An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, December 2, 2019
Music: Current count 32422  rated (+34), 230  unrated (+9).
I have 52 ballots counted for Jazz Critics Poll. Deadline is December 8, but I'm finding very little reason to shuffle the top of my EOY Jazz List, so I might as well file my own ballot sooner rather than later. This is what I'm handing in:
One consideration I had was whether to omit records that I didn't receive (or obtain) physical copies of. In recent years, I've done that for historical releases (which have gotten to be hard to come by) but I allowed streamed new releases to slip onto my ballot. After I slid Ill Considered 6 down a couple notches, the only streamed item in my New top ten was the Mark Lomax mega-production. I decided to keep it on the ballot because I had rated it a full A (only three this year, although the top two A- records are good candidates for promotion), and because a couple other critics had voted for it, with a high enough points-per-ballot to move it into the top-30. Among historical records, I decided to keep Getz on the ballot because I didn't have a satisfactory alternative: the next two records I have physical copies of are samplers by Bill Evans and Wes Montgomery, but I'm rather chafed that I haven't been able to hear those artists new-old records (Evans in England and Back on Indiana Avenue), which are the ones other critics are voting for. (The other big set from the same label that I haven't been able to hear yet is Nat "King" Cole's Hittin' the Ramp, currently running 3rd in the poll.) I do have CDs of six more records further down the list, and I'm especially appreciative of the Sam Rivers and Horace Tapscott sets, but they are well down the list, barely over the cusp.
This week's haul is nearly all records suggested by counting JCP ballots. Also noticed a few things from recent lists by Phil Overeem and Chris Monsen, and scrounging through Tim Niland's recent reviews.
My EOY Aggregate was close to up-to-date until today, when we were hit with an avalanche of new lists. Main ways I track these things are through AOTY and Acclaimed Music's EOY 2019 forum. I'll catch up eventually, although lots of things aren't making it easy (slow recovery from illness, anticipation of surgery, visitors, my mind's inability to process it all).
New records reviewed this week:
Stefan Aeby: Piano Solo (2018 , Intakt): Swiss pianist, first solo after several trio albums, expands the instrument's range with various preparations and electronic post-processing. B+(*)
Rodrigo Amado/Dirk Serries: Jazzblazzt (2018 , Raw Tonk): One of my favorite tenor saxophonists, in a duo with a prolific (but hitherto unknown to me) Belgian guitarist, aka Vidna Obmana. Rather fractured, onto something. B+(**)
The Big Yes: The Big Yes (2018 , Nakama): Scandinavian free jazz quartet, two horns -- Anna Högberg (sax) and Maria Bertel (trombone) -- bass and drums, storming through one 30:58 track. B+(**) [bc]
Johnathan Blake: Trion (2018 , Giant Step Arts, 2CD): Drummer from Black Art Jazz Collective, has some range in groups with Kenny Barron, Oliver Lake, Donny McCaslin, and Dr. Lonnie Smith, plus a couple albums under his own name. He's terrific in this basic sax trio, as is bassist Linda May Han Oh, but after a brief intro this is really a tour de force for Chris Potter. A-
Jane Bunnett and Maqueque: On Firm Ground/Tierra Firme (2019, Linus Entertainment): Soprano saxophonist, also plays flute and trompeta china, has used this group name since her 2014 album. As Latin rhythms go, this is impressive enough, but the vocals throw me off. B
Daniel Carter/Patrick Holmes/Matthew Putman/Hilliard Greene/Federich Ughi: Electric Telepathy Vol. 1 (2018 , 577 Records): Aka the Telepathic Band: saxes/clarinet/trumpet, clarinet, keyboard, bass, drums. B+(***)
Cochemea: All My Relations (2019, Daptone): Saxophonist Cochemea Gastelum, spent the last 15 years in Sharon Jones' band, the Dap-Kings. Dropped last name for his second album, takes aim at his roots, which are not just African, starting with a chant, ending with a groove. B+(**) [bc]
John Dikeman/George Hadow/Dirk Serries/Martina Verhoeven/Luis Vicente: Ideal Principle (2016 , Raw Tonk): Tenor saxophonist, born in Nebraska, grew up in Wyoming, wound up in Amsterdam. Others play drums, electric guitar, double bass, and trumpet. Strong free jazz outing, the trumpet a highlight. B+(***) [bc]
Petter Eldh: Koma Saxo (2018 , We Jazz): Swedish bassist, based in Berlin, recorded this quintet in Helsinki with three saxophonists (Otis Sandsjö, Jonas Kullhammar, and Mikko Innanen) plus drums (Christian Lillinger). Horns play some kind of fuzzy harmony, underscoring the centrality of the bass. B+(**)
Ellery Eskelin/Christian Weber/Michael Griener: The Pearls (2018 , Intakt): Tenor sax-bass-drums trio, mixing avant improv with older forms, including two "rag" titles, one each from Jelly Roll Morton and Count Basie. B+(***)
Georg Graewe/Ernst Reijseger/Gerry Hemingway: Concertgebouw Brugge 2014 (2014 , Fundacja Sluchaj): Piano-cello-drums trio, first joined together 30 years ago (1989). B+(**) [bc]
Joel Harrison: Still Point: Turning World (2019, Whirlwind): Guitarist, twenty albums since 1994, changes up here by working with and composing for the Talujon Percussion Quartet, adding Indian musicians like Anupam Shobhakar (sarode) and Swaminathan Selvaganesh (percussion), also Hans Glawaschnig or Stephan Crump (bass), Dan Weiss (drums/tabla), and Ben Wendel (sax/bassoon). Ambitious album, leaves a strong impression. B+(**)
Jazzmeia Horn: Love and Liberation (2019, Concord): Jazz singer, originally from Dallas, moved to New York at 18, second album, all covers on her first, mostly originals here. Half could rate as well-above-average neo-soul, some her impressive technique goes overboard with. Closes with a formidable "I Thought About You." B+(***)
Keith Jarrett: Munich 2016 (2016 , ECM, 2CD): Solo piano, has well over a dozen such albums, Like many this one runs long, and tries my patience -- not that he doesn't impress me here and there. B+(*)
Guillermo Klein: Los Guachos Cristal (2019, Sunnyside): Argentine pianist, has used "Los Guachos" as an album title and/or as his group name: a large one, 11-pieces here, mostly New Yorkers, like his sax section -- Miguel Zenon (alto), Bill McHenry (tenor), and Chris Cheek (soprano/tenor/baritone) -- and trumpets: Diego Urcola and Taylor Haskins. Impressive section work, moved along by a strong rhythm. B+(***)
Kokoroko: Kokoroko (2019, Brownswood, EP): London-based Afrobeat collective, with saxophonist Cassie Kinoshi, Sheila Maurice-Gray (trumpet), Richie Seivwright (trombone), plus guitar, keyboards, bass, and drums. Four cuts, 24:24. B+(*)
Ingrid Laubrock + Aki Takase: Kasumi (2018 , Intakt): Sax and piano duo, a German based in New York and a Japanese based in Berlin. B+(**)
Metropolitan Jazz Octet Featuring Dee Alexander: It's Too Hot for Words: Celebrating Billie Holiday (2019, Delmark): Chicago group, name comes from one Tom Hilliard assembled for a 1959 tribute to Bix Beiderbecke. The new group connects to the old through Hilliard protégés Jim Gailloreto (tenor sax) and John Kornegay (alto sax). The band exudes power, the singer strength. Hard to fault either, but doesn't quite seem right. B+(**)
Van Morrison: Three Chords & the Truth (2019, Exile/Caroline): After a spate of covers albums, he's back with a batch of original songs (one co-authored), reportedly new ones but sounding ever so much like his old ones (perhaps I should A:B "Days Gone By" with "Days Like This"?). In fact, they sound so classic that it's finally clear how much his voice has thickened up. B+(***)
Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton: Concert in Vilnius (2017 , NoBusiness): Avant sax-bass-drums trio, together frequently since 1980 (probably before). Plays his distinctive soprano as well, but his best records are all tenor. B+(***) [cd]
Junius Paul: Ism (2016-19 , International Anthem): Chicago bassist, first album, recorded 17 pieces on eight dates, using the same quartet on three, rotating other players on the others. That contributes to, but doesn't really explain, the indeterminateness that pervades the album, a mix of ambient and chaos. Note that Makaya McCraven edited and co-produced. B+(*)
Ken Peplowski/Diego Figueiredo: Amizade (2018 , Arbors): The Brazilian guitarist has nine albums since 2006, two with singer Cyrille Aimée, and now this one with the retro-swing clarinetist. A couple of originals, various Brazilian classics, a spritely "Caravan," and the most languorous "Stompin' at the Savoy" I've ever heard. B+(*)
Javier Red's Imagery Converter: Ephemeral Certainties (2019, Delmark): Piano player from Chicago, his real name for all I know -- my first reaction was to think of bluesmen but Javier is a plausible first name, unlike Louisiana, Piano, Speckled, and Tampa. First album, quartet with Jake Wark (tenor sax), Ben Dillinger (bass), Gustavo Cortiñas (drums). Major poise and balance. A-
SEED Ensemble: Driftglass (2019, Jazz Re:freshed): London-based 10-piece jazz band led by saxophonist Cassie Kinoshi, who also has a hand in Nérija and Kokoroko. Strong groove, massive horns, several guest vocals don't quite register. B+(*)
Christian Meass Svendsen With Nakama and Rinzai Zen Center Oslo: New Rituals (2017-18 , Nakama, 3CD): Bassist, went overboard here: each disc has the same titles, the first pass for group plus "chant choir," the second just group, the third all the way down to solo bass. The group, Nakama, has violin, piano, bass, drums, and voice. They're quite lively with the choir, but slow down on their own side, and you know what to expect with solo bass. B+(*) [bc]
Pat Thomas/Dominic Lash/Tony Orrell: Bley School (2018 , 577 Records): British pianist, distinct from two other musicians of same name (one from San Francisco, the other Ghana). I'm rather shocked that I didn't have a database entry for this one, as he's appeared on 40+ albums since 1993, starting with Lol Coxhill and Derek Bailey. A tribute to the late Paul Bley, more focused on approach than canon. B+(***) [bc]
Trigger: Pull (2019, Shhpuma): Avant-thrash trio: Will Greene (electric guitar), Simon Haines (electric bass), Aaron Edgcomb (drums). Intense, relentless, still it does eventually melt together. B
Jennifer Wharton's Bonegasm: Bonegasm (2018 , Sunnyside): Trombonist, first album, a trombone quartet (John Fedchock, Nate Mayland, Alan Ferber) backed by piano-bass-drums. B+(*)
Yong Yandsen/Christian Meaas Svendsen/Paal Nilssen-Love: Hungry Ghosts (2018 , Nakama): Avant-sax trio, recorded in Kuala Lamur -- evidently home base for the tenor saxophonist, a co-founder of EMACM (Experimental Musicians & Artists Co-operative Malaysia -- and released in Norway, home of the bassist and drummer. One searing 39:00 tear. B+(***) [bc]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Joseph Daley: The Seven Deadly Sins/The Seven Heavenly Virtues (2010-13 , Jodamusic): Reissues two albums, one broadly orchestral I've previously heard and graded B+(***), the other more string-laden, below. Averages out to: B+(**)
Sam Rivers: Zenith [Sam Rivers Achive Project, Volume 2] (1977 , NoBusiness): Tenor saxophonist, also plays soprano, piano, and (quite a bit of) flute. Quartet with Joe Daley (tuba/euphonium), Charlie Persip (bass), and Barry Altschul (drums), live set in Berlin. I might complain about the flute, but the rhythm section more than picks up the slack. A- [cd]
Makoto Terashita Meets Harold Land: Topology (1983 , BBE): Japanese pianist, had one previous trio album from 1978, doesn't seem to have had much since, but this was picked out for the label's J Jazz Masterclass Series. His meeting with the alto saxophonist is backed by Yasushi Yoneki (bass) and Mike Reznikoff (drums). The piano trio is quite satisfying on its own, and Land is as poised and fierce as I can recall. A- [bc]
Johnathan Blake: Gone, but Not Forgotten (2014, Criss Cross): Drummer-led quartet, with bass (Ben Street) and two saxophonists (Chris Potter and Mark Turner). Something to be said for the extra harmony, but they do meander more, sometimes with alto flute or soprano sax, and wind up with a bit of swing. B+(***)
Joseph Daley: The Seven Heavenly Virtues (2013,
Jodamusic): Tuba player, from New York, side credits since 1971
(Taj Mahal, Gil Evans, Sam Rivers), first under his own name The
Seven Deadly Sins (2011), with his 24-piece Earth Tones Orchestra.
This sequel is mostly string orchestra and percussion, some piano.
I can't say as I've ever found violins heavenly. Closes with three
"sketches" referring to Warren Smith, Billy Bang, and Bill Dixon.
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: