An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, October 17, 2022
Music: Current count 38880  rated (+33), 41  unrated (+3: 13 new, 28 old).
Spent a fair chunk of time last week working on my construction project (something I should have been able to do in 2 days, finished, but given my decrepit and disorganized state took 7 days, scattered over 12, with no finish. The notebook has a gruesome blow-by-blow recounting, but no pictures.) Still need to clean up the space, and start using it. No interest or constructive suggestions on my Facebook post about magazines and jigsaw puzzles, so the magazines at least will be put in next week's recycle bin. I do much appreciate Clifford Ocheltree's note of sympathy.
I also reposted some AI-transformed photographs of my sister done by her son, Ram Lama Hull. You can also check out his artwork (beware that when I typed his name into Google, I was offered a chance to change my "parental controls") on Twitter, Instagram, and/or Facebook. It looks like his website has lapsed, so we need to work on that.
By the way, although most of my Facebook posts are public, my only reason for having an account there is to follow family and old personal friends. I almost never publicize my writing there, so I tend to ignore friend requests of people I don't know personally (although I've let a few "virtual friends" through based on personal email interactions). I gather it's possible to follow someone on Facebook without getting approval as "friends," so that would seem to be an option if you have some peculiar interest in what I do there.
I always announce new writing on Twitter, and occasionally make other posts there, so suggest you follow me there. I appreciate your interest there. Latest writing, by the way, was yesterday's Speaking of Which. Didn't start it until Sunday noon, and still came up with a decent-sized post.
I heard from Chris Monsen a few days ago that Frode Gjerstad is taking down his Bandcamp account, so made a mad rush to listen to a few things I had missed. All good records, many live sets posted in 2019, but none I spent enough time with to get to really like, and many more I didn't get to at all. No links, as indeed they are gone now.
Robert Christgau published his October Consumer Guide last week. Nothing there I hadn't already heard, although I had two full-A albums at much lower grades (Amanda Shires: **; Harry Styles: B). I also left the A- Beths at ***, the same grade I went with for Christgau's B+ Ezra Furman and Rhett Miller. (For whatever it's worth, I also had the A- Styles at B, and the ** Styles at C+.) But I had A- grades for A-listed Gogol Bordello, Sudan Archives, and Loudon Wainwright III (and also for *** Charli XCX), and various shades of B+ for everything else (though never exactly the same).
After that, I was scrounging, which always slows me down and bums me out. I'm thinking now that I'll stop the tracking files after this year, and settle into a life of playing old stuff (of which I still have thousands of CDs). Still, it's hard to go cold turkey. One thing that will keep me going this year is that I'll be running this year's edition of the Jazz Critics Poll that Francis Davis started up at the Village Voice back in 2006. I should be able to send ballot requests out mid-November, with a probable deadline of December 11. If anyone has thoughts on this project, please contact me directly by email. I doubt there will be many changes from last year. The tools for tabulating the ballots work very well, but there is a lot of work getting people to vote and writing things up.
I expect next week will be another slack one, as I need to spend more time on housekeeping issues, including some cooking. I also need to figure out my way around a new Chromebook. If it works out, I won't be so tied down to my desk.
Odds are finally better than 50-50 that I will manage a Book Roundup this week. I have enough material, but just need to sort and prioritize it.
New records reviewed this week:
The 1975: Being Funny in a Foreign Language (2022, Dirty Hit): English alt/indie band, fifth album since 2013, got a critical rep early which I never quite heard, but this has a sunny appeal that only comes when you craft something catchy. B+(***) [sp]
Ahanes: Petrichor (2021 , Clean Feed): Three Greek jazz musicians -- Nicky Kokkoli (sax), Giannis Arapis (guitar), and Alex Zethson (keyboard) -- ventured to Stockholm for a winter festival, picked up three locals for this sextet: Mats ┼leklint (trombone), Torbj÷rn Zetterberg (bass), and Nils Agnas (drums). B+(**) [sp]
Alvvays: Blue Rev (2022, Polyvinyl): Canadian indie pop group, Molly Rankin sings and plays guitar, third album, nice, upbeat appeal. B+(**) [sp]
Anat Cohen: Quartetinho (2021 , Anzic): Israeli clarinet player, based in New York, has long been drawn to Brazilian music, delivered mostly by Vitor Gonšalves (piano, accordion, Fender Rhodes) here, the quartet fleshed out by Tal Mashiach (bass, guitar) and James Shipp (vibraphone, percussion, glockenspiel, analog synth). B+(**) [sp]
Whit Dickey Quartet: Root Perspectives (2022, Tao Forms): Drummer, worked with pianist Matthew Shipp from the early 1990s, both in and out of the David S. Ware Quartet. Produces yet another variation of that here, with Tony Malaby on tenor sax and Brandon Lopez on bass. Kicks off loud, and rarely lets up, but Malaby doesn't sound quite right: like he's straining to channel Ware. B+(**) [cd] [10-21]
Charlotte Dos Santos: Morfo (2022, Because Music): Pop singer, born in Oslo, father Brazilian, mother Norwegian, studied as a jazz singer at Berklee, based in Berlin, first album after a 2017 EP. B+(***) [sp]
Eliane Elias: Quietude (2022, Candid): Brazilian pianist-singer, back in SŃo Paulo immersed in dreamy samba. B+(**) [sp]
Brian Eno: Forever and Ever No More (2022, Verve): Cover squeezes all the spaces out from the all-caps title -- a conceit I decided not to humor after finding that my first attempt at typing the title came out wrong. One of his few albums lately to offer lyrics, but the music is drearily ambient, probably to fit the gloom of the words, but vice versa is also possible. B+(*) [sp]
Amina Figarova: Joy (2022, AmFi): Pianist, born in Baku (now Azerbaijan), trained in classical music, moved to Rotterdam in 1988, then studied at Berklee and switched to jazz. Dozen-plus albums since 1993. Husband Bart Platteau plays flute, in a band that includes trumpet (Alez Pope Morris) and saxophone (Wayne Escoffery), with a vocal guest spot. B+(*) [cd]
Paolo Fresu/Dino Rubino/Daniele Di Bonaventura/Marco Bardoscia: Ferlinghetti (2022, Tuk Music): Trumpet/flugelhorn player, originally from Sardinia, many albums since 1985, this is soundtrack music for a documentary about famed beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. With piano, bandoneon, and bass. B+(***) [sp]
Paul Heaton + Jacqui Abbott: N.K-Pop (2022, EMI): Formerly of the Beautiful South, he the main writer/singer (first noticed in the Housemartins), but she added another dimension, and still helps. It's been some time since they were as good as they used to be, but stick around long enough and they'll pay off. B+(***) [sp]
Loraine James: Building Something Beautiful for Me (2022, Phantom Limb): British electronica producer, aka Whatever the Weather, fashioned this as an homage to the music of Julius Eastman, who's receiving renewed interest well after his short and troubled life (1940-90). There's a compositional sophistication here that rarely shows up in electronica, but also a layer of electronic glitz that the chamber groups that have been reviving Eastman lately haven't imagined. Makes me wonder what she might do with Harry Partch. A- [sp]
Ted Kooshian: Hubub! (2022, Summit): Pianist, sometimes plays electric, leads a quintet with trumpet (John Bailey), tenor sax (Jeff Lederer), bass, and drums, with occasional guests, including a vocal (Jim Mola). Originals (aside from "Somewhere"), bright and sunny. B+(**) [cd]
Tove Lo: Dirt Femme (2022, Pretty Swede): Swedish pop singer, original name Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson, fifth album since 2014. Has a reputation for dark and dirty, but this is pretty snappy. "Love can forget a lot/ it's why we go on at all." A- [sp]
M.I.A.: Mata (2022, Island): London-born Mathangi Arulpragasam, parents from Sri Lanka, burst on the scene with a Diplo-produced mixtape in 2004, then major albums in 2005-07. Sixth album, all short titles, album a trim 33:02. Not sure about the words or meanings, but the beats are clearly something I've been craving lately. A-
Margaux Oswald: Dysphotic Zone (2021 , Clean Feed): Pianist, born in Geneva, based in Copenhagen, first solo album after a couple co-credits, short (2 pieces, 32:50). Leans heavy into the instrument. B+(*) [sp]
Kerry Politzer: In a Heartbeat (2022, P.Ice): Pianist, teaches in Portland, half-dozen albums since 2000, original compositions here, quintet with trumpet (Thomas Barber), sax/flute (Joe Mains, bass, and drums (husband George Colligan, a major pianist in his own right). B+(**) [cd] [10-21]
Marek Pospieszalski Quartet: DŘrer's Mother (2019 , Clean Feed): Polish tenor saxophonist, has several albums and side projects, quartet here with piano (Elias Stemseder), bass, and drums. Original pieces inspired by "composers, from Schubert to Britten to Lachenmann." B+(***) [sp]
Susan Reed: Thousands of Ways (2021 , OA2): Violinist, also sings (3 songs here?), has a couple books and several albums (some oriented to children), is grooming her daughters for a string band. All originals, backed by guitar, bass (David Friesen), and drums. B+(***) [cd] [10-21]
Eve Risser/Red Desert Orchestra: Eurythmia (2021 , Clean Feed): French pianist, albums since 2008, one from 2016 leading a White Desert Orchestra. Afro-European fusion, group includes five horn players, electric guitar and bass, plus a Mali component with balafon and djembe. B+(***) [sp]
Oliver Sim: Hideous Bastard (2022, Young/XL): Bassist-vocalist from the XX, first solo album. B+(*) [sp]
GŘnter Baby Sommer & Raymond MacDonald: Sounds, Songs & Other Noises (2016-19 , Clean Feed): Drums and sax (alto/soprano) duo, the latter from Glasgow. Seems like I should be more familiar with him, but most of his albums are improv duos, including a previous one with Sommer. B+(**) [sp]
Sun Ra Arkestra Directed by Marshall Allen: Living Sky (2022, Omni Sound): Sun Ra died in 1993, so you could count this as a ghost band, but his long-time alto saxophonist is no ghost, still carrying the flame at age 98. The big band is bigger than ever (20 pieces, including a string quartet). Mostly extended vamp pieces, background music that swings gently and/or roils, highlighted by a scratchy alto sax -- presumably Allen, just enough to rough up the edges. A- [sp]
Bernardo Tinoco & Tom Maciel: NoMad Nen˙far (2022, Clean Feed): Saxophonist (alto/tenor), also credited with duduk and flute, has a previous album leading the group Garfo. Duo with Maciel playing piano, synths, and drum machine, although they add a live drummer (JoŃo Pereira) for three (of 5) tracks. B+(*) [sp]
Steve Turre: Generations (2022, Smoke Sessions): Trombonist, also plays shells, leads a quintet with a trumpet player named Wallace Roney Jr. -- son of the famed trumpet player who died at 59 in 2020, and also of the late pianist Geri Allen (who passed in 2017) -- and a drummer named Orion Turre (the leader's son, also via cellist Akua Dixon). Also a long list of "special guests." B+(**) [sp]
Bobby Watson: Back Home in Kansas City (2022, Smoke Sessions): Alto saxophonist, grew up in Kansas City, joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, recorded several masterpieces in the 1990s (mostly on the Italian RED label), returned as Director of Jazz Studies at UMKC in 2000, retiring 20 years later. Leads a quintet here not far removed from Blakey's, with Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Cyrus Chestnut (piano), Curtis Lundy (bass), and Victor Jones (drums), with a guest spot for singer Carmen Lundy. B+(*) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Sun Ra Arkestra/Salah Ragab/The Cairo Jazz Band: The Sun Ra Arkestra Meets Salah Ragab in Egypt (1983 , Strut): "First ever official reissue," unfortunately the Bandcamp page doesn't do much to clarify who's playing what when. The earlier Praxis (1983) release does attribute the first album side to Sun Ra, with drummer Ragab's quintet playing the middle track on the B-side, sandwiched between two longer Cairo Jazz Band tracks (also led by Ragab). Impressive as the Arkestra is, the Egyptians more than hold up their end. B+(***) [sp]
Detail [Johnny Dyani/Frode Gjerstad/John Stevens]: Backwards and Forwards: First Detail (1982 , Impetus): Avant-jazz trio (bass, alto sax, drums), first record together (and Gjerstad's first ever), group continued at least to Last Detail in 1996 (with Kent Carter after Dyani died in 1986). Also note that while the cover bills this as "First Detail," the 2015 Rune Grammofon album First Detail was recorded nine days earlier, and "First Detail" returned as a song on their Last Detail album. B+(**) [bc]
Detail [Frode Gjerstad/Johnny Dyani/John Stevens] + Paul Rutherford/Barry Guy: A Concert: Detail + (1983 , Circulasione Totale): Cover lists last names, and not in the order given above, which inserts Rutherford/Guy after Gjerstad (who, by the way, plays soprano and tenor sax instead of his usual alto). B+(***) [bc]
Detail/Bobby Bradford: In Time Was (1986 , Circulasione Totale): Live recording from Bracknell Jazz Festival, with Johnny Dyani on bass, a few months before he died, plus Frode Gjerstad (sax) and John Stevens (drums), plus Bradford on cornet, who is the star here. B+(***) [bc]
Detail/Billy Bang: Detail + Billy Bang (1989 , Circulasione Totale): After Johnny Dyani died in 1986, Kent Carter took over bass in the trio with Frode Gjerstad (tenor sax) and John Stevens (drums). This adds violinist Billy Bang for a 49:41 improv. B+(***) [bc]
Frode Gjerstad Trio: Remember to Forget (1997 , Circulasione Totale): Norwegian alto saxophonist, started with the group Detail in 1982, has by now a large discography of his own, and more side credits. Recorded this at Cafe String, Stavanger, when William Parker and Hamid Drake were visiting. B+(***) [bc]
Frode Gjerstad Trio: Mothers & Fathers & (2005 , Circulasione Totale): Part of a large stash of live tapes Gjerstad put up on Bandcamp. Gjerstad plays alto-, bass-sax, and clarinet, with Jon Rune Str°m on bass and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. B+(***) [bc]
Frode Gjerstad/Louis Moholo-Moholo: MIR-13 (2013 , Circulasione Totale): Sax and drums duo, live shot from a club in Oslo (MIR). B+(*) [bc]
Frode Gjerstad Trio With Steve Swell: At Constellation (2014 , Circulasione Totale): Leader credited with "reeds," backed by Jon Rune Str°m (bass) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums), from an appearance in Chicago, with the trombonist chiming in. B+(***) [bc]
Archie Shepp/Attica Blues Big Band: Paris: Live at the Palais Des Glaces (1979 , Blue Marge): Circa 1970, there was a brief period when avant-jazz met black nationalism and tried to merge into a semi-popular community music. Shepp exemplified the concept, especially with his 1969 Kwanza and 1972 Attica Blues. The latter inspired this big band, with Ray Copeland directing and several vocalists. B+(***) [bc]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last two weeks: