Music Week [0 - 9]

Monday, February 6, 2023


Music Week

February archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 39555 [39534] rated (+21), 48 [39] unrated (+9: 20 new, 28 old).

Took a break after the excesses of last week and last month. I spent two days on a fried chicken dinner, during which I only played old favorites. Finally, over the weekend (while writing Speaking of Which), I finally dug up my unplayed Penguin Guide 4-star list, and started up in the 'C' section. (I'm deleting as I knock items off.)

Lots of items from that list aren't on streaming (probably most of them). I've also generally skipped over compilations from familiar artists, especially material I've heard elsewhere (e.g., a lot of Louis Armstrong). And sometimes I've had to make adjustments, like with Eddie Condon's The Town Hall Concerts, where 2-CD sets have recently (hard to tell how recently) been broken up into pieces for download/streaming. (For example, The Town Hall Concerts Five and Six are the first half of the previous Vol. 3. Also, the Condon twofers on Collectables have been split up, with one piece of one of them reduced to EP-length). When I get into an artist like Condon, it's tempting to go deeper, but for now I've mostly restrained myself -- I did substitute the Timeless 1928-1931 for the similar Classics set, and added the 3.5-star In Japan.

Once again, I've neglected my paperwork, including the indexing for recent Streamnotes files. I also haven't frozen the 2022 list. (Started to, then noticed that I didn't freeze 2021 until February 28, so I might keep that consistent this year.) I think I added one set to the EOY Aggregate (from Christian Iszchak, although I should also add the latest from Phil Overeem).

The 12th Annual Expert Witness Poll Results have been turned into a web page. The Expert Witness Facebook group boasts 371 members, but only 43 voted. Would be nice to have the individual ballots collected (and I don't mean in a Google spreadsheet, like PJRP uses). I included the ones I found in my EOY Aggregate (looks like I got 19 of them, plus a few more that I tracked from independent lists, like: Sidney Carpenter-Wilson), Chuck Eddy, Christian Iszchak Brad Luen, Chris Monsen, and no doubt others.

We had a small disaster at the Robert Christgau website, when a software change made by the ISP broke the database access code. They fixed the problem fairly quickly, but it shows that I need to upgrade the code to play nice with PHP 8 (since not breaking websites seems to be beyond the ken of the PHP developers). I've been thinking more lately about a revision of the now-22-year-old website code, and may finally have some time to work on it. We've long needed to migrate to the UTF-8 codeset, and to make everything HTML5 proper (about half of the pages are). There is also a lot of dead PHP 5 code to be cleaned out (PHP 7 broke it, especially the database code). Also need to fix the viewport for cell phones, and that probably means redoing the navigation menus, and replacing the table layout code with divs and spans and more CSS.

Functionality-wise, the main thing I'd like to do is to put all the page metadata into the database (I'm ok with leaving the page text in flat files), so the 2001 Voice-centric directory structure is, if not gone, purely atavistic. This would help make browsing more flexible. I'd also like to add a category/keyword system, which again would add many more dimensions for browsing. Plus I need to do a better job of documenting everything, so the next poor sod who has to maintain the site has some clue as to how it works. None of these things, at least codewise, are very difficult, but there's a ton of data to run through the wringer. That's probably what's been daunting me for years now.

I've also started to think about rebuilding my website. The idea here is to create a new directory structure alongside the old "ocston" framework, then start moving content into it. The new structure would also be build mostly out of flat files, but would have a database to index the files, and possibly manage some structured content (like album grades and/or book blurbs). I've collected lots of content in LibreWriter files, but that hasn't made it any more accessible. So maybe the best solution is to bust it up again? As I want to eventually organize some of this writing in book form, a flexible website configuration might be a useful path forward.

I have an email list for discussing my website plans. If you're interested in the gritty technical details, let me know and I'll sign you up. Traffic on the list has been very light, but would pick up if I ever got my ass in gear.


New records reviewed this week:

Kwesi Arthur: Son of Jacob (2022, Ground Up Chale): Rapper-singer from Ghana, first album, musical flow. B+(**) [sp]

Skip Grasso: Becoming (2022 [2023], Barking Coda Music): Guitarist, has a previous group album. This is a quartet with Anthony Powell (keyboards), Harvie S (bass), and Billy Drummond (drums). All original pieces, pleasant enough. B [cd]

The Dave Stryker Trio: Prime (2022 [2023], Strikezone): Guitarist, trio with Jared Gold (organ) and McClenty Hunter (drums). Creatures of habit, starting off each year with a new album of tasty groove. B+(***) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

None.

Old music:

Terri Lyne Carrington/Adam Rogers/Jimmy Haslip/Greg Osby: Structure (2003 [2004], ACT): Drums, guitar, bass, alto sax. Everyone brought songs, plus they cover one by Joni Mitchell ("Ethiopia," which Carrington sings). B+(***) [sp]

Betty Carter: Look What I Got! (1988, Verve): Jazz singer (1929-98), started in ill-fitting big bands -- Lionel Hampton reportedly fired her seven times -- kicked around various labels before she finally took charge of her own (Bet-Car), which after 1976 was distributed by Verve, giving her the autonomy she demanded and the exposure she craved. She won a Grammy for this one, although it strikes me as a bit of a muddle -- despite an interesting "The Man I Love," highlighted by Don Braden's sax. B+(*) [sp]

Ron Carter/Jim Hall: Telephone (1984 [1985], Concord): Bass and guitar duo, did a previous album (Alone Together) in 1973, as well as Alive at Village West in 1982. This one was also recorded live. B+(*) [sp]

Soesja Citroen: Soesja Citroen Sings Thelonious Monk (1983 [1994], Timeless): Dutch jazz singer, early album, backed by trio or larger groups up to octet led by pianist Cees Slinger. Various lyricists, mostly Citroen (5/8 tracks). B+(**) [sp]

Soesja Citroen: Songs for Lovers and Losers (1996, Challenge): Smaller but still significant credits on the cover for Louis van Dijk (piano) and Hein Van de Geyn (bass), then "special guest" Ack van Rooyen (flugelhorn on three tracks). Standards, most common, some special. B+(**) [sp]

The Johnny Coles Quartet: New Morning (1982 [1983], Criss Cross): Trumpet player (1926-97), mostly remembered for his one album on Blue Note (Little Johnny C, from 1963), only led a few more dates, plus several dozen side credits (notably with Gil Evans and Charles Mingus). Quartet with Horace Parlan (piano), Reggie Johnson (bass), and Billy Hart (drums), playing three originals, three covers (Mingus, Wayne Shorter, Charles Davis). B+(***) [sp]

George Colligan: Agent 99 (1999 [2001], SteepleChase): Pianist, debut 1999 (title: The Newcomer), trio with Doug Weiss (bass) and Darren Beckett (drums). Two originals, various jazz tunes and standards (including a Jobim). B+(**) [sp]

Eddie Condon: 1928-1931 (1928-31 [1995], Timeless): Swing guitarist (1905-73), played banjo on these 22 early tracks, starting with two from Miff Mole's Molers, followed by eight for Condon-led groups (a quartet with Frank Teschemacher and Gene Krupa, two sextets called the Footwarmers and Eddie's Hot Shots, both with Mezz Mezzrow and Jack Teagarden, with Condon sometimes singing), and the rest with the Mound City Blue Blowers (led by vocalist Red McKenzie, with various lineups at times including Coleman Hawkins, Fats Waller, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, and/or Muggsy Spanier). Condon's networking skills, which crossed racial lines, defined his later career: numerous jam sessions, including the 1944-45 Town Hall Concerts (radio shots which Jazzology eventually released in eleven multi-CD volumes), and many more recordings from his New York City jazz club. B+(**) [r]

Eddie Condon: The Town Hall Concerts Five and Six (1944, Jazzology): The first half (two of four concerts) excerpted from Volume Two of the Jazzology series. Concert Five was a tribute to Fats Waller, who had died six months earlier, with James P. Johnson on piano and Pee Wee Russell on clarinet. The sixth concert is joined by Willie "The Lion" Smith" and Hot Lips Page. Some spectacular music, but also lots of talk, not least about war bonds. B+(***) [sp]

Eddie Condon's All-Stars: Jam Session Coast-to-Coast (1954, Columbia, EP): Four tracks, 23:16, although most editions in Discogs add on another six tracks (24:12) by Rampart Street Paraders (a totally different band, with George Van Eps instead of Condon on guitar). The All-Stars include Wild Bill Davison (cornet), Edmond Hall (clarinet), Gene Schroeder (piano), Walter Page (bass), and Cliff Leeman (drums), plus Dick Cary (trumpet and piano) on two tracks. Opens with "Beale Street Blues," ends with the 10:40 "Jam Session Blues/Ole Miss." B+(***) [r]

Eddie Condon: Bixieland (1955, Columbia): Full subhed: "in which Eddie Condon and his All-Stars jam on a few of Bix Beiderbecke's favorites." With Pete Pesci or Wild Bull Davison (as he's credited here) on trumpet, Edmond Hall on clarinet, and other lesser stars, spiffing up that old-time sound. A- [r]

Eddie Condon: Eddie Condon's Treasury of Jazz (1956, Columbia): Cover notes: "Eleven musical portraits of Eddie's friends in the jazz world." Another batch of what Louis Armstrong (who wrote one song here) used to call the "good ol' good 'uns." Names dropped: Fats Waller, Lee Wiley, Turk Murphy, Duke Ellington, Armstrong, Wild Bill Davison, Pee Wee Russell, Bix Beiderbecke, Red McKenzie, Benny Goodman, The Chicago Rhythm Kings. B+(***) [r]

Eddie Condon: Bixieland/Treasury of Jazz (1955-56 [2003], Collectables): Nice twofer rated **** in Penguin Guide, digitally reverts to its constituent albums, no doubt a bargain if you can find it. I'm only hedging because I haven't. B+(***) [r]

Eddie Condon: In Japan (1964 [2002], Chiaroscuro): Trad jazz guitarist takes his act on the road, introducing his stars through featured songs: Dick Cary (piano/alto horn), Pee Wee Russell (clarinet), Buck Clayton (trumpet), Vic Dickenson (trombone), Bud Freeman (tenor sax), and eventually Jimmy Rushing sings a few. The 1977 LP picked 11 songs, which the CD reissue expands to 15. B+(***) [sp]

Johnny Costa: Classic Costa (1990-91 [1991], Chiaroscuro): Pianist (1922-96), original name Costanza, recorded a couple albums in the mid-1950s, more in the 1990s, but spent most of his career as music director for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. This is solo, 18 standards, distinguished for his speed, dexterity, and (when he slows it down) touch. Ends with an interesting memoir. B+(***) [sp]

Fred Hersch/Jay Clayton: Beautiful Love (1994 [2017], Sunnyside): Piano and voice duo, standards, the singer very precise, with considerable nuance; the pianist equally precise, doesn't overstep his role. Reissue prominently marked as "remastered." B+(**) [sp]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Anthony Branker & Imagine: What Place Can Be for Us? A Suite in Ten Movements (Origin) [02-17]
  • Satoko Fujii/Otomo Yoshihide: Perpetual Motion (Ayler) [02-09]
  • Brad Goode: The Unknown (Origin) [02-17]
  • Yosef Gutman Levitt/Tal Yahalom: Tsuf Harim (Soul Song) [03-03]
  • Manzanita Quintet: Osmosis (Origin) [02-17]
  • Delfeayo Marsalis Uptown Jazz Orchestra: Uptown on Mardi Gras Day (Troubadour Jass) [02-03]
  • Mason Razavi: Six-String Standards (OA2) [02-17]
  • Triogram: Triogram (Circle Theory Media) [04-07]
  • Dan Trudell: Fishin' Again: A Tribute to Clyde Stubblefield & Dr. Lonnie Smith (OA2) [02-17]
  • Alex Weiss: Most Don't Have Enough (Ears & Eyes) [02-24]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023


Music Week

January archive (finished).

Music: Current count 39534 [39462] rated (+72), 39 [42] unrated (-3: 11 new, 28 old).

I gave myself an extra day this week, figuring that it would be nice to end the month on the end of the month, especially given that January is the effective end of the previous year, the obvious point to declare 2022 wrapped up, and to look ahead to 2023. I figured it would make a good cut-off point for my 2022 Music Tracking File, EOY Aggregate (with its poor cousin for Reissues/Historical). It would also provide a freeze point for my Music 2022 list (saving a snapshot for the moment while I continue to add late finds, up to the end of 2023). As it turns out, I've fallen far short of what I hoped to get done. But I've been desperate to make some sort of break, so this is it.

Needing some time to write this brief intro, I did my cutoff make at 6PM. I may sneak some more material in by the time I post this, but these stats are accurate at cutoff time: new releases reviewed 1652 (all 2022, including reissues/historical, plus 12/2021 releases, plus earlier 2021 not in previous tracking files); limited sampling: 4 (a possibly useful idea that I didn't pursue very hard). That may be an all-time record but I don't feel like spending the time to be sure. (A quick count of list item lines shows 1638 this year; previous high for frozen files was 1624 in 2020, followed by 1440 in 2021, 1334 in 2011, 1236 in 2010, 1222 in 2019, 1173 in 2014, 1147 in 2017, 1135 in 2007. Some caveats with these numbers I don't want to go into here.) Tracking file lists 5392 albums total. EOY Aggregate file lists 4520 new albums + 508 reissues/historical.

My EOY file for Jazz shows 74 new A/A- albums (+1 carried over), and 25 old music A/A- albums. For Non-Jazz, the numbers are 96 new (+ 6 carried over), 11 reissues/historical (+ 1 carried over). That's certainly the longest non-jazz A-list ever. You may recall that the non-jazz list was longer when I first compiled the file -- usually, jazz is longer to start, because I follow it more closely -- but the lists evened up while I was compiling Francis Davis Jazz Poll ballots. This week, all the new A- records are non-jazz (mostly African and/or hip-hop), but that's only about a third of the margin.

The EOY Aggregate is now up to 565 lists (this file includes links to most of them, although for some you need to pass through intermediaries), including lots of individual top-tens (everyone from the Francis Davis Jazz Poll, a fair number of ballots from PJRP (Pazz & Jop Rip-Off Poll) and EW (Expert Witness) polls, other jazz critics I could find, occasional lists like most of the Rolling Stone staff lists. I've included all but metal-exclusivists from the Album of the Year lists, most of the extra lists compiled by Metacritic, and a bunch of lists from Acclaimed Music Forums (incomplete, as I ran out of time midway through rechecking them).

The following are some EOY lists that have influenced my recent listening:

I voted in the PJRP and EW polls. Statistics professor Brad Luen published some centricity/eccentricity data, which rated me the 3rd most eccentric of EW's 43 voters. I probably would have been spared notice (he only listed the top 5) had I not kicked Big Thief off my ballot in favor of William Parker's Universal Tonality -- my top historical release of the year, for which there was no separate category in this poll. The reason I dropped Big Thief is that, while I liked it a lot when I reviewed it, I didn't buy it, and never heard it again since. That's true of a lot of records (including Beyoncé's, which I did buy but still haven't replayed), but I felt that for one certain to finish that high, I should be more sure of myself.

A stray comment in the thread complained that "like half the people didn't even put [Beyoncé] on their ballot." Luen replied: "It did great among FB voters but was soft among non-FB voters (who trend old/grumpy/hetero)." (Luen collected ballots from Facebook and Substack comments as well as direct email.) Having published several ballots already, I took the easy route and emailed my ballot in, thus adding to the demographic Luen identified.

For the record, my albums ballot was (the bracket figure is how many other people voted for the album, and their points):

  1. The Regrettes: Further Joy (Warner) 16 [23/2]
  2. Tyshawn Sorey Trio + 1: The Off-Off Broadway Guide to Synergism (Pi) 15 [8/1]
  3. William Parker: Universal Tonality (2002, Centering/AUM Fidelity) 13 [-]
  4. Gonora Sounds: Hard Times Never Kill (The Vital Record) 11 [10/1*]
  5. Dave Rempis/Avreeayl Ra Duo: Bennu (Aerophonic) 10 [-]
  6. Omri Ziegele Where's Africa: That Hat (Intakt) 8 [-]
  7. Charlotte Adigery & Bolis Pupul: Topical Dancer (Beewee/Because Music) 7 [15/2]
  8. Saba: Few Good Things (Saba Pivot) 7 [7/1]
  9. Bob Vylan: Bob Vylan Presents the Price of Life (Ghost Theatre) 7 [21/3]
  10. Nilufer Yanya: Painless (ATO) 6 [55/5]

*Totals for Gonora Sounds not given, so I'm making the most reasonable guess.

Only one of my four jazz albums got another vote (8/1), but all six of my non-jazz picks got other votes (123/13). I'm not sure how the eccentricity figure is calculated, but this doesn't strike me as extremely eccentric. (By the two more eccentric scores were by voters who each voted for nine albums no one else voted for, and voted for the same tenth album, which no one else voted for.) What is odd, in this crowd at least, is that none of my ten albums appeared on Christgau's Dean's List (his top 86 albums for the year, although close to a quarter of them came out in 2021 or earlier). On the other hand, 42 + 4 (carry overs) of his albums appeared on my A-list, so the split at the top is hard to explain.

There is much more running through my head that I could write, not least thoughts triggered by Christgau's year-end essay, and by especially the first of two pieces he reprinted on Tom Verlaine, who died at 73 over the weekend. One part of the reason I moved to New York City in 1977 was Christgau's sense of excitement over the new, still-unrecorded bands centered around CBGB's. I never saw Television, but I was witness to Christgau's first spin of Marquee Moon, which knowing the band as he did, he instantly thrilled to while I was trying to puzzle out not just the music but his reaction. I hadn't given any thought to how I might write a memoir of those years -- I've been focusing more on much earlier periods -- but there's a fair amount to delve into there.

In rushing to get this out, I'm leaving the usual bookkeeping unsettled. I'll have to catch up with that later. (Looks like I never did December, either.) It's also possible I won't declare 2022 over quite yet, but I'm definitely taking a break, especially from deadlines.


My mother was born 110 years ago today, in 2013, the youngest of ten children, the eldest born in 1900. Her parents had died before I was born, but my father's parents were born in 1894/1895, and I knew them fairly well before my grandfather died in 1964. Through them I can reach quite a ways back into history. They've made me sensitive to how much change the last few generations have lived through, and thereby how poorly the ideas and ideals they grew up with fare in today's world. (I may seem old and grump to Luen, but believe me, I know much older and grumpier.)

My mother died in 2000, three months after my father (who was ten years younger, but went first). I made Chinese food for my mother's last birthday. Since then I've often made a special dinner to commemorate her birthday: either Chinese, or the old fare of Arkansas (where fried chicken was the dish you served guests). I couldn't do that this year given the crunch of closing out this post. But that's my next project: Thursday, a belated dinner party, and a much needed break from several months of hacking my way through the year's recorded music. I don't see myself as ever approaching this year's stats again. Regardless of whether I set a personal record this year, what I am most certain of is that there's never been a year before 2022 where I've not heard more music. And that's only going to increase -- at least as long as the electricity stays on.


New records reviewed this week:

Ab-Soul: Herbert (2022, Top Dawg): Rapper Herbert Stevens IV, from Los Angeles, fifth album since 2011. Started out smart and sensitive, but has added a lot of bombast and bullshit. B [sp]

Archers of Loaf: Reason in Decline (2022, Merge): Important alt-rock band in the 1990s, broke up in 2000, main guy Eric Bachmann moving on to record albums under his own name and under the group/alias Crooked Fingers. Band regrouped in 2011, but didn't record a new album until this one. B+(*) [sp]

Authentically Plastic: Raw Space (2022, Hakuna Kulala): A DJ/producer based in Kampala, Uganda, name unknown ("dubbed 'Demon of the Nile' by conservative Ugandan media & politicians," so maybe for good reason), first album. Tracks lead with drums, which may lead to slight tweaks but hold pretty steady. B+(**) [sp]

Avantdale Bowling Club: Trees (2022, Years Gone By): New Zealand-based rapper Tom Scott, second album, sees this as a jazz project. Band may lean that way (including horns, sitar, and tabla), but this is driven by words, and insight ("rat race is nothing but a race to the grave"). B+(***) [sp]

Backxwash: His Happiness Shall Come First Even Though We Are Suffering (2022, Ugly Hag): Zambian rapper, based in Canada, fourth album. She likes heavy beats and harsh sounds, which smack of metal, without falling into doldrums. B+(**) [sp]

Batida: Neon Colonialismo (2022, Crammed Discs): DJ/producer Pedro Coquenão, born in Angola, raised in Lisbon, eighth album since 2009, working name synonymous with a style of electronic dance music in Lisbon, also a Brazilian cocktail. B+(**) [sp]

Ecko Bazz: Mmaso (2022, Hakuna Kulala): Uganda rapper, based in Kampala (which is becoming an important recording center), first album, with help from an international array of beat masters (Debmaster, Slikback, DJ Die Soon). B+(**) [sp]

Bruno Berle: No Reino Dos Afetos (2022, Far Out): Brazilian singer-songwriter, first album. Like more than a little fringe music, it stradles too easy and too weird. B+(**) [sp]

Blackpink: Born Pink (2022, YG Entertainment): K-pop girl group, second album, albeit a short one (8 songs, 24:34), a mix of electropop, hip-hop, plus the occasional change of pace. I'm not wild about the latter, though these aren't bad. Still hard to relate to K-pop, at least removed form the dance videos, which are slick and catchy. B+(***) [sp]

The Bobby Lees: Bellevue (2022, Ipecac): Rock group founded in Woodstock in 2018, Sam Quartin is singer-guitarist, third or fourth album. Harder than most rock I like, but tighter, and while I can't vouch for the lyrics, this has enough edge and snarl to make me think there must be more to it. A- [sp]

Bodysync: Radio Active (2022, self-released): Collaboration between Canadian DJ Ryan Hemsworth and Charlie Yin (Giraffage). B [sp]

Apollo Brown & Philmore Greene: Cost of Living (2022, Mello Music Group): Detroit hip-hop producer Erik Vincent Stephens, several dozen albums since 2007, many featuring guest rappers, like Greene here (two previous albums, his 2018 debut titled Chicago: A Third World City). More hard times, grit, and perseverance, sliding over beats that don't work too hard. A- [sp]

Buruklyn Boyz: East Mpaka London (2022, self-released): Kenyan drill group, basically a clipped form of hip-hop, even more so than the accents suggesting grime. This spareness is their attraction, but also their limit. B+(**) [sp]

Sarah Mary Chadwick: Flipped It (2022, Kill Rock Stars, EP): Singer-songwriter from New Zealand, seems to be based in Australia, album Me and Ennui Are Friends, Baby was a Christgau pick I've never quite fathomed. Five songs (18:37). If you didn't get her before, this primitivist set won't help. B [sp]

Che Noir: The Last Remnants (2022, TCF Music Group, EP): Buffalo rapper, sixth album since 2019, second album this year, a short one (9 songs, 24:08). Beats steady, six feat. guests. B+(**) [sp]

Alaide Costa: O Que Meus Calos Dizem Sobre Mim (2022, Tres Selos): Brazilian singer, debut 1959, 83 when this came out. Not in any great hurry. B+(***) [sp]

DJ Lag: Meeting With the King (2022, Ice Drop): South African DJ/producer Lwazi Asanda Gwala, hailed as a Gqom pioneer since his "2016 breakout" (although amapiano, Afrotech, and Afrhouse are also mentioned). First full-length album, if anything too long (79:00). B+(***) [sp]

Focalistic: Ghetto Gospel (2022, 18 Area Holdings): South African rapper, listed as amapiano, soft edge, easy flow, could be deep or shallow, but pleasing enough not knowing. B+(***) [sp]

Mabe Fratti: Se Ve Desde Aquí (2022, Unheard Of Hope): Cellist, also sings, from Guatemala, based in Mexico City, fourth album. B+(**) [sp]

Moktar Gania & Gwana Soul: Gwana Soul (2022, MusjoMusic/Nuits d'Afrique): Gnawa singer from Morocco, member of a famous family of Gnawa musicians (although the shifting names are disorienting: presumably this is the same Maâlem Mokhtar Gania who recorded with Bill Laswell in 2016 and with Peter Brötzmann and Hamid Drake in 2020. B+(***) [sp]

George: Letters to George (2022 [2023], Out of Your Head): Filed under drummer John Hollenbeck, who wrote all the songs except for two covers (a folk song from Cyril Tawney and an eerie -- or perhaps I mean creepy? -- "Bang Bang"), probably voiced by alto/soprano saxophonist Aurora Nealand. With Anna Webber on tenor sax, and Chiquita Magic on keyboards (Isis Giraldo, also credited with voice). Music is agreeably slippery. B+(***) [cd] [01-27]

Hallelujah the Hills: The Music of the Beatles as Channeled in 1958 by the Echo Lake Home for the Potentially Clairvoyant (2022, Hallelujah the Hills): Beatles songs, mostly done as old-timey ballads, an effect meant to signify time travel. Supposedly the liner notes help. B+(*) [bc]

Marina Herlop: Pripyat (2022, Pan): Spanish (or Catallan) composer, third album, sings and plays keyboards and other instruments, with occasional guest spots. B+(*) [sp]

Honey Dijon: Black Girl Magic (2022, Classic): Transgender DJ, originally from Chicago, now based in New York and Berlin, second album (first was The Best of Both Worlds). Dance beats, all tracks have guest features, presumably singers. The house feels a bit like a cage at first, then grows into a world. B+(***) [sp]

Horse Lords: Comradely Objects (2022, RVNG Intl): Postrock band from Baltimore, fifth album since 2012. Gets a lot more interesting on the third track, where they lose the beat and find a saxophone. Nothing else quite at that level, but lots of interesting patterns and variations. B+(***) [sp]

Ryoji Ikeda: Ultratronics (2022, Noton): Japanese visual and sound artist, based in Paris, twenty or so albums since 1995, "focuses on the minutiae of ultrasonics, frequencies and the characteristics of sound in relation with human perception and the mathematical dianoia applied to music, time and space." That sells his beats short. B+(*) [sp]

Gisle Røen Johansen: Kveldsragg (2018 [2022], Jazzaggression): Norwegian saxophonist, also credited with keyboards, first album, backed by guitar, pedal steel (2/3 tracks), electric bass, acoustic bass (Ingebrigt Håker Flaten), and drums (Gard Nilssen), with minor vocals on the second side. Leans spiritual at first, but toward the end the guitar gets heated up, and the sax comes out to play. B+(***) [sp]

KMRU & Aho Ssan: Limen (2022, Subtext): Kenyan sound artist Joseph Kamaru, based in Berlin, ten albums since 2020. First mention I've seen of this collaborator. Three longish pieces, ambient but a bit harsh. B+(*) [sp]

Knucks: Alpha Place (2022, Nodaysoff): British rapper, Ashley Afamefuna Nwachukwu, born in London, first album after a couple EPs and a mixtape. B+(**) [sp]

Pierre Kwenders: José Louis and the Paradox of Love (2022, Arts & Crafts): Congolese singer-rapper, based in Canada, third album. B+(*) [sp]

Anysia Kym: Soliloquy (2022, self-released, EP): Electronica producer with a minor in hip-hop, based in New York, Bandcamp page has several releases. Seven songs, 14:37, guest spots for Semiratruth and MIKE. B+(*) [bc]

Mike LeDonne/Eric Alexander/Jeremy Pelt/Vincent Herring/Kenny Washington/Peter Washington: The Heavy Hitters (2022 [2023], Cellar): Only surprise here is that LeDonne plays piano instead of organ. Mainstream stars (plus guitarist Rale Micic on one track), sound great at first, but not forever. B+(**) [cd]

Leroy [c0ncernn]: Dariacore 3 . . . At Least I Think That's What It's Called? (2022, self-released): This seems to be the work of a Jane Remover, although that could just be another alias, like Dltzk and High Zoey. Bandcamp and Discogs credit this (and its predecessors) to Leroy, but Spotify and others prefer C0ncernn. The cartoon cover is relatively normal, at least compared to the frantic, glitchy mashup of hard beats and stray sounds. I'm rather surprised that I can stand this, perhaps because it maintains an inherent musicality despite the randomness. B+(***) [sp]

Leroy: Dariacore (2021, self-released): Rewind one year (plus one day), so this is the formula, a little less splashy. B+(**) [sp]

Leroy: Dariacore 2: Enter Here, Hell to the Left (2021, self-released): Same shtick, only more of it. B+(**) [sp]

Zack Lober: No Fill3r (2022 [2023], Zennez): Canadian bassist, originally from Montreal, bow based in the Netherlands, fair number of side credits since 2003, this seems to be his first album as leader. With Suzan Veneman (trumpet) and Sun-Mi Hong (drums). B+(*) [cd] [02-24]

Logic: Vinyl Days (2022, Def Jam): Rapper Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, seventh studio album since 2014, all substantial hits (but this one slipped a bit, chart 12 vs. 1-4 for the rest), but this one got scant notice. Maybe the boasts were in vain -- "when you got this much heat, it's hard to chill" -- or maybe it just runs on too long. Seems pretty solid to me, but what does it mean that my favorite track is the one where he reads the phone book? B+(**) [sp]

Doug MacDonald: Big Band Extravaganza (2022 [2023], DMAC Music): Guitarist, been around, has fun with a conventional big band, most prominent name Kim Richmond (alto sax). B [cd] [01-30]

Madalitso Band: Musakayike (2022, Bongo Joe): Duo from Malawi, made their own instruments: a four-string guitar, a kick drum, a one-string slide bass with a bench to sit on. They generate a propulsive groove and engaging vocals, a bit removed from the South African model but on the fringe of that paradigm. A- [sp]

Kali Malone: Living Torch (2022, Portraits GRM): Stockholm-based electronica composer, originally from Denver, has several albums, this a 33:33 piece split for LP. She plays various synthesizers and software instruments, thickly ambient deepened with trombone (Mats Åleklint). B [sp]

Marlowe: Marlowe 3 (2022, Mello Music): Hip-hop duo, rapper Solemn Brigham and producer Austin Hart (L'Orange). Third album since 2018. Speed raps, hard to imaging improving on the flex beats. A- [sp]

Martha: Please Don't Take Me Back (2022, Dirtnap): English alt-rock band from Durham, fourth album, I was quite taken by their second (Blisters in the Pit of My Heart), but this has fewer hooks and more bluster. B+(*) [sp]

The Master Musicians of Jajouka Led by Bachir Attir: Dancing Under the Moon (2022, Glitterbeat, 2CD): Moroccan group of Jbala Sufi trance musicians, split off in 1992 from an earlier group going back to the 1950s. B+(*) [sp]

MC Bin Laden: Invasão Dos Fluxos (2022, Kondzilla): Brazilian rapper, Jefferson Cristian dos Santos de Lima, moniker got my attention, but he identifies as an evangelical Christian. Genre listed as funk mandelão or funk ostenação or maybe baile funk (to pick one I've actually heard of). Spare metallic beats, grows on you. B+(***) [sp]

Metropolitan Jazz Octet: The Bowie Project (2020-22 [2023], Origin): Featuring singer Paul Marinaro, but driving force seems to be producer Jim Gailloreto (tenor sax/soprano sax/flute), who assembled this group, to play and sing David Bowie songs. Sometimes the songs transcend the arrangements and even the voice. Sometimes not. B [cd]

Moonchild Sanelly: Phases (2022, Transgressive): South African (Xhosa) singer-songwriter, Sanelisiwe Twisha, started as a kwaito dancer, calls her music "future ghetto punk," second album, draws on amapiano, dancehall, and hip-hop, but it winds up sounding like like an exceptionally tight slab of ultra-funky pop. A thick slab, too, running 66 minutes, but the physical is broken up into two CDs (or LPs). A- [sp]

Nerves Baddington: Micro (2022, Apt. B Productions): Hip-hop trio from Birmingham, Alabama, debut album 2017 (Dopamine Decoder Ring), released this and Macro on same day. MC Ryan Howell (InkLine), with John McNaughton on bass and Cam Johnson on drums. Dense beats with a metallic zing. B+(***) [sp]

Nerves Baddington: Macro (2022, Apt. B Productions): Released same day, another 45 minutes of dense soundscape. Marginal distinctions would take more time than I can spend, but either album (or both) could rate higher. B+(***) [sp]

Noori & His Dorpa Band: Beja Power! Electric Soul & Brass From Sudan's Red Sea Coast (2022, Ostinato): Band from Port Sudan, "a truly ancient community," introducing its own distinct style: beja. However ancient it may be, the string grooves aren't all that far removed from guitar music across the whole breadth of the Sahara. Very nice. Perhaps a bit too nice? B+(***) [sp]

Nord1kone/DJ Mrok: Tower of Babylon (2022, SplitSLAM): Rapper and DJ (credited here with "scratches"), don't know much about either, but note that Chuck D shares executive producer credit, and leads a long list of featured guests, including Gift of Gab. Voice doesn't match Chuck D for gravitas, but no reason not to want another Public Enemy knock-off. A- [sp]

Obongjayar: Some Nights I Dream of Doors (2022, September): Nigerian singer-songwriter, Steven Umoh, based in London, first album after several EPs. B+(**) [sp]

Ozzy Osbourne: Patient Number 9 (2022, Epic): Former Black Sabbath leader, 13th album since he went solo in 1980, first one I've bothered to listen to -- and probably the last, although it's no worse than their 1970s albums: a sign of artistic stasis, maybe even mellowing with age (74). B- [sp]

Oùat: Elastic Bricks (2021 [2022], Umlaut): Trio, based in Berlin, of Simon Sieger (piano), Joel Grip (bass), and Michael Griener (drums); first album, original pieces, mostly by Grip with a couple by Sieger. B+(**) [sp]

Rema: Rave & Roses (2022, Marvin/Jonzing World): Nigerian singer-songwriter, Divine Ikubor, first album after a breakout EP. B+(***) [sp]

Dawn Richard & Spencer Zahn: Pigments (2022, Merge): R&B singer from New Orleans, released a 2005 album as Dawn Angeliqué, appeared in the group Danity Kane, went solo in 2013. She tends to recede into Zahn's electronica here. B [sp]

Rizomagic: Voltaje Raizal (2021, Disasters by Choice): Colombian electronica duo, Diego Manrique and Edgar Marún, seems to be their first album. Rhythm vamps, fast and fractured. Short: 7 cuts, 28:43. B+(**) [bc]

Séketxe: Funjada (Kandendue Kaluanda) (2022, Chasing Dreams): Angolan hip-hop crew, related to drill, I don't understand a word, but dig their intensity and fractured beats. Only album I'm aware of, sometimes touted as an EP (8 songs, 30:43). B+(**) [sp]

ShrapKnel: Metal Lung (2022, Backwoodz Studioz): Hip-hop duo, Curly Castro and PremRock (Mark Debuque), started out in Wrecking Crew, second album. Sharp edges turn in on themselves. B+(*) [sp]

Somadina: Heart of the Heavenly Undeniable (2022, self-released): Nigerian, born there but grew up in the Netherlands, first album, billed as an EP (11 songs, 27:33). I've scanned through a dozen articles, and can't identify a label, but I've seen various references to her "shapeshifting identity." Comes out of the gate with a big pop production, then gets more idiosyncratic, opening up space for a slow vamp and a ballad. No connection I can discern to Afrobeat, but there may be one. A- [sp]

Styroform Winos: Styrofoam Winos Play Their Favorite M. Hurley Songs (2022, Sophomore Lounge): Nashville group -- Lou Turner, Trevor Nikgrant, Joe Kenkel, each with a solo album or more -- with a self-titled debut and a second At Home album. Pandemic project, as they picked favorite songs from the whimsical folksinger, and passed them around. I've heard, and enjoyed, almost all of Hurley's albums. Still, the only songs I recognize are from Have Moicy! B+(*)

They Hate Change: Finally, New (2022, Jagjaguwar): Hip-hop duo from Tampa, Vonne Parks and Andre Gainey, who count themselves as anglophiles, so are more into Goldie and Dizzee Rascal than most American rappers. B+(*) [sp]

Pat Thomas: Pat Thomas Plays the Duke (2021 [2022], New Jazz and Improvised Music): British pianist, many albums since 1993, recently noticed tearing into Cecil Taylor, plays his solo arrangements of ten Ellington compositions, from "Prelude to a Kiss" to "C Jam Blues." Few are recognizable, reminding me of the dictum, "it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing." None do (although the closer hops, maybe even pogoes). B+(*) [bc]

Wau Wau Collectif: Mariage (2022, Sahel Sounds): Senegalese-Swedish group, second album, mostly recorded in Senegal and mixed, with overdubs, in Sweden, by producer Karl Jonas Windqvist. B+(*) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Terry Allen & the Panhandle Mystery Band: Smokin the Dummy (1980 [2022], Paradise of Bachelors): Born in Wichita, he grew up in Lubbock, Texas; he trained as an architect, got a BFA, distinguished himself as a sculptor and painter, released an album in 1975, and a better one in 1979, Lubbock (On Everything). This sequel disappointed, but decades later you have to admire his energy and form, even if it doesn't stick with you. B+(**) [sp]

Terry Allen & the Panhandle Mystery Band: Bloodlines (1983 [2022], Paradise of Bachelors): Fourth album, worked harder on his songwriting, built more firmly on gospel, but faith gets tested, not least when Jesus carjacks him. B+(***) [sp]

Broadcast: The Maida Vale Sessions (1996-2003 [2022], Warp): English indietronica band, recorded four albums 2000-09, one more after singer Trish Keenan died in 2011. This came from three John Peel and one Evening Session," the album named for the BBC studio. Ends strong. B+(*) [bc]

Disco Reggae Rockers (1973-86 [2022], Soul Jazz): Mostly reggae-ified covers of American disco tunes, mostly avoiding big hits (although "Move On Up" is an ideal starter), and featuring sub-stellar talent (among the more famous: Derrick Harriott, Devon Russell, Pete Campfell, Hortense Ellis). Pretty hit and miss. B [sp]

Iftin Band: Mogadishu's Finest: The Al-Uruba Sessions (1982-87 [2022], Ostinato): Somali band, shortly before Osama Bin Laden baited the US to intervene and destroy the country. B+(***) [sp]

Rise Jamaica! Jamaican Independence Special (1962 [2022], Trojan, 2CD): Celebrating the 60th anniversary of Jamaica's independence, one disc is devoted to "Jamaican Radio Hits of '62," the other to "The Duke's Dubplates '62" (from the archives of Duke Reid). Reggae's golden years were still in the future, although there are hits you'll recognize: "Miss Jamaica", "Forward March," "Midnight Track," "Housewife's Choice," maybe Lord Creator's "Independent Jamaica." The others, perhaps even more so the not-yet-dub side, feel right for the time. B+(***) [sp]

Old music:

Mon Laferte: Mon Laferte Vol. 1 (2015, Intolerancia): Singer-songwriter from Chile, recorded an album in 2003 as Monserrat Bustamente, moved to Mexico. B+(*) [sp]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Leap Day Trio: Live at the Cafe Bohemia (Giant Step Arts) [02-24]
  • Ben Rosenblum Nebula Project: A Thousand Pebbles (One Trick Dog) [02-10]
  • Jim Snidero: Far Far Away (Savant) [02-03]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, January 23, 2023


Music Week

January archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 39462 [39414] rated (+48), 42 [36] unrated (+6: 14 new, 28 old).

Very little to add about this week's music. I was struggling to think of things to look up early in the week, so I wound up searching down the EOY aggregate file for highest-rated unheard records, sometimes singling out genres (country probably got the most attention). The highest-ranked records I still haven't heard yet:

  1. Ozzy Osbourne: Patient Number 9 (Epic) {22}
  2. Alexisonfire: Otherness (Dine Alone) {20}
  3. They Hate Change: Finally, New (Jagjaguwar) {20}
  4. Rolo Tomassi: Where Myth Becomes Memory (MNRK) {19}
  5. Sorry: Anywhere but Here (Domino) {19}
  6. Bonny Light Horseman: Rolling Golden Holy (37d03d) {18}
  7. Cass McCombs: |Heartmind (Anti-) {18}
  8. Osees: A Foul Form (Castle Face) {18}

The frequency of unheard items picks up significantly after 300: The Callous Daoboys (303); Knucks (309); Obongjayar (315); Rammstein (317); Dawn Richard & Spencer Zahn (318); Undeath (320); Afghan Whigs (324); The Big Moon (327); Naima Bock (328); Demi Lovato (332); Paolo Nutini (335); Static Dress (340); Big Joanie (344); Porcupine Tree (357); Warmduscher (364); Willow (365); Utada Hikaru (380); Horse Lords (381); The Orielles (389); Slipknot (396); Tedeschi Trucks Band (398); Wild Pink (400); Anxious (403); Jessie Buckley & Bernard Butler (404); Goat (409); Ho99o9 (410); King Hannah (412); King Stingray (413); Natalia Lafourcade (414); Kali Malone (415); Rob Mazurek (417); Meshuggah (419); Muse (422); Caitlin Rose (426); Bruce Springsteen (430); And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead (434); Blackpink (436); Built to Spill (439); Coheed and Cambria (441); Grace Cummings (442); Brian Ennels & Infinity Knives (447); Aoife Nessa Frances (448); Marina Herlop (450); Ithaca (453); The Lounge Society (458); Angeline Morrison (460); Pillow Queens (462); Pixies (463); The Soft Pink Truth (467); Witch Fever (471); Wizkid (472); Backxwash (476); The Black Angels (481); Black Star (482); Broken Bells (484); Alex Cameron (485); Christine and the Queens (489); Jake Xerxes Fussell (492); Future (493); Robyn Hitchcock (496).

I'll probably knock a few more of those off next week (so far: They Hate Change, Knucks). I expect to freeze the 2022 file after next week -- I may as well plan now on closing the week/month on January 31 instead of 30. After that, I'll cut back on the 2022 tracking files, although I'll continue to add late entries to the year 2022 lists, including the jazz and non-jazz best-of lists. Looking forward, I haven't started 2023 tracking and metacritic files. Hoping to focus more on other projects going forward, but I'm reluctant to make promises or resolutions.

I posted a pretty substantial Speaking of Which yesterday. The deeper I get into the Ryan Cooper book, the more impressed I am. Before getting into it, I read most of Denise Low's slim Jigsaw Puzzling: Essays in a Time of Pestilence. We've been doing jigsaw puzzles much earlier than the pandemic. Laura usually wanted to do a puzzle when she had a few days off. I had a pair of Springbok puzzle caddies, so was well-prepared to indulge her. One special memory was from 1991: we were working on one while watching coverage of the Soviet coup against Gorbachev, while a hurricane was blowing outside (we were in Boston). Since she retired, we've had a puzzle going continuously. Low, by the way, was once poet laureate of Kansas, although she's since moved to northern California.


New records reviewed this week:

Courtney Marie Andrews: Loose Future (2022, Fat Possum): Country singer-songwriter from Phoenix, ninth album since 2013, has a light touch. B+(**) [sp]

Kelsea Ballerini: Subject to Change (2022, Black River): Pop singer-songwriter, working out of Nashville, but almost all of her songs have multiple co-writers and kitchen sink production -- nothing distinctively country about that, even when you get a title like "Love Is a Cowboy" or "You're Drunk, Go Home." B+(*) [sp]

Lakecia Benjamin: Phoenix (2022 [2023], Whirlwind): Alto saxophonist, from New York, fourth album since 2012, this one co-produced by Terri Lyne Carrington, who aims for crossover not by compromise but by turning up the heat. Opens and closes with sirens and Angela Davis. Guest vocals from Dianne Reeves and Georgia Anne Muldrow, and spoken word by Sonia Sanchez and Wayne Shorter, but the sax speaks loudest and clearest. A- [cd] [01-27]

The Cactus Blossoms: One Day (2022, Walkie Talkie): Country band from Minnesota, fifth album since 2011. Principally singer-songwriters Jack Torey and Page Burkum. B [sp]

Bill Callahan: YTILAER (2022, Drag City): Singer-songwriter from Maryland, recorded as Smog 1990-2007, tenth album under his own name, seems to be regarded as a big deal but I've never warmed to his deadpan vocals and minimal guitar. Title this time is a mirror image of REALITY -- I won't try to reproduce that affectation here, but much of the press has indulged him. First third of the album drags as usual, but he almost gets interesting after that. B+(*) [sp]

Loyle Carner: Hugo (2022, EMI); British rapper, stage name a play on his last name (Coyle-Larner), third album. B+(**) [sp]

Paul Cauthen: Country Coming Down (2022, Thirty Tigers/Velvet Rose): Country singer-songwriter from East Texas, started in group Sons of Fathers, third album (counting his debut My Gospel). Has a voice you'll be able to recognize again, with more grit and humor than his résumé suggests. B+(*) [sp]

Chat Pile: God's Country (2022, The Flenser): Noise rock/sludge metal band from Oklahoma, named after the toxic waste left around lead-zinc mines. First album. Rates for chops and attitude, and is all the more amusing at the low volume that makes it tolerable to me. And yeah, in case you're wondering, God's country is indeed a toxic dump. B+(*) [sp]

Brent Cobb: And Now, Let's Turn to Page . . . (2022, Ol' Buddy): Country singer, fifth album since 2006, turns to the hymn book here, opening with an easy-going "Just a Closer Walk With Thee," and continuing to pick out old chestnuts that remind me of the comforts of church without the histrionic crap that drove me away. B+(**) [sp]

Luke Combs: Growin' Up (2022, Columbia Nashville): Country singer-songwriter from North Carolina, third album, all number ones, includes a duet with Miranda Lambert. B+(*) [sp]

Rosalie Cunningham: Two Piece Puzzle (2022, Machine Elf): British singer-songwriter, second album after previous group Purson. B [sp]

Lucrecia Dalt: ¡Ay! (2022, RVNG Intl): Colombian singer-songwriter, studied as a civil engineer, based in Berlin, albums since 2005 (initially as Lucrecia), previously unfamiliar to me, and hard to pigeonhole: the beats Latin but subtler, the electronics layered acoustically, the vocals foreign, the pacing and tension unique. A- [sp]

Sarah Davachi: Two Sisters (2022, Late Music): Canadian electroacoustic musician, based in Los Angeles, couple dozen albums since 2013. Plays organ, synthesizer, bells here, with extra strings, voices, and (one cut near the end) trombone, mostly to ambient effect. B+(*) [sp]

Richard Dawson: The Ruby Chord (2022, Domino): British singer-songwriter, from Newcastle Upon Tyne, albums since 2005, draws on (or deconstructs) folk music. Voice reminds me a bit of Robert Wyatt, and music is comparably off-kilter, but that's as far as the similarity goes. B- [sp]

Drake: Honestly, Nevermind (2022, OVO Sound/Republic): Canadian rapper Aubrey Drake Graham, seventh album since 2011, all seven have topped both rap and pop charts, despite that aside from his debut, he albums get very little critical respect. Still, this one slides by painlessly enough. B+(*) [sp]

Drake & 21 Savage: Her Loss (2022, OVO Sound/Republic): Duo with Atlanta rapper Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph. B [sp]

Brent Faiyaz: Wasteland (2022, Lost Kids): R&B singer Christopher Wood, from Maryland, second album. B+(*) [sp]

First Aid Kit: Palomino (2022, Columbia): Swedish folk-pop duo, sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, fifth album since 2010. More pop these days. B+(*) [sp]

Gabriels: Angels & Queens Part 1 (2022, Atlas Artists/Parlophone): Soul group from California, featuring vocalist Jacob Lusk with producers Ryan Hope and Ari Balouzian, first album (or first half of one, Part 1 (7 songs) coming in at 27:29, with a Part 2 promised for March, 2023. B+(**) [sp]

Ghost: Impera (2022, Loma Vista): Swedish rock band, fifth album since 2010, close enough to attract a metal following but I don't particularly feel it -- so this is relatively listenable, but loses interest midway (e.g., "Watcher in the Sky"). B- [sp]

Gilla Band: Most Normal (2022, Rough Trade): Irish band, changed name from Girl Band for this third album. Scattered stabs at punk, hardcore, noise. B [sp]

Keiji Haino: My Lord Music, I Most Humbly Beg Your Indulgence in the Hope That You Will Do Me the Honour of Permitting This Seed Called Keiji Haino to Be Planted Within You (2019 [2022], Purple Tap/Black Editions): Japanese experimental musician, b. 1952, has close to 100 albums, mostly plays guitar and sings, but choice of instrument here is hurdy gurdy, with a lot of drone resonance. B+(*) [sp]

Fred Hersch & Esperanza Spalding: Alive at the Village Vanguard (2022 [2023], Palmetto): Piano and vocal duo, the latter perversely insisting on lower case, and not bothering with the bass she first made her name with. She scats a lot, but finds her voice on "Girl Talk." B+(***) [cd]

Hot Chip: Freakout/Release (2022, Domino): British synthpop band, eighth album since 2004. B+(*) [sp]

Jeremy Ivey: Invisible Pictures (2022, Anti-): Nashville singer-songwriter, plays guitar, started in Buffalo Clover, married the singer (Margo Price), third solo album (counting one co-credited to the Extraterrestrials). B [sp]

Khruangbin & Leon Bridges: Texas Sun (2020, Dead Oceans, EP): Houston psych rock band, mostly instrumental, got a gig opening for retro-soul singer Bridges in 2018, leading to this EP (and another in 2022), which really should be filed under the singer's name. Four songs, 20:58. B+(**) [sp]

Khruangbin & Leon Bridges: Texas Moon (2022, Dead Oceans, EP): A second EP, five songs (22:37). Focus shifts slightly to the band, who are chill. B+(*) [sp]

Lambchop: The Bible (2022, Merge/City Slang): Nashville indie band, albums since 1990, Kurt Wagner sings. Slow and ponderous, as usual. B [sp]

Live Forever: A Tribute to Billy Joe Shaver (2022, New West): Not taking any chances here: the twelve songs are famous, iconic even, and the various artists are not just stars but well practiced in tributes, with Willie Nelson getting a second helping ("Fast Train to Georgia") after sharing the title song with Lucinda Williams. One I didn't recall but I'm glad I heard it here: "Ain't No God in Mexico." Steve Earle picked that one. A- [sp]

The Mars Volta: The Mars Volta (2022, Clouds Hill): Prog rock band from El Paso, seventh album since 2003, seems fairly normal. B [sp]

Carson McHone: Still Life (2022, Merge): Austin-based singer-songwriter, third album, close to country but enough? B+(*) [sp]

Tyler Mitchell Octet: Sun Ra's Journey (2021 [2022], Cellar): Young bassist, his credentials assured by giving a featuring spot to Marshall Allen. B+(***) [cd]

Nas: King's Disease III (2022, Mass Appeal): Rapper Nasir Jones, dropped Illmatic 28 years ago and never let up, although he's return to his 2020 title for a third time. B+(***) [sp]

Kim Petras: Slut Pop (2022, Republic, EP): German pop singer-songwriter, based in Los Angeles, trans, has a lot of singles, as far back as 2008 but especially since 2017, with a couple picked up before this super-trashy, super-smutty 7-track, 15:51 EDM teaser. I, too, "want to see how big it gets." A- [sp]

Aaron Raitiere: Single Wide Dreamer (2022, Dinner Time): Country singer-songwriter from Kentucky, based in Nashville, first album, has written songs for a dozen name singers -- Anderson East, Miranda Lambert, Natalie Hemby, and Ashley Monroe return the favor with cameo and production credits here. B+(***) [sp]

Jim Snidero: Far Far Away (2022 [2023], Savant): Alto saxophonist, from DC area, studied at UNT, moved to New York in 1981, more than two dozen albums since 1984 (more side credits). Very solid outing, with guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel getting a "featuring" credit on the cover, and an impeccable rhythm section of Orrin Evans (piano), Peter Washington (bass), and Joe Farnsworth (drums). B+(***) [cd] [02-03]

Stormzy: This Is What I Mean (2022, Def Jam): British rapper Michael Omari, third album, not much beat. B [sp]

Vieux Farka Touré & Khruangbin: Ali (2022, Dead Oceans): Guitarist-singer-songwriter from Mali, following his famous father's footsteps, tenth (or 12th) album since 2007, joined here by a Houston psych rock trio that has been diversifying of late (e.g., two EPs with Leon Bridges). They are near invisible here, probably for the better. B+(***) [sp]

Phil Venable: Bassworks, Vol. 1 (2022, Soul City Sounds): Solo bass, three pieces (38:35), captivating within those limits. B+(*) [bc]

The Wonder Years: The Hum Goes On Forever (2022, Hopeless): Emo band from Pennsylvania, Dan Campbell the singer, seventh album since 2007. Probably has some merit, but I lose interest when they get pumped up. B [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Miles Davis: Miles Davis With Tadd Dameron Revisited: Live 1949 at the Royal Roost NYC & in Paris at Festival Internationale De Jazz (1949 [2023], Ezz-Thetics): Six tracks from a tentet led by pianist Dameron at the Royal Roost, plus nine tracks by a co-led quintet a Paris festival, with James Moody (tenor sax), Barney Spieler (bass), and Kenny Clarke (drums). Sound reminds me of Bird's Royal Roost dates, although this group is less focused and more slippery. Davis gets some good runs in Paris, especially on "Rifftide." B+(***) [bc]

Miles Davis Quintet: 2nd Session 1956 Revisited (1956 [2022], Ezz-Thetics): When Davis signed with Columbia, he still owed Prestige four albums, which the Quintet -- John Coltrane (tenor sax), Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums) -- knocked out in two sessions, one on May 11, the other on October 26, 1956. The albums were slowly released, up to mid-1961, to capitalize on Columbia's publicity. This singles out the latter session, most of which was released on the first two albums (Cookin' and Relaxin'), plus one track from the other two (Workin' and Steamin'), plus a take of "'Round Midnight" (the title of their Columbia debut). A- [bc]

Old music:

Dave Bartholomew: The Big Beat of Dave Bartholomew: 20 of His Milestone Productions 1949-1960 (1949-60 (2002), Capitol): Eight of them credited to Bartholomew, three more to Smiley Lewis, the others oddly misdirected. B+(**) [sp]

Doc Cheatham: Hey Doc! [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1975 [1997], Black and Blue): Trumpet player, born in Nashville but remembered for New Orleans. I first noticed him on a 1993 album called The Eighty-Seven Years of Doc Cheatham, which is to say shamefully late, although so he still had another career highlight left: 1997's Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton. He spent most of his career tucked away in big bands (Wilbur De Paris, McKinney's Cotton Pickers, Cab Calloway, Claude Hopkins, Perez Prado, and Benny Goodman). He started headlining around 1973, shortly before this session with Sammy Price (piano), alto sax, trombone, bass, and drums (J.C. Heard). No credit on vocals. B+(**) [sp]

Jan Garbarek Quartet: Afric Pepperbird (1970 [1971], ECM): Norwegian saxophonist, mostly tenor but also credited bass sax, clarinet, flute, and percussion. Not quite his first album, but this begins his long association with ECM. Quartet names on cover: Terje Rypdal (guitar, bugle), Arild Andersen (bass, thumb piano, xylophone), and Jon Christensen (percussion). The sax is rougher on these early recordings, especially here. That's not a complaint. B+(***) [sp]

Jan Garbarek/Bobo Stenson/Terje Rypdal/Arild Andersen/Jon Christensen: Sart (1971, ECM): Norwegian group, all students of George Russell, near the start of major careers. Garbarek plays tenor sax, bass sax, and flute, and wrote four (of six) pieces. The others play piano, guitar, bass, and drums, with Andersen and Rypdal writing one piece each. B+(***) [sp]

Jan Garbarek/Arild Andersen/Edward Vesala: Triptykon (1972 [1973], ECM): Soprano/tenor/bass saxophone-bass-drums trio. Still on edge. B+(***) [sp]

Jan Garbarek: Places (1977 [1978], ECM): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano/alto), quartet with John Taylor (piano/organ), Bill Connors (guitar), and Jack DeJohnettte (drums). Four long-ish pieces, ranges from atmospheric to towering, a master of tone, the guitar filling in eloquently. A- [sp]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Don Aliquo: Growth (Ear Up) [02-17]
  • Skip Grasso: Becoming (Barking Coda Music) [02-01]
  • Jo Lawry: Acrobats (Whirlwind) [02-10]
  • Dave Liebman: Live at Smalls (Cellar Music) [02-03]
  • Doug MacDonald: Big Band Extravaganza (DMAC Music) [01-30]
  • Markus Rutz: Storybook (Jmarq) [02-17]
  • The Dave Stryker Trio: Prime (Strikezone) [02-03]
  • Eldad Tarmu: Tarmu Jazz Quartet (Queen of Bohemia) [03-01]
  • Rachel Therrien Latin Jazz Project: Mi Hogar (Outside In Music) [02-13]
  • Greg Ward's Rogue Parade: Dion's Quest (Sugah Hoof) [02-10]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, January 16, 2023


Music Week

January archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 39414 [39353] rated (+61), 36 [42] unrated (-6: 8 new, 28 old).

Still decompressing from the pressures of releasing the Francis Davis Jazz Poll as well as numerous other stresses I've probably complained about too much already, so I don't have much to say this week. One way of destressing has been to do rote work: the biggest chunk of which was adding all of the jazz critics ballots into my EOY aggregate file (including ones we didn't receive from other sources like Free Jazz Collective). One result of this is that jazz albums have risen to an unnatural prominence in my overall standings (top 30, numbered by overall rank, points in braces, my grade in brackets):

  1. Mary Halvorson: Amaryllis (Nonesuch) {146} [***]
  2. Cecile McLorin Salvant: Ghost Song (Nonesuch) {97} [**]
  3. Immanuel Wilkins: The 7th Hand (Blue Note) {90} [A-]
  4. Makaya McCraven: In These Times (International Anthem) {81} [**]
  5. Tyshawn Sorey Trio: Mesmerism (Yeros7 Music) {73} [***]
  6. Myra Melford's Fire and Water Quintet: For the Love of Fire and Water (RogueArt) {64} [***]
  7. Tyshawn Sorey + 1 [With Greg Osby]: The Off-Off Broadway Guide to Synergism (Pi) {64} [A]
  8. Ches Smith: Interpret It Well (Pyroclastic) {54} [**]
  9. JD Allen: Americana Vol. 2 (Savant) [**]
  10. Terri Lyne Carrington: New Standards Vol. 1 (Candid) {52} [**]
  11. Wadada Leo Smith: The Emerald Duets (TUM) {52} [A-]
  12. Mary Halvorson: Belladonna (Nonesuch) {50} [*]
  13. Andrew Cyrille/William Parker/Enrico Rava: 2 Blues for Cecil (TUM) {46} [A-]
  14. Matthew Shipp Trio: World Construct (ESP-Disk) {45} [***]
  15. Charles Lloyd: Trios: Chapel (Blue Note) {44} [B]
  16. Sun Ra Arkestra Directed by Marshall Allen: Living Sky (Omni Sound) {43} [A-]
  17. Moor Mother: Jazz Codes (Anti-) {42} [A-]
  18. Nduduzo Makhathini: In the Spirit of Ntu (Blue Note) {41} [*]
  19. Melissa Aldana: 12 Stars (Blue Note) {39} [***]
  20. David Murray/Brad Jones/Hamid Drake Brave New World Trio: Seriana Promethea (Intakt) {38} [A-]
  21. Patricia Brennan: More Touch (Pyroclastic) {35} [***]
  22. The Comet Is Coming: Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam (Impulse!) {35} [**]
  23. Jeff Parker: Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy (Eremite) {35} [A-]
  24. Joshua Redman/Brad Mehldau/Christian McBride/Brian Blade: Long Gone (Nonesuch) {35} [***]
  25. Marta Sanchez: SAAM (Spanish American Art Museum) (Whirlwind) {35} [A-]
  26. Binker & Moses: Feeding the Machine (Gearbox) {34} [**]
  27. Samara Joy: Linger Awhile (Verve) {34} [**]
  28. Miguel Zenón: Música De Las Americas (Miel Music) {34} [A-]
  29. David Virelles: Nuna (Pi) {33} [**]
  30. Tomas Fujiwara's Triple Double: March (Firehouse 12) {30} [A-]

These rankings will probably sink back if/when I add more non-jazz lists (if memory serves, the top jazz album usually winds up somewhere 20-35), but the value of spending much more time on this is receding. I've always maintained that the purpose of the list is to scout out records of possible interest to me, hence there have always been genres that I have sought out (I have 1161 jazz albums listed, of 4062 total) and others that I have avoided -- nonetheless, I counted 219 metal albums, but I've only heard 4; the country and hip-hop lists are actually shorter, but I've heard much more (64 of 138 country, 97 of 212 hip-hop).

Reviewing the ballots, I discovered three errors I had made in compiling, so I was glad to get them compiled. I've also heard from several critics who didn't get invited and (rightly) thought they should have: apologies to Karl Ackermann and Bill Milkowski. If/when we do this again -- and I'm pleased to report that Francis sounds more optimistic than I am -- we should make a serious effort to review and expand the voter rolls well in advance of the November crunch.

One thing I belatedly realized from this chart is that I never received physical CDs of Halvorson's Nonesuch albums nor of Sorey's Mesmerism. I reviewed them from streams as soon as they dropped, but was perplexed at not being able to find them when I racked up all of my 2022 A/A-/B+(***) jazz CDs. I rechecked several top jazz albums during the Poll, but only Wilkins got a grade bump. Although I've heard all 30 albums above, only 12 came as CDs.

One person I want to single out from the Jazz Poll's In Memoriam list is John Swenson. I remember him from when he was reviewing records for Rolling Stone in the mid-1970s. He went on to edit Stone's jazz and blues record guides, and moved on to New Orleans, where he wrote New Atlantis: Musicians Battle for the Survival of New Orleans (post-Katrina). I bumped into him once, and was surprised and flattered that he seemed to be as pleased to meet me as I was to find him. As I recall, we were both pub rock fans at the time, so our later independent paths into jazz may have common roots. He joins John Morthland and Ed Ward in my personal pantheon of recently departed colleagues.

More old music this week, mostly from the Penguin Guide 4-star unheard list. Most get a single play and snap judgment, so I wouldn't be surprised if my grades wind up being low (even for Brubeck's Jazz Impressions of Japan). New records come from various sources, including Jazz Poll ballots, last week's Christgau Consumer Guide, and Jason Gross's Ye Wei Blog list. Plus I finally dipped into my 2023 promo queue.

I finished Fred Kaplan's 1959: The Year Everything Changed. The chapter on Margaret Sanger and the birth control pill is worth the price of the book, but so are another half-dozen chapters, not least those on three revolutions in jazz that hit that year: Miles Davis's Kind of Blue (with due credit for George Russell), Dave Brubeck's Time Out, and Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come. (Charles Mingus and Cecil Taylor get mentioned in passing, but not the former's fabulous Mingus Ah Um.) I turned nine that year, and scarcely noticed anything highlighted (mostly political events, including the space race), but Kaplan shows how the 1960s were locked and loaded, ready to burst forth, as they did for me -- many established so quickly that they looked to me like the natural world yet were still so new and divergent they shocked my parents and their generation's cultural guardians. Some overlap with Louis Menand's The Free World, which is more careful in laying out early post-WWII changes than looking for a specific pivot point.

Last, I wrote yet another Speaking of Which last night, and made a brief pass at touching it up today. The biggest change was that I looked up links for most of the statements I made in the introduction. I probably should do that sort of thing more often, but it's hard to keep up that much focus on something that gets forgotten so quickly.


New records reviewed this week:

Art Ensemble of Chicago: The Sixth Decade From Paris to Paris: Live at Sons D'Hiver (2020 [2023], RogueArt, 2CD): Quintet formed in 1966, the best known group to emerge from the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Music), from their inception dedicated to transcending jazz and performing "great black music." The original group stuck together more than 30 years, until the deaths of Lester Bowie (1999), Malachi Favors (2004), and Joseph Jarman (2019). That left Roscoe Mitchell (sax) and Famoudou Don Moye (percussion), who keep the faith with a long list of guests: I count 18 here, where the vocalists (Moor Mother, Roco Córdova, Erina Newkirk) are most prominent, and the percussionists most numerous. I don't love all the vocals, but there's much to celebrate here. A- [cd] [01-20]

Asake: Mr. Money With the Vibe (2022, 'YBNL Nation/Empire): Nigerian singer-songwriter Ahmed Ololade, first album (after an EP). Draws on hip-hop more than Afrobeat, but gets a nice flow either way. B+(***) [sp]

John Bailey: Time Bandits (2022 [2023], Freedom Road): Trumpet/flugelhorn player, only has a couple albums but has been around a long time. Mainstream quartet here with George Cables (piano), Scott Colley (bass), and Victor Lewis (drums). B+(**) [01-23]

Lucian Ban: Ways of Disappearing (2021 [2022], Sunnyside): Romanian pianist, moved to New York in 1999, dozen-plus albums since 2002, this one solo. Originals plus one piece each by Annette Peacock and Carla Bley. B+(**) [sp]

Barcelona Art Orchestra: Ragtime Stories (2021 [2022], UnderPool): Large (17-piece) group, conducted by pianists Néstor Giménez and Llis Vidal, with Lluc Casares (clarinet/tenor sax) and Joan Vidal (drums) also composing and arranging. May have some swing or earlier references, but is slick and fully postmodern. B+(***) [sp]

Bliss Quintet: Dramaqueen (2022, Jazzland): Norwegian quintet, first album, no credits on Bandcamp page, and I don't recognize any names on the cover, but figure trumpet, sax, piano, bass, drums. B+(*) [sp]

Madison Cunningham: Revealer (2022, Verve Forecast): Singer-songwriter from California, fourth album. B+(**) [sp]

Czarface: Czarmageddon (2022, Silver Age): Hip-hop group, with Inspectah Deck (of Wu-Tang) joining the duo 7L & Esoteric. Twelfth album since 2013. Trademark cartoon cover, lots of turntable squeaks, beats sometimes leaning toward punk. B+(***) [sp]

Falkner Evans: Through the Lines (2022 [2023], CAP): Pianist, originally from Tulsa, moved to New York in 1985, seventh album since 2001, his second solo outing. Measured and thoughtful. B+(**) [cd] [01-20]

Mimi Fox Organ Trio: One for Wes (2022 [2023], Origin): Guitarist, albums as far back as 1987, trio here with Brian Ho (organ) and Lorca Hart (drums). She comes from a generation of American guitarists who were almost all under Wes Montgomery's spell, so the dedication isn't a surprise, but the music -- no Montgomery tunes, six originals (only dedication there is the probable typo, "For Django, Avec Amor"), covers of Bobby Timmons and Lennon-McCartney -- points elsewhere. B+(*) [cd] [01-20]

Fred Frith/Susana Santos Silva: Laying Demons to Rest (2021 [2023], RogueArt): Guitar and trumpet duo, one 41:57 piece, seems abstract at first but grows on you. B+(***) [cd] [01-20]

Hard Rubber Orchestra: Iguana (2022, Redshift): Large Canadian group, founded in 1990 and directed by John Korsrud, based in Vancouver, only a handful of albums. This one credits 21 musicians (including five drummers plus a percussionist), includes' three Korsrud compositions but he's not among the credits. B+(*) [sp]

Sly Johnson: 55.4 (2022, BBE): French singer, first name Sylvère, fourth album, "blends soul and hip-hop" (I'd say funk). Includes a slow, evocative "What's Going On." B+(**) [sp]

Linqua Franqa: Bellringer (2022, Ernest Jennings): From Athens, Georgia, "linguist by day, lunatic lady rapper by night." A little unsteady, but gets political toward the end, asking the labor solidarity "which side are you on?." B+(**) [bc]

Lyrics Born: Vision Board (2022, Mobile Home): Rapper Tom Shimura, boasts he's "The Best Rapper in the World," and while that song doesn't make the case, I can't think of anyone who can pump up a beat like him, then match the clever string of words he flows in and around. He secures guests for six (of nine) songs, yet they all join together. Short (29:34). A- [sp]

Joanna Mattrey/Gabby Fluke-Mogul: Oracle (2022, Relative Pitch): Violin duo (Mattrey's credit: viola, stroh violin), a sound I find intrinsically treacherous. Still, if you can get past that reaction, you get a lot of tricky interaction, including a bit of joust, which is actually a bit less jarring than a free sax squawk. B+(**) [sp]

Fergus McCreadie: Forest Floor (2022, Edition): Scottish pianist, second album, trio with bass (David Bowden) and drums (Stephen Henderson). Impressive speed, retains his touch when he slows down. B+(**) [sp]

Joe McPhee & Tomeka Reid: Let Our Rejoicing Rise (2021 [2022], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Opens with a McPhee speech on Juneteenth and "Nation Time," leading into a tenor sax and cello duo, a bit on the solemn side. B+(**) [bc]

Montparnasse Musique: Archeology (2022, Real World): Duo, Algerian-French producer Nadjib Ben Bella, and South African DJ Aero Manyelo, the latter's hip-hop (or kwaito or gqom) with a dash of mbube wrapped up in electronic glitz. A- [sp]

Simon Moullier: Isla (2022 [2023], self-released): Vibraphone player, second album, quartet with piano (Lex Korten), bass, and drums. Nice easy flow. B+(**) [cd] [02-17]

Native Sound System: Nativeworld (2022, Native): Not a group, evidently a British radio show (DJs Sholzstilltippin and Addy Edgal), tied to a Nigerian magazine, so this might be more of a various artists compilation. B+(*) [sp]

Youssou N'Dour Et Le Super Etoile De Dakar: Special Fin D'Année 2022 (2022, self-released, EP): Four tracks, 20:41. Not essential, but the last track would fit nicely in one of his typically brilliant albums. B+(**) [sp]

Maggie Nicols: Are You Ready? (2021 [2022], Otoroku): Scottish free jazz singer, plays piano, original name Margaret Nicolson, first albums 1982. This one is divided into two sets: "Songs" (39:46) and "Whatever Arises" (39:25). [r]

Oort Smog: Smeared Pulse Transfers (2017 [2019], Sweatband, EP): Los Angeles duo, Patrick Shiroishi (sax) and Mark Kimbrell (drums). Billed as prog rock, or experimental, or brutal prog -- anything but jazz, but even they admit Coltrane-Ali is the source of the duo format. I'd venture no wave, but they're probably too young to have even heard of it. Ten punk-length pieces (19:46), not that they feel abbreviated, or distinct. B+(*) [sp]

Oort Smog: Every Motherfucker Is Your Brother (2022, AKP): Slightly longer at 28:59, but only one song, so you can call it anything from a single to an album. Long form means they can take a while warming up before breaking out. B+(**) [sp]

PinkPantheress: Take Me Home (2022, Warner Music, EP): Gemma Walker, British pop singer, got a lot of attention for her To Hell With It mini-album. Three more songs, 7:40, starting off with the previously released single "Boy's a Liar." Pretty good, but very slight. Not sure if she'll ever produce a real album -- her 10-track debut only ran 18:36 -- but it's hard to focus on these micro-doses. B+(*) [sp]

Pongo: Sakidila (2022, Virgin): Angolan singer, Engrácia Domingues, based in Lisbon, first album after a single and an EP. The typical Portuguese lilt lurks in the background, but the beats are so insistent you barely notice it. A- [sp]

Simona Premazzi: Wave in Gravity: Solo Piano (2021 [2023], PRE): Italian pianist, based in New York, fourth album since 2006. Solo, as advertised. Half originals, half standards, including a Monk. All engaging. B+(**) [cd] [02-17]

Scrunchies: Feral Coast (2022, Dirtnap): Punk duo from Minneapois, Laura Larson (guitar) and Danielle Cusack (drums), second album after several previous group alignments (including Buzzcunts, a Buzzcocks cover band). B+(***) [bc]

Elliott Sharp/Eric Mingus: Songs From a Rogue State (2022, Zoar): Guitarist, many albums since 1978, many straying from jazz. Mingus sings, plays some bass. Leans toward blues, or Beefheart, but both harsher and wilder. B+(*) [sp]

Kalia Vandever: Regrowth (2022, New Amsterdam): Trombone player, based in Brooklyn, second album, original pieces, some guest alto sax (Immanuel Wilkins), but mostly built around piano and/or guitar. B+(***) [sp]

Skip Walker: Tina's Contemplation: A Reflection on the Genius of Tina Brooks (2022, Skip Walker Music): Brooks was a short-lived tenor saxophonist (1932-74) who recorded four mostly brilliant albums for Blue Note 1958-61. Walker is a drummer, tackling and contemplating Brooks' songbook with piano (Travis Shook) and bass (Essiet Okon Essiet). Very nice record, but I'm missing the saxophone. B+(***) [sp]

Yelawolf/Shooter Jennings: Sometimes Y (2022, Slumerican): Michael Atha, started out as a white rapper from Alabama, teams up with the son of Waylon Jennings to make a fairly slick but hard-hitting rock album. B [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Ashbury Stabbins Duo: Fire Without Bricks (1976 [2021], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Duo, Larry Stabbins (tenor/soprano sax) and Roy Ashbury (drums), originally released in 1977. Struggles to be heard, interesting when it is. B+(*) [bc]

Pedro Lima: Recordar É Viver: Antologia Vol. 1 (1981-87 [2022], Bongo Joe): Singer from São Tome, an island off the west coast of Equatorial Africa, controlled by Portugal until 1975. Lima (1944-2019) recorded regularly in the 1980s-1990s, the source of this compilation (which includes unreleased tracks). Strong influence here of Congolese rhumba and soukous, especially in the guitar. B+(***) [sp]

Mainstream Funk: Funk, Soul, Spiritual Jazz 1971-75 (1971-75 [2022], WeWantSounds): A sampler from Bob Shad's 1964-76 label Mainstream Records, which started as a mostly jazz label -- their first releases were reissues from the Commodore and Time labels. Many of the musicians here were better known for jazz (Sarah Vaughan, who opens with a cover of "Inner City Blues"; Blue Mitchell, Johnny Coles, Buddy Terry), and most of the other cuts are longer on vamps than on vocals. B+(**) [bc]

Freddy Roland Y Su Orquesta De Moda: Freddy Roland Y Su Orquesta De Moda (1968 [2022], Vampisoul): Saxophonist, Ángel Pablo Bagni Stella, from Argentina (1932-2004), played with Pérez Prado, wound up in Peru (home of his wife, a cumbia singer known as Veronikha). Bandcamp page has no credits or dates, but this matches a 1968 LP, which Discogs has as Vol. II. No doubt someone could assemble a quality retrospective (perhaps even one of those 4-CD Proper Boxes), but this slice of time is pretty wonderful. A- [bc]

Old music:

Abash [Tommy Skotte/Anders Ekholm/Nils Danell]: Abash (1993, Dragon): Swedish trio, first of three albums through 2000, my inclination in parsing the cover is to credit the names and leave Abash as the title, but later albums follow the group name, and that's how I initially filed them. Besides, Ekholm (tenor sax) is the central figure, having written six songs, vs. one each' for bassist Skotte and drummer Danell). B+(***) [r]

Albert Ayler: Nuits De La Fondation Maeght 1970 (1970 [2002], Water): Tenor saxophonist, the defining force of the 1960s avant-garde, his death in November 1970 slamming the door on an era (especially coming after Coltrane's death in 1967). His last albums on Impulse were poorly regarded, but these final live sets have been widely bootlegged, and given the 4-CD box set treatment by Elemental Music in 2022 (Revelations: The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings, which finished 3rd in the Jazz Critics Poll, but only fragments are available to stream). This edition is a good sampler, superseding the two Shandar LPs with a single 73:55 CD. Quartet, with Call Cobbs (piano), Steve Tintweiss (bass), and Allen Blairman (drums), with a Mary Maria vocal at the end. A- [sp]

Jon Balke & Magnetic North Orchestra: Kyanos (2001 [2002], ECM): Norwegian pianist, albums since 1991, group a septet from his 1994 album Further, with trumpets (Per Jørgensen and Arve Henriksen), sax (Morten Halle), cello, bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]

Tony Bevan/Paul Rogers/Steve Noble: Bigshots (1991 [1992], Incus): British saxophonist (tenor/soprano), second album, a trio with bass and drums. B+(*) [bc]

Tony Bevan/Alexander Frangenheim/Steve Noble: Twisters (1995 [1996], Scatter): A second trio, Bevan playing soprano and bass saxophone, with bass and percussion. B+(*) [bc]

Michiel Borstlap: The Sextet Live! (1995, Challenge, 2CD): Dutch pianist, first album, has a fairly stellar front line with trumpet (Eric Vloeimans), alto/c-melody sax (Benjamin Herman), and tenor/soprano sax (Yuri Honing), plus bass and drums. Plenty of energy, especially on trumpet. B+(**) [r]

Anthony Braxton: In the Tradition (1974 [1989], Steeplechase): Often identified as Volume 1 these days, but I don't see any edition in Discogs, starting with the original five-track LP release in 1974, that makes that explicit. One of the lowest-rated albums in all of the Penguin Guide, but one can only speculate over the pique. Maybe the stinky sound of the contrabass clarinet, which all but buries "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," but on "Ornithology" it merely slows Braxton down to human speed. The Copenhagen rhythm section is pretty great, with pianist Tete Montoliu getting a lot of solo space, backed by NHØP (bass) and Tootie Heath (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Anthony Braxton: In the Tradition: Volume 2 (1974 [1987], Steeplechase): A second set of tunes from the same session, this first appeared in 1976, and picked up a seventh piece for CD reissue. Similar mix of tunes, including more Marsh and Parker, plus a long "Body and Soul." B+(**) [sp]

Anthony Braxton: Five Compositions (Quartet) 1986 (1986, Black Saint): Numbers 88, 101, 122, 124, and 131, recorded in Milan with David Rosenboom (piano), Mark Dresser (bass), and Gerry Hemingway (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Anthony Braxton: Ninetet (Yoshi's) 1997 Vol. 1 (1997 [2002], Leo, 2CD): Two compositions, 207 and 208, one 73:09, the other 74:00, performed by a group with six saxophonists plus guitar (Kevin O'Neil), bass (Joe Fonda), and percussion (Kevin Norton). B+(***) [r]

Bob Brookmeyer New Art Orchestra: New Works/Celebration (1997 [1999], Challenge): Valve trombonist (1929-2011), started playing piano in big bands, first album (1954) was a quartet, but he was always well-regarded as an arranger, and formed this big band here (eventually recording six albums through 2011). B+(**) [sp]

Reuben Brown Trio: Ice Scape (1994 [1997], SteepleChase): Pianist, very little about him online, aside from a couple appearances in the 1970s, and two albums on SteepleChase. This one gets help from Rufus Reid (bass) and Billy Hart (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Reuben Brown: Blue and Brown (1994 [1998], SteepleChase): A second album, this one solo. B+(**) [sp]

Dave Brubeck: Octet (1948-49 [1991], Fantasy/OJC): Some of the pianist's earliest recordings, first appearing in 1950 as Old Sounds From San Francisco (two EPs, then a 10-inch LP, and finally as Octet on a 12-inch LP in 1956). Group included Dick Collins (trumpet), Bob Collins (trombone), David Van Kriedt (tenor sax), Paul Desmond (alto sax), William O. Smith (clarinet & baritone sax), Jack Weeks (bass), and Cal Tjader (drums). Some slick moves, not that all of them work. B+(**) [r]

Dave Brubeck Quartet: Jazz at the College of the Pacific (1953 [1987], Fantasy/OJC): Early quartet featuring Paul Desmond (alto sax), with Ron Crotty (bass) and Joe Dodge (drums), shortly after the highly recommended Jazz at Oberlin, and shortly before the more famous Jazz Goes to College. B+(***) [r]

The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Brubeck Time (1954 [1955], Columbia): Two originals plus six standards, from "Jeepers Creepers" to "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" The first of many Brubeck albums with "time" in the title, but this one doesn't seem to have anything to do with the unorthodox time signatures he made much of from 1959 (Time Out) forward. B+(***) [r]

The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Jazz Impressions of the U.S.A. (1956-57 [1957], Columbia): The first of several Jazz Impressions albums, must have seemed like an easy take for a group that made its bread and butter touring college campuses. The cover is a map with the song titles, like "Ode to a Cowboy," along the borders and coasts. B+(***) [sp]

The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Jazz Impressions of Eurasia (1958, Columbia): On one of those State Department "good will" tours, they crossed Northern Europe to Poland, then down to Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and on to India, Pakistan, Ceylon, and Afghanistan ("one of the most fascinating countries we visited," where they were "awakened by the weirdest sound I ever heard"). A bit more exotic, but hasn't found the handle yet. B+(**) [sp]

The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Jazz Impressions of Japan (1964, Columbia): The pianist studied with Darius Milhaud, who advised him to travel the world and keep his ears open. Brubeck did, even if the Japanese affects here are somewhat stock (gongs and such). Upbeat songs like "Toki's Theme" really jump out, and Paul Desmond is even more sublime than usual. A- [sp]

The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Jazz Impressions of New York (1964 [1965], Columbia): Four songs with "Broadway" in the title, others with "Washington Square" and "Central Park," but also a "Bossa Nova" and a "Rumba." B+(***) [sp]

Gary Burton/Keith Jarrett: Gary Burton and Keith Jarrett (1969-70 [1971], Atlantic): The vibraphonist was two years older than Jarrett, but got a quick jump with New Vibe Man in Town at 18 in 1961, and had something of a fusion rep, although that was not his only spin. The pianist released his first two albums in 1968, after playing with Art Blakey and Charles Lloyd, and added a short stint with Miles Davis before this album came out. Jarrett plays electric piano and soprano sax here, the group filled out with guitar (Sam Brown), bass (Steve Swallow), and drums. B [sp]

Stoney Edwards: Mississippi You're on My Mind (1975, Capitol): Black country singer, recorded six albums for Capitol 1971-76, newly reissued (at least digital) -- I've looked for this for ages, but until now only found the 20-track Razor & Tie The Best of Stoney Edwards: Poor Folks Stick Together, still the better deal. One song name-checks Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell. He draws more on the latter. A- [sp]

Jackie McLean & Tina Brooks: Street Singer (1960 [1980], Blue Note): Brooks is a tenor saxophonist, had a hot streak recording four albums 1959-61 for Blue Note, dropped from sight, and died at 42 in 1974. This session, recorded with McLean on alto sax, and a rhythm section of Kenny Drew, Paul Chambers, and Art Taylor, was shelved until it came out in Japan in 1980, and finally in the US in 2000. No idea why they sat on this, other than that McLean was in the midst of his own hot streak, from New Soil to Let Freedom Ring to One Step Beyond and Destination: Out -- maybe a classic joust didn't seem far out enough? Also note that only Brooks' True Blue was released at the time. A- [sp]

Lucinda Williams: Little Honey (2008, Lost Highway): Only album in my database I hadn't heard, so I figured why not? Voice going but not yet gone. Songs substantial by any standards but maybe not hers. Identifies rock and roll, and has the guitars to prove it. B+(***) [sp]


Grade (or other) changes:

PinkPantheress: To Hell With It (2021, Parlophone, EP): British pop singer, barely 20, first short mixtape (10 songs, 18:36), vocals feathery light, enough so that this got tagged as "atmospheric drum & bass," but pay close attention and get to the point. Hint for me was a turn of phrase I hadn't heard since Lily Allen. [was: B+(**)] A- [sp]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • George: Letters to George (Out of Your Head) [01-27]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, January 9, 2023


Music Week

January archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 39353 [39330] rated (+23), 42 [39] unrated (+3: 14 new, 28 old).

In early November, Francis Davis decided that he couldn't afford the time needed to run a 17th annual edition of his Jazz Critics Poll. He asked me to take over, as I had done most of the grunt work last year, and had helped out for many years before that. I agreed, figuring I'd spent a lot of time this year tracking music, even aggregating ratings, plus I had been procrastinating on other projects, so why not finish out the year doing a good turn? I organized a mailing list, and sent ballots out around November 13, with a December 12 deadline. I wound up collecting and compiling 151 ballots: down a bit from 2021's 156, but still a good showing. I worked out a deal with Arts Fuse to publish the results, and started to prepare them for publication.

Then I got Covid. While I was never very sick, it created a lot of stress as we tried to keep my wife from getting infected. Also producing a lot of stress was the terminal spiral of our dog Sadie, nearly 15, inherited 8 years ago with Liz Fink died (and as such, sort of a sacred trust). I totally missed our original delivery date, and didn't make any serious progress until New Year's. I finally pulled most of it together on Wednesday, and sent the pieces in Thursday. They were published Friday afternoon, about the same time we had a vet visit to put the dog down.

The archive index page is: The 17th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Poll: 2022. This includes links for the articles published at Arts Fuse:

The two pieces by me were originally conceived of as four, but Bill Marx wanted to combine the tables with the essays. Francis's essay came in after I had handed all of my pieces in. He had seen all of my stuff by then.

The archive page also includes links for complete results (the Arts Fuse list stops at 50 new releases, and 20 reissues/historical), and for all of the individual voter ballots:

I suppose I'll have more to say about the Poll, its results, and the process behind it, but at this point the combination of exhaustion and frustration probably makes that unwise. As I point out in one (or both) of the essays, the most important point for the poll is the data it generates, so please dig into that. You're bound to learn some things.

My listening of late has been very skewed. One thing that has frustrated me immensely, and is wholly my own fault, is that my system for filing CDs has completely broken down, to where I can't find anything. I should have spent the last several weeks rechecking the year's highest rated albums, but have failed in that almost completely. I wound up streaming the top three finishers, leaving Mary Halvorson's Amaryllis and Cécile McLorin Salvant's Ghost Song at my original B+(***) -- although Salvant's Kurt Weil cover is pretty great -- but I did bump up the grade for Immanuel Wilkins's The 7th Hand considerably. Below that, I could neither stream nor find my copy of Tyshawn Sorey's Mesmerism, another B+(***) first time around. I only had two of the top ten finishers made my A-list, and only three of the next ten (ok, four more from 21-30, three from 31-40, and two from 41-50).

Still, I emerged from this experience with more respect than ever for my fellow voters. I suspect that Francis was a bit reluctant to hand his baby over, because he regarded me as some kind of fringe critic. I found myself caring very little about the standings, as long as the ballots showed considerable thought, which they did.

So, instead of catching up with new jazz (as I did a lot of in November and especially December), I played old records, especially a lot of Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, and Lester Young. Then last week, I pulled up a list of unheard Penguin Guide 4-star albums, and thought I'd knock off a few. Hence, the reviews below are almost all modern but not recent jazz. No idea why I first landed on an Italian clarinetist, but I worked back from him, then returned to the top of the list.


I should mention that despite being so out of it, I did manage a Speaking of Which news revue yesterday. I also added three books to the Recent Reading roll, after several weeks of neglect.

Matt Taibbi did some brilliant work early in his career -- like his designation of presidential campaign coverage as "the stupid season," and his Wimblehack rankings of America's worst political journalists (note that Karen Tumulty has defended her title numerous times, not that I'm sure she's still the worst). But his Twitter feed has become little short of obnoxious, so I was thinking of dropping him -- but I figured the book looked like it had a sound premise, so maybe I should give him that chance. It is, indeed, a pretty good book, even if a little too both-sidesy. And sure, he goes a bit off the deep end on Russiagate, but that's more in his conclusions than in the reporting. And although Rachel Maddow (who I find seriously annoying) splits the cover, in the book she's relegated to an appendix.

Lepore's The Name of War is more about how Prince Philip's War (1675-76) has been remembered than what actually happened, which borders on genocide. Kaplan's 1959 makes a case for that year as one of pivotal change in America. So far, it's pretty convincing. A big concern of my memoir is how much America has changed, especially in the first twenty years of my life (the 1950s and 1960s). By the way, Kaplan is a Jazz Critics Poll voter, and he has a very detailed chapter on Kind of Blue in the book.


New records reviewed this week:

75 Dollar Bill: Social Music at Troost Vol. 3: (Other) People's Music (2015-17 [2022], self-released): Guitar and drums duo, Che Chen and Rick Brown, debut 2014, have added others especially to the live albums they've been releasing on Bandcamp since the lockdown, including sax, vocals, and bass to some of these pieces, as well as "bar patrons, friends, neighbors." This is a set of covers, ranging from Harry Partch and Pauline Oliveros to Yoko Ono to Bob Dylan and Dolly Parton. Phil Overeem's record of the year. A- [dl]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Chet Baker Trio: Live in Paris: The Radio France Recordings 1983-1984 (1983-84 [2022], Elemental Music, 2CD): Collects two sets of radio shots, with Baker playing trumpet and singing, backed by piano (Michel Graillier) and bass (Dominique Lemerle or Riccardo Del Fra). B+(*) [sp]

Old music:

Arcana: The Last Wave (1995 [1996], DIW): Avant-fusion trio, recorded two albums, this first one with Derek Bailey (guitar), Bill Laswell (bass), and Tony Williams (drums), with Laswell producing. B+(***) [sp]

Derek Bailey: Drop Me Off at 96th (1986-87 [1994], Scatter): British avant-guitarist, revered by the Penguin Guide but barely sampled by me, solo from two live sessions. My favorite bit is one where Bailey talks about his record company catalog, as his scattered guitar licks take a back seat. B+(**) [bc]

Chet Baker: The Best Thing for You (1977 [1989], A&M): Don Sebesky produced this session, which doesn't look to have been released until shortly after Baker's death in 1988. The first side is standards, with Paul Desmond (alto sax), Kenny Barron (piano), Ron Carter (bass), and Tony Williams (drums). Second side is a 17:03 Sebesky piece with a bunch of extras. Both sides impress, even Sebesky's kitchen sink treatment. A- [sp]

Chet Baker Quartet Featuring Phil Markowitz: Live at Nick's (1978 [1989], Criss Cross): Trumpet and vocal (including some scat), from a live set in London, with Markowitz on piano, Scott Lee on bass, and Jeff Brillinger on drums. Reissue adds two pieces, expanding from 44:53 to 68:37. B+(***) [r]

Chet Baker Quintet Featuring Warne Marsh: Blues for a Reason (1984 [1985], Criss Cross): No vocals, just trumpet and tenor sax, backed with piano (Hod O'Brien), bass (Cecil McBee), and drums (Eddie Gladden). Marsh makes a huge difference here, cutting corners and slashing around curves, but Baker, too, gets the idea. A- [r]

Chet Baker Trio Featuring Philip Catherine: Chet's Choice (1985 [1989], Criss Cross): Trumpet/vocal with guitar and bass (mostly Jean-Louis Rassinfosse), the CD adding three tracks. Catherine provides a bit of groove, keeping it all running smoothly. A- [r]

Bernt Rosengren: Notes From Underground (1973 [1992], EMI Svenska): Swedish tenor saxophonist, also plays flute and piano, played early on with George Russell, Krzysztof Komeda, and Don Cherry. The occasional vocal tracks have a Middle Eastern sound, and Okay Temiz helps the the percussion (and Bengt Berger plays tabla). The horns can get intense. B+(***) [sp]

Bernt Rosengren: Stockholm Dues (1965 [1989], Columbia): The Swedish tenor saxophonist's first album, at least as a leader, reissued in a "Swedish Jazz Masters" series with three extra tracks. With trumpet (Lalle Svensson), piano, bass, and drums, plus vocals on a couple tracks. B+(**) [sp]

Jimmy Rowles and George Mraz: Music's the Only Thing That's on My Mind (1976 [1981], Progressive): Piano and bass duets, with Rowles singing three songs. B+(**) [sp]

Jimmy Rowles: Shade and Light [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1978 [2001], Black & Blue): Piano trio with George Duvivier (bass) and Oliver Jackson (drums), recorded in Paris. B+(***) [sp]

Terje Rypdal: Lux Aeterna (2000 [2002], ECM): Norwegian guitarist, early on was one of many Norwegians influenced by George Russell, recorded with ECM since 1971. This is a large-scale suite in five movements, featuring Bergen Chamber Ensemble conducted by Kjell Seim, with organ and many strings, way too thick, also a vocal section. Only Palle Mikkelborg's trumpet stands out. B- [sp]

Terje Rypdal: After the Rain (1976, ECM): Essentially a solo album, with the guitarist dubbing in keyboards, soprano sax, flute, and bells. Guitar tone cries and shimmers. B [sp]

Randy Sandke and the New York Allstars: The Rediscovered Louis and Bix (1999 [2000], Nagel Heyer): Trumpet player (also cornet here), not exclusively a trad jazz guy but is such a Beiderbecke fan that he named his son Bix, and Armstrong is hardly an afterthought. One side for each, drawing on obscure compositions. George Avakian produced ("presents"), and the Allstars are aptly named (as well as a nod to Armstrong: featured on the cover are Kenny Davern, Wycliffe Gordon, Dick Hyman, and Ken Peplowski, with many more in the fine print. A- [sp]

Louis Sclavis/Dominique Pifarély/Marc Ducret/Bruno Chevillon: Acoustic Quartet (1993 [1994], ECM): French clarinetist, many albums since 1981, Discogs co-credits with with the violinist, and indeed only their names are above the title, and Pifarély wrote three tracks to Sclavis' four, but the other names (on guitar and bass) are in the same oversized type as the leaders. B+(***) [sp]

Louis Sclavis Sextet: Les Violences de Rameau (1995-96 [1996], ECM): Play soprano sax as well as his usual clarinets, in a group with trombone (Yves Robert), violin (Dominique Pifarély), keyboards, bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]

Louis Sclavis Sextet: Ellington on the Air (1991-92 [2016], Ouch!): An earlier Sextet album, originally issued on IDA, with the same group as above. This one is built around Ellington pieces (including Bubber Miley and Juan Tizol). B+(***) [sp]

Louis Sclavis Quintet: L'Affrontement Des Prétendants (2000 [2001], ECM): Clarinet and soprano sax, joined up front by Jean-Luc Cappozzo on trumpet, backed by cello (Vincent Curtois), bass (Bruno Chevillon), and drums (François Merville). B+(***) [sp]

Bud Shank: The Doctor Is In (1991 [1992], Candid): Alto saxophonist, originally from Ohio, studied in North Carolina, moved to California and played with Short Rogers, Charlie Barnet, and Stan Kenton. A cool jazz icon in the 1950s, recorded regularly but seems like he caught a second wind in the early 1990s. Quartet with Mike Wofford (piano), Bob Magnusson (bass), and Sherman Ferguson (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Tommy Smith: Spartacus (2000 [2001], Spartacus): Scottish tenor saxophonist, had a run of flashy records on Blue Note (1989-94) and Linn (1995-2000) before settling into his own label here. Quartet, featuring credit for pianist Kenny Barron, with James Genus (bass) and Clarence Penn (drums). Leans toward ballads. B+(**) [sp]

Gianluigi Trovesi: Around Small Fairy Tales (1998, Soul Note): Italian clarinet and alto saxophone player, albums since 1978, throw in the kitchen sink here, in the form of Orchestra Da Camera Di Nembro Enea Salmeggia, with oboe, harp, vibes, and at least a dozen string instruments. B+(**) [sp]

Gianluigi Trovesi/Gianni Coscia: In Cerca Di Cibo (1999 [2000], ECM): Clarinet (piccolo/alto/bass) and accordion duets. B+(**) [sp]

Gianluigi Trovesi: Dedalo (2001 [2002], Enja): Leads off with alto sax here, later switching to his clarinets, backed by the WDR Big Band, in an exceptionally festive mood. Also named on the cover: Markus Stockhausen (trumpet), Fulvio Maras (percussion, and Tom Rainey (drums). The opener "Hercab" is funky enough they reprise it live at the end. A- [sp]

Gianluigi Trovesi Ottetto: Fugace (2002 [2003], ECM): The leader, composer of all but two fragments (from trad. and W.C. Handy), plays alto sax and clarinet, the octet rounded out with trumpet, trombone, cello, two bassists, drums, and percussion (Fluvio Maras), with several of those also credited with electronics. B+(***) [sp]


Grade (or other) changes:

Immanuel Wilkins: The 7th Hand (2022, Blue Note): Alto saxophonist, major debut in 2020, second album, quartet with Micah Thomas (piano), Daryl Johns (bass), and Kweku Sumbry (drums), plus guest spots. Even more ambitious: "hour-long suite comprised of seven movements that strive to bring the quartet closer to complete vesselhood." Impressive chops, but also structure and flow. Once again I underrated him. [was: B+(*)] A- [sp]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • John Bailey: Time Bandits (Freedom Road) [01-23]
  • Falkner Evans: Through the Lines (CAP) [01-20]
  • Mimi Fox Organ Trio: One for Wes (Origin) [01-20]
  • Metropolitan Jazz Octet: The Bowie Project (Origin) [01-20]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Saturday, December 31, 2022


Music Week

December archive (done).

Music: Current count 39330 [39275] rated (+55), 39 [36] unrated (+0: 11 new, 28 old).

I've been known to extend the last Music Week of December to the end of the month, because the transition from year to year is such a natural breaking point, and I don't want to cheat 2022. Still, lots of things contributed to this delay, including an illness that didn't lay me up so much as it sapped my will to do anything, and a still persistent problem with internet connection that has made it hard to stream and to research. The main casualty in this has been the Jazz Critics Poll, which should have been published last week, but is now delayed . . . hopefully no later than next week. I still have much to write for it, so I won't dawdle further here.

Note that other website updates are minimal: I haven't done anything to wrap up the monthly Streamnotes; I'm a couple entries behind in the Recent Reading; and who knows what else I've left broken. One thing I can leave you with is a PJRP ballot, which I basically scraped from my 2022 list without further thought:

  1. The Regrettes: Further Joy (Warner) 16
  2. Tyshawn Sorey Trio + 1: The Off-Off Broadway Guide to Synergism (Pi) 15
  3. Gonora Sounds: Hard Times Never Kill (The Vital Record) 14
  4. Big Thief: Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You (4AD) 10
  5. Dave Rempis/Avreeayl Ra Duo: Bennu (Aerophonic) 10
  6. Omri Ziegele Where's Africa: That Hat (Intakt) 8
  7. Charlotte Adigery & Bolis Pupul: Topical Dancer (Beewee/Because Music) 7
  8. Saba: Few Good Things (Saba Pivot) 7
  9. Bob Vylan: Bob Vylan Presents the Price of Life (Ghost Theatre) 7
  10. Nilufer Yanya: Painless (ATO) 6

More details in the EOY lists for Jazz (73 A-list) and Non-Jazz (80 A-list). My tracking file shows 1524 records rated this year (out of 4619 listed). You might also find the EOY Aggregate interesting.


New records reviewed this week:

$ilkmoney: I Don't Give a Fuck About This Rap Shit, Imma Just Drop Until I Don't Feel Like It Anymore (2022, DB$B): Rapper from Virginia, fourth album, this title only slightly longer than the others. B+(**) [sp]

Taru Alexander: Echoes of the Masters (2022, Sunnyside): Drummer, father a saxophonist, started early, playing with Reggie Workman at 13. First album, cover surrounds his picture with a name cloud of various sizes, of which I can make out Billy Higgins and Roland Alexander near the top, elsewhere Tony Williams, Mulgrew Miller, McCoy Tyner, John Coltrane, and largest of all, Freddie Hubbard. Actual group here has Antoine Roney (tenor sax), James Hurt (piano), and Rashaan Carter (bass), with Hanka G. singing one track. B+(***) [sp]

Jake Blount: The New Faith (2022, Smithsonian Folkways): Black (ok, biracial) folk singer-sonwriter from DC, digs deep for his roots, then uses them to sing about the future, a bleak one, though perhaps not as bleak as it would be without a heritage that has survive plenty. B+(**) [sp]

Zach Bryan: American Heartbreak (2022, Warner, 2CD): Country singer-songwriter, born in Okinawa to a Navy family, did eight years in the Navy himself, but was still just 26 when this third album was released, and it's a whopper, with 34 songs running 121:00. B+(**) [sp]

Call Super: Swallow Me (2022, Can You Feel the Sun, EP): British electronica producer, Joseph Richmond-Seaton, three albums, more EPs and singles since 2011. This is basically a single: two tracks, 16:16. One of my favorite beat purveyors, but fairly minor. B+(**) [sp]

Sabrina Carpenter: Emails I Can't Send (2022, Island): Singer-songwriter from Pennsylvania, started as an actor at age 12, fifth album by age 23. B+(***) [sp]

Melissa Carper: Ramblin' Soul (2022, Mae Music): Country singer-songwriter, plays banjo and upright bass, started out with a family band, has two self-released albums on her own, plus two more with Rebecca Patek (one as Buffalo Gals Band). B+(**) [sp]

The Casual Dots: Sanguine Truth (2022, Ixor Stix): Second album, after an eponymous 2004 debut on Kill Rock Stars. DC alt-rock trio, froonted by singer-guitarist Kathi Wilcox. B+(**) [sp]

Marc Copland Quartet: Someday (2022, InnerVoice Jazz): Pianist, 40-plus albums since 1988, a quartet with Robin Verheyen (tenor/soprano sax; also wrote 2 songs to Copland's 3), Drew Gress (bass), and Mark Ferber (drums). Near-perfect balance. A- [sp]

Jon Cowherd Trio: Pride and Joy (2022, Le Coq): Pianist, originally from Kentucky, has a couple albums under his own name, several dozen side credits. Trio here with John Patitucci (bass) and Brian Blade (drums). One oddity is the Vol. 2 in the lower right corner -- as best I can tell, Vol. 1 was a Patitucci album called Trio with Vinnie Colaiuta and Bill Cunliffe. Another oddity is that this opens with two of three tracks (of eight total) with Chris Potter (tenor sax) and Alex Acuña (percussion). B+(*) [sp]

Dandy Dandie: Hypnos & Morphée (2019 [2022], Yolk Music): Side-project composed and arranged by French saxophonist Alban Darche (one track by trumpet player Geoffroy Tamisier), built around texts from Poe, Baudelaire, Verlaine, Roethke, and others, sung by Chloë Cailleton. With piano by Nathalie Darche, but no drums or anything else, has an art song feel, but I like the sax. B+(*) [sp]

Harold Danko: Rite Notes (2021 [2022], SteepleChase): Pianist, thirty-plus albums since 1979, takes this one solo. B+(*) [sp]

Daphni: Cherry (2022, Jiaolong): Canadian electronica producer Dan Snaith, recorded a couple albums as Manitoba (2001-03) before switching to Caribou (2005, 5 albums through 2020) and adding Daphni as an alias (2012, 4th album). B+(***) [sp]

Eli Degibri: Henri and Rachel (2021 [2022], Degibri): Israeli saxophonist (tenor/soprano), studied in Boston and moved to New York before returning in 2011, eighth album since 2003, dedicated to his parents. B+(***) [sp]

Hamid Drake: Dedications: Black Cross Solo Sessions 6 (2020 [2022], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Drummer, originally from Louisiana but moved to Chicago as a child, playing especially with Fred Anderson, and later with William Parker. Solo, nine pieces, each dedicated to free jazz notables, not least the drummers. B+(**) [bc]

Dai Fujikura/Jan Bang: The Bow Maker (2022, Punkt): Japanese composer of "contemporary classical music," based in UK, teams here with the Norwegian composer-producer, who tends to straddle jazz and electronica. Atmospheric, a bit dark at times. B+(*) [sp]

Runhild Gammelsæter & Lasse Marhaug: Higgs Boson (2022, Ideologic Organ): Norwegian voice/electronics duo, she has a PhD in cell physiology and is on the board of a biotech company, but has a background singing in metal bands. He has a rep as a noise artist: I first encountered him in Vandermark groups, but more often these days I see him credited with album art. Second album together, after 2014's Quantum Entanglement. B+(*) [sp]

Julia Hülsmann Quartet: The Next Door (2022, ECM): German pianist, several albums since 2000, fourth Quartet album, with Uli Kempendorff (tenor sax), bass, and drums. Nice, even tone, with a lot of movement beneath the surface. B+(***) [sp]

Shawneci Icecold/Fred Lonberg-Holm: Sepphoris (2022, Underground45): Pianist from Rhode Island, has a hip-hop sideline as well as several free jazz albums, mostly plays harmonium here, with Lonberg-Holm on cello and electronics. Runs 29:57. B+(**) [cd]

Shawneci Icecold/Shuishan Yu: Flowing Water: Music for Guqin & Harpsichord (2022, Underground45): Another duet set, the guqin an ancient Chinese string instrument, plucked fits in nicely with the harpsichord. B+(**) [cd]

Jazzanova: Strata Records: The Sound of Detroit (2022, BBE): German production collective, started in 1995, only a few proper albums but lots of remixes. This one honors a small Detroit label which released nine albums 1974-75, by artists little-remembered, a cocktail of jazzy pop that the producers are tempted to add some fizz to. Sean Haefeli claims most of the vocals, unfortunately. B [sp]

Kassmasse: Bahil | Weg (2022, Meedo): Ethiopian, sings/raps in Amharic, with a catchy beat and agreeable musicality. B+(***)

Lady Aicha & Pisco Crane's Original Fulu Miziki Band of Kinshasa: N'djila Wa Mudjimo (2022, Nyege Nyege Tapes): This seems to be the same group that released a highly recommended EP earlier this year (Ngbaka EP), but at greater length here, not least in the headline credit. Like Congotronics, they salvage and engineer instruments from junk, not just drums but that's what makes this work. A- [sp]

Little Simz: No Thank You (2022, Age 101/Awal/Forever Living Originals): Late album drop from UK rapper Simbi Ajikawo, her fifth, after 2021's Sometimes I Might Be Introvert swept many of the year's best album lists. Major musical contribution here by Dean Josiah Cover (of Sault), with Cleo Sol (also of Sault) backing vocals, but still sharpest when the raps cut through to the front. A- [sp]

Igor Lumpert's Innertextures: I Am the Spirit of the Earth (2021 [2022], Clean Feed): Slovene tenor saxophonist, based in New York since 2000, favored group name dates from a 2004 album title. B+(**) [sp]

João Madeira/Wagner Ramos: Meristema (2022, 4darecord): Portuguese duo, bass and drums, fairly minimal but sustains my interest for 71:11. B+(***) [cd]

Joe Magnarelli: New York Osaka Junction (2022, SteepleChase): Mainstream trumpet player, early albums (1998-2006) on Criss Cross, recent ones (since 2018) here. Osaka connection is organ player Akiko Tsuruga, joined with Gary Smulyan (baritone sax) and Rudy Royston (drums). As hopped up as a big band. B+(*) [sp]

Majamisty Trio: Wind Rose (2021 [2022], Majamisty): Serbian piano-bass-drums trio (Maja Alvanovic, Ervin Malina, Lav Kovac), fourth album, cover notes two featured guests: Aneta George (vocals), and Ulrich Drechsler (clarinet). B+(*) [sp]

Dado Moroni/Jesper Lundgaard/Lee Pearson: There Is No Greater Love (2016 [2022], Storyville): Italian pianist, many albums since 1980, this a trio with a Danish bassist and an American drummer. Flashy swing-oriented piano, gets down on "C Jam Blues." B+(***) [sp]

Odesza: The Last Goodbye (2022, Foreign Family/Ninja Tune): Electropop duo from Washington state, Harrison Mills (Catacombkid) and Clayton Knight (BeachesBeaches), fourth album since 2012. Guest vocals include Juliana Barwick, Bettye LaVette, and Låpsley. B+(**) [sp]

Sadistik x Kno: Bring Me Back When the World Is Cured (2022, self-released): Seattle rapper Cody Foster, half-dozen albums since 2008, helped here by Atlanta producer Ryan Wisler, a founder of CunninLynguists. B+(***) [sp]

Sault: 11 (2022, Forever Living Originals): British collective, anonymous when they first appeared in 2019, their first albums striking me as the second coming of Chic, but we now know that's just one of various masks. We also have a couple identities: producer Inflo (Dean Josiah Cover, who's worked with Little Simz), and vocalist Cleo Sol (who has three of her own albums). This kicks off a batch of five new digital-only albums that dropped on November 1. Strikes me as trivial on its own. Most reviewers glommed them together, then threw up their hands. B+(*) [sp]

Sault: AIIR (2022, Forever Living Originals): Title seems to refer back to their April, 2002 Air, which, as I noted at the time, with its strings and choral vocals "lost me." Same elements here, not worth making fine distinctions over, although this has five new titles, is shorter (25:27 vs. 45:06 for the seven-piece Air). B [sp]

Sault: Earth (2022, Forever Living Originals): African drums, scattered raps, bits of tasty guitar, other effects which may or may not work. B+(*) [sp]

Sault: Today & Tomorrow (2022, Forever Living Originals): A venture into retro rock, some say punk, but nowhere near that immediate, which is probably just as well. B+(*) [sp]

Sault: Untitled (God) (2022, Forever Living Originals): One more, a long one (21 songs, 73:08), "God" appears in several titles and more lyrics, but "We Are Gods" strikes me as suspicious. I'm reminded here how often thinking of God turns the mind to mush, but the last two songs make me wonder whether mush is the point ("God in Disguise," "Life We Rent but Love Is Free"). Possibly the best album of the series, but more likely the worst. B [sp]

Frank Paul Schubert/Kazuhisa Uchihashi/Klaus Kugel: Black Holes Are Hard to Find (2021 [2022], Nemu): German saxophonist (alto/soprano), albums since 2005, in a trio with guitar/electronics and drums. B+(***) [cd]

Maya Shenfeld: In Free Fall (2022, Thrill Jockey): Israeli composer, originally studied classical guitar, but moved to Berlin and got into electronics. First album, stately pieces that drift between ambient and drone. B+(*) [sp]

Sowal Diabi: De Kaboul à Bamako (2022, Accords Croisés): An international project, named for Persian and Bambara words for "question" and "answer," with two singers -- Mamani Keita of Mali and Sogol Mirzael of Kurdish Turkey -- plus Iranian violinist Aïda Nosrat and various French musicians. Both ends of the imaginary journey have been damaged by war and terror, but if Mali is the answer, the answer must be music. A- [sp]

Special Interest: Endure (2022, Rough Trade): Third album from a New Orleans no-wave dance-punk group, a' contradiction they flaunt but don't necessarily resolve. B+(*) [sp]

SZA: SOS (2022, Top Dawg/RCA): R&B singer Solána Rowe, second album, both critical and commercial successes, not that they do much for me. B+(**) [sp]

Ricardo Toscano Trio: Chasing Contradictions (2021 [2022], Clean Feed): Portuguese alto saxophonist, several albums, this a basic trio with Romeu Tristão (bass) and João Pereira (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Wako: Ut Av Det Nye (2022, Øra Fonogram): Norwegian quartet, led by pianist Kjetil Mulelid and saxophonist Martin Myhre Olsen, with Bárður Reinert Poulsen on bass and Simon Olderskog Albertsen on drums. Sixth album since 2015. B+(**) [sp]

Weyes Blood: And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow (2022, Sub Pop): Singer-songwriter Natalie Mering, fifth album, but only the second to see much chart presence. Much pomp and splendour, with a little more beat this time. B [sp]

Jason Yeager: Unstuck in Time: The Kurt Vonnegut Suite (2022, Sunnyside): Pianist, several albums, starts from anecdotes showing the comic novelist, born 100 years ago, to have been a jazz fan, indeed a wannabe jazz pianist, and presents him with some music, which may or may not have tickled his funny bone. B+(**) [cd]

Per Zanussi & Vestnorsk Jazzensemble: Li (and the Infinite Game) (2022, Clean Feed): Norwegian bassist, several albums since 2004, his Zanussi 5 Live in Coimbra (2014) impressed me. Working with a large (11 by my count) group here. B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

The Pyramids: AOMAWA: The 1970s Recordings (1973-76 [2022], Strut, 4CD): Saxophonist Bruce Baker, originally from Chicago, better known since 2012 as Idris Ackamoor, founded this Afrocentric, Sun Ra-influenced group in Antioch, Ohio, in the early 1970s as part of Cecil Taylor's Black Music Ensemble. A- [bc]

Buddy Tate & White Label: Tate's Delight (1982 [2022], Storyville): One of the famed Texas Tenors, came up in the Basie band, has a local Danish quintet for support, playing upbeat songs they all should know, including "Jumpin' at Woodside" and "Lester Leaps In." B+(***) [bc]

Old music:

Roland Alexander: Pleasure Bent (1961 [1962], New Jazz): Tenor saxophonist (1935-2006), from Boston, first album, Discogs only credits him with one more (a live quintet in 1978), came to my attention only when his drummer son released a good hard bop album (although now I recognize a few notable side credits, like Eddie Gale's Black Rhythm Happening (1969). This is remembered as a hard bop lineup, with Marcus Belgrave (trumpet) and Ronnie Mathews (piano), but is more mainstream, the sax tone softer, with a bit of swing. B+(**) [r]

Willi Carlisle: Too Nice to Mean Much (2016, self-released, EP): Arkansas tunesmith, first album, or most of one (six songs, 25:56), got some clever words, banjo too. B+(***) [sp]

Willi Carlisle: To Tell You the Truth (2018, self-released): Twelve songs this time, four credited to Traditional. Seems to be aiming for something darker, more primitivist. B+(**) [sp]

Billy Harper Quintet: Destiny Is Yours (1989 [1990], SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, from Texas, 1975 album Black Saint inspired the name for one of the era's most important labels. With Eddie Henderson (trumpet), Francesca Tanksley (piano), Clarence Seay (bass), and Newman Baker (drums) -- with a new bass player, this group went on to record three volumes of Live on Tour in the Far East (Vol. 2 is especially spectacular). B+(**) [sp]

Ronnie Mathews With Freddie Hubbard: Doin' the Thang! (1963 [1964], Prestige): Pianist (1935-2008), mostly shows up in side credits, starting in 1961 with albums led by Roland Alexander and Bill Hardman. This was his first album as leader, with four originals plus Ellington and Davis covers, with Hubbard on trumpet, Charles Davis on baritone sax, Eddie Kahn on bass, and Albert Heath on drums, shortly before Matthews appeared on Hubbard's Breaking Point. B+(**)

Ronnie Mathews/Roland Alexander/Freddie Hubbard (1961-63 [2002], Prestige): CD reissue combines two LPs, both with Mathews on piano: one with Hubbard on trumpet (Hubbard gets the small cover print, although he's much the bigger name), and another led by tenor saxophonist Alexander, with Marcus Belgrave on trumpet. B+(**) [r]


Grade (or other) changes:

Willi Carlisle: Peculiar, Missouri (2022, Free Dirt): Folksinger from the Ozarks, earned his credentials the new-fashioned way, with a BA in Writing and Performance Studies and a MFA in Poetry, plus two self-released albums before moving up to a label with a name. [was B+(***)] A- [sp]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Art Ensemble of Chicago: The Sixth Decade From Paris to Paris: Live at Sons D'Hiver (RogueArt, 2CD) [2023-01-20]
  • François Carrier/Alexander von Schlippenbach/John Edwards/Michel Lambert: Unwalled (Fundacja Sluchaj)
  • Fred Frith/Susana Santos Silva: Laying Demons to Rest (RogueArt) [2023-01-20]
  • Gerry Hemingway: Afterlife (Auricle)
  • Shawneci Icecold/Fred Lonberg-Holm: Sepphoris (Underground45) [10-02]
  • João Madeira/Wagner Ramos: Meristema (4darecord) [10-16]
  • Shawneci Icecold/Shuishan Yu: Flowing Water: Music for Guqin & Harpsichord (Underground45) [10-27]
  • Frank Paul Schubert/Kazuhisa Uchihashi/Klaus Kugel: Black Holes Are Hard to Find (Nemu) [01-12]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022


Music Week

December archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 39275 [39203] rated (+72), 36 [32] unrated (+4: 8 new, 28 old).

The rated count, and the reviews below, cover 9-10 days, which partly explains the big numbers. But even at the normal 7-day mark I was close to 50, a total that pops up mostly when I go off into deep dives of mostly-familiar old music (often with short run times), like my recent specials on Jerry Lee Lewis (58) and Loretta Lynn (63). This week was nowhere near that easy, but I was locked into a zone counting jazz critics' ballots, and they were generating long lists of things to check out.

The official deadline was end-of-business Monday, but on Tuesday I compiled a list of invited critics who hadn't voted and sent off last-ditch reminders. That produced another half-dozen ballots, bringing the total to 150. That leaves me four short of last year. I'm a bit disappointed, but it's still a respectable turnout, enough to maintain our boast of having the broadest, most comprehensive poll anywhere.

I still have a ton of work to do, starting with adding notes to explain various artifacts of the poll. The biggest problem this year was how many voters wanted to combine votes for two albums in one line, especially where labels released two albums by one artist at the same time: Mary Halvorson, Amaryllis and Belladonna (May 13, on Nonesuch; complicating this, they were released as separate albums on CD and digital, but were packaged together on vinyl); and Ahmad Jamal, Emerald City Nights: Live at the Penthouse 1963-1964 and 1965-1966 (Dec. 2, on Jazz Detective/Elemental).

This week's haul means that I've currently heard and rated 843 jazz albums this year (out of 1443 in my tracking file, a file which now includes 185 albums that got votes in the Jazz Critics Poll that I haven't yet heard, even as I'm shouldering the day-to-day work.

Needless to say, work on my Non-Jazz EOY and my EOY aggregate files has largely stalled (although not before Beyoncé took a commanding lead in the latter).

To answer a question I just got, the poll will again be published by Arts Fuse, some time between Christmas and New Years, and will be known as the 17th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Poll, in honor of its founder and guiding spirit, who I'm pleased to say is still keeping a keen eye on things.


I did manage to kick out a belated Speaking of Which on Tuesday. Buried therein is the germ of an idea on how to solve a large share of America's political problems.

I didn't get around to writing about the plan to shift the Democratic presidential primaries away from Iowa and New Hampshire and focus on South Carolina, but I recall floating an idea quite a while back to restructure primaries: run them in five Super Tuesday rounds, starting with the 10 smallest states (plus D.C.), then the next 10, etc. The bottom 10 states have too many Dakotas, but are still pretty diverse. You could even do more than 10 for the first round, so you can pick up traditional early states like Iowa, South Carolina, and Nevada. A couple new ideas could help here: the Democratic Party could run the primaries privately, mostly using mail votes (based on state registration records), so you wouldn't have to get a lot of state laws passed; the Party would be responsible for providing a neutral forum for debates, pamphlets, and get-out-the-vote efforts, in effect centralizing a lot of the fundraising tasks, and making campaigning much less prohibitively expensive; eligibility would be limited from round to round based on results.

.


New records reviewed this week:

Alex Acuña: Gifts (2021 [2022], Le Coq): Drummer, originally from Peru, moved to Puerto Rico in 1967 and on to Las Vegas in 1974. Played in Weather Report 1975-78, many side-credits since along with a few albums he led. Peruvian saxophonist Lorenzo Ferrero stands out among a fine Latin jazz ensemble. B+(**) [sp]

Adeem the Artist: White Trash Revelry (2022, self-released): Country singer-songwriter Adem Bingham, originally a "seventh-generation Carolinian," considered the ministry before a songwriting bug and other concerns led to a very good debut album called Cast-Iron Pansexual. Here a deep dive into his "white trash" roots generates an even better sequel. A- [sp]

[Ahmed]: Ahad/Wahid (2022, A Cheeseboard Production, EP): Two songs, 11:04, a free jazz quartet with Pat Thomas (piano), Antonin Gerbal (drums), Joel Grip (bass), and Seymour Wright (alto sax). They had a good album out in 2021. This could fit into another. B+(*) [bc]

Zoh Amba: O, Sun (2021 [2022], Tzadik): Young tenor saxophonist, from Tennessee, first album of many released in 2022 -- I count six in my tracking file -- making her enough of a big deal that she got an in-depth profile in the New York Times. Quartet with Micah Thomas (piano), Thomas Morgan (bass), and Joey Baron (drums), with producer John Zorn joining for one track (alto sax, on "Holy Din"). Some hot streaks, but mostly this is toned down nicely. A- [dl]

JoVia Armstrong & Eunoia Society: The Antidote Suite (2022, Black Earth Music): First album, has a fair number of side-credits (percussion and vocals) going back to Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble in 2002. Composes and plays "hybrid cajon kit" here. Group also features Leslie DeShazor (violin), plus various guests including Mitchell (flute), Jeff Parker (guitar), Yaw Agyeman (vocals), and Teh'Ray Hale (rapper). B+(**) [bc]

Balance: Conjure (2020 [2022], Two Rooms): Saxophonist Marcus Elliot and pianist Michael Malis, with drums (Gerald Cleaver) on two tracks, and spoken vocals (Chace Morris) on two more. B+(**) [bc]

Barcelona Clarinet Players: Fantasías Barcelónicas: A Tribute to Paquito D'Rivera (2021 [2022], Sunnyside): Spanish (or Catallan?) quartet: two clarinets, basset horn, and bass clarinet, with the Cuban object of their affection sitting in on four (of eleven) tracks. B+(*) [sp]

Basher: Doubles (2021 [2022], Sinking City): New Orleans group led by tenor saxophonist Byron Asher, who has several group albums, with Aurora Nealand on alto sax, Daniel Meinecke (synthesizers), and two drummers. A potent mix of avant riffing with swarming rhythm, not that it always works. B+(*) [bc]

Battle Trance: Green of Winter (2022, New Amsterdam): Saxophone quartet, third studio album, all tenors, led by composer Travis Laplante, with Patrick Breiner, Matthew Nelson, and Jeremy Viner. B+(*) [sp]

The Baylor Project: The Evening: Live at Apparatus (2022, Be a Light): Singer Jean Baylor, husband-drummer Marcus Baylor, a band with Terry Brewer on keyboards, Yasuhi Nakamura on bass, and a horn section (trumpet, trombone, tenor/soprano sax). B+(**) [sp]

Karl Berger/Kirk Knuffke: Heart Is a Melody (2022, Stunt): The cornet player could claim this, but much respect to the 87-year-old German who plays vibes, piano, Rhodes, and Melodica. Also to the smaller-print names on the cover: Jay Anderson (bass) and Matt Wilson (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Ran Blake: Looking Glass (2015 [2021], A-Side): Pianist, about 80 when he recorded this, one of many solo albums. Thoughtful and unpredictable as ever. B+(***) [sp]

Blue Lines Trio: Chance and Change (2022, Casco): Dutch group, debut album 2014, with compositions by Michiel Scheen (piano) and Raoul van der Weide (bass, crackle box, sound objects), plus George Hadow on drums. Most impressive when they pick up the pace and break free. B+(***) [bc]

Blue Moods: Myth & Wisdom (2021 [2022], Posi-Tone): The label's house band -- Diego Rivera (tenor sax), Art Hirahara (piano), Boris Kozlov (bass), and Joe Strasser (drums), with Dave Kikoski on piano for 3 (of 10) tracks -- kick off the Mingus centenary year with ten favorites. B+(**) [sp]

Surya Botofasina: Everyone's Children (2022, Spiritmuse): Keyboard player, based in New York, a follower of Alice Coltrane, bills this debut as "spiritual avant-garde music," though it ticks most of the boxes for ambient, then starts to build something more grandiose, which eventually turns into just long. B+(*) [bc]

Staffan Bråsjö: Stratosfär (2020 [2022], self-released): Swedish pianist (also plays organ here, and conducts choir elsewhere), seems to be his first album, although he has side-credits, including the group Into the Wild. Trio with Josefin Runsteen (mostly violin) and Vilhelm Bromander (bass). With the notes citing Bach and Beethoven, this could pass as classical chamber music, but must be jazz because I find it very likable. B+(***) [bc]

Anna Butterss: Activities (2022, Colorfield): Bassist, both electric and acoustic, originally from Australia but based in Los Angeles, appears on Jeff Parker's Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy, produces a similar, subtle, shifting groove album here, dubbing in guitar, keyboards, percussion, and flute, along with bits of vocal. Josh Johnson plays sax on two tracks, and there are spot drums/percussion credits. B+(***) [sp]

Frank Carlberg Trio: Reflections 1952 (2021 [2022], 577): Finnish pianist, based in New York, couple dozen albums since 1992. Trio with John Hébert (bass) and Francisco Mela (drums), with a couple vocal spots. The date was a turning point for Thelonious Monk, with reflections on his music, but nothing as simple as a cover. B+(***) [bc]

François Carrier/Alexander von Schlippenbach/John Edwards/Michel Lambert: Unwalled (2022, Fundacja Sluchaj): Alto sax, piano, bass, drums. It seems like Quebec natives Carrier and Lambert have spent much of the last two decades wandering around Europe in search of inspiring piano and bass partners. They finally hit the jackpot in Berlin. A- [dl]

Chicago Soul Jazz Collective Meets Dee Alexander: On the Way to Be Free (2022, JMarq): First group album, so it's hard to picture them without the singer, who is a major asset. B+(*) [sp]

Trish Clowes: A View With a Room (2021 [2022], Greenleaf Music): British saxophonist (tenor/soprano), six albums on Basho before this one, a quartet with Ross Stanley (keyboards), guitar, and drums. Nicely appointed postbop. B+(**) [sp]

Theo Croker Quartet: Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic XII: Sketches of Miles (2021 [2022], ACT): American trumpet player, albums since 2007, quartet -- Danny Grissett (piano), Joshua Ginsburg (bass), and Gregory Hutchinson (drums) -- backed by Berliner Philharmonic conducted by Magnus Lindgren, in a long, surefire program that draws on Miles Davis. B+(**) [sp]

Espen Eriksen Trio Featuring Andy Sheppard: In the Mountains (2022, Rune Grammofon): Norwegian pianist, Trio with Lars Tormod Jenset (bass) and Andreas Bye (drums) has eight albums, this the second joined by the saxophonist (3/7 tracks). Piano is solid on its own, but the sax is special. B+(***) [sp]

Extended: Without Notice (2020 [2022], self-released): New Orleans-based piano trio -- Oscar Rossignoli, Matt Booth, Brad Webb -- all three write songs. Released an album, Harbinger in 2019, that I misread and took the title to be the group name. (Fixing that is going to be a pain.) Meanwhile, another smart set. B+(**) [bc]

Ezra Collective: Where I'm Meant to Be (2022, Partisan): British jazz quintet, led by drummer Femi Koleoso, with Ife Ogunjobi (trumpet), James Mollison (tenor sax), Joe Armon-Jones (keyboards), and TJ Koleoso (bass). Second album, mostly a groove I find very attractive, various guest spots including vocal features (Sampa the Great, Kojey Radical, Emeli Sandé, Nao). B+(**) [sp]

Fazer: Plex (2022, City Slang): German quintet, with trumpet (Matthias Lindermayr), guitar (Paul Brändle), bass, and two drummers. Some sort of post-rock fusion vibe, but the trumpet has some moves, and it's never overly pat. B+(**) [sp]

Anthony Ferrara: Cold Faded (2022, SteepleChase): Young tenor saxophonist, based in New York, second album, gets a veteran rhythm section: Gary Versace (piano), Jay Andersen (bass), and Billy Drummond (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Free Form Funky Freqs: Hymn of the 3rd Galaxy (2020-21 [2022], Ropeadope): Funk-fusion all-star jam: G. Calvin Weston (drums), Vernon Reid (guitar), and Jamaaladeen Tacuma (bass). Third album, after ones in 2008 and 2013. Could be freer (or for that matter, funkier), but lots of pyrotechnic guitar. B+(*) [bc]

Charlie Gabriel: Eighty Nine (2022, Sub Pop): Longtime clarinet/tenor sax player with Preservation Hall Jazz Band, steps out front with an album named for his age, perhaps not a debut, but should be. A banner proclaims "Preservation Hall Presents," and with Ben Jaffe producing the band backs up his old songs, but nothing that screams "trad jazz." He sings a couple, but not as eloquent as his sax. B+(***) [sp]

Marshall Gilkes: Cyclic Journey (2022, Alternate Side): Trombonist, sixth album since 2008, a nine-part suite with a fairly large (12-piece) group: a wide range of brass, but no reeds. This has a lovely sound, but triggers my anti-classical reflex. B+(*) [sp]

Onno Govaert + Martina Verhoeven/Dirk Serries: Twofold (2021 [2022], A New Wave of Jazz, 2CD): Dutch drummer, albums since 2008, offers two substantial duo discs, one with piano (45:38), the other with guitar (42:10). B+(***) [bc]

Pasquale Grasso: Be-Bop! (2022, Sony Masterworks): Italian guitarist, seventh album since 2015, most solo but this one adds bass (Ari Roland) and drums (Keith Balla), playing one original, one Monk, seven songs by Charlie Parker and/or Dizzy Gillespie, plus "I'm in a Mess," which Gillespie recorded in 1951, and Samara Joy sings. B+(**) [sp]

Craig Harris: Managing the Mask (2021 [2022], Aquastra): Trombonist, also credited with didgeridoo and vocals (three tracks), started with Sun Ra (1976-80), recorded a couple of notable albums for Soul Note in the 1980s, hasn't released a lot more but his 2005 Souls Within the Veil was masterful. B+(**) [sp]

Ulf Ivarsson/Bill Laswell: Nammu (2022, Ropeadope): Two bassists, one Swedish, the other American, have similar careers on the fringes of jazz and pop, leads a group here with Thomas Backman (baritone/alto sax, bass clarinet), organ, and drums. Better for its heavy grooves than ambient affectations. B+(**) [sp]

Keefe Jackson/Jim Baker/Julian Kirshner: Routines (2019 [2022], Kettle Hole): Saxophonist from Arkansas, in Chicago since 2001, Discogs lists 12 albums and twice that many groups. Plays tenor and sopranino here, with piano/synthesizer and drums. Very hit and miss: great in spots, then hits a tone I can't stand. B [bc]

Ant Law & Alex Hitchcock: Same Moon in the Same World (2020-21 [2022], Outside In Music): British, guitar and saxophone, both have previous albums, recorded this during lockdown with various guests -- exact credits are hard to come by. B+(**) [sp]

Janel Leppin: Ensemble Volcanic Ash (2022, Cuneiform): Cellist, also plays keyboards, sixth album since 2011, married to guitarist Anthony Pirog (probably a subject for further research), who amps up the string contingent here (cello, harp, and Luke Stewart on bass). They're joined by two saxophonists (Sarah Hughes on alto, Brian Settles on tenor), with Larry Ferguson on drums. B+(***) [dl]

Joyce Moreno: Brasileiras Canções (2022, Biscoito Fino): Brazilian singer, started in late 1960s, just used her first name until 2009. B+(**) [sp]

Paal Nilssen-Love Circus: Pairs of Three (2021 [2022], PNL): Norwegian drummer, many projects including The Thing. New group here: a sextet with trumpet (Thomas Johansson), alto sax (Signe Emmelulth), accordion, guitar, and bass, plus South African singer Juliana Venter -- who may color background, or free associate (at one point sampling "Strawberry Fields Forever" then sliding into "we are the victims of the Deep State"), or just lay out. Much going on here. B+(***) [bc]

Jeff Parker ETA IVtet: Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy (2019-21 [2022], Eremite): Guitarist, I still associate him with Chicago but he's moved on to Los Angeles, worked in avant-jazz and post-rock groups and produced a wide range of albums under his own name. Four tracks here from three dates, ranging 18:00-23:37, are ambient vibe pieces with some meat on their bones, from a quartet with Josh Johnson (alto sax & pedals), Anna Butterss (bass), and Jay Bellerose (drums). A- [dl]

Pillbox Patti: Florida (2022, Monument): Florida native Nicolette Hayford, has been kicking around Nashville a decade or so, accumulating songs about the hard life, admitting youth is past and barely notice, leaving her cohort "a little fucked up, but we're still breathing." Debut album, a short one (8 songs, 29:15). B+(**) [sp]

Ishmael Reed: The Hands of Grace (2022, Reading Group): Famous novelist and poet -- I read The Freelance Pallbearers shortly after it came out in 1967 but lost track after The Last Days of Louisiana Red (1974) -- crossed over to jazz when Kip Hanrahan produced his Conjure albums, then released a collection of his piano in 2003. More piano here, mostly solo but some accompanied by flute, guitar, violin, and/or voice (Tennessee Reed). Nothing great, but catches your interest. B+(**) [bc]

Revelators Sound System: Revelators (2022, 37d03d): Jazz side project of MC Taylor (Hiss Golden Messenger) and Cameron Ralston (The Spacebomb House Band). B+(*) [sp]

Stephen Riley: My Romance (2021 [2022], SteepleChase): Mainstream tenor saxophonist, steady run of albums since 2007, this one a trio with Brian Charette (organ) and Billy Drummond (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Gonzalo Rubalcaba & Trio D'ÉTÉ: Turning Point (2018 [2022], 5Passion): Cuban pianist, long based in Florida, many albums since 1985. This is a trio with Matthew Brewer (bass) and Eric Harland (drums), playing seven original Rubalcaba pieces. B+(***) [sp]

Rich Ruth: I Survived, It's Over (2022, Third Man): Given name Michael Ruth, based in Nashville, plays guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion. Second album, billed as ambient but a little loud for that, even before the saxophones (3 + flute) kick in. B [sp]

James Singleton: Malabar (2022, Sinking City): Bassist, from New Orleans, has been around a while but doesn't have much as leader. This is boundary-pushing postbop, with' two saxophones (Rex Gregory and Brad Walker), guitar, drums, and vibes/percussion (Mike Dillon). B+(**) [sp]

Gary Smulyan: Tadd's All, Folks (2021 [2022], SteepleChase): Baritone saxophonist, twenty-some albums since 1997, plays Tadd Dameron songs here, backed by piano (Pete Malinverni), bass (David Wong), and drums (Matt Wilson), sharing the spotlight with vocalist Anaïs Reno. B+(**) [sp]

SWR Big Band/Magnus Lindgren/John Beasley: Bird Lives (2021, ACT): German big band, founded 1951 in Stuttgart attached to public radio station SWR, Discogs lists 50+ albums since 1998, nearly all vehicles for guest stars. Both Lindgren, a Swedish saxophonist, and Beasley, an American pianist, are into big band arranging, and they've lined up a long list of stars -- e.g., Chris Potter and Joe Lovano on tenor sax, Charles McPherson and Miguel Zenón on alto -- to plow through Charlie Parker's songbook. This has some big moments, but perhaps a bit too much formaldehyde? B+(*) [sp]

Jamaaladeen Tacuma/Mary Halvorson: Strings & Things (2014 [2022], Jam-All Productions): Bass and guitar duo, plus some electronics, recorded on the sly during a tour in Japan. Typical of her guitar style in a friendly context. Seven tracks, 28:52. B+(**) [bc]

Thollem: Obstacle Illusion (2021 [2022], Astral Spirits): Pianist, last name McDonas, three dozen albums since 2004, four pieces here, each between 18:13 and 18:45. No credits for other musicians, but second piece sounds like a mix of organ and electronics. B+(*) [bc]

Micah Thomas: Piano Solo (2022, LP345): Young pianist, impressive in several recent side-credits, has chops and ideas. B+(**) [sp]

Pat Thomas & XT [Seymour Wright/Paul Abbott]: Akisakila/Attitudes of Preparation (Mountains, Oceans, Trees) (2018 [2022], Edition Gamut): British pianist plays tribute to Cecil Taylor by arranging his 1973 piece, with drums and sax, like the original with Andrew Cyrille and Jimmy Lyons. As with the original, the thrash is pretty intense. Finishes with an interview with Cecil Taylor, which Thomas vamps around with. Discogs gives Will Holder a co-credit, for wrapping the album up in small type I can't read. B+(***) [bc]

Tess Tyler: Fractals [Vol. 1] (2022, Manners McDade): Composer, from Bristol, first album (although there's a Vol. 2 out the same day -- the volume numbers aren't on the covers, but referred to on Bandcamp). No credits, but a video shows her playing piano with electronics and a drummer. A- [bc]

Tess Tyler x Spindle Ensemble: Fractals [Vol. 2] (2022, Manners McDade): Five songs from Vol. 1 performed with the composer on piano, accompanied by a Bristol-based string quartet, intended to offer another view into the compositions. All aspects are reduced, including length (30:21). B+(*) [bc]

Johannes Wallmann: Precarious Towers (2021 [2022], Shifting Paradigm): German pianist, fourth album, postbop quintet with Sharel Cassity (alto sax), Mitch Shiner (vibes), bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]

Yellowjackets: Parallel Motion (2022, Mack Avenue): Fairly popular jazz fusion group, debut 1981, keyboard player Russell Ferrante the only original member, but saxophonist Bob Mintzer joined in 1990, and keeps the group respectable, even when they offer little else of interest. B [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Don Ayler: In Florence 1981 (1981 [2022], Railroad Town Music): Trumpet player, brother of saxophonist Albert Ayler, played in many of his brother's 1960s bands, quit after Albert died in 1970, and didn't play until the late 1970s. This live septet is the only thing recorded under his name: originally released on three LPs. It's basically six 15:41-17:27 pieces (107:02, including an extra spoken bit), performed by a mostly obscure septet -- only name I recognize is bassist Richard Willimams (he did a stretch with Sun Ra), but saxophonists Frank Doblekar and Abdul Rahim Mustafa (Donald Strickland) are honorary Aylers, and the guitar and piano can emerge from the cracks. Nice to hear them keep the faith. A- [sp]

Donald Byrd: Live: Cookin' With Blue Note at Montreux (1973 [2022], Blue Note): Trumpet player (1932-2013), from Detroit, started in hard bop c. 1956, was a mainstay of the Blue Note label from 1959, when it entered a golden age, through its late-1960s decline, his experiments in fusion and funk, all the way to 1976. Group here represents his electric funk period, with Larry Mizell's synthesizers, electric piano (Kevin Toney), guitar (Barney Perry), and bass (Henry Franklin), drums and congas, two saxophones, and a second trumpeter (Fonce Mizell, who worked at Motown). B+(*) [sp]

Jean-Charles Capon/Philippe Maté/Lawrence "Butch" Morris/Serge Rahoerson (1977, Souffle Continu -21): French cellist (1936-2011), swung both ways in groups like Bach Modern Quintet and Baroque Jazz Trio, in a quartet here with tenor sax, trumpet, and drums. B+(***) [bc]

Ellery Eskelin/Gerry Hemingway: From the Archives: Live at the Stone in NYC, 2010 (2010 [2022], Auricle): Tenor sax and drums duo, a couple years after they recorded a similar duo called Inbetween Spaces. Three improv pieces totalling 59:53. A bit tentative, but impressive when they get going. B+(***) [bc]

Ronnie Foster: Two Headed Freap (1972 [2022], Blue Note): Organ player, from Buffalo, first album of five released 1972-75 by Blue Note, had two 1978-79 Columbias, not much since until his Reboot (Blue Note) this year, which may have motivated a luxury vinyl reissue. Funk grooves with Gene Bertoncini (guitar), George Duvivier (bass), and Jimmy Johnson (drums), plus a little extra glitz on harp and vibes. B+(*) [sp]

ICP Orchestra: 30 Yr Jubileum 1997: Day 1 (1997 [2022], ICP): From a "three-day festival/jubileum/party in 1997 to celebrate the 30 year anniversary of ICP." The lineup evolved over time, but this one is especially memorable: Misha Mengelberg (piano), Han Bennink (drums), Thomas Heberer (trumpet), Wolter Wierbos (trombone), Michael Moore (alto sax/clarinet), Ab Baars (clarinet/tenor sax), Ernst Reijseger and Tristan Honsinger (cello), and Ernst Glerum (bass). Add guests Steve Lacy (soprano sax) and Roswell Rudd (trombone), and of course they're playing Herbie Nichols and Thelonious Monk. Four tracks, 31:19. B+(***) [bc]

ICP Orchestra: 30 Yr Jubileum 1997: Day 2 (1997 [2022], ICP): A much longer set (114:28), opening with three songs by guest Cor Fuhler (piano/organ/keyolin), with Louis Moholo (drums) and Roswell Rudd (trombone) also sitting in. After that, it's a kaleidoscope of Mengelberg pieces (with a Moholo co-credit). A- [bc]

ICP Orchestra: 30 Yr Jubileum 1997: Day 3 (1997 [2022], ICP): A third set, runs 52:15, with Roswell Rudd guesting again, playing Mengelberg pieces plus a Herbie Nichols at the end. B+(***) [bc]

Ahmad Jamal: Live in Paris (1971 [2022], Transversales Disques): Newly uncovered "lost tapes" from a live performance, three fairly long piano trio pieces (39:44), with Jamil Nasser (bass) and Frank Gant (drums). These are "excerpts from the full performance," but they are superb throughout. A- [bc]

Jack McDuff: Live at Parnell's (1982 [2022], Soul Bank Music): Organ player Eugene McDuffy, recorded a ton 1960-65 for Prestige, several albums 1969-70 for Blue Note, and had a bit of a revival in the 1990s with Concord. This was from a period when he recorded little, selected from a week in Seattle, released on 3-LP (comes to 118:28). There is some dispute over who else is playing, but the sax and guitar are both rougher and more stronger than I'd expect. B+(**) [sp]

Brother Jack McDuff: Moon Rappin' (1969 [2022], Blue Note): One of four albums the organ player released on Blue Note 1969-70, reissued this year in the label's Classic Vinyl Series. With uncredited guitar, bass, drums, and tenor sax/flute (somewhere). Still, the organ is what matters. B+(**) [sp]

Thelonious Monk: Celebrating 75 Years of His First Recordings Revisited (1947-52 [2022], Ezz-Thetics): "23 Remastered Thelonious Monk Titles From The Blue Note Recordings." A selection from the recordings Blue Note has long hawked as The Genius of Modern Music, as well as in various compilations (The Very Best is a personal favorite, but this is half-again as long: 71:42). Revolutionary in its day, repertoire now. B+(***) [bc]

Thelonious Monk Quartet: Live Five Spot 1958 Revisited (1958 [2022], Ezz-Thetics): More cherry-picking among the newly copyright-free classics. This is the same music Riverside picked for two LPs: Thelonious in Action and Misterioso, remastered with minor edits to fit a single CD. Johnny Griffin plays tenor sax, with Ahmed Abdul-Malik on bass and Roy Haynes on drums. Robert Christgau cites a Griffin solo on Misterioso as life-changing, but I'd be hard-pressed to tell you which, but note that the other album was the one where he got a "featuring" credit. [NB: Lonehill Jazz has its own competing Complete Live at the Five Spot 1958, including additional non-album material on 2-CD. This album is basically the first disc plus one cut from the second.] A- [bc]

Old music:

None.


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Lakecia Benjamin: Phoenix (Whirlwind) [01-27]
  • Fred Hersch & Esperanza Spalding: Alive at the Village Vanguard (Palmetto) [01-06]
  • Mike LeDonne/Eric Alexander/Jeremy Pelt/Kenny Washington/Peter Washington: The Heavy Hitters (Cellar) [01-20]
  • Tyler Mitchell Octet: Sun Ra's Journey (Cellar) [01-20]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, December 5, 2022


Music Week

December archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 39203 [39159] rated (+44), 32 [33] unrated (-1: 4 new, 28 old).

I sent a deadline reminder to Jazz Critics Poll invitees on Friday, and get a deluge of ballots back, bringing the total to 55. Took a long time to get them all counted, so yesterday's Speaking of Which was exceptionally short, mostly limited to links I might want to look back at later. Actual deadline is still a week away: December 12. We got 156 ballots last year, and I sent out more than 200 invites this year, so I expect a lot more work coming in.

With all this, I had little time to review my own prospective ballot. However, I might as well practice what I preach and settle on a ballot now (with extra mentions for context:

New albums:

  1. Tyshawn Sorey Trio + 1 [With Greg Osby]: The Off-Off Broadway Guide to Synergism (Pi) **
  2. Dave Rempis/Avreeayl Ra Duo: Bennu (Aerophonic) **
  3. Omri Ziegele Where's Africa: That Hat (Intakt) **
  4. Marta Sanchez: SAAM (Spanish American Art Museum) (Whirlwind)
  5. Rodrigo Amado: Refraction Solo: Live at Church of the Holy Ghost (Trost)
  6. Andrew Cyrille/William Parker/Enrico Rava: 2 Blues for Cecil (TUM)
  7. Tomas Fujiwara's Triple Double: March (Firehouse 12)
  8. Avram Fefer Quartet: Juba Lee (Clean Feed) *
  9. Wadada Leo Smith: The Emerald Duets (TUM, 5CD)
  10. Dave Sewelson: Smooth Free Jazz (Mahakala Music '21) **
  11. Rob Brown/Juan Pablo Carletti: Fertile Garden (NoBusiness)
  12. Luke Stewart's Silt Trio: The Bottom (Cuneiform) **
  13. Manel Fortiá: Despertar (Segell Microscopi)
  14. David Murray/Brad Jones/Hamid Drake Brave New World Trio: Seriana Promethea (Intakt) **
  15. Fred Hersch: Breath by Breath (Palmetto)
  16. Thumbscrew: Multicolored Midnight (Cuneiform) **
  17. Arild Andersen Group: Affirmation (ECM) **
  18. Darren Johnston: Life in Time (Origin)
  19. Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Disasters Vol. 1 (Hot Cup) *
  20. Sun Ra Arkestra Directed by Marshall Allen: Living Sky (Omni Sound) **

Historical (Reissues and Archival):

  1. William Parker: Universal Tonality (2002, Centering/AUM Fidelity, 2CD)
  2. Horace Tapscott Quintet: Legacies of Our Grandchildren (1995, Dark Tree)
  3. Sam Rivers: Caldera [Sam Rivers Archive Project, Volume 6] (2002, NoBusiness)
  4. Cecil Taylor: The Complete, Legendary, Live Return Concert: The Town Hall, NYC November 4, 1973 (1973, Oblivion) **
  5. Dave Brubeck Trio: Live From Vienna 1967 (Brubeck Editions)
  6. Bill Evans: Morning Glory: The 1973 Concert at the Teatro Gran Rex, Buenos Aires (Resonance) **

Vocal Jazz:

  1. Gerry Hemingway: Afterlife (Auricle)
  2. Moor Mother: Jazz Codes (Anti-)
  3. Jacob Sacks/David Ambrosio/Vinnie Sperrazza: Trio Trio Meets Sheila Jordan (SteepleChase) **

Debut:

  1. Julieta Eugenio: Jump (Greenleaf Music)
  2. Zoh Amba: O, Sun (Tzadik)
  3. Mali Obomsawin: Sweet Tooth (Out of Your Head)

Latin Jazz:

  1. Felipe Salles/Zaccai Curtis/Avery Sharpe/Jonathan Barber: Tiyo's Songs of Life (Tapestry)
  2. Miguel Zenón: Música De Las Américas (Miel Music)
  3. Kalí Rodríguez-Peña: Mélange (Truth Revolution)

Aside from Historical, this mostly corresponds to my highly volatile Best Jazz of 2022 list. My Historical votes have varied from the list for several years now, mostly because I value archival albums over reissues (especially the often-excellent Ezz-Thetics series), and because I value physical CDs over downloads and streaming. That worked against Cecil Taylor, and in favor of Sam Rivers (although I could just as well have picked Dave Brubeck, so there may be some mystery factor at work there).

The Vocal category may also call for some explanation. The Hemingway album has vocals throughout, but isn't jazz in any broadly conventional sense -- you just hear little bits that suggest a jazz sensibility, which is to be expected from one of the great jazz drummers of the last 40 years. Camae Ayewa unconventional in other ways: a poet who first turned to rap then to jazz, her record is more explicitly jazz, but her vocals aren't. I found myself wanting to file several records last year on both lists, as I did Hemingway and Moor Mother this year. On the other hand, if you want a real, classic jazz singer, try Sheila Jordan.

This week's haul is, once again, almost all jazz. A few weeks ago, when I first assembled the EOY Jazz and Non-Jazz files, I was surprised to find, for the first time since I've been splitting them, many more A-listed Non-Jazz albums. The gap has now closed to 68 to 75, and will probably close further next week. My secret tool is getting to see the Jazz Critics Poll ballots first. One thing that's slowed me in the counting is that I've been assembling a list of everything voted for that I haven't heard yet, which is currently 130 albums out of 443. That number has been increasing much faster than I can whittle it down. Most years we get votes for about 600 albums. There seems to be even less consensus than usual this year, so the final number may well exceed expectations.

Meanwhile, other projects -- like the EOY Aggregate -- are languishing. I doubt that will change until the end of the year.

If you're sitting on a Jazz Critics Poll invite, please fill it out and send it in. If you're not, but think you should be and want to fill one out, holler at me. I'm running out of time and energy to vet new voters, but we do have another week left.


New records reviewed this week:

Rodrigo Amado: Refraction Solo: Live at Church of the Holy Ghost (2021 [2022], Trost): Tenor saxophonist from Portugal, I've heard 25 of his albums since Lisbon Improvisation Players in 2002, and this is the 12th I've A-listed, including all but one of the last nine. What makes this one improbable is that it's solo -- as much as I love tenor sax, it's hard for any monophonic instrument to satisfy without some rhythm to nudge it along and/or bass for harmonics (or piano for both). Yet this one works: it opens with "Sweet Freedom," a profound (20:54) meditation on Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Rollins -- a quote from the latter always grabs me -- and two shorter pieces don't outstay their welcome (total: 33:41). A- [cd]

Kate Baker & Vic Juris: Return to Shore: The Duo Sessions (2019 [2022], Strikezone): Jazz singer, has some side credits but this is the first album under her name, co-wrote three songs (out of 10). Date is "shortly before" her guitarist-husband's death, and much of the interest here will be in hearing him in such an intimate setting. But she's every bit as appealing. B+(***) [sp]

Jeb Bishop/Pandelis Karayorgis/Damon Smith: Duals (2021-22 [2022], Driff/Balance Point Acoustics, 3CD): Trombone, piano, bass, three hour-long sets each duos of two of the three. Such duets are intrinsically limited, but each player brings real strengths to the match ups. B+(**) [dl]

Michael Blake: Combobulate (2022, Newvelle): Canadian saxophonist, mostly tenor but credit here is plural, debut 1997, backed here by brass section -- Steven Bernstein on trumpet, Clark Gayton on trombone, Bob Stewart and Marcus Rojas on tuba -- plus drums. B+(***) [dl]

Emmet Cohen: Uptown in Orbit (2022, Mack Avenue): Pianist, albums since 2011 include four Masters Legacy Series volumes -- sessions with Jimmy Cobb, Ron Carter, Benny Golson, and George Coleman -- a respect for tradition he continues here, framed by pieces from Willie "The Lion" Smith and Duke Ellington. Between, you'll find originals plus his arrangements of Neal Hefti, Cedar Walton, and Gerry Mulligan. Backed by bass and drums, half with a horn or two present (Sean Jones on trumpet, Patrick Bartley on alto sax). I have to admit, I'm partial to his stride. B+(**) [sp]

Allen Dennard: Flashback (2022, Allen Dennard Music): Trumpet player from Detroit, seems to be his first album. Annoying lack of info on this album, but he's got some chops. B+(*) [sp]

Dopolarians: Blues for Alvin Fielder: Live at Crosstown Arts, Memphis (2022, Mahakala Music): A tribute to the late drummer (1935-2019), who was born in Mississippi, headed to Chicago, played with Sun Ra, was a charter member of the AACM, eventually returned to the South, and plugged into the tiny free jazz scenes in New Orleans, Memphis, Dallas, and (joining this group in 2018) Little Rock. Billed here as a sextet, core members are Christopher Parker (piano), Chad Fowler (sax), Kelly Hurt (vocals), and Chad Anderson (drums, taking over Fielder's chair), joined here by Marc Franklin (trumpet), Douglas Ewart (sax), and William Parker (bass). Ends with a nice dedication. B+(**) [bc]

Dopolarians: Sunday Morning Sermon (2022, Mahakala Music): No recording date, but obviously before drummer Alvin Fielder died in 2019. Core group is Christopher Parker (piano), Chad Fowler (alto/baritone sax), and Kelley Hurt (vocals), with Fielder on drums and Kidd Jordan on tenor sax. Bassist William Parker is listed on the cover, but not on the Bandcamp page. The piano solos cut down on the fire-breathing, which is probably just as well. B+(**) [bc]

Dezron Douglas: Atalaya (2021 [2022], International Anthem): Bassist, many side credits but only a 2012 live album and a locked-down 2020 duo with wife-harpist Brandee Younger have his name up front. Quartet with sax (Emilio Modeste), keyboards (George Burton, and drums, plus one vocal (Melvis Santa). I like the way the bass leads into the sax, something he must have learned with Pharoah Sanders. I didn't like the vocal, and not just the singer. B+(***) [bc]

Mats Eilertsen: Hymn for Hope (2021, Hemli): Norwegian bassist, more than a dozen albums since 2004 as well as a wide swathe of side-credits. This a quartet with Tore Brunborg (tenor sax), Thomas Dahl (guitar), and Hans Hulbaekmo (drums). Consistently nice vibe here. B+(***) [sp]

Fractal Sextet: Fractal Sextet (2020-22 [2022], Alchemy): Guitarist Stephan Thelen, who has released a couple volumes of Fractal Guitar, got the ball rolling with four compositions, then sent the files around to be developed and detailed by this international coterie: Jon Durant added more guitar, along with Fabio Anile (keyboard), Colin Edwin (bass guitar), Yogev Gabay (drums), and Andi Pupato (percussion). A- [sp]

Satoko Fujii: Hyaku: One Hundred Dreams (2022, Libra): Japanese pianist, very prolific since 1995, even went monthly a couple years back for her 60th birthday. Counts this as her 100th album, and I'm not about to check her math. She rounded up eight frequent collaborators for this, but unlike most nonets, this is light on horns (two trumpets, tenor sax, and bassoon), with double drums and Ikue Mori electronics. A single piece in five parts, but it doesn't feel arranged -- more like a series of do-you-thing solo spots. So it's not one of her more compelling statements, but offers a nice synopsis of a remarkable career (including some of the piano that caught our ears in the first place). A- [cd] [12-09]

Forbes Graham/Jeb Bishop/Pandelis Karayorgis/Nate McBride/Kresten Osgood: Water Lilies (2022, Driff): Artist order as given on cover, but Graham (trumpet) and Bishop (trombone) only play on the fifth and last track (a 30:52 "Quintet Improvisation"). The others (piano, bass, drums) play rhythm there, and trio for the first four tracks (34:14). Both are substantial. B+(***) [dl]

Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet: The Sound of Listening (2022, Edition): Drummer, from New Jersey, started in the trio Heernt, has leaned toward fusion but this is more postbop, with Jason Rigby (tenor sax/clarinet/flute), Shai Maestro (piano), and Chris Morrissey (bass). B+(**) [sp]

Mats Gustafsson & Nu Ensemble: Hidros 8: Heal (2016 [2022], Trost): Swedish saxophonist (all weights plus related instruments, but probably best known for baritone, which he plays here), main group in 1990s was AALY Trio, followed by The Thing since 2000, but he has many more records. First Hidros album in 2001. Group here is a conduction tentet, with Anna Högberg (alto and bari sax), Susana Santos Silva (trumpet), Per-Åke Holmlander (tuba), Hedvig Mollestad (guitar), Massimo Pupillo (bass), plus turntables, electronics, and two drummers, with an intriguing Christof Kurzmann vocal in the middle of the second side, which then sets up the massive ending we've all been waiting for. A- [bc]

Jo Harrop: The Heart Wants (2021, Lateralize): British jazz singer, billed as her "first self-penned album," but Discogs lists a previous album. Has so-credits on eight (of 12 or 13) songs, with Duke Ellington and Tom Waits among the covers. B+(**) [sp]

Gerry Hemingway: Afterlife (2020-22 [2022], Auricle): Drummer, was part of Anthony Braxton's extraordinary Quartet in the 1980s, also of the long-running BassDrumBone trio with Ray Anderson, and has dozens of significant albums on his own, over 250 in total. Still, none of the others are like this: songs with words, sung or just rapped, over widely varied beats with scattered instrumental colors. Bandcamp page cites 11 contributing musicians with no clue to what or where, since their contributions are just samples applied to the mix. First few second remind me of DJ Shadow. Rest isn't so obvious, but shades from pop to blues, with fanciful rhythm throughout. A- [bc]

Ifsonever: Ifsonever (2022, Jazz & Milk): Daniel Helmer, first album, opens with voiceover presumably to clear his head, follows with ambient electronics with just enough beat to keep it enjoyable. B+(***) [bc]

George V Johnson Jr: Walk Spirit Talk Spirit (2022, Your Majesty): DC-based jazz singer, Discogs lists one previous album, but offers no help parsing this one. Website suggests In Memory of McCoy Tyner as a subtitle, but he only does two Tyner songs, plus pieces by Lou Donaldson, Hank Mobley, Wes Montgomery, Herbie Hancock, Charlie Parker, and Nat Adderley, writing his own lyrics (aside from deferring to Mark Murphy for "Canteloupe Island"). So, vocalese? No credits for the hard-swinging band, either. B+(**) [sp]

Max Johnson Trio: Orbit of Sound (2021 [2022], Unbroken Sounds): Bassist, handful of albums since 2012, composed all five pieces, joined by Anna Webber (tenor sax/flute) and Michael Sarin (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Pandelis Karayorgis Trio: The Hasaan, Hope & Monk Project (2021-22 [2022], Driff): Greek pianist, moved to Boston in 1985, first album (1989) was a Monk set, trio with bassist Nate McBride goes back to 1999, drummer Luther Gray joined by 2012. This mixes six Monk tunes in with pieces by Elmo Hope (3) and Hasaan Ibn Ali (4). B+(**) [dl]

Ruben Machtelinckx + Arve Henriksen: A Short Story (2022, Aspen Edities): Belgian guitarist, eighth album since 2012, a duo with the Norwegian trumpet player. Nice, ambient pairing, always attentive. B+(***) [bc]

Hermon Mehari: Asmara (2022, Komos): Trumpet player, from Eritrea (although Discogs says Kansas City, where he got his degree), has a couple albums -- I was especially taken by his one with Florian Arbenz. Reflects on his war-torn nation here, backed by a band with piano/vibes (Peter Schlamb), bass, and drums, plus Eritrean vocalist Faytinga on two songs. Some terrific trumpet. A- [sp]

Raul Midón: Eclectic Adventurist (2022, Artistry/Mack Avenue): Guitarist, from New Mexico, dozen albums since 1999. Mostly solo. B+(*) [sp]

Per Møllehøj/Kirk Knuffke/Thommy Andersson: 'S Wonderful (2022, Stunt): Danish guitarist, has a couple albums, wrote three (of nine) songs here, with cornetist Knuffke writing two. Those pieces, with Andersson on bass, offer nice instrumental filler between the swing-era covers from Gershwin and Ellington, and two classics (with Knuffke vocals) from W.C. Handy. B+(**) [sp]

Hedvig Mollestad & Trondheim Jazz Orchestra: Maternity Beat (2021 [2022], Rune Grammofon): Norwegian guitarist, sings some, mostly works in her Trio but her brings in the heavy guns: 12-piece avant-jazz group founded in 2015 with a couple dozen albums, each featuring some special guest. Some terrific passages, but bogs down in spots. B+(*) [sp]

Ra Kalam Bob Moses/Damon Smith: Purecicle (2021 [2022], Balance Point Acoustics): Drums and bass duo, Moses goes back to 1975, Smith to 1999. Smith conjures up a lot of quasi-industrial grunge here. B+(**) [sp]

Qasim Naqvi/Wadada Leo Smith/Andrew Cyrille: Two Centuries (2021 [2022], Red Hook): Pakistani drummer, best known in the piano trio Dawn of Midi, composed their pieces and plays modular and minimoog synthesizers, deferring to Cyrille on drums, with Smith on trumpet. One of many fine settings for Smith this year. B+(***) [sp]

Oxbow & Peter Brötzmann: An Eternal Reminder of Not Today: Live at Moers (2018 [2022], Trost): Fringe hardcore rock group from San Francisco -- first three albums, starting in 1989, were titled: Fuckfest, King of the Jews, and Let Me Be a Woman -- pick up a saxophonist, who adds a new dimension to their g-b-d thrash plus words (Eugene Robinson), working hard to fit in and inevitably standing out. B+(***) [bc]

Nicholas Payton: The Couch Sessions (2022, Smoke Sessions): Trumpet player from New Orleans, also keyboards, debut 1993, father played bass and sousaphone in trad jazz bands. Basically a hard bop player, but knows his tradition, and likes to dabble in electronics. Trio with Buster Williams (bass) and Lenny White (drums). Nothing special about his keyb groove, or his rapping, but his trumpet can still light up the room. B+(**) [sp]

Dafnis Prieto Featuring Luciana Souza: Cantar (2021 [2022], Dafnison Music): Cuban drummer, hot shit when he hit New York, though I found his early albums more impressive than enjoyable. Group here -- Peter Apfelbaum (woodwinds), Martin Bejerano (piano), and Matt Brewer (bass) -- manage to keep up, redeeming the herky-jerk rhythms. Singer is probably a plus, too. At least there's no ballad risk. B+(***) [sp]

Scenes: Variable Clouds: Live at the Earshot Jazz Festival (2021 [2022], Origin): Seattle quartet, seventh album since 2006, with Rick Mandyck (tenor sax), John Stowell (guitar), Jeff Johnson (bass), and John Bishop (drums). Closes very strong (with Jim Pepper's "Witchi Tai To"). B+(***) [cd]

Patrick Shiroishi: Evergreen (2021 [2022], Touch): Los Angeles-based saxophonist, huge number of recordings since 2017: Discogs lists 46 albums, 2 singles/EPs, 6 miscellaneous -- which is where this 4-cut, 42:06 set is filed. Starts with cemetery field recordings, adding synths, clarinet, and tenor sax, with a spoken word memoir of the Japanese-American concentration camps. B+(*) [bc]

Tom Skinner: Voices of Bishara (2022, Brownswood/International Anthem/Nonesuch): British drummer, debut album, but Discogs offers 100+ side-credits, including Sons of Kemet, Melt Yourself Down, Owiny Sigoma Band, and the Smile. Two star saxophonists (Nubya Garcia and Shabaka Hutchings), with cello and bass. A- [bc]

Cory Smythe: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (2021 [2022], Pyroclastic): Four original pieces with a large group -- eleven, including singer Sofia Jernberg -- that feels smaller because they pick things apart rather than build them up, followed by seven solo piano takes of the title piece, that sound different because, well, I don't know why. B [cd]

Tyshawn Sorey + 1 [With Greg Osby]: The Off-Off Broadway Guide to Synergism (2022, Pi, 3CD): Drummer-led trio, with Aaron Diehl (piano) and Russell Hall (bass), plus alto saxophonist guest, who makes all the difference, not that the rhythm section doesn't keep him going. Osby was something of a star during his 1995-2005 run on Blue Note, but since then has only released one album as sole leader, so I was surprised that Discogs gives him a steady stream of co-leader credits, like this one. He even wrote two songs here, slipped in with 17 "standards and jazz classics," from Cole Porter and Fats Waller to Ornette Coleman, springboards running anywhere from 7:09 to 20:00. [Haven't played this enough, but pretty sure this is the right grade.] A [dl]

Stephan Thelen: Fractal Guitar 3 (2021-22 [2022], Moonjune): American guitarist, based in Zürich, leads the band Sonar as well as pursuing various solo projects, often tied to mathematical concepts, like the third installment of this series. Each track has 3-5 guitars (Thelen plus Eivind Aarset and Markus Reuter, often Jon Durant) with drums (Manuel Pasquinelli), sometimes keybs, bass, and/or percussion. Patterns: deeply ingrained, finely tuned, just noisy enough. A- [bc]

Rodney Whitaker: Oasis: The Music of Gregg Hill (2022, Origin): Bassist from Detroit, albums since 1996, this his third one featuring Hill's compositions -- Hill is a self-taught composer-pianist based in Lansing, who's still active feeding compositions to several followers, including Bruce Barth (piano here). Strong leads from Terell Stafford (trumpet) and Tim Warfield (tenor/soprano sax), plus four vocals by Rockelle Fortin. B+(**) [cd]

Eri Yamamoto Trio: A Woman With a Purple Wig (2022, Mahakala Music): Japanese pianist, based in New York since 1995, more than a dozen albums since 2006, mostly trios, like this one with David Ambrosio (bass) and Ikuo Takeuchi (drums). She sings a couple songs here, but doesn't show much subtlety as a lyricist. B+(*) [bc]

Jeong Lim Yang: Zodiac Suite: Reassured (2021 [2022], Fresh Sound New Talent): Korean bassist, based in Brooklyn, has a couple previous albums. This one offers a "free reinterpretation" of Mary Lou Williams' 1945 suite, with Santiago Leibson (piano) and Gerald Cleaver (drums). B+(***) [bc]

The Zebra Street Band: Shirwku (2021 [2022], Trytone): Dutch group (well, Amsterdam, more or less): Alistair Payne (trumpet), Salvoandrea Lucifora (trombone/tuba), Andrius Dereviancenko (tenor sax), John Dikeman (baritone sax), plus two drummers (Fabio Galeazzi and Onno Govaert) keeping it bouncy, while the horns riff on brass bands. A- [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Geri Allen/Charlie Haden/Paul Motian: Live at the Village Vanguard (Unissued Tracks) (1990 [2022], DIW): All-star piano-bass-drums trio, supplements the same-titled album released in 1991, which grabbed nine original pieces (Allen 2, Haden 3, Motian 4). The leftovers include some nice covers like "Cherokee" and "In Walked Bud." B+(**) [sp]

Derek Bailey: Domestic Jungle (1990s [2022], Scatter): British avant guitarist (1932-2005), big Penguin Guide favorite but I've only lightly sampled his work. This is a private cassette recording (aside for two tracks released by David Toop in 1997), often guitar played along to the radio or some other unreliable rhythm/noise source -- surprisingly a plus here. B+(***) [bc]

Joyce With Mauricio Maestro: Natureza (1977 [2022], Far Out): Brazilian pop/jazz singer-songwriter since 1969, last name Moreno but usually the first name suffices. Claus Ogerman produced this album in New York, but it didn't get released (until now). Maestro (original surname Figueiredo) wrote or co-wrote four (of 7) songs (Moreno wrote the other three, and shares one of Maestro's credits), plays guitar, and sings (two leads). Drags a bit when he leads, but a spot of Michael Brecker sax clears the fog. B+(**) [sp]

Old music:

Julieta Eugenio: Unaccompanied Saxophone Vol. 1 (2020, Greenleaf Music, EP): Tenor saxophonist, from Argentina, based in New York, released a superb full-length album in 2022, following this EP (4 tracks, 24:54). Four standards, takes them at a sensible pace. B+(**) [bc]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Zack Lober: No Fill3r (Zennez) [2023-02-24]
  • Simon Moullier: Isla (self-released) [2023-02-17]
  • Simona Premazzi: Wave in Gravity: Solo Piano (PRE) [2023-02-17]
  • Jim Snidero: Far Far Away (Savant) [2023-02-03]
  • Jeong Lim Yang: Zodiac Suite: Reassured (Fresh Sound New Talent) [10-29]
  • The Zebra Street Band: Shirwku (Trytone) [08-01]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, November 28, 2022


Music Week

November archive (final).

Music: Current count 39159 [39116] rated (+43), 33 [33] unrated (+0: 5 new, 28 old).

First half last week I spent thinking about cooking a little something for Thanksgiving dinner. We wound up with five people. I bought a pound of ground turkey and two of hamburger. I mixed the former with chopped spinach and feta cheese, and added a little butter and garlic powder to both. The idea was to cook them on the little-used gas grill, but it didn't heat up, so my fallback was frying pans indoors. They both came out very well done, but with a lot of tasty brown. Topped them with smoked gouda and havarti, and had bacon, red onion, and pickles to add. Sides were baked beans (topped with bacon), Russian potato salad (with olives, red onion, smoked salmon, and dill), and Spanish slaw (with carrots, red bell pepper, and golden raisins). Had spice cake for dessert, with store-bought butter pecan ice cream. I'm learning to settle for relatively simple dishes that don't kill me. Not quite as good as the birthday dinner, but fit the bill, and didn't leave us with a lot of leftovers.

Second half of the week felt like a void. I finally opened up a file for Speaking of Which, figuring I'd just copy down a few links for future reference -- sort of a placeholder, with few if any comments. But on Sunday I made the rounds, and often couldn't help but write something. Rarely as much as I could, but this sort of analysis is all but second nature these days.

One nice thing about the meal was that I got a chance to talk shop with my nephew. He's been using some kind of AI software to generate images. I had a fairly serious interest in AI back in the 1980s, but haven't followed it much since then. Still, I have some ideas about what it might be good for and where it might cause more trouble than it's worth, so it was good to compare my thoughts with his actual experience.

[PS: I added a link to yesterday's post, as part of Vox's "World to Come" series: AI experts are increasingly afraid of what they're creating. Just a thought, but if you got rid of patents and copyright for AI code, and required that all code be open source, that would slow down the pace of development, and make it harder to hide harmful applications. I also added a link to another No More Mister Nice Blog piece, about how Mike Pompeo rates the head of a teacher's union as "the most dangerous person on the planet."]

A couple notes on the 17th Annual Jazz Critics Poll: Francis Davis asked to be kept informed of the voting, so I've been forwarding mail to him. I also broached the possibility of including his name on the masthead, and he said he'd be honored. I have 26 ballots counted so far, with two more weeks until deadline. I haven't had much time to go back over possible voter lists, but I'll try to do that over the next few days. The most striking thing so far is that the vote is exceptionally scattered: three albums appear on six ballots each, so 23% of the total. This compares to 2021, when James Brandon Lewis appeared on 34% of the ballots, and to 2020, when Maria Schneider scored 36%. Still early days. As I recall, there were six other leaders last year before Lewis finally broke from the pack.

I've done the basic indexing for November Streamnotes, but still have the Music Weeks to compile. I've also fallen behind on the EOY Aggregate, but that's largely because the number of EOY lists doubled today. (Pro tip: I mostly use the lists collected by Album of the Year and Acclaimed Music Forums.) I want to settle on a jazz ballot by Friday. This is what my 2022 list currently looks like. No way will I have time to resample everything on it, so I'm stuck with my memory and spot checks. I did replay Omri Ziegele today, and dropped it a tiny bit -- probably the vocals, as almost everything else is marvelous.

The EOY file has traditionally included a "2%" list of records I haven't heard but think might be worth looking for. This year I've significantly expanded that list to include everything that's gotten Jazz Critics Poll votes, even if I'd put their odds of hitting A- at much less than 2%. I may thin them out later, or just revise the explanation.

A couple quick notes on the music. The Paul Smoker albums are actually remastered digital-only, so the label arguably should be to the reissue, if only there was one. In general, when I stream an album that matches an original release, I attribute it to the original label, instead of the reissue label. I have no qualms about that with streaming services, but it may be a bit unfair in this case.

I've also resurrected "Limited Sampling" this week. I really wanted to hear the Dick Hyman album, but could only find fragments. I expect there will be more of these in the next few weeks. In most cases so far, they're possibly good albums that Bandcamp only has a couple tracks from. However, in the future, I may start including records that are fully available but I hit reject on. Similarly, limited sampling could mean something I've only heard a YouTube or Soundcloud single from. I don't count these as graded albums, but they do show up as heard in the EOY aggregate, with +/- notes.


New records reviewed this week:

Arctic Monkeys: The Car (2022, Domino): Britrock band, have grown increasingly baroque (and unpleasant) since their pretty good 2006 debut. Seventh album. I can't say this one is unlistenable, but the strings and stuff aren't very interesting. And I have no reason to think that Alex Turner is, either. B- [sp]

Simon Belelty: Pee Wee (2020 [2022], Jojo): Guitarist, first album, although he seems to have been around a while, with a 2001 credit with pianist Kirk Lightsey, who appears here. Provides plenty room for leads from Josh Evans (trumpet) and Asaf Yuria (sax), as well as Lightsey. B+(**) [cd]

Wolfert Brederode: Ruins and Remains (2021 [2022], ECM): Dutch pianist, albums since 1997, this one has credits below the title for Matangi Quartet (strings) and Joost Lijbaart (percussion). B+(**) [sp]

Sarah Elizabeth Charles: Blank Canvas (2022, Stretch/Ropeadope): Jazz singer-songwriter, several albums since 2012, backed by piano, guitar, bass, and drums, with a couple guest spots. B+(*) [cd]

The Chicago Plan [Gebhard Ullmann/Steve Swell/Fred Lonberg-Holm/Michael Zerang]: For New Zealand (2019 [2022], Not Two): Group name from the title of a 2016 album by the same quartet. Leaders play tenor sax/bass clarinet and trombone, credited with three songs each, backed by cello and drums -- the latter pair their Chicago connection. B+(***) [cd]

The Clarinet Trio: Transformations and Further Passages (2021 [2022], Leo): Three clarinetists, nothing else, with Jürgen Kupke, Michael Thieke (alto clarinet), and Gebhard Ullmann (bass clarinet). They open with a collective improv, each takes a solo interlude at some point, the other pieces tend to be by German avant composers, with Albert Mangelsdorff the most frequent touchstone. B+(***) [cd]

Louis Cole: Quality Over Opinion (2022, Brainfeeder): Singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, plays drums, keyboards, guitar, and bass, also sings. Fourth album since 2010. Seems to have a jazz background, going back to his parents, but straddles genres without getting stuck anywhere. Twenty mostly-short songs, but adds up to 69:59. B+(*) [sp]

Hollie Cook: Happy Hour (2022, Merge): British singer-songwriter, father was Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook, mother a backing singer for Culture Club, played keyboards in a late edition of the Slits, fourth solo album since 2011. Weaves a bit of reggae rhythm in. B+(**) [sp]

Cooper-Moore & Stephen Gauci: Conversations Vol. 1 (2019 [2020], 577): Piano and tenor sax duo, collecting six improv pieces (41:47), with another volume kept back in reserve (released 2022). The first sax notes fly awkwardly, but once the piano kicks in, Gauci finds his track. A- [sp]

Craig Davis: Tone Paintings: The Music of Dodo Marmarosa (2021 [2022], MCG Jazz): Pianist, studied at Indiana and Manhattan School of Music, seems to be his first album but claims "30 years of professional experience." Ten songs by bebop pianist Marmarosa, plus his own "A Ditty for Dodo," ably supported by John Clayton (bass) and Jeff Hamilton (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Paul Dunmall Quintet: Yes Tomorrow (2021 [2022], Discus): British saxophonist (alto/tenor), has a long career on the free jazz scene. Group backs him here with guitar (Steven Saunders), trombone (Richard Foote), bass, and drums. B+(***) [sp]

Chad Fowler/Ivo Perelman/Zoh Amba/Matthew Shipp/William Parker/Steve Hirsh: Alien Skin (2022, Mahakala Music): An impromptu session, with three saxophonists -- Fowler plays stritch and saxello, Amba and Perelman tenor, with Amba also on flute -- backed by piano, bass, and drums. Starts off cautiously with a bass solo. Still, impossible to keep this much firepower down. Invigorating when they bust out, intriguing when they hold back a bit. A- [sp]

Laszlo Gardony: Close Connection (2022, Sunnyside): Hungarian pianist, albums since 1984, teaches at Berklee. Trio with John Lockwood and Yoron Israel, "embraces his Hungarian folk-music and prog-rock roots." B+(**) [cd] [12-02]

Ben LaMar Gay: Certain Reveries (2022, International Anthem): From Chicago, credited with cornet, synthesizer, and vocals, in a duo with drummer Tommaso Moretti. Shifts between several modes: the free jazz improv the most immediately appealing, the more ambient stretches take some time to sink in, but can't be dismissed as merely ambient. B+(***) [sp]

Milford Graves/Jason Moran: Live at Big Ears (2018-20 [2021], Yes): Legendary avant percussionist, died in 2021, in a duo with the once-famous pianist -- Moran's string of 1999-2010 Blue Notes dominated the decade, but aside from a 2014 Fats Waller tribute and a couple side-credits, hardly anyone managed to hear his self-released albums. B+(***) [bc]

Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen (2022, Blue Note): Covers twelve Leonard Cohen songs, the core band has some jazz cred -- Immanuel Wilkins (alto sax), Bill Frisell (guitar), Kevin Hays (piano), Larry Goldings (organ), Greg Leisz (pedal steel guitar), Scott Colley (bass), Nate Smith (drums) -- with ten guest vocalists, few doing justice to the songs (Sarah McLachlan's "Hallelujah" is an exception). B [sp]

Conrad Herwig: The Latin Side of Mingus (2022, Savant): Trombonist, started as a mainstream player in the 1980s with Clark Terry, played in big bands (Toshiko Akiyoshi, Mingus Big Band), picked up some Latin moves with Eddie Palmieri. This is his seventh Latin Side Of album, following tributes to John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, and Horace Silver. This one touts Randy Brecker and Ruben Blades as special guests, with a half-dozen more names on the cover. A lot of Mingus tributes on the 100th anniversary of his birth. B+(**) [sp]

Aubrey Johnson & Randy Ingram: Play Favorites (2022, Sunnyside): Standards singer, second album, accompanied by just piano. Works several Brazilian songs in (two by Jobim), along with Joni Mitchell (whose voice she closely resembles) and Billie Eilish. B [cd]

Angélique Kidjo/Ibrahim Maalouf: Queen of Sheba (2022, Mister Ibé): Afropop singer from Benin, albums since 1989, I've never been very taken with her work, so credit Maalouf -- from Lebanon, based in Paris, his parents and other family are notable musicians -- with raising the musical bar, as well as adding some nice trumpet. B+(**) [sp]

Sam Kirmayer: In This Moment (2021 [2022], Cellar Live): Canadian guitarist, a couple previous albums, this one with tenor sax (Al McLean), piano (Sean Fyle), trombone, bass, and drums. B+(*) [sp]

Lantana: Elemental (2020 [2022], Cipsela): Portuguese group, all women, with trumpet (Anna Piosik), two cellos, violin, electronics, and voice (mostly Maria Radich). I could do without the singing voices, but there's something to the dense string-laden din, even with voiceover. B+(**) [cd]

Ramsey Lewis: The Beatles Songbook [The Saturday Salon Series: Volume One] (2020 [2022], Steele): Pianist, debut album was 1956, had a surprise hit in 1965 with his Trio's cover of "The In Crowd," followed that up with many more light covers of contemporary pop tunes, including several by Lennon-McCartney ("A Hard Day's Night," "Day Tripper," "Julia") -- enough to be collected as Plays the Beatles Songbook. That's what I expected when I first say this, but it turns out these are recent solo recordings (with "Imagine" slipped in). Given how hard it is to jazzify Beatles songs, I expected nothing here. But Lewis doesn't much try, settling for sober, stripped down melodies, and that seems to work. Title suggests there are more volumes like this to come, but Lewis died in September, at 87. B+(*) [cd]

Kirk Lightsey: Live at Smalls Jazz Club (2021 [2022], Cellar): Pianist, long career including leadership of The Leaders, was 84 when this was recorded, and has rarely appeared more sprightly. With Mark Whitfield (guitar), Santi Debriano (bass), and Victor Lewis (drums), all of whom help him shine. A- [cd]

Charles Lloyd: Trios: Sacred Thread (2020 [2022], Blue Note): The tenor saxophonist's third (and final) trio album this year, also plays alto flute and tarogato, joined this time by Julian Lage (guitar) and Zakir Hussain (percussion, vocals). The co-stars get ample opportunities here, often for better but not always. B+(**) [sp]

Jasmine Myra: Horizons (2022, Gondwana): British alto saxophonist, alto plays flute, from Leeds, first album, neatly wrapped up in silky strings, including guitar and harp, plus Jasper Green on keyboards. B+(*) [sp]

Flora Purim: If You Will (2022, Strut): Brazilian singer, started with bossa nova in 1964, moved to New York in 1967 and gravitated toward jazz fusion, singing in Chick Corea's Return to Forever. First studio album in 15 years, did this for her 80th birthday. Remarkably solid work all around. B+(***) [sp]

Hal Smith's New Orleans Night Owls: Early Hours (2021-22 [2022], self-released): Drummer, plays trad jazz, has led a few groups like this one (e.g., Hal Smith's Rhythmakers, Creole Sunshine Orchestra, Swing Central), while being drummer of choice for groups like Silver Leaf Jazz Band, Yerba Buena Stompers, and outfits led by James Dapogny, Ted Des Plantes, Duke Heitger, Leon Oakley, and Butch Thompson. Group here has cornet, trombone, clarinet, piano, banjo, and string bass. B+(**) [bc]

Hal Smith's Jazzologists: I Scream, You Scream, Everybody Wants Ice Cream (2021, self-released): Exceptionally jaunty trad jazz septet, with several members -- Katie Cavera (bass), Clint Baker (trumpet), and John Gill (trombone) -- stepping up for vocals. "Ice Cream" indeed is a screamer. B+(***) [bc]

Hal Smith's Jazzologists: Black Cat on the Fence (2021, self-released): Same group, I'm working backwards, this coming out several months before Ice Cream. Only note is "remote recordings from six U.S. cities." B+(**) [bc]

Wil Swindler's Elevenet: Space Bugs: Live in Denver (2022, OA2): Alto saxophonist (also soprano and flute), came out of UNT, has a previous Elevenet album from 2010. Group is large enough to provide big band complexity, but not risk breaking into swing. Original pieces, aside from one by Regina Spektor, and the never jazzable "Julia/Blackbird." B [cd]

The Dave Wilson Quartet: Stretching Supreme (2017-18 [2021], Dave Wilson Music): Tenor/soprano saxophonist from Lancaster, Pennsylvania; fourth album, quartet with piano, bass, and drums. Starts out by biting off two parts of A Love Supreme (25:03), follows that up with four more stretched pieces (51:21), with two more Coltrane pieces, an original, and "Days of Wine and Roses." Strong player, has a lot to work with. B+(**) [bc]

Neil Young & Crazy Horse: World Record (2022, Reprise): Per Wikipedia, this is studio album number 42, with Rick Rubin co-producing, and the relatively genteel "Love Earth" the lead single. Sounds better when the band gets the feedback going, but doesn't sound essential. B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Elton Dean Quartet: On Italian Roads: Live at Teatro Cristallo, Milan, 1979 (1979 [2022], British Progressive Jazz): British saxophonist, perhaps best known for his long tour with Soft Machine, but he had a parallel career in free jazz, as evidenced by the company he keeps here: Keith Tippett (piano), Harry Miller (bass), and Louis Moholo-Moholo (drums). That's one hell of a rhythm section. B+(***) [sp]

Bill Evans: Morning Glory: The 1973 Concert at the Teatro Gran Rex, Buenos Aires (1973 [2022], Resonance): Piano trio, with Eddie Gomez (bass) and Marty Morell (drums). Typically superb, bass solos included. Package reportedly includes 2-CD, extensive booklet. A- [sp]

Bill Evans: Inner Spirit: The 1979 Concert at the Teatro General San Martín, Buenos Aires (1979 [2022], Resonance): Another piano trio, same year, same city, but with a different bassist (Marc Johnson) and drummer (Joe LaBarbera). B+(***) [sp]

Michel Petrucciani: Solo in Denmark (1990 [2022], Storyville): French pianist (1962-99), born with a genetic bone disease which "caused his bones to fracture over 100 times before he reached adolescence and kept him in pain throughout his entire life." Nonetheless, he was a remarkable pianist, as is more than established in this recording. B+(***) [sp]

John Sinclair Presents: Detroit Artists Workshop: Community, Jazz and Art in the Motor City 1965-1981 (1965-81 [2022], Strut/Art Yard): I tend to think of Sinclair as a political figure, but aside from consorting with Yippies and co-founding the White Panthers and the Rainbow People Party, and spending way too much time in jail -- he was notorious enough that a "John Sinclair Freedom Rally" to protest his sentence was headlined by John Lennon and Stevie Wonder -- he's mostly viewed as a poet with a long connection to music (starting with the MC5). Unclear exactly what his role in these groups/tracks is, other than archivist and author of the booklet. Group leaders include Donald Byrd, Charles Moore, and Bennie Maupin. While I'm impressed by the horns, the rhythm is what finally won me over. A- [bc]

Old music:

Brian Charette: Music for Organ Sextette (2011, SteepleChase): Organ player, third album after a self-released debut, probably the farthest he got away from the soul jazz paradigm, with four reeds -- Mike DiRubbo (alto/soprano sax), John Ellis (bass clarinet), Jay Collins (flute, baritone sax), and Joel Fraham (tenor sax) -- plus drums (Jochen Rueckert). B+(*) [cdr]

Jason Moran: Bangs (2016 [2017], Yes): The pianist's third self-released album, after a solo and a live Village Vanguard set with his long-running trio. This is a different kind of trio, with Mary Halvorson (guitar) and Ron Miles (cornet). (Not clear where the drums on some tracks come from.) B+(***) [bc]

Paul Smoker Trio: QB (1984, Alvas): Trumpet player (1941-2016), first trio album with Ron Rohovit on bass and longtime collaborator Phil Haynes on drums, plus "special guest" Anthony Braxton (alto sax). Title cut is where they finally mesh. B+(***) [dl]

Paul Smoker Trio: Mississippi River Rat (1984 [1985], Sound Aspects): Second trio album: trumpet, bass (Ron Rohobit), and drums (Phil Haynes). The upbeat opener is especially impressive, but the album holds up throughout. A- [dl]

Paul Smoker Trio: Alone (1986 [1988], Sound Aspects): Trumpet-bass-drums trio with Ron Rohovit and Phil Haynes, third album together. Bandcamp edition drops the covers of "Cornet Chop Suey" and "Caravan," which offer some useful framework for the improv fury. A- [dl]

Paul Smoker Trio: Come Rain or Come Shine (1988 [1989], Sound Aspects): Fourth trumpet-bass-drums trio album, again with Ron Rohovit and Phil Haynes. B+(***) [dl]

Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn: Lead Me On (1972, Decca): Second duet album, after 1971's We Only Make Believe. Problematic as usual, finding love easier to fall out of than to fall into -- perhaps why "Never Ending Song of Love" feels wrong. B+(**) [dl]


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

Dick Hyman: One Step to Chicago: The Legacy of Frank Teschemacher and the Austin High Gang (1992, Rivermont): Title could start with George Avakian Presents, referring back to an album produced by Avakian 50 years prior, "transcribed and directed" by Hyman, featuring clarinetists Kenny Davern and Dan Levinson prominently on the cover, but the whole lineup is star-studded, from the cornets (Peter Ecklund and Dick Sudhalter) to the banjo-guitarists (Marty Grosz and Howard Alden). ++ [os]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Rodrigo Amado: Refraction Solo (Trost) [10-28]
  • The Attic [Rodrigo Amado/Gonçalo Almeida/Onno Govaert]: Love Ghosts (NoBusiness)
  • The Chicago Plan [Gebhard Ullmann/Steve Swell/Fred Lonberg-Holm/Michael Zerang]: For New Zealand (Not Two) [11-04]
  • The Clarinet Trio: Transformations and Further Passages (Leo) [11-01]
  • Satoko Fujii: Hyaku: One Hundred Dreams (Libra) [11-09]
  • Lantana: Elemental (Cipsela) [10-16]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, November 21, 2022


Music Week

November archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 39116 [39065] rated (+51), 38 [46] unrated (-8: 10 new, 28 old).

On Thursday, I sent almost 200 invitations out to cast votes in the 17th Annual Jazz Critics Poll. Last year I wound up sending the invites out manually. I've been trying to think of a better method, and came up with two. The initial ballots I would send out using Thunderbird's Mail Merge option. For later notices and reminders, I figured I could use a GNU Mailman mailing list, using "mass subscription" to enroll people, and set up restrictions so only I can send further mail to the list. It took most of the day to figure out how to set those up, and a couple people got confused by the mail list, but it seems to be working fine now. As I'm writing this, I've gotten 46 acks back, and 10 ballots. Deadline will be end-of-day December 12. Results will be published at The Arts Fuse, and on my master website.

I'll possibly send out a few more invites this week. I haven't had much time to try to vet candidates this weekend, especially as I knocked out another Speaking of Which column. Some of this week's records are things I was pointed to by voters. I also found a Michaelangelo Matos ballot with eight records I hadn't heard, so I checked them out: liked all of the electronica, was less taken by two prog-ish pop groups (Au Suisse, Dungen).

Other news for me is that I've recently bought new keyboard, mouse, and speakers for the computer I'm typing this on. In each case the old pieces were failing: the mouse button was unreliable; the cap to one of the keyboard keys ('d') wore a hole in the middle, keeping the switch from engaging, and more keys were dropping out (especially shift states); and the right speaker was cracking up, so I had been listening to only one speaker for months (and wondering why the sound was so crap compared to the cheaper speakers on the other computer).

I went with a Logitech wireless (not Bluetooth) mouse, which is a huge improvement. I'm having more trouble adjusting to the keyboard, which is a bit disappointing give how much the Keychron Q3 cost: the brown switchers have more click than I'm used to, and the backlighting can be disorienting (presumably that and everything else is programmable, but I haven't looked up how to do that through Linux). But it's very sturdily built (weighs about 6 lbs), and the keys and mechanical switches are high quality, so I doubt they'll wear down like the Logitech keyboard did. I could wind up liking it once I get use to the feel. Speakers (Creative Labs Gigaworks T40) are pretty good, too, although I haven't used them much. (I use a second computer for streaming, but downloads land on this one, and I haven't been paying them much attention.)

Bonus is that I had to do some massive tidying up before I could install it all, which gave me lots of time to worry. That gives me a spot where I can organize the 2022 CDs I have in case I want to recheck any. Although I think the current grade sort on my jazz and non-jazz lists is good enough, I doubt that the A-list ranking is anywhere near right.

We have minimal plans for Thanksgiving, as it's always hard to round people up, and we have no particular place to go. I thought we might just grill some hamburgers and eggplant (topped with yogurt, a Turkish thing), and make baked beans, potato salad, slaw, and a spice cake. Should be warmer than last week was, and I can fob the grilling off on a guest, so that's always a treat for me.


New records reviewed this week:

A-Trak: 10 Seconds: Volume 1 (2022, Fool's Gold, EP): Canadian turntablist/electronica producer Alain Macklovitch, active since 1999, mostly singles and EPs, unearthed a broken drum machine during pandemic to "churn out the rawest house beats he's ever made." Four songs, 15:04. B+(***) [sp]

A-Trak: 10 Seconds: Volume 2 (2022, Fool's Gold, EP): Four more songs, 15:30. Pulls it out on the final cut. B+(***) [sp]

Adult.: Becoming Undone (2022, Dais): Detroit duo of Nicola Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller, 10th album since 2000, lots of funky industrial grind, at least until they slow it down. B+(***) [sp]

Franco Ambrosetti: Nora (2022, Enja): Swiss trumpet player, just turned 80, father was a saxophonist, playing together in the George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band. This feels like a bucket list project, with an all-star combo -- John Scofield (guitar), Uri Caine (piano), Scott Colley (bassist), and Peter Erskine (drums) -- backed by a 22-piece string orchestra arranged and conducted by Alan Broadbent. The strings are indeed reminiscent of sessions with Charlie Parker and Clifford Brown, but that doesn't strike me as much of a plus. B+(*) [sp]

Au Suisse: Au Suisse (2022, City Slang): Duo of Morgan Geist and Mike Kelley (aka Kelley Polar), both Americans with a decade-plus experience producing electronic dance music. This is more of a new wave throwback. B+(*) [sp]

The Black Dog: Brutal Minimalism EP (2022, Dust Science, EP): British electronica group, founded 1989, Ken Downie the only original member left, joined by Richard and Martin Dust in 2001. Vast discography. "Brutal" refers to architecture, but the music is less so, even if that's what it's meant to convey. Four tracks, 17:47. B+(***) [sp]

The Black Dog: Concrete Reasoning EP (2022, Dust Science, EP): Three tracks, 12:21, builds on the architectural themes of Brutal Minimalism. B+(*) [sp]

Patricia Brennan: More Touch (2022, Pyroclastic): Vibraphone/marimba player, 2021 album won Jazz Critics Poll as the year's top debut. Second album, runs 70:47, backed with bass (Kim Cass), drums (Marcus Gilmore), and percussion (Mauricio Herrera). B+(***) [cd]

Terri Lynne Carrington: New Standards Vol. 1 (2022, Candid): Drummer, ranges from avant to crossover, is founder and artistic director of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gener Justice. Her "new standards" are defined in a book of 101 lead sheets, the common denominator that all songs are by women. This offers 11 of them. Band on cover: Kris Davis (piano), Linda May Han Oh (bass), Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Matthew Stevens (guitar). Plus there is a long list of guests, including vocalists. Results are rather mixed, which may have been the plan. B+(**) [sp]

Frank Catalano: Live at Birdland (2022, Ropeadope): Saxophonist from Chicago, mostly plays tenor, early albums on Delmark (1998-2001) include a joust with Von Freeman. Quartet with Randy Ingram (piano), Julian Smith (bass), and Mike Clark (drums). The result is an old-fashioned sax stomp, the sort of thing a Sonny Stitt, or maybe a George Coleman, might bust loose. A- [sp]

Callista Clark: Real to Me: The Way I Feel (2022, Big Machine): Young country singer-songwriter from Georgia, signed a contract at 15 with the label that launched Taylor Swift. First album expands on 2021's 5-track EP. I'm not wild about the big money production, but don't doubt her talent. B+(*) [sp]

Duduka Da Fonseca & Quarteto Universal: Yes!!! (2022, Sunnyside): Brazilian drummer, long based in New York, played in the group Trio da Paz (7 albums 1992-2011). Quartet with Vinicius Gomes (guitar), Helio Alves (piano), and Gill Lopes (bass). B+(**) [sp]

Dungen: En Är För Mycket Och Tusen Aldrig Nog (2022, Mexican Summer): Swedish group, albums since 2001, often considered prog or psychedelic, titles in Swedish. B+(*) [sp]

Joe Fahey: Baker's Cousin (2022, Rough Fish): Minnesota singer-songwriter, fifth album since 2006, too much rock reverb for country, but I suppose Americana might claim him. B+(**) [sp]

Avram Fefer Quartet: Juba Lee (2022, Clean Feed): Alto/tenor saxophonist, also plays bass clarinet, reconvenes a trio that produced one of 2011's best records -- Eilyahu, with Eric Revis (bass) and Chad Taylor (drums) -- and adds Marc Ribot (guitar) for very good measure. A- [cdr]

Bill Frisell: Four (2022, Blue Note): Guitarist, many records since 1982, this one a quartet with Gregory Tardy (clarinet, tenor sax), Gerald Clayton (piano), and Johnathan Blake (drums). Postbop, sometimes beguiling, sometimes not. B+(*) [sp]

Kittin + the Hacker: Third Album (2022, Nobody's Bizzness): French electronica duo, Caroline Hervé (more often known as Miss Kittin) and Michel Amato, collaboration goes back to 1997, along with solo work from both. B+(***) [sp]

Laufey: Everything I Know About Love (2022, AWAL): Singer-songwriter, first album after several singles/EPs, full name is Icelandic (Laufey Lin Jónsdóttir), her mother Chinese, a violinist like her grandfather Lin Yaoji. She studied at Berklee -- playing piano, guitar, and cello -- and is based in Los Angeles. B+(**) [sp]

Bill Laurance: Affinity (2022, Flint Music): British keyboard player, original member of Snarky Puppy, with an album of solo piano. B+(*) [sp]

Jeffrey Lewis: When That Really Old Cat Dies (2022, self-released, EP): Cover notes: "Asides & B-Sides" and "Previously Unstreamable Tracks," so the implication is that this compiles old tracks, but tracking them down isn't cost-effective. Seven occasionally interesting songs, 23:07 B+(*) [sp]

Dana Lyn: A Point on a Slow Curve (2022, In a Circle): Violinist, only previous album I can find was in 2004. this is a fairly large group, with Mike McGinniss on clarinet/bass clarinet, Sara Schoenbeck on bassoon, Patricia Brennan on vibes, more strings and percussion, and several singers. B+(*) [sp]

Jim McNeely/Frankfurt Radio Big Band Featuring Chris Potter: Rituals (2015 [2022], Double Moon): I don't often include the "featuring" credit, but after McNeely's 6-part title piece (33:03) the other four pieces were composed by Potter (35:25), and as the soloist Potter owns this record. B+(***) [sp]

Abel Mireles: Amino (2021 [2022], Sunnyside): Mexican-American saxophonist (tenor/soprano), based in New York, first album as leader. B+(**) [sp]

Judy Niemack: What's Love (2021 [2022], Sunnyside): Jazz singer, writes or adds lyrics to most of her songs, debut 1978, second album 1989, has recorded regularly since then. Distinctive stylist, has a first-rate mainstream band here with Peter Bernstein (guitar), Sumner Fortner (piano), Doug Weiss (bass), and Joe Farnsworth (drums), with Eric Alexander (tenor sax) on one track. B+(***) [sp]

Lina Nyberg Band: Anniverse (2022, Hoob): Swedish singer, albums since 1990, backed by piano, guitar, bass, and drums, on a cycle of songs that move from month to month through one year. "September" stands out. B [sp]

The Ostara Project: The Ostara Project (2022, Cellar): Canadian group, named for "the Germanic goddess of the spring equinox," led by Amanda Tosoff (piano) and Jodi Proznick (bass), with alto sax (Allison Au), trumpet (Rachel Therrien), guitar (Jocelyn Gould), drums (Sanah Kadoura), and vocals (Joanna Majoko) -- the latter dominate, unfortunately, not that I don't enjoy a nice "Bye Bye Blackbird." B+(*) [cd]

Dierk Peters: Spring (2022, Sunnyside): German vibraphonist, second album, quintet with Adam O'Farrill (trumpet), Caleb Wheeler Curtis (alto sax), bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]

Zach Phillips: Goddaughters (2022, self-released): Singer-songwriter from San Diego, fourth album, shares a name with a more prolific keyboardist (has a UK website but was born in New Hampshire and is based in Brooklyn, and might be worth some research). This is billed as Americans, which means songs of real life from interesting angles, but I'm every bit as struck by the guitar, which reminds me of classic Who. A- [cd]

Piri & Tommy: Froge.mp3 (2022, Polydor): Drum & bass duo, singer-songwriter Sophie McBurnie (Piri) and Tommy Villers, first album together, or mixtape, or whatever. Easily the catchiest trifle from Michaelangelo Matos's electronica-heavy EOY list. A- [sp]

Plaid: Feorm Falorx (2022, Warp): British electronica duo, Ed Handley and Andy Turner, original members of the Black Dog (with Ken Downie), left in 1995 to focus on their duo, which started in 1991. Another good beats album that doesn't quite blow me away. B+(**) [sp]

Jana Pochop: The Astronaut (2022, self-released): Folk singer-songwriter from New Mexico, base in Austin, first album after a decade-plus of singles and EPs. Has an appealing spaciness. B+(**) [sp]

Pye Corner Audio: Let's Emerge! (2022, Sonic Cathedral): British electronica producer Martin Jenkins, more than a dozen albums since 2010. Shimmering surfaces reinforced with guitar. B+(**) [sp]

Reverso: Harmonic Alchemy (2022, Outnote): Chamber jazz trio, names on the cover, hard to see let alone parse, but clockwise from top: Vince Courtois (cello), Ryan Keberle (trombone), and Frank Woeste (piano). Two previous albums together, The Melodic Line and Suite Ravel. B+(***) [cdr]

Emiliano Sampaio Jazz Symphonic Orchestra: We Have a Dream (2022, Alessa): Brazilian guitarist and trombonist, based in Austria. I don't have a good sense of what his earlier work (e.g., Meretrio) was like, but he's been gravitating toward large ensembles, and goes whole hog here. With enough rhythm to keep it interesting. B+(**) [sp]

Chad Taylor Trio: The Reel (2022, Astral Spirits): Chicago Underground drummer, not much as leader but a lot of superb co- and side credits. Trio here with Brian Settles (saxophones) and Neil Podgurski (piano). Within a free jazz framework, each member gets chances to show off, an aims to please. A- [bc]

Thumbscrew: Multicolored Midnight (2021 [2022], Cuneiform): Trio of Mary Halvorson (guitar), Mark Dresser (bass, electronics), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums, vibes), seventh album since 2014. I'm not a fan of everything Halvorson does, but this group is one where she earns her reputation. A- [dl]

Dan Weiss Trio: Dedication (2020 [2022], Cygnus): Drummer-led piano trio, with Jacob Sacks and Thomas Morgan playing Weiss compositions, each title a "For X," where "X" includes musical influences like Nancarrow and Elvin, cultural ones like Tarkovsky, personal ones like "Grandma May," also one "For George Floyd." B+(**) [cd]

Lainey Wilson: Bell Bottom Country (2022, Broken Bow): Country singer-songwriter from Louisiana, fourth album, has all the tools, though I'm not so sure about the cover outfit. She co-wrote thirteen songs, then finished with a cover of "What's Up (What's Going On)" that blows them away. B+(***) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Roy Eldridge Quartet/Ella Fitzgerald Quintet: In Concert: Falkoner Centret, Copenhagen, Denmark, May 21, 1959 (1959 [2022], SteepleChase): The two headliners shared the same band: Herb Ellis (guitar), Lou Levy (piano), Wilfred Middlebrooks (bass), and Gus Johnson (drums). Opens with two trumpet leads, then Ella takes over with "Cheek to Cheek," tripping up a bit on a mambo piece, but recovering spectacularly with a full scat "How High the Moon." Would like to have heard more from Roy. B+(***) [sp]

Ella Fitzgerald: Ella at the Hollywood Bowl: The Irving Berlin Songbook (1958 [2022], Verve): Previously unreleased 15-song concert, recorded a couple weeks after wrapping the Berlin section of her Songbooks series. B+(***) [sp]

Hal Galper: Ivory Forest Redux (1979 [2022], Origin): Another archival find, this one from early in the pianist's career, in a quartet featuring a young but already distinctive guitarist named John Scofield, backed by bass (Wayne Dockery) and drums (Adam Nussbaum). B+(***) [cd]

Ahmad Jamal: Emerald City Nights: Live at the Penthouse 1963-1964 (1963-64 [2022], Elemental, 2CD): Pianist, born 1930 in Pittsburgh as Frederick Jones, converted to Islam in 1950, shortly before his first records, which became popular and plentiful from 1958 on. This collects two trio sets, with either Richard Evans or Jamil Nasser on bass, and Chuck Lampkin on drums. I give this one a slight edge: it's a bit more sprightly, but he's always entertaining. A- [cd] [12-02]

Ahmad Jamal: Emerald City Nights: Live at the Penthouse 1965-1966 (1965-66 [2022], Elemental, 2CD): Four more sets from the next couple years, with Jamal Nasser on bass, and various drummers (Chuck Lampkin, Vernel Fournier, Frank Grant). B+(***) [cd] [12-02]

Elvin Jones: Revival: Live at Pookie's Pub (1967 [2022], Blue Note): Drummer, best known for John Coltrane Quartet, which he left a year before this set, recorded a couple weeks before Coltrane died. With Joe Farrell (tenor sax/flute), Billy Greene (piano), and Wilbur Little (bass). Runs long, and I might prefer fewer drum solos and less flute, but those are quibbles. B+(***) [sp]

Dickie Landry/Lawrence Weiner: Having Been Built on Sand/With Another Base (Basis) in Fact (1978 [2022], Unseen Worlds): Saxophonist from Louisiana, also a painter, his scattered works often tied to art installations. This is billed as "a structure of Lawrence Weiner," with Weiner one of three spoken voices -- the one in English and German, along with Tina Girouard in English and Britta Le Va in German. B+(**) [sp]

Alhaji Waziri Oshomah: World Spirituality Classics 3: The Muslim Highlife of Alhaji Waziri Oshomah (1978-84 [2022], Luaka Bop): Original name Osomegbe Ekperi, from Edo in Southern Nigeria, a region where Muslims and Christians reportedly live in relative harmony. Dates not specified, but three (of seven) tracks are also on a 1978-84 5-LP box set. Not the hottest highlife I've heard, but the laid-back groove has its own appeal. A- [sp]

Esbjörn Svensson: Home.S. (2008 [2022], ACT): Swedish pianist, leader of the very popular piano trio, E.S.T., until his death in a scuba diving accident in 2008. This is a previously unreleased solo session, thoughtful with some spritely moments. B+(*) [cd]

Mototeru Takagi/Kim Dae Hwan/Choi Sun Bae: Seishin-Seido (1995 [2022], NoBusiness): Tenor sax, percussion, and trumpet trio. Second album the label has released featuring Takagi (1941-2002), a bit more scattered than Live at Little John. B+(**) [cd]

Gebhard Ullmann/Steve Swell/Hilliard Greene/Barry Altschul: We're Playing in Here? (2007 [2022], NoBusiness): Four pieces by Swell (trombone), one by Ullmann (tenor sax/bass clarinet), from a period when they played together frequently. Backed by bass and drums. B+(***) [cd]

Old music:

Homeboy Sandman: Actual Factual Pterodactyl (2008, Boy Sand Industries): Second album. Way too much here. B+(***) [sp]

Homeboy Sandman: Chimera EP (2012, Stones Throw, EP): Not as manic as the early records, just six songs (23:35). B+(*) [sp]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Simon Belelty: Pee Wee (Jojo) [10-21]
  • Sarah Elizabeth Charles: Blank Canvas (Stretch/Ropeadope) [11-11]
  • Aubrey Johnson & Randy Ingram: Play Favorites (Sunnyside) [11-04]
  • Kirk Lightsey: Live at Smalls Jazz Club (Cellar) [11-04]

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