An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, November 21, 2022
November archive (in progress).
Music: Current count 39116  rated (+51), 38  unrated (-8: 10 new, 28 old).
On Thursday, I sent almost 200 invitations out to cast votes in the 17th Annual Jazz Critics Poll. Last year I wound up sending the invites out manually. I've been trying to think of a better method, and came up with two. The initial ballots I would send out using Thunderbird's Mail Merge option. For later notices and reminders, I figured I could use a GNU Mailman mailing list, using "mass subscription" to enroll people, and set up restrictions so only I can send further mail to the list. It took most of the day to figure out how to set those up, and a couple people got confused by the mail list, but it seems to be working fine now. As I'm writing this, I've gotten 46 acks back, and 10 ballots. Deadline will be end-of-day December 12. Results will be published at The Arts Fuse, and on my master website.
I'll possibly send out a few more invites this week. I haven't had much time to try to vet candidates this weekend, especially as I knocked out another Speaking of Which column. Some of this week's records are things I was pointed to by voters. I also found a Michaelangelo Matos ballot with eight records I hadn't heard, so I checked them out: liked all of the electronica, was less taken by two prog-ish pop groups (Au Suisse, Dungen).
Other news for me is that I've recently bought new keyboard, mouse, and speakers for the computer I'm typing this on. In each case the old pieces were failing: the mouse button was unreliable; the cap to one of the keyboard keys ('d') wore a hole in the middle, keeping the switch from engaging, and more keys were dropping out (especially shift states); and the right speaker was cracking up, so I had been listening to only one speaker for months (and wondering why the sound was so crap compared to the cheaper speakers on the other computer).
I went with a Logitech wireless (not Bluetooth) mouse, which is a huge improvement. I'm having more trouble adjusting to the keyboard, which is a bit disappointing give how much the Keychron Q3 cost: the brown switchers have more click than I'm used to, and the backlighting can be disorienting (presumably that and everything else is programmable, but I haven't looked up how to do that through Linux). But it's very sturdily built (weighs about 6 lbs), and the keys and mechanical switches are high quality, so I doubt they'll wear down like the Logitech keyboard did. I could wind up liking it once I get use to the feel. Speakers (Creative Labs Gigaworks T40) are pretty good, too, although I haven't used them much. (I use a second computer for streaming, but downloads land on this one, and I haven't been paying them much attention.)
Bonus is that I had to do some massive tidying up before I could install it all, which gave me lots of time to worry. That gives me a spot where I can organize the 2022 CDs I have in case I want to recheck any. Although I think the current grade sort on my jazz and non-jazz lists is good enough, I doubt that the A-list ranking is anywhere near right.
We have minimal plans for Thanksgiving, as it's always hard to round people up, and we have no particular place to go. I thought we might just grill some hamburgers and eggplant (topped with yogurt, a Turkish thing), and make baked beans, potato salad, slaw, and a spice cake. Should be warmer than last week was, and I can fob the grilling off on a guest, so that's always a treat for me.
New records reviewed this week:
A-Trak: 10 Seconds: Volume 1 (2022, Fool's Gold, EP): Canadian turntablist/electronica producer Alain Macklovitch, active since 1999, mostly singles and EPs, unearthed a broken drum machine during pandemic to "churn out the rawest house beats he's ever made." Four songs, 15:04. B+(***) [sp]
A-Trak: 10 Seconds: Volume 2 (2022, Fool's Gold, EP): Four more songs, 15:30. Pulls it out on the final cut. B+(***) [sp]
Adult.: Becoming Undone (2022, Dais): Detroit duo of Nicola Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller, 10th album since 2000, lots of funky industrial grind, at least until they slow it down. B+(***) [sp]
Franco Ambrosetti: Nora (2022, Enja): Swiss trumpet player, just turned 80, father was a saxophonist, playing together in the George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band. This feels like a bucket list project, with an all-star combo -- John Scofield (guitar), Uri Caine (piano), Scott Colley (bassist), and Peter Erskine (drums) -- backed by a 22-piece string orchestra arranged and conducted by Alan Broadbent. The strings are indeed reminiscent of sessions with Charlie Parker and Clifford Brown, but that doesn't strike me as much of a plus. B+(*) [sp]
Au Suisse: Au Suisse (2022, City Slang): Duo of Morgan Geist and Mike Kelley (aka Kelley Polar), both Americans with a decade-plus experience producing electronic dance music. This is more of a new wave throwback. B+(*) [sp]
The Black Dog: Brutal Minimalism EP (2022, Dust Science, EP): British electronica group, founded 1989, Ken Downie the only original member left, joined by Richard and Martin Dust in 2001. Vast discography. "Brutal" refers to architecture, but the music is less so, even if that's what it's meant to convey. Four tracks, 17:47. B+(***) [sp]
The Black Dog: Concrete Reasoning EP (2022, Dust Science, EP): Three tracks, 12:21, builds on the architectural themes of Brutal Minimalism. B+(*) [sp]
Patricia Brennan: More Touch (2022, Pyroclastic): Vibraphone/marimba player, 2021 album won Jazz Critics Poll as the year's top debut. Second album, runs 70:47, backed with bass (Kim Cass), drums (Marcus Gilmore), and percussion (Mauricio Herrera). B+(***) [cd]
Terri Lynne Carrington: New Standards Vol. 1 (2022, Candid): Drummer, ranges from avant to crossover, is founder and artistic director of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gener Justice. Her "new standards" are defined in a book of 101 lead sheets, the common denominator that all songs are by women. This offers 11 of them. Band on cover: Kris Davis (piano), Linda May Han Oh (bass), Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Matthew Stevens (guitar). Plus there is a long list of guests, including vocalists. Results are rather mixed, which may have been the plan. B+(**) [sp]
Frank Catalano: Live at Birdland (2022, Ropeadope): Saxophonist from Chicago, mostly plays tenor, early albums on Delmark (1998-2001) include a joust with Von Freeman. Quartet with Randy Ingram (piano), Julian Smith (bass), and Mike Clark (drums). The result is an old-fashioned sax stomp, the sort of thing a Sonny Stitt, or maybe a George Coleman, might bust loose. A- [sp]
Callista Clark: Real to Me: The Way I Feel (2022, Big Machine): Young country singer-songwriter from Georgia, signed a contract at 15 with the label that launched Taylor Swift. First album expands on 2021's 5-track EP. I'm not wild about the big money production, but don't doubt her talent. B+(*) [sp]
Duduka Da Fonseca & Quarteto Universal: Yes!!! (2022, Sunnyside): Brazilian drummer, long based in New York, played in the group Trio da Paz (7 albums 1992-2011). Quartet with Vinicius Gomes (guitar), Helio Alves (piano), and Gill Lopes (bass). B+(**) [sp]
Dungen: En Är För Mycket Och Tusen Aldrig Nog (2022, Mexican Summer): Swedish group, albums since 2001, often considered prog or psychedelic, titles in Swedish. B+(*) [sp]
Joe Fahey: Baker's Cousin (2022, Rough Fish): Minnesota singer-songwriter, fifth album since 2006, too much rock reverb for country, but I suppose Americana might claim him. B+(**) [sp]
Avram Fefer Quartet: Juba Lee (2022, Clean Feed): Alto/tenor saxophonist, also plays bass clarinet, reconvenes a trio that produced one of 2011's best records -- Eilyahu, with Eric Revis (bass) and Chad Taylor (drums) -- and adds Marc Ribot (guitar) for very good measure. A- [cdr]
Bill Frisell: Four (2022, Blue Note): Guitarist, many records since 1982, this one a quartet with Gregory Tardy (clarinet, tenor sax), Gerald Clayton (piano), and Johnathan Blake (drums). Postbop, sometimes beguiling, sometimes not. B+(*) [sp]
Kittin + the Hacker: Third Album (2022, Nobody's Bizzness): French electronica duo, Caroline Hervé (more often known as Miss Kittin) and Michel Amato, collaboration goes back to 1997, along with solo work from both. B+(***) [sp]
Laufey: Everything I Know About Love (2022, AWAL): Singer-songwriter, first album after several singles/EPs, full name is Icelandic (Laufey Lin Jónsdóttir), her mother Chinese, a violinist like her grandfather Lin Yaoji. She studied at Berklee -- playing piano, guitar, and cello -- and is based in Los Angeles. B+(**) [sp]
Bill Laurance: Affinity (2022, Flint Music): British keyboard player, original member of Snarky Puppy, with an album of solo piano. B+(*) [sp]
Jeffrey Lewis: When That Really Old Cat Dies (2022, self-released, EP): Cover notes: "Asides & B-Sides" and "Previously Unstreamable Tracks," so the implication is that this compiles old tracks, but tracking them down isn't cost-effective. Seven occasionally interesting songs, 23:07 B+(*) [sp]
Dana Lyn: A Point on a Slow Curve (2022, In a Circle): Violinist, only previous album I can find was in 2004. this is a fairly large group, with Mike McGinniss on clarinet/bass clarinet, Sara Schoenbeck on bassoon, Patricia Brennan on vibes, more strings and percussion, and several singers. B+(*) [sp]
Jim McNeely/Frankfurt Radio Big Band Featuring Chris Potter: Rituals (2015 , Double Moon): I don't often include the "featuring" credit, but after McNeely's 6-part title piece (33:03) the other four pieces were composed by Potter (35:25), and as the soloist Potter owns this record. B+(***) [sp]
Abel Mireles: Amino (2021 , Sunnyside): Mexican-American saxophonist (tenor/soprano), based in New York, first album as leader. B+(**) [sp]
Judy Niemack: What's Love (2021 , Sunnyside): Jazz singer, writes or adds lyrics to most of her songs, debut 1978, second album 1989, has recorded regularly since then. Distinctive stylist, has a first-rate mainstream band here with Peter Bernstein (guitar), Sumner Fortner (piano), Doug Weiss (bass), and Joe Farnsworth (drums), with Eric Alexander (tenor sax) on one track. B+(***) [sp]
Lina Nyberg Band: Anniverse (2022, Hoob): Swedish singer, albums since 1990, backed by piano, guitar, bass, and drums, on a cycle of songs that move from month to month through one year. "September" stands out. B [sp]
The Ostara Project: The Ostara Project (2022, Cellar): Canadian group, named for "the Germanic goddess of the spring equinox," led by Amanda Tosoff (piano) and Jodi Proznick (bass), with alto sax (Allison Au), trumpet (Rachel Therrien), guitar (Jocelyn Gould), drums (Sanah Kadoura), and vocals (Joanna Majoko) -- the latter dominate, unfortunately, not that I don't enjoy a nice "Bye Bye Blackbird." B+(*) [cd]
Dierk Peters: Spring (2022, Sunnyside): German vibraphonist, second album, quintet with Adam O'Farrill (trumpet), Caleb Wheeler Curtis (alto sax), bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]
Zach Phillips: Goddaughters (2022, self-released): Singer-songwriter from San Diego, fourth album, shares a name with a more prolific keyboardist (has a UK website but was born in New Hampshire and is based in Brooklyn, and might be worth some research). This is billed as Americans, which means songs of real life from interesting angles, but I'm every bit as struck by the guitar, which reminds me of classic Who. A- [cd]
Piri & Tommy: Froge.mp3 (2022, Polydor): Drum & bass duo, singer-songwriter Sophie McBurnie (Piri) and Tommy Villers, first album together, or mixtape, or whatever. Easily the catchiest trifle from Michaelangelo Matos's electronica-heavy EOY list. A- [sp]
Plaid: Feorm Falorx (2022, Warp): British electronica duo, Ed Handley and Andy Turner, original members of the Black Dog (with Ken Downie), left in 1995 to focus on their duo, which started in 1991. Another good beats album that doesn't quite blow me away. B+(**) [sp]
Jana Pochop: The Astronaut (2022, self-released): Folk singer-songwriter from New Mexico, base in Austin, first album after a decade-plus of singles and EPs. Has an appealing spaciness. B+(**) [sp]
Pye Corner Audio: Let's Emerge! (2022, Sonic Cathedral): British electronica producer Martin Jenkins, more than a dozen albums since 2010. Shimmering surfaces reinforced with guitar. B+(**) [sp]
Reverso: Harmonic Alchemy (2022, Outnote): Chamber jazz trio, names on the cover, hard to see let alone parse, but clockwise from top: Vince Courtois (cello), Ryan Keberle (trombone), and Frank Woeste (piano). Two previous albums together, The Melodic Line and Suite Ravel. B+(***) [cdr]
Emiliano Sampaio Jazz Symphonic Orchestra: We Have a Dream (2022, Alessa): Brazilian guitarist and trombonist, based in Austria. I don't have a good sense of what his earlier work (e.g., Meretrio) was like, but he's been gravitating toward large ensembles, and goes whole hog here. With enough rhythm to keep it interesting. B+(**) [sp]
Chad Taylor Trio: The Reel (2022, Astral Spirits): Chicago Underground drummer, not much as leader but a lot of superb co- and side credits. Trio here with Brian Settles (saxophones) and Neil Podgurski (piano). Within a free jazz framework, each member gets chances to show off, an aims to please. A- [bc]
Thumbscrew: Multicolored Midnight (2021 , Cuneiform): Trio of Mary Halvorson (guitar), Mark Dresser (bass, electronics), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums, vibes), seventh album since 2014. I'm not a fan of everything Halvorson does, but this group is one where she earns her reputation. A- [dl]
Dan Weiss Trio: Dedication (2020 , Cygnus): Drummer-led piano trio, with Jacob Sacks and Thomas Morgan playing Weiss compositions, each title a "For X," where "X" includes musical influences like Nancarrow and Elvin, cultural ones like Tarkovsky, personal ones like "Grandma May," also one "For George Floyd." B+(**) [cd]
Lainey Wilson: Bell Bottom Country (2022, Broken Bow): Country singer-songwriter from Louisiana, fourth album, has all the tools, though I'm not so sure about the cover outfit. She co-wrote thirteen songs, then finished with a cover of "What's Up (What's Going On)" that blows them away. B+(***) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Roy Eldridge Quartet/Ella Fitzgerald Quintet: In Concert: Falkoner Centret, Copenhagen, Denmark, May 21, 1959 (1959 , SteepleChase): The two headliners shared the same band: Herb Ellis (guitar), Lou Levy (piano), Wilfred Middlebrooks (bass), and Gus Johnson (drums). Opens with two trumpet leads, then Ella takes over with "Cheek to Cheek," tripping up a bit on a mambo piece, but recovering spectacularly with a full scat "How High the Moon." Would like to have heard more from Roy. B+(***) [sp]
Ella Fitzgerald: Ella at the Hollywood Bowl: The Irving Berlin Songbook (1958 , Verve): Previously unreleased 15-song concert, recorded a couple weeks after wrapping the Berlin section of her Songbooks series. B+(***) [sp]
Hal Galper: Ivory Forest Redux (1979 , Origin): Another archival find, this one from early in the pianist's career, in a quartet featuring a young but already distinctive guitarist named John Scofield, backed by bass (Wayne Dockery) and drums (Adam Nussbaum). B+(***) [cd]
Ahmad Jamal: Emerald City Nights: Live at the Penthouse 1963-1964 (1963-64 , Elemental, 2CD): Pianist, born 1930 in Pittsburgh as Frederick Jones, converted to Islam in 1950, shortly before his first records, which became popular and plentiful from 1958 on. This collects two trio sets, with either Richard Evans or Jamil Nasser on bass, and Chuck Lampkin on drums. I give this one a slight edge: it's a bit more sprightly, but he's always entertaining. A- [cd] [12-02]
Ahmad Jamal: Emerald City Nights: Live at the Penthouse 1965-1966 (1965-66 , Elemental, 2CD): Four more sets from the next couple years, with Jamal Nasser on bass, and various drummers (Chuck Lampkin, Vernel Fournier, Frank Grant). B+(***) [cd] [12-02]
Elvin Jones: Revival: Live at Pookie's Pub (1967 , Blue Note): Drummer, best known for John Coltrane Quartet, which he left a year before this set, recorded a couple weeks before Coltrane died. With Joe Farrell (tenor sax/flute), Billy Greene (piano), and Wilbur Little (bass). Runs long, and I might prefer fewer drum solos and less flute, but those are quibbles. B+(***) [sp]
Dickie Landry/Lawrence Weiner: Having Been Built on Sand/With Another Base (Basis) in Fact (1978 , Unseen Worlds): Saxophonist from Louisiana, also a painter, his scattered works often tied to art installations. This is billed as "a structure of Lawrence Weiner," with Weiner one of three spoken voices -- the one in English and German, along with Tina Girouard in English and Britta Le Va in German. B+(**) [sp]
Alhaji Waziri Oshomah: World Spirituality Classics 3: The Muslim Highlife of Alhaji Waziri Oshomah (1978-84 , Luaka Bop): Original name Osomegbe Ekperi, from Edo in Southern Nigeria, a region where Muslims and Christians reportedly live in relative harmony. Dates not specified, but three (of seven) tracks are also on a 1978-84 5-LP box set. Not the hottest highlife I've heard, but the laid-back groove has its own appeal. A- [sp]
Esbjörn Svensson: Home.S. (2008 , ACT): Swedish pianist, leader of the very popular piano trio, E.S.T., until his death in a scuba diving accident in 2008. This is a previously unreleased solo session, thoughtful with some spritely moments. B+(*) [cd]
Mototeru Takagi/Kim Dae Hwan/Choi Sun Bae: Seishin-Seido (1995 , NoBusiness): Tenor sax, percussion, and trumpet trio. Second album the label has released featuring Takagi (1941-2002), a bit more scattered than Live at Little John. B+(**) [cd]
Gebhard Ullmann/Steve Swell/Hilliard Greene/Barry Altschul: We're Playing in Here? (2007 , NoBusiness): Four pieces by Swell (trombone), one by Ullmann (tenor sax/bass clarinet), from a period when they played together frequently. Backed by bass and drums. B+(***) [cd]
Homeboy Sandman: Actual Factual Pterodactyl (2008, Boy Sand Industries): Second album. Way too much here. B+(***) [sp]
Homeboy Sandman: Chimera EP (2012, Stones Throw, EP): Not as manic as the early records, just six songs (23:35). B+(*) [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: