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Streamnotes: November 29, 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 October 26. Past reviews and more information are available here (18288 records).
Greg Abate: Magic Dance: The Music of Kenny Barron (2021, Whaling City Sound, 2CD): Saxophonist, plays four weights plus flute here, has recorded quite a bit since his 1993 album Straight Ahead. Quartet here playing 14 Barron songs, with the man himself on piano, Dezron Douglas on bass, and Johnathan Blake on drums. B+(**)
ABBA: Voyage (2021, Polar): Swedish pop juggernaut, released 8 studio albums 1973-81, massive hits in Europe, less so in America but even here you don't have to be 60+ to know a dozen or so of their hits -- seems like they never left (in derivatives they never did). Couple passable songs, but nothing much that adds to their legacy. Some of it sounds like recycled Christmas jingles. B-
Ada Lea: One Hand on the Steering Wheel the Other Sewing a Garden (2021, Saddle Creek): Nominally a band from Montreal, although name could just be an alias for singer-songwriter Alexandra Levy. Second album, with a couple EPs. B+(**)
Aesop Rock X Blockhead: Garbology (2021, Rhymesayers Entertainment): Rapper Ian Bavitz, albums since 1997, beats by Tony Simon, who produced Aesop Rock as far back as 1999. B+(**)
Fatima Al Qadiri: Medieval Femme (2021, Hyperdub): Electronica artist, born in Dakar, raised in Kuwait, based in Berlin, fourth album. Arabic string fragments veiled in synth mist, with intimations of drama. B-
Android Trio: Other Worlds (2021, Cuneiform): Jazz-rock trio -- Andrew Niven (drums/synths), Eric Kierks (bass/synthbass), Max Kutner (guitar) -- plus guests, based in Los Angeles, associated (as producer Mike Keneally) with Frank Zappa. C+ [dl]
Anika: Change (2021, Sacred Bones): Last name Henderson, first trimmed back from Annika, from Britain but based in Berlin, second album, a decade after her 2010 debut. B+(**)
Artifacts [Tomeka Reid/Nicole Mitchell/Mike Reed]: . . . And Then There's This (2021, Astral Spirits): Third generation AACM (served together on the board 2009-11), playing cello, flute, and drums, group named for their superb 2015 album. All three write pieces, but they also look to the founding AACM generation (Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell). I've never been much of a flute fan, but she is the best. A-
Asleep at the Wheel: Half a Hundred Years (2021, Home): Founded in West Virginia in 1970, they soon moved to California, then to Austin in 1974, trading in their bluegrass roots for Western swing. Some of their best records since then have been Bob Wills tributes (Ridin' With Bob in 1999 and Still the King in 2015), although they've also done well with Willie Nelson (Willie and the Wheel, from 2009). A plethora of guests pitch in and help out, but fifty years provide the perspective. A-
Attitude!: Pause & Effect (2019 , ESP-Disk): New York trio, mixes post-punk and free jazz, features singer Rose Tang ("a Mongol from Sichuan," also guitar, piano, percussion), saxophonist Ayumi Ishito (from Japan), and drummer Wen-Ting Wu (from Taiwan). Full of rage, not least about politics (if "stand with Hong Kong" counts), less so toward the end. B+(**) [cdr]
Aya: Im Hole (2021, Hyperdub): Electronica artist, based in London, previously recorded as Loft. Spoken word over all sorts of beats and other intriguing noises. B+(**)
Badbadnotgood: Talk Memory (2021, XL/Innovative Leisure): Canadian group, combines "jazz musicianship with a hip hop production perspective," half-dozen albums since 2011, last three have topped the US Contemp Jazz charts. Odd album out has them backing Ghostface Killah (Sour Soul). Aside from that, I've never been impressed. B
Balimaya Project: Wolo So (2020 , Jazz Re:Freshed): London-based group, 17 musicians, mostly African names with a lot of percussion, but also some brass (2 trumpets, 2 trombones). Scattered vocals, but focus is on the groove, which is relentless. A- [bc]
Bktherula: Love Black (2021, Warner): Young Atlanta rapper Brooklyn Rodriguez, second or third album, surprisingly little info on her (no Discogs? no Wikipedia?). I'm finding this rather opaque, but the underground vibe has considerable appeal. B+(***)
Black Country, New Road: For the First Time (2021, Ninja Tune): British "experimental rock" group, first album, given to highly dramatized tableaux, works often enough to pique interest. Of course, I like the saxophone. They insist on this line more than seems appropriate, but it sums them up: "I'm more than adequate!" B+(**)
The Black Keys: Delta Kream (2021, Nonesuch): Group founded in 2002, effectively a duo (Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney), has a reputation as a blues-rock powerhouse, but I can't say as I've ever felt them before. Secret this time may be that they didn't try anything original: songwriter list leans heavy on Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside (7/11 songs), spiced with John Lee Hooker, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and Big Joe Williams. B+(**)
Johnathan Blake: Homeward Bound (2021, Blue Note): Drummer, side credits range from Kenny Barron to Maria Schneider, made a big impression with his 2019 album Trion. Move to Blue Note hooks him up with young stars Immanuel Wilkins (alto sax) and Joel Ross (vibes), with David Virelles (piano) and Dezron Douglas (bass). Fine drummer, but most impressive when Wilkins charges. B+(***)
Terence Blanchard: Absence (2021, Blue Note): Trumpet player, from New Orleans, played with Lionel Hampton and Art Blakey, discography (dating from 1983) includes a lot of soundtrack work. This one, dedicated to saxophonist-composer Wayne Shorter, features E Collective (his "plugged in" band) and the Turtle Island Quartet (strings). B+(**)
Blu: The Color Blu(e) (2021, Nature Sounds): Rapper Johnson Barnes III, from California, prolific since 2007. Opens with blues piano, plays off blues riffs for a while, but that's not where he really wants to go. B+(*) [bc]
Borderlands Trio [Stephan Crump/Kris Davis/Eric McPherson]: Wandersphere (2020 , Intakt, 2CD): Piano trio, bassist listed first, could be alphabetical but Crump has a long and impressive discography as a leader, as does Davis. Four long pieces, 30:28 + 19:43 on the first, 41:22 + 24:33 on the second. B+(***)
Darrin Bradbury: Talking Dogs & Atomic Bombs (2019, Anti-): Nashville-based singer-songwriter, calls himself a songster and occasionally reminds one of John Prine, first album, short at 26:41 but with 11 songs counts as an album. Cover features the dog. B+(**)
Darrin Bradbury: Artvertisement (2021, Anti-): Second album, 12 songs totalling 27:41. B+(***)
Bridge of Flowers: A Soft Day's Night (2021, ESP-Disk): Label counts this as part of its "Drive to Revive Weird Rock." Jeff Gallagher sings and plays guitar, backed with guitar/keyboards, bass, and drums, group from Fitchburg, MA. Weirdest thing is the decidedly slapdash approach to sound, although the instrumental closer nicely shows off their lo-fi meander. B+(*) [cdr]
The Brkn Record: The Architecture of Oppression Part 1 (2021, Mr. Bongo): Project led by Heliocentrics bassist Jake Ferguson, various featured vocalists have plenty to say about racism and police abuse in Britain. B+(***) [bc]
Sarah Buechi/Contradiction of Happiness & Jena Philharmonic: The Paintress (2020 , Intakt): Swiss vocalist, albums since 2014, leads a septet (piano-bass-drums + strings) named for her 2018 album, reinforced by a chamber orchestra. In English, no pedestals or spotlights, voice moves gingerly and the musicians never lose step. A-
John Butcher/Dominic Lash/John Russell/Mark Sanders: Discernment (2020 , Spoonhunt): Tenor saxophonist (also soprano), with bass, guitar, and drums, improv set from Cafe Oto in London. Guitarist died in Jan. 2021, so one of his last records. B+(*) [bc]
John Butcher/Sharon Gal/David Toop: Until the Night Melts Away (2019 , Shrike): Another Cafe Oto set, a single 35:31 piece, saxophone plus kitchen sink: Gal is credited with "voice, electronics, bells, objects"; Toop with "lap steel guitar, flutes, bass recorder, African chordophone, objects." B [bc]
Francesco Cafiso: Irene of Boston: Conversation Avec Corto Maltese (2020, Eflat): Alto saxophonist, from Sicily, as a young teenager recorded duets with Franco D'Andrea and toured Europe with Wynton Marsalis. At 32, he's put together a strong discography, and he's a very impressive saxophonist. Also an ambitious composer, employing pianist Mauro Schiavone to help with arranging the London Symphony Orchestra. "Irene of Boston" is an old ship, "Corto Maltese" is a Sicilian sailor, and they are inspirations for his sprawling work. A-
Brandi Carlile: In These Silent Days (2021, Low Country Sound/Elektra): Singer-songwriter from Washington, filed under Americana if not country, seventh studio album since 2005, occasionally aces a ballad but nothing else feels quite right here. B
Hayes Carll: You Get It All (2021, Dualtone): Country singer-songwriter from Arkansas, albums since 2002, most real good. This comes close, both for sharp observations and basic form, and gets deeper as it sinks in. A- [bc]
François Carrier: Glow (2019 , FMR): Canadian alto saxophonist, many excellent records since 2000 as he's found his unique sound and niche in free jazz. This was recorded in Spain with two guitarists, Pablo Schvarman and Diego Caicedo, plus his regular drummer, Michel Lambert. Can't say much for the guitarists here, but doesn't matter the way Carrier is playing. A- [cd]
Daniel Carter/Tobias Wilner/Djibril Toure/Federico Ughi: New York United, Volume 2 (2018 , 577 Records): Carter, who is most famous for playing in William Parker groups, has a substantial discography on his own. Here he plays saxophones, flute, trumpet, and clarinet. Wilner, from Blue Foundation, is credited with "sound manipulation, field recordings, synthesizers, percussion, vocals, bass synthesizer, piano & guitar." The others play bass and drums, Toure with Wu-Tang. Previous (unnumbered) album was recorded in 2016 and came out in 2019. Wilner post-processed, subtly shifting this from jazz improv to the realm of ambient field recordings. A- [bc]
Ron Carter/Jack DeJohnette/Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Skyline (2021, 5 Passion): Cuban pianist, based in Florida, close to 40 albums since 1985, with bassist and drummer needing no introduction. Billing order could be alphabetical or seniority or just how the name lengths fit on the cover, but it helps to focus on Carter's bass first, before the pianist explodes. Wish he did it more often, but not for lack of appreciation for the rest of his kit. A-
Claudia Quintet: Evidence-Based (2021, Flexatonic): Drummer John Hollenbeck's group, ninth album since 2001, with Chris Speed (clarinet/tenor sax), Red Wierenga (accordion), Matt Moran (vibes), and Drew Gress (bass), with "special guest" Eileen Myles ("talk"). Soft tones and lots of rhythm, with sly commentary. A- [bc]
Gerald Cleaver: Griots (2020 , Positive Elevation/577): Drummer from Detroit, did this album with modular electronics. Several pieces are dedications: "Cooper-Moore," "Geri Allen," "Victor Lewis," "William Parker." Several more are named for guests: David Virelles, Faruq Z. Bey, Ambrose Akinmusire. B+(**) [bc]
Cochemea: Vol. II: Baca Sewa (2021, Daptone): Last name Gastelum, alto/tenor saxophonist with Sharon Stone's band the Dap-Kings (2009-18), had a 2010 album under his full name, also a 2019 All My Relations, implicitly Vol. I to this one. Plays alto, electric, and flutes here, backed by lots of percussion (secondary credits for bass and electric piano) and some chanting. B+(*)
Anat Cohen & Marcello Gonçalves: Reconvexo (2020 , Anzic): Clarinet and guitar duo, recorded in the latter's Rio de Janeiro. B+(*) [bc]
Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Live at the Village Vanguard Volume II (MDW NTR) (2018 , Pi, 2CD): Alto saxophonist, has recorded over 20 albums under this group name since 1986. Current lineup: Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet), Kokayi (vocals, mostly rap), Anthony Tidd (bass), Sean Rickman (drums). The group has always worked a funk-fusion vein, but they've rarely integrated hip-hop this well. Plus long stretches without vocals. Coleman has rarely played so powerfully. A- [cd]
Isaiah Collier & the Chosen Few: Cosmic Transitions (2020 , Division 81): Chicago saxophonist, second album, first appeared in Ernest Dawkins Young Masters Quartet, quartet with a big sound and cosmic ambitions. B+(***)
The Contraptionists: Working Man's Dread (2021, self-released): Americana duo, Paul Givant and Stephen Andrews, first album, "murder ballads, road legends, and lovestory songs for the hopeful and broken-hearted." B
The Cookers: Look Out! (2021, Gearbox): All-star hard bop group -- Eddie Henderson and David Weiss (trumpets), Billy Harper (tenor sax), Donald Harrison (alto sax), George Cables (piano), Cecil McBee (bass), Billy Hart (drums) -- sixth album since 2010. Cables, McBee, and Harper wrote 7 songs (3-2-2), with Weiss arranging and producing. B+(*)
Elvis Costello & the Attractions: Spanish Model (2021, UMe): Last good album I'm aware of is 1986's Blood and Chocolate -- the only one I have cracking low-B+ is 2013's collaboration with the Roots -- but he had a tremendous run for 10 years. My personal favorites are Armed Forces (1979) and Trust (1981), but 1978's This Year's Model was his big breakthrough, and certainly comes close. This remakes that album in Spanish. Some suggestion this is actually a remix of the original tapes, with new singers carrying the new language. Kind of a neat trick. Would explain why he hasn't sounded this fresh in 40+ years (let alone looked so young on the cover). B+(**)
Sylvie Courvoisier/Mary Halvorson: Searching for the Disappeared Hour (2021, Pyroclastic): Piano-guitar duo, second meeting after Crop Circles in 2016. This seems a bit less decisively integrated, but impressive in its parts. B+(***) [cd]
Neil Cowley: Hall of Mirrors (2021, Mote): British pianist, trio albums began in 2006, this is solo but broadened out with electronics into something pleasantly ambient. B+(**)
Cyclone Trio: The Clear Revolution (2020 , 577): Free jazz trio, Australian ("Brisbane-based"; recorded in London, but label is based in New York). Massimo Magee (saxophones) and two drummers (Tim Green and Tony Irving). Opener runs 23:30, two more pieces bring the total to 50:51. B+(**)
Jeremiah Cymerman/Charlie Looker: A Horizon Made of Canvas (2020 , Astral Spirits): Clarinet duets, Looker playing piano to open, before switching to deep, brooding guitar. B+(*) [bc]
Andrew Cyrille Quartet: The News (2019 , ECM): Drummer, closing in on 80 when this was recorded, gets equal help with the songwriting from Bill Frisell (guitar) and David Virelles (piano), also with Ben Street (bass). Toned way down, toward the vanishing point. B
Daggerboard: Last Days of Studio A (2018-19 , Wide Hive): First album, although much of the group played together as Throttle Elevator Music, including songwriters Gregory Howe (organ) and Erik Jekabson (trumpet). (The main person missing is saxophonist Kamasi Washington.) Partly recorded at Fantasy Studio A in Berkeley a week before it closed. Heavier and deeper, but flow and texture don't totally escape the "elevator music" concept. B+(**) [cd]
Lana Del Rey: Blue Bannisters (2011, Polydor/Interscope): Pop star, eighth album since 2010, second this year. Mostly slow and rather dreamy. B+(***)
Dos Santos: City of Mirrors (International Anthem): Chicago group, Latin orientation, on a jazz label, so there's some of that too. B+(*)
Eliane Elias: Mirror Mirror (2021, Candid): From Brazil, has sung on most of her recent albums -- Napster lists her as "bossa nova" -- but started off c. 1990 as a first-rate jazz pianist, and not even an especially Brazilian one. No voice, just lots of piano here: four duets with Chick Corea, interleaved with three duets with Chucho Valdés, both bringing their Latin game. B+(***)
Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: (Exit) Knarr (2021, Odin): Norwegian bassist, huge discography since the mid-1990s including a long run in The Thing and various Vandermark groups. Leads an octet here, mostly Norwegians (Mette Rasmussen and Atle Nymo on sax, Eivind Lønning on trumpet), doubling down on percussion. Six pieces, named for world cities (although Oppdal, in Norway, is more of a village). Austin is funky and fun. Amsterdam is a bit overwhelming, ending the album on a high plateau. A-
Flukten: Velkommen Hap (2021, Odin): Norwegian quartet: Hanna Paulsberg (sax), Marius Hirth Hlovning (guitar), Bárður Reinert Poulsen (bass), and Hans Hulbækmo (drums). B+(***)
Nick Fraser Quartet: If There Were No Opposites (2019 , Ezz-Thetics): Canadian drummer, from Toronto, debut 1997, fourth quartet album since 2012, with Tony Malaby (sax), Andrew Downing (cello), and Rob Clutton (bass). Originals plus a couple of group improvs. B+(*)
Erik Friedlander: Sentinel (2020, Skipstone): Cellist, albums since 1991. This one is a trio, with Ava Mendoza (guitar) and Diego Espinosa (drums). B+(**)
David Friesen: Day of Rest (2020 , Origin): Primarily known as a bassist, with 50+ albums since 1975, plays solo piano here, a Ravenscroft Grand, through 20 pieces, all original. Nice, delicate touch. B+(**) [cd]
Fred Frith Trio With Lotte Anker/Susana Santos Silva: Road (2021, Intakt, 2CD): British guitarist, started out in 1974 with an album of abstract Guitar Solos, has a huge discography by now, most on jazz labels. Just trio with Jason Hoopes (electric bass) and Jordan Glenn (drums) on first disc, augmented by Anker (saxophones) or Santos Silva (trumpet) on the second disc. The guests build on the basic rhythms, but they stand up quite well on their own. B+(***)
Rob Frye: Chihuahuan Desert Birdscapes (2020 , Astral Spirits): Field recordings of birds from West Texas deserts, processed with Frye's synthesizers and handmade flutes. B [bc]
Futari: Underground (2021, Libra): Satoko Fujii (piano, voice) duo with Taiko Saito (marimba, vibraphone). Dark and dingy, focus on rhythm. Could do without the voice bit. B+(**) [cd]
Nubya Garcia: Source + We Move (2021, Concord): Saxophonist, born in London, parents from Guyana and Trinidad, plays in Maisha, has a couple EPs and an album, Source, which is remixed here. B
Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trios: Songs From My Father (2021, Whaling City Sound, 2CD): Drummer, father is vibraphonist Terry Gibbs (still ticking at 97), has used Thrasher for his various outfits since 2006, his first Dream Trio in 2013 (with Kenny Barron and Ron Carter), plural here with four trios: Chick Corea and Carter, Barron and Buster Williams, Geoff Keezer and Christian McBride, also Patrice Rushen and Larry Goldings (substituting organ for bass). B+(**)
Gift of Gab: Finding Inspiration Somehow (2021, Nature Sounds): Blackalicious rapper Timothy Jerome Parker, died in June at 50, fourth solo album. Good taste in underground beats and flow, one of the fastest, most literate rappers ever, scores some important political points, but the most poignant piece was on how he kept writing through dialysis, contemplating an end he wasn't ready for, because he had so much more to do. A
Frode Gjerstad/Isach Skeidsvoll: Twenty Fingers (2021, Relative Pitch): Norwegian saxophonist (alto and clarinet here), many albums since Detail in 1983, duets with piano. Skeidsvoll has a record in the group Bear Brother, but this is his first slugline. Not fancy, just heavy chords with some abstract tinkling, but it really sets the saxophonist off. A tour de force. A-
The Emma Goldman Bust-Out Brigade: The Emma Goldman Bust-Out Brigade (2021, Nomad Eel): Two bassists, Devin Hoff (Nels Cline Singers and other groups, like Good for Cows) and Mike Watt (Minutemen, on bass guitar), plus a drummer (Joseph Berardi). B+(**)
Rich Halley/Dan Clucas/Clyde Reed/Carson Halley: Boomslang (2021, Pine Eagle): Tenor saxophonist, has been on a tear since he retired from his day job more than a decade ago. Recent records have been elevated by Matthew Shipp, so this one starts a little uncertain, but the cornet player (Clucas) opens things up with a blistering solo, and by midway Halley has found his wind. One of the major tenor saxophonists of our time. A- [cd] [12-03]
Scott Hamilton/Duke Robillard: Swingin' Again (2021, Blue Duchess): Robillard is a blues guitarist, but he titled his 1987 debut album Swing, and he recruited a number of reputable jazz musicians for the project, notably Hamilton (tenor sax). The two are reunited here on a mix of standards, none especially electrifying, with Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet), and a couple of singers on isolated spots (Sugar Ray Norcia and Sunny Crownover), as Robillard takes it easy. B+(*)
Louis Hayes: Crisis (2021, Savant): Drummer, 84, debut was with Horace Silver in 1956, group with Abraham Burton (tenor sax), Steve Nelson (vibes), David Hazeltine (piano), and Dezron Douglas (bass), with Camille Thurman singing two songs. The vibes are especially prominent. B+(**)
Natalie Hemby: Pins and Needles (2021, Fantasy): Country singer-songwriter, second album at 44 (although she was included in the star-laden Highwomen lineup). B+(*)
Carlos Henriquez: The South Bronx Story (2021, Tiger Turn): Bassist, born in New York City, plays in Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, third album. Some vocals, no doubt a point of the story theme. B+(***)
Hiss Golden Messenger: Quietly Blowing It (2021, Merge): Folk-rock band from North Carolina, MC Taylor and Scott Hirsch, dozen-plus albums since 2008. Comfy country. B+(*)
Jon Hopkins: Music for Psychedelic Therapy (2021, Domino): British electronica producer, sixth album since 2001. Synth sounds with minor variations. I suppose with the right drugs they could be major. B
Idles: Crawler (2021, Partisan): British post-punk band, from Bristol, fourth album, Joe Talbot the singer, basic sound reminds me of the Fall, but they experiment more. I've never stuck with them long enough to sort out the lyrics, but good politics have been reported. B+(***)
Ill Considered: Liminal Space (2021, New Soil): British group, nominally a trio -- Idris Rahman (sax), Liran Donin (bass), Emre Ramazanoglu (drums) -- but often with extras (Theon Cross and Sarathy Korwar most famous), incorporate world rhythms or just swing free. Their live albums are exciting. This is their first studio effort, and they keep the heat turned up. A- [bc]
Illuminati Hotties: Let Me Do One More (2021, Snack Shack Tracks/Hopeless): Indie pop band from Los Angeles, principally Sarah Tudzin, second album. Several fast ones are terrific, slow ones less immediately appealing. A-
Injury Reserve: By the Time I Get to Phoenix (2021, No Label): Hip-hop crew from Tempe, Arizona, fourth album since 2015. Emphasis on the mix, which swallows up words, worlds even. B+(*)
Irreversible Entanglements: Open the Gates (2021, International Anthem): Third album, avant-jazz group with two horns -- Keir Neuringer (sax) and Aquiles Navarro (trumpet) -- bass and drums, plus a vocalist, Camae Ayewa (who also does hip-hop as Moor Mother). Often strong politically, not that the music could go some other direction. A-
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: Georgia Blue (2021, Southeastern): Former Drive-By Trucker, eighth album since going solo in 2007, fifth co-crediting the band. Covers of songs by 12 Georgia artists (R.E.M. twice), fulfilling a promise Isbell made if Biden won the state. Most songs have featured guests. They don't always help, and the R&B he greatly respects isn't his forté. Still, I can't fault his intentions (or his guitar). B
Wanda Jackson: Encore (2021, Big Machine/Blackheart, EP): The former (and perhaps forever) "queen of rockabilly," first hit in 1954, compilations of her early work like Rockin' in the Country: Best of Wanda Jackson (Rhino) recommended. In the 1960s she moved into more conventional country, and in the 1970s tried her hand at Christian music, but lately has fallen under the sway of rock fans like Jack White and Joan Jett. Eight songs here, 24:44, three with Jett, four song credits (one each with Angaleena Presley and Lori McKenna). B+(*)
Arushi Jain: Under the Lilac Sky (2021, Leaving): Raised on Indian classical music, based in Brooklyn, works with modular synthesizers, the structures of the ragas that underly her longer pieces only slowly become evident through the ambient clouds. Some vocals. B+(***)
Irene Jalenti: Dawn (2020 , Antidote Sounds): Jazz singer, born in Italy, based in Baltimore, debut album, wrote 4 (of 10, one in Italian) songs here, covers standards with a dash of Brazil and some scat. B+(**)
Malcolm Jiyane Tree-O: Umdali (2018 , Mushroom Hour Half Hour): South African trombonist, composer and arranger, debut as leader, gets strong support from saxophonist Daniel Nhlanhla Mahlangu (especially on "Life Esidimeni," which reminds me of Dudu Pukwana at his finest). Scattered vocals don't detract. They remind us this is still social music. A-
Samara Joy: Samara Joy (2020 , Whirlwind): Young standards singer (23), first album, won a prize named for Sarah Vaughan but sounds more like Ella Fitzgerald. With sly backing from guitarist Pasquale Grasso's trio (with Ari Roland and Kenny Washington. B+(***)
JPEGMafia: LP! (2021, Republic): Rapper Barrington DeVaughn Hendricks, from Brooklyn, based in Los Angeles, fourth album, successor to EP!. As a producer he's often brilliant. Not so sure about his rapping, which can get lost in the chaos. B+(**)
Vera Kappeler/Peter Conradin Zumthor: Herd (2020 , Intakt): Swiss pianist, several albums since 2009, including a previous duo with percussionist Zumthor. Runs hot and cold, or light and heavy. B+(*)
Kasai Allstars: Black Ants Always Fly Together, One Bangle Makes No Sound (2021, Crammed Discs): Large group in Kinshasa, Congo, assembled by Belgian producer Vincent Kenis for the label's Congrotronics series, fourth or fifth album. B+(***)
Darrell Katz & OddSong: Galeanthropology (2019-21 , JCA): Teaches at Berklee, founder of Jazz Composers Alliance in 1985, by far the most prolific composer among them, although he remains obscure enough not to have a Wikipedia page -- a serious oversight. Has a previous Oddsong release (2016), a vocal project based largely on texts by Katz's late wife Paula Tatarunis -- which account for 6 (of 14) tracks here, followed by all sorts of covers, including "Sweet Baby James," "Dirty Water," and "I've Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)." Rebecca Shrimpton is the vocalist. B+(**) [cd]
Jacqueline Kerrod: 17 Days in December (2021, Orenda): Harp player, originally from South Africa, moved to New York 1999. Debut in 2020 was a duo with Anthony Braxton. This is "solo improvisations for acoustic & electric harp," which necessarily means it's limited and esoteric. Still, rather dreamy. B+(**) [cd] [12-03]
Lady Gaga: Dawn of Chromatica (2021, Interscope): Remixes based on her 2020 album Chromatica. Beats sharpened, persona reduced, like a filter that turns realistic photos into caricatures. B+(*)
Langhorne Slim: Strawberry Mansion (2021, Dualtone): Singer-songwriter Sean Scolnick, from Pennsyvania (Langhorne), ten or so albums since 2004. High, whiny voice, no drawl but works for blues, and grows a bit as he reels off song after song. B+(**)
Remy Le Boeuf's Assembly of Shadows: Architecture of Storms (2019-21 , SoundSpore): Saxophonist (alto/soprano, flutes), born in Santa Cruz, California, plays in Le Boeuf Brothers with his twin Pascal. This is a postbop big band, group named for his 2019 album. Probably has some nice passages if you pay close attention. B [cd]
Stefano Leonardi/Antonio Bertoni: Viandes (2018 , Astral Spirits): Italian flute and cello duo, both also play more exotic instruments (sintir, sulittu, kaval, ocarina, launeddas). B+(*) [dl]
LoneLady: Former Things (2021, Warp): Manchester, UK electropop producer Julie Campbell, third album, strong pulse. B+(**)
Brandon López Trio: Live at Roulette (2021, Relative Pitch): Bassist, with saxophonist Steve Backowski and Gerald Cleaver on drums. B+(**)
Low: Hey What (2021, Sub Pop): Slowcore band/duo from Duluth, Minnesota, with Mimi Parker (vocals/percussion) and Alan Sparhawk (guitar/vocals), 13th album since 1994, their third produced by BJ Burton. Slow as in dirges, but more pretentious, or just annoying. C
Brian Lynch: Songbook Vol. 1: Bus Stop Serenade (2016 , Holistic MusicWorks): Trumpet player, like Taylor Swift setting out to reclaim his work recorded for other labels by re-recording them. I've found all but the title song on albums from 1995-2005, a period when he played mainstream/post-bop before specializing in Latin jazz. Group here: Jim Snidero (alto sax), Orrin Evans (piano), Boris Kozlov (bass), Donald Edwards (drums). [Based on "The Express Route" edition. CD adds a second disc of alternate takes.] B+(*) [bc]
Doug MacDonald: Serenade to Highland Park (2021, DMAC Music): Guitarist, has been recording frequently of late -- this is his third album this year, a trio with bass and drums, ten standards and two originals. B+(**) [cd]
Myele Manzanza: Crisis & Opportunity, Vol. 1: London (2021, DeepMatter): Drummer, from New Zealand, moved to London in 2019, three previous records, this one recorded in London with what's basically a hard bop quintet (trumpet, tenor sax, piano, bass) plus Mark de Clive-Lowe on synths. Exceptionally nimble within the mode, until they slide out into post-bop. B+(***) [bc]
Myele Manzanza: Crisis & Opportunity, Vol. 2: Peaks (2021, DeepMatter): Recorded in Berlin, one horn (Jay Phelps on trumpet), more focus on guitar, synths, bass, and programming. B+(*) [bc]
Megan Thee Stallion: Something for Thee Hotties: From Thee Archives (2019-21 , 300 Entertainment): Rapper Megan Pete, considers this a compilation, consisting of "previously-released YouTube freestyles, as well as previously unreleased archival songs," which sounds to me like it qualifies as a new release. Hard, fast, short pieces, 21 of them, adding up to 44:38. Brash, very much in control. A-
Francisco Mela Featuring Matthew Shipp and William Parker: Music Frees Our Souls (2020 , 577): Cuban drummer, studied at Berklee, close to 10 albums as leader since 2008. You know the others. B+(***) [bc]
Mereba: Azeb (2021, Interscope, EP): First name Marian, born 1990 in Alabama, father Ethiopian, moved around a lot, attending college in Atlanta and winding up in hip-hop group Spillage Village. Has a 2019 album, a couple EPs -- this one 7 songs, 23:04. Sings here, soft edges, entrancing. B+(***)
Allison Miller/Jane Ira Bloom: Tues Days (2021, Outline): Drums and soprano sax duets, improvs recorded on five Tuesdays in March and April, 2021, just to see what happened. B+(***) [bc]
John R. Miller: Depreciated (2021, Rounder): Nashville singer-songwriter, from West Virginia, has a couple previous albums. Makes himself comfortable, settling into a nice groove and telling stories about people you must have known, or just bumped into. A-
Cameron Mizell & Charlie Rauh: Local Folklore (2020-21 , Destiny): Guitar duo, both have previous albums on this Austin-based label. Original pieces, evenly divided. B
Hedvig Mollestad: Tempest Revisited (2021, Rune Grammofon): Norwegian guitarist, last name Thomassen, mostly with her Trio (7 albums since 2011), leads a larger group here: three saxophonists, extra drummer, vibes. B+(*)
Moor Mother: Black Encyclopedia of the Air (2021, Anti-): Poet/rapper/activist Camae Ayewa in underground hip-hop mode (as opposed to jazz mode with Irreversible Entanglements). Half-dozen albums since 2016. B+(*)
Van Morrison: Latest Record Project: Volume 1 (2021, BMG/Exile, 2CD): Perfectly generic title for a very generic Van Morrison album, reserving the option of future reuse -- but given that the thing runs over two hours (28 songs averaging over 4.5 minutes), none too anxious to get to Volume 2. The lyrics have generated bad word of mouth (aside from Armond White's rave in National Review), but I'm more struck by their triviality -- nowhere more so than on the title song (yes, there is one). B
Camila Nebbia Quartet: Corre El Río De La Memoría Sobre La Tierra Que Arrastra Trazos, Dejando Rastros De Alguna Huella Que Hoy Es Número (2020 , Ramble): Tenor saxophonist from Argentina, several albums, also electronics, with Barbara Togander (vocals & turntables), Violeta Garcia (cello), and Paula Shocron (piano, vocals & percussion). Title translates as "The river of memory flows through the earth leaving traces now numbers" -- a reflection on the map of Argentina reduced to statistics after five months of pandemic lockdown (although my first thought on the title was the "dirty wars," where right-wing politicians similarly reduced the people to numbers). B+(**) [bc]
Willie Nelson: The Willie Nelson Family (2021, Legacy): Short "collaborative" album (12 songs, 31:55), with sons Lukas and Micah, daughters Paula and Amy, and sister Bobbie, with Willie doing most of the singing (well, all that's worth saving). Songs dwell on religious themes, with "I Saw the Light" rising from the depths of "All Things Must Pass." Could credit the album to the group, but why encourage them? B
Arturo O'Farrill/The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra: Dreaming in Lions (2021, Blue Note): Title usually printed with ellipses fore and aft, which makes no sense to me. Son of famed Cuban bandleader Chico O'Farrill, born in Mexico after the family fled Castro but before they arrived in New York (1965). Took over his father's reconstituted big band in 2001, aligned for a while with the Marsalis regime at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and continued to be the premier name in Afro-Cuban Jazz (at least as recognized in the US). B+(**)
OneTwoThree: OneTwoThree (2021, Kill Rock Stars): Three Swiss women -- Klaudia Schifferle, Madlaina Peer, Sara Schär, the former of limited Kleenex/Liliput fame -- sing in stripped down English over stripped down bass riffs, reminds me of B-52s as much as Liliput. A-
The Ed Palermo Big Band: I've Got News for You: The Music of Edgar Winter (2021, Sky Cat): Saxophonist-led big band, started in 1980s, went through a phase of doing Frank Zappa tributes (three in 1997-2009), and finally got busy with 8 albums (2 doubles) since 2014. C+ [dl]
Phil Parisot: Inventions (2021, OA2): Drummer, from Seattle, third album, conventional hard bop quintet with trumpet (Jared Hall), tenor sax (Steve Treseler), piano, and bass. All originals, but not so hard. B+(*) [cd]
Park Hye Jin: Before I Die (2021, Ninja Tune): From South Korea, rapper-singer based in Los Angeles after living in Melbourne and London, first album, name appears first in Hangul then in parens as above, but also translates as Hye-Jin Park. Not sure that "cloud rap" captures it, except inasmuch as the "cloud" has become the globalized aether we all float through. B+(**)
William Parker/Patricia Nicholson: No Joke! (2019-20 , ESP-Disk): Bassist, very prolific, already has several of the year's best albums, with his wife adding spoken word over the brash free jazz, smacks a bit of preaching to the choir but nothing you shouldn't hear. Band includes saxophonists James Brandon Lewis and Devin Brahja Waldman, with Melanie Dyer's viola prominent on three cuts. A- [cd]
Zeena Parkins/Mette Rasmussen/Ryan Sawyer: Glass Triangle (2021, Relative Pitch): Electric harp player, not to be confused with Andrea Parkins (although both play accordion and piano), in a trio with alto sax and percussion. A little rough on the cutting edge. B+(*)
Parquet Courts: Sympathy for Life (2021, Rough Trade): One of the most critically acclaimed alt/indie bands of the 2010s -- Christgau has reviewed seven albums, 2 A and 5 A-, and I'm pretty much in agreement (well, 5 A-). Less sure about this one, at least until "Homo Sapien" comes on with its sharper beat, at which point I start paying attention. But only "Zoom Out" really pays off. B+(***)
Nicholas Payton: Smoke Sessions (2021, Smoke Sessions): Mainstream trumpet player from New Orleans, also plays a fair amount of piano here, backed by Ron Carter (bass) and Karriem Riggins (drums), with George Coleman (tenor sax) guesting on two tracks (one called "Big George"). Carter-Coleman reflects back on Miles Davis, a big influence on any trumpet player of Payton's generation. B+(**)
PinkPantheress: To Hell With It (2021, Parlophone, EP): British pop singer, barely 20, first short mixtape (10 songs, 18:36), lighter than the title implies, genre listed as "atmospheric drum & bass," which sounds about right. B+(**)
Professor Cunningham and His Old School: The Lockdown Blues (2021, Arbors): Saxophonist Adrian Cunningham, from Australia, based in New York, leads a retro-swing octet through the title piece and several topical songs (like "Six Feet Is Too Far From You"), as well as oldies that seemed to fit the bill (e.g., "Don't Get Around Much Anymore"). B+(*)
Abbey Rader/John McMinn: Two as One (2021, Abray): Drummer I ran across some time ago as a William Parker collaborator. Duo, McMinn plays tenor & alto sax, piano, and percussion. They have a couple of previous duos, and have played together at least as far back as 2004. Rugged free improv, sax impressive but can wear on you, piano less. B+(*) [bc]
Anaïs Reno: Lovesome Thing: Anaïs Reno Sings Ellington & Strayhorn (2021, Harbinger): Standards singer, at 16 has no business singing such difficult and sophisticated songs -- she leans to the Strayhorn side of the headline -- much less with such poise and nuance. Gets help from pianist-arranger Emmet Cohen, and superb spot support from Tivon Pennicott (tenor sax) and Juliet Kurtzman (violin) -- the latter her mother, who left Houston to be a concert violinist in Europe, then returned to New York to teach music, with her own, albeit modest, recording career. A-
Steph Richards With Joshua White: Zephyr (2019 , Relative Pitch): Trumpet and piano, her name much larger on cover, she's also credited with flugelhorn and "resonating water vessels" (evidently an effect of playing in water), he with preparations and percussion. B+(**)
ROVA: The Circumference of Reason (2018-19 , ESP-Disk): Saxophone quartet founded 1977, name from initials of its founding members (Jon Raskin, Larry Ochs, Andrew Voight, Bruce Ackley), although Voight was replaced by Steve Adams in 1988. There is something intrinsically ugly about nothing but monophonic instruments, but the interplay here is so fascinating I suspended prejudice most of the way through. Then, well, it got a bit too ugly. B+(***) [cd]
Dua Saleh: Crossover (2021, Against Giants, EP): Born in Sudan, left at age 5 and wound up in Minnesota, makes a point of being non-binary, hip-hop but sings more than raps, third EP (7 songs, 22:56). Diverse songs, each with its own unique allure. A-
Sara Schoenbeck: Sara Schoenbeck (2019-21 , Pyroclastic): Bassoonist, had a duo album album back in 2002 and a fair number of side credits, but not much more under her own name. But she runs the table here with nine far-ranging duets -- Roscoe Mitchell (soprano sax) is notable, followed by Matt Mitchell (piano). B+(***) [cd]
Self Esteem: Prioritise Pleasure (2021, Fiction): British singer-songwriter Rebecca Lucy Taylor, electropop. Currently the top-rated album this year at AOTY. I like the beats and message well enough, but I'm not wild about the choral effects. B+(**)
Sara Serpa: Intimate Strangers (2021, Biophilia): Vocalist-composer, from Portugal, ten or so albums since 2008, mostly intimate setting with a single accompanist (e.g., Ran Blake). This is more ambitious, with fascinating spoken word by Emmanuel Iduma (from Nigeria), more vocals by Sofia Rei and Aubrey Johnson, Matt Mitchell on piano and Qasim Naqvi on modular synth. B+(**) [cdr] [12-01]
Matthew Shipp: Codebreaker (2020 , Tao Forms): Solo piano, and while I rarely find his solo work -- as a rough guess, at this point only Keith Jarrett among living pianists is likely to have more -- as appealing as his trio, it remains impressive compared to everyone else (including Jarrett). A- [cd]
Jacob Shulman: Connectedness (2021, Endectomorph Music): Saxophonist (alto, I think), from Los Angeles, based in New York, first album, quartet with piano (Hayoung Lyou), bass (Simón Willson), and drums (Avery Logan). Impressive work, very solid. B+(***) [cd]
Silk Sonic [Bruno Mars/Anderson .Paak]: An Evening With Silk Sonic (2021, Aftermath/Atlantic): A pop star in decline since his 2010 debut, and a rapper with a pop streak, a combination that must have seemed natural when they were hanging on the road, but the only distinctive voice here is the MC, Bootsy Collins. B-[Later: B+(**)]
Nala Sinephro: Space 1.8 (2021, Warp): Caribbean-Belgian composer/producer, based in London, first album. Ambient, with overtones of harp. B+(*)
Josh Sinton: B. (2021, Form Is Possibility): Saxophonist, plays baritone here, solo, engaging but has its limits. B+(**) [cd] [12-10]
Sir Babygirl: Golden Bday; The Mixtape (2021, self-released): Kelsie Hogue, non-binary, released an EP in 2019, promises "previously unreleased tracks in celebration of still being alive and music being awesome." Mostly upbeat, padded with three covers, the off-brand Joni Mitchell actually quite nice. B+(**) [bc]
Nate Smith: Kinfolk 2: See the Birds (2021, Edition): Drummer, from Virginia, debut 2017 with his first Kinfolk, also plays some keyboards but mostly has Jon Cowherd for that, and Jaleel Shaw on sax. Most songs have vocals (Michael Mayo, Kokayi, Stokley, Amma Whatti, Brittany Howard, a mixed bag), and guests drop in (Regina Carter, Vernon Reid). Has its moments, most dependably with Shaw. B
Wadada Leo Smith, Jack DeJohnette & Vijay Iyer: A Love Sonnet for Billie Holiday (2016 , TUM): Five original pieces by the all-stars (trumpet, drums, keyboards), the connection to Holiday tenuous at best, although Smith is in his finest Yo! Miles form, and the drummer is quite some wizard. B+(***) [cd]
Wadada Leo Smith's Great Lakes Quartet: The Chicago Symphonies (2015-18 , TUM, 4CD): Trumpet, with Henry Threadgill (alto sax/flute), John Lindberg (bass), and Jack DeJohnette (drums) -- for the first three discs, recorded in 2015, replacing Threadgill with Jonathan Haffner on the 2018 fourth disc. The suites aren't terribly long (36:38-39:48 for the first three, 49:13 for the last), and I have reservations about the third, but they feel more improvised than Smith's recent major productions, and with this group that's a plus. A- [cd]
Snail Mail: Valentine (2021, Matador): Singer-songwriter Lindsey Jordan, plays guitar, second album. B+(**)
Snotty Nose Rez Kids: Life After (2021, Distorted Muse/Fontana North): Canadian First Nations hip-hop duo, Darren Metz ("Young D") and Quinton Nyce ("Yung Trybez"), fourth album. B+(**)
The Source: . . . But Swinging Doesn't Bend Them Down (2019 , Odin): Norwegian quartet, predates its 2006 eponymous album on ECM by a dozen years, the constants saxophonist Trygve Seim, Øyvind Braekke (trombone), and Per Oddvar Johansen (drums), with Mats Eilertsen on bass. Thoughtful, intricate work, but not what I'd call "swinging." B+(***) [bc]
Space Afrika: Honest Labour (2021, Dais): Electronica duo, Joshua Reidy and Joshua Inyang, based in Manchester, the latter with roots in Nigeria. Third album. B+(*)
Vince Staples: Vince Staples (2021, Blacksmith/Motown, EP): Los Angeles rapper, started in Odd Future, or maybe the Crips, has so much rep I'm surprised how thin his discography is. This one has 10 tracks, but only runs 22:02. B+(**)
Helen Sung: Quartet + (2021, Sunnyside): Pianist, Pianist, from Texas, albums from 2003, quartet with John Ellis (tenor/soprano sax and flute), David Wong (bass), and Kendrick Scott (drums), the plus being the Harlem Quartet (strings). B+(*)
Taylor Swift: Fearless (Taylor's Version) (2021, Republic): Let's set out some ground rules: I've heard all nine of Swift's studio records, rated them favorably (A- for Speak Now), * for the debut, ** for Reputation, *** for the other 6). I even own a couple (Speak Now and Red), but I don't remember any of them, so one thing I can't do here is offer any insightful comparisons between new and old versions (although I could easily believe that she knows more about how to run a studio now, or at least can hire more expert help). Moreover, my plan, after having ignored this for six months, is to stream it once and react as if it's all new (which it effectively is to me). Big difference here is the sprawl, from 53:41 to 106:20, as the new edition re-records the 19-track Platinum Edition plus six extra songs they held back. No doubt there's a terrific album in here somewhere, waiting for an editor to bring it into focus. B+(***)
Taylor Swift: Red (Taylor's Version) (2021, Republic): Her 4th Big Machine album, 2nd to get the "Taylor's Version" treatment, which means re-recording old songs, including extras that didn't make the original release, extending the album from 65:09 to 130:26. Same basic deal. Ends with a 10:13 "All Too Well" that holds up all the wa to the end. B+(***)
Craig Taborn: Shadow Plays (2020 , ECM): Major pianist, solo this time, live concert from Vienna. B+(*)
Aki Takase/Daniel Erdmann: Isn't It Romantic? (2020 , BMC): Piano and tenor/soprano saxophone duo. Six compositions each, plus the Richard Rodgers title song. B+(**)
This Is It!: Mosaic (2021, Libra): Japanese trio -- Natsuki Tamura (trumpet), Satoko Fujii (piano), and Kashi Itani (drums) -- previous album from 2018. All five compositions by Fujii. B+(***) [cd]
Tirzah: Colourgrade (2021, Domino): Singer-songwriter, from England, second album. Sort of like trip hop but not as luxe. B+(*)
Trees Speak: PostHuman (2021, Soul Jazz): Duo from Arizona, Daniel Martin Diaz and Damian Diaz, fourth album, electric keyboards with more than an echo of Krautrock. B+(*)
Two Much [Reut Regev and Igal Foni]: Never Enough (2021, Relative Pitch): Trombone and drums duo. B+(***) [bc]
U-Roy: Solid Gold (2021, Trojan): Legendary Jamaica toaster Ewart Beckford, recorded this star-laden pseudo-hits album shortly before his February, 2021 death at 78. Classic tunes, pumped up, sometimes over the top. Closer to its inspiration is Scientist's 15:01 closing dub. B+(*)
Tommy Vig: 2022: Jazz Jazz (2021, Klassikus Jazz): Hungarian drummer/vibraphonist, fled to Vienna then to US after 1956, worked in movies, moved back to Hungary in 2006. Big band here, loves Monk, loves Beethoven, mostly loves lapsing into schlock, like he's rerunning old movie scores at treble speed and volume. C [cd]
Will Vinson/Gilad Hekselman/Antonio Sanchez: Trio Grande (2019 , Whirlwind): Sax-guitar-drums trio, recorded in the melting pot of New York (Queens, actually; originally from England, Israel, and Mexico). Not big stars, although all three have extensive discographies since 2004 or so. They add up impressively until Vinson switches to keyb, tipping them into fusion, still well above par. B+(***)
Pabllo Vittar: Batidão Tropical (2021, Sony, EP): Brazilian drag queen, given name Phabullo Rodrigues da Silva, lots of skin on the cover, mostly background. Considered forró electronico, pretty upbeat. Nine songs, 23:05. B+(*)
Summer Walker: Still Over It (2021, LVRN/Interscope): R&B singer from Atlanta, debut Over It was a sizable hit, sequel is same but longer (63:36 vs. 42:49). B+(*)
Dean Wareham: I Have Nothing to Say to the Mayor of L.A. (2021, Double Feature): Singer-songwriter, responsible for two catchy but soft-edged indie bands (Galaxie 500, Luna), solo records began in earnest in 2013, although last year's Quarantine Tapes credits Dean & Britta (Phillips, Luna bassist and part-time vocalist, also his wife). B+(**)
Marcin Wasilewski Trio: En Attendant (2019 , ECM): Polish pianist, long-running trio with Slawomir Kurkiewicz (bass) and Michal Miskiewicz (drums). B+(*)
Jane Weaver: Flock (2021, Fire): British singer-songwriter, 11th solo album since 2006, before that she was in bands like Kill Laura and Misty Dixon. Describes this as "inspired by Lebanese torch songs, 1980s Russian Aerobics records and Australian punk," but your guess is as good as mine. Starts wobbly, but finds a shiny groove. B+(**)
Westside Gunn: Hitler Wears Hermes 8: Sincerely, Adolf (2021, Griselda/Empire): Buffalo rapper Alvin Lamar Worthy, started this mixtape series in 2012, not his only titles to namecheck Hitler but he also trades on Flygod. Music thrashes hard, but can't find much redeeming social value. B
Westside Gunn: Hitler Wears Heres 8: Side B (2021, Griselda/Empire): First track sounds more thoughtful. Second sounds funkier. Likely this improves on its predecessor (it's certainly more varied), but over the long run -- and it does run very long -- it proves equally tedious. B
Mareike Wiening: Future Memories (2020 , Greenleaf Music): German drummer, second album, postbop quintet with tenor sax (Rich Perry), piano (Glenn Zaleski), guitar (Alex Goodman), and bass (Johannes Felscher). B+(*) [cd]
Wiki: Half God (2021, Wikset Enterprise): New York rapper Patrick Morales, started in group Ratking, third album, produced by Navy Blue. B+(**)
Lainey Wilson: Sayin' What I'm Thinkin' (2021, Broken Bow): Country singer, from Louisiana, third album, co-credits on all 12 songs. Kicks up her heels, keeps bars in business, speaks her mind ("so don't ask me if you don't want total honesty"). B+(***)
Remi Wolf: You're a Dog (2019, Island, EP): Fun/pop singer-songwriter from Palo Alto, based in Los Angeles, first of three dog-themed titless, 6 songs, 17:59. B+(*)
Remi Wolf: I'm Allergic to Dogs (2020, Island, EP): Second of three dog-themed titles, 5 songs, 16:39. Increases the funk quotient. B+(**)
Remi Wolf: We Love Dogs! (2021, Island): Remix album, juices up the songs from the previous EPs. Mixed bag: sometimes the jacked up beats help, but there is a tradeoff against the personal, or something else completely. B+(**)
Remi Wolf: Juno (2021, Island): Funk/pop singer-songwriter from Palo Alto, based in Los Angeles, 25, first album after several EPs. Upbeat, comic flair, seems like I should like this better. B+(***)
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Ben Black: Mystery & Wonder (2007 , Origin): Jazz singer, active in Seattle since 1985, debut album 1996, released another album in 2001. Remarkably ambisexual voice, a bit too operatic for my taste. B+(**) [cd]
Laurence Cook/Jacques Coursil/Warren Gale/Perry Robinson/Steve Tintweiss: Ave B Free Jam (1967, Inky Dot): Long (74:42) free jazz improv, recorded by bassist Tintweiss, with Coursil and Gale on trumpet, Robinson (the only musician established at the tie) on bass clarinet, and Cook on drums. B [cd]
Jimmy Giuffre 3: Graz Live 1961 (1961 , Ezz-Thetics): Started as a saxophonist in Woody Herman's Second Herd, wrote "Four Brothers" for their saxophone section. From 1956, started playing in trios, mostly with Jim Hall, taking a radical turn in 1961 when he was joined by Paul Bley (piano) and Steve Swallow (bass) and switched exclusively to clarinet. Quite a bit from their 1961 tour is available, including sets on Hat for their Stuttgart (Nov. 7) and Bremen (Nov. 23) sets. This one is a bit earlier (Oct. 27). Not sure if it's better or not, but does include two songs by and one dedicated to the pianist's not-yet-famous wife, Carla. B+(***) [bc]
Joe Harriott Quintet: Free Form & Abstract Revisited (1960-62 , Ezz-Thetics, 2CD): Alto saxophonist (1928-73), born in Jamaica, moved to UK in 1951. Followed Charlie Parker with his 1950s EPs, but with his 1960 album (Free Form) started gathering comparisons to Ornette Coleman. It remains his masterpiece, nicely packaged here with its worthy successor. Beyond this, his growth path in the 1960s skirted the avant-garde for "Indo-Jazz" fusion. A- [bc]
Calvin Keys: Shawn-Neeq (1971 , Black Jazz): Guitarist, first album, funk grooves with electric piano, bass, drums, and flute. B+(*)
Jim Knapp Orchestra: It's Not Business, It's Personal (2009 , Origin): Composer, arranger and conductor, formerly played trumpet, released three JKO albums 1999-2003. Conventional big band, has some bright spots. B+(*) [cd]
Harold Land: Westward Bound! (1962-65 , Reel to Real): Bebop saxophonist, plays tenor, from Houston but associated with West Coast bands, made his mark in the late-1950s with albums like Harold in the Land of Jazz. This selects pieces from three sets at the Penthouse in Seattle with different piano-drums (bassist Monk Montgomery is on all three), and trumpet (Carmell Jones) on the first set. B+(**)
Mujician: 10 10 10 (2010 , Cuneiform): British avant-jazz supergroup: Keith Tippett (piano), Paul Rogers (bass), Tony Levin (drums), and Paul Dunmall (soprano/tenor sax, also bagpipes). Founded 1990, did this tour with Levin turned 70. B+(**) [dl]
Harvie S Trio: Going for It (1985 , Savant): Bassist, real name Swartz, albums since 1980, long plagued by typos (which have become something of an obsession with him -- I noticed the following line in his Wikipedia page: "I don't know who you are that is changing my edits I am Harvie S"; I've received complaints too). Recorded at 1369 Jazz Club in Cambridge, MA, with guitarist Mike Stern and drummer Alan Dawson. I've gotten to where I never expect much from Stern, but he is terrific here. Must be the company he keeps. A-
Sacred Soul of North Carolina (2020 , Bible & Tire): Various gospel artists, including some who have been in business for considerable years, but recorded at the same time (11 groups in 8 days in February 2020). The band is presumably the same for all, and they rock. No guarantee I won't grow tired of this much holy rolling, but damn impressive for what it is. A- [bc]
Archie Shepp: Blasé and Yasmina Revisited (1969 , Ezz-thetics): Tenor saxophonist, pushed the avant-garde envelope in the 1960s and by 1969 was looking for a label in Europe. He recorded several albums for BYG in Paris. This reissues all of Blasé, including four cuts featuring Jeanne Lee vocals -- some of her most striking work -- and adds the 20:06 "Yasmina," recorded with an 11-piece band that doubled up on bass and drums and added extra percussion (rhythm logs and balafon). A- [bc]
Be Kind Rewind [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] (2007 , Lakeshore): Buddy comedy film, directed by Michel Gondry, starring Jack Black and Mos Def, music mostly by Jean-Michel Bernard. With Mos Def on three tracks, Booker T. Jones on three more, a couple Fats Waller songs, and Billy Preston doing "Nothing From Nothing." B [cdr]
Between the Covers (1989-2005 , Legacy): Charity album, proceeds to T.J. Martell Foundation "to help find the cure for cancer, leukemia and AIDS." Songs are covers, mostly by well-known artists (U2, Madonna, Rod Stewart, Dixie Chicks, Eric Clapton, David Bowie & Mick Jagger) of well-known older songs (the last pair do "Dancing in the Street"). B [cd]
Glen Campbell: The Legacy (1961-2002) (1961-2002 , Capitol, 4CD): Singer/guitarist, from Arkansas, moved to Los Angeles and established himself early in the 1960s as a studio musician, early albums had titles like Big Bluegrass Special and The Big Bad Rock Guitar of Glen Campbell. Broke through the pop harts with "Gentle on My Mind" (1967), "Wichita Lineman" (1968), and "Galveston" (1969), which led to him hosting a TV show. His last big hit was "Southern Nights" (1978), which topped the country, pop, and adult contemporary charts. He wound up recording over 60 albums, extending beyond this cutoff date up to his 2017 death. For a guy who's supposed to be a great guitarist, not to mention a country bumpkin, one surprise is how thick the strings are on his pop hits. Most of this is awful, but I wondered for a while if it might be possible to construct a single disc (maybe just LP-length) of his more tolerable schlock. "Gentle on My Mind"? (For sure). "Wichita Lineman"? (Definitely not.) C [cdr]
Sonny Clark: My Conception (1957-59 , Blue Note): Hard bop pianist, had a terrific run from 1957 to his early death (at 31 in 1963). This quintet session with Donald Byrd (trumpet), Hank Mobley (tenor sax), Paul Chambers (bass), and Art Blakey (drums) wasn't released until 1979. CD adds three tracks from 1957 with Clifford Jordan (tenor sax), Kenny Burrell (guitar), Chambers, and Pete La Roca (drums). B+(***)
Tony Conrad: Thunderboy! (1971-73 , Table of the Elements): Filmmaker, composer, sound artist, writer (1940-2016); important figure on the avant/minimalist scene in New York from the 1960s. Name appears here only on back cover ("recorded and produced by"). Album built from audio samples, some from rock and roll, pasted together in short, repetitive bursts. One of those things that's more high concept than something you'd actually enjoy listening to. B- [cd]
Sylvie Courvoisier/Mary Halvorson: Crop Circles (2016 , Relative Pitch): Swiss pianist, based in New York, couple dozen albums since 1997, engaging duo here with the guitarist. B+(***) [bc]
Bing Crosby: Bing! His Legendary Years, 1931 to 1957 (1931-57 , MCA, 4CD): Big star (1903-77), started as a singer in the unfortunately named Paul Whiteman Orchestra, went solo around the start of this box, became the definitive crooner until Frank Sinatra came around, after which he was better known as a movie star. When I was growing up in the late 1950s he was a cultural icon, a reminder of a kinder, gentler America that was already fading. The box ends when he left Decca for other labels, but by then he didn't just sound but defined old-fashioned. Nonetheless, some of my early memories of him were signs of his deep and generous admiration for African-American musicians: I especially remember a movie scene where he opens up his mansion to a succession of famous jazz musicians, led by Count Basie, and is clearly in awe. So much here anyone could edit an ace sampler, but wading through it all feels like history, with too many Christmas songs (what he is unfortunately best remembered for). Booklet by Will Friedwald. Gary Giddins would have been better: wish I had read his multi-volume Crosby biography, but doubt I'll ever get around to it. B+(***)
Disco Tex & His Sex-O-Lettes: Disco Tex & His Sex-O-Lettes (1975, Chelsea): Studio disco assemblage, "masterminded by Bob Crewe and Kenny Nolan," featuring Sir Monti Rock III, recorded three albums 1975-77, this their debut. Chuck Eddy picked this as the best album of 1975. Sounds too offhand and farcical for me, with all the crowd noise and gross gestures, but maybe they were just crying out for a clarifying video. Still gains something by the end. B+(**)
Dr. John: The Very Best of Dr. John (1968-92 , Rhino): Mac Rebennack, New Orleans pianist, spent a decade doing studio work before trying his hand as a freakish rock star, had a bit of success, then when that gig started failing, revived with a definitive roots album (Dr. John's Gumbo), then settled into a long twilight as his home town's professor emeritus. Died in 2019, leaving a huge discography of distinguished work, but it's hard to put it together into an overview because he was all over the place. A-
Arnold Dreyblatt: The Sound of One String (1979-91 , Table of the Elements): Avant composer, from New York, where he founded The Orchestra of Excited Strings, based in Berlin since 1984. Eleven live and previously unreleased recordings, from as many sets and locations, various artists, mostly strings including his own E-bow solo. The earliest tracks are the harshest, setting up the more sophisticated minimalism to follow. B+(***) [cd]
A Good Year [Music From the Motion Picture] (, Legacy/Sony Music Soundtrack): Movie, based on the Peter Mayle novel, directed by Ridley Scott, starring Russell Crowe, Albert Finney, and Marion Cotillard. I don't remember it either. Concludes with some original music by Nick Ingman, following a semi-random selection of old songs -- most recognizable are "Old Cape Cod" (Patti Page), "Never Ending Song of Love" (Delaney & Bonnie), and "Itsy Bitsy Petit Bikini" (in French, as are several chansons, but you'll no doubt recognize it anyway). B [cd]
Fred Hammond: The Essential Fred Hammond (1991-2004 , Verity/Legacy, 2CD): Gospel singer, from Detroit, started as bassist for the Winans, original member of Commissioned (1985-95), also with Radical for Christ (1995-2000). This picks up pieces from both groups, as well as solo work, much in roof-raising live mode. No single piece seems so bad, but boy do they pile up on you. C+ [cd]
Heart of the Forest: The Music of the Baka Forest People of Southeast Cameroon (1993, Hannibal): Field recordings from a tribe of Pygmies in Cameroon, seems to have been recorded by Su Hart and Martin Cradick, with nature sounds, chants, and percussion (most importantly water drums). They went on to form a band, Baka Beyond, with "mostly English musicians trying to re-create the sound recorded with the Baka people," but that's another record (Spirit of the Forest). B+(***)
Bobby Hutcherson: Medina (1968-69 , Blue Note): Vibraphone player, debut in 1965 marked him as a major player, recorded a lot for Blue Note up through 1977, but seems like the label left a lot of his work on the shelf, releasing it well after the fact. This collects two sessions: this adds 5 (of 6) tracks from Spiral (released 1979, 30:21; they left out a 1965 track) to Medina (6 tracks, 40:05), which hadn't appeared until 1980. Both sessions use the same group: Harold Land (tenor sax), Stanley Cowell (piano), Reggie Johnson (bass), and Joe Chambers (drums). A-
Illuminati Hotties: Kiss Yr Frenemies (2018, Tiny Engines): First album from Sarah Tudzin's group. Like the sound and the sentiment, but not much sunk in. B+(**)
John P. Kee: The Essential John P. Kee (1991-2000 , Verity/Legacy, 2CD): Gospel singer/preacher from North Carolina, calls his church the New Life Fellowship Center. Early in, a song about saving a sick child with prayer convinced me he's full of shit, but the barnburners proved as invigorating as annoying. B- [cd]
Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers: The Very Best of Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers (1956-60 , Rhino): Series limited to 16 tracks each: easy here given that Rhino had released a 20-track The Best of Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers in 1989, so all they had to do was scratch four songs. I might have picked a couple different, but this not only has "all the original hits" (only 2 charted top-20) but lots of glorious filler, proving the youngest teenager as one of the great voices of the 1950s. As you probably know, Lymon struggled after 1960 and died at 25. The stories are horrifying, including a daughter who died two days after birth, and a heroin bust that sent him into the army instead of jail, only to be dishonorably discharged for going AWOL to sing in local clubs. A
Make 'Em Mokum Crazy: This Is the New Sound of Popcore (1995-96 , Mokum): Dutch label, founded 1993, released hundreds of 12-inches and compilations, like this one. Hardcore electronic dance music ("exploded to gigantic proportions -- raves of 20,000 gabbers were no exception"), and pretty ridiculous at that, which might have seemed like yet another vector to drive to infinity, or at least over a cliff. A- [yt]
Donnie McClurkin: The Essential Donnie McClurkin (2000-05 , Verity/Legacy, 2CD): Gospel singer, born in South Carolina, practiced in Detroit before becoming senior pastor at Perfecting Faith Church in Freeport, NY. A piece early on which he attributes to Jamaica is choice. Still gets hot and heavy. B- [cd]
John R. Miller: Service Change (2014, 789875 DK): First album, leads off with "Motor's Fried" -- one of the best songs on his new album. One more song reappears. Several more good songs here, including one that reminded me of Joe Ely. B+(***)
John R Miller & the Engine Lights: The Trouble You Follow (2018, Emperor): Everything he does sounds good. Still, this one slipped by without really sinking in. B+(**)
New Jack City [Music From the Motion Picture] (1991, Giant): Soundtrack to the Mario Van Peebles movie (with Wesley Snipes and Ice-T), although conceptually the movie could just as well be the product tie-in for the soundtrack. B+(***)
Notekillers: Airport + Ants (2006, Notekillers, EP): Philadelphia postpunk trio, active 1977-81, cited by Thurston Moore as an influence, after which Ecstatic Peace released a pretty good collection of their early work -- Notekillers (1977-1981) -- and they regrouped, producing this 2-song single and later a couple albums. Instrumental, interesting tuning. B+(*) [cd]
The Orioles: For Collectors Only (1948-57 , Collectables, 3CD): Doo-wop group, from Baltimore, sometimes Sonny Til & the Orioles, had a number of r&b hits starting with "It's Too Soon to Know" in 1948, their biggest "Crying in the Chapel" (1953). Title warns you there's more here than you really need. Not sure whether they even merit a single-disc -- something to look out for. B+(*) [cd]
The Orioles: Sing Their Greatest Hits (1948-54 , Collectables): Fourteen cuts, so should be pretty condensed, but that doesn't seem to make much difference. They were a ballad group, mostly quite lovely. B+(**)
Putumayo Presents: Christmas Around the World (1990-2002 , Putomayo World Music): Twelve tracks, most melodies you will recognize even if the words are foreign and rhythms a bit sprightlier than the American norm. But not a very big world: 5 tracks locate in the US, 6 more in the Caribbean (having counted Puerto Rico in the US), the only outlier, quel surprise, France. Still, you could hear worse in the mall this season. C+ [cd]
Eliane Radigue: Adnos I-III (1973-80 , Table of the Elements, 3CD): French electroacoustic composer, b. 1932, worked as assistant to Pierre Henry 1967-68, has several dozen records since 1970. Long ambient pieces, minimalism without repetition or rhythm, doesn't seem like much but stays with you. B+(**) [cd]
Rhythm Love and Soul Live (2002 , Shout! Factory): Follows up a superb 3-CD box set that spans 1958-81 with a single package show, with 15 songs by 13 artists, many singing their old hits well after the fact, but only Aretha Franklin is still a headliner -- she's the one with 3 songs (one a duet with Lou Rawls). Aside from Franklin and Rawls, the only repeats from the box are Gloria Gaynor, Billy Paul, Peaches & Herb, The Spinners, and Edwin Starr. B+(**) [cd]
Smokey Robinson: Where There's Smoke . . . (1979, Tamla): One of the pillars of Motown, perhaps the one I've paid the least attention to: I love a few of his Miracles singles, like many more, but paid scant attention to his post-1973 solo albums, with a Best Of garnering a mid-B+. Christgau reviewed 14, this the only A-. Could be, but the remake of "Get Ready" is the song that stands out, and not as much as the Temptations version you know. B+(***)
Tom Robinson: North by Northwest (1982, IRS): British singer-songwriter, led TRB (Tom Robinson Band) through two albums. Solo albums start with Sector 27 in 1980 (unless that was a band name), or here, with many more to follow. I liked those early albums, but don't get much out of this batch. B+(*)
Kevin Roth: Between the Notes (2006, Star Gazer): Singer-songwriter, best known for playing mountain dulcimer, has a long list of albums since 1975, many aimed at children. B [cd]
Juan Carlos Quintero: Joy to the World (2007, Tenure): Colombian guitarist, from Medellin, plays the usual Christmas fare, sly enough to be unobtrusive, just guitar and a bit of percussion. B- [cd]
Roxy Music: Greatest Hits (1972-75 , Atco): Bryan Ferry's pioneering glam rock group, with Andy McKay (oboe/sax), Phil Manzanera (guitar), Paul Thompson (drums), and keyboards (Eddie Jobson replacing oblique strategist Eno after two albums). New York Dolls fanatic Robert Christgau resisted their first four albums, opened up a bit to Siren, and was won over here (full A). Stranded was the one that did it for me, and is still my first pick (3 cuts here, plus 3 from runner-up Country Life). Extra bait is the non-album single "Pyjamarama," but the real plus here is that they pulled the stompers from For Your Pleasure, ending side one with "Editions of You." A
Roxy Music: The High Road (1982 , Warner Brothers, EP): Cover identifies band as Musique Roxy. Four song, 26:38 live shot, from Glasgow, opening with two Bryan Ferry originals (not hits), and covers from Neil Young ("Like a Hurricane") and John Lennon ("Jealous Guy"), more in tune with Ferry's solo trajectory than the glam-era band. B+(***) [yt]
Roxy Music: Heart Still Beating (1982 , Reprise): Live set from Fréjus, France, includes the four songs from The High Road, recorded a month earlier in Glasgow. The greater length (14 songs, 67:52) helps, smoothing out the transition from the early albums to Avalon, folding Ferry's solo career back into band context. A-
The Rubinoos: The Rubinoos (1977, Beserkley): Power pop band from Berkeley, California, formed in 1970, no records until 1975 when they showed up on the roster of Beserkley Charbusters Volume 1, their one cut overshadowed by Greg Kihn and Earth Quake, even more so by four Jonathan Richman tracks. Got a question asking whether I knew them, and I clearly remembered the name, but was rather surprised not to find any of their records in my database. This debut album starts with a singles-worthy cover of "I Think We're Alone Now." The band, or at least Tommy Dunbar, has stuck around, with an album as recent as 2019, following an "all covers" live one in 2017. Safe to say they're more secure covering others' songs, but it's mostly originals on this album, albeit derivative ones. B+(*)
Frederic Rzewski: Coming Together/Attica/Les Mouton De Panurge (1973 , Opus One): Avant-classical composer, pianist (1938-2021), drew on minimalism but nothing here feels overly constrained or repetitive. Three pieces here, appearing in order listed above but I've seen covers implying different orders (mostly Attica first). First two pieces have spoken word (Steve Ben Israel) driving home political points -- "Coming Home" has a text by Sam Melville, "Attica" by Richard X. Clark. Mostly jazz musicians on those, notably Karl Berger on vibraphone. The third piece is the most minimalist, although the mix of percussion instruments keeps it interesting. A- [yt]
Sarge: Distant (2000, Mud): Indie rock band from Champaign, Illinois, principally singer-songwriter Elizabeth Elmore, third and final album, the three new songs padded out with live cuts and demos. She broke up the band to go to law school, and has practiced law since 2004, but from 2002-04 recorded two more albums as The Reputation. B+(**)
Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson: It's Your World (1976, Arista): Some studio recordings, but mostly live. The leader makes his political points, and right on for that, but it's Jackson's groove that's really infectious here. A- [yt]
The Selecter: Too Much Pressure (1980, Chrysalis): British ska band from Coventry, first album. B+(***)
The Sex Pistols: Filthy Lucre Live (1996, Virgin): Britain's definitive punk band, self-destructed after one pathbreaking album, itself built on 2-3 incendiary singles. I remember snapping them all up one by one, interspersed with competitive product from the Clash and X-Ray Spex, and while I wouldn't say they were the best of the trio, they hit early and hard. I figured this for a bootleg from back in the day (of which there are several), but this was their first (of several) reunion tours (minus dead Sid Vicious, of course). Filthy lucre indeed, lapped up with all the contempt it deserves. A-
Shalamar: Three for Love (1980, Solar): Vocal trio from Los Angeles, two guys (Jeffrey Daniel and Howard Hewett) and a girl (Jody Watley), started on Soul Train (with a different lineup, with this "classic" one not destined to last either). Fourth album, first to go platinum. Bits of disco-funk-soul, but not enough to typecast as anything other than danceable pop. I know and like their compilations, but never stopped for their albums. Reportedly one of their best. B+(***)
Shalamar: Go for It (1981, Solar): Fifth album, same lineup, strikes me as a bit more funk (but maybe I just mean Chic-groove) but they call their closer "Rocker." B+(***)
Shalamar: Greatest Hits (1978-81 , Solar): Spans four albums, skipping their Soul Train debut, leaning hard on Three for Love (5 tracks, of 10 here) and Big Fun (3). Three cuts were dropped from 1999's expanded 17-song Greatest Hits -- the preferred choice, but this never lets up. A-
Shoes: Present Tense (1979, Elektra): Power pop band from Illinois, principally brothers John and Jeff Murphy and Gary Klebe, with various drummers over a long career (at least up to 2013). Second album (not counting early private releases). B+(***)
Shoes: Tongue Twister (1981, Elektra): Another straight pop album, the music's subtle hookiness similar to Marshall Crenshaw, but doesn't hit you as hard. The secret to making this soft touch work is consistency, and this one never wavers. Except perhaps on "Karen," where the slowdown is most touching. A-
Shop Assistants: Shop Assistants (1986, Blue Guitar): Scottish group, four women and one bloke (plays guitar), only released this one album plus occasional singles and an EP, Safety Net, 1984-90. Christgau's A- lists this title, but looks like it was for the EP. It is flagged as such, label given is 53rd & 3rd, and praises song "Safety Net" (not on album). A later CG mentions the album in ACN as one he played but decided not to review. Safety Net cover has band name but no separate cover. Christgau wrote: "everything I wanted the Slits to be" -- right idea, but this one doesn't quite cut it. B+(**)
Shop Assistants: Will Anything Happen (1986 , Cherry Red): Reissue of their 1986 album Shop Assistants plus two extra songs, one upbeat, the other down, neither adding much. B+(**)
Silkworm: Lifestyle (2000, Touch & Go): Indie band, formed in Montana, self-released two albums 1987-89, moved to Seattle in 1990. They broke up in 2005, following their drummer's death in a homicidal car crash, leaving nine more albums. By this point they've matured as songwriters and absorbed a bit of Pavement. Lament: "never in our lives have we been so entertained." A-
The Silos: About Her Steps (1985, Record Collect): Debut album for Walter Salas-Humara and Bob Rupe, a short one (8 songs, 29:49), steeped in American vernacular, what was called country-rock at the time. B+(***)
Silos: Cuba (1987, Record Collect): Folkish, violin/viola prominent, unclear what, if anything, it has to do with Cuba. B+(**)
Slade: Slayed? (1972, Polydor): British rock band, often grouped as glam rock but count as progenitors of hard rock and metal even, but catchier and funnier (sometimes inadvertently). Second album, following the programmatic Play It Loud, this was their first UK number one (but only 69 US). B+(**)
Slave: Show Time (1981, Cotillion): Funk band, founded 1975 in Dayton, Ohio by horn players Steve Washington (trumpet) and Floyd Miller (trombone), joined by drummer-vocalist Steve Arrington in 1978 -- with Washington leaving before this album, Arrington right after. B+(*)
Snapback: Purgatory (2006, "Insert Your Major Label Name Here" Music): Postpunk band -- Mike Duncan (vocals/guitar), Johnny B. Ulrich (drums), Chris Sumrell (guitar), Tim Schmidt (bass) -- first and possibly only album, don't know anything about them but evidently this was recorded in Wichita, KS. Cover looks like a detail from Heironymous Bosch. Actually pretty good, even when they slow down. B+(**) [cd]
Phoebe Snow: The Best of Phoebe Snow (1974-78 , Columbia): Singer-songwriter, played guitar, literate and sometimes funky, draws these ten songs from five albums which could benefit from some sifting. All ten appear on 2001's The Very Best of Phoebe Snow, which has another 13 years to draw on, but not much there (e.g., "In My Girlish Days" hails from 1976). B+(**)
The Specials: Ghost Town/Why?/Friday Night Saturday Morning (1981, Chrysalis, EP): British ska group, two albums in 1980, then the discography gets real messy, with this 3-song, 13:29 effort exceptional, in part because it doesn't really sound like their usual grind. All three tracks appear in 1991's The Singles Collection, which is the one to look for. B+(***)
The Speed Boys: That's What I Like (1982, I Like Mike): Rock band from Lancaster, PA, fronted by singer Robert Bobby, with Bobby Kinsley and Bobby Blue Blake on guitars, Bobby Lawson on bass, Bobby Schmidt on drums, and Bobby Lowry on keyboards, vibes, harmonica, and trombone, plus some more non-Bobby horns. Didn't know there was much of a boogie tradition in Pennsylvania, but recommended to Low Cut Connie fans. A-
The Speedboys: Look What Love's Done to Me Now (1983, I Like Mike): Second album, songs are more structured, leading off with old-fashioned rock and roll but not stopping there. And while love themes predominate, Robert Bobby has things to say about anabolic steroids and nuclear bombs. They disbanded in 1985, with Bobby releasing occasional records under his own name (and one more as Speedboys in 1989) -- most recently Folk Art in 2015 -- before he died in 2018. A-
Steppin' Out: Disco's Greatest Hits (1970-78 , Polydor): Compiled by Vince Aletti and Ritchie Rivera, 13 songs, mostly long versions (although when I tried to build a playlist, the versions I found had different times), mostly obscurities (except for Gloria Gaynor's "Never Can Say Goodbye," which really is one of disco's very greatest hits). Had to listen to this on YouTube one LP side at a time, but don't mind because that's how it was designed, and it was designed for purpose. An artifact of the era. A- [yt]
The Strokes: The Modern Age (2000, Rough Trade, EP): Three tracks, 11:09, basically a preview for their debut album Is This It, which instantly obsoleted it (I wound up with a playlist from the album, which shortchanged "Barely Legal" 30 seconds). I remember them as the most ridiculously hyped New York band since the CBGB's era, but the album turned out to be pretty good -- a feat that unlike Talking Heads, Ramones, Blondie, even Television they never repeated -- and these are up to snuff. Docked a notch for obsolescence, and because I don't see a cover scan I want to show. B+(***)
The Strokes: First Impressions of Earth (2005 , RCA): Third album, official release date seems to be Dec. 30, 2005, but many editions only appeared in 2006. Recognizably the same band that arrived to so much acclaim in 2001 (or 2000, as some date The Modern Age), same thrash and angularity, but singer Julian Casablancas is starting to turn into one of those overweening voices you (or I, at least) can't stand (e.g., "On the Other Side"). B+(*)
The Suburbs: In Combo (1980, Twin/Tone): Postpunk band from Minneapolis, EP in 1978, this the first of four albums up to breakup in 1987; regrouped in 1992, with three more albums since 2013 -- only original members left are Chan Poling (keyboards) and Hugh Klaers (drums). Poling has a background in minimalism and music theatre, which doesn't prove anything but fits in with the album's surprising boisterousness. A-
Sugar and Poison (1971-89 , Virgin, 2CD): Compilation programmed by David Toop, aims at the "quiet storm" aesthetic in 1980s soul balladry, mostly drawing on similar -- one might say, prescient -- material from the 1970s, which at the very least offers bigger names, albeit with more obscure songs (names I know, but less than a quarter of the songs are familiar). Christgau exclaimed, "only my wife has ever made me a better mix tape." Still, my playlist seems a bit unsteady. Seems like this disappeared as soon as it came out. Nice, but not sure it's worth the search. B+(***)
Billy Swan: I Can Help (1974, Monument): Country singer-songwriter from Cape Girardeau, about as far south as you can get in Missouri. Had some success as a songwriter even before moving to Nashville in 1972, but his biggest hit ever was his first single, the title song. The album is a rush job, six originals and four covers, very hit-and-miss. B+(**)
Billy Swan: Billy Swan (1976, Monument): Third album. Not just upbeat, downright ebullient, rockabilly puffed up with extra voices and the occasional horn. B+(***)
Billy Swan: At His Best (1974-76 , Monument): First-draft best-of, 10 tracks from his first three albums (3-3-4), building on rockabilly roots with incandescent swing and bonhomie. Same 10 tracks lead off 1998's The Best of Billy Swan, but they don't tail off here. A-
Billy Swan: Like Elvis Used to Do (1999 , Audium Entertainment): Before Swan moved on to Nashville, he made a stop in Memphis to work with Bill Black. Rockabilly was always a key component to his work, so 25 years after his freak hit may have seemed like the moment when covering Presley was his best option. This is about half of a 1999 release on Castle Select, but probably enough. He doesn't have a great voice, and his best trick is to slow it down and fluff it up -- cf. his 1974 "Don't Be Cruel," best matched here with "Heartbreak Hotel." B+(**)
Billy Swan and Buzz Cason: Billy & Buzz Sing Buddy (2018, Arena): Eleven Buddy Holly songs, short at 31:25 but not nearly as short as the originals, which rarely topped 2:20. Cason, by the way, was a founding member of the Casuals ("Nashville's first rock and roll band"), worked with Snuff Garrett in the 1960s, produced at least one record for the Crickets, recorded as Garry Miles, released Buzz in 1977, and has recorded several tribute albums since 2007. Not sure when this was recorded, as there is a similar record from 2014. Similar to Swan's treatment of Elvis Presley. B+(*)
Swan Silvertones: Amen Amen Amen: The Essential Collection (1952-63 , Rockbeat/Archive Alive): Gospel group, not my cup of tea these days but a fundamental building block of the R&B I do love. And as gospel groups go, this is one of the great ones. Draws on early (1952-53) sides for Specialty, for which I've previously recommended Love Lifted Me/My Rock, and later (1957-63) work for Vee-Jay -- cf. Swan Silvertones/Singin' in My Soul and Get Your Soul Right. This is as good as any. A-
Tavares: The Best of Tavares (1974-76 , Capitol): Disco/soul group, five brothers, name from parents of Cape Verdean descent, started 1959 as Chubby and the Turnpikes (middle brother Antone was Chubby). Albums start in 1974, their first four feeding into this 9-track best-of. At best the group sounds like they fell off the Motown assembly line, but good as they are, memorable they are not. B+(**)
The Thermals: The Body, the Blood, the Machine (2006, Sub Pop): Indie rock band from Portland, OR, principally Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster; third album, a blinded Jesus on the cover amidst much trial and turmoil ("the album tells the story of a young couple who must flee a United States governed by fascist faux-Christians"). The music is sharp and crisp, a bit heavy for my taste. The story line? Well, I can see their point, but don't really feel it. When I was a teenager, I decided that Christians were foul-minded hypocrites, more trouble than they were worth. I don't exactly believe that now, but the bonds of faith were broken, which makes the rest unimportant and uninteresting. B+(**)
Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments: Straight to Video (1997, Anyway): Columbus, Ohio band, led by Ron House, previously of Great Plains (three albums, Sum Things Up their best). Second album with this group. A little dense for me to catch on the fly. B+(***)
Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments: No Old Guy Lo-Fi Cry (2000, Rockathon): Third and last album. Loud and dirty, not that Ron House doesn't have shit to say. B+(***)
Sally Timms: Cowboy Sally (1997, Bloodshot, EP): Singer from Leeds, joined the Mekons in 1985 as they were making their country-rock move (Fear and Whiskey), like Jon Langford moved to Chicago (was married to Fred Armisen there). Has several solo albums like this 5-track, 16:47 EP, "sings with the Waco Brothers, the Handsome Family, and Friends." B+(**)
Sally Timms & Jon Langford: Songs of False Hope and High Values (2000, Bloodshot, EP): Mekons, both moved from Leeds to Chicago, closer to country music. Eight songs, 24:23, four co-written by both, one more by just Langford, Timms gets the two country covers ("Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" and "Down From Dover"), Langford takes "Joshua Gone Barbados." B+(**)
Sally Timms: In the World of Him (2004, Touch & Go): Significant Mekons contributions, covers from odd places. I'm finding it all a little too down. B+(*) [bc]
Tokyo Police Club: A Lesson in Crime (2006, Paper Bag, EP): Indie band from near Toronto, first EP (7 songs, 17:38) before their 2008 LP debut. Starts very strong, promising group, as their 2008 album Elephant Shell proved. B+(***)
Tony Toni Toné: Hits (1988-97 , Mercury): Artist credit often with exclamation marks after each name. Something they called "new jack soul," brothers D'wayne and Charles Wiggins (aka Raphael Saadiq) and cousin Timothy Riley, cut four albums 1988-96, debut gold, rest platinum. A-
Pete Townshend: Who Came First (1972, Track): First solo album, discounting two loosely credited tributes to Meher Baba, from the Who majordomo. Even this seems like a side project, with Ronnie Lane's "Evolution" a highlight (obviously sung by Lane, not coincidentally the best thing here). Townshend returned to his group after this, returning to solo albums in 1980 (five through 1993) after Keith Moon's death rendered the Who a relic. (Well, not counting a 1977 duo album with Lane, by far the best of the bunch.) B+(*)
Trin-I-Tee 5.7: Holla: The Best of Trin-I-Tee 5.7 (1998-2002 , GospoCentric/Legacy): Gospel girl group, had recorded 4 albums before this best-of, with two more to come (one a Christmas album). I got suckered in a bit at first, but they go typically overboard on the second half. Still, "People Get Ready" sounds as great as ever. B [cd]
Trouble Funk: Drop the Bomb (1982, Sugar Hill): Funk band, part of the D.C. "go-go" scene, formed in 1978, had a live album before this six cut, 36:43 party platter. Not sure whether the title cut is warning or defiance, but "Pump It Up" is pure adrenaline. A- [yt]
Trouble Funk: Trouble Over Here/Trouble Over There (1987, Island): Mostly a local phenomenon, but in mid-1980s Island started to give them broader distribution, just as they were slowing down. But Bootsy Collins does help here. B+(**)
Luther Vandross: The Best of Luther Vandross: The Best of Love (1980-89 , Epic, 2CD): I admit I lost the thread of black pop in the 1980s. When I stopped writing rock crit in 1980, my curiosity and consumption waned. Disco and funk split the late 1970s and wandered off, and I was slow to warm to hip-hop. Politics also seemed to vanish during the Reagan backlash, leaving an MOR pop which dominated the charts but rarely engaged me. So I missed a generation of stars, including Vandross, Teddy Pendergrass, and I don't even remember who else (Whitney Houston?). I listened to his debut way back when, and I've heard 2- and 4-CD compilations since, barely remembering any of them, but this seems better, not that I expect to remember it either. B+(***)
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble: Live Alive (1985-86 , Epic): Blues rocker, from Dallas, debut 1983, three studio albums before this live epic. By rep, a great guitarist, so-so singer. I'm not so sure about either. B+(**)
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble: Greatest Hits (1983-90 , Epic): Vaughan died in 1990, in a helicopter crash, aged 35, so that provides a bound to the dates -- his sixth studio album, The Sky Is Crying, was released posthumously in 1991. This starts with a previously unreleased cover of George Harrison's "Taxman," then delves into more conventional blues, as well as a nod to Jimi Hendrix. A-
The Very Best of Praise & Worship Volume 2 (1996-2006 , Verity/Legacy): Label anthology, although I suppose the drums plus massive choir-plus-preacher call-and-response constitute a distinct gospel style. Six (of nine) cuts are live. I can imagine getting swept up in the holy fervor, but listening to it is a chore (or a penance?). Last two tracks aren't so bad ("No Way," "We Sing Hallelujah"), as the rhythm picks up. B-
Andreas Vollenweider: Midnight Clear (2006, SLG): Swiss harp player, albums since 1979, draws on folk and classical but gets slotted as "new age." Christmas themed. Carly Simon is featured on three songs, although he also employs the Zurich Youth Choir. B- [cd]
Tom Waits: Blood Money (2002, Anti-): Singer-songwriter, has done some acting, early on you could imagine him as Billy Joel in the noir underworld. Circa 1983 (Swordfishtrombones) he got even harder boiled, his voice rougher, his melodies more fractal/percussive, and he upped his game again around the fin de siècle. He released this one same day as Alice, which is the one I bought, probably because this one was supposed to be stranger. And it is. A-
Tom Waits: The Black Rider (1993, Island): Songs written for a play directed by Robert Wilson, some with lyrics by William S. Burroughs. B+(***)
Hezekiah Walker: The Essential Hezekiah Walker (1992-2005 , Verity/Legacy, 2CD): Pastor at Brooklyn's Love Fellowship Tabernacle, his group the Love Fellowship Crusade Choir. Albums since 1987, more beyond this time frame. Mostly big choir productions. C [cd]
Wide Right: Wide Right (2002, Wide Right, EP): Six songs, all of which re-appeared on their 2003 eponymous album, which doesn't lose anything. Docked as obsolete, and because I constructed my playlist from the album. B+(***)
Jesse Winchester: Jesse Winchester (1970, Ampex): Singer-songwriter from Memphis, headed for Canada to avoid the Vietnam draft, found a sympathetic producer in Robbie Robertson, returned after amnesty, career slowed down after 1981. Pretty solid album. B+(***)
Bill Withers: The Best of Bill Withers (1971-74 , Sussex): Soul singer, had an easy-going country blues sound, exuding warmth and strength. First draft of a best-of, based on three studio albums, although most of his hits from the first two also appear on Live at Carnegie Hall, and Still Bill is enough of a classic it's probably first choice. Went on to five more albums for Columbia (up to 1985), but his longer compilations don't get better. A-
O.V. Wright: The Soul of O.V. Wright (1972-73 , MCA): Memphis soul singer, died young (41 in 1980), started in gospel, worked with Willie Mitchell at Hi Records. He's pretty good, but for every song I can probably find a similar but better one by someone else. E.g., he owned "That's How Strong My Love Is" until Otis Redding came around. B+(**)
Zetrospective: Dancing in the Face of Adversity (1978-84 , ZE): New York label sampler, founded by British mogul Michael Zilkha (wound up selling Zilkha Energy for $1 billion) and Michel Esteban, drawing on No Wave and Disco, most successfully with Kid Creole & the Coconuts and Was (Not Was), but even the oddities and trivia are odd and/or trivial in interesting ways. A-
Zetrospective: Hope Springs Eternal (1980-84 , ZE): Companion sampler, starts with two songs each from Kid Creole, Davitt Sigerson, Cristina, John Cale, The Waitresses, and Was (Not Was), then adds a third for three of them. Not a very compatible grouping, so don't expect flow, just an interesting bunch of odds and ends. [The two Zetrospective volumes were reissued in a 2-CD package. When reissued separately the artwork adds #1 and #2.] B+(**)
Warren Zevon: Stand in the Fire (1980, Asylum): Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter, but not one of those introspective, confessional types. His songs are miniature stories, about characters like the murderer in "Excitable Boy," or the fellow in need of "Lawyers, Guns and Money." Not sure you need another version of those tales, but he figures "live" means rock out, finishing with a Bo Diddley medley. B+(***)
ZZ Top: Greatest Hits (1979-90 , Warner Brothers): Arena rock band from Texas, sold over 50 million records, starting with their First Album in 1971, but just a blues-rooted g-b-d trio which held together to see their 50th anniversary before bassist Dusty Hill died. They're my brother's all-time favorite band, but I've only rarely found myself admiring them -- mostly for Deguello (1979), which for a while was my standard kickoff to making Saturday waffles. The two songs repeated here are outstanding. Otherwise, this favors Eliminator (1983, 4 tracks) and later material (including two Six Pack remixes of earlier hits) -- mostly items I didn't recognize, although they are consistently tight and focused. [Also recommended: the 2-CD Rancho Texicano: The Very Best of ZZ Top, which came out in 2004.] A-
Music: Current count 36797  rated (+257), 125  unrated (-24).
Excerpts from this month's Music Week posts:
Music: Current count 36591  rated (+57), 145  unrated (-4).
After last week's birthday dinner, friends advised me to take it easy. Easiest thing for me to do was to continue down my unheard Christgau-rated list. Having passed 'z' and moving into various artists compilations, I was a bit surprised to find a mis-sorted block of artist albums starting with Plastic People of the Universe, although I didn't find streamable copies of any A-list albums until I got down to Smokey Robinson. I also worked a few of my unrated albums in, although I slowed down when I hit a pile of Verity gospel compilations (blame Fred Hammond). Most of the few other records came from Facebook tips (e.g., Disco Tex was Chuck Eddy's first pick in 150 Best Albums of 1975). Sorry I'm not as impressed with O.V. Wright as Cliff Ocheltree is.
Actually, I've known about the sort bug for a long time, but when I've looked at it, the only things I could find were data errors that produce inconsistent qsort() comparisons. This results in locally sorted blocks (themselves sorted properly) being thrown out of order. I just found and fixed one such error, and now it looks like all.tbl is fully sorted. Still doesn't fix the subset I previously extracted for the Christgau grade list, but does feel a lot tidier.
Late in the week, I turned to the Ezz-Thetics Bandcamp for something under the "recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries," and accidentally found they had slipped a new release into the catalogue. Finally, I thought I should have something new and recent from the demo queue. Glad I went for the Steve Coleman. Only after I had the review mostly written did I discover that there were two discs -- I had been listening to the second, which I still slightly prefer, but both are delightful. Could well be a ballot pick.
I finally did the indexing on October Streamnotes, which came out to 218 albums, pushing the Streamnotes total to 18011 albums (although that's included real CDs, and a handful of LPs, since 2014; still, we're approaching the point where half of my rated records have been streamed).
My daily routine is to get up whenever seems appropriate, take a bunch of pills, get a bowl of yogurt for breakfast, put some music on, and settle down in front of the computer, scanning through the Wichita Eagle on-line. Used to be thumbing through the paper news, but digital has introduced some subtle changes in my reading habits. For one thing, I see and read a bit more. I see more because I wind up forwarding through every page, instead of skipping whole sections. Mostly I see more sports, which makes up about a third of the whole paper. I find myself actually following NBA basketball, which is the only sport I still have any feel for. Occasionally I stop on an auto racing story. And I have to admit, I've picked up a bit of baseball for the first time in 25 years. I still don't recognize any of the players, but I'm beginning to know a bit about teams.
I find myself reading more news articles, superficial as they so often are. Occasionally I feel like commenting on something, but the logistics are inconvenient. Updating my blog is also inconvenient, which is probably why I've tended to group comments into weekly posts, like Music Week or Speaking of Which (which I haven't been doing much of lately). I've thought about using Twitter to forward the occasional article link (as I did yesterday), but it's hard to make a point (let alone several) in 280 characters. Besides, Twitter is such a fleeting forum (and Facebook is even more limited). Then I remembered that I already have a domain name, Notes on Everyday Life, with a WordPress blog set up but unused. I've used that domain for a couple of since-crashed websites. So I resurrected it yesterday, had trouble finding my original About page, so I wrote another, then a new post on VA health care and how the Republicans have a weird knack for creating crises and the fobbing off blame for them on Democrats. I had previously tweeted about a Washington Monthly article that I wanted to expand on.
I updated the WordPress site software, and am still finding a lot of things about it confusing (like why it doesn't include the author name with the article, except on rare occasions, or how I get rid of that "Proudly powered by WordPress" footer). So working on that.
Finished reading Kim Stanley Robinson's novel The Ministry for the Future, but haven't finished my commentary on an article he wrote about the book, something I started working on before I got to the book. Meanwhile, I've started a second novel, called We, the House, by Warren Ashworth and Susan Kander. My wife is an editor for a local publishing house, Blue Cedar Press, founded by a couple of local friends (guests at my birthday party, by the way), and they were offered the novel because it's about an old house in nearby Newton, Kansas. It has two major characters: one is a painted portrait of a Mrs. Peale that hangs in the dining room and can observe the people inside the house, and the other is the house itself (pronoun we), which can only report the view outside the house. My wife loves the book, and I've been hearing her praise it for several months now. And while I'm not much of a fiction reader, I do have a thing for houses.
Just happened to take a look at the Covid map today, and what I'm seeing looks rather alarming: not just the slight uptick in the last week (since Oct. 25), reversing a downward trend since the second peak on Sept. 13, but the county map looks a lot like a map of fall colors, with Alaska the worst, a stretch from Maine down the Appalachians to West Virginia, the Great Lakes from Michigan to Minnesota, and the High Plains and Rocky Mountains stretching into the Sierra Nevada nearly all high. This is a big shift from September, when the correlation was strongest with dipshit Republican governors. Flus have always peaked in Winter, as Covid did last year. Looks like we're not out of the woods yet, although you can thank your vaccinated friends and neighbors if this year isn't as bad as last. And if you ban the unvaccinated from your Thanksgiving feasts, you'll come out ahead two ways.
Many elections tomorrow. Hopefully we'll get a city council rep (Michelle Ballard) who's not in the pockets of the developer lobby. The only election that's likely to be read as a barometer on Biden (at least vs. Trump) is Virginia governor. I can understand lamenting the inability of Democrats to deliver on campaign promises, but that's no reason to vote Republican. All they have to offer is spite and stupidity. Democrat Terry McAulliffe is pretty uninspiring, but do voters really want to choose nothing (and no hope) over something?
Actually, I continue to be impressed by Biden's ability to shift the Overton Window (the domain of issues being seriously discussed). For instance, see: G20 Leaders Endorse Plan to Block Corporations From Sheltering Profits. This is something literally no one in power was talking about when Trump was president. The G20 pledges on climate change may be lame, but they would have been pointless with Trump still in charge. Sens. Manchin and Sinema may succeed in scuttling much of Biden's Build Back Better bill, but they're looking desperate and obtuse in doing so.
Music: Current count 36637  rated (+46), 133  unrated (-12).
Got up this morning to find that we had no internet, which less importantly also took out the TV and phone line. Major disruption to my usual day, which I compounded by doing some long-procrastinated yard work. Also some grocery shopping, and picked up some food for dinner. Finally up and working now, but late start here. Still haven't read the morning on-line newspaper.
I spent a good deal of time yesterday organizing my 2021 EOY lists for jazz and non-jazz. I've been doing it this was since 2013, figuring that since I started writing Jazz Consumer Guide in 2005 half or more of the records I listen to each year are jazz, and I follow different rules and heuristics in deciding what to listen to in jazz and non-jazz. In particular, I still receive a fair (albeit declining) number of jazz promos, which I almost always listen to -- even those that wouldn't have caught my attention otherwise. I'm pickier when it comes to non-jazz, favoring genres I've tended to enjoy, avoiding ones I've rarely cared for. I usually wind up checking out 95% of the top 100 EOY albums, 80% of the top 200, with numbers falling of considerably from there.
First key statistic is that the initial draft of the files shows 509 jazz and 276 non-jazz albums (i.e., 65% jazz). I expected the number of records to drop this year. Early on, I decided not to try to keep a running metacritic album list this year, so I've spent a lot less time following reviews (especially non-jazz), and as such have much less idea of what is out and what other people are liking. Also, I've been searching out a lot of old music -- my rated totals are actually up this year (1960 vs. 1726 for the first 10 months in 2020, so up 13.5%), but new records are down (785 vs. 982 when I initially compiled the EOY files in 2020, so down 20.1%). I'm still undecided on doing an EOY aggregate this year. If I do so, I'm likely to make up more ground than if I don't. At any rate, the years of me doing 1200-1500 records per year are probably done.
The statistic I was surprised by this year is that both my jazz and non-jazz lists show 38 A/A- albums each. That's about half the number I wind up with most years (2020 wound up with 86 jazz, 76 non-jazz, although the more relevant stat was the initial draft number: 54 jazz, 43 non-jazz). That points to the second statistical anomaly this year. As far as I can recall, the EOY lists always started with significantly more jazz A-list than non-jazz (2020 was closer than usual). As you can see, the domain split is almost 2-to-1 in favor of jazz, so I've been paying lots of attention to new jazz releases. Indeed, the archival split of 22 jazz/5 non-jazz is way above any past norms. I don't know why, but it's been a very active year for jazz reissues/archival music, and those releases have been more accessible this year than has been the case for many years.
One more thing I'll note is that (working from memory) only 14 of my top 38 non-jazz albums have been graded A/A- by Robert Christgau; 3 have lower Christgau grades (as does Sons of Kemet on my jazz list); the other 21 haven't been reviewed/graded by Christgau. Of the 14, I got to 8 first (although Billie Eilish was a close call; I reviewed Dry Cleaning earlier, but only raised my grade to A- after Christgau's review). (Actually, four more Christgau A-list albums made other parts of my list: three in Non-Jazz Reissues/Historic Music [out of 5, so 60%], and Body Meπa on the Jazz list -- all albums I only heard about through him.) At least 9 more Christgau A-list albums appear lower down my Non-Jazz List, with Tune-Yards at the bottom (B).
As always, I will update the lists as I listen to new music. Note that order isn't at all well established. I try to keep the A-list in some sort of rank order, but my usual method isn't very reliable, so when I finally look at the whole list I wind up doing a log of juggling. I did some of that while I was putting this together, and expect to do more, especially as I re-listen to select items. Also, one thing I haven't worked on yet is to fill in the unheard prospects at the bottom of the files ("estimated to have a 2% or better chance of making the A-list if/when I finally hear them"). I'll add to that list as I look at other lists (and my own tracking file), and then tick them off as I listen to some of them.
I hear that NPR is dropping its support for Jazz Critics Poll this year. I'm inclined to run the poll anyway, posting the results on my Hullworks website (as I've done for many years; that way we provide complete ballot accountability without encumbering the sponsor, who's usually only interested in the winners). Waiting to hear what Francis Davis thinks of my proposal, and what (if any) contribution he'd like to make. It's been his forum since its inception back when we were both writing for Village Voice, so what he thinks carries a lot of weight. Last year, ballot invites went out on November 20, with a deadline of December 13. The idea was for NPR to post the results first week of January, although last year they weren't posted until January 14.
The downside to not having a sponsor is that we won't get paid, even the modest sums we're used to. At this point, that's not a big concern, for me at least. I have a system for collating and counting the ballots, and it's reliable and pretty easy to work, so that part is straightforward. I'd like to set up a package with the results and whatever writing we can come up with, and see if we can nudge it out so it spreads virally around the Internet, increasing its visibility and interest in new jazz. I'd appreciate any suggestions on how to do that. Also tips on people we should invite but haven't.
Music: Current count 36694  rated (+57), 128  unrated (-5).
Long list of records this week. Had one of the best weeks this year for adding new A-list records, mostly thanks to Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide. I even liked the two gospel records, although I've been miserable with the genre lately, especially slogging through the Verity compilations that have been part of my housecleaning chore. Unrated list still dropping, but I ran into a batch this week that I had little stomach for. Also, I'm running out of findable A-list entries in the unheard Christgau list (indeed, three of the Old Music entries below were reviewed from constructed playlists).
Other stuff happening that I can't really get into right now.
PS: One thing I can mention now is that there will be 16th Annual Jazz Critics Poll, with Francis Davis directing and me helping out, as usual. Top results and essays will appear on The Arts Fuse before January 1, and complete results and individual ballots will appear on my Jazz Critics Poll website. (Page is currently primitive, but I'm working on that.) Ballot invites will go out to critics by Monday. If you expect an invite (especially if you've voted in the past) and don't get one, please let us know.
Continuing to add to my Jazz and Non-Jazz EOY files. I've also started to assemble a Metacritic/EOY Aggregate file. Only 3 major lists so far, all British, so don't expect much. At this early stage, points for Christgau's and my grades are a large part of the total, creating a major skew. (Nathan Bell, for instance, is currently ranked 11, but realistically unlikely to finish in the top 300 -- not that he shouldn't be in the top 10, but the world is missing out on a lot of good things these days.) On the other hand, there is only 1 record in top 70 I haven't heard (Low's Hey What). The other thing worth noting is that I spent a lot of time collecting 4-star (and up) ratings from All About Jazz, Downbeat, and Free Jazz Collective, so the jazz skew is probably at an all-time peak. Part, but not all of the reason, Sons of Kemet and Floating Points are in the top three.
Finally (for now), I copied this quote down from Twitter, someone known as @TheBlueMeme:
Not sure that's exactly right, but it does resonate for those of us who have long been aware of the abyss we seem to be inexorably drawn into. And the conclusion is probably spot on. The acquittal of an Illinois teenager who crossed state lines to murder anti-racism protesters is just one more troubling note. In some sense this is much like the precedent of using drones to kill people abroad, with the same lame justification of self-defense. But it does hit close to home, as the victims this time could just as well have been us. I can't fathom the implications, but it surely undermines the case for gun rights, especially the whole notion that guns are defensive. Effectively they are signs saying "shoot me." Had anyone else shot and killed Rittenhouse, they would have had an equally valid case, for self-defense. (One comment I noted on Facebook: "Rittenhouse is free but it's ok to shoot him.") Unless, that is, the real message is how the case was politicized, and how that was reflected in the obvious prejudices of the judge.
On a lighter note, Ethan Iverson wrote a piece: "What do you give someone to introduce them to modern jazz?" He recommends Kind of Blue, A Love Supreme, and a stack of classic Blue Note albums. I'm not a huge fan of Dexter Gordon's Go (I prefer Our Man in Paris) or Wayne Shorter's Speak No Evil (Night Dreamer is a bit better, but this is where I might go for Tina Brooks' Minor Move, or Jackie McLean's Swing Swang Swingin' (assuming New Soil is a bit too far out for this list).
Music: Current count 36746  rated (+52), 130  unrated (+2).
Getting into the end-of-year crunch, so nearly everything this week is in the "new music" list. The exceptions are: a Bobby Hutcherson album that a reader recommended, and a Sonny Clark album that has a new vinyl reissue in Blue Note's Tone Poet series (but I went with the 9-track CD instead of the 6-track LP, so I counted it as old instead of as a new reissue).
Six (of 7) new A-list albums are jazz, although the break in records listened to isn't that skewed. Two of the picks (Carrier and Halley) are perennial favorites, and I tend to like everything they do. Two more are groups (Ill Considered and Irreversible Entanglements) that his fusion seams that I'm easily drawn to. So there was something semi-automatic about those four picks, not involving a lot of thought, especially as I didn't do any comparative listening with old favorites (all have multiple A/A- records in their catalogs). The other two picks were, indeed, surprises (especially Buechi; Gjerstad always seemed like a good, solid contributor, but this is his first headline record I've given an A- to).
It's been harder to identify promising non-jazz, but also I haven't stuck long enough with good records to rate them higher: Idles, Kasai Allstars, and the two Taylor Swift retreads got one play each. and part of the reason I didn't give them a second play was that I already had a track record of stopping at B+(***) for each of them (the last two Idles, two previous Kasai Allstars, and the original Swifts). On the other hand, Dua Saleh overcame my usual anti-EP prejudice with three plays (although I was pretty sure on the first).
The first EOY lists have appeared, from Mojo, Uncut, and Rough Trade -- all British but still not a lot of common ground (and literally zero interest in US hip-hop, or in US pop phenoms like Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo -- although Lana Del Ray, St. Vincent, and the Weather Station got some support). I've started a Metacritic/EOY Aggregate file, but it shows very little at this point. (Also not clear when/if I'll find time to keep it up.) I'm not getting a lot of inspiration from what I've seen so far. After Black Country, Country Road, the next highest unheard record so far was Low's Hey What, a group that has gone from boring to majorly annoying (they ranked 4th both at Mojo and Uncut; Nick Cave's Carnage was 3rd and 5th, but I wasted my time on it some months ago). Still unheard in the current top 100: The War on Drugs, Paul Weller, Courtney Barnett, David Crosby, John Grant. Only one I've looked for is Barnett, but Napster only has 6/10 tracks.
Invites went out on Sunday for the 16th Annual Jazz Critics Poll. I sent 173 invitations out to voters in recent years (we had a record 149 voters last year). Got six ballots so far. Biggest surprise is how many records have already popped up that I wasn't aware of. As I learn more, I'm likely to concentrate on those records this week.
Feels like I should be cooking something for Thanksgiving, but I've rarely done so in the past, and thus far no one has showed any interest in me doing so this year. Boo hoo. More time for fucking lists, I guess.
Just finished Adam Serwer's excellent book on the Trump years: The Cruelty Is the Point: The Past, Present, and Future of Trump's America. He seems to be the best of Atlantic's writers (although their paywall has limited my access -- one of the very few gated publications I'm at all tempted by). Much emphasis on racism, not unwarranted but just one of many complaints I have about Trump and the Republicans. Still tempted to sketch out an outline of what I think the right book should be, but it's become increasingly clear I'm never going to get around to writing such a thing. Meanwhile, the country and world goes to hell, because even the people who can conceive of an alternative can't figure out how to implement it. (One of the things Serwer talks about is the gap between ideals and implementation.) Or more succinctly, it's impossible to build anything when people are shooting at you.
I should note that I published answers to a couple of questions last week.
Music: Current count 36797  rated (+51), 125  unrated (-5).
I'll keep this short, as I have a lot of other work to do, and need to get back to it. All new music this week. Mostly jazz. I have an advantage over the rest of you (except for Francis Davis) in that I'm reading Jazz Critics Poll ballots before they're posted. Six (of 7) new A- jazz albums were unknown to me before last week (although I must have received mail, perhaps even a download link, from Astral Spirits about Artifacts). The one non-jazz A-lister (note: full A) didn't come from an EOY list (yet), but I noticed it while searching AOTY for high-rated 2021 releases (this one from HipHopDX; very little hip-hop in the first wave of EOY lists). The other A- was an upgrade, after endorsements from Phil Overeem and Chris Monsen convinced me to give it another spin.
Seems like every JCP ballot I receive has 2-4 new albums, mostly ones I wasn't even aware of. Most disturbing was that early in the counting, 6 of the top 10 albums were things I hadn't heard. Most of those have proven impossible to stream, but the final number will probably drop anyway (4 at the moment, some I'll catch up with, most because other voters won't have heard them either, so they'll sink). One thing polls always wind up silently measuring is how effective publicists are, and how lack of a publicist keeps artists mired in obscurity.
November had five Mondays, so the monthly archive (link above) is exceptionally huge. I haven't done the indexing, so don't even have a count. (Well, subtracting Music Week count lines give us +257, with -24 unrated.) Pending count for 2021 promos is down to 6 (3 of which are Christmas music, and 1 was a 2018 release; I'll get to the Gordon Grdina albums later today). Mail didn't bring anything this week. I've started to get 2022 promos, but only 2 so far.
Some statistics: according to tracking file (of 2021 releases: 925 records rated (69.8% streamed), 2704 records logged. Metacritic file logs 2064 albums, plus 163 reissues/vault music. Current Best Jazz list has 53 new A-list, 25 reissues/archival A-list. Current Best Non-Jazz list has 46 new A-list, 5 reissues/archival A-list.
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade: