Music Week [0 - 9]

Monday, May 29, 2023

Music Week

May archive (final).

Music: Current count 40292 [40245] rated (+47), 38 [42] unrated (-4: 11 new, 27 old).

I wrote another substantial (4963 words, 100 links) Speaking of Which yesterday. Two more pieces I would have included had I seen them:

I had a fairly productive week listening to new records, although I often struggled coming up with albums to play next. Only two clear A- records this week, and I apologize in advance for not even trying to write a serious note on Arlo Parks. I did play the record three times, and I liked her 2021 album Collapsed Into Sunbeams as much. About it, I wrote:

Arlo Parks: Collapsed Into Sunbeams (2021, Transgressive): Semi-pop singer-songwriter from London, given name Anaïs Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho, ancestors from Nigeria, Chad, and France, first album after two EPs. I, for one, find "Hope" remarkably reassuring, and less for the lyrics than for the music, something few others have been able to do (Stevie Wonder, I guess). I wouldn't have held it for the sixth single, but it probably wouldn't have been my first pick either. A-

Of the high B+ albums, the ones that came closest were those by Avalon Emerson and Asher Gamedze.

I've done the indexing on the May archive, but haven't added the introductions yet. The haul for May is 212 albums.

New records reviewed this week:

Bas Jan: Baby U Know (2022, Lost Map): British band, "experimental post-punk," four women, Serafina Steet the main lyricist, all four credited with vocals (which are often spoken, sometimes didactic). Second album plus a remix and a bunch of EPs. B+(***) [sp]

Patrick Brennan Sonic Openings: Tilting Curvaceous (2021 [2023], Clean Feed): Alto saxophonist, from Detroit, debut 1999, has a couple albums as/with Sonic Openings Under Pressure. This iteration has Brian Groder (trumpet), Rod Williams (piano), Hilliard Greene (bass), and Michael T.A. Thompson (drums). B+(**) [bc]

Brandy Clark: Brandy Clark (2023, Warner): Country singer-songwriter, made her reputation as a songwriter well before her 2013 debut. Fourth album, another solid bunch of songs, although the final ballad drags a bit much. B+(***) [sp]

Luke Combs: Gettin' Old (2023, River House Artists): Country singer-songwriter, called his third album Growin' Up, so probably figured this title comes next, but at 33 he ain't seen nuthin' yet. What he does have is a classic country voice, and more songs than he knows what to do with. They're not all his, either, as evinced by Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car." B+(*) [sp]

Rodney Crowell: The Chicago Sessions (2023, New West): Country singer, emerged as a thoughtful songwriter with his 1978 debut, seems like his albums have only gotten easier over the years. This was recorded in Jeff Tweedy's Chicago studio, and came so easy they didn't even bother thinking up a title for it. B+(**) [sp]

Fatoumata Diawara: London Ko (2023, Wagram Music): Singer-songwriter, born in Côte D'Ivoire, parents from Mali, fifth album since 2011, also has an acting career. B+(*) [sp]

Eluvium: (Whirring Marvels In) Consensus Reality (2023, Temporary Residence): Ambient electronica producer Matthew Cooper, originally from Tennessee, based in Portland, Oregon. More than a dozen records under this alias since 2003. Occasional frills suggest he'd like this to be taken seriously as classical music. I don't care about that, but they do give it a bit of character. B+(*) [sp]

Avalon Emerson: & the Charm (2023, Another Dove): Electronica DJ/producer, from San Francisco, moved on to Berlin, has a DJ-Kicks and bunches of EPs and remixes -- nothing I've heard, but reportedly makes this LP debut a changeup. B+(***) [sp]

Fred Again/Brian Eno: Secret Life (2023, Text): Fred Gibson, English DJ/electronica producer, has three volumes of Actual Life that are quite listenable, teams up with the godfather of ambient and dissolves into his black hole. Closes with a muffled but touching cover of "Come On Home." B [sp]

Fruit Bats: A River Running to Your Heart (2023, Merge): Indie band from Chicago, principally Eric D. Johnson, debut 2001, have a couple albums I've liked -- The Ruminant Band (2009), Tripper (2011) -- carry on with yet another tuneful, pleasing album. B+(*) [sp]

Asher Gamedze: Turbulence and Pulse (2020-21 [2023], International Anthem/Mushroom Hour): South African drummer, debut 2020. With Robin Fassie (trumpet), Buddy Wells (tenor sax, and Thembinoski Mavimbela (bass), plus some voice and guest spots -- enough to detract from an otherwise fine album. B+(***) [sp]

Devin Gray: Most Definitely (2023, Rataplan): Drummer, has a couple dozen credits since 2005, half on the top line, but this is his first solo. Runs long (over 71 minutes). B+(**) [cdr] [06-09]

Gordon Grdina/Mat Maneri/Christian Lillinger: Live at the Armoury (2023, Clean Feed): Guitar and oud player from Vancouver, where this trio with viola and drums was recorded. No recording date given, but trio first met in 2018. B+(*) [bc]

Wolfgang Haffner: Silent World (2022 [2023], ACT): German drummer, dozens of albums since 1989, many more side-credits. Core group of trumpet, keyboards, and bass, plus a dozen guest spots, for a rich and varied but rather gentle and quite lovely texture. B+(***) [sp]

Gerrit Hatcher: Solo Five (2021 [2023], Kettle Hole): Tenor saxophonist from Chicago, has produced quite a lot since 2017, but this is my first acquaintance. Solo, reportedly his fifth solo album. Comes out strong, playing up the struggle that the instrument embodies, then closes after 33:05. B+(***) [cd]

James Holden: Imagine This Is a High Dimensional Space of All Possibilities (2023, Border Community): British electronica producer, fifth album since 2006. Lot of shimmer and space. B+(*) [sp]

François Houle Genera Sextet: In Memoriam (2022 [2023], Clean Feed): Canadian clarinetist, from Quebec, several dozen albums since 1992, dedicates this one to his friend Ken Pickering (1952-2018), who organized concerts in Vancouver. Sextet with Marco von Orelli (cornet/trumpet), Samuel Blaser (trombone), Benoît Delbecq (piano), Michael Bates (bass), and Harris Eisenstadt (drums). B+(**) [bc]

Wesley Joseph: Glow (2023, Secretly Canadian, EP): UK rapper/producer, released a short debut album in 2021 (26:06), goes even shorter here (8 songs, 23:36). B [sp]

Kaytraminé [Aminé/Kaytranada]: Kaytraminé (2023, Venice Music): Two fairly well established solo artists mash their handles together, the former a rapper since 2015, the latter also known as a producer. Plenty of flow, plus some big name guests. B+(***) [sp]

Kesha: Gag Order (2023, Kemosabe): Pop singer, last name Sebert, fifth studio album since 2010, first four charted top 10. Too early to tell with this one, which strikes me as a mixed bag, a bit too slow to take off. B+(*) [sp]

Elle King: Come Get Your Wife (2023, RCA): Singer-songwriter from from Los Angeles or New York, daughter of comedian Rob Schneider, took her mother's name, started as an actress in 1999, recorded an EP in 2012, followed by an album in 2015, with this her third, and most country, right down to the trailer cliché. B+(**) [sp]

Russ Lossing: Alternate Side Parking Music (2019 [2023], Aqua Piazza): Pianist, from Ohio, based in New York, close to thirty albums since 1990, gives a fair amount of space to electronic keyboards. Quartet with Adam Kolker (tenor/soprano sax, bass clarinet), Matt Pavolka (bass), and Dayeon Seok (drums). This was reportedly composed while sitting in his car, waiting for parking spaces to open up -- an experience which, improbably enough, seems to have put him into a whimsical mood. B+(***) [cd] [07-07]

Sei Miguel Unit Core: Road Music (2016-21 [2023], Clean Feed): Pocket trumpet player, scattered pieces with Fala Mariam (alto trombone), Bruno Silva (electric guitar), and Pedro Castello Lopes (triangle, clave, pandeiro, kalengo -- one track each). B [bc]

Sei Miguel: The Original Drum (2015-21 [2023], Clean Feed): Four more scattered tracks, with various lineups -- aside from the leader's pocket trumpet, the only other constant is Fala Mariam's alto trombone. Third track includes more horns, including Rodrigo Amado on tenor sax, but it's no more beguiling than the final piece, with minimal trumpet and trombone winding over a basic drum track. B+(*) [bc]

Dominic Miller: Vagabond (2021 [2023], ECM): Guitarist, born in Argentina to Irish mother and American father, moved to London to study. Eighteen albums since 1984, numerous side-credits, especially with Sting. With piano/keyboards, bass, and drums. B+(*) [sp]

Graham Nash: Now (2023, BMG): Singer-songwriter from England, now 81, with Allan Clarke founded the Hollies in 1962, had a bunch of hit singles like "Bus Stop" in 1966, left to join David Crosby (Byrds) and Steve Stills (Buffalo Springfield) in one of the first supergroups (one that got better when Neil Young joined, and got worse when he left). Seventh solo album since 1971 -- none reputable enough that I bothered checking them out (his 1971 debut peaked at 15 on the US charts, followed by a 34 in 1974, and a 93 in 2016). Pleased to note that there are passable echoes of the Hollies. Just not very many. B- [sp]

Kassa Overall: Animals (2023, Warp): Drummer, has some jazz cred but his own records lean toward hip-hop, as this one does in scattered, sometimes interesting but rarely compelling ways. B+(*) [sp]

Afonso Pais/Tomás Marques: The Inner Colours of Bogin's Outline (2022 [2023], Clean Feed): Guitar and alto sax duo, Portuguese, the guitarist released a debut album in 2004. Five improvised pieces. B [sp]

Arlo Parks: My Soft Machine (2023, Transgressive): British neo-soul singer, parents Nigerian and French-Chadian, second album. A- [sp]

Iggy Pop: Every Loser (2023, Gold Tooth/Atlantic): Punk progenitor, Last name Oserberg, first band the Stooges, did his best work 1976-77 for David Bowie, has only once gone more than four years between records (six years to 2009). Still can rock, and still has a distinctive voice. B+(*) [sp]

Raye: My 21st Century Blues (2023, Human Re Sources): British pop singer-songwriter Rachel Keen, first album after several EPs and a mini, a substantial UK hit (2), less so in US (58). B+(**) [sp]

Whitney Rose: Rosie (2023, MCG): Singer-songwriter, from Prince Edward Island up in Canada, country since she moved to Austin. Fifth studio album since 2012 (plus an EP Christgau praised while skipping the rest). Nice set of songs, both minding pain and escaping from it. B+(***) [sp]

Brandon Seabrook: Brutalovechamp (2022 [2023], Pyroclastic): Guitarist, also plays mandolin and banjo, usually adds a little noise to the mix, but shows off as a composer here, with an eight-piece group, including cello, electronics, and a fair amount of arty voice. B+(**) [cd]

Lauritz Skeidsvoll & Isach Skeidsvoll Duo: Chanting Moon, Dancing Sun: Live at Molde International Jazz Festival (2020 [2023], Clean Feed): Norwegian saxophone and piano duo, brothers, have some side-credits, but this could count as a debut. B+(**) [bc]

Henry Threadgill Ensemble: The Other One (2022 [2023], Pi): Leader just composes and conducts here, directing a 12-piece group through three long movements (60:36) of a piece called "Of Valence." This setting fits into the jazz as advanced classical music model, a scaled up version of chamber jazz. The group includes three saxophones/clarinets, two bassoons, no brass (other than Jose Davila's tuba), piano (David Virelles), and strings (violin, viola, two cellos), but no bass or drums. Not a style I'm easily impressed with, nor one I'm every likely to get excited about, but within those limits, this is interesting all the way through, surprising even. A- [cd]

Yonic South: Devo Challenge Cup (2023, Wild Honey, EP): Garage punk group, principally Damiano Negrisoli, fourth EP, covers one DEVO song, writes a couple more in a similar vein, basically a medley split into six songs, 12:59. B+(*) [sp]

Brandee Younger: Brand New Life (2023, Impulse): Harp player, several previous albums, makes a crossover move here, with production by Makaya McCraven (plus 9th Wonder on one track), plus she sings a couple songs, in a soft r&b groove. Four songs co-written by Dorothy Ashby, who was the definitive jazz harpist before Younger came along. B+(*) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Galcher Lustwerk: 100% Galcher (2013 [2022], Ghostly International): DJ/producer Chris Sherron, first "promomix" -- all original pieces, basic beat tracks with scant adornment. B+(**) [sp]

Tolerance: Anonym (1979 [2023], Mesh-Key): First of two albums by Japanese keyboardist Junko Tange, with guitar by Masami Yoshikawa adding a metallic klang. B+(**) [sp]

Tolerance: Divin (1981 [2023], Mesh-Key): Second (and last) album. More focus on beats and groove, less extraneous noise, which strikes me as a good tradeoff. B+(***) [sp]

Old music:

Bas Jan: Yes I Jan (2018, Lost Map): First album, with original (and soon to be ex-) members Sarah Anderson and Jenny Moore backing Serafina Steer's songs, adding more vocal harmony, and often a lift to the music. At their best, they remind me of a short-lived, 1990s vocal group, the Shams. B+(***) [sp]

Bas Jan: Yes We Jan (2018, Lost Map): Remix of Yes I Jan, originally offered as a bonus, then sold separately. Mostly useless, although Gameshow Outpatient's "Dream of You" remix finds a way to fit its subject. B [sp]

Noah Howard: At Judson Hall (1966 [1968], ESP-Disk): Alto saxophonist (1943-2010), second of two early albums for this label, went on to record a couple dozen more but remained obscure. Sextet with Dave Burrell (piano), others less famous on trumpet, cello, bass, and percussion. B+(**) [sp]

Tuli Kupferberg: No Deposit No Return (1967, ESP-Disk): Beat poet (1923-2010), not an important one but part of the New York pacifist-anarchist scene, best known as a founder of the Fugs (with Ed Sanders). I remember him fondly for two short Grove Press books: 1001 Ways to Beat the Draft, and 1001 Ways to Live Without Working. He recorded two albums under his own name, one in 1989 called Tuli and Friends that is MIA from my collection, and this "album of popular poetry." Well, not that popular. B+(*) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Phil Haynes/Drew Gress/David Liebman: Coda(s): No Fast Food III (Corner Store Jazz) [06-15]
  • Ryan Meagher: AftEarth (Atroefy) [05-19]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Music Week

Expanded blog post, May archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 40245 [40204] rated (+41), 42 [42] unrated (+0: 14 new, 28 old).

Worn out after writing yesterday's Speaking of Which. Actually, worn out before I rushed that out, only to catch the last quarter of Heat-Celtics, with the B-teams nursing a 30-point blowout. Looking back, the no-comment Irfan (weather) piece could have been followed by pages. And the Burleigh piece reminds us that billionaires aren't just harmless eccentrics -- as does the whole section on Trump, I guess.

It looks like the center-right won in Greece, after Syriza caved under pressure from the Eurozone masters. For background on Greece, see James Galbraith's The Poisoned Chalice: The Destruction of Greece and the Future of Europe (2016). One should note that the big difference between debt in Greece and in the US has nothing to do with quantity. It's simply that Greece's debt is tied to the Euro, a currency they can't control, making them vulnerable to the nasty whims of foreign bankers.

Nothing much to add to the music below, which is short on jazz, especially up top -- but I have more catching up elsewhere. Ware was a late promotion, one I'm still a bit iffy about. Oladokun was brought forward from next week. Brubeck got a chance when I saw I was about to go another week with no Old Music. Skyzoo could have made the A-list on sound alone, but I was less satisfied with the story concept -- something I rarely notice, so perhaps that should have been a positive.

I've started working on a website overhaul, but don't have much to show for it yet. The idea is to create a parallel structure I can copy old content into. Hopefully it will be better organized, less ramschackle. But mainly it's meant to give me a fresh start on the book projects (discarding the old attempts).

I also have some small home projects to get to, before it gets too hot -- which is sometimes the case already.

New records reviewed this week:

Nia Archives: Sunrise Bang Ur Head Against Tha Wall (2023, Island, EP): British electropop (drum and bass?) producer, has several EPs. Six tracks, 17:04. B+(*) [sp]

Artemis: In Real Time (2023, Blue Note): All female supergroup -- Alexa Tarentino (alto/soprano sax, flute), Nicole Glover (tenor sax), Renee Rosnes (piano/keyboards), Ingrid Jensen (trumpet), Noriko Ueda (bass), Allison Miller (drums) -- down one (Anat Cohen) plus guest vocals (Cécile McLorin Salvant) on their second album, with Rosnes the lead (but not only) arranger. Still lots of talent, but such fancy postbop is wasted on me. B+(*) [sp]

Daniel Caesar: Never Enough (2023, Republic): Canadian soul singer-songwriter Ashton Simmonds, third album. Soft and slinky. B+(*) [sp]

Lewis Capaldi: Broken by Desire to Be Heavenly Sent (2023, Captiol): Scottish pop phenom, second album, first was a big hit in UK and a minor one in US. Most likely this will do as well or better. I sort of get the appeal, but find it overblown, again. B+(*) [sp]

Sylvie Courvoisier & Cory Smythe: The Rite of Spring/Spectre D'Un Songe (2021 [2023], Pyroclastic): Two pianists, playing two pieces from Stravinsky's "Le sacre du printemps" (34:29), plus Courvoisier's second title piece (29:16). B+(**) [cd]

Defprez: It's Always a Time Like This (2023, Closed Sessions, EP): Chicago hip-hop crew -- Crashprez, Defcee, Knowsthetime -- has a 2021 album, return with this 10-track, 23:46 mini. B+(**) [sp]

Orhan Demir: Solo Guitar: Freedom in Jazz (2019, Hittite): B. 1954 in Istanbul, Turkey; moved to Canada in 1977, where he picked up the guitar. This is solo, the first of three volumes (so far). It remains consistently interesting for more than an hour. B+(***) [cd]

Orhan Demir: Solo Guitar: Freedom in Jazz Vol. 2 (2020, Hittite): Not exactly more of the same -- a bit more delicate -- but close. B+(**) [cd]

Orhan Demir: Solo Guitar: Freedom in Jazz Vol. 3 (2022 [2023], Hittite): Wraps up this series in fine fashion. B+(***) [cd]

Joe Farnsworth: In What Direction Are You Headed? (2022 [2023], Smoke Sessions): Much in demand mainstream drummer, dozen-plus albums since 1998, close to 200 side-credits since 1992, most often with Eric Alexander. Quintet with Immanuel Wilkins (alto sax), Kurt Rosenwinkel (guitar), Julius Rodriguez (piano), and Robert Hurst (bass). Wilkins continues to impress. B+(*) [sp]

Satoko Fujii: Torrent: Piano Solo (2022 [2023], Libra): Japanese avant-pianist, many albums, this her ninth solo and fifth in the last six years. Starts out strong, as expected, then meanders a bit much, through six original pieces, a couple quite long. B+(**) [cd] [06-02]

Alison Goldfrapp: The Love Invention (2023, Skint/BMG): English singer-songwriter, the vocal half of the synthpop duo Goldfrapp (with Will Gregory) since 2000, first solo album. B+(***) [sp]

Kara Jackson: Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love? (2023, September): Poet, singer-songwriter, plays guitar, keeps it folkishly simple. B+(*) [sp]

Faten Kanaan: Afterpoem (2023, Fire): Brooklyn-based electronica producer, uses analog synthesizers, fifth album, draws on baroque as well as minimalism. B+(*) [sp]

Yazmin Lacey: Voice Notes (2023, On Your Own/Believe): British soul singer, first album after a 2017 EP and several singles. Light touch, the opposite of gospel-inspired oversinging. B+(**) [sp]

Lankum: False Lankum (2023, Rough Trade): Irish folk group with postmodernist overtones (like drone), originally recorded as Lynched (2014), third album since they changed their name. B+(**) [sp]

Joëlle Léandre/Craig Taborn/Mat Maneri: hEARoes (2022 [2023], RogueArt): Bass, piano, and viola, a 39:15 improv piece in seven parts, the piano most impressive but picks its spots. B+(***) [cd]

Max Light: Henceforth (2022 [2023], SteepleChase): American guitarist, studied in Boston and New York, second album (plus side credits with Jason Palmer, Noah Preminger, and Kevin Sun). This is a nice postbop quartet with Preminger (tenor sax), Kim Cass (bass), and Dan Weiss (drums). B+(**) [cd] [06-16]

Logic: College Park (2023, Three Oh One/BMG): Rapper Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, eighth album since 2014, first six charted 1-4. Runs long (67:25), with a series of skits on the road to a gig in DC. B+(*) [sp]

Alex LoRe & Weirdear: Evening Will Find Itself (2021 [2023], Whirlwind): Alto saxophonist, based in Brooklyn, looks like his fourth album (debut 2014), quartet with Glenn Zaleski (piano), Desmond White (bass), and Allan Mednard (drums). B+(**) [cdr]

Joe Lovano Trio Tapestry [Marilyn Crispell/Carmen Castaldi]: Our Daily Bread (2022 [2023], ECM): Tenor saxophonist, also credited with tarogato and gongs, third group album with piano and drums. Fairly quiet, solemn even. B+(*) [sp]

Matt Muntz: Phantom Islands (2023, Orenda): New York bassist, also plays bagpipes (primorski meh, "a traditional bagpipe from the Croatian coast"), debut album after a half-dozen side credits. Original pieces based on folk melodies. Group with tenor sax (Xavier Del Castillo), oboe, clarinets, guitar, and drums. Pretty tedious, even without the annoying bagpipes. B- [sp]

Navy Blue: Ways of Knowing (2023, Def Jam): Rapper Sage Elsesser, ten EPs 2015-19, seventh studio album since 2020, this his major label debut, has also done production for MIKE and Mach-Hommy. Underground, beats ambling seductively, words knowing. Featured spot for Kelly Moonstone a highlight. A- [sp]

Joy Oladokun: Proof of Life (2023, Amigo/Verve Forecast/Republic): Singer-songwriter, born in Arizona, parents from Nigeria, fourth album, follow up to the highly recommended In Defense of My Own Happiness. Another batch of superb songs, which fit comfortably between guests ranging from Chris Stapleton to Maxo Kream. A- [sp]

Bill Orcutt: Jump on It (2023, Palilalia): Guitarist, started out in a hardcore band called Harry Pussy, as a solo artist settled into what's called American primitivism (looking back to John Fahey), idiosyncratic improvisations based on folk guitar. B+(*) [sp]

Paramore: This Is Why (2023, Atlantic): Indie pop group from Tennessee, Hayley Williams the singer and only constant member since 2004, although founding drummer Zac Farro returned in 2017. Sixth studio album. B+(*) [sp]

Princess Nokia: I Love You but This Is Goodbye (2023, Arista, EP): New York rapper Destiny Nicole Frasqueri, adds a short and sharp break up EP (seven song, 18:04) to her four albums catalog. B+(**) [sp]

Rae Sremmurd: Sremm 4 Life (2023, Eardruma/Interscope): Two brothers from Tupelo, Mississippi, surname Brown, go as Slim Jxmmi and Swae Lee, 2015 debut a breakout hit, fourth album. B+(*) [sp]

Rough Image: Rough Image (2023, WV Sorcerer): Instrumental rock group from northeast China (Changchun). Long pieces with tight grooves and industrial klang and exotica, occasionally a bit of chatter. B+(***) [bc]

SBTRKT: The Rat Road (2023, Save Yourself): British electronica producer Aaron Jerome, third album under this alias after one under his own name. B [sp]

Skyzoo & the Other Guys: The Mind of a Saint (2023, First Generation Rich): New York rapper, dozen-plus albums since 2006, ties this one to the FX series Snowfall, about the 1980s crack epidemic in Los Angeles -- the central character there was a young drug dealer named Franklin Saint, who is given center stage here. The Other Guys are a DC-based crew with a half dozen albums since 2014. B+(***) [sp]

Sunny War: Anarchist Gospel (2023, New West): Nashville-based singer-songwriter, plays guitar drawing on country blues and punk (she started with a band called the Anus Kings). Seventh album since 2015. Don't know whether the gospel overtones are new or just part of her shtick. B+(***) [sp]

Ramana Vieira: Tudo De Mim (All of Me) (2023, self-released): Traditional fado singer, plays piano, born in California of Portuguese parents, sixth album since 2000. B+(*) [cd]

Jessie Ware: That! Feels Good! (2023, PMR/EMI): British singer-songwriter, several albums, goes hard disco for this one, proclaiming "pleasure is a right." A little glitzy, Sometimes I'm reminded of Chic, then find myself missing the signature bass lines. But most songs are pure pleasure. A- [sp]

Wednesday: Rat Saw God (2023, Dead Oceans): Rock band from Asheville, North Carolina, with singer Karly Hartzman. Fifth album since 2018. Defaults to a fairly standard Velvets-style alt/indie base, but they can bring considerable noise on top, not always welcome. B+(*) [sp]

Gaia Wilmer Large Ensemble: Folia: The Music of Egberto Gismonti (2023, Sunnyside): Brazilian alto saxophonist, has a previous octet album, raised an 18-piece big band for this project, plus three guests, including the 75-year-old composer on piano for two tracks. (My own experience with Gismonti doesn't extend much beyond his work with Charlie Haden and Jan Garbarek, where he mostly played guitar.) B+(**) [sp]

Billy Woods & Kenny Segal: Maps (2023, Backwoodz Studioz): New York rapper, half of Armand Hammer, albums since 2003, father was a Marxist writer who moved the family to Zimbabwe for the revolution. Second album with LA-based producer Segal. I've been nibbling around his albums for a while without finding one compelling, but figure I might as well bite here. A- [sp]

Jacob Young/Mats Eilertsen/Audun Kleive: Eventually (2021 [2023], ECM): Norwegian guitarist, dozen-plus albums since 1995, this his fourth on ECM, backed by bass and drums. B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Ruth Anderson/Annea Lockwood: Tête-À-Tête (1974-2020 [2023], Ergot): Electronic music pioneer (1928-2019), founder and director of Hunter College's Electronic Music Studio 1968-79. In 1973, Lockwood fell in love with Anderson, and lived and worked together for five decades. This memorial collects two previously unreleased Anderson pieces: one a subtle drone piece from 1983 (17:12), the other pasted together from intimate conversations from 1974 (18:36), then concludes with Lockwood's later elegy, "For Ruth." B+(*) [sp]

Bill Evans: Treasures: Solo, Trio & Orchestral Recordings From Denmark (1965-1969) (1965-69 [2023], Elemental, 2CD): The trio recordings are typically brilliant, same for the slightly less compelling solo set, but then there's the "Orchestral Suite," played by the Royal Danish Symphony Orchestra and the Danish Radio Big Band, featuring Palle Mikkelborg, burying several Evans tunes in lush. B+(**) [sp]

Old music:

Dave Brubeck Quartet: Park Avenue South (2002 [2003], Telarc): Live album at a Starbucks in Manhattan, this edition of the pianist's Quartet with Bobby Militello (alto sax/flute), Michael Moore (bass), and Randy Jones (drums). Starts with a terrific piano intro to "On the Sunny Side of the Street," before Militello swings into action. And, of course, "Take Five" is as great as ever, but who expected the drum solo to nail it? A- [yt]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Nanny Assis: Rovanio: The Music of Nanny Assis (In + Out) [06-23]
  • Javon Jackson: With Peter Bradley: Soundtrack and Original Score (Solid Jackson) [06-16]
  • Clifford Jordan: Drink Plenty Water (1974, Harvest Song) [06-01]
  • Brian McCarthy Nonet: After Life (Truth Revolution) [05-26]
  • Noshir Mody: A Love Song (self-released) [05-26]
  • Edward Simon: Femininas: Songs of Latin American Women (ArtistShare) * [06-08]
  • Henry Threadgill Ensemble: The Other One (Pi) [05-26]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Music Week

May archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 40204 [40158] rated (+46), 42 [44] unrated (-2: 14 new, 28 old).

Nice selection across the board this week. The three new albums all have recommended antecedents: Brötzmann-Drake is their second Moroccan album, following The Catch of a Ghost with Maâlem Moukhtar Gania (a more famous Ganaoua master than Bekkas); Buck 65 follows up on last year's King of Drums with a consistency that's defined its own take on old school; Dave Rempis and Elisabeth Harnik collaborated on an earlier album, Astragaloi (2022, with Michael Zerang).

Same could be said for the reissue/vault finds: Thomas Anderson has a number of fine albums, the most comparable her being 2012's The Moon in Transit: Four-Track Demos, 1996-2009. Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens have another live album from the same tour, 1988's Paris-Soweto. While I can't point to a comparable Pharoah Sanders live album, he has notable earlier albums (like 1967's Tauhid) and even better later albums (1988's Africa, 1990's Welcome to Love, and 1992's Crescent With Love).

Of the high B+ albums, I should note two long (2-CD) sets that cut short, despite the sense that multiple plays might lift the grades a notch: Fire! Orchestra's Echoes, and Matt Mitchell's Oblong Aplomb. I suppose I could say the same thing about Withered Hand, which was impressive enough to grade higher, but didn't have enough personal appeal to make me want to. Robert Christgau gave the record a full A -- he's consistently much more taken with this artist than I am. Christgau also gave full A's to Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens, and to Boygenius -- the latter's The Record I dismissed as a B first time through, although pretty much everyone else loves it.

Noticed that I hadn't done the indexing for the April Streamnotes, so I knocked that out.

I posted a fairly substantial Speaking of Which yesterday evening. The growing right-wing adulation of murderers is especially troubling. Just ten years ago conservatives would take pains to distance themselves from such acts, but no more.

I'm into the last 50 pages of Kurt Andersen's Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire. The book was published in 2017, after Trump took office but before much of his term had played out. I just finished chapters on anti-vaxxers (including RFK Jr.) and "Gun Crazy": both could have been massive expanded to bring them up to the present.

New records reviewed this week:

William Bell: One Day Closer to Home (2023, Wilbe): Soul man, originally from Memphis, signed to Stax in 1961, moved to Atlanta in 1970, had his biggest hit in 1976 ("Tryin' to Love Two"). Should be 83 now, doesn't sound (or look) like it: he still goes to parties, and still sings a classic ballad. B+(**) [sp]

Big Joanie: Back Home (2022, Kill Rock Stars): Postpunk trio, three second-generation British women, cite the Ronettes as their model, but "filtered through '80s DIY and Riot Grrrl with a sprinkling of dashikis" (and, notably, no Spector). Second album. Seems solid, then starts to catch you up. B+(***) [sp]

Peter Brötzmann/Majid Bekkas/Hamid Drake: Catching Ghosts (2022 [2023], ACT): A founder of the German avant-garde, here 81, still strong on tenor sax and clarinet, but takes a back seat here to Moroccan Gnaoua adept Bekkas, who chant-sings and plays guembri, with Drake's drums offering perfect support. This live set recalls another superb 2019 album, The Catch of a Ghost, with Gnaouan master Maâlem Moukhtar Gania joining Brötzmann and Drake -- itself a reprisal of work they did as far back as 1996. A- [sp]

Buck 65: 14 KT Gold (2023, self-released, EP): Halifax rapper, teasing us with 5 tracks (10:59) of extra scraps from his Super Dope album sessions. Among other lines: "where do you run when no one is chasing you?" B+(**) [bc]

Buck 65: Super Dope (2023, self-released): This grabbed me from the first scratches -- having started way back in 1986, he's sounding pretty old school -- beyond which numerous clever lines shoot across the horizon. A- [bc]

Mark Dresser: Times of Change (2019-22 [2023], Pyroclastic): Bassist, came to prominence in Anthony Braxton's Quartet (1986-97), has several dozen albums as leader and many more side-credits. This one is solo, using a number of gadgets and tricks that expand the instrument's sonic range. B+(***) [cd]

EABS Meets Jaubi: In Search of a Better Tomorrow (2023, Astigmatic): Polish group, acronym for Electro-Acoustic Beat Sessions, six albums since 2016 including tributes to Krzysztof Komeda and Sun Ra, mash up here with a Lahore-based Pakistani group, although both have previous albums on this Polish label, and EABS keyboardist Latamik (Marek Pedziwiatr) appeared on Jaubi's excellent Nafs at Peace. B+(***) [sp]

Fire! Orchestra: Echoes (2022 [2023], Rune Grammofon, 2CD): Scandinavian group started as a trio in 2009 (Mats Gustafsson, Johan Berthling, Andreas Werlin), expanded to orchestra size in 2013, and has continued to sprawl, reaching 43 members on this 2-hour epic. Four vocalists appear on one track each (of 14 total). B+(***) [sp]

Champian Fulton: Meet Me at Birdland (2022 [2023], Champian): Standards singer, plays piano, from Oklahoma, based in New York, 16th album since 2007, a live set backed by Hide Tanaka (bass) and Fukushi Tainaka (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Hamish Hawk: Angel Numbers (2023, Post Electric): Scottish singer-songwriter, fourth album since 2014, catchy enough but he does lay it on thick. B [sp]

Durand Jones: Wait Til I Get Over (2023, Dead Oceans): Soul singer, has three albums as Durand Jones & the Indications, just his name on the cover here. Way over-orchestrated for my taste, but has moments that really promise something. B+(*) [sp]

Tyler Keith & the Apostles: Hell to Pay (2023, Black & Wyatt): Memphis garage rock group, back in 2001 Keith called his group the Preachers Kids. B+(**) [sp]

Kid Koala: Creatures of the Late Afternoon (2023, Envision): Canadian DJ/electronica producer Eric San, albums from 1996, including group projects Bullfrog and Deltron 3030. A bit jumbled, with an ongoing robot-hotel shtick. B+(**) [sp]

Kiko El Crazy: Pila'e Teteo (2023, Rimas): Dominican toaster Jose Alberto Peralta, second album, style known as dembow, not far removed from reggaeton. B+(**) [sp]

Toshinori Kondo/Massimo Pupillo/Tony Buck: Eternal Triangle (2019 [2022], I Dischi Di Angelica): Japanese electric trumpet player (1948-2019), probably best known from Peter Brötzmann's Die Like a Dog quartet, with electric bass/electronics and drums. B+(*) [bc]

The Adam Larson Trio: With Love, From New York (2022 [2023], Outside In Music): Tenor saxophonist, eighth album, third in his series of With Love, From albums: this one with Obed Calvaire (bass) and Matt Clohesy (drums). Nice lively set. B+(**) [sp]

The Adam Larson Trio: With Love, From Kansas City (2021 [2022], Outside In Music): Second of his traveling trio albums, after With Love, From Chicago. This one picks up locals Ben Leifer (bass) and John Kizilarmut (drums), performing six originals and Charlie Parker's "Chi Chi." B+(**) [sp]

Jinx Lennon: Walk Lightly When the Jug Is Full (2023, Septic Tiger): Formally, an Irish folk singer-songwriter, but rough enough around the edges for punk. B+(**) [sp]

Johan Lindström/Norrbotten Big Band: Johan Lindström & Norrbotten Big Band (2020 [2023], Moserobie): Swedish big band, has 25 albums since 1989, most featuring guest leaders, like the guitarist, who was "composer in residence" in 2020 -- the only date given, although this was conducted by Joakim Milder, who took over as artistic director in 2023. B+(**) [cd]

Baaba Maal: Being (2023, Marathon Artists): Singer from Senegal, his 1989 US debut (Djam Leeli, with Mansour Seck) was one of the era's most fetching releases. This dials it up, then back down again. B+(**) [sp]

Matt Mitchell: Oblong Aplomb (2022 [2023], Out of Your Head, 2CD): Pianist, two sets of percussion duos, "Oblong" with Kate Gentile (drums), "Aplomb" with Ches Smith (vibes and gongs as well as drums). Both make a strong case. B+(***) [cd]

The National: First Two Pages of Frankenstein (2023, 4AD): Mild-mannered band from Cincinnati, singer-songwriter is Matt Berninger, 9th album, very pleasant. B+(**) [sp]

Naya Bazz [Rez Abbasi/Josh Feinberg]: Charm (2021-22 [2023], Whirlwind): Artist names on cover, small print above group name and title. Abbasi is a Pakistani guitarist who grew up in California. Feinberg is a New Yorker who plays classical Hindustani sitar. They are backed by Jennifer Vincent (cello) and Satoshi Takeishi (drums). B+(**) [cd]

Parannoul: After the Magic (2023, Top Shelf): South Korean, has also released albums as Laststar and Mydreamfever, considered shoegaze/emo, which is to say shrouded in a deep guitar haze. B [sp]

Jeremy Pelt: The Art of Intimacy, Vol. 2: His Muse (2023, HighNote): Mainstream trumpet player, steady stream of albums since 2002, his Vol. 1 came out in 2020, a trio with bass and drums. Different players for this quintet -- Victor Gould (piano), Buster Williams (bass), Billy Hart (drums), Chico Pinheiro (guitar) -- plus occasional and unnecessary strings. B+(*) [sp]

Dave Rempis/Elisabeth Harnik/Fred Lonberg-Holm/Tim Daisy: Earscratcher (2022 [2023], Aerophonic): Alto sax, piano, cello/electronics, and drums/percussion. Group was put together to focus on Harnik, who plays outstanding free jazz here, wrapped in complex layers of sound. A- [dl]

Rudy Royston Flatbed Buggy: Day (2022 [2023], Greenleaf Music): Drummer, several albums as leader plus many more side-credits, released one in 2018 called Flatbed Buggy, and returns with that group here: John Ellis (bass clarinet), Hank Roberts (cello), Gary Versace (accordion), and Joe Martin (bass). Has a soft chamber jazz feel, centered on the cello. B+(*) [cd]

Felipe Salles Interconnections Ensemble: Home Is Here (2022 [2023], Tapestry): Tenor saxophonist, from Brazil, teaches in Massachusetts, eighth album since 2007, two with "Suite" in title, this the third with his nineteen-piece big band, eight of whom are listed as "featured." Latin (Brazilian, at least) touches, sophisticated arranging, solo spots, even a bit of voice (but not too much). B+(**) [cd]

Sexmob: The Hard Way (2023, Corbett vs. Dempsey): Quartet -- Steven Bernstein (slide trumpet), Briggan Krauss (alto/baritone sax, guitar), Tony Scherr (bass, guitar), and Kenny Wolleson (drums) -- goes way back (mostly 1998-2005, occasional records since), here with producer Scotty Hard (beats, synth bass) and scattered guests (John Medeski, Vijay Iyer, DJ Olive). B+(***) [sp]

Alan Sondheim: Galut: Ballads of Wadi-Sabi (2023, ESP-Disk): Wikipedia page describes him as "a poet, critic, musician, artist, and theorist of cyberspace," then talks mostly about the latter: his online writing community, codework concept, aesthetics of virtual environments, his place among postmodernist philosophers. In music, he recorded a couple albums for ESP-Disk in 1967-68, resuming around 2005, especially with his partner Azure Carter (credited here with vocals and anything songlike). Runs long (76 minutes) given a lot of meandering, some with Edward Schneider (alto sax) and/or Rachel Rosenkrantz (bass). Sondheim's own credit is "various instruments." B+(**) [cd]

Star Feminine Band: In Paris (2022, Born Bad): Group of seven girls from Natitingou, in Benin, ages 10-17 (at least when their 2020 debut appeared), sing in French and at least four native languages (Waama, Peul, Bariba, Ditamari). B+(**) [sp]

Ken Vandermark & Hamid Drake: Eternal River (2021 [2023], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Tenor sax and drums duo, their first together although they've played in larger groups. Program consists of two medleys of Don Cherry pieces. B+(***) [bc]

Withered Hand: How to Love (2023, Reveal): Dan Willson, singer-songwriter qua band from Edinburgh, two previous albums from 2009 and 2014. As I understand the back story, he's a recovering Jehovah's Witness, still seeking to find redemption in love, the subject of these deadly serious but strangely gorgeous songs. I'm impressed, but also doubt I'll want to hear this again. B+(***) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Thomas Anderson: The Debris Field: Lo-Fi Flotsam and Ragged Recriminations, 2000-2021 (2000-21 [2023], Out There): Singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, been throwing out his homemade records since 1989, the barrel scrapings often more compelling than his first-run albums. A- [sp]

William Bell: Never Like This Before: The Complete 'Blue' Stax Singles 1961-1968 (1961-68 [2022], Kent Soul): Soul singer, from Memphis, last name Yarborough, recorded for Stax 1961-74 but hits were infrequent and modest -- his 1961 debut, "You Don't Miss Your Water," may be his best remembered song. Not great, but he was pretty consistent. B+(**) [sp]

William Bell: The Man in the Street: The Complete 'Yellow' Stax Solo Singles 1968-1974 (1968-74 [2023], Kent Soul): A bit less consistent, following the times. B+(**) [sp]

Ornette Coleman: Genius of Genius: The Contemporary Albums (1958-59 [2022], Craft, 2CD): Coleman's first two albums, Something Else!!!! and Tomorrow Is the Question!, repackaged deluxe vinyl but also on CD and digital. Approached after hearing the later Atlantics (The Shape of Jazz to Come, Change of the Century, etc.) they seemed less than earthshaking (despite the titles and all the exclamation marks), which is to say not quite what you'd instantly recognize as Ornette! Don Cherry is on both, but the former even has a piano (Walter Norris), with long-forgotten Don Payne on bass and Billy Higgins on drums. The second drops the piano, divided bass between Percy Heath (?) and Red Mitchell (??), and has Shelly Manne on drums. B+(***) [sp]

Dredd Foole and the Din: Songs in Heat 1982 (1982 [2023], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Dan Ireton, guitar and vocals, leading a postpunk/noise group that included Roger Miller (Mission of Burma) on organ and guitar, plus a third guitarist (Clint Conley), prepared bass (Martin Swope), and drums (Peter Prescott). Looks like only two of these tracks were released at the time. They are joined by extra tracks from two sessions (one studio, one live), including covers of "Sister Ray" and "Final Solution." More volumes are coming. B+(*) [bc]

Buddy Guy & Junior Wells: Live From Chicago Blues Festival 1964 (1964 [2022], Good Time): Chicago blues duo, guitar and harmonica, destined to become big stars but their debut albums were 1966-68, and their breakthrough was 1972. A bit on the murky side, which is almost an aesthetic. B+(***) [r]

Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens: Music Inferno: The Indestructible Beat Tour 1988-89 (1988-89 [2023], Umsakazo): Breakout stars from the 1986 compilation The Indestructible Beat of Soweto, followed by superb albums by each and together -- his groan gains most from the collaboration, and a justly revered live album from Paris. This was scraped together from several stops in Britain at the time, and is as catchy and moving as you'd expect. A- [sp]

Evan Parker/X-Jazz Ensemble: A Schist Story (2012 [2022], JACC): A single 46:04 piece, recorded "as final result of a full week artistic residency at Schist Villages," in Portugal. Parker is credited with "conduction and saxophone," among 18 musicians, including Luis Vicente (trumpet), Rodrigo Amado (sax), and Luis Lopes (guitar), with cello, viola, and harp. B+(*) [bc]

Oscar Peterson: On a Clear Day: The Oscar Peterson Trio - Live in Zurich, 1971 (1971 [2022], Mack Avenue): Pianist, plus Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass) and Louis Hayes (drums), with a previously unreleased live set. Sparkling as ever, but didn't retain much on one quick play. B+(**) [sp]

Abbey Rader/Davey Williams: In One Is All (1999 [2023], Abray): Drummer, part of the 1970s loft scene in New York, moved to Europe but returned in 1989. Williams (1952-2019) was a guitarist, released thirty-some albums from 1977 on, often with LaDonna Smith, Andrea Centazzo, and/or Gunter Christmann. One previous duo with Rader dates from this year. This is a single 52:32 track. B+(**) [bc]

Pharoah Sanders Quartet: Live at Fabrik: Hamburg 1980 (1980 [2023], Jazzline): Tenor saxophonist, followed Coltrane into the avant-garde, establishing himself in a series of 1966-73 Impulse records. He struggled businesswise after that, with a half-dozen albums on Theresa disappearing from print, before returning with several masterpieces in the 1990s, remaining a revered figure up to his death in 2022. But he could still tour, and sounds terrific here on four originals (including "The Creator Has a Master Plan") and a standard, backed by John Hicks (piano), Curtis Lundy (bass), and Idris Muhammad (drums). A- [sp]

Old music:

Star Feminine Band: Star Feminine Band (2020, Born Bad): From Benin, seven girls age 10-17, first album, recorded at Musée Régional De Natitingou and marketed out of France. Both a bit cruder and a bit more charming than their later In Paris. B+(**) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Christian Artmann: The Middle of Life (Sunnyside) [06-02]
  • Buselli/Wallarab Jazz Orchestra: The Gennett Suite (Patois) [06-09]
  • Orhan Demir: Freedom in Jazz (Hittite) [2019]
  • Orhan Demir: Freedom in Jazz Vol. 2 (Hittite) [2020]
  • Orhan Demir: Freedom in Jazz Vol. 3 (Hittite) [2023]
  • Gerrit Hatcher: Solo Five (Kettle Hole) [05-12]
  • Johan Lindström/Norrbotten Big Band: Johan Lindström & Norrbotten Big Band (Moserobie) [05-12]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, May 8, 2023

Music Week

May archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 40158 [40117] rated (+41), 44 [48] unrated (-4: 16 new, 28 old).

Two side projects are relevant here. Last week, I pointed out that Rick Mitchell had interviewed me and Geoffrey Himes for his JJA Buzz podcast. The topic was About Jazz Polls. I was pretty nervous about something I've never done before, but some kind souls have assured me it came out ok (a couple better than that). I figured the least I could do was collect my preliminary notes, which are here.

In the meantime, I filled out my DownBeat Critics Poll ballot (all 49 sections), and collected my notes and ruminations here. DownBeat doesn't publish individual voter ballots, so without this cross reference you'll never know how little my single ballot counts for. I will note that I spent more time this year than I've done in a while, but still far less work than I put into the first polls I was invited for.

One consequence of the DownBeat exercise is that I went on a blues kick this week. They had nominated 33 blues albums from April 2022 through March 2023, and I had heard 7 of them (21.2%, which without checking I'd guess is slightly more than usual). I checked out another 16 of them this week, which gets to 69.6%. I found two A- records there (which is two more than I had, so it wipes out my ballot), and two B+(***). Unclear whether I'll search out more, as returns have been diminishing.

I also checked out the Shirley Scott Queen Talk album, which, figuring it belongs with her other queen-sized set, I scooped out of next week's stash to include here.

On Allen Lowe, auteur of this week's two best albums (well, except for Queen Talk), see Phil Overeem's interview, I Will Not Stop Til They Bury Me. Phil also recommended Lowe's book Letter to Esperanza, so I ordered a copy.

For what it's worth, I cobbled another Speaking of Which together over my abbreviated weekend. The week will mostly be remembered for two incidents of mass murder in Texas, only one of which involved guns, and proof that you don't need to gun to murder some one on a New York City subway. (Probably an eye-opener for Trump, who always assumed he'd need a gun when he fulfilled his destiny of shooting someone down on Fifth Avenue.)

Of course, the insult added to this week's injuries is the insistence of Abbott and Cruz in Texas that guns aren't the problem, but mental illness is, and their resolve to budget more money to fix that problem. The one thing you can be sure of is that neither will lift a finger to spend a penny more on mental health. It's not just that they're cruel bastards who don't care a whit for crazy people (even the ones who they depend on for votes). Deep down, they probably understand that more crazy people with guns just helps sell more guns to people crazy enough to buy them.

I no doubt could have written more, but took Saturday off to cook a nice dinner.

New records reviewed this week:

Alaska & Steel Tipped Dove: The Structural Dynamics of Flow (2023, Fused Arrow): Latter is Joseph Fusaro, a beats producer in New York. The former appears to be rapper Tim Baker, also of New York, connected through Atoms Family. Short album (11 tracks, 31:15), underground vibe. "You want to change the world/raise a kid that's not an asshole." B+(**) [sp]

Richard X Bennett & Matt Parker: Parker Plays X (2021 [2023], BYNK): Pianist and saxophonist, names that are hard to search, but I'm still flummoxed that I can't find either on Discogs (in my database, this is my third Bennett album, while I have three more under Parker, so these guys shouldn't be obscure -- ok, he's Matt Parker (4), but only one album listed). Bennett compositions, some designed specifically for Parker, backed by bass and drums, not avant but a bit out there. B+(***) [cd] [05-13]

Tim Berne/Hank Roberts/Aurora Nealand: Oceans And (2022 [2023], Intakt): Alto saxophonist, goes way back, here with cello and accordion/bass clarinet/voice. Chamber jazz? B [sp]

Eric Bibb: Ridin' (2023, Stony Plain): Blues singer-songwriter, cut a couple albums 1972-83, picked up the pace from 1997 on. One of his stronger albums. B+(***) [sp]

David Binney: Tomorrow's Journey (2022, Ghost Note): Alto saxophonist, early records from 1990, picked up the pace after 2001. Postbop guy, impressive chops, gets a little fancy for my taste. Group includes trumpet, trombone, two pianists (Luca Mendoza also on organ), two bassists, drums, and Kenny Wollesen (bowed vibes/percussion). B+(*) [sp]

Rory Block: Ain't Nobody Worried: Celebrating Great Women of Song (2022, Stony Plain): Country blues singer, plays guitar, first album in 1967 was a duet with Stefan Grossman. Career picked up with signing to Rounder in 1981. Since joining Stony Plain in 2008, she's released a series of tributes -- six volumes in her "Mentor Series" (from Son House to Bukka White), and three now in "Power Women of the Blues" (first was Bessie Smith). This one picks eleven scattered pop hits from the 1960s into the early 1970s ("My Guy," "I'll Take You There," "You've Got a Friend"). B+(**) [sp]

Blue Moon Marquee: Scream, Holler & Howl (2021 [2022], Ilda): Blues group, fourth album since 2014, principally A.W. Cardinal (vocals, guitar) and Jasmine Colette (vocals, bass), with a half-dozen guests including Duke Robillard. B+(*) [sp]

Joe Bonamassa: Tales of Time (2023, J&R Adventures): Blues guitarist-singer, thirty-some albums since 2000, more live than studio. This is one of the live ones. Heavy handed, not a great voice, reminds me of why arena rock sucks. B- [sp]

Theo Croker: Live in Paris (2021 [2022], Masterworks, EP): Trumpeter, from Florida, has some funk crossover angles but the best thing I've heard from him in a Miles Davis tribute. Three tracks, 18:56. B+(*) [sp]

Cydnee With a C: Confessions of a Fangirl (2023, Bread & Butter, EP): From Los Angeles, light and bubbly pop though maybe more to the lyrics. Six songs, 13:42. B+(*) [sp]

Kahil El'Zabar's Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Spirit Gatherer: Tribute to Don Cherry (2022 [2023], Spiritmuse): Percussionist-led trio, goes way back but currently Corey Wilkes (trumpet) and Alex Harding (baritone sax), joined by featured guests here Dwight Trible (voice) and David Ornette Cherry (piano/melodica/douss'n gouni) -- the latter was Cherry's eldest son. Covers often evoking what came to be called "spiritual jazz," from Cherry, Coleman, Coltrane, Monk, and Sanders. I'd prefer fewer vocals. B+(*) [sp]

Ruthie Foster: Healing Time (2022, Blue Corn Music): Blues/folk singer-songwriter from Texas, comes from a family of gospel singers, ninth album since 1997. Strong vocals and decent sentiments. B [sp]

Ice Spice: Like . . ? (2023, 10K Projects/Capitol, EP): Bronx rapper Isis Gaston, six-song, 13:08 EP following a raft of singles, expanded to 16:01 with a second mix of "Princess Diana" (with Nicki Minaj). B+(*) [sp]

Jeremiah Johnson: Hi-Fi Drive By (2022, Ruf): From St. Louis, plays guitar, sings, probably writes, eighth album since 2003, slotted as blues these days but drop the horns and backing singers and he could've passed for rockabilly. Starts with a vintage car some ("'68 Coupe Deville"). Unfortunately, that's the high point. B [sp]

Sass Jordan: Bitches Blues (2022, Stony Plain): British-born (1962) blues/rock singer, name Sarah, moved to Montreal when she was three, tenth album since 1988. Has some depth and grit. B+(*) [sp]

Aynsley Lister: Along for the Ride (2022, Straight Talkin'): British blues singer-songwriter, from Manchester, dozen-plus albums since 1996, doesn't strike me as all that bluesy. B [sp]

London Brew: London Brew (2020 [2023], Concord, 2CD): British jazz group assembled by guitarist Martin Terefe many top London players, including Nubya Garcia and Shabaka Hutchings (saxes), Theon Cross (tuba), and Tom Skinner (drums), aiming for an update of Bitches Brew on its 50th anniversary. B+(***) [sp]

Allen Lowe and the Constant Sorrow Orchestra: America: The Rough Cut (2014-22 [2023], ESP-Disk): Saxophonist, a trade he's plied erratically (but sometimes voluminously) since 1988, while writing some of the deepest and broadest surveys of American music. His erudition gives him plenty of references for sprinkling about ("gospel formulations," "pre-blues ruminations," "Hank Williams-directed honky tonk," "Heavy Metal," "anti-tribute to Earl Hines," "hail Jelly Roll Morton," "old-time hillbilly rag," "my own statement on the fallibility of free jazz"), while adding "a personal appeal for a MacArthur." No doubt he deserves one, not least because the reward is meant not just to honor past work but to subsidize further. Nonetheless, I enjoy this record much less than I admire it. Blame that, if you will, on too much metal in the too much guitar. Ends with a stray piece from 2014 which kicks up the horns (Roswell Rudd and Ray Anderson on trombone, Randy Sandke on trumpet, Darius Jones on alto sax) without feeling one bit out of place. A- [cd]

Allen Lowe and the Constant Sorrow Orchestra: In the Dark (2022 [2023], ESP-Disk, 3CD): Lowe's been complaining a lot lately about the state of avant-jazz composition, and seems to think he's found the solution here. I don't begin to understand it technically. It just sounds like he's overcome the modernist impulse and just decided to mix it all together. To that end, he's recruited previously trad players like Ken Peplowski and Lisa Parott, as well as esteemed musicologist Lewis Porter, plus many others I've barely heard of if at all. Casual listening just washes over me, but he's bothered to break this up into 31 pieces, most with historical referents if not baggage. A- [cd]

Taj Mahal: Savoy (2023, Stony Plain): Eclectic roots bluesman Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, started in 1965 in a group with Ry Cooder called Rising Sons, reunited last year in a Sonny Terry/Brownie McGhee tribute. Goes back even earlier here, reminiscing about Chick Webb in the Savoy Ballroom (some years before he was born in 1942). He sticks to top shelf songs here, risking comparison to Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong, Louis Jordan, Jimmy Rushing -- even on the sureshot Maria Muldaur duet, "Baby, It's Cold Outside." B+(**) [sp]

Denman Maroney/Scott Walton/Denis Fournier: O KOΣMOΣ META (2021 [2022], RogueArt): Piano-bass-drums trio, recorded in France, which may explain the credit of "piano" instead of the "hyperpiano" Maroney invented way back when -- presumably it's not something easy to schlep around, although he still gets sounds beyond the expected. B+(***) [cd]

Luiz Millan: Brazilian Match (2022 [2023], Jazz Station): Brazilian singer-songwriter, plays piano (though maybe not here; Michel Freidenson has most of the credits, as well as arranger and conductor), fifth album since 2011, many guest credits, especially for vocals. Mostly sambas, some very nice (the female voices), some a bit too lilting and/or swimmy for my taste. B+(**) [cd]

Mud Morganfield: Portrait (2022, Delmark): Father McKinley Morganfield, legendary as Muddy Waters, grew up with his mother as Larry Williams, only took up the family trade in 2008, well after his father's death. (Same for his younger brother, now known as Big Bill Morganfield, who cut his first -- and probably best -- album in 1999.) Still, Mud's vocal likeness is uncanny. He also claims eight (of 14) writing credits (one for his father, and one for John Lee Williamson, aka Sonny Boy I). A- [sp]

Van Morrison: Moving on Skiffle (2023, Exile/Virgin, 2CD): You know him, but you may have avoided as his libertarianism morphed into right-wing crankdom. You might note that he's the right age to have gotten turned on by the skiffle movement before he discovered rock and roll and invented Celtic soul. You might even recall that's recorded with skiffle icons like Lonnie Donegan. But while there's probably some intersection here, the 23 covers here are more often old country and blues standards, and few rise even to today's diminished expectations. B [sp]

John Primer: Teardrops for Magic Slim: Live at Rosa's Lounge (2022 [2023], Blues House): Blues guitarist-singer, born in Mississippi, grew up in Chicago, has recorded steadily since 1991. Live set, all covers, most familiar (two from Elmore James), down pat. B+(***) [sp]

Bruno Råberg: Solo Bass: Look Inside (2022 [2023], Orbis Music): Swedish bassist, debut 1976, about 15 albums and 25 side credits. Solo, relatively quiet and short (37:49), touches on pieces by Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, and the Gershwins. B+(*) [cd] [05-19]

Angela Strehli: Ace of Blues (2022, Antone's/New West): Originally from Lubbock, moved to Austin and worked as stage manager at Antone's. There she released an album in 1987, and was part of the trio Dreams Come True in 1990. Since then she's recorded occasionally (including an album as The Blues Broads with Tracy Nelson and two others), while running a blues club in Marin County, California. Now 77, this is her first since 2005, twelve golden oldies united by guitar and voice that stands up to the originals, even when eclipsing them is impossible. A- [sp]

Joanne Shaw Taylor: Nobody's Fool (2022, Keeping the Blues Alive): British singer-songwriter, identifies as blues, plays guitar, tenth album since 2009. [sp]

Billy Valentine: Billy Valentine and the Universal Truth (2020-22 [2023], Acid Jazz/Flying Dutchman): Blues/jazz/soul singer, recorded as half of the Valentine Brothers 1977-87, made a comeback in 2017 with a collection called Brit Eyed Soul (Beatles to Clash). Relaunches Bob Thiele's Flying Dutchman label here, with a set of soul covers (Mayfield to Prince), with a couple nods to the label's old catalog (Gil Scott-Heron, Leon Thomas). B+(***) [sp]

Ally Venable: Real Gone (2023, Ruf): Young blues-rock singer-songwriter from Texas, plays a mean guitar, will kick your ass. B+(*) [sp]

Joe Louis Walker: Weight of the World (2023, Forty Below): Blues singer-songwriter, has recorded quite a bit since 1986's Cold Is the Night. B [sp]

Doug Wamble: Blues in the Present Tense (2022, Halcyonic): Singer-songwriter, fourth album since 2003, this showed up on a blues list, but has a reputation as a jazz guitarist, and adds to that here, backed by Eric Revis (bass) and Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums), with Prometheus Jenkins on saxophone (which gets the band much more excited than Wamble's vocals do). B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Ray Charles: Live in Stockholm 1972 (1972 [2022], Tangerine): Credit continues in small print: "his Orchestra and The Raelettes." (Just eight songs, with intros and applause 38:37, half classic, if that's what you're looking for. B+(*) [sp]

Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis With Shirley Scott: Cookin' With Jaws and the Queen: The Legendary Prestige Cookbook Albums (1958 [2023], Craft): Reissues label, main business is putting old sides onto shiny new vinyl, but they also show up on streaming sources. This boxes up four albums, all recorded in 1958 but they spaced out the releases. Jerome Richardson's flute is prominent early, present to the end. Scott's organ gains both groove and subtlety over time. The tenor saxophonist is bluesy and soulful, as fits the material. [Individual notes under Old Music] B+(**) [sp]

Shirley Scott: Queen Talk: Live at the Left Bank (1972 [2023], Reel to Real): Organ player, probably best known for her work/marriage with Stanley Turrentine, leads a very hot trio here with George Coleman (tenor sax) and Bobby Durham (drums), recorded live at the Famous Ballroom in Baltimore. Trio covers three LP sides (73:13), then singer Ernie Andrews joins for the final side (24:58), and he's no less inspired. A- [sp]

Old music:

Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis: The Eddie "Lockjaw" Cookbook (1958, Prestige): With Shirley Scott (organ) and Jerome Richardson (flute), who take up a lot of space. B [sp]

Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis: The Eddie "Lockjaw" Cookbook Vol. 2 (1958 [1959], Prestige): "Featuring Shirley Scott & Jerome Richardson." But the tenor sax leads, more like it. B+(**) [sp]

Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis With Shirley Scott: The Eddie "Lockjaw" Cookbook, Volume 3 (1958 [1961], Prestige): Finally beginning to appreciate Jerome Richardson's flute, in doses limited enough they dropped him from cover credit. B+(**) [sp]

Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis With Shirley Scott: Smokin' (1958 [1963], Prestige): Possibly the best of the bunch, or maybe just the bluesiest. B+(***) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Devin Gray: Most Definitely (Rataplan) [06-09]
  • Joëlle Léandre/Craig Taborn/Mat Maneri: hEARoes (RogueArt) [05-07]
  • Matt Mitchell: Oblong Aplomb (Out of Your Head) [04-14]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, May 1, 2023

Music Week

May archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 40117 [40078] rated (+39), 48 [49] unrated (-1: 20 new, 28 old).

I wrote and posted two big pieces last week. One was the usual news roundup, Speaking of Which, on Sunday. Most of the links are on various demented Republicans (like "All of Ron DeSantis's Crimes Against Good Etiquette") and their nefarious schemes (like "Why Republicans Hate It When Poor People Have Food to Eat"), but I also added a section on Biden given his campaign announcement ("It's me or the abyss" is about right). The subject I wrote more about is foreign policy, where Biden leaves a lot to be desired.

One piece I cited without comment was Ethan Iverson's The End of the Music Business. I figured it might be something I'd want to circle back around to, but for now: the music business hasn't ended; it's just changing, and like most businesses that's been bad for workers. However, even if it does end, music will survive, because it meets needs that don't have to be monetized. That may be hard to grasp in a world that tries to reduce everything to money, but it could also be an example for moving past such alienation.

The other piece was my second Book Roundup in a year (last was October 22, 2022, and before that May 1, 2022. I spend a lot of time scrounging around virtual bookstores, looking for nonfiction titles of interest. I publish something when I come up with 40 blurbs, by which time I've accumulated a bunch of secondary and miscellaneous lists, which get flushed out at the same time.

I count this as important work, because it gives me a fairly good sense of what people know and think. I also find it calming. For most of my life I used to regularly retreat into bookstores, studiously examining the shelves, especially for new books -- that's probably why libraries had less allure -- which I'd pick up, look over, poke my nose into, it being just as interesting to know what I was missing as what I was reading. I didn't break that habit until Borders was shut down, and Barnes & Noble turned into a toy store/café.

Since posting, I've ordered two books from the list: Myth America, ed. by Kevin Kruse & Julian Zelizer; and A Climate Vocabulary for the Future, by Herg Simmens (buried in the long list of climate books under Greta Thunberg). The former complements my recent/current reading in American history. The latter seems like it might be useful for deciding how to write about the climate crisis.

A few weeks ago, Rick Mitchell asked me to participate in a podcast for the Jazz Journalists Association. The topic was to be jazz polls. Of late, I've been running the Francis Davis Jazz Poll, and in vote in a couple others (DownBeat, El Intruso). The original idea was to pair me with Frank Alkyer (DownBeat editor). After a no-show, Geoffrey Himes agreed to join in. We talked last week, and they posted the Jazz Buzz podcast today. I've never done anything like that, and had little sense of how well it went. I'll revisit it later, and try to write some more: no doubt I'll want to clarify a few points. If you have any comments, questions, or just wish to express outrage, please write me through the usual channels. (Note that there is a "Contact" button in the navigation bar.)

Last week, I also got my invite to vote in DownBeat's Critics Poll, so I'll take a look at that later in the week. I should also point out that the Jazz Journalists Association's 2023 Awards nominees have been announced, broken down to Performance & Recordings and Journalism & Media. I've never been a member of JJA, so I have no involvement there, and had to pass when their poll came up in the podcast. As I recall, they do an awards schmooze fest, which makes them more like the Grammys, minus the TV contract glitz. The nominee lists strike me as short (3-6 per category, just 4 for new albums) and pretty mainstream. I couldn't find any reference lists for who has won in the past, even in the "lifetime achievement" categories (this year's musicians are George Coleman, Keith Jarrett, Charles Lloyd, and Wadada Leo Smith, so presumably they hadn't won before).

By the way, while poking around the JJA site, I was sad to see that Ken Franckling died on March 24. He's been a long-time contributor to our poll, and his Jazz Notes blog has always been a delight.

Records this week are almost all jazz (Brit Taylor the exception). I tried to play down my queue, but other than that my prospecting system had a lot more jazz prioritized than anything else, and with all the writing, I just went for whatever was easiest to find.

New records reviewed this week:

Michael Blake: Dance of the Mystic Bliss (2020 [2023], P&M): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano, also flute), from Montreal, based in New York, albums since 1997, with guitar (Guilherme Monteiro), percussion/marimba (Mauro Refosco and Rogerio Boccato), bass (Michael Bates), and strings (violin and cello). Not his first Latin/Brazilian turn. B+(*) [cd] [05-26]

George Coleman: Live at Smalls Jazz Club (2022 [2023], Cellar): Tenor saxophonist, best known as the younger guy Wayne Shorter replaced in the Miles Davis Quintet, although he's turned in a few masterpieces over the years -- the first (and most classic) Eastern Rebellion (1976), My Horns of Plenty (1991), and A Master Speaks (2016) -- and still retains one of the instrument's most recognizable voices. His set here includes an original blues and seven standards (starting with Davis, and including a Jobim), backed by Spike Wilner (piano), Peter Washington (bass), and Joe Farnsworth (drums). Few have ever made great sound easier. A- [cd] [05-19]

Day & Taxi: Live in Baden (2021 [2023], Clean Feed): Saxophonist (soprano/alto/c-melody) Christoph Gallio, with Silvan Jeger (bass) and Gerry Hemingway (drums), group with a dozen albums going back to 1997 (various lineups, Gallio the only constant). B+(***) [sp]

Rachel Eckroth: One (2022 [2023], Blackbird Sessions): Pianist, albums since 2014, sings elsewhere but this is solo piano, originals except for an Ellington and one by Joshua Redman. B+(*) [cd]

Wayne Escoffery: Like Minds (2022 [2023], Smoke Sessions): Tenor saxophonist, born in London, moved to US at 11, studied under Jackie McLean, eleventh album since 2001. Mainstream quartet with David Kikoski (piano), Ugonna Okegwo (bass), and Mark Whitfield Jr (drums), plus guest slots for Gregory Porter (vocals on 2 tracks, "Rivers of Babylon" especially awful), Tom Harrell (trumpet on 2), and Mike Moreno (guitar on 4), and Daniel Sadownick (percussion on 1). An often impressive player who could be making better albums. B- [sp]

Everything but the Girl: Fuse (2023, Buzzin' Fly/Virgin): British electropop duo, Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt, had a run 1984-00, went off to pursue solo careers (five albums for Thorn, four for Watt, none you'd call hits), back after 24 years with a reunion album. B+(*) [sp]

Frank Gratkowski/Simon Nabatov: Tender Mercies (2022 [2023], Clean Feed): German saxophonist (alto, plus flute, clarinet, bass clarinet) and Russia pianist (based in Germany), a duo. The piano breaks up the ugliness, but doesn't quite overcome it. B+(*) [sp]

Lauren Henderson: Conjuring (2023, Brontosaurus): Jazz singer, sometime songwriter (5 of 10 songs here), eighth album since 2011. The covers are most striking, especially "That Old Black Magic," and two takes of "It's Magic" (one in Spanish, as "Es Magia"). Band features Joel Ross on vibraphone. B+(***) [cd]

Marc Jordan: Waiting for the Sun to Rise (2023, Linus Entertainment): Has a rep, with John Capek, as a songwriter, less so for his albums, fifteen since 1978. Plays guitar, but relies mostly on strings. B+(*) [cd]

Jason Keiser: Shaw's Groove (2022 [2023], OA2): Guitarist, from San Jose, Bandcamp has a couple previous albums but Discogs hasn't noticed him yet. Woody Shaw pieces, with Erik Jekabson (trumpet), Aaron Lington (baritone sax), a second guitarist (John Stowell), bass, and drums. B+(*) [cd]

Le Boeuf Brothers: Hush (2021 [2023], Soundspore): From California, Remy Le Boeuf (sax/clarinet) and Pascal Le Boeuf (piano), fifth (or sixth) album together, as well as several on their own. Quintet with Dayna Stephens (tenor sax), Linda May Han Oh (bass), and Christian Euman (drums). Tends to be quiet, almost meditative. B+(**) [cd]

Asbjørn Lerheim/Roger Arntzen/Michiyo Yagi/Tamaya Honda: Chrome Hill Duo Meets Dojo: Live at Aketa No Mise (2020 [2023], Clean Feed): Chrome Hill is a Norwegian quartet led by Lerheim (guitar) with Arntzen (bass), with four records 2008-20. Dojo is a Japanese duo of Yagi (electric 21-string koto/electronics) and Honda (drums). B+(*) [bc]

Luis Lopes Abyss Mirrors: Echoisms (2022 [2023], Clean Feed): Portuguese guitarist, has put together an impressive discography since 2007. Large group here (tentet), with a second guitarist (Flak), two saxophonists, two electronics credits, electric bass, and three strings (violin, viola, cello). B+(**) [bc]

Brandon Lopez Trio: Matanzas (2023, Relative Pitch): Avant-bassist, very active since 2017, trio with Steve Baczkowski (sax) and Gerald Cleaver (drums). Bass lays down industrial-grade noise, which the sax eventually builds on. B+(**) [sp]

Bill Mays: Autumn Serenade (2023, Sunnyside): Pianist, from Sacramento, twenty-some albums since 1976, more side credits (early on with Bud Shank). Trio with Dean Johnson (bass) and Ron Vincent (drums), playing nine autumn-themed songs (six with "autumn" in the title). Mays sings two, the second a duet with Judy Kirtley. B+(**) [sp]

Steve Millhouse: The Unwinding (2022 [2023], SteepleChase): Bassist, possibly his first album (although he has side credits back to the 1990s), plays six-string contrabass guitar here, with Rich Perry (tenor sax) and Eric Halvorson (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Move: The City (2022 [2023], Clean Feed): Intense Portuguese avant-jazz trio: Felipe Zenicola (electric bass), Yedo Gibson (saxophones), and João Valinho (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Natural Information Society: Since Time Is Gravity (2021 [2023], Aguirre/Eremite): Chicago bassist Joshua Abrams, debut 2002, fifth album since 2015 with variants of this group, expanded here to eleven, including Ari Brown (tenor sax) and Hamid Drake (percussion). The key to the group has always been its ability to sustain a groove while doing interesting things with it. More horns here steers it back a bit toward a more conventional jazz sound, so that's what's interesting this time. A- [sp]

Aruán Ortiz Trio: Serranias: Sketchbook for Piano Trio (2022 [2023], Intakt): Cuban pianist, in US for twenty years now, with Brad Jones (bass) and John Betsch (drums). Starts flashy, ends pensive. B+(**) [sp]

Ed Partyka Jazz Orchestra: Hold Your Fire (2022 [2023], Neuklang): Trombonist, from Chicago, formed his big band in 2001 to support Bob Brookmeyer, fourth album since, this particular edition recorded in Zürich, mostly German musicians, including singer Julia Oschewsky (in English). B+(*) [sp]

Ivo Perelman/Elliott Sharp: Artificial Intelligence (2022 [2023], Mahakala Music): Brazilian tenor saxophonist, has tons of albums, many duos, including a particularly good one last year with guitarist Joe Morris (Elliptic Time), follows that up with another guitarist duo, this time with stray electronics, which work just as well. A- [sp]

Ivo Perelman/Dave Burrell/Bobby Kapp: Trichotomy (2021 [2023], Mahakala Music): Tenor sax trio, with piano and drums, veterans who go way back. Kapp is the least well known, but played on 1967-68 albums for Gato Barbieri, Marion Brown, and Noah Howard, and played on Burrell's most famous album in 1976. He appeared on two recent albums with Perelman, Matthew Shipp, and William Parker, so this lineup squares a circle. Two long blowouts, with details that matter. A- [sp]

Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Jeff Cosgrove: Live in Carrboro (2017 [2023], Soul City Sounds): Live shot, tenor sax trio with his favorite pianist and a relatively unsung free drummer -- from the same year as the trio's Live in Baltimore appeared. B+(***) [bc]

Ivo Perelman/Ray Anderson/Joe Morris/Reggie Nicholson: Molten Gold (2022 [2023], Fundacja Sluchaj): Tenor sax, trombone, bass, and drums. Anderson turns out to be a great accompanist here. A- [dl]

John Pizzarelli: Stage & Screen (2021 [2023], Palmetto): Guitarist-turned-standards singer, many albums since 1992 (including some with his trad-minded guitarist father Bucky Pizzarelli), backed here by the impressive swing and boogie of Isaiah J. Thompson (piano) and Michael Karn (bass). Primo songs help, too. B+(***) [cd]

Eric Reed: Black, Brown, and Blue (2022 [2023], Smoke Sessions): Mainstream pianist, dedicated his 1991 debut to Art Blakey, played with Wynton Marsalis through the 1990s. Trio with Luca Alemanno (bass) and Reggie Quinerly (drums), one song each, standards from Ellington to Monk to Silver to Tyner, and two vocal spots: Calvin B. Rhone for "Lean on Me" (Bill Withers), and David Daughtry for "Pastime Paradise" (Stevie Wonder). B+(**) [sp]

Mike Richmond: Turn Out the Stars (2023, SteepleChase): Bassist, albums back to 1978, plays cello here, with Andy Laverne (piano), Jay Anderson (bass), and Anthony Pimciotti (drums), on what is mostly a set of Bill Evans songs. B+(**) [sp]

Diego Rivera: Love & Peace (2023, Posi-Tone): Tenor/soprano saxophonist, born in Ann Arbor, teaches at Michigan State, half-dozen albums since 2013. Lively quartet here with Art Hirahara (piano), Boris Kozlov (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums), all up for more than a little Latin tinge. B+(**) [sp]

Roots Magic Sextet: Long Old Road: Retold Pasts and Present Day Musings (2022 [2023], Clean Feed): Italian group, fourth album, started as a quintet with Alberto Popolla (clarinet), Errico de Fabritis (alto/baritone sax), Gianfranco Tedeschi (bass), and Fabrizio Spera (drums) continuing, plus Eugenio Colombo (soprano sax/flutes) and Francesco Lo Cascio (vibes/percussion) making six. Leads with a strong groove, riffs on top of that, tries some change of pace. B+(***) [sp]

Dan Rosenboom: Polarity (2022 [2023], Orenda): Trumpet player, albums since 2005, this one a quintet with Gavin Templeton (alto/baritone sax), John Escreet (piano/keyboards), Billy Mohler (bass), and Damion Reid (drums). B+(***) [cd]

Steve Smith and Vital Information: Time Flies (2022 [2023], Wounded Bird, 2CD): Drummer-led fusion group, named for their 1983 debut album, principally Manuel Valera (keyboards) and Janek Gwizdolo (electric bass), with guest spots for George Garzone (tenor sax) and Mike Mainieri (vibes). Garzone is always an imposing soloist, especially on the bonus disc, which features him throughout. B+(**) [cd]

Bobo Stenson Trio: Sphere (2022 [2023], ECM): Swedish pianist (b. 1944). I was always a big fan of his 1973 album with Jan Garbarek, Witchi-Tai-To. This is a trio with Anders Jormin (bass) and Jon Fält (drums), with Jormin composing or arranging four (of 9) tracks, with others coming from Per Nørigärd, Sven-Erik Bäck, and Jean Sibelius (and nary a hint of my first thought, Monk). B+(*) [sp]

Brit Taylor: Kentucky Blue (2023, Cut a Shine): Country singer-songwriter from Kentucky, second album, a fresh voice from the hills, with a lot of fiddle. B+(***) [sp]

Erik Truffaz: Rollin' (2023, Blue Note): Swiss trumpet player, albums since 1997, accompanied here by Marcello Giuliani (electric & acoustic bass); don't see the credits, but also piano and drums, with a couple vocal spots. B+(**) [sp]

Alex Weitz: Rule of Thirds (2022 [2023], Outside In Music): Saxophonist (mostly tenor), has a previous self-released album, quartet here with piano (Tal Cohen), bass (Ben Tiberio), and drums (Michael Piolet), eight original compositions plus "Love for Sale." Has a sound that's prepared to soar, or perhaps just swing. B+(***) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Les DeMerle Sound 67: Once in a Lifetime (1967 [2023], Origin): Drummer, backdates his debut a couple years to when he was 21, with a group that featured Randy Brecker (trumpet), a couple cuts with Genya Ravan singing, one more from the Mike Douglas show with Rosemary Clooney. B+(**) [cd]

Old music:

Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society: Mandatory Reality (2017 [2019], Eremite, 2CD): Octet led by Joshua Abrams, who is credited not with his usual bass but with guimbri and flute (actually, everyone gets a flute credit on the last, and shortest, track). At this stage (their third album), the band is clearly into minimalism, with subtle variations on rmesmerizing rhythmic patterns, extended in four pieces to 81:39. B+(***) [sp]

Day & Taxi: Less and More (1997 [1999], Unit): Group led by soprano/alto saxophonist Christoph Gallio, second album, with Dominique Girod (bass) and Dieter Ulrich (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Khan Jamal Creative Arts Ensemble: Drum Dance to the Motherland (1972 [2017], Eremite): Born Warren Cheeseboro (1946-2022), played vibraphone and marimba, still appeared on DownBeat "rising star" ballots into his 70s, after his last album (2009). This was his first, released 1973 on Dogtown, with him and drummer Dwight James also playing scratchy clarinet, backed by guitar, bass, and a second drummer with African percussion. B+(***) [sp]

Mike Lipskin: Spreadin' Rhythm Around (2002, Buskirk): Stride pianist, someone I hadn't noticed until Allen Lowe mentioned him, but I found a co-credit in my database, Stride Piano Summit (with Ralph Sutton, Jay McShann, and Sweets Edison). Perhaps better known as a producer, especially of RCA reissues. Mostly solo, with Leon Oakley (trumpet) on five tracks. B+(***) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Satoko Fujii: Torrent: Piano Solo (Libra) [06-02]
  • Max Light: Henceforth (SteepleChase) [06-16]
  • Russ Lossing: Alternate Side Parking Music (Aqua Piazza) [07-07]
  • Allen Lowe and the Constant Sorrow Orchestra: America: The Rough Cut (ESP-Disk) [04-28]
  • Allen Lowe and the Constant Sorrow Orchestra: In the Dark (ESP-Disk, 3CD) [04-28]
  • Denman Maroney/Scott Walton/Denis Fournier: O Koσmoσ Meta (RogueArt '22)
  • Naya Bazz [Rez Abbasi/Josh Feinberg]: Charm (Whirlwind) [05-12]
  • Rudy Royston Flatbed Buggy: Day (Greenleaf Music) [05-05]
  • Felipe Salles Interconnections Ensemble: Home Is Here (Tapestry) [05-12]
  • Matthew Shipp/Mark Helias: The New Syntax (RogueArt '22)
  • Alan Sondheim: Galut: Ballads of Wadi-Sabi (ESP-Disk) [04-28]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Music Week

April archive (final).

Music: Current count 40078 [40331] rated (+47), 49 [54] unrated (-5: 21 new, 28 old).

Again, mostly new music, mostly attributable to the tracking file, which is usually the first thing I consult when I need a new record. Pace picked up considerably from Friday, when I started collecting Speaking of Which: at 5668 words, just a bit shorter than the previous week (5773 words). The difference (and much of the difference from the even longer previous weeks (of April 9 and April 2) is in the introductions, which I cut short this week.

It's a grind to pull those posts together in three days, which results in another grind as I process music in the background. I'm usually paying enough attention to form a reasonable opinion, but rarely have the time to write down much detail: hence, you get a bunch of reviews that hardly say anything. That probably says something about my priorities: I'd rather get to the next record than nail the one I just heard, and in any case I care more about making my political points than music crit ones: I feel like I have more to say, more that is original, and more that matters.

Unfortunately, few others feel that way. And frankly, I was rather gratified in a noticeable uptick of interest in last week's Music Week. That marked the week when my rated count topped 40,000, so it was as much a lifetime achievement as another weekly installment. My wife recently watched Sullivan's Travels for her film group, so for a week there I kept imagine people coming up to me and advising, "forget about the politics you can't do anything about anyway, and just write better record reviews." But here I am, still taking a half-assed stab at both.

I'm almost done with Brian T Watson's Headed Into the Abyss: The Story of Our Time, and the Future We'll Face. I'm not convinced that the forces he identifies will lead to the doom of civilization he predicts, but he got me thinking about other things he slights (war, guns, racism, civil strife, injustice, surveillance, repression) and in some cases misses completely (his book appeared just before Covid broke out). He is fairly good on climate change (without more than a few lines on how it might generate waves of emigration, resource conflicts, and war), a little both-sidesy on capitalism and politics, and way over the top on what he calls Webworld.

He understands that these "forces" interact and compound in ways that are hard to separate out -- his Webworld is largely a confluence of dangers he doesn't fully articulate in capitalism, technology, politics, and human nature. The latter is by far the trickiest to write about: even though we've been studying it for ages, it's almost impossible to generalize about in contexts that haven't yet happened.

What I do believe is that there are practical, technical solutions to virtually all problems we face, except that there is (and will continue to be) formidable political opposition to doing anything before it is much too late. So, I think it's ultimately very important to thoroughly critique those political opponents. Of course, it's also nice to have some nice music to play in the background. (I happen to be on an Ivo Perelman kick at the moment.)

Next book up is probably Kurt Andersen's 2017 book Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History. I read Andersen's later (2020) book, Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America shortly after it came out, and consider it the single best book on the rise of the political right in recent America. The earlier book won't have the luxury of pointing to Trump (although it serendipitously arrived with America's most ridiculous fantasy president). I've long regarded Reagan's 1980 election as a decision to live in a fantasy world (his catchphrase was "morning in America") as the real one was becoming too grim, but when you think about it, everything from "city on a hill" to "go west, young man" to the "new frontier" was fantasy.

Maybe there's a fantasy for a political era that actually faces problems and turns them into opportunities for a better world, as opposed to the usual ones where you look away and pretend it's got nothing to do with you.

This is the last Music Week of April, so the monthly archive should be complete (see link above), but I decided to post this before I do all my usual indexing. I'll catch up later in the week. Meanwhile, the first nominal week of May has started, here.

New records reviewed this week:

Susan Alcorn/Patrick Holmes/Ryan Sawyer: From Union Pool (2022 [2023], Relative Pitch): Pedal steel guitar, clarinet, and drums, playing very free, which leaves you wondering what the guitar really sounds like. B+(*) [sp]

Ralph Alessi Quartet: It's Always Now (2021 [2023], ECM): Trumpet player, from San Francisco, a dozen albums since 1999, plus more side credits (especially with Uri Caine, Steve Coleman, and Ravi Coltrane). Quartet with Florian Weber (piano), Bänz Oester (bass), and Gerry Hemingway (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Algiers: Shook (2023, Matador): Alt/indie band from Atlanta (or maybe London), fourth album. Mojo hears "stories of struggle, pain and healing are painted in edgy electro, impassioned punk-soul, cloudbursts of jazz and rattlesnake trap pulses." I don't hear much of that, but some concerned talk with grim overtones. B+(*) [sp]

Matt Barber: The Song Is You (2023, MB): Standards singer, seventh album (per hype sheet; I can't find any confirmation on sites like Discogs, although he's pretty clearly not the Canadian singer-songwriter Matthew Barber, or the British politician). One co-writing credit (with pianist Day Kelly), and covers advancing the songbook to Billy Joel. B+(*) [cd]

Kenny Barron: The Source (2022 [2023], Artwork): Pianist, approaching 80 (b. 1943), recently elected by the fans to DownBeat's Hall of Fame, offers a solo album, his first since 1982, with four original pieces, two Ellingtons, two Monks, and a standard ("I'm Confessing"). B+(***) [sp]

Belle and Sebastian: Late Developers (2023, Matador): Scottish indie pop group, since 1996. Mostly engaging. B+(***) [sp]

Boygenius: The Album (2023, Interscope): Implicit supergroup, consisting of three recently but firmly established singer-songwriters: Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus. First album, after a much-noticed EP. B [sp]

John Cale: Mercy (2023, Domino): From Wales, studied in London, moved to New York in 1963, was part of the experimental music underground until he joined the Velvet Underground for two pathbreaking albums. His subsequent solo career was all over the map, aside from a three album 1974-75 stretch when he deserved to be a major rock star. Now 81, with his first album of new songs in over a decade, a monster running 71:34 with a guest list that couldn't be guessed (7/12 songs have featuring credits). Sounded awful at first, but got interesting at some point, and might merit further study. B+(*) [sp]

Rodrigo Campos: Pagode Novo (2023, YB Music): Brazilian singer-songwriter, albums since 2009, but surprisingly little on him. Seems to fit in the MPB mainstream, with a previous album called 9 Sambas. B+(***) [sp]

Joe Chambers: Dance Kobina (2023, Blue Note): Drummer, b. 1942 (80), sixteenth album since 1974, has hundreds of side credits, playing on many major albums in the 1960s, plays vibes (5 tracks, with Michael Davidson on 3) as well as drums here. Caoilainn Power plays alto sax on three tracks, Marvin Carter alto on one and tenor on another, with piano and bass duties split, and extra percussion (Latin or African). B+(**) [sp]

Slaid Cleaves: Together Through the Dark (2023, Candy House Media): Singer-songwriter from DC, grew up in Maine, wound up in Austin, where he can pass for country but not for Nashville, more than a dozen albums since 1990. Solid. B+(***) [sp]

Das Kondensat: Andere Planeten (2020 [2023], WhyPlayJazz): German saxophone/clarinet player Gebhard Ullmann, prolific since 1985, leads a quartet with Liz Kosack (keyboards), Oliver Potratz (electric bass/electronics), and Eric Schaefer (drums/modular synthesizer) on third group album. The keyboard is an addition from two earlier trios. A- [cd]

Yelena Eckemoff: Lonely Man and His Fish (2021 [2023], L&H Production, 2CD): Russian pianist, usual classical training, came to US in 1991 and switched to jazz. Original compositions, trio with Ben Street and Eric Harland plus major help from Kirk Knuffke (cornet) and Masaru Koga (Japanese flutes). B+(***) [cd]

Michael Feinberg: Blues Variant (2022 [2023], Criss Cross): Bassist, has a half-dozen albums since 2012, postbop quartet here with Noah Preminger (tenor sax/flute), Leo Genovese (piano), and Nasheet Waits (drums). He gets a lot of sound and action from that lineup. B+(***) [sp]

Fever Ray: Radical Romantics (2023, Rabid/Mute): Swedish singer-songwriter Karin Dreijer, previously did business as The Knife (a duo with brother Olof Dreijer), third album under this alias. B+(**) [sp]

Anat Fort Trio: The Berlin Sessions (2022 [2023], Sunnyside, 2CD): Israeli pianist, debut 1999, trio with Gary Wang (bass) and Roland Schneider (drums). B+(**) [sp]

GoGo Penguin: Everything Is Going to Be OK (2023, XXIM): British piano-bass-drums trio (Chris Illingworth, Nick Blacka, Jon Scott), albums since 2012 including a run on Blue Note, with some crossover appeal. B+(**) [sp]

Mette Henriette: Drifting (2020-22 [2023], ECM): Norwegian tenor saxophonist, backed with piano (Johan Lindvall) and violoncello (Judith Hamann), takes chill a bit too far. B [sp]

Hieroglyphic Being: There Is No Acid in This House (2022, Soul Jazz): Electronica producer Jamal R. Moss, from Chicago, many albums since 2008. B+(***) [sp]

Lonnie Holley: Oh Me Oh My (2023, Jagjaguwar): Singer-songwriter from Alabama, hard to classify, long more noted for his paintings and sculptures, only recording from 2012 on. B+(*) [sp]

Islandman Feat. Okay Temiz/Muhlis Berberoglu: Direct-to-Disc Sessions (2021 [2023], Night Dreamer): Turkish groove merchant Tolga Böyük, debut 2015, credits: drum machine, electric bass, synthesizers. Percussionist Temiz (b. 1939) has been on the fringe of the European free jazz scene since the 1970s (including albums with Johnny Dyani and Monghezi Feza). Berberoglu is younger, plays baglama and cura (plucked string instruments used in Ottoman classical music), while others play guitar (Erdem Baser) and drums (Eralp Guven). A- [sp]

Karol G: Mañana Será Bonito (2023, Universal Music Latino): Colombian singer, Carolina Giraldo Navarro, from Medellin, fourth album. B+(***) [sp]

Kate NV: Wow (2023, RVNG Intl): Russian electronica producer-singer Kate Shilonosova, sixth album since 2016. A little on the campy side this time. B [sp]

Kelela: Raven (2023, Warp): Pop singer-songwriter, last name Mizanekristos, born in DC of Ethiopian heritage. Second studio album, plus mixtapes and singles and EPs back to 2014. Soft soul, sometimes too atmospheric, but savvy as ever. B+(**) [sp]

The Long Ryders: September November (2023, Cherry Red): Country-rock band from Los Angeles, released three studio albums 1984-87, broke up, reunited in 2004 and occasionally since, releasing a new album in 2019 and now this one. B+(**) [sp]

Loscil & Lawrence English: Colours of Air (2023, Kranky): Scott Morgan, from Vancouver, ambient electronica producer (and sometime Destroyer drummer), albums since 1999, working with an Australian producer of similar experience and bearing. B+(*) [sp]

Brad Mehldau: Your Mother Should Know: Brad Mehldau Plays the Beatles (2020 [2023], Nonesuch): Pianist, plays solo, a live recitation of ten Beatles songs (including one by George Harrison), opening with "I Am the Walrus," plus "Life on Mars?" to close. B [sp]

Margo Price: Strays (2023, Loma Vista): Country singer-songwriter, fourth studio album. B+(*) [sp]

Taiko Saito: Tears of a Cloud (2022 [2023], Trouble in the East): Japanese marimba/vibraphone player, solo. B+(*) [cd] [04-28]

Kendrick Scott: Corridors (2023, Blue Note): Drummer, from Houston, half-dozen albums since 2007, 80-90 side-credits. Trio with Walter Smith III (tenor sax), and Reuben Rogers (bass). B+(**) [sp]

Slowthai: Ugly (2023, Method/Universal): British rapper-turned-singer Tyron Frampton, third album, title supposedly an acronym for "U Gotta Love Yourself" (spelled out but not expanded on in the title song). B+(***) [sp]

Wadada Leo Smith and Orange Wave Electric: Fire Illuminations (2023, Kabell): Trumpet player, has a new group in his Yo! Miles! mode, with three guitarists (Nels Cline, Brandon Ross, Lamar Smith), two bassists (Melvin Gibbs and Bill Laswell), drums (Pheeroan aKlaff), percussion (Mauro Refrosco), and electronics (Hardedge) bringing the avant electrofunk. A- [sp]

Walter Smith III: Return to Casual (2023, Blue Note): Tenor saxophonist, debut 2006 (Casually Introducing), titled a 2014 album Still Casual), so this suggests a return to his roots. Band here includes Kendrick Scott (drums) and Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet, 2 tracks) from his debut, as well as Taylor Eigsti (piano), Matt Stevens (guitar), Harish Raghavan (bass) -- listed with Scott on the cover. Smith makes a better (less casual) impression on Scott's recent Corridors. B+(*) [sp]

Something Blue: Personal Preference (2021 [2023], Posi-Tone): Effectively producer Marc Free's house hard bop band, a showcase for his label's younger musicians, with only bassist Boris Kozlov returning from the 2019 release under the same group name. Newccomers, all on the cover: Markus Howell (alto/soprano sax), Willie Morris (tenor sax), Altin Sencalar (trombone), Misha Tsiganov (trombone), and Donald Edwards (drums). B+(*) [sp]

Mark Soskin/Jay Anderson: Empathy (2022 [2023], SteepleChase): Piano and bass duets, Soskin has a couple dozen albums since 1980, more side credits, including a 1978-91 run with Sonny Rollins. Nothing terribly flashy here, but the pair live up to the title. B+(***) [sp]

Ben Wendel: All One (2020-22 [2023], Edition): Tenor saxophonist from Vancouver (also soprano and bassoon), seventh album since 2009, plus seven in the group Kneebody, and more side-credits. Tracks were laid down at home, then guests dubbed in (Cécile McLorin Salvant on "I Love You Porgy," Terence Blanchard, Bill Frisell, Elena Pinderhughes, José James on "Tenderly," and Tigran Hamasyan). B [cd]

Buster Williams: Unalome (2022 [2023], Smoke Sessions): Bassist, has led more than a dozen albums since 1975, many more side credits back to Gene Ammons in 1961, back cover calls this group the Buster Williams Something More Sextet: Jean Baylor (vocals), Bruce Williams (sax/flute), Stefon Harris (vibes), George Colligan (piano), Lenny White (drums). B [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Chet Baker: Blue Room: The 1979 Vara Studio Sessions in Holland (1979 [2023], Jazz Detective, 2CD): First release of three studio sessions recorded for Dutch radio: two quartet dates in April with Phil Markowitz on piano, plus one from November with Frans Elsen. Typically nice trumpet, with a few vocals, and long piano leads. B+(**) [cd] [04-28]

Bill Charlap: All Through the Night (1997 [2023], Criss Cross): Mainstream pianist, mother is singer Sandy Stewart, debut 1993, a later run at Blue Note (2003-10) made him one of the best known pianists around. This is the third of three Criss Cross albums, a trio with Peter Washington (bass) and Kenny Washington (drums). Standards, smartly done as usual. B+(**) [sp]

Dream Dolphin: Gaia: Selected Ambient & Downtempo Works (1996-2003) (1996-2003 [2023], Music From Memory, 2CD): Japanese electronica producer Noriko, recorded 20 albums 1996-2003, trimmed down here to 18 pieces, 116 minutes. Has some beat, vocals (mostly spoken) too. B+(**) [sp]

Dick Sisto: Falling in Love (1994 [2023], SteepleChase): Vibraphonist, this looks like a reissue of his American Love Song album from 1995, mostly standards, backed by Fred Hersch (piano), Drew Gress (bass), and Tom Rainey (piano). B+(**) [sp]

Old music:

Das Kondensat: Das Kondensat (2016 [2017], WhyPlayJazz): The first of three albums (so far) by this group, at this point just a trio of Gebhard Ullmann (tenor/soprano sax, looper/sampler), Oliver Potratz (bass/effects), and Eric Schaeffer (drums/modular synth). B+(**) [sp]

Das Kondensat: 2 (2020 [2021], WhyPlayJazz): Same trio, Poltratz adding bass synthesizer, "live without overdubs." This may be the best I've heard Ullmann play, probably because the electric bass sets him up to soar while still eschewing predictable grooves. A- [sp]

Gebhard Ullmann: Kreuzberg Park East (1997 [2000], Soul Note): German saxophone/bass clarinet player, joined by Ellery Eskelin (tenor sax), Drew Gress (bass), and Phil Haynes (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Sylvie Courvoisier & Cory Smythe: The Rite of Spring/Spectre D'Un Songe (Pyroclastic) [05-19]
  • Bruno Råberg: Solo Bass: Look Inside (Orbis Music) [05-19]
  • Brandon Seabrook: Brutalovechamp (Pyroclastic) [05-26]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Music Week

April archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 40031 [39968] rated (+63), 54 [58] unrated (-4: 26 new, 28 old).

Not only hit but blew right past the 40,000 rated albums mark this week. I noted the moment in a tweet on Friday (4/14). The database introduction and genre breakdown is here. Most of this framework dates back to the early 2000s, when I was scouring the album guides for prospects. Perhaps some of the genres should be divided up more, especially by time, but I keep thinking that a better solution would be a better tagged database -- a project that always seems to be slipping away into the future.

Records below are primarily non-jazz: probably the first week all year. I added a lot of stuff to my 2023 tracking file, so I've had a lot to pick from. Given how many records by reputable artists I heard, I'm surprised that so far hit the A- mark -- especially the three A records from Robert Christgau's April Consumer Guide (which I played at least three times each). Some of those I had played earlier (recently: Willie Nelson, 100 Gecs; others way back: Oranj Symphonette, Wayne Shorter. By the way, my pick of the Shorter Blue Notes is Night Dreamer, although the one I really recommend is The Classic Blue Note Recordings (2-CD, 2002). My Shorter list is here. Beyond that, his albums with Art Blakey and Miles Davis are often great, and his albums with Weather Report never are.

Seems like a lot of musicians have been dying recently, but few as notable as Ahmad Jamal (1930-2023). He almost exclusively recorded in trios, something I'm not a big fan of, but if you look at my list, you'll find A- records scattered over four decades, and also notice that I missed a lot in between.

Technically, the Christian McBride album missed my cutoff, but I decided to include it here because I thought I should have more good new releases, and because it shows you what Marcus Strickland can do when he's not recording his own albums.

Rough day today, especially with eyes and allergies. Former will probably clear up (though cataract surgery is likely in the future), and latter will probably get worse.

Wrote another monster Speaking of Which over the weekend. Kicked out a tweet this morning when I saw a particularly laughable op-ed:

I see Robert M Gates has an op-ed called "US needs to relearn how to tell its story to the world." Actually, the US needs a better story. Like, one that doesn't start with: sanction our enemies, buy our arms, and if you do, we'll excuse any human rights offenses.

The US had a better (but still imperfect) story before WWII, when an elite group of foreign policy wonks decided that America should save the world by running it, or alternatively that America should save colonialism by converting it to global capitalism, allowing natives to hold "independent" political posts subject to the tight credit controls of the World Bank and IMF.

New records reviewed this week:

100 Gecs: 10,000 Gecs (2023, Dog Show/Atlantic): St. Louis duo, Dylan Brady and Laura Les, second album, hyperpop (I'm told), turns the corner from mostly annoying to occasionally amusing. Blessedly short: 26:53. B+(*) [sp]

100 Gecs: Snake Eyes (2022, Dog Show/Atlantic, EP): Even shorter: three tracks (5:53), with Skrillex on the middle one, in case they ran short of bubblegum. B+(*) [sp]

Arooj Aftab/Vijay Iyer/Shahzad Ismaily: Love in Exile (2023, Verve): Pakistani singer, based in Brooklyn, several previous albums, working here with piano and bass, both also on synths, all three credited on all six songs. Not quite mesmerizing, but tries. B+(**) [sp]

Florian Arbenz/Greg Osby/Arno Krijger: Conversation #9: Targeted (2023, Hammer): Swiss drummer, released a couple albums in 2001 but has been most prolific since 2020, when he hit on his "Conversation" series as a pandemic lockdown workaround. Trio with alto sax and organ. Osby has been terrific of late -- last year's album with Tyshawn Sorey topped my list -- and the organ kicks off to a strong start. B+(***) [bc]

Florian Arbenz/Jorge Vistel/Wolfgang Puschnig/Oren Marshall/Michael Arbenz: Conversation #8: Ablaze (2022, Hammer): After a lockdown series of mostly duos and trios, the Swiss drummer convened a quintet, with group pic on the back cover. Others play trumpet, sax, tuba (!), and piano, with Vistel and Puschnig bringing a song each, and a cover of "Freedom Jazz Dance." B+(***) [bc]

Gina Birch: I Play My Bass Loud (2023, Third Man): British painter, photographer, moviemaker, played in the Raincoats and Red Krayola, released this debut solo album at 67. It has some of the off-kilter quirkiness of her groups, and some lessons of age. Bass isn't as loud as advertised. B+(***) [sp]

Bktherula: LVL5 P1 (2022, Warner, EP): Atlanta rapper Brooklyn Rodriguez, fourth album, albeit a short one (10 tracks, 20:57). B+(*) [sp]

Peter Brötzmann/Heather Leigh/Fred Lonberg-Holm: Naked Nudes [Brötz 80th at ADA 2021] (2021 [2023], Trost): Legendary German avant-saxophonist (alto/tenor), as part of his 80th birthday celebration in Wuppertal, a trio with frequent collaborators of late, on pedal steel guitar and cello/electronics. I'd hate to suggest that he's slowing down, but the background is kind of thick. B+(*) [bc]

Tom Collier: Boomer Vibes Volume 1 (2023, Summit): Born 1950, plays keyboards and drums as well as vibraphone, picks eleven songs from the 1960s (not checking, but being his age that's how I know them), offering versions that are slightly more than muzak, and slightly less than pop. B+(*) [cd]

Miley Cyrus: Endless Summer Vacation (2023, Columbia): Pop star since her teens, semi-famous father had a fluke country hit, eighth album since 2007 and still just 30. Some striking songs, but inconsistent as always. B+(**) [sp]

Jesse Davis: Live at Smalls Jazz Club (2022 [2023], Cellar): Alto saxophonist from New Orleans, established himself with seven 1991-2000 albums on Concord, but recording dates have been scarce since then. Live set here with Spike Wilner (piano), Peter Washington (bass), and Joe Farnsworth (drums), doing standards and hard bop favorites. B+(**) [sp]

Angel Bat Dawid: Requiem for Jazz (2019-20 [2023], International Anthem): Angel Elmore, based in Chicago, fourth album, plays clarinet but I don't see her in the credits here (beyond "composed, arranged, conducted & mixed"), divided between the ArkeStarzz (15-piece band including a string quartet), the Choruzz (4 singers), Special Cosmic Guests (including Marshall Allen, dubbed in later), Dancers, Set Design, and Visualz. I suppose I should be impressed by all the high-minded artfulness employed here, but some things still strike me as just plain pretentious. B [sp]

Michael Dease: The Other Side: The Music of Gregg Hill (2022 [2023], Origin): Trombonist, started in big bands with Illinois Jacquet in 2002, debut 2010, teaches at Michigan State. Joins here the wave of artists recording pieces by Michigan composer Hill. B+(*) [cd]

Lana Del Rey: Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd (2023, Interscope/Polydor): Singer-songwriter Elizabeth Grant, ninth album since 2010, all but the first charting high, but only the second (Born to Die) selling multi-millions. Long (16 songs, 77:43), co-produced and often co-written by Jack Atonoff. Low-key, but possibly of more than passing interest. B+(**) [sp]

Marc Ducret: Palm Sweat: Marc Ducret Plays the Music of Tim Berne (2022 [2023], Screwgun/Out of Your Head): Guitarist, born in Denmark, debut 1986, has played on at least 20 Tim Berne albums. As there seems to be a push to get others to play Berne's compositions, he's a natural. Sparsely accompanied by various horns (trumpet, alto flute, trombone) and cello, no drums, the music is stripped down and prickly. B+(***) [cd]

Bokani Dyer: Radio Sechaba (2023, Brownswood): Pianist-singer, born in Botswana, based in South Africa, has a half-dozen albums since 2010, has one foot in jazz but this sounds more like soul music. Ends with a nice instrumental. B+(**) [cd] [05-12]

Vince Ector Organotomy Trio +: Live @ the Side Door (2020 [2023], Cabo Verde): Drummer, has a couple albums, side credits back to 1995 (Charles Earland, which eventually led to a Charles Earland Tribute Band). Leads a quartet here, with Pat Bianchi (organ), Paul Bollenback (guitar), and Justin Jones (sax, presumably the +1). B+(**) [cd]

El Michels Affair & Black Thought: Glorious Game (2023, Big Crown): New York funk/soul instrumental band led by Leon Michels, eighth album since 2005, lands a world class MC this time, working over some loops with occasional guest spots. A- [sp]

Emperor X: Suggested Improvements to Transportation Infrastructure in the Northeast Corridor (2023, Dreams of Field, EP): Singer-songwriter Chad Matheny, gave up graduate study in physics to focus on music, self-released debut 1998, eleven albums and nine EPs. Six songs, 18:14, each tied to a regional transportation authority (from WMATA to MBATA). B+(**) [bc]

Nick Finzer: Dreams Visions Illusions (2022 [2023], Outside In Music): Trombonist, based in New York, albums since 2012. Postbop sextet, with Lucas Pino (tenor sax/bass clarinet), Alex Wintz (guitar), Glenn Zaleski (piano), bass, and drums. B+(**) [cd]

Robbie Fulks: Bluegrass Vacation (2023, Compass): Alt-country singer-songwriter, debut 1996, has done collaborations with Linda Gail Lewis and the Mekons, and covers of Michael Jackson and 13 Hillbilly Giants. This one he wrote all but one song (Delmore Brothers). B+(***) [sp]

Girl Scout: Real Life Human Garbage (2023, Made, EP): Swedish group, Emma Jansson the singer, rocks some but doesn't reduce to punk or riot grrrl. Might even pass as winsome. Five songs, 15:35. B+(**) [sp]

The Hold Steady: The Price of Progress (2023, Positive Jams): Craig Finn's band since 2003, ninth studio album (plus a few solos on the side). It's getting hard to tell their (or his) albums apart, but they're infrequent enough that each comes as a revelation: the stories interest, the words command your attention, his talkie voice is clear enough, and the music just fits. A- [sp]

JPEGMafia x Danny Brown: Scaring the Hoes (2023, AWAL): Producer-rapper Barrington Hendricks, fifth album since 2016, adding rapper Daniel Sewall here, whose discography goes back to 2010. Sounds like they threw everything into a blender, but instead of pureeing that shit, they just sent it flying everywhere. B+(*) [sp]

Larry June and the Alchemist: The Great Escape (2023, Empire): San Francisco rapper Larry Hendricks, half-dozen albums since 2017, hooks up with prolific LA producer Dan Maman. B+(*) [sp]

Jason Kush: Finally Friday (2021 [2023], MCG Jazz): Tenor saxophonist, teaches at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, seems to be his first album, a quartet with piano-bass-drums. Has a big sound and likes to soar, so it helps that the rhythm section gives him steady support. B+(***) [cd]

Julian Lage: The Layers (2022 [2023], Blue Note, EP): Jazz guitarist, six more tracks (24:44) from the sessions of last year's View With a Room, with Jorge Roeder (bass), Dave King (drums), and/or Bill Frisell (guitar) -- two are duos. B+(**) [sp]

Las Vegas Boneheads: Sixty and Still Cookin' (2023, Curt Miller Music): Trombone-heavy band, traces its history back to 1962, but has only recorded since Curt Miller took over, with their debut in 2017, and this their sophomore effort. Mostly standards, closing with "I Thought About You," "Cherokee," and "Gians Steps." B [cd]

Mark Lewis: Sunlight Shines In (2019 [2023], Audio Daddio): Saxophonist (alto/tenor, also flute), (9) at Discogs, from Tacoma, debut album 1979, original pieces, backed by piano, bass, and drums, with Nolan Shaheed on trumpet. B+(**) [cd]

Brandon Lopez: Vilevilevilevilevilevilevilevile (2023, Tao Forms): Avant-bassist, side credits start around 2012, has been very prolific of late. This is solo, impressive enough within the obvious limits. B+(**) [cd]

Rob Mazurek Exploding Star Orchestra: Lightning Dreamers (2023, International Anthem): Trumpet/electronics player, albums back to 1994, juggles several groups, eighth album with this one since 2007, now an octet, with Jeff Parker (guitar), Craig Taborn and Angelica Sanchez (keyboards), Damon Locks (voice/electronics), Gerald Cleaver (drums), Mauricio Takara (electronics/percussion), and Nicole Mitchell (flute). B+(**) [sp]

Christian McBride's New Jawn: Prime (2021 [2023], Mack Avenue): Bassist, from Philadelphia, established himself as the premier mainstream jazz bassist with his 1994-2000 Verves. Introduced this group on his 2018 album, with Josh Evans (trumpet), Marcus Strickland (tenor sax/bass clarinet), and Nasheet Waits (drums), with all four bringing songs. This one adds covers of Larry Young, Ornette Coleman, and Sonny Rollins; each, in its way, sharpening the edges. A- [sp]

Francisco Mela Featuring Cooper-Moore and William Parker: Music Frees Our Souls Vol. 2 (2020 [2023], 577): Cuban drummer, went to Berklee in 2000, early records more obviously Latin, but has knocked out several free jazz sets recently. This has Cooper-Moore on piano and Parker on bass, for two side-long improvs, plus a couple spare bits for the digital. B+(***) [dl]

Gurf Morlix: Caveman (2022, Rootball): Singer-songwriter, from Buffalo before Texas and Los Angeles; was drummer, producer, and more to Lucinda Williams 1985-96, has a steady stream of records since 2000. When I went to look this up in my 2022 tracking file, I noticed that it was missing (meaning that I missed it and also that it hadn't appeared on the hundreds of EOY lists I tracked), but that his 2021 album was there, indicating that the same thing happened before. This is another solid collection of songs. B+(**) [sp]

Gurf Morlix: I Challenge the Beast (2023, Rootball): Nine more songs, most comfortably within the blues idiom. B+(***) [sp]

Willie Nelson: I Don't Know a Thing About Love: The Songs of Harlan Howard (2023, Legacy): Ten songs written by Howard (1927-2002), two (one of which will be recognized as such) co-credited to Buck Owens, delivered in an economical 31:11. Songs are a mixed bag. Singer, of course, is great. B+(**) [sp]

Billy Nomates: Cacti (2023, Invada): British singer-songwriter Tor Maries, got a big jump on her 2020 debut with her connection to Sleaford Mods. Little sonic evidence of that here, especially first half, but gets more interesting on the way out. B+(**) [sp]

Grant Peeples: A Murder of Songs (2023, self-released): Folksinger-songwriter, ninth album since 2008, one memorable title: Okra and Ecclesiastes. Pieced together while dodging the pandemic. Could be more pointed politically, and/or could be funnier, but any song that reminds me of John Prine (as "Elizabeth" does) helps. B+(**) [sp]

Caroline Polachek: Desire, I Want to Turn Into You (2023, Perpetual Novice): Singer-songwriter, started in the group Chairlift, second album under her own name. B+(*) [sp]

Quasi: Breaking the Balls of History (2023, Sub Pop): Portland duo of "former spouses" Sam Coomes (vocals, guitar, keyboards, bass) and Janet Weiss (vocals, drums), started in 1993, with both also engaged in other bands (most notably, Weiss in Sleater-Kinney), this their tenth album (albeit first since 2013). Just when I was ready to shitcan this, I heard some organ I liked. When it got awful again, a bass riff caught my ear. Up and down like that, but in the end, not worth the aggravation. B- [sp]

Joakim Rainer Trio: Light.Sentence (2021 [2023], Sonic Transmissions): Norwegian pianist, last name Petersen, first album after several side-credits, a trio with Alexander Piris (bass) and Rino Sivathas (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Rent Romus/Heikki Koskinen: Itkuja Suite, Invocations on Lament (2022 [2023], Edgetone): Two saxophonists: the former also credited with flute, melodica, and voice; the latter with e-trumpet and kantele. Fine print adds: "featuring Life's Blood Ensemble and Heikki Lantinen." The former is Romus's working group; the latter the vocalist who pulls this toward opera: the point of the "invocations on lament," something I could do without. B+(*) [cd]

Ryuichi Sakamoto: 12 (2023, Milan): Japanese pianist, died a couple months (age 71) after this album was released. counted as his 12th album (although some sources credit him with more than 20, plus his work in Yellow Magic Orchestra. Minimal ambiance, aiming at serenity. B [sp]

Cécile McLorin Salvant: Mélusine (2023, Nonesuch): Jazz singer, her last four albums (2015-22) topped the Jazz Critics Poll vocal category, though her MacArthur Genius Grant was a bigger milestone. Born in Miami, father Haitian, mother French, has used the latter language frequently in the past, but this album -- based on medieval French folk tales and music, with five original pieces -- is almost all in French (with some Kreyòl and a bit of English). I've been duly impressed, but never really enjoyed her records. B+(*) [sp]

Sleaford Mods: UK Grim (2023, Rough Trade): British rap-punk duo, vocalist Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn, grim since 2007, with twelve albums as consistent as the Fall. B+(***) [sp]

Peter Smith Trio: Dollar Dreams (2022 [2023], Real Magic): Pianist, from Los Angeles, has a couple previous albums. Trio with Mike Gurrola (bass) and Reggie Quinerly (drums), playing six Smith originals and four standards. B+(**) [cd]

Bruce Springsteen: Only the Strong Survive (2022, Columbia): Covers album of soul songs from the 1960s and 1970s, panned by one reviewer as "pretty much Bruce does karaoke," but done with surpassing care, with Ron Aniello's production, clusters of horns and backing vocals, and a string section (on 10/15 cuts). Not bad, but I can't imagine ever wanting to hear it again, least of all as a goof. [PS: Soon as I wrote that line, "7 Rooms of Gloom" came on, followed by "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" and "Someday We'll Be Together," which along with the earlier "I Wish It Would Rain" are some kind of camp.] B [sp]

Marcus Strickland Twi-Life: The Universe's Wildest Dream (2023, Strick Music): Saxophonist (soprano/alto/tenor, also bass clarinet), albums since 2001, played with Dave Douglas 2005-10, third album under this Afro-futurist project name (which originally dates back to his 2006 album). With Mitch Henry (keys), Kyle Miles (bass), and Charles Haynes (drums), plus guest vocals on three tracks. B+(*) [bc]

Lucas Traxel: One-Eyed Daruma (2023, We Jazz): Swiss bassist, has a couple dozen side-credits since 2012, first album under his own name, a trio with Otis Sandsjö (tenor sax) and Moritz Gaumgärtner (drums). B+(***) [sp]

The Tubs: Dead Meat (2023, Trouble in Mind): London band (not the Norwegian one), first album after an EP), a rock band with a bit of jangle pop. B+(*) [sp]

Luis Vicente 4tet: House in the Valley (2021 [2023], Clean Feed): Portuguese trumpet player, very active since 2012. Quartet with John Dikeman (tenor sax), Luke Stewart (bass), and Onno Govaert (drums), on two (or four) long pieces (67:16). The saxophonist has long struck me as a rather blunt instrument, hitting especially hard here. B+(**) [sp]

Waco Brothers: The Men That God Forgot (2023, Plenty Tuff): Mekon Jon Langford's Chicago bar band, more cowpunk when they were founded in 1995, own label now named for one of the songs on that debut. Tenth album, after a break of seven years. B+(**) [sp]

Yaeji: With a Hammer (2023, XL): Kathy Yaeji Lee, born in New York, of Korean parents, produces electronica and sings, first studio album after a couple EPs and a mixtape. B+(*) [sp]

Young Fathers: Heavy Heavy (2023, Ninja Tune): Scottish trio, one (Alloysious Massaquoi) born in Liberia but moved to Edinburgh when he was four, another (Kayus Bankole) has parents from Nigeria. Slotted hip-hop based on their two early mixtapes, but four albums later they're unclassifiable. B+(***) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Jeff Johnson: My Heart (1991 [2023], Origin): Bassist, b. 1954 in Minneapolis, long time in Seattle, debut 1986, has been a central figure in this label's sessions. Early quartet with John Gross (tenor sax), Art Resnick (piano), and Billy Mintz (drums). Skirts around the edges of postbop. B+(**) [cd]

JuJu: A Message From Mozambique (1972 [2023], Strut): Afrocentric jazz group founded in San Francisco by saxophonist Plunky Nkabinde (originally James Branch), with other African-sounding names: Ken Shabala (Kent Parker, bass/flute), Lon Moshe (Ron Martin, flute/vibes), Al-Hamel Rasul (Tony Grayson, piano), Babatunde (Michael Lea, congas/drums), and Jalango Ngoma (Dennis Stewart, timbales). A little rough, but could still get filed as spiritual jazz now, but at the time tried to fuse avant with black power community. Group evolved into Oneness of Juju. A- [sp]

Old music:

Mose Allison: The Word From Mose Allison (1964, Atlantic): Subtitle: "The Songs of Mose Allison: Words of Wisdom from the Jazz Sage." Jazz singer-pianist (1927-2016), white boy from Mississippi, invented a hipster sound that is still very distinctive. He recorded several albums for Prestige 1957-59, for Columbia (1959-61), and more for Atlantic 1962-76, then staged a comeback with Blue Note after 1987. I've only sampled him, but this LP is as consistently fine as his compilations. A- [sp]

Mose Allison: Mose Allison Sings (1957-59 [2006], Prestige): Compilation originally released in 1963 with 13 tracks, later expanded to 16. I can find all but two on albums, but Prestige often held material back to release later albums once its artists moved on. Penguin Guide recommends a 2001 reissue called Mose Allison Sings and Plays, which goes all the way to 23 tracks. Just four originals here, twelve covers, all with various bass and drums, done with his trademark light touch. B+(***) [sp]

Derek Bailey/George Lewis/John Zorn: Yankees (1982 [1983], Celluloid): Guitar, trombone, alto/soprano sax (plus clarinet and game calls). All improvised, the sort of abstract noise I rarely get into. It did have me wondering who the three baseball players on the cover were. Presumably New York Yankees, but I don't see any insignia. One song was named for Enos Slaughter (mostly a Cardinal, but finished his career with New York), but doesn't look like him. B [r]

Jeppe Zeeberg: It's the Most Basic Thing You Can Do on a Boat (2014, Barefoot): Danish pianist, half-dozen albums since 2014, this his debut, backed by bass and drums, two of each listed. Could be split into two trios, but in full fury it does sound like they're all playing. B+(***) [sp]

Jeppe Zeeberg: Riding on the Boogie Woogie of Life (2015, Barefoot): Second album, piano with alternate keyboards (synth, spinet, organ), again with the doubled-up bass and drums. B+(**) [sp]

Jeppe Zeeberg: The Four Seasons (2017, Barefoot): First large group album, his pairs of bass and drums (with Henrik Olsson also playing guitar) augmented by four horns (sax/clarinet, trumpet, trombone, and tuba). It can get to be a bit much. B+(*) [sp]

Jeppe Zeeberg: Eight Seemingly Unrelated Pieces of Piano Music (2018, Barefoot): Danish pianist, half-dozen albums since 2014, this one solo, also playing synthesizer, pipe organ, percussion, and electronics. He promises variety, and delivers: a stride piece to open, some organ ambiance, a crashing free piece ("A Regular Guy in Japan"), and another, then ends with "something jolly." He's most impressive flat out, but it helps that he doesn't stay there. A- [bc]

Jeppe Zeeberg: Universal Disappointment (2019, self-released): Various lineups, some he's not credited on, except as composer, arranger, etc. The eclecticism is getting a bit much. B [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Richard X Bennett & Matt Parker: Parker Plays X (BYNK) [05-13]
  • George Coleman: Live at Smalls Jazz Club (Cellar) [05-19]
  • Les DeMerle: Sound 67: Once in a Lifetime (1967, Origin) [04-21]
  • Lauren Henderson: Conjuring (Brontosaurus) [04-21]
  • Jeff Johnson: My Heart (1991, Origin) [04-21]
  • Jason Keiser: Shaw's Groove (OA2) [04-21]
  • John Pizzarelli: Stage & Screen (Palmetto) [04-21]
  • Alex Weitz: Rule of Thirds (Outside In Music) [04-28]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Music Week

April archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 39968 [39927] rated (+41), 58 [52] unrated (+6: 30 new, 28 old).

I wrote a pretty long Speaking of Which yesterday. If you missed it, I suggest that you at least read the introduction, which starts to explain the psychotic breakdown Republicans suffered last week. There was a time when Republicans claimed to be the "law and order" party, as well as being staunch "defenders of freedom." But in following their single issue bets (e.g., on guns and abortion) to their logical ends, they've entered into territory that can only be called psychotic.

But don't get me started again here. Read the piece. And it wouldn't hurt to like, reply, and/or forward the tweet. View count is currently 127, whereas my Music Week tweets regularly top 300, probably because they do get the occasional like and retweet.

This week's haul continues recent week trends: lots of old jazz, mostly suggested by my Penguin Guide unheard 4-star list. I finished Z with John Zorn. (His Tzadik records were on Rhapsody for a while, but were taken down several years ago, and are well nigh impossible for me to come by these days.) That leaves eight various artists comps, which came from early editions of the Guide (as they stopped covering them), so they are probably impossible to find. That still leaves 615 albums unheard on the list.

Probably worth another pass, but most of them fall into big clusters: old comps of classic artists (Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Teddy Wilson; the French Classics label has disappeared from Napster), that I largely skipped because those editions are out of print, and in most cases I've heard other editions; lots of obscure free (AMM, Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Cecil Taylor) and (mostly British) trad jazz records; boxes not deemed cost-effective; other labels that refuse to play ball with the streaming rackets (like Tzadik); and back catalog the cooperating labels haven't gotten around to (Concord is one that particularly bothers me). I did just find a Mose Allison album I had missed. Still unlikely I'l whittle the list down much more.

The Live at Dreher set led me to file separate grades for the earlier editions, especially as one appears under Mal Waldron and the other under Steve Lacy. Not really separate grades, as the four discs just delight on and on. But no point picturing the older edition covers.

Rated count could pass 40,000 next week. I'm currently 32 short, which is a fairly average week's work for me. Main thing that may distract me is that we're in the brief season between too cold and too hot, so it would be opportune to do some house/yard projects. In house it's mostly decluttering, starting with my desk.

I finished Michael Tomasky's The Middle Out: The Rise of Progressive Economics and a Return to Shared Prosperity, which is one of the best recent books directly tied to current Democratic Party politics. In that same vein, I also recommend Ryan Cooper's How Are You Going to Pay for That? Smart Answers to the Dumbest Questions in Politics. Both books err on the side of optimism, as they lay out sensible policies that could be implemented and that could make a big difference going forward. Next up is a much more pessimistic book, one that predicts doom of civilization between 2070 and 2100: Brian T Watson's Headed Into the Abyss: The Story of Our Time and the Future We'll Face. If I ever write my book, it will land somewhere in the middle of this triangle. I wrote a Book Roundup piece on Watson a while back:

Brian T Watson: Headed Into the Abyss: The Story of Our Time, and the Future We'll Face (paperback, 2019, Anvilside Press): I could imagine writing a book like this, which starts with a long laundry list of systemic problems (Capitalism, Technology, Webworld, Politics, Media, Education, Human Nature, The Environment, Human Population, Transportation, Miscellaneous Forces) then winds up showing how any (let alone all) of them are unlikely to be solved (that chapter is called "Possible Reforms and Their Likelihood"). I'd shuffle the deck a bit -- in the 1990s, when I started thinking along these lines, I started with resources and environment, but back then I at least had some faith in reason to see a way through technical obstacles, but that idea has taken a beating ever since. So I see no more reason to be optimistic than the author, not that I would deny that the very act of looking into the abyss implies a certain unreasoned hope. Missing here is recognition of the unknown: e.g., no mention of pandemic a mere year before Covid-19 hit. While climate was most likely mentioned under Environment or Population, it's at least as much a headline as "Webworld." Another big topic is war: both as a cause of destruction and as a likely consequence, in both its conventional and annihilationist modes. Bibliography is just a list of mostly familiar books relevant to each chapter.

After I wrote that, I ordered a copy, then managed to lose it. Last week I found it, under a pile of crap. I've just started the chapter on capitalism, and it's not as sharp as it could be if he had a better understanding of Marx and Keynes (and Michael Hudson and George Brockaway, or maybe even Naomi Klein), but he's still hitting plenty of salient points. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with under "Human Nature." Can he, for instance, explain the schizophrenia of the current Republican Party?

New records reviewed this week:

AVA Trio: Ash (2021 [2023], Tora, EP): Giuseppe Doronzo (baritone sax/mizmar), Esat Ekincioglu (bass), Pino Basile (frame drums/cupaphon), though I omitted some wrinkles (percussions, effects, voice). Two pieces, 21:26. Down and dirty soundscape. B+(*) [bc]

Daniel Bingert: Ariba (2023, Moserobie): Swedish, nominally a bassist, but defers here to Torbjörn Zetterberg and limits his playing to Moog. Second album. Band includes Per Texas Johansson (tenor sax/bass clarinet), Jonas Kulhammar (alto sax), and Charlie Malmberg (piano/baritone sax), as well as trumpet, bass, and drums. Has a loose, playful chemistry, coming into a nice, soft landing. A- [cd]

Canadian Jazz Collective: Septology: The Black Forest Session (2022 [2023], HGBS Blue): Individual names on the cover: Derrick Gardner (trumpet/flugelhorn), Lorne Lofsky (guitar), and Kirk MacDonald (tenor sax), joined here by four more, playing clarinet, piano, bass, and drums. All eight pieces are by the three named. Postbop with a nice flow. B+(*) [cd]

Kaze & Ikue Mori: Crustal Movement (2021-22 [2023], Libra): Japanese-French group, with Satoko Fujii (piano), Natsuki Tamura (trumpet), Christian Pruvost (trumpet/flugelhorn), and Peter Orins (drums), seventh album since 2010, joined here by the famous Japanese noisemaker. Another pandemic paste project, with live overdubs, billed as "a visceral, richly textured hybrid," which it certainly is. A- [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

The Birth of Bop: The Savoy 10-Inch LP Collection (1944-49 [2023], Craft, 2CD): The $99.99 edition reproduces five 10-inch LPs that Savoy released in 1952-53, but this is also available on 2CD (30 songs, 84:00), and digital. Savoy is mostly remembered for Charlie Parker's early sides (only one here, "Romance Without Finance," with vocal), and perhaps Dexter Gordon (three tracks here), so this was meant to spread the spotlight. Two times I turned away from reading the paper to see who was playing, and both were trombone player Kai Winding (remembered these days mostly for his "Jay Jay and Kai" duets). Ends with a cut by Morris Lane called "Blowin' for Kicks," that pretty effectively sums up the moment and the style. B+(***) [sp]

D.B. Shrier: D.B. Shrier Emerges (1967 [2023], Omnivore): Tenor saxophonist (1938-2017), from Philadelphia, only released this one five-track album, expanded here with five more live tracks. Opens with a Gigi Gryce bopper, then shows some range by turning in a credible ballad. Then he shows he's paid attention to Coltrane, a bit before everyone else. The extra tracks run hot, as well they should. A- [sp]

Old music:

Ralph Reichert Quartet With Randy Sandke: Reflections (2002 [2004], Nagel Heyer): German tenor saxophonist, did a PG 4-star album with Jack Walrath I haven't been able to find, has a few more items in his catalog. Quartet with piano (Buggy Braune), bass (Andreas Henze), and drums (Wolff Reichert), joined by the American trumpet player. Mostly standards, nicely done. B+(**) [sp]

The Ralph Reichert/Jerry Tilitz Quintet: Back to Back (2002 [2006], Nagel Heyer): Tilitz is a trombonist, sings some, from New York, but this was recorded in Hamburg, with Reichert on tenor sax, backed by piano-bass-drums. Tilitz wrote three (of 8) pieces, with five standards (ranging from "Crazy Rhythm" to "Lush Life" to "Alfie" -- the latter two with Tilitz vocals). B+(***) [sp]

Miroslav Vitous: Journey's End (1982 [1983], ECM): Czech bassist, moved to US in 1966 to study at Berklee, but soon was playing with Miles Davis, which led to him co-founding Weather Report in 1970, but fusion wasn't really his thing. He started recording for ECM in 1979, and eventually moved back to Europe. This was recorded in Norway, a quartet with John Surman (reeds), John Taylor (piano), and Jon Christensen (drums). Surman is remarkable here, but the way the bassist keeps the momentum building has a lot to do with that. A- [sp]

Philipp Wachsmann/Paul Lytton: Some Other Season (1997 [1999], ECM): English violinist, b. 1944 in Uganda, more than dabbles in electronics, has been tied to the European avant-garde since 1976. Duo here with the drummer, who also produces live electronics. B+(**) [sp]

Mal Waldron/Reggie Workman/Billy Higgins: Up Popped the Devil (1973 [1974], Enja): Pianist (1925-2002), emerged in the late 1950s, most famously accompanying Billie Holiday, but had a long career moving from bop to free jazz. Trio with bass and drums here. Carla Poole plays flute on one track. B+(**) [sp]

Mal Waldron & Steve Lacy: Live at Dreher Paris 1981 (1981 [2003], Hatology, 4CD): Piano and soprano sax duo, sets from four nights, most pieces run 10-13 minutes with a couple topping 17. They play six Waldron pieces, eight by Lacy, and nine by Thelonious Monk, who provides a reference hook that Lacy has often returned to throughout his career. Remarkable music, hard to pick among the discs, so the earlier 2-CD sets should do just as well. A- [sp]

Jack Walrath: Master of Suspense (1986 [1987], Blue Note): Trumpet player (b. 1946), born in Florida but grew up in Montana, joined Mingus late in the game, who remains a prominent influence -- especially in the more tumultous pieces, clashing with Carter Jefferson (tenor sax), Kenny Garrett (alto sax), and Steve Turre (trombone). Things calm down for two guest vocals, where Willie Nelson sings "I'm Sending You a Big Bouquet of Roses" and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." And this closes with a ballad that could be his bid for a "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love." A- [sp]

Jack Walrath: Unsafe at Any Speed (2014 [2015], SteepleChase): I hadn't heard anything by him since 2002, but turns out he has five 2008-15 albums on SteepleChase, so I have some backfilling to do. Original pieces, texture and flow much influenced by Mingus, with Abraham Burton (tenor sax) strong as ever, backed by piano (George Burton), bass (Boris Koslov), and drums (Donald Edwards). B+(***) [sp]

Priska Walss/Gabriela Friedli: Intervista (2000-02 [2003], Intakt): Swiss trombonist, also plays alphorn, in a duo with the Swiss piano-organ player. Neither has much more discography, but they did a 1998 album as Duo Frappant. B+(***) [sp]

Cedar Walton: Roots (1997 [1999], Astor Place): Pianist (1934-2013), started appearing on albums in 1958, joined Art Blakey in 1962, always had a knack for working with horns (most importantly in Eastern Rebellion). Group here is billed as a trio (Walton, Ron Carter, and Lewis Nash) with special guests -- Joshua Redman (tenor sax), Terence Blanchard (trumpet), and Mark Whitfield (guitar), three tracks each -- but there's also an "added ensemble." B+(***) [sp]

Weather Report: The Best of Weather Report (1973-80 [2002], Columbia/Legacy): Fusion group, principally Joe Zawinul (keybs) and Wayne Shorter (tenor/soprano sax), ran from 1970-86, with various bassists (most notably Jaco Pastorius 1976-82), drummers (Peter Erskine (1978-82), and percussionists (except 1978-80). Nice account of a band I never much cared for, mostly because they kick the rhythm up. B+(**) [r]

Weather Report: Live in Tokyo (1972, Columbia, 2CD): Live double, 88:29, only released in Japan until 2014, four (of five) cuts medleys. Band at this point was Zawinul, Shorter, Miroslav Vitous (bass), Eric Gravatt (drums), and Dom Um Romão (percussion). A couple things stand out here: the bassist keeps a lot of tension in the pulse, and Shorter is playing exceptionally free. B+(**) [sp]

Eberhard Weber: The Colors of Chloë (1973 [1974], ECM): German bass/cello player, first record, did much to define ECM's sound in the 1970s, working here with flugelhorn, piano, drums, voice (Gisela Schäuble), and extra celli. B+(*) [sp]

Eberhard Weber: Yellow Fields (1975 [1976], ECM): This quartet is more substantial, with electric keyboards (Rainer Brüninghaus) and drums (Jon Christensen) more prominent, but also Charlie Mariano (soprano sax, shenai, nagaswaram) in fine form. B+(***) [sp]

Eberhard Weber: Pendulum (1993, ECM): Nominally a solo bass album, but doesn't sound like that, with some adroit fingerpicking suggesting guitar, punctuated by impossibly low notes. Actually he's not playing a standard double bass. He calls his instrument a "special bass," which curiously involves "effects" but remains "absolutely 'synthesizer-free.'" No word on overdubs, other than that the changes of effect couldn't be reproduced in real time. B+(***) [sp]

Bobby Wellins: The Satin Album (1996, Jazzizit): Scottish tenor saxophonist (1936-2016), played in Stan Tracey's quartet in the early 1960s, his own albums start in 1978. This is a ballad album, with Colin Purbrook (piano), bass (Dave Green), and drums (Clark Tracey). Nice and easy. B+(**) [sp]

Bobby Wellins Quartet: Don't Worry 'Bout Me (1996 [1997], Cadillac): Live at Vortex in London, with piano (Graham Harvey), bass (Alec Dankworth), and drums (Martin Drew). Standards plus an original to close. B+(***) [r]

Kate Westbrook: Cuff Clout (2001 [2004], Voiceprint): Née Kate Barnard (1939), married pianist-composer Mike Westbrook, sings (as does John Winfield, listed on cover as "featuring," here), wrote all the texts here, to music (originally commissioned in 1994) mostly by band members. Possible subtitle: "a neoteric music hall." Possible band name: the Skirmishers. Some remarkable music, but the vocals strike me as rather operatic, even if sometimes the reference is Weill. B+(**) [r]

Mike Westbrook Trio: Love for Sale (1985 [1990], Hat Art): British pianist (b. 1936), started producing albums in 1967. He is much admired by Penguin Guide, but my own sampling has been limited and not always enjoyable -- partly because I don't share his interest in classical composers, opera, and art song. The latter is mostly the province of his wife, Kate Westbrook, who joins here with credits that start with "design concept" and include vocals, tenor horn, bamboo and piccolo flute. So this isn't a conventional piano trio. The pianist is also credited with tuba and voice, and the third is Chris Biscoe (alto clarinet and alto/baritone/soprano sax). After an original that sounds Brechtian comes "Lush Life" and the title song (with a German lyric, so "Käufliche Liebe"), each striking in its own way. Even more so is a dense and brooding "Buddy Can You Spare a Dime," which is where the tuba is perfect. That's followed by texts from Blake and Brecht ("Seeräuber Jenny"), the originals "Sonnet" and "Crazy for Swing," the grim "Weltende," and a couple songs in French about shipwrecks. A- [r]

Mike Westbrook: Westbrook-Rossini (1986 [1988], Hat Art): Penguin Guide duplicates this title for a Zürich live performance that is just long enough to require a second CD. Neither album is clearly credited to the British pianist, but I can't think of a better way to handle it. This one, which arranges for septet (five horns, piano, and drums, with Kate Westbrook singing some) various famous opera pieces by Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868), adding odd bits here and there. B+(*) [sp]

Mike Westbrook: Westbrook-Rossini, Zürich Live 1986 (1986 [1994], Hat Art, 2CD): Live rendition of the previous album, same group, runs a bit longer (83:55) resulting in the split over 2-CD. Some extra bright spots. B+(**) [r]

Mike Westbrook: Glad Day: Settings of William Blake (1997 [1999], Enja, 2CD): Lyrics by the poet (1757-1827), voiced by Phil Minton, Kate Westbrook, and the Senior Girls Choir of Blackheath Conservatoire of Music and the Arts; the leader's music played by three saxophonists, piano, bass, and drums (Kate also plays tenor horn and piccolo). B+(**) [r]

Mike Westbrook: Chanson Irresponsable (2002 [2003], Enja, 2CD): A front cover banner and the back cover credit this to The New Westbrook Orchestra, but spine and front cover slug as above, with four more names in smaller front cover type: Chris Biscoe (reeds), Matthew Sharp (voice), Kate Westbrook (voice), and Peter Whyman (reeds), with music by the leader and lyrics by his wife. Other musicians appear on trumpet, tenor sax, baritone sax, and drums, with spots of strings, bass, and French horn. B+(*) [r]

Mike Westbrook: After Abbey Road (1996-2009 [2019], Westbrook): Westbrook was commissioned to do a new presentation of the Beatles' Abbey Road for its 20th anniversary in 1989. That produced the album Off Abbey Road, but when I searched, I found this later (1996) performance -- finished off with a 2009 recording of "She Loves You." Abbey Road has long been my least-favorite Beatles album, and stretching it out ("Here Comes the Sun" runs to 15:41, "Because" to 13:26) and blowing it up hardly help. John Winfield and Kate Westbrook sing. B- [r]

Gerald Wilson: The Artist Selects (1961-69 [2005], Pacific Jazz): Big band arranger (1918-2014), moved from Mississippi to Detroit when he was 16, played trumpet for Jimmie Lunceford in 1939, led some groups in the 1940s, but recorded little until the 1960s, when Pacific Jazz released eleven of his resurgent big band albums. That's where these 16 tracks come from. B+(**) [r]

Gerald Wilson Orchestra: New York New Sound (2002 [2003], Mack Avenue): After his 1961-69 run on Pacific Sound, Wilson didn't release anything else until 1981, after which he slowly rebuilt his career into a Grammy-winning juggernaut. One thing that helped was recruiting all-star bands. On most cuts, the trumpet section here is: Jon Faddis, Eddie Henderson, Sean Jones, and Jimmy Owens, with Clark Terry sitting in on two tracks. The saxes: Jimmy Heath, Frank Wess, Jerry Dodgion, Jesse Davis. Piano is split between Kenny Barron and Renee Rosnes. His son, Anthony Wilson, plays guitar, joined on one track by Oscar Castro-Neves. B+(***) [r]

Steve Wilson Quartet: Four for Time (1994 [1996], Criss Cross): Alto/soprano saxophonist, b. 1961, was signed to Blue Note in the 1980s, but only appeared as a sideman. Quartet here with Bruce Barth (piano), Larry Grenadier (bass), and Leon Parker (drums), who between them wrote five (of eight) songs. Covers of "Perdido" and "Woody'N You" try to close strong. B+(***) [r]

Norma Winstone: Edge of Time (1971 [1972], Argo): English jazz singer (b. 1941), first album, following features with Michael Garrick and Mike Westbrook, eventually recognized with a MBE. Band includes many notables of the early English avant-garde, like Kenny Wheeler, Paul Rutherford, Mike Osborne, and Alan Skidmore, John Taylor. That's a lot of firepower for a singer to maneuver around. B+(***) [r]

Nils Wogram: Root 70 (2000 [2001], 2nd Floor): German trombonist (b. 1972), group name and title could be parsed variously, but Root 70 would more/less remain as his group name, at least up through an 8-CD box in 2020. Quartet with Hayden Chisholm (alto sax/bass clarinet), Matt Penman (bass), and Jochen Rückert (drums). A- [r]

Nils Wogram: Odd and Awkward (2000 [2001], Enja, 2CD): First disc is a sextet, with Chris Speed (tenor sax/clarinet), Hayden Chisholm (alto sax/clarinet), Cuong Vu (trumpet), Steffen Schorn (bass clarinet/baritone sax/alto flute/contrabass clarinet), and Jochen Rückert (drums). Second disc adds piano (Simon Nabatov) and bass (Henning Sieverts) for an octet. Music doesn't strike me as all that odd, and certainly not awkward. B+(***) [sp]

Nils Wogram's Root 70: Getting Rooted (2003, Enja): Same quartet as on the namesake album (Spotify lists this one as Root 70, but Discogs has the above title, and it's clearly not the Penguin Guide recommendation; title is also pretty clear on the cover). Same quartet, similar bounce, gets a little rough at the end. B+(**) [sp]

Bojan Z Trio: Transpacifik (2003, Label Bleu): Serbian pianist Bojan Zulfikarpasic, moved to Paris 1988, debut album a quartet in 1993. Opens on electric here, with Scott Colley (bass) and Nasheet Waits (drums), recorded in Brooklyn. B+(**) [r]

Monica Zetterlund: Swedish Sensation (1958, Columbia): Swedish jazz and pop singer (1937-2005), first album, standards in English, backed by Gunnar Svenssons Orkester (with Arne Domnerus) or (two tracks) Donald Byrd Quartet. [Penguin Guide recommends Swedish Sensation! The Complete Columbia Recordings, 1958-60, which adds eight EPs to this album, spread over 2-CD.] B+(**) [r]

Grade (or other) changes:

Steve Lacy & Mal Waldron: Live at Dreher Paris 1981, Round Midnight Vol. 1 (1981 [1996], Hat Art, 2CD): A- [sp]

Mal Waldron & Steve Lacy: Live at Dreher Paris 1981, The Peak Vol. 2 (1981 [1996], Hat Hut, 2CD): A- [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Mark Dresser: Times of Change (Pyroclastic) [05-05]
  • Marc Ducret: Palm Sweat: Marc Ducret Plays the Music of Tim Berne (Screwgun/Out of Your Head) [03-10]
  • Champian Fulton: Meet Me at Birdland (Champian) [04-07]
  • Jason Kush: Finally Friday (MCG Jazz) [03-03]
  • The Adam Larson Trio: With Love, From New York (Outside In Music) [04-07]
  • Luiz Millan: Brazilian Match (Jazz Station) [04-21]
  • Rent Romus/Heikki Koskinen: Itkuja Suite, Invocations on Lament (Edgetone) [04-04]
  • Emilio Solla/Antonio Lizana: El Siempre Mar (Tiger Turn) [05-19]
  • Ramana Vieira: Tudo De Mim/All of Me (self-released) [05-01]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Music Week

April archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 39927 [39873] rated (+54), 52 [56] unrated (-4: 24 new, 28 old).

I'm continuing to focus on the unheard Penguin Guide 4-star albums list, and having pushed my pass into the V's, I might as well continue to the end. I ran into a bit of trouble with Martial Solal, John Surman and Sun Ra, as the Penguin Guide recommendations didn't line up with what I could find to stream. I dealt with this by breaking things up or selecting playlists from available sources, which led to some extra entries in "grade (or other) changes." In some cases, credits have shifted (Billy Myers and Dick Mills have given way to Martial Solal; John McLaughlin to John Surman, Mr. Sun Ra to Sun Ra), so entries get broken up. Reissues get shuffled around all the time, so it shouldn't be a surprise that it's impossible to keep them aligned with what's available now or what was available at any past point.

Still, when I'm working off a check list, the temptation to check things off is too much to resist. Nowadays, you might as well go straight to the John Surman box (Glancing Backwards) rather than try to find the Sequel set the Penguin Guide reviewed. The extra in the box is the first The Trio album, which is one of the best things British jazz ever produced. As for Sun Ra, the series of twofer CDs Evidence produced in the 1990s are prime targets for scroungers, but almost everything has been reissued in digital by reverting to the original LP configurations (as is whatever new vinyl is available). This reshuffling has produced some redundancies in my Sun Ra listing.

I should mention that Henri Texier's Izlaz seems to be available these days in a two-CD package with Colonel Skopje. I reviewed the latter long ago as a B, didn't bother to listen to it again just to compromise on the package. Sometimes I went off on tangents: Warren Vaché's Zephyrs seem pretty much of a piece; Petter Wettre seemed to demand further research. Vienna Art Orchestra was particularly frustrating, with nine 4-star albums I looked for but couldn't find, while I checked out three albums not even on my list (some remarkable music, but too many vocals, and too much Strauss).

I did finally add some unheard albums to my tracking file, but haven't delved in as yet. My desk is still a mess, and the demo queue remains far from sorted, so the best new jazz this week won't be available until 4/28 (Dave Rempis) or 5/12 (Javier Red). Sorry about that, but it was nice to pull out something from the queue that I really liked.

Another substantial Speaking of Which yesterday. I started off by writing the introduction, as soon as I saw Jeffrey St Clair's Roaming Charges. I regard gun control as a losing political issue, so I cringe whenever one of these shootings happens and the same old song plays out. Granted, it makes Republicans look not just stupid but pathological. It also makes Democrats look like scolds and enemies of freedom, and that's neither good for politics nor for policy. Still, I see no problem in talking about why people are so enamored with guns, especially the connections between America's war culture and the way too common desire to attack social and cultural problems with guns.

After the intro, I started gathering other stories. I wasn't surprised that Trump dominated the news. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to sort out what I collected, so a better structure would have helped, and there may be some redundancy. I was surprised that I didn't pick up anything on Trump's post-indictment fundraising, but after a quick search, I've added some links today. (Latest haul figure is $7 million, which is simultaneously too much and too little for a needy billionaire.)

Kind of lost in the noise is Trump's request for battle plans to attack Mexico. Were it not so stupid, it would have deserved its own section. Meanwhile, I collected quite a bit on casual attacks on Syria and Iran, as well as the worsening situation in Israel. I didn't make the comparison of Ben Gvir's new National Guard to the SA lightly, nor my comment about the genocide countdown clock.

I'm continuing to monitor my Twitter statistics. It's pretty regular that announcements of "Music Week" columns gather 300-350 views, but "Speaking of Which" has been steadily falling since 209 on Feb. 27, and rarely gets more than 115. I don't know what the Facebook situation is: the Expert Witness notices go to a group with 372 members, but I only get feedback from a dozen or so each week, and usually just likes, often no comments at all. I don't use my regular account for notices. I'm toying with the idea of doing a Substack as a cheap hack to push pieces out via email. I don't expect to make any money out of it, but it might be nice to provide a venue independent of the rotting social media swamp. No immediate plans.

New records reviewed this week:

Konrad Agnas: Rite of Passage (2021 [2023], Moserobie): Swedish drummer, family well stocked with musicians, has a couple albums with lead credits but this is the first as leader and composer. Also plays synthesizer, with Per Texas Johansson (reeds), Johan Graden (piano/organ), and Torbjörn Zetterberg (bass). B+(***) [cd]

Dave Askren/Jeff Benedict: Denver Sessions (2022 [2023], Tapestry): Guitar and saxophone, backed by vibes, bass, and drums. They've had several albums together, going back at least to 2005, including a big band led by Benedict. B+(**) [cd]

Hailey Brinnel: Beautiful Tomorrow (2023, Outside In Music): Wrote two songs but is mostly a standards singer, with trombone (prominently pictured) her side instrument. Voice is sweet with a bit of sour, delectable on fare like "Tea for Two" and "Candy." Band includes Terell Stafford on trumpet and Chris Oatts on sax. B+(***) [cd]

Mark Feldman/Dave Rempis/Tim Daisy: Sirocco (2022 [2023], Aerophonic): Violin, saxophones (alto/tenor/baritone), and drums, the latter two a long-running Chicago duo, Rempis one of the most consistent free jazz players around. A- [cd] [04-28]

MUEJL [Michel Stawicki/Uygur Vural/Elisabetta Lanfredini/João Madeira/Luiz Rocha]: By Breakfast (2022 [2023], 4DaRecord): Sax, cello, voice, bass, clarinet. Instrumentation favors chamber jazz, the voice arty and arcane. B+(*) [cd]

Javier Red's Imaginary Converter: Life & Umbrella (2023, Desafio Candente): Pianist, from Mexico, based in Chicago, second album, with Jake Wark (tenor sax), Ben Dillinger (bass), and Gustavo Cortinas (drums). Cover text: "Spreading empathy, understanding, and love for Autism." No idea what that means, but the music has an inner tension that is constantly shifting and refocusing. Remarkable. A- [cd] [05-12]

Natsuki Tamura/Ittetsu Takemura: Lightning (2022, Libra): Trumpet and drums duo, two pieces, 38:32, some uncredited vocal, some runs I can't help but be amused by. B+(**) [bc]

Petter Wettre: The Last Album (2021, Odin): Norwegian saxophonist, rarely specifies but tenor is his main horn, started out around 1996 as a young man with a hot hand, offers a lot of excuses -- mostly economic, including the new old saw that "the full length album has had its time" -- for quitting, but decided his "swan song" should be a luscious set of ballads ("since ballads has been avoided before"). Quartet, with Fred Nardin (piano), Viktor Nyberg (bass), and Francesco Ciniglio (drums). Nice enough, but I suspect he could do better if he gives himself another chance. Meanwhile, still a lot I haven't heard. B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Steve Swell's Fire Into Music: For Jemeel: Fire From the Road (2003-04 [2023], RogueArt, 3CD): Trombonist (b. 1954), played a lot of different things early on but moved to the front of the avant-garde in the late 1990s, and is the first person I think of for polls and such these days. He released an album in 2004 called Fire Into Music, co-credited to Hamid Drake (drums), Jemeel Moondoc (reeds), and William Parker (bass), and took that group out on the road for the three superb concerts collected here. A- [cd]

Old music:

Kenny Baker and Warren Vaché: Ain't Misbehavin' (1996-97 [1998], Zephyr): Baker's a British trumpet player (1921-99), was lead trumpet in Ted Heath's post-WWII orchestra, led his own groups from 1954 on. He's looking much older than the American, who sticks to cornet, backed by Brian Lemon (piano), Howard Alden (guitar), bass, and drums. Standards, few as upbeat as the title, but slow is just sublime. A- [sp]

Billy Byers & Martial Solal: Jazz on the Left Bank & Réunion à Paris (1956 [1998], Fresh Sound): Two LPs on one 72:13 CD, credits on each just listed the whole bands, but Byers and Solal are the common denominator, and wrote most of the songs (Byers 4-1 on the former, Solal 5-1 on the latter; Benoit Quersin played bass on both albums; for the others, see the breakouts below). Byers (1927-96) was a trombonist and arranger for many post-WWII big bands, later working for Quincy Jones and Count Basie. Solal (b. 1927) was just starting out on his brilliant career. The combination plays nice at first, then adds solo power. B+(***) [sp]

Dick Mills/Billy Byers/William Bouchaya/Martial Solal/Wessel Ilcken/Benoit Quersin: Jazz on the Left Bank (1956 [1957], Epic): Band members as listed on front cover (trumpet, trombone, tenor sax, piano, drums, bass), although Byers wrote four songs, Solal one, and both were listed in the Fresh Sound reissue as arrangers. [per Billy Byers, above] B+(**) [sp]

Jim Snidero: The Music of Joe Henderson (1998 [1999], Double-Time): Alto saxophonist, steady stream of albums since 1985, leads a sextet through eight pieces by Henderson (1937-2001). With Joe Magnarelli (trumpet), Conrad Herwig (trombone), David Hazeltine (piano), Dennis Irwin (bass), and Kenny Washington (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Martial Solal: Réunion à Paris (1956 [1957], Vogue): Discogs credits this to the pianist, but album cover lists all names: Billy Byers (trombone), Allen Eager (tenor sax), Jimmy Deuchar (trumpet), Benoit Quersin (bass), and Kenny Clarke (drums). Probably helps that the pianist is more clearly in charge, but Deuchar and Eager add solo power. [per Billy Byers, above] B+(***) [sp]

Martial Solal: Improvise Pour France Musique (1993-94 [1994], JMS, 2CD): Solo, de trop, but masterful as long as you can sit still. B+(***) [sp]

Martial Solal With Peter Erskine and Marc Johnson: Triangle (1995, JMS): Piano trio, you know who plays what, Johnson and Erskine contribute one song each, to eight for the pianist. B+(**) [sp]

Martial Solal Trio: Balade Du 10 Mars (1998 [1999], Soul Note): Another piano trio, with Marc Johnson (bass) and Paul Motian (drums). B+(**) [sp]

South Frisco Jazz Band: Sage Hen Strut (1984, Stomp Off): Trad jazz band, founded in Orange County, California, its name a tribute to Lu Watters' Yerba Buena Jazz Band, led by cornetists Dan Comins and Leon Oakley, with clarinet/sax, trombone, piano, banjo, tuba, and washboard/percussion. B+(***) [sp]

South Frisco Jazz Band: Broken Promises (1987, Stomp Off): Eighteen good ol' good ones (well, sixteen, plus two Mike Baird originals). Recorded in Alameda, so maybe they moved north. Dan Comins sings a couple. B+(***) [sp]

Bobo Stenson/Anders Jormin/Jon Christensen: Reflections (1993 [1996], ECM): Piano-bass-drums trio. B+(***) [sp]

Sun Ra: St. Louis Blues: Solo Piano (1977 [1978], Improvising Artists): Solo piano, in his own zone but very much of this world, adds "Three Little Words" and "Honeysuckle Rose" to the title track and four originals. B+(***) [r]

Sun Ra: We Travel the Spaceways/Bad & Beautiful (1956-61 [1992], Evidence): Two albums on one CD, since split back up for digital. Front cover credits Sun Ra and His Myth Science Arkestra, back cover Sun Ra and His Solar Arkestra, spine just Sun Ra, which is good enough for me. Former was pieced together from several sessions, latter came from one session that wasn't released until 1972. First one starts with one of those ditties that makers you think these guys can't be serious, then settled down and eventually finds its groove. Second album, highlighted by a cover of "Just in Time," is more consistent. B+(**) [r]

John Surman & Friends: The Dawn Sessions: Where Fortune Smiles/Live at Woodstock Town Hall (1971-75 [1999], Sequel, 2CD): English groups from the brief moment when fusion and free jazz were intertangled. The first was credited to guitarist John McLaughlin, with Surman (reeds), Karl Berger (vibes), Stu Martin (drums), and Dave Holland (bass) on the credit line. The second was a duo of Martin (also synthesizer) and Surman. While McLaughlin impresses as expected, the revelation is the saxophonist, fresh and fiery to an extent never reproduced in his many later ECM albums. B+(***) [sp]

John Surman: Glancing Backwards: The Dawn Anthology (1970-75 [2006], Sanctuary, 3CD): Easy enough to nitpick the second half of this, which is still far more aggressive and heartfelt than the often expert work he followed with in his long run with ECM. However, the first half, released in a double-LP simply called The Trio (with Barre Phillips and Stu Martin), is a landmark of British free jazz, one that erases all those caveats. And having them all together defines an era. A- [sp]

Ralph Sutton: Ralph Sutton at Café Des Copains (1983-87 [1990], Sackville): Old-fashioned stride pianist (1922-2001), first records 1950, a signature title is Last of the Whorehouse Piano Players (1989, with Jay McShann), but these solo performances are livelier, downright delightful. A- [sp]

Ralph Sutton: More Ralph Sutton at Café Des Copains (1988-89 [1994], Sackville): As advertised, but some confusion over dates. Not much of a drop off, although the applause strikes me as more tepid. B+(***) [sp]

Ralph Sutton/Kenny Davern: Ralph Sutton & Kenny Davern (1980 [1998], Chiaroscuro): This looked like an ideal pairing, and it's a delight: the clarinet soars, and the piano produces so much rhythm you don't notice the absence of a bassist (although you do notice Gus Johnson on drums). Three vocals, one each, with Johnson's "Sweet Lorraine" a highlight. A- [sp]

Martin Taylor: In Concert: Recorded at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild (1998 [2000], Milestone): British guitarist, grew up on Django Reinhardt and wound up playing with Stephane Grappelli (13 albums, 1981-99), as well as several dozen of his own, from 1979 on. Solo, a live set in Pittsburgh, a dozen standards. Really lovely. B+(***) [r]

John Tchicai: Grandpa's Spells (1992 [1993], Storyville): Danish saxophonist (1936-2012), father Congolese, moved to New York in 1964 and played with Albert Ayler and John Coltrane (Ascension) as well as New York Art Quartet and New York Contemporary Five, then back to Europe, where he played with ICP, Brotherhood of Breath, Pierre Dørge, and many others. This is a quartet featuring Misha Mengelberg (piano), with Margriet Naber (synth) and Peter Danstrup (bass). Hard to miss Mengelberg here. A- [sp]

Henri Texier Transatlantik Quartet: Izlaz (1988, Label Bleu): French bassist, albums from 1976, group here includes Aldo Romano (drums), plus two Americans: Joe Lovano (tenor/soprano sax, clarinet, percussion) and Steve Swallow (electric bass). The saxophonist was just getting started, but excels, guided by the bassists. A- [sp]

Jean Thielemans: Man Bites Harmonica (1957 [1958], Riverside): Belgian harmonica player (1922-2016), better known as Toots, also played guitar and accordion (his first instrument), was initially influenced by Django Reinhardt, but joined a 1949 jam session with Charlie Parker, and played with Benny Goodman on a 1949-50 European tour. This New York session followed his 1955 debut. Names on the front cover: Pepper Adams (baritone sax), Kenny Drew (piano), Wilbur Ware (bass), and Art Taylor (drums). He plays harmonica on six tracks, guitar on the other three. B+(**) [r]

Toots Thielemans: Live (1974, Polydor): Various live albums with various dates, but this seems to be the favored Penguin Guide album. Leader plays guitar and harmonica, with more guitar by Joop Scholten, plus Rob Franken (electric piano/organ), bass, drums, and percussion. Sound strikes me as a bit off. B+(**) [sp]

Radka Toneff: Winter Poem (1977, Sonet): Norwegian jazz singer (1952-82), father from Bulgaria, first album. She wrote original music for five poems (Sylvia Plath, Robert Creeley, and three by Nikki Giovanni), and bassist Arild Andersen wrote music for two more Creeley poems. More striking still are the covers, a torchy "All the Sad Young Men" and a very striking "Mr. Bojangles." Group is mostly strings, with piano (Lars Jansson) and guitar (Jon Eberson). B+(**) [sp]

Mel Tormé: The Duke Ellington & Count Basie Songbooks (1960-61 [1984], Verve): Reissue of his 1962 album I Dig the Duke, I Dig the Count, with six songs each, loosely speaking. Big band, Johnny Mandel arranger. B+(***) [r]

The Trio: Conflagration (1971, Dawn): Originally John Surman (saxes), Barre Phillips (bass), and Stu Martin (drums), released a very strong eponymous double album in 1970, joined by a long list of names for this sequel: Harold Beckett (trumpet, Mark Charig (cornet), Chick Corea (piano), Nick Evans (trombone), Malcolm Griffiths (trombone), Dave Holland (bass), John Marshall (drums), Mike Osborne (alto sax/clarinet), Alan Skidmore (soprano/baritone sax/flute), Stan Sulzmann (clarinet/flute), John Taylor (piano, Kenny Wheeler (trumpet). Overkill perhaps, invigorating if you're into that sort of thing. A- [sp]

The Trio: Meet the Locals (1998 [1999], Resonant): Different group, this one from Norway, first of two albums, led by tenor saxophonist Petter Wettre, with Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (bass) and Jarle Vespestad (drums). A terrific sax trio album. A- [sp]

The Trio: In Color (1999 [2000], Resonant): Second album, later editions attribute this to Petter Wettre Trio, adding Dave Liebman for five (of 10) tracks. B+(***) [sp]

Gianluigi Trovesi Octet: From G to G (1992, Soul Note): Italian alto saxophonist (also alto/bass clarinet), debut 1978, octet also includes Pino Minafra (trumpet, etc., including voice and "noises"). Jaunty pieces like "Hercab" have the most appeal. B+(***) [r]

Warren Vaché and Brian Lemon: Play Harry Warren: An Affair to Remember (1995 [1997], Zephyr): Cornet and piano duo. Harry Warren songs, including two takes of "Nagasaki," and a couple vocals -- uncredited, but Vaché sings some elsewhere. B+(***)

Warren Vaché/Tony Coe/Alan Barnes Septet: Jumpin' (1997 [1999], Zephyr): Cornet with two English saxophone/clarinet players, all inclined to straddle the swing-to-bop eras, backed by guitar, bass, and drums. Standard fare, from two Ellington pieces to "Giant Steps." B+(**) [sp]

Warren Vaché & Alan Barnes: Memories of You (1997 [1999], Zephyr): Cornet and alto/baritone sax, backed with guitar (Dave Cliff), piano (Brian Lemon), bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]

Warren Vaché & Tony Coe: Street of Dreams (1997 [1999], Zephyr): Coe playe tenor and soprano sax. Otherwise, this is the same deal, same group, similar batch of songs. I give it a slight edge, mostly based on Coe's ballad tone. B+(***) [sp]

Warren Vaché/Allan Vaché: Mrs. Vaché's Boys (1998 [1999], Nagel Heyer): Cornet (with some flugelhorn) and clarinet, backed by piano (Eddie Higgins), guitar (Howard Alden), bass (Phil Flanagan), and drums (Ed Metz Jr), mostly playing 1930s swing classics (three Ellingtons, one Goodman). More Ellington would be better, especially more like the blazing "Cottontail." B+(***) [sp]

Warren Vaché: I Can't Get Started: Warren Vaché Meets Derek Watkins Again! (2000, Zephyr): Watkins (1945-2013) was a British trumpet player, mostly played in big bands but released two 1995 records on Zephyr: Over the Rainbow, with the Brian Lemon Quartet, and Stardust, his previous meeting with Vaché. No info on this album, which seems to have escaped notice at Discogs and AMG. Release date isn't authoritative, and session date probably earlier. Still a lovely record. Nice guitar. B+(***) [sp]

Kid Thomas Valentine: Kid Thomas in California (1969 [1994], GHB): Old-time trumpeter (1896-1987) from New Orleans, sings some, developed his style in the 1920s and stuck with it. His 1962 Ragtime Stompers album with George Lewis was a Penguin Guide crown album, and this one, with Capt. John Handy, Big Bill Bissonnette, Dick Griffith, and other stalwarts, plus two Carol Leigh vocals, doesn't fall much short. A- [sp]

Tom Varner: Martian Heartache (1996 [1997], Soul Note): From New Jersey (b. 1957), plays French horn, albums from 1985. This is a group with two saxophones (Ed Jackson on alto and Ellery Eskelin on tenor), bass (Drew Gress), and drums (Tom Rainey), plus guest spots for guitar (Pete McCann, 3 tracks) and vocals (Dominique Eade, the closer, the only cover, a trad folk song). B+(***) [sp]

Joe Venuti and Dave McKenna: Alone at the Palace (1977, Chiaroscuro): Violin and piano duo. Venuti (1903-78) first achieved fame in the late 1920s with guitarist Eddie Lang, who died in 1933. Their string-based swing had a parallel in France with Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli. In both cases, the violinists went on to long solo careers. McKenna (1930-2008) is an old-fashioned pianist, who often got by playing solo because he generated so much rhythm. They're an ideal pairing here. A- [sp]

Vienna Art Orchestra: Suite for the Green Eighties (1981 [1990], Hat Art): Experimental big band, founded 1977 by composer-director Nicholas Rüegg, disbanded 2010 after releasing 35 albums, mixing jazz and classical in improbable combinations. Here Rüegg conducts 11 musicians plus vocalist Lauren Newton in three pieces (32:02) plus the five-part title piece (38:01). B+(**) [sp]

Vienna Art Orchestra: Quiet Ways: Ballads (1996 [1997], Amadeo): Nine songs, each with a different guest vocalist, starting with Helen Merrill on "What's New." B+(**) [sp]

Vienna Art Orchestra: All That Strauss (2000, TCB): Mostly nine pieces from Johan Strauss (1825-99), with one by brother Josef Strauss and two by brother Eduard Strauss, including waltzes and polkas. Live recording, cover looks like Johan Strauss playing tenor sax. The arrangements are suitably extravagant, far removed from a classical recital. B+(*) [sp]

Petter Wettre Quartet: Pig Virus (1998, Curling Legs): Saxophonist, from Norway, his Trio albums encouraged further research. First album, a quartet with Håvard Wiik (piano), Terje Gewelt (bass), and Per Oddvar Johansen (drums). Another powerful album. B+(***) [sp]

Petter Wettre Quintet: Household Name (2002 [2003], Household): Saxophone, with piano (Håvard Wiik) and guitar (Palle Pesonen), bass and drums. Well enough, but more piano and guitar means less saxophone. B+(**) [sp]

Petter Wettre/Dave Liebman: Tour De Force (2000 [2004], Household): Live set, following the Trio In Color sessions that Liebman crashed -- same bass and drums here, both saxophonists playing soprano, with Wettre also on tenor. B+(**) [sp]

Grade (or other) changes:

Stu Martin/John Surman: Live at Woodstock Town Hall (1975 [1976], Pye): [sp]: B+(***)

John McLaughlin/Dave Holland/John Surman/Stu Martin/Karl Berger: Where Fortune Smiles (1971, Dawn): [sp]: [was: B+] B+(***)

Sun Ra and His Myth Science Arkestra: We Travel the Space Ways (1956-60 [1960], El Saturn): [r]: B+(*)

Mr. Sun Ra and His Arkestra: Bad and Beautiful (1961 [1972], El Saturn): [r]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Chet Baker: Blue Room: The 1979 Vara Studio Sessions in Holland (Jazz Detective, 2CD) [04-28]
  • Tom Collier: Boomer Vibes Volume 1 (Summit) [03-10]
  • Das Kondensat: Andere Planeten (WhyPlayJazz) [04-07]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Music Week

March archive (final).

Music: Current count 39873 [39836] rated (+37), 56 [50] unrated (+6: 28 new, 28 old).

Rated count is down because I lost a day when last week's post didn't appear until late Tuesday. Otherwise, it's the same drill: I've been picking off old jazz records from my unheard Penguin Guide 4-star list, going from Perry to Scott this week. The exception is a Bobby Hutcherson record that Hank Shteamer included in his Twitter list of 10-best classic Blue Note records. I commented there, but also copied the lists into my notebook, as one of my self-check exercises. For Hutcherson, may I suggest Dialogue (1965), Happenings (1966), Oblique (1967), and/or Medina (1968-69 [1998]). Had I been more thorough, I would have checked out The Kicker (1963) and Total Eclipse (1967) -- both Penguin Guide 3.5-stars.

Elsewhere, Shteamer reminded me of the death of Ethiopian pianist Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou (99). Her Ethiopia Song is one of the best volumes in Buda Musique's Éthiopiques series (Vol. 21).

My demo queue has grown to 28, so I need to whittle that down a bit. One problem is that I need to do a major desk clearing first, and some resorting of the queue box. Another is that only 7 of those records (25%) have been released so far, and until recently it was closer to zero. Also, I'll note that I've been sitting non a lot of download offers, which I've started to collect in their own folder, in case I decide I need to look something up.

Two of this week's three new albums were found while looking for something old. Although I updated my 2023 tracking file to reflect what I've heard or have in the queue, I haven't added any records yet that I want to get to, so I'm pretty ignorant of (or maybe just oblivious to) 2023 releases, at least so far. Once I do, it will be easier to figure out what to play next.

This closes out Streamnotes for March. I'll catch up with the indexing later. At last month's rate (193 records), I should crack the 40,000 rated albums level in late April (3 or 4 weeks from now).

I published another Speaking of Which yesterday. Main news today is that Netanyahu delays judicial overhaul plan, backtracking after unprecedented strikes and protests. Key word is "delays," as Israel's current ruling coalition of past and future criminals still want their "get out of jail" cards. For important background, see: Richard Silverstein: Facing Israeli Army Mutiny, Defense Minister Calls to Halt Regime Change Agenda. Silverstein also wrote (posted today): Does Netanyahu Have an Exit Strategy.

A couple more points: Netanyahu made it clear that he's delaying because his junior coalition partner Itamar Ben Gvir gave him permission, making it clear who's calling the shots in the right-wing government. Also, the price for Ben Gvir's delay permission appears to be approval of a new "national guard" under direct control of the National Security Minister (that's Ben Gvir). See Critics slam Netanyahu's alleged OK for national guard: 'Private Ben Gvir militia'. Maybe if they can provoke Palestinians to start an armed uprising, they'll be able to kill off what's left of Israel's democracy as an "emergency measure."

Meanwhile, in America we have another mass shooting in an elementary school: 3 Children and 3 Adults Killed in Shooting at Nashville Elementary School. You know, of course, that Tennessee governor Bill Lee just signed laws to ban drag performers ("protects children") and to loosen restrictions on who can carry guns where. Also, that this guy represents in Congress the district the shooting took place in. Cue the Clash (I was thinking of the "killers in America" line, but sure, all of it).

New records reviewed this week:

Bára Gisladottir: Silva (2023, Sono Luminus): Icelandic double bassist, first album as far as I can tell, uses electronics to process bass sounds, for a dark ambiance. B+(**) [cd]

Rich Perry: Everything Happens (2021 [2022], SteepleChase): My Penguin Guide notes stop around 2002, but he had a very solid decade before that (one 4-star and five 3.5), and he's continued to record regularly since, so I have quite a bit of catching up to do. I thought I'd start with his latest, another quartet, with Gary Versace (piano), Jay Anderson (bass), and John Riley (drums), playing seven originals and longer covers of "Comes Love" and "Everything Happens to Me." B+(**) [sp]

Chris Potter: Got the Keys to the Kingdom: Live at the Village Vanguard (2022 [2023], Edition): Tenor saxophonist. Three things about him: he was just 21 when Introducing was released in 1992, so he's been about a decade younger than almost all of the other major saxophonists who emerged in the 1990s; seems like every year or two, I hear a monster sax solo somewhere I'm not expecting one (like on a Diana Krall album), and it turns out to be him; despite undeniable chops, his studio albums rarely blow me away -- on the other hand, the two A- albums I credit him with were live sets at the Village Vanguard. So after his lockdown solo and trio productions, on top of the wet blanket ECM threw over him, he deserves a chance to break loose. And he does here, with Craig Taborn (piano), Scott Colley (bass), and Marcus Gilmore (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:


Old music:

Bobby Hutcherson: Components (1965 [1966], Blue Note): Only album in Hank Shteamer's top-ten Blue Notes list I hadn't heard. Half-written by Hutcherson (vibraphone/marimba), half by drummer Joe Chambers, with Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), James Spaulding (alto sax/flute), Herbie Hancock (piano), and Ron Carter (bass). B+(***) [sp]

Rich Perry: Doxy (1998 [2000], SteepleChase): Tenor sax trio, with George Mraz (bass) and Billy Hart (drums). Jazz staples, starting with Monk, including Evans and Coltrane, ending with the Sonny Rollins title piece, with an 11:59 "How Deep Is the Ocean" among the standards. B+(***) [sp]

Rich Perry: O Grande Amor (1999 [2000], SteepleChase): Quartet with George Colligan (piano), Doug Weiss (bass), and Daren Beckett (drums). Title song from Jobim, one original, the rest standards including nods to Bill Evans and Jimmy Rowles. After the samba, he has so much pent-up energy he really lets loose on the closer, even though it's only "Stella by Starlight." B+(**) [sp]

Rich Perry Quartet: Hearsay (2001 [2002], SteepleChase): It's a little annoying that Discogs makes you go to "Rich Perry Quartet" for his eight quartet albums, given that the quartets are all different. This one is pianoless, with Steve Lampert (trumpet), Dennis Irwin (bass), and Jeff Hirshfield (drums). Another change is all original pieces, though Perry only wrote two, Lampert the other six. B+(***) [sp]

Enrico Pieranunzi/Marc Johnson/Joey Baron: Current Conditions (2001 [2003], CAM Jazz): Major Italian pianist, albums go back to 1975, Discogs lists nine albums with this particular trio (one in 1987, the rest 2001-09). B+(**) [sp]

Jean-Michel Pilc Trio: Together: Live at Sweet Basil (1999 [2000], Challenge, 2CD): French pianist, moved to New York in 1995, one of his first recordings was this trio with François Moutin (bass) and Ari Hoenig (drums). Looks like it was originally released in two separate volumes, then combined in one package, but I can't find a separate date for the combination. I could try to review the volumes separately, but the energy builds and compounds, making the double more persuasive than either half (but if I had to choose, I'd give the edge to Vol. 2). A- [sp]

Paul Plimley/Trichy Sankaran: Ivory Ganesh Meets Doctor Drums (1996-98 [1998], Songlines): Canadian pianist, duo with Indian percussionist Sankaran (originally from Tamil Nadu, educated in Madras, but based in Ontario), credited here with mridangam and kanjira. The rhythm is a steady draw, but that just sets the piano off. A- [sp]

Valery Ponomarev: Live at Sweet Basil (1993 [1994], Reservoir): Russian trumpet player, moved to New York in 1973, played with Art Blakey 1977-80, and has since organized a tribute big band. Follows the hard bop formula here, with Don Braden (tenor sax), John Hicks (piano), Peter Washington (bass), and Victor Jones (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Michel Portal: Dockings (1997 [1998], Label Bleu): French clarinet player (also bass clarinet, alto sax, and bandoneon here), albums since 1969. Group here includes trumpet (Markus Stockhausen), piano (Bojan Zulfikarpasic), electric bass (Steve Swallow), bass (Bruno Chevillon), and drums (Joey Baron). The latter moves this along nicely, and I do love the bass clarinet. A- [sp]

Chris Potter Quartet: Sundiata (1993 [1995], Criss Cross): Second album recorded, although Concentric Circles was recorded less than a week later and rushed ahead on Concord, where he was a star through 1998. Quartet with Kevin Hays (piano), Doug Weiss (bass), and Al Foster (drums), playing six originals plus "Body and Soul" and "Airegin" -- no pressure there. B+(***) [sp]

Quartett: No Secrets (1988, New Albion): One-shot quartet, with Jay Clayton (vocals/effects), Julian Priester (trombone), Gary Peacock (bass), and Jerry Granelli (drums). I rarely care for voice mixed into free jazz, but Clayton is adept, and the contrast with trombone works nicely. B+(**) [sp]

Freddy Randall & His Band: My Tiny Band Is Chosen: The Parlophone Years 1952-1957 (1952-57 [2017], Lake): English trumpet player, led a trad jazz band up to 1958, appears occasionally after 1963. Penguin Guide recommended an earlier compilation from this label and period, but only three songs reappear here. B+(**) [r]

The Recyclers: Visit (1995 [1997], Babel): Mostly French group, released four albums 1994-97. In this one, the core group is a trio -- Steve Argüelles (drums), Benoît Delbecq (piano), and Noël Akchoté (guitar) -- joined on several tracks (8/15) by François Houle (contra-alto clarinet), Kenneth Newby (suling), Billy Jenkins (guitar), and Wolter Wierbos (trombone). B+(**) [sp]

Buddy Rich: Compact Jazz: Buddy Rich (1955-61 [1987], Verve): Drummer (1917-87), mostly led big bands from 1945 on, but there are a few smaller groups here (e.g., a quintet with Sweets Edison, Sonny Criss, and Jimmy Rowles). Nice, varied sampler, with one vocal (Rich singing "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea," with Edison and Ben Webster). [r]

Howard Riley: Flight (1971, Turtle): British avant pianist, first two albums are superb, including the Penguin Guide crown album, The Day Will Come. He followed them up with this trio, with Barry Guy (bass) and Tony Oxley (drums), all very young, with major careers ahead. Oxley is especially vital here. A- [yt]

Howard Riley: Feathers With Jaki (1984-88 [1996], Slam): Two tracks (21:43) of piano duets with Jaki Byard, originally released as Live at the Royal Festival Hall, plus the album Feathers, a piano trio with Mario Casrtronari (bass) and Tony Marsh (drums). While the duo is interesting, the trio packs more punch. B+(***) [r]

Howard Riley: Consequences (2003 [2005], 33 Records): Solo piano. Still impressive. B+(***) [r]

Howard Riley: Short Stories (Volume Two) (2004-06 [2006], Slam, 2CD): Even more solo piano. B+(**) [r]

Max Roach: With the New Orchestra of Boston and the So What Brass Quintet (1993-95 [1996], Blue Note): Drummer (1924-2007), one of the first to get the hang of bebop (Kenny Clarke was first, then Art Blakey and Roach; it's hard to find any decent pre-1950 bebop records with anyone else). Guest star here for a 50:43 piece composed by Fred Tillis, conducted by David Epstein, and played by the New Orchestra of Boston, followed by a 12:13 piece played by the So What Brass Quintet (two trumpets, trombone, French horn, and tuba). B+(**) [sp]

Max Roach: To the Max! (1990-91 [1992], Enja, 2CD): Forty-some years into a multifaceted career, he's recapitulating, opening with his Chorus and Orchestra, reprising his M'Boom percussion, assembling a quartet -- with Cecil Bridgewater (trumpet), Odean Pope (tenor sax), and Tyrone Brown (bass) -- and then doubling it, with a couple tracks on his own. B+(**) [yt]

Renee Rosnes: Art & Soul (1999, Blue Note): Canadian pianist, played with Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter in the late 1980s, recorded for Blue Note 1990-2002 (and a couple times each: one duets with husband Bill Charlap, the other in the supergroup Artemis). This is a trio with Scott Colley (bass) and Billy Drummond (drums), plus percussion (Richard Bona) on two tracks, with Dianne Reeves singing two songs. B+(**) [sp]

Jim Rotondi: Iron Man (2005 [2006], Criss Cross): Trumpet/flugelhorn player, originally from Montana, studied at UNT, moved to New York, later to Austria. Leads a quintet here with Jimmy Greene (tenor/soprano sax), Steve Nelson (vibes), Doug Weiss (bass), and Bill Stewart (drums). B+(***) [r]

ROVA Saxophone Quartet: Bingo (1996 [1998], Victo): Saxophone quartet, started in 1977 with Jon Raskin, Larry Ochs, Andrew Voigt, and Bruce Ackley, with Steve Adams (who previously played in Your Neighborhood Saxophone Quartet) replacing Voigt by 1990. Possibly one of their better pure quartets. [Spotify only has 3 (of 6) tracks.] B+(**) [sp]

Paul Rutherford/Philipp Wachsmann/Barry Guy: ISKRA NCKPA 1903 (1992 [1995], Maya): English avant-trombonist, formed the band Iskra 1903 in 1972 as a trio with guitarist Derek Bailey and bassist Guy: their albums (Chapter One: 1970-1972) were collected by Emanem on 3CD. This revival replaces the guitar with Wachsmann's violin. B+(**) [bc]

Samo Salamon Quartet: Ornethology (2003 [2004], Samo): Slovenian guitarist, probably his first album, quartet with Achille Succi (alto sax/bass clarinet), Salvatore Maione (bass), and Zlatko Kaucic (drums). A- [sp]

Samo Salomon Sextet: Ela's Dream (2004 [2005], Splasc(H)): Achille Succi (alto sax/bass clarinet) and Zlatko Kaucic (drums) return from his quartet, with new bassist Paolino Dalla Porta, the group fortified with Kyle Gregory (trumpet) and Dave Binney (alto sax). Most impressive when Binney goes on a tear. B+(***) [sp]

Marit Sandvik: Song, Fall Soft (1995, Taurus): Norwegian jazz singer, first album, Discogs co-credits this to Jazz I Nord but that's not clear from the cover, which just lists the musician names: Øystein B Blix (trombone), Jørn Øien (piano), Konrad Kaspersen (bass), and Trond Sverre Hansen (drums). Three originals (co-written with Øien), a Sandvik lyric to a Wayne Shorter piece, and seven standards. B+(***) [sp]

Michel Sardaby Trio: Night Cap (1970, Disques Debs): Pianist, b. 1935 in Martinique, moved to Paris in 1956. Early album, a trio with Percy Heath (bass) and Connie Kay (drums), playing five originals and "Satin Doll." Near perfect. A- [yt]

Dave Schnitter: Sketch (2001 [2004], Omix/Sunnyside): More often David, b. 1948 in Newark, tenor saxophonist, played with Art Blakey and recorded four albums for Muse 1976-81, a bit more after 1996, with this one of the few items one can find. Quartet with James Zollar (trumpet), bass, and drums. B+(***) [sp]

Irene Schweizer/Maggie Nichols/George Lewis/Joëlle Léandre/Günter Sommer: The Storming of the Winter Palace (1986-88 [1988], Intakt): Piano, vocals, trombone, bass, and drums. I've never been a fan of vocals in this sort of music, but Nichols fits in better here than elsewhere. B+(***) [sp]

Jimmy Scott: Dream (1995, Sire): Jazz singer (1925-2014), a genetic disorder stunted his growth and left him with a high voice, joined Lionel Hampton in 1949, had some success with Savoy into the early 1960s, recorded an album for Atlantic in 1970, had a comeback with All the Way in 1992, followed by this album. Nine standards, taken at a snail's pace, his voice unique and affecting, just enough support from a rhythm section stocked with stars (Milt Jackson, Junior Mance, Ron Carter), tasteful guest spots including two bits of saxophone (Patience Higgins, Red Holloway. A- [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Matt Barber: The Song Is You (MB) [04-15]
  • Bokani Dyer: Radio Sechaba (Brownswood) [05-12]
  • Marc Jordan: Waiting for the Sun to Rise (Linus Entertainment) [04-23]
  • Le Boeuf Brothers: Hush (Soundspore) [04-21]
  • MUEJL [Michel Stawicki/Uygur Vural/Elisabetta Lanfredini/João Madeira/Luiz Rocha]: By Breakfast (4DaRecord) [02-03]
  • Taiko Saito: Tears of a Cloud (Trouble in the East) [04-28]

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