazz trombonist engages a conservatory-trained Mongolian folk group; part of the interest is the similar harmonics between trombone and throat singing, but the highlight is when Rudd cops a Beach Boys line for "Buryat Boogie." 
Roswell Rudd/Mark Dresser: Airwalkers (2004, Clean Feed -06) Bass-trombone duo. Seems to me this is more Dresser's show: he does this sort of intimate abstraction quite often, it's always difficult to follow but sometimes interesting when you do. Always great to hear Rudd, and a rare treat to hear him this rough but still in control. But not a record that will convert anyone. 
Anita O'Day: Indestructible! (2004-05, Kayo Stereophonic -06) Well into her 80s, she doesn't swing as hard as she used to, and her voice is more gone than not, but she inspires a couple of near-faultless bands. Roswell Rudd rumbles on three tracks, including "Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer." Joe Wilder stands out on the other tracks. O'Day's post-prime recordings have always been a matter of taste and sentiment: you have to like her a lot to see past the decline, but that's easy to do. 
Roswell Rudd & Yomo Toro: El Espíritu Jíbaro (2002-06, Sunnyside -07) One of Rudd's world music match-ups, with Bobby Sanabria reinforcing Toro's Puerto Rican country beat, and Rudd just being the great trombonist he's always been. Better than his beatless Mali album; not as intriguing a mix as those Mongolian throat singers. 
Roswell Rudd Quartet: Keep Your Heart Right (2007, Sunnyside -08) New album of (mostly) old songs, the few the great trombonist managed to write lyrics for. They're set up for Sunny Kim, the first singer he's used since he rediscovered Sheila Jordan. Unfair for anyone to have to walk in Jordan's shoes, but I'm not sure I'd think much of Kim in any case. To her credit, she fares best on two songs Jordan sung on Flexible Flyer, ably negotiating the same tricky phrasing; elsewhere she ranges from competent to not. Piano and bass do little, and I still wonder what Rudd has against drums (or drummers). The trombone is glorious. 
Chuck Bernstein: Delta Berimbau Blues (2007-08, CMB) Minimalist gutbucket blues played on a Brazilian diddley bow, with Roswell Rudd for a choice cut. 
Roswell Rudd: Trombone Tribe (2008, Sunnyside -09) Several tribes, actually: the title group with three trombones and Bob Stewart on tuba; one called Bonerama with five plus a sousaphone; the Gangbe Brass Band of Benin; and Sex Mob, which qualifies when Rudd weighs in; also, scattered unnamed groups with everyone from Eddie Bert to Ray Anderson to Josh Roseman. And what do trombone tribes do? Duh, party! 
The Second Approach Trio With Roswell Rudd: The Light (2009, SoLyd) Passing through Moscow, the trombone great gets sucked into a maelstrom of flying scat and piano -- like he never left the '60s. 
Allen Lowe: Blues and the Empirical Truth (2009-11, Music & Arts 3CD) Probably better known for his books and compilations -- the 9-CD American Pop: An Audio History From Minstrel to Mojo and the 36-CD That Devilin' Tune: A Jazz History plus their separately published books, with a new 36-CD blues series in the works -- than for his original music. I first discovered him when Francis Davis tabbed his first two self-released 1990-92 albums as Pick Hits in an earlier edition of Jazz Consumer Guide -- critical admiration that continues as Davis wrote liner notes for this release. Based in Maine, mostly cut with a local group occasionally spiced with outside star power -- Marc Ribot, Matthew Shipp, Roswell Rudd, Lewis Porter -- this digs deeper than I could have imagined into blues form, blues notes, and blues psyche, turning every aspect over and inside out. Lowe plays alto, C melody, and tenor sax, and guitar. While most of the guitar is played by Ray Suhy or Marc Ribot, Lowe especially stands out on "Williamsburg Blues" -- his guitar with Shipp's piano. Three discs means some sprawl, comparable I'd say to 69 Love Songs in that neither the theme nor the invention wears thin. (Well, maybe a bit in the middle disc.) 
Roswell Rudd: The Incredible Honk (2011, Sunnyside) An smorgasbord with Cuban, Cajun, Chinese, and Malian guests, topped by "Danny Boy" stripped down to a bare 'bone. 
Roswell Rudd: Trombone for Lovers (2013, Sunnyside) With the "Joe Hill" suite at the end, this could have been called Trombone for the Masses: I don't mind the rapper there but the NYC Labor Choir takes some getting used to even though I feel like saluting the political point. Everything else is just superb: the opening "Ghost Riders in the Sky" with Steven Bernstein's slide trumpet, Bob Dorough on "Here, There & Everywhere," Fay Victor on "Trouble in Mind," Michael Doucet's violin on "Autumn Leaves" and "Tennessee Waltz," familiar songs that seem perfect when they pop up: "Baby, It's Cold Outside," "Struttin' With Some Barbecue," "Green Onions," "Unchained Melody," "September Song." As for "Joe Hill," well, organize. 
Roswell Rudd & Heather Masse: August Love Song (2015, Red House -16) Masse is a singer from Maine, part of the folk group The Wailin' Jennys but also has a couple jazz albums. She wrote one-and-a-half songs here -- the half segues into "Old Devil Moon" -- and the trombonist wrote two songs, the rest from the standards repertoire. With Rolf Sturm on guitar and Mark Helias on bass, what I love is the trombone growl and rumble, but the others, not least the singer, do their part too. 
Bob Merrill: Cheerin' Up the Universe (2013, Accurate -15) Trumpet player, crooner, don't know if he's related to the famous songwriter of the same name (1921-98), but is clearly much younger and still living. Band includes John Medeski, Russ Gershon, Nicki Parrott, and George Schuller, and Harry Allen and Roswell Rudd drop in for a cut apiece. 
Roswell Rudd/Jamie Saft/Trevor Dunn/Balasz Pandi: Strength & Power (2015, Rare Noise -16) Free jazz quartet, everything joint-credited, presumably improvised on the spot. The trombonist has done things like this in the distant past, none recently, and never has he got the mix this right. Saft has emerged as an exceptional free jazz pianist, and the bassist and drummer know the game. 
Roswell Rudd/Fay Victor/Lafayette Harris/Ken Filiano: Embrace (2017, RareNoise) Trombone-piano-bass trio plus singer, one of the most distinctive ones working today if not always one of the easiest to listen to. In some ways this recalls Rudd's mid-1970s work with Sheila Jordan -- less swing, the pianist a bit more ornate. Victor is especially striking on songs that don't tempt her to scat or vocalese, like "Can't We Be Friends" and "House of the Rising Sun," but she's pretty impressive traipsing over Mingus and Monk. The trombone isn't exactly lovely, but so full of soul it can't be the work of anyone else. 
Monday, December 18, 2017
Music: Current count 29021  rated (+26), 389  unrated (+1).
Spent most of the week sorting out the Jazz Critics Poll ballots, but got slowed down the last few days. Every year we do a Hanukkah party: no religious significance, basically just an excuse to fry up some latkes for friends. Over the years I've added a few side dishes: I salt-cure a chunk of salmon, make some chopped liver, make my own applesauce (we still buy the sour cream). Last year I baked some rye bread to go with the chopped liver. This year I did honey rye rolls (from The Gefilte Manifesto), and whipped up a batch of their "everything bagel butter." I also had some sauerrubben (salted turnip) left over from a previous meal, and the citrus-carrot horseradish, so I made a terrine of gefilte fish (used dover sole) to go with that. I also fried up and pickled some frozen perch fillets I found in the freezer. The centerpiece were the potato pancakes: 3 lbs of russets, 3 onions, 3 eggs, fried in grapeseed oil in three skillets. I don't get to eat until the frying's done, by which time everyone else are pretty well sated.
For a light dessert, we had a bowl of strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries with a wine-sugar syrup and a second bowl of vanilla cream. I recently bought a 12-cup food processor, which made quick work of the onions and potatoes, the chopped liver, and the other tasks I presented it with (although it wasn't great at mixing up or kneading the bread). Prep work was pretty relaxed. The frying caused problems, first tripping the smoke alarm, then the range hood shut down. Doesn't seem to be a permanent problem, but it's never been so fussy before.
I played golden oldies while cooking, hence the low rated count. Also lost more than a few hours to a carpentry project: a new pantry rack that'll attach to the basement door. Bought some more paint for that today. Should get it up in a couple of days.
One casualty of this work was no Weekend Roundup yesterday. You can, at least, check out Matthew Yglesias: The 4 biggest policy stories of the week, explained: A Democrat won a Senate election in Alabama; Republicans wrote their tax bill; Sexual harassment accusations kept roiling Congress; Net neutrality (i.e., the end of, so your ISP can start auctioning you off to the highest bidder). Given that a candidate as inept and disgusting as Roy Moore still managed to get 650,000 votes (48.4%), I doubt the good news about Alabama will last long. Everything else is more/less horrible. The takeaway is that Republicans don't care about doing vastly unpopular things as long as they advance their owners' agenda. Even if they blow up and cost them a couple elections, like 2006-08, they believe they can claw their way back to power. Yglesias' piece, a piece arguing Why Trump's tax cuts won't be repealed, reveals part of the reason: a profound lack of ambition from the Democrats.
Another thing I didn't have time for was working on the EOY Aggregate List. Picked up a couple lists, but nothing much changed. Much of what I did come up with was suggested by various jazz lists, but still lots of things not on Napster or Bandcamp. Finally wound up with Ron Miles' I Am a Man on YouTube, but that's hardly a fair medium for reviewing. Note three B+(***) records among the vault discoveries: Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, and Oscar Pettiford all did well in the Jazz Critics Poll, but one spin (especially for the 2CD items) wasn't enough to convince me. Indeed, I also had Call Super pegged at B+(***) before I chanced an extra spin this afternoon, and enjoyed it enough to nudge it over the line.
I was saddened, and given that he was only 61 years old, shocked to hear that Ralph Carney has died. He grew up in Ohio, played clarinet (saxophone, all sorts of other instruments) in the Akron-based new wave rock group Tin Huey -- kind of a big deal c. 1979, with Chris Butler going on to form the Waitresses -- and released a few albums from 1987 on. I'm especially fond of two of the jazzier ones: Carneyball Johnson (2006) and Ralph Carney's Serious Jass Project (2009); also fine, by the latter group, was Seriously (2011). I wrote him once for records, and he was uncommonly gracious and generous, leading me to his work on several fine "spoken word" albums: Ira Cohen's The Stauffenberg Cycle, Robert Creeley's Really!!, and David Greenberger's OH, PA. He was probably most widely known for his long association with Tom Waits, but he did much more than that.
Keely Smith (originally Dorothy Jacqueline Keely) also passed away last week. She got a job singing for bandleader Louis Prima in 1949, married him in 1953, divorced him in 1961. Prima did some good work as far back as 1934 and had some hits in the '40s, but their period together (along with saxophonist Sam Butera, aka "the wildest") made them stars, especially in Las Vegas. Especially notable is their 1958 Live From Las Vegas. She continued recording up to 1965, then made brief comebacks around 1985 and 2000. The only album I noticed came out in 2005, a thoroughly enjoyable recapitulation of her heyday called Vegas '58 -- Today.
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:
Monday, December 11, 2017
Music: Current count 28995  rated (+45), 388  unrated (-2).
First time I calculated the rated count I came up with 31, which looked way low. A closer look kicked it up to 37, and then I went back and rechecked everything in the rated list and found a bunch of records missing grades. I also recalled that I had played two Yaeji EPs, so fixed that. Final rated total winds up pretty close to the upper bounds of a good, solid week. Contributing were two things: one was that I was recuperating from the previous week's cooking madness, taking it easy with hardly any distractions; the other was that I used a good deal of my chill time aggregating EOY lists, which suggested a lot of records to check out. Can't say as they've generated a lot of finds thus far, although one list pointed me to the legendary Kenyan band, and their label's Bandcamp page led me to the Andina compilation. My tip for the '90s pop compilation came from Robert Christgau (at the time I couldn't find the other one he liked, Now That's What I Call Tailgate Anthems, but I've found it now, so next week).
I finally got the Jazz Critics Poll ballot data last night, so I'm swamped with work to do to check and format that data. Still not sure when NPR is going to run -- probably this week, quite possibly before I get my part done. Otherwise I'd write something about how the EOY list aggregate is shaping up, but I suppose you can see for yourself. As I initially suspected, Kendrick Lamar's Damn is well ahead, with the next four slots very close (83-78 by my count, compared to 114 for Lamar and 55 for 6th place Vince Staples: Lorde, LCD Soundsystem, SZA, and St. Vincent. I've compiled far fewer lists than I have in recent years, but I'll note that AOTY's 2017 Music Year End List Aggregate currently shows the same top six albums in the same order (although they have Lorde opening up a clear gap over a virtual tie between LCD Soundsystem and SZA). Their top ten rounds out with War on Drugs, Father John Misty, Sampha, and National, with Slowdive 11th. My top 11 has the same records, order slightly shuffled.
After that we disagree more, with Mount Eerie dropping from 12th on their list to 28th on mine; Tyler the Creator from 13th to 19th; the XX from 21st to 38th, Taylor Swift from 36th to 68th. There are fewer dramatic improvements on my list, although the early UK bias certainly helps Jane Weaver (from 40th to 16th). I'll know more, and be able to say more, next week. One thing I will note is that my list has picked up on so few jazz lists that it's completely useless for predicting the Jazz Critics Poll.
One final note: after reviewing it, I discovered that Octopus is actually scheduled for Jan. 28, 2018 release, so it doesn't appear in my 2017 Jazz List. I did find the FCT album after I cast my Jazz Critics Poll ballot, so as usual it took me just a few days to find an A- album I had missed.
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, December 10, 2017
The Democrats in Congress, especially the leadership, have had a really bad week, and I fear they've inflicted grave wounds on themselves. John Conyers and Al Franken have resigned after enormous pressure from the party leadership, leaving the party with fewer votes, summarily ending two notable careers. I especially blame Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Shumer. Back in 2016 Hillary Clinton like to posit a "Commander-in-Chief Test," figuring she'd compare favorably to Donald Trump by emphasizing her own fondness for military adventures -- I think her hawkishness was a big part of why she lost, but my point isn't to rehash her delusions. Rather, what we saw last week was a "Shop Steward" test, which Pelosi and Shumer utterly failed. They let a little media pressure blow them over. More importantly, they failed to insist on due process, on the most basic principles of traditional American justice, and in doing so they sacrificed political standing and insulted and demeaned the voters who had elected Conyers and Franken.
Supposedly, one thing the Democrats hope to achieve in sacking Conyers and Franken is "the moral high ground" -- demonstrating their superior sensitivity to and concern for victims of sexual misconduct (pretty broadly defined). In theory, this will pay off in defeating Roy Moore in next week's Alabama Senate race and/or in putting pressure on Donald Trump to resign. In fact, Trump was elected president after 19 women accused him of various shades of assault, and after he bragged about as much. While Moore is facing a closer election than Alabama Republicans are used to, he remains the favorite to win Tuesday. And while some Democrats imagine that if Moore wins the Senate will refuse to seat him, I can't imagine the Republicans sacrificing power like that. Nor, quite frankly, should they. (The only duly elected member I can recall either branch of Congress refusing to seat was Adam Clayton Powell, in a shameful travesty -- although, come to think of it, they did take months before allowing Al Franken to enter.)
Some scattered links this week:
Monday, December 4, 2017
Music: Current count 28950  rated (+19), 390  unrated (-1).
I spent most of last week planning, shopping, prepping, and cooking a massive dinner for the Wichita Peace Center's 25th Annual Dinner, with major (indispensable) help from Janice Bradley, Max Stewart, and Russ Pataki, with a few others pitching in on dinner days, notably including people I didn't know who hung around to help clean up. I fixed a range of Indian dishes: lamb and potatoes in a cream sauce (rogani gosht), tandoori chicken in a tomato-butter sauce (makhni), fish tikka, patiala pilaf (minus the fried onions), a sweet potato/chickpea curry, mattar paneer (peas with cheese), bharta (smoked eggplant), cabbage, kali dal, cucumber raita. We served appetizers at the tables, including a minted aloo chat (potato salad), coconut relish, pineapple sambal, a hot tomato chutney, paratha (flatbread), tapioca chips, a couple of store-bought chutneys (brinjal, lime pickle). Had spice cake and a Moroccan fruit salad for dessert. Best compliment I had was when one friend came up to me and cooed in my ear, "the food is divine." I had my quibbles with the fish and rice -- partly frustration as they were the last things done and both ran into unexpected problems.
Mark McCormick was the featured speaker (buy his new book here). He gave a nice speech, and was even better fielding questions, stressing how we've become disconnected and desensitized to the problems around us. Partial proof of that was evident in the disappointing turnout: a little over 40 people this year, compared to 60 last year. (Not getting an accurate RSVP count until too late, I prepared food for 60, so we had a lot left over.) I was pretty much a wreck by the time it was done. Doubt I'll be able to do it again, but afterwards Max was trying to figure out ways to spread the work out -- I've never been very good at delegating -- and I was wondering whether paella might scale up better. Don't need to decide for nearly a year.
I published the November roll-up of Streamnotes last week. on Tuesday. With everything else going on, I didn't expect I'd be able to find anything new to add to what I had noted last Music Week. But I found four of this week's five A- records in the day between Music Week and Streamnotes: the David S. Ware archival set (from 2010, so still new enough) wasn't unexpected, and the two Chicago tenor saxophonists (Ken Vandermark and Mars Williams, dba Made to Break and Boneshaker, respectively) were right up my alley. But Re-TROS, a tip from Chris Monsen's 2017-in-progress list, was totally unexpected: a Chinese alt-rock group, at times (but not all the time) sounding like a cross between Pulnoc and Konono No. 1 (on Bandcamp, by the way).
December 3 was the deadline for ballots for Francis Davis' Jazz Critics Poll. I resorted my top jazz picks and submitted the following:
My ranking is highly proximate. Parker is the only download, and I probably haven't played it enough, but the two contrasting quartets reminds me of Ornette Coleman's marvelous In All Languages, where he split a double-LP among two groups (more distinctive ones than Parker's). Each half is potentially great, but I still haven't moved it above the A- bin. I replayed maybe half of the top ten last week, but there's still not a lot of distance from top to bottom, or even throughout the A-list.
I was going to make a comment based on something Robert Christgau said in a recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette interview, but I can't look up the quote due to an "ad blocker" snit fit I don't feel like indulging. As best I recall, he said something about most critics viewing EOY lists as personal branding exercises. My list can be viewed that way. To the extent that I have a brand, or a public persona, it's that of someone who listens far and wide, doesn't follow fashion, and doesn't want to get pigeonholed. On the other hand, this year's list is more avant than usual, and leans toward people I've repeatedly favored in the past -- something I've noticed a lot this past year (while suspecting as some kind of a rut, but not caring enough to break out of).
My Best Non-Jazz of 2017 list is even more problematical, not least because I've cared for it less. I haven't, for instance, played 2nd-ranked Run the Jewels or 3rd-ranked Sylvan Esso since I initially graded them, so early in the year that they were necessarily slotted high on the list. I don't have a Pazz & Jop invitation yet. When I do, I expect I'll do a lot of shuffling, if only to "fit my brand" as it's becoming increasingly impossible to believe that I'm sorting out anything objective.
But if I had to draw a single conclusion out of these lists, it's that nothing this year matters nearly as much to me as the records I've regularly put on top-ten lists in past years -- especially a decade or more back; e.g., in 2007:
Or 1997, when the sample size was only 155 records:
I don't have earlier lists I can readily tap into, but 1987 and 1977 would be even more memorable to me -- especially the latter, as it came right after I moved to New York City, during my first stretch writing rock crit for the Village Voice, a time when I really cared about my favorite records, and managed to put a lot of time into them. That doesn't happen any more, and while I suspect the variable is me, I can't totally eliminate the music. I mean, doesn't postmodernism start with ironic detachment? Then why shouldn't it end simply with indifference?
I'm not saying that music in 2017 sucks. This year is more/less as good as last year and the year before and so on -- the only long term trends worth noting are that there's more to listen to every year and less time to devote to it. But what is indubitable is that the world in 2017 sucks, so it's getting harder for music to overcome all that drudgery. And, sure, that's probably worse for someone my age, because pretty much everything gets worse as you get old.
By the way, I have started to aggregate EOY lists, using the same formats and methodology as last year. Thus far I have something like four early lists (Mojo and three British record shops, so all UK) plus three individual JJA top-tens, plus I'm counting my grades as I go along, so take this with several distinct grains of salt. The only thing I'm fairly sure of thus far is that LCD Soundsystem's American Dream is the only record with a decent chance of challenging the obvious favorite, Kendrick Lamar's Damn. Moreover, the three jazz lists I've thus far tallied don't offer a single clue how the Jazz Critics Poll is going to sort out (not a single record appears on more than one ballot so far (nor on mine). If I had to hazard a guess, it would be that Vijay Iyer's Far From Over wins, but it doesn't have a vote so far.
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, December 3, 2017
I spent literally most of last week trying to cook for 60 at the Wichita Peace Center Annual Dinner on Friday, and I've been sore and tired ever since. Thought compiling this post might feel like a return to normalcy, but nothing's normal any more.
Some scattered links this week:
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Streamnotes (November 2017)
Don't have time to count, but probably a large edge below for jazz over non-jazz releases, partly because I still get some jazz in the mail, partly because it's easier to find about about jazz things of likely interest, partly because I'm more confident of my views there. Good late run of free jazz albums, bringing my very much in progress Best Jazz Albums of 2017 A-list to a 73-49 edge over Best Non-Jazz Albums of 2017. I should caution you that order of both should shuffle a lot in the next couple weeks.
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 October 31. Past reviews and more information are available here (10370 records).
2 Chainz: Pretty Girls Like Trap Music (2017, Def Jam): A rapper from Georgia, Tauheed Epps, fifth big label album plus a dozen mixtapes, many of the latter playing off the Trap Music concept -- not sure how that fits in here, as this all bangs pretty hard. Runs long, too, but develops some appeal. B+(*)
Thomas Anderson: My Songs Are the House I Live In (2017, Out There): Singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, self-released a long-titled but marvelous debut in 1988 and has kept working at it -- ninth album in my databse, but there are probably more. He's clear enough I can follow the words, and smart enough I want to, and while this may not be his deepest set, the keyboard-heavy music sets it up so elegantly I want to keep working on it. A-
Nicole Atkins: Goodbye Rhonda Lee (2017, Single Lock): Singer-songwriter, fourth album since 2007, based in Nashville but no country influence I can detect. Cites the Brill Building as a prime influence, but don't hear that either. B
Rahsaan Barber: The Music in the Night (2017, Jazz Music City): Tenor saxophonist, based in Nashville, teaches at Tennessee State, has at least one previous album. Standards, some as smoothly honed as "Isn't She Lovely" and "The Girl From Ipanema," easy listening without being overly smooth. Backed by piano-bass-drums, guest guitar on two cuts, a Dara Tucker vocal that doesn't hurt, very pleasant stuff. B+(**) [cd]
Sam Bardfeld: The Great Enthusiasms (2017, BJU): Violinist, from New York, has a couple of previous albums, plays in Jazz Passengers, Roy Nathanson's Sotto Voce, and Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band. Trio here with Kris Davis on piano and Michael Sarin on drums, pushing the beat every which way. B+(***) [bc]
Cheryl Bentyne: Rearrangements of Shadows: The Music of Stephen Sondheim (2017, ArtistShare): Jazz singer, best known for her long (since 1979) role in Manhattan Transfer, has more than a dozen solo albums (one in 1992, more regularly since 2003), many songbook exercises. Sondheim is probably the biggest name on Broadway not to have entered the Great American Songbook repertoire, partly because he came late to the party. Indeed, if the exception proves the rule, consider "Send in the Clowns": one of his earliest songs (1973), one that Count Basie couldn't swing and Sarah Vaughan couldn't sing, little improved yet it's the best thing here. B- [cd]
Big Thief: Masterpiece (2016, Saddle Creek): Brooklyn indie band, principally singer-guitarist Adrianne Lenker, who can slow the band down to a coo or layer on the noise in this debut album. B+(*)
Big Thief: Capacity (2017, Saddle Creek): Second album, Adrianne Lenker looking very un-rock-star-like on the cover, singing more heartfelt ballads inside. B+(**)
Björk: Utopia (2017, One Little Indian): Icelandic singer-songwriter, many albums since she left the Sugarcubes in 1992, huge star though she works in a unique niche -- folktronica, sources say, but really much weirder than that implies. Sprawling (71:38) album, daunting for non-fans but more listenable than most. B+(*)
Raoul Björkenheim Ecstasy: Doors of Perception (2017, Cuneiform): Finnish guitarist, group name comes from his 2014 album (stylized eCsTaSy), with Paul Lyytinen (saxophones, flute), Jori Huhtala (bass), and Markku Ounaskari (drums). Guitar mostly leads, taking command so thoroughly that the sax eventually reduces to shading, not that it started out that way. B+(***) [dl]
Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band: Body and Shadow (2017, Blue Note): Drummer, released Brian Blade Fellowship in 1998 and this is a 20th anniversary reunion, with Jon Cowherd (keybs), Myron Walden (alto sax), Melvin Butler (tenor sax), and Chris Thomas (bass) continuous members, with Dave Devine taking over the guitar slot. Densely, artfully layered postbop, doesn't move or engage much. B-
Robt Sarazin Blake: Recitative (2017, Same Room, 2CD): Singer-songwriter from Bellingham, Washington; started as Robert Blake, later went as Sarazin Blake, and seems to have settled on this moniker although Robert Sarazin Blake works for his Bandcamp pages. This seems far removed from his folk roots: while I'm often impressed by his wordplay (good examples are "Couples" and "Work"), I'm more so by the music, especially when the decidedly non-folkie saxophone wails. A-
Boneshaker: Thinking Out Loud (2017, Trost): Free sax trio: Mars Williams (reeds, toys), Kent Kessler (bass), Paal Nilssen-Love (drums). Third group album, seems to have mellowed a bit but then Williams reels off the most inspired broken field sax run I've heard all year. A- [bc]
Mihály Borbély Quartet: Be by Me Tonight/Gyere Hozzám Estére (2016, BMC): Hungerian clarinetist, a pleasant (and memorable) surprise for me shortly after I started writing Jazz CG in 2004 but I never ran across him since, until this. The leader also plays tarogato, alto sax, soprano sax, bass clarinet, tilinko, and supelka, Balász Horváth on bass, and István Baló on drums, and most importantly Áron Tálas on piano. Nice but less memorable. B+(**)
Geof Bradfield: Birdhoused (2017, Cellar Live): Tenor saxophonist, mainstream but he's always had an extra edge, leads a sextet here including Marquis Hill on trumpet, Joel Adams on trombone, and Nick Mazzarella on alto sax. B+(**) [bc]
Brand New: Science Fiction (2017, Procrastinate! Music Traitors): Rock band, from Long Island, cut four albums 2001-09, breaking up until 2014 when they returned to the studio and started work on this "fifth and final album." Not sure if disbandment is the result of frontman Jesse Lacey's "sexual misconduct" scandal or just that they're growing tired: this lumbers along with some artfulness, but left me empty. B
Peter Brötzmann/Steve Swell/Paal Nilssen-Love: Live in Tel Aviv (2016 , Not Two): Sax (or clarinet)/trombone/drums, two long improv pieces, full of strife and churn as you might expect, doesn't strike me as favorably as the same trio's recent Live in Copenhagen, recorded six months earlier. B+(**)
Jonas Cambien/Adrian Myhr: Simiskina (2017, Clean Feed): Piano-bass duets, Cambien born in Belgium but based in Myhr's native Norway. Intimate chamber jazz feel, but not so simple. B+(*)
Carn Davidson 9: Murphy (2017, self-released): Large band from Toronto -- two trumpets, two trombones, three saxes, bass and drums -- led by William Carn (trombone) and Tara Davidson (alto sax), playing original material, some arrangements credited to other band members. Has some zip, with no one getting out of line. B [cd]
François Carrier/Michel Lambert: Out of Silence (2015 , FMR): Canadians, alto sax-drums duets, long-time collaborators, working live in London, they must have a dozen of more/less equivalent albums by now, especially if you count the ones with a guest pianist. Still, they all sound great to me, the only way this is not exceptional. A- [cd]
Ernesto Cervini's Turboprop: Rev (2013-16 , Anzic): Drummer, from Canada, has a couple previous albums including one from 2014 titled Turboprop. Sextet, with two saxophones (Tara Davidson and Joel Frahm), trombone (William Carn, who also contributes a song), piano, bass, and drums. Two originals push the peddle, the other pieces mostly from sources I don't recognize, with the Radiohead cover lost on me, but "Pennies From Heaven" is sweet indeed. B+(**) [cd]
Bill Charlap Trio: Uptown Downtown (2017, Impulse!): Mainstream pianist, has worked with trio partners Peter Washington (bass) and Kenny Washington (drums) since 1998 -- hard to ask for better ones, and their early albums were sparkling though it's been a while since I've been impressed. B+(**)
Corey Christiansen: Dusk (2015 , Origin): guitarist, from and still based in utah, has a handful of records since 2008, nice metallic ring to his tone, claims to be exploring Americana here (all originals except for one trad.). mostly backed by bass-drums, adding keyboards and percussion for 3 (of 8) tracks. b+(*) [cd]
Anat Cohen Tentet: Happy Song (2016 , Anzic): Israeli reed player, based in New York, found a niche on clarinet and is the reigning poll winner there. Ten musicians -- trumpet, trombone, baritone sax/bass clarinet, guitar, piano, vibes, bass, and drums -- plus Oded Lev-Ari as Musical Director, who also gets cover credit. Most impressive when they tap into old-time swing, even though they're none too smooth, or throw in a klezmer curveball. B+(***)
Richie Cole: Latin Lover (2017, RCP): Alto saxophonist, cut a record called Alto Madness in 1977 and played up the madman theme for many years, then seemed to disappear, but came back with a strong "Ballads and Love Songs" album in 2016. He doesn't go overboard on his Latin twist album -- guest castanets on one song but otherwise no extra percussion or specialists. Four originals (two with "Breeze" in the title), more standards than trad Latin pieces, but he has fun working on his tinge, and his alto is as lovely as ever. B+(***) [cd]
Michelle Coltrane: Awakening (2017, Blujazz): Singer, refers to John and Alice Coltrane as her parents but was born before they married, so birth father was probably Kenny "Pancho" Hagood, a jazz singer who started in Benny Carter's big band. Discogs credits her singing on a Gap Band album in the 1980s, and it looks like she had one previous album in 1996 as Miki Coltrane. Very capable singer, can't say that "Tin Man" strikes me as a worthy standard but she swings it and adds some Latin percussion. Good band, including brother Ravi and Lonnie Plaxico. Mother Alice gets a credit for a bit of spoken word. B+(**) [cd]
Miley Cyrus: Younger Now (2017, RCA): Sixth studio album, but started as a teen so she's still pretty young: 24. Still, she's sounding older, and more tinged with her country roots -- with or without godmother Dolly Parton singing along. B+(*)
Ori Dagan: Nathaniel: A Tribute to Nat King Cole (2017, Scat Cat): Jazz singer from Canada, Toronto I think, third album, wrote five songs loosely tied in with his subject. Voice is far off the mark, but at least his small group swing stays clear of the big band bombast of Gregory Porter's tribute. Also, Sheila Jordan guests on "Straighten Up and Fly Right." B [cd]
David's Angels: Traces (2016-17 , Kopasetic): Swedish group, David is bassist Carlsson, the "Angels" three women: Sofie Norling (vocals), Maggi Olin (keyboards), and Michala Řstergaard-Nielsen (drums), with Olin and Norling writing the majority of the music and lyrics. Third album, Ingrid Jensen adds some trumpet. B+(*) [cd]
Deer Tick: Vol. 1 (2017, Partisan): Dismissed by Christgau as "depressive and folk-leaning" in his rush to get to the simultaneously released Vol. 2, John McCauley's blend of Americana drawl and indie-rock is just a little flat, lacking more in energy than in interest, which is well crafted as always. B+(*)
Deer Tick: Vol. 2 (2017, Partisan): Tries harder to get your attention, starting with a crash of guitar and drums. Band stays loud, which sounds better but little (if any) more interesting. B+(*)
Marc Devine Trio: Inspiration (2017, ITI): Pianist, based in New York, first album, a trio with Hide Tanaka on bass and Fukushi Tainaka on drums -- his website's upcoming shows list includes quartets and quintets led by Tainaka. One original, standards include "Love Me Tender" and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" as well as bop standards by Hank Mobley, Hank Jones, and Bud Powell. Expertly, tastefully done. B+(***) [cd]
Die Enttäuschung: Lavaman (2017, Intakt): Translates as Disappointment, a German group, based in Berlin, first recorded in 1995, with Axel Dörner on trumpet, Rudi Mahall on bass clarinet, and a shifting cast at bass and drums -- currently Jan Roder and Michael Griener, plus new this time out Christof Thewes on trombone. All original material, although their roots as a Monk tribute band -- tapped by Alexander von Schlippenbach for Monk's Casino -- show through in their irrepressible bounce and quirk. A- [cd]
Jeff Dingler: In Transit (2017, self-released): Bassist, has at least one previous album, with Brad Shepik (guitar), Lou Rainone (piano), Gustin Rudolph (drums), plus extra percussion on 4/8 tracks. Shepik especially stands out. B+(**) [cd]
DKV Trio: Latitude 41.88 (2014 , Not Two): Trio dates back to 1999: Hamid Drake (drums), Kent Kessler (bass), and Ken Vandermark (unspecified reeds). Eighth album together -- counting as one the 7-CD Past Present (2008-11) -- usually a bit rough and hyper but working in some especially eloquent stretches this time. A- [bc]
Matthieu Donarier/Santiago Quintans: Sun Dome (2017, Clean Feed): Duets, tenor sax/clarinet and electric guitar. Abstract textures, not enough reverb to count as drone, nor interesting enough. B-
Sinne Eeg: Dreams (2017, ArtistShare): Danish jazz singer, eight albums since 2003, wrote six (of ten) songs (all in English), favoring Cole Porter with two covers -- including an "Anything Goes" updated for the Trump era. First-rate band, working in Brooklyn: Joey Baron, Scott Colley, Jacob Christofferson, Larry Koonse. B+(**) [cd]
Christoph Erb/Jim Baker/Frank Rosaly: . . . Don't Buy Him a Parrot . . . (2014 , Hatology): Swiss tenor saxophonist, also plays bass clarinet, a member of Manuel Menguis Gruppe 6 but most of his discography since 2011 has been with Chicago avant-gardists, including the pianist and drummer here. B+(***)
ExpEAR & Drew Gress: Vesper (2015 , Kopasetic): Gress is a well-known, well-regarded, relatively mainstream bassist, and no doubt helps out here (he even contributes 4/9 songs), but bass tends to sink into the background, and he's no exception. Rather, what we have is a Swedish tenor sax-piano-drums trio (Henrik Frisk, Maggi Olin, Peter Nilsson), with Frisk and Olin splitting the other songs 3-2, and the sax sounding especially luscious. B+(***) [cd]
Lorenzo Feliciati: Elevator Man (2017, RareNoise): Mostly plays electric bass, sometimes fretless, but also takes one cut on acoustic and plays some guitar. Lineups vary song to song, with the faster, heavier fusion pieces holding up best, especially when Cuong Vu joins on trumpet. B+(**) [cdr]
Satoko Fujii Quartet: Live at Jazz Room Cortez (2016 , Cortez Sound): With partner Natsuki Tamura on trumpet, Keisuka Ohta on violin, and Takashi Itani on drums. Some sections are so quiet I lose track and start wondering if my equipment (or other gear) is on the fritz. Both Ohta and Tamura also credited with voice -- another distraction. At least it ends strong. B [cd]
Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Fukushima (2016 , Libra): Her most star-filled big band, all thirteen names I recognize on the back cover -- 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 4 saxes, Nels Cline on guitar but no piano, the leader content to conduct -- but none especially stand out from the grooves. Perhaps the somber theme, which starts out too quiet and never quite raises the horror the piece commemorates. B+(**) [cd]
Lee Gamble: Mnestic Pressure (2017, Hyperdub): British DJ and electronica producer, half-dozen albums since 2009. Has a touch of industrial glitz, not much more. B+(*)
Howe Gelb: Future Standards (2016 , Fire): Indie rocker, led Giant Sand from 1985 through 27 albums, started supplementing them with solo albums in 1991, 22 so far, and he's run a couple other bands. Plays cocktail piano and sings in a sly whisper, backed by three bass-drums pairs. B+(*)
Tee Grizzley: My Moment (2017, 300/Atlantic): Detroit rapper Terry Sanchez Wallace, father murdered, mother jailed for drugs, did time himself, first album. Opening freestyle needs work, but he tightens up with some beats. B+(*)
Jari Haapalainen Trio: Fusion Nation (2017, Moserobie): Drummer, born in Sweden, parents Finnish, based in Berlin; trio, with sax (Per "Texas" Johansson) and electric bass (Daniel Bingert), has three short albums (this one is 27:01) all with Fusion in the title. That doesn't quite pigeonhole them -- certainly no throwback to '70s fusion although they do evince a rockish fondness for noise and monster bass riffs. B+(**) [cd]
Taylor Haskins & Green Empire: The Point (2017, Recombination): Usually plays trumpet, but credit here is "Steiner/Crumar EVI" -- stands for Electronic Valve Instrument, a breath-controlled analog synthesizer originally developed in the late 1970s. Band adds pedal steel, acoustic guitar, bass, and drums for a pleasant groove with hints of Hawaiian. B+(*) [cd]
Alexander Hawkins-Elaine Mitchener Quartet: Uproot (2017, Intakt): English group, pianist Hawkins' trio with bass (neil Charles) and drums (Stephen Davis), plus vocalist Mitchener, who has an avant-garde stance that stretches the music out in odd directions, not necessarily making it more pleasing. B+(**) [cd]
Hear in Now [Mazz Swift/Tomeka Reid/Silvia Bolognesi]: Not Living in Fear (2012-14 , International Anthem): Avant string trio: violin, cello, and double bass, respectively, with Dee Alexander singing the title track (Swift also credited with "voice"). B+(**)
Vincent Herring: Hard Times (2017, Smoke Sessions): Alto/soprano saxophonist, twenty-plus albums since 1989, multiple side credits with Nat Adderley, Cedar Walton, and John Hicks. Has a quartet here with Cyrus Chestnut, Yasushi Nakamura, and Carl Allen, but adds a lot of guest slots: 3 cuts each for Nicolas Bearde (vocals) and Russell Malone (guitar), more for Steve Turre (trombone), Brad Mason (trumpet), and Sam Dillon (tenor sax). B+(*)
Dre Hocevar: Surface of Inscription (2016 , Clean Feed): Drummer, from Slovenia, several albums, this one strikes me as especially scattered, with piano/voice/electronics/bass/reeds in the credits, yet more often than not they barely break the noise threshold. B-
Adam Hopkins: Party Pack Ice (2015 , pfMENTUM EP): Bassist, from Baltimore, based in Brooklyn, nothing previous under his own name -- indeed, neither cover nor website suggest this is anything other than an eponymous group album, but I first ran across him in Quartet Offensive, and he's played on at least one Ideal Bread album, also with Kate Gentile and Patrick Breiner (one of two saxophonists here; the other is Eric Trudel). Also with guitar (Dustin Carlson) and drums (Nathan Ellman-Bell). But he does compose here, and the publicist thinks this is his album. Seven short but dense/heavy pieces, 24:24. B+(*) [cdr]
Kasai Allstars & Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste: Around Félicité (2017, Crammed Discs): Kinshasa group, has an album in the label's Congotronics series although here they focus more on group singing than on junkyard percussion. But this doubles as a soundtrack, with three Arvo-Part-penned tracks switch over to the Orchestre, totally breaking the intensity and flow. B+(**) [bc]
Kasai Allstars: Félicité Remixes (2017, Crammed Discs): Bonus CD to above but appears as a separate thing for download. The remixes dub in their own distractions, with only a couple cuts showing off the source Congatronics, but at least their are no neoclassical interludes. B+(*)
Kelela: Take Me Apart (2017, Warp): Last name Mizanekristos, born in DC, parents immigrated from Ethiopia, first album but a previous mixtape and EP were well-regarded enough to come to my attention. Soul, the sort of easy-beat warbly keybs in fashion lately, more befitting a singer who skipped gospel to start out in jazz and moonlight with a prog metal band. B+(**)
Jon Langford: Jon Langford's Four Lost Souls (2017, Bloodshot): The once-and-future Mekon, long based in Chicago, went to Alabama and cut this glimpse of the apocalypse the day after the Trump election, a bit unsettled and unsure, except of where their musical roots lie. B+(***)
Large Unit: Fluku (2016 , PNL): Drummer Paal Nilssen-Love's 13-piece band: three reeds, three brass (including tuba), guitar, electronics, doubling up at bass (both electric and double) and drums, plus a credit for "live sound." The long title cut builds on a long rhythmic vamp with all sorts of exciting chaos. Still, they hold your interest when they slow it down for disassembly, probably because you anticipate that it will come together in wonder again . . . as it does. A- [bc]
The Billy Lester Trio: Italy 2016 (2016 , Ultra Sound): Piano trio recorded in Italy with Marcello Testa on bass and Nicola Stranieri on drums. All original pieces, nice show of contemporary postbop. B+(*) [cd]
Harold Mabern: To Love and Be Loved (2017, Smoke Sessions): Pianist from Memphis, first album 1968. One solo track, the rest with Eric Alexander (tenor sax), Nat Reeves (bass), and Jimmy Cobb (drums), plus trumpet (Freddie Hendrix) on three tracks, percussion (Cyro Baptista) on one. I expected something less frenzied for a postbopper in his 80s, and the early sax takes it easy, but the trumpet pushes everyone over the top, and they seem to prefer it like that. B+(*)
Made to Break: Trebuchet (2017, Trost): Ken Vandermark quartet, eighth album since 2013 although half of the personnel has changed, employing Jasper Stadhouders (electric bass) and Christof Kurzmann (electronics) at least since 2015. Three pieces, Vandermark typically awesome, the sound mix around him full of nice surprises. A- [bc]
Markley & Balmer: Standards & Covers (2017, Soona Songs): Lisa Markley and Bruce Balmer, she sings, both play guitar, and despite the title write some extra lyrics -- reworking, for instance, "Lennie's Pennies" into "Hundred in a Dollar." "Lush Life" and "Caravan" are most familiar, nicely done. B+(*) [cd]
Delfeayo Marsalis: Kalamazoo (2015 , Troubadour Jass): Cover reads "An Evening With Delfeayo Marsalis" before the title, so that can be parsed variously. The family's trombonist, leading his quartet (including papa Ellis on piano), recorded live at Western Michigan University. Warm New Orleans vibe, trombone sounds special. B+(**) [cd]
Roy McGrath: Remembranzas (2017, JL Music): Saxophonist, backed by piano, bass, drums, and lots of congas, starting off with a spoken word about immigration, then plunging deep into the Latin tinge. Lots of print on the package, but nearly impossible to read (mostly white on light gray). [CD crapped out near the end, but I figured I had heard enough.] B [cd]
Joe McPhee/Damon Smith/Alvin Fielder: Six Situations (2016 , Not Two): Tenor sax, bass, and drums, recorded live at Roulette in New York City. Unreconstructed free jazz, some remarkable passages where McPhee seems to be accompanying himself with rumble patterns breaking into flights. B+(***)
Lisa Mezzacappa: Glorious Ravage (2017, New World): Bassist, based in San Francisco, has a couple previous albums, leads a large cast here (15 names on back cover, but not clear whether they're all regulars -- the most obvious one is vocalist Fay Victor, who has some trouble navigating the tricky music. B+(*) [cd]
Lorrie Morgan/Pam Tillis: Come See Me & Come Lonely (2017, Goldenlane): Sixteenth album for Loretta Lynn Morgan, starting in 1989 and including one previous duet album with the late Mel Tillis' little girl, two years later with ten albums of her own, one in 1983 and the rest since 1991. All covers, starting with one from K.T. Oslin, some as well known as "Tennessee Waltz" and "The End of the World," unexpected males joining in on a creepy "Summer Wine." B+(**)
Kyle Motl Trio: Panjandrums (2016 , Metatrope): Bassist from San Diego, leading a trio with Tobin Chodos on piano and Kjell Nordeson on bass. Strong, risky piano work, following a solo bass album that rated nearly as high. B+(***) [cd]
The National: Sleep Well Beast (2017, 4AD): Debut album in 2001, seventh overall, singer-lyricst Matt Berenger has a great voice for indie rock, especially when composer-brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner keep the beats fluid and piquant. B+(***)
Paal Nilssen-Love/Frode Gjerstad: Nearby Faraway (2016 , PNL): Drums-sax duets, the latter playing alto and tenor, also Bb and contrabass clarinet. The drummer has a lot of albums with avant saxophonists. He's very responsive here, and Gjerstad gives him quite a workout. B+(***) [bc]
Pan-Scan Ensemble: Air and Light and Time and Space (2016 , Hispid/PNL): Nine-piece group from Norway, "brass heavy" (three saxophonists I recognize -- Lotte Anker, Anna Högberg, Julie Kjaer -- and three trumpeters I don't), Sten Sandell on piano, two drummers (Paal Nilssen-Love and Stĺle Liavik Solberg). Two improv pieces add up to 45:55, a striking free-for-all that retains interest when they separate and stalk one another. B+(**) [bc]
Diana Panton: Solstice/Equinox (2017, self-released): Canadian jazz singer, eighth album, has a couple JUNO Awards, a small and rather cute voice, runs through thirteen songs. Nice band, with Guido Basso on trumpets, Phil Dwyer on saxophones, and Reg Schwager on guitar, but no drummer. B+(*) [cd]
The Paranoid Style: Underworld USA (2017, Bar/None, EP): Principally Elizabeth Nelson, following up her one full-length album with a second (or third) EP, this one six songs, 17:17, with a catchy, single-worthy closer ("Revision of Love") and other snappy songs that have yet to sink in, maybe because I keep thinking "Hawk vs. Prez" should be about jazz. B+(***)
Evan Parker & RGG: Live @ Alchemia (2016 , Fundacja Sluchaj): British free jazz titan, just playing tenor sax this time out, in an improv Krakow set with a Polish trio: Lukasz Ojdana (piano), Maciej Garbowski (bass), Krzysztof Gradziuk (drums). Still, doesn't feel like a pickup band deal. The piano leads and comping are always interesting, and the drummer pays close attention, accenting everywhere. Parker, too, is always on point. A- [bc]
William Parker Quartets: Meditation/Resurrection (2016 , AUM Fidelity, 2CD): The bassist has run two quartet configurations over many years: his freewheeling two-horn Quartet with Rob Brown (alto sax) and Lewis Barnes (trumpet), the latter replaced here by Jalalu-Kalvert Nelson, and the group In Order to Survive with Brown and pianist Cooper-Moore -- both groups with Hamid Drake on drums. One full disc of each here, and while the new trumpet player doesn't match the old one, Cooper-Moore is as breathtaking as ever. A- [dl]
Pere Ubu: 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo (2017, Cherry Red): Originally from Akron, one of my favorite bands of the late 1970s, in business ever since with singer David Thomas essential for continuity, but while none of the original musicians appear here, I often find the guitar reminding me of The Modern Dance, not to mention the drums. A-
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Live in Brussels (2016 , Leo, 2CD): Tenor sax-piano duets, in case you're not sated after seven volumes of The Art of Perelman-Shipp earlier this year. Seems a little sketchy at first, but there are stretches where they click (as usual). B+(**)
Frank Perowsky Jazz Orchestra: Gowanus (2017, Jazzkey): Saxophonist and clarinetist, leads a big band, doesn't list himself among the saxophonists but front and back covers show him with a clarinet. Produced by drummer Ben Perowsky. Recorded in Brooklyn, lots of household names in the band. Four originals, rooted in swing and bop, covering Ellington and Powell with an Ira Hawkins vocal extolling "the Basie sound." B+(*) [cd]
Pink: Beautiful Trauma (2017, RCA): Alecia Moore, from near Philadelphia, Broke through as a punkish pop star just out of her teens, like a generation ago. In 2010 she titled her best-of Greatest Hits . . . So Far! -- usually the kiss of death for a career, but her 2012 album was solid (some thought better, with world sales pegged at 7 million) and this one only tails off in an overly dramatic finale. B+(**)
Gregory Porter: Nat "King" Cole & Me (2017, Blue Note): Jazz singer, vastly overrated I think, but comes closer to Cole than I expected, a little stuffy but not really the problem. The "core band" (Christian Sands, Reuben Rogers, Ulysses Owens) is probably OK, too, but hard to tell with the London Studio Orchestra slugging out Vince Mendoza's over-the-top arrangements. Still, Porter can't be excused for the one new song he wrote. C+
Lee Ranaldo: Electric Trim (2017, Mute): Sonic Youth founder-guitarist, side projects go back to 1987 but took on a more serious air once the group disbanded, inhabiting an echo of the legend without really being able to flesh it out. Some lyrics by novelist-fan Jonathan Lethem. Guest spot for Sharon Van Etten. B+(*)
Re-TROS: Before the Applause (2017, Modern Sky Entertainment): Chinese rock group, "underground" but how would we know? Some vocals (even some in English), but rhythm tracks predominate, some quasi-industrial, some new wave danceable, some sound like Pulnoc fortified by a Kinshasa junkyard, which is to say really amazing. A-
Jamie Reynolds: Grey Mirror (2015 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Pianist, from Toronto, based in New York, seems to be his first album. Features guitarist Matthew Stevens, with Orlando LeFleming on bass, Eric Doob on drums, and the Westerlies (a trumpet-trombone quartet) on five tracks. Not sure that the latter is a plus -- they certainly change the group's chemistry. B+(**)
Whitney Rose: Rule 62 (2017, Six Shooter): Country singer from Prince Edward Island, cut two albums on a Toronto label, then turned some heads with the EP South Texas Suite early this year. Follows that up here with a third album. Terrific sound and voice, but I can't say the songs stick with you. B+(**)
Daniel Rosenthal: Music in the Room (2016 , American Melody): Trumpet player, based in Boston, teaching at Berklee, has recorded as part of the Rosenthals with his bluegrass-oriented father, in the Sommers Rosenthal Family Band, and in Either/Orchestra, with a previous album under his own name in 2001. Group here adds two saxophones, bass, and drums, for some fairly standard postbop. B+(*) [cd]
Rostam: Half-Light (2017, Nonesuch): Last name Batmanglij, born in DC, parents immigrated from Iran, first solo album after ten years with Vampire Weekend (all three major albums) and a couple side projects. Plays pretty much everything here -- fourteen side credits, but only the cellist on more than one track (4). Finds his own groove, sound a bit off for me, but could be beguiling. B+(**)
Roswell Rudd/Fay Victor/Lafayette Harris/Ken Filiano: Embrace (2017, RareNoise): Trombone-piano-bass trio plus singer, one of the most distinctive ones working today if not always one of the easiest to listen to. In some ways this recalls Rudd's mid-1970s work with Sheila Jordan -- less swing, the pianist a bit more ornate. Victor is especially striking on songs that don't tempt her to scat or vocalise, like "Can't We Be Friends" and "House of the Rising Sun," but she's pretty impressive traipsing over Mingus and Monk. The trombone isn't exactly lovely, but so full of soul it can't be the work of anyone else. A- [cdr]
Adam Rudolph: Morphic Resonances (2017, M.O.D. Technologies): Percussionist, has recorded extensively since 1992, featured mostly as a composer here, with seven pieces divvied up between five groups -- the Momenta String Quartet gets the first two, totalling 26:30, which I find unpleasantly arch, while a flute-guitar duo (Kaoru Watanabe and Marco Cappelli) get two shorter pieces. My favorite by far is the Odense Percussion Group. B+(*) [cd]
Romeo Santos: Golden (2017, Sony Latin): Born in the Bronx, father Dominican, mother Puerto Rican, led the bachata band Aventura (which sold out Yankee Stadium for a concert) before going solo. Third album, mostly in Spanish, got some beat to it. B+(*)
A. Savage: Thawing Dawn (2017, Dull Tools): First name Andrew, singer-guitarist for Parquet Courts taking a solo flyer, stripped down, only hinting at his band sound on the final track, then pulling back. B+(*)
Schnellertollermeier: Rights (2016 , Cuneiform): Quasi-industrial postrock trio, the group name a mashup of member names Andi Schnellmann (bass), Manuel Toller (guitar), and David Meier (drums). Grind impressive at first but doesn't go all that far. B+(*) [dl]
Brandon Seabrook: Die Trommel Fatale (2016 , New Atlantis): Guitarist, based in Brooklyn, tends toward noise but stretches that out some here, the sextet including Chuck Bettis' "throat/electronics," cello, bass, and two drummers. [7/10 cuts] B+(**) [bc]
Sheer Mag: Need to Feel Your Love (2017, Static Shock): Philadelphia rockers, got noticed for three 7-inch EPs (since collected as Compilation) before releasing this debut album. Singer Tina Halliday has a harsh bark, not quite a shriek, and the guitar-bass riffs are solid and tuneworthy. B+(**)
Shelter: Shelter (2016 , Audiographic): Yet another Ken Vandermark group, a quartet, although he only has a 3-2-2-2 composition edge over Nate Wooley (trumpet), Jasper Stadhouders (electric bass and guitar), and Steve Heather (drums and crackle box). B+(***) [bc]
Blake Shelton: Texoma Shore (2017, Warner Brothers Nashville): Big Nashville star with a TV gig I've never seen but most likely why People named him "sexiest man alive." Has a fine country voice, picks down-to-earth songs (only one co-credit here). B+(*)
Idit Shner: 9 Short Stories (2017, OA2): Alto saxophonist, also play soprano, not sure where (or when) she was born, but she studied in Oklahoma City, and is based in Oregon. Backed by piano-bass-drums, all originals except for "Passion Flower," bright postbop. B+(**) [cd]
Paula Shocron/Germán Lamonega/Pablo Diaz: Tensegridad (2016 , Hatology): Piano-bass-drums trio, three joint credits, two for Shocron, one each for the others, plus covers of Mal Waldron and Charles Tolliver. Strong, favoring dense chords over noodling. B+(**)
Jen Shyu: Song of Silver Geese (2016 , Pi): Singer, dancer, multi-instrumentalist (credits here: Taiwanese moon lute, Korean gayageum, piano), born in Illinois, parents immigrated from Taiwan and East Timor, graduated from Stanford ("in opera with classical violin and ballet training"), fourth album, band (Jade Tongue: vibes, flutes, viola, bass, drums, percussion -- all well-known NY names) named for her first, joined here by Mivos Quartet (strings). Music evidently written for a ballet, choreographed by Satoshi Haga. I imagine the total performance to be mesmerizing, but as a record I find it alternately arch and quaint, classical motifs with bent Asian notes -- not my thing, I guess. B+(*) [cd]
Slow Is Possible: Moonwatchers (2016 , Clean Feed): Portuguese group, second album after eponymous effort in 2015: André Pontifice (cello), Bruno Figuera (alto sax), Duane Fonseca (drums), Joăo Clemente (electric guitar/electronics), Nuno Santos Dias (piano), Ricardo Sousa (double bass). B+(*)
Martial Solal & Dave Liebman: Masters in Bordeaux (2016 , Sunnyside): Duets, the French pianist nearly 90 at the time, Liebman playing soprano and tenor saxophones. Six standards, with Miles Davis a common bond, the pianist fascinating, Liebman listening and contributing with great care. B+(***)
Vinnie Sperrazza Apocryphal: Hide Ye Idols (2015 , Loyal Label): Drummer, called his 2014 album Apocryphal and thought that would make a good group name. Quartet with Loren Stillman (alto sax), Brandon Seabrook (guitar), and Eivind Opsvik (bass). I'm not used to Seabrook playing inside the band without his customary cloud of noise, but he fits nicely with Stillman's sweet tone. B+(**)
St. Vincent: Masseduction (2017, Loma Vista): Canadian Annie Clark's fifth (or sixth) album, her bestseller and evidently a critical favorite -- I'd guess top-five in year-end polls but little chance of topping Kendrick Lamar, for starters. A bit arch and arty for my tastes, but always interesting, never more so than here, where half the songs quickly click, and more welcome should I ever give it more than the three spins I've logged. Title song pronounces it "mass seduction" and pairs it with "mass destruction": she has a point, a deeper one than critiquing Trump, although that's part of it. A-
Gabriele Tranchina: Of Sailing Ships and the Stars in Your Eyes (2017, Rainchant Eclectic): Born in Germany, based (I think) in Paris, with an eye on Brazil and other points south -- though two of her covers are from Mancini. B+(**) [cd]
Trio S: Somewhere Glimmer (2017, Zitherine): Doug Wieselman (compositions, clarinets, loops, banjo), Jane Scarpantoni (cello), and Kenny Wollesen (drums, "wollesonics"). Rather quiet, atmospheric even, pleasant and marginally interesting. B+(*)
David S. Ware Trio: Live in New York 2010 (2010 , AUM Fidelity, 2CD): Another posthumous tape for the late tenor sax giant, this one a year after his kidney transplant and about two years before he died. So it's worth noting that he's in remarkable form here, with a couple of solo stretches (some on stritch), but especially when William Parker (bass) and Warren Smith (drums) help out. A- [dl]
Galen Weston: The Space Between (2017, Blujazz): Guitarist, from Toronto, lists as idols Mike Stern, Pat Metheny and Steve Vai. Band shares billing and keeps pushing him, and it helps when alto saxophonist Richard Underhill jumps out front. B [cd]
Mark Wingfield/Markus Reuter/Asaf Sirkis: Lighthouse (2016 , Moonjune): Two guitarists -- Reuter's credit is "Touch Guitars AU8" (8-string, hollow body, individually tunable pickups) -- and drums. Fits neatly into a fusion bag. B [cd]
Deanna Witkowski: Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns (2017, Tilapia): Pianist, discography dates back to 1999 -- I have her filed under vocals, but she doesn't sing here. All her arrangements of hymns -- all but one public domain -- for piano trio. Pleasant, and fairly innocuous. B [cd]
Lee Ann Womack: The Lonely, the Lonesome & the Gone (2017, ATO): Country singer, ninth album since 1997, co-wrote half of the fourteen songs -- the Frizzell and Jones covers overdone, the others less memorable but the title mood is sustained. B+(**)
Charlie Worsham: Beginning of Things (2017, Warner Bros. Nashville): Country singer from Mississippi, studied at Berklee, second album, co-credits on 9/13 (really 12) songs, gets a nice neotrad sound but mostly wastes it -- "Southern by the Grace of God" seems more than a little dated, but is still less offensive than "Birthday Suit." B
Eric Wyatt: Look to the Sky (2017, Whaling City Sound): Mainstream saxophonist (tenor, alto, soprano), from Brooklyn, shares a vocal with Andrea Miller, wrote three (of nine) songs, two more by his pianist Benito Gonzalez, with Keyon Harrold on trumpet, plus bass and drums. Takes nearly everything at a breakneck pace, a lot of bounce in his step. B+(**) [cd]
Mark Zaleski Band: Days, Months, Years (2016 , self-released): Alto/soprano saxophonist, third album, also credited with bass, brother of pianist Glenn Zaleski (present), joined by Jon Dean on tenor sax, Mark Cocheo in guitar, and Oscar Suchanek on drums. B+(**) [cd]
Dave Zinno Unisphere: River of January (2017, Whaling City Sound): Bassist, based in Rhode Island, discography shows he's played on a dozen albums but this appears to be his first leading. Quintet, with Eric "Benny" Bloom on trumpet, Mark Tucker on tenor sax, Leo Genovese on piano, and Rafael Barata on drums, with Tucker and Genovese also contributing songs. Mostly upbeat, saxophonist gives a good accounting. B+(*) [cd]
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Dion: Kickin' Child: The Lost Album 1965 (1965 , Norton): I've long been a fan of Dion DiMucci's Bronx Blues: The Columbia Recordings (1962-1965), which traces his shift from doo-wop ("Ruby Ruby," "Donna the Prima Donna") to Dylan emulation, including his 1965 single "Kickin' Child" (third from the end). Columbia released two albums built around the doo-wop singles, then nothing until they mopped up in 1969 (Wonder Where I'm Bound, the title a song from this shelved album). Should at least have some historical value, but I'm with the label here: a single, a couple decent covers (not the Dylan), some really awful shit (the Dylan not the worst). C-
Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams (2017, Slate Creek): Eleven songs, familiar and typical if most not actually written by the late country star, performed by artists of varying quality but distinctive enough they add something to the easy-going vibe that was Williams' trademark. Choice cut: Brandy Clark, "I Believe in You." [Missing on Napster: Garth Brooks, "Good Ole Boys Like Me."] B+(***)
Motörhead: Under Cöver (1992-2014 , Silver Lining Music): English metal band, formed in 2015, hung it up in 2015 when bassist-auteur Lemmy Kilmister died. One of the few metal bands I've tolerated and occasionally enjoyed -- as Christgau noted in 1980, "no preening solos or blow-dried bullshit." Sure, I haven't checked all five of the A- records Christgau identified from 1984-91, but I enjoyed 2011's The World Is Yours. This compiles eleven covers, roughly half from metal bands that I've heard of but mean nothing to me, the other half from the Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols, Ramones, and David Bowie -- all sturdy enough to bear up under the extra weight. B+(***)
Mihály Borbély Quartet: Hungarian Jazz Rhapsody (2014, BMC): This slightly earlier quartet has a different pianist, Dániel Szábo, and the leader's credits limited to saxophone and tarogato. Title song actually from Hungarian-American guitarist Attila Zoller, with the remaining pieces by unknown-to-me Hungarian-sounding names. Pretty lively, and good as the new pianist is, this one may be even better. B+(***)
Die Enttäuschung: 4 (2006 , Intakt): German quartet, had an early fascination with Monk. Axel Dörner on trumpet and Rudi Mahall on bass clarinet, plus second bassist (Jan Roder) and original drummer (Uli Jenneißen). Discography unclear, as 1 (2002) is different from their original (1996) eponymous album, and instead of 2 and 3 there's a second eponymous album before 4 and 5. B+(***)
Michael Gregory Jackson: Clarity (1976 , ESP-Disk): Guitarist, first album at 23, also credited with vocals, mandolin, flute, timpani, marimba, percussion, but what caught my attention was the three young horn players: Leo Smith, Oliver Lake, and David Murray. Still, those horns are generally wasted, although Lake has some moments, and gets into the label's ad hoc aesthetic with flute and percussion. B
Woody Shaw: Song of Songs (1972 , Contemporary/OJC): Second album -- Cassandranite has earlier recordings but wasn't released until 1989 -- scales back the debut's sax attack, limiting Benny Maupin to one song, with Ramon Morris on two of the three others. That should bring the trumpet out front more, but he tends to slipstream the freebop. B+(**)
Woody Shaw: The Time Is Right (1983 , RED): Quintet, recorded live in Bologna, Italy, with Steve Turre (trombone/conch shells), Mulgrew Miller (piano), Stafford James (bass), and Tony Reedus (drums). Four cuts, first two by Shaw. B+(**)
Woody Shaw: Imagination (1987 , 32 Jazz): Originally on Muse, which tended to steer the trumpet player back to the mainstream, here with a sharp quintet -- Steve Turre (trombone), Kirk Lightsey (piano), Ray Drummond (bass), Carl Allen (drums) -- playing standards, ending with a blues from Turre. B+(**)
Mars Williams/Paal Nilssen-Love/Kent Kessler: Boneshaker (2012, Trost): Sax-drums-bass trio, Williams started out as a Hal Russell protégé, with Kessler was in the original Vandermark 5, with the Norwegian drummer joining many other Vandermark groups. Basically, just what the title promises. B+(***) [bc]
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:
Woody Shaw: Blackstone Legacy (1970 , Contemporary): [r]: was B+(**), now B+(***)
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:
Monday, November 27, 2017
Music: Current count 28931  rated (+22), 391  unrated (-3).
Rated count down, mostly attributable to Thanksgiving, when I fixed a small dinner: roast goose with potatoes, baked zucchini niçoise, oven-braised pumpkin, sweet and sour cabbage. All recipes were new to me, and came out as well as hoped. For dessert I made three pies: maple pecan, chocolate pecan, and key lime. For the first two, I tried two different pie shell recipes, and found the "easy" one not only not as good but also not as easy. The key lime had a graham cracker crust that came out rather crumbly, but otherwise I was very pleased.
Further disruptions over the weekend: stereo went on the blink on Saturday, which drove me to listening to so-so albums on Napster. It (for reasons currently unfathomable) started working on Sunday, but I couldn't focus, as I was cooking several Indian dishes to get an idea how several menu ideas for next week's Peace Center Annual Dinner might play out. I'll be directing dinner for sixty on Friday, December 1, and until then I expect to have very little time for music. Menu will be Indian (except for dessert), mostly because I can cook more recipes ahead of time, making the logistics relatively manageable. Still, an enormous amount of work for an amateur like myself.
The dinner work already wiped out any chance at a Weekend Roundup -- possibly the first one I've missed since Trump was elected (though I may have blocked something out -- I do recall at least one threat to throw in the towel).
Current plan is to publish November's Streamnotes on Tuesday. Not likely to have much not already in the file, and there's at least a small chance I might not get the indexing done. But it needs to get up before the end of the month, and I won't have any time after Tuesday. Still will have more records than October (current count 114).
While I'm at it, I'd like to recommend Mark E. McCormick: Some Were Paupers, Some Were Kings: Dispatches From Kansas. McCormick wrote an op-ed column at the Wichita Eagle, and this collects many of his best pieces, not least on the perennial topic of race relations. Laura Tillem helped edit and design the book, and I helped her a bit with the conversion from one hideous Microsoft format to another. By the way, McCormick will be giving the main presentation at Friday's Peace Center 25th Annual Dinner.
By the way, François Carrier sent me a note asking that I mention his crowdfunding project. I routinely ignore requests to post notices, and certainly don't want to encourage more of them, but a few years ago when I got especially flustered I wrote a mass email to everyone who was sending me CDs announcing my intent to stop reviewing. François wrote me back immediately and insisted he was going to keep sending them anyway. As you can see here, few musicians have given me more pleasure more consistently. So by all means, encourage him to play and record more.
By the way, I thought the iconic story of last week was when Trump pardoned the turkey on Thanksgiving, and said "I feel so good about myself doing this." (See Jessica Contrera.) When I first read the quote, I thought it the perfect example of his narcissism. Only when I saw the video later did the full perversity sink in. As Contrera notes, the lead up to the quote was: "Are we allowed to touch? Wow." The video looks like Trump groping the turkey as he says, "I feel so good about myself" -- his look suggesting fond remembrances of other birds he's groped.
Very sad to see John Conyers caught up in the sex abuse scandals. He was first elected to the Congress in 1964 and was one of the first dozen House members to vote against the Vietnam War. Aside from his brief post-9/11 lapse, he has been one of the most consistent critics of American belligerence abroad, as well as a steady champion of civil rights and liberties. Not perfect, I guess -- I certainly don't like his "Pro-IP Act" -- but for a very long time one of the very best Congress had to offer.
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:
Monday, November 20, 2017
Music: Current count 28909  rated (+35), 394  unrated (+3).
The Best Albums of the Year usually starts around Thanksgiving. I was going to say that I hadn't seen any yet, but it turns out the first few are indeed out: Rough Trade (100); Decibel (40); Mojo (50); Piccadilly Records (100); and Uncut (75). AOTY is aggregating these lists here, where the order is currently (for laughs, I'll include my grades, where I've heard the record):
Note (as if you couldn't reverse engineer this factoid) that four of the lists are British (two record stores, two publications), and the other specializes in heavy metal. Expect much of this list to change as more representative critics chime in. I'd have to rate Kendrick Lamar's DAMN as the odds-on favorite -- AOTY's Highest Rated Albums of 2017 lists it first, barely ahead of Lorde's Melodrama [A-], with LCD Soundsystem at 6 and St. Vincent at 8. The other contender I see on AOTY's list is Vince Staples' Big Fish Theory [***] at 4. I expect that Mount Eerie's A Crow Looked at Me [*] (3), Valerie June's The Order of Time [**] (5), and Jlin's Black Origami [**] (7) to get a few nods but have a tougher time adding them up. Beyond that I don't see many contenders on AOTY's list -- maybe Arca (10) [B], Sampha's Process [*] (16), Algiers' The Underside of Power [B] (25). The Richard Dawson album is 15 at AOTY, but I'd be surprised if it has much US support. Further down the AOTY list you'll find The National (31) and Father John Misty (38).
The only jazz album in AOTY's top 50 is Vijay Iyer Sextet's Far From Over [***] (29). I suppose that makes it the famous to win this year's NPR Jazz Critics Poll (run by Francis Davis with some help from myself), although that's mostly because I have no idea which albums will be contenders. Diana Krall's Turn Up the Quiet [***] won Downbeat's Readers Poll. When I look at my own A-list, I see very little that jumps out as likely to get broad support -- maybe Steve Coleman's Morphogenesis, Jimmy Greene's Flowers, Hudson, Rudresh Mahanthappa's Agrima, Eric Revis' Sing Me Some Cry, Tyshawn Sorey's Verisimilitude, Wadada Leo Smith's Najwa, Craig Taborn's Daylight Ghosts, Miguel Zenón's Típico. But most years most of the top-20 come from my [***] and [**] lists, and I have no particular knack or (right now) inclination to try to sift them out.
With ballots for the Jazz Poll due December 3, I finally got around to sorting out my own 2017 Jazz and Non-Jazz lists. First thing I'm struck by is how unreliable the ordering of these lists is. One sign is that the order favors albums that came out early in the year, not because they've had longer to sink in but because they got to the top of the list first. A fact of my life is that I almost never go back and replay graded records any more (and when I do, I'm more likely to pick something old and classic, often from my travel cases). I expect I'm going to stir the order up quite a bit before I'm done, but whether that's from replay or just memory remains to be seen.
Health rated count this week, once again very jazz-heavy even when I'm streaming off internet -- last week's ratio was 30-2. That will probably hold up until I file my jazz ballot, then pivot as I see more EOY lists. At some point I expect I'll start running my own aggregate of 2017 EOY lists, like I did for last year. Main obstacle is that I expect the next 3-4 weeks to be heavily interrupted. First, I'll be cooking a small dinner for Thanksgiving. Then I'm in charge of fixing the Wichita Peace Center annual banquet -- last year we had eighty people, so unless I hear otherwise that's on plan this year. Then I'll need to do some work publishing the individual critic ballots for the NPR Jazz Critics Poll. Sometime in early December I'd like to work in a much-postponed trip to see relatives in Arkansas. In this rush, I'll probably go ahead and post a Streamnotes early this month, to get it out of the way.
Presumably I'll need to file a Pazz & Jop ballot in mid-December. By the end of December, I vow to finish two other long-delayed projects: compiling my existing reviews into two Jazz Guide files, and catching up Robert Christgau's website. Lot of work for a guy who's increasingly feeling his advancing age. As Stephen Colbert noted tonight: most presidents age visibly in office, but Trump is aging us.
One last note on unpacking: got a large batch of CDs (many multiple sets) from University of North Texas, which has the oldest and probably largest jazz education program outside of the Boston-NY corridor -- it doesn't produce as many famous names as Berklee and Juilliard, but as a working critic I've noticed a lot of fine musicians with UNT degrees. Still, good chance I got some of the artist attributions wrong there -- something I'll have to revisit with I finally get the magnifying glass out and try to decipher the fine print.
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Grade (or other) changes:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: