Music Week [0 - 9]

Monday, May 16, 2022

Music Week

May archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 37925 [37881] rated (+44), 120 [126] unrated (-6).

Only "new" A- record below came from Robert Christgau's May Consumer Guide, the quotes because it actually came out in 2019. Aside from Bobby Digital vs. RZA (see below), Scorpion Kings was the only new record reviewed this month I hadn't already weighed in on. (You might quibble about Ann Peebles' Greatest Hits: I have the 12-song 1988 MCA version at A, vs. Christgau's A- for the 16-song 2015 on Hi.) I had four (of six) Christgau A/A- picks at A- (Mary J. Blige, Kady Diarra, Miranda Lambert, Willie Nelson), with slightly lower B+(***) grades for Oumou Sangaré and Wet Leg. I also had his B+/HM picks at similar grades (Linda Lindas, Taj Mahal/Ry Cooder, Muslims, Dolly Parton, the live Ann Peebles). It's rare that I'm out front on so many releases, and that our grades are so similar.

I wound up with six B+(***) new music grades this week (plus two new compilations of old music) -- probably not an exceptional number, but they loom large with the shortest A-list so far this year. Three of them got 2-3 plays: Heroes Are Gang Leaders (their Amiri Baraka Sessions was my top album of 2019); Kendrick Lamar (with a 98/10 rating at AOTY); and Arcade Fire, which probably came closest before I reflected that I had probably overrated their last two, given my lack of subsequent interest. (Actually, the closest was Scorpion Kings Live, which I hedged down for redundancy.)

In Old Music, the Akiyoshi-Tabackin and Armstrong records were recommended on a Facebook group, so I thought I'd check them out. I stumbled across the Crosby comp while looking for something more appetizing from Armstrong. I should have gone on to check out A Centennial Anthology of His Decca Recordings (a Christgau A).

I've just recently seen this bit of interview with Brian Eno on Russia and Ukraine [from 04-09]. I'm skeptical of the usefulness of the book he recommends -- Sebastian Haffner's Defying Hitler: A Memoir, but also a history of how the Nazis took power -- although I'm tempted to order a copy.

PS: Added Ann Peebles: Greatest Hits after deadline, because I mentioned it above. Same for the Crosby Centennial Anthology. Adjusted the rated counts, including some unpacking I had initially missed.

New records reviewed this week:

Arcade Fire: We (2022, Columbia): Canadian indie juggernaut, sixth album since 2004. I was surprised to find that I rated their last four albums A- (after a B+ for their 2004 debut, Funeral), given that I've had zero interest in playing any of them again, and zero anticipation of this album. Also surprised it sounds as good as it does, but not by my inability to decipher the lyrics, or wind up caring. But the structure makes me wonder: four multi-part sets with important-sounding titles ("Age of Anxiety," "End of the Empire," "The Lightning," "Unconditional"), followed by the title song. So could be their greatest ever, but I'll never know. B+(***)

Jonathan Barber & Vision Ahead: Poetic (2022, Vision Ahead): Drummer, released the album Vision Ahead in 2018, kept the title as his group name for next two albums. With alto sax (Godwin Louis), guitar (Andrew Renfroe), electric piano (Taber Gable), and bass (Matt Dwonszyk). B+(*) [cd] [05-13]

Belle and Sebastian: A Bit of Previous (2022, Matador): Scottish group, formed 1996, five (of 7) current members date from then. This seems livelier than the last few, but runs pretty long. B+(**)

Erich Cawalla: The Great American Songbook (2022, BluJazz): Standards singer, plays alto sax, first album, but has been in The Uptown Band since 2005. I can't read the fine print, but one original, big band, a couple guest spots (like Randy Brecker), maybe some strings. B [cd]

Gerald Clayton: Bells on Sand (2022, Blue Note): Pianist, son of John Clayton and nephew of Jeff Clayton, sixth album since 2009, wrote 5 (of 10) pieces. Feature spots for MORO (vocals, 2 tracks), John Clayton (bass, 3), Charles Lloyd (tenor sax, 1, by far the best thing here). B [sp]

Cool Sweetness Sextet: Shoehorn Shuffle (2022, Storyville): Danish retro-swing group, leader seems to be Anders Jacobsen (trombone), who did most of the writing, joined by Mårten Lundgren (trumpet), Jens Søndergaard (tenor sax), Pelle von Bülow (guitar), bass, and drums. B+(*) [bc]

DJ Maphorisa X Kabza De Small: Scorpion Kings (2019, Blaqboy): South African record producers, associated with amapiano but neither on the Amapiano Now compilation that introduced the genre to me last year (although Teno Afrika was). The former is Themba Sonnyboy Sekowe. Unclear on discography, as there seems to be much more on streaming services than in Discogs (usually pretty quick to catalog house music). Christgau singled this one out, presumably after due diligence. Seems like a good start. Covers says "ep," but Spotify stream offers 12 tracks (one marked as a bonus), 76:40. A- [sp]

DJ Maphorisa/Kabza De Small: Scorpion Kings Live (2020, New Money Gang): Little here to suggest that live is any different from the studio, or indeed whatever computer they're splicing on. Aside from the remixes that bump the length to 93:24, they stick to the same 5:56-6:47 length for studio cuts. B+(***)

DJ Maphorisa X Kabza De Small: Scorpion Kings Live 2: Once Upon a Time in Lockdown (2020, Sound African): Cover isn't clear about Live 2, and this is the duo's third album (at least), but the individual names are still on the cover, each a growing brand name, at least in their part of the world. Much like the others, and if it seems a bit less, that's how repetition plays out. B+(**)

Ella Mai: Heart on My Sleeve (2022, 10 Summers/Interscope): Last name Howell, British r&b singer-songwriter, second album. B

Becky G: Esquemas (2022, Kemosabe/RCA): Rebecca Marie Gomez, from California, second album, after singles going back to when she was 15. In Spanish, sounds like reggaeton. B+(***)

Mary Halvorson: Amaryllis (2022, Nonesuch): Guitarist, Anthony Braxton protégé, wide range of albums since 2004 (some I like a lot, some very little at all), won a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant," now gets a double-album major label debut. This one is a six-song suite (37:52) for sextet -- Adam O'Farrill (trumpet), Jacob Garchik (trombone), Patricia Brennan (vibes), Nick Dunston (bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums), adding the Mivos String Quartet on three songs. The horns help, the rhythm typically quirky, the strings unnecessary. B+(***)

Mary Halvorson: Belladonna (2022, Nonesuch): Five songs (37:18), just guitar plus string quartet (Mivos). Halvorson started on violin before switching to guitar (credit Jimi Hendrix), but she's retained a fondness for strings -- one I rarely appreciate. I find they drag here, although the writing is clever enough to pique one's interest, and they have a strong moment toward the end. I expect EOY list compilers will want to combine the two. B+(*)

Stephen Philip Harvey Jazz Orchestra: Smash! (2021 [2022], Next Level): Conventional big band, leader a saxophonist but doesn't play here, offers an "homage to comic book adventures," with plenty of "boom" and "pow" as well as "smash." B [cd] [06-17]

Heroes Are Gang Leaders: LeAutoRoiOgraphy (2019 [2022], 577): Spoken word poet Thomas Sayres Ellis, with James Brandon Lewis (tenor sax) co-credited on the music, and ten more credited musicians and poets. Live set recorded in Paris, in support of their release that year of The Amiri Baraka Sessions, the source of 4 (of 5) tracks here. The studio album was partly recorded with Baraka before he died in 2014, a direct link turned tribute here. The studio album was my favorite that year, but this harder to follow. B+(***) [cd] [06-17]

Kendrick Lamar: Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers (2022, Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope, 2CD): Los Angeles rapper, fifth album since 2011, first album went gold but second was the breakthroughs, as he followed Kanye West as the one rapper every critic had to take seriously. I tried, playing these 18 tracks (73:05) twice, and I'm more than normally perplexed, just doubtful that some of this stuff ever belongs on an A-list album. Then it ends with a song so good ("Mirror") you wonder what else you missed. B+(***)

Leikeli47: Shape Up (2022, Hardcover/RCA): Brooklyn rapper, wore a mask for her first two albums, reveals a bit of jaw line on the cover here (assuming that's her). Compelling as long as she keeps it hard. B+(**)

Randy Napoleon: Puppets: The Music of Gregg Hill (2022, OA2): Guitarist, grew up in Michigan, teaches at Michigan State, which gives him a connection to composer Hill and bassist Rodney Whitaker (who has his own Hill tribute, which Napoleon plays on). Aubrey Johnson sings, which I don't particularly enjoy. B [cd] [05-20]

Elsa Nilsson: Atlas of Sound: Coast Redwoods: 41°32'09.8"N 124°04'35.5"W (2022, Ears & Eyes): Flute player, not the classical violinist nor the Swedish pop singer (aka Tove Lo), although she is Swedish, based in New York, but draws inspiration here from a very specific location in the Trinity Alps of Northern California. Seems to be her first album, backed by piano (Jon Cowherd) and Chris Morrissey (bass). B [cd] [04-22]

Miles Okazaki: Thisness (2021 [2022], Pi): Guitarist, 10th album since 2006. Quartet with Matt Mitchell (keyboards), Anthony Tidd (electric bass), and Sean Rickman (drums). Four pieces average 10 minutes. B+(***) [cd]

Enrico Pieranunzi: Something Tomorrow (2022, Storyville): Italian pianist, many albums since 1975, leading his Eurostars Trio with Thomas Fonnesbaek (bass) and André Ceccarelli (drums). B+(**)

Quelle Chris: Deathframe (2022, Mello Music Group): Rapper Gavin Tenille, albums since 2011. Underground, lazy beats and sly rhymes. B+(*)

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: Endless Rooms (2022, Sub Pop): Australian jangle pop band, third album, needs more jangle. B

RZA Vs. Bobby Digital: Saturday Afternoon Kung Fu Theater (2022, MNRK, EP): Wu-Tang rapper Robert Diggs, appeared as "Bobby Digital" on a 1998 album. Seven tracks, 26:19, cover notes "Produced by DJ Scratch" (co-credited by Discogs). B+(**)

John Scofield: John Scofield (2021 [2022], ECM): Guitarist, many albums since 1978, but this is his first solo album. Five original pieces, eight standards, ending with "You Win Again." B+(*)

Sigrid: How to Let Go (2022, Island): Norwegian pop singer-songwriter, last name Rabbe, second album after a couple EPs. Catchy enough, a bit overpowering. B+(*)

Harry Skoler: Living in Sound: The Music of Charles Mingus (2021 [2022], Sunnyside): Clarinet player, first album 1995, most recent one (which I panned severely) 2009. No more direct relationship to Mingus than seeing him perform, but resolved to make this record after surviving a ruptured artery in 2018. He got some help arranging pieces for string quartet, and rounded up an all-star group: Kenny Barron (piano), Christian McBride (bass), Johnathan Blake (drums), Nicholas Payton (trumpet), and Jazzmeia Horn (vocals). The clarinet and strings play up how lovely the melodies could be, but losing the energy and anger that drove Mingus (and that he often used to terrorize his bands, which often played much bigger than they were). B+(**)

Sofi Tukker: Wet Tennis (2022, Ultra Music): Electropop duo, Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern, second album. Choice cuts: "Larry Byrd," "Freak." B+(**)

Tierney Sutton: Paris Sessions 2 (2022, BFM Jazz): Standards singer, albums since 1998, this a return to the format of her 2014 Paris Sessions, recorded with French guitarist (and since 2019 husband) Serge Merlaud and bassist Kevin Axt. This adds a bit of flute from Hubert Laws ("recorded remotely from his home studio"). Slow and intimate, turns on the song selection, unfortunate to open ("Triste," a medley of "April in Paris" and "Free Man in Paris," "Zingaro") although "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" works better. B

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

The Rolling Stones: Live at the El Mocambo (1977 [2022], Polydor, 2CD): Rare live sets from a "tiny" (300-seat) club in Toronto, where they were billed as the Cockroaches, playing 23 songs (most of which anyone could identify, although I had forgotten a few, like "Melody" and "Luxury"). B+(***)

Cathy Segal-Garcia & Phillip Strange: Live in Japan (1992 [2022], Origin, 2CD): Standards singer, backed by piano. Discogs credits her with five albums from 2002, but this goes back a decade further. Not an especially distinctive singer, and the song selection (including three Xmas songs) leaves a lot to be desired. C+ [cd] [05-20]

Spontaneous Music Ensemble: Question and Answer 1966 (1966 [2021], Rhythm & Blues, 2CD): Early British avant-jazz group, principally John Stevens (drums) and Trevor Watts (tenor sax), also Bruce Cale (bass), with Paul Rutherford (trombone) on the longer (June 22) session. Title derives from a 31:59 intermission at the end of the first disc where the band field rather technical questions from the audience. They resume with their most inspired playing to open the second disc. B+(**) [yt]

Neil Young: Royce Hall 1971 (1971 [2022], Reprise): Solo performance on January 30, in Los Angeles. B+(**)

Neil Young: Dorothy Chandler Pavilion 1971 (1971 [2022], Reprise): Another solo performance, two days later, also in Los Angeles. This one seems to be much bootlegged (Discogs lists 32 releases through 1975; the cover reproduces artwork from one, with the title "I'm Happy That Y'all Came Down"). I give this one a slight edge, mostly built on the edifice of "Sugar Mountain." B+(***)

Neil Young: Citizen Kane Jr. Blues (1974 [2022], Reprise): Another solo performance, this one at the Bottom Line in New York, also much bootlegged under various titles (Discogs lists 11). Songbook has moved on, including a fair slice of On the Beach. B+(**)

Old music:

Toshiko Akiyoshi-Lew Tabackin Big Band: Tales of a Courtesan (Oirantan) (1976, RCA): Japanese pianist, the first to study at Berklee, formed this 16-piece big band after she married sax/flute player Tabackin and moved to Los Angeles (dozen-plus albums 1974-82). This is one of the better known albums, exceptionally punchy, but seems like a lot of flute. B+(***) [yt]

Louis Armstrong: 'Country & Western' (1970, Avco Embassy): Last released album before he died in 1971, most sources include the artist name in the title like the quote was a nickname, and Discogs credits it that way. I often drop quote marks from titles, but let's keep the equivocation here. Armstrong was as much a genius as Ray Charles, but this one came too late. The pre-recorded tracks offer him little to work with (although "You Can Have Her" gets some brass swing going). Armstrong doesn't play, and his singing can get strained. You still get glimpses of his charm and humor, but on songs like "Running Bear" and "Wolverton Mountain" the yucks are inadvertent. B- [yt]

Bing Crosby: Bing Crosby and Some Jazz Friends (1934-51 [1991], GRP/Decca): He started singing in jazz orchestras in 1927, scoring hits with Paul Whiteman, Frankie Trumbauer, the Dorsey Brothers, even Duke Ellington (in 1930). His first movie appearace was in 1930, as a singer in King of Jazz, but by the time he moved to Decca in 1934 he had become a mainstream movie star. Still, he occasionally tapped his jazz roots. I remember being especially touched by a movie scene, where he heartily welcomes a line of black jazz musicians entering his palatial mansion -- here the biggest star in white America was paying homage to real talent. Not to deny his talent, which adds a smooth contrast to Louis Jordan, Louis Armstrong, and Connie Boswell here, but his timing and phrasing works equally well on his own, especially backed by Eddie Condon (four tracks here, vs. two max for anyone else) or Lionel Hampton (whose two tracks are highlights here). A-

Bing Crosby: A Centennial Anthology of His Decca Recordings (1931-57 [2003], MCA/Decca, 2CD): Fifth songs, most you know from other people, but during this quarter-century most Americans learned them from Crosby, with his incomparable talent for making us feel better about ourselves. One intersection with his Jazz Friends comp ("Yes, Indeed"). Four Christmas songs. He owns all four. A-

Jens Lekman: Oh You're So Silent Jens (2002-03 [2005], Secretly Canadian): Swedish singer-songwriter, often compared to Jonathan Richman, Stephin Merritt and/or Scott Walker. Early material, collected from self-released EPs after his 2004 debut album. I think I can hear why people like him, but I'm not comfortable with him yet. B+(**)

Jens Lekman: The Cherry Trees Are Still in Blossom (2002-03 [2022], Secretly Canadian): Reissue of Oh You're So Silent Jens, with a different title, same art work, some extras. B+(**)

Ann Peebles: Greatest Hits (1966-77 [2015], Hi/Fat Possum): Memphis soul great, a tier below Aretha Franklin (as her covers prove, not that she missed by much). I'm quite happy with her 12-track 1988 Ann Peebles' Greatest Hits, but no complaints about getting four extra songs here. A-

András Schiff: Ludwig von Beethoven: The Piano Sonatas: Volume III: Sonatas opp. 14, 22 and 49 (2006, ECM New Series): Pianist, from Hungary, based in Britain, has a large discography of classical music from 1973 on. As you probably know, I hate classical music, and even when I don't hate it, I don't appreciate it. Got this as a promo, and played it because it's been sitting around too long. Played it twice, and only got annoyed when I forced myself to write this interview. Otherwise, it's pleasant, disengaging background, aside from the occasional moments when it hits a point where you can imagine the maestro standing up to bask in the applause. Thankfully, there is none of that. B+(*) [cd]

Sufis at the Cinema: 50 Years of Bollywood Qawwali and Sufi Song 1958-2007 (1958-2007 [2011], Times Square, 2CD): One tends to think of Bollywood as Hindi cinema -- indeed, that's the redirection in Wikipedia -- centered in Mumbai, but this makes a case for music drawn from Urdu traditions, including the most famous Qawwali artist of all, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Hard to tell just how typical this is. B+(**) [cd]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Burton/McPherson Trio: The Summit Rock Session at Seneca Village (Giant Step Arts) [06-19]
  • Erich Cawalla: The Great American Songbook (BluJazz)
  • Jason Palmer: Live From Summit Rock in Seneca Village (Giant Step Arts) [06-19]
  • John Yao's Triceratops: Off-Kilter (See Tao) [06-10]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Music Week

May archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 37881 [37831] rated (+50), 126 [127] unrated (-1).

Been feeling very down, but managed to pull myself together enough to write a Speaking of Which yesterday. I don't know whether it's a cop out to point out that the writing's been on the wall for quite some time. Who knew that resurrecting Cold War totems could lead to the sort of increasingly fevered confrontation we're seeing now between Russia and the US? Who knew that Republican politicization of the courts could lead to stripping away such fundamental rights as deciding for oneself whether to bear children? Who knew that a combination of tax cuts, financial voodoo, and attacks on labor unions might lead to the political distortions caused by the most extreme inequality in American history? Who knew that real progress on civil rights would be reversed by all that inequality? Well, anyone who was paying any attention, that's who.

One thing I didn't manage to mention yesterday is that there is going to be an actual referendum on abortion rights in Kansas on August 2. The Kansas State Supreme Court ruled a while back that abortion rights are guaranteed by the state constitution. Kansas Republicans want to get around that by changing the constitution. That requires a two-thirds vote in the legislature, which they could do thanks to advanced gerrymandering skills, and a majority vote in a statewide plebiscite. They chose to schedule that vote not in November when all the big state offices are to be decided, but on primary day -- traditionally one where only Republicans come out to vote, because it's rare to have competitive races in Democratic primaries, while Republican primaries are frequently and expensively contested. So this may seem like a hopeless cause, but it's worth remembering that abortion was legal in Kansas before Roe v. Wade. Even though Democrats are pretty hopeless here, and the Republican Party has increasingly been taken over by religious fanatics, there used to be a very popular line of moderate Republicans who could break with the party on this issue. Winning on this issue would be big.

While we're at it, I noticed a headline in the paper today: "Biden taps Democrats' abortion fury with midterm wipeout looming." It's on an article by Jordan Fabian, attributed to Bloomberg News. Who says the billionaire press has lost its knack for slanting headlines? I don't doubt that it's possible for Democrats to lose their majority in Congress in 2022, but we're mostly looking at gerrymanders, voter suppression, and the anti-Democratic bias of the Senate. It hardly seems fair to call a slight slip a "wipeout." Indeed, I'm skeptical that we'll even see a real slip. But large segments of the media expect Democrats to be punished whenever something goes wrong, while instantly forgetting all the bad things Republicans do. The logical basis for this (assuming there is one) is that the Republicans have cornered the punisher brand: if you really hate someone, send the Republicans in. But the net effect, in every election Republicans have won since 1980 (and why should we not include 1968 and 1972) is that you only wind up punishing yourself.

I have very little to say about this week's batch of records. The way things have been going, I was surprised to find two A- records in my jazz demo pile. I'll also note that I enjoyed some of the B+(***) records a lot, only to decide not to give them the extra play that might have put them over.

New records reviewed this week:

Poppy Ajudha: The Power in Us (2022, Virgin): British pop singer-songwriter, has some edge in the music, politics too. B+(*)

Deborah Allen: The Art of Dreaming (2022, BFD): Country singer-songwriter, had a couple minor hits in the 1980s (although none that I recall). Eleven years since her last (unless you count Rockin' Little Christmas, from 2013). Overblown, takes a song like "Lyin' Lips" to cut through that. B

Anitta: Versions of Me (2022, Warner): Brazilian pop singer Larissa de Macedo Machado, fifth album since 2013. Starts with two hot rhythm tracks (in Portuguese, presumably, although the rhythm is more reggaeton, then switches to English for a slim funk track that should be a hit ("I'd Rather Have Sex"), then throws out more looks and vibes, including a fair amount of hip-hop. B+(***)

Jon Balke/Siwan: Hafla (2021 [2022], ECM): Norwegian pianist, albums since 1991, one called Siwan in 2009 with texts from Al-Andalus with Arabic vocals, strings, and percussion. Second album since then to adopt the group name, this time with Algerian singer Mona Boutchebak. B

Martin Bejerano: #Cubanamerican (2021 [2022], Figgland): Pianist, born in Florida, father Cuban, fourth album since 2007, backed by bass, drums, and extra percussion (Samuel Torres), with Roxana Amed singing "Mi Cafetad." B+(**) [cd] [05-27]

Will Bernard: Pond Life (2022, Dreck to Disk): Guitarist, started in a group led by Peter Apfelbaum, was part of a band called T.J. Kirk (name-checks James Brown, Thelonious Monk, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk), dozen albums since 1998. I think of him as a mild-mannered fusion guy, but here he's hanging out in a much rougher neighborhood, with Chris Lightcap (bass) and Ches Smith (drums), plus Tim Berne (alto sax) and/or John Medeski (piano/organ, 4 tracks each, 2 in common, so just 2 tracks are trio, which he aces). A- [cd] [05-27]

Steven Bernstein & the Hot 9: Manifesto of Henryisms (Community Music Vol. 3) (2020 [2022], Royal Potato Family): "Henryisms" derive from New Orleans pianist Henry Butler (1949-2018), who played in Bernstein's Kansas City band, and was the leader of a 2014 album Bernstein arranged, Viper's Drag. The arrangements here distribute the "Henryisms" to the band, built around old pieces from Morton and Armstrong to Ellington. Oddly, the Hot 9 left doesn't include a pianist, but guests John Medeski and Arturo O'Farrill fill in. B+(***)

Camila Cabello: Familia (2022, Epic): Cuban-born pop singer-songwriter, came to US when she was six, started in girl group Fifth Harmony (3 albums 2015-17), third solo album. This is about half Spanish, half English, the former up front to establish the rhythm, but once you're in the mood, it's nice to be able to follow the lyrics. A-

Calexico: El Mirador (2022, Anti-): Band from Tucson, twelfth album since 1996 (although Discogs lists twice as many), Joey Burns (vocals/guitar) and John Convertino (drums) founders and constant members, with some Mexican influence, including the occasional song in Spanish. B+(*)

Isaiah Collier & the Chosen Few: Lift Every Voice (2020 [2022], Division 81, EP): Saxophonist, plays soprano here, first appeared in Ernest Dawkins' Young Masters Quartet. Backed by piano, bass, and drums here, two songs (21:15). B+(*) [bc]

Congotronics International: Where's the One (2022, Crammed Discs, 2CD): Supergroup, combining members of Konono No. 1 and Kasai All Stars. Still love the junk instruments, but a little de trop. B+(**) [sp]

George Cotsirilos Quartet: Refuge (2021 [2022], OA2): Bay Area guitarist, handful of albums since 2003, this a quartet with piano, bass, and drums, doing original pieces. B+(*) [cd]

Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters: Mercy Me (2022, Stony Plain): Blues guitarist, doesn't sing much (Diane Blue takes the occasional vocal), albums go back to 1983. Organ prominent, with some sax I don't see a credit for. The guitar intro to "Please Send Me Someone to Love" is tasty, and Blue nails the vocal. She also aces "The Sun Shines Brightly," which I take to be an answer record to "The Sky Is Crying," then ends with "Higher and Higher" (which is what happened to my grade). B+(***)

Yelena Eckemoff: I Am a Stranger in This World (2016-20 [2022], L&H Production, 2CD): Pianist, switched from classical to jazz when she moved to US in 1991. Pieces inspired by Biblical Psalms (this is identified as the "instrumental version"). Mostly with Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Adam Rogers (guitar), Drew Gress (bass), and Nasheet Waits (drums), with the occasional sub. B+(*) [cd] [05-20]

Fontaines D.C.: Skinty Fia (2022, Partisan): Irish band, slotted as post-punk for reasons unclear, third album, kind of a big deal. They do have a sound. B+(*)

Manel Fortiá: Despertar (2022, Segell Microscopi): Bassist, from Barcelona, based in New York, second album, wrote all the pieces for a trio with Marco Mezquida (piano) and Raphaël Pannier (drums). Pieces long on rhythm, the piano dazzling, even through the exceptional bits (where the others shine). A- [cd] [05-12]

Erik Friedlander: A Queen's Firefly (2021 [2022], Skipstone): Cellist, many albums since 1995, as well as quite a few with John Zorn. Quartet here, with Uri Caine (piano), Mark Helias (bass), and Ches Smith (drums). B+(***) [cd]

Anthony Fung: What Does It Mean to Be Free? (2022, self-released): Drummer, from Canada, based in Los Angeles, has a couple previous albums, wrote all but the Wayne Shorter tune here. Quartet with David Binney (alto sax), Luca Mendoza (piano), and Luca Alemanno (bass), plus guest spots. Especially good use of Binney here. B+(***) [cd]

Tee Grizzley: Half Tee Half Beast (2022, Grizzley Gang/300 Entertainment): Detroit rapper Terry Wallace, three albums, fourth mixtape. Hard beats, fast words, more cynical than I'd like: "It's too late to make a smart decision." B+(***)

Japanese Television: Space Fruit Vineyard (2022, Tip Top): British instrumental rock group, surf-to-space guitar (Tim Jones), second album. Not much to it, and what there is gets rather tedious. B-

Kehlani: Blue Water Road (2022, Atlantic): Last name Parrish, r&b singer-songwriter, third album after mixtapes and lots of singles. B+(***)

Koffee: Gifted (2022, RCA): Jamaican singer-songwriter, Mikayla Simpson, first album after a Grammy-winning EP and more than a dozen singles, short (10 songs, 29:06). B+(**)

Jinx Lennon: Pet Rent (2022, Septic Tiger): Irish punk poet, many albums since 2000, voice and words remind me of Craig Finn, except that Finn writes real tunes, while Lennon makes do with volume, beats, noise, and vitriol. He's super upset here, coming up with 25 rants -- even for punk, that runs long. B+(***)

Let's Eat Grandma: Two Ribbons (2022, Transgressive): British "experimental sludge pop" group led by Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth, third album since 2016. B+(*)

Corb Lund: Songs My Friends Wrote (2022, New West): Country singer from Alberta, eleventh album since 1995. A pretty fair songwriter in his own right, some of his friends are even better, most famously Hayes Carll and Todd Snider, but he picks out gems from half a dozen more. A-

Yu Nishiyama: A Lotus in the Mud (2020 [2022], Next Level): Japanese composer/arranger, studied at UNT, teaches in New Jersey, not sure where he rounded up this crackling band. B+(*) [cd] [05-20]

Old Crow Medicine Show: Paint This Town (2022, ATO): Folk band based in Nashville, 12th album since 2000. They lay it on thick, tromping through their clichés, although I rather like the scuffed up "Hillboy Boy." B

Orville Peck: Bronco (2022, Columbia): Masked gay country singer-songwriter, from Johannesburg via Canada, second album. Deep, flexible voice ("a stunningly low baritone with a penchant for a pretty falsetto"), stretches it around dramatic arrangements, which work better than I'd expect (until it doesn't). B+(*)

Jeremy Pelt: Soundtrack (2021 [2022], HighNote): Trumpet player, immediately impressed with his chops, couple dozen albums since 2002. Less flash here, the title camouflage hiding a cornucopia of groove and mood pieces. B+(**)

Placebo: Never Let Me Go (2022, So/Elevator Lady): British rock band, principally singer-guitarist Brian Molko, debut 1996, nine year gap before this eighth album. B+(*)

Oumou Sangaré: Timbuktu (2022, World Circuit): Wassoulou singer from Bamako, the capital of Mali. Her parents were musicians, and she's been a big star since her debut in 1990. B+(***)

Secret People: Secret People (2019 [2022], Out of Your Head): Trio of Nathaniel Morgan (alto sax), Dustin Carlson (guitar/bass VI), and Kate Gentile (drums/vibes). Free rhythm, rather choppy, gets more interesting if you give it a chance. B+(**) [bc]

Aaron Seeber: First Move (2021 [2022], Cellar): Drummer, based in New York, first album, a live set at Ornithology Jazz Club in Brooklyn, the title track the only original, but he rounded up a name band: Warren Wolf (vibes), Tim Green (alto sax), Sullivan Fortner (piano), and Aaron Seeger (drums). B+(**) [cd]

Syd: Broken Hearts Club (2022, Columbia): Sydney Bennett, initially Syd Tha Kid, uncle a reggae producer, joined Odd Future collective, second album. Thin voice, stripped down beats. I liked her debut, then forgot about it. Probably same here. B+(***)

Tears for Fears: The Tipping Point (2022, Concord): British band, debut 1983, Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith the regulars (although Smith checked out for most of the 1990s), seventh album returns them to the top-5 of the UK charts, which they hadn't done since 1993 (first US top-10 since 1989). Overblown but cushy, feels like there must be a story being told but nothing interesting enough to demand the effort. B-

Kae Tempest: The Line Is a Curve (2022, Republic): Formerly Kate, fifth album, has published a novel, three plays, and six poetry collections. The lit cred shifts this from rap to spoken word, the minimal beats neither hip nor hop, but the effect remains subtle and sonorous. Smart, too. A-

Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway: Crooked Tree (2022, Nonesuch): Second-generation bluegrass singer-songwriter, from California, at 13 recorded an album of duets with her father (AJ Tuttle), soon joined the family band (The Tuttles). Third solo album. B+(***)

Cory Weeds Quartet: Just Coolin' (2021 [2022], Cellar Live): Tenor sax, with piano (Tilden Webb), bass, and drums. Nice mainstream effort. B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Áfrika Negra: Antologia Vol. 1 (1981-95 [2022], Bongo Joe): Band from Sao Tome & Principe, on or off the coast between Nigeria and Congo, dates not totally clear but they recorded at least 10 albums 1981-95, broke up, reformed 2012. My first guess was geographical, a fusion of highlife with soukous highlights, but that's close enough the King Sunny Adé's juju. I doubt they'd hold up head-to-head, but at the moment they're sounding pretty great. A-

Chet Baker: Tune Up: Live in Paris (1980 [2022], Circle): Live set, originally released in 1981, group includes guitar (Karl Ratzer), flute (Nicola Stillo), bass, and drums. Three long pieces, stretches of rhythm with occasional patches of poignant trumpet. Baker doesn't sing, but scats aimlessly on the opener. B+(*)

Dexter Gordon: Soul Sister (1962-63 [2022], SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, early work (1943-47) on Savoy and Dial marked him as a major figure, but he struggled (drugs and jail) until he signed with Blue Note (1961-65) and produced some of his greatest work. He moved to Europe during that period, first to Paris then Copenhagen. He continued to record for Prestige (1966-73), then (like many American expats) for the Danish label SteepleChase, which picked up a bunch of his older tapes. This picks up (I think for the first time) two sessions with different piano-bass-drums, one a radio shot from Oslo, the other a live set from Copenhagen. B+(***)

Pat Matshikiza/Kippie Moketsi: Tshona! (1975 [2022], As-Shams): South African jazz, leaders play piano and alto sax, backed by bass (Alec Khaoli) and drums (Sipho Mabuse), with Basil Coetzee (tenor sax) on the side. The longer pieces are classics of township jive, especially "Umgababa." A- [bc]

Pat Matshikiza Featuring Kippie Moketsi: Sikiza Matshikiza (1976 [2022], As-Shams): Septet, first two cuts are near-perfect township jazz, with the alto sax gliding over the piano rhythm. Second side strays a bit, ending with a blues. B+(***) [bc]

Kippie Moeketsi/Hal Singer: Blue Stompin' (1977 [2021], As-Shams): South African alto saxophonist (1925-83), started with Abdullah Ibrahim, featured with Pat Matshikiza (who plays piano on one track here). Singer (tenor sax) only appears on the title track here -- the title of his 1959 album. The other three tracks have Duku Makasi on tenor sax, the last two with Jabu Nkosi (piano) and Enock Mthaleni (guitar). B+(**) [bc]

Ann Peebles & the Hi Rhythm Section: Live in Memphis (1992 [2022], Memphis International): Soul singer, from St. Louis, started with Hi Records in Memphis in 1969, had some hits like "Part Time Love" and "I Can't Stand the Rain." Her Greatest Hits, spanning 1969-77, is essential, but some of the earlier LPs are also superb. Most of her hits are here, but not a sharp as the originals. B+(**)

Lionel Pillay: Shrimp Boats (1979-80 [2022], As-Shams): South African pianist, cover adds "Featuring Basil 'Mannenberg' Coetzee," the tenor saxophonist who only plays on the title cut (25:07). The other side (3 tracks, 22:27) were recorded later, a quintet with Barney Rachabane (alto sax) and Duku Makasi (tenor sax). B+(**) [bc]

Old music:

Ann Peebles: This Is Ann Peebles (1969, Hi): First album, produced a couple low-charting singles, plus another song that made Greatest Hits. Seems odd today that both sides end with Aretha Franklin classics, which were only a year or two old at the time. Promising that they don't miss by much. B+(***)

Placebo: Meds (2006, Virgin): Fifth album, probably should be in my list of unheard Christgau A-list albums, but he never assigned a grade to it (wrote an ungraded essay, included it in his 2006 Dean's List, but only 78 of 81). B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Jonathan Barber & Vision Ahead: Poetic (Vision Ahead) [05-13]
  • George Cotsirilos Quartet: Refuge (OA2) [05-20]
  • Tetel Di Babuya: Meet Tetel (Arkadia) [06-24]
  • Esthesis Quartet: Esthesis Quartet (Orenda) [05-27]
  • Anthony Fung: What Does It Mean to Be Free? (self-released): [05-06]
  • Randy Napoleon: Puppets: The Music of Gregg Hill (OA2) [05-20]
  • Elsa Nilsson: Atlas of Sound: Coast Redwoods (Ears & Eyes) [04-22]
  • Michael Orenstein: Aperture (Origin) [05-20]
  • Dave Rempis/Joshua Abrams/Avreeayl Ra + Jim Baker: Scylla (Aerophonic) [07-08]
  • J. Peter Schwalm & Stephan Thelen: Transneptunian Planets (RareNoise) * [06-03]
  • Aaron Seeber: First Move (Cellar) [05-06]
  • Cathy Segal-Garcia & Phillip Strange: Live in Japan (Origin) [05-20]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Music Week

May archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 54 albums, 8 A-list,

Music: Current count 37831 [37777] rated (+54), 127 [127] unrated (-0).

It's been a very frustrating week for reading the news, with one story after another provoking rage and a sense of doom. I hit some sort of breaking point on Saturday, when I felt the last iota of hope drain from my body. Previously, I might try to document these feelings in a blog post, but I don't feel like indulging in that much self-abuse. I will note that the story that pushed me over the edge was one about Kansas Republicans on the verge of passing a bill legalizing sports betting, taxing the bets at 10%, and dedicating 80% of the revenues to luring professional sports teams to Kansas. I hate betting in all forms, but recognize it's better legal and regulated than left as a cash cow for organized crime, and there's always public needs that could be addressed with additional tax revenues. (Same can be said for drugs, but that seems to be a bigger cognitive problem with local Republicans. When I was growing up, gambling was every bit the sin, but Republicans have come around, probably due to the way it fetishizes money.) The problem is the italicized bit: sports teams are invariably owned by some of the most ridiculously wealthy people in the world -- the KC major league teams are owned by the Hunt and Walton heirs -- so it's especially insane to dedicate a major tax revenue stream to their benefit. Evidently Democratic Governor Kelly is on board with this disgusting scheme. (I'll spare you the rant on the graft involved in Wichita's recent minor league ballpark disaster, which should be cautionary lesson enough.) At the same time, both parties are interested in cutting sales taxes on food, but no one is suggesting making up the difference with the sports-gambling revenues (let alone legalizing marijuana, which would be much more popular).

I'm already starting to forget many of the other outrages in the newspaper lately. An article finally popped up on how Elon Musk plans to recover his sunken investment in Twitter by firing employees and making other service cuts. (As an aside, I saw a graph Musk evidently put out placing himself on a left-right continuum over time. He stays in the same position, but extends the "woke left" line enormously, as if the left is getting more extreme, and is pulling the center past him, moving him from left-of-center to right-of-center. It doesn't take much genius to realize that what's really happening is that he's moving right, reflecting his increasing wealth, but can't see beyond his own ego.)

There's a whole bunch of economic news. Amazon is slipping because they overbuilt warehouses and shipping during the pandemic, and Apple is slipping due to supply chain issues, and Netflix stock collapsed when they lost a few subscribers (which they hope to remedy by kicking freeloaders off). All three companies were hugely overvalued, but we assume markets price stock correctly, so normal corrections look like catastrophes. Speaking of which, Twitter is even more overvalued, but having found a greater fool in Musk, but now, having locked in a price, the only thing they can do is squeeze and devalue. What we need to be doing is figuring out how to stand up free services that compete with big tech but don't do the data mining and brokering they do to make money off your attention. But nobody's talking about that (except Kim Stanley Robinson, but that's science fiction).

There's a story about crypto getting "the regulator they want," which probably means worse than no regulation at all. Then there's the bizarre stuff about GDP shrinking while the Fed is contemplating a half-point interest rate increase, which will lead to disastrous losses abroad as well -- at the same time global supply is being crippled by the Ukraine war and attendant sanctions. Meanwhile, those involved in Ukraine are doubling down, getting even more bloody-minded, which is great for the arms and oil industries, and ominous for everyone else. (Meanwhile, there was another paean to Madeline Albright today.)

And of course there are the usual run of political stories, most involving Trump's involvement in Republican primaries, because the news industry would much prefer talking about Trump than Biden, and have no interest whatsoever in issues other than the culture war flashpoints. (I think only once have I read something about Florida's infamous "don't say gay" bill that pointed out what I take to be the real problem: that the law incentivizes "parents" to file frivolous lawsuits against teachers and school boards. The right seems to feel that, having packed the courts, the best way to advance their claims is to flood them with suits.)

OK, that's too many words for explaining why I decided not to write about this shit anymore. But at least I didn't burn up two days digging up links you're unlikely to follow anyway (not least because so many of them are behind fucking paywalls). How can we have a democracy when information is so exclusively partitioned? A quick look around suggests maybe we don't.

Big piece of news since I wrote the previous section was the tornado that hit Andover, a suburb east of Wichita. It's now considered to be an EF3, on the ground for 21 minutes, during which time it moved 12.5 miles. No official deaths, but something 1,000 structures were damaged. Severe weather had been forecast, but our area (about one mile northwest of downtown) was clear enough that we were out walking the dog when the sirens went off. Storms typically track northeast in Kansas, so I wasn't personally worried: all the storm clouds were north and east of us, and the tornadoes (a second one appeared in Greenwood County) headed away from us. We got some rain and small hail a couple hours later, when the cold front that had triggered the tornado cells finally passed through.

I filled out my ballot for DownBeat's annual critics poll (notes here). I've been voting in it for at least 10 years now, but this was the first year where I was invited in the Veterans Committee. Voters there can pick up to 10 out of 25 nominees, where the winners are anyone who gets picked on 75% or more of the ballots. The winners join DownBeat's Hall of Fame, which is set up to add just 2 new members per year: one each from the Critics Poll and the Readers Poll. That creates a huge bottleneck, which the Veterans Committee doesn't alleviate so much as create another set of idiosyncratic criteria. (Most candidates have to wait 100 years past their birth, but some can get in 50 years after their death, which biases the VC to picking musicians who died young, like Booker Little and Scott LaFaro.) See the notes file for details, but my top choice was Jimmy Rushing.

I've been known to spend a couple days on the ballot -- there are 50 categories to vote for, some extremely competitive, others with hardly anyone of note, and some categories are just hard to judge (e.g., composer, arranger, producer -- but lately have tried to cut corners, especially later on. What slows me down is note taking and checking, so I can save a bunch of time if I simply vote for the same people year after year. Not the way I'd like to do it, but I'm not all that keen on ranking musicians at instrument positions anyway. I take the album categories more seriously, collecting all of their nominees and using them as a checklist to measure how much I've heard. A lot of this week's records are best jazz album nominees that I hadn't heard. They nominated 128 records this year. With this week's haul, I've managed to hear all but three:

  • Michael Formanek Drome Trio, Were We Where We Were (Circular File -22)
  • ICP Septet + Joris Roelofs + Terrie Ex, Komen & Gaan (ICP)
  • Barre Phillips, Thirty Years In Between (Victo)

I can't say I picked up any outstanding records in this exercise. I also have lists of nominees for jazz reissues, blues, and "beyond." Each has its own problems: jazz reissues are hard to find, at least from streaming sources (big boxes of audiophile vinyl seem to be the norm these days); I almost never hear more than 10-20% of the blues records; and while I hear much more of their "beyond," it's never a very coherent category.

I started last week listening to Specialty compilations (after Art Rupe died). After listening to the big box, I looked for a smaller compilation, and found two (almost identical). I went a bit further, but didn't get into the gospel that was an important part of the catalog. I also dug up some extra Mingus albums, after finding the new "lost album" somewhat wanting. A couple other "old music" items were related to recent product, but two more exceptions: Vi Redd was an unfamiliar name on DownBeat's Hall of Fame ballot, so I thought I should look her up. Ricky Ford released a B+(***) album I reviewed a couple weeks ago. I had a couple ungraded LPs by him, but couldn't play them at the time. My wife's ancient Technics turntable seems to have died, so I had to wait until I could buy a new one. I play so little vinyl these days I convinced myself the bottom-of-the-line Audio Technica would suffice. It's no great shakes, but does the job. In coming weeks, I need to see what else in the unrated list I can find on LP.

I screwed up my numbering when I posted my Book Roundup Sunday evening instead of tomorrow, as I had originally planned. That leaves a gap at 3018, but I doubt anyone will notice.

New records reviewed this week:

The Kevin Brady Electric Quartet: Plan B (2020 [2021], Ubuntu Music): Drummer from Dublin, has a couple previous albums (back to 2007), group here with Seamus Blake (sax), Bill Carrothers (electric piano), and Dave Redmond (electric bass), with five pieces by Brady, three by Carrothers. B+(***)

Tomasz Dabrowski: Tomasz Dabrowski & the Individual Beings (2021 [2022], April): Polish trumpet player, also credited with electronics, albums since 2012, septet with two saxophonists, piano/keyboards (Grzegorz Tarwid), bass, and two drummers. Group name, and much else, inspired to Tomasz Stanko. B+(***)

Chris Dingman: Journeys Vol. 1 (2022, self-released): Vibraphonist, albums since 2011, solo album seems to have been a pandemic project, with some overtones above the tinkle. B+(*) [sp]

Nick Finzer: Out of Focus (2021, Outside In Music): Trombonist, albums since 2012, mostly New York but teaches now at UNT. Much unclear about credits here: some solo or duo, two tracks with a quartet (Xavier Davis on piano), a 15-trombone finale -- the fourth Ellington piece. B+(*)

Bruce Forman With John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton: Reunion! (2021, B4Man Music): Guitarist, records (for Muse and Concord) start in 1981. This was advertised as The Poll Winners Revisited, a reference to the 1950s guitar-bass-drums trios of Barney Kessel, Ray Brown, and Shelly Manne, which "established the guitar trio as a viable jazz ensemble." B+(**)

Larry Goldings/Peter Bernstein/Bill Stewart: Perpetual Pendulum (2021 [2022], Smoke Sessions): Organ-guitar-drums trio, a soul jazz staple, trio goes back to Goldings' first album (1991, a trio plus Fathead Newman on two tracks). B+(**)

Russell Gunn & the Royal Krunk Jazz Orchestra: The Sirius Mystery Opus 4 No. 1 (2020 [2021], Ropeadope): Trumpet player, started in 1990s incorporating electronics with a nod to hip-hop. Refers back to a 2016 album. Big band plus extras, spoken word as far out as Sun Ra. Four tracks, 33:55. B+(**)

Tigran Hamasyan: Stand Art (2022, Nonesuch): Pianist, from Armenia, moved to California at 16, eventually returned to Yerevan. Eleventh album since 2006, a collection of standards, with trio (Matt Brewer on bass and Justin Brown on drums), plus guest spots (Ambrose Akinmusire, Joshua Redman, Mark Turner). Most sources elide the title, but words are separate on cover. B+(*)

Oscar Hernández & Alma Libre: Visión (2022, Ovation): Pianist, born in New York, third group album since 2016, with Justo Almario (sax/flute), bass, drums, congas, and some guests (notably Joe Locke on vibes). B+(*)

Bob James Trio: Feel Like Making Live! (2022, Evolution): Pianist, released a debut called Bold Conceptions in 1963, followed it up with an avant-sounding ESP-Disk (Explosions), then settled into a long and undistinguished pop jazz career, in and out of the group Fourplay. B [sp]

Willie Jones III: Fallen Heroes (2020 [2021], WJ3): Drummer, seventh album since 2000, fair number of mainstream side credits. Opens with a solo piece here. Occasional spots for George Cables (piano), Sherman Irby (alto sax), and others. Renee Neufville sings. B+(*)

Anders Koppel: Mulberry Street Symphony (2021 [2022], Cowbell Music, 2CD): Danish composer, father a classical composer, started in 1967 in a rock group (Savage Rose), has gone on to compose for ballets, films, plays, and this at least counts as jazz, with its soloists -- son Benjamin Koppel (sax), Scott Colley (bass), and Brian Blade (drums) -- on top of the Odense Symphony Orchestra. The sax is the star, but he's got a lot to work with. B+(***) [sp]

Miranda Lambert: Palomino (2022, Vanner, RCA Nashville): Country singer-songwriter, ninth album, not sure there's a merely good album in the sequence. Covers a Mick Jagger song, three songs recycled from The Marfa Tapes, co-wrote the rest, most with Luke Dick and Natalie Hemby. Special treat: the B-52s backing up "Music City Queen." A-

The Jeffrey Lewis & Peter Stampfel Band: Both Ways (2017 [2021], self-released): Fringe-folk supergroup, both leaders have multiple albums I love, so their collaboration should delight, but their eponymous 2013 album fell flat for me (though Christgau and others celebrated it). No idea why they shelved this sequel, but as "lost albums" go it hasn't sat long. But with only 3 (of 26) cuts on Bandcamp, and unavailable via streaming, all I did was a "limited sampling" note (++). It wound up the only album on Christgau's Dean's List I didn't hear, until a reader kindly sent me a copy. Lots of minor annoyances here, especially in the first half. But it does pick up with "The New Old Georgia Stomp" (song 17, a public Bandcamp cut), and it's ok-to-good from there out, including covers of the Beachnuts, Hawkwind, and Television, "Heroin" rewritten as "Internet," and a pair of anti-Trump songs (one on tax forms, another that with a "the cat grabbed back" refrain). Lewis's 2020 Tapes and 2021 Tapes ("shelter-at-home recordings & pandemos") are also locked down, so he seems to be the marketing genius preserving their obscurity. B+(**) [dl]

Taj Mahal & Ry Cooder: Get on Board: The Songs of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee (2022, Nonesuch): Traditionalists even in their youth, in the 1970s each found fame providing a gentle slant on old songs and new ones that sounded old. Still, it was a bit of a surprise to find out they had recorded together in 1965-66 in a group called Rising Sons, but the records disappointed. First glance at this album cover looks like an archival find, except the faces are old and grizzled, as we soon find also are the voices. B+(**)

Charnett Moffett Trio: Live (2021, Motéma, EP): Bassist, played electric as much as acoustic, died in April at 54. This was recorded last July, at Yoshi's, five songs (20:13), the cover continuing: "featuring Jana Herzen [guitar/vocals] with Corey Garcia [drums]." Opens with a smoky "Summertime," but when the striking vocals end, the set slides into background. B+(**)

Willie Nelson: A Beautiful Time (2022, Legacy): Seventy-second studio album, released on his 89th birthday. Five original songs, co-authored by Buddy Cannon, including two memorable ones that reflect his seniority ("I Don't Go to Funerals," "Live Every Day" -- "like it may be your last, because some day it will be"). Two covers seem like mis-steps but grow on you: "Tower of Song" (Leonard Cohen, the "golden voice" line less of a joke) and "With a Little Help From My Friends" (Beatles). The rest fits in nicely. A-

Nikara: Nikara Presents Black Wall Street (2021, Railroad Hart): Last name Warren, which may or may not belong in the credit. From Brooklyn, plays vibes, sings (or someone does), Bandcamp tags: hip hop, jazz, r&b, soul. Has elements of each without settling anywhere. No band credits, but Kenny Barron is featured on two tracks. B+(*) [bc]

Mark O'Connor: Markology II (2017-20 [2021], OMAC): Started off as a champion bluegrass fiddler (first album was titled: National Junior Fiddling Champion), also plays mandolin and guitar (his instrument here, title referring back to a 1978 album). B+(*)

Ulysses Owens Jr. Big Band: Soul Conversations (2021, Outside In Music): Drummer, from Florida, half-dozen albums since 2012, experience in several big bands, comes out swinging here, conventional big band with vibes (Stefon Harris) but no guitar (Takeishi Ohbayashi on piano), with vocals by Charles Turner III. B+(*)

Samora Pinderhughes: Grief (2022, Ropeadope): Singer-songwriter from Bay Area, based in New York, plays piano, arranges strings, first album, sister Elena Pinderhughes plays flute, saxes help (Lucas Pino, Immanuel Wilkins). I suppose there might be something subtle here I'm not recognizing. B

Bonnie Raitt: Just Like That . . . (2022, Redwing): Bluesy singer-songwriter, developed a strong following in the early 1970s but didn't really sell well until 1989's Nick of Time. Releases slowed down to every 3-4 years after 1991, the last three appearing after 7-4-6 year gaps. The extra time goes into the songs, and the production looks back to her youth. B+(***)

Scary Goldings: Scary Goldings IV (2021, Pockets): Fourth collaboration between LA-based jazz-funk group Scary Pockets -- unclear who's in them, but they've released a lot since 2017 -- and organ player Larry Goldings, presumably their fourth. Notable guest here is John Scofield (guitar, ft. on 6/10 songs). B+(*) [sp]

SFJazz Collective: New Works Reflecting the Moment (2021 [2022], SFJazz): Founded 2004, Discogs lists 21 albums, personnel has varied over the years, currently nine (including two singers: Martin Luther McCoy and Gretchen Parlato), who either wrote (8 pieces) or arranged (3, including "Lift Every Voice & Sing" and "What's Going On"). Chris Potter plays large, but I weary of the vocals, even when they're good for me. B+(*)

Becca Stevens: Becca Stevens & the Secret Trio (2021, GroundUp Music): Jazz/folk singer-songwriter, half-dozen albums since 2008, fair number of side-credits. The trio is Middle Eastern: Ara Dinkjian (oud), Ismail Lumanovski (clarinet), Tamer Pinarbasi (kanun). There is an odd delicacy to this, one I'm not very comfortable with. B

Trombone Shorty: Lifted (2022, Blue Note): New Orleans trombonist Troy Andrews, debut 2002, moved to Verve 2010, on to Blue Note 2017. His records have always disappointed as jazz. Ups the funk quotient here, bringing more voices to the fore, brass to the back. B

UMO Helsinki Jazz Orchestra: Last Dance: New Music for Jazz Orchestra by Ed Partyka (2020 [2022], Neuklang): Finnish big band, founded 1975 by Heikki Sarmanto and Esko Linnavalli, initials translate to New Music Orchestra, "Helsinki" inserted in 2018. Partyka is a trombonist from Chicago, has worked in big bands and led large groups. Four pieces, 47:58. B+(*)

Sachal Vasandani/Romain Collin: Midnight Shelter (2021, Edition): American jazz singer, several records back to 2007 released under first name only. Backed here by piano only, not much for such a plain voice. B-

Cory Weeds: O Sole Mio! Music From the Motherland (2019 [2021], Cellar Music): Canadian alto saxophonist, owns the Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver, the source of most of the records on his Cellar Live label, as well as a dozen of his own since 2010. Not sure what his claims to Sicily are, as the songs here mostly come from Americans (with names like Mancini, Marmarosa, Martino, Corea, and Chambers). But it's bright and bouncy, with organist Mike LeDonne's Groover Quartet -- Eric Alexander (tenor sax), Peter Bernstein (guitar), Joe Farnsworth (drums). B+(**)

Corey Weeds With Strings: What Is There to Say? (2021, Cellar Music): Tenor sax this time, with piano (Phil Dwyer), bass, drums, and a phalanx of strings. B+(*)

Lucy Yeghiazaryan/Vanisha Gould: In Her Words (2021, La Reserve): Two vocalists, one from Armenia, the other California, alternating songs, backed by fractured guitar and wispy strings.

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Doug Carn: Adam's Apple (1974 [2021], Black Jazz/Real Gone Music): Pianist, fourth album since 1971, last for this label, turns toward gospel, or social relevancs -- lots of voices (notably Jean Carn). B+(*)

John McLaughlin: The Montreux Years (1978-2016 [2022], BMG): Fifth installment in a series that started in 2021, 8 tracks from 5 festivals (82:00; CD drops the one from 1978), with various lineups: 1978 with L. Shankar; 1984 Mahavishnu; 1987 with Paco de Lucia; 1998 with Gary Thomas; 2016 4th Dimension Band. B+(**) [sp]

Charles Mingus: The Lost Album: From Ronnie Scott's (1972 [2022], Resonance, 3CD): Two sets, 2.5 hours of music, recorded for possible release by Columbia, but shelved in 1973 when they killed off their jazz division (keeping only Miles Davis). Mingus struggled after a big year 1964, and there is little from him until live sets pick up in 1970. His studio album for Columbia in 1972 (Let My Children Hear Music) is possibly his worst ever. In 1974, he put a new band together and released a couple of masterpieces, before ALS started to disable him, leading to his death in 1979. This is rather a mess, but not the sort of thing that careful editing could fix: indeed, on his centenary this reminds us that much of his genius was outrageous spontaneity. Not one of his great bands -- a septet with 19-year-old Jon Faddis on trumpet, saxophonists Charles McPherson and Bobby Jones, John Foster on piano (also sings a couple), Roy Brooks on drums (a rare set without Dannie Richmond) -- but few bandleaders could whip up more frenzy. Big booklet. B+(***) [cd]

George Russell: Ezz-thetics & The Stratus Seekers (1961-62 [2022], Ezz-Thetics): Two important albums by one of the most important figures in jazz history. The former, the namesake for this Swiss reissue label, is a sextet with Eric Dolphy (alto sax/bass clarinet) and Don Ellis (trumpet), David Baker (trombone), Steve Swallow (bass), and Joe Hunt (drums). The latter acknowledges that it takes two saxophonists to replace Dolphy. The albums are hard to peg, easy to underestimate, rich and varied and always a step ahead of you. A- [bc]

Irma Thomas: Full Time Woman: The Lost Cotillion Album (1972 [2022], Real Gone Music): Aka Soul Queen of New Orleans, first singles 1959, Wikipedia doesn't show much chart action but any comp of her 1961-66 Minit and Imperial sides is prime. She struggled in the 1970s, finally staged a "living legend" comeback in the 1990s, and is still ticking. This was recorded for Atlantic, but unreleased until 2014. Great singer, but not a very good album. B

Irma Thomas: Live! New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 1976 (1976 [2022], Good Time): Originally released in 1977 by Island, reissued several times since. Starts with the memorably titled "You Can Have My Husband (But Please Don't Mess With My Man)." Runs through several of her big 1960s hits ("Ruler of My Heart," "It's Raining"), followed by some 1970s hits by others ("Shame, Shame, Shame," "Lady Marmalade"). Highlight is the closer, "Wish Someone Would Care," where she really works the crowd. B+(***)

Eberhard Weber: Once Upon a Time: Live in Avignon (1994 [2021], ECM): German bassist, a signature artist for the label since his 1974 debut, hasn't recorded since a 2007 stroke. Since then ECM released a couple albums of reprocessed bass solos, but this is the first live album they've pulled off the shelf. It's a solo performance, but has a light touch and melodic flair that is exceptional. B+(***)

Barney Wilen: La Note Bleue (1987 [2021], Elemental): French tenor saxophonist, established himself in the late 1950s and 1960s, stopped recording after 1972, then started again in 1987 with a remarkable series of albums, including this one. Kicks off with a marvelous "Besame Mucho. [PS: Slightly confused about the editions. Mine has the original album plus three alternate takes not in Discogs, but not the 1989 live album tacked onto the box.] B+(***) [sp]

Old music:

Dopplereffekt: Gesamtkunstwerk (1995-97 [1999], International Deejay Gigolo): Despite German alias/title, this is Detroit techno producer Gerald Donald's post-Drexciya project, collecting a series of EPs plus a couple stray tracks. Vocals presumably his partner, To-Nhan. Lyrics not a strong suit. B+(**)

Ricky Ford: Looking Ahead (1987, Muse): Tenor saxophonist, I probably noticed him first with Abdullah Ibrahim, recorded 10 albums (1979-89) for Muse, this is number eight, with James Spaulding (alto sax/flute) and John Sass (tuba) on 4 tracks, Kirk Lightsey (piano), Cecil McBee (bass), and Freddie Watts (drums) on all eight. B+(**) [lp]

Ricky Ford: Saxotic Stomp (1988, Muse): Another sextet, with Spaulding and Lightsey returning, plus Charles Davis (baritone sax), Ray Drummond (bass), and Jimmy Cobb (drums). Strong sax leads, as usual. B+(**) [lp]

Miranda Lambert: Kerosene (2005, Epic Nashville): Second album, follows a self-released eponymous joint when she was 18, but 3.5 years later she's on a major label, going platinum, and she's never had reason to look back. Does't quite have control of her production, but no shortage of voice or grit. B+(**)

Charles Mingus: Mingus (1960 [1961], Candid): Second album for Candid, recorded a month after Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus. This expands on the quartet -- Ted Curson (trumpet), Eric Dolphy (alto sax/bass clarinet), and Dannie Richmond (drums) -- with a second trumpet, two trombones, two more saxes (Charles McPherson and Booker Ervin), and piano (Nico Bunink or Paul Bley). Opens with a 19:49 "M.D.M. (Monk, Duke and Me)." Second side starts with 13:23 of "Stormy Weather," then reflects on his psychiatric experience in "Lock 'Em Up (Hellview of Bellevue)." A- [sp]

Charles Mingus: Charles Mingus and Friends in Concert (1972 [1996], Columbia/Legacy, 2CD): Recorded at Philharmonic Hall on February 4, six months before the "lost" Ronnie Scott's session reviewed above, and released on 2-LP (87:49) later that fall, expanded to 130:36 for 2-CD. Same core group, except Joe Chambers on drums, plus lots of extras, including: trumpets (Eddie Preston, Lloyd Michaels, Lonnie Hilyer), trombone (Eddie Bert), French horns (Dick Berg, Sharon Moe), tuba (Bob Stewart), saxophones (Gene Ammons, Gerry Mulligan, George Dorsey, Richie Perri, Howard Johnson), even a second bassist (Milt Hinton), and vocals (Honey Gordon on three tracks; announcer Bill Cosby and writer Dizzy Gillespie on "Ool-Ya-Koo"). I also see solos for James Moody, and Randy Weston. Some great pieces, but doesn't feel like Mingus is really in charge. B+(**) [sp]

Charles Mingus: Three or Four Shades of Blues (1977, Atlantic): Late album, opens up with new takes of "Better Get Hit in Your Soul" and "Goodbye Porkpie Hat," plus three lesser pieces. Group with Jack Walrath (trumpet), Ricky Ford (tenor sax), and Dannie Richmond (drums), plus various piano and guitar, bass help although the solos are all credited to Mingus. B+(*) [sp]

Charles Mingus: Thirteen Pictures: The Charles Mingus Anthology (1952-77 [1993], Rhino, 2CD): Part of a series of 2-CD jazz comps, each a handsome book in a hard box, a clever move back when we thought of CD boxes as prestige items. Jazz has rarely seemed right for the "greatest hits" treatment: even at best, think of them as introductory samplers. I had to build a playlist here, but first surprise here is that this ranges way beyond the Atlantic sides the label owns, picking up such obvious peaks as "Haitian Fight Song" and "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" but atypical pieces like a Jackie Paris vocal and a Duke Ellington piano trio. It also packs two long pieces: "Meditations on Integration" (24:50), and "Cumbia & Jazz Fusion" (27:52, one of his last records, one that I panned, although it sounds pretty good here). A-

Vi Redd: Bird Call (1962, United Artists): Sings and plays alto sax, recorded two albums 1962-63, another with Mary McPartland in 1977, and has since picked up some awards, but I hadn't heard of her until she popped up on DownBeat's HOF ballot, at age 93. Mix of standards (including "Summertime") and bebop. Her vocals are fine, but her sax is more persuasive. The vibes (Roy Ayers) are often a plus. B+(***)

Vi Redd: Lady Soul (1963, Atco): Second album, organ (mostly Dick Hyman) and guitar (Bucky Pizzarelli or Barney Kessel) marks a move toward soul jazz. Shows more poise as a singer, but plays her saxophone less (Bill Perkins helps out). B+(**)

Rock 'n' Roll Fever! The Wildest From Specialty (1956-59 [1993], Specialty): The wildest was Little Richard, but this opts for obscurities -- Jerry Byrne's "Lights Out" is the one I'm most familiar with, followed by pieces from the bottom tier of artists with single-CD compilations (Don & Dewey, Larry Williams, Floyd Dixon), and a cover of Huey Smith's "Don't You Just Know It." B+(**)

Specialty Legends of Boogie Woogie (1947-51 [1992], Specialty): Song selection here is easy: look for songs with "boogie" in the title (18 of 19 here, not counting two "unidentified" pieces, leaving as the sole exception "Rock That Voot"), then make sure you hear the tinkle in the piano, even on what would otherwise be a plain jump blues. "Woogie" optional (3 titles). The star here is Camille Howard (8 pieces), followed by Willard McDaniel (4). B+(***)

The Specialty Story (1944-64 [1994], Specialty, 5CD): Art Rupe (né Goldberg) died on April 15, age 104. Among rock and roll's founding entrepreneurs, he's less famous than Sam Phillips, Leonard Chess, or Ahmet Ertegun, but starting in Los Angeles in 1944, with a later pipeline to New Orleans (thanks to Johnny Vincent), he released as many great records as anyone else in the business. His catalog got picked up by Fantasy, which in the early 1990s repackaged it into several dozen critically important CDs. I bought so many that I skipped this flagship box set as redundant, but on his death it looks perfect for a wake. You might fault it for focusing too much on stars you already know (e.g., 19 Little Richard tracks), or you might deem that a feature. A-

Specialty Records Greatest Hits (1946-58 [2001], Specialty): Single-CD selection, all hits, 20 songs from 10 artists, nicely balanced between early jump blues and later rockers, although the latter is dominated by Little Richard (5 songs). Essential music, but note that eight of those 10 artists also own an A/A- single-CD compilation (Jimmy Liggins has two). A

Rip It Up: The Best of Specialty Records (1946-58 [2021], Craft): Repeats 18 songs from Specialty Records Greatest Hits, but let's dock it for dropping two great ones: "Thrill Me" (Roy Milton and Camille Howard), and "Good Golly Miss Molly" (Little Richard). So you can also fault them for lack of imagination, but the label exists to restore indelible classics to vinyl, and that's what they do here. A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • George Cotsirilos Quartet: Refuge (OA2) [05-20]
  • Manel Fortiá: Despertar (Segell Microscopi) [05-12]
  • Secret People: Secret People (Out of Your Head) [04-29]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Music Week

April archive (finished).

Music: Current count 37777 [37739] rated (+38), 127 [128] unrated (-1).

Rated count down this week, although pretty solid by historical standards. Had a lot of trouble all week long deciding what to play next. Left a fair amount of dead air (like the moment of typing this line). A-list is even shorter this time: three, including an EP built around a 2020 single, "We Live Here" (see video). Having spent the week writing about Ukraine here and here and here, I admit that Bob Vylan's anger was cathartic. [Note: I've edited and added some material to those posts.]

Still, this wraps up a 4-week month where I found 16 A-list albums among 125 new releases, plus a fair amount of old music, where most of the major finds came from the Ogun Records Bandcamp. Ogun was founded by South African expat bassist Harry Miller and his wife Hazel Miller, who revived the label in 1986 after Harry's death. The label was home to fellow South African expats like Chris McGregor and Louis Moholo, as well as a tight circle of English avant-gardists they often played with (e.g., Keith Tippett, Mike Osborne, Elton Dean, Lol Coxhill).

Seems like I should have some more music items to mention. I don't like noting recent deaths, but Art Rupe (at 104) is important enough to make an exception. It finally occurred to me that filling up five hours streaming The Specialty Story would be a suitable wake, and more fun then I normally have. Also lets me put off trying to figure out the Lewis-Stampfel Both Ways album, which a curious reader sent me a zip of. (It was the only album on Robert Christgau's 2021 list I couldn't find to listen to.)

Speaking of Christgau, I've run across a number of links relating to his 80th birthday, but didn't manage to keep track of them. (One I still have in a tab is a reminiscence by Wayne Robbins.) We missed the first half of the Zoom session RJ Smith and Tricia Romano set up. I didn't come up with anything to contribute, but thinking of Robins, one story comes to mind. I had been writing for Bob for a year-plus, and talked to him for edits, but hadn't met actually met him. At the time, I was angling to get into Creem, and had a letter back from Lester Bangs was kind of iffy. I drove to Ann Arbor to see some friends, and on a lark decided to drop into the Creem office uninvited. I did, and couldn't get anyone to talk to me (not that I tried awful hard). When I mentioned this to Bob, he confidently told me that Wayne Robins (who was editor at the time) and Georgia Christgau (Bob's sister, who wrote Creem's film reviews) would like to meet me. A couple days later, they came to me in Ann Arbor. I still didn't get anything published there.

New records reviewed this week:

Dan Bruce's :Beta Collective: Time to Mind the Mystics (2022, Shifting Paradigm): Guitarist, Chicago-based Collective adds two saxophonists, trombone, vibes, keyboards, bass, and drums; looks like they have a previous album, although aside from Bruce the personnel then was completely different. B+(**) [cd] [04-29]

Charming Hostess: The Ginzburg Geography (2021 [2022], Tzadik): Klezmer-influenced vocal group from Oakland, principally Jewlia Eisenberg (who died at 50 in 2021), Cynthia Taylor, and Marika Hughes, released a cassette in 1996, four more albums through 2010, and finally this tribute to "Italian antifascist writers, activists and intellectuals Natalia and Leone Ginzburg." Plus a bunch of guests. Eisenberg wrote the songs, a range of songs that could fit light opera, aside from "All You Fascists Are Bound to Lose," which reminds me at least of Woody Guthrie. B+(**) [cd] [05-20]

Charley Crockett: Lil G.L. Presents: Jukebox Charley (2022, Son of Davy): Country singer-songwriter, based in Austin, 11th album since 2015. Fourteen covers, tweaked variously -- Roger Miller's "Where Have All the Average People Gone?" becomes "honest people." B+(**)

Alabaster DePlume: Gold: Go Forward in the Courage of Your Love (2022, International Anthem): Second album, plays tenor sax, guitar, and synths, also spoken word, while crediting another 21 musicians and singers. It's a lot to follow, and I can't claim to, but some stretches are sublime. B+(**)

Dopplereffekt: Neurotelepathy (2022, Leisure System): Detroit techno duo, active since 1995, principles seem to be Gerald Donald (formerly of Drexciya, identified here as Rudolf Klorzeiger) and his wife To-Nhan (I've seen various full names). This does remind me of Drexciya's "deep-sea diving," with swirls of color emanating from basic beats. B+(***) [bc]

Fly Anakin: Frank (2022, Lex): Virginia rapper Frank Walton, touted as his "proper debut album," but Discogs lists eight more since 2018, mostly shared credits. B+(**)

Chad Fowler/Matthew Shipp: Old Stories (2021 [2022], Mahakala Music, 2CD): Saxophonist from Arkansas, owner of his label, plays stritch and saxello here, in a duo with the pianist, the 14 pieces numbered chapters. B+(***)

Chad Fowler/Christopher Parker: Park Hill Saudade (2021 [2022], Mahakala Music): Another sax/piano duo, both growing up a block from each other in North Little Rock. B+(**)

Arun Ghosh: Seclused in Light (2022, Camoci, 2CD): Clarinet player, describes himself as British-Asian, several albums working toward a fusion of Indian and jazz, but this rarely rises beyond pleasantly atmospheric. B+(*)

Marquis Hill: New Gospel Revisited (2019 [2022], Edition): Trumpet player, more than a dozen albums since 2011's New Gospel, with six songs repeated here, in a live set that adds more connective material. Different group, an all-star sextet with Walter Smith III (tenor sax), Joel Ross (vibes, a major factor), James Francies (piano), bass, and drums. B+(**) [bc]

Lisa Hilton: Life Is Beautiful (2022, Ruby Slippers): Pianist, 25 albums since 1998, possibly all trios, this one with Luques Curtis (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums). B+(*)

Mike Holober & Balancing Act: Don't Let Go (2022, Sunnyside, 2CD): Pianist, mostly composes and arranges for big bands, went with an octet for his 2015 album Balancing Act, returns with a similar group here -- same brass (Marvin Stamm and Mark Patterson) and reeds (Dick Oatts and Jason Rigby), changes at bass, drums, and voice (Jamile). B+(**)

Toshinori Kondo x DJ Motive: Zen (2018 [2022], Mohawks): Japanese trumpet player (1948-2020), probably best known (at least in these parts) for his worn with Peter Brötzmann (especially Die Like a Dog, which became the name of their quartet with William Parker and Hamid Drake). DJ Motive is a Japanese hip-hop producer, several albums and more singles since 2005. So this is mostly his work, with the trumpet adding a little color to the atmosphere. B+(*) [bc]

Pusha T: It's Almost Dry (2022, G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam): Rapper Terrence Thornton, formerly of Clipse, fourth studio album. Lots of hooks in the samples, most produced by Pharrell, and second most produced by Ye, who still know how to build on a sample. A-

Diego Rivera: Mestizo (2021 [2022], Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist, working with what's effectively become the label's house band: Art Hirahara (piano), Boris Kozlov (bass), Rudy Royston (drums), with labelmate Alex Sipiagin (trumpet/flugelhorn) sitting in on two (of 10) tracks. Flashy, boppish, Latin tinge, the works. B+(***)

Seabrook Trio: In the Swarm (2021 [2022], Astral Spirits): Guitarist Brandon Seabrook, trio with Cooper-Moore (diddley bow) and Gerald Cleaver (drums), their second together. Swings a little. Doesn't get lost carried away Seabrook's usual noise factor. B+(***) [dl] [05-20]

Ches Smith: Interpret It Well (2020 [2022], Pyroclastic): Drummer, expands a trio with Craig Taborn (piano) and Mat Maneri (viola) to include Bill Frisell (guitar). Interesting players, all, but they strike me as distant and disjointed. B+(**) [cd] [05-06]

Spiritualized: Everything Was Beautiful (2022, Double Six/Fat Possum): British prog/synthpop band, debut 1992 when Jason Pierce (aka J. Spaceman) split from the group Spacemen 3 (hence their "space rock" rep, reinforced by their best-known release, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, from 1997). B+(*)

Vince Staples: Ramona Park Broke My Heart (2022, Blacksmith/Motown): Los Angeles rapper, debut 2015, fifth album, seems to be settling into a nice groove and vibe, less downside than in the past, but not much upside either. B+(**)

Swedish House Mafia: Paradise Again (2022, Republic): Surprised to see this described as a supergroup, but principals Axwell (Ael Christofer Hedfors), Sebastian Ingrosso, and Steve Angello (Steven Fragogiannis) have individual discographies going back to 1998-2004. Group formed 2010, released a bunch of singles and a live album (2014), then nothing until resurfacing in 2021. Some guest spots or samples for variety and a bit of cheese. B+(**)

Bob Vylan: We Live Here (Deluxe) (2019 [2021], Venn, EP): British grime duo, individuals go by Bobby Vylan (vocals) and Bobbie (or Bobb13) Vylan (drums), single appeared in 2020, a fitting answer to you fascist scum out there, but I couldn't find their 2020 EP, until this expanded edition showed up (adds 2 cuts for 10, 23:26, including the 1:10 "Moment of Silence"). I'm tempted to call it the grimest record out of the UK since the Sex Pistols, but they have more self-respect than that. A- [sp]

Bob Vylan: Bob Vylan Presents the Price of Life (2022, Ghost Theatre): First full album, 15 songs, 34:17, a newfound clarity as they've decided the words matter as much as the attitude, so you should hear them. Still, lots of attitude. I may not agree with the politics of "no liberal cunt is going to tell me punching Nazis is not the way," but this is art, and sometimes expression needs to be felt. A- [sp]

The Weather Station: How Is It That I Should Look at the Stars (2022, Fat Possum): Canadian singer-songwriter Tamara Lindeman, sixth album since 2009, could be a band but doesn't feel like it here, in a quiet volume of introspective songs. Her previous one, 2021's Ignorance, got a lot of critical support. This one much less so. B+(*)

Billy Woods: Aethiopes (2022, Backwoodz Studioz): DC rapper, mother an English lit professor, father a Marxist writer from Zimbabwe, lived in Africa 1980-89, 14 albums since 2003, not counting his better known work in Armand Hammer. B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Pepper Adams With the Tommy Banks Trio: Live at Room at the Top (1972 [2022], Reel to Real, 2CD): Baritone saxophonist (1930-86), made the swing-to-bop transition, an early (1957) album was called The Cool Sound of Pepper Adams, wound up with 18 albums as leader, many more side credits (especially with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra). Nice live set here, stretching out at the University of Alberta, with what I take to be a local group. B+(***) [cd]

Tony Oxley: Unreleased 1974-2016 (1974-2016 [2022], Discus Music): British avant drummer, started in the late 1960s. First three pieces were are from 1973, a quintet with Dave Holdsworth (trumpet), Paul Rutherford (trombone), Howard Riley (piano), and Barry Guy (bass). The fourth piece is another quintet, from 1981, and the last one is a percussion duo with Stefan Hoelker. B+(*) [bc]

Old music:

Ricky Ford: Manhattan Plaza (1979, Muse): Tenor saxophonist, second album, first (of 10) for Muse. Quintet with Oliver Beener (trumpet), Jaki Byard (piano), David Friesen (bass), and Dannie Richmond (drums). B+(*) [yt]

Freddie Hubbard: Keep Your Soul Together (1973, CTI): Oddly enough, nothing in my database for Hubbard between 1971-85, other than a live shot released much later. He recorded 8 albums for CTI -- the first two, Straight Life and (especially) Red Clay are justly famous -- then recorded for Columbia 1974-80. This seems to continue the formula, near-fusion with electric bass/piano/guitar, Junior Cook on tenor sax. B+(**) [yt]

Imagination: Body Talk (1981, MCA): British disco/funk group, first album, title song a minor hit. Hooks are subtle, as are the songs without them. B+(**) [sp]

Imagination: In the Heat of the Night (1982, MCA): Second album, two more hits, only tails off toward the end. "Just an Illusion" made Christgau's 41-song lifetime playlist. B+(***) [sp]

Cecil McBee: Mutima (1974, Strata East): Early album, starts with a piece played on two basses, has a dozen credits scattered about but not totally clear who plays where. Dee Dee Bridgewater offers some vocals. B [yt]

Cecil McBee: Alternate Spaces (1979, India Navigation): Bassist, from Tulsa, doesn't have a lot under his own name (mostly 1975-86), but has played with everyone (both mainstream and avant), and left his mark on dozens of A-list albums. Opens with a bass solo, before the group enters: Joe Gardner (trumpet), Chico Freeman (saxes, flute), Don Pullen (piano), Famodou Don Moye (percussion). B+(**) [yt]

Cecil McBee Sextet: Music From the Source (1977 [1979], Inner City): With Chico Freeman (flute/tenor sax), Joe Gardner (trumpet), Dennis Moorman (piano), Steve McCall (drums), and Don Moye (percussion). Three tracks, recorded live at Sweet Basil's. B+(***) [yt]

Cecil McBee Sextet With Chico Freeman: Compassion (1977 [1979], Inner City): Recorded a day later, same lineup, except Freeman ditched the flute in favor of soprano sax, but his tenor dominates the proceedings. B+(***) [yt]

Cecil McBee: Flying Out (1982, India Navigation): With Olu Dara (cornet), John Blake (violin), David Eyges (cello), and Billy Hart (drums), a pronounced string bias, helps that he also plays some pretty impressive piano. B+(**) [yt]

Nina Simone: Remixed & Reimagined (2006, RCA/Legacy): Vocals probably date from 1967-72, although the larger RCA compilations run 1957-93. Remixes are new, some name I recognize, most I don't. The gravitas of her vocals sometimes benefits from recontextualization, and sometimes doesn't. B

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Erik Friedlander: A Queen's Butterfly (Skipstone) [04-29]
  • Keith Hall: Made in Kalamazoo: Trios and Duos (Zoom Out) [06-24]
  • Mike Holober & Balancing Act: Don't Let Go (Sunnyside, 2CD) [04-15]
  • Todd Marcus Jazz Orchestra: In the Valley (Stricker Street) [07-01]
  • Billy Mohler: Anatomy (Contagious Music) [06-10]
  • Sonic Liberation Front and the Sonic Liberation Singers: Justice: The Vocal Works of Oliver Lake (High Two) [06-10]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Music Week

April archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 37739 [37689] rated (+50), 128 [130] unrated (-2).

I've been trying to write a piece on Ukraine. Yesterday I got so frustrated with it, I decided I'd post it that night regardless of what state it was in. It's not as if I expect anyone to read it or care. But I wrote another couple points last night, getting as far as this:

One must recognize that the only way this ends is through an agreement with Russia. Russia is too big to be bled to death by their losses in Ukraine, and there's no way Ukraine could effectively take the war onto Russian soil (after all, Napoleon and Hitler tried that and failed, even before Russia built a nuclear arsenal).

That seemed to require at least one more paragraph, on what such an agreement should (really, must) look like. So instead of rushing the post out last night, I decided to give myself another day, and post it tomorrow. But first Music Week.

Robert Christgau interrupted his 80th birthday holiday to post a Consumer Guide. Fourteen albums, seven I had already reviewed:

  • Amyl and the Sniffers: Comfort to Me (ATO '21) [A-]
  • Jon Batiste: We Are (Verve '21) [B+(**)]
  • Cheekface: Emphatically No. (New Professor '21) [B+(***)]
  • Ray Wylie Hubbard: Co-Starring Too (Big Machine) [A-]
  • Pony: TV Baby (Take This to Heart) [B]
  • Spoon: Lucifer on the Sofa (Matador) [B+(***)]
  • Superchunk: Wild Loneliness (Merge) [A-]

The rest are caught up below (the Lenny Kaye comp assembled into a nearly complete songlist, the other two songs sampled from YouTube). I have no recollection at all of TV Baby. Christgau also published a 41-song playlist to mark 80 years. I can't describe how awful I felt when I got up this morning, but the piece came with a Spotify playlist (thanks to Joe Levy), and I figured that might pick me up a bit. First 11 songs were all classics from the 1950s, then after Ray Charles, he threw a curve and picked up bits by Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk before trying to cover the 1960s in 8 tracks, and skipping through the 1970s way too fast (4 songs), followed by a break for 2 African pieces. After that there's nothing I would have come close to picking (although "That's the Joint" and "It Takes Two" sounded great, and it would be hard to improve on the James McMurtry and Robyn songs). The only WTF pick was the Brad Paisley. I'm lukewarm on the Selo i Ludy album below, but "It's My Life" ended this list, and sounded pretty good after 38-40.

New records reviewed this week:

Teno Afrika: Where You Are (2022, Awesome Tapes From Africa): Young (22) South African DJ/producer, second album, works in a style called amapiano, which seems to draw as much or more from deep house as South African hip-hop variants like kwaito or gqom. Eight beatwise pieces, five with shared or featured credits, not that any of them seems much different. B+(***)

Priscilla Block: Welcome to the Block Party (2022, InDent/Mercury Nashville): Country singer-songwriter, from North Carolina, first album after a couple EPs. Good voice, fairly generic songs, not without interest but not worth much thought. B+(*)

Sergio Carolino: Below 0 (2021 [2022], Clean Feed): Portuguese tuba player, invented something called the Lusophone "Lucifer" (a picture looks like an overgrown tuba bell at the end of an oversized saxophone with a couple of trombones up top), played solo here. B+(*)

Hugo Carvalhais: Ascetica (2021 [2022], Clean Feed): Portuguese bassist, fourth album since 2010, original pieces with three co-credited to pianist Gabriel Pinto. Sextet also includes Liudas Mockunas (tenor sax/clarinet), Fabio Almeida (alto sax/flute), Emile Parisien (soprano sax), and Mário Costa (drums). B+(**)

Pastor Champion: I Just Want to Be a Good Man (2018 [2022], Luaka Bop): Outsider gospel artist Wylie Champion (1946-2021), brother of soul singer Bettye Swann, left Louisiana for Oakland, recorded this one album, a homey affair with his electric guitar, basic band, sing-alongs and handclaps, then delayed release by refusing to talk about it. No raising the rafters, no sublimated ecstasy, but down to earth faith to see you through hard times. Got to respect that. A-

Chicago Farmer & the Fieldnotes: Fore!!!! (2022, Chicago Farmer, EP): Folkie singer-songwriter Cody Diekhoff, "from a small town in Illinois," albums since 2005. Last couple were pretty impressive. Goes for slow and soulful here, which rarely beats fast and/or funny. Four songs, 19:09. B+(*) [sp]

Jeremiah Chiu & Marta Sofia Honer: Recordings From the Åland Islands (2022, International Anthem): Chiu, from Los Angeles, plays keyboards, although that's only fourth on his list of occupations, after "community organizer, graphic designer, artist." Bandcamp page shows six other recordings, at least one LP. Honer plays viola, synthesizer, and hand chimes. There is also a bit of guest flute. The Åland Islands are in the Baltic, south of Finland. Although there are bits of field recordings (e.g., birds), this is minimalist ambient music, the sort of thing you might be delighted to find from Jon Hassell. A- [sp]

Confidence Man: Tilt (2022, Heavenly): Australian electropop band, second album, I thought the first one was pretty great, starting with its title (Confident Music for Confident People). Two singers that go by Janet Planet and Sugar Bones, backed by a masked band. B+(***)

Natalie Cressman & Ian Faquini: Auburn Whisper (2022, Cressman Music): Faquini is Brazilian, moved to Berkeley at age 8, plays guitar, wrote or co-wrote all of these songs, and sings most of them. Cressman shares three writing credits, sings some, but mostly plays trombone, which adds some gravity to the froth. Turns out to be surprisingly beguiling. B+(***) [cd]

Dedicated Men of Zion: The Devil Don't Like It (2022, Bible & Tire): Gospel vocal group from North Carolina -- the lead group on 2021's Sacred Soul of North Carolina -- backed by the Sacred Soul Sound Section. Second album. B+(***)

Stro Elliot: Black & Loud: James Brown Reimagined by Stro Elliot (2022, Republic): Remix album, I've seen Brown on the artist credit line, as the music (especially the vocals) is uniquely his, but he's dead, and this particular mix is new. Elliot released a hip-hop instrumental album in 2016, joined the Roots in 2017, playing keyboards and beat machines. The shifts seem trivial at first, then subtle, then eventually they sweep the entire edifice into somewhere new. A-

Ensemble 0: Music Nuvolosa (2022, Sub Rosa): French group, nominally avant-classical but open to whatever. I noticed them last year with a version of Julius Eastman's Femenine, then got their name wrong in my review. Two compositions here: Pauline Oliveros: "Horse Sings From Cloud" (19:12); and György Ligeti: "Musica Ricercata" (27:39). B+(**) [bc]

Ilhan Ersahin/Dave Harrington/Kenny Wollesen: Invite Your Eye (2022, Nublu): Ersahin plays sax and keyboards, was born in Sweden to a Turkish father, moved to New York in 1990, owns the bar Nublu and its label, has a dozen or so albums since 1996. Harrington plays guitar, electronics, bass, and percussion, and Wollesen is a well-known drummer. B+(*)

Mané Fernandes: Enter the Squigg (2021 [2022], Clean Feed): Portuguese guitarist/bassist, third album. Group with alto sax (José Soares), flute, synth/piano, synth/accordion, and drums. B+(**) [bc]

Ricky Ford: The Wailing Sounds of Ricky Ford: Paul's Scene (2022, Whaling City Sound): Tenor saxophonist, from Boston, debut 1977, recorded for Muse and Candid up to 1991, intermittently since, strong sides with Abdullah Ibrahim and Mal Waldron. Quartet with Mark Soskin (piano), Jerome Harris (bass), and Barry Altschul (drums). Mostly standards, some pointed to South Africa. B+(***)

Freakons: Freakons (2022, Fluff & Gravy): Joint venture by countryish bands Freakwater and Mekons. Freakwater, from Kentucky, recorded 8 albums 1989-99, but only two since. Mekons started as a punk-political band Leeds, UK, in 1979, made a country move in 1985 (Fear and Whiskey), and continued to reconvene periodically even after Jon Langford moved to Chicago and created the Waco Brothers. They find common cause here in "songs about heroic union organizers, deadly mine disasters, wailing orphans, or mining's grim history of economic and ecological devastation." A-

Clay Harper: They'll Never Miss a Five (2022, Clay Harper Music): Singer-songwriter from Atlanta, started in the 1980s in a band call the Coolies, has several solo albums since 1997, also has written a children's book, and opened a number of restaurants (including a barbecue chain called The Greater Good). Seven songs (35:37), opening with an instrumental. B+(*)

Ibibio Sound Machine: Electricity (2022, Merge): London-based Afrofunk band, led by UK-born singer Eno Williams, fourth album since 2014. Groove takes off midway, which makes all the difference. B+(**)

Terry Klein: Good Luck Take Care (2022, self-released): Folkie singer-songwriter based in Austin, third album, recorded this one in Nashville, opener rocks so hard I filed it there, but he mostly goes mid-tempo, so you can follow words that mean something. A-

Lavender Country: Blackberry Rose and Other Songs & Sorrows From Lavender Country (2019 [2022], Don Giovanni): Led by Patrick Haggerty, claims their 1973 debut as "the first openly gay country album." Second album 49 years later. Nothing as explicit this time as "Cryin' These Cocksucking Tears," or maybe I'm just a bit slow on the uptake. I did notice that he sounds like he's been taking voice lessons from label mate Peter Stampfel. Also some politics, like "she loves Karl Marx more than she loves me." Last song is called "Eat the Rich." B+(**)

Lights: PEP (2022, Fueled by Ramen): Canadian pop singer-songwriter Valerie Bokan (née Poxleitner), eighth album since 2009. B+(***)

The Linda Lindas: Growing Up (2022, Epitaph): Four teen girls from Los Angeles (well, three: drummer Mila de la Garza is 11; Bela Salazar is oldest, at 17), play punk, released a 4-song EP in 2020, got a bigger push when their video of "Racist, Sexist Boy" went viral. First LP (10 songs, 25:30), cartoon cover suggests a nod to bubblegum. Wish they were as consistently great as they sometimes are. B+(***)

Mazam: Pilgrimage (2020 [2022], Clean Feed): Portuguese quartet: João Mortágua (alto/soprano sax), Carlos Azevedo (piano), Miguel Ângelo (bass), Mário Costa (drums). B+(**) [bc]

Brad Mehldau: Jacob's Ladder (2022, Nonesuch): Pianist, specialized in trios for his first decade, before starting to branch out with larger-scale works and even a splash of fusion. This is a sprawling tableau of prog rock with biblical motifs and allusions, covering Gentle Giant and Rush, and ending in 10:07 of "Heaven." I got turned off by the opening vocal, and nothing that came later changed my mind, but the rare bits of piano impress, and the broad swathes of synths remind me that I once fancied prog rock. But even then I had no use for liturgy, and all the less so here. Still, could be a wondrous piece of work, were one so inclined. B

Gurf Morlix: The Tightening of the Screws (2021, Rootball): Singer-songwriter, from Buffalo, moved to Texas, where he performed with Blaze Foley and Lucinda Williams. Thirteenth album since 2000. B+(*)

Keith Oxman: This One's for Joey (2021 [2022], Capri): Tenor saxophonist, mainstream, based in Denver, dozen albums since 1995. Quartet with Jeff Jenkins (piano), bass, and drums; mostly Oxman originals, with Jenkins contributing two songs, plus a couple standards. Joey is Pearlman, the late bassist who appears on the final cut. B+(***) [cd]

Rich Pellegrin: Passage: Solo Improvisations II (2019 [2022], OA2): Pianist, lives in Seattle when he's not teaching in Florida, fifth album, solo, minor bits and bobs. B+(*) [cd]

Marek Pospieszalski: Polish Composers of the 20th Century (2021 [2022], Clean Feed, 2CD): Polish saxophonist, has a previous album tribute to Frank Sinatra, not sure how much else. Octet here, with a second saxophone, trumpet, viola, guitar, piano, bass, and drums, only two names there I recognize (Tomasz Dabrowski and Grzegorz Tarwid), playing 12 pieces by as many composers (Andrzej Panufnik is the only one I sort of recognize; total time 110:08). Strikes me as a little heavy. B+(*) [bc]

Joel Ross: The Parable of the Poet (2022, Blue Note): Vibraphone player, third album, his appearance on Blue Note gave him visibility that his peers will be unlikely to match. Still, ambitious album, styled as a 7-part suite played by an 8-piece ensemble, led by Immanuel Wilkins (alto sax), Maria Grand (tenor sax), and Marquis Hill (trumpet), with trombone, piano, bass, and drums. B+(**)

Sault: Air (2022, Forever Living Originals): British group, sixth album since 2019, line-up still something of a mystery (one name seems to be Dean Josiah Cover, aka Inflo). Change of pace here, lots of spacey orchestration and choral singing, not much beat. They lost me. B [sp]

Selo I Ludy Performance Band: Bunch One (2019, self-released): Ukrainian band, from Kharkiv, offers a bunch of covers of western pop songs, some in English, some in German, the accordion and balalaika offering just the right amount of exoticism, along with the rhythmic drive of the bass and drums, to what is otherwise pure corn. B+(**)

André B. Silva: Mt. Meru (2021 [2022], Clean Feed): Portuguese guitarist, has a previous album as The Rite of Trio. Group includes alto sax, bassoon, bass clarinet, cello, bass, and drums, but feels like less. B+(*) [bc]

Jon Spencer & the HITmakers: Spencer Gets It Lit (2022, In the Red): Garage rocker, recorded a dozen-plus albums with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (1991-2015), went solo for the 2018 Spencer Sings the Hits. Harsh and erratic, nothing remotely hitbound (even the James Brown). I never bothered with him before, and probably won't again. B-

Survival Unit III: The Art of Flight: For Alvin Fielder (2018 [2022], Astral Spirits): File under Joe McPhee (tenor sax), the link to previous Survival Unit iterations (although not to the metal band of that name, which had 15 albums 1999-2007): Survival Unit II was active in 1971, and this trio -- with Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello & electronics) and Michael Zerang (drums) -- has seven albums since 2006. Fielder (1935-2019) was a drummer with Sun Ra, and a charter member of the AACM. His last appearance was on the same three-act bill as this set. A little rough for my taste. B+(*) [bc]

Vasco Trilla/Liba Villavecchia: Asebeia (2020 [2021], FMR): Spanish duo, drums and alto sax, Trilla has been prolific since 2013. Title defined as "criminal charge for desecration and disrespecting of divine objects." B+(*) [bc]

Jordan VanHemert: Nomad (2021 [2022], Origin): Korean-American tenor saxophonist, second album, teaches at Schwob School of Music. Mainstream, trio with Rodney Whitaker (bass) and David Alvarez III (drums), with extra guest spots, including two Sharon Cho vocals. B+(*) [cd]

Liba Villavecchia Trio: Zaidan (2021 [2022], Clean Feed): Spanish saxophonist, from Barcelona, records go back to 1999, trio with Alex Reviriego (bass) and Vasco Trilla (drums). B+(***) [bc]

Fabian Willmann Trio: Balance (2021 [2022], CYH): German tenor saxophonist, has credits back to 2014 but this appears to be the first album under his own name. New Swiss label stands for Clap Your Hands. With Arne Huber (bass) and Jeff Ballard (drums), plus alto sax (Asger Nissen) on two tracks. Mainstream, nice tone, closes with a "No Moon at All" that lingers long past the record. B+(***) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Dave Brubeck Trio: Live From Vienna 1967 (1967 [2022], Brubeck Editions): As one who usually listens to Brubeck records for Paul Desmond's gorgeous alto sax, it's easy to forget how brilliant a pianist the leader could be, so this is a wake up call. Brubeck rarely made trio records, and this one was an accident: Desmond missed the flight to the last stop of a tour, so the rest -- Eugene Wright (drums) and Joe Morello (drums) -- went on as a trio, their set shifted to mostly standards. Opens with a rousing "St. Louis Blues" followed by Brubeck's "One Moment Worth Years." Second side gets even hotter with Brubeck extemporizing on "Swanee River," and wrapping up with "Take the A Train." A- [cd]

Lenny Kaye Presents Lightning Striking (1934-2013 [2022], Ace, 2CD): Compilation of 48 songs, mostly from 1955-1979 with a few outliers (mostly metal later), tied to Kaye's new book, Lightning Striking: Ten Transformative Moments in Rock and Roll: the ten chapters are: Memphis 1954; New Orleans 1957; Philadelphia 1959; Liverpool 1962; San Francisco 1967; Detroit 1969; New York 1975; London 1977; Los Angeles 1984/Norway 1993; Seattle 1991. The last two are represented by 8 tracks I have no idea how to evaluate (LA hardcore/Norwegian metal is highlighted by a later Japanese cut; Seattle grunge is barely represented by Mudhoney and Mark Lanegan). Up through Kaye's own minor fame in New York 1975 (he was Patti Smith's guitarist, before that mostly known as the compiler of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era), there's no doubting his expertise or his knack for picking out obscurities that help illuminate the better known hits (not easy for me to figure out the ratio, but 1:1 to 1:2 is ballpark). I have doubts about how useful this is: a better solution might be to program a whole CD for each chapter, adding depth while keeping the periods/styles separate. No doubt Kaye could have found the songs, if only the economics were viable. [From Napster playlist, so some versions may differ; 2 missing songs found on YouTube.] B+(***)

Old music:

Amyl and the Sniffers: Amyl and the Sniffers (2019, ATO): Australian punk rock band, fronted by Amy Taylor, first album after a couple of EPs. I put their second album (Comfort to Me) on my 2021 A-list, but didn't bother looking back to see what else they had done. Maybe the album cover looked crude, or the length (11 songs in 29:00) insubstantial? Christgau marked it down ("sound a little thin in the end"), but that strikes me as a formal choice, and few bands have followed it more rigorously. As for statement: "Some Mutts (Can't Be Muzzled)." A- [sp]

Horace Andy: In the Light (1977, Hungry Town): Fifth album, regarded as one of his best, and I can't quarrel with that. Has an even flow, nothing really great, but plainly enjoyable. B+(***)

Mark Charig With Keith Tippett/Ann Winter: Pipedream (1977 [2010], Ogun): Cornet player (also tenor horn), started with Long John Baldry's Bluesology along with Elton Dean, went on to play in Soft Machine, King Krimson, and various projects with Dean, Barry Guy, Chris McGregor, and/or Tippett (organ/piano here; Winter sings; both also play bell). B- [bc]

Stro Elliot: Stro Elliot (2016, Street Corner Music): LA-based hip-hop producer, not sure how he balances that with membership in Philadelphia-based Roots, which he joined in 2017 after releasing this set of beats with occasional vocal samples. B+(*)

Terry Klein: Great Northern (2017, self-released): First album, short (8 songs, 29:43), deep thinking about life, from "they say life is wasted on the living" to "there is joy in this life if you're willing to make a mess." B+(***)

Terry Klein: Tex (2019, self-released): Second album, got himself a band, still I don't find myself hanging on every word, and the often slack music has something to do with that. B+(*)

Lavender Country: Lavender Country (1973 [2014], Paradise of Bachelors): Originally released by Gay Community Social Services of Seattle, Inc., which was leader Patrick Haggerty's day job. Music is fairly stock, but the lyrics aren't. B+(**)

Louis Moholo-Moholo Septet/Octet: Bra Louis - Bra Tebs/Spirits Rejoice! (1978-95 [2006], Ogun, 2CD): First disc is a previously unreleased 1995 set, with Evan Parker and Tobius Delius (tenor sax), Jason Yarde (alto/soprano sax), Claude Deppa (trumpet), Radu Malfatti (trombone), Pule Pheto (piano), Roberto Bellatalla (bass), and Francine Luce (vocals). I'm no more happy with the vocals here than elsewhere. However, the reissue of Moholo's 1978 album Spirits Rejoice! is something to savor. B+(***) [bc]

Soft Head [Hugh Hopper/Elton Dean/Alan Gowen/Dave Sheen]: Rogue Element (1978, Ogun): Ex-Soft Machine bassist, used "Soft" for several later group names, with Dean (another Soft Machine alumnus) on alto sax, plus keyboards and drums. Packaging poses a number of problems: group name not on cover, misspelled on spine (Soft Heap is a real Hopper group, just not this one, and the elephant picture caused me to mistype the title). The rhythm section isn't extraordinary on its own, but they really turn Dean loose. A- [bc]

Keith Tippett's Ark: Frames: Music for an Imaginary Film (1978, Ogun, 2CD): Orchestra 22 strong: 8 horns, 6 strings, double up on piano (Tippett and Stan Tracey), bass (Peter Kowald and Harry Miller), and percussion (Louis Moholo and Frank Perry), with two vocalists (Maggie Nicols and Julie Tippetts). Originally 2-LP, but totals 83:58, so needs 2-CD. Massive, generates a lot of motion with some cacophony. B+(*) [bc]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Milen Kirov: Spatium (Independent Creative Sound and Music) [06-05]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Music Week

April archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 37689 [37641] rated (+48), 130 [137] unrated (-7).

Continued with the Ogun Bandcamp. Several readers singled out Chris McGregor's first two Brotherhood of Breath albums for praise, so I started there. Aside from new jazz from my queue (topped by Whit Dickey and Kalí Rodríguez-Peña), plus some of the links I had downloaded and neglected, almost everything else came from sifting through lists, collected in my metacritic file.

Exception: Old records by Bob Andy, Chic, and Soft Machine showed up in research on other records, and seemed like holes in the database ratings. The Soft Machine albums were ones I actually owned, but hadn't remembered well enough to include in my first cut of the ratings list. I probably never owned any Chic before Believer, but C'Est Chic was the only one still unrated.

Thought about writing a theses-type piece on Ukraine, but got lost trying to sort out the ancient history: the arrival of various Slavic groups, Byzantine influences, the Khazars and other Turkic groups, the Varangians (Vikings), the Mongols, the encroachments from the north (Poland, Lithuania, Russia) and the south (Ottomans), the Cossack revolts and mercenaries, more Russians (with its Pale of Settlement), the Germans in the World Wars. Russia clearly dates back through the Tsars to the Grand Duchy of Moscow (1263-1480), or perhaps to Kievan Rus (879-1240), given that both were ruled by the Rurik dynasty, but it's not clear how or when Ukrainians became distinct from Russians (or vice versa) -- only that they did by the late 18th century, when Catherine the Great extended Russian control over most of Ukraine, and started a campaign of Russification (going so far as to refer to Ukraine as Novorussiya -- a term recently credited to Putin), and the breaks from Russian rule in 1917-20 and after 1991 have only added to the separation. That Putin thinks Russia knows best can be credited to the myopia that shields the progeny of former empires from seeing the harm those empires caused. Even Russian leaders who knew better have tended to revert to the mindset of Tsars.

The big question at this point is why do none of the principals (and I think we have to include the US and UK on that list) seem concerned with getting a cease fire? More war means more destruction, but also deeper scars that will take longer to heal. Meanwhile, I think it's clear that many of the assumptions of post-WWII defense strategy have proven to be wrong -- something which NATO powers have missed, given their recent pledges to spend even more money on arms, and place them even more aggressively to threaten Russia. Few seem to recognize that the famous "madman theory" depends on the other side reacting sanely, an assumption Putin has shown to be no longer operative.

Some serious rethinking is called for.

New records reviewed this week:

Mike Allemana: Vonology (2018-21 [2022], Ears & Eyes): Guitarist, grew up near Chicago, moved there and found a mentor in Von Freeman, the subject of and inspiration for these compositions. Octet. Greg Ward and Geof Bradfield are the saxophonists, Victor Garcia (trumpet), Kendall Moore (trombone), Tomeka Reid (cello), bass, and drums, plus a choir, which I don't regard as a plus. B+(*) [cd] [04-15]

Horace Andy: Midnight Rocker (2022, On-U Sound): Reggae singer Horace Hinds, recorded regularly since his 1972 Studio One breakthrough (Skylarking), at least up to 2010. Still not all that old (71). B+(*)

Chief Keef: 4Nem (2021, Glo Gang/RBC): Chicago rapper Keith Cozart, fourth studio album, lots of mixtapes back to 2011 (when he was 15). Gangsta-ish, doesn't seem worth the risk. B

Rob Clearfield & Quin Kirchner: Concentric Orbits (2019 [2022], Astral Spirits): Piano and percussion duo, from Chicago (although Clearfield has since been described as "France-based"). Two pieces, 30:25 (the digital adds a few more minutes of excerpts). Each build into a strong statement. B+(***) [dl]

Denzel Curry: Melt My Eyez, See Your Future (2022, PH/Loma Vista): Florida rapper, fifth album since 2013. B+(**)

Kady Diarra: Burkina Hakili (2021, Lamastrock): Singer from Burkina Faso, a wedge of former French colony tucked below Mali and Niger, and above Ghana, formerly known as Upper Volta. Third album, title translates as "Spirit of Burkina," songs in four languages, including Bwaba ("her native") and Bambara (more common in Mali), as well as French. I can't speak to the "political elements," but clearly a strong force with a solid groove, propped up by rock guitar toward the end. A- [bc]

Whit Dickey Quartet: Astral Long Form/Staircase in Space (2021 [2022], Tao Forms): Drummer, more than a dozen albums since 1998, long association with Matthew Shipp, including a spell in the David S. Ware Quartet. With Rob Brown (alto sax), Mat Maneri (viola), and Brandon Lopez (bass), offers adventurous improvs with superb mix and balance. A- [cd] [05-06]

Jean Fineberg: Jean Fineberg & JAZZphoria (2022, Pivotal): Bay Area tenor saxophonist, first album as leader, website credits her with side credits on 50 albums, including some that date her: We Are Family (1979, Sister Sledge), C'est Chic (1978, Chic) and Young Americans (1975, David Bowie), and the 1974-77 all-female band ISIS. Octet, mostly women, leans toward swing. B+(**) [cd] [04-08]

Asher Gamedze With Xristian Espinoza and Alan Bishop: Out Side Work: Two Duets (2019-20 [2022], Astral Spirits): South African drummer, debut album 2020. Two duo sides, each with a fierce saxophonist: Espinoza (tenor) in London, Bishop (alto and voice) in Cairo. B+(**) [dl]

Josean Jacobo Trio: Herencia Criolla (2022, self-released): Dominican pianist, leads a trio with Daroll Méndez (bass) and Otoniel Nicholás (drums), plus guests on 4 (of 8) songs, including Miguel Zenón (alto sax). B+(**) [cd]

Mike Kuhl/Dave Ballou/John Dierker/Luke Stewart: Kraft (2021 [2022], Out of Your Head): Part of the label's digital-only "Untamed" series, a word (plus ellipsis) prominent enough on the cover to tempt one to include it in the title. Drums, trumpet, reeds, bass. Sharp, impressive freewheeling quartet. B+(***) [dl]

Ben Markley Big Band With Ari Hoenig: Ari's Fun House (2021 [2022], OA2): Pianist, teaches at University of Wyoming, plays in Denver area, Discogs credits him with a couple albums in the 1970s which clearly belong to someone else. Hoenig wrote the pieces here, also plays drums, to Markley's arrangements. Very energetic, splashy even. B [cd] [04-15]

The Muslims: Fuck These Fuckin Fascists (2021, Epitaph): Second line to the title song is "they can kiss our asses." Punk band from North Carolina, "black + brown queer muzzies," name calculated to offend, but they're serious enough they enunciate clearly, so you can tell how political they are, and they're jokey enough (cf. the Rezillos) you wonder how serious they really are. B+(***) [bc]

Ivo Perelman/Tim Berne/Tony Malaby/James Carter: (D)IVO (2022, Mahakala Music): All-star saxophone quartet, playing tenor, alto, soprano, and baritone, respectively, all improv pieces, but safe to say that Perelman is the prime mover here. I've never been a big fan of the format -- something about the sound of the horns all by themselves -- and nothing here overcomes my reservations. B+(**) [sp]

Raw Poetic & Damu the Fudgemunk: Laminated Skies (2022, Def Pressé): Rapper Jason Moore, from Virginia, half dozen albums, most (as here) with DC DJ Earl Davis. B+(**)

Kalí Rodríguez-Peña: Mélange (2019 [2022], Truth Revolution): Trumpet player, from Cuba, moved to New York in 2014, a lot of print in the package that I'm having trouble reading, but seems to be his first album. Impressive trumpet, crackling rhythm, scattered vocals. I doubt I'll hear a better Latin jazz album this year. B+(***) [cd]

Shenseea: Alpha (2022, Rich Immigrants/Interscope): Jamaican dancehall singer, 40 singles since 2016, 4 of them on this debut album. Her networking offers lots of guest spots, which can make the difference, or not. B+(***)

Somi: Zenzile: The Reimagination of Miriam Makeba (2022, Salon Africana): American-born jazz singer Somi Kakoma, of Rwandan-Ugandan descent, also an actor and writer, albums since 2007, pays tribute to the legendary South African singer. B(*) [cd]

Luke Stewart's Silt Trio: The Bottom (2021 [2022], Cuneiform): Bassist, from DC, active in a number of groups including Heroes Are Gang Leaders and Irreversible Entanglements. Group debut with Brian Settles (tenor sax) and Chad Taylor (percussion). Taylor's opening rhythm on mbira sets up an enchanting groove, which the sax colors delicately, although later on Settles gets to strut his stuff. A- [dl]

Luke Stewart: Works for Upright Bass and Amplifier Vol. 1 (2021, Astral Spirits): Not a promising title, especially for a single song title (58:12), divided for vinyl purposes into four parts. B+(*) [bc]

Luke Stewart: Works for Upright Bass and Amplifier Vol. 2 (2022, Astral Spirits): Presumably the bass is the sound source, but the amplifiers are where the action is (if you can call it action). B+(*) [bc]

Wet Leg: Wet Leg (2022, Domino): British indie rock duo from Isle of Wight, Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers, first album, but hugely anticipated after six singles/videos (33 AOTY reviews first week out). Doesn't quite do it for me, but the second half gets sharper, or at least more distinctive. B+(***)

Jack White: Fear of the Dawn (2022, Third Man): Roots rocker, started in White Stripes. Some solid licks, but more annoying than not here. B-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Blue Notes: Blue Notes in Concert (1977 [2022], Ogun): Original South African group minus trumpet player Mongezi Feza, who died at 30 in 1975, leaving Chris McGregor (piano), Dudu Pukwana (alto sax), Johnny Dyani (bass), and Louis Moholo (drums). Recorded live at 100 Club, originally released in 1978, this expanded version finally appearing in The Ogun Collection in 2008, finally appearing as a digital in 2021, with a CD coming 2022-04-22. B+(***) [bc]

Son House: Forever on My Mind (1964 [2022], Easy Eye Sound): Delta blues legend, b. 1902, recorded a handful of sides in 1930, got a more extended hearing from Alan Lomax in 1941-42, then got on with his life, working as a railroad porter and chef, until he got rediscovered in 1960s folk-blues revival. Robert Santelli, in The Best of the Blues: 101 Essential Blues Albums, ranked his 1941-42 sessions at 17, and a 1965 session at 41. This previously unreleased set was recorded just before his "rediscovery," and is as strikingly authoritative as anything he ever did. A-

Lèspri Ka: New Directions in Gwoka Music From Guadeloupe 1981-2010 (1981-2010 [2022], Séance Centre): No names I recognize. Takes a couple cuts for the groove to kick in. B+(**) [sp]

Sal Mosca: For Lennie Tristano: Solo Piano 1970 & 1997 (1970-97 [2022], Fresh Sound): Pianist (1927-2007), from upstate New York, student and disciple of Tristano, fairly thin discography which includes albums with Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh. All standards, six cuts from 1970, including two medleys, plus two short ones (7:54) from 1997. B+(**)

Bernardo Sassetti Trio: Culturgest 2007 (2007 [2022], Clean Feed): Portuguese pianist, died 2012 at 41 (fell off a cliff). With Carlos Barretto (bass) and Alexandre Frazão (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Soft Machine: Facelift: France & Holland (1970 [2022], Cuneiform, 2CD): Canterbury rock group, originally with singer-songwriter Kevin Ayers, who left after their debut album, leaving a prog-oriented trio (Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper, Robert Wyatt), adding saxophonist Elton Dean for their Third album. Dean has joined for these January (Amsterdam) and March (Paris), along with a second saxophonist, Lyn Dobson. Dean puts on a bravura performance on the second disc, before it goes south again. B [dl]

Summer of Soul ( . . . Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised): A Questlove Jam [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] (1969 [2022], Legacy): Soundtrack to Questlove's documentary about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, a series of six free concerts held on Sundays from June 29 to August 24. The Festivals ran yearly from 1967 to 1974, and this particular one was filmed by Hal Tulchin, leaving Questlove 40 hours of video to choose from. The soundtrack offers 17 performances by 14 artists (The 5th Dimension, Sly & the Family Stone, and Nine Simone get two shots each; Mavis Staples appears in a piece with her family, then returns to join Mahalia Jackson in a gospel sequence). Sound is a bit rough in spots, but feels real and immediate. Film won an Oscar, but the soundtrack stands on its own. A- [sp]

Old music:

Horace Andy: Skylarking (1972, Studio One): First album, backed by Coxsone Dodd's studio band, led by Leroy Sibbles. shows up in several top/greatest reggae lists. Somehow he never strikes me as all that great. B+(**)

Chic: C'Est Chic (1978, Atlantic): Funk/disco band, second (and highest charting) of seven 1977-83 albums, the singles (especially their big hit, "Le Freak," but also "I Want Your Love" and "At Last I Am Free") familiar from best-ofs, the filler readily forgotten. B+(**)

Alexander Hawkins & Louis Moholo-Moholo: Keep Your Heart Straight (2011 [2012], Ogun): Piano-drums duo, one of the prolific pianist's first albums. B+(**) [bc]

The Chris McGregor Group: Very Urgent (1968 [2008], Fledg'ling): Reissue of album released by Polydor in 1968, with the original five Blue Notes plus Ronnie Beer (tenor sax). Outsiders finding their footing in the rapidly evolving British avant scene. B+(**) [sp]

Chris McGregor Septet: Up to Earth (1969 [2008], Fledg'ling): Previously unreleased, four pieces, 38:01, transitional step between McGregor's South African Blue Notes and the much larger Brotherhood of Breath he formed in 1970. Built around his piano and Blue Notes Mongezi Feza (trumpet), Dudu Pukwana (alto sax), and Louis Moholo (drums), plus two young British saxophonists (Evan Parker and John Surman), with bass split between Barre Phillips and Danny Thompson. More avant than expected, with a bit of circus-like delirium, and the piano: well, in a blindfold test I would have said Keith Tippett, who ran in the same circle and was sometimes this brilliant. A- [sp]

The Chris McGregor Trio: Our Prayer (1969 [2008], Fledg'ling): Piano-bass-drums trio, common among pianists but the only one I'm aware of with McGregor. Group includes Barre Phillips (bass, contributes one song) and Louis Moholo (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Chris McGregor: Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath (1970, RCA): South African pianist, came to England with his group Blue Notes. Before that group dissipated -- bassist Johnny Dyani moved to Denmark, trumpeter Mongezi Feza died in 1975, McGregor and alto saxophonist Dudu Pukwana died in 1990 -- McGregor formed this larger group, with Harry Miller taking over bass and Louis Moholo on drums, plus a lot of breath: two trumpets (Feza and Harry Beckett), corner (Marc Charig), two trombones (Malcolm Griffiths and Nick Evans), five saxophones (Pukwana, Alan Skidmore, John Surman, Mike Osborne, Ronnie Beer), with Feza and Osborne also on flute. Township jive with avant drive and distortions, a marvelous formula McGregor sustained for two decades. A- [sp]

Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath: Brotherhood (1972, RCA): Second album, sax section down to four (Pukwana, Osborne, Skidmore, and Gary Windo). Opener is one of their more rambunctious South African romps, followed by a dicey piano solo, then more chaos. B+(***) [sp]

Chris McGregor: Sea Breezes: Solo Piano - Live in Durban 1987 (1987 [2012], Fledg'ling): First time back in South Africa since leaving with the Blue Notes in 1964. B+(**) [sp]

Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath/Archie Shepp: En Concert A Banlieues Bleues (1989, 52e Rue Est): Closing in on 20 years since the group's debut, only the pianist and Harry Beckett (trumpet) remain, although at 14 musicians plus singer Sonti Mndébélé, the group is larger than ever. McGregor's South African themes get them going, and Shepp solos mightily and shouts some blues. B+(***)

Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath: The Memorial Concert (1994, ITM): No date or venue given, but McGregor died in 1990, and it's likely this was recorded soon thereafter, with Roland Perrin taking over the piano spot. Even so, only 7 (of 16) musicians returned from their 1989 live album -- the 9 adds having no previous association I'm aware of with McGregor. Not as spirited as I would have liked, but they do have choice picks from the songbook, including two Dudu Pukwana tunes. B+(**)

Louis Moholo-Moholo's Five Blokes: Uplift the People (2017 [2018], Ogun): Drummer, live at Cafe Oto in London, with two saxophonists -- Jason Yarde from the old days, and newcomer Shabaka Hutchings -- plus Alexander Hawkins (piano) and John Edwards (bass). B+(*) [bc]

The Soft Machine: Volume Two (1969, Probe): English prog rock group, from Canterbury, founders included Daevid Allen, who left in 1967 and went on to found Gong, and Kevin Ayers, who wrote most of Odd Ditties (a later compilation title) on their first album but left in 1968 for a solo career. That left Mike Ratledge (keyboards), Hugh Hopper (bass), and Robert Wyatt (drums and vocals), plus a bit of sax from Brian Hopper, for an album of amusing and/or pretentious fragments (at one point jumping from Schoenberg to Hendrix without properly crediting either). B

Soft Machine: 5 (1972, Columbia): Saxophonist Elton Dean joined in 1970, for Third. Drummer Robert Wyatt left in 1971, after Four, and was replaced by Phil Howard, who plays on the first half here, replaced by John Marshall for the second half (which also includes a double bassist, Roy Babbington, in addition to bass guitarist Hugh Hopper). After Wyatt's departure, no one much wanted to sing, and Dean remade them as a credible jazz band. [UK title: Fifth.] B+(*)

Soft Machine: Six (1973, Columbia): Karl Jenkins takes over on sax (also oboe, keyboards, celeste), with Ratledge, Hopper, and Marshall settled in. Double album, split between live and studio. B

Soft Machine: Seven (1973, Columbia): Hugh Hopper left to pursue a solo career, leaving Roy Babbington as the bassist. The last of the numbered albums, although the band kept plugging away, with further albums in 1975 and 1976, and occasional revivals later. B+(*)

Keith Tippett Septet: "A Loose Kite in a Gentle Wind Floating With Only My Will for an Anchor" (1984 [2009], Ogun): Four-part suite, brimming with ideas, followed by "Dedication to Mingus," which captures the tone if not quite the excitement. Timings vary between the original 1986 LP release (77:38) and the CD reissue (77:00). With Marc Charig (cornet), Elton Dean (alto sax/saxello), Larry Stabbins (tenor sax), Nick Evans (trombone), Paul Rogers (bass), Tony Levin (drums). B+(***) [bc]

Keith Tippett Octet: From Granite to Wind (2011, Ogun): British pianist, major, accompanied here by wife Julie Tippetts (voice, often not my thing), four saxophonists (Mujician-mate Paul Dunhall by far the best known), bass, and drums, for one 47:00 suite. B+(*) [bc]

Limited Sampling: Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.

Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath: Country Cooking (1988, Venture): Ex-LP, at least some kind of B+; title song is one of McGregor's classics, and the band has impressive saxophone power in Julian Argueles and Steve Williamson, as well as the ever-dependable Harry Beckett. ++ [yt]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Miles Okazaki: Thisness (Pi) [04-29]
  • David Virelles: Nuna (Pi) [05-27]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Music Week

April archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 37641 [37597] rated (+44), 137 [128] unrated (+9).

Another week. Surprised that the rated count held up, given that I took a day off to cook, and that it feels like I often got stuck looking for new things to play. Also spent a lot of time (4 plays) with Bouvier before I decided it didn't quite click -- easily the most tempting of an admirable bunch of B+(***) albums below. But I guess I got a solid start with the Ogun Bandcamp, which I still haven't exhausted.

Woke up this morning realizing it was already April and we hadn't done anything about income taxes. Tried calling the person who has done them for 20+ years, only to find out that she died last May, so we need to find someone else. Taxes are always a great psychic strain for me, although the relief once it's done is considerable.

I haven't had the slightest inclination to do Wordle, although my wife has a winning streak since her second game (and only loss), and has sought out variants, including the daily Quordle, which appears at midnight, interrupting our television time, so I occasionally consult. Sometimes I think of words, but mostly draw on letter frequencies, which somehow I know a bit about.

The game I have gotten into the habit of is Worldle, which also appears daily, giving you a Rorschach blob claiming to be the borders of a country or territory, which you get six guesses at. Each false guess gives you a distance and direction to the answer. Geography was my subject as a child: by age 10 or so I could rattle off not just all the states and their capitals, but the provinces of Canada and Australia, the SSRs in the Soviet Union, and virtually every nation-state on a continent. I've retained most of that, and have found most of these puzzles instantly recognizable. Today's Latvia took two guesses but less than 5 seconds (my first was Turkmenistan, off by 3224km NW, and while I don't think in metric, that seemed about right for the Baltic area, and the shape excluded every other nation in the area). Monaco took three, and much more time. Only problem has been with islands. Anguila eluded me, although it would have been easy with a map of the Lesser Antilles (I did narrow it down between Antigua and the Virgin Islands). I recognized Kerguelen (after an initial guess of Svalbard), but the name wasn't accepted, so I had to look up French Southern and Antarctic Lands. I can't say as I've ever heard of Heard and McDonald Islands (though consulting maps using directions and distances got me there in three). Christmas Island also took an open book approach, though I sort of recognized it once I got there. I view the game as sort of a two-tiered test: first of what you recognize and recall; second, if I didn't get the answer within a minute, of what you can figure out. My 8th Grade US History teacher was a big believer in open book tests, and I learned more there than I did in practically all the rest of grades 7-9 combined.

No Speaking of Which last week, as I put most of my effort into yesterday's big Book Roundup. I have zero interest or concern in the Will Smith slap that dominated our fickle media's limited attention span. Meanwhile, Republicans have been so puerile it's getting hard to dignify them with scorn. (Madison Cawthorn seemed to top them all last week, but not without stiff competition from Cruz, DeSantis, and Graham.) And Ukraine slogs on, rerunning tragedy inside the country and farce everywhere else. I'm sure I'll have more to say about that at some point. I suppose I could at least link to Jeffrey St. Clair's Roaming Charges, but it's a pretty mixed bag, more reliably on point about WWI than Ukraine. I particularly like a line in a longer Bertrand Russell quote: "The English and French say they are fighting in defense of democracy, but don't want their words to be heard in Petrograd or Calcutta."

What I wanted to mention in the Book Roundup but ran out of time for was how stimulating I've been finding Louis Menand's The Free World. The book, at least as far as I've read, consists of a series of portraits of seminal figures, starting with George Kennan, whose prescription for containment of the Soviet Union was always more nuanced than the policies of his followers. An important nuance was his insight that Stalin's efforts to secure the perimeter around Russia had nothing to do with communist ideology and everything to do with Tsarist Russia's fear and pride. We see this same attitude today with Putin asserting Russia's right to save Ukraine from itself -- as we also see Americans ignoring this crude conceit in favor of ideological and/or psychological explanations.

The book follows with pieces on George Orwell, James Burnham (and C. Wright Mills), Jean-Paul Sartre (and Simone de Beauvoir), Hannah Arendt, and David Riesman. I thought that Riesman's critique of Arendt was particularly timely: "Might Arendt be mistaking the ideology of totalitarianism for the lived reality? Might she be imagining that totalitarian systems are more coherent and all-powerful than they really are? . . . Riesman's suggestion that underneath the ideological swagger, the Soviet Union was a klutzy bureaucracy run by thugs was just the kind of inability to take totalitarianism seriously that she had written her book to warn against." Riesman also has a critique of democracy, where polling is mudied by people insisting on having opinions even when they know nothing, but ignorance itself is some kind of virtue. Still makes for messy politics -- which corresponds rather well to history.

Next up was Clement Greenberg and Jackson Pollock, so finally we get into art. I barely recognized Greenberg's name, but found I could unpack a lot of my own experience from his "Avant-Garde and Kitsch" essay. This was, after all, the world I was born into, even if it took a while for their ideas to sink down to the lower-class Wichita I was desperate to escape. But isn't the avant-garde a vector you can trace back to bourgeois revolution (even as the bourgeoisie themselves elected for kitsch)? And isn't part of the motivation the feeling of superiority you get from mastering the rare and esoteric in a world that is otherwise leveling? I got into avant-garde art and left-wing politics more/less simultaneously, and reconciled the two by insisting that nothing prevents leftists (or anyone) from also enjoying the avant-garde, but experience suggests it's not often that easy.

Quite a bit of unpacking this week. Most pleasant surprise was a package of 577 Records that don't appear to be out yet (although they look like product. On the other hand, it seems like it's gotten much harder to stream their records, so my coverage has gotten spottier.

New records reviewed this week:

Nia Archives: Forbidden Feelingz (2022, Hijinxx, EP): British jungle producer-singer, from Manchester, 6 songs, 16:53, impressive start, runs a bit thin. B+(**) [sp]

Lynne Arriale Trio: The Lights Are Always On (2021 [2022], Challenge): Pianist, from Milwaukee, 15+ albums since 1994, all originals here, backed with bass (Jasper Somsen) and drums (EJ Strickland). B+(**) [cd] [04-08]

Aaron Bazzell: Aesthetic (2022, self-released): Alto saxophonist, born in Boston, grew up in Atlanta, studied at Michigan State, based in Brooklyn. Debut album, all originals, backed by piano-bass-drums. Nice tone, impressive flow. Rachel Robinson sings one track, for radio programmers who are into that sort of thing. B+(**) [cd] [04-22]

David Binney Quartet: A Glimpse of the Eternal (2021 [2022], Criss Cross): Alto saxophonist, mainstream, started c. 1990, quartet with Craig Taborn (piano), Eivind Opsvik (bass), and Dan Weiss (drums). Mostly originals, covers not obvious standards (Vince Mendoza, Jan Garbarek, Michael Cain) aside from Harry Warren ("I Had the Craziest Dream"). B+(*)

Bouvier: Blachant (2022, Renewell): Singer Dr. Jackie Copeland, "social finance and justice innovator," taps into her South Carolina Gullah-Geechee heritage, touches on Yoruba and other points in the African diaspora, for a debut album. Striking voice, erudite, not sure why it doesn't quite grab me. B+(***) [cd] [04-13]

Club D'Elf: You Never Know (2022, Face Pelt): Boston group, since 1998, core group includes Mike Rivard (bass), Dean Johnston (drums), and Brahim Fribgane (oud/vocals), with others rotating in and out, most of their records live to capture whatever the combination of the moment is (this is an exception, but the cast is still varied). Half Rivard originals ("following a near death experience in the remote jungle of the Peruvian Amazon"), the rest covers of Miles Davis, Joe Zawinul, Frank Zappa, Nass el-Ghiwane, and traditional Gnawa. B+(**)

Avishai Cohen: Naked Truth (2021 [2022], ECM): Israeli trumpet player, not the same-named bassist, brother of Anat Cohen, records since 2002. Backed by piano (Yonathan Avishai), bass (Barak Mori), and drums (Ziv Ravitz). B+(**)

Armen Donelian: Fresh Start (2020-21 [2022], Sunnyside): Pianist, born in New York City, "reinvents himself at age 71," in a trio with Jay Anderson (bass) and Dennis Mackrel (drums). Sings one song. B+(**) [cd]

Jacob Garchik: Assembly (2021 [2022], Yestereve): Trombonist, from San Francisco, albums since 2005, this a quintet with Sam Newsome (soprano sax) and Thomas Morgan (bass) joining his long-running trio with Jacob Sacks (piano) and Dan Weiss (drums). B+(***) [cd] [05-13]

Giacomo Gates: You (2022, Savant): Jazz singer, 8th album since 1995, 18 songs with "You" in the title ("Exactly Like You," "I Can't Give You Anything but Love," "You're Blasé," "You've Changed," "You Never Miss Your Water 'Till the Well Runs Dry") backed by Tim Ray's piano trio. B+(***)

Aldous Harding: Warm Chris (2022, 4AD): Hannah Sian Topp, singer-songwriter originally from New Zealand, based in Wales, fourth album, produced by John Parish. B+(**)

Walker Hayes: Country Stuff: The Album (2022, Monument): Country singer-songwriter, from Alabama, got a music degree with "an emphasis on piano," moved to Nashville 2005, released his first EP in 2010, followed by an LP in 2011. Third album, recycled all six songs from 2021's EP. I rather liked the EP [B+(**)], with guest spots by Carly Pearce and Lori McKenna, so was surprised to find this is one of the most widely loathed albums of 2022 (not many critical reviews, but 28 user score on 93 ratings at AOTY, while 174 at RYM give it 1.51 of 5 stars). Country fans may object to the production, which eschews conventional Nashville styles (neotrad, countrypolitan, or arena rock): the rhythm and choruses remind me more of pop rap like Nelly, only, you know, dumbed down for white folk. Lyrics can get dumber still (except, you know, when McKenna wrote them). B

Benji Kaplan: Something Here Inside (2021 [2022], Wise Cat): Nylon-string guitarist, Brazilian, fourth album, moves into American Songbook standards, done with rare delicacy. B+(*) [cd] [05-06]

Kyle: It's Not So Bad (2022, self): Last name Harvey, from California (Ventura), started as a soft-edged rapper but mostly sings here (softer than ever). B+(*)

Loop: Sonancy (2022, Cooking Vinyl): English new wave band formed in 1986 by Robert Hampson in Croydon, recorded three albums through 1990, broke up, reformed in 2013, released an EP, and finally this year their first album in 31 years. With its drone and grind, this reminds me of some other 1980s English band I'm having trouble placing -- not the Fall (which had a singer), nor New Order (which had a more compelling groove), or the Three Johns (which had songs); maybe Red Lorry Yellow Lorry? B+(***)

Yuko Mabuchi: Caribbean Canvas (2022, Vista): Pianist, from Japan, studied in Los Angeles, looks to be her sixth album, a venture into easy-going Latin jazz, although most of the pieces are originals. Ends with "Of Freedom," following Coltrane. B+(**) [cd]

Paul Messina: Blue Fire (2021, GVAP Music): Saxophonist, also plays flute and keyboards, grew up in Miami, Discogs shows a previous album from 2014, website lists seven more. Scott Yanow notes his "warm melodies, catchy rhythms, and excellent playing." Can't say that adds up to much. B- [cd]

Maren Morris: Humble Quest (2022, Columbia Nashville): Country singer-songwriter, three early albums on a label called Mozzi Bozzi (2005-11), then caught a break with a major and went platinum. I didn't care for her last two albums, but this one sounds sweet and rings solid all the way through. B+(***)

Josh Nelson/Bob Bowman Collective: Tomorrow Is Not Promised (2021 [2022], Steel Bird Music): Leaders play piano and bass, backed by Larry Koonse (guitar) and Steve Houghton (drums), with guest spots (4 of 11 songs) for trumpet (Clay Jenkins) and sax (Bob Sheppard). B+(**) [cd]

The Nu Band: In Memory of Mark Whitecage: The Nu Band Live at the Bop Shop (2018 [2022], Not Two): The alto saxophonist died last year at 83. He founded this quartet in 2001 with Joe Fonda (bass), Lou Grassi (drums), and Roy Campbell (trumpet). After Campbell's death in 2014, they brought in Thomas Heberer and carried on, but this looks to be their swan song. There's a nice symmetry to it, given that their debut album was live at this same Rochester, NY venue. B+(***)

Danily Peréz: Crisálida (2022, Mack Avenue): Pianist, from Panama, studied at Berklee, joined Dizzy Gillespie's United Nation Orchestra. A dozen-plus albums since 1993, this one featuring The Global Messengers, with musicians and singers from around the world. Not the sort of project I can easily follow, but some fine piano. B

Dave Rempis/Elisabeth Harnik/Michael Zerang: Astragaloi (2020 [2022], Aerophonic): Alto/tenor saxophonist, in a trio with piano and drums. Harnik is Austrian, has appeared several times with Rempis and Zerang (both from Chicago). A- [cd]

Huerco S.: Plonk (2022, Incienso): Electronica producer and DJ Brian Leeds, originally from Kansas, based in Germany, fourth album. Odd song out is "Plonk IX" thanks to a SIR E.U. vocal. B+(*)

Mark Turner: Return From the Stars (2019 [2022], ECM): Tenor saxophonist, one of the "tough young tenors" who broke through in the 1990s. Quartet with Jason Palmer (trumpet), Joe Martin (bass), and Jonathan Pinson (drums). B+(***)

Years & Years: Night Call (2022, Polydor): British singer-songwriter Olly Alexander, seems to have a reputation as an actor, third album with his pop group, catchy enough. [Standard edition; at least two more longer ones exist.] B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

John Coltrane Quartet: Song of Praise: New York 1965 Revisited (1965 [2022], Ezz-Thetics): Two live set, belatedly released as One Up, One Down: Live at the Half Note on 2-CD in 2005, reordered and trimmed a bit to fit onto one 79:52 CD. Coltrane plays four long pieces with great intensity, but the Quartet (most especially Tyner) sounds like it's on the verge of breaking. B+(***) [bc]

Sun Ra Arkestra: Nothing Is . . . Completed & Revisited (1966 [2022], Ezz-Thetics): Revisits the 11-piece group's 1966 ESP-Disk album, reordered and expanded from 39:15 to 64:46. Peak period of their space race. B+(***) [bc]

Old music:

Elton Dean Quintet: Welcomet: Live in Brazil, 1986 (1986 [2017], Ogun): Alto saxophonist, also plays saxello, leads a quintet with trumpet (Harry Beckett), trombone (Paul Rutherford), bass (Marcio Mattos), and drums (Liam Genockey). Album appeared on Impetus in 1987 with just the 43:41 title track cut up. Reissue adds a second track, "Rio Rules" (33:53). Rutherford is most impressive. B+(***)

The Dedication Orchestra: Spirits Rejoice (1992, Ogun): Large orchestra organized to pay tribute to the Blue Notes shortly after pianist Chris McGregor's passing (1990), with only one original member (drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo) but practially everyone else who crossed paths with McGregor, which is to say a "who's who" of the British avant-garde: 21 musicians + 3 vocalists (Phil Minton, Maggie Nichols, Julie Tippetts). As advertised: "a mighty recording, in every way." Gets weird at the end. B+(***) [bc]

The Dedication Orchestra: Ixesha (Time) (1994, Ogun, 2CD): Credits list up to 27 names, haven't checked to see who's come and gone, but Steve Beresford signed on as arranger and musical director. I'm more impressed by the flow, at least until the singers take over and slow down "Lost Opportunities." Runs 90:06. Vocals return at the end. B+(***) [bc]

Radu Malfatti/Harry Miller: Bracknell Breakdown (1977 [1978], Ogun): Trombone player from Austria, duo with South African bassist. Two pieces, 38:21, fairly austere pleasures. B+(*) [bc]

Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath: Live at Willisau (1973 [1994], Ogun): South African pianist's post-Blue Notes band, recorded from 1970 up to his death in 1990. The South African rhythm section (McGregor, Harry Miller, and Louis Moholo) backed three saxes (Dudu Pukwana, Evan Parker, Gary Window), three trumpets (Mongezi Feza, Harry Beckett, Marc Charig), and two trombones (Nick Evans, Radu Malfatti). They can get pretty far out, but South African roots run deep, and when they get the jive working (e.g., "Andromeda") it's quite some party. A- [bc]

Chris McGregor: In His Good Time (1977 [2012], Ogun): Solo piano, recorded in Paris, CD greatly expands upon the 1979 album. The African themes sound especially good here. B+(**) [bc]

Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath: Procession: Live at Toulouse (1978 [2013], Ogun): Another hot set, not least because it hews closer to the South African melodies that all the horns (4 saxes, 2 trumpets, 1 trombone) brighten up. Maybe also with Johnny Dyani joining Harry Miller on bass. A- [bc]

Harry Miller: Children at Play (1974, Ogun): Bassist, from South Africa, came to England young and played in Manfred Mann (originally a group led by South African keyboardist Manfred Lubowitz, who assumed the group name as his own). Moved into free jazz circles, taking over bass in Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath, and leading his own group, Harry Miller's Isipingo, with many of the same musicians. He founded Ogun Records with his wife, but died in a car crash in 1983. First album under his name, solo but multi-tracked, with percussion, flute, and effects dubbed in. B+(*) [bc]

Harry Miller: Different Times, Different Places (1973-76 [2013], Ogun): Starts with a short set (23:33) from London with Mike Osborne (sax), Nick Evans (trombone), McGregor (piano), and Louis Moholo (drums), then adds a longer one from Chateauvillon (53:53) with Osborne and Moholo, plus Mark Charig (trumpet), Malcolm Griffiths (trombone), and Keith Tippett (piano). A- [bc]

Harry Miller's Isipingo: Family Affair (1977, Ogun): Bassist-led sextet, only album they released at the time, although a couple more have appeared since. Familiar names: Mike Osborne (alto sax), Mark Charig (trumpet), Malcolm Griffiths (trombone), Keith Tippett (piano), Louis Moholo (drums). B+(***) [bc]

Harry Miller: In Conference (1978, Ogun): Features two saxophonists -- Willem Breuker (soprano/tenor, bass clarinet) and Trevor Watts (alto/soprano) -- with Keith Tippett (piano), Julie Tippetts (voice), and Louis Moholo (drums). Terrific version of the South African "Orange Grove." I'm less delighted by the vocals, which enter on the third track. B+(**) [bc]

Harry Miller: Different Times, Different Places: Volume Two (1977-82 [2016], Ogun): Seven tracks from three sessions. The opening delight takes off on Bernie Holland's guitar, with Alan Wakeman chasing on sax. Wakeman returns with Keith Tippett (piano) on three dicier 1978 tracks. The final three tracks feature Trevor Watts (alto sax), with extra brass. More than a few rough edges. B+(***)

Louis Moholo/Evan Parker/Pule Pheto/Gibo Pheto/Barry Guy Quintet: Bush Fire (1995 [1997], Ogun): Three South Africans -- the Phetos play piano and bass -- with two giants of the English avant-garde on sax (tenor/soprano) and bass. B+(**) [bc]

Louis Moholo-Moholo Meets Mervyn Africa/Pule Pheto/Keith Tippett: Mpumi (1995 [2002], Ogun): Piano-drums duos, one each with two fellow South Africans (13:47, 17:32), the last in three "chapters" totalling 45:28. Mpumi was Moholo's wife. [Nompumelelo Ebronah Moholo, 1947-2001; they met in South Africa in 1973; lived in England until they returned to South Africa in 2005. Moholo adopted the double name around 2002, when the death of a grandmother elevated his tribal status. Some earlier albums have picked up the later name.] B+ [bc]

Louis Moholo-Moholo/Stan Tracey: Khumbula (Remember) (2004 [2005], Ogun): Drums and piano duo. Tracey (1926-2013) has a huge discography I've barely scratched the surface of, and probably slighted (aside from his justly celebrated 1965 Jazz Suite: Inspired by Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood, a full A). He is quite remarkable here, and in good company. A- [bc]

Louis Moholo-Moholo Unit: An Open Letter to My Wife Mpumi (2008 [2009], Ogun): Sextet, the usual mix of South Africans and English avant-gardists -- Jason Yarde and Mtshuka Bonga on saxophones, Pule Pheeto (piano), Orphy Robinson (vibes), and John Edwards (bass) -- plus vocals by Francine Luce. The drummer seems to thrive on chaos, of which there is a bit much. B+(*) [bc]

Louis Moholo-Moholo Unit: For the Blue Notes (2012 [2014], Ogun): Last surviving member of the legendary South African jazz band, although saxophonists Jason Yarde and Ntshuka Bonga played with the band after arriving in England in 1964. Octet, including younger UK stars like Alexander Hawkins (piano) and John Edwards (bass), also Francine Luce (voice). B+(*) [bc]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Pepper Adams With the Tommy Banks Trio: Live at Room at the Top (1972, Reel to Real) [04-23]
  • Mike Allemana: Vonology (Ears & Eyes) [04-15]
  • Dave Brubeck Trio: Live From Vienna 1967 (Brubeck Editions) [04-15]
  • Dan Bruce's Beta Collective: Time to Mind the Mystics (Shifting Paradigm) [04-29]
  • Daniel Carter/Evan Strauss/5-Track/Sheridan Riley: The Uproar in Bursts of Sound and Silence (577) [??-??]
  • Natalie Cressman & Ian Faquini: Auburn Whisper (Cressman Music) [04-15]
  • Sture Ericson/Pat Thomas/Raymond Strid: Bagman Live at Cafe Oto (577) [??-??]
  • Heroes Are Gang Leaders: LeAutoRoiOgraphy (577) [06-17]
  • Amanda Irarrázabal/Miriam van Boer Salmón: Fauces (577) [??-??]
  • Josean Jacobo Trio: Herencia Criolla (self) [03-04]
  • Ben Markley Big Band With Ari Hoenig: Ari's Fun House (OA2) [04-15]
  • Jessica Pavone/Lukas Koenig/Matt Mottel: Spam Likely (577) [??-??]
  • Rich Pellegrin: Passage: Solo Improvisations II [04-15]
  • Kali Rodriguez-Peña: Mélange (Truth Revolution) [03-04]
  • Ches Smith: Interpret It Well (Pyroclastic) [05-06]
  • Somi: Zenzile: The Reimagination of Miriam Makeba (Salon Africana) [03-04]
  • SSWAN [Jessica Ackerley/Patrick Shiroishi/Chris Williams/Luke Stewart/Jason Nazary]: Invisibility Is an Unnatural Disorder (577) [??-??]
  • The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: The 2022 Jazz Heritage Series (self-released)
  • Jordan Vanhemert: Nomad (Origin) [04-15]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Music Week

March archive (done).

Music: Current count 37597 [37555] rated (+42), 128 [125] unrated (+3).

Failed to get my Book Roundup post done last week, or even to make any significant headway on it. Instead, I wrote a fitful Speaking of Which, which left me in a very bad mood. I'm not sure I can explain why, or whether I even want to, so let's leave it at that.

Meanwhile, I listened to some records last week, as you can see. For much of the week, I had little trouble deciding what to listen to next. I have a rather limited but functional metacritic file, which urged me to waste time on the likes of Alt-J and Animal Collective (neither as bad as I feared, but with different redeeming merits). I noticed that Best of Jazz has started a New Jazz Releases 2022 page (they cite me in their intro), which led me to identify several prospects. Among the things they pointed me to were Bandcamp reissues from Enja/Yellowbird -- misidentified as new releases. I've also spent a good deal of time on the Ogun Records Bandcamp, which I discovered last week, when I went looking for Blue Notes for Mongezi (and found the even better Blue Notes for Johnny). I expect to continue with Ogun next week. (A quandary there on reissue dates: many are new enough by Bandcamp dates to qualify for this or last year's lists, but I've generally gone with either the original LP date or the most appropriate CD reissue -- hence they're showing up under "Old Music" here.) Other records came from various Facebook EW lists, including Gonora Sounds and Hailey Whitters.

The odd record out in many ways is Nova Twins, a 2020 release (too new for old? too old for new?). I probably noticed it at the time -- barely, it got 10 points in my 2020 EOY Aggregate -- but what brought it to my attention was that the daughter of a friend of a friend of my wife's was in it, a good old word-of-mouth grapevine. Not something I expect to go back to often, but exemplary in a fairly unique way, enough so I gave it the benefit of the grade.

The March, 2022 Streamnotes file (link above) is wrapped up (except for the Music Week excerpts), with 169 records (123 new music, 109 of them 2022 releases).

New records reviewed this week:

Alt-J: The Dream (2022, Infectious Music): English band, won a Mercury Prize for their 2012 debut, fourth album, flows comfortably, kind of like Pink Floyd but has yet to interest me. B

Animal Collective: Time Skiffs (2022, Sub Pop): Experimental pop band, founded 2000, seemed likely to be a big thing with 2009's Merriweather Post Pavilion (at least with critics, as it won the Pazz & Jop poll, leading a long list of albums I more/less hated: Phoenix, Neko Case, Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, Flaming Lips, Avett Brothers; however, the album peaked at 13, not even gold, the follow-up sold a quarter as many copies, and later albums have come out at increasing intervals -- this 6 years after its predecessor). Usual complaints here: loose sense of time, excess pseudo-psychedelic shimmer. B

Steven Bernstein's MTO: Good Time Music (Community Music Vol. 2) (2022, Royal Potato Family): Trumpet player, formed his Millennial Territory Orchestra in 2005 after working on Robert Altman's Kansas City, recreating the blues-based "territory bands" of the 1930s. Ten-piece band plus featured singer Catherine Russell. B+(***) [bc]

Black Flower: Magma (2022, Sdban Ultra): Belgian quintet, led by Nathan Daems (sax/flute), half-dozen albums since 2013, "mixing Ethio-jazz and oriental with afrobeat and dub." One spoken vocal by Meskerem Mees. Enticing grooves with rich textures. B+(***) [sp]

Black Lives: From Generation to Generation (2021 [2022], Jammin' Colors, 2CD): Produced by Stefany Calembert, with bassist Reggie Washington prominent, "new work on the subject of racism and Black realities," out on a Belgian label. Some pieces are explicitly political (e.g., "Existing Conditions"), others content to explore grooves and tones. Mostly names I recognize come from jazz, but too eclectic to really follow. B+(**) [cd] [03-25]

Stephan Crump: Rocket Love (2020-21 [2022], Papillon Sounds): Bassist, impressive list of albums since 2001, mostly in trios with guitar or piano. This one is solo, curated from a year-long subscriber-supported series, not planned as a pandemic project but it worked out that way. B+(**)

James Gaiters Soul Revival: Understanding Reimagined (2021 [2022], self-released): Drummer, from Columbus, Ohio, leads a soul jazz quartet with Robert Mason (organ), Kevin Turner (guitar), and the magnificent Eddie Bayard (tenor sax, I recognize him as Edwin from many Mark Lomax albums). Six covers, ranging from Sonny Rollins to Isaac Hayes. B+(***) [cd]

Dave Gisler Trio With Jaimie Branch and David Murray: See You Out There (2021 [2022], Intakt): Swiss guitarist, third Trio album with Raffaele Bossard (bass) and Lionel Friedli (drums), the second adding Branch on trumpet, this one also joined by the tenor sax legend. They get messy fast. B+(**) [sp]

Gonora Sounds: Hard Times Never Kill (2022, The Vital Record): Led by singer Daniel Gonora, a "family band that has been busking on the streets of Zimbabwe since 2004," present their debut album. I don't buy the title for a minute, but they're so vital and so compelling you can excuse, perhaps even delight in, their sense of indestructibility. A

Joy Guidry: Radical Acceptance (2022, Whited Sepulchre): Plays bassoon and electronics. Starts with a spoken word piece called "Just Because I Have a Dick Doesn't Mean I'm a Man." Then wanders off into dark ambience and strings, sax, and drums, with a brief dip into "Down in the Valley." B+(**)

Michael Leonhart Orchestra: The Normyn Suites (2019-21 [2022], Sunnyside): Trumpet player (credits here include many instruments), son of bassist Jay Leonhart, won a Grammy while still in high school, tenth album since 1995, side credits have mostly been in rock and soul. Several different things here. Normyn was a dachshund and the two suites were written during her last days, They're lovely. In between there is a spoken word piece, "Radio Is Everything," read by Elvis Costello, with Bill Frisell and Nels Cline. Costello sings a couple more songs. Ends with two quartet tracks, featuring Donny McCaslin, dedicated to Kenny Dorham and Wayne Shorter. B+(***) [cd]

Rudresh Mahanthappa: Animal Crossing EP (2022, Whirlwind, EP): Alto saxophonist, reconvenes his 2020 Hero Trio, with François Moutin (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums), for four songs, 22:39. B+(**) [bc]

Vic Mensa: Vino Valentino (2022, Roc Nation, EP): Chicago rapper, sings here, father from Ghana (where the famous name is Mensah). Mostly EPs, this one 4 tracks, 11:31. B+(*)

Tony Monaco: Four Brothers (2022, Chicken Coup/Summit): Columbus, Ohio organ player, has a dozen albums going back to 2001, wrote the title piece here and a reprise with little thought to the Jimmy Giuffre standard, but to celebrate his exceptional quartet, sharing Kevin Turner (guitar) and Edwin Bayard (tenor/soprano sax) with James Gaiters' group. Bayard, again, is superb, his surprise turn on "Lush Life" a revelation. B+(***) [cd]

Sean Nelson's New London Big Band: Social Hour! (2022, MAMA): Trombonist, New London is a town in Connecticut (but this was recorded in Waterford), big band, plus some extra flutes and harp in spots, the trombone section swelling to nine on one tracks. Nelson wrote 6 (of 12) tracks, with other band members contributing pieces, so the only standard is "When You Wish Upon a Star." B [cd]

Nova Twins: Who Are the Girls (2020, 333 Wreckords Crew): British post-punk duo, Amy Love (guitar/vocals) and Georgia South (bass/keyboards), debut EP 2016, first album, short (10 songs, 30:22). Hard, in your face, full of spit and fire, not exactly metal, but look out for flying shrapnel. A-

Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono (2022, Canvasback): Unlike many, I didn't hate her when she broke up the Beatles, but I've never gotten into her own records, respecting a couple HMs -- Season of Glass (1981), and Take Me to the Land of Hell (2013) -- while disliking other, most of all the Walking on Thin Ice "best-of" (1971-85, graded A by Christgau but C+ by me). So I didn't expect to recognize any of the 14 songs here, or many of the artists: familiar names all, but mostly David Byrne, Yo La Tengo, and Stephin Merritt, with Deerhoof and Faming Lips typical of the second tier (and having more fun). B+(*)

Punkt. Vrt. Plastik: Zurich Concert (2021 [2022], Intakt): Piano-bass-drums trio, names on the cover -- Kaja Draksler, Petter Eldh, Christian Lillinger -- third album since 2016. Rhythm jumps around a lot, a perpetual motion machine. B+(***)

Cécile McLorin Salvant: Ghost Song (2022, Nonesuch): Jazz singer, from Florida, father Haitian, mother French, debut 2010, wins polls plus a Macarthur Genius Grant, sixth album, first time she wrote most of her songs. Still, the covers are where her skills are most evident: a Kate Bush opener, an a cappella "Unquiet Grave" to close, best of all a Brecht/Weill song, "The World Is Mean." B+(**)

Lisa Ullén/Elsa Bergman/Anna Lund: Space (2021 [2022], Relative Pitch): Born in South Korea, studied classical music in Stockholm, switching to free jazz in the 1990s. Trio with bass and drums. B+(***)

Hailey Whitters: Raised (2022, Big Loud/Pigasus): Country singer-songwriter, originally from Iowa, moved to Nashville, fourth album. Songs reflect back to her native corn fields, but she finds country everywhere, even where "The Grass Is Legal." A-

Yung Kayo: DFTK (2022, Sevensevenseven/YSL): Rapper Kai Green, from DC, based in LA, first album after an EP and a bunch of singles. B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Rabih Abou-Khalil: The Flood and the Fate of the Fish (2017-18 [2019], Enja): Oud player, from Beirut, based in France (Cannes), has two dozen albums since 1982, building jazz from Arabic traditions and finding common threads around the Mediterranean. Group includes ney, soprano sax, violin, accordion, and drums, with Portuguese Fado singer Ricardo Ribeiro on three tracks with old texts. B+(**) [bc]

Old music:

The Blue Notes: Legacy: Live in South Afrika 1964 (1964 [1995], Ogun): South African jazz group, gained some fame at the 1963 National Jazz Festival in Johannesburg, but ran afoul of the Apartheid order -- pianist Chris McGregor was white, the others black -- so went into exile in 1964, joining the burgeoning avant-garde scene in England. This is what they sounded like originally, with two saxophones (Dudu Pukwana on alto and Nikele Moyake on tenor), trumpet (Mongezi Feza), bass (Johnny Dyani), and drums (Louis Moholo-Moholo). B+(***) [bc]

Lol Coxhill: Coxhill on Ogun (1977-78 [1998], Ogun): British soprano saxophonist (1932-2012), also credited with "loose floorboard" here, on the 16:24 solo "Diver." This combines two albums, The Joy of Paranoia (1978, with multiple guitars on the first side, Veryan Weston's piano on the second), and Diverse (1977, one side solo, the other adding cello, bass, and percussion). B+(***) [bc]

EDQ [Elton Dean Quartet]: They All Be on This Old Road (1977, Ogun): Saxophonist (alto/saxello), got his start in Bluesology (1966-67), led by Long John Baldry, remembered mostly as the sources for their piano player Reginald Dwight's stage name. Dean went on to play with Michael Tippett from 1968, and Soft Machine 1969-72. Quartet here with Tippett (piano), Chris Laurence (bass), and Louis Moholo (drums). Finishes very strong. A- [bc]

Elton Dean's Ninesense: Happy Daze + Oh! For the Edge (1976-77 [2009], Ogun): Nine-piece band, doubling up on sax (Dean and Alan Skidmore), trumpet (Harry Beckett and Mark Charig), and trombone (Nick Evans and Radu Malfatti), with Keith Tippett (piano), Harry Miller (bass), and Louis Moholo (drums). Reissue combines their first two albums. B+(***) [bc]

Elton Dean: Elton Dean's Unlimited Saxophone Company (1989 [1990], Ogun): Three saxophonists -- Dean (alto/saxello), Paul Dunmall (tenor/baritone), and Trevor Watts (alto) -- backec by bass (Paul Rogers) and drums (Tony Levin). B+(***) [bc]

Dusan Goykovich: Swinging Macedonia (1966 [1983], Enja): Serbian trumpet player (b. 1931), from a session in Germany which basically kicked off a long and illustrious career (latest album 2014). Sextet includes two saxophonists (Nathan Davis and Eddie Busnello), Mal Waldron (piano), bass, and drums. B+(**) [bc]

Louis Moholo Octet: Spirits Rejoice! (1978, Ogun): Five tunes, all by South Africans (including three former Blue Notes: Moholo, Mongezi Feza, and Johnny Dyani), but the drummer (with two bassists and two trombonists) fell in with the cream of the British avant-garde: Evan Parker (tenor sax), Kenny Wheeler (trumpet), and Keith Tippett (piano). After the roughness, closes with a solemn piece that translates to "Times of Sorrow." B+(***)

Louis Moholo-Moholo/Dudu Pukwana/Johnny Dyani with Rev. Frank Wright: Spiritual Knowledge and Grace (1979 [2004], Ogun): Live set from Eindhoven, Netherlands, a trio of South African Blue Notes (drums, alto sax, bass), joined by a tenor saxophonist from America -- never seen him referred to as Rev. before, but he's always been a disciple of Albert Ayler -- with Pukwana and Dyani also playing some piano (which seems to pick the other up). B+(**) [bc]

Louis Moholo's Viva-La-Black: Exile (1990-91 [1991], Ogun): South African drummer, following up his 1988 Viva La Black album, group a septet, starts off with two pieces by tenor saxophonist Sean Bergin and one by guitarist Frank Douglas, followed by four Moholo originals. B+(**) [bc]

Louis Moholo's Viva-La-Black: Freedom Tour: Live in South Afrika 1993 (1993 [1994], Ogun): For the South African exiles here, a triumphant return tour, including English saxophonists Sean Bergin and Toby Delius. B+(***) [bc]

Louis Moholo-Moholo Quartet: 4 Blokes (2013 [2014], Ogun): With Jason Yarde (sax), Alexander Hawkins (piano), and John Edwards (bass). B+(***)

Mike Osborne Trio: All Night Long: The Willisau Concert (1975 [2012], Ogun): British alto saxophonist (1941-2007), major figure in the British avant-garde (though he tends to get overlooked -- I see 4 Penguin Guide 4-star albums in my database). Backed by South Africans Harry Miller (bass) and Louis Moholo (drums). Sax is intense, a little rough, but quite a performance from the drummer. Reissue adds two previously unreleased traks (26:36). A- [bc]

Mike Osborne Trio/Quintet: Border Crossing/Marcel's Muse (1974-77 [2004], Ogun): Combines two albums on one CD (79:31), the first a trio with Harry Miller and Louis Moholo, the second adding Mark Charig (trumpet) and Jeff Green (guitar), replacing the drummer with Peter Nykyruj. A- [bc]

Alan Skidmore/Mike Osborne/John Surman: S.O.S. (1975, Ogun): Three British saxophonists (tenor, alto, baritone/soprano and bass clarinet), Surman also plays synth and the others add some percussion, so it's not purely sax choir. B+(**) [bc]

John Stevens/Evan Parker: Corner to Corner + The Longest Night (1977-93 [2007], Ogun, 2CD): Drums and soprano sax duo, Stevens also playing cornet. The 1976 session was originally released as two volumes of The Longest Night, edging over into the second disc here. The balance of the second disc is the 1993 album. Remarkable, but at length the limited sonic range wears thin. B+(**) [bc]

Aki Takase: St. Louis Blues (2001 [2020], Enja): Japanese pianist, moved to Berlin 1988, joined Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, married German avant-garde founder Alexander von Schlippenbach, has a substantial discography of her own, including several looks back at the jazz tradition, like this one. Reprises six W.C. Handy classics, with two of her pieces, plus contributions by band members Rudi Mahal (bass clarinet) and Nils Wogram (trombone). Also with Fred Frith (guitar) and Paul Lovens (drums). Too erratic, although "Memphis Blues" makes the chaos work. B+(**)

Keith Tippett/Julie Tippetts/Harry Miller/Frank Perry: Ovary Lodge (1975 [1976], Ogun): All improv, group played together for three years but only recorded this one album. All but Miller (bass) credited with voice, although that's mostly Tippetts' domain (she was married to the pianist, who was born with the 's' but dropped it early in his recording career. Aside from percussion (Perry), other instruments: harmonium, recorder, er-hu, sopranino recorder, hsiao, sheng. B [bc]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Martin Bejerano: #Cubanamerican (Figgland) [05-27]
  • Will Bernard: Pond Life (Dreck to Disk) [05-27]
  • Jean Fineberg: & Jazzphoria (Pivotal) [04-08]
  • Stephen Philip Harvey Jazz Orchestra: Smash! (Next Level) [06-17]
  • Charles Mingus: The Lost Album: From Ronnie Scott's (1972, Resonance, 3CD) [04-29]
  • Yu Nishiyama: A Lotus in the Mud (Next Level) [05-20]
  • Keith Oxman: This One's for Joey (Capri) [04-15]
  • Fabian Willmann Trio: Balance (CYH) [04-15]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Music Week

March archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 37555 [37510] rated (+45), 125 [146] unrated (-21).

Was expecting to have to make excuses for another rated count drop, but I wound up same as last week, with just one fewer A- grade. I had a lot of trouble thinking up records to look up. Then I hit on the idea of picking off records from the unrated list by looking for streaming copies instead of digging the physical discs from wherever they may be. Aside from 19 still pending new releases, the rest are things I once had physical copies of, including some old vinyl, but never got around to playing them. Over the years, I knocked that number down from a high of 975 to a low of 125, but it had crept up in recent weeks as the Spring promos came in. Unfortunately, there is very little else I can do that with.

I also wound up slowing down for Charli XCX and Rosalía: neither was a slam dunk A- first (or second) time through, but not knowing where to go next, I gave them extra chances, and eventually decided they made the grade. Neither are in the upper half of my 2022 A-list, but even the top half feel rather tentative at the moment, but with 25 A- records at the moment, and B+ records divided 36-45-38, the new year list is shaping up nicely.

Back when I was struggling with what to play next, it occurred to me that it would be easy to open up a metadata list, since I was already doing a tracking file. It's very sketchy at present, and I doubt I'll spend the time to bring it (let alone keep it) up to date. The main source so far is AOTY, working down their "highest rated" list and then branching off into various publication "highest rated" lists. Basically, albums get a point for each publication that gives it an 80+ rating, marked with an abbreviation:* (see legend). Thus far I'm accepting everything except for some metal specialists (, Distorted Sound, Metal Hammer, Metal Injection, Metal Sucks; although some metal sneaks through, mostly covered by pubs that lean that way but aren't so exclusive, like Kerrang and Sputnik). To this I will add specialists in areas that don't get compiled by AOTY (I've already scrounged through Saving Country Music's reviews, looking for 1.75+ "guns up"; relatively high priorities include AAJ, FJC, and DownBeat). I've noted my grades (scored 0-5, from B to A/A+), but haven't fully loaded them. I'll add various personal lists as I see them (Phil Overeem, for sure), so I'm guilty of trying to skew this a bit towards what interests me.

I expect to do a Book Roundup later this week. I have enough material now (40 blurbs + related lists + briefly noted), and close to enough to follow up before long. Hoping to avoid a Speaking of Which, although the world can be cruel and aggravating. For example, I listened to a Democracy Now interview with Alfred McCoy, who's one of the writers appearing regularly at TomDispatch, where he was droning on about how China and Russia are forming "a new world order" -- a common panic theme popular with the mandarins who dominate American foreign policy thinking (something he's supposed to be a critic of). Then I looked at Intelligencer, only to find two attacks directed at "the left," one by Jonathan Chait on education, the other by Eric Levitz on Ukraine. I agree with very little of what they're attacking, but can't help taking such slanders personally. But perhaps my time would be better spent working on the book outline? Or finally fixing my XSS problems? Or just figuring out the jigsaw puzzle?

New records reviewed this week:

Central Cee: 23 (2022, self-released): London rapper Oakley Caesar-Su, second mixtape, something called "UK drill" for its fast, staccato delivery. B+(***)

Charli XCX: Crash (2022, Asylum): British pop star Charlotte Aitchison, fifth album, four singles, two with guest stars. Big production, in some ways the top of her game, but didn't quite click for me, until the delirious "You Don't Know Me" broke through. A-

Curren$y & the Alchemist: Continuance (2022, Jet Life): Rapper Shante Franklin, many albums since 2009, some with producer Daniel Maman. B+(*)

DJ 809: EightOh! (2022, self-released, EP): From New Jersey, seven short pieces, beats stripped down and popped up, with talkover (14:45). B+(*) [bc]

DJ 809: Unexpected (2022, self-released, EP): Same cover art, three more tracks (8:25), all with "Club" in the title, two with "Beat," the other with "Remix." Runs a bit down. B [bc]

Dave Douglas: Secular Psalms (2020-21 [2022], Greenleaf Music): Great trumpet player, hit-and-miss composer, was commissioned to write ten pieces "inspired by Jan van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece, as well as music by 15-Century Flemish composer Guillaume Dufay." Libretto sung by Berlinde Deman in Ghent -- each musician was recorded separately; with Marta Warelis (piano), Frederik Leroux (guitar), Tomeka Reid (cello), and Lander Gyselinck (drums). Some great trumpet stuck into the mass. B+(*) [cd] [04-01]

Bill Easley: Diversitonic (2022, Sunnyside): Tenor saxophonist, celebrating a 60-year career but doesn't have a lot of albums to show for it -- half-dozen albums under his own name, side credits with Jimmy McGriff, maybe twenty more. B+(**)

Kelly Eisenhour: I Just Found Out About Love (2022, BluJazz): Standards singer, released a previous album in 2007, so not as prolific as her bio says. Recorded this at Capitol Records, which she found inspirational, but also give credit to the rhythm section (Jeff Hamilton, Tamir Hendelman, Christoph Luty), and to the songs. B+(**) [cd]

Etran de L'Aïr: Agadez (2022, Sahel Sounds): Tuareg group from Agadez, in Niger, in the Saharan Dessert near the Aïr Mountains, a town of 100,000 which has launched a number of world renowned bands with fiery guitars and chanting choruses. Second album, not unlike the others, and every bit as exciting. A- [bc]

Eubanks Evans Experience: EEE (2022, Imani): Duo, guitarist Kevin Eubanks and pianist Orrin Evans, both first appeared in the mid-1990s. Fairly quiet affair. B+(*) [cd]

The Grace Fox Big Band: Eleven O Seven (2022, Next Level/Blue Collar): Young trumpet player, still a student at Manhattan School of Music, organized the all-female big band, wrote a couple pieces, arranged others. Sounds fairly conventional at first, but grows on you -- particularly the closer, a Janis Ian song, striking with vocals by Alexis Fox and a smashing sax solo by Sarah Hanahan. B+(**) [cd]

Matt Hall: I Hope to My Never (2022, Summit): Trombonist, toured the country in the USMC Jazz Orchestra, studied with Jon Faddis, got a Masters degree at San Diego State, debut album, with Charlie Arbelaez on alto sax (wrote one song, to seven by Hall plus one standard). B+(*) [cd]

Hippo Campus: LP3 (2022, Grand Jury): Indie band from St. Paul, third album since 2016 (plus two volumes of Demos). B+(**)

Ray Wylie Hubbard: Co-Starring Too (2022, Big Machine): Alt-country singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, called his 1970s band the Cowboy Twinkies, didn't get my attention until 2010-17, with a string of four top-notch records (e.g., The Grifter's Hymnal). Slacked off with his 2020 Co-Starring, leaning on old friends and hangers on, a formula reprised here. But while he gets help, this isn't a duets showcase, and his songs are as tough and onery as any of late. A-

Jenny Hval: Classic Objects (2022, 4AD): Norwegian singer-songwriter, started in a gothic metal band, recorded two albums as Rockettothesky, five now under her own name, one more as Lost Girls, plus has published three novels. Occurs to me she doesn't have an identifiable style or sound: she's a master of disguise, not that I know what these elaborate artifacts are meant to signify. B+(**)

Eugenie Jones: Players (2021 [2022], Open Mic, 2CD): Jazz/r&b singer, writes most of her songs (10 of 15 here), the rest standards, with Nina Simone an outlier. Long list of notable musicians here, rotated in small groups. Would have fit on a single CD (69 minutes), but that's not how they do things these days. B+(**)

Junglepussy: JP5000 (2022, No Label, EP): New York rapper Shayna McHayle, has a couple albums with titles like JP3 and JP4, framed this five track, 11:42 release as an offshoot. Nice flow, until it trickles out. B+(*) [sp]

Xose Miguélez: Contradictio (2021 [2022], Origin): Tenor saxophonist, from Galicia in Spain, debut album in 2019, leads a quartet with piano (Jean-Michel Pilc), bass, and drums. Four originals, one by Pilc, one trad folk song, some standards, one called "Someday My Monk Will Come." B+(***) [cd] [03-18]

Noah Preminger/Max Light: Songs We Love (2022, SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, mainstream, bunches of records since 2007. Light is a guitarist, has a trio album from 2018, appeared on several albums with Preminger, also with Jason Palmer and Kevin Sun. Sounds nice, but perhaps they love these songs too much (or maybe I just don't love them enough). B+(*)

Rosalía: Motomami (2022, Columbia): Spanish pop star, third album, the previous one (El Mal Querer) topped the US Latin Pop chart and got a lot of good press here, but I wasn't taken with it. This one wasn't easy, and I still have a dozen or more spots that rub me the wrong way, plus the more general issue that I don't understand a word (not something that necessarily bothers me), but the odd beats and surrounding murk won me over. Enough surprises that this will show up on EOY lists (but probably not mine). A-

Marta Sanchez: SAAM (Spanish American Art Museum) (2021 [2022], Whirlwind): Spanish pianist, based in New York, half dozen albums since 2008. Quintet with two saxophonists (Alex LoRe and Roman Filiu), bass, and drums, aside from one cut in the middle that adds Camila Meza (voice and guitar), Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet), and Charlotte Greve (synths). I'm reminded of Monk, except where Monk would throw the odd note in to unbalance you, Sanchez keeps changing, twirling off-balance without falling down. A- [cd]

Idit Shner & Mhondoro: Heat Wave (2021 [2022], OA2): Alto saxophonist, studied in Oklahoma City and at UNT, based in Oregon, sixth album since 2008. Mhondoro is "the lion spirit in Shona (Zimbabwe)." Group a sextet with piano, bass, drums, percussion, and mbira, with occasional vocals. B+(***) [cd]

John Stowell/Dave Glenn & the Hawcaptak Quartet: Violin Memory (2018-20 [2022], Origin): Guitarist, many albums since 1977. Glenn is a trombonist, teaches in Walla Walla, has an album from 2009, presents a nice contract to the guitar and the string quartet. B+(*) [cd]

Charlie Sutton: Trout Takes (2022, Chuckwagon, EP): Country singer-songwriter, learned his trout in northern Idaho, has a previous album with a fish on the cover, Primitive Songs for Modern Times. Eight songs, 25:14. B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Miles Davis Quintets: Stockholm Live 1967 & 1969 Revisited (1967-69 [2022], Ezz-Thetics): Two live sets on one 79:41 CD, the first with the legendary 1960s quintet (Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams) in top form, the second retaining Shorter but swapping in a younger and ultimately even more famous rhythm section (Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette) -- the latter a brief and somewhat uncomfortable feint toward the avant-garde, before Shorter left and Davis invented fusion. The Stockholm concerts were part of longer European tours, which Legacy compiled into terrific 3-CD boxes as the first two volumes of their Bootleg Series. So this is either redundant, or a perfectly fine introduction. A- [bc]

The Detroit Escalator Co.: Soundtrack [313] + 6 (1996, Mental Groove/Musique Pour La Danse): Detroit techno producer Neil Ollivierra, started around 1988-89, seems to be his first album, reissued with six extra tracks. B+(***) [bc]

Hal Galper Trio: Invitation to Openness: Live at Big Twio (2008 [2022], Origin): Piano-bass-drums trio, one more of many Galper has led since 1976. He's a terrific player, but it takes a bit more to make one of his albums stand out -- cf. Art-Work, another performance from the same year, but with Reggie Workman and Rashied Ali. B+(**) [cd]

Vis-a-Vis: The Best of Vis-a-Vis in Congo Style (1976 [2021], We Are Busy Bodies): Group from Ghana, Discogs lists a fair number of records 1975-82. Despite title (could have been recorded earlier), this was the second, six pretty decent highlife tracks. B+(***) [bc]

Old music:

Blue Notes: Blue Notes for Mongezi (1975 [1976], Ogun): A tribute to the late trumpeter Mongezi Feza by his former bandmates -- Chris McGregor (piano), Dudu Pukwana (alto sax), Johnny Dyani (bass), Louis Moholo (drums) -- the group that brought township jive-based jazz to Europe as South Africa became impossible for an integrated group. I first noticed Feza in a Robert Wyatt album, a lovely feature, and soon fell in love with the irresistible groove of Pukwana's In the Townships. One long jam session cut into four LP sides (later expanded to fill 2-CD), with bit of source music wafting in and out. B+(***) [yt]

Blue Notes: Blue Notes for Johnny (1987, Ogun): And then they were three, with the death of bassist Johnny Mbizo Dyani, leaving Dudu Pukwana (soprano/alto sax), Chris McGregor (piano), and Louis Moholo (drums). Not that a bassist woldn't help, but Dyani's pieces capture the South African groove, with plenty to build on. [PS: Digital adds three alternate takes.] A- [bc]

Boston Camerta/Joel Cohen: Nueva España: Close Encounters in the New World 1590-1690 (1993, Erato): Boston-based early music ensemble, long directed by Cohen (1969-2008). Mostly a vocal group, not my thing, although it picks up a bit toward the end. B

Betty Davis: Nasty Gal (1975, Island): Née Mabry, changed her name when she married Miles Davis (1968-69). Recorded some tracks for Columbia then, but they were shelved until 2016. She did finally get an album released in 1973. This was her third, and last -- at least until a 1976 album appeared in 2009. Funk, gritty enough to hope for a great album, but too inconsistent to achieve one. B+(**)

Betty Davis: The Columbia Years 1968-1969 (1968-69 [2016], Columbia/Legacy): Unreleased demos, three from 1968 arranged by Hugh Masekela, the other six (total 31:04) produced by Miles Davis and Teo Macero, with credits that will raise some eyebrows (Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin, Larry Young, Mitch Mitchell) although they could be anyone here. B+(*)

Carlos Franzetti/Allison Brewster Franzetti: Alborada (2011, Amapola): Argentine pianist, composer, has done Latin jazz and classical, and (especially) soundtracks. Shares headline here with his wife, another pianist, their work backed by bass (Robert Balzar), drums (Jiri Slavicek), and the City of Prague Philharmonic, adding lushness to the drama.. B

Waylon Jennings: A Man Called Hoss (1987, MCA): Country singer, lots of albums 1964-2012, so this autobiographical concept came in midway. Roger Murrah co-wrote the songs, which mostly do him proud. The annotation isn't a plus. B+(*)

Jacob Merlin: Alchemy of Soul (2009, Backline): Keyboard player, from Portland, not sure how much more he's done, or what the credits on this one are: are the vocals his? All originals, funk rhythm, horn section. Loud and brassy, but not very memorable. B-

Angela Strehli: Deja Blue (1998, House of Blues): Lubbock, Texas blues guitarist-singer, debut 1987, part of the trio that cut Dreams Come True in 1993, moved to California after that, recording a couple more albums, widely spaced after this one. B+(**) [yt]

Okay Temiz: Drummer of Two Worlds (1980, Finnadar): Turkish percussionist, back cover has a picture of his instrument array, including some things he invented. In the 1970s, he moved to Sweden, where he played with Don Cherry, and in a trio with South Africans Johnny Dyani and Mongezi Feza. B+(***)

Tronzo Trio: Roots (1994, Knitting Factory Works): Guitarist David Tronzo, from Rochester, developed a reputation in the mid-1990s playing jazz on slide guitar, took a job at Berklee in 2002, has recorded only occasionally since. Plays dobro as well as guitar, for a bit of bluegrass tone. Trio with Stomu Takeishi (bass) and Jeff Hirschfeld (drums) mostly, with Billy Martin (percussion) on two tracks, and producer Jimi Zhivago (dobro and guitar) on three. Mix of originals and eclectic covers. B+(**) [bc]

Papa Wemba/Modogo Gian Franco Ferre Et L'Orchestra Viva La Musica: Le Jour J: Nouvelle Generation a Paris (1988, Sonodisc): Congolese star, a founder of Zaiko Langa Langa, went solo in 1974 and recorded dozens of albums, this short album (4 tracks, 27:29) one introducing singer Ferre, grooves like you'd expect. B+(**) [sp]

Putte Wickman & Red Mitchell: The Very Thought of You (1987-88 [1988], Dragon): Swedish clarinet player (1924-2006), has a 10-inch album from 1949 but didn't really get going until 1966. Duets with the American bassist, who plays piano on three tracks. Standards. B+(**)

Putte Wickman: Putte Wickman in Trombones (1992, Phontastic): The clarinetist is backed by four trombones and a rhythm section. B+(**) [sp]

Putte Wickman & Ernie Wilkins Almost Big Band: Kinda Dukish (2004 [2005], Gazell): Recorded in Copenhagen, the clarinetist plus 12 others (4 saxes, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones) playing Wilkins' arrangements of Ellington tunes. B+(**)

Christine Wodrascka/Ramon Lopez: Aux Portes Du Matin: Live at Instants Chavirés (2000 [2001], Leo): French pianist, 18 albums since 1994, this a duo with the drummer (also French, 25 albums since 1992). B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Tony Monaco: Four Brothers (Chicken Coup/Summit) [03-11]

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Monday, March 14, 2022

Music Week

March archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 37510 [37465] rated (+45), 146 [149] unrated (-3).

I wanted to close this off Sunday evening to get it out of the way, but yesterday's political post ran well into the evening, and I had had unpacking to do. I also had a programming task to do, and that (plus other errands) wiped out Monday afternoon, and into the evening.

Don Malcolm requested the change: that I add A- albums to the A/A+ breakouts in the ratings database. He noted how rarely I used A/A+ in recent years, and argued that expanding the selection would be more useful. That made sense to me, and I figured it would be an easy change, but hadn't reckoned with the re-learning curve on a set of programs I originally hacked together 20+ years ago (mostly make and shell scripts, using awk and sed, but the biggest one is in C++, which I'm especially rusty in). And while the change turned out to be as simple as I expected (changing 14 to 13 in two places), I found other issues that needed attention:

  • I noticed I wasn't generating a miscellaneous A-list file, so I added that.
  • I saw that I had a make formula for a single A/A+ file, but hadn't made it available, so I added a link. I also decided not to expand it to include A- records (with just A/A+ the count is 1394), so I went back and made the 14-to-13 change switchable.
  • In looking at the A/A+ file, I found five errors, so I fixed them. It took a while to determine they were in the data and not the program itself. Good thing, given how obscure I'm now finding the program.

One thing I noticed but didn't do anything about was the granularity of the files. I haven't, for instance, generated new files for rock or jazz after 2020. I've spent enough time today looking at the code that I have a pretty good idea how to do that, but still don't see the need. A better solution would be to move all of the data into a real database, which could then be sliced and diced as thin as one might desire. Big job, though.

Moving on, another fairly large batch of new records this week, with the majority (34 of 41, so 83%) 2022 releases. A-list items are both numerous and diverse. One source was Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide. (Pleased to see Fimber Bravo and A Gift to Pops there -- records I stuck my neck out in touting. Also Big Thief, but everybody knew about that. I also gave an A- to Playboi Carti, over a year ago.) Other tips came from all over the place, or from nowhere at all.

No time for a 2021 summary. I've done some minor maintenance on the usual lists, but I've gotten over spending any significant time on them. I'm thinking now I'll turn from this to do a fairly quick Speaking of Which (most, but not all, on Ukraine), then get back to working on a Book Roundup. Draft file for the latter has 32 books at the moment, plus 212 books in the scratch file (mostly unwritten), so I have enough for a post (maybe two: standard is 40 blurb notes + another 30-60 listings).

Just finished Astra Taylor's first book, The People' Platform. I bought it several years ago on a friend's recommendation, but didn't pick it up until recently, after I read her second book, on democracy. One thing I'm impressed by is the breadth of her reading, and her ability to make connections between a wide range of sources. (My Book Roundups help me fake it, but give me a ballpark idea of what she's drawing on.) Like David Graeber, her politics developed out of Occupy Wall Street, but she strikes me as both more flexible and more innovative. I have a new collection by her, Remake the World: Essays, Reflections, Rebellions, so that's the obvious thing to pick up next. Still, the books exercise is suggesting a lot more I'd like to read.

New records reviewed this week:

75 Dollar Bill: Live Ateliers Claus (2016-19 [2021], self-released): Saharan-influenced instrumental rock duo -- Rick Brown (percussion) and Che Chen (guitar) -- started around 2013, one of those artists who released a lot of live tapes during the pandemic, leaving us with too much material available, and no easy job of sorting out which albums are more valuable than others. This combines two sets, one a duo from 2016 (22:34), the other from 2019 (50:21, with Andrew Lafkas on bass). B+(**) [bc]

Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul: Topical Dancer (2022, Deewee/Because Music): Born in France, grew up in Belgium, traces her ancestry back to Nigeria (Yoruba) via Martinique and Guadeloupe. First album, after a couple EPs and a "self-meditation" cassette. I know less about Pupul, other than that he's collaborated with her on singles, and has a couple of his own. Spare but danceable beats, words mostly in English, like: "Don't say 'we need to build a wall'/ Say, I'm a world citizen, I don't believe in borders" A- [sp]

Melissa Aldana: 12 Stars (2021 [2022], Blue Note): Tenor saxophonist, from Chile, father a jazz saxophonist (Marcos Aldana), sixth album since 2010. Quintet with Lage Lund (guitar), Sullivan Fortner (piano), bass, and drums. Postbop, nice tone and flow. B+(***)

Brandon Allen: The Stanley Turrentine Project (2022, Ubuntu Music): Tenor saxophonist, originally from Australia, based in London since 2000, has a previous Gene Ammons Project, also a Monk-oriented Mysterioso Quartet. Backed here by piano (Will Barry), bass (Conor Chaplin), and drums (Dave Ingamells). Song selection is a little corny ("Can't Buy Me Love," "Little Green Apples," "The Fool on the Hill"), but he powers through them, like T would do. B+(**)

Benji.: Smile, You're Alive! (2021, SinceThe80s): Atlanta rapper, toured with EarthGang, joined Spillage Village in 2020, appearing on several tracks on their Spilligion album. Some sources co-credit Spillage Village here, but I only see Benji.'s name on the cover. B+(**) [sp]

Tim Berne/Gregg Belisle-Chi: Mars (2021 [2022], Intakt): Alto sax and guitar duo, the latter having released a set of solo takes on Berne songs last year. B+(**) [sp]

Mary J. Blige: Good Morning Gorgeous (2022, 300/Mary Jane Productions): Big star, thirty years past "What's the 411?"; five years since her last (13th) studio album. She's settling in nicely here, perhaps stronger than ever, less urgent, the few high points lifting an impeccable consistency. I doubt I've ever fully appreciated her before, as my only previous A- grade was for Herstory, Vol. 1, so this may not be her best ever, but it's the one that got me. A-

Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine (2021, Oh Boy): A year after Prine's Covid death brought forth a flood of eulogies that approached what he deserved, his label limps on with a small stable of good-but-not-Prine songwriters. So with another product shortfall, why not invite a second volume of tribute covers? Eleven years after Vol. 1, it's not like they're going to the well too often (though they probably won't stop until they do). And they did draw bigger and better names this time, without coming close to running out of songs. A- [sp]

James Brown: Song Within the Story (2021 [2022[, NGP): Guitarist, from Toronto, fourth album, the last one Sevendaze in 2009 -- or so the hype sheet says. Searching for him is well nigh impossible, like trying to identify a small asteroid backlit by the sun. (Discogs has at least 83 James Browns and no Sevendaze. Google produced some results after adding "guitar" and "toronto" to the name.) Original material, with bass and drums, plus tenor sax (Mike Murley) on 3 (of 10) tracks. Respectable postbop, solid support, Murley's always a plus. B+(**) [cd]

Caroline: Caroline (2022, Rough Trade): British post-rock group, first album, Casper Hughes plays guitar and sings. B [sp]

CMAT: If My Wife New I'd Be Dead (2022, AWAL): Irish singer-songwriter Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson, first album. Strong singer, thinking about "Nashville" and cowboys. B+(***) [sp]

Elvis Costello & the Imposters: The Boy Named If (2022, Capitol): Band name he's used since 2002, long-taken to mean "not the Attractions." Here, the opener ("Farewell, OK") sounds like a throwback to his youth, but soon enough he's orating again, albeit with a harder guitar edge ("Magnificent Hurt" is another example). So, yeah, better than he's been in quite some while (aside from Spanish Model, which recycled some of his best old songs en españnol, hot enough he called that group The Attractions). B+(*)

Kit Downes/Petter Eldh/James Maddren: Vermillion (2021 [2022], ECM): Piano/bass/drums trio. British pianist has more than a dozen albums since 2009. Swedish bassist, based in Berlin, has a comparable discography, and wrote five originals here, as did Downes. Album closes with a Jimi Hendrix tune, "Castles Made of Sand." B+(*)

Erin Rae: Lighten Up (2022, Good Memory): Last name McKaskie, singer-songwriter, third album, easy on the ears. B+(*) [sp]

Julieta Eugenio: Jump (2021 [2022], Greenleaf Music): Tenor saxophonist, from Argentina, based in New York, first album, backed by bass (Matt Dwonszyk) and drums (Jonathan Barber). Eight originals, two standards, tone and phrasing remind me of Coleman Hawkins. A- [cd]

Fanfare Ciocarlia: It Wasn't Hard to Love You (2021, Asphalt Tango): Romanian brass band, which probably means Romani [confirmed], formed in the late 1990s with albums in 1998 and 1999 (World Wide Wedding). Starts with a Bill Withers cover, strange enough to make you hungry for more, then lapses into more traditional fare: upbeat party music. A-

Wolfgang Flür: Magazine 1 (2002, Cherry Red): Percussionist from classic German "krautrock" group Kraftwerk (1973-87), not a lot since then, but after Florian Schneider's 2020 death, he looks to reclaim the franchise sound. He does so, and rather humorously, helped by a series of guests like U96, Midge Ure, Carl Cox, and Juan Atkins. B+(***)

Keeley Forsyth: Limbs (2022, The Leaf Label): British singer-songwriter, better known as an actor before her 2019 debut album. Slow, overdramatic, again. B [sp]

Foxes: The Kick (2022, PIAS): British dance pop singer-songwriter Louisa Rose Allen, third album. Sounds a bit like Madonna, except for a shortfall of hit songs. B+(*)

Satoko Fujii & Joe Fonda: Thread of Light (2021 [2022], FSR): Piano and bass duo, latter also plays cello and flute. They've played together before (I'd be hard pressed to count the times, but at least 5 times), and each has well over 50 albums with others (many notable). B+(***) [cd]

Tomas Fujiwara's Triple Double: March (2019 [2022], Firehouse 12): Drummer, an Anthony Braxton student, runs the Firehouse 12 club and label in New Haven. Second album for his Triple Double group: two each trumpets (Ralph Alessi and Taylor Ho Bynum, latter on cornet), guitars (Mary Halvorson and Brandon Seabrook), and drums (Fujiwara and Gerald Cleaver). Some tremendous talent here, a little rough to start out, with both the horn and guitar jousts fast and furious. Ends with a long and remarkable drum duo, dedicated to Alan Dawson, the patron saint of New England drummers. A- [cd]

Gordon Grdina's Haram With Marc Ribot: Night's Quietest Hour (2022, Attaboygirl): Guitarist from Vancouver, also plays oud (exclusively here, with Ribot on guitar). He's often incorporated Arabic elements into his music, but dives deep here, with a large group of mostly Canadian luminaries playing a mix of Arabic (ney, riq, darbuka) and jazz instruments (sax, clarinet, trumpet, two violins). Extended jams on five more/less trad Arabic songs, with vocals by Emad Armoush. B+(***) [cd]

Gordon Grdina: The Music of Tim Berne: Oddly Enough (2022, Attaboygirl): Compositions by Berne, played solo by Grdina on his range of instruments: electric/midi guitar, classical, acoustic, oud, and dobro. Interesting pieces and effects, although I'm not sure I'll ever be able to recognize Berne's compositions. B+(***) [cd]

Imarhan: Aboogi (2022, City Slang): Saharan guitar band, Tuareg, from the Algerian side of the border with Mali and Niger, a groove that has repeatedly been embraced by westerners with no clue to the language. Third album. Strikes me as a bit muted, which may mean they're hoping you'll understand what they're saying, not just how they say it. B+(**)

Calvin Johnson Jr.: Notes of a Native Son (2022, self-released): Saxophonist from New Orleans, plays soprano and tenor, opens with "I'm Walkin'" and "Summertime," some originals in the middle, closing with "Lift Every Voice and Sing." B+(*) [cd]

Ryan Keberle Collectiv Do Brasil: Sonhos Da Esquina (2021 [2022], Alternate Side): Trombonist, this music grew out of 2017 and 2018 trips to Brazil (not clear when this was recorded). Quartet with Felipe Silveira (piano), Thiago Alves (bass), and Paulinho Vicente (drums). B+(**) [cd] [03-18]

Rokia Koné & Jacknife Lee: Bamanan (2022, Real World): Singer-songwriter from Mali, nicknamed "the rose of Bamako," has appeared in Les Amazones d'Afrique, releases her debut album with co-credit to Irish producer Garret Lee. B+(***) [sp]

Cate Le Bon: Pompeii (2022, Mexican Summer): Cate Timothy, singer-songwriter from Wales, sixth album since 2009, has recorded in Welsh as well as English. B+(*) [sp]

Mark Lomax, II: Prismatic Reflections No. 1 (2021 [2022], CFG Multimedia): Drummer, based in Columbus, Ohio, impressed me on numerous occasions though I've always given much of the credit to saxophonist Edwin Bayard. But here he's alone, a whole album of drum solos. B+(***) [sp]

Brandon Lopez/Ingrid Laubrock/Tom Rainey: No Es La Playa (2021 [2022], Intakt): Bass/sax/drums, reading cover clockwise from top. B+(***) [sp]

Lump: Animal (2021, Chrysalis): British electropop duo, singer Laura Marling (who has 7 albums since 2008) and producer Mike Lindsay (of Tunng and Throws), second album, clever and comfortably appealing. B+(**)

Myra Melford's Fire and Water Quintet: For the Love of Fire and Water (2021 [2022], RogueArt): Pianist, her 1990 debut was a Francis Davis Jazz Consumer Guide Pick Hit in 1990 (along with an Allen Lowe album, both unknown to me at the time but major figures ever since). Quintet brings together several recent alliances: Ingrid Laubrock (tenor/soprano sax), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Tomeka Reid (cello), Susie Ibarra (drums). B+(***) [cd] [04-01]

Dolly Parton: Run, Rose, Run (2022, Butterfly): Title ties in to what's described as her first novel, for which she shares credit with James Patterson, who has written at least 200 since 1976 -- most, it appears, with co-authors, the most famous (and notorious) Bill Clinton. She did write all the songs this time (no Patterson credits there), a solid batch with prim neo-trad arrangements (lots of credits there). B+(**)

Eric Person Featuring Houston Person: Blue Vision (2018 [2022], Distinction): Alto/soprano saxophonist, debut 1993, mainstream player, inevitably ran into the elder tenor saxophonist and hit it off (no relation). They play together on 4 (of 7) tracks here, in a quintet with Pete McCann (guitar), organ (Adam Klipple), and drums (Tony Jefferson). The other three tracks cut back to trio. B+(**)

RXK Nephew: Slitherman Activated (2021, Towhead): Rapper from Rochester, aka RX Nephew, possibly Kristopher Kevon Williams, popped up around 2019 but exploded in 2021, reportedly releasing some 400 songs, yet still barely recognized (this album didn't make my EOY Aggregate, but another one did, barely: Crack Dreams, not in Discogs but several volumes of Crack Therapy are). Fast and feverish, hard to keep up. Not on the album is his 9:44 "American Tterroristt," which takes a rebelious instinct so far as to praise Trump -- a bit too far, I'd say. B+(**)

Sevdaliza: Raving Dahlia (2022, Twisted Elegance, EP): Iranian singer-songwriter, based in Rotterdam, two previous albums, usually sings in English, backed with electronics. Six songs (one a remix), 26:08. B+(*) [sp]

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers: Nightroamer (2022, Abeyance): Country-rock singer-songwriter with a working band, third album, I liked her debut on Bloodshot, but expected more. B+(**)

Slum of Legs: Slum of Legs (2020, Spurge): From Brighton, UK, a "queer, feminist noise-pop DIY band," first album after a couple singles, made my 2020 tracking list, so not totally unheralded. Sextet, everyone credited with lots of things, but the basics: Tamsin (vocals), Mich (drums), Maria (violin), Kate (guitar), Emily (synths), Alex (bass guitar). The violin raises the texture, if not the spirit, above punk. A-

Walter Smith III/Matthew Stevens/Kris Davis/Dave Holland/Terri Lyne Carrington: In Common III (2021 [2022], Whirlwind): Tenor saxophonist, third album in this series, all quintets, all with guitarist Stevens, the other spots shifting each time -- this piano/bass/drums combo easily the most famous. B+(**)

Stromae: Multitude (2022, Mosaert): Belgian singer, rapper, and songwriter Paul van Haver, father Rwandan (Tutsi), third album, first two were bestsellers in Europe and Canada. Sings mostly in French. B+(**)

Omri Ziegele Where's Africa: That Hat (2021 [2022], Intakt): Swiss saxophonist (alto, also plays nai), group named for a 2005 album with Irène Schweizer, since then he's used the name for several groups, including this trio with Yves Theiler (piano) and Dario Sisera (drums). The African interest shows in the rhythms, but also in the social feel, not least when Ziegele puts down his horn and sings. A- [sp]

Old music:

Brandon Allen: The Gene Ammons Project (2016, RT Jazz): Tenor saxophonist, has a new album called The Stanley Turrentine Project, the second in a likely series that starts here, with one of my favorites. B+(**)

Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine (2010, Oh Boy): Probably looked like stopgap product at the time: Prine was five years past Fair and Square, and six years shy of For Better, or Worse, with only a singalong with Mac Wiseman and In Person & on Stage in between. Maybe they figured he could use some reassurance of what a great songwriter he was. Still, the artist line up was so-so: starts with Justin Vernon, Conor Oberst, My Morning Jacket, Josh Ritter, Lambchop. More promising are Drive-By Truckers and Those Darlins, but I wouldn't say they deliver more. B+(**)

Lump: Lump (2018, Dead Oceans): Short (7 tracks, 31:56, including audio credits) debut album from the duo of Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay. Ambient electronics, shaped around Marling's lyrics and voice. B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Lynne Arriale Trio: The Lights Are Always On (Challenge) [04-08]
  • Yelena Eckemoff: I Am a Stranger in This World (L&H Production, 2CD) [05-20]
  • Kelly Eisenhour: I Just Found Out About Love (BluJazz) [01-08]
  • Matt Hall: I Hope to My Never (Summit) [03-04]
  • Yuko Mabuchi: Caribbean Canvas (Vista) []
  • Paul Messina: Blue Fire (GVAP Music -21)
  • Sean Nelson's New London Big Band: Social Hour! (Summit) [03-04]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

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