Monday, May 6, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 31469 [31440] rated (+29), 248 [255] unrated (-7).

Had a low energy period after posting April Streamnotes last Monday, so I'm not surprised that the rated count dropped. If anything, I'm surprised it's as high as it is, but that was mostly from streaming back catalog of artists recently reviewed.

I speculated last week that Walt Weiskopf's Worldwide is his best yet, but I had missed most of his 1990s albums, so I had to hedge. There are still a couple things I haven't heard, but nothing old came close to the new one -- best of the albums below is probably Siren (1999). When I gave Betty Carter's The Music Never Stops an A- a few weeks back, I noted lots of holes in my database. Scratching my head for something to listen to, I remembered that, and plugged a few of them (while being unable to find others). The new Teodross Avery album also sent me back. No great finds from any of those excursions.

I also tried looking up the album Carter and Ray Charles did together in 1961, but couldn't find it. I noticed then I had an unrated Charles record, and wondered whether I could build a playlist to duplicate it (as opposed to having to dig up my physical copy). Turns out there's damn few of Charles' ABC records on Napster, but I still got 17/20 songs from Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, while the other three were easy to find on YouTube. Not quite an equivalent listening experience, but close enough, I figured (especially given that I recalled hearing nearly everything). I'll do a few more Ray Charles albums next week, starting with the early Atlantics.

On the other hand, this week's two new A- records are ones I hadn't read a thing about before they showed up. After months of second guessing other folks' picks, I feel like I've done my job.

I'll be posting a new XgauSez overnight (link always points to the latest Q&A).

Teodross Avery: After the Rain: A Night for Coltrane (2019, Tompkins Square): Tenor saxophonist, seemed like a big deal when he debuted on GRP in 1994 but has hardly been heard from since -- tours with Lauryn Hill and Amy Winehouse, some studio work, a Ph.D. and a teaching gig. Not sure when this live quartet set was recorded, but he holds forth on Coltrane, really lighting up a few classics. B+(***)

The Campfire Flies: Sparks Like Litle Stars (2019, OverPop Music): I probably would have filed this as a mid-B+ with a sigle play had it not been for voice-of-the-Cucumbers Deena Shoshkes sending me the CD. She sounded as appealing as ever, but I could have done without the predominant male vocals (members of groups I've never bothered with: Speed the Plough, the Thousand Pities). I guess that's democracy, with all six members singing, most writing and playing multiple instruments. Gradually the male songs emerged more clearly, with several (especially John Baumgartner's "Deep Water") reminding me of the Go-Betweens. And Deena just kept getting better. A- [cd]

Mark Dresser Seven: Ain't Nothing but a Cyber Coup & You (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): Bassist, major figure since the 1980s, with a soft-toned septet -- flute (Nicole Mitchell), violin (Keir Gogwilt), clarinet (Marty Ehrlich, also bass clarinet and alto sax), trombone (Michael Dessen), piano (Joshua White), and drums (Jim Black). B+(**) [cd]

Satoko Fujii: Solo Piano: Stone (2018 [2019], Libra): Japanese avant-pianist, celebrated turning 60 last year by releasing an album each month, back to a more normal pace this year, with her second album through four months. Solo piano, from two sets at Samurai Hotel in New York. Quieter than normal, comtemplating the "beautiful music" her grandmother claimed to hear after she went deaf. B+(**) [cd]

The Invisible Party: Shumankind (2017 [2018], Chant): Guitarist Jon Lipscomb, based in Malmo, Sweden and/or Brooklyn (same page claims both), has appeared in groups like Super Hi-Fi and Swedish Fix, plays punk-noise jazz here, backed by bass (Kurt Kotheimer) and drums (Dave Treut). Most bracing guitar-bass-drums trio I've heard in some time (and, yes, I've heard Harriet Tubman). Everyone agrees this came out in September 2018, but nobody listed it last year, and I first heard about it when it popped up in my mail last week. A-

Jon Lipscomb Quartet: Fodder (2016 [2018], self-released): Avant-guitarist, also has a volume of Solo Guitar Improvisations as well as several group efforts. This seems like a warm up for Invisible Party's Shumankind, with tenor saxophonist Sam Weinberg sharing the spotlight, but not making as much of it. B+(**) [bc]

Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Side Three: New Work (2018 [2019], Edgetone): Alto saxophonist, leads an octet counting guest Vinny Golia, sometimes through a tricky postbop slalom, sometimes blasting through with sheer energy. B+(***) [cd]

The Richard Shulman Trio: Waltzing out of Town (2019, RichHeart Music): Pianist, "since 1984, dedicated his music to the expression of love and the awakening of inner joy," with an upbeat and pleasantly catchy trio. B+(*) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Kinloch Nelson: Partly on Time: Recordings 1968-1970 (1968-70 [2019], Tompkins Square): Guitarist from Rochester, NY; studied classical and jazz (with Gene Bertoncini), but this comes closer to "American primitive" folk. B+(*) [bc]

Old music:

The Teodross Avery Quartet: In Other Words (1994, GRP): Tenor saxophonist (also soprano), debut album, no more than 21 when this was released on a major label, wrote 9 (of 11) songs, rhythm section no better known at the time, but Roy Hargrove got a couple of guest spots. Fashionably mainstream, a hot start, handles the ballad well. B+(**)

Teodross Avery & the 5th Power: New Day, New Groove (1998 [2001], 5th Power): After a second GRP album (New Generation), the saxophonist decided to do a funk/groove album, with raps by Common, Ransom,and Ursula Rucker. Probably figured this was his ticket to mass appeal, but didn't work out that way. Long interview at the end, over a minor vamp. B+(*)

Teodross Avery: Bridging the Gap: Hop-Hop Jazz (2008, BTG Music): I'm not unsympathetic to the ambition of jazz/hip-hop fusion, but this comes up short on execution, on both sides. Inadvertent humor: Roy Ayers comes on to praise Avery by admitting to being stuck in the gap Avery's bridging. Still, this has some moments, mostly because the man can play. B-

Betty Carter/Ray Bryant: Meet Betty Carter and Ray Bryant (1955-56 [1996], Columbia): Lillie Mae Jones, from Detroit, made her debut here, with half an LP backed by pianist Bryant's trio, plus Jerome Richardson on flute (3 tracks). The flip side was just Bryant's trio, with Wendell Marshall (bass) and Philly Joe Jones (drums). Two different things, but the CD reissue tilts toward Carter, leading off with her backed by Gigi Gryce's big band (four cuts, Hank Jones on piano). B+(*)

Betty Carter: The Modern Sound of Betty Carter (1960, ABC): Big band, arranged and conducted by Richard Wess. The music strikes me as modernistic, a not especially interesting impersonation meant to spruce up a passing form. You can say the same for Carter's scat, the more impressive technical feat. B+(*)

Betty Carter: Inside Betty Carter (1964-65 [1993], Capitol Jazz): A one-shot album for United Artists, produced by Alan Douglas, backed by Harold Mabern (piano), Bob Cranshaw (bass), and Roy McCurdy (drums). Mostly ballads, nothing fancy. Reissue adds a 1965 session with Kenny Burrell on guitar, unknowns on piano-bass-drums. B+(*)

Betty Carter: Finally, Betty Carter (1969 [1975], Roulette): Live set, lots of scat, backed by piano trio -- Norman Simmons, Lisle Atkinson, Al Harewood -- including a couple of medleys. B+(*)

Betty Carter: At the Village Vanguard (1970 [1993], Verve): Backed by same piano trio, pushes the envelope a bit harder. B+(**)

Betty Carter: The Betty Carter Album (1976 [1988], Verve): Self-released at the time, reissued after she signed to Verve. Backed by piano trio (Danny Mixon or Onaja Allan Gumbs). Probably more to it, but slipped past me easily. B

Ray Charles: Greatest Country and Western Hits (1962-66 [1988], DCC): Out of print, one of the first wave of Charles CDs (quickly superseded by the also-out-of-print Rhinos), but listed as unrated in my database, so it must be around here somewhere. Wasn't too hard to pick out a playlist, given that 17 (of 20) songs come from Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, where he came up with his shtick -- country tunes with string orchestration (or less often big band) and a chorus. That sounded like genius at the time, but could easily flip to corny. The three later singles are all Buck Owens songs, right up his alley. A-

Jon Lipscomb: Solo Guitar Improvisations Vol. 1 (2016, self-released): Guitarist, recorded these five tracks (39:53) in Sweden. Noise at first, then turns it down and plays with the rhythm, developing some interesting ideas. B+(*) [bc]

Walt Weiskopf: Night Lights (1995, Double Time): Tenor saxophonist, a few records in, quartet with piano (Joel Weiskopf), bass (Drew Gress), and drums (Steve Davis). Mostly standards, three originals, nothing fancy, but strong and dynamic saxophone. B+(**)

Walt Weiskopf: Song for My Mother (1995 [1996], Criss Cross): Nonet, credited on the back cover but not on the front, which just lists the musicians under the leader's much larger name. Expansion from four to nine is all horns: two brass (Joe Magnarelli on trumpet and Conrad Herwig on trombone), two more saxes (Jim Snidero on alto, Scott Robinson on baritone and bass clarinet), and flute (Anders Bostrom, et al.). Still, the flutes are hardly noticeable, while the leader's tenor sax towers over everyone. B+(***)

Walt Weiskopf: Sleepless Nights (1996 [1998], Criss Cross): Sextet, adding alto sax (Andy Fusco) and trombone (Conrad Herwig) to spread out the horns. Originals (plus one standard), sketch pieces stretched out, a platform for some superb tenor sax. B+(***)

Walt Weiskopf: Anytown (1998, Criss Cross): Tenor sax, back by piano trio (Renee Rosnes, Doug Weiss, Tony Reedus) plus very energetic vibes (Joe Locke). Hard postbop. B+(**)

Walt Weiskopf: Siren (1999, Criss Cross): Another nonet album, same lineup as on Song for My Mother except at bass (Doug Weiss replaces Peter Washington). The solos are better distributed, the ensemble even more energetic, and the leader plays his ass off. I do question leaving the blues cover to the flutes. B+(***)

Walt Weiskopf: Man of Many Colors (2001 [2002], Criss Cross): Quartet, moving on to a new generation of players (emerging then, famous now): Brad Mehldau (piano), John Patitucci (bass), Clarence Penn (drums). Two covers ("Haunted Heart" and "People"), originals which show off the group's impressive chops. B+(***)

Walt Weiskopf: Sight to Sound (2003 [2004], Criss Cross): Sextet, new horns (Andy Fusco on alto, John Mosca trombone), familiar rhythm section (Joel Weiskopf, Doug Weiss, Billy Drummond). B+(**)

Walt Weiskopf: Open Road (2014 [2015], Posi-Tone): Second album for producer Marc Free's label, a return to form in a standard quartet setting, with Peter Zak (piano), Mike Karn (bass), and Steve Fidyk (drums). Two covers, ten originals, burns at both ends. B+(***)

Walt Weiskopf: Fountain of Youth (2016 [2017], Posi-Tone): Adds Behn Gillece (vibraphone) to the previous quartet, picking up the pace and adding some sparkle, not ultimately making much difference. Still an impressive tenor saxophonist. B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Yoko Miwa Trio: Keep Talkin' (Ocean Blue Tear Music)

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