Monday, March 21, 2022

Music Week

March archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 37555 [37510] rated (+45), 125 [146] unrated (-21).

Was expecting to have to make excuses for another rated count drop, but I wound up same as last week, with just one fewer A- grade. I had a lot of trouble thinking up records to look up. Then I hit on the idea of picking off records from the unrated list by looking for streaming copies instead of digging the physical discs from wherever they may be. Aside from 19 still pending new releases, the rest are things I once had physical copies of, including some old vinyl, but never got around to playing them. Over the years, I knocked that number down from a high of 975 to a low of 125, but it had crept up in recent weeks as the Spring promos came in. Unfortunately, there is very little else I can do that with.

I also wound up slowing down for Charli XCX and Rosalía: neither was a slam dunk A- first (or second) time through, but not knowing where to go next, I gave them extra chances, and eventually decided they made the grade. Neither are in the upper half of my 2022 A-list, but even the top half feel rather tentative at the moment, but with 25 A- records at the moment, and B+ records divided 36-45-38, the new year list is shaping up nicely.

Back when I was struggling with what to play next, it occurred to me that it would be easy to open up a metadata list, since I was already doing a tracking file. It's very sketchy at present, and I doubt I'll spend the time to bring it (let alone keep it) up to date. The main source so far is AOTY, working down their "highest rated" list and then branching off into various publication "highest rated" lists. Basically, albums get a point for each publication that gives it an 80+ rating, marked with an abbreviation:* (see legend). Thus far I'm accepting everything except for some metal specialists (, Distorted Sound, Metal Hammer, Metal Injection, Metal Sucks; although some metal sneaks through, mostly covered by pubs that lean that way but aren't so exclusive, like Kerrang and Sputnik). To this I will add specialists in areas that don't get compiled by AOTY (I've already scrounged through Saving Country Music's reviews, looking for 1.75+ "guns up"; relatively high priorities include AAJ, FJC, and DownBeat). I've noted my grades (scored 0-5, from B to A/A+), but haven't fully loaded them. I'll add various personal lists as I see them (Phil Overeem, for sure), so I'm guilty of trying to skew this a bit towards what interests me.

I expect to do a Book Roundup later this week. I have enough material now (40 blurbs + related lists + briefly noted), and close to enough to follow up before long. Hoping to avoid a Speaking of Which, although the world can be cruel and aggravating. For example, I listened to a Democracy Now interview with Alfred McCoy, who's one of the writers appearing regularly at TomDispatch, where he was droning on about how China and Russia are forming "a new world order" -- a common panic theme popular with the mandarins who dominate American foreign policy thinking (something he's supposed to be a critic of). Then I looked at Intelligencer, only to find two attacks directed at "the left," one by Jonathan Chait on education, the other by Eric Levitz on Ukraine. I agree with very little of what they're attacking, but can't help taking such slanders personally. But perhaps my time would be better spent working on the book outline? Or finally fixing my XSS problems? Or just figuring out the jigsaw puzzle?

New records reviewed this week:

Central Cee: 23 (2022, self-released): London rapper Oakley Caesar-Su, second mixtape, something called "UK drill" for its fast, staccato delivery. B+(***)

Charli XCX: Crash (2022, Asylum): British pop star Charlotte Aitchison, fifth album, four singles, two with guest stars. Big production, in some ways the top of her game, but didn't quite click for me, until the delirious "You Don't Know Me" broke through. A-

Curren$y & the Alchemist: Continuance (2022, Jet Life): Rapper Shante Franklin, many albums since 2009, some with producer Daniel Maman. B+(*)

DJ 809: EightOh! (2022, self-released, EP): From New Jersey, seven short pieces, beats stripped down and popped up, with talkover (14:45). B+(*) [bc]

DJ 809: Unexpected (2022, self-released, EP): Same cover art, three more tracks (8:25), all with "Club" in the title, two with "Beat," the other with "Remix." Runs a bit down. B [bc]

Dave Douglas: Secular Psalms (2020-21 [2022], Greenleaf Music): Great trumpet player, hit-and-miss composer, was commissioned to write ten pieces "inspired by Jan van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece, as well as music by 15-Century Flemish composer Guillaume Dufay." Libretto sung by Berlinde Deman in Ghent -- each musician was recorded separately; with Marta Warelis (piano), Frederik Leroux (guitar), Tomeka Reid (cello), and Lander Gyselinck (drums). Some great trumpet stuck into the mass. B+(*) [cd] [04-01]

Bill Easley: Diversitonic (2022, Sunnyside): Tenor saxophonist, celebrating a 60-year career but doesn't have a lot of albums to show for it -- half-dozen albums under his own name, side credits with Jimmy McGriff, maybe twenty more. B+(**)

Kelly Eisenhour: I Just Found Out About Love (2022, BluJazz): Standards singer, released a previous album in 2007, so not as prolific as her bio says. Recorded this at Capitol Records, which she found inspirational, but also give credit to the rhythm section (Jeff Hamilton, Tamir Hendelman, Christoph Luty), and to the songs. B+(**) [cd]

Etran de L'Aïr: Agadez (2022, Sahel Sounds): Tuareg group from Agadez, in Niger, in the Saharan Dessert near the Aïr Mountains, a town of 100,000 which has launched a number of world renowned bands with fiery guitars and chanting choruses. Second album, not unlike the others, and every bit as exciting. A- [bc]

Eubanks Evans Experience: EEE (2022, Imani): Duo, guitarist Kevin Eubanks and pianist Orrin Evans, both first appeared in the mid-1990s. Fairly quiet affair. B+(*) [cd]

The Grace Fox Big Band: Eleven O Seven (2022, Next Level/Blue Collar): Young trumpet player, still a student at Manhattan School of Music, organized the all-female big band, wrote a couple pieces, arranged others. Sounds fairly conventional at first, but grows on you -- particularly the closer, a Janis Ian song, striking with vocals by Alexis Fox and a smashing sax solo by Sarah Hanahan. B+(**) [cd]

Matt Hall: I Hope to My Never (2022, Summit): Trombonist, toured the country in the USMC Jazz Orchestra, studied with Jon Faddis, got a Masters degree at San Diego State, debut album, with Charlie Arbelaez on alto sax (wrote one song, to seven by Hall plus one standard). B+(*) [cd]

Hippo Campus: LP3 (2022, Grand Jury): Indie band from St. Paul, third album since 2016 (plus two volumes of Demos). B+(**)

Ray Wylie Hubbard: Co-Starring Too (2022, Big Machine): Alt-country singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, called his 1970s band the Cowboy Twinkies, didn't get my attention until 2010-17, with a string of four top-notch records (e.g., The Grifter's Hymnal). Slacked off with his 2020 Co-Starring, leaning on old friends and hangers on, a formula reprised here. But while he gets help, this isn't a duets showcase, and his songs are as tough and onery as any of late. A-

Jenny Hval: Classic Objects (2022, 4AD): Norwegian singer-songwriter, started in a gothic metal band, recorded two albums as Rockettothesky, five now under her own name, one more as Lost Girls, plus has published three novels. Occurs to me she doesn't have an identifiable style or sound: she's a master of disguise, not that I know what these elaborate artifacts are meant to signify. B+(**)

Eugenie Jones: Players (2021 [2022], Open Mic, 2CD): Jazz/r&b singer, writes most of her songs (10 of 15 here), the rest standards, with Nina Simone an outlier. Long list of notable musicians here, rotated in small groups. Would have fit on a single CD (69 minutes), but that's not how they do things these days. B+(**)

Junglepussy: JP5000 (2022, No Label, EP): New York rapper Shayna McHayle, has a couple albums with titles like JP3 and JP4, framed this five track, 11:42 release as an offshoot. Nice flow, until it trickles out. B+(*) [sp]

Xose Miguélez: Contradictio (2021 [2022], Origin): Tenor saxophonist, from Galicia in Spain, debut album in 2019, leads a quartet with piano (Jean-Michel Pilc), bass, and drums. Four originals, one by Pilc, one trad folk song, some standards, one called "Someday My Monk Will Come." B+(***) [cd] [03-18]

Noah Preminger/Max Light: Songs We Love (2022, SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, mainstream, bunches of records since 2007. Light is a guitarist, has a trio album from 2018, appeared on several albums with Preminger, also with Jason Palmer and Kevin Sun. Sounds nice, but perhaps they love these songs too much (or maybe I just don't love them enough). B+(*)

Rosalía: Motomami (2022, Columbia): Spanish pop star, third album, the previous one (El Mal Querer) topped the US Latin Pop chart and got a lot of good press here, but I wasn't taken with it. This one wasn't easy, and I still have a dozen or more spots that rub me the wrong way, plus the more general issue that I don't understand a word (not something that necessarily bothers me), but the odd beats and surrounding murk won me over. Enough surprises that this will show up on EOY lists (but probably not mine). A-

Marta Sanchez: SAAM (Spanish American Art Museum) (2021 [2022], Whirlwind): Spanish pianist, based in New York, half dozen albums since 2008. Quintet with two saxophonists (Alex LoRe and Roman Filiu), bass, and drums, aside from one cut in the middle that adds Camila Meza (voice and guitar), Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet), and Charlotte Greve (synths). I'm reminded of Monk, except where Monk would throw the odd note in to unbalance you, Sanchez keeps changing, twirling off-balance without falling down. A- [cd]

Idit Shner & Mhondoro: Heat Wave (2021 [2022], OA2): Alto saxophonist, studied in Oklahoma City and at UNT, based in Oregon, sixth album since 2008. Mhondoro is "the lion spirit in Shona (Zimbabwe)." Group a sextet with piano, bass, drums, percussion, and mbira, with occasional vocals. B+(***) [cd]

John Stowell/Dave Glenn & the Hawcaptak Quartet: Violin Memory (2018-20 [2022], Origin): Guitarist, many albums since 1977. Glenn is a trombonist, teaches in Walla Walla, has an album from 2009, presents a nice contract to the guitar and the string quartet. B+(*) [cd]

Charlie Sutton: Trout Takes (2022, Chuckwagon, EP): Country singer-songwriter, learned his trout in northern Idaho, has a previous album with a fish on the cover, Primitive Songs for Modern Times. Eight songs, 25:14. B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Miles Davis Quintets: Stockholm Live 1967 & 1969 Revisited (1967-69 [2022], Ezz-Thetics): Two live sets on one 79:41 CD, the first with the legendary 1960s quintet (Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams) in top form, the second retaining Shorter but swapping in a younger and ultimately even more famous rhythm section (Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette) -- the latter a brief and somewhat uncomfortable feint toward the avant-garde, before Shorter left and Davis invented fusion. The Stockholm concerts were part of longer European tours, which Legacy compiled into terrific 3-CD boxes as the first two volumes of their Bootleg Series. So this is either redundant, or a perfectly fine introduction. A- [bc]

The Detroit Escalator Co.: Soundtrack [313] + 6 (1996, Mental Groove/Musique Pour La Danse): Detroit techno producer Neil Ollivierra, started around 1988-89, seems to be his first album, reissued with six extra tracks. B+(***) [bc]

Hal Galper Trio: Invitation to Openness: Live at Big Twio (2008 [2022], Origin): Piano-bass-drums trio, one more of many Galper has led since 1976. He's a terrific player, but it takes a bit more to make one of his albums stand out -- cf. Art-Work, another performance from the same year, but with Reggie Workman and Rashied Ali. B+(**) [cd]

Vis-a-Vis: The Best of Vis-a-Vis in Congo Style (1976 [2021], We Are Busy Bodies): Group from Ghana, Discogs lists a fair number of records 1975-82. Despite title (could have been recorded earlier), this was the second, six pretty decent highlife tracks. B+(***) [bc]

Old music:

Blue Notes: Blue Notes for Mongezi (1975 [1976], Ogun): A tribute to the late trumpeter Mongezi Feza by his former bandmates -- Chris McGregor (piano), Dudu Pukwana (alto sax), Johnny Dyani (bass), Louis Moholo (drums) -- the group that brought township jive-based jazz to Europe as South Africa became impossible for an integrated group. I first noticed Feza in a Robert Wyatt album, a lovely feature, and soon fell in love with the irresistible groove of Pukwana's In the Townships. One long jam session cut into four LP sides (later expanded to fill 2-CD), with bit of source music wafting in and out. B+(***) [yt]

Blue Notes: Blue Notes for Johnny (1987, Ogun): And then they were three, with the death of bassist Johnny Mbizo Dyani, leaving Dudu Pukwana (soprano/alto sax), Chris McGregor (piano), and Louis Moholo (drums). Not that a bassist woldn't help, but Dyani's pieces capture the South African groove, with plenty to build on. [PS: Digital adds three alternate takes.] A- [bc]

Boston Camerta/Joel Cohen: Nueva España: Close Encounters in the New World 1590-1690 (1993, Erato): Boston-based early music ensemble, long directed by Cohen (1969-2008). Mostly a vocal group, not my thing, although it picks up a bit toward the end. B

Betty Davis: Nasty Gal (1975, Island): Née Mabry, changed her name when she married Miles Davis (1968-69). Recorded some tracks for Columbia then, but they were shelved until 2016. She did finally get an album released in 1973. This was her third, and last -- at least until a 1976 album appeared in 2009. Funk, gritty enough to hope for a great album, but too inconsistent to achieve one. B+(**)

Betty Davis: The Columbia Years 1968-1969 (1968-69 [2016], Columbia/Legacy): Unreleased demos, three from 1968 arranged by Hugh Masekela, the other six (total 31:04) produced by Miles Davis and Teo Macero, with credits that will raise some eyebrows (Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin, Larry Young, Mitch Mitchell) although they could be anyone here. B+(*)

Carlos Franzetti/Allison Brewster Franzetti: Alborada (2011, Amapola): Argentine pianist, composer, has done Latin jazz and classical, and (especially) soundtracks. Shares headline here with his wife, another pianist, their work backed by bass (Robert Balzar), drums (Jiri Slavicek), and the City of Prague Philharmonic, adding lushness to the drama.. B

Waylon Jennings: A Man Called Hoss (1987, MCA): Country singer, lots of albums 1964-2012, so this autobiographical concept came in midway. Roger Murrah co-wrote the songs, which mostly do him proud. The annotation isn't a plus. B+(*)

Jacob Merlin: Alchemy of Soul (2009, Backline): Keyboard player, from Portland, not sure how much more he's done, or what the credits on this one are: are the vocals his? All originals, funk rhythm, horn section. Loud and brassy, but not very memorable. B-

Angela Strehli: Deja Blue (1998, House of Blues): Lubbock, Texas blues guitarist-singer, debut 1987, part of the trio that cut Dreams Come True in 1993, moved to California after that, recording a couple more albums, widely spaced after this one. B+(**) [yt]

Okay Temiz: Drummer of Two Worlds (1980, Finnadar): Turkish percussionist, back cover has a picture of his instrument array, including some things he invented. In the 1970s, he moved to Sweden, where he played with Don Cherry, and in a trio with South Africans Johnny Dyani and Mongezi Feza. B+(***)

Tronzo Trio: Roots (1994, Knitting Factory Works): Guitarist David Tronzo, from Rochester, developed a reputation in the mid-1990s playing jazz on slide guitar, took a job at Berklee in 2002, has recorded only occasionally since. Plays dobro as well as guitar, for a bit of bluegrass tone. Trio with Stomu Takeishi (bass) and Jeff Hirschfeld (drums) mostly, with Billy Martin (percussion) on two tracks, and producer Jimi Zhivago (dobro and guitar) on three. Mix of originals and eclectic covers. B+(**) [bc]

Papa Wemba/Modogo Gian Franco Ferre Et L'Orchestra Viva La Musica: Le Jour J: Nouvelle Generation a Paris (1988, Sonodisc): Congolese star, a founder of Zaiko Langa Langa, went solo in 1974 and recorded dozens of albums, this short album (4 tracks, 27:29) one introducing singer Ferre, grooves like you'd expect. B+(**) [sp]

Putte Wickman & Red Mitchell: The Very Thought of You (1987-88 [1988], Dragon): Swedish clarinet player (1924-2006), has a 10-inch album from 1949 but didn't really get going until 1966. Duets with the American bassist, who plays piano on three tracks. Standards. B+(**)

Putte Wickman: Putte Wickman in Trombones (1992, Phontastic): The clarinetist is backed by four trombones and a rhythm section. B+(**) [sp]

Putte Wickman & Ernie Wilkins Almost Big Band: Kinda Dukish (2004 [2005], Gazell): Recorded in Copenhagen, the clarinetist plus 12 others (4 saxes, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones) playing Wilkins' arrangements of Ellington tunes. B+(**)

Christine Wodrascka/Ramon Lopez: Aux Portes Du Matin: Live at Instants Chavirés (2000 [2001], Leo): French pianist, 18 albums since 1994, this a duo with the drummer (also French, 25 albums since 1992). B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Tony Monaco: Four Brothers (Chicken Coup/Summit) [03-11]

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