Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Music Week

July archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42580 [42549] rated (+31), 29 [22] unrated (+7).

Nominally a day late (ok, two days), but last Music Week was two days late, so this is still a short week. I started off most days with old r&b in the CD player -- especially Scratchin': The Wild Jimmy Spruill Story, which combined a few minor hits with some major studio work, leading me to tweet up two singles (Bobby Lewis, Tossin' and Turnin', and Bobby Long, The Pleasure Is All Mine). Beyond that, what I got to was pretty haphazard, with a fair amount of old music left over from the William Parker research.

My piece was published by ArtsFuse, here: Celebrating bassist William Parker's lifetime of achievement. You can also find my 2003 CG, with its updated discography, and my notes file, which includes my full set of reviews of albums Parker. The former could still use some cleanup, especially to separate out the albums that Parker didn't play on -- the CG was originally focused on Matthew Shipp and the Thirsty Ear Blue Series he curated, until I started noticing how many more albums Parker played on and how central they were to the whole circle. The latter needs even more work, as most of it was cut-and-pasted from my book files (which are now several years out of date), with others copied with HTML markup (where they still have bold credits and letter grades). If I didn't fear getting sucked into a huge time sink, I'd go fix those, but for now I can only offer excuses.

Besides, I have a much more urgent website project to work on. I've decided to use my Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll contacts to run a Mid-Year straw poll. I explain this on the website (which still needs a good deal of work) and in the invite letter (which went out to approx. 200 critics on June 30). I'm asking for lists of up to 10 new releases (which can include newly discovered 2023 releases) and/or up to 5 "rara avis" (old music, recorded 10+ years ago, or reissues). Deadline is July 14, and ArtsFuse will publish the results, probably later that week.

The Poll is a quickie experiment. I've simplified the rules to make it easier on voters (and hopefully on he who counts), and I've saved myself a lot of work by only sending out one batch of invites without trying to vet new voters. The problem with the "one batch" approach is that I'm using a server and software that has been known to run afoul of some spam traps. I especially fear that people with gmail addresses may have their invites diverted or discarded. But it's impossible to test and verify these things. I made an effort to research this problem before, to little avail, and I will make another one soon, but in the meantime, please read the following, and follow up if anything seems to apply to you:

  1. If you've ever voted before, or for that matter received an invite before, and haven't received an invite, please check your spam filter. If you find one, take steps to get your mail provider to recognize that the mail isn't spam. If you can't find one, assume you're eligible and use this one. Follow the instructions, and vote. Let me know if you want to be added to my list (jazzpoll [at] Not everyone who has voted is on the list (various reasons, including sloth on my part), but I can add you. The advantage of being on the list is that I'll send you updates and further requests.

  2. If you haven't received an invite, but think you should be qualified, look up the invite, follow instructions, and send me your lists. You need to have some real expertise in jazz (my first approximation would be listening to 200+ jazz records per year, but that's easy for me to say because I listen to 700+), have some verifiable credentials (you write about some of them, which can be on your own blog or mainstream or niche publications, and/or you broadcast about them, which obviously includes radio but I suppose could extend to podcasts), and construct lists that are focused on jazz (the occasional outlier or, as DownBeat likes to call them, "beyond"; by the way, "smooth jazz" is not jazz, at least for purposes of establishing credibility, although it may be acceptable as "beyond"). If this checks out, I will very likely accept your ballot, and you'll be on the inside track for future invites.

  3. Check with your friends: make sure they got their invites, and let people you think should be voting know that they can vote, and how. They can always hit me up with questions, but we don't have a lot of time, so it's best to move fast.

  4. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to publicize this wider, although bear in mind that I still see this as a forum of critics -- even though I recognize that there are lots of fans that have become pretty expert themselves, especially given how easy it's become to check out new music on streaming platforms.

Also, one key point to emphasize is that this isn't a big deal. I'm not asking you to exercise Solomonic (or Christgauvian) judgment over the jazz universe. Your list doesn't have to find the absolute best records (whatever that might mean). Nor does it have to be ranked. (Although blessed are the rankers, for they get slightly more points weighting for their efforts.) Nor does it even have to be a full list. Just jot down a few albums that you would like to recommend to other people. That's mostly how these lists will be used.

Given the late date, the short deadline, my various shortcuts, and the fact that we've never done this before, I'm not expecting much, but even if we just get 50 voters (as opposed to the 159 in 2023), I think the lists will be interesting and informative.

I started to track mid-year lists when they started appearing just before June 1 -- see my metacritic file, which is running behind at the moment, as the last couple weeks haven't allowed much opportunity to work on it -- and they both give me a broad sense of what's out there and a useful roster of prospects to check out. This also ties into my tracking file, which has a jazz selector (currently listing 400 jazz albums, of which I have 332; this list will expand as I receive your lists: from past experience, about 30% of the albums that show up in ballots are ones I hadn't previously tracked; there's also a no grade variant, for those who don't want to see my grades).

The website started off as a clone of last year's, with minor hacks. As I do more work to it this week, it should become a more useful source of information about the Poll and its progress. For instance, I need to revise things like the FAQ and the Admin Guide. I also hope to get some work done on the older parts of the website, especially to fill in information that predates my involvement (in administration; I've voted every year, from the founding).

I hope to make the website the best source for information about the Poll. But if you wish to follow, check my Music Week posts, and follow me on twitter (or "X" if you prefer; I haven't jumped ship yet, although at this point it's rare for one of my tweets to be viewed by as much as a third of my nominal followers, so the returns seem pretty slim).

Some other website work: I've done an update to Carola Dibbell's website, as her novel, The Only Ones is being reprinted, and she has an event later in July. I haven't done my database update to Robert Christgau's website yet, but have all of the CG reviews in my private copy. I still have to do some cross-referencing work, but should update the website in a couple days.

I have a question about Michael Brecker that I need to research a bit. Would be nice to have a couple more to gang it up with.

We've gone through more email tsuris, as Cox has dumped all of their email customers (or at least us) onto Yahoo. It appears to be stable now, but Yahoo has a pretty poor reputation, so we'll see.

I did post another food pic on Facebook, if you into that sort of thing: Indian chicken, potatoes, cabbage, eggplant, raita, and paratha.

I posted a massive Speaking of Which late Monday night (290 links is probably a record; 11720 words isn't, but is quite a lot). I've added a few more things today, and will probably add some more before I get this posted. I'm inclined to hold off on further complaints about the horrible Supreme Court, but would like to capture as much of the initial reaction to the Trump-Biden debate as may be useful. I'm grateful that I didn't bother with anything written in advance of the debate.

This particular post got delayed an extra day as I got stuck writing a long comment on Robert Christgau's Xgau Sez. And while I got that done by 5PM, the delay occasioned one last round of "addl" tags.

New records reviewed this week:

Arooj Aftab: Night Reign (2024, Verve): Pakistani singer-songwriter, born in Saudi Arabia, returned to Lahore when she was 10, on to US at 19, studied at Berklee, based in New York, fifth album, got some notice in 2023 whens he shared billing on Love in Exile with Vijay Iyer and Shahzad Ismally. B+(***) [sp]

Alan Braufman: Infinite Love Infinite Tears (2024, Valley of Search): Saxophonist, had a few years in New York in the mid-1970s working around the lofts with Cooper-Moore and William Parker, then did something else until retirement age, when he reissued his one album (actually quite good) and some archival tapes, and started working on a new one. This follows up on the promise of 2020's The Fire Still Burns, with James Brandon Lewis (tenor sax), Patricia Brennan (vibes), Ken Filiano (bass), Chad Taylor (drums), and Michael Wimberly (percussion). B+(***) [r]

Ani DiFranco: Unprecedented Sh!t (2024, Righteous Babe): Folkie singer-songwriter, had a lot of edge when she emerged in 1990. This one doesn't particularly grab me, but probably deserves another listen. [PS: It does, as her critique is sharp as ever, but the music still doesn't grab me.] B+(*) [sp]

Dayramir González: V.I.D.A. [Verdad, Independencia, Diversidad Y Amor] (2024, self-released): Cuban pianist, based in New York, has a 2008 album with Habana Entrance, not sure what else. B [sp]

Morgan Guerin: Tales of the Facade (2024, Candid): Self-described "prolific multi-instrumentalist and visionary composer," born "right outside New Orleans," studied at New School and Berklee, based in New York, side-credits since 2019, appears to have three previous albums, plays sax and related, keyboards, electric bass, and drums, but I can't find any credits here, and I'm thrown by all the vocals. B+(*) [sp]

Goran Kajfeš Tropiques: Tell Us (2024, We Jazz): Swedish trumpet player, quite a few albums since his 2000 debut, quartet with Alex Zethson (keyboards), Johan Berthling (bass), and Johan Holmegard (drums), third group album. Has a wide, panoramic feel. B+(***) [sp]

Bill Laurance/The Untold Orchestra: Bloom (2022 [2024], ACT Music): British pianist, member of Snarky Puppy at least 2006-20, own albums since 2012, his keyboards leading an orchestra, conducted by Rory Storm, of 18 strings. Reflects his roots in classical music, and probably impressive as such, but quite enjoyable, too. B+(**) [sp]

Les Savy Fav: Oui, LSF (2024, Frenchkiss): Art punk band from Rhode Island, released five albums 1997-2010, return for another 14 years later. Still a potent combination of hooks and volume. Last song is triumphant: "We were there when the world got great/ We helped to make it that way." B+(**) [sp]

Grégoire Maret/Romain Collin: Ennio (2024, ACT Music): Swiss harmonica player, eponymous debut 2012, second album with the French pianist, backed by guitar-bass-drums, with flute (Alexandra Sopp) and heavyweight vocal guests Gregory Porter and Cassandra Wilson. B+(*) [sp]

Zara McFarlane: Sweet Whispers: Celebrating Sarah Vaughan (2024, Universal): British jazz/soul singer, fifth album, standards. I don't have a good feel for how representative they are, or even much of an idea how Vaughan sung them: I was so surprised by "Inner City Blues" I stopped the record to compare Vaughan's 1972 version. Vaughan's voice is unrivaled for stature and precision, but I rather like McFalane's softer, sweeter tone, and the loose swing of her arrangements. B+(**) [sp]

Ngwaka Son Systčme: Iboto Ngenge (2024, Eck Echo): Spinoff from Kinshasa (Congo) group Kokoko, emphasis on electrobeats. Six songs, 28:22. B+(**) [sp]

Normani: Dopamine (2024, RCA): R&B singer from Atlanta, last name Hamilton, formerly of the vocal group Fifth Harmony (3 albums, 2015-17), first solo album. B+(**) [r]

Carly Pearce: Hummingbird (2024, Big Machine): Country singer-songwriter from Kentucky, fourth album since 2017, found herself in her age-marking 29: Written in Stone. This sounds pretty good -- even the Levi's jingle. B+(***) [sp]

Dave Rempis/Tashi Dorji Duo: Gnash (2024, Aerophonic): Rempis plays his full range of saxophones (soprano/alto/tenor/baritone), with his usual fierce resolve, with Dorji pushing (and occasionally rivaling) on guitar. I'm impressed, as always, but doubt the harsh tone (or maybe the specific harmonics, or the lack of a drummer) will make this an album I return to. B+(***) [cd]

Sisso & Maiko: Singeli Ya Maajabu (2024, Nyege Nyege Tapes): Tanzanian DJ Mohamed Hamza Ally, "figurehead" of the Sisso Records label, with one of his producer/keyboardists, for a volume of high velocity, klang-and-squiggle-filled dance beats. B+(*) [sp]

Jason Stein/Marilyn Crispell/Damon Smith/Adam Shead: Spi-raling Horn (2023 [2024], Balance Point Acoustics): Bass clarinet player, has gotten steadily better since his 2007 debut, adds a stellar pianist to his recent bass-drums trio. A- [sp]

Thollem: Worlds in a Life, Two (2024, ESP-Disk): Pianist, goes by first name, last name is McDonas, nominally a solo album, but draws on samples from previous albums, so side credits for William Parker (bass), Michael Wimberly (drums), Pauline Oliveros (MIDI accordion), Terry Riley (vocals), Nels Cline (guitar, effects, Mega mouth). B+(**) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Alan Braufman: Live in New York City: February 8, 1975 (1975 [2022], Valley of Search): Saxophonist, aka Alan Michael or Alan Michael Braufman, recorded a 1975 album, Valley of Search, that he reissued to much acclaim in 2018, followed up by a new album, The Fire Still Burns, and reissue of some early tapes, like this one, a WBAI airshot with Cooper-Moore (piano), William Parker (bass), John Clark (French horn), Jim Schapperowe (drums), and Ralph Williams (percussion). B+(***) [r]

DJ Notoya: Funk Tide: Tokyo Jazz-Funk From Electric Bird 1978-87 (1978-87 [2024], Wewantsounds/Electric Bird): Not sure how much credit the presenter deserves here. The music is closer to disco than to funk, and has minimal value as jazz. B- [sp]

Charles Gayle/Milford Graves/William Parker: WEBO (1991 [2024], Black Editions Archive): Tenor sax, drums, bass, a major new find in the late drummer's archives, running just over 2 hours (2-CD, 3-LP). Gayle (1939-2023) was like the truest heir of Albert Ayler, pushed to extremes I found very difficult to take when I first ran into him, so my grades are scattered, and likely in need of revision -- e.g., I still have Repent (1992) as a B, but at least get Touchin' on Trane at A-. This is in the same ballpark, but perhaps better mixed to bring out the truly amazing bass and percussion. A- [sp]

Ron Miles: Old Main Chapel (2011 [2024], Blue Note): Cornet player, from Denver, albums since 1987, signed with Blue Note for a 2020 album, shortly before he died at 58 in 2022. This is a live album, dating back to the trio he recorded Quiver with: Bill Frisell (guitar), and Brian Blade (drums). A decade later, this is a lovely memento. B+(***) [sp]

Old music:

Collective 4tet: Orca (1996 [1997], Leo Lab): Originally Heinz Geisser (drums), Mark Hennen (piano), William Parker (bass), and Michael Moss (reeds), for two albums 1992-93, before Moss was replaced by Jeff Hoyer (trombone), and they went on to record six more albums for Leo 1996-2009. Free jazz with chamber music intimacy. Several spots got me thinking this might be great, only to slip back into their framework. B+(***) [r]

Collective 4tet: Live at Crescent (1997 [1998], Leo Lab): Live in Belfast, no idea why. Loses a bit of edge, while retaining the complexity, which is not exactly how live albums are expected to excel. B+(**) [r]

Collective 4tet: Moving Along (2002 [2005], Leo): Recorded the same day as Synopsis. Three long pieces, in their zone, with trombone highlights. B+(**) [r]

Collective 4tet: In Transition (2008 [2009], Leo): One more album, the trombonist departed, replaced by Arthur Brooks (trumpet/flugelhorn), who plays this close to the vest, as pianist Mark Hennen takes a more pominent role. B+(***) [sp]

Marco Eneidi Quintet: Final Disconnect Notice (1994, Botticelli): Alto sax, second horn is Karen Borca's bassoon, an excellent pairing, especially when they get dicey, backed by two bassists (Wilber Morris and William Parker, who also plays some cello) and drums (Jackson Krall). B+(***) [yt]

Marco Eneidi/Glenn Spearman: Creative Music Orchestra: American Jungle Suite (1995 [1997], Music & Arts): Discogs gives title as Creative Music Orchestra, which cover and spine confirm, while other sources cite the title of the 69:05 piece the 21-piece big-band-plus-violins plays. Led by the two saxophonists (alto/tenor), Eneidi does most of the composing, arranging one piece from Cecil Talor, while Spearman wrote the final movement (26:48). Some great potential here, but could use a conductor. B+(**) [sp]

Marco Eneidi/William Parker/Donald Robinson: Cherry Box (1998 [2000], Eremite): Alto saxophonist (1956-2016), born in Portland, as a child took lessons from Sonny Simmons, moved to New York in 1981 to study with Jimmy Lyons, played with William Parker, Bill Dixon, Cecil Taylor, and Glenn Spearman. Trio here with bass and drums. Fierce leads, holding back only to let the others show off their magic. A- [sp]

Marco Eneidi/Vijay Anderson: Remnant Light (2004 [2018], Minus Zero): Alto sax and drums duo, a home-recorded tape unearthed after the saxophonist's death in 2016. B+(**) [bc]

Marco Eneidi Streamin' 4: Panta Rei (2013 [2015], ForTune): Alto saxophonist, American, active in free jazz circles since the early 1980s, picks up a like-minded group in Poland, with Marek Pospieszalski (tenor sax), Ksawery Wojcinski (bass), and Michal Trela (drums). B+(*) [sp]

Heinz Geisser/Shiro Onuma: Duo: Live at Yokohama Little John (2007 [2008], Leo): Swiss percussionist, member of Collective 4tet, Discogs list 10 albums under his name (plus 37 side-credits), in a rare drums duo. B+(*) [sp]

The Ivo Perelman Quartet: Sound Hierarchy (1996 [1997], Muisic & Arts): Brazilian tenor saxophonist, debut 1989, had released four albums through 1995, three more in 1996, then nine in 1997, of which this one looks most impressive on paper: Marilyn Crispell (piano), William Parker (bass), Gerry Hemingway (drums). Flexes some muscle, but not all that interesting. B+(*) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Derek Bailey/Sabu Toyozumi: Breath Awareness (1987, NoBusiness) [05-27]
  • Albert Beger/Ziv Taubenfeld/Shay Hazan/Hamid Drake: Cosmic Waves (No Business) [05-27]
  • Karen Borca Trio Quartet & Quintet: Good News Blues: Live at the Vision Festival 1998 & 2005 (No Business) [05-27]
  • Peter Brötzmann/Toshinori Kondo/Sabu Toyozumi: Complete Link (NoBusiness) [05-27]
  • Alfredo Colón: Blood Burden (Out of Your Head) [06-14]
  • Nick Dunston: Colla Voce (Out of Your Head) [04-26]
  • The Sofia Goodman Group: Receptive (Joyous) [07-26]
  • Monika Herzig's Sheroes: All in Good Time (Zoho) [07-22]
  • Hyeseon Hong Jazz Orchestra: Things Will Pass (Pacific Coast Jazz) [08-23]
  • Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre: Live From Studio Rivbea: July 12, 1975 [Rivbea Live! Series, Volume 1] (No Business) [05-27]

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