Monday, March 11, 2024

Music Week

March archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 41974 [41938] rated (+36), 27 [21] unrated (+6).

Another substantial Speaking of Which yesterday, plus some late additions today, bringing it up to 206 links, 9408 words. Otherwise, I have nothing much to show for the week, and I'm feeling as drained and hapless as I can recall, perhaps ever. Lots of tasks and projects piling up, unattended. At least I feel fairly well informed, and like I'm making sense when I drop into whatever topics come my way. Reflexes, and a substantial backlog of references I can still call up.

Meanwhile, I listened to the following bunch of records. I spent a lot more time with the R&B comp, eventually replaying all of it, which was enough for the promotion. Good tip from the redoubtable Clifford Ocheltree, so thanks again. The Hawkwind album tip came from a follower who goes by Cloudland Blue Quartet, who featured it in a #13at13 list. I didn't spend enough time on it -- certainly nothing like I would have had I encountered it at 13 (or 21, which I was when it came out; I certainly didn't have 13 albums at that age, and none to brag about). It seems like I must have heard more from them at the time than I have in the database, but not enough to really register (except as noted).

Three relatively mainstream jazz albums in the A-list this week. I feel a bit bad about not finding less obvious choices, but sometimes it breaks that way. The Potter album isn't actually in the 36 count, but I moved it in to wrap it up here. None scored high enough to be strong top-ten candidates at EOY (11, 13, 14 at the moment, or 6, 8, 9 among jazz), but they are likely to finish high in EOY polls.

Hurray for the Riff Raff is another pick with pretty broad support (86 on 21 reviews at AOTY; making it the year's highest-ranked album so far with that many reviews). It's taken over the number 2 slot in my 2024 list.

As for Old Music, the Gebru album I most recommend is still Éthiopiques 21: Ethiopia Song (1963-70 [2006], Buda Musique), attributed more precisely to Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou, but any of the recent Emahoy/Mississippi compilations could do the trick. For solo piano, I usually prefer something upbeat (Earl Hines), fanciful (Art Tatum), and/or abrasive (Cecil Taylor), but all rules seem to have exceptions, and this is definitely one.

PS: [03-19] I have it on good authority that my Laura Jane Grace review, below, is "archaically transphobic." I understand their arguments, and will consider them in the future. But I will let this review stand. I've spent considerable time considering how I might respond, but after one rash attempt, I doubt that further discussion will do anyone any good.

New records reviewed this week:

Albare: Beyond Belief (2023 [2024], AM): Guitarist Albert Dadon, born in Morocco, grew up in Israel and France, moved to Australia in 1983 and made a fortune in business. Albums start in 1992. B+(*) [cd]

Bob Anderson: Live! (2023 [2024], Jazz Hang): Standards crooner, also described as an impressionist, career dates back to 1973, "has performed in more Las Vegas show rooms than just about anyone." Wikipedia has a bio but doesn't list any albums. Discogs has him as "(18)," with two two albums and three singles, none dated. These recordings were "taken from live performances in New York City, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Hollywood, Boston, and the like," also undated. Not a great ballad singer, but on the right song he does a pretty decent Sinatra. B+(*) [cd] [03-29]

Jonas Cambien: Jonas Cambien's Maca Conu (2023 [2024], Clean Feed): Belgian pianist, based in Oslo, leads a quartet with Signe Emmeluth (alto/tenor sax), Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (bass), and Andreas Wildhagen (drums), plus guest Guuro Kvåle (trombone) on two tracks. B+(***) [sp]

Ian Carey & Wood Metal Plastic: Strange Arts (2019 [2024], Slow & Steady): Bay Area trumpet player, seventh album, leads a "new chamber jazz septet with strings." B+(**) [cd] [03-22]

Giuseppe Doronzo/Andy Moor/Frank Rosaly: Futuro Ancestrale (2022 [2024], Clean Feed): Baritone saxophonist, from Italy, has a couple previous albums, also credited with Iranian bagpipe here, in a trio with electric guitar -- English, but has long played in the Dutch punk band, the Ex -- and drums (from Chicago). B+(**) [sp]

Fire!: Testament (2022 [2024], Rune Grammofon): Trio of Mats Gustafsson (baritone sax), Johan Berthling (bass), and Andreas Werlin (drums), formed 2009, eighth album, plus another seven as the expanded Fire! Orchestra. B+(***) [sp]

Glitter Wizard: Kiss the Boot (2023, Kitten Robot, EP): Glam rock group from San Francisco, four albums 2011-19, adds this six song, 18:30 EP. Includes a cover of "Sufragette City," not that they need to be so explicit about their niche. B [sp]

Laura Jane Grace: Hole in My Head (2024, Polyvinyl): Originally Thomas Gabel, singer-guitarist leader in punk group Against Me!, third solo album, a short one (11 songs, 25:28). Still sounds male, so you can just bracket the trans angle. Songs open up a bit towards folk, partly to expound on politics, e.g.: "out in the country is where fascists roam." B+(***) [sp]

Dave Harrington/Max Jaffe/Patrick Shiroishi: Speak, Moment (2021 [2024], AKP): Los Angeles-based trio: guitar, drums, sax, with some electronics and extra percussion. B+(**) [sp]

Keyon Harrold: Foreverland (2023 [2024], Concord): Mainstream trumpet player, debut 2009, many credits but only a few albums since. Major effort here, with variable lineups, and a sticker noting special guests Common, Robert Glasper, PJ Morton, and Laura Mvula. B+(**) [sp]

Brittany Howard: What Now (2024, Island): Former Alabama Shakes leader, second solo album, always winds up confusing me, although this one kept my interest piqued longer than most. B+(**) [sp]

Hurray for the Riff Raff: The Past Is Still Alive (2024, Nonesuch): Band but mostly folkie singer-songwriter Alyndra Segarra, from the Bronx via New Orleans, shows no obvious links to either but rather seems totally assimilated into declassé Americana. Ninth studio album. Always seemed like someone I should like more than I did, but this album is the breakthrough, and not just in likability. I'm not good enough at words to recall much of the brilliance I heard, beyond the "Buffalo" lament and the "Ogallala" reference, but they come with great ease. A- [sp]

Idles: Tangk (2024, Partisan): British rock band, from Bristol, fifth album since 2017, formally post-punk, have a lot of critical and popular support. Sounds good, but ended before anything really registered. B+(**) [sp]

Vijay Iyer: Compassion (2022 [2024], ECM): Pianist, from upstate New York, parents Tamil, studied physics before deciding on music, many albums since 1995, has won virtually everything. Trio with Linda May Han Oh (bass) and Tyshawn Sorey (drums). Starts slow, develops into something I never quite grasp -- one is tempted to use "dazzling," but that belongs more to the drummer. B+(***) [sp]

The Last Dinner Party: Prelude to Ecstasy (2024, Island): British rock group, five women, Abigail Morris the lead singer, debut album frequently described as art rock and/or baroque pop. B+(*) [sp]

Little Simz: Drop 7 (2024, Forever Living Originals, EP): British rapper-singer Simbi Ajikawo, first mixtape 2010, four albums and a dozen EPs, including seven Drop titles, this one with seven titles, 14:52. B+(**) [sp]

Mike McGinnis + 9: Outing: Road Trip II (2023 [2024], Sunnyside): Clarinet player, albums since 2001, including his prior Road Trip from 2012. Tentet again, with three saxes, three brass (trumpet/trombone/French horn), Jacob Sacks on piano, bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]

Emile Parisien/Roberto Negro: Les Métanuits (2023, ACT): French soprano saxophonist, debut was a quintet in 2000, duo with the Italian pianist, one year older but albums only since 2015. "Inspired by György Ligeti's String Quartet No. 1." B+(**) [sp]

Emile Parisien Quartet: Let Them Cook (2024, ACT): French saxophonist (mostly soprano, but doesn't say, and sounds more like alto to me), debut was a quintet in 2000, info on this one is still very sketchy, but more names on cover: Julien Loutelier (drums), Ivan Gélugne (bass), Julien Touéry (piano). B+(***) [sp]

Chris Potter/Brad Mehldau/John Patitucci/Brian Blade: Eagle's Point (2024, Edition): The tenor saxophonist's album, his pieces, but all four surnames on the cover, fellow stars at piano, bass, and drums. Potter also plays soprano sax and bass clarinet. When he gets going, he can be quite astonishing. Mehldau is equally impressive, when he gets his opportunities, as here. A- [sp]

Joel Ross: Nublues (2023 [2024], Blue Note): Vibraphonist, fourth album since 2019, all on Blue Note, which instantly made him some kind of star. No doubt he is, as is his label mate and guest here, Immanuel Wilkins (alto sax). A- [sp]

Scheen Jazzorkester & Cortex: Frameworks: Music by Thomas Johansson (2022 [2024], Clean Feed): Norwegian large group, ninth album since 2013, teamed up with a quartet that's been active since 2011, both long associated with the trumpet player who composed these five pieces. B+(***) [sp]

Patrick Shiroishi: I Was Too Young to Hear Silence (2020 [2023], American Dreams): Japanese-American alto saxophonist, has produced a lot of records since 2014, mostly improv duos and trios, this a solo, starting in a deep listening vein, struggling to build something much more imposing (while maintaining that eery resonance). B+(***) [sp]

The Smile: Wall of Eyes (2024, XL): Band with ex-Radiohead leaders Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, plus Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner. Second album. Slow and plainly pretty, not the sort of thing I find appealing. B [sp]

Vera Sola: Peacemarker (2024, Spectraphonic/City Slang): Singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, parents famous actors, from which her alias provides some distance, started as a poet, second album, first was DIY but at least has a co-producer here, Kenneth Pattengale. B+(**) [sp]

John Surman: Words Unspoken (2022 [2024], ECM): British saxophonist (the whole family, but just soprano, baritone, and bass clarinet here), avant-garde into the 1970s but settled into ECM's ambient chill by 1979 and has been secure ever since. With Rob Luft (guitar), Rob Waring (vibes), and Thomas Strønen (drums). This one is exceptionally engaging. A- [sp]

Michael Thomas: The Illusion of Choice (2023 [2024], Criss Cross): Alto saxophonist, based in New York, three previous albums going back to 2011, not to be confused with trumpeter of same name (or any others: he's "(25)" at Discogs). Mainstream quartet with Manuel Valera (piano), Matt Brewer (bass), and Obed Calvaire (drums), playing eight originals plus "It Could Happen to You." B+(***) [sp]

Akiko Tsugura: Beyond Nostalgia (2023 [2024], SteepleChase): Japanese organ player, moved to New York in 2001 ten or more albums since 2004, this one with Joe Magnarelli (trumpet), Jerry Welcon (tenor sax), Byron Landham (drums), and Ed Cherry (guitar). B+(**) [sp]

The Umbrellas: Fairweather Friend (2024, Tough Love): San Francisco-based jangle pop band, second album. B+(*) [sp]

Yard Act: Where's My Utopia? (2024, Island): British group, from Leeds, second album, James Smith's vocals are most often spoken, with bits of skits cut up and scattered. B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Emahoy Tsegue Maryam Guebru: Souvenirs (1977-85 [2024], Mississippi): Ethiopian pianist (1923-2023), described as a nun, "Emahoy" being a religious honorific. Recorded her first album in 1963, until recently was known mostly for her Éthiopiques 21 compilation of solo piano. This collects eight pieces (36:11), solo piano with vocals as soothing as the music. B+(***) [sp]

Old music:

Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru: Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru (1963-70 [2016], Mississippi): Solo piano from the Ethiopian nun's early albums (although the last three cuts, sourced from a 1996 Best Of, could be later). Seems like simple patterns, but lives up to the hype: "some of the most moving piano music you will ever hear." A- [sp]

Emahoy Tsege-Mariam Gebru: Jerusalem (1972-2012 [2023], Mississippi): More solo piano (with a bit of vocal), three tracks from a 1972 album called The Hymn of Jerusalem: The Jordan River Song, six more from a much later album, by which time she had emigrated to Israel. Some biographical notes: she was of "a wealthy Amhara family," from Gondar, and learned music in a boarding school in Switzerland, from age six. She returned to Ethiopia in 1933, and became a "civil servant and singer to Emperor Haile Selassie." She became a nun when she was 21, and "spent a decade living in a hilltop monastery in Ethiopia." After that, she returned to playing music, and released her first album in 1967, in Germany. She emigrated to Israel in 1984, after Selassie fell, and "settled in an Ethiopian Orthodox convent in Jerusalem." B+(***) [sp]

Gigi W Material: Mesgana Ethiopia (2009 [2010], M.O.D. Technologies): Ethiopian singer Ejigayehu Shibabaw, recorded a couple albums 1997-98, then hooked up with Bill Laswell for a series of albums from Gigi in 2001 to this live album, but nothing since. (They were married for some period, but I haven't found dates.) Material was a band Laswell started in 1979, breaking up in 1985 but Laswell continued using the name for various projects through 1999, reviving it here. B+(**) [sp]

Hawkwind: Doremi Fasol Latido (1972, United Artists): British space-rock band, debut 1970, still extant (Dave Brock is the only original member left, and was probably always the main guy; Nik Turner left in 1976, and Huw Lloyd-Langton left in 1971 but returned for 1979-88), this their third album, with two otherwise notable musicians present: guitarist Lemmy Kilmister (later of Motorhead), and vocalist Robert Calvert (whose 1975 solo Lucky Leif and the Longships, produced by Eno, was a personal favorite, and who I credited most for the one Hawkwind album I did really love, 1977's Quark, Strangeness and Charm). Seems too dated to turn into a major research project at this point, but between the post-Pink Floyd and proto-Motorhead, familiar soundposts abound. B+(***) [sp]

Grade (or other) changes:

The R&B No. 1s of the '50s (1950-59 [2013], Acrobat, 6CD): I still haven't filed this set, which made it a convenient option, especially to start each day. Mostly that's meant disc 6, where the novelties not in Rhino's canonical The R&B Box are exceptionally catchy -- especially the Lloyd Price hits ("Personality," "I Wanna Get Married") that I already loved before I turned ten. But revisiting discs 1-3 clinched the deal. [was: A-] A [cd]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Neal Alger: Old Souls (Calligram) [03-01]
  • Sam Anning: Earthen (Earshift Music) [04-05]
  • Alex Beltran: Rift (Calligram) [03-01]
  • Julieta Eugenio: Stay (self-released) [03-29]
  • Julien Knowles: As Many, as One (Biophilia) [04-26]
  • Travis Reuter: Quintet Music (self-released) [04-19]
  • Claudio Scolari Project: Intermission (Principal) [03-25]
  • Dan Weiss: Even Odds (Cygnus) [03-29]
  • Hein Westergaard/Katt Hernandez/Raymond Strid: The Knapsack, the Hat, and the Horn (Gotta Let It Out) [02-25]

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