An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, August 22, 2022
Music: Current count 38552  rated (+32), 51  unrated (-9).
Another lousy week, this one again cutting into my listening, as I struggled to find things as well as to write. Still managed to come up with two A- records early in the week (Dangermouse/Black Thought, Megan Thee Stallion). On Thursday, Robert Christgau posted his vacation-delayed Consumer Guide. I had previously recorded grades for 12 (of 14) albums, but mostly lower grades (exception was the Regrettes aptly-titled Further Joy, near the top of my 2022 list). Given that the week was already wasted, I decided to do some re-listening, and several of those albums got better. It helped that Dan had since my initial review sent me a CD. Also that I picked up a physical of Beyoncé: after the revised review below was written, but I noticed much more detail, which helped push it up the list. Senn was probably a just case of shifting weight to the good parts from the less inspired parts. And Lizzo? I went through five more passes, each starting with songs I loved and ending with me having lost attention somewhere in the second half. On a sixth play, I forced myself to pay attention all the way to the end. The second half does have some good stuff, but only if you work at it. That's not my definition of A-list pop. I also gave Kari Faux (a 2021 album I heard and quickly forgot) another spin, and left it at B+(*). Also the Regrettes, which I moved up a bit to the top slot on this year's list. (I didn't bother rewriting the review, which you can find back in June.)
Of the two records I hadn't heard, The Paranoid Style was on my radar, but hadn't been available until this week. Folk and Great Tunes From Siberia and the Far East isn't on my streaming services. (The sample is worth its 2:38, but doesn't prove that 2-CD will be worth the trouble.) I will note that the Russian "republics" -- why the quotes? that's what they're called, while what we call "Russia" is officially a federation of republics -- Christgau has "never heard of" are confused with misspellings, which doesn't attest much to the documentation.
I also wasted time writing a new review of África Negra's Antologia Vol. 1, only to find that I already had one (back in May), same grade but with group name misspelled. I was pretty sure I had heard that one, but couldn't find it until it was too late.
I do have a fairly long Speaking of Which to show for last week. I've had to fiddle with it a few times since: adding the Marcotte example, tuning the Soros language, fixing typos (the 'c' key on this keyboard seems to be on strike) and mental lapses (Barry, not Bobby, Bonds). Still has some points I can see weaving into a book.
I didn't get to this week's releases in my tracking and metacritic files (tracking file is up to 2638 albums, with 896 of my grades). Not much happening in August, anyway, and I'll catch up soon enough. More pressing for me is installing a new mesh wireless router. I'm bugged that it comes with zero documentation, other than "download the app and follow instructions." That's the same sort of "idiot proofing" that came with my printer, which still doesn't work properly, possibly because it's impossible to understand how it's supposed to work. Hopefully, the new wireless will end my wife's complaints about dead spots for her portable devices. I'm still wired for pretty much everything, so the impact on me is more likely to be breaking things.
Speaking of breaking things, I need to install the new Ubuntu release this week. Also need to do some programming. No idea what I'll be listening to.
New records reviewed this week:
Richard Baratta: Music in Film: The Sequel (2022, Savant): Drummer, mostly involved in film production over the last 35 years, did an album of Music in Film in 2020 (subtitle The Reel Deal), returns with a sequel here, mostly familiar tunes, arranged by pianist Bill O'Connell, with Vincent Herring (alto sax), Paul Bollenback (guitar), bass, and percussion. B+(*) [cd] [08-26]
Mike Clark/Leon Lee Dorsey Featuring Mike LeDonne: Blues on Top (2022, Jazz Avenue 1): Drums, bass, piano. LeDonne brought two songs (including the title), the 7 covers mostly jazz standards, with "Willow Weep for Me" and "Can't Buy Me Love" the outliers. B+(**) [cd]
Jeff Coffin: Between Dreaming and Joy (2022, Ear Up): Saxophonist, from Massachusetts, based in Nashville, plays all of them, plus clarinets, flutes, melodica, percussion, coke bottles, and "bungee chair bass." Debut 1999, recorded a lot after that with Béla Fleck and Dave Matthews, his own discography picking up after 2015. Opens with a couple of appealing funk/groove pieces, diversifies later, which can mean Brazilian and Moroccan percussion, DJ Logic's turntablism, or his flute. B+(**) [cd] [08-26]
Danger Mouse & Black Thought: Cheat Codes (2022, BMG): Producer Brian Burton, debut 1999, got more attention for his 2004 Grey Album mash-up of the Beatles' White Album and Jay-Z's Black Album, has a wide range of albums since then, most notably here duos with rappers Doom (Dangerdoom) and Cee-Lo (Gnarls Barkley), hooks up here with Roots rapper Tarik Trotter, who has a lot to say. A-
Michael Dease: Best Next Thing (2022, Posi-Tone): Trombonist, a dozen albums since 2010, lines up a particuarly strong sextet here with Alex Sipiagin (trumpet), Rudresh Mahanthappa (alto sax), Renee Rosnes (piano), Boris Kozlov (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums). B+(*) [sp]
DJ Premier: Hip Hop 50: Vol. 1 (2022, Mass Appeal, EP): Chris Martin, from Houston, half of Gang Starr, later PRhyme, has a lengthy production discography. Five-track (14:00) EP starts to recognize 50 years of hip-hop, each track with a guest star (or 2): Joey Bada$$, Rapsody/Remy Ma, Nas, Run the Jewels, Lil Wayne/Slick Rick. B+(**)
Billy Drummond and Freedom of Ideas: Valse Sinistre (2022, Cellar): Drummer, not related to bassist Ray Drummond (although they played together in a trio called the Drummonds, with Renee Rosnes, who at the time was married to Billy). Wikipedia only credits him with four albums (plus four for the Drummonds), but his side credits run over 350. Impressive group here, with Dezron Douglas (bass), Micah Thomas (piano), and Dayna Stephens (sax). B+(***) [cd]
Fade In: Live Fast, Die a Legend (2021 , Clean Feed): Italian trio: Federico Calcagno (bass clarinet/clarinet), Pietro Ella Barcellona (contrabass), Marco Luparia (drums). First group album, Calcagno has a 2019 album and a few side credits. B+(**) [bc]
Michael Hackett/Tim Coffman Sextet: Western Skies (2022, Summit): Leaders play trumpet/flugelhorn and trombone. Third album for Hackett, first for Coffman (although he has more side credits). Group includes alto sax (Sharel Cassity), piano, bass, and drums, with a couple more credits for extra percussion. B+(*) [cd]
Art Hirahara: Ascent (2022, Posi-Tone, EP): Pianist, has been busy the last couple years as producer/label owner Marc Free kept him in the studio, anchoring a house band for all his other artists. Solo here, brief: 3 songs, 10:40. B+(*) [sp]
Art Hirahara: Verdant Valley (2022, Posi-Tone): Pianist, plays some organ, leads the label's "house band" with Boris Kozlov (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums) here as everywhere, plus Donny McCaslin (tenor sax/alto flute) to brighten it all up, and spread joy. B+(***) [sp]
Hudson Mohawke: Cry Sugar (2022, Warp): Scottish DJ/producer Ross Birchard, first alias was DJ Itchy, fourth album since 2009 (not counting his collaboration TNGHT). A bit heavy on the pedal. B+(*) [sp]
Kiwi Jr.: Chopper (2022, Sub Pop): Indie band from Toronto, third album. Upbeat. Catchy. B+(***)
Darren Litzie: My Horizon (2022, Summit): Pianist, first record, has two saxophonists (one doubling on flute) as well as bass and drums, wrote 5 (of 10) pieces, opening with Cole Porter and closing with Monk. B+(*) [cd]
Russ Lossing: Folks (2017 , Sunnyside): Pianist, a couple earlier albums but discography picks up around 2000. This is a trio with John Hébert (bass) and Michael Sarin (drums). B+(**) [sp]
Russ Lossing: Metamorphism (2017 , Sunnyside): Same piano trio, plus Loren Stillman on alto sax. Title split over two lines without hyphen, but most sources take it as a single word. B+(**) [sp]
Brian Lynch and Spheres of Influence: Songbook Vol. 2: Dance the Way U Want To (2018 , Holistic MusicWorks, 2CD): Trumpet player, one of Art Blakey's last Jazz Messengers, albums since 1988, postbop but also quite a bit of Latin jazz, especially with Eddie Palmieri. Decided to reclaim his legacy by re-recording it, which he started with Songbook Vol. 1: Bus Stop Serenade. Second disc reprises the same songs in radio or alternate versions. B+(***) [cd]
Arlo McKinley: This Mess We're In (2021 , Oh Boy): Country singer/songwriter from Cincinnati, released his debut (Arlo McKinley & the Lonesome Sound) in 2014. Second album since, both on the late John Prine's label. He grows on you, but he's a little short in the humor department. B+(*) [bc]
Megan Thee Stallion: Traumazine (2022, 1501 Certified/300 Entertainment): Rapper Megan Pete, Wikipedia has this as her second studio album, Discogs as her third album, I'd also count the "archival" Something for Thee Hotties. I love everything I've heard by her, and I'm perplexed why others harbor doubts. This feels old style, a bit conservative or at least even-tempered by her standards. Also sports more name guests. Still plenty impressive. A-
T.S. Monk: Live: Two Continents One Groove (2014-16 , Storyville): Drummer, full name Thelonious Sphere Monk III, played in his famous father's group in the 1970s, other than his name is best known for a funk single in 1981 ("Bon Bon Vie"), Discogs divides his work between T.S. Monk (a funk group, 3 albums) and Thelonious Monk Jr. (6 albums), but he's identified as T.S. Monk on all nine. This is a sextet, his first album since 2003, selected from sets in New York and Bern, with Josh Evans (trumpet), Willie Williams (tenor sax), Patience Higgins (alto sax), Helen Sung (piano), Dave Stryker (guitar), and Kenny Davis (bass). B+(*) [sp]
The Paranoid Style: For Executive Meeting (2022, Bar/None): Singer-songwriter and sometime rock critic Elizabeth Nelson, husband Timothy Bracy, and several others, third album, serviceable rock and roll, the speed lets her work more words in, and drop more names (like Barney Bubbles, P.G. Wodehouse, Steve Cropper, and Doug Yule). Ends with a straight cover of "Seven Year Ache," plucked from a list of possibles that probably runs into the hundreds. A- [sp]
Ethan Philion: Meditations on Mingus (2021 , Sunnyside): Chicago bassist, arranged ten Mingus compositions for 10-piece band, with Russ Johnson (trumpet) and Geof Bradfield (tenor sax/bass clarinet/flute) the most familiar names in the band. No real surprises: great music, with some juicy bass parts. B+(***) [cd] [08-26]
Gonzalo Rubalcaba/Aymée Nuviola: Live in Marciac (2021 , 5 Passion): Pianist and singer, both from Cuba, both based in Florida. I prefer their 2020 album together (Viento Y Tiempo: Live at the Blue Note Tokyo), probably because the extra rhythm steadies her vocals, whereas she's very much in the spotlight here. B+(**) [cd]
Alex Sipiagin: Ascent to the Blues (2022, Posi-Tone): Russian trumpet/flugelhorn player, moved to US in 1990, played in big bands before his 1998 debut. Has recorded extensively ever since, mostly for mainstream labels Criss Cross and Posi-Tone. He's joined here by Diego Rivera (tenor sax) and the label's rhythm section (Art Hirahara, Boris Kozlov, Rudy Royston). B+(**) [sp]
Sylvan Esso: No Rules Sandy (2022, Loma Vista): Electropop duo from North Carolina, Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn, fourth studio album. B+(***)
Alune Wade: Sultan (2022, Enja): Originally from Senegal, based in Paris, sings some but main instrument is bass guitar, so this is long on groove. Long on everything else, too. B [sp]
Kelsey Waldon: No Regular Dog (2022, Oh Boy): Country singer-songwriter from Kentucky, fifth album since 2010, rings true as always. B+(***) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Miles Davis Quintet: Live Europe 1960 Revisited (1960 , Ezz-Thetics): Part of a Norman Granz package tour, his last tour with John Coltrane, backed by Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Cobb, with five long takes of four songs ("So What" opens and closes), total 75:23. Material has been reissued a number of times, most definitively in Miles Davis & John Coltrane: The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series Vol. 6 (4-CD), which like this is superb throughout. A- [bc]
Frank Kimbrough: 2003-2006: Lullabluebye/Play (2003-06 , Palmetto, 2CD): Pianist, originally from North Carolina, moved to New York and taught at NYU and Juilliard, died in 2020 (at 64), which has occasioned a reevaluation: I, for one, was never much of a fan, until his 2017 Monk's Dreams, and even more so the multi-artist Kimbrough in 2021. His first album appeared in 1998, but he's best known for his 2003-14 run on Palmetto. This reissues his first two albums there, a trio with Ben Allison and Matt Wilson, and another trio with Masa Kamaguchi and Paul Motian. I underrated both at the time, especially Lullabluebye. B+(***) [cd]
Horace Silver Quintet: Live New York Revisited (1964-66 , Ezz-Thetics): Pianist, original leader of the Jazz Messengers, which under Art Blakey invented hard bop. Silver continued with his own quintet, writing some of the most indelible melodies in jazz, especially during this period (this offers two takes of "Afrian Queen," one each of: "Song for My Father," "The Natives Are Restless Tonight," "Que Pasa," "The Tokyo Blues," and "Señor Blues"). With Joe Henderson a tour de force on tenor sax, Carmell Jones or Woody Shaw on trumpet, plus bass and drums. A [bc]
Cecil Taylor: Mixed to Unit Structures Revisited (1966 , Ezz-thetics): First three tracks come from a 1962 album credited to Gil Evans Orchestra (Into the Hot, the follow up to Out of the Cool), but they are distinct from the other three tracks: for starters, Cecil Taylor wrote and played piano on these three, while John Carisi wrote and Eddie Costa was the pianist on the other three. Taylor's cuts featured Archie Shepp, Jimmy Lyons, Henry Grimes, and Sunny Murray; the others went with Gene Quill, Phil Woods, Barry Galbraith, Osie Johnson, etc. When Impulse got around to reissues in 1998, they decided to pull the Taylor cuts out and combine them with a Roswell Rudd session from 1966 (Rudd and Ted Curson played on "Mixed" in the 1961 session; only Rudd returned for the later tracks, so the reissue felt short-changed). This replaces the Rudd tracks with one of Taylor's most famous 1960s albums, with Lyons, Eddie Gale (trumpet), Ken McIntyre (alto sax/bass clarinet), Grimes and Alan Silva (bass), and Andrew Cyrille (drums). B+(***) [bc]
Cecil Taylor: With (Exit) to Student Studies Revisited (1966 , Ezz-Thetics): Student Studies was a quartet set -- piano, Jimmy Lyons (alto sax), Alan Silva (bass), and Andrew Cyrille (drums) -- recorded in Paris (58:47), originally released as 2-LP in 1973 by BYG, with some later reissues as The Great Paris Concert. This opens with a 19:20 sextet piece -- same group plus Bill Dixon (trumpet) and Henry Grimes (bass) -- from the Blue Note album Conquistador!, bringing this to 78:13. Big finale. B+(***) [bc]
Milton Nascimento: Yauarete (1987, Columbia): Brazilian singer-songwriter, guitarist, a major figure since his 1967 debut, albeit one I have next to no experience with. The fast ones have some interesting twists. B+(**) [sp]
Grade (or other) changes:
África Negra: Antologia Vol. 1 (1981-95 , Bongo Joe): [See review.] A-
Beyoncé: Renaissance (2022, Parkwood/Columbia): Last name Knowles, started out in Destiny's Child -- no need to note that any more. She is probably the biggest pop star in America, at least since her 2013 eponymous album, although she's less familiar to me than any contender I can think of. I thought her first 3-4 albums were crap, and even when she got better, I doubt I've played any of them more than 2-3 times. Consensus seems to be that this one is her best yet. I can't argue. I know I should be impressed by her encyclopedic mastery of disco and house beats, and on some level I am, but when I recognize one, I recall liking it better where it came from. [was: B+(***)] A- [cd]
Dan Ex Machina: All Is Ours, Nothing Is Theirs (2022, self-released): New Jersey band and/or singer-songwriter Dan Weiss -- not the drummer, nor the other drummer, but known to me mostly as a rock critic. Several albums and EPs on Bandcamp, little noted elsewhere. This batch was written 2003-11, played live and eventually recorded over the last decade, with shifting lineups, but they get better as the record goes on (and as you play it more). One called "Drinking and Driving (Separately)" finally delivers everything that the pre-rock-and-roll scolds feared. [was: B+(***)]] A- [cd]
Frank Kimbrough: Lullabluebye (2003 , Palmetto): [was: B] B+(***) [cd]
Frank Kimbrough: Play (2005 , Palmetto): [was: B] B+(**) [cd]
Lizzo: Special (2022, Atlantic/Nice Life): R&B singer Melissa Jefferson, fourth album, breakthrough was her third, so this seems more like a second. Starts with three or four possible hits, but fades toward the end -- maybe "fades" isn't the right word for the music, which is strong enough, but doesn't hold my attention like it should. [was: B+(**)] B+(***)
The Regrettes: Further Joy (2022, Warner): [See review.] [was: A-]: A [sp]
Derek Senn: The Big Five-O (2022, self-released): Singer-songwriter from San Luis Obispo, three previous albums, claims he's sold out a venue in Aberdeen ("where his Americana's more popular than with the Americans"). Some topical songs, some personal, at least one on the "Zeitgeist." Mostly mild-mannered, but "Texas Legislature" riles his blood. [was: B+(**)] A- [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: