Blog Entries [10 - 19]

Monday, April 15, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 31371 [31344] rated (+27), 252 [251] unrated (+1).

May just be seasonal allergies, but feeling too lousy to even take a stab at writing an introduction. I still have XgauSez to edit and post before I go to bed tonight, so need to get onto that while I can.

A couple of notes, though. I've been talking about moving computers around for a month or more. I finally got that done this week. Best thing so far is that I have two relatively uncluttered desks to work on, instead of one hopelessly messy one. Also I moved the speakers above the desk, where they sound better and I can access the controls. (Also, now both computers have speakers. Subwoofers are still under the desk, where they should be, and that space is less cluttered than before. No website work yet, but I should get to that soon.

Delighted to see Michael Tatum's A Downloader's Diary (49) finally posted. I checked out a couple of his recommendations below (also found a new live Pet Shop Boys he didn't mention). Also continuing to pick albums off from Phil Overeem's 25% through the briar patch list.

Finally, I finally did manage to cast a Downbeat Critics Poll ballot, a day past the deadline, but seems likely to be counted (not that I could ever tell from the results). I didn't do a very good job of collecting notes this time, but here is what I have.

New records reviewed this week:

Charlotte Adigéry: Zandoli (2019, Deewee, EP): Belgian singer, roots in French Caribbean, electronic dance grooves, second EP (5 tracks, 22:56). B+(**)

Etienne Charles: Carnival: The Sound of a People Vol. 1 (2019, Culture Shock Music): Trumpet player, from Trinidad, studied in Florida and at Juilliard, teaches at Michigan State, seventh album since 2006. Plays up his Afro-Caribbean roots, and parties down. B+(**)

Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks [This Is Bate Bola OST] (2018 [2019], International Anthem): Soundtrack to a short film that appeared in 2018, so I'm guessing that's the date (could be earlier). Mostly electronics, mostly atmospheric, aside from a bit at the end I zoned out before. B

Ariana Grande: Thank U, Next (2019, Republic): Pop star, fifth album coming rather fast after her well-reviewed (except by me) Sweetener. This suggests to me that she's stabilizing as a top-tier pro, rather than (as I thought at the time) declining into a hack. Will keep an eye on her. B+(**)

William Hooker: Cycle of Restoration (2018 [2019], FPE): Avant drummer, discography goes back to 1975, trio with Mark Kirschenmann (trumpet) and Joel Peterson (drums), sounds like some uncredited electronics mixed in. One improv set live in Detroit, starts "serene" so takes a while to get interesting ("Panchromatics 1" and "2"). B+(*)

Amber Mark: Conexão (2018, Virgin EMI, EP): Pop/r&b singer-songwriter, has some self-released singles before graduating to this 4-song, 17:32 EP. Despite title, songs in English. I'm not finding any bio. A promising outing. B+(**)

Wynton Marsalis: Bolden: Music From the Original Soundtrack (2019, Blue Engine): Dan Pritzker directed the movie, released May 3, starring Gary Carr as Buddy Bolden (1877-1931, but unrecorded and locked up after 1907), the first of the legendary New Orleans cornet players, and Reno Wilson his better known successor, Louis Armstrong. Marsalis was the obvious choice to score this, using his Jazz at Lincoln Center crew and guest vocalists: Catherine Russell, Brianna Thomas, and most often Wilson, who does his best to sing like Pops and isn't really up to it. B+(***) [cd]

Xose Miguélez: Ontology (2018 [2019], Origin): Tenor saxophonist, from Galicia in Spain, the panhandle due north of Portugal, an autonomous region of Spain with its own language and folk culture -- something Miguélez specializes in. With guitar, bass, drums, and vibes on a couple cuts, an extra saxophonist (Matt Otto) on a few more. Ends with a 1981 field recording, but all along seemed a bit off the beaten path. B+(**) [cd]

Billy Mohler: Focus! (2019, Make): Bassist, based in Los Angeles, Bandcamp page talks about "returns his Focus to jazz after a successful career in rock, pop and R&B production and songwriting." This may be his first album, a pianoless free jazz quartet, with Chris Speed (tenor sax/clarinet), Shane Endsley (trumpet), and Nate Wood (drums). Starts with a bit of bass solo, then the band cuts loose. Slows down toward the end, but still holds your interest. A- [cd]

OGJB Quartet [Oliver Lake/Graham Haynes/Joe Fonda/Barry Altschul]: Bamako (2016 [2019], TUM): Alto sax, cornet, bass and drums. Haynes the youngest (b. 1960), the least avant, most African-oriented, but manages to fit in. Lake speaks on the Haynes' title piece. Mostly interesting mish-mash, except when Lake gets up a full head of steam and runs away with everything. B+(***) [cd]

Nicki Parrott: From New York to Paris (2019, Arbors): Bassist from Australia, based in New York, sang a bit at first, and was so appealing she moved on to whole albums, mostly standards from the swing era. Plenty of New York and Paris songs to choose from -- my favorite is the one in French, "La Mer." Gil Goldstein's accordion adds that Gallic touch, with John DeMartino (piano), Alvin Atkinson (drums), and Harry Allen on tenor sax. B+(**)

Jeremy Pelt: Jeremy Pelt the Artist (2018 [2019], HighNote): Trumpet player, close to twenty albums since 2001, leads this off with his layered five-part "Rodin Suite." Two keyboard players (Victor Gould on piano), guitar, the vibraphone/marimba stands out (Chien Chien Lu). Balance of album inches toward hard bop. B+(*)

Pet Shop Boys: Agenda (2019, X2, EP): Four songs, short, punchy hits (13:08), mostly topical ("On social media," "What are we going to do about the rich?," "Give stupidity a chance"). B+(**)

Pet Shop Boys: Inner Sanctum (2018 [2019], X2): Live at the Royal Opera Hall, released as a DVD although I'm just going by the audio. I don't think the duo gains anything in the concert hall, although the crowd noise draws (even a singalong on "West End Girls") you into the experience, and they have no trouble drawing twenty-plus terrific songs -- sometimes two or three to a cut -- from their deep discography. Ends with a reprise of "The Pop Kids" -- their latest, a pure throwback to their heyday, although songs like "It's a Sin" and "Go West" tower even higher. A-

Joshua Redman Quartet: Come What May (2018 [2019], Nonesuch): Second-generation tenor saxophonist, was an instant star back in 1992 so seems like he's been around forever, but he's still under 50. Standard quartet: Aaron Goldberg (piano), Reuben Rogers (bass), Gregory Hutchinson (drums). Solid set, sounds like he's got his own sound back, some spark too. B+(***)

Ruby Rushton: Ironside (2018 [2019], 22a): British jazz group, led by Ed Cawthorne (aka Tenderlonious; flute, soprano sax, synth, wah pedal, percussion), with Aidan Shepherd (keyboards) also writing a couple of songs, plus Nick Walters (trumpet) and Tim Carnegie (drums). Has some ambition, edge and drive, but nothing really sticks with me. B

Jim Snidero: Waves of Calm (2019, Savant): Mainstream alto saxophonist, couple dozen albums since 1984, last album celebrated Cannonball Adderley, here goes for "deep reflection and restrained maturity," occasioned by "his father's ongoing struggle with Parkinson's disease." Lovely album, with help by Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Orrin Evans (piano), Nat Reeves (bass), and Jonathan Barber (drums). B+(***)

Dave Stryker: Eight Track III (2019, Strikezone): Guitarist, been around, soul jazz groove with organ (Jared Gold), vibraphone (Stefon Harris), drums (McClenty Hunter), and congas on a few cuts. Covers include Steely Dan and a lot of Motown. B+(**) [cd]

James Suggs: You're Gonna Hear From Me (2018, Arbors): Trumpet player, from Pennsylvania, teaches at University of South Florida, seems to be his first album, lined up some impressive backup: Houston Person (tenor sax), Lafayette Harris (piano), Peter Washington (bass), and Lewis Nash (drums). B+(**)

Fumi Tomita: The Elephant Vanishes (2018 [2019], OA2): Bassist, based in New York for 15 years, teaches at U. Mass in Amherst, evidently his first record, subtitled "Jazz Interpretations of the Short Stories of Haruki Murakami." Easy-flowing postbop, with Jason Rigby (sax), Mike Baggetta (guitar), Art Hirahara (piano), and drums. B [cd]

Warren Vaché: Songs Our Fathers Taught Us (2019, Arbors): Cornet player, retro swing when he started out in the late '70s, plays standards here from "My Melancholy Baby" and "Slow Boat to China" to "Birks Works." Guitarist Jacob Fischer is a steady force here, carrying most of the songs. Also with Neal Miner (bass) and Steve Williams (drums). B+(***)

Dann Zinn: Day of Reckoning (2018 [2019], Origin): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano), also plays wood flute, teaches in Bay Area, fifth album since 2003 (or 1996?), backed by piano trio (Taylor Eigsti), upbeat, in commanding form throughout. B+(***) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Louis Armstrong: Sparks, Nevada 1964! (1964 [2018], Dot Time): Late in his career -- he didn't record much after 1966, and died in 1971 -- but this catches him on top of the world, with a smash single ("Hello Dolly"), a crack (if no longer All Star) band (Billy Kyle and Arvell Shaw are still in). His voice has an extra load of gravel, but he's still remarkably nimble, especially as he pushes his hit to 7:05, and his trumpet is as brilliant as ever. Still, he takes a break, giving Shaw a long solo on "How High the Moon," then turning the microphone over to Jewel Brown for two cuts. But she's terrific, and he returns for the closing crowd pleaser: "When the Saints Go Marching In." A-

Imamu Amiri Baraka: It's Nation Time: African Visionary Music (1972 [2018], Motown): Poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, wrote an important book on music (Blues People), made his name as Leroi Jones then changed it in 1965, appeared on a record that year with New York Art Quartet. This builds on his 1970 book It's Nation Time, a potent mix of black power politics and avant-jazz, notably with Gary Bartz (alto sax), various keyboards and guitar, scattered horns, Reggie Workman (bass), and lots of percussion -- intense, angry, frazzled. B+(***)

Duke Ellington: In Coventry, 1966 (1966 [2018], Storyville): Solo piano for the 9:13 openener, "New World A-Comin'," then joined by the orchestra. Set in Coventry Cathedral, he decided to go sacred, most melodramatically with 20:39 of "In the Beginning God" -- lifted midway with a bit of gospel hoedown, before he gets way too serious again. B

Ben Lamar Gay: 500 Chains (2013-14 [2018], International Anthem): Chicago-based musician, sings/speaks, plays cornet, probably more, recorded seven unreleased albums since 2010 before his "greatest hits" debut, Downtown Castles Can Never Block the Sun. This is the first of the seven "source albums" to appear. Hard to wrap my head around the spoken parts, but spots (especially with the horn) impress (actually a bit more than the "best of"; he's a project). B+(***)

Ben Lamar Gay: Grapes (2013-14 [2018], International Anthem): Very experimental, closer to rock or soul than to jazz, which isn't to say it's predictable or easy. B+(*)

Ben Lamar Gay/Edinho Gerber: Benjamin E Edinho (2011-13 [2018], International Anthem, EP): Adds a tropicalia vibe with Brazilian guitar master, from a couple stretches when the duo co-resided in Rio de Janeiro and Chicago. Eight cuts, 28:27. B+(*)

Joanne Grauer: Introducing Lorraine Feather (1977 [1978], MPS): Pianist, based in Los Ageles, eponymous debut in 1974, only a few albums after this sophomore effort. Trio on the A-side, three B-side tracks introduce the singer and also mark an early appearance for tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts. B+(*)

Kankyo Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental and New Age Music 1980-1990 (1980-90 [2019], Light in the Attic): Beware the version differences: the full 3-LP package has 25 tracks, the 2-CD a bit less at 23, but the digital, which is the only one I've heard, stops at 10 (41:47). This doesn't sound like much at first: a bit of quiet piano, a shift to synth and more electronics, the occasional light rhythm track. Nice and calming, not meditative (at least not exactly). Grows on you, or maybe just gets comfy. A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Juan Álamo & Marimjazzia: Ruta Panoramica (Summit)
  • Larry Koonse: New Jazz Standards Vol. 4 (Summit)
  • Lisa Maxwell's Jazz Orchestra: Shiny! (Uncle Marvin Music): May 17
  • Sam Ospovat: Ride Angles (Skirl)
  • Marcos Silva: Brasil: From Head to Toe (Green Egg): May 3

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Weekend Roundup

I don't feel up to writing much about Julian Assange, but following his arrest in London, I anticipate that I'll find a bunch of links this week and should collect them together. Assange is an Australian, a computer programmer who came up with Wikileaks, a system to collect and publish anonymously submitted documents. That's always seemed like a noble endeavor, an aid in exposing how the rich and powerful conspire in private to manipulate and profit, and for a while he seemed to be doing just that. He quickly ran afoul of those powers, most notably the US government, which set out to charge him with various crimes, and quite possibly orchestrated a broader smear campaign against him. Assange, in turn, sought asylum from criminal charges, and since 2012 has been sheltered by the Ecuadorean embassy in London. I don't know how much Assange has had to do with Wikileaks since 2012 (or how much freedom he has had to do anything), but his brand name wound up playing a role in Trump's 2016 campaign when it framed the release of hacked emails from the Clinton campaign. One effect of the DNC dump was to expand the Democratic side of bipartisan outrage against Assange, especially as Clinton's drones tried to paint him as a Putin accomplice.

I don't have strong opinions about Assange one way or the other, but I did welcome his release of leaked documents on the Iraq War and the US State Department. (See my September 2, 2010 entry, Troops, on the "Collateral Murder" video, anti-war vet Ethan McCord, and a related speech by Barak Obama -- what I said then is still pretty relevant today.) Releasing the DNC emails didn't particularly bother me either, although the timing was suspicious (immediately after the release of Trump's Access Hollywood tape, allowing the media to spin scandal on top of scandal), as was the lack of any RNC/Trump campaign emails to balance the picture.

Anyhow, the Assange links:

Let's also break out multiple links on Israel's elections:

Scattered links on other topics this week:

Monday, April 8, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 31344 [31312] rated (+32), 251 [249] unrated (+2).

Back in business. I figured all it would take to get Napster working again was a reboot -- it broke following a software update that didn't require one but involved a new Flash module, so I suspected that threw things out of sync. Still, I didn't want to do that for other reaasons, but was forced to when the computer freaked out and gave me a swizzle patterned screen. That suggested something far worse, but the reboot fixed that too.

Working Napster gave me a chance to catch up with the last couple weeks of Robert Christgau picks -- Stella Donnelly/Sharon Van Etten and Pedro the Lion/Jason Ringenberg -- where only the B+ record didn't disappoint. (Actually, I couldn't find Ringenberg's Stand Tall on Napster, but was able to fish a Soundcloud link from my email trash, so thanks to the publicist.) Guess I'm still missing the Ariana Grande/Amber Mark week -- I had the former's Sweetener way down at B, a grade split matching Mitski's Be the Cowboy, but haven't heard the more recent one.

Took a dive into George Strait after panning his new one, mostly because I noticed an unheard Christgau A- in the database (Something Special), and it panned out. I had his first Greatest Hits (1985) at A-, so it made sense to check out its source albums (just three of them). I'm not sure that grade holds up, but didn't recheck it. Still, after dismissing most of his songs as unmemorable, I've wound up with "You Look So Good in Love" stuck in my mind all week.

Other records suggested by various sources, most prolifically Phil Overeem. The tip on Angel-Ho came from breathless hype in The Nation ("Angel-Ho is the future of pop music"). I dug up Petra Van Nuis after she wrote to me (so sometimes that works). Strait and Mandy Barnett just showed up in Napster's featured lists.

Making fair progress on most projects, although not enough on moving the computer. (Will do that after I post this, I promise.) Biggest one is a new piece of badly-needed pantry shelving, which needs one more coat of paint before I drag it in and bolt it to the wall. I have a couple more projects in that space, ready to roll as soon as the first one is operational. Still, more projects seem to present themselves all the time. Dug up a couple plastic drawers full of CDs today, and my wife argued that I should get rid of them (something about the hoarding being psychotic). I had a plan a couple years back to start donating CDs to a local library, but never followed through on it -- partly because I was working on the Jazz Guide, maybe because they kept naming various buldings after the Kochs. The reason for having a substantial library is to look things up, but I'm fast losing my ability to do so, not to mention my prospects of ever writing anything worthwhile on the subject.

Still, the project I feel more pressing need for is to come up with a system so I can quickly identify where all my tools (and hardware) are. I'm forever thrashing, trying to find things I know I have somewhere, sometimes even having to buy more tools to replace those I've lost (most recently, a set of hole saws). In fact, thrashing seems to be the word for the week, maybe even the season.

New records reviewed this week:

Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her (2019, Hyperdub): South African electronica producer Angel Antonio Valerio, trans, veers between hip-hop and electro-noise, beat-heavy but not that simple. B+(*)

Art "Turk" Burton: Ancestral Spirits (2019, T N' T Music): Percussioist (conga and bongo drums) from Chicago, rooted in Latin jazz but also involved in AACM, playing in Muhal Richard Abrams' big band and Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble. Gathers up three more percussionists here, Eddie Beard on piano and organ, Ari Brown and Edwin Daugherty on saxes, and singer/narrator Maggie Brown. Opens with a nod to Mongo Santamaria, followed by "A Night in Tunisia" and "Killer Joe," and later adds memorable takes of "Summertim" and "Freedom Jazz Dance." Latin groove throughout, although the saxes sometimes get out of hand. A- [cd]

Romain Collin: Tiny Lights: Genesis (2019, XM): French pianist, studied at Berklee, debut album in 2007, joined here by Matthew Stevens (guitar), Obed Calvaire (drums), and the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, with string arrangements by Kazuma Jinnouchi. Starts fusion, a hard groove album, gets fancier when they slow it down. Hype sheet promises two more volumes shortly, Blood and Gold. B+(**) [cd]

The Comet Is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery (2019, Impulse!): London-based band, names listed as King Shabaka (Shabaka Hutchings, tenor sax), Danalogue the Conqueror (Dan Leavers, keyboards), and Betamax Killer (Max Hallett, drums). Second album. Inspired by spiritual jazz artists like Alice Coltrane and extraterrestrials (similar but not quite the same thing) such as Sun Ra. B+(**)

Jordon Dixon: On! (2019, self-released): Tenor saxophonist, born in Baton Rouge, based in DC, second album, backed by piano-bass-drums (plus trumpet on one cut). Mainstream, original pieces, lovely tone, soulful. B+(***) [cd]

Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs (2019, Secretly Canadian): Singer-songwriter from Perth, Australia, offers what Christgau calls "a catalogue of assholes" -- males, "boys will be boys" -- although I'm also struck by the allergies and bearers of infectious diseases. B+(***)

Steve Earle & the Dukes: Guy (2019, New West): Sings the Guy Clark songbook, marginally better than the originals but not significantly different or even distinctive. Could broaden Clark's audience a bit. B+(***)

Fleurine: Brazilian Dream (2018 [2019], Pure Imagination): Dutch jazz singer-songwriter, last name Verloop, fifth album since 1995, all self-penned Brazilian tunes here, plays some guitar, with a mostly Brazilian band -- Vitor Gonçalves, Rogerio Boccato, and Chico Pinheiro the best known -- augmented by Brad Mehldau and Chris Potter, strings on one cut, horns on another. Dreamy, indeed. B+(**)

George Freeman: George the Bomb! (2018 [2019], Blujazz/Southport): Jazz guitarist, born 1927 so he's edged over 90, leans heavy on funk and blues here, with the Southport house band, with vocals shared by Billy Branch and Joanie Pallatto. Couple of standout food songs: "Where's the Cornbread?" and "Home Grown Tomatoes." B+(**) [cd]

Polly Gibbons: All I Can Do (2019, Resonance): Jazz singer qua blues belter, third album, wrote 2 (of 12) songs, the best surprise from Prince. Backed with piano, organ and guitar (Paul Bollenbeck). B [cd]

Girls on Grass: Dirty Power (2019, self-released): Brooklyn alt/indie band, led by singer-songwriter Barbara Endes (also plays guitar), with girl drummer Nancy Polstein and two blokes. Second album. One lyric jumped out at me: "Capitalism ruins everything that's worth doing." Also something about "Commander in Thief." B+(**)

Pablo Lanouguere Quintet: Eclectico (2019, self-released): Bassist, from Argentina, based in New York, plays electric as well as upright, first album, original compositions that feature Nick Danielson on viola, backed by guitar (Federico Diaz), piano (Emilio Teubal), and drums (Franco Pinna). Struck me as avant-classical, so took me a while. B+(**) [cd]

Jenny Lewis: On the Line (2019, Warner Bros.): Singer-songwriter, fourth studio album (not counting her tenure with Rilo Kiley or various other ad hoc projects). She has good pop sense, but I'm not picking up much here. B+(*)

Helado Negro: This Is How You Smile (2019, RVNG Intl): Singer-songwriter Roberto Carlos Lange, born in Florida, parents from Ecuador, half-dozen albums since 2009. Woozy tempo with shifting shapes, reminds me a bit of Arto Lindsay at his most Brazilian, but even more deliberately -- so much I doubt I really caught much of it. B+(*)

New Orleans Jazz Orchestra: Songs: The Music of Allen Toussaint (2018 [2019], Storyville): Directed by drummer Adonis Rose, a big band, several guest vocalists -- Dee Dee Bridgewater, Phillip Manuel, Gerald French -- nine songs, as advertised. B+(**) [cd]

Pedro the Lion: Phoenix (2019, Polyvinyl): Indie rock band formed in Seattle in 1995, broke up after their fourth album in 2004, singer-songwriter David Bazan going on to a checkered solo career. Bazan is an interesting guy with things to say, but his music never did much for me. The band beefs it up. B+(**)

Jason Ringenberg: Stand Tall (2019, Courageous Chicken): Country rocker from Illinois, called his first band Jason & the Scorchers -- their 1983 EP Fervor earned the name -- tried a solo album in 1992, occasionally recorded as Farmer Jason, this his first since a Christmas album in 2014. In 2017, he got a gig as artist-in-residence at Sequoia National Park, and wrote a couple of songs about the tall trees there, as well as the title instrumental. Added a Ramones tribute, and a few titles like "John the Baptist Was a Real Humdinger," "Hobo Bill's Last Ride," and "Many Happy Hangovers to You." Sixty now, and still scorchin'. A- [sp]

Royal Trux: White Stuff (2019, Fat Possum): Garage rock band from DC, formed 1988 by Neil Hagerty (ex-Pussy Galore) and Jennifer Herrema, released ten albums by 2002, regrouped here, as part of a deal to reissue their old records. Reports are they've already broken up again, beause Hagerty refuses to tour. I haven't heard their old stuff, and probably won't, but seems likely they have a cult following somewhere. B+(**)

Sir Babygirl: Crush on Me (2019, Father/Daughter, EP): Kelsie Hogue, started in hardcore bands, solo debut is a 9-track (but if you scratch the reprises and outro more like six songs), 26:24 mini. Christgau: "So fake they're funny and so shiny they squeak." B+(***)

George Strait: Honky Tonk Time Machine (2019, MCA Nashville): Dependable, predictable: his first two albums were called Strait Country and Strait From the Heart, but he was smart enough not to return to that well, moving on to One Step at a Time and Always Never the Same in the late 1990s, and more recently Here for a Good Time and Cold Beer Conversations. This is his 30th album, a little more explicit in honky tonk references, probably because the songs speak less. B

Terraza Big Band: One Day Wonder (2017 [2019], Outside In Music): Co-led by Michael Thomas (alto sax) and Edward Perez (bass), who composed most of the pieces, arranged the rest. Standard sections, mostly New York names I recognize, plus guitar and (3/9 cuts) extra percussion (Samuel Torres). B+(*) [cd]

Sharon Van Etten: Remind Me Tomorrow (2019, Jagjaguwar): Singer-songwriter from New Jersey, fifth album, finds an engaging groove and haunts it. B+(*)

Petra Van Nuis & Dennis Luxion: Because We're Night People (2018, String Damper): Voice and piano duo from Chicago. Fifth album for the singer (-songwriter?), including a couple of previous duos with guitarist (husband) Andy Brown. The pianist played with Chet Baker in the 1980s, and with vocalist Diane Delin -- Discogs credits him with one album each, but his own website lists 6 and 4, as well as a dozen more albums with various leaders. B+(*)

Dave Zinno Unisphere: Stories Told (2018 [2019], Whaling City Sound): Bassist, third album, all under this group rubric, a hard bop quintet with Mike Tucker (tenor sax), Eric 'Benny' Bloom (trumpet/flugelhorn), Tim Ray (piano), and Rafael Barata (drums). Bright and upbeat, except for the cover of "Michelle," which (Like most Beatles songs) is a tarpit for jazz musicians. B+(*) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Twentieth Anniversary Mixtapes: Groiddest Schnizzits: Volume Two (2001-17 [2019], Trugroid/Avantgroidd): Back in 1999 rock critic Greg Tate decided to try his hand at cosmic jazz, rounding up friends and acquaintances, his own credit most often "conduction" -- the Butch Morris term for a conductor trying to direct improvisers. Tate's a word guy, so he recruited singers. I'm not, so I've always had trouble following that aspect. For their 20th, they came out with three discs of remixes -- this is the only one I've found so far (otherwise I'd be tempted to review them as a set). B+(***)

Old music:

Mandy Barnett: I Can't Stop Loving You: The Songs of Don Gibson (2013, Rounder): She built her career in Patsy Cline tributes, and has the voice for the job. Turns her attention here to the writer of Cline's signature song, "Sweet Dreams," which she nails perfectly. Elsewhere I miss Gibson's own self-effacing swing, not that I mind her torching his laments -- she has the voice. B+(***)

The Comet Is Coming: Channel the Spirits (2016, The Leaf Label): First album, more groove and harder grind, but not quite all the way through. B+(***)

George Strait: Strait Country (1981, MCA): First album, ten songs none running more than 3:06 (27:51 total), mostly draws songs from Dean Dillon and Frank Dycus, relationship songs that understand it's complicated: "Every Time You Throw Dirt on Her (You Lose a Little Ground)," "She's Playing Hell Trying to Get Me to Heaven," "Her Goodbye Hit Me in the Heart." B+(**)

George Strait: Strait From the Heart (1982, MCA): Second album, marginally longer (28:45), recorded his first original ("I Can't See Texas From Here"), better than "Marina del Rey" let alone "Lover in Disguise." B

George Strait: Right or Wrong (1983, MCA): Another short one, but his voice is maturing, and his roots are spreading. After three albums the label decided they had enough to release a Greatest Hits, and I thought it was pretty good. But I won't complain about the filler here, except to note that he didn't write any of it. B+(***)

George Strait: Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind (1984, MCA): No fluff, his shortest album yet (25:55), the honky tonk songs done elegantly and/or plaintively, which is to say with a bit less inspiration than one would wish for. B+(**)

George Strait: Something Special (1985, MCA): Hits his stride here, even if he doesn't break a sweat trying. Better songs are the key, nothing especially classic, but tapping ten different writers/teams suggests he's looked high and low. And he's so relaxed singing them he delivers his longest album to date (32:49). A-

George Strait: The Best of George Strait [20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection] (1983-93 [2002], MCA Nashville): The standard Strait compilation these days is probably 50 Number Ones (2004), but rather than wallow in all that I thought I'd first check this short one (12 songs, 39:01), as I missed it last time I tried going deep on the series. But aside from one 1983 hit ("You Look So Good in Love") this sticks to a fairly narrow time slice, 1987-93. Given his career (even just to date), I doubt I'd pick more than 3-4 of these. B+(**)

George Strait: 50 Number Ones (1982-2004 [2004], MCA Nashville, 2CD): He released one album nearly every year from 1981 through 2009 (skipping 1995, 2002, and 2007), usually with 3-4 singles from each, so steady production adds up. He has four albums and no hit singles since 2009, but Wikipedia credits him with the most number one Billboard US country singles ever (45, disputing ten songs here) and the second-most top-tens (86, behind Eddy Arnold's 92). One new song here, making 51 total (and yes, it was released as a single and went number one). His always sounds fine, never rubs you the wrong way -- his consistency is truly remarkable, but I doubt he's turned out a stone cold classic, here or elsewhere. B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are on the Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration (Pi, 2CD): April 26
  • Art "Turk" Burton: Ancestral Spirits (T N' T Music): May 3
  • George Freeman: George the Bomb! (Blujazz/Southport)
  • Wynton Marsalis: Bolden: Music From the Original Soundtrack (Blue Engine): April 19
  • Xose Miguélez: Ontology (Origin): April 19
  • Billy Mohler: Focus! (Make)
  • New Orleans Jazz Orchestra: Songs: The Music of Allen Toussaint (Storyville): April 19
  • OGJB Quartet [Oliver Lake/Graham Haynes/Joe Fonda/Barry Altschul]: Bamako (TUM): May 17
  • Dave Stryker: Eight Track III (Strikezone): May 3
  • Fumi Tomita: The Elephant Vanishes (OA2): April 19
  • Dann Zinn: Day of Reckoning (Origin): April 19

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Weekend Roundup

One of my principles here is not to bother with politician horserace links, especially presidential candidates. One thing I've long held is that a president is only as good as his (or someday her) party, so the big question to ask any presidential candidate is: what are you going to do to get your party elected and make it an effective force? Still, every now and then I have opinions on specific people. When Greg Magarian griped about Tim Ryan and Michael Bennet getting a burst of press attention, as have recent stories about Beto O'Rourke and Pete Buttigieg raising great gobs of money, I commented:

Worth noting that O'Rourke and Buttigieg are principled neoliberals, and are raising money as such. They can do that because their youth and inexperience hasn't saddled them with the sort of baggage the Clinton establishment bears. That's bad news for Biden, who would be the obvious next-in-line for Clinton's donors if they didn't suspect that the brand is ruined. They may also be thinking that running someone young and outside might help crack Sanders' lead among young voters -- something Biden has no prayer of doing.

The one candidate I've been hearing the most (and most negative) about is Joe Biden. He hasn't announced yet, but evidently the decision has been made, the timing around Easter. Biden has led recent polls, but that can be attributed to his much greater name resolution. I've always figured the decision would turn on whether he's willing to risk his legacy on a very likely loss, but I suppose the decision will turn mostly on whether he can line up sufficient funding. (I had some doubts that Bernie Sanders would run, but when I saw his early funding reports, I immediately realized I was being silly.) Clearly, he didn't run in 2016 because Hillary Clinton had locked up most of his possible funding. That's less obvious this year, but a lot of competitive candidates have jumped in ahead of him.

Biden isn't awful, but he has a lot of baggage, including a lot of things that wound up hurting Clinton in 2016 (like that Iraq War vote). Some of those things could hurt him in the primaries, especially his rather dodgy record on race and crime, and with women. Other things, like his plagiarism scandal, will hurt him more in the general election. But the big problem there is that he was a Washington insider and party leader for so long that he makes it easy for Republicans to spin this election into a referendum on forty years of Democratic Party failures. Obama was largely able to avoid that in 2008, but Clinton couldn't in 2016.

Also, there is the nagging suspicion that he isn't really a very good day-to-day candidate. Last time he ran for president he was an also-ran, unable to get more than 1-2% of the vote anywhere. He got the VP nod from Obama after Clinton decided she'd rather be Secretary of State, and one suspects that the Clintons pushed for Biden as VP because they didn't regard him as a serious rival in 2016 (when a sitting VP would normally have the inside track to the nomination). And he's exceptionally prone to gaffes. He managed to avoid any really bad ones running with Obama, but running on his own he'll get a lot more scrutiny and pressure. Nobody thinks he's stupid or evil -- unlike Trump, whose base seems to regard those attributes as virtues -- but nobody is much of a fan either (well, except for the fictional Leslie Knope, which kind of proves the point).

For more, if you care, see Michelle Goldberg: The wrong time for Joe Biden:

Beyond gender, on issue after issue, if Biden runs for president he will have to run away from his own record. He -- and by extension, we -- will have to relive the debate over the Iraq war, which he voted to authorize. He'll have to explain his vote to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, which, by lifting regulations on banking, helped create the conditions for the 2008 financial meltdown. (Biden has called that vote one of the biggest regrets of his career.) In 2016, Hillary Clinton was slammed for her previous support of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which contributed to mass incarceration. Biden helped write the law, which he called, in 2015, the "1994 Biden crime bill." . . . No one should judge the whole span of Biden's career by the standards of 2019, but if he's going to run for president, it's fair to ask whether he's the right leader for this moment. He is a product of his time, but that time is up.

Other political news last week included the death of Ernest Hollings, the long-time South Carolina senator, at 97. I was, well, shocked to see him referred to in an obituary as a populist -- a thought that had never crossed my mind. I would grant that he was not as bad as the Republicans who served in the Senate alongside him (Strom Thurmond and Lindsey Graham), or his Republican successor (Jim DeMent). Still, those are pretty low standards.

By the way, a couple of non-political links below: subjects I used to follow closely in more carefree times. See if you can pick them out.

Some scattered links this week:

Monday, April 1, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 31312 [31297] rated (+15), 249 [253] unrated (-4).

Rated count way down, about half of what I consider a solid week. When I dropped to 29 last week, I described that as a "lazy week." Could say that again, but the real reason for the drop off is that the Flash plugin on my computer is fucked up, making it impossible to use Napster (or, for that matter, Spotify). That left me with playing CDs (9) and using Bandcamp (6), and I didn't really have much to choose from or look for on either. Unplayed CD queue is currently only 7 deep, and I don't just randomly play unknowns on Bandcamp. On the other hand, the Bandcamps generally got two spins, and the CDs more than that (I'd guess Larry Fuller got 7-8 plays -- not that I needed more than 2, but it made for pretty pleasant background music). All that lead to a couple anomalies. Only one A- is the lowest weekly total in quite some time, and I'm actually not real solid on it -- I've never been much of a Betty Carter fan, and should probably go back and check some of her earlier releases (and re-check The Audience With Betty Carter, which I have at B- even though it wears a Penguin Guide crown). It could be that I promoted it at the last minute because I came up with nothing else.

The other anomaly is the high percentage of B+(***) grades (8/15). Certainly the multiple replays helped out. At this point, I'm pretty sure the jazz records (especially the CDs) have plateaued, but three of the Bandcamps might merit further investigation: Mekons, Quelle Chris, and Mdou Moctar. I think I have those three pegged right, but they're close, and it's worth noting that I have the immediately previous albums by all three at A- (It Is Twice Blessed, Everything's Fine, and Blue Stage Sessions).

Priorities for the coming week will be to reconstruct my crashed tax file, finish (paint) a new pantry shelf, and finally get my computers rearranged and reconnected (hopefully fixing the Napster problem, and allowing me to get onto some website work). Also have my DownBeat Critics Poll invite, so that will be another (pretty much wasted) chunk of time. One website task I did manage to get done last week was to build a book page for Robert Christgau's new essay collection, Book Reports: A Music Critic on His First Love, Which Was Reading, due out from Duke University Press on April 12. Info and various links on that page. Still to be done is the nasty task of embargoing most of the pieces that appear in the book, so this is your last change (for several years) to squirrel away free copies of most of the book.

New records reviewed this week:

Laura Antonioli: The Constant Passage of Time (2018 [2019], Origin): Singer, writes some (lyrics, I think), cut a record with George Cables in 1985, restarted around 2004, working with Richie Beirach, and picked up the pace after her 2014 Joni Mitchell tribute. Two Mitchell pieces here -- she has the voice and manner down pat -- along with Sheryl Crow and Neil Young. With Sheldon Brown on sax and clarinet, Dave McNab on guitar, Matt Clark on piano, plus bass and drums. B+(**) [cd]

Michaël Attias: Ëchos La Nuit (2018 [2019], Out of Your Head): Alto saxophonist, parents Moroccan, born in Israel, grew up in Paris and Minneapolis, based in New York, albums since 2002, fewer than I expected. This one is solo improv, somehow imvolving a piano ("the sympathetic resonance of the piano strings set into vibration by the sound of the saxophone"). Slow, contemplative, or maybe just cautiously deliberate. B+(**) [cd]

Blu & Oh No: A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night (2019, Native Sounds): Rapper Johnson Barnes, active since 2007, and rapper/producer Michael Woodrow Jackson (since 2004), reinforcing each other, building tension and urgency of their Los Angeles fable. B+(**) [bc]

Chord Four: California Avant Garde (2016 [2019], self-released): Pianoless free jazz quartet, based in Los Angeles, the horn players Andrew Conrad (tenor sax/clarinet/bass clarinet) and Brandon Sherman (trumpet/flugelhorn), backed by bass (Emilio Terranova) and drums (Colin Woodford). Eponymous album in 2010. This seems to be their fourth. Smart, intricate, doesn't grate, could even be characterized as understated. B+(***) [cd]

Larry Fuller: Overjoyed (2018 [2019], Capri): Pianist, from Toledo, Ohio, recorded a trio album in 1998 with Ray Brown and Jeff Hamilton but more often appeared as the pianist in their piano trios. Released a trio album I liked under his own name in 2014, and follows that up here, with Hassan Shakur and Lewis Nash. Two originals, more standards that catch your ear, the title cut from Stevie Wonder. B+(***) [cd]

Ross Hammond & Sameer Gupta: Mystery Well (2018, Prescott): Guitar and tabla duo. Guitarist has been prolific over a decade, including a previous duo album with Gupta. Doesn't have the twang of a sitar, but fits in nicely. B+(***) [bc]

Remy Le Boeuf: Light as a Word (2017 [2019], Outside In Music): Alto saxophonist, from Santa Cruz, California, based in Brooklyn, first album under his own name following three with brother Pascal as the Le Boeuf Brothers. Sextet with Walter Smith III (tenor sax), Aaron Parks (piano), guitar, bass, and drums. Postbop, a little slick but goes somewhere. B+(**) [cd]

Mekons: Deserted (2019, Bloodshot): Venerably Anglo (now Chicago?) cowpunk group reunited for another roundup, starts out sounding strong (and angry), hits a skid spot midway, and and I tend to lose interest after that, not that I don't hear things that make me wonder if more plays might bring it around. B+(***) [bc]

Mdou Moctar: Ilana: The Creator (2019, Sahle Sounds): Tuareg from Niger, plays guitar, sings, got me thinking that if Ali Farka Tuareg was the John Lee Hooker of the Sahara, he just might be the Jimi Hendrix. Then he tails off a bit, the old groove and trance getting the upper hand. B+(***) [bc]

Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Nate Wooley: Strings 3 (2018 [2019], Leo): Continues the prolific tenor saxophonist's series from last year, all albums (so far) featuring Maneri on viola -- the first with two violins, the second with cello. This one adds some trumpet dischord to the core ugliness, although in the end you could learn something from the messiness of freedom. B+(*) [cd]

Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Nate Wooley/Matthew Shipp: Strings 4 (2018 [2019], Leo): Add the pianist and it all becomes much more coherent, even if he never seems to be conspicuous. B+(***) [cd]

Quelle Chris: Guns (2019, Mello Music Group): Rapper Gavin Tennille, underground division, pretty good duo album last year with Jean Grae (cameo here), like the beats here, I'm a little slow on the words. Choice cut: "Obamacare." B+(***) [bc]

SOL Development: The SOL of Black Folk (2019, self-released): Oakland hip-hop collective, acronym stands for Source of Light, title reflects on W.E.B. DuBois's best-known book. So much talent the styles clash, but "Nobody" puts it all together, and I'd probably find more if I put in the time. B+(**) [bc]

Tiger Hatchery: Breathing in the Walls (2017 [2018], ESP-Disk): Avant-sax trio, with Mike Forbes, Andrew Scott Young (bass), and Ben Billington (drums), group together since 2010 (Forbes has a 2009 album with Young and Weasel Walter). Rugged, striking, relatively short (30:18). B+(***) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Betty Carter: The Music Never Stops (1992 [2019], Blue Engine): Jazz singer, dubbed Bebop Betty when she started out in the mid-1950s, deep voice, nimble scat, her work on Verve from 1980 up to her death in 1998 is especially revered -- albeit not by me: I've been impressed by her bands, but never cared much for the vocals. I should probably reacquaint myself, as she shows remarkable poise and range here, in a previously unreleased Jazz at Lincoln Center tape. Some small group cuts, more big band, some strings arranged by Geri Allen: I doubt any of those are really up to her standards, but they work well enough. A- [cd]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Romain Collin: Tiny Lights: Genesis (XM): April 12
  • Jordon Dixon: On! (self-released): June 7
  • Polly Gibbons: All I Can Do (Resonance): April 19
  • Pablo Langouguere Quintet: Eclectico (self-released): May 31

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Started late, figuring I'd "just go through the motions," and I'm giving up with maybe half of my usual sources unexamined. Anyhow, this should suffice as a sample on what's gone on this past week.

One piece I intended to link to was an article in the Wichita Eagle a few days ago about sex abuse in the local Catholic diocese, going back to the 1960s or earlier. My closest neighborhood friend attended Catholic schools and often talked about how sex-obsessed the priests were -- not that he was himself abused, but something I found completely baffling at the time. That was something I often wondered about When the scandals in Boston and elsewhere were finally exposed, but until this article appeared I had never seen mention of Wichita. Can't find the article on the Wichita Eagle website -- although I did find an earlier one, KBI investigating clergy sex abuse cases in Kansas, asks victims to come forward, mostly on Kansas City, KS.

Some scattered links this week:

Monday, March 25, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 31297 [31275] rated (+22), 253 [251] unrated (+2).

I expected a "lazy week," so my lowest rated count this year shouldn't be a surprise. Was real low until the weekend, when I settled down to write up a lengthy Weekend Roundup. Even then, I ran into a problem when Napster stopped playing (could search and select records, but couldn't fetch any music). Probably the Flash plugin got hosed, and could get restarted by rebooting, but I had too much stuff up in the air to bother). Played some CDs -- the week's three two A- and one B+(***) records. Beyond that, I mostly searched on Bandcamp (9 this week, vs. 5 on Napster).

I didn't get around to moving the computer last week, even though I had planned to do it right after last week's Music Week. I'm going to swear off predicting when I'm going to get that done. Weather should be relatively nice next week, and I have a couple of woodworking projects on tap, so that may be more fun. Took a couple of days last week making a rather spectacular dinner. Menu, as best I recall:

  • Roasted chicken with fennel, clementines, and arak [Ottolenghi]: sub ouzo for arak.
  • Sweet potato gratin [Ottolenghi].
  • Cauliflower bacon gratin [Greenspan].
  • Pumpkin gorgonzola flan [Greenspan]: did one large one instead of individuals.
  • Spiced butter carrots [Greenspan].
  • Piperade stir-fry [Greenspan].
  • Orange & olive salad [Greenspan, but I mostly did Wolfert from memory].
  • Profiteroles [Reichl], with coffee/chocolate chip ice cream and hot fudge sauce.

I used a lot of eggs and cream. I originally wanted to do veal marengo [Greenspan], but the one grocery store that routinely stocks veal chops had none (no veal at all, no lamb, seafood counter already shut down. I've made that chicken recipe a number of times, so was able to amend my shopping list from memory. Might even have been an improvement on the veal, although that's another marvelous dish. I had to make the fudge sauce and assemble the profiteroles after dinner, and couldn't serve them all at once, but our guests coped.

This is the last Monday in March, so my Streamnotes (March 2019) file is complete.

New records reviewed this week:

Cyrille Aimée: Live (2018, Mack Avenue): French jazz singer, ninth album since 2009, writes some, mostly covers, mostly in English, touching on Michael Jackson and Stephen Sondheim. Backed by two guitars, bass, and drums. B+(**)

Cyrille Aimée: Move On: A Sondheim Adventure (2019, Mack Avenue): Never a fan of musical theater, I have little sense of Sondheim other than the vague whiff of his fame -- enough to think that by now his songs would have eased into the standards repertoire, even though there's scant evidence of it. Sure, the French jazz singer has dabbled before, and here dives in whole hog. Still, two plays and nothing memorable. B

Chat Noir: Hyperuranion (2018 [2019], RareNoise): Italian group, Michele Cavallari (keyboards) and Luca Fogagnolo (bass) founding members from 2006, half-dozen albums, now a quartet with Daniel Calvi (guitar) and Moritz Baumgartner (drums). Instrumental semi-pop, doesn't do much as jazz but that's where they're pitching it. B [cdr]

Stephan Crump/Ingrid Laubrock/Cory Smythe: Channels (2017 [2019], Intakt): Bass, tenor/soprano sax, piano trio, listed alphabetically and jointly credited, but strikes me as the bassist's show, setting and breaking up time in a way that gives Laubrock a lot of leeway. A- [cd]

Ex Hex: It's Real (2019, Merge): Punk trio, led by Mary Timony, who's been doing this sort of thing since her 1994-97 band Helium, using Ex Hex as a solo album title in 2005, and adopting it as her band name in 2014. Second group album, straight and hard and more than a little catchy. B+(**)

Paolo Fresu/Richard Galliano/Jan Lundgren: Mare Nostrum III (2018 [2019], ACT): Trumpet/accordion/piano, third album for this trio, like its predecessors, a tidy little chamber jazz act. B+(**)

ICP Orchestra: Live at the Royal Room: First Set: 6 May 2015 (2015 [2018], ICP): Dutch avant tentet, founded 1967 by pianist-composer Misha Mengelberg, drummer Han Bennink, along with a who's who of future (and in some cases, like Willem Breuker, now past) stars. Mengelberg retired before this tour, replaced by Guus Janssen but they're still playing three of his old pieces. In Seattle, getting warmed up. B+(*) [bc]

ICP Orchestra: Live at the Royal Room: Second Set: 6 May 2015 (2015 [2018], ICP): Getting warmer, the improvs often reminding me of circus music. B+(**) [bc]

Anthony Joseph: People of the Sun (2018, Heavenly Sweetness): Singer-songwriter, poet, novelist, born in Trinidad, moved to UK in 1989, has several albums. Big beat, lot of groove and flash, but did run on. B+(*) [bc]

Liebman Rudolph & Drake: Chi (2018 [2019], RareNoise): Saxophonist David Liebman, tenor and soprano plus he plays some surprisingly impressive piano, with two percussionists: Adam Rudolph, who draws ideas and instruments from all over the world, and Hamid Drake, whose frame drums are wonderfully distinctive. It's their record, even when Liebman tries to run away with it. A- [cdr]

Dan McCarthy: Epoch (2019, Origin): Vibraphonist, from Canada, based in New York, several previous albums. This is a string-heavy quartet with Mark Feldman (violin), Ben Monder (guitar), and Steve Swallow (electric bass), with Feldman carrying most of the weight. I've never much cared for Feldman before, but he's consistently sharp here, as well as gorgeous. B+(***) [cd]

Levon Mikaelian Trio: Untainted (2019, self-released): Pianist, from Yerevan, Armenia, moved to US after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Has at least one previous. This is a trio with Jon Steele (bass) and Kelton Norris (drums). One original, rest based on traditional folk songs. Runs long (69:30), very listenable. B+(**) [cd]

Sean Noonan Pavees Dance: Tan Man's Hat (2018 [2019], RareNoise): Drummer, self-described "Irish griot," launched this group in 2014, has gone through several guitarists to get to Ava Mendoza here, with Jamaaladeen Tacuma on electric bass and Alex Marcelo on keyboards. Still, major collaborator is ex-Can vocalist Malcolm Mooney. My first reaction was "aims for Beefheart, misses Zappa." Missing Zappa isn't necessarily a dis, but the slippery slop is pretty hit and miss. B [cdr]

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: Ancestral Recall (2019, Ropeadope): Trumpet player from New Orleans, debut in 2005, Africanized his name in 2012, released a well-regarded trilogy in 2016. This follow up builds on his popularity by throwing everything at it: his own synths, guest flute and alto sax, lots of African percussion, lots of voices. Best when the clutter clears and his trumpet breaks out like the sun on a cloudy day. B+(*) [bc]

Dexter Story: Bahir (2019, Soundway): Multi-instrumentalist from Los Angeles, studied at UC Berkeley, member of Build an Ark and the Life Force Trio, two previous albums (plus remixes), cites East African influences ("Ethiopian jazz, Tuareg grooves, ekista dance rhythms, Afro-funk, Somalian soul, and conteporary jazz influences"), with various featured guests (like Ethiopian singer Hamelmal Abate). B+(*) [bc]

Urbanity: Urbanity (2018 [2019], Alfi): Smooth jazz duo, Albare (Albert Dadon, guitars) and Phil Turcio (keyboards/programming), second album, each has an album or two on their own. They split the writing credits, aside from one cover -- a very genteel "Desperado." A guest vocal, of course, and a bit of tenor sax (Tim Ries). Not exactly bland, but pretty damn blasé. B [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Sun Ra and His Spirit of Jazz Cosmos Arkestra: WUHY Radio, Philadelphia, 1978 (1978 [2019], Enterplanetary Koncepts): Radio shot, bits of interviews and other distractions from the often remarkable music. B+(*) [bc]

Townes Van Zandt: Sky Blue (1973 [2019], Fat Possum): Folkie singer-songwriter from Texas, released six albums 1968-72, just three more before he died at 52 in 1997, some kind of legend in his niche, but never a star, and the two records I managed to check out didn't impress me much. Eleven previously unreleased tunes, eight of them originals, all just acoustic guitar and voice, B+(*) [bc]

Old music:

Aceyalone: All Balls Don't Bounce (1995, Capitol): Rapper Eddie Hayes, first album, cover looks familiar but no grade in my database. B+(**) [bc]

Aceyalone: A Book of Human Language (1998, Project Blowed): Second album, just before the first one I noticed -- the excellent Accepted Eclectic. Cover credit: "Accompanied by Mumbles." Beats, I presume, B+(**) [bc]

Carol Leigh: Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night (1984 [1996], GHB): Trad jazz singer, starting with Turk Murphy and Bob Scobey, mostly recorded with the Salty Dogs and in a duo with James Dapogny, but has a few albums under her own name. Credits on this one include Ernie Carson (cornet), John Otto (clarinet), Knocky Parker (piano), Shorty Johnson (tuba), and Hal Smith (drums). CD adds parts of another album with a different group. Mostly blues, echoes from the 1920s. B+(**)

Carol Leigh/Dumouster Stompers: Back Water Blues (1993 [2016], GHB): Another trad jazz group, recorded five albums (as far as I can tell) 1993-2005, originally on the French Black & Blue label, with the singer getting top billing here. Cover says "Dedicated to Montauban." B

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Michaël Attias: Ëchos La Nuit (Out of Your Head): April 5
  • Betty Carter: The Music Never Stops (1992, Blue Engine): March 29
  • Stephan Crump/Ingrid Laubrock/Cory Smythe: Channels (Intakt)
  • Fleurine: Brazilian Dream (Pure Imagination)
  • Larry Fuller: Overjoyed (Capri): May 17
  • Remy Le Boeuf: Light as a Word (Outside In Music): May 24
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature (ESP-Disk)
  • Terraza Big Band: One Day Wonder (Outside In Music): May 3
  • Tiger Hatchery: Breathing in the Walls (ESP-Disk)
  • Dave Zinno Unisphere: Stories Told (Whaling City Sound)

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller handed a report in to Attorney General Bill Barr on Friday, and Barr released a letter to Congress "summarizing" the report, spun primarily to let Trump off the hook. Publication of the full report would be a fairly major news story, but all we have to go on now is just Barr's spin. For example, see: Tierney Sneed: Barr: Evidence Mueller found not 'sufficient' to charge Trump with obstruction. That's always seemed to me to be the probable outcome. Anyone who thought Robert Mueller would treat Trump like Ken Starr and his crew did the Clintons clearly knew nothing about the man. Moreover, letting Barr break the news is resulting in much different headlines than, say, when James Comey announced that he didn't find sufficient evidence to charge Hillary Clinton with any crimes in her email case. At the time, Comey buried the conclusion and spent 90% of his press conference berating Clinton for her recklessness and numerous other faults. You're not hearing any of that from Barr, although when the final report comes out -- and presumably if not released someone will manage to leak it -- the odds that someone else less in Trump's pocket could have reported it more critically of Trump are dead certain. As I write this, reactions are pouring in. For instance: William Saletan: Look at all the weasel words Bill Barr used to protect Trump.

No time to unpack this now, and probably no point either. I started to write something under Matt Taibbi below, wasn't able to wrap it up neatly, and left it dangling. I'll return to the subject at some point, hopefully with better perspective. But I would like to make two points here. One is that anyone who tried to pin the word "treason" on Trump has committed a grave mistake. The word assumes that we are locked in a state of war that is fixed and immutable, something that we are not free to make political decisions over. It is, in short, a word that we should never charge anyone with, even a scoundrel like Trump. Moreover, it is a word that through its assumptions indicts its user much worse than its target. Those Democrats who used it should be ashamed and apologetic. (Needless to say, the same goes for Republicans who hurled the same charge at Obama and the Clintons.)

The second point is that we need to recognize that what we allow politicians (like Trump, or for that matter the Clintons) to get away with legally is a much bigger scandal than whether they ever get caught violating the law. Indeed, if you take the Mueller Report as exonerating Trump, you're inadvertently arguing that anything a person can get away with is fair and acceptable.

Little bit of insight I picked up from Greg Magarian on Facebook:

It's so fucking easy to be conservative. That's maybe the gratest under-the-radar reason to hate conservatives: because all they have to do is stand around and let the world keep sucking.

Best news I've seen this week: A century with Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Some scattered links this week:

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 31275 [31246] rated (+29), 251 [252] unrated (-1).

Rated count down, probably by a lot mid-week, but I spent a lot of time on the computer hacking out Book Roundup then Weekend Roundup, and made up ground late. I checked and found that this was the third week in the last two months with exactly 29 records. Would have been more except that this has been another banner A-list week.

Two came out of my jazz queue -- David Berkman, not out until April 5, and Tomeka Reid/Filippo Monico -- and they qualify as news. Three were tipped off by Phil Overeem (Little Simz, Dave, and Robert Forster -- although the first two took a revisit before I became convinced). One (Todd Snider) was written up by Robert Christgau (along with Leyla McCalls's Capitalist Blues and Our Native Daughters' Songs of Our Native Daughters, both A- here in previous weeks). I was tipped off to the final one (Matt Brewer) by a Chris Monsen tweet. Various other sources led me to lower-rated records, but somehow the best tips keep coming from friends.

I've put off my office/computer reorganization, but should buckle down and get it done this week (tomorrow I hope, after I get this post up and get some fresh light to work with. Still some things unclear about how it's all going to get put back together.

Getting some decent weather after several rough months. (The "bomb cyclone" was kind of a dud here, although it lived up to its billing a hundred miles north of here, even more so between there and Denver.) Maybe I'll take some time and work on the yard and/or my nephew's house. Also still stuck with a lot of stress over myriad health issues -- but generally looks like a lazy week coming up.

New records reviewed this week:

2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League (2019, Gamebread/Def Jam): Rapper Tauheed Epps, from Georgia, checkered career but his five albums have sold well, charting no lower than 4. Songs about dealing drugs and playing college basketball and playing taxes, all rooted in real life. B+(**)

4WD [Nils Landgren/Michael Wollny/Lars Danielsson/Wolfgang Haffner]: 4 Wheel Drive (2018 [2019], ACT): I go back and forth on how to parse the cover, but label's website credits this to the trombonist and dismisses "4WD" -- possibly just a graphic? Piano-bass-drums for the others, with Landgren singing a pop repertoire including Phil Collins, Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, and Sting -- all gag-worthy. B-

Abhi the Nomad: Marbled (2018, Tommy Boy): Rapper, know very little about him other than that he moved around a lot (including India, Hong Kong, Beijing, Fiji Islands), winding up in California, then Austin. Easy flow, promising but tails off a bit. B+(***)

Allison Au Quartet: Wander Wonder (2018 [2019], self-released): Canadian alto saxophonist, won a Juno award, third quartet album, backed by piano-bass-drums, sometimes electric. B+(**)

The David Berkman Sextet: Six of One (2018 [2019], Palmetto): Pianist, made a big impression back in the 1990s but hasn't been very prolific lately. Nominally a "three-woodwind sextet (plus guests)" but skimpy on actual credits beyond solos, for which I count four "woodwind" players: Dayna Stephens, Billy Drewes, Adam Kolker, and Tim Armacost. Complexly layered, elegant, often quite lovely. A- [cd]

Matt Brewer: Ganymede (2018 [2019], Criss Cross): Bassist, from Oklahoma City, moved to New York in 2001, third album, 30-40 side credits. Trio with Mark Shim (tenor sax) and Damon Reid (drums). Wrote 4 (of 10) pieces, one by Shim, covers mostly from modern jazz musicians. A remarkably solid setting for all. A-

Chai: Punk (2019, Burger): Japanese girl band, J-pop or dance punk, second album, first was called Pink. Closer to bubblegum than to punk, but the latter introduces just enough noise and chaos into the mix to keep earworms from forming. B+(*)

The Coathangers: The Devil You Know (2019, Suicide Squeeze): Punkish girl group from Atlanta, a going concern since 2007, started to make me wonder whether they're going soft, but "F the NRA" allayed those fears, and the next song ("Memories") is even better. B+(***)

Theon Cross: Fyah (2017-18 [2019], Gearbox): British tuba player, first album although he's been on several well-regarded albums of late (notably Sons of Kemet); group here (6 of 8 cuts) includes Nubya Garcia (tenor sax) and Moses Boyd (drums), keeps up a pretty steady beat with a lot of bottom. B+(*)

Dave: Psychodrama (2019, Neighbourhood): British rapper David Orobosa Omoregie, born in London, parents Nigerian, first album after two EPs and a bunch of singles. Concept heavy, working his way through psych sessions, finding his way and gaining confidence and comfort, although not without some psychodrama. A-

Joey DeFrancesco: In the Key of the Universe (2019, Mack Avenue): Organ player, like his father but better known, probably the best known practitioner of the instrument these days, with a lot of records since 1989. Also plays other keyboards, and trumpet on two tracks. Still, this doesn't sound like his usual soul jazz grind, especially when saxophonist Troy Roberts makes way for Pharoah Sanders on three cuts in the middle (Roberts plays bass on two of them). With Billy Hart on drums and Sammy Figueroa on percussion. I'm a bit lost here, but it's great to hear Sanders in any context, even here. B+(**)

Carolyun Fitzhugh: Living in Peace (2018 [2019], Iyouwe): Jazz singer, from Chicago, write about half of her songs, has a previous album. Does duets with Freddy Cole and Nancy Assis, draws on some name players, including Amina Figarova (piano), Rudy Royston (drums), Rez Abbasi (guitar), and Wayne Escoffery (tenor sax). B [cd]

Robert Forster: Inferno (2019, Tapete): Australlian singer-songwriter, formerly in the Go-Betweens, had several solo albums in the 1990s, regrouped the band, then was left to resume his solo career when Grant McLennan died. Forster never seemed to have McLennan's knack for indelible melodies, but his songs are intelligent and humane, and he sticks with them until they work -- at least if listeners meet him midway. A-

Girlpool: What Chaos Is Imaginary (2019, Anti-): Alt/indie group, principally Cleo Tucker (guitar) and Harmony Tividad (bass), both vocals, plus (at least) a drummer. Third album, melts together. B

Larry Grenadier: The Gleaners (2016 [2019], ECM): Bassist, at least 80 side credits since 1988 (Brad Mehldau Trio, also Charles Lloyd, Paul Motian, Joshua Redman, Mark Turner), Discogs has him on the headline of 18 albums, but first-listed only once before. He can't duck this one: it's solo, which is a pretty limited framework for a bassist -- even a very good one. B+(*)

Vijay Iyer/Craig Taborn: The Transitory Poems (2018 [2019], ECM): Piano duets, two of the leading jazz pianists of their generation (b. 1970-71), everything jointly credited except for a bit at the end by Geri Allen. Live at Liszt Academy, Budapest. I'm not finding this quite as engaging as Taborn's recent duets with Kris Davis, but there is a lot to chew on here. B+(**)

Julian Lage: Love Hurts (2018 [2019], Mack Avenue): One of the most popular young jazz guitarist around, at 31 presents an album cover of burnt matches. raising the questino of whether he's burnt out. Actually, I'd say this is the most pleasing album he's done, a trio with Jorge Roeder and David King, one original (simply called "Lullaby"); covers from Ornette Coleman, Jimmy Giuffre, and Keith Jarrett; and best of all, two late '50s slices of pop opera, the title cut and Roy Orbison's "Crying." B+(***)

Little Simz: Grey Area (2019, Age 101): British rapper Simbi Ajikawo, born in London, parents from Nigeria, third album. A-

Nivhek: After Its Own Death/Walking in a Spiral Towards the House (2019, Yellow Electric): New project from Liz Harris, of Grouper. The longer first piece is built mostly from voice, but dissolves into ambience -- more attractively on the second piece. B+(*)

Tomeka Reid/Filippo Monico: The Mouser (2018 [2019], Relative Pitch): Cello and drums duet, latter also credited with "objects." Reid is based in Chicago, has co-headlined albums with various notables there, including Nicole Mitchell, Mike Reed, and Dave Rempis, plus has a very good Quartet album. Monico is from Italy, has been around longer but rarely in the limelight. This has its moments of scrachy minimalism, but they hold together remarkably well. A- [cd]

Sigrid: Sucker Punch (2019, Island): Norwegian pop star Sigrid Solbakk Raabe, first album after two EPs, mostly dance beats, which help although her voice doesn't slip when she slows it down. B+(**)

Todd Snider: Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3 (2019, Aimless): After several outings with his rock band Hard Working Americans, back to folk mode, guitar and harmonica more minimal than ever (although he's got a couple of name guests in the background), puts his words out front, and he's pretty pissed. Title refers to the recording studio, originally a shack used by John R. Cash. A-

Carol Sudhalter Quartet: Live at Saint Peter's Church (2018 [2019], Alfa Projects): Baritone saxophonist, also plays flute, cut a record in 1985, more regularly 1997-2011. Quartet here backed by piano-bass-drums, mostly plays early bop standards -- one original blues, a Jobim, a very nice "Gee Baby Ain't I Good to You." Needless to say, I prefer the bari. B+(**) [cd]

Paul Tynan: Quartet (2016 [2019], Origin): Trumpet player, recent records have been co-credited to Aaron Lington and their Bicoastal Collective. Backed with piano-bass-drums, this puts the focus on his trumpet, which shines. B+(*) [cd]

Claudia Villela: Encantada Live (2018 [2019], Taina Music): Brazilian singer, born and raised in Rio De Janeiro but based in Santa Cruz, California since the mid-1980s. I don't get much from her voice, but was impressed by the rhythm in "Cumeno Com Cuentro." B+(*) [cd]

Sheck Wes: Mudboy (2018, Cactus Jack/GOOD/Interscope): Rapper Khadimou Rassoul Cheikh Fall, born in New York, parents Senegalese, spent much of his childhood in Milwaukee before returning to new York. First album. B+(***)

Nate Wooley: Columbia Icefield (2017 [2019], Northern Spy): Prolific avant-trumpet player, adds electronics here, backed by Mary Halvorson (guitar), Susan Alcorn (pedal steel), and Ryan Sawyer (drums/voice). Three longish (13:50-20:04) pieces, inspired by one of Canada's more famous (for now) glaciers. Like the icefield, moves slow, and melts fast. B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

James Booker: Vol. 1: At Onkel Pö's Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976 (1976 [2019], Jazzline): New Orleans piano master, knew classical as well as the home town favorites. Cut his first single in 1954 (age 14), but didn't get an album released until Junco Partner in 1976, his breakthrough which led to several tours of Europe, including this set, before his death in 1983 (age 43). Solo, sings along, earns his reputation, but doesn't add much to it. B+(**)

Kid Creole & the Coconuts: Live in Paris 1985 (1985 [2019], Rainman): Probably my favorite pop group of the early 1980s -- I gave their five 1980-85 records { A-, A+, A, A-, A- }, but only two comparable albums since then -- but no live album until 1990, so this concert tape (originally released as a DVD in 2006) is ideally placed, with 16 great songs. Still, the live sound does them no favoes, and the payoff of extra energy only arrives at the end ("Endicott"). B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Laura Antonioli: The Constant Passage of Time (Origin): April 12
  • Chord Four: California Avant Garde (self-released): May 3
  • Levon Mikaelian Trio: Untainted (self-released): March 26
  • Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Nate Wooley: Strings 3 (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Nate Wooley/Matthew Shipp: Strings 4 (Leo)

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Stories that caught folks' interest this week included an airplane that aims to crash, mass slaughter of Muslims in New Zealand, and the revelation that some rich people got caught trying to cheat their way into getting their kids enrolled by elite colleges (as opposed to the proper way, which is to give the colleges extra money). On the latter, I'd like to quote Elias Vlanton (on Facebook):

Missing the Forest for the Trees: A few rich people bribed their kids into elite colleges. So what? The real scandal is an educational system that favors rich students over poorer ones (regardless of color) from the first day of pre-K through crossing the graduation stage, diploma in hand. If every bribing parent is jailed, the real injustice of social inequality will remain. Ending it is the real task.

The post was accompanied by a photo of some of Elias's students, who look markedly different from the students caught up in this scandal. This seems to be one of the few crimes in America with a means test limiting it to the pretty rich. Actually, I feel a little sorry for the parents and children caught up in this fraud -- not so much for being victimized (although they were) as for the horrible pressures they put upon themselves to succeed in a world that is so rigorously rigged by the extreme inequality they nominally benefit from. I got a taste of their world when I transferred to Washington University back in 1973. That was the first time I met student who had spent years prepping for SATs that would assure entrance to one of the nation's top pre-med schools. It was also where I knew students who tried (and sometimes managed) to hire others to write papers and to take graduate school tests -- so I suppose you could say that was my first encounter with the criminal rich. I always thought it was kind of pathetic, but it really just reflects the desperation of a pseudo-meritocracy. And true as that was then, I'm sure it's much more desperate and vicious today.

One more thing I want to mention here: I saw a meme on Facebook forwarded by one of my right-wing relatives. It read:


I suppose the intent was to complain about news coverage of the mass shooting in New Zealand, where a "white nationalist" slaughtered 50 Muslims, implying that the "fake news" media is playing favorites again, acting like Muslim lives are more valuable than Christian lives. I thought I should at least check that claim out. Google offered no evidence of such an attack, at least yesterday. However, I did find that two bombs had been set off on January 27, 2019, at a Catholic Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu, in the Philippines, killing 20 people. There's a pretty detailed Wikipedia page on the attack, so that could be the event the meme author is referring to. I've also found an article in the New York Times, although the emphasis there is more on the growth of ISIS within the long-running Islamic separatist revolt -- which started immediately after he US occupied the Philippines in 1898, and has flared up repeatedly ever since, most recently in response to Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte (one of Trump's favorite strongmen). (Also another article in CNN.) The context stripped from the meme doesn't excuse the atrocity, but it does help explain American media's limited interest. I have several links on the New Zealand shooting below, and they too reflect our rather parochial interest in the subject. Although pretty much everyone deplores the loss of life in all terrorist atrocities, the New Zealand one hit closer to home (for reasons that will be obvious below -- see, e.g., Patrick Strickland).

Some scattered links this week:

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