Sunday, December 31, 2023

Music Week

December archive (final).

Music: Current count 41531 [41474] rated (+57), 21 [21] unrated (+0).

This usually comes out on Monday, but since I wanted to end the month and year properly, it's backdated to Sunday, December 31. Actually, most weeks end the night before I post, this six-day week is pretty close to being a seven-day one. The rated count reflects that. I've been burning through EOY lists at a fast clip. Indeed, all December has been a speed blur, averaging more than 50 records per week for five straight weeks.

To help move this post up a day, I also posted Speaking of Which a day early. I threatened to add some late finds in an update today, and indeed have added a few (marked with a red right-border). Still, it's been impossible to write about recent news at much length. On the other hand, virtually everything I wrote about Israel and Gaza since Oct. 7 is still worth a read and thought.

The 18th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll will be published in ArtsFuse later this week. I expect to send them two short essays tomorrow, one written by Davis, presenting the results. We also have this year's In Memoriam list more or less ready to go. It's sort of traditional, really going back to Robert Christgau's annual Pazz & Jop essays, to try to come up with a detailed analysis that lends an air of coherency and completeness to the year as summed up in a poll. But this has been a very frustrating, and a very puzzling, year, so it's been hard to reach clear, firm conclusions. Maybe a few weeks (or months) down the line, I'll gain enough perspective to venture more than wild guesses.

But at least the website will make all of the totals available, and all of the 159 individual ballots that were submitted and compiled into the poll. One thing I do hope to do in the coming week is to add more explanation and more ways of viewing the data. I'll write more about that in coming days on the website, and in next week's Music Week, and possibly elsewhere. One more thing I hope is that many of the people who contributed to the poll will take a little extra time and spread the word around, and generate some buzz and discussion. Same for the people who so far are merely innocent bystanders, but who appreciate that the poll continues to exist and thrive.

My lists are continually updated. I won't bother linking to them here (ok, here's an index), but they continue to grow the more I learn, and are invaluable tools in that learning.

I haven't done all of my usual bookkeeping, but have at least set up the framework so that the next record I play goes into the January 2024 file.

New records reviewed this week:

Lina Allemano: Canons (2022 [2023], Lumo): Canadian trumpet player, wrote these pieces in canon form for "Trumpet and Creative Chamber Ensembles." Chamber seems to mean no rhythm to speak of, which mostly leaves you with trumpet tones. B+(*) [bc]

Lina Allemano/Uwe Oberg/Matthias Bauer/Rudi Fischerlehner: SOG (2022 [2023], Creative Sources): Recorded in Berlin, which seems to be a second home for the Canadian trumpet player, backed here by piano, bass, and drums. The pianist is a major figure here. B+(***) [bc]

Ray Anderson: Marching On: Solo Trombone (2022, Double Moon): Trombonist, a very busy guy from roughly 1980-2000, rarely heard from since. This is solo, nearly impossible to do well, but he's always been remarkably fast, and he understands as few others do the intrinsic humor of the instrument. B+(**) [sp]

Ray Anderson & Bobby Previte: Double Trouble (2023, Double Moon): Trombone and drums duo, not sure how much they played together, but both recorded for Gramavision and Enja in the '80s and '90s, and both tended to go off the reservation, the drummer toward fusion, the trombonist avant-funk. B+(***) [sp]

Jim Campilongo/Steve Cardenas: New Year (2023, Sunnyside): Guitar duo, former has a reputation for "roots rock," but is pretty demure here. B [sp]

Laura Cantrell: Just Like a Rose: The Anniversary Sessions (2023, Propeller Sound): Nashville-born country singer-songwriter, now based in New York, recorded three promising albums 2000-05, this only her third since, coming nine years after No Way There From Here (her best). More solid songs here, especially "Holding You in My Heart," and a closer about "AWM." A- [sp]

Ken Carson: A Great Chaos (2023, Opium/Interscope): Atlanta rapper, last name Frazier, third album since 2021, three more mixtapes. Trap beats, tight behind that. B+(**) [sp]

The Cash Box Kings: Oscar's Motel (2023, Alligator): Founded in Wisconsin, a "Chicago-style blues band," led by Joe Nosek, with a steady stream of records since 2003 (this is number ten). Reminds me of Elvin Bishop, with less drawl and a bit less grin. B+(**) [sp]

Crosslegged: Another Blue (2023, self-released): Singer-songwriter Keba Robinson, has a previous album. B+(*) [sp]

Alabaster DePlume: Come With Fierce Grace (2023, International Anthem): British saxophonist Angus Fairbairn, spoken word poet who is singing more, eighth album since 2012. B+(**) [sp]

DJ Maphorisa/Tman Xpress: Chukela (2023, New Money Gang): South African amapiano DJ Themba Sekowe, had a breakthrough album in 2019 with Scorpion Kings, with Kabza De Small (featured on the first track here). Don't know anything about Tman Xpress. Billed as an EP, but eight tracks, 48:46. B+(***) [sp]

David Dove/Joe McPhee: Where's the Wine? (2023, C.I.A.): Houston trombonist, plays host to the avant sax/trumpet legend, with some spoken word, possibly (at least as far as the title line goes) just from the audience. Scattered, but some of this is very nice. B+(***) [bc]

Silke Eberhard/Céline Voccia: Wild Knots (2021 [2023], Relative Pitch): Alto sax and piano duo. B+(**) [sp]

The End: Why Do You Mourn (2021-22 [2023], Trost): I filed this free jazz/heavy metal under vocalist Sofia Jernberg, her soprano screech the icing on top of the sax and electronic squall of Mats Gustafsson and Kjetil Møster, steadied by the ponderous rhythms (Anders Hana on baritone and bass guitars, Børge Fjordheim on drums). But that's only the start, with much more weirdness to follow, including texts from Robert Creeley and Moki Cherry, and music from Sudan Archives. B+(**) [bc]

Gunna: A Gift & a Curse (2023, YSL/300 Entertainment): Rapper Sergio Kitchens, from Georgia, released his first mixtape in 2013 as Yung Gunna, followed by several Drip Season mixtapes. Fourth studio album since 2019. B+(***) [sp]

Kevin Hays/Ben Street/Billy Hart: Bridges (2023, Smoke Sessions): Piano/bass/drums trio, Hays has thirty or so albums since 1990, the others are either more- (Hart) or less- (Street) established veterans. B+(**) [sp]

Headie One x K-Trap: Strength to Strength (2023, self-released): UK rapper Irving Adjei ("of Ghanaian origin"), has a half-dozen albums since 2017, with producer Devonte Perkins, first mixtape together. B+(**) [sp]

Eric Hofbauer/The Five Agents: Waking Up! (2023, Creative Nation Music): Guitarist, debut 1998, impressed me early on with The Blueprint Project. This is his second Five Agents project, with Jerry Sabatini (trumpet), Seth Meicht (tenor sax), Tony Leva (bass), and Curt Newton (drums). Four titles concerned with the climate crisis, like "Nostalgia is a Form of Denial AKA the Polycrisis Blues." B+(***) [sp]

Jasper Høiby's 3 Elements: Earthness (2023, Edition): Danish bassist, led the group Phronesis (eight albums 2007-18), has had several other groups -- Fellow Creatures (inspired by Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything) and Planet B. This is a trio with Noah Stoneman (piano) and Luca Caruso (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Hotline TNT: Cartwheel (2023, Third Man): American shoegaze band, mostly a front for William Anderson, formerly of Weed. Second album. B+(*) [sp]

Mick Jenkins: The Patience (2023, BMG): Rapper, born in Alabama but moved to Chicago as a child, released his first mixtape in 2012, album in 2016. B+(**) [sp]

Arthur Kell Speculation Quartet: Live at Lunàtico (2022 [2023], Origin): Bassist, had a series of superb quartet albums 2005-12 but hadn't been heard from since, returns here with a new quartet, with two guitarists (Brad Shepik and Nate Radley) and drums (Allan Mednard). B+(***) [sp]

Karina Kozhevnikova & Krugly Band: Polyphonic Circle (2022 [2023], Leo): Russian jazz singer, second album, Krugly Band is mostly the work of producer Alexey Kruglov, who plays alto sax. Between two Gershwin tunes and two Ornette Colemans, the repertoire focuses on bebop and vocalese, with plenty of spurious scat. I like the sax much more than the vocals, but I'm duly impressed by the singer anyway. B+(**) [bc]

Alexey Kruglov: Synchronization of Time (2022, Leo): Russian alto saxophonist, large discography since 2002, including collaborations with two-thirds of the Ganelin Trio. Narration makes me nervous here, breaking up the occasionally remarkable but more often merely curious soundscape. B [bc]

Lambrini Girls: You're Welcome (2023, Big Scary Monsters, EP): British punk band, from Brighton, six-track EP (16:25), although Discogs says there's a vinyl version with two extra live tracks ("Fuck Myself" and "Big Dick Energy"). B+(***) [sp]

Janel Leppin: The Brink (2023, Shiny Boy Press): Cellist, solo here, holds your attention for eight tracks, 33:13. B+(*) [sp]

Joe Locke: Makram (2021-22 [2023], Circle 9): Vibraphonist, many albums since 1987, starts with a quartet here -- Jim Ridl (piano/keyboards), Lorin Cohen (acoustic and electric bass), Samvel Sarkisyan (drums) -- and adds guests to cuts 2-5, going with oud and riq for the title track, brass for two, and reeds (Tim Garland) for the other. B+(*) [sp]

Lage Lund Quartet: Most Peculiar (2022 [2023], Criss Cross): Norwegian guitarist, based in New York, dozen or so albums since 2006. Quartet with Sullivan Fortner (piano), Matt Brewer (bass), and Tyshawn Sorey (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Maps: Counter Melodies (2023, Mute): British electronica producer James Chapman, sixth album since 2007, perhaps not as "counter" as he hoped. B+(*) [sp]

MC Yallah: Yallah Beibe (2023, Hakuna Kulala): Ugandan rapper Yallah Gaudencia Mbidde, second album, cranks up the speed and intensity, even borrowing from the metal-fusion that has developed in and around Nyege Nyege Tapes. A- [sp]

Lubomyr Melnyk: The Sacred Thousand (2022 [2023], Jeriska): Ukrainian pianist, lived in Paris in the 1970s, has albums back to 1979, mostly solo or duo piano, holds some kind of world speed record for "sustained speeds of over 19.5 notes per second in each hand." Two recordings of one composition here, 22:26 and 22:45, "dedicated to the heroic Ukrainian soldiers who held out against the enormous Russian army for several weeks in the Azov Steel Plant of Mariupol." Tight rythmic patterns with cross-variations, not super fast but very steady. Minimalism and more. B+(***) [bc]

Roscoe Mitchell Orchestra and Space Trio: At the Fault Zone Festival (2022 [2023], Wide Hive): Reeds player, past 80, best known for Art Ensemble of Chicago. Five pieces here, a varied program opening and closing with his Space Trio (bass sax, plus Scott Robinson on slide sax and vocalist Thomas Buckner), a trio with piano (Sarah Cahill) and violin (Kate Stenberg), and long pieces (12:34 + 28:52) for a full orchestra and chorus. All due respect, but I find the choral work pretty hard to take. C+ [sp]

Paul Mottram: Seven Ages of Man (2023, Ubuntu Music): British composer, classical training, has done a lot of work for BBC series and specials, including the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Has a few albums, with titles like Solo Strings and Minimalism (two of each), but this suite built on top of a Shakespeare quote is exceptional. Front cover notes, rather off to the side from the artist/title block: "Jazz sextet and string orchestra featuring Tim Garland/Jason Rebello" (sax and piano). The strings are pretty conventional, but the sextet can (and often does) rise way above them. A- [sp]

Tisziji Muñoz: Burning Down Hades (2023, Ra Kalam): Guitarist, born in New York, started as a drummer, many records since 1978. Also plays shenai, wood flute, and percussion here, with Yaka Don Pale (bass) and Ra Kalam Bob Moses (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Marius Neset: Geyser: Live at Royal Albert Hall - BBC Proms (2022 [2023], ACT Music): Norwegian saxophonist, based in Copenhagen, regular albums since 2011, was commissioned to write this eight-part piece by BBC Proms, staging it live with the London Sinfonietta, conducted by Geoffrey Paterson, and his quintet, with Ivo Neame (piano), Jim Hart (vibes/marimba), bass, and drums. The strings are exceptionally lively, suggesting that the notion that classical music was once meant to be fun may have occasionally been true. The rest of the orchestra adds depth and color, leaving the serious soloing for Neame and Neset, who aim for rapture. A-

Sam Newsome/Dave Liebman: Soprano-Logues (2021 [2023], Some New Music): Soprano sax duets, both started with other saxophones but have largely adopted the straight horn. Newsome's has some preparation. Liebman also credited with wooden flute and voice. B+(*) [sp]

Sam Newsome & Jean-Michel Pilc: Cosmic Unconsciousness Unplugged (2022 [2023], Some New Music): Soprano sax and piano duo, some preparation to the sax, they have previous duo and trio albums together. Nice to hear some familiar standards in the rather austere mix here. B+(**) [bc]

Pangaea: Changing Channels (2023, Hessle Audio): British techno producer Kevin McAuley, singles back to 2007 but only his second album. B+(***) [sp]

Pizza Hotline: Level Select (2022 [2023], We Release Whatever the Fuck We Want): London-based electronica producer Harvey Jones, fourth album under this alias, also does business as El Choop (2 albums, 2016-19). Nine cuts, 47:22, at least for the edition I've listened to (looks like they vary). Beats really hit the spot for me. A- [sp]

Polobi & the Gwo Ka Masters: Abri Cyclonique (2023, Real World): Singer Moïse Polobi, from Gaudeloupe in the former French Caribbean. B+(**) [sp]

Amy Ray: If It All Goes South (2023, Daemon): Singer-songwriter, from Georgia, co-founded Indigo Girls in 1985, seventh solo album since 2001. Mixed bag of songs, but "A Mighty Thing" is a choice cut. B+(**) [sp]

André Roligheten: Marbles (2022 [2023], Odin): Norwegian saxophonist (tenor/soprano/bass plus clarinet), has a couple previous albums (mostly in groups), This a quintet with pedal steel/guitar (Johan Lindström), vibes (Mattias Ståhl), bass (Jon Rune Strøm), and drums (Gard Nilssen). Has a delightfully upbeat, playful air. A- [sp]

Kurt Rosenwinkel: Undercover: Live at the Village Vanguard (2023, Heartcore): Guitarist, originally from Philadelphia, played with Human Feel in the 1990s, own albums start in 1996, now based in Berlin. Quartet with Aaron Parks (piano), Eric Revis (bass) and Gregory Hutchinson (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Scree: Jasmine on a Night in July (2023, Ruination): Brooklyn "experimental" trio: Ryan El-Solh (guitar/keybs), Carmen Rothwell (bass), Jason Burger (drums/kalimba) -- also credits producer Ari Chersky with "loops." Not much risk. B [sp]

Titanic: Vidrio (2023, Unheard of Hope): Duo, based in Mexico City, of Héctor Tosta (as I. La Católica, piano/guitar) and Mabe Fratti (cello/vocals), with help on sax (Jarrett Gilgore) and drums (Gibran Andrade). B+(**) [sp]

Lucinda Williams: Stories From a Rock N Roll Heart (2023, Highway 20): After sounding pretty ragged for several albums, here she struggles to recover from a pretty severe stroke, and comes out sounding remarkably centered. A- [yt]

WILSN: Those Days Are Over (2023, Ivy League): Australian, Melbourne-based singer-songwriter Shannon Busch, first album, after a 2019 EP, both voice and arrangements aimed squarely at Aretha Franklin, which isn't quite as ridiculous as you'd think. B+(***) [sp]

Libby York: Dreamland (2021 [2023], OA2): Jazz singer, several albums since 2003. Very low key here, backed minimally by guitar (Randy Napoleon) and bass (Rodney Whitaker), with a bit of drums on three tracks. B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Albert Ayler Trio: 1964 Prophecy Revisited (1964 [2023], Ezz-Thetics): Tenor sax trio, with Gary Peacock (bass) and Sunny Murray (drums). First five tracks (40:32), a live set a month before Spiritual Unity was recorded, were first released on ESP-Disk' in 1975. This adds five more tracks (35:58) from the same trio, dates unclear. B+(**) [bc]

Albert Ayler: Summertime to Spiritual Unity Revisited (1964 [2023], Ezz-Thetics): Spiritual Unity, the trio album on ESP-Disk with Gary Peacock (bass) and Sunny Murray (drums), is Ayler's masterpiece, so it's tempting to say just leave it at that. This prepends two tracks from a Danish set that was later released as My Name Is Albert Ayler: a 8:46 "Summertime" and a 12:06 "C.T." Not especially great versions, but I guess they do set you up. A- [bc]

Albert Ayler Quartets 1964: Spirits to Ghosts Revisited (1964 [2023], Ezz-Thetics): Two albums originally released on Debut, quartets with trumpet (Norman Howard or Don Cherry), various bassists, and Sunny Murray (drums), from Feb. 24 and Sept. 14. Spirits is an album I know as Witches & Devils, the title used by Arista/Freedom for their 1975 reissue (my personal introduction to Ayler). It is typical of Ayler's playful gospel-based chaos, and gets a bit of boost in the later album, Ghosts. B+(***) [bc]

Albert Ayler: 1965: Spirits Rejoice & Bells Revisited (1965 [2023], Ezz-Thetics): Sensibly combines two ESP-Disk releases, the live set from Judson Hall (Spirits Rejoice, 32:53) with Charles Tyler (alto sax) and two bassists (Henry Grimes and Gary Peacock), and the half-album Bells (19:50, originally issued as a one-sided LP). B+(***) [bc]

Albert Ayler Quintet: Lost Performances 1966 Revisited (1966 [2023], Ezz-Thetics): "From the Filmproduction in Munich & The Concerts Of Rotterdam & Helsinki." While most of the label's "Revisited" series have been pulled from Bandcamp -- more evidence of how US copyright laws are meant to keep you in the dark -- their project to release every scrap Ayler ever recorded is still on track, probably because these, at least, have been cleared by the Estate of Albert Ayler. Quintet with Don Ayler (trumpet), Michel Samson (violin), William Folwell (bass), and Beaver Harris (drums), from their much-bootlegged European tour. The first three studio tracks from Munich are magnificent. The live shots are a bit more ragged, but convey the excitement, and the uniqueness of the violin. A- [bc]

Albert Ayler: More Lost Performances Revisited (1962-67 [2023], Ezz-Thetics): Three quintet tracks (22:14) from Newport Festival 1967, one 6:24 medley ("Love Cry/Truth Is Marching In/Our Prayer") from the John Coltrane Funeral (1967), and most importantly, a long 1962 Copenhagen piece, 21:27 with the Cecil Taylor Trio (piano extraordinaire, with Jimmy Lyons on alto sax, Sunny Murray on drums). A- [bc]

Miles Davis: Turnaround: Rare Miles From the Complete On the Corner Sessions (1972-73 [2023], Columbia/Legacy): One of those Record Store Day specials, easy enough to pull stray cuts from a 6-CD box and press them into blue vinyl. For reference, I have the original album, recorded in three sessions in June-July 1972, as a high B+, but gave the box, which adds sessions up to May 1975, at a generous and probably overwhelmed A-. This kicks off with a subdued outtake from the first session, then adds three slightly later tracks, closing strong with a July 1973 "Big Fun/Holly-wuud." This is all fairly typical of the period, of which we have much to choose from. B+(***) [sp]

Phineas Newborn Jr.: A World of Piano! (1961 [2023], Craft): Memphis pianist (1931-89), father was a blues drummer, brother a jazz guitarist, played with B.B. King, and supported r&b acts recorded at Sun Records, before his debut as a jazz pianist in 1956. This is the first of several records for Contemporary, trios with Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones on the first half, Sam Jones and Louis Hayes on the second. B+(***) [sp]

Stanley Turrentine: Mr. Natural (1964 [2023], Blue Note): Tenor saxophonist, backed by McCoy Tyner (piano), Bob Cranshaw (bass), and Elvin Jones (drums), joined by Lee Morgan (trumpet) on four (of five) tracks, and Ray Barretto (conga) on three. Shelved at the time, finally released in a 1980 closet dump, and finally resurrected in the label's fancy vinyl (Tone Poet) series. B+(**) [sp]

Old music:

André Roligheten: Homegrown (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): Norwegian tenor saxophonist (also soprano, bass clarinet), first album, after side credits back to 2009. With Adrian Loseth Waade (violin), Jon Rune Strøm (bass), and Erik Nylander (drums), playing severn originals and an Ornette Coleman. B+(***) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:


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