Streamnotes: April 28, 2018

This month has been a dull, slow slog. Still, even when nothing else motivated me, I could go through the routine: put a record on, give it a spin, hear clearly enough to render a grade, and sometimes a comment or two. Not a banner month, but not bad for going through the motions. And where my shorter (84 records) March Streamnotes struggled to find A-list records (2 new and 2 old, 0/1 non-jazz), this one has quite a lot to recommend (12 new, 6 old, 5/1 non-jazz). Two things helped: one is that I finally started paying some attention to lists and reviews; the other is that instead of taking my new jazz queue FIFO, I snuck a look and picked a half-dozen stronger candidates to check out (hence the late breaks for Schlippenbach and Carter).

Note that the Streamnotes count has topped 11,000 (since December 2007, so a little more than 1,000 per year; in 2014 I folded Jazz Prospecting and Recycled Goods in, picking up any CDs I happened to get or buy). I've long been inclined to favor breadth over depth, but Rhapsody (now Napster) was what made that possible. Later this year, the ratings count should pass 30,000 (currently 29,619, so -381, or if nothing stops me, 12-15 weeks).

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 March 27. Past reviews and more information are available here (11040 records).

Recent Releases

Erlend Olderskog Albertsen: Rødssal Neen Glassdør (2018, Dugnad Rec): Norwegian bassist, played in Akmee (trumpet-piano-bass-drums quartet with a good album last year, Neptun) and Filosofer, seems to be first album under his own name (although the Bandcamp page attributes the record to "Dugnad rec"). Expands on Akmee by adding alto sax (Martin Myhre Olsen) and trombone (Nilas Granseth). Ensemble can kick up a powerful ruckus, but doesn't lose interest when they cut back. B+(***) [bc]

Arild Andersen: In-House Science (2016 [2018], ECM): Norwegian bassist, one of several future stars attracted to George Russell in the 1960s, debuted on ECM with the highly recommended Clouds in My Head in 1975, and lately has been running a trio with Paolo Vinaccia on drums and Tommy Smith on tenor sax. This one took me longer than 2008's Live in Belleville, but Andersen is a steady leader, and Smith can be explosive. A- [dl]

Nik Bärtsch's Ronin: Awase (2017 [2018], ECM): Swiss pianist, rhythm-focused quartet (formerly quintet) dates back to 2002, with Sha (clarinet/alto sax), Thomy Jordi (bass), and Kaspar Rast (drums). Title is "a term from martial arts, means 'moving together' in the sense of matching energies." Builds on its minimalist base in divers remarkable ways. A- [dl]

Nat Birchall: Cosmic Language (2018, Jazzman): For a long while, it seemed like every young saxophonist tried to sound like John Coltrane. That's less obvious now, perhaps in small part because Birchall nails it so perfectly. He even goes the extra step of returning the intense searching of Coltrane's last period back to the structure of the quartet. Still, has a few off moments. B+(***)

Martin Blume/Tobias Delius/Achim Kaufmann/Dieter Manderscheid: Frames & Terrains (2016 [2018], NoBusiness): Listed alphabetically: drums, tenor sax/clarinet, piano, bass. Good spots for Delius and Kaufmann, although they tend to isolate. B+(**) [cdr]

Benjamin Boone/Philip Levine: The Poetry of Jazz (2012-14 [2018], Origin): Levine is the late US Poet Laureate, winner of Pulitzer Prizes, and like many poets of his generation has much to say about jazz. He also taught for many years at Cal State Fresno, as has saxophonist Boone, who wrote most of the music here -- luxurious riffing behind the poet's words. Cut over four sessions, with numerous guests poking in for a song or a few -- Chris Potter, for instance, joins the "Homage to Sonny Rollins," Tom Harrell "I Remember Clifford," Branford Marsalis "John Coltrane," Greg Osby "Charlie Parker." Levine also knows work. A- [cd]

The Breeders: All Nerve (2018, 4AD): Band, formed by Kim Deal and Tanya Donnelly in 1989, the latter replaced by sister Kelley Deal in 1992, with wide spaces between their five albums (1990, 1993, 2002, 2008, 2018). Dense, powerful, stalls toward the end. B+(*)

Jakob Bro: Returnings (2016 [2018], ECM): Danish guitarist, tenor so records since 2005, third for ECM, a quartet with Palle Mikkelborg (trumpet/flugelhorn), Thomas Morgan (bass), and Jon Christensen (drums). Even with the trumpet this tends to fade into oblivion. B

Chris Byars: New York City Jazz (2016 [2018], SteepleChase): Alto saxophonist, classic bebop player although he's given a good deal of thought to 1950s mainstream sound, including tributes to Duke Jordan, Lucky Thompson, Gigi Gryce, and Frank Strozier. Sextet with John Mosca (trombone), Stefano Doglioni (bass clarinet), Pasquale Grasso (guitar), Ari Roland (bass), and Stefan Schatz (drums). Two Gryce songs among four covers here. B+(**)

Daniel Carter/William Parker/Matthew Shipp: Seraphic Light (2017 [2018], AUM Fidelity): Mostly an alto saxophonist, Carter is also credited here with flute, trumpet, clarinet, tenor and soprano saxophones. Not nearly as famous as his bassist and pianist, he is actually older, and has played on quite a few of their better albums, including in Parker's Other Dimensions in Music quartet. No drummer here, so Shipp takes a strong rhythmic role, with Parker fattening the sound and occasionally taking charge. Not one of Carter's flashier performances, but he adds color and flavor. A- [cd]

Brian Charette/George Coleman: Groovin' With Big G (2017 [2018], SteepleChase): Organ-tenor sax quartet, with Vic Juris on guitar and George Coleman Jr. on drums. Charette has a relatively fresh take on the B-3, but is happy to lounge in this company, with the octogenarian saxophonist sounding nearly as good as he did a couple years back on A Master Speaks, or for that matter 1991's definitive My Horns of Plenty. B+(***)

Anat Cohen/Fred Hersch: Live in Healdsburg (2016 [2018], Anzic): Clarinet and piano duets, the pianist exercising his best manners as an accompanist, so the limit must be the clarinet. B+(*) [bc]

Tim Daisy/Michael Thieke/Ken Vandermark: Triptych (2016 [2017], Relay): Drummer, arbitrating between clarinet and Vandermark -- often an overwhelming force of nature, playing tenor sax and bass clarinet here, throttled back enough to keep the trio nicely balanced. B+(**) [bc]

Tim Daisy: Music for Lying Still (2017, Relay, EP): One 25:15 piece, solo but not just drums -- no idea where the shaky electronics (or whatever it is) comes from. B+(**) [bc]

Tim Daisy's Fulcrum Ensemble: Animation (2017 [2018], Relay): Drummer-led all-star group, strikes me as freebop given all the angles: Josh Berman (cornet), Steve Swell (trombone), Dave Rempis (alto/bari sax), James Falzone (clarinet), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello). B+(***) [bc]

District Five: Decoy (2017 [2018], Intakt): Swiss quartet, from Zürich (although recorded in Köln), guitarist Vojko Huter the main composer, with Tapiwa Svosve (alto sax), Xaver Rüegg (double bass), and Paul Amereller (drums), Huter and Svosve also credited with synths/electronics. First album. Not fusion -- that sort of density, but something more complex. B+(**) [cd]

Dream Wife: Dream Wife (2018, Lucky Number): British group, three women, met in Brighton although lead singer Rakel Mjöll hails from Iceland, play hard, a little squeaky around the edges. Choice cut: "F.U.U." B+(***)

The Ex: 27 Passports (2018, Ex): Dutch group, career approximately parallels the Mekons starting from similar postpunk and politics, but where the Mekons dabbled with country, the Ex took an interest in jazz and Africa. Still, Arnold de Boer's vocals retain their punk bark, and drummer Katherina Bornefeld is as welcome a change of pace as Moe Tucker. As for the guitarists, they've never before cranked out such driving thrash -- even when they were trying to drown out Ken Vandermark in Lean Left. Can't say much for the words yet, but they've always been right on. A

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Berlin: Ninety-Nine Years (2017 [2018], Libra): Not quite a big band: three trumpets, three reeds, trombone, bass, two drummers. Fujii composed and conducts but doesn't play, and her piano is missed -- not that the orchestra can't generate plenty of intensity, but it could use something more to bridge the gaps. B+(**) [cd]

Frode Gjerstad Trio + Steve Swell: Bop Stop (2018, Clean Feed): Alto saxophonist from Norway, played in Detail (1981-94) and led Circulasione Totale Orchestra, starting his trio with Jon Rune Strøm (bass) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums) in 1999. This is a live set from The Bop Stop in Cleveland, kind of a free-for-all but gets more interesting further along. B+(**)

Victor Gould: Earthlings (2017 [2018], Criss Cross): Pianist, second album, trio with Dezron Douglas (bass) and Eric McPherson (drums), with guests Tim Warfield (soprano sax), Godwin Louis (alto sax), and Kahlil Kwame Bell (percussion) -- the saxophonists on three tracks each. Four originals, six standards and jazz covers, starting with Mulgrew Miller and Horace Silver; i.e., where he's coming from. B+(**)

Johan Graden: Olägenheter (2017 [2018], Moserobie): Pianist, Swedish (I think), seems to be first album under his name (a couple others listed Konrad Agnas or Andreas Pollak first). With Josefin Runsteen (violin), Per Texas Johansson (clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, saw), Pår-Ola Landin (bass), and Agnas (drums), has a chamber feel with extra sparkle. B+(**)

Mary Halvorson: Code Girl (2016 [2018], Firehouse 12, 2CD): Guitarist, one of Anthony Braxton's students, has a couple dozen albums since 2004, a very mixed bag as far as I'm concerned, but some of her oeuvre is truly exceptional. This may be her most ambitious effort, adding vocalist Amirtha Kidambi and trumpet star Ambrose Akinmusire to her Thumbscrew trio (Michael Formanek, Tomas Fujiwara). Best work I've heard from the trumpeter, but the singer not only leans toward opera, she drags the songs that way too. B+(*) [bc]

The Heat Death: The Glenn Miller Sessions (2018, Clean Feed, 3CD): Scandinavian free jazz quintet, mostly (I think) Swedish, with three famous horn players -- Mats Aleklint (trombone), Kjetil Møster (tenor sax, clarinet), Martin Küchen (alto/sopranino sax, flute) -- plus bass (Ola Høyer) and drums (Dag Erik Knedal Andersen). When I first saw this, I assumed the title referred to Stockholm's Glenn Miller Café, but the hype sheet offers no dates or location and claims: "the resulting music has few resemblances to what the Glenn Miller Orchestra continue to do until this day, but the spirit is here, exploring aspects which were implicitly, but never fulfilled, with all the respect to the historic figure who conceived it." I'm pretty sure that's nonsense, as are the references to Chris McGregor, Jaki Liebezeit, and thermodynamics. B+(**)

Tim Heidecker: Too Dumb for Suicide: Tim Heidecker's Trump Songs (2017, Jagjaguwar): Comedian, writer, director, actor, sometime musician, since at least 2001 although I can't say as I've noticed him before. Maybe because his satire isn't funny enough? This barely breaks 30 minutes with a bonus remake of "Trump's Private Pilot. Reportedly, Paul Simon nixed the inclusion of "I Am a Cuck" (sung to "I Am a Rock"). Not sure whether to laugh or cry. B

Gerry Hemingway/Samuel Blaser: Oostum (2015 [2017], NoBusiness): Duets, drums and trombone. First rate players, but not exactly a match made in heaven. B+(*) [cdr]

Lauren Henderson: Ármame (2016 [2018], Brontosaurus): Singer, originally from Massachusetts but with Caribbean roots and a degree in Hispanic Studies wrote four songs here, all with Spanish titles. Band offers lots of support, including extra percussion. B+(*) [cd]

Monika Herzig: Monika Herzig's Sheroes (2016 [2018], Whaling City Sound): Pianist, born in Germany, came to US on an exchange program in 1988 and stuck around. All-woman band with Ingrid Jensen (trumpet), Ada Rovatti (tenor sax), Jamie Baum (flute), Reut Regev (trombone), and Leni Stern (guitar), plus bass, drums, and extra percussion, with several band members contributing songs (Herzig three plus a "House of the Rising Sun" arrangement). Some strong solo moments, and a Latin thing at the end. B+(*) [cd]

Il Sogno: Birthday (2015 [2017], Gotta Let It Out): Trio: Emanuele Maniscalco (piano), Tomo Jacobson (double bass), Oliver Laumann (drums). First group album. One cover from Ennio Morricone, the original pieces cutting a fine line, evenly balanced. B+(**) [cd]

Jon Irabagon Quartet: Dr. Quixotic's Traveling Exotics (2016-17 [2018], Irabbagast): Tenor saxophonist, made a big impression with Mostly Other People Do the Killing and elsewhere. Still, his own records have been erratic, even though he's often a powerhouse. Here, for instance, an odd mix with Luis Perdomo (piano), Yasushi Nakamura (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums), plus Tim Hagan (trumpet). Awesome in spots, annoying in others. B+(**) [cd]

JPEGMAFIA: Veteran (2018, self-released): Baltimore rapper Barrington Hendricks, did four years in USAF, second album, wildly experimental, all chopped up and screwed over. Has a rep among people I follow, and occasional moments do sound promising, but I can't follow it, and don't (yet) see any reason I should. B [bc]

Roger Kellaway Trio: New Jazz Standards Vol. 3 (2017 [2018], Summit): All compositions by Carl Saunders (b. 1942, three years after the pianist; a trumpet player with Bill Holman, Stan Kenton, Bob Florence, and Gerald Nilson, with a half-dozen albums under his own name), so maybe not so standard. A fine piano player, with Jay Leonhart on bass and Peter Erskine on drums. B+(**) [cd]

Jinx Lennon: Grow a Pair!!! (2018, Septic Tiger): Irish folk singer-songwriter, staunchly (and sometimes militantly) working class. Seems like someone I should cotton to, and indeed I've liked a couple of his previous albums. But I hate the title, the title song even more, and care little for the various ups and downs, not all of which are fairly dismissed. B+(*)

James Brandon Lewis/Chad Taylor: Radiant Imprints (2018, OFF): Young tenor saxophonist, first albums came out on a major label (Okeh) so I figured him for a mainstream player, but he showed impressive chops and raw vitality. Since then he's fallen into obscure projects (e.g., Heroes Are Gang Leaders) and labels, and winds up here in a sax-drums duo, an avant specialty. Taylor has done this sort of thing before. He not only gets a terrific performance, he gives one. A-

Jeffrey Lewis: Works by Tuli Kupferberg (1923-2010) (2018, Don Giovanni): I think I first first ran into Kupferberg when Grove Press published a very slim book of his, 1001 Ways to Beat the Draft (1966). It offered advice I could have used at the time, but as I recall wasn't all that useful. Nor was what I thought of as his sequel, 1001 Ways to Live Without Working (actually written in 1961). I probably read some of his poetry, but unlike his buddy Ed Sanders -- they formed a rock group in 1964 called the Fugs -- nothing especially memorable. Still, he was a hero to several generations of folkie-anarchists, including Lewis and his older fiddle player here, Peter Stampfel. Lewis allows himself leeway to "interpret and/or "misinterpret" Kupferberg's songs. The music palpably picks up when Kupferberg/Lewis stole it from someone talented (e.g., "I Wanna Hold Your Foot"), and the large-scale sing-alongs tidy his oeuvre up about as much as one could hope. A- [bc]

Dave Liebman/John Stowell: Petite Fleur: The Music of Sidney Bechet (2017 [2018], Origin): Mostly soprano sax and guitar duets, Liebman also credited with wood flute and piano. Probably not a huge surprise that someone who plays as much soprano as Liebman does should want to do a Bechet tribute, but from his early days with Miles Davis Liebman's always been a Coltrane fan, and I've never noticed any previous linkage. Indeed, while these are mostly Bechet songs, they don't sound much like him. Nor does Stowell show much affinity, although his nylon-string and fretless baritone guitars are slinky as his norm. B+(*) [cd]

Johan Lindström Septett: Music for Empty Halls (2018, Moserobie): Guitarist, also plays pedal steel guitar, spreads out a very diverse album with at least one song as catchy as the "Peter Gunn" theme, another called "Europe Endless Boogie," various spots for his horns that break into free territory -- Jonas Kullhammar (sax), Per Texas Johansson (clarinet), Mats Aleklint (trombone) -- then adds a splash of strings for the closing "Hymn." B+(***) [cd]

The Doug MacDonald Quintet/The Roger Neumann Quintet: Two Quintets: Live Upstairs at Vitello's (2017 [2018], Blujazz, 2CD): Neumann plays tenor sax, runs the more conventional quintet, with trumpet (Carl Saunders), piano, bass, and drums. MacDonald is a guitarist, with tenor sax (Rickey Woodard), piano, bass, and drums. I don't really understand why they didn't cut their own albums, but the transitions were pretty seamless. Both play energetic, mostly jazz standards, a bit hotter than the norm. B+(*) [cd]

The Maguire Twins: Seeking Higher Ground (2017 [2018], Three Tree): Drummer Carl, bassist Alan, identical, mother Japanese, father American, grew up in Hong Kong, moved to Memphis at 15, now 21 and, well, awful cute. Band made up of seasoned hard boppers -- Gregory Tardy (tenor sax), Bill Mobley (trumpet), Aaron Goldberg (piano) -- and they let it rip. B+(*) [cd]

Todd Marcus: On These Streets (A Baltimore Story) (2017 [2018], Stricker Street): Bass clarinet player, from Baltimore, has a previous album. The usually upbeat music here is contraposed with various sound fragments rooted in injustice and unrest, with a vocal that leans gospel without going over the top. George Colligan is a steady driver on piano. Paul Bollenbeck (guitar) and Warren Wolf (vibes) also appear. Gary Bartz and Darryl Harper wrote liner notes. I doubt it fits or flows very well, but give him credit for trying to do something exceptional. B [cd]

Ashley McBryde: Girl Going Nowhere (2018, Warner Nashville): Country singer from Arkansas. First album, co-wrote all but one song. Band can get heavy -- "classic rock influences" -- but she's more impressive when she strips everything away except for a thin whisper of guitar -- e.g., "Andy (I Can't Live Without You)." B+(**)

Erin McDougald: Outside the Soirée (2018, Miles High): Standards singer, born in Ohio, based in Chicago, has at least one previous album. Can't read the hand-lettered booklet (looks to offer quite a bit of info) but did note the presence of saxophonists Dave Liebman and Dan Block, trumpeter Tom Harrell, and vibraphonist Mark Sherman -- all pluses in a very respectable effort. B+(**) [cd]

Nick Millevoi's Desertion Trio With Jamie Saft: Midtown Tilt (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): Guitarist, based in Philadelphia, trio with electric bass (Johnny DeBlase) and drums (Kevin Shea), with Jamie Saft joining on organ (as he did on Millevoi's 2016 album Desertion) plus Ashley Tini (vibes/percussion) on three tracks. Fusion album, power moves laid on thick. B

Modern Mal: The Misanthrope Family Album (2017, Mal): Christgau was reminded of Leonard Cohen and Dolly Parton. The former's voice is almost eerily duplicated, but I don't hear Parton and the music averages out as a bit less than the Handsome Family. B+(*)

Ashley Monroe: Sparrow (2018, Warner Nashville): Like Kacey Musgraves, the Pistol Annie singer-songwriter makes a pop move, which with Dave Cobb producing means buried in strings. I still like her voice, but everything else is turned to mush. B-

Michael Morreale: MilesSong: The Music of Miles Davis (2016 [2018], Summit, 2CD): Trumpet player, has a previous album. This is a quartet, with Tony Regusis (piano/Fender Rhodes), bass, and drums, so a pretty straight, mainstream presentation of fourteen songs -- only four by Davis, a few more from Hancock or Shorter, the rest standards that Davis played. B+(**) [cd]

Diane Moser: Birdsongs (2017 [2018], Planet Arts): Pianist, has several previous albums including a duo with Mark Dresser on avant label CIMP. This doesn't even hint at that, although the bassist here, Ken Filiano, can certainly go that direction. Third player is Anton Denner on flute and piccolo, still not especially birdlike. Way too sedate to sustain my interest, although the piano is interesting when I manage to focus. B [cd]

Michael Moss/Accidental Orchestra: Helix (2016 [2018], 4th Stream): Clarinet player, several previous albums, leads a large orchestral ensemble -- 22 pieces but only one trumpet, one trombone (Steve Swell), two saxes (one also flute), but six strings (including Jason Kao Hwang), two guitars (Billy Stein and Rick Iannacone, the latter credited with "ambient guitar"), and four percussionists (including Warren Smith on vibes and Badal Roy on tabla). B+(**) [cd]

Kacey Musgraves: Golden Hour (2018, MCA Nashville): The most genteel of the Pistol Annies generation of country women, she's still very a very comfortable listen on a slow ballad, but has mostly turned this album over to the producers to craft into pop schmaltz, over-orchestrated but not danceable enough. B

Patricia Nicholson/William Parker: Hope Cries for Justice (2017 [2018], Centering): Wife and husband, the former a dancer and organizer of New York's annual Vision Festival. Discogs credits her with a couple of vocal performances, but this is where she steps out front with her spoken-word poetry accompanied by Parker's donso n'goni and bass. I never really get the spirit/myth stuff, but won't fault her cry for hope and justice. Parker is restrained, otherwise he'd steal the show. B+(***) [cd]

Danielle Nicole: Cry No More (2018, Concord): Last name Schnebelen, a blues/soul singer-songwriter, plays guitar and bass guitar, second (or third) album after an EP. I suspect she'll fall ever more clearly on the blues side, partly because that's how voices age, partly because she's already leaning hard on her guitar. B+(*)

No Age: Snares Like a Haircut (2018, Drag City): Noise pop duo, guitarist Randy Randall and drummer/vocalist Dean Allen Spunt, fifth album, everything they've done so far makes a strong impression, although none of it has stuck with me. Every time I've played this album I've heard non-obvious echoes of a Go-Betweens song. One thing I'm sure of is that I'll never play anything else and find it reminds me of No Age. Still, the sound here moves way beyond noise, with an undeniable vitality. After three plays I enjoy every moment of it. But after three days I doubt I'll remember any of it. A-

Meg Okura/Sam Newsome/Jean-Michel Pilc: NPO Trio Live at the Stone (2016 [2018], Chant): Violin/soprano sax/piano. Okura describes what she does as Chamber Jazz, but she's hard pressed to smooth over the rough edges of her partners. B+(*) [bc]

Meg Okura & the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble: Ima Ima (2018, Chant): Violinist, born in Japan, based om Mew York, converted to Judaism, title draws one word from Hebrew, another from Japanese, translates as Mom Now. Group isn't strictly Asian: guitarist Rez Abbasi is the only one I'm sure of, while I have doubts about Tom Harrell (trumpet), Anne Drummond (flute), Sam Newsome (soprano sax), Sam Sadigursky (bass clarinet/clarinet), Pablo Aslan (bass). Also a drummer, contrary to usual chamber practice, but I suppose the harp makes up for that. B+(*) [bc]

William Parker: Lake of Light: Compositions for AquaSonics (2017 [2018], Gotta Let It Out): Four musicians -- Parker, Jeff Schlanger, Anne Humanfeld, Leonid Galaganov -- playing Parker compositions on AquaSonic waterphones invented by Jackson Krall. The instrument can be bowed or struck, so this bears some resemblance to a cello/percussion group, but higher pitched, with extra resonance due to the water. Leans toward noise to start, but grows from there to become quite haunting. B+(***) [cd]

Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Oneness (2017 [2018], Leo, 3CD): Tenor sax/piano duets, as if last year's seven-volume The Art of Perelman-Shipp hadn't exhausted the topic. Of course, it probably didn't. It may even have merely paved the way for this level of intimacy. On the other hand, they're not doing anything they haven't done many times before. B+(***) [cd]

Peripheral Vision: More Songs About Error and Shame (2018, self-released): Canadian group, fourth album since 2010, co-leaders Michael Herring (bass) and Don Scott (guitar), backed by the somewhat more famous Nick Fraser (drums) and Simon Hogg (tenor sax). Complex groove with some sharp edges, closing with an exceptionally catchy vamp. B+(***) [cd]

Roberta Piket: West Coast Trio (2017 [2018], 13th Note): Piano trio with Darek Oleszkiewicz (bass) and Joe La Barbera (drums), plus guitarist Larry Koonse on two cuts, and percussionist Billy Mintz on one. Two originals, rest covers, ranging from Djavan to John Hicks. B+(*) [cd]

Chris Platt Trio: Sky Glow (2017 [2018], self-released): Guitarist, from Canada, first album, trio with bass and drums. Nice flow, a little light. B+(*) [cd]

Marvin Pontiac: The Asylum Tapes (2017, Strange and Beautiful): Fictional artist invented by Loung Lizards saxophonist John Lurie. His back story started with birth in Mali in 1932, mother Jewish from New Rochelle, father a west African who abandoned him, grew up in Chicago playing blues harmonica, copying Little Walter; went nuts, believing he had been abducted and probed by aliens; hit and killed by a bus in 1977. Pontiac first appeared in our world when Lurie released his Greatest Hits in 2000. Not much sax here; mostly guitar and growl. Can't claim it's as good as Beefheart, but if you miss him you might welcome a kindred spirit. A-

Noah Preminger: Genuinity (2017 [2018], Criss Cross): Tenor saxophonist, has racked up an impressive discography quickly. This is a quartet with Jason Palmer (trumpet), Kim Cass (bass) and Dan Weiss (drums), playing nine originals, showing his range and burning up front and toward the end. B+(**)

John Prine: The Tree of Forgiveness (2018, Oh Boy): First record of new songs since 2005's Fair and Square, with its pointed anti-Bush songs. Still, no (even oblique) mention of Trump this time: just a batch of scrimpy songs about love and death, mostly the latter. He practically looks dead on the cover, and his throat-cancer-damaged voice has deteriorated even further, making this hard to listen to at first. Still, you get used to all that, and start noticing his little tics of wit. By the end, he's in heaven, and rather than mourning you're wishing you could come along for the ride. A-

Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra: Without a Trace (2015-17 [2018], Origin): Big band leader, arranges and conducts, also plays a little trombone and alto flugelhorn. Four Reeves originals, three covers, band (featuring Steve Wilson) has a lot of power and swagger. One vocal, by Carolyn Leonhart, reminds me how awkward it seems to try to wrap words around tricky melodies. B [cd]

The Rempis/Daisy Duo & Guests: Dodecahedron (2017 [2018], Aerophonic, 2CD): Rempis plays alto and baritone sax, Daisy drums. Third duo album, though they've played together much more than that, going back midway Vandermark 5. The first disc is a live duo set. The second a studio session with guests (no track credits, but sounds like one at a time): Jason Adasiewicz (vibes), Jim Baker (piano), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), Steve Swell (trombone), Katie Young (bassoon), Aaron Zarzutzki (electronics). A remarkable sax player, running through a wide range of moves, but still a little tiring. B+(**)

Jay Rodriguez: Your Sound: Live at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola (2018, Whaling City Sound): Saxophonist, from Colombia, plays most of them and flute and bass clarinet as well -- the latter is my favorite part here. Billy Harper also plays tenor sax, with Larry Willis on piano, Eric Wheeler (bass), J.T. Lewis (drums), and Billy Martin (percussion). B+(**) [cd]

Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Rogue Star (2017 [2018], Edgetone): Alto saxophonist, also plays flute, leads a septet with tenor sax, E-trumpet, vibes, two basses, and drums. Some fine stretches, especially when I focus, but slips by when I don't. B+(***)

Alexander Von Schlippenbach/Globe Unity Orchestra: Globe Unity - 50 Years (2016 [2018], Intakt): Back in 1966, a hitherto unknown 28-year-old German pianist assembled Europe's (and, really, the world's) first avant-jazz orchestra -- originally an ad hoc merger of groups led by Gunter Hampel, Manfred Schoof, and Peter Brötzmann (ages 29, 30, and 25). The group grew to 18 the next year, and recorded regularly over the next decade, regrouping later for significant anniversaries, with their 50th marking more time than had passed between ODJB's first jazz records and Globe Unity's founding. Still 18 strong here, with Von Schlippenbach, Schoof, and Gerd Dudek returning from the original band, plus Evan Parker, Tomasz Stanko, and Paul Lovens from the 1970 group. Cutting edge then, still pretty far out. A- [cd]

Derek Senn: Avuncular (2016, self-released): Singer-songwriter from San Luis Obispo: wife, two kids, day job, second DIY album. With songs about "Vietnam" and "Monica Lewinsky" and "The Drinky Drink" -- you know, the world. B+(***)

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers: Years (2018, Bloodshot): Country rocker from North Carolina, worked through a couple bands before coming up with the Disarmers, had their 2015 debut picked up by Americana label Bloodshot in 2017, so this is the sequel. Drinks a lot, rocks a little, at least no strings (yet). B+(*)

Alex Sipiagin: Moments Captured (2016 [2017], Criss Cross): Trumpet player, born in Russia, moved to US in 1991, flashy, wailing over two energetic saxophonists -- Chris Potter (tenor) and Will Vinson (alto/soprano) -- backed by John Escreet (keybs), Matt Brewer (bass), and Eric Harland (drums), with two vocals by Alina Engibaryan. None of the horns lack for chops, but I don't care for the keyboards, or the vocals. B

Jim Snidero & Jeremy Pelt: Jubilation! Celebrating Cannonball Adderley (2017 [2018], Savant): The leaders play hard bop alto sax and trumpet, same as Cannonball and Nat -- and the latter's "Worksong" closes the album on a high note. Backed by David Hazeltine, Nat Reeves, and Billy Drummond. Could be a long-lost Adderley Quintet album, except that they stick to the top tier of the songbook. B+(**) [cdr]

Sons of Kemet: Your Queen Is a Reptile (2018, Impulse!): London-based group, led by saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, with Oren Marshall on tuba and two drummers. Third album: Hutchings has other projects, like Shabaka and the Ancestors and the Comet Is Coming. Nine songs, each named "My Queen Is" and some name -- the two most familiar to me are Harriet Tubman and Angela Davis, but other track down to Africa and its diaspora. More than a few vocals, evidently guests. Nothing on the reptile, which is just as well. A-

Spectral [Dave Rempis/Darren Johnston/Larry Ochs]: Empty Castles (2017 [2018], Aerophonic): Recycles a 2014 album name as group name. Johnston plays trumpet, the others saxophones: Rempis (alto/baritone), Ochs (sopranino/tenor). Interesting enough, but plods without a rhythm section pushing everyone along. B+(**) [bc]

Spin Cycle [Scott Neumann/Tom Christensen]: Assorted Colors (2017 [2018], Sound Footing): Drums and tenor sax, with Pete McCann (guitar) and Phil Palombi (bass). Bright postbop, the guitarist neatly tying it all together although the sax, of course, is up front. B+(**) [cd]

Superorganism: Superorganism (2018, Domino): British pop group that previously did business as the Eversons, plus significant others from New Zealand, South Korea, and Japan-via-Maine. So irregular I doubt I would have given the time of day except for Christgau's pick, which motivated me to give them three or four extra spins. Got to where I rather like them, but they still seem like harder work than a pop group should be. B+(***)

John Surman: Invisible Threads (2017 [2018], ECM): Usual horns -- soprano/baritone saxophones, bass clarinet -- backed by Nelson Ayres (piano) and Rob Waring (vibes/marimba), names on the cover but below the title. B+(***) [dl]

Tracey Thorn: Record (2018, Merge): Singer-songwriter from England, started in the 1980s group Marine Girls but became much better known in Everything but the Girl. Released a solo album in 1982, then four more since 2007. Touted as "nine feminist bangers," I can't say much about the feminism, but the "bangers" are pretty muted. One exception: "Dancefloor." B+(**)

Frank Wagner: Frank Wagner's Floating Holiday (2016 [2018], MEII): Bassist-led piano trio, with Marco Di Gennaro on piano and David Meade on drums. Wagner's songs, done with a light touch. B [cd]

Salim Washington: Dogon Revisited (2018, Passin' Thru): Tenor saxophonist (also plays flute and oboe here), born in Memphis, grew up in Detroit, has a few albums since 1998. This one suggests some sort of relationship to Julius Hemphill's Dogon AD (one of nine songs here). With Melanie Dyer (viola, voice), Hill Greene (bass), and Tyshawn Sorey (drums), looking back at the tradition and remaking it. B+(***) [bc]

Dan Weiss: Starebaby (2018, Pi): Drummer, based in New York, plays tabla elsewhere, shows up on quite a few interesting records but I've never gotten into his own. This one too, although he surprised me twice: first with two talented pianists who mostly play synths and contribute damn little (Matt Mitchell, Craig Taborn); second by turning the album over into heavy-handed fusion thrash, a far cry from guitarist Ben Monder's usual rut although closer to electric bassist Trevor Dunn. B [cd]

Håvard Wiik Trio: This Is Not a Waltz (2016 [2018], Moserobie): Norwegian pianist, best known for work in groups like Atomic and Free Fall, third trio album with Ole Morten Vågan (bass) and Håkon Mjåset Johansen (drums). Often struck me as a bit ornate for those groups, but that works to his advantage here, as does a challenging rhythm section. B+(***) [cd]

Wreckless Eric: Construction Time & Demolition (2018, Southern Domestic): Eric Goulden, second-tier Stiff Records star from 1979, floundered a lot from there but somehow wound up marrying the best singer-songwriter of the 2000's and got top bill on three duet albums, two better than anything he had previously done. This year they decided to do their own albums, and while his isn't as good as hers, it's still pretty good: loud, chunky, a bit of dissonance. B+(***) [bc]

Pablo Ziegler Trio: Jazz Tango (2017, Zoho): Argentine pianist, played in Astor Piazzolla's group and carries on, calling what he does Nuevo Tango. Trio adds Hector Del Curto (bandoneon) and Claudio Ragazzi (guitar), the relatively small group permitting a lot of piano flourish. B+(*)

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Louis Armstrong: Pops Is Tops: The Complete Verve Studio Albums and More (1957 [2018], Verve, 4CD): Norman Granz got his hooks into Armstrong in 1957, using Ella Fitzgerald as bait. They recorded three albums together: Ella and Louis, Ella and Louis Again, and Porgy & Bess. The first two are classics, with Ella picking faves from her extraordinary explotation of the Great American Songbook, and Armstrong gamely singing along, with occasional splashes of trumpet. We always knew that Armstrong had a remarkable voice, but he had rarely picked such sophisticated fare, so the surprise was how flexible and subtle he could be. Less well known are three more studio albums Armstrong cut for Granz in 1957: one with Oscar Peterson's quartet (with Herb Ellis on guitar), and two with Russ Garcia's string-laden orchestra. This box devotes a CD to each, padded out with alternate takes and false starts. The fourth disc is titled "A Day With Satchmo: August 1, 1957," flushed out with twenty-two takes of four songs. I decided to excerpt the three albums (see below), then make a pass through the extras -- more listenable than I expected, but not a bright spot in Armstrong's stellar career. B

Louis Armstrong: The Nightclubs (1950-58 [2017], Dot Time): Tapes from Armstrong's personal archives, 16 tracks, all his usual sextet plus singer Velma Middleton on the back 9; Barney Bigard gives way to Edmond Hall on 11; Jack Teagarden to Russ Phillips on 3 and Trummy Young on 7; Earl Hines to Marty Napoleon on 3 and Billy Kyle on 8; Arvell Shaw to Mort Herbert on 11 (with Dale Jones 3-6 and Milt Hinton on 7), Cozy Cole to Barrett Deems on 8; plus an intro from Billie Holiday. Nothing you haven't heard before, but a nice survey of the decade. B+(***)

Derek Bailey & Company: Klinker (2000 [2018], Confront, 2CD): British avant guitarist, in a trio with Mark Wastell (cello) and Simon H. Fell (bass), plus percussion here and there by tap dancer Will Gaines, and some unattributed narration/exhortation. The strings tend to meander abstractly. B

Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Willisau) 1991 Studio (1991 [2018], Hatology, 2CD): Previously released as the front half of a 4-CD box -- presumably the June 2 concert CDs will re-appear soon. This is one of the great quartets of all time -- Marily Crispell (piano), Mark Dresser (bass), and Gerry Hemingway (drums) -- in their last year after a decade together. One of their most extraordinary recordings. A-

Miles Davis & John Coltrane: The Final Tour [The Bootleg Series Vol. 6] (1960 [2018], Columbia/Legacy, 4CD): A quick one, three cities in four days -- Paris, Stockholm, Copenhagen -- winding up the five-year tenure of Davis' first great quartet, with Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Jimmy Cobb (drums). Coltrane, well into his string of recordings for Atlantic, was bursting with fresh ideas, not that Davis was willing to give up the lead. Good chance most (or all) of this has appeared before, early on European labels like Dragon, later on Acrobat's 2014 4CD box, All of You: The Last Tour 1960 (which misses Paris but adds other shows in Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands). A-

Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: After the Fall (1998 [2018], ECM, 2CD): The Standards Trio, fifteen years after they set out, a set deemed worth recovering twenty years later: a return following a bout of "chronic fatigue" which kicked off what turned out to be one of the trio's prime periods -- 2002's My Foolish Heart: Live at Montreux is a personal favorite. Twelve tunes, mostly from jazz sources (although you'll barely note "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"), stretched with their usual consummate skill. B+(**)

Martin Küchen & Landaeus Trio: Vinyl (2013-14 [2018], Moserobie): Swedish saxophonist, plays them all here, with pianist Mathias Landaeus' trio on two sessions (different drummers), each previously released on vinyl. Küchen is best known for his Angles groups, but is a terrific free saxophonist, while the rhythm is just regular enough to let him vamp and boogie a little. A- [cd]

Kirk Lightsey/Harold Danko: Shorter by Two: The Music of Wayne Shorter Played on Two Pianos (1983 [2017], Sunnyside): Cover notes "remastered." Music as advertised. B+(**)

Wynton Marsalis Septet: United We Swing: Best of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Galas (2003-07 [2018], Blue Engine): The band backing a wide range of singers, some exceptional -- Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Willie Nelson -- most not (although Eric Clapton's later session with Marsalis was the best album either artist released in this century). The jazz musicians don't get to show off their chops much, but they can fall back on credible blues. B+(*)

Barre Phillips/Motoharu Yoshizawa: Oh My, Those Boys! (1994 [2018], NoBusiness): Two bassists, one American but based in France since 1972, the other Japanese, died in 1998 leaving a couple dozen albums I haven't heard -- an early duo with Dave Burrell (1974), at least one more with Phillips. This doesn't particularly sound like bass, more like an underground orchestral soundtrack to a horror flick that never turns really horrible. B+(***) [cd]

Sonny Rollins: Way Out West [Deluxe Edition] (1957 [2018], Craft): An early masterpiece, the wood block intro a pure joy even before he saunters into "I'm an Old Cowhand" and ventures far beyond. The reissue -- as far as I can tell digital only -- basically doubles the album with alternate versions spliced with some dialogue. Can't say it offers new insights. You shouldn't skip Work Time or Saxophone Colossus or even Plays for Bird, but I've played just the extras three times and enjoy them as much as I do the original album, and that's one of his very best. A

We Out Here (2018, Brownswood): Contemporary jazz sampler from London, saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings by far the best known although I recognize a few other names. Common trait is that the groups favor a groove though some also lean ambient. B+(*)

Neil Young: Roxy: Tonight's the Night Live (1973 [2018], Reprise): A live set immediately following the recording of one of Young's most extraordinary albums, one that would sit on the shelf nearly two years before its June 1975 release. Nine of the album's twelve songs appeared here, along with "Walk On" (introduced for the encore as an "old song," but was a 1974 single from On the Beach). Not sure that the live album offers anything extra, the reprise is even stronger than on the album, and I've had songs from this stuck in my head all week. A-

Old Music

Louis Armstrong: Satchmo Serenades (1949-53 [2000], Verve): Eight cuts from a 10-inch LP released by Decca in 1952, backed by Sy Oliver's Orchestra, plus ten tracks from various 78s with various combinations of Oliver and All Stars. Decca pushed Armstrong to be more pop, and the songs -- including two from Hank Williams -- reflect that. Not that Armstrong can't claim them, with "It Takes Two to Tango" a prime example. B+(**)

Louis Armstrong: Ambassador Satch (1955 [2000], Columbia/Legacy): The All-Stars -- Edmond Hall (clarinet), Trummy Young (trombone), Billy Kyle (piano), Arvell Shaw (bass), Barrett Deems (drums) -- tour western Europe, picking from shows in Amsterdam and Milan. Not really his standard show: fewer vocals, more ensemble dixieland, culminating in a riotous "Tiger Rag." Reissue adds three tracks, including a "Clarinet Marmalade" to feature Hall, who was already having a ball. Armstrong was vastly popular in Europe, and these tapes are riddled with applause. The State Department took advantage of his popularity, using him as a goodwill ambassador, notably on tours of eastern Europe -- a practice he stopped in 1957 to protest Eisenhower's "gutless" inaction on civil rights. A-

Louis Armstrong: Louis Under the Stars (1957 [1958], Verve): After the Ella and Louis albums, Norman Granz had the idea of featuring Armstrong on a set of sappy standards -- "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails," "I Only Have Eyes for You," "Stormy Weather," "You're Blasé," "Body and Soul" -- backed by Russ Garcia's soupy orchestra. Not really his thing, but he nails them anyway. B+(*) [2:1-8 of Pops Is Tops]

Louis Armstrong: I've Got the World on a String (1957 [1960], Verve): With Russ Garcia again. The songs lean a bit more toward blues, but the orchestra is incapable of swing. B [1:1-10 of Pops Is Tops]

Louis Armstrong/Oscar Peterson: Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson (1957, Verve): Seems like everyone Norman Granz recorded during the 1950s had a meet up with Peterson sooner or later. These cuts started out as a spinoff to Ella and Louis, with similar songbook standards. Some (like "You Go to My Head") strike me as overly slow, but like the Fitzgerald sets Armstrong again proves his flexibility and nuance. Rhythm section includes Herb Ellis (guitar) as well as Ray Brown and Louie Bellson. B+(**) [3:1-13 of Pops Is Tops]

Louis Armstrong: Louis and the Good Book (1958 [2001], Verve): A (mostly old testament) gospel program, backed by Sy Oliver's Orchestra -- seven pieces, including former All Stars Trummy Young and Billy Kyle, no strings -- and a ten-voice choir. Unmistakable voice and trumpet, humdrum arrangements (aside from "Shadrack," one of his staples). Reissue adds eight tracks, mostly redundant aside from two Elder Eatmore sermons. B

Louis Armstrong: Louis Armstrong and His Friends (1970, Flying Dutchman): His last album, recorded over four days in May, 1970, a little more than a year before he died. The song titles, rather than the friends' names, on the front cover. On the other hand, the friends I recognize were mostly young musicians at the time, and only one shares a vocal -- Leon Thomas, on "The Creator Has a Masterplan (Peace)." The music was arranged by Oliver Nelson, with strings, congas, a chorus on four tracks (notably "We Shall Overcome" and "Give Peace a Chance" -- Ornette Coleman joined on those two), and plenty of sharp horns. No trumpet from the leader, but he sings and hams a bit, with "Boy From New Orleans" especially winning. Includes a remake of his last hit, 1967's "What a Wonderful World" (which became the title of a later, reordered RCA reissue). Actually, hard to convey how peculiar (weird even) this album is: he comes of as some sort of septagenarian flower child, making a peace-and-love album knowing how much he's overcome to get there. B+(*)

Globe Unity Orchestra: Globe Unity 2002 (2002 [2003], Intakt): Sandwiched between 20th Anniversary (1986) and 40 Years (2006), an isolated reunion for Alexander von Schlippenbach (piano) and Manfred Schoof (trumpet), with three saxes (Evan Parker, Peter Brötzmann, Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky), two trombones (Hannes Bauer, Paul Rutherford), two drummers (Paul Lovens, Paul Lytton). One 74:05 piece, reminds you they're still kicking, hard. Some spectacular soprano sax solos. B+(**)

JPEGMAFIA: Black Ben Carson (2016, Trashfuck): First album, after a mixtapes and a couple of EPs. Difficult musically, but not as hard to follow as Veteran, in large part because when he rails "bitch I'm Ben Carson" you know he's trying to be funny as well as vicious. Choice cut: "The 27 Club." B+(*)

Jeffrey Lewis & the Jrams: "A Loot-Beg Bootleg" (2014 [2016], self-released): "Mostly live in the studio Sept. 2014" -- two days, with Caitlin Gray and Heather Wagner (bass and drums, vocals both), wedged discographically between the tour following Jeffrey Lewis & the Jrams and Manhattan, where several songs later surfaced. Asks the timely question, what would Pussy Riot do? B+(***) [bc]

Alexander von Schlippenbach/Globe Unity Orchestra: Globe Unity - 40 Years (2006 [2009], Intakt): Roster is 15 deep, with four trumpets, four trombones, four reeds, two drummers, the leader on piano, and no bass. Three (of six) pieces by the leader, the other three by alumni Willem Breuker and Steve Lacy and newcomer Kenny Wheeler (at least I hadn't noticed him in previous lineups, but he's played in similar groups like LCJO). Where 2002 often gave way to Peter Brötzmann brawling (absent here) and Evan Parker showing off, this feels more like a group album. 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
  • [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