Monday, February 28, 2022

Music Week

February archive (finished).

Tweet: Music Week: 43 albums, 4 A-list,

Music: Current count 37418 [37375] rated (+43), 144 [139] unrated (+5).

Rated count is down a bit (although still high by historic standards). Feels like I've been working as hard as ever, but I've been having more trouble deciding what to listen to next, so I guess I've had more dead air. [PS: The actual list below is sightly larger than the count, as I moved records I reviewed while working on this post up, so that the frozen 2021 list aligns with this post and the February Streamnotes archive. Yes, my freeze date is later than usual this year, but the deed has been done.]

The A-list was down even more, but I promoted two reissues at the last minute. The only problem with the Cuba compilation(s) is that I wasn't able to listen to the whole thing(s), so I'm extrapolating from Spotify playlists that are about 1/3 short. Also, I assume the booklets are up to snuff, as they usually are with this label, but haven't seen them, leaving me more ignorant than I should be. The Tony Williams disc combines two Blue Note albums I previously rated A- and B+. I came out of this not sure why I didn't have the grades flipped, but the piano/vibes pieces on the former probably get better, and Sam Rivers delivers instant pleasure.

Speaking of Rivers, Rick Lopez has converted and expanded his extraordinary Sam Rivers Sessionography into a gorgeous 720-page book. To order a copy ($55 postpaid in US, inquire for foreign shipping) or otherwise make a donation go to the PreSale Page. Back in 2014, Lopez published The William Parker Sessionography, which (in HTML form) I had found invaluable in researching my Consumer Guide to William Parker, Matthew Shipp, et al.. I raved about his work there, and was delighted to see myself quoted for a blurb ("treasure trove of information, some of the finest scholarship available on the internet today"). It's not often I say something quotably laudatory, but I'm proud to be associated with his work.

Late posting of this (Tuesday afternoon, but official date is still in February) is mostly because I finally took the time to update my indexing. I had fallen four months behind, and a side effect is that I caught myself re-reviewing several records. I've always known that my slapdash system is prone to errors, and the ones I've dealt with run the gamut. Worse, as I fix them, they leave discrepancies in other (usually more temporary) sources. At some point, a monumental re-engineering of the website would seem to be in order. But I doubt I'll ever get to that (although I did receive an intriguing letter expressing interest in working on such a thing).

I expect to wrap up the EOY aggregates and associated lists this week. It would have been nice to tie it all together by now, but I still have a few odds and ends to attend to. Maybe next week I'll be able to provide some sort of statistical summary for 2021.

On Saturday I posted a rather long Speaking of Ukraine, which is still largely relevant to understanding the conflict, even if there isn't much you can do about it. I later tried to rewrite a bit on sanctions, but didn't achieve the desired clarity. Let's see if I can do better here:

  1. It should be understood that US sanctions, amplified by so-called allies, against Russia had a direct and significant role in creating and intensifying the conflict, And while they were not responsible for Russia deciding to invade Ukraine, the belief that the US could compel Russian submission by tightening sanctions further did much to provoke the current war.
  2. However, once Russia invaded, further sanctions became not only justified but the preferred response from the US, as they are serious but much less inflammatory than the military response the US would no doubt prefer if Russia was incapable of fighting back in kind.
  3. The efficacy of sanctions to end a war has never been proven, but will be sorely tested here. (That sanctions can lead to war has been repeatedly shown, both as targets decided to fight back and as the sanctioners escalated to military offenses -- as Bush, for instance, did in is 2003 invasion of Iraq.)
  4. As long as Russian troops are occupying Ukraine, I don't care how severe sanctions become (although I would try to avoid imposing real humanitarian hardships on the Russian people, whose control over and responsibility for Putin's belligerence is limited). (By the way, I would have supported similar sanctions against Israel following their 1967 war, and against the US following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.)
  5. Once Russia withdraws, there should be a clear path to ending the sanctions regime, and restoring peace and commercial ties. I doubt this can happen immediately, but should occur through the diplomacy that should have happened before Russia resorted to invasion.
  6. We should realize that the US has no power to hold Putin accountable for what in a fair and honest world would universally be recognized as crimes. Conflicts need to end on terms that all sides consider just (as much as is mutually possible), and that generally means that no side should wind up in a position to command the other. Demonization of Putin (like the earlier charges against Saddam Hussein) only serves to poison the possible grounds for settlement. (On the other hand, if the Russian people chose to settle with Putin as the Italians did Mussolini, I wouldn't demur.)
  7. If you want to prevent future wars, deal early with the injustices that lead to conflicts and ultimately to war. What doesn't work is the ideology of imposing strength, "shock and awe," and raw punishment.

I basically wasted Sunday on Facebook, writing comments on Ukraine and plugging my piece. As far as I know, these had no effect whatsoever, and none of the posts appeared again in my Facebook feed. I don't know where where Facebook comments go to die -- probably just into the AI grinder to figure out new and even more inept ways of getting under your skin with targeted advertising -- but mine often wind up in my notebook: I was pleased that I came up with a little story and point each time, rather than just linking to my piece. Of course, I have thousands of pages of these gems archived now -- so much so that even my wife's eyes glaze over when asked to pick a few out. Like a fish, struggling just sets the hook deeper.

One comment I can find again, because I copied it into a post of my own, so it shows up in my (mostly public) timeline. I wrote it in response to a right-wing relative's meme echo, which read: "Those of you that voted for Biden, here's your chance to brag! What has he done so far that you're most excited about." The half-dozen comments preceding mine didn't offer a single word of support, so I figured someone should step up. I've never not been critical of a Democratic President -- my first was JFK and LBJ (Vietnam!), although retrospectively I blame Truman for the Cold War and Korea, as well as for facilitating the right's first efforts to smash unions and deregulate banking -- and I wound up writing twice as much (not all but mostly critical) in my notebooks on Obama as I had on the more obviously reprehensible Bush. (My critiques of the Carter and Clinton presidencies are less well documented, but rest assured that they were often scathing. I now believe I was especially prescient about Clinton and Iraq, which paved the way for Bush.) But Biden is so maliciously assaulted by so many people who clearly know nothing and care nothing about the world we live in that I felt the need to speak back. And given the terms of the question, it was easy to construct an answer, and necessary to share it. (By the way, special thanks to Art Protin for the "1 share.")

Sure, I may come to regret the "I still love Joe Biden," but that was something I felt the people I was responding needed to hear. And I did care enough about them to go with "all them nay-sayers" instead of the first word that popped into my mind: assholes. Fat lot of good it did me. The only written reply read "you're definitely in the wrong place. I didn't even waste my time reading bc I can tell you are a spoon." (Spoon?) The rest were stock memes, like a picture of a crack pipe captioned "moments before this comment was made." So much for reasoned dialogue with the right. I don't like shilling for a party that's only half-right half the time, but the Republicans are so far off the deep end they're giving us no other option.

I don't have much enthusiasm for another Speaking of Which later this week, but getting "mugged by reality" is becoming a regular occurrence.

By the way, I should note that I'm not soliciting "followers" on Facebook. I only joined up because my less-than-sociable niblings were there, as well as a smattering of other relatives, and I wanted to check up on them. I added a few old friends, and eventually agreed to a few music-interested acquaintances, the minimal requirement being people I had personal correspondence with. (Of course, if you do think you qualify, by all means send me a "friend request.") I rarely post on Facebook, and when I do it's usually just food pics (which seem to be more popular than anything I have to say about politics or music). I do, on occasion, post and/or comment in the Expert Witness Facebook group, which can be (but rarely is) used as a discussion forum for my Music Week posts. A better way to follow my writing is through Twitter. I also run a generally quiescent email list about websites (mostly the Robert Christgau site, and my own), so if you want in on that, mail me. Or you can always ask a question.

New records reviewed this week:

75 Dollar Bill Featuring Barry Weisblat: Social Music at Troost Vol. 1 (2017 [2021], self-released): Guitar-percussion duo Che Chen and Rick Brown, started out around 2014, instrumental music with a Saharan flair, have been self-releasing a lot of live tapes since the pandemic hit. This one has Weisblat sitting in, on electronics including violin processing. Three tracks, 38:33. B+(***) [bc]

75 Dollar Bill Featuring David Watson: Social Music at Troost Vol. 2 (2027 [2021], self-released): Guest this time plays bagpipes (both large and small), for one 36:15 piece. The bagpipes aren't that alien to the group's guitar sound, but they are still bagpipes. B+(*) [bc]

Beauty Pill: Instant Night (2021, Northern Spy, EP): DC band, led by Chad Clark, two albums (2004 and 2015), title song was written in 2015 while watching Ann Coulter predict that Donald Trump would become president, but not released until October 2020, in fear that he might be re-elected. Four songs, 14:05. B+(*)

Dahveed Behroozi: Echos (2021, Sunnyside): Pianist, from California, grew up in San José, first album, a trio with Thomas Morgan (bass) and Billy Mintz (drums). Original pieces (including one by Morgan). B+(*)

John Blum/Jackson Krall: Duplexity (2018 [2020], Relative Pitch): Piano and drums duo. Both musicians have fairly long but not very prolific careers -- e.g., both have records that share credit lines with William Parker (Krall from 1997, Blum from 2009). Two LP-timed pieces. A bassist might have rounded the performances out, but they're quite striking as is. B+(***)

Bruiser Wolf: Dope Game Stupid (2021, Bruiser Brigade): Rapper, first album, don't know much about him but label was founded by Danny Brown. Comic voice, cosmic humor. B+(*) [bc]

Glenn Close/Ted Nash: Transformation (2021, Tiger Turn): Actress, tied with Peter O'Toole for the dubious distinction of most Oscar nominations without a win (8). Discogs credits her with 6 albums since 1984, but none solo. Here she gives dramatic readings, as do several others, all variously tied the title, notably Eli Nash's transgender reveal. They are backed by a big band led by the alto saxophonist but intersecting with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (including Wynton Marsalis on trumpet), a group Nash has long played in. The music is striking, deep, and elegant. B+(***) [sp]

Conway the Machine: La Maquina (2021, De Rap Winkel): Buffalo rapper Demond Price, related to Westside Gunn (half-brother) and Benny the Butcher (cousin), prolific since 2015. B+(**)

Cryptic One & Jestoneart: Pirata (2021, Centrifugal Phorce): Bandcamp page lists artist as "PIRATA," but I say why waste artist credits on the cover for an eponymous group? Words by Cryptic, sounds by Jestoneart. Dramatically and sonically, shades of MF Doom. B+(***) [bc]

Daggerboard: Daggerboard & the Skipper (2020-21 [2022], Wide Hive): Daggerboard is group with a previous album, led by Erik Jekabson (trumpet) and Gregory Howe (keyboards, from Throttle Elevator Music), with Ross Howe (guitar), Mike Hughes (drums), some vibes, and a string section. The Skipper is veteran bassist Henry Franklin. B+(*) [cd]

Deafheaven: Infinite Granite (2021, Sargent House): Started as a metal band in San Francisco in 2011, second album Sunbather was widely acclaimed, with their fifth album they seem to have become "post-metal" or even "shoegaze." Gets heavy enough I have little interest in listening, but no doubt they have skills, and the songs have sonic details of interest. B+(*)

The Delines: The Sea Drift (2022, Jealous Butcher): Portland band, fourth album, singer is Amy Boone, songwriter is Willy Vlautin, who plays guitar and has a reputation as a novelist. Slow, immersive, comfy. B+(**)

Dialect: Under~Between (2021, RVNG Intl): Electroacoustic producer Andrew PM Hunt from Liverpool, Dialect(19) at Discogs, previously recorded as Outfit. B+(*) [bc]

Jon Durant & Stephan Thelen: Crossings (2020 [2021], Alchemy): Two guitarists, one based in Portland, the other in Zürich, reaching out over the pandemic lockdown. Functions as ambient, but on more levels than the genre is used to. B+(**) [bc]

Gabby Fluke-Mogul: Threshold (2020 [2021], Relative Pitch): Violinist, based in New York, one of three debut albums that appeared in 2021. Solo improv, on the cutting edge of what can be an unpleasant instrument. B+(*)

Colleen Green: Cool (2021, Hardly Art): Indie pop singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, fifth album since 2011. Mostly catchy, sometimes cool. B+(**)

Daniel Herskedal: Harbour (2021, Edition): Norwegian tuba player (also bass trumpet), 10+ records since 2010, backed by Eyolf Dale (piano/celesta) and Helge Norbakken (drums/marimba). B

Hinda Hoffman Meets Soul Message: People (2021 [2022], Know You Know): Standards singer, fourth album since 1995 (3rd appeared in 2017). Group is led by Chris Foreman on organ, with guitar, drums, and alto sax (Greg Ward). Songs range from "All of You" to "Angel Eyes," with nods to "People" and "Please Send Me Someone to Love." Mostly upbeat, with some salsa. B+(*) [cd]

Ethan Iverson: Every Note Is True (2022, Blue Note): Pianist, was establishing himself as a major player when he got sidelined with the semipop Bad Plus trio, which he left in 2017. Back with a new trio here, with Larry Grenadier (bassist for Brad Mehldau all those years) and Jack DeJohnette (drummer for Keith Jarrett even longer). Should be a big deal, but hard for me to focus on it. B+(**)

Durand Jones & the Indications: Private Space (2021, Dead Oceans): Retro-soul group, from Indiana, third album, not sure how this will hold up over time, let alone in direct comparison with similar 1970s groups (like the Stylistics and the Chi-Lites), but for 2021 it's exceptionally lovely without being overly lush, and I'm really enjoying that. A-

Topaz Jones: Don't Go Tellin' Your Momma (2021, New Funk Academy/Black Canopy): New Jersey rapper, previous album from 2016, this one accompanied by a 35-minute film I haven't seen, but it seems to be well regarded. Nice flow here, has a lot to say. B+(**)

Menahan Street Band: The Exciting Sounds of Menahan Street Band (2021, Daptone): Instrumental r&b band, has three albums backing Charles Bradley, three more on their own. Way short of "exciting." B-

Mimz & Dunn: Infinite Lawn (2021, self-released): New York rappers, former sometimes billed as Mimz the Magnificent, but I can't find Discogs or much else on either. Underground vibe but messed up. B [bc]

Mother Nature and BoatHouse: SZNZ (2021, Closed Sessions): Mother Nature is a Chicago hip-hop duo (Klevah Knox and TRUTH -- that's about all I know), and BoatHouse is the label's in-house producer. They make a well-meaning racket. B+(***) [bc]

Kim Nalley Band With Houston Person: I Want a Little Boy (2022, Kim Nalley Productions): Standards singer, leans toward blues, fifth album after the last two assayed Nina Simone and Billie Holiday. The saxophonist is spectacular. Maria Muldaur helps on the first of two title song takes, as if Nalley wasn't sexy enough. B+(***) [cd]

New Age Doom: Lee "Scratch" Perry's Guide to the Universe (2021, We Are Busy Bodies): Vancouver-based "experimental drone metal band," duo of drummer Eric J. Breitenbach and multi-instrumentalist Greg Valou. Third album. Some sources co-credit album to The Upsetters, or to Perry himself (credited with vocals). Other musicians listed include Dan Rosenbloom (trumpet) and Donny McCaslin (sax). Not quite metal, nor dub nor dancehall, but a gloomy fog obscuring all. B+(**)

Sergio Pereira: Finesse (2022, Sedajazz): Brazilian guitarist, moved to New York in the 1980s, third album (I'm aware of, after Swingando and Nu Brasil). Various lineups, with vocals by Pereira and Paula Santoro. B+(*) [cd]

Raxon: Sound of Mind (2021, Kompakt): Egyptian DJ based in Barcelona, Ahmed Dawoud, "long awaited debut album" after many singles/EPs since 2009. Strong beats. B+(***) [bc]

Ståhls Trio: Källtorp Sessions Volume Two (2017-18 [2021], Moserobie): Swedish vibraphonist, albums since 2001 (as Ståhls Blå), side credits include Angles and Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. Also plays soprano sax in this trio with bass and drums, significantly adding guest Mats Åleklint (trombone). B+(***) [cd]

Natsuki Tamura: Summer Tree (2021 [2022], Libra): Japanese trumpet player, married to pianist Satoko Fujii, credited with voice here on one (of four) tracks -- the few small bits of piano turn out to be Tamura, who is also credited with wok. Rough start, better when the trumpet takes over. B+(*)

Stephan Thelen: Fractal Guitar 2 (2019-20 [2021], Moonjune): Guitarist, composer, mathematician, born in California, based in Zürich, has recorded since 2002, often as Sonar. This follows a remarkable 2019 album, six pieces with 3-6 guitarists each, percussion, sometimes keyboards. Groove helps, but doesn't just sweep you along. Every detail is fascinating. A- [bc]

The Underflow: Instant Opaque Evening (2020 [2021], Blue Chopsticks): Avant-jazz trio: David Grubbs (guitar), Mats Gustafsson (baritone sax, flute, electronics), and Rob Mazurek (piccolo trumpet, electronics, percussion, voice). Long, never quite coheres. B

Martin Wind/New York Bass Quartet: Air (2021 [2022], Laika): Four bassists, Wind credited as lead on all cuts save one, the others: Gregg August, Jordan Frazer, Sam Suggs. With some guests to move things along (drummers Matt Wilson and Lenny White) or brighten a bit (Gary Versace on piano, organ, and accordion). Title tune from J.S. Bach, other classics include a "Beatles Medley," with pieces by Charlie Haden, Pat Metheny, Joe Zawinul, and a couple Wind originals. B+(*) [cd]

Yeule: Glitch Princess (2022, Bayonet): Natasha Yelin Chang, from Singapore, aka Nat Cmiel (non-binary), glitch pop auteur, second album (after 3 EPs), strikes me as obscure but not uninteresting. Skipped the 284-minute ambient track closing the digital edition. B+(**)

Denny Zeitlin/George Marsh: Telepathy (2019 [2021], Sunnyside): Pianist, in his 80s now, has recorded regularly since 1964. Marsh is a percussionist, side credits with David Grisman, has recorded a number of albums with Zeitlin going as far back as 1973. Duo, but Zeitlin's synthesizers broaden the sound spectrum. B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Cuba: Music and Revolution: Culture Clash in Havana Cuba: Experiments in Latin Music 1975-85 Vol. 1 (1975-85 [2021], Soul Jazz, 2CD): Compiled by Gilles Peterson & Stuart Baker, reportedly with extensive liner notes, tied to a large format book release. Several bands are famous even here (Irakere, Los Van Van), failure to recognize more is probably my bad. Good, sometimes great, music, possibly classic, but not enough to really go on. [playlist: 15/23 tracks] B+(***) [sp]

Cuba: Music and Revolution: Culture Clash in Havana Cuba: Experiments in Latin Music 1973-85 Vol. 2 (1973-85 [2021], Soul Jazz, 2CD): More of the same, same caveats, but so far I'd give this one a slight edge. [playlist: 15/22 tracks] A- [sp]

Anthony Williams: Life Time & Spring Revisited (1964-65 [2022], Ezz-Thetics): Drummer, died young at 51 but started young too, playing professionally with Sam Rivers at 13, Jackie McLean at 16, joining Miles Davis's second legendary quintet when he was 17, and recording these two Blue Note albums (total 77:21) before he turned 20. They're a bit mixed, but tenor saxophonist Rivers stellar on most (7/10) tracks, with Wayne Shorter joining in on three. Two other tracks feature Herbie Hancock, one of those with Bobby Hutcherson. The other one is a 5:00 drum exercise. A- [bc]

Old music:

Cleveland Eaton: Plenty Good Eaton (1974 [2020], Black Jazz/Real Gone Music): Bassist, played many other instruments, and sings some here, led a half-dozen albums 1973-1980, side credits mainly with Ramsey Lewis and later with Count Basie Orchestra (1980-92). Fairly large group, including violin, electric piano, guitar, horn section, at times seem swept up in disco groove or funk thang. B+(*)

Sheila Jordan & Arild Andersen: Sheila (1977 [1978], SteepleChase): Voice and bass duo, a format she used very effectively later. Her debut Portrait of Sheila appeared 1962, but she only started recording regularly with Roswell Rudd's fabulous Flexible Flyer in 1975. Some remarkable bits here, but could use a little more swing in the bass. B+(***) [sp]

Sheila Jordan & E.S.P. Trio: Sheila's Back in Town (1998 [1999], Splasc(H)): Twelve songs from seven dates in a tour of Italy, backed by Roberto Cipelli (piano), Attilo Zanchi (bass), and Gianni Cazzola (drums), with extra strings on three tracks. B+(**) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Armen Donelian: Fresh Start (Sunnyside) [04-01]
  • Eubanks Evans Experience: EEE (Imani) [03-18]
  • The Grace Fox Big Band: Eleven O Seven (Next Level/Blue Collar) [03-11]
  • Jacob Garchik: Assembly (Yestereve) [05-13]
  • Gordon Grdina: The Music of Tim Berne: Oddly Enough (Attaboygirl) [02-18]
  • Gordon Grdina's Haram With Marc Ribot: Night's Quietest Hour (Attaboygirl) [02-18]
  • Calvin Johnson Jr.: Notes of a Native Son (self-released) [02-18]
  • Benji Kaplan: Something Here Inside (Wise Cat) [05-06]
  • Kind Folk: Head Towards the Center (Fresh Sound New Talent) [04-29]
  • Michael Leonhart Orchestra: The Normyn Suites (Sunnyside) [03-25]
  • Myra Melford's Fire and Water Quintet: For the Love of Fire and Water (RogueArt) [04-01]
  • Ståhls Trio: Källtorp Sessions Volume Two (Moserobie -21)

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