An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
My Other Websites
Tuesday, November 7, 2023
Music: Current count 41108  rated (+30), 28  unrated (-4).
I had a bunch of things I wanted to get done before this update, and I have damn little to show for it. A bunch of things happened, or didn't happen, last week, but if I try to go into that, it'll be days more before I post anything. Maybe next week I can explain.
Meanwhile. I did write another long Speaking of Which, which didn't come out until Monday, pushing Music Week back a day. Rather than wrote more on that here, let me recommend a book about a different time and world that strikes me as especially relevant here: Nicholson Baker's Human Smoke, a chronicle of the prehistory of WWII told through contemporary newspaper clippings: written by the last people who had to figure out the Nazis without having the benefit of knowing how the story ends.
One of my distractions last week was figuring out a sequel for my Oct. 27 birthday dinner. I had shopped for a lot of tapas dishes that I didn't have time to make, so we had a second setting a week later (so Nov. 3). I promised last week to write up my notes on the birthday dinner. I finally did this in the notebook. I also looked up some previous Spanish-themed dinners, and came up with a couple of old pics.
I also finished the indexing on October Streamnotes.
One thing I made very little progress on was setting up the 18th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Poll. I hoped to be able to say more about that here, but that will have to wait until next week. It is still a go, and I hope to send ballot invites out by Nov. 15 (hopefully not much later). Big issue right now is trying to figure out who to invite. I'm surprised as how frazzled I already feel.
Another thing I didn't get done was setting up my EOY files, broken out between jazz and non-jazz (as in previous years -- oops, already have links there to my useless stubs).
The distractions took time away from listening, but the extra day got the rating count up to 30, including five A-list items from my demo queue (a lot more than usual). Would have had six had I gotten to Aruán Ortiz in time.
New records reviewed this week:
Rodrigo Amado/The Bridge: Beyond the Margins (2022 , Trost): Portuguese tenor saxophonist, easily one of the top half-dozen in the world since 2000, which should suffice here, but pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach is a special treat here, and the interaction is so masterful Gerry Hemingway and Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten got in on the action. Beware: it does get a little rowdy. A [cd]
Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Dynamic Maximum Tension (2023, Nonesuch): Canadian big band composer/arranger, studied under Bob Brookmeyer, fourth album since 2009, an extra large one (111 minutes). Not something I'm inclined to get excited about, but fine soloists, some very nice segments, works as background but gets better when you tune in. B+(***) [sp]
Bruce Barth Trio: Dedication (2021 , Origin): Pianist, from Pasadena, first records (c. 1985) were with George Russell, then Orange Then Blue. Trio with bass (Vicente Archer) and drums (Montez Coleman). B+(**) [sp]
Rob Brown: Oceanic (2021 , RogueArt): Alto saxophonist, records since 1989, I associate him mostly with William Parker's groups. Solo here. B+(***) [cdr]
Rob Brown Quartet: Oblongata (2022 , RogueArt): Alto saxophonist (also plays some flute), joined by Steve Swell (trombone), Chris Lightcap (bass, and Chad Taylor (drums), in a superb free set. A- [cdr]
Buck 65: Punk Rock B-Boy (2023, self-released): Venerable rapper from Nova Scotia, dropped this 19-track limited edition cassette (all ten unique copies sold out) by surprise, with a line about the Texas Rangers suggesting he cut that track the day before this dropped. After a layoff, he popped back last year with the superb King of Drums -- so superb I was happy enough when this year's Super Dope sounded just like it. But this one is better still, with the words popping at a pace that justifies his "autodidactic polymath" boast. The beats too, until a change of pace called "Terminal Illiness" seals the deal. A [bc]
DJ Shadow: Action Adventure (2023, Mass Appeal): Electronics producer Josh Davis, early records Endtroducing (1996) and, especially, The Private Press (2002), are favorites, with nothing else -- only four studio albums before this one -- close. Synth beats recognizable, but he's lost the ability to hook a vocal sample, like "what you gonna do now?" B+(*) [sp]
Kurt Elling: SuperBlue: The London Sessions (2022, Edition, EP): Live rehash of his "Grammy-nominated" 2021 SuperBlue, five tracks (28:12), with Charlie Hunter (hybrid guitar) bringing the funk. He cuts the shit, revealing what could pass for soul (e.g., "Lonely Avenue"). B+(*) [bc]
Kurt Elling/Charlie Hunter/Neal Smith: SuperBlue: Guilty Pleasures (2022 , Edition, EP): Vocals, hybrid guitar, drums: Bandcamp page parses this differently (Smith is a "feat."; "Superblue" vanishes), but title and all three names on the cover, as well as a "3" I don't know what to do with. Pretty flash rhythm work recasts the singer as funk, despite the scat. Six songs, 22:08. B+(*) [bc]
Kurt Elling/Charlie Hunter: SuperBlue: The Iridescent Spree (2023, Edition): A skilled jazz singer, started out around 1998, highly regarded by most critics but one I can only rarely stand. The partnership with Hunter gives him an agreeable groove to work from, and reins in his worst effects. So more tolerable. Big deal. B [sp]
Robert Finley: Black Bayou (2023, Easy Eye Sound): Bluesman from Louisiana, got a late start with a debut at 1962, called it Age Don't Mean a Thing, but in his genre age brings gravitas, which is what it's all about. Seven years later, turns out that even he sees age means something after all. B+(**) [sp]
Sue Foley: Live in Austin Vol. 1 (2023, Stony Plain): Blues singer-songwriter from Ottawa, moved to Vancouver and then to Austin, releasing Young Girl Blues in 1992. I always liked her, and much of this is familiar, most likely drawing on her better albums. B+(**) [sp]
Lafayette Gilchrist: Undaunted (2022 , Morphius): Pianist, started out in David Murray's quartet, a dozen-plus albums since 1999. Sextet here, with Brian Settles (tenor sax), Christian Hizon (trombone), bass, drums, and percussion. B+(**) [sp]
Hermanos Gutiérrez: El Bueno Y El Malo (2022, Easy Eye Sound): Duo based in Switzerland, brothers Estevan and Alejandro, father Swiss, mother from Ecuador, fifth album, produced in Nashville by Dan Auerbach. Very tasteful instrumental music, mostly guitar, not in any niche. A- [sp]
William Hooker: Flesh and Bones (2023, Org Music): Avant-drummer, has a long career of going his own way. Drives a sextet here with Ras Moshe (tenor sax/flute), Charles Burnham (violin), On Davis (guitar), and two bassists (Hilliard Greene and Luke Stewart). B+(**) [sp]
Russell Kranes/Alex Levine/Sam Weber/Jay Sawyer: Anchor Points (2022 , OA2): Piano, guitar, bass, and drums; half trio (reference to the Nat King Cole Trio), and half with drums. The trio emphasizes the guitar, while the drums gets the pianist going. First album for Kranes, possibly the rest. B+(**) [cd]
Lil Wayne: Tha Fix Before Tha VI (2023, Young Money): Mixtape, a distinction I've never understood, but number 29 for those who keep track of such things. Sounded sharp at first, but kept hitting the same point again and again, until it no longer even resembled a point. B [sp]
Myra Melford's Fire and Water Quintet: Hear the Light Singing (2022 , RogueArt): Pianist, a major figure since 1990, with Mary Halvorson (guitar), Ingrid Laubrock (tenor and soprano sax), Tomeka Reid (cello), and Lesley Mok (drums). Second group album, a rhythmic tour de force. A- [cd]
Joshua Moshe: Inner Search (2023, La Sape): Saxophonist (soprano/alto/tenor, bass clarinet, synth, piano) from Australia, formerly Joshua Kelly, led the "nu jazz" JK Group), so not a debut. Chasing spirits, often over jazztronica beats. Interesting enough until the ululating. B+(**) [sp]
David Murray/Questlove/Ray Angry: Plumb (2022 , JMI/Outside In Music): Tenor sax/bass clarinet giant, jamming with the drummer and keyboard player from the Roots. Product status is iffy: runs 14 songs, 136 minutes, which can be streamed now, with a 4-LP box is promised for sometime 2024 ($150, "ships in about six months," which sounds more like a reverse twist on loansharking). The Roots guys aren't much more than fit for purpose here, but Murray is once again a tower of strength. A- [sp]
Remembrance Quintet: Do You Remember? (2023, Sonboy): DC-based quintet I filed under bassist Luke Stewart's name, with two reedists (Daniel Carter and Jamal Moore), trumpet (Chris Williams), and drums (Tcheser Holmes), opens their "dig deep into humanity's ancestral stream" with spoken word, asking the title question, answering with unsettled horns and rhythm. B+(***) [sp]
Sampha: Lahai (2023, Young): British singer-songwriter, parents from Sierra Leone, last name Sisay, plays keyboards, second album, falsetto adds to the r&b effect. B+(*) [sp]
Jeff Sanford's Cartoon Jazz Orchestra: Playland at the Beach (2023, Little Village): Bay Area saxophone/clarinet player, originally from New York, leads a nonet with a couple previous albums, traces his interest in cartoon jazz to Raymond Scott and Carl Stalling (who else?). B+(**) [sp]
Jeremy Udden: Wishing Flower (2023, Sunnyside): Alto saxophonist, debut 2006, played with Either/Orchestra before that, also plays Lyricron wind synthesizer here, with Ben Monder (guitar), Jorge Roeder (bass), and Ziv Ravitz (drums). B+(*) [sp]
Miki Yamanaka: Shades of Rainbow (2023, Cellar Music): Japanese pianist, based in New York since 2012, fifth album, with Mark Turner (tenor sax), Tyrone Allen (bass), and Jimmy McBride (drums). Turner feels exceptionally relaxed here. B+(**) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Barry Altschul/David Izenson/Perry Robinson: Stop Time: Live at Prince Street, 1978 (1978  NoBusiness): Drums, bass, clarinet, joint improv, listed alphabetically, although the drummer is probably the best known these days. Not the greatest sound, but remarkable music. A- [cd]
Peter Brötzmann/Sabu Toyozumi: Triangle: Live at Ohm, 1987 (1987 , NoBusiness): Live set from Tokyo, with the German avant-saxophonist in fine form, and a local drummer who's up to the task. B+(***) [cd]
Roy Campbell/William Parker/Zen Matsuura: Visitation of Spirits: The Pyramid Trio Live, 1985 (1985 , NoBusiness): Trumpet player (1952-2014), played in various William Parker projects, including Other Dimensions in Music, and later had the Nu Band, with Mark Whitecage. This was an early version of his trio, which did three 1994-2001 studio albums. A bit spotty at first, but terrific when they get going. A- [cd]
Kim Dae Hwan/Choi Sun Bae: Korean Fantasy (1999 , NoBusiness): Korean duo, drummer (1933-2003), very much in the center here, with trumpet floating around. B+(***) [cd]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: