Streamnotes: January 31, 2022


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 December 31. Past reviews and more information are available here (18011+ records).


Recent Releases

Aeon Station: Observatory (2021, Sub Pop): Kevin Whelan, formerly of the Wrens -- three albums 1994-2003, the last got some critical acclaim, but a 2014 album was never released -- not sure if this is a new group or just a solo project. B+(**) [sp]

Alfa Mist: Bring Backs (2021, Anti-): British producer, real name (probably) Alfa Sekitoleko, part of "creative quartet" Are We Live, third album. I've seen it grouped as jazz, and it does have a bit of saxophone on it. B+(*)

Riddy Arman: Riddy Arman (2021, La Honda): Country singer-songwriter, from Ohio but went to Montana for a video, and Portland to record this short debut album. B+(***)

Charlie Ballantine: Reflections/Introspection: The Music of Thelonious Monk (2021, Green Mind): Guitarist, several albums including a collection of Bob Dylan songs, does Monk tunes here, half trio with Jesse Whitman and Chris Parker, half quartet with Amanda Gardner on sax and Cassius M. Goens III taking over on drums. I prefer the latter, especially the lovely "Ask Me Now." B+(***)

Bitchin Bajas: Switched on Ra (2021, Drag City): Side project by Cave keyboardist Cooper Crain, with close to one album per year since 2010. Eight Sun Ra tunes, played on synths with Dan Quinlivan, Rob Frye, and (sometimes) Jayve Montgomery joining in. B+(***)

Gregg Belisle-Chi: Koi: Performing the Music of Tim Berne (2020 [2021], Relative Pitch): Guitarist, based in New York, plays solo on ten pieces composed by Berne, with Berne and David Torn producing. I imagine I could recognize Berne's alto sax anywhere, but the songs themselves are another story. B+(*)

Blackberry Smoke: You Hear Georgia (2021, 3 Legged): Southern rock band, from Atlanta, 2003 debut called Bad Luck Ain't No Crime. True to form, but I jotted down two lines from the opener: "it's a helluva thing to break your back just to make another man rich" and the refrain, "let's live it up until we can't live it down." B+(*)

Chris Brokaw: Puritan (2021, 12XU): Singer-songwriter, graduated from Oberlin, played drums in Codeine, co-founded Come, has worked with another dozen groups, went solo around 2001, 25+ albums since then. B+(**)

Lindsey Buckingham: Lindsey Buckingham (2021, Buckingham): American singer-songwriter, erratic solo career (mostly since 2006), but formed a duo with Stevie Nicks in 1973, and together they merged with (took over?) British blues-rock band Fleetwood Mac, leading to some of the best-selling albums of the late 1970s. So, strikes me he's a little old (71) to be introducing himself with an eponymous album. Still has some songwriting and arranging skills. Still not much of a singer. B+(*) [sp]

Garrett T. Capps: I Love San Antone (2021, Vinyl Ranch): Likes Austin but loves San Antonio, proclaimed in the first song then underscored with Tex-Mex accordion in the second. Seems almost too easy. B+(***)

Melissa Carper: Daddy's Country Gold (2021, self-released): Country singer-songwriter, also plays upright bass, second or third album, plus one as The Carper Family. B+(***)

Sharel Cassity/Rajiv Halim/Greg Ward: Altoizm (2021, Afar Music): Three alto saxophonists, from Chicago, I've seen them ordered every which way, with alphabetical making as much sense as any. Rhythm section: Richard D. Johnson (piano), Jeremiah Hunt (bass), Michael Piolet (drums). Seven tracks (2-3-2). Bebop throwback, like a Charlie Parker tag team. B+(***)

Chris Castino & Chicken Wire Empire: Fresh Pickles (2022, self-released): Singer-songwriter for a Minnesota jam band called the Big Wu, tries his hand as a leader, drawing on bluegrass guests like Jerry Douglas and Peter Rowan, but dropping a little Tex-Mex into the mix. B+(***) [cd] [02-04]

Anansy Cissé: Anoura (2021, Riverboat): Saharan blues groove from Mali, second album, nothing spectacular but true to form. B+(***)

Kiely Connell: Camulet Queen (2021, self-released): Singer-songwriter from Indiana, based in Nashville, first album. Strong voice, some grit to her songs. B+(**)

The Coral: Coral Island (2021, Run On, 2CD): English rock band, tenth album since 2002, indie guitars and folk/psychedelic mix. I was intimidated by the 2-CD packaging, but songs are short and the 24 split over two discs only add up to 54:04. B

Jesse Daniel: Beyond These Walls (2021, Die True): Country singer-songwriter, third album. Fine trad sound picking and singing. One in Spanish is high-octane Tex-Mex. B+(***)

Dessa: Ides (2021, Doomtree, EP): Minnesota rapper Margret Wander, also writes fiction and poetry, joined Doomtree collective in 2005, 2010 debut (A Badly Broken Code) is about as brilliantly literate as hip-hop gets, four albums and more EPs, sung more after the debut, does both here. Seven songs plus a remix, 25:55. [Bonus choice cut: check out her earlier single, Who's Yellen Now?] B+(***) [bc]

Dltzk: Frailty (2021, Deadair): First album after an EP and a couple singles, slotted under electronica or "digicore," more precisely described as "guitar music created by a Skrillex and Porter Robinson obsessive." That's pretty close to the mark. B

Bobby Dove: Hopeless Romantic (2021, self-released): Country singer-songwriter from Canada (Montreal), third album. Reviews display a curious lack of pronouns, but are right as to the classic form and depth of the songs (aside from the one in Spanish, which I still have doubts about). A-

Eris Drew: Quivering in Time (2021, T4T LUV NRG): Chicago house DJ/producer, second album. Fun beats, not much more. B+(**)

Ducks Ltd.: Modern Fiction (2021, Carpark, EP): Jangle pop duo from Toronto, with some sort of connection to Australia. First album, short (7 songs, 21:48), following an EP as Ducks Unlimited. B+(**)

Hope Dunbar: Sweetheartland (2021, self-released): Singer-songwriter from Utica, Nebraska (pop. 800), with a husband and three kids and enough housework to keep her down, but sometimes she'll write a few words and pick up her guitar and sing. Sometimes she oversings, coming off like Bruce Springsteen. B+(***)

Hope Dunbar: You Let the Light In (2021, self-released): Third album, recorded in Nashville. Powerful singer, songs strike me as a bit more generic. B+(**)

Kurt Elling: Superblue (2021, Edition): Jazz singer, from Chicago, has dominated the category since joining Blue Note in 1995. I've never liked his hip swagger and undeniable chops, and see no reason to start now -- other than that Charlie Hunter's grooves are sinuous indeed, and Elling's one of the few who can follow them. B

Vincent Neil Emerson: Vincent Neil Emerson (2021, La Honda): Singer-songwriter from Texas, third album after East Texas Blues and Fried Chicken and Evil Women, evidently had second thoughts about calling this one "High on Gettin' By" or "Saddled Up and Tamed." Flashes a bit of John Prine early, more Rodney Crowell (producer here) later. Part Choctaw-Apache, good for the deepest ballad here. A-

John Escreet/Pera Krstajic/Anthony Fung: Cresta (2022, self-released): Keyboards, electric bass, drums, eighth album for the leader since 2008. B+(*) [bc]

Flatland Cavalry: Welcome to Countryland (2021, self-released): Lubbock, Texas country group, singer-songwriter Cleto Cordero, fiddle hinting at western swing, third album. B+(*)

Béla Fleck: My Bluegrass Heart (2021, Renew, 2CD): Banjo player, born in New York, has long straddled jazz and bluegrass, with occasional forays elsewhere (one of his best albums is Throw Down Your Heart, recorded in Africa, and another features Zakir Hussain). Instrumental, aside from the occasional giggle, with a few recognizable bluegrass stars dropping in to jam. B+(*)

Linda Fredriksson: Juniper (2021, We Jazz): Finnish saxophonist (alto, baritone, bass clarinet, guitar, piano, synthesizer, voice), first album. With keyboards-bass-drums, soft edges, a bit of space ambiance. B+(**)

Ezra Furman: Sex Education: Songs From Season 3 (2021, Bella Union, EP): American singer-songwriter, has some good albums, got tapped for this British comedy-drama series streaming on Netflix. Five songs, 16:12, "Don't Turn Your Back on Love" the best. B+(**)

Ezra Furman: Sex Education Original Soundtrack (2020, Bella Union): Nineteen songs, no soundtrack dross. Seems odd to pick a quintessentially American rocker for a tie in to a British TV series -- one I haven't seen, so I have no idea how or whether these songs fit. B+(**)

Slava Ganelin/Alexey Kruglov/Oleg Yudanov: Access Point (2017 [2021], Losen): Avant trio -- piano, alto/soprano sax, drums -- recorded live in Moscow. B+(***)

Derrick Gardner and the Big Dig! Band: Still I Rise (2020, Impact Jazz): Trumpet player, as was his father (Burgess Gardner; brother Vincent Gardner plays trombone), from Chicago, has a previous album from 2005 (actually a couple more that didn't show up at first), and a fair amount of big band experience. B+(**) [sp]

Myriam Gendron: Ma Délire: Songs of Love, Lost & Found (2021, Feeding Tube): Folk singer from Ottawa, second album, songs split between French and English, five originals, most of the rest are traditional. B+(**)

John Glacier: Shiloh: Lost for Words (2021, PLZ Make It Ruins): British hip-hop, or glitch hop, the beat broken and scattered but still more of a focus than the words. Short: 12 songs, 25:16. B+(**)

Charles Wesley Godwin: How the Mighty Fall (2021, self-released): Country singer-songwriter from West Virginia, second album. Saving Country Music's album of the year. Can't fault it for craft, but a bit too mighty for my taste. B+(*)

Pasquale Grasso: Pasquale Plays Duke (2021, Sony Masterworks): Italian guitarist, based in New York, has released a bunch of solo EPs/albums recently, all covers showing off his virtuosic technique. Here he takes on Ellington, adding bass (Ari Roland) and drums (Keith Balla), with vocal spots for Samara Joy and Sheila Jordan ("Mood Indigo," not her best voice but remarkable nonetheless). B+(*)

Charlotte Greve: Sediments We Move (2021, New Amsterdam): German-born, Brooklyn-based composer, singer, and saxophonist. Credit muddled here, as one interpretation is that she is the composer, but the performers are Wood River (a quartet she leads, with guitar, bass, and drums) and Cantus Domus (a Berlin choir conducted by Ralf Sochaczewsky). Way more vocals than I can usually handle, but not so bad here. B+(**)

John Hébert: Sounds of LoveChanges-era Mingus, with Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet), Tim Berne (alto sax), Fred Hersch (piano), and Ches Smith (drums). B+(***)

Fred Hersch: Breath by Breath (2021 [2022], Palmetto): Piano trio, with Drew Gress and Jochen Rueckert, plus the Crosby Street String Quartet. The writing for strings caught me by surprise, lovely at first with added layers of complexity, which the piano only adds to. A- [cd]

Sven-Åke Johansson/Niklas Fite/Joel Grip: Swinging at Topsi's (2020 [2021], Astral Spirits): Drums, acoustic guitar, double bass. Swedish drummer has been around a long time, mostly playing with German avant-garde groups. Two 25-minute sets are keep interest levels up. Ends with two short songs, sung by Johansson, not well, but that's part of the charm. B+(***) [bc]

Tom Jones: Surrounded by Time (2021, S-Curve): Welsh crooner, seemed like part of an earlier/obsolete tradition when he had his first hit in 1965, but 40 albums later it's fair to say he's proven resourceful and resilient. Past 80 he's found his blues voice, and backed it with a harsh mechanical grind. All covers, of which "Pop Star" (Cat Stevens) and "Talking Reality Television Blues (Todd Snider) are most striking. B+(*)

Kaytranada: Intimidated (2021, RCA, EP): Electronica producer Louis Celestin, born in Haiti, grew up in Montreal, acclaimed debut album in 2016. Three tracks, 9:13. B+(*) [sp]

Lily Konigsberg: Lily We Need to Talk Now (2021, Wharf Cat): New York "polymath," has a couple EPs, some side projects (e.g., Palberta), a compilation Best Of, and has been sneaking up on an album. Not sure whether this one counts (11 tracks, 23:52). But it does earn her self-assurance: "you've got a lot of fucking things to be proud of." B+(**)

Koreless: Agor (2021, Young): Welsh electronica producer Lewis Roberts, first album after a couple EPs. B

Christof Kurzmann/Sofia Jernberg/Joe Williamson/Mats Brandlmayr: Disquiet (2018 [2021], Trost): Title generally taken as group name, but artist names are in smaller print on cover, so we'll parse it that way. Credits: lloopp/vocals, voice, double bass, drums. One 47:14 piece. Not as disquieting as expected, unless you listen closely to the words. B+(*) [bc]

Joëlle Léandre/Pauline Oliveros/George Lewis: Play as You Go (2014 [2021], Trost): Radio shot from Prague, one 43:59 piece, credits: contrabass/voice, Roland Button V-Accordion, laptop electronics/trombone. B+(**) [bc]

Mac Leaphart: Music City Joke (2021, self-released): Nashville singer-songwriter auditioning for the next generation John Prine, aiming high and failing amiably. Aesthetes may seek originals, but many of the rest of us will settle for compatriots. And when you think about it, that's the rule for folksingers. Bob Dylan imitated all sorts of people before he became himself. A-

Rob Leines: Blood Sweat and Beers (2021, self-released): Country singer-songwriter, born in Georgia, bounced back and forth to California, second (or third) album. B+(**)

João Lencastre's Communion: Unlimited Dreams (2021, Clean Feed): Portuguese drummer, sixth Communion album since 2007, roster highly variable, one a trio, this one an octet, with two saxes (Albert Cirera and Ricardo Toscano), piano/electronics (Benny Lackner), two electric guitars, two basses (one electric, the other acoustic). B+(**) [bc]

L.U.M.E. [Lisbon Underground Music Ensemble]: Las Californias (2021, Clean Feed): Pianist Marco Barroso also credited with composition and direction, leading a 15-piece group in their third album. Expansive, almost circus-like atmosphere, huge swells of sound, stretches that are almost catchy, bits of random dialogue. B+(***) [bc]

Tony Malaby's Sabino: The Cave of Winds (2021 [2022], Pyroclastic): Tenor saxophonist, from Arizona, a dominating player who not infrequently steals others' albums. Group name refers back to a 2000 album, another quartet with Michael Formanek (bass) and Tom Rainey (drums) returning, with Ben Monder taking over guitar. B+(***) [cd]

Michael Mayo: Bones (2021, Artistry Music/Mack Avenue): Singer, from Los Angeles but based in New York, father played saxophone for Earth, Wind & Fire; first album, on a jazz label but at least as close to soft-edged neo-soul. B+(*)

Kate McGarry + Keith Ganz Ensemble: What to Wear in the Dark (2021, Resilience): Jazz singer, 8th album since 2003, Ganz plays guitar and is her husband, band includes Ron Miles (cornet), Gary Versace (piano), bass, and drums. Standards, but she prefers late 1960s/early 1970s soft rock (Beatles, Eagles, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon). B+(**)

John McLaughlin: Liberation Time (2021, Abstract Logix): British fusion guitarist, pretty much invented the genre, returned to form after a sabbatical delving into Indian music. B+(*)

Joe McPhee: Route 84 Quarantine Blues (2020 [2021], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Numbered 2 following Ken Vandermark's solo album, another pandemic solo outing, for tenor sax and found sounds.

Mike and the Moonpies: One to Grow On (2021, Prairie Rose): Austin-based country band, albums since 2010 -- the first two announced their intentions: The Real Country and The Hard Way. B+(*)

Charnett Moffett: New Love (2019 [2021], Motéma): Bassist, father is drummer Charles Moffet, dozens more side credits. Quartet with Irwin Hall (sax/flute), Jana Herzen (guitar), and drums. Don't care much for the vocals, but one has to admire how he keeps the bass in focus. B

Nation of Language: A Way Forward (2021, PIAS): Electropop trio from Brooklyn, second album. B+(**)

Youssou N'Dour Et Le Super Étoile De Dakar: Mbalax (2021, Universal Music Africa): Very little information on this, but he's brought back his original band name, and styled a tribute to the style they made famous. Sounds very much of a piece with what he's been doing forty years now. A- [sp]

Helado Negro: Far In (2021, 4AD): Roberto Carlos Lange, born in Florida, parents from Ecuador, based in New York, eighth album since 2009. Has a soft lilt appeal. B+(*)

NTsKI: Orca (2021, Orange Milk/EM): Kyoto-based J-pop artist, debut album (although her website lists other albums, as well as EPs). B+(**) [bc]

Orquestra Afro-Brasileira: 80 Anos (2021, Day Dreamer): Brazilian group founded 1942 by Abigail Moura, continued until 1970, although recordings are scarce. Revived here under the direction of Caio Cesar Sitorio. Not sure who the singer is. B+(***) [sp]

Perila: How Much Time It Is Between You and Me? (2021, Smalltown Soupersound): Alexandra Zakharenko, DJ/producer, based in Berlin, has produced quite a bit since 2019. Ambient, broken up by occasional clunkiness. B

John Pizzarelli: Better Days Ahead: Solo Guitar Takes on Pat Metheny (2021, Ghostlight): Second-generation guitarist, has done a lot of tributes but mostly to singers. This is nice, not that I know Metheny well enough to get the point. B

Poppy: Flux (2021, Sumerian): Pop singer Moriah Rose Pereira, fourth album, started closer to bubblegum but moved on to flirt with metal, but the extra heft hasn't harmed her pop sense. B+(***)

Mike Pride: I Hate Work (2021, RareNoise): Drummer, moved to New York in 2000, led a group called From Bacteria to Boys, Napster lists him as "smooth jazz," but that's some kind of sick joke: he mostly plays in free jazz groups, but is also into hardcore noise, and sometimes combines them, or in this case flips them over. Ten songs "loosely based" on Millions of Dead Cops' 1982 debut -- a connection from when Pride toured as their drummer -- done with piano trio (Jamie Saft and Brad Jones), but lest you get completely lost three cuts have guest vocals, two have Mick Barr on electric guitar or banjo, and both Pride and Saft play some electric keyboards. B+(*)

Rainbow Girls: Rolling Dumpster Fire (2021, self-released, EP): Folkie group, female harmonies remind me of the Shams, enough to get me wondering whether there's a genius therein. Seven cuts, two of them mere fragments, so total 16:30. B+(*)

Isaiah Rashad: The House Is Burning (2021, Top Dawg Entertainment/Warner): Rapper, last name McClain, from Tennessee, has a easy delivery. B+(*)

The Reds, Pinks & Purples: Uncommon Weather (2021, Tough Love): San Francisco band, principally Glenn Donaldson, who's appeared in a lot of bands since 2001, this one from 2019 and in its third album. Sound much like the Go-Betweens. B+(*)

Alex Riel/Bo Stief/Carsten Dahl: Our Songs (2021, Storyville): Danish drummer, started out in trad jazz bands before 1960, many side credits, bassist and pianist also Danish. Half standards from "My Funny Valentine" to "Giant Steps," half Danish titles. B+(**)

The Rite of Trio: Free Development of Delirium (2021, Clean Feed): Portuguese trio: André B. Sivla (guitar), Filipe Louro (bass), Pedro Melo Alves (drums), all three electric as well as acoustic. Second group album. B+(*)

Ritual Habitual: Pagan Chant (2021, Clean Feed): Portuguese/Dutch sax-bass-drums trio, with Riccardo Margona (tenor, bass clarinet, synthesizers), Gonçalo Almeida, and Philipp Ernsting. Joint improv, nods to Coltrane and Ayler, great strength in the opening and closing sax runs. B+(***) [bc]

Diego Rivera: Indigenous (2019 [2021], Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist (soprano on 3 tracks), born in Michigan, family Mexican-American, teaches at Michigan State, couple previous albums, this one backed by an exceptional piano-bass-drums trio (Helen Sung, Boris Kozlov, Donald Edwards) with Etienne Charles (trumpet) joining on 3 cuts. Not Latin Jazz, but lots of joyous tinge. B+(**)

Charles Rumback: Seven Bridges (2021, Astral Spirits): Drummer, tenth album since 2009, mixed bag, vocal songs unimpressive, spots for violin (Macie Stewart) and horns more interesting, the best Ron Miles on cornet. B+(*)

Connie Smith: The Cry of the Heart (2021, Fat Possum): Popular country singer for RCA 1965-72, although I can't recommend a compilation from the period (The Essential Connie Smith is part of a generally exemplary series of single-CD compilations, but a B- for me). She moved on to Columbia through 1976 and Monument to 1978, and has recorded a few things since -- produced by Marty Stuart since they married in 1997. One I like a lot is 2011's Long Line of Heartaches, on Sugar Hill. At 80, she still has quite a voice, and more faith in Jesus than seems warranted. B+(**)

The Steel Woods: All of Your Stones (2021, Thirty Tigers): Southern rock group, founded by singer Wes Bayliss and guitarist Jason "Rowdy" Cope (d. 2021), based in Nashville, third album since 2017. Best line was about not being able to feel a broken heart, but that's a pretty low ceiling. B

Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine: A Beginner's Mind (2021, Asthmatic Kitty): Singer-songwriter from Detroit, prolific since 2000, recorded this collaboration locked down in a cabin in upstate New York. Fourteen songs, each inspired by a film they watched. B+(***)

Billy Strings: Renewal (2021, Rounder): Bluegrass picker William Apostol, main instrument is guitar but also plays banjo and mandolin, and sings. Third album. Classic sound. B+(**)

Dave Stryker: As We Are (2021 [2022], Strikezone): Guitarist, many albums since 1988, backed by piano-bass-drums trio (Julian Shore, John Patitucci, Brian Blade), with Shore arranging for string quartet, which is the rub. B+(*)

Aaron Lee Tasjan: Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan! (2021, New West): Singer-songwriter, filed under country but latest album listed as "power pop." Indeed, sounds a bit like Marshall Crenshaw, except, you know, not as good. Sample lyric: "cartoon music for plastic people, who don't know how to feel." B

The Tiptons Sax Quartet & Drums: Wabi Sabi (2021, Sowie Sound): Saxophone quartet from Seattle, has operated under several variations of the name since 1993 (originally as the Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet), with a drummer since 2005, and under this name for three albums since 2014. Current saxophonists are Amy Denio (alto), Tina Richerson (baritone), Jessica Lurie (soprano/alto/tenor), and Sue Orfield (tenor), with Robert Kainar on drums. Very upbeat, some vocals. B+(**)

Ken Vandermark: The Field Within a Line (2020 [2021], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Pandemic project: "a new book of works for solo reed instruments." B+(***) [bc]

Carlos "Zingaro"/Pedro Carneiro: Elogio Das Sombras (2012 [2021], Clean Feed): Violin and marimba duo. Fairly limited concept, but "Zingaro" has at this for a long time now, and he keeps it interesting. B+(**) [bc]

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

The Beaters: Harari (1975 [2021], Matsuli Music): South African "Soweto soul" group, first album, changed their name to Harari thereafter, going on to record another dozen albums up to 1986. Not sure who plays sax on the closer. B+(**) [bc]

Chuck Berry: Live From Blueberry Hill (2005-06 [2021], Dualtone): I lived a couple years in St. Louis: one on Eastgate, across from a bagel bakery, at the east end of what was even then known as the Delmar Loop. Blueberry Hill was the local pub, and I spent a fair amount of time in there -- only Left Bank Books and Streetside Records saw more of me. I don't recall any music there, but Joe Edwards built his empire around it. His biggest coup was getting Chuck Berry to play monthly from 1996 to 2014. This picks 10 tracks from the middle of his run. His voice is shot, and the lean elegance of songs you certainly know has thickened, and the band/sound is far from spectacular, but his excitement is still palpable, and he throws in some ad libs you'll want to hear. After all, "if you love it, you ain't never too old." A- [sp]

Chuck Berry: Toronto Rock 'N' Roll Revival 1969 (1969 [2021], Sunset Blvd.): Remastered complete set of a live concert that's been variously available at least since 1978. The 9:41 "My Ding-A-Ling" is either a high- or a low-point. No debate over the 6:32 "Reelin' and Rockin'." B+(***)

Black Unity Trio: Al-Fatihah (1968 [2021], Salaam/Gotta Groove): One-shot avant-garde trio, credits: Joseph Phillips (Yusuf Mumin): alto sax; Ron DeVaughn (Abdul Wadud): cello and bass; Hasan Abdur Shahid (Hassan-Al-Hut, AKA Hasan Al-Hut): percussion -- the latter was originally Amos Franklin Gordon Jr. By far the best known is Wadud, for his work with Julius Hemphill, Arthur Blythe, and others. B+(**) [bc]

Duke Ellington & His Orchestra: Berlin 1959 (1959 [2021], Storyville, 2CD): There's gotten to be a lot of live Ellington from this period: the orchestra was magnificent, and the songbook was so deep he resorted to medleys. B+(***)

Essiebons Special 1973-1984: Ghana Music Power House (1973-84 [2021], Analog Africa): A compilation of from Ghana's Essiebons label, long headed by producer Dick Essilfie-Bondzie, leans more toward Afrobeat than the earlier highlife style. I usually prefer the light grace of highlife, but this overwhelming deluge of rhythm works too. A- [bc]

Harari: Rufaro/Happiness (1976 [2021], Matsuli Music): Formerly the Beaters, second group album, kept the name of their debut album. B+(**) [bc]

I'll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute to the Velvet Underground & Nico (2021, Verve): A project of the late Hal Willner, evidently his last, recreating the Velvet Underground's first album cut-by-cut, with different artists tackling each song, with widely varying degrees of inspiration. I got to the album late. I remember going to at least two people's homes, playing their copies, and having them come into the room and ask me "what is this shit?" The record soon enough became my kind of comfort food, so it's a bit unsettling to hear other people fuck around with it. B+(***)

Instant Composers Pool: Incipient ICP (1966-71 [2021], Corbett Vs. Dempsey): First tremors of the Dutch avant-garde, with Misha Mengelberg (piano), Willem Breuker (reeds), and Han Bennink (drums) in on the ground floor. The group eventually settled on ICP Orchestra, and recently released a 53-CD box set collecting their work -- the group continues today, although Breuker and Mengelberg have passed. A- [bc]

Khan Jamal: Infinity (1982-84 [2021], Jazz Room): Vibraphone player, born in Florida but raised in Philadelphia, a founder of Sounds of Liberation in 1970. Died January 2022, at 75. Group includes Byard Lancaster (alto sax/flute), plus piano, bass, drums, extra percussion. B+(***)

Lily Konigsberg: The Best of Lily Konigsberg Right Now (2017-21 [2021], Wharf Cat): Seventeen DIY cuts posted on the sly while working on her main band, Palberta, released before her short 2021 album. Small songs, neatly done. B+(*) [bc]

Joe McPhee: Black Is the Color: Live in Poughkeepsie and New Windsor, 1969-70 (1969-70 [2021], Corbett Vs. Depsey, 2CD): Three sets, with different groups (bassist Tyrone Crabb is on all three, drummer Bruce Thompson on the first two) -- the groups are fleshed out with: (1) vibes (Ernest Bostic); (2) tenor sax/flute (Reggie Marks); (3) piano (Mike Kull) and vocals (Octavius Graham). McPhee plays tenor sax, also trumpet on the first two sets. First two are heavy into Coltrane. Third starts off with James Brown, then Graham enters on "Funky Broadway," and stays on for the "Blues for the People" closer. From his private tapes, he was still finding himself, but also having fun. B+(***) [bc]

Leo Nocentelli: Another Side (1971 [2021], Light in the Attic): Guitarist from New Orleans, played for the Meters back in their heyday, side credits include Labelle, Wild Tchoupitoulas, Albert King, Etta James, Taj Mahal, Trombone Shorty. Recorded this one solo album, unreleased until now. B+(*)

Tom Prehn Kvartet: Centrifuga (1964 [2021], Centrifuga): Danish pianist, recorded some remarkable free jazz as early as 1963 but I'm not sure he continued after 1970. John Corbett was a fan, reissuing some of his work in Atavistic's Unheard Music Series, and later on his Corbett Vs. Dempsey label. This is half of a 2021 reissue, but I've only been able to find the original self-released album so far. Quartet with tenor sax Fritz Krogh), bass (Poul Ehlers), and drums (Finn Slumstrup). One 44:09 piece. B+(***) [bc]

Ritmo Fantasía: Balearic Spanish Synth-Pop, Boogie & House (1982-1992) (1982-92 [2021], Soundway): From Spanish islands in the Mediterranean, most famously Ibiza, collected by Berlin-based DJ Trujillo. B+(**)

Star Lovers: Boafo Ne Nyame (1987 [2021], Hot Casa): High life group from Ghana, cover proclaims "Highlife Is Back with Star Lovers," and notes: "Frimpong Manso Production." B+(***) [bc]

The Velvet Underground: A Documentary Film by Todd Haynes (1954-70 [2021], Polydor, 2CD): Soundtrack, 11 group songs not all tied to the four studio albums, one from Nico's solo album, four more including a pre-VU Reed group (The Primitives), pieces from the Diablos, Bo Diddley, and La Monte Young -- the latter a 6:21 minimalist sax solo. The VU songs are mostly live, and often magnificent (especially the 19:04 "Sister Ray"), but they're available in other packages, so I wonder how useful this particular one has. I haven't seen the movie. [PS: Napster credits most of these songs to Amon Tobin, but other sources, including a scan of the booklet, cite the group. My ears concur.] B+(***)

Old Music

The Allman Brothers Band: One Way Out: Live at the Beacon Theatre (2003 [2004], Sanctuary/Peach, 2CD): With founders Duane Allman and Berry Oakley dead, and Dickey Betts departed, the remaining originals are singer-songwriter-keyboardist Gregg Allman and the two drummers. The vocals hold the songbook together, and new guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks provide the spark. Also helps that they pull three pieces out of the blues archive (Blind Willie McTell, Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson). I've never been a big fan, but enjoyed their early work, and enjoyed this one all the way through. B+(***) [sp]

David Bowie: ChangesOneBowie (1969-76 [1976], RCA): First draft for a greatest hits package, 10 obvious songs from 7 albums plus the much-noted but little-heard non-album single "John I'm Only Dancing." Seemed superfluous back when I owned the albums, but nice to recover the high points from the weaker albums, and put them into a a context that looks like a progression. Superseded by the 1990 CD ChangesBowie. A [sp]

David Bowie: ChangesNowBowie (1996 [2020], Parlophone): Packaged like a variant of his greatest hits series, this is a live set of mostly old songs recorded by BBC, starting with unplugged versions of "The Man Who Sold the World," "Aladdin Sane," and "White Light/White Heat." B [sp]

Charles Brackeen Quartet: Attainment (1987 [1988], Silkheart): Tenor saxophonist from Oklahoma City, didn't record much: a Strata-East album in 1968, three albums for Silkheart in 1987, ten or so side-credits, but he often stole the show with his hyper-aggressive playing. Group with Olu Dara (cornet), Fred Hopkins (bass), and Andrew Cyrille (drums), plus voices and extra percussion on the title piece. B+(**) [bc]

Precious Bryant: Feel Me Good (2002, Terminus): Blues singer from the Georgia side of the Alabama line, learned her guitar from an uncle, George Henry Bussey. Got recorded as early as 1967, but didn't release this debut until she turned 60. Live set, solo, just acoustic guitar and voice. B+(**)

Precious Bryant: The Truth (2004, Terminus): Second album, same sensibility but gets a lift from the extra depth of a band, not that you notice it much. Not sure of the provenance of the songs: some I thought I recognized, but not the titles. A-

Precious Bryant: My Name Is Precious (2005, Music Maker Relief Foundation): Label is a non-profit, got some recognition a couple years back with the compilation Hanging Guitar Doors, but it dates back to 1994, and started working with Bryant a decade before this album appeared. She runs through 26 songs here, nice and simple. B+(***)

Chicago Farmer: Quarter Past Tonight (2018, Chicago Farmer, 2CD): Cody Dieckhoff, moved to Chicago and started self-releasing his talkie folk/country albums in 2005. After six of them, he figured he had enough songs built up to try this live-double, located in Peoria, perhaps looking for a venue he could fill. A- [sp]

Anansy Cissé: Mali Overdrive (2014, Riverboat): Guitarist-vocalist from Timbuktu in Mali, first album (at least known to the outside world), finds an undulating groove that many others have pioneered. B+(**)

Hope Dunbar: Three Black Crows (2017, self-released): First album, a dozen homespun songs, but she got some production (from Emily White), strings and percussion and backing vocals. B+(***)

Vincent Neil Emerson: Fried Chicken & Evil Women (2019, La Honda): Title song continues, "will be the death of me," and is followed by "The Bad Side of Luck." His songs flow as easy and natural as anyone's since Billy Joe Shaver. A-

Booker Ervin: Structurally Sound (1966 [2001], Blue Note): Tenor saxophonist from Texas, rarely included in the list of "Texas Tenors" but should be. Emerged as a dominant player with Prestige in the early 1960s, but less known for his late 1960s work, before his death in 1970 at 39. Standard quintet here, but Charles Tolliver (trumpet) and John Hicks (piano) were barely known at the time. Really kicked in for me on Ervin's one original, "Boo's Blues." Reissue adds four tracks. [PS: Allen Lowe included this in a list of life-changing records he first heard at 14. It was the only one I didn't know.] A-

Booker Ervin: The In Between (1968, Blue Note): Last release before Ervin's 1970 death, first actually on Blue Note (which later reissued his two Pacific Jazz albums; also this one in 2004 with no extra material). Richard Williams plays trumpet on 5 (of 6) tracks, with Bobby Few (piano), Cevera Jeffries Jr. (bass), and Lenny McBrowne (drums). Sounds very strong. B+(***)

The Platters: Enchanted: The Best of the Planters (1956-67 [1998], Rhino): Major, best-selling vocal group of the late 1950s, more pop than doo-wop, not least because they were focused on a single lead singer, Tony Williams. Out-of-print, like all the other great cross-licensed Rhino compilations of the 1990s, I easily picked out all but the last three (inessential) songs from Mercury's 2-CD The Magic Touch: An Anthology -- probably the better deal, although every compilation has quality/quantity trade-offs. 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.

The Jeffrey Lewis & Peter Stampfel Band: Both Ways (2017 [2021], self-released): Holy Modal Rounders redux, download only and very skint on the samples. Bandcamp page touts this as "The Great Lost 2017 Double-Album." Christgau likes it. Maybe. [3/26 tracks] ++

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:


Additional Consumer News:

Grades on artists in the old music section.

Music Weeks

Music: Current count 36534 [36534] rated (+0), 149 [149] unrated (+0).

Excerpts from this month's Music Week posts:

Notes

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

  • [cd] based on physical cd
  • [cdr] based on an advance or promo cd or cdr
  • [lp] based on physical lp (vinyl)
  • [dvd] based on physical dvd (rated more for music than video)
  • [bc] available at bandcamp.com
  • [sc] available at soundcloud.com
  • [sp] available at spotify.com
  • [yt] available at youtube.com
  • [os] some other stream source
  • [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