An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, January 10, 2022
Music: Current count 37068  rated (+36), 133  unrated (+5).
I published a batch of questions and answers on Sunday: on keeping track of grades, on playing vinyl, and political tactics. The latter is something I've been thinking about, but have less and less confidence of convincing anyone. Nonetheless, I've started to think about a Speaking of Which later in the week. I'd also like to do a Book Roundup post before long. I still have a long ways to go with The Dawn of Everything, but quite a bit of new stuff has come out since my latest (April 18, 2021).
I continue to be perplexed as to why all this searching through EOY lists isn't generating more 2021 A- records. Thus far I've found one, vs. 14 new 2020 A- records in January 2021. This week's only new A- is the first 2022 release. Late in the week, I was having so much trouble deciding on which recent release to listen to next I reverted to my old idea of listening to unheard Christgau A-list records. I knew of a couple that I hadn't been able to find on Napster but were on Spotify -- that number is small, but it was one reason for signing up. The other main reason is that Spotify has an application that runs on Linux, whereas I've had to use Napster's web interface. The latter is both a terrible resource hog and is prone to hangs -- problems I haven't encountered on Spotify.
On the other hand, I'm finding it harder to browse for things on Spotify, and I haven't tried to put any playlists together. I assembled the Platters compilation playlist rather easily on Napster. I have a couple of other (shorter and earlier) Platters compilations I'm quite happy with -- The Very Best of the Platters (1955-60 , Mercury), and The Best of the Platters [20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection] (1955-61 , Mercury) -- but this particular one was the one that Christgau eventually settled on. The remaining question is whether the 2-CD The Magic Touch: An Anthology might be the better pick.
I considered doing the same thing with ChangesOneBowie, but didn't take it on until I saw a bunch of tributes on Bowie's birthday. I eventually found the extra single, then noticed that Spotify had the whole album (albeit with later remasters). So I gave it a whirl, knew everything, and appreciated the context. As I noted in the review, I had all the original vinyl LPs (but no longer), and bought the extended CD ChangesBowie early when it came out. It seems a little odd to go to the trouble of reviewing obsolete configurations, but in this case, with resurgent interest in vinyl, the original best-of got reissued (in 2016).
The Charles Brackeen record was suggested by Chris Monsen on news of the saxophonist's death. I'm not a big fan of his other Silkheart albums -- the one time he got a real chance as a leader, although he's been more impressive as a sideman.
El Intruso published their 14th Annual International Critics Poll results. I was one of 71 critics who voted in the poll. My ballot, which was pretty much off the top of my head (with occasional glances at my 2021 list), is second down here. A little less than half of the voters also participated in our Jazz Critics Poll. The El Intruso poll skews more avant than JCP, which is obvious with the results (especially for the instrument slots). More interesting to me is that it draws a lot more on non-American critics.
Still dragging my feet on indexing recent Streamnotes monthlies -- I think I'm down two at present. It's been hard keeping up.
New records reviewed this week:
Gregg Belisle-Chi: Koi: Performing the Music of Tim Berne (2020 , Relative Pitch): Guitarist, based in New York, plays solo on ten pieces composed by Berne, with Berne and David Torn producing. I imagine I could recognize Berne's alto sax anywhere, but the songs themselves are another story. B+(*)
Chris Brokaw: Puritan (2021, 12XU): Singer-songwriter, graduated from Oberlin, played drums in Codeine, co-founded Come, has worked with another dozen groups, went solo around 2001, 25+ albums since then. B+(**)
Sharel Cassity/Rajiv Halim/Greg Ward: Altoizm (2021, Afar Music): Three alto saxophonists, from Chicago, I've seen them ordered every which way, with alphabetical making as much sense as any. Rhythm section: Richard D. Johnson (piano), Jeremiah Hunt (bass), Michael Piolet (drums). Seven tracks (2-3-2). Bebop throwback, like a Charlie Parker tag team. B+(***)
The Coral: Coral Island (2021, Run On, 2CD): English rock band, tenth album since 2002, indie guitars and folk/psychedelic mix. I was intimidated by the 2-CD packaging, but songs are short and the 24 split over two discs only add up to 54:04. B
Dessa: Ides (2021, Doomtree, EP): Minnesota rapper Margret Wander, also writes fiction and poetry, joined Doomtree collective in 2005, 2010 debut (A Badly Broken Code) is about as brilliantly literate as hip-hop gets, four albums and more EPs, sung more after the debut, does both here. Seven songs plus a remix, 25:55. [Bonus choice cut: check out her earlier single, Who's Yellen Now?] B+(***) [bc]
Dltzk: Frailty (2021, Deadair): First album after an EP and a couple singles, slotted under electronica or "digicore," more precisely described as "guitar music created by a Skrillex and Porter Robinson obsessive." That's pretty close to the mark. B
Derrick Gardner and the Big Dig! Band: Still I Rise (2020, Impact Jazz): Trumpet player, as was his father (Burgess Gardner; brother Vincent Gardner plays trombone), from Chicago, has a previous album from 2005 (actually a couple more that didn't show up at first), and a fair amount of big band experience. B+(**) [sp]
Myriam Gendron: Ma Délire: Songs of Love, Lost & Found (2021, Feeding Tube): Folk singer from Ottawa, second album, songs split between French and English, five originals, most of the rest are traditional. B+(**)
Pasquale Grasso: Pasquale Plays Duke (2021, Sony Masterworks): Italian guitarist, based in New York, has released a bunch of solo EPs/albums recently, all covers showing off his virtuosic technique. Here he takes on Ellington, adding bass (Ari Roland) and drums (Keith Balla), with vocal spots for Samara Joy and Sheila Jordan ("Mood Indigo," not her best voice but remarkable nonetheless). B+(*)
Fred Hersch: Breath by Breath (2021 , Palmetto): Piano trio, with Drew Gress and Jochen Rueckert, plus the Crosby Street String Quartet. The writing for strings caught me by surprise, lovely at first with added layers of complexity, which the piano only adds to. A- [cd]
Sven-Åke Johansson/Niklas Fite/Joel Grip: Swinging at Topsi's (2020 , Astral Spirits): Drums, acoustic guitar, double bass. Swedish drummer has been around a long time, mostly playing with German avant-garde groups. Two 25-minute sets are keep interest levels up. Ends with two short songs, sung by Johansson, not well, but that's part of the charm. B+(***) [bc]
Christof Kurzmann/Sofia Jernberg/Joe Williamson/Mats Brandlmayr: Disquiet (2018 , Trost): Title generally taken as group name, but artist names are in smaller print on cover, so we'll parse it that way. Credits: lloopp/vocals, voice, double bass, drums. One 47:14 piece. Not as disquieting as expected, unless you listen closely to the words. B+(*) [bc]
Joëlle Léandre/Pauline Oliveros/George Lewis: Play as You Go (2014 , Trost): Radio shot from Prague, one 43:59 piece, credits: contrabass/voice, Roland Button V-Accordion, laptop electronics/trombone. B+(**) [bc]
João Lencastre's Communion: Unlimited Dreams (2021, Clean Feed): Portuguese drummer, sixth Communion album since 2007, roster highly variable, one a trio, this one an octet, with two saxes (Albert Cirera and Ricardo Toscano), piano/electronics (Benny Lackner), two electric guitars, two basses (one electric, the other acoustic). B+(**) [bc]
L.U.M.E. [Lisbon Underground Music Ensemble]: Las Californias (2021, Clean Feed): Pianist Marco Barroso also credited with composition and direction, leading a 15-piece group in their third album. Expansive, almost circus-like atmosphere, huge swells of sound, stretches that are almost catchy, bits of random dialogue. B+(***) [bc]
Tony Malaby's Sabino: The Cave of Winds (2021 , Pyroclastic): Tenor saxophonist, from Arizona, a dominating player who not infrequently steals others' albums. Group name refers back to a 2000 album, another quartet with Michael Formanek (bass) and Tom Rainey (drums) returning, with Ben Monder taking over guitar. B+(***) [cd]
Michael Mayo: Bones (2021, Artistry Music/Mack Avenue): Singer, from Los Angeles but based in New York, father played saxophone for Earth, Wind & Fire; first album, on a jazz label but at least as close to soft-edged neo-soul. B+(*)
Charnett Moffett: New Love (2019 , Motéma): Bassist, father is drummer Charles Moffet, dozens more side credits. Quartet with Irwin Hall (sax/flute), Jana Herzen (guitar), and drums. Don't care much for the vocals, but one has to admire how he keeps the bass in focus. B
Perila: How Much Time It Is Between You and Me? (2021, Smalltown Soupersound): Alexandra Zakharenko, DJ/producer, based in Berlin, has produced quite a bit since 2019. Ambient, broken up by occasional clunkiness. B
John Pizzarelli: Better Days Ahead: Solo Guitar Takes on Pat Metheny (2021, Ghostlight): Second-generation guitarist, has done a lot of tributes but mostly to singers. This is nice, not that I know Metheny well enough to get the point. B
Mike Pride: I Hate Work (2021, RareNoise): Drummer, moved to New York in 2000, led a group called From Bacteria to Boys, Napster lists him as "smooth jazz," but that's some kind of sick joke: he mostly plays in free jazz groups, but is also into hardcore noise, and sometimes combines them, or in this case flips them over. Ten songs "loosely based" on Millions of Dead Cops' 1982 debut -- a connection from when Pride toured as their drummer -- done with piano trio (Jamie Saft and Brad Jones), but lest you get completely lost three cuts have guest vocals, two have Mick Barr on electric guitar or banjo, and both Pride and Saft play some electric keyboards. B+(*)
The Reds, Pinks & Purples: Uncommon Weather (2021, Tough Love): San Francisco band, principally Glenn Donaldson, who's appeared in a lot of bands since 2001, this one from 2019 and in its third album. Sound much like the Go-Betweens. B+(*)
Alex Riel/Bo Stief/Carsten Dahl: Our Songs (2021, Storyville): Danish drummer, started out in trad jazz bands before 1960, many side credits, bassist and pianist also Danish. Half standards from "My Funny Valentine" to "Giant Steps," half Danish titles. B+(**)
The Rite of Trio: Free Development of Delirium (2021, Clean Feed): Portuguese trio: André B. Sivla (guitar), Filipe Louro (bass), Pedro Melo Alves (drums), all three electric as well as acoustic. Second group album. B+(*)
Ritual Habitual: Pagan Chant (2021, Clean Feed): Portuguese/Dutch sax-bass-drums trio, with Riccardo Margona (tenor, bass clarinet, synthesizers), Gonçalo Almeida, and Philipp Ernsting. Joint improv, nods to Coltrane and Ayler, great strength in the opening and closing sax runs. B+(***) [bc]
Diego Rivera: Indigenous (2019 , Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist (soprano on 3 tracks), born in Michigan, family Mexican-American, teaches at Michigan State, couple previous albums, this one backed by an exceptional piano-bass-drums trio (Helen Sung, Boris Kozlov, Donald Edwards) with Etienne Charles (trumpet) joining on 3 cuts. Not Latin Jazz, but lots of joyous tinge. B+(**)
Charles Rumback: Seven Bridges (2021, Astral Spirits): Drummer, tenth album since 2009, mixed bag, vocal songs unimpressive, spots for violin (Macie Stewart) and horns more interesting, the best Ron Miles on cornet. B+(*)
Dave Stryker: As We Are (2021 , Strikezone): Guitarist, many albums since 1988, backed by piano-bass-drums trio (Julian Shore, John Patitucci, Brian Blade), with Shore arranging for string quartet, which is the rub. B+(*)
The Tiptons Sax Quartet & Drums: Wabi Sabi (2021, Sowie Sound): Saxophone quartet from Seattle, has operated under several variations of the name since 1993 (originally as the Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet), with a drummer since 2005, and under this name for three albums since 2014. Current saxophonists are Amy Denio (alto), Tina Richerson (baritone), Jessica Lurie (soprano/alto/tenor), and Sue Orfield (tenor), with Robert Kainar on drums. Very upbeat, some vocals. B+(**)
Carlos "Zingaro"/Pedro Carneiro: Elogio Das Sombras (2012 , Clean Feed): Violin and marimba duo. Fairly limited concept, but "Zingaro" has at this for a long time now, and he keeps it interesting. B+(**) [bc]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Duke Ellington & His Orchestra: Berlin 1959 (1959 , Storyville, 2CD): There's gotten to be a lot of live Ellington from this period: the orchestra was magnificent, and the songbook was so deep he resorted to medleys. B+(***)
The Allman Brothers Band: One Way Out: Live at the Beacon Theatre (2003 , Sanctuary/Peach, 2CD): With founders Duane Allman and Berry Oakley dead, and Dickey Betts departed, the remaining originals are singer-songwriter-keyboardist Gregg Allman and the two drummers. The vocals hold the songbook together, and new guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks provide the spark. Also helps that they pull three pieces out of the blues archive (Blind Willie McTell, Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson). I've never been a big fan, but enjoyed their early work, and enjoyed this one all the way through. B+(***) [sp]
David Bowie: ChangesOneBowie (1969-76 , RCA): First draft for a greatest hits package, 10 obvious songs from 7 albums plus the much-noted but little-heard non-album single "John I'm Only Dancing." Seemed superfluous back when I owned the albums, but nice to recover the high points from the weaker albums, and put them into a a context that looks like a progression. Superseded by the 1990 CD ChangesBowie. A [sp]
David Bowie: ChangesNowBowie (1996 , Parlophone): Packaged like a variant of his greatest hits series, this is a live set of mostly old songs recorded by BBC, starting with unplugged versions of "The Man Who Sold the World," "Aladdin Sane," and "White Light/White Heat." B [sp]
Charles Brackeen Quartet: Attainment (1987 , Silkheart): Tenor saxophonist from Oklahoma City, didn't record much: a Strata-East album in 1968, three albums for Silkheart in 1987, ten or so side-credits, but he often stole the show with his hyper-aggressive playing. Group with Olu Dara (cornet), Fred Hopkins (bass), and Andrew Cyrille (drums), plus voices and extra percussion on the title piece. B+(**) [bc]
Chicago Farmer: Quarter Past Tonight (2018, Chicago Farmer, 2CD): Cody Dieckhoff, moved to Chicago and started self-releasing his talkie folk/country albums in 2005. After six of them, he figured he had enough songs built up to try this live-double, located in Peoria, perhaps looking for a venue he could fill. A- [sp]
The Platters: Enchanted: The Best of the Planters (1956-67 , Rhino): Major, best-selling vocal group of the late 1950s, more pop than doo-wop, not least because they were focused on a single lead singer, Tony Williams. Out-of-print, like all the other great cross-licensed Rhino compilations of the 1990s, I easily picked out all but the last three (inessential) songs from Mercury's 2-CD The Magic Touch: An Anthology -- probably the better deal, although every compilation has quality/quantity trade-offs. A-
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: