Streamnotes: December 31, 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 November 29. Past reviews and more information are available here (18512 records).

Recent Releases

Adele: 30 (2021, Columbia): British singer-songwriter, last name Adkins, became a huge international star with her age-named albums 19 and 21, only her fourth album, with 25 in between. Marriage and divorce themes. I find it all overblown. B-

Teno Afrika: Amapiano Selections (2019-20 [2021], Awesome Tapes From Africa): South African DJ/producer, his work included in Amapiano Now (below), co-credited on 6 (of 8) tracks here, suggesting to me that these "selections" were picked up from scattered singles. Steady on the beats. B+(***)

Damon Albarn: The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows (2021, Transgressive): Major British music figure since the 1990s, when he led the Britpop band Blur. In recent years he's mostly toiled as the main singer-songwriter in Gorillaz, while doing various side projects, mostly with African musicians (e.g., Mali Music in 2002, and three records with Tony Allen). He also has four soundtracks, and this is his second solo album. The album was originally planned as "an orchestral piece inspired by the landscapes of Iceland," taking its title from a poem by John Clare, but with nothing better to do during the Covid lockdown metamorphosed into a full album. Still sounds scattered to me. B+(*)

Ben Allison: Moments Inside (2021, Sonic Camera): Bassist, co-founder in New York of Jazz Composers Collective, has impressed me so much as a composer that I've voted for him in DownBeat's Critics Poll, albums since 1996. Quartet with two guitarists (Chico Pinheiro and Steve Cardenas) and drums. B+(*) [sp]

Pedro Melo Alves' Omniae Large Ensemble: Lumina (2020 [2021], Clean Feed): Portuguese drummer, group name comes from his debut Omniae Ensemble in 2017. Large (23 person) ensemble, light on brass but adds bassoon, tuba, strings, voices, and electronics. Three pieces, total 74:56. B+(*) [sp]

Rodrigo Amado Northern Liberties: We Are Electric (2017 [2021], Not Two): I'd hazard a guess that per capita the top two jazz countries in Europe are Norway and Portugal. Small size is part of the equation, but wealth isn't: Portugal is the poorest country in western Europe, while Norway is one of the richest. But cross-pollination has helped, especially as Portugal's Clean Feed label regularly hooked Portuguese jazz masters up with peers from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. This particular meeting from the two countries -- Amado (tenor sax), Thomas Johansson (trumpet), Jon Rune Strøm (bass), and Gard Nilssen (drums) -- took place in a London club and is being released on a Polish label. Nothing particularly electric in the lineup, but they do keep you turned on. A- [cd]

Roxana Amed: Ontology (2021, Sony Music Latin): Singer-songwriter from Argentina, sixth album, got JCP votes in Vocal and Latin, but sails over my head. Maybe wafts is the more apt verb? B [sp]

Amyl and the Sniffers: Comfort to Me (2021, Rough Trade): Australian post-punk band, Amy Taylor the singer. Reminded me a bit of X-Ray Spex, more of L7. Can't say I didn't get a bit tired by the end of the second play, but as solid as any such band I've heard in more than a few years, and considerable pleasure at first. A-

Florian Arbenz/Hermon Mehari/Nelson Veras: Conversation #1: Condensed (2021, Hammer): Swiss drummer, first of what promises to be a dozen albums conversing with guest musicians: in this case, a trumpeter from America and a guitarist from Brazil. Terrific mix. A- [bc]

Florian Arbenz: Conversation #2 & #3 (2020 [2021], Hammer): Swiss drummer, duo with Jim Hart (vibes/marimba), or trio adding Heiri Känzig (bass). B+(***) [bc]

Florian Arbenz/Maikel Vistel/François Moutin: Conversation #4: Vulcanized (2021, Hammer): drums, tenor/soprano sax, bass. Starts with a swinging "Bemsha Swing," one of two Monk covers, along with pieces by Bill Evans, Joe Zawinul, and Eddie Harris, as well as originals by Vistel (2) and Moutin (1). B+(***) [bc]

Patricia Barber: Clique! (2021, Impex): Jazz singer, 16 albums since 1989, writes some (one song here) but mostly does standards, also plays piano, backed by guitar-bass-drums, with saxophonist Jim Gailloreto. Every time I play this, I tune in on "I Could Have Danced All Night" and "The In Crowd," but nothing else quite hits that spot -- least of all the Brazilian option, "One Note Samba." B+(***)

Courtney Barnett: Things Take Time, Take Time (2021, Mom + Pop): Singer-songwriter from Australia, breakthrough in 2015 was driven by her guitar, which remains a strong suit here. Innovation here is her phrasing, which reminds me ever so much of Lou Reed, which sometimes rises to the level of a tic -- one I adore. A-

The Baylor Project: Generations (2021, Be a Light): Husband-and-wife duo Marcus and Jean Baylor, based in New York, she a former Zhané singer, he a former Yellowjackets drummer, slotted as jazz -- with steady help from Keith Loftus (tenor sax) and Freddie Hendrix (trumpet), and guest spots including Kenny Garrett and Jamison Ross -- but effectively a vintage soul throwback. B+(***)

Rubén Blades y Roberto Delgado & Orquesta: Salswing! (2021, Rubén Blades Productions): From Panama, back in the 1980s was a pop star and actor, had a law degree, was touted as a future president of Panama, but never got further than Minister of Tourism.

Theo Bleckmann & the Westerlies: This Land (2019 [2021], Westerlies Music): Jazz singer from Germany, based in New York since 1989, albums since 1993, teaches at Manhattan School of Music. Remarkable skills, but I find his penchant for difficult music very hit and miss. The Westerlies are a brass quartet (two trumpets, two trombones). Sort of a folk Americana thing, with bits of "Wade in the Water" and "In the Sweet By and By," but also "Look for the Union Label" and "Tear the Fascists Down." B+(***) [sp]

Blue Reality [Michael Marcus/Joe McPhee/Jay Rosen/Warren Smith]: Quartet! (2020 [2021], Mahakala Music): Cover can be parsed various ways, but different type colors lean my way. Two reeds players, two drummers, group name from Marcus' 2002 trio album (with Rosen and Taurus Mateen). B+(***)

Dean Blunt: Black Metal 2 (2021, Rough Trade): Actual name Roy Nnawuchi, London-born, bunch of mixtapes and albums since 2011 including his previous Black Metal in 2014. Hard to describe, but not that. Short: 11 songs, 25:31. B+(**)

Weedie Braimah: The Hands of Time (2021, Stretch Music/Ropeadope): Djembe master, born in Ghana, comes from a long line of notable percussionists, raised in East St. Louis, based in New Orleans, bunch of side credits (especially with Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, who plays here) but this seems to be his first album. B+(**)

Anthony Braxton: 12 Comp (ZIM) 2017 (2017 [2021], Firehouse 12, 12CD): Twelve compositions, numbered between 402 and 420, diagrams on cover, averaging a bit less than an hour each (6 in 40-50 minute range, 4 in 50-60, 2 a bit over 70). Unlikely that all 12 performers play on all 12 pieces, given that 4 credits are for harp, but there's generally a lot going on: notably Dan Peck on tuba, Adam Matlock on accordion and aerophones, cello (Tomeka Reid) violin, brass (Tyler Ho Bynum and Steph Richards), and reeds (Ingrid Laubrock and Braxton). Writing this a bit more than half way through, and contemplating a break. Much more than I have any desire to digest, but lots of fun, interesting things whenever I tune in. B+(***) [bc]

Patricia Brennan: Maquishti (2018 [2021], Valley of Search): Vibraphone/marimba player, born in Mexico, based in New York, first album, various side credits. Solo pieces, using "extended techniques and electronic effects." B+(*)

Bugpowder: Cage Tennis (2020 [2021], Trytone): Amsterdam-based quartet -- Tobias Klein (alto sax/bass clarinet), Jeroen Kimman (electric/bass guitar), Jasper Stadhouders (bass/acoustic guitar), Tristan Renfrow (drums) -- plays Ornette Coleman compositions, preferring the harmolodic '70s over the now-classic '50s. Repertory from another dimension of funk. A-

Chamber 4: Dawn to Dusk (2020 [2021], JACC): Trumpet (Luís Vicente) and strings: violin (Théo Ceccaldi), cello (Valentim Ceccaldi), and acoustic guitar (Marcelo dos Rios). Most impressive when the trumpet opens up. B+(***) [cd]

Bill Charlap Trio: Street of Dreams (2021, Blue Note): Mainstream pianist, albums since 1993, most (11 since 1997) with Peter Washington (bass) and Kenny Washington (drums). Standards, typically light touch. B+(**)

Melanie Charles: Y'all Don't (Really) Care About Black Women (2021, Verve): Brooklyn-born jazz singer, Haitian roots, also plays flute, has a couple previous albums but this is a big step up in terms of label. One original credit, rest standards, but most titles have an appended "(Reimagined)." This strikes me as a bold conceptual tour de force, marred by glitches in execution (though they're hard to pin down.) B+(***)

The Chisel: Retaliation (2021, La Vida Es Un Mus): Punk band, or maybe post-punk (but not by much). Short (27:55), but counts as an album (14 songs). B+(*)

Margo Cilker: Pohorylle (2021, Loose): Country singer-sonwriter from Oregon, first album. Sounds just about perfect for country. Songs take a bit longer to settle in, but she's got something there too. A-

Chick Corea Akoustik Band: Live (2018 [2021], Stretch, 2CD): Piano-bass-drums trio, with John Pattitucci and Dave Weckl, a lineup that dates back to their eponymous debut in 1989. I've had a lot of trouble with Corea's fusion bands over the years, but lately his trios have been very respectable. B+(**)

Theo Croker: BLK2LIFE // A Future Past (2021, Sony Masterworks): Trumpet player, from Florida, eighth album since 2006, sort of a funk/fusion thing, with vocals on most tracks, including Ani Lennox, Kassa Overall, and Wyclef Jean. Mixed feelings about this, even within a piece like "Hero Stomp," boldly over the top. B

Joy Crookes: Skin (2021, Insanity): Singer-songwriter from London, mother from Dhaka, father from Dublin, first album after three EPs. Unusual voice reminds me of Phoebe Snow, although Crookes is framed more as a pop singer. B+(**)

Theon Cross: Intra-I (2021, New Soil): British tuba player, also trombone, plays in Sons of Kemet and other jazz projects, second album, more electronica with Emre Ramazanoglu co-producing, featured guests on 5 (of 10) tracks, adding rap and beats, but the real lesson is: everything goes better with tuba. A-

Angel Bat Dawid: Hush Harbor Mixtape Vol. 1 Doxology (2021, International Anthem): Angel Elmore, from Chicago, third album plays clarinet and, well, everything here, "vocalz" included. Cover illustration goes back to slavery, and is disturbing. Same for the songs, as disquieting as they are striking. B+(**)

Erika De Casier: Sensational (2021, 4AD): Pop singer-songwriter, both in Portugal, mother Belgian, father Cape Verdean, moved as a child to Denmark, second album. Light touch, almost raps. B+(**)

Joey DeFrancesco: More Music (2021, Mack Avenue): Organ player, so was his father Papa John DeFrancesco, lots of album since 1989, also plays keyboard, piano, trumpet, and tenor sax, this one with Lucas Brown (guitar) and Michael Ode (drums), as full of swing as ever. B+(***)

Indigo De Souza: Any Shape You Take (2021, Saddle Creek): Alt/indie band from Asheville, NC, and/or the lead singer, also plays guitar and keyboards and wrote the songs (10, with 2 co-credits). B+(*)

Boubacar "Badian" Diabaté: Mande Guitar (2021, Lion Songs): Guitarist from Mali, mostly solo acoustic. Nice. B+(**)

Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers: Set Me Free (2021, Louisiana Red Hot): Accordion player Dwayne Rubin, carrying on the family trade of his father Alton Rubin, better known as Rockin' Dopsie. Band has been rolling since 1999, with 10 or so albums. No idea how this one stacks up against them, but it'd be hard to top as a party record. B+(***)

Hamid Drake/Elaine Mitchener/William Parker/Orphy Robinson/Pat Thomas: Black Top Presents: Some Good News (2019 [2021], Otoroku, 2CD): Some convoluted parsing here: Black Top is a duo of Robinson (marimba) and Thomas (piano), both also electronics, but since they're listed separately on the credit line, their place here seemed to be in the title. (They have two previous albums, each with a special guest.) Drake and Parker you know. Mitchener is a vocalist. How you react to her chatterbox scat will make or break the album. Everyone else is predictably brilliant, and when she finds a groove, she's pretty delightful too. B+(**)

Mathias Eick: When We Leave (2020 [2021], ECM): Norwegian trumpet player, on ECM since 2008. Only the one horn, over an atmospheric backdrop including piano, violin,, pedal steel guitar, and percussion. B+(**)

Wendy Eisenberg: Bloodletting (2019 [2021], Out of Your Head): Guitarist, from Boston, dozen albums since 2017. This one is solo, a suite played through twice, once on banjo, again on guitar. B+(*) [dl]

John Ellis/Adam Levy/Glenn Patscha: Say It Quiet (2021, Sunnyside): Reeds (mostly tenor sax), guitars, keyboards for the headliners, also bass, drums, and vibes on 4 cuts. B+(**) [sp]

Joe Farnsworth: City of Sounds (2021, Smoke Sessions): Mainstream drummer, lots of side credits, only a handful since 2003 with his name up front. This is a piano-bass-drums trio with Kenny Barron and Peter Washington. He wrote 3 songs, Barron 2, and they do 3 standards. B+(*)

Steven Feifke Big Band: Kinetic (2019 [2021], Outside In Music): Pianist, from Boston, debug 2015, composed 7 (of 10) pieces here, conventional big band plus guitar (Alex Wintz), with Veronica Swift vocals on 2 standards ("Until the Real Thing Comes Along," "On the Street Where You Live"). B+(*)

Sam Fender: Seveneen Going Under (2021, Polydor): English singer-songwriter, second album, fairly big star in UK, not much beyond. Has a good sense of traditional rock form, including the occasional hook, and sometimes has something to say. Promising, except when the arena beckons. B

R.A.P. Ferreira: The Light Emitting Diamond Cutter Scriptures (2021, Ruby Yacht): Initials stand for Rory Allen Philip, rapper from Wisconsin, formerly did business as Milo, third album under this (real) name. (Short one, 11 songs, 28:37.) B+(***)

Sierra Ferrell: Long Time Coming (2021, Rounder): Country singer-songwriter from West Virginia, based in Nashville, third album, big step up in labels. A bit of jazz in the bluegrass. A-

Friends & Neighbors: The Earth Is # (2021, Clean Feed): Norwegian group, fifth album since 2011, quintet with trumpet (Thomas Johansson) and tenor sax (André Roligheten, also plays flute, bass clarinet, and bass sax) up front, plus piano-bass-drums. Four composers here, all but one piece coming from the names I skipped. Helps explain why I find this rather mixed, but the saxophonist is a tower of strength throughout. B+(***) [sp]

Fred Frith/Ikue Mori: A Mountain Doesn't Know It's Tall (2015 [2021], Intakt): Guitarist, also credited with various toys and other objects, duo with laptop electronics. B+(**) [sp]

Ben LaMar Gay: Open Arms to Open Us (2021, International Anthem): From Chicago, sings, plays cornet, many other instruments. B+(*)

The Generations Quartet [Dave Liebman/Billy Test/Evan Gregor/Ian Froman]: Invitation (2021, Albert Murray/John Aveni): Group name, minus definite article, was used in 2016 by a different group (three old guys, including Oliver Lake, and a young drummer). Here it's one old guy, two youngsters, and drummer Froman in between. Favors standards, with a nice, relaxed feel, even when they kick it up a notch and Liebman really shines. Label named for the producers. A-

Ghost Rhythms: Spectral Music (2021, Cuneiform): French group, experimental rock-qua-jazz, half-dozen albums since 2007. Rhythm is relentless but wears thin. Noise helps, but too little, too late. B- [dl]

Goat Girl: On All Fours (2021, Rough Trade): English band, Wikipedia says "post-punk" and another source I jotted down has them as "neo-psychedelia," but they sound to me like a fairly generic alt/indie g-g-b-d band, with appeal from lead singer/guitarist Lottie Pendlebury, calling herself Clottie Cream. Second album. aB+(**)

Godspeed You! Black Emperor: G_d's Pee at State's End (2021, Constellation): Canadian "post-rock" band, had a run 1994-2003, broke up, regrouped in 2011, with 3 albums early, 4 later. Instrumental, thickly layered with intimations of magnificence. B+(*)

Cameron Graves: Seven (2021, Mack Avenue): Pianist, composer, founding member of West Coast Get Down Collective, plays with Kamasi Washington (who appears on two songs here), second album, sort of '70s fusion with a side of metal. B-

Gordon Grdina's Square Peg: Klotski (2021, Attaboygirl): Canadian guitar/oud player, has several groups, this the second album with this quartet: Mat Maneri (viola), Shahzad Ismaily (bass/moog), and Christian Lillinger (drums). Original pieces, rich harmony of strings over free rhythm. B+(***) [cd]

Gordon Grdina: Pendulum (2021, Attaboygirl): Solo guitar and oud, usual limits but he is one of the best anywhere. B+(**)

Muriel Grossmann: Union (2021, Dreamland): Saxophonist (alto, soprano, tenor), born in Paris, grew up in Vienna, based in Ibiza since 2004, 13th album since 2007, quartet with guitar (Radomir Milojkovic), organ (Llorenç Barceló), and drums (Uros Stamenkovic). Appealing soul jazz groove with cosmic Coltrane overtones, a combo beyond reproach. B+(***)

Grouper: Shade (2021, Kranky): Liz Harris solo project, albums since 2005, plays slow, ethereal electronic music, barely there, but appealing as far as it goes. B+(*)

Jeff Hamilton Trio: Merry & Bright (2021, Capri): Drummer-led piano trio, with Tamir Hendelman and Jon Hamar, slant the usual tunes a bit toward the hip and/or secular ("The Little Drummer Boy," "Santa Baby"), sometimes so tastefully you can forget that crass commercialism extends even into the jazz world. B [cd]

Hutch Harris: Suck Up All the Oxygen (2021, self-released, EP): Singer-songwriter from Portland, led the Thermals with bassist Kathy Foster 2002-18. Second solo album, a short one at 17:00 but has 10 songs, only two over 2:00. Brash, sharp strummed, cynical and pessimistic. "People say a lot of things, and most of them are lies" B+(**) [bc]

Alexander Hawkins: Togetherness Music: For Sixteen Musicians (2020 [2021], Intakt): English pianist, debut 2008, picked up momentum around 2016. Cover continues "Feat. Evan Parker + Riot Ensemble." Latter group has a couple albums, personnel seems to be fluid, but they're large enough to fill out the roster. Horns a plus, strings less so. B+(***) [sp]

Miho Hazama: Imaginary Visions (2021, Edition): Japanese composer and big band arranger/conductor, studied in New York, has positions with New York Jazzharmonic and Danish Radio Big Band -- the latter plays here. B+(**)

Thomas Heberer: The Day That Is (2021, Sunnyside): German trumpet player, based in New York, composed this during lockdown, not clear when he recorded it. Another German in New York, saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, provides a second horn, backed by John Hébert (bass) and Michael Sarin (drums). B+(***) [bc]

William Hooker: Big Moon (2020 [2021], Org Music): Drummer, entered the New York loft scene in mid-1970s, debut album 1976, has been productive and remained obscure ever since. Nine musicians, including two saxes (Stephen Gauci and Sarah Manning), flute, three keyboardists, bass, and extra percussion. Runs long at 83 minutes, and can get noisy. B+(***) [bc]

Jazzmeia Horn and Her Noble Force: Dear Love (2021, Empress Legacy): Jazz singer from Dallas, backed by a 15-piece big band. The more conventional swing standards seem to work best, or when she has something political to say. B+(*) [sp]

François Houle/Samo Salamon: Unobservable Mysteries (2020, Samo): Canadian clarinetist, Slovenian guitarist, improvising long distance. B+(**) [bc]

HTRK: Rhinestones (2021, N&J Blueberries): Australian duo, Jonnine Standish (vocals) and Nigel Yang (guitar and drum machine), originally Hate Rock Trio (with bassist Sean Steward, d. 2010). Sounds to me like I imagined "slowcore" might be, before Low spoiled the notion. B+(***) [bc]

Michael Hurley: Time of the Foxgloves (2021, No Quartet): Folksinger, just turned 80, best remembered as the lead credit on 1976's Have Moicy!, where he provided the steady good humor while Peter Stampfel added manic excitement. On his own, he's always been steady, and that's rarely been quite enough. B+(**)

Susie Ibarra: Talking Gong (2020 [2021], New Focus): Percussionist, albums since 1997, credit here is "gong, percussion, drums." Most tracks add Claire Chase (flutes) and/or Alex Peh (piano). B+(*) [bc]

Susie Ibarra: Walking on Water (2018-19 [2021], Innova): Eleven "spirituals" composed to accompany paintings for the victims of the March 11, 2011 Tohoku Great Earthquake and Tsunami, based on field recordings from underwater microphones. Various voices (most prominently Claudia Acuña), strings (Jennifer Choi), and electronics, strangely affecting. B+(**) [bc]

Abdullah Ibrahim: Solotude: My Journey, My Vision (2021, Gearbox): South African pianist, evidently he does a solo concert every year on his birthday. For his 87th, they rushed this gentle, pensive one into print. B+(**)

Il Sogno: Graduation (2021, Auand/Gotta Let It Out): Trio -- Emanuele Maniscalco (electric piano/synthesizer), Tomo Jacobson (bass), Oliver Louis Brostrøm Lauman (drums) -- second album. Has a playful air. B+(**) [sp]

Jon Irabagon: Bird With Streams (2020 [2021], Irabbagast): Tenor saxophonist, recorded this collection of Charlie Parker tunes solo in a secluded canyon in South Dakota, one of those pandemic lockdown projects that never would have been done otherwise. B

Boldy James & the Alchemist: Bo Jackson (2021, ALC): Detroit rapper James Clay Jones III, working again with L.A. producer Alan Mamam (ex-Cypress Hill). B+(*)

Jlin: Embryo (2021, Planet Mu, EP): Footwork producer Jerrilyn Patton, three albums, offers a 4-cut 14:18 EP. Fairly sharp beats. B+(*)

Jungle: Loving in Stereo (2021, Awal): British dance-pop group with producers Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland, third album. B+(*)

Masabumi Kikuchi: Hanamichi: The Final Studio Recording (2013 [2021], Red Hook): Japanese pianist (1939-2015), moved to US to study at Berklee, wound up in New York. Perhaps best known here for his trio with Paul Motian and Gary Peacock, Tethered Moon (7 albums, 1990-2004). Last studio recording, piano solo. B+(*) [sp]

Frank Kimbrough: Ancestors (2017 [2021], Sunnyside): Pianist, died in late 2020 at 64, was one of the postbop musicians who made Matt Baltisaris' Palmetto an important label in the 2000s. Trio with Kirk Knuffke (cornet) and Masa Kamaguchi (bass), a rather subdued but touching session. B+(***)

Kimbrough (2021, Newvelle): Quite a tribute to the late pianist Frank Kimbrough, 61 songs he wrote played by 67 musicians who had some direct relation, some famous, many not, recorded over four days, perhaps the most productive wake ever. It's a lot to take in. Seems likely I long underrated him (although I totally enjoyed his Monk's Dreams). A-

Katy Kirby: Cool Dry Place (2021, Keeled Scales): Singer-songwriter from Texas, based in Nashville, first album after an EP,a short one (9 songs, 28:17. Filed her under Country, but she doesn't much sound the part. B+(*)

Craig Klein: Talkative Horns: Musical Conversations on Lucien Barbarin (2021, Tromboklein Music): New Orleans-based trombonist, one previous album, sings some, as does Kevin Louis (long cornet). Backed with piano, guitar, bass, and drums -- the latter by Barbarin's nephew, Gerry Barbarin Anderson. Lucien Barbarin (1956-2020) was a trad jazz trombonist, and his grand-uncle was drummer Paul Barbarin, who played with King Oliver in Chicago and Luis Russell in New York, as well as leading his own bands. B+(**)

The Klezmatics: Letters to Afar (2013 [2021], Chant): Long-running New York klezmer group. Ambient-to-ominous soundtrack to Peter Forgacs' film. B+(*)

Mick Kolassa: Uncle Mick's Christmas Album (2021, Endless Blues): Blues singer-songwriter from Michigan, tenth album, wrote 2 (of 9) songs this time, the covers ranging from Mariah Carey to "Beale Street Christmas Jam." Original lyric: "and now our kisses don't need mistletoe." B [cd]

Martin Küchen & Michaela Antalová: Thunder Before Lightning (2019 [2021], Clean Feed): Swedish saxophonist, main group Angles but has a lot of projects, duo with Czech drummer. Neither is clear in some kind of industrial drone. B- [sp]

La La Lars: La La Lars III (2021, <1000): Swedish group, third album, principally drummer Lars Skogland, who wrote the songs, produced, also plays some guitar and keyboards. With Goran Kajfes (trumpet), Jonah Kullhammar (tenor sax/flute/bassoon), Carl Bagge (keyboards), and Johan Berthling (bass). B+(***) [bc]

Lady Blackbird: Black Acid Soul (2021, Foundation Music/BMG): Jazz singer Marley Munroe, from Los Angeles, debut album, does a slow burn through eleven songs. B+(*)

Mon Laferte: Seis (2021, Universal Music Mexico): Singer-songwriter from Chile, fairly big star, name shortened from Norma Monserrat Bustamente Laferte, moved to Mexico City in 2007, sang in a heavy metal band there. Sixth album (aside from her 2003 debut as Monserrat Bustamente), draws on regional Mexican styles. I like the fast ones, and even more so the over-the-top "La Mujer." A-

Mon Laferte: 1940 Carmen (2021, Universal Music Mexico): After spending some time in Los Angeles, the Chilean-Mexican singer-songwriter works some English lyrics into her songs, implying gravitas, although the bit I heard most clearly was "couche avec moi." B+(***)

Mary LaRose: Out Here (2021, Little (i) Music): Jazz singer, based in Brooklyn, sixth album since 1995. Title comes from Eric Dolphy, with LaRose writing lyrics to Dolphy's sinewy compositions. Band members are listed on the cover, because they're something to brag about: Jeff Lederer, Tomeka Reid, Patricia Brennan, Nick Dunston, Matt Wilson. B+(***)

Mike LeDonne's Groover Quartet + Big Band: It's All Your Fault (2020 [2021], Savant): Organ player, respected pianist elsewhere but "Groover" spells organ, Quartet with Eric Alexander (tenor sax), Peter Bernstein (guitar), and Joe Farnsworth (drums). They play throughout, with 4 (of 8) tracks expanded to big band swagger, mostly names you'll recognize (e.g., the sax section picks up Scott Robinson, Jim Snidero, Steve Wilson, and Jason Marshall). Overkill a bit, but must have been fun. B+(*)

Jihye Lee Orchestra: Daring Mind (2020 [2021], Motéma): Korean composer-arranger, based in New York, second album, at 16 pieces, slightly less than a conventional big band (3 reeds). B+(**)

James Brandon Lewis Quartet: Code of Being (2021, Intakt): Tenor saxophonist, one of the giants of his generation, backed by Aruán Ortiz (piano), Brad Jones (bass), and Chad Taylor (drums). Something less than his usual tour de force, but softer touches are appealing as well, heightened perhaps by the always present tension. A-

Dave Liebman Expansions: Selflessness: The Music of John Coltrane (2021, Dot Time): Saxophonist, huge discography since 1973, including a number of Coltrane tributes. Plays soprano sax and wood flute here, backed by keyboards (Bobby Avey), bass, and drums. B+(**)

Lingua Ignota: Sinner Get Ready (2021, Sargent House): Alias for Kristin Hayter, whose biography includes bouts of catholocism and anorexia, fascination with serial killers and Hildegard von Bingen (source of her alias), practice in metal bands and an MFA thesis titled Burn Everything Trust No One Kill Yourself, "linking real-world examples of misogyny in music with her own personal life using a Markov chain." Fourth album, following Let the Evil of His Own Lips Cover Him, All Bitches Die, and Caligula, an EP called Epistolary Grieving for Jimmy Swaggart, and cover singles of "Jolene" and "Kim." I find this all very creepy. I've long felt that exposing children to Christianity was cruel, but have rarely seen so much evidence compacted so assiduously. B-

Lukah: Why Look Up, God's in the Mirror (2021, Fxck Rxp Rxcxrds): Rapper, from Memphis, third album. Comes from a harsh world, yet still finds inspiration. "God put me here to be something great" . . . like this, I guess. A- [bc]

Harold Mabern: Mabern Plays Coltrane (2018 [2021], Smoke Sessions): Pianist, from Memphis, recorded for Prestige 1969-70, didn't find another dependable label until DIW in the 1990s, finally finding a home here from 2014 past his death in 2019. This is the 3rd release (4th CD) they've culled from Mabern's January stand. I was most impressed by the first, The Iron Man: Live at Smoke. That was quartet with Eric Alexander (tenor sax), John Webber (bass), and Joe Farnsworth (drums). This adds a couple extra horns: alto sax (Vincent Herring) and trombone (Steve Davis). Not ideal picks for a Coltrane tribute, but energetic. B+(*)

Mach-Hommy: Balens Cho (2021, Griselda, EP): Rapper Ramon Begon, from New Jersey but not far removed from Haiti, title Kreyol for "Hot Candles." Short: 24:07. B+(**)

Magdalena Bay: Mercurial World (2021, Luminelle): Synth-pop duo from Miami, singer-songwriter Mica Tennenbaum and producer Matthew Lewin, first album after 3 EPs and 2 mixtapes. Dance beats initially reminded me of Chic. While they increasingly became distinct, they didn't lose anything. Turned out even better. A [cd]

Miko Marks & the Resurrectors: Our Country (2021, Redtone): Singer (songwriter I assume, but credits are scarce, and I recognize some covers) from Flint, Michigan; won a "best new country artist" award in 2006, back with her first album since 2007. Sounds like Bonnie Bramlett at first, then morphs into Mavis Staples. One for this year's political mixtape: "Goodnight America." A-

Miko Marks & the Resurrectors: Race Records (2021, Redtone, EP): Six songs, 22:49, countrified blues and soul-tinged country standards, reminding us that race is only in the mind of the beholder, like a fever or a fit of epilepsy. B+(**)

Terrace Martin: Drones (2021, BMG): From Los Angeles, best known as a hip-hop producer, but plays alto sax (also keyboards, drums, guitar) and sings/raps, his own albums often jazz-oriented, this one less so -- probably because most cuts have featured guests. Choice cut: "Sick of Sayin'" (thanks for the saxophone). B+(**)

Nick Mazzarella/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Avreeayl Ra: What You Seek Is Seeking You (2019 [2021], Astral Spirits): Alto sax/bass/drums trio, recorded in Chicago. If I hadn't heard a dozen more records like this, I'd be blown away. B+(***)

Christian McBride & Inside Straight: Live at the Village Vanguard (2014 [2021], Mack Avenue): Mainstream bassist, albums since 1994, a couple (2009-13) with this quintet -- Steve Wilson (sax), Christian Sands (piano), Warren Wolf (vibes), Carl Allen (drums) -- a couple more live from this venue. B+(**)

Makaya McCraven: Deciphering the Message (2021, Blue Note): Drummer, born in Paris, father an American drummer, mother a Hungarian singer, moved to Chicago in 2007, albums and mixtapes since 2008. This is a remix project, starting with Blue Note tapes from the 1960s, retooling the beats and adding contemporary players like Joel Ross (vibes), Jeff Parker (guitar), Marquis Hill (trumpet), and Greg Ward (alto sax), plus a bit of rap and chant. Not entirely successful. B+(**)

Lori McKenna: Christmas Is Right Here (2021, CN, EP): Folksinger-songwriter from Massachusetts, doesn't have that country drawl but writes with detail and eloquence that puts her Nashville competitors to shame. Last thing we need from her is a Christmas album. To her credit, these six songs (19:53) don't sound like Christmas music at all, but they're not quite an album either. B+(***)

Pat Metheny: Side-Eye NYC (V1.IV) (2019 [2021], Modern): Jazz guitarist, has floundered somewhat since his 1977-2010 Group with Lyle Mays expired, comes up with an effective successor here, with James Francies (keyboards, mostly organ) and Marcus Gilmore (drums). Live set, touring shortly before the pandemic shut them down. Seven originals, plus a cover from old standby Ornette Coleman. B+(*)

Mexstep: Vivir (2021, Mexstep Music): Rapper from San Antonio, moniker shortened from Mexican Stepgrandfather, released an album in 2018 (Resistir) I was very taken with, this only slightly less so. Mostly works in English, but the beat seems to pick up a bit when he switches to Spanish. B+(***) [bc]

Ming Bau Set: Yakut's Gallop (2020 [2021], Fundacja Sluchaj): Gerry Hemingway (drums), Vera Baumann (vocal), and Florestan Berset (guitar). Improv, although the liner notes include lyrics from Paul Eluard, Patti Smith, and Levin Westermann. B+(***) [dl]

Mogwai: As the Love Continues (2021, Temporary Residence): Scottish "post-rock" band, tenth album since 1997, three of four original members still active. Huge waves of instrumentals, only occasional vocals. B

Samuel Mösching: Ethereal Kinks (2021 [2022], Bronzeville Music): Guitarist, probably from Switzerland ("Univerity of Lucerne"), based in US since 2013, also plays bass, drums, and synths, with a couple guest spots. All originals, title has nothing to do with the UK band ("without kinks life would be flat"). B [cd] [2022-02-18]

Rachel Musson: Dreamsing (2020 [2021], 577): Tenor saxophonist, based in London, debut 2013, regularly works in groups with Pat Thomas, Mark Sanders, Alex Ward, and/or Olie Brice. Solo album, doesn't shy away from the rough edges. B+(**) [bc]

Mustafa: When Smoke Rises (2021, Regent Park Songs, EP): Canadian soul singer, parents from Sudan, last name Ahmed, first album, short (8 songs, 23:42). B+(*)

Navy Blue: Navy's Reprise (2021, Freedom Sounds): Rapper Sage Elsesser, third album. B+(***)

Angelika Niescier/Alexander Hawkins: Soul in Plain Sight (2020 [2021], Intakt): Alto sax and piano duo, both on the adventurous side, impressive but doesn't always sit right. B+(***)

Stephanie Nilles: I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag: The White Flag (2019 [2021], Sunnyside): Title, and music, from Charles Mingus, focusing on his more political titles, from "Fables of Faubus" to "Remember Rockefeller at Attica." Nilles sings some, and plays a lot of solo piano. B+(**) [bc]

Oz Noy: Snapdragon (2020, Abstract Logix): Israeli fusion guitarist, based in New York since 1996, dozen albums since 2005. Unclear on credits, but certainly has some guitar chops. B+(*)

Adam O'Farrill: Visions of Your Other (2021, Biophilia): Trumpet player, son of Arturo, sidework mostly on the avant side of NYC postbop, second album, pianoless quartet with Xavier Del Castillo on tenor sax, Walter Stinson on bass, and brother Zack O'Farrill on drums. Impressive work all around. A-

Joy Orbison: Still Slipping Vol. 1 (2021, XL): Real name Peter O'Grady, electronica producer, nephew of drum & bass DJ Ray Keith. Numerous singles since 2009, but this is his first album. Nice vibe to it. B+(**)

Pino Palladino and Blake Mills: Notes Wtih Attachments (2021, Impulse): Welsh bass guitar player, has done a lot of session work, almost all with rock musicians starting with Jools Holland in 1981 (better known names include Eric Clapton, Elton John, John Mayer, and D'Angelo). First album with his name listed first. Mills has a shorter but similar resume, plays many instruments but mostly guitar. B+(*)

Jeff Parker: Forfolks (2021, International Anthem): Guitarist, established himself in Chicago, but now based in Los Angeles, I think of him as a jazz guy but more people probably know him from the post-rock group Tortoise. Had some kind of crossover coup in 2020 with Suite for Max Brown, but I can't say as I got it. B+(*) [bc]

Grethen Parlato: Flor (2021, Edition): Jazz singer from Los Angeles, father was a bassist for Frank Zappa, moved to New York in 2003, sixth album since 2005. She wrote 2 songs, added some vocals. Music as a light Brazilian vibe. B+(**)

Hannah Peel: Fir Wave (2021, My Own Pleasure): Irish singer-songwriter and soundtrack producer, based in London, 7th album since 2011. B+(**)

Greentea Peng: Man Made (2021, AMF): British neo-soul singer Aria Wells, Arab father, African mother, first album after two EPs and three years of singles. Soft beats, loopy, but no sooner than I wrote that down she mixed it up. B+(***)

Barre Phillips/John Butcher/Ståle Liavik Solberg: We Met - and Then (2018-19 [2021], Relative Pitch): Bass, saxophones, drums. Recorded on two dates, note how the bass leads. B+(**)

Chris Pierce: American Silence (2021, Pierce): Folksinger from California, 10th album since 2002, just guitar, harmonica, and pointed political lyrics. B+(*)

Robert Plant/Alison Krauss: Raise the Roof (2021, Rounder): I can't say as I followed his career after Led Zeppelin, but he released an album every 2-3 years 1982-93, slowed down after that, but his 2007 collaboration with bluegrass star Krauss got my attention, even if it didn't leave much of an impression. After a long break, here's a second album together, also produced by T-Bone Burnett, with side-credits for David Hidalgo, Bill Frisell, Buddy Miller, and Marc Ribot. One original credited to Plant-Burnett, the others folk covers from both UK and US. Seems like paltry returns for all the talent employed. B+(*)

Portico Quartet: Monument (2021, Gondwana): British instrumental group, originally (from 2007) built around a Chinese instrument called the hang, switched to samples after Nick Mulvey left in 2011. B+(*)

Mariá Portugal: Erosão (2021, Fun in the Church): Brazilian drummer, from São Paulo, builds these pieces up from "song material, acoustic improvisation and electronic manipulation." The sort of disjointed experimental funk that shows up on the fringes of Brazilian music, and sometimes proves catchy. B+(**)

Punkt. Vrt. Plastik [Kaja Draksler/Petter Eldh/Christian Lillinger]: Somit (2020 [2021], Intakt): Piano-bass-drums trio, group name from their 2018 release. B+(***)

Jordan Rakei: What We Call Life (2021, Ninja Tune): Born in New Zealand, father Maori, grew up in Australia, wound up in London. Fourth album. Plays piano/keyboards, programs drums, voice glides toward falsetto. B+(*)

Phil Ranelin: Ininite Expressions (2020 [2021], ORG Music): Trombonist, moved to Detroit in the 1960s and co-founded the Tribe, one of the few key regional groups that kept going during the lean days of the avant-garde. Still working past his 80th, he decided to record a solo album during the lockdown, but wound up here with a little help -- especially Andre Beasley on drums. B+(**)

Enrico Rava: Edizione Speciale (2019 [2021], ECM): Italian trumpet player, major figure for 50+ years, leads a sextet including long-time pianist Giovanni Guidi. B+(***)

Stephen Riley: I Remember You (2019 [2021], SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, 16th album on this label going back to 2005. Quartet with guitarist Vic Juris in his last performance; also Jay Anderson (bass) and Jason Tiemann. Light, lovely tone. B+(***)

Emily Scott Robinson: American Siren (2021, Oh Boy): Folk/country singer-songwriter from North Carolina, signed to John Prine's label, which isn't a lock but they do have a track record. Couple excellent songs, voice way up there. B+(***)

Porter Robinson: Nurture (2021, Mom + Pop): DJ, electronica producer from Chapel Hill, NC, second album. Synth swells and lots of vocals. I feel like he's trying to cheer me up, but it isn't working. B

Andreas Røysum Ensemble: Fredsfanatisme (2021, Motvind): Norwegian clarinetist, second album leading this nonet, with flute, two saxophones (Signe Emmeluth and Marthe Lea), a low twist on a string quartet (violin, cello, two basses), and drums. Freedom can get rough. B+(**)

RP Boo: Established! (2021, Planet Mu): Chicago footwork producer Kavain Space. Dance beats, exhortations, couldn't be more straightforward. B+(**)

Jana Rush: Painful Enlightenment (2021, Planet Mu): Chicago DJ/producer, gets her slotted as footwork (perhaps unfairly), second album, with two cuts featuring DJ PayPal, one with Nancy Fortune. Variously unappealing but not uninteresting sounds. B

Allison Russell: Outside Child (2021, Fantasy): Singer-songwriter from Montreal, absent father from Grenada, mother put her into foster care then got her back, step-father sexually abused her (subject of first song here), first album under her own name, after group efforts with Po' Girl, Birds of Chicago, and Our Native Daughters. Hard to get a grip on, but haunting and revealing and redeeming, somewhere between folk and soul, with bits of gospel, blues, jazz, and French. A-

Sten Sandell/Lisa Ullén: Double Music (2021, Clean Feed): Piano duo, two Swedes, Ullén established since 2009, Sandell since the late 1980s. Billed for "piano lovers," but not so delicate. B+(**) [bc]

Nitin Sawhney: Immigrants (2021, Sony Masterworks): Born in London, parents from India, albums from 1993, produces electronica, draws on Indian classical music and various other sources. Nominally a sequel to his 1999 album Beyond Skin. Interludes with topical texts, songs built from strings and beats, a little rap, a lot to say. A-

Elori Saxl: The Blue of Distance (2021, Western Vinyl): Last name Kramer, from Minneapolis, based in New York, first album, deeply hued ambient clouds. B+(*)

Jared Schonig: Two Takes Vol. 1: Quintet (2021, Anzic): Drummer, member of the Wee Trio, debut, released same day as Vol. 2: Big Band. Eight songs on both albums, this one padded out with an "Intro" and three "Drum Interludes." With Marquis Hill (trumpet), Godwin Louis (alto sax), Luis Perdomo (piano), and Matt Clohesy (bass). B+(**) [bc]

Jared Schonig: Two Takes Vol. 2: Big Band (2021, Anzic): New York big band, loaded with solo talent, playing the hell out of the same eight songs from Vol. 1: Quintet. B+(***) [bc]

Serengeti: Have a Summer (2021, self-released): Prolific Chicago rapper tries his hand at pop anthems. Maybe to show anyone can do it? I'm perplexed, and annoyed. Short album (9 songs, 27:38). B [sp]

Shad: TAO (2021, Secret City): Canadian rapper Shadrach Kabango, born in Kenya, parents from Rwanda, grew up in Ontario, seventh album since 2005. Conscious lyrics, knows a lot and cares a lot, but sometimes the music veers off on pop tangents that seem surreal and/or psychedelic. B+(***)

Shame: Drunk Tank Pink (2021, Dead Oceans): English post-punk group, second album, big advance over their debut (if sounding more like the Fall does the trick, which I'd say it does). B+(***)

Paula Shocron/William Parker/Pablo Díaz: El Templo (2019 [2021], Astral Spirits): Pianist from Argentina, opens with deft runs before bringing out the strong chords that drive these four pieces. Disappointing when she back off, but then you remember who the bassist is. A- [bc]

Skerebotte Fatta: Appaz (2020 [2021], ForTune): Polish sax & drums duo, Jan Malkowski and Dominik Mokrzewski. B+(***) [bc]

Rejjie Snow: Baw Baw Black Sheep (2021, Honeymoon/+1): Irish rapper Alexander Anyaegbunam, from Dublin, father Nigerian, mother Irish-Jamaican, moved to US in 2011 to play soccer, returned to Ireland to focus on music. Second album. Nice flow, light, catchy. B+(**)

Sonic Liberation Front: Moon Rust Red Streets (2020 [2021], High Two): Baltimore jazz group, goes back to 2000, bata drummer Kevin Diehl (aka Kevobatala) the main guy. B+(**) [sp]

Tyshawn Sorey/Alarm Will Sound: For George Lewis/Autoschediasms (2019-20 [2021], Cantaloupe, 2CD): Alarm Will Sound is a large (20 piece) post-classical ensemble, originally formed at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, debut album 2005. Sorey is an important jazz drummer, but here is composer and (2nd disc) conductor. Two long pieces, the first more ambient, the second more disruptive. B+(*)

Tyshawn Sorey/King Britt: Tyshawn & King (2021, The Buddy System): Latter's full name is King James Britt, probably best known as the DJ in the 1990s jazzy hip-hop band Digable Planets, although he has quite a bit under his own name (or aliases like Fhloston Paradigm) since 1998. He knows his way around beats, but I doubt he's ever worked with a drummer with Sorey's chops before. Loses a bit when the drummer checks out, but by they you're hooked. A-

Esperanza Spalding: Songwrights Apothecary Lab (2021, Concord): Started as a jazz bassist, found a crossover niche as a singer, eighth album since 2005. Twelve numbered pieces each called "Formwela." Purportedly "designed to address specific emotions and stresses," I can't attest to the "healing power of music" here. But it does strike me as overly tricky. B

Spellling: The Turning Wheel (2021, Sacred Bones): Singer-songwriter Tia Cabral, from Sacramento, third album. Arty pop, hard to tell. B+(*)

Rossano Sportiello: That's It (2021, Arbors): Retro swing pianist from Italy, dozen-plus albums since 2003, many with Harry Allen, Scott Hamilton, or Nicki Parrott. This one is solo, mostly standards with a few originals in the mix. B+(**)

Strictly Missionary: Heisse Scheisse (2021, Astral Spirits): Brooklyn group, big names are Chris Pitsiokos (alto sax, voice, electronics, etc.), Wendy Eisenberg (guitar), and Kevin Murray (drums), plus electric bass and extra percussion. Hot indeed. B+(***) [bc]

Ohad Talmor Trio: Mise En Place (2020 [2021], Intakt): Tenor saxophonist, based in New York, albums since 1999, worked often with Lee Konitz. Trio with Miles Okazaki (guitar) and Dan Weiss (drums). Smart, tricky postbop. B+(***)

Kaidi Tatham: An Insight to All Minds (2021, First Word): British multi-instrumentalist (no credits here, but keyboards, drums, bass synth, flute, vocals elsewhere), half-dozen albums since 2008. Picked this off a jazz list, but will file under electronica with a side of hip-hop. B+(**)

Henry Threadgill Zooid: Poof (2019 [2021], Pi): Alto saxophonist, also plays flute (more than I'd like), founded the group Air in the late 1970s, has produced a steady stream of albums since, including some of the best of the last decade. Group is an exquisitely balanced quintet, with Jose Davila (tuba/trombone), Liberty Ellman (guitar), Christopher Hoffman (cello), and Elliot Humberto Kavee (drums). I sampled a cut of two when this came out, and wasn't blown away, but it all seems to work out in the end. A- [cd]

Throttle Elevator Music: Final Floor (2021, Wide Hive): I'm at a loss to describe this group, which seems to be calling it quits after six albums (plus a Retrospective since 2012. Breakout name is tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington, joined by Kasey Knudsen (sax) and Erik Jekabson (trumpet). Main figure is producer Gregory Howe (guitar/keyboards). Perhaps the idea was to start with bland background ("elevator") music, then give it some muscle tone. They've done that much pretty regularly. But it always seemed like they should have done more. B+(**)

Unscientific Italians: Play the Music of Bill Frisell Vol. 1 (2019 [2021], Hora): Large (11 piece) Italian band led by pianist Alfonso Santimone, who arranged seven Frisell compositions for a band with four brass, four reeds, piano, bass, and drums. Without guitar, to my ears this doesn't sound anything like Frisell, but it's bright, energetic, amusing, and thought-provoking. A- [bc]

Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet: Fools for Yule (2021, Housekat): Singers Ginny Carr Goldberg, Robert McBride, Holly Shockey, and Lane Stowe, only their fifth album since Half-Past Swing in 1999 (Goldberg, née Carr, and McBride were original members). Starts tolerably with "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm," and does manage to swing through "Winter Wonderland," but sinks like a rock with with a truly awful "Silent Night." C [cd]

Valerie June: The Moon and Stars: Prescription for Dreamers (2021, Fantasy): Singer-songwriter from Tennesse, last name Hockett, grew up singing gospel in church, fifth album since 2006. Doesn't register as any genre, which wouldn't matter if the songs stuck with you, but they haven't . . . yet. B+(*)

Roseanna Vitro: Sing a Song of Bird (2017-21 [2021], Skyline): Jazz singer, from Arkansas, moved to New York in 1978, 15 albums, the best are tributes but this is unique. She only sings on 6 (of 12) songs, but is key to the networking that makes the record work. Three more singers share cover credit: Bob Dorough, Sheila Jordan, and Marion Cowings. Dorough's songs were recorded in 2017, shortly before his death (at 94). Not clear when Jordan's 4 songs were done, but she's in a band picture with Dorough. The cover also credits Special Guests Gary Bartz and Mark Gross, alto saxophonists who cut their teeth learning Bird licks. Aside from "These Foolish Things" at the end, all of the tunes are from Parker, with various lyrics. I'm not a huge fan of Parker or vocalese, but the whole album is done with such good cheer I can't help but smile (or laugh). A- [sp]

Morgan Wade: Reckless (2021, Ladylike): Country singer-songwriter from Virginia, second album. Great voice, solid songs. B+(***) [Later: A-]

The War on Drugs: I Don't Live Here Anymore (2021, Atlantic): Indie rock band from Philadelphia, fifth album since 2008, commercial breakthrough was their third, in 2014. Adam Granduciel sings, writes, and co-produces. Nice sound, not a lot of substance. B

Butch Warren & Freddie Redd: Baltimore Jazz Loft (2013 [2021], Bleebop): Bassist, played on A-list albums 1959-65 (Sonny Clark, Leapin' and Lopin'; Herbie Hancock, Takin' Off; Jackie McLean, Tippin' the Scales; Hank Mobley, No Room for Squares; Thelonious Monk, It's Monk's Time; Horace Parlan, Happy Frame of Mind), before he suffered a mental breakdown and quit. He did start playing a bit in his 70s, a "French Quartet" album in 2011, and finally this one with Redd on piano, Matt Wilson on drums, and Brad Linde on tenor sax, just before his death. B+(**) [bc]

Anna Webber: Idiom (2019 [2021], Pi, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist, also plays flute. First disc is her Simple Trio, with piano (Matt Mitchell) and drums (John Hollenbeck). Second is Large Ensemble, a group of 13 (including conductor Eric Wubbels). Both sides start out basic then build and build, the large ensemble more impressively, no surprise given the wealth of options. B+(***)

Tierra Whack: Rap? (2021, Interscope, EP): First of three-in-three-weeks EPs, three cuts, 8:39. B+(**) [sp]

Tierra Whack: Pop? (2021, Interscope, EP): Second part, 3 more songs, 8:23. More guitar jangle. B+(**) [sp]

Tierra Whack: R&b? (2021, Interscope, EP): Third try, 3 more songs, 9:20. Sings more in that neo-soul vein, which she doesn't have the voice for the usual exaggeration. B+(*) [sp]

Jamire Williams: But Only After You Have Suffered (2021, International Anthem): Drummer, second album, stradles jazz and hip-hop. Interesting sound, more underground hip-hop than jazz, but I'm finding this rather impenetrable. B+(*) [sp]

Willow: Lately I Feel Everything (2021, MSFTS Music/Roc Nation): Last name Smith, singles since 2010 and albums since 2015, seems to have started as a rapper but this is mostly indie rock, with three songs featuring Travis Barker, one more Cherry Glazerr (but also one with Tierra Whack). Brutal but short (11 songs, 26:05). B+(*)

Martin Wind Quartet: My Astorian Queen (2021, Laika): Austrian bassist, recorded this under Matt Baltisaris at Maggie's Farm, Pennsylvania,with Scott Robinson, Bill Mays, and Matt Wilson. B+(**) [cd]

Michael Wollny/Emile Parisien/Tim Lefebvre/Christian Lillinger: XXXX (2019 [2021], ACT Music): German pianist, mostly plays electronic keyboards here, with soprano sax, more electronics, and drums. Basically, Weather Report instrumentation, but finds much more interesting shapes and crevices. B+(***)

The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong All Stars: A Gift to Pops (2021, Verve): No surprise this opens with "When It's Sleepy Time Down South," but the unique voice took me aback, unquestionably Armstrong himself, plundered from a 1964 live shot. In the tribute that follows, Nicholas Payton (or is it Wynton Marsalis? or one of the not-yet-all-stars who staff this band?) offers a fair approximation of the trumpet, but no one dares the voice, and not for lack of vocals. I wish I had a track-by-track credits list, but only Common's rap on "Black and Blue" is certain. Ends with Armstrong's voice again, on "Philosophy of Life." He was a blessing, who changed the world, and people who don't know that need to listen up. Even if this tribute's a bit half-assed, it still brings me joy. A-

Yola: Stand for Myself (2021, Easy Eye Sound): Yolanda Quartey, from Bristol, UK, black, 38, improbable for an Americana icon, but she's recorded her two albums in Nashville, and that's how the marketing folk frame her. I don't really buy it, but don't have any other ideas. B

Neil Young/Crazy Horse: Barn (2021, Reprise): Another very solid album, mostly laid back, more comfortable in the country than in Nashville, but they can still bring some heat when they feel it's needed. A-

Young Thug: Punk (2021, YSL/300 Entertainment/Atlantic): Atlanta rapper Jeffrey Williams, prolific since 2011 although this is only his second studio album. B+(***) [sp]

Brandee Younger: Somewhere Different (2021, Impulse!): Harp player, fifth album since 2011, her duo with bassist-husband Dezron Douglas was one of the best things to come out of the lockdown. B+(**) [sp]

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Hasaan Ibn Ali: Retrospect in Retirement of Delay: The Solo Recordings (1962-65 [2021], Omnivore, 2CD): Pianist William Henry Langford Jr. (or Lankford, 1931-80), from Philadelphia, cut one album in 1964, released as The Max Roach Trio Featuring the Legendary Hasaan, testimony both to the pianist's local reputation and general obscurity. A 1965 album shelved by Atlantic was released to great acclaim in April, 2021, and here we have some previously unknown solo tapes from the period. B+(**)

Amapiano Now ([2021], NTS): South African dance music du jour, "the fledgling post-kwaito genre is the sound of joy in the midst of struggle . . . sweeping the globe." Sixteen tracks selected by Shannen SP and Joe Cotch. This didn't grabe me as fast as Earthworks' kwaito comp (way back in 2000), or recent South African albums by DJ Black Low or Sho Madjozi or Malcolm Jiyane, probably because it's less remarkably close to globalized electronica than township jive, but it keeps coming. B+(***)

Neil Ardley & the New Jazz Orchestra: Jazz Calendar: Olympic Studios '66 (1966 [2020], Jazz in Britain, EP): English pianist (1937-2004), was director of NJO 1964-70. This collects five tracks (21:03) from two 10-11 piece lineups. B+(*) [bc]

Neil Ardley: Kaleidoscope of Rainbows: QEH, 20th Oct 75 (1975 [2021], Jazz in Britain, 2CD): Title per front cover, means Queen Elizabeth Hall. Extended piece, a studio version released in 1976 with Ardley playing synthesizer. This live one, performed mostly with New Jazz Orchestra alumni including all of Ian Carr's Nucleus, is significantly longer, but the keyboard/guitar structures extend nicely, and the reeds section is top notch. A- [bc]

Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers: First Flight to Tokyo: The Lost 1961 Recordings (1961 [2021], Blue Note): Previously unreleased set from January 14, refuting the title of Solar's 2014 compilation Tokyo 1961: The Complete Concerts (which has sets from January 2 & 11). One of Blakey's greatest lineups -- Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons, Jymie Merritt -- kicking off what was probably Blakey's greatest year (Roots & Herbs, The Freedom Rider, The Witch Doctor, Mosaic, Buhaina's Delight). So, by now familiar repertoire, but what you want from live: everything cranked up a notch. A- [sp]

Ian Carr Double Quintet: Solar Session (1970 [2021], Jazz in Britain): Trumpet/flugelhorn player, his doppelganger here Harry Beckett, the paired saxophonists Tony Roberts and Brian Smith, the other slots a bit skewed: the drummer paired with congas, bass both acoustic and electric, the chordal instruments electric piano (Karl Jenkins) and guitar (Chris Spedding). Spacey but short (5 cuts, 26:38). B+(**) [bc]

The Allen Cohen Big Band: The Oracle [The Ron Mathewson Tapes Vol. 4] (1968 [2020], Jazz in Britain, EP): Cohen doesn't seem to have any more discography, but is director/arranger for this 11-piece outfit, with many names that since became famous (e.g., Kenny Wheeler, Mike Osborne, Alan skidmore, John Surman). Three tracks, 18:40. B+(*)

Mike Gibbs: Revisiting Tanglewood 63: The Early Tapes (1970 [2021], Jazz in Britain): Rhodesia-born British composer and bandleader, studied at Berklee and was involved with Tanglewood Music Center, also in Massachusetts, whence the title of his second (1971) album, Tanglewood 63. All five pieces that wound up on the album are here: three from late May, and two from November 1, shortly before the album sessions started (November 10). The groups here are smaller (13-16 pieces, no strings). B+(**) [bc]

Group Sounds Four & Five: Black and White Raga (1965-66 [2020], Jazz in Britain): Two rare sessions for groups led by Henry Lowther (trumpet) and Lyn Dobson (tenor sax), recorded by drummer John Hiseman: a quartet with Jack Bruce (bass), and a quintet with Ken McCarthy (piano) and Ron Rubin (bass). B+(**) [bc]

Joe Harriott: Chronology: Live 1968-69 (1968-69 [2020], Jazz In Britain): Alto saxophonist, five quintet tracks (25:54) with Kenny Wheeler (trumpet/flugelhorn), Pat Smythe (piano), bass (Ron Mathewson), and drums (Bill Eyden), followed by two tracks featuring Harriott in the Harry South Big Band (13:10). B+(**) [bc]

Joe Harriott Quintet: Formation: Live '61 (1961 [2021], Jazz in Britain, EP): Previously unreleased, four songs plus a 4:04 drum solo, total 21:11. Alto sax, with Les Condon (trumpet/flugelhorn), Pat Smythe (piano), bass, and drums. B+(*) [bc]

Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers: Ramble in Music City: The Lost Concert (1990 [2021], Nonesuch): Hype refers to the "Nashville debut of the acoustic all-star group," but the names barely register -- not that I'm up on legendary Nashville studio musicians. Wide range of songs: "Sweet Dreams" and "Save the Last Dance for Me" is a nice sequence. B+(**)

The Tubby Hayes Quartet: Free Flight [The Ron Mathewson Tapes Vol. 3] (1972 [2020], Jazz in Britain, 2CD): Britain's major tenor saxophonist of the bop era, died young (38 in 1973), recording this during his brief recovery after major heart surgery in 1971. With Mike Pyne (piano), Mathewson (bass), and Tony Levin (drums). B+(**) [bc]

Tubby Hayes Quartet: The Complete Hopbine '69 [The Ron Mathewson Tapes Vol. 7] (1969 [2021], Jazz in Britain, 2CD): Live date, a month before his on-stage collapse, "signaling the beginning of the final phase of his tragically foreshortened career." With Mick Pyne (piano), Ron Mathewson (bass), and Spike Wells (drums). B+(***) [bc]

Allan Holdsworth/Ray Warleigh/Ron Mathewson/Bryan Spring: Warleigh Manor: The Ron Mathewson Tapes Vol. 1 (1979 [2020], Jazz in Britain): Mathewson was a British bassist (1944-2020), started with Tubby Hayes in 1966, with many side credits over the years, ranging from the Earl Hines Trio to the Charlie Watts Orchestra. His private stash of tapes kicked off this label/project, with this breezy early recording of fusion guitarist Holdsworth and sax/flute player Warleigh. B+(**) [bc]

Journeys in Modern Jazz: Britain (1965-1972) (1965-72 [2021], Decca): Up through the 1950s, jazz in Britain was dominated by trad bands, with occasional modernists (like Tubby Hayes and Joe Harriott) emerging toward 1960. After 1970, the British emerged as innovators in prog/fusion and avant. The missing links are found in the ferment of young modernists of the late 1960s. Jazz in Britain has picked up some marginal tapes from this period, but labels like Decca and Columbia hold most of the era's major works. The former is sampled liberally here: Kenny Wheeler, Don Rendell, John Surman, Mike Westbrook, Stan Tracey, Neil Ardley, Alan Skidmore, Michael Gibbs, Michael Garrick, Harry Beckett, and more. A-

Jeanne Lee: Conspiracy (1975 [2021], Moved-by-Sound): Jazz singer, first recordings were backed by Ran Blake's solo piano and dubbed The Newest Sound Around (1962), and was also striking in Carla Bley's 1971 opera Escalator Over the Hill. Most of her recordings in the 1970s were in groups led by Gunter Hampel, who plays flute, piano, vibes, and clarinet here, along with other avant figures like Sam Rivers and Steve McCall. B+(*)

Bob Marley & the Wailers: The Capitol Session '73 (1973 [2021], Mercury/Tuff Gong): Stranded in California after being dropped from a tour opening for Sly & the Family Stone, the Wailers headed to Hollywood to tape a live-in-studio set, only now released on DVD. I haven't seen, and probably wouldn't bother watching, the video, but here's the audio. The set's a bit pat, but half the songs I know well from their first two American albums -- Catch a Fire and Burnin', both masterpieces -- and the others fit in nicely. Ends with a rousing "Get Up, Stand Up." A-

Ron Mathewson: Memorial (1968-76 [2020], Jazz in Britain): English bassist (1944-2020), didn't lead any albums but Discogs co-credits him with 9, Wikipedia lists 24 credits, and his numbers are growing at his private tapes have formed the backbone of this label's archives. This grabs six primo pieces from various groups -- highlights include Amalgam and Harry Beckett's S & R Powerhouse Section -- then ends with a solo piece. B+(***) [bc]

Mathewson & Mathewson: Blow (1976 [2020], Jazz in Britain): Bassist Ron and his brother Mat on electric piano, from Ron's tapes. Pretty minor, and short (27:43). B

Lee Morgan: The Complete Live at the Lighthouse (1970 [2021], Blue Note, 8CD): Brilliant trumpet player, lived fast and died young (33, shot by his common-law wife), played with John Coltrane while still a teenager, starred in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, recorded a number of masterpieces under his own name. This is from a 3-day, 12-set stand, with Bennie Maupin (sax), Harold Mabern (piano), Jymie Merritt (bass), and Mickey Roker (drums), initially appearing on a 1971 2-LP set (73:08), expanded to 3-CD (183:47) in 1996, and finally complete here (with a 12-LP option). At best, an exhaustive live box lets you get lost in the music -- examples include Miles Davis: The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel (1965, 7CD), and Art Pepper: The Complete Village Vanguard Sessions (1977, 9CD). This isn't quite that, and never was, but it sure has its share of bright moments. B+(***)

Bheki Mseleku: Beyond the Stars (2003 [2021], Tapestry Works): Pianist from South Africa, self-taught, also played sax and guitar, moved to Botswana and then to London in late 1970s, half-dozen records 1991-2003, died at 53 in 2008. This is a solo piano set. B+(**)

The New Jazz Orchestra: Le Déjuener Sur L'Herbe (1968 [2021], Decca): Directed by Neil Ardley, who wrote the title track and arranged a Miles Davis tune, produced by Tony Reeves, a piano-less big band with most of the usual suspects contributing, including Jack Bruce on bass. B+(***)

New Life: Visions of the Third Eye (1979 [2021], Early Future): Guitar-bass-drums trio: Brandon Ross, David Wertman, and Steve Reid, drummer listed first (and he's especially inventive). B+(***) [bc]

Mike Osborne & Friends: Live at the Peanuts Club (1975-76 [2020], Jazz in Britain): British alto saxophonist, friends are all notable in their own right: Alan Skidmore (tenor sax), Harry Beckett and Marc Charig (trumpets), Harry Miller (bass), Louis Moholo-Moholo (drums), and Elton Dean (alto sax) joins in on the two standards ("Well You Needn't" and "Cherokee") -- the latter closes with a tremendous flourish. B+(***) [bc]

PAZ/The Singing Bowls of Tibet/Allan Holdsworth: Live in London '81: The Ron Mathewson Tapes Vol. 2 (1981 [2020], Jazz in Britain, EP): Dick Crouch is composer/director (presumably of PAZ), Alain Presencer is credited with the singing bowls that provide the calming center the other musicians are reluctant to disrupt: Ray Warleigh (alto sax and flutes), Holdsworth (guitar), Geoff Castle (keyboards), and Mathewson (bass). Short (4 tracks, 24:52). B [bc]

Oscar Peterson: A Time for Love: The Oscar Peterson Quartet - Live in Helsinki, 1987 (1987 [2021], Mack Avenue): Piano, as sumptuous as ever, the trio (Dave Young and Martin Drew) joined by guitarist Joe Pass. B+(***)

Plastic People of the Universe: Magicke Noci 1997 (1997 [2021], Guerilla): Czech rock group, founded by Milan Hlavsa in 1968, drew on Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground (a mix that never made sense to me), strugged under Soviet repression but got an album released in France in 1978. Disbanded 1988, but revived after Communist regime fell, and carried on after Hlavsa's death in 2001. This seems to have been a high-point of their post-Communist period -- I'd recommend their previous 1997 over this one, but they find their groove midway here, and finish strong. B+(***) [sp]

Elvis Presley: Elvis: Back in Nashville (1971 [2021], RCA/Legacy, 4CD): Deep dive into Presley's May-June 1971 Nashville sessions, intended as some sort of progression from his box of 1970 sessions From Elvis in Nashville, beyond his much-heralded 1969 From Elvis in Nashville. Promise here is that returning to the tapes strips away the goop added for his album releases. Unfortunately, his big hit this time was Elvis Sings the Wonderful World of Christmas, which was so awful I skipped over most of it (it's largely buried on disc 3). That leads us with two unoriginal insights: he was (still) a very great singer, and his capacity for camp was hinted at but rarely developed (for such a hint, refer to his "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right"). There's a famous bootleg called Elvis' Greatest Shit. Given the laws of capitalism, it's only a matter of time before RCA legitimizes it with an official release (possibly a staggeringly huge box set). When they do so,they can draw liberally from this. And the "greatest" isn't hyperbole. Elvis is great. But he's also full of shit. B-

Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet: Blue Beginnings (1964 [2021], Jazz in Britain): Soprano/tenor sax and trumpet/flugelhorn, backed with piano-bass-drums, an important in the more conventional decade before fusion and the avant-garde became defining forces in British jazz. Title may alude to the group's 1965 album Shades of Blue. B+(**) [bc]

Marcos Resende: Marcos Resende & Index (1976 [2021], Far Out): Brazilian keyboard player, previously unreleased debut album, wrote 5 (of 6) tracks, bassist Rubão Sabino the other. With bass, drums, and tenor/soprano sax/flute (Oberdan Magalhães). B+(**)

Roswell Rudd & Duck Baker: Live (2002-04 [2021], Dot Time): Trombone and guitar duo. Nice pairing. B+(***)

The Ray Russell Sextet: Spontaneous Event: Live Vol. 1: 1967-69 (1967-69 [2020], Jazz in Britain): English guitarist, started about here, most recent record was 2020. From several dates and groups, all backed with piano-bass-drums, 4 tracks with Dave Holland. B+(***) [bc]

The Ray Russell Sextet: Forget to Remember: Live Vol. 2: 1970 (1970 [2021], Jazz in Britain): Cover adds: Featuring Harry Beckett (trumpet/flugelhorn). Also Tony Roberts (saxes), Nick Evans (trombone), bass, and drums. The horns, and not just Beckett, are outstanding, but the guitar holds them together and drives them on. A- [bc]

Bola Sete: Samba in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse 1966-1968 (1966-68 [2021], Tompkins Square, 3CD): Brazilian guitarist Djalma de Andrade (1923-87), stage name means "Seven Ball" (a snooker reference), discography starts in 1957 but he began to pick up a US audience with 1962's Bossa Nova. Backed here with bass and drums, which help but are totally overshadowed by the guitar -- I doubt there's a single non-guitar solo here. Way too much to listen to at once, but pretty amazing when you do. A- [bc]

Archie Shepp: Live in Paris (1974) (1974 [2021], Transversales Disques): Tenor saxophonist, major avant-garde figure following Ayler and Coltrane, had to scramble in the 1970s, which took him frequently to Europe. Backed by piano trio plus percussion here, no one I recognize. B+(***) [bc]

Splinters: Inclusivity (1972 [2021], Jazz in Britain, 3CD): Short-lived group, didn't produce any albums, although a 77:30 live shot appeared in 2009 as Split the Difference. This builds on the same 100 Club performance in May (first two discs here), and adds a later set from September, two weeks before drummer Phil Seamen died. The band includes Trevor Watts (alto sax), Tubby Hayes (tenor sax), Kenny Wheeler (trumpet/flugelhorn), Stan Tracey (piano), Jeff Clyne (bass), and two drummers (Seamen and John Stevens). B+(***) [bc]

Mike Taylor Quartet: Mandala (1965 [2021], Jazz in Britain): British pianist, released two jazz albums on Columbia (UK), one with Jack Bruce on bass, and is perhaps better known as co-writer of three Cream songs (from Wheels of Fire, with Ginger Baker lyrics). Nonetheless, he was homeless when he drowned at age 30. He's gotten a it of attention recently: Ezz-Thetics released a compilation of selected works, some performed by Cream, but this is more impressive. With Dave Tomlin (soprano sax), Tony Reeves (bass), and Jon Hiseman (drums). Four Taylor compositions plus "Night in Tunisia." Tomlin didn't have much of a career, but he's impressive here. B+(***) [bc]

Roseanna Vitro: Listen Here (1982 [2021], Skyline): Standards singer, originally from Arkansas, 15 records, my favorite her 1997 Catchin' Some Rays (Ray Charles). This was her first, originally released 1984, cover cites Kenny Barron, Buster Williams, Ben Riley, and Arnett Cobb (3 tracks). B+(**)

Ken Wheeler and the John Dankworth Orchestra: Windmill Tilter: The Story of Don Quixote (1969 [2021], Decca): Canadian trumpet player, better known as Kenny, moved to UK in 1952, and became a major artist for ECM, with a sideline of playing in many of Europe's top free jazz orchestras. Dankworth is a saxophonist, led a big band and smaller groups from the early 1950s. This was really his group, with the trumpet featured, but winds up being counted as Wheeler's debut album. B+(***) [yt]

Old Music

Mike Gibbs: Directs the Only Chrome-Waterfall Orchestra (1975, Bronze): Evocative group name, Gibbs' compositions have a shimmering flow. Group is large and star-studded, although the list of featured soloists is much shorter, especially Philip Catherine (guitar, who wrote the only non-Gibbs piece), Tony Coe, and Charlie Mariano. A-

Sho Madjozi: Limpopo Champions League (2018, Flourish and Multiply): South African rapper Maya Wegerif, main language Tsonga but she's been around, and you'll recognize some English. Terrific beats, very impressive album. A- [sp]

A Soldier's Sad Story: Vietnam Through the Eyes of Black America 1966-1973 (1966-73 [2003], Kent): The first of three volumes in this series, although the third didn't appear until 2021, 16 years after the second. The latter is probably why Christgau unearthed this after 20 years, but it's legacy worth recovering. In the late 1960s I reevaluated everything I believed through the prism of how much I hated the American War in Vietnam. Not that I remember, or even ever heard, much here, but the care and resilience was notable then, invaluable still. A-

Further Sampling

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

Ikizukuri + Susans Santos Silva: Suicide Underground Orchid (2021, Multikulti Project): Portuguese trio -- Julius Gabriel (soprano sax), Gonçalo Almeida (bass), Gustavo Costa (drums/electronics) -- plus trumpet. U:++ [bc]

Revised Grades

Sometimes further listening leads me to change an initial grade, usually either because I move on to a real copy, or because someone else's review or list makes me want to check it again:

Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Angels Over Oakanda (2018-21 [2021], Avantgroidd): Ace critic Greg Tate's jazz project, co-led by bassist Jared Michael Nickerson, 20 years and about that many records into their own long, strange trip. Conducted improv, starts evoking 1970s Miles, adds a bit of mythopoetic vocal chorus, then settles into seductive groove. [was: B+(***)] A- [bc]

James Brandon Lewis Red Lily Quintet: Jesup Wagon (2020 [2021], Tao Forms): Sitting on top of my A- list for most of the year, all this needed was another play to nudge it over the top. [was: A-] A [cd]

Allen Lowe: Turn Me Loose White Man (1900-60 [2021], Constant Sorrow, 30CD): Due to a bookkeeping error, it didn't occur to me to pick this as the year's top reissue/archival, in jazz or anything else. That's because I got the CDs in 2020, but the second volume of the book didn't come out until February, which merits a revised release date. Hard to overstate what an accomplishment this is. Lowe fancies himself as a renegade, unorthodox thinker, and he's entitled to that view, but in the coming decades whole generations will study it, because no one has, or probably ever will have, done a more thorough or exacting job of integrating American recorded music into a more coherent whole. [was: A-] A [cd]

Music Weeks

Music: Current count 37011 [36797] rated (+214), 126 [125] unrated (+1).

Excerpts from this month's Music Week posts:

December 5, 2021

Music: Current count 36843 [36797] rated (+46), 119 [125] unrated (-6).

Very busy week looking at EOY lists and playing new music. Magdalena Bay topped the list at Gorilla vs Bear, and is near the top of my A- bracket, a good chance to go full A. Everything else is toward the bottom of the A- bracket, but that mostly reflects the limited time I've been able to give each release. They are all distinctive, interesting albums, very good ones. I probably left a few more short at B+(***) -- Mexstep? Navy Blue? R.A.P. Ferreira? I don't have a good ear for lyrics, and not enough patience to properly process rap albums, so I guess a lot.

Amyl & the Sniffers topped Louder Than War's list (not a source I look to, but still). Little Simz and Floating Points have topped the most lists so far. I gave the former *** and the latter **, and should revisit both. Number three on my EOY Aggregate is Dry Cleaning, which I bumped to A- after an initial lower grade. Tyler, the Creator (another ***) has moved into 4th, displacing Low, which I'll never return to. Tyler is the only US hip-hop contender: Mach-Hommy is at 30, Vince 33, Lil Nas X 38, Doja Cat 71, Armand Hammer 96, J Cole 104.

Jazz Critics Poll ballots are due Sunday, December 12.

New Music:

  1. East Axis [Matthew Shipp/Allen Lowe/Gerald Cleaver/Kevin Ray]: Cool With That (ESP-Disk)
  2. Sons of Kemet: Black to the Future (Impulse!)
  3. James Brandon Lewis Red Lily Quintet: Jesup Wagon (Tao Forms)
  4. Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Live at the Village Vanguard Volume II (MDW NTR) (Pi)
  5. Dave Rempis/Tomeka Reid/Joshua Abrams/Tim Daisy/Tyler Damon: The Covid Tapes: Solos, Duos, & Trios (Aerophonic)
  6. Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Standards) 2020 (New Braxton House)
  7. François Carrier: Glow (FMR)
  8. Barry Altschul's 3Dom Factor: Long Tall Sunshine (Not Two)
  9. Wadada Leo Smith: Sacred Ceremonies (TUM)
  10. Rodrigo Amado This Is Our Language Quartet: Let the Free Be Men (Trost)


  1. Duck Baker: Confabulations (1994-2017, ESP-Disk)
  2. Total Music Association: Walpurgisnacht (1971-88, NoBusiness)
  3. Bill Evans: Behind the Dikes: The 1969 Netherlands Recordings (Elemental Music)


  • Anthony Joseph: The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running for Their Lives (Heavenly Sweetness)


  • Malcolm Jiyane Tree-O: Umdali (Mushroom Hour Half Hour)


  • Miguel Zenón/Ariel Bringuez/Demian Cabaud/Jordi Rossy: Law Years: The Music of Ornette Coleman (Miel Music)

Some brief notes. I jiggled New Music around to get something I found aesthetically pleasing and well-suited to the year. This list (at least at the moment) matches my Jazz EOY List. I favored albums I had physical copies of, but included two I had only streamed (Braxton and Altschul). I did enforce a CD-only policy for the old music section, so my ballot is very different from the EOY list, where the top album was Charles Mingus, Mingus at Carnegie Hall [Deluxe Edition]. The Joseph album is an irregular choice for Vocal, in that I parked it on top of the Non-Jazz EOY List, but I find myself enjoying very few jazz vocalists -- the only ones to make my A-list were Sarah Buechi and Anaïs Reno -- while Joseph's is one of the year's very best albums. I went with somewhat arbitrary choices for Debut and Latin as well. I actually have a group, Body Meπa, higher on my list than Jiyane, but we tend to frown on group debuts. I like classic Latin jazz, but I'm rarely impressed enough by recent efforts to have any of it show up on my A-list, so I usually wind up picking something tangential. This year that's Zenón's not-all-that-Latinized Ornette Coleman tribute, which I prefer over his explicitly Latin El Arte del Bolero. One curious fact from counting the JCP votes is that thus far all but one of Zenón's New Album votes are for Law Years, but all of his Latin votes are for El Arte del Bolero.

It's possible to change ballots up to Dec. 12. (Hopefully, that's incentive to send them in earlier.) I may wind up changing my ballot a bit, but I'm pretty happy with it now. I will certainly wind up changing my EOY files as I find new things, and sometimes as I further review initial grades. I'm finally streaming James Brandon Lewis' Code of Being as I write this. Supposedly, Henry Threadgill's Poof is in the mail. There are at least three Blue Note albums that I haven't been able to stream, as I have their other records for many years now. (I don't even know why does publicity there anymore, but I assume the reason they do so well in polls is the breadth of their PR operation -- I can't say much for their quality in recent years.)

Much more could be said, but I'm pressed for time, and this is enough for now. Still haven't done the indexing on the November Streamnotes file.

December 13, 2021

Music: Current count 36898 [36843] rated (+55), 123 [119] unrated (+4).

Spent most of last week transcribing Jazz Critics Poll ballots. Deadline was Sunday night, so in theory that's done, but we'll accept stragglers at least until tomorrow. We currently have 150 ballots, one more than last year's record. Of course, I can't talk about results now -- you should be able to see the critics list, but when you lick on the links the choices should remain blank, until we unleash them last week of December.

Still, a lot of the records in this week's haul came from picks on those ballots. The total number of records receiving votes is 673, which is about 4.5 times the number of ballots (full ballots list 16 albums). That's the third highest number of albums, behind 2020 (683) and 2019 (674), but could edge up a bit.

Second significant source for records this week was Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide. I had previously looked for Courtney Barnett and Neil Young, but only found them this week. Among other picks, good to see the Gift of Gab album I gave an A to recently, less so a Jason Isbell album that struck me as a B, in between a Parquet Courts I deemed a B+(***). That was also my initial grade for the Burnt Sugar album I revisited. I didn't get to it until after the news that Greg Tate had died, so can't meet Bob's claims to an unaffected grade, but I'm happy to have enjoyed the record more than when I rushed it before.

Something else to note this week is that I signed up for one of those three-month free trials of Spotify. I've been increasingly frustrated by hangs listening to Napster, and coverage of some labels has been spotty. I've suspected that Spotify has a small but significant number of albums not on Napster (or impossible to find on Napster), so I waited until the next offer came around, and took it. I almost immediately got pissed off at it, as the browser ap defaulted to autoplay -- the whole point of streaming for me is that I know what I'm listening to, and when it ends. However, I did some research and discovered that their Linux ap (something Napster doesn't have) has a settings switch, so I downloaded that, and plunged into Limpopo Champions League (a desired album not on Napster that I had found on Spotify). So there's a few "[sp]" records on this week's list, and more to come. One especially pleasant surprise was finding an already constructed playlist for one of the Vietnam War anthologies Christgau reviewed in the latest Consumer Guide. Unfortunately, the other two volumes don't seem to exist.

December 20, 2021

Music: Current count 36943 [36898] rated (+45), 125 [123] unrated (+2).

I should wrap this up as quickly as possible, as I have a lot more work to get into. In particular, I need to write an essay introducing the 16th Annual Jazz Critics Poll, results of which will be published by Arts Fuse the week of December 27. All the ballots have been counted. Francis Davis and I know the winners (and losers), and are each supposed to write a little something on that. I'm pretty lost at the moment, but for me the key thing isn't critical consensus but the wide spread of data. We have a record 156 voters this year. They voted for 510 releases of new music, and 96 reissues/archival. I've been drawing inspiration from scattered ballots for a couple of weeks now: this week that includes Bugpowder, Kimbrough, and Sing a Song of Bird (this week's other jazz pick, Henry Threadgill's Poof, was one I was always going to listen to as soon as I got the chance).

I've also been spending time monitoring other EOY lists, compiling my EOY aggregate list (and its poorer reissues/comps sibling). It's not as deep as in past years, but currently sources 147 lists, totalling 2826 new music albums and 254 old. For comparison, that's down from 5557 new music albums in the 2020 EOY Aggregate, with the leader dropping from 814 points (Fiona Apple) to 154 (Little Simz). I suspect that the leader drop isn't just due to fewer list inputs. There's just less consensus this year.

This list-scrounging has helped me flesh out my Jazz and Non-Jazz EOY lists. The Jazz A-list is up to 67 (still down a bit from recent years, but the 26 old music is off the charts). Non-Jazz is up to 57 new, plus a measly 6 old music. I've played about twice as much jazz as non-jazz this year, but the top numbers were close to even when I first compiled this list. Jazz has pulled ahead mostly because I've been getting better intelligence via JCP. Most years the lists even out in January, after I see more trustworthy non-jazz lists.

I've been monitoring, but haven't actually contributed anything to Glen Boothe's Pazz + Jop Rip-Off Poll in recent years. (I wasn't invited to Uproxx's post-P&J Critics Poll, so didn't have to formulate a list earlier.) If I get to it, this is what I'll likely post:

  1. East Axis: Cool With That (ESP-Disk) 14
  2. Anthony Joseph: The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running for Their Lives (Heavenly Sweetness) 13
  3. Gift of Gab: Finding Inspiration Somehow (Nature Sounds) 12
  4. Sons of Kemet: Black to the Future (Impulse!) 11
  5. James Brandon Lewis Red Lily Quintet: Jesup Wagon (Tao Forms) 10
  6. Nathan Bell: Red, White and American Blues (It Couldn't Happen Here) (Need to Know) 10
  7. Magdalena Bay: Mercurial World (Luminelle) 9
  8. Maria Muldaur With Tuba Skinny: Let's Get Happy Together (Stony Plain) 7
  9. No-No Boy: 1975 (Smithsonian Folkways) 7
  10. Todd Snider: First Agnostic Church of Hope and Wonder (Aimless) 7

I was feeling pretty glum a month ago, when I decided to go ahead and compile the EOY Aggregates. I've been frustrated by lack of progress on both writing and technical projects, so figured I might as well submerge myself into something rote-mechanical, at least for the duration. When JCP came around, I was already in that mode, so the processing work came easy. (After all, I have a system: a set of programs that convert raw data into a website.) Still, at this point I'm feeling exhausted.

What I'd normally have to look forward to this week is cooking up a Christmas Eve dinner. Last year, I cooked more than usual, but since we couldn't have guests, I bought a lot of containers and packed up dinners-to-go for a dozen friends, who either came by and picked them up, or arranged for delivery. I spent a lot of time last year planning how to do that. (Details should be in last year's notebook. Not on the list, but I think I also made eggplant parmesan.) Probably too late to do anything like that this year. It's looking like the emptiest holiday ever.

December 31, 2021

Music: Current count 37011 [36943] rated (+68), 126 [125] unrated (+1).

Final Update: December 31: Earlier versions below. The initial post (Dec. 28) was just a placeholder, a day after the expected Music Week date. I was still very busy working on Jazz Critics Poll, but I also recalled holding past end-December Music Weeks open to make a clean break of the year. I added an update on Dec. 29 with links to Jazz Critics Poll, so scroll down to get to those. In the two days since, I've been monitoring Poll reaction (although not very obsessively or assiduously), while adding a few stragglers to the reviews below, and generally decompressing.

I should do a debriefing on the poll at some point, but fear that if I start now I won't get anything out tonight. I would like to refer you to this post by Amir ElSaffar on Facebook. Also, this one by publicist Matt Merewitz, who notes his role in hooking us up with Arts Fuse. I was fully prepared to run the poll on my own, with no outside sponsorship, so Arts Fuse wasn't a make or break deal. But they were more helpful than I expected, and I've enjoyed working with them. I also have to admit that they've gotten us more eyes and clicks than would have been the case had we only had my website.

I reckon it's safe here to point out that I dropped a few lines from my essay that some readers considered "sour grapes" over our previous sponsor, NPR:

When NPR declined to support the Jazz Critics Poll this year, they explained their preference for "a mosaic of outlooks" over "rankings," but the half-dozen essays they offered instead could have used a better grasp of data. For instance, one writer was bewildered that "there wasn't a new face as consensus critical darling this year," but the Poll showed there was a clear answer: James Brandon Lewis. Another writer expounded on The Wisdom of Our Elders without mentioning Wadada Leo Smith, who celebrated his 80th year with 5 highly regarded releases, totaling 12 CDs.

The actual line I was bouncing off of was their less-than-official explanation for dropping Jazz Critics Poll:

What we've set out to accomplish here has less to do with album rankings than reflecting on some form of lived experience: presenting a mosaic of outlooks, rather than a model of consensus.

I suspect that the real reason for dropping us was simply that they wanted to cover jazz like they cover other genres, and we represented this external data-driven appendage doing something very different, an approach they weren't using anywhere else. I can see the logic of that, and I don't doubt their right to direct their coverage. But I did find it interesting that as soon as they turned up their noses out poll, they committed a number of gaffes that would have been obvious to anyone on first glance at the data.

Data analysis isn't easy. It's certainly not something that comes naturally to most people. Even in my piece, I tended to just point out isolated bits that struck me as significant, rather than digging through it all systematically. That's partly because I don't have the tools set up, and partly because we're not collecting nearly as much data as I'd like to see. I offered myself up as an example, as someone who listened to 700 new jazz albums this year -- a fairly basic figure that I don't have for any other jazz critic, although I'd guess that the range is something like 200-1000 (I've come close to the upper bound in previous years).

I should note that I've made one significant change to my Jazz and Non-Jazz EOY lists: five A-list records now appear in both, so 73 + 58 = 126. The records were ones I had originally put in Non-Jazz (Anthony Joseph, Maria Muldaur, Jaubi, Theon Cross, Ruth Weiss; four of those were non-jazz artists in front of jazz bands, the fifth is a jazz artist playing electronica). I did this because I was writing about the increasingly blurry line between jazz and non-jazz, and realized that those five were examples I wanted to buttress my case with. That's helped to shift the Jazz/Non-Jazz spit in the former's favor.

I'm surprised I didn't find more A-list Non-Jazz this week, but new Jazz fell off as well -- and frankly, the EOY list aggregate isn't kicking up a lot of interesting candidates. I've heard everything down to 90-92 (Coral, Deafheaven, Gojira). I've looked for but haven't found jazz albums that finished {19, 35, 50, 54, 79} in the poll; the highest-rated one I haven't looked for yet is Kate McGarry at 84. While that search was frustrating, I took a fairly deep dive into the Jazz in Britain Bandamp stash, so for a while I had many more new reissues/historical than new releases. We're also seeing vinyl/digital reissues of 1960s British jazz classics from Decca. As a Penguin Guide devotee, I've heard of most of these names, so exploring their lost albums has been interesting.

Should get back on schedule with a short Music Week on Monday. I haven't done the December Streamnotes indexing, so need to work on that as well. Also need to think about some New Years changes. This has been a tough year for me, and not much future bodes better.

Update: December 29: The 16th Annual Jazz Critics Poll results are now public. The poll was started by Francis Davis at the Village Voice in 2006, with 30 critics polled. Davis has kept the poll going ever since, through moves to Rhapsody (2 years) then NPR (for 8 years) and The Arts Fuse this year. At the time, I was writing a Jazz Consumer Guide column for the Voice, so got an invite to vote. I got further involved a couple years later, when Voice editor Rob Harvilla asked me to host the ballots. For a number of years, Davis would collect and tabulate everything, then dump it on me after the poll closed, requiring a lot of error-checking. Eventually I developed a few programs to simplify data entry and automate formatting of the web pages. From that point, errors were reduced to a few of my typos, easily fixed. This year we were able to tabulate results as each ballot came in, and return formatted ballots to voters so they could flag mistakes way before the results were announced. This system is also nicely scalable: this year we're up to a record 156 voters. At some point I would expect adding voters would start averaging out the results, but thus far we just keep adding diversity, making the poll more useful and valuable than ever.

We wrote two essays to accompany the results. Those essays were initially published at Arts Fuse, along with the top results. (At some point, I'll add them to the JCP website. Eventually, I hope to have all of the poll materials archived there.) Francis Davis did his usual fine job of summarizing the results, reflecting on the year in jazz, and expanding on his own ballot, in The 2021 Jazz Critics Poll: Only the Best. I wrote a second essay, focusing more on the mechanics of the poll, on what gets measured and what doesn't, and what the more marginal data in the poll reveals, in Behind the 2021 Jazz Critics Poll: A Tool for the Times. We also revived an early JCP tradition and published a R.I.P. 2021's Jazz Notables.

I still have a bit more work to do on the website. I need to add some footnotes to the results, and to add the essays to the pulldown menus. Not sure what else. I keep thinking I should be able to generate voter lists for each album, so I may still fiddle with that. I also want to make it easier to compare results over years, but that will have to be a longer-term project.

I'm still not ready to wrap up this Music Week, though it wouldn't hurt to drop another album cover. I spent a lot of time last week listening to the Ron Mathewson archival tapes, which led me to more early modernist British jazz.


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

  • [cd] based on physical cd
  • [bc] available at
  • [sp] available at
  • [yt] available at
  • [dl] something I was able to download from the web; may be freely available, may be a bootleg someone made available, or may be a publicist promo