Music Week [10 - 19]

Monday, April 18, 2022

Music Week

April archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 37739 [37689] rated (+50), 128 [130] unrated (-2).

I've been trying to write a piece on Ukraine. Yesterday I got so frustrated with it, I decided I'd post it that night regardless of what state it was in. It's not as if I expect anyone to read it or care. But I wrote another couple points last night, getting as far as this:

One must recognize that the only way this ends is through an agreement with Russia. Russia is too big to be bled to death by their losses in Ukraine, and there's no way Ukraine could effectively take the war onto Russian soil (after all, Napoleon and Hitler tried that and failed, even before Russia built a nuclear arsenal).

That seemed to require at least one more paragraph, on what such an agreement should (really, must) look like. So instead of rushing the post out last night, I decided to give myself another day, and post it tomorrow. But first Music Week.

Robert Christgau interrupted his 80th birthday holiday to post a Consumer Guide. Fourteen albums, seven I had already reviewed:

  • Amyl and the Sniffers: Comfort to Me (ATO '21) [A-]
  • Jon Batiste: We Are (Verve '21) [B+(**)]
  • Cheekface: Emphatically No. (New Professor '21) [B+(***)]
  • Ray Wylie Hubbard: Co-Starring Too (Big Machine) [A-]
  • Pony: TV Baby (Take This to Heart) [B]
  • Spoon: Lucifer on the Sofa (Matador) [B+(***)]
  • Superchunk: Wild Loneliness (Merge) [A-]

The rest are caught up below (the Lenny Kaye comp assembled into a nearly complete songlist, the other two songs sampled from YouTube). I have no recollection at all of TV Baby. Christgau also published a 41-song playlist to mark 80 years. I can't describe how awful I felt when I got up this morning, but the piece came with a Spotify playlist (thanks to Joe Levy), and I figured that might pick me up a bit. First 11 songs were all classics from the 1950s, then after Ray Charles, he threw a curve and picked up bits by Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk before trying to cover the 1960s in 8 tracks, and skipping through the 1970s way too fast (4 songs), followed by a break for 2 African pieces. After that there's nothing I would have come close to picking (although "That's the Joint" and "It Takes Two" sounded great, and it would be hard to improve on the James McMurtry and Robyn songs). The only WTF pick was the Brad Paisley. I'm lukewarm on the Selo i Ludy album below, but "It's My Life" ended this list, and sounded pretty good after 38-40.

New records reviewed this week:

Teno Afrika: Where You Are (2022, Awesome Tapes From Africa): Young (22) South African DJ/producer, second album, works in a style called amapiano, which seems to draw as much or more from deep house as South African hip-hop variants like kwaito or gqom. Eight beatwise pieces, five with shared or featured credits, not that any of them seems much different. B+(***)

Priscilla Block: Welcome to the Block Party (2022, InDent/Mercury Nashville): Country singer-songwriter, from North Carolina, first album after a couple EPs. Good voice, fairly generic songs, not without interest but not worth much thought. B+(*)

Sergio Carolino: Below 0 (2021 [2022], Clean Feed): Portuguese tuba player, invented something called the Lusophone "Lucifer" (a picture looks like an overgrown tuba bell at the end of an oversized saxophone with a couple of trombones up top), played solo here. B+(*)

Hugo Carvalhais: Ascetica (2021 [2022], Clean Feed): Portuguese bassist, fourth album since 2010, original pieces with three co-credited to pianist Gabriel Pinto. Sextet also includes Liudas Mockunas (tenor sax/clarinet), Fabio Almeida (alto sax/flute), Emile Parisien (soprano sax), and Mário Costa (drums). B+(**)

Pastor Champion: I Just Want to Be a Good Man (2018 [2022], Luaka Bop): Outsider gospel artist Wylie Champion (1946-2021), brother of soul singer Bettye Swann, left Louisiana for Oakland, recorded this one album, a homey affair with his electric guitar, basic band, sing-alongs and handclaps, then delayed release by refusing to talk about it. No raising the rafters, no sublimated ecstasy, but down to earth faith to see you through hard times. Got to respect that. A-

Chicago Farmer & the Fieldnotes: Fore!!!! (2022, Chicago Farmer, EP): Folkie singer-songwriter Cody Diekhoff, "from a small town in Illinois," albums since 2005. Last couple were pretty impressive. Goes for slow and soulful here, which rarely beats fast and/or funny. Four songs, 19:09. B+(*) [sp]

Jeremiah Chiu & Marta Sofia Honer: Recordings From the Åland Islands (2022, International Anthem): Chiu, from Los Angeles, plays keyboards, although that's only fourth on his list of occupations, after "community organizer, graphic designer, artist." Bandcamp page shows six other recordings, at least one LP. Honer plays viola, synthesizer, and hand chimes. There is also a bit of guest flute. The Åland Islands are in the Baltic, south of Finland. Although there are bits of field recordings (e.g., birds), this is minimalist ambient music, the sort of thing you might be delighted to find from Jon Hassell. A- [sp]

Confidence Man: Tilt (2022, Heavenly): Australian electropop band, second album, I thought the first one was pretty great, starting with its title (Confident Music for Confident People). Two singers that go by Janet Planet and Sugar Bones, backed by a masked band. B+(***)

Natalie Cressman & Ian Faquini: Auburn Whisper (2022, Cressman Music): Faquini is Brazilian, moved to Berkeley at age 8, plays guitar, wrote or co-wrote all of these songs, and sings most of them. Cressman shares three writing credits, sings some, but mostly plays trombone, which adds some gravity to the froth. Turns out to be surprisingly beguiling. B+(***) [cd]

Dedicated Men of Zion: The Devil Don't Like It (2022, Bible & Tire): Gospel vocal group from North Carolina -- the lead group on 2021's Sacred Soul of North Carolina -- backed by the Sacred Soul Sound Section. Second album. B+(***)

Stro Elliot: Black & Loud: James Brown Reimagined by Stro Elliot (2022, Republic): Remix album, I've seen Brown on the artist credit line, as the music (especially the vocals) is uniquely his, but he's dead, and this particular mix is new. Elliot released a hip-hop instrumental album in 2016, joined the Roots in 2017, playing keyboards and beat machines. The shifts seem trivial at first, then subtle, then eventually they sweep the entire edifice into somewhere new. A-

Ensemble 0: Music Nuvolosa (2022, Sub Rosa): French group, nominally avant-classical but open to whatever. I noticed them last year with a version of Julius Eastman's Femenine, then got their name wrong in my review. Two compositions here: Pauline Oliveros: "Horse Sings From Cloud" (19:12); and György Ligeti: "Musica Ricercata" (27:39). B+(**) [bc]

Ilhan Ersahin/Dave Harrington/Kenny Wollesen: Invite Your Eye (2022, Nublu): Ersahin plays sax and keyboards, was born in Sweden to a Turkish father, moved to New York in 1990, owns the bar Nublu and its label, has a dozen or so albums since 1996. Harrington plays guitar, electronics, bass, and percussion, and Wollesen is a well-known drummer. B+(*)

Mané Fernandes: Enter the Squigg (2021 [2022], Clean Feed): Portuguese guitarist/bassist, third album. Group with alto sax (José Soares), flute, synth/piano, synth/accordion, and drums. B+(**) [bc]

Ricky Ford: The Wailing Sounds of Ricky Ford: Paul's Scene (2022, Whaling City Sound): Tenor saxophonist, from Boston, debut 1977, recorded for Muse and Candid up to 1991, intermittently since, strong sides with Abdullah Ibrahim and Mal Waldron. Quartet with Mark Soskin (piano), Jerome Harris (bass), and Barry Altschul (drums). Mostly standards, some pointed to South Africa. B+(***)

Freakons: Freakons (2022, Fluff & Gravy): Joint venture by countryish bands Freakwater and Mekons. Freakwater, from Kentucky, recorded 8 albums 1989-99, but only two since. Mekons started as a punk-political band Leeds, UK, in 1979, made a country move in 1985 (Fear and Whiskey), and continued to reconvene periodically even after Jon Langford moved to Chicago and created the Waco Brothers. They find common cause here in "songs about heroic union organizers, deadly mine disasters, wailing orphans, or mining's grim history of economic and ecological devastation." A-

Clay Harper: They'll Never Miss a Five (2022, Clay Harper Music): Singer-songwriter from Atlanta, started in the 1980s in a band call the Coolies, has several solo albums since 1997, also has written a children's book, and opened a number of restaurants (including a barbecue chain called The Greater Good). Seven songs (35:37), opening with an instrumental. B+(*)

Ibibio Sound Machine: Electricity (2022, Merge): London-based Afrofunk band, led by UK-born singer Eno Williams, fourth album since 2014. Groove takes off midway, which makes all the difference. B+(**)

Terry Klein: Good Luck Take Care (2022, self-released): Folkie singer-songwriter based in Austin, third album, recorded this one in Nashville, opener rocks so hard I filed it there, but he mostly goes mid-tempo, so you can follow words that mean something. A-

Lavender Country: Blackberry Rose and Other Songs & Sorrows From Lavender Country (2019 [2022], Don Giovanni): Led by Patrick Haggerty, claims their 1973 debut as "the first openly gay country album." Second album 49 years later. Nothing as explicit this time as "Cryin' These Cocksucking Tears," or maybe I'm just a bit slow on the uptake. I did notice that he sounds like he's been taking voice lessons from label mate Peter Stampfel. Also some politics, like "she loves Karl Marx more than she loves me." Last song is called "Eat the Rich." B+(**)

Lights: PEP (2022, Fueled by Ramen): Canadian pop singer-songwriter Valerie Bokan (née Poxleitner), eighth album since 2009. B+(***)

The Linda Lindas: Growing Up (2022, Epitaph): Four teen girls from Los Angeles (well, three: drummer Mila de la Garza is 11; Bela Salazar is oldest, at 17), play punk, released a 4-song EP in 2020, got a bigger push when their video of "Racist, Sexist Boy" went viral. First LP (10 songs, 25:30), cartoon cover suggests a nod to bubblegum. Wish they were as consistently great as they sometimes are. B+(***)

Mazam: Pilgrimage (2020 [2022], Clean Feed): Portuguese quartet: João Mortágua (alto/soprano sax), Carlos Azevedo (piano), Miguel Ângelo (bass), Mário Costa (drums). B+(**) [bc]

Brad Mehldau: Jacob's Ladder (2022, Nonesuch): Pianist, specialized in trios for his first decade, before starting to branch out with larger-scale works and even a splash of fusion. This is a sprawling tableau of prog rock with biblical motifs and allusions, covering Gentle Giant and Rush, and ending in 10:07 of "Heaven." I got turned off by the opening vocal, and nothing that came later changed my mind, but the rare bits of piano impress, and the broad swathes of synths remind me that I once fancied prog rock. But even then I had no use for liturgy, and all the less so here. Still, could be a wondrous piece of work, were one so inclined. B

Gurf Morlix: The Tightening of the Screws (2021, Rootball): Singer-songwriter, from Buffalo, moved to Texas, where he performed with Blaze Foley and Lucinda Williams. Thirteenth album since 2000. B+(*)

Keith Oxman: This One's for Joey (2021 [2022], Capri): Tenor saxophonist, mainstream, based in Denver, dozen albums since 1995. Quartet with Jeff Jenkins (piano), bass, and drums; mostly Oxman originals, with Jenkins contributing two songs, plus a couple standards. Joey is Pearlman, the late bassist who appears on the final cut. B+(***) [cd]

Rich Pellegrin: Passage: Solo Improvisations II (2019 [2022], OA2): Pianist, lives in Seattle when he's not teaching in Florida, fifth album, solo, minor bits and bobs. B+(*) [cd]

Marek Pospieszalski: Polish Composers of the 20th Century (2021 [2022], Clean Feed, 2CD): Polish saxophonist, has a previous album tribute to Frank Sinatra, not sure how much else. Octet here, with a second saxophone, trumpet, viola, guitar, piano, bass, and drums, only two names there I recognize (Tomasz Dabrowski and Grzegorz Tarwid), playing 12 pieces by as many composers (Andrzej Panufnik is the only one I sort of recognize; total time 110:08). Strikes me as a little heavy. B+(*) [bc]

Joel Ross: The Parable of the Poet (2022, Blue Note): Vibraphone player, third album, his appearance on Blue Note gave him visibility that his peers will be unlikely to match. Still, ambitious album, styled as a 7-part suite played by an 8-piece ensemble, led by Immanuel Wilkins (alto sax), Maria Grand (tenor sax), and Marquis Hill (trumpet), with trombone, piano, bass, and drums. B+(**)

Sault: Air (2022, Forever Living Originals): British group, sixth album since 2019, line-up still something of a mystery (one name seems to be Dean Josiah Cover, aka Inflo). Change of pace here, lots of spacey orchestration and choral singing, not much beat. They lost me. B [sp]

Selo I Ludy Performance Band: Bunch One (2019, self-released): Ukrainian band, from Kharkiv, offers a bunch of covers of western pop songs, some in English, some in German, the accordion and balalaika offering just the right amount of exoticism, along with the rhythmic drive of the bass and drums, to what is otherwise pure corn. B+(**)

André B. Silva: Mt. Meru (2021 [2022], Clean Feed): Portuguese guitarist, has a previous album as The Rite of Trio. Group includes alto sax, bassoon, bass clarinet, cello, bass, and drums, but feels like less. B+(*) [bc]

Jon Spencer & the HITmakers: Spencer Gets It Lit (2022, In the Red): Garage rocker, recorded a dozen-plus albums with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (1991-2015), went solo for the 2018 Spencer Sings the Hits. Harsh and erratic, nothing remotely hitbound (even the James Brown). I never bothered with him before, and probably won't again. B-

Survival Unit III: The Art of Flight: For Alvin Fielder (2018 [2022], Astral Spirits): File under Joe McPhee (tenor sax), the link to previous Survival Unit iterations (although not to the metal band of that name, which had 15 albums 1999-2007): Survival Unit II was active in 1971, and this trio -- with Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello & electronics) and Michael Zerang (drums) -- has seven albums since 2006. Fielder (1935-2019) was a drummer with Sun Ra, and a charter member of the AACM. His last appearance was on the same three-act bill as this set. A little rough for my taste. B+(*) [bc]

Vasco Trilla/Liba Villavecchia: Asebeia (2020 [2021], FMR): Spanish duo, drums and alto sax, Trilla has been prolific since 2013. Title defined as "criminal charge for desecration and disrespecting of divine objects." B+(*) [bc]

Jordan VanHemert: Nomad (2021 [2022], Origin): Korean-American tenor saxophonist, second album, teaches at Schwob School of Music. Mainstream, trio with Rodney Whitaker (bass) and David Alvarez III (drums), with extra guest spots, including two Sharon Cho vocals. B+(*) [cd]

Liba Villavecchia Trio: Zaidan (2021 [2022], Clean Feed): Spanish saxophonist, from Barcelona, records go back to 1999, trio with Alex Reviriego (bass) and Vasco Trilla (drums). B+(***) [bc]

Fabian Willmann Trio: Balance (2021 [2022], CYH): German tenor saxophonist, has credits back to 2014 but this appears to be the first album under his own name. New Swiss label stands for Clap Your Hands. With Arne Huber (bass) and Jeff Ballard (drums), plus alto sax (Asger Nissen) on two tracks. Mainstream, nice tone, closes with a "No Moon at All" that lingers long past the record. B+(***) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Dave Brubeck Trio: Live From Vienna 1967 (1967 [2022], Brubeck Editions): As one who usually listens to Brubeck records for Paul Desmond's gorgeous alto sax, it's easy to forget how brilliant a pianist the leader could be, so this is a wake up call. Brubeck rarely made trio records, and this one was an accident: Desmond missed the flight to the last stop of a tour, so the rest -- Eugene Wright (drums) and Joe Morello (drums) -- went on as a trio, their set shifted to mostly standards. Opens with a rousing "St. Louis Blues" followed by Brubeck's "One Moment Worth Years." Second side gets even hotter with Brubeck extemporizing on "Swanee River," and wrapping up with "Take the A Train." A- [cd]

Lenny Kaye Presents Lightning Striking (1934-2013 [2022], Ace, 2CD): Compilation of 48 songs, mostly from 1955-1979 with a few outliers (mostly metal later), tied to Kaye's new book, Lightning Striking: Ten Transformative Moments in Rock and Roll: the ten chapters are: Memphis 1954; New Orleans 1957; Philadelphia 1959; Liverpool 1962; San Francisco 1967; Detroit 1969; New York 1975; London 1977; Los Angeles 1984/Norway 1993; Seattle 1991. The last two are represented by 8 tracks I have no idea how to evaluate (LA hardcore/Norwegian metal is highlighted by a later Japanese cut; Seattle grunge is barely represented by Mudhoney and Mark Lanegan). Up through Kaye's own minor fame in New York 1975 (he was Patti Smith's guitarist, before that mostly known as the compiler of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era), there's no doubting his expertise or his knack for picking out obscurities that help illuminate the better known hits (not easy for me to figure out the ratio, but 1:1 to 1:2 is ballpark). I have doubts about how useful this is: a better solution might be to program a whole CD for each chapter, adding depth while keeping the periods/styles separate. No doubt Kaye could have found the songs, if only the economics were viable. [From Napster playlist, so some versions may differ; 2 missing songs found on YouTube.] B+(***)

Old music:

Amyl and the Sniffers: Amyl and the Sniffers (2019, ATO): Australian punk rock band, fronted by Amy Taylor, first album after a couple of EPs. I put their second album (Comfort to Me) on my 2021 A-list, but didn't bother looking back to see what else they had done. Maybe the album cover looked crude, or the length (11 songs in 29:00) insubstantial? Christgau marked it down ("sound a little thin in the end"), but that strikes me as a formal choice, and few bands have followed it more rigorously. As for statement: "Some Mutts (Can't Be Muzzled)." A- [sp]

Horace Andy: In the Light (1977, Hungry Town): Fifth album, regarded as one of his best, and I can't quarrel with that. Has an even flow, nothing really great, but plainly enjoyable. B+(***)

Mark Charig With Keith Tippett/Ann Winter: Pipedream (1977 [2010], Ogun): Cornet player (also tenor horn), started with Long John Baldry's Bluesology along with Elton Dean, went on to play in Soft Machine, King Krimson, and various projects with Dean, Barry Guy, Chris McGregor, and/or Tippett (organ/piano here; Winter sings; both also play bell). B- [bc]

Stro Elliot: Stro Elliot (2016, Street Corner Music): LA-based hip-hop producer, not sure how he balances that with membership in Philadelphia-based Roots, which he joined in 2017 after releasing this set of beats with occasional vocal samples. B+(*)

Terry Klein: Great Northern (2017, self-released): First album, short (8 songs, 29:43), deep thinking about life, from "they say life is wasted on the living" to "there is joy in this life if you're willing to make a mess." B+(***)

Terry Klein: Tex (2019, self-released): Second album, got himself a band, still I don't find myself hanging on every word, and the often slack music has something to do with that. B+(*)

Lavender Country: Lavender Country (1973 [2014], Paradise of Bachelors): Originally released by Gay Community Social Services of Seattle, Inc., which was leader Patrick Haggerty's day job. Music is fairly stock, but the lyrics aren't. B+(**)

Louis Moholo-Moholo Septet/Octet: Bra Louis - Bra Tebs/Spirits Rejoice! (1978-95 [2006], Ogun, 2CD): First disc is a previously unreleased 1995 set, with Evan Parker and Tobius Delius (tenor sax), Jason Yarde (alto/soprano sax), Claude Deppa (trumpet), Radu Malfatti (trombone), Pule Pheto (piano), Roberto Bellatalla (bass), and Francine Luce (vocals). I'm no more happy with the vocals here than elsewhere. However, the reissue of Moholo's 1978 album Spirits Rejoice! is something to savor. B+(***) [bc]

Soft Head [Hugh Hopper/Elton Dean/Alan Gowen/Dave Sheen]: Rogue Element (1978, Ogun): Ex-Soft Machine bassist, used "Soft" for several later group names, with Dean (another Soft Machine alumnus) on alto sax, plus keyboards and drums. Packaging poses a number of problems: group name not on cover, misspelled on spine (Soft Heap is a real Hopper group, just not this one, and the elephant picture caused me to mistype the title). The rhythm section isn't extraordinary on its own, but they really turn Dean loose. A- [bc]

Keith Tippett's Ark: Frames: Music for an Imaginary Film (1978, Ogun, 2CD): Orchestra 22 strong: 8 horns, 6 strings, double up on piano (Tippett and Stan Tracey), bass (Peter Kowald and Harry Miller), and percussion (Louis Moholo and Frank Perry), with two vocalists (Maggie Nicols and Julie Tippetts). Originally 2-LP, but totals 83:58, so needs 2-CD. Massive, generates a lot of motion with some cacophony. B+(*) [bc]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Milen Kirov: Spatium (Independent Creative Sound and Music) [06-05]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Music Week

April archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 37689 [37641] rated (+48), 130 [137] unrated (-7).

Continued with the Ogun Bandcamp. Several readers singled out Chris McGregor's first two Brotherhood of Breath albums for praise, so I started there. Aside from new jazz from my queue (topped by Whit Dickey and Kalí Rodríguez-Peña), plus some of the links I had downloaded and neglected, almost everything else came from sifting through lists, collected in my metacritic file.

Exception: Old records by Bob Andy, Chic, and Soft Machine showed up in research on other records, and seemed like holes in the database ratings. The Soft Machine albums were ones I actually owned, but hadn't remembered well enough to include in my first cut of the ratings list. I probably never owned any Chic before Believer, but C'Est Chic was the only one still unrated.

Thought about writing a theses-type piece on Ukraine, but got lost trying to sort out the ancient history: the arrival of various Slavic groups, Byzantine influences, the Khazars and other Turkic groups, the Varangians (Vikings), the Mongols, the encroachments from the north (Poland, Lithuania, Russia) and the south (Ottomans), the Cossack revolts and mercenaries, more Russians (with its Pale of Settlement), the Germans in the World Wars. Russia clearly dates back through the Tsars to the Grand Duchy of Moscow (1263-1480), or perhaps to Kievan Rus (879-1240), given that both were ruled by the Rurik dynasty, but it's not clear how or when Ukrainians became distinct from Russians (or vice versa) -- only that they did by the late 18th century, when Catherine the Great extended Russian control over most of Ukraine, and started a campaign of Russification (going so far as to refer to Ukraine as Novorussiya -- a term recently credited to Putin), and the breaks from Russian rule in 1917-20 and after 1991 have only added to the separation. That Putin thinks Russia knows best can be credited to the myopia that shields the progeny of former empires from seeing the harm those empires caused. Even Russian leaders who knew better have tended to revert to the mindset of Tsars.

The big question at this point is why do none of the principals (and I think we have to include the US and UK on that list) seem concerned with getting a cease fire? More war means more destruction, but also deeper scars that will take longer to heal. Meanwhile, I think it's clear that many of the assumptions of post-WWII defense strategy have proven to be wrong -- something which NATO powers have missed, given their recent pledges to spend even more money on arms, and place them even more aggressively to threaten Russia. Few seem to recognize that the famous "madman theory" depends on the other side reacting sanely, an assumption Putin has shown to be no longer operative.

Some serious rethinking is called for.

New records reviewed this week:

Mike Allemana: Vonology (2018-21 [2022], Ears & Eyes): Guitarist, grew up near Chicago, moved there and found a mentor in Von Freeman, the subject of and inspiration for these compositions. Octet. Greg Ward and Geof Bradfield are the saxophonists, Victor Garcia (trumpet), Kendall Moore (trombone), Tomeka Reid (cello), bass, and drums, plus a choir, which I don't regard as a plus. B+(*) [cd] [04-15]

Horace Andy: Midnight Rocker (2022, On-U Sound): Reggae singer Horace Hinds, recorded regularly since his 1972 Studio One breakthrough (Skylarking), at least up to 2010. Still not all that old (71). B+(*)

Chief Keef: 4Nem (2021, Glo Gang/RBC): Chicago rapper Keith Cozart, fourth studio album, lots of mixtapes back to 2011 (when he was 15). Gangsta-ish, doesn't seem worth the risk. B

Rob Clearfield & Quin Kirchner: Concentric Orbits (2019 [2022], Astral Spirits): Piano and percussion duo, from Chicago (although Clearfield has since been described as "France-based"). Two pieces, 30:25 (the digital adds a few more minutes of excerpts). Each build into a strong statement. B+(***) [dl]

Denzel Curry: Melt My Eyez, See Your Future (2022, PH/Loma Vista): Florida rapper, fifth album since 2013. B+(**)

Kady Diarra: Burkina Hakili (2021, Lamastrock): Singer from Burkina Faso, a wedge of former French colony tucked below Mali and Niger, and above Ghana, formerly known as Upper Volta. Third album, title translates as "Spirit of Burkina," songs in four languages, including Bwaba ("her native") and Bambara (more common in Mali), as well as French. I can't speak to the "political elements," but clearly a strong force with a solid groove, propped up by rock guitar toward the end. A- [bc]

Whit Dickey Quartet: Astral Long Form/Staircase in Space (2021 [2022], Tao Forms): Drummer, more than a dozen albums since 1998, long association with Matthew Shipp, including a spell in the David S. Ware Quartet. With Rob Brown (alto sax), Mat Maneri (viola), and Brandon Lopez (bass), offers adventurous improvs with superb mix and balance. A- [cd] [05-06]

Jean Fineberg: Jean Fineberg & JAZZphoria (2022, Pivotal): Bay Area tenor saxophonist, first album as leader, website credits her with side credits on 50 albums, including some that date her: We Are Family (1979, Sister Sledge), C'est Chic (1978, Chic) and Young Americans (1975, David Bowie), and the 1974-77 all-female band ISIS. Octet, mostly women, leans toward swing. B+(**) [cd] [04-08]

Asher Gamedze With Xristian Espinoza and Alan Bishop: Out Side Work: Two Duets (2019-20 [2022], Astral Spirits): South African drummer, debut album 2020. Two duo sides, each with a fierce saxophonist: Espinoza (tenor) in London, Bishop (alto and voice) in Cairo. B+(**) [dl]

Josean Jacobo Trio: Herencia Criolla (2022, self-released): Dominican pianist, leads a trio with Daroll Méndez (bass) and Otoniel Nicholás (drums), plus guests on 4 (of 8) songs, including Miguel Zenón (alto sax). B+(**) [cd]

Mike Kuhl/Dave Ballou/John Dierker/Luke Stewart: Kraft (2021 [2022], Out of Your Head): Part of the label's digital-only "Untamed" series, a word (plus ellipsis) prominent enough on the cover to tempt one to include it in the title. Drums, trumpet, reeds, bass. Sharp, impressive freewheeling quartet. B+(***) [dl]

Ben Markley Big Band With Ari Hoenig: Ari's Fun House (2021 [2022], OA2): Pianist, teaches at University of Wyoming, plays in Denver area, Discogs credits him with a couple albums in the 1970s which clearly belong to someone else. Hoenig wrote the pieces here, also plays drums, to Markley's arrangements. Very energetic, splashy even. B [cd] [04-15]

The Muslims: Fuck These Fuckin Fascists (2021, Epitaph): Second line to the title song is "they can kiss our asses." Punk band from North Carolina, "black + brown queer muzzies," name calculated to offend, but they're serious enough they enunciate clearly, so you can tell how political they are, and they're jokey enough (cf. the Rezillos) you wonder how serious they really are. B+(***) [bc]

Ivo Perelman/Tim Berne/Tony Malaby/James Carter: (D)IVO (2022, Mahakala Music): All-star saxophone quartet, playing tenor, alto, soprano, and baritone, respectively, all improv pieces, but safe to say that Perelman is the prime mover here. I've never been a big fan of the format -- something about the sound of the horns all by themselves -- and nothing here overcomes my reservations. B+(**) [sp]

Raw Poetic & Damu the Fudgemunk: Laminated Skies (2022, Def Pressé): Rapper Jason Moore, from Virginia, half dozen albums, most (as here) with DC DJ Earl Davis. B+(**)

Kalí Rodríguez-Peña: Mélange (2019 [2022], Truth Revolution): Trumpet player, from Cuba, moved to New York in 2014, a lot of print in the package that I'm having trouble reading, but seems to be his first album. Impressive trumpet, crackling rhythm, scattered vocals. I doubt I'll hear a better Latin jazz album this year. B+(***) [cd]

Shenseea: Alpha (2022, Rich Immigrants/Interscope): Jamaican dancehall singer, 40 singles since 2016, 4 of them on this debut album. Her networking offers lots of guest spots, which can make the difference, or not. B+(***)

Somi: Zenzile: The Reimagination of Miriam Makeba (2022, Salon Africana): American-born jazz singer Somi Kakoma, of Rwandan-Ugandan descent, also an actor and writer, albums since 2007, pays tribute to the legendary South African singer. B(*) [cd]

Luke Stewart's Silt Trio: The Bottom (2021 [2022], Cuneiform): Bassist, from DC, active in a number of groups including Heroes Are Gang Leaders and Irreversible Entanglements. Group debut with Brian Settles (tenor sax) and Chad Taylor (percussion). Taylor's opening rhythm on mbira sets up an enchanting groove, which the sax colors delicately, although later on Settles gets to strut his stuff. A- [dl]

Luke Stewart: Works for Upright Bass and Amplifier Vol. 1 (2021, Astral Spirits): Not a promising title, especially for a single song title (58:12), divided for vinyl purposes into four parts. B+(*) [bc]

Luke Stewart: Works for Upright Bass and Amplifier Vol. 2 (2022, Astral Spirits): Presumably the bass is the sound source, but the amplifiers are where the action is (if you can call it action). B+(*) [bc]

Wet Leg: Wet Leg (2022, Domino): British indie rock duo from Isle of Wight, Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers, first album, but hugely anticipated after six singles/videos (33 AOTY reviews first week out). Doesn't quite do it for me, but the second half gets sharper, or at least more distinctive. B+(***)

Jack White: Fear of the Dawn (2022, Third Man): Roots rocker, started in White Stripes. Some solid licks, but more annoying than not here. B-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Blue Notes: Blue Notes in Concert (1977 [2022], Ogun): Original South African group minus trumpet player Mongezi Feza, who died at 30 in 1975, leaving Chris McGregor (piano), Dudu Pukwana (alto sax), Johnny Dyani (bass), and Louis Moholo (drums). Recorded live at 100 Club, originally released in 1978, this expanded version finally appearing in The Ogun Collection in 2008, finally appearing as a digital in 2021, with a CD coming 2022-04-22. B+(***) [bc]

Son House: Forever on My Mind (1964 [2022], Easy Eye Sound): Delta blues legend, b. 1902, recorded a handful of sides in 1930, got a more extended hearing from Alan Lomax in 1941-42, then got on with his life, working as a railroad porter and chef, until he got rediscovered in 1960s folk-blues revival. Robert Santelli, in The Best of the Blues: 101 Essential Blues Albums, ranked his 1941-42 sessions at 17, and a 1965 session at 41. This previously unreleased set was recorded just before his "rediscovery," and is as strikingly authoritative as anything he ever did. A-

Lèspri Ka: New Directions in Gwoka Music From Guadeloupe 1981-2010 (1981-2010 [2022], Séance Centre): No names I recognize. Takes a couple cuts for the groove to kick in. B+(**) [sp]

Sal Mosca: For Lennie Tristano: Solo Piano 1970 & 1997 (1970-97 [2022], Fresh Sound): Pianist (1927-2007), from upstate New York, student and disciple of Tristano, fairly thin discography which includes albums with Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh. All standards, six cuts from 1970, including two medleys, plus two short ones (7:54) from 1997. B+(**)

Bernardo Sassetti Trio: Culturgest 2007 (2007 [2022], Clean Feed): Portuguese pianist, died 2012 at 41 (fell off a cliff). With Carlos Barretto (bass) and Alexandre Frazão (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Soft Machine: Facelift: France & Holland (1970 [2022], Cuneiform, 2CD): Canterbury rock group, originally with singer-songwriter Kevin Ayers, who left after their debut album, leaving a prog-oriented trio (Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper, Robert Wyatt), adding saxophonist Elton Dean for their Third album. Dean has joined for these January (Amsterdam) and March (Paris), along with a second saxophonist, Lyn Dobson. Dean puts on a bravura performance on the second disc, before it goes south again. B [dl]

Summer of Soul ( . . . Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised): A Questlove Jam [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] (1969 [2022], Legacy): Soundtrack to Questlove's documentary about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, a series of six free concerts held on Sundays from June 29 to August 24. The Festivals ran yearly from 1967 to 1974, and this particular one was filmed by Hal Tulchin, leaving Questlove 40 hours of video to choose from. The soundtrack offers 17 performances by 14 artists (The 5th Dimension, Sly & the Family Stone, and Nine Simone get two shots each; Mavis Staples appears in a piece with her family, then returns to join Mahalia Jackson in a gospel sequence). Sound is a bit rough in spots, but feels real and immediate. Film won an Oscar, but the soundtrack stands on its own. A- [sp]

Old music:

Horace Andy: Skylarking (1972, Studio One): First album, backed by Coxsone Dodd's studio band, led by Leroy Sibbles. shows up in several top/greatest reggae lists. Somehow he never strikes me as all that great. B+(**)

Chic: C'Est Chic (1978, Atlantic): Funk/disco band, second (and highest charting) of seven 1977-83 albums, the singles (especially their big hit, "Le Freak," but also "I Want Your Love" and "At Last I Am Free") familiar from best-ofs, the filler readily forgotten. B+(**)

Alexander Hawkins & Louis Moholo-Moholo: Keep Your Heart Straight (2011 [2012], Ogun): Piano-drums duo, one of the prolific pianist's first albums. B+(**) [bc]

The Chris McGregor Group: Very Urgent (1968 [2008], Fledg'ling): Reissue of album released by Polydor in 1968, with the original five Blue Notes plus Ronnie Beer (tenor sax). Outsiders finding their footing in the rapidly evolving British avant scene. B+(**) [sp]

Chris McGregor Septet: Up to Earth (1969 [2008], Fledg'ling): Previously unreleased, four pieces, 38:01, transitional step between McGregor's South African Blue Notes and the much larger Brotherhood of Breath he formed in 1970. Built around his piano and Blue Notes Mongezi Feza (trumpet), Dudu Pukwana (alto sax), and Louis Moholo (drums), plus two young British saxophonists (Evan Parker and John Surman), with bass split between Barre Phillips and Danny Thompson. More avant than expected, with a bit of circus-like delirium, and the piano: well, in a blindfold test I would have said Keith Tippett, who ran in the same circle and was sometimes this brilliant. A- [sp]

The Chris McGregor Trio: Our Prayer (1969 [2008], Fledg'ling): Piano-bass-drums trio, common among pianists but the only one I'm aware of with McGregor. Group includes Barre Phillips (bass, contributes one song) and Louis Moholo (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Chris McGregor: Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath (1970, RCA): South African pianist, came to England with his group Blue Notes. Before that group dissipated -- bassist Johnny Dyani moved to Denmark, trumpeter Mongezi Feza died in 1975, McGregor and alto saxophonist Dudu Pukwana died in 1990 -- McGregor formed this larger group, with Harry Miller taking over bass and Louis Moholo on drums, plus a lot of breath: two trumpets (Feza and Harry Beckett), corner (Marc Charig), two trombones (Malcolm Griffiths and Nick Evans), five saxophones (Pukwana, Alan Skidmore, John Surman, Mike Osborne, Ronnie Beer), with Feza and Osborne also on flute. Township jive with avant drive and distortions, a marvelous formula McGregor sustained for two decades. A- [sp]

Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath: Brotherhood (1972, RCA): Second album, sax section down to four (Pukwana, Osborne, Skidmore, and Gary Windo). Opener is one of their more rambunctious South African romps, followed by a dicey piano solo, then more chaos. B+(***) [sp]

Chris McGregor: Sea Breezes: Solo Piano - Live in Durban 1987 (1987 [2012], Fledg'ling): First time back in South Africa since leaving with the Blue Notes in 1964. B+(**) [sp]

Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath/Archie Shepp: En Concert A Banlieues Bleues (1989, 52e Rue Est): Closing in on 20 years since the group's debut, only the pianist and Harry Beckett (trumpet) remain, although at 14 musicians plus singer Sonti Mndébélé, the group is larger than ever. McGregor's South African themes get them going, and Shepp solos mightily and shouts some blues. B+(***)

Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath: The Memorial Concert (1994, ITM): No date or venue given, but McGregor died in 1990, and it's likely this was recorded soon thereafter, with Roland Perrin taking over the piano spot. Even so, only 7 (of 16) musicians returned from their 1989 live album -- the 9 adds having no previous association I'm aware of with McGregor. Not as spirited as I would have liked, but they do have choice picks from the songbook, including two Dudu Pukwana tunes. B+(**)

Louis Moholo-Moholo's Five Blokes: Uplift the People (2017 [2018], Ogun): Drummer, live at Cafe Oto in London, with two saxophonists -- Jason Yarde from the old days, and newcomer Shabaka Hutchings -- plus Alexander Hawkins (piano) and John Edwards (bass). B+(*) [bc]

The Soft Machine: Volume Two (1969, Probe): English prog rock group, from Canterbury, founders included Daevid Allen, who left in 1967 and went on to found Gong, and Kevin Ayers, who wrote most of Odd Ditties (a later compilation title) on their first album but left in 1968 for a solo career. That left Mike Ratledge (keyboards), Hugh Hopper (bass), and Robert Wyatt (drums and vocals), plus a bit of sax from Brian Hopper, for an album of amusing and/or pretentious fragments (at one point jumping from Schoenberg to Hendrix without properly crediting either). B

Soft Machine: 5 (1972, Columbia): Saxophonist Elton Dean joined in 1970, for Third. Drummer Robert Wyatt left in 1971, after Four, and was replaced by Phil Howard, who plays on the first half here, replaced by John Marshall for the second half (which also includes a double bassist, Roy Babbington, in addition to bass guitarist Hugh Hopper). After Wyatt's departure, no one much wanted to sing, and Dean remade them as a credible jazz band. [UK title: Fifth.] B+(*)

Soft Machine: Six (1973, Columbia): Karl Jenkins takes over on sax (also oboe, keyboards, celeste), with Ratledge, Hopper, and Marshall settled in. Double album, split between live and studio. B

Soft Machine: Seven (1973, Columbia): Hugh Hopper left to pursue a solo career, leaving Roy Babbington as the bassist. The last of the numbered albums, although the band kept plugging away, with further albums in 1975 and 1976, and occasional revivals later. B+(*)

Keith Tippett Septet: "A Loose Kite in a Gentle Wind Floating With Only My Will for an Anchor" (1984 [2009], Ogun): Four-part suite, brimming with ideas, followed by "Dedication to Mingus," which captures the tone if not quite the excitement. Timings vary between the original 1986 LP release (77:38) and the CD reissue (77:00). With Marc Charig (cornet), Elton Dean (alto sax/saxello), Larry Stabbins (tenor sax), Nick Evans (trombone), Paul Rogers (bass), Tony Levin (drums). B+(***) [bc]

Keith Tippett Octet: From Granite to Wind (2011, Ogun): British pianist, major, accompanied here by wife Julie Tippetts (voice, often not my thing), four saxophonists (Mujician-mate Paul Dunhall by far the best known), bass, and drums, for one 47:00 suite. B+(*) [bc]

Limited Sampling: Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.

Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath: Country Cooking (1988, Venture): Ex-LP, at least some kind of B+; title song is one of McGregor's classics, and the band has impressive saxophone power in Julian Argueles and Steve Williamson, as well as the ever-dependable Harry Beckett. ++ [yt]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Miles Okazaki: Thisness (Pi) [04-29]
  • David Virelles: Nuna (Pi) [05-27]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Music Week

April archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 37641 [37597] rated (+44), 137 [128] unrated (+9).

Another week. Surprised that the rated count held up, given that I took a day off to cook, and that it feels like I often got stuck looking for new things to play. Also spent a lot of time (4 plays) with Bouvier before I decided it didn't quite click -- easily the most tempting of an admirable bunch of B+(***) albums below. But I guess I got a solid start with the Ogun Bandcamp, which I still haven't exhausted.

Woke up this morning realizing it was already April and we hadn't done anything about income taxes. Tried calling the person who has done them for 20+ years, only to find out that she died last May, so we need to find someone else. Taxes are always a great psychic strain for me, although the relief once it's done is considerable.

I haven't had the slightest inclination to do Wordle, although my wife has a winning streak since her second game (and only loss), and has sought out variants, including the daily Quordle, which appears at midnight, interrupting our television time, so I occasionally consult. Sometimes I think of words, but mostly draw on letter frequencies, which somehow I know a bit about.

The game I have gotten into the habit of is Worldle, which also appears daily, giving you a Rorschach blob claiming to be the borders of a country or territory, which you get six guesses at. Each false guess gives you a distance and direction to the answer. Geography was my subject as a child: by age 10 or so I could rattle off not just all the states and their capitals, but the provinces of Canada and Australia, the SSRs in the Soviet Union, and virtually every nation-state on a continent. I've retained most of that, and have found most of these puzzles instantly recognizable. Today's Latvia took two guesses but less than 5 seconds (my first was Turkmenistan, off by 3224km NW, and while I don't think in metric, that seemed about right for the Baltic area, and the shape excluded every other nation in the area). Monaco took three, and much more time. Only problem has been with islands. Anguila eluded me, although it would have been easy with a map of the Lesser Antilles (I did narrow it down between Antigua and the Virgin Islands). I recognized Kerguelen (after an initial guess of Svalbard), but the name wasn't accepted, so I had to look up French Southern and Antarctic Lands. I can't say as I've ever heard of Heard and McDonald Islands (though consulting maps using directions and distances got me there in three). Christmas Island also took an open book approach, though I sort of recognized it once I got there. I view the game as sort of a two-tiered test: first of what you recognize and recall; second, if I didn't get the answer within a minute, of what you can figure out. My 8th Grade US History teacher was a big believer in open book tests, and I learned more there than I did in practically all the rest of grades 7-9 combined.

No Speaking of Which last week, as I put most of my effort into yesterday's big Book Roundup. I have zero interest or concern in the Will Smith slap that dominated our fickle media's limited attention span. Meanwhile, Republicans have been so puerile it's getting hard to dignify them with scorn. (Madison Cawthorn seemed to top them all last week, but not without stiff competition from Cruz, DeSantis, and Graham.) And Ukraine slogs on, rerunning tragedy inside the country and farce everywhere else. I'm sure I'll have more to say about that at some point. I suppose I could at least link to Jeffrey St. Clair's Roaming Charges, but it's a pretty mixed bag, more reliably on point about WWI than Ukraine. I particularly like a line in a longer Bertrand Russell quote: "The English and French say they are fighting in defense of democracy, but don't want their words to be heard in Petrograd or Calcutta."

What I wanted to mention in the Book Roundup but ran out of time for was how stimulating I've been finding Louis Menand's The Free World. The book, at least as far as I've read, consists of a series of portraits of seminal figures, starting with George Kennan, whose prescription for containment of the Soviet Union was always more nuanced than the policies of his followers. An important nuance was his insight that Stalin's efforts to secure the perimeter around Russia had nothing to do with communist ideology and everything to do with Tsarist Russia's fear and pride. We see this same attitude today with Putin asserting Russia's right to save Ukraine from itself -- as we also see Americans ignoring this crude conceit in favor of ideological and/or psychological explanations.

The book follows with pieces on George Orwell, James Burnham (and C. Wright Mills), Jean-Paul Sartre (and Simone de Beauvoir), Hannah Arendt, and David Riesman. I thought that Riesman's critique of Arendt was particularly timely: "Might Arendt be mistaking the ideology of totalitarianism for the lived reality? Might she be imagining that totalitarian systems are more coherent and all-powerful than they really are? . . . Riesman's suggestion that underneath the ideological swagger, the Soviet Union was a klutzy bureaucracy run by thugs was just the kind of inability to take totalitarianism seriously that she had written her book to warn against." Riesman also has a critique of democracy, where polling is mudied by people insisting on having opinions even when they know nothing, but ignorance itself is some kind of virtue. Still makes for messy politics -- which corresponds rather well to history.

Next up was Clement Greenberg and Jackson Pollock, so finally we get into art. I barely recognized Greenberg's name, but found I could unpack a lot of my own experience from his "Avant-Garde and Kitsch" essay. This was, after all, the world I was born into, even if it took a while for their ideas to sink down to the lower-class Wichita I was desperate to escape. But isn't the avant-garde a vector you can trace back to bourgeois revolution (even as the bourgeoisie themselves elected for kitsch)? And isn't part of the motivation the feeling of superiority you get from mastering the rare and esoteric in a world that is otherwise leveling? I got into avant-garde art and left-wing politics more/less simultaneously, and reconciled the two by insisting that nothing prevents leftists (or anyone) from also enjoying the avant-garde, but experience suggests it's not often that easy.

Quite a bit of unpacking this week. Most pleasant surprise was a package of 577 Records that don't appear to be out yet (although they look like product. On the other hand, it seems like it's gotten much harder to stream their records, so my coverage has gotten spottier.

New records reviewed this week:

Nia Archives: Forbidden Feelingz (2022, Hijinxx, EP): British jungle producer-singer, from Manchester, 6 songs, 16:53, impressive start, runs a bit thin. B+(**) [sp]

Lynne Arriale Trio: The Lights Are Always On (2021 [2022], Challenge): Pianist, from Milwaukee, 15+ albums since 1994, all originals here, backed with bass (Jasper Somsen) and drums (EJ Strickland). B+(**) [cd] [04-08]

Aaron Bazzell: Aesthetic (2022, self-released): Alto saxophonist, born in Boston, grew up in Atlanta, studied at Michigan State, based in Brooklyn. Debut album, all originals, backed by piano-bass-drums. Nice tone, impressive flow. Rachel Robinson sings one track, for radio programmers who are into that sort of thing. B+(**) [cd] [04-22]

David Binney Quartet: A Glimpse of the Eternal (2021 [2022], Criss Cross): Alto saxophonist, mainstream, started c. 1990, quartet with Craig Taborn (piano), Eivind Opsvik (bass), and Dan Weiss (drums). Mostly originals, covers not obvious standards (Vince Mendoza, Jan Garbarek, Michael Cain) aside from Harry Warren ("I Had the Craziest Dream"). B+(*)

Bouvier: Blachant (2022, Renewell): Singer Dr. Jackie Copeland, "social finance and justice innovator," taps into her South Carolina Gullah-Geechee heritage, touches on Yoruba and other points in the African diaspora, for a debut album. Striking voice, erudite, not sure why it doesn't quite grab me. B+(***) [cd] [04-13]

Club D'Elf: You Never Know (2022, Face Pelt): Boston group, since 1998, core group includes Mike Rivard (bass), Dean Johnston (drums), and Brahim Fribgane (oud/vocals), with others rotating in and out, most of their records live to capture whatever the combination of the moment is (this is an exception, but the cast is still varied). Half Rivard originals ("following a near death experience in the remote jungle of the Peruvian Amazon"), the rest covers of Miles Davis, Joe Zawinul, Frank Zappa, Nass el-Ghiwane, and traditional Gnawa. B+(**)

Avishai Cohen: Naked Truth (2021 [2022], ECM): Israeli trumpet player, not the same-named bassist, brother of Anat Cohen, records since 2002. Backed by piano (Yonathan Avishai), bass (Barak Mori), and drums (Ziv Ravitz). B+(**)

Armen Donelian: Fresh Start (2020-21 [2022], Sunnyside): Pianist, born in New York City, "reinvents himself at age 71," in a trio with Jay Anderson (bass) and Dennis Mackrel (drums). Sings one song. B+(**) [cd]

Jacob Garchik: Assembly (2021 [2022], Yestereve): Trombonist, from San Francisco, albums since 2005, this a quintet with Sam Newsome (soprano sax) and Thomas Morgan (bass) joining his long-running trio with Jacob Sacks (piano) and Dan Weiss (drums). B+(***) [cd] [05-13]

Giacomo Gates: You (2022, Savant): Jazz singer, 8th album since 1995, 18 songs with "You" in the title ("Exactly Like You," "I Can't Give You Anything but Love," "You're Blasé," "You've Changed," "You Never Miss Your Water 'Till the Well Runs Dry") backed by Tim Ray's piano trio. B+(***)

Aldous Harding: Warm Chris (2022, 4AD): Hannah Sian Topp, singer-songwriter originally from New Zealand, based in Wales, fourth album, produced by John Parish. B+(**)

Walker Hayes: Country Stuff: The Album (2022, Monument): Country singer-songwriter, from Alabama, got a music degree with "an emphasis on piano," moved to Nashville 2005, released his first EP in 2010, followed by an LP in 2011. Third album, recycled all six songs from 2021's EP. I rather liked the EP [B+(**)], with guest spots by Carly Pearce and Lori McKenna, so was surprised to find this is one of the most widely loathed albums of 2022 (not many critical reviews, but 28 user score on 93 ratings at AOTY, while 174 at RYM give it 1.51 of 5 stars). Country fans may object to the production, which eschews conventional Nashville styles (neotrad, countrypolitan, or arena rock): the rhythm and choruses remind me more of pop rap like Nelly, only, you know, dumbed down for white folk. Lyrics can get dumber still (except, you know, when McKenna wrote them). B

Benji Kaplan: Something Here Inside (2021 [2022], Wise Cat): Nylon-string guitarist, Brazilian, fourth album, moves into American Songbook standards, done with rare delicacy. B+(*) [cd] [05-06]

Kyle: It's Not So Bad (2022, self): Last name Harvey, from California (Ventura), started as a soft-edged rapper but mostly sings here (softer than ever). B+(*)

Loop: Sonancy (2022, Cooking Vinyl): English new wave band formed in 1986 by Robert Hampson in Croydon, recorded three albums through 1990, broke up, reformed in 2013, released an EP, and finally this year their first album in 31 years. With its drone and grind, this reminds me of some other 1980s English band I'm having trouble placing -- not the Fall (which had a singer), nor New Order (which had a more compelling groove), or the Three Johns (which had songs); maybe Red Lorry Yellow Lorry? B+(***)

Yuko Mabuchi: Caribbean Canvas (2022, Vista): Pianist, from Japan, studied in Los Angeles, looks to be her sixth album, a venture into easy-going Latin jazz, although most of the pieces are originals. Ends with "Of Freedom," following Coltrane. B+(**) [cd]

Paul Messina: Blue Fire (2021, GVAP Music): Saxophonist, also plays flute and keyboards, grew up in Miami, Discogs shows a previous album from 2014, website lists seven more. Scott Yanow notes his "warm melodies, catchy rhythms, and excellent playing." Can't say that adds up to much. B- [cd]

Maren Morris: Humble Quest (2022, Columbia Nashville): Country singer-songwriter, three early albums on a label called Mozzi Bozzi (2005-11), then caught a break with a major and went platinum. I didn't care for her last two albums, but this one sounds sweet and rings solid all the way through. B+(***)

Josh Nelson/Bob Bowman Collective: Tomorrow Is Not Promised (2021 [2022], Steel Bird Music): Leaders play piano and bass, backed by Larry Koonse (guitar) and Steve Houghton (drums), with guest spots (4 of 11 songs) for trumpet (Clay Jenkins) and sax (Bob Sheppard). B+(**) [cd]

The Nu Band: In Memory of Mark Whitecage: The Nu Band Live at the Bop Shop (2018 [2022], Not Two): The alto saxophonist died last year at 83. He founded this quartet in 2001 with Joe Fonda (bass), Lou Grassi (drums), and Roy Campbell (trumpet). After Campbell's death in 2014, they brought in Thomas Heberer and carried on, but this looks to be their swan song. There's a nice symmetry to it, given that their debut album was live at this same Rochester, NY venue. B+(***)

Danily Peréz: Crisálida (2022, Mack Avenue): Pianist, from Panama, studied at Berklee, joined Dizzy Gillespie's United Nation Orchestra. A dozen-plus albums since 1993, this one featuring The Global Messengers, with musicians and singers from around the world. Not the sort of project I can easily follow, but some fine piano. B

Dave Rempis/Elisabeth Harnik/Michael Zerang: Astragaloi (2020 [2022], Aerophonic): Alto/tenor saxophonist, in a trio with piano and drums. Harnik is Austrian, has appeared several times with Rempis and Zerang (both from Chicago). A- [cd]

Huerco S.: Plonk (2022, Incienso): Electronica producer and DJ Brian Leeds, originally from Kansas, based in Germany, fourth album. Odd song out is "Plonk IX" thanks to a SIR E.U. vocal. B+(*)

Mark Turner: Return From the Stars (2019 [2022], ECM): Tenor saxophonist, one of the "tough young tenors" who broke through in the 1990s. Quartet with Jason Palmer (trumpet), Joe Martin (bass), and Jonathan Pinson (drums). B+(***)

Years & Years: Night Call (2022, Polydor): British singer-songwriter Olly Alexander, seems to have a reputation as an actor, third album with his pop group, catchy enough. [Standard edition; at least two more longer ones exist.] B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

John Coltrane Quartet: Song of Praise: New York 1965 Revisited (1965 [2022], Ezz-Thetics): Two live set, belatedly released as One Up, One Down: Live at the Half Note on 2-CD in 2005, reordered and trimmed a bit to fit onto one 79:52 CD. Coltrane plays four long pieces with great intensity, but the Quartet (most especially Tyner) sounds like it's on the verge of breaking. B+(***) [bc]

Sun Ra Arkestra: Nothing Is . . . Completed & Revisited (1966 [2022], Ezz-Thetics): Revisits the 11-piece group's 1966 ESP-Disk album, reordered and expanded from 39:15 to 64:46. Peak period of their space race. B+(***) [bc]

Old music:

Elton Dean Quintet: Welcomet: Live in Brazil, 1986 (1986 [2017], Ogun): Alto saxophonist, also plays saxello, leads a quintet with trumpet (Harry Beckett), trombone (Paul Rutherford), bass (Marcio Mattos), and drums (Liam Genockey). Album appeared on Impetus in 1987 with just the 43:41 title track cut up. Reissue adds a second track, "Rio Rules" (33:53). Rutherford is most impressive. B+(***)

The Dedication Orchestra: Spirits Rejoice (1992, Ogun): Large orchestra organized to pay tribute to the Blue Notes shortly after pianist Chris McGregor's passing (1990), with only one original member (drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo) but practially everyone else who crossed paths with McGregor, which is to say a "who's who" of the British avant-garde: 21 musicians + 3 vocalists (Phil Minton, Maggie Nichols, Julie Tippetts). As advertised: "a mighty recording, in every way." Gets weird at the end. B+(***) [bc]

The Dedication Orchestra: Ixesha (Time) (1994, Ogun, 2CD): Credits list up to 27 names, haven't checked to see who's come and gone, but Steve Beresford signed on as arranger and musical director. I'm more impressed by the flow, at least until the singers take over and slow down "Lost Opportunities." Runs 90:06. Vocals return at the end. B+(***) [bc]

Radu Malfatti/Harry Miller: Bracknell Breakdown (1977 [1978], Ogun): Trombone player from Austria, duo with South African bassist. Two pieces, 38:21, fairly austere pleasures. B+(*) [bc]

Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath: Live at Willisau (1973 [1994], Ogun): South African pianist's post-Blue Notes band, recorded from 1970 up to his death in 1990. The South African rhythm section (McGregor, Harry Miller, and Louis Moholo) backed three saxes (Dudu Pukwana, Evan Parker, Gary Window), three trumpets (Mongezi Feza, Harry Beckett, Marc Charig), and two trombones (Nick Evans, Radu Malfatti). They can get pretty far out, but South African roots run deep, and when they get the jive working (e.g., "Andromeda") it's quite some party. A- [bc]

Chris McGregor: In His Good Time (1977 [2012], Ogun): Solo piano, recorded in Paris, CD greatly expands upon the 1979 album. The African themes sound especially good here. B+(**) [bc]

Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath: Procession: Live at Toulouse (1978 [2013], Ogun): Another hot set, not least because it hews closer to the South African melodies that all the horns (4 saxes, 2 trumpets, 1 trombone) brighten up. Maybe also with Johnny Dyani joining Harry Miller on bass. A- [bc]

Harry Miller: Children at Play (1974, Ogun): Bassist, from South Africa, came to England young and played in Manfred Mann (originally a group led by South African keyboardist Manfred Lubowitz, who assumed the group name as his own). Moved into free jazz circles, taking over bass in Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath, and leading his own group, Harry Miller's Isipingo, with many of the same musicians. He founded Ogun Records with his wife, but died in a car crash in 1983. First album under his name, solo but multi-tracked, with percussion, flute, and effects dubbed in. B+(*) [bc]

Harry Miller: Different Times, Different Places (1973-76 [2013], Ogun): Starts with a short set (23:33) from London with Mike Osborne (sax), Nick Evans (trombone), McGregor (piano), and Louis Moholo (drums), then adds a longer one from Chateauvillon (53:53) with Osborne and Moholo, plus Mark Charig (trumpet), Malcolm Griffiths (trombone), and Keith Tippett (piano). A- [bc]

Harry Miller's Isipingo: Family Affair (1977, Ogun): Bassist-led sextet, only album they released at the time, although a couple more have appeared since. Familiar names: Mike Osborne (alto sax), Mark Charig (trumpet), Malcolm Griffiths (trombone), Keith Tippett (piano), Louis Moholo (drums). B+(***) [bc]

Harry Miller: In Conference (1978, Ogun): Features two saxophonists -- Willem Breuker (soprano/tenor, bass clarinet) and Trevor Watts (alto/soprano) -- with Keith Tippett (piano), Julie Tippetts (voice), and Louis Moholo (drums). Terrific version of the South African "Orange Grove." I'm less delighted by the vocals, which enter on the third track. B+(**) [bc]

Harry Miller: Different Times, Different Places: Volume Two (1977-82 [2016], Ogun): Seven tracks from three sessions. The opening delight takes off on Bernie Holland's guitar, with Alan Wakeman chasing on sax. Wakeman returns with Keith Tippett (piano) on three dicier 1978 tracks. The final three tracks feature Trevor Watts (alto sax), with extra brass. More than a few rough edges. B+(***)

Louis Moholo/Evan Parker/Pule Pheto/Gibo Pheto/Barry Guy Quintet: Bush Fire (1995 [1997], Ogun): Three South Africans -- the Phetos play piano and bass -- with two giants of the English avant-garde on sax (tenor/soprano) and bass. B+(**) [bc]

Louis Moholo-Moholo Meets Mervyn Africa/Pule Pheto/Keith Tippett: Mpumi (1995 [2002], Ogun): Piano-drums duos, one each with two fellow South Africans (13:47, 17:32), the last in three "chapters" totalling 45:28. Mpumi was Moholo's wife. [Nompumelelo Ebronah Moholo, 1947-2001; they met in South Africa in 1973; lived in England until they returned to South Africa in 2005. Moholo adopted the double name around 2002, when the death of a grandmother elevated his tribal status. Some earlier albums have picked up the later name.] B+ [bc]

Louis Moholo-Moholo/Stan Tracey: Khumbula (Remember) (2004 [2005], Ogun): Drums and piano duo. Tracey (1926-2013) has a huge discography I've barely scratched the surface of, and probably slighted (aside from his justly celebrated 1965 Jazz Suite: Inspired by Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood, a full A). He is quite remarkable here, and in good company. A- [bc]

Louis Moholo-Moholo Unit: An Open Letter to My Wife Mpumi (2008 [2009], Ogun): Sextet, the usual mix of South Africans and English avant-gardists -- Jason Yarde and Mtshuka Bonga on saxophones, Pule Pheeto (piano), Orphy Robinson (vibes), and John Edwards (bass) -- plus vocals by Francine Luce. The drummer seems to thrive on chaos, of which there is a bit much. B+(*) [bc]

Louis Moholo-Moholo Unit: For the Blue Notes (2012 [2014], Ogun): Last surviving member of the legendary South African jazz band, although saxophonists Jason Yarde and Ntshuka Bonga played with the band after arriving in England in 1964. Octet, including younger UK stars like Alexander Hawkins (piano) and John Edwards (bass), also Francine Luce (voice). B+(*) [bc]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Pepper Adams With the Tommy Banks Trio: Live at Room at the Top (1972, Reel to Real) [04-23]
  • Mike Allemana: Vonology (Ears & Eyes) [04-15]
  • Dave Brubeck Trio: Live From Vienna 1967 (Brubeck Editions) [04-15]
  • Dan Bruce's Beta Collective: Time to Mind the Mystics (Shifting Paradigm) [04-29]
  • Daniel Carter/Evan Strauss/5-Track/Sheridan Riley: The Uproar in Bursts of Sound and Silence (577) [??-??]
  • Natalie Cressman & Ian Faquini: Auburn Whisper (Cressman Music) [04-15]
  • Sture Ericson/Pat Thomas/Raymond Strid: Bagman Live at Cafe Oto (577) [??-??]
  • Heroes Are Gang Leaders: LeAutoRoiOgraphy (577) [06-17]
  • Amanda Irarrázabal/Miriam van Boer Salmón: Fauces (577) [??-??]
  • Josean Jacobo Trio: Herencia Criolla (self) [03-04]
  • Ben Markley Big Band With Ari Hoenig: Ari's Fun House (OA2) [04-15]
  • Jessica Pavone/Lukas Koenig/Matt Mottel: Spam Likely (577) [??-??]
  • Rich Pellegrin: Passage: Solo Improvisations II [04-15]
  • Kali Rodriguez-Peña: Mélange (Truth Revolution) [03-04]
  • Ches Smith: Interpret It Well (Pyroclastic) [05-06]
  • Somi: Zenzile: The Reimagination of Miriam Makeba (Salon Africana) [03-04]
  • SSWAN [Jessica Ackerley/Patrick Shiroishi/Chris Williams/Luke Stewart/Jason Nazary]: Invisibility Is an Unnatural Disorder (577) [??-??]
  • The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: The 2022 Jazz Heritage Series (self-released)
  • Jordan Vanhemert: Nomad (Origin) [04-15]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Music Week

March archive (done).

Music: Current count 37597 [37555] rated (+42), 128 [125] unrated (+3).

Failed to get my Book Roundup post done last week, or even to make any significant headway on it. Instead, I wrote a fitful Speaking of Which, which left me in a very bad mood. I'm not sure I can explain why, or whether I even want to, so let's leave it at that.

Meanwhile, I listened to some records last week, as you can see. For much of the week, I had little trouble deciding what to listen to next. I have a rather limited but functional metacritic file, which urged me to waste time on the likes of Alt-J and Animal Collective (neither as bad as I feared, but with different redeeming merits). I noticed that Best of Jazz has started a New Jazz Releases 2022 page (they cite me in their intro), which led me to identify several prospects. Among the things they pointed me to were Bandcamp reissues from Enja/Yellowbird -- misidentified as new releases. I've also spent a good deal of time on the Ogun Records Bandcamp, which I discovered last week, when I went looking for Blue Notes for Mongezi (and found the even better Blue Notes for Johnny). I expect to continue with Ogun next week. (A quandary there on reissue dates: many are new enough by Bandcamp dates to qualify for this or last year's lists, but I've generally gone with either the original LP date or the most appropriate CD reissue -- hence they're showing up under "Old Music" here.) Other records came from various Facebook EW lists, including Gonora Sounds and Hailey Whitters.

The odd record out in many ways is Nova Twins, a 2020 release (too new for old? too old for new?). I probably noticed it at the time -- barely, it got 10 points in my 2020 EOY Aggregate -- but what brought it to my attention was that the daughter of a friend of a friend of my wife's was in it, a good old word-of-mouth grapevine. Not something I expect to go back to often, but exemplary in a fairly unique way, enough so I gave it the benefit of the grade.

The March, 2022 Streamnotes file (link above) is wrapped up (except for the Music Week excerpts), with 169 records (123 new music, 109 of them 2022 releases).

New records reviewed this week:

Alt-J: The Dream (2022, Infectious Music): English band, won a Mercury Prize for their 2012 debut, fourth album, flows comfortably, kind of like Pink Floyd but has yet to interest me. B

Animal Collective: Time Skiffs (2022, Sub Pop): Experimental pop band, founded 2000, seemed likely to be a big thing with 2009's Merriweather Post Pavilion (at least with critics, as it won the Pazz & Jop poll, leading a long list of albums I more/less hated: Phoenix, Neko Case, Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, Flaming Lips, Avett Brothers; however, the album peaked at 13, not even gold, the follow-up sold a quarter as many copies, and later albums have come out at increasing intervals -- this 6 years after its predecessor). Usual complaints here: loose sense of time, excess pseudo-psychedelic shimmer. B

Steven Bernstein's MTO: Good Time Music (Community Music Vol. 2) (2022, Royal Potato Family): Trumpet player, formed his Millennial Territory Orchestra in 2005 after working on Robert Altman's Kansas City, recreating the blues-based "territory bands" of the 1930s. Ten-piece band plus featured singer Catherine Russell. B+(***) [bc]

Black Flower: Magma (2022, Sdban Ultra): Belgian quintet, led by Nathan Daems (sax/flute), half-dozen albums since 2013, "mixing Ethio-jazz and oriental with afrobeat and dub." One spoken vocal by Meskerem Mees. Enticing grooves with rich textures. B+(***) [sp]

Black Lives: From Generation to Generation (2021 [2022], Jammin' Colors, 2CD): Produced by Stefany Calembert, with bassist Reggie Washington prominent, "new work on the subject of racism and Black realities," out on a Belgian label. Some pieces are explicitly political (e.g., "Existing Conditions"), others content to explore grooves and tones. Mostly names I recognize come from jazz, but too eclectic to really follow. B+(**) [cd] [03-25]

Stephan Crump: Rocket Love (2020-21 [2022], Papillon Sounds): Bassist, impressive list of albums since 2001, mostly in trios with guitar or piano. This one is solo, curated from a year-long subscriber-supported series, not planned as a pandemic project but it worked out that way. B+(**)

James Gaiters Soul Revival: Understanding Reimagined (2021 [2022], self-released): Drummer, from Columbus, Ohio, leads a soul jazz quartet with Robert Mason (organ), Kevin Turner (guitar), and the magnificent Eddie Bayard (tenor sax, I recognize him as Edwin from many Mark Lomax albums). Six covers, ranging from Sonny Rollins to Isaac Hayes. B+(***) [cd]

Dave Gisler Trio With Jaimie Branch and David Murray: See You Out There (2021 [2022], Intakt): Swiss guitarist, third Trio album with Raffaele Bossard (bass) and Lionel Friedli (drums), the second adding Branch on trumpet, this one also joined by the tenor sax legend. They get messy fast. B+(**) [sp]

Gonora Sounds: Hard Times Never Kill (2022, The Vital Record): Led by singer Daniel Gonora, a "family band that has been busking on the streets of Zimbabwe since 2004," present their debut album. I don't buy the title for a minute, but they're so vital and so compelling you can excuse, perhaps even delight in, their sense of indestructibility. A

Joy Guidry: Radical Acceptance (2022, Whited Sepulchre): Plays bassoon and electronics. Starts with a spoken word piece called "Just Because I Have a Dick Doesn't Mean I'm a Man." Then wanders off into dark ambience and strings, sax, and drums, with a brief dip into "Down in the Valley." B+(**)

Michael Leonhart Orchestra: The Normyn Suites (2019-21 [2022], Sunnyside): Trumpet player (credits here include many instruments), son of bassist Jay Leonhart, won a Grammy while still in high school, tenth album since 1995, side credits have mostly been in rock and soul. Several different things here. Normyn was a dachshund and the two suites were written during her last days, They're lovely. In between there is a spoken word piece, "Radio Is Everything," read by Elvis Costello, with Bill Frisell and Nels Cline. Costello sings a couple more songs. Ends with two quartet tracks, featuring Donny McCaslin, dedicated to Kenny Dorham and Wayne Shorter. B+(***) [cd]

Rudresh Mahanthappa: Animal Crossing EP (2022, Whirlwind, EP): Alto saxophonist, reconvenes his 2020 Hero Trio, with François Moutin (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums), for four songs, 22:39. B+(**) [bc]

Vic Mensa: Vino Valentino (2022, Roc Nation, EP): Chicago rapper, sings here, father from Ghana (where the famous name is Mensah). Mostly EPs, this one 4 tracks, 11:31. B+(*)

Tony Monaco: Four Brothers (2022, Chicken Coup/Summit): Columbus, Ohio organ player, has a dozen albums going back to 2001, wrote the title piece here and a reprise with little thought to the Jimmy Giuffre standard, but to celebrate his exceptional quartet, sharing Kevin Turner (guitar) and Edwin Bayard (tenor/soprano sax) with James Gaiters' group. Bayard, again, is superb, his surprise turn on "Lush Life" a revelation. B+(***) [cd]

Sean Nelson's New London Big Band: Social Hour! (2022, MAMA): Trombonist, New London is a town in Connecticut (but this was recorded in Waterford), big band, plus some extra flutes and harp in spots, the trombone section swelling to nine on one tracks. Nelson wrote 6 (of 12) tracks, with other band members contributing pieces, so the only standard is "When You Wish Upon a Star." B [cd]

Nova Twins: Who Are the Girls (2020, 333 Wreckords Crew): British post-punk duo, Amy Love (guitar/vocals) and Georgia South (bass/keyboards), debut EP 2016, first album, short (10 songs, 30:22). Hard, in your face, full of spit and fire, not exactly metal, but look out for flying shrapnel. A-

Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono (2022, Canvasback): Unlike many, I didn't hate her when she broke up the Beatles, but I've never gotten into her own records, respecting a couple HMs -- Season of Glass (1981), and Take Me to the Land of Hell (2013) -- while disliking other, most of all the Walking on Thin Ice "best-of" (1971-85, graded A by Christgau but C+ by me). So I didn't expect to recognize any of the 14 songs here, or many of the artists: familiar names all, but mostly David Byrne, Yo La Tengo, and Stephin Merritt, with Deerhoof and Faming Lips typical of the second tier (and having more fun). B+(*)

Punkt. Vrt. Plastik: Zurich Concert (2021 [2022], Intakt): Piano-bass-drums trio, names on the cover -- Kaja Draksler, Petter Eldh, Christian Lillinger -- third album since 2016. Rhythm jumps around a lot, a perpetual motion machine. B+(***)

Cécile McLorin Salvant: Ghost Song (2022, Nonesuch): Jazz singer, from Florida, father Haitian, mother French, debut 2010, wins polls plus a Macarthur Genius Grant, sixth album, first time she wrote most of her songs. Still, the covers are where her skills are most evident: a Kate Bush opener, an a cappella "Unquiet Grave" to close, best of all a Brecht/Weill song, "The World Is Mean." B+(**)

Lisa Ullén/Elsa Bergman/Anna Lund: Space (2021 [2022], Relative Pitch): Born in South Korea, studied classical music in Stockholm, switching to free jazz in the 1990s. Trio with bass and drums. B+(***)

Hailey Whitters: Raised (2022, Big Loud/Pigasus): Country singer-songwriter, originally from Iowa, moved to Nashville, fourth album. Songs reflect back to her native corn fields, but she finds country everywhere, even where "The Grass Is Legal." A-

Yung Kayo: DFTK (2022, Sevensevenseven/YSL): Rapper Kai Green, from DC, based in LA, first album after an EP and a bunch of singles. B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Rabih Abou-Khalil: The Flood and the Fate of the Fish (2017-18 [2019], Enja): Oud player, from Beirut, based in France (Cannes), has two dozen albums since 1982, building jazz from Arabic traditions and finding common threads around the Mediterranean. Group includes ney, soprano sax, violin, accordion, and drums, with Portuguese Fado singer Ricardo Ribeiro on three tracks with old texts. B+(**) [bc]

Old music:

The Blue Notes: Legacy: Live in South Afrika 1964 (1964 [1995], Ogun): South African jazz group, gained some fame at the 1963 National Jazz Festival in Johannesburg, but ran afoul of the Apartheid order -- pianist Chris McGregor was white, the others black -- so went into exile in 1964, joining the burgeoning avant-garde scene in England. This is what they sounded like originally, with two saxophones (Dudu Pukwana on alto and Nikele Moyake on tenor), trumpet (Mongezi Feza), bass (Johnny Dyani), and drums (Louis Moholo-Moholo). B+(***) [bc]

Lol Coxhill: Coxhill on Ogun (1977-78 [1998], Ogun): British soprano saxophonist (1932-2012), also credited with "loose floorboard" here, on the 16:24 solo "Diver." This combines two albums, The Joy of Paranoia (1978, with multiple guitars on the first side, Veryan Weston's piano on the second), and Diverse (1977, one side solo, the other adding cello, bass, and percussion). B+(***) [bc]

EDQ [Elton Dean Quartet]: They All Be on This Old Road (1977, Ogun): Saxophonist (alto/saxello), got his start in Bluesology (1966-67), led by Long John Baldry, remembered mostly as the sources for their piano player Reginald Dwight's stage name. Dean went on to play with Michael Tippett from 1968, and Soft Machine 1969-72. Quartet here with Tippett (piano), Chris Laurence (bass), and Louis Moholo (drums). Finishes very strong. A- [bc]

Elton Dean's Ninesense: Happy Daze + Oh! For the Edge (1976-77 [2009], Ogun): Nine-piece band, doubling up on sax (Dean and Alan Skidmore), trumpet (Harry Beckett and Mark Charig), and trombone (Nick Evans and Radu Malfatti), with Keith Tippett (piano), Harry Miller (bass), and Louis Moholo (drums). Reissue combines their first two albums. B+(***) [bc]

Elton Dean: Elton Dean's Unlimited Saxophone Company (1989 [1990], Ogun): Three saxophonists -- Dean (alto/saxello), Paul Dunmall (tenor/baritone), and Trevor Watts (alto) -- backec by bass (Paul Rogers) and drums (Tony Levin). B+(***) [bc]

Dusan Goykovich: Swinging Macedonia (1966 [1983], Enja): Serbian trumpet player (b. 1931), from a session in Germany which basically kicked off a long and illustrious career (latest album 2014). Sextet includes two saxophonists (Nathan Davis and Eddie Busnello), Mal Waldron (piano), bass, and drums. B+(**) [bc]

Louis Moholo Octet: Spirits Rejoice! (1978, Ogun): Five tunes, all by South Africans (including three former Blue Notes: Moholo, Mongezi Feza, and Johnny Dyani), but the drummer (with two bassists and two trombonists) fell in with the cream of the British avant-garde: Evan Parker (tenor sax), Kenny Wheeler (trumpet), and Keith Tippett (piano). After the roughness, closes with a solemn piece that translates to "Times of Sorrow." B+(***)

Louis Moholo-Moholo/Dudu Pukwana/Johnny Dyani with Rev. Frank Wright: Spiritual Knowledge and Grace (1979 [2004], Ogun): Live set from Eindhoven, Netherlands, a trio of South African Blue Notes (drums, alto sax, bass), joined by a tenor saxophonist from America -- never seen him referred to as Rev. before, but he's always been a disciple of Albert Ayler -- with Pukwana and Dyani also playing some piano (which seems to pick the other up). B+(**) [bc]

Louis Moholo's Viva-La-Black: Exile (1990-91 [1991], Ogun): South African drummer, following up his 1988 Viva La Black album, group a septet, starts off with two pieces by tenor saxophonist Sean Bergin and one by guitarist Frank Douglas, followed by four Moholo originals. B+(**) [bc]

Louis Moholo's Viva-La-Black: Freedom Tour: Live in South Afrika 1993 (1993 [1994], Ogun): For the South African exiles here, a triumphant return tour, including English saxophonists Sean Bergin and Toby Delius. B+(***) [bc]

Louis Moholo-Moholo Quartet: 4 Blokes (2013 [2014], Ogun): With Jason Yarde (sax), Alexander Hawkins (piano), and John Edwards (bass). B+(***)

Mike Osborne Trio: All Night Long: The Willisau Concert (1975 [2012], Ogun): British alto saxophonist (1941-2007), major figure in the British avant-garde (though he tends to get overlooked -- I see 4 Penguin Guide 4-star albums in my database). Backed by South Africans Harry Miller (bass) and Louis Moholo (drums). Sax is intense, a little rough, but quite a performance from the drummer. Reissue adds two previously unreleased traks (26:36). A- [bc]

Mike Osborne Trio/Quintet: Border Crossing/Marcel's Muse (1974-77 [2004], Ogun): Combines two albums on one CD (79:31), the first a trio with Harry Miller and Louis Moholo, the second adding Mark Charig (trumpet) and Jeff Green (guitar), replacing the drummer with Peter Nykyruj. A- [bc]

Alan Skidmore/Mike Osborne/John Surman: S.O.S. (1975, Ogun): Three British saxophonists (tenor, alto, baritone/soprano and bass clarinet), Surman also plays synth and the others add some percussion, so it's not purely sax choir. B+(**) [bc]

John Stevens/Evan Parker: Corner to Corner + The Longest Night (1977-93 [2007], Ogun, 2CD): Drums and soprano sax duo, Stevens also playing cornet. The 1976 session was originally released as two volumes of The Longest Night, edging over into the second disc here. The balance of the second disc is the 1993 album. Remarkable, but at length the limited sonic range wears thin. B+(**) [bc]

Aki Takase: St. Louis Blues (2001 [2020], Enja): Japanese pianist, moved to Berlin 1988, joined Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, married German avant-garde founder Alexander von Schlippenbach, has a substantial discography of her own, including several looks back at the jazz tradition, like this one. Reprises six W.C. Handy classics, with two of her pieces, plus contributions by band members Rudi Mahal (bass clarinet) and Nils Wogram (trombone). Also with Fred Frith (guitar) and Paul Lovens (drums). Too erratic, although "Memphis Blues" makes the chaos work. B+(**)

Keith Tippett/Julie Tippetts/Harry Miller/Frank Perry: Ovary Lodge (1975 [1976], Ogun): All improv, group played together for three years but only recorded this one album. All but Miller (bass) credited with voice, although that's mostly Tippetts' domain (she was married to the pianist, who was born with the 's' but dropped it early in his recording career. Aside from percussion (Perry), other instruments: harmonium, recorder, er-hu, sopranino recorder, hsiao, sheng. B [bc]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Martin Bejerano: #Cubanamerican (Figgland) [05-27]
  • Will Bernard: Pond Life (Dreck to Disk) [05-27]
  • Jean Fineberg: & Jazzphoria (Pivotal) [04-08]
  • Stephen Philip Harvey Jazz Orchestra: Smash! (Next Level) [06-17]
  • Charles Mingus: The Lost Album: From Ronnie Scott's (1972, Resonance, 3CD) [04-29]
  • Yu Nishiyama: A Lotus in the Mud (Next Level) [05-20]
  • Keith Oxman: This One's for Joey (Capri) [04-15]
  • Fabian Willmann Trio: Balance (CYH) [04-15]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Music Week

March archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 37555 [37510] rated (+45), 125 [146] unrated (-21).

Was expecting to have to make excuses for another rated count drop, but I wound up same as last week, with just one fewer A- grade. I had a lot of trouble thinking up records to look up. Then I hit on the idea of picking off records from the unrated list by looking for streaming copies instead of digging the physical discs from wherever they may be. Aside from 19 still pending new releases, the rest are things I once had physical copies of, including some old vinyl, but never got around to playing them. Over the years, I knocked that number down from a high of 975 to a low of 125, but it had crept up in recent weeks as the Spring promos came in. Unfortunately, there is very little else I can do that with.

I also wound up slowing down for Charli XCX and Rosalía: neither was a slam dunk A- first (or second) time through, but not knowing where to go next, I gave them extra chances, and eventually decided they made the grade. Neither are in the upper half of my 2022 A-list, but even the top half feel rather tentative at the moment, but with 25 A- records at the moment, and B+ records divided 36-45-38, the new year list is shaping up nicely.

Back when I was struggling with what to play next, it occurred to me that it would be easy to open up a metadata list, since I was already doing a tracking file. It's very sketchy at present, and I doubt I'll spend the time to bring it (let alone keep it) up to date. The main source so far is AOTY, working down their "highest rated" list and then branching off into various publication "highest rated" lists. Basically, albums get a point for each publication that gives it an 80+ rating, marked with an abbreviation:* (see legend). Thus far I'm accepting everything except for some metal specialists (, Distorted Sound, Metal Hammer, Metal Injection, Metal Sucks; although some metal sneaks through, mostly covered by pubs that lean that way but aren't so exclusive, like Kerrang and Sputnik). To this I will add specialists in areas that don't get compiled by AOTY (I've already scrounged through Saving Country Music's reviews, looking for 1.75+ "guns up"; relatively high priorities include AAJ, FJC, and DownBeat). I've noted my grades (scored 0-5, from B to A/A+), but haven't fully loaded them. I'll add various personal lists as I see them (Phil Overeem, for sure), so I'm guilty of trying to skew this a bit towards what interests me.

I expect to do a Book Roundup later this week. I have enough material now (40 blurbs + related lists + briefly noted), and close to enough to follow up before long. Hoping to avoid a Speaking of Which, although the world can be cruel and aggravating. For example, I listened to a Democracy Now interview with Alfred McCoy, who's one of the writers appearing regularly at TomDispatch, where he was droning on about how China and Russia are forming "a new world order" -- a common panic theme popular with the mandarins who dominate American foreign policy thinking (something he's supposed to be a critic of). Then I looked at Intelligencer, only to find two attacks directed at "the left," one by Jonathan Chait on education, the other by Eric Levitz on Ukraine. I agree with very little of what they're attacking, but can't help taking such slanders personally. But perhaps my time would be better spent working on the book outline? Or finally fixing my XSS problems? Or just figuring out the jigsaw puzzle?

New records reviewed this week:

Central Cee: 23 (2022, self-released): London rapper Oakley Caesar-Su, second mixtape, something called "UK drill" for its fast, staccato delivery. B+(***)

Charli XCX: Crash (2022, Asylum): British pop star Charlotte Aitchison, fifth album, four singles, two with guest stars. Big production, in some ways the top of her game, but didn't quite click for me, until the delirious "You Don't Know Me" broke through. A-

Curren$y & the Alchemist: Continuance (2022, Jet Life): Rapper Shante Franklin, many albums since 2009, some with producer Daniel Maman. B+(*)

DJ 809: EightOh! (2022, self-released, EP): From New Jersey, seven short pieces, beats stripped down and popped up, with talkover (14:45). B+(*) [bc]

DJ 809: Unexpected (2022, self-released, EP): Same cover art, three more tracks (8:25), all with "Club" in the title, two with "Beat," the other with "Remix." Runs a bit down. B [bc]

Dave Douglas: Secular Psalms (2020-21 [2022], Greenleaf Music): Great trumpet player, hit-and-miss composer, was commissioned to write ten pieces "inspired by Jan van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece, as well as music by 15-Century Flemish composer Guillaume Dufay." Libretto sung by Berlinde Deman in Ghent -- each musician was recorded separately; with Marta Warelis (piano), Frederik Leroux (guitar), Tomeka Reid (cello), and Lander Gyselinck (drums). Some great trumpet stuck into the mass. B+(*) [cd] [04-01]

Bill Easley: Diversitonic (2022, Sunnyside): Tenor saxophonist, celebrating a 60-year career but doesn't have a lot of albums to show for it -- half-dozen albums under his own name, side credits with Jimmy McGriff, maybe twenty more. B+(**)

Kelly Eisenhour: I Just Found Out About Love (2022, BluJazz): Standards singer, released a previous album in 2007, so not as prolific as her bio says. Recorded this at Capitol Records, which she found inspirational, but also give credit to the rhythm section (Jeff Hamilton, Tamir Hendelman, Christoph Luty), and to the songs. B+(**) [cd]

Etran de L'Aïr: Agadez (2022, Sahel Sounds): Tuareg group from Agadez, in Niger, in the Saharan Dessert near the Aïr Mountains, a town of 100,000 which has launched a number of world renowned bands with fiery guitars and chanting choruses. Second album, not unlike the others, and every bit as exciting. A- [bc]

Eubanks Evans Experience: EEE (2022, Imani): Duo, guitarist Kevin Eubanks and pianist Orrin Evans, both first appeared in the mid-1990s. Fairly quiet affair. B+(*) [cd]

The Grace Fox Big Band: Eleven O Seven (2022, Next Level/Blue Collar): Young trumpet player, still a student at Manhattan School of Music, organized the all-female big band, wrote a couple pieces, arranged others. Sounds fairly conventional at first, but grows on you -- particularly the closer, a Janis Ian song, striking with vocals by Alexis Fox and a smashing sax solo by Sarah Hanahan. B+(**) [cd]

Matt Hall: I Hope to My Never (2022, Summit): Trombonist, toured the country in the USMC Jazz Orchestra, studied with Jon Faddis, got a Masters degree at San Diego State, debut album, with Charlie Arbelaez on alto sax (wrote one song, to seven by Hall plus one standard). B+(*) [cd]

Hippo Campus: LP3 (2022, Grand Jury): Indie band from St. Paul, third album since 2016 (plus two volumes of Demos). B+(**)

Ray Wylie Hubbard: Co-Starring Too (2022, Big Machine): Alt-country singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, called his 1970s band the Cowboy Twinkies, didn't get my attention until 2010-17, with a string of four top-notch records (e.g., The Grifter's Hymnal). Slacked off with his 2020 Co-Starring, leaning on old friends and hangers on, a formula reprised here. But while he gets help, this isn't a duets showcase, and his songs are as tough and onery as any of late. A-

Jenny Hval: Classic Objects (2022, 4AD): Norwegian singer-songwriter, started in a gothic metal band, recorded two albums as Rockettothesky, five now under her own name, one more as Lost Girls, plus has published three novels. Occurs to me she doesn't have an identifiable style or sound: she's a master of disguise, not that I know what these elaborate artifacts are meant to signify. B+(**)

Eugenie Jones: Players (2021 [2022], Open Mic, 2CD): Jazz/r&b singer, writes most of her songs (10 of 15 here), the rest standards, with Nina Simone an outlier. Long list of notable musicians here, rotated in small groups. Would have fit on a single CD (69 minutes), but that's not how they do things these days. B+(**)

Junglepussy: JP5000 (2022, No Label, EP): New York rapper Shayna McHayle, has a couple albums with titles like JP3 and JP4, framed this five track, 11:42 release as an offshoot. Nice flow, until it trickles out. B+(*) [sp]

Xose Miguélez: Contradictio (2021 [2022], Origin): Tenor saxophonist, from Galicia in Spain, debut album in 2019, leads a quartet with piano (Jean-Michel Pilc), bass, and drums. Four originals, one by Pilc, one trad folk song, some standards, one called "Someday My Monk Will Come." B+(***) [cd] [03-18]

Noah Preminger/Max Light: Songs We Love (2022, SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, mainstream, bunches of records since 2007. Light is a guitarist, has a trio album from 2018, appeared on several albums with Preminger, also with Jason Palmer and Kevin Sun. Sounds nice, but perhaps they love these songs too much (or maybe I just don't love them enough). B+(*)

Rosalía: Motomami (2022, Columbia): Spanish pop star, third album, the previous one (El Mal Querer) topped the US Latin Pop chart and got a lot of good press here, but I wasn't taken with it. This one wasn't easy, and I still have a dozen or more spots that rub me the wrong way, plus the more general issue that I don't understand a word (not something that necessarily bothers me), but the odd beats and surrounding murk won me over. Enough surprises that this will show up on EOY lists (but probably not mine). A-

Marta Sanchez: SAAM (Spanish American Art Museum) (2021 [2022], Whirlwind): Spanish pianist, based in New York, half dozen albums since 2008. Quintet with two saxophonists (Alex LoRe and Roman Filiu), bass, and drums, aside from one cut in the middle that adds Camila Meza (voice and guitar), Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet), and Charlotte Greve (synths). I'm reminded of Monk, except where Monk would throw the odd note in to unbalance you, Sanchez keeps changing, twirling off-balance without falling down. A- [cd]

Idit Shner & Mhondoro: Heat Wave (2021 [2022], OA2): Alto saxophonist, studied in Oklahoma City and at UNT, based in Oregon, sixth album since 2008. Mhondoro is "the lion spirit in Shona (Zimbabwe)." Group a sextet with piano, bass, drums, percussion, and mbira, with occasional vocals. B+(***) [cd]

John Stowell/Dave Glenn & the Hawcaptak Quartet: Violin Memory (2018-20 [2022], Origin): Guitarist, many albums since 1977. Glenn is a trombonist, teaches in Walla Walla, has an album from 2009, presents a nice contract to the guitar and the string quartet. B+(*) [cd]

Charlie Sutton: Trout Takes (2022, Chuckwagon, EP): Country singer-songwriter, learned his trout in northern Idaho, has a previous album with a fish on the cover, Primitive Songs for Modern Times. Eight songs, 25:14. B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Miles Davis Quintets: Stockholm Live 1967 & 1969 Revisited (1967-69 [2022], Ezz-Thetics): Two live sets on one 79:41 CD, the first with the legendary 1960s quintet (Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams) in top form, the second retaining Shorter but swapping in a younger and ultimately even more famous rhythm section (Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette) -- the latter a brief and somewhat uncomfortable feint toward the avant-garde, before Shorter left and Davis invented fusion. The Stockholm concerts were part of longer European tours, which Legacy compiled into terrific 3-CD boxes as the first two volumes of their Bootleg Series. So this is either redundant, or a perfectly fine introduction. A- [bc]

The Detroit Escalator Co.: Soundtrack [313] + 6 (1996, Mental Groove/Musique Pour La Danse): Detroit techno producer Neil Ollivierra, started around 1988-89, seems to be his first album, reissued with six extra tracks. B+(***) [bc]

Hal Galper Trio: Invitation to Openness: Live at Big Twio (2008 [2022], Origin): Piano-bass-drums trio, one more of many Galper has led since 1976. He's a terrific player, but it takes a bit more to make one of his albums stand out -- cf. Art-Work, another performance from the same year, but with Reggie Workman and Rashied Ali. B+(**) [cd]

Vis-a-Vis: The Best of Vis-a-Vis in Congo Style (1976 [2021], We Are Busy Bodies): Group from Ghana, Discogs lists a fair number of records 1975-82. Despite title (could have been recorded earlier), this was the second, six pretty decent highlife tracks. B+(***) [bc]

Old music:

Blue Notes: Blue Notes for Mongezi (1975 [1976], Ogun): A tribute to the late trumpeter Mongezi Feza by his former bandmates -- Chris McGregor (piano), Dudu Pukwana (alto sax), Johnny Dyani (bass), Louis Moholo (drums) -- the group that brought township jive-based jazz to Europe as South Africa became impossible for an integrated group. I first noticed Feza in a Robert Wyatt album, a lovely feature, and soon fell in love with the irresistible groove of Pukwana's In the Townships. One long jam session cut into four LP sides (later expanded to fill 2-CD), with bit of source music wafting in and out. B+(***) [yt]

Blue Notes: Blue Notes for Johnny (1987, Ogun): And then they were three, with the death of bassist Johnny Mbizo Dyani, leaving Dudu Pukwana (soprano/alto sax), Chris McGregor (piano), and Louis Moholo (drums). Not that a bassist woldn't help, but Dyani's pieces capture the South African groove, with plenty to build on. [PS: Digital adds three alternate takes.] A- [bc]

Boston Camerta/Joel Cohen: Nueva España: Close Encounters in the New World 1590-1690 (1993, Erato): Boston-based early music ensemble, long directed by Cohen (1969-2008). Mostly a vocal group, not my thing, although it picks up a bit toward the end. B

Betty Davis: Nasty Gal (1975, Island): Née Mabry, changed her name when she married Miles Davis (1968-69). Recorded some tracks for Columbia then, but they were shelved until 2016. She did finally get an album released in 1973. This was her third, and last -- at least until a 1976 album appeared in 2009. Funk, gritty enough to hope for a great album, but too inconsistent to achieve one. B+(**)

Betty Davis: The Columbia Years 1968-1969 (1968-69 [2016], Columbia/Legacy): Unreleased demos, three from 1968 arranged by Hugh Masekela, the other six (total 31:04) produced by Miles Davis and Teo Macero, with credits that will raise some eyebrows (Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin, Larry Young, Mitch Mitchell) although they could be anyone here. B+(*)

Carlos Franzetti/Allison Brewster Franzetti: Alborada (2011, Amapola): Argentine pianist, composer, has done Latin jazz and classical, and (especially) soundtracks. Shares headline here with his wife, another pianist, their work backed by bass (Robert Balzar), drums (Jiri Slavicek), and the City of Prague Philharmonic, adding lushness to the drama.. B

Waylon Jennings: A Man Called Hoss (1987, MCA): Country singer, lots of albums 1964-2012, so this autobiographical concept came in midway. Roger Murrah co-wrote the songs, which mostly do him proud. The annotation isn't a plus. B+(*)

Jacob Merlin: Alchemy of Soul (2009, Backline): Keyboard player, from Portland, not sure how much more he's done, or what the credits on this one are: are the vocals his? All originals, funk rhythm, horn section. Loud and brassy, but not very memorable. B-

Angela Strehli: Deja Blue (1998, House of Blues): Lubbock, Texas blues guitarist-singer, debut 1987, part of the trio that cut Dreams Come True in 1993, moved to California after that, recording a couple more albums, widely spaced after this one. B+(**) [yt]

Okay Temiz: Drummer of Two Worlds (1980, Finnadar): Turkish percussionist, back cover has a picture of his instrument array, including some things he invented. In the 1970s, he moved to Sweden, where he played with Don Cherry, and in a trio with South Africans Johnny Dyani and Mongezi Feza. B+(***)

Tronzo Trio: Roots (1994, Knitting Factory Works): Guitarist David Tronzo, from Rochester, developed a reputation in the mid-1990s playing jazz on slide guitar, took a job at Berklee in 2002, has recorded only occasionally since. Plays dobro as well as guitar, for a bit of bluegrass tone. Trio with Stomu Takeishi (bass) and Jeff Hirschfeld (drums) mostly, with Billy Martin (percussion) on two tracks, and producer Jimi Zhivago (dobro and guitar) on three. Mix of originals and eclectic covers. B+(**) [bc]

Papa Wemba/Modogo Gian Franco Ferre Et L'Orchestra Viva La Musica: Le Jour J: Nouvelle Generation a Paris (1988, Sonodisc): Congolese star, a founder of Zaiko Langa Langa, went solo in 1974 and recorded dozens of albums, this short album (4 tracks, 27:29) one introducing singer Ferre, grooves like you'd expect. B+(**) [sp]

Putte Wickman & Red Mitchell: The Very Thought of You (1987-88 [1988], Dragon): Swedish clarinet player (1924-2006), has a 10-inch album from 1949 but didn't really get going until 1966. Duets with the American bassist, who plays piano on three tracks. Standards. B+(**)

Putte Wickman: Putte Wickman in Trombones (1992, Phontastic): The clarinetist is backed by four trombones and a rhythm section. B+(**) [sp]

Putte Wickman & Ernie Wilkins Almost Big Band: Kinda Dukish (2004 [2005], Gazell): Recorded in Copenhagen, the clarinetist plus 12 others (4 saxes, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones) playing Wilkins' arrangements of Ellington tunes. B+(**)

Christine Wodrascka/Ramon Lopez: Aux Portes Du Matin: Live at Instants Chavirés (2000 [2001], Leo): French pianist, 18 albums since 1994, this a duo with the drummer (also French, 25 albums since 1992). B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Tony Monaco: Four Brothers (Chicken Coup/Summit) [03-11]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Music Week

March archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 37510 [37465] rated (+45), 146 [149] unrated (-3).

I wanted to close this off Sunday evening to get it out of the way, but yesterday's political post ran well into the evening, and I had had unpacking to do. I also had a programming task to do, and that (plus other errands) wiped out Monday afternoon, and into the evening.

Don Malcolm requested the change: that I add A- albums to the A/A+ breakouts in the ratings database. He noted how rarely I used A/A+ in recent years, and argued that expanding the selection would be more useful. That made sense to me, and I figured it would be an easy change, but hadn't reckoned with the re-learning curve on a set of programs I originally hacked together 20+ years ago (mostly make and shell scripts, using awk and sed, but the biggest one is in C++, which I'm especially rusty in). And while the change turned out to be as simple as I expected (changing 14 to 13 in two places), I found other issues that needed attention:

  • I noticed I wasn't generating a miscellaneous A-list file, so I added that.
  • I saw that I had a make formula for a single A/A+ file, but hadn't made it available, so I added a link. I also decided not to expand it to include A- records (with just A/A+ the count is 1394), so I went back and made the 14-to-13 change switchable.
  • In looking at the A/A+ file, I found five errors, so I fixed them. It took a while to determine they were in the data and not the program itself. Good thing, given how obscure I'm now finding the program.

One thing I noticed but didn't do anything about was the granularity of the files. I haven't, for instance, generated new files for rock or jazz after 2020. I've spent enough time today looking at the code that I have a pretty good idea how to do that, but still don't see the need. A better solution would be to move all of the data into a real database, which could then be sliced and diced as thin as one might desire. Big job, though.

Moving on, another fairly large batch of new records this week, with the majority (34 of 41, so 83%) 2022 releases. A-list items are both numerous and diverse. One source was Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide. (Pleased to see Fimber Bravo and A Gift to Pops there -- records I stuck my neck out in touting. Also Big Thief, but everybody knew about that. I also gave an A- to Playboi Carti, over a year ago.) Other tips came from all over the place, or from nowhere at all.

No time for a 2021 summary. I've done some minor maintenance on the usual lists, but I've gotten over spending any significant time on them. I'm thinking now I'll turn from this to do a fairly quick Speaking of Which (most, but not all, on Ukraine), then get back to working on a Book Roundup. Draft file for the latter has 32 books at the moment, plus 212 books in the scratch file (mostly unwritten), so I have enough for a post (maybe two: standard is 40 blurb notes + another 30-60 listings).

Just finished Astra Taylor's first book, The People' Platform. I bought it several years ago on a friend's recommendation, but didn't pick it up until recently, after I read her second book, on democracy. One thing I'm impressed by is the breadth of her reading, and her ability to make connections between a wide range of sources. (My Book Roundups help me fake it, but give me a ballpark idea of what she's drawing on.) Like David Graeber, her politics developed out of Occupy Wall Street, but she strikes me as both more flexible and more innovative. I have a new collection by her, Remake the World: Essays, Reflections, Rebellions, so that's the obvious thing to pick up next. Still, the books exercise is suggesting a lot more I'd like to read.

New records reviewed this week:

75 Dollar Bill: Live Ateliers Claus (2016-19 [2021], self-released): Saharan-influenced instrumental rock duo -- Rick Brown (percussion) and Che Chen (guitar) -- started around 2013, one of those artists who released a lot of live tapes during the pandemic, leaving us with too much material available, and no easy job of sorting out which albums are more valuable than others. This combines two sets, one a duo from 2016 (22:34), the other from 2019 (50:21, with Andrew Lafkas on bass). B+(**) [bc]

Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul: Topical Dancer (2022, Deewee/Because Music): Born in France, grew up in Belgium, traces her ancestry back to Nigeria (Yoruba) via Martinique and Guadeloupe. First album, after a couple EPs and a "self-meditation" cassette. I know less about Pupul, other than that he's collaborated with her on singles, and has a couple of his own. Spare but danceable beats, words mostly in English, like: "Don't say 'we need to build a wall'/ Say, I'm a world citizen, I don't believe in borders" A- [sp]

Melissa Aldana: 12 Stars (2021 [2022], Blue Note): Tenor saxophonist, from Chile, father a jazz saxophonist (Marcos Aldana), sixth album since 2010. Quintet with Lage Lund (guitar), Sullivan Fortner (piano), bass, and drums. Postbop, nice tone and flow. B+(***)

Brandon Allen: The Stanley Turrentine Project (2022, Ubuntu Music): Tenor saxophonist, originally from Australia, based in London since 2000, has a previous Gene Ammons Project, also a Monk-oriented Mysterioso Quartet. Backed here by piano (Will Barry), bass (Conor Chaplin), and drums (Dave Ingamells). Song selection is a little corny ("Can't Buy Me Love," "Little Green Apples," "The Fool on the Hill"), but he powers through them, like T would do. B+(**)

Benji.: Smile, You're Alive! (2021, SinceThe80s): Atlanta rapper, toured with EarthGang, joined Spillage Village in 2020, appearing on several tracks on their Spilligion album. Some sources co-credit Spillage Village here, but I only see Benji.'s name on the cover. B+(**) [sp]

Tim Berne/Gregg Belisle-Chi: Mars (2021 [2022], Intakt): Alto sax and guitar duo, the latter having released a set of solo takes on Berne songs last year. B+(**) [sp]

Mary J. Blige: Good Morning Gorgeous (2022, 300/Mary Jane Productions): Big star, thirty years past "What's the 411?"; five years since her last (13th) studio album. She's settling in nicely here, perhaps stronger than ever, less urgent, the few high points lifting an impeccable consistency. I doubt I've ever fully appreciated her before, as my only previous A- grade was for Herstory, Vol. 1, so this may not be her best ever, but it's the one that got me. A-

Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine (2021, Oh Boy): A year after Prine's Covid death brought forth a flood of eulogies that approached what he deserved, his label limps on with a small stable of good-but-not-Prine songwriters. So with another product shortfall, why not invite a second volume of tribute covers? Eleven years after Vol. 1, it's not like they're going to the well too often (though they probably won't stop until they do). And they did draw bigger and better names this time, without coming close to running out of songs. A- [sp]

James Brown: Song Within the Story (2021 [2022[, NGP): Guitarist, from Toronto, fourth album, the last one Sevendaze in 2009 -- or so the hype sheet says. Searching for him is well nigh impossible, like trying to identify a small asteroid backlit by the sun. (Discogs has at least 83 James Browns and no Sevendaze. Google produced some results after adding "guitar" and "toronto" to the name.) Original material, with bass and drums, plus tenor sax (Mike Murley) on 3 (of 10) tracks. Respectable postbop, solid support, Murley's always a plus. B+(**) [cd]

Caroline: Caroline (2022, Rough Trade): British post-rock group, first album, Casper Hughes plays guitar and sings. B [sp]

CMAT: If My Wife New I'd Be Dead (2022, AWAL): Irish singer-songwriter Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson, first album. Strong singer, thinking about "Nashville" and cowboys. B+(***) [sp]

Elvis Costello & the Imposters: The Boy Named If (2022, Capitol): Band name he's used since 2002, long-taken to mean "not the Attractions." Here, the opener ("Farewell, OK") sounds like a throwback to his youth, but soon enough he's orating again, albeit with a harder guitar edge ("Magnificent Hurt" is another example). So, yeah, better than he's been in quite some while (aside from Spanish Model, which recycled some of his best old songs en españnol, hot enough he called that group The Attractions). B+(*)

Kit Downes/Petter Eldh/James Maddren: Vermillion (2021 [2022], ECM): Piano/bass/drums trio. British pianist has more than a dozen albums since 2009. Swedish bassist, based in Berlin, has a comparable discography, and wrote five originals here, as did Downes. Album closes with a Jimi Hendrix tune, "Castles Made of Sand." B+(*)

Erin Rae: Lighten Up (2022, Good Memory): Last name McKaskie, singer-songwriter, third album, easy on the ears. B+(*) [sp]

Julieta Eugenio: Jump (2021 [2022], Greenleaf Music): Tenor saxophonist, from Argentina, based in New York, first album, backed by bass (Matt Dwonszyk) and drums (Jonathan Barber). Eight originals, two standards, tone and phrasing remind me of Coleman Hawkins. A- [cd]

Fanfare Ciocarlia: It Wasn't Hard to Love You (2021, Asphalt Tango): Romanian brass band, which probably means Romani [confirmed], formed in the late 1990s with albums in 1998 and 1999 (World Wide Wedding). Starts with a Bill Withers cover, strange enough to make you hungry for more, then lapses into more traditional fare: upbeat party music. A-

Wolfgang Flür: Magazine 1 (2002, Cherry Red): Percussionist from classic German "krautrock" group Kraftwerk (1973-87), not a lot since then, but after Florian Schneider's 2020 death, he looks to reclaim the franchise sound. He does so, and rather humorously, helped by a series of guests like U96, Midge Ure, Carl Cox, and Juan Atkins. B+(***)

Keeley Forsyth: Limbs (2022, The Leaf Label): British singer-songwriter, better known as an actor before her 2019 debut album. Slow, overdramatic, again. B [sp]

Foxes: The Kick (2022, PIAS): British dance pop singer-songwriter Louisa Rose Allen, third album. Sounds a bit like Madonna, except for a shortfall of hit songs. B+(*)

Satoko Fujii & Joe Fonda: Thread of Light (2021 [2022], FSR): Piano and bass duo, latter also plays cello and flute. They've played together before (I'd be hard pressed to count the times, but at least 5 times), and each has well over 50 albums with others (many notable). B+(***) [cd]

Tomas Fujiwara's Triple Double: March (2019 [2022], Firehouse 12): Drummer, an Anthony Braxton student, runs the Firehouse 12 club and label in New Haven. Second album for his Triple Double group: two each trumpets (Ralph Alessi and Taylor Ho Bynum, latter on cornet), guitars (Mary Halvorson and Brandon Seabrook), and drums (Fujiwara and Gerald Cleaver). Some tremendous talent here, a little rough to start out, with both the horn and guitar jousts fast and furious. Ends with a long and remarkable drum duo, dedicated to Alan Dawson, the patron saint of New England drummers. A- [cd]

Gordon Grdina's Haram With Marc Ribot: Night's Quietest Hour (2022, Attaboygirl): Guitarist from Vancouver, also plays oud (exclusively here, with Ribot on guitar). He's often incorporated Arabic elements into his music, but dives deep here, with a large group of mostly Canadian luminaries playing a mix of Arabic (ney, riq, darbuka) and jazz instruments (sax, clarinet, trumpet, two violins). Extended jams on five more/less trad Arabic songs, with vocals by Emad Armoush. B+(***) [cd]

Gordon Grdina: The Music of Tim Berne: Oddly Enough (2022, Attaboygirl): Compositions by Berne, played solo by Grdina on his range of instruments: electric/midi guitar, classical, acoustic, oud, and dobro. Interesting pieces and effects, although I'm not sure I'll ever be able to recognize Berne's compositions. B+(***) [cd]

Imarhan: Aboogi (2022, City Slang): Saharan guitar band, Tuareg, from the Algerian side of the border with Mali and Niger, a groove that has repeatedly been embraced by westerners with no clue to the language. Third album. Strikes me as a bit muted, which may mean they're hoping you'll understand what they're saying, not just how they say it. B+(**)

Calvin Johnson Jr.: Notes of a Native Son (2022, self-released): Saxophonist from New Orleans, plays soprano and tenor, opens with "I'm Walkin'" and "Summertime," some originals in the middle, closing with "Lift Every Voice and Sing." B+(*) [cd]

Ryan Keberle Collectiv Do Brasil: Sonhos Da Esquina (2021 [2022], Alternate Side): Trombonist, this music grew out of 2017 and 2018 trips to Brazil (not clear when this was recorded). Quartet with Felipe Silveira (piano), Thiago Alves (bass), and Paulinho Vicente (drums). B+(**) [cd] [03-18]

Rokia Koné & Jacknife Lee: Bamanan (2022, Real World): Singer-songwriter from Mali, nicknamed "the rose of Bamako," has appeared in Les Amazones d'Afrique, releases her debut album with co-credit to Irish producer Garret Lee. B+(***) [sp]

Cate Le Bon: Pompeii (2022, Mexican Summer): Cate Timothy, singer-songwriter from Wales, sixth album since 2009, has recorded in Welsh as well as English. B+(*) [sp]

Mark Lomax, II: Prismatic Reflections No. 1 (2021 [2022], CFG Multimedia): Drummer, based in Columbus, Ohio, impressed me on numerous occasions though I've always given much of the credit to saxophonist Edwin Bayard. But here he's alone, a whole album of drum solos. B+(***) [sp]

Brandon Lopez/Ingrid Laubrock/Tom Rainey: No Es La Playa (2021 [2022], Intakt): Bass/sax/drums, reading cover clockwise from top. B+(***) [sp]

Lump: Animal (2021, Chrysalis): British electropop duo, singer Laura Marling (who has 7 albums since 2008) and producer Mike Lindsay (of Tunng and Throws), second album, clever and comfortably appealing. B+(**)

Myra Melford's Fire and Water Quintet: For the Love of Fire and Water (2021 [2022], RogueArt): Pianist, her 1990 debut was a Francis Davis Jazz Consumer Guide Pick Hit in 1990 (along with an Allen Lowe album, both unknown to me at the time but major figures ever since). Quintet brings together several recent alliances: Ingrid Laubrock (tenor/soprano sax), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Tomeka Reid (cello), Susie Ibarra (drums). B+(***) [cd] [04-01]

Dolly Parton: Run, Rose, Run (2022, Butterfly): Title ties in to what's described as her first novel, for which she shares credit with James Patterson, who has written at least 200 since 1976 -- most, it appears, with co-authors, the most famous (and notorious) Bill Clinton. She did write all the songs this time (no Patterson credits there), a solid batch with prim neo-trad arrangements (lots of credits there). B+(**)

Eric Person Featuring Houston Person: Blue Vision (2018 [2022], Distinction): Alto/soprano saxophonist, debut 1993, mainstream player, inevitably ran into the elder tenor saxophonist and hit it off (no relation). They play together on 4 (of 7) tracks here, in a quintet with Pete McCann (guitar), organ (Adam Klipple), and drums (Tony Jefferson). The other three tracks cut back to trio. B+(**)

RXK Nephew: Slitherman Activated (2021, Towhead): Rapper from Rochester, aka RX Nephew, possibly Kristopher Kevon Williams, popped up around 2019 but exploded in 2021, reportedly releasing some 400 songs, yet still barely recognized (this album didn't make my EOY Aggregate, but another one did, barely: Crack Dreams, not in Discogs but several volumes of Crack Therapy are). Fast and feverish, hard to keep up. Not on the album is his 9:44 "American Tterroristt," which takes a rebelious instinct so far as to praise Trump -- a bit too far, I'd say. B+(**)

Sevdaliza: Raving Dahlia (2022, Twisted Elegance, EP): Iranian singer-songwriter, based in Rotterdam, two previous albums, usually sings in English, backed with electronics. Six songs (one a remix), 26:08. B+(*) [sp]

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers: Nightroamer (2022, Abeyance): Country-rock singer-songwriter with a working band, third album, I liked her debut on Bloodshot, but expected more. B+(**)

Slum of Legs: Slum of Legs (2020, Spurge): From Brighton, UK, a "queer, feminist noise-pop DIY band," first album after a couple singles, made my 2020 tracking list, so not totally unheralded. Sextet, everyone credited with lots of things, but the basics: Tamsin (vocals), Mich (drums), Maria (violin), Kate (guitar), Emily (synths), Alex (bass guitar). The violin raises the texture, if not the spirit, above punk. A-

Walter Smith III/Matthew Stevens/Kris Davis/Dave Holland/Terri Lyne Carrington: In Common III (2021 [2022], Whirlwind): Tenor saxophonist, third album in this series, all quintets, all with guitarist Stevens, the other spots shifting each time -- this piano/bass/drums combo easily the most famous. B+(**)

Stromae: Multitude (2022, Mosaert): Belgian singer, rapper, and songwriter Paul van Haver, father Rwandan (Tutsi), third album, first two were bestsellers in Europe and Canada. Sings mostly in French. B+(**)

Omri Ziegele Where's Africa: That Hat (2021 [2022], Intakt): Swiss saxophonist (alto, also plays nai), group named for a 2005 album with Irène Schweizer, since then he's used the name for several groups, including this trio with Yves Theiler (piano) and Dario Sisera (drums). The African interest shows in the rhythms, but also in the social feel, not least when Ziegele puts down his horn and sings. A- [sp]

Old music:

Brandon Allen: The Gene Ammons Project (2016, RT Jazz): Tenor saxophonist, has a new album called The Stanley Turrentine Project, the second in a likely series that starts here, with one of my favorites. B+(**)

Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine (2010, Oh Boy): Probably looked like stopgap product at the time: Prine was five years past Fair and Square, and six years shy of For Better, or Worse, with only a singalong with Mac Wiseman and In Person & on Stage in between. Maybe they figured he could use some reassurance of what a great songwriter he was. Still, the artist line up was so-so: starts with Justin Vernon, Conor Oberst, My Morning Jacket, Josh Ritter, Lambchop. More promising are Drive-By Truckers and Those Darlins, but I wouldn't say they deliver more. B+(**)

Lump: Lump (2018, Dead Oceans): Short (7 tracks, 31:56, including audio credits) debut album from the duo of Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay. Ambient electronics, shaped around Marling's lyrics and voice. B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Lynne Arriale Trio: The Lights Are Always On (Challenge) [04-08]
  • Yelena Eckemoff: I Am a Stranger in This World (L&H Production, 2CD) [05-20]
  • Kelly Eisenhour: I Just Found Out About Love (BluJazz) [01-08]
  • Matt Hall: I Hope to My Never (Summit) [03-04]
  • Yuko Mabuchi: Caribbean Canvas (Vista) []
  • Paul Messina: Blue Fire (GVAP Music -21)
  • Sean Nelson's New London Big Band: Social Hour! (Summit) [03-04]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, March 7, 2022

Music Week

March archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 37465 [37418] rated (+47), 149 [144] unrated (+5).

It normally takes most of a day from when I take a snapshot of the rated count the week's record list to when I've finished writing my piece and am ready to post it. During that day, I keep listening to new records, normally saving them for the next week, but seeing as how last week was the end of the month and for my purposes 2021, I was sorely tempted to fold any 2021 records into my frozen file. That convinced me to move on to 2022 releases, and I've pretty much kept that up all week (I wound up with 5 2021 releases below, several from December, plus one 2020 release in the new section, and a 2002 in the old). I was aided in this search by several Expert Witness posts, and I wound up taking a look at AOTY's top-rated 2022 albums. The result was a rare bonanza of exceptional records: in addition to the 10 A- albums, there's 12 more stuck at B+(***). Good chance a couple of those could benefit from more attention (also a fair chance that a couple might slide down a notch).

I'm posting this Music Week earlier than usual because I want to get it done and out of the way. I expect to be indisposed for a few days, and hope that's it. My earlier thoughts about doing some sort of statistical survey of 2021 will have to wait. I can say that my 2021 release rated count comes to 1451. Not a record, but a pretty respectable number, and a good deal more than I expected early in 2021.

I started to write a "Speaking of Which," mostly (but not all) on Ukraine, but didn't come close to getting it done. If you're curious, the draft is in the notebook. Perhaps I'll pick it up again later this week. One thing that kept me from working on it was that I finally started researching for a new Book Roundup. I wrote two of them back in April 2021. Needless to say, a lot of interesting books have come out in the meantime. I probably have enough to post now, but I'm still digging. Good chance I'll wind up with two posts again, but hard to predict when.

New records reviewed this week:

Andy Bell: Flicker (2022, Sonic Cathedral): British singer-songwriter, guitarist, solo albums start in 2020, as he was turning 50. He is best known for the group Ride (1988-96). In between he did production work and played in various bands, including a brief stint with Oasis, and with Noel Gallagher's post-Oasis group Beady Eye. Long record, lots of graceful pop songs and easy listening. B+(***)

Big K.R.I.T.: Digital Roses Don't Die (2022, BMG): Rapper Justin Scott, from Mississippi, acronym for "King Remembered in Time," fifth studio album, twice as many mixtapes back to 2005. B+(**)

Big Thief: Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You (2022, 4AD): Indie band from Brooklyn, singer-songwriter is Adrienne Lenker (who also has a couple solo albums), fifth group album since 2016, a big one (20 songs, 80:13). Impressive album, one that will be on many mainstream EOY lists, but I probably won't stick with long enough. A-

Binker & Moses: Feeding the Machine (2021 [2022], Gearbox): British duo, saxophonist Binker Golding and drummer Moses Boyd, fifth album together. Not exactly a duo here, as Max Luthert is credited with electronics, but he hasn't earned marquee credit yet. B+(**)

Michael Bisio Quartet: MBefore (2020 [2022], Tao Forms): Bassist, albums since 1987, many side credits, especially with Matthew Shipp and Joe McPhee. Unconventional, almost chamber-ish quartet, with vibes (Karl Berger), viola (Mat Maneri, and drums (Whit Dickey). B+(***) [cd] [03-25]

Black Country, New Road: Ants From Up There (2022, Ninja Tune): English art rock band, second album, first was one of the more critically acclaimed debuts of 2021, and this one currently sets as the top-rated 2022 release at AOTY (89 on 29 reviews, with Metacritic giving it a 92). I can't hear it, probably because the texture and flow seems so variable, but like the debut I'll admit that it has something going for it. Singer Isaac Wood quit the band after this was recorded. No idea what that portends. B+(*)

Sarah Borges: Together Alone (2022, Blue Corn Music): Singer-songwriter from Boston area, eighth album since 2005, had a couple of those on bluegrass-oriented Sugar Hill, returns to her first label here. B+(*)

George Cartwright/Dave King/Josh Granowski: Stick Insect (2021, Mahakala Music): Sax/drums/bass trio, Cartwright best known for the 1980-2003 group Curlew, King more famous as the Bad Plus drummer. I'd never heard of Granowski, but he's got an "upright metal bass" that could pass for a nasty guitar. This runs long (110:20) and far, with moments that will turn your head, and others that just make you wonder. B+(**) [bc]

Conway the Machine: God Don't Make Mistakes (2022, Griselda/Interscope): Buffalo rapper Demond Price, mixtapes going back to 2014, second studio album. B+(***)

EarthGang: Ghetto Gods (2022, Dreamville/Interscope): Atlanta hip-hop duo, Olu (aka Johnny Venus) and WowGr8 (aka Doctur Dot), involved in Spillage Village, fourth album. B+(**)

Equiknoxx: Basic Tools (2021, Equiknoxx Music): Jamaican hip-hop collective, fourth mixtape, recorded in New York and UK (Birmingham/Manchester) as well as Kingston. B+(**) [bc]

Fulu Miziki: Ngbaka EP (2022, Moshi Moshi, EP): Group from Kinshasa, based in Kampala, one source says they were founded in 2003 by Piscko Crane as an "eco-friendly, Afro-futuristic" punk band, but that source also has this as their "debut EP" (6 songs, 20:27). Name translates as "music from the garbage," which is also the source of their instruments and costumes. Electronics leads the way. A-

Joel Futterman/Chad Fowler: Timeless Moments (2022, Mahakala Music): Piano and stritch duets, the latter reed instrument long associated with Roland Kirk, and later David S. Ware. Futterman is from Chicago, although I associate him more with Memphis. He plays a little like Cecil Taylor, often with saxophonists who can get a bit out of hand: Jimmy Lyons, Hal Russell, Kidd Jordan, Ike Levin, and now Fowler, who runs his label out of Hot Springs, Arkansas. B+(**) [bc]

Robert Glasper: Black Radio III (2022, Loma Vista): Pianist, from Houston, signed by Blue Note in 2005 and touted for his hip-hop influence, supposedly the leading edge of a new generation of jazz stars. Despite undeniable chops, I don't think he ever lived up to the hype. The jazz content here is negligible, with all but the last song offering featured spots for rappers (including Killer Mike, Big KRIT, Common, and Q-Tip) and/or singers (like Ledisi, Jennifer Hudson, Gregory Porter, Lalah Hathaway, Musiq Soulchild). B+(*)

Alexander Hawkins/Mirror Canon: Break a Vase (2021 [2022], Intakt): British pianist, group a sextet with Shabaka Hutchings (tenor/soprano sax, flute), guitar (Otto Fischer), bass, drums, and percussion. B+(**)

Homeboy Sandman: There in Spirit (2022, Mello Music Group, EP): New York rapper Angel Del Villar, underground, favors EPs, this one 7 songs, 21:54. B+(**)

Hurray for the Riff Raff: Life on Earth (2022, Nonesuch): Folkie singer-songwriter Alynda Segarra, moved from the Bronx to New Orleans, eighth album since 2008. B+(***)

Tony Karapetyan Trio: Point of View (2020 [2022], Jazzist): Bassist-led trio with piano (Yuri Barsukov) and drums (Peter Ivshin), first album, featuring German trumpet player Sebastian Studnitzky on several cuts. B+(*)

Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio: Cold as Weiss (2022, Colemine): Soul jazz trio, fourth album, the leader on organ, Jimmy James on guitar, and newcomer Dan Weiss -- evidently not the Dan Weiss (famous NYC drummer) nor even the other Dan Weiss (beloved critic with the Dan Ex Machina sideline), but he does share most of the writing credits here. Bright and funky. B+(*)

Los Bitchos: Let the Festivities Begin! (2022, City Slang): Globe-trotting instrumental surf rock group, four women who met in London, one British, the others from Australia (Serra Petale, the main writer), Sweden, and Uruguay. B+(***)

Maisha: Open the Gates (2019 [2020], Brownswood): London-based jazz group led by drummer Jake Long. I was aware of their 2018 debut and a 2020 Night Dreamer set backing Gary Bartz, but didn't notice that what Discogs calls EPs are more like albums: their 2016 Welcome to a New Welcome ran 29:33, and this one 33:21. Credits unclear, but Binker Golding joined for the title cut, and it sounds like it. B+(***) [bc]

Tyler Mitchell Featuring Marshall Allen: Dancing Shadows (2022, Mahakala Music): Bassist, joined Sun Ra Arkestra in 1985, which continues under the direction of the 97-year-old saxophonist, featured here, though helped out by two more saxophonists in the sextet: Chris Hemingway (tenor) and Nicoletta Manzini (alto). B+(***)

Mitski: Laurel Hell (2022, Dead Oceans): Mitskui Miyawaki, born in Japan, father a US State Department official who toted her around the world before settling in New York. Sixth album since 2012. B+(*)

Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Disasters Vol. 1 (2020 [2022], Hot Cup): Pennsylvania-born bassist first recorded under this group name in 2004, and for many years the pianoless quartet, with its irreverent and often fanciful survey of the jazz tradition, was one of the decade's most consistently exciting groups. Over time, the imposing horn players dropped out -- first Peter Evans (trumpet), then Jon Irabagon (tenor sax) -- as pianist Ron Stabinsky joined. It doesn't seem like the same group as a piano trio, but this batch of Pennsylvania disaster-inspired tunes (most famously from Jonestown to Three Mile Island) is pretty lively. The closing take of "Wilkes-Barre" leaves me with Monk rattling around my head. A- [cd]

Kojey Radical: Reason to Smile (2022, Atlantic): British rapper Kwadwo Adu Genfi Amponsah, parents from Ghana, has a couple albums but this is a step up. Sings more, especially towards the end, and smiles a lot. B+(***)

Saba: Few Good Things (2022, Saba Pivot): Chicago rapper Tahj Malik Chandler, co-founder of Pivot Gang, associated with Smino, Noname, and Chance the Rapper. Third album. Underground, inches along with purpose and feeling. A-

Dave Sewelson: Smooth Free Jazz (2021, Mahakala Music): Baritone saxophonist, pushing 70, longtime member of the Microscopic Septet, also William Parker's big bands, aside from a 1979 album only recently started releasing albums under his own name -- I recommend both Music for a Free World and More Music for a Free World. Quartet, with lap steel guitar (Mike Neer), bass, and drums. Nothing slick or conventionally smooth here: he loves the grit of the low notes, and when he sings "Nature Boy" over an extended vamp, he exhibits a voice to match. The record ends with a 3:12 "radio version," versus the original 19:30. A- [bc]

Kenny Shanker: Vortex (2019 [2022], Wise Cat): Alto saxophonist, soprano on one cut, has a couple previous albums including a 2011 debut on mainstream Posi-Tone. Backed by guitar, piano, bass, drums, with trumpet (Bill Mobley) on three tracks. Nice postbop sound. B+(**)

Spoon: Lucifer on the Sofa (2022, Matador): Indie band from Austin, Brit Daniel singer-songwriter, 10th studio album since 1996. Like all their records, this had a tight, pleasing guitar grind, and a humane exterior. Not a style of music I've much cared for of late, but a fine example. B+(***)

Superchunk: Wild Loneliness (2022, Merge): Indie rock band from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, led by singer-guitarist Mac McCaughan (also in Portastatic, has a couple solo albums), 12th album since 1990. I've never paid them much heed, even when Christgau declared What a Time to Be Alive "the most affecting political album of our brutally politicized era." Impeccable, as solid as I can imagine a mainstream rock record this year. And while I'm not picking up much politics, "Endless Summer" has a point hard to miss. A-

Tanya Tagaq: Tongues (2022, Six Shooter): Inuk singer-songwriter from Canada, fifth studio album, tied to her novel Split Tooth, dark and arty with real dramatic flair. Unique, though distantly related to Björk. B+(**)

The Weeknd: Dawn FM (2022, XO/Republic): Canadian alt-r&b singer-songwriter Abel Tesfaye, something of a sensation in 2011 with his debut mixtape, has regularly topped charts with his studio albums. I've found his albums increasingly sluggish, but he found a beat here, and even his voice has brightened up. B+(***)

Babes Wodumo: Crown (2021, West Ink): South African singer, Bongekile Simelane, first album was called Gqom Queen, after the genre, after the beats sound ("minimal, raw, repetitive, with heavy bass sound"). Beats captivating, range narrow, probably a good show. B+(***)

Lady Wray: Piece of Me (2022, Big Crown): R&B singer Nicole Wray, released her debut album Make It Hot in 1998, but didn't follow it up until 2016. In between, she joined a duo in England called Lady, so adopted the new name. Third album, perhaps more retro than nu. Her voice has an intriguing grin, and she turns experience into a plus. A- [sp]

Nilüfer Yanya: Painless (2022, ATO): Singer-songwriter, born in London, father Turkish, mother of Irish-Barbadian descent, second album, likes her guitar more than most pop stars. A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Peter Brötzmann/Milford Graves/William Parker: Historic Music Past Tense Future (2002 [2022], Black Editions): German tenor saxophonist, a founding father of the European avant-garde, taped at CBGB's in New York with local drummer and bassist. B+(***)

Pere Ubu: The Lost Band: Live at Metro Cabaret, Chicago (1993 [2022], Ubu Projex): Avant-punk band from Cleveland, formed 1975, David Thomas the singer and only continuous member (except for 1982-88 band hiatus). This particular band consisted of Jim Jones (guitar), Garo Yellin (cello), Tony Maimone (bass), and Scott Krauss (drums). As Thomas says: "It was a brilliant version of Pere Ubu, doomed by uncertainty in the business end of things." Maimone (who joined the band in 1976) left, then Krauss (an original member) and Yellin (a brief tenure, the only one with cello, and without keyboards, making him the secret sauce here). Especially striking is "The Story of My Life" (the title of their 1993 album). A- [bc]

Owiny Sigoma Band: The Lost Tapes (2015-19 [2021], Brownswood): Luo band rooted in Kenya but based in London, released their first album in 2011. This picks up some tracks recorded with singer Charles Owoko before his death in 2015, adding later tracks. B+(**)

Cecil Taylor: The Complete, Legendary, Live Return Concert: The Town Hall, NYC November 4, 1973 (1973 [2022], Oblivion): At the time, the definitive avant-garde pianist, leading a strong quartet with Andrew Cyrille (drums), Jimmy Lyons (alto sax), and Sirone (bass). Three pieces: "Autumn/Parade" weighing in at 88:00, and two versions of "Spring of Two Blue-J's," first part done solo, second quartet. [PS: Napster has a version edited down to 30:51; Spotify has the whole thing.] A- [sp]

Old music:

Jim Black Alasnoaxis: Splay (2001 [2002], Winter & Winter): Drummer, originally from Seattle, group named for his 2000 album, group with Chris Speed (tenor sax/clarinet/keyboards), Hilmar Jensson (guitar), and Skuli Sverrisson (bass). B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Charming Hostess: The Ginzburg Geography (Tzadik) [05-20]
  • Whit Dickey Quartet: Astral Long Form/Staircase in Space (Tao Forms) [05-06]
  • Hal Galper Trio: Invitation to Openness: Live at Big Twio (2008, Origin) [03-18]
  • Xose Miguélez: Contradictio (Origin) [03-18]
  • Marta Sanchez: SAAM (Spanish American Art Museum) (Whirlwind) [02-25]
  • Idit Shner & Mhondoro: Heat Wave (OA2) [03-18]
  • Walter Smith III/Matthew Stevens/Kris Davis/Dave Holland/Terri Lyne Carrington: In Common III (Whirlwind) [03-11]
  • John Stowell/Dave Glenn & the Hawcaptak Quartet: Violin Memory (Origin) [03-18]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, February 28, 2022

Music Week

February archive (finished).

Tweet: Music Week: 43 albums, 4 A-list,

Music: Current count 37418 [37375] rated (+43), 144 [139] unrated (+5).

Rated count is down a bit (although still high by historic standards). Feels like I've been working as hard as ever, but I've been having more trouble deciding what to listen to next, so I guess I've had more dead air. [PS: The actual list below is sightly larger than the count, as I moved records I reviewed while working on this post up, so that the frozen 2021 list aligns with this post and the February Streamnotes archive. Yes, my freeze date is later than usual this year, but the deed has been done.]

The A-list was down even more, but I promoted two reissues at the last minute. The only problem with the Cuba compilation(s) is that I wasn't able to listen to the whole thing(s), so I'm extrapolating from Spotify playlists that are about 1/3 short. Also, I assume the booklets are up to snuff, as they usually are with this label, but haven't seen them, leaving me more ignorant than I should be. The Tony Williams disc combines two Blue Note albums I previously rated A- and B+. I came out of this not sure why I didn't have the grades flipped, but the piano/vibes pieces on the former probably get better, and Sam Rivers delivers instant pleasure.

Speaking of Rivers, Rick Lopez has converted and expanded his extraordinary Sam Rivers Sessionography into a gorgeous 720-page book. To order a copy ($55 postpaid in US, inquire for foreign shipping) or otherwise make a donation go to the PreSale Page. Back in 2014, Lopez published The William Parker Sessionography, which (in HTML form) I had found invaluable in researching my Consumer Guide to William Parker, Matthew Shipp, et al.. I raved about his work there, and was delighted to see myself quoted for a blurb ("treasure trove of information, some of the finest scholarship available on the internet today"). It's not often I say something quotably laudatory, but I'm proud to be associated with his work.

Late posting of this (Tuesday afternoon, but official date is still in February) is mostly because I finally took the time to update my indexing. I had fallen four months behind, and a side effect is that I caught myself re-reviewing several records. I've always known that my slapdash system is prone to errors, and the ones I've dealt with run the gamut. Worse, as I fix them, they leave discrepancies in other (usually more temporary) sources. At some point, a monumental re-engineering of the website would seem to be in order. But I doubt I'll ever get to that (although I did receive an intriguing letter expressing interest in working on such a thing).

I expect to wrap up the EOY aggregates and associated lists this week. It would have been nice to tie it all together by now, but I still have a few odds and ends to attend to. Maybe next week I'll be able to provide some sort of statistical summary for 2021.

On Saturday I posted a rather long Speaking of Ukraine, which is still largely relevant to understanding the conflict, even if there isn't much you can do about it. I later tried to rewrite a bit on sanctions, but didn't achieve the desired clarity. Let's see if I can do better here:

  1. It should be understood that US sanctions, amplified by so-called allies, against Russia had a direct and significant role in creating and intensifying the conflict, And while they were not responsible for Russia deciding to invade Ukraine, the belief that the US could compel Russian submission by tightening sanctions further did much to provoke the current war.
  2. However, once Russia invaded, further sanctions became not only justified but the preferred response from the US, as they are serious but much less inflammatory than the military response the US would no doubt prefer if Russia was incapable of fighting back in kind.
  3. The efficacy of sanctions to end a war has never been proven, but will be sorely tested here. (That sanctions can lead to war has been repeatedly shown, both as targets decided to fight back and as the sanctioners escalated to military offenses -- as Bush, for instance, did in is 2003 invasion of Iraq.)
  4. As long as Russian troops are occupying Ukraine, I don't care how severe sanctions become (although I would try to avoid imposing real humanitarian hardships on the Russian people, whose control over and responsibility for Putin's belligerence is limited). (By the way, I would have supported similar sanctions against Israel following their 1967 war, and against the US following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.)
  5. Once Russia withdraws, there should be a clear path to ending the sanctions regime, and restoring peace and commercial ties. I doubt this can happen immediately, but should occur through the diplomacy that should have happened before Russia resorted to invasion.
  6. We should realize that the US has no power to hold Putin accountable for what in a fair and honest world would universally be recognized as crimes. Conflicts need to end on terms that all sides consider just (as much as is mutually possible), and that generally means that no side should wind up in a position to command the other. Demonization of Putin (like the earlier charges against Saddam Hussein) only serves to poison the possible grounds for settlement. (On the other hand, if the Russian people chose to settle with Putin as the Italians did Mussolini, I wouldn't demur.)
  7. If you want to prevent future wars, deal early with the injustices that lead to conflicts and ultimately to war. What doesn't work is the ideology of imposing strength, "shock and awe," and raw punishment.

I basically wasted Sunday on Facebook, writing comments on Ukraine and plugging my piece. As far as I know, these had no effect whatsoever, and none of the posts appeared again in my Facebook feed. I don't know where where Facebook comments go to die -- probably just into the AI grinder to figure out new and even more inept ways of getting under your skin with targeted advertising -- but mine often wind up in my notebook: I was pleased that I came up with a little story and point each time, rather than just linking to my piece. Of course, I have thousands of pages of these gems archived now -- so much so that even my wife's eyes glaze over when asked to pick a few out. Like a fish, struggling just sets the hook deeper.

One comment I can find again, because I copied it into a post of my own, so it shows up in my (mostly public) timeline. I wrote it in response to a right-wing relative's meme echo, which read: "Those of you that voted for Biden, here's your chance to brag! What has he done so far that you're most excited about." The half-dozen comments preceding mine didn't offer a single word of support, so I figured someone should step up. I've never not been critical of a Democratic President -- my first was JFK and LBJ (Vietnam!), although retrospectively I blame Truman for the Cold War and Korea, as well as for facilitating the right's first efforts to smash unions and deregulate banking -- and I wound up writing twice as much (not all but mostly critical) in my notebooks on Obama as I had on the more obviously reprehensible Bush. (My critiques of the Carter and Clinton presidencies are less well documented, but rest assured that they were often scathing. I now believe I was especially prescient about Clinton and Iraq, which paved the way for Bush.) But Biden is so maliciously assaulted by so many people who clearly know nothing and care nothing about the world we live in that I felt the need to speak back. And given the terms of the question, it was easy to construct an answer, and necessary to share it. (By the way, special thanks to Art Protin for the "1 share.")

Sure, I may come to regret the "I still love Joe Biden," but that was something I felt the people I was responding needed to hear. And I did care enough about them to go with "all them nay-sayers" instead of the first word that popped into my mind: assholes. Fat lot of good it did me. The only written reply read "you're definitely in the wrong place. I didn't even waste my time reading bc I can tell you are a spoon." (Spoon?) The rest were stock memes, like a picture of a crack pipe captioned "moments before this comment was made." So much for reasoned dialogue with the right. I don't like shilling for a party that's only half-right half the time, but the Republicans are so far off the deep end they're giving us no other option.

I don't have much enthusiasm for another Speaking of Which later this week, but getting "mugged by reality" is becoming a regular occurrence.

By the way, I should note that I'm not soliciting "followers" on Facebook. I only joined up because my less-than-sociable niblings were there, as well as a smattering of other relatives, and I wanted to check up on them. I added a few old friends, and eventually agreed to a few music-interested acquaintances, the minimal requirement being people I had personal correspondence with. (Of course, if you do think you qualify, by all means send me a "friend request.") I rarely post on Facebook, and when I do it's usually just food pics (which seem to be more popular than anything I have to say about politics or music). I do, on occasion, post and/or comment in the Expert Witness Facebook group, which can be (but rarely is) used as a discussion forum for my Music Week posts. A better way to follow my writing is through Twitter. I also run a generally quiescent email list about websites (mostly the Robert Christgau site, and my own), so if you want in on that, mail me. Or you can always ask a question.

New records reviewed this week:

75 Dollar Bill Featuring Barry Weisblat: Social Music at Troost Vol. 1 (2017 [2021], self-released): Guitar-percussion duo Che Chen and Rick Brown, started out around 2014, instrumental music with a Saharan flair, have been self-releasing a lot of live tapes since the pandemic hit. This one has Weisblat sitting in, on electronics including violin processing. Three tracks, 38:33. B+(***) [bc]

75 Dollar Bill Featuring David Watson: Social Music at Troost Vol. 2 (2027 [2021], self-released): Guest this time plays bagpipes (both large and small), for one 36:15 piece. The bagpipes aren't that alien to the group's guitar sound, but they are still bagpipes. B+(*) [bc]

Beauty Pill: Instant Night (2021, Northern Spy, EP): DC band, led by Chad Clark, two albums (2004 and 2015), title song was written in 2015 while watching Ann Coulter predict that Donald Trump would become president, but not released until October 2020, in fear that he might be re-elected. Four songs, 14:05. B+(*)

Dahveed Behroozi: Echos (2021, Sunnyside): Pianist, from California, grew up in San José, first album, a trio with Thomas Morgan (bass) and Billy Mintz (drums). Original pieces (including one by Morgan). B+(*)

John Blum/Jackson Krall: Duplexity (2018 [2020], Relative Pitch): Piano and drums duo. Both musicians have fairly long but not very prolific careers -- e.g., both have records that share credit lines with William Parker (Krall from 1997, Blum from 2009). Two LP-timed pieces. A bassist might have rounded the performances out, but they're quite striking as is. B+(***)

Bruiser Wolf: Dope Game Stupid (2021, Bruiser Brigade): Rapper, first album, don't know much about him but label was founded by Danny Brown. Comic voice, cosmic humor. B+(*) [bc]

Glenn Close/Ted Nash: Transformation (2021, Tiger Turn): Actress, tied with Peter O'Toole for the dubious distinction of most Oscar nominations without a win (8). Discogs credits her with 6 albums since 1984, but none solo. Here she gives dramatic readings, as do several others, all variously tied the title, notably Eli Nash's transgender reveal. They are backed by a big band led by the alto saxophonist but intersecting with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (including Wynton Marsalis on trumpet), a group Nash has long played in. The music is striking, deep, and elegant. B+(***) [sp]

Conway the Machine: La Maquina (2021, De Rap Winkel): Buffalo rapper Demond Price, related to Westside Gunn (half-brother) and Benny the Butcher (cousin), prolific since 2015. B+(**)

Cryptic One & Jestoneart: Pirata (2021, Centrifugal Phorce): Bandcamp page lists artist as "PIRATA," but I say why waste artist credits on the cover for an eponymous group? Words by Cryptic, sounds by Jestoneart. Dramatically and sonically, shades of MF Doom. B+(***) [bc]

Daggerboard: Daggerboard & the Skipper (2020-21 [2022], Wide Hive): Daggerboard is group with a previous album, led by Erik Jekabson (trumpet) and Gregory Howe (keyboards, from Throttle Elevator Music), with Ross Howe (guitar), Mike Hughes (drums), some vibes, and a string section. The Skipper is veteran bassist Henry Franklin. B+(*) [cd]

Deafheaven: Infinite Granite (2021, Sargent House): Started as a metal band in San Francisco in 2011, second album Sunbather was widely acclaimed, with their fifth album they seem to have become "post-metal" or even "shoegaze." Gets heavy enough I have little interest in listening, but no doubt they have skills, and the songs have sonic details of interest. B+(*)

The Delines: The Sea Drift (2022, Jealous Butcher): Portland band, fourth album, singer is Amy Boone, songwriter is Willy Vlautin, who plays guitar and has a reputation as a novelist. Slow, immersive, comfy. B+(**)

Dialect: Under~Between (2021, RVNG Intl): Electroacoustic producer Andrew PM Hunt from Liverpool, Dialect(19) at Discogs, previously recorded as Outfit. B+(*) [bc]

Jon Durant & Stephan Thelen: Crossings (2020 [2021], Alchemy): Two guitarists, one based in Portland, the other in Zürich, reaching out over the pandemic lockdown. Functions as ambient, but on more levels than the genre is used to. B+(**) [bc]

Gabby Fluke-Mogul: Threshold (2020 [2021], Relative Pitch): Violinist, based in New York, one of three debut albums that appeared in 2021. Solo improv, on the cutting edge of what can be an unpleasant instrument. B+(*)

Colleen Green: Cool (2021, Hardly Art): Indie pop singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, fifth album since 2011. Mostly catchy, sometimes cool. B+(**)

Daniel Herskedal: Harbour (2021, Edition): Norwegian tuba player (also bass trumpet), 10+ records since 2010, backed by Eyolf Dale (piano/celesta) and Helge Norbakken (drums/marimba). B

Hinda Hoffman Meets Soul Message: People (2021 [2022], Know You Know): Standards singer, fourth album since 1995 (3rd appeared in 2017). Group is led by Chris Foreman on organ, with guitar, drums, and alto sax (Greg Ward). Songs range from "All of You" to "Angel Eyes," with nods to "People" and "Please Send Me Someone to Love." Mostly upbeat, with some salsa. B+(*) [cd]

Ethan Iverson: Every Note Is True (2022, Blue Note): Pianist, was establishing himself as a major player when he got sidelined with the semipop Bad Plus trio, which he left in 2017. Back with a new trio here, with Larry Grenadier (bassist for Brad Mehldau all those years) and Jack DeJohnette (drummer for Keith Jarrett even longer). Should be a big deal, but hard for me to focus on it. B+(**)

Durand Jones & the Indications: Private Space (2021, Dead Oceans): Retro-soul group, from Indiana, third album, not sure how this will hold up over time, let alone in direct comparison with similar 1970s groups (like the Stylistics and the Chi-Lites), but for 2021 it's exceptionally lovely without being overly lush, and I'm really enjoying that. A-

Topaz Jones: Don't Go Tellin' Your Momma (2021, New Funk Academy/Black Canopy): New Jersey rapper, previous album from 2016, this one accompanied by a 35-minute film I haven't seen, but it seems to be well regarded. Nice flow here, has a lot to say. B+(**)

Menahan Street Band: The Exciting Sounds of Menahan Street Band (2021, Daptone): Instrumental r&b band, has three albums backing Charles Bradley, three more on their own. Way short of "exciting." B-

Mimz & Dunn: Infinite Lawn (2021, self-released): New York rappers, former sometimes billed as Mimz the Magnificent, but I can't find Discogs or much else on either. Underground vibe but messed up. B [bc]

Mother Nature and BoatHouse: SZNZ (2021, Closed Sessions): Mother Nature is a Chicago hip-hop duo (Klevah Knox and TRUTH -- that's about all I know), and BoatHouse is the label's in-house producer. They make a well-meaning racket. B+(***) [bc]

Kim Nalley Band With Houston Person: I Want a Little Boy (2022, Kim Nalley Productions): Standards singer, leans toward blues, fifth album after the last two assayed Nina Simone and Billie Holiday. The saxophonist is spectacular. Maria Muldaur helps on the first of two title song takes, as if Nalley wasn't sexy enough. B+(***) [cd]

New Age Doom: Lee "Scratch" Perry's Guide to the Universe (2021, We Are Busy Bodies): Vancouver-based "experimental drone metal band," duo of drummer Eric J. Breitenbach and multi-instrumentalist Greg Valou. Third album. Some sources co-credit album to The Upsetters, or to Perry himself (credited with vocals). Other musicians listed include Dan Rosenbloom (trumpet) and Donny McCaslin (sax). Not quite metal, nor dub nor dancehall, but a gloomy fog obscuring all. B+(**)

Sergio Pereira: Finesse (2022, Sedajazz): Brazilian guitarist, moved to New York in the 1980s, third album (I'm aware of, after Swingando and Nu Brasil). Various lineups, with vocals by Pereira and Paula Santoro. B+(*) [cd]

Raxon: Sound of Mind (2021, Kompakt): Egyptian DJ based in Barcelona, Ahmed Dawoud, "long awaited debut album" after many singles/EPs since 2009. Strong beats. B+(***) [bc]

Ståhls Trio: Källtorp Sessions Volume Two (2017-18 [2021], Moserobie): Swedish vibraphonist, albums since 2001 (as Ståhls Blå), side credits include Angles and Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. Also plays soprano sax in this trio with bass and drums, significantly adding guest Mats Åleklint (trombone). B+(***) [cd]

Natsuki Tamura: Summer Tree (2021 [2022], Libra): Japanese trumpet player, married to pianist Satoko Fujii, credited with voice here on one (of four) tracks -- the few small bits of piano turn out to be Tamura, who is also credited with wok. Rough start, better when the trumpet takes over. B+(*)

Stephan Thelen: Fractal Guitar 2 (2019-20 [2021], Moonjune): Guitarist, composer, mathematician, born in California, based in Zürich, has recorded since 2002, often as Sonar. This follows a remarkable 2019 album, six pieces with 3-6 guitarists each, percussion, sometimes keyboards. Groove helps, but doesn't just sweep you along. Every detail is fascinating. A- [bc]

The Underflow: Instant Opaque Evening (2020 [2021], Blue Chopsticks): Avant-jazz trio: David Grubbs (guitar), Mats Gustafsson (baritone sax, flute, electronics), and Rob Mazurek (piccolo trumpet, electronics, percussion, voice). Long, never quite coheres. B

Martin Wind/New York Bass Quartet: Air (2021 [2022], Laika): Four bassists, Wind credited as lead on all cuts save one, the others: Gregg August, Jordan Frazer, Sam Suggs. With some guests to move things along (drummers Matt Wilson and Lenny White) or brighten a bit (Gary Versace on piano, organ, and accordion). Title tune from J.S. Bach, other classics include a "Beatles Medley," with pieces by Charlie Haden, Pat Metheny, Joe Zawinul, and a couple Wind originals. B+(*) [cd]

Yeule: Glitch Princess (2022, Bayonet): Natasha Yelin Chang, from Singapore, aka Nat Cmiel (non-binary), glitch pop auteur, second album (after 3 EPs), strikes me as obscure but not uninteresting. Skipped the 284-minute ambient track closing the digital edition. B+(**)

Denny Zeitlin/George Marsh: Telepathy (2019 [2021], Sunnyside): Pianist, in his 80s now, has recorded regularly since 1964. Marsh is a percussionist, side credits with David Grisman, has recorded a number of albums with Zeitlin going as far back as 1973. Duo, but Zeitlin's synthesizers broaden the sound spectrum. B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Cuba: Music and Revolution: Culture Clash in Havana Cuba: Experiments in Latin Music 1975-85 Vol. 1 (1975-85 [2021], Soul Jazz, 2CD): Compiled by Gilles Peterson & Stuart Baker, reportedly with extensive liner notes, tied to a large format book release. Several bands are famous even here (Irakere, Los Van Van), failure to recognize more is probably my bad. Good, sometimes great, music, possibly classic, but not enough to really go on. [playlist: 15/23 tracks] B+(***) [sp]

Cuba: Music and Revolution: Culture Clash in Havana Cuba: Experiments in Latin Music 1973-85 Vol. 2 (1973-85 [2021], Soul Jazz, 2CD): More of the same, same caveats, but so far I'd give this one a slight edge. [playlist: 15/22 tracks] A- [sp]

Anthony Williams: Life Time & Spring Revisited (1964-65 [2022], Ezz-Thetics): Drummer, died young at 51 but started young too, playing professionally with Sam Rivers at 13, Jackie McLean at 16, joining Miles Davis's second legendary quintet when he was 17, and recording these two Blue Note albums (total 77:21) before he turned 20. They're a bit mixed, but tenor saxophonist Rivers stellar on most (7/10) tracks, with Wayne Shorter joining in on three. Two other tracks feature Herbie Hancock, one of those with Bobby Hutcherson. The other one is a 5:00 drum exercise. A- [bc]

Old music:

Cleveland Eaton: Plenty Good Eaton (1974 [2020], Black Jazz/Real Gone Music): Bassist, played many other instruments, and sings some here, led a half-dozen albums 1973-1980, side credits mainly with Ramsey Lewis and later with Count Basie Orchestra (1980-92). Fairly large group, including violin, electric piano, guitar, horn section, at times seem swept up in disco groove or funk thang. B+(*)

Sheila Jordan & Arild Andersen: Sheila (1977 [1978], SteepleChase): Voice and bass duo, a format she used very effectively later. Her debut Portrait of Sheila appeared 1962, but she only started recording regularly with Roswell Rudd's fabulous Flexible Flyer in 1975. Some remarkable bits here, but could use a little more swing in the bass. B+(***) [sp]

Sheila Jordan & E.S.P. Trio: Sheila's Back in Town (1998 [1999], Splasc(H)): Twelve songs from seven dates in a tour of Italy, backed by Roberto Cipelli (piano), Attilo Zanchi (bass), and Gianni Cazzola (drums), with extra strings on three tracks. B+(**) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Armen Donelian: Fresh Start (Sunnyside) [04-01]
  • Eubanks Evans Experience: EEE (Imani) [03-18]
  • The Grace Fox Big Band: Eleven O Seven (Next Level/Blue Collar) [03-11]
  • Jacob Garchik: Assembly (Yestereve) [05-13]
  • Gordon Grdina: The Music of Tim Berne: Oddly Enough (Attaboygirl) [02-18]
  • Gordon Grdina's Haram With Marc Ribot: Night's Quietest Hour (Attaboygirl) [02-18]
  • Calvin Johnson Jr.: Notes of a Native Son (self-released) [02-18]
  • Benji Kaplan: Something Here Inside (Wise Cat) [05-06]
  • Kind Folk: Head Towards the Center (Fresh Sound New Talent) [04-29]
  • Michael Leonhart Orchestra: The Normyn Suites (Sunnyside) [03-25]
  • Myra Melford's Fire and Water Quintet: For the Love of Fire and Water (RogueArt) [04-01]
  • Ståhls Trio: Källtorp Sessions Volume Two (Moserobie -21)

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Music Week

February archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 53 albums, 8 A-list,

Music: Current count 37375 [37322] rated (+53), 139 [141] unrated (-2).

Music Week delayed a day this week, as I spent much of Sunday and Monday cooking birthday dinner for my wife (Laura) and nephew (Ram). I thought I had some scallops in the freezer, and I've been wanting to make coquille saint-jacques, so crafted a French-ish menu around that. I also noticed a brandade recipe, and had some salt cod in the refrigerator, and just enough lead time to soak it. I also had some chicken liver I needed to use, so decided I'd start the meal with spreads on crostini: the brandade (salt cod and potatoes), chopped liver, sardine rillettes, and eggplant-olive tapenade. For sides, I thought I'd go with simple for brightly-colored dishes: glazed carrots, baby spinach sauteed in butter, slow roasted cherry tomatoes, and mashed celery root. Plate looks like this. For dessert, a very intense flourless chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. Each dish was exquisite in its own way.

I didn't have much time (or, frankly, desire) to follow political matters last week, so missed Putin's speech where he announced Russian recognition of independent republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. But as I understand it, this still doesn't come close to the threat of invasion the Biden administration has been breathlessly hyping. Anatol Lieven reports: Putin's move on Donetsk, Lugansk is illegal but falls short of new 'invasion'. Given many precedents I can think of, I'm not sure that complaints about illegality are meaningful or helpful. This did lead me to a useful historical paper Lieven dated Jan. 4, 2022: Ending the Threat of War in Ukraine: A Negotiated Solution to the Donbass Conflict and the Crimean Dispute. I have two further comments on this: 1) I would personally be happy to resolve Donbass and Crimea by allowing either or both to be annexed by Russia, subject to a fair election (based on current population, which most probably tilts pro-Russian). 2) I regard Biden's aggressive and self-righteous rhetoric as reckless and dangerous, but I will allow that it may have made it harder for Russia to invade or to pressure Ukraine (while scaring the hell out of Ukrainians, in the hope of bullying them into being more pro-west and anti-Russian); one problem is that it risks exposing US "intelligence" as totally dishonest and incompetent; another is that it leaves Putin very few options to step back without being humiliated.

One political thing I'm more inclined to write about later this week is the manifesto Sen. Rick Scott is circulating about what to expect if Republicans win Congress in 2022. For a rundown, see If McConnell Disapproved of Rick Scott's Neo-Bircher Agenda, It Would Never Have Been Released. Consider how disconnected from reality one has to be to write something like this:

The militant left now controls the entire federal government, the news media, academia, Hollywood, and most corporate boardrooms -- but they want more. They are redefining America and silencing their opponents.

I've considered myself a (not-very-militant) member of the left since about 1967, when I found a book called The New Radicals (edited by Paul Jacobs and Saul Landau), and with it a label and context for much of what I believed. And for my whole life since then, I've never had reason to think that my fellow leftists had any power whatsoever in any of the forums Scott lists. Never once. Nor is redefining and silencing our style. The only way Scott's sentence makes any sense is if you read it as a complaint that the views of Scott and his cohort have become so completely unhinged that they've lost so much support in the halls of power that they now fear persecution. probably because in their bones they know that if they had that same power, that's what they would be doing.

The document continues with a list of things that the left wants "to change or destroy," so it would be easy (and possibly clarifying, or maybe just funny) to write up a point-by-point rebuttal. Of course, it would be a pointless exercise if Scott were really as marginal a figure as his rants suggest, but he is a US Senator from the 3rd most populous state in the US, and chairman of the US Senate Republican Campaign Committee, so it seems he should be taken seriously.

Despite losing a day from my usual week, we have a substantial list of records below, again mostly 2021 releases, many of which showed up on lately perused EOY lists. The blues albums came from AMG's genre lists (I previously had about half of them). I made a special search for hip-hop lists, which pushed Tyler the Creator into 3rd, displacing Olivia Rodrigo, and bumped Lil Nas X to 15th. I was surprised to find a lot of those lists touting Kanye West (up to 48) and Drake (up to 119) -- respectively, C+ and B for me. A set of lists at Wicked Sound helped, although none were labeled hip-hop or rap (closest was "beats").

The A- item in the "Old Music" section was offered up as a download by a reader, as a tangent to another discussion. Takes me back to my childhood, although it's actually better than I remembered. I guess that's one way to get me to write about something hard to find. (I'm still mostly using Napster, but also finding some things on Spotify that I can't find on Napster -- just not much.)

New records reviewed this week:

42 Dugg: Free Dem Boyz (2021, 4PF/CMG): Detroit rapper Dion Marquise Hayes, fourth mixtape. Like his voice, and the beats got some bounce. B+(*)

The Allergies: Promised Land (2021, Jalapeno): British electronic/remixing duo (DJ Moneyshot, Rackabeat) from Bristol, fifth album since 2016, by this evidence hip-hop, more vintage/funk than UK norms. Guest spots for rappers include Dynamite MC, Andy Cooper, Marietta Smith, and Lyrics Born. B+(***)

Wayne Alpern: Secular Rituals (2022, Henri Elkan): Composer, originally from Detroit, based in New York, "his musical scholarship and theoretical expertise focuses on Schenkerian analysis and 20th-century music." Music here is "digitally created," patterns somewhere between minimalism, new age, and Krautrock. B+(**) [cd]

Aminé: TwoPointFive (2021, Republic/CLBN): Rapper Adam Aminé Daniel, from Portland, parents from Ethiopia, several albums since 2017, title here reflects on OnePointFive (2018). Short album (12 tracks, 27:20), nice and tight. B+(***)

Pat Bianchi: Something to Say: The Music of Stevie Wonder (2021, Savant): Organ player, albums since 2006, leads a quartet with Paul Bollenback (guitar), Byron Landham (drums), and (sometimes) tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery. You'd think Wonder's songs would work out better, but they rarely do. B

Selwyn Birchwood: Living in a Burning House (2021, Alligator): Blues singer-songwriter, from Tampa, plays guitar and lap steel, fifth album (third on Alligator). B+(*)

Pi'erre Bourne: The Life of Pi'erre 5 (2021, SossHouse/Interscope): Rapper Jordan Jenks, born in Kansas but grew up in South Carolina, second studio album after a pile of mixtapes (including the first three in the Life of Pi'erre series). B+(***)

Leon Bridges: Gold-Diggers Sound (2021, Columbia): Retro-soul singer, third album since 2015. B+(*)

The Buttshakers: Arcadia (2021, Underdog): French retro soul group, led by American singer Ciara Thompson, fifth album since 2010, extra gritty. B+(**) [bc]

Daniel Carter/Avi Granite: Together Song: The Improvisations of Daniel Carter and Avi Granite Vol. 1 (2018 [2021], Pet Mantis): Duets, three improv pieces (35:59), Granite plays guitar, Carter various wind instruments (flute, clarinet, tenor/soprano sax, trumpet). B+(*)

Curly Castro: Little Robert Hutton (2021, Backwoodz Studioz): Philadelphia rapper, several albums since 2013, part of groups ShrapKnel and Wrecking Crew, tapped for featuring spots here. Looks back to the Black Panthers, and finds a long tradition of radicalism. B+(***)

Steve Cropper: Fire It Up (2021, Provogue): Famous r&b guitarist, backed Stax stars from the late 1960s, playing in their "house band," famous in their own right as Booker T. & the M.G.'s. His career as a leader has been spotty, although his 2011 Dedicated: A Salute to the 5 Royales is a high point. Solid original blues set here, where he shares most writing credits with Jon Tiven (bass/sax/keyboards) and Roger C. Reale (vocals). B+(**) [sp]

Damu the Fudgemunk: Conversation Peace (2021, Def Pressé): DC rapper Earl Davis, better known as a hip-hop producer, Discogs credits him with 23 albums since 2008, including one from 2020 that featured Archie Shepp. This is the first volume in the label's KPM Crate Diggers series, where various hip-hop producers are invited to rumage through the KPM Music library. Good choice, spinning the beats into a perfectly inconspicuous flow, adding thoughtful raps from Raw Poetic, Insight, Nitty Scott, Blu, and Damu himself. A-

Richard Dawson & Circle: Henki (2021, Weird World): English progressive/freak folk singer-songwriter, albums since 2005, plus long-running Finnish band Circle (for which Discogs lists 54 albums since 1992). I was more impressed before I realized the band they remind me of is Jethro Tull. B

Dijon: Absolutely (2021, R&R Digital/Warner): Singer-songwriter, last name Duenas, born in Germany, grew up in Maryland, first album after a couple EPs. Stressful. B

Drake: Certified Lover Boy (2021, OVO/Republic, 2CD): Canadian rapper Aubrey Graham, goes by his middle name, hit platinum with his debut and remains profitable, although seems like he gets little respect. Sure, this shows up in the middle-third of several hip-hop EOY lists, perhaps a nod to his sales, or to his liberal use of guests (12 of 21 songs here). Typical example: "Way 2 Sexy," built on the Right Said Fred sample handed over to Future and Young Thug. I like it, but it's not close to great. Same can be said often enough that one could imagine editing this down to a perfectly acceptable mid-B+ album. Still, one wonders what Drake's personal contribution is, other than signing the checks. B

Kahil El'Zabar Quartet: A Time for Healing (2021 [2022], Spiritmuse): "Chicago's legendary jazz shaman," a percussionist who sometimes sings too much, leads a group with Cory Wilkes (trumpet), Isaiah Collier (reeds), and Justin Dillard (keyboards), everyone also adding to the percussion. Some lovely music, but so subdued his "We'll Get Through This" doesn't come close to convincing me. B+(**) [bc]

EST Gee: Bigger Than Life or Death (2021, CMG/Warlike/Interscope): Rapper from Louisville, George Stone, has a couple mixtapes but this is his first big label shot. Whiff of gangsta, but steadying himself. B+(**)

Flying Lotus: Yasuke (2021, Warp): Steven Ellison, LA-based electronica producer, has had some crossover success, but this is soundtrack work, "music from the Netflix original anime series." Which means scattered, with dark and/or dramatic swells, not that the sounds aren't often remarkable. B+(**) [bc]

Sue Foley: Pinky's Blues (2021, Stony Plain): Blues singer-songwriter, originally from Canada, based in Austin when she released Young Girl Blues in 1992. Sixteenth album, leads with a pretty mean guitar instrumental, and keeps the heat up, especially on her "Hoochie Coochie Man" rewrite, "Hurricane Girl." Closes with another guitar romp: "When the Cat's Gone the Mice Play." A-

Four Tet: Parallel (2020, Text): Electronica producer Kieran Hebden, many albums since 1999, most under this name but he's also used his own name, particularly for collaborations with the late jazz drummer Steve Reid. Ten numbered pieces, one 26:46, two under 1 minute, adding up to something significant. B+(***)

GA-20: GA-20 Does Hound Dog Taylor: Try It . . . You Might Like It! (2021, Karma Chief/Alligator): Boston blues band, second album, guitarist Matthew Stubbs, singer-guitarist Pat Flaherty, and drummer Tim Carman, play 7 songs penned by Taylor plus 3 more. First impression is that they add not much. Second is that's fine. B+(**)

Micah Graves: Pawns (2021 [2022], self-released): Pianist from Philadelphia, also plays electric and synths, third album. Energetic fusion, not especially interesting, and the vocals don't help, but the saxophonists do: most likely Yesseh Furaha-Ali, or maybe Dick Oatts (the only name I recognize, but only one cut). B- [cd]

Curtis Harding: If Words Were Flowers (2021, Anti-): Soul singer-songwriter from Saginaw, Michigan, third album. B+(***)

H.E.R.: Back of My Mind (2021, RCA): Initial for Having Everything Revealed, real name Gabriella Wilson, first studio album after EPs and certified gold compilations of same. Major sprawl: 21 songs, 79:18. B+(**)

Heritage Orchestra/Jules Buckley/Ghost-Note: The Breaks (2021, Decca): British classical orchestra ("40 or so of the brightest and best young classical musicians in London"), with Buckley conducting, sometimes composing, and leading forays into "heavy jazz and funk." Ghost-Note is an American funk band, sharing several musicians with Snarky Puppy. Program includes pieces like "Get on the Good Foot" and "Dance to the Drummer's Beat," with various feature spots. The breaks themselves are sharp as ever, the orchestral background enthusiastic but a bit thick. B+(**) [sp]

Javon Jackson: The Gospel According to Nikki Giovanni (2021 [2022], Solid Jackson): Tenor saxophonist, emerged in the 1990s, recording for mainstream Criss Cross, then Blue Note. The poet curated this collection of old gospel tunes, singing one, reading some poetry on another. B+(***)

Jazz Spastiks: Camera of Sound (2021, Jazz Plastic): Underground hip-hop beatmakers, based in Scotland, dozen-plus albums since 2010. Focus is on the beats and scratches, rather old school, but nearly half the pieces have guest rappers (most quite good, like Wee Bee Foolish), with skits sprinkled about like DJ Shadow fragments. Group name in appropriate on all counts. A- [bc]

Karkhana: Al Azraqayn (2021, Karlrecords): Jazz group with members from Beirut, Cairo, Istanbul, and Chicago (Michael Zerang), sixth album since 2015, includes some oud but more electric guitar and bass, with organ/synthesizer (Maurice Louca) signaling fusion which they then rip apart -- yes, they can break free and get noisy. Credits include Umut Caglar (reeds/flute) and Mazen Kerbaj (trumpet/electronics). A-

The Adam Larson Trio: With Love, From Chicago (2021 [2022], Outside In Music): Chicago tenor saxophonist, with bass (Clark Sommers) and drums (Dana Hall), with Sommers writing 4 songs, to 3 for Larson and 3 covers (including a Monk). B+(***) [cd]

Rick Margitza: Sacred Hearts (2021, Le Coq): Tenor saxophonist, a fairly major figure from his 1989 Blue Note debut to his last Palmetto album in 2001, rarely heard from after he moved to Paris in 2003. French group, with Manuel Rocheman (piano), guitar, bass, drums, percussion, some vocals and handclaps. Still has a lovely tone. B+(**)

Mas Aya: Mascaras (2021, Telephone Explosion): Solo project by Toronto percussionist-producer Brandon Miguel Valdivia, mostly electronics with vocal samples from Nicaragua, and one song written and sung by Lido Pimienta. B+(**)

Otis McDonald: Beats Vol. 3 (2021, Track Tribe): Name adopted, Elton John-style, from Shuggie Otis and Michael McDonald, which doesn't inspire me with confidence -- but neither does Joe Bagale. In 2015 he released 30 tracks copyright-free via YouTube, which have since been downloaded over 5 million times. Not sure if this is that or just more: his only album in Discogs is People Music from 2019, but he has more stuff on Spotify. Functional, and varied enough. B+(*)

Mathias Modica: Sonic Rohstoff (2021, Kryptox): German DJ/producer, seems to have a long list of groups and aliases (especially as Munk, from 2000-14). Plain keyb at first, changes gear around "Le Sud" with the entry of a saxophone and background vocals (but also a better beat). Too bad nothing else comes close. B+(*)

Gary Numan: The Intruder (2021, BMG): British synthpop pioneer, I remember his 1978-79 albums as a big deal, although I stopped paying attention after 1980's Telekon. But he kept releasing records, making this one his 21st. A bit overblown, but as catchy as ever. B+(**)

Joy Oladokun: In Defense of My Own Happiness (2021, Amigo/Verve Forecast/Republic): Singer-songwriter, grew up in Arizona, parents Nigerian immigrants, moved to Los Angeles, then Nashville. Not country, but her straightforward songwriting is at home there. Especially catchy: "I See America." A-

Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band: Dance Songs for Hard Times (2021, Family Owned): Country/blues band from Brown County, Indiana; 11th album since 2004, the "big" band a trio with Breezy Peyton on washboard and Max Senteney on drums and bucket, the Reverend playing antique guitars and singing. Rough and rambunctious, with "Too Cool to Dance" so perfect the Blasters could sue, and "Come Down Angels" a hymn that seeks not just to raise the rafters but rip them asunder. A-

Zilla Rocca: Vegas Vic (2021, Three Dollar Pistol Music): Philadelphia rapper, associated with Wrecking Crew, albums since 2008, called his 2019 album Future Former Rapper then went on a tear. Sounds a bit like Atmosphere, but more political. B+(***)

Jacob Sacks/David Ambrosio/Vinnie Sperrazza: Trio Trio Meets Sheila Jordan (2021 [2022], SteepleChase): Label founded in 1972 in Denmark by Nils Winther, drawing mainly on American bebop expats and tourists, and remains a major outlet for mainstream players, especially Americans. But they have virtually no web presence, so it's often hard to get discographical details. The singer is 92, and hasn't recorded much lately, so one wonders when this was recorded [March 2021]. One also wonders about the artist attribution, but Trio or "trioTrio" is so generic I decided to go with the musician names, also on the cover. Jordan is not in her best voice, and the songs are old ones, not that I mind her hearing her memoir of "The Bird" again, and I still get a kick out of "all God's children got bebop." The clincher is a brave and touching reading of her 1984 title song, "The Crossing." A-

Jared Sims: Against All Odds (2021 [2022], Origin): Tenor saxophonist, big sound, has several albums, this one a quartet with guitar (Steve Fell), bass (Keala Kaumeheiwa), and drums (Luther Gray). One cut features his wife, Amy M. Alvarez, with poetry. B+(**) [cd]

Steve Slagle: Ballads: Into the Heart of It (2021 [2022], Panorama): Alto saxophonist, albums since 1982, many in a group co-led by guitarist Dave Stryker. This one with Bruce Barth (piano), Ugonna Okegwo (bass), and Jason Tiemann (drums), with orchestrations by Richard Sussman and Randy Brecker guest spots. I'm iffy on the strings, and the fiery closer suggests that ballads might not be their forté. B+(*)

Sv1: Health (2021, Curiosity Shop, EP): Electronica producer Samuel Vaille, from Texas, singles since 2019, seems to be his longest effort to date (8 tracks, 24:13). Ambient tableaux with glitches, so not so ambient. B+(**) [yt]

Deanna Witkowski: Force of Nature (2021 [2022], MCG Jazz): Pianist, has several albums back to 1999, doesn't sing here but has been known to. She also wrote a book last year, about Mary Lou Williams, and this record is a tribute, offering a nice slice of her songbook (including parts of Zodiac Suite) as well as Witkowski's title piece. Mostly trio, with Clay Jenkins' trumpet a plus on 4 (of 12) tracks. Closes with "Stompin' at the Savoy" and "My Blue Heaven." B+(***) [cd]

Carolyn Wonderland: Tempting Fate (2021, Alligator): Blues singer-songwriter, originally from Houston, now in Austin, albums back to 2001, labels obscure, plays lots of instruments but her guitar really rips. She wrote six songs, including the political "Fragile Peace and Certain War." Covers from John Mayall, Billy Joe Shaver, Bob Dylan (featuring Jimmie Dale Gilmore), and Garcia/Hunter (which finally proved too much). Dave Alvin produced. B+(**)

W.R.D. [Robert Walter/Eddie Roberts/Adam Deitch]: The Hit (2021, Color Red): The name partners play organ, guitar, and drums, with side credits for sax (Nick Gerlach) and bass (Josh Fairman), but they aren't immediately obvious. B+(*) [bc]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Emmanuel Abdul-Rahim: Harlem (1988 [2021], Acid Jazz): American percussionist, born in New York, original name Juan Amalbert, living in Denmark since 1977, where this was recorded. With saxophonist Ed Epstein, piano (Karsten Sørensen), guitar, bass, more percussionists, so the Latin is more than a tinge. B+(**) [bc]

Doug Carn: Infant Eyes (1971 [2021], Black Jazz/Real Gone Music): Pianist, first album, resurfaced recently with a volume in the Jazz Is Dead series. Leads a sextet here, also playing organ. Draws on major jazz figures of the 1960s, writing one original plus lyrics to four more, sung by wife Jean Carn. After three albums together, she went on to a successful soul/disco career. Striking voice, though I find I'd rather listen to George Harper's saxophone. B+(**)

Rudolph Johnson: Spring Rain (1971 [2021], Black Jazz/Real Gone Music): Tenor saxophonist from Ohio, played with Jimmy McGriff, first album, nothing in his discography after 1976 (d. 2007). Backed by piano-bass-drums. After a wobbly start, finds a nice soul jazz groove. B+(*)

Roots: Roots (1975 [2021], Frederiksberg): South African jazz group, first of two albums released in 1975, with alto saxophonist Barney Rachabane, with Duke Makhasa (tenor sax), Dennis Mphale (trumpet), piano/organ (Jabu Nkosi), bass (Sipho Gumede), and drums (Peter Morake), with Gumede writing 3 (of 6) songs. B+(***) [bc]

Old music:

Charles Mingus: Mingus Plays Piano: Spontaneous Compositions and Improvisations (1963 [1997], Impulse): Deserves his rep as the leading bassist of his generation on chops alone, but he's possibly even more famous as a composer and bandleader. He's also, evidently, a fine pianist, not that his solo doodling is going to rank high in his discography. B+(*)

Charles Mingus: Mingus at the Bohemia (1955 [1990], Debut/OJC): I think of 1956 as being his watershed year, but he had accomplished a lot before then. He had played with Kid Ory, Red Norvo, Duke Ellington, and Charlie Parker. He founded Debut Records with Max Roach, and recorded enough material there to eventually fill up a 12-CD box. This is a live set, a quintet with George Barrow (tenor sax), Eddie Bert (trombone), piano (Mal Waldron), and drums (Roach or Willie Jones). His compositional style is already clear. CD adds two alternate takes. B+(***)

Roy Rogers: Roll On Texas Moon (1945-52 [1986], Bear Family): Leonard Slye (1911-98), from Cincinnati, gained fame as a singing cowboy in the 1930s, most notably in Sons of the Pioneers, and moved on to films and TV -- I remember his 1951-57 The Roy Rogers Show better than the dates suggests, and I saw him and Dale Evans performing at the Seattle World's Fair, in what was probably my first concert. So I've always had a soft spot for him, but the records I've found were spotty at best. Clifford Ocheltree recommended this one. The one place where he slows to a ballad reveals him as a fairly ordinary crooner, but as long as he keeps the pace up, he's very pleasing. A- [dl]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Henry Franklin: Daggerboard & the Skipper (Wide Hive) [02-04]
  • Tomas Fujiwara's Triple Double: March (Firehouse 12) [03-04]
  • Kim Nalley Band With Houston Person: I Want a Little Boy (Kim Nalley Productions) []
  • Josh Nelson/Bob Bowman Collective: Tomorrow Is Not Promised (Steel Bird Music) [04-01]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Music Week

February archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 37322 [37256] rated (+66), 141 [142] unrated (-1).

Rating total probably reflects fixing some bookkeeping errors, but still list 62 records below, so I kept busy. Spent some time adding to the EOY Aggregate, picking up a pretty good country list from The Boot, and a bunch of lists from Bandcamp, where links to music were especially handy. Also got some fresh suggestions from Robert Christgau's February Consumer Guide (although the Yard Act EP was in Jason Gross's Ye Wei Blog list). Still confused whether it's Iamdoechii or just Doechii, and what the labels are (if any). Then there's another album I didn't get from anyone: Bean on Toast. But he's put out a record every year for quite some time, so I wondered whether he had another one -- and lo, he did.

Note that Saturday's Speaking of Which has an extra PS I wrote Sunday and posted today. I responded to a reader letter, and thought it made most sense to share what I wrote there rather than saving it up for a Questions & Answers.

I actually wrote a bit more at the time, but was satisfied with my ending as presented. Still, here's another useful iteration:

There is a much-commented on "blame America first syndrome," which I also don't think applies to me, but some of what I write can be read that way. I'd say it's not an irrational first approximation. I have a rather extensive catalog of American offenses at my disposal, including things like the CIA efforts to rig elections in Italy and France. The US took a monstrous wrong turn in starting the Cold War, and we've been paying for that mistake ever since -- Donald Trump being just one of many manifestations. It doesn't mean that I hate America. But it does mean that I think a little humility is in order. There are no humanitarian wars. To think otherwise is not only counterfactual, it's unspeakably arrogant.

It should be noted that the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft is one of the few media outlets doing consistently good work on Ukraine, and not just their area specialist, Anatol Lieven (though I'll point out that he's not nearly as critical of NATO as I am). His latest pieces are: Russia sanctions bill is a 'single barrel sawed-off shotgun', and Why are we evacuating diplomats from Ukraine? You might also scan through Branko Marcetic's interview with Volodymyr Ishchenko: A Ukrainian Sociologist Explains Why Everything You Know About Ukraine Is Probably Wrong.

They also have an important article on Biden's $7 billion Afghan heist. In the years right after WWII, America developed a reputation as a generous victor, investing money and (more importantly) allowing political freedom to its vanquished enemies in Germany and Japan (while turning on US allies in the Soviet Union, and leaving a mixed legacy in colonized Asia and Africa). In the years since, the US has rarely prevailed in wars, and has often held long and bitter grudges against those who had defied us and the people we once claimed to support. The US debacle in Afghanistan was so total that the only decent thing left to do would be to provide the new government of Afghanistan the means to help its people, but once again we see bitterness getting the upper hand.

Like many people, I wish American foreign policy could be a force for good in the world, but all we ever see is the bullying, cajoling, arrogance, and petty-mindedness. This calls for a time out. (Still, story after story rolls in showing the US military trying to flex its muscles: e.g., Israeli jets escort US bomber to Gulf in fresh show of force to Iran; also: Israeli offiials rushing to evacuate citizens from Ukraine by Tuesday, where by "citizens" they mean an estimated 10-15K Ukrainian Jews they're hoping the Russians will drive into their arms.)

One last thing I should note is that this marks my 3000th blog post, going back to when I initially set up Serendipity (aka s9y) -- was it 2003? I haven't used Serendipity for quite some while, but kept the numbering scheme when I started hand-crafting blog posts (at the time, I called it my "faux blog"). That would work out to 3/week, a rate I have rarely hit over the last 5-10 years, but there was a patch early on where I tried to post something new every day. Not all of those posts are available in the current archive (which starts at 2156), but the redundant copies in the notebook have survived, and I've compiled most of them into a number of book files. There's a lot of writing: a quick wc on the notebook shows 14,820,257 words. Too bad my sloppy organization makes them so hard to find.

New records reviewed this week:

Adeem the Artist: Cast Iron Pansexual (2021, self-released): "Seventh-generation Carolinian, a makeshift poet, singer-songwriter, storyteller, and blue-collar Artist." Was born Adem Bingham, songs signed Adeem Maria, uses they/them pronouns, has a wife named Hannah, picks and sings country, minus any of the conventional tropes. Mostly songs about gender, but more firmly rooted in humanity. Notable lyric: "everyone's looking for Jesus/ or anyone else they can hang." A- [bc]

Adia Victoria: A Southern Gothic (2021, Atlantic): Singer-songwriter from South Carolina, last name Paul, third album, T-Bone Burnett listed as executive producer, more atmospheric than rootsy. B+(**)

Arca: Kick II (2021, XL): Alejandra Ghersi, born in Venezuela, studied in NYU, based in Barcelona, albums since 2013, Kick I appeared in 2020, this is the first of four additional volumes that appeared in late 2021. Has a flair for the dramatic. B+(*)

Arca: Kick III (2021, XL): Second of four albums released in quick succession, after an initial album in 2020. Not without interest, but on the cusp of becoming really irritating. B

Arca: Kick IIII (2021, XL): Artwork progresses from a big surrounded by mechanical interventions to a machine shaped like a body with bits of skin suggesting sex. The music is less irritating, but coud be that Ghersi is working too fast to notice. B

Arca: Kick IIIII (2021, XL): Starts with a slow one, a bit of ambient music neither here nor there. It's not that a change of pace isn't welcome -- it could even lead to something substantial, as the artwork has shifted from mechanistic to monumental -- but it's hard to start caring once you don't. B

Angela Autumn: Frontiers Woman (2021, self-released, EP): Country singer-songwriter, from Pennsylvania, based in Nashville, Bandcamp page shows 2 singles and 2 EPs, although this one is getting close to album length (7 songs, 28:08). Plays banjo as well as guitar. B+(*) [bc]

Beans on Toast: Survival of the Friendliest (2021, Beans on Toast Music): British folksinger-songwriter Jay McAllister, has released an album every December 1 since 2009, except for 2020, when he figured we needed two. He loves "This Beautiful Place" and the "Humans" that inhabit it. His rues the loss of "The Commons" (wasn't that 19th century?), but insists "Not Everybody Thinks We're Doomed," and prescribes: "if you want to be happy/ you're going to have to learn to be kind." B+(**) [sp]

Leah Blevins: First Time Feeling (2021, Crabtree): Country singer-songwriter, first album after an EP. Boot review says: "voice reminiscent of Dolly, the eye for storytelling of Prine, and the caustic wit of fellow Kentuckian Kelsey Waldon." Doesn't quite live up to any of those plaudits, except maybe the voice. B+(*)

Andrew Boudreau: Neon (2021 [2022], Fresh Sound New Talent): Pianist, originally from Nova Scotia, grew up in Montreal, studied in Boston, based in New York. Debut, leads a quartet of his Boston chums, with Neta Raanan (tenor sax), bass, and drums. Nicely paced postbop. B+(***) [02-28]

Big Chief Monk Boudreux: Bloodstains & Teardrops (2021, Whiskey Bayou): From New Orleans, joined the Wild Magnolias in 1970, parted company in 2001, first album in a decade, fairly straight blues. B+(*)

Bo Burnham: Inside (The Songs) (2021, Imperial Distribution): Comedian, started in stand-up, expresses himself through songs. Fourth album, first three released through Comedy Central. This was a lockdown project, solo, with video if you care (I don't). Tackles some burning subjects, as well as some silly ones, but isn't that funny, nor all that musical. One line I jotted down: "I am a special kind of white guy." Not really. B-

Chapel Hart: The Girls Are Back in Town (2021, self-released): Two sisters, Danica and Devynn Hart, and cousin Trea Swindle, from Poplarville, Mississippi, a country vocal group who happen to be black, but have so much fiddle, twang, and yee-haw they couldn't be anything else. Second album, imbued enough in the culture to write a credible answer song ("You Can Have Him Jolene"). I doubt they'll enjoy singing "Grown Ass Woman" forever, but they can turn a phrase: "so stand up for what you believe on/ just don't stand up on me." B+(*)

Circuit Des Yeux: Io (2021, Matador): Alias for singer-songwriter Haley Fohr, born Indiana, based in Chicago, seventh album since 2008. Heavy, arty, operatic. C+

Crazy Doberman: "Everyone Is Rolling Down a Hill" or "The Journey to the Center of Some Arcane Mystery and the Entanglements of the Vines and Veins of the Cosmic and Unwieldy Millieu Encountered in the Midst of That Endeavor" (2020 [2021], Astral Spirits): Collaborative improv group, started as a quartet in Indiana but metastatized around 2017, with Discogs listing 38 albums since then. B [bc]

Dinosaur Jr.: Sweep It Into Space (2021, Jagjaguwar): Venerable indie band, not one I've ever found interesting (although I did like a solo album by leader J. Mascis), debut 1985, 15th studio album. B+(*)

Doss: 4 New Hit Songs (2021, LuckyMe, EP): Aimee Bowen, debut EP 2014, this is her second, nothing in between. Tiny, whispery vocals, big electopop beats. I don't quite hear hits, but "Puppy" comes close, and the rest could float an album. B+(***) [sp]

Rory Feek: Gentle Man (2021, Gaither Music Group): Country singer-songwriter from Atchison, KS. Formed a duo with his second wife, Joey + Rory, which ended when she died of cancer in 2016. First solo album, several touching songs about his late wife, a Dylan cover that sounds richer and more nuanced than the original, and a bit more, just trying to move on. B+(***)

Fiddlehead: Between the Richness (2021, Run for Cover): Indie garage band from Boston, Pat Flynn the singer, teaches high school history as his day job. Second album, dense, 1980s emo feel, short (10 songs, 25:06). B+(*) [sp]

Fred Again: Actual Life (April 14-December 17 2020) (2021, Atlantic): British singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, electronica producer. First album after singles and an EP. B+(**)

Fred Again: Actual Life (February 2-October 15 2021) (2021, Atlantic): Presumably the dates are when these pieces were recorded, so they act as some kind of journal. Probably progress too, but not quite to next level. B+(**)

Mark Fredson: Nothing but Night (2021, self-released): Singer-songwriter, originally from Washington, based in Nashville, sings high and lonesome, drawing more on soul than on country. B+(*)

Dori Freeman: Ten Thousand Roses (2021, Blue Hens Music): Folkie singer-songwriter from Virginia, fourth album. Seems like she's lost some roots. B+(*)

Amos Gillespie: Unstructured Time for Jazz Septet (2021 [2022], self-released): Alto saxophonist, based in Chicago, website claims six other albums since 2012, but some of the credits are unclear. Fair to say he's a composer first, and not afraid to try some unusual twists and turns. Way too fancy for me, though I'm impressed by several stretches, including most of the sax solos. Alexandra Olavsky's occasional vocals are another mixed bag. B+(*) [cd] [02-22]

Corey Harris: Insurrection Blues (2021, M.C.): Blues singer-songwriter, emerged 1995 in a Taj Mahal groove, probably peaked two years later with Fish Ain't Bitin'. I lost track of him after disliking his 2002 album, so I've missed out on a steady stream of albums as he got older and grizzlier. B+(**) [sp]

Iamdoechii: Oh the Places You'll Go (2020, Doechii, EP): Discogs identifies her as Jaylah Hickmon, from Tampa, but hasn't gotten to this 7-track 21:37 album, let alone a 4-track successor I'm having trouble locating. Not interested in Instagram much less Tik Tok, I have to make do with press like: "She is finest identified for her hottest monitor 'Yucky Blucky Fruitcake.'" And: "Iamdoechii's estimated internet price is $10 million." Dubious spot is a lecture on "God" that starts conceited and turns egalitarian. Real reservation is that it isn't real yet, but I wish it were. A-

Iamdoechii: Bra-Less (2021, Doechi, EP): Turns out Spotify filed this under Doechii, which probably makes more sense as artist name, but cover reads as above. Four tracks, 14:25. The harder raps are less distinctive, but remain credible. Wouldn't be a bad idea for some capitalist to combine these two (and possibly some more singles?) into a tangible product. B+(***) [sp]

IKOQWE: The Beginning, the Medium, the End and the Infinite (2021, Crammed Discs): Side project by Angola-born, Lisbon-based producer Pedro Coquenão (aka Batida), with Angolan rapper Luaty Beirão. B+(***)

Jaguar: Madremonte (2021, El Palmas Music): Duo, two Colombians based in Switzerland, Raúl Parra and Paulo Olarte, foundation is probably cumbia but they also "imbibe" salsa, rock, zouk, and champeta in their dance floor fusion. B+(*) [bc]

Darren Johnston: Life in Time (2021 [2022], Origin): Canadian trumpet player, based in San Francisco, albums since 2007, most previous ones on avant-labels. Quartet with Geof Bradfield (sax/bass clarinet), who wrote 4 (of 10) songs to Johnston's 6, plus bass and drums. The interaction of the horns is always fresh and spirited. A- [cd] [02-18]

Kalabrese: Let Love Rumpel: Part 1 (2021, Rumpelmusig): Swiss musician Sacha Winkler, credited with "drums, vox, synth" in touring group Rumpelorchestra but group is only credited on one cut here (video available). Touted as "unconventional dance music," which gets it misfiled as electronica. Beyond category, so they invented their own. B+(**) [bc]

Kondi Band: We Famous (2021, Strut): Sorie Kondi, singer and thumb piano player from Sierra Leone, with producers Chief Boima (also from Sierra Leone but based in US) and Will LV (UK-born). B+(**) [bc]

Howie Lee: Birdy Island (2021, Mais Um Discos): Chinese DJ, "future music from downtown Beijing," Discogs lists 5 albums and 7 singles/EPs since 2010. Draws widely, beats better than ambiance. B+(*) [bc]

LNS & DJ Sotofett: Sputters (2017-20 [2021], Tresor): Techno producers Laura Sparrow (from Vancouver, first album after some singles) and Stefan Mitterer (from Norway, prolific since 2011), with a guest shot by E-GZR. Described as "a hybrid of warped electro and psychedelic hypnosis," this reminds me of what I first liked about techno: dance beats, stretched and fucked with without ever losing step or sparkle. A- [bc]

L'Orange: The World Is Still Chaos, but I Feel Better (2021, Mello Music Group): Hip-hop producer Austin Hart, from and based in North Carolina, many albums since 2011, most co-credited with guest MCs. This uses narration by Andreea Dinag & Sora the Troll, and credits nine more for "additional vocals." Scattershot. B+(**) [bc]

Doug MacDonald and the L.A. All-Star Octet: Overtones (2021 [2022], DMAC Music): Guitarist, started in 1981, has been very active of late. Composed all eight pieces. I don't recognize most of the all-stars, but the saxophonists are notable (Kim Richmond, Ricky Woodard), as is pianist Bill Cunliffe. And they do get a big enseble sound with deceptively easy flow. B+(***) [cd] [02-15]

Ava Mendoza: New Spells (2021, Relative Pitch/Astral Spirits): Guitarist, based in Brooklyn, first appeared in 2008, got a lot of attention last year for her work on William Parker's Mayan Space Station. Solo here, metallic, rather brittle. B [bc]

Meridian Brothers/Conjunto Media Luna: Paz En La Tierra (2021, Bongo Joe): Expecting a meeting of cumbia groups, surprised to see this described as a duo of Eblis Alvarez (percussion, bass, vocals) and Iván Medellin (accordion, choir). B+(**) [bc]

Mesh: Mesh (2020 [2021], Born Yesterday, EP): Philadelphia post-punk group, EP has five tracks (12:04), songs like "CIA Mind Control" and "UR Dead." B+(*) [bc]

Mike.: The Highs. (2021, 4TheHomies): As far as I can figure, this is not the rapper Michael Bonema, who has at least six albums since 2016 as MIKE. According to AllMusic, this is Michael Francis Seander Jr., from Providence, RI, formerly known as Mike Stud (or Mike the Stud). At least it's not listed by Wikipedia or Discogs under "Mike(408)," and doesn't appear on Mike's Bandcamp. I suppose the periods (and lower case) are meant as differentiation enough, but since I first ran into him, I've found MIKE the most Google-unfriendly artist ever -- a complaint this only adds to. Still, a substantial (23-track) effort, flows nice, sings more than he raps. B+(**)

The Notwist: Vertigo Days (2021, Morr Music): German rock group, debut album 1991, ninth studio album, probably influenced by classic Krautrock bands but I also hear traces of New Order. B+(**)

Bill O'Connell: A Change Is Gonna Come (2021 [2022], Savant): Pianist, albums since 1978, some Latin-oriented, this one more hard bop, with saxophonist Craig Handy leading the way, backed with bass, drums, and (4 of 10 tracks) extra percussion. Seven originals, plus Coltrane, Cooke, and "My Foolish Heart." B+(**) [cd]

Mathis Picard: Live at the Museum (2019 [2021], Outside In Music): Pianist, French-Malagasy, based in New York, seems to be his first album, venue is the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, likes to mix up classical and stride. Five originals, two pieces by Willie "The Lion" Smith, one by John Lewis, bits by John Williams and Maurice Ravel. B+(**) [cd]

Queen Esther: Gild the Black Lily (2021, EL): Usual sources don't offer a birth name or date or location, but do note that she grew up with gospel, showtunes, countrypolitan, and opera, and has been working since 1996: not just singing but also writing for and acting on stage (including the libretto for The Billie Holiday Project). This is her fourth album since 2004, not counting sidework with James Blood Ulmer, JC Hopkins, Elliott Sharp. I filed her under blues because her first album was called Talkin' Fishbowl Blues, but this album starts with a banjo-driven cowgirl song, followed by an a cappella "John the Revelator," then came close to losing me with an Eagles cover, but won me back with songs like "Lonesome Road" and "She Thinks I Still Care." A-

R2Bees: Back 2 Basics (2021, Ziiki Media): Hip-hop duo from Ghana, where rapping over highlife beats is called hiplife. Fifth album since 2009. B+(*)

Scotch Rolex: Tewari (2021, Hakuna Kulala): Japanese electronica producer Shigeru Ishihara, based in Berlin, has used various aliases including DJ Scotch Bonnet and DJ Scotch Egg, hooks up with an Ugandan label not but similar to Nyege Nyege. Most cuts feature various MCs, meaning hip-hop with metal thrash, or metal tightly bolted to a beat. B [bc]

Shanique Marie: Gigi's House (2021, Equinoxx Musiq): Jamaican singer-songwriter, surname Sinclair, aka Shanz, first album after several singles and an EP, short one (8 songs, 30:18). B+(*) [bc]

Hayley Williams: Flowers for Vases/Descansos (2021, Atlantic): Pop singer, fronted the band Paramore, which released five albums 2005-2017. Second album on her own, solo, produced by Daniel Jammes. Spanish translates as "breaks." Introspective, comforting, seems like it might grow on you. B+(***)

Mars Williams: Mars Williams Presents an Ayler Xmas Vol. 5 (2020-21 [2021], Astral Spirits): Saxophonist, also credited with suona and toy instruments, leads a septet through three pieces (37:10) pieced together from Albert Ayler compositions sprinkled with more/less recognizable Christmas tunes. He's been doing one of these each year. Works because Ayler had a knack for turning free jazz into hymns. B+(**)

Yasmin Williams: Urban Driftwood (2021, Spinster): From Virginia, a "finger-style composer and guitarist," also playing harp-guitar, kalimba, and other instruments, "often with the guitar on her lap." Third album, written during lockdown and "influenced by the Black Lives Matter protests." B+(**)

Yard Act: The Overload (2022, Island): British indie band, from Leeds, first album, vocals declaimed, sometimes reading like a manifesto (not unlike Art Brut), but they're on the right side of politics and, one hopes, history. A-

Yard Act: Dark Days (2021, ZEN FC, EP): Initial 4-song, 13:14 EP, came out almost a year before their debut album, no songs repeated. Expect the title song to lead off a future greatest hits album, while the rest fill up a decent "odds and sods." B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Bush Tetras: Rhythm and Paranoia: The Best of Bush Tetras (1980-2019 [2021], Wharf Cat, 2CD): Repeats 11 (of 14) 1980-83 songs, adds 17-20 (depending on configuration) extra tracks, mostly from reunion bands, with their more conventional crunch. Package comes with a 40-page booklet, but hard to find the dates online. B+(**)

J Dilla: Welcome 2 Detroit [The 20th Anniversary Edition] (2001 [2021], BBE, 2CD): Hip-hop producer James Yancey (1974-2006), from Detroit. Starts with the original album's 16 tracks (40:56), padded out with extra beats, instrumentals, demos, mixes (30 tracks, 77:07). De trop, of course, the beats fading into background and the rappers rarely standing out, but it holds up well enough. B+(***) [bc]

Willie Dunn: Creation Never Sleeps, Creation Never Dies: The Willie Dunn Anthology (1968-84 [2021], Light in the Attic): Canadian singer-songwriter (1941-2013), mother was Mi'kmaq, and much of his work identifies with Canada's First Nations. He released three albums 1971-84, the latter two on the German Trikont label, which also released a live compilation in 2004. Few dates provided here, but 19 (of 22) songs appeared on those three albums, although later versions are possible. Seems like a subject for further research, and better documentation. B+(***)

Ron Everett: The Glitter of the City (1977 [2021], Jazzman): Trumpet player from Philadelphia, also credited with vocals (3 tracks) and piano (2 of the piano tracks). Ultra rare, part of the label's "Holy Grail" series, a mixed bag with Tahira singing the title song over a bossa beat, other pieces freer (or just rougher). Reissue adds three previously unreleased jams (34:58). B [bc]

The Notwist: The Notwist (1991 [2021], Subway): German group, first album, reissue remastered but no extras beyond the original 13-song album (32:57). Songs in English, written by guitarist-vocalist Markus Acher, with brother Micha on bass and Martin Messerschmid on drums. No Krautrock influence I can detect: post-punk, maybe proto-metal, but ultimately headed elsewhere. B+(*)

Bunny Scott: To Love Somebody (1975 [2021], Freestile): Jamaican singer William Clarke, better known as Bunny Rugs (although he's used other aliases), lead singer-songwriter for Third World -- one of the first wave of reggae groups to get US distribution, but also one of the least impressive. He released this one album as Scott, others after 1995 up to his death in 2014. At this point, reminds me of how fertile that period was, but leans heavily on covers, and I could really do without this "Sweet Caroline." Lee Perry produced, which especially helps with the dub-oriented bonus tracks. B+(*) [bc]

Spitboy: Body of Work (1990-1995): All the Songs (1990-95 [2021], Don Giovanni): All-female anarcho-punk band from (or near) San Francisco, released an LP in 1993, split another in 1995 with Los Crudos, scattered EPs and singles. This gathers up 26 tracks, full of anger and spirit, few if any great, but attitude counts. B+(*) [bc]

Sun Ra: Lanquidity [Definitive Edition] (1978 [2021], Strut, 2CD): Originally released 1978 on Philly Jazz, reissued 2000 on Evidence with the same 5 tracks (43:16). Not much new here, as the original "1978 Philly Jazz Commercial Pressing" is on the first disc, followed by "1978 Philly Jazz Alternate Version" -- main difference there is that "That's How I Feel" runs an extra 4:05. Arkestra with 15 musicians focused more on texture than showing off. B+(***) [bc]

Old music:

Bush Tetras: Boom in the Night: Original Studio Recordings 1980-1983 (1980-83 [1995], ROIR): New York post-punk/no wave band formed 1979 in New York, with Adele Bertei vocalist (soon replaced by Cynthia Sley), debut single "Too Many Creeps," band broke up without an album but reunited in 1995, again in 2005 and 2021. ROIR issued 14 early cuts in 1989 as Better Late Than Never, those same cuts appearing in different order here (coincident with the 1995 reunion). I recall owning at least one of their singles, but never saw them. Not a great band, but I'm finding this holds up quite well. B+(***)

Joey + Rory: The Singer and the Song: The Best of Joey + Rory (2008-16 [2018], Gaither Music Group): Married country duo, last name Feek, Rory had a background as a songwriter, and has a hand on 8 (of 20) songs here. They recorded four albums (one Xmas) on Vanguard/Sugar Hill, four more on Farmhouse/Gaither -- the latter include Country Classics and Hymns That Are Important to Us as time was running out. This compilation favors the latter, perhaps exclusively (a couple early songs are rendered live, leaving only one that appears to derive from their debut). Both have appealing voices, but could use better songs. E.g., "Jesus Lovees Me" shouldn't be sung by anyone over eight, and "The Bible and the Belt" deserves its own place in Hell. B

The Rough Guide to Blues Women: Reborn and Remastered (1920-35 [2016], World Music Network): Twenty-five songs, one each from all the major "classic female blues" stars of the 1920s, starting with Mamie Smith's "Crazy Blues" (1920), plus another dozen or so I've barely heard of. After 1930 their numbers thinned -- I count 4 1931-35 releases here -- as jazz and blues went their separate ways. No view of the booklet, which despite expert selection probably leaves a lot to be desired. A-

Grade (or other) changes:

Al Dexter: Pistol Packin' Mama (1942-49 [1999], ASV): Most people only ever hear his title hit (if that), but you really should hear more. I must have initially knicked this for filler or running out of gas, but it's one I've often returned to, so the grade should reflect that. [was: B+] A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • James Brown: Song Within the Story (NGP) [03-18]
  • Satoko Fujii & Joe Fonda: Thread of Light (FSR) [02-25]
  • Darren Johnston: Life in Time (Origin) [02-18]
  • Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Disasters Vol. 1 (Hot Cup) [02-18]
  • Jared Sims: Against All Odds (Origin) [02-18]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

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