An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, September 30, 2019
Music: current count 32156  rated (+39), 219  unrated (-10).
When I ran the numbers, they came up a bit short of the list, so I rechecked and found 5-6 I had failed to register grades on. At least one of those should definitely have shown up in this week's list, so I added it, but that makes me suspect I may have slipped up elsewhere. So a reminder: The monthly compilation (link above) is more authoritative than the weekly ones (which are extracted from it). Also, note that some reviews now have a date after the grade. These are records that have future release dates. I've changed my mind several times on how to handle those cases.
Noticed the links in my Music index page needed some updating to reference 2019 files, of which Music Tracking turned out to require the most work: there were literally dozens of dumb typos keeping it from displaying, as well as a bunch of missing grades. I wanted to make sure there was a link to my EOY [Mid-Year] List Aggregate, where I started collecting mid-year best-of list info but have more recently supplemented that with review grades (usually 80+ at AOTY, but I'm tracking other sources as well, especially jazz).
I added several fan lists from an Expert Witness Facebook post, and that (well, plus adding in Michael Tatum's latest grades) was enough to tilt first place from Sharon Van Etten to Billie Eilish. There's still a structural problem that favors records released before July -- Lana Del Rey ranks highest among later releases at 28, and the highest June release is at 21 (Freddie Gibbs & Madlib; highest September release is Charli XCX at 68, followed by Brittany Howard at 73). By the way, one of those fan lists led me to Oompa, another to Octo Octa, and others to most of the African comps below, so they've earned their keep.
Revisited several albums while trying to wrap this up, and wound up promoting Oompa, Andrew Lamb, and Taylor Swift. Possible that Kwi Bamba and Alefa Madasgascar could have benefited from more attention.
New records reviewed this week:
Karl Berger/Jason Kao Hwang: Conjure (2014 , True Sound): Duets, Berger playing piano and vibraphone, Hwang violin and viola. Both are major figures, Berger from as far back as 1967, but these improvs don't generate excitement. B [10-01]
Randy Brecker/Ada Rovatti: Brecker Plays Rovatti: Sacred Bond (2019, Piloo): Rovatti is an Italian saxophonist, four records since 2003, her compositions here, married the trumpet-playing Brecker in 2001, their daughter Stella brightening up the cover and contributing a vocal cameo. Core quintet with the leaders, David Kikoski on keyboards, plus bass and drums, and a few guests (I'm noticing Adam Rogers' guitar), mostly upbeat, running long. B+(**) [cd] [10-25]
Zack Clarke Trio: Vertical Shores (2017 , Clean Feed): Pianist, based in New York, third album, trio with Kim Cass (bass) and Dre Hocevar (drums). B+(*)
DaBaby: Kirk (2019, Interscope): Rapper Jonathan Kirk, second album after a series of mixtapes, much bigger label. Beatwise, streetwise, on the make, bounces off several guests, a snappy 35:08. B+(***)
Sam Dillon: Out in the Open (2018, Cellar Live): Tenor saxophonist, studied with Eric Alexander and seems like a chip of the old block. First album, quartet with Peter Zak (piano), Yoshi Waki (bass), and Billy Drummond (drums). Two originals, covers from Porter to Silver to Jobim to Hendrix. Mainstream, strong impression, piano especially sharp. B+(**)
Sam Dillon: Force Field (2018 , Posi-Tone): Another strong outing, four tracks with extra horns (trumpet, alto sax, two of those with trombone), pianist Theo Hill switches to electric for three. Four originals, covers include Chick Corea and Charlie Parker. Not sure the extra flash helps. B+(*)
Harris Eisenstadt: Canada Day Quartet Live (2018 , Clean Feed): Canadian drummer, released first Canada Day album in 2009, three more through 2015. Groups have varied, but all start with Nate Wooley (trumpet), here joined by Alexander Hawkins (piano) and Pascal Niggenkemper (bass). B+(**)
Gabriel Ferrandini: Volúpias (2017 , Clean Feed): Portuguese drummer, Discogs credits him with 15 albums (since 2009), but this is only the second to list his name first, and he's best known in RED Trio. Another trio here, with Pedro Sousa (tenor sax) and Hernani Faustino (bass, also from RED Trio). B+(**)
Vyacheslav Ganelin/Deniss Pashkevich/Arkady Gotesman: Variations (2018 , Jersika): Piano/tenor sax/drums trio, a lineup familiar from the pianist's famous Soviet Era avant-jazz trio. After the break up, Ganelin moved to Israel. Don't know anything about the others, or even where these four LP-length pieces were recorded, but the label is Latvian. Scattered stretches impress as before, but they don't jump out at you. B+(*)
The Garifuna Collective: Aban (2019, Stonetree): Group from Belize, the former British colony in Central America (northeast of Guatemala), backup for Andy Palacio until his death in 2008. Short album (8 cuts, 27:28), nice groove, relaxed. B+(**)
Kano: Hoodies All Summer (2019, Parlophone): Jamaican-British rapper Kane Brett Robinson, sixth album since 2019. Grime beats, plays them down. B+(*)
Petros Klampanis: Irrationalities (2017 , Enja): Greek bassist, based in New York, several albums since 2011, leads a trio here with Kristjan Randalu on piano and Bodek Janke on drums. Even before checking the credits, I noticed the clarity of the bass, and the delicacy of the piano. B+(**) [cd] [10-18]
The Baba Andrew Lamb Trio: The Night of the 13th' Moon (2018 , LFDS): Alto saxophonist, born in North Carolina, grew up in Chicago and New York, cut his first record in 1995, has a few more, this (I think) the first to adopt the honorific Baba, maybe because it was recorded at Bab Ilo (in Paris). With Yoram Rosilio (bass) and Rafael Koerner (drums). Free improv, bracing, challenging. B+(***)
Landline: Landline (2019, Loyal Label): Brooklyn postbop group -- Chet Doxas (tenor sax), Jacob Sacks (piano), Zack Lober (bass), Vinnie Sperrazza (drums) -- have a novel way of group composing based on a game called telephone. B+(**) [cd] [11-01]
Guillaume Muller: Sketches of Sound (2019, self-released): French guitarist, based in New York, first album, quintet with alto sax (Nino Wenger), piano (Jim Funnell), bass, and drums. Maintains a nice groove, with a little spark from the sax. B+(*)
Laura Noejovich: Laura Has New Standards (2018 , Enchanted Meadow): Older standards too, like "Misty" and "Summertime" and "When You Wish Upon a Star," inadvertently proving that the old ones are still the best, although with her arch soprano and Takeshi Asai's skeletal piano not by much. C+ [cd] [11-02]
Octo Octa: Resonant Body (2019, T4T LUV NRG): Maya Bouldry-Morrison, Brooklyn-based DJ, fifth album since 2011. Strong dance moves, occasional bits of subversion. B+(***) [bc]
Oompa: Cleo (2019, OompOutLoud): Boston rapper, second album, "forever representing the queer, black, orphaned, hood kids and them." Underground, breaking out. A-
Miles Perkin Quartet: The Point in Question (2018 , Clean Feed): Canadian bassist, from Manitoba, has a couple previous albums. This one with trumpet (Tom Arthurs), piano (Benoît Delbecq), and drums (Jim Black). B+(*)
Cene Resnik Trio 'Watch for Dogs': Shades of Colors (2016 , Not Two): Tenor saxophonist, from Slovenia, several other albums. Trio with Giovanni Maier (bass) and Zlatko Kaucic (drums). Starts lost in color, but picks up (or should I say bursts out?) after a few. B+(**)
Kendrick Scott Oracle: A Wall Becomes a Bridge (2019, Blue Note): Drummer, fifth album, fourth under this group name, with John Ellis (reeds), Mike Moreno (guitar), Taylor Eigsti (piano), Joe Sanders (bass), and DJ Jahi Sundance (turntables), plus a Derrick Hodge vocal. B+(*)
Matthew Snow: Iridescence (2018 , self-released): New York bassist, first album, composed six (of eight) pieces, employs a sextet -- no one I've heard of, but alto saxophonist Clay Lyons and trombonist David Gibson impress, guitar and vibes add to the options, and the drummer plays with the band. B+(***) [11-29]
Something Blue [Alexa Tarantino/Nick Finzer/Sam Dillon/Art Hirahara/Boris Kozlov/Rudy Royston]: Maximum Enjoyment (2018 , Posi-Tone): Auteur here is probably producer Marc Free, who created a retro-bop framework for the first three "new" musicians (alto sax, trombone, tenor sax), backed by his standby rhythm section (piano, bass, drums). B+(*)
The Souljazz Orchestra: Chaos Theories (2019, Strut): Canadian acid jazz group, from Ottawa, ninth album since 2005. Some strong sax breaks. B+(*)
STL GLD: The New Normal (2019, AR Classic): Boston hip-hop band, don't know much about them, but hype speaks of "multifaceted and complex," and there's lots of that. B+(**)
Alexa Tarantino: Winds of Change (2019, Posi-Tone): Alto saxophonist (credit here says "woodwinds"), first album (though I filed Something Blue's Maximum Enjoyment under her name, as first-listed artist). Quintet, with Nick Finzer (trombone), Christian Sands (piano), Joe Martin (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums). B+(**)
Ben Van Gelder/Tony Tixier/Tom Berkmann/Mathias Ruppnig: Scopes (2019, Whirlwind): Eponymous band debut, my parsing not unreasonable given the cover. Europeans: sax (Dutch), piano (French), bass (German), drums (Austria), the latter two pegged as the leaders. Fairly comfortable, mildly adventurous postbop. B+(**)
Mareike Wiening: Metropolist Paradise (2018 , Greenleaf Music): German drummer, based in New York, first album, quintet with Rich Perry (tenor sax), Dan Tepfer (piano), Alex Goodman (guitar), and Johannes Felscher (bass). Postbop, goes with the flow. B+(*) [11-01]
Eri Yamamoto Trio & Choral Chameleon: Goshu Ondo Suite (2018 , AUM Fidelity): Japanese pianist, moved to New York 1995, tenth album since 2002, mostly trios. This adds a huge choir (47 names), to the 7-part, 49:06 title suite, swarming and marching over a tense and dynamic sonic landscape. Then one more piece, a chill down without the choir, which reminds you how fine the piano has been throughout. A- [cd] [11-15]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Alefa Madagascar (1970s-80s , Strut): Sampler into "the unique culture of salegy, soukous and soul on the island in the '70s and '80s." B+(***) [bc]
Louis Armstrong: Live in Europe (1948-52 , Dot Time): Radio shots from two nights in France with his original All-Stars lineup, followed by a set in Berlin four years later, with only Arvell Shaw left from the 1948 group. Latter probably has a slight edge on sound, plus Velma Middleton trading vocals. Classic stuff, but better on any number of live period albums, most impressively The California Concerts. B+(**)
Kwi Bamba: Kwi Bamba & L'Orchestre De Gama Berema (1997 , Ouch!): From Guinea, former leader of 1960s band Nimba Jazz, a precursor of the better known Bembeya Jazz National. Billed as his/their first international release, drawing on Guerzé and Kpellé traditions, happy to have the recording date but know nothing more. Does fit the mold. B+(***) [bc]
John Coltrane: Blue World (1964 , Impulse!): Previously unreleased recordings from a session between Crescent and A Love Supreme, soundtrack tracks recorded for Gilles Groulx, director of Le chat dans le sac. Classic quartet, five songs, extended to 36:33 with three takes of "Village Blues" and a second of "Naima." Nestled in the valley between masterpieces, nothing remotely new here, but remarkable on any other count. A-
Nâ Hawa Doumbia: La Grande Cantatrice Malienne Vol. 1: Decouverte 81 a Dakar (1981 , Awesome Tapes From Africa): From the Wassalou region in southern Mali, first album, about 22 at the time, strong vocals over a stringed instrument (kora?). B+(***)
Nâ Hawa Doumbia: La Grande Cantatrice Malienne Vol. 3: Korodia (1982 , Awesome Tapes From Africa): Malian singer, recorded in Côte d'Ivoire, seems to be the original title, although I have yet to see a Vol. 2 (and Napster shows an album cover with first song name added). Music is fairly basic, voice grows on you. Rather short: 4 cuts, 29:39. B+(**) [bc]
Grade (or other) changes:
Taylor Swift: Lover (2019, Republic): Pop megastar, seventh album, the first six multi-platinum, Wikipedia notes her age (29) and net worth ($360 million). With that kind of money, she can hire good help -- chiefly Jack Antonoff and Joel Little -- while stretching her product out to 18 songs, a bit over an hour. Album has some lulls: no doubt it could be edited down and sharpened up. But two songs I always notice -- "Paper Rings" and "You Need to Calm Down" -- and most others eventually clicked. [was: B+(***)] A-
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: