An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, February 13, 2023
Music: Current count 39593  rated (+38), 42  unrated (-6: 14 new, 28 old).
Rated count is high enough, but since I decided not to keep a tracking file (like I've done for many years, including 2022 with 5046 albums) I've been blissfully unaware of new non-jazz releases. On the other hand, there is a long list previously unheard music in my Penguin Guide 4-star list, and that suffices for now.
The latest plan is to suck up the recent music reviews into the book drafts, then empty them out into a redesigned website, so I figure anything that helps patch up old gaps is probably worthwhile. On the other hand, I've given up on trying to stay current. Maybe I'm still enough of a jazz critic to play catch up later on, but that'll depend on what else I manage to get going.
This week it's all been catch up. I finally added my Oct. 22 Book Roundup blurbs to my Book Notes compendium (beware: count is now 6145 books, 340k words, a file that should be broken up and stuffed into a database). I've also finally done the indexing for the December and January Streamnotes files, including the Music Weeks roll ups.
I'm still planning on doing the frozen snapshot of the 2022 list by the end of February, although I haven't actually added anything to the list this week (or last, as best I recall).
Incoming mail has been relatively high the last few weeks, so the drop to zero this week probably means little.
I wrote a fairly long Speaking of Which yesterday. One thing I didn't go into is that Democrats could start to divide over foreign policy, where Biden has resurrected the Blob. Left democrats have generally tolerated this, probably because Biden has been more accommodating on domestic policy, and because he handled the Afghanistan debacle with aplomb, but there are lots of obvious pitfalls, including some potential disasters, that could ultimately split the Democratic Party, not unlike Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam War. I don't see anyone -- even Sanders or Warren -- taking these risks seriously, let alone trying to steer foreign policy back onto a saner course. On the other hand, there is a pretty obvious platform that someone could challenge Biden on -- although the chances of winning in 2024 are miniscule, the odds of being right in the long run are much greater.
As noted, I ordered a couple of books from the very prolific Nathan J. Robinson, whose Current Affairs is by far the most useful of the explicitly socialist websites I've seen. (I regularly consult Jacobin and Counterpunch, but find much less there that I feel like forwarding -- Jeffrey St Clair's "Roaming Charges" is an exception, mostly for its breadth of coverage but also because I don't mind a little snark.)
I'm midway through Timothy Shenk's Realigners, which is to say I finished the profile on W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) and am deep inside the one on Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) -- neither of whom realigned anything, but got tossed back and forth trying to find a political party they could identify with. That was, of course, much harder for Du Bois, who I grew up more familiar with.
Lippmann has always been an enigma to me, as I've never understood why so many people accorded him such great respect and authority. From what I've read, I don't see that changing. I turned hard against Cold War Liberals during the Vietnam War, and while he wasn't much of a presence then, he seems to have been one of their prototypes and heroes. One thing I didn't know was that he coined the phrase "the great society," then wound up writing a book called The Good Society.
Next up is the horrible Phyllis Schlafly, although the chapter I'm more worried about is the one on Barack Obama, whose idea of realignment seems to have been to line up Wall Street and Silicon Valley behind the Democrats, and take the rest of us for a ride where the superrich pull away from everyone else.
New records reviewed this week:
Satoko Fujii/Otomo Yoshihide: Perpetual Motion (2022 , Ayler): Piano and guitar duo, both free, frisky, and potentially explosive. B+(***) [cd]
Jo Lawry: Acrobats (2022 , Whirlwind): Standards singer from Australia, based in New York. Several albums since 2008. The secret to this one is minimal (but expert) backing, on bass (Linda May Han Oh) and drums (Allison Miller), which lets her scat and skip over the wit, especially of Cole Porter ("You're the Top") and Frank Loesser. Another standout is "Takes Two to Tango." A- [cd]
Dave Liebman: Live at Smalls (2022 , Cellar Music): Soprano/tenor saxophonist, long list of albums since 1973, plays in fast and relatively avant company here, with Peter Evans (trumpet), Leo Genovese (piano), John Hébert (bass), and Tyshawn Sorey (drums). B+(***) [cd]
Delfeayo Marsalis Uptown Jazz Orchestra: Uptown on Mardi Gras Day (2022 , Troubadour Jass): Trombonist, fourth son and third musician sired by pianist Ellis Marsalis, celebrates his native New Orleans with a big band party album, adding three originals to the standard fare, with several vocalists in the crowd. B+(***) [cd]
Jason Moran: From the Dancehall to the Battlefield (2022 , Yes): "A meditation on the life and legacy of James Reese Europe" (1881-1919), a composer and bandleader born in Mobile, moved to Washington, DC when he was 10, and on to New York in 1904, where he organized his first bands. He went on to lead a military band in WWII, touring widely and recording several songs in France. When he returned to America, he played Carnegie Hall with a 125-piece orchestra. Moran stitched this together from Europe's compositions, three W.C. Handy blues in Europe's repertoire, a couple originals, and bits of Albert Ayler and Pauline Oliveros, played by a tentet with four brass, three reeds, piano, bass, and drums. A- [bc]
Eldad Tarmu: Tarmu Jazz Quartet (2022 , Queen of Bohemia): Vibraphonist, born in Los Angeles, parents were Israeli, hype sheet credits this as his tenth album (going back to 1998, as far as I can tell). With alto sax (Adam Hutcheson), bass, and drums. Sax is impressive, and the vibes are nicely interlaced. B+(**) [cd] [03-01]
Rachel Therrien Latin Jazz Project: Mi Hogar (2022 , Outside In Music): Canadian trumpet player, from Montreal, fifth album since 2011, wrote three songs, covers include Coltrane and Gillespie ("Con Alma"), with a variable cast that always includes plenty of percussion. B+(**) [cd] [02-13]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Ray Brown: The Best of the Concord Years (1973-93 , Concord, 2CD): Bassist (1926-2002), probably held a record for most album appearances (according to a Penguin Guide count; the current leader is almost certainly Ron Carter). He was in Oscar Peterson's trio (1951-65), which was effectively Norman Granz's house band, and recorded extensively in the Poll Winners (with Barney Kessel and Shelly Manne). He was a natural for Concord, where he led his piano trios, and helped out everywhere (piano trios, mostly with Gene Harris and Jeff Hamilton or Mickey Roker, account for 14 of 25 tracks here). B+(**) [r]
Chick Corea: Rendezvous in New York (2001 , Stretch, 2CD): Also released on SACD, so the regular CDs were some kind of afterthought. Opens with three Bobby McFerrin duets, then scattered combos recapitulating much of his career: a trio with Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes; his Bud Powell band with Terence Blanchard and Joshua Redman; a duet with Gary Burton; his Akoustic band with John Patitucci and Dave Weckl, Origin, a duet with Gonzalo Rubalcaba, a New Trio with Avishai Cohen and Jeff Ballard, and a Quartet with Michael Brecker. I tend to favor the horn groups, and could do without McFerrin, but the piano is superb throughout. B+(**) [r]
The Sonny Criss Orchestra: Sonny's Dream (Birth of the New Cool) (1968, Prestige): Alto saxophonist (1927-77), born in Memphis but moved to Los Angeles when he was 15, was a fiery bebop player, recording for Prestige 1966-72. This tentet, with three brass (Conte Candoli on trumpet, plus trombone and tuba), four saxophones (including Teddy Edwards on tenor), and Tommy Flanagan on piano, is exceptional, notably for then-unknown Horace Tapscott as arranger-conductor. B+(***) [yt]
Meredith D'Ambrosio: It's Your Dance (1985, Sunnyside): Jazz singer, plays piano (on 6/14 songs here, with Harold Danko on the others), writes some (4/14 here, counting her lyrics to "Giant Steps"). Fourth album, starting from 1980, also with Kevin Eubanks on guitar, very nicely done. B+(***) [r]
Lars Danielsson Quartet: Poems (1991, Dragon): Swedish bassist, debut 1986, quartet with David Liebman (soprano sax, composer of three tracks to go with the leader's five), Bobo Stenson (piano), and Jon Christensen (drums). I've never been a big fan of Liebman's soprano, but the pacing here is so expert he can do no wrong. A- [r]
Stefano D'Anna Trio: Leapin' In (1991 , Splasc(H)): Italian saxophonist, mostly plays tenor, b. 1959, possibly his first record, a trio with Enzo Pietropaoli (bass) and Fabrizio Sferra (drums). Strong sax runs, probably worth a closer look. B+(***) [r]
Stefano D'Anna Quartet: Carousel (1998, Splasc(H)): Originals, with guitar (Fabio Zeppetella), bass (Pietro Ciancaglini), and drums (Roberto Gatto). Another strong outing. B+(***) [r]
Stefano D'Anna: Runa (2003 , Splasc(H)): Another saxophone trio, this one with Pietro Ciancaglini (bass) and Mimmo Cafiero (drums). A bit sweeter than the debut, but every bit as solid, maybe even better. B+(***) [r]
Carlo Actis Dato: Ankara Twist (1989 , Splasc(H)): Italian clarinet and saxophone (tenor/baritone) player, debut 1985, this is the first of a series of albums that keyed their titles to an exotic city (Delhi Mambo, which I haven't found yet, is the Penguin Guide favorite). Quartet with saxophonist Piero Ponzo (alto, baritone, clarinet, flute), Enrico Fazio (bass), and Fiorenzo Sordini (drums). I'm a bit thrown by the vocal bits, which play almost like skits, but the quirky instrumentals are much fun. B+(***) [r]
Carlo Actis Dato Quartet: Bagdad Boogie (1992, Splasc(H)): Same Quartet, several members credited with "voices, noises." B+(**) [r]
Carlo Actis Dato Quartet: Blue Cairo (1995 , Splasc(H)): Same quartet, less vocal interference (although they sampled some street voices on a side trip to Nepal), but also a bit less persuasive rhythm. B+(**) [r]
Carlo Actis Dato Quartet: Istanbul Rap (2002 , YVP): Same quartet, cover image brandishing a bass clarinet and a fez, album opens with a lively mambo, and rarely lets up. A-
Wolfgang Dauner/Charlie Mariano/Dino Saluzzi: Pas De Trois (1989, Mood): German pianist (1935-2020), early on played in fusion groups like United Jazz + Rock Ensemble. This is a trio with alto sax and bandoneon. B+(**) [r]
Danny D'Imperio: Blues for Philly Joe (1991 , V.S.O.P.): Drummer, started in 1970 with the Glenn Miller ghost band, moved on to other big bands (Maynard Ferguson, Woody Herman, subbed for Buddy Rich). First album as leader, appears to be a tribute to bebop drummer Philly Joe Jones, pieces from that era including the title song penned by Sonny Rollins. Mostly sextet with trumpet (Greg Gisbert), saxes (Gary Pribek and Ralph Lalama), piano (Hod O'Brien), and bass, plus guitar on two tracks. Bebop dynamics with attention to harmonic layering. A- [sp]
Danny D'Imperio: Hip to It (1992 , V.S.O.P.): Pretty much the same group -- Andy Fusco takes over at alto sax, and guitarist Steve Brown plays more, and arranges six of the bebop-era pieces. Still, feels more like a big band outing. B+(**) [sp]
Johnny Dodds: The Chronological Johnny Dodds 1927 (1927 , Classics): Clarinet player from New Orleans, started with Kid Ory (1911-16), moved to Chicago 1920, playing in King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five, and Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Peppers. His second volume in this French archival series, includes groups he led, a duo with Tiny Parham, and other groups led by Jasper Taylor, Jimmy Bertrand, and Jimmy Blythe (including State Street Ramblers and Dixie-Land Thumpers). This intersects with a couple equally recommended compilations: Blue Clarinet Stomp (RCA Bluebird) and Johnny Dodds and Jimmy Blythe (Timeless). A- [r]
Arne Domnérus Quartet: Sugar Fingers (1993, Phontastic): Swedish alto saxophonist (1924-2008), also played clarinet, a major figure from his 1949 debut. Quartet with Jan Lundgren (piano), Sture Åkerberg (bass), and Johan Löfcrantz (drums), plus Lars Erstrand on vibes (tracks 8-12). B+(***) [sp]
Kenny Drew Jr.: Third Phase (1989, Jazz City): Pianist (1958-2014), as was his namesake father, seems to have lived his whole life in the US, while his father moved to Paris in 1961, then on to Copenhagen three years later. Impressive command here, playing standards, backed by Buster Williams (bass) and Marvin "Smitty" Smith (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Dutch Swing College Band: Live in 1960 (1960 , Philips): Traditional Dixieland jazz band founded in 1945 by Peter Schilperoort (clarinet/sax), who led the band (aside from a 1950s sabbatical) until his death in 1990, with the band continuing to the present. They have a lot of albums, with this being one of two singled out by Penguin Guide. B+(***) [sp]
Billy Eckstine: Everything I Have Is Yours: The MGM Years (1947-58 , Verve, 2CD): Jazz singer and pop crooner, led a big band in the 1940s which was an important bebop incubator, where he shared vocal duties with Sarah Vaughan. That big band appears four cuts in with "Mr. B's Blues," leaving one to wonder why so much of the rest of the set consists of string-backed ballads. The early ones are rather starchy, and his voice is one that must have seemed more impressive in the early 1950s but has aged like opera. Still, give him some jazz to work with, and he may surprise you. B+(**) [r]
Marty Ehrlich: Pliant Plaint (1987 , Enja): Alto saxophonist, also plays clarinets and flutes, originally from St. Paul, studied at New England Conservatory, moved to New York in 1978. Early album, a quartet with Stan Strickland (soprano/tenor sax, flute), Anthony Cox (bass), and Robert Previte (drums). B+(**) [r]
Marty Ehrlich: New York Child (1995 , Enja): Quintet, with tenor saxophonist Stan Strickland complementing the leader), and first-rate backing from Michael Cain (piano), Michael Formanek (bass), and Bill Stewart (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Roy Eldridge & Vic Dickenson: With Eddie Locke and His Friends Feat. Budd Johnson, Tommy Flanagan, Major Holley: Recorded in Concert at St. Peter's Church, NYC, May 20, 1978 (1978 , Storyville): I hate having to parse title and credits like this, as I could have sliced it up many ways. Note that "Roy Eldridge & Vic Dickenson" is the only fragment that appears on the spine, though whether that's artist credit, title, or both is up for grabs. Everything else is on the front cover. Back cover reveals that drummer Locke is the leader, and it would literally make more sense to credit this to Eddie Locke and His Friends, given that the whole band ("his friends") got listed sooner or later, but why title an album for its stars then not credit it to them? Vintage (rather than retro) swing, but you knew that. You may have even known that Johnson would be the real star. B+(**) [r]
Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Three Guys From Chikago (1981, Moers Music): Chicago percussionist Kahil El'Zabar, first album, introduces a trio that with various personnel have released 16 albums through 2019. With two saxophonists, Henry Huff (tenor, soprano, bass clarinet) and Edward Wilkerson (alto, tenor, baritone, flute), both also credited with "small instruments." Horns strike me as harsh and unsteady at first, but group gets steadily better, especially on the closer ("Brother Malcolm"). B+(**) [yt]
Bill Evans: The Brilliant (1980 , Timeless): Piano trio, with Marc Johnson (bass) and Joe LaBarbera (drums), from a week at Keystone Corner in San Francisco, less than a month before the pianist died at 51. While he suffered from multiple ailments, in the wake of drug abuse, this particular trio was one of his best, and much of what he recorded in 1980 merits this title. The full stand was later released as The Last Waltz (8-CD, in 2000) and Consecration: Part 2 (8-CD, in 2002), but non-obsessives should be happy with this fine sampler. Timeless went on to release two further volumes under Consecration, which was also the title of an 8-CD box on Alfa Jazz. A- [r]
John Fedchock: New York Big Band (1992 , Reservoir): Trombonist, learned his big band craft with Woody Herman and others, leading to this debut. One thing about staging a big band in New York is that it's easy to find lots of solo talent. Five original pieces, six covers, most easily recognized would be "Caravan" but for "Flintstoned." B+(***) [sp]
Maynard Ferguson: Birdland Dream Band (1956 , Vik): Big band conducted by Canadian trumpet player Maynard Ferguson (whose name doesn't appear on the cover, but shows up on Volume 2), who had moved to the US in 1948 and played in Stan Kenton's Innovations Orchestra 1950-53, followed by a stint playing on Paramount soundtracks. Morris Levy organized this 15-piece band to play at his Birdland club in New York. Ferguson's high notes towered above a brass section that included trombonists Eddie Bert and Jimmy Cleveland; the saxophonists were Al Cohn, Budd Johnson, Herb Geller, and Ernie Wilkins; and the rhythm section: Hank Jones, Milt Hinton, and Jimmy Campbell. B+(***) [r]
Maynard Ferguson: Birdland Dream Band: Volume 2 (1956 , Vik): Twelve more tracks from later in September, personnel varying a bit but the essentials are in place: Al Cohn and Budd Johnson in the sax section, and the leader's stratospheric trumpet. [Both volumes later collected by Fresh Sound as Maynard Ferguson and His Birdland Dream Band.] B+(**) [r]
Dave Liebman: Drum Ode (1974 , ECM): Early record, plays soprano sax, tenor sax, and alto flute, blows free over fusion (electric guitar-piano-bass) and/or worldbeat (drummers Bob Moses and Jeff Williams, Barry Altschul and Steve Sattan just credited with percussion, plus a mix of tablas, bongos, and congas) or sometimes fills in. One vocal by Eleana Steinberg is neither here nor there. A- [sp]
David Liebman/Richard Beirach: Double Edge (1985 , Storyville): Sax and piano duo, better known as Dave and Richie, no idea how many records they recorded together but the first was in 1975 and they go up to 2018. B+(**) [sp]
Dave Liebman Group: Miles Away (1994 , Owl): Before his own records, Liebman spent a couple years in Miles Davis's early-1970s fusion group: something he looks back on here, with five Davis songs in play, also tunes penned by Gil Evans, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul ("In a Silent Way"), Charles Mingus, and a couple others. He plays soprano sax here, with Phil Markowitz on keyboards, Vic Juris (guitar), Tony Marino (bass), and Jamey Haddad (drums). B+(**) [r]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: