Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Music Week

December archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 37011 [36943] rated (+68), 126 [125] unrated (+1).

Final Update: December 31: Earlier versions below. The initial post (Dec. 28) was just a placeholder, a day after the expected Music Week date. I was still very busy working on Jazz Critics Poll, but I also recalled holding past end-December Music Weeks open to make a clean break of the year. I added an update on Dec. 29 with links to Jazz Critics Poll, so scroll down to get to those. In the two days since, I've been monitoring Poll reaction (although not very obsessively or assiduously), while adding a few stragglers to the reviews below, and generally decompressing.

I should do a debriefing on the poll at some point, but fear that if I start now I won't get anything out tonight. I would like to refer you to this post by Amir ElSaffar on Facebook. Also, this one by publicist Matt Merewitz, who notes his role in hooking us up with Arts Fuse. I was fully prepared to run the poll on my own, with no outside sponsorship, so Arts Fuse wasn't a make or break deal. But they were more helpful than I expected, and I've enjoyed working with them. I also have to admit that they've gotten us more eyes and clicks than would have been the case had we only had my website.

I reckon it's safe here to point out that I dropped a few lines from my essay that some readers considered "sour grapes" over our previous sponsor, NPR:

When NPR declined to support the Jazz Critics Poll this year, they explained their preference for "a mosaic of outlooks" over "rankings," but the half-dozen essays they offered instead could have used a better grasp of data. For instance, one writer was bewildered that "there wasn't a new face as consensus critical darling this year," but the Poll showed there was a clear answer: James Brandon Lewis. Another writer expounded on The Wisdom of Our Elders without mentioning Wadada Leo Smith, who celebrated his 80th year with 5 highly regarded releases, totaling 12 CDs.

The actual line I was bouncing off of was their less-than-official explanation for dropping Jazz Critics Poll:

What we've set out to accomplish here has less to do with album rankings than reflecting on some form of lived experience: presenting a mosaic of outlooks, rather than a model of consensus.

I suspect that the real reason for dropping us was simply that they wanted to cover jazz like they cover other genres, and we represented this external data-driven appendage doing something very different, an approach they weren't using anywhere else. I can see the logic of that, and I don't doubt their right to direct their coverage. But I did find it interesting that as soon as they turned up their noses out poll, they committed a number of gaffes that would have been obvious to anyone on first glance at the data.

Data analysis isn't easy. It's certainly not something that comes naturally to most people. Even in my piece, I tended to just point out isolated bits that struck me as significant, rather than digging through it all systematically. That's partly because I don't have the tools set up, and partly because we're not collecting nearly as much data as I'd like to see. I offered myself up as an example, as someone who listened to 700 new jazz albums this year -- a fairly basic figure that I don't have for any other jazz critic, although I'd guess that the range is something like 200-1000 (I've come close to the upper bound in previous years).

I should note that I've made one significant change to my Jazz and Non-Jazz EOY lists: five A-list records now appear in both, so 73 + 58 = 126. The records were ones I had originally put in Non-Jazz (Anthony Joseph, Maria Muldaur, Jaubi, Theon Cross, Ruth Weiss; four of those were non-jazz artists in front of jazz bands, the fifth is a jazz artist playing electronica). I did this because I was writing about the increasingly blurry line between jazz and non-jazz, and realized that those five were examples I wanted to buttress my case with. That's helped to shift the Jazz/Non-Jazz spit in the former's favor.

I'm surprised I didn't find more A-list Non-Jazz this week, but new Jazz fell off as well -- and frankly, the EOY list aggregate isn't kicking up a lot of interesting candidates. I've heard everything down to 90-92 (Coral, Deafheaven, Gojira). I've looked for but haven't found jazz albums that finished {19, 35, 50, 54, 79} in the poll; the highest-rated one I haven't looked for yet is Kate McGarry at 84. While that search was frustrating, I took a fairly deep dive into the Jazz in Britain Bandamp stash, so for a while I had many more new reissues/historical than new releases. We're also seeing vinyl/digital reissues of 1960s British jazz classics from Decca. As a Penguin Guide devotee, I've heard of most of these names, so exploring their lost albums has been interesting.

Should get back on schedule with a short Music Week on Monday. I haven't done the December Streamnotes indexing, so need to work on that as well. Also need to think about some New Years changes. This has been a tough year for me, and not much future bodes better.

Update: December 29: The 16th Annual Jazz Critics Poll results are now public. The poll was started by Francis Davis at the Village Voice in 2006, with 30 critics polled. Davis has kept the poll going ever since, through moves to Rhapsody (2 years) then NPR (for 8 years) and The Arts Fuse this year. At the time, I was writing a Jazz Consumer Guide column for the Voice, so got an invite to vote. I got further involved a couple years later, when Voice editor Rob Harvilla asked me to host the ballots. For a number of years, Davis would collect and tabulate everything, then dump it on me after the poll closed, requiring a lot of error-checking. Eventually I developed a few programs to simplify data entry and automate formatting of the web pages. From that point, errors were reduced to a few of my typos, easily fixed. This year we were able to tabulate results as each ballot came in, and return formatted ballots to voters so they could flag mistakes way before the results were announced. This system is also nicely scalable: this year we're up to a record 156 voters. At some point I would expect adding voters would start averaging out the results, but thus far we just keep adding diversity, making the poll more useful and valuable than ever.

We wrote two essays to accompany the results. Those essays were initially published at Arts Fuse, along with the top results. (At some point, I'll add them to the JCP website. Eventually, I hope to have all of the poll materials archived there.) Francis Davis did his usual fine job of summarizing the results, reflecting on the year in jazz, and expanding on his own ballot, in The 2021 Jazz Critics Poll: Only the Best. I wrote a second essay, focusing more on the mechanics of the poll, on what gets measured and what doesn't, and what the more marginal data in the poll reveals, in Behind the 2021 Jazz Critics Poll: A Tool for the Times. We also revived an early JCP tradition and published a R.I.P. 2021's Jazz Notables.

I still have a bit more work to do on the website. I need to add some footnotes to the results, and to add the essays to the pulldown menus. Not sure what else. I keep thinking I should be able to generate voter lists for each album, so I may still fiddle with that. I also want to make it easier to compare results over years, but that will have to be a longer-term project.

I'm still not ready to wrap up this Music Week, though it wouldn't hurt to drop another album cover. I spent a lot of time last week listening to the Ron Mathewson archival tapes, which led me to more early modernist British jazz.

Initial Post: December 28: Music Week will be delayed for a day or two (or three) this week. I'm still working on an essay to go with the 16th Annual Jazz Critics Poll, and I'm having a horrible time trying to wrap it up. The Poll results and a Francis Davis essay will be published by The Arts Fuse real soon now, at which point my Jazz Critics Poll website will go live, with complete results, and complete ballots from our 156 distinguished critics.

When I know more, I'll kick out a tweet, then update this page. By the way, this isn't the first time I've extended the last Music Week of the year. It just seems tidier to wrap up the year on the last day. Although circumstances have made this year a good deal more stressful than in the past. Gloomy, even.

New records reviewed this week:

The Baylor Project: Generations (2021, Be a Light): Husband-and-wife duo Marcus and Jean Baylor, based in New York, she a former Zhané singer, he a former Yellowjackets drummer, slotted as jazz -- with steady help from Keith Loftus (tenor sax) and Freddie Hendrix (trumpet), and guest spots including Kenny Garrett and Jamison Ross -- but effectively a vintage soul throwback. B+(***)

Melanie Charles: Y'all Don't (Really) Care About Black Women (2021, Verve): Brooklyn-born jazz singer, Haitian roots, also plays flute, has a couple previous albums but this is a big step up in terms of label. One original credit, rest standards, but most titles have an appended "(Reimagined)." This strikes me as a bold conceptual tour de force, marred by glitches in execution (though they're hard to pin down.) B+(***)

The Chisel: Retaliation (2021, La Vida Es Un Mus): Punk band, or maybe post-punk (but not by much). Short (27:55), but counts as an album (14 songs). B+(*)

Theon Cross: Intra-I (2021, New Soil): British tuba player, also trombone, plays in Sons of Kemet and other jazz projects, second album, more electronica with Emre Ramazanoglu co-producing, featured guests on 5 (of 10) tracks, adding rap and beats, but the real lesson is: everything goes better with tuba. A-

Steven Feifke Big Band: Kinetic (2019 [2021], Outside In Music): Pianist, from Boston, debug 2015, composed 7 (of 10) pieces here, conventional big band plus guitar (Alex Wintz), with Veronica Swift vocals on 2 standards ("Until the Real Thing Comes Along," "On the Street Where You Live"). B+(*)

The Generations Quartet [Dave Liebman/Billy Test/Evan Gregor/Ian Froman]: Invitation (2021, Albert Murray/John Aveni): Group name, minus definite article, was used in 2016 by a different group (three old guys, including Oliver Lake, and a young drummer). Here it's one old guy, two youngsters, and drummer Froman in between. Favors standards, with a nice, relaxed feel, even when they kick it up a notch and Liebman really shines. Label named for the producers. A-

Hutch Harris: Suck Up All the Oxygen (2021, self-released, EP): Singer-songwriter from Portland, led the Thermals with bassist Kathy Foster 2002-18. Second solo album, a short one at 17:00 but has 10 songs, only two over 2:00. Brash, sharp strummed, cynical and pessimistic. "People say a lot of things, and most of them are lies" B+(**) [bc]

Abdullah Ibrahim: Solotude: My Journey, My Vision (2021, Gearbox): South African pianist, evidently he does a solo concert every year on his birthday. For his 87th, they rushed this gentle, pensive one into print. B+(**)

Il Sogno: Graduation (2021, Auand/Gotta Let It Out): Trio -- Emanuele Maniscalco (electric piano/synthesizer), Tomo Jacobson (bass), Oliver Louis Brostrøm Lauman (drums) -- second album. Has a playful air. B+(**) [sp]

Jlin: Embryo (2021, Planet Mu, EP): Footwork producer Jerrilyn Patton, three albums, offers a 4-cut 14:18 EP. Fairly sharp beats. B+(*)

Jungle: Loving in Stereo (2021, Awal): British dance-pop group with producers Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland, third album. B+(*)

Masabumi Kikuchi: Hanamichi: The Final Studio Recording (2013 [2021], Red Hook): Japanese pianist (1939-2015), moved to US to study at Berklee, wound up in New York. Perhaps best known here for his trio with Paul Motian and Gary Peacock, Tethered Moon (7 albums, 1990-2004). Last studio recording, piano solo. B+(*) [sp]

Katy Kirby: Cool Dry Place (2021, Keeled Scales): Singer-songwriter from Texas, based in Nashville, first album after an EP,a short one (9 songs, 28:17. Filed her under Country, but she doesn't much sound the part. B+(*)

Mon Laferte: 1940 Carmen (2021, Universal Music Mexico): After spending some time in Los Angeles, the Chilean-Mexican singer-songwriter works some English lyrics into her songs, implying gravitas, although the bit I heard most clearly was "couche avec moi." B+(***)

Jihye Lee Orchestra: Daring Mind (2020 [2021], Motéma): Korean composer-arranger, based in New York, second album, at 16 pieces, slightly less than a conventional big band (3 reeds). B+(**)

Lingua Ignota: Sinner Get Ready (2021, Sargent House): Alias for Kristin Hayter, whose biography includes bouts of catholocism and anorexia, fascination with serial killers and Hildegard von Bingen (source of her alias), practice in metal bands and an MFA thesis titled Burn Everything Trust No One Kill Yourself, "linking real-world examples of misogyny in music with her own personal life using a Markov chain." Fourth album, following Let the Evil of His Own Lips Cover Him, All Bitches Die, and Caligula, an EP called Epistolary Grieving for Jimmy Swaggart, and cover singles of "Jolene" and "Kim." I find this all very creepy. I've long felt that exposing children to Christianity was cruel, but have rarely seen so much evidence compacted so assiduously. B-

Mach-Hommy: Balens Cho (2021, Griselda, EP): Rapper Ramon Begon, from New Jersey but not far removed from Haiti, title Kreyol for "Hot Candles." Short: 24:07. B+(**)

Rachel Musson: Dreamsing (2020 [2021], 577): Tenor saxophonist, based in London, debut 2013, regularly works in groups with Pat Thomas, Mark Sanders, Alex Ward, and/or Olie Brice. Solo album, doesn't shy away from the rough edges. B+(**) [bc]

Oz Noy: Snapdragon (2020, Abstract Logix): Israeli fusion guitarist, based in New York since 1996, dozen albums since 2005. Unclear on credits, but certainly has some guitar chops. B+(*)

Jeff Parker: Forfolks (2021, International Anthem): Guitarist, established himself in Chicago, but now based in Los Angeles, I think of him as a jazz guy but more people probably know him from the post-rock group Tortoise. Had some kind of crossover coup in 2020 with Suite for Max Brown, but I can't say as I got it. B+(*) [bc]

Chris Pierce: American Silence (2021, Pierce): Folksinger from California, 10th album since 2002, just guitar, harmonica, and pointed political lyrics. B+(*)

Portico Quartet: Monument (2021, Gondwana): British instrumental group, originally (from 2007) built around a Chinese instrument called the hang, switched to samples after Nick Mulvey left in 2011. B+(*)

Enrico Rava: Edizione Speciale (2019 [2021], ECM): Italian trumpet player, major figure for 50+ years, leads a sextet including long-time pianist Giovanni Guidi. B+(***)

Stephen Riley: I Remember You (2019 [2021], SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, 16th album on this label going back to 2005. Quartet with guitarist Vic Juris in his last performance; also Jay Anderson (bass) and Jason Tiemann. Light, lovely tone. B+(***)

Jana Rush: Painful Enlightenment (2021, Planet Mu): Chicago DJ/producer, gets her slotted as footwork (perhaps unfairly), second album, with two cuts featuring DJ PayPal, one with Nancy Fortune. Variously unappealing but not uninteresting sounds. B

Elori Saxl: The Blue of Distance (2021, Western Vinyl): Last name Kramer, from Minneapolis, based in New York, first album, deeply hued ambient clouds. B+(*)

Serengeti: Have a Summer (2021, self-released): Prolific Chicago rapper tries his hand at pop anthems. Maybe to show anyone can do it? I'm perplexed, and annoyed. Short album (9 songs, 27:38). B [sp]

Shame: Drunk Tank Pink (2021, Dead Oceans): English post-punk group, second album, big advance over their debut (if sounding more like the Fall does the trick, which I'd say it does). B+(***)

Skerebotte Fatta: Appaz (2020 [2021], ForTune): Polish sax & drums duo, Jan Malkowski and Dominik Mokrzewski. B+(***) [bc]

Rejjie Snow: Baw Baw Black Sheep (2021, Honeymoon/+1): Irish rapper Alexander Anyaegbunam, from Dublin, father Nigerian, mother Irish-Jamaican, moved to US in 2011 to play soccer, returned to Ireland to focus on music. Second album. Nice flow, light, catchy. B+(**)

Sonic Liberation Front: Moon Rust Red Streets (2020 [2021], High Two): Baltimore jazz group, goes back to 2000, bata drummer Kevin Diehl (aka Kevobatala) the main guy. B+(**) [sp]

Tyshawn Sorey/Alarm Will Sound: For George Lewis/Autoschediasms (2019-20 [2021], Cantaloupe, 2CD): Alarm Will Sound is a large (20 piece) post-classical ensemble, originally formed at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, debut album 2005. Sorey is an important jazz drummer, but here is composer and (2nd disc) conductor. Two long pieces, the first more ambient, the second more disruptive. B+(*)

Spellling: The Turning Wheel (2021, Sacred Bones): Singer-songwriter Tia Cabral, from Sacramento, third album. Arty pop, hard to tell. B+(*)

Throttle Elevator Music: Final Floor (2021, Wide Hive): I'm at a loss to describe this group, which seems to be calling it quits after six albums (plus a Retrospective since 2012. Breakout name is tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington, joined by Kasey Knudsen (sax) and Erik Jekabson (trumpet). Main figure is producer Gregory Howe (guitar/keyboards). Perhaps the idea was to start with bland background ("elevator") music, then give it some muscle tone. They've done that much pretty regularly. But it always seemed like they should have done more. B+(**)

Valerie June: The Moon and Stars: Prescription for Dreamers (2021, Fantasy): Singer-songwriter from Tennesse, last name Hockett, grew up singing gospel in church, fifth album since 2006. Doesn't register as any genre, which wouldn't matter if the songs stuck with you, but they haven't . . . yet. B+(*)

Morgan Wade: Reckless (2021, Ladylike): Country singer-songwriter from Virginia, second album. Great voice, solid songs. B+(***)

Tierra Whack: Rap? (2021, Interscope, EP): First of three-in-three-weeks EPs, three cuts, 8:39. B+(**) [sp]

Tierra Whack: Pop? (2021, Interscope, EP): Second part, 3 more songs, 8:23. More guitar jangle. B+(**) [sp]

Tierra Whack: R&b? (2021, Interscope, EP): Third try, 3 more songs, 9:20. Sings more in that neo-soul vein, which she doesn't have the voice for the usual exaggeration. B+(*) [sp]

Jamire Williams: But Only After You Have Suffered (2021, International Anthem): Drummer, second album, stradles jazz and hip-hop. Interesting sound, more underground hip-hop than jazz, but I'm finding this rather impenetrable. B+(*) [sp]

Willow: Lately I Feel Everything (2021, MSFTS Music/Roc Nation): Last name Smith, singles since 2010 and albums since 2015, seems to have started as a rapper but this is mostly indie rock, with three songs featuring Travis Barker, one more Cherry Glazerr (but also one with Tierra Whack). Brutal but short (11 songs, 26:05). B+(*)

Young Thug: Punk (2021, YSL/300 Entertainment/Atlantic): Atlanta rapper Jeffrey Williams, prolific since 2011 although this is only his second studio album. B+(***) [sp]

Brandee Younger: Somewhere Different (2021, Impulse!): Harp player, fifth album since 2011, her duo with bassist-husband Dezron Douglas was one of the best things to come out of the lockdown. B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Hasaan Ibn Ali: Retrospect in Retirement of Delay: The Solo Recordings (1962-65 [2021], Omnivore, 2CD): Pianist William Henry Langford Jr. (or Lankford, 1931-80), from Philadelphia, cut one album in 1964, released as The Max Roach Trio Featuring the Legendary Hasaan, testimony both to the pianist's local reputation and general obscurity. A 1965 album shelved by Atlantic was released to great acclaim in April, 2021, and here we have some previously unknown solo tapes from the period. B+(**)

Neil Ardley & the New Jazz Orchestra: Jazz Calendar: Olympic Studios '66 (1966 [2020], Jazz in Britain, EP): English pianist (1937-2004), was director of NJO 1964-70. This collects five tracks (21:03) from two 10-11 piece lineups. B+(*) [bc]

Neil Ardley: Kaleidoscope of Rainbows: QEH, 20th Oct 75 (1975 [2021], Jazz in Britain, 2CD): Title per front cover, means Queen Elizabeth Hall. Extended piece, a studio version released in 1976 with Ardley playing synthesizer. This live one, performed mostly with New Jazz Orchestra alumni including all of Ian Carr's Nucleus, is significantly longer, but the keyboard/guitar structures extend nicely, and the reeds section is top notch. A- [bc]

Ian Carr Double Quintet: Solar Session (1970 [2021], Jazz in Britain): Trumpet/flugelhorn player, his doppelganger here Harry Beckett, the paired saxophonists Tony Roberts and Brian Smith, the other slots a bit skewed: the drummer paired with congas, bass both acoustic and electric, the chordal instruments electric piano (Karl Jenkins) and guitar (Chris Spedding). Spacey but short (5 cuts, 26:38). B+(**) [bc]

The Allen Cohen Big Band: The Oracle [The Ron Mathewson Tapes Vol. 4] (1968 [2020], Jazz in Britain, EP): Cohen doesn't seem to have any more discography, but is director/arranger for this 11-piece outfit, with many names that since became famous (e.g., Kenny Wheeler, Mike Osborne, Alan skidmore, John Surman). Three tracks, 18:40. B+(*)

Mike Gibbs: Revisiting Tanglewood 63: The Early Tapes (1970 [2021], Jazz in Britain): Rhodesia-born British composer and bandleader, studied at Berklee and was involved with Tanglewood Music Center, also in Massachusetts, whence the title of his second (1971) album, Tanglewood 63. All five pieces that wound up on the album are here: three from late May, and two from November 1, shortly before the album sessions started (November 10). The groups here are smaller (13-16 pieces, no strings). B+(**) [bc]

Group Sounds Four & Five: Black and White Raga (1965-66 [2020], Jazz in Britain): Two rare sessions for groups led by Henry Lowther (trumpet) and Lyn Dobson (tenor sax), recorded by drummer John Hiseman: a quartet with Jack Bruce (bass), and a quintet with Ken McCarthy (piano) and Ron Rubin (bass). B+(**) [bc]

Joe Harriott: Chronology: Live 1968-69 (1968-69 [2020], Jazz In Britain): Alto saxophonist, five quintet tracks (25:54) with Kenny Wheeler (trumpet/flugelhorn), Pat Smythe (piano), bass (Ron Mathewson), and drums (Bill Eyden), followed by two tracks featuring Harriott in the Harry South Big Band (13:10). B+(**) [bc]

Joe Harriott Quintet: Formation: Live '61 (1961 [2021], Jazz in Britain, EP): Previously unreleased, four songs plus a 4:04 drum solo, total 21:11. Alto sax, with Les Condon (trumpet/flugelhorn), Pat Smythe (piano), bass, and drums. B+(*) [bc]

Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers: Ramble in Music City: The Lost Concert (1990 [2021], Nonesuch): Hype refers to the "Nashville debut of the acoustic all-star group," but the names barely register -- not that I'm up on legendary Nashville studio musicians. Wide range of songs: "Sweet Dreams" and "Save the Last Dance for Me" is a nice sequence. B+(**)

The Tubby Hayes Quartet: Free Flight [The Ron Mathewson Tapes Vol. 3] (1972 [2020], Jazz in Britain, 2CD): Britain's major tenor saxophonist of the bop era, died young (38 in 1973), recording this during his brief recovery after major heart surgery in 1971. With Mike Pyne (piano), Mathewson (bass), and Tony Levin (drums). B+(**) [bc]

Tubby Hayes Quartet: The Complete Hopbine '69 [The Ron Mathewson Tapes Vol. 7] (1969 [2021], Jazz in Britain, 2CD): Live date, a month before his on-stage collapse, "signaling the beginning of the final phase of his tragically foreshortened career." With Mick Pyne (piano), Ron Mathewson (bass), and Spike Wells (drums). B+(***) [bc]

Allan Holdsworth/Ray Warleigh/Ron Mathewson/Bryan Spring: Warleigh Manor: The Ron Mathewson Tapes Vol. 1 (1979 [2020], Jazz in Britain): Mathewson was a British bassist (1944-2020), started with Tubby Hayes in 1966, with many side credits over the years, ranging from the Earl Hines Trio to the Charlie Watts Orchestra. His private stash of tapes kicked off this label/project, with this breezy early recording of fusion guitarist Holdsworth and sax/flute player Warleigh. B+(**) [bc]

Journeys in Modern Jazz: Britain (1965-1972) (1965-72 [2021], Decca): Up through the 1950s, jazz in Britain was dominated by trad bands, with occasional modernists (like Tubby Hayes and Joe Harriott) emerging toward 1960. After 1970, the British emerged as innovators in prog/fusion and avant. The missing links are found in the ferment of young modernists of the late 1960s. Jazz in Britain has picked up some marginal tapes from this period, but labels like Decca and Columbia hold most of the era's major works. The former is sampled liberally here: Kenny Wheeler, Don Rendell, John Surman, Mike Westbrook, Stan Tracey, Neil Ardley, Alan Skidmore, Michael Gibbs, Michael Garrick, Harry Beckett, and more. A-

Ron Mathewson: Memorial (1968-76 [2020], Jazz in Britain): English bassist (1944-2020), didn't lead any albums but Discogs co-credits him with 9, Wikipedia lists 24 credits, and his numbers are growing at his private tapes have formed the backbone of this label's archives. This grabs six primo pieces from various groups -- highlights include Amalgam and Harry Beckett's S & R Powerhouse Section -- then ends with a solo piece. B+(***) [bc]

Mathewson & Mathewson: Blow (1976 [2020], Jazz in Britain): Bassist Ron and his brother Mat on electric piano, from Ron's tapes. Pretty minor, and short (27:43). B

Lee Morgan: The Complete Live at the Lighthouse (1970 [2021], Blue Note, 8CD): Brilliant trumpet player, lived fast and died young (33, shot by his common-law wife), played with John Coltrane while still a teenager, starred in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, recorded a number of masterpieces under his own name. This is from a 3-day, 12-set stand, with Bennie Maupin (sax), Harold Mabern (piano), Jymie Merritt (bass), and Mickey Roker (drums), initially appearing on a 1971 2-LP set (73:08), expanded to 3-CD (183:47) in 1996, and finally complete here (with a 12-LP option). At best, an exhaustive live box lets you get lost in the music -- examples include Miles Davis: The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel (1965, 7CD), and Art Pepper: The Complete Village Vanguard Sessions (1977, 9CD). This isn't quite that, and never was, but it sure has its share of bright moments. B+(***)

The New Jazz Orchestra: Le Déjuener Sur L'Herbe (1968 [2021], Decca): Directed by Neil Ardley, who wrote the title track and arranged a Miles Davis tune, produced by Tony Reeves, a piano-less big band with most of the usual suspects contributing, including Jack Bruce on bass. B+(***)

Mike Osborne & Friends: Live at the Peanuts Club (1975-76 [2020], Jazz in Britain): British alto saxophonist, friends are all notable in their own right: Alan Skidmore (tenor sax), Harry Beckett and Marc Charig (trumpets), Harry Miller (bass), Louis Moholo-Moholo (drums), and Elton Dean (alto sax) joins in on the two standards ("Well You Needn't" and "Cherokee") -- the latter closes with a tremendous flourish. B+(***) [bc]

PAZ/The Singing Bowls of Tibet/Allan Holdsworth: Live in London '81: The Ron Mathewson Tapes Vol. 2 (1981 [2020], Jazz in Britain, EP): Dick Crouch is composer/director (presumably of PAZ), Alain Presencer is credited with the singing bowls that provide the calming center the other musicians are reluctant to disrupt: Ray Warleigh (alto sax and flutes), Holdsworth (guitar), Geoff Castle (keyboards), and Mathewson (bass). Short (4 tracks, 24:52). B [bc]

Plastic People of the Universe: Magicke Noci 1997 (1997 [2021], Guerilla): Czech rock group, founded by Milan Hlavsa in 1968, drew on Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground (a mix that never made sense to me), strugged under Soviet repression but got an album released in France in 1978. Disbanded 1988, but revived after Communist regime fell, and carried on after Hlavsa's death in 2001. This seems to have been a high-point of their post-Communist period -- I'd recommend their previous 1997 over this one, but they find their groove midway here, and finish strong. B+(***) [sp]

Elvis Presley: Elvis: Back in Nashville (1971 [2021], RCA/Legacy, 4CD): Deep dive into Presley's May-June 1971 Nashville sessions, intended as some sort of progression from his box of 1970 sessions From Elvis in Nashville, beyond his much-heralded 1969 From Elvis in Nashville. Promise here is that returning to the tapes strips away the goop added for his album releases. Unfortunately, his big hit this time was Elvis Sings the Wonderful World of Christmas, which was so awful I skipped over most of it (it's largely buried on disc 3). That leads us with two unoriginal insights: he was (still) a very great singer, and his capacity for camp was hinted at but rarely developed (for such a hint, refer to his "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right"). There's a famous bootleg called Elvis' Greatest Shit. Given the laws of capitalism, it's only a matter of time before RCA legitimizes it with an official release (possibly a staggeringly huge box set). When they do so,they can draw liberally from this. And the "greatest" isn't hyperbole. Elvis is great. But he's also full of shit. B-

Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet: Blue Beginnings (1964 [2021], Jazz in Britain): Soprano/tenor sax and trumpet/flugelhorn, backed with piano-bass-drums, an important in the more conventional decade before fusion and the avant-garde became defining forces in British jazz. Title may alude to the group's 1965 album Shades of Blue. B+(**) [bc]

The Ray Russell Sextet: Spontaneous Event: Live Vol. 1: 1967-69 (1967-69 [2020], Jazz in Britain): English guitarist, started about here, most recent record was 2020. From several dates and groups, all backed with piano-bass-drums, 4 tracks with Dave Holland. B+(***) [bc]

The Ray Russell Sextet: Forget to Remember: Live Vol. 2: 1970 (1970 [2021], Jazz in Britain): Cover adds: Featuring Harry Beckett (trumpet/flugelhorn). Also Tony Roberts (saxes), Nick Evans (trombone), bass, and drums. The horns, and not just Beckett, are outstanding, but the guitar holds them together and drives them on. A- [bc]

Splinters: Inclusivity (1972 [2021], Jazz in Britain, 3CD): Short-lived group, didn't produce any albums, although a 77:30 live shot appeared in 2009 as Split the Difference. This builds on the same 100 Club performance in May (first two discs here), and adds a later set from September, two weeks before drummer Phil Seamen died. The band includes Trevor Watts (alto sax), Tubby Hayes (tenor sax), Kenny Wheeler (trumpet/flugelhorn), Stan Tracey (piano), Jeff Clyne (bass), and two drummers (Seamen and John Stevens). B+(***) [bc]

Mike Taylor Quartet: Mandala (1965 [2021], Jazz in Britain): British pianist, released two jazz albums on Columbia (UK), one with Jack Bruce on bass, and is perhaps better known as co-writer of three Cream songs (from Wheels of Fire, with Ginger Baker lyrics). Nonetheless, he was homeless when he drowned at age 30. He's gotten a it of attention recently: Ezz-Thetics released a compilation of selected works, some performed by Cream, but this is more impressive. With Dave Tomlin (soprano sax), Tony Reeves (bass), and Jon Hiseman (drums). Four Taylor compositions plus "Night in Tunisia." Tomlin didn't have much of a career, but he's impressive here. B+(***) [bc]

Old music:

Mike Gibbs: Directs the Only Chrome-Waterfall Orchestra (1975, Bronze): Evocative group name, Gibbs' compositions have a shimmering flow. Group is large and star-studded, although the list of featured soloists is much shorter, especially Philip Catherine (guitar, who wrote the only non-Gibbs piece), Tony Coe, and Charlie Mariano. A-

Limited Sampling: Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.

Ikizukuri + Susans Santos Silva: Suicide Underground Orchid (2021, Multikulti Project): Portuguese trio -- Julius Gabriel (soprano sax), Gonçalo Almeida (bass), Gustavo Costa (drums/electronics) -- plus trumpet. ++ [bc]

Grade (or other) changes:

Allen Lowe: Turn Me Loose White Man (1900-60 [2021], Constant Sorrow, 30CD): Due to a bookkeeping error, it didn't occur to me to pick this as the year's top reissue/archival, in jazz or anything else. That's because I got the CDs in 2020, but the second volume of the book didn't come out until February, which merits a revised release date. Hard to overstate what an accomplishment this is. Lowe fancies himself as a renegade, unorthodox thinker, and he's entitled to that view, but in the coming decades whole generations will study it, because no one has, or probably ever will have, done a more thorough or exacting job of integrating American recorded music into a more coherent whole. [was: A-] A [cd]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Carol Liebowitz/Adam Lane/Andrew Drury: Blue Shift (Line Art) [03-04]

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