Blog Entries [10 - 19]

Monday, August 12, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 31902 [31860] rated (+42), 259 [259] unrated (+0).

Running late again, mostly because I've been fiddling with the 2019 Metacritic file, adding extra points for high grades (not just midyear list picks) for most of the publications tracked by Album of the Year. The specific lists are noted here: in most cases one point for grades scored 80+, although for some relatively generous publications I've used 90+ (e.g., for AllMusic Guide, I'm counting 4.5 star records, but not 4.0 star ones). My latest project there has been to add points for All About Jazz grades of 4.5+ stars (4 stars is probably their median grade; at any rate it's very common). I've worked my way back to March 26, and the work has slowed down as I've had to check more release dates to separate 2019 releases out from the earlier ones (mostly late 2018's, but sometimes they review older releases). AOTY doesn't track AAJ (or any other jazz sources), so this has started to generate some jazz coverage. I should probably do Downbeat next.

Many of this week's picks are things I stumbled onto from various lists, and they're a pretty patchy group. I've finally started adding the final/latest Christgau EW reviews to his database, so a couple records (like the Diana Gordon EP) were suggested there -- which, by the way, led me to find Taana Gardner's disco classic (one of very few Christgau-rated A records I missed). Phil Overeem's latest list (link last week) led me to several things, including the George Jones United Artists Rarities, which sent me on a minor dive with a side of Little Jimmy Dickens.

The bigger dive this week was into the works of Jon Lundbom and Bryan Murray. This started with Balto Beats and swept up pretty much everything I had missed. (I had heard their often excellent records on Moppa Elliott's Hot Cup label, but missed almost everything else.)

The other smaller dive was into country singer-songwriter Tyler Childers. I initially graded his new one B+(***), but wondered if I shouldn't revisit 2017's Purgatory -- graded B+(**) by me at the time, but later a Christgau A-. Both of my initial reviews admitted that more spins may be called for, and it didn't take many. Also found two relatively crude earlier releases, which really brought his songwriting into focus. A couple more spins of the live EPs will raise could that grade as well, but the best songs are repeats from the debut -- probably still the best place to hear them.

One minor note: I've taken the time lock off the August Streamnotes draft file, which is where the monthly archive winds up. I won't do any indexing of the file until the end of the month, nor am I likely to be citing the URL in my weekly posts (although it's appeared in the notebook since I went weekly). But the naming convention is likely to be consistent moving forward, and you might spy something for the next Music Week there (e.g., the records I'm listening to as I'm writing this).

New records reviewed this week:

Leila Bordreuil/Michael Foster: The Caustic Ballads (2016, Relative Pitch): Cello and saxophone duo. Abstract, scratchy. B+(*) [bc]

Tyler Childers: Country Squire (2019, Hickman Holler/RCA): Alt-country singer-songwriter from Kentucky, impressed a lot of folks (including me belatedly) with his 2017 Purgatory and should get similar attention for this one. Another batch of strong songs, with a lot of fiddle in the band. A-

The Cinematic Orchestra: To Believe (2019, Domino): British group, founded by Jason Swinscoe in 1999, only their fourth studio album (first since 2007, not counting two soundtracks). My first sources filed this under jazz, but while there may be some improv in the mix, this strikes me more as prog rock, with bits of electronica, turntablism, and soundtrack pastiche. Nonetheless, pretty appealing. B+(**)

Mark De Clive-Lowe: Heritage (2018 [2019], Ropeadope): Keyboardist, from New Zealand, spent time in Japan, Boston (Berklee), and London before settling in Los Angeles. Recorded live over three nights at Blue Whale in Los Angeles, a fairly nice groove record that doesn't demand much. B+(*)

Mark De Clive-Lowe: Heritage II (2018 [2019], Ropeadope): More from the same sets, titles nearly all in Japanese. More of the same, with interest on the decline. B

Elephant9: Psychedelic Backfire I (2019, Rune Grammofon): Norwegian fusion band founded in 2006, a bass-drums-keyboards trio, I'm sure I've run across the names elsewhere but they've never stuck in my mind (Nikolai Haengsle Eilertsen, Ståle Storløkken, Torstein Lofthus). Pretty upbeat. B+(*)

Elephant9 With Reine Fiske: Psychedelic Backfire I (2019, Rune Grammofon): Fiske plays guitar, has joined the fusion group before. That guitar makes a difference here. B+(**)

Diana Gordon: Pure (2019, self-released, EP): Previously known as Wynter Gordon, r&b singer-songwriter, has a 2012 album plus a half-dozen EPs. Five cuts. Has a single here, some promising filler. B+(*) [yt]

Harbinger: Extended (2018 [2019], OA2): Piano trio, met in New Orleans: Oscar Rossignoli (from Honduras), Matt Booth (from Pittsburgh), and Brad Webb (home turf). All three write, especially the drummer (5/10 pieces). B+(**) [cd]

Mike Holober/The Gotham Jazz Orchestra: Hiding Out (2017 [2019], Zoho, 2CD): Pianist, based in or around New York, works almost exclusively with big bands like the Westchester Big Band and this one -- recorded in Mt. Vernon, but stocked with some of the city's finest. Two long, multi-part pieces, plus two takes of "Caminhos Cruzados." Some delightful stretches. B+(***) [cd]

Anne Mette Iversen's Ternion Quartet: Invincible Nimbus (2018 [2019], Bju'ecords): Danish bassist, in New York 1998-2012, where she was a founder of Brooklyn Jazz Underground, now based in Berlin. Second Ternion Quartet album, with Silke Eberhard (alto sax), Geoffroy De Masure (trombone), and Roland Schneider (drums). Eberhard impresses when they speed up. They lose something on the slower ones, although that's where the trombone especially shines. B+(***)

Mark Kavuma: The Banger Factory (2019, Ubuntu Music): Trumpet player, based in London, second album. With a saxophone or two, guitar, vibes, piano and/or organ, bass, drums, sometimes sounding like yesteryear's hard bop, occasionally with a postbop twist. B+(*)

LSD: Labrinth/Sia/Diplo Present . . . LSD (2019, Columbia): British producer Timothy McKenzie, released an album in 2012, joins here with the Australian pop singer and American DJ. Nu soul vibe, but works so erratically it's hard to be sure, or care. B-

Lage Lund: Terrible Animals (2018 [2019], Criss Cross): Norwegian guitarist, studied at Berklee and Juilliard, won a Monk Prize, based in New York, eleventh album since 2007, quartet with piano (Sullivan Fortner), bass (Larry Grenadier), and drums (Tyshawn Sorey). B+(*)

Jon Lundbom/Bryan Murray: Beats by Balto! Vol. 1 (2018 [2019], Chant): Some dispute on artist credit, with Bandcamp page favoring Balto Exclamationpoint (Murray, responsible for the beats, also plays various saxophones), while others list the guitarist first. Also in the group is Jon Irabagon (alto/mezzosoprano/slide saxophones), giving them three free-wheeling leads. The beats provide a platform, setting the leads free without letting them fly off the rails. A-

Moutin Factory Quintet: Mythical River (2019, Laborie Jazz): Brothers François and Louis Moutin, bass and drums, in a postbop quintet, with alto/soprano sax, guitar, and piano. Something wrong with my copy, but nothing I've heard makes me want to figure out what -- certainly not the promise of vocal credits. B- [cd]

Simon Nabatov Quintet: Last Minute Theory (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): Russian pianist, moved to New York in 1979, studied at Juilliard, close to four dozen albums since 1989, mostly avant duos and trios on Leo. Lots of fire power here, with Tony Malaby (tenor/soprano sax), Brandon Seabrook (guitar), Michael Formanek (bass), and Gerald Cleaver (drums). B+(**)

Ola Onabulé: Point Less (2019, Rugged Ram): Born in London, spent ten years of childhood in Nigeria before returning home. Eight or more albums since 1994. Bits of soul and jazz here, nothing that makes me want to sort it all out. B [cd]

Mario Pavone Dialect Trio: Philosophy (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): Bassist-led piano trio, with Matt Mitchell and Tyshawn Sorey. Live set from Firehouse 12. Pavone originals, one joint credit, two Annette Peacock covers. B+(***)

Alberto Pibiri & the Al Peppers: The Nacho Blues (2019, Alberto Pibiri Music): Italian pianist, based in New York, has at least one previous album. This one is a tribute to Herb Alpert, with Dan Blankinship on trumpet, Daniel Foose (double bass), and Brian Floody (drums). Mix of originals and standards, none of which remind me of Alpert -- except, perhaps, for a bit of jauntiness. B+(*) [cd]

The John Pizzarelli Trio: For Centennial Reasons: 100 Year Salute to Nat King Cole (2019, Ghostlight): Son of retro-swing guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, plays guitar himself and sings, lately fluffing up his catalog with various tributes. This is his third round with Cole, the others in 1994 and 1999. Trio with Konrad Paszkudzki on piano and Mike Karn on double bass. Fourteen well-worn songs, nicely swung, voice close enough to Cole's sweet spot. B+(**)

Noah Preminger: After Life (2018 [2019], Criss Cross): Tenor saxophonist, made a strong impression when he first appeared (c. 2008), built on that, then coasted. Postbop quintet with Jason Palmer (trumpet), Max Light (guitar), Kim Cass (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums), playing originals plus a bit of Händel. B+(**)

Jenny Scheinman/Allison Miller: Jenny Scheinman & Allison Miller's Parlour Game (2019, Royal Potato Family): Violin and drums, have several fine albums together in Miller's Boom Tic Boom. Quartet with Carmen Staaf (piano) and Tony Scherr (bass). Has some moments, but fewer than expected. B+(***)

Fabrizio Sciacca Quartet: Gettin' It There (2019, self-released): Bassist from Italy, studied at Berklee, based in New York, seems to be his first album, with Donald Vega (pianist, from Nicaragua), Billy Drummond (drums), and Jed Levy (alto sax). Satisfying just as a piano trio, the sax unnoticed until it is. B+(**) [cd]

Paul Silbergleit: January (2018 [2019], Blujazz): Guitarist, based in Milwaukee, has at least two previous albums (his debut was Silberglicity, from 1996). Mainstream quartet with bass, drums, and tenor sax (Eric Schoor). No spectacle, but grows on you. B+(**) [cd]

Paul Zauner's Blue Brass feat. David Murray: Roots n' Wings (2019, PAO/Blujazz): Austrian trombonist, handful of albums with variants of this group, an octet here including his guest star. Zauner played some with Murray in the late 1980s. Good to hear him here, but two other saxes and trumpet vie for attention. B+(***) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Tyler Childers: Live on Red Barn Radio I & II (2013-14 [2018], Hickman Holler, EP): Country singer-songwriter from Kentucky, self-released his debut (Bottles and Bibles) in 2011, also these two live EPs, compiled following his 2017 breakthrough Purgatory. Eight tracks, 29:28. B+(***)

George Jones: United Artists Rarities (1962-64 [2019], EMI Nashville): Twelve songs, three listed as alternate takes, no idea how they got picked or how they fit within (or beyond) the 13 Jones LPs United Artists released 1962-65. Part of my confusion is that the title is recycled from a 6-cut EP released on Record Store Day 2012. Songs aren't very memorable, but the voice is. B+(***)

Masayuki Takayanagi New Directions Unit: April Is the Cruelest Month (1975 [2019], Black Forms Editions): Pioneering Japanese avant guitarist, cut his first record in 1961, died 1991. Quartet with Kengi Mori (alto sax/flute/bass clarinet), bass/cello, and percussion. Three cuts, 37:04. I've grown more tolerant of noise squalls over the years, but this is still a bit much. B-

Old music:

Balto!: Balto! (2016, self-released): Google isn't any help here, as the word/name has multiple referrents, including a roots Americana band, but this here is Bryan Murray, credited with tenor, alto and balto! saxophones, pipeapone, trumpet, drums, keyboard, programming and sampling. Fond of noise, given to vamps. B+(**) [bc]

Balto!: Two Cans of Soup (2017, self-released, EP): Solo balto! sax ("alto sax fitted with a bari mouthpiece and plastic reed") and looper. Website description: "I made this shit" (5 tracks, 19:51). B- [bc]

Balto!: Taco Cat Poops (2018, self-released, EP): Free download, five cuts, 24:12, title in emojis. Presumably solo, with electronics and percussion as well as noisy saxophone. B+(**) [bc]

Balto Exclamationpoint/Plaidworthy: If the Big Hurt (2015, self-released): Canonical artist name on Bandcamp, but this is the only album cover I've seen it spelled out on. Sax and drums duo, relatively straightforward, which is a plus. B+(***) [bc]

Baltbom!: ¡!Baltbom!¡ (2015, self-released): Duo: Jon Lundbom (guitar) and Bryan Murray (aka Balto!, playing his personally modified Balto! saxophone). Seventeen short pieces, a mixed bag, but the 1:12 closer ("Boys") has a fun country twist. B+(*) [bc]

Baltsticks!!: Play You, Play Me (2016, self-released): Bryan Murray again (saxophones, vocals, talzmer, pipeaphone, irish whistle, recorder, mandolin), in a trio with Plaidworthy (drums and vocals) and Magbooch Spooner (synths). More rhythm here, almost works as jive. B+(*) [bc]

Bryan and the Haggards/Eugene Chadbourne: Merles Just Wanna Have Fun (2012 [2013], Northern Spy): Third album by saxophonist Bryan Murray's Merle Haggard tribute band, the first with guest vocalist (also on banjo and dobro). Chadbourne doesn't have the expected voice, but at least he articulates the songs the band seems intent on murdering. The band, with Jon Irabagon (saxes), Jon Lundbom (guitar), Moppa Elliott (bass), and Danny Fischer (drums) -- think bebop-terrorists Mostly Other People Do the Killing gone to seed -- give you even less of what you expect. Still, comes together midway, and likely to get even better with more plays. A- [bc]

Tyler Childers: Bottles and Bibles (2011, Hickman Holler): First album, eight songs (30:29), minimal production, but the songs are so bleak they don't want to cheering up. Message: "that coal is gonna bury you." On love: "I feel like a Hank song, since she went away." And when the bibles and bottles start fighting, the whiskey wins. A-

Little Jimmy Dickens: 16 Biggest Hits (1949-65 [2006], Columbia/Legacy): Just short of five feet tall, I knew him from his 1965 crossover novelty hit "May the Bird of Paradise (Fly Up Your Nose)," but also as the only musician I ever heard my father mention. He was thinking of Dickens' first hit, "Take an Old Cold Tater (And Wait)," probably to make a point about what a poor country boy he was. Dickens recorded a lot of singles between those two, but few charted (10 from 1949-65, 8 here, only 1 from 1951-61). While he liked a crude joke, and rarely missed an opportunity to make fun of himself, the filler here mostly consists of shitkickers like "Hillbilly Fever" and "Salty Boogie," and the odd ballad can be poignant. B+(***)

Taana Gardner: Heartbeat (1981, West End, EP): Disco singer, cut an album in 1979, but is better known for this later single, the two versions adding up to 16:17 (hence, an EP in my book). Probably wouldn't have bothered but this is one of the very few Christgau full-A records I hadn't found. Stumbled on this by accident, so figured I had to give it an ear. And while I'm not so blown away, I can imagine putting it on repeat for hours on end. A-

George Jones: Sings the Hits of His Country Cousins (1962, United Artists): Second of thirteen quickie albums Jones cut during his 3-year stint at United Artists. A dozen covers, some usual suspects from Roy Acuff and Eddy Arnold to Hank Williams and Bob Wills with some less orthodox picks: "Peace in the Valley" gets bogged down in the choir, but Burl Ives' "A Little Bitty Tear" is the sort of fluff Jones imbues with depth. B+(***)

George Jones: My Favorites of Hank Williams (1962, United Artists): Fourth UA album, an obvious choice, a subject he previously visited for Mercury. Twelve songs, all short (28:14 total), played and sung so straightforwardly it winds up feeling a bit hollow. B+(*)

George Jones: Sings Like the Dickens! (1964, United Artists): Near the end of his UA contract, a tribute to Little Jimmy Dickens -- not an obvious choice fifteen years after Dickens' breakout, and a year shy of his one crossover moment. Odd choice of songs too: only four from 16 Biggest Hits, none trademarks. Pappy Daily's production is as corny as ever, but the voice is magnificent. B+(**)

Jon Lundbom: Big Five Chord (2003 [2004], self-released): Guitarist, first album, took this title as his group name for most later albums (at least through 2019's Harder on the Outside). With Jon Irabagon (alto sax), Dominic Lalli (tenor sax), Moppa Elliott (bass), and Justin Wake (drums). Five originals, plus covers from Syd Barrett and Dr. Seuss. This drops some hints of where the band is headed. B+(*)

John Lundbom & Big Five Chord: All the Pretty Ponies (A Live Recording) (2004 [2005], self-released): Two personnel changes: Bryan Murray joins on tenor sax, starting a long association, and Andrew Bain takes over on drums. They come out loud, making up in attitude what they sacrifice in coherence. B

Bryan Murray: What You Don't Forget (2007, Jazz Excursion): Saxophonist, first album, a fairly impressive free jazz outing with guitarist Jon Lundbom plus bass (Michael Bates) and drums (Chris Carroll). B+(***)

John Pizzarelli: P.S. Mr. Cole (1996-97 [1999], RCA): The guitarist-singer's second Nat King Cole tribute, after 1994's lukewarm Dear Mr. Cole. With Ray Kennedy on piano, brother Martin Pizzarelli on double bass, and a couple of spots for Harry Allen (tenor sax). Less famous songs than on the first and latest tributes (e.g., "I Like Jersey Best"). B+(***)

Grade (or other) changes:

Tyler Childers: Purgatory (2017, Hickman Holler): Saving Country Music's favorite record of 2017. Gave it a spin, loved the trad sound, complaind that "the songs don't manage to stick." Obvious now it just needed another listen. [Was B+(**)] A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Steve Lehman Trio/Craig Taborn: The People I Love (Pi): August 30
  • Dave Miller Trio: Just Imagine (Summit): October 4
  • Bill O'Connell and the Afro Caribbean Ensemble: Wind Off the Hudson (Savant)
  • Mike Pachelli: High Standards (Fullblast): September 1
  • Houston Person: I'm Just a Lucky So and So (HighNote)
  • Lyn Stanley: London With a Twist: Live at Bernie's (A.T. Music)
  • Tucker Brothers: Two Parts (self-released): October 3

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Again, spent a little over two days collecting what seems to be a bottomless series of links that show various aspects of the same basic fact: that Donald Trump is like all other conservatives in the sense that he believes some people (like himself) are innately superior to other people, and that the political system should be rigged to favor superior people over inferior ones, but even among conservatives, as an individual he is exceptionally ignorant, abusive, vain, and corrupt. Most weeks I take pains to remind you that what's wrong with him is just a reflection of his political beliefs, and we need to focus on the broader right-wing and not just on him. Still, this week he was such a flaming asshole that it's hard to get beyond the horror and disgust he reeks of.

Some scattered links this week:

Not news, but let me note in passing a few more historical links on intellectuals who had some influence on me:

Monday, August 5, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 31860 [31831] rated (+29), 259 [257] unrated (+2).

I continue to be surprised at the pro-gun memes showing up in my Facebook feed. Consider this screed (from kin in Arkansas, if that matters):

"When I was in high school we had gun racks in trucks, and they had guns in them, and they were loaded. We even had fist fights! But never once did someone get pissed and go get a gun to shoot someone. We don't have a gun problem people, we have a people problem, a sin problem, a lack of heart and soul problem, a lack of respect for human life problem ,or even a mental health problem. . . . but we DO NOT have a gun problem! I think it's easier for some people to blame an inanimate object instead of taking responsibility."

