An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Sunday, June 26, 2022
Music: Current count 38227  rated (+62), 87  unrated (-6).
Couldn't sleep this morning, so woke up in an exceptionally foul mood. Part of the bad mood had simply carried over from writing yesterday's Speaking of Which, which necessarily focused on the right-wing Supreme Court's renouncing the formerly "settled law" of Roe v. Wade. I've written more than a little on the subject over the years, and I scarcely wanted to rehash all that, but felt obligated to at least register the event and the temperature in the notebook I perhaps foolishly think I might want to look back on some day, as I recollect the changes I've seen.
The post took a lot out of me, and I was further disappointed not to get any reaction at all this morning, either to the regular Twitter or Facebook notices. (I normally limit my use of Facebook to following old friends and family, and normally limit my posts there to food pics.) I mean, I don't mind not getting hate mail, but occasional acknowledgments are appreciated.
This is the last Monday in June, so the monthly archive is officially closed. I haven't done all of the indexing, but the rated count for the 4-week month is 212. I'll finish the indexing and add the Music Week introductions in later this week. Not a lot of work, but I'm hoping to get this out sooner rather than later. Maybe I'll have time to do some yardwork before the trash goes out.
This is probably the first week where I've listened to Spotify more than Napster. Spotify hangs less, and seems to get new records out earlier, and they seem to be a bit easier to find, although I wouldn't say they qualify for a blue ribbon. On the other hand, at least one record below I found on Napster after failing on Spotify.
Also picked up one record under "limited sampling," and it reflects a change in how I'm handling the category. Previously I used it for records where only a few cuts were available on Bandcamp or streaming, but I listened to everything that was available. For Voivod, I simply hit reject 4 tracks in. It wasn't even that I couldn't stand the record; I just got tired of it, and decided I wanted to move on. Good chance there will be more like that in the future. May even encourage me to check out some videos, on the theory that they probably represent choice cuts. I've decided to score such records as rated in the tracking and metacritic files, but I'm not counting them in the rated totals. I may have to fiddle with the tracking stats, as that's where I look to see how many rated records I have each year.
I'm adding some mid-year lists to the metacritic files, starting with those compiled at AOTY, adding in (sometimes informal) lists I'm picking up from Expert Witnesses on Facebook (one with a public link is from Alfred Soto. Few of the lists are ranked, and I'm paying no heed to those that are. Each mention is marked with '+', which is temporary until the EOY lists appear. (I added a couple more -- GQ, Treble, Vulture -- until my eyes gave out. Links are in the legend file files.)
In old music, made some further progress in digging out the unrated albums. Was surprised to find a couple winners there.
Don't know what comes next. I'm too exhausted right now to give it any thought.
New records reviewed this week:
700 Bliss: Nothing to Declare (2022, Hyperdub): Philadelphia hip-hop ("experimental club") duo of DJ Haram (Zubeyda Muzeyyen) and Moor Mother (Camae Ayewa). First album, after an EP, doubles down on the "experimental." B+(*)
Joey Alexander: Origin (2022, Mack Avenue): Actual name Joey Sila, a piano prodigy from Bali, Indonesia, who cut a pretty good first record (My Favorite Things) when he was 11, and is back for his 6th while still just 18. Ten songs spread over 2-LP, all originals, core trio with Larry Grenadier (bass) and Kendrick Scott (drums), joined by guitar (Gilad Hekselman, 3 tracks) and tenor/soprano sax (Chris Potter, 2). He's only grown since his debut, filled out (especially with his writing), turning into a very solid, if not especially remarkable, jazz musician. Helps to be playing with stars, too. B+(***) [sp]
Harry Allen: My Reverie by Special Request (2022, TYR1102): Retro-swing tenor saxophonist, something I especially enjoy, very popular in Japan (where this was released, unsure about the label). Quartet with Dave Blenkhorn (guitar), bass, and drums, playing standard fare (including "Carioca" for a taste of Brazil). B+(**)
Harry Allen & Dave Blenkhorn: Play the Music of Phil Morrison (2022, GMAC): Morrison is a bassist-songwriter, originally from Boston, long based in Brunswick, Georgia, and he plays on this album, along with his regular trio of Keith Williams (piano) and Rudy Manuel (bass). Somehow he hooked up with Blenkhorn (a guitarist from Australia), which brought Allen onto the project. Nice enough, although I wasn't happy when they brought strings in. B+(*)
The Ano Nobo Quartet: The Strings of Săo Domingos (2021 , Ostinato): From Cape Verde, a guitar quartet named after one of the island nation's famed guitarist-songwriters (1933-2004), the four guitarists only identified as: Pascoal, Fany, Nono, and Afrikanu, with one of them singing. B+(*) [bc]
Anteloper: Pink Dolphins (2022, International Anthem): Chicago group, principally Jaimie Branch (trumpet, sings some) and Jason Nazary (drums), with Jeff Parker producing and filling in elsewhere (guitar, bass, synthesizer, percussion), plus Chad Taylor (mbira) on one track (of 5). Folks like to compare this to electric Miles, which is half-true, but seems sludgier to me. B+(**) [sp]
Edwin Bayard/Dean Hulett/Mark Lomax II: Trio Plays Mingus (2022, CFG Multimedia): Normally the drummer's Trio, based in Columbus, Ohio, probably the best-kept secret in American jazz, but playing a set of five Mingus classics, it's nice to be able to file this under the star saxophonist's name, and to include the bassist on the credit line. As great as Bayard is, he stays pretty close to the melodies, although the drummer takes some liberties. B+(***) [os]
Benny the Butcher: Tana Talk 4 (2022, Griselda/Empire): Buffalo rapper Jeremie Pennick, third studio album after a tall stack (2004-16) of mixtapes, including Tana Talk and Tana Talk 2. B+(**)
Cola: Deep in View (2022, Fire Talk): Canadian indie band, first album, singer-songwriter-guitarist Tim Darcy and bassist Ben Stidworthy fresh from Ought, better than average guitar strum, singer seems a bit iffy, last song a promising change of pace. B+(*)
Theo Croker: Love Quantum (2022, Masterworks): Trumpet player from Florida, seventh album since 2007, uses hip-hop beats, sings some but mostly has guests for that, including Jill Scott, Ego Ella May, Jamila Woods, and Wyclef Jean. Opens with a song proclaiming "jazz is dead," but maybe he just forgot how to enjoy it? B+(*) [sp]
Flasher: Love Is Yours (2022, Domino): Indie band from DC, Emma Baker (drums) and Taylor Mulitz (guitar), both sing, neither particularly well, but they're pleasantly catchy. B+(*) [sp]
Foals: Life Is Yours (2022, Warner): British rock band, seventh studio album since 2008, Yannis Philippakis the singer, all tracks also credited to Jimmy Smith (guitar/keyboards) and Jack Bevan (drums). Half of this sounds a bit like a nod to the Spinners, and half doesn't, although they usually keep the beat going. B+(*)
Gordon Grdina's Nomad Trio: Boiling Point (2022, Astral Spirits): Guitar/oud player from Vancouver, second album with this trio, with Matt Mitchell (piano) and Jim Black (drums). B+(**) [bc]
Gordon Grdina/Mark Helias/Matthew Shipp: Pathways (2021 , Attaboygirl): Guitar/oud, bass, piano, Shipp playing hard enough to make up for the lack of a drummer. B+(***) [bc]
Scott Hamilton: Classics (2022, Stunt): Mainstream tenor saxophonist, many albums since 1977, cherry picks some melodies from classical music here, arranging them for quartet with Jan Lundgren (piano), Hans Backenroth (bass), and Kristian Leth (drums). Lovely, of course, but doesn't swing much. B+(**) [sp]
Hercules & Love Affair: In Amber (2022, Skint/BMG): "Dance music project" by Andy Butler, an American DJ now based in Belgium. Anohni and Elin Eyţórsdóttir appear as vocalists, for a note of unnecessary drama. B
Ari Hoenig Trio: Golden Treasures (2021 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Drummer, from Philadelphia, dozen albums since 1999, trio here with Gadi Lehavi (piano) and Ben Tiberio (bass), wrote three originals to go with six standards, like "Cherokee," "Sophisticated Lady," and "Doxy" (a drum solo to close). B+(*) [sp]
Grace Ives: Janky Star (2022, True Panther Sounds/Harvest): Indie pop singer-songwriter, second album, has some beat and quirk. B+(***) [sp]
Randall King: Shot Glass (2022, Warner Nashville): Country singer, from Lubbock, second album, major label after a self-released debut, writes some but has lots of help, photographed with a guitar but subcontracted that too. What he does have is a first-rate voice, and and the production suggests he grew up on Joe Ely, and would be happy to be mistaken for him -- as you probably would with this in a blindfold test. B+(**) [sp]
Kilo Kish: American Gurl (2022, Kisha Soundscape): Art-pop singer-songwriter Lakisha Kimberly Robinson, second album, of a mixed mind whether she wants to go deep or trashy. B+(*) [sp]
Masayo Koketsu: Fukiya (2021 , Relative Pitch): Japanese alto saxophonist, solo, one 46:32 piece, a bit less ugly than Braxton's For Alto. B
Kristina Koller: Get Out of Town (2022, self-released): New York jazz singer, wrote three (of 12) songs on her debut (2017), third album offers interpretations of eight Cole Porter tunes (short at 28:42), nicely done, didn't find the credits. B+(**) [sp]
David Krakauer & Kathleen Tagg: Mazel Tov Cocktail Party! (2022, Table Pounding): New York-based clarinet player, a klezmer specialist since 1995's Klezmer Madness!, with South African pianist Tagg (also plays accordion an cello, arranges and produces), with Yoshie Fruchter (guitar) and Jerome Harris (bass) in the band, plus various guests, notably vocalist Sarah MK. B+(**) [sp]
Martin Küchen/Agustí Fernández/Zlatko Kaucic: The Steps That Resonate (2021 , Not Two): Sax/piano/drums trio, the former playing soprano and sopranino, recorded at BCMF Festival in Slovenia (the drummer's home turf; the others are from Sweden and Spain). Prickly. B+(**) [sp]
Martin Küchen: Utopia (2021 , Thanatosis Produktion): Swedish saxophonist (tenor/alto here, also tambora and electronics), best known for his Angles groups. This looks to be solo, leaning toward ambient. B
Latto: 777 (2022, RCA): Atlanta rapper Alyssa Stephens, formerly Miss Mulatto, second album (32:54), after EPs and mixtapes (3 each). B+(**)
Charles Lloyd: Trios: Chapel (2018 , Blue Note): Trios seems to be a series name, of which this live recording from Coates Chapel in San Antonio is the first: with Bill Frisell (guitar) and Thomas Morgan (bass) -- evidently drums don't work well in the chapel, but that doesn't recommend the flute, either. B [sp]
Lupe Fiasco: Drill Music in Zion (2022, 1st & 15th): Rapper Wasalu Muhammad Jaco, from Chicago, eighth album since 2006. Finds it groove and hangs in there. B+(***) [sp]
Jamal Moss: Thanks 4 the Tracks U Lost (2022, Modern Love): Chicago DJ, better known as Hieroglyphic Being (or at least should be) and in groups like Africans With Mainframes. More than a dozen albums under his own name (most with 4 in the title). Not obvious how this relates to a 2020 album with much the same title (plus a Vol. 1), credited to Hieroglyphic Being. B+(***) [sp]
Mr. Fingers: Around the Sun Pt. 1 (2022, Alleviated): Larry Heard, from Chicago, DJ and electronica producer, records since 1985, crafts a fine groove. B+(**) [sp]
Muna: Muna (2022, Saddest Factory/Dead Oceans): Indie pop band from Los Angeles, three women, third album. B+(*) [sp]
Vadim Neselovskyi: Odesa: A Musical Walk Through a Legendary City (2022, Sunnyside): Urkainian pianist, based in New York and Dusseldorf, albums since 2013, this one solo. Odesa (formerly and still better known as Odessa) is the 3rd largest city in Ukraine (a bit over one million), a port on the Black Sea well to the west of Crimea, founded by Catherine the Great in 1794 on the site of earlier Greek and Tatar villages (Khadjibey). In 1897, it was the 4th largest city in Russia, with a population 49% Russian, 30% Jewish, 9% Ukrainian, 4% Polish, followed by small numbers of Germans, Greeks, Tatars, and Armenians. The main thing I associate with it was the pogroms of 1881 and 1905. Since then the population has shifted from Russian to Ukrainian (in 1939 Jews were a plurality but they were killed off by the Nazis in WWII; by 2001 Odesa was 61% Ukrainian, 29% Russian). We haven't heard much about Odesa during Putin's invasion, at least after the advance from Crimea halted short of Mykolayiv, although the port is blocked by the Russian navy. None of which matters much in listening to these rhythmically interesting pieces. B+(**) [bc]
Perfume Genius: Ugly Season (2022, Matador): Singer-songwriter Mike Hadreas, sixth album. Not someone I'm ever likely to care enough about to get into the weeds, but his use of electronics is getting better (e.g., "Hellbent"). B+(*)
Phife Dawg: Forever (2022, Smokin' Needles/AWAL): Rapper Malik Taylor (1970-2016), rapper along with Q-Tip in A Tribe Called Quest, which split up after 1998 but reunited for a final album in 2016 when Taylor died. In between, he worked on solo projects, releasing an album in 2000, and working on this over a decade, recording about two-thirds of the eventual album. They did a nice job of conjuring up the right air. B+(**) [sp]
Yunč Pinku: Bluff (2022, Platoon, EP): Asha Catherine Nandy, Malaysian-Irish, dance pop producer (and presumably singer), debuts with 4 songs, 13:54, a decent single and beatwise filler. B+(**) [sp]
Ravyn Lenae: Hypnos (2022, Atlantic): R&B singer from Chicago, last name Washington, first album after three EPs. Thin voice, slinky rhythm, could prove seductive. B+(**)
Wadada Leo Smith: The Emerald Duets (2014-20 , TUM, 5CD): Four sets of trumpet-drums duos, mostly playing Smith's compositions. The one with Han Bennink dates from 2014, the others with Pheeroan akLaff, Andrew Cyrille, and Jack DeJohnette 2019-20, with the latter one lapping over into a fifth disc. DeJohnette and Smith are also credited with a bit of piano. Dive in anywhere. A- [cd]
Wadada Leo Smith: String Quartets Nos. 1-12 (2015-20 , TUM, 7CD): The AACM trumpeter really kicked it into high gear around ten years ago, when he turned 70 -- not that his previous decade wasn't remarkably productive, but since 2011 I'm counting 3 2-CD sets, 2 3-CD boxes, additional boxes of 4-5-7 CDs, and at least 10 singles, including some major comissions (e.g., Great Lakes Suites, America's National Parks). No one doubts his trumpet chops, but this is the sort of move jazz musicians take when they want to be considered seriously as a composer, and that's something I'll never be focused enough to evaluate. It probably doesn't help that I associate string quartets with classical music that drives me up the wall, but I recall listening to more abstract pieces back in the 1970s -- e.g., a 3-LP box called The Avant Garde String Quartet in the U.S.A. -- and this is at least as interesting. The pieces tend toward the 20-30 minute range, so two or three to a CD, except for "No. 11" (98:45, spread over 2 discs), leaving "No. 12" (20:33) alone on disc 7. RedKoral Quartet plays, plus harp on "No. 4" and extras on 6-8: Smith's trumpet is a plus on 6 & 8, but largely negated by Thomas Buckner's voice on 8. Comes wrapped up in one of the label's gorgeous boxes, with a nice booklet. B+(***) [cd]
Bartees Strange: Farm to Table (2022, 4AD): Last name Cox, born in England to an American military family, moved to Germany and Greenland before turning to US and settling in Oklahoma. Second album. B+(*) [sp]
Vieux Farka Touré: Les Racines (2022, World Circuit): Guitarist-singer from Mali, ninth album since 2007, traces his roots, which mostly means his father, Ali Farka Touré, who did more than anyone else to bring this twist on the blues to world attention. B+(***)
Erlend Viken/Jo Berger Myhre/Thomas Strřnen: Djupet (2022, OK World): Norwegian trio, playing Hardanger fiddle/octave fiddle, bass/electronics, and drums/percussion. B+(**) [bc]
WeFreeStrings: Love in the Form of Sacred Outrage (2021 , ESP-Disk): String quartet (violins: Charles Burnham and Gwen Lester, viola: Melanie Dyer, cello: Alexander Waterman) plus bass (Ken Filiano) and drums (Michael Wimberly). Dyer formed the group in 2011, but I'm not aware of any other albums. Lovely with a bit of edge. B+(***) [cd]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Bob Wilber With Dave McKenna and Pug Horton: Original Wilber (1978 , Phontastic): Trad jazz sax/clarinet player, kicked career off in 1959 with a tribute to Sidney Bechet (who he had played with in the late 1940s), many more records up to his death in 2019. With McKenna (piano), Bill Crow (bass), and Connie Kay (drums), with Horton singing three songs. B+(*) [sp]
Wire: Not About to Die: Studio Demos 1977-1978 (1977-78 , Pinkflag): Outtakes from the group's second and third albums (Chairs Missing and 154), only three songs making it to the final albums, but the demos appeared as a bootleg in the 1980s and eventually wound up on "deluxe editions" of the reissues. And if you don't know those albums, you really should start with the superb On Returning comp, which picks up most of their Pink Flag debut. Still, on its own this is remarkably lean and taut, perhaps a bit softer than the punk times called for, but fresher than most contemporary indie bands. A-
Grace Ives: 2nd (2019, Dots Per Inch): First album, at least that I know of, although the beats and synths are so sharp I'd be surprised if she didn't have some practice tapes on a shelf or in her attic. B+(***) [bc]
Mandela: Son of Africa, Father of a Nation [Original Soundtrack: The Essential Music of South Africa] (1954-96 , Mango): Seven tracks are labeled "original score" and are connecting passages, the other 19 offer a wide sample of the exceptionally rich legacy of South African music, along with a ringer -- "Nelson Mandela" by the Specials -- that ties it all together. The 1950s cuts are especially welcome. A-
Dudu Pukwana: Zila '86 (1986, Jika): South African saxophonist, started with the Blue Notes and went with them into exile in Europe, playing with the avant-garde but also recording some exceptional township jive (cf. In the Townships, 1973). This band seems to be a crossover attempt, with pop vocals and dance beats, but much more happening. B+(***) [lp]
RG Royal Sound Orchestra: Impact (2009 , RG): Initials stand for Recaredo Gutiérrez, who is also listed as producer, with ike Lewis as orchestra director, five arrangers, and a big band ("a group of A-List Miami-based musicians"). Opens with a flamenco "Hotel California," then doubles down on "My Way." The third song, "Volare," is more of a mambo. Amusing enough, except that it turns nauseous when they take on "Yesterday" and find it's way too slow to mess with. B [cd]
Terry Riley: Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band/All Night Flight: SUNY Buffalo, New York, 22 March 1968 (1968 , Elision Fields): Live solo set, with Riley playing soprano sax, organ and "time-lag accumulator." "Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band" was the flip side to his career-defining A Rainbow in Curved Air, expanded here to 39:48, finally released in 1996. B+(*)
Dean Schmidt: I Know Nothing (2006 , OA2): Seattle bassist, this is his first and seems to be his only album, employs 10 additional musicians, not broken down by track but not likely to have three keyboard players or two tenor saxophonists constantly on call. Three percussionists, perhaps (congas, guiro, steel pans/vibes). Schmidt seems to be a Latin afficionado. [ex-cd] B+(*) [sp]
Harvie Swartz & Urban Earth: It's About Time (1988, Gaia): Bassist, debut 1978, I know him best for his duos with Sheila Jordan, released Urban Earth in 1985, and kept the title for a group name here and on at least one more album. With Billy Drewes (soprano sax), Jay Azzolina (guitar), Yves Gerard (drums), and a couple guests, for something quasi-fusion. Later changed his name to Harvie S. B [lp]
Steve Tibbetts: Compilation: Acoustibbets/Elektrobitts/Exotibbets (1976-2010 , Frammis, 3CD): Guitarist, from Wisconsin, debut 1976, recorded mostly for ECM from 1982-2018, the "Acoustibbets" don't go far beyond new age, the "elektrobitts" can have a bit of edge and a lot more beat, and the "exotibbets" flit around the world (but especially Nepal and Tibet). I don't think this career-spanning collection was ever real product, but the promo got distributed wide enough to get logged on Discogs and sold on Amazon. Could be worth a more extended dive, but not now. B+(*) [cd]
Turning Point: Matador (2005, Native Language): Jazz-funk group: Thano Sahnas (guitar), Demitri Sahnas (bass), Steve Culp (keyboards), and John Herrera (drums), with guest spots for sax and violin. [ex-cd] B- [sp]
Twice Thou: The Bank Attack (2012, The Buy Back Initiative/Music Group): Boston rapper Marco Ennis, aka E-Devious, first credits go back to 1986, called his first album Long Time Comin', then took a decade before releasing this one. Staunchly political, starts with a tribute to community group City Life/Vida Urbana before moving out to hunt some bankers. Some of the references are ripped from the headlines, but few feel dated -- especially this week. A- [cd]
Twice Thou: Trials & Tribulationships (2015, The Ennis Group): Old school rapper, moves from the simple world of politics into the more complicated intricacies of relationships. B+(***)
Twice Thou: Loose Screws: Las Aventuras de Tonito Montana (2017, The Ennis Group): Comes up with a gangsta story. B+(*) [sp]
The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: The Jazz Heritage Series 2009 Radio Broadcasts (2009, self-released, 3CD): Radio shots, way too much talk, not that the music is much better. Guest artists Kurt Elling, Allen Vizzutti, Rufus Reid. C- [cd]
The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: The Jazz Heritage Series 2010 Radio Broadcasts (2010, self-released, 3CD): Same, Dick Golden's talk sounding even more like recruiting ads. Guest artists: New York Voices, Joey DeFrancesco, Gary Smulyan. C- [cd]
The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: The Jazz Heritage Series 2011 Radio Broadcasts (2011, self-released, 3CD): Guests are Kurt Rosenwinkel, Al Jarreau, and various almuni. C [cd]
The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: The Jazz Heritage Series 2017 Radio Broadcasts (2017, self-released, 3CD): Guests are a step up: Steve Turre, Cyrus Chestnut, and Terell Stafford. The interview with Turre includes a bit about how he figured out how to play shells, where he admits: "I'm not gonna play 'Donna Lee' or 'Giant Steps' on the shells." C+ [cd]
Limited Sampling: Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.
Voivod: Synchro Anarchy (2022, Century Media): Canadian metal band, 15th album since 1984. [4/9] - [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: