Monday, February 27, 2023

Music Week

February archive (final).

Music: Current count 39680 [39638] rated (+42), 40 [42] unrated (-2: 12 new, 28 old).

I'm growing weary of writing about music, so I'll let these reviews post without introduction. As you can see, I'm still enjoying what I listen to for background, even if my engagement is more limited, and the notes more cryptic.

On the other hand, I put quite a bit of effort into yesterday's Speaking of Which, and I've added a couple more notes today. A cursory glance at the news today shows a torrent of demented thinking. Just in the New York Times, ranging from Damon Linker: My Fellow Liberals Are Exaggerating the Dangers of Ron DeSantis (it "almost certainly would not be worse than Mr. Trump"; my emphasis on his slender thread of hope; but note that he's still upset that LBJ "exaggerated" Goldwater's inclination toward nuclear annihilation with the 1964 "daisy ad"; Goldwater never aired a comparable scare ad about how Johnson would lead us into a quagmire in Vietnam, because he was totally on board with escalating the war there), to Ross Babbage: A War With China Would Be Unlike Anything Americans Faced Before (he wants us to rise to the challenge, largely by obscuring what the real risks may be; 20 years ago Chalmers Johnson explained how easily an adversary like China could destroy America's satellite capability, which is useful for GPS and phone calls, but essential for targeting advanced weapons, and that's just one example Babbage doesn't think to consider).

I will note that I've cached a frozen copy of my 2022 list. The latter will still be updated, at least through the end of 2023, as I find more things, but I haven't been looking very hard of late. The EOY jazz and non-jazz lists will also be updated as needed, but perhaps not that long. Also got my indexing for February Streamnotes out of the way.

New records reviewed this week:

Don Aliquo: Growth (2022 [2023], Ear Up): Tenor saxophonist, also plays bass clarinet, sometimes goes as Jr. to distinguish from his father, another saxophonist (still active at 93, where this one is a mere 63). Teaches at Middle Tennessee, which has led him to associate with free players like Memphis pianist Michael Jefry Stevens. This is more mainstream, with Steve Kovaichek's guitar especially notable. B+(**) [cd]

Iris DeMent: Working on a World (2023, Flariella): Church-trained folksinger from Arkansas, released three stunning albums in the 1990s, contributed the anchor duets on John Prine's In Spite of Ourselves (1999), has appeared only rarely since. This is her first album of new songs since 2012. The time has taken a toll on her still-unmistakable voice, and the times on her patience, but not on her fundamental decency and good sense. Hits a rough patch midway through which might tempted me to cavil, but in the end I'm just happy to hear more. A- [sp]

Margherita Fava: Tatatu (2022 [2023], self-released): Italian pianist, studied at Michigan State (Rodney Whitaker) and U. of Tennessee (Eric Reed and Greg Tardy), based in Knoxville, first album, six originals plus "Rhythm-A-Ning" and "All the Things You Are." Quartet with Tardy never better on tenor sax and clarinet. A- [cd] [03-10]

Thomas Heberer/Ken Filiano/Phil Haynes: Spontaneous Composition (2022, Corner Store Music): Heberer, a German based in New York, plays trumpet and piano, backed by bass and drums. B+(**) [bc]

Yosef Gutman Levitt/Tal Yahalom: Tsuf Harim (2023, Soul Song): Bass and guitar duo, although it's mostly the guitarist who registers. The gentle, soothing, yet intricate pieces draw on Eli Rivkin's transcriptions of traditional Hasidic melodies. B+(***) [cdr] [03-03]

Alex Weiss: Most Don't Have Enough (2023, Ears & Eyes): Tenor saxophonist, albums back to 1995, postbop quintet with Dan Blake (soprano sax), guitar, bass, and drums, plus piano (Marta Sanchez) on two tracks. B+(*) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:


Old music:

Iris DeMent: The Trackless Woods (2015, Flariella): After the eight-year gaps preceding 2004's Lifeline and 2012's Sing the Delta, she tossed this off rather quickly, probably because she picked all the lyrics up from Anna Akhmatova poems. She plays piano and sings, and gets some help from Richard Bennett and Leo Kottke. B+(*) [sp]

Lionel Hampton: Ring Dem Bells [Bluebird's Best] (1937-40 [2002], RCA Bluebird): Vibraphonist (1908-2002), started playing drums for Louis Armstrong, played with Benny Goodman in the 1930s, led a famous series of all-star studio sessions which were collected on three CDs (I've heard two and recommend them: Hot Mallets and Tempo and Swing), distilled here to a brief 16 tracks -- part of a series of 30 CDs RCA released in 2002-03. A- [sp]

Lionel Hampton: Vol. 2: The Jumpin' Jive: The All-Star Groups: 1937-39 (1937-39 [1990], RCA Bluebird): The middle of three CDs RCA released in 1990, following Vol. 1: Hot Mallets, with Vol. 3: Tempo and Swing wrapping up. Too bad Discogs doesn't list credits, as there are terrific players everywhere. A- [sp]

Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra: Midnight Sun: The Original American Decca Recordings (1946-47 [1993], MCA): Hampton's 1940s big band had some significant jukebox hits (e.g., "Flying Home"). Various groups here, mostly big bands but some cuts drop down as far as quartet. B+(**) [r]

George Haslam: Duos East West (1997 [1998], Slam): British baritone saxophonist, also plays tarogato, albums go back to a duo with Paul Rutherford in 1989, when he founded this label. More duos here, with piano, the first five with Vladimir Solyanik in Kyiv, the last five with Ruben Ferrero in Buenos Aires. B+(***) [sp]

George Haslam/Paul Hession: Pendle Hawk Carapace (2002, Slam): Duo, baritone sax/tarogato and drums. B+(**) [sp]

George Haslam/Borah Bergman/Paul Hession: The Mahout (2003 [2004], Slam): Last album's duo joined by the pianist, on five (of seven) tracks, two of his own songs, the other three joint iimprovs. B+(**) [sp]

Jon Hazilla Trio: Tiny Capers (2001, Double-Time): Drummer, teaches at Berklee, had a couple albums in the 1990s on Cadence/CIMP, also has a book on Mastering the Art of Brushes. I was searching for his 1999 album with three saxophones and a trombone (group name: Saxabone), but all I could find is this trio with Bruce Barth (piano) and John Lockwood (bass). B+(**) [sp]

Thomas Heberer/Dieter Manderscheid: Chicago Breakdown: The Music of Jelly Roll Morton (1989 [1993], Jazz Haus Musik): German duo, trumpet and bass, the six old tunes are rendered more distant and more disturbing by the starkly minimal treatment. B+(***) [bc]

Thomas Heberer/Dieter Manderscheid: What a Wonderful World (2001 [2002], Jazz Haus Musik): Another trumpet-bass duo, this time with Louis Armstrong songs. As with the Morton album, they're always a bit off-center. B+(**) [bc]

Peter Herborn: Large One (1997 [1998], Jazzline): German big band arranger, originally a trombonist, recorded this stellar 17-piece group in Brooklyn. B+(**) [sp]

John Hicks: Live at Maybeck Recital Hall, Volume Seven (1990 [1991], Concord): Pianist (1941-2006), joins the label's series of solo piano performances. B+(***) [sp]

John Hicks: Impressions of Mary Lou (1998 [2000], HighNote): Piano trio with Dwayne Dolphin (bass) and Cecil Brooks II (drums), playing seven Mary Lou Williams compositions, including some where she really hits her stride, and five pieces by Hicks. B+(***) [sp]

Andrew Hill: Grass Roots (1968, Blue Note): Pianist (1931-2007), recorded a brilliant series of albums for Blue Note 1963-69, some of which were only released much later. This one came out in 1968, five tracks with Lee Morgan (trumpet), Booker Ervin (tenor sax), Ron Carter (bass), and Freddie Waits (drums). Seems to have been aiming for the soul jazz groove the label had started to favor -- probably why they released it, while shelving superior albums like Passing Ships (2003), Dance With Death (2004), and Change (2007). B+(*) [sp]

Andrew Hill: Grass Roots [Connoisseur Series] (1968 [2000], Blue Note): CD reissue adds five extra tracks (most previously unissued) from earlier in 1968, including three first takes of songs that appeared on the album. The bonus features a different band, with Woody Shaw (trumpet), Frank Mitchell (tenor sax), Jimmy Ponder (guitar), Reggie Workman (bass), and Idris Muhammad (drums). The extra tracks neither add nor detract. B+(*) [sp]

Andrew Hill: Lift Every Voice (1969 [1970], Blue Note): Some brilliant instrumental work here, especially from Woody Shaw (trumpet) and Carlos Garnett (tenor sax), backed by Richard Davis (bass) and Freddie Watts (drums). Only problem, for me anyhow, is Lawrence Marshall's choir, which probably have gospel roots (like the title song), but just chirp along. B [r]

Andrew Hill: Lift Every Voice [Connoisseur Series (1969-70 [2001], Blue Note): CD reissue adds six previously unissued tracks from 1970 with a different group: Lee Morgan, Bennie Maupin, Ron Carter, and Ben Riley, and mostly new singers, although still directed by Marshall. It only gets sillier with length. B- [r]

Andrew Hill Trio: Invitation (1974 [1992], SteepleChase): After parting from Blue Note, Hill -- like many others -- had trouble finding labels. He managed to get this piano trio, with Chris White (bass) and Art Lewis (drums) -- picked up in Denmark. [Originally released 1975. CD adds an alternate take of the opener, "Catfish."] B+(**) [sp]

Andrew Hill: Spiral (1974-75 [1975], Arista/Freedom): And this one by Freedom, a free jazz subsidary of the British label Black Lion, which by this point was distributed by Arista in the US, giving it rare prominence. Pieced together from two sessions, with Ted Curson (trumpet) and Lee Konitz (alto sax) on one (along with Cecil McBee and Art Lewis), the other with Robin Kenyatta (alto sax), Stafford James, and Barry Altschul. A- [r]

Andrew Hill: Divine Revelation (1975 [1994], SteepleChase): Album cover says "Quintet"; spine says "Quartet"; CD itself just credits Hill. Lineup is: Hill (piano), Jimmy Vass (alto sax/flute), Chris White (bass), Leroy Williams (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Andrew Hill Trio: Strange Serenade (1980, Soul Note): Italian label, Hill recorded two albums there in 1980, two more in 1986 -- a big portion of his 1980s output, until Blue Note welcomed him back in 1989. This a trio with Alan Silva (bass) and Freddie Waits (percussion). B+(***) [sp]

Andrew Hill: Faces of Hope (1980, Soul Note): Four solo recordings (41:59) from the same sessions. B+(*) [sp]

Dave Holland Quintet: Points of View (1997 [1998], ECM): British bassist, played everything with everyone in the late 1960s, got the invite to replace Ron Carter in Miles Davis Quintet, was in turn replaced by Michael Henderson when Davis went fusion. Soon developed into a top postbop composer, especially with his Quintets, starting in 1983. This one has Steve Wilson (soprano/alto sax), Robin Eubanks (trombone), Steve Nelson (vibes/marimba), and Billy Kilson (drums). They make for a very meticulous balance of sounds, but not a big deal. B+(**) [r]

Dave Holland Quintet: Not for Nothin' (2000 [2001], ECM): Two albums later, only change is Chris Potter at saxophone (adding tenor to soprano and alto) -- a stronger player, but tucked in neatly. B+(**) [r]

Yuri Honing: Seven (2001, Jazz in Motion/Challenge): Dutch tenor saxophonist, fifth album by my count (including two Trio albums, plus two with Misha Mengelberg), but I could be low, or maybe it's just because it has seven songs. Rhythm section needs no intro: Paul Bley, Gary Peacock, Paul Motian. B+(**) [sp]

Tristan Honsinger: A Camel's Kiss (1999 [2000], ICP): Cello player, born 1949 in Vermont, studied at New England Conservatory, moved to Canada to avoid the draft, then on to the Netherlands, where he joined ICP in 1977, along with many other groups. Mostly duos under his own name, but this is solo. B+(***) [bc]

Elmo Hope Ensemble: Sounds From Rikers Island (1963 [2003], Fresh Sound): Bebop pianist (1923-67), a childhood friend was Bud Powell, debut a trio from 1953, leads a sextet here, with Lawrence Jackson (trumpet), John Gilmore (tenor sax), Freddie Douglas (soprano sax), Ronnie Boykins (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums), with one vocal each from Earl Coleman and Marcelle Daniels. B+(***) [r]

Shirley Horn: May the Music Never End (2003, Verve): Standards singer (1934-2005), played her own piano and was good enough she sometimes got gigs backing other musicians. Debut 1960, struggled to find labels between 1965 and 1987, when she returned on Verve for a remarkable series of albums. This was her last album, the title a final wish, and she ceded the piano to Ahmad Jamal and arranger George Mesterhazy. But her vocals were as crisp and precise as ever -- even on "Yesterday," a song I thought no less than Ray Charles butchered. Slows down a bit much toward the end, but her poise remains remarkable. A- [sp]

Wayne Horvitz: 4 + 1 Ensemble (1998, Intuition): Pianist, albums back to 1979, composed everything, group starts with a delicate chamber jazz feel before revealing considerable strength. With Julian Priester (trombone), Eyvind Kang (violin), Reggie Watts (keyboards), and Tucker Martine ("processing"). B+(***) [sp]

Dick Hyman & John Sheridan: Forgotten Dreams: Archives of Novelty Piano (1920's-1930's) (2001 [2002], Arbors): Piano duets. Hyman (b. 1927) established himself in the 1950s as an encyclopaedist of early jazz piano styles, then took a detour toward synths in the 1990s, only to return to his calling. Sheridan (1946-2021) is more strictly a trad jazz guy. These are old tunes, with multiples by Willie "The Lion" Smith, Rube Bloom, Zez Confrey, and Bob Zurke, plus a couple more. B+(***) [sp]

Abdullah Ibrahim Trio: Yarona (1995, Tiptoe): South African pianist, originally Dollar Brand, many albums since Duke Ellington discovered and presented him in 1963. Trio with Marcus McLaurine (bass) and George Johnson (drums). Recycles some of his old township jazz classics, like "African River" and "Tintinyana," and that always helps. A- [sp]

Abdullah Ibrahim: Cape Town Flowers (1997, Tiptoe): Another trio album, with Marcus McLaurine (bass) and George Gray (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Bobby Marchan: There's Something on Your Mind: The Greatest Hits (1960-72 [2014], Fuel 2000): Originally from Ohio, was working as a drag queen in New Orleans when he joined Huey "Piano" Smith & the Clowns, before going on to record a couple hits and a few more interesting songs. The big ones ("There's Something on Your Mind," "The Things I Used to Do") came as two-part singles. Mixed bag, but such a character one hopes for better. B+(**) [sp]

The New York Allstars: Oh, Yeah! The New York Allstars Play More Music of Louis Armstrong (1998, Nagel Heyer): Trumpet player Randy Sandke's touring revival group, kicked off the The Bix Beiderbecke Era in 1993, recorded an Armstrong tribute in 1995, two Count Basie tributes in 1996, returns with more Armstrong songs here. Septet, with a second trumpet player (Byron Stripling, also a canny but not overused vocalist), trombone, clarinet (Allan Vaché), piano, bass, and drums. Album is dedicated to photographer Nancy Miller Elliot (1940-98), pictured on cover with Armstrong (as she was on the first volume, We Love You, Louis! B+(***) [sp]

The New York Allstars: Hey Ba-Ba-Re-Bop!: The New York Allstars Play Lionel Hampton: Volume One: (1998 [1999], Nagel Heyer): Trumpet player Randy Sandke's retro-swing large group (9 pieces) revive the vibraphonist's big band, opening with "Air Mail Special" and closing with "Flying Home." Antti Sarpila's clarinet and alto sax get a workout, Lars Erstand adds the tinkle, and the rhythm section (including James Chirillo on guitar) do what they should. A- [r]

Huey "Piano" Smith & His Clowns: Having a Good Time (1957-58 [1959], Ace): New Orleans piano player, recorded a few of the most infectious hits to come out of New Orleans in the late 1950s, most collected here ("Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu," "Little Liza Jane," "Don't You Know Yockomo," "Don't You Just Know It," "High Blood Pressure"). Several of those I first heard elsewhere, only to discover how much more fun the originals were. Of course, there are other compilations that pack more value -- my intro was Rhino's Serious Clownin' (1986) -- but the essential core is here, and the filler fits even if it don't always click. A- [sp]

Huey "Piano" Smith: That'll Get It: Even More of the Best (1956-62 [1999], Westside): This is the third helping Westside scraped together in the late 1990s -- after The Very Best Of in 1997, recycling the Having a Good Time cover, and Havin' Fun (More of the Best) in 1999 -- all drawing from Smith's brief tenure on Ace, but how should you figure that? Smith left Ace for Imperial in 1959, but Ace recycled his rhythm tracks under other names for some time after that, and the majority of these songs are attributed to others. Eleven (of 24) tracks were previously unissued. Most are minor, but then you run across a track like "Blow Wind Blow" (Junior Gordon in 1956), and wonder how they missed that. B+(**) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Sara Caswell: The Way to You (Anzic) [03-03]
  • Mark Feldman/Dave Rempis/Tim Daisy: Sirocco (Aerophonic) [04-28]

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