This starts off with an anecdote which may have been true in the author's personal experience but is far from the general rule. Then it offers up a list of suspect people, blaming them and exculpating the guns they use to commit crimes. We watch a lot of crime stories on TV, and they invariably come down to motive and opportunity. Lots of people have motives that some people have killed for, but they don't do so because they never had the opportunity (or they had some scruples that inhibited them from striking out). Guns may do nothing on their own (there's a Steve Earle song called "The Devil's Right Hand" that argues otherwise), but when someone picks one up, they offer the opportunity of killing someone else, even at a distance. The basic idea behind gun control is to keep guns out of the hands of people who might use them criminally. One might argue that the government isn't smart or fair enough to make those decisions, but reasonable people could surely agree in minimal lists of guns that no one should have and people who should not have guns.

The problem there is finding reasonable people, especially among those on the right who have been propagating these stupid gun memes. Admittedly, there are people who would like to outlaw all guns, but they aren't numerous, and aren't in any position to reject reasonable compromises. My own position is that I dislike guns, and don't see any good reason for the vast majority of Americans (including myself) to own any, but I'm pretty resistant to the idea of outlawing things just because lots of people dislike them -- alcohol, drugs, and sex are cases we should have learned better than. On the other hand, I can occasionally see a case for prohibiting or strictly regulating some things that are especially dangerous, and I could understand wanting to include guns in that category.

Of course, there are some things that government is even more inept at dealing with than guns, and oddly enough they show up on the list of things pro-gun people like to blame gun violence on. Foremost is mental illness, which heads up Trump's list of scapegoats (along with ubiquitous things like violent video games). The fact is we don't do a very good job of treating (or even identifying) mental illness in this country, partly because we don't try (and conservatives are even more lax in this regard), but also because nobody's really very good at it. A rigorous system that tried to quarantine crazy people to keep them away from guns would be orders of magnitude more expensive and more hurtful than one that prohibited guns from all but the certifiably sane. Yeterday's meme blaming gun violence on drugs diagnosis without a solution.

I didn't mean to go down this rathole, but it just opened up -- as is so often the case. What I did want to do is quote a Barbara Ehrenreich tweet:

The mental illness we really have to fear is narcissism. It makes dumb, loathsome people feel virtuous and smart. Gun ownership is another form of narcissism. It makes little men feel big.

I'll also add this one from Adam Serwer, on Trump's Monday morning backpedal:

Trump sounds like a robot when condemning white supremacy and like himself when he's attacking religious and ethnic minorities because one is him pretending and one is him being himself.

Moving on, we have a week's worth of new music for you below. I added some grade data to my mid-year list aggregate, checking sites that hadn't produced lists and (usually) according one point for each record rated 80+ (based on AOTY lists. This had the surprise effect of boosting Sharon Van Etten's Remind Me Tomorrow to first place, 48-47 over Billie Eilish (gain from last week was 10-4). The only other notable shift was Weyes Blood, up from 15 to 10. Biggest drop was probably James Blake, 10-14.

Much of what I listened to last week came from looking at these lists. My other major source was Phil Overeem's July honor roll -- most impressively the MexStep record that came out mid-December, with no one noticing it in 2018 lists.

New batch of q&a from Robert Christgau up tonight: XgauSez.

New records reviewed this week:

Iggy Azalea: In My Defense (2019, Bad Dreams/Empire): Australian rapper, scored a crossover pop hit in 2014, doubles down on her hard edge here. B+(***)

John Bacon/Michael McNeill/Danny Ziemann: Refractions (2017 [2019], Jazz Dimensions): Drums, piano, bass, alphabetical order but consistently applied, playing seven Thelonious Monk pieces. Not as distinctive as the originals, but refracted in subtle and interesting ways. B+(***) [cd]

J. Balvin & Bad Bunny: Oasis (2019, Universal Music Latino): Colombian singer José Balvin and Puerto Rican rapper Benito Martinez, common denominator reggaeton. B+(**)

B.J. the Chicago Kid: 1123 (2019, Motown): Bryan James Sledge, from Chicago but now 34, third album, raps some, sings more, opens with exceptional groove and flow but piles up when he slows down. B+(*)

Chance the Rapper: The Big Day (2019, self-released): Chicago rapper, surname Bennett, reissued his debut mixtape 10 Day a while back and it was the freshest, most stimulating thing I've heard all year. He's older now (26), married, has a new child, has doubled down on his Christianity, and has chops enough to run this out to 77 minutes without interest flagging. A-

Chuck Cleaver: Send Aid (2019, Shake It): First album at age 60, a short one at that (10 tracks, 26:51), but hardly a newbie, as leader of Ass Ponys in the 1990s and, more famously, Wussy ever since. More Americana twang than I expected. Also more clang. B+(***)

Chick Corea/The Spanish Heart Band: Antidote (2019, Concord): Pianist, born in Massachusetts, Italian/Spanish descent, started in the late 1960s playing both avant, then fusion, then in 1976 discovered flamenco among his roots in one of his better known albums, My Spanish Heart. Here he returs to that diversion, with a similarly large band (8 pieces, fewer strings, plus vocals and tap dance). He repeats two songs, adds similar fare, lathers the rhythms with extra lushness. It might have sounded enticingly exotic way back when, but more like corn and shlock now. B-

Default Genders: Main Pop Girl 2019 (2019, self-released): Jaime Brooks, given name James, self-described as "a careless man's careful daughter," previously half of duo Elite Gymnastics, second album under this moniker. Mostly electronics, love the beats, like the fuzz, hardly caught any lyrics (some processed, else buried). B+(**) [bc]

Pablo Embon: Reminscent Mood (2018-19 [2019], self-released): Guitarist, originally from Argentina, now based in Israel, where he picked up some Middle Eastern airs to go with his Latin lilt. B- [cd]

Empath: Active Listening: Night on Earth (2019, Get Better): Philadelphia group, noisy pop, drummer from a similar (if less successful) group called Perfect Pussy. Short but not as deliberately elemental as punk: 9 songs, 27:12. B+(*)

Filthy Friends: Emerald Valley (2019, Kill Rock Stars): Side project of semi-famous musicians still working in more-or-less famous bands -- currently Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney), Peter Buck (REM), Scott McCaughey and Kurt Bloch (both Young Fresh Fellows), Linda Pitmon (The Baseball Project, along with Buck and McCaughey). Second album since they first recorded on an anti-Trump comp (30 Days, 30 Songs). B+(**)

Fred Frith: All Is Always Now: Fred Frith Live at the Stone (2007-16 [2019], Intakt, 3CD): English guitarist, started c. 1974 on the avant fringe of rock playing prepared guitar solos, but labels and company eventually slotted him under jazz (again, the avant fringe). Massive, wide-ranging trove of live performances from John Zorn's New York club, various duos and trio (one cut with a guest making four), most (16/23 tracks) from 2013-14. B+(***)

From Wolves to Whales: Strandwal (2017 [2019], Aerophonic, 2CD): Quartet formed in 2014, second album, last names also listed on cover: Nate Wooley (trumpet), Dave Rempis (alto sax), Pascal Niggenkemper (bass), Chris Corsano (drums). Remarkable spots embedded in leisurely table-setting, not that the latter stretches out too long. Both discs are relatively short (39:07, 41:33), and could easily have been edited down to one (perhaps too long). B+(***) [cd]

Rhiannon Giddens With Francesco Turrisi: There Is No Other (2019, Nonesuch): Folksinger/banjo player from Carolina Chocolate Drops, third solo album. Turrisi is from Italy, based in Dublin (where this was recorded), plays piano, accordion, frame drum, tamburello, lute, cello banjo, daf, and colascione. Shows how worldly Americana can be. B+(***)

Charles Wesley Godwin: Seneca (2019, self-released): Singer-songwriter from West Virginia, first album. Coal country stories, shrinks and pills. B+(*)

Maxo Kream: Brandon Banks (2019, Big Persona/RCA): Houston rapper, Emekwanem Ogogua Biosah, Jr., father Nigerian. Second album, solid, could catch on. B+(**)

MexStep: Resistir (2018, Third Root): Rapper from San Antonio, don't know any personal details, nor have I dug deep enough to say much about Third Root (perhaps a collective and/or a label). Produced by Marco Cervantes and Adrian Quesada, with various feat. guests. Scratches are old school, tejano flashes add color, and the politics is up front. A-

The Paranoid Style: A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life (2019, Bar/None): Singer-polemicist Elizabeth Nelson plus band, drops interesting words that make me want to get more out of the lyrics, but I struggle and flail. Maybe I'd try harder if I liked the music more, but I find it rushed, not that the album (11 tracks, 29:49) seems too short. B+(***)

Pink: Hurts 2B Human (2019, RCA): Eighth album, almost 20 years in. Played this right after Betty Who, and was immediately blown away by how huge the opener ("Hustle") sounded. More varied, less consistent, peaks midway with the title cut (feat. Khalid), ends with a ballad that shouldn't work but does ("The Last Song of Your Life"). B+(***)

Dave Rempis/Joshua Abrams/Avreeayl Ra + Jim Baker: Apsis (2018 [2019], Aerophonic): Leader plays alto, tenor, and baritone saxes, backed by bass, drums, and piano/electronics. Baker adds a lot here, even if the net result is just another saxophone tour de force. The soft landing cinches it. A- [cd]

Herlin Riley: Perpetual Optimism (2017 [2019], Mack Avenue): Drummer, fourth album as leader, long tenure with Wynton Marsalis. Mostly quintet with trumpet (Bruce Harris), alto sax (Godwin Louis), piano (Emmet Cohen), and bass (Russell Hall). Lively beat. Two vocals, presumably Riley, one a pretty jazzy "Wang Dang Doodle." B+(*)

Sasami: Sasami (2019, Domino): Surname Ashworth, singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, played keybs in Cherry Glazerr, first album. Dream pop, atmospheric, not quite as chilly as the cover. B+(*)

Betty Who: Betty (2019, AWAL): Australian pop singer, Jessica Anne Newham, third album. Maturing, which is part of her appeal, as long as she doesn't lose the beat. B+(**)

Mark Wingfield & Gary Husband: Tor & Vale (2018 [2019], Moonjune): Guitar and piano duo, Wingfield the writer, also credited with "soundscapes." Runs long, occasionally passing something of interest. B [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

The Tubby Hayes Quartet: Grits, Beans and Greens: The Lost Fontana Studio Session 1969 (1969 [2019], Decca): British tenor saxophonist, a star there from 1957, although his discography fades after 1967 and he died in 1973 at 38. Replete with multiple takes, the rhythm section is nothing special, but the saxophonist is in fine form. B+(**)

Old music:

Bob Moses: When Elephants Dream of Music (1982 [1983], Gramavision): Drummer, later adopted the preface Ra-Kalam (several variants), second or third album, a big band/kitchen sink production, with scattered vocals (including bit parts for Jeanne Lee and Sheila Jordan). Echoes of Ellington and/or Africa. [Reissued 2019 on Ra-Kalam with +4 tracks.] B

Pink: Funhouse (2008, LaFace): Fifth album, first one I was warned off of, still sold seven million copies. Big pop production, hook-filled songs, was probably more fun at the time. B+(**)

Pink: Greatest Hits . . . So Far!!! (2000-10 [2010], LaFace/Jive): A pretty solid rule of thumb is that insisting on a "so far" on a "greatest hits" album is career death. Whether that counts here depends on what you think about her next album, 2012's The Truth About Love (sold 7 million copies, a Christgau A, a middle B+ from me). Even within the five albums distilled here, this is front-loaded, probably the better place to start, and gets heavier over the decade. Still, she didn't fold as hard as other victims of the "so far" curse. While her later albums never touched the early ones, she still has her moments -- at least three songs on the new album would fit "Fuckin' Perfect" here. A-

Olaf Polziehn Trio Featuring Harry Allen: American Songbook Vol. 2 (2003, Satin Doll): German piano trio with Ingmar Heller (bass) and Oliver Mewes (drums), plus the ideal tenor saxophonist for such a retro-swing outfit. B+(**)

Olaf Polziehn/Ingmar Heller/Troy Davis/Harry Allen: American Songbook Vol. 3 (2006, Satin Doll): Same deal, different drummer, the saxophonist listed as "special guest" on the cover but same sized type. Also includes some cello from the pianist's wife, Julia. B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Corey Christiansen: La Proxima (Origin): August 12
  • Harbinger: Extended (OA2): August 12
  • New York Voices: Reminiscing in Tempo (Origin)
  • Alberto Pibiri & the AI Peppers: The Nacho Blues (Alberto Pibiri Music)
  • Paul Silbergleit: January (Blujazz)
  • Paul Zauner's Blue Brass feat. David Murray: Roots n' Wings (PAO/Blujazz)
  • Miguel Zenón: Sonero: The Music of Ismael Rivera (Miel Music); August 30

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Starting this early (Friday), hoping to avoid the last-minute crunch. Not really news, but CNN's Democratic presidential debates got a lot of attention from the punditocracy this week. As usual, I didn't watch in real time (although my wife did, so I overheard some), but caught the "highlights" later (among the comics, Colbert was most informative). Let's group the links here, rather than clutter up the main section:

Lots of non-campaign news this week, but Donald Trump's flagrant racism caught the most attention, climaxing with two mass shootings which, despite pro forma denials, appear as the proof in the pudding.

Checked my Facebook feed shortly before filing this, and was rather surprised to find as many/maybe more pro-gun memes than anti, not that the former make any sense. One, for instance, links to a piece titled "Every Mass Shooting Shares 1 Thing in Common, NOT Guns": I didn't follow, but the picture shows a pile of pills. I doubt that, but even if lots of mass shooters popped pills, by definition every single one used a gun. All of those were forwarded by acknowledged friends. (Of course, I do also have anti-gun friends. They may even be in the majority, but lose out in this comparison because they tend to post their own thoughts instead of just propagating someone else's propaganda.)

Some links on this and other stories:

Monday, July 29, 2019

Music Week

For all of this month's reviews, see Streamnotes (July, 2019).

Music: current count 31831 [31798] rated (+35), 257 [259] unrated (-2).

Got a good start last week, even while I delayed posting Music Week, then lost most of three days with company and cooking, before partially recovering while I wrote up Weekend Roundup. The reason for last week's delayed posting was that I was tied up in one of my favorite wastes of time: compiling several dozens of mid-year ("so far") best-of lists. I've scoured through 66 lists, where each mention counts as one point regardless of rank (most lists are unranked, and many are are short compared to EOY lists, so this scheme is just easier to build the EOY list aggregate on top of. I've also included letter grades for Robert Christgau and myself (although only so far for records mentioned on other lists), using { A = 5, A- = 4, B+/*** = 3, ** = 2, * = 1 }. This introduces a slight skew, but it's diminished as I've added more lists. And since I'm actually more interested in using this as a tool to guide my own listening than as some sort of value-free social science research, I've included a few lists from friends and allies, including at least one I scraped off the unlinkable Facebook. (I suppose it might be possible to link to it, but common decency suggests otherwise.)

One thing I found odd is that I literally didn't find a single jazz list. Maybe I'll write one up later this week. The other thing I'm tempted to do is to add in points for AOTY 80+ ratings. For a few years I actually collected those ratings, but gave it up 2-3 years ago as too much work. On the other hand, some record of those ratings would round out the picture.

Without further ado, here are the top 30 records (so far), with point counts in braces and my grades in brackets:

  1. Billy Eilish: When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go? (Darkroom/Interscope) {43} [A-]
  2. Lizzo: Cuz I Love You (Nice Life/Atlantic) {40} [A-]
  3. Tyler the Creator: Igor (Columbia) {38} [**]
  4. Vampire Weekend: Father of the Bride (Columbia) {38} [**]
  5. Sharon Van Etten: Remind Me Tomorrow (Jagjaguwar) {38} [*]
  6. Solange: When I Get Home (Saint/Columbia) {37} [*]
  7. Ariana Grande: Thank U Next (Republic) {33} [**]
  8. Big Thief: UFOF (4AD) {32} [A-]
  9. Little Simz: Grey Area (Age 101) {32} [A-]
  10. James Blake: Assume Form (Polydor) {25} [B-]
  11. Carly Rae Jepsen: Dedicated (604/School Boy/Interscope) {25} [***]
  12. Jenny Lewis: On the Line (Warner Bros) {24} [*]
  13. Charly Bliss: Young Enough (Barsuk) {23} [A-]
  14. Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy! (Jagjaguwar) {23} [A-]
  15. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs (Secretly Canadian) {22} [***]
  16. Slowthai: Nothing Great About Britain (Method) {22} [***]
  17. Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising (Sub Pop) {22} [B-]
  18. Dave: Psychodrama (Neighbourhood) {20} [A-]
  19. Flying Lotus: Flamagra (Warp) {20} [**]
  20. Fontaines DC: Dogrel (Partisan) {19} [***]
  21. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever (300 Entertainment) {19} [***]
  22. Anderson .Paak: Ventura (Aftermath/12 Tone Music) {19} [***]
  23. Better Oblivion Community Center (Dead Oceans) {18} [*]
  24. Denzel Curry: Zuu (Loma Vista) {18} [**]
  25. The National: I Am Easy to Find (4AD) {18} [**]
  26. Maggie Rogers: Heard It in a Past Life (Capitol) {17} [**]
  27. Billy Woods & Kenny Segal: Hiding Places (Blackwoodz Studioz) {17} [***]
  28. Nilufer Yanya: Miss Universe (ATO) {17} [A-]
  29. Rico Nasty/Kenny Beats: Anger Management (Sugar Trap) {16} [**]
  30. Kevin Abstract: Arizona Baby (Question Everything/RCA) {14} [**]
  31. Julia Jacklin: Crushing (Polyvinyl) {14} [B]

Cutoff just above {13}: PUP, Quelle Chris, Toro Y Moi; {12}: Malibu Ken, Khalid, Bassekou Kouyate; {11}: 2 Chainz, Chemical Brothers, The Comet Is Coming, Aldous Harding, Priests, Todd Snider. Highest ranked records I haven't heard: {10}: Holly Herndon: Proto, Jessica Pratt: Quiet Signs; {8}: Deerhunter: Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?; {6}: Baroness, Gary Clark Jr., Flume, Foals, Cate Le Bon, Mark Ronson, Yola. I didn't bother with metal lists, so only noted 35 records as such, 0 heard by me. The overall list collected 745 titles (only 64 jazz, 50 heard by me).

I can't draw many conclusions from this data. The point scheme tends to keep any record from breaking out, with the top nine records (down to Little Simz but not James Blake) on most of the same lists. My guess is that if I had consistent ranking information Tyler, Vampire Weekend, and/or Solange would advanced a bit (also Weyes Blood, which topped two lists). Indeed, without the RC/TH grade points, Tyler would have come in first, with 36 points, vs. Eilish (34), Vampire Weekend/Van Etten (33), Lizzo (32), Grande (28), Blake (25), Big Thief/Little Simz (24).

I will probably add a few more lists as I find them. For instance, I have two specialized lists at Noisey open in tabs now (33 Essential Albums You Probably Missed So Far in 2009 and The 37 Best Ambient Albums of 2019 So Far) but held them back in case I found a more general list there. I may also, as noted, come up with a way to factor some grading data into the list.

Most of the non-jazz albums I've listened to in the last two weeks were suggested by these lists. They haven't been especially reliable, but have generated a couple surprise finds (e.g., Christina Barbieri and Queen Key last week). But two of this week's top records came on CDs from a friendly publicist. I dragged my feet on the Bill Evans and Wes Montgomery label best-ofs, thinking I'd prefer to hear the original albums they were selected from. Finally broke down and graded them last week, then found some of the missing records (badly misfiled by Napster). We're still missing the latest releases -- Evans in England and Montgomery's Back on Indiana Avenue: The Carroll DeCamp Recordings. Turns out that the compilations do a good job of picking hilights from the series, and help round out a view of the artists beyond their masterworks (still Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Incredible Jazz Guitar).

I wanted to write a few words about DownBeat's Critics Poll results, but don't have the time (or possibly the stomach) for that right now. I missed the official deadline to vote, but was able to submit a ballot, which evidently was counted (my name is in the voter list, and they sent me a T-shirt). On the other hand, the disconnect between my votes and the charts is almost complete. Their HOF picks were especially paltry: I can sort of understand Nina Simone, who could be a great singer on occasion, but released a lot of bad-to-worse albums; but the Veterans Committee picks of Scott LaFaro and Joe Williams are hard to imagine. I might be OK with Williams if Jimmy Rushing was in, but even then he wouldn't be an obvious pick. LaFaro died at 25, having played with Bill Evans for two years, and with Ornette Coleman for considerably less. I've been touched by some of his work, but I have no idea how to compare his tiny discography against that of many other bassists not in the DBHOF. (On the other hand, the similarly short-lived Jimmy Blanton is in, as are such obvious contemporaries as Oscar Pettiford, Paul Chambers, Milt Hinton, Ray Brown, Ron Carter, and his predecessor with Coleman, Charlie Haden.)

Forthcoming week relatively open. Hope to get some work done on the Christgau website.

New records reviewed this week:

James Blake: Assume Form (2019, Polydor): British singer-songwriter, started in electronica but never offered much in the way of beats -- at any rate I've never understood his appeal. Comes and goes here. B-

Whit Dickey Tao Quartets: Peace Planet/Box of Light (2018 [2019], AUM Fidelity, 2CD): Drummer, has a long association with Matthew Shipp, including a stint in David S. Ware's famous Quartet. Two quartets, one disc each: the first with Rob Brown (alto sax), Shipp (piano), and William Parker (bass); the other with Brown, Steve Swell (trombone), and Michael Bisio (bass). Noticed last year that multi-disc releases fare well in EOY polls, which may explain why they seem to be becoming the rule, leaving me with the problem of deciding whether to grade the stronger or weaker disc. Swell is impressive enough here, but Brown doesn't do much working around him. On the other hand, Brown is terrific on the first, probably because Shipp sets him up so well. B+(***)

Julia Jacklin: Crushing (2019, Polyvinyl): Australian singer-songwriter, second album. B

Judy and the Jerks: Music for Donuts EP (2019, Thrilling Living, EP): "Over the past half-decade Hattiesburg, MS has become a perhaps unlikely center of the international punk scene." Inspired by the Circle Jerks ("kin in not just name alone"). This group has even less song sense, trying 6 times, giving up after 7:54. C+ [bc]

Aubrey Logan: Your Mom's Favorite Songs (2019, Resonance, EP): Carole King, Aretha Franklin, lesser knowns, sung with more panache than the cover/title implies. Just barely old enough to have spared us Your Granny's Favorite Songs. Six tracks, 23:15. B+(*)

Charlie Marie: Charlie Marie (2019, self-released, EP): Nashville singer-songwriter, originally from Rhode Island, second five-cut eponymous EP separated by a live LP from a B&B in Charleston, SC. Full band, impressive sound and voice. B+(**) [bc]

The Mauskovic Dance Band: The Mauskovic Dance Band (2019, Soundway): Dutch group, principally Nic Mauskovic, first album after several EPs, a mix of "no-wave dance punk, Afro-Caribbean rhythms and space disco." B+(**)

MC Frontalot: Net Split, or the Fathomless Heartbreak of Online Itself: Damian Hess, day job web designer, started rapping about the Internet in 1999, leading to his 2005 debug album, Nerdcore Rising. Seventh album. Haven't followed his arc, but his love affair with tech isn't turning out the way he expected. B+(**)

Nots: 3 (2019, Goner): Memphis punk trio -- Natalie Hoffmann (vocals/guitar), Charlotte Watson (drums), Meredith Jones (bass) -- minus the keyboards from their debut. Third album, strong and catchy riffs, tone seems a bit off. B+(**)

Nubiyan Twist: Jungle Run (2019, Strut): British group, 12 pieces, groove pieces, hit and (mostly) miss. B-

Karen O & Danger Mouse: Lux Prima (2019, BMG): Orzolek, born in Korea, father Polish, grew up in New Jersey, singer for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, second solo album. Producer pulls consistently interesting music together. B+(**)

Old Man Saxon: Goldman Sax (2019, Saxon Kincy, EP): Rapper, know very little about him, based in Los Angeles (or Denver, according to Bandcamp page). Third EP (7 tracks, 21:02). B+(**)

William Parker/In Order to Survive: Live/Shapeshifter (2017 [2019], AUM Fidelity, 2CD): Quartet, named for the bassist's 1995 album with Rob Brown (alto sax) and Cooper-Moore (piano), recorded several albums in late 1990s with Susie Ibarra on drums. Parker went with Hamid Drake on drums for his post-2000 pianoless quartets (with Lewis Barnes on trumpet and Brown on alto sax). He kept Drake when he reconvened IOTS in 2012, and in 2016 recorded a 2-CD album to showcase the two quartets (Meditation/Resurrection). The star has always been Cooper-Moore, who remains as distinctive as ever. A-

Joel Ross: KingMaker (2019, Blue Note): Vibraphone player, first album, major label but no one I've heard of in the band (Immanuel Wilkins on alto sax, plus piano-bass-drums), aside from guest vocalist Gretchen Parlato (one track, just enough for radio). Strikes me as rather conventional (more Milt Jackson or Joe Locke than Stefon Harris). B+(*)

Mavis Staples: Live in London (2018 [2019], Anti-): Selected from two nights, including a birthday wish, reprises songs from her neighborhood even if I don't particularly recognize them as hers (Curtis Mayfield, Little Milton). B+(**)

Wreckless Eric: Transience (2019, Southern Domestic): Eric Goulden, British, part of the Stiff Records stable as pub rock gave way to punk and new wave, probably the main reason I habitually misspelled "reckless" for decades, tried various other aliases until he found himself in Nashville and married Amy Rigby. Not nearly her equal, but plods along agreeably on his own. B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Bill Evans: Smile With Your Heart: The Best of Bill Evans on Resonance (1968-69 [2019], Resonance): Selected from four recent (since 2012) caches of previously unreleleased trio tapes, with Eddie Gomez on bass and either Marty Morell or Jack DeJohnette on drums. Consistently fine work, well selected (as far as I can tell). A- [cd]

Jazz Piano Panorama: The Best of Piano Jazz on Resonance (1968-2011 [2019], Resonance): Label sampler, a mix of new mainstream releases and older archival material (Jaki Byard, Bill Evans, Tommy Flanagan, Gene Harris), closing with Marian Petrescu doing about as note-perfect an Oscar Peterson as you could ever hope for. B+(*) [cd]

Wes Montgomery: Wes's Best: The Best of Wes Montgomery on Resonance (1956-66 [2019], Resonance): Nice selection from five previous sets of archival material. Guessing at dates, since In the Beginning starts in 1949, but the guitarist's career doesn't really pick up steam until 1956-58 -- his breakthrough was 1960's Incredible Jazz Guitar, and through Smokin' at the Half Note in 1965 he redefined jazz guitar so successfully that even today most American jazz guitarists seem to be in his thrall. As with Charlie Parker, I've long been a skeptic, but those bookends are too brilliant to be denied, and this more scattered selection comes close enough. A- [cd]

Sing a Song of Jazz: The Best of Vocal Jazz on Resonance (1956-2018 [2019], Resonance): Sampler, label best known for archival tapes although they've released a few new artists, especially standards singers. The latter are in the majority here, the most impressive Aubrey Logan's new take on "A Natural Woman," mixed in with older fare from Sarah Vaughan, Shirley Horn, and Debbie Andrews (credited, justly so, to Wes Montgomery). B [cd]

Neil Young + Stray Gators: Tuscaloosa (1973 [2019], Reprise): Another archival tape in what promises to be an endless series, recorded early on the tour that produced the live album Time Fades Away, this is the first one I've heard that feels totally superfluous. The great songs are greater elsewhere, and the rest, well, who cares? B-

Old music:

The Legendary Bill Evans Trio: The 1960 Birdland Sessions (1960 [2005], Fresh Sound): Radio shots, from four dates, sound leaving something to be desired, narration excessive. The piano trio, with Scott LaFaro on bass and Paul Motian on drums, would peak a year later with Waltz for Debby and Sunday at the Village Vanguard, and end with LaFaro's tragic death a few weeks later. Not the pianist's best work, but worth focusing on LaFaro. B+(***)

Bill Evans: Some Other Time: The Lost Session From the Black Forests (1968 [2016], Resonance, 2CD): Trio with Eddie Gomez (bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums), recorded at MPS in Villingen, Germany, previously unreleased. B+(***)

Bill Evans: Another Time: The Hilversum Concert (1968 [2017], Resonance): Piano trio, with Eddie Gomez (bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums), recorded at Netherlands Radio Union in Hilversum, Netherlands. B+(***)

Franco, Josky, Matalanza Du T.P. OK Jazz: A Paris 1983 Missile (1983 [1996], Sonodisc): One of Joe Yanosik's favorites from his deep dive into Le Grand Maitre's oeuvre. Pure guitar paradise. A [dl]

Wynton Kelly Trio/Wes Montgomery: Smokin' in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse (1966 [2017], Resonance): With Ron McClure on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums, only the bassist changed from the group that recorded the famous Smokin' at the Half Note (which Pat Metheny credits as the greatest guitar album ever) less than a year prior. This only hits that level in the last three cuts, leaving me a bit unsure of the first two-thirds. B+(***)

Wes Montgomery: In the Beginning (1949-58 [2016], Resonance, 2CD): The label picked up a trove of unreleased Montgomery recordings in 2012, and have gradually been making them available. Two chunks here originally appeared in 2014 on vinyl, attributed to Wes Montgomery & the Montgomery-Johnson Quintet, with brothers Buddy (piano) and Monk (bass) plus two Johnsons: Alonzo "Pookie" (tenor sax) and Robert "Sonny" (drums). Aside from a 1955 set, not clear when most of the tracks were recorded, but they cover years when the guitarist was 24-33, before his first (1958) album. Mixed bag, including a couple of vocals. B+(**)

Wes Montgomery: Fingerpickin' (1957-58 [1996], Pacific Jazz): Reissues the album The Montgomery Brothers and 5 Others along with the title track and three more from a later date in Los Angeles. Four cuts add Pookie Johnson on tenor sax and a 19-year-old trumpeter named Freddie Hubbard. Wes is developing his style, but the focus seems to be on Buddy Montgomery's vibes. B+(**)

Wes Montgomery: Far Wes (1958-59 [1996], Pacific Jazz): Compiles two more Montgomery Brothers albums, most with Harold Land (tenor sax) and Tony Bazley (drums): Montgomeryland, and Wes, Buddy and Monk Montgomery. B+(*)

Wes Montgomery: One Night in Indy (1959 [2016], Resonance): The guitarist on the verge of fame, playing for the home town folks, backed by pianist Eddie Higgins' trio (Walter Perkins on drums, "bassist unknown"). Starts with a 9:14 "Give Me the Simple Life" -- my favorite piece from the new best-of, and moves on through "Prelude to a Kiss" and four shorter pieces. Higgins impressed me as much as the guitarist. A-

Kristi Stassinopoulou/Stathis Kalyviotis: NYN (2016, Riverboat): Greek duo, have worked together since 1989, mostly on local labels (aside from a previous Riverboat album in 2012), seemingly rooted in folk but sped up and filled out. B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Moy Eng/Wayne Wallace: The Blue Hour (Patois)
  • Pearring Sound: Nothing but Time (self-released): October 4
  • Fabrizio Sciacca Quartet: Gettin' It There (self-released): September 1

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Lots of links below -- probably more than usual, although as always I feel like I'm leaving a lot of stuff untouched. Some topics I only decided late in the game to break out (Boris Johnson under Mackey, impeachment under Reich, Iran under Simon/Stevenson) could have picked up more links had I acted earlier and more consciously. I meant to write more on Mueller under Alksne when I first found the piece, but by the time I got to it I had scattered Mueller links all over the page.

Some scattered links this week:

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 31798 [31749] rated (+49), 259 [262] unrated (-3).

I had a lot of stuff I wanted to write about this week, but never found the time, and it doesn't look like that'll change over the next several days. Therefore, let's just dump this out, and try again next week.

New records reviewed this week:

100 Gecs: 1000 Gecs (2019, Dog Show): Dylan Brady and Laura Les (aka osno1), electropop so cartoonish I've seen it classified as bubblegum bass. Annoying to start, eventually found some kind of groove. B

Jay Anderson: Deepscape (2018 [2019], SteepleChase): Bassist, has appeared on close to 250 albums since breaking in with Woody Herman in 1978, and has led a few. Opens and closes solo, the tracks in beween with Billy Drewes (bass clarinet/alto/soprano sax), Kirk Knuffke (cornet), and Matt Wilson (drums), sometimes adding harmonium (Frank Kimbrough) and/or percussion (Rogerio Boccato). B+(**)

Caterina Barbieri: Ecstatic Computation (2019, Editions Mego): Italian composer, based in Berlin, "working in the fields of analog and digital synthesis and minimalism." Fourth album. All synth, rooted in minimalism but building something more out of such basics. A-

Michael Bisio/Kirk Knuffke/Fred Lonberg-Holm: Requiem for a New York Slice (2018 [2019], Iluso): Bass/cornet/cello, the strings on the scratchy side. Dedicated to the late Mike Panico (1965-2018), a founder of Relative Pitch Records. B+(*) [bc]

Black Midi: Schlagenheim (2019, Rough Trade): British experimental rock band; two guitars, bass and drums; three credited vocalists, but the main guy is pretty distinctive; first album after some singles. Most similar band I recognize is Pere Ubu, but I don't instantly love them. Still, not a comparison I make lightly. B+(**)

Blood Orange: Angel's Pulse (2019, Domino): British r&b singer Dev Hynes, started as Lightspeed Champion, fourth album under this moniker. Mix of soft soul with edgier moments. B+(**)

Daniel Carter/Tobias Wilner/Djibril Toure/Federico Ughi: New York United (2016 [2019], 577): Best known for his work with William Parker, Carter plays a range of horns -- alto sax, tenor sax, flute, and trumpet -- against Wilner's jazztronica (electronics, synths, beats), backed with bass and drums. B+(***)

Cheekface: Therapy Island (2019, New Professor Music): Los Angeles band, Greg Katz the singer-guitarist, backed by bass and drums. Reminds me somewhat of the Dead Milkmen. Not as funny, but not for lack of trying. B+(**)

Stef Chura: Midnight (2019, Saddle Creek): Singer-songwriter from Michigan, second album, doesn't neglect the guitar. B+(*)

Flying Lotus: Flamagra (2019, Warp): LA producer, filmmaker, more of the latter but better known for his records and his work with other artists (e.g., Thundercat, Kamasi Washington). I've usually found his records too scattered, and this 26-cut, 66:57 mess certainly is. Still, lots of good bits in the mix. B+(**)

Future: Future Hndrxx: The Wizrd (2019, Epic/Freebandz): Rapper Nayvadius Wilburn, from Atlanta, did an album Hndrxx in 2017 and refers back here. Not as clear as I'd like, but runs long and steady. B+(**)

Hilliard Greene: Spirituals (2019, Unseen Rain): Bassist, long stretch as Jimmy Scott's music director, member of the group the Jazz Expressions, has recorded on several notable free jazz records (like Billy Bang's Da Bang). Had a solo album in 2003, again here, a deep roots exploration. Some voice, just enough to identify "Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray." B+(*)

Augie Haas: Dream a Little Dream (2019, Playtime Music): Trumpet player, from Wisconsin, based in New York, has a couple previous records, plays and sings standards here, the songbook expanded to inlude doo-wop ("Earth Angel," "Stay") and soft rock ("Love Me Tender," "Stand by Me," "Blackbird"). Backed by Carmen Staaf (piano/organ), bass, drums, and a lot of strings. Not a great singer, but you'll probably find yourself blotting him out by singing along. B+(**) [cd]

Rich Halley: Terra Incognita (2018 [2019], Pine Eagle): Tenor saxophonist, from Oregon, cover pictures are all rugged high desert, but he trekked to Brooklyn to record this, with Matthew Shipp's regular piano trio (Michael Bisio and Newman Taylor Baker). Shipp has played with a lot of avant saxophonists. He seems more content than usual to lay back and fill in. Halley opens fierce, the group chemistry only really developing with the long off-speed closer, appropriately titled "The Journey." A- [cd]

Aldous Harding: Designer (2019, 4AD): Singer-songwriter from New Zealand, third album. Easy listening, but not without its beguiling passages. B

Randy Houser: Magnolia (2019, Stoney Creek): Country singer-songwriter from Mississippi, fifth album. Big gestures, deep emotions, strong voice. B+(**)

Jelena Jovovic: Heartbeat (2018 [2019], self-released): Jazz singer-songwriter from Serbia, moved to South Africa, later Austria. First album, wrote lyrics to several jazz melodies, music and lyrics to the rest. Only picks up a bit toward the end. B- [cd]

Juice Wrld: Death Race for Love (2019, Interscope): Los Angeles rapper Jarad Higgins, second album. Key lyric: "I don't want anyone to think I'm an asshole." Still, the whine wore me out. B-

Steve Lacy: Apollo XXI (2019, 3Qtr): No relation to the late saxophonist. This one (Steve Thomas Lacy-Moya) hails from Compton, sings alt-r&b, plays guitar and bass. Best known from the Internet, but released an EP (Steve Lacy's Demo) in 2017, now this debut album. Some funk, some glitz, nice beats. B+(*)

Lady Lykez: Muhammad Ali EP (2019, Hyperdub, EP): MC from North London, title track a remix with Lioness rapping and Scratchclart producing, who returns for two more rapid-fire bits. D'Lux produced the change of pace. Four cuts, 13:43. B+(*) [bc]

Alex Lahey: The Best of Luck Club (2019, Dead Oceans): Budding power pop star, from Australia, likes her guitar riffs but drops back to keyboards for the slower ones. Second album. Good advice: "Don't Be So Hard on Yourself." B+(**)

Lil Nas X: 7 (2019, Columbia, EP): Atlanta rapper Montero Lamar Hill, leads off with a remix of his breakout single, "Old Town Road," with Billy Ray Cyrus adding to the country twang. Six more songs plus the original single, total 18:44. B+(*)

Maluma: 11:11 (2019, Sony Music Latin): Colombian pop star, fourth album, noticed him on Madonna's latest, and she returns the favor here ("Soltera"). That's the only song I can follow, so I'm mostly going by sound: beats good, strings less. B+(**)

Mannequin Pussy: Patience (2019, Epitaph): Punk group from Philadelphia, principally singer-guitarist Marisa Dabice. Third album, assuming you count short ones (this one packs 10 cuts into 25:37). B+(**)

Rico Nasty/Kenny Beats: Anger Management (2019, Sugar Trap, EP): Rapper Maria-Cecilia Simone Kelly and producer Kenneth Blume, nine hard and fast tracks, 18:40. Much anger, barely managed. B+(**)

Jai Paul: Leak 04-13 (Bait Ones) (2013 [2019], XL): British songwriter/producer, of Indian descent, had a couple singles and was working on an eponymous album when a set of his demos were leaked, to some acclaim and the artist's horror. He litigated to get the leaks suppressed, shelved the project, and has scarcely been heard from since. This is the first official release of the leaked material, with most pieces labelled "(unfinished)." Most definitely, but flashes here and there do match the fuss. B+(**)

PUP: Morbid Stuff (Rise): Canadian band, name an acronym for Pathetic Use of Potential, Stefan Babcock the singer, backed by guitar-bass-drums. Third album, advertised as punk, but don't really hear it. Not that they don't rock. B

Queen Key: Eat My Pussy (Again) (2019, Machine Entertainment Group): Chicago rapper Ke'Asha McClure, first album (following last year's Eat My Pussy EP), reminds one of CupcakKe -- her more "mature" work as opposed to her salacious debut Cum Cake, but then Key is a year older, and judging from her forced rhymes and slack beats not as talented. Still, she remains fearless and defiant in a world where trust is hard to come by, and takes her pleasure where she can. A-

Resavoir: Resavoir (2015-19 [2019], International Anthem): Chicago project, written, arranged, and produced by Will Miller (trumpet, keyboards, sampler). A vast orchestra, flows nice, sometimes lovely, spoken word helps, choral voices less. B [bc]

Maggie Rogers: Heard It in a Past Life (2019, Capitol): Singer-songwriter, first album, has won some prizes. I could see her developing into some kind of pop star, but may be too adult too early. B+(**)

ShitKid: [Detention] (2019, PNKSLM): Swedish punk auteur Åsa Söderqvist, morphing into a band with the addition of bassist Lina Ericsson, the fleshed out sound revealing itself as old-fashioned rock and roll. Short album by most standards (8 cuts, 23:54), but long by theirs. B+(*)

Skepta: Ignorance Is Bliss (2019, Boy Better Know): British grime MC, Joseph Adenuga Jr., called his first (2007) album Greatest Hits without having any. Scored a breakthrough last time, and is pretty steady here. B+(**)

Sote: Parallel Persia (2019, Diagonal): Ata Ebtekar, Iranian, born in Germany, based in California, handful of records, this a mix of Iranian acoustic instruments (santoor, tar, tombak) and electronics, fast and frenzied, maybe even cartoonish. B+(*) [bc]

Emily A. Sprague: Water Memory (2017, self-released): Electronica composer, from the Catskills but based in Los Angeles. Ambient, sheets of synthy sound, simple and eloquent. B+(*)

Emily A. Sprague: Mount Vision (2019, self-released): Similar, less watery, more engaging. B+(**)

Supa Bwe: Just Say Thank You (2019, Freddy Got Magic/Empire, EP): Chicago rapper Frederick Burton, "Bwe" reportedly pronounced "boy/boo/buoy," second solo project, 7 cuts, 20:06, has something to say about entropy. B+(*)

Kate Tempest: The Book of Traps and Lessons (2019, Republic): British poet, spoken word artist, seems to have lost the beat from her breakthrough 2014 album (Everybody Down), making her less of a rapper, more of a preacher (or maybe just a scold). B+(*)

Yves Theiler Trio: We (2018 [2019], Intakt): Swiss pianist, second trio album with Luca Sisera (bass) and Lukas Mantel (drums). All originals, most strong on rhythm. B+(**)

Turning Jewels Into Water: Map of Absences (2019, FPE): Percussion duo, a mix of Val Jeanty (from Haiti, aka Val-Inc) and Ravish Momin (from India, has done some jazz records I admire, with or without his group Tarana). Scattered voices and electronics flesh out the intensive beats. B+(***)

Turning Jewels Into Water: Which Way Is Home? (2018, FPE, EP): Introduced the duo last year, with five cuts, 21:01. Same intensity, maybe a bit more abstract. B+(**) [bc]

Faye Webster: Atlanta Millionaires Club (2019, Secretly Canadian): Singer-songwriter, based in Atlanta, various sources slot her in folk or country (note the pedal steel), but her slight voice and melodies don't fit there, any more than the token rap makes her trap. B

The Yawpers: Human Question (2019, Bloodshot): Denver band, Americana as deep as their Whitman-honoring name, can be astute, can be catchy, can push their luck a bit too hard. B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Johnny Shines: The Blues Came Falling Down: Live 1973 (1973 [2019], Omnivore): Bluesman, originally from Memphis, inspired by a chance meeting with Robert Johnson, moved to Chicago in 1941, cut a few records in 1946-52 but didn't really get on track until the late 1960s. Recorded this intimate solo set in St. Louis. B+(**)

Grade (or other) changes:

Rodrigo Amado/Chris Corsano: No Place to Fall (2014 [2019], Astral Spirits): Tenor sax and drums duo, improv pieces in a Lisbon studio. The drummer likes to kick up a racket, so this runs hard and fast. Back in June I tentatively reviewed this based on 2/5 Bandcamp cuts. Later got the CD, which burns bright the entire 48:53. [Was B+(**)] A- [cd]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ezra Weiss Big Band: We Limit Not the Truth of God (OA2): August 16
  • Mark Wingfield & Gary Husband: Tor & Vale (Moonjune)

Monday, July 22, 2019

Weekend Roundup

We spent much of the past week arguing not about whether Donald Trump is a racist -- some might prefer not to discuss it, but hardly anyone doubts or denies such an abundantly settled fact. A week ago we faced what struck me as an artificially inflated schism between Party leaders like Nancy Pelosi and the more determined reformers in "the squad," but that division vanished instantly thanks to their common enemy -- Trump, for starters, and the racism he and his party so naturally indulge in. Pelosi may be jealous of the squad's popularity with the Democratic base, and she may be overly concerned with her reputation as a Washington power broker. But the fact is that since the 2018 election, the right-wing media has been most obsessed with raising alarms over the squad. Given that context, Trump's tweets strike me less as recurring racist bluster (to which he's certainly prone) than as confirmation that the Republicans' campaign strategy for 2020 will be to try to turn every local election into a referendum on Ilhan Omar. Pelosi knows that better than anyone, because Republicans have tried for years to make her the public face of Democratic-Socialist-Liberal dread.

Most important piece below is Matthew Yglesias's Trump's racism is part of his larger con. I didn't quote from it, but could have quoted the entire piece. Just read it.

Some scattered links this week:

Monday, July 15, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 31749 [31726] rated (+23), 262 [262] unrated (+0).

Slow getting this out, with Monday wiped out by a house emergency (water heater broke down). Had a nagging sore throat much of the week, but right now mostly feel exhausted. Relatively mild summer so far, but looks like triple digits coming soon and probably persisting. Next couple weeks will probably be worse.

Rated count cut off Sunday evening, but I've added unpacking since then, so the numbers are a little out of whack.

Second straight week with an unusually low rated count (24 last week). Again, spent some time on the Resonance anthologies without writing any reviews, and also found a higher-than-usual split of A- records, plus high B+ that merited extra plays. Most of the finds this week come from Chris Monsen's Jazz favorites list, plus a few more from Phil Overeem's Halfway to Listville. The easiest one was John McPhee's Nation Time: I skipped over it when I was catching up with Corbett vs. Dempsey's Bandcamp a few weeks back, as I had already given Corbett's 2000 reissue a full A, and hadn't noticed the extra cuts. No reason to repurchase if you have the Atavistic release, but the bonuses are just that.

Had a minor role in helping Joe Yanosik publish his magnum opus A Consumer Guide to FRANCO. I have a Guests section on my website, which I've used a few times but never really tried to promote. I've long thought that a better solution would be to set up guest areas on my Hullworks website, perhaps as sub-domains, which could be spun off should the guests decide to pony up for a domain name. I'm in a position where I can host those as well. I also considered hanging Joe's piece at Terminal Zone -- long my pet idea for a music-themed website (named for the zine Don Malcolm and I published back in 1977). In the end, I went with the path that involved the least thought and work.

When Joe first mentioned his Franco project to me, I glanced at Napster's Franco offerings, and spent a week digging around. My own (much more limited) set of Franco grades are here. You can also look up what Robert Christgau has written.

I might as well mention two projects that I've started but haven't gotten very far on. I've started to add recent reviews to the two large book manuscript files I have on jazz. Rather slow work, but I've added 99 pages up to January, 2019, pushing the 20th century jazz guide over 800, and the 21st over 1700. Files are backed up online, in ODT format.

I've also started collecting mid-year lists, as I did last year. This uses the EOY list aggregate format, and most likely will eventually evolve into a full EOY list aggregate later this year. Only have four lists compiled so far (about a third of those collected on AOTY). I'm surprised there aren't more, but haven't really looked yet. The current aggregate is way too sparse to draw any real conclusions from. One issue here is that I'm only awarding 1 point for each list mention. (Two reasons: one is that so far many of the lists are unranked; the other is that it makes it easier to clean up with I replace the midway lists with EOY lists.) The other point I should note here is that I'm factoring in my graces (A: 5, A-: 4, ***: 3, **: 2, *: 1), which currently results in quite a bit of skew. E.g., 6 of the top 8 records now are ones I've graded A- (Billy Eilish, Lizzo, Charly Bliss, Big Thief, Little Simz, Jamila Woods), and the other two (Carly Rae Jepsen and Vampire Weekend) were *** and ** respectively. Expect my picks to slip as I add further lists, while records I like less will make inroads (Solange is the surest shot; maybe also Tyler the Creator, Sharon Van Etten, Jenny Lewis). Record that I haven't heard with the most list mentions so far: Flying Lotus' Flamagra.

New records reviewed this week:

Maria Faust/Tim Dahl/Weasel Walter: Farm Fresh (2019, Gotta Let It Out): Alto saxophonist, from Estonia, based in Denmark, several albums since 2014, this trio gets a buzz from Dahl's electric bass, running through 10 pieces in 37:43. B+(***)

Fire! Orchestra: Arrival (2019, Rune Grammofon): Started as a trio with Mats Gustafsson (baritone sax), John Bethling (bass), and Andreas Werlin (drums), then grew massive, up to 28 members, now down to 14: two vocalists (Mariam Wallentin, who wrote most of the lyrics, and Sofia Jernberg), a string quartet, trumpet, four reeds (arranged by Per Texas Johansson), and keyboards. Starts easy, swells to staggering, slows back down to some kind of lament. I'm baffled by it all, aside from a dirge with familiar lyrics, "At Last I Am Free." B

Alex Fournier: Triio (3028 [2019], Furniture Music): Bassist, from Toronto, second album, calls this his "flagship project," actually started as a quartet and has since grown to six, with alto sax (Bea Labikova), trombone (Aidan Sibley), guitar, piano, and drums. Starts with piano trio, the horns sneaking in and expanding the sound into a very sophisticated postbop harmony. B+(***)

Lafayette Gilchrist: Dark Matter (2016 [2019], self-released): Pianist, first noted in David Murray's Black Saint Quartet, haven't heard much from him since his stretch with Hyena ended in 2008. Solo here, strong on rhythm, which is usually what works for me. B+(***) [cd]

GoldLink: Diaspora (2019, Squaaash Club/RCA): Rapper (or more often singer) D'Anthony Carlos, second album, major groove at least half the way through. B+(***)

Bjørn Marius Hegge: Ideas (2019, Particular): Norwegian bassist. Title may extend to the fine print: "for Axel Dörner, Rudi Mahall, Hans Hulbaekmo and Håvard Wiik" -- no credits, but that's presumably the band here (trumpet, bass clarinet, drums, piano). A-

Megan Thee Stallion: Fever (2019, 300 Entertainment): Rapper Megan Pete, from Houston. First mixtape, after two EPs and a few singles. Trap beats, splashy, cover looks like it's rising out of 1970s blaxploitation movie, hot and steamy. B+(***)

Nature Work: Nature Work (2018 [2019], Sunnyside): Freewheeling quartet, Jason Stein (bass clarinet) and Greg Ward (alto sax) up front, Eric Revis on bass and Jim Black on drums. Impressive at full speed, loses me a bit when they slow down, but that doesn't happen often. A-

Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity: To Whom Who Buys a Record (2019, Odin): Norwegian drummer, third album with this trio, featuring André Roligheten (sax/bass clarinet) with Petter Eldh (double bass). All three contributed pieces, with Nilsen having a hand in most. Slows a bit toward the end, without losing interest. A-

Pere Ubu: The Long Goodbye (2019, Cherry Red): Great post-punk band from Ohio, not sure how much beyond vocalist David Thomas remains, but they can still do weird and murky, even if the rust squeaks here and there. [CD comes with a second, live disc, I haven't heard.] B+(**)

Santana: Africa Speaks (2019, Concord): Guitarist Carlos Santana in group form, eponymous first album appeared in 1969, still kicking 50 years later (dozens of personnel changes along the way, but the early-'70s core group reunited in 2013 (Neal Schon, Gregg Rolie, Michael Carabello, Michael Shrieve). They were a big thing in their heyday, a group I never listened to after growing sick of Abraxas at a party that had nothing else to offer. So while he/they recorded 14 albums through 1979, I'm a bit surprised to find a steady stream of albums since (by decade: 7, 4, 2, 5). back for 50th anniversary with loud drums, bubbling percussion, wailing vocals, and great gobs of trademark guitar. B

Bruce Springsteen: Springsteen on Broadway (2018, Columbia, 2CD): Mostly solo, acoustic guitar, sixteen signature songs with a lot of talk along the way, probably derived from his well-regarded autobiography -- could just as well be reviewed as an audiobook, albeit with exaggerated gestures. I've never been much of a fan, but I have to respect (maybe even admire) what he's made of his life. B+(**)

Bruce Springsteen: Western Stars (2019, Columbia): Turns his eyes to the vast open spaces of the old west, then fills them up with loping melodies and swelling string arrangements. Some of the latter aren't so bad, and some are. Stories too, none amusing enough to get me to notice. B-

Zhenya Strigalev/Federico Dannemann: The Change (2018 [2019], Rainy Days): Saxophone and guitar, with Luques Curtis (double bass) and Obed Calvaire (drums) keeping them on track. Mostly a fusion grind, the guitarist more impressive but the richer tones of the sax no doubt help. Strigalev sings one song, which only Robert Wyatt could get away with. B+(*) [cd]

Gebhard Ullmann Basement Research: Impromptus and Other Short Works (2018 [2019], WhyPlayJazz): Leader plays tenor sax and bass clarinet, recorded the album Basement Research in 1993, and has kept the name for low-pitched groups ever since. This 25th anniversary project has Julian Argüelles on baritone sax, Steve Swell on trombone, Pascal Niggenkemper on double bass, and Gerald Cleaver on drums. B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Dexter Gordon: At the Subway Club 1973 (1965-73 [2019], Elemental Music, 2CD): Five long cuts, 95:57, as advertised, recorded on tour at Subway Jazz-Club in Cologne, the tenor saxophonist backed by Irv Rochlin (piano), Henk Haverhoek (bass), and Tony Inzalaco (drums), plus four extra cuts from earlier European tours, different personnel, none previously released. B+(**)

Clifford Jordan Quartet: Glass Bead Games (1973 [1974], Strata East; [2019], Pure Pleasure): Actually, two quartets led by the tenor saxophonist, both with Billy Higgins on drums, piano/bass duties split between Stanley Cowell/Bill Lee and Cedar Walton/Sam Jones. Piano equally impressive, leader makes it all seem so natural. A-

Eero Koivistoinen: The Front Is Breaking (1976, Love; [2017], Svart): Finnish saxophonist (tenor/soprano/sopranino), liked to play free over funk-fusion grooves. Starts impressive, but not so much when he lays out. B+(*)

Joe McPhee: Nation Time (1970 [2018], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Second album, plays tenor sax and trumpet, with Mike Kull (piano/electric piano), Tyrone Crabb (bass/electric bass/trumpet), and percussion (Ernest Bostic and Bruce Thompson). Original release was on CjRecord in 1971, the 18:30 title cut on one side, two more (22:12) on the other, as was the 2000 Atavistic Unheard Music Series reissue in 2000. This reissue adds three extra cuts, for a total of 65:00. The original album was one of the greatest artifacts of its era, a feat of radical boogaloo, the beat (especially on "Shakey Jake") just regular enough to drive us to ecstasy. The extras aren't as monumental, but hold up pretty well. A [bc]

Harry Mosco: Peace & Harmony (1979 [2019], Isle of Jura): Nigerian singer-guitarist, last name Agada, member of the Funkees, used the alias Mr. Funkees for his first solo album (Country Boy), that name also appearing on cover here. Opens with disco, gets funky, goes reggae for the title cut, dubs out, returns to the dance floor. Not what you'd call an original thinker. B+(*)

Woody Shaw Quintet: Basel 1980 (1980-81 [2019], Elemental Music, 2CD): Previously unreleased live set from Switzerland, with Carter Jefferson (tenor/soprano sax), Larry Willis (piano), Stafford James (bass), and Victor Lewis (drums), plus one later track (10:44) with just trumpet, piano (Mulgrew Miller), and drums (Tony Reedus). Pretty spectacular. A-

Sonic Youth: Battery Park, NYC, July 4th 2008 (2008 [2019], Matador): Live shot, a year before their last album (The Eternal), two years after Rather Ripped, both solid entries in their 25-year run, although I can't say as I remember much from either. I do recall their sound, compressed and sharpened here. Blew me away at first, then faded into the ether. B+(***)

Bruce Springsteen: The Live Series: Songs of the Road (1977-2013 [2018], Columbia): The first of three wide-ranging live compilations, released as digital downloads, loosely organized by theme. These are the car/road songs, with 8 (of 15) from 1977-80, from "Thunder Road" to "Cadillac Ranch." B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • John Bacon/Michael McNeill/Danny Ziemann: Refractions (Jazz Dimensions): August 1
  • Mike Holober/The Gotham Jazz Orchestra: Hiding Out (Zoho): August 9
  • From Wolves to Whales: Strandwal (Aerophonic): August 26
  • Dave Rempis/Joshua Abrams/Avreeayl Ra + Jim Baker: Apsis (Aerophonic): August 26

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Fairly large (7.3) earthquake in Halmahera, Indonesia today. It's in a fairly isolated corner of the nation, an island with about 450,000 people, north of Ceram and midway between the outstretched peninsulas of New Guinea and Sulawesi. Probably not much news on this, unlike last week's similar-sized earthquakes near Ridgecrest, California.

On the other hand, quite a bit of news attention to Hurricane Barry, slowly moving today through north Louisiana and into Arkansas, dumping a lot of rain over already flooded terrain. Two things worth noting here. One is that this is still very early in the season (nominally June 1 to November 30). For a record fifth year in a row, the first named storm (Andrea) appeared before the season officially started. June was quiet, but it's still very rare to have hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico in July. Odder still, where most hurricanes start as low pressure zones over West Africa, then pick up strength crossing the width of the subtropical Atlantic Ocean, this one started in Tennessee, then curved in a clockwise motion through Georgia and Florida before intensifying over the Gulf. I've never seen a storm follow that trajectory, or for that matter one that spent so little time over water developing to hurricane level. Granted, it only briefly achieved level 1 strength, but that doesn't bode well for later storms that traverse much more of the still warming Gulf (currently 86°F). [PS: The Wikipedia page suggests several similar hurricanes, but the only one that comes close is 1940 Louisiana hurricane, which formed in early August off the coast of Georgia, crossed Florida and covered a much longer stretch of the Gulf before making landfall in southwest Louisiana. It is regarded as "the wettest tropical cyclone in state history," with a peak rainfall of 37.5 inches. Barry is forecast to produce up to 25 inches of rain. Actual rain so far appears to be much less -- see Barry downgraded to a depression but still brings risk of flooding from Louisiana to Arkansas. This article also notes that the average date for first hurricane of season is August 10, and that this is the first July hurricane in continental US since Arthur in 2014, and only the 4th in Louisiana history according to records going back to 1851.]

Some scattered links this week:

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