An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, August 10, 2020
Music: Current count 33774  rated (+45), 218  unrated (-5).
Most of this week's haul is tied to a question I tried to answer a couple days back. I've done a little editing on my answer since its initial post. Always good to get back and tune some more -- something I rarely manage these days. The big questions concerned British jazz from the 1960s-70s, and also Polish jazz. The question mentioned a list of British and South African musicians by name. My review counts for them are: Joe Harriott (6), Michael Garrick (2), Don Rendell (0), Ian Carr (0), Mike Osborne (2), Tony Coe (4), Harry Beckett (2), Tubby Hayes (6), Chris McGregor (4), Dudu Pukwana (5), Mongezi Feza (1), Johnny Dyani (3), Louis Moholo (6), Annie Whitehead (0), Lindsay Cooper (0). That illuminates some holes in my listening.
I thought I might come up with a reference list of British jazz musicians, but both Google and Wikipedia failed badly -- e.g., neither mentioned Evan Parker, who would certainly top my list with 48 albums. After Parker, my most reviewed British jazz musicians are: Barry Guy (32), John McLaughlin (32), John Surman (27), Dave Holland (25), Tommy Smith (19), John Butcher (17), Paul Dunmall (16), Marian McPartland (15), Billy Jenkins (14), Andy Sheppard (11), Trevor Watts (11), Derek Bailey (10), Elton Dean (9), Alexander Hawkins (9), Stan Tracey (9), Chris Barber (8), Tony Oxley (8), John Taylor (8), Keith Tippett (8). Very likely I've forgotton a few. Further down, you get important musicians like Howard Riley (6), Gordon Beck (5), Paul Rutherford (5), Iain Ballamy (3), Humphrey Lyttleton (3), Ronnie Scott (3), Alan Skidmore (3), Mike Westbrook (3), Acker Bilk (2), Spike Hughes (2), Ken Colyer (1). I've probably slighted most of them.
But rather than try to catch up with British jazz musicians I've missed, I spent much of the week with Polish ones. Mostly it was just easier: Polskie Nagrania Muza (now owned by Warner Music Poland) has a series of 80 volumes of "Polish Jazz," and that's most of what you get when you do a title search for "Polish jazz" on Napster. The immediate appeal was a couple albums I had missed by Tomasz Stanko, and a couple more by Zbigniew Namyslowski -- I've long been a fan of his 1973 album, Winobranie. Most of this week's haul comes from that series, with a few more to come next week (although my interest is finally starting to flag). I wasn't surprised to find a bunch of trad jazz titles, but was pleased to note how well done they were. Indeed, the bop groups were also pretty sophisticated. The only genre that fell short of contemporary standards was 1970s fusion -- which, you may recall, could be pretty bad everywhere.
Two other clusters in the "old music": I started the week with English folksinger Shirley Collins' latest, and thought I'd sample some of her early records (especially one with Albion Dance Band which I used to own, but couldn't find). That didn't last long. The second cluster is from English drummer Steve Harris. I was reminded of him while looking at my list of Penguin Guide crown albums, and his was the only one I hadn't heard. Turns out that both it and a bunch more have recently (2018) been released on Bandcamp. I wound up liking the 2002 ZAUM album even more.
For new music, I worked a few things off my queue -- some of which won't be released until the Fall (it's hard to pace myself with them). Also spent a fair amount of time on the fence over DeForrest Brown Jr.'s latest album, so I wound up listening to his other releases. Listening order below, not release order.
I'll try to get around to some old British jazz this week. See if anything really clicks. Would be great if I could find my old Blue Notes for Monghezi LP, still unrated. Also been looking at the Bandcamp lists, which suggested Speaker Music (also Jenna Camille and Hideto Sasaki).
Recommendation: Jason Bailey and Mike Hull (my nephew) have started to produce podcasts. Episode 1: 'Fight the Power' discusses Spike Lee's film, Do the Right Thing.
Questions queue is empty now. Please use the form.
New records reviewed this week:
Max Bessesen: Trouble (2020, Ropeadope): Alto saxophonist, originally from Denver, based in Chicago, records in both places for his debut album, adding Colorado-based trumpet player Ron Miles for the Denver set. With Eric Krouse on piano, plus bass and drums. Nice postbop. B+(**) [09-04]
Jenna Camille: The Time Is NOW (2020, self-released): Singer-songwriter, plays keyboards, born in Atlanta, based in DC, last name may be Henderson, self-released an album in 2014, sixth release per Bandcamp. Politics first, experimentation always, finally settling into ambient groove. B+(*) [bc]
Shirley Collins: Heart's Ease (2020, Domino): English folk singer, 85, MBE, I remember her from Albion Dance Band in the 1970s but didn't get anything into the database. Her debut was actually 1959, and she retired in 1980, but came back with a very solid album in 2016 (Lodestar, high B+). Voice is worn, gravity helps. B+(**)
Duotrio: In the Bright and Deep (2020, Blujazz): "A modular chamber music ensemble" led by trumpeter Daniel Nissenbaum, configured as two bands, neither trios: one based in Holland (quintet), the other in Philadelphia (quartet plus strings/orchestra, vocals on one piece, guitar on another). Sounds semi-classical to me, not to my taste. B- [cd]
Gato Libre: Koneko (2019 , Libra): Japanese trumpeter Natsuki Tamura's group, a trio with Yasuko Kaneko on trombone and wife Satoko Fujii on accordion. Eighth group album, with 2006's Nomad my favorite (by far). Interesting enough, but seems a bit slow. B+(**) [cd]
John Hollenbeck: Songs You Like a Lot (2019 , Flexatonic): Drummer, mastermind bnehind the Claudia Project, Large Ensemble impressario, presents his third album of likable songs, with Theo Bleckmann and Kate McGarry singing, Gary Versace on piano, and the Frankfurt Radio Big Band. Mostly songs I don't much like, but he also manages to spoil "God Only Knows" -- and not just by twisting it into "Only God Knows." B- [08-14]
Camden Joy: American Love (2020, self-released): Tom Adelman, a novelist before singer-songwriter, follows up his EP with a full-length album, 14 songs, lots of historical figures from the suffragists and William Jennings Bryan to Johnny Paycheck: "A lot of famous dead Amerians collide with a lot of dying American musical styles." Musically, reminds me a bit of Thomas Anderson, with less twang. B+(**)
Kenny Kotwitz & the LA Jazz Quintet: When Lights Are Low (2020, PMRecords): Leader plays accordion and celeste. Rest of the quintet adds guitar (John Chiodini), vibraphone, bass, and drums. All standards, the title cut from Benny Carter, reprised at the end. Not as schmaltzy as one might expect, but a little. B+(*) [cd]
Simon Moullier: Spirit Song (2017-20 , Outside In Music): Vibraphone player (also credited with "balafon, percussions, synths"), first record, recorded over four sessions, with bass (Luca Alemano) and drums (Jongkuk Kim), most tracks adding piano and/or sax (Dayna Stephens or Morgan Guerin). I particularly like the balafon closer. B+(***) [10-09]
Jose Rizo's Mongorama: Mariposas Cantan (2018-19 , Saungu): Rizo is a DJ, songwriter, and (here) bandleader, based in Los Angeles. This, obviously, is a tribute band to Mongo Santamaria, reprising his songbook, with typical flair. B+(**) [09-16]
Lawrence Sieberth Quartet: An Evening in Paris (2020, Musik Bl÷c): Pianist, based in New Orleans, handful of albums going back to the 1980s. Recorded this one in Paris, with Stephane Guillaume (sax), Michel Benita (bass), and Jeff Boudreaux (drums). B+(**) [cd] [09-24]
Speaker Music: Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry (2020, Planet Mu): DeForrest Brown Jr., "a New York-based theorist, journalist, and curator . . . a representative of the Make Techno Black Again campaign." Maia Sanaa's opening testimony of powerful and touching. A second tract is more pragmatic and less inspired. The beats hold up on their own, at least until the final track rattles my nerves. It's called "It is the Negro Who Represents the Revolutionary Struggles for a Classless Society." Comes with a 45 page PDF, which I haven't seen. A-
Speaker Music: Of Desire, Longing (2019, Planet Mu): DeForrest Brown Jr., raised in the deep South, moved to New York 7 years ago, first album, two 23-minute pieces, "With Empathy," and "Without Excess." B+(**) [bc]
Speaker Music: Processing Intimacy (2019-20 , Planet Mu): A "reassessment" of material from Of Desire, Longing, five parts squeezed into a single 45:51 track. Bits of industrial warble, scales up nicely. B+(***) [bc]
Speaker Music: Percussive Therapy (2020, Planet Mu, EP): Four tracks, 17:50. Starts with more focus on the drums (or whatever they are), but ends up in the electronic ether. B+(**) [bc]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Hideto Sasaki-Toshiyuki Sekine Quartet Plus 1: Stop Over (1976 , BBE): Japanese group, leaders play trumpet and piano, accompanied by alto sax (Noriyasu Watanabe), bass, and drums. Hard bop with a lush overgrowth, comparison given is to Kenny Dorham. B+(**) [bc]
Ewa Bem With Swing Session: Be a Man [Polish Jazz Vol. 65] (1981 , Polskie Nagrania Muza): Singer, backed by trumpeter Henryk Majewski's swing band. First side in English, starting with a six-song medley and adding four more standards from "Misty" to "Groovin' High." She's very good at this. Second side is in Polish, no less swinging. B+(**)
Shirley Collins: Sweet England (1959, Argo): English folksinger, sings and plays banjo, first album, Alan Lomax produced. High, lonesome voice, pretty basic guitar and banjo, still comes back to haunt you. B+(**)
Shirley Collins: False True Lovers (1959, Folkways): Cover text: "A collection of British love songs about love, adapted and sung by Shirley Elizabeth Collins of Sussex, England, with guitar and five-string banjo accompaniment by John Halsted, Ralph Rinzler, Guy Carawan and Miss Collins. With notes by Alan Lomax." B+(*)
Shirley Collins/Davy Graham: Folk Roots, New Routes (1964, Decca): Graham plays guitar -- indeed, his first (1963) album was called The Guitar Player. More elegant, but I rather miss the banjo. B+(*)
Ducks Deluxe: Side Tracks & Smokers (1973-2009 , Jungle): Six "rough mixes" from the eponymous debut sessions, sound great not least because they're looser than the final takes; two b-sides; eight live tracks from the Sean Tyla-Martin Belmont reunion band -- two Dylans I'd drop, three more bar band covers, two basic Tylas, a 9:19 "Teenage Head." B+(**)
Hagaw: Do You Love Hagaw? [Polish Jazz Vol. 12] (1967, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Polish trad jazz band led by banjo player Gregorz Brudko, with trumpet, trombone, sax, violin, bass, and drums, tilts the balance toward the strings. Asocjacja Hagaw recorded ten albums through 1986. B+(**)
Steve Harris: ZAUM (2002, Slam): British drummer (1948-2008), played in a rock band in the late 1960s (Woody Kern), a jazz-funk outfit from 1987 on (Pinski Zoo), formed this group in 2001, named after a Russian Futurist concept. With Cathy Stevens (six string violectra, viola), Geoff Hearn (tenor, soprano sax), Karen Wimhurst (clarinet, bass clarinet), Udo Dzierzanowski (guitar). "Instant compositions" -- works in large part because the group is so intricately balanced. A-
Steve Harris/ZAUM: Above Our Heads the Sky Splits Open (2004 , Amazon): This record was awarded a Penguin Guide crown in their 8th edition, and may be the only crown album I never picked up. Sax, clarinet, two guitars, a sampler, a bunch of strings. The simplest rhythmic-focused tracks are terrific (e.g., "Trouble at house-for-one"), but the strings lack such immediate appeal -- at least until the 19:43 closer ("White pass ink black moon") puts it all together. A- [bc]
Steve Harris/ZAUM: The Little Flash of Letting Go (2004-05 , Spitz Live): Band is stripped down a bit here: one horn (Geoff Hearn on tenor sax), two guitars, the strings reduced to Cathy Stevens (viola, electric violin). Also sampler on two tracks. Again, best track comes last. B+(***) [bc]
High Society: High Society [Polish Jazz Vol. 18] (1969 , Polskie Nagrania Muza): Trad jazz group from Gliwice, septet, seems to be their only album, not much about the musicians, although Witold Wertel (soprano sax) and Leszek Furman (piano) are the only ones with writing/arranging credits, and the banjo (Jan Piecha) is strong throughout. B+(***)
Jazz Band Ball Orchestra: Jazz Band Ball Orchestra [Polish Jazz Vol. 8] (1966, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Trad jazz septet led by pianist Jan Boba, who wrote nearly half of the pieces. The other main composer was Zbigniew Raj, not in the band, otherwise best known for soundtracks. Bright, strong group. B+(***)
Mieczyslaw Kosz: Reminiscence [Polish Jazz Vol. 25] (1971 , Polskie Nagrania Muza): Pianist, died young (age 29 in 1973), only recorded a couple more albums. Backed here by Bronislaw Suchanek (bass) and Janusz Stefanski (drums). Two originals, one from Suchanek, covers from Borodin, Chopin, Liszt, and Lennon/McCartney. Nice, thoughtful touch. Bet he loved Bill Evans. B+(*)
Andrzej Kurylewicz Quintet: Go Right (1963, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Trumpet player (1932-2007), leading a quintet with Jan Ptaszyn Wrˇblewski (tenor sax/flute), Wojciech Karolak (piano), bass, and drums -- songs from the leader and first two. Contemporary bop, strong performances, especially the saxophonist. B+(***)
Andrzej Kurylewicz: Polish Radio Big Band [Polish Jazz Vol. 2] (1964 , Polskie Nagrania Muza): Plays valve trombone here, piano elsewhere, leading a 19-piece big band, mostly wrote "serious music" after 1970, shows some knack for arranging here, with nice charts and solos. B+(**)
Adam Makowicz: Live Embers [Polish Jazz Vol. 43] (1975, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Pianist, born Andrzej Matyszkowicz, clasically trained but more impressed by Art Tatum. Moved to New York in 1978, and wound up in Toronto, so he's relatively well known here. Solo piano, two Scott Joplin tunes, two Coltrane, rest originals. B+(*)
Mieczyslaw Mazur: Rag Swing Time [Polish Jazz Vol. 27] (1971, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Pianist, seems to be his only album, but he also appeared in Ragtime Jazz Band and Old Timers. Delivers on his title, especially with the solo rags to open and close. Adds banjo, guitar, bass, and drums for most cuts. B+(**)
The Wlodzimierz Nahorny Trio: Heart [Polish Jazz Vol. 15] (1967 , Polskie Nagrania Muza): Leader plays alto sax and piano, most distinctly the former, has had a pretty substantial career, which as far as I can tell starts here. Avant, backed by bass and drums, makes a strong impression. B+(***)
Zbigniew Namyslowski: Zbigniew Namyslowski Quartet [Polish Jazz Vol. 6] (1966, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Alto saxophonist, in the 1965 group that recorded Krzysztof Komeda's masterpiece Astigmatic, a prominent Polish jazz figure ever since -- best known to me for his 1973 album Winobranie. Quartet with the future Adam Makowicz on piano, plus bass and drums. A-
Zbigniew Namyslowski Quintet: Kujaviak Goes Funky [Polish Jazz Vol. 46] (1975, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Adds a second saxophonist, Tomasz Szukalski (soprano/tenor), and electric piano (Wojciech Karolak) and lots of bass to go funky. A-
Zbigniew Namyslowski Quintet: Polish Jazz - Yes! [Polish Jazz Vol. 77] (2016, Warner Music Poland): Plays soprano as well as tenor sax, with piano, two guitars, and trombone. B+(**)
NOVI: Bossa Nova [Polish Jazz Vol. 13] (1967, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Vocal group, three male and one female, acronym for New Original Vocal Instruments, also known as NOVI Singers. First of ten albums through 1981. Inspiration may be Brazilian, hinted at in the rhythm, but all original credits, mostly scat blending into choral, with piano-guitar-bass-drums, or sometimes strings. B
Polish Jazz Quartet: Polish Jazz Quartet [Polish Jazz Vol. 3] (1964 , Polskie Nagrania Muza): Polish names are notoriously difficult for English speakers, which has led some to shorten Polish names, or simply to punt, e.g., Polish Notation (PN) for the scheme worked out by Jan Lukasiewicz. Not sure if that's at play here, but here are the names: Jan "Ptaszyn" Wroblewski (tenor sax), Wojciech Karolak (piano), Juliusz Sandecki (bass), and Andrzej Dabrowski (drums). The bassist produced little after this, but the others went on to substantial careers, with Wroblewski touted as "the godfather of Polish jazz." Contemporary bop, well done. B+(**)
The Ragtime Jazz Band: The Ragtime Jazz Band [Polish Jazz Vol. 7] (1966, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Closer to what I think of as trad jazz than to ragtime. Octet, led by cornet player Wladyslaw Dobrowolski, with trumpet, trombone, tuba, clarinet, banjo, piano, and drums. All titles in Polish, credited to band members. B+(**)
Tomasz Stanko Quintet: Music for K (1970 , Polskie Nagrania Muza): Polish trumpeter, had played in Krzysztof Komeda's group in the 1960s, and Globe Unity Orchestra in 1970. This was his first album as leader, a quintet with two saxes, bass, and drums. Free jazz, pretty sharp all around, especially trumpet. Presumably K was Komeda, who died the year before, at 38. A-
Tomasz Stanko: Music 81 [Polish Jazz Vol. 69] (1982 , Polskie Nazrania Muza): Trumpet player, leads an impressive quartet with piano-bass-drums. B+(***)
Andrzej Trzaskowski: The Andrzej Trzaskowski Quintet [Polish Jazz Vol. 4] (1965, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Pianist (1933-98), backed by bass and drums, with Tomasz Stanko (trumpet) and Janusz Muniak (alto/soprano sax). Contemporary bop, starts strong, both on piano and trumpet. B+(**)
Michal Urbaniak's Group: Live Recording [Polish Jazz Vol. 24] (1971, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Violinist, also plays soprano/tenor/baritone saxes. Started in a Dixieland band, played with Komeda and Namyslowski in the 1960s. Moved to New York in 1973, adopted the group name Fusion, but ranges widely. Quartet with Adam Makowicz on piano, starting with the riotous 21:12 "Suite - Jazz Jamboree 70," followed by covers of Komeda's "Crazy Girl" and "Body and Soul." B+(***)
Warsaw Stompers: New Olreans Stompers [Polish Jazz Vol. 1] (1959-64 , Polskie Nagrania Muza): Polish jazz was first noticed in the West through Krzysztof Komeda's soundtracks and Tomasz Stanko joining avant-jazz groups like Globe Unity Orchestra, but it always made sense that there would be some trad jazz bands in the background -- Europe's first introduction to jazz was when the Original Dixieland Jazz Band toured England, and trad jazz remained the dominant form there through the 1950s, spreading elsewhere in Europe wherever you looked. I took a blind chance on a later album by trumpeter Henryk Majewski, clearly out of this tradition, and one of the stars here. This was assembled from six sessions over five years with various lineups -- the only constants are Majewski and Bogdan Ignatowski (banjo). As bright as anything out of London (or New Orleans) at the time. A-
Janusz Zabieglinski: Janusz Zabieglinski and His Swinget [Polish Jazz Vol. 9] (1967, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Leader plays clarinet and alto sax, only other album I can find of his is Tribute to Duke (1997), but he was part of the long-running Old Timers group. Sextet, with guitar, piano, bass, drums, and (most distinctively) vibraphone. B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: