Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Music Week

June archive (final).

Music: Current count 42549 [42503] rated (+46), 22 [22] unrated (+0).

Updated: look for change bar below.

I perhaps foolishly agreed to write up an article on William Parker, this year's deserving recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award, and a feature evening of performances, at the 2024 Vision Festival, in New York last week. I figured I could dust off the Parker/Shipp Consumer Guide I wrote up back in 2003, and add a few odds and ends about later albums. It turned out not to be not quite that simple.

For one thing, when I finally rounded up all the reviews I had written on albums he had played on, the count came to 249. I then had to go back and check for false positives (the 2003 CG also included albums with Shipp but no Parker, and a few extras by artists in their circle), and for omissions. In this, I was massively aided by being able to consult Rick Lopez's William Parker Sessionography, but I was also slowed by its completeness and accumulation of fascinating detail. Back in the notes for my 2003 CG, I collected a select but fairly extensive discogrpahy. As I needed something similar to keep track of what I was doing, I started to update it, and that wound up taking a lot of time.

By last Thursday, I had gotten so flustered and panicked that I decided I had to give up trying to multitask and just focus on the Parker essay. I had started to write some introductory comments for the week's Speaking of Which, so I stopped there, and vowed to do no more until the piece was done. (I'm belatedly posting that introduction today, but with no news links or comments. Second, I resolved to only play Parker albums until I finished. I later relaxed that to allow myself to play and review albums I hadn't heard before, which is where most of the albums below came from.

I finally sent the essay in yesterday. No word yet on when (or I suppose if) it will be published. I decided that the best way to proceed from here is to post the partial Speaking of Which intro (which already had a sequence number) along with the Music Week reviews, then start on new blog posts for the usual dates next week. Of course, it's never that simple. This also turns out to be the last Music Week in June, so I have to wrap up one month's Streamnotes archive, and open up another.

I also have a jammed up pile of other work I need to crack on with, more email problems, plus home tasks, health troubles, etc. More stuff in flux, but I've droned on enough for here and now.

PS: [06-27] My piece on William Parker has been posted on ArtsFuse now: Jazz Commentary: Celebrating Bassist William Parker's Lifetime of Achievement. I have some notes to go along with this, but they're not really ready for presentation yet, so I'll work on them and have more to say later. Note that I did add the two books I referred at the end to my Recent Reading sidebar and roll.

I changed the status of June Streamnotes to "final," added the Music Week text, and compiled the 2024 and Artists indexes.

Next on my plate is to do some work on the Carola Dibbell and Robert Christgau websites, or maybe something with email, or maybe just get dinner first -- things I need to square away before getting to the mid-year Jazz Critics Poll (which I should send out notices on by Monday, assuming email works by then). But I'm really itching to open up a Speaking of Which draft file, as even with my recent blackout it's pretty obvious that there's an insane amount of important news to note and (mostly) bemoan.

PPS: I was going to apologize for not being able to figure out how to move the right-margin change mark inside the album cover pics so it's clearly tied to the changed text, but then it dawned on me to allow an option to put the change bar on the left, which should be good enough for now.

If the change bar doesn't appear for you, that's because your browser is using a cached CSS file. CTRL-SHIFT-R fixes this in Firefox. I also had to fix a ton of mistakes in the aforelinked Parker-Shipp CG file. I knew it wasn't ready, but should at least have made sure it loaded. That much is fixed now.

New records reviewed this week:

Fox Green: Light Over Darkness (2024, self-released): Alt/indie band from Little Rock, third album since 2020, Wade Derden is the singer and co-writer with Cam Patterson, both on guitar (and mandolin), backed with keyboards, bass, and drums, the production detailed but not cluttered with bits of horns, strings, and backup singers. First take suggests a clear distillation of the Allmans, but that may just be for lack of comparable referents, for what they lack in guitar power they make up for ballad touch and song smarts -- the latter drawing on Jesus, the Devil, and Sleepy John Estes. A- [cd]

Joel Futterman/William Parker: Why (2020 [2024], Soul City Sounds): Piano and bass duo. Futterman started in Chicago, moved to Virginia Beach in 1972, and started recording in 1979, becoming increasingly prolific in the 1990s. He's a very distinctive pianist, and Parker is as robust as ever. B+(***) [sp]

Andrea Grossi Blend 3 + Jim Black: Axes (2023 [2024], We Insist!): Italian bassist, second group album with Manuel Caliumi (alto sax) and Michele Bonifati (guitar), plus a drummer this time -- a really good one. B+(***) [sp]

Jared Hall: Influences (2022 [2024], Origin): Trumper player, based in Seattle, third album, quartet with piano (Tal Cohen), bass (Michael Glynn), and drums (John Bishop), playing originals plus one tune from Gigi Gryce. B+(***) [cd]

Jihee Heo: Flow (2023 [2024], OA2): South Korean pianist, studied in Amsterdam before landing in New York, second album, mostly trio (Alexander Claffy and Joe Farnsworth), nicely done, with a bonus: Vincent Herring (alto sax) joining for two tracks. B+(**) [cd]

Arushi Jain: Delight (2024, Leaving): Based in Brooklyn, plays synths and sings, having trained in India as a classical vocalist, is interested in "instrument design and sonic experimentation with a focus on linking western and eastern musicology." Result is you're engulfed in thick layers of sonic texture, searching for even the faintest hint of beat, which is faint indeed. B- [sp]

Kneecap: Fine Art (2024, Heavenly): Bilingual Irish hip-hop group from West Belfast (Mo Chara, Móglai Bap, DJ Próval), billed as their first album (aside from an 8-song, 31:03, self-released mixtape from 2021). Sounded more post-punk at first, but the cadences eventually signify, and the energy is compounded. Words? Hell if I know, but they have a rep as political. A- [sp]

Jim Kweskin: Never Too Late: Duets With Friends (2024, Storysound): Folksinger and guitarist, best known for his 1963-70 Jug Band, which introduced us to Geoff & Maria Muldaur -- she is the first of his featured friends here to appear here. Lots of friends, lots of songs. B+(***) [sp]

Jon Langford: Gubbins (2023, self-released): This seems to be an "odds & sods" compilation -- "songs that fell between the cracks" -- but without further documentation we might as well treat it as a new album. Eleven songs, 45:29, all interesting, valuable, not quite essential. B+(***) [sp]

Jon Langford & the Bright Shiners: Where It Really Starts (2024, Tiny Global Productions): Nominally an Austin band (or maybe found in northern California), led by the peripatetic Welshman, offhandedly countryish. B+(**) [bc]

Joe McPhee With Ken Vandermark: Musings of a Bahamian Son: Poems and Other Words (2021 [2024], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Mostly as advertised, which is not something I often get into, but pretty interesting spoken word, with little bits of soprano sax by McPhee, or clarinet/bass clarinet by Vandermark, which are always welcome. B+(*) [bc]

Star Splitter [Gabriele Mitelli/Rob Mazurek]: Medea (2022 [2024], We Insist!): Trumpet players (alternatively cornet or pocket trumpet), also credited with electronics and voice, did an album together in 2019 called Star Splitter. Rather tough going. B [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Tony Oxley Quintet: Angular Apron (1992 [2024], Corbett vs. Dempsey): British avant-jazz drummer (1938-2023), his 1969 The Baptised Traveler is a Penguin Guide crown album, the piece here (64:42) dates from the early 1970s, this previously unreleased take from the Ruhr Jazz Festival, with Larry Stabbins (soprano/tenor sax), Manfred Schoof (trumpet/flugelhorn), Pat Thomas (piano/electronics), and Sirone (bass). B+(***) [bc]

Tomasz Stanko Quartet: September Night (2004 [2024], ECM): Polish trumpet player (1942-2018), well known even before the Iron Curtain fell, a spare live tape with what at the time was referred to as his "young Polish quartet," rather than stumbling over the names Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz, and Michal Miskiewicz. B+(***) [sp]

Mars Williams & Hamid Drake: I Know You Are but What Am I (1996 [2024], Corbett vs. Dempsey): The late saxophonist (1955-2023, credited here with "reeds"), started with Hal Russell and continued his NRG Ensemble after Russell's death, bringing in Ken Vandermark for reinforcements, leading to his work in the first edition of the Vandermark 5. Williams' avant-gardism branched out into rock and acid jazz (Liquid Soul), as well as more esoteric ventures (like multiple volumes of An Ayler Xmas). This tape with exceptional drums is just what friends and fans most remember him for. A- [bc]

Mars Williams/Darin Gray/Chris Corsano: Elastic (2012 [2024], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Leader credited with "reeds, toys," joined by bass and drums for an improv set (43:51). Peaks points are intense and thrilling. The same year Williams founded a similar trio, Boneshaker, with Kent Kessler and Paal Nilssen-Love. B+(***) [bc]

Old music:

Peter Brötzmann/William Parker/Hamid Drake: Song Sentimentale (2015 [2016], Otoroku): The bassist and drummer are inventive as ever, while the tenor saxophonist blasts away, even when he switches up on clarinet or tarogato. Nothing obviously sentimental about it. B+(***) [bc]

Rob Brown Trio: Breath Rhyme (1989, Silkheart): Alto saxophonist, first album as leader here (following a duo with Matthew Shipp), with William Parker (bass) and Denis Charles (drums). He has a distinctive tone and flow, which he would go on to use to great effect in Parker's quartets and other projects, in many other associated groups, and sometimes, as here, as a leader. B+(**) [r]

Rob Brown Quartet: The Big Picture (2003 [2004], Marge): Alto saxophonist, with Roy Campbell (trumpet), William Parker (bass), and Hamid Drake (drums). B+(**) [r]

Dave Cappello & Jeff Albert With William Parker: New Normal (2015 [2016], Breakfast 4 Dinner): Drummer, doesn't have much except for duo and quartet work with the trombonist (who I know mostly from a group he co-led with Jeb Bishop), but evidently he got started playing with guitarist Bern Nix (who goes back to the 1970s Loft Scene, but is best known for his work with Ornette Coleman, and maybe James Chance). So Nix, who died in 2017, might have provided a connection to Parker, who adds bass and wood flute, elevating everyone's game. B+(***) [sp]

Kevin Coyne/Jon Langford/The Pine Valley Cosmonauts: One Day in Chicago (2002 [2005], Spinney): An oddball British singer-songwriter from the early 1970s, I'm surprised to only find one of his albums in my database (1974's Marjory Razor Blade, a B+, but a memorable one) as I'm sure I've heard more. He never made it big, but recorded pretty regularly up to his death in 2004, and surely rates a compilation, even if one would be hard-pressed to agree on a "best of." At this point I have no idea whether it would improve on this delightful live set, with a band of fans he found in Chicago. B+(***) [sp]

Jeremy Danneman: Lady Boom Boom (2013 [2015], Ropeadope): Saxophonist, played alto, tenor, clarinet, and more in three sessions that produced as many albums, released on a label that appreciates a good groove and is careless about who played what when in which order. But the personnel could do that and more: William Parker (not just bass), Anders Nilsson (guitar), and Timothy Keiper (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Jeremy Danneman: Help (2013 [2015], Ropeadope): More from the same sessions. B+(**) [sp]

Jeremy Danneman: Lost Signals (2013 [2016], Ropeadope): Same group, same sessions for a third album, with groove appeal informed by third world interests. A- [sp]

Jeremy Danneman and Sophie Nzayisenga: Honey Wine (2015 [2017], Ropeadope): The saxophonist has an organization/project called "Parade of One," slogan "engaging the international community with street performance." He met Nzayisenga in Rwanda, where she plays inanga and sings, and arranged to bring her to New York to record. Visa problems delayed that until here, where they are joined by William Parker (bass) and Tim Keiper (drums). A groove delight. A- [sp]

Jeremy Danneman and the Down on Me: The Big Fruit Salad (2022, Ropeadope): One more album (so far), wrote and sung lyrics, which reduces the saxophone/clarinet. Also lost the bass and drums, so less groove to brag about, but Anders Nilsson returns on guitar, and Joe Exley's sousaphone saves with swing. For singer-songwriter comps, the first two that pop into mind are Thomas Anderson and Ed Hammel. He's not as good (or maybe I just mean as funny) as either, but he's interesting in similar ways. Choice cut: "Tomato." B+(*) [sp]

Die Like a Dog Quartet Featuring Roy Campbell: From Valley to Valley (1998 [1999], Eremite): Peter Brötzmann quartet, name derives from their 1993 album, originally with Toshinori Kondo (trumpet), William Parker (bass), and Hamid Drake (drums), but on this particular date -- recorded in Amherst, MA -- Campbell replaces Kondon on trumpet. B+(*) [sp]

Sophia Domancich/Hamid Drake/William Parker: Washed Away: Live at the Sunside (2008 [2009], Marge): French pianist, side credits start in 1983, with her first trio in 1991. Another trio here, as can happen when famous Americans wander about Europe. Set of three pieces: one joint credit, one from Mal Waldron, and no less than 36:37 of "Lonely Woman." B+(***) [sp]

Hamid Drake & Sabir Mateen: Brothers Together (2000 [2002], Eremite): Duo, Drake plays frame and trap drums, Mateen is credited with clarinets, flute, alto sax, tenor sax, vocals. Terrific. A- [sp]

Farmers by Nature [Gerald Cleaver/William Parker/Craig Taborn]: Love and Ghosts (2011 [2014], AUM Fidelity, 2CD): Drums-bass-piano trio, group name from their 2009 album, third group album, all pieces joint credits so presumably improvised, this from two days in France, 133 minutes. Long, some major high stretches. B+(***) [sp]

Peter Kuhn: Ghost of a Trance (1979-80 [1981], Hat Hut): Clarinet/saxophone player, was consistently excellent in William Parker circles 1978-81, vanished after that until 2015, when he released another series of superb albums. This combines two sessions, one fairly abstract 19:00 clarinet piece with Phillip Wilson on percussion and Parker on tuba, the other a more typical free jazz outing with Dave Sewelson on alto/bari sax, plus guitar, piano, and vibes (but no drums). B+(**) [yt]

Jon Langford & the Men of Gwent: The Legend of LL (2015, Country Mile): Mekons founder, moved from Leeds to Chicago in 1992 without severing his ties, but had already run through several side projects like the Three Johns and the Killer Shrews, adding the Waco Brothers and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts in Chicago. This group is described as "Newport-based" (but otherwise I don't know squat about them, but Newport seems to be Langford's original home town in Wales). This was their debut, and strikes me as not just fresher but wilder and woolier than their latest (which was first for me). A- [bc]

Jon Langford & the Men of Gwent: President of Wales (2019, Country Mile): If only the Waco Brothers had been Welsh. B+(***) [bc]

Jemeel Moondoc Quintet: Nostalgia in Times Square (1985 [1986], Soul Note): Alto saxophonist (1946-2021), his group Muntu made a splash in the late-1970s New York avant-garde, retains bassist William Parker here, joined by Rahn Burton (piano), Bern Nix (guitar), and Dennis Charles (drums). Title piece from Mingus. The others are credited to Moondoc, but "In Walked Monk" sounds kind of familiar (as in Monk's "In Walked Bud"), and "Dance of the Clowns" has at least a whiff of Mingus. B+(***) [r]

Jemeel Moondoc Vtet: Revolt of the Negro Lawn Jockeys (2000, Eremite): Alto saxophonist-led quintet, with Nethan Breedlove (trumpet), Khan Jamal (vibes), John Voigt (bass), and Cody Moffett (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Jemeel Moondoc & the Jus Grew Orchestra: Spirit House (2000, Eremite): The alto saxophonist conducts a strong group of horns here: trumpets (Lewis Barnes, Roy Campbell Jr.), trombones (Steve Swell, Tyrone Hill), saxophones (plus Zane Massey on tenor, Michael Marcus on baritone), with a guitar-bass-drums rhythm section (Bern Nix, John Voigt, Codaryl Moffett). Not quite a big band, but they pack a lot of power, fly free, and even swing some. A- [sp]

Jameel Moondoc With Dennis Charles: We Don't (1981 [2003], Eremite): Alto sax, with the drummer (1933-98, from Virgin Islands, also played with Billy Bang and Cecil Taylor). Challenging free jazz. B+(***) [sp]

Joe Morris/William Parker/Gerald Cleaver: Altitude (2011 [2012], AUM Fidelity): Guitar-bass-drums trio, with Parker switching to sintir (a Moroccan bass lute), live improv recorded one night at the Stone in NYC, four tracks stretched out to 72:27. B+(**) [sp]

William Parker & the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra: Mass for the Healing of the World (1998 [2003], Black Saint): The bassist's 15-piece big band, less brass and more sax, an explosive rhythm section (Cooper-Moore on piano, Susie Ibarra on drums, and Parker), plus vocalist Aleta Heyes for the mass-like bits (not many). A- [sp]

William Parker Quartet: Live in Wroclove (2012 [2013], ForTune): The bassist's "pianoless" quartet, which dates back at least to 2001's O'Neal's Porch, with two freewheeling horns -- Lewis Barnes' trumpet and Rob Brown's alto sax -- and great Hamid Drake on drums. So this is a great band, with some interesting music -- starting with a 47:33 set called "Kalaparusha Dancing on the Edge of the Horizon" -- but it's also a concert, where they pace themselves to set up the moments fans will recall. It's also kind of a big deal for a label that mostly documents the local scene -- in this case, better known as Wroclaw. But it's a tad less compelling than the group's studio albums. B+(***) [sp]

William Parker: For Those Who Are, Still (2000-13 [2013], AUM Fidelity, 3CD): By this time, Parker has become so prolific he's building boxes from scattered sets: this one is formally organized into three albums from five sessions: "For Fannie Hammer" from 2000; "Vermeer," with Leena Conquest, from 2011; "Red Giraffe With Dreadlocks," with Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay, from 2012; a Charles Gayle trio, to open "Ceremonies for Those Who Are Still," with NFM Orchestra and Choir. A- [r]

William Parker/David Budbill: What I Saw This Morning 2014 [2016], AUM Fidelity): Budbill (1940-2016) was mostly a writer, posthumously named "the people's poet of Vermont," also wrote plays, two novels, a libretto, and recorded three albums of spoken word with William Parker providing the music, here mostly using his exotic instruments. Comparable to David Greenberger, but more intimate and personal. [Streamed 14/35 tracks.] B+(***) [bc]

The Cecil Taylor Unit: Live in Bologna (1987 [1988], Leo): Avant-pianist, group was his quintet (more or less, long defined by saxophonist Jimmy Lyons, who died in 1986, leaving a large gap for Carlos Ward to try to fill. Also with Leroy Jenkins (violin), William Parker (bass), and Thurman Baker (drums/marimba). Ward lurks until the rhythm drives him to deliver. A- [r]

The Cecil Taylor Unit: Live in Vienna (1987 [1988], Leo): Same group, recorded four days later, again one long piece, a bit longer at 71:21, but hacked up for the original 2-LP. While I understand that every performance is different, that doesn't make them all cost-effective, even at this level. B+(***) [r]

Cecil Taylor: Tzotzil Mummers Tzotzil (1987 [1988], Leo): The same group a week later in Paris, last stop on the tour, sandwiched between some poetry recorded a few days later in London. I find the poetry exceptionally hard to follow. B+(*) [sp]

David S. Ware Trio: Passage to Music (1988, Silkheart): Tenor saxophone great, started in the 1970s but didn't really take off until he organized this group, with William Parker (bass) and Marc Edwards (drums), soon to be a quartet with the addition of pianist Matthew Shipp. Already quite impressive. B+(***) [r]

David S. Ware Quartet: Cryptology (1994 [1995], Homestead): The one Quartet album that slipped past me, with Matthew Shipp (piano), William Parker (bass), and Whit Dickey (drums), as intense as any in a very remarkable series. This seems to have been where Steven Joerg entered the picture, before his AUM Fidelity label provided Ware and Parker a long-term home. A- [yt]

David S. Ware: Organica (Solo Saxophones, Volume 2) (2010 [2011], AUM Fidelity): Ware's kidneys started to fail in 1999, and he was near death ten years later when he was rescued by a kidney transplant. He died in 2012 of an infection fueled by immunosuppresant meds, but over his last couple years he recorded a wide variety of works, including two solo volumes -- Saturnian from late a late 2009 set, plus two sets here, each opening with a piece on sopranino sax, followed by one on tenor. Usual caveats apply, but interesting as these things go. B+(**) [r]

Grade (or other) changes:

Jon Langford & the Men of Gwent: Lost on Land & Sea (2023, Country Mile): The Waco Brothers return as a Welsh bar band. Multiple plays prove this to be tuneful and thoughtful but most of all consistent, so it's hard to fault the notion that this is a great album, but if it really was, wouldn't I have noticed by now? [was: B+(**)] B+(***) [bc]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Fox Green: Holy Souls (self-released '22)
  • Fox Green: Light Darkness (self-released)
  • Frank London/The Elders: Spirit Stronger Than Blood (ESP-Disk)
  • Michael Pagán: Paganova (Capri) [07-19]
  • Jerome Sabbagh: Heart (Analog Tone Factory) [08-30]
  • Natsuki Tamura/Satoko Fujii: Aloft (Libra) [07-12]
  • Thollem: Worlds in a Life, Two (ESP-Disk)

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