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Streamnotes: September 25, 2023
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 August 28. Past reviews and more information are available here (22438 records).
Zoh Amba/Chris Corsano/Bill Orcutt: The Flower School (2023, Palilalia): Tenor sax/acoustic guitar, drums, electric guitar, coming in from different directions and smashing each other up. Five tracks, 30:49. B+(*) [bc]
Corinne Bailey Rae: Black Rainbows (2023, Thirty Tigers): British singer-songwriter, b. 1978 in Leeds, father from St. Kitts, Bailey her original name, Rae tacked on after a 2001 marriage (ended with Jason Rae's 2008 death), but sort seems to be under B. Fourth album since 2006. B+(**) [sp]
Jon Batiste: World Music Radio (2023, Verve): Keyboard player, sings, seventh album, could probably do anything, so is tempted to try everything, the radio concept tying together twenty pieces that mostly feature happy beats and varied hooks. B+(**) [sp]
Be Your Own Pet: Mommy (2023, Third Man): Nashville punk band, formed in high school, recorded two albums and a couple EPs 2006-08, broke up, regrouped 15 years later to open for a Jack White tour. Maybe it's the new company they're keeping, but sounds like they're trying harder to pump their sound up to fill the larger auditoriums. B+(**) [sp]
Adam Birnbaum: Preludes (2023, Chelsea Music Festival): Pianist, several albums since 2006, in a trio with Matt Clohesy (bass) and Keita Ogawa (percussion), playing Bach preludes. B+(**) [cd] [10-10]
Johnathan Blake: Passage (2023, Blue Note): Drummer, from Philadelphia, fifth album as leader since 2012, second on Blue Note. Opens with a short drum solo, slips in a short Dezron Douglas bass solo later, otherwise Blake wrote five (of 8) songs, draws one each from Douglas and pianist David Virelles, and one from the late Ralph Peterson Jr. Also showcases label mates Immanuel Wilkins (alto sax on five cuts, most spectacularly the first) and Joel Ross (vibes). B+(**) [sp]
Benjamin Boone: Caught in the Rhythm (2019-21 , Origin): Saxophonist, did two excellent albums with poet Philip Levine (2018-19), continues in that vein here, rotating six less famous poets (Faylita Hicks gets four tracks, T.R. Hummer three), various musicians, including some high profile guests. Most words are sharp and angry, with intense music to match, especially the sax. A- [cd]
Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((World War)) (2022 , International Anthem): Trumpet player, sings some, adds some keyboard and percussion, died at 39 shortly after recording this somewhat unfocused album. Mostly quartet with Lester St. Louis (cello), Jason Ajemian (bass), and Chad Taylor (drums) plus extra credits for all, and various guest spots -- Rob Frye plays bass clarinet on three tracks, Nick Broste trombone on two of those. B+(***) [sp]
Zach Bryan: Zach Bryan (2023, Warner): Country singer-songwriter, though this second label album (after two self-releaseds) topped the rock charts as well as country and folk. Solid, unassuming, workman-like. B+(***) [sp]
The Chemical Brothers: For That Beautiful Feeling (2023, Virgin EMI): British techno duo, Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons, have been doing this a long time (debut 1995). Takes some time warming up, then overdoes it. B+(*) [sp]
Billy Childs: The Winds of Change (2023, Mack Avenue): Pianist, from Los Angeles, has composed classical music as well as jazz, 18th album since 1985. Quartet here with Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet), Scott Colley (bass), and Brian Blade (drums). B+(**) [sp]
Mike Clark: Kosen Rufu (2022 , Wide Hive): Drummer, like Eddie Henderson (who plays trumpet here) started with Herbie Hancock in the early 1970s, giving him a reputation for fusion that he's often strayed from. Besides Henderson, band here is an inspired mix: Skerik (tenor sax), Wayne Horvitz (keybs), Henry Franklin (bass), and Bill Summers (percussion). Hard bop, I guess, but not as throwback, some surprises here. A- [cd]
Scott Clark: Dawn & Dusk (2021-22 , Out of Your Head): Drummer, has at least one previous album, composed these pieces with lyric help from vocalist Laura Ann Singh. Strong instrumental stretches, with JC Kuhl (bass clarinet/tenor sax), Bob Miller (trumpet/flugelhorn), Adam Hopkins (bass), and the always excellent Michael McNeill (piano). B+(**) [cd]
Theo Croker: By the Way (2023, Masterworks, EP): Trumpet player, from Florida, debut 2006, some crossover moves, did this five track (21:57) with British singer-songwriter Ego Ella May and producer D'Leau. Slight soul-funk, dressed up with nice trumpet. B+(*) [sp]
Dave and Central Cee: Split Decision (2023, Neighbourhood, EP): British rappers, Dave Omoregie and Oakley Caesar-Su, two previous albums each (Dave's are much better), dropped this 4-song, 16:23 EP. B+(**) [sp]
Kris Davis Diatom Ribbons: Live at the Village Vanguard (2022 , Pyroclastic, 2CD): Canadian pianist, based in New York since 2001, impressed me early, especially with 2008's Rye Eclipse, eventually rising in DownBeat's polls, and winning the Jazz Critics Poll in 2019 for Diatom Ribbons. The latter album, with its fusion elements (various guitars, Val Jeanty's turntables, vocals and spoken word), threw me at the time (or maybe, without a CD, I just didn't give it enough time, but I did recheck it during the poll). But this new one isn't a live take on the original. It's new material -- incorporating pieces by Wayne Shorter, Geri Allen, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Conlon Nancarrow/Eric Dolphy -- played by a slimmed down but fully functional band, with Jeanty, Julian Lage (guitar), Trevor Dunn (bass), and Terri Lyne Carrington (drums), with several vocal samples (Messiaen, Stockhausen, Sun Ra, Paul Bley). It opens up and stretches out (53:42 + 51:09), which among other luxuries gives the pianist more time to claim the spotlight. Which she does. [PS: Back in early JCG days, I noticed that nearly all of my featured Duds had just appeared on the cover of DownBeat. Davis finally made the September 2023 cover, a rare exception to a rule that has proven remarkably robust.] A- [sp]
Doja Cat: Scarlet (2023, Kemosabe/RCA): Rapper-singer Amala Dlamin, from Los Angeles, fourth album, claims the lyrics but very little of the music. The harder stuff is mixed up front, but the softer, less obvious back end is make-or-break. B+(***) [sp]
Open Mike Eagle: Another Triumph of Ghetto Engineering (2023, Auto Reverse): Underground rapper, ninth album, short at 25:28, but still has lots to mull over. B+(***) [sp]
Michael Echaniz: Seven Shades of Violet (Rebiralost) (2023, Ridgeway): Pianist, from "West Coast" (studied at Santa Clara, California Jazz Conservatory, and CalAfts), first album, wrote nine (of 11) pieces, plays some organ and other keyboards, produced by bassist Jeff Denson, vocals on several tracks, guests I rarely notice. B+(*) [cd]
Tomas Fujiwara: Pith (2023, Out of Your Head): Drummer, from Boston, where he studied under Alan Dawson, moved to New York, has been in various ensembles with Anthony Braxton and/or his students. Trio here with Tomeka Reid (cello) and Patricia Brennan (vibes), for a dazzling exhibition of rhythm. B+(***) [cd]
Vince Gill & Paul Franklin: Sweet Memories: The Music of Ray Price & the Cherokee Cowboys (2023, MCA Nashville): Country singer, vaulted to stardom in 1989, and close to 20 albums later still bankable, teams up with the steel guitarist for their second standards album, after Bakersfield in 2013. Only two songs (of 11) actually written by Price. Sounded pretty good most of the way through, but tails off, and "Danny Boy" doesn't seem like such a good idea. B+(*) [sp]
Darrell Grant's MJ New: Our Mr. Jackson (2023, Lair Hill): Pianist, born in Pittsburgh, grew up in Denver, studied at Eastman, moved to New York (where he joined Betty Carter's group), wound up teaching in Portland. Scattered records, starting with mainstream Criss Cross in 1994. This one is dedicated to drummer Carlton Jackson (1961-2021), who anchors this quartet with Mike Horsfall (vibes) and Marcus Shelby (bass). B+(**) [cd] [10-06]
The Handsome Family: Hollow (2023, Loose): Husband-and-wife duo, Brett and Rennie Sparks, he from Texas and she from Long Island, he the singer (although he never seemed like a natural), eleventh studio album since 1994. They have a distinctive sound, but this seems slightly more refined, comfortable, and fascinated with the world. A- [sp]
Eddie Henderson: Witness to History (2022 , Smoke Sessions): Trumpet player, b. 1940, long career starting with Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi fusion band, over two dozen albums as leader, several times that many side credits, notably since 2010 in the Cookers. Marks his 50th anniversary as a leader with this quintet: Donald Harrison (alto sax), George Cables (piano), Gerald Cannon (bass), and Lenny White (drums). Bright, powerful mainstream jazz. B+(***) [sp]
Carlos Henriquez: A Nuyorican Tale (2023, self-released): Bassist, from the Bronx, plays in Jazz at Lincoln Center, fourth album. Some lyrics. Lots of rhythm. B+(**) [cd]
Homeboy Sandman: Rich (2023, Dirty Looks): New York rapper Angel Del Villar III, lots of records since 2007, this another short one (11 tracks, 26:29). Always loose, some of this feels too flip, like when all he can come up with is "I rap real well." Choice cut is "Then We Broke Up," where he even finds some horns. B+(**) [sp]
Irreversible Entanglements: Protect Your Light (2023, Impulse!): Jazz group with poet-vocalist Camae Ayewa (aka Moor Mother), eponymous debut 2017, core group: Aquiles Navarro (trumpet), Keir Neuringer (alto sax), Luke Stewart (bass), Tcheser Holmes (drums). Cosmic vibe rivals Sun Ra, but deadly serious words, and shooting star horns, and MVP bass. A- [sp] [Later: A]
José James: On & On (2023, Rainbow Blonde): Jazz singer, from Minneapolis, dozen albums since 2008. Six (of seven) songs co-written by Erica Wright (Erykah Badu); the most prominent songwriter on the other is Isaac Hayes. B+(*) [sp]
Per Texas Johansson: Den Sämsta Lönningen Av Alla (2023, Moserobie): Tenor saxophonist, numerous side credits since 1993, leads a septet here, also playing clarinet, oboe, English horn, and bass clarinet here, with an odd mix of other instruments: pedal steel guitar, piano, violin, vibes/marimba, bass, drums -- mostly name I recognize (e.g., Matthias Ståhl, Petter Eldh, Konrad Agnas). B+(***) [cd]
Per Texas Johansson: Orkester Omnitonal (2023, Moserobie): Big band, directed by Johan Siberg. Johansson leans more toward clarinet in this context, long pieces which swoop and sway, meander and sometimes surprise. B+(***) [cd]
Bobby Kapp: Synergy: Bobby Kapp Plays the Music of Richard Sussman (2023, Tweed Boulevard): Drummer, credits go back to 1967 with Marion Brown and Gato Barbieri, have picked up a bit since 2015 with Matthew Shipp and Ivo Perelman. Sussman, who plays piano here, has a comparably long but thin discography, leading a couple 1978-79 records for Inner City. Group here: Zach Brock (violin), Aaron Irwin (clarinet/bass clarinet), Abraham Burton (tenor sax), John Clark (French horn), and Harvie S (bass), with Scott Reeves as conductor. B+(**) [cd]
Laufey: Bewitched (2023, AWAL): Singer from Iceland, last name Jónsdóttir, mother Chinese, a classical violinist, second album, has some reputation in jazz but writes most of her material, most personal ballads ("the magic in the love of being young"). Does, however, include a cover of "Misty." B+(*) [sp]
Pascal Le Boeuf: Ritual Being (2016-19 , SoundSpore): Pianist, from Santa Cruz, also records with his saxophonist brother Remy as Le Boeuf Brothers. Pieces here are built on vigorous strings, either with Friction Quartet, the 5-piece Shattered Glass ensemble, or violinists Todd Reynolds and Sara Caswell, with Linda May Han Oh (bass), Justin Brown (drums), and on some cuts Remy Le Boeuf (alto sax) and/or Ben Wendel (tenor sax). B+(***) [cd]
Steve Lehman/Orchestre National de Jazz: Ex Machina (2023, Pi): Alto saxophonist, a Braxton student, has a long list of outstanding albums from 2001, including complex octets and his African fusion Sélébéyone. ONJ is a venerable French organization, dating from 1986, directed since 2019 by Frédéric Maurin. I haven't followed them, but at least in this iteration, they're not just a budget big band. Maurin not only directed, but wrote 5 (of 11) pieces, as clever and tricky as Lehman's. This took me longer than usual, but surely will rank as one of the year's best. A- [cd] [Later: A]
Low Cut Connie: Art Dealers (2023, Contender): Philadelphia band, principally Adam Weiner, surprise find with their 2011 debut, next two albums I liked almost as much, since then I lost the thread (not that I didn't enjoy lockdown covers, collected as Tough Cookies). Here, however, he starts off like he's trying to be a harder rocking Billy Joel, before he loses speed to density. B [sp]
Ashley McBryde: The Devil I Know (2023, Warner Music Nashville): Country singer-songwriter, fourth album since 2018. Her songwriting remains sharp as ever, but the drums hit you hard from the beginning (Christgau on her second album: "Nashville rock at its bigged-up schlockiest, with McBryde belting to match"). It's not all like that, but the half that is wears me out. And once that happens, the paean to whiskey and country music no longer seem so sharp. B+(**) [sp]
Vince Mendoza/Metropole Orkest: Olympians (2023, Modern): From Connecticut, played keyboards but has mostly worked as a big band arranger and conductor, since 1997 mostly with the Dutch Metropole Orkest. B- [sp]
Buddy & Julie Miller: In the Throes (2023, New West): Husband and wife singer-songwriters, both have solo careers as well as six duo albums since 2001. They sound terrific together, but I'm unsure about the songs. B+(**) [sp]
Kylie Minogue: Tension (2023, BMG): Australian dance-pop diva, first album 1988, this is number sixteen, after Disco in 2020. B+(**) [sp]
Joni Mitchell: Joni Mitchell at Newport (2022 , Rhino): Major folkie singer-songwriter in her first period (1968-74, through Court and Spark), after which she got jazzier and more obscure, up to her 2000 standards album Both Sides Now, with subsequent albums in 2002 and 2007. She gets vocal help here from Brandi Carlisle and others, focusing on her best-known songs, plus a cover of "Summertime." But beyond Carlisle, more help doesn't help. B [sp]
Mitski: The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We (2023, Dead Oceans): Mitsuki Laycock, born in Japan with an American father who worked for the US State Department and dragged her around the world before settling in New York. Seventh studio album since 2012. One of the year's top-rated albums (Metacritic: 92/19), yet I find it almost totally opaque, requiring intense concentration to discern its artfulness -- orchestral shifts, background choirs, a real voice. B+(*) [sp]
Victoria Monét: Jaguar II (2023, RCA): Pop singer-songwriter from Atlanta, first album after the 2020 EP Jaguar. B+(**) [sp]
Megan Moroney: Lucky (2023, Sony Music Nashville): Country singer-songwriter (with help), from Georgia, first album, advance single won a CMT music award for "female breakthrough video of the year." Two self-deprecating songs feel ironic. Maybe she is lucky? B+(***) [sp]
Todd Mosby: Land of Enchantment (2022 , MMG): Guitarist, title the state motto of New Mexico, album recorded in California, opens with five originals, including a nod to Georgia O'Keefe, adds one more between covers of "Norwegian Wood" and "By the Time I Get to Phoenix." B [cd]
Jenni Muldaur/Teddy Thompson: Once More: Jenni Muldaur & Teddy Thompson Sing the Great Country Duets (2021-23 , Sun): Maria Muldaur's daughter and Linda Thompson's son: she released albums in 1992 and 2009, he has a few more since 2000. They teamed up for a 4-song EP of Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton duets in 2021, followed by another of George Jones and Tammy Wynette. Those are rolled up here, along with four more from Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty. Aside from jazz (sometimes even there), we tend to deprecate repertory, but these sound great, near perfect till they ad lib a bit on "Pickin' Wild Mountain Berries," where they show more chemistry than Loretta and Conway could ever muster. A- [sp]
Róisín Murphy: Hit Parade (2023, Ninja Tune): Irish singer-songwriter, sixth album since 2005, has a rep for electropop, but I've never been much taken by her grooves until "Can't Replicate" came on (10 songs in). Earned it another play, which was better, but still the one song stood out. Produced by DJ Koze. B+(***) [sp]
Bobbie Nelson and Amanda Shires: Loving You (2021 , ATO): Credit order given front, back, and center, but some sources insist on crediting the singer first, instead of the pianist, whose death last year gives the album meaning, as well as an excuse for a set of standards. Brother Willie drops in for a duet on "Summertime," which would be welcome on a mixtape of the fifty (maybe even thirty) best covers of the song ever. B+(***) [sp]
Willie Nelson: Bluegrass (2023, Legacy): Twelve old songs (from Nelson's songbook) + bluegrass musicians (acoustic guitar, banjo, dobro, mandolin, fiddle, upright bass, no drummer) = new album. Docked a notch for cover art that shows even less imagination than the concept. B+(*) [sp]
Octo Octa: Dreams of a Dancefloor (2023, T4T LUV NRG, EP): Electronica producer Maya Bouldry-Morrison, from New Hampshire, several albums, more singles/EPs since 2011. Three tracks, 24:59. B+(**) [sp]
Joel Paterson: Wheelhouse Rag (2021 , Jalopy): Roots guitarist, from Chicago, learned by ear from old blues and country records, taste in album cover art is also retro, this his ninth since 2001, 14 pieces, subtitle: "The original fingerstyle guitar instrumentals of Joel Paterson. B+(**) [sp]
Ivo Perelman/Matt Moran: Tuning Forks (2023, Ibeji Music): Duo, tenor sax and vibraphone, the former's eighth album so far this year (four duos, three trios, one quartet). B+(***) [bc]
Jean-Michel Pilc: Symphony (2021 , Justin Time): French pianist, had a couple earlier albums but came into prominence in 2000. Solo. B+(*) [sp]
Pink Monads: Multiple Visions of the Now (2022 , 4DaRecord): Quartet, first album: Edith Steyer (clarinet), Céline Voccia (piano), Marialuisa Capurso (voice), Sofia Borges (drums), with a field recording from Morocco. The voice gives a focal point the others scatter around, but their action is much more interesting. B+(**) [cd]
Pretenders: Relentless (2023, Rhino): Chrissie Hynde, twelfth group album, band has turned over since 1978, although original drummer Martin Chambers returned, and guitarist James Walbourne co-wrote this batch of songs. B+(*) [sp]
Darden Purcell: Love's Got Me in a Lazy Mood (2023, Origin): Standards singer, based in DC, couple previous albums, sang for the Airmen of Note. Nice, clear voice, backed with guitar (Shawn Purcell), piano (Todd Simon), bass, drums, and Joe Locke on vibes (6 of 11 cuts). B+(**) [cd] [09-15]
Joshua Redman: Where Are We (2023, Blue Note): Saxophonist (tenor certainly, usually some soprano), second generation, made a big splash with his 1992 debut. This one features vocalist Gabrielle Cavassa (front cover credit), backed by Aaron Parks (piano), Joe Sanders (bass), and Brian Blade (drums), with several guest spots. The songs come first, nice enough but not exceptional, the sax secondary, but every bit as nice. B+(**) [sp]
Doug Richards Orchestra: Through a Sonic Prism: The Music of Antonio Carlos Jobim (2022 , self-released): Arranger and conductor, based in Richmond, running a standard big band with guitar, plus vocalist Laurie Ann Singh. Standard stuff, but very nicely, and credibly, done. B+(**) [cd]
Olivia Rodrigo: Guts (2023, Geffen): Second album, her debut at 17 was attention-grabbing, and this one, where the production goes big and where she pops through the cracks to claim it all, is even more impressive. A mere two plays through what may well be the record of the year. A [sp]
Romy: Mid Air (2023, Young): Singer-guitarist in The XX, Romy Madley Croft, the last of the trio to spin off a solo album. Dance pop, strong beats, rich tones but trimmed back a bit, very catchy, romantic interests female, but not too close. Fred Gibson (Fred Again) conspicuous among the collaborator. A- [sp]
Jeff Rosenstock: Hellmode (2023, Polyvinyl): Singer-songwriter, fifth album, influenced by punk rock, not as austere, but noisy enough. B+(*) [sp]
Brandon Sanders: Compton's Finest (2023, Savant): Drummer, born in Kansas City but grew up in Los Angeles, debut album at 52, with Chris Lewis (tenor sax), Warren Wolf (vibes), Keith Brown (piano), and Eric Wheeler (bass), with Jazzmeia Horn singing two songs: one of his two originals, and "In a Sentimental Mood." B+(**) [cd]
Matthew Shipp: The Intrinsic Nature of Shipp (2023, Mahakala Music): Solo piano, one of the greats, but much more like this to choose from. B+(**) [sp]
Nick Shoulders: All Bad (2023, Gar Hole): Country singer-songwriter, based in Fayetteville, fourth album, does his own cover art. The straightforward country songs don't do much for me, but he's more fun when he commandeers a standard and steers it hard left ("Arkansas Troubler," "Won't Fence Me In"). Notable lyric: "workers of the world, I appreciate'cha/ for your poorly compensated toil, I appreciate'cha." B+(**) [sp]
SLUGish Ensemble: In Solitude (2023, Slow & Steady): Steven Lugerner, plays bass clarinet, baritone sax, and alto flute here, second album with this densely layered sextet, with piano, synthesizer, guitar, bass, and drums -- most prominently the guitar (Justin Rock?). B+(**) [cd] [09-15]
Smoke DZA & Flying Lotus: Flying Objects (2023, The Smoker's Club, EP): Rapper Sean Pompey, debut 2009, Discogs lists 21 albums, nearly as many EPs, this part of a flurry of five such releases. Five tracks, 14:11, including features for Conway the Machine, Black Thought, and Estelle. B+(*) [sp]
Speaker Music: Techxodus (2023, Planet Mu): DeForrest Brown Jr., originally from Alabama, self-described "Ex-American theorist, journalist, and curator," produces electronic music "representative of the Make Techno Black Again campaign," several albums (one from 2020 I like is Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry, but beware that Discogs has this album listed under that title), also has a book, Assembling a Black Counter Culture. B+(**) [sp]
Speedy Ortiz: Rabbit Rabbit (2023, Wax Nine): Singer-songwriter Sadie Dupuis, plays guitar and synthesizer, plus a band that has completely turned over since their 2013 debut. Fourth album. Probably something there, but not for me. B+(*) [sp]
Chris Stamey: The Great Escape (2023, Car): Pop singer-songwriter, from Chapel Hill, North Carolina; played in the Sneakers with Mitch Easter, but is best known for the dBs, with Peter Holsapple. Scattered records, first in 1982, more since 2013. Cover features a Pontiac GTO (1967?). B+(*) [sp]
Michael Jefry Stevens Quartet: Precipice (2022 , ARC): Avant-pianist, from New York, based in Black Mountain, North Carolina; quite some number of records since 1991, but not so many with his name first (e.g., Fonda/Stevens Group has 13). Quartet with Christian Howes (violin) filling the role of a horn lead, backed by bass (Bryan McConnell) and drums (Rick Dilling). Even swings some. A- [cd]
Melissa Stylianou: Dream Dancing (2018 , Anzic): Jazz singer, from Toronto, sixth album since 1999, all standards (including two Jobims), backed by Gene Bertoncini (a delight on guitar) and Ike Sturm (bass). B+(**) [sp]
Superposition: Glaciers (2019-22 , Kettle Hole): Duo of piano/keyboard players Todd A. Carter and Michael Hartman, who also work in some percussion and toys. Second album (or "debut") under this name, but they have worked together for 30 years, including in an ambient/drone band called Liminal. Nice textures, ambient plus something. B+(**) [cd]
Teddy Thompson: My Love of Country (2023, self-released): British, but only one song here was written by a countryman, his father Richard Thompson. The others are what you'd expect: American, mostly country music hits, not what I think of as obvious classics but things I recognize, like "I Fall to Pieces," "Satisfied Mind," and "You Don't Know Me." B+(**) [sp]
Tirzah: Trip9love (2023, Domino): British singer-songwriter, third album since 2018, produced by Mica Levi, similar to trip hop with more distortion. B+(*) [sp]
Ulaan Passerine: Sun Spar (2021 , Worstward): Guitarist Steven R. Smith, from California, many records since 1995, both under his own name and various aliases/groups -- four starting with "ulaan." Ensemble here adds organ, banjo, violin, alto flute, bass clarinet, French horn. Achieves the minimal level of exotica evidently aspired to. B [sp]
Underscores: Wallsocket (2023, Mom + Pop): Glitch pop artist April Harper Grey, lots of self-released singles and EPs since 2015, second album, first picked up by a known label, cites Skrillex for inspiration, opened for 100 gecs in 2021. I don't like either of those models, and this isn't something I can imagine ever really enjoying, but I'm seriously impressed by a couple songs -- "Old Money Bitch," of course, and the ballad "Good Luck Final Girl" -- and a bit more amused than annoyed by the rest. B+(***) [sp]
Sachal Vasandani & Romain Collin: Still Life (2022, Edition): Jazz singer, born in Chicago, early albums (from 2007) as Sachal, this his second duo with pianist Collin. Wrote the title song, has a credit in a second, Collin wrote one, the others non-traditional standards (Elizabeth Cotten to Billie Eilish via Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel). B- [sp]
Vin Venezia: The Venetian (2023, Innervision): Guitarist, plays electric, baritone, acoustic, nylon, and synth guitars; second album, ends with an original but mostly arranges jazz standards (Davis, Corea, Strayhorn, Jobim). Backed by bass (Harvie S), drums (Richie Morales), with tenor sax (Davie Walsh, one track of Bob Magnuson), and occasional piano (David Budway on 4 of 13 tracks). Runs the gamut, but always in good taste. B+(**) [cd] [10-20]
Alex Ventling/Hein Westgaard: In Orbit (2021 , Nice Things): Pianist ("home in both Switzerland and New Zealand" but based in Trondheim), in a duo with guitar. B+(**) [bc]
Claudia Villela: Cartas Ao Vento (2023, Taina Music): Brazilian jazz singer, based in Santa Cruz since the mid-1980s, has a handful of albums since 1996, this the first one she's recorded in Brazil. B+(***) [cd]
Maddie Vogler: While We Have Time (2022 , Origin): Alto saxophonist, based near Chicago, first album, all original compositions, sharp postbop sextet with trumpeter Tito Carrillo especially notable, plus guitar, piano, bass, and drums. B+(**) [cd]
Morgan Wade: Psychopath (2023, Ladylife/RCA): Country singer-songwriter, from Virginia, second album, fine voice, solid-plus writing, a bit too much guitar-heavy production but not as annoying as McBryde's. Christgau says this "exemplifies Nashville's evolution away from down home country toward a less regional style of autobiographical pop." That doesn't sound like a good idea to this old-timer, but the middle ground can still be fertile for someone with the talent to work it. A- [sp]
Hein Westgaard Trio: First as Farce (2022 , Nice Things): Guitarist, from Norway, based in Copenhagen, recorded this "debut" in Sweden -- he appears to have a couple duo albums they're not counting. With Petter Asbjørnsen (bass) and Simon Forchhammer (drums). I'm impressed by the complementary thrash that often erupts from the occasional background noodling. A- [cd]
Ben Wolfe: Unjust (2021 , Resident Arts): American bassist, debut 1996, support at various times includes Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Immanuel Wilkins/Nicole Glover (sax), Joel Ross (vibes), Addison Frei/Orrin Evans (piano), and Aaron Kimmel (drums). Some nice combinations. B+(***) [sp]
Wreckless Eric: Leisureland (2023, Tapete): British singer-songwriter Eric Goulding, made his debut on Stiff Records in 1977 with the single "Whole Wide World." Left Stiff in 1980, and went nowhere in particular, trying out other alias projects, but eventually hooked up with Amy Rigby, including three duet albums (2008-12), as well as more solo albums. Echoes of the '60 British invasion, but a bit more consciously grungy. B+(***) [sp]
Lizz Wright: Holding Space: Live in Berlin (2018 , Blues & Greens): Jazz singer, from Georgia, grew up in church, where her father was minister and musical director. Seventh album since 2003, with Chris Bruce (guitar), Bobby Sparks (keybs), Ben Zwerin (bass), and Ivan Edwards (drums). B+(**) [sp]
Yeule: Softscars (2023, Ninja Tune): Glitch pop artist Natasha Yelin Chang, aka Nat Cmiel, from Singapore, studied in London, based in Los Angeles, third album (after several EPs). I don't quite know what to make of this. B+(***) [sp]
Bobby Zankel/Wonderful Sound 8: A Change of Destiny (2022 , Mahakala Music): Alto saxophonist, long based in Philadelphia, has a side credit from 1977 but debut as leader was 1992, and he's remained relegated to small avant labels, scattered from Krakow to Little Rock. He did a Wonderful Sound 6 album in 2017, and builds on that here, with a second alto sax (Jaleel Shaw), trombone (Robin Eubanks), violin (Diane Monroe), piano (Sumi Tonooka), bass (Lee Smith), and drums (Pheeroan Aklaff), plus singer Ruth Naomi Floyd. Of course, I prefer the blazing sax runs. B+(***) [09-22]
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Atmosphere: Sad Clown Bad Dub II (2000 , Rhymesayers Entertainment): Minneapolis underground rap duo, still going, here with a new remaster of the 2003 authorized version of a bootleg. I figure they had three A- 1997-2002 albums. The beats and rhymes jump like they did back in that first flush of youth, but they don't all land. B+(**) [bc]
Brian Blade Fellowship: Live From the Archives: Bootleg June 15, 2000 (2000 , Stoner Hill): Drummer, group named from his 1998 debut album, group with Myron Walden (alto sax/bass clarinet), Melvin Butler (tenor/soprano sax), Jon Cowherd (piano), Kurt Rosenwinkel (guitar), and Christopher Thomas (bass). I don't particularly see the point of this. B [r]
John Blum: Nine Rivers (2013 , ESP-Disk): Pianist, from New York, studied at Bennington with Bill Dixon and Milford Graves, also Borah Bergman and Cecil Taylor. Only a handful of records. This one is solo, harsh, dissonant, the first sounds suggesting prepared. B+(**) [cd]
François Carrier Ensemble: Openness (2006 , Fundacja Sluchaj, 3CD): Montreal-based alto saxophonist, goes back to the 1990s, always with drummer Michel Lambert, here at the La Chapelle festival, hosting Tomasz Stanko (trumpet), Mat Maneri (viola), and Gary Peacock (bass), over two nights. All improv, not so far out you can't just relax to it, but never slouches off or misses a step. A- [dl]
Dizzy Gillespie: Portrait of Jenny (1970 , BBE): Bebop trumpet great, like many struggled to find a label after 1967, at least until Norman Granz welcomed him to Pablo in 1975, but he did manage three releases on Perception 1970-71. This one four cuts (31:59), with piano (Mike Longo), guitar (George Davis), bass (Andrew Gonzalez), and Latin percussion. B+(***) [bc]
Alan Goldsher: The Complete Pocket Sessions (2019 , Gold Note): Email billed this as "the original jazztronica" -- a phrase that had appeared at least 20 years before the two albums remastered here (The Pocket and The Other Pocket). Goldsher plays bass and keyboards, has a bunch of releases since these albums kicked him off, and has a longer career (since 2002) as a writer of fiction and non (including books on Modest Mouse, Dave Brubeck, and Art Blakey's sidemen). B- [sp]
The Jazz Doctors: Intensive Care/Prescriptions Filled [The Billy Bang Quartet Sessions 1983/1984] (1983-84 , Cadillac): Two sessions in London, the first -- a quartet with Billy Bang (violin), Frank Lowe (tenor sax), Rafael Garrett (bass), and Dennis Charles (drums) -- released as Intensive Care; the second -- Bang, Lowe, Wilber Morris (bass), and Thurman Barker (drums) -- previously unreleased, but titled Prescriptions Filled. B+(***) [sp]
Roberto Magris & the JM Horns: High Quote (2012 , JM): Italian pianist, from Trieste, has a label in Kansas City, and recorded this in Lenexa, KS a decade ago, with a substantial horn section, bass, drums, and congas, with vocals by Monique Danielle on two tracks. B+(*) [cd]
Charlie Parker: The Long Lost Bird Live Afro-Cubop Recordings (1945-54 , RockBeat): Nice packaging. The music comes from six widely scattered sources, including guest spots with Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, and Machito, and an early quintet with Dizzy Gillespie. Sound is variable, as is the "cubop" quotient, though the "Manteca" with Machito overcomes all my reservations. [Previously released on CD in 2015, now on vinyl.] B+(***) [r]
Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky: Luten at Jazzwerkstatt Peitz (2011 , Jazzwerkstatt): German alto saxophonist (1933-2023), also plays clarinet, nickname Luten, one of the first important free jazz musicians to emerge from the GDR, probably best known for Zentralquartett (with Conrad Bauer, 1974-2016). Live set here came out a couple months before his death. With Alexander von Schlippenbach (piano) and Christian Lillinger (drums), a long piece (32:21) and a "Freie Improvisation" (10:28). B+(***) [sp]
Mark Reboul/Roberta Piket/Billy Mintz: Seven Pieces/About an Hour/Saxophone, Piano, Drums (2004 , ESP-Disk): Saxophonist, Discogs only offers two side-credits, one from 1985, the other 2007, so this is his belated debut, backed by relatively well known (even then, but more so now) pianist and drummer. Rather understated, but draws you in. B+(***) [cd]
Pharoah Sanders: Pharoah (1976 , India Navigation): Tenor saxophonist (1940-2022), first album 1964, but during that period was closely engaged with John Coltrane, in a project that combined free and spiritual jazz. He recorded for Impulse! to 1973, then like many jazz musicians of the era, wasn't able to find another major label until 1998. This one came out on a small but important American label. Three pieces (40:20), with guitar (Tisziji Munoz), harmonium or organ, bass, and drums/percussion, with a vocal on "Love Will Find a Way." First side finds its groove. Second is a bit less successful. B+(***) [sp]
Pharoah Sanders: Pharoah [Expanded Edition] (1976-77 , Luaka Bop): This 2-LP reissue adds two live takes of the first-side piece, "Harvest Time," one from Middelheim, the other Willisau, with a quartet -- Khalid Moss (piano/electric), Hayes Burnett (bass), and Clifford Jarvis (drums) -- and the box includes a booklet I'll never see. B+(***) [bc]
Sonny Stitt: Boppin' in Baltimore: Live at the Left Bank (1973 , Jazz Detective): Alto saxophonist, a bebopper from his start in the late 1940s, took a lot of grief as a "Bird imitator," but invented as much as he stole, and really who cares? He was always up to play, especially in his early-1960s duo albums with Gene Ammons, but his best albums came in 1972 for Muse, when he slowed down a bit. This previously unreleased tape comes from that period: a quartet with Kenny Barron (piano), Sam Jones (bass), and Louis Hayes (drums). A- [sp]
Art Ensemble of Chicago: The Meeting (2003, Pi): Down to four -- Malachi Favors (bass), Famoudou Don Moye (drums), Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman (reeds), everyone percussion -- with the recent death of Lester Bowie. He is missed. B+(*) [sp]
Art Ensemble of Chicago: Sirius Calling (2003 , Pi): Moving on, still a quartet, streaks of brilliance with a lot of ambling along. B+(*) [sp]
Art Ensemble of Chicago: Chi Congo (1972, Decca): Now-legendary Chicago quintet, they recorded a massive amount in 1967-72, much of it in France, like this album, before they landed on Atlantic for a couple 1972-73 albums, then ECM from 1978 to 2001 (aside for a 1986-90 burst in the Japanese label DIW). B+(**) [sp]
Art Ensemble of Chicago: Live in Paris (1969 , Charly, 2CD): Two long pieces (49:34 and 42:02), each originally split on LP, not sure when BYG originally released them but Part 2 came out in Japan in 1975, they were collected on 2-LP by Affinity in 1980, and later reissued on CD here and by Fuel 2000 in the US. Current digital editions have them split up again, but each part refracts the whole and vice versa. As usual, everyone doubles on percussion, with Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman on all manner of flutes and reeds. Singer Fontella Bass is also credited, a nice bit toward the end. B+(**) [sp]
Art Ensemble of Chicago: Live Part 1 (1969 , BYG): "Oh, Strange," credited to Jarman and Bowie. B+(**) [sp]
Art Ensemble of Chicago: Live Part 2 (1969 , BYG): "Bon Voyage," credited to Bowie. B+(**) [sp]
Art Ensemble of Chicago: Live in Berlin (1979 , West Wind, 2CD): One 80:10 stretch, sensibly split over 2-CD, the set pieces (if indeed that's what they are) flowing into one long medley. B+(*) [sp]
Baba Zula/Mad Professor: Ruhani Oyun Havalan (Psychebelly Dance Music) (2003, Doublemoon): Turkish group, sing and play traditional instruments augmented with electronics for "a unique psychedelic sound," with Mad Professor mixing dub style, and a couple dancers listed among group members. B+(***) [sp]
Bobby Blue Bland: Blues at Midnight (2003, Malaco): Blues/soul singer (1930-2013), his 1957-69 Duke Recordings the peak of several essential compilations ranging from 1952-59 (The "3B" Blues Boy) to 1973-84 (The ABC-Dunhill/MCA Recordings). After leaving MCA in 1984, he got picked up by Malaco and cut nine more albums, ending with this one -- touted as "a return to form." I've never followed him album-by-album, but the first thing clear here is that he never lost his voice (despite an occasional disconcerting gargle). This one flows easy. B+(**) [sp]
Brooks & Dunn: Red Dirt Road (2003, Arista Nashville): Country duo, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn, debut 1991, ninth album (of eleven through 2007, plus Reboot in 2019), most went top-ten country. Wikipedia says "neotraditional" but, nah! I'm not sure who came first, but they were part of a wave that amped country guitars and drums up to fill arenas. They also groomed their songs to appeal to the mass conservative audience, without quite becoming assholes about it. (GW Bush and Barack Obama both used their "Only in America" as campaign songs.) Most striking thing here is how their women are feisty enough to dump them but never do. They count themselves lucky, as well they should. B [sp]
Jimmy Buffett: A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean (1973, ABC): Dead at 78, he recorded 29 (or 51) albums, sold over 20 million, and probably made more money merchandising his lifestyle (per Wikipedia, his net worth was $550 million). Only thing of his I ever checked out was a 2003 best-of, but I always loved this title -- a play on a Marty Robbins title he didn't bother trying to turn into a song. Agreeably loose, maybe even a bit sloppy. B+(***) [sp]
Jimmy Buffett: Living and Dying in 3/4 Time (1974, ABC): As folksy and sloppy as before, but somehow he misplaced . . . songs, I think. B [sp]
Jimmy Buffett: Havana Daydreamin' (1976, ABC): Skipping a couple, another pleasant set from the Key West Chamber of Commerce. B+(*) [sp]
Jimmy Buffett: Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes (1977, ABC): His country shtick seems to be in decline, but he's been working on his songs, coming up with a signature one in "Margaritaville" -- although note that the chart it topped was called US Adult Contemporary (it hit 8 on Billboard Hot 100, 7 on Cash Box). This was his first album to rise as high as 12 on the pop charts (2 on country). B+(**) [sp]
Jimmy Buffett: Son of a Son of a Sailor (1978, ABC): Actually, a minor correction to the above: I did own a copy of this, but it never got copied into my database. A second platinum album, peaked at 10 (6 country), heights he didn't return to until the 1990s. His hit single this time was "Cheeseburger in Paradise," which like "Margaritaville" he converted into a chain of restaurants. B+(*) [sp]
John Cale: Hobo Sapiens (2003, EMI): Welsh singer-songwriter, started in avant-classical in the 1960s, played electric viola in Velvet Underground, had various high points in the 1970s, which ultimately established the sound he's still working with here, more engagingly than was his norm (most remarkably "Letter From Abroad"). B+(***) [sp]
Johnny Cash: American V: A Hundred Highways (2003 , American): When Rick Rubin stepped in to record Cash in 1994, the idea was less to cement his legend than to just keep him going, after Columbia dropped him in 1986, and Mercury in 1991. He was only 62, but had less than a decade left, and he spent it singing whatever songs took his fancy, in the simplest of arrangements, his voice still unique but losing its force. Four volumes appeared before he died in 2003, and this -- the only one I missed -- and American VI were released later. American IV was the pick -- the others struck me as various shades of B+ -- but the more time passes, the more fortunate these recordings feel. B+(***) [r]
Constantines: Shine a Light (2003, Sub Pop): Canadian indie rock band, five albums 2001-08, released a couple reunion singles since. Second album. B+(*) [sp]
Rodney Crowell: Fate's Right Hand (2003, DMZ/Epic): Country singer-songwriter, moved from Houston to Nashville and made a splash with his 1978 debut. This was his eleventh, during a stretch of eight albums with eight different labels, most charting around 30. Choice cut: "Preachin' to the Choir." B+(***) [sp]
The Darkness: Permission to Land (2003, Atlantic): English rock band, first album, leans toward metal but a bit soft and malleable. Broke up after second album (2005), regrouped in 2012, with five albums since. There was a day when I might have cut them more slack (or maybe I did, given how annoying the singer's screech is). B [sp]
Richard Davis: One for Frederick (1989 [1990, Hep): Bassist (1930-2023), not a lot of albums under his own name -- Discogs lists 33, but only 13 list him first -- has a huge list of side-credits, starting with Don Shirley in 1955 and Sarah Vaughan in 1957, with 1964 an early peak (Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch and Andrew Hill's Black Fire), and even a few "beyond" albums, like Van Morrison's Astral Weeks (of which Greil Marcus wrote: "Richard Davis provided the greatest bass ever heard on a rock album"). This one was live at Sweet Basil, co-credited to "and Friends," a sharp quintet with Cecil Bridgewater (trumpet), Ricky Ford (tenor sax), Roland Hanna (piano), and Freddie Waits (drums, the Frederick of the title, who died November, 1989, after this was recorded in July). B+(***) [sp]
DonaZica: Composição (2003, Tratore): Brazilian group, principally singers Anelis Assumpção, Iara Rennó, and Andreia Dias (reportedly the lead), first of two albums (although I've run across Rennó elsewhere). Looking them up, I got confused by a samba dancer known as Dona Zica (actual name Euzébia Silva de Oliveira, who died at 89 the same year this appeared). Catches your ear, in a typically slippery mode. A- [sp]
Kathleen Edwards: Failer (2003, Zoë): Canadian folkie singer-songwriter, father was in the State Department, so she grew up around the world. First album, of five through 2020. B+(*) [sp]
Entropic Advance: Monkey With a Gun (2003, Symbolic Insight): Wesley Davis (bios+a+ic) and Noise Poet Nobody (James Miller?), released ten albums 1998-2014, of dark ambiance, light noise, captured sounds, some vocal. B+(**) [sp]
Sleepy John Estes: The Legend of Sleepy John Estes (1962 , Delmark): Memphis bluesman John Adam Estes (1899-1977), first recorded for Victor in 1929, his 1929-40 compilations -- I have one on Yazoo, another on Wolf -- are highly recommended (but mostly interchangeable). Recorded a couple tracks for Sun in 1952, but hadn't been heard from since, until Bob Koester tracked him down and cut him loose for his first proper LP. Half of these 12 songs repeat from the earlier comps, his quavery voice and spare guitar timeless. A- [sp]
The Fugs: The Fugs' Second Album (1966 , Fantasy): Folk-rock group founded 1964 by poets Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg, with Ken Weaver on drums, with others joining on occasion -- most famously Peter Stampfel and Steve Weber. They released a 1965 album on Broadside/Folkways titled The Village Fugs Sing Ballads of Contemporary Protest, Point of Views, and General Dissatisfaction, which a year later was reissued as The Fugs' First Album, along with a second album, just The Fugs, but rechristened here. Both pick up spare tracks. They held together until 1969, recording one more album for ESP-Disk, an unreleased album for Atlantic, and three for Reprise (eventually boxed as Electromagnetic Steamboat: The Reprise Recordings). This album even cracked the charts at 95, so their indifference to commercial success wasn't totally unreciprocated. Big pieces here are the not-quite-ironic-enough "Kill for Peace" and a stab at new age exotica called "Virgin Forest" (11:17). Bonus tracks include some live cuts and end with a whimper on "Nameless Voices Crying for Kindness." [sp]
Barry Guy/Evan Parker: Studio/Live: Birds & Blades (2001 , Intakt, 2CD): Bass and tenor/soprano sax, one set recorded at Radiostudio DRS Zürich, a second a day later at Sphères Bar Buch & Bühne, also in Zürich. Long history, dating back to the late 1960s when they, foremost among a few others (like Derek Bailey and Paul Rutherford) introduced avant-jazz to Britain. This is a generous sample of what what these remarkable musicians have been doing for decades. A- [sp]
Corey Harris: Mississippi to Mali (2003, Rounder): Bluesman, appeared in the mode established by Taj Mahal in the 1970s, cultivating those old delta blues for hip moderns, which garnered him a MacArthur in 2007. This came out about the time Ali Farka Touré was being treated as John Lee Hooker's long-lost cousin. That's the sort of connection Harris could revel in, but the mix here barely connects. B+(*) [sp]
King Geedorah: Take Me to Your Leader (2003, Big Dada): Alias for rapper Daniel Dumile (1971-2020), formerly of KMD, also recorded as Viktor Vaughn but is best remembered as MF Doom. He was born in London, moved to Long Island while young, built his career in US, then was denied re-entry after a tour of Europe in 2010. I never quite got his cosmology, but the slinky beats and sense of surprise were irresistible. B+(***) [sp]
Elvin Jones and Richard Davis: Heavy Sounds (1968, Impulse!): Heavy that drummer and bassist should share billing credit, but they claim it with an 11:33 duet on "Summertime." The other five cuts (30:23) add Billy Greene on piano and Frank Foster, really tasty on tenor sax. A- [sp]
Elvin Jones: Poly-Currents (1969 , Blue Note): Drummer (1927-2004), one of the Jones Brothers (with Thad and Hank), played with Sonny Rollins (A Night at the Village Vanguard) in the late 1950s, but is most famous for the 1960-66 John Coltrane Quartet, and echoes followed him ever after. This is one of a bunch of 1968-73 records for Blue Note. Five tracks, first three with Candido Camera (congas), Wilbur Little (bass), and saxophonists George Coleman, Joe Farrell (also English horn and flute), and Pepper Adams (baritone). The last two cuts trim down a bit. Needless to say, the drummer puts on a show. B+(***) [sp]
The Knife: Deep Cuts (2003, V2): Swedish electronic duo, Olof and Karin Dreijer (brother and sister) -- she later broke off as Fever Ray, while he recorded, less successfully, as Oni Ayhun. Second album. B+(**) [sp]
Steve Lehman: Xenakis and the Valedictorian (2020, Pi, EP): Early in the 2020 lockdown, Pi Recordings asked their artists to help fill the void with digital-only releases. Lehman contributed this "concise EP" (10 pieces, 9:06) of solo practice sessions, "recorded in the passenger seat of my 2011 Honda CR-V, from March 25 to April 15, 2020." The mathematician-composer Xenakis was on his mind, as he was thinking of his mother, unable to visit on her 80th birthday. She had "introduced me to an incredibly wide array of musicians and musical styles" -- he provides a list, but nothing nearly as far out as her choice of "Bohor" as theme music for his 10th birthday party. I hated the 46 seconds Pi made public on their Bandcamp page, but this turns out to be really remarkable. I'm even a bit reminded of an experience I had with Xenakis long ago, where I left with a visceral impression of what the eye of a tornado must sound like. A- [dl]
Linkin Park: Hybrid Theory (2000, Warner Bros.): Rap-metal group, first album, huge hit with 30 million copies sold worldwide, albeit with very little love from critics I follow. I cheated here by leaving the room while this played, the distance dimming the volume and dulling the words (if not dull enough already), but leaving basic impressions: palpable anger, and enough melodic sense to provide hooks. Clearly not my thing, but better than expected. B+(*) [r]
Linkin Park: Meteora (2003, Warner Bros.): Second album, worldwide sales dropped off to 27 million. Listened to this one in the same room, which made it louder and a bit clearer, and only marginally more tedious. B+(*) [r]
Patty Loveless: On Your Way Home (2003, Epic): Country singer-songwriter, original name Ramey but had just divorced a husband named Terry Lovelace when she recorded her debut in 1987. Has a pure country voice for a very traditional sound, later moving even further into bluegrass, recording steadily up to 2009, nothing since. B+(**) [sp]
Marcelo D2: Looking for the Perfect Beat [A Procura Da Batida Perfeita ] (2003, Mr. Bongo): Brazilian rapper Marcelo Maldonado Peixoto, previously had a group called Planet Hemp. Second album, title originally in Portuguese, translated for reissue by Mr. Bongo (2003). I can't speak to the words, but the beats really jump. A- [sp]
Metric: Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? (2003, Last Gang): Canadian electropop band, first album (of nine through 2023), Emily Haines the singer-keyboardist, with James Shaw on guitar. B+(**) [sp]
Jenni Muldaur: Jenni Muldaur (1992, Reprise): Geoff & Maria Muldaur's daughter (b. 1965), got this one shot at recording a big-time studio album, with producer Russ Titelman pulling out all the stops: tapping David Sanborn for a sax spot, Andy Fairweather Low for a bit of slide guitar, letting Donald Fagen arrange the Brecker brothers for another. Nothing per sé bad, but not much personality emerges. B [sp]
My Morning Jacket: It Still Moves (2003, ATO): Indie rock group from Louisville, Jim James the singer, nine albums 1999-2021, this their third. Long album, sometimes plaintive with faint echoes of Neil Young. B [sp]
The New Pornographers: Electric Version (2003, Matador): Canadian indie band, second album, three members also have notable side projects (Neko Case, Carl Newman, Dan Bejar). Came in 18 in Brad Luen's 2003 poll, highest of any album I missed, the likely explanation being that I thought their debut sucked, this one wasn't as well-regarded, and I've never cared much for their later albums, or for those side projects. But sure, it is very snappy, with hooks and, well, what else? B [sp]
Johnny Otis: The Johnny Otis Show Live at Monterey! (1970, Epic): Bandleader (1921-2012), of Greek heritage, born in California as Ioannis Veliotes, but identified as black, and is best known for his r&b shows, in the early 1950s featuring Esther Phillips, later turned into package shows, trotting out a number of former r&b stars to sing their hits, mixed in with his own ringers (including guitarist-son Shuggie Otis, and singer Mighty Mouth Evans. [PS: This edition omits four cuts, two each from "Little" Esther Phillips and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson.] B+(***) [r]
Pernice Brothers: Yours, Mine & Ours (2003, Ashmont): Indie rock band led by Joe Pernice, formerly of Scud Mountain Boys, and brother Bob among others. Third album. Sounds pretty, but feels trivial. B+(*) [sp]
Pet Shop Boys: Pop Art: The Hits (1985-2003 , Parlophone, 2CD): A 35-song best-of, focusing on 7-inch versions, so nothing very long (5:10 max). Most songs I instantly recognize and totally love, including five songs from Very, but the few I don't recognize are pretty amazing, too. Good chance more plays would raise this grade. A- [sp]
Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky: Ein Nachmittag in Peitz (1981 , Jazzwerkstatt): Plays alto sax, baritone sax, and flute on three tracks, just talks on one more (beware: 9:39, in German, with laughter). The music begins and ends with duets with Harry Miller (bass, cello, 13:53 and 12:12), separated by the talk and a 41:01 piece called "Relaxing With Heinz, Klaus, Joe and Tony" -- that's Becker (trumpet), Koch (bass), Sachse (guitar), and Oxley (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky/Conny Bauer: Wanderung Durch Den Thüringer Wald (2011 , Jazzwerkstatt): Duo, alto sax and bass trombone, they've been playing together at least since 1973, most notably in Zentralquartett. B+(**) [sp]
Steely Dan: Everything Must Go (2003, Warner Bros.): Four outstanding albums 1972-75 when they were still a band, fell off a bit in 1976 as Donald Fagen, Walter Becker, and some studio support, found a new niche -- longer songs, jazzier -- with Aja and Gaucho 1977-80. Not much to show for solo careers, other than Fagen's brilliant The Nightfly (1982), so they reunited in 2000 for a pretty good record (Two Against Nature), then ended with this (Becker died in 2017). Still, not much here beyond trademark sound. B+(*) [sp]
Richard Thompson: (Guitar, Vocal): A Collection of Unreleased and Rare Material 1967-1976 (1967-76 , Island): English folkie, guitarist first, singer-songwriter in a duo with wife Linda 1974-82, solo for 40+ years after. This picks up scattered bits starting with six songs with Fairport Convention, then adds some outtakes with or without Linda, including one new track. Seems like a hodgepodge, where the artist only starts to reveal himself toward the end. [NB: Issued in UK by Island 1976, as 2-LP; reissued in US by Carthage in 1984, and by on CD Hannibal in 1989.] B [sp]
Richard Thompson: Mirror Blue (1994, Capitol): Eighth studio album, about par for the course. B+(**) [sp]
Richard Thompson: Mock Tudor (1999, Capitol): Another solid record. B+(**) [sp]
T.I.: Trap Muzik (2003, Atlantic/Grand Hustle): Atlanta rapper Clifford Harris, second album (has eleven through 2020, has had a pretty checkered career beyond the music). Trap has something to do with selling drugs, but you can just go with the flow here, and occasionally catch the odd beats. B+(**) [sp]
TV on the Radio: Young Liars (2003, Touch & Go, EP): Indie/art rock band from Brooklyn, self-released a demo album in 2002, this EP (5 songs, 25:13), then went on to release five albums 2004-14, most critically acclaimed -- I'm even on record as liking Dear Science and Nine Types of Light, but don't remember any more than that. This hints at something more, but hard to tell what. B [sp]
Bennie Wallace: Big Jim's Tango (1982 , Enja): Tenor saxophonist, from Tennessee, fifth album since 1978, a trio with Dave Holland and Elvin Jones, playing four originals plus one Cole Porter. Mainstream player, always loved his tone, especially on mid-tempo pieces, but even there this rhythm section keeps him on his toes. [PS: Album cover from 1995 CD reissue.] A- [sp]
Ying Yang Twins: Me & My Brother (2003, TVT): Crunk duo from Atlanta, Kaine (Eric Jackson) and D-Roc (D'Angelo Holmes), debut 2000, third album. Relentless, cartoonish bangers, can be sampled on the Crunk Hits volumes. Christgau gets the spirit: "Way more fun than most bitch-ass motherfuckers." High point: "Naggin' Part II (The Answer)." Then the down of "Armageddon." B+(***) [sp]
Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.
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. Also some old albums extracted from further listening:
Otis Spann: Otis Spann Is the Blues (1960, Candid): Surprised, when Candid reissued it last year, I had this graded so low. Then I remember that the one I liked better was Walking the Blues (also 1960). [was: B] B+(**) [cd]
Music: Current count 40918  rated (+151), 30  unrated (+3).
Excerpts from this month's Music Week posts:
Music: Current count 40811  rated (+44), 34  unrated (+7).
Huge Speaking of Which last night: 135 links, 8610 words. Started Thursday, and let some things like the baseball memoir, the note on Golda Meir, and the Hobsbawm introduction just flow. Also added the Jimmy Buffett obituary late, after I found the note on his politics. By then I had gone back for a few of his records, below.
Looking back over it, I see a dozen spots where I should (or at least could) write much more. I've made some minor edits, but it certainly needs much more.
The only thing that kept the rated count from cratering was working off a checklist, in this case the unheard records from Brad Luen's 2003 poll results (in the notebook), hence a lot of 2003 releases under Old Music. I've hit everything that got ranked, but very few of the single-vote records. The records rarely got more than one play, so they piled up pretty fast. Aside from the Pet Shop Boys, which a second play would most likely lift to full A, Marcelo D2 made the grade the fastest.
I got another food plate, if you're into that. The diet is going fitfully, but I believe I'm entitled to clean up leftovers and dated pantry items. It was orders of magnitude better than the microwave fish from the night before, or whatever I had last night and have already blotted from memory.
After taking it apart and reassembling it, the upstairs CD player finally decided to start working, but only after I ordered a replacement -- something I found pretty embarrassing. But it is the last such model still available (an Onkyo), and the last unit Amazon had in stock, so I figure I'll keep it as a collector's item. Next day, the downstairs CD player reverted to its bad habit of instantly withdrawing the tray before I could put a new disc in, so if I shoot it, I'll already have a replacement.
After much nagging, I filled out a ballot for the DownBeat Readers Poll. My notes are here. Note that I'm only picking from the ballot choices they offer, which miss a lot of worthy albums (at least 80% of my A-lists: 2022 and 2023) and a great many notable musicians (especially from Europe, but also more avant or more retro than their MOR niche).
The demo queue continues to grow, and I'm probably farther behind than I've been a decade (give or take). One reason I've let it slide is that only 5 (of 35) are out yet, and most won't be released until October. The pending list is sorted by release date, but my basket isn't, so sometimes I slip up and jump the gun (as with Birnbaum, below; future dates noted at the end of the review).
Still no indexing on last month's Streamnotes. Expecting more 100°F weather this week. It's often hot here until the last week of September.
Music: Current count 40847  rated (+36), 27  unrated (-7).
I rushed through another Speaking of Which Sunday (5873 words, 91 links). As I noted there, I started working on a books post, so got a late start, but still managed to write quite a bit. One item of possible interest here is that I collected several links on the Olivia Rodrigo album, reviewed below. It's currently rated 86/17 at AOTY, which puts it as 25 on the year, so behind Boygenius, Caroline Polachek, Foo Fighters, and Young Fathers among albums with 17+ reviews.
I added a link to Molly Jong-Fast: [09-05] Can Joe Biden ride "boring" to reelection?. I had included several links about Biden's weak polling numbers, even though I regard such stories are generally worthless. But they reflect a severe misunderstanding of politics (cliché: "the art of the possible") and government (which should be boring to all but the most dedicated wonks). While it's always easy to blame the American people for their ignorance, shouldn't we start with the media, who are actually paid to report on things they show little evidence of (or interest in) understanding? Biden's fate in 2024 is going to depend on people getting better informed (and smarter) than they evidently are now.
I've also added a postscript on Biden's diplomatic trip: more specifically on how it's misreported and misunderstood. As much as I've been pleasantly surprised by Biden's domestic policy accomplishments, I've been alarmed by his foreign policy (his "reworking of global relationships"), especially how completely most of the Democratic Party has fallen into line behind Ukraine as America's war party (a reputation they earned in WWII, which then tricked them into taking the lead in the Cold War).
You might also want to take a look at this picture of Trump and his fans.
My listening scheme is mostly an extension of last week's checklists, picking up stragglers, and moving on. I did get to the end of DownBeat's jazz albums ballot, with only a John Zorn album unheard. Reissues/historical were harder to find, but I picked up a few of those, too. But also, new releases get an uptick in September.
Bassist Richard Davis died last week, so I took a look there, which led me to Elvin Jones, and then to Bennie Wallace.
Sometime last week, I commented on a Chris Monsen Facebook post, regarding James Brandon Lewis's For Mahalia, With Love (reviewed here, a couple weeks back). I figured the comment was lost, but it popped up again, so let's preserve it here:
Music: Current count 40883  rated (+36), 28  unrated (+1).
New releases have started to pick up after the late-summer doldrums, so it's been easier to find things to listen to. One help was Robert Christgau's September Consumer Guide. Four full-A albums, three of them hyped enough I got to them previously: Olivia Rodrigo (A last week), Ashley McBryde and Speedy Ortiz (below, but written up, and commented on in Facebook, before the CG appeared). Both got multiple plays, with diminishing returns. Not that I can't hear why other people like them so much, but my own pleasure wore thin fast. I'm hardly the only guy to get cranky as he gets old, but felt it here.
Nothing wrong with the Bobbie Nelson/Amanda Shires album, but doesn't strike me as a big deal either. Nor do I find comparisons to brother Willie's Stardust or Lady Gaga's Bennetts very helpful. As a jazz critic, I listen interpretations of standards all the time, so I need to be more discerning (or maybe again I'm just being cranky). On the other hand, I thought the Muldaur/Thompson record added something significant, albeit not revolutionary, to the original duets.
The rest are below, aside from the ones I had previously dealt with: Rodney Crowell (**), Gloss Up (**), Killer Mike (***), Janelle Monae (A-), Thelonious Monk (B+), and Noname (A-, though I found several places where I hadn't updated the original *** grade). I might have given up too fast on the first two, but haven't rechecked. Discogs doesn't give a release date for my Monk box (3-CD), and the outside of the box doesn't help, but inside there's a hint that it came out in 1988. I can't find anything I wrote on it, so it was probably pre-2003. I also didn't grade the individual discs, as I sometimes did later -- but there's little to differentiate this set.
I also picked up some suggestions from Brad Luen's Countrypop Life: Love and Theft. I still haven't tackled Morgan Wallen (or Bailey Zimmerman), and everyone else I'm either up or down on, but it's a good guide. I'll also note that I have tabs open for Christian Iszchak, Sidney Carpenter-Wilson, and Steve Pick -- none of which I've exhausted.
I also took a look at Magnet's "30 for 30" lists by Dan Weiss and Thomas Reimel. Not very useful as checklists, as I've heard everything on the Weiss list, and I've only missed 2 items on Reimel's (although I had to look more up, as who remembers bands like Guided by Voices and Interpol?). I tried jotting down a list myself (or two, one comparable for non-jazz, one with zero overlap for jazz): in the notebook. I spent less than an hour on each, so they're pretty iffy -- especially the jazz one. I'd be delighted if Magnet had any interest in running my list. (I was assuming they had no interest in jazz, but I now see a review of Rempis Percussion Quartet's Harvesters in their Essential New Music section -- as well as another Guided by Voices album I haven't heard.)
The new Lehman album is in a tight race with James Brandon Lewis's For Mahalia, With Love for jazz album of the year. It took me longer to get comfortable with, but that's the kind of prickly record it is. The other Lehman thing is one of the first things I noted in my infrequent "Limited Sampling" section, panned with a U-, so I was very surprised when it came through. By the way, the aforementioned Harvesters is currently a top-five jazz album this year.
The Mike Clark album was another surprise -- not the first time he's surprised me, but he's got one of those names that gets easily mixed up with many others. Before I played Clark, I came within a hair of giving his long-time collaborator Eddie Henderson an A-, but afterwards this is the place to hear him.
Still starting each day off with something old from the stacks. This morning: Tampa Red. Playing a new-old François Carrier/Tomasz Stanko box at the moment, which is sublime background.
Music: Current count 40918  rated (+35), 30  unrated (-2).
Seems like I had very little to show for the first half of the week. I finally resolved to deal with a couple major technical problems: why email from my server often fails to reach its intended destination, and why my printer/scanner rarely functions properly: jobs sent to print get held up in a blocked queue, which reblocks itself when you try to enable it; and Xsane shows you test scans, but craps out when you try to get the actual scan data (but for some reason Simplescan works -- you just lose all of the fancier Xsane controls).
I blame the latter on Hewlett-Packard, which has now eclipsed Apple as my most hated company in greater Silicon Valley (i.e., I'm not excluding Microsoft, which thanks to many years of total avoidance is now no worse than 3rd). The former problem is harder to assign blame for, but most of the problems have come with Gmail accounts, and Google has made getting help virtually impossible, so 4th (with a star)?
I can't report unequivocal success in either case, but I'm a bit more hopeful. Email delivery is tied up with the rather fluid notion of reputation. When the problem first appeared, I was forwarding a lot of server admin email to my Cox account, then throwing almost all of it away. Cox's email forwarders seem to have gotten tired of this, so they started blackballing me, and eventually I got nothing. That's when I noticed I was having trouble with Gmail, as well. I devised a workaround for the server admin email, so now I store it locally, and fetch it using POP (after which I filter the excess baggage out, as before). I set up a couple more email accounts like this for special purposes (such as the Q&A form).
When I retested things last week, I found that server mail is being delivered on Cox. Some further tests showed that most of the mail going to Gmail is also being delivered, but that some of it is going to users' spam folders. Of course, hardly any of us have the presence of mind to check whether anything worthwhile turns up flagged as spam. I still get a few spam-related bounce messages on the server, and don't really know what to do about them, other than to alert the people who were supposed to receive the mail, and hope they can persuade Google to fuck up less, but that's tough.
As for the printer, my next move is to crawl under the desk and hook up a USB cable, which HP doesn't like but seems to allow. I also spent most of a day working on a website I host. I converted the hand-coded version to WordPress a couple years ago, but never got the client's sign off, so both versions have been online but dormant. The intervening time left a bunch of digital cobwebs I needed to clean up, and I had to write up a guide to how it all works.
Then, midweek, I decided I wanted to push to get a Book Report post out ahead of the usual Sunday Speaking of Which. I managed to pull both off, but it was a huge amount of work -- during which I finally managed to give a cursory listen to a few recent records. Note that there are a couple music-related links in Speaking of Which: one on Sam Rivers, one on Nick Shoulders, plus something on Jann Wenner. I've been doing that for a bit: it's easier than trying to add a links section to Music Weekl, and I'm not that big on compartmentalization.
I do have a couple things to add on Wenner. Conservatives scream "cancel culture" any time anyone has the temerity to challenge them, but what really gets their goat is the exposure that they're not always the ones in charge -- you know, the ones doing the canceling. They have a lot of trouble understanding why anyone in a position of property and power could turn on them. After all, the whole point of conservatism is to protect the rich and powerful from the masses.
Wenner, as far as I can tell, has never been one of them politically, but he is a very rich guy, who achieved a power base by being the owner of a prominent publication, and he has a lot of practice (practically a whole lifetime) acting on his privileges. During his entire tenure, he has made thousands of decisions, big and small, often arbitrary according to his whims and prejudices. My very distant impression is that the magazine's success is largely due to more talented people managing to work around his idiosyncrasies, but I've heard various stories of him stepping in, and invariably they're turns for the worse. Since he's retired, he no longer has an organization dedicated to keeping him from exposing his ignorance and incompetence, and that's what you're seeing in this "scandal": the real Jann Wenner, a rich, tone-deaf boob.
As for his book, no one would care about him peddling a set of interviews with famous old (and in a couple cases now dead) white guys. He could even keep the title (The Masters). Even if you had a second thought on seeing the seven bold names on the cover, by the time you read "By Jann S. Wenner" you'd know: of course, those were just the kind of guys he'd love to hang with, and being the fount of free publicity, who would hang with him. His problem was in trying to pass this conceit off as some sort of meritocracy. And, needless to say, the really weak link was Wenner himself. His further dissembling about blacks and women -- things absolutely no reasonable person would think of much less utter -- just dug him deeper into the pit of his vanity project.
This week closes out the September Streamnotes archive. I'm not going to hold this up to do the usual indexing. (Oops, I still haven't done August Streamnotes. That probably doesn't matter to you, but it's fairly important for me when I can't remember whether or when I reviewed something already.)
Not much to say about this week's records. Three high HM pop records (Doja Cat, Underscores, Yeule) got at least two plays each. Doja Cat might benefit from more, but my irritation with glitch pop both means that I'm done with those and that some of you will probably love them much more than I can imagine. At some point I'll have to admit that I'm just too comfortable in my ears to keep up with all this cutting edge shit.
The Fujiwara album has some upside, too, but I took its thinness as a limit, even though it's a big part of the concept. The match up with Brennan and Reid is inspired, perhaps even by our Jazz Poll, where both won Debut Album recently. Billy Bang fans should know about the Jazz Doctors reissue, especially the previously unreleased second half. (Frank Lowe fans can pass.)
The Estes album was one of Clifford Ocheltree's daily picks. Nice to wake up to his posts, which very often make me want to search out something (or, if I'm lucky, pull it off my shelves). Brad Luen, by the way, has a good review of Olivia Rodrigo, and features three jazz albums after that.
I only found out about Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky's July 10, 2023 death this week. Much of his work remains hard to find, but the Zentralquartett albums on Intakt are all superb, as is The Salmon, with Michael Griener (drums). I'm playing another I just found, for next week.
The Zoh Amba record got me looking through my cache of download links from 577 Records. (I ignore most downloads links, but have been saving those, then forgetting them.) Two more records (so far) for next week. I've been meaning to trawl through this trove, so perhaps this will get me moving.
I'm starting to think about the Francis Davis Jazz Poll this year -- that's one thing I need working email lists for -- so I'm starting to get serious about whittling down my queue. Still, got a lot of mail last week, so the net effect was negative.
Sources noted as follows: