Monday, March 28, 2022

Music Week

March archive (done).

Music: Current count 37597 [37555] rated (+42), 128 [125] unrated (+3).

Failed to get my Book Roundup post done last week, or even to make any significant headway on it. Instead, I wrote a fitful Speaking of Which, which left me in a very bad mood. I'm not sure I can explain why, or whether I even want to, so let's leave it at that.

Meanwhile, I listened to some records last week, as you can see. For much of the week, I had little trouble deciding what to listen to next. I have a rather limited but functional metacritic file, which urged me to waste time on the likes of Alt-J and Animal Collective (neither as bad as I feared, but with different redeeming merits). I noticed that Best of Jazz has started a New Jazz Releases 2022 page (they cite me in their intro), which led me to identify several prospects. Among the things they pointed me to were Bandcamp reissues from Enja/Yellowbird -- misidentified as new releases. I've also spent a good deal of time on the Ogun Records Bandcamp, which I discovered last week, when I went looking for Blue Notes for Mongezi (and found the even better Blue Notes for Johnny). I expect to continue with Ogun next week. (A quandary there on reissue dates: many are new enough by Bandcamp dates to qualify for this or last year's lists, but I've generally gone with either the original LP date or the most appropriate CD reissue -- hence they're showing up under "Old Music" here.) Other records came from various Facebook EW lists, including Gonora Sounds and Hailey Whitters.

The odd record out in many ways is Nova Twins, a 2020 release (too new for old? too old for new?). I probably noticed it at the time -- barely, it got 10 points in my 2020 EOY Aggregate -- but what brought it to my attention was that the daughter of a friend of a friend of my wife's was in it, a good old word-of-mouth grapevine. Not something I expect to go back to often, but exemplary in a fairly unique way, enough so I gave it the benefit of the grade.

The March, 2022 Streamnotes file (link above) is wrapped up (except for the Music Week excerpts), with 169 records (123 new music, 109 of them 2022 releases).

New records reviewed this week:

Alt-J: The Dream (2022, Infectious Music): English band, won a Mercury Prize for their 2012 debut, fourth album, flows comfortably, kind of like Pink Floyd but has yet to interest me. B

Animal Collective: Time Skiffs (2022, Sub Pop): Experimental pop band, founded 2000, seemed likely to be a big thing with 2009's Merriweather Post Pavilion (at least with critics, as it won the Pazz & Jop poll, leading a long list of albums I more/less hated: Phoenix, Neko Case, Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, Flaming Lips, Avett Brothers; however, the album peaked at 13, not even gold, the follow-up sold a quarter as many copies, and later albums have come out at increasing intervals -- this 6 years after its predecessor). Usual complaints here: loose sense of time, excess pseudo-psychedelic shimmer. B

Steven Bernstein's MTO: Good Time Music (Community Music Vol. 2) (2022, Royal Potato Family): Trumpet player, formed his Millennial Territory Orchestra in 2005 after working on Robert Altman's Kansas City, recreating the blues-based "territory bands" of the 1930s. Ten-piece band plus featured singer Catherine Russell. B+(***) [bc]

Black Flower: Magma (2022, Sdban Ultra): Belgian quintet, led by Nathan Daems (sax/flute), half-dozen albums since 2013, "mixing Ethio-jazz and oriental with afrobeat and dub." One spoken vocal by Meskerem Mees. Enticing grooves with rich textures. B+(***) [sp]

Black Lives: From Generation to Generation (2021 [2022], Jammin' Colors, 2CD): Produced by Stefany Calembert, with bassist Reggie Washington prominent, "new work on the subject of racism and Black realities," out on a Belgian label. Some pieces are explicitly political (e.g., "Existing Conditions"), others content to explore grooves and tones. Mostly names I recognize come from jazz, but too eclectic to really follow. B+(**) [cd] [03-25]

Stephan Crump: Rocket Love (2020-21 [2022], Papillon Sounds): Bassist, impressive list of albums since 2001, mostly in trios with guitar or piano. This one is solo, curated from a year-long subscriber-supported series, not planned as a pandemic project but it worked out that way. B+(**)

James Gaiters Soul Revival: Understanding Reimagined (2021 [2022], self-released): Drummer, from Columbus, Ohio, leads a soul jazz quartet with Robert Mason (organ), Kevin Turner (guitar), and the magnificent Eddie Bayard (tenor sax, I recognize him as Edwin from many Mark Lomax albums). Six covers, ranging from Sonny Rollins to Isaac Hayes. B+(***) [cd]

Dave Gisler Trio With Jaimie Branch and David Murray: See You Out There (2021 [2022], Intakt): Swiss guitarist, third Trio album with Raffaele Bossard (bass) and Lionel Friedli (drums), the second adding Branch on trumpet, this one also joined by the tenor sax legend. They get messy fast. B+(**) [sp]

Gonora Sounds: Hard Times Never Kill (2022, The Vital Record): Led by singer Daniel Gonora, a "family band that has been busking on the streets of Zimbabwe since 2004," present their debut album. I don't buy the title for a minute, but they're so vital and so compelling you can excuse, perhaps even delight in, their sense of indestructibility. A

Joy Guidry: Radical Acceptance (2022, Whited Sepulchre): Plays bassoon and electronics. Starts with a spoken word piece called "Just Because I Have a Dick Doesn't Mean I'm a Man." Then wanders off into dark ambience and strings, sax, and drums, with a brief dip into "Down in the Valley." B+(**)

Michael Leonhart Orchestra: The Normyn Suites (2019-21 [2022], Sunnyside): Trumpet player (credits here include many instruments), son of bassist Jay Leonhart, won a Grammy while still in high school, tenth album since 1995, side credits have mostly been in rock and soul. Several different things here. Normyn was a dachshund and the two suites were written during her last days, They're lovely. In between there is a spoken word piece, "Radio Is Everything," read by Elvis Costello, with Bill Frisell and Nels Cline. Costello sings a couple more songs. Ends with two quartet tracks, featuring Donny McCaslin, dedicated to Kenny Dorham and Wayne Shorter. B+(***) [cd]

Rudresh Mahanthappa: Animal Crossing EP (2022, Whirlwind, EP): Alto saxophonist, reconvenes his 2020 Hero Trio, with François Moutin (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums), for four songs, 22:39. B+(**) [bc]

Vic Mensa: Vino Valentino (2022, Roc Nation, EP): Chicago rapper, sings here, father from Ghana (where the famous name is Mensah). Mostly EPs, this one 4 tracks, 11:31. B+(*)

Tony Monaco: Four Brothers (2022, Chicken Coup/Summit): Columbus, Ohio organ player, has a dozen albums going back to 2001, wrote the title piece here and a reprise with little thought to the Jimmy Giuffre standard, but to celebrate his exceptional quartet, sharing Kevin Turner (guitar) and Edwin Bayard (tenor/soprano sax) with James Gaiters' group. Bayard, again, is superb, his surprise turn on "Lush Life" a revelation. B+(***) [cd]

Sean Nelson's New London Big Band: Social Hour! (2022, MAMA): Trombonist, New London is a town in Connecticut (but this was recorded in Waterford), big band, plus some extra flutes and harp in spots, the trombone section swelling to nine on one tracks. Nelson wrote 6 (of 12) tracks, with other band members contributing pieces, so the only standard is "When You Wish Upon a Star." B [cd]

Nova Twins: Who Are the Girls (2020, 333 Wreckords Crew): British post-punk duo, Amy Love (guitar/vocals) and Georgia South (bass/keyboards), debut EP 2016, first album, short (10 songs, 30:22). Hard, in your face, full of spit and fire, not exactly metal, but look out for flying shrapnel. A-

Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono (2022, Canvasback): Unlike many, I didn't hate her when she broke up the Beatles, but I've never gotten into her own records, respecting a couple HMs -- Season of Glass (1981), and Take Me to the Land of Hell (2013) -- while disliking other, most of all the Walking on Thin Ice "best-of" (1971-85, graded A by Christgau but C+ by me). So I didn't expect to recognize any of the 14 songs here, or many of the artists: familiar names all, but mostly David Byrne, Yo La Tengo, and Stephin Merritt, with Deerhoof and Faming Lips typical of the second tier (and having more fun). B+(*)

Punkt. Vrt. Plastik: Zurich Concert (2021 [2022], Intakt): Piano-bass-drums trio, names on the cover -- Kaja Draksler, Petter Eldh, Christian Lillinger -- third album since 2016. Rhythm jumps around a lot, a perpetual motion machine. B+(***)

Cécile McLorin Salvant: Ghost Song (2022, Nonesuch): Jazz singer, from Florida, father Haitian, mother French, debut 2010, wins polls plus a Macarthur Genius Grant, sixth album, first time she wrote most of her songs. Still, the covers are where her skills are most evident: a Kate Bush opener, an a cappella "Unquiet Grave" to close, best of all a Brecht/Weill song, "The World Is Mean." B+(**)

Lisa Ullén/Elsa Bergman/Anna Lund: Space (2021 [2022], Relative Pitch): Born in South Korea, studied classical music in Stockholm, switching to free jazz in the 1990s. Trio with bass and drums. B+(***)

Hailey Whitters: Raised (2022, Big Loud/Pigasus): Country singer-songwriter, originally from Iowa, moved to Nashville, fourth album. Songs reflect back to her native corn fields, but she finds country everywhere, even where "The Grass Is Legal." A-

Yung Kayo: DFTK (2022, Sevensevenseven/YSL): Rapper Kai Green, from DC, based in LA, first album after an EP and a bunch of singles. B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Rabih Abou-Khalil: The Flood and the Fate of the Fish (2017-18 [2019], Enja): Oud player, from Beirut, based in France (Cannes), has two dozen albums since 1982, building jazz from Arabic traditions and finding common threads around the Mediterranean. Group includes ney, soprano sax, violin, accordion, and drums, with Portuguese Fado singer Ricardo Ribeiro on three tracks with old texts. B+(**) [bc]

Old music:

The Blue Notes: Legacy: Live in South Afrika 1964 (1964 [1995], Ogun): South African jazz group, gained some fame at the 1963 National Jazz Festival in Johannesburg, but ran afoul of the Apartheid order -- pianist Chris McGregor was white, the others black -- so went into exile in 1964, joining the burgeoning avant-garde scene in England. This is what they sounded like originally, with two saxophones (Dudu Pukwana on alto and Nikele Moyake on tenor), trumpet (Mongezi Feza), bass (Johnny Dyani), and drums (Louis Moholo-Moholo). B+(***) [bc]

Lol Coxhill: Coxhill on Ogun (1977-78 [1998], Ogun): British soprano saxophonist (1932-2012), also credited with "loose floorboard" here, on the 16:24 solo "Diver." This combines two albums, The Joy of Paranoia (1978, with multiple guitars on the first side, Veryan Weston's piano on the second), and Diverse (1977, one side solo, the other adding cello, bass, and percussion). B+(***) [bc]

EDQ [Elton Dean Quartet]: They All Be on This Old Road (1977, Ogun): Saxophonist (alto/saxello), got his start in Bluesology (1966-67), led by Long John Baldry, remembered mostly as the sources for their piano player Reginald Dwight's stage name. Dean went on to play with Michael Tippett from 1968, and Soft Machine 1969-72. Quartet here with Tippett (piano), Chris Laurence (bass), and Louis Moholo (drums). Finishes very strong. A- [bc]

Elton Dean's Ninesense: Happy Daze + Oh! For the Edge (1976-77 [2009], Ogun): Nine-piece band, doubling up on sax (Dean and Alan Skidmore), trumpet (Harry Beckett and Mark Charig), and trombone (Nick Evans and Radu Malfatti), with Keith Tippett (piano), Harry Miller (bass), and Louis Moholo (drums). Reissue combines their first two albums. B+(***) [bc]

Elton Dean: Elton Dean's Unlimited Saxophone Company (1989 [1990], Ogun): Three saxophonists -- Dean (alto/saxello), Paul Dunmall (tenor/baritone), and Trevor Watts (alto) -- backec by bass (Paul Rogers) and drums (Tony Levin). B+(***) [bc]

Dusan Goykovich: Swinging Macedonia (1966 [1983], Enja): Serbian trumpet player (b. 1931), from a session in Germany which basically kicked off a long and illustrious career (latest album 2014). Sextet includes two saxophonists (Nathan Davis and Eddie Busnello), Mal Waldron (piano), bass, and drums. B+(**) [bc]

Louis Moholo Octet: Spirits Rejoice! (1978, Ogun): Five tunes, all by South Africans (including three former Blue Notes: Moholo, Mongezi Feza, and Johnny Dyani), but the drummer (with two bassists and two trombonists) fell in with the cream of the British avant-garde: Evan Parker (tenor sax), Kenny Wheeler (trumpet), and Keith Tippett (piano). After the roughness, closes with a solemn piece that translates to "Times of Sorrow." B+(***)

Louis Moholo-Moholo/Dudu Pukwana/Johnny Dyani with Rev. Frank Wright: Spiritual Knowledge and Grace (1979 [2004], Ogun): Live set from Eindhoven, Netherlands, a trio of South African Blue Notes (drums, alto sax, bass), joined by a tenor saxophonist from America -- never seen him referred to as Rev. before, but he's always been a disciple of Albert Ayler -- with Pukwana and Dyani also playing some piano (which seems to pick the other up). B+(**) [bc]

Louis Moholo's Viva-La-Black: Exile (1990-91 [1991], Ogun): South African drummer, following up his 1988 Viva La Black album, group a septet, starts off with two pieces by tenor saxophonist Sean Bergin and one by guitarist Frank Douglas, followed by four Moholo originals. B+(**) [bc]

Louis Moholo's Viva-La-Black: Freedom Tour: Live in South Afrika 1993 (1993 [1994], Ogun): For the South African exiles here, a triumphant return tour, including English saxophonists Sean Bergin and Toby Delius. B+(***) [bc]

Louis Moholo-Moholo Quartet: 4 Blokes (2013 [2014], Ogun): With Jason Yarde (sax), Alexander Hawkins (piano), and John Edwards (bass). B+(***)

Mike Osborne Trio: All Night Long: The Willisau Concert (1975 [2012], Ogun): British alto saxophonist (1941-2007), major figure in the British avant-garde (though he tends to get overlooked -- I see 4 Penguin Guide 4-star albums in my database). Backed by South Africans Harry Miller (bass) and Louis Moholo (drums). Sax is intense, a little rough, but quite a performance from the drummer. Reissue adds two previously unreleased traks (26:36). A- [bc]

Mike Osborne Trio/Quintet: Border Crossing/Marcel's Muse (1974-77 [2004], Ogun): Combines two albums on one CD (79:31), the first a trio with Harry Miller and Louis Moholo, the second adding Mark Charig (trumpet) and Jeff Green (guitar), replacing the drummer with Peter Nykyruj. A- [bc]

Alan Skidmore/Mike Osborne/John Surman: S.O.S. (1975, Ogun): Three British saxophonists (tenor, alto, baritone/soprano and bass clarinet), Surman also plays synth and the others add some percussion, so it's not purely sax choir. B+(**) [bc]

John Stevens/Evan Parker: Corner to Corner + The Longest Night (1977-93 [2007], Ogun, 2CD): Drums and soprano sax duo, Stevens also playing cornet. The 1976 session was originally released as two volumes of The Longest Night, edging over into the second disc here. The balance of the second disc is the 1993 album. Remarkable, but at length the limited sonic range wears thin. B+(**) [bc]

Aki Takase: St. Louis Blues (2001 [2020], Enja): Japanese pianist, moved to Berlin 1988, joined Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, married German avant-garde founder Alexander von Schlippenbach, has a substantial discography of her own, including several looks back at the jazz tradition, like this one. Reprises six W.C. Handy classics, with two of her pieces, plus contributions by band members Rudi Mahal (bass clarinet) and Nils Wogram (trombone). Also with Fred Frith (guitar) and Paul Lovens (drums). Too erratic, although "Memphis Blues" makes the chaos work. B+(**)

Keith Tippett/Julie Tippetts/Harry Miller/Frank Perry: Ovary Lodge (1975 [1976], Ogun): All improv, group played together for three years but only recorded this one album. All but Miller (bass) credited with voice, although that's mostly Tippetts' domain (she was married to the pianist, who was born with the 's' but dropped it early in his recording career. Aside from percussion (Perry), other instruments: harmonium, recorder, er-hu, sopranino recorder, hsiao, sheng. B [bc]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Martin Bejerano: #Cubanamerican (Figgland) [05-27]
  • Will Bernard: Pond Life (Dreck to Disk) [05-27]
  • Jean Fineberg: & Jazzphoria (Pivotal) [04-08]
  • Stephen Philip Harvey Jazz Orchestra: Smash! (Next Level) [06-17]
  • Charles Mingus: The Lost Album: From Ronnie Scott's (1972, Resonance, 3CD) [04-29]
  • Yu Nishiyama: A Lotus in the Mud (Next Level) [05-20]
  • Keith Oxman: This One's for Joey (Capri) [04-15]
  • Fabian Willmann Trio: Balance (CYH) [04-15]

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