Monday, April 29, 2024

Music Week

Expanded blog post, April archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 74 albums, 17 A-list

Music: Current count 42200 [42126] rated (+74), 31 [30] unrated (+1).

Two weeks of listening here, although it seems like much longer, so much so that I can barely remember hearing the earliest entries, let alone why. I mean, where did all those Walter Davis albums come from? Probably Clifford Ocheltree, but didn't that start with Billy Boy Arnold? I think Ride came from a list of Pitchfork reviews -- that's certainly where I noticed Austin Peralta. Little things like that set me off on various tangents.

One thing that helped is that I finally sorted my demo queue by release date (as opposed to order received, with variations), so I could be reasonable sure I could just grab something and not worry about it not being released for 2-3 months. Still, new records came in almost as fast as old ones got played, so the unrated count barely moved. And it should be noted that several top-rated albums this week only got reviewed because I was sent CDs -- most obviously: Broder, Core, Four + Six, Schwartz, Shner.

Still, I've largely lost track of new releases that don't find me. And I'm nearly helpless when it comes to downloads (although I did manage to dig out a batch of Ivo Perelmans -- no idea whether I managed to catch up, but another one came in the mail today, so definitely not). I may have to break my 2024 resolution not to do tedious projects like the EOY list (which in some earlier iterations also tracked review grades or in some cases mere mentions). I've already let my tracking list spread out, but I haven't maintained it regularly enough for it to be very useful.

Last week's Music Week was the victim of an executive decision to first finish a Book Roundup post that I started several weeks earlier, but kept researching ever deeper on. Even so I didn't manage to notice a single one of the books Michael Tatum reviewed in his first Books Read (And Not Read) column. (Note to self: check out that New York Times list he cites. The fiction half is beyond my ken, but I have previously noted seven of the non-fiction fifty, with one more in the draft file.)

After Book Roundup, I had to finish a Speaking of Which, also started but held up. It's fair to say that we're living in what the Chinese would call "interesting times" -- so much so that nearly everywhere I turned I ran into pieces that seemed like noting (317 by the time I posted Sunday evening) and commenting on (15302 words). And even while I'm trying to knock this out by end-of-Monday, every break I take results in me adding more notes to Speaking of Which. (Look for red stripes on right border.)

I appear to have recovered from my big tech problem of the last few weeks: I haven't been able to send email, with all efforts producing a "AUP#CXSNDR" error, which is some kind of dirty look the system gives you without ever explaining why. I contacted Cox to find out why, and, well, I didn't. I did learn a bunch about their customer service department, exploring endless variations of five or six basic scripts for not helping you while eventually steering the conversation around to "it must be your fault" and "why don't you bug someone else about it?"

First, there's "Oliver," their chatbot, occasionally relieved by "live people," who seem to be playing a Turing game to see if you can discern whether their stupidity is artificial or organic. Then there's their phone service, which starts with a gauntlet of menu options and numbers you have to peck in, before you arrive at a "level one" person, who acknowledges your problem, thanks you profusely for being such a good customer, and ultimately passes you off to a "level two" person, who presumably will actually help you.

Mostly what "level two" people do is fill out tickets that get passed to supposedly more technical people who are firewalled from customer contact, presumably because their time is so precious, or because your time is deemed without value or utility. You are then advised that it takes them 72 hours to get to the ticket, and even then never on a weekend or after business hours. Eventually, they write one line in the ticket and close it, and someone (probably a "level two") calls you once and leaves you a garbled message in your voice mail. (Never once did we actually catch a callback.) When you call them back for more information, the number they leave is the original gauntlet number, and all they can wind up doing is reading you the one-liner, which they don't understand either, and open another ticket, where you have to repeat all the information again.

This took over two weeks, with frustration levels rising, especially when they got sidetracked on clearly irrelevant asides. (I could do four more paragraphs on them, but the details hardly matter. In the end, I recalled one garbled message, and gave it enough thought to devise a test. It was "your email is working, but there is a security problem with" The obvious, and still unaswered, question is what is that security problem? But the right question was what does my email have to do with ""?

The answer to that seems to be that I had included a link to my website in my email signature, which evidently they scanned and did something wholly improper with. The reason they might do something like that is because normally all of their customers look like Cox, but some of them may be bad actors, so Cox would like to give their customers other identities they can then discriminate against. So, once Cox decided to treat my email like it came from, they then consulted their various email blacklists, saw on one, and rejected it (with no explanation or evident recourse). As far as I know, there was no good reason for them to do so, but I'll probably never find out, because the people who decide these things are insulated from feedback, much like Cox is.

I tested this hypothesis by removing my signature line, and hitting send. It hung, I canceled, and hit send again, and then it worked. Losing the signature line is a small price to pay compared to dealing with what Scott Adams caricatured as "the preventers of information services." Now I have a month's backlog of email to go through and reply to as still seems relevant. If you were expecting to hear from me but didn't, try again.

Last Monday in April, so the monthly archive (link above) is done, but not yet indexed. I also still need to index the Book Roundup, among lots of unfinished business. Stil have house projects, and much more tidying up. Book writing is on hold, and I'm beginning to wonder if that will ever change. I've had to do little bits of programming lately, which remain fun although a bit nerve-racking. Weather is nice here, for a short while until the heat comes.

New records reviewed this week:

Nicki Adams/Michael Eaton: The Transcendental (2023 [2024], SteepleChase LookOut): Piano and tenor saxophone duo, based in Brooklyn, second album together. They relate this to Gunther Schuller's "third stream" movement, for reasons not obvious to a classical-phobe like myself, and pick their way through several Joe Henderson pieces, expertly. B+(**) [r]

John Basile: Heatin' Up (2024, StringTime Jazz): Guitarist, ten or so albums since 1985, thoughtfully called the first one Very Early. B+(*) [cd]

Owen Broder: Hodges: Front and Center, Vol. Two (2021 [2024], Outside In Music): Alto saxophonist, also plays baritone, more from the sessions that generated Vol. One in 2022, four songs Johnny Hodges had a hand in writing, four more he left his indelible mark on. Comparing them against the originals would be hopeless, but they certainly evoke the swing era Hodges towered over. With Riley Mulkerkar (trumpet), Carmen Staaf (piano), Barry Stephenson III (bass), and Bryan Carter (drums). A- [cd]

Paul Brusger: A Soul Contract (2022 [2023], SteepleChase): Bassist, several albums since 2000, mainstream quintet here with Eric Alexander (tenor/alto sax), Steve Davis (trombone), Rick Germanson (piano), and Willie Jones III (drums). B+(*) [sp]

Caporaso Ensemble: Encounter (2023 [2024], Psychosomatic): Guitarist André Caporaso, who has some records going back to 1984, leads a quintet with Jim Goetsch (soprano sax), David Strother (electric violin), Tony Green (bass), and Breeze Smith (drums). Effective fusion. B+(*) [cd] [04-26]

The Castellows: A Little Goes a Long Way (2024, Warner Music Nashville, EP): Three sisters from Georgetown, Georgia, last name Balkcom (Eleanor, Lily, and Powell), moved to Nashville, signed a contract, released two catchy singles late 2023, expanded into this 7-song, 22:10 mini-album. B+(**) [sp]

The Core: Roots (2022 [2024], Moserobie): Norwegian jazz group, founded 2001, released eight albums 2004-10, back for one more here. Saxophonist Kjetil Mřster is the best-known member, but Espen Aalberg (drums) wrote four (of six) pieces, with one each for Mřster and Steinar Raknes (bass), zero for Erlend Slettevoll (piano). Expansive, like Coltrane's legendary quartet. A- [cd]

Arnaud Dolmen/Leonardo Montana; LéNo (2023 [2024], Quai Son): French duo, Guadeloupian drummer and Brazilian pianist, "long-time collaborators," several separate albums each. I'm not seeing any other credits here, other than "chorus." The rhythm tracks sweep one along, the piano commenting thoughtfully. B+(**) [cdr]

Dave Douglas: Gifts (2023 [2024], Greenleaf Music): Trumpet player, one of the most acclaimed since the mid-1990s, I've often been unmoved by his albums but never doubted his chops, or his commitment to forming challenging groups. Here he adds James Brandon Lewis to a long list of heavyweight champ saxophonists, as well as two younger players we'll hear more from: Rafiq Bhatia (guitar) and Ian Chang (drums). Slips a four-song Billy Strayhorn medley as the sweet center of a sandwich of originals, blurring the edges so they all flow together. A- [cd]

Four + Six: Four + Six (2024, Jazz Hang): The Four is a saxophone quartet of Mark Watkins, Ray Smith, Sandon Mayhew, and Jon Gudmundson. Their names adorn the top border of the cover, so by one convention I often follow, I could have listed them for the artist credit, but then I should also follow the "Plus Six" named in the other borders, from left to bottom to right: Derrick Gardner (trumpet), Vincent Gardner (trombone), Corey Christiansen (guitar), Justin Nielsen (piano), Braun Khan (bass), Kobie Watkins (drums). But only three or four of those names ring a bell for me -- I'm a bit confused on my Gardners -- and I usually save the cover-listed instruments for the body. Saxophonist Mark Watkins composed and arranged this, upbeat, richly textured, superb big band lacking only the conventional brass overload. A- [cd]

Eric Frazier: That Place Featuring "Return of the Panther Woman" (2024, EFP Productions): Percussionist (congas here, trap drums, djembe, piano, tap dance elsewhere), sings, based in Brooklyn, website offers ten albums but Discogs comes up far short, at least under "(4)." His Carribbean funk is loosely engaging, Gene Ghee's sax helps, no complaints when a piano-conga duet stretches out. B+(***) [cd]

Kenny Garrett & Svoy: Who Killed AI? (2024, Mack Avenue): Alto/soprano saxophonist, a breakout star in the 1990s, back here with a duo with Russian electronica producer Mikhail Tarasov, who has several albums since 2005 (they seem to be most popular in Japan). Some vocals. Some interesting ideas that don't go very far. B+(**) [sp]

María Grand With Marta Sánchez: Anohin (2024, Biophilia): Saxophonist-vocalist from Switzerland, based in New York, fourth album since 2017, a duo with the pianist. Emphasis is more on voice, but I prefer the saxophone. B+(*) [sp]

Frank Gratkowski/Ensemble Modern: Mature Hybrid Talking (2022 [2024], Maria de Alvear World Edition): German avant-saxophonist, many albums since 1991, plays flute and alto here, conducting the twelve-piece chamber jazz group -- flute/clarinet/oboe/bassoon, trumpet/trombone, piano, violin/cello/bass, no drums -- through the single 45:08 composition. B+(**) [sp]

Noah Haidu: Standards II (2023 [2024], Sunnyside): Piano trio, with Buster Williams (bass) and Billy Hart (drums), following up on their 2023 album, itself preceded by a 2021 Keith Jarrett tribute. B+(**) [cd]

Alexander Hawkins/Sofia Jernberg: Musho (2023 [2024], Intakt): British pianist, rather prolific since 2011, accompanies the Ethiopian-born but (sources agree) Swedish jazz singer, most often showing up with avant-leaning groups like Fire! Orchestra and Koma Saxo. Has some moments, but mostly fairly arch art song. B+(*) [sp]

Ill Considered: Precipice (2024, New Soil): British group, dozen-plus albums since 2017, looks like this iteration is back-to-basics, with just sax (Idris Rahman), bass (Liran Donin), and drums (Emre Ramazanoglu). B+(***) [sp]

Matt Lavelle/Claire Daly/Chris Forbes: Harmolodic Duke (2023, Unseen Rain): Trumpet player, credits start in 2001, including large groups led by Butch Morris and William Parker, developed bass clarinet as a second instrument, plays alto and piccolo clarinet here, with Daly on baritone sax and Forbes on piano. Did a Harmolodic Monk album in 2014, again the aim here is to put an Ornette twist on a classic. Needs more study than I can muster, or more swing than they're willing to allow. B+(**) [sp]

Matt Lavelle: In Swing We Trust (2022, Unseen Rain): Trio, names below the title are Phil Sirois (bass) and Tom Cabrera (drums), so this has rhythm even if it is somewhat at odds with what I think of as swing. Lavelle plays trumpet, bass and E-flat piccolo clarinets. B+(**) [sp]

Matt Lavelle: The House Keeper (2022 [2023], Unseen Rain): Quintet, other names on cover mostly familiar from recent albums: Claire Daly (baritone sax), Chris Forbes (piano), Hilliard Greene (bass), Tom Cabrera (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Matt Lavelle & the 12 Houses: The Crop Circles Suite Part One (2022 [2024], Mahakala Music): Starting from an idea he first articulated in the 1990s, the trumpeter-composer describes this as his "life's work," or half of it anyway, the first six pieces in a 12-piece suite, with "Crop Circles 7-12" still in development. B+(***) [sp]

Andy Laverne: Spot On (2023 [2024], SteepleChase): Pianist, from New York, started with Woody Herman 1973, debut 1978, 36th album on this label, quartet with Mike Richmond (bass), Jason Tiemann (drums), and impressive newcomer Ben Solomon (tenor sax). B+(**) [sp]

Shawn Maxwell: J Town Suite (2023 [2024], Cora Street): Alto/soprano saxophonist (also flute), seventh album since 2005, this one backed by electric bass, keyboards, and drums. Nice ending. B+(**) [cd] [05-01]

Ron McClure: Just Sayin' (2024, SteepleChase): Bassist, started in 1960s, has close to two dozen albums as leader, composed eight (of ten) songs here, a quartet with Anthony Ferrara (tenor sax), Michael Eckroth (piano), and Steve Johns (drums). Very solid mainstream outing, especially for Ferrara. B+(***) [sp]

Ava Mendoza/Dave Sewelson: Of It but Not Is It (2021-22 [2024], Mahakala Music): Duets, guitar and baritone sax, two Mendoza arrangements of William Parker lyrics, so voice too -- Sewelson a gruff blues declaimer, Mendoza adds some harmony and callback. B+(***) [sp]

Cornelia Nilsson: Where Do You Go? (2022-23 [2024], Stunt): Swedish drummer, based in Copenhagen, first album as leader, combines two trio sessions, one with pianist Aaron Parks, the other with tenor saxophonist Gabor Bolla, both with Daniel Franck on bass. Both sides are pretty impressive. B+(**) [sp]

The Michael O'Neill Sextet: Synergy: With Tony Lindsay (2021 [2024], Jazzmo): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano, bass clarinet), sextet with Erik Jekabson (trumpet), John R. Burr (piano), bass, drums, and extra percussion, swings, swaggers even, with Lindsay singing eleven songs -- a Burr original, some standards, three songs from Stevie Wonder, one from Bill Withers. B+(**) [cd]

Chuck Owen & Resurgence: Magic Light (2019-23 [2024], Origin): Pianist (also accordion and hammered dulcimer), based in Florida, started his Jazz Surge as a big band in 1995, this edition is slimmed down -- a no-brass sextet, with Jack Wilkins (sax), Sara Caswell (violin), Corey Christiansen (guitar), bass, and drums, plus Kate McGarry singing five (of eight) songs, the only non-original being the opener, "Spinning Wheel." B+(*) [cd]

Charlie Parr: Little Sun (2024, Smithsonian Folkways): Folk/blues singer-songwriter from Duluth, plays resonator guitar and banjo, couple dozen albums since 2002. B+(*) [sp]

Ivo Perelman Quartet: Water Music (2022 [2024], RogueArt): Avant tenor saxophonist from Brazil, started releasing albums in 1989, did a duo with pianist Matthew Shipp in 1996, and they've released scores of albums ever since, probably more than the years Lincoln counted at Gettysburg. Both not only play a lot together, they're happy to let others join in, especially when they contribute as much as Mark Helias (bass) and Tom Rainey (drums) do here. A- [cdr]

Ivo Perelman/Chad Fowler/Reggie Workman/Andrew Cyrille: Embracing the Unknown (2024, Mahakala Music): Tenor sax, stritch/saxello, bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]

Ivo Perelman/Barry Guy/Ramon Lopez: Interaction (2017 [2024], Ibeji Music): Tenor sax, bass, drums/tabla. An exceptionally fine outing for the saxophonist, divided into two parts (73:52 + 55:18). A- [dl]

Ivo Perelman/Mark Helias/Tom Rainey: Truth Seeker (2022 [2024], Fundacja Sluchaj): Tenor sax/bass/drums trio, his ideal format (apologies to Shipp), especially when he gets a bassist this remarkable. A- [dl]

Ivo Perelman/Tom Rainey: Duologues 1: Turning Point (2024, Ibeji Music): Tenor sax and drum duets, seven unnamed files, no telling how many more "duologue" albums are planned. B+(***) [dl]

Rich Perry: Progression (2022 [2023], SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, from Cleveland, mainstream, regular albums since 1993, quartet here with Gary Versace (piano), Jay Anderson (bass), and John Riley (drums). B+(**) [sp]

PNY Quintet: Over the Wall (2022 [2024], RogueArt): Free jazz meeting in France: Steve Swell (trombone), Rob Brown (alto sax), Michel Edelin (flutes), Peter Giron (bass), John Betsch (drums). Most brought songs, and the rest they improvised. B+(**) [cdr]

Dave Rempis/Pandelis Karayorgis/Jakob Heinemann/Bill Harris: Truss (2023 [2024], Aerophonic/Drift): Alto/tenor/baritone saxophone, with piano, bass, and drums. Two long pieces. I've grown accustomed to the free jazz thrash, finding it both stimulating and relaxing, heightened, of course, by the fascinating various stretches of foreplay. A- [cd] [04-23]

Ride: Interplay (2024, Wichita): English shoegaze band, four albums 1990-96, third album since they regrouped in 2017. B+(*) [sp]

Angelica Sanchez/Chad Taylor: A Monster Is Just an Animal You Haven't Met Yet (2023 [2024], Intakt): Piano and drums duo. B+(***) [sp]

Marta Sanchez Trio: Perpetual Void (2023 [2024], Intakt): Spanish pianist, based in New York, albums since 2008, trio here with Chris Tordini (bass) and Savannah Harris (drums). B+(***) [cd]

Radam Schwartz: Saxophone Quartet Music (2023 [2024], Arabesque): Keyboard player, mostly organ, first album 1988, second on Muse 1995, maybe a half-dozen approximately soul jazz albums since. This one is something else, with Schwartz not playing but arranging for a saxophone quartet (Marcus G Miller, Irwin Hall, Anthony Ware, Max Schweber), with isolated guest spots (guitar, vocal, percussion). Starts off delightful, mixes it up from there, ends with "My Ship." A- [cd] [05-01]

Shabaka: Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowledge Its Grace (2022 [2024], Impulse!): British saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, parents from Barbados, bills this as "his solo debut album," but I've counted one previous one as Shabaka (now deemed an EP, at 28:36), two as Shabaka & the Ancestors, plus his dominant presence in groups Sons of Kemet, Melt Yourself Down, and The Comet Is Coming. Limits his tenor sax here to one track, as he plays clarinet (3), shakuhachi (2), flute (6), and svirel (1), with a rotating cast of guests, leaning hard on the harps (Brandee Younger and Charles Overton), exotic instruments (André 3000, Rajna Swaminathan), electronics (Surya Botofasina, Floating Points), and spot vocalists (Elucid, Eska, Anum Iyapo, Laraaji, Lianne La Havas, Moses Sumney, Saul Williams). I'm tempted to slag this off as new agey, but it's not so bad B+(**) [sp]

Idit Shner & Mhondoro: Ngatibatanei [Let Us Unite!] (2023 [2024], OA2): Alto saxophonist, based in Oregon, as is her group, although they channel Zimbabwe, most directly through percussionist John Mambira (and vocal on the title cut), but with music far more universal. A- [cd]

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers: Revelations (2024, Abeyance): Grew up as a homeschooled fundamentalist in North Carolina, didn't turn out that way, fourth album, more rock than country. B+(**) [sp]

Skee Mask: ISS010 (2024, Ilian Tape): German techno producer Bryan Müller, from Munich, also released records as SCNTST (2013-18), title denotes 10th album in this series. Steady beats. B+(*) [sp]

Geoff Stradling & the StradBand: Nimble Digits (2023 [2024], Origin): Pianist, also plays electric and synths, leads a very raucous big band here with occasional extras (mostly Latin percussion) through nine originals plus "Poinciana." B+(***) [cd]

Jordan VanHemert: Deep in the Soil (2023 [2024], Origin): Alto saxophonist, Korean-American, based in Oklahoma, has several previous albums, leads a very flash all-star sextet of Terrel Stafford (trumpet), Michael Dease (trombone), Helen Sung (piano), Rodney Whitaker (bass), and Lewis Nash (drums), through two originals, two from the band, and four more or less standards. B+(**) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Chet Baker & Jack Sheldon: In Perfect Harmony: The Lost Album (1972 [2024], Jazz Detective): Two West Coast trumpet players, both sing sometimes -- Baker more often, or at least more famously, but I like Sheldon's extra swing -- backed by Jack Marshall (guitar), Dave Frishberg (piano), Joe Mondragon (bass), and Nick Ceroli (drums). Eleven tracks, 36:16. B+(**) [cd] [04-20]

John Coltrane Quartet + Stan Getz + Oscar Peterson: Live/Dusseldorf March 28, 1960 (1960 [2024], Lantower): Another live set from a much recorded European tour, the Quartet at this point with Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Jimmy Cobb (drums). This sounds like Peterson dominates the piano (does Kelly even play?), while Getz is less imposing on tenor sax. B+(*) [r]

Franco & OK Jazz: Franco Luambo Makiadi Presents Les Editions Populaires (1968-1970) (1968-70 [2024], Planet Ilunga): Like James Brown, Franco's earliest recordings date from 1956, but he didn't really hit his stride until the 1970s, so this late-'60s compilation can still be considered early, rough, not quite ready, but it's pretty exciting nonetheless. Belgian label looks to have much more worth checking out. A- [bc]

Gush: Afro Blue (1998 [2024], Trost): Scandinavian trio -- Mats Gustafsson (reeds), Sten Sandell (piano), Raymond Strid (drums) -- mostly recorded 1990-99 with a couple later reunions. This one recorded live in Stockholm, with two variations of Sandell's "Behind the Chords" (27:22 + 18:53) and 19:17 of the Mongo Santamaria title song. B+(***) [bc]

Yusef Lateef: Atlantis Lullaby: The Concert From Avignon (1972 [2024], Elemental Music, 2CD): Tenor/soprano saxophonist (1928-2013), originally Bill Evans, one of the first major jazz figures to adopt a Muslim name and a pan-African worldview, also one of the first to incorporate flute as a major part of his sonic toolkit. Quartet with Kenny Barron (piano), Bob Cunningham (bass), and Albert "Tootie" Heath (drums). B+(**) [cd]

Merengue Típico, Nueva Generación! (1960s-70s [2024], Bongo Joe): From the Dominican Republic: "Curated by Xavier Daive, aka Funky Bompa, the compilation unveils rare '60s and '70s gems, providing a glimpse into a transformative period following the fall of the Trujillo regime." The genre dates back to the 19th century, when accordions came over on German trade ships. Just ten brief singles, 32:13, hard to resist, like polka or cajun played dizzyingly fast. A- [sp]

Austin Peralta: Endless Planets [Deluxe Edition] (2011 [2024], Brainfeeder): Jazz pianist, also plays soprano sax, regarded as a prodigy, moved from classical to jazz at 10, won a prize at 12, released his first album at 16, died at 22, a year after this third album, touted now as the first jazz release on the label (executive producer aka Flying Lotus). Hints at fusion but never gets too comfortable, repeatedly fracturing the rhythm, filling with Strangeloop electronics, and giving the saxophonists (Zane Musa and Ben Wendel) free reign. Adds a vocal by Heidi Vogel toward the end. Deluxe edition adds a second LP of variations -- doesn't add much, other than cost, but reminds us of the loss. A- [sp]

Rail Band: Buffet Hotel De La Gare, Bamako (1973 [2024], Mississippi): Band from Bamako in Mali founded 1970, lead singer to 1982 was Salif Keita, who went on to Les Ambassadeurs and a successful solo career, at least through 2018. The band carried on as Super Rail Band, but their 1970-83 period is best documented on three 2-CD Syllart/Sterns sets. Both Discogs and the label list this LP reissue as Rail Band, but Christgau reviewed it as Buffet Hotel de la Gare, which is how I parsed the cover, adding the smaller-print Bamako -- it is a venue they played regularly at -- but I stopped short of other splotches of print. A- [r]

Sonic Youth: Walls Have Ears (1985 [2024], Goofin'): Official release of a 1986 bootleg drawn from three UK concerts, situated between Bad Moon Rising and Evol -- in my database, their two weakest albums, well before the albums I took to be breakthroughs (Daydream Nation and Dirty). So, songwise, nothing here rings a bell, but soundwise, which is what really matters with them, it's mostly here, and there are really terrific stretches -- basically, any time they real momentum going, especially when Kim Gordon is on a rant. B+(***) [sp]

Sun Ra: At the Showcase: Live in Chicago 1976-1977 (1976-77 [2024], Jazz Detective, 2CD): Two shows, long on their space shtick, judging from audience response must have been much more fun to witness than they are to listen to now. Your mileage may vary, but in my favorite Sun Ra discs the groove finds some miraculous way to escape Earth's gravity. This feels more like a revival, which can be tough on non-believers. B+(*) [cd]

Art Tatum: Jewels in the Treasure Box: The 1953 Chicago Blue Note Jazz Club Recordings (1953 [2024], Resonance, 3CD): Legendary pianist (1909-56), remarkable facility -- a friend noted that he often sounds like three guys playing at once -- starting with his 1933 solos (later collected as Piano Starts Here) up to the remarkable series recorded by Norman Granz from 1953-56, later boxed up as The Tatum Solo Masterpieces and The Tatum Group Masterpieces -- the latter's session with Ben Webster is an all-time favorite. These sets are mostly trio, with Everett Barksdale (guitar) and Slam Stewart (bass), occasionally dropping down to solo. I wouldn't rate this among his very best work, with the later sets going through his trademark motions, but the first disc is a real delight. A- [cd]

Mal Waldron/Steve Lacy: The Mighty Warriors: Live in Antwerp (1995 [2024], Elemental Music, 2CD): Piano and soprano sax giants, often played as a duo, but are joined here by Reggie Workman (bass) and Andrew Cyrille (drums), who are precisely the rhythm section one might pray for. Long pieces, timed for four 23-25 minute LP sides, the two shorter ones Monk covers, a shared bond. A- [cd]

Old music:

Billy Boy Arnold/Jimmy McCracklin/Charlie Musselwhite/Christian Rannenberg With Keith Dunn/Henry Townsend with Ben Corritore: The Walter Davis Project (2013, Electro-Fi): Davis (1911/1912-63) was a blues pianist-singer, born in Mississippi, ran off to St. Louis, left a bunch of unrecorded songs, featured here. Rannenberg produced, with Arnold singing nine (of 18) songs. B+(***) [sp]

Walter Davis: Volume 1: 2 August 1933 to 28 July 1935 (1933-35 [1994], Document): Blues singer-songwriter, born in Mississippi, ran away to St. Louis, started singing with Roosevelt Sykes and Henry Townsend, taught himself piano, and wound up recording 150 songs from 1933-52, available on seven CDs on this Austrian label, with selections on various other labels (all in Europe; I don't think RCA has touched him since 1970's Think You Need a Shot, but even that was only released in UK and France). Scratchy masters, par for the course with this label, but at least they give you dates and credits: note that Sykes plays piano on 1-15, Davis 16-25, with Townsend and/or Big Joe Williams on guitar. B+(***) [sp]

Walter Davis: Volume 2: 28 July 1935 to 5 May 1937 (1935-37 [1994], Document): Hitting his stride here, his piano is serviceable but lacks the sparkle of Sykes, his vocals and songs credible and easy to listen to, but he rarely rises to the level of Tampa Red or Big Bill Broonzy, to cite two comparable but often superior artists. B+(**) [sp]

Walter Davis: Volume 3: 5 May 1937 to 17 June 1938 (1937-38 [1994], Document): Not sure whether he's running out of steam, or I am. B+(*) [sp]

Walter Davis: Volume 4: 17 June 1938 to 21 July 1939 (1938-39 [1994], Document): From "Good Gal" to "Love Will Kill You." B+(*) [sp]

Walter Davis: Volume 5: 21 July 1939 to 12 July 1940 (1938-39 [1994], Document): Eight tracks in the middle here have Davis playing piano behind Booker T. Washington -- his entire Bluebird output, just short two 1949 tracks from being his complete works. The fit is pretty seamless. B+(**) [sp]

Walter Davis: Volume 6: 12 July 1940 to 12 February 1946 (1940-46 [1994], Document): Three sessions up to 5 December 1941, a long break, then picks up one track from 1946. B+(**) [sp]

Walter Davis: Volume 7: 12 February 1946 to 27 July 1952 (1946-52 [1994], Document): Three more tracks from 1946, four more from 1947, more sessions from 1949-50, and one last one in 1952, just before his career was ended by a stroke, not long after he turned 40 (he died a decade later, in 1963). B+(**) [sp]

Walter Davis Trio: Illumination (1977, Denon Jazz): Jazz pianist (1932-90), not related to the blues pianist, played with Dizzy Gillespie (1956-57) and Art Blakey (1959-61), led one Blue Note album in 1959 as Walter Davis Jr. (Davis Cup, with Donald Byrd and Jackie McLean). Resumed his career with this second album, mostly trio with bass (Buster Williams) and drums (Art Blakey or Bruno Carr), plus flute (Jeremy Steig) on one track. B+(*) [sp]

Walter Davis Jr. Trio: Scorpio Rising (1989, SteepleChase): Last album, a piano trio with Santi Debriano (bass) and Ralph Peterson (drums), the title song an original from his 1977 album, with two more originals plus three standards. B+(**) [sp]

Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard: Who's That Knocking? (1965 [2022], Smithsonian/Folkways): Bluegrass singers, first album, Dickens (1925-2011) is the real deal from West Virginia, father a banjo-playing Baptist minister, most of her six brothers coal miners. Gerrard (b. 1934) came out of Seattle, got into folk music at Antioch College, moved to DC and joined Dickens and future husband Mike Seeger in the Strange Creek Singers. Only knock I have against this is that all 15 songs, plus 11 more (including some of their best), have long been available on CD as Pioneering Women of Bluegrass, but if you gotta have vinyl, this should suit you well. B+(***) [sp]

Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerard: Won't You Come and Sing for Me (1973 [2022], Smithsonian/Folkways): Their second Folkways album together, came out the same year as one on Rounder called Hazel & Alice which I've long regarded as their best. This opens very strong. A- [sp]

Radam Schwartz: Two Sides of the Organ Combo (2017 [2018], Arabesque): Organ player, albums (but not many) from 1988, divides this into a "smooth side" and a "groove side": the former with vibes (Bryan Carrott), tenor sax (Mike Lee), and drums (Andrew Atkinson); the latter with trumpet (Marcus Printup), alto sax (Anthony Ware), guitar (Charlie Sigler), and drums (Atkinson again). B+(**) [sp]

Sonic Youth: Confusion Is Sex (1983, Neutral): I paid them no mind until Christgau warmed up to them on Sister (1987), after badmouthing their debut EP (C), this initial album (C+), and more (rising to B+ for Evol, which I guess I did check out, registering a B- in my database -- my grades continued to trail his, until they matched on Daydream Nation, and I liked Dirty even more). But when I finally did give the debut a chance -- in a 2006 reissue that was more bonus tracks than not -- I was impressed enough for B+(***). And with the newly-reissued 1985 bootleg (an A-, per Christgau) sounding pretty good, I figured it's time to fill in the holes, at least in their studio discogrpahy. (I can't see myself going through their dozens of live archives, but Joe Yanosik did, so maybe I'll get to a couple more.) They now seem to have had a pretty good idea of how they wanted to sound from the beginning, but without much sense of how to form that sound into songs. The Kim Gordon vocals work a bit better, and they get a freebie with the Stooges cover. B+(**) [sp]

Sonic Youth: Kill Yr Idols (1983, Zensor, EP): Four-track EP (20:58), recorded live at the Plugg Club in NYC, released in Germany, later tacked onto DGC's CD reissue of Confusion Is Sex, where it's quite at home. B+(**) [sp]

Sonic Youth: Bad Moon Rising (1985 [1986], Blast First): Second studio album, originally an 8-track LP (37:09), CD a year later added 4 bonus tracks (15:01), mostly dead weight, but the album already had a lot of that. B [sp]

Sonic Youth: Anagrama/Improvisation Adjoutée/Tremens/Mieux: De Corrosion (1997, SYR, EP): First in a series of self-released experimental asides, four tracks, 22:35. B+(*) [r]

Sonic Youth: Slaapkamers Met Slagroom/Stil/Herinneringen (1997, SYR, EP): Three tracks, 28:30, title translates from Dutch as "bedrooms with whipped cream." B+(*) [r]

Sonic Youth: Live in Los Angeles 1998 (1998 [2019], Sonic Youth Archive): Cover says "Los Angeles, CA * Veterans Wadsworth Theatre * May 28, 1998," but we'll go with the more economical Bandcamp title. This is the one archive title that Christgau reviewed after Joe Yanosik compiled his consumer guide to the whole archive, so seems like the obvious place to dip into, "standing on the shoulders of giants," etc. Context is between A Thousand Leaves and NYC Ghosts and Flowers, both A- in my book, but not albums I have much recollection of -- I wonder if by this point their sound hadn't become so comfortable any iteration would suffice. Starts with "Anagrama," which remains a warm-up exercise, and meanders a fair bit, but packs multiple high points, which prove how terrific they could be. B+(***) [bc]

Sonic Youth: The Destroyed Room: B-Sides and Rarities (1994-2003 [2006], DGC): Opens with a 10:22 outtake from Sonic Nurse, closes with the "full version" (25:48) of of a track cut down to 19:35 on Washing Machine. Pretty trivial, but as someone who used to play "Sister Ray" to calm his nerves, I can't completely dismiss the latter. B+(*) [r]

Unpacking: Found in the mail:

  • Karrin Allyson: A Kiss for Brazil (Origin) [05-17]
  • John Ambrosini: Songs for You (self-released) [06-01]
  • Roxana Amed: Becoming Human (Sony Music Latin) [05-02]
  • Isrea Butler: Congo Lament (Vegas) [06-01]
  • Caporaso Ensemble: Encounter (Psychosomatic) [04-15]
  • Carl Clements: A Different Light (Greydisc) [05-23]
  • Coco Chatru Quartet: Future (Trygger Music) [lp] [03-28]
  • Devouring the Guilt: Not to Want to Say (Kettle Hole) [06-08]
  • John Escreet: The Epicenter of Your Dreams (Blue Room Music) [06-07]
  • Ethel & Layale Chaker: Vigil (In a Circle) [05-17]
  • Layale Chaker & Sarafand: Radio Afloat (In a Circle) [05-17]
  • Galactic Tide Featuring Andy Timmons: The Haas Company Vol. 1 (Psychiatric) [06-01]
  • Phillip Golub: Abiding Memory (Endectomorph Music) [06-21]
  • Jake Hertzog: Longing to Meet You (self-released) [06-01]
  • The Bruce Lofgren Group: Earthly and Cosmic Tales (Night Bird) [06-01]
  • Bruno Rĺberg Tentet: Evolver (Orbis Music) [06-01]
  • Jason Robinson: Ancestral Numbers (Playscape) [05-14]
  • Marta Sanchez Trio: Perpetual Void (Intakt) [04-19]
  • Radam Schwartz: Saxophone Quartet Music (Arabesque) [05-01]
  • Luke Stewart Silt Trio: Unknown Rivers (Pi) [05-03]
  • Natsuki Tamura/Jim Black: NatJim (Libra) [05-17]
  • Amber Weekes: A Lady With a Song: Amber Weekes Celebrates Nancy Wilson (Amber Inn) [06-01]
  • Randy Weinstein: Harmonimonk (Random Chance) [05-15]
  • Christopher Zuar Orchestra: Exuberance (self-released) [05-11]

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