An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, November 9, 2020
Music: Current count 34320  rated (+34), 223  unrated (+9).
Spent most of the week in a fairly deep funk, not just due to the mixed bag of election results. Part of this is uncertainty as to where to go next with my writing. I'm tired of politics, and tired of music, and not too optimistic about anything else. I've long vowed that when I give up on the world, I'll go back to reading fiction. I haven't done that yet, but could go that way. Meanwhile, I've continued to make half-efforts at the usual projects. Yesterday's Weekend Roundup came to 811 lines, down 28% from the previous week, and down 45% from two weeks back. Indeed, it was the shortest since July 7, although early in the year most columns (23 total) were shorter.
As for music, I started off every day last week with vintage jazz albums. I noted the "breakfast music" in my Twitter feed, so I can report them here:
These are all grade A/A+ records.
When I finally did return to my computer, I spent most of my time on my record lists: the tracking list, and the metacritic list. In particular, I caught up on some jazz sources: All About Jazz, Free Jazz Collective, Bandcamp (Dave Sumner), and Stereogum (Phil Freeman). That, plus time lingering on Aerophonic's Bandcamp site, led me to most of this week's records. Phil Overeem spotted most of the new compilations (at least, the better ones).
Fell further behind on my demo queue, with more than the usual mail haul this week. I will get to them in due course, assuming some return to normalcy -- although I can tell you now that the Rich Halley CD is one of his best. Note that some albums don't officially release until 2021. That forced me to set up the scaffolding for tracking 2021 releases. Still lots of 2020 to process, but looking forward to January 20, even more so than in 2009. Thank God (and FDR) for the 20th Amendment.
New records reviewed this week:
Actress: Karma & Desire (2020, Ninja Tune): British ambient electronica composer Darren Cunningham, eighth album since 2008, singles back to 2004. Inconspicuous vocals, beats hopeful. B+(*) [bc]
Aluna: Renaissance (2020, Mad Decent): Aluna Francis, born in London, mother from Belize, half of the AlunaGeorge electropop duo with George Reid, first album on her own. Various looks, but "Body Pump" is singles list material. Change-of-pace ballad "Whistle" sounded off at first, but won me over midway through. A-
Jon Armstrong Sextet: Reabsorb (2020, Orenda): I Googled him and got "Heather Armstrong's ex-husband." I was also offered results about a "Film Actor" and a "Writer," and an entry for "one of the world's best magical entertainers," and some tweets (probably from the writer). This one plays tenor sax, started in Los Angeles, has a teaching job in Pocatello, two previous albums. This is a sextet with trumpet (Dan Rosenboom), trombone, piano, electric bass, and drums. Short, with two pieces, 29:38. First one jumps out at you. Second one lies back in wait, then pounces even harder. B+(**) [bc]
David Binney/Kenny Wollesen: Basu (2020, Mythology): Alto sax and drums duo, with both adding considerable electronics, although the latter is the expert there, with his own "Wollesonics" tool kit. Some evidence of Binney's sax chops, much more electronics, interesting and less so. B+(*)
Jamie Branch/Dave Rempis/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Tollef Østvang: Tripel/Dubbel (2018 , Aerophonic): Trumpet, alto/tenor sax, bass, drums, a Chicago/Norway meet up in Belgium, for a very solid and occasionally exciting 40:49 live shot. B+(***) [bc]
Johanna Burnheart: Burnheart (2020, Ropeadope): German violinist, also sings and plays synthesizer, classical training, has a few side credits including Maisha and Yazz Ahmed, debut album, backed with keyboards, bass, and drums. B+(*)
Cosmic Vibrations: Pathways & Passages (2018 , Spiritmuse): Singer Dwight Trible, also plays kalimba, backed by a Los Angeles group with Pablo Calogero (tenor sax/reeds), bass, and three percussionists. Deep spiritual roots in LA jazz, including Horace Tapscott and Build an Ark. B+(**)
Dej Loaf: Sell Sole II (2020, BMG): Detroit rapper Deja Trimble, title refers back to her 2014 mixtape. Slack beats, gets her words in. B+(**)
Demae: Life Works Out . . . Usually (2020, Touching Bass, EP): R&B singer, from London, full name Demae Chloma Wodu. Feature spots for Ego Elia May (vocal) and Joe Armon-Jones (keyb). 8 tracks, 24:07. B
Tashi Dorji/Tyler Damon: To Catch a Bird in a Net of Wind (2018 , Trost): Guitar-drums duo, the former from Bhutan, now based in North Carolina; the latter based in Chicago; both members of Kuzu, along with Dave Rempis. B+(***) [bc]
Tashi Dorji: Stateless (2020, Drag City): Solo guitar, doesn't rock, doesn't swing, hard to be sure of his folk influences (even from his native Bhutan), sounds more like Fred Frith than Derek Bailey, but not much. B+(*)
Silke Eberhard/Dave Rempis/Kent Kessler/Mike Reed: Exposure (2017 , Aerophonic): German alto saxophonist -- leader of Potsa Lotsa -- visits Chicago, picks up local sax-bass-drums trio. First half (19:36) is one of the most successful pieces in the label's extended tape dump. Second half tails off a bit. B+(***) [bc]
Michael Foster/Dave Rempis/Jason Roebke/Tyler Damon: The Eagle (2019 , Aerophonic, 2CD): Saxophonist (soprano/tenor), from New York, visiting Chicago for two improv sets (49:40 + 48:36) with a local sax-bass-drums trio. B+(***) [bc]
Ill Considered: Ill Considered 9: East/West (2019 , Ill Considered Music): British group, core: Emre Ramazanoglu (drums), Idris Rahman (sax), Leon Brichard (bass). This one collects two London concerts, one from the East side of town (with Tamar Osborn on second sax), the other from the West (with extra percussion by Satin Singh). I've always been impressed by this group: they have a bit of world groove, and Rahman is a terrific saxophonist. 3 and 6 are the ones I most recommend, but this is in the ballpark. B+(***) [bc]
Josh Johnson: Freedom Exercise (2020, Northern Spy): Multi-instrumentalist (sax, keyboards), from Chicago, based in Los Angeles, first album, has a fair number of side credits (e.g., Jeff Parker, Makaya McCraven). I get the feeling this label wants to find the future of jazz-rock fusion, but is stabbing blindly at it. B+(*)
Les Sangliers: Miniscules (2018 , Aerophonic): Free jazz quintet, dates back to 2012 but this, from a tour of France, seems to be it. Two saxophonists (Keefe Jackson and Dave Rempis), two percussionists (Peter Orins and Didier Lasserre), with pianist Christine Wodrascka in the middle. Runs hot and cold. B+(*) [bc]
Kylie Minogue: Disco (2020, BMG): Australian dance pop star, debut 1988, 15th album, retro, upbeat, not what I'd call classic disco, but a fair, functional approximation. B+(**)
Rachel Musson: I Went This Way (2019 , 577): British tenor saxophonist, half-dozen albums since 2013, mostly small and free, goes big and arty here, with strings, extra sax and flute, and voice (Debbie Sanders, more spoken than sung, "grit in the mix"). I'm not much into the strings, but the sax trio parts are invigorating. B+(**)
Rachel Musson: Shifa: Live in Oslo (2019 , 577): Tenor sax trio, with Pat Thomas (piano) and Mark Sanders (drums), follows up a Live at Cafe Oto from last year. Club name is Blow Out, an apt description of the single 34:04 improv. B+(**)
Aquiles Navarro & Tcheser Holmes: Heritage of the Invisible II (2020, International Anthem): Trumpet and drums duo, members of group Irreversible Entanglements, self-released a duo album in 2014 but I can't find any further reference to it, or other solo/duo work. Credit Navarro also with keyboards and voice, and there are a few other guest spots. Very scattered, impressive at times. B+(**) [bc]
Optic Sink: Optic Sink (2020, Goner): "Synthetic minimal music for now!" From Natalie Hoffman, of the punk group Nots, and Ben Bauermeister. Texturally similar to Wire. B+(***)
Paris: Safe Space Invader (2020, Guerrilla Funk): Rapper Oscar Jackson Jr., gained some fame with his politically pointed early 1990s albums, slowed down after his label-defining Guerrilla Funk, but got a musical jolt with his 2006 Public Enemy collaboration, and had a lot to say in 2015's Pistol Politics. Hard funk beats, more politics, most obviously "Baby Man Hands" on Trump. B+(***)
Theo Parrish: Wuddaji (2020, Sound Signature): Detroit electronica DJ/producer, albums since 1998. Starts slow and runs long, but finds its groove in the middle. B+(**)
Dave Rempis/Terrie Ex/Tim Daisy: Sugar Shack (2013 , Aerophonic): Long-running sax-drums duo, Vandermark Five alums, plus Dutch guitarist, leader of the post-punk group Ex, who knows the drill here from his own Vandermark collaboration, Lean Left. B+(**) [bc]
Dave Rempis/Jim Baker/Ingebright Håker Flaten/Avreeayl Ra: Millenniums (2019 , Aerophonic): Live at Chicago Jazz Festival, one of a large stash of tapes the Chicago tenor saxophonist released digital only for pandemic summer. Three long improvs, backed by piano, bass, and drums. B+(*) [bc]
Steph Richards: Supersense (2020, Northern Spy): Trumpet player, couple previous records, this a quartet with Jason Moran (piano), Stomu Takeishi (bass), and Kenny Wollesen (drums and his trademark Wollesonics). Avant instinct don't always pan out, but have their moments. B+(**)
Tiwa Savage: Celia (2020, Universal): Nigerian pop star and actress, real name Isale Eko, studied in London before moving back. Third album. Pop globalization. B+(*)
Cat Toren's Human Kind: Scintillating Beauty (2019 , New Focus): Canadian pianist, based in Brooklyn, fourth album. Kept group name from her 2017 album. With sax (Xavier Del Castillo), oud (Yoshie Fruchter), bass, drums, and chimes/tuning forks/singing bowls. Most impressive on the soaring closer, especially the sax. B+(***)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Cool Cats Invasion (Highlife, Juju & Palm-Wine) (1950s-60s , Moochin' About): Huge (102 tracks) collection of vintage pop music from Nigeria and Ghana, picks up a few names I recognize (like I.K. Dairo, Victor Olaiya, E.T. Mensah, Rex Lawson, Haruna Ishola, a very young Fela Kuti), many more I don't. Seems to only be available as a digital, and is pretty cheap as those things go. Not sure how the time adds up, or how many CDs it would take (5-6?). Only played it once, and haven't regretted a minute. Can't swear enough of it is brilliant, but I've always loved this music. Deserves some serious documentation. A- [bc]
Etta Jones: A Soulful Sunday: Live at the Left Bank (1972 , Cellar Live): Jazz singer (1928-2001), started with Buddy Johnson (recorded a tribute in 1998 called My Buddy), recorded for Prestige in 1960, and followed Houston Person to Muse and HighNote. Backed here by Cedar Walton Trio (with Sam Jones and Billy Higgins), who open with a 10:07 piece, before intrducing Jones. Walton is in fine form, but Jones sounds strangely off. B-
Kaleidoscope: New Spirits Known & Unknown (2014-20 , Soul Jazz, 2CD): Survey of recent British jazz, especially the semi-popular niche for avant/soul jazz/fusion. Missing some big names in that niche, but I'm familiar with at least half of the names, less so the short-lived groups. Most strong groove pieces, few of them rote, some positively inspiring. B+(***)
La Locura De Machuca 1975-1980 (1975-80 , Analog Africa): Colombian music from Baranquilla, recorded by Rafael Machuca for his Discos Machuca label. B+(**) [bc]
Maghreb K7 Club: Synth Raï, Chaoui & Staifi (1985-1997) (1985-97 , Bongo Joe): North African music, developed at clubs in Lyon in France. B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: