Streamnotes: March 27, 2018

Entering what stands to be an extremely trying week for me, I thought it better to kick this out a few days early rather than hang around to see if I can find any more albums that click. Lots of things went into making March one of the least productive months I've had recently: 84 records below, slightly more than 75 in October 2017, 66 in June 2016, 63 in October 2014, 72 in June 2014, etc., but way behind the last two monthly totals: 157 and 165. Low totals in the past typically followed road trips, but nothing like that happened this time. It's just been a miserable month.

I'm probably more struck by the relative dearth of A-list records, but don't have the time to research comparisons.

Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on February 28. Past reviews and more information are available here (10933 records).

Recent Releases

Heather Bennett: Lazy Afternoon (2018, Summit): Standards singer, plays piano and did the arrangements here, sixth album, with Bill Mobley (trumpet), Pete McCann (guitar), bass and drums. Starts with Jobim, ends with a gospel, works Sting and Bono into her repertoire but still can't top "Pennies From Heaven." B [cd]

Blue Notes Tribute Orkestra: Live at the Bird's Eye (2012 [2017], self-released): Pianist Chris McGregor's integrated jazz group fled South Africa in the 1960s for Europe, where several musicians enjoyed notable careers in their own right: Mongezi Feza, Dudu Pukwana, Johnny Dyani, Louis Moholo. The tribute band of four South Africans and three Swiss -- on the latter's home territory in Basel -- can get the joyous township jive vibe right, but less often than the originals, and I'm not sure the voice helps. B+(*) [bc]

Car Seat Headrest: Twin Fantasy (2018, Matador): Originally an alias for lo-fi singer-songwriter Will Tuxedo, who released a dozen albums on Bandcamp before landing on a semi-major label, but can fairly claim to be a band now. An old rule of thumb is that second albums are stronger musically but have weaker songs -- touring means you play more but have less time (especially after using your best songs up on the debut). Tuxedo gets around that here by remaking one of his DIY albums, muscling up the music without having to write new tunes. B+(***)

Brandi Carlile: By the Way, I Forgive You (2018, Low Country Sound/Elektra): Singer-songwriter from Washington, sixth album since 2005, sometimes taken as Americana and when she keeps it simple she can pull that off -- maybe a third of the time here, but elsewhere she piles up extraneous sounds so high they suffocate, or maybe just disgust. B-

Lucy Dacus: Historian (2018, Matador): Singer-songwriter from Virginia, second album, a bit torchy. B+(*)

Chris Dave: Chris Dave and the Drumhedz (2018, Blue Note): Drummer, from Houston, mostly played in r&b, starting with Mint Condition, later with Me'shell Ndegeocello, Robert Glasper, Adele, Maxwell, D'Angelo, Justin Bieber, Anderson Paak. Not his debut, but some sort of social networking triumph, with "nearly 50 Drumhedz" -- including 18 ft. names spreading the shtick out beyond category. B

Caroline Davis: Heart Tonic (2018, Sunnyside): Alto saxophonist, born in Singapore (Swedish mother, British father), moved to US at age six, based in Brooklyn. Quintet with Marquis Hill (trumpet), Julian Shore on piano/keyboards, guests on a couple cuts. Leans toward postbop, harmonics and texture. B+(**)

Dogwood: Hecate's Hounds (2018, Guitar-bass duo, based in Brooklyn, Nico Soffiato (from Italy) and Zach Swanson. Both write, keep this tight and intimate. B+(**) [cd]

Electric Squeezebox Orchestra: The Falling Dream (2015 [2018], OA2): Conventional 17-piece big band, led by trumpet player Erik Jekabson, based in San Francisco, second album, percussionist John Santos joins for three cuts. Some talent I recognize in the roster, but nothing here caught me by surprise. B [cd]

Bill Frisell: Music IS (2017 [2018], Okeh): Solo guitar, all original pieces, often continuing his well-established interest in evoking old Americana without indulging in it. B+(**)

Ezra Furman: Transangelic Exodus (2018, Bella Union): Singer-songwriter, seventh album since 2007, a couple good ones but I can't be sure about this one: I find it hard to hear, although bits break through anyway. B+(**)

Hal Galper Quartet: Cubist (2016 [2018], Origin): A superb pianist, side credits start with Chet Baker in 1964, his own albums from 1971, gets extra help here from tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi, although a stretch late in the album where he's on his own doesn't let down. A- [cd]

Sergio Galvao/Lupa Santiago/Clement Landais/Franck Enouf: 2X2 (2017 [2018], Origin): Saxophone/guitar/bass/drums quartet. The saxophonist leads, but it's the guitar that gives this its uniquely Brazilian flair. B+(***) [cd]

Nubya Garcia: Nubya's 5ive (2017, Jazz Re:freshed): London-based tenor saxophonist, first album, backed by piano, bass, and drums, with guest trumpet on one track, tuba on two. One cover, from McCoy Tyner, and four originals (one reprised). Beatwise, nice flow. B+(**)

Gwenno: Le Kov (2018, Heavenly): Welsh singer-songwriter, previously in the Pipettes, second album, sings in Cornish over electropop -- an artifact that means much more to her than it will to you or me, who just have to take the shimmering sound as its own raison d'ętre. B+(**)

The Heavyweights Brass Band: This City (2017 [2018], Lulaworld): New Orleans brass band -- trumpet, trombone, tenor sax, tuba, drums, emphasis on the bottom end -- plus various friends, including Jackie Richardson singing Steve Earle's "This City" to close -- a benediction and a vow of defiance. B+(***) [cd]

Mike Jones/Penn Jillette: The Show Before the Show: Live at the Penn & Teller Theater (2017 [2018], Capri): Piano-bass duets, all standards, mostly swing era with a nod to Jobim. Jillette is better known as half of the magic act Penn & Teller. Here he reveals himself to be a pretty good bassist, his swing the foundations for the fancy tinkling. B+(***) [cd]

Peter Kuhn: Dependent Origination (2016 [2017], FMR): Clarinet player, also tenor sax, cut a couple of good avant records 1978-81 then dropped from sight until 2015, returning as strong as he had left. Quintet here with Dave Sewelson (baritone/sopranino sax), Dan Clucas (cornet), Scott Walton (bass), and Alex Cline (drums). Slow to develop. Grows on you when it does, especially when it gets rough. B+(***) [cd]

Peter Kuhn Trio: Intention (2017 [2018], FMR): Free jazz, the leader playing clarinet and bass clarinet, backed by bass (Kyle Motl) and drums (Nathan Hubbard). A- [cd]

Femi Kuti: One People One World (2018, Knitting Factory): Saxophone-playing son of Afrobeat founder Fela Anikulapo Kuti, carries on the family business, which includes political agitation as well as buoyant, exhilarating music. Still, not as impressively. B+(*)

Dave Liebman/Tatsuya Nakatani/Adam Rudolph: The Unknowable (2016 [2018], RareNoise): Saxophonist (tenor, soprano, various exotic flutes and a bit of keyboard), backed by two drummers -- the former mostly on drum kit, the latter hand drums and more exotic fare, with some electronics. Slow to start and patchy as it goes. B+(*) [cdr]

Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas: Sound Prints: Scandal (2017 [2018], Greenleaf Music): Superstars, their names towering over the group name, formed for a Monterey Jazz Festival gig in 2013 and now belatedly return for a studio album: tenor sax and trumpet backed by Lawrence Fields (piano), Linda May Han Oh (bass), and Joey Baron (drums). Douglas has a 5-4 song edge (plus two Wayne Shorter tunes), but the group's bop-to-swing feels closer to Lovano's taste. Reminds you of how great these musicians are without developing into a great album. B+(***) [cd]

Mast: Thelonious Sphere Monk (2018, World Galaxy): Alias for Tim Conley, third album, plays guitar, bass, keys, synths, drum programming, entertains eight guests on various horns, piano, drums -- most often (6/16 tracks) saxophonist Gavin Templeton and trumpeter Dan Rosenboom. The pieces are Monk classics, mostly given electro beats much steadier than the original -- I don't mind that treatment but I'm not sure it helps much either. B+(***)

Rae Morris: Someone Out There (2018, Atlantic): British electropop singer-songwriter, second album, all songs have co-credits (mostly Benjamin Garrett). B+(*)

Lucas Niggli: Alchemia Garden (2017 [2018], Intakt): Swiss drummer/percussionist, working solo here, which kind of limits the album's scope, keeping it thin and spare though not uninteresting. B+(*) [cd]

Adam Nussbaum: The Lead Belly Project (2018, Sunnyside): Drummer, many side credits since 1987 but not sure how much falls under his own name. Eleven Leadbelly songs, not really blues but simple folk songs, with the closer "Goodnight Irene" a good deal more. With Ohad Talmor (sax), Steve Cardenas (guitar) and Nate Radley (guitar). B+(**)

Aruán Ortiz Trio: Live in Zürich (2016 [2018], Intakt): Cuban pianist, with Brad Jones on bass and Chad Taylor on drums. Two long pieces and one short one, picking up bits from Chopin and Ornette Coleman, most impressive when they raise a rumble and the beat goes every which way. B+(***) [cd]

Bobby Previte: Rhapsody (2017 [2018], RareNoise): Drummer, substantial discography since 1986, eclectic postbop with some fusion strains. Has gotten arty of late, with a Mass I really disliked, and this one I didn't mind, even the harp (Zeena Parkins) and erhu (Jen Shyu), even Shyu's vocals. That must say something for Nels Cline and John Medeski, but I don't recall what. B [cdr]

Steve Reich: Pulse/Quartet (2018, Nonesuch): Two pieces composed by Reich, the 14:42 "Pulse" performed by International Contemporary Ensemble (a large group with strings and reeds) and the three-part 16:36 "Quartet" by the Colin Currie Group (two pianos, two vibraphones). Both employ repetitive pulse patterns but dress them up. B+(*)

Sara Serpa: Close Up (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): Singer, fifth album, all small groups -- three duos with pianist Ran Blake, this one a bit more expansive with Ingrid Laubrock on tenor and soprano sax, Erik Friedlander on cello but still pretty arty. B+(*) [cd]

Shakers n' Bakers: Heart Love: Play the Music of Albert Ayler and Mary Maria Parks (2017 [2018], Little i Music): Ayler, of course, is best remembered as an avant-sax pioneer with a deep spiritual strain -- Pharoah Sanders dubbed him the Holy Ghost -- but shortly before his untimely death he recorded a couple of strange albums with lyrics by Parks, and they're the focus of this Brooklyn group's third group. Jeff Lederer plays tenor sax and flute and did the arrangements, backed by Jamie Saft (keyboards), Chris Lightcap (bass), and Allison Miller (drums), with Mary LaRose and Miles Griffith singing leads, a bunch of background singers and guests. As trippy if not quite so strange as Ayler's originals, probably because the skills level is jacked way up, even if the spirit isn't. B+(*) [cd]

Superchunk: What a Time to Be Alive (2018, Merge): Bob Christgau called this "the most affecting political album of our brutally political era," so I needed to check it out, but it's pretty much lost on me. Admittedly, I caught more words the second spin, but the alt-rock thrash splits the difference between punk economy and metal overkill without the appeal of either. Probably a good guy, politically sound and all that. The one song I can parse is the title tune, but I'm too dismayed to think on it further. B+(**)

Emma-Jean Thackray's Walrus: Walrus EP (2017, Deptford Beach, EP): Trumpet/flugelhorn player, from England, first release, with Pie Eye Collective contributing electronics, backed by keyboards, drums, and tuba. Eight tracks, 16:11, with the longest track, "Baro Bop" (4:09), showing some promise. B+(*)

U.S. Girls: In a Poem Unlimited (2018, 4AD): Meghan Remy, based in Toronto, had a flurry of albums 2008-12 but only two since (signing with 4AD). Electropop, but denser, harder to pin down. B+(**)

Yo La Tengo: There's a Riot Going On (2018, Matador): Nothing riotous here, even as the world burns up in so many ways. NY Times headline puts it this way: "music is a sanctuary from chaos." B+(**)

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Black Panther: The Album (Music From and Inspired By) (2018, Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope): Spinoff product rather than the actual soundtrack (available separately), tied to a blockbuster movie I'm not likely to see anytime soon, or gain any understanding of here. First among the various artists is Kendrick Lamar, featured on four tracks (two up front, two to close), with Lamar producing enough of the rest to be considered the auteur. Much of interest here, including a few pan-African airs, but only one song I really love, Babes Wodumo's "Redemption" -- and a couple N-songs I never want to hear again. B+(***)

Kang Tae Hwan: Live at Café Amores (1995 [2018], NoBusiness): Alto saxophonist from Seoul, Korea, born 1944, a free jazz pioneer since 1979. This is solo, live, a kindler, gentler, easier to follow For Alto. B+(**) [cd]

Bill Warfield Big Band: For Lew (1990-2014 [2018], Planet Arts): Trumpet player, has led big bands at least since 1990, picks a dozen pieces over a quarter century to honor the late Lew Soloff (1944-2015), another trumpet player who's played in lots of big bands -- including four tracks here. B+(**) [cd]

Old Music

The Barry Altschul Quartet: Irina (1983, Soul Note): Drummer, from New York, played with Paul Bley from 1965, with Anthony Braxton in the 1970s, with Billy Bang in the FAB Trio, had a bunch of records under his own name 1977-80, re-emerging in 2013 with his 3Dom Factor group. This is a freebop quartet with Enrico Rava (trumpet), John Surman (soprano/baritone sax), and Mark Helias (bass). B+(***)

The Barry Altschul Quartet: For Stu (1979 [1981], Soul Note): Drummer-led quartet, with Ray Anderson (trombone), Anthony Davis (piano), and Rick Rozie (bass). Dedicated to the late drummer Stu Martin, the title track one of two by Davis, with Altschul writing "Drum Role" and closing with Mingus. B+(**)

The Barry Altschul Quartet/Quintet: That's Nice (1985 [1986], Soul Note): Another two-horn quartet, this time with Sean Bergin (alto/tenor sax) and Glenn Ferris (trombone), plus Andy McKee on bass, with Mike Miello (piano) joining in for two quintet tracks (of five). Unlike Altschul's previous groups, none of those are marquee names, so they wind up settling for nice. B+(*)

Paul Bley/John Surman/Bill Frisell/Paul Motian: The Paul Bley Quartet (1987 [1988], ECM): Pianist, with soprano sax/bass clarinet, guitar, and drums. Five pieces, two by the leader and one each by his all-star bandmates. Intricate, comfortably postbop. B+(**)

Marion Brown: Afternoon of a Georgia Faun (1970, ECM): Original cover just credits the alto saxophonist, although a later reissue adds some names from the band: Anthony Braxton (alto/soprano sax, clarinet, etc.), Chick Corea (piano, percussion), Andrew Cyrille (drums), Jeanne Lee (vocals), Bennie Maupin (tenor sax, other reeds and percussion), which still omits Jack Gregg (bass), Gayle Palmoré (voice, piano), William Green (top o'lin), Billy Malone (African drum), and Larry Curtis (percussion) -- many also credited with percussion. Two side-long pieces, 35:04 total. Still, all that talent is largely wasted in a scattered and rather scraggly soundscape. B

Marion Brown: Duets Vol. 1 (1970 [2012], 1201/Black Lion Vault): Alto saxophonist, teams with trumpet player Leo Smith (in his pre-Wadada days), although both are credited with percussion, turning the duets into horn + drums affairs. This set was subsequently combined with another from 1973 with Brown (on clarinet and piano) and Elliott Schwartz (piano/synthesizer) and released on Arista/Freedom simply as Duets. B+(**)

Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band: Live (2010, Grigri Discs): Twelve-piece band from DC, heavy on the horns, heavy on the Afrobeat. Can't say as they get the subtle intricacies of Nigerian pop, but they do get the uplift. B+(***)

Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band: Chopteeth (2008, Grigri Discs): You can parse the artist name/title either way, so I went with future usage. Same deal, sounds a bit more authentically African, not that it is. Still, it helps, as does the politics: "get up, stand up, that's the key to release the handcuffs." And they do get you up. A-

Dorothy Donegan: Live at the 1990 Floating Jazz Festival (1990 [1991], Chiaroscuro): Pianist (1922-98), grew up in Chicago, recorded regularly from 1946 to 1995, had a dramatic, florid style -- Art Tatum said she's "the only woman who can make me practice." Trio with John Burr (bass) and Ray Mosca (drums). B+(**)

Chico Freeman: Tradition in Transition (1982, Elektra Musician): Tenor saxophonist, started out avant in the late 1970s but had moved to a fairly major label here and seems to be trying to find new roots for a new mainstream. Group for most cuts: Wallace Roney (trumpet), Clyde Criner (piano), Cecil McBee (bass), Billy Hart (drums). Starts with Monk, followed by originals (including one each by Criner and McBee). B+(*)

Chico Freeman/Mal Waldron: Up and Down (1992, Black Saint): Sax-piano duo, but not quite duets: vocalist Tiziani Ghighlioni ("featuring" on the cover) appears on 2 (of 6) tracks (nice on "My One and Only Love"), and Ricky Knauer (no mention on cover) plays bass. Waldron centers everything. B+(**)

Christof Lauer: Christof Lauer (1989, CMP): German tenor saxophonist, first album as leader although he had a number of side credits since 1978. Quartet, with Joachim Kühn (piano), Palle Danielsson (double bass), and Peter Erskine (drums) -- all hard and strong. B+(***)

Christof Lauer/Wolfgang Puschnig/Bob Stewart/Thomas Alkier: Bluebells (1992, CMP): Tenor/soprano sax, alto sax, tuba, drums, the three horn players splitting the writing. The saxes sort of melt together. B+(**)

Christof Lauer: Fragile Network (1998 [1999], ACT): With Marc Ducret (guitar), Anthony Cox (electric/acoustic bass), Michel Godard (tuba, serpent), and Gene Jackson (drums). Nice balance of instruments, especially how the tuba fits in. B+(***)

Christof Lauer/NDR Big Band: Christof Lauer & NDR Big Band Play Sidney Bechet: Petite Fleur (2013 [2014], ACT): Only five (of nine) tracks composed by Bechet, but aside from the Lauer original the others fit the era and are always welcome: "Honeysuckle Rose," "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams," "On the Sunny Side of the Street." The Big Band is overblown, but often that works for context, with Lauer playing more soprano than tenor. B+(**)

Mahavishnu Orchestra: Between Nothingness & Eternity (1973, Columbia): British guitarist John McLaughlin made a big splash in the late 1960s -- side credits with Miles Davis and Tony Williams (and, a personal favorite, Gordon Beck's Experiments With Pops), capped by his solo debut Extrapolation (1969). He studied Indian music, adopted the honorific Mahavishnu, and by 1971 formed this fusion band with Jan Hammer (keyboards), Jerry Goodman (violin), Rick Laird (bass), and Billy Cobham (percussion). Their debut, The Inner Mounting Flame (1971), was their masterpiece. This live set came two albums later, with three long piece split up for two album sides (the long one 21:24). Feels a bit dated, but I've never been a Hammer fan. B+(*)

Mahavishnu Orchestra: Apocalypse (1974, Columbia): Aside from guitarist John McLaughlin, a new line up, with Gayle Moran taking over at keyboards, Jean-Luc Ponty at violin, Ralphe Armstrong on bass, and Narada Michael Walden on drums, plus the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas and a little aria. Doubt this is how the world ends, but should be the end of something. C+

Mahavishnu Orchestra: Visions of the Emerald Beyond (1974 [1975], Columbia): Same quintet, plus a string trio, plus -- well, I'm not sure what: the allusions point somewhere else, with airs of prog and classical, plus an occasional grind. Title from a poem by Sri Chinmoy. B-

Mahavishnu Orchestra/John McLaughlin: Inner Worlds (1975 [1976], Columbia): Cover adds the guitarist's name to a group name that had largely become his alias, all the more so with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty gone and Stu Goldberg replacing Gayle Moran on keybs, although Narada Michael Walden also plays some keybs. Music is a bit sharper, but not a good idea to add words. B-

Joe Maneri Quartet: Dahabenzapple (1993 [1996], Hat Art): Clarinet/saxophone player, also some piano, known especially for microtone techniques, had a tough time getting noticed -- one album he cut in 1963 was only released in 1998, one from 1964 was reissued in Atavistic's Unheard Music Series in 2009. But his discography picks up in 1995, slows down after 2001, before he died in 2009. Like Von Freeman, he seems to have slipped in on his son's coat tails, with Mat Maneri producing and playing violin here, the quartet filled out with Cecil McBee on bass and Randy Peterson on drums. B+(**)

Joe Maneri Quartet: In Full Cry (1996 [1997], ECM): John Lockwood takes over the bass slot. B+(*)

Joe Maneri/Mat Maneri: Blessed (1997 [1998], ECM): Duets, the father playing alto/tenor sax, clarinet, and piano; the son viola and several violins. One reason Mat is the better known Maneri is that he crowds the spotlite, but both partners manage to make their abstractions interesting. B+(**)

Joe Maneri Trio: The Trio Concerts (1997-98 [2001], Leo, 2CD): With Mat Maneri on violin and Randy Peterson on drums, one set per disc, both recorded in Massachusetts. B+(**)

John McLaughlin: Devotion (1970, Douglas): Second album, McLaughlin was reportedly unhappy with producer Alan Douglas' mix, and possibly that it's been reissued dozens of times by various labels, some reordering the songs. With Larry Young (organ/electric piano), Billy Rich (bass guitar), and Buddy Miles (drums). Fusion, the keyboards thick, the beat heavy. B+(**)

The Free Spirits Featuring John McLaughlin: Tokyo Live (1993 [1994], Verve): The fusion guitarist left Columbia after 1979 and was largely out of the spotlight during the 1980s, staging something of a comeback in the 1990s after signing to Verve in France. This is something more than a back-to-basics move: an organ trio, Joey De Francesco the maestro, Dennis Chambers on drums, but doesn't sound like any soul jazz I recall as the guitarist goes his own sweet way. B+(**)

John McLaughlin: The Heart of Things (1997, Verve): A decidedly middle-aged album, not so much slowing down as lightening up, with saxophonist Gary Thomas taking many of the leads, Jim Beard on keybs, Matthew Garrison on bass guitar, and Dennis Chambers on drums. B+(*)

John McLaughlin/Zakir Hussain/T.H. "Vikkur" Vinayakram/Hariprasad Chaurasia: Remember Shakti (1997 [1999], Verve, 2CD): Partial reunion of McLaughlin's Indian fusion group, which recorded three albums 1975-77 -- major omission is violinist Lakshminarayana Shankar, with Chaurasia (bansuri) joining on all but one 63:30 cut (most of second disc), and Uma Metha (tanpura) on two first disc tracks (41:08). More relaxed than the '70s albums, partly because the bamboo flute is airy where the violin was dense, but mostly they just seem to be pleased to be back in their groove. And that reminds us that Zakir Hussain is the real star. B+(***)

Jelly Roll Morton: The Piano Rolls (1924 [1997], Nonesuch): The first patents for player pianos were filed in 1867. and sales peaked in 1924 with sound recording rapidly gaining ground. Many pianists of the day punched out paper rolls, and those rolls offer an opportunity to bypass the poor recording quality of the day and get a fresh take, although reproducing them on modern technology isn't all that straightforward. Morton's piano rolls have been released before, but Artis Wodehouse gives them new vibrancy here. B+(**)

Walter Norris/George Mraz: Drifting (1974 [2007], Enja): Piano/bass duets. Mostly Norris originals, but covers ranging from "Maple Leaf Rag" to "Falling in Love With Love" stand out. B+(**)

Walter Norris/Aladár Pege: Winter Rose (1980, Enja): More piano/bass duets, the Hungarian bassist contributing two songs plus a trad. arrangement. B+(*)

Original Dixieland Jazz Band: The 75th Anniversary (1917-21 [1992], RCA Bluebird): White band from New Orleans led by cornet player Nick LaRocca, with clarinet and trombone alternating the horn attack, famed as the first group to record jazz records, which they did shortly after arriving in New York in 1917. To some extent that was just being the right faces in the right place, but the music is still pretty vibrant, the model for all trad jazz to follow. But unlike Louis Armstrong (or Fletcher Henderson, for that matter Bix Beiderbecke) they didn't evolve much in their first four years. B+(***)

The Original Dixieland Jazz Band: In London 1919-1920 Plus the Okeh Sessions 1922-1923 (1919-23 [2001], Retrieval): After their initial triumph in New York, ODJB went to London, where they wound up performing for King George V at Buckingham Palace. B+(**)

Shakti/John McLauglin: Shakti With John McLaughlin (1975 [1976], Columbia): The guitarist took a quick interest in Indian music, culminating here as he immerses himself in a quartet of authentic stars: T.S. Vinayakaram (ghatam/mridangam), R. Raghavan (mridangam), Zakir Hussain (tabla), and L. Shankar (violin). B+(***)

Shakti With John McLauglin: Natural Elements (1977, Columbia): Note that McLaughlin only plays acoustic guitar here. Also that he wrote seven (of eight) pieces here, four with violinist L. Shankar (who has sole credit on the other). Band down to four members, but sometimes the intensity is up. B+(**)

Shakti With John McLaughlin: A Handful of Beauty (1976 [1977], Columbia): Same quartet, McLaughlin on acoustic guitar, again sharing composition responsibilities with violinist Shankar, plus a trad. piece from South India. B+(***)

John Surman: Upon Reflection (1979, ECM): British saxophonist, had an interesting and varied first decade before landing on ECM, a tenure closing in on forty years. His ECM debut was a solo affair, playing soprano, baritone, and bass clarinet over his own minimalist synthesizer tracks. B+(**)

John Surman: The Amazing Adventures of Simon Simon (1981, ECM): Not much different from the solo album, including some synth overdubs, but the saxophonist is joined by Jack DeJohnette, on drums, congas, and electric piano. B+(*)

John Surman: Such Winters of Memory (1982 [1983], ECM): With Karen Krog (voice, Oberheim ring modulator, tamboura) and Pierre Favre (drums). The vocals are a bit arty, but don't hurt and sometimes bring out more dynamic saxophone than on Surman's previous ECM records. B+(**)

John Surman: Withholding Pattern (1984 [1985], ECM): Overdubbed solo, with piano and recorder added to his usual horns and synth. B+(*)

John Surman: Private City (1987 [1988], ECM): Another solo effort, dubbing his various horns (bass clarinet, soprano and baritone saxophones) over his ambient synth backdrops. B+(*)

John Surman Quartet: Stranger Than Fiction (1993 [1994], ECM): With John Taylor (piano), Chris Laurence (bass), and John Marshall (drums), a couple pieces jointly credited. Still not as dynamic as his early work, but he seems finally to have figured out how to craft something that periodically rises from the ambient to delight. B+(***)

John Surman: A Biography of the Rev. Absalom Dawe (1994 [1995], ECM): Back to solo again, favoring alto and bass clarinet, the keyboards more for shadowing than rhythm. Nice pace, often gorgeous. B+(***)

John Surman/Jack DeJohnette: Invisible Nature (2000 [2002], ECM): Recorded live at Tempere Jazz Happening and JazzFest Berlin, which precludes overdubbing and lets these musicians break loose of the ECM studio aesthetic. Turns out to be all the space they need. A-

John Surman: Free and Equal (2001 [2003], ECM): With Jack DeJohnette again, plus London Brass -- ten musicians covering the gamut from trumpet to tuba. They push focus toward the compositions, but still offer a certain rowdiness. B+(**)

John Surman/Howard Moody: Rain on the Window (2006 [2008], ECM): Moody plays organ, a nice foil for Surman's usual reeds. B+(**)

Trio-X [Joe McPhee/Dominic Duval/Jay Rosen]: The Sugar Hill Suite (2004, CIMP): Avant-jazz trio formed in 1999, produced more than a dozen albums up to bassist Duval's death in 2016. McPhee only plays tenor sax here. Roots oriented, with two trad. pieces and looks back at Ellington and Hubbard. B+(**)


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

  • [cd] based on physical cd
  • [cdr] based on an advance or promo cd or cdr
  • [bc] available at