Monday, April 25, 2022

Music Week

April archive (finished).

Music: Current count 37777 [37739] rated (+38), 127 [128] unrated (-1).

Rated count down this week, although pretty solid by historical standards. Had a lot of trouble all week long deciding what to play next. Left a fair amount of dead air (like the moment of typing this line). A-list is even shorter this time: three, including an EP built around a 2020 single, "We Live Here" (see video). Having spent the week writing about Ukraine here and here and here, I admit that Bob Vylan's anger was cathartic. [Note: I've edited and added some material to those posts.]

Still, this wraps up a 4-week month where I found 16 A-list albums among 125 new releases, plus a fair amount of old music, where most of the major finds came from the Ogun Records Bandcamp. Ogun was founded by South African expat bassist Harry Miller and his wife Hazel Miller, who revived the label in 1986 after Harry's death. The label was home to fellow South African expats like Chris McGregor and Louis Moholo, as well as a tight circle of English avant-gardists they often played with (e.g., Keith Tippett, Mike Osborne, Elton Dean, Lol Coxhill).

Seems like I should have some more music items to mention. I don't like noting recent deaths, but Art Rupe (at 104) is important enough to make an exception. It finally occurred to me that filling up five hours streaming The Specialty Story would be a suitable wake, and more fun then I normally have. Also lets me put off trying to figure out the Lewis-Stampfel Both Ways album, which a curious reader sent me a zip of. (It was the only album on Robert Christgau's 2021 list I couldn't find to listen to.)

Speaking of Christgau, I've run across a number of links relating to his 80th birthday, but didn't manage to keep track of them. (One I still have in a tab is a reminiscence by Wayne Robbins.) We missed the first half of the Zoom session RJ Smith and Tricia Romano set up. I didn't come up with anything to contribute, but thinking of Robins, one story comes to mind. I had been writing for Bob for a year-plus, and talked to him for edits, but hadn't met actually met him. At the time, I was angling to get into Creem, and had a letter back from Lester Bangs was kind of iffy. I drove to Ann Arbor to see some friends, and on a lark decided to drop into the Creem office uninvited. I did, and couldn't get anyone to talk to me (not that I tried awful hard). When I mentioned this to Bob, he confidently told me that Wayne Robins (who was editor at the time) and Georgia Christgau (Bob's sister, who wrote Creem's film reviews) would like to meet me. A couple days later, they came to me in Ann Arbor. I still didn't get anything published there.

New records reviewed this week:

Dan Bruce's :Beta Collective: Time to Mind the Mystics (2022, Shifting Paradigm): Guitarist, Chicago-based Collective adds two saxophonists, trombone, vibes, keyboards, bass, and drums; looks like they have a previous album, although aside from Bruce the personnel then was completely different. B+(**) [cd] [04-29]

Charming Hostess: The Ginzburg Geography (2021 [2022], Tzadik): Klezmer-influenced vocal group from Oakland, principally Jewlia Eisenberg (who died at 50 in 2021), Cynthia Taylor, and Marika Hughes, released a cassette in 1996, four more albums through 2010, and finally this tribute to "Italian antifascist writers, activists and intellectuals Natalia and Leone Ginzburg." Plus a bunch of guests. Eisenberg wrote the songs, a range of songs that could fit light opera, aside from "All You Fascists Are Bound to Lose," which reminds me at least of Woody Guthrie. B+(**) [cd] [05-20]

Charley Crockett: Lil G.L. Presents: Jukebox Charley (2022, Son of Davy): Country singer-songwriter, based in Austin, 11th album since 2015. Fourteen covers, tweaked variously -- Roger Miller's "Where Have All the Average People Gone?" becomes "honest people." B+(**)

Alabaster DePlume: Gold: Go Forward in the Courage of Your Love (2022, International Anthem): Second album, plays tenor sax, guitar, and synths, also spoken word, while crediting another 21 musicians and singers. It's a lot to follow, and I can't claim to, but some stretches are sublime. B+(**)

Dopplereffekt: Neurotelepathy (2022, Leisure System): Detroit techno duo, active since 1995, principles seem to be Gerald Donald (formerly of Drexciya, identified here as Rudolf Klorzeiger) and his wife To-Nhan (I've seen various full names). This does remind me of Drexciya's "deep-sea diving," with swirls of color emanating from basic beats. B+(***) [bc]

Fly Anakin: Frank (2022, Lex): Virginia rapper Frank Walton, touted as his "proper debut album," but Discogs lists eight more since 2018, mostly shared credits. B+(**)

Chad Fowler/Matthew Shipp: Old Stories (2021 [2022], Mahakala Music, 2CD): Saxophonist from Arkansas, owner of his label, plays stritch and saxello here, in a duo with the pianist, the 14 pieces numbered chapters. B+(***)

Chad Fowler/Christopher Parker: Park Hill Saudade (2021 [2022], Mahakala Music): Another sax/piano duo, both growing up a block from each other in North Little Rock. B+(**)

Arun Ghosh: Seclused in Light (2022, Camoci, 2CD): Clarinet player, describes himself as British-Asian, several albums working toward a fusion of Indian and jazz, but this rarely rises beyond pleasantly atmospheric. B+(*)

Marquis Hill: New Gospel Revisited (2019 [2022], Edition): Trumpet player, more than a dozen albums since 2011's New Gospel, with six songs repeated here, in a live set that adds more connective material. Different group, an all-star sextet with Walter Smith III (tenor sax), Joel Ross (vibes, a major factor), James Francies (piano), bass, and drums. B+(**) [bc]

Lisa Hilton: Life Is Beautiful (2022, Ruby Slippers): Pianist, 25 albums since 1998, possibly all trios, this one with Luques Curtis (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums). B+(*)

Mike Holober & Balancing Act: Don't Let Go (2022, Sunnyside, 2CD): Pianist, mostly composes and arranges for big bands, went with an octet for his 2015 album Balancing Act, returns with a similar group here -- same brass (Marvin Stamm and Mark Patterson) and reeds (Dick Oatts and Jason Rigby), changes at bass, drums, and voice (Jamile). B+(**)

Toshinori Kondo x DJ Motive: Zen (2018 [2022], Mohawks): Japanese trumpet player (1948-2020), probably best known (at least in these parts) for his worn with Peter Brötzmann (especially Die Like a Dog, which became the name of their quartet with William Parker and Hamid Drake). DJ Motive is a Japanese hip-hop producer, several albums and more singles since 2005. So this is mostly his work, with the trumpet adding a little color to the atmosphere. B+(*) [bc]

Pusha T: It's Almost Dry (2022, G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam): Rapper Terrence Thornton, formerly of Clipse, fourth studio album. Lots of hooks in the samples, most produced by Pharrell, and second most produced by Ye, who still know how to build on a sample. A-

Diego Rivera: Mestizo (2021 [2022], Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist, working with what's effectively become the label's house band: Art Hirahara (piano), Boris Kozlov (bass), Rudy Royston (drums), with labelmate Alex Sipiagin (trumpet/flugelhorn) sitting in on two (of 10) tracks. Flashy, boppish, Latin tinge, the works. B+(***)

Seabrook Trio: In the Swarm (2021 [2022], Astral Spirits): Guitarist Brandon Seabrook, trio with Cooper-Moore (diddley bow) and Gerald Cleaver (drums), their second together. Swings a little. Doesn't get lost carried away Seabrook's usual noise factor. B+(***) [dl] [05-20]

Ches Smith: Interpret It Well (2020 [2022], Pyroclastic): Drummer, expands a trio with Craig Taborn (piano) and Mat Maneri (viola) to include Bill Frisell (guitar). Interesting players, all, but they strike me as distant and disjointed. B+(**) [cd] [05-06]

Spiritualized: Everything Was Beautiful (2022, Double Six/Fat Possum): British prog/synthpop band, debut 1992 when Jason Pierce (aka J. Spaceman) split from the group Spacemen 3 (hence their "space rock" rep, reinforced by their best-known release, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, from 1997). B+(*)

Vince Staples: Ramona Park Broke My Heart (2022, Blacksmith/Motown): Los Angeles rapper, debut 2015, fifth album, seems to be settling into a nice groove and vibe, less downside than in the past, but not much upside either. B+(**)

Swedish House Mafia: Paradise Again (2022, Republic): Surprised to see this described as a supergroup, but principals Axwell (Ael Christofer Hedfors), Sebastian Ingrosso, and Steve Angello (Steven Fragogiannis) have individual discographies going back to 1998-2004. Group formed 2010, released a bunch of singles and a live album (2014), then nothing until resurfacing in 2021. Some guest spots or samples for variety and a bit of cheese. B+(**)

Bob Vylan: We Live Here (Deluxe) (2019 [2021], Venn, EP): British grime duo, individuals go by Bobby Vylan (vocals) and Bobbie (or Bobb13) Vylan (drums), single appeared in 2020, a fitting answer to you fascist scum out there, but I couldn't find their 2020 EP, until this expanded edition showed up (adds 2 cuts for 10, 23:26, including the 1:10 "Moment of Silence"). I'm tempted to call it the grimest record out of the UK since the Sex Pistols, but they have more self-respect than that. A- [sp]

Bob Vylan: Bob Vylan Presents the Price of Life (2022, Ghost Theatre): First full album, 15 songs, 34:17, a newfound clarity as they've decided the words matter as much as the attitude, so you should hear them. Still, lots of attitude. I may not agree with the politics of "no liberal cunt is going to tell me punching Nazis is not the way," but this is art, and sometimes expression needs to be felt. A- [sp]

The Weather Station: How Is It That I Should Look at the Stars (2022, Fat Possum): Canadian singer-songwriter Tamara Lindeman, sixth album since 2009, could be a band but doesn't feel like it here, in a quiet volume of introspective songs. Her previous one, 2021's Ignorance, got a lot of critical support. This one much less so. B+(*)

Billy Woods: Aethiopes (2022, Backwoodz Studioz): DC rapper, mother an English lit professor, father a Marxist writer from Zimbabwe, lived in Africa 1980-89, 14 albums since 2003, not counting his better known work in Armand Hammer. B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Pepper Adams With the Tommy Banks Trio: Live at Room at the Top (1972 [2022], Reel to Real, 2CD): Baritone saxophonist (1930-86), made the swing-to-bop transition, an early (1957) album was called The Cool Sound of Pepper Adams, wound up with 18 albums as leader, many more side credits (especially with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra). Nice live set here, stretching out at the University of Alberta, with what I take to be a local group. B+(***) [cd]

Tony Oxley: Unreleased 1974-2016 (1974-2016 [2022], Discus Music): British avant drummer, started in the late 1960s. First three pieces were are from 1973, a quintet with Dave Holdsworth (trumpet), Paul Rutherford (trombone), Howard Riley (piano), and Barry Guy (bass). The fourth piece is another quintet, from 1981, and the last one is a percussion duo with Stefan Hoelker. B+(*) [bc]

Old music:

Ricky Ford: Manhattan Plaza (1979, Muse): Tenor saxophonist, second album, first (of 10) for Muse. Quintet with Oliver Beener (trumpet), Jaki Byard (piano), David Friesen (bass), and Dannie Richmond (drums). B+(*) [yt]

Freddie Hubbard: Keep Your Soul Together (1973, CTI): Oddly enough, nothing in my database for Hubbard between 1971-85, other than a live shot released much later. He recorded 8 albums for CTI -- the first two, Straight Life and (especially) Red Clay are justly famous -- then recorded for Columbia 1974-80. This seems to continue the formula, near-fusion with electric bass/piano/guitar, Junior Cook on tenor sax. B+(**) [yt]

Imagination: Body Talk (1981, MCA): British disco/funk group, first album, title song a minor hit. Hooks are subtle, as are the songs without them. B+(**) [sp]

Imagination: In the Heat of the Night (1982, MCA): Second album, two more hits, only tails off toward the end. "Just an Illusion" made Christgau's 41-song lifetime playlist. B+(***) [sp]

Cecil McBee: Mutima (1974, Strata East): Early album, starts with a piece played on two basses, has a dozen credits scattered about but not totally clear who plays where. Dee Dee Bridgewater offers some vocals. B [yt]

Cecil McBee: Alternate Spaces (1979, India Navigation): Bassist, from Tulsa, doesn't have a lot under his own name (mostly 1975-86), but has played with everyone (both mainstream and avant), and left his mark on dozens of A-list albums. Opens with a bass solo, before the group enters: Joe Gardner (trumpet), Chico Freeman (saxes, flute), Don Pullen (piano), Famodou Don Moye (percussion). B+(**) [yt]

Cecil McBee Sextet: Music From the Source (1977 [1979], Inner City): With Chico Freeman (flute/tenor sax), Joe Gardner (trumpet), Dennis Moorman (piano), Steve McCall (drums), and Don Moye (percussion). Three tracks, recorded live at Sweet Basil's. B+(***) [yt]

Cecil McBee Sextet With Chico Freeman: Compassion (1977 [1979], Inner City): Recorded a day later, same lineup, except Freeman ditched the flute in favor of soprano sax, but his tenor dominates the proceedings. B+(***) [yt]

Cecil McBee: Flying Out (1982, India Navigation): With Olu Dara (cornet), John Blake (violin), David Eyges (cello), and Billy Hart (drums), a pronounced string bias, helps that he also plays some pretty impressive piano. B+(**) [yt]

Nina Simone: Remixed & Reimagined (2006, RCA/Legacy): Vocals probably date from 1967-72, although the larger RCA compilations run 1957-93. Remixes are new, some name I recognize, most I don't. The gravitas of her vocals sometimes benefits from recontextualization, and sometimes doesn't. B

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Erik Friedlander: A Queen's Butterfly (Skipstone) [04-29]
  • Keith Hall: Made in Kalamazoo: Trios and Duos (Zoom Out) [06-24]
  • Mike Holober & Balancing Act: Don't Let Go (Sunnyside, 2CD) [04-15]
  • Todd Marcus Jazz Orchestra: In the Valley (Stricker Street) [07-01]
  • Billy Mohler: Anatomy (Contagious Music) [06-10]
  • Sonic Liberation Front and the Sonic Liberation Singers: Justice: The Vocal Works of Oliver Lake (High Two) [06-10]

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