Streamnotes: August 30, 2021


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 July 26. Past reviews and more information are available here (17607 records).


Recent Releases

Joshua Abrams/Chad Taylor: Mind Maintenance (2021, Drag City): Most sources are already taking the album title as group name, but as the actual artist names on the covers, I think I'm parsing this right. Abrams (normally a bassist) plays guimbri, while Taylor (drummer) plays mbira, I doubt for the first time. Minimalist patterns with a slight tonal shift. B+(***)

Altin Gün: Yol (2021, ATO): Dutch band, founded by bassist Jasper Verhulst, draws on Turkish folk music -- singers are Erdinc Ecevit Yildiz and Merve Dasdemir -- with funk rhythms and psychedelic overtones. Third album. Nice beat, despite foreign language, doesn't feel all that exotic. B+(**)

Miguel Ângelo Quarteto: Dança Dos Desastrados (2021, self-released): Portuguese bassist, several albums, group includes João Guimarães (alto sax), Joaquim Rodrigues (piano), and Marcos Cavaleiro (drums). B+(**) [bc]

Iggy Azalea: The End of an Era (2021, Bad Dreams/Empire): Australian rapper Amethyst Amelia Kelly, moved to US at 16 and picked up a local accent, had a big hit with her 2014 debut. Third and "final" album, supposedly a throwback to her "mixtape roots." Having survived my self-destructive impulses, I'm feeling kind of weird liking a song where the refrain is "I love drugs," or another explaining "You need a good girl/ I'm just a good time." I suppose I could blame the beats. A-

BaianaSystem: OXEAXEEXU (2021, Maquina De Louco): Brazilian group, founded in Bahia in 2019, group name a nod to Bahian guitar and Jamaica sound systems. Elements of rock, rap, dub. B+(***)

Bleachers: Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night (2021, RCA): Jack Antonoff's group, third album since 2014, albums have sold well but he's probably better known as a songwriter and/or producer for Taylor Swift, Lorde, and Lana Del Rey. Obviously has some skills, but for some reason they work better when employed by someone interesting. B+(*)

Dr. Mike Bogle: Let There Be Light (2021, MBP/Groove): Plays keyboards and trombone, UNT graduate, managed the One O'Clock Lab Band for a few years, got a Grammy nomination in 1992 for arranging. Unclear on his discography, but seems to have two previous Trio albums, at least. Not exactly pop jazz, but I get the feeling he'd settle for that. B [cd]

Alan Broadbent/London Metropolitan Strings: Broadbent Plays Brubeck (2021, Eden River): Pianist from New Zealand, back story is that he transcriptions of Brubeck Plays Brubeck in 1961, when he was 14, and played through it "as written, without any knowledge of, or feeling for, jazz rhythm." No such excuse now. Harvie S (bass) and Hans Dekker (drums) should help, but the strings drain the rhythm right out. B+(*)

Greg Burk/Ron Seguin/Michel Lambert: Sound Neighbors (2020, Tonos): Pianist, originally from Minnesota, studied at New England Conservatory, currently lives in Rome, albums since 2000. Trio with bass and drums/maikotron (probable source of synth sounds I originally thought might be prepared piano). The others are Canadian, although Seguin is also based in Rome, and has a connection to Lambert through François Carrier. B+(***) [cd]

Greg Burk: Simple Joys (2019 [2021], Tonos): Pianist-led quintet, recorded in Rome (where Burk lives), Italian names, none I recognize -- alto/soprano sax, guitar, bass, drums. Sleek postbop. B+(*) [cd]

Daniel Carter: Playfield Vol 1: Sonar (2020 [2021], Orbit577): Credited with "Horns and Reeds" here, first of three volumes, a single 28:58 piece, group includes Luisa Muhr (voice), Ayumi Ishito (sax), Nord piano, two guitars, bass, and drums. B+(*)

Daniel Carter: Playfield Vol. 2: The Middle (2020 [2021], Orbit577): Same group, one 31:32 piece. B+(**)

Daniel Carter: Playfield Vol. 3: After Life (2020 [2021], Orbit577): Another piece, this one 30:24. Starts with a bluesier voice, remaining more prominent here than on the other volumes. B+(*)

Tom Cohen: My Take (2021, Versa Music): Drummer, leads a set of organ trios through "Without a Song" and four pieces by 1950s saxophonists (Gigi Gryce, Benny Golson, Sonny Stitt, Wayne Shorter). With Joey DeFrancesco or Dave Posmontier on Hammond B-3, spots for saxophonists Tim Warfield and Ralph Bowen, and guitarist Steve Giordano. B+(**) [cd]

Xhosa Cole Quartet: K(no)w Them, K(no)w Us (2021, Stoney Lane): British saxophonist, grew up in Birmingham, debut album, parens not evident on the cover (which has a spurious exclamation mark) but used in the doc. Quartet adds trumpet (Jay Phelps), bass, and drums, with guests Soweto Kinch (sax, 2 cuts) and Reuben James (piano, 3). B+(**) [bc]

Wayne Coniglio & Scott Whitfield: Faster Friends (2021, Summit): Two trombonists, backed by piano-bass-drums, with some guest spots. Relationship goes back to Whitfield's Jazz Orchestra East (2004-05), and includes a 2014 album together. Three Coniglio tunes, bunch of standards. B [cd]

Jack Cooper/Jeff Tobias: Tributaries (2021, Astral Spirits): No info available, unfortunate given that Discogs lists 10 Jack Coopers, but doesn't have this album. I have Jack Cooper (7) in my database, but this one appears to be the unnumbered Jack Cooper: based in England, has one previous album under his own name, plus several groups, like Modern Nature (5 albums, saxophonist Tobias in the group) and Ultimate Painting (5 more albums, a duo with James Hoare). Cooper's instrument seems to be guitar, picking out patterns with the sax trailing along. Might be more interesting if I wasn't also trying to figure out all this, but marginal in any case. B [dl]

Dave: We're All Alone in This Together (2021, Neighbourhood): British rapper David Omoregie, born in Brixton, parents Nigerian, second album. His stardom leaves him alone but constantly connected to the binds of race and class, the common condition that informs his brilliant title. A-

Dominican Jazz Project: Desde Lejos (2020-21 [2021], Summit): Started with pianist Stephen Anderson toured the Dominican Republic in 2014, hooking up with local musicians like Guillo Carias (clavietta) and Guy Frómeta (drums), and others. They released an album in 2016, and followed up here in a Covid paste-up project. Sandy Gabriel distinguishes himself on sax. I could do without the vocal. B+(*) [cd]

Emily Duff: Razor Blade Smile (2021, Mr. Mudshow Music): Singer-songwriter from New York, fourth album since 2017, surprised to find she doesn't have a Wikipedia page, also that producer Eric Ambel has both a personal one and a separate discography page (as well as the expected pages for his groups, the Yayhoos and the Del-Lords). A-

Paul Dunmall & Mark Sanders: Unity (2020 [2021], 577): British sax & drums duo, Dunmall playing alto, tenor, and C melody saxophones. B+(**)

Billie Eilish: Happier Than Ever (2021, Interscope): Second album, still a teenager (though I'm not sure she ever was), produced by her brother Finneas O'Connell, reducing her budget to slack DIY beats. Nothing here grabs he like her debut, but lots of things hint at her appeal, not to say genius, even if her charms are decidedly cerebral. A-

Falkner Evans: Invisible Words (2021, CAP): Pianist, originally from Tulsa, moved to New York in 1985, debut 2001. Solo, dedicated to his late wife, a suicide last may. Measured, methodical, more than a little poignant. B+(**) [cd]

Orrin Evans: The Magic of Now (2021, Smoke Sessions): Pianist, debut 1995, quartet with Immanuel Wilkins (tenor sax), Vicente Archer (bass), and Bill Stewart (drums). Wilkins impresses again. B+(***)

Lorraine Feather: My Own Particular Life (2019-21 [2021], Relarion): Jazz singer, as was her mother, her father the famous jazz writer Leonard Feather, her full name also including "Billie" for Holiday and "Lee" for Peggy. Recorded a couple albums in 1978, continued more regularly since 1996. Feather wrote lyrics here, to music by others (mostly Eddie Arkin). B+(*) [cd]

Alvin Fielder/David Drove/Jason Jackson/Damon Smith: The Very Cup of Trembling (2016 [2021], Astral Spirits): Drummer (1935-2019), from Mississippi, moved to Chicago, played with Sun Ra, charter AACM member, returned to Mississippi but continued to play in groups with Joel Futterman and/or Kidd Jordan. Others play trombone, tenor/baritone sax, and bass. B+(***) [dl]

Fire!: Defeat (2019-20 [2021], Rune Grammofon): Norwegian group, since 2009, occasionally expanding to Orchestra weight, but most often a trio -- Mats Gustafsson (flute/baritone sax), Johan Berthling (electric bass), and Andreas Werlin (drums) -- here adding Goran Kajfes (trumpet) and Mats Ålekint (trombone/sousaphone). Starts with flute, which at least contains Gustafsson's tendencies to excess, although he later switches to bari and sticks mostly within the groove, letting the other horns provide the highlights. A-

Michael Foster/Ben Bennett: Contractions (2019 [2021], Astral Spirits): Saxophone and drums duo. Discogs lists 16 albums by Foster since 2013, 6 of those with Bennett, all but one of the rest collaborations with multiple credits. A bit of squawk-and-bash, but interesting for such. [On the other hand, hit reject on last track.] B+(**) [dl]

Frode Gjerstad Trio + 1: Forgotten City (2018 [2020], PNL): Norwegian alto saxophonist, first appeared in Detail c. 1983, 20+ trio albums, twice that is other configurations. The "+ 1" here is a second bassist, Øyvind Storesund, along with regulars Jon Rune Strøm and Paal Nilssen-Love (although Storesund has played in the trio before). Leader also plays clarinet and alto flute, further softening the edge. B+(*) [bc]

The Go! Team: Get Up Sequences Part One (2021, Memphis Industries): British alt/pop group, sixth album since 2004. Pretty upbeat, almost deliriously so (especially the finale). B+(***)

Bob Gorry/Pete Brunelli/Peter Riccio: GoBruCcio (2021, NHIC): Guitar-bass-drums trio, based in New Haven (label acronym is for New Haven Improvisers Collective). Seems to be Gorry's first album, but he hosts a jazz program, curates a series with Joe Morris, and has some side-credits with Allen Lowe. B+(**) [cd] [09-01]

Devin Gray: Melt All the Guns (2019 [2021], Rataplan): Drummer, composed five pieces (19:17), with Ralph Alessi (trumpet) and Angelica Sanchez (piano) listed on slug line after title. B+(**) [bc]

Jared Hall: Seen on the Scene (2018 [2021], Origin): Trumpet player, from Seattle, second album, fairly classic-sounding hard bop quintet, with Vincent Herring (alto sax), piano, bass, and drums. Two Tadd Dameron pieces along with the originals. B+(**) [cd]

Halsey: If I Can't Have Love, I Want Power (2021, Capitol): Pop singer-songwriter, Ashley Frangipane, fourth album, also "an hour-long film experience set to the music" of her album, co-written and produced by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for that soundtrack feel. The trailer, perhaps the whole concept, is way too grandiose. but the music is remarkably tight. B+(***)

Graham Haynes vs Submerged: Echolocation (2020 [2021], Burning Ambulance): Cornet player, son of drummer Roy Haynes, scattered albums since 1989, here with electronics by Kurt Gluck -- a Brooklyn DJ, with albums going back to a Bill Laswell collaboration in 2004. The combination recalls Nils Petter Molvaer's jazztronica, but the beats have more industrial and hip-hop overtones. A- [bc]

Inawhirl: Streugebilde (2020 [2021], Trost): Filed this under veteran pianist Georg Graewe, whose name appears first but not always. The others are Sara Kowal (harp) and dieb13 (turntables), so another reason for favoring Graewe might be that his is the only instrument that you really notice. Still, I've noticed him more elsewhere. B+(*) [bc]

Alan Jackson: Where Have You Gone (2021, EMI Nashville): Country singer-songwriter, called his 1987 debut New Traditional, exemplified that genre through twenty more albums. Six years since his previous album is by far the longest gap in his discography. Long (82:52), mostly originals, covers from Lefty Frizzell and Merle Haggard. "I got my boots/ I got my hat/ I'm bringing country back." B+(***)

Jake Breaks: Breaksy (2021, Wide Hive): Artist name given as Jacob B., credited with "breaks and cuts" (so, turntables?), band includes members of Throttle Elevator Music, with Gregory Rustall Howe credited with "songs, rhythm guitar, synthesizer, drums, quika, cymbals, and percussion. Label lists genre as hip-hop, but I filed these funk groove pieces under pop jazz, not that that's right either. B+(*) [cd]

Rodney Jordan & Christian Fabian: Conversations (2019 [2021], Spicerack): Bass duets, Jordan's first album as leader but he has side credits back to 1997, notably with René Marie. Fabian is from Sweden, grew up in Germany, studied at Berklee, wound up in New York, has several albums. B+(**) [cd]

Ka: A Martyr's Reward (2021, Iron Works): Rapper Kaseem Ryan, based in New York, sixth album since 2008. Dense and severe. B+(***) [yt]

Koma Saxo: Live (2019 [2021], We Jazz): Swedish bassist Petter Eldh, formed this three-saxophone (Otis Sandsjö, Jonas Kullhammar, Mikko Innanen) group for his Koma Saxo album, kept the group name. With Christian Lillinger (drums). Develops a circus-like atmosphere. B+(***)

L.A. Cowboy: The Big Pitch (2021, Reconcile): Vehicle for singer-songwriter J. Frederick Millea, alias L.A. Cowboy. Discogs credits him/them with six albums 1997-98, nothing since -- evidently, a spat with industry execs caused him to give up. Hype sheet calls this "post-modern rock/swing fusion." Sounds like a Sinatra wannabe to me, but maybe there's something deeper going on. B [cd]

Marthe Lea Band: Asura (2020 [2021], Motvind): Norwegian tenor saxophonist, also credited with flute, piano, guitar, voice, udu, percussion. Group adds clarinet, violin, bass, and drums. Leans hard on violin-signified folk music, builds playfully, but I'm more interested when the sax breaks out. B+(*)

Lean Left: Medemer (2018 [2020], PNL): Group formed in 2008 as The Ex Guitars Meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark Duo, and they've met up regularly since then -- this is their sixth album. The former are Terrie Hessels and Andy Moor, guitarists in the Dutch post-punk group The Ex. The latter, Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love (from The Thing) and Chicago saxophonist Ken Vandermark, recorded their first duo album in 2002 (Dual Pleasure), with many more since. I haven't heard much by Vandermark over the last few years. (He's been as prolific as ever, but his Catalytic Sound Bandcamp only offers bits of albums.) But he sounds great here, pushed on by the guitar ferment, and a terrific drummer. A- [bc]

Jeff Lederer/Sunwatcher: Eightfold Path (2020 [2021], Little(i)Music): Tenor saxophonist, reunited the quartet from his 2011 album Sunwatcher: Jamie Saft (organ/piano), Steve Swallow (bass), Matt Wilson (drums). Impressive outside player, sometimes a little unsteady. B+(**) [09-03]

Gianni Lenoci: A Few Steps Beyond (2019 [2021], Amirani): Italian pianist, died at 56 in 2019, this his "very last concert - live at Talos Festival 2019." Solo, two pieces each by Carla Bley and Ornette Coleman. B+(*)

Les Filles De Illighadad: At Pioneer Works (2021, Sahel Sounds): Touareg group named for their home town in remote central Niger, third album. Saharan groove and chant, strong and clear but not all that exceptional. B+(**) [bc]

Lord Huron: Long Lost (2021, Republic): Indie band from Los Angeles, principally Ben Schneider, fourth album since 2012. Slouching toward ambiance. B

Lorde: Solar Power (2021, Universal): Pop star from New Zealand, Ella Yelich-O'Connor, third album. Laid back, somewhat dreamy, sinks in slowly, perhaps too much for my jaded pop reflexes. B+(**)

Los Lobos: Native Sons (2021, New West): Band introduced itself in 1978 as Del Este de Los Angeles, came up with one new song this time, contextualized with a dozen covers drawing on other Los Angeles bands, from Buffalo Springfield and the Beach Boys to War and the Blasters, including a couple of their Hispanic specialties. B+(*)

L'Rain: Fatigue (2021, Mexican Summer): Taja Cheek, "experimentalist and multi-instrumentalist," from Brooklyn, second album. B+(*) [bc]

Michael Mantler: Coda: Orchestra Suites (2019-20 [2021], ECM): Trumpet player, from Vienna, best known for his work with Carla Bley when he was her second husband. Has always had a hankering to go long and orchestral, which he indulges here -- not something I've enjoyed in the past, but this sails along enjoyably. B+(**)

Charlie Marie: Ramble On (2021, self-released): Singer-songwriter, moved from Rhode Island to Nashville to focus on "classic country." First album, after a couple of EPs. B+(**)

Sibusiso Mash Mashiloane: Ihubo Labomdabu (2021, Unlocked Keys): South African jazz pianist, has a handful of albums since 2016. Seems to be solo, straight and thoughtful, although the cover depicts a full band. B+(*)

James McMurtry: The Horses and the Hounds (2021, New West): Singer-songwriter from Texas, father was noveist Larry McMurtry, 10th album since 1989. Counts as Americana, with a feel for language and an eye for detail, over guitar which carries you along gently. I wasn't as quickly taken by this one as by his previous few albums, but enough comes through in the end. A-

Brad Mehldau/Orpheus Chamber Orchestra: Variations on a Melancholy Theme (2013 [2021], Nonesuch): Piece was commissioned in 2011, and performed in 2013, but not clear whether this is that or something else. Then, as now, Orpheus is a going concern at Carnegie Hall, a small classical orchestra -- I haven't found a credits list, but count 27 heads in a (probably recent) photo. B

Francisco Mela: MPT Trio: Volume 1 (2020 [2021], 577): Cuban drummer/percussionist, studied at Berklee, albums since 2006. Trio with Henry Paz (sax) and Juanma Trujillo (guitar). B+(**)

Lady Millea: I Don't Mind Missing You (2021, Reconcile): Jazz singer, from Los Angeles, daughter of L.A. Cowboy J. Frederick Millea, who wrote and arranged these nine songs. Nice voice. Songs are a mixed bag. B+(*) [cd]

Dave Miller Trio: The Mask-erade Is Over (2021, Summit): Piano player, "(49)" at Discogs, ninth trio album since 2010 (including 5 with his daughter, singer Rebecca DuMaine), 1 original, 13 standards, about half from jazz musicians. With Andrew Higgins (bass) and Bill Belasco (drums). B+(*) [cd]

Steve Million: What I Meant to Say (2019 [2021], Origin): Pianist, based in Chicago, records at least since 1995 (title then was Million to One, followed up by Thanks a Million). Quartet reunites him with Steve Cardenas (guitar) and Ron Vincent (drums), who played together in Kansas City in the late 1970s, plus bassist John Sims. B+(*) [cd]

Roscoe Mitchell: Dots: Pieces for Percussion and Woodwinds (2021, Wide Hive): AACM founder, Art Ensemble of Chicago saxophonist, 80 when this was recorded. The percussion works are too pointilist to generate any flow, but that was probably the idea. I don't see other credits, but this is sparse enough to be solo. Besides, everyone in AEC doubled on percussion (especially Mitchell). B+(**) [cd]

Hedvig Mollestad Trio: Ding Dong. You're Dead. (2021, Rune Grammofon): Norwegian guitar-bass-drums trio, with Ellen Brekken on bass (wrote 2 of 7 songs) and Ivar Loe Bjørnstad on drums; seventh group album since 2011. B+(***)

Ali Shaheed Muhammad & Adrian Younge: Jazz Is Dead 8: Brian Jackson (2021, Jazz Is Dead): Always a struggle to figure out whether the album credits belong with the producers or the guest artist, or whether the latter is the title. The feature artists (so far at least) are still-live veterans from the 1970s, so presumably these are new tracks rather than remixes. Jackson, who plays various keyboards, is best known as Gil Scott-Heron's music collaborator. The albums are all short, but at 8 songs, 32:09, we won't ding this as an EP. B+(*)

Nas: King's Disease II (2021, Mass Appeal): Thirteenth studio album, sequel to his 2020 album. Nothing especially striking, but steady as it goes. After all, "We been doing gangsta shit for a long time." B+(*)

Mankwe Ndosi and Body MemOri: Felt/Not Said (2021, Auspice NOW): Vocalist, ties to Chicago and Minnesota, self-released debut from 2012, part of Nicole Mitchell/Black Earth. Backed with cello (Tomeka Reid), bass, and drums. Rather abstract, finding it a bit hard to follow. B+(*) [cdr]

Nelly: Heartland (2021, Columbia, EP): St. Louis rapper Cornell Haynes Jr., debut album in 2000 was called Country Grammar, one of the year's best for me. He's always been on the pop side of hip-hop -- soft beats and chorus hooks, nothing gangsta or underground. Concept here is to feature country acts, kicking off with Florida Georgia Line on an irresistible ditty called "Lil Bit." Nothing else that catchy, and not just because the headliner fade pretty fast as you go down the list (George Birge? Chris Bandi?). Eight tracks, 23:47. B+(*)

Calle Neumann/Ketil Gutvik/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Paal Nilssen-Love: New Dance (2020 [2021], PNL): Alto sax, guitar, bass, drums. Live concert set. Neumann has been around, with one record going back to 1972, side credits with Jan Garbarek, Terje Rypdal, Arild Andersen, and their mentor George Russell. This group was convened to celebrate the 5-CD box set release of The Quintet: Events 1998-1999, a group with Neumann, Gutvik, and Nilssen-Love. B+(***) [bc]

Kassa Overall: Shades of Flu 2: In These Odd Times (2021, Flu Note): Remixes of 14 jazz pieces, ranging from Ahmad Jamal to Kris Davis, by the drummer-sometime-rapper, with various guests spliced in. Takes a while to start to kick in, not sure it ever really does. B [bc]

Caroline Parke: Pause and Pine (2021, self-released): Canadian cowgirl, lives on a ranch in Alberta, second album, knows a thing or two about raising cattle, growing wheat, running a farm house, and Marty Robbins. B+(*)

Part Chimp: Drool (2021, Wrong Speed): English noise rock/sludge metal group, formed in 2000, not a niche I'm interested in but the sheets of sound cloak a beat so lumbering that they're tolerable on structure alone. B [bc]

Pearring Sound: Socially Distanced Duos (2020 [2021], self-released): Alto saxophonist Jeff Pearring, has a previous album from 2016, recorded these duos with a notable list of musicians: "these shared musical moments tell the story of the complex state of being brought about by the numerous events of 2020." B+(***) [cd]

Ivo Perelman/Gordon Grdina/Hamin Honari: The Purity of Desire (2020 [2021], Not Two): Tenor saxophonist, trio with oud and percussion (mostly tombak and daf). B+(***)

Portico Quartet: Terrain (2021, Gondwana): English "modern instrumental music" group, dozen albums since 2006, originally distinguished by use of the Chinese hang, which now plays a minor role, behind the sax and keyboards that are Jack Wyllie's domain. B+(*)

Freddie Redd: Reminiscing (2013 [2021], Bleebop): Pianist, died in March at 92, didn't record a lot, but shared a 1955 piano album with Hampton Hawes, peaked with two A-list albums on Blue Note in 1960 (Music From "The Connection" and Shades of Redd), and wound up with a pair of 2015-16 albums on Steeplechase I haven't heard. This is a bit earlier, with Brad Linde (tenor sax), Michael Formanek (bass), and Matt Wilson (drums). Feels engagingly retro, reminding me more of Teddy Wilson than of the beboppers of Redd's generation. Or maybe with nothing else to prove, they're just having fun. B+(***) [bc]

Riders Against the Storm: Flowers for the Living (2021, Divide and Conjure): Husband-and-wife hip-hop duo, Chaka and Qi, releases back to 2010 (with a 2014-19 gap). Short album, 8 tracks, 29:31. Bits of global funk and old school bounce that has me thinking Sugarhill Gang. B+(***) [bc]

Trineice Robinson: All or Nothing (2021, 4RM Music Productions): Teaches jazz voice at Princeton, seems to have a distinguished academic career, waited until 40 for her recording debut. Strong, skilled voice, resonant of gospel and r&b, co-produced by saxophonist Don Braden, with Cyrus Chestnut in the band. Wrote one song, lyrics for Wayne Shorter (used Jon Hendricks' for Monk), wide range of standards, including "What's Going On." B+(**) [cd]

Aksel Rønning Trio: ART (2019 [2021], Øra Fonogram): Norwegian saxophonist, backed by bass and drums, first album, not the guy who plays drums in Rønnings Jazzmaskin. Straight ahead, like his tone and balance. B+(***)

Claire Rousay: A Softer Focus (2021, American Dream): From San Antonio, electronic music, "field recordings for a modern world." Discogs credits her with 18 albums in just a couple years (from 2019). Ambient, perhaps something, hard to tell. B

Jaleel Shaw: Echoes (2021, self-released): Alto saxophonist, from Philadelphia, studied at Berklee, debut 2005. Lockdown exercises, most short pattern pieces, nice. B+(**)

Matthew Shipp/Whit Dickey: Reels (2019 [2021], Burning Ambulance): Piano/drums duo, long-time collaborators. B+(***) [bc]

Kalie Shorr: I Got Here by Accident (2021, Tmwrk, EP): Nashville singer-songwriter, originally from Maine, self-released an impressive debut album in 2019, then re-released it in 2020 on this label. Big, punchy sound, produced by Butch Walker. Five songs, all substantial, 15:02. A-

Gary Smulyan/Ronnie Cuber: Tough Baritones (2021, SteepleChase): Two veteran baritone saxophonists, backed by piano (Gary Versace), bass (Jay Anderson), and drums (Jason Tiemann). Tough isn't the word that comes to mind. Steeped in bebop, they still swing. B+(***)

The Spirit of the Beehive: Entertainment, Death (2021, Saddle Creek): Psych rock group from Philadelphia, band name from a 1973 Spanish film directed by Victor Erice (El Espiritu de la Colmena). Fourth album since 2021. I'm usually instantly turned off by this kind of pretentious pastiche, with bits of tune snipped apart and scattered like confetti. This one was amusing enough it took a while. B

Kevin Sun: <3 Bird (2021, Endectomorph Music): Tenor saxophonist, plays clarinet on one piece, fifth album since 2018 (including one as Mute), all aces. "The implications of Charlie Parker's art are fathomless." (Is that somehow different from unfathomable?) The thing that most impressed me about Sun's debut was the depth of his understanding of saxophone history and lore, so I suppose it's not surprising that he would want to work his way through Parker's legacy. Mostly originals here, with two Parker pieces plus "Salt Peanuts" (Dizzy Gillespie/Kenny Clarke), so he seems to be signing Parker up for his own purposes. [By the way, title is sometimes transcribed as ♡ Bird, but with the heart on its side.] A- [cd]

Tine Surel Lange: Works for Listening 1-10 (2021, Sofa Music): Norwegian composer, debut album (CV lists various "works" going back to 2013), "a series of spatial electro-acoustic works . . . made in 5th order ambisonics." B+(**) [bc]

Alfie Templeman: Forever Isn't Long Enough (2021, Chess Club): British singer-songwriter, debut album at 18, EPs back to 2017. Plays lots of instruments. Has a rudimentary understanding of pop hooks. B+(**)

Tinashe: 333 (2021, Tinashe Music): "Rhythmic pop" singer-songwriter, last name Kachingwe, born in Kentucky but grew up in Los Angeles, fifth album since 2014. B+(***)

Arne Torvik Trio: Northwestern Songs (2019 [2021], Losen): Norwegian pianist, has a previous album from 2016, drops down to trio here with bass and drums. B+(**)

Trak Trak: Sur Sur (2020, Ciclismo): Argentinian singer-songwriter Romina Schenone and a band that looks suspiciously German, play intense dance music that draws on cumbia and reggaeton. A vigorous workout, very catchy. A-

Waterparks: Greatest Hits (2021, 300 Entertainment): Houston band, suggested genres include pop punk and electropop, but none of those seem quite right. Released EPs from 2012, first album in 2016. This is their fourth album, not a compilation, and not much chance that any of these songs will be hits, but that's not for lack of hooks. B+(*)

Jim Yanda: A Silent Way (2019 [2021], Corner Store Jazz, 2CD): Guitarist, originally from a farm in Iowa, has a couple albums (including one recorded in 1987 but released only in 2017). Studied with Paul Smoker. Recorded this in his living room before that became de rigeur. With Herb Robertson (trumpet) and Phil Haynes (drums). I admit I lost the thread midway through the second disc, but didn't mind trying to find it again. B+(***) [cd]

Young Pilgrims: We're Young Pilgrims (2021, Stoney Lane): From Birmingham (UK), "young brass band brimming with jazz-rock energy," unmoored from trad jazz formula, not that they've found much to replace it. B- [bc]

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Gyedu-Blay Ambolley: Simigwa (1975 [2018], Mr. Bongo): Highlife musician from Ghana, reissue of what seems to be his first album, although the eclectic mix of styles -- not lest a substantial shot of funk and a nod toward hip-hop -- strikes me as postmodern. B+(***)

Roy Brooks: Understanding (1970 [2021], Reel-to-Real, 2CD): Drummer (1938-2005), from Detroit, not a lot as leader but quite a few side credits -- starting in 1960 with Blue Mitchell, Sonny Red, Horace Silver, and Buddy Tate. Previously unreleased live date from Baltimore with Woody Shaw (trumpet), Carlos Garnett (tenor sax), Harold Mabern (piano), and Cecil McBee (bass). Five cuts stretch out past 20 minutes each, one to 32:25, and most are blistering. Or, as McBee puts it, "the music was trying to express the excitement of arriving at social justice." B+(***)

Peter Brötzmann: Love Comes Like Sour to Milk (1993 [2021], Trost, EP): One 21-minute track, originally released as a cassette by Galerie Erhard Klein, solo reeds (tenor sax, bass clarinet, tarogato) from a period when he released such abrasive albums as Die Like a Dog and The Dried Rat-Dog. This is easier to handle, perhaps because there is less to it. B [bc]

Cold Wave #1 (2017-20 [2021], Soul Jazz): British reissue label, picks relatively recent records that were supposedly inspired by the the late 1970s/early 1980s "cold wave" genre: synth-based dance tracks, rare vocals, everything compact and, well, cold. B+(**)

Cold Wave #2 (2015-20 [2021], Soul Jazz): Opens with three pretty good cuts, but Job Sifre's "At Least We Try" raises the level, and everything else rises with it. First volume took the chill too seriously. This reminds you that lots of interesting electronica has been happening in obscure corners, but sometimes it helps to mix it up a bit. A-

Directions in Music: 1969 to 1973: Miles Davis, His Musicians and the Birth of a New Age of Jazz (1969-73 [2021], BGP): Surveys the turn to fusion, for which Miles Davis broke up his famous 1964-69 Quintet, then cycled through most of the roster here, breaking artistic ground while filling arenas. His followers did less on both counts -- aside from Keith Jarrett, who reverted to acoustic piano and achieved stardom on his own terms. While the others sold a fair number of records, their "new age" quickly lost interest. Two vocals make you wonder why they're here, not that either is without interest. B+(**)

Paul Dunmall/Keith Tippett/Philip Gibbs/Pete Fairclough: Onosante (2000 [2021], 577): Saxophones (plus fife and bagpipes), piano, guitar, and drums, released with a run of 100 back in the day, and unpacked in memory of the late pianist -- who is indeed remarkable here, but also in fine company. A-

Guillermo Gregorio/Damon Smith/Jerome Bryerton: Room of the Present (2007-08 [2021], Fundacja Sluchaj): Clarinet player from Argentina but long based in Chicago, started around 1963, still active. Backed with bass and drums. B+(*) [bc]

The J Ann C Trio: At Tan-Tar-A (1966 [2021], Modern Harmonic/Sundazed): Covers band, recorded this album at a resort in the Ozarks. Ann Delrene sings and plays electric bass, with Jerry Dugan (drums) and Carl Russell (guitar). Two Hank Williams songs anchor the LP sides, each followed by an instrumental, then four scattered surprises, ranging from "Hey Bo Diddley" to "Moon River" and (less successfully) "Girl From Ipanema" to "If I Had a Hammer." B+(***)

Jan & Dean: Filet of Soul Redux: The Rejected Master Recordings (1966 [2017], Omnivore): Supposedly the original master of the live/comedy album that appeared on Liberty in 1967. The duo could be quite funny, but the album has is a pastiche, with a lot of crash-and-burn sound effects that don't wear well. The songs are hits, only rarely theirs -- "Cathy's Clown," a Beatles section, "Lightning Strikes" (the album's high point), and for a closer, "Hang On Sloopy." B

Carl Magnus Neumann/Christian Reim Quartet: Molde International Jazz Festival 1976 (1976 [2021], Jazzaggression): Norwegian group, leaders play alto sax and piano, backed with bass (Bjørn Kjellemyr) and drums (Ole Jacob Hansen). Back cover abbreviates the leader names for space, but they're obscure enough. Reim wrote five (of six) songs, the other "The Man I Love." B+(***)

Prince: Welcome 2 America (2010 [2021], NPG/Legacy): Another posthumous album, recorded during the artist's "Welcome 2 America" tour. Album was recorded in Spring before 20Ten was released in July. The latter album picked up material as far back as 2006, and wasn't followed up until 2014. Not prime material, with the one non-Prince song (Dave Pirner's "Stand Up and B Strong") the one that grabbed my attention. B+(*)

Christian Reim Sextet: Mona Lisa (1973 [2021], Jazzaggression): Norwegian pianist, b. 1945, not much discography, but this live recording of a "post-bop extravaganza in 6 parts" is expertly paced, with lots of punch: two saxophones (Carl Magnus Neumann and Knut Riisnaes), trumpet (Ditlef Eckhoff), bass, and drums. A-

Amy Rigby: A One Way Ticket to My Life (1987-97 [2019], Southern Domestic): Nineteen demos, the best a trial run for her brilliant debut album, the rest engaging and enticing but not quite as sharp as her songwriting became over the following decades. B+(***) [bc]

The Rough Guide to the Roots of Jazz (1918-30 [2021], World Music Network): Twenty-six songs, offers a fairly comprehensive survey of jazz in the 1920s, including most of the big names, and a number of classic songs. B+(***)

Joseph Spence: Encore: Unheard Recordings of Bahamian Guitar and Singing (1965 [2021], Smithsonian/Folkways): One of the few major artists from the Bahamas (1910-84), folk singer, guitarist, his 1958 Folkways recordings the standard this offers an encore to. Off-kilter, redeemed by gospel spirit. A-

Pat Thomas: The Locals Play the Music of Anthony Braxton (2006 [2021], Discus Music): British avant-pianist, took six pieces and sharpened the angles, giving them a more playful beat than we had any right to expect. With clarinet (Alex Ward), electric guitar (Evan Thomas), electric bass (Dominic Lash), and drums (Darren Hasson-Davis). Album could be attributed to The Locals, but group doesn't seem to have anything beyond this album. A- [bc]

Old Music

ABC: Beauty Stab (1983, Mercury): English new wave band, from Sheffield, led by singer Martin Fry, with Mark White on guitar and Stephen Singleton on sax. Second album. Threatened to turn annoying, so I skipped this one, then trashed their Millennium Best Of, but I'm finding this a bit amusing. B+(*)

The Allman Brothers Band: Live at Fillmore East (1971, Capricorn): Southern rock band, brothers Duane (guitar) and Gregg Allman (keyboards, vocals), established the concept with two studio albums, then released this live jam. Duane died in a motorcycle crash a year later, and Berry Oakley (bass) died a year later, but Dickey Betts partly filled the gap and the band kept going into the 1980s, with solo careers and occasional reunions following. B

The Allman Brothers Band: The Best of the Allman Brothers Band -- Live [20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection] (1971 [2007], Mercury/Chronicles): Six tracks, 49:59, all drawn from the 1971 Fillmore East sessions, which originally appeared as At Fillmore East in 1971, and has grown by leaps and bounds since, culminating in a 6-CD box, The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings. Three of these were on the original album, the rest on 1992's 2-CD The Fillmore Concerts, but the times most precisely match the 2003 remasters in At Fillmore East [Deluxe Edition]. Better than the original album, probably because they focus on blues they didn't write. Still doesn't help much when they go long. B+(***)

The Allman Brothers Band: The Road Goes On Forever: A Collection of Their Greatest Recordings (1969-73 [1975], Capricorn): Best-of compiled from five albums plus some (4?) extra live recordings, totals 1:24:11. Pretty much lives up to its billing. [Reissued 2001 on 2CD with 67:38 extra material, including album tracks up to 1979.] B+(***) [yt]

The Allman Brothers Band: The Best of the Allman Brothers Band [20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection] (1969-79 [2000], Polydor): First attempt at a budget series best-of, with 11 songs, only one after 1973's Brothers & Sisters, only one live, a shorter and cheaper (and still in print) alternative -- not that shorter is what fans especially want. B+(***)

Amadou & Mariam: Je Pense À Toi: The Best of Amadou & Mariam (1998-2002 [2005], Circular Moves/Universal Music Jazz): Known as "the blind couple from Mali," Mariam Doumbia sings, as does guitarist Amadou Bagayoko. They've recorded at least since 1985. This picks songs from three French albums, solid work that doesn't quite delight me. B+(***)

Archers of Loaf: Archers of Loaf Vs. the Greatest of All Time (1994, Alias, EP): Punkish rock band from North Carolina, fairly major 1993-98, with Eric Bachmann heading off for a second group (Crooked Fingers) and a less distinguished solo career. Five songs, 17:29. B+(**)

Archers of Loaf: The Speed of Cattle (1992-94 [1996], Alias): Eighteen scattered outtakes, singles, radio shots, leftovers, the fallout of a group with two albums done and two more to come. B+(*)

Archers of Loaf: Vitus Tinnitus (1997, Alias, EP): Six-cut live album, plus two remixes from All he Nations Airports. Reminds me that I like their sound, even if nothing particularly stands out. B+(**)

Ashford & Simpson: So So Satisfied (1977, Warner Brothers): Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, a songwriting team at Motown before recording together in 1973. Fourth (or fifth?) album, all barely grazed the charts before Send It gave them their first gold record. B+(***)

Ashford & Simpson: Send It (1977, Warner Brothers): Christgau's review places this before So So Satisfied, but most other sources list it later, and the chart order makes more sense that way: So So Satisfied peaked at 180, Send It 52, Is It Stil Good to Ya (20). Also, two of Send It's singles didn't appear until 1978. High points are more funk or more disco, but I'm probably missing the point. B+(**)

Ashford & Simpson: Stay Free (1979, Warner Brothers): Seventh album, further into the disco era, which is the part I prefer to the strings and romance, but that's still their default. B+(*)

Ashford & Simpson: Solid (1984, Capitol): Title single hit lifted this to their fourth gold album. B+(*)

Bad Religion: All Ages (1982-94 [1995], Epitaph): Punk rock band from Los Angeles, formed in 1980, 17 studio albums through 2019, only one I've bothered checking out after I shit-canned their early Christgau A-listed Into the Unknown. This is a compilation, baited with two recent live tracks, occasioned (perhaps) by the exit of Brett Gurewitz, leaving singer Greg Graffin in charge. They were consistent enough I can't detect much change over this decade, but then my ears glazed over. Only lyric I jotted down: "I got ideas too." No doubt, but do I care? B

Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force: Planet Rock: The Album (1982-84 [1986], Tommy Boy): DJ/rapper Lance Taylor, first-generation compilation built around the same four singles that key the compilation I've recommended since 2001, Looking for the Perfect Beat: 1980-1985. The other three cuts here are less generous than seven on the other, but in its time, this gave you a pretty good sense of how hip-hop arrived. A-

Billy Bang: Outline No. 12 (1982 [1983], Celluloid): Conduction by Butch Morris, three pieces by the leader, with three violinists (Bang, Jason Hwang, Joseph Hailes), four reed players (Frank Lowe, Charles Tyler, Henri Warner, David Murray), vibes, bass, two percussionists. [Reissued 2017 by Bill Laswell.] B+(**) [bc]

Bang on a Can: Bang on a Can Meets Kyaw Kyaw Naing (2005, Cantaloupe): Classical group, founded 1987 by three composers not in the credits here (although Wikipedia says they are still "artistic directors"), achieved a measure of fame with crossover covers of Brian Eno's In Airports and Terry Riley's In C. Kyaw Kyaw Naing is a Burmese percussionist, a master of the pat waing (also credited with pat ma, si wa, gong, and drums), the composer of four tracks, with five more from other Burmese sources. A- [bc]

Count Basie: The Best of Early Basie (1937-39 [1996], MCA): As the owner of The Complete Decca Recordings, I didn't feel any particular need to buy this sampler, but recommended it to Christgau, who couldn't help but give it an A. Same here. Basie moved his band from Kansas City to New York and took the City by storm, becoming the very definition of swing. The band was loaded with stars, like Lester Young, Buck Clayton, Sweets Edison, and Dickey Wells, and Jimmy Rushing sings a few classics. The next period, on Columbia up to 1950 also has a definitive box (America's #1 Band: The Columbia Years) as well as a superb 1-CD compilation (One O'Clock Jump: The Very Best of Count Basie). A

Count Basie: Count Basie and His Great Vocalists (1939-50 [1993], Columbia/Legacy): Part of the label's Best of the Big Bands series, which offered "Great Vocalists" volumes for Les Brown, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Harry James, as well as this Basie set. Like many big bands, Basie kept both a boy and a girl singer on tap, but they appear on less than a quarter of Basie's early sides, so I thought it might be interesting to concentrate them -- especially as he started off with two of the greatest singers, Jimmy Rushing and Helen Humes. This probably would have been better had they stopped there, but this also includes two tracks with Earl Warren (a classic crooner), three with Lynne Sherman (good but not great), and one with Ann Moore (a jumping "Jivin' Joe Jackson"). Still, hard to complain given the way Rushing opens ("I Can't Believe That You're in Love With Me") and closes ("Blue Skies"). A-

Count Basie: Frankly Basie: Count Basie Plays the Hits of Frank Sinatra (1963 [1993], Verve): Original 1963 album title was More Hits of the '50's and '60's, with pretty much the same cover art, making me wonder if they weren't treading gently to avoid ruffling feathers. They were, after all, in the middle of a series of lucrative albums with Sinatra, so they would have been especially conscious of his songbook. Still, not the same without a singer, or a suitable soloist to focus on. B+(*)

Count Basie: Basie Jam (1973 [1975], Pablo): In 1973 Norman Granz, having sold off his Verve Records catalog to MGM, decided to round up the old gang and get back in business, as Pablo Records. His first new album was by Oscar Peterson, but Basie wasn't far behind. As with his old Jazz at the Philharmonic shows, he organized a jam session, with Sweets Edison on trumpet, Zoot Sims and Lockjaw Davis on tenor sax, J.J. Johnson on trombone, Irving Ashby (guitar), Ray Brown (bass), and Louie Bellson (drums). Five tunes, only one under 8:50. B+(*)

Count Basie/Joe Turner: The Bosses (1973 [1974], Pablo): Recorded a day after Basie Jam, with the same group credited, plus Turner shouting the blues. The horns are rarely deployed, but things pick up when they do appear. B+(***)

Count Basie/Oscar Peterson: Count Basie Encounters Oscar Peterson: Satch and Josh (1974, Pablo): Two very different pianist, but if you've ever seen them together, you'll know that they loved each other. Basie was famous as the one who knew what to leave out, and Peterson threw more extraneous notes in than anyone short of Art Tatum. B+(**)

Count Basie/Zoot Sims: Basie & Zoot (1975 [1976], Pablo): Hard-swinging tenor saxophonist, backed by Basie's piano trio with John Heard (bass) and Louis Bellson (drums). B+(***)

Count Basie: Get Together (1979 [1986], Pablo): Jam session, cover split between pictures of Basie and Freddie Green (his long-time guitarist), with other names after Green's: Budd Johnson and Eddie 'Lockjaw' Harris (tenor saxes), Harry Edison and Clark Terry (trumpets), Gus Johnson (drums), and John Clayton (bass). Another nice swing session. B+(***)

The Bats: Compiletely Bats (1984-86 [1987], Communion): Rock band from New Zealand, sounds a bit like jangle pop, released three EPs before their 1987 debut album, and those (minus one song) are collected here). B+(**)

Brown Sugar: I'm in Love With a Dreadlocks: Brown Sugar and the Birth of Lovers Rock 1977-80 (1977-80 [2018], Soul Jazz): British reggae vocal group, three women. Caron Wheeler had a brief fling at fame in the early 1990s (both solo and in Soul II Soul), as did Kofi (Carol Simms), although less memorably. B

Dave and Ansell Collins: Double Barrel (1971, Big Tree): Jamaican duo, singer Dave Barker and keyboardist Collins. Title song is one of the greatest rocksteady classics (lyric starts: "I am the magnificent"). Nothing else in its league, not much where Dave even gets a chance to sing, much less toast. The instrumentals are pretty seductive. B+(***)

Delta 5: Singles & Sessions 1979-81 (1979-81 [2006], Kill Rock Stars): English post-punk band, formed in Leeds alongside the most explicitly political bands of the time, Mekons and Gang of Four, and shared an EP with the Slits and the Pop Group. I remember "Mind Your Own Business" from Wanna Buy a Bridge? (also covered by Chicks on Speed), but wasn't aware of their only album (See the Whirl, from 1981). This rounds up 16 scattered songs, front-loaded, tailing off a bit toward the end. A-

Emily Duff: Maybe in the Morning (2017, Mod Prom): New York singer-songwriter, preferred genre rockabilly, first album, appeals immediately. B+(***) [bc]

Emily Duff: Hallelujah Hello (2019, Mr. Mudshow Music): A bit more drama, a lot more religion, which cuts back on the rockabilly spirit. "I'm going down, like my mother did, in a puff of smoke and alcohol." B+(**) [bc]

The Everly Brothers: Songs Our Daddy Taught Us (1958, Cadence): Brothers Don (1937-2021) and Phil (1939-2014), from Kentucky, sang in close harmony, scored two big hits in 1957 both on country and pop charts: "Bye Bye Love" and "Wake Up Little Susie." Their first album was hits and filler, but for this second album they got conceptual: all old country songs, done simply with just bass (Floyd Chance) and their guitars, no singles, nothing with hit potential (well, except for Gene Autry). B+(**) [yt]

Ella Fitzgerald/Count Basie/Joe Williams: One O'Clock Jump (1956-57 [1999], Verve): Wiliams was a regular singer with Basie from 1954-61, moving up to headliner on 1955's Count Basie Swings, Joe Williams Sings. Probably more Joe than Ella here. B+(*)

Tom T. Hall: Ballad of Forty Dollars and His Other Great Songs (1969, Mercury): First album, already trading on his reputation as a songwriter (soon to be storyteller), especially after Jeannie C. Riley sung his "Harper Valley PTA" to the top of the charts in 1968. Three songs made his first (1972) Greatest Hits, and "Cloudy Day" wouldn't have been amiss. Too many flowers among the rest. B+(**) [yt]

Tom T. Hall: Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 (1971-75 [1975], Mercury): Nowadays, best to start with The Definitive Collection or, better still, The Essential Tom T. Hall: The Story Songs (but not the 2-CD Storyteller, Poet, Philosopher box, not that someone couldn't compile 2 or 3 CDs worth of prime material, but the compilers are often tempted to dilute the shrewd observations with his more mawkish sentimental fare). At one point, it was possible to get this and the 1972 Greatest Hits on one CD, a real bargain, since superseded. Hall released 7 albums from 1972-75 (vs. 5 1969-71). Even so, this plucks two more songs from 1971's best-ever In Search of a Song. And like every other compilation, this inexplicably omits "Pamela Brown" (here in favor of "I Love" and "I Care" and "I Like Beer," not that I mind the latter). B+(***)

Tom T. Hall: Greatest Hits: Volume I & II (1967-75 [1993], Mercury): An artifact of the early CD era, when the things cost twice as much as an LP, but sometimes could hold two. Re-reading Christgau on the separate volumes (graded B and D+) convinced me to nick the latter a notch, but until better compilations came around, this offered at least a dozen genius songs, and if the filler gets sappy or soppy, I don't buy that as simple marketing shtick. It's just who he is, and a big part of what made him such a treasure. A-

Tom T. Hall: New Train Same Rider (1978, RCA Victor): New label, not quite the same songwriter, but sometimes he sounds like he could be. B+(*)

Tom T. Hall: Places I've Done Time (1978, RCA Victor): Found himself a batch of stories this time -- "Grocery Truck," "Three Sofa Story," "Man Who Shot Himself," "Son of Clayton Delaney," "Great East Broadway Onion Championship of 1978" -- which lifts the personal ("I Couldn't Live in Southern California") and even the generic ("Gimme Peace"). None rank among his classics, which may be why he covers "Mr. Bojangles." B+(***)

Tom T. Hall: In Concert! Recorded Live at the Grand Ole Opry House (1979 [1983], RCA Victor): Date not noted, but in Morello's twofer series this is slotted before a 1979 album, and he thanks RCA in his initial remarks -- aside from this, his RCA albums ended 1980. Highlight is the "I Like Beer" audience participation -- OK, but not what one hopes for. B

Tom T. Hall: Saturday Morning Songs (1979, RCA Victor): "For children of all ages," complete with "16 page coloring book." Second side has its own title: The "Is" Songs, as in "Easter Is," "Halloween Is," "Thanksgiving Is," "Christmas Is," "Your Birthday Is." Ten songs, all short, 22:07. Light and breezy, only occasionally shallow. Not something I expected to like at all. B+(**)

Tom T. Hall: Ol' T's in Town (1979, RCA Victor): One of his classic story songs -- "Greed Kills More People Than Whiskey," which would be more convincing if he tracked down the effects of greed on other people, not just the overstressed rich -- but his love and loss songs have gained some depth, and his sense of nostalgia is tuned about right. He was conscious enough about age to write "I'm Forty Now," and to retire a decade later. In between, the title may indicate that he's feeling old, or like his old self. A-

Tom T. Hall: Soldier of Fortune (1980, RCA Victor): Last album for RCA, aside from the live one released in 1983, when he returned to Mercury. Nothing especially memorable here, nothing terribly bad either (although "Me and Jimmie Rodgers" makes you wonder). B+(*)

John Hiatt: Y'All Caught?: The Ones That Got Away 1979-1985 (1979-85 [1989], Geffen): Best-of limited to five MCA and Geffen albums, two I have at A- (Slug Line and Riding With the King), three well below that, compiled after he finally started selling some on A&M. B+(***)

John Hiatt: Perfectly Good Guitar (1993, A&M): Comes down hard on anyone who disrespects their guitar. Even if they do nothing special with it. B+(*)

John Hiatt: The Best of John Hiatt [20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection] (1983-93 [2003], A&M): Twelve songs, one predates his 1987-93 tenure with A&M, four from Bring the Family. Probably better than any of the constituent albums, but not by much. B+(*)

John Hiatt: Crossing Muddy Waters (2000, Vanguard): More of a folk label, so he accommodates by hiring a couple of bluegrass musicians -- Davey Faragher (bass guitar/tambourine) and David Immerglück (slide & 12 string guitar/mandolin) -- and ditching the drummer. Got him a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Album. B+(**)

John Hiatt: The Tiki Bar Is Open (2001, Vanguard): Second album for label, back to his (somewhat weird) normal. Enjoy the long instrumental outro on "Farther Stars." B+(***)

John Hiatt & the Goners: Beneath This Gruff Exterior (2003, New West): Long-time Nashville denizen lands on Nashville's premier alt-country label. Seems inevitable. First step was to give his Sonny Landreth-led band a name. And no problems with the occasional dip into rockabilly. As for the songwriting: "I do my best thinking/ sitting on my ass." B+(***)

John Hiatt: Master of Disaster (2005, New West): Produced by Jim Dickinson with his band, North Mississippi Allstars, helping out, plotting a return to the blues. B+(**)

John Hiatt: Mystic Pinball (2012, New West): Hits some kind of sweet spot: at 39, his highest charting album ever, but at this late date almost certainly not his best-selling. Pretty much his average album, flawless enough no one can complain, or get excited. B+(**)

Taj Mahal: The Taj Mahal Anthology: Volume 1 (1968-71 [1977], Columbia): First generation best-of, selected so perfectly the same ten songs reappear in order to open 2000's canonical 17-track The Best of Taj Mahal (the one you should start with), with nine early on 2005's 2-CD The Essential Taj Mahal. Most of these were inspired covers, his theme lifted from Goffin & King and made his own: "Come with me . . . and take a giant step outside your mind." They didn't release the expected Volume 2. Not that they didn't have more songs to work with, but they never wanted to give up these ten. A

Taj Mahal: Recycling the Blues & Other Related Stuff (1972, Columbia): First side is lives, which is cheap for the artist but doesn't offer the listener much. Second side offers four new songs, most marvelously "Cakewalk Into Town." B+(*)

Taj Mahal: Ooh So Good 'N Blues (1973, Columbia): Blues revivalist Henry St. Claire Fredericks Jr., five years into a long career. A few obscurities, at least one of his own making, but he also takes songs you know ("Frankie and Albert," "Dust My Broom," "Built for Comfort") and throws them for weird curves. A-

Taj Mahal: The Hidden Treasures of Taj Mahal 1969-1973 (1969-73 [2021], Columbia/Legacy, 2CD): Previously unreleased. One disc of trivial from his earliest and most fertile period, often living up to the billing. The big song where is "You Ain't No Street Walker Mama, Honey But I Do Love the Way You Strut Your Stuff." A second live disc from Royal Albert Hall in 1970. B+(***)

Taj Mahal: The Best of Taj Mahal (1968-74 [1981], Columbia): Second-generation best-of, swaps out four "must have" songs for four others -- good ones, with "Cakewalk Into Town" and "Chevrolet" top tier. "Volume 1" appears on the label, but not on the cover. Later reissued in "Collector's Choice" packaging. Still, The Best of Taj Mahal you want is the 2000 CD. A-

Taj Mahal: An Evening of Acoustic Music (1993 [1994], Tradition & Moderne): Live radio shot from Radio Bremen, mostly solo guitar and voice, with Howard Johnson (tuba/penny whistle) dropping in for the last five tracks. B+(***)

Taj Mahal: Best of the Private Years (1993-97 [2000], Private Music): Mahal became one of Peter Baumann's "artist re-development" projects, recording five albums for the label, only the middle three represented here. Leans toward eclectic covers, which sound good less for his added value than for starting out great. B+(*)

Taj Mahal & the Phantom Blues Band: Shoutin' in Key: Live (1998 [2000], Hannibal): Band took its name from the 1996 Phantom Blues album. Opens with 6:19 of instrumental "Honky Tonk," before the singer enters with his usual far-ranging blues repertoire. B+(*)

Taj Mahal: Maestro (2008, Heads Up): He reccorded steadily from 1969-78, mostly for Columbia, briefly for Warners, starting in gentle country blues and picking up bits from the rest of the African diaspora, then struggled to find a label in the 1980s before picking up again in the 1990s, less consistently. He rebounds here, mostly because he's found his blues mojo again -- but he's picked up a lot of tricks and tics along the way. A-

Manhattans: Greatest Hits (1973-80 [1980], Columbia): R&B vocal group from New Jersey, had some hits during their 1973-86 run at Columbia, but most before this mid-term best-of appeared (with two new songs projected as hits, one eventually charted). B+(**)

Manhattans: Kiss and Say Goodbye: The Best of the Manhattans (1973-85 [1995], Columbia/Legacy): Long-running vocal group, founded in 1962, continued at least through 2008, lot of minor hits (45 charted) but only a couple big ones (the title song here, and "Shining Star"). This picks 19 songs from 11 albums, which is probably more than enough, but the mid-tempo or slower love songs (losing it as often as not) flow so effortlessly there's no need to quibble. B+(***)

Manfred Mann: The Five Faces of Manfred Mann (1964, HMV): Brit Invasion group, had a few big hits, starting with "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" and "Sha La La," neither present on the UK version of this debut album. (As with other BI groups, the UK and US albums were different, and the UK version is the one I'm finding.) Led by South African keyboardist Manfred Lubovitz, who took exile in 1961, and used Manne (for jazz drummer Shelly) as his stage name -- the label shortened it, leading to a long series of Mann puns. Five original songs by singer Paul Jones, three with Mann. The nine covers were mostly blues, starting with "Smokestack Lightning" and ending with "Bring It to Jerome." B+(*)

Manfred Mann: Mann Made (1965, HMV): UK/US releases match, but Canadian slipped a single in. Nothing very appealing here. C+

Manfred Mann: Mann Made Hits (1964-66 [1966], HMV): "Doo Wah Diddy Diddy" still sounds great, "Sha La La" sounds like a silly sequel, "Pretty Flamingo" I'm not so sure about, three more top-ten UK singles (including the lesser of two Dylans) are long forgotten, the others just weirdly scattered, as the band started to fall apart. B

Manfred Mann: The Best of Manfred Mann: The Definitive Collection (1963-66 [1992], EMI): With 25 cuts plus a bit of "Group Interview," more than anyone really needs from their early hit-making period. B

Manfred Mann: As Is (1966, Fontana): New label, Paul Jones and Mike Vickers departed, Michael D'Abo and Klaus Voormann arrived, ten originals with drummer Mike Hugg's name on most of them, covers of Johnny Mercer ("Autumn Leaves") and Bob Dylan ("Just Like a Woman"). By the way, HMV answered with the 4-cut EP As Was, credited to Manfred Mann With Paul Jones. B

Manfred Mann: Chapter Two: The Best of the Fontana Years (1966-69 [1994], Fontana/Chronicles): I haven't found a Chapter One, which presumably would be populated with for their EMI-controlled 1964-66 hits (and misses). With Mike D'Abo singing, their second period dropped their blues roots, smoothed out their rough edges, but rarely offered hit material -- the Dylan-penned "Mighty Quinn" appears here, but not much more of interest. B-

Manfred Mann: Hit Mann! The Essential Singles 1963-1969 (1963-69 [2008], Raven): Finally, a generous compilation (28 songs) that bridges the group's two "chapters," the early one on EMI with Paul Jones and the later one on Fontana with Mike D'Abo. The split is about right (19-to-9), all the memorable singles are present, and they get "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" out of the way first. Beyond that, they even present with a recognizable sound, which is rarely clear from the albums. Not an especially important group, but this finally gets them right. B+(**)

Manfred Mann's Earth Band: Glorified Magnified (1972, Polydor): The keyboardist's fourth venture featured guitarist-singer Mick Rogers as his significant other. Their eponymous 1972 debut, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, picked out catchy tunes and gave them a great deal of resonance. The tunes fall short on this second album, except for the Dylan cover. B+(*)

Manfred Mann's Earth Band: Get Your Rocks Off (1973, Polydor): Third album, released in UK at Messin', re-ordered with John Prine's "Pretty Good" replacing "Black and Blue" (from the Australian group Chain, supposedly thinking that Americans might find a song about slavery "unsuitable"). The UK title song was written by former bandmate Mike Hugg, the American one by Dylan, and the closing cover by Dr. John. B+(**)

Manfred Mann's Earth Band: Messin' (1973 [1998], Cohesion): Reissue of the originally ordered UK album, plus two bonus tracks: "Pretty Good" (from the US Get Your Rocks Off release), and a single edit of "Cloudy Eyes." B+(**)

Thomas Mapfumo & the Blacks Unlimited: Mr. Music (1985, Earthworks): The chimurenga giant of Zimbabwe, his music (like his country) splitting the distance between Congo and South Africa. Five songs, 36:38. B+(***)

Mary McCaslin: Way Out West (1973, Philo): Folk singer, second album, first of a series through 1978 on Philo -- I recommend her 1992 compilation, Things We Said Today: The Best of Mary McCaslin, which taps this album for five songs, and doesn't grab all the good ones. A-

Mary McCaslin: Prairie in the Sky (1975, Philo): Continues to play up the western in "country and," including a memorable take on "Ghost Riders in the Sky." B+(***)

Mary McCaslin: Old Friends (1977, Philo): Original title song plus nine covers, most cut against her grain, exceptional nonetheless, gently hooked by banjo and voice. A-

Mary McCaslin: Broken Promises (1994, Philo): After a decade in the business, she seems to have given up, only to stage this minor comeback after her 1992 best-of re-introduced her. Fewer covers, so fewer hooks. B+(**)

Mary McCaslin: Better Late Than Never (2006, Mary McCaslin Music): One more record, audibly older, couldn't be simpler, which works for me just fine. B+(***)

Brad Mehldau/Mario Rossy/Perico Sambeat/Jordi Rossy: New York-Barcelona Crossing (1993 [1997], Fresh Sound New Talent): Piano/bass/alto sax/drums, recorded in Barcelona a couple years before Introducing Brad Mehldau, but released later. Mostly standards, with one original each by Sambeat and Mario Rossy. B+(**)

Brad Mehldau/Mario Rossy/Perico Sambeat/Jordi Rossy: New York-Barcelona Crossing: Volumen 2 (1993 [1998], Fresh Sound New Talent): Seven more pieces from the same date, all standards. B+(**)

Mehldau & Rossy Trio: When I Fall in Love (1993 [1994], Fresh Sound New Talent): Piano trio, Brad Mehldau with brothers Mario and Jordi Rossy (bass and drums). Starts with a fairly dazzling "Anthropoogy." Looks like the first Mehldau album released. B+(**)

The Mekons: F.U.N. '90 (1990, A&M, EP): Six tracks, 28:30, reportedly covers, more obviously loops in samples, with some kind of electronica background. B+(*)

Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes: Collector's Item: All Their Greatest Hits (1972-75 [1976], Philadelphia International): Now remembered, much to the nominal leader's chagrin, as Teddy Pendergrass' original group. They recorded four albums before Pendergrass left, and this first-generation best-of picks their four R&B chart toppers, three more top-tens, and one extra album cut ("Be for Real"). This is great every time "Wake Up Everybody" comes around, but then I start to nitpick. I have two later, longer best-ofs at B+. Concentration helps, but still has limits. B+(***)

Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes Featuring Teddy Pendergrass: Blue Notes & Ballads (1972-75 [1998], Epic/Legacy): In the intervening years, Harold Melvin became a footnote to Teddy Pendergrass, whose name is on the masthead for marketing reasons -- were it simply focus, why includes two Sharon Paige leads? And why include three songs already on Collector's Item? Aside from that the filler runs a little thin. B+(*)

Ava Mendoza: Shadow Stories (2010, Resipiscent): Guitarist, from Brooklyn, first album, solo, four originals, six covers, drawing on blues, folk, and country, relatively straight, although elsewhere she gets fairly deep into the noise weeds. B+(*) [bc]

Ava Mendoza/Dominique Leone/Nick Tamburro: Unnatural Ways (2015, New Atlantis): Guitarist, from Brooklyn, featured on William Parker's new Mayan Space Station, has an underground reputation that previously escaped me. With keyboards and drums. Vocals head back to rock, but her guitar isn't that tethered. B+(*)

Ava Mendoza's Unnatural Ways: The Paranoia Party (2019, Sleeping Giant Glossolalia): Guitar trio, with Tim Dahl (bass) and Sam Ospovat (drums). With vocals, closer in spirit and tone to noise rock, although the timing wanders and the landscape is stocked with absurdities. I can imagine being impressed, but I just find it painful. B- [bc]

Ava Mendoza/Vijay Anderson/Stephen Gauci: Studio Sessions Vol. 4 (2019, Gaucimusic, EP): Guitar, drums, tenor sax -- the common denominator in this series, yielding top billing to the other lead instrumentalist. 6 tracks, 19:26. B+(**) [bc]

The Mighty Clouds of Joy: It's Time (1974, ABC/Dunhill): Gospel group, formed in Los Angeles in 1959, recorded for Peacock from 1963-72, made their commercial move here, produced by Dave Crawford and recorded in Philadelphia. Crawford wrote 8 (of 9) songs, with occasional allusion to but scant mention of God. B+(***) [yt]

The Mighty Clouds of Joy: The Best of the Mighty Clouds of Joy Volume 2 [20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection] (2005-10 [2016], Motown Gospel): Discogs has no entry for a Volume 1, which could have usefully covered their 1974-77 secular albums on ABC, or their earlier (1963-72 on Peacock) or later (1980-83 on Myrrh) gospel periods. Nor do they have source info for these 10 songs, but they are clearly live, and all appear on three 2005-10 EMI albums (In the House of the Lord: Live in Houston; Movin'; and At the Revival). By then, only Joe Ligon (d. 2016) remained from the original group. B

[Mighty] Sparrow: King of the World (1984, B's): Slinger Francisco, born in Grenada but moved to Trinidad when he was one, started performing as Little Sparrow and before long became Mighty Sparrow. The four poorly annotated volumes on Ice mark him as the greatest of all calypsonians: I recommend them all, as well as the early First Flight (1957-59), and don't doubt that much of what they missed is still worthwhile. But before those compilations started appearing in 1993, this (the 53rd album in his Discogs list) was the first one Christgau reviewed (while recommending two others even higher, More Sparrow More!! and Hot and Sweet -- the cover is so familiar I must have once had a copy, but didn't get it into my database. "Soca Man" shows he can do the beat without letting it define him. The wordier cuts are where he shines. A-

Mighty Sparrow: More Sparrow More!! (1969, Ra): I'm not prepared for a deep dive here, but couldn't resist the opportunity to play this one, namechecked in the Christgau review of King of the World. I'm also not inclined to cross check the titles here against the Ice compilations, but if I haven't heard "Sparrow Dead" and "60 Million Frenchmen" before I got cheated. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure I hadn't heard "Martin Luther King" before ("segregation must be destroyed"), so I got cheated anyway. Fine print: "Acc. by Conrad Little and his Big Band." A-

Mighty Sparrow: Hot and Sweet (1974, Warner Bros.): Starts off with another version of "Dead Sparrow," so there may well be many, but this one is, if anything, even livelier. Keeps coming, too. A-

Jackie Mittoo and the Soul Vendors: Evening Time (1968, Coxsone): Keyboard player for the Skatalites, second album under his own name. Instrumental, some classic grooves. A-

Nas: God's Son (2002, Columbia): Rapper Nasir Jones, father a blues/jazz guitarist known as Olu Dara, made a big splash with his 1994 debut Illmatic. Sixth studio album. Don't think he's right about "I Can," but the album looks up from there. B+(**)

Nas: Untitled (2008, Def Jam): Ninth studio album, looks like it could be eponymous but seems like the more descriptive non-title has stuck -- evidently the original idea was to go with the most overused word here, but cooler heads prevailed. "Black President" dates this precisely, but too much else hasn't aged at all. While I'd quibble, "Fried Chicken" is mouth-watering. A-

Youssou N'Dour: Djamil Inédits 84-85 (1984-85 [1985], Celluloid): Not sure what the history of this is, but the covers suggest a live recording, a bit rough and ill-fitting. The star looks very young, but no doubt he is the star. The horns are a bit much. [Reissued 2005 with an extra track as Badou.] B+(*)

Youssou N'Dour: Eyes Open (1992, Columbia): Recorded in Dakar, but mixed in New York. Nonetheless, voice and rhythm uniquely his. B+(***)

Youssou N'Dour Et Le Super Etoile: Lii! (1996, Jololi): Superstar from Senegal, has only sporadically had his work released in the US -- from 1986-94 on Virgin and Columbia, then 2000-10 on Nonesuch -- although there is evidently more released locally, like the series of late-1990s cassettes like this one. B+(***) [yt]

Negativland: Helter Stupid (1989, SST): Bay area "plunderphonics" group, constructs sound collages simulating the most annoying aspects of trying to listen to radio while someone else is twiddling the dial. Or, as they put it, "Negativland considers their music thought-provoking, even humorous." That, from a piece that claims their song "Christianity Is Stupid" is responsible for mass murder. B-

Yoko Ono: Season of Glass (1981, Geffen): Multimedia artist, including film and performance art, grew up in Tokyo, moved to New York in 1953, married John Lennon in 1969, shortly before the Beatles broke up, and they collaborated on several records -- two brilliant Plastic Ono Band albums of his, weird conceptual shit of hers, a separation and reunion, finally the collaborative Double Fantasy. This follows on his death, the songswiting and production straightforward, the singing a little wobbly. Nice sax solo on the opener, courtesy of Michael Brecker. B+(***) [yt]

Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band: Between My Head and the Sky (2009, Chimera): The two songs Christgau picked out are better than I ever imagind. The others, well, are kind of all over the place. B+(*)

Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band: Take Me to the Land of Hell (2013, Chimera Music): I suppose what turned me off from her was the single-CD Walking on Thin Ice, the select subset from the 6-CD Onobox that Christgau graded A and asserted "ought to convert anybody with better taste than Albert Goldman -- namely, you." I hated it enough to grade it C+, then didn't like her 1995 Rising much better (B-, vs. A- for Christgau). This supposedly "outstrips" both the latter and 1981's less bracing Season of Glass. I don't know what to make of this smorgasbord of anti-genre exercises, even a hint of Marlene Dietrich. B+(***)

Pulnoc: Live at P.S. 122 (1989, bootleg): Czech rock group, certifiable Velvet Underground fans, released a good album on Arista in 1991, a few more in Europe -- for full details, see Joe Yanosik's A Consumer Guide to the Plastic People of the Universe. A bit earlier, Robert Christgau flagged this bootleg tape as his top album of 1989. Someone gave me a cassette, but it never showed up in my database. Reports are this will finally be released on 2-CD next year, but life's short, so I figured I should go ahead and mention it now. A- [cdr]

Pulnoc: Pulnoc (1990 [1991], Globus International): First official album, released after the collapse of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia. The Velvets influence is strong, rhythm as much as anything else, with more adventurous guitar. Michaela Nemcova sings, less deadpan than Nico. Don't know about what, but seems perfectly at home. A [dl]

Freddie Redd/Hampton Hawes: Piano East/Piano West (1952-55 [1985], Prestige/OJC): Two pianists, packaged together: starts with a 1952 Hawes quartet session (8 tracks, 21:20), with Larry Bunker on vibes, then tacks on Redd's 1955 debut trio (4 tracks, 20:07). Not an inspired match, but it moves the fast, boppish pieces up front, then relaxes a bit. B+(*)

Freddy Redd Trio: San Francisco Suite: For Jazz Trio (1957 (1990), Riverside/OJC): Starts with the 13:36 title suite, in five movements. Winds up a half-dozen pieces (three original, three standards). B+(**)

Freddie Redd: Redd's Blues (1961 [2002], Blue Note): With Benny Bailey (trumpet), Jackie McLean (alto sax), and Tina Brooks (tenor sax). Session sat on the shelf until 1999, when it came out in Japan. B+(*)

Freddie Redd: Music for You (2014 [2015], SteepleChase): First album since 1991, but still spry at 87, in a trio with Jay Anderson and Billy Drummond, playing one of his songs and a batch of standards. Nothing spectacular, but nice. B+(**)

Freddie Redd: With Due Respect (2014-15 [2016], SteepleChase): This looks to be his last album, his trio from the previous album plus some horns: John Mosca (trombone), Chris Byars (alto sax/flute), and Stefano Doglioni (bass clarinet). Give Byars a lot of credit here. B+(***)

Riders Against the Storm: Riders Against the Storm (2013, self-released, EP): Self-titled EP, seemed like the place to look back for background, but had I started at the bottom of the list I would have found Speak the Truth, a full-length album billed as "a culmination of the past four years of RAS' journey through life, love, struggle, and music." First revelation here was that they seemed to start less in hip-hop than in cosmic mantras. Then they busted some rhymes on "Ghetto People." Five songs, 18:16. B+(*) [bc]

Riders Against the Storm: Speak the Truth (2010, self-released): Abbreviated RAS, first album, seems likely that more than just Chaka and Qi and the feat. guests are involved here. Twelve songs, three skits, most old school hip-hop, although the closing "Energy" is a dance anthem. B+(**) [bc]

Jeannie C. Riley: Harper Valley P.T.A. (1968, Plantation): Country singer from Texas, second album, title song a number one crossover hit skewering the "Harper Valley hypocrites." The then-unknown Tom T. Hall wrote that song, and three more worth hearing ("Widow Jones," "Mr. Harper," "Sippin' Shirley Thompson"), but the rest of the album is pretty remarkable, with "The Cotton Patch" and "Satan Place" reprising Hall's rhythm close enough he could sue, and "Run Jeannie Run" sounding like her own story. A-

Jeannie C. Riley: Yearbooks and Yesterdays (1969, Plantation): She never duplicated her initial success, but had 5 more top-ten country hits through 1971, her album chart positions tailing off 9-14-25-34. Three more songs by Hall, four more by Margaret Lewis and Myra Smith (including "The Girl Most Likely"). B+(**)

Earl Scruggs & Tom T. Hall: The Storyteller and the Banjo Man (1982, Columbia): Just two of Hall's story-songs ("The Enginers Don't Wave From the Trains Anymore" and "There Ain't No Country Music on the Jukebox"), one joint title ("A Lover's Farewell"). Hall is pictured on the cover with his guitar, but Randy Scruggs is the guitarist here, with Scruggs on two tracks (plus banjo, natch), Jerry Douglas on dobro, and Byron Berline on fiddle (and mandolin, though that's mostly Scruggs), so the bluegrass band is impeccable. Starts deep in Scruggs' songbook with "Song of the South," doesn't neglect "Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms," winds up with a pretty nifty "No Expectations" (Richards & Jagger). B+(**)

Jaleel Shaw: Perspective (2005, Fresh Sound New Talent): Alto saxophonist, first album. Originals, one by guitarist Lage Lund, plus a nod to Coltrane. With Lund, Robert Glasper (piano), Vicente Archer (bass), and Johnathan Blake (drums), plus Mark Turner (tenor sax) on two tracks. B+(***)

Jaleel Shaw: Optimism (2007 [2008], Changu): Second album; Glasper, Lund, and Blake return, Joe Martin on bass and more guest spots. B+(*)

Frank Sinatra/Count Basie: Sinatra-Basie (An Historic Musical First) (1962, Reprise): Basie reinvented his band in the late 1950s: the soloists weren't as distinctive, but the "new testament" band's arrangers powered up the ensemble work -- the best sampler from the period was called The Complete Atomic Basie. In some ways, Basie's evolution tracked Sinatra's 1950s big bands, but richer and subtler. By 1962, both were famous and starting to decline, so this meeting helped both. Neal Hefti arranged ten songs Sinatra had long mastered. He sung them impeccably, and I doubt he's ever fronted a stronger horn section. Basie himself dropped out (except for the cover pic), with Bill Miller taking over the piano. A-

Sly and Robbie: Sly and Robbie Present Taxi (1981, Mango): Sly Dunbar (drums) and Robbie Shakespeare (bass), Jamaica's most legendary rhythm section, played on many albums from mid-1970s on. They introduced themselves as producers here, 12 songs by 10 artists (two each for Wailing Souls and Junior Delgado; one track credited by Dunbar, the others including stars Dennis Brown and Gregory Isaacs. B+(***)

Chris Smither: I'm a Stranger Too! (1970, Poppy): Folk singer-songwriter, first album of what would turn into a long career -- although he didn't get to number four until 1991, after which he's released an album every 2-3 years. Eight originals, but the title comes from one of two Randy Newman songs (the third cover is from Neil Young). The originals pick up with "Love You Like a Man," which Bonnie Raitt retooled for her own purposes. B+(**)

Chris Smither: Don't It Drag On (1972, Poppy): Second album, the four covers more diverse (Bob Dylan, Willie McTell, Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead), gives you something to recognize while the originals slowly sink in. B+(***)

Chris Smither: It Ain't Easy (1984, Adelphi): Smither recorded a third album in 1973, but it was shelved when the label (United Artists) closed, and didn't appear until 2005 (Honeysuckle Dog). It took another decade before Smither recorded another album. Despite the title, he makes this one as easy as possible: just guitar and voice, only three originals, with eleven covers, tapping into Chuck Berry twice. B+(**)

Chris Smither: Small Revelations (1996 [1997], Hightone): Seventh album, on a 2-year cycle since 1991. B+(***)

Omar Souleyman: Highway to Hassake: Folk and Pop Sounds of Syria (1994-2006 [2007], Sublime Frequencies): Syrian (and now world) pop star, his style honed as a wedding singer, featuring an intense, high-speed attack which threatens to make his many albums redundant. First of several compilations of early work (most before 2001), this gives him the occasional break, which helps. A- [bc]

Omar Souleyman: Dabke 2020: Folk and Pop Sounds of Syria (1999-2008 [2009], Sublime Frequencies): More from the same albums and sessions, the problem less that the quality declines than that it all sounds so much the same that one's interest starts to wane. B+(***) [bc]

Omar Souleyman: Jazeera Nights: Folk and Pop Sounds of Syria (1996-2009 [2010], Sublime Frequencies): A third compilation, pretty upbeat. Not sure what the date breakdown is, as the later releases have later end-dates, but most songs appear to come from early albums. B+(***) [bc]

Spoonie Gee: The Godfather of Rap (1987, Tuff City): Rapper Gabe Jackson, from Harlem, early rapper, first single was "Spoonin Rap" in 1979, cut more singles for Sugar Hill, eventually came out with this his only album. Old school before it became old. B+(**)

Tinariwen: The Radio Tisdas Sessions (2000 [2002], World Village): Tuareg group, formed over the 1980s in exile in Libya and Algeria, returned to Mali (where they recorded this), eventually leaving to tour the world (especially as Mali fell apart). First album, B+(**)

Tinariwen: Amassakoul (2004, World Village): Second album, into the studio. B+(***)

Aaron Tippin: Ultimate Aaron Tippin (1990-97 [2004], RCA Nashville/BMG Heritage): Country singer-songwriter, established his working class bona fides with his debut single "You've Got to Stand for Something" ("or you'll fall for anything at all"). He cut five albums for RCA, turned into four best-ofs between 1997 and this 20-track CD in 2004, before he got more jingoistic after 9/11, fading after Stars & Stripes in 2002 (aside from a set of truck songs in 2009). Strong voice, solid songs, still I'm not sure they hold up as well now as I thought back then. B+(***)

Lobi Traoré: Ségou (1996, Cobalt): Singer-guitarist from Mali (1961-2010), third album, has a blues groove, and keeps it tight. B+(***) [yt]

Lobi Traoré: Rainy Season Blues (2009 [2010], Glitterbeat): Acoustic guitar and vocals, about as basic as blues gets, except I don't understand the words, or feel the anguish. But maybe anguish isn't the point. B+(**)

Warren Vaché: Iridescence (1981, Concord): Retro-swing player, debut album 1976, cornet and flugelhorn here, quartet with Hank Jones (piano), George Duvivier (bass), and Alan Dawson (drums). B+(***)

Virunga: Feet on Fire (1991, Stern's Africa): Samba Mapangala, born 1955 in Congo, one of the main musicians to introduce soukous to Kenya and Tanzania, named his band after a volcano. He sings and wrote 6 (of 7) songs here, but his name doesn't appear on the masthead. Not a masterpiece, but the scent is redolent of East Africa's Guitar Paradise. B+(***)

Further Sampling

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

Mark Feldman: Sounding Point (2020 [2021], Intakt): Violin solo, some overdubs. [bc: 2/8] +

Fred Frith/Ikue Mori: A Mountain Doesn't Know It's Tall (2015 [2021], Intakt): Guitarist, credits "various toys and objects," and laptop electronics. [bc: 4/15] +

Alexander Hawkins: Togetherness Music: For Sixteen Musicians (2020 [2021], Intakt): British pianist, feat. Evan Parker + Riot Ensemble. [bc: 2/6]: +

Christopher Hoffman: Asp Nimbus (2020 [2021], Out of Your Head): Cello, with Bryan Carrott on vibes, plus bass and drums. [bc: 3/8]: +

Punkt. Vrt. Plastik [Kaja Draksler/Petter Eldh/Christian Lillinger]: Somit (2020 [2021], Intakt): Second album by piano-bass-drums trio, assumes title of first as group name. [bc: 2/13] ++

Music Weeks

Current count 36142 [35900] rated (+242), 226 [210] unrated (+16).

Excerpts from this month's Music Week posts:

August 2, 2021

Music: Current count 35949 [35900] rated (+49), 212 [210] unrated (+2).

Only one A-list album by closing time Thursday -- The Locals Play the Music of Anthony Braxton, which had me hooked less than a minute in -- but Phil Overeem came to the rescue. Three of this week's A-list albums came from his list (although I may have gotten to Dave before reading his list), as well as several high HMs.

Dan Weiss opened an "open grade" thread on Friday's Billie Eilish album. I never bother with articles on "most anticipated albums," but it's fair to say Eilish's would have topped most critics' lists. I gave it two plays, looked at a Tom Breihan review in Stereogum, and played all the videos there. Unusual move for me, something I last did for Taylor Swift last year, and before that -- well, can't remember. Videos didn't help, and the album struck me as slack and uneven, although a few songs registered nonetheless. My initial grade was B+(***), as I noted there. I played it a couple more times since, and also replayed Eilish's first album -- a high A- that wound up my number one non-jazz album of 2019. Part of my thinking was that perhaps I should bump it up to A, which would make it easier to give the new one an A-. What happened was the old one didn't get any better -- indeed, my reservations about the new one would have been as valid there -- and the new one has, if anything, more compelling songs.

Most of Weiss' commenters liked the album a lot, and Weiss seemed to like it more as the thread unwound. I ended my comment with "Moving on to Dave now." Which I did, and got there a bit faster (as I did for his 2019 album, Psychodrama). Los Lobos and Prince were also Friday releases.

The old music section is background for recent albums, with John Hiatt continued from last week, plus Brad Mehldau, Freddie Redd, and Jaleel Shaw. Redd died earlier this year, and the only things I had by him were two brilliant releases from 1960. I've heard all of Mehldau's early Warners releases, but had missed his earlier FSNTs. And although it seems like I've run into Shaw a lot, I didn't have any of his own albums in my ratings database.

The other piece of "old music" is the Pulnoc. Joe Yanosik, in his A Consumer Guide to the Plastic People of the Universe, reports that Pulnoc's Live at P.S. 122 will finally get an official release in 2022. I recall having a cassette of Robert Christgau's top-rated album of 1989, but didn't get it into my database, so I begged a CDR copy, and didn't feel like waiting until real product appeared. I figured I'd have to go without a cover scan, but found this YouTube artwork, and synthesized my own fake cover from it. Not as great as remembered, but it was quite an eye-opener at the time.

August 9, 2021

Music: Current count 36001 [35949] rated (+52), 220 [212] unrated (+8).

I've had a miserable week. I suppose that's reflected in the high rated count, inasmuch as I didn't feel up to doing anything else. (Well, I did hack out a Speaking of Which, which as far as I can tell elicited zero interest, not even a "like" on Twitter, so did it really happen?) Woke up this morning with blurry eyes. I can barely see to type this.

Note that the number of rated records inched over the 36,000 line. Actually came up one short Sunday night, but Monday morning I moved a couple albums up to get it over with.

Midweek I was having a terrible time trying to figure out what to listen to next. Chris Monsen came to the rescue, with his 50 fave new music releases a bit past 2021s midway point. About a third were records I hadn't heard, so I scrambled to catch up. My unheard list is down to 2 now: William Parker's 10-CD Migration of Silence Into and Out of the Tone World, and Anthony Braxton's 13-CD Quintet (Standards) 2020. Both are probably brilliant. Parker's 8-CD Wood Flute Songs: Anthology/Live 2006-2012 is a full A, as is Braxton's 4-CD 20 Standards (Quartet) 2003, with his previous 4-CD 23 Standards (Quartet) 2003 rated just a shade lower. Still, way too much music to try to digest streaming.

Two more albums from Monsen's list show up below in "limited sampling": a category for records that are only partially available online, not enough to grade but roughly sorted as prospects. Good chance the new Punkt. Vrt. Plastik album (a piano trio with Kaja Draksler) is as good as its predecessor. Intakt's Bandcamp only offers a cut or two, and only about half of their albums this year are on Napster -- three of those on my A-list (Aki Takase, Irène Schweizer, Silke Eberhard).

I also gave three of Monsen's "music of the spheres" picks another spin. (The fourth, James Brandon Lewis' Jesup Wagon, is already high on my A-list.) But I didn't find much reason to change my grades. I also checked out some of Eva Mendoza's earlier records, since Monsen regards her as the selling point to Parker's Mayan Space Station. My top-four (see list above) are: East Axis, Sons of Kemet, Lewis, and Barry Altschul, unless you count Anthony Joseph.

Before diving into Monsen's list, I returned to my checklist of records Robert Christgau has graded that I haven't heard. When I found Taj Mahal's Maestro available, I started digging deeper. There was some question whether I should bother with the early best-ofs, given that they've since been supplanted by more comprehensive ones. The first was a Christgau A-, and the second evinced some evolution in thinking about his canon, but in both I wound up referring to the 2000 The Best of Taj Mahal. In the end, I decided to substitute its cover scan for the other two. Manhattans came next, then (if/when I continue) Manfred Mann.

August 16, 2021

Music: Current count 36036 [36001] rated (+35), 218 [220] unrated (-2).

Looks like a decent week, but count is off from recent weeks, especially given how much of what follows is old music. Had a couple days last week where I essentially gave up and just listened to oldies. Got a bit of a lift mid-week when Robert Christgau published his August Consumer Guide -- I'm linking to the time-locked website version, where everyone can at least get a list of records reviewed (there's a link there to the And It Don't Stop newsletter, where the text is paywalled). Five records below from this month's batch. Others I had previously checked out [my grades in brackets]:

  • Billie Eilish: Happier Than Ever (Darkroom/Interscope) [A-]
  • Robert Finley: Sharecropper's Son (Easy Eye Sound) [B+(***)]
  • The Goon Sax: Mirror II (Matador) [B+(**)]
  • Anthony Joseph: The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running for Their Lives (Heavenly Sweetness) [A]
  • Los Lobos: Native Sons (New West) [B+(*)]
  • Mach-Hommy: Pray for Haiti (Griselda) [B+(***)]
  • Billy Nomates: Emergency Telephone (Invada, EP) [B+(***)]

That leaves two albums unheard: Mach-Hommy's HBO (Haitian Body Odor), and Star Feminine Band. I replayed Mach-Hommy's Pray for Haiti, but left my grade unchanged. (Needless to say, all this was before Haiti was wracked by another earthquake, soon followed by a tropical storm.)

I cheated a bit in building a playlist for the Ace Directions in Music compilation (substituted a Miles Davis take of a Wayne Shorter song for the latter's own Super Nova version). The swap almost certainly didn't hurt the album, but not having the booklet, I'm missing the compiler's explanation for his choices, not least why he talks about the emergence of "electric jazz" instead of "fusion." Either way, it wasn't much of a "new age of jazz" -- which isn't to say that no new and interesting things were happening then, just that they are poorly represented in this compilation.

This week's "old music" continued my scan through the list of albums Christgau graded but I hadn't. My fault I went so deep into 1960s Manfred Mann -- just a personal itch I had to scratch. On the other hand, I barely touched Sparrow -- surprised to find so much on Napster. Next up: Youssou N'Dour, but most of what I missed is pretty hard to find.

Seems like I've been neglecting my new promo queue, but only 5 records there have been released (3 just this week). August is always a lax month, which is part of the reason I've been slipping.

August 23, 2021

Music: Current count 36093 [36036] rated (+57), 221 [218] unrated (+3).

Tom T. Hall died last week. Obituaries tended to overlook his 35 albums, but invariably mentioned the number one single he wrote in 1968, "Harper Valley PTA," for Jeannie C. Riley. Growing up in Wichita, I knew a little bit about country music -- mostly from watching, with bemused detachment, Porter Wagoner -- but I wasn't a fan. My brother and I got turned away at the door of a Grand Ole Opry show downtown, the doorman correctly surmising that we wanted the car show next door. I managed to catch a set by Ronnie & the Daytonas there: the first time I saw live music, and probably the only time until I saw Sly & the Family Stone in St. Louis.

That's was shortly after the first time I heard of Hall. I went to a party thrown by one of the Sociology professors. When I introduced myself to a guest, he responded: "I got all your records." I had a little speech problem, and never managed to say Hull clear enough not to be transcribed as the more common Hall. When I did finally hear Hall -- probably at the behest of George Lipsitz, who was taking time before going to graduate school, and was very much into country music at the time (although I also recall him introducing me to Rahsaan Roland Kirk and to Johnny Otis).

I only slowly got into country music, picking up occasional albums over the 1970s -- from Hall: We All Got Together and Faster Horses, finding In Search of a Song later -- finally making a serious effort in the 1990s to catch up with (damn near) everything I had missed. The best Hall compilation ever came out in 1988: The Essential Tom T. Hall: The Story Songs, 20 of them, originally on 2-LP, later on 1-CD. In 1995, I finally felt confident enough to write something about a new (and disappointing) Hall box, combined with a more favorable review of the 3-CD Roger Miller box. (Of course, I remembered Miller vividly from his mid-1960s TV show and crossover hits.) I called this Kings of the Road, and submitted it to The Voice, but elicited no interest (other than, I suppose, that a year later Robert Christgau invited me to review Rhino's series of jazz compilations, which I called Jazz for Dummies).

One thing I'd have to correct from the Hall piece is my claim Hall "hasn't recorded anything very interesting since [1976]." I finally got around to Hall's 1978-80 RCA releases below, and a couple of them are pretty good. I wanted to dive into his early Mercury records, but I only found In Search of a Song on Napster, plus Ballad of Forty Dollars on YouTube. There are some post-1978 Mercury albums on Napster, so I may return to them.

Another son of Kentucky died last week: Don Everly. He seemed like an earlier generation, but he was a year younger than Hall, and his brother Phil (d. 2014) was younger still. They started off in their teens in the Everly Family group, then as a brother act had their first big hits in 1957 ("Bye Bye Love" and "Wake Up Little Susie"), when Phil was 18. Beyond radio singles, my first introduction was 1964's The Very Best of the Everly Brothers -- disparaged now because they re-recorded their pre-1960 Cadence hits to juice up their less famous Warners songs, from "Cathy's Clown" to the ultra-maudlin "Ebony Eyes." I replayed it, and also Rhino's Cadence Classics, but didn't have much luck digging further, and didn't look into their solo careers or their reunion -- they were famous for not getting along.

Before Hall died, I mostly picked unheard records of Christgau's graded list, from Youssou N'Dour to Lobi Traoré. A couple reggae albums were suggested by a Sly & Robbie list of their favorites, but further down the list got hard to find. Tried to catch up with the demo queue, picking off the things with the earliest release dates, but wound up losing ground. Got a package from NoBusiness today. They'll be listed next week.

August 30, 2021

Music: Current count 36142 [36093] rated (+49), 226 [221] unrated (+5).

I have very little to add about the recent deaths of Charlie Watts and Lee Perry. I've read much less about the death of Larry Harlow, a major figure in the development of salsa in New York. But I haven't listened to him much myself. My grade list for Perry is here.

A lot of old music this week, as I fell back on the unheard Christgau A-list, going back to the top after I lost my place. Some records there I skipped over during my first pass.

Afterwards, I picked up Ed Ward's The History of Rock & Roll: Volume One 1920-1965. As with similar books, a lot of emphasis early on is put on labels and entrepeneurs, which makes an interesting contrast after reading about the FAANG monopolies. But rock & roll is a pretty good example of what capitalism is actually good for.

August had five Mondays and nothing better to do, so this month's Streamnotes compilation is one of the largest ever.

Notes

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 bandcamp.com
  • [yt] available at youtube.com
  • [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