An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, November 13, 2023
Music: Current count 41160  rated (+52), 22  unrated (-6).
Spent way too much time the last few days knocking together another Speaking of Which. To little or no avail, I suspect, but that's what we do around here.
What I should have been doing was getting the 18th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll rolling. I've been saying all along that I'd get the ballots sent out by November 15, which this week is known as Wednesday. I do have the website set up, but have a lot more writing I want to get done -- both to explain the nitty gritty details to users, voters, and myself. The voting itself will be exactly as it was last year, and many years before that. The big problem is deciding who gets to vote, contacting them, and making sure they're on board. We dropped from 156 to 151 voters last year, and I fear that was mostly due to email failures. My fears in that regard got much worse early this year when I discovered that lots of mail from my server wasn't getting delivered. Fixing that was never clear nor simple, so I'm starting from an expectation that this is going to be a tough slog.
It would be nice if all my voters read this blog, or some blog I could communicate via, or at least followed me on X, but that's certainly not the case. What I do have to communicate with are two mailing lists. One is kept in my mailer, which I can then run through a "mail merge" extension to generate individualized messages. I have a shortened invite file, which I intend to run through that grinder later this week. Those I consider the official invites. (For late invites, I'll just use that as boilerplate for private messages.) The other is a GNU Mailman list on my server, which more or less has the same addresses (but maintained separately, ugh!). I'm going to send them a "heads up" message before I send out the invites. Then I'll use that list for subsequent updates: probably 2-3 reminders to vote, a deadline notice, an updates or two on publication dates, including a done. Neither of these work as well as I'd like, but they make it possible to keep most people fairly well informed along the way.
I thought I'd get started on expanding the voter list more than a month ago, and indeed I did (barely) get started, but once again I'm up against a crunch deadline. I have a few new names ready to add now, and a system set up to find more, but I'm still looking for helpful suggestions. One thing I have discovered so far is that the talent pool isn't lacking. I sent out 200 invites last year, to get 151 ballots back. I'm hoping for maybe 250 invites this year. I doubt it will make much difference to the standings, but 50 more voters will probably add 150 more albums to the overall list, and that, I think, would be a big plus. One thing I do with my tracking file is include any year-old album (2022) that I've only noticed in 2023 (i.e., that wasn't in the 2022 tracking file -- one that included everything that got a vote last year) and I have about 75 such records so far this year. By the way, in this year's file the current jazz count is 952 (603 heard by me).
I managed to make a first pass on my EOY files for Jazz and Non-Jazz, currently with 60 and 42 A-list new releases, respectively. We still have a fair ways to go, but that's well below 2022's 75 jazz and way below 2022's 83 non-jazz. For B+(***) albums, new jazz has 145 (vs. 195 in 2022), new non-jazz has 77 (vs. 122 in 2022)
The overall rated number is 1085 in 2023 (604 jazz), vs. 1669 in 2022 (898 jazz), so I'm down 34.9% in rated records this year, down 32.7% in jazz, more in non-jazz. HM/A-list jazz is down 26.2%, while non-jazz is down much more, 44.3%. In some sense, I'm not surprised: The 2022 totals were ridiculously high, so I knew I was going to slip, and through the health scares and what not I figured that to be a good thing. I can't keep racking up those numbers, and having passed 41,000, I don't really want to anymore.
Those numbers will even out a bit over the next couple months, but the drop from 83 to 42 is pretty extreme. One odd thing is that the last two Christgau Consumer Guides have failed to land a single A- on my list (after 4 in September). I didn't think much of that in October, which still has several albums I haven't found, but only Hemlocke Springs in November inspired so much as a second play. But thus far only 14 of my 42 A-list non-jazz albums got an A/A- from Christgau (2 of which I bumped on re-listens after his reviews). Probably says more about me than him, but I know not what.
Lots of records, hastily considered, below. Dave Bayles was actually a post-break listen today (so not in the 52 count), but I figured I might as well report it now. Ortiz, by the way, was a previous Monday listen, so a long stretch where very little blew me away.
Naked Lunch, by the way, was in response to a question, but I haven't gotten around to writing it up in answer form yet.
One more note: I added some code to the RSS generator to split the feed to just provide Music Week or Speaking of Which files: see the left nav menu, under Networking. I never got much feedback on how the RSS stuff is working (and rarely look at it myself, although my mailer dutifully collects the entries). But I regularly look at No More Mister Nice Blog, and I'd like to get back on his blog roll, so it seemed like a good idea. I also found that the Christgau RSS feed has been broken for months, which nobody pointed out. All that took was a "&" instead of "&" in the content, and kerblooey!
New records reviewed this week:
Lina Allemano/Axel Dörner: Aphelia (2019 , Relative Pitch): Two trumpet duets, oscillating between ambient and drone with occasional farts. B+(*) [sp]
JD Allen: This (2023, Savant): Tenor saxophonist, introduced himself in 1998, mostly works in trios, but this is the first to employ electronics (Alex Bonney) in place of bass, with Gwilym Jones on drums. The electronics works well enough, but it still comes down to the man with the horn. B+(***) [sp]
Atlantic Road Trip: One (2023, Calligram): Quintet, recorded in Chicago, so it was probably Scottish alto saxophonist Paul Towndrow tripping, meeting up with trumpet player Chad McCullough, backed with vibes, bass, and drums. B+(**) [cd]
Dave Bayles Trio: Live at the Uptowner (2023, Calligram): Drummer, based in Milwaukee, first album, joined by bassist Clay Schaub (who wrote 5 of 9 songs), and trumpet player Russ Johnson (who wrote 3, and arranged the Monk cover). Very nice showcase for Johnson, who has long impressed. A- [cd]
Bombino: Sahel (2023, Partisan): Tuareg guitarist and songwriter from Agadez, Niger, Omara Moctar, fifth studio album since 2011, all pretty much equal. B+(***) [sp]
Boygenius: The Rest (2023, Interscope, EP): Four songs, 12:06, could easily have fit on The Record, but sucker-priced at $12 for CD, $20 for vinyl. No reason to trust me on them, but I do keep trying, and it's not much of a burden. B [sp]
Zach Bryan: Summertime Blues (2022, Warner, EP): Country singer-songwriter, has produced a lot since his 2019 debut, releasing this 9-song, 28:07 "EP" less than two months after his double album American Heartbreak (34 songs, 121:21). B+(**) [sp]
Zach Bryan: Boys of Faith (2023, Warner, EP): Five songs, 15:59, title track shared with Bon Iver, another with Noah Kahan. B+(**) [sp]
Calcanhar: Jump (2023, Clean Feed): Portuguese duo, Joăo Mortágua (alto/soprano sax) and Carlos Azevedo (piano), both have previous albums, but not many. B+(*) [bc]
Chief Adjuah: Bark Out Thunder Roar Out Lightning (2023, Ropeadope): Or Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah, anything but Christian Scott, who's not only lost his name but his trumpet too, here playing n'goni, other African-inspired instruments, and singing, although the latter often draws on the chiefs of New Orleans Indians. B+(***) [sp]
CMAT: Crazymad, for Me (2023, AWAL): Irish singer-songwriter, initials for Ciara Mary Alice Thompson, second album, impressive range with some pop hooks, has some serious props, but doesn't quite sit right with me. B+(***) [sp]
Mike DiRubbo: Inner Light (2023, Truth Revolution): Alto saxophonist, tenth release as leader, backed by a organ (Brian Charette), guitar (Andrew Renfroe), drums (Jongkuk Kim) trio, soul jazz but in the church of Coltrane. B+(***) [cd] [11-17]
Mia Dyberg Trio: Timestretch (2022 , Clean Feed): Danish alto saxophonist, several albums since 2016, free jazz trio with bass (Asger Thomsen) and drums (Simon Forchhammer). B+(*) [sp]
Nataniel Edelman Trio: Un Ruido De Agua (2022 , Clean Feed): Pianist, from Argentina, second album, a trio with featured names on the cover: Michael Formanek (bass), and Michaël Attias (alto sax). Quite nice. B+(***) [bc]
Phillip Greenlief/Scott Amendola: Stay With It (2017 , Clean Feed): Saxophonist (alto/tenor, also clarinet), new to me but he released a duo with Amendola (drums) way back in 1995, and has racked up another 54 credits (per Discogs) since then, some of which I've certainly heard. Starts impressively free, loses a bit on the change of pace. B+(***) [sp]
Fritz Hauser & Pedro Carneiro: Pas De Deux (2022 , Clean Feed): Swiss drummer, his Solodrumming from 1985 is highly regarded. Joined here by Carneiro, on marimba. Pretty minimal. B [bc]
Scott Hesse Trio: Intention (2023, Calligram): Guitarist, has a self-released album from 1998, a previous trio on Origin from 2015. Based in Chicago, backed by bass (Clark Sommers) and drums (Dana Hall), plays three originals, covers of Coltrane, Shorter, Coleman, and Kern. B+(**) [cd]
The Hives: The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons (2023, Disques Hives): Swedish rock band, released four albums 1997-2007, one in 2012, now this sixth one. I'm unclear on the back story, but some of the sharpest garage rock I've heard in a long time. B+(***) [sp]
Horse Lords: Live in Leipzig (2022 , RVNG Intl., EP): Post-rock group from Baltimore, debut 2012, instrumental (sax, bass, guitar, drums, incorporating electronics. Four songs, 21:46. B+(*) [sp]
Mikko Innanen/Stefan Pasborg/Cedric Piromalli: Can You Hear It? (2022 , Clean Feed): Sax (sopranino/alto/baritone, oboe), drums, organ, with Lori Freedman voice (two tracks). B+(**) [bc]
Guillermo Klein Quinteto: Telmo's Tune (2023, Sunnyside): Pianist, from Argentina, studied at Berklee, based in New York, albums since 1998, most with larger groups. Quintet here with Chris Cheek (tenor/soprano sax), Leo Genovese (piano), Matt Pavolka (bass), and Allan Mednard (drums). B+(**) [sp]
L'Rain: I Killed Your Dog (2023, Mexican Summer): Singer-songwriter Taja Cheek, although her songs are more likely to be instrumental vamps with vocals for shading. B+(**) [sp]
Liquid Mike: S/T [Self-Titled] (2023, Kitschy Spirit, EP): Indie group from Marquette, Michigan, with guitar (Mike Maple), synth (Monica Nelson), bass, and drums, the first two singing (but mainly him). Fourth album, everyone uses S/T as the title but cover reads self-titled (twice; format suggests they just unwrapped the cassette artwork). Eleven songs clocking in at 18:06 without feeling rushed. Sound immediately reminded me of Dead Milkmen, but not that funny, and much more into layering. B+(***) [sp]
Liquid Mike: Stuntman (2021, Lost Dog): First album, 14 songs, 30:39. They sort of got their sound together. Now, content maybe? B [sp]
Liquid Mike: You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth (2021, Sweet Chin Music, EP): Seven songs, 17:22. B [sp]
Liquid Mike: A Beer Can and a Bouquet (2022, self-released, EP): Having found three different labels for their three other releases, I had to punt here. They're all on the same Bandcamp, along with a couple of singles, and no branding to be found there. Nine songs, 22:36, enough to pass for an album these days. B+(**) [sp]
Nellie McKay: Hey Guys, Watch This (2023, Hungry Mouse): Started out as a singer-songwriter in 2004, with show biz roots and ambitions, developed as an interpretive singer with her 2009 Doris Day tribute. This is billed as her first album of original material in 13 years. It was recorded in West Virginia with a group called the Carpenter Ants. I'm finding this very confusing, perhaps because it starts off bland and demure, then gets wilder and wierder (including, if I'm following this correctly, plaudits for Hiroshima and Jeremy Dahmer). Highly subject to revision, if I ever have a reason to play this again. B+(**) [sp]
Mercury [Nicolas Caloia & Lori Freedman]: Skin (2023, Clean Feed): Montreal duo, double bass and clarinets. A little sketchy, especially with so much focus on the bass. B+(**) [bc]
Allison Miller: Rivers in Our Veins (2023, Royal Potato Family): Drummer, debut 2004, original pieces, makes impressive use of a very talented group: Jenny Scheinman (violin), Jason Palmer (trumpet), Ben Goldberg (clarinet/contra-alto clarinet), Carmen Staaf (piano/rhodes/accordion), and Todd Sickafoose (bass), plus some tap dancers. I'm finding it a bit slick and scattered, but perhaps just can't get to the big picture. B+(***) [sp]
Steve Million: Perfectly Spaced (2023, Calligram): Pianist, based in Chicago, albums since 1995, quartet here with Mark Feldman (violin), Eric Hochberg (bass), and Bob Rummage (drums). B+(**) [cd]
Simon Nabatov 3+2: Verbs (2022 , Clean Feed): Russian pianist, long-based in Germany, the "3" his trio with Stefan Schönegg (bass) and Dominik Mahnig (drums), the "2" adding Leonhard Huhn (alto sax/clarinet) and Philip Zoubek (synthesizers). B+(**) [bc]
Simon Nabatov: Extensions (2022 , Unbroken Sounds): Pianist-led sextet, with Sebastian Gille (saxophones) and Shannon Barnett (trombone), plus two bassists and a drummer. B+(***) [sp]
Aruán Ortiz: Pastor's Paradox (2022 , Clean Feed): Cuban pianist, based in Brooklyn, has a large and varied body of work. Three more names on the cover: Don Byron (clarinet), Lester St. Louis (cello), and Pheeroan Aklaff (drums), but Yves Dhar takes over cello on two tracks, and Mtume Gant offers spoken word on three, drawing on phrases from Martin Luther King. A- [cd]
Ethan Philion Quartet: Gnosis (2023, Sunnyside): Bassist, based in Chicago, debut album in 2022 Meditations on Mingus, offers more meditations with a smaller group: Russ Johnson (trumpet), Greg Ward (alto sax), and Dana Hall (drums). B+(***) [sp]
R. Ring: War Poems, We Rested (2023, Don Giovanni): Kelley Deal (Breeders) and Mike Montgomery. B+(*) [sp]
Ned Rothenberg: Crossings Four (2022 , Clean Feed): Reeds player (bass clarinet, alto sax, clarinet), debut 1981, finds himself in stealthy company here with Sylvie Courvoisier (piano), Mary Halvorson (guitar), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums). B+(***) [bc]
Jerome Sabbagh: Vintage (2020 , Sunnyside): Tenor saxophonist, from France, based in Brooklyn, has a steady stream of mainstream releases since 2004. This one employs Kenny Barron (piano), perhaps looking to renew his lease on Stan Getz. B+(**) [sp]
A. Savage: Several Songs About Fire (2023, Rough Trade): Parquet Quarts co-frontman, second solo album, with band work between the first (2017) and now. Music and words evince skill and thought, but only so much one can do with his voice, especially at this tempo. B+(**) [sp]
Troye Sivan: Something to Give Each Other (2023, Capitol): Australian pop singer-songwriter, third album. B+(**) [sp]
Hemlocke Springs: Going . . . Going . . . Gone! (2023, Good Luck Have Fun, EP): Isimeme "Naomi" Udu, b. 1998 in North Carolina, of Nigerian immigrant parents, expands two freak electropop singles into a 7-track, 21:24 EP. Two great songs, two close enough, three more than ok. B+(***) [sp]
Yuhan Su: Liberated Gesture (2023, Sunnyside): Vibraphonist, from Taiwan, studied at Berklee, based in New York, fourth album. With Caroline Davis (alto sax), Matt Mitchell (piano), Marty Kenney (bass), and Dan Weiss (drums). B+(***) [cd]
Kevin Sun: The Depths of Memory (2021-22 , Endectomorph Music, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist, I've been very impressed by everything he's done since his 2018 debut, but his effort here to create extended works is less striking. Three pieces here, totalling 82:28, intricately arranged with basic piano-bass-drums, adding trumpet (Adam O'Farrill) on the last two. B+(***) [cd]
Grzegorz Tarwid Trio: Flowers (2022 , Clean Feed): Polish pianist, has one previous album and several side-credits. Trio here with bass (Max Mucha) and drums (Albert Karch). The rhythm-heavy opening got my attention. B+(***) [bc]
Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers: I Love You (2023, Domestic La La): Australian girl band, lead singer Anna Ryan, slotted punk but I'm thinking more like Go-Go's, first album after an EP. B+(**) [sp]
Trespass Trio Feat. Susana Santos Silva: Live in Oslo (2018 , Clean Feed): One of Swedish saxophonist Martin Küchen's groups -- he plays baritone and sopranino here, with Per Zanussi on bass and Raymond Strid on drums -- with four 2009-17 albums, joined here by the Portuguese trumpet player. B+(**) [bc]
Daniel Villarreal: Lados B (2020 , International Anthem): Drummer, from Panama, based in Chicago, second album, a trio with Jeff Parker (guitar) and Anna Butterss (double & electric bass). Seductive groove music. A- [sp]
Jennifer Wharton's Bonegasm: Grit & Grace (2023, Sunnyside): Bass trombonist, leads a section here with John Fedchock, Nate Mayland, and Alan Ferber, backed by piano, bass, drums, and percussion. Third group album. Fedchock produced. Ends on an up note, with a vocal about Louisiana hot sauce. B+(***) [cd]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Jouk Minor/Josef Traindl/Jean Querlier/Christian Lété/Dominique Regef: Enfin La Mer (1978 , NoBusiness): Free jazz group, with two pieces dubbed suites (33:50 + 16:43), playing baritone sax/contrabass clarinet, trombone, alto sax, drums, and hurdy gurdy -- most with spotty discographies (Regef has the most side-credits, but nothing as leader). Still, often impressive. B+(***) [cd]
The Hives: Barely Legal (1997, Burning Heart): First album for the Swedish punk band, five years before their Veni Vidi Vicious breakthrough. As coarse as it ought to be. Fourteen songs in 27:21. B+(*) [sp]
The Hives: The Black and White Album (2007, A&M/Octone): Fourth album, fourteen songs again, but 47:57. B+(*) [sp]
Howard Shore/Ornette Coleman/London Philharmonic Orchestra: Naked Lunch [The Complete Original Soundtrack Remastered] (1991 , Howe): Soundtrack to the David Cronenberg film of the William S. Burroughs novel, mostly (and most forgettably) composed by Shore, who has some eighty soundtracks 1979-2022, including lots of big budget deals (Lord of the Rings seems to be the one he's most famous for). Coleman composed five tracks (plus two in the six-track bonus section), although he plays (and it really couldn't be anyone else) on the Shore-credited "Interzone Suite," and possibly elsewhere, interesting but not enough to sustain the album. I saw the film, but don't remember much of it, nor do I recall much of the book, which I poked around with in my late teens, treating it more as concrete poetry than as any sort of story. B+(*) [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: