Rhapsody Streamnotes: June 21, 2014

Seems like a lazy, lackadaisical summer. At least I haven't felt up to much, nor gotten much done. Took me more than three weeks to reach the usual seventy records below, and that was largely due to the long troll through Dylan's dark ages -- done because I thought it might help me with the Dylan in the '80s tribute (praised, excessively I think, by Tatum and Christgau), and partly because I could. I didn't expect to find much there, and didn't. I had, after all, been warned away from them by trusted critics, and in the end my grades don't waver much from Christgau's.

The other "old music" entries include a couple items from the Penguin 4-star search (Miles Davis, Terrell Stafford) and a couple more that weren't: the Gil Evans records I was curious about (the Lacy duo was an old unrated LP although I took the easy route and streamed it from Rhapsody), and the Horace Silvers were checked out on his death. Both exercises in completism (Dylan and Silver) are accompanied by lists of previously rated records. It's no accident that those are the ones to check out first, as they include the ones I was advised to check out first. Dylan, of course, I was conscious of from nearly the beginning -- at least from my singles purchase of "Rainy Day Women" -- but I didn't get to Silver until the 1990s. He was especially important to me as the guy who broke the ice on hard bop.

New records are down to 39 this time -- 50 seems to be the norm, although the April 15 Rhapsody Streamnotes only had 40. I'm still maintaining my 2014 tracking list, but not finding much there that I feel like chasing down. So most of my new records (24 of 39 this time) come from my jazz queue. Like I said: lazy.

Next time will be sometime in July. Good chance that column will top 5000 albums. (I am currently 62 short.)

These are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Rhapsody. They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on May 29. Past reviews and more information are available here (4938 records).

New Releases (More or Less)

Jason Ajemian/Tony Malaby/Rob Mazurek/Chad Taylor: A Way a Land of Life (2006 [2014], NoBusiness): Two-horn avant quartet -- bass, tenor sax, cornet, drums, both Ajemian and Mazurek also credited with electronics -- most evident when they slow down. Otherwise, the horns impress, as expected. B+(***) [cdr]

Jason Ajemian: Folklords (2012 [2014], Delmark): Not the avant-jazz record I was expecting, even though the first two suites are built around Monk and Mingus. Reportedly the first of a series titled Mythadors, the nearest analog I can think of for the vocals is John Lydon in Public Image Ltd., but the singer (presumably Ajemian) doesn't have quite the range or presence, and the rhythm is a lot knottier. Quartet: Kid Bliss on alto sax, Owen Stewart-Robertson on guitar, Jason Nazary on drums. Lyrics in the booklet, but I can't say as I've read much less followed. A- [cd]

Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin: Common Ground: Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy (2014, Yep Roc): Broonzy had a light touch which suited the folk blues idiom and you won't get that here -- seek out the originals -- but his songs could handle some extra muscle, as Muddy Waters proved on Sings Big Bill Broonzy in 1960. This just pushes them a little harder, with Phil's voice adding a tartness that Dave's dry drawl can't provide. A-

Angles 9: Injuries (2013 [2014], Clean Feed): Martin Küchen's superb group continues to grow -- I last heard them as Angles 8 in By Way of Deception: Live in Ljubljana but I missed an intervening release that was vinyl-only or something like that. Nonet, new drummer but the the main change adding Magnus Broo on trumpet (Goran Kajfes moves to cornet). Superb ensemble work, marred only by a couple spots of uncertainty. B+(***) [cd]

Tigger Benford & Party: Vessel of Gratitude (2014, self-released): Percussionist, has three previous albums, mostly plays amadinda here, a Ugandan xylophone, with various musicians but usually Todd Isler on drums, Arthur Kell on bass, and David Schulman on violin, for a seductive little groove album. B+(*) [cd]

Boogaloo Assassins: Old Love Dies Hard (2013, Sicario, EP): LA-based salsa group, looks back to NYC boogaloo in the 1970s, a moment when salsa started to make sense to rock-and-rollers. Seven cuts (counting the radio edit of the opener), 29:53, including a fun "Do You Wanna Dance" in English and an instrumental "Evil Ways." B+(***)

François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Alexey Lapin: The Russian Concerts (2013 [2014], FMR): Canadian alto saxophonist Carrier and drummer Lambert have been playing together since the 1990s, and recently have been traveling to Russia to play with pianist Alexey Lapin: this is their fourth album together, and they seem to be getting better -- the pianist is more fully engaged here, and the saxophonist probes ever deeper. A- [cd]

Tom Chang: Tongue & Groove (2012 [2014], Raw Toast): Guitarist, from Toronto but has passed through LA and NYC, first album but seems to have been around a while. Postbop, works off two adventurous saxes (Greg Ward and Jason Rigby), has a hot rhythm section (Chris Lightcap and Gerald Cleaver), plus a couple guys who realize his interest in South Indian Carnatic classicism. B+(**) [cd]

Mac DeMarco: Salad Days (2014, Captured Tracks): Young singer-songwriter, '70s vibe but a little slack, like Jimmy Buffett with no humor, or Boz Scaggs with no sex appeal. B

Digital Primitives: Lipsomuch/Soul Searchin' (2011 [2014], Hopscotch, 2CD): Group named for their 2007 debut album, with Assif Tsahar on tenor sax and bass clarinet, Chad Taylor on drums, and Cooper-Moore on a variety of homemade string instruments, notably his diddley bo -- covers about three times the normal bass spectrum, warping time and space for long stretches. And the tenor is always searching and soulful. A [cd]

Dave Douglas & Uri Caine: Present Joys (2013 [2014], Greenleaf Music): Trumpet and piano duets, with Douglas providing the bulk of the songbook. You couldn't ask for more brilliant musicians, but you might wonder why they're generating so few sparks. B+(**) [cd]

Bob Dylan in the 80s: Volume One (2014, ATO): Nominally a tribute album, that peculiar genre where various artists serenade some sage songwriter, although the choice of 1980s-vintage Dylan is odd in several respects, not least that you're unlikely to recognize a single song here. Nor do I recognize more than a handful of the artists, at least as anything more than mere names (e.g., Dawn Landes, Glen Hansard, Carl Broemel). And while I find it credible that they do more with the songs than Dylan did, that's scant praise given how much of the decade was spent in self-parody. But at least this reiterates a point I learned from Jewels & Binoculars (the marvelous Michael Moore-Lindsey Horner-Michael Vatcher jazz trio with three albums of Dylan songs): he is a remarkably resilient melodist. B+(**)

John Fullbright: Songs (2014, Blue Dirt): Oklahoma singer-songwriter, third album, aims for plainspoken simplicity and if anything overshoots his target. B+(*)

Paul Giallorenzo's GitGo: Force Majeure (2013 [2014], Delmark): Chicago pianist, has a couple previous albums, group name reminds me of Mal Waldron and the piano reinforces that. Quintet includes two horns from the original Vandermark 5: Jeb Bishop on trombone and Mars Williams on various saxes. They were the fun guys then, the ones who threatened to cross over while tripping over the edge of the avant-garde. Closes with an irresistible bit of reggae. B+(***) [cd]

Hat: Twins (2012 [2014], Hot Blues): Spanish quartet, third album by my reckoning, the eponymous first recommended. This one, with electric keybs, guitar, and bass, moves far enough into jazz-rock it's tempting to call it fusion but that would pigeonhole it too much. B+(***) [cd]

Chrissie Hynde: Stockholm (2014, Caroline): After ten records with (or as) the Pretenders, first in 1979, last in 2008, she goes under her own name with Björn Yttling producing. Unmistakable, but nothing especially grows on me. B+(*)

Ideal Bread: Beating the Teens: Songs of Steve Lacy (2013 [2014], Cuneiform, 2CD): Third album for the quartet -- Josh Sinton (baritone sax), Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Adam Hopkins (new on bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums) -- all focused on Steve Lacy tunes. Sinton avoids the obvious by transposing the same tricks to the heavier horn. Seems like a formula they can run with a long time, but maybe they shouldn't bite so much off at once. B+(***) [cd]

José James: While You Were Sleeping (2014, Blue Note): A jazz singer from Minneapolis, leans toward soft soul or what's lately been dubbed "neo-soul" -- his limits never clearer than when he tries to close with an Al Green tune. B

Beat Kaestli: Collage (2013 [2014], B+B Productions): Swiss jazz singer, favors trad French chanson, even the inevitably soupy "Frere Jacques." B+(**) [cd]

Miranda Lambert: Platinum (2014, RCA Nashville): Fifth album, tempting to say she's achieved preëminence in a major Nashville niche -- she only has credits on half the songs, nearly all on the back half, only one exclusively hers, so the song mills are pitching her stereotypical fare like "Smokin' and Drinkin'" and "Old Sh!t" -- but she's still the only one in it. And if she seems to be coasting, it's not like anyone is catching up. A- [cd]

Joe LoCascio and Woody Witt: Absinthe: The Music of Billy Strayhorn (2011 [2014], Blue Bamboo Music): Piano-sax duets of nine Strayhorn compositions (only one Ellington co-credit), Witt playing tenor, alto, and soprano. Houston-based LoCascio has at least ten albums since 1988. Witt seems to be a good deal younger. B+(**) [cd]

Tony Malaby Tamarindo: Somos Aqua (2013 [2014], Clean Feed): Avant tenor saxophonist, tends to shine especially bright as a sideman but has a couple dozen albums under his name, including one this trio is named for. Trio, with William Parker on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums, who do what you expect. Malaby is often terrific as well, even on his soprano, featured a bit too much. B+(***) [cd]

Alon Nechushtan: Venture Bound (2012 [2014], Enja): Pianist, based in New York, has a couple previous records, this one a quartet with John Ellis and Donny McCaslin alternating at tenor sax. B+(**) [cd]

Parquet Courts: Sunbathing Animal (2014, What's Your Rupture?): Brooklyn-based band of ex-Texans, debut album made my P&J ballot mostly on the basis of impeccable post-Velvets sound, something this adds to, subtracts from, and mostly fucks around with. A-

Dolly Parton: Blue Smoke (2014, Sony Masterworks): Still a bankable star, but this time she takes some of her advance and reinvests it the way only stars can, recruiting Kenny Rogers and Willie Nelson for duets, covering Bob Dylan and Bon Jovi and "Banks of the Ohio," slinging some French merdre. Some of it works -- the bluegrass Dylan is terrific, the French is amusing, and the Rogers duet sounded good enough I thought it was Guy Clark -- and some of it doesn't. B+(*) [cd]

Lenny Pickett With the UMO Jazz Orchestra: The Prescription (2012 [2014], Random Act): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1954, played with Tower of Power 1972-81, has mostly toured with rock acts, and held a regular gig with Saturday Night Live since 1985 (musical director since 1995). Lots of side credits, but only the second album to feature his name -- the other came out in 1987. Backed by the famed Finnish big band, a smarter choice than the usual European big bands, although the main thing is to let the leader show off his chops. B+(***) [cd]

Cene Resnik Quartet: Live: From the Sky (2013 [2014], Clean Feed): Tenor saxophonist from Slovenia, quartet adding violin (Emanuele Parrini), bass, and drums. Resnik has half a dozen albums since 2000, but this is the first I've heard. Stealthy avant moves, not exceptional but group is tight. B+(**) [cd]

Röyksopp & Robyn: Do It Again (2014, Cherrytree, EP): Five tracks, 35:26, could just as well call it an album, but it feels like the title single plus filler, some helping, some less so. B+(***)

Samo Salamon Bassless Quartet: 2Alto (2012 [2014], SteepleChase LookOut): Slovenian guitarist, has put together a solid discography since 2004, most notably last year's Stretching Out. Here he goes with two reputable alto saxophonists (Loren Stillman and John O'Gallagher), has Roberto Dani on drums, and dispenses with the bass. The saxes hit the center of the guitar range, so they all occupy the same space with minimal harmonics and not much drive. B+(*) [cd]

Adam Schroeder: Let's (2013 [2014], Capri): Baritone saxophonist, second album, figure him for a mainstream guy by the company he keeps, but Anthony Wilson's guitar is a fine contrast to the big horn, and John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton are a solid rhythm section -- actually fun to hear without the big band baggage. B+(***) [cd]

Sturgill Simpson: Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (2014, High Top Mountain): Country singer from Kentucky, second album, wise to the postmodern totality of his chosen art but aside from some rockish feedback doesn't let that distract himself from the basics of the craft. B+(***)

Spiral Mercury Chicago/São Paulo Underground Feat. Pharoah Sanders: Pharoah & the Underground (2013 [2014], Clean Feed): Live at Jazz em Agosto in Lisbon, no idea what "Spiral Mercury" means as only the title is on the spine, but the idea was to combine Rob Mazurek's Chicago Underground duo (Chad Taylor) with his São Paulo Underground and top it off with the tenor saxophonist. Half the cast dabbles in electronics, which makes for some quirky effects, but the star has trouble emerging from the mix. B+(*) [cd]

Assif Tsahar/Gerry Hemingway/Mark Dresser: Code Re(a)d (2011 [2014], Hopscotch): BassDrumSax, if you know what I mean -- of course, Tsahar's tenor sax is more agile than any trombone (even Ray Anderson's), reeling off one long searching sequence after another, a fusion of Ayler and Coltrane, what you might get if both were pushing the same instrument at the same time. A- [cd]

Assif Tsahar/Tatsuya Nakatani: I Got It Bad (2014, Hopscotch): A short snatch of the Ellington classic, followed by 19 sax-drums improvs, many impressive but some don't quite get off the ground. B+(***) [cd]

François Tusques: La Jungle du Douanier Rousseau (2013 [2014], Improvising Beings): French pianist, b. 1938, cut an album called Free Jazz in 1965, another called Le Piano Préparé in 1977 -- a couple dozen in all, although this is the first I've heard. Some solo stretches, some add tenor sax, Alexandra Grimal or Sylvain Guérineau or both. B+(**) [cd]

The David Ullmann 8: Corduroy (2014, Little Sky): Guitarist, has a couple albums, recruited a mix of postbop players here -- the horns are Loren Stillman (sax), Mike McGinnis (clarinet), Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Brian Drye (trombone); vibes instead of piano. B+(**) [cd]

Peter Van Huffel's Gorilla Mask: Bite My Blues (2013 [2014], Clean Feed): Alto saxophonist, from Canada, based in Berlin, several previous albums, this an avant-grunge trio with Roland Fidezius on electric bass and Rudi Fischerlehner on drums. Rough and relentless from the very start, not pure ugly but plenty ugly. Then there's a stretch near the end where they almost pull it off. B+(*) [cd]

Jack White: Lazaretto (2014, Third Man): Would-be blues rootsman, starting off with a Willie McTell credit and morphing into Led Zeppelin, which is older than the auteur. But while he can quote the quote, he can't leave well enough alone as song after song flies off the rails, wreckage we should be inured against from watching video games, except that I don't. B-

Neil Young: A Letter Home (2014, Third Man): Mostly solo, covers of old folkie songs played out in a refurbished 1947 Voice-o-Graph vinyl recording booth and produced by Jack White, who adds a bit of piano and voice. There are points where this strikes me as sweeter and more deeply felt than Americana, but it also risks being slighter -- and triter. B+(**)

Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Jaki Byard: The Late Show: An Evening With Jaki Byard: Live at the Keystone Korner, Vol. 3 (1979 [2014], High Note): Solo piano, with some live patter and "thunderous applause." B+(**)

John Coltrane: Offering: Live at Temple University (1966 [2014], Impulse, 2CD): Previously unreleased, very late, well into Coltrane's avant phase, although the song list is dominated by his standard fare -- "Naima," "Crescent," "My Favorite Things" -- five tracks in all, all but the title track topping 16 minutes. The side credits are as difficult to find in the booklet as they are to hear on record: Pharoah Sanders is on hand but the only thing I'm sure is his is the piccolo; Alice Coltrane on piano, Sonny Johnson on bass, Rashied Ali on drums, and several others (including three conga players) take part, but this starts off with a long stretch of solo sax, searching on a quest that never really gets anywhere. Last cut has an episode of Coltrane ululating at the mic. It all seems a bit off. B+(**) [cd]

Sleepy John Estes with Hammie Nixon: Live in Japan (1974 [2014], Delmark): An old blues whiner from Tennessee, cut his most memorable sides 1929-41 (cf. I Ain't Gonna Be Worried No More: 1929-1940 on Yazoo, or Brownsville Blues: His 23 Greatest Songs on Wolf), is 75 here, a couple years short of his death. Nixon is a hometown harmonica player, a close and genial fit, for a rough but remarkable set. B+(***)

The Rough Guide to the Music of Mali [Second Edition] (1996-2013 [2014], World Music Network, 2CD): A landlocked slice of Saharan desert and western Sahel including a stretch of the Niger River, population 14 million (50% Mande with Fula, Tuareg, and Songhai also prominent), Mali has probably produced more significant music stars per capita than any other African state, but has fallen into chaos lately as Libyan arms have fed Tuareg and Islamist rebellions, and the French have intervened. This leans more to the lately fashionable arid blues and Saharan rock of the north, with Oumou Sangare the exception in all respects. B+(***)
Bonus disc: Samba Touré: Songhai Blues: Homage to Ali Farka Touré (2009, Riverboat): A fair representation, a bit more upbeat with less focus on the guitar. B+(**)

Old Music

Miles Davis: The Complete Birth of the Cool (1948-50 [1998], Capitol Jazz): Gil Evans doesn't play but is the closet leader of this nonet, roughly half of Claude Thornhill's big band. The group included Davis, Lee Konitz, Gerry Mulligan, Bill Barber (tuba), J.J. Johnson or Kai Winding (trombone, John Lewis or Al Haig on piano, French horn, bass, and drums, with Kenny Hagood singing "Darn That Dream." The twelve studio cuts weren't collected until 1971, when the idea that the then-unknown musicians had invented something -- specifically the west coast "cool" sound that Mulligan had indeed a significant role in -- took root, partly because it made Davis seem like he had a hand in everything (except avant-garde). Still, they feel half-baked to me. The CD doubles the length with live shots of the nonet at the Royal Roost putting a bit more emphasis on Lewis. B

Miles Davis: In Person: Friday Night at the Blackhawk, San Francisco: Complete Volume 1 (1961 [2003], Columbia/Legacy, 2CD): With Coltrane and Adderley moving on to their own spectacular careers, the sax slot goes to Hank Mobley, who only lasted one studio album but opens up more in this live context -- as does Davis and the stellar Wynton Kelly-Paul Chambers-Jimmy Cobb rhythm section. Originally the two days were fileted into two LPs, but here each night grows to 2-CD, and this is one of those dates where more is more. A-

Miles Davis: In Person: Saturday Night at the Blackhawk, San Francisco: Complete Volume 2 (1961 [2003], Columbia/Legacy, 2CD): Possibly a slight drop from Friday Night although you sure can't blame pianist Wynton Kelly, especially superb at driving the band through the fast ones. A-

Miles Davis: In Person: Friday and Saturday Nights at the Blackhawk: Complete (1961 [2003], Columbia/Legacy, 4CD): Penguin Guide grades this higher than either of its 2-CD parts (4 stars to 3.5), suggesting some kind of greater organic whole, or that the critics simply appreciate the big box payola more. Having approached this box one night at a time, I'm just averaging: hard to quibble with music this uniformly excellent, but I doubt if this will keep adding up like, say, the 7-CD The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel. A-

Bob Dylan: Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, Vol. II (1962-71 [1971], Columbia): Four years after Dylan's initial Greatest Hits, stretching out to 2-LP by claiming nine songs from the previous period vs. six from newer albums, five previously unreleased tracks, and a new single ("Watching the River Flow") that tops anything on Vol. III. Still, it's like a random set from his better albums, plus an attempt to reclaim a few songs that were hits for others. A-

Bob Dylan: Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973, Columbia): Soundtrack for the Sam Peckinpah film, which included a minor acting role for Dylan. One notable new song ("Knockin' on Heaven's Door"), some minor vocals, and strummed filler that makes me imagine vast desert tableaux. B-

Bob Dylan: Dylan (1973 [2014], Columbia/Legacy): Outtakes from his 1970 covers album, Self Portrait, dumped on the public in 1973, presumably as revenge for Dylan signing with Asylum, a minor blip to be ignored with his 1975 return to Columbia -- bypassed when even more outtakes were rolled up into the Bootleg Series Another Self Portrait but necessarily remastered for The Complete Columbia Albums. How bad are they? Two (maybe three) songs initially strike you as amusing trivia, until they don't. The rest don't get that far. C-

Bob Dylan: Hard Rain (1976, Columbia): A live souvenir from Dylan's much hyped Rolling Thunder Revue, recorded with the thin, brittle sound common to 1970s live rock doubles (although they limited themselves to one 51:06) LP. None of the frantic revisualization of Before the Flood, and it says little that I prefer this battered "Shelter From the Storm" over the maudlin studio original. ("Idiot Wind" too.) C+

Bob Dylan: Bob Dylan at Budokan (1978 [1979], Columbia): Third live album in the decade, with Dylan again eager to try new angles and treatments, like burying "Mr. Tambourine Man" in flutes or playing "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" as reggae. C

Bob Dylan: Street Legal (1978, Columbia): Gradually in the late-1970s Americans lost touch with reality -- how else can you explain Ronald Reagan? -- so in retrospect it makes sense that Dylan should have too. I date this back to 1974 and "Forever Young," but at least then he articulated a common fantasy. Here he's moving toward incoherence, with the big band and backing singers conspiring in the cover up. B-

Bob Dylan: Saved (1980, Columbia): The confusion deepened when Dylan announced his conversion to Christianity, which led to a minor uptick (Slow Train Coming, not that I've played it in over a decade), then to this one, where both word and music are reduced to a single-minded concern with salvation -- something his phalanx of backup singers can't help with (though I'm can't be sure he knows that). B-

Bob Dylan: Shot of Love (1981, Columbia): Frequently touted as the third album in Dylan's "Jesus trilogy," but only "Property of Jesus" lives up (or down) to that billing. His "Lenny Bruce" starts out like "The Death of Emmett Till," making me wonder about how limited the clichés Dylan draws on in dealing with the recently deceased. But the music is more focused around the organ, a return to the Band in spirit even if the actual band is a strange mix of LA hacks and guest stars (Ron Wood! Ringo Starr!). At least songs like "Dead Man, Dead Man" come alive. B

Bob Dylan: Infidels (1984, Columbia): After three albums mired in "born again" Christianity, I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that Dylan's next turn would be to Zionism (celebrating Israel as the "Neighborhood Bully"). How much further off the deep end he goes is something I can't bother focusing on, nor can I argue against Christgau's conclusions that Dylan's become "a self-serving hypocrite" and "a hateful crackpot." Despite all this, he still comes up with songs that appear vaguely Dylanish. B-

Bob Dylan: Real Live (1984, Columbia): Yet another live album, this one recorded in England and Ireland, with Mick Taylor, Ian McLagen, and a guest shot by Carlos Santana. Six vintage songs, "Tangled Up in Blue" from the '70s, "I and I" and "License to Kill" later -- a normalization of his career that moves him one step closer to a jam band. B-

Bob Dylan: Knocked Out Loaded (1986, Columbia): Skipping Empire Burlesque (1985, not on Rhapsody) gets us to this mixed bag: the 11:00 rap/ballad "Brownsville Girl," co-credited to Sam Sheppard, is vastly entertaining despite the almost cartoonish horns-and-choruses -- Dylan was developing a real fondness for clutter and kitsch, which often got the best of him. B

Bob Dylan: Down in the Groove (1983-87 [1988], Columbia): Two new Dylan songs, two co-credits with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, an arrangement of "Shenandoah," plus five covers -- wouldn't want anyone thinking Self Portrait here although the "odds and sods" effect is the same, recorded over several years with thirty-some musicians, many famous but none worth recognizing. B-

Bob Dylan/Grateful Dead: Dylan & the Dead (1987 [1989], Columbia): Another live album, with the tour's co-headliners reduced to a backup band because they neither have the songbook nor a competitive singer. But they're a pretty decent backup band, free of the circus claptrap that has dogged Dylan since Rolling Thunder, although they're as far devolved from Live/Dead as Dylan is from John Wesley Harding. B-

Bob Dylan: Greatest Hits, Vol. 3 (1973-90 [1994], Columbia): Hits are relative in these things, but even so the unreleased outtakes and the single B-side are stretches. But he never much of a singles artist -- the last of his four top-tens was "Lay Lady Lay" in 1969 and only four songs here cracked top-forty (the last "Gotta Serve Somebody" from 1979). At least this doesn't cheat and reach back into the pre-Vol. II era -- not even for his uncollected "George Jackson" (number 33 in 1971), which would have been a plus -- nor does it double-dip any of the albums (not even the overrated Blood on the Tracks). So this is close to useful as a period survey, and is fairly evenly listenable, but no better than it is, you could also take it as a hint to avoid the whole series. B+(**)

Bob Dylan: Playlist: The Very Best of Bob Dylan '80s (1980-89 [2010], Columbia/Legacy): Fairly generous with 14 cuts including the 11-minute "Brownsville Girl," but the main effect is to underscore what a barren wasteland the 1980s were for Dylan. B+(*)

Bob Dylan: MTV Unplugged (1995, Columbia): Mostly old songs (two from the '80s, one from the '70s, none from the '90s) done in a nice, clear, even-tempered style, as if little is riding on the outcome, although he does swell up a bit on "Knockin' on Heaven's Door." B+(*)

Gil Evans: Gil Evans & Ten (1957 [1989], Prestige/OJC): Evans plays piano on his first album, so the musician count is eleven. Most famous are Steve Lacy and Lee Konitz in the sax slots, up against two trumpets, trombone, French horn, and bassoon -- a maudlin sound for standards from Leadbelly to Bernstein with one Evans original. B

The Gil Evans Orchestra: Into the Hot (1961 [1999], Impulse): Evans' masterpiece was his 1960 Out of the Cool, so this title makes sense as the next step, but the album itself is schizo, with two dull orchestral tracks led by trumpeter John Carisi (they do seem to wake up for the third), and three slices of something else by Cecil Taylor's quintet (Archie Shepp, Jimmy Lyons, Henry Grimes, and Sunny Murray, adding Ted Curson and Roswell Rudd on the closer). [The Taylor tracks were later reissued along with a Rudd session as Mixed.] B

Gil Evans/Steve Lacy: Paris Blues (1987 [1988], Owl): Evans' last album, bringing him back to piano for duets with the soprano saxophonist who had appeared on his first album. Ellington title track, three Mingus tunes, Lacy's "Esteem," an extra tracks from each on the CD. Mostly of interest to Lacy fans, but count Evans among them. B+(**)

The Horace Silver Quintet: The Tokyo Blues (1962 [2009], Blue Note): The Japanese effects make sense because they are stereotypical, but otherwise they're woven into melodies that are pure Silver -- no one in jazz could write catchier tunes, let alone accentuate them with bits of Latin rhythm and church piano. Blue Mitchell's trumpet and Junior Cook's tenor sax are the horns, not that Silver needs them for the ballad. A-

Horace Silver: Paris Blues: Olympia Teater, Paris, 1962 (1962 [2002], Pablo): Later in the year, the same quintet repeats two songs from The Tokyo Blues, adding "Where You At," "Filthy McNasty," and "Doin' the Thing," each running 10-16 minutes. B+(**)

Horace Silver: The Hardbop Grandpop (1996, Impulse): This doesn't start his 1990s comeback -- there were two 1992-93 albums on Columbia -- but it does kick it up a gear with an all-star septet (Claudio Roditi, Steve Turre, Michael Brecker, Ronnie Cuber, Ron Carter, Lewis Nash). Silver's music remains distinctive, but the stars don't do much more than play it. B+(*)

Horace Silver: Jazz Has a Sense of Humor (1998, Verve): Last album, with Silver returning to his classic quintet lineup, with younger players as was his wont in the old days -- Ryan Kisor (trumpet), Jimmy Greene (tenor/soprano sax), John Webber (bass), Willie Jones III (drums). B+(***)

Terrell Stafford: Centripetal Force (1996 [1997], Candid): Mainstream trumpet player, second album, working with similar-minded but notable players, the core band including Stephen Scott (piano) and Victor Lewis (drums), with a raft of guests not that the ballad-heavy menu needs much help. B+(**)

Additional Consumer News:

Previously graded Bob Dylan (studio albums):

  • Bob Dylan: Bob Dylan (1962, Columbia) B+
  • Bob Dylan: The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963, Columbia) A-
  • Bob Dylan: The Times They Are A-Changin' (1964, Columbia) B+
  • Bob Dylan: Another Side of Bob Dylan (1964, Columbia) A-
  • Bob Dylan: Bringing It All Back Home (1965, Columbia) A
  • Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited (1965, Columbia) A
  • Bob Dylan: Blonde on Blonde (1966, Columbia) A-
  • Bob Dylan: John Wesley Harding (1968, Columbia) A
  • Bob Dylan: Nashville Skyline (1969, Columbia) A-
  • Bob Dylan: Self Portrait (1970, Columbia) C
  • Bob Dylan: New Morning (1970, Columbia) B+(**)
  • Bob Dylan: Planet Waves (1974, Asylum) B+
  • Bob Dylan: Blood on the Tracks (1975, Columbia) B
  • Bob Dylan: Desire (1975, Columbia) B
  • Bob Dylan: Slow Train Coming (1979, Columbia) B+
  • The Traveling Wilburys: Volume One (1988, Warner Brothers) B+
  • Bob Dylan: Oh Mercy (1989, Columbia) B+
  • The Traveling Wilburys: Volume 3 (1990, Warner Brothers) B+
  • Bob Dylan: Under the Red Sky (1990, Columbia) B+
  • Bob Dylan: Good as I Been to You (1992, Columbia) B+
  • Bob Dylan: World Gone Wrong (1993, Columbia) A-
  • Bob Dylan: Time Out of Mind (1997, Columbia) A-
  • Bob Dylan: Love and Theft (2001, Columbia) A
  • Bob Dylan: Modern Times (2006, Columbia) A-
  • Bob Dylan: Together Through Life (2009, Columbia) A-
  • Bob Dylan: Tempest (2012, Columbia) B+(**)

Previously graded Bob Dylan (live albums and "bootlegs"):

  • Bob Dylan: In Concert: Brandeis University 1963 (1963 [2011], Columbia/Legacy) B+(**)
  • Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964 (1962-64 [2010], Columbia/Legacy, 2CD) A-
  • Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6: Live 1964 (1964 [2004], Columbia/Legacy, 2CD) B+
  • Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4: Live 1966 [The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert] (1966 [1998], Columbia, 2CD) B+
  • Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 7: No Direction Home [The Soundtrack] (1959-66 [2005], Columbia/Legacy, 2CD) B+
  • Bob Dylan & the Band: The Basement Tapes (1967 [1975], Columbia, 2CD) A-
  • Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait (1969-1971) (1969-71 [2013], Columbia/Legacy, 2CD) B
  • Bob Dylan & the Band: Before the Flood (1974, Columbia, 2CD) A-
  • Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 5: Live 1975: The Rolling Thunder Review (1975 [2002], Columbia/Legacy, 2CD) B
  • Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3: Rare and Unreleased (1961-91 [1991], Columbia, 3CD) B
  • Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs: Rare and Unreleased 1989-2006 (1989-2006 [2008], Columbia/Legacy, 2CD) A-

Previously graded Bob Dylan (compilations):

  • Bob Dylan: Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits (1963-66 [1967], Columbia) A
  • The Traveling Wilburys: The Traveling Wilburys (1988-90 [2007], Rhino, 2CD+DVD) B+(**)
  • Bob Dylan: Dylan (1962-2006 [2007], Columbia/Legacy, 3CD) A-

That leaves only two ungraded albums: Empire Burlesque (1985), and Christmas in the Heart (2009). For some reason, Rhapsody doesn't have the former. (There is no The Traveling Wilburys, Volume 2.)

Previously graded Horace Silver:

  • Horace Silver: Horace Silver Trio (1953 [1989], Blue Note) B+(***)
  • Horace Silver: Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers (1954-55 [1987], Blue Note) A-
  • The Horace Silver Quintet: Silver's Blue (1956 [2005], Epic/Legacy) B
  • The Horace Silver Quintet: The Stylings of Silver (1957 [2002], Blue Note) B+(***)
  • Horace Silver Quintet: Six Pieces of Silver (1956-58 [1999], Blue Note) A-
  • Horace Silver: Further Explorations by the Horace Silver Quintet (1958 [1997], Blue Note) B+
  • Horace Silver: Live at Newport '58 (1958 [2008], Blue Note) A-
  • Horace Silver: Finger Poppin' With the Horace Silver Quintet (1959 [1988], Blue Note) B+
  • Horace Silver Quintet & Trio: Blowin' the Blues Away (1959 [1999], Blue Note) B+(**)
  • Horace Silver: Horace-Scope (1960 [2006], Blue Note) B+(***)
  • Horace Silver: Doin' the Thing (1961 [1988], Blue Note) A-
  • The Horace Silver Quintet: Silver's Serenade (1963 [1998], Blue Note) B
  • The Horace Silver Quintet: Song for My Father (1963-64 [1989], Blue Note) A-
  • Horace Silver Plus J.J. Johnson: The Cape Verdean Blues (1965 [1989], Blue Note) A-
  • Horace Silver Quintet/Sextet: The Jody Grind (1966 [1991], Blue Note) A
  • Horace Silver: The Very Best (1954-66 [2005], Blue Note) A+
  • The Horace Silver Quintet Featuring Stanley Turrentine: Serenade to a Soul Sister (1968 [1988], Blue Note) B+
  • Horace Silver: The United States of Mind (1970-72 [2004], Blue Note, 2CD) B+
  • Horace Silver: Prescription for the Blues (1997, Impulse) B


Everything streamed from Rhapsody, except as noted in brackets following the grade:

  • [cd] based on physical cd
  • [cdr] based on an advance or promo cd or cdr
  • [bc] available at bandcamp.com
  • [sc] available at soundcloud.com
  • [os] some other stream source
  • [dl] something I was able to download from the web; may be freely available, may be a bootleg someone made available, or may be a publicist promo