An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
My Other Websites
Monday, October 3, 2022
Music: Current count 38804  rated (+36), 43  unrated (-1: 15 new, 28 old).
Made very little progress on my promised books post last week, but wrote another Speaking of Which yesterday, mostly because the war in Ukraine took a couple of nasty turns. Zelensky and his more hawkish backers seem convinced that as long as the arms spigot remain open full bore they can drive Russia from pre-2014 Ukrainian territory and hand Putin a complete defeat, the humiliation of which should drive his top Kremlin lackeys to sweep him from office. Putin, in turn, has called up reinforcements, and (again) threatened to use nuclear weapons: the message there is that Russia cannot be defeated, at least as imagined by his enemies. I believe that he is correct, even if he is not as insane as many of his opponents claim. (If I am right, his sanity may never be forced to a test. However, I do question the sanity of those who think the West can afford to prolong the war indefinitely.) Still, all the more reason to negotiate a ceasefire and start to resolve the remaining issues. Beware that anyone not talking in those terms is totally full of shit.
I don't subscribe to The Atlantic -- well, actually, my wife doesn't; I don't subscribe to anything, but she does and I get a free ride sometimes -- but if I did it would probably prove a rich source of references for Speaking of Which, both for insights and bad examples. In the latter category is a James Kirchick piece that Paul Woodward cited, provocatively titled How the anti-war camp went intellectually bankrupt. I know I shouldn't feel defensive when the author's lead example of "the anti-war camp" is Ron Paul, but he fails even to deal with that case honestly or accurately. There is, in fact, a long history of "Russophobic bloodlust" in the interstices of American foreign policy -- that was precisely the point of backing the mujahideen in Afghanistan -- and while "the last dead Ukrainian" has the brevity of a snappy talking point, it's hardly "specious": it is the logical endpoint of all proxy wars (of which this is one, even if that's not the only thing this war is). I suppose I should expect pieces like this: every war starts off with slanders against its critics. Not only does this pave the way for escalation, it lays a foundation for excuses after a war turns disastrous ("who would have thought?").
By the way, I looked up Kirchick, who Google describes as "a conservative or neoconservative." One recent article I found by him was The Sanctification of George Soros. Consider this line in the sixth paragraph: "Soros, in case you couldn't tell, happens to be Jewish, a fact that has absolutely nothing to do with his ideas about criminal justice reform, or with Rubio's opposition to them." I can't say for sure about Rubio, but I think it's pretty certain that most of the right-wingers who depict Soros as an ultrarich puppet master behind the left's nefarious schemes not only know that he is Jewish but fully understand the resonance of 150 years of antisemitic propaganda. That's precisely why they single him out.
I finally did the indexing for September Streamnotes, adding in the month's Music Week intros. I found myself hating that bit of busy work more than ever, spending the whole time thinking about how I don't want to keep doing this. I suppose I'll hang on until the end of 2022, but that's likely to be it.
Birthday coming up toward the end of October, which has me thinking about my annual dinner ritual. Even modest dinner efforts have been prohibitively painful, so it's tempting to call it quits there, too. But as I think about it, one possible approach would be to recruit some help to largely take over, and a fallback would be to do one that is so simplified I can still do it myself. (The latter involves chicken and dumplings.)
Not a lot of records this week, but a high percentage of them are very good. As usual, Phil Overeem's latest list helped.
New records reviewed this week:
Horace Andy: Midnight Scorchers (2022, On-U Sound): Journeyman reggae singer, perhaps best known for his 1972 hit "Skylarking," nicely summed up by his 1970-76 comp Feel Good All Over, may have hit a peak with 1977's In the Light, but never let up, so he has dozens of later albums I haven't heard. The one I have heard was this year's much-touted "comeback" (after a 3-year gap) Midnight Rocker. Nice record, but this one turns up the heat considerably, earning its title. B+(***) [sp]
Kenny Beats: Louie (2022, XL): Producer Kenneth Blume III, first album under his name only -- he has at least four more co-credited to rappers, and is producer for many more. B+(*) [sp]
Kristin Berardi: The Light & the Dark (2019 , Earshift Music): Australian jazz singer, writes her own songs, albums since 2006. This one recorded in New York, with Ingrid Jensen on trumpet, Miro Sprague on piano, plus bass and drums, and a couple guest spots. B+(*) [cd] [10-14]
Crow Billiken: If I Don't Have Red I Use Blue (2022, self-released, EP): Rapper R.A.P. Ferreira delivers a short country blues album (6 songs, 21:37). "Alvin Youngblood Hart, Skippy James, Robert Petway, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and Leroy Stewart Sr all contributed compositionally." B+(*) [bc]
Bitchin Bajas: Bajascillators (2022, Drag City): Cooper Crain, nominally a solo side project, but he has close to twice as many albums here (11 since 2010) as with his psychedelic drone group Cave (6 since 2008). It probably helps that these are conceptually simpler: four pieces ranging between 9:42 and 14:30, most attractive groove patterns drawn out. B+(**) [sp]
Alina Bzhezhinska & HipHarpCollective: Reflections (2022, BBE): Harpist, born in Ukraine, based in London, has at least one previous record, Bandcamp credits this to AlinaHipHarp. Credits unclear, but there is some sax (Tony Kofi), trumpet (Jay Phelps), bass, percussion, vocals (rap), and violin/viola (Ying Xue). B+(*) [sp]
Corey Christiansen: Standards (2022, self-released): Guitarist, from Utah, from 2000-07 worked as "senior editor ad guitar clinician" for Mel Bay Publications, and released his first album and books there. Since then he released six albums on Origin, and now this crowdfunded trio with Ben Williams (bass) and Carl Allen (drums). B+(**) [sp]
DJ Marz Y Los Flying Turntables/DJ Jester the Filipino Fist: Made in USA (2022, self-released): Mixtape, the DJs based in Texas (Austin and/or San Antonio), almost zero chance the samples got cleared. Looks like three cuts/one side each, the same title covering everything. The sort of thing that's only as good as it's funny. B+(**) [bc]
John Escreet: Seismic Shift (2022, Whirlwind): English pianist, eighth album since 2008, trio with Eric Revis (bass) and Damion Reid (drums), original pieces, kicks it up a notch (or two). B+(***) [cd] [10-07]
Fox Green: Holy Souls (2022, self-released): Mild-mannered rock band from Little Rock, probably wouldn't have given them a second listen but for knowing the guitarist. But the extra listens helped, especially once the Howlin' Wolf tribute caught my ear, and each song on the second side came into focus. A- [sp]
Gogol Bordello: Solidaritine (2022, Cooking Vinyl): Gypsy-punk band from New York, led by Ukrainian singer-songwriter Eugene Hütz, the only continuous member since their 1999 debut, although Russian violinist Sergey Ryabtsev comes close. I'm not catching every word, but the raw energy and rustic rage makes a fine soundtrack for writing my thoughts on the Ukraine War. A- [sp]
Keith Jarrett: Bordeaux Concert (2016 , ECM): The best-selling pianist in jazz history has recorded nothing since his 2018 stroke, but his label has kept him current by releasing older tapes each year. This is the third solo set from his 2016 tour of Europe (following Munich 2016 and Budapest Concert). With over two dozen solo albums, I've given up on comparing them, so any grade is just a momentary impression. He is, of course, a great pianist, but he's also slowed down a bit. B+(**) [sp]
Laura Jurd: The Big Friendly Album (2021 , Big Friendly): British trumpet player, best known for her band Dinosaur, has a couple albums on her own. Group here extends the brass with euphonium and tuba, plus guitar (Alex Haines), bass, and drums, with Jurd playing some piano, plus several guest spots (strings, soprano sax, and Frode Haltli's accordion on five tracks. Has a playful feel, almost circusy. B+(**) [sp]
Nikki Lane: Denim & Diamonds (2022, New West): Country singer-songwriter, fourth album since 2011. B+(**) [sp]
Yosef Gutman Levitt: Upside Down Mountain (2022, self-released): Bassist from South Africa, based in Jerusalem, plays acoustic bass guitar, doc sometimes omits "Levitt" from his name. Has a few albums, this one with Omri More (piano) and Ofri Nehemya (drums). Nice ambiance to it. B+(**) [cd]
Marxist Love Disco Ensemble: MLDE (2022, Mr Bongo): Italian group, seeks to resurrect the cheesy Euro-disco of the mid-1970s (they cite Patrick Juvet as an inspiration -- a name I recall, but not well enough to include when I constructed my original grade list), or maybe to mock it, or perhaps just to embue it with political meaning, although the titles suggest their politics were formed around the same historical moment. B+(**) [sp]
Bennie Maupin/Adam Rudolph: Symphonic Tone Poem for Brother Yusef (2022, Strut): For Yusef Lateef, who had a significant import for both musicians, including a long association with Rudolph. Just a duo here, with Maupin playing various reeds and flutes, and Rudolph keyboards and a long list of percussion. Set up as five movements, the middle drags a bit as if trying to find its way out of something dark and foreboding -- which it eventually does. A- [sp]
Ashley McBryde: Presents: Lindeville (2022, Warner Music Nashville): Country singer-songwriter from Arkansas, "presents" a concept album based in a fictional town named for Dennis Linde (1943-2006 -- been a while since I've thought of him), with guest artists playing various roles, taking over most of the songs, for better or worse. B+(***) [sp]
Marc Mommaas: The Impressionist (2021 , Sunnyside): Dutch saxophonist (tenor/soprano), based in New York, sixth album since 2003 on label. Quartet with Gary Versace (piano), Nate Radley (guitar), and Jay Anderson (bass). B+(**) [sp]
The Ogún Meji Duo: Freedom Suite (2021 , CFG Multimedia): Columbus-based duo of Eddie Bayard (sax) and Mark Lomax II (drums), have a long-term partnership not limited to the seven albums they're released under this name. This takes off from Sonny Rollins' 1958 album. Hard to say how closely this adheres, as Rollins has never had a drummer who can solo like Lomax, and Bayard is one of the few saxophonists up to the task. A- [os]
The Red Microphone: A Bleeding in Black Leather (2022, ESP-Disk): Group formed in 2010, with John Pietaro reading Bertolt Brecht to avant-sax (Ras Moshe and Rocco John Iacovone), bass (Laurie Towers), and percussion (Pietaro), reconvened here with some extras (mostly guitar), with Pietaro reading his own poetry (also published in book form). Several stories stand out, including a history of bebop and one on a New York neighborhood that turns tragic. "Punk Jazz" earns its title. Ivan Julian produced. A- [cdr]
Todd Snider: Live: Return of the Storyteller (2021 , Aimless, 2CD): This one is easy. I doubt I'll ever like it as much as his 2011 Live: The Storyteller -- I recognize fewer of the songs (as much as I like his recent albums, I don't know them nearly as well as the ones from East Nashville Skyline through The Devil You Know), and the stories seem more random. But I enjoy them nonetheless, and most of all the pacing, which I doubt anyone else can match. A- [sp]
SonnyJim & the Purist: White Girl Wasted (2022, Daupe, EP): British rapper, Sonny Sathi, has released a lot of material since 2008, mostly co-credits, this one with Lawrence Lord, who also has a long list of credits. Includes a piece featuring MF Doom & Jay Electronica. A quick play (8 tracks, 20:41). B+(*) [sp]
Sunny Sweeney: Married Alone (2022, Aunt Daddy): Country singer-songwriter, has a great voice and solid-plus songs. B+(***) [sp]
Andrés Vial: When Is Ancient? (2020 , Chromatic Audio): Pianist, from Montreal, third album, trio with Martin Heslop (bass) and Tommy Crane (drums), names on the cover but parsed below the title. Original pieces, nice, engaging. B+(**) [cd]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Biluka Y Los Canibales: Leaf-Playing in Quito, 1960-1965 (1960-65 , Honest Jon's): Brazilain Dilson de Souza, traveled to Ecuador, where he learned to play a picked ficus leaf. No idea what that should sound like, unless it's the flute over the jaunty organ grind and percussion. B+(**) [sp]
Lionel Hampton Orchestra: 1958: The Mess Is Here Revisited (1958 , Ezz-Thetics): Started as Louis Armstrong's drummer, but soon switched to the vibraphone, which he established as a jazz instrument. His late-1930s studio sessions introduced Dizzy Gillespie and bebop, and his 1940s big band (with Illinois Jacquet) deserves at least an assist for inventing rock and roll. He continued recording well into the 1990s. This is a big band he put together in Germany, with power horns, dazzling vibes, a strong blues vocal from Cornelius James, ending with an upbeat "Hamp's Boogie Woogie." B+(***) [bc]
Andrew Hill: Point of Departure to Compulsion!!!!! Revisited (1965 , Ezz-Thetics): Two of the pianist's Blue Note albums squeezed onto a single CD. Point of Departure has long been counted as a high point, with saxophonists Eric Dolphy ad Joe Henderson, Kenny Dorham on trumpet, Richard Davis (bass) and Tony Williams (drums). The later album may have been picked to fit -- a tight squeeze at 79:47, helped by using a couple alternate takes -- but is another essential album, with John Gilmore (tenor sax/bass clarinet), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), bass, drums, percussion (including African thumb piano). I'm not a big fan of the label's reissuing of albums that are already widely available, but I can't quarrel with the music. A- [bc]
Luciano Luciani Y Sus Mulatos: Mulata, Vamos A La Salsa (1970 , Vampisoul): Alto saxophonist from Italy, moved to Peru and put this band together, with Benny del Solar and Kiko Fuentes on vocals, and lots of percussion, combining his interest in cumbias and Nuyorican salsa. First album, after a couple singles, released another in 1975 but is hard to find. B+(***) [bc]
Archie Shepp: Fire Music to Mama Too Tight Revisited (1965-66 [2022, Ezz-Thetics): Tenor saxophonist, made his initial mark 1963-64 in Denmark with New York Contemporary Five, followed by a wave of explosive albums on Impulse! -- starting with Four for Coltrane and Fire Music, and continuing to 1973. This collects two albums on one CD, starting with Fire Music -- a sextet with Marion Brown (alto ax), Ted Curson (trumpet), trombone, bass, and drums -- and tacking on Mama Too Tight, an octet several albums down the road. I suspect the latter was picked because it's short enough to fit (78:28 total). The roster looks impressive on paper -- Perry Robinson (clarinet), Tommy Turrentine (trumpet), Roswell Rudd and Grachan Moncur III (trombones), Howard Johnson (tuba), Charlie Haden (bass), and Beaver Harris (drums) -- but it doesn't quite cohere. B+(**) [bc]
Horace Tapscott Quintet: The Quintet (1969 , Mr Bongo): Piano great, the central figure in the Los Angeles jazz scene, recorded this for Flying Dutchman to follow his debut A Giant Is Awakened, but somehow it didn't get released. With Arthur Blythe (alto sax), Everett Brown Jr. (drums), and two bassists (David Bryant and Walter Savage Jr.). B+(***) [sp]
Amina Baraka/The Red Microphone: Amina Baraka & the Red Microphone (2017, ESP-Disk): Née Sylvia Robinson, mother and grandfather were union organizers, she was a founder of the Newark Art Society in 1963, before she married writer Amiri Baraka in 1966. She is a poet in her own right, and here ventures into spoken word over avant-jazz. The group was organized by percussionist John Pietaro, with two saxophonists (Ras Moshe Burnett and Rocco Jon Iacovone), and bass guitar (Laurie Towers). "The Things I Love" is easy to love, but she doesn't flinch from harsher fare, like "The Fascist," which gives the band reason to drill down. A- [sp]
Ronnie Boykins: The Will Come, Is Now (1975 , ESP-Disk): Bassist from Chicago, died young (1935-80), best known in Sun Ra Arkestra, recorded this one album as leader, untitled at first, named for its lead song in a 2002 reissue. With three saxophones (alto and soprano, plus flute), trombone, and congas (no one I've ever heard of), but the bass leads are most intriguing. B+(**) [sp]
Matt Lavelle & Reggie Sylvester: Retrograde (2018, ESP-Disk): Duo with drums, Lavelle playing trumpet, flugelhorn, and alto clarinet. B+(***) [bc]
The Ogún Meji Duo: For Those Who Have Gone, but Still Remain (2018, CFG Multimedia): Sax and drums duo, Edwin Bayard and Mark Lomax II. Not much info beyond "pay homage to artistic Ancestors," of which Albert Ayler, Sunny Murray, and Charlie Cook (?) are named in titles, the other piece called "Each Passing Moment." Short (34:48) but dense. B+(***) [sp]
The Red Microphone: And I Became of the Dark (2020 , ESP-Disk): The group from the Amina Baraka album, formed a decade earlier to support a Brecht reading, but this seems to be the first album they did on their own, with percussionist John Pietaro providing words ("provocative, political poetry") and vocals, and Dave Ross joining on guitar. First track, "Revenge of the Atom Spies," is fast enough you can say he's singing. B+(***) [bc]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: