Monday, June 17, 2024

Music Week

June archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42503 [42460] rated (+43), 22 [31] unrated (-9).

Going through a very busy stretch, but not sure what I really have to talk about here. I do have a fairly hefty bunch of records to report on, partly aided by recent consumer guides by Robert Christgau, Christian Iszchak, Brad Luen, and Michael Tatum. Still, I'm not sure I've caught up with any of them. I barely got through the I Am Three records Chris Monsen recommended -- their first album I previously had at B+(***) but it, too, sounds terrific, as is often the case with freewheeling Mingus.

The Jasmine In Session comps were recommended by Clifford Ocheltree. I resisted the Eddie Taylor until this morning, when I woke up with songs from it in my head. The recommendation list goes deeper, but so far that's all I've sprung for.

I have a request to write something about William Parker, on the occasion of his Vision Fest Lifetime Achievement Award. Back in 2003 I wrote a fairly extensive consumer guide to the work of Parker and/or Matthew Shipp (who was more my initial interest), and I've tried to keep up since then, including his two new albums below. So I figured: write 3-4 paragraphs of glowing intro, then tack on a dozen (or two) capsule reviews. Whether it's as easily done as said remains to be seen. All I've done so far has been to collect the reviews from the work files: current count is 249, but at the moment I'm listening to a 2009 record I had missed, and I'll probably come up with a few more. (RogueArt sent out email highlighting their 15 Parker albums, of which I've only heard 3 -- thanks mostly to Steve Swell).

What research I've done so far has mostly been humbling. Parker has four volumes of Conversations that I can't begin to get to. I just ordered a copy of Cisco Bradley's Universal Tonality: The Life and Music of William Parker, but won't have time to get very deep into. I do have a copy of Rick Lopez's marvelous The William Parker Sessionography (to 2014; also online, but only up to 2020). But I could easily fritter away all of my scant remaining time just checking items off -- although the annotation is so distracting I might never finish.

Meanwhile, I've burned up a fair amount of time with my metacritic file, to which I've started to add mid-year best-of ("so far") lists. It's still pretty spotty at present, and skewed toward the Christgau-friendly Expert Witness critics -- which has paid off in elevating Waxahatchee over Smile, with Billie Eilish and Beyoncé gaining ground, followed by Vampire Weekend, Adrianne Lenker, Hurray for the Riff Raff, and Maggie Rogers. I only have three A-list albums in the top ten, but Christgau has five in the top six (even though I haven't factored his grades in yet).

The mid-year lists I have are noted in the legend. While the first ones started showing up around June 1, in past years they've peaked in late June, with a few stragglers in July. I haven't noticed any jazz lists yet, so I'm thinking about running my own. I have the mailing list and software from the Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll, and evidently have time to kill.

The biggest time-kill remains Speaking of Which, which again topped 10,000 words on Sunday, with minor additions today.

New records reviewed this week:

Actress: Statik (2024, Smalltown Supersound): British electronica producer Darren Cunningham, tenth album since 2008. B+(*) [sp]

Africatown, AL: Ancestor Sounds (2024, Free Dirt): Oral history from a neighborhood in Mobile, Alabama, which traces its ancestry back to a slave ship in 1807, conceived by producer Ian Brennan (Tinariwen, Zomba Prison Project) and his wife, Italian-Rwandan filmmaker and photographer Marilena Umuhoza Delli. B+(**) [sp]

Bruna Black/John Finbury: Vã Revelação (2024, Green Flash): Brazilian singer, wrote some lyrics to Finbury's pleasantly engaging compositions, played by a star-studded group of Vitor Gonçalves (piano/accordion), Chico Pinheiro (guitar), John Patitucci (bass), Duduka Da Fonseca (drums), and Rogerio Boccato (percussion). B+(**) [cd]

Anthony Branker & Imagine: Songs My Mom Liked (2024, Origin): Original pieces, so Mom must really like her boy. Plenty of reason to. Group has six name musicians (Donny McCaslin, Philip Dizack, Fabian Almazan, Linda May Han Oh, Rudy Royston, Pete McGann) plus lightly used vocalist Aubrey Johnson. B+(***) [cd] [06-21]

Etienne Charles: Creole Orchestra (2018 [2024], Culture Shock): Trumpet player, albums since 2006 frequently refer to "creole," this a big band with lots of extras, including vocals, which I find rather hit-and-miss. B+(*) [cd]

Charli XCX: Brat (2024, Atlantic): British pop star, Charlotte Aitchison, sixth album since 2013, all hits but none huge, with this one getting extra hype and/or anticipation. That come with a big budget, which sometimes pays off, or offers a cushion to soften and blur out the weak spots, which my reticence suggests must be here somewhere, as I'm still on the fence after five plays. B+(***) [sp]

Devouring the Guilt: Not to Want to Say (2021 [2024], Kettle Hole): Free jazz trio, based in Chicago, of Bill Harris (drums), Gerrit Hatcher (tenor sax), and Eli Namay (bass). Two tracks (40:55). Hatcher has a couple of previous albums much like this one. B+(***) [sp]

DJ Anderson do Paraiso: Queridão (2023 [2024], Nyege Nyege Tapes): DJ from Belo Horizonte, "downtempo and dark baile funk," seems like a fair description, although it doesn't quite convey how gloomy this sounds. B [sp]

Ducks Ltd.: Harm's Way (2024, Carpark): Indie rock duo from Toronto, Tom McGreevy (vocals/rhythm guitar) and Evan Lewis (lead guitar), originally from UK and Australia, second album after a 2019 EP. B+(**) [sp]

Phillip Golub: Abiding Memory (2024, Endectomorph Music): Pianist, has a couple previous albums, quintet with guitar, cello, bass, and drums, leaving the piano very clearly in charge. Liner notes by Vijay Iyer. B+(**) [cd] [06-21]

Grandaddy: Blu Wav (2024, Dangerbird): Indie rock band from Modesto, California, principally Jason Lytle, eighth album since 1994, with a break 2006-17. Doesn't feel like there's much here. B [sp]

Alex Harding/Lucian Ban: Blutopia (2024, Sunnyside): Baritone saxophonist and pianist, they have several albums together going back to a quintet in 2002, and including one from 2005 where Blutopia was the group name. This is another quintet, with viola (Mat Maneri), tuba (Bob Stewart), and drums (Brandon Lewis). B+(**) [sp]

Hermanos Gutiérrez: Sonido Cósmico (2024, Easy Eye Sound): Brothers Alejandro (guitar/lap steel) and Estevan (guitar/percussion), names and much of their music deriving from an Ecuadorian mother, but their father is Swiss, and they at least grew up in and are based in Zurich. After four self-released albums, Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) signed them to his Nashville label, and released El Bueno y el Malo in 2022. More in this sequel, as calming as new age hoped for, with just enough Latin tinge and other cosmic exotica to keep it fascinating. A- [sp]

Mike Holober & the Gotham Jazz Orchestra: This Rock We're On: Imaginary Letters (2023 [2024], Palmetto, 2CD): Pianist, based in New York, mostly big bands, this perhaps his most grandiose project ever, certainly in terms of vocals. B [cd]

Homeboy Sandman: Rich II (2024, self-released): New York rapper Angel Del Villar II, lots since 2007, mostly short like this (11 tracks, 26:56) sequel to 2023's Rich. B+(**) [sp]

I Am Three: In Other Words (2022 [2024], Leo): Nikolaus Neuser (trumpet), Silke Eberhard (alto sax/percussion), and Christian Marlen (drums), song credits split 4-2-5. Group name comes from Mingus, the subject of their two previous albums: Mingus Mingus Mingus (2015) and Mingus' Sound of Love (2018, with Maggie Nichols). A- [sp]

Kaytranada: Timeless (2024, RCA): Haitian electropop producer, grew up in Montreal, sings, raps, fourth album since 2016 (including 2023's Aminé mashup, Kaytraminé). Grows on you. B+(***) [sp]

The Libertines: All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanada (2024, Casablanca/Republic): British rock group, seemed like they may be a big deal with their 2002 debut, folded after their 2004 follow up, returned for a 2015 comeback, and again for this fourth album, slowing down with age. B [sp]

Raul Midón: Lost & Found (2024, ReKondite ReKords): Guitarist, singer-songwriter, from New Mexico, father from Argentina, has done session work on Latin albums, dabbled in jazz, doesn't show much in either here. C+ [sp]

Andy Milne and Unison: Time Will Tell (2024, Sunnyside): Pianist, from Canada, based in New York, albums since 1997, previous group album from 2019 with John Hébert (bass) and Clarence Penn (drums), adding Ingrid Laubrock (tenor sax) and/or Yoko Reikano Kimura (koto) on several tracks here. B+(**) [sp]

Ol' Burger Beats: 74: Out of Time (2024, Coalmine): Norwegian dj/producer Ole-Birger Neergård, a dozen-plus albums since 2015, also released an instrumentals version, but this one features a dozen guest rappers, very underground (but mostly names I recognize, like Billy Woods, Tha God Fahim, Yungmorpheus, Quelle Chris, Fly Anakin, Pink Siifu), easy going over slacker beats. B+(**) [sp]

Alicia and Michael Olatuja: Olatuja (2022-24 [2024], Whirlwind): He plays bass and keyboards, composes, was born in London, raised in Lagos, is based in New York, married to her, the former Alicia Miles, from St. Louis, with a couple records each. B+(*) [sp]

One for All: Big George (2022 [2024], Smoke Sessions): Mainstream sextet, pretty much all stars: Eric Alexander (tenor sax), Jim Rotondi (trumpet), Steve Davis (trombone), David Hazeltine (piano), John Webber (bass), Joe Farnsworth (drums). Discogs lists 19 albums since 1997, open with three tracks for the first LP side, then George Coleman joins for more on the back side, with three George-less bonus tracks added to the CD. Coleman doesn't make much of a splash here. B+(*) [sp]

William Parker/Cooper-Moore/Hamid Drake: Heart Trio (2021 [2024], AUM Fidelity): Longtime collaborators, three-fourths of a quartet called In Order to Survive, where they played bass, piano, and drums. Here they focus on percussion and exotica, with Parker on doson ngoni, shakuhachi, bass dudek, ney and Serbian flute, with Cooper-Moore on his ashimba and hoe-handle harp, and Drake on frame drum as well as his usual kit. For world-class virtuosi, it's a bit underwhelming, but that seems to be the point. A- [cd] [06-21]

William Parker & Ellen Christi: Cereal Music (2024, AUM Fidelity): No recording dates given, but this feels like it was patiently assembled, starting with Parker's words, mostly spoken with some Christi vocals and whatever sound design she came up with, supplemented with Parker's bass and flutes, and a few other samples. B+(***) [cd] [06-21]

Rob Parton's Ensemble 9+: Relentless (2023 [2024], Calligram): Trumpet player, mostly big band records starting around 1991. Lists 19 musicians here, mostly in groups with two trumpets, three saxophones, and two trombones, plus various piano-bass-drums, but adds a third trumpet on 4 tracks, vocals on 2, with 7 arranger credits. Deft layering, less focus on solos, some Latin tinge. B+(*) [cd]

Porij: Teething (2024, Play It Again Sam): British electropop band, from Manchester, first album after a 2020 EP. B+(**) [sp]

Kenny Reichert: Switch (2023 [2024], Calligram): Guitarist, based in Chicago, has a couple previous albums, the first self-released in 2015, leads a quartet here with alto sax (Lenard Simpson), bass (Ethan Philion), and drums (Devin Drobka), plus a guest spot for Geof Bradfield (tenor sax) and voice (Alyssa Algood, 3 tracks, her lyrics, some spoken word). Has some very strong and/or appealing passages. B+(**) [cd]

Brandon Ross Phantom Station: Off the End (2024, Sunnyside): Guitarist, early side credits start in 1975 with Archie Shepp, Marion Brown, and Oliver Lake; group efforts as Harriet Tubman in 1998; and his own albums from 2004. Group here with Graham Haynes (cornet/electronics), David Virelles (keyboards), JT Lewis (drums), and Hardedge (sound design). B+(**) [sp]

Shaboozey: Where I've Been, Isn't Where I'm Going (2024, Republic/Empire): Singer-songwriter from Virginia, parents from Nigeria, original name Collins Obinna Chibueze, third album, slotted alt-country (got him a guest spot with Beyoncé). Not so obvious, but is closer than hip-hop (despite a rap) or afrobeat. B+(*) [sp]

Flavio Silva: Eko (2024, Break Free): Brazilian guitarist, based in New York, several albums, title means "lesson" in Yoruba, nice little quartet with keyboards, bass, and drums. B+(**) [cd]

Uncle Waffles: Solace (2023, Ko-Sign/Encore): Swazi-born DJ and amapiano producer Lungelihle Zwane, third EP, this one 7 songs, 42:52 (which makes it an album in my book). B+(**) [sp]

Kiki Valera: Vacilón Santiaguero (2024, Circle 9 Music): Trad Cuban music, leader plays cuatro, guitar, bass, and percussion, second US album, backed by more percussion, with lead vocals split four ways, and many guest spots involving trumpet. B+(***) [cd]

Matt Wilson: Matt Wilson's Good Trouble (2023 [2024], Palmetto): Drummer, originally from Illinois, studied at Wichita State, moved to NYC in 1992, and quickly established himself as a sideman and leader. I recall a DownBeat blindfold test where he not only grasped everything they threw at him, but went to extraordinary lengths to recognize and appreciate the mindset of whoever's music it was. His records can be very eclectic, but the best ones have featured edgy tenor saxophonist Jeff Lederer, as this one does, along with longtime ally Ben Allison on bass, and novel ingredients Tia Fuller (alto sax) and Dawn Clement (piano and some vocals, including the jazziest John Denver cover ever). Title is from a John Lewis quote. Not yet the group name, but they'll be welcome any time. A- [cdr]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Broadcast: Spell Blanket: Collected Demos 2006-2009 (2006-09 [2024], Warp): British electropop group, more or less, principally Trish Keenan (vocals/keyboards/guitar) and James Cargill (bass), produced three albums 2000-05, plus these demos for an unreleased fourth album. B [sp]

Love Child: Never Meant to Be 1988-1993 (1988-93 [2024], 12XU): NYC-based punk/no-wave band, singers Will Baum and Rebecca Odes on guitar/drums and bass, with Alan Licht (drums/guitar), self-released an album in 1988, got more attention with their 1991 album Okay?, released one more after that, which this 26-cut 2-LP sums up. B+(***) [sp]

Old music:

Ducks Ltd.: Get Bleak (2019 [2021], Carpark, EP): Toronto indie rock duo, immigrants from Australia and UK-via-US, debut four-song EP, expanded to seven (21:48) to complement their 2021 debut. Open with jangly guitar, then a ballad, then more jangle. Go-Betweens comparisons aren't way off base, but not sufficient, either. B+(**) [sp]

Big Walter Horton: In Session: From Memphis to Chicago 1951-1955 (1951-55 [2019], Jasmine): Blues harmonica player and singer, born 1921 in Mississippi, grew up in Memphis, made his way to Chicago in the 1950s and died there in 1981. His discography is very scattered, with a 1964 LP, collabs and a Fleetwood Mac jam session in 1969, and more odds and ends in the 1970s. This picks up a couple early singles, fleshed out with side-credits with Johnny Shines, Tampa Red, Otis Rush, Sunnyland Slim, Jimmy Rogers, and others, the vocals varying but the unified by his exuberant, rowdy harmonica. A- [cd]

Floyd Jones/Eddie Taylor: Masters of Modern Blues (1966 [1994], Testament): Chicago blues guitarist-singers, the original LP "Volume 3" in the label's series, allocated one side each, with Taylor (guitar), Big Walter Horton (harmonica), Otis Spann (piano), and Fred Below (drums) on both sides, with Jones switching to bass on Taylor's side. CD expands from 11 to 16 tracks, offering alternates and mixing them up. B+(***) [sp]

Maggie Nicols/Silke Eberhard/Nikolaus Neuser/Christian Marten: I Am Three & Me: Mingus' Sounds of Love (2018 [2019], Leo): Multiple options for parsing this cover: the singer earns top billing, but the trio -- tenor sax, trumpet, drums -- has a previous Mingus tribute, Mingus Mingus Mingus (2015) under their Mingus-inspired group name, I Am Three. Nicols supplies one lyric, the rest attributed to the composer, including detailed instructions on toilet-training your cat. I always find vocals like this awkward -- arty and disjointed, which is what she does -- but the music is often amazing, and their take of "The Clown" is amazing and definitive. So while all Mingus always sounds great, this adds something new. A- [sp]

Shikamoo Jazz: Chela Chela Vol. 1 (1993-95 [1995], RetroAfric): Tanzanian group, formed 1993, its members veterans of "dance bands of the '60s and '70s," including Kenyan star Fundi Konde, playing their standards. No dates given, and no singles discography I can find. B+(***) [sp]

Shikamoo Jazz: East African Legends Live (1995 [2022], RetroTan): Only date given is July 1995, but the eleven tracks are credited to four permutations (Shilamoo Jazz, Fundi Konde & SJ, Bi Kidude & SJ, SJ + Fan Fan), although they flow together just fine, with oodles of that shimmering groove Earthworks immortalized in their famous Guitar Paradise of East Africa compilation. A- [sp]

Eddie Taylor: In Session: Diary of a Chicago Bluesman 1953-1957 (1953-57 [2016], Jasmine): Blues guitarist and singer (1923-85), up from Mississippi to Chicago, recorded a few albums from 1967 on, before that was best known playing for Jimmy Reed (just 3 tracks here), but also John Brim (4), Sunnyland Slim (4), Floyd Jones (3), Little Willie Foster (2), and John Lee Hooker (3), leaving 10 tracks under his own name -- a couple memorable, the rest pretty good. This took me a while, but I woke up with Reed and Hooker songs in my head, plus one of Taylor's ("Big Town Playboy"). A- [cd]

Eddie Taylor: I Feel So Bad (1972, Advent): Solid Chicago blues album, recorded in Hollywood. B+(**) [sp]

Jody Williams: In Session: Diary of a Chicago Bluesman 1954-1962 (1954-62 [2018], Jasmine): Joseph Leon Williams (1935-2018), originally from Mobile, moved to Chicago, where his guitar ("marked by flamboyant string-bending, imaginative chord voicings and a distinctive tone") got him studio work with Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Bo Diddley, and Jimmy Rogers -- to pick out the most obvious hits on the front half here -- as well as the occasional single (some as Little Joe Lee). That first half is remarkable enough, but the obscurities on the second half -- especially his "Lucky Lou" instrumental -- are the real payoff here. A- [cd]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Kim Cass: Levs (Pi) [06-28]
  • Jon De Lucia: The Brubeck Octet Project (Musæum Clausum) [07-12]
  • Mathias Højgaard Jensen: Is as Is (Fresh Sound New Talent) [05-31]
  • Brian Landrus: Plays Ellington & Strayhorn (Palmetto) [07-12]
  • Miles Okazaki: Miniature America (Cygnus) [07-19]
  • Matthew Shipp: The Data (RogueArt) * [06-17]

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