An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, March 23, 2020
Music: Current count 32971  rated (+36), 212  unrated (-4).
I did a bit of website work last week. Robert Christgau told me that he's working on a piece on his wife Carola Dibbell's novel, The Only Ones, which is set in a post-pandemic dystopia, something more immediately imaginable this week than a month or two ago. Her website got wrecked when my server bit the dust last year, and I've been slow to rebuild it, so he wanted me to do some work on that: in particular, to restore the Notices page, with its collection of links to reviews and interviews. I did that, and fiddled with the menus a bit. He also sent me Carola's 1998 B-52s piece, and I scrounged up a previously missing 2003 Gaby Kerpel review.
A bigger chunk of work was taking a twitter thread Carola wrote in September 2019 about her cancer treatment, and formatting it as a plain old web page. This still needs some work. I haven't yet figured out how to do the video links. The images are handled a bit better, but still not right. With one exception, I'm using the ones cached by Twitter, but they're in various sizes, given somewhat uniform treatment by transformations and windowing in the CSS code. The thing that would help the most would be to vertically center the clipping rectangle over the image, instead of positioning it from the top. That's more/less what Twitter is doing, but don't quite see how.
I did set it up so you can click on an image and see the original, although that may not be obvious. I'll try to do some more work on this in the next week or two. One thing worth checking out is the Bibliography, particularly if you can find and submit any of the currently missing pieces. My plan is to move the archive from Christgau's website to Carola's, probably duplicating their joint pieces.
Three 2019 releases in this week's A- haul: two (Jeb Bishop, Wojtek Mazolewski) didn't appear on any 2019 lists, so I'm including them on my 2020 list; the other (Ben Webster in Denmark) was one that I knew about and looked for, but it's only recently become accessible via Storyville Records' Bandcamp page. Also found the first volume to the Hank Jones set I reviewed last week, and a few more items of interest. Storyville is a Danish label which has specialized in picking up archival recordings of American stars, especially on tour in their environs. Also a fair number of releases by Scandinavian artists. I'm looking forward to exploring the label further.
I will flag a slight caveat on Irreversible Entanglements: I'm not fully satisfied with my understanding of the record, but I usually limit Bandcamp releases to two plays, after which I go with my best guess. I also gave an A- to their eponymous first album, and a B+(**) to their EP. On the other hand, I've never given Moor Mother (vocalist Camae Ayewa) better than a B+(**) for her hip-hop albums. I like the jazz group quite a bit, but she's still something of a mystery to me.
Still another week before I have to close out March Streamnotes. Assuming a normal week, the rated count should clear 33,000.
PS: Just heard that pianist Mike Longo, 83, is a casualty of the Covid-19 pandemic -- see Nate Chinen's obituary. I have four of his albums in my database, notably [B+(***)] Step On It, a 2013 trio with Bob Cranshaw and Lewis Nash.
New records reviewed this week:
Daniel Bingert: Berit in Space (2019 , Moserobie): Swedish bassist, father is saxophonist Hector Bingert (originally from Uruguay, where Daniel lived as a child), first album, composed, arranged, conducted, and produced but doesn't play: Torbjörn Zetterberg plays bass, with Per Texas Johansson and Jonas Kullhammar the saxophonists, Karl Olandersson on trumpet, Charlie Malmberg on piano, and Moussa Fadera on drums. Elegantly composed pieces, nothing too harsh. B+(***)
Jeb Bishop Flex Quartet: Re-Collect (2015 , Not Two): Trombonist, originally from North Carolina, made his mark in Chicago (especially in the early Vandermark Five), where this was recorded. Quartet with Russ Johnson (trumpet), Jason Roebke (bass), and Frank Rosaly (drums). What you look for in a pianoless quartet: two freewheeling horns, the main distinction here that the trombone gives as good as it gets. A-
Jeb Bishop/Jaap Blonk/Weasel Walter/Damon Smith: JeJaWeDa: Pioneer Works Vol. 1 (2019, Balance Point Acoustics): Trombone, voice/electronics, drums, bass. Much noise, Blonk's appetite for chaos seems boundless, and the other have fun -- more than the listener, I'm sure. B+(*) [bc]
CP Unit: One Foot on the Ground Smoking Mirror Shakedown (2018 , Ramp Local): Led by alto saxophonist Chris Pitsiokos, who also contributes electronics, backed by electric guitar (Sam Lisabeth), electric bass (Henry Frazer), and drums/more electronics (Jason Nazary). Fourth group album, short at 4 tracks, 32:29, gets a bit overheated toward the end. B+(***)
Aaron Diehl: The Vagabond (2020, Mack Avenue): Pianist, from Columbus, Ohio, fifth album, a solid, thoughtful trio with bass and drums. B+(*)
Expansions: The Dave Liebman Group: Earth (2018 , Whaling City Sound): Plays soprano sax and recorder here. Quintet dates from 2013, fourth album, with members contributing songs: Matt Vashlishan (wind synth), Bobby Avey (piano), Tony Marino (electric bass), Alex Ritz (drums/kanjira), while Liebman ties this to a series of previous albums with other groups: Water (1997), Air (2006), and Fire (2016). B+(*)
Fire! Orchestra: Actions (2018 , Rune Grammofon): Free jazz orchestra, grew from Mats Gustafsson's Fire! trio, picking up a wide swath of mostly Scandinavian avant-jazzers. This is a single 40:01 piece by Krzysztof Penderecki, recorded live at a festival in Krakow. B+(**)
Elliot Galvin: Live in Paris at Fondation Louis Vuitton (2018 , Edition): British pianist, a "young Django Bates" if you like, has appeared on albums recently with Laura Jurd and Binker Golding, goes solo for this one, a bit commandeering. B+(*)
Naama Gheber: Dearly Beloved (2019 , Cellar Music): Standards singer, born in Israel, based in New York, first album, backed by Ray Gallon's piano trio plus Steve Nelson, whose vibraphone gently washes over the nicely done classics. B+(**) [cd] [04-10]
The Good Ones: Rwanda, You Should Be Loved (2019, Anti-): Group from Rwanda, led by singer-guitarist Adrien Kazigira, with Janvier Havugimana and Javan Mahoro adding background vocals and percussion. B+(*)
Alex Goodman: Impressions in Blue and Red (2019 , Outside In Music, 2CD): Guitarist, from Canada, based in New York City, sixth album since 2007. Two discs, two quartets with the same lineups (alto sax, bass, drums) but different musicians. B+(***)
The Haden Triplets: The Family Songbook (2020, Trimeter): The late bassist Charlie Haden's daughters (Petra, Rachel, Tanya), second group album (Tanya has by far the most substantial solo career). Old songs, tight harmony, guitar. B+(**)
Paul Heaton/Jacqui Abbott: Manchester Calling (2020, Virgin EMI): The singer-songwriter star behind my favorite 1990s group, the Beautiful South, and the group's alternate singer (1994-2000). Fourth duo album, occasional blasts of the old songcraft, nothing that's really sunk in given the short time I've allocated -- a far cry the the hundreds of spins I gave Welcome to the Beautiful South (1990) and 0898 Beautiful South (1992). Then comes "A Good Day Is Hard to Find" and I wonder if I've given it short shrift. B+(**)
Lisa Hilton: Chalkboard Destiny (2019, Ruby Slippers): Pianist, from California, two dozen albums since 1997. Quartet with JD Allen (tenor sax), Luques Curtis (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums). Not her first album with Allen, who is an asset here, though not as strong as on his own albums. B+(**)
Idle Hands: Solid Moments (2019 , Posi-Tone): Label artists, assembled by producer Marc Free into a house supergroup: Will Bernard (guitar), Behn Gillece (vibes), Sam Dillon (tenor sax), Art Hirahara (piano), Boris Kozlov (bass), Donald Edwards (drums). Lively mainstream mix. B+(*)
Irreversible Entanglements: Who Sent You? (2019 , International Anthem): Voice and texts by Camae Ayewa, better known as Moor Mother, backed here by a free jazz quartet -- sax (Keir Neuringer) and trumpet (Aquilles Navarro), bass (Luke Stewart) and drums (Tcheser Holmes), with extra percussion from all. A- [bc]
Landgren & Lundgren: Kristallen (2018 , ACT Music): Swedish duo, Nils & Jan, trombone/vocals and piano, active since 1984 and 1993, respectively. Nils' vocals are nothing special, but occasionally touching (e.g., "The Nearness of You"), even though I'd rather hear his trombone. Jan is in both cases a sensitive accompanist. B+(**)
Thomas Marriott: Trumpet Ship (2016 , Origin): Trumpet player, from Seattle, twelfth album, quartet with Orrin Evans (piano), Luques Curtis (bass), and Mark Whitfield Jr. (drums). Title song from Sonny Simmons, most others originals. B+(*) [cd]
Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet: When Angels Fall (2019, WMQ/Agora Muzyka): Polish bassist, at least ten albums since 2008, released an impressive Polka album in 2014, turns here to his country's premier jazz composer, Krzysztof Komeda (1931-69). Quintet with trumpet, tenor sax, piano, and drums. Some remarkable passages here, surprise shifts, maybe a bit much drama. A-
Roscoe Mitchell With Ostravska Banda: Performing Distant Radio Transmission Also Nonaah Trio, Cutouts for Woodwind Quintet and 8.8.88 (2019 , Wide Hive): As the Art Ensemble of Chicago founder and mainstay turns 80 this year, his work is being adapted for various classical ensembles, with his participation. I wish it worked better. B+(*) [03-27]
Shunzo Ohno: Runner (2019 , Pulsebeats): Japanese trumpet player, eighteenth album since 1975, first I've heard, although he has moved in circles I may have crossed, such as his work with Gil Evans. Not seeing any string credits, but his "symphonic vision" is much in evidence. Short (29:45). B [cd] [04-03]
Charles Pillow Ensemble: Chamber Jazz (2019 , Summit): Alto saxophonist, also plays flute and other woodwinds (including oboe and English horn here), often found leading or in big bands. This is billed as a nonet but I count a few extras, even before getting to the strings. Extravagantly lush, gets on my nerves. B
Jure Pukl: Broken Circles (2019 , Whirlwind): Slovenian saxophonist (soprano, tenor, bass clarinet), half-dozen albums since 2010. Quintet with guitar (Charles Altura), vibes (Joel Ross), bass (Matt Brewer) and drums/kalimba (Kweku Sumbry). B+(**)
Tim Shaghoian: Gentle Beacons (2019 , Origin): Tenor saxophonist from California, first album, all originals, nice, highly textural postbop with guitar, piano, bass, and drums. B+(*) [cd]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
16-17: Phantom Limb (1995-2018 , Trost): Hardcore noise group, sax-bass-guitar-drums, recorded in Switzerland in 1995, vocals dubbed in recently in San Francisco, mixed and mastered by saxophonist Alex Buess (also credited with electronics), and palmed off as metal (on an avant-jazz label). B
Duke Ellington: Uppsala 1971 (1971 , Storyville): Vault tape, a concert in Sweden, with his great 1960s orchestra starting to give way (Johnny Hodges died in 1970, and the only name left from his legendary brass section is Cootie Williams, with Cat Anderson most irreplaceable). Paul Gonsalves gets a nice feature spot, there's a long (and rather messy) "Tone Parallel to Harlem," a "Medley" with vocalists, followed by Money Johnson growling his way through "Hello Dolly." B+(**)
Hank Jones: In Copenhagen: Live at Jazzhus Sklukefter 1983 (1983 , Storyville): Previously unreleased piano-bass-drums trio date from Copenhagen, with Mads Vinding on bass and Shelly Manne on drums. They stretch out on a nice set of standards, including one from Bud Powell and two from Charlie Parker. B+(***) [bc]
Ben Webster: Ben Webster's First Concert in Denmark (1965 , Storyville): Tenor sax great, visited Copenhagen in 1965 and liked it enough to move there. Opens with a bit of solo piano -- Webster's first instrument, and he still pounds out a respectable beat. Then quartet, with Kenny Drew (who had moved to Denmark some years earlier), Niels-Henning Ørsted Pederson (bass), and Alex Riel (drums). His standard fare, from "Pennies From Heaven" to "Cottontail," and as gorgeous as it gets. A- [bc]
Jeb Bishop: 98 Duets (1998, Wobbly Rail): Trombonist, based in Chicago, a key member in Vandermark 5. No idea what the title signifies, as I count only 12 duets with 6 partners: Josh Abrams, Hamid Drake, Mats Gustafsson, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Wadada Leo Smith, and Ken Vandermark. No big surprise that this is all fairly marginal. B+(*)
Jeb Bishop Trio: 2009 (2009, Better Animal): Trombone trio, with bass (Jason Roebke) and drums (Frank Rosaly). B+(***)
Jeb Bishop: Three Valentines & Goodbye (2016 , 1980): Solo trombone with "later processing." Gets a little harsh. B [bc]
Dexter Gordon: Atlanta Georgia May 5, 1981 (1981 , Storyville): Tenor sax great, emerged in the 1940s, moved to Europe in 1962, back to US in 1976, recordings thin out quickly after 1980, with his death in 1986, so this live set is rather late. Quartet with Kirk Lightsey (piano), Rufus Reid (bass), and Eddie Gladden (drums). B+(***) [bc]
Archie Shepp/Don Cherry/J.C. Moses/John Tchicai/Don Moore: Archie Shepp & the New York Contemporary Five (1963 , Storyville): Recorded live in Copenhagen four days after the set initially released on Sonet and later on Delmark (2010), with several of the same songs -- this one initially appearing in 1972. Two saxes (Shepp on tenor and Tchicai on alto), cornet, bass, and drums. A-
Archie Shepp/Lars Gullin Quintet: The House I Live In (1963 , SteepleChase): A radio shot from Jazz Club Montmartre in Copenhagen, with the tenor saxophonist early in his career, the baritonist late, Tete Montoliu on piano, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen on bass, and Alex Riel on drums. Four tracks, 9:20 to 19:00, standards, Shepp blowing hard but harder to place the usually swinging Gullin. B+(***)
Ben Webster: At Montmartre 1965-1966 (1965-66 , Storyville): Two quartet sets, NHØP (who else?) on bass for both, Kenny Drew and Alex Riel on the longer (9 songs, 50:51) January 1965 set, Atli Bjørn and Rune Carlsson on 3-song, 22:52 appendix. Common songbook gems, nicely but unexceptionally done. B+(**) [bc]
Ben Webster: In Norway (1970 , Storyville): Live at PUB Trondheim, with a presumably local piano trio -- Tore Sandnaes, Bjørn Alterhaug, Kjell Johansen. Emphasis on ballads, as gorgeous as ever, plus tamer than usual takes on his Elliigton classics, "C Jam Blues" and "Cottontail." B+(**) [bc]
Ben Webster: Live at Stampen Stockholm 1969-1973 (1969-73 , Storyville): Tracks from three sets (2-3 each), all backed with piano-bass-drums (Red Mitchell from 1971, Teddy Wilson and Ed Thigpen in 1973), most with trumpet (Arne Ryskog or Roffe Ericson). Webster died six months after the last session. My impression has long been that he faded a few years before, but he gets quality help here, especially on a 12:43 "Satin Doll." Note that they shuffled the 1971 set to the end, so it ends with the sax up front. B+(***) [bc]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: