Blog Entries [10 - 19]

Monday, March 26, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 29517 [29490] rated (+27), 367 [378] unrated (-11).

Tough week for me, although next week should be even rougher -- certainly harder to get anything done: memorial service for my sister is Saturday, March 31, and various family and friends will be arriving from Wednesday on. I'm going to try to wrap up Streamnotes early so I won't have to deal with it late in the week. In any case, it will be one of my shortest in many months, probably years. Also the grade curve seems to have slipped severely: A-list currently just two long each for new and old music, with a roughly even break. Possible, I suppose, that my personal malaise is dragging down my grade curve. Also possible I'm just not finding good tips. I will say that I gave Christgau's grade A jazz pick (Mast) four plays before I gave up on it. And I didn't find last year's Monk vault tape, Les Laisions Dangereuses 1960 any better. As for the Ornette Coleman twofer, the two Impulse albums it collects are the only official Colemans I still haven't heard.

By the way, Ram Lama Hull has set up a website for Kathy Hull, including a gallery of some of her artwork. A memorial service will be held for her at 1:00 PM at First UU, 7202 E. 21st St. N., Wichita, KS 67206.

New records rated this week:

  • Heather Bennett: Lazy Afternoon (2018, Summit): [r]: B
  • Chris Dave: Chris Dave and the Drumhedz (2018, Blue Note): [r]: B
  • Caroline Davis: Heart Tonic (2018, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dogwood: Hecate's Hounds (2018, [r]: B+(**)
  • Bill Frisell: Music IS (2017 [2018], Okeh): [r]: B+(**)
  • Gwenno: Le Kov (2018, Heavenly): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Heavyweights Brass Band: This City (2018, Lulaworld): [cd]: B+(***)
  • MAST: Thelonious Sphere Monk (2018, World Galaxy): [r]: B+(***)
  • Adam Nussbaum: The Lead Belly Project (2018, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Aruán Ortiz Trio: Live in Zürich (2016 [2018], Intakt): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Bobby Previte: Rhapsody (2017 [2018], RareNoise): [cdr]: B
  • Steve Reich: Pulse/Quartet (2018, Nonesuch): [r]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Kang Tae Hwan: Live at Café Amores (1995 [2018], NoBusiness): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Bill Warfield Big Band: For Lew (1990-2014 [2018], Planet Arts): [cd]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • The Barry Altschul Quartet: For Stu (1979 [1981], Soul Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Barry Altschul Quartet: Irina (1983, Soul Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Barry Altschul Quartet/Quintet: That's Nice (1985 [1986], Soul Note): [r]: B+(*)
  • Paul Bley/John Surman/Bill Frisell/Paul Motian: The Paul Bley Quartet (1987 [1988], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • John Surman: Such Winters of Memory (1982 [1983], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • John Surman: Withholding Pattern (1984 [1985], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • John Surman: Private City (1987 [1988], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • John Surman Quartet: Stranger Than Fiction (1993 [1994], ECM): [r]: B+(***)
  • John Surman: A Biography of the Rev. Absalom Dawe (1994 [1995], ECM): [r]: B+(***)
  • John Surman/Jack DeJohnette: Invisible Nature (2000 [2002], ECM): [r]: A-
  • John Surman: Free and Equal (2001 [2003], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • John Surman/Howard Moody: Rain on the Window (2006 [2008], ECM): [r]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Roger Kellaway Trio: New Jazz Standards Vol. 3 (Summit)
  • Otherworld Ensemble: Live at Malmitalo (Edgetone): April 3
  • Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Rogue Star (Edgetone): April 3

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Weekend Roundup

With Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster recently purged, Mike Pompeo promoted to Secretary of State, torture diva Gina Haspel taking over the CIA, and veteran blowhard John Bolton given the laughable title of National Security Adviser, the closest the administration can come to a moderating voice of sanity in foreign affairs is the guy nicknamed "Mad Dog." Trump continues to replace his first team of "yes men" with even more sycophantic wannabes, doubling down on his search for the least critical, least competent hacks in American politics. On the other hand, it's not as if delegating policy to the Republican Party apparatchiki was doing anything to accomplish his vision of "making America great again." Over the last few weeks he's not only made major strides at cleaning house, he's pushed out several of his signature trade initiatives. He seems determined to double down until he blows himself up -- and surely you realize by now the last thing he cares about is how that affects anyone else.

I don't say much about trade below, although I've probably read a dozen pieces complaining either about how ineffective his tariffs will be or how they'll lead to trade wars and other mischief that will make us poorer. The first thing to understand about trade is that business has already adjusted to whatever the status quo is, so anything that changes it is going to upset their apple cart, much faster than it's going to help anyone else out. So all restrictions on trade seem bad to someone prepared to shout out about it. On the other hand, business is eager to promote expansions to trade that offer short-term benefits, especially before anyone who's going to be hurt can get organized. So I take most of what I read with a grain of salt: not just because the dialogue is polluted by interested bodies but because it's kind of a sideshow. The question that matters is not whether there's more trade or less, but what is the power balance between capital and labor (and consumers, sure, but they're often touted by capitalists as the real beneficiaries of lower-priced imports, something capitalists wouldn't bother us with if they didn't stand to be bigger winners). The problem with TPP wasn't that it reduced trade barriers. It was that it reduced the power of people to regulate corporations, and that it sought to increase corporate rents through "intellectual property" claims.

Aside from raising tax revenues, the purpose of tariffs is to protect investment by organizing a captive, non-competitive market. However, in a world where there is already more steelmaking capacity than there is market, American steel companies won't make the investments to increase steel production. Rather, they'll reap excess profits while the tariffs last -- which probably won't be for long. Of course, that's not even what Trump's thinking. He thinks he's penalizing foreign misbehavior (like subsidizing investment then dumping overproduction). Maybe the real problem is that Americans aren't doing the same things? But there's a reason for that: we do all our business through private corporations, which workers and citizens have no stake in, so we don't even have the concept of directing investment where it might yield broad benefits.

On the other hand, note that if China decides to impose tariffs on American goods, they're likely to back those up with strategic investments to build competitive industries, temporarily protected behind those tariffs. For an example of the kind of piece I've been ignoring (but spurred some of my thinking above), see Eduardo Porter/Guilbert Gates: How Trump's Protectionism Could Backfire. Somewhat more amusing is Paul Krugman: Trump and Trade and Zombies. Also see Paul Krugman Explains Trade and Tariffs.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias: The week's 4 most important political stories, explained: John Bolton will be the national security adviser (replacing H.R. McMaster; quote: "Bolton apparently promised Trump 'he wouldn't start any wars' as a condition for getting the job, so maybe he won't"); Trump switched trade wars (first, the steel tariffs got gutted by carving out exceptions for a bunch of countries which make up a large majority of US steel imports; then Trump announced new tariffs on Chinese goods); We have an omnibus ($1.3 trillion in government spending, including a little for the wall and a lot for the military); Facebook is in hot water over data leaks (above and beyond the mischief they do of their own). Other Yglesias pieces this week:

    • The partisan gender gap among millennials is staggeringly large: "Women born after 1980 favor Democrats 70-23."

    • The case against Facebook: actually, several cases, including that it "makes people depressed and lonely," and that it's poisoning society:

      Rumors, misinformation, and bad reporting can and do exist in any medium. But Facebook created a medium that is optimized for fakeness, not as an algorithmic quirk but due to the core conception of the platform. By turning news consumption and news discovery into a performative social process, Facebook turns itself into a confirmation bias machine -- a machine that can best be fed through deliberate engineering.

      In reputable newsrooms, that's engineering that focuses on graphic selection, headlines, and story angles while maintaining a commitment to accuracy and basic integrity. But relaxing the constraint that the story has to be accurate is a big leg up -- it lets you generate stories that are well-designed to be psychologically pleasing, like telling Trump-friendly white Catholics that the pope endorsed their man, while also guaranteeing that your outlet gets a scoop.

    • Everyone loves nurses and hates Mitch McConnell.

    • The myth of "forcing people out of their cars"

    • Donald Trump's threat to the rule of law is much bigger than Robert Mueller.

  • Fred Kaplan: It's Time to Panic Now: "John Bolton's appointment as national security adviser puts us on a path to war." Bolton may or may not be the most consistent, most inflexible of neocon warmongers, but where he has really distinguished himself is in obstructing any option other than war. If he can't bully the other side into submission, he'll launch an attack, convinced of American omnipotence and oblivious to any evidence to the contrary. The job of National Security Adviser is to offer the president a range of options. Bolton sees no range, and Trump must know that. If Trump's been frustrated by being surrounded by advisers who argued against launching a "preventive" war with North Korea, he won't have any problems with Bolton.

    For more background on Bolton, see David Bosco: The World According to Bolton [PDF, originally from 2005]. More Bolton pieces:

  • Jen Kirby: The March for Our Lives, explained: "Thousands turned out for rallies in Washington, DC, and hundreds of cities across the United States."

  • Nomi Prins: Jared Kushner, You're Fired: "A Political Obituary for the President's Son-in-Law."

  • Matt Taibbi: The Legacy of the Iraq War: Fifteen year anniversary piece of Bush's invasion of Iraq. I would put more stress on Bush's earlier invasion of Afghanistan, and indeed the whole premise that the overbloated US military should be trusted, if not to defend us from attacks like 9/11 at least to avenge them. On the other hand, Taibbi goes the extra step in showing how the misuse of the military in the Global War on Terror is rooted in the much older multi-faceted war the US fought against the workers and peasants of the world, the one we sanitize by calling it the Cold War. He also ends memorably on Trump:

    It was for sure a contributing factor in the election of Donald Trump, whose total ignorance and disrespect for both the law and the rights of people deviates not one iota from our official policies as they've evolved in the last fifteen years.

    Trump is just too stupid to use the antiseptic terminology we once thought we had to cook up to cloak our barbarism. He says "torture" instead of "enhanced interrogation" because he can't remember what the difference is supposed to be. Which is understandable. Fifteen years is a long time for a rotting brain to keep up a pretense.

    We flatter ourselves that Trump is an aberration. He isn't. He's a depraved, cowardly, above-the-law bully, just like the country we've allowed ourselves to become in the last fifteen years.

    Posted before Trump's Bolton pick, but the likeness is pretty glaring. Also looking back on America's recent wars: Andrew Bacevich: A Memo to the Publisher of the New York Times. One thing here is that I don't see how you can complain about the Times' contribution to "having tacitly accepted that, for the United States, war has become a permanent condition," without noting a single thing that the Times has published on Israel in the last, oh, sixty years.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 29490 [29476] rated (+14), 378 [368] unrated (+10).

Miserable fucking week. I've developed an itch over much of my body, which dermatologist couldn't identify but it treating symptomatically: various steroid and non-steroid creams and lotions. Marginally better today, but on top of everything else has kept me from feeling like doing much of anything all week. One exception was that I did some cooking.

My nephew Mike, his wife Morgan and sister Kirsten flew into town to try to document my late sister's artwork, which they mostly did in my basement. First night they were working late and getting hungry, so I threw together a quick pad thai -- one of the few dishes I always have ingredients for, and takes less than an hour to prep and cook (mostly prep). I was originally hoping to do a more substantial dinner on Monday before they were to leave, but wound up fixing two more smaller dinners in the meantime: Saturday was shakshuka (eggs poached in Tunisian tomato sauce) and pan-roasted potatoes. Sunday was baked fish topped with tomato, olives and capers, along with roasted potatoes. (I had a bag of Yukon golds to work through). Also made an oatmeal stout cake. Those were just 4-5 people.

For Monday I planned on doing Greek, and finally did some shopping. We wound up crowded with ten adults and a two-year-old baby. I made baked shrimp with feta cheese, roasted brussels sprouts and various root vegetables (red potatoes, sweet potato, carrots, fennel, shallots) with a lemon-caper dressing, green bean ragout, fried lamb liver tidbits, horiatiki salad, and saganaki (fried kefalograviera cheese; also made a batch with haloumi). Also leftover cake.

Mostly listened to oldies last week, except for late nights on the computer. Even then, mostly picked pop records from recent Christgau reviews -- but two A and two A- records fell short for me, each getting two (some three) plays. I didn't find the latest Chopteeth album, but checked out two old ones. Only three records from my jazz queue, and they all got multiple chances.

Unpacking includes records I forgot to list last week.

Kathy's memorial service will be March 31, so things will start to get crazy again as that approaches. I'll probably post a Streamnotes early next week to get it out of the way, but it will be much shorter than usual.

New records rated this week:

  • Car Seat Headrest: Twin Fantasy (2018, Matador, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ezra Furman: Transangelic Exodus (2018, Bella Union): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hal Galper Quartet: Cubist (2016 [2018], Origin): [cd]: A-
  • Sergio Galvao/Lupa Santiago/Clement Landais/Franck Enouf: 2X2 (2017 [2018], Origin): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Lucas Niggli: Alchemia Garden (2017 [2018], Intakt): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Superchunk: What a Time to Be Alive (2018, Merge): [r]: B+(**)
  • Yo La Tengo: There's a Riot Going On (2018, Matador): [r]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Black Panther: The Album (Music From and Inspired By) (2018, Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope): [r]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band: Chopteeth (2008, Grigri Discs): [r]: A-
  • Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band: Live (2010, Grigri Discs): [r]: B+(***)
  • Walter Norris/George Mraz: Drifting (1974 [2007], Enja): [r]: B+(**)
  • Walter Norris/Aladár Pege: Winter Rose (1980, Enja): [r]: B+(*)
  • John Surman: Upon Reflection (1979, ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • John Surman: The Amazing Adventures of Simon Simon (1981, ECM): [r]: B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last two weeks:

  • Chamber 3: Transatlantic (OA2): March 16
  • Johan Graden: Olägenheter (Moserobie)
  • Lauren Henderson: Ármame (Brontosaurus): March 30
  • Monika Herzig: Sheroes (Whaling City Sound)
  • Il Sogno: Birthday (Gotta Let It Out -17)
  • Jon Irabagon Quartet: Dr. Quixotic's Traveling Exotics (Irabbagast): May 15
  • Martin Küchen & Landaeus Trio: Vinyl (Moserobie)
  • Dave Liebman/John Stowell: Petite Fleur: The Music of Sidney Bechet (Origin): March 16
  • Johan Lindström Septett: Music for Empty Halls (Moserobie)
  • The Maguire Twins: Seeking Higher Ground (Three Tree): March 30
  • Diane Moser: Birdsongs (Planet Arts)
  • Michael Moss/Accidental Orchestra: Helix (4th Stream): March 24
  • William Parker: Lake of Light: Compositions for AquaSonics (Gotta Let It Out): May
  • Sonar With David Torn: Vortex (RareNoise): advance, March 30
  • Joshua Trinidad: In November (RareNoise): advance, March 30
  • Frank Wagner: Floating Holiday (MEII)
  • Håvard Wiik Trio: This Is Not a Waltz (Moserobie)

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Weekend Roundup

Started this on Sunday, but too many distractions kept me from wrapping it up in a timely fashion. As I've noted already, my sister, Kathy Hull, died last week. We've had visitors and all sorts of chores to do, and I've been plagued by my own health problems. One thing that I did notice was that the sense of horror I felt on hearing the news was one I had experienced several times before: when, for instance, my first wife died, and most recently when Donald Trump was elected president. A big part of that sensation is the dread of facing a future not of unknown and unimaginable consequences but of quite certain pain and loss. The news since election day has merely born out that expected dread. Numerous examples follow, and I'm sure I'm missing at least as much more. One thing I suppose I should take comfort from is that when we finally have a memorial for Kathy (on March 31), we will have fond memories and a lot of art to celebrate. When Trump's term ends we're unlikely to recall a single shred of redeeming value.

Of course, the two events are not comparable in any regard except personal emotional impact on me. The key point is that the shock of the 2016 election, the immediate apprehension of what the American people just did to themselves, hit me pretty much as hard, with much the same body chemistry. Of course, the grief tracks have been/will be different. We will adjust to the impoverished world without her, but the blow has been struck, both final and finite. On the other hand, Trump and his Congress and Courts have barely started to take their toll, which will only grow over time and won't stop when his term ends. On the other hand, there are things that can be done to alter or even reverse the course Trump has set us on. And there is at least one thing I can take comfort in: I've spent literally all of my adult life in opposition to whoever has held political power, as indeed I would still be had Hillary Clinton won, but since the 1970s I've never been in such large or dynamic company. It's also nice to feel no need to defend Clinton when she says something tone-deaf (like her note that she won the urban areas that had fared best under her party's neoliberal advancement) or any of the other petty scandals she's prone to.

By the way, this week is the fifteenth anniversary of Bush's invasion of Iraq. I took another look at what I wrote on March 18, and much of what I wrote then holds up; especially:

As I write this, we cannot even remotely predict how this war will play out, how many people will die or have their lives tragically transfigured, how much property will be destroyed, how much damage will be done to the environment, what the long-term effects of this war will be on the economy and civilization, both regionally and throughout the world. In lauching his war, Bush is marching blithely into the unknown, and dragging the world with him.

I probably tried too hard to rationalize the Bush case, and I spent a lot of time fantasizing that Iraqis might wise up and figure out how to play the PR game in ways that might limit the destruction. That didn't happen first because the seemingly easy military victory unleashed an extraordinary degree of American hubris, and partly because it took very little resistance to change the American stance from would-be benefactor to occupier and schemer. My other mistake was in failing to see how much the US failure in Afghanistan, which was already obvious even if less observed, prefigured the very same failure in Iraq. Not that I was unaware of Afghanistan. Indeed, I've always known that the prime mistake Bush made after 9/11 was driving into Afghanistan.

Even though this isn't appearing until Tuesday, I've tried to limit the stories/links to last Sunday. Some later ones may have crept in -- especially on the Cambridge Analytica story.

Some scattered links this week:

Monday, March 12, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 29476 [29452] rated (+24), 368 [368] unrated (+0).

Nothing to say about music this week. I woke up last Tuesday to the news that my sister had been struck by a car while walking from the parking lot to her work at Wichita State University. The car was not going especially fast, but knocked her to the ground, and she smashed the back of her skull on the pavement. The skull was cracked, and a CT scan showed multiple brain bleeds. The Wesley Hospital ER stapled the skull together, stabilized her, and put her in the Intensive Care Unit. When we saw her, she was conscious, incoherent, agitated, very frustrated. She developed respiratory problems, which they cleared up (mostly) with a 3-hour bronchoscopy operation. After that, she seemed to be improving, becoming calmer and more coherent, although she had bad periods as well. I never got any meaningful review of her brain scan tests. They were mostly described as "unchanged," and the bleeds were deemed inoperable, so they focused on palliative care. There was much discussion of transferring her to a "brain trauma hospital" in Nebraska, possibly early this week.

Last night, around 4AM, Kathy's heart stopped. This occurred during some form of respiratory therapy. Multiple attempts to revive her failed. A friend was staying overnight at the hospital with her, and tells me that they had "about half the floor in her room" and spent about 30 minutes before giving up. I don't know any more than that. The hospital called her son, Ram, who called me about 4:30 AM. Our brother, Steve, had come to Wichita on Wednesday, and planned on going in early morning. He found out when he woke up, and called me. I couldn't go to sleep, so I picked up and we talked about 7 AM.

I sent email to a couple of people before I went to bed. Ram posted something very brief on Facebook. I shared it, then added my own note. He'll be talking to a funeral director tomorrow, so we'll have a better idea of schedule then. I need to call some people, and to catch up with Ram and Steve, but in my current daze I figured I'd knock this out and get it out of the way. I've had a miserable week, with my own problems as well as this. Feeling shocked and helpless now.

New records rated this week:

  • Blue Notes Tribute Orkestra: Live at the Bird's Eye (2012 [2017], self-released): [r]: B+(*)
  • Nubya Garcia: Nubya's 5ive (2017, Jazz Re:freshed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Peter Kuhn: Dependent Origination (2016 [2017], FMR): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Peter Kuhn Trio: Intention (2017 [2018], FMR): [cd]: A-
  • Emma-Jean Thackray's Walrus: Walrus EP (2017, Deptford Beach, EP): [r]: B+(*)

Old music rated this week:

  • The Free Spirits Featuring John McLaughlin: Tokyo Live (1993 [1994], Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Christof Lauer: Christof Lauer (1989, CMP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Christof Lauer/Wolfgang Puschnig/Bob Stewart/Thomas Alkier: Bluebells (1992, CMP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Christof Lauer: Fragile Network (1998 [1999], ACT): [r]: B+(***)
  • Christof Lauer/NDR Big Band: Christof Lauer & NDR Big Band Play Sidney Bechet: Petite Fleur (2013 [2014], ACT): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mahavishnu Orchestra: Between Nothingness & Eternity (1973, Columbia): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mahavishnu Orchestra: Apocalypse (1974, Columbia): [r]: C+
  • Mahavishnu Orchestra: Visions of the Emerald Beyond (1974 [1975], Columbia): [r]: B-
  • Mahavishnu Orchestra/John McLaughlin: Inner Worlds (1975 [1976], Columbia): [r]: B-
  • Joe Maneri Quartet: Dahabenzapple (1993 [1996], Hat Art): [r]: B+(**)
  • Joe Maneri Quartet: In Full Cry (1996 [1997], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • Joe Maneri/Mat Maneri: Blessed (1997 [1998], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Joe Maneri Trio: The Trio Concerts (1997-98 [2001], Leo, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • John McLaughlin: Devotion (1970, Douglas): [r]: B+(**)
  • John McLaughlin: The Heart of Things (1997, Verve): [r]: B+(*)
  • John McLaughlin/Zakir Hussain/T.H. "Vikkur" Vinayakram/Hariprasad Chaurasia: Remember Shakti (1997 [1999], Verve, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Shakti/John McLaughlin: Shakti With John McLaughlin (1975 [1976], Columbia): [r]: B+(***)
  • Shakti With John McLaughlin: Natural Elements (1977, Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
  • Shakti With John McLaughlin: A Handful of Beauty (1976 [1977], Columbia): [r]: B+(***)

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Weekend Roundup

Didn't mean to write much this weekend. Just figured I'd go through the motions, starting with the usual Yglesias links, to have something for future reference, and to check how the update mechanism works on the transplanted website. Guess I got a little carried away.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias: 4 stories that really mattered this week: Trump slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum; Gary Cohn says he's quitting: the top White House economic adviser, formerly of Goldman Sachs; Trump will (maybe) do a summit with Kim Jong Un; Red-state teachers are getting angry: in West Virginia, most obviously, with Oklahoma and Arizona in the wings. Other Yglesias pieces:

    • Globalists, explained: Evidently, some people view "globalist" as an anti-semitic term. Today's example: Trump describing the departing Gary Cohn as a "globalist." An older term is "cosmopolitan," although I've found the German more interesting: "weltbürgerlich" -- citizen of the world. Such allusions seem to be endemic with the alt-right, even more so with Trump, but I'm not sure that it's useful at all to dwell on them. Nearly everything that Trump and his ilk say that can be read as anti-semitic is also wrong for other reasons, and people miss that when they get hung up on anti-semitic stereotypes. One word that doesn't appear here is "neoliberal," which is actually a better description of Cohn -- including Cohn's differences from the Trumpian nationalists -- but doesn't seem to be part of their vocabulary.

    • The real danger to the US economy in Trump's trade policy: "It's not the tariffs; it's what happens next.".

    • The DCCC should chill out and do less to try to pick Democrats' nominees: "There's very little evidence that "electable" moderates do better."

    • Trump's trade demand to China is pathetically small: "The US-China trade deficit rose $28 billion last year. Trump is asking for a $1 billion cut." Actually, that understates the plan, as The actual trade deficit is $375.2 billion -- "a drop in the bucket." Moreover, the plan is just an ask: "Trump is asking the Chinese to find a way to cut it by less than 0.27 percent but acting like he's a tough guy."

    • Cory Booker's new Workers Dividend Act, explained: "A Bloomberg analysis shows that of America's $54 billion corporate tax windfall, so far $21.1 billion has been kicked to shareholders in the form of 'buybacks,' almost twice as much as has gone to employees in higher compensation and far more than has been spent on capital investments or research and development." Booker's bill seeks to rebalance that by giving people who work for companies that do stock buybacks a piece of the profit. That's nice for them, but doesn't help anyone else. It is, at best, a tiny step toward equality, piggybacked on a larger step in the opposite direction.

    • The 17 Democrats selling out on bank regulation is worse than it looks. I don't see a list or a vote total, so I'm not sure just who he's blaming, but the bill in question is the Republicans' gift to the industry that sunk the economy in 2008, a more/less significant rollback of the relatively feeble reform package known as Dodd-Frank. For more on the bill, see: Emily Stewart: The bank deregulation bill in the Senate, explained; also Ross Barkan: The rich and the right want to dynamite Dodd-Frank -- and Democrats are helping them do it:

      It's worth considering when bipartisanship can still exist in this deeply polarizing moment. It cannot live where there is a growing national consensus, as over the severity of climate change or the scourge of mass shootings.

      It cannot live in any kind of economic matter that benefits the working class or the poor, even after Donald Trump managed to shred rightwing economic orthodoxies on his way to the presidency -- never mind that he's governing like a Koch brothers pawn.

      Democrats and Republicans can only come together to feather the nests of the rich and powerful. Weakening Dodd-Frank confirms the worst suspicions of any cynical voter -- that the political class really is colluding to screw them over.

    • Trump's tariffs are a scary look at what happens when he actually tries to govern: Good point, but I certainly wouldn't go this far:

      The Trump era has, so far, gone better than anyone had any right to expect. It's true that as problems arise -- flu, drug overdoses, Hurricane Maria, school shootings -- Trump invariably fails to rise to the occasion. And, from time to time, he for no good reason opts to pour salt in America's racial wounds. His immigration policies are making us poorer and meaner, while his health care and tax policies make our economy more unequal.

      But on a day-to-day basis, life goes on.

      Despite the frightening concentration of incompetence in the West Wing, many critical posts -- most of all at the Departments of Defense and Treasury and the Federal Reserve -- appear to be in the hands of basically capable people. Trump's habit of relentlessly deferring to GOP congressional leadership on policy issues is disappointing if you were a true believer in Trumpism, but sort of vaguely reassuring if you found the idea of installing a narcissistic rage-holic in the Oval Office alarming.

      I'd submit that there's a lot more on the negative side of the ledger, and little if anything on the positive. I'll also stipulate that most folks won't understand the negative side until it comes crashing down on them like a ton of bricks, but the number of people who this has happened to already is non-trivial (especially immigrants of various degrees, and most people in Puerto Rico). Policies by their very nature have slow triggers, but that doesn't mean that today's decisions won't catch up with us sooner or later. And while it's true that some of Trump's administrators don't seem to be competent enough to destroy departments they loathe -- Rich Perry, Ben Carson, Betsy De Vos -- others are more than capable -- Ryan Zinke at Interior, Scott Pruitt at EPA, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. That Mattis and Mnuchin lack the same streak of nihilism has more to do with the usefulness of their departments to rich donors than relative sanity.

  • James K Galbraith: Trump's steel tariffs are mere political theater: Points out something I haven't seen noted elsewhere: similar tariffs have been implemented twice before, first under Reagan and again by GW Bush. Neither had any real effect, least of all on rebuilding the American steel industry. Nor did they generate much controversy, as they were mere "political theater" by politicians who were otherwise reliable neoliberals. If Trump's generating more controversy, that's probably because he's ideologically less trustworthy -- not that he actually understands or believes in anything.

  • Jeff Goodell: Welcome to the Age of Climate Migration: "Extreme weather due to climate change displaced more than a million people from their homes last year. It could soon reshape the nation." Key takeaway here: it's already happening, and it's measurable.

  • Jane Mayer: Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier. Long piece, dovetails with and expands upon what I know about the various Russia scandals.

  • Heather Digby Parton: Running for the White House Exits: Who Would Want to Work for President Trump Anyway?

  • Matt Shuman: At Political Rally, Trump Repeats Call to Give Drug Dealers the Death Penalty: Disturbing on many levels, partly because his ego seems to require the periodic stoking, partly because he clearly figures that what would appeal most to his base is public blood-letting. Curious, too, that he actually cites China as his authority on how effective the death penalty is at stopping drug traffic. (Of course, he could just as well have cited the Philippines' Duterte, who like trump believes "act first, due process later.")

  • Matt Taibbi: Trump Is a Dangerous Idiot. So Why Are We Pushing Him Toward War? Provides many examples of people with serious foreign policy credentials (i.e., a track record of having been wrong many times in the past) doing just that: two that especially stick in my crawl are David Ignatius and Kenneth Pollack ("of the American Enterprise Institute").

    Meanwhile, in the States, the only thing about Donald Trump that any sane person ever had to be grateful for was that he entered the White House claiming to be isolationist and war-averse. That soon proved to be a lie like almost everything else about his campaign, but Jesus, do we have to help this clown down the road toward General Trump fantasies?

    We have the dumbest, least competent White House in history. Whatever else anyone in America has as a goal for Trump's remaining time in office, the single most important priority must to be keeping this guy away from the nuclear button. Almost anything else would be survivable.

    Which is why it makes no sense to be taunting Trump and basically calling him a wuss for negotiating with Kim Jong Un or being insufficiently aggressive in Syria.

    To get a glimpse of what passes for thinking in Pollack's brain, take a look at his Learning From Israel's Political Assassination Program, a review of Ronen Bergman's huge (753 pp.) book, Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel's Targeted Assassinations. Israel has undertaken such "targeted killings" throughout its history, but the rate (and indifference to "collateral damage") increased dramatically after 2001. The US has followed suit:

    There have been many who have objected, claiming that the killings inspire more attacks on the United States, complicate our diplomacy and undermine our moral authority in the world. Yet the targeted killings drone on with no end in sight. Just counting the campaigns in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, the Bush administration conducted at least 47 targeted killings by drones, while under the Obama administration that number rose to 542.

    America's difficult relationship with targeted killing and the dilemmas we may face in the future are beautifully illuminated by the longer story of Israel's experiences with assassination in its own endless war against terrorism. Israel has always been just a bit farther down this slippery slope than the United States. If we're willing, we can learn where the bumps are along the way by watching the Israelis careening ahead of us.

    Pollack admits that "targeted killings" are a mere tactic in the larger effort to suppress terrorism, and that there's no reason to think they're particularly effective. He goes on to blather a lot about COIN theory, without recognizing that Israel has never been in the least interested in "winning hearts and minds." Israel's sole goal, at least since Independence and arguably a good deal earlier, has been to establish an ethnocracy and maintain it by overwhelming force. They understand that they cannot convince Palestinians to agree to a debased and subservient status, but they persist in believing that they can maintain their two-tier society by imposing domination and terror.

    Pollack does fault Israel for being unwilling to accept the "land-for-peace" option to actually resolve the conflict, but he fails to understand why. For "land-for-peace" to work, two things have to happen: the reason Israel might be willing to give up land is to rid itself of Palestinians, thus ensuring a stronger Jewish majority; having secured demographic dominance, Israel could then afford to offer its remaining Palestinians equal rights, ending the conflict. It is this latter point, equality, that Israelis cannot abide. They would rather endure perpetual conflict than to give up their superiority.

    I doubt Bergman's book reveals much "secret history." Israel has been bragging about their assassination program for many years, and now that the US is wrapped up in its own murderous program, they must feel little public relations risk. On the other hand, the US does at least go through the motions of presenting itself as "a beacon of freedom and justice" -- a stance which is instantly discredited by its murder program (not that many people outside America still believed it). For a better review of Rise and Kill First, see: "Rise and Kill First" Explores the Corrupting Effects of Israel's Assassination Program.

    Taibbi also wrote The New Blacklist: "Russiagate may have been aimed at Trump to start, but it's become a way of targeting all dissent." He notes the existence of an outfit named Hamilton 68, which tracks everything that seems to be approved by Russia's propagandists (especially through their bots), on the theory that whatever Russia promotes should be opposed. "In fact, unless you're a Hillary Clinton Democrat, you've probably been portrayed as having somehow been in on it, at one time or another."

  • Peter Van Buren: What critics of North Korea summit get wrong: Well, first he disposes of the idea that simply meeting confers legitimacy on North Korea. He also makes a plausible case for starting the diplomatic process with a photo-op of the leaders in general agreement. He doesn't delve into the fact that the shakier of the leaders is Trump, both due to his massive ignorance and his relatively weak grasp on America's military and security establishments -- the clearest evidence there is how cheerfully he concedes policy direction to the generals (e.g., in Afghanistan).

  • Alex Ward: The past 24 hours in Trump scandals, explained: Seems less like a headline than a feature column that could be rewritten each day. This particular one came out on Thursday, March 8, and covers Trump being sued by porn star Stormy Daniels, and Erik Prince lying about meeting Russians in the Seychelles to discuss setting up a back channel between Trump and Putin, and Trump attempting to influence people Mueller has interviewed in the Russia probe. Tomorrow, and next week, and next month, you'll get a slightly different list of scandals, but as long as the media limits them to things Trump actually knows and does, they'll most likely stay at this trivial level. The real scandals go much deeper, but unless Trump tweets about them, how will White House reporters know?

Monday, March 5, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 29452 [29423] rated (+29), 368 [367] unrated (+1).

Most of what follows, including all of this week's A- ratings, already appeared in February's Streamnotes, posted last Wednesday. After that I guess I slowed down a bit. Damn little more to report.

I suppose I could offer a link to The new (UK) jazz family tree, although I should note that it actually offers only a rather thin slice of jazz in the UK, with nothing avant (aside from Evan Parker), nothing trad, huge omissions elsewhere (some names that leap to mind: Dave Holland, John McLaughlin, Howard Riley, Tommy Smith, and John Surman, as well as younger musicians like Neil Cowley and Alexander Hawkins). I haven't tried counting, but offhand I think I recognize about a third of the names, mostly falling down where band members are expanded (e.g., the other three-fourths of Camilla George Quartet). The author notes that she started with Emma-Jean Thackray and Sons of Kemet and worked her way out from there. Thackray didn't ring a bell, although I've heard of her group Walrus. Sons of Kemet have a couple albums I like, especially Lest We Forget What We Came Here to Do (2015).

New records rated this week:

  • Laurie Anderson/Kronos Quartet: Landfall (2018, Nonesuch): [r]: A-
  • Brandi Carlile: By the Way, I Forgive You (2018, Low Country Sound/Elektra): [r]: B-
  • Roberta Donnay & the Prohibition Mob Band: My Heart Belongs to Satchmo (2018, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Electric Squeezebox Orchestra: The Falling Dream (2015 [2018], OA2): [cd]: B
  • GoGo Penguin: A Humdrum Star (2017 [2018], Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mike Jones/Penn Jillette: The Show Before the Show: Live at the Penn & Teller Theater (2017 [2018], Capri): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Femi Kuti: One People One World (2018, Knitting Factory): [r]: B+(*)
  • Les Filles De Illighadad: Eghass Malan (2017, Sahelsounds): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dave Liebman/Tatsuya Nakatani/Adam Rudolph: The Unknowable (2016 [2018], RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(*)
  • Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas: Sound Prints: Scandal (2017 [2018], Greenleaf Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Youssou N'Dour: Raxas Bercy 2017 (2017, self-released): [dl]: A-
  • Amy Rigby: The Old Guys (2018, Southern Domestic): [r]: A-
  • Shakers n' Bakers: Heart Love: Plays the Music of Albert Ayler and Mary Maria Parks (2017 [2018], Little i Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Shopping: The Official Body (2018, FatCat): [r]: A-
  • Steve Tyrell: A Song for You (2018, New Design): [cd]: B+(**)
  • U.S. Girls: In a Poem Unlimited (2018, 4AD): [r]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • Marion Brown: Afternoon of a Georgia Faun (1970, ECM): [r]: B
  • Marion Brown: Duets Vol. 1 (1970 [2012], 1201/Black Lion Vault): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dorothy Donegan: Live at the 1990 Floating Jazz Festival (1990 [1991], Chiaroscuro): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chico Freeman: Tradition in Transition (1982, Elektra Musician): [r]: B+(*)
  • Chico Freeman/Mal Waldron: Up and Down (1992, Black Saint): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jelly Roll Morton: The Piano Rolls (1924 [1997], Nonesuch): [r]: B+(**)
  • Original Dixieland Jazz Band: The 75th Anniversary (1917-21 [1992], RCA Bluebird): [r]: B+(***)
  • Original Dixieland Jazz Band: In London 1919-1920 Plus the Okeh Sessions 1922-1923 (1919-23 [2001], Retrieval): [r]: B+(**)
  • Amy Rigby: Live at Cat's Cradle 02/26/2003 (2003 [2011], self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Trio-X [Joe McPhee/Dominic Duval/Jay Rosen]: The Sugar Hill Suite (2004, CIMP): [r]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Martin Blume/Tobias Delius/Achim Kaufmann/Dieter Manderscheid: Frames & Terrains (NoBusiness): cdr
  • Satoko Fujii Orchestra Berlin: Ninety-Nine Years (Libra)
  • Gerry Hemingway/Samuel Blaser: Oostum (NoBusiness): cdr
  • Kang Tae Hwan: Live at Café Amores (1995, NoBusiness)
  • The Doug MacDonald Quintet/The Roger Neumann Quintet: Two Quintets: Live Upstairs at Vitello's (2018, Blujazz, 2CD)
  • Todd Marcus: On These Streets (Stricker Street): April 27
  • Wynton Marsalis Septet: United We Swing: Best of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Galas (2003-07, Blue Engine): March 23
  • Erin McDougald: Outside the Soirée (Miles High): March 16
  • Michael Morreale: MilesSong: The Music of Miles Davis (Summit, 2CD)
  • Peripheral Vision: More Songs About Error and Shame (self-released): March 30
  • Barre Phillips/Motoharu Yoshizawa: Oh My, Those Boys! (1994, NoBusiness)
  • Roberta Piket: West Coast Trio (13th Note): April 6
  • Jim Snidero & Jeremy Pelt: Jubilation (Savant): advance, May 4
  • Spin Cycle [Scott Neumann/Tom Christensen]: Assorted Colors (Sound Footing): April 6
  • Dan Weiss: Starebaby (Pi): April 6

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Weekend Roundup

Once again having to cut this short because I'm running out of time. Didn't even watch the Oscars tonight, as I tried to gather these links. Nothing terribly new below if you've been reading all along, although the Putnam/Skocpol article might help, as well as Yglesias' near-weekly posts on Republican voting setbacks. I suppose one thing that slowed me down is that this has been an above-average week for palace intrigue, even given renormalization after that's been the case for about 50 weeks in the last year-plus-a-month.

Some scattered links this week:

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Streamnotes (February 2018)

First month post-freeze, so I should be moving beyond 2017, and to some extent I am. Of ten A-list recent releases, four are 2018 (Laurie Anderson, Evan Parker, Amy Rigby, Shopping), four 2017 (Girma Bèyènè, Youssou N'Dour, Anna Tivel, Wu-Tang), and two 2016 (Peter Stampfel, Celebrate Ornette). Still, three of those four 2018 releases were picked up after Monday's Music Week as I was hoping some last-minute scrounging might even out an otherwise thin month.

Still, this says more about waning interest in 2017 than looking forward. For proof, note that most of the records below are old. Partly this is because I finally broke down and finished collecting my various short jazz reviews for my two Jazz Guides. I've folded the extra reviews in, adding 9 pages to the 20th Century (currently 774 pages), and 7 pages to the 21st Century (now 1657 pages). The former is pretty useless, at least compared to The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, which covers about 4-5 times as many records -- an insurmountable head start, I'm afraid. However, my post-2000 coverage is comparable to Penguin Guide in the early years -- it hasn't been updated since the 9th Edition in 2008.

I believe it would take a vast amount of editing to turn my draft file into something useful, and doubt I'm up to the task. Still, even before I worry about spit and polish, I'd like to figure out some way to make the guides available to the tiny number of people who might have any interest in them. Stage 3 will be to try to figure out how to do this, adjusting the format as necessary. As I figure things out, I'll announce what I can on the blog.

Meanwhile, I suppose you can download my draft files: 20th Century, and 21st Century. To get any good out of them, you'll probably need to have LibreOffice installed. I should note that I've been using an old version of the program (, so I have no idea whether you'll run into problems downloading the current stable (5.4.5) or development (6.0.1) versions. It's likely that I will have to update to move on to whatever the next step is.

Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on January 31. Past reviews and more information are available here (10849 records).

Recent Releases

Laurie Anderson/Kronos Quartet: Landfall (2018, Nonesuch): Audio for some form of visual presentation, Anderson's usual work mode, reportedly linked to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy. Music seems less expansive than her best, the string quartet as much anchor as vehicle. Would be neither here nor there but for the spoken word, which is fascinating even at its most elliptical. A-

Louise Baranger: Louise Baranger Plays the Great American Groove Book (2017, Summit): Trumpet player, played in Harry James' band just before his death (in 1983), has at least one previous album. Aside from "Love Potion No. 9" and "The Sidewinder" focuses on 1970s soul tunes -- Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Bill Withers, "Never Can Say Goodbye" -- writing one for Wilson Pickett. B [cd]

David Bertrand: Palmyra & Other Places (2017, Blujazz): Flute player, wrote all the pieces, nicely set off by Rafal Sarnecki's electric guitar, plus bass and drums that keep the beat interesting. Guest soprano sax on one cut. B+(*) [cd]

Girma Bèyènè & Akalé Wubé: Éthiopiques 30: "Mistakes on Purpose" (2017, Buda Musique): Ethiopian, no recording dates but seems to be recent. Bèyènè plays piano and sings, somewhat talky; Akalé Wubé is a band, with sax, trumpet, guitar, bass, and drums, plus some guests drop in. Their relaxed flow doesn't sound all that African, but that's just how unique they are -- and note that the horns can on occasion slip into jazzy dissonance. A-

Nick Biello: Vagabond Soul (2016 [2018], Blujazz): Alto saxophonist, also soprano and synth, first album, postbop septet with Paul Jones (tenor sax), Phil Markowitz (piano), plus viola, guitar, bass, and drums. Biello originals, mostly taken fast with soaring sax. B+(**) [cd]

Dan Block: Block Party: A Saint Louis Connection (2015 [2018], Miles High): Tenor sax and clarinet, quite a bit of the latter. Quintet with Rob Block (guitar), Neal Caine (bass), Tadataka Unno (piano), and Aaron Kimmel (drums). Liner notes by Joe Schwab, proprietor of Euclid Records in St. Louis for 35 years, making me feel old as his shop didn't exist when I lived a half block off Euclid -- what was it, oh dear, 45 years ago? Can't say St. Louis was much of a jazz town then, but old timers remembered it differently. B+(***) [cd]

Owen Broder: Heritage: The American Roots Project (2017 [2018], ArtistShare): Saxophonist, credit here is "woodwinds," ensemble is an octet plus three vocalists, mostly names I recognize, produced by Ryan Truesdell. I don't particularly get the roots concept, other than to recognize some American Indian drums and chants mixed in with the jambalaya. B

Sarah Buechi: Contradiction of Happiness (2017 [2018], Intakt): Swiss singer-songwriter, third album, most songs in English (aside from the trad. "Schönschte Obigstärn"), performed by pianist Stefan Aeby plus strings (violin-viola-cello-bass) and drums. B+(*) [cd]

Harley Card: The Greatest Invention (2015 [2018], self-released): Canadian guitarist, leads a postbop quintet with sax (David French) and piano (Matt Newton), richly complex and grooveful, as such things tend to be. B+(*) [cd]

Dawn Clement: Tandem (2017 [2018], Origin): Pianist, also sings some but gives way to Johnaye Kendrick on two tracks, spots other guests like Julian Priester (trombone, 2 cuts), Mark Taylor (alto sax, 2 others), and Matt Wilson (drums, 2 others). The result is a record which seems all over the place: I'm impressed by the piano, love the bits with Priester and the dramatic jump into "Bemsha Swing," don't follow the vocals, and haven't (and won't ever) sorted the arc or concept. B+(*) [cd]

Ornette Coleman: Celebrate Ornette: Brooklyn Prospect Park (2014 [2016], Song X, 2CD): Not something you can simply go out and buy, let alone stream, unless you fork over $100 for a bloated product with a third CD (the posthumous Ornette Coleman Memorial: Riverside Church), two DVDs, and some paraphernalia ($275 will get you extra vinyl -- makes you wonder if Denardo, beyond his unique apprenticeship on drums, hasn't been taking business school correspondence courses on the side). Still, this is the piece people who caught (or cajoled) the whole thing regard as significant: the full concert featuring Coleman's last public appearance, one where he only plays on the first two tracks, 19:52 of "Ramblin" and "OC Turnaround" -- a brief reminder of his genius, a fitting coda to a extraordinary career that started nearly sixty years earlier. After that, others take over, usually fronting a band known as Denardo VIBE, mostly playing Coleman tunes, easing us into a world deprived of his singular genius for turning chaos into beauty, ending in a 20:21 "Lonely Woman" with four famous-in-their-own-right saxophonists -- Ravi Coltrane, Branford Marsalis, David Murray, Joe Lovano -- trying to pick up his torch. Along the way, various others step on stage, including Geri Allen, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Nels Cline, James Blood Ulmer, John Zorn, Henry Threadgill, Bill Laswell, Patty Smith, and Laurie Anderson. People who were there tell me they were lifted, but in retrospect it sounds more bittersweet. A- [cdr]

Rose Cousins: Natural Conclusion (2017, Old Farm Pony): Singer-songwriter from Prince Edward Island in Canada, generally filed under folk but goes for a lusher pop sound here. B

Roberta Donnay & the Prohibition Mob Band: My Heart Belongs to Satchmo (2018, Blujazz): Old-timey standards singer, cut an album in 1989, a half-dozen more since 1998, as well as appearing in Dan Hicks' 2009-12 bands. Has a trumpet player named Rich Armstrong set the table here before running through a set of songs familiar to Louis Armstrong and anyone who adored him. B+(**) [cd]

Duchess: Duchess (2015, Anzic): Jazz-rooted girl group: Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner, Melissa Stylianou -- based in New York but originally from points north (Gardner from Alaska, the others from Toronto), each with fledgling solo careers, patterned this group after the Boswell Sisters. Backed by piano trio plus Jeff Lederer on sax. Sometimes too slow ("Que Sera, Sera," "P.S. I Love You"), but crackles when they get agitated ("There Ain't No Sweet Man That's Worth the Salt of My Tears"). B+(**)

Duchess: Laughing at Life (2016 [2017], Anzic): A second album, the cover again showing the three singers, but this time a paste-up of three separate photos, their laughs out of sync, their hairstyles decidedly more mature. Starts off with old swing tunes which enhance their Boswell Sisters concept, but changes pace midway and gets a bit lost. B+(*)

Harris Eisenstadt: Recent Developments (2016 [2017], Songlines): Canadian drummer, prolific since 2002, this nonet works its way through a 40:33 composition, abstract with orchestral airs -- flute, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, tuba, banjo, cello, bass, drums, all jazz musicians I readily recognize. B+(**)

Fred Farell: Distant Song (2016 [2018], Whaling City Sound): Farell "sings the music of Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach" -- note, not songs, because lyrics hardly catapult the music into great American songbook. The whole project is a stretch, although I'll note that the booklet includes praise from Sheila Jordan and Jay Clayton, possibly the only singers who could pull this off. But even before I looked at the booklet, I noted that the saxophone was simply gorgeous, and undoubtedly Liebman. Turns out the piano is Beirach, too. B+(*) [cd]

Craig Fraedrich: Out of the Blues (2017, Summit): Trumpet player, studied at UNT, veteran of US Army Blues, teaches at Shenandoah University, calls his group (small purple print) The Jazz Trumpet Ensemble. Starts with five trumpet/flugelhorn players, backs them up with piano-guitar-bass-drums for a brassy big band sound. Mostly originals, plus Fraedrich arrangements of "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" and "Giant Steps." One song is called "Shades of Blue," but I only hear one. B- [cd]

Satoko Fujii: Solo (2017 [2018], Libra): The prolific Japanese avant-pianist turns 60 this year, so decided to celebrate by releasing one album each month, a fairly minor uptick from her usual rate. January's offering is this solo performance, originals plus one piece by Jimmy Giuffre. Her first solo outing since, well, last year's Invisible Hand, the best I could recall of close to a dozen I've heard. More quiet spots here, which for me at least makes it harder to follow, less impressive, but not unremarkable. B+(**) [cd]

Brad Garton/Dave Soldier: The Brainwave Music Project (2017 [2018], Mulatta): Garton seems to be a programmer, who's come up with software to convert EEG (brainwave) data into music. Soldier is a violinist who had a folk group called the Kropotkins and has done all sorts of off-the-wall projects, like orchestrating a choir of elephants. Several other names on the cover, with featured roles on various songs: Margaret Lancaster (flute), Dan Trueman (Hardanger fiddle), Terry Pender (mandolin), William Hooker (drums). I don't understand how this works (what they call "data sonification") but the music is pretty interesting in its own peculiar way. B+(***) [cd]

Camilla George Quartet: Isang (2016 [2017], Ubuntu Music): Alto saxophonist, based in London, first album, has appeared on a couple Zara McFarlane albums, the singer guesting on one cut here. With Sarah Tandy (piano), Daniel Casimir (bass), and Femi Koleoso (drums). Nice tone, hugs the beat. B+(*)

GoGo Penguin: A Humdrum Star (2017 [2018], Blue Note): British piano trio, from Manchester -- Chris Illingworth (piano), Nick Blacka (double bass), Rob Turner (drums) -- aims for crossover if not quite pop stardom with their not quite minimalist groove, B+(*)

James Hall: Lattice (2016 [2018], Outside In Music): Trombonist, from Nebraska, based in New York, at least one previous album. Postbop quintet, matching Jamie Baum's flute against trombone for the horns, often moving pianist Deanna Witkowski over to electric. Goes down so easily you wind up wondering what's there. B+(*) [cd]

Jupiter & Okwess: Kin Sonic (2017, Glitterbeat): Jean-Pierre (Jupiter) Bokondji, born in Kinshasa 1963, grew up in East Berlin (where he father was a diplomat), returned to Zaire in 1979 and joined the band that eventually became Okwess. This picks up various strands of Congolese pop, but frames them harshly, with metal crunching and a dash of western funk. B+(**)

Kaze: Atody Man (2017 [2018], Libra): Two trumpet quartet, Natsuki Tamura and Christian Pruvost, with Satoki Fujii on piano and Peter Orins on drums. Fourth or fifth group album (one was an expanded group called Trouble Kaze). Starts way back but builds into something special. B+(***) [cd]

Rich Krueger: Life Ain't That Long (2017 [2018], Rockink): Singer-songwriter originally from New York but based in Chicago, first album at 58, somehow wrangled a kitchen sink backing group which reminded me of Bruce Springsteen (and Gerry Raferty and Harry Chapin) even before I heard the saxophone. His song about 1977 rings about as true as Don McLean's about 1958, and isn't the only evidence he can write. So I'm not unimpressed, but not enjoying this either. B+(**)

Julian Lage: Modern Lore (2018, Mack Avenue): Young guitarist (30), made the cover of Downbeat, in a trio with Scott Colley (bass) and Kenny Wolleson (drums/vibes). Napster filed under folk for no discernible reason, not that it ticks many jazz boxes either. B

Les Filles De Illighadad: Eghass Malan (2017, Sahelsounds): Tuareg group from Niger, fronted by two sisters harmonizing over sparse guitar and drums. B+(**)

Daniel Levin/Chris Pitsiokos/Brandon Seabrook: Stomiidae (2016 [2018], Dark Tree): Cello-alto sax-guitar free improv trio, the latter two I associate with noise, although they keep that within interesting bounds here -- a little scratchy, rather abstract, a fair complement to a scratchy and abstract cellist. Stomiidae, by the way, are a family of deep sea denizens such as the barbeled dragonfish, pictured on the cover. B+(***) [cd]

Dua Lipa: Dua Lipa (2017, Warner Brothers): British pop singer, born in London in 1995, parents Kosovar Albanians who got out before the US decided to save their people by bombing them. A bit of gravity in her voice, nothing spectacular in the arrangements, but catchy enough and grows on you. B+(**)

Living Fossil: Never Die! (2017 [2018], self-released): Group name stylized with back-and-forward slashes, lower case, no space, but they don't carry that conceit over to their Bandcamp page. Tenor saxophonist Gordon Hyland gets the large type on the back cover, backed by guitar and drums, with duties split between two bassists, plus a couple of others on various cuts. B+(**) [cd]

Kate McGarry/Keith Ganz/Gary Versace: The Subject Tonight Is Love (2017 [2018], Binxtown): Standards singer, half-dozen albums from 1992, 2001, and since 2005. Likes to scat. Backed by guitar and keyboards/accordion. I've never been a fan, but this works out nicely, with a particularly touching "My Funny Valentine" and a rare Beatles cover to close ("All You Need Is Love"). B+(**) [cd]

Hailu Mergia: Lala Belu (2018, Awesome Tapes From Africa): From Ethiopia, plays keyboards, accordion, and melodica; has driven a taxi in Washington DC while his early tapes awaited rediscovery -- since 2013, Brian Shimkowitz has released three of his 1977-85 albums. This, however, seems to be new music, backed by bass and drums, recorded in Virginia. Not as "awesome" as its predecessors, just engaging and rather sweet, catchy too. B+(***)

Juana Molina: Halo (2017, Crammed Discs): Argentine singer-songwriter, seventh album, the sort of thing one would be tempted to call folktronica, with odd bits from all around the world dressed up with keybs, occasional guitar, and backing voices, but kept very understated. B+(*)

David Murray feat. Saul Williams: Blues for Memo (2016 [2018], Motéma): Williams is more poet than singer, but has a half-dozen albums, notably Martyr Loser King (2016). He read a poem at Amiri Baraka's funeral, and Ahmet Ulug got the idea of arranging a meet up with Murray in Turkey, where this album was originally released. The saxophonist is typically magnificent here, the singer/rapper harder to hear and suss out, but offhand doesn't seem like a good match (unlike, say, Murray's work with Ishmael Reed). B+(**)

Musique Noire: Reflections: We Breathe (2017, self-released): Detroit string/percussion quartet, led by Michelle May (violin/flute), third album, adds extras here and there, vocals included. B+(*)

Youssou N'Dour: Raxas Bercy 2017 (2017, self-released): Not sure this even counts as a thing: a concert tape dumped out on YouTube, what in ancient times was called a bootleg and generally ignored by respectable critics, but nowadays is just data, the original source apparently the artist himself. Still, good luck trying to come up with a usable copy -- I'm not sure mine qualifies on that account either. As live N'Dour concerts go, this does live up to his stellar reputation, and I especially like the sharp attack on the drums. A- [dl]

Negative Press Project: Eternal Life: Jeff Buckley Songs and Sounds (2017, Ridgeway, 2CD): Oakland group, Jeff Denson is executive producer, Ruthie Dineen (piano) and Andrew Lion (bass) are arrangers, with various horn players, guitarists, and drums. I never liked Buckley's records, but was pleasantly surprised by the cogency and flow of the long instrumental disc. Much less so, of course, by the vocals on the short second disc. B+(*) [cd]

Arturo O'Farrill & Chucho Valdés: Familia: Tribute to Bebo & Chico (2017, Motéma, 2CD): Cuban pianists (the former actually born in Mexico), both sons of legendary Cuban big band leaders, both (arguably) more accomplished than their fathers. Don't have a lot of details, but first disc is credited to the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, which would be O'Farrill's big band, with the second by the Third Generations Ensemble. Lots of pianistics, horns, and percussion. B+(**)

Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton: Music for David Mossman: Live at Vortex London (2016 [2018], Intakt): Sax-bass-drums trio, have played together a lot over the years, as a trio since 1980, the Parker-Lytton duo going back to 1967, with both playing in Guy's big band in 1972. Mossman was founder of the Vortex, a London club where they've played often for thirty-some years. Not sure this is one of their best, but hard to deny. A- [cd]

Allison Pierce: Year of the Rabbit (2017, Masterworks): Solo debut from the elder sister of the Pierces, who recorded five pleasantly folkie albums 2000-14. More along those lines, especially when the harmony swells up. B

Quelle Chris: Being You Is Great, I Wish I Could Be You More Often (2017, Mello Music Group): Detroit rapper Gavin Christopher Tennille, half-dozen albums since 2009. Fuzzy underground beats, scratches aplenty, voices put me on edge, especially when they get cluttered. B-

Amy Rigby: The Old Guys (2018, Southern Domestic): Possibly the best singer-songwriter in America for the decade 1996-2005, a period bracketed by two A records (Diary of a Mod Housewife and Little Fugitive, nothing much lower in between. Then she married Eric Goulden (aka Wreckless Eric) and cut three duo albums with him -- two better than anything he'd done before. First solo album in 13 years, doesn't rank with her best but at least four songs make me want to come back, everything else I enjoy -- her voice, of course, but also some of the hardest guitar she's ever employed. A-

Jamie Saft: Solo a Genova (2017 [2018], RareNoise): Pianist, seems like he mostly played electric early on but has developed into a remarkable acoustic player, and this live set of mostly standards -- 9/11, but more from rock era songwriters like Dylan, Mayfield, Mitchell, and Wonder than jazz sources (just Coltrane and Davis, with Ives as an outlier) -- is consistently engaging. B+(***) [cdr]

Samo Salamon/Howard Levy: Peaks of Light (2017 [2018], Sazas): Guitarist, from Slovenia, duets with harmonica player Levy, perhaps best known from Béla Fleck and the Flecktones (1988-92, returned in 2011), but he has more than a dozen albums, most on a label called Balkan Samba. Strong presence, the guitarist working deftly around the edges. B+(***) [cd]

Cecilia Sanchietti: La Verza Via (2017 [2018], Blujazz): Italian drummer, leads a piano trio with Pierpaolo Principato on the keys, joined by Nicholas Kummert (tenor sax) on 5/10 cuts. Sanchietti originals plus covers of Keith Jarrett and Maria Schneider. Nice flow, sax adds lustre. B+(*) [cd]

Dolores Scozzesi: Here Comes the Sun (2017 [2018], Café Pacific): Standards singer, second album, produced by Mark Winkler, idiosyncratic mix of things that work and others that don't. She does have a distinctive voice, low but not sultry, and the arrangements are adroit. B+(*) [cd]

Andy Sheppard Quartet: Romaria (2017 [2018], ECM): British tenor/soprano saxophonist, a regular with Carla Bley since the mid-1990s, backed here by Eivind Aarset (guitar), Michel Benita (double bass), and Sebastian Rochford (drums). He slows down and fades into the ether, though this makes for pretty background as long as you can hear it. B+(*)

Shopping: The Official Body (2018, FatCat): British post-punk band, third album, Rachel Aggs plays guitar and sings, bassist and drummer also sing some. Songs are tight, clean, have a rhythm and tone similar to that of such classic post-punk bands as Wire, Gang of Four, and Joy Division. That's pretty good. A-

Dr. Lonnie Smith: All in My Mind (2018, Blue Note): Organ player, cut Finger Lickin' Good in 1967 and hasn't messed with his formula much since then. Trio with Jonathan Kreisberg (guitar) and Johnathan Blake (drums), playing live somewhere, at some time, no details yet on that. I'm not immune to his grove, and his opening "Juju" is fine, but he steps in it on occasion -- a Paul Simon melody for one. B-

Spellling: Pantheon of Me (2017, self-released): Tia Cabral, from Oakland, first album after a couple of EPs, hard to classify, dark as trip hop but short on beats. B

Peter Stampfel and the Brooklyn & Lower Manhattan Fiddle/Mandolin Swarm: Holiday for Strings (2016, Don Giovanni): Went looking for his new one (The Cambrian Explosion) and found this not-so-old one I had missed. The Swarm is often out of control, and the mass of not-very-harmonic voices is unruly, but the leader remains so unique you never for a moment have trouble picking him out from the chaos. A-

Edgar Steinitz: Roots Unknown (2017 [2018], OA2): Physician, professor, lately plays clarinet/bass clarinet/soprano sax, studied with bassist Dave Friesen, who plays on this belated debut, a set of pieces exploring Ashkenazi and Sephardic traditions. Backed with accordion, violin, and percussion, with Jay Thomas guesting on trumpet/flugelhorn, flute, and tenor sax. B+(***) [cd]

Bobo Stenson Trio: Contra La Indecisión (2017 [2018], ECM): Swedish pianist, discography starts in 1971, always impressive, although I tend to think of him for the quartet he co-led with Jan Garbarek. This is a basic trio with Anders Jormin on bass and Jon Fält on drums, Jormin's name on 6 (of 11) compositions (counting a group credit which gives Stenson 2) -- covers include Bartok, Satie, and the title piece from Silvio Rodriguez, all played delicately. B+(**)

Tal National: Tantabara (2018, Fat Cat): Group from Niger, third record, upbeat, intense even. I find their guitars and voices a bit grating, although sometimes they overcome my resistance. B+(***)

Anna Tivel: Small Believer (2017, Fluff and Gravy): Singer-songwriter from Portland, plays guitar and violin, fourth album, has a producer who spruces up the sound without clutter or distraction. A lovely album, I find myself hanging on every word. A-

Traxman: Tekvision (2017, Teklife): Cornelius Ferguson, aka Corky Strong, footwork producer from Chicago. Works with a minimal set of beats, rather clunky. On the short side: 8 cuts, 29:46. B-

Ty Dolla Sign: Beach House 3 (2017, Atlantic): Rapper Tyrone William Griffin Jr., second studio album, title acknowledges two previous Beach House mixtapes (of nine mixtapes since 2011). Sings more than he raps, or perhaps I should say splits the difference? B+(*)

Steve Tyrell: A Song for You (2018, New Design): Born in Houston, moved to New York at 18, established himself as a record producer, working with Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Dionne Warwick, and B.J. Thomas. Appeared as a crooner in Steve Martin's Father of the Bride, leading to a second career as a standards singer, e.g.: A New Standard (1999), followed by nearly a dozen titles like Songs of Sinatra and Bach to Bacharach. He dedicates this album to the late Paul Buckmaster, who evidently worked on the title track. Opens with a Van Morrison song, followed by "Come Rain or Come Shine" and "Try a Little Tenderness" -- tidy arrangements, sweetened by strings from Budapest. B+(**) [cd]

Mike Vax & Ron Romm: Collaboration (2017 [2018], Summit): Two trumpet players: Vax mostly in big bands, including work with Stan Kenton and Clark Terry, with an album under his own name from 1974; Romm a veteran of the Canadian Brass (1971-2000). This one focuses on the trumpet tradition from Armstrong to Adderley -- the latter's "Sweet Emma" is a highlight. B+(**) [cd]

Michael Waldrop: Origin Suite (2017 [2018], Origin): Drummer/vibraphonist, runs a big band here, with various bits recorded elsewhere and tacked together. The title suite is rather short, but the album goes on and on, alternately richly expressive and overblown. B- [cd]

Wu-Tang: The Saga Continues (2017, eOne): Released in October, the group name shortened to note the absence of U-God (some legal issues, royalties maybe), conspicuously produced by Mathematics, pretty much universally ignored (68 at Metacritic on 13 reviews, only one EOY list appearance I've noted, and 100th place at that). I can't say I've ever been much of a fan, and indeed disliked the whole 1990s gangsta fad, but time changes everything, not least how one perceives those who haven't changed. They're old school now, their beats/samples sound great, giving their tales of drug dealing an air of literature, and their defense of black masculinity a quest for dignity and power (albeit with a whiff of sexism). A-

Hideo Yamaki/Bill Laswell/Bjorn Björkenheim/Mike Sopko/Dominic James: Inaugural Sound Clash for the 2 Americas (2017, MOD Technologies): Drummer, bassist, three guitarists, recorded live at the Stone in NYC on Trump's inauguration day, one long piece called "Against the Empire of Alternative Facts." Eschews the rage, fear and loathing the occasional cried out for, settling into a groove showing strength and resilience, not that the path ahead will be easy. B+(***)

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Mulatu Astatke: Mulatu of Ethiopia (1972 [2017], Strut): From Ethiopia, studied engineering in Wales, music at Trinity College in London and Berklee in Boston, playing keyboards, vibraphone, and percussion in a mix he called Ethio-jazz, cutting this early record in New York. B+(***)

Youssou N'Dour: Africa Rekk: Réédition (2016 [2017], Jive/Epic): Since leaving Nonesuch, the Senegalese superstar has become increasingly difficult to follow, his main legit outlet Sony in France (with limited if any US distribution), plus various download-only items, legit or not. This adds (and possibly remixes) a couple songs to his 2016 album, but access seems limited to streaming outlets. But at least that's access, as compared to Christgau's recent picks: the EP #Senegaal Rekk and the live Raxas Bercy 2017. This is about half typical/brilliant, half veering into less satisfying styles, like calypso. B+(**)

Old Music

Derek Bailey/Evan Parker/Hugh Davies/Jamie Muir/Christine Jeffrey: The Music Improvisation Company (1970, ECM): Very early in the long, storied careers of Bailey (electric guitar) and Parker (soprano sax), at the time no more famous than Davies (electronics), Muir (percussion), or Jeffrey (voice on two tracks, not that you notice). Could be taken as some sort of landmark, but scratchy and abstract, hard to follow without much payoff. B

Kenny Barron: Scratch (1985, Enja): Piano trio, with Dave Holland on bass and Daniel Humair on drums. Five originals, one song from Carmen Lundy. B+(**)

Kenny Barron Trio: Green Chimneys (1983-87 [1988], Criss Cross): Piano trio, with Buster Williams on bass and Ben Riley on drums. One original, nine covers -- including two Monks that jump out at you, although everything is deftly played. B+(***)

Raoul Björkenheim & Krakatau: Ritual (1988-90 [1996], Cuneiform): The American-Finnish guitarist's first album, ten tracks released in Finland in 1988 plus a couple later ones tacked on for the US release. Björkenheim went on to release three more albums as Krakatau with different lineups. Where fusion seeks to make jazz more rocksteady, he starts with rock licks and improvises on them, with saxophonist Tapani Rinne bringing on extra noise. B+(***) [bc]

Carla Bley: Tropic Appetites (1973-74 [1974], Watt): Lovella May Borg, b. 1936, father a piano teacher and church choirmaster, moved to New York at 17, became a cigarette girl at Birdland, changed her name first to Karen then Carla Borg, met and married Paul Bley, divorced him and married trumpet player Michael Mantler, which lasted 1965-91. (She later married bassist Steve Swallow.) Her first record came out in 1966, followed by A Genuine Tong Funeral (her music, but headlined by Gary Burton) and her famous avant-opera, Escalator Over the Hill, with libretto by Paul Haines. Haines wrote parts of this as well, with Julie Tippetts first among the singers. I've never been a fan of any kind of opera, and even though this is far from the classical model, it seems to me that the words just trip up the music. Elsewhere, the music is clever and interesting, except when a tenor saxophone (originally credited to "Unidentified Cat" but instantly identifiable as Gato Barbieri) elevates it to awesome. B+(*)

Carla Bley: Dinner Music (1976 [1977], Watt): Large group, nine musicians, Bley sharing the piano slot with Richard Tee but also playing organ, tenor sax, and singing one song. Scattered, but when something exceptional happens it's usually trombonist Roswell Rudd at work, or sometimes one of the guitarists (Cornell Dupree and Eric Gale). B+(**)

Carla Bley: Social Studies (1980 [1981], Watt): Another large group set: two saxes (Carlos Ward, Tony Dagradi), four brass (Michael Mantler, Gary Valente, Joe Daly on euphonium, Earl McIntyre on tuba), bass, drums, Bley on organ and piano. Nice, richly detailed arrangements. No downside, not much upside either. B+(*)

Carla Bley: Live! (1981 [1982], Watt/ECM): Recorded at Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, her basic tentet, with the leader on organ, Arturo O'Farrill on piano, two saxes, four brass (Victor Chancey's French horn replaces the euphonium), bass and drums. More vibrant than the studio albums, the rhythm steadier, the top brass has some snap, and the saxes soar. A-

The Carla Bley Band: I Hate to Sing (1981-83 [1984], Watt/ECM): Recorded live, first side in San Francisco, second Willow, NY. Band basically the tentet, the main difference between the two sets at tuba (Bob Stewart v. Earl McIntyre). Three songs have lyrics, somewhat reminscent of Brecht-Weill, using five voices played for comic effect. The music elsewhere is more distinctively Bley, full of good humor and wry wit. B+(***)

Carla Bley: Heavy Heart (1983 [1984], Watt/ECM): Composer first and foremost, leaves the piano slot in this tentet to Kenny Kirkland, playing organ and synth herself. One saxophone (Steve Slagle on alto/baritone/flute), trumpet-trombone-tuba, guitar-bass-drums plus extra percussion (Manolo Badrena). B+(**)

Carla Bley: Night-glo (1985, Watt/ECM): Front cover adds, "with Steve Swallow" -- her bass player for a while, and future third husband (1991), with Michael Mantler's role reduced to "general coordination." Back cover lists six rhythm section musicians in larger type -- Swallow first, Bley (organ, synthesizers), Larry Willis (piano), guitar (Hiram Bullock), drums (Victor Lewis), percussion (Manolo Badrena) -- then five horn players in smaller type. Indeed, while the horns are everywhere they're pretty insignificant. But you could almost say as much for the rhythm. B-

Carla Bley: Sextet (1986-87 [1987], Watt/ECM): Same core group, returning with no horns, although Bley's organ provides some horn-like coloring, and guitarist Hiram Bullock gets some solo space. B+(*)

Carla Bley: Fleur Carnivore (1988 [1989], Watt/ECM): Five original pieces, fifteen musicians, recorded live in Copenhagen. Plenty of horn options, a nice mix of spontaneity and plan. B+(***)

Carla Bley/Steve Swallow: Go Together (1992 [1993], Watt/ECM): Sequel to 1988's Duets, just piano and bass, the latter encroaching on guitar territory. Nice piano here, not very flashy, just picking her way through the fetching melodies. B+(*)

Carla Bley: Big Band Theory (1992 [1993], Watt/ECM): Most of Bley's albums to date have had large bands -- 9-11 members -- with a similar (or even slightly expanded) range of instruments, but short of the 4-4-5 horn sections big bands have used since the middle ages. Here she lines the horns up according to the book, her only unconventional decisions the addition of violin (Alex Balanescu) and organ (daughter Karen Mantler), with Bley playing piano. Three original pieces, plus a slow, magisterial "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat." Works pretty much in practice as in theory: more horns, more power. B+(**)

Carla Bley/Andy Sheppard/Steve Swallow: Songs With Legs (1994 [1996], Watt/ECM): Sheppard is a British tenor/soprano saxophonist, did a few albums for Island/Antilles in the late 1980s, got picked up in Bley's large bands and wound up in her inner circle. Intimate trio recordings, closing with one from Monk. B+(**)

The Carla Bley Big Band: Goes to Church (1996, Watt/ECM): Recorded live at Chiesa San Francesco Al Prato in Perugia, Italy, full big band plus organ, original material except for a bit of "Exaltation" by Carl Ruggles. No trace of gospel; if anything, closer to classical, full of pomp and dramatic gestures. B+(*)

Carla Bley: Fancy Chamber Music (1997 [1998], Watt/ECM): Bley and Steve Swallow (piano and bass) are joined by flute, clarinet, and strings (one each: violin, viola, cello). Too fancy for me, although much of it is pretty enough. B

Carla Bley/Steve Swallow: Are We There Yet? (1998 [1999], Watt/ECM): Another duo album, piano and bass, recorded live somewhere in Europe. Swallow wrote three tracks, but his bass is hardly noticeable, making this the closest yet to solo Bley. She also wrote three pieces, plus they cover Kurt Weill ("Lost in the Stars"). B+(*)

Carla Bley: 4X4 (1999 [2000], Watt/ECM): Title could refer to the octet, split between four horns (two saxes, trumpet, trombone) and four rhythm (piano, organ, bass, drums) -- Larry Goldings is the only new musician here, adding an air of soul jazz that's never been in Bley's toolkit. Very scattered, some remarkable bits and much more I couldn't put enough time into to dig or dismiss. B+(*)

George Cartwright: Dot (1994, Cuneiform): Saxophonist (alto/tenor), leader of the punk-fusion group Curlew (1980-2003). Not real clear what the goals is here, sometimes playing soul jazz, on two cases featuring guest vocalists, occasionally breaking into snarling avant sax. B+(*) [bc]

George Cartwright: The Memphis Years: Terminal Moraine (2000, Cuneiform): Names on front cover: Amy Denio (vocals), Paul Haines (lyrics). Leader plays various saxes, the band is fairly large, the music flowing, and he words (including dedications to Kenneth Patchen and Allen Ginsberg) not without interest. B+(**) [bc]

Curlew: Live in Berlin (1986-87 [1990], Cuneiform): Interesting group, cut a remarkable debut album in 1980, only one more album before this started their association with Cuneiform (7 albums, 1990-2003). Saxophonist George Cartwright and cellist Tom Cora are the leaders, keyboardist Wayne Horvitz the best known side man, plus guitar and drums. Hard to peg, some fusion, some avant -- their first album I tied to New York No Wave. CD adds four tracks, including a deliciously bent "Feelin' Good." B+(***) [bc]

Curlew: Bee (1990 [1991], Cuneiform): Seems to have settled down to a regular lineup, with saxophonist George Cartwright outwriting cellist Tom Cora 8-3, with Davey Williams (guitar) breaking ground, Ann Rupel on bass and Pippin Barnett on drums. B+(***) [bc]

Curlew: A Beautiful Western Saddle (1993, Cuneiform): With Amy Denio singing lyrics by Paul Haines, both names noted on cover, art-song, I suppose, since it's nowhere near stilted enough to be opera. Nothing against the vocals, but I generally find the instrumental passages more interesting, with new guitarist Davey Williams emerging as most valuable player. B+(*) [bc]

Curlew: Paradise (1996, Cuneiform): Another lineup shift leaving saxophonist George Cartwright more than ever the leader, with longtime cellist Tom Cora parted, a second guitarist added (Chris Cochrane joins Davey Williams), old bassist, new drummer, and Jim Spake (bari/soprano sax) as "special guest." Mostly simple groove pieces, some (not all) bent into interesting shapes. B+(**) [bc]

Curlew: Fabulous Drop (1998, Cuneiform): George Cartwright's sax, two guitars, electric bass, new drummer (Kenny Wolleson), playing within their formula -- at this stage akin to what was then called acid jazz -- hard and often funky. B+(***)

Curlew: Meet the Curlews (2002, Cuneiform): More personnel churn: saxophonist George Cartwright and guitarist Davey Williams are the only returning members, while pianist Chris Parker changes the band's complexion, for another mixed bag. B+(**)

Curlew: Mercury (2003, Cuneiform): Saxophonist George Cartwright's group, quintet backed with guitar-keyboards-bass-drums, new guitarist Dean Granos most important. They've always had a fusion element, so first thought on hearing their initial screech was the title signifies heavy metal, but slippery. B+(***)

Elton Dean/Howard Riley/Paul Rogers/Mark Sanders: All the Tradition (1990, Slam): English alto saxophonist, best known as a member of Soft Machine as they made their initial jazz-rock move (Third to Fifth, returning for Soft Machine Legacy 2005-06), but he has a substantial avant discography up to his death in 2006. Backed by piano/bass/drums, although Riley is more like a co-leader. Two group improvs, spreading out three covers -- "Darn That Dream," "Crescent," "I Remember Clifford" -- that give the band something to chew on. B+(***)

Elton Dean: The Vortex Tapes (1990, Slam): Five tracks (9:42-18:39) recorded over five dates at the Vortex Club, with varying lineups so you get a long list of extra names (13) on the cover. Still, the groups are small: four quartets, one sextet with Simon Picard and Trevor Watts additional saxes. The first piece, "Second Thoughts," is possibly the best thing I've heard Dean do, with pianist Keith Tippett throwing down blocks and Dean deftly leaping over them. Mileage varies on the other pieces, but when you notice the piano again, on the closer, it's Howard Riley -- very different, but also remarkable. B+(**)

Elton Dean Quintet: Silent Knowledge (1995 [1996], Cuneiform): Quintet picks up three-fourths of Mujician (Paul Dunmall, Paul Rogers, and Tony Levin), with Sophia Domancich on piano. Jousting with Dunmall is exciting, but I almost prefer one relatively intimate stretch without him. B+(***) [bc]

Elton Dean Quartet + Roswell Rudd: Rumours of an Incident (1996 [1997], Slam): Early in the trombonist's comeback stretch, he finds himself in a British free jazz group, not one of Dean's stronger rhythm sections, and thrashes it out on two long improv numbers. B+(**)

Elton Dean/Paul Dunmall/Tony Levin/Paul Rogers/Roswell Rudd/Keith Tippett: Bladik (1996 [1997], Cuneiform): A big step forward for the rhythm section, as Dean introduces Rudd to the quartet otherwise known as Mujician. Three long improv pieces, a fair amount of slash and grind, but the alto and the trombone remain pretty distinctive, and drummer Levin is really terrific. A-

Jack DeJohnette: The DeJohnette Complex (1968 [1969], Milestone): Drummer, from Chicago, sraddled hard bop and free, early on playing with Sun Ra and various AACM guys, joining Charles Lloyd in 1966, developing into one of the great drummers of our time. This first album features Bennie Maupin (tenor sax/wood flute/flute), Stanley Cowell (piano, mostly electric), Eddie Gomez and/or Miroslav Vitous (bass), and Roy Haynes (drums). Maupin and Cowell each have spots where they threaten to break free, but the effect is just scattered, ending on a flute downer. B

Jack DeJohnette: Pictures (1976 [1977], ECM): Solo on three cuts (first side), playing keyboards as well as drums, then duets with guitarist John Abercrombie on the second side (three more cuts). Rather thin basis for an album, with nothing much standing out. B-

Jack DeJohnette: New Directions (1978, ECM): In 1977 DeJohnette unveiled a quartet called Directions (album title New Rags). He retains Abercrombie here, replacing the sax with Lester Bowie's trumpet, and bringing in Edsel Gomez on bass. B+(*)

Jack DeJohnette: Special Edition (1979 [1980], ECM): Quartet with Peter Warren (bass, cello) and two saxophonists: David Murray (tenor, bass clarinet) and Arthur Blythe (alto). That's a lot of firepower, but for some reason it's deployed rather erratically. B+(**)

Jack DeJohnette New Directions: In Europe (1979 [1980], ECM): The quartet from New Directions -- Lester Bowie (trumpet), John Abercrombie (guitar/mandolin guitar), Eddie Gomez (bass) -- with a live set from Willisau, in Switzerland. B+(*)

Amy Denio/Pavel Fajt/Csaba Hajnóczy/Gabi Kenderesi: The Danubians (1999 [2000], Cuneiform): Eponymous group album, but the names are on the cover, and the label identifies this as Denio's project. She hails from Seattle; plays accordion, alto sax, bass, and guitar, and sings, often sampled; has a dozen albums but I first ran into her singing for Curlew. The others seem to be Hungarian, straddling folk and electronica, with Kerendesi's deep voice also sampled. Not sure what to make of the mix, but the sax is impressive. B+(***) [bc]

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band: The New Orleans Album (1989 [1990], Columbia): Formed in the late 1970s, one of the more successful and longer lasting (most recent album 2012) of the tourist era revival bands -- possibly because their idea of tradition draws more on Dave Bartholomew than on King Oliver. This was their fourth album, Core band has two saxes, two trumpets, sousaphone, and drums, with trombone on two cuts, and they make ample use of guests here, including vocals by Eddie Bo, Danny Barker, Elvis Costello, and Bartholomew (who also takesa hot trumpet solo; Bo, of course, plays some piano). B+(*)

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band: Jelly: The Dirty Dozen Brass Band Plays Jelly Roll Morton (1992-93 [1993], Columbia): Basically a party band with occasional references to old New Orleans, more to marching bands than to the revolutionary jazz of the 1920s. Turns out they have little feel for Morton, even with Danny Baker chipping in occasional stories and introductions. B

Paul Dunmall Octet: The Great Divide (2000 [2001], Cuneiform): British avant-saxophonist, plays tenor here as does Simon Picard, accompanied by trumpet, two trombones, his Mujician mates on piano (Keith Tippett), bass (Paul Rogers), and drums (Tony Levin), plus some extra guests: guitarist John Adams on several cuts, more (including Elton Dean and Evan Parker) on the closer -- where the album finally degenerates into a free-for-all. B+(*) [bc]

Paul Dunmall/John Adams/Mark Sanders: Totally Fried Up (1998 [1999], Slam): Avant tenor sax/guitar/drums trio. The guitarist is key here, winding Dunmall up even tighter than usual, although the same trio's earlier Ghostly Thoughts impressed me more. B+(**)

Vinny Golia/Aurora Josephson/Henry Kaiser/Mike Keneally/Joe Morris/Damon Smith/Weasel Walter: Healing Force: The Songs of Albert Ayler (2006 [2007], Cuneiform): Label credits Healing Force as the artist group name, but cover lists the musicians above, credits: reeds, voice, guitar, piano/guitar/voice, guitar/bass, bass, drums. Most likely Kaiser's concept, as he produced and it's on a label he's worked with before. Some chance this could grow on one, mostly depending on how you take the vocals -- a couple are practically pop songs. I'd rather hear Golia more: he's got Ayler's Holy Ghost act pat, not to mention more chops. B+(***) [bc]

Gerry Hemingway Quintet: Special Detail (1990 [1991], Hat Art): Drummer, part of Anthony Braxton's famous 1983-94 Quartet, has a couple dozen albums under his own name since 1979. Quintet includes two Dutch avant-gardists -- Ernst Reijsager (cello) and Wolter Wierbos (trombone) -- bassist Ed Schuller, and Don Byron, not someone you expect playing free, which he does remarkably both on clarinet and baritone sax. B+(***)

Gerry Hemingway Quartet: Down to the Wire (1991 [1993], Hat Art): Two horns: Michael Moore (alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet) and Wolter Wierbos (trombone), the latter not prominent enough, plus Braxton mate Mark Dresser on bass. B+(*)

Gerry Hemingway Quintet: The Marmalade King (1994 [1995], Hat Art): Adds Dutch cellist Ernst Reijsager to the Quartet, although his impact is less obvious than that of Michael Moore on various reeds (mostly alto sax and clarinet), bouncing off against Wolter Wierbos' trombone. B+(***)

Keith Jarrett/Jack DeJohnette: Ruta and Daitya (1971 [1973], ECM): Duets, pianist and drummer, but Jarrett also plays electric, organ, percussion, and quite a bit of flute -- actually pretty good. Earliest recorded album for ECM, although Facing You appeared first. B+(**)

Keith Jarrett: Facing You (1971 [1972], ECM): Solo piano, possible his first ever -- there have been a couple dozen since. This one is fairly measured compared to later outings like The Köln Concert which cemented his reputation as the top pianist of his generation. Might even pass for cocktail rumination, but can't be dismissed as such. B+(**)

Keith Jarrett: Arbour Zena (1975 [1976], ECM): Three pieces, one 27:47 (52:59 total), played by the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, supplemented by Jarrett on piano, Charlie Haden on bass, and Jan Garbarek on tenor/soprano sax. Lovely work from the stars, but the Orchestra just mopes in the background. B-

Keith Jarrett: The Survivor's Suite (1976 [1977], ECM): One 48:39 composition, played by Jarrett's "American Quartet" on his European label: Dewey Redman (tenor sax), Charlie Haden (bass), Paul Motian (drums). Runs the gamut of colors and emotions, including some impressively strenuous sax. B+(**)

Keith Jarrett: Nude Ants (1979 [1980], ECM, 2CD): The pianist's European Quartet, with Jan Garbarek (tenor/soprano sax), Palle Danielsson (bass), and Jon Christensen (drums). Recorded live at the Village Vanguard, encouraging them to vamp at length, six pieces stretched to 101:36. B+(**)

Keith Jarrett: Personal Mountains (1979 [1989], ECM): Same group, recorded a month earlier in Tokyo but unreleased for a decade. A bit more succinct, perhaps a bit more from Jan Garbarek, but makes little difference overall. B+(**)

Franz Koglmann: Schlaf Schlemmer, Schlaf Magritte (1984 [1993], Hat Art): Austrian trumpet player, one of his earlier records, a tentet with a wide mix of horns but the only saxophone is Roberto Ottaviano's soprano. Arty composed music, one hesitates to say classical or "third stream," but more familiar there. B+(*)

Franz Koglmann: About Yesterday's Ezzthetics (1988 [1989], Hat Art): Mostly covers, a look back on the jazz tradition, including two signature George Russell pieces ("Ezz-Thetic" and "Stratusphunk"), two each from Gillespie and Monk, one each from Rollins and Lacy, a couple of songbook standards. Band names on the cover: Steve Lacy (soprano sax), Mario Arcari (oboe), Klaus Koch (bass), Fritz Hauser (drums). Familiarity normally makes it easier to figure out what an artist is doing distinctive but this is still pretty hard to suss out. B+(*)

Franz Koglmann: A White Line (1989 [1990], Hat Art): Cover Lists "guest artists" -- Paul Bley (piano), Tony Coe (tenor sax/clarinet), Gerry Hemingway (drums) -- although they seem to be full-time band members, along with less famous names on oboe, French horn, tuba, guitar, accordion, and bass, and the leader on trumpet: ten in all. Still difficult, but more interesting -- even fun to hear "At the Jazz Band Ball." B+(**)

Eero Koivistoinen: Helium (1999 [2001], Texicali): Finnish tenor saxophonist, made some of the most bracing fusion records of the 1970s, still soars over a hard groove, toughened up by guitarist Raoul Björkenheim, plus African drums on 3/9 tracks. B+(**)

Eero Koivistoinen & UMO Jazz Orchestra: Arctic Blues (2005-16 [2016], Svart, 2CD): Discogs shows a gap in the Finnish sax legend's discography between 2001-14, finally broken by several featured appearances in large contexts. UMO was founded in 1975 and has forty-some albums, at least two previous featuring Koivistoinen's music. Huge, hard to pick out the soloist. Small slice (1/6 LP sides) returns to a 2005 concert. B+(*)

Krakatau: Volition (1991 [1992], ECM): New support for guitarist Raoul Björkenheim's group: Jone Takamäki (tenor sax/wind instruments), Uffe Krokors (bass), Alf Forsman (drums -- starts slow, eventually gains some traction but nothing especially stands out. B

Krakatau: Matinale (1993 [1994], ECM): New drummer makes little difference. Saxophonist Jone Takamäki plays more odd instruments, but atmospherics isn't really this band's strong suit. The only thing that really matters is when they kick it into gear, which doesn't happen often enough. B+(*)

Charles Lloyd Quartet: Fish Out of Water (1989 [1990], ECM): The tenor saxophonist's first album for ECM, backed by label stalwart Bobo Stenson's piano trio -- Palle Danielsson on bass and Jon Christensen on drums -- a match which works nicely all around. B+(**)

Charles Lloyd: The Call (1993, ECM): Quartet, same group as on Notes From Big Sur, with Bobo Stenson, Anders Jormin, and Billy Hart. Long (78:56), relaxed, developing a fine ballad voice. B+(***)

Charles Lloyd: All My Relations (1994 [1995], ECM): Same quartet. Again, long and slow. Too much flute. B+(*)

Charles Lloyd: Canto (1996 [1997], ECM): Same quartet, the tenor saxophonist's change-of-pace instrument a Tibetan oboe. Feels like he's settling in for the long haul, still distinctive even when he doesn't stretch. B+(**)

Charles Lloyd: The Water Is Wide (1999 [2000], ECM): The tenor saxophonist went for a higher-powered quartet on Voice in the Night -- John Abercrombie, Dave Holland, Billy Higgins -- and turned in his best album since his late-'60s heyday. Here he adds pianist Brad Mehldau, replacing Holland with Larry Grenadier (from Mehldau's trio). B+(***)

Charles Lloyd: Hyperion With Higgins (1999 [2001], ECM): Same quintet, but Lloyd has rarely sounded so distinctive, so much so that he sticks with tenor sax throughout. Also brings out the best in Abercrombie, the drummer too. A-

Charles Lloyd: Lift Every Voice (2002, ECM, 2CD): Post-9/11, Lloyd entered the studio in a reflective, expansive mood, with enough originals for a regular album, but also a desire to play traditional hymns, Elllington, Silvio Rodriguez, "What's Going On." He added pianist Geri Allen to his quartet, kept John Abercrombie, split the bass duties between Larry Grenadier and Marc Johnson, and, with Billy Higgins passed, returned to Billy Hart on drums. B+(***)

The Jon Lloyd Quartet: Head! (1993, Leo): British avant saxophonist (alto/soprano), second quartet album, with John Law (piano), Paul Rogers (bass), and Mark Saunders (drums). Lot of good things here, just stumbles a bit. B+(***)

Jon Lloyd Quartet: By Confusion (1996 [1997], Hatology): Tim Wells takes over the bass slot, but not much change as the interaction between Lloyd and John Law is what matters. A bit more complex than Head!, more consistent yet subdued, or maybe I mean inside. A-

Jon Lloyd Group: Vanishing Points (2013, 33): Quintet, new guitarist Rob Palmer joins pianist John Law as co-producers, with Tom Farmer on bass and Asaf Sirkis on drums. Lloyd is credited with soprano sax and bass clarinet, a shift from the alto sax that was his lead axe in the 1990s. Lacks the tension of the earlier releases, leaving it pleasant and often lovely. B+(**)

Joe Lovano Nonet: On This Day . . . at the Vanguard (2002 [2003], Blue Note): Large group with three tenor saxophonists -- Lovano, George Garzone and Ralph Lalama -- alto sax (Steve Slagle), trumpet, trombone, piano (John Hicks), bass, and drums. The fast ones (like "Good Bait") remind me of bebop-era jam sessions. B+(**)

Michael Mantler: Something There (1983, Watt/ECM): Funkless fusion, the leader's trumpet mostly buried in the mix, along with Mike Stern's guitar and Michael Gibbs' strings. Carla Bley produced and plays piano, and Nick Mason is listed on drums. B

Michael Mantler With Don Preston: Alien (1985, Watt/ECM): Trumpet player, from Austria, studied in Boston, moved to New York in 1964 and met and married Carla Bley, returning to Europe after their divorce in 1991. Preston plays synths including electronic drums, setting up the layers the trumpet glides over. B+(*)

Michael Mantler: Live (1987, Watt/ECM): Front cover "with" names: Jack Bruce (vocals), Rick Fenn (guitar), Don Preston (synthesizer), John Greaves (bass/piano), Nick Mason (drums). The musical backdrop, even the trumpet, is atmospheric but bleak, setting up texts by Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, and Edward Gorey -- the latter was the subject of Mantler's extraordinary The Hapless Child, but the music is more constricted here, and no one can replace Robert Wyatt -- least of all Bruce. B-

Michael Mantler: Many Have No Speech (1987 [1988], Watt/ECM): Perhaps the most operatic of Mantler's works, with the leader's trumpet, Rick Fenn's guitar, and the Danish Radio Concert Orchestra doing the gloomy backgrounds. You'd think someone could have fun with a vocal trio of Jack Bruce, Marianne Faithfull, and Robert Wyatt, but Mantler would rather quote Samuel Beckett, Ernst Meister, and Philippe Soupault. C+

Michael Mantler: Folly Seeing All This (1992 [1993], ECM): Long title piece (28:39), two much shorter ones, the last with Jack Bruce bellowing a Samuel Beckett lyric. Seems like about par for the Mantler's string of albums, what with the dense guitar and strings and trumpet coloring, but a tad more appealing. B

Michael Mantler: Cerco Un Paese Innocente (1994 [1995], ECM): "A Suite of Songs and Interludes for Voice, untypical Big Band and Soloists," words by Giuseppe Ungaretti, featuring Mona Larsen and the Danish Radio Big Band "plus soloists" -- don't have a list of the latter, nor is it clear what's "untypical" about the big band, other than that the horn sections are a bit overweight, and I note a synth player and a quartet of strings. B+(*)

Mokave [Glen Moore/Larry Karush/Glen Velez]: Afrique (1993 [1994], Audioquest): Piano trio, did three albums 1991-94. One assumes bassist Moore to be the leader -- probably the best known of the three, mostly as founder of Oregon, although percussionist Velez has his name on more albums. B+(*)

Mujician: The Journey (1990, Cuneiform): Long-running British avant quartet, seven albums 1990-2006, not including pianist Keith Tippett's 1982 Mujician (source of the group name but a solo outing). With Paul Dunmall (clarinet and three saxophones), Paul Rogers (bass) and Tony Levin (drums). This is the first, one 55:02 piece recorded for and broadcast on BBC, runs hot and cold, usually something interesting going on. B+(**) [bc]

Mujician: Poem About the Hero (1994, Cuneiform): Second group album, joint credits, no words although the pieces are named "First Verse," "Second Verse," etc. Again, more remarkable in spots than as a whole, although Dunmall is showing signs of coming into his own, and Tippett is not one to just hang back and comp. B+(**) [bc]

Mujician: Colours Fulfilled (1997 [1998], Cuneiform): Penguin Guide's pick of the litter, has fewer gaps than the live ones, and Dunmall (who I'm often up-and-down on) has developed a dazzling bag of tricks. I thought, for instance, he was pulling a major Evan Parker soprano rip over Levin's massive drumm roll for a climax, but I'm informed he was actually playing bagpipes. A- [bc]

Mujician: Spacetime (2001 [2002], Cuneiform): Formally organized as two large multi-part pieces, "Spacetime" and "Exquisitely Woven Spiritual Communication," with Dunmall limited to soprano and tenor sax, resulting in more texture and less chaos, a sensible thing but not an especially exciting one. B+(***) [bc]

Michel Petrucciani: Oracle's Destiny (1982 [1983], Owl): Pianist, born in France but father from Naples, suffered from osteogenesis imperfecta which stunted his growth, caused his bones to fracture over 100 times, and led to his death at 36. Still, a remarkable pianist on any terms. This was a relatively early album (7th, but only two years after his first), solo, dedicated to Bill Evans but mostly his own compositions (one by Aldo Romano). Not as dynamic as many of his albums, but thoughtful always. B+(**)

Amy Rigby: Live at Cat's Cradle 02/26/2003 (2003 [2011], self-released): Live, no band, just her own guitar, awkward talking, jokes fall flat, no drummer to wink back on "Give the Drummer Some," not even the headliner -- occasional glances over her shoulder to see whether "Todd" has shown up, but at least she gets an encore when he does. Introduces a song from her fourth album, otherwise this mostly recapitulates 18 Again -- a best-of from her three albums that Koch released as they were showing her the door. It's all rather humbling, not that the songs aren't great. B+(**)

Scoolptures: Materiale Umano (2009, Leo): Free improv trio: Achille Succi (bass clarinet/alto sax/shakuhachi), Nicola Negrini (double bass, metallophone, electronics), and Philippe Garcia (drums, voice, electronics). Interesting armory of sounds, a bit scattered as deployed in thirteen pieces where the titles all end in "slice" (e.g., "Brainslice," "Skinslice"). B+(**)

Scoolptures: White Sickness (2009 [2011], Leo): Fourth member Antonio Della Marina (electronics) joins in, the song names all plays on numbers (I think: "Quindiciuno," "Quattrodue," "Dodicidue," etc.). Too volatile for ambient, but too often it does dissolve into the ether. B

Scoolptures: Please Drive-by Carefully (2012 [2013], Leo, 2CD): Quartet again, with bassist Nicola Negrini probably the main driving force, but especially at this length it's much easier to listen to this as saxophonist Achille Succi's show, especially as he's the one who raises the energy level. B+(**)

Scorch Trio: Brolt! (2007 [2008], Rune Grammofon): Guitar-bass-drums trio, basically the Thing with Raoul Björkenheim as chief noisemaker instead of Mats Gustafsson. Eponymous debut (2002) had some minor balance problems, fixed here as everyone seems to converge. B+(**)

Henry Threadgill: X-75 Volume 1 (1979, Arista/Novus): First solo album after several years in Air, a strange, slippery, and unappealing group which as far as I can tell consists of four bass and four flute players, although the latter contingent sometimes switch off to other reeds. Oh, and warbly vocals by Amina Claudine Myers. [PS: Evidently Legacy released an (Extended) version in 2016 with three additional cuts, but I have no idea where they came from, and didn't bother listening to them. No Volume 2 appeared.] C+

Keith Tippett: Mujician Solo IV (Live in Piacenza) (2012 [2015], Dark Companion): Before forming the quartet Mujician, Tippett recorded three solo piano albums under that title, 1982-89. With the group disbanded, Tippett reclaims the name here, although that could just be marketing. Nothing in my database under his name since 1996, but Discogs shows a couple albums per year. This shows him undiminished. B+(**)

Colin Vallon Trio: Ailleurs (2006, Hatology): Swiss pianist, from Lausanne, probably his second album, a trio with Pat Moret (double bass) and Samuel Rohrer (drums). B+(**)

Glen Velez: Doctrine of Signatures (1990 [1991], CMP): Percussionist, born in Mexico, grew up in Texas, moved to New York; main instrument is frame drum, but plays a wide range of drums and exotic percussion. Four extra tar drummers here, plus Steve Gorn's bansuri bamboo flute on the shorter first piece, not that the beats are all that complex -- the softness makes them more trancelike. B+(**)

Mal Waldron Trio: Free at Last (1969 [1970], ECM): Piano trio, recorded in Germany with Isla Eckinger (bass) and Clarence Becton (drums), first record released by ECM (number 1001). Waldron's rhythmic flair strongly evident here. B+(**)

Mal Waldron: Blues for Lady Day (1972 [1973], Black Lion): He played piano for Billy Holiday from April 1957 until her death in 1959, a connection he would be remembered for decades later, even more than his own remarkable output -- 100 albums as leader, at least 70 side credits. This, subtitled "A Personal Tribute to Billie Holiday," is one of a handful of records to recall the connection, solo piano starting with his own title song, continuing into her songbook. [NB: Napster version, licensed from 1201 Records, has two extra trio cuts from A Little Bit of Miles -- see below. Arista/Freedom 1975 reissue includes subtitle on front cover, not evident in the Black Lion artwork. The Arista reissue suggests this originally appeared on Freedom, a French label whose catalog Black Lion later obtained. I used to own most of the Arista/Freedom reissues, but don't recall having this one.] B+(**)

Mal Waldron: A Little Bit of Miles (1972 [1974], Trio/Freedom): Piano trio, recorded in the Netherlands with Henk Haverhoek on bass and Pierre Courbois on drums. Two side-long pieces, the title one especially rousing. [NB: Later tacked onto the reissue of Blues for Lady Day, at least on Napster.] B+(**)

Mal Waldron Quintet With Steve Lacy: One-Upmanship (1977, Enja): The soprano saxophonist is in the quintet, paired with Manfred Schoof on trumpet, backed by bass (Jimmy Woode) and drums (Makaya Ntshoko). Three Waldron originals, the title track and "The Seagulls of Kristiansund" on the first side, "Hurray for Herbie" stretched to fill the second. B+(***) [yt]

Mal Waldron Quintet: Where Are You? (1989 [1994], Soul Note): Pianist, started in the 1950s accompanying Billie Holiday, did some of his most adventurous work 1986-89 for Soul Note. Starts with a solo take of the title piece, then brings in the band -- Sonny Fortune (alto sax), Ricky Ford (tenor), Reggie Workman (bass), and Eddie Moore (drums) -- for two long pieces, followed by a second piano take. B+(**)

Revised Grades

Sometimes further listening leads me to change an initial grade, usually either because I move on to a real copy, or because someone else's review or list makes me want to check it again:

Raoul Björkenheim//Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Paal Nilssen-Love: Scorch Trio (2002, Rune Grammofon): [was A-] B+(***)

Charles Lloyd: Notes From Big Sur (1991 [1992], ECM): [was B]: B+(*)


Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:

  • [cd] based on physical cd
  • [cdr] based on an advance or promo cd or cdr
  • [bc] available at
  • [yt] available at
  • [dl] something I was able to download from the web; may be freely available, may be a bootleg someone made available, or may be a publicist promo

Monday, February 26, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 29423 [29386] rated (+37), 367 [375] unrated (-8).

Paid more attention to the new jazz queue last week, but still most of the newly rated albums are old -- some from my unrated list (mostly revisited via Napster, but they clear up old U marks), plus a few others that caught my fancy. The connection between this splurge in old music and my work on the Jazz Guide(s) is more tenuous and opportunistic this week, as I've been having trouble thinking of groups/records to look up. On the other hand, few 2018 releases are coming to my attention. Two months into the new year, my A-list is only five albums long: four jazz (Kevin Sun, Gregory Lewis, Evan Parker, Kris Davis/Craig Taborn), one non-jazz (Mary Gauthier). Part seasonal, I guess, and part don't-give-a-fuck. I'm having a tough time this year.

February Streamnotes should be up by Wednesday. Right now looks like: 57 new records, 2 recent old music releases, 97 old releases. Not sure if that counts as a very big month, or a very slim one. When I post it, I'll copy the new reviews into the Jazz Guide files, and call them done -- at least for what I've been calling Stage 2, pretty close to the compilation of all the reviews in my various CG-like columns since 2003. Currently my files contain 765 pages for the 20th Century (music recorded up through 1999), and 1650 pages for the 21st Century (music released from 2000 on). The definitions allow for a small amount of overlap (e.g., records cut in 1999 but not released until 2000, although some are earlier and/or later). Next step will be to figure out some way to make these files more accessible. The most obvious option is to export PDF, which I did at the end of Stage 1. One possible problem is that the PDF files are much larger than the LibreOffice source files -- though whether that turns out to be a real problem will take some testing.

Another approach would be to export the files as HTML and load them on a website somewhere. LibreOffice has a function to do that, but I've never used it, and it doesn't look like it will work nicely. Perhaps the thing to do then would be to write yet another program to read through the generated HTML and hack it up into usable shape. Seems like some of these things must have been done many times before. In addition to the built-in features, there are some obvious extensions to look at; e.g., LibreWeb, and Writer2ePub. (Actually, at first glance LibreWeb doesn't look useful at all. More promising is third-party free software like Calibre and Alkinea.)

Another interesting question is whether I can convert the book(s) to populate a website CMS like MediaWiki. Whereas exporting from LibreOffice to HTML/E-book would be a periodic (and therefore automated) process as changes are made to the original source file, the idea behind using MediaWiki would be put the work into a playpen where it could be further edited/enhanced. One thing that's clear to me is that while I've invested a hell of a lot of work into writing those 2415 (and counting) pages, I've long lost the struggle to keep on top of the domain -- indeed, that's something no one person can do these days. Indeed, I didn't even bother collecting my non-jazz reviews -- probably another 1000 pages buried all over the current website. That's a project for someone else to step up to, but I suppose I can still try to figure out how it might work.

I started collecting the reviews for the Jazz Guide(s) back in August 2016, more than 18 months ago. During all that time I had the luxury of knowing I had something I could work on no matter how low or dull I felt, but that task is pretty much done now, throwing me back into some sort of transitional phase. Wish I felt up to it, but I don't.

New records rated this week:

  • Louise Baranger: Louise Baranger Plays the Great American Groove Book (2017, Summit): [cd]: B
  • Dan Block: Block Party: A Saint Louis Connection (2015 [2018], Miles High): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Owen Broder: Heritage: The American Roots Project (2017 [2018], ArtistShare): [cd]: B
  • Sarah Buechi: Contradiction of Happiness (2017 [2018], Intakt): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Kaze: Atody Man (2017 [2018], Libra): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Daniel Levin/Chris Pitsiokos/Brandon Seabrook: Stomiidae (2017 [2018], Dark Tree): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Living Fossil: Never Die! (2017 [2018], self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton: Music for David Mossman: Live at Vortex London (2016 [2018], Intakt): [cd]: A-
  • Dolores Scozzesi: Here Comes the Sun (2017 [2018], Café Pacific): [cd]: B
  • Andy Sheppard Quartet: Romaria (2017 [2018], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mike Vax & Ron Romm: Collaboration (2017 [2018], Summit): [cd]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • The Dirty Dozen Brass Band: The New Orleans Album (1989 [1990], Columbia): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Dirty Dozen Brass Band: Jelly: The Dirty Dozen Brass Band Plays Jelly Roll Morton (1992-93 [1993], Columbia): [r]: B
  • Gerry Hemingway Quintet: Special Detail (1990 [1991], Hat Art): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gerry Hemingway Quartet: Down to the Wire (1991 [1993], Hat Art): [r]: B+(*)
  • Gerry Hemingway Quintet: The Marmalade King (1994 [1995], Hat Art): [r]: B+(***)
  • Charles Lloyd Quartet: Fish Out of Water (1989 [1990], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Charles Lloyd: The Call (1993, ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Charles Lloyd: All My Relations (1994 [1995], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • Charles Lloyd: Canto (1996 [1997], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Charles Lloyd: Hyperion With Higgins (1999 [2001], ECM): [r]: A-
  • Charles Lloyd: Lift Every Voice (2002, ECM, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Jon Lloyd Quartet: Head! (1993, Leo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jon Lloyd Quartet: By Confusion (1996 [1997], Hatology): [r]: A-
  • Jon Lloyd Group: Vanishing Points (2013, 33): [r]: B+(**)
  • Joe Lovano Nonet: On This Day . . . at the Vanguard (2002 [2003], Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mokave [Glen Moore/Larry Karush/Glen Velez]: Afrique (1993 [1994], Audioquest): [r]: B+(*)
  • Henry Threadgill: X-75 Volume 1 (1979, Arista/Novus): [r]: C+
  • Glen Velez: Doctrine of Signatures (1990 [1991], CMP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mal Waldron Trio: Free at Last (1969 [1970], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mal Waldron: Blues for Lady Day (1972 [1973], Black Lion): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mal Waldron: A Little Bit of Miles (1972 [1974], Trio/Freedom): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mal Waldron Quintet: Where Are You? (1989 [1994], Soul Note): [r]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Benjamin Boone/Philip Levine: The Poetry of Jazz (Origin): Origin: March 16
  • The Heavyweights Brass Band: This City (Lulaworld): March 9
  • Patricia Nicholson/William Parker: Hope Cries for Justice (Centering): April 13
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Oneness (Leo, 3CD)
  • Chris Platt Trio: Sky Glow (self-released): March 9
  • Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra: Without a Trace (Origin): March 16
  • Jay Rodriguez: Your Sound: Live at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola (Whaling City Sound)

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