Monday, June 3, 2024


Music Week

June archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42421 [42377] rated (+44), 36 [31] unrated (+5).

I had a really miserable night and morning. I often complain about my eyesight, but get along ok, as long as I don't try to read CD booklets (one excuse why my reviews have gotten sparer) or try to file CDs alphabetical-by-artist (one reason everything is such a mess). I went to the eye doctor in April, and he told me I should consider cataract surgery. They set up an appointment, but couldn't with their preferred partner get one until June 3, and then couldn't get me an afternoon appointment. I knew it was coming up this week, but didn't realize it was Monday until the day before. I had put off paperwork and research, figuring it could wait until my usual posts, then had to rush out Speaking of Which, to get a bit of time to prepare.

I hate morning appointments: not only does it cut into my normal sleep schedule, simply knowing that I will have to get up early keeps me from getting any sleep at all. It also didn't help that we had thunderstorms rolling through into the morning. When the alarm went off, I was exhausted and exasperated. Then my wife found a phone message saying that the surgeon's office had a power outage, so they had moved all of their appointments to a different location, ten miles farther east, so a 5-minute drive would become 35-40 minutes. My wife called and canceled the appointment. When I finally got up, I called them. They offered me the same appointment time in the distant place, but wouldn't allow me the time to get there. So we rescheduled, pushing the fateful date back to July 29, but at least I got an afternoon appointment.

I probably shouldn't dread this like I do. We know lots of other people who have had the surgery and come out better for it -- Some with adverse side-effects, but as far as I know, all of those were temporary. And I'm less ignorant about what's involved than I was 24 hours ago -- although much of it does seem to depend on the actual examination. I'm not able to go back to sleep, so will spend the rest of the day feeling jet-lagged and irritable. But before long I should rest up, and put it out of mind, at least until the next panic on July 28.

The early start means I should get this posted at a reasonable hour, although other factors could lead me to use the rest of the day. I've added two small items to Speaking of Which as of 3pm, and more are likely. I also have some catch up bookkeeping to do. And I would like to fiddle with the metacritic file a bit. [PS: One thing I did manage to do was to count albums listed by Christian Iszchak and Steve Pick in their respective Substacks.

Seems like a very high ratio of B+(***) to A- this week (21-2), suggesting that some of those could have benefited from a bit more attention. (I did give two plays for at least a third of the 21; another third could just as easily have landed lower, but got the benefit of doubt; Anycia, Ferragutti, and Popul are the ones I may still wonder about.)

It always pains me when I see zombie birthday notices on Facebook friends, but "Bill Xcix Phillips's birthday is today" always hits me hardest, not only because he was a dear friend and great mentor but because I first heard of his passing when I wished him a "happy" in response to one of those notices. Facebook is a hideous thing in oh so many ways, but these residual bits of long-distance connection are what keep pulling me back in.


New records reviewed this week:

Allie X: Girl With No Face (2024, Twin Music): Canadian electropop singer-songwriter Alexandra Hughes, third album since 2017, but her career started a decade earlier, perhaps why this seems darker and gloomier than pop utopia. B+(***) [sp]

Anycia: Princess Pop That (2024, United Masters): Rapper, first album, 14 tracks (27:20), nice complement to Tierra Whack. B+(***) [sp]

Chief Keef: Almighty So 2 (2024, 43B): Chicago rapper Keith Cozart, fifth studio album since 2012 (Finally Rich, his only record to go platinum), plus many mixtapes, this a sequel to one from 2013. I've never paid much attention to him, so I wasn't aware of this hard drill attitude. B+(***) [sp]

Jamale Davis: Run With the Hunted (2024, SteepleChase): Bassist, has a couple previous albums, this one with John Mosca (trombone), Dario Terzuolo (tenor sax), Mferghu (piano), and Ben Zweig (drums/pandeiro). B+(**) [sp]

On Ka'a Davis: Here's to Another Day and Night for the LWA of the Woke (2024, Tzadik): Guitarist, has a couple previous records going back to 2001, trio here with Ali Ali (trumpet) and Donald Sturge McKenzie II (drums). Shades of Sonny Sharrock, but it can wear thin. B+(*) [sp]

Ekko Astral: Pink Balloons (2024, Topshelf): DC-based postpunk band, "pioneers of 'mascara moshpit' music," or "a complex mesh of bubblegum noise punk and no-wave art rock, Jael Holzman the singer, with extra guitar and percussion, first album. Sounds pretty great until they slow it down and pump it up. B+(***) [sp]

Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti & Frank Rosaly: Mestizk (2023 [2024], International Anthem): Singer from Bolivia, married to the drummer, who I always thought of as a Chicago underground guy but I now find identifies as Puerto Rican, the pair of them based in Amsterdam these days. Helping out are various names familiar from other label projects. B+(***) [sp]

Myriam Gendron: Mayday (2024, Thrill Jockey): Canadian folkie singer-songwriter, from Quebec, mostly in French, drums help. B+(**) [sp]

Gilbert Holmström: Peak (2023 [2024], Moserobie): Swedish tenor saxophonist, b. 1937, debut as leader in 1965 with a free jazz quintet, led a fusion group in the 1970s called Mount Everest. Not a lot of records over the years, but they're fairly evenly spaced out. This, at 86, is a quintet with trumpet (Erik Kimestad), piano (Mathias Landæus), bass, and drums, playing four freebop originals and two Ennio Morricone themes. A- [cd]

Daniel Humair/Samuel Blaser/Heiri Känzig [Helveticus]: Our Way (2022 [2024], Blaser Music): Drums, trombone, bass, really Blaser (42) communing with the elders (85 and 66, in effect three generations). Bandcamp page doesn't list the group name, but it's clear at top of cover, with musician surnames at bottom. Trio have a previous album together, sans group name (1291). Both albums mix new pieces with trad Swiss and jazz classics, this one focusing on Ellington and Monk. B+(***) [sp]

Izumi Kimura/Barry Guy/Gerry Hemingway: Six Hands Open as One (2023 [2024], Fundacja Sluchaj): Japanese pianist, based in Ireland, first album (2010) drew on trad pieces from both homelands, eight albums since with shared credits, second with this trio, but Guy (bass) appears on three others, plus she has a duo with Hemingway (drums). B+(***) [cd]

Old Man Luedecke: She Told Me Where to Go (2024, Outside): Singer-songwriter from Nova Scotia, tenth album since 2003, put his banjo aside and recorded this in the Bahamas. So, kind of a vacation. B [sp]

Mach-Hommy: #Richaxxhaitian (2024, Mach-Hommy): Rapper from New Jersey, Haitian descent looms large, EPs start in 2011, albums from 2013 (with one 2004 exception), prolific since then. B+(***) [sp]

Rob Mazurek: Milan (2023 [2024], Clean Feed): Trumpet player, long based in Chicago, where one of his major groups is called Chicago Underground, goes solo here while playing a variety of instruments -- piano, flute, electronics, percussion, voice. B+(**) [sp]

Jesus Molina: Selah (2024, Dynamo Production): Pianist, from Colombia, studied at Berklee, fifth album since 2017. He has considerable chops and range, at various times experimenting with electronics, strings, chorus, and can turn on the Latin tinge, but doesn't depend on it. Results mixed. B [sp]

Kacey Musgraves: Deeper Well (2024, MCA Nashville): Country singer-songwriter, sixth album since 2013, including a couple that went platinum. This was mostly written with two collaborators (Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk), fourteen songs simply produced, frames her voice nicely, well thought out with surprising depth. A- [sp]

Old Mountain: Another State of Rhythm (2023 [2024], Clean Feed): Portuguese group, principally Pedro Branco (piano) and João Sousa (drums), with two bassists (João Hasselberg and Hernâni Faustino), reportedly their third album (but none yet in Discogs), this one featuring tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby. Opens with an abstract based on "Good Night Irene," followed by originals. B+(**) [sp]

Fabiana Palladino: Fabiana Palladino (2024, Paul Institute/XL): British pop singer, songwriter I assume, first album, although singles credits go back to a 2011 feature for Ghostpoet, has some kind of relationship with the elusive Jai Paul (he had a 2013 album that was leaked to much fanfare in 2019). B+(***) [sp]

Bolis Popul: Letter to Yu (2024, Deewee): Belgian electropop producer, Boris Zeebroek, mother Chinese, may explain his first band name, Hong Kong Dong. First album as leader, although he shared a slugline with Charlotte Adigéry for Topical Dancer, one of 2022's best albums. B+(***) [sp]

Pouty: Forget About Me (2024, Get Better): This is Rachel Gagliardi, co-founder of the bratpunk duo Slutever in 2010 is singer-songwriter here, first album under this alias, nine songs (26:11), not so bratty or punkish these days -- but pouty? sure -- her previous rants turning into questions, like "is there anything left to give a shit about?" B+(**) [sp]

Pylon Reenactment Society: Magnet Factory (2024, Strolling Bones): Pylon was an Athens, GA postpunk/new wave band, less famous than the B-52s, but recorded EPs and two very respected albums 1979-83, with various reunions up to Randall Bewley's death in 2009, but only one more album (1990's Chain). This is a new group with original singer Vanessa Briscoe Hay, doing a pretty good job of extending their original sound. B+(***) [sp]

Terre Roche: Inner Adult (2024, self-released): Middle sister in the Roches, started as a duo with Maggie Roche in 1975, adding younger sister Suzzy in 1979 for a dozen-plus albums up to 1995, after which she has a couple solo albums, also a book or two, which may or may not include this title (label/publishing details unclear to me). B+(**) [sp]

Omar Souleyman: Erbil (2024, Mad Decent): Syrian dabke artist, started as a wedding singer, several albums since 2006, based in Turkey since 2011. Undaunted. B+(***) [sp]

Split System: Vol I (2022, Legless): Garage rock band from Melbourne, Australia. This appears to collect three EPs, all from 2022, so is equivalent to a new release. Very sharp and consistent, within its limits. Eleven tracks (31:46). B+(***) [sp]

Split System: Vol II (2024, Legless): Eleven more fast, sharp, short tracks (33:03). B+(***) [sp]

Swamp Dogg: Blackgrass: From West Virginia to 125th St (2024, Oh Boy): Little Jerry Williams when he cut his first record at 12 in 1954, he grew up to be an Atlantic producer in the 1960s, and Swamp Dogg in 1970, with Total Destruction to Your Mind, an album so deep he spent decades afterwards trying to crack jokes. His latest was called I Need a Job . . . So I Can Buy More Auto-Tune. But while he's always had a fair bit of country in him, he waited until he turned 80 to indulge it here. B+(***) [sp]

TGB: Room 4 (2022 [2024], Clean Feed): Portuguese trio, stands for Tuba (Sérgio Carolino), Guitarra (Mário Delgado), Bateria (Alexandre Frazão); fourth album since 2004. B+(**) [sp]

Peter Van Huffel's Callisto: Meandering Demons (2022 [2024], Clean Feed): Baritone saxophonist, Canadian, with Belgian roots, living in Berlin, with various albums since 2007 -- Gorilla Mask is one of his groups. Quartet here with Lina Allemano (trumpet), Antonis Anissegos (piano/electronics), and Joe Hertenstein (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Kamasi Washington: Fearless Movement (2024, Young): Tenor saxophonist, started in Gerald Wilson Orchestra (2005-11), also Throttle Elevator Music (2012-21); prominent side credits like Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar, Run the Jewels, Thundercat; fifth solo album: The Epic, from 2015, was a crossover smash, and this one is getting similar buzz, especially with features guests like George Clinton and André 3000. I have mixed views on much of this, but no doubt that he can be a tremendously imposing saxophonist. Massive: 12 tracks, 86:16. B+(***) [sp]

WoochieWobbler: Is My Future Bright? (2024, 3455092 DK, EP): Six songs, 12:34, I know nothing about the artist(s), but figures as atmospheric hip-hop ("lush, preachy"). B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Stan Getz: Unissued Session: Copenhagen 1977 (1977 [2024], SteepleChase): Starts with a studio session recorded just after the live sets that were released as Live at Montmartre, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2: Stan Getz Quartet, filled out with a couple extra live tracks. Quartet with Joanne Brackeen (piano), Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass), and Billy Hart (drums). B+(**) [sp]

The Jazz Dispensary: The Freedom Sound! The People Arise (1963-76 [2024], Craft): Jazz Dispensary seems to be a store and/or a label for "top shelf vinyl," although I also see their records out on Craft, which is a reissues company that supplements its LPs with digital releases (sometimes also CDs). This "Record Day Special" picks up some interesting tracks from what we might call the Black Power period, with tracks from Joe Henderson, Gary Bartz, Azar Lawrence, and Ran Blake, with a couple of earlier obscurities (A.K. Salim, The Dungills). B+(**) [sp]

Old music:

Gary Bartz Quintet: Libra (1967 [1968], Milestone): The alto saxophonist's first album, with Jimmy Owens (trumpet/flugelhorn), Albert Dailey (piano), Richard Davis (bass), and Billy Higgins (drums). B+(*) [yt]

Gary Bartz NTU Troop: Home! (1969 [1970], Milestone): Third album, live from Left Bank Jazz Society in Baltimore, another quintet -- Woody Shaw (trumpet), Albert Dailey (piano), Bob Cunningham (bass), Rashied Ali (drums) -- first in 1969-74 series to use this group name. Four originals and an Ellington cover. B+(**) [yt]

Gary Bartz Quintet: Reflections on Monk: The Final Frontier (1988 [1989], SteepleChase): Plays alto and soprano sax, "Quintet" on spine but not front cover, which lists names: Bob Butta (piano), Geoff Harper (bass), Billy Hart (drums), Eddie Henderson (trumpet). Songs by Thelonious Monk, aside from a 2:04 bit of Bartz, and extra lyrics, one song each for Jenelle Fisher and Mekea Keith (not my favorite part). B+(***) [sp]

Ran Blake: The Blue Potato and Other Outrages . . . Solo Piano by Ran Blake

(1969, Milestone): He's made a career out of minor little records like this. B+(**) [sp]

The Dungills: Africa Calling (1963, Vee-Jay): Discogs list this as African, but elsewhere I see them desribed as a "Chicago family act." Recorded this one album together, with one song included in a Jazz Dispensary compilation. B- [sp]

Billy Gault: When Destiny Calls: The Music of Billy Gault (1974 [1975], SteepleChase): Pianist, only has this one album, from a period when he was playing with Jackie McLean (he wrote the title track to Ode for Super). Six more of his songs here. Relative unknowns in the group: Billy Skinner (trumpet), Bill Saxton (tenor sax), James 'Fish' Benjamin (bass), best known is Michael Carvin (drums), but that just focuses on the piano -- and the vocalists (Ellen DeLeston and Jon Lee Wilson), who come off as awkward and sometimes poignant. B+(**) [sp]

Daniel Humair: Quatre Fois Trois (1996-97 [1997], Label Bleu): Swiss drummer, started 1960, leads four trios here for 2-3 tracks each (total: 66 minutes; there's also a 1998 edition with a second CD that I haven't heard): Jean-François Jenny-Clark (bass) & Dave Liebman (sax); Marc Ducret (guitar) & Bruno Chevillon (bass); Michel Portal (bass clarinet) & Joachim Kühn (piano); George Garzone (tenor sax) & Hal Crook (trombone). B+(***) [sp]

Daniel Humair/Jerry Bergonzi/J.-F. Jenny-Clark: Open Architecture (1993, Ninety-One): Drummer listed up top, same font size but different color from the alto saxophonist and the bassist. Bergonzi is an American who spent most of his 1990s in freewheeling trios on European labels (especially RED), before taking a more mainstream course after 2000. B+(**) [sp]

Daniel Humair/Samuel Blaser/Heiri Känzig: 1291 (2020, Outnote): Multigenerational drums-trombone-bass trio, Swiss, called themselves Helveticus on their follow up, but cover here just lists the three surnames. Originals from all three mixed in with trad jazz (ODJB, Bechet, Ory, "High Society") and Swiss folk tunes. B+(**) [sp]

Larry Levan: The Sleeping Bag Sessions (1982-86 [2017], Sleeping Bag): Famous DJ/producer (1954-92), in 2006 Rhino released a 2-CD compilation of his work, Journey Into Paradise: The Larry Levan Story, with other compilations surfacing here and there. Sleeping Bag Records was a UK label (1981-92), which I remember as having a Jamaican influence, but looking at their catalog now, the biggest name was rap group EPMD, followed by Mantronix and Joyce Sims. This is one of the few items available under Levan's name: seven mixes of four songs, 44:21. B+(**) [sp]

Jackie McLean Featuring Gary Bartz: Ode to Super (1973, SteepleChase): Quintet, two dynamic alto saxophonists cut loose in Copenhagen with Thomas Clausen (piano), Bo Stief (bass), and Alex Riel (drums); five tracks, ending with 12:01 of "Red Cross." B+(***) [sp]

Swamp Dogg: Little Jerry Williams Anthology (1954-1969) (1954-69 [2000], SEDG): Juvenilia, starting at age 12 but extending to maturity at 27, by which time he was a producer at Atlantic with a little bit on the side, which he then reconceptualized as Swamp Dogg for his proper 1970 debut (the brilliant Total Destruction to Your Mind). Aside from the title, the cover adds "AKA Swamp Dogg," which is close enough for me -- not unlike those rappers who drop their real names into their titles. This collects 28 songs, dates not provided, but leads off with "1965 Kingsize Nicotine Blues," so they didn't go with chronological. Still finding himself. One highlight is his Little Richard impression on "Hum Baby." B+(***) [bc]

Swamp Dogg: I Need a Job . . . So I Can Buy More Auto-Tune (2022, Don Giovanni): Second title of his to mention Auto-Tune (after 2018's Love, Loss, and Auto-Tune). I have no opinion on the aesthetics or economics of the audio processing technology. B+(**) [sp]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Jared Hall: Influences (Origin) [06-21]
  • Jihee Heo: Flow (OA2) [06-21]
  • Big Walter Horton: In Session: From Memphis to Chicago 1951-1955 (Jasmine)
  • Clarence Penn: Behind the Voice (Origin) [06-21]
  • Anthony Stanco: Stanco's Time (OA2) [06-21]
  • Eddie Taylor: In Session: Diary of a Chicago Bluesman 1953-1957 (Jasmine)
  • Jody Williams: In Session: Diary of a Chicago Bluesman 1954-1962 (Jasmine)

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