An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, February 6, 2023
Music: Current count 39555  rated (+21), 48  unrated (+9: 20 new, 28 old).
Took a break after the excesses of last week and last month. I spent two days on a fried chicken dinner, during which I only played old favorites. Finally, over the weekend (while writing Speaking of Which), I finally dug up my unplayed Penguin Guide 4-star list, and started up in the 'C' section. (I'm deleting as I knock items off.)
Lots of items from that list aren't on streaming (probably most of them). I've also generally skipped over compilations from familiar artists, especially material I've heard elsewhere (e.g., a lot of Louis Armstrong). And sometimes I've had to make adjustments, like with Eddie Condon's The Town Hall Concerts, where 2-CD sets have recently (hard to tell how recently) been broken up into pieces for download/streaming. (For example, The Town Hall Concerts Five and Six are the first half of the previous Vol. 3. Also, the Condon twofers on Collectables have been split up, with one piece of one of them reduced to EP-length). When I get into an artist like Condon, it's tempting to go deeper, but for now I've mostly restrained myself -- I did substitute the Timeless 1928-1931 for the similar Classics set, and added the 3.5-star In Japan.
Once again, I've neglected my paperwork, including the indexing for recent Streamnotes files. I also haven't frozen the 2022 list. (Started to, then noticed that I didn't freeze 2021 until February 28, so I might keep that consistent this year.) I think I added one set to the EOY Aggregate (from Christian Iszchak, although I should also add the latest from Phil Overeem).
The 12th Annual Expert Witness Poll Results have been turned into a web page. The Expert Witness Facebook group boasts 371 members, but only 43 voted. Would be nice to have the individual ballots collected (and I don't mean in a Google spreadsheet, like PJRP uses). I included the ones I found in my EOY Aggregate (looks like I got 19 of them, plus a few more that I tracked from independent lists, like: Sidney Carpenter-Wilson), Chuck Eddy, Christian Iszchak Brad Luen, Chris Monsen, and no doubt others.
We had a small disaster at the Robert Christgau website, when a software change made by the ISP broke the database access code. They fixed the problem fairly quickly, but it shows that I need to upgrade the code to play nice with PHP 8 (since not breaking websites seems to be beyond the ken of the PHP developers). I've been thinking more lately about a revision of the now-22-year-old website code, and may finally have some time to work on it. We've long needed to migrate to the UTF-8 codeset, and to make everything HTML5 proper (about half of the pages are). There is also a lot of dead PHP 5 code to be cleaned out (PHP 7 broke it, especially the database code). Also need to fix the viewport for cell phones, and that probably means redoing the navigation menus, and replacing the table layout code with divs and spans and more CSS.
Functionality-wise, the main thing I'd like to do is to put all the page metadata into the database (I'm ok with leaving the page text in flat files), so the 2001 Voice-centric directory structure is, if not gone, purely atavistic. This would help make browsing more flexible. I'd also like to add a category/keyword system, which again would add many more dimensions for browsing. Plus I need to do a better job of documenting everything, so the next poor sod who has to maintain the site has some clue as to how it works. None of these things, at least codewise, are very difficult, but there's a ton of data to run through the wringer. That's probably what's been daunting me for years now.
I've also started to think about rebuilding my website. The idea here is to create a new directory structure alongside the old "ocston" framework, then start moving content into it. The new structure would also be build mostly out of flat files, but would have a database to index the files, and possibly manage some structured content (like album grades and/or book blurbs). I've collected lots of content in LibreWriter files, but that hasn't made it any more accessible. So maybe the best solution is to bust it up again? As I want to eventually organize some of this writing in book form, a flexible website configuration might be a useful path forward.
I have an email list for discussing my website plans. If you're interested in the gritty technical details, let me know and I'll sign you up. Traffic on the list has been very light, but would pick up if I ever got my ass in gear.
New records reviewed this week:
Kwesi Arthur: Son of Jacob (2022, Ground Up Chale): Rapper-singer from Ghana, first album, musical flow. B+(**) [sp]
Skip Grasso: Becoming (2022 , Barking Coda Music): Guitarist, has a previous group album. This is a quartet with Anthony Powell (keyboards), Harvie S (bass), and Billy Drummond (drums). All original pieces, pleasant enough. B [cd]
The Dave Stryker Trio: Prime (2022 , Strikezone): Guitarist, trio with Jared Gold (organ) and McClenty Hunter (drums). Creatures of habit, starting off each year with a new album of tasty groove. B+(***) [cd]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Terri Lyne Carrington/Adam Rogers/Jimmy Haslip/Greg Osby: Structure (2003 , ACT): Drums, guitar, bass, alto sax. Everyone brought songs, plus they cover one by Joni Mitchell ("Ethiopia," which Carrington sings). B+(***) [sp]
Betty Carter: Look What I Got! (1988, Verve): Jazz singer (1929-98), started in ill-fitting big bands -- Lionel Hampton reportedly fired her seven times -- kicked around various labels before she finally took charge of her own (Bet-Car), which after 1976 was distributed by Verve, giving her the autonomy she demanded and the exposure she craved. She won a Grammy for this one, although it strikes me as a bit of a muddle -- despite an interesting "The Man I Love," highlighted by Don Braden's sax. B+(*) [sp]
Ron Carter/Jim Hall: Telephone (1984 , Concord): Bass and guitar duo, did a previous album (Alone Together) in 1973, as well as Alive at Village West in 1982. This one was also recorded live. B+(*) [sp]
Soesja Citroen: Soesja Citroen Sings Thelonious Monk (1983 , Timeless): Dutch jazz singer, early album, backed by trio or larger groups up to octet led by pianist Cees Slinger. Various lyricists, mostly Citroen (5/8 tracks). B+(**) [sp]
Soesja Citroen: Songs for Lovers and Losers (1996, Challenge): Smaller but still significant credits on the cover for Louis van Dijk (piano) and Hein Van de Geyn (bass), then "special guest" Ack van Rooyen (flugelhorn on three tracks). Standards, most common, some special. B+(**) [sp]
The Johnny Coles Quartet: New Morning (1982 , Criss Cross): Trumpet player (1926-97), mostly remembered for his one album on Blue Note (Little Johnny C, from 1963), only led a few more dates, plus several dozen side credits (notably with Gil Evans and Charles Mingus). Quartet with Horace Parlan (piano), Reggie Johnson (bass), and Billy Hart (drums), playing three originals, three covers (Mingus, Wayne Shorter, Charles Davis). B+(***) [sp]
George Colligan: Agent 99 (1999 , SteepleChase): Pianist, debut 1999 (title: The Newcomer), trio with Doug Weiss (bass) and Darren Beckett (drums). Two originals, various jazz tunes and standards (including a Jobim). B+(**) [sp]
Eddie Condon: 1928-1931 (1928-31 , Timeless): Swing guitarist (1905-73), played banjo on these 22 early tracks, starting with two from Miff Mole's Molers, followed by eight for Condon-led groups (a quartet with Frank Teschemacher and Gene Krupa, two sextets called the Footwarmers and Eddie's Hot Shots, both with Mezz Mezzrow and Jack Teagarden, with Condon sometimes singing), and the rest with the Mound City Blue Blowers (led by vocalist Red McKenzie, with various lineups at times including Coleman Hawkins, Fats Waller, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, and/or Muggsy Spanier). Condon's networking skills, which crossed racial lines, defined his later career: numerous jam sessions, including the 1944-45 Town Hall Concerts (radio shots which Jazzology eventually released in eleven multi-CD volumes), and many more recordings from his New York City jazz club. B+(**) [r]
Eddie Condon: The Town Hall Concerts Five and Six (1944, Jazzology): The first half (two of four concerts) excerpted from Volume Two of the Jazzology series. Concert Five was a tribute to Fats Waller, who had died six months earlier, with James P. Johnson on piano and Pee Wee Russell on clarinet. The sixth concert is joined by Willie "The Lion" Smith" and Hot Lips Page. Some spectacular music, but also lots of talk, not least about war bonds. B+(***) [sp]
Eddie Condon's All-Stars: Jam Session Coast-to-Coast (1954, Columbia, EP): Four tracks, 23:16, although most editions in Discogs add on another six tracks (24:12) by Rampart Street Paraders (a totally different band, with George Van Eps instead of Condon on guitar). The All-Stars include Wild Bill Davison (cornet), Edmond Hall (clarinet), Gene Schroeder (piano), Walter Page (bass), and Cliff Leeman (drums), plus Dick Cary (trumpet and piano) on two tracks. Opens with "Beale Street Blues," ends with the 10:40 "Jam Session Blues/Ole Miss." B+(***) [r]
Eddie Condon: Bixieland (1955, Columbia): Full subhed: "in which Eddie Condon and his All-Stars jam on a few of Bix Beiderbecke's favorites." With Pete Pesci or Wild Bull Davison (as he's credited here) on trumpet, Edmond Hall on clarinet, and other lesser stars, spiffing up that old-time sound. A- [r]
Eddie Condon: Eddie Condon's Treasury of Jazz (1956, Columbia): Cover notes: "Eleven musical portraits of Eddie's friends in the jazz world." Another batch of what Louis Armstrong (who wrote one song here) used to call the "good ol' good 'uns." Names dropped: Fats Waller, Lee Wiley, Turk Murphy, Duke Ellington, Armstrong, Wild Bill Davison, Pee Wee Russell, Bix Beiderbecke, Red McKenzie, Benny Goodman, The Chicago Rhythm Kings. B+(***) [r]
Eddie Condon: Bixieland/Treasury of Jazz (1955-56 , Collectables): Nice twofer rated **** in Penguin Guide, digitally reverts to its constituent albums, no doubt a bargain if you can find it. I'm only hedging because I haven't. B+(***) [r]
Eddie Condon: In Japan (1964 , Chiaroscuro): Trad jazz guitarist takes his act on the road, introducing his stars through featured songs: Dick Cary (piano/alto horn), Pee Wee Russell (clarinet), Buck Clayton (trumpet), Vic Dickenson (trombone), Bud Freeman (tenor sax), and eventually Jimmy Rushing sings a few. The 1977 LP picked 11 songs, which the CD reissue expands to 15. B+(***) [sp]
Johnny Costa: Classic Costa (1990-91 , Chiaroscuro): Pianist (1922-96), original name Costanza, recorded a couple albums in the mid-1950s, more in the 1990s, but spent most of his career as music director for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. This is solo, 18 standards, distinguished for his speed, dexterity, and (when he slows it down) touch. Ends with an interesting memoir. B+(***) [sp]
Fred Hersch/Jay Clayton: Beautiful Love (1994 , Sunnyside): Piano and voice duo, standards, the singer very precise, with considerable nuance; the pianist equally precise, doesn't overstep his role. Reissue prominently marked as "remastered." B+(**) [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: