Tuesday, May 23. 2017
Music: Current count 28166  rated (+25), 397  unrated (+3).
I spent pretty much all of Sunday and Monday cooking birthday dinner for my sister, Kathy, after spending a good chunk of Saturday shopping. During that time I mostly played oldies, especially 50 Coastin' Classics, which never sounded better. She requested a couple Indian curries "and all the fixin's" so I did what I could. I wound up making (mostly from Julie Sahni's Classic Indian Cooking):
Half of the dishes were made on Sunday then reheated, again taking hints from Sahni. I had hoped to make kadhi (chickpea dumplings in yogurt sauce), but got cold feet, then added several relishes/salads that seemed easier. Too many dishes, but not many complaints: the lamb and fish were luxurious, the four vegetables dishes superb, the rice a little bland but sumptuous, the yogurt/okra lovely, the chutneys/pickles intense. I meant to fry up some frozen, store-bought paratha but it slipped my mind in the rush to serve everything (which, by the way, was on scheduled time).
For dessert we had spiced tea, flourless chocolate cake, and store-bought vanilla ice cream.
We had eight people for dinner. Fairly extravagant, but I've made at least three larger Indian dinners -- a birthday dinner in NJ consumed 22 onions, whereas this one only took 10. Aside from the chutneys, the tomato-cucumber-onion (the least impressive dish), and the rice, not a lot of leftovers. Seems like a lot of work, but I don't get many chances to do something nice for others, nor to feel like I'm actually being productive -- e.g., as opposed to just reacting to the worldwide train wreck. (Expect a belated Weekend Roundup mid-week, and a Streamnotes by end-of-month.)
The jazz guides are up to 661 + 527 pages, still less than midway in the Jazz '80s-'90s database file. I never expected the 20th century to reach 700 pages, but that now seems likely. Still, I think, only has 1/4 to 1/3 as many records as The Penguin Guide, which has long been my bible. The 21st century file should still more than double in length, and it's not inconceivable that the pair will top 2000 pages.
One side effect of that work is that every now and then I check Napster for missing jazz records, as I did with banjoist John Gill's early work. I was pleased to find many recordings on Stomp Off, long one of the best trad jazz labels. As you're probably aware, most of my higher picks are avant-garde, but I've always had a soft spot for trad jazz, and even more so for small group swing (which I swear was the cradle of rock and roll). So I went on a bender here, checking out Gill, his trumpet buddies Duke Heitger and Chris Tyle, and records I had missed by two pianists I liked, Ted Des Plantes and Keith Nichols. Biggest problem here is that they're hard to sort out on just one or two plays -- they nearly all sound good, but differentiating isn't as easy. Second biggest problem is that Stomp Off is probably the most media-adverse label in the world -- they don't have a website, and almost none of their records are listed by Discogs -- so it's been very hard to get any info on them (the most reliable source is The Penguin Guide, plus occasionally I've found back cover scans which at least give credits, release dates, and song lists. Probably quite a few more to check out in weeks to come.
In contrast, new jazz seems to sit in my changes for 3-4 plays regardless of whether it's much good or not, so I'm making slow progress through the queue. (The unpacking below is longer than usual because I forgot to post last week's intake.) And the only non-jazz records I checked out last week were two from Robert Christgau's Expert Witness (couldn't find the newer, and longer, Daddy Issues last week, but it's there now, so next week). I'm just not aware of much I want to seek out there, at least for now.
New records rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last two weeks:
Monday, May 15. 2017
Music: Current count 28141  rated (+22), 397  unrated (-2).
A bit surprised that the rated count isn't any higher. I couldn't think of much to stream on Napster, so decided to focus on the jazz queue, and most of those records were instantly forgettable. However, the two I did like took a lot of time -- Amado was pretty automatic, but still got many plays before I finally wrote something, while Miwa had to overcome my normal "that's nice" reaction to piano trio. The other new A- record was reviewed by Robert Christgau here. (Christgau also published a piece in the Voice last week: Songs of Love and War: Syria's Omar Souleyman.)
I keep expecting a new Downloader's Diary from Michael Tatum any day now, so thought I should check before posting this, and found instead something he posted back on February 20: Orts from the 2016 Table -- just three reviews: American Honey (A+), Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Denial (A), and De La Soul and the Anonymous Nobody (B). I should add them to his Archive -- but later this week, I think, or maybe when the first 2017 column appears.
I didn't do anything for Mother's Day other than write my long Weekend Roundup, but the day before I tried making one of the few non-traditional dishes from my childhood: Spanish rice with pork chops. I made it the way Mom might have made it: using Zatarain's boxed rice kit (add water, a can of diced tomatoes, butter). As best I recall, she browned the pork chops, then baked them with the rice, but I did it all on the stove top, starting the rice in one pot while I browned the chops in a deep skillet. I then dumped the partly cooked rice on top of the chops, covered, and turned the heat low to finish. The mix had long-grain rice, dried onions, and spices. It wouldn't be hard to come up with a scratch recipe -- Google has many suggestions. Mom almost never made rice -- this was the only real dish I can recall, but I vaguely remember her making Minute Rice as a side some time. Much later I taught her how to make Chinese fried rice to go with 1-2-3-4-5 Spare Ribs, but she most often just made the latter -- especially after she got my sister to pre-mix the ingredients, so she just ad to measure out 1/2 cup.
I hope to write up some sort of cookbook/food memoir built around her cooking (but with a few of my things slipped in). I have her recipe cards, but they're mostly disappointing and unrepresentative: too many things that she collected from friends and family to be polite -- way too many casseroles and jello salads -- but never made again. The main things that are well covered are cakes, cookies, and candy. Virtually absent are meats (she fried, or sometimes roasted, them), gravy, and vegetables (mostly boiled to death). I don't recall her ever consulting a cookbook (though she may have had one, possibly Betty Crocker) but she did crib recipes off cans and boxes, which is where she got the idea for baking fried steak in mushroom soup. I've tried recreating some of her dishes, and had generally good results, so that will eventually go into the book.
Other big project last week was to repaint the steel fence on the south side of the back yard. Got everything scraped earlier last week, then painted primer on 2 (of 7) penels on Saturday. Slow going, will probably take most of this week to finish (or longer, allowing for periodic storms).
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Monday, May 8. 2017
Music: Current count 28119  rated (+23), 399  unrated (+3).
Something I missed for yesterday's Weekend Roundup, but two TPM stories gave me pause: White House Blames Obama for Trump Hiring Flynn, and Obama Warned Trump Not to Hire Flynn as National Security Adviser. Seems typical that Trump would do the opposite of what Obama recommended then blame Obama when he turned out to be right. This illustrates the extraordinary extent to which Trump has based his own agenda on the desire to reflexively undo everything Obama has done over the past eight years -- to effectively erase the Obama administration from American history. Moreover, this contrasts sharply with Obama's own considered efforts to maintain continuity when he replaced GW Bush, despite the latter's dreadful legacy of failure.
I've long felt that Obama's emphasis on continuity was terrible political strategy -- he gave up the option of continuing to blame the lingering problems he inherited (like the Great Recession and the continuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) on the person/party responsible for them, he made it possible for Americans to forget and forgive. The astonishing result was that two years later the Republicans could surge back as the party of resentment against America's corrupt elites. I've long felt that Obama cut not just his own but his party's throat because he bought so deeply into the myths of American Exceptionalism, and that compelled him to rationalize and defend his country even when it had gone wrong. Trump, clearly, has no such scruples or ideals, so it's hardly surprising that his reflexive contempt of Obama so often strikes against Obama's idealized America. One might expect his blind contempt to backfire more often than it has, but unfortunately the Democrats are still more inclined to defend their cherished myths -- e.g., Hillary's "America's always been great" -- than to recognize real problems, identify their causes, and propose real solutions.
I'd also like to add that in thinking about the French elections I posted a tweet, which I'll expand a bit here to get past the 140 character cramp:
My point is that an honest recollection of what Republicans have done and tried to do since Reagan would have shown them to be as dastardly and disreputable as the Vichy-rooted National Front. But the media insists on treating Republicans -- even ones as vile as Trump, Cruz, and Ryan -- as respectable Americans, even though that requires massive amnesia. I'm reminded once again of Tom Carson's metaphor of America (embodied in the quintessentially all-American Mary Ann) as a perpetual virgin, regrowing her hymen after every act of intercourse. Unfortunately, the only people still suckered by this myth of American purity are elite Democrats, and their disconnection from reality is killing their party and sacrificing their voters.
Not much to say about music this week. Rated count is down, probably just because I've been slow, though I can point to repairing a fence as a distraction, and I took a couple breaks to make nice dinners-for-two (since our social entertaining seems to have withered to nothing). I did find a good record from Buffalo (one of my favorite towns) -- or perhaps I should say it found me. Among the high B+ list (all jazz) the pecking order is probably: Fiedler, Oh, Dickey, Durkin. Three of those came from Napster, as did four jazz records from the next tier down (Preservation Hall, Watson, the two Parker duos). Still have a couple dozen CDs in the mail queue, but lately they haven't been amounting to much. Still, this week's unpacking looks relatively promising.
Christgau's Expert Witness last week featured several rap records: Kendrick Lamar's Damn (an A- here last week), two each by Migos and Future (haven't heard yet). He also publisher two pieces last week: Who the Fuck Knows: Covering Music in Drumpfjahr II (something he did for the EMP Conference), and Rob Sheffield Explores How the Beatles Live on Inside Our Heads. There's also an interview Tom Slater did with him at Sp!ked Review.
Modest progress collecting the Jazz Guide reviews: currently at 635 + 436 pages, through Eliane Elias in the Jazz '80s file (27%).
New records rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, May 1. 2017
Music: Current count 28096  rated (+32), 396  unrated (-1).
Most of what's listed below appeared in Saturday's Streamnotes, so old news there. I made a last minute stab at checking out some 2017 non-jazz releases, and continued that after the column posted. No additional A-list albums after the column, but Body Count's Bloodlust came close -- actually a remarkable album, just one I didn't want to give the extra spins that probably would have moved it over the A- cusp. Ardor & Zeal is a bit less in every respect, including a bit less irritating to a metal-phobe like myself. For Christgau on those two records, look here.
Christgau also praised the new Brad Paisley record, the biggest flop of four (I think) overrated full-A records he's found this year (Jens Lekman, New Pornographers, Khalid -- OK, I gave the latter an A-, the others high B+). I like Paisley in small doses, but he never seems to approach album-length without wearing out his welcome, either because his Nashville rock gets boring or because he says something stupid (often both, like here). After grading, I read a bunch of Facebook comments on Bob's review, and it seemed like quite a few were closer to my position.
On the other hand, I don't have any non-jazz this year remotely close to full-A: the non-jazz set of the 2017 list-in-progress are (with Christgau grades where known): Orchestra Baobab (A-), Run the Jewels (A-), XX, Jesca Hoop, Kendrick Lamar, Tinariwen (**), Craig Finn (B+), Conor Oberst (A-), Syd (A-), Arto Lindsay, Matt North (A-), Angaleena Presley (A-), Colin Stetson, Khalid (A-). (I normally count Stetson as jazz -- he's a saxophonist -- but he crossed over into post-rock and that's where pretty much all of his critic/fan bases are.) That's 14 records, vs. 22 jazz records (38.9% non-jazz), actually not far from what I had before the EOY lists started rolling in last year. But before last week's 5-0 the split was 9-to-22 (29.0% non-jazz), so I was right to shift focus. I'd do a better job of keeping up if more people I trusted wrote more often. Maybe we'll see some 4-month lists soon.
As you may have noticed, I bumped up the grade on Stanley Cowell's Departure #2. I was on the fence at the time, but hedged low until I remembered how much better it was than the 4-5 good Cowell records I played after it. Really pleased that so many SteepleChase albums have appeared on Napster. Lots to catch up on there.
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Saturday, April 29. 2017
About the same count this time: 115 vs. 114 in March, which compares to 153 in February and 156 in January, back when I was paying more heed to EOY lists. I made a last-minute effort to listen to well-regarded new non-jazz albums, which helped -- new releases are up to 78 from 52, with old music down roughly that much. The old music came from artists I ran into while collating the jazz guides. In a couple cases I checked out musicians I didn't have any rated albums from before (Pete La Roca, Charles Tyler). In some cases (Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard) I pretty much limited myself to their early Blue Note releases. For Horace Tapscott I found a record that I had written a bit about before but hadn't graded.
Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on March 31. Past reviews and more information are available here (9514 records).
Kevin Abstract: American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story (2016, Brockhampton): Rapper-crooner Ian Simpson, barely out of his teens, plying beats too suave and fills too orchestral. B+(*)
Actress: AZD (2017, Ninja Tune): British electronica guy, Darren Cunningham, ambient with occasional interruptions, both glitches and more violent eruptions. Last track, "Visa," broke the mold. B+(*)
Antonio Adolfo: Hybrido: From Rio to Wayne Shorter (2016 , AAM): Brazilian pianist, based in US (Florida, I think), has several dozen albums since 1969. Eight Wayne Shorter compositions plus Adolfo's closer, all given a nice samba treatment. B [cd]
Arca: Arca (2017, XL): Alejandro Ghersi, originally from Venezuela, studied in New York, now based in London. The music is surreal and eerie, something that one could find oddly attractive, were it not for the arch and arcane vocals. B
Bardo Pond: Under the Pines (2017, Fire): Rock band from Philadelphia, together and fairly prolific since the early 1990s -- Discogs counts 35 albums plus many EPs, Wikipedia only lists 11 studio albums but mentions 11 side projects. Thick trippy guitars with drone feedback and ethereal moans, they pass for psychedelic these days, but I can't latch onto much beyond their dense ambiance. B
Bill Brovold & Jamie Saft: Serenity Knolls (2016 , Rare Noise): Guitar duets -- Saft is normally a keyboard player but is credited with dobro and lap steel here, so he adds some resonance to the relatively placid lead guitar. B+(*) [cdr]
Chicago/London Underground: A Night Walking Through Mirrors (2016 , Cuneiform): Since 1998 Rob Mazurek (cornet/electronics) and Chad Taylor (drums) have led various Chicago Underground duos, trios, and quartets, with Mazurek later taking his Underground concept to Sao Paulo. Here the Chicago duo visits London, meeting up with Alexander Hawkins (piano) and John Edwards (bass) -- both are very active, bringing a lot of heat and dynamism to the cooler orientation of the Chicagoans. A- [cdr]
Jacob Collier: In My Room (2016, Membran): British jazz singer, first album, title from the Beach Boys song. Belongs to the school that thinks tricking thing up makes them jazzier, but also betrays his background singing Bach chorales. C+
Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra: Invitation (2016 , OA2): Big band, produced by alto saxophonist Art Bouton, with baritone saxophonist Wil Swindler doing most of the arranging (and writing the only original piece). Standards from the songbook and major jazz sources like Ellington and Mulligan, done up smartly. B+(**) [cd]
Larry Coryell: Barefoot Man: Sanpaku (2016, Purple Pyramid): Probably the late fusion guitarist's last album, the title referring back to his 1971 album Barefoot Boy like a pair of bookends. And he goes out much like he came in, with a groove. B+(*)
Rodney Crowell: Close Ties (2017, New West): His geography is bracketed by an opener about Houston and a closer on Nashville. He writes substantial, earthy songs, and sings them with a polite drawl, supplemented by duet features for Rosanne Cash and Sheryl Crow. B+(***)
Ernest Dawkins New Horizons Ensemble: Transient Takes (2016 , Malcom): Group's first (2016) album seemed to be credited to Live the Spirit Residency, also on the cover here followed by "Presents # 2" but this is a more sensible credit (of course, I could have followed he cover and added "featuring Vijay Iyer"). Has a rough patch I don't much care for, but coheres more often than not. B+(***)
Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Quartet: Waltz New (2016 , OA2): Guitar and bass, respectively, with several albums together, always interesting postbop. Joel Frahm is very solid at tenor sax, with Eliot Zigmund on drums. B+(**) [cd]
David Feldman: Horizonte (2016 , self-released): Pianist, born in Rio de Janeiro (where he recorded this), has a couple albums, wrote most of the songs here, most with bossa touches -- hard not to with a band that includes Toninho Horta on nylon guitar. B+(*) [cd]
Craig Finn: We All Want the Same Things (2017, Partisan): One of the most distinctive and touching voices in recent rock history (mostly with Hold Steady), a writer with a fine ear for speech and lots of compassion for other people, both down and out and temporarily up -- which seems to be the gamut these days. A-
Gerry Gibbs & Thrasher People: Weather or Not (2016 , Whaling City Sound, 2CD): After several albums with what drummer ("Trasher") Gibbs called his Dream Trio (Kenny Barron and Ron Carter), evidently Hans Glawischnig (bass) and Alex Collins (keyboards) are just people. First disc is "The Music of Weather Report"; second is "The Music of Gerry Gibbs." Upbeat enthusiasm, even some thrashing, but much ado about damn little. [My copy only came with the first disc; I listened to the second on Napster.] B
Rhiannon Giddens: Freedom Highway (2017, Nonesuch): Lead singer for old-timey revival group Carolina Chocolate Drops, also plays banjo, second album on her own. Sounds primal, even when the producer throw in the kitchen sink. B+(**)
Cameron Graves: Planetary Prince (2017, Mack Avenue): Pianist, first album, got a boost as the piano player on saxophonist Kamasi Washington's crossover hit, The Epic. Washington returns the favor here, along with Philip Dizack (trumpet) and Ryan Porter (trombone). Graves pounds the piano hard enough to rock the house, but it all feels stiff and forced to me, except when Dizack tries to light the sky. B-
Iro Haarla: Ante Lucem (2012 , ECM): Second line, same size and darker than the title: "for Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Quintet." From Finland, plays piano and harp, has a handful of albums since 2001. Problem, for me anyhow, is the orchestra (Norrlands Operans Symfoniorkester, conducted by Jukka Iisakkila), although the quintet -- with Hayden Powell (trumpet) and Trygve Seim (soprano/tenor sax) -- is far removed from swing or bop. Still, this achieves much of the beauty and grandeur it aspires to. Just not sure that's a good thing. B+(**)
Mariem Hassan: La Voz Indómita (del Sahara Occidental) (2017, Nubenegra): Sahrawi pop singer, born in what was then called Spanish Sahara and has lately been occupied by Morocco, died at 57 in a refugee camp, but after building a formidable international recording career, and leaving this compilation from her last four years as some kind of testament. Christgau lauds her as "postcolonial Africa's most striking female singer." Maybe, but there's not a lot more to the music, even by Saharan standards. B+(***)
Mariem Hassan/Vadiya Mint El Hanevi: Baila Sahara Baila (2015, Nubenegra): Dance music, so the rhythms pick up, along with what for lack of a better informed context I'll call war whoops. Hanevi makes his mark early on by talking through the dances. While he doesn't have Hassan's legendary voice, the energy he brings makes the difference. A-
Heads of State: Four in One (2017, Smoke Sessions): Mainstream quartet on their second album, with founders Gary Bartz (alto sax), Larry Willis (piano), and Al Foster (drums) -- the bass slot originally filled by Buster Williams goes to David Williams (nickname "Happy") here. Bartz has matured into a lovely ballad player, and of course they swing. B+(**)
Oscar Hernández & Alma Libre: The Art of Latin Jazz (2016 , Origin): Pianist, based in Los Angeles, with sax/flute and "special guest" trumpet (Gilbert Castellanos), bass, congas and drums. All original pieces, pretty much as advertised. B+(**) [cd]
Derrick Hodge: The Second (2016, Blue Note): Bass guitarist, has won a couple Grammys for producing hip-hop/r&b albums, jazz credits include Terence Blanchard and Robert Glasper, this his second album as leader. Mostly multitracked solo, amiable groove, plus a drummer on three tracks, horns on a couple more (not a plus). B
Idles: Brutalism (2017, Bailey): British post-punk group, from Bristol, first album, a little heavy but clear and catchy, one that could grow on you. B+(***)
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: The Music of John Lewis (2013 , Blue Engine): Lewis was the pianist and main composer for the Modern Jazz Quartet, and was an important figure in the decade's brief (but really still evolving) "third stream" movement. Around 2000, when Gary Giddins started pushing for classical-like jazz repertory orchestras, the first person he turned to for leadership was Lewis. So a trawl through the major compositions of Lewis is just the sort of thing the culture empire uptown would sign up for. Executive producer Wynton Marsalis gets his usual "featuring" credit, along with guest pianist Jon Baptiste. B+(*) [cd]
Billy Jones: 3's a Crowd (2017, Acoustical Concepts): Drummer, don't know anything about him. Concept here is a set of duos, some "east coast," some "west coast," less than half with musicians I've heard of (John Vanore, Gary Meek, Mick Rossi, etc.), about half horns, two pianos, one each vibes and vocals. Versatile, I suppose, or scattered. B [cd]
Khalid: American Teen (2017, Right Hand/RCA): Last name Robinson, b. 1998, grew up on Army bases including six years in Germany, sung in the US Army Band. Doesn't strike me as much of a voice, but his songs are offhandedly catchy and they grow on you. A-
Kneebody: Anti-Hero (2017, Motéma): Brooklyn quintet -- Shane Endsley (trumpet), Ben Wendel (sax), Adam Benjamin (keyboards), Kaveh Rastegar (bass), Nate Wood (drums) -- seventh album since 2005. They took a turn toward IDM last time out with Daedelus, but this year's more conventional fusion is also less interesting. B
Julian Lage: Live in Los Angeles (2016, Mack Avenue, EP): Guitarist from California, several records since 2009 but still under 30. This is billed as an EP, but its five cuts run 35:06. Trio with Scott Colley (bass) and Kenny Wollesen (drums). B
Kendrick Lamar: Damn (2017, Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope): Metacritic score 96 on 29 reviews -- if not a lock to top 2017 EOY lists a very strong favorite. As has always been the case, I'm slow getting him -- can't much relate to the slice of life, and the soft beats and sliding melodies take time to sink in. Still, his chronicle of fear really got to me, and there seems to be much more floating in the ozone. Still, doubt I'll really get there: I grew up thinking that the telos of music is pleasure, not (for lack of a better word) art. A-
Allegra Levy: Cities Between Us (2016 , SteepleChase): Jazz singer, describes herself as "sultry," graduated from New England Conservatory, has one previous album. Nice combo here with Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Stephen Riley (tenor sax), Carmen Staaf (piano), Jay Anderson and Billy Drummond. Mostly original pieces, or words she added to label legends Dexter Gordon and Duke Jordan. B+(***) [cd]
Arto Lindsay: Cuidado Madame (2017, Northern Spy): Part of New York's post-punk "No Wave" movement (his band was DNA), although his experience growing up in Brazil has always tugged him towards Tropicália -- his many albums leaning one way or the other, or in this case both. A-
Mike Longo Trio: Only Time Will Tell (2016 , CAP): Piano trio, with Paul West on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. Pianist goes back to the early 1970s, most recently crafting a tribute to Oscar Peterson. Couple originals here, mostly smart covers, including a couple Monks. B+(**) [cd]
The Magnetic Fields: 50 Song Memoir (2017, Nonesuch, 5CD): Fifty-year-old Stephin Merritt's autobiographical concept album, one song for each year of his life, one half-hour CD per decade -- actually a more modest, if less tiresome, project than his famous 69 Love Songs, which actually did fill three hour-long CDs. Perhaps unfair to judge given that Napster only offers 16 songs, but they look to be a fairly random sample, and I'm not sure more would overcome my annoyance. B-
Laura Marling: Semper Femina (2017, More Alarming): British singer-songwriter, sort of a latter-day Joni Mitchell, which works better some times than others. B+(*)
Robert McCarther: Stranger in Town (2016 , Psalms 149 Music): Has a previous album, wrote one song here, covers include Monk and Mancini and two Bill Withers. Band includes horns, piano, guitar, bass, drums. You know he's a jazz singer because he evinces all the usual stereotypical tics. C+ [cd]
MEM3: Circles (2011 , self-released): Canadian piano trio, pianist is Michael Cabe, and Mark Lau gets a bass solo I never fail to notice, but the only familiar name is drummer Ernesto Cervini. He provides enough rhythmic regularity to push this into EST territory, but while I started thinking they were pushing something with a pop angle, after several plays I gave that notion up. B+(**) [cd]
The Microscopic Septet: Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues (2016 , Cuneiform): Group led by Philip Johnston (soprano sax) and Joel Forrester (piano), dates back to 1981 with a break in the 1990s, the addition of tenor saxophonist Michael Hashim the key move to the reunion. Closes with a Joe Liggins song (Dave Sewelson sings), the other dozen tracks split even among the leaders (although Forrester quotes more than the title from "Silent Night" -- nearly a deal breaker for me, until it isn't). Blues, maybe, but the key thing here is swing, which they do not for nostalgia but because it feels right. A- [cdr]
The New Pornographers: Whiteout Conditions (2017, Collected Works/Concord): I lost interest in this Canadian semi-super group shortly after their 2000 debut, while sampling most (but not all) of their later albums just in case I missed something. I have little doubt that this is their best ever -- it's the brightest and catchiest by miles -- but after two plays I'm losing interest again, and wouldn't want to bump it higher just because I'm impressed or surprised. B+(***)
Matt North: Above Ground Fools (2017, self-released): Nashville session drummer writes and (I assume) sings a batch of big beat rock and roll songs, with clear lyrics more than a little sharp. A-
Conor Oberst: Ruminations (2016, Nonesuch): His acoustic album, guitar or piano and harmonica, basically demos of songs written over an Omaha winter, "staying up late every night playing piano and watching the snow pile up outside the window." B+(**)
Conor Oberst: Salutations (2017, Nonesuch): Here he refashions his Ruminations songs (plus a few more) for full band. With his harmonica, I was struck by how accomplished his Dylanisms had become on the demos, but he's got an even better sense of electric Dylan's tricks of the trade. Songs maturing too. A-
One for All: The Third Decade (2015 , Smoke Sessions): Mainstream jazz group, Discogs shows them recording five albums 2001-05 and not much since, but I heard a missing 2006 album, and the labels claims they've recorded 16 albums in 20+ years, making this the start of their third decade. All names you should know: Eric Alexander (tenor sax), Jim Rotondi (trumpet), Steve Davis (trombone), David Hazeltine (piano), John Webber (bass), Joe Farnsworth (drums). B+(**)
Matt Otto With Ensemble Ibérica: Ibérica (2016 , Origin): Tenor saxophonist, has a handful of albums since 2002, teaches at KU. The Ensemble are three guitarists (sometimes oud, cavaquinho, tres, acoustic bass guitar), supplemented by keyboards, bass/cello, and steel guitar -- no drums, so you get that chamber jazz feel, with everything -- especially the sax -- on the pretty side. B+(**) [cd]
Brad Paisley: Love and War (2017, Arista Nashville): Nashville superstar, eleventh studio album since 1999, last eight topped the country charts, has an arena-ready sound which rocks hard but is still recognizably country. Even seems like a nice guy, and not a dumb one. But I've never warmed to any of his albums -- even the three (counting this one) Christgau A-listed. Probably has most to do with that big sound -- I stopped caring for Eric Church, too, when he muscled up -- but there's always a lyric (or two or three) to trip over. First one I caught this time: "let's go to bed early, and stay up all night" -- that's not the worst (certainly not next to "just another day in heaven," or his elegy for vets: "they ship you out to die for us/forget about you when you don't" -- fact is they forget about every one once they can no longer be used). B
The Ed Palermo Big Band: The Great Un-American Songbook: Volumes I & II (2016 , Cuneiform, 2CD): Alto saxophonist way back when, cut his first album in 1982, has led his big band since 1987, recording three or four (maybe more) albums of Frank Zappa music. Here he examines not so much the British Invasion as the prog strain that followed, starting and ending with bits of Sgt. Pepper, navigating through Move, Cream, Procul Harum, Nice, King Crimson, Blodwyn Pig, ELP, Traffic, Jethro Tull, Arthur Brown, plus Radiohead. Vocals by Bruce McDaniel help pin the songs down, and his patter adds an air of nostalgia. "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" followed by "Fire" got to me, too. B+(*) [cdr]
Michael Pedicin: As It Should Be: Ballads 2 (2016 , Groundblue): Tenor/soprano saxophonist, mainstream player, should be a natural for a ballads program, but I find his tone a bit thin. Or it may just be that instead of picking surefire songbook classics he had guitarist Johnny Valentino do most of the writing (8/10 songs). I wouldn't call the Paul Simon cover a plus either, and "Crescent" only reminds me of how truly gorgeous Pharoah Sanders' ballads were. B+(*) [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 1: Titan (2016 , Leo): The first of a trove of seven separately issued discs pairing the Brazilian avant saxophonist with the American pianist -- frequent collaborators since 1996's Bendito of Santa Cruz -- with various rhythm sections. Seems like the ideal might be to listen to all of them then start to make whatever marginal distinctions I can find, but for practical purposes all I can do is take them one-by-one and hope I don't get too lost. This one is a trio with William Parker, who in Perelman's 2016 The Art of the Improv Trio lifted Volume 4. He gets this series off to a strong start, too. A- [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 2: Tarvos (2016 , Leo): Third member here is veteran drummer Bobby Kapp, who belatedly came to my attention as Shipp's partner on their 2016 duo album, Cactus. The drummer kicks up the energy level here, and the saxophonist responds accordingly. A- [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 3: Pandora (2016 , Leo): Quartet here, with William Parker on bass and Whit Dickey on drums, a piano trio that backed David S. Ware back in the early 1990s. This isn't as exciting: Perelman would rather work his way around the edges than channel the Holy Ghost, so the group doesn't push him. Still fascinating to follow. A- [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 4: Hyperion (2016 , Leo): Trio, with Michael Bisio -- another frequent Shipp collaborator -- on bass. I was thrown a bit early on by the high notes -- Perelman may play more in the top end of the tenor sax than anyone else -- but they settle down, and midway take a remarkable run. Not sure this counts as a slip, but it doesn't add much. B+(***) [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 5: Rhea (2016 , Leo): Quartet with Shipp's usual trio mates Michael Bisio and Whit Dickey. As with the other sessions, the pieces are simply numbered, and it's "Part 6" that puts this over the top with its exhilarating tornado of sound -- everything you could hope for in free jazz. A- [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 6: Saturn (2016 , Leo): Just a duo, the only such volume in the series. Gives the pianist the chance for a few solos, something he's done little of so far, but still the focus is on the tenor sax, aiming this time more to woo than to overpower. B+(***) [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 7: Dione (2016 , Leo): Trio with Andrew Cyrille on drums, a stellar choice although as always it's the saxophonist who calls the shots and sets the pace. Could be fatigue setting in -- no idea if these were released in the order recorded, as all are listed as October 2016. Or could just be that the reviewer is tiring (although the moment I wrote that the record entered a particularly interesting passage). B+(***) [cd]
Angaleena Presley: Wrangled (2017, Thirty Tigers): Pistol Annies member, cut an excellent debut album in 2014 (American Middle Class), returns for her second. This one takes longer to click, but it ends on a succession of high points, including songs written with rockabilly pioneer Wanda Jackson and the late Guy Clark and a short meditation on a "Motel Bible." A-
Priests: Nothing Feels Natural (2017, Sister Polygon): DC-based post-punk group, first album (after a couple EPs). Guitar-bass-drums plus singer Katie Alice Greer, who centers them while making them seem special. B+(**) [yt]
Priests: Bodies and Control and Money and Power (2014, Don Giovanni, EP): Seven cuts, 17:24, enough to make an impression. B+(*)
Michael Rabinowitz: Uncharted Waters (2017, Cats Paw): Bassoonist, has been playing jazz (at least) since the 1990s, not many of those, so there's a temptation just to let the unusual tone do the work of differentiating this from every other mainstream artist. That's most obvious on the covers, but he also wrote half of the pieces here, and he does a creditable job of taking a heavy and awkward instrument and keeping it breezy. B+(*) [cd]
Rashad: #LevelUp (2017, Self Made): Rapper, can't find anything about him -- not DJ Rashad, Isaiah Rashad, probably not Rashad Stark or Tony Rashad or @RashadtheGod though they all pop up inconclusively. Sixteen cuts, most catchy or punchy or something. B+(**)
Jason Rigby: One: Detroit-Cleveland Trio (2016 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Tenor saxophonist, long based in New York though I'm guessing he ultimately hails from Cleveland, as his trio mates -- Cameron Brown on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums -- are Detroit natives. He's always struck me as a fancy post-bop guy, but this is very down-to-basics. B+(***) [cd]
Scott Routenberg Trio: Every End Is a Beginning (2017, Summit): Pianist-composer, teaches at Ball State (Muncie, IN), has three previous albums going back to 2000. With Nick Tucker on bass and Cassius Goins III on drums. Original postbop. B+(*) [cd]
Trygve Seim: Rumi Songs (2015 , ECM): Norwegian saxophonist (tenor/soprano), sixth album since 2000 (all on ECM), recasts the poetry of Rumi (1207-1273, from Persia) in English translation as songs, sung by classical mezzo-soprano Tora Augestad. The music builds on accordion (Frode Haitli) and cello (Svante Henryson), with Seim's sax acting as a chorus in response to the singer. I rather prefer the sax, which verges on gorgeous. B [dl]
The Shins: Heartworms (2017, Columbia): James Mercer's former band, carrying on as a "shell corporation" for his/their fifth studio album. High-pitched pop, tempted to call it catchy but can't say as it caught me. I was, however, intrigued by the jangle-free change-of-pace "Mildenhall." B+(*)
Sarah Shook & the Disarmers: Sidelong (2015 , Bloodshot): Band from Chapel Hill, NC, lead singer-guitarist previously fronted Sarah Shook & the Devil. Dates confusion suggests the debut was self-released first then picked up by Chicago's premier outlaw country label. She drinks hard, plays hard, doesn't have a lot of range but does have an impact. B+(***)
Bria Skonberg: Bria (2016, Okeh/Masterworks): From British Columbia, plays trumpet, sings, mostly standards but five (of fourteen) originals. Evan Amtzen's clarinet and tenor sax offer a nice complement flirting with trad jazz, but the rhythm section (Aaron Diehl, Reginald Veal, Ali Jackson) are more tuned to swing, and Stefon Harris accents on vibes. The opener, "Don't Be That Way," is choice. B+(***)
Sleater-Kinney: Live in Paris (2015 , Sub Pop): I've dutifully listened to all of the albums, but never became enough of a fan to be able to place any of the songs in this reunion tour set (other than "No Cities to Love" -- the title of their reunion album). B+(*)
Nate Smith: Kinfolk: Postcards From Everywhere (2017, Ropeadope): Drummer, side credits with Chris Potter and Dave Holland, both with a guest spots on this debut (Potter's on a piece called "Bounce"). Easily the best thing on this broad spread -- Lionel Loueke funk, three singers (Gretchen Parlato the best known), Adam Rogers guitar, scads of strings. B
Spoon: Hot Thoughts (2017, Matador): Alt-indie group, based in Austin, goes back to the 1990s with several notable albums. This one holds up at least half way through, an appealing rough chunkiness, then someone's mind wanders -- maybe my own. B+(***)
Colin Stetson: Sorrow (A Reimagining of Gorecki's 3rd Symphony) (2016, 52Hz): Stetson is a saxophonist who's picked up a substantial rock following (ties to Bon Iver and Bell Orchestre), but moves toward classical here, performing a piece by Polish compuser Henry Gorecki (1933-2010). Group includes saxophonists Dan Bennett and Matt Bauder, violinist Sarah Neufeld, two cellos, two guitars, keyboards, drums, with vocals by Megan Stetson. B-
Colin Stetson: All This I Do for Glory (2017, 52Hz): Saxophonist, plays alto and tenor but specializes in the heavy stuff -- bass sax and contrabass clarinet. Born in Ann Arbor, based in Montreal. Only thing that links him to jazz is his instrument -- otherwise he's basically a post-rock experimentalist (only jazz name I see on his "performed and recorded with dozens of artists" list is Anthony Braxton, but maybe that's the only one comparably famous to Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, or closer to his home Godspeed! You Black Emperor). This is industrial/minimalist fusion, recycling rhythms with the extra resonance of wind instruments and some vocal shadowing. Seems fairly simple, but remains unique. A-
Trio 3: Visiting Texture (2016 , Intakt): Andrew Cyrille (drums), Reggie Workman (bass), Oliver Lake (alto saxophone). Thirteenth album together since 1997, recently adding various guests but this is back to basics, nothing fancy but remarkable craft within the free jazz trade. A-
Trio Heinz Herbert: The Willisau Concert (2016 , Intakt): Swiss group, no one named Heinz or Herbert -- two brothers, Dominic and Ramon Landolt, on guitar and keyboards, both cranked up with "effects," and drummer Mario Hänni. Quieter stretches resemble piano trio, but more often their electronics move them into new and surprising sonic terrains -- though nothing I would call fusion. I wound up spending a lot of time on this, torn between the suspicion that what they're doing is marginal and the certainty that it's unique. A- [cd]
Valerie June: The Order of Time (2017, Concord): Last name Hockett, from Memphis, father promoted gospel and soul singers. Her music is commonly described as "a mixture of folk, blues, gospel, soul, country, Appalachian and bluegrass" -- i.e., she's a singer-songwriter who has yet to distinguish her voice, although she definitely has one. B+(**)
David Virelles: Antenna (2016, ECM, EP): Hot young pianist with three previous albums, credited here with piano, organ, various keyboards, prepared piano, computer and sampler. Released as 10-inch EP, six cuts, 21:43. Joined here by a variety of people on one or two tracks each, including two rap-influenced vocalists and Henry Threadgill (alto sax) -- the only other consistent presence (electronics, sampler, cello) is producer Alexander Overington. Breaks noisy in many directions, hard to pin down. B+(**) [dl]
Daniel Weltlinger: Samoreau: A Tribute to the Fans of Django Reinhardt (2016 , Rectify): Violinist, so you might think he'd be more focused on the unmentioned Stéphane Grappelli, especially with the guitar slot rotating among five players -- three with the surname Reinhardt. With bass and accordion on a couple tracks -- the ones you most notice. B+(**) [cd]
Jim Yanda Trio: Regional Cookin' (1987 , Corner Store Jazz): Guitarist, trio includes Drew Gress (bass) and Phil Haynes (drums), released to accompany a new recording of the same trio 30 years later -- Yanda's first released record appeared in 2013. Nice straight line guitar, sounds fresh but stays within the usual limits. B+(*) [cd]
Jim Yanda Trio: Home Road (2016 , Corner Store Jazz, 2CD): This one is new, same trio as 30 years ago, haven't evolved much but have aged gracefully. B+(*) [cd]
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Abdullah Ibrahim: Ancient Africa (1973 , Delmark/Sackville): South African pianist, a major figure in jazz since the mid-1960s, working until 1977 under the name Dollar Brand -- the name this solo album was originally released under in 1974. Two medleys plus a couple other pieces, some with vocals (liner notes says "spoken word"), the last (previously unreleased) piece played on bamboo flute. His rhythmic rumble was (and remains) unique, but clearer elsewhere. B+(**) [cd]
Jerry Bergonzi: Inside Out (1989 , Red): Tenor saxophonist from Boston, one of the most consistent mainstream figures since he signed with Savant around 2006, but early on he recorded with this Italian label, here a quartet with Salvatore Bonafede on piano, Bruce Gertz on bass, and Salvatore Tranchini on drums. B+(**)
Stanley Cowell: Blues for the Viet Cong (1969 , Arista/Freedom): Pianist, first album, a trio with Steve Novosel on bass and Jimmy Hopps on drums, some quirky electric piano as well as acoustic ranging from free to boogie -- "You Took Advantage of Me" always perks my attention. I knew this record from its 1977 Arista reprint -- I picked up most of Arista's Freedom reprints around then -- but when Black Lion reissued this on CD, they had second thoughts about the title, picking Travellin' Man instead. A-
Stanley Cowell Trio: Departure #2 (1990, SteepleChase): After a frantic decade jumping around labels from avant Strata-East to retro Concord, Cowell found a home with this Danish label, releasing Sienna in 1989 and this follow up. With Bob Cranshaw on bass and Keith Copeland on drums, alternating bright originals with covers ranging from Ellington to Porter to Parker, thoughtful and often flashy. A-
Stanley Cowell Trio: Live at Copenhagen Jazz House (1993 , SteepleChase): With Cheyney Thomas on bass and Wardell Thomas on drums -- not a dazzling rhythm section, so this rises and falls on the piano, catchiest when he picks up Ellington or Monk. B+(**)
Stanley Cowell: Mandara Blossoms (1995 , SteepleChase): Cover says "featuring Ralph Peterson [drums] & Bill Pierce [tenor saxophone]" and "introducing Karen Francis [vocals] & Jeff Halsey [bass]." B+(*)
Stanley Cowell Quartet: Hear Me One (1996, SteepleChase): With Bruce Williams (alto sax), Dwayne Burno (bass), and Keith Copeland (drums). Five Cowell originals, one by Williams, covers of Monk and Parker. Both sax and piano have specular moments, but sometimes make me wonder. B+(**)
Stanley Cowell: Are You Real? (2014, SteepleChase): Piano trio with Jay Anderson and Billy Drummond. Cowell seems to have stopped recording after 1997, only to pick it up again with 2010's Prayer for Peace. Two originals, six masterful covers, ending with a sparkling Monk. B+(***)
Herbie Hancock: Inventions & Dimensions (1963 , Blue Note): The pianist's third studio album (after Takin' Off and My Point of View), the first recorded after he joined the most legendary edition of the Miles Davis Quintet. Trio, with Paul Chambers on bass and Willie Bobo doing his Cuban percussion thing. B+(*)
Herbie Hancock: Cantaloupe Island (1962-65 , Blue Note): Effectively a "greatest hits" from the pianist's most prime period, with two cuts from his debut with Freddie Hubbard and Dexter Gordon, two from his second album with Donald Byrd and Hank Mobley, one each from his peak fourth and fifth albums with Hubbard, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, and George Coleman on the latter. So a bit redundant, especially given that the Byrd cuts you may not have aren't nearly as impressive as the Hubbards you probably do. B+(***)
Herbie Hancock: Speak Like a Child (1968 , Blue Note): Sixth album, following his stellar Maiden Voyage, but aside from the pianist, in nice form, the only carryover is bassist Ron Carter, and the unconventional horn section -- Thad Jones on flugelhorn, plus alto flute and bass trombone -- never grabs you. RVG Edition adds three alternate takes. B+(*)
Herbie Hancock: The Prisoner (1969 , Blue Note): The pianist's last album for Blue Note, produced by Duke Pearson, with numerous musicians dropping in for a track or two, including three flute (counting tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson). Beyond Henderson, regulars are Johnny Coles (flugelhorn), Garnett Brown (trombone), Buster Williams (bass), and Tootie Heath (drums). Sophisticated postbop composition, overly tricked up production. RVG Edition adds two alternate takes. B+(**)
Mariem Hassan: Mariem Hassan Con Leyoad (2002, Nubenegra): Her first album, backed by the Sahrawi group Leyoad. She emerges as a very strong singer backed by a powerful group -- I almost find it too heavy, especially returning after listening to her last albums. B+(***)
Freddie Hubbard: Goin' Up (1960 , Blue Note): Trumpet player, seems like he was suddenly everywhere in 1960, second album under his own name, a classic hard bop quintet with Hank Mobley (tenor sax), McCoy Tyner (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums). Feels a bit rushed for me -- maybe the rhythm section wanted to see how hard they could push the kid. He keeps up, and turns in a nice ballad. B+(***)
Freddie Hubbard: Hub Cap (1961, Blue Note): Continuing to make the rounds, this time with Jimmy Heath (tenor sax), Julian Priester (trombone), Cedar Walton (piano), Larry Ridley (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums). They tend to switch up too much, but he powers through and blows over them, and the trombone is notably interesting. B+(**)
Freddie Hubbard: The Hub of Hubbard (1969 , MPS): Recorded in Germany, not sure of the conditions but the band is American, probably touring with Hubbard at the time: Eddie Daniels (tenor sax), Roland Hanna (piano), Richard Davis (bass), Louis Hayes (drums). Starts with a blistering "Without a Song," and tears through Porter and Styne plus one original. B+(*)
Abdullah Ibrahim: Duke Ellington Presents the Dollar Brand Trio (1963 , Reprise Archives): The South African pianist changed his name from Dollar Brand to Abdullah Ibrahim around 1977, and later reissues have tended to indulge him -- I'll follow that convention here, although the reissue title remains unchanged. Ibrahim moved to Europe in 1962, and got noticed in Zürich by Ellington, who arranged the trio session for Reprise. Impressive debut, but he was more out to show his command of jazz repertoire than to make his own mark. B+(**)
Dollar Brand/Abdullah Ibrahim Orchestra: African Space Program (1973 , Enja): Big band program, two side-length pieces, the group numbering 12 with 5 saxes and 3 trumpets. Much rougher than necessary. B
Abdullah Ibrahim/Johnny Dyani: Echoes From Africa (1979 , Enja): Piano and bass, both from South Africa, both long in exile, the four songs pointed back home -- even the one dedicated to McCoy Tyner. Both sing, not the calling of either. B+(**)
Abdullah Ibrahim: African Dawn (1982 , Enja): Solo piano, runs through several of his better known pieces, two by Monk, one by Strayhorn, dedications to Coltrane and Monk. B+(**)
Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya: African River (1989, Enja): Group named for his 1986 album, one of his best, with four horns -- John Stubblefield (tenor sax, flute), Horace Alexander Young (alto/soprano sax, piccolo), Robin Eubanks (trombone), and Howard Johnson (tuba, trumpet, baritone sax). Pennywhistle jive beats, looping horns, his favorite formula. B+(***)
Pete La Roca: Basra (1965 , Blue Note): Born Peter Sims, first noticed playing drums for Sonny Rollins (1957-59). This was his first album, the only one he led until 1997's Swing Time. He wrote three (of six) pieces for this young but stellar quartet -- all born between 1937-40, so 25-28 at the time: Steve Swallow (bass), Steve Kuhn (piano), both impressive but Joe Henderson (tenor sax) even more so. A-
Pete La Roca: Turkish Women at the Bath (1967 , Fresh Sound): The drummer's second album, released on a small label I don't recall ever running into but rescued from oblivion by Jordi Pujol's Spanish label. Again, the key is distinctive tenor sax, this time by John Gilmore, but also a pianist who was just starting to get noticed: Chick Corea. (The album was later reissued under Corea's name as Bliss; Sims sued and the album was withdrawn.) A-
Pete (LaRoca) Sims: SwingTime (1997, Blue Note): Partly reverting to his original name, the drummer's third (and last) album. Evidently no table of credits, but Jimmy Owens, Ricky Ford, Dave Liebman, Lance Bryant, George Cables, and Santi Debriano are mentioned in the booklet. More bop than swing, and less hard than playful, making a mess out of "Body and Soul" but still can't salvage "The Candy Man." B
Red Records All Stars [Jerry Bergonzi/Bobby Watson/Victor Lewis/Kenny Barron/Curtis Lundy/David Finck]: Together Again for the First Time (1996 , Red): The saxophonists are not just the front line. They're the stars, and as in most all-star games, they please most when they show off. And the two bass rhythm section keeps pace. B+(***)
Horace Tapscott Quintet: The Giant Is Awakened (1969, Flying Dutchman): Pianist from Los Angeles, first album, as it was for alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe -- the only horn, as the quintet included two bassists plus a drummer, but he does a fine job of wailing over the rumbling rhythm. A-
Gust William Tsilis & Alithea With Arthur Blythe: Pale Fire (1988, Enja): Vibraphonist, from Chicago, moved to LA in 2002 where he mostly does TV/movie music. Presumably Alithea is a band name: Allen Farnham (keyboards), Anthony Cox (bass), Horacee Arnold (drums), Arto Tuncboyaci (percussion). Spotty, although the alto saxophonist can warm things up fast when he gets a chance. [5/6 cuts, missing the 15:35 title piece] B
Charles Tyler Ensemble: Black Mysticism (1966, ESP-Disk): Most sources list this debut's title as Charles Tyler Ensemble. Tyler plays alto sax, backed with "orchestra vibes" (Charles Moffett), cello (Joel Freedman), bass (Henry Grimes), and drums (Ronald [Shannon] Jackson). Avant scratch with some tinkle, but the raw sax keeps gaining stature. B+(***)
Charles Tyler Ensemble: Eastern Man Alone (1967, ESP-Disk): Second album, the group reduced to David Baker on cello and two bassists. The leader's alto sax remains raw and inspired, but Baker's cello plays a much larger role, and its borderline squelch keeps the album on edge. B+(**)
James Blood Ulmer: Revealing (1977 , In+Out): Guitarist, made his initial mark with Ornette Coleman's fusion group, Prime Time. His first album, although it didn't appear until 1990, with George Adams (tenor sax), Cecil McBee (bass), and Doug Hammond (drums). Adams makes the strongest initial impression, but every time he threatens to run off with it the guitar fills in something interesting. A-
James Blood Ulmer: Part Time (1983 , Celluloid): Ulmer peaked with his 1983 album Odyssey, recorded with Charles Burnham (violin) and Warren Benbow (drums) -- a trio which later regrouped several times as Odyssey the Band. This is that same group, recorded live at Montreux Jazz Festival. Repeats half the album (four songs), more frenetic, harder to follow. B+(**)
The James Blood Ulmer Blues Experience: Blues Allnight (1989 , In+Out): Entering full blues crooner mode here, still an idiosyncratic guitarist but the bass-drums-more guitar band would rather be catchy than creative. B+(*)
Blood & Burger: Guitar Music (2002 , Derničre Bande): The principals are James Blood Ulmer and Rodolphe Burger, both guitar and vocals, the latter also keyboards. Burger Burger is French, has a couple dozen albums since 1993, some as Kat Onoma. We get songs from each, notably a rather bent "Are You Glad to Be in America?" plus a slow, gritty cover of the Rolling Stones' "Play With Fire" -- and, of course, a lot of guitar. B+(**)
Bobby Watson: Live in Europe: Perpetual Groove (1983 , Red): Alto saxophonist from Kansas, helped revitalize Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in the late 1970s, cut a few albums for American labels but did his most important work in Italy with this group -- Piero Bassini (piano), Attilio Zanchi (bass), and Giampiero Prina (drums). Mostly standards, fast ones like "Mr. PC," "Cherokee," and "Oleo" served up hot and hearty. B+(***)
Bobby Watson: Appointment in Milano (1985, Red): Same quartet even tighter, Bassini and Zanchi contributing songs, with the alto saxophonist easily soaring over their breakneck rhythm. A-
Bobby Watson & Tailor Made With Tokyo Leaders Big Band: Live at Someday in Tokyo (2000 , Red): Tailor Made was a big band album Watson made in 1993 but only Watson repeats here, backed this time by a crack (if sometimes heavy-handed) Japanese outfit. The alto sax stands out, no surprise. B+(*)
Bobby Watson: The Gates BBQ Suite (2010, Lafiya Music): Big band project, a recurrent theme in Watson's oeuvre, this one built around the UMKC Concert Jazz Orchestra, where his day job of late has been director of jazz studies. Sharp and powerful, but as one title has it, "Heavy on the Sauce." B+(**)
Additional Consumer News:
Previous grades on artists in the old music section.
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:
Monday, April 24. 2017
Music: Current count 28064  rated (+31), 397  unrated (-4).
Rated count up this week, probably because I didn't find nearly as many A-list records as last week: the two I came up with got (I think) three plays each, as did a couple of high HMs -- African River came closest, although I wound up deciding it was a slightly uneven follower of several better albums, starting with the band-naming (and hugely recommended) Ekaya, and the Dawkins-Iyer record only had one spot I kept tripping on. I did only give Idles -- currently number three on Chris Monsen's 2017 favorites list -- one spin, finding myself more impressed than interested. I haven't yet found his number two Harriet Tubman -- probably a download link in my mailbox -- and I wasn't that taken with his top-rated Angles 9 album (although I liked their smaller group Live in Coimbra and Live in Ljubljana discs), and I've never rated anything by Martin Küchen less than B+(**). A few more things I haven't heard down the list: Atomic, Lithics, Priests, Led Bib (in the queue but temporarily lost), Cloud Nothings, Necks.
Made a little more progress in the Jazz Guide compilation: 20th Century up to 619 pages, 21st 372, so I'll probably his 1000 pages sometime this week. Since last time I reported, that's up +9 and +34, so at this point (Seamus Blake, 10% into "Jazz 80s") the latter is growing four times as fast. I think I was just starting the file last week, so some quick envelope math suggests I'll finish it in another nine weeks (end of June), with 20th Century growing to 700 pages and the 21st to 778. After that it should be all post-2000 (aside from relatively small files for Latin and pop jazz).
The calendar says I should post April's Streamnotes file later this week. Draft file is currently shorter than usual, especially for new music (58 records, 94 total). So I imagine I'll scrounge around for some scoops, but don't really expect to find much.
I also hope to do a book post sometime this week. I haven't done one since August 21, and a lot has happened since then. I will note that I've started reading Gail Pellett's remarkable memoir of 1980, the year she spent working as a "foreign expert" for Chinese radio. I knew her back in St. Louis in the 1970s, so I'm recognizing some things and I'm learning even more -- not least about her background, which for some reason I never enquired into when I could.
Something else I should (but probably won't) do is to write up some thoughts on Ian Kershaw's Fateful Choices -- ten moves from 1940-41 that dramatically broadened the wars that started in the late 1930s. The book would probably have been better had he started earlier and included more on the earlier decisions that led up to the war: Japan's decision to invade China in 1937, Germany's to carve up Poland in 1939, the German-Russian pact that allowed Germany into Poland, the Anglo-French decision to declare war on Germany but not Russia over Poland. Of course, those in turn should be backtracked: Japan's previous attack on Manchuria in 1929, Italy's attacks on Ethiopia and Albania, the mix of intervention and avowed neutrality over the Spanish Civil War, and the so-called "appeasement policy" toward Germany. Before that, of course, is the detritus of the first World War, and before that you get the relatively late efforts at empire building by Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States.
In many ways the best book on all this is Nicholson Baker's Human Smoke -- at least he brings all these threads together, albeit too schematically. One thing I learned there was how artfully Franklin Roosevelt maneuvered Japan and Germany into attacking, allowing him to enter the war with broad popular support -- something most Americans weren't interested in until it happened. Various other books I've read recently helped fill in details: Kershaw, Ira Katznelson's Fear Itself, and most of all James Bradley's The China Mirage. But Baker still has the most important insight: that the only people who tried to stop this cascade of bad choices were the pacifists, not only because they were the ones who anticipated the disaster to come, but because they were the ones most sensitive to the injustices which preceded it. Well, also the people less adverse to fighting who were later dismissed as "premature antifascists."
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, April 17. 2017
Music: Current count 28033  rated (+24), 401  unrated (-3).
Lowest rated count February 27 (20), second lowest this year. About the only excuse I can think of is that the relative bumper crop of A- records took a lot of extra time -- even the ones on Napster were more likely to get three than two spins, and the Perelman-Shipp CDs have proven nearly impossible to rank or even to sort out -- though they've been a constant pleasure to play.
I'll also note that my office space has turned into a horrible mess, where the normally FIFO new jazz queue is now a teetering pile. I need to do a lot of "spring cleaning" -- especially moving trays of CDs to shelves, a fairly hideous task given deterioration of my eyesight. Anyhow, my short-term workaround has been to play old music on the computer, the selections suggested by wherever I'm stuck in compiling my last fifteen years of jazz reviews into two book files.
I'm at the stage where I'm going through the database files and fishing the reviews out of a large text file. I just finished Jazz (1960-70s), so next one up is the even longer Jazz (1980-90s), then the really huge Jazz (2000- ), plus post-2000 vocalists, separate files for Latin and Pop Jazz, and some scattered names I've filed elsewhere (Avant-Garde, Classical, New Age, maybe Africa or Latin or Electronica?). The 20th Century file is growing slowly now -- mostly records that came out before I started writing seriously about jazz, plus some later reissues -- at 610 pages (271k words), but the 21st Century file is picking up speed, with 338 pages (159k words).
Given how long the last database file took, I can't even imagine when I'll be done (in the sense of finishing the compilation phase. (August? October?) And I expect the result then will be terribly redundant and shot full of holes -- certainly not something a real publisher might take any interest in. To come up with something useful I'd have to go back and take each artist in turn, write a short bio and critical summary, and fill in a few holes. I might also need to take less of a kitchen sink approach -- just focus on "notable" (especially "recommended," maybe even "essential") albums to cover up how much of the rest I never managed (or will manage) to get to.
On other fronts, Lee Rice Epstein has a nice piece on the late Arthur Blythe (the star, by the way, of the Horace Tapscott album right/below). I also got notes that Alan Holdsworth and Jay Geils died recently.
I had hopes of driving out to the EMP Pop Conference in Seattle (April 20-23), but it's clear now I'm not going to make it. Would have been a nice way to break out of my winter rut, but I guess I'm stuck.
Not much more to say. Listening to more Stanley Cowell at the moment. By the way, Cowell's debut album is on Napster as Travellin' Man, but I went with the title of the LP I bought back in 1977 (like many old LPs it slipped my mind when I compiled my original rated records list; glad to fill this one in).
New records rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, April 10. 2017
First, a couple more links I missed last night:
I should also note that there will be a special election here in Kansas to pick the successor to Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Koch), who has moved on to become Trump's CIA Director. The favored Republican is Ron Estes, who combines the worst aspects of Pompeo and predecessor Todd Tiahrt (R-Boeing) with a markedly lower IQ -- I wouldn't want to pick on someone just because he looks stupid, but all evidence suggests Estes is the real deal. Republicans have plowed a lot of money into this race, but all they've come up with are smears that attack Democrat James Thompson for supporting "late-term abortion" ("he's too extreme for Kansas") and split screens with Nancy Pelosi. Republicans have held the seat since 1994, usually with big margins, and their base has grown as the district has spread out from Wichita. The Nation finally took note of Thompson: see John Nichols: A Berniecrat Takes on Trump and the Koch Brothers in Kansas. I will add that Thompson hasn't tried to make this a referendum on Trump nor does his advertising cite Bernie Sanders. I think he missed an opportunity there, but he has a strong personal story, and his ads have a lot of guns, so we'll see how that plays out.
There are also special elections to fill House vacancies in Georgia and Montana. See: Charlie May: A blue wave begins? Republicans may be in trouble in Kansas, Montana and Georgia elections.
Music: Current count 28009  rated (+28), 404  unrated (+4).
Round number notice, as I passed 28,000 records rated. At 30/week it takes 8-9 months to accumulate a thousand, so unless I slow down I'll probably hit 29,000 around the end of the year, and 30,000 close to Labor Day 2018. Big assumption. I've certainly slowed down going through the new jazz queue, mostly because this week's four A-listed records on Intakt and Cuneiform got four or more plays each. On the other hand, the records I downloaded or checked out on Napster got much less attention -- usually a single play, which is what kept the week from being a major wipeout.
The old music by Herbie Hancock, Freddy Hubbard, and Pete La Roca was suggested as I was slogging through the database adding entries to the jazz guides (currently 590 + 299 pages, so +5 and +13 over the week -- damn slow progress).For Hancock and Hubbard, I stopped after the Blue Notes ran out (well, I included one Hubbard MPS, which had gotten some Critics Poll reissue votes last year). Both artists declined afterwards, and I figured I had heard enough for now. La Roca had two widely spaced Blue Notes and one outlier, and I wound up most impressed by the latter (John Gilmore is the secret ingredient, as he so often was).
Other recent jazz albums were suggested by the Downbeat Critics Poll album ballot (Cameron Graves, Heads of State, Derrick Hodge, Kneebody, Julian Lage, One for All, Bria Skonberg, Nate Smith -- Trio 3 and JLCO were also on the ballot but unrated in my queue). Can't say as I had missed much, but now I can say I didn't. I took the time to compile my usual notes. The invite from Downbeat's editor claimed that some critics can fill out the 20-page ballot in 25 minutes, but it took me over six hours, and that only because I skimmed through the backstretch, most often repeating last year's picks rather than taking the extra time to rethink everything. Horrible experience.
The non-jazz records were suggested by Robert Chrisgau's latest: obviously, I like the New Pornographers and Shins considerably less, but was pleasantly surprised by Conor Oberst's neo-Dylanisms. I had previously given Old 97's' Graveyard Whistling a B+(***). Still need to check out that Craig Finn record.
New records rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, April 3. 2017
Music: Current count 27981  rated (+30), 400  unrated (+3).
Most of this week's records were rolled up in the March Streamnotes, and for that matter look there for tips on how I found what. As you'll see, one event that set me off searching for albums was the death of alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe. I'm not sure why, but a reader in Australia (chpowell) sent me a letter with a batch of links -- all to AMG, which I'm boycotting at present, but if you're not (my grades where I have them):
As these links suggest, it would be nice to have a more comprehensive Blythe discography. I was unaware of the two Roots albums that showed up on Napster and are listed below. I checked Spotify and they have a couple items I couldn't find on Napster. At some point I need to decide whether to sign up for their "premium" service, but I've never found much there not on Napster (not that searching is any easier). They do, for instance, have the Joey Baron album I've heard, but not the one I haven't.
One grade below will probably prove controversial, if not downright offensive. Pretty much everyone I know likes the Magnetic Fields' 50 Song Memoir -- Christgau, Tatum, Ryan Maffei posted that "50 Song Memoir sampler is an A+." I finally looked it up on Napster and found that they only had 16 songs posted, so I played them. Probably not a sufficient sample to proclaim anything a masterpiece -- rule of thumb is the stuff they leave out isn't as good as what they're pitching you with -- but I disliked it so thoroughly I figure the sample is good enough for a (low) grade. Admittedly, not without its occasional charm, and possibly catchy if you can acclimate yourself to his voice, but it left me with no desire to pursue the matter further. Even made me suspect I've overrated him in the past. (I'm certainly not as fond of 69 Love Songs as my A- grade suggests, though I should also note that my wife, who has impeccable taste in music, adores all of it, and probably enjoyed what she heard of the new one much more than I did.)
Jazz Guide compilation continues sporadically -- haven't touched it for a couple days around Weekend Roundup and this post -- currently at 575 pages (20th century) and 272 pages (21st century). Next artist in the 1960s jazz file is Freddie Hubbard.
Apologies for dragging my feet on new jazz. Pending queue is up to 46 now, and I've mostly been handling it FIFO. I'm reminded of this because Tim Niland is up to Volume 4 of the six Ivo Perelman-Matthew Shipp CDs, and he's broken that series up to review a couple AUM Fidelity releases I wasn't at all aware of (one with Shipp, the other by William Parker).
By the way, if anyone can offer some pointers on converting the Christgau website to a smartphone app, please send them my way. Seems like a reasonable thing to do, but right now I'm at the wrong end of the learning curve.
Recommended music links:
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Friday, March 31. 2017
Feeling rather negligent this month. New records count dropped to 52 from 120 (February) and 138 (January). Of those 17 were 2016 releases, and 2 go back to 2015, so 33 are 2017 releases (63.5%). Of the 2017 releases, 6 were non-jazz (18.2%): five of those were Christgau picks (Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, Orchestra Baobab, Whitney Rose, Sunny Sweeney, Syd), so that leaves only one I checked out on my own hunch (Murs). So I seem to have moved past 2016, but not really into 2017. On the other hand, when I look at, say, Album of the Year's The Highest Rated Albums of 2017 I'm not real inspired (Mount Eerie? Magnetic Fields? Valerie June? OK, I liked the last Laura Marling album, and I have found three A- records among the top 25 -- Jesca Hoop, XX, Tinariwen -- but I've also wasted my time with Sampha and Loyle Carner; aside from Magnetic Fields, the only Christgau picks in the top 50 are Syd at 34 and Jens Lekman at 43). By the way, Napster only has 16 of Magnetic Fields' 50 songs, as if I didn't already have reasons enough to ignore the thing.
On the other hand, more old music this time than in quite some time. The deaths of Chuck Berry and Arthur Blythe triggered most of them. I knew Berry from his compilations (including the 3CD Chess Box, and the earlier LP-era Golden Decade volumes and Rarities, so I thought it might be interesting to work my way through his albums. I was fortunate to find (after some digging) all of them on Napster, but I did stop short of the "complete Chess recordings" boxes (two are online, the early one not).
Pickings for the late great alto saxophonist were harder to come by, with most of the Columbias unavailable (including the great In the Tradition), and nothing on India Navigation, CIMP or Savant -- his last masterpiece, Focus, appeared there in 2002. Also, he played a lot in groups (I knew about the Leaders, but the Roots albums below are finds) and as side credits, and not infrequently stole the show on the latter. (The John Abercrombie and Lester Bowie albums below feature Blythe; I'm listening to another by Gust William Tsilis as I'm writing this.)
Other things driving me to old music: collating the jazz guides got me to look up a few things -- Gato Barbieri, Bob Brookmeyer, Barney Kessel, Vic Juris. Old albums by Swans and Peter Van Huffel followed from new albums. I noticed Napster finally added Al Green Is Love, which Christgau had bumped up from B+ to A a few years ago (I've moved it to A- myself), so that got me looking at some albums I had missed -- mostly his mid-life gospel phase. Stopped when I couldn't find I Get Joy (1989), but I haven't missed much since then.
I also took a long look at Ken Vandermark's Bandcamp page, partly looking for new (or at least recent) material but also finding some older records I had missed (going back as far as 1993's Big Head Eddie, his first quartet). Still a few things I haven't gotten to on that page: especially the big boxes. If it all seems daunting, a good place to start is Spaceways Inc.: Version Soul. Or Vandermark 5's early risk-taking on Target or Flag (which was the one that convinced me).
Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on February 28. Past reviews and more information are available here (9400 records).
Greg Abate/Tim Ray Trio: Road to Forever (2016 , Whaling City Sound): Saxophonist, credits here list soprano, tenor, and alto in that order, but he also plays quite a bit of flute. Ray is a pianist, also plays keyboards, and his bassist switches between acoustic and electric. Postbop, fluid and eloquent. B+(*) [cd]
AMP Trio: Three (2016 , self-released): New York-based Piano trio: Addison Frei (piano, Fender Rhodes), Perrin Grace (acoustic bass), Matt Young (drums). Third album. Played it twice and it does nothing for me, but not bad when I force myself to concentrate. B [cd]
Courtney Marie Andrews: Honest Life (2016, Mama Bird): Singer-songwriter from Phoenix, based in Seattle, qualifies as Americana with its plain-spoken songs and modest (give or take some strings) accompaniment. B+(*)
Jason Anick & Jason Yeager: United (2016 , Inner Circle Music): Anick plays violin and mandolin, Yeager piano. As a duo, or backed with bass and percussion, they make nice chamber jazz, but the occasional horns perk things up, most monumentally the cut with tenor saxophonist George Garzone. B+(**) [cd]
Animal Collective: Painting With (2016, Domino): Having observed (but I must say never understood) how their albums like Meriweather Post Pavilion (2009) captured critics' polls, I was surprised that the group's tenth album hardly generated a blip this year (only one vote in Pazz & Jop, tied for 279 in my EOY Aggregate). Also surprised that its bounciness no long annoys. B+(*)
Ballrogg [Klaus Ellerhusen Holm/Roger Arntzen/Ivar Grydeland]: Abaft the Beam (2014-15 , Clean Feed): Clarinets, double bass, various guitars (first listed pedal steel, last banjo, also drum machine). Sort of avant-ambient fusion, which is to say it doesn't try to melt into background but doesn't really go anywhere either. B+(**) [cd]
Bat for Lashes: The Bride (2016, Parlophone): British singer-songwriter Natasha Khan, fourth album, full of weepy ballads sung in an artificially pretty timbre. B-
Battle Trance: Blade of Love (2016, New Amsterdam): Saxophone quartet, all tenors -- Travis Laplante, Patrick Breiner, Matt Nelson, Jeremy Viner). One piece (40:12) split into three parts, stuck in one narrow tone band bud they fiddle with it a lot. B+(*) [bc]
Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop: Love Letter for Fire (2016, Sub Pop/Black Cricket): Beam's own albums are released as Iron and Wine -- six since 2002, including a 2015 duo credited to Iron and Wine & Ben Bridwell. Hoop has a similar number of albums since 2007, including one this year I like a lot (Memories Are Now). Voices mesh nicely, which helps him more than her. B+(*)
Carlos Bica & Azul: More Than This (2016 , Clean Feed): Portuguese bassist, currently in Berlin, released a record called Azul in 1995 and kept the name. Group is a trio with Frank Möbus on guitar and Jim Black on drums. B+(***) [cd]
Chicago Edge Ensemble: Decaying Orbit (2016 , self-released): Guitarist Dan Phillips composed all the pieces here, but the edge comes from Mars Williams on saxophones and Jeb Bishop on trombone. They can crack up, loose, or any which way. A- [cd]
Alex Cline's Flower Garland Orchestra: Oceans of Vows (2016 , self-released, 2CD): Drummer, staged a monumental work here, lots of strings and gongs and a soprano singer, Areni Agbabian, and other sampled voices, all things I normally detest, yet it's all quite lovely and unaccountably moving -- well, maybe if I figured out the packaging and followed the text and all that . . . B+(***) [cd]
DIIV: Is the Is Are (2016, Captured Tracks): Brooklyn indie rock band, initially called (and presumably still pronounced) Dive, second album, with Zachary Cole Smith lead singer, and keyboards adding a bit of dream pop catchiness to the guitar grind. B+(**)
Dinosaur Jr: Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not (2016, Jagjaguwar): One of the genre-defining alt/indie bands back in the 1980s, slogged on despite Lou Barlow's departure in 1989 to 1997, then regrouped with J Mascis' solo career going nowhere and Barlow returning in 2006. Eleventh album, sounds like they could go on forever. B+(*)
Akua Dixon: Akua's Dance (2016 , Akua's Music): Third album, launching a career after turning 60, plays baritone violin and cello this time, backed by guitar, bass, and Victor Lewis on drums -- she certainly has a good sense of how to layer strings together. Sings one too, and not bad at that. B+(**) [cd]
Marc Ducret Trio+3: Métatonal (2014 , Ayler): French guitarist, cuts with a sharp metallic edge, his trio adding double bass and drums, the "+3" horns: saxophonist Christophe Monniot, trumpeter Fabrice Martinez, and trombonist Samuel Blaser, but they only let loose when following the leader. B+(**)
Krzysztof Dys Trio: Toys (2014 , ForTune): Polish pianist, has at least one previous album, this a trio with bass (Andrzej Swies) and drums (Krzysztof Szmanda). One original piece at the end, one Jobim, the rest bop classics (Monk, Davis, Coltrane, Silver, Evans, Hancock, Shorter), all handled with aplomb. B+(**) [bc]
Gorilla Mask: Iron Lung (2016 , Clean Feed): Avant-jazz sax trio, the leader alto saxophonist Peter Van Huffel (Canadian, Belgian roots, based in Berlin), with Roland Fidezius (electric bass, effects) and Rudi Fischerlehner (drums). The bass gives this a certain rockish foundation, which the saxophonist regularly blows up. A- [cd]
Bill Hart: Touch of Blue (2016 , Blue Canoe): Guitarist, plays fusion, backed by bass, keys, drums, and percussion, a lot of riffing up and down. B- [cd]
Jill Jack and the American SongBook Band: Pure Imagination (2016, UpHill Productions): Singer from Detroit, has a dozen albums since 1997, evidently wrote most of her songs previously but for this project she picks prime standards from "All of Me" to, ugh, "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Pianist Dale Grisa leads a solid jazz combo with guitar and sax. Some interesting twists, but basically as good as the songs. B+(*) [cd]
Sarah Jarosz: Undercurrent (2016, Sugar Hill): Austin singer-songwriter, plays mandolin and banjo, originally slotted as bluegrass, fourth album, doesn't seem to belong to any genre, just the work of a talented and sometimes touching songsmith. B+(**)
Norah Jones: Day Breaks (2015 , Blue Note): I've collected her reviews for my jazz guide, mostly given her label, but she's never fit very well. Still, the band here is jazzier than ever, as are her originals, and she covers Ellington and Silver (and Neil Young), all the while sounding remarkably sweet. B+(**)
Jü: Summa (2016 , Rare Noise): Avant-fusion trio: Ádám Mészáros (guitars, kalimba, percussion), Ernö Hock (bass guitar, bass ukulele, percussion), and András Halmos (drums, bells, kalimba), with a couple guests on one track. Kjetil Mřster's sax is a nice touch, but that's about it. B [cdr]
Doug MacDonald: A Salute to Jazz Composers: Jazz Marathon 2 (2016 , BluJazz, 2CD): Guitarist, based in Los Angeles where this was recorded live, has a dozen albums going back to 1981 -- no evidence of a Jazz Marathon 1. Horn players are mostly names I recognize -- sax section is Lanny Morgan, Pete Christleib, and/or Ricky Woodard (some churn from cut to cut). Compositions mostly date from the 1950s, roughly Charlie Parker to Sonny Rollins, with one original (MacDonald's "Bossa Don") and an Ellington medley on the margins. So nothing new here, but it's all pretty delightful. B+(***) [cd]
Kirk MacDonald Jazz Orchestra: Common Ground (2015 , Addo, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist, from Canada, discography goes back to 1990, fronts a big band with five trumpets and a couple extra reeds, none of which especially stand out. B [cd]
Ben Markley Big Band: Clockwise: The Music of Cedar Walton (2016 , OA2): Pianist, has a couple of previous albums, teaches as Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Wyoming, his big band leaning on Denver musicians plus guest trumpet player Terrel Stafford. Walton always had a knack for writing for horns, so his music scales up easily here, a very brassy concoction. B+(*) [cd]
Lisa Mezzacappa: Avant Noir (2015 , Clean Feed): Bassist, has a couple albums, leads a sextet here with just one horn (Aaron Bennett on tenor sax) and no piano: the other spots are electric guitar, vibes, electronics, and drums. B+(**) [cd]
The Milwaukee Jazz Orchestra: Welcome to Swingsville! (2016 , BluJazz): Big Band from University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, "managed" by Kyle Seifert (tenor sax) and Julia Rose Bustle, main name I recognize trumpeter Russ Johnson. Notes brag about this program being played "live and unrehearsed." That may explain why this gets a slow start, but they hit their stride on "Caravan." B+(*) [cd]
Nicole Mitchell: Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds (2015 , FPE): Flute player, based in Chicago since 1990 although since 2001 she has taught at University of California Irvine. Booklet credits this to her Black Earth Ensemble, a group with shakuhachi, viola, cello, guitar, bass, and percussion. Effectively this is two records, and long enough that both are well developed: it begins and ends with instrumental grunge, something like a jazz elaboration on industrial but a bit more ethereal; in between, we get an extended vocal harangue from "avery y young." I've played this four times, and I'm still ambivalent about both halve, but this is pretty unique, and for once I'm not bitching about the flute. B+(**) [cd]
Murs: Captain California (2017, Strange Music): LA rapper, underground, has a couple albums I like a lot, more I never heard. This one, packed with featured guests I've never heard of and nine different producers, wanders all over the place. B+(**)
Bill O'Connell: Monk's Cha Cha: Live at the Carnegie-Farian Room (2016 , Savant): Solo piano, the title tune an original, the other material -- originals plus covers of "Afro Blue," "Dindi," and "The Song Is You" -- not pushing either interest very hard or far. B [cd]
Nnamdi Ogbonnaya: Drool (2017, Father/Daughter/Sooper): From LA (or Chicago), sings more than he raps, a Christgau pick but while some of this prog trickiness sounds promising I find much of it unlistenable. B-
Miles Okazaki: Trickster (2016 , Pi): Guitarist, has an airy style with a slight metallic tinge, leads a quartet here with pianist Craig Taborn impressive as usual. B+(**) [cd]
Eivind Opsvik: Overseas V (2016 , Loyal Label): Norwegian Bassist, based in New York, has released four Overseas albums with a core group of saxophonist Tony Malaby and pianist Jacob Sacks, joined here (as on Overseas IV by Brandon Seabrook (guitar) and Kenny Wolleson (drums). Dense and intricate, the guitar and sax blunted and folded back into the group, where the focus is more on sustaining rhythmic force. B+(***) [cd]
Orchestra Baobab: Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng (2017, Nonesuch/World Circuit): One of Senegal's most important bands, their 1970s shrined in multi-volume compilations called La Belle Epoque, with more albums since 1992, one of the best (Specialist in All Styles) from 2002, the last before this in 2008. Dieng (1947-2016) was the group's long-time singer, though he is ably replaced here. A-
The Radio Dept.: Running Out of Love (2016, Labrador): Swedish electropop group, a bit of a throwback to 1980's new wave (with a dash of shoegaze), the final cut a hint of Pet Shop Boys but rather austere. B+(**)
Rocco John: Peace and Love (2014 , Unseen Rain): Alto saxophonist (also soprano and piano) Rocco John Iacovone, leading a group he calls the Improvisational Composers Ensemble in a tribute to Will Connell (1938-2014), a saxophonist with a slim discography (most notably the 1981/83 Commitment recordings with William Parker) who "lived his music." Group is an octet with Ras Moshe Burnett (bells, tenor sax, flute), violin, bass clarinet, guitar, double bass, drums, and percussion. Group hits hard, but is equally interesting when they spread out, chill out, or aim for the heavens. A- [cd]
Whitney Rose: South Texas Suite (2017, Six Shooter, EP): Singer-songwriter from Prince Edward Island up in Canada, moved to Austin and after two albums I never noticed came up with this remarkable six cut, 22:19 EP. B+(***)
Adam Rudolph's Moving Pictures: Glare of the Tiger (2016 , Meta/M.O.D. Technologies): Percussionist, mostly hand drums here, with two other drummers (Hamid Drake and James Hurt) in the ensemble, along with horns -- Graham Haynes (cornet, flugelhorn) and Ralph M. Jones (flutes, clarinets, saxes) -- keyboards, guitar, and electric bass. Strong suit is rhythm, colors changing from darker to lighter. B+(***) [cd]
John K. Samson: Winter Wheat (2016, Anti-): Singer-songwriter from Winnipeg, came out of a couple bands I've heard of (Propagandhi, The Weakerthans), third solo album. B+(*)
Jenny Scheinman: Here on Earth (2017, Royal Potato Family): Violinist, working on a soundtrack for the film Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait, based on 1936-42 archival footage by H. Lee Waters of small town folks in North Carolina during the Great Depression. Some scenes included fiddle-banjo-guitar, so she recruited Danny Barnes, Robbie Fulks, Bill Frisell, and Robbie Gjersoe -- reminds me that Frisell hired Scheinman for his very similar Arkansas-based Disfarmer. B+(***)
Andy Shauf: The Party (2016, Anti-): Singer-songwriter from Saskatchewan, started out as drummer in a "Christian pop punk band," third solo album here. This is pretty sedate, or pretty but sedate. B
Swans: The Glowing Man (2016, Young God, 2CD): Michael Gira's industrial/noise group, toiled in near-complete obscurity from 1983's Filth through 1996's Soundtracks for the Blind, but since regrouping in 2010 they've garnered effusive press and even a bit of commercial acceptance. That fell off a bit on this fourth post-hiatus album, perhaps because its length reinforces the sense of sameness. B+(*)
Sunny Sweeney: Trophy (2017, Aunt Daddy): Country singer, cowrote most of her songs -- don't have the credits but evidently Lori McKenna was involved. The backing is nondescript, and they drag a little, but every one hits its mark, even a couple I'd rather not deal with. B+(***)
Syd: Fin (2017, Columbia): Vocalist for the Internet tries a solo album. Small voice, matter-of-fact beats, picks up toward the end with a couple of featuring credits (who is this Steve Lacy?) and a song about "Insecurities" -- whoever's doing that low voice is helping a lot. A-
Teenage Fanclub: Here (2016, Merge): Alt/indie band from Scotland (or "Northern Britain" as one title put it), long time since anyone here was a teenager, their tenth album losing much of their jangle but keeping light pop harmonies. B-
University of Toronto Jazz Orcherstra: Sweet Ruby Suite (2016 , UofT Jazz): Subtitled The Music of Kenny Wheeler featuring Norma Winstone and Dave Leibman (lyricist/singer and soprano saxophonist), so this is a minor milestone in the evolution of jazz repertory, as well as a sentimental tribute to one of Canada's greatest jazz figures (1930-2014). Not a direction I relish or a piece of opera I'm particularly fond of, but I'm not unsentimental (nor unimpressed). B+(*) [cd]
University of Toronto 12Tet: Trillium Falls (2016 , UofT Jazz): Terry Promano directed and composed a couple pieces, and Noam Lomish added his piano to his track. Notable covers come from Strayhorn and Ellington. Nice flow, but sometimes I wonder why bother? B [cd]
Keith Urban: Ripcord (2016, Capitol Nashville): Country singer-songwriter, born in New Zealand, moved to Australia when he was 17 and broke through there, released his first US album in 1999, married actress Nicole Kidman in 2006, moved to Nashville at some point and became a US citizen, becoming a judge on American Idol. Ninth studio album, first I've heard. A formidable voice and a flexible student of pop hooks, mixing in Carrie Underwood on one track and Nile Rodgers and Pitbull on another. Could catch on if I gave it the chance, but I can remember so little of it after one play I doubt I will. B
Velkro: Too Lazy to Panic (2016 , Clean Feed): Recorded in Portugal but mixed in Norway, don't know anything about the trio -- Bostjan Simon (sax, electronics), Stephan Meidell (guitar, bass, percussion, electronics), and Luis Candelas (drums, percussion) -- other than that their 2014 debut blew me away. They describe this one as "a step forward and a dive inward," which is to say the deep sound of their dense fusion takes much longer to sink in. A- [cd]
Nate Wooley/Ken Vandermark: All Directions Home (2015, Audiographic): Duets, trumpet and reeds, recorded over two nights in Milwaukee. This actually works out quite nicely, either likely to set up rhythmic vamps the other can slide against, neither in a mood to burn the joint down. B+(***) [bc]
Michael Zilber: Originals for the Originals (2016 , Origin): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano), originally from Canada, now based in San Francisco after a long east coast stay (Boston and New York -- his debut seems to have been 1992's Stranger in Brooklyn). Originals dedicated to other saxophonists -- most obviously Michael Brecker, Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, Paul Desmond), mostly backed by piano-bass-drums (David Kikoski, James Genus, Clarence Penn). B+(**) [cd]
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Count Ossie and the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari: Tales of Mozambique (1970-75 , Soul Jazz): Born Oswald Williams (1926-76), he was one of the innovators of nyabinghi, a primitivist hand drumming style wrapped up in the Rastafari cult. His drumming with chants and the occasional horn are simple and seductive. A-
Nigeria Soul Fever: Afro Funk, Disco and Boogie (1970s-80s , Soul Jazz): A big country, roughly the population if not nearly the physical size of Brazil (173.6 vs. 200.4 million people), its diversity another reason for adopting so many western musical styles. Label has a good record for compilations, but this often sounds second-hand, even if more energetically so. B+(*)
John Abercrombie/Arthur Blythe/Terri Lyne Carrington/Anthony Cox/Mark Feldman/Gust Tsilis: Echoes (1996 , Alessa): All names on front cover, in alphabetical order, but Blythe (alto sax) only appears on two (of ten) cuts, and Feldman (violin) on one. On the other hand, they dominate their cuts to the point of suggesting the album could turn into something. Otherwise, the guitarist is most chameleon-like, leaving Tsilis' vibes to shine. B+(*)
Gato Barbieri Quartet: In Search of the Mystery (1967, ESP-Disk): Tenor saxophonist from Argentina, played with Lalo Schifrin in the late 1950s/early 1960s before following John Coltrane into the avant-garde, leading to this debut album, with Calo Scott (cello), Norris Jones (bass), and Bobby Kapp (drums). Strong stuff, but mostly his screech is barely controlled, and sometimes it slips. B+(*)
Gato Barbieri: The Third World (1969 , Flying Dutchman): Front cover just says "Gato" under the title. Album opens with flute, then a little vocal, before blossoming into one of the most identifiable tenor sax tones ever. Interesting line up here, with the first hints of his Latin/tango rhythm melded with Roswell Rudd's trombone growl. B+(***)
Gato Barbieri: Fenix (1971, Flying Dutchman): This is where he set the pattern for his best albums of the following decade: he cranked up the Latin percussion (adding Gene Golden on bongos and congas and Na Na on congas and berimbau), let the rhythm section (Lennie White III on drums, Ron Carter on electric bass, and Lonnie Liston Smith on keyboards) ham it up, and blew his sax way past them all. A-
Gato Barbieri: El Pampero (1971 , Flying Dutchman): Same instrumental lineup with considerable shuffling of personnel (Lonnie Liston Smith on piano and Na Na on berimbau are the constants), with the saxophonist if anything even more towering. A-
Chuck Berry: After School Session (1955-57 , Chess): I discovered Berry through compilations -- Chuck Berry's Golden Decade, which later morphed into The Great Twenty-Eight and the slightly enlarged 30-cut (picking up his 1972 novelty hit "My Ding-A-Ling") The Definitive Collection -- and I've heard the 3-CD Chess Box, but on his death, I figured why not check out as many old LPs as I could find? This was his first, only the second issued by the label, with five classics ("School Days," "Too Much Monkey Business," "No Money Down," "Brown Eyed Handsome Man," "Havana Moon"), a forgotten single ("Wee Wee Hours" from 1955), and filler -- plucky instrumentals plus less developed ballads. B+(***)
Chuck Berry: One Dozen Berrys (1957 , Chess): Second album, follows the same formula, with four classics -- "Sweet Little Sixteen," "Oh Baby Doll," "Reelin' and Rockin'," "Rock and Roll Music" -- and mostly instrumental filler (though "It Don't Take but a Few Minutes" is a charming oddity). B+(***)
Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry Is on Top (1955-59 , Chess): Third album, possibly his best known, rounded up non-album singles as far back as "Maybellene" (1955) and "Roll Over Beethoven" (1956). Eight of twelve songs made The Great Twenty-Eight, two other singles dropped from the canon ("Anthony Boy" and "Jo Jo Gunne"), and there are two odd little pieces of filler ("Hey Pedro" and "Blues for Hawaiians"). A-
Chuck Berry: Rockin' at the Hops (1960, Chess): Only one canon song ("Let It Rock"), but three other songs were released as singles, and they and a couple others (including a cover, "Too Pooped to Pop") are unmistakable Berry. B+(**)
Chuck Berry: New Juke Box Hits (1961, Chess): Not really: "I'm Talking About You" is the only canon song, and some of the covers had been around the block too many times ("Route 66," "Rip It Up"). B+(*)
Chuck Berry: Twist (1955-61 , Chess): A stopgap released with Berry in jail, the title suggesting something new to cash in on Chubby Checker's twist craze, the fourteen songs old singles (though this was the first album for three: "Oh, Baby Doll," "Come On," "Back in the U.S.A."). It's all brilliant, but docked a bit as misleading, and because later compilations were able to double the length without slipping one bit. [Reissued a year later as More Chuck Berry. That title was then recycled for a 1964 UK release with a different songlist -- only "Reelin' and Rockin'" appears on both.] A-
Chuck Berry: On Stage (1963, Chess): Berry was in jail in August when this was released -- had been from February 1962 up to October -- so the label faked this, dubbing applause in over studio tracks, with "Surfin' USA" highlighted on the cover but not in the song listings (oh, yeah, "Sweet Little Sixteen"). Napster adds 12 cuts, probably from a later CD reissue I can't locate -- they appear to be the undubbed originals. B-
Bo Diddley/Chuck Berry: Two Great Guitars (1964, Chess): Each side of the original LP starts with a sub-three-minute instrumental, followed in turn by 10:39/14:23 jam, the first side leaning toward Berry, the second McDaniel. A reissue added four bonus tracks, longest 3:44. Grooveful, but might have been more exciting if not just a duo. B+(*)
Chuck Berry: St. Louis to Liverpool (1957-64 , Chess): Back from jail, buoyed by royalties from the Beatles and the Beach Boys (after having sued the latter), he wrote ten (or twelve) songs, including three of his greatest ("No Particular Place to Go," "You Never Can Tell," and "Promised Land"). The forgotten songs are pretty solid too, and the reissue adds three cuts. A-
Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry in London (1965, Chess): Cover says "recorded in England" but offers no further details -- no evidence of an audience, nor that the recording location matters. But it does feature new material, only three covers (two name-checking St. Louis), nothing that wound up in the canon (although "Dear Dad" and "I Want to Be Your Driver" come close), but the guitar is sui generis even when the blues are generic. B+(***)
Chuck Berry: Fresh Berry's (1965, Chess): Last album for Chess, effectively the end of the era, but none of the songs here made the canon, the only one coming close "My Mustang Ford." Ends with a reworking of an early single, this time called "Wee Hour Blues" -- a fitting end. (Berry returned to Chess in 1970, and had a one-shot hit single in 1972, but never regained his 1957-64 genius.) B+(**)
Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry's Golden Hits (1966 , Mercury): Freed from Chess Records, the first thing Berry's new label has him do is re-record a dozen of his Chess hits (well, eleven, as "Club Nitty Gritty" is new, a non-hit single in 1966; expanded to 15 songs for the reissue). While I can't swear the songs are vastly inferior to the originals, they do feel a bit off. And while the back cover notes they were recorded "in October and November, 1966" and "Chuck himself was in full charge of the sessions from beginning to end," this can't escape the whiff of fraud (although this practice wasn't unusual -- I'm still soft on The Very Best of the Everly Brothers, recorded for Warners in 1964, because that's where I started with them). Chess answered almost immediately with the 2-LP 24-cut Chuck Berry's Golden Decade, which is where I dove in. B-
Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry in Memphis (1967, Mercury): The second of five post-Chess albums Berry cut for Mercury (two live plus that bogus Golden Hits). Two more re-recorded hits, a couple of passable outtakes, a batch of soul ballad covers which are pure filler, and more stress on the horns. B+(*)
Chuck Berry: Live at Fillmore Auditorium (1967, Mercury): A proper live album, but Berry had already fallen into the mode of working with whatever local pick up band he could find, drawing what was still known as the Steve Miller Blues Band here. Someone must of whispered in Berry's ear that the hippies dug blues, because he leads off with a long string of blues covers before delving into his own catalog, with only the last three songs recognizably his own (one of them his first recorded take of "My Ding-a-Ling"). B
Chuck Berry: From St. Louie to Frisco (1968, Mercury): Seems to be working hard, wrote a batch of new songs -- though "My Tambourine" is just a gloss on "My Ding-a-Ling," and he that's far from the only recycling -- but he's falling behind and further into obscurity. B+(*)
Chuck Berry: Concerto in B-Goode (1969, Mercury): First side offers four new songs, all blues, far from bad but not especially memorable. Second side is an 18:40 instrumental, built from familiar licks, evidently intended to roll Beethoven back over. Neither strikes me as a good idea, but he makes them work (sort of). B+(*)
Chuck Berry: Back Home (1970, Chess): Well, back in Chicago with Chess, anyway, leading off with "Tulane" -- probably his best song since 1964. Follows up with blues and instrumentals, both better than par. B+(***)
Chuck Berry: San Francisco Dues (1971, Chess): I'm curious why Berry has so many San Francisco titles, especially given that whenever he thinks of that town he slows down and melts. B-
Chuck Berry: The London Chuck Berry Sessions (1972, Chess): One side (five songs) cut in the studio, including a Little Walter cover. The other side was live, just three songs: "Reelin' and Rockin'" and "Johnny B. Goode" sandwiched 11:33 of Dave Bartholomew's "My Ding-a-Ling" structured as an audience sing-along. Berry had recorded the song before (as well as its alter-ego "My Tambourine"), but this was somehow turned into Berry's one and only chart-topping single ("Sweet Little Sixteen" peaked at 2, "School Day" at 3, "Maybellene" at 5, with three more cracking the top ten). B
Chuck Berry: Bio (1973, Chess): Seven original songs show a lot of care if not much genius, but I find the easy and almost effortless pace rather appealing. The band, which fills in seamlessly, also does business as Elephant's Memory. B+(**)
Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry (1975, Chess): Mostly covers, a mix of blues and country and "Shake Rattle and Roll," with "Swanee River" adapted to be most Berry-like. It's schlock, but he makes it sound easy and natural, like he's figured out the art of coasting. B+(**)
Chuck Berry: Rock It (1979, Atco): Having left Chess for the second time, his first and only album for the Warners combine, and it would turn his last album before his death in 2017 (although a new one is rumored, the posthumous market for legends never richer). Christgau liked this one much more than his previous five (or maybe, probably, more), and it certainly is cheerier, but too much rubs me the wrong way -- not least the "Havana Moon" accent -- to get at all excited. B+(*)
Chuck Berry: Rock 'N Roll Rarities (1957-64 , Chess): I wouldn't have bothered with this except I recall having it on vinyl. Some misdirection in that the songs themselves are far from unknown -- 11 of 20 are on The Great Twenty-Eight, which was the standard compilation at the time, and 4 of the remaining 9 were chart singles. Still, the fine print explains that most are demos or alternate takes, some just stereo remixes. And none of the variants stray far. Still, one terrific song was previously unknown ("Time Was"), and I hadn't noticed "Oh Yeah" elsewhere. B+(***)
Arthur Blythe: Put Sunshine in It (1985, Columbia): The late great alto saxophonist, came out of Horace Tapscott's circle in Los Angeles, cut a couple albums on small labels, then got a shot on Columbia and responded with two of the major jazz albums of the late 1970s, Lenox Avenue Breakdown and In the Tradition. This was his eighth album at Columbia (out of ten up to 1988), and by then he was struggling for something bright and pleasing. With cello and tuba instead of bass, guitar, and drums (congas on one track), this doesn't push anyone's buttons. B
Lester Bowie: The 5th Power (1978, Black Saint): AACM trumpet player, with Arthur Blythe (alto sax), Malachi Favors (bass), Amina Myers (piano), and Phillip Wilson (drums). Five pieces, Myers wrote and sings a "traditional gospel" that doesn't stay true, the rest of the pieces are sketchy and tentative. C+
Bob Brookmeyer: The Dual Role of Bob Brookmeyer (1954-55 , Prestige/OJC): The valve trombonist's first album, cobbled together from two four-cut sessions: the first featuring guitarist Jimmy Raney, with Teddy Kolick (bass) and Mel Lewis (drums); the second with Teddy Charles (vibes), Kolick, and Ed Shaughnessy (drums), plus one nondescript vocal. Leader plays some fancy piano too (opposite Charles). B+(**)
Double Tandem [Ab Baars/Ken Vandermark/Paal Nilssen-Love]: OX (2012, dEN): Two tenor saxes (Vandearmark also on baritone, both also switching off to clarinet), jousting mightily with the drummer refereeing. B+(***) [bc]
FME: Live at the Glenn Miller Café - Feb. 27, 2002 (2002, Okka Disk): Ken Vandermark free jazz trio, active 2002-05, with Nate McBride on bass and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. Terrific example of Vandermark in avant-honk mode, weakened only by a couple spots of regrouping. B+(***) [bc]
FME: Montage (2005 , Okka Disk, 2CD): Last album for the group, although Vandermark has recorded a half-dozen or more duo albums with drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, and has often employed bassist Nate McBride, so it wouldn't take much for them to regroup. Problem here is that at double the length, they space out the moments of brilliance, and while the anticipation may add something to live performance, it just makes us impatient here. B+(**) [bc]
Al Green: Truth N' Time (1978, Hi): His last album before switching over to gospel music. Shows some but not a lot of decline, voice still extraordinary, groove compelling, but nothing really great, and pretty short for an LP (8 songs, 26:39). B+(**)
Al Green: Tokyo . . . Live (1978 , Motown): Live double, should fit on a single CD (76:49). Great songs, the two covers long owned, the band proficient, the sound a bit distant compared to the studio cuts you know like the back of your hand. B+(***)
Al Green: Precious Lord (1982, Myrrh): Green's third gospel album, after the tentative The Lord Will Make a Way and the more sure-footed Higher Plane. Traded his Memphis groove section for Nashville and more choir, which turned off some, but this is chock full of familiar songs which have rarely been raised so high to the rafters. B+(***)
Al Green: I'll Rise Again (1983, Myrrh): Back in Memphis so sure, a better groove record. Not sure of the credits but nothing I recognize, or listened to closely enough to get turned off or on. Wish the title prophesied the soul singer, not Jesus. B+(**)
Al Green: Trust in God (1984, Myrrh): His gospel albums have become so perfunctory I only noticed one song here. Looking at the credits there should have been two. B
Al Green: He Is the Light (1986, A&M): Discogs says this was originally titled Going Away (after the lead song), but I doubt the record was released in the UK before the US, where this has always been the title. Willie Mitchell returns as producer, helping to focus the groove. Favorite lyric: "I feel like shoutin' for joy." B+(**)
Vic Juris: Songbook (1999 , SteepleChase): Guitar trio with Jay Anderson (bass) and Jeff Hirshfield (drums). Title piece is an original, plus two standards by Kern, one each by Jobim and Mancini, the rest jazz touchstones from "Nuages" to "Milestones," all played so modestly none stand out. B
Barney Kessel With Shelly Manne and Ray Brown: The Poll Winners (1957 , Contemporary/OJC): Guitar-drums-bass trio, not sure what poll they claimed but at ages 30-36 they were early in their careers, and milked that group title for several more albums. One original, eight standards, Kessel's thin lines and mild metallic tone fast on their way to becoming hegemonic. B+(*)
Barney Kessel With Shelly Manne & Ray Brown: Poll Winners Three! (1959 , Contemporary/OJC): Third group record for the guitar trio, Kessel having released a couple albums on his own between each. Again, one Kessel original, another by Brown, the rest standards swung a bit harder this time out. B+(***)
The Leaders: Unforseen Blessings (1988 , Soul Note): All-star group came together in 1986 with Lester Bowie (trumpet), Arthur Blythe (alto sax), Chico Freeman (tenor sax), Kirk Lightsey (piano), Cecil McBee (bass) and Don Moye (drums). Third album with that lineup -- they'd go on to cut one more in 1994, but their 2006 reunion replaced Bowie and Blythe with Eddie Henderson and Bobby Watson. The rhythm section also recorded an 1988 album as the Leaders Trio, and Lightsey also seems to be in the helm here -- the horns tentative until they close with a blues. B+(*)
Lean Left: Live at Area Sismica (2012 , Unsounds): Ken Vandermark and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, their duo joined by two guitarists from the Dutch punk band Ex, left to play free and joust with the sax. Group came together in 2008 and recorded four live albums up to this one. B+(***) [bc]
Rara Avis: Mutations/Multicellulars Mutations (2012 , dEN, 2CD): Ken Vandermark group recorded in Rome, with Stefano Ferriari as a second saxophonist (soprano/tenor), Simone Quatrana (piano) Luca Pissavini (double bass), and SEC_ (Mimmo Napolitano: electronics, effects). First disc are group improvs. Second, much shorter, breaks down to duos and trios. Some sonic surprises, as well as hard-charging sax. B+(*) [bc]
Rara Avis: Rara Avis (2013 , Not Two): Same Vandermark in Italy group, some months later on the road in Poland, improvising nine unnamed pieces. Piano is more prominent, and SEC_'s electronics prod things in interesting directions, while second saxophonist Stefano Ferriari does a pretty solid Mars Williams impression. B+(**) [bc]
Reed Trio: Last Train to the First Station (2008-10 , Kilogram): Another live Ken Vandermark in Poland album (this time Gdansk), joined by Mikolaj Trzaska and Waclaw Zimpel who like Vandermark keep a couple clarinets in their toolkits (Zimpel also has a tarogato). Much less aggressive than Sonore (Vandermark's trio with Peter Brötzmann and Mats Gustafsson), partly because the softer reeds predominate, partly because the group often drops down to solo or duo. B+(*) [bc]
Roots [Arthur Blythe/Sam Rivers/Nathan Davis/Chico Freeman/Don Pullen/Santi Debriano/Tommy Campbell]: Salutes the Saxophone (1991 , In+Out): Four saxophones plus piano-bass-drums, doing nine standards every saxophonist must know by heart, with swing-era warhorses like "Cottontail" and "Lester Leaps In" raising the hottest jams. Still, the breakout star is the pianist, especially on his first two solos. A-
Roots: Stablemates (1992 , In+Out): Names remain prominent on front cover, the only change Idris Muhammad moving in on drums. Mostly pieces by band members, others merely arranged. Pullen has several jaw-dropping moments, but as impressive this time is the sax layering, especially the exquisite altos (mostly Blythe, but also Freeman and Davis). A-
Swans: Public Castration Is a Good Idea (1986 , Thirsty Ear): Michael Gira's noise rock band, had a run from 1982 to 1997 then regrouped in 2010. This was their first live album, heavy, plodding, not without a certain rogueish charm but nothing that might qualify as wit. B
The Vandermark Quartet: Big Head Eddie (1993, Platypus): I think this counts as Ken Vandermark's first album, recorded shortly after he moved from Boston to Chicago, credited with "reeds," joined by Michael Zerang (drums), Kent Kessler (bass), and Todd Colburn (guitar). Some parts feel overdubbed, but maybe it's just not clear what the guitar is up to. B [bc]
Vandermark 5: Drink, Don't Drown (1997, Savage Sound Syndicate): Practically a bootleg, recorded live at the Empty Bottle in Chicago and released in a jewel case with photocopied artwork. Front cover reads, above the title: "Every Tuesday at the Empty Bottle the VANDERMARK 5 will pour an ocean of sound into your bucket." This is the original lineup with Ken Vandermark and Mars Williams (reeds), Jeb Bishop (trombone, guitar), Kent Kessler (bass), and Tim Mulvenna (drums), shortly after their . Sound rather dampened, but they do have their moments. B+(*) [bc]
Vandermark 5: Thinking on One's Feet (1998 , Savage Sound Syndicate): Same deal, a year later, with Dave Rempis (alto sax) in lieu of Mars Williams. Front cover, above the title, reads: "Every Tuesday at the Empty Bottle the battle for supremacy continues: the VANDERMARK 5 vs. SANTO, El Enmascarado de Plata." A bit chaotic, but group was in a feisty mood, especially trombonist Jeb Bishop. B+(**) [bc]
Ken Vandermark/Tim Daisy: August Music (2006 , self-released): Reeds/drums duo, Daisy at the time was drummer in Vandermark 5, live at the Empty Bottle in Chicago, originally a limited edition of 200 copies. Album cover has two sets of initials, "td" on left and "kv" on right, and Discogs fell that way, but I went with the spine. The sax is as powerful as ever, and Daisy makes the clarinet work as well, pecking adroitly around the edges. Applause is enthusiastic, but I doubt the crowd numbered over two dozen. A- [bc]
Ken Vandermark/Tim Daisy: The Conversation (2010-11 , Multikulti): Cover suggests the drummer should be listed first, but Bandcamp page belongs to Vandermark. More duos, drums and various reeds, recorded on two dates in Chicago clubs, impressive work although the high clarinet came off a bit constrained. B+(***) [bc]
Ken Vandermark/Paal Nilssen-Love: Letter to a Stranger (2011 , Smalltown Superjazz): Sax-or-clarinet and drums duo, by my count the eighth between these two (half list the drummer's name first), not to mention a couple dozen group albums. Strongest on tenor sax, also impressive on baritone, and the drummer is always attentive. B+(***) [bc]
Peter Van Huffel/Michael Bates/Jeff Davis: Boom Crane (2013 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Alto sax trio (plus some clarinet), with bass and drums. All three originally hail from Canada, though are now based in Berlin (Van Huffel) and New York (the others). Not as aggressive as the leader's Gorilla Mask group (formed at the same time), but a good showcase for the individual talents. B+(**)
Witches & Devils: Empty Bottle Chicago (1997 , Savage Sound Syndicate): The first of several Ken Vandermark groups to take the name of a famous album (cf. School Days, Free Fall), this one was more conventionally a tribute album, with three of four pieces written by Albert Ayler. Sextet, Mars Williams joins in on reeds, Jim Baker on keyboards, Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello, leading to collisions and pile-ups, but in the end you'd swear the Holy Ghost is tapping feet. B+(*) [bc]
Jimmy & Mama Yancey: Chicago Piano Volume 1 (1951 , Atlantic): A boogie woogie pianist of some note, playing solo (bluesy but not terribly fast) on more than half of the tracks, with Estelle Yancey (wife, not mother) singing on the rest -- a straight up blues singer. B+(*)
Additional Consumer News:
Previous grades on artists in the old music section.
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:
Monday, March 27. 2017
Seems like every time I post a Weekend Roundup, only minutes later I find a piece that I should have mentioned. This week's major one was Mike Konczal: Four Lessons from the Health Care Repeal Collapse. Very thoughtful, very smart piece on what last week's Trump-Ryan cave in means for now and the near future. First photo in the piece shows demonstrators with two placards: "Healthcare is a right, not a privilege!" and "Thanks to the ACA I am having my surgery tomorrow!" As I tried to stress in yesterday's post, Republicans tried to tout how their "repeal and replace" agenda would somehow be better for all (or most, or maybe just some) Americans, but they couldn't spell out any details on paper that plausibly backed up their claims. Nobody's denying that someone could come up with a better replacement -- the big story from last week that I didn't come up with any links for is how people all over the political map were looking at single-payer insurance -- but clearly the Republicans' pet ideas would only do the opposite (stripping some 24 million people of insurance, driving premiums for everyone else through the roof, protecting insurance companies from malpractice and fraud claims, providing even more tax breaks to the very rich).
It's beginning to look like people have somehow managed to sort out the key concepts behind the ACA -- especially that universal coverage is the only sane foundation for the health care system -- from its shoddy and corrupt implementation. One of the most interesting moments from last week was watching Charles Krauthammer on Fox News lament this very point. There is much more to be said about this and related issues -- like how Donald Trump has created a prison for himself in the increasingly psychotic Republican Party -- but that will have to come later.
Meanwhile, my week in music.
Music: Current count 27951  rated (+30), 397  unrated (-6).
I've had an extremely weird week, one artifact being that my work space is in scary disorder. The counts above don't include unpacking last week's mail -- I didn't do that until this afternoon -- and I've added one more rated album below even though it's not in the count above. I've been especially lax on getting to new jazz records -- the pending queue is up to 46 records. I've also had scant interest in new 2017 releases (especially Christgau's pick last week, the 5-CD Magnetic Fields monument -- actually only 50 songs, less than the 69 Stephin Merrit squeezed onto 3-CD on his last excessive binge but still an awful lot from someone I like to a much more limited degree). So the only thing that's kept the rated count from collapsing is diving into old music. This week I continued my Chuck Berry dive to its end in 1979's Rock It -- maybe there are later live albums I haven't noticed.
I also started my way into Al Green's gospel period -- actually what kicked that off was noticing Al Green Is Love in Napster's new releases list. (Christgau regraded it significantly up a few years ago, but it hadn't been available and my LP is long gone, so I've been wanting to revisit.) I also checked out Gato Barbieri's early work, stopping at Under Fire and Bolivia, since I reviewed a twofer of those back in early Recycled Goods days (a very solid A-). I suppose I should revisit Chapter Four: Alive in New York since it won its Penguin Guide crown -- I have it at B+(*), as the weakest of Barbieri's Impulse "Chapters."
What got me looking at Barbieri was working on collecting reviews and database entries for my jazz guides. I've finished going through my notebook and the various column archives, and have gone through the first four database files. I'm currently 7% into Jazz (1960-70s) (i.e., at Gary Bartz). It's a slow, tiring process, with a lot more to process (looks like 10,939 rated albums, assuming I am indeed 7% through the current file). The jazz guides are divided into two books, one for 20th and the other for 21st century records. The former has virtually all of the known reviews, so I'm mostly adding stubs for records I rated before I started blogging everything. It currently stands at 554 pages (260,890 words), and will probably top 600 pages before I'm done (or start writing new reviews, like this week's Gato Barbieri records).
The first draft of the latter was constructed from Jazz Consumer Guide reviews. I took all of the column reviews and stuffed them into a huge text file, and I've been pulling those reviews out and adding them to the book as I go through the database files. It currently runs 217 pages (91,123 words) and is growing rapidly. (The text file has 1,097,330 words, but that's inflated with redundant reviews and metadata, but at least half of that will eventually be copied over, so I'd swag the 21st Century book upwards of 1300 pages.)
It remains to be seen whether those books will interest anyone, or even be fit to be published. There is, for instance, a lot of redundancy that should be moved to introductions to each artist. There is also the question of whether what's left, aside from the ratings, will be worth reading. My opinion waxes and wanes as I sort through this stuff. I also note lots of stuff missing (I developed my database as a sort of search list, so it has a lot of stuff that I've seen favorably reviewed but never got to myself) -- especially early on, while the 21st Century book has numerous albums of no lasting interest whatsoever.
By the way, I'm using a numeric grading system for both books, but I needed to map my letter grades mechanically. I considered two possible scales, one where A- == 8 and another where A- == 9 and B == 5, and decided to go with the latter (against, I should note, the advice of pretty much everyone I consulted). One reason is that for all practical purposes I've stopped issuing A+ grades (the last jazz record to earn one was James Carter's Chasin' the Gypsy in 2000, and before that you have to go back to 1990 for Pharoah Sanders' Welcome to Love, then 1986 for Don Pullen's Breakthrough and Sonny Rollins' Plays G-Man, then 1980 for Art Pepper's Winter Moon). Further back you'll find a couple dozen A+ albums: a handful each for Armstrong and Ellington, a couple each for Hawkins and Hodges, a few landmarks from Fletcher Henderson, Tatum, Monk, Mingus, Coltrane, Coleman, Davis, and Roswell Rudd (oh, and singers: Holiday, Fitzgerald, and Rushing).
Still, I'm not sure that those records are so much better than the 400 (or so) plain A jazz records; most took on added significance for me as I sorted through the tradition. Even those A records peter out over time: including A+, I count 64 since 2000 (15.2% of 420); the only repeat artists are: Billy Bang (2), Steve Lehman (2), Mostly Other People Do the Killing (2), David Murray (3), William Parker (7), Matthew Shipp (2), Ken Vandermark (5). (One each for: Nik Bärtsch, Tim Berne, Arthur Blythe, Anthony Braxton, James Carter, Ornette Coleman, Jon Faddis, Avram Fefer, Rich Halley, Craig Harris, Michael Hashim, Benjamin Herman, Jim Hobbs, Vijay Iyer, Pandelis Karayorgis, Martin Küchen, Adam Lane, Mark Lomax, Allen Lowe, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Billy Martin, Nils Petter Molvaer, Michael Moore, Barbara Morrison, Houston Person, Roberto Juan Rodriguez, Sonny Rollins, Roswell Rudd, Randy Sandke, Bernardo Sassetti, Jenny Scheinman, Alexander von Schlippenbach, Irčne Schweizer, Paul Shapiro, Tommy Smith, Sonic Libration Front, Assif Tsahar, Velkro, David S. Ware, World Saxophone Quartet.)
End of month is coming up fast, so I need to post Streamnotes this week. Hopefully I'll come up with something new in the next couple days.
Too late for last week's "recommended links," but Robert Christgau published a piece at Billboard on Chuck Berry: Yes, Chuck Berry Invented Rock 'n' Roll -- and Singer-Songwriters. Oh, Teenagers Too.
Added grades for remembered LPs from way back when:
New records rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, March 20. 2017
Music: Current count 27921  rated (+33), 403  unrated (+14).
More old music than new this week. For one thing, I've been playing CDs from the travel case when I get up in the afternoon instead of things I'd have to work on. Rated count still seems robust as I spent the late nights picking off old Ken Vandermark records I had missed (my rated list here, although this doesn't pick up things where his name wasn't listed first -- a quick count shows 35 of those, including a couple of groups I catalog separately; my chart shows 11 more records I haven't gotten to, including several multi-disc sets). And over the weekend I started listening to the late Chuck Berry's old albums. I must have heard some Berry singles during his heyday, but never owned any of his records until I got to St. Louis and picked up Chuck Berry's Golden Decade (released 1967) and followed up with Vol. 2 (1973) -- though I don't recall Vol. 3 (1974). So I've always known him through compilations, especially the canon-defining The Great Twenty-Eight (1982), and the even better The Definitive Collection (2006), but also the 3-CD Chess Box (1988), which shows the pickings thin out past one disc, but don't disappear entirely.
I mentioned three deaths up top in yesterday's Weekend Roundup post: Chuck Berry, Jimmy Breslin, and James Hull. One more troubling still is pending: Mary McDonough Harren, reportedly in the final stage of her terminal cancer. She is the grande dame of the Wichita peace movement, a founder of the Peace and Social Justice Center of South Central Kansas, and a dear friend over the last 15 years. Her passing will leave an unfathomable hole in our lives.
A couple links that popped up on Chuck Berry:
New records rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, March 13. 2017
Music: Current count 27888  rated (+26), 389  unrated (+4).
Actual new rated count less than above -- I only count 19 records below. I may have missed something below: seems like every record I process means I have to add lines to 4-5 files, and sometimes I lose track of one or more of them. On the other hand, in looking through the database and comparing it to the 20th Century Jazz Guide, I found a half-dozen or so reviews that hadn't been registered, so correcting those added to the count. Thus far I've gone through the Jazz '20-30s file and most of the Jazz '40s-50s, adding stubs for all of the albums I've graded but haven't collected reviews for (basically, records I heard before 2001 or so), and also for all of the artists even if I haven't heard any albums. One side effect of the latter is that I've been checking up on artists I didn't have death dates for, and finding most of them as I go along (and hopefully this trend will change) have indeed died -- some long ago. Still have a long ways to go -- the '60s through '90s files are larger still (though will have more post-2000 records), and there are also separate files for vocals, Latin, and pop. Currently up to 515 pages (254k words).
Almost finished the week without an A- record, but Clean Feed came to the rescue. Actually, two of Christgau's Expert Witness picks came real close: Sunny Sweeney and Whitney Rose. (His other pick, Becky Warren's War Surplus, was an A- back in December.) Jennie Scheinman also came close with an album uncannily similar to Bill Frisell's Disfarmer. Got a letter from Clean Feed today hoping to pinch pennies and switch me over to downloads, which won't stop me from listening but will sure slow me down -- and make me question why bother. I was tempted to give up reviewing back when the Village Voice lost interest in Jazz Consumer Guide, but kept on because labels like Clean Feed kept sending me new releases. That's effectively the difference between a virtuous circle and a death spiral.
New records rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, March 6. 2017
Music: Current count 27862  rated (+28), 385  unrated (-6).
Streamnotes (February 2017) came out last week, actually on March 1 (but I backdated it). March draft file is open now, starting with 17 records listed below. At this point no real direction as to what I'm covering: I picked off a few 2016 releases that I hadn't bothered with before -- ones that got some attention from the EOY lists. Highest rated album from my EOY Aggregate List I haven't heard is Metallica's Hardwired . . . to Self Destruct, in 83rd. Highest point in the list where there are three or more straight unrated records starts at 230: Andy Stott, Wild Beasts, Woods, The Body, then after one I've heard (Clipping) there's The Drones and Fat White Family. Next cluster of 5+ I haven't heard starts at 291: Opeth, Roly Porter, Ty Segall, St Paul & the Broken Bones, Sunflower Bean, Suuns, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Thrice, Wild Nothing, and Zayn.
Also checked out Christgau's picks last week: Syd's Fin closes strong enough I could see grading it up, but three or four plays didn't quite convince me, and I didn't enjoy Nnamdi Ogbonnaya's Drool at all. I gave NxWorries' Yes Lawd! the same grade months ago, but still haven't checked out the John Legend album yet (fwiw, the only Legend album I have heard is a B).
The old Ken Vandermark records I happened to notice on his Bandcamp page as among the few I hadn't heard. A bit disappointed that the two FME records only hinted at how good the band was on two records I had previously rated A-: Cuts and Underground. I need to check more closely for whatever I've missed (though my grade list seems pretty comprehensive).
Achieved a milestone of sorts in the Jazz Guide project: got up to date with my Streamnotes reviews, copying the 20th century ones into a book file which now measures 459 pages, and the later ones into a long text file that I'll eventually fold into the 21st century book. Next step on 20th century is to go through the database files and add all the rated-but-unreviewed albums in as stubs. I knocked the first (and probably shortest) of those files off today, for jazz artists who first appeared before 1940. As with every step on this project, it's been a slow slog.
New records rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Tuesday, February 28. 2017
For the second time in three months I let the calendar flip over before posting this column, then had to backdate the post to match the allotted month. I guess I can blame February for not having enough days. It's not like I don't have a full load of albums below.
Still, no time to write a proper introduction. A few 2017 releases this time, more list scrounging from 2016, even a few 2015 stragglers.
Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on January 28. Past reviews and more information are available here (9286 records).
Rez Abbasi & Junction: Behind the Vibration (2015 , Cuneiform): Pakistani-American guitarist, has dabbled in South Asian (and African) projects but much of his work is squarely within the jazz mainstream. Quartet with Mark Shim (tenor sax, midi wind-controller), Ben Stivers (keyboards, organ), and Kenny Grohowski (drums) -- a combo which hints of soul jazz without sinking into blues. B+(**) [bc]
Africans With Mainframes: K.M.T. (2016, Soul Jazz): Hieroglyphic Being (Jamal Moss) and Nolelan Reusse, first full-length album, title stands for Kemetic Modulating Textures (although Napster calls it Soul Jazz Records Presents Africans . . . -- I don't see K.M.T. on the cover). This is considered Chicago acid house. As Andy Beta wrote of Moss, "for every CD-R of synth squalls there is another full of manic drum machine polyrhythms." He brings his whole kit together here. A-
Oren Ambarchi: Hubris (2016, Editions Mego): Guitarist, percussionist, born in Australia, roots Iraqi Jewish, has fifty-some records since 1998. One piece split into three parts: a fast, complex drumbeat with distorted guitar, an impressive trick that deserves to run on for 40 minutes. A-
Angles 9: Disappeared Behind the Sun (2016 , Clean Feed): Alto/tenor saxophonist Martin Küchen's nonet: three brass (notably Magnus Broo), a second sax (Eirik Hegdal on baritone), piano-bass-drums plus Mattias Stĺhl on vibes. A powerhouse group but they seem to have trouble keeping in sync here -- can amaze when they do hold it together. B+(**) [cd]
A$AP Ferg: Always Strive and Prosper (2016, Polo Grounds/RCA): Darold D. Brown Ferguson Jr., like others in the A$AP Mob collective adapted his name accordingly. Second album, packed with cameos without sounding overripe. B+(**)
Autolux: Pussy's Dead (2016. 30th Century/Columbia): LA-based shoegaze group, previous albums in 2004 and 2010 so they're not rushing things. On Danger Mouse's label, produced by Boots. Aesthetic summed up in lyric: "it's so so sad to be happy all the time." B+(***)
Ballister: Slag (2015 , Aerophonic): Avant-sax trio, Dave Rempis (alto/tenor sax) out front, backed by Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello, electronics) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums). First piece stormed out of the gate, so harsh and loud I had to turn it down to appreciate the drumming. Two more varied pieces followed, adding up to over an hour. B+(*) [bc]
Heather Bambrick: You'll Never Know (2016 , self-released): Canadian standards singer, sixth album since 2003 (plus one as The Beehive Singers). Backed by piano, guitar, bass and drums, with splashes of trumpet and sax. As good as her songs; e.g., "Get Happy" does the trick. B+(**) [cd]
William Basinski: A Shadow in Time (2017, Temporary Residence): Avant-garde composer, works in electronics, has a couple dozen albums since 1998 and has developed a crossover following -- probably a subject for further research (I've only heard one previous album). Two pieces, 20:19 and 22:59, rather dense and a bit ponderous. B
Beans on Toast: Rolling Up the Hill (2015, Xtra Mile): English singer-songwriter Jay McAllister, a folkie more in the American mold of low budget songsters pursuing their political calling -- which in his case includes traveling and singing and drinking. One song calls for the return of Robin Hood ("we need to take what's rightfully ours"), but more typical is his commune where "a lot of nice people being nice to each other/a lot of fun people having fun with each other/a lot of good people being good to each other." A-
Beans on Toast: A Spanner in the Works (2016, Xtra Mile): He's released a record like clockwork every December 1 since 2009, which seems a bit too regular for something involving creativity. Indeed, he comes up somewhat short this time, the melodies suffering more than the outrage, since lord knows 2016 didn't lack for things to take offense at. B+(**)
Bentcousin: Bentcousin (2016, Team Love): Brighton [UK] band, twins Amelia and Pat Innit, "magically born a decade apart" (means in different decades, as their birth straddled the midnight between 1989 and 1990). Both sing, her backing heling him out. Light, folksy pop, even on "F*ck the Queen." B+(**)
Dierks Bentley: Black (2016, Capitol Nashville): Nashville star, ninth album, first two major label releases went platinum, four more gold, this his poorest selling album still briefly topped the country charts (his sixth album to do so). Going through the motions, co-wrote some of the songs, got the usual Nashville production, gave Maren Morris and Trombone Shorty guest shots. B
Gianni Bianchini: Type I (2016 , self-released): Pianist-singer, web bio not very forthcoming but this was recorded in Austin, TX, where he's been known to teach (also in Quito, Ecuador). He plays three fast ones, then slows down and sings a ballad, then goes back and forth, the piano vibrant, the vocals (including one by Karen Tennison) not half bad. B+(**)
Joe Bourne: Upbeat and Sweet (2016 , Summit): Fairly nondescript singer, skips the usual standards in favor of a batch of mostly '60s-'70s pop hits, selected with an unerring knack for things I never wanted to hear again, least of all sung by him -- e.g., "Magic Carpet Ride," "Heartache Tonight," "Just Like a Woman," "You've Got a Friend," "Don't Stop," "Wonderful Tonight." C [cd]
Chris Byars: Two Fives (2014 , SteepleChase): Saxophonist, plays alto here but first distinguished himself on tenor, always a bebop purist, has done several tribute albums of late, this one starts with five originals, then five covers ("Danny Boy" the odd and weakest choice). Sextet: Stefano Doglioni (bass clarinet), John Mosca (trombone), Pasquale Grasso (guitar), Ari Roland (bass), Stefan Schatz (drums). Slippery and elegant. B+(**)
Chris Byars: The Music of Frank Strozier (2015 , SteepleChase): Tribute to another alto saxophonist, b. 1937, still alive, cut a few albums 1960-62, and two more 1976-77 for Danish label SteepleChase. Septet, adding James Byars' oboe to the sextet above. All Strozier tunes, arranged by Byars, who like Strozier plays some flute. B+(**)
Laura Cannell: Simultaneous Flight Movement (2016, Brawl): British violinist, seven or eight records, one in 1997, the rest since 2012. This is solo, some recorder, not much jazz feel so somewhere between abstract folk and avant-classical? B+(*)
