Music Week [0 - 9]

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Music Week

May archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42312 [42249] rated (+63), 22 [29] unrated (-7).

Major time sink last week was filling out the DownBeat Critics Poll ballot. I took notes, and they're here, but probably need to be cleaned up a bit more. One thing that slowed me down was that I copied off all of their nominee lists. I could write a sociology dissertation on "How to Lie with Polls," where the most obvious way is the questions you pick and those you leave out, so this is data I've often wished I had kept (although whether I do anything with it remains to be seen).

One thing I have done ever since they started inviting me was to copy down their album lists, figuring I could use them as checklists. Before I got into this year's lists, I calculated that I had heard 84.4% of their new jazz album nominees, 57.5% of their historical jazz albums, 22.5% of the blues albums, and 78.3% of their "beyond" albums. Most of the albums in this week's haul came from the unheard parts of those lists, including a lot of blues guitar-slingers I never bothered with before and probably won't again.

After submitting the DownBeat ballot, I resumed work on Speaking of Which. Sunday night I was mostly done, but still meant to write something on a particularly offensive Jonathan Chait piece, so decided to hold it an extra day. By the time I posted Monday evening, it was 228 links, 11,661 words. I've added a bit more today, flagged as usual.

The extra day added to the rated count (+11 to be precise), as I rarely bothered to give even high-B+ albums a second play. Jimmy Holmes and his protege Robert Connelly Farr were two I wondered about. Much in the long Wes Montgomery and Keith Jarrett sets sounded terrific, but I wound up demurring, partly because I previously had Full House at B+, and Köln Concert at A- (with no other Jarrett solo coming close).

One nice bit of news is that after complaining about Cox's lack of service at some length last week, I got an unsolicited tweet-message from them pointing me to a web page with an email address to appeal blocked mail. I wrote them. They cleared the block a couple days later, and fixed my problem: I can now send email that references my website.

A couple days later, I found another problem, this time with Gmail. Turns out anything I send from my server to a Gmail account gets automatically rejected as "likely suspicious due to the very low reputation of the sending IP address." I've run across this before, and (needless to say) they, too, make it very difficult to get anything resembling service. I've yet to try troubleshooting this particular problem -- which, among other things, means making sure my server isn't committing the offenses charged. It's a pretty low-grade problem right now, but will matter more if/when I revive the Jazz Critics Poll.

I should also note that last week's much-hyped storm front almost completely spared Wichita. We had a cold front that was sweeping southeast across Kansas, and on its edge there developed an almost straight line of storms from Texas into Nebraska. But the actual storm cells were moving north-northeast up the edge of the front. Just before the front passed through Wichita, the line broke, with two larger storms coalescing, one passing north of Wichita, the more southern storm passing to our south and east. The latter did produce tornadoes, but mostly in Oklahoma. There were more tornadoes later that night, around Kansas City and up into Iowa.

I expect to get very little work done in what's left of this week, and none over the weekend. We have company coming, which almost certainly means I won't be posting Speaking of Which then (although I probably will open a draft file in case I do stumble on something I'd want to link to). It will also be tempting to skip a Music Week, although there's no minimum there: if I do post, it will be much shorter than this one.

New records reviewed this week:

Matt Andersen: The Big Bottle of Joy (2023, Sonic): Canadian blues guitarist-singer-songwriter, regular albums since 2004. I don't see credits, but the backup singers loom large here. Actually, it's all big and joyful. B+(**) [sp]

Anitta: Funk Generation (2024, Republic): Brazilian "baile funk" singer-songwriter, Larissa de Macedo Machado, debut 2013, this follows a similarly named 2023 EP, repeats the first single "Funk Rave," expanded to 15 short, hard-hitting tracks, 35:14. B+(***) [sp]

Nia Archives: Silence Is Loud (2024, Hijinxx/Island): British jungle DJ/producer, last name Hunt, has several EPs since 2021, first album takes a big step toward turning her into a dance-pop star. A- [sp]

Duane Betts: Wild & Precious Life (2023, Royal Potato Family): Son of Allman Brothers guitarist Dickey Betts (1943-2024), namesake obvious. First album under his own name but he's been playing in Allman and/or Betts bands since 2005, and quite capably recycles their trademark sound. B+(*) [sp]

Pat Bianchi: Three (2023 [2024], 21H): Organ player, debut 2002, tenth or so album, back-to-basics trio with Troy Roberts (sax) and Colin Stranahan (drums). Opens and closes strong with "Love for Sale" and "Cheek to Cheek." B+(***) [sp]

Muireann Bradley: I Kept These Old Blues (2021-23 [2023], Tompkins Square): Irish folkie, plays guitar, first album, sings twelve old blues, three from Mississippi John Hurt, three following arrangements by Stefan Grossman (plus one John Fahey). B+(***) [sp]

Edmar Castańeda World Ensemble: Viento Sur (2023, self-released): Harp player, from Colombia, ten or so albums since 2005. Not much info available, but I gather the singer is his wife, Andrea Tierra, and the band includes Felipe Lamoglia (sax), Ryan Keberle (trombone), Helio Alves (piano), Grégoire Maret (harmonica), and Itai Kriss (flute), plus percussionists. B+(***) [sp]

Layale Chaker & Sarafand: Radio Afloat (2023 [2024], In a Circle): Violinist, sings some, group with (Jake Charkley (cello), Philip Golub (piano/keyboards), Sam Minais (bass), and John Hadfield (drums). The occasional vocals lend this a Middle Eastern air, while the variety in the instruments frees the violin up as the engaging solo lead. A- [cd] [05-17]

Gary Clark Jr.: JPEG RAW (2024, Warner): Blues singer-songwriter, got a lot of hype with his 2012 major label debut, can't say as I was much impressed. Title acronym for "Jealousy, Pride, Greed, Rules, Alter Ego, Worlds." Five (of twelve) songs feature guests, with Stevie Wonder and George Clinton the big names. B- [sp]

Chris Duarte: Ain't Giving Up (2023, Provogue): Blues-rock singer-songwriter from Texas, regular albums since 1987, like so many his calling card is his guitar. B+(*) [sp]

Tinsley Ellis: Naked Truth (2024, Alligator): Blues-rock singer-songwriter-guitarist based in Atlanta, started in the Heartfixers in 1982, went solo in 1988 and has 20+ albums since. Wrote nine songs here, covers Son House (quite credibly), Willie Dixon, and Leo Kottke. B+(**) [sp]

William Lee Ellis: Ghost Hymns (2023, Yellow Dog): Folkie singer-songwriter from Memphis, plays guitar, opens solo with a front porch blues, picks up some banjo and fiddle for the Jesus-namechecking second song, called "Flood Tale." Both of those songs grabbed me immediately, but then he wandered into other less immediately appealing fare. Still worth the thought. B+(***) [sp]

Empirical: Wonder Is the Beginning (2022 [2024], Whirlwind): British group, half-dozen albums since 2007, led by bassist-composer Tom Farmer, with Jason Rebello (piano), Shaney Forbes (drums), Lewis Wright (vibes), and Nathaniel Facey (alto sax), plus Alex Hitchcock (tenor sax, 3 tracks). B+(**) [sp]

Ethel & Layale Chaker: Vigil (2022 [2024], In a Circle): As best I can tell -- my eyes have gotten so bad it pains me to search out the recording date and credits, let alone decipher the microscopic booklet -- Chaker is a violinist and composer of half of this, and Ethel is her group -- three more violins and a cello -- members of which composed most of the rest. So a strings group, certainly qualifies as chamber jazz. B+(***) [cd] [05-17]

Robert Connelly Farr: Pandora Sessions (2023, self-released): Guitarist, growler, from "Bolton, Mississippi, home of Charley Patton, Sam Chatmon & the Mississippi Sheiks," a protege of Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, plays "thunderous back alley blues" that are "menacing, guttural." Indeed, the sound is very striking at first, but then sort of shrinks, folding back on itself. B+(***) [sp]

Lawrence Fields: To the Surface (2023 [2024], Rhythm 'N' Flow): Pianist, from St. Louis, "long-awaited" debut album -- he has side credits back to 2007, including Joe Lovano and Christian Scott -- a trio with Yasushi Nakamura (bass) and Corey Fonville (drums), originals plus one cover ("I Fall in Love Too Easily"). B+(**) [sp]

Samantha Fish & Jesse Dayton: Death Wish Blues (2023, Rounder): Blues singer-songwriter-guitarist from Kansas City, a dozen or so albums since 2009, some with co-credits (like 2011's Girls With Guitars), this her first with Dayton, a rockabilly/outlaw country artist with more records going back to 1995. They're rough enough to get on each other's nerves, but the exception, a Fish ballad "No Apology," is an oasis of calm in the enveloping chaos. B+(**) [sp]

Sue Foley: One Guitar Woman: A Tribute to the Female Pioneers of Guitar (2024, Stony Plain): Blues guitarist, singer, has written most of her songs since her 1992 debut (Young Girl Blues), mostly covers here, drawing songs from Elizabeth Cotten, Maybelle Carter, Rosetta Tharpe, and others. B+(***) [sp]

Roberto Fonseca: La Gran Diversión (2023, 3čme Bureau/Wagram): Cuban pianist, a dozen or so albums since 1999. A full roster of Cuban musicians, including vocalists, with a guest spot for Regina Carter (violin). Cover depicts a party. Music bears that out. B+(**) [sp]

Amaro Freitas: Y'Y (2024, Psychic Hotline): Brazilian pianist, from Recife, fourth album since 2016. Nine tracks, some solo, some with a guest or two, including Shabaka Hutchings (flute), Brandee Younger (harp), Jeff Parker (guitar), and Hamid Drake (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Gov't Mule: Peace . . . Like a River (2023, Concord): Southern rock jam band, founded 1994 as an Allman Brothers spinoff, Warren Haynes (guitar/vocals) and Matt Abts (drums) founders still carrying on. This one is especially long. B- [sp]

Makiko Hirabayashi Trio: Meteora (2022 [2023], Enja): Japanese pianist, based in Copenhagen since 1990, side credits since 1996, several own albums since 2006. Trio with Klavs Hovman (bass) and Marilyn Mazur (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Hiromi's Sonicwonder: Sonicwonderland (2023, Telarc): Japanese pianist, last name Uehara, studied at Berklee, debut album 2003, a dozen more since, has classical skills, likes electronics, wrote jingles before moving into (and sometimes out of) jazz. This one jams Adam O'Farrill (trumpet) into the sonic tapestry, which helps. Some vocals. B+(*) [sp]

Munir Hossn/Ganavya: Sister, Idea (2023, Ropeadope, EP): Duo, recorded in Miami, the former a guitarist/vocalist from Brazil, the latter a vocalist/bassist (last name Doraiswamy, born in New York but raised in Tamil Nadu), each with a couple of independent previous albums. Seven songs, 19:46. B+(*) [sp]

Hovvdy: Hovvdy (2024, Arts & Crafts): Indie rock duo from Austin, Charlie Martin and Will Taylor, fifth album since 2016, tuneful, easy going, slight, just a whiff of country. B+(*) [sp]

Ibibio Sound Machine: Pull the Rope (2024, Merge): London-based afro-funk band, led by vocalist Eno Williams (UK-born, of Nigerian parents), the band including a guitarist from Ghana and a percussionist from Brazil. Choice groove: "Dance in the Rain." B+(**) [sp]

Christone "Kingfish" Ingram: Live in London (2023, Alligator, 2CD): Blues singer-songwriter from Clarksdale, Mississippi, plays guitar, has two previous studio albums. Pretty young (23), but solid. Run time: 107.12. B+(*) [sp]

Eric Johanson: The Deep and the Dirty (2023, Ruf): Louisiana-born blues-rock singer-songwriter, guitarist, moved to New Zealand after Katrina but returned to New Orleans in 2010, has a half-dozen albums since 2017. B+(*) [sp]

Rickie Lee Jones: Pieces of Treasure (2022 [2023], BMG/Modern): Fifteenth studio album, going back to her eponymous debut in 1979, with its jazzy freak hit single, produced by Russ Titelman, who returns here for this collection of ten standards. They picked great songs, but slowed them way down, exposing the cracks in her voice, but little else. B- [sp]

Live Edge Trio With Steve Nelson: Closing Time (2023 [2024], OA2): Trio of Ben Markley (piano), Seth Lewis (bass), and Andy Wheelock (drums), with the vibraphonist most prominent as guest. Highlight is a Horace Silver cover (of course). B+(**) [cd] [05-17]

John Lurie: Painting With John (2021-23 [2024], Royal Potato Family): Founder of the Lounge Lizards, a jazzy fusion group which recorded four studio and more live albums 1981-98; also did a shtick as Marvin Pontiac, and recorded a few soundtracks, including Fishing With John for an unscripted TV series he did in 1991. This collects music from his more recent TV series, with three seasons on HBO Max. Scattered pieces, most miniatures, some narrated, most minor but often interesting, ends with a Lounge Lizards delight. Spotify counts 56 songs, "about" 75 minutes. B+(***) [sp]

The Taj Mahal Sextet: Swingin' Live at the Church in Tulsa (2023 [2024], Lightning Rod): Folk blues great, first record 1968, no recording date I can see here, but one source had him at 81 in 2023, which is info enough. Six originals, four covers (three blues, one Hawaiian). Seems to be in strong voice, buoyed by a strong band. B+(***) [sp]

Dom Martin: Buried in the Hail (2023, Forty Below): Blues-rock singer-songwriter-guitarist, from Belfast, Northern Ireland, third album, ten originals plus a power ballad rendition of Willie Nelson's "Crazy." B+(*) [sp]

Dave McMurray: Grateful Deadication 2 (2023, Blue Note): Tenor saxophonist, from Detroit, started with Albert King, was in Was (Not Was) and Griot Galaxy, first solo album 1989, second 1996. Got the idea of doing a Grateful Dead tribute after meeting Bob Weir in 2019, released one in 2021, and here's a second. Pleasant-enough songs, some I recognize despite having no interest in the band since the early 1970s, helped with organ and a bit of grit in the sax. Some vocals, not sure whether they hurt or help. B+(*) [sp]

Coco Montoya: Writing on the Wall (2023, Alligator): Blues guitarist-singer-songwriter, from California, albums since 1995. Raw but unexceptional power. B [sp]

Simon Moullier: Inception (2022 [2023], Fresh Sound New Talent): Vibraphonist, from Nantes, France (although web bio doesn't mention that, or anything specific other than "being mentored" at Berklee), fourth album since 2020, trio with bass (Luca Alemanno) and drums (Jongkuk Kim), on one original and eight wide-ranging jazz standards (including a Jobim). B+(**) [sp]

Nat Myers: Yellow Peril (2023, Easy Eye Sound): Roots-blues singer-songwriter-guitarist from Kentucky, happens to be Korean-American, an irony that is not lost on him. First album. Good songs throughout, but "Pray for Rain" is exceptional. A- [sp]

Parchman Prison Prayer: Some Mississippi Sunday Morning (2023, Glitterbeat): Gospel recordings from inmates in a maximum security prison in Mississippi. B+(**) [sp]

Ben Patterson Jazz Orchestra: Groove Junkies (2023 [2024], Origin): Conventional big band, leader/composer plays trombone, graduated from UNT, spent over a decade in the USAF Airmen of Note, has at least two previous albums as leader, his whole career leading right here. He has every reason to be pleased with this one, although I'm not fully convinced by the big Latin jazz number. B+(**) {cd] [05-17]

Nicholas Payton: Drip (2023, PayTone): Trumpet player, from New Orleans, plays keyboard and flugelhorn here, fairly laid back funk tracks with guest vocals. B [sp]

Jessica Pratt: Here in the Pitch (2024, Mexican Summer): Singer-songwriter from San Francisco, based in Los Angeles, fourth album since 2012, has a reputation but I disliked the only previous album I've heard. I don't dislike this rather low key "album of hypnogogic folk music," but didn't find the mysteries intriguing enough to give it a second listen either. B [sp]

John Primer & Bob Corritore: Crawlin' Kingsnake (2024, VizzTone): Mississippi bluesman, played with Magic Slim before going out on his own in 1991, picked up the harmonica player in 2013, and they've been solic ever since. B+(***) [sp]

Jason Robinson: Ancestral Numbers (2023 [2024], Playscape): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano here, also alto flute), albums since 1998, composed everything here, thinking about his ancestors. Quintet with Michael Dessen (trombone), Joshua White (piano), Drew Gress (bass), and Ches Smith (drums). Interesting throughout, but took me a while to work through all of it. A- [cd] [05-14]

Still House Plants: If I Don't Make It, I Love U (2023 [2024], Bison): British art/experimental rock trio, singer is Jess Hickie-Kallenbach, third or fourth album, has very positive reviews from Guardian and Pitchfork, but not much notice elsewhere. I could see her as some kind of jazz singer, only loosely tethered to the off-kilter guitar/drums, but not the kind -- pace "remarkable voice" -- I like. B- [sp]

Natsuki Tamura/Jim Black: NatJim (2023 [2024], Libra): Japanese trumpet player, husband to pianist Satoko Fujii, has more albums with her but quite a few on his own, like this dynamic but choppy improv duo with drums. B+(***) [cd] [05-17]

Ralph Towner: At First Light (2022 [2023], ECM): American guitarist, has recorded regularly for ECM since 1973, also extensively in the group Oregon. Solo here, nice and easy. B+(*) [sp]

Angela Verbrugge: Somewhere (2017-18 [2024], OA2): Standards singer, from Canada, first album, starts a bit flat, and the title song has little to recommend itself, but gets better -- I especially love the one en français, curiously the only one she wrote, and oddly billed as a "remix." B+(**) [cd] [05-17]

Bill Warfield and the Hell's Kitchen Funk Orchestra: Time Capsule (2023, Planet Arts): Trumpet player, has led big bands since 1990, this his second album with this particular group. Opens with a splashy Chrissi Poland vocal. Only a few more vocals, but everything is splashy. B+(**) [sp]

Randy Weinstein: Harmonimonk (2023 [2024], Random Chance): Harmonica player (both chromatic and diatonic) plays seven Monk tunes, 37:46, with various backing, but not much on any given song. B+(**) [cd] [05-15]

Dan Wilson: Things Eternal (2023, Brother Mister/Mack Avenue): Guitarist, second album, leads a quartet with electric piano (Glenn Zaleski), bass (Brandon Rose), and drums (David Throckmorton), with guest organ on two tracks, vocals on three -- a crossover pop move that works better than expected. B+(**) [sp]

Mark Winkler: The Rules Don't Apply (2024, Cafe Pacific): Jazz singer, twenty-some albums since 1980 including duos with Cheryl Bentyne, yet when you look him up in Wikipedia you get some South African writer. Looks for postmodern standards -- "I.G.Y." sounds especially great here, and he does well by "Got to Get You Into My Life" and "Mama Told Me Not to Come" -- and writes some lyrics, mostly celebrating jazz. Recorded in five groups, but dates not given. B+(**) [cd]

Warren Wolf: Chano Pozo: Origins (2023, self-released): Vibraphonist, from Baltimore, tenth album since 2005, including a decade on Mack Avenue (also playing with Christian McBride). Very little info on this, but back story seems to be that it's a tribute to his late father, who nicknamed his son after the legendary Cuban percussionist. B+(*) [sp]

Xaviersobased: Keep It Goin Xav (2024, 34Ent): Young (20) rapper Xavier Lopez, from NYC, first album. B+(*) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Terri Lyne Carrington: TLC & Friends (1981 [2023], Candid): Drummer, from Massachusetts, father and grandfather were musicians (latter played with Fats Waller and Chu Berry), was tutored by Alan Dawson, recorded this when she was 16 but had some major league friends: George Coleman (tenor sax), Kenny Barron (piano), Buster Williams (bass). She wrote one song, but otherwise went with sure covers, slipping Billy Joel between two Sonny Rollins tunes on the second side, "St. Thomas" and "Sonny Moon for Two" (with her father guesting as the second tenor sax). They're all having terrific fun. A- [sp]

Jimi Hendrix Experience: Hollywood Bowl, August 18, 1967 (1967, Experience Hendrix/Legacy): Another installment, we're long past surprises now, let alone amazement, but the quirks are still fun to listen to. Set list: "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Band" to open, two blues, four originals, "Like a Rolling Stone," and "Wild Thing" to finish. B+(**) [sp]

Keith Jarrett: Solo-Concerts Bremen/Lausanne (1973 [2023], ECM, 2CD): Originally a daunting 3-LP box, but this did much to establish Jarrett's reputation as a dazzling pianist before his 1975 solo The Köln Concert became a mega-seller. As with the latter, the CD length got dispensed of the need to slice his long solos up, here giving us the two-part Bremen in 63:10 and the single Lausanne set in 64:53. B+(***) [sp]

A Moi La Liberté: Early Electronic Raď, Algerie 1983-90 (1983-90 [2023], Serendip Lab): Algerian folk music, electrified during the 1980s, spreading from Oran to Paris, accelerated by the civil war (1991-2002), during which several singers became international stars. For me, the introduction was Earthworks 1988 sampler, Rai Rebels, followed by individual albums by Cheb Khaled, Chaba Fadela, and others. This goes a bit earlier, perhaps a bit deeper. B+(***) [bc]

Wes Montgomery: The Complete Full House Sessions (1962 [2023], Craft, 2CD): Hugely influential jazz guitarist, cut this album live at Tsubo in Berkeley, California, released in 1962 with six songs, 43:14, with one of his strongest groups: Johnny Griffin (tenor sax), Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Jimmy Cobb (drums). The 1987 CD picked up three alternate takes, and a 2007 reissue found a few more. This adds a couple more, giving us 14 takes of the original six songs. B+(***) [sp]

Tell Everybody! 21st Century Juke Joint Blues From Easy Eye Sound (2017-23 [2023], Easy Eye Sound): Blues label sampler, label founded by Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) in Nashville, major find to date has been Robert Finley, with most of the artists here not even represented by albums (as far as I can tell; dating previously released songs is also hard, but I did find a couple). B+(**) [sp]

Old music:

Jimmy "Duck" Holmes: Cypress Grove (2019, Easy Eye Sound): 72-year-old blues singer-guitarist from Bentonia, Mississippi, inherited the Blue Front Cafe ("on the Mississippi Blues Trail") from his parents, but only started recording in 2006. Wrote three (of eleven) songs here, his favorite cover source Skip James. B+(***) [sp]

Rickie Lee Jones: Rickie Lee Jones (1979, Warner Bros.): Singer-songwriter, first album, led off with a memorable jive single, "Chuck E's in Love," which took the album platinum, and finished in top 25 in Pazz & Jop that year -- I was reminded of this, because it's the only one of the top-40 I missed hearing. She's had a steady career ever since, but her sales declined, with nothing after album four (1989) charting top-100. B+(*) [sp]

Rickie Lee Jones: Pirates (1981, Warner Bros.): Second album, also went top-ten but the singles stiffed. She does manage to generate some swing on the title cut, but the credits she should have gotten more (rhythm from Victor Feldman, Russell Ferrante, Chuck Rainey, Steve Gadd; horn spots from Randy Brecker, David Sanborn, and Tom Scott; Donald Fagen on synth). B [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Adam Forkelid: Turning Point (Prophone) [03-05]
  • Dave Rempis/Tashi Dorji Duo: Gnash (Aerophonic) [06-25]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, May 6, 2024

Music Week

May archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42249 [42200] rated (+49), 29 [31] unrated (-2).

Pretty substantial Speaking of Which last night, updated today to 208 links, 12085 words. Mostly got the updates from Twitter and Facebook, which I hadn't had much time for in the crush.

I'll forego any attempt at an introduction here, hoping to get this up before the storm line hits (6-7 PM CDT). No reports of tornadoes in Kansas yet, but there are some in Oklahoma, and that's where this is coming from.

One note I will make is that I've refined the problem with Cox email a bit more. It now looks like any email that I send with any HTML link to is generating the AUP#CXSNDR error. I'm curious whether any email from other domains with links to my website are generating similar errors. I need to do some research on email block lists, and how to fight them. Cox is pretty useless, and they're working to dump all of their email customers on Yahoo, which seems to have an even worse reputation. For now, I'm avoiding the problem by watching what I say.

New records reviewed this week:

Melissa Aldana: Echoes of the Inner Prophet (2024, Blue Note): Tenor saxophonist, from Chile, seventh album since 2010, second on Blue Note, quintet with piano (Fabian Almazan), guitar (Lage Lund), bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]

Karrin Allyson: A Kiss for Brazil (2023 [2024], Origin): Jazz singer, originally from Kansas but she's given her heart to Brazil, and she's credible enough for this native Kansan. Cover notes Rosa Passos as "special guest," but credits only show two vocals and one rhythm guitar track. The essential guitarist is Yotam Silberstein, with Harvie S on bass, Vitor Gonçalves keyboards, and Rafael Barrata percussion. [cd] [05-17]

Roxana Amed: Becoming Human (2024, Sony Music Latin): Jazz singer from Argentina, half-dozen albums since 2004, based in US since 2013, originals in English and Spanish, backed by piano (Martin Bejerano), sax (Mark Small), trombone (Kendall Moore), bass, and drums. One choice cut here is "We Built a Home," which reminds me of Roswell Rudd and Sheila Jordan. B+(***) [cd]

Byron Asher's Skrontch Music: Lord, When You Send the Rain (2022 [2024], Sinking City): Clarinetist, originally from Maryland, based in New Orleans since 2011, group name from a 2019 album, credit here is "reeds," same for three others, brass section is cornet-trombone-sousaphone, rhythm piano-bass-drums-live electronics. B+(**) [bc]

Black Lives: People of Earth (2024, Jammin' Colors): A "large and humanistic ensemble" combining musicians from "the U.S., Africa, the Caribbean, and Europe," bassist Reggie Washington seems to have been the catalyst, assembling the album Black Lives: From Generation to Generation in 2021 in response to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. He took the evolving group on tour of Europe in 2022-23, and they returned with this second album. Mostly names I recognize, but too many to list here (start with Cheick Tidiane Seck and Immanuel Wilkins, with seven more vocals/spoken word artists). B+(***) [sp]

Carsie Blanton: After the Revolution (2024, self-released): American singer-songwriter, based in New Orleans, albums since 2005, lefty politics, no complaints from me on that score, but I wish there more songs like "Cool Kids" I don't have to think about. B+(***) [sp]

Carsie Blanton: The Red Album Vol. 1 (2024, self-released, EP): Six songs, 13:25, first appeared as a thing (I think) as a bonus CD packed along with the LP of After the Revolution, though it may have had some virtual existence earlier -- "Rich People" has reportedly "gone viral," which Blanton herself claims didn't earn her a dime. Jazzy, explicitly political (first two songs are "Ugly Nasty Commie Bitch" and "You Ain't Done Nothing (If You Ain't Been Called a Red", but the one about "Democrats" shooting in you in the back hits ever harder. I don't know whether she wrote or found them, but I'd like to hear more. B+(***) [yt]

Cedric Burnside: Hill Country Love (2024, Provogue): Blues singer-songwriter, grandson of R.L. Burnside, his debut was their 2001 Burnside on Burnside, started as a drummer but plays guitar here, as does Luther Dickinson. B+(**) [sp]

Nicola Caminiti: Vivid Tales of a Blurry Self-Portrait (2022 [2024], self-released): Italian saxophonist (alto/soprano), born in Messina, several side credits from 2018 but this appears to be his first album leading. Quartet with piano (Lex Korten), bass (Ben Tiberiti), and drums (Miguel Russell). Impressive. B+(***) [cd] [05-10]

James Carter: Un (Unaccompanied Baritone Saxophone) (2023 [2024], J.M.I.): Originally a tenor saxophonist, emerged as a prodigiuos star in the 1990s, but (unlike David Murray, similarly dominant in the 1980s) allowed himself to be limited by major labels with their focus on fewer, fancier releases, and struggled when the labels dried up on him -- he has little to show under his own name since his last EmArcy in 2011 (other than a 2018 Organ Trio as his one shot on Blue Note). But he's still working, still impressive when he gets an airing. Along the way, he picked up every other saxophone, and developed enough of a reputation for baritone that that's the one slot he regularly places high in DownBeat's polls. Hence this solo album, eight tracks, 41:06, pretty much as awesome and aggravating as you'd expect. B+(**) [sp]

Yelena Eckemoff: Romance of the Moon (2023 [2024], L&H Production): Russian pianist, moved to US in 1991, got into jazz and has recorded regularly since 2010. Very nice quintet, "inspired by the poems of Federico Garcia Lorca," recorded in Italy with Paolo Fresu (trumpet), Riccardo Bertozzi (guitar), Luca Bulgarelli (bass), and Stefano Bagnoli (drums). B+(***) [cd] [05-10]

Nicole Glover: Plays (2024, Savant): Tenor saxophonist, from Oregon, First Record self-released in 2015, this is her second on Savant, trio with Tyrone Allen and Kayvon Gordon plus guest Steve Nelson (vibes). Found line fits: "a deep, rich tone, but also lots of modern edges." Opens strong, but holds you with ballads. A- [sp]

Aaron Yale Heisler: Zoot's Soprano EP [Alternate Takes and Remixes From the Bechet Century] (2022-23 [2024], Bathurst Manor, EP): Guitarist, from Toronto, released an album called The Bechet Century in 2023, on the 100th anniversary of the soprano saxophonist's first recordings. Solo guitar with some vocals, mostly leftovers, nine tracks, 20:49, not that close to the model anyway (or maybe I just have trouble imaging Bechet without his rhythm?). B [sp]

Aaron Yale Heisler: Guitar Sketches (Toronto 2008-24) (2008-24 [2024], Bathurst Manor): Solo guitar again, with a bit of vocal, did a Sidney Bechet tribute last time, adds Charles Gayle to his list of inspirations, which he handles in a uniquely low-key way. B+(***) [sp]

Jazz at the Ballroom: Flying High: Big Band Canaries Who Soared (2024, Jazz at the Ballroom): Standards from the big band era, open with an instrumental "On the Sunny Side of the Street," followed by fourteen songs by six vocalists: Gretje Angel, Carmen Bradford, Olivia Chindamo, Jane Monheit, Vanessa Perea, and Champian Fulton, who plays piano throughout, leading two bass-drums trios. B+(***) [cd]

Dawn Landes: The Liberated Woman's Songbook (2024, Fun Machine Music): Folkie singer-songwriter, debut 2005, moved from Kentucky to NYC to North Carolina, found these eleven songs, going as far back as 1830, in a book published in 1971, and finds them "as timely today as they were then." B+(**) [sp]

Lauren Alaina: Unlocked (2023, Big Loud, EP): Country singer-songwriter, from Georgia, real name continues: Kristine Suddeth, had a run on American Idol at 17, got her an album that year (2011), two more since (one I panned), now this credible-sounding six song, 18:40 EP. Sample: "you ain't in the heels she's walkin' in, so don't judge a book by its cover." B+(**) [sp]

Li'l Andy: The Complete Recordings of Hezekiah Procter (1925-1930) (2022, Back-to-Wax): This is the work of Canadian Andrew McClellan, touted as "Montreal's best country songwriter," his music as "roots-based Americana that actually deserves to be made." Procter is a fiction, the hero of the singer's debut novel, who not only wrote all of this "two-disc, 29-song box set" (ok, not all -- not "Lovesick Blues," and I'm not sure what else), but took pains to get the primitive sound by recording it on a 1937-vintage Webster-Chicago wire recorder (with eleven songs also recorded on a Tascam 38 half-inch analog tape machine, if you care to compare). I'm quite impressed, but also a bit overwhelmed, and not having the box leaves me tempted to hedge a bit. B+(***) [sp]

Dua Lipa: Radical Optimism (2024, Warner): Albanian, moved to London to model, switched to dance-pop for her multi-platinum 2017 debut, third album preceded by the breakout single "Houdini." Eleven snappy, upbeat songs, just fine for 36:35. A- [sp]

Lloyiso: Seasons (2023, Universal, EP): South African singer-songwriter, Loyiso Gijana, singles since 2018, first album but just seven songs, 23:02, slow, soulful ballads. B+(*) [sp]

Leyla McCalla: Sun Without the Heat (2024, Anti-): Folk singer-songwriter, born in New York, raised in New Jersey, parents from Haiti, played cello and banjo in Carolina Chocolate Drops and Our Native Daughters, fifth solo album. But doesn't folk music need some roots to locate itself? I'm not sure I recognize any here, which may make it more interesting but less immediately satisfying. For that, you need the message. Title expands to "you want the crops without the plow/ you want the rain without the thunder/ you want the ocean without the roar of its waters, can't have the sun without the heat"; also: "And there's so much wrong/ only we can change ourselves." And finally: "I want to believe in the light/ I have been given." A- [sp]

Charles McPherson: Reverence (2023 [2024], Smoke Sessions): Alto saxophonist, started with Charles Mingus and Barry Harris in 1961, first album as leader was Bebop Revisited! (1965), has worked steadily ever since, recording this date at 83, still revisiting bebop, with Terell Stafford (trumpet), Jeb Patton (piano), David Wong (bass), and Billy Drummond (drums). Ends with his "Ode to Barry." B+(***) [sp]

Mdou Moctar: Funeral for Justice (2024, Matador): Multiple sources refer to artist as a band, but name started as an alias for its leader, a Tuareg guitarist-singer from Niger, Mahamadou Souleymane, with albums starting on Sahel Sounds in 2013, then breaking out on American indie label Matador in 2021, with this one racking up a Metacritic 91 from 12 reviews in its first week. Reviews use words like "incendiary" and "blazing," which make me wonder how long they've been following. B+(***) [sp]

Mike Monford: The Cloth I'm Cut From (2021 [2024], self-released): Alto saxophonist, with spoken word, from Detroit (I gather; sorry but I can't read anything on the CD, and I'm not doing much better with the hype sheet). Website adds Composer and Jazz Historian, and notes "over 30 years to practicing, performing, and experimenting with the universal language of music," but I'm only seeing one previous album. This one is billed as "a musical autobiography," a live set most certainly, because that's where social music comes from. Special credit for the violin solos. A- [cd] [05-04]

Mute: After You've Gone (2021 [2024], Endectomorph Music): Quartet of Kevin Sun (C melody sax/clarinet/suona), Christian Li (piano), Jeonglim Yang (bass), Dayeon Seok (drums); second album, song credits scattered, including a standard for the title, a nice touch. B+(***) [cdr] [05-13]

Pierrick Pédron/Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Pedron Rubalcaba (2022 [2023], Gazebo): French alto saxophonist, dozen-plus albums since 2001, duets with the Cuban pianist, who started in the 1980 with Orquesta Aragón and has long been based in Florida. Nice mix and match here. B+(***) [sp]

Jeremy Pelt: Tomorrow's Another Day (2024, Highnote): Trumpet player, debut 2002, a regular on this label since 2010, mainstream player with considerable chops, calls this his "most experimental recording to-date." That involves electric as well as acoustic bass (Leighton McKinley Harrell) and keyboards (Frank LoCastro), with vibes (Jalen Baker) and drums (Allan Mednard or Deantoni Parks). B+(*) [sp]

Pet Shop Boys: Nonetheless (2024, Parlophone): Fifteenth studio album, since 1986. Formula by now, but it's a great formula, dancey and dreamy, clever and profound, their best in some time, most likely. A- [sp]

Jeanfrançois Prins: Blue Note Mode (2024, GAM): Belgian guitarist, debut 1993 with Judy Niemack, "sharing his time between NYC and Berlin for over 20 years," moved back to Brussels in 2016. Sees this as a tribute marking the 85th anniversary of the Blue Note label, "the centennial of Rudy Van Gelder, and the 65th anniversary of his mythical studio." So he convened a hard bop revival -- Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Jaleel Shaw (alto sax), Danny Grissett (piano), Jay Anderson (bass), and E.J. Strickland (drums) -- mediated with guitar. B+(**) [sp]

Tutu Puoane: Wrapped in Rhythm, Vol. 1 (2023 [2024], SoulFactory): South African singer-songwriter, based in Brussels, debut album 2007, lyrics taken from South African poet Lebo Mashile's anthology, In a Ribbon of Rhythm. Band is mostly Belgian, plus Larry Goldings (organ). B+(*) [sp]

Xavier Richardeau: A Caribbean Thing (2023, Continuo Jazz): French baritone/soprano saxophonist, albums back to 1996, seventh per Discogs, joined here by Jocelyn Ménard (tenor sax) and a suitably evocative rhythm section. B+(*) [sp]

Luke Stewart Silt Trio: Unknown Rivers (2022-23 [2024], Pi): Bassist, works in a number of DC-based groups, most notably Irreversible Entanglements. Second Silt Trio album, with Brian Settles (tenor sax) and either Trae Crudup or Chad Taylor on drums (second half here is a live set with Taylor). A- [cd]

Rosie Tucker: Utopia Now! (2024, Sentimental): Singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, fifth album since 2015, alt-rock guitar with some hook craft. B+(**) [sp]

Christopher Zuar Orchestra: Exuberance (2021 [2024], self-released): Second album, 22-piece orchestra. Nominally a love story, with the final song featuring lyrics by Zuar's wife Anne, sung by Emma Frank. B+(**) [cd] [05-11]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Afrika Muye Muye! Tanzanian Rumba & Muziki Wa Dansi 1968-1970 (1968-70 [2023], Recordiana): South African reprint label, ventures into Tanzania for a narrowly sourced but quite pleasant "dance music" (to translate the Swahili) collection: six groups, 17 songs (5 by Nuta Jazz). B+(***) [bc]

Les Belgicains: Na Tango Ya Covadia 1964-70 (1964-70 [2024], Covadia): Covadia was a Belgian label founded by Nikiforos Cavvadias, a Greek who had produced records in Congo for the Ngoma label. In Belgium, he organized groups of Congolese students, releasing singles, a selection of which are featured in this revived label sampler. B+(**) [bc]

Old music:

Carmen Bradford: Home With You (2004, Azica): Jazz singer, daughter of trumpet player Bobby Bradford, her grandfather, Melvin Moore, sang with big bands and the Ink Spots in the 1940s. She has a half-dozen albums since 1992, following side credits with Count Basie and Benny Carter, but I didn't really notice her until the Jazz at the Ballroom album. This is the only album of hers I could stream. She's accompanied here by pianist Shelly Berg. Remarkable voice, a bit strained here, and not really the ideal set of songs and support (though this does have its moments) -- but I'd like to hear more. B+(**) [sp]

Dicks: These People/Peace? (1984-85 [2012], Alternative Tentacles): Austin-based punk band, recorded two albums 1983-85, plus some singles and EPs -- this tacks a three-track EP from 1984 onto their second album. I decided to check this out after leader Gary Floyd's death -- superb jazz critic Tim Niland named their first album, Kill From the Heart (1983), as an all-time favorite, but I already had it at B+(***). Choice cut is from the EP: "No Fuckin' War." B+(***) [sp]

Dicks: 1980-1986 (1980-86 [2010], Alternative Tentacles): Career-spanning compilation, starts with their first single ("Dicks Hate the Police"), samples their two albums (5 and 6 tracks), their 1984 EP ("No Fuckin' War" and "I Hope You Get Drafted"), plus some previously unreleased tracks. Total: 21 songs, 51:23, which can get a bit excessive. B+(**) [sp]

Nicole Glover & Nic Cacioppo: Literature (2020, self-released?): Tenor sax and drums duo, 14 pieces in 30:32, not her first album (that was 2015, titled First Record), also not in any discography I can find (but does appear on a couple of streaming sites), so I'm guessing here. What I do know is that she grew up in Portland; studied at William Patterson in NJ; "is on the faculty at Manhattan School of Music, Princeton University, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music"; plays in Christian McBride's quintet and in "supergroup" Artemis; has two later albums on Savant; and gets confused by Google with "a writer of historical fantasy and other speculative fiction" -- presumably a different Nicole Glover. This is considerably more free than her résumé suggests, but she clearly has the talent to go anywhere she wants. B+(***) [sp]

Nicole Glover: Strange Lands (2020 [2021], Savant): Tenor sax trio, with Daniel Duke (bass) and Nic Cacioppo (drums), plus "special guest" George Cables (piano) on four tracks (on one of those, the bass and drums drop out). Mostly a solid mainstream outing, but gets exciting for a couple stretches where they break free. B+(***) [sp]

Grand Kallé & African Jazz: Joseph Kabaselle and the Creation of Surboum African Jazz (1960-1963) (1960-63 [2021], Planet Ilunga): Congolese bandleader Kabaselle, aka Grand Kallé, led one of the first major soukous bands, its ranks including Dr. Nico, Rochereau, and Manu Dibango -- the latter evidently featured here. Surboum African Jazz was a label which released these singles and compiled them into albums in the 1970s. I'm not sure how these intersect with the later Sonodisc compilations, or the 2-CD Sterns set from 2013, Le Grand Kallé: His Life, His Music, which most likely is still the one to look for. B+(***) [bc]

Li'l Andy & Karaoke Cowboy: Home in Landfill Acres (2008, self-released): Montreal country singer-songwriter Andrew McClellan, first album, set in a (probably fictitious) town "where the straightened street meets the knotted pine." Not just trad, with pedal steel and such, but almost old-timey. B+(**) [sp]

Li'l Andy: All Who Thirst Come to the Waters (2010, self-released): Second album, still country but ventures into gospel in a dark vein. B+(*) [sp]

Li'l Andy: While the Engines Burn (2014, self-released): Third album, sounds less country but the concepts are rustic, one song dated 1917, another "Fin De Sičcle," with several referencing trains and the cover picturing a smoke-belching, steam-driven tractor -- a massive engine with wheels. As a songwriter, he's starting to remind me of Sufjan Stevens, but not yet in a good way. B [sp]

Li'l Andy: All the Love Songs Lied to Us (2019, self-released): The country touches help, although it's all rather subtle, and seriously historical. B+(**) [sp]

Mike Monford: Perseverance (2012, self-released): Alto saxophonist from Detroit, first album although he must have some history to get to that title, not much to go on but Herb Boyd's liner notes, which identify Marc Cary (piano/organ), Tarus Mateen (bass), Steve Williams (drums), and Rayse Biggs (trumpet). Solid groove, with spiritual jazz flashes. B+(**) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • The Bobby Broom Organi-sation: Jamalot Live (Steele) [05-24]
  • Live Edge Trio With Steve Nelson: Closing Time (OA2) [05-17]
  • William Parker/Cooper-Moore/Hamid Drake: Heart Trio (AUM Fidelity) [06-21]
  • William Parker & Ellen Christi: Cereal Music (AUM Fidelity) [06-21]
  • Ben Patterson Jazz Orchestra: Groove Junkies (Origin) [05-17]
  • Angela Verbrugge: Somewhere (OA2) [05-17]
  • Alan Walker: A Little Too Late (Aunt Mimi's) [06-28]
  • Matt Wilson: Matt Wilson's Good Trouble (Palmetto) [06-14]
  • Mark Winkler: The Rules Don't Apply (Cafe Pacific) [01-12]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, April 29, 2024

Music Week

Expanded blog post, April archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 74 albums, 17 A-list

Music: Current count 42200 [42126] rated (+74), 31 [30] unrated (+1).

Two weeks of listening here, although it seems like much longer, so much so that I can barely remember hearing the earliest entries, let alone why. I mean, where did all those Walter Davis albums come from? Probably Clifford Ocheltree, but didn't that start with Billy Boy Arnold? I think Ride came from a list of Pitchfork reviews -- that's certainly where I noticed Austin Peralta. Little things like that set me off on various tangents.

One thing that helped is that I finally sorted my demo queue by release date (as opposed to order received, with variations), so I could be reasonable sure I could just grab something and not worry about it not being released for 2-3 months. Still, new records came in almost as fast as old ones got played, so the unrated count barely moved. And it should be noted that several top-rated albums this week only got reviewed because I was sent CDs -- most obviously: Broder, Core, Four + Six, Schwartz, Shner.

Still, I've largely lost track of new releases that don't find me. And I'm nearly helpless when it comes to downloads (although I did manage to dig out a batch of Ivo Perelmans -- no idea whether I managed to catch up, but another one came in the mail today, so definitely not). I may have to break my 2024 resolution not to do tedious projects like the EOY list (which in some earlier iterations also tracked review grades or in some cases mere mentions). I've already let my tracking list spread out, but I haven't maintained it regularly enough for it to be very useful.

Last week's Music Week was the victim of an executive decision to first finish a Book Roundup post that I started several weeks earlier, but kept researching ever deeper on. Even so I didn't manage to notice a single one of the books Michael Tatum reviewed in his first Books Read (And Not Read) column. (Note to self: check out that New York Times list he cites. The fiction half is beyond my ken, but I have previously noted seven of the non-fiction fifty, with one more in the draft file.)

After Book Roundup, I had to finish a Speaking of Which, also started but held up. It's fair to say that we're living in what the Chinese would call "interesting times" -- so much so that nearly everywhere I turned I ran into pieces that seemed like noting (317 by the time I posted Sunday evening) and commenting on (15302 words). And even while I'm trying to knock this out by end-of-Monday, every break I take results in me adding more notes to Speaking of Which. (Look for red stripes on right border.)

I appear to have recovered from my big tech problem of the last few weeks: I haven't been able to send email, with all efforts producing a "AUP#CXSNDR" error, which is some kind of dirty look the system gives you without ever explaining why. I contacted Cox to find out why, and, well, I didn't. I did learn a bunch about their customer service department, exploring endless variations of five or six basic scripts for not helping you while eventually steering the conversation around to "it must be your fault" and "why don't you bug someone else about it?"

First, there's "Oliver," their chatbot, occasionally relieved by "live people," who seem to be playing a Turing game to see if you can discern whether their stupidity is artificial or organic. Then there's their phone service, which starts with a gauntlet of menu options and numbers you have to peck in, before you arrive at a "level one" person, who acknowledges your problem, thanks you profusely for being such a good customer, and ultimately passes you off to a "level two" person, who presumably will actually help you.

Mostly what "level two" people do is fill out tickets that get passed to supposedly more technical people who are firewalled from customer contact, presumably because their time is so precious, or because your time is deemed without value or utility. You are then advised that it takes them 72 hours to get to the ticket, and even then never on a weekend or after business hours. Eventually, they write one line in the ticket and close it, and someone (probably a "level two") calls you once and leaves you a garbled message in your voice mail. (Never once did we actually catch a callback.) When you call them back for more information, the number they leave is the original gauntlet number, and all they can wind up doing is reading you the one-liner, which they don't understand either, and open another ticket, where you have to repeat all the information again.

This took over two weeks, with frustration levels rising, especially when they got sidetracked on clearly irrelevant asides. (I could do four more paragraphs on them, but the details hardly matter. In the end, I recalled one garbled message, and gave it enough thought to devise a test. It was "your email is working, but there is a security problem with" The obvious, and still unaswered, question is what is that security problem? But the right question was what does my email have to do with ""?

The answer to that seems to be that I had included a link to my website in my email signature, which evidently they scanned and did something wholly improper with. The reason they might do something like that is because normally all of their customers look like Cox, but some of them may be bad actors, so Cox would like to give their customers other identities they can then discriminate against. So, once Cox decided to treat my email like it came from, they then consulted their various email blacklists, saw on one, and rejected it (with no explanation or evident recourse). As far as I know, there was no good reason for them to do so, but I'll probably never find out, because the people who decide these things are insulated from feedback, much like Cox is.

I tested this hypothesis by removing my signature line, and hitting send. It hung, I canceled, and hit send again, and then it worked. Losing the signature line is a small price to pay compared to dealing with what Scott Adams caricatured as "the preventers of information services." Now I have a month's backlog of email to go through and reply to as still seems relevant. If you were expecting to hear from me but didn't, try again.

Last Monday in April, so the monthly archive (link above) is done, but not yet indexed. I also still need to index the Book Roundup, among lots of unfinished business. Stil have house projects, and much more tidying up. Book writing is on hold, and I'm beginning to wonder if that will ever change. I've had to do little bits of programming lately, which remain fun although a bit nerve-racking. Weather is nice here, for a short while until the heat comes.

New records reviewed this week:

Nicki Adams/Michael Eaton: The Transcendental (2023 [2024], SteepleChase LookOut): Piano and tenor saxophone duo, based in Brooklyn, second album together. They relate this to Gunther Schuller's "third stream" movement, for reasons not obvious to a classical-phobe like myself, and pick their way through several Joe Henderson pieces, expertly. B+(**) [r]

John Basile: Heatin' Up (2024, StringTime Jazz): Guitarist, ten or so albums since 1985, thoughtfully called the first one Very Early. B+(*) [cd]

Owen Broder: Hodges: Front and Center, Vol. Two (2021 [2024], Outside In Music): Alto saxophonist, also plays baritone, more from the sessions that generated Vol. One in 2022, four songs Johnny Hodges had a hand in writing, four more he left his indelible mark on. Comparing them against the originals would be hopeless, but they certainly evoke the swing era Hodges towered over. With Riley Mulkerkar (trumpet), Carmen Staaf (piano), Barry Stephenson III (bass), and Bryan Carter (drums). A- [cd]

Paul Brusger: A Soul Contract (2022 [2023], SteepleChase): Bassist, several albums since 2000, mainstream quintet here with Eric Alexander (tenor/alto sax), Steve Davis (trombone), Rick Germanson (piano), and Willie Jones III (drums). B+(*) [sp]

Caporaso Ensemble: Encounter (2023 [2024], Psychosomatic): Guitarist André Caporaso, who has some records going back to 1984, leads a quintet with Jim Goetsch (soprano sax), David Strother (electric violin), Tony Green (bass), and Breeze Smith (drums). Effective fusion. B+(*) [cd] [04-26]

The Castellows: A Little Goes a Long Way (2024, Warner Music Nashville, EP): Three sisters from Georgetown, Georgia, last name Balkcom (Eleanor, Lily, and Powell), moved to Nashville, signed a contract, released two catchy singles late 2023, expanded into this 7-song, 22:10 mini-album. B+(**) [sp]

The Core: Roots (2022 [2024], Moserobie): Norwegian jazz group, founded 2001, released eight albums 2004-10, back for one more here. Saxophonist Kjetil Mřster is the best-known member, but Espen Aalberg (drums) wrote four (of six) pieces, with one each for Mřster and Steinar Raknes (bass), zero for Erlend Slettevoll (piano). Expansive, like Coltrane's legendary quartet. A- [cd]

Arnaud Dolmen/Leonardo Montana; LéNo (2023 [2024], Quai Son): French duo, Guadeloupian drummer and Brazilian pianist, "long-time collaborators," several separate albums each. I'm not seeing any other credits here, other than "chorus." The rhythm tracks sweep one along, the piano commenting thoughtfully. B+(**) [cdr]

Dave Douglas: Gifts (2023 [2024], Greenleaf Music): Trumpet player, one of the most acclaimed since the mid-1990s, I've often been unmoved by his albums but never doubted his chops, or his commitment to forming challenging groups. Here he adds James Brandon Lewis to a long list of heavyweight champ saxophonists, as well as two younger players we'll hear more from: Rafiq Bhatia (guitar) and Ian Chang (drums). Slips a four-song Billy Strayhorn medley as the sweet center of a sandwich of originals, blurring the edges so they all flow together. A- [cd]

Four + Six: Four + Six (2024, Jazz Hang): The Four is a saxophone quartet of Mark Watkins, Ray Smith, Sandon Mayhew, and Jon Gudmundson. Their names adorn the top border of the cover, so by one convention I often follow, I could have listed them for the artist credit, but then I should also follow the "Plus Six" named in the other borders, from left to bottom to right: Derrick Gardner (trumpet), Vincent Gardner (trombone), Corey Christiansen (guitar), Justin Nielsen (piano), Braun Khan (bass), Kobie Watkins (drums). But only three or four of those names ring a bell for me -- I'm a bit confused on my Gardners -- and I usually save the cover-listed instruments for the body. Saxophonist Mark Watkins composed and arranged this, upbeat, richly textured, superb big band lacking only the conventional brass overload. A- [cd]

Eric Frazier: That Place Featuring "Return of the Panther Woman" (2024, EFP Productions): Percussionist (congas here, trap drums, djembe, piano, tap dance elsewhere), sings, based in Brooklyn, website offers ten albums but Discogs comes up far short, at least under "(4)." His Carribbean funk is loosely engaging, Gene Ghee's sax helps, no complaints when a piano-conga duet stretches out. B+(***) [cd]

Kenny Garrett & Svoy: Who Killed AI? (2024, Mack Avenue): Alto/soprano saxophonist, a breakout star in the 1990s, back here with a duo with Russian electronica producer Mikhail Tarasov, who has several albums since 2005 (they seem to be most popular in Japan). Some vocals. Some interesting ideas that don't go very far. B+(**) [sp]

María Grand With Marta Sánchez: Anohin (2024, Biophilia): Saxophonist-vocalist from Switzerland, based in New York, fourth album since 2017, a duo with the pianist. Emphasis is more on voice, but I prefer the saxophone. B+(*) [sp]

Frank Gratkowski/Ensemble Modern: Mature Hybrid Talking (2022 [2024], Maria de Alvear World Edition): German avant-saxophonist, many albums since 1991, plays flute and alto here, conducting the twelve-piece chamber jazz group -- flute/clarinet/oboe/bassoon, trumpet/trombone, piano, violin/cello/bass, no drums -- through the single 45:08 composition. B+(**) [sp]

Noah Haidu: Standards II (2023 [2024], Sunnyside): Piano trio, with Buster Williams (bass) and Billy Hart (drums), following up on their 2023 album, itself preceded by a 2021 Keith Jarrett tribute. B+(**) [cd]

Alexander Hawkins/Sofia Jernberg: Musho (2023 [2024], Intakt): British pianist, rather prolific since 2011, accompanies the Ethiopian-born but (sources agree) Swedish jazz singer, most often showing up with avant-leaning groups like Fire! Orchestra and Koma Saxo. Has some moments, but mostly fairly arch art song. B+(*) [sp]

Ill Considered: Precipice (2024, New Soil): British group, dozen-plus albums since 2017, looks like this iteration is back-to-basics, with just sax (Idris Rahman), bass (Liran Donin), and drums (Emre Ramazanoglu). B+(***) [sp]

Matt Lavelle/Claire Daly/Chris Forbes: Harmolodic Duke (2023, Unseen Rain): Trumpet player, credits start in 2001, including large groups led by Butch Morris and William Parker, developed bass clarinet as a second instrument, plays alto and piccolo clarinet here, with Daly on baritone sax and Forbes on piano. Did a Harmolodic Monk album in 2014, again the aim here is to put an Ornette twist on a classic. Needs more study than I can muster, or more swing than they're willing to allow. B+(**) [sp]

Matt Lavelle: In Swing We Trust (2022, Unseen Rain): Trio, names below the title are Phil Sirois (bass) and Tom Cabrera (drums), so this has rhythm even if it is somewhat at odds with what I think of as swing. Lavelle plays trumpet, bass and E-flat piccolo clarinets. B+(**) [sp]

Matt Lavelle: The House Keeper (2022 [2023], Unseen Rain): Quintet, other names on cover mostly familiar from recent albums: Claire Daly (baritone sax), Chris Forbes (piano), Hilliard Greene (bass), Tom Cabrera (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Matt Lavelle & the 12 Houses: The Crop Circles Suite Part One (2022 [2024], Mahakala Music): Starting from an idea he first articulated in the 1990s, the trumpeter-composer describes this as his "life's work," or half of it anyway, the first six pieces in a 12-piece suite, with "Crop Circles 7-12" still in development. B+(***) [sp]

Andy Laverne: Spot On (2023 [2024], SteepleChase): Pianist, from New York, started with Woody Herman 1973, debut 1978, 36th album on this label, quartet with Mike Richmond (bass), Jason Tiemann (drums), and impressive newcomer Ben Solomon (tenor sax). B+(**) [sp]

Shawn Maxwell: J Town Suite (2023 [2024], Cora Street): Alto/soprano saxophonist (also flute), seventh album since 2005, this one backed by electric bass, keyboards, and drums. Nice ending. B+(**) [cd] [05-01]

Ron McClure: Just Sayin' (2024, SteepleChase): Bassist, started in 1960s, has close to two dozen albums as leader, composed eight (of ten) songs here, a quartet with Anthony Ferrara (tenor sax), Michael Eckroth (piano), and Steve Johns (drums). Very solid mainstream outing, especially for Ferrara. B+(***) [sp]

Ava Mendoza/Dave Sewelson: Of It but Not Is It (2021-22 [2024], Mahakala Music): Duets, guitar and baritone sax, two Mendoza arrangements of William Parker lyrics, so voice too -- Sewelson a gruff blues declaimer, Mendoza adds some harmony and callback. B+(***) [sp]

Cornelia Nilsson: Where Do You Go? (2022-23 [2024], Stunt): Swedish drummer, based in Copenhagen, first album as leader, combines two trio sessions, one with pianist Aaron Parks, the other with tenor saxophonist Gabor Bolla, both with Daniel Franck on bass. Both sides are pretty impressive. B+(**) [sp]

The Michael O'Neill Sextet: Synergy: With Tony Lindsay (2021 [2024], Jazzmo): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano, bass clarinet), sextet with Erik Jekabson (trumpet), John R. Burr (piano), bass, drums, and extra percussion, swings, swaggers even, with Lindsay singing eleven songs -- a Burr original, some standards, three songs from Stevie Wonder, one from Bill Withers. B+(**) [cd]

Chuck Owen & Resurgence: Magic Light (2019-23 [2024], Origin): Pianist (also accordion and hammered dulcimer), based in Florida, started his Jazz Surge as a big band in 1995, this edition is slimmed down -- a no-brass sextet, with Jack Wilkins (sax), Sara Caswell (violin), Corey Christiansen (guitar), bass, and drums, plus Kate McGarry singing five (of eight) songs, the only non-original being the opener, "Spinning Wheel." B+(*) [cd]

Charlie Parr: Little Sun (2024, Smithsonian Folkways): Folk/blues singer-songwriter from Duluth, plays resonator guitar and banjo, couple dozen albums since 2002. B+(*) [sp]

Ivo Perelman Quartet: Water Music (2022 [2024], RogueArt): Avant tenor saxophonist from Brazil, started releasing albums in 1989, did a duo with pianist Matthew Shipp in 1996, and they've released scores of albums ever since, probably more than the years Lincoln counted at Gettysburg. Both not only play a lot together, they're happy to let others join in, especially when they contribute as much as Mark Helias (bass) and Tom Rainey (drums) do here. A- [cdr]

Ivo Perelman/Chad Fowler/Reggie Workman/Andrew Cyrille: Embracing the Unknown (2024, Mahakala Music): Tenor sax, stritch/saxello, bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]

Ivo Perelman/Barry Guy/Ramon Lopez: Interaction (2017 [2024], Ibeji Music): Tenor sax, bass, drums/tabla. An exceptionally fine outing for the saxophonist, divided into two parts (73:52 + 55:18). A- [dl]

Ivo Perelman/Mark Helias/Tom Rainey: Truth Seeker (2022 [2024], Fundacja Sluchaj): Tenor sax/bass/drums trio, his ideal format (apologies to Shipp), especially when he gets a bassist this remarkable. A- [dl]

Ivo Perelman/Tom Rainey: Duologues 1: Turning Point (2024, Ibeji Music): Tenor sax and drum duets, seven unnamed files, no telling how many more "duologue" albums are planned. B+(***) [dl]

Rich Perry: Progression (2022 [2023], SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, from Cleveland, mainstream, regular albums since 1993, quartet here with Gary Versace (piano), Jay Anderson (bass), and John Riley (drums). B+(**) [sp]

PNY Quintet: Over the Wall (2022 [2024], RogueArt): Free jazz meeting in France: Steve Swell (trombone), Rob Brown (alto sax), Michel Edelin (flutes), Peter Giron (bass), John Betsch (drums). Most brought songs, and the rest they improvised. B+(**) [cdr]

Dave Rempis/Pandelis Karayorgis/Jakob Heinemann/Bill Harris: Truss (2023 [2024], Aerophonic/Drift): Alto/tenor/baritone saxophone, with piano, bass, and drums. Two long pieces. I've grown accustomed to the free jazz thrash, finding it both stimulating and relaxing, heightened, of course, by the fascinating various stretches of foreplay. A- [cd] [04-23]

Ride: Interplay (2024, Wichita): English shoegaze band, four albums 1990-96, third album since they regrouped in 2017. B+(*) [sp]

Angelica Sanchez/Chad Taylor: A Monster Is Just an Animal You Haven't Met Yet (2023 [2024], Intakt): Piano and drums duo. B+(***) [sp]

Marta Sanchez Trio: Perpetual Void (2023 [2024], Intakt): Spanish pianist, based in New York, albums since 2008, trio here with Chris Tordini (bass) and Savannah Harris (drums). B+(***) [cd]

Radam Schwartz: Saxophone Quartet Music (2023 [2024], Arabesque): Keyboard player, mostly organ, first album 1988, second on Muse 1995, maybe a half-dozen approximately soul jazz albums since. This one is something else, with Schwartz not playing but arranging for a saxophone quartet (Marcus G Miller, Irwin Hall, Anthony Ware, Max Schweber), with isolated guest spots (guitar, vocal, percussion). Starts off delightful, mixes it up from there, ends with "My Ship." A- [cd] [05-01]

Shabaka: Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowledge Its Grace (2022 [2024], Impulse!): British saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, parents from Barbados, bills this as "his solo debut album," but I've counted one previous one as Shabaka (now deemed an EP, at 28:36), two as Shabaka & the Ancestors, plus his dominant presence in groups Sons of Kemet, Melt Yourself Down, and The Comet Is Coming. Limits his tenor sax here to one track, as he plays clarinet (3), shakuhachi (2), flute (6), and svirel (1), with a rotating cast of guests, leaning hard on the harps (Brandee Younger and Charles Overton), exotic instruments (André 3000, Rajna Swaminathan), electronics (Surya Botofasina, Floating Points), and spot vocalists (Elucid, Eska, Anum Iyapo, Laraaji, Lianne La Havas, Moses Sumney, Saul Williams). I'm tempted to slag this off as new agey, but it's not so bad B+(**) [sp]

Idit Shner & Mhondoro: Ngatibatanei [Let Us Unite!] (2023 [2024], OA2): Alto saxophonist, based in Oregon, as is her group, although they channel Zimbabwe, most directly through percussionist John Mambira (and vocal on the title cut), but with music far more universal. A- [cd]

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers: Revelations (2024, Abeyance): Grew up as a homeschooled fundamentalist in North Carolina, didn't turn out that way, fourth album, more rock than country. B+(**) [sp]

Skee Mask: ISS010 (2024, Ilian Tape): German techno producer Bryan Müller, from Munich, also released records as SCNTST (2013-18), title denotes 10th album in this series. Steady beats. B+(*) [sp]

Geoff Stradling & the StradBand: Nimble Digits (2023 [2024], Origin): Pianist, also plays electric and synths, leads a very raucous big band here with occasional extras (mostly Latin percussion) through nine originals plus "Poinciana." B+(***) [cd]

Jordan VanHemert: Deep in the Soil (2023 [2024], Origin): Alto saxophonist, Korean-American, based in Oklahoma, has several previous albums, leads a very flash all-star sextet of Terrel Stafford (trumpet), Michael Dease (trombone), Helen Sung (piano), Rodney Whitaker (bass), and Lewis Nash (drums), through two originals, two from the band, and four more or less standards. B+(**) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Chet Baker & Jack Sheldon: In Perfect Harmony: The Lost Album (1972 [2024], Jazz Detective): Two West Coast trumpet players, both sing sometimes -- Baker more often, or at least more famously, but I like Sheldon's extra swing -- backed by Jack Marshall (guitar), Dave Frishberg (piano), Joe Mondragon (bass), and Nick Ceroli (drums). Eleven tracks, 36:16. B+(**) [cd] [04-20]

John Coltrane Quartet + Stan Getz + Oscar Peterson: Live/Dusseldorf March 28, 1960 (1960 [2024], Lantower): Another live set from a much recorded European tour, the Quartet at this point with Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Jimmy Cobb (drums). This sounds like Peterson dominates the piano (does Kelly even play?), while Getz is less imposing on tenor sax. B+(*) [r]

Franco & OK Jazz: Franco Luambo Makiadi Presents Les Editions Populaires (1968-1970) (1968-70 [2024], Planet Ilunga): Like James Brown, Franco's earliest recordings date from 1956, but he didn't really hit his stride until the 1970s, so this late-'60s compilation can still be considered early, rough, not quite ready, but it's pretty exciting nonetheless. Belgian label looks to have much more worth checking out. A- [bc]

Gush: Afro Blue (1998 [2024], Trost): Scandinavian trio -- Mats Gustafsson (reeds), Sten Sandell (piano), Raymond Strid (drums) -- mostly recorded 1990-99 with a couple later reunions. This one recorded live in Stockholm, with two variations of Sandell's "Behind the Chords" (27:22 + 18:53) and 19:17 of the Mongo Santamaria title song. B+(***) [bc]

Yusef Lateef: Atlantis Lullaby: The Concert From Avignon (1972 [2024], Elemental Music, 2CD): Tenor/soprano saxophonist (1928-2013), originally Bill Evans, one of the first major jazz figures to adopt a Muslim name and a pan-African worldview, also one of the first to incorporate flute as a major part of his sonic toolkit. Quartet with Kenny Barron (piano), Bob Cunningham (bass), and Albert "Tootie" Heath (drums). B+(**) [cd]

Merengue Típico, Nueva Generación! (1960s-70s [2024], Bongo Joe): From the Dominican Republic: "Curated by Xavier Daive, aka Funky Bompa, the compilation unveils rare '60s and '70s gems, providing a glimpse into a transformative period following the fall of the Trujillo regime." The genre dates back to the 19th century, when accordions came over on German trade ships. Just ten brief singles, 32:13, hard to resist, like polka or cajun played dizzyingly fast. A- [sp]

Austin Peralta: Endless Planets [Deluxe Edition] (2011 [2024], Brainfeeder): Jazz pianist, also plays soprano sax, regarded as a prodigy, moved from classical to jazz at 10, won a prize at 12, released his first album at 16, died at 22, a year after this third album, touted now as the first jazz release on the label (executive producer aka Flying Lotus). Hints at fusion but never gets too comfortable, repeatedly fracturing the rhythm, filling with Strangeloop electronics, and giving the saxophonists (Zane Musa and Ben Wendel) free reign. Adds a vocal by Heidi Vogel toward the end. Deluxe edition adds a second LP of variations -- doesn't add much, other than cost, but reminds us of the loss. A- [sp]

Rail Band: Buffet Hotel De La Gare, Bamako (1973 [2024], Mississippi): Band from Bamako in Mali founded 1970, lead singer to 1982 was Salif Keita, who went on to Les Ambassadeurs and a successful solo career, at least through 2018. The band carried on as Super Rail Band, but their 1970-83 period is best documented on three 2-CD Syllart/Sterns sets. Both Discogs and the label list this LP reissue as Rail Band, but Christgau reviewed it as Buffet Hotel de la Gare, which is how I parsed the cover, adding the smaller-print Bamako -- it is a venue they played regularly at -- but I stopped short of other splotches of print. A- [r]

Sonic Youth: Walls Have Ears (1985 [2024], Goofin'): Official release of a 1986 bootleg drawn from three UK concerts, situated between Bad Moon Rising and Evol -- in my database, their two weakest albums, well before the albums I took to be breakthroughs (Daydream Nation and Dirty). So, songwise, nothing here rings a bell, but soundwise, which is what really matters with them, it's mostly here, and there are really terrific stretches -- basically, any time they real momentum going, especially when Kim Gordon is on a rant. B+(***) [sp]

Sun Ra: At the Showcase: Live in Chicago 1976-1977 (1976-77 [2024], Jazz Detective, 2CD): Two shows, long on their space shtick, judging from audience response must have been much more fun to witness than they are to listen to now. Your mileage may vary, but in my favorite Sun Ra discs the groove finds some miraculous way to escape Earth's gravity. This feels more like a revival, which can be tough on non-believers. B+(*) [cd]

Art Tatum: Jewels in the Treasure Box: The 1953 Chicago Blue Note Jazz Club Recordings (1953 [2024], Resonance, 3CD): Legendary pianist (1909-56), remarkable facility -- a friend noted that he often sounds like three guys playing at once -- starting with his 1933 solos (later collected as Piano Starts Here) up to the remarkable series recorded by Norman Granz from 1953-56, later boxed up as The Tatum Solo Masterpieces and The Tatum Group Masterpieces -- the latter's session with Ben Webster is an all-time favorite. These sets are mostly trio, with Everett Barksdale (guitar) and Slam Stewart (bass), occasionally dropping down to solo. I wouldn't rate this among his very best work, with the later sets going through his trademark motions, but the first disc is a real delight. A- [cd]

Mal Waldron/Steve Lacy: The Mighty Warriors: Live in Antwerp (1995 [2024], Elemental Music, 2CD): Piano and soprano sax giants, often played as a duo, but are joined here by Reggie Workman (bass) and Andrew Cyrille (drums), who are precisely the rhythm section one might pray for. Long pieces, timed for four 23-25 minute LP sides, the two shorter ones Monk covers, a shared bond. A- [cd]

Old music:

Billy Boy Arnold/Jimmy McCracklin/Charlie Musselwhite/Christian Rannenberg With Keith Dunn/Henry Townsend with Ben Corritore: The Walter Davis Project (2013, Electro-Fi): Davis (1911/1912-63) was a blues pianist-singer, born in Mississippi, ran off to St. Louis, left a bunch of unrecorded songs, featured here. Rannenberg produced, with Arnold singing nine (of 18) songs. B+(***) [sp]

Walter Davis: Volume 1: 2 August 1933 to 28 July 1935 (1933-35 [1994], Document): Blues singer-songwriter, born in Mississippi, ran away to St. Louis, started singing with Roosevelt Sykes and Henry Townsend, taught himself piano, and wound up recording 150 songs from 1933-52, available on seven CDs on this Austrian label, with selections on various other labels (all in Europe; I don't think RCA has touched him since 1970's Think You Need a Shot, but even that was only released in UK and France). Scratchy masters, par for the course with this label, but at least they give you dates and credits: note that Sykes plays piano on 1-15, Davis 16-25, with Townsend and/or Big Joe Williams on guitar. B+(***) [sp]

Walter Davis: Volume 2: 28 July 1935 to 5 May 1937 (1935-37 [1994], Document): Hitting his stride here, his piano is serviceable but lacks the sparkle of Sykes, his vocals and songs credible and easy to listen to, but he rarely rises to the level of Tampa Red or Big Bill Broonzy, to cite two comparable but often superior artists. B+(**) [sp]

Walter Davis: Volume 3: 5 May 1937 to 17 June 1938 (1937-38 [1994], Document): Not sure whether he's running out of steam, or I am. B+(*) [sp]

Walter Davis: Volume 4: 17 June 1938 to 21 July 1939 (1938-39 [1994], Document): From "Good Gal" to "Love Will Kill You." B+(*) [sp]

Walter Davis: Volume 5: 21 July 1939 to 12 July 1940 (1938-39 [1994], Document): Eight tracks in the middle here have Davis playing piano behind Booker T. Washington -- his entire Bluebird output, just short two 1949 tracks from being his complete works. The fit is pretty seamless. B+(**) [sp]

Walter Davis: Volume 6: 12 July 1940 to 12 February 1946 (1940-46 [1994], Document): Three sessions up to 5 December 1941, a long break, then picks up one track from 1946. B+(**) [sp]

Walter Davis: Volume 7: 12 February 1946 to 27 July 1952 (1946-52 [1994], Document): Three more tracks from 1946, four more from 1947, more sessions from 1949-50, and one last one in 1952, just before his career was ended by a stroke, not long after he turned 40 (he died a decade later, in 1963). B+(**) [sp]

Walter Davis Trio: Illumination (1977, Denon Jazz): Jazz pianist (1932-90), not related to the blues pianist, played with Dizzy Gillespie (1956-57) and Art Blakey (1959-61), led one Blue Note album in 1959 as Walter Davis Jr. (Davis Cup, with Donald Byrd and Jackie McLean). Resumed his career with this second album, mostly trio with bass (Buster Williams) and drums (Art Blakey or Bruno Carr), plus flute (Jeremy Steig) on one track. B+(*) [sp]

Walter Davis Jr. Trio: Scorpio Rising (1989, SteepleChase): Last album, a piano trio with Santi Debriano (bass) and Ralph Peterson (drums), the title song an original from his 1977 album, with two more originals plus three standards. B+(**) [sp]

Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard: Who's That Knocking? (1965 [2022], Smithsonian/Folkways): Bluegrass singers, first album, Dickens (1925-2011) is the real deal from West Virginia, father a banjo-playing Baptist minister, most of her six brothers coal miners. Gerrard (b. 1934) came out of Seattle, got into folk music at Antioch College, moved to DC and joined Dickens and future husband Mike Seeger in the Strange Creek Singers. Only knock I have against this is that all 15 songs, plus 11 more (including some of their best), have long been available on CD as Pioneering Women of Bluegrass, but if you gotta have vinyl, this should suit you well. B+(***) [sp]

Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerard: Won't You Come and Sing for Me (1973 [2022], Smithsonian/Folkways): Their second Folkways album together, came out the same year as one on Rounder called Hazel & Alice which I've long regarded as their best. This opens very strong. A- [sp]

Radam Schwartz: Two Sides of the Organ Combo (2017 [2018], Arabesque): Organ player, albums (but not many) from 1988, divides this into a "smooth side" and a "groove side": the former with vibes (Bryan Carrott), tenor sax (Mike Lee), and drums (Andrew Atkinson); the latter with trumpet (Marcus Printup), alto sax (Anthony Ware), guitar (Charlie Sigler), and drums (Atkinson again). B+(**) [sp]

Sonic Youth: Confusion Is Sex (1983, Neutral): I paid them no mind until Christgau warmed up to them on Sister (1987), after badmouthing their debut EP (C), this initial album (C+), and more (rising to B+ for Evol, which I guess I did check out, registering a B- in my database -- my grades continued to trail his, until they matched on Daydream Nation, and I liked Dirty even more). But when I finally did give the debut a chance -- in a 2006 reissue that was more bonus tracks than not -- I was impressed enough for B+(***). And with the newly-reissued 1985 bootleg (an A-, per Christgau) sounding pretty good, I figured it's time to fill in the holes, at least in their studio discogrpahy. (I can't see myself going through their dozens of live archives, but Joe Yanosik did, so maybe I'll get to a couple more.) They now seem to have had a pretty good idea of how they wanted to sound from the beginning, but without much sense of how to form that sound into songs. The Kim Gordon vocals work a bit better, and they get a freebie with the Stooges cover. B+(**) [sp]

Sonic Youth: Kill Yr Idols (1983, Zensor, EP): Four-track EP (20:58), recorded live at the Plugg Club in NYC, released in Germany, later tacked onto DGC's CD reissue of Confusion Is Sex, where it's quite at home. B+(**) [sp]

Sonic Youth: Bad Moon Rising (1985 [1986], Blast First): Second studio album, originally an 8-track LP (37:09), CD a year later added 4 bonus tracks (15:01), mostly dead weight, but the album already had a lot of that. B [sp]

Sonic Youth: Anagrama/Improvisation Adjoutée/Tremens/Mieux: De Corrosion (1997, SYR, EP): First in a series of self-released experimental asides, four tracks, 22:35. B+(*) [r]

Sonic Youth: Slaapkamers Met Slagroom/Stil/Herinneringen (1997, SYR, EP): Three tracks, 28:30, title translates from Dutch as "bedrooms with whipped cream." B+(*) [r]

Sonic Youth: Live in Los Angeles 1998 (1998 [2019], Sonic Youth Archive): Cover says "Los Angeles, CA * Veterans Wadsworth Theatre * May 28, 1998," but we'll go with the more economical Bandcamp title. This is the one archive title that Christgau reviewed after Joe Yanosik compiled his consumer guide to the whole archive, so seems like the obvious place to dip into, "standing on the shoulders of giants," etc. Context is between A Thousand Leaves and NYC Ghosts and Flowers, both A- in my book, but not albums I have much recollection of -- I wonder if by this point their sound hadn't become so comfortable any iteration would suffice. Starts with "Anagrama," which remains a warm-up exercise, and meanders a fair bit, but packs multiple high points, which prove how terrific they could be. B+(***) [bc]

Sonic Youth: The Destroyed Room: B-Sides and Rarities (1994-2003 [2006], DGC): Opens with a 10:22 outtake from Sonic Nurse, closes with the "full version" (25:48) of of a track cut down to 19:35 on Washing Machine. Pretty trivial, but as someone who used to play "Sister Ray" to calm his nerves, I can't completely dismiss the latter. B+(*) [r]

Unpacking: Found in the mail:

  • Karrin Allyson: A Kiss for Brazil (Origin) [05-17]
  • John Ambrosini: Songs for You (self-released) [06-01]
  • Roxana Amed: Becoming Human (Sony Music Latin) [05-02]
  • Isrea Butler: Congo Lament (Vegas) [06-01]
  • Caporaso Ensemble: Encounter (Psychosomatic) [04-15]
  • Carl Clements: A Different Light (Greydisc) [05-23]
  • Coco Chatru Quartet: Future (Trygger Music) [lp] [03-28]
  • Devouring the Guilt: Not to Want to Say (Kettle Hole) [06-08]
  • John Escreet: The Epicenter of Your Dreams (Blue Room Music) [06-07]
  • Ethel & Layale Chaker: Vigil (In a Circle) [05-17]
  • Layale Chaker & Sarafand: Radio Afloat (In a Circle) [05-17]
  • Galactic Tide Featuring Andy Timmons: The Haas Company Vol. 1 (Psychiatric) [06-01]
  • Phillip Golub: Abiding Memory (Endectomorph Music) [06-21]
  • Jake Hertzog: Longing to Meet You (self-released) [06-01]
  • The Bruce Lofgren Group: Earthly and Cosmic Tales (Night Bird) [06-01]
  • Bruno Rĺberg Tentet: Evolver (Orbis Music) [06-01]
  • Jason Robinson: Ancestral Numbers (Playscape) [05-14]
  • Marta Sanchez Trio: Perpetual Void (Intakt) [04-19]
  • Radam Schwartz: Saxophone Quartet Music (Arabesque) [05-01]
  • Luke Stewart Silt Trio: Unknown Rivers (Pi) [05-03]
  • Natsuki Tamura/Jim Black: NatJim (Libra) [05-17]
  • Amber Weekes: A Lady With a Song: Amber Weekes Celebrates Nancy Wilson (Amber Inn) [06-01]
  • Randy Weinstein: Harmonimonk (Random Chance) [05-15]
  • Christopher Zuar Orchestra: Exuberance (self-released) [05-11]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Music Week

April archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42126 [42104] rated (+22), 30 [37] unrated (-7).

We have some friends my late sister virtually adopted -- we consider them virtual family -- who live on a farm in the Arkansas Ozarks, and they made a big push to get all of their closest family and friends to congregate there for the eclipse. We didn't give it much consideration, but my brother and his son and their families drove there from Washington and back, stopping here in Wichita both ways. (My brother's daughter and her family also made the trip, but flew in and out of Tulsa, bypassing us.) The rapid-fire visits took up a big chunk of my time the last two weeks. We did more cooking on the first leg, but on return I schemed to get help on a bunch of housework tasks. Both activities cut my normal output way back, as is evident here.

They finally left on Saturday afternoon. After that, I cobbled together a bit of Speaking of Which, which I posted late last night. I should go back and do some reviewing and editing and such, but I started feeling ill that night, and that's carried over today, so even this bit of shovelware has become a chore. Probably nothing serious, but at my age, one does fret a lot more than in the past.

But also I've lost a good ten hours since Thursday trying to get Cox to solve an AUP#XSNDR error in SMTP that totally keeps me from sending email. As best I can figure this out -- which, by the way, is probably better than anyone at Cox has yet managed -- is that when I send a piece of email (using Thunderbird connecting to, the SPF or DKIM list of legit IP sender addresses doesn't include the one Cox my one (assigned to me via DHCP, or substituted in transit?), and some forwarding server notices the discrepancy and kicks it back (which takes about 20 seconds, so there may be multiple stops for multiple lists before it fails).

I only have a couple things to say about the records below. The brief dive into Ken Colyer came about because someone sent me a typo correction to a Penguin Jazz Guide file I put together ages ago. When I was glancing through it I noticed a Colyer album I hadn't heard, so tried to track it down. I've always liked trad jazz, and that shared fondness was one of the things that I loved about Penguin Guide.

The Rail Band album is pictured but not reviewed below. Read about it next week. It comes from Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide: April 2024. I've reviewed most of those albums already, including an A grade for Heems/Lapgan; A- for Cucumbers, Dan Ex Machina, and Kim Gordon; similar HMs for Four Tet and Messthetics/James Brandon Lewis; and lesser grades for Buck 65, Adrianne Lenker, Vampire Weekend, and Waxahatchee. I've played Buck 65 four more times since the CG came out, and I always react the same: sounds really great for 10-15 minutes, then my mind wanders until it returns with a "what the fuck?" ending. Still a B+(***). The other three are probable EOY list frontrunners that I can't sustain any serious interest in (despite having noted multiple A-list albums from each). Still, I'm rather impressed that Bob can still put on his "rock critic establishment" robes and lobby for critical consensus like he advocated for fifty years ago.

Hope I'll be able to knock out a Book Roundup this week. Still, feeling pretty lousy at the moment, pushing this out with no Speaking of Which updates.

New records reviewed this week:

Cyrille Aimée: Ŕ Fleur De Peau (2018-23 [2024], Whirlwind): French jazz singer, based in New York, more than a dozen albums since 2006. Album recorded "at Jake Sherman's Apartment and Keyboard Haven in Brooklyn," with the singer credited with acoustic guitar and baritone ukelele, Sherman with "various," Abe Rounds "drums & percussion," various others for a song or two. B+(**) [sp]

Florian Arbenz: Conversation #10 & #11: ON! (2023 [2024], Hammer): Swiss drummer, started this series working remotely, but this appears to be a studio meet, extended over two days (11 tracks, 69 minutes), with more musicians: Yumi Ito (voice), Percy Pursglove (trumpet/flugelhorn), Ivo Neame (fender rhodes/synths), Szymon Mika (guitar), and Jim Hart (vibes, marimba, glockenspiel, percussion). B+(**) [sp]

Cďtric Dümmies: Zen and the Arcade of Beating Your Ass (2023, Feel It): Hardcore-punk band from Minneapolis, fourth album since 2017, cover art designed to evoke Hüsker Dü's Zen Arcade. B+(*) [sp]

Hilary Gardner: On the Trial With the Lonesome Pines (2024, Anzic): Standards singer, from Alaska, based in Brooklyn, one-third of the vocal trio Duchess, has a couple solo albums. looks to the "trail songs" of "singing cowboys" here, which means Gene Autry but also Bing Crosby. B+(*) [sp]

Arve Henriksen/Harmen Fraanje: Touch of Time (2023 [2024], ECM): Norwegian trumpet player, dozens of albums since 2000, duo here with a Dutch pianist who also debuted in 2000. B+(*) [sp]

Jazz Ensemble of Memphis: Playing in the Yard (2023 [2024], Memphis International): Memphis group, assembled by the label owner as a showcase for young talent, remembering other jazz musicians from Memphis over the years: the eldest here is saxophonist Charles Pender II (26), the youngest drummer Kurtis Gray (17), with with Martin Carodine Jr (17, trumpet), Liam O'Dell (21, bass), and DeAnte Payne (25, keyboards, vibes, congas, percussion). B+(*) [cd]

Benji Kaplan: Untold Stories (2023 [2024], self-released): Guitarist, born in New York but plays Brazilian influences, including nylon strings. Solo, nine tracks, 28:42. B+(*) [cd] [05-01]

Amirtha Kidambi's Elder Ones: New Monuments (2024, We Jazz): Brooklyn-based vocalist, third group album, also has duos (Lea Bertucci, Luke Stewart) and has appeared with Darius Jones, Mary Halvorson, William Parker, and Robert Ashley. Group here with Matthew Nelson (soprano sax), Leter St. Louis (cello), Eva Lawitts (bass), and Jason Nazary (drums/synthesizer). B+(**) [sp]

Joăo Madeira/Margarida Mestre: Voz Debaixo (2022 [2024], 4DaRecord): From Portugal, bass and voice duo, the former does its job of setting up and framing the latter, which offers limited interest. B+(**) [cd]

Old 97's: American Primitive (2024, ATO): Indie band founded 1992 in Dallas, thirteenth studio album, alongside eight solo efforts (2002-22) from leader Rhett Miller -- perhaps a tad more pop, where the band leans harder on the guitar. I ran out of patience with this one pretty fast, not that objectively it's all that bad. B+(*) [sp]

Jonah Parzen-Johnson: You're Never Really Alone (2024, We Jazz): Baritone saxophonist, also plays flute, from Chicago, solo here (as are most of his albums), but with some electronics mixed in. Eight tracks, 39:39. B+(**) [sp]

Ernesto Rodrigues/Bruno Parinha/Joăo Madeira: Into the Wood (2023 [2024], Creative Sources): Portuguese trio: viola, bass clarinet, bass. Live improv set, the bassist does an exceptional job of binding the sounds together into an engine of endless fascination. A- [cd]

Dave Schumacher & Cubeye: Smoke in the Sky (2024, Cellar): Baritone saxophonist, leads a very credible Latin jazz outfit with trumpet, often a second sax, and a rhythm section with Manuel Valera (piano), Alex "Apolo" Ayala (bass), and two drummer-percussionists (Mauricio Herrera and Joel Mateo). B+(***) [cd] [04-19]

Shakira: Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran (2024, Sony Latin): Colombian superstar, twelfth studio album, mostly Spanish. B+(***) [sp]

Curtis Taylor: Taylor Made (2022 [2024], Curtis Taylor Music): Trumpet player, bio hints at Cleveland, southern California, University of Iowa ("currently inspiring students"), seems to have two previous albums, side credits in big bands. Mainstream group here, backed by piano-bass-drums, with tenor sax (Marcus Elliot) on four (of 7) tracks. B+(**) [sp]

Vampire Weekend: Only God Was Above Us (2024, Columbia): Major group, first three albums (2006-13) were poll contenders, not so much for their fourth album (2019), where singer-songwriter Ezra Koenig carried on after the departure of Rostam Batmanglij. Seems this one is being recognized as a return to form, but my reaction is very indifferent, even as I admire their occasional dazzle. B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Sonny Rollins: Freedom Weaver: The 1959 European Tour Recordings (1959 [2024], Resonance, 3CD): Starts with a set I've heard before as St. Thomas in Stockholm 1959, which I've long recommended as one of his best live sets, and rarely drops below that level as he moves on across Europe, trios with Henry Grimes on bass and various drummers (Pete La Roca, Kenny Clarke, Joe Harris). A- [cd] [04-20]

Old music:

Ken Colyer's Jazzmen: Club Session With Colyer (1956 [2000], Lake): English trumpet/cornet player (1928-88), played trad jazz and skiffle, sang some. Penguin Guide picked this particular album (originally in Decca in 1957) as part of their "core collection," and it certainly is a primo example of the genre, a sextet of Ian Wheeler (clarinet), Mac Duncan (trombone), John Bastable (banjo), Ron Ward (bass), and Colin Bowden (drums), playing "good ol' good 'uns." A- [r]

Ken Colyer's Jazzmen: Up Jumped the Devil (1957-58 [2001], G.H.B.): Eleven songs, originally on Upbeat in 1958, rags to open and close, Jelly Roll Morton conspicuous in between, septet here, adding pianist Ray Foxley to the usual suspects. B+(**) [r]

Ken Colyer and His Jazzband: Colyer's Pleasure (1963, Society): Sextet plays more classics, John Bastable (banjo) and Ron Ward (bass) are carryovers from the 1956 band, Sammy Remington (clarinet) getting a "featuring" credit on the 1993 CD reissue (Lake, with extra cuts I haven't heard). B+(***) [r]

Joan Díaz Trio: We Sing Bill Evans (2008, Fresh Sound New Talent): Spanish piano trio, with Giulia Valle (bass) and Ramón Angel (drums), "introducing" singer Silvia Perez [Cruz], who had a previous album or two, with a half-dozen more since. Songs composed by Evans, with lyrics mostly from others (only one by Perez). B+(**) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Sam V.H. Reese, ed.: The Notebooks of Sonny Rollins (New York Review Books): paperback book.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Music Week

April archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42101 [42079] rated (+22), 37 [39] unrated (-2).

Last week was severely disrupted, with several days not spent anywhere near the computer -- mostly Washington family passing through town on their way to Arkansas for the eclipse -- so I figured there was no point playing new music I'd need to take notes on. So what little I have below was mostly picked up after they cleared out Saturday, leaving me to cobble together what turned out to be an exceptionally long Speaking of Which (217 links, 12552 words). Several links to music pieces there, including a bunch on Beyoncé.

We did two manage two family major dinners during the week. The first (plate pictured here) featured three Ottolenghi recipes (roast chicken with fennel, mandarins, and ouzo; sweet potatoes with scallions and dates; and a pearl barley salad) plus old standby recipes for caponata (Sicilian eggplant and zucchini), horiatiki (Greek chopped salad), and mast va khiar (Iranian yogurt with cucumbers, scallions, sultanas, walnuts, and mint), with pineapple upside-down cake for dessert.

Leftovers went into a second dinner which my nephew Mike took charge of, adding kofta/chicken/swordfish kebabs, pitas, hummus, asparagus, quick pickles, eggplant slices topped with spiced yogurt, a spinach salad with dates and almonds, and a mixed bean salad. Another friend made a carrot cake and white-chocolate cookies. Much more chaos than I can handle on my own anymore, but I can take some credit for having the kitchen and pantry organized.

The eclipse was rated at 88% here, so we got the idea, but it wasn't much compared to what we saw on TV. The dimming was less than we often get from passing cumulonimbus clouds.

I only heard about the passing of Clarence "Frogman" Henry after my cutoff, but decided I might as well squeeze his compilation in here. Albert "Tootie" Heath also died last week, and my exploration of his first albums also got promoted.

As noted, I finished Tricia Romano's brilliantly titled book on the Village Voice, The Freaks Came Out to Write. My own involvement with the Voice dates back to 1968-69, when as a high school dropout in Wichita, KS, still in my teens, I started subscribing, not so much for the politics -- for that I had I.F. Stone's Weekly, The Minority of One, and Ramparts -- as for the bohemian culture. I followed them for most of my life, which in the late 1970s included a few years living in New York, and thanks to Bob Christgau, they even published me, both in the 1970s and much later (most notably Jazz Consumer Guide. So, while I was never mentioned in the book, there was a strong sense that it tracked much of my life: lots of stories I knew, at least partly (often indirectly), some I didn't, and a few more I could have added to.

Moving on, I finally got around to Cory Doctorow's The Internet Con, which I had identified as "in my queue, waiting for my limited attention" back in my latest Book Roundup, dated Sept. 23, 2023 -- and way overdue for a sequel. I see now that I failed to index that post, so more drudge work to do.

The other still-pending book from that list is Franklin Foer's The Last Politician, which the death of the political book project has made unnecessary, especially on top of my mounting disappointment with "Genocide Joe." At least when we talk about "lesser evils" in 2024, there won't be any serious debate over the evil term.

Next week will also be disrupted, as our guests head home from Arkansas, hopefully passing through here again. Hopefully they will be a bit less rushed heading back. Where that leaves my weekly posts I neither know nor much care. They merely mark time while I age rather gracelessly.

New records reviewed this week:

Neal Alger: Old Souls (2023 [2024], Calligram): Guitarist, based in Chicago, debut album from 2001, mostly side credits since, including five albums with Patricia Barber. Here with Chad McCullough (trumpet), Chris Madsen (tenor sax), Clark Sommers (bass), and Dana Hall (drums). B+(**) [cd]

Thomas Anderson: Hello, I'm From the Future (2024, Out There): Singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, debut 1989, the first of many finely wrought albums. A dozen new songs here. A- [sp]

Sam Anning: Earthen (2024, Earshift Music): Australian bassist, third album, composed nine pieces, leads a septet most prominently featuring Mat Jodrell (trumpet), with two saxophones, keyboards, guitar, and drums. Most pieces are somber-to-haunting, drawing inspiration from aboriginal land. B+(***) [cd] [04-05]

Alex Beltran: Rift (2022 [2024], Calligram): Tenor/soprano saxophonist, based in Chicago, looks like his first album, mostly an energetic mainstream quartet with Stu Mindeman (piano/wurlitzer), Sam Peters (bass), and Jon Deitemyer (drums), with guests on two track each: Chad McCullough (trumpet), Lenard Simpson (alto sax). B+(***) [cd]

Beyoncé: Cowboy Carter (2024, Parkwood/Columbia): Mega pop star, "rose to fame" in Destiny's Child, last name then Knowles, now seems to be Knowles-Carter after the merger with the now relatively obscure rapper Jay-Z. Eighth solo album since 2003, first seven debuted at number one, awaiting confirmation on this one. She's parlayed her music into a business empire, where her Wikipedia page has as much about "wealth" and "philanthropy" as music. I thought her early work, both group and solo, was ok at best, more often not. She got better, but I never found any reason to think she was more than money talking. Even after I revised my grade upward and bought a copy, I never played Renaissance again. My inability to recall any of her songs might be chalked up to my aging -- I can't recall much Taylor Swift either -- or maybe just my increasingly broad-but-shallow streaming, where I'm most likely to pick up on my long-cultivated idiosyncrasies. Aware of this, I held off writing up my first play, and gave it a closer listen the morning after. I heard a lot more: nothing I love, but a wide range of credible bits, enough to suggest that with another 3-5 plays, I could edit this 78:21 sprawl down to a 45-minute high B+ (but probably not a 35-minute A-). The result would be even less cowboy than this is: I'm all for genre-fuck, but she gave up that game with the "Blackbird" cover in the two slot (even with four certified country guests, including Tanner Adell), then slipped the album's best song (six writers, but my guess is that Raphael Saadiq is key) in between "Texas Hold 'Em" and "Jolene." Aside from Saadiq, other notable contributors include Nile Edwards, Pharrell Williams, and Shawn Carter, as well as guests Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and Miley Cyrus, and snips from Chuck Berry and Brian Wilson: all things you can do with money to make more. B+(**) [sp]

Martin Budde: Back Burner (2023 [2024], Origin): Guitarist, based in Seattle, seems to be first album but had a 2021 group album as Meridian Odyssey. Recorded in Alaska, eight originals plus a Joni Mitchell cover, backed by bass (Ben Feldman) and drums (Xavier Lecouturier). Nice enough. B+(*) [cd]

Mackenzie Carpenter: Mackenzie Carpenter (2023, Valory Music, EP): Country singer-songwriter from Georgia, one of the writers on the Megan Moroney single "I'm Not Pretty," debut 5-song EP (15:57). Annoying when it takes longer to look up a label and release date than it takes to listen to a record (and that doesn't even count the 17:27 "Introducing Mackenzie Carpenter" video on YouTube). Offhand, seems about as credible (and about as pretty) as Moroney. B+(***) [sp]

Chromeo: Adult Contemporary (2024, BMG): Canadian electropop duo, sixth album since 2004. Dance grooves, hard to resist. B+(**) [sp]

Hannah Frances: Keeper of the Shepherd (2024, Ruination): Singer-songwriter, based in Chicago, plays guitar, released a debut album in 2018. B+(*) [sp]

Gossip: Real Power (2024, Columbia): Indie band, formed in Olympia, WA by three Arkansas expats, fronted by plus-sized singer Beth Ditto, who went on to a solo career, wrote a book, did some acting, but is back here for their first album since 2012. B+(**) [sp]

Helado Negro: Phasor (2024, 4AD): Roberto Carlos Lange, born in Florida, parents from Ecuador, ninth album since 2009. First approximation is something similar to the slinky Brazilian music of Tom Zé. B+(**) [sp]

Last Word Quintet: Falling to Earth (2021-22 [2024], Origin): Group formed when performance poet Marc Kelly Smith hooked up with "four of Chicago's more active musicians and songwriters": Al Day (vocals/guitar), Bob Long (piano), Doug Lofstrom (bass/keyboards), and Brian Gephart (sax), with Sarah Allen (drums) listed on back cover but not in group pic. Day's vocals are rather talkie, rather like Mose Allison, so they blend in with the poetry as opposed to giving you two distinct voices. For that, you have the sax. B+(**) [cd]

Molly Lewis: On the Lips (2024, Jagjaguwar): Musician from Orange County, California, plays ukulele and other novelty instruments, and whistles, her early albums out for laughs, this one reminding me more of soft jazz pleasantries. B+(*) [sp]

Ms. Boogie: The Breakdown (2024, self-released): Brooklyn-based rapper, drill style, first album. B+(*) [sp]

Sam Outlaw: Terra Cotta (2024, Black Hills): Country singer-songwriter, based in Nashville, fourth album since 2015, original name Morgan but adopted his mother's maiden name -- kind of pulls a punch he really never throws. B+(*) [sp]

Jim Rotondi: Finesse (2021 [2024], Cellar Music): Trumpet player, originally from Montana, studied at UNT, played in New York, now based in Graz, Austria. Backed here by the Notes and Tones Jazz Orchestra, a big band, plus an unnamed Orchestra with strings and reeds (flute, oboe, bassoon, horn) on six (of 13) tracks. Jakob Helling arranged and conducted Rotondi's compositions, with featured soloists Steve Davis, Dick Oatts and Danny Grissett. B [sp]

Claudio Scolari Project: Intermission (2022 [2024], Principal): Italian drummer, discography goes back to 2004, seventh group album (although Discogs only lists two), quartet features a second drummer, Daniele Cavalca (also keyboards, with Scolari some "synth programming"), trumpet (Simone Scolari), and electric bass (Michele Cavalca). Occasionally hits an Miles Davis fusion vibe, which is excellent, but not really the point, so it tails off into something more ambient, which is also fine. A- [cd]

Tyla: Tyla (2024, Epic): Popiano (pop + amapiano) singer-songwriter from South Africa, last name Seethal, first album after a worldwide breakout single in 2023 ("Water"). B+(**) [sp]

Bob Vylan: Humble as the Sun (2024, Ghost Theatre): British grime/punk/hip-hop duo, singer/guitarist Bobby Vylan and drummer Bobbie Vylan, released a terrific EP in 2018 (We Live Here), later expanded to album length and followed up with a 2022 album (The Price of Life). Back here with 10 songs, 34:44. Title song suggests they're getting nice, but this picks up soon enough, and ends strong with the reminder, "I'm Still Here." A- [sp]

Dan Weiss: Even Odds (2023 [2024], Cygnus): Drummer, over 100 side-credits since 1998, a dozen-plus of his own compositions since 2005, the latter I rarely enjoyed but here he tries something different: a bare-bones trio with brilliant improvisers -- Miguel Zenón (alto sax) and Matt Mitchell (piano) -- making the most out of his broken free rhythms. A- [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Burnt Sugar/The Arkestkra Chamber: The Reconstru-Ducted Repatriation Road-Rage ReMiXeS (2020-21 [2024], Avantgroidd): Jazz/funk group, mostly under the direction of the critic Greg Tate from 2000 to his recent death. Marque Gilmore tha' Inna-Most remixes of their 2021 album Angels Over Oakanda. B+(**) [bc]

Pete Jolly: Seasons (1970 [2024], Future Days): Pianist (1932-2004), actual surname Ceragioli, born in Connecticut but considered a West Coast player; played with Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Art Pepper, Marty Paich, Shorty Rogers, Shelly Manne, many others; 1955 debut title Jolly Jumps In; recorded this album for Herb Alpert at A&M, with guitar (John Pisano), bass (Chuck Berghofer), drums, and percussion. A fairly minor groove album. B+(*) [sp]

Mixmaster Morris/Jonah Sharp/Haruomi Hosono: Quiet Logic (1998 [2024], WRWTFWW): The former is Morris Gould. Discogs only credits him this one album, but also lists DJ Mixes and Compilations with titles like God Bless the Chilled, Abstract Funk Theory, and Calm Down My Selector (but not Give Peace a Dance?). Sharp is younger, from Scotland, also has a rep for UK chill rooms. Hosono's name wasn't on the original release, but this was crafted in his studio. Definitely chill, but a lot of fascinating detail rarely revealed in ambient. A- [bc]

Old music:

Kuumba-Toudie Heath: Kawaida (1970, O'Be): Artist per Discogs, but you know him as Albert "Tootie" Heath (1935-2024), who came out of Philadelphia with his brothers Percy (1923-2005) and Jimmy (1926-2000) to have major careers in jazz. He played on numerous classic albums from 1956 on, but this is the first listing him as leader -- although it was later reissued under the marquee names of Herbie Hancock and Don Cherry, with Heath relegated to a second tier of Jimmy Heath, Buster Williams, James Mtume, and Ed Blackwell, and most names were Africanized (Mtume was the only one that stuck, although you may recognize Mwandisi). Mtume (1946-2022, who was Jimmy Heath's son but grew up with a stepfather's name) wrote five pieces, the other one credited to "Kuumba." This was from a heady moment when Black Power, Pan-Africanism, and the Avant Garde joined forces to make revolution. A- [yt]

Albert Heath: Kwanza (The First) (1973 [2015], Elemental Music): Drummer, a rare album as leader, originally on Muse in 1974, reissued as Oops! on Xanadu in Japan in 1993 with an extraneous piano solo track from 1981. With Jimmy Heath (tenor/soprano sax, flute), Curtis Fuller (trombone), Kenny Barron (pianos), Ted Dunbar (guitar), and Percy Heath (bass). B+(**) [sp]

Clarence "Frogman" Henry: Ain't Got No Home: The Best of Clarence "Frogman" Henry (1956-64 [1994], MCA): New Orleans pianist and singer, just passed (1937-2024), title song was a hit (3 r&b, 20 pop), earned him that frog-in-the-voice nickname but that wasn't his only trick (cf. "I'm in Love"), had two more minor hits in 1961 -- "You Always Hurt the One You Love" and "(I Don't Know Why) But I Do" (better known from Bobby Charles, and later by Bobby Vinton) -- but settled into a comfortable groove, which is just fine for filling out an 18-song profile. A- [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Noah Haidu: Standards II (Sunnyside) [04-12]
  • Chuck Owen & Resurgence: Magic Light (Origin) [04-26]
  • Idit Shner & Mhondoro: Ngatibatanei [Let Us Unite!] (OA2) [04-26]
  • Geoff Stradling & the StradBand: Nimble Digits (Origin) [04-26]
  • Jordan Vanhemert: Deep in the Soil (Origin) [04-26]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Music Week

April archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42079 [42039] rated (+40), 39 [31] unrated (+8).

Speaking of Which published late Sunday night, with a few additions today. Lots of serious stuff there -- a claim I hardly feel like making for this post. However, I resolved quite some time ago to take notes on what I managed to listen to, and to share them for whoever cares.

I didn't realize until mid-week that last Music Week was the last of the month. I've updated the March Streamnotes file accordingly. When I went to index it, I found I hadn't goten to February either. Nasty, tedious job, but done now. It did solve one nagging issue of an album I thought I had reviewed but didn't record in the database.

I week-plus ago, I tweeted advance notice of an A-list album (Roby Glod's No ToXiC), figuring I might make a practice of doing that, at least for cases where the whole album can be sampled on Bandcamp. But I couldn't do much like that this week, aside from my preferred slice of the Pauline Anna Strom box, Plot Zero. I should recheck to be sure, but when I went to look, several of this week's picks aren't on Bandcamp, and most that are only have partial tracks available (in some cases, noted in the reviews, that haven't been released yet).

This post was ready to go Monday evening, but I wanted to go back and touch up Speaking of Which before posting them both. I didn't get that done, and was too exhausted by bed time. I never got started on Tuesday, either, so everything has to go up pretty much as it was. Unlikely I will get much of anything done later in the week, either, so next week's posts will be minimal, if they happen at all.

New records reviewed this week:

1010benja: Ten Total (2024, Three Six Zero): Rapper-singer Benjamin Lyman, based in Kansas City, first album after an EP, finds a groove and sensibility as original as the early mixtapes of Weeknd and Frank Ocean. A- [sp]

Miguel Atwood-Ferguson: Les Jardins Mystiques Vol. 1 (2023, Brainfeeder, 3CD): Los Angeles-based composer, violinist, has several previous albums (back to 2007), this one a monster (even without the promised future volume[s]), running 3.5 hours (also available on 4-LP), no recording dates given but "14 years in the making . . . with contributions from 50+ friends," including a fair number I recognize. Too big and possibly too luxe for me, but makes for consistently engaging background. The few critics who mention it at all rate it very highly. B+(***) [sp]

Jim Baker/Steve Hunt/Jakob Heinemann: Horizon Scanners (2022 [2024], Clean Feed): Pianist, one of few operating in Chicago's vibrant avant-jazz scene, couple dozen albums since his 1997 debut, more side-credits, trio here with drums and bass, Baker also playing ARP-2600. B+(**) [sp]

Peter Brötzmann/Paal Nilssen-Love: Chicken Shit Bingo (2015 [2024], Trost): Posthumous archive dig but not too deep, a set from Zuiderpershuis in Antwerp, with Brötzmann opting for relatively soft horns (tarogato, bb clarinet, contra-alto clarinet), Nilssen-Love with a lot of experience in sax/drums duos. B+(*) [bc]

Christie Dashiell: Journey in Black (2023, self-released): Jazz singer-songwriter, first album, seven originals, two covers, with Marquis Hill (trumpet), Allyn Johnson (keyboards), Shedrick Mitchell (organ), Romeir Mendez (bass), and Carroll Vaughn Dashiel III (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Empress Of: For Your Consideration (2024, Major Arcana/Giant Music): Pop singer-songwriter Lorely Rodriguez, from Los Angeles, parents from Honduras, Berklee grad, fourth album since 2015. B+(**) [sp]

Julieta Eugenio: Stay (2023 [2024], Cristalyn): Tenor saxophonist, from Italy, based in New York, 2022 debut album was one of the year's best. Mostly trio with Matt Dwonszyk (bass) and Jonathan Barber (drums), adding Leo Genovese (Fender Rhodes) on two tracks. Doesn't try to blow you away here, but is steady, assured, and consistently engaging -- not a formula yet, not so easy to normalize. A- [cd]

Four Tet: Three (2024, Text): Longtime alias for English DJ Kieran Hebden, a dozen-plus albums since 1999, plus a few jazzier items under his own name (with the late drummer, Steve Reid). Beats up front, then relaxes a bit. As nice as anything he's done in at least a decade. B+(***) [sp]

Kim Gordon: The Collective (2024, Matador): Sonic Youth's better half, second post-divorce solo album. With beats supposed to be derived from trap (albeit plated with a surface of industrial klang), frayed vocals that could be called rap (but are probably too cryptic). Sonically, it's as distinct as anything her former group rolled out, perhaps more so. Youth? Not really. I have some doubts, but it does quite an impression. A- [sp]

Guillermo Gregorio: Two Trios (2018-20 [2023], ESP-Disk): Clarinet player from Argentina, where he first recorded in 1963, moved to Vienna, then to Chicago, where he resumed in the 1990s, and finally to New York. First trio here was recorded at Edgefest in Ann Arbor, with Carrie Biolo (vibes) and Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello). Second was at Downtown Music Gallery in New York, with Iván Barenboim (contralto clarinet) and Nicholas Jozwiak (cello). B+(***) [cd]

Guillermo Gregorio/Damon Smith/Jerome Bryerton: The Cold Arrow (2022 [2023], Balance Point Acoustics): Clarinets, bass, and percussion ("Paiste Bronze Series gongs & selected metal & cymbals, no drums used"). B+(**) [sp]

Mercer Hassy Orchestra: Duke's Place (2022-23 [2024], Mercer Hassy): Japanese big band, leader "was born as Masahide Hashimoto in Sapporo, Japan," home base for this exceptionally racous and rather raunchy Ellington tribute band. He is credited as arranger, also for drum programming and guitar. Several vocals, lots of excitement. Group has two previous albums, one in this vein (Sir Duke), the other more varied (Don't Stop the Carnival). Hassy has a non-Orchestra album with strings and traditional Japanese instruments, but also Alan Pasqua and Peter Erskine. This one slops off here and there, but is too much fun not so share. A- [cd] [04-15)

Jlin: Akoma (2024, Planet Mu): Electronica producer Jerrilynn Patton, from Gary, Indiana, fourth (or third) album. Beats, which is all that matters. B+(***) [sp]

Julien Knowles: As Many, as One (2023 [2024], Biophilia): Trumpet player, based in Los Angeles, first album, a postbop quintet -- alto sax, piano, bass, drums, no one I recognize, plus strings on three tracks -- as ambitious as claimed but returns are marginal for 70:27. B+(*) [cd] [04-26]

Anysia Kym: Truest (2024, 10k, EP): Brooklyn-based "producer," third album, sings along with her hip-hop beats and shadings, some guest rap (MIKE), not much press. Nine songs, 22:48. B+(*) [sp]

Ellie Lee: Escape (2024, self-released): Korean pianist, original first name Seunghyung, studied at Berklee and in New Jersey, counts Joanne Brackeen and Bill Charlap among her tutors, first album, originals (one an arrangement of Benny Golson), shows remarkable poise, helped considerably by saxophonist Steven Wilson. With Steve LaSpina (bass) and Jongkuk Kim (drums). B+(***) [05-24]

Adrianne Lenker: Bright Future (2024, 4AD): Singer-songwriter, best known as leader of Big Thief, has several solo albums, two before Big Thief, three since. Very basic, guitar and voice, harmonies adding resonance, the songs standing on their own, and faring well. B+(***) [sp]

Kali Malone: All Life Long (2024, Ideologic Organ): American composer, from Denver, based in Stockholm, sixth album since 2017, started with electronics plays pipe organ here, with a choir (Macadem Ensemble) and brass quintet (Anima Brass). Very solemn. B+(*) [sp]

The Messthetics/James Brandon Lewis: The Messthetics and James Brandon Lewis (2024, Impulse!): Bassist (Joe Lally) and drummer (Brandan Canty) from Fugazi, plus jazz guitarist Anthony Pirog, formed this post-rock power trio for two 2018-19 albums, return here with the reigning heavyweight tenor sax champ riffing over heavier-than-usual beats. He's supreme, as usual, but Pirog doesn't really rise to the occasion -- unlike, the Ex guitarists in Lean Left, to pick a somewhat comparable example. B+(***) [sp]

Travis Reuter: Quintet Music (2022 [2024], self-released): Guitarist, born in Seattle, has a previous album from 2012, a variety of side credits since, lists his quintet on the cover as you should recognize the names: Mark Shim (tenor sax), Peter Schlamb (vibraphone), Harish Raghavan (bass), Tyshawn Sorey (drums). Slippery, often fractured, rhythm is interesting. B+(***) [cd] [04-19]

Schoolboy Q: Blue Lips (2024, Interscope): Los Angeles rapper Matthew Hanley, sixth album since 2011, this after a five-year break. Sharp beats, ends on a catchy note, but I didn't get much more. B+(*) [sp]

Altin Sencalar: Discover the Present (2024, Posi-Tone): Trombonist, first album, nonet has most of the label's regulars on board, including Diego Rivera, Michael Dease, Art Hirahara, and Rudy Royston. B+(*) [sp]

Matthew Shipp Trio: New Concepts in Piano Trio Jazz (2023 [2024], ESP-Disk): Pianist, has been major since c. 1990, both on his own records and accompanying saxophonists, notably David S. Ware and Ivo Perelman. Went through an avant-jazztronica that I was so taken by I wound up writing a consumer guide to his work (plus a lot more by William Parker) and a Rolling Stone guide entry. Since then, he's refocused on trio and solo albums, exhaustively it can seem. This is his sixth trio album with Michael Bisio (bass) and Newman Taylor Baker (drums), following many more with various others (starting with Parker and Whit Dickey, then Bisio and Dickey). I've heard pretty much all of them, and still I have no idea what the "new concepts" are here. This is, however, a superb sample of what he's been doing for many years now. A- [cd] [04-05]

Jacob Shulman: High Firmament (2024, Endectomorph Music): Tenor saxophonist, also plays clarinets, based in Los Angeles, has a previous album from 2021, and an earlier opera (Role Playing Game), which at least exists on Bandcamp. Also a second new album, Ferment Below, which showed up with this one, an advance looking like a double album, but they are treated as separate digitally, and I don't see any evidence of them existing otherwise. Both albums have piano (Hayoung Lyou), bass (Walter Stinson), and drums (Kayvon Gordon). Fancy postbop, more interesting to read about ("thousands of years of conjecture and agony have led us to conclude that our world diverges from Euclidean geometry in unresolvable ways" -- you can't just observe that?) -- than to listen to. B [cdr]

Jacob Shulman: Ferment Below (2024, Endectomorph Music): Annoyed me even more than the first one, until it inexplicably got better. Maybe I relaxed once I ditched the Pythagoras and realized that the review, like the record, would eventually end. But then it turned back into opera. B [cdr]

Ronny Smith: Struttin' (2024, Pacific Coast Jazz): Guitarist, "melodic and soulful," writes funky originals, covers Wes Montgomery, also credited "keys, bass, programming," second song adds vocals to sound like a Chic outtake (but just that one), elsewhere there's a nice bit of sax. B+(*) [cd] [04-19]

Mary Timony: Untame the Tiger (2024, Merge): Singer-songwriter from DC, been through several indie bands (Helium, Wild Flag, Ex Hex, Hammered Hulls) as well as several solo albums (one called Ex Hex before the group). B [sp]

Erik Truffaz: Clap! (2023, Blue Note): Trumpet player, born in Switzerland, close to twenty albums since 1997. B+(*) [sp]

Julia Vari Feat. Negroni's Trio: Somos (2024, Alternative Representa): Mexican-American standards singer, couple previous albums (but none on Discogs), backed by Puerto Rican pianist José Negroni, who has at least four Trio albums with Josh Allen (bass) and Nomar Negroni (drums, José's son). Seven songs, 35:19, the sort of singer and trio I rarely give a second thought to, but everything here delights me -- the torchy opener in Spanish, seguing into "Nature Boy," "Song for My Father" with lyrics in Portuguese, and especially the bits of French in "C'est si bon," a language I know just well enough to feel the phrase without having to translate it. A- [cd]

Fay Victor: Herbie Nichols SUNG: Life Is Funny That Way (2023 [2024], Tao Forms, 2CD): Jazz singer, born in Brooklyn but moved around a lot, with Trinidad and Zambia figuring in her childhood, Long Island for her teens, with Japan and Amsterdam major pivots in her career. She's probably sick of the Betty Carter comparisons, but after this album it's Carter who should be honored. I've been a huge fan of Nichols since I first heard his Blue Note trios in a 1975 2-LP (The Third World, but still have no idea how she managed to arrange those compositions into these pieces (adding her lyrics, or often just scat), except to note that Nichols' legacy has long inspired other geniuses (Misha Mengelberg, Steve Lacy, and Roswell Rudd leap to mind). (By the way, I'm only now noticing that the original LPs were in two volumes as The Prophetic Herbie Nichols, following on The Amazing Bud Powell, The Eminent Jay Jay Johnson, etc.; for CDs, look for The Complete Blue Note Recordings, originally on Mosaic but reissued by Blue Note in 1997, and also look out for his Bethlehem album, Love, Gloom, Cash, Love. A good place to start for Nicols projects in Regeneration (1983), with all three names I dropped above, but they've each done more, as have many others.) Group here is superb, with Michaël Attias (alto/baritone sax), Anthony Coleman (piano), Ratzo Harris (bass), and Tom Rainey (drums). (Like Carter, she really knows how to work a band.) A [cd] [04-05]

Waxahatchee: Tigers Blood (2024, Anti-): Singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield, out of Alabama (Bandcamp puts her in Kansas City), formerly of P.S. Eliot, also of Plains, sixth Waxahatchee album since 2012, currently 4 on AOTY's "highest rated albums of 2024" (86/26, more reviews than anyone above; fewer than two other top-ten albums I don't particularly like). If I'm being evasive here, it's probably because while the songs sound good enough, I'm not connecting with them. Pehaps one to revisit later? B+(***) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Sven-Ĺke Johansson und Alexander von Schlippenbach: Über Ursache und Wirkung der Meinungsverschiedenheiten Beim Turmbau zu Babel (1994 [2024], Trost): Swedish free jazz drummer, has played in duos with the German pianist at least since 1976, their relationship going back further in Globe Unity Orchestra. This was billed as a "Musikdrama in einem Akt," with Shelley Hirsch joining Johansson (who plays accordion) for vocals, and a small group that includes piano, drums (Paul Lovens), reeds (Dietmar Diesner and Wolfgang Fuchs), and cello (Tristan Honsinger). I can't speak to the libretto, but the music is a riot. B+(**) [bc]

Microstoria: Init Ding + _Snd (1995-96 [2024], Thrill Jockey, 2CD): Electronica duo of Markus Popp (Oval) and Jan St. Werner (Mouse on Mars), recorded six albums 1995-2002, the first two reissued here. Not exactly ambient, but not much to distinguish itself either. B+(*) [sp]

Old music:

Guillermo Gregorio: Faktura (1999-2000 [2002], Hat Now): Clarinet player from Argentina, then based in Chicago, fairly minimal pieces, some trio with Carrie Biolo (vibes/marimba) and Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), other guest spots including Jim Baker (piano), Jeff Parker (guitar), Kyle Bruckmann (oboe), Jeb Bishop (trombone), and François Houle (clarinet), with two "concrete sound" interludes crediting engineer Lou Mallozzi. B+(**) [sp]

Pauline Anna Strom: Trans-Millenia Consort (1982, Ether Ship): Electronic music composer (1946-2020), synthesizers and taped sounds, first album (of seven through 1988, was a "Reiki master, spiritual counselor, and healer," so her music was part and parcel of all that. This and two more albums were boxed up for 2023's Echoes, Spaces, Lines, which is on Bandcamp but Spotify only has the albums broken out, so we'll take them one-by-one. Constructs a universe of peace and beauty, with few distractions. B+(***) [sp]

Pauline Anna Strom: Plot Zero (1982-83 [1983], Trans-Millenia Consort): Further developing her sense of keyboard rhythm, also spacey flights, with one unseemly crescendo detracting from the soothing bliss. A- [sp]

Pauline Anna Strom: Spectre (1982-83 [1984], Trans-Millenia Consort): More of the same, seeming a bit less wondrous, as tends to happen. B+(**) [sp]

Pauline Anna Strom: Echoes, Spaces, Lines (1982-83 [2023], RVNG Intl, 4CD): This compiles her first three albums -- see above: Trans-Millenia Consort, Plot Zero, and Spectre -- and adds two cuts (6:30) at the end, the extra CD probably due to the reshuffling to also box the same music on 4-LP. I gave the second album a slight edge over the others, but it's possible that the variations add up to something more than the parts. (Also that the packaging helps, although I haven't seen it. Note that the individual album remasters are available separately, at least on Bandcamp.) B+(***) [sp/bc]

Julia Vari: Adoro (2015, Alternativa Representa): Mexican-American, not much on her but reportedly sings in eight languages and plays piano, even less on this album -- just the release date, a note that it's her second, and that there is a 4-song EP of the same name, but this has 10 songs, 45:09. Mostly Spanish (presumably, at least nothing I recognize), some excellent piano, a bit of nice sax. B+(**) [sp]

Julia Vari: Lumea: Canciones del Mundo en Jazz (2013, Alternativa Representa): This does seem to be her first album. Credits would be helpful, but I can't find any -- other than to note one standard in English, and at least one Jobim, but most must be in Spanish. More notes: "multilingual singer-songwriter and pianist"; "both albums soared to the top of the jazz-blues charts in Latin America"; "divides her time between Miami and Mexico City"; "BMI songwriter"; "performs as a Headliner on luxury cruise lines." B+(*) [sp]

Julia Vari: Bygone Nights (2018, Alternativa Representa, EP): Four songs, 12:37, title song an original in English, followed by two songs in Spanish I can trace back to others ("Achupé," "Te Veo"), and a Latin twist on old Yiddish, "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen." B+(*) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Chet Baker & Jack Sheldon: In Perfect Harmony: The Lost Album (1972, Jazz Detective) [04-20]
  • John Basile: Heatin' Up (StringTime Jazz) [04-01]
  • Nicola Caminiti: Vivid Tales of a Blurry Self-Portrait (self-released) [05-10]
  • The Core: Roots (Moserobie) [04-12]
  • Arnaud Dolmen/Leonardo Montana; LéNo (Quai Son) [03-29]
  • Dave Douglas: Gifts (Greenleaf Music) [04-12]
  • Yelena Eckemoff: Romance of the Moon (L&H Production) [05-10]
  • Eric Frazier: That Place (EFP Productions) [03-29]
  • Jazz at the Ballroom: Flying High: Big Band Canaries Who Soared (Jazz at the Ballroom) [05-03]
  • Maria Joăo & Carlos Bica Quartet: Close to You (JACC)
  • Yusef Lateef: Atlantis Lullaby: The Concert From Avignon (1972, Elemental Music, 2CD) [04-26]
  • Shawn Maxwell: J Town Suite (Cora Street) [05-01]
  • Modney: Ascending Primes (Pyroclastic) [05-18]
  • Mike Monford: The Cloth I'm Cut From (self-released) [05-04]
  • Mute: After You've Gone (Endectomorph Music) * [05-13]
  • The Michael O'Neill Sextet: Synergy: With Tony Lindsay (Jazzmo) [04-19]
  • Sun Ra: At the Showcase: Live in Chicago 1976-1977 (Jazz Detective, 2CD) [04-20]
  • Art Tatum: Jewels in the Treasure Box: The 1953 Chicago Blue Note Jazz Club Recordings (Resonance, 3CD) [04-20]
  • Mal Waldron/Steve Lacy: The Mighty Warriors (1995, Elemental Music, 2CD): [04-20]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Music Week

March archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42039 [42007] rated (+32), 31 [28] unrated (+3).

Speaking of Which ran over again. I posted what I had late Sunday night (227 links, 9825 words; the former possibly a record, the latter well above usual but less than 10883 for the week of March 3. (Updated tally: 259 links, 11559 words, so may very well be the biggest one ever.)

I got this started early Monday afternoon, but probably won't post until late, not so much because I expect this to take much as because I'd rather spend the time cleaning up Speaking of Which. I'm under no delusions that what I say here will make any difference to the world, but times like these need witnesses. And that is the one thing I can still offer.

Not a lot of albums this week -- played a lot of old stuff again -- but I'm fairly pleased with the finds this week, including some jazz artists not previously on my radar (Espen Berg, Roby Glod, Nicole McCabe) and a couple old-timers who returned to form with their best releases in years (Kahil El'Zabar, Charles Lloyd). I'll also note that results flipped expectations for two much-hyped reissues (Joe Henderson, Alice Coltrane).

Very little non-jazz this week, especially if you count Queen Esther as jazz (which you should for her better releases below, but not for the still-recommended Gild the Black Lily). Tierra Whack came from Robert Christgau's latest Consumer Guide. I should replay the records he liked better than I did -- Yard Act, Les Amazones d'Afrique, the Guy Davis I reviewed shortly after it came out in 2021. Most other records I have similar grades for (the three I mentioned I'm just one or two notches down on), leaving unheard the Queen compilation and a Thomas Anderson album that isn't streamable yet. By the way, Christgau skipped over Anderson's recent odds & sods set, The Debris Field (Lo-Fi Flotsam and Ragged Recriminations, 2000-2021), which I gave an A- to in my review.

Unpacking below does not include Monday's haul, which looks to be substantial. Most promising among the new releases is Dave Douglas with James Brandon Lewis, but note also a new album with Kevin Sun as Mute. Plus a lot of vault discoveries: Chet Baker/Jack Sheldon, Yusef Lateef, Sun Ra, Art Tatum, Mal Waldron/Steve Lacy, in addition to the Sonny Rollins already uwrapped.

New records reviewed this week:

Espen Berg: Water Fabric (2023, Odin): Norwegian pianist, dozen or so albums since 2007. Cover shows "featuring": Hayden Powell (trumpet), Harpreet Bansal (violin), Ellie Mäkelä (viola), Joakim Munker (cello), Per Oddvar Johansen (drums). I'm not often a big fan of strings, but here they take themes that start enchanting and raise them to something magnificent. A- [sp]

Espen Berg: The Hamar Concert (2022 [2023], NXN): Solo piano, recorded at Kulturhus in Hamar, Norway. B+(**) [sp]

Kahil El'Zabar's Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Open Me, a Higher Consciousness of Sound and Spirit (2023 [2024], Spiritmuse): Chicago percussionist and vocalist (perhaps a bit too much), celebrates fifty years of mostly working within this ensemble, lately a trio with Corey Wilkes (trumpet) and Alex Harding (baritone sax), supplemented here by James Sanders (violin/viola) and Ishmael Ali (cello). A potent mix here, especially on the funk classic "Compared to What" -- vocal is perfect there. A- [sp]

Roby Glod/Christian Ramond/Klaus Kugel: No ToXiC (2022 [2024], Nemu): German trio -- alto/soprano sax, bass, drums -- reportedly have been playing together twenty years but discography is thin; Glod and Kugel have an album together from 2013; Glod has side credits back to 1992. One Connie Crothers piece, the rest joint improv credits. The sort of free sax tour de force I always love. A- [cd]

Julian Lage: Speak to Me (2024, Blue Note): Guitarist, debut 2009 on EmArcy, after stints with Palmetto and Mack Avenue landed on another major in 2021. This one leans a bit more rock, produced by Joe Henry, with Levon Henry (sax), Patrick Warren (keyboards), Joege Roeder (bass), and Dave King (drums). Except when it doesn't, and I lose all interest. Then, well, there's some piano that sounds like Kris Davis, and I'm interested again. B+(*) [sp]

Remy Le Boeuf's Assembly of Shadows: Heartland Radio (2023 [2024], SoundSpore): French alto saxophonist, also plays flute, several albums, this group a big band (third album, group named for the first) with vocals on two tracks. Some nice passages but generally too many classical moves for my taste, and I don't think the vocals help. B [cd]

David Leon: Bird's Eye (2022 [2024], Pyroclastic): Cuban-American alto saxophonist, based in Brooklyn, has a couple previous albums, also plays soprano sax, alto flute, and piccolo. Trio with DoYeon Kim (gayagum, voice) and Lesley Mok (percussion). Rather sparse and scattered, with some very interesting stretches, and some that don't do much (or worse, like the voice). B+(**) [sp]

Charles Lloyd: The Sky Will Still Be There Tomorrow (2024, Blue Note, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist, released this album on his 86th birthday (any reason Blue Note can't give you recording dates?), was sort of a crossover star in the late 1960s, solidified his career when he moved to ECM in 1989, remaining pre-eminent within his move to Blue Note in 2013. Also plays some alto here, as well as bass and alto flute. Backed by Jason Moran (piano), Larry Grenadier (bass), and Brian Blade (drums), a sprawling 15 songs (90:25). Longer than I'd like as a straight-through stream, but the CD/LP versions would break that up into manageable chunks, and it would be hard to pick among them. He's in fine form throughout, and the band (especially Moran) are superb. A- [sp]

Nicole McCabe: Live at Jamboree (2023 [2024], Fresh Sound New Talent): Alto saxophonist, from Los Angeles, Introducing debut from 2020, second album here. She recorded this in Barcelona, with Iannis Obiols (impressive on piano), Logan Kane (bass), and Ramon Prats (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Moor Mother: The Great Bailout (2024, Anti-): Camae Ayewa, from Philadelphia, poet first, then musician, spoken word under this alias initially suggested hip-hop, but several side projects moved into jazz, most notably the group Irreversible Entanglements, and she's always had an activist angle. Numerous guest features here, hard to follow (but seems very Anglo-themed), music murkily industrial. B+(*) [sp]

Willie Morris: Conversation Starter (2022 [2023], Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist, from St. Louis, Discogs page adds a III to his name. First album, quintet with Patrick Cornelius (alto sax/alto flute), Jon Davis (piano), Adi Meyerson (bass), and E.J. Strickland (drums), playing eight originals, two covers, one of those from Joe Henderson. B+(**) [sp]

Willie Morris: Attentive Listening (2023 [2024], Posi-Tone): Second album, similar lineup, with Patrick Cornelius (alto sax/alto flute) and Jon Davis (piano) returning, plus label regulars Boris Kozlov (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums). Another solid mainstream record. B+(*) [sp]

Kjetil Mulelid: Agoja (2022 [2024], Odin): Norwegian pianist, several albums, also electric piano and synth, quartet with pedal steel plus bass and drums, but most tracks have a scatter of guests, including violin, vibes, and/or some famous horn players. Still stays within atmospheric bounds. B+(**) [sp]

Queen Esther: Things Are Looking Up (2024, EL): Bio is evasive beyond raised in Atlanta and "embedded" in Charleston, Discogs says "vocalist, songwriter, lyricist, producer, musician, actor, performance artist, TED Speaker and playwright," credits her with 7 albums (but not yet this one), also six groups (Hoosegow, JC Hopkins Biggish Band, The 52nd Street Blues Project, The Harlem Experiment, The Memp0his Blood Jugband Singers, Yallopin' Hounds). Last I heard was the banjo-fied roots album Gild the Black Lily (an A-), so I was surprised and taken aback by the jazz diva styling here, before the fine print revealed a Billie Holiday project, with the few original songs credited to Lenny Molotov. Replay required, and worth it. Promised later this year: "the alt-Americana album Blackbirding." A- [cd] [04-09]

Queen Esther: Rona (2023, EL): I missed this one, only a bit more than an EP (8 songs, 29:18), in her country mode, often with ukulele and/or strings. Mostly originals, but note that the first cover is "Bohemian Rhapsody" -- Queen, but just one voice, just a bit of guitar, but long at 6:39. B+(*) [sp]

Ron Rieder: Latin Jazz Sessions (2023 [2024], self-released): Composer, seems to be his first album, inside pic shows him at piano but album credits Alain Mallet (piano), one of nine musicians listed on cover, including impressive tenor sax from Mike Tucker, flute from Fernando Brandăo, and lots of rhythm. B+(***) [cd]

Viktoria Tolstoy: Stealing Moments (2023 [2024], ACT): Swedish jazz singer, great-great-granddaughter of the famous Russian writer, dozen-plus albums since 1994, sings in English, song credits to others but I don't recognize them as standards (mostly Ida Sand and Anna Alerstedt). B+(*) [sp]

A Tonic for the Troops: Realm of Opportunities (2022 [2023], Odin): Norwegian quartet led (at least all songs composed) by Ellen Brekken (bass), with Magnus Bakken (tenor sax), Espen Berg (piano), and Magnus Sefniassen Eide (drums), second group album, Brekken's side credits mostly with Hedvig Mollestad. B+(**) [sp]

Tierra Whack: World Wide Whack (2024, Interscope): Rapper from Philadelphia, her own name (after trying Dizzle Dizz), famous for her 13-songs-in-13-minutes mixtape Whack World (2018), followed by a trio of EPs in 2021, and now this debut studio album (15 tracks, 37:47). Same shtick here, short bits with a tasty hook but scant adornment, moving easily from set to set, like in her video. A- [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Alice Coltrane: The Carnegie Hall Concert (1971 [2024], Impulse!): Pianist and harpist, formerly Alice McLeod, of Detroit, her mother a choir singer, others in the family had musical careers, while she had a trio and played with others (Terry Pollard, Terry Gibbs; possibly her first husband, singer Kenny Hagood). She married John Coltrane in 1965, joined his quartet in 1966 (replacing McCoy Tyner), and had three children with him (most famous is Ravi Coltrane), but he died in 1967. In 1968, she released her own album, A Monastic Trio, and followed it with six more, also on Impulse!, through 1973, continuing on other labels through 1978, a few more later on. This live concert, part of which was previously released in 2018 as Live at Carnegie Hall, 1971, happened about the same time as what was perhaps her best known album, Journey in Satchidananda appeared. Title song leads off here (15:02), followed by three more pieces, centered on the 28:09 "Africa." She did much to develop the spiritual side of her husband's legacy, and if you follow the reviews, you may detect its center of gravity shifting from him to her: she was, after all, the one who lived the life. But compared to most recent reissues, this concert most securely links her back to his music, most obviously through bassists Jimmy Garrison and Cecil McBee, and saxophonists Pharoah Sanders and Archie Shepp. But her harp is developing (though it is her piano that brings "Africa" to its climax), and she adds harmonium (Kumar Kramer) and tamboura (Tulsi Reynolds), along with two drummers (Ed Blackwell and Clifford Jarvis). I've listened to most of her albums, but this is the first one that really moved me. A- [sp]

Joe Henderson: Power to the People (1969 [2024], Craft): Tenor saxophonist (1937-2001), his early records for Blue Note (1963-67) helped define that label's golden age, his move to Milestone (1968-77) much less storied (although Milestone Profiles found enough for an A-). Pitchfork calls this "an essential document of a transitional moment in which everything in jazz seemed up for grabs." It was a time of intense political ferment, whence the title, but for jazz musicians, it was more stress as labels dwindled and died. With names on the cover: Herbie Hancock (piano/electric), Jack De Johnette (drums), Ron Carter (bass/electric), Mike Lawrence (trumpet on two tracks). The band helps, but the only real point is the saxophone, which wakes you up with a few strong solos, including a monster to end. B+(***) [sp]

Old music:

Espen Berg Trio: Břlge (2017 [2018], Odin): Norwegian pianist, albums since 2007, this the second of four trio albums with Bárđur Reinert Poulsen (bass) and Simon Olderskog Albertsen (drums). Opens with a Sting cover, then on to nine Berg originals. Strong album, good rhythmic sense. B+(***) [sp]

Espen Berg Trio: Fjćre (2021 [2022], Odin): Same piano-bass-drums trio, but three more names in fine print on cover: Mathias Eick (trumpet, 2 tracks), Silje Nřrgard (vocal, 1 track, the Paul Simon song, "I'd Do It for Your Love"), Hanna Paulsberg (tenor sax, 1 track). B+(**) [sp]

The Herb Geller Quartet: I'll Be Back (1996 [1998], Hep): Plays alto and sopranino sax here, with Ed Harris (guitar), Thomas Biller (bass), and Heinrich Köbberling (drums), on four originals and six standards (including a Jobim). B+(**) [r]

The Herb Geller Quartet: You're Looking at Me (1997 [1998], Fresh Sound): Alto and soprano sax, featuring Jan Lundgren (piano), with Dave Carpenter (bass) and Joe LaBarbera (drums), on ten standards followed by four tracks Geller wrote for a musical about Josephine Baker. B+(***) [r]

Herb Geller and Brian Kellock: Hollywood Portraits (1999 [2000], Hep): Duets, alto/soprano sax and piano, Kellock is Scottish, did some very good duets with Tommy Smith shortly after this one. Geller composed twenty pieces here, each named for a famous actress, most 1930s through 1950s. B+(***) [r]

Herb Geller With Don Friedman: At the Movies (2007, Hep): Alto/soprano sax and piano, also with Martin Wind (bass), Hans Braber (drums), and Martien Oster (guitar on four tracks, of 13). Standards, back cover names some but not all of the movies. B+(**) [r]

Nicole McCabe: Introducing Nicole McCabe (2020, Minaret): Alto saxophonist, not much biography I can find, but studied in Portland and at USC, is based in Los Angeles, teaches there, released this debut with George Colligan (piano, terrific), Jon Lakey (bass), and Alan Jones (drums), plus Charlie Porter (trumpet, a plus on three tracks). Very strong performance, with a nice touch on the rare slow bits. A- [sp]

Nicole McCabe: Landscapes (2022, Fresh Sound New Talent): Second album, alto saxophonist continue to impress, this time with piano-bass-drums I've never heard of, an equally obscure vocalist adding scat I barely noticed to one track, forgotten by the next. B+(***) [sp]

Queen Esther: Talkin' Fishbowl Blues (2004, EL): First album, although a duo with guitarist Elliott Sharp as Hoosegow came out in 1996. Produced by Jack Spratt, tagged as "Black Americana," with a dark cover of "Stand By Your Man." B+(**) [sp]

Queen Esther: What Is Love? (2010, EL): Jazz ensemble this time, piano trio plus four horns (Patience Higgins on tenor sax, plus trumpet, trombone, and French horn), with JC Hopkins producing and writing most of the songs. The occasional standard makes it easier to appreciate the precise nuance the singer is capable of. B+(***) [sp]

Queen Esther: The Other Side (2014, EL): This one, with nine originals, two covers of Paul Pena (q.v.), one each from Charlie Rich and Bryan & Wilda Creswell, is filed under country rock. Band is mostly guitar, including pedal and lap steel, but note that the fiddle player (just two tracks) is Charles Burnham. B+(**) [sp]

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.

Nicole McCabe: Improvisations (2022, Minaret, EP): Solo alto sax with pedals, for something of a bagpipe effect. Four tracks, 20:46. [1/4 tracks, 5:01/20:46] - [bc]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Owen Broder: Hodges: Front and Center, Vol. Two (Outside In Music) [04-12]
  • Benji Kaplan: Untold Stories (self-released) [05-01]
  • Joăo Madeira/Margarida Mestre: Voz Debaixo (4DaRecord) [02-17]
  • Ivo Perelman Quartet: Water Music (RogueArt) * [04-00]
  • PNY Quintet: Over the Wall (RogueArt) * [03-00)
  • Ernesto Rodrigues/Bruno Parinha/Joăo Madeira: Into the Wood (Creative Sources) [01-09]
  • Sonny Rollins: Freedom Weaver: The 1959 European Tour Recordings (Resonance, 3CD) [04-20]
  • Dave Schumacher & Cubeye: Smoke in the Sky (Cellar) [04-19]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Music Week

March archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42007 [41974] rated (+33), 28 [27] unrated (+1).

Just a day late, although it feels like longer, and feels like it should have been longer still. I did manage to wrap up a small essay that's been hanging over my head for weeks -- or at least I'm hoping, as a final sign off would be nice. This pushed Speaking of Which back a day, which I didn't mind.

While I've occasionally threatened to kill it, the process of scanning my news sources, plucking out what strikes me as important and/or interesting, and occasionally commenting -- sometimes taking off on a tangent of personal/philosophical interest, sometimes just to heckle -- has been giving me a strange sense of comfort in what are clearly discomforting times.

Besides, this week the writing project I most seriously considered killing was Music Week. As to why, you're free to dig into the notebook, but what you'll find there is rather sketchily one-sided, with very little of what I really think, let alone why. Nor is there more than a hint of how much pain and anger I've felt this week. In my experience, such emotions do no good, although for better or worse -- sure, mostly the latter -- they are a big part of who I am, and how I came to be this way.

You also can simply ignore most of that paragraph, and just accept what I have to say in this one. Music Week changed this week, and may be changed for good, although I rather doubt it. Midweek I stopped reviewing new music, so everything in this week's "New records" section was done by Wednesday last. I don't plan on resuming any time soon, although that's no guarantee I won't have a few next week, and the odds of at least some appearing increase over time. In particular, it's inevitable that at some point I'll return to my promo queue, and when I do play something, I'll probably write it up in my logs, because, well, that's what I do.

Indeed, I started on that this week. After several days of playing my kind of comfort food, I decided I wanted to hear some Art Pepper. But instead of pulling out an old favorite -- of which there are dozens, including any random disc in The Complete Galaxy Recordings -- I remembered a 7-CD box that came out last year, that I thought I could stream. I put it off, mostly due to the length, but I figured I had time now, and was looking to fill it up. Unfortunately, while the title is listed (The Complete Maiden Voyage Recordings, what's actually available is a 4-CD release from 2017, which I couldn't find a label for. But I did find an Unreleased Art volume I hadn't heard, and that got me looking around. And as I did play them, I wound up doing what I always do.

I trust there are no surprises in the "Old music" section this week. Four A/A- records are ones I previously had graded that high in other forms. Getz's Nobody Else but Me is an old standby from one of the primo shelves, and I was surprised I only had it listed at B+, so an upgrade was clearly in order. The Jaki Byard is a bootleg that Allen Lowe raved about. I found it when I was trying to clear up some tabs, and decided I might as well play it, and write it up.

I moved from Getz to Geller by proximity. He's long fascinated me, so seemed worth the dive. Playing him now as I write, so next Music Week will at least have him. His late period seems to produce consistently fine but less than spectacular records.

Indexing February still delayed, as is damn near everything else in my life.

By the way, Kansas's first presidential primary in ages was today. We braved a line of absolutely no one to vote for Marianne Williamson in the Democratic primary. I gave up my Independent status in 2008 to caucus for Obama (against Clinton), and again in 2016 for Sanders (again, against Clinton), both of whom won big in Kansas. Williamson didn't win: current returns (91.9% in) give her 3.4% to Biden's 83.9%, with 10.2% "none of the names shown." Still, anyone who wants to create a Department of Peace gets my vote over Biden's war machine.

Trump is leading Haley 75.3% to 16.1%, with 5.2% for "none of the names shown." Trump had lost the 2016 caucus to Cruz.

PS: Oops! Was thinking about this most of the week, then slipped my mind when I initially posted. Meant to mention that the rated count ticked over another thousand mark this week, now over 42,000.

New records reviewed this week:

Lynne Arriale Trio: Being Human (2023 [2024], Challenge): Pianist, originally from Milwaukee, 17th album going back to 1994, mostly trios, this one with Alon Near (bass) and Lukasz Zyta (drums). B+(**) [cd]

Blue Moods: Swing & Soul (2023 [2024], Posi-Tone): Second album, "celebrating Duke Pearson," for label regulars Diego Rivera (tenor sax), Art Hirahara (piano), Boris Kozlov (bass), and Vinnie Sperrazza (drums), with Jon Davis taking over piano on two tracks. Very upbeat, joyous even. B+(***) [sp]

Gerald Cannon: Live at Dizzy's Club: The Music of Elvin & McCoy (2023 [2024], Woodneck): Bassist, mainstream, several albums under his name since 2000, more side-credits back to 1989, including 75th Birthday Celebration with Elvin Jones, a couple with McCoy Tyner, and most of the stars he lined up for this set of two Jones pieces, five Tyners, and one original: Eddie Henderson (trumpet), Sherman Irby (alto sax), Joe Lovano (tenor sax), Steve Turre (trombone), Dave Kikoski (piano), Lenny White (drums). B+(***) [sp]

The Chick Corea Elektric Band: The Future Is Now (2016-18 [2023], Candid, 2CD): Fusion group, originally formed in 1986, active for a decade after that, with a similar Elektric Band II appearing for a 1993 album, and an outlier album in 2004. This was collected from five concerts, August 2016 to May 2018. Lineup: Corea (piano/keyboards), Frank Gambale (guitar), John Patitucci (bass), Dave Weckl (drums), Erik Marienthal (sax) -- all in the band as of 1987. B+(*) [sp]

Patrick Cornelius: Book of Secrets (2022 [2023], Posi-Tone): Alto saxophonist, from San Antonio, based in New York, ten or so albums since 2006. Also plays soprano, alto flute, and clarinet here (on two tracks with Diego Rivera guesting on tenor sax). Backed by Art Hirahara (piano), Peter Slavov (bass), Vinnie Sperrazza (drums), and Behn Gillece (vibes). B+(**) [sp]

Stephan Crump: Slow Water (2023 [2024], Papillon Sounds): American bassist, debut 1997, many albums since, as well as sidework (especially with Vijay Iyer). [Major failing that he does not yet have a Wikipedia page.] Chamber jazz move, thick with slowly moving strings, occasional flashes of brass. Refers to a recent book by Erica Gies: Water Always Wins: Thriving in an Age of Drought and Deluge. B+(***) [cd] [05-03]

Art Hirahara: Echo Canyon (2023, Posi-Tone): Pianist, based in New York, side credits back to 1995, but emerged as a leader in 2011 and, especially with this trio of Boris Kozlov (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums) has become his label's default rhythm section. B+(**) [sp]

Mannequin Pussy: I Got Heaven (2024, Epitaph): Post-punk band from Philadelphia, Missy Dabice the singer, fourth album since 2014, harder than I care for, but do mix it up a bit. B+(**) [sp]

Pissed Jeans: Half Divorced (2024, Sub Pop): Another post-punk band with some critical acclaim. Sixth album since 2005. B+(*) [sp]

Diego Rivera: With Just a Word (2022 [2024], Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist, Mexican-American family, born in Ann Arbor, director of jazz studies at Texas (Austin), sixth album as leader since 2013, plus side projects like Blue Moods. Latin-tinged mainstream quintet here with Pete Rodriguez (trumpet), Art Hirahara (piano), Luques Curtis (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Jeremy Rose & the Earshift Orchestra: Discordia (2023 [2024], Earshift Music): Composer, plays soprano sax and bass clarinet, leading a conventional 17-piece big band and drummer Chloe Kim. Theme: "the paradoxes of our information era" and "the dangerous implications of misinformation," exacerbated by AI. B+(***) [cd]

Bill Ryder-Jones: Iechyd Da (2024, Domino): English singer-songwriter, co-founded the Coral, seventh album since going solo in 2011, first one I've checked out, mostly because it's currently [03-12] the top-rated 2024 album at AOTY (88/16 reviews, but mostly from UK sources). He's not much good as a singer, but is touchingly vulnerable, and gets help from lush orchestrations and a kiddie choir, which somehow turns in miracles. Nearest similar example I can think of someone I wound up liking despite hardly liking anything about him is Sufjan Stevens. Ryder-Jones seems even more improbable. A- [sp]

Nadine Shah: Filthy Underneath (2024, EMI North): British singer-songwriter, from Whitburn, lives in Newcastle, father Pakistani, fifth album since 2013. B+(*) [sp]

Sheer Mag: Playing Favorites (2024, Third Man): Postpunk band from Philadelphia, Tina Halladay the singer, third album, after EPs in 2015-16 and albums in 2017 and 2019. B+(**) [sp]

Rafael Toral: Spectral Evolution (2024, Moikai): Portuguese guitarist, mostly works in electronics, quite a few albums since 1994, some (like Space Quartet) more obviously connected to jazz. This is solo, starts with guitar which is soon heavily overlaid. B+(*) [sp]

Hein Westergaard/Katt Hernandez/Raymond Strid: The Knapsack, the Hat, and the Horn (2022 [2024], Gotta Let It Out): Guitar-violin-drums trio from Sweden. A little sketchy. B+(**) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:


Old music:

Jaki Byard: Live in Chicago 1992 (1992, Jazzł+): Pianist (1922-99), started with Charlie Mariano in 1950, later with Maynard Ferguson and Charles Mingus, his own albums from 1960 on. This is solo, from Chicago Jazz Festival, 45:58, doesn't seem to have a proper release so is some kind of bootleg. At one point he manages to blow some sax while playing along. B+(**) [yt]

Herb Geller: European Rebirth: 1962 Paris Sessions (1962 [2022], Fresh Sound): Alto saxophonist (1928-2013), from Los Angeles, recorded some fine albums 1954-58, but after his wife Lorraine died of an asthma attack in 1958, he left the US, played bossa nova in Brazil, then on to Europe, only really getting back into recording around 1984. Fifteen tracks from various Paris sessions, plus two bonus tracks from festivals. B+(***) [sp]

Herb Geller: Plays the Al Cohn Songbook (1994 [1996], Hep): The alto saxophonist plays twelve songs Cohn wrote, plus one original and one standard. With Tom Ranier (piano, tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet), John Leitham (bass), and Paul Kreibich (drums), plus a couple of vocals by Ruth Price. B+(**) [r]

Herb Geller: To Benny & Johnny, With Love From Herb Geller (2001 [2002], Hep): Benny Carter and Johnny Hodges, two of the alto saxophonist's heroes and models as he started his own career -- Charlie Parker is often cited as a third, but at this late date, he seems to be more in the mood for easy swing. With Hod O'Brien (piano), Chuck Berghofer (bass), and Paul Kreibich (drums). B+(**) [r]

Herb Geller: Plays the Arthur Schwartz Songbook (2005, Hep): Fourteen songs plus a medley, all co-credits with lyricists irrelevant here (Howard Dietz, Frank Loesser, Leo Robin, E.Y. Harburg). Alto or soprano sax, backed with piano (John Pearce), bass (Len Skeat), and drums (Bobby Worth). B+(**) [r]

Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd: Jazz Samba (1962, Verve): The first of a series of immensely popular albums that reflected and contributed to what was then called "the bossa nova craze." I know this music from a later 4-CD compilation: The Girl From Ipanema: The Bossa Nova Years (1989, following a 5-LP edition in 1984). Getz was well established, having started as a bebopper, deftly maneuvering through the "West Coast Cool Jazz" scene, and grasping other opportunities -- his 1961 album Focus was the first "sax with strings" album where the strings were every bit as interesting as the sax. He had developed as a fine ballad player -- and would continue to grow up to his final act, 1991's duos with Kenny Barron, People Time. Byrd takes the lead here in laying out the rhythms, which Getz rides so gracefully. Getz followed this with a big band album, a minor misstep, then recruited Luiz Bonfa for Encore, Laurinda Almeida, then Joăo Gilberto for the best album of the series, which made the latter's wife, singer Astrud Gilberto, a star. A- [sp]

Stan Getz With Al Haig: Preservation (1948-51 [1967], Prestige): A compilation of Getz's earliest 78s, all with Haig on piano, his name below the title but set off from the others: Kai Winding, Jimmy Raney, Tommy Potter, Gene Ramey, Roy Haynes, Stan Levey, Blossom Dearie and Jr. Parker. Title, from a song here, reflects the influence of Lester Young, especially the light tone. A dozen songs, three vocals of varying interest -- I'd rather hear more of Getz, but I'm not going to complain about Haig's solos. B+(**) [sp]

Art Pepper & Warne Marsh: Unreleased Art: Volume 9: At Donte's, April 26, 1974 (1974 [2016], Widow's Taste, 3CD): Alto saxophonist, spent most of the years 1954-65 in prison, produced some brilliant albums when he was briefly free, especially the run from Modern Art (1957) to Smack Up (1960), but he has little to show for the period from 1965 until 1975, when he recorded Living Legend, kicking off a staggering series of albums and live performances up to his death, at 56, in 1982. In 2007, his widow, Laurie Pepper, started releasing old tapes, with ten (often multi-CD) volumes through 2018. This is the only one I missed, unusual both in that it's from just before his big comeback, and also that it pairs him with another leader, tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh. They were backed by Mark Levine (piano), John Heard (bass), and Lew Malin (drums). Some terrific playing here, especially toward the end. Harder to get a real handle on Marsh here. Pepper makes the point that they hadn't seen, much less played with, each other in 17 years. B+(***) [r]

Art Pepper: Surf Ride (1952-53 [1957], Savoy): Possibly his first LP, compiled from three dates, two with three tracks, the last with six. Different groups on each, with Russ Freeman, Hampton Hawes, and Claude Williamson the pianists, and Jack Montrose (tenor sax) added on the backstretch. Exceptionally lively, ten originals plus a Lester Young and "The Way You Look Tonight," with Montrose joining the race when he could. Not quite everything Pepper recorded for Savoy, so any compilation -- one I've long recommended is Straight Life: The Savoy Sessions (1984) -- is likely to be redundant. [NB: The 2-CD The Complete Surf Ride, which appeared in Japan in 1987, has four more songs and 25 extra takes, inline, so it's likely to be too redundant.] A- [sp]

Art Pepper Quintet: Live at Donte's 1968 (1968 [2004], Fresh Sound, 2CD): Digging around, I found this rare item from Pepper's missing decade (1965-75), recorded in North Hollywood, with Joe Romano (tenor sax), Frank Strazzeri (piano), Chuck Berghofer (bass), and Nick Ceroli (drums). Only six songs, but four of them top 19:37, and the others 13:35 and 10:07 ("incomplete"). Basically the formula he would use for the rest of his life, at least after losing the extra sax. B+(***) [r]

Art Pepper/Warne Marsh: Art Pepper With Warne Marsh (1956 [1986], Contemporary/OJC): This is where they met previously, both West Coast saxophonists, alto and tenor, Pepper a scrappy be-bopper out of the Stan Kenton band, Marsh a serious protégé of the more idiosyncratic Lennie Tristano (as was Lee Konitz, who often played with Marsh). With Ronnie Ball (piano), Ben Tucker (bass), and Gary Frommer (drums), the CD adding extra takes of three (of seven) pieces. Everyone here has a feather-light touch, so that even "Stompin' at the Savoy" seems to float. [NB: Some of this was released as The Way It Was! in 1972.] A- [r]

Art Pepper: No Limit (1977 [1978], Contemporary): Studio album, quartet with George Cables (piano), Tony Dumas (bass), and Carl Burnett (drums), covers "Ballad of the Sad Young Men," plus three originals: two for his wife, the last a mambo. The latter adds a second horn, a tenor sax, dubbed in by Pepper, and quite wonderful. A- [sp]

Art Pepper: Saturday Night at the Village Vanguard (1977 [1992], Contemporary/OJC): After being blown away with the Thursday and Friday Night sets, I sprang for the whole 9-CD The Complete Village Vanguard Sessions box, and never looked back. But three tracks here were released on vinyl in 1977, and a fourth added (52:00 total) for the 1992 CD. This was his all-star group, with George Cables (piano), George Mraz (bass), and Elvin Jones (drums). Two standards, two original I've heard many times and never tire of. A- [r]

Art Pepper: More for Les: At the Village Vanguard, Volume Four (1977 [1992], Contemporary/OJC): As the box proved, there was a lot more great music after extracting the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Night LPs, so they cobbled a fourth volume together in 1985, and expanded it some for the CD. In the intro, Pepper gushes that he's never before appeared with players of this caliber (George Cables, George Mraz, Elvin Jones), which is not quite true (see Meets the Rhythm Section), but he plays like it is, because they play like they are. Title song is an original. The standards are equally his: I've heard him play them many times, rarely (if ever) better than here. A [sp]

Sonny Redd/Art Pepper: Two Altos (1952-57 [1992], Savoy): Pepper you know. The other alto saxophonist here is Sylvester Kyner Jr. (1932-81), from Detroit, started with Barry Harris, mostly played in hard bop groups, got his debut (sort of) here, recorded five albums 1959-62 (dropping the extra d, so just Sonny Red), only one more after that. This was slapped together from four sessions, different personnel for each (drummer Larry Bunker is on two). No alto duets either: Pepper leads on four tracks, Redd on the other two. Nice enough. Front cover puts Pepper first, but spine has Redd, and he needs the credits more. This came out on LP in 1959 on Regent, as Redd's career was taking off, and Pepper was headed back to the slammer. B+(*) [sp]

Sonny Red: Out of the Blue (1959-60 [1996], Blue Note): Alto saxophonist, formerly Redd, first and only album for Blue Note, originally eight tracks with Wynton Kelly, six from 1959 with Sam Jones and Roy Brooks, plus two from 1960 with Kelly, Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Cobb, the CD tacking on five more from the latter session. A very solid outing, not least for the bonus tracks. B+(***) [sp]

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.

Stephan Crump/Steve Lehman: Kaleidoscope and Collage (2011, Intakt): Bass and alto sax duo, both with previous connections to Vijay Iyer, although none that I see with each other. [1/2 tracks, 16:40/39:02] - [r]

Grade (or other) changes:

Stan Getz: Nobody Else but Me (1964 [1994], Verve): At the time, Getz's samba albums were selling so well they didn't bother releasing this quartet session, which aside from the infusion of Gary Burton's vibes sounds much in line with his early bebop efforts. Mostly standards, starting with a memorable "Summertime," but also including two Burton originals. With Gene Cherico (bass) and Joe Hunt (drums). [was: B+] A- [cd]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Martin Budde: Back Burner (Origin) [03-22]
  • Four + Six: Four + Six (Jazz Hang) [03-29]
  • Romy Glod/Christian Ramond/Klaus Kugel: No Toxic (Nemu) [01-02]
  • Johnny Griffin: Live at Ronnie Scott's (1964, Gearbox)
  • Jazz Ensemble of Memphis: Playing in the Yard (Memphis International) [04-05]
  • Last Day Quintet: Falling to Earth (Origin) [03-22]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Music Week

March archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 41974 [41938] rated (+36), 27 [21] unrated (+6).

Another substantial Speaking of Which yesterday, plus some late additions today, bringing it up to 206 links, 9408 words. Otherwise, I have nothing much to show for the week, and I'm feeling as drained and hapless as I can recall, perhaps ever. Lots of tasks and projects piling up, unattended. At least I feel fairly well informed, and like I'm making sense when I drop into whatever topics come my way. Reflexes, and a substantial backlog of references I can still call up.

Meanwhile, I listened to the following bunch of records. I spent a lot more time with the R&B comp, eventually replaying all of it, which was enough for the promotion. Good tip from the redoubtable Clifford Ocheltree, so thanks again. The Hawkwind album tip came from a follower who goes by Cloudland Blue Quartet, who featured it in a #13at13 list. I didn't spend enough time on it -- certainly nothing like I would have had I encountered it at 13 (or 21, which I was when it came out; I certainly didn't have 13 albums at that age, and none to brag about). It seems like I must have heard more from them at the time than I have in the database, but not enough to really register (except as noted).

Three relatively mainstream jazz albums in the A-list this week. I feel a bit bad about not finding less obvious choices, but sometimes it breaks that way. The Potter album isn't actually in the 36 count, but I moved it in to wrap it up here. None scored high enough to be strong top-ten candidates at EOY (11, 13, 14 at the moment, or 6, 8, 9 among jazz), but they are likely to finish high in EOY polls.

Hurray for the Riff Raff is another pick with pretty broad support (86 on 21 reviews at AOTY; making it the year's highest-ranked album so far with that many reviews). It's taken over the number 2 slot in my 2024 list.

As for Old Music, the Gebru album I most recommend is still Éthiopiques 21: Ethiopia Song (1963-70 [2006], Buda Musique), attributed more precisely to Tsegué-Maryam Gučbrou, but any of the recent Emahoy/Mississippi compilations could do the trick. For solo piano, I usually prefer something upbeat (Earl Hines), fanciful (Art Tatum), and/or abrasive (Cecil Taylor), but all rules seem to have exceptions, and this is definitely one.

PS: [03-19] I have it on good authority that my Laura Jane Grace review, below, is "archaically transphobic." I understand their arguments, and will consider them in the future. But I will let this review stand. I've spent considerable time considering how I might respond, but after one rash attempt, I doubt that further discussion will do anyone any good.

New records reviewed this week:

Albare: Beyond Belief (2023 [2024], AM): Guitarist Albert Dadon, born in Morocco, grew up in Israel and France, moved to Australia in 1983 and made a fortune in business. Albums start in 1992. B+(*) [cd]

Bob Anderson: Live! (2023 [2024], Jazz Hang): Standards crooner, also described as an impressionist, career dates back to 1973, "has performed in more Las Vegas show rooms than just about anyone." Wikipedia has a bio but doesn't list any albums. Discogs has him as "(18)," with two two albums and three singles, none dated. These recordings were "taken from live performances in New York City, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Hollywood, Boston, and the like," also undated. Not a great ballad singer, but on the right song he does a pretty decent Sinatra. B+(*) [cd] [03-29]

Jonas Cambien: Jonas Cambien's Maca Conu (2023 [2024], Clean Feed): Belgian pianist, based in Oslo, leads a quartet with Signe Emmeluth (alto/tenor sax), Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten (bass), and Andreas Wildhagen (drums), plus guest Guuro Kvĺle (trombone) on two tracks. B+(***) [sp]

Ian Carey & Wood Metal Plastic: Strange Arts (2019 [2024], Slow & Steady): Bay Area trumpet player, seventh album, leads a "new chamber jazz septet with strings." B+(**) [cd] [03-22]

Giuseppe Doronzo/Andy Moor/Frank Rosaly: Futuro Ancestrale (2022 [2024], Clean Feed): Baritone saxophonist, from Italy, has a couple previous albums, also credited with Iranian bagpipe here, in a trio with electric guitar -- English, but has long played in the Dutch punk band, the Ex -- and drums (from Chicago). B+(**) [sp]

Fire!: Testament (2022 [2024], Rune Grammofon): Trio of Mats Gustafsson (baritone sax), Johan Berthling (bass), and Andreas Werlin (drums), formed 2009, eighth album, plus another seven as the expanded Fire! Orchestra. B+(***) [sp]

Glitter Wizard: Kiss the Boot (2023, Kitten Robot, EP): Glam rock group from San Francisco, four albums 2011-19, adds this six song, 18:30 EP. Includes a cover of "Sufragette City," not that they need to be so explicit about their niche. B [sp]

Laura Jane Grace: Hole in My Head (2024, Polyvinyl): Originally Thomas Gabel, singer-guitarist leader in punk group Against Me!, third solo album, a short one (11 songs, 25:28). Still sounds male, so you can just bracket the trans angle. Songs open up a bit towards folk, partly to expound on politics, e.g.: "out in the country is where fascists roam." B+(***) [sp]

Dave Harrington/Max Jaffe/Patrick Shiroishi: Speak, Moment (2021 [2024], AKP): Los Angeles-based trio: guitar, drums, sax, with some electronics and extra percussion. B+(**) [sp]

Keyon Harrold: Foreverland (2023 [2024], Concord): Mainstream trumpet player, debut 2009, many credits but only a few albums since. Major effort here, with variable lineups, and a sticker noting special guests Common, Robert Glasper, PJ Morton, and Laura Mvula. B+(**) [sp]

Brittany Howard: What Now (2024, Island): Former Alabama Shakes leader, second solo album, always winds up confusing me, although this one kept my interest piqued longer than most. B+(**) [sp]

Hurray for the Riff Raff: The Past Is Still Alive (2024, Nonesuch): Band but mostly folkie singer-songwriter Alyndra Segarra, from the Bronx via New Orleans, shows no obvious links to either but rather seems totally assimilated into declassé Americana. Ninth studio album. Always seemed like someone I should like more than I did, but this album is the breakthrough, and not just in likability. I'm not good enough at words to recall much of the brilliance I heard, beyond the "Buffalo" lament and the "Ogallala" reference, but they come with great ease. A- [sp]

Idles: Tangk (2024, Partisan): British rock band, from Bristol, fifth album since 2017, formally post-punk, have a lot of critical and popular support. Sounds good, but ended before anything really registered. B+(**) [sp]

Vijay Iyer: Compassion (2022 [2024], ECM): Pianist, from upstate New York, parents Tamil, studied physics before deciding on music, many albums since 1995, has won virtually everything. Trio with Linda May Han Oh (bass) and Tyshawn Sorey (drums). Starts slow, develops into something I never quite grasp -- one is tempted to use "dazzling," but that belongs more to the drummer. B+(***) [sp]

The Last Dinner Party: Prelude to Ecstasy (2024, Island): British rock group, five women, Abigail Morris the lead singer, debut album frequently described as art rock and/or baroque pop. B+(*) [sp]

Little Simz: Drop 7 (2024, Forever Living Originals, EP): British rapper-singer Simbi Ajikawo, first mixtape 2010, four albums and a dozen EPs, including seven Drop titles, this one with seven titles, 14:52. B+(**) [sp]

Mike McGinnis + 9: Outing: Road Trip II (2023 [2024], Sunnyside): Clarinet player, albums since 2001, including his prior Road Trip from 2012. Tentet again, with three saxes, three brass (trumpet/trombone/French horn), Jacob Sacks on piano, bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]

Emile Parisien/Roberto Negro: Les Métanuits (2023, ACT): French soprano saxophonist, debut was a quintet in 2000, duo with the Italian pianist, one year older but albums only since 2015. "Inspired by György Ligeti's String Quartet No. 1." B+(**) [sp]

Emile Parisien Quartet: Let Them Cook (2024, ACT): French saxophonist (mostly soprano, but doesn't say, and sounds more like alto to me), debut was a quintet in 2000, info on this one is still very sketchy, but more names on cover: Julien Loutelier (drums), Ivan Gélugne (bass), Julien Touéry (piano). B+(***) [sp]

Chris Potter/Brad Mehldau/John Patitucci/Brian Blade: Eagle's Point (2024, Edition): The tenor saxophonist's album, his pieces, but all four surnames on the cover, fellow stars at piano, bass, and drums. Potter also plays soprano sax and bass clarinet. When he gets going, he can be quite astonishing. Mehldau is equally impressive, when he gets his opportunities, as here. A- [sp]

Joel Ross: Nublues (2023 [2024], Blue Note): Vibraphonist, fourth album since 2019, all on Blue Note, which instantly made him some kind of star. No doubt he is, as is his label mate and guest here, Immanuel Wilkins (alto sax). A- [sp]

Scheen Jazzorkester & Cortex: Frameworks: Music by Thomas Johansson (2022 [2024], Clean Feed): Norwegian large group, ninth album since 2013, teamed up with a quartet that's been active since 2011, both long associated with the trumpet player who composed these five pieces. B+(***) [sp]

Patrick Shiroishi: I Was Too Young to Hear Silence (2020 [2023], American Dreams): Japanese-American alto saxophonist, has produced a lot of records since 2014, mostly improv duos and trios, this a solo, starting in a deep listening vein, struggling to build something much more imposing (while maintaining that eery resonance). B+(***) [sp]

The Smile: Wall of Eyes (2024, XL): Band with ex-Radiohead leaders Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, plus Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner. Second album. Slow and plainly pretty, not the sort of thing I find appealing. B [sp]

Vera Sola: Peacemarker (2024, Spectraphonic/City Slang): Singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, parents famous actors, from which her alias provides some distance, started as a poet, second album, first was DIY but at least has a co-producer here, Kenneth Pattengale. B+(**) [sp]

John Surman: Words Unspoken (2022 [2024], ECM): British saxophonist (the whole family, but just soprano, baritone, and bass clarinet here), avant-garde into the 1970s but settled into ECM's ambient chill by 1979 and has been secure ever since. With Rob Luft (guitar), Rob Waring (vibes), and Thomas Strřnen (drums). This one is exceptionally engaging. A- [sp]

Michael Thomas: The Illusion of Choice (2023 [2024], Criss Cross): Alto saxophonist, based in New York, three previous albums going back to 2011, not to be confused with trumpeter of same name (or any others: he's "(25)" at Discogs). Mainstream quartet with Manuel Valera (piano), Matt Brewer (bass), and Obed Calvaire (drums), playing eight originals plus "It Could Happen to You." B+(***) [sp]

Akiko Tsugura: Beyond Nostalgia (2023 [2024], SteepleChase): Japanese organ player, moved to New York in 2001 ten or more albums since 2004, this one with Joe Magnarelli (trumpet), Jerry Welcon (tenor sax), Byron Landham (drums), and Ed Cherry (guitar). B+(**) [sp]

The Umbrellas: Fairweather Friend (2024, Tough Love): San Francisco-based jangle pop band, second album. B+(*) [sp]

Yard Act: Where's My Utopia? (2024, Island): British group, from Leeds, second album, James Smith's vocals are most often spoken, with bits of skits cut up and scattered. B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Emahoy Tsegue Maryam Guebru: Souvenirs (1977-85 [2024], Mississippi): Ethiopian pianist (1923-2023), described as a nun, "Emahoy" being a religious honorific. Recorded her first album in 1963, until recently was known mostly for her Éthiopiques 21 compilation of solo piano. This collects eight pieces (36:11), solo piano with vocals as soothing as the music. B+(***) [sp]

Old music:

Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru: Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru (1963-70 [2016], Mississippi): Solo piano from the Ethiopian nun's early albums (although the last three cuts, sourced from a 1996 Best Of, could be later). Seems like simple patterns, but lives up to the hype: "some of the most moving piano music you will ever hear." A- [sp]

Emahoy Tsege-Mariam Gebru: Jerusalem (1972-2012 [2023], Mississippi): More solo piano (with a bit of vocal), three tracks from a 1972 album called The Hymn of Jerusalem: The Jordan River Song, six more from a much later album, by which time she had emigrated to Israel. Some biographical notes: she was of "a wealthy Amhara family," from Gondar, and learned music in a boarding school in Switzerland, from age six. She returned to Ethiopia in 1933, and became a "civil servant and singer to Emperor Haile Selassie." She became a nun when she was 21, and "spent a decade living in a hilltop monastery in Ethiopia." After that, she returned to playing music, and released her first album in 1967, in Germany. She emigrated to Israel in 1984, after Selassie fell, and "settled in an Ethiopian Orthodox convent in Jerusalem." B+(***) [sp]

Gigi W Material: Mesgana Ethiopia (2009 [2010], M.O.D. Technologies): Ethiopian singer Ejigayehu Shibabaw, recorded a couple albums 1997-98, then hooked up with Bill Laswell for a series of albums from Gigi in 2001 to this live album, but nothing since. (They were married for some period, but I haven't found dates.) Material was a band Laswell started in 1979, breaking up in 1985 but Laswell continued using the name for various projects through 1999, reviving it here. B+(**) [sp]

Hawkwind: Doremi Fasol Latido (1972, United Artists): British space-rock band, debut 1970, still extant (Dave Brock is the only original member left, and was probably always the main guy; Nik Turner left in 1976, and Huw Lloyd-Langton left in 1971 but returned for 1979-88), this their third album, with two otherwise notable musicians present: guitarist Lemmy Kilmister (later of Motorhead), and vocalist Robert Calvert (whose 1975 solo Lucky Leif and the Longships, produced by Eno, was a personal favorite, and who I credited most for the one Hawkwind album I did really love, 1977's Quark, Strangeness and Charm). Seems too dated to turn into a major research project at this point, but between the post-Pink Floyd and proto-Motorhead, familiar soundposts abound. B+(***) [sp]

Grade (or other) changes:

The R&B No. 1s of the '50s (1950-59 [2013], Acrobat, 6CD): I still haven't filed this set, which made it a convenient option, especially to start each day. Mostly that's meant disc 6, where the novelties not in Rhino's canonical The R&B Box are exceptionally catchy -- especially the Lloyd Price hits ("Personality," "I Wanna Get Married") that I already loved before I turned ten. But revisiting discs 1-3 clinched the deal. [was: A-] A [cd]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Neal Alger: Old Souls (Calligram) [03-01]
  • Sam Anning: Earthen (Earshift Music) [04-05]
  • Alex Beltran: Rift (Calligram) [03-01]
  • Julieta Eugenio: Stay (self-released) [03-29]
  • Julien Knowles: As Many, as One (Biophilia) [04-26]
  • Travis Reuter: Quintet Music (self-released) [04-19]
  • Claudio Scolari Project: Intermission (Principal) [03-25]
  • Dan Weiss: Even Odds (Cygnus) [03-29]
  • Hein Westergaard/Katt Hernandez/Raymond Strid: The Knapsack, the Hat, and the Horn (Gotta Let It Out) [02-25]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Music Week

March archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 41938 [41900] rated (+38), 21 [22] unrated (-1).

I'm having a rough time getting anything done, which is my best explanation for wasting most of last week on a still-unfinished Speaking of Which -- posted well after midnight last, with a few further adds flagged today. The most important add is the link to Pankaj Mishra's The Shoah after Gaza (also on YouTube).

I've neglected pretty much everything and everyone else. My apologies to anyone expecting a response from me. As I must have noted already, I gave myself a month to write a quick, very rough draft of my long gestating political book, with the promise that if I couldn't pull it off, I'd shelve the idea once and for all, and spend my waning days reading fiction -- forty years later, I still have a bookmark 300 pages into Gravity's Rainbow, and enough recollection I'm not sure I'll have to retrace -- while slipping in the occasional old movie and dawdling with jigsaw puzzles (ok, I'm already doing the latter). I certainly wouldn't have to plow through any nonfiction that might be construed as research -- e.g., a couple items currently on the proverbial night stand: Franklin Foer's book on Biden, or Judis/Teixeira on the missing Democrats.

That month was supposed to be January, but the Jazz Critics Poll and EOY lists lapped over without me starting, so I decided I'd give it February. I still have no more than a fragment of a letter stashed away in a notebook entry, so the obvious thing to do at this point is admit failure, and be done with it. Aside from easing my mind -- the last six months have been unbearably gloomy for my politics, my prognostications turning markedly dystopian -- ditching politics might be good news for those of you more interested in my writing on music.

Two small projects that I've also neglected are: a thorough review of the Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll website, which is missing some unknown quantity of historical material (hopefully Davis has it stashed away), and needs some modernization; I'm also behind on maintenance, not to mention the long-promised redesign, of the Robert Christgau website. It would also make sense to reorganize my own data along those same lines, as even now it's virtually impossible for even me to look up what I've written about any musician.

I also have neglected house projects: the most pressing of which is the imminent collapse of a chunk of ceiling in my wife's study room. I used to be pretty competent at carpentry and home improvement tasks. About all I can claim to have managed in the last month has been replacement of two light bulbs, which took me weeks (in my defense, both involved ladders and unconventional sockets).

Nothing special to say about this week's music. A copy of the year 2023 list has been frozen, but I am still adding occasional records to my tracking file, jazz and non-jazz EOY lists, and EOY aggregate, but mostly just my own belatedly graded items. But I'm not very focused on what I'm listening to, and often get stuck wondering what to play next. I can't say I've reached the point of not caring, but I'm getting there.

My most played record of the last couple weeks is The R&B No. 1s of the '50s, especially the final disc, which has left me with Lloyd Price's "I'm Gonna Get Married" as the ultimate earworm. I should probably bump the whole set up to full A. I played the last three discs while cooking on Saturday, and I'm satisfied with them. Then I started Sunday and Monday with disc 6. As this post lapsed into Tuesday, I was tempted again, but had unfinished Vijay Iyer queued up.

Found this in a Facebook comment: "I'm not sure keeping up with Tom Hull is possible. The very thought makes my synapses cry out, 'no mas, no mas.'" But from my view, they really just keep coming poco a poco. During the long delay from listing out this file to posting it -- mostly spent on the Speaking of Which intro -- I only managed to collect four more reviews for next week: two marginally A- jazz albums (Joel Ross, John Surman), and two more marginally below A- (Vijay Iyer, Emile Parisien).

New records reviewed this week:

Black Art Jazz Collective: Truth to Power (2024, HighNote): Fourth group album, 2016 debut started with six mostly prominent mainstreamers -- Wayne Escoffery (tenor sax), Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), James Burton (trombone), Xavier Davis (piano), and Johnathan Blake (drums) -- up to nine this time: still a sextet, but with Victor Gould, Rashaan Carter, and Mark Whitfield Jr. taking over at piano-bass-drums for four tracks. Rich harmonically, but still not much of interest happening here. B [sp]

The Choir Invisible [Charlotte Greve/Vinnie Sperazza/Chris Tordini]: Town of Two Faces (2022 [2024], Intakt): Brooklyn-based trio of German saxophonist Charlotte Greve, Chris Tordini (bass), and Vinnie Sperazza (drums), the group taking the title of their initial 2020 album. Greve is also credited with voice, but the real vocal here is Fay Victor's outstanding blues, "In Heaven." B+(***) [sp]

Djeli Moussa Condé: Africa Mama (2023, Accords Croises): Kora playing griot from Conakry, Guinea; at least two previous albums, more as Kondé. B+(***) [sp]

Gui Duvignau/Jacob Sacks/Nathan Ellman-Bell: Live in Red Hook (2022 [2024], Sunnyside): Bassist, fourth album since 2016, born in France, moved to Morocco as an infant, then grew up in Brazil, eventually winding up in New York, where he recorded this trio with piano and drums. B+(*) [sp]

Alon Farber Hagiga With Dave Douglas: The Magician: Live in Jerusalem (2023 [2024], Origin): Israeli saxophonist (soprano/alto), group name is Hebrew for "celebration," has used it to frame his quintet and sextet albums since 2005, up to seven here with their guest star, who brought two (of five) songs, and plays some of his hottest trumpet since he left Masada. A group this joyous deserves as better country. B+(***) [cd]

R.A.P. Ferreira & Fumitake Tamura: The First Fist to Make Contact When We Dap (2024, Ruby Yacht): Underground rapper from Chicago, initials for Rory Allen Philip, formerly did business as Milo, based in Nashville; producer has a handful of collaborations since 2014. Music very sketchy here, but finds an interesting groove. Twelve cuts, 32:16. B+(***) [sp]

David Friesen: This Light Has No Darkness (2023 [2024]], Origin): Bassist, one should add composer as that's been key to him leading fifty-some albums since 1975, and that's the focus here, with this 12-part work arranged and orchestrated by Kyle Gordon, using a 33-piece orchestra. Classically lush, way too much for my taste. B [cd]

The Fully Celebrated Orchestra: Sob Story (2023 [2024], Relative Pitch): Group led by alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs, first appeared as a trio in 1996, last heard on the terrific 2009 Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones, back here as a quintet, with Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet) and Ian Ayers (guitar) joining Luther Gray (drums) and original member Timo Sharko (bass). B+(**) [sp]

Vanisha Gould and Chris McCarthy: Life's a Gig (2022 [2024], Fresh Sound New Talent): Jazz singer, has a previous self-released duo album but I could see this as her debut, wrote one song plus lyrics to another, but the focus here is on seven standards, most with just McCarthy's piano accompaniment (guest viola on two: the original and "Jolene"). Given the right song, like "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," and she doesn't need more. B+(**) [sp]

Heems & Lapgan: Lafandar (2024, Veena Sounds): Rapper Himanshu Suri, formerly of Das Racist and Swet Shop Boys, third solo album (first since 2015). Lapgan is a producer with a couple recent albums, draws on Indo-Pak heritage, Lollywood dance beats, and transnational hip-hop. Beaucoup guests celebrate, and flaunt, diversity. I should dig up a lyric sheet, but the many word juxtapositions are exciting enough. A [sp]

Katy Kirby: Blue Raspberry (2024, Anti-): Folkie singer-songwriter, grew up in Texas, based in Nashville, second album. B+(**) [sp]

Lapgan: History (2023, Veena Sounds): Hip-hop producer, most likely Punjabi but no info as yet on how far removed (seems to be based in Chicago), breakthrough is with the new Heems album, which instantly validated this title. B+(*) [sp]

Lapgan: Duniya Kya Hai (2021, Veena Sounds): Earlier, beats "almost exclusively with sounds from India and Pakistan." B+(**)

Lapgan: Badmaash (2019, self-released): Digging deeper, I find his name is Gaurav Nagpal (last name reversed for Lapgan), his parents came from India (but where? samples are as likely to come from Kerala as Punjab), he was born in Queens, grew up near Chicago, and worked his way backwards into roots. B+(**) [sp]

Les Amazones d'Afrique: Musow Danse (2024, Real World): African supergroup, three brand-name Malian singers -- Mamani Keďta, Mariam Dumbia, Oumou Sangare -- plus 'French music-industry veteran" Valerie Malot. B+(***) [sp]

James Brandon Lewis Quartet: Transfiguration (2022 [2024], Intakt): Tenor saxophonist, brilliant on his 2014 major label debut, has continued to impress ever since, including landmark concept albums that won the Francis Davis Poll in 2021 and 2023. On the side, he's recorded a series of excellent working group albums for this Swiss label. Quartet with piano (Aruán Ortiz), bass (Brad Jones), and drums (Chad Taylor). A- [sp]

Cecilia Lopez & Ingrid Laubrock: Maromas (2022 [2023], Relative Pitch): Electronics musician, from Argentina, based in New York, more than a dozen releases since 2015, doesn't appear to be related to bassist Brandon Lopez, but they did a 2020 duo called LopezLopez. Duo here with the German saxophonist (soprano/tenor), also New York-based. Sketchy, but interesting. B+(**) [sp]

Corb Lund: El Viejo (2024, New West): Canadian country singer-songwriter, twelfth album since 1995. Has a good sound and good sense, but songs are a bit hit-and-miss (a tip might be that his best album so far was called Songs My Friends Wrote). B+(***) [sp]

Brady Lux: Ain't Gone So Far (2024, 6483357 DK, EP): Country singer-songwriter from Montana, reportedly "a genuine ranch hand cowboy who works his ass off every day, and at night he writes songs and saws a little fiddle when he can find the time." Sounds really western, albeit without horses. Seven songs, 23:05. B+(***) [sp]

Mali Obomsawin/Magdalena Abrego: Greatest Hits (2024, Out of Your Head): Singer-songwriter/bassist from Abenaki First Nation, started in the folk group Lula Wiles, released a jazz-powered solo debut in 2022 I liked a lot (Sweet Tooth), but title here made me wonder. Abrego is a guitarist based in Hudson, NY, with not much before this, but adds appreciable heft to the songs. Eight songs, 32:02. B+(**) [bc]

QOW Trio: The Hold Up (2024, Ubuntu Music): British trio -- Riley Stone-Longeran (tenor sax), Eddie Myer (bass), Spike Wells (drums) -- second album after an eponymous debut in 2020, basically a retro-bop band, name taken from a Dewey Redman song, Wells old enough to have played with Tubby Hayes. No complaints here if the saxophonist sounds a lot like Sonny Rollins. A- [sp]

Zach Rich: Solidarity (2021 [2024], OA2): Trombonist, originally from Wichita, teaches in Colorado, seems to be his first album. Postbop quintet with piano and guitar, bass and drums, plus string quartet, plus extra horns and voice on the second piece ("Broken Mirrors"). B+(*) [cd]

Dex Romweber: Good Thing Goin' (2023, Propeller Sound): Rockabilly/roots guitarist, singer-songwriter, surprised to hear that he died at age 56, leaving this album has his last -- ominously dedicated to his late sister and duo partner, Sara Romweber (1963-2019). A mix of originals and covers, the latter more often amusing (even if inadvertently so). B+(*) [sp]

Ignaz Schick/Oliver Steidle: Ilog3 (2021 [2023], Zarek): Germans, Schick started out as a saxophonist but credits here are "turntables, sampler, pitch shifter/looper," in a duo with the drummer ("percussion, sampler, live-electronics"). Third duo album, starting in 2015. Some splendid noise. B+(***) [bc]

Fie Schouten/Vincent Courtois/Guus Janssen: Vostok: Remote Islands (2023, Relative Pitch): A treat for Worldle devotees, improvised music "inspired by Judith Schalansky's book Atlas of Remote Islands: 50 Islands I Never Set Foot in and Never Will. Schouten plays "bass clarinet, clarinet in A, basset horn"; the others cello and keyboards, with Giuseppe Doronzo joining in on baritone sax (4 of 12 tracks). Eleven are named for islands (only a couple big enough to be Worldle answers), the other for a bird ("Inaccessible Island Rail"). B+(**) [sp]

Hĺkon Skogstad: 8 Concepts of Tango (2023 [2024], Řra Fonogram): Norwegian pianist, has taken tango as his art form, with previous albums called Visions of Tango and Two Hands to Tango. All original pieces here, played by a classical-sounding group of band (piano, two bandoneons, string quartet plus bass). B+(*) [cd] [03-15]

Sleater-Kinney: Little Rope (2024, Loma Vista): Portland-based rock group, now down to a duo of singer-songwriters Carrie Brownstein and Corrin Tucker, eleventh studio album since 1995. I've long respected their craft while finding one or both of the voices intensely grating. Still, repeated exposure finds me caring less than ever, although this has less than usual for me to complain about. B [sp]

Simon Spiess Quiet Tree: Euphorbia (2022 [2024], Intakt): Swiss tenor saxophonist, debut 2011, eighth album, group includes pianist Marc Méan (who wrote four pieces, same as Spiess), and drummer Jonas Ruther (writer of one piece). This sort of sneaks up on you. B+(**) [sp]

Albert Vila Trio: Reality Is Nuance (2022 [2023], Fresh Sound New Talent): Spanish guitarist, half-dozen albums since 2006, this a trio recorded in Brussels with Doug Weiss (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums). Nice, low-key feel, drummer excels. B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Roberto Magris: Love Is Passing Thru: Solo/Duo/Trio/Quartet (2005 [2024], JMood): Italian pianist, from Trieste, many albums since 1990, has been rifling through old tapes recently, and has come up with an exceptionally delightful one here. Recorded over two dates. This works out to five solo tracks (including two takes of "Lush Life"), plus two with drums and percussion (Enzo Carpentieri, some Balinese), three more with bass (Danilo Gallo), and finally three with tenor sax (Ettore Martin). A- [cd]

Jack Wood: The Gal That Got Away: The Best of Jack Wood, Featuring Guest Niehaud Fitzgibbon ([2024], Jazz Hang): A classic crooner, "long a favorite in Southern California." No dates given here, but "some of the Wood's finest recordings," with various groups, including Doug MacDonald and John Pisano on guitar, some sweetened by the Salt Lake City Jazz Orchestra. The featured guest is an Australian singer, who takes over for two tracks, and is as adept as her host. I must admit that I still have a soft spot for the style, especially on the songs that it made timeless. B+(***) [cd] [03-29]

Old music:

Gigi: Gigi (2001, Palm Pictures): Ethiopian singer Ejigayehu Shibabaw, third album, got a boost on Chris Blackwell's label, produced by Bill Laswell, with a roster of jazz greats (Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Pharoah Sanders, Henry Threadgill, Hamid Drake, Amina Claudine Myers) mixed in with Laswell regulars and many Ethiopians. Laswell and Gigi married, following this up with a dub remix, then Zion Roots, credited to Abyssinia Infinite, with Gigi's full name as "featuring." B+(***) [sp]

Gigi: Illuminated Audio (2003, Palm Pictures): Some sort of dub remix of Gigi, omitting most of the vocals, which was the Gigi part of the album. Also cuts out the jazz solos, so you wind up with a lot of Bill Laswell ambient groove -- not much, but pleasant enough. B+(*) [sp]

Gigi: Gold & Wax (2006, Palm Pictures): Her third, and final, album for Chris Blackwell's label, again with Bill Laswell producing. A wide range of musicians -- including Nils Petter Molvaer, Bernie Worrell, Aiyb Dieng, Foday Musa Suso, Ustad Sultan Khan, and Buckethead -- integrate seamlessly with the mesmerizing vocals. A- [sp]

Barney McAll: Precious Energy (2022, Extra Celestial Arts): Australian pianist, close to twenty albums since 1995, seems to have designed this to appeal to his featured guest, alto saxophonist Gary Bartz, although the more critical collaborator may be jazz-soul outfit Haitus Kayote. This starts with a Leon Thomas/Pharoah Sanders homage, and ends with Coltrane, while touching on planets Sun Ra and Stevie Wonder. That was Bartz's golden age, but barely registers here over the zonked out vocals. B [sp]

Pajama Party: Up All Night (1989, Atlantic): Dance-pop vocal trio, released two albums, this debut and another in 1991. B+(**) [sp]

QOW Trio: QOW Trio (2020, Ubuntu Music): English sax-bass-drums trio -- Riley Stone-Lonergan, Eddie Myer, Spike Wells -- title song/group/album name from Dewey Redman, also dok one from Joe Henderson, several standards (three from Cole Porter), and two originals not far removed from their inspirations ("Pound for Prez," "Qowfirmation"). B+(***) [sp]

Stacey Q: Greatest Hits (1982-95 [1995], Thump): Dance-pop artist, Stacey Swain, opens with five resplendent remixes of singles from her 1986 solo debut, then ignores two later albums, going back to her early work in Q -- a "minimal synth/new wave" group with Jon St. James and Ross Wood, and then SSQ (supposedly emphasizing the singer's initials). B+(***) [sp]

SSQ: Playback (1983, Enigma): Stacey S[wain]'s pre-solo group, produced by guitar/synth player (and sometime vocalist) Jon St. James, both previously in the band Q, first and only album until a 2010 return. B+(**) [sp]

SSQ: Jet Town Je T'Aime (2020, Synthicide): A return to form for Stacey Swain and Jon St. James, 37 years after their first (and hitherto only) album. B+(*) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Guillermo Gregorio: Two Trios (ESP-Disk) [2023-12-01]
  • Mercer Hassy Orchestra: Duke's Place (Mercer Hassy) [04-15)
  • Ellie Lee: Escape (self-released) [05-24]
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: New Concepts in Piano Trio Jazz (ESP-Disk) [04-05]
  • Ronny Smith: Struttin' (Pacific Coast Jazz) [04-19]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

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