Blog Entries [10 - 19]

Sunday, December 22, 2019


Weekend Roundup

I didn't feel like doing a Roundup this weekend, but found a piece I wanted to quote at length, and figured that might suffice: Andrew Sullivan: What we know about Trump going into 2020. I haven't been a fan of Sullivan's lately (well, ever), and don't endorse his asides on the moral superiority of conservatives, but his assessment of Trump hits a lot of key points, and is well worth reading at length (I am going to add some numbered footnotes where I have something I want to add):

So reflect for a second on the campaign of 2016. One Republican candidate channeled the actual grievances and anxieties of many Americans, while the others kept up their zombie politics and economics. One candidate was prepared to say that the Iraq War was a catastrophe, that mass immigration needed to be controlled[1], that globalized free trade was devastating communities and industries, that we needed serious investment in infrastructure, that Reaganomics was way out of date, and that half the country was stagnating and in crisis.

That was Trump. In many ways, he deserves credit for this wake-up call. And if he had built on this platform and crafted a presidential agenda that might have expanded its appeal and broadened its base, he would be basking in high popularity and be a shoo-in for reelection.[2] If, in a resilient period of growth, his first agenda item had been a major infrastructure bill and he'd combined it with tax relief for the middle and working classes, he could have crafted a new conservative coalition that might have endured.[2] If he could have conceded for a millisecond that he was a newbie and that he would make mistakes, he would have been forgiven for much. A touch of magnanimity would have worked wonders. For that matter, if Trump were to concede, even now, that his phone call with President Zelensky of Ukraine went over the line and he now understands this, we would be in a different world.

The two core lessons of the past few years are therefore: (1) Trumpism has a real base of support in the country with needs that must be addressed, and (2) Donald Trump is incapable of doing it and is such an unstable, malignant, destructive narcissist that he threatens our entire system of government. The reason this impeachment feels so awful is that it requires removing a figure to whom so many are so deeply bonded because he was the first politician to hear them in decades. It feels to them like impeachment is another insult from the political elite, added to the injury of the 21st century. They take it personally, which is why their emotions have flooded their brains. And this is understandable.

But when you think of what might have been and reflect on what has happened, it is crystal clear that this impeachment is not about the Trump agenda or a more coherent version of it. It is about the character of one man: his decision to forgo any outreach, poison domestic politics, marinate it in deranged invective, betray his followers by enriching the plutocracy, destroy the dignity of the office of president, and turn his position into a means of self-enrichment. It's about the personal abuse of public office: using the presidency's powers to blackmail a foreign entity into interfering in a domestic election on his behalf, turning the Department of Justice into an instrument of personal vengeance and political defense, openly obstructing investigations into his own campaign, and treating the grave matter of impeachment as a "hoax" while barring any testimony from his own people.

Character matters. This has always been a conservative principle but one that, like so many others, has been tossed aside in the convulsions of a cult. And it is Trump's character alone that has brought us to this point. . . .

The impeachment was inevitable because this president is so profoundly and uniquely unfit for the office he holds, so contemptuous of the constitutional democracy he took an oath to defend, and so corrupt in his core character that a crisis in the conflict between him and the rule of law was simply a matter of time. When you add to this a clear psychological deformation that can produce the astonishing, deluded letter he released this week in his own defense or the manic performance at his Michigan rally Wednesday night, it is staggering that it has taken this long. The man is clinically unwell, preternaturally corrupt, and instinctively hostile to the rule of law. In any other position, in any other field of life, he would have been fired years ago and urged to seek medical attention with respect to his mental health.

Footnotes:

  1. Restricing immigration is a favorite talking point of other "never Trump conservatives" (e.g., David Frum), one thing that helps them keep their identity distinct from liberals. There is a case to be made that low-wage immigrants undermine American workers, but Trump and anti-immigrant Republicans only frame the issue in racial and cultural terms.
  2. Of course, this is sheer fantasy: the "conservative" mindset allowed Trump no room to maneuver toward giving even his white middle class supporters a break from the government, let alone more leverage against their employers and the predators who have been stripping wealth at every turn. They couldn't even imagine a government that helped balance the scales (although that's exactly what the New Deal did, with a bias for white people that Trump might admire). Thus, for instance, the infrastructure bill offered nothing but privatization measures.

Sullivan also has an appreciative piece on his old chum's win in the UK elections: Boris's blundering brilliance, including this bit:

The parallels with Donald Trump are at first hard to resist: two well-off jokers with bad hair playing populist. But Trump sees himself, and is seen by his voters, as an outsider, locked out of the circles he wants to be in, the heir to a real-estate fortune with no political experience and a crude sense of humor, bristling with resentment, and with a background in reality television. He despises constitutional norms, displays no understanding of history or culture, and has a cold streak of cruelty deep in his soul. Boris is almost the opposite of this, his career a near-classic example of British Establishment insiderism with his deep learning, reverence for tradition, and a capacity to laugh at himself that is rare in most egos as big as his. In 2015, after Trump described parts of London as no-go areas because of Islamist influence, Johnson accused him of "a quite stupefying ignorance that makes him, frankly, unfit to hold the office of president." Even as president, Trump is driven primarily by resentment. Boris, as always, is animated by entitlement. (The vibe of his pitch is almost that people like him should be in charge.)


Some scattered links this week:

Monday, December 9, 2019


Music Week

December archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 32466 [32422] rated (+44), 226 [230] unrated (-4).

I have very little time to spare on this, so will keep it short. Spent much of the weekend counting ballots for NPR's 14th Annual Jazz Critics Poll, something Francis Davis started back when we were writing for the Village Voice. Deadline was last night, but there's a good chance that any ballots that arrive today will be counted. I have 132 at present, down a bit from 2018. Some surprises (for me at least) among the new album leaders. Less so among the other categories. This week's haul includes a bunch of records I discovered among the ballots. Still, two/thirds of this week's A- records came from my queue.

Results will probably be posted in about a week. I'm liable to fall out of the loop on that, as I'm scheduled for what should be minor surgery on Thursday, and I'm pessimistic about what I will be able to do the following week or so. In fact, I'm pretty down on getting anything done beforehand either.

Until I got swamped over the weekend, I did a fair amount of work on the EOY Aggregate, which has changed rather dramatically. Up to Thanksgiving, the list was dominated by first-half albums which showed up in mid-year lists -- Sharon Van Etten's Remind Me Tomorrow was leading Billie Eilish's When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go?. Eilish pulled back ahead last week, but the dramatic gains were from: (2) Lana Del Rey: Norman Fucking Rockwell; (4) Angel Olsen: All Mirrors; (5) Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Ghosteen; and (11) FKA Twigs: Magdalene. Among first-half albums, (7) Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising is the one that has gained some spots, evidently because those who can stand it like it a lot.

I was fairly up-to-date before the weekend, but haven't added much since. Should see many more lists in the next week or two, but unclear whether I'll be able to keep up. At any rate, the file is doing most of what it needs to do. Still, not much jazz in it, other than my own grades. I'll add the JCP data when it goes public.


New records reviewed this week:

Awatair: Awatair Plays Coltrane (2019, Fundacja Sluchaj): Polish-Ukrainian trio: Tomasz Gadecki (tenor/baritone sax), Mark Tokar (double bass), Michal Gos (drums). Three stretched Coltrane pieces plus an 10:57 "Improvisation for Jr. J.C." B+(***) [bc]

Bones [Ziv Taubenfeld/Shay Hazan/Nir Sabag]: Reptiles (2017 [2019], NoBusiness): Bass clarinet/bass/drums trio, recorded in Amsterdam, released on vinyl. Free jazz, fairly intimate. B+(**) [cdr]

Anthony Braxton: Quartet (New Haven) 2014 (2014 [2019], Firehouse 12, 4CD): One "Improvisation" per disc, each 57:14-64:09, each dedicated to a pop star you probably couldn't blindfold guess (Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, James Brown, Merle Haggard). Braxton plays saxes from sopranino to contrabass but no tenor (alto is his main axe), joined by Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet and family), Nels Cline (electric guitar), and Greg Saunier (drums). Gave it one play and was delighted, often amazed, never annoyed (well, until the last few seconds of Disc 3). One could spend ages further dissecting, but I doubt I will. A-

Patrick Brennan/Abdul Moimęme: Terraphonia (2019, Creative Sources): Alto saxophonist, from Detroit, has a handful of records including a couple as Sonic Openings Under Pressure, in a duo here with a Portuguese experimental guitarist, who has 25 albums since 2008, mostly small groups with all names on the masthead. Something more than just harsh noise, but that's most of it. B+(*)

Terri Lyne Carrington + Social Science: The Waiting Game (2019, Motéma, 2CD): Drummer, studied at Berklee with Alan Dawson, built a solid post-bop reputation in the 1990s, lately has turned to crossover pop, including quite a bit of hip-hop here, sprinkled with guest stars, with a few political lyrics. Second disc is lighter, a 42:19 instrumental orchestrated by Edmar Colón. B+(**)

Anthony Coleman: Catenary Oath (2018 [2019], NoBusiness): Pianist, debut was 1992, some of his early records offered an avant take on klezmer. Solo piano here, starts with a dedication to Roscoe Mitchell, ends with Ellington. B+(**) [cdr]

Chick Corea/Christian McBride/Brian Blade: Trilogy 2 (2010-18 [2019], Concord, 2CD): A sequel to the trio's 2014 3-CD Trilogy, adding select tracks from a 2016 tour to leftovers from the first period. B+(**)

Rodney Crowell: Texas (2019, RC1): Country singer-songwriter, originally from Texas, 21 albums since 1978, had a run of hits off his 1988 album (Diamonds & Dirt), but hasn't enjoyed much attention lately. Got some guest help this time, mostly fellow Texans like Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett, and Billy Gibbons. (Exception to the rule: Ringo Starr.) B+(***)

Nina De Heney/Karin Johansson/Henrik Wartel: Quagmire (2018 [2019], Creative Sources): Bass-piano-drums, the bassist dominating (especially early on), for a very claustrophobic sound. B+(*)

Doja Cat: Hot Pink (2019, Kemosabe/RCA): LA rapper Amala Zandile Dlamini, second album, promises more skin, holds back a bit. B+(**)

Marc Edwards/Guillaume Gargaud: Black Hole Universe (2019, Atypeek Music): American free jazz drummer, played with David S. Ware in the 1980s, teams up here with a French guitarist. Reminds me of Sonny Sharrock, maybe even more intense, but I'm not quite there with it yet. B+(**)

Andy Emler/David Liebman: Journey Around the Truth (2018 [2019], Signature Radio France): French keyboardist, playing organ here, pumped up for dramatic effect like a hoary old soundtrack. The saxophonist builds on that, with tenor and soprano. B+(*)

Erin Enderlin: Faulkner County (2019, Black Crow Productions): Singer-songwriter from Arkansas, has had some success peddling songs in Nashville, third album. Old time sound, lots of booze and wallowing blues, could use a stiffer backbone, or a shot of feminism. B+(*)

Gorilla Mask: Brain Drain (2019, Clean Feed): Alto saxophonist Peter Van Huffel's rockish power trio, with electric bass (Roland Fidezius) and drums (Rudi Fischerlehner), fourth group record. Seems almost too easy to make this formula work, so the occasional glitches stand out. B+(***)

Alex Harding/Lucian Ban: Dark Blue (2019, Sunnyside): Duets, baritone sax/bass clarinet and piano, a nice match. B+(**)

Eric Hofbauer's Five Agents: Book of Water (2018 [2019], Creative Nation Music): Guitarist, based in Boston, has done interesting work at pushing the boundaries of postbop without quite crossing over into avant-garde. Comes especially close here, with three veterans of Ken Vandermark's Boston-Chicago nexus -- Jeb Bishop (trombone), Nate McBride (bass), Curt Newton (drums) -- plus Jerry Sabatii (trumpet) and Seth Meicht (tenor sax). B+(***)

Eric Hofbauer & Dylan Jack: Remains of Echoes (2019, Creative Nation Music): Guitar and drum duo, picking their way through covers from Ellington to the Police. B+(**)

Carl Ludwig Hübsch/Pierre-Yves Martel/Philip Zoubek: Otherwise (2018, Insub): Tuba player, the others credited with viola da gamba and piano, both also with synthesizer. Two side-long tracks, ambient but never gets too comfortable. B+(*) [bc]

Ill Considered: Ill Considered 8 (2018 [2019], Ill Considered Music): British jazz group, based in London, quartet with Idris Rahman (sax/fx), Leon Brichard (electric bass), Emre Ramazanoglu (drums), and Satin Singh (percussion), adds another live document to their fast-growing catalogue. Strong bass riffs, flexes a lot of muscle. B+(***)

Katarsis 4: Katarsis 4 (2019, NoBusiness): Sax quartet from Lithuania, biased toward alto -- two members list alto first, the others second (after baritone and soprano) -- so this doesn't have much in common with the harmonic focus of WSQ or ROVA. Some electronics, loads of atmosphere. B+(**) [cd]

Kimchi Moccasin Tango: Yankee Zulu (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): Norwegian trio -- Karl-Hjalmar Nyberg (tenor sax), Karl Bjorĺ (guitar), Dag Erik Knedal Andersen (drums) -- the group name parsed for three pieces, the title for the fourth. Avant-noise from the start, can change up a bit here and there, in ways that are ultimately winning. B+(**)

Lee Konitz Nonet: Old Songs New (2019, Sunnyside): Arranged and conducted by Ohad Talmor. The nonet balances reeds and strings: 4 each, the leader's alto sax shadowed by flute, clarinet, and bass clarinet; 2 celli between viola and bass; plus George Schuller on drums. Lush and unashamedly gorgeous. B+(***)

Mat Maneri Quartet: Dust (2019, Sunnyside): Leader plays viola, mostly known as son of avant-clarinetist Joe Maneri, and for playing side-roles in Matthew Shipp's orbit. Closer to the mainstream here with Lucian Ban (piano), John Hébert (bass), and Randy Peterson (drums). B+(*)

MC Yallah X Debmaster: Kubali (2019, Hakuna Kulala): Rapper Yallah Gaudencia Mbidde, from Uganda, and producer Julien Deblois, from France, with a short cassette. Densely fractured, could come from any high-tech haven. B+(*)

Tom McDermott: Meets Scott Joplin (2018 [2019], Arbors): Trad jazz pianist, from St. Louis, first record was called New Rags (1982), returns to the old ones here. Mostly solo, but picks up when some friends drop in (notably trombonist Rick Trolsen). B+(**)

Camila Meza and the Nectar Orchestra: Ámbar (2019, Sony Masterworks): Chilean singer-songwriter, based in New York, has a reputation as a jazz guitarist, fourth album, group adds strings to piano-bass-drums, lush and dramatic (not my favorite combination). B

Roscoe Mitchell Orchestra: Littlefield Concert Hall, Mills College, March 19-20, 2018 (2018 [2019], Wide Hive): No musician credit for Mitchell (78), just composed, orchestrated, and conducted by. Twenty-five piece orchestra, with a fair number of strings and most of the classical horns (but no saxophones), a harp, some exotica. B+(**)

Qasim Naqvi: Teenages (2019, Erased Tapes): Drummer from Pakistan, first noticed in the piano trio Dawn of Midi, has moved more into electronica lately, especially with this "music for modular synthesizer." B+(*)

Tomeka Reid Quartet: Old New (2018 [2019], Cuneiform): Cellist, grew up near DC, studied in Chicago and built her connections there before moving on to New York. Second Quartet album, with Mary Halvorson (guitar), Jason Roebke (bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums). Seems small, like the strings folding back on themselves, but not without its unique Halvorson moments. B+(***) [dl]

Michele Rosewoman's New Yor-Uba: Hallowed (2017-18 [2019], Advance Dance Disques): Postbop pianist, born in Oakland, based in New York, took a turn toward Afro-Cuban jazz with her New Yor-Uba "musical celebration of Cuba in America," and continues here, with three specialists in batá and congas, a raft of horns, and vocalist Nina Rodriquez. B+(***)

Bob Sheppard: The Fine Line (2019, Challenge): Mainstream saxophonist, plays them all but best known for tenor, based in Los Angeles, has a few albums since 1991 but has done a ton of studio work, especially backing vocalists. Backed by piano (John Beasley), bass, and drums, with a few guests. Very respectable outing. B+(**)

Kalie Shorr: Open Book (2019, self-released): Singer-songwriter from Maine, based in Nashville, songs have some country in them, production has a lot of Nashville. B+(*)

Sonar With David Torn: Tranceportation (Volume 1) (2019, RareNoise): Sonar is a Swiss guitar-guitar-bass-drums band, principally Stephan Thelen, tunings feature tritones, rhythm very buttoned down, straight enough for rock, clever enough for jazz. Second album with guitarist Torn, who probably adds something, but fits in so seamlessly it's hard to discern what. A- [cdr]

Tim Stine Quartet: Knots (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): Chicago guitarist, has a couple previous albums. Joined here by Nick Mazzarella (alto sax), Matt Ulery (bass), and Quin Kirchner (drums). B+(*)

Steve Swell/Robert Boston/Michael Vatcher: Brain in a Dish (2018 [2019], NoBusiness): Trombone, piano/organ, drums, a strong outing for a trombonist who's been one of free jazz's leading lights for more than a decade. A- [cd]

Fay Victor: Barn Songs (2018 [2019], Northern Spy): Striking jazz singer-songwriter, closest we have to a second coming of Betty Carter. Dusted off some old songs from her Amsterdam exile, given stark and foreboding framing with cello (Marika Hughes) and alto sax (Darius Jones). B+(**)

Bobby Watson/Vincent Herring/Gary Bartz: Bird at 100 (2019, Smoke Sessions): Three alto saxophonists, Bartz (the eldest, with 13 years on Watson and 24 on Herring) the one I think of most literally as a Charlie Parker clone, but I couldn't pick them apart here. With David Kikoski (piano), Yasushi Nakamura (bass), and Carl Allen (drums). I don't really feel this as relating to Parker, unless they're just saying all you need is chops. But chops they have, and that can be fun. B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Dusko Goykovich: Sketches of Yugoslavia (1973-74 [2019], Enja): Trumpet player, a Serb born in Bosnia-Herzegovina, incorporated folk idioms into jazz from Swinging Macedonia (1966) on. Leads a quartet here, fronting the rather lacklustre NDR Radio Orchestra Hannover. B+(*)

Dadisi Komolafe: Hassan's Walk (1983 [2019], Nimbus West): Plays flute and alto sax, only album I can find, quintet with piano (Eric Tilman), bass, drums, and vibraphone, recorded in Los Angeles. Has a deep African vibe. B+(**) [bc]

Yusef A. Lateef: Hikima: Creativity (1983 [2019], The Key System): Tenor saxophonist, changed his name when he converted to Islam, early on developed an interest in African and Middle Eastern music. Recorded a lot from 1957 into the 1970s, hit a thin patch, but bounced back from 1989, first with Atlantic then his own YAL label. This is one of two records he recorded in Nigeria, with a local group with singers and a lot of percussion. B+(**) [bc]

Old music:

Kristijan Krajncan: Drumming Cellist (2017, Sazas): Slovenian cellist-drummer, overdubs the two instruments, first album, adopted its title as his artist credit on his second (Abraxas). Fills the first half with J.S. Bach's "Cello Suite No. 2 in D Minor." B+(*) [bc]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ellen Edwards: A New York Session (Stonefire Music) [02-22]
  • Amber Weekes: Pure Imagination (Amber Inn Productions) [01-08]

Sunday, December 8, 2019


Weekend Roundup

No time for an introduction today. On the other hand, much reason to kick this out earlier than usual. Anyway, you know the drill.


Some scattered links this week:

Monday, December 2, 2019


Music Week

December archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 32422 [32388] rated (+34), 230 [221] unrated (+9).

I have 52 ballots counted for Jazz Critics Poll. Deadline is December 8, but I'm finding very little reason to shuffle the top of my EOY Jazz List, so I might as well file my own ballot sooner rather than later. This is what I'm handing in:

New music:

  1. Steve Lehman Trio/Craig Taborn: The People I Love (Pi)
  2. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions (Flat Langston's Arkeyes)
  3. Dr. Mark Lomax, II: 400: An Afrikan Epic (CFG Multimedia -12CD) **
  4. Moppa Elliott: Jazz Band/Rock Band/Dance Band (Hot Cup, 2CD)
  5. James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto (Relative Pitch)
  6. Dave Rempis/Brandon Lopez/Ryan Packard: The Early Bird Gets (Aerophonic)
  7. Rich Halley: Terra Incognita (Pine Eagle)
  8. Quinsin Nachoff's Flux: Path of Totality (Whirlwind, 2CD)
  9. Per 'Texas' Johansson/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Konrad Agnas: Orakel (Moserobie)
  10. Liebman Rudolph & Drake: Chi (RareNoise) *

Historical music:

  1. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions (Resonance, 3CD)
  2. Ran Blake/Jeanne Lee: The Newest Sound You Never Heard (1966-67, A-Side, 2CD)
  3. Stan Getz: Getz at the Gate: The Stan Getz Quartet Live at the Village Gate Nov. 26 1961 (Verve, 2CD) **

Miscellaneous categories:

  • Vocal: Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions (Flat Langston's Arkeyes)
  • Debut: Javier Red's Imagery Converter: Ephemeral Certainties (Delmark) **
  • Latin: Miguel Zenón: Sonero: The Music of Ismael Rivera (Miel Music)

One consideration I had was whether to omit records that I didn't receive (or obtain) physical copies of. In recent years, I've done that for historical releases (which have gotten to be hard to come by) but I allowed streamed new releases to slip onto my ballot. After I slid Ill Considered 6 down a couple notches, the only streamed item in my New top ten was the Mark Lomax mega-production. I decided to keep it on the ballot because I had rated it a full A (only three this year, although the top two A- records are good candidates for promotion), and because a couple other critics had voted for it, with a high enough points-per-ballot to move it into the top-30. Among historical records, I decided to keep Getz on the ballot because I didn't have a satisfactory alternative: the next two records I have physical copies of are samplers by Bill Evans and Wes Montgomery, but I'm rather chafed that I haven't been able to hear those artists new-old records (Evans in England and Back on Indiana Avenue), which are the ones other critics are voting for. (The other big set from the same label that I haven't been able to hear yet is Nat "King" Cole's Hittin' the Ramp, currently running 3rd in the poll.) I do have CDs of six more records further down the list, and I'm especially appreciative of the Sam Rivers and Horace Tapscott sets, but they are well down the list, barely over the cusp.

This week's haul is nearly all records suggested by counting JCP ballots. Also noticed a few things from recent lists by Phil Overeem and Chris Monsen, and scrounging through Tim Niland's recent reviews.

My EOY Aggregate was close to up-to-date until today, when we were hit with an avalanche of new lists. Main ways I track these things are through AOTY and Acclaimed Music's EOY 2019 forum. I'll catch up eventually, although lots of things aren't making it easy (slow recovery from illness, anticipation of surgery, visitors, my mind's inability to process it all).


New records reviewed this week:

Stefan Aeby: Piano Solo (2018 [2019], Intakt): Swiss pianist, first solo after several trio albums, expands the instrument's range with various preparations and electronic post-processing. B+(*)

Rodrigo Amado/Dirk Serries: Jazzblazzt (2018 [2019], Raw Tonk): One of my favorite tenor saxophonists, in a duo with a prolific (but hitherto unknown to me) Belgian guitarist, aka Vidna Obmana. Rather fractured, onto something. B+(**)

The Big Yes: The Big Yes (2018 [2019], Nakama): Scandinavian free jazz quartet, two horns -- Anna Högberg (sax) and Maria Bertel (trombone) -- bass and drums, storming through one 30:58 track. B+(**) [bc]

Johnathan Blake: Trion (2018 [2019], Giant Step Arts, 2CD): Drummer from Black Art Jazz Collective, has some range in groups with Kenny Barron, Oliver Lake, Donny McCaslin, and Dr. Lonnie Smith, plus a couple albums under his own name. He's terrific in this basic sax trio, as is bassist Linda May Han Oh, but after a brief intro this is really a tour de force for Chris Potter. A-

Jane Bunnett and Maqueque: On Firm Ground/Tierra Firme (2019, Linus Entertainment): Soprano saxophonist, also plays flute and trompeta china, has used this group name since her 2014 album. As Latin rhythms go, this is impressive enough, but the vocals throw me off. B

Daniel Carter/Patrick Holmes/Matthew Putman/Hilliard Greene/Federich Ughi: Electric Telepathy Vol. 1 (2018 [2019], 577 Records): Aka the Telepathic Band: saxes/clarinet/trumpet, clarinet, keyboard, bass, drums. B+(***)

Cochemea: All My Relations (2019, Daptone): Saxophonist Cochemea Gastelum, spent the last 15 years in Sharon Jones' band, the Dap-Kings. Dropped last name for his second album, takes aim at his roots, which are not just African, starting with a chant, ending with a groove. B+(**) [bc]

John Dikeman/George Hadow/Dirk Serries/Martina Verhoeven/Luis Vicente: Ideal Principle (2016 [2018], Raw Tonk): Tenor saxophonist, born in Nebraska, grew up in Wyoming, wound up in Amsterdam. Others play drums, electric guitar, double bass, and trumpet. Strong free jazz outing, the trumpet a highlight. B+(***) [bc]

Petter Eldh: Koma Saxo (2018 [2019], We Jazz): Swedish bassist, based in Berlin, recorded this quintet in Helsinki with three saxophonists (Otis Sandsjö, Jonas Kullhammar, and Mikko Innanen) plus drums (Christian Lillinger). Horns play some kind of fuzzy harmony, underscoring the centrality of the bass. B+(**)

Ellery Eskelin/Christian Weber/Michael Griener: The Pearls (2018 [2019], Intakt): Tenor sax-bass-drums trio, mixing avant improv with older forms, including two "rag" titles, one each from Jelly Roll Morton and Count Basie. B+(***)

Georg Graewe/Ernst Reijseger/Gerry Hemingway: Concertgebouw Brugge 2014 (2014 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): Piano-cello-drums trio, first joined together 30 years ago (1989). B+(**) [bc]

Joel Harrison: Still Point: Turning World (2019, Whirlwind): Guitarist, twenty albums since 1994, changes up here by working with and composing for the Talujon Percussion Quartet, adding Indian musicians like Anupam Shobhakar (sarode) and Swaminathan Selvaganesh (percussion), also Hans Glawaschnig or Stephan Crump (bass), Dan Weiss (drums/tabla), and Ben Wendel (sax/bassoon). Ambitious album, leaves a strong impression. B+(**)

Jazzmeia Horn: Love and Liberation (2019, Concord): Jazz singer, originally from Dallas, moved to New York at 18, second album, all covers on her first, mostly originals here. Half could rate as well-above-average neo-soul, some her impressive technique goes overboard with. Closes with a formidable "I Thought About You." B+(***)

Keith Jarrett: Munich 2016 (2016 [2019], ECM, 2CD): Solo piano, has well over a dozen such albums, Like many this one runs long, and tries my patience -- not that he doesn't impress me here and there. B+(*)

Guillermo Klein: Los Guachos Cristal (2019, Sunnyside): Argentine pianist, has used "Los Guachos" as an album title and/or as his group name: a large one, 11-pieces here, mostly New Yorkers, like his sax section -- Miguel Zenon (alto), Bill McHenry (tenor), and Chris Cheek (soprano/tenor/baritone) -- and trumpets: Diego Urcola and Taylor Haskins. Impressive section work, moved along by a strong rhythm. B+(***)

Kokoroko: Kokoroko (2019, Brownswood, EP): London-based Afrobeat collective, with saxophonist Cassie Kinoshi, Sheila Maurice-Gray (trumpet), Richie Seivwright (trombone), plus guitar, keyboards, bass, and drums. Four cuts, 24:24. B+(*)

Ingrid Laubrock + Aki Takase: Kasumi (2018 [2019], Intakt): Sax and piano duo, a German based in New York and a Japanese based in Berlin. B+(**)

Metropolitan Jazz Octet Featuring Dee Alexander: It's Too Hot for Words: Celebrating Billie Holiday (2019, Delmark): Chicago group, name comes from one Tom Hilliard assembled for a 1959 tribute to Bix Beiderbecke. The new group connects to the old through Hilliard protégés Jim Gailloreto (tenor sax) and John Kornegay (alto sax). The band exudes power, the singer strength. Hard to fault either, but doesn't quite seem right. B+(**)

Van Morrison: Three Chords & the Truth (2019, Exile/Caroline): After a spate of covers albums, he's back with a batch of original songs (one co-authored), reportedly new ones but sounding ever so much like his old ones (perhaps I should A:B "Days Gone By" with "Days Like This"?). In fact, they sound so classic that it's finally clear how much his voice has thickened up. B+(***)

Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton: Concert in Vilnius (2017 [2019], NoBusiness): Avant sax-bass-drums trio, together frequently since 1980 (probably before). Plays his distinctive soprano as well, but his best records are all tenor. B+(***) [cd]

Junius Paul: Ism (2016-19 [2019], International Anthem): Chicago bassist, first album, recorded 17 pieces on eight dates, using the same quartet on three, rotating other players on the others. That contributes to, but doesn't really explain, the indeterminateness that pervades the album, a mix of ambient and chaos. Note that Makaya McCraven edited and co-produced. B+(*)

Ken Peplowski/Diego Figueiredo: Amizade (2018 [2019], Arbors): The Brazilian guitarist has nine albums since 2006, two with singer Cyrille Aimée, and now this one with the retro-swing clarinetist. A couple of originals, various Brazilian classics, a spritely "Caravan," and the most languorous "Stompin' at the Savoy" I've ever heard. B+(*)

Javier Red's Imagery Converter: Ephemeral Certainties (2019, Delmark): Piano player from Chicago, his real name for all I know -- my first reaction was to think of bluesmen but Javier is a plausible first name, unlike Louisiana, Piano, Speckled, and Tampa. First album, quartet with Jake Wark (tenor sax), Ben Dillinger (bass), Gustavo Cortińas (drums). Major poise and balance. A-

SEED Ensemble: Driftglass (2019, Jazz Re:freshed): London-based 10-piece jazz band led by saxophonist Cassie Kinoshi, who also has a hand in Nérija and Kokoroko. Strong groove, massive horns, several guest vocals don't quite register. B+(*)

Christian Meass Svendsen With Nakama and Rinzai Zen Center Oslo: New Rituals (2017-18 [2019], Nakama, 3CD): Bassist, went overboard here: each disc has the same titles, the first pass for group plus "chant choir," the second just group, the third all the way down to solo bass. The group, Nakama, has violin, piano, bass, drums, and voice. They're quite lively with the choir, but slow down on their own side, and you know what to expect with solo bass. B+(*) [bc]

Pat Thomas/Dominic Lash/Tony Orrell: Bley School (2018 [2019], 577 Records): British pianist, distinct from two other musicians of same name (one from San Francisco, the other Ghana). I'm rather shocked that I didn't have a database entry for this one, as he's appeared on 40+ albums since 1993, starting with Lol Coxhill and Derek Bailey. A tribute to the late Paul Bley, more focused on approach than canon. B+(***) [bc]

Trigger: Pull (2019, Shhpuma): Avant-thrash trio: Will Greene (electric guitar), Simon Haines (electric bass), Aaron Edgcomb (drums). Intense, relentless, still it does eventually melt together. B

Jennifer Wharton's Bonegasm: Bonegasm (2018 [2019], Sunnyside): Trombonist, first album, a trombone quartet (John Fedchock, Nate Mayland, Alan Ferber) backed by piano-bass-drums. B+(*)

Yong Yandsen/Christian Meaas Svendsen/Paal Nilssen-Love: Hungry Ghosts (2018 [2019], Nakama): Avant-sax trio, recorded in Kuala Lamur -- evidently home base for the tenor saxophonist, a co-founder of EMACM (Experimental Musicians & Artists Co-operative Malaysia -- and released in Norway, home of the bassist and drummer. One searing 39:00 tear. B+(***) [bc]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Joseph Daley: The Seven Deadly Sins/The Seven Heavenly Virtues (2010-13 [2019], Jodamusic): Reissues two albums, one broadly orchestral I've previously heard and graded B+(***), the other more string-laden, below. Averages out to: B+(**)

Sam Rivers: Zenith [Sam Rivers Achive Project, Volume 2] (1977 [2019], NoBusiness): Tenor saxophonist, also plays soprano, piano, and (quite a bit of) flute. Quartet with Joe Daley (tuba/euphonium), Charlie Persip (bass), and Barry Altschul (drums), live set in Berlin. I might complain about the flute, but the rhythm section more than picks up the slack. A- [cd]

Makoto Terashita Meets Harold Land: Topology (1983 [2019], BBE): Japanese pianist, had one previous trio album from 1978, doesn't seem to have had much since, but this was picked out for the label's J Jazz Masterclass Series. His meeting with the alto saxophonist is backed by Yasushi Yoneki (bass) and Mike Reznikoff (drums). The piano trio is quite satisfying on its own, and Land is as poised and fierce as I can recall. A- [bc]

Old music:

Johnathan Blake: Gone, but Not Forgotten (2014, Criss Cross): Drummer-led quartet, with bass (Ben Street) and two saxophonists (Chris Potter and Mark Turner). Something to be said for the extra harmony, but they do meander more, sometimes with alto flute or soprano sax, and wind up with a bit of swing. B+(***)

Joseph Daley: The Seven Heavenly Virtues (2013, Jodamusic): Tuba player, from New York, side credits since 1971 (Taj Mahal, Gil Evans, Sam Rivers), first under his own name The Seven Deadly Sins (2011), with his 24-piece Earth Tones Orchestra. This sequel is mostly string orchestra and percussion, some piano. I can't say as I've ever found violins heavenly. Closes with three "sketches" referring to Warren Smith, Billy Bang, and Bill Dixon. B+(*)
[Both reissued on one CD in 2019 as The Seven Deadly Sins/The Seven Heavenly Virtues (Jodamusic). Averages to B+(**)]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Rebecca Angel: Santa Baby (Timeless Grooves, EP)
  • Benny Benack III: A Lot of Livin' to Do (LA Reserve) [01-24]
  • Bones [Ziv Taubenfeld/Shay Hazan/Nir Sabag]: Reptiles (NoBusiness)
  • Bobby Bradford/Frode Gjerstad/Kent Carter/John Stevens: Blue Cat (NoBusiness)
  • Anthony Coleman: Catenary Oath (NoBusiness)
  • Katarsis 4: Katarsis 4 (NoBusiness)
  • Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton: Concert in Vilnius (NoBusiness)
  • Sam Rivers: Zenith [Sam Rivers Achive Project, Volume 2] (1977, NoBusiness, 2CD)
  • Masahiko Satoh/Sabu Toyozumi: The Aiki (1997, NoBusiness)
  • Steve Swell/Robert Boston/Michael Vatcher: Brain in a Dish (NoBusiness)
  • Juan Vinuesa Jazz Quartet: Blue Shots From Chicago (NoBusiness)
  • The Westerlies: Wherein Lies the Good (Westerlies) [01-31]

Sunday, December 1, 2019


Weekend Roundup

Didn't do a Weekend Roundup last week, but I had a couple of links cached away, seed for today. Didn't much want to do one this week, either, but here goes.

First, a few links on the Democratic presidential debate (not many, as I started looking late, or maybe there wasn't much to find?):

In "this week in senseless violence," note that a couple people were stabbed in London in what's being taken as a "major terrorist incident" (What we know about the London Bridge stabbings), 11 were shot in New Orleans (New Orleans shooting: What we know), and A Mexican cartel gun battle near the Texas border leaves 21 dead).


Other scattered links for the last two weeks:

Monday, November 25, 2019


Music Week

November archive (finished).

Music: Current count 32388 [32371] rated (+17), 221 [221] unrated (+0).

Took ill late last week, spending a couple days doing nothing more ambitious than watching the remains of television series Laura had already given up on (The Durrells in Corfu, which I enjoyed very much, and Press, which barely kept me going). I'll add that we recently finished the latest seasons of Orange Is the New Black and Succession, which among other things remind us that class persists in quantum orbits so isolated that it's hard for most of us to imagine life like that.

No Weekend Roundup yesterday. I have a few links saved up for next time I manage to write one. Not much Music Week here either. The one thing I am trying to keep up with is tabulating ballots for this year's NPR Jazz Critics Poll. That pointed me to several records this week, no doubt more next week. (Playing Johnathan Blake's Trion at the moment, and it's sounding like a pretty solid A-.) Spent a lot of time early in the week just trying to round up the various pieces of Allen Lowe's box set, and wound up guessing a bit.

I still haven't finalized my ballot yet, but you can see a very rough draft here.


New records reviewed this week:

Ilia Belorukov & Vasco Trilla: Laniakea (2017 [2019], Astral Spirits): Russian alto saxophonist, also plays fluteophone and electronics, in a duo with percussion, recorded at the latter's Barcelona studio. Feels too static for jazz, lots of drone, not even much clang. B- [bc]

Leonard Cohen: Thanks for the Dance (2016 [2019], Columbia/Legacy): The poet-singer died in 2016, about the time he released You Want It Darker, still excellent despite a voice in tatters. These are "sketches" for songs, rounded up and finished roughly by son Adam Cohen, with guest help like Daniel Lanois and Beck. Barely makes it: nine songs, 29:17, the voice harsh even by recent standards, but the music is uncanny, and his words hit hard. A-

The Last Poets: Transcending Toxic Times (2019, Ropeadope): Group dates from 1968, before hip-hop was recognized as such, and has gone through numerous permutations, but poets Abiodun Oyewole and Umar Bin Hassan return from their first album, along with recent arrival Baba Donn Babatunde and some other guest spots. One thing new here is the musicians are a lot more steeped in jazz, thanks to producer (and bassist) Jamaaladeen Tacuma. Ends with two strong, bitter political rants. B+(**)

Quiana Lynell: A Little Love (2019, Concord Jazz): R&B singer with some jazz overtones, born in Texas, grew up in Baton Rouge, based in New Orleans, trained in classics and church, won her contract in one of Concord's contests (this one named for Sarah Vaughan). First album, mixed bag of songs, some vibes. B

Aurora Nealand/Steve Marquette/Anton Hatwich/Paul Thibodeaux: Kobra Quartet (2019, Astral Spirits): Chicago label (lots of interesting records, but most with only a sample song or two on Bandcamp; this 3-song 42:06 the exception). Nealand plays accordion, alto sax, voice, objects. The others guitar, bass, and drums. Fond of slow burns, building to impressive climaxes. B+(*) [bc]

Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/William Parker/Bobby Kapp: Ineffable Joy (2018 [2019], ESP-Disk): Brazilian avant-saxophonist, only three releases (6-CD) this year on his usual label (Leo), decided to diversify and follow his pianist to the latest iteration of the famous 1960s DIY label, citing an early Gato Barbieri release on same. With bass and drums from old Shipp associates, he couldn't ask for a more robust rhythm section. B+(***)

Charlie Porter: Immigration Nation (2019, OA2): Trumpet player, from New York, second album, postbop quintet with Nick Biello (tenor sax), Oscar Perez (piano), bass, and drums, plus a vocal (Sabine Kabongo) on one song. B+(*) [cd]

Wallace Roney: Blue Dawn-Blue Nights (2019, HighNote): Trumpet player, hard bopper, had some prestige tutors (Gillespie, Davis, Terry), couple dozen albums since 1987. Seems to have a young band, none I've heard of -- Emilio Modeste (sax), Oscar Williams II (piano), Paul Cuffari (bass), Kojo Odu Roney (drums) -- and they push him pretty hard. B+(***)

Toh-Kichi: Baikamo (2019, Libra): Piano-drums duo, Satoko Fujii and Tatsuya Yoshida. Four pieces from each, eight more joint improvs. Nice to hear Fujii roughing up the piano again. B+(***) [cd]

Torbjörn Zetterberg & the Great Question: Live (2017 [2019], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Swedish bassist, released four solo albums, three by his Hot Five (2002-04), side credits with most of this band: Jonas Kullhammar (tenor sax/flute), Alberto Pinton (baritone sax/clarinet/flute), Susana Santos Silva (trumpet/tin whistle), Mats Äleklint (trombone/harmonica), and Jon Fält (drums). Lot of firepower there, and the bassist clearly likes it hot. A- [bc]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Georg Graewe/Ernest Reijseger/Gerry Hemingway: Kammern I-V (2009 [2019], Auricle): Piano-cello-drums trio, group recorded together at least ten times, with 1994's Saturn Cycle a favorite. This comes close, the piano especially vibrant and challenging. B+(***) [cd]

Allen Lowe: Jews & Roots/Radical Jewish Acculturation: An Avant Garde of Our Own: Disconnected Works: 1980-2018 (1980-2018 [2019], Constant Sorrow/ESP-Disk, 8CD): Musicologist, his books and their companion CD compilations offer an extraordinarily broad and deep exploration into American recorded music, but he also plays alto sax, and his own works have increasingly turned ambition to sprawl: the 3-CD Blues & the Empirical Truth (2011), the 4-CD Mulatto Radio (2014), the separately packaged 6-CD In the Diaspora of the Diaspora (2016), and now this 8-CD box (most recorded since 2016, but also picking up scattered recordings going back to his first efforts). Haven't heard the first disc, and I'm short for details (especially on the 8th). One case where the physical CDs could make the difference, especially give that Lowe's as much a writer as a musician (though he'd probably hear it the other way round).

  1. Live at the Knitting Factory/Verna's Garage/The Living Room Tapes (1) (1980-2011): Unheard.
  2. Live at the Knitting Factory/Verna's Garage/The Living Room Tapes (2) (1979-2015): Very scattered pieces, almost randomly distributed by time, some touching on trad jazz without getting too comfortable. [B+(**)] [bc]
  3. Poor Pilgrims of Sorrow Suite/I Am a Woman Again (Gladys Bentley Suite) (2016-18) Two sets of related pieces: the former promises overwhelming sax power (James Brandon Lewis and Darius Jones) but they don't bowl anyone over; the latter an octet where the composition comes first. Ray Suhy (guitar) is on both. [B+(***)]
  4. Black Brown and Beige, Yellow, Trans and Queer: My Country 'Tis of This (2018): Septets, title expands on Ellington, but inside he's thinking more of Mingus (and not just on "Fables of Fascism"). Also Jaki Byard and Bud Powell. [A-]
  5. Brother Matthew's Revenge (2017): Mostly nonet, five horns plus guitar producing lots of harmonics; drops to trio twice: Lowe, Randy Sandke (trumpet), and Lewis Porter (piano). [B+(*)]
  6. Hey Lady/Time/Times (2017): One set, Ken Peplowski and Matthew Shipp the best-known. [B+(***)]
  7. The Other America (1) (1993-2016): Odds and sods, including Marc Ribot guitar solos, Nels Cline on Jimi Hendrix, Lowe playing some guitar too (and singing one for Johnny Thunders), closes with "Bull Connor in Hell." [B+(***)]
  8. The Other America (2) (NA) More odds and sods, Ribot switches to banjo, Lowe's vocal is "Where's Lou Reed?"; heavy: "At a Baptist Meeting." [A-]

Overall, something like: B+(***)

Dudu Pukwana/Han Bennink/Misha Mengelberg: Yi Yole (1978 [2019], Corbett vs. Dempsey): South African alto saxophonist, emigrated with the Blue Notes, richocheted between his native township jive (cf. his wonderful 1973 In the Townships) and avant-jazz extremes (I hated his 1977 Diamond Express). This finds some kind of middle ground, especially when the pianist breaks out his boogie-woogie. B+(**) [bc]

David S. Ware New Quartet: Théâtre Garonne, 2008 (2008 [2019], AUM Fidelilty): The old Quartet had one of the greatest runs in jazz history, from 1990-2007, with Matthew Shipp (piano), William Parker (bass), and a series of drummers. His new Quartet, with Joe Morris (guitar), Parker, and Warren Smith (drums), turned out one album (Shakti) before kidney failure sidelined Ware (a kidney transplant gave him a brief respite from 2009-12, during which he made a partial comeback). This live date came a few weeks after the album, reprising most of the compositions. Ware is Ware, but Morris has some surprises in store. A-

Mary Lou Williams: Mary Lou Williams (1962-63 [1964], Folkways; [2019], Smithsonian Folkways): Pianist, a chief architect of Kansas City swing in Andy Kirk's orchestra, kept evolving up to her death in 1981 -- including a foray into religious music which shows up here in several choral pieces (although only the first is awful). On the other hand, her piano is often wonderful, especially on "A Grand Night for Swinging" (title of one of her best albums). B+(*)

Old music:

Georg Graewe/Ernest Reijseger/Gerry Hemingway: Continuum (2005 [2006], Winter & Winter): Piano-cello-drums trio, the cello pointing toward chamber jazz, the percussionist cleverly working his way around the edges, careful not to push too hard. B+(*)


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Jeffrey Lewis & the Voltage: Bad Wiring (2019, Don Giovanni): [r]: [was: B+(***)] A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Carol Albert: Stronger Now (Cahara) [01-30]
  • Frank Colón: Latin Lounge (Technoprimal Music) [01-01]
  • Elena Gilliam/Michael Le Van: Then Another Turns (Blujazz)
  • Danny Lerman: Ice Cat (Blujazz)

Monday, November 18, 2019


Music Week

November archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 32371 [32345] rated (+26), 221 [221] unrated (+0).

I've been dreading this date for more than a month now. I should be feeling relief that the worst-case scenario has been avoided, but I'm still feeling pretty shaken and tattered. Thought I'd celebrate by rustling up a fairly simple dinner on Tuesday -- a big pot of paella plus something for dessert -- for a small group, figuring that's the one thing I can still depend on my competency for. But at the moment I'm feeling overwhelmed by pressing work -- including lots of things I've been putting off.

Indeed, I had quite a bit I wanted to write about here, but will have to cut very short. One thing that will seem obvious from the list below is that Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide: November 2019 came out on Wednesday. As the column currently depends on paid subscribers, I've held back the grade schematic from previous news rolls, but I will note a few things here: three pick hits are albums I previously graded A- (Raphael Saadiq: Jimmy Lee; Rachid Taha: Je Suis Africain; Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy!). Three more I came up short on, but revised my grades below: Kim Gordon: No Home Record; Sonic Youth: Battery Park; and That Dog: Old LP. I don't often change my grades after a Christgau review -- the only other time it's happened this year was The Coathangers: The Devil You Know.

My initial assessments of the first two were pretty close to the mark, but at the time I didn't feel like giving them the extra play they needed, and took that as a sign. That left one new record I hadn't gotten to (Ed Sheeran's -- well, more if you count the HMs, where I struck out), and two old ones where I was familiar with the music from other packages: I have two Spaniels CDs on Collectables which match the 2-CD Jasmine compilation closely, and I've heard all of the music on the 8-CD Bud Powell bargain box -- my previous grades (I have the two Trio albums on Roost combined on a single Roulette CD):

  1. Bud Powell Trio (1951) -- in The Bud Powell Trio Plays (1947-53, Roulette) [A-]
  2. The Amazing Bud Powell (1951) -- (1949-51, Blue Note) [A]
  3. The Amazing Bud Powell Volume 2 (1953) -- (1951-53, Blue Note) [A-]
  4. Bud Powell Trio Volume 2 (1953) -- in The Bud Powell Trio Plays (1947-53, Roulette) [A-]
  5. The Amazing Bud Powell Volume 3: Bud! (1957) -- (1957, Blue Note) [B+]
  6. The Amazing Bud Powell Volume 4: Time Waits (1958) -- (1958, Blue Note) [A-]
  7. Blues in the Closet (1958) -- (1956, Verve) [B+(**)]
  8. The Amazing Bud Powell Volume 5: The Scene Changes (1959) -- (1958, Blue Note) [A-]

I should note that my 2019 ratings and music tracking files have continued to grow (927 new releases rated so far, 3167 records listed). I've also done a very preliminary sort of my top-rated jazz and non-jazz records, showing 67 A/A- jazz records vs. 54 non-jazz. Last year at this time the split was 46-46, which I noted at the time was unusually balanced. Not easy to dig up stats on previous years, but I suspect 2016 was more typical, with a 61-41 jazz/non-jazz split. In most years, the numbers eventually even out, but I typically hold off on non-jazz records until I see them show up in EOY lists. One thing I should emphasize here is that the current lists are a first pass, and I expect the rank order to shift a lot in the near future. The other thing is that I will keep adding to (and otherwise reshuffling) those two files well into 2020 (as I've done in years past).

I should also note that my metacritic list is still growing. I started this file with mid-year lists, then added points based on grades (mostly as reported by AOTY and Metacritic). I don't have any actual EOY lists factored in (the first usually show up just before Thanksgiving, so . . . next week), but have added new records as they come out. First place has tottered between Sharon Van Etten and Billie Eilish all years, with Van Etten recently back on top. If I had time, I'd speculate on where I see the EOY lists going, based on this research (factoring in certain data artifacts), but will have to skip that for now.

Final point I wanted to make is that Francis Davis is running his 14th Annual Jazz Critics Poll, and once again I'll try to help out. I also don't have time to speculate on likely standings there -- indeed, I've given the subject very little thought, and doubt my metacritic file sheds much light on it at this point. One thing I do want to pass along from the invite letter is this:

One last request. I need your help to expand the poll's voter base. If you can recommend any writers, bloggers, broadcasters, or podcasters you believe are qualified but believe I've overlooked, please let me know as soon as possible.

I'd be happy to forward any critic nominations.


New records reviewed this week:

Lolly Allen: Coming Home (2016 [2019], OA2): Vibraphone player, based in Los Angeles, first album, opens with Horace Silver's "The Hippest Cat in Hollywood," closes with "Bebop," wrote two songs and her trumpet player Carl Saunders added one called "Lolly's Folly." B+(*) [cd]

Jon Batiste: Anatomy of Angels: Live at the Village Vanguard (2018 [2019], Verve): New Orleans pianist, calls his band Stay Human, culled six nights of sets down to this slab of vinyl. Three originals, an arrangement of "Round Midnight," and a short bit of "The Very Thought of You," sung by Rachael Price -- a standout moment, along with Tiven Pennicott's tenor sax blast. B+(*)

Jon Batiste: Chronology of a Dream: Live at the Village Vanguard (2018 [2019], Verve): A second helping from the six-night stand, also vinyl-sized. B+(*)

Gerald Cleaver & Violet Hour: Live at Firehouse 12 (2019, Sunnyside): Drummer from Detroit, complains he's "been unfairly pigeonholed as a free jazz player for much of his career," strikes back with an unabashed hard bop sextet, reassembling a group he first led in 2008: JD Allen (tenor sax), Andrew Bishop (bass clarinet, soprano & tenor sax), Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Ben Waltzer (bass), Chris Lightcap (bass). Good blowing session, especially for Allen. B+(**)

The DIVA Jazz Orchestra: DIVA + the Boys (2017 [2019], MCG Jazz): Drummer Sherrie Maricle conceived this as an all-female big band back in the 1990s, eighth album here following 2017's 25th Anniversary Project. The "boys" are guests Ken Peplowski (clarinet), Claudio Roditi (trumpet), Jay Ashby (trombone), and Marty Ashby (guitar). B+(*) [cd]

DJ Shadow: Our Pathetic Age (2019, Mass Appeal, 2CD): Josh Davis, 1996 Endtroducing was a brilliant debut, 2002 The Private Press still a staple in my travel case. I hear occasional echoes here, among the beats on the mostly instrumental first disc. Second disc offers a parade of rappers, fine enough individually, can't say they add up to much more. B+(**)

FKA Twigs: Magdalene (2019, Young Turks): British crooner-songwriter Tahliah Barnett, second album, producers are often well known electronica artists -- Nicholas Jaar, Daniel Lopatin, Skrillex, Cashmere Cat -- but leans toward torchy ballads. B

Gauche: A People's History of Gauche (2016-18 [2019], Merge): DC band, second album, singers Mary Jane Regalado and Daniele Yandel come from other notable bands (Downtown Boys and Priests). A reviewer I saw was reminded of Devo and B-52s, but for me the saxophone can only mean X-Ray Spex. Not quite that good, of course. B+(***)/p>

Charles Gayle/Giovanni Barcella/Manolo Cabras: The Alto Sessions (2017 [2019], El Negocito): Free jazz saxophonist, spiritual kin to Albert Ayler, played on the streets of New York before eeking out a career on obscure jazz labels. Recorded this one in Belgium, with locals on drums and bass (Barcella originally from Italy), and as the title suggests, plays alto instead of his usual tenor. Also plays some piano. B+(**) [bc]

Ben Goldberg: Good Day for Cloud Fishing (2017 [2019], Pyroclastic): Clarinet player, mostly trio with Nels Cline (guitar) and Ron Miles (trumpet), with Dean Young (poems) also featured on the cover -- inspiration for the music and fodder for the print package, but not an obvious connection. B

Laura Jurd: Stepping Back, Jumping In (2019, Edition): British trumpet player, leads the group Dinosaur, who play here as well as a string quartet and extra odds and ends -- trombone, euphonium, santoor, banjo, electronics. The strings are modern/abstract, don't do much for me, but other spots take off. B

Kneebody: Chapters (2018-19 [2019], Edition): Fusion band, based in Brooklyn, eighth studio album since 2005: Ben Wendel (tenor sax), Shane Endsley (trumpet), Adam Benjamin (keyboards), and Nate Wood (bass/drums), plus various guests, including four vocalists. Not much to start, but gets much better when after guests Josh Dion and Kaveh Rastegar add some bent skronk to "Hearts Won't Break," and hits the occasional moment thereafter. B+(*)

Kodian Trio: III (2019, Trost): Avant-jazz trio: Colin Webster (alto sax), Dirk Serries (electric guitar), and Andrew Lisle (drums). Third album, five pieces ("I" through "V"), cut this on a day off while touring Netherlands. Fairly intense free-for-all. B+(***)

Konstrukt + Ken Vandermark: Kozmik Bazaar (2018 [2019], Karlrecords): Turkish avant-jazz group (alto sax/guitar/bass/drums), two dozen or so albums since 2008, many featuring guests who wandered their way -- Marshall Allen, Peter Brötzmann, and Evan Parker each appeared on 2011 albums, so this paring was almost inevitable. The guest contributes to the free thrash, but doesn't stand out as much as expected -- though that's probably his clarinet on the closing space excursion. B+(**)

Liquid Quintet [Agusti Fernandez/Artur Majewski/Albert Cirera/Rafal Mazur/Ramon Prats]: Flux (2017 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): Barcelona pianist Agustí Fernández, prolific since 1986, has recorded as The Liquid Trio before, with Albert Cirera (saxes) and Ramon Prats (drums), adds Artur Majewski (trumpet) and Rafal Mazur (bass) here. B+(**) [bc]

Made to Break: F4 Fake (2017 [2019], Trost): Ken Vandermark project, seventh group album since 2011, with the leader on reeds, Christof Kurzmann (electronics), Jasper Stadhouders (bass, guitar), and Tim Daisy (drums). Three longish pieces, Vandearmark impressive as ever, the noise around him conducive. A-

Rachel Musson/Pat Thomas/Mark Sanders: Shifa: Live at Cafe Oto (2019, 577): British saxophone/piano/drums trio (tenor/soprano), Musson impressed me on Federico Ughi's Transoceanico. She impressed again here, and the pianist starts out sparkling, but this free improv does wear a bit. B+(**)

Bob Ravenscroft & Inner Journeys: Phantasmagoria (2019, OA2): Piano-bass-drums trio, 25 short improv pieces, with Dwight Kilian (bass) and Rob Moore (piano). Ravenscroft did a couple of albums 1982-83, not much since. B+(*) [cd]

Bria Skonberg: Nothing Never Happens (2019, self-released): Canadian trumpet player, also sings -- hype sheet cites Louis Armstrong and Anita O'Day as models, but also describes her voice as "smoky." Sixth album starts sultry, offers some blues, a rather avant instrumental, then turns "Bang Bang" into a standard. B+(***)

SLD Trio: El Contorno Del Espacio (2018 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): Argentine piano-bass-drums trio: Paula Shocron, German Lamonega, Pablo Diaz. Shifts around, including some strong free passages. B+(**) [bc]

Tierney Sutton Band: ScreenPlay (2019, BFM Jazz): Jazz singer, mostly standards, first record 1998, most records attributed to her band. These are songs from movies, originally released in five EPs corresponding to five acts, each with 3-5 songs. Some are quite striking, including "Sound of Silence" (one I normally can't stand) and "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." B+(***)

Pat Thomas and Kwashibu Area Band: Obiaa! (2019, Strut): From Ghana, a highlife star in the 1960s -- see his Coming Home 2-CD compilation), got another shot when he formed this band in 2015. This one seems to be new, but still dwells largely in the past. B+(**)

Threnody [Johan Berthling/Martin Küchen/Steve Noble]: A Paradigm of Suspicion (2018 [2019], Trost): Bass-sax-drums trio, looks like their third album together, the group namme appearing here after being part of the second album's title (Threnody, at the Gates). First album evidently listed Küchen first, as does Bandcamp page here. Free and hard. B+(***)

Jonah Tolchin: Fires for the Cold (2019, Yep Roc): Singer-songwriter from New Jersey, fourth album, 2014's Clover Lane was the one that got my attention. He remains a thoughtful songwriter, but shies away from grabbing you. B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Future: Monster (2014 [2019], Freebandz): Nayvadius Cash, rapper, released a bunch of mixtapes from 2010, this his 13th in five years, but one of the first to get widely noticed. Reissued for streaming. B+(***)

ICP Orchestra: ICP Orchestra in Albuquerque: The Outpost Performance Space, March 17th, 2003 (2003 [2019], ICP): Justly famous Dutch avant big band (11 pieces), initials stand for Instant Composers Pool, founded 1967 and led until recently by pianist Misha Mengelberg, just started trawling through their vault tapes for lost treasures. Meanders, sometimes brilliantly. B+(**) [bc]

Old music:

Charles Gayle/Giovani Barcella/Manolo Cabras: Live in Belgium (2015 [2017], El Negocito): One of the grand old avant tenor saxophonists goes to Belgium, picks up local drummer and bassist, and does what he's often done, for an often stunning series of righteous riffs. Plays some piano too, as sigular as his sax. B+(***) [bc]


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Kim Gordon: No Home Record (2019, Matador): [r]: [was: B+(***)] A-
  • Sonic Youth: Battery Park, NYC, July 4th 2008 (2008 [2019], Matador): [r]: [was: B+(***)] A-
  • That Dog: Old LP (2019, UMe): [r]: [was: B+(**)]: A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Georg Graewe/Ernest Reijseger/Gerry Hemingway: Kammern I-V (2009, Auricle)
  • Isabelle Olivier/Rez Abbasi: OASIS (Enja/Yellowbird) [12-06]
  • Sonar With David Torn: Tranceportation (Volume 1) (RareNoise): cdr [11-29]

Sunday, November 17, 2019


Weekend Roundup

Once again, no time for introduction.


Some scattered links this week:

  • Zeeshan Aleem: Trump just issued multiple war crime pardons. Experts think it's a bad idea.

  • Andrew Bacevich: Trump isn't really trying to end America's wars.

  • David Bromwich: The medium is the mistake: Review of James Poniewozik: Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America, and Matt Taibbi: Hate Inc.: Why Today's Media Makes Us Despise One Another. I got a lot out of the former book, and think it gets raked unfairly here -- not that I won't give Bromwich a couple of his points (The Beverly Hillbillies, Playboy). I've seen some parts of Taibbi's book, but didn't read them closely, and don't have a clear picture of the whole. Taibbi's first book on campaigning, Spanking the Donkey, was very sharp, not just on the candidates but on the press covering them (that's where he wrote up his Wimblehack brackets). Since then he's developed his own idiosyncratic version of "fair and balanced" centrism, which sometimes wears my patience thin. By the way, Bromwich has a recent book I hadn't noticed, but should take a look at: American Breakdown: The Trump Years and How They Befell Us. I'm also intrigued by parts of his earlier Moral Imagination: Essays. Just to pick one almost random quote from the latter's preface:

    We ought to describe as "terrorist" any act of deliberate violence that compasses the deaths of innocent persons in order to achieve a political end. State terror, such as Britain practiced in Kenya, Russia in Chechnya and the U.S. in Iraq -- state terror, as exemplified by our own state among others -- differs morally in no way from the terror of the people we are in the habit of calling terrorists. Moral imagination affirms the kinship in evil of these two sorts of violence.

  • Laura Bult/Liz Scheltens: America's wilderness is for sale.

  • Jonathan Chait:

  • Isaac Chotiner: How a Trump administration proposal could worsen public health: "Now, the Trump administration has proposed a new measure that would limit the research that the Environmental Protection Agency can use when regulating public health." Interview with Douglas Dockery.

  • Jason Del Rey: The Seattle politician Amazon tried to oust has declared victory: Kshama Sawant.

  • Masha Gessen:

  • David Graeber: Against economics: Review of Robert Skidelsky: Money and Government: The Past and Future of Economics. Skidelsky is best known as Keynes' biographer, and wrote what was for all intents and purposes Keynes' reply to the 2008 collapse (Keynes: The Return of the Master), but seems to venture further here -- which Graeber, an anarchist-anthropologist whose most famous book was called Debt, applauds. Lots of interesting points here, including a discussion of money which echoes some points Art Protin's tried to convince me of last week. Of course, the following nugget helped convince me they're on solid ground:

    Surely there's nothing wrong with creating simplified models. Arguably, this is how any science of human affairs has to proceed. But an empirical science then goes on to test those models against what people actually do, and adjust them accordingly. This is precisely what economists did not do. Instead, they discovered that, if one encased those models in mathematical formulae completely impenetrable to the noninitiate, it would be possible to create a universe in which those premises could never be refuted. . . .

    The problem, as Skidelsky emphasizes, is that if your initial assumptions are absurd, multiplying them a thousandfold will hardly make them less so. Or, as he puts it, rather less gently, "lunatic premises lead to mad conclusions." . . .

    Economic theory as it exists increasingly resembles a shed full of broken tools. This is not to say there are no useful insights here, but fundamentally the existing discipline is designed to solve another century's problems. The problem of how to determine the optimal distribution of work and resources to create high levels of economic growth is simply not the same problem we are now facing: i.e., how to deal with increasing technological productivity, decreasing real demand for labor, and the effective management of care work, without also destroying the Earth. This demands a different science.

  • Michael M Grynbaum: Blloomberg's teamcalls his crude remarks on women 'wrong'.

  • Jeet Heer: The foreign policy establishment is hijacking impeachment. Trump has done hundreds of things that I would be happy to impeach him for, but to be real, impeachment needs a broad consensus, and the FPE has expanded that from roughly half of the Democrats in the House to all of them. So that puts them first in line to level charges, even if they pick a few that I wouldn't prioritize.

  • Sean Illing:

    • The post-truth prophets: "Postmodernism predicted our post-truth hellscape. Everyone still hates it." Not his usual interview, although it's likely he's done interviews in this vein. I stopped paying attention to social theory around 1975, so I missed Lyotard's 1979 book where he coined the term postmodernism -- I did read precursors like Baudrillard, Foucault, and Lacan, but can't say as I ever got much out of them. The term meant nothing to me for a long time, before I came up with my own definition, using it to describe a world that had lost all sense of direction -- the one thing modernism promised -- and therefore let any damn thing go. I saw this most clearly in architecture, eventually in other arts, but it always remained something of a grab bag. What it might possibly mean for politics is especially hard to pin down, maybe because none of the rival claimants for a modernist politics ever got close to their intrinsic limits.

    • Did Trump just commit witness tampering? I asked 7 legal experts. "Probably not, but here's why it likely doesn't matter anyway."

    • Why we need a more forgiving legal system: Interview with Martha Minow, author of When Should Law Forgive?

  • Alex Isenstadt: Louisiana delivers Trump a black eye: "The president lost two of three gubernatorial elections in conservative Southern states, raising questions about his standing heading into 2020." Louisiana just re-elected Democrat John Bel Edwards to a second term as governor.

  • Molly Jong-Fast: Why Trump attacked Marie Yovanovitch: "He can't help but go after women, even when doing so hurts his cause."

  • Ed Kilgore:

    • Warren proposes two-step plan to implement Medicare for All. I see this as a fair and reasoned bow to the inevitable, not that I have any problem with Sanders sticking with his full-blown plan: how to get there matters, but not as much as knowing where you want to go. I could imagine even more steps along the way. M4A faces two major challenges: one is the money that is currently paid to private insurance companies over to the public program (most of that money is controlled by employers, who would like to keep it themselves); the other is getting the providers integrated into the M4A network, preferably on terms that allow M4A to better manage costs without reducing service. Warren's "head tax" is one way of dealing with the former (not an ideal solution, but should work as a bridge gap). Few people talk about the latter, probably because Medicare already has a large service network, but even there Advantage plans limit the network, and similar limits are common with private insurance plans. On the other hand, M4A would be more efficient (which is to say affordable) if providers dealt exclusively with it. I think this opens up three ideas that I've never seen really discussed. The first key is realizing that for well into the future private insurers will still be able to sell supplemental insurance plans. I'm on Medicare, but I still buy a "Medigap" private health insurance policy, which picks up virtually all of the deductibles and miscellaneous charges Medicare sticks you with. Sanders wants to eliminate all of those charges, but anything short of his plan will leave the insurance companies a viable market. Most practical implementations of M4A will leave a role for supplemental insurance. Doesn't this imply that M4A won't totally end the need for private insurance, but will simply shift it from primary to supplemental coverage? This opens up another way to incrementally shift to M4A: start by insuring everyone for certain conditions, and expand that list as you build up a general tax base to support it (part of the tax could be on private insurance premiums, which could be cost-neutral for the insurance companies). Some obvious candidates for the initial list: ER trauma, vaccinations, pre-natal care and deliveries. Another idea would be to start investing more funds into non-profit provider networks (which could be built around existing public providers, like the VA). Under M4A Medicaid wouldn't be needed as a second-class insurer, but could be repurposed to build affordable and accessible clinics, which would compete effectively with for-profit providers, and thereby help manage costs.

    • Bevin concedes after Republicans decline to help him steal the election.

    • Deval Patrick is officially running for President. Two-term governor of Massachusetts, a black politician who's open for business, so much so that after politics he went to work for Mitt Romney's vulture capital firm, Bain Capital. I recall that Thomas Frank, in Listen, Liberal: Or What Ever Happened to the Part of the People, looked past the Clintons to single Patrick out, along with Andrew Cuomo and Rahm Emmanuel, as prominent Democrats always eager to sell out to business interests. Patrick's hat in the ring tells us that certain donors are spooked by Warren and Sanders, are convinced Biden will collapse, realize that none of the Senators (Booker, Harris, Klobuchar) have attracted enough interest, and doubt Buttigieg can expand beyond his niche. Those donors have been pushing several names recently, including Bloomberg (who has even more negatives), but Patrick is the first to nibble. The problem is that unless you're looking for financial favors, it's hard to see any reason for anyone to pick Patrick over anyone else in the middle of the Democratic Party road. Also on Patrick: Matt Taibbi: Deval Patrick's candidacy is another chapter in the Democrats' 2020 clown car disaster.

    • Nikki Haley's skillful and opportunistic MAGA balancing act: "Once again, Nikki Haley has figured out how to keep herself in the news as a potential Trump-Pence successor while declaring her Trumpist loyalties."

    • Is Buttigieg's presidential bid buoyed by male privilege? Amy Klobuchar seems to think so. I don't doubt that lots of people have lots of prejudices governing their preferences, but such a claim isn't going to change anything. Among moderate ("no we can't") candidates, maybe Buttigieg and Biden have advantages other than sex -- one's an old establishment figure, the other is a complete outsider not tainted by past failures. Besides, didn't Hillary break the "glass ceiling" for wimpy moderates (at least in the Democratic primaries)? You could just as well argue that Cory Booker hasn't taken off due to white privilege, but Obama didn't seem to have that problem.

  • German Lopez:

  • Alec MacGillis: The case against Boeing. Specifically, regarding the 737 MAX. One can make lots of other cases against Boeing, perhaps not all "proving that the company put profit over safety," but profit is never far from management's thinking.

  • Ian Millhiser: 3 ways the Supreme Court could decide DACA's fate.

  • Andrew Prokop:

  • Emily Raboteau: Lessons in survival: Review of two books: Elizabeth Rush: Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, and Gilbert M Gaul: The Geography of Risk: Epic Storms, Rising Seas, and the Cost of America's Coasts.

    Both make the controversial case for managed retreat as our best defense, given the scale of the problem. This approach calls for withdrawing rather than rebuilding after disasters, and would include government buyout programs to finance the resettlement of homeowners from vulnerable areas.

  • Robert Reich: Warren doesn't just frighten billionaires -- she scares the whole establishment.

  • David Roberts: With impeachment, America's epistemic crisis as arrived: "Can the right-wing machine hold the base in an alternate reality long enough to get through the next election?"

    They [the right] are working with a few key tools and advantages. The first is a strong tendency, especially among low-information, relatively disengaged voters (and political reporters), to view consensus as a signal of legitimacy. It's an easy and appealing heuristic: If something is a good idea, it would have at least a few people from both sides supporting it. That's why "bipartisan" has been such a magic word in US politics this century, even as the reality of bipartisanship has faded.

    Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell was very canny in recognizing this tendency and working it it ruthlessly to his advantage. He realized before Obama ever set foot in office that if he could keep Republicans unified in opposition, refusing any cooperation on anything, he could make Obama appear "polarizing." His great insight, as ruthlessly effective as it was morally bankrupt, was that he could unilaterally deny Obama the ability to be a uniter, a leader, or a deal maker. Through nothing but sheer obstinance, he could make politics into an endless, frustrating, fruitless shitshow, diminishing both parties in voters' eyes.

    This is what Republicans need more than anything on impeachment: for the general public to see it as just another round of partisan squabbling, another illustration of how "Washington" is broken. They need to prevent any hint of bipartisan consensus from emerging.

    Roberts refers to several previous articles, worth collecting here, starting with his own:

  • Aaron Rupar:

  • Dominic Rushe: Boo-hoo billionaires: why America's super-wealthy are afraid for 2020.

  • Dylan Scott: Trump's big veterans health care plan has hit a snag. The "big plan" is to privatize health care services for veterans who don't live close enough to heavily used VA facilities. Once again, the privateers have overestimated the competency of the private sector, and underestimated its rapacity.

  • Emily Stewart: "ok billionaire": Elizabeth Warren is leaning into her billionaire battle.

  • Matt Stieb:

  • Jim Tankersley/Peter Eavis/Ben Casselman: How FedEx cut its tax bill to $0: "The company, like much of corporate America, has not made good on its promised investment surge from President Trump's 2017 tax cuts."

  • Peter Wade: 'You're done': Conservative radio host fired mid-show for criticizing Trump.

  • Alex Ward: The one big policy change 2020 Democrats want to make for veterans, explained.

  • Matthew Yglesias:

Monday, November 11, 2019


Music Week

November archive (in progress).

Current count 32345 [32307] rated (+38), 221 [220] unrated (+1).

Pressure continues to build on my psych crisis. Hoped for a break today, but may have underestimated the holiday. Maybe tomorrow? I've been in a rut for nearly a month, getting damn little done. Still, might as well knock this out. Don't actually have much to say about it, anyway.

Next week will either be much better . . . or worse.


New records reviewed this week:

Ben Allison/Steve Cardenas/Ted Nash: Quiet Revolution (2015 [2018], Sonic Camera): Bass/guitar/tenor sax, also some clarinet. Same trio as Nash's later Somewhere Else, but artists listed here as above, the mix favoring the bass, and indeed this one is on his label. One song from each, covers from Jim Hall (6) and Jimmy Giuffre (2), closing with "Love Theme From Spartacus." [CD reissue; first appeared vinyl-only 2016 on Newvelle.] B+(***)

Byron Asher: Byron Asher's Skrontch Music (2018 [2019], Sinking City): From New Orleans, plays clarinet and tenor sax, first album, organized a ten-piece ensemble to play around excerpts from oral history recordings, giving it a trad jazz reference even when the music is aggressively postmodern. B+(**)

The Bad Plus: Activate Infinity (2019, Edition): Piano trio, founded in 2000 by Reid Anderson (bass), Dave King (drums), and Ethan Iverson (piano) -- replaced in 2017 by Orrin Evans, a star in his own right. B+(**)

Kenny Barron & Mulgrew Miller: The Art of Piano Duo: Live (2005-11 [2019], Sunnyside, 3CD): Two pianists, three encounters, the first in Marciac in 2005, the others in Zurich in 2011, two years before Miller (the junior partner by 15 years) died. Barron is famous as an educator, and playing along with students is part of his shtick, but few are as gifted as Miller. The pair merge together so seamlessly it's rarely clear who's playing what -- indeed, the occasional solo can be hard to detect. Endlessly entertaining. Dare I say flawless? A-

Harold Danko/Kirk Knuffke: Play Date (2018 [2019], SteepleChase): Piano and cornet duo. Alternates Duke Jordan songs with jointly-credited originals, cycling through "Flight to Denmark" three times. B+(***)

David Friesen Circle 3 Trio: Interaction (2018 [2019], Origin, 2CD): Bassist, also plays piano (four tracks here), notable as a composer, has close to 50 albums since 1975. Trio with Joe Manis (tenor/soprano sax) and Charlie Doggett (drums), more free than I expected. B+(***) [cd] [11-15]

Andy Fusco: Vortex (2017 [2019], SteepleChase): Alto saxophonist, played with Buddy Rich 1978-83, debut album in 1996, now has four albums on the Danish label since 2016. This is a septet, with Walt Weiskopf (tenor sax -- another Rich alumnus Fusco recorded a 2006 album with, Tea for Two), Joe Magnarelli (trumpet), John Mosca (trombone), Peter Zak (piano), bass and drums. B+(**)

Mary Halvorson & John Dieterich: A Tangle of Stars (2018 [2019], New Amsterdam): Guitar duo, she recently won a MacArthur Genius Grant, he best known as a long-term member of Deerhoof, although this isn't his first side project with jazz musicians. B+(**)

Kevin Hays/Mark Turner/Marc Miralta: Where Are You (2018 [2019], Fresh Sound New Talent): Piano/tenor sax/drums, all write original pieces, plus they cover Charlie Parker and Ornette Coleman. Turner is as solid as ever, while the pianist adds some spice. B+(***)

Zlatko Kaucic Quintet: Morning Patches (2018 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): Slovenian Drummer, credited with "ground sounds" here, couple dozen albums since 1994, quintet members get "feat." credit on cover: Michael Moore (alto sax/clarinet), Marco Colonna (clarinet/bass clarinet), Albert Cirera (tenor sax), Silvia Bolognesi (bass). B+(*) [bc]

Michael Kiwanuka: Kiwanuka (2019, Polydor): British singer-songwriter, born in London, parents from Uganda, don't think I accept his classification as "indie folk," but don't see many other pigeonholes. Third album, a star in UK, still a curiosity here. B+(*)

Kronos Quartet: Terry Riley: Sun Rings (2019, Nonesuch): String quartet, more than 40 albums since 1979, including various forays into jazz and world music as well as modern/postmodern classical -- this looks like their fourth Terry Riley album. The strings tend to be scruffier than Riley's usual electronics, which is OK by me, but I'm less taken by the choir. B

Travis Laplante: Human (2018 [2019], New Amsterdam): Tenor saxophonist, best known for his sax quartet Battle Trance, goes solo here, with various effects, including circular breathing his way into air raid siren territory. B

Jeffrey Lewis & the Voltage: Bad Wiring (2019, Don Giovanni): New York folkie, started out drawing comic books, fifteen years later he goes to Nashville, gets a producer, and rocks harder than ever. Good opening song, a surefire single on "LPs" (advice: "if it's cheap there's less chance you'll regret it"), tails off a bit toward the end. B+(***)

Joe Morris & Evan Parker: The Village (2014 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): Guitar and sax duo, the latter switching between soprano and tenor. A bit scratchy, which is what Morris does best. B+(**) [bc]

Ted Nash/Steve Cardenas/Ben Allison: Somewhere Else: West Side Story Songs (2019, Plastic Sax): Sax/guitar/bass, the former listed first in larger type. Can't say as the songs mean much to me, but nicely done. B+(**)

One O'Clock Lab Band: Lab 2019 (2019, North Texas Jazz): As you probably know by now, University of North Texas has one of the largest and most successful jazz programs anywhere (in the USA) outside of the Boston-New York corridor. This is their big band class, directed by Alan Blaylock, and their section work and arranging are pretty sharp. Also note that the vocal cut, with Marion Powers, is a highlight. B+(*) [cd] [11-22]

Evan Parker/Lotte Anker/Torben Snekkestad: Inferences (2016 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): Sax trio, not an auspicious lineup as all three play soprano, with minor switches helping (Anker to tenor sax, Snekkestad to trumpet), but not often enough. Two pieces, 41:00. B+(*) [bc]

Marta Sánchez Quintet: El Rayo De Luz (2019, Fresh Sound New Talent): Spanish pianist (not the singer who outranks her on Google), based in New York, handful of albus since 2008, third quintet effort, with Chris Cheek (tenor sax) joining mainstays Roman Filiu (alto sax), Rick Rosato (bass), and Daniel Dor (drums). Sneaks up on you, with one of Cheek's finest outings. A- [cd] [11-22]

Sirkis/Bialas IQ: Our New Earth (2018 [2019], Moonjune, 2CD): IQ stands for International Quartet, led Israeli drummer Asaf Sirkis and Polish singer Sylwia Bialas, with Frank Harrison (keyboards) and Kevin Glasgow (electric bass) -- both from UK, which appears to be where Sirkis and Bialas are based, although the latter identifies as Scottish. Folkish, has a dark, brooding beauty. B+(**) [cd]

That Dog: Old LP (2019, UMe): Alt-rock group from LA (1991-97), singer-songwriter Anna Waronker, two of Charlie Haden's daughters, and a drummer. Cut three albums before breaking up. After some solo albums, regrouped recently (minus Petra Haden) and finally came up with this new album (title a nostalgic song). B+(**)

Jeremy Udden: Three in Paris (2018 [2019], Sunnyside): Postbop saxophonist (alto/soprano), from Massachusetts, based in New York, half-dozen albums since 2006. Thinking about Steve Lacy here, backed by Nicolas Moreaux (bass) and John Betsch (drums). "Bone" is a highlight, thanks to a Latin twist. B+(***)

Michael Zilber: East West: Music for Big Bands (2018 [2019], Origin, 2CD): Saxophonist, originally from Vancouver, BC, moved to Boston, New York, later San Francisco. He's assembled two big bands here, one in San Francisco, the other in New York, and gives each a full disc, writing four pieces on each, adding covers ranging from "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." B+(*) [cd] [11-15]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Bulawayo Blue Yodel (1950s [2019], Olvido): "High lonesome sounds from 1950s Zimbabwe, Kenya, and South Africa" -- "14 lost classics . . . all reissued for the first time from original 78rpm discs." The reference to bluegrass isn't too far fetched, but older and more exotic folk forms, lending with something that sounds Hawaiian. Extensive notes are promised. B+(**) [bc]

Lloyd McNeill: Treasures (1975 [2019], Soul Jazz): Flute player, emerged around 1969 playing an intimate pan-African soul jazz, developed further here in a meeting with Brazilians -- Dom Salvador (piano), Portinho (drums), Ray Armando (percussion) -- backed by bass (Cecil McBee) and more drums (Brian Blake). B+(**)

Lee Moses: How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles and Rarities 1965-1972 (1965-72 [2019], Light in the Attic): Soul man from Georgia, released his only album in 1971 (Time and Place, also the title of a 2007 compilation). This pulls his early singles together, including a couple before he really found his voice. B+(**) [bc]

Phil Ranelin: Collected Works 2003-2019 (2003-19 [2019], Wide Hive, 2CD): Trombonist, born in Indianapolis, moved to Detroit in the 1960s, co-founding Tribe in 1971, and later moved on to Los Angeles, hit 80 this year. I discovered his 1970s records when they were reissued (along with a Remixes) by Hefty c. 2002. That rejumped his career, leading to the 5 records that are sampled here, evidently with 3 or 4 new tracks. Various lineups, especially strong at sax -- Pharoah Sanders is most readily recognized, Kamasi Washington is another powerhouse -- and percussion. A-

Tribe: Hometown: Detroit Sessions 1990-2014 (1990-2004 [2019], Art Yard/Strut): Jazz collective founded in 1971 by Wendell Harrison (reeds) and Phil Ranelin (trombone), with Marcus Belgrave (trumpet) perhaps the best known. Ran their own label 1972-76, with various comebacks and throwbacks over the years, including the album Rebirth in 2009. Not clear that this should should be regarded as a named group: Harrison only appears on 6 (of 10) tracks, as does Harold McKinney (piano/vocals). Belgrave is on 4 (as is Pamela Wise, piano/vocals), Ranelin only 2. B+(***)

Old music:

Ben Allison: The Stars Look Very Different Today (2013, Sonic Camera): Bassist, one of the few jazz composers to impress me enough to write his name in that slot on ballots. After nine Palmetto albums set up his own label and made his records scarce. This is a quartet, moves into fusion territory with two guitarists (Steve Cardenas and Brandon Seabrook), plus Allison Miller on drums. B+(*)

Ben Allison: Layers of the City (2017, Sonic Camera): With Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Steve Cardenas (guitar), Matt Kimbrough (piano), and Allan Mednard (drums). B+(**)

Harold Danko: After the Rain (1994 [1995], SteepleChase): Pianist, from Ohio, debut album in 1974, joined this Danish label in 1993. This is his second album there, solo piano, a set of John Coltrane songs. B+(**)

Harold Danko Quartet: Tidal Breeze (1995-96 [1997], SteepleChase): Pianist-led quartet, cut several albums in the 1990s, with Rich Perry on tenor sax, Scott Colley on bass, and Jeff Hirshfield on drums. Strong performances all around. B+(***)

Lloyd McNeill and Marshall Hawkins: Tanner Suite (1969 [2015], Universal Sound): Flute and bass duo. Four ten-minute pieces, hold your interest. B+(*)

Lee Moses: Time and Place (1971, Maple): First and only album, nine tracks (33:20) of exceptionally gritty soul, even if some of the covers aren't promising ("California Dreaming," "Hey Joe"). B+(***)

Phil Ranelin: A Close Encounter of the Very Best Kind (1996, Lifeforce): Not much in the trombonist's catalog between his stint with Freddie Hubbard (1979-80) and his revival after 2002 -- one 1986 album, and this trio plus guests -- title cut expands the band to nine, including congas and Steve Turre's conch shell. B+(***)

Phil Ranelin: Living a New Day (2005, Wide Hive): Trombonist, band has two guitars, keys, bass, vibraphone, and drums. Vocal on the title cut is a strong message for peace. Grooves hard, with two alternate takes -- underscoring how good that title piece is. B+(**)

Phil Ranelin & Tribe Renaissance: Reminiscence: Live! (2009, Wide Hive): Discogs has nothing on this release, but AMG offers a lineup: Ranelin (trombone), George Harper Jr (tenor/baritone sax), Carl Randall Jr (tenor sax), Zane Musa (alto sax), Louis Van Taylor (clarinet, flute, alto flute), Keith Fiddmont (flute, soprano sax), Jinshi Ozaki (guitar), Danny Grissett (organ, piano), William Henderson (piano), Nate Morgan (piano), Ryan Cross (bass), James Leary (bass), Lorca Hart (drums), Thomas White (drums), Don Littleton (congas, drums/percussion), Tambu (congas, percussion). Apt title: "Thrivin on a Groove." Closer: "Caravan." B+(***)

Phil Ranelin: Portrait in Blue (2015, Wide Hive): Where Tribe was expansive and all-inclusive, above all else a rallying of community, this is a back-to-basics move: a quintet with trombone, Pablo Calogero (on bass clarinet and tenor/soprano sax), piano, bass, and Don Littleton (drums, congas, percussion), playing bluesy material. Doesn't have the exultation of some of his other albums, but makes up for that lack in subtler ways. B+(***)

Pamela Samiha Wise: A New Message From the Tribe (2017, Tribe): Pianist, sings some, from Cleveland, moved to Detroit in 1978, married Tribe founder Wendell Harrison, wrote the last three tracks on Tribe's Hometown: Detroit Sessions. Fifth album. Emphasizes the Latin tinge in the African diaspora -- as indeed did her debut, the Jerry Gonzalez-produced Songo Festividad. B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Lolly Allen: Coming Home (OA2) [11-15]
  • The Diva Jazz Orchestra: Diva + the Boys (MCG Jazz)
  • Rozina Pátkai: Taladim (Tom-Tom)
  • Charlie Porter: Immigration Nation (OA2) [11-15]
  • Bob Ravenscroft & Inner Journeys: Phantasmagoria (OA2) [11-15]
  • Toh-Kichi: Baikamo (Libra)

Sunday, November 10, 2019


Weekend Roundup

Another "going through the motions" week, so no introduction. I noted a friend of a friend commenting that people don't realize how much time it's going to take after the 2020 election to undo the damage Trump has inflicted (and is continuing to, no doubt with a special flurry after he gets beat, including a bunch of pre-emptive pardons). This person was citing the difficulties Laura Kelly has faced since becoming governor of Kansas, but it's a general rule. For me, the best election news last week was the defeat of Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell, who spent his term making shady deals with real estate developers. One of those was to wreck McLean Boulevard, which used to hug the river from 13th North to Pawnee (23rd South), but now will have its downtown passage moved so realtors can offer exclusive river views. Unlikely that would ever have passed a public vote, but it's also unlikely that the new mayor will be able to undo the blight. Of course, a big part of Kelly's problem is that the state legislature is still controlled by Republicans. The bigger the Democratic wave in 2020, but more a new president will be able to do. But still, the task list is daunting, and growing every day.


Some scattered links this week:

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