Loyle Carner: Yesterday's Gone (2017, AMF): British rapper, father "of Guyanese descent," first record, nothing exciting, although the title tune is catchy and I could imagine it done skiffle. B
The CCM Jazz Orchestra as James Bond: Nobody Does It Better (2013 , Summit): CCM stands for College Conservatory of Music, part of the University of Cincinnati. They have a previous album called In Search of Garaj Mahal, where they cover music from the world fusion jam band. Seemed like a pretty bogus idea, but then I saw Steven Bernstein got a "featuring" credit (also credit for six of eight arrangements. The result isn't exactly Sex Mob Does Bond (a real title, from 2001): it's grander and grosser than that, with all the baggage a true big band can throw at music that deserves such treatment, if it deserves any at all. B+(**) [cd]
Chook Race: Around the House (2016, Trouble in Mind): Australian band, a dash of jangle pop in the alt-rock universe. B+(*)
City Yelps: Half Hour (2016, Odd Box): Garage punk trio from Leeds. Don't understand a word, but can't complain about the energy. B+(*)
Kweku Collins: Nat Love (Closed Sessions): Young (age 19) rapper from Evanston, Illinois, first album after an EP, goes for a dense rhythmic roll rather than a lot of words. B+(*)
CP Unit: Before the Heat Death (2016 . Clean Feed): Quartet: Chris Pitsiokos (alto sax), Brandon Seabrook (electric guitar), Tim Dahl (electric bass), Weasel Walter (drums). Basically post-rock, post-industrial fusion, less harsh than some of Seabrook's own albums, better beat too, and the sax sharpens the leads. Short at 29:01, but makes up for that in intensity. B+(***) [cd]
Allison Crutchfield: Tourist in This Town (2017, Merge): Singer-songwriter, solo debut after fronting Swearin' and earlier co-founding P.S. Eliot (with sister Katie, who went on to Waxahatchee). B+(**)
Tim Daisy: October Music Vol. 2: 7 Compositions for Duet (2016, Relay): Chicago avant drummer, composed seven pieces, each played with a different duet partner: Andrew Clinkman (guitar), Mars Williams (soprano sax), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello/electronics), Ryan Packard (drums), Russ Johnson (trumpet), Aaron Zarzutzki (synthesizer), and Clark Sommers (bass). Gets something distinctive out of each. While the first three can be scratchy, the finale (where Daisy plays marimba and turntable) is almost pretty. B+(**) [bc]
Carla dal Forno: You Know What It's Like (2016, Blackest Ever Black): Singer-songwriter, from Australia, based in Berlin, mostly electronics. "The vocal-led pieces are interspersed with richly evocative instrumentals, like Eno's Another Green World reimagined in shades of brown and blue." In other words, much less appetizing, but not without interest. And short: eight cuts, 29:18. B+(*)
Death Grips: Bottomless Pit (2016, Third Worlds/Harvest): Thrash noise band that passes for hip-hop because they rap, probably because they'd have trouble keeping up singing. Over a handful of albums since 2011, they've moved from interesting to annoying to possesing a unique and vigorous sound, one I'm getting acclimated to. B+(*)
Jon De Lucia Group: As the River Sings (2014 , Fresh Sound New Talent): New York-based saxophonist, originally from Massachusetts, plays alto sax, alto clarinet, clarinet, flute, and ruri box here, leading a quartet with electric guitar (Greg Ruggiero), acoustic bass (Chris Tordini), and drums (Tommy Crane). Nice tone and flow. B+(***) [cdr]
Olegario Diaz: Aleph in Chromatic (2015 , SteepleChase): Pianist from Velezuela, studied in America, discography dates from 1992, last four albums on this Danish mainstream label. Mostly originals, formally postbop but with an extra percussionist (Nené Quintero), Alex Sipiagin flashy on trumpet, Bobby Franceschini versatile on tenor sax and flute. B+(**)
Élage Diouf: Melokáane (2015, Pump Up the World): From Senegal, born El Hadji Fall Diouf, toured as half of the Diouf Brothers before settling in Montreal and going solo. The fast ones remind me of N'Dour or Ade, and while he's certainly not in their league, he can sweep you away. A-
DJ Diamond: Footwork or Die (2016, |Duck N' Cover): Chicago DJ Karlis Griffin, third or fourth album. Maybe I'm confused but doesn't the concept behind footwork have something to do with moving one's feet? Lines repeat, squiggles intervene, beats pretty static. B-
Dvsn: Sept. 5th (2016, OVO Sound/Warner Brothers): Canadian r&b duo, singer Daniel Dayley and producer Anthony Paul Jefferies (dba Nineteen85). B+(*)
Mark Ernestus' Ndagga Rhythm Force: Yermande (2016, Ndagga): German DJ, owns a record store in Berlin that specializes in dub imports, released a couple previous albums with Senegalese drum collective Jeri-Jeri, this group growing out of that one. Not such an obvious "rhythm force," the drums mixed way down along with Mbene Diatta Seck's vocals -- yet somehow they draw you in. B+(**)
Bill Evans/Scottish National Jazz Orchestra: Beauty & the Beast (2011 , Spartacus): Tommy Smith's main project for nearly a decade, although he takes a back seat here to the guest, who in turn leads on soprano rather than his usual tenor sax. Evans gained some recognition in the 1980s playing with Miles Davis, and has released twenty-some albums since, but I can't say as I've noticed him much. The piece itself was written by Smith, big band flourishes arrayed into a suite of seven parts. B+(**)
Factory Floor: 25 25 (2016, DFA): British duo, Gabriel Gurnsey (drum machines) and Nik Colk (guitar, electronics, machine-like vocals), aim at "post-industrial" -- I guess that means mechanics toned down to pastoral levels. Not much range but resonates with me. A-
Fantastic Negrito: The Last Days of Oakland (2016, Blackball Universe): Xavier Dphrepaulezz, father a Somali-Caribbean immigrant in Massachusetts, family moved to Oakland when he was 12. After an apprenticeship in drug dealing and robbery, he tried making his way as a musician, to much frustration until he won a prize at NPR for a video and wound up cutting this album of blues-funk -- probably best the straighter the blues, or the more they evoke Led Zeppelin. B+(***)
Nick Finzer: Hear & Now (2016 , Outside In Music): Trombonist, at least one previous record, this a postbop sextet with Lucas Pino on tenor sax and bass clarinet, both guitar and piano, plus bass and drums. Bright and lively. B+(*) [cd]
The Flat Five: It's a World of Love and Hate (2016, Bloodshot): Billed as "a Chicago-based vocal super-group," the only name I recognize there is Kelly Hogan but maybe you'll have better luck: Nora O'Connor, Scott Ligon, Casey McDonough, Alex Hall. Very lightweight, sweet even. B-
Daniel Freedman: Imagine That (2016, Anzic): Drummer, New York native, first album, hornless quintet, the focus on worldly rhythm with Lionel Loueke (guitar), Jason Lindner (keyboards), Omer Avital (bass/oud), and Gitmar Gomes (percussion) -- perhaps the best showing I've heard from Loueke (although his vocals aren't exactly a plus). B+(***)
Satoko Fujii: Invisible Hand (2016 , Cortez Sound, 2CD): One of the most prolific jazz pianists of the past two decades, lately it seems her piano has receded into her explosive big bands and odder avant-folk projects (where, among other things, she's distinguished herself on accordion). But this solo set -- two discs but only 87:33 -- is less a return to basics than a maturing reflection on her craft: where she used to get our attention with pyrotechnics, here she favors richly detailed melodies, and that works as well. A- [cd]
Joana Gama/Luís Fernandes/Richardo Jacinto: Harmonies (2016 , Shhpuma): Portuguese pianist, unconventional trio with Jacinto on cello and both electronics. The music is "inspired" by Erik Satie, performed on his 150th anniversary, which may be reflected in its tight miniaturism, although its post-industrial aura is something else. B+(***) [cd]
Jean-Brice Godet: Lignes De Crętes (2016 , Clean Feed): Clarinet player, also credited with "radio, dictaphones," leads trio with Pascal Niggenkemper (double bass, objects) and Sylvain Darrifourcq (drums, percussion, zither). Four pieces: "No Border," "No Logo," "No God," "No Fear" -- a remarkable melange of sounds, though it takes some focus to catch them all. B+(***) [cd]
Frank Gratkowski/Alexey Kruglov/Simon Nabatov/Oleg Yudanov: Leo Records 35th Anniversary Moscow (2014 , Leo): Russian emigré Leo Feigin established his avant-jazz label in London in 1979, and from the start had an inside track on the very underground jazz scene in Soviet Russia, most notably introducing the west the Ganelin Trio to the west. Three Russians in this quartet, two alto saxophonists, piano, and drums. Rough and rather angry, most emphatically the pianist. B+(*)
Josh Green & the Cyborg Orchestra: Telepathy & Bop (2016 , self-released): A little short of a big band in the brass section (two each trumpet and trombone), five reeds less brassy too (two saxes, but bass clarinet instead of baritone; also flute and oboe, plus most double on clarinet), but the rhythm section adds accordion to guitar-piano-bass-drums, plus there's a string section. This gives the composer-arranger lots of options, and if you bother to listen closely enough you'll find lots of clever little details. B+(*) [cd]
Rich Halley/Carson Halley: The Wild (2015 , Pine Eagle): Tenor saxophonist from Oregon, got my attention with his 2004 album Mountains and Plains and hasn't let up since. Duets with his drummer son bring his fierce creativity to the fore. A bit of otherworldly wood flute too. A- [cd]
The Hamilton Mixtape (2016, Atlantic): I limited my exposure to the Original Broadway Cast Recording, so never got caught up in Lin-Manuel Miranda's peculiar world. Indeed, I've long viewed Alexander Hamilton as a martinet who aspired to be Napoleon or at least one of his most trusted generals, so I have trouble picturing him as an abolitionist and champion of immigrants. Still, given that we now finally have a president as corrupt and vain as the villain of this play, Aaron Burr, I see some value in turning the tables. I should also note that freed from having to carry a narrative, Mixtape makes a fair case for some of the songs outlasting their context. B+(***)
Jesca Hoop: Memories Are Now (2017, Sub Pop): Singer-songwriter from California, seventh album since 2007, a name I've run across before but hadn't checked out. Reality-based (i.e., folk-ish), just not sure how well this reads as literature, but it impresses me musically, some pop hooks and rhythmic tricks, bits that sound like everyone from the Roches to Kate Bush and like no one else at all. A-
The Hotelier: Goodness (2016, Tiny Engines): Indie rock trio (guitar-bass-drums) from Worcester, MA. Third album, a little heavy on the drums and anguished in Christian Holden's vocals, but if you don't listen closely they sound a fair amount like Hold Steady. Cover art obscured by Napster, but no idea whether that's because nudity offends them, or it's just that the people naked aren't especially attractive. B+(*)
Injury Reserve: Live From the Dentist Office (2015, Las Fuegas): Hip-hop group from Tempe, Arizona, two rappers (Steppa J. Groggs and Ritchie With a T) and producer Parker Corey. First album. A bit scattered, although the most obvious titles ("Yo," "Wow") deliver the beats. B+(**) [sc]
Injury Reserve: Floss (2016, Las Fuegas): Arizona hip-hop trio, lead song is "Oh Shit!!!" and it makes for a pretty infectious sing-along. B+(***)
Kayo Dot: Plastic House on Base of Sky (2016, The Flenser): Experimental rock group from Boston, released their first album in 2003 on Tzadik and are up to ten now. This one topped one 2016 EOY list and was ignored by all the rest. Some kind of prog or psychedelia, time often uncertain, gloom and doom more common. B
Amirtha Kidambi/Elder Ones: Holy Science (2016, Northern Spy): Bandcamp page attributes this to the group, but the singer-songwriter's name appears first on the cover, in smaller print probably because it is longer. She has sung on several avant projects -- The Sound of Animals Fighting, Seven Teares, Darius Jones' The Oversoul Manual, Robert Ashley's Crash. Also plays harmonium here, with Matt Nelson (soprano sax), Brandon Lopez (bass), and Max Jaffe (drums). I know it takes considerable virtuosity to sing to such abstract music, and with that virtuosity comes operatic tics I can't stand, but it's semi-remarkable anyway. B+(*)
Dave King Trucking Company: Surrounded by the Night (2016, Sunnyside): Bad Plus/Happy Apple drummer, third album for this group: Eric Fratzke (guitar), Chris Morrissey (bass), Chris Speed (tenor sax/clarinet), Brandon Wozniak (tenor sax). Mostly postbop, but last cut rocks out. B+(**)
Kirk Knuffke/Jesse Stacken: Satie (2015 , SteepleChase): Erik Satie is one of the few classical composers I've been able to listen to without wretching, partly, I'm sure, because I've never heard anything long or complicated -- mostly short piano miniatures. I suspect these cornet-piano duets take liberties, especially as I look at the timings. B
Kool A.D.: Official (2016, self-released, EP): Rapper Victor Vazquez, ex-Das Racist, releases albums in bunches -- I see ten releses for 2016, but this is the only one I've seen noticed elsewhere. Upbeat, cheerful, I guess they call that hyphy. Seven cuts, 26:20. B+(**) [bc]
Michel Lambert: Alom Mola (2016 , Jazz From Rant): Canadian drummer, most often seen accompanying François Carrier, has a handful of records on his own. This one veers toward classical with its string quartet, but adds percussive roughness, lovely bits of piano (Alexandre Grogg) or sax (Michel Côté), and an intriguing vocal by Jeannette Lambert. B+(***) [cd]
Jihye Lee Orchestra: April (2016 , self-released): Korean composer, studied at Berklee and is based in Boston, composed this to commemorate the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster. She leads a 28-piece orchestra made up of Berklee faculty -- can't read the fine print, but Sean Jones is featured (flugelhorn), and Lee is credited with voice (although I can't say as I noticed). Hype sheet describes this as "lavish, heart-wrenching inspiration" -- not my idea of a recommendation. B- [cd]
Okkyung Lee & Christian Marclay: Amalgam (2014 , Northern Spy): Cello and turntables, one long (36:20) cut, the electronics even squeakier than the cello. B
Jens Lekman: Life Will See You Now (2016, Secretly Canadian): Swedish singer-songwriter, fourth album, has developed into quite the melodist -- reminds me of Paul Simon, both in his skill level and how derivative it all seems, although he could still pick up some rhythmic tricks. He doesn't annoy me like Simon -- seems like a nice, fairly well adjusted guy -- but I also find him easier to be indifferent about. B+(***)
Daniel Levin Quartet: Live at Firehouse 12 (2016 , Clean Feed): Cellist, lines up a neat little chamber jazz quartet here with viola (Mat Maneri), bass (Torbjörn Zetterberg), with no drums but a splash of vibes (Matt Moran). B+(**) [cd]
James Brandon Lewis Trio: No Filter (2016, BNS Sessions): Tenor saxophonist, has a couple impressive albums on a major label, goes low rent here, just bass (Luke Stewart) and drums (Warren Trae Crudup III) to highlight his leads. But then he adds a little rap and scat, the former showing promise, the latter squandering it. B+(**)
Brian Lynch: Madera Latino (2012 , Hollistic MusicWorks, 2CD): Subtitled "A Latin Jazz Interpretation on the Music of Woody Shaw." Trumpet player, has a strong Latin Jazz résumé, draws the support of eight additional trumpet players for this project -- scattered about, but (for example) the opener features Dave Douglas, Etienne Charles, and Diego Urcola. The band consists of the Curtis brothers, Zaccai (piano) and Luques (bass), plus a tag team of up to four percussionists (Pedrito Martinez, Little Johnny Rivero, and Anthony Carrilo on that first cut, but Obed Calvaire plays drums on most of the rest). The rhythm rarely reaches a rolling boil, but this is really a feast for trumpet(s). B+(***)
Martha: Blisters in the Pit of My Heart (2016, Dirtnap): Indie power pop band from County Durham in the north of England, Housemartins territory, self-described as "queer, vegan, and anarchist." Second album, not sure the politics are sharp and clear enough (certainly not up to Housemartins standards), but as group rock goes probably the best I've heard since Parquet Courts. A-
Mark Masters Ensemble: Blue Skylight (2015-16 , Capri): Arranger, runs a non-profit called American Jazz Institute, has recorded close to a dozen albums built on various songbooks from Duke Ellington to Steely Dan. Here he turns his attention to Charles Mingus and Gerry Mulligan with a skeletal 7- or 9-piece big band (four saxes both ways, plus trumpet and trombone on 5/11 cuts. B+(**) [cd]
Chelsea McBride's Socialist Night School: The Twilight Fall (2016 , Browntasaurus): Young (age 24) Toronto composer-conductor-tenor saxophonist, runs a 19-piece big band prominently featuring singer Alex Samaras. Impressed by the music, including a bit built around electric guitar/keyb/bass. Much less so the singer/songs. B+(*) [cd]
Leyla McCalla: A Day for the Hunter, a Day for the Prey (2016, Jazz Village): Folksinging cellist, born in New York, parents Haitian, former member of Carolina Chocolate Drops, second album, some songs in French or Haitian Creole. B+(**)
Cass McCombs: Mangy Love (2016, Anti-): Singer-songwriter from California, ninth album since 2003. Good natured, competent, not especially interesting. B
Merso: Red World (2016, Good to Die): Seattle "dusky post rock quartet," Tristan Sennholz plays guitar and sings. Cover looks prog, and they run the title cut on for 20:49, but it holds up fine. Should also note The Bernie Sanders 2016 EP, actually a two-cut single they released during the primary season. B+(**)
Billy Mintz: Ugly Beautiful (2015 , Thirteenth Note, 2CD): Drummer, started out on avant albums with Vinny Golia, this is more mainstream, a sprawling project which shows many facets. Two tenor saxes (John Gross and Tony Malaby), Roberta Piket on piano and Hilliard Greene on bass, plus guest alto sax on one track. B+(**) [cd]
Moksha: The Beauty of an Arbitrary Moment (2016, Jazzland): Norway-based trio -- Oddrun Lilja Jonsdottir (guitar) does most of the writing, with percussionists Sanskriti Shrestha (tabla, bulbul tarang, voice) and Tore Flatjord (darbuka, djembe, shaker, dhol) -- debut album. Mostly Indian rhythms, the guitar works similar to a sitar. B+(*)
Donny Most: Mostly Swinging (2016 , Summit): Small-time actor, had a cast role on Happy Days, has lately retooled himself into a Sinatra-esque saloon singer -- actually, his "My Darling Clementine" reminds me more of Bobby Darin, but I'm admitting he's credible, the band is big and brassy (Wayne Bergeron leads the trumpets, although they packed in a string section for good measure). B+(**) [cd]
Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Loafer's Hollow (2016 , Hot Cup): Since Peter Evans left bassist Moppa Elliott's "bebop terrorist" quintet, their mischief has gravitating toward pre-bop (one hesitates to call it trad) jazz. And they've been picking up extra members: Ron Stabinsky at piano, Dave