An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, May 11, 2020
Music: Current count 33244  rated (+37), 212  unrated (-6).
Probably the longest list of musician deaths of any week so far this year:
At least those were the ones I jotted down. Wikipedia lists another dozen-plus musicians I didn't recognize -- mostly classical and world, but also three rappers: Benedict Chijioke [Ty], William Daniels [King Shooter], and Andre Harrell, the latter better known as a producer. No new names so far Monday, but comedian Jerry Stiller (92) died today. As you may know, his "better half" (Anne Meara) passed in 2015.
I haven't tracked down much writing on these musicians, but can point to Robert Christgau's Little Richard: Sexual Shaman and Embodiment of Rock 'n' Roll at Its Most Incendiary. Billboard has been keeping their own list, which adds names like: Nick Blixky, Cady Groves, Brian Howe, Troy Sneed, Scott Taylor, and many more from earlier in the year.
Speaking of obituaries, the Wichita Eagle runs a couple pages of them on Sundays, a bit less on Wednesdays. I didn't do an exact count, and I didn't dig back into the archives, but there's a good chance that Sunday's list was the first time in my life when more people younger than me died than people older than me. The list above split 6 older, 2 younger, but 5 of the 6 were +5 years or less, so for my wife, the break would be 1 older (Little Richard), 7 younger. That's, well, disturbing.
Records listed below lean toward old music. I started the week listening to items I hadn't previously heard from drummer Gerry Hemingway's Bandcamp page (Auricle Records). One of the first records I tried there was Perfect World, a Penguin Guide **** and an A- last week. Nothing this week that good, but that's often the case given how I snatch up the better-regarded records first, and am usually content to give the rest a single spin. Some other Hemingway records I especially recommend (* on Bandcamp page): Songs (2002), The Whimbler (2005)*, Riptide (2011)*; BassDrumBone's Hence the Reason (1997); Saturn Cycle (1994, with Georg Gršwe and Ernst Reijseger); En Adir (1997, with Ivo Perelman, Marilyn Crispell and William Parker); Inbetween Spaces (2010, with Ellery Eskelin)*; Below the Surface Of (2010, with Terence McManus)*; The Apple in the Dark (2010, with Ivo Perelman); Code Re(a)d (2014, with Assif Tsahar and Mark Dresser); Table of Changes (2015, with Marilyn Crispell); Luminous (2018, with Simon Nabatov and Barry Guy); many more side credits, including most of what he did in Anthony Braxton's legendary 1983-93 Quartet -- Willisau (Quartet) 1991 is especially monumental; also two Lisa Sokolov records Presence (2004) and A Quiet Thing (2009).
Hemingway's site offered two BassDrumBone albums I hadn't heard, so that got me looking at trombonist Ray Anderson. The two Dutch albums on Kemo are fun, and there's a good chance that one (or both) could eventually earn an A- grade. The Henry Threadgill album is one I had ungraded on vinyl, and then I noticed the Air albums. Having run out of Astral Spirits CDs, I felt the need to dust off the turntable and play the three LPs they sent me -- but I had pulled the Threadgill album out a while back, so went with it first -- then moved on to other ungraded LPs (they'll show up in next week's report).
Meanwhile, I wiped out nearly all of my demo queue, and even delved into some downloads I had lying around. Plus I got guidance from two list compilers: Lucas Fagen (a short, belated 2019 list) and Phil Overeem (a long one on 2020 so far). Thanks to the latter for noticing Mark Lomax's The 400 Years Suite -- though he would probably return the nod for me writing up Lomax's 2019 12-CD 400: An Afrikan Epic. The new one can be viewed as a footnote to last year's edition, but I doubt anyone else will produce a more powerful jazz album this year.
The AruŠn Ortiz album is a re-grade from one I streamed back in March. Maybe it does help to send me physical product (although this one is pure promo). A persistent publicist got me to listen to a download of the Dave Glasser album after the physical got lost in the mail. I should also mention the MakroQuarktet set. Good chance I would have given an A- to a straight reissue of their 2008 album Each Part a Whole, but the extra material didn't quite merit it. However, if you consider the extra material a mere bonus, and understand that after sampling it you can stick the the first disc, you might value it higher.
Not much to report on various projects. I did announce a Q&A feature last week, but so far have only received one question (and not one I'm chomping at the bit to answer -- something about a low grade for a record I don't recall in any detail, beyond the obvious point that I didn't much like it). I won't guarantee that I'll answer every question, but I'll get to that one in due course. Meanwhile, any questions? Please use this form. Thanks.
New records reviewed this week:
AnŠhuac: Y_y (2017 , Astral Spirits): Trio, initially met in Austin: Ignaz Schick (turntable/electronics), Chris Cogburn (percussion/electronics), Juan Garcia (double bass). Filed under Cogburn when the first album I noticed listed his name first on the front cover (this earlier one starts with Schick, but not on the cover). Some voice, some noise. B
AnŠhuac: Ascua (2018 , Astral Spirits): Another one, slightly more impressive. B+(*) [dl]
Brian Andres Trio Latino: Mayan Suite (2019 , Bacalao): Bay Area Drummer, has a larger group called The Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel. Drops back to a piano trio here with Christian Tumalan (piano) and Aaron Germain (bass), who offer original pieces as well as covers from Chick Corea and standards like "Someday My Prince Will Come" and "On Green Dolphin Street." B+(*) [cd] [05-15]
Blueface: Dirt Bag (2019, Cash Money, EP): Rapper Johnathan Porter, from Los Angeles, debuted with a 2018 mixtape, then two EPs -- this the second, 8 tracks, 21:33, most featuring rappers I've heard of but haven't heard much by. B+(***)
Blueface: Find the Beat (2020, Cash Money): First studio album, compared to last year's EP twice as many songs, bigger name featuring spots, still only 41:29, with FBeats and Scum Beatz keeping the beats choppy. B+(**)
Dave Glasser: Hypocrisy Democracy (2019 , Here Tiz): Mainstream alto saxophonist, from New York, handful of records since 2000 plus side credits with the Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie ghost bands, Illinois Jacquet, Clark Terry, and so forth. Quartet, also plays soprano sax and flute, backed by Andy Milne (piano), Ben Allison (bass), and Matt Wilson (drums). Gets in some surprisingly strong runs, and the rhythm section kicks ass. A- [dl]
Jinx Lennon: Border Schizzo Fffolk Songs for the Fuc**d (2020, Septic Tiger): Irish folk singer-songwriter with punk airs, has twenty years of self-released albums. An interesting character, although I'm not finding him aligning much with my mood these days. B+(**)
Mark Lomax, II & the Urban Art Ensemble: 400 Years Suite (2019 , CFG Multimedia): Single-disc live presentation of music from the Columbus, Ohio drummer's monumental 12-CD 400: An Afrikan Epic, performed by his superb regular quartet -- Dean Hulett on bass, William Menefield on piano, and most importantly Edwin Bayard on soprano and tenor saxophone -- plus a string quartet. Bayard blows you away every time, but the gospel piano solo is nearly as impressive. Wish I had a CD, and the time to see if even the strings say masterpiece. A
Josh Nelson Trio: The Discovery Project: Live in Japan (2019 , Steel Bird): Pianist, tenth album since 1998, trio with Alex Boneham (bass) and Don Schnelle (drums). The Discovery Project started with his 2011 album Discoveries, combining visuals and scenography with his music. CD, of course, just has the music. B+(**) [cd]
Arturo O'Farrill/The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra: Four Questions (2020, Zoho): Pianist, son of Cuban bandleader Chico O'Farrill, a master of his craft and leader of New York's most famous Latin jazz big band. Title piece runs 16:13, with Cornell West's long harangue its focal point. I was impressed enough to note some of the more intricate scoring in the next piece, before vocals I'd rather tune out appeared. B [cd]
Adam Rudolph/Ralph M. Jones/Hamid Drake [Karuna Trio]: Imaginary Archipelago (2020, Meta): Back cover and spine use group name, front cover just lists the musicians, percussionists by trade, each credited with instruments I don't recognize: membranophones, idiophones, chordophones, aerophones, as well as voice and electronic processing. Exotica fading into esoterica. B+(***) [cd]
Brandon Seabrook With Cooper-Moore & Gerald Cleaver: Exultation (2019 , Astral Spirits): Guitarist, with diddley bow and drums, no problem making a little noise, especially with this rhythm section keeping him on the rails. B+(***) [dl] [06-19]
TeeJayx6: The Swipe Sessions (2019, The Family Entertainment): Detroit rapper, first mixtape, invents a new genre: cybergangsta. I never got the point behind Bitcoin, so some of this goes over my head. Can't say as I approve of the rest either, but beats and flow are still valid currencies. B+(***)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
The MacroQuarktet: The Complete Night: Live at the Stone NYC (2007 [2020, Out of Your Head, 2CD): Quartet, two trumpet players (Dave Ballou and Herb Robertson), bass (Drew Gress) and drums (Tom Rainey). Released one album in 2008, Each Part a Whole, a live set from The Stone in NYC reissued on the first disc here, along with a second disc of additional material. B+(***) [cd]
Air: Montreux Suisse Air: Live at Montreux 1978 (1978, Arista Novus): Saxophonist Henry Threadgill's 1975-82 trio with Fred Hopkins (bass) and Steve McCall (drums), best known for their 1979 album Air Lore, which brought Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton into the avant-jazz canon. Live set offers three originals, 39:02. B+(*)
Air: Live Air (1976-77 , Black Saint): Two sets (39:53 total), one in New York, the other Michigan. Starts meandering, with way too much flute, but ends real strong. B+(*)
Air: Air Mail (1980 , Black Saint): Three pieces, titles just initials, just 35:41. Again, flute opens weak, but sax ends strong. B+(**)
Ray Anderson/Mark Helias/Gerry Hemingway: Oahspe (1978 , Auricle): BassDrumBone trio, a decade before they started recording under that name, the first record (of dozens) the trombonist and bassist put their name on, second for drummer Hemingway (whose debut featured the others). B+(***) [bc]
Ray Anderson/Han Bennink/Frank MŲbus/Ernst Glerum/Paul Van Kemenade: Who Is in Charge? (2010 , Kemo): American trombonist, likes to play funk as well as avant-garde, visits the Netherlands, where avant has always had a comic edge. The others play drums, guitar, bass, and alto sax -- the latter is someone I've overlooked, although his discography goes back to 2000 and includes several pairings with Wolter Wierbos. He also wrote three pieces here, vs. 1 each for the others (except Bennink; maybe he picked the "Song for Chť" cover?). B+(***)
Ray Anderson/Han Bennink/Ernst Glerum/Paul Van Kemenade: Checking Out (2016, Kemo): Same group minus guitar, which doesn't cost them much. B+(***)
BassDrumBone [Ray Anderson/Mark Helias/Gerry Hemingway]: Cooked to Perfection (1986-96 , Auricle): Trombone-bass-drums trio, nominally their sixth group album but culled from various European tours, with five tracks from 1986, one 1987, two 1996. B+(**) [bc]
John Butcher/Gerry Hemingway: Buffalo Pearl (2005 , Auricle): Duo, tenor/soprano sax and drums, joint improv, recorded live in Buffalo. B+(***) [bc]
Gerry Hemingway: Kwambe (1978, Auricle): Drummer, from New Haven, Connecticut; first album, probably 22 at the time, opens with the 20:41 title piece, quintet with African instruments (Ghanian flute and Tanzanian xylophone), piano (Anthony Davis) and bass (Mark Helias). Other pieces include a trio with Davis and George Lewis (trombone/euphonium), a solo, and an early assembly of BassDrumBone (Hemingway's long-running trio with Helias and Ray Anderson). B+(*) [bc]
Gerry Hemingway: Solo Works (1981, Auricle): Solo percussion, four pieces ranging from 6:00 to 9:58, doesn't connect much, but not without interest. B [bc]
Gerry Hemingway Quintet: Outerbridge Crossing (1985 , Sound Aspects): First Quintet album, recorded in New Haven, with David Mott (baritone sax), Ray Anderson (trombone/tuba), Ernst Reijseger (cello), and Mark Dresser (bass). Snappy title cut shows promise, but things drag later on. B+(*) [bc]
Gerry Hemingway: Tubworks (1985 , Sound Aspects): Another solo percussion record, opens with the 17:54 "Four Studies for Single Instruments." Similar issues with all of his solo albums, but "Dance of the Sphygmoids" picks up the pace. B+(*) [bc]
Gerry Hemingway Quintet: Slamadam (1991-94 , Random Acoustics): Nine Quintet albums 1985-2011, this one midway, with his most common lineup: Michael Moore (alto sax/clarinet/bass clarinet), Wolter Wierbos (trombone), Ernst Reijseger (cello), and Mark Dresser (bass). Nice mix, especially the horns. B+(***) [bc]
Gerry Hemingway: Acoustic Solo Works 1983-94 (1983-94 , Random Acoustics): More solo, appeared with Electro-Acoustic Solo Works 1984-95, but I don't recall thinking much of his use of electronics. Percussion, of course. B+(*) [bc]
Gerry Hemingway Quintet: Waltzes, Two-Steps & Other Matters of the Heart (1996 , GM): Same quintet, released after they closed their 1990-98 run, but looking back at their 27 gig/28 day 1996 tour of Europe. Scattered treats, but the waltzes are fun when they kick in. B+(***) [bc]
Gerry Hemingway Quartet: Johnny's Corner Song (1997 , Auricle): The second of four Quartet albums, lineups vary but all have two horns and bass -- here Ellery Eskelin (tenor sax), Robin Eubanks (trombone), and Mark Dresser (bass). B+(**) [bc]
Gerry Hemingway/Thomas Lehn [Tom & Gerry]: Kinetics (2003-06 , Auricle): Duo, Lehn plays analog synthesizer, could be listed first (per "Tom & Gerry"), but I'm following left-to-right artist names further down, because that files better. Also because it's the drums that justify the title. B+(*) [bc]
Gerry Hemingway: Kernelings: Solo Works 1995-2012 (1995-2012 , Auricle): More scattered solo pieces, some straight drumming I like quite a bit. Originally came with a DVD, which I haven't seen. B+(**) [bc]
New Air: Live at Montreal International Jazz Festival (1983 , Black Saint): After Air split up in 1982, Henry Threadgill (alto/baritone sax, flute) and Fred Hopkins (bass) regrouped for the occasional gig, with Pheeroan Aklaff (percussion) justifying the "New" sobriquet. This is the first of two live albums. B+(***)
Henry Threadgill Sextett: Subject to Change (1984 , About Time): Saxophonist (alto/tenor, also flute and clarinet), third album (of five 1982-89) with this group, the extra 't' signifying a second drummer (and seventh musician). With trumpet (Rasul Sadik) and trombone (Ray Anderson), cello (Diedre Murray) and bass (Fred Hopkins). Richly layered. Ends with a vocal by Amina Claudine Myers. B+(**) [lp]
WHO [Michel Wintsch/Gerry Hemingway/Bšnz Oester]: Identity (1999, Leo): Piano-drums-bass trio, first album to spotlight their initials on the cover, although Wintsch and Hemingway shared a 1994 album, and the trio went on to record several more through 2014. B+(***)
WHO Trio: WHO Zoo (Acoustic) (2011-13 , Auricle): Initials: Michel Wintsch (piano), Gerry Hemingway (drums), Bšnz Oester (double bass). B+(***)
WHO Trio: WHO Zoo (Electric) (2011-13 , Auricle): Originally a second disc to WHO Zoo, the "electric" refers mostly to Wintsch's use of synthesizer, but piano is still common. Three longish pieces. B+(***)
Grade (or other) changes:
AruŠn Ortiz With Andrew Cyrille and Mauricio Herrera: Inside Rhythmic Falls (2019 , Intakt): Cuban pianist, based in New York, the others drums and percussion (the latter is also Cuban, the drummer a Haitian born in Brooklyn), all three also credited with voice, their occasional chants another layer of rhythm. [was: B+(**)] A- [cd]
Unpacking: Nothing new in the mail last week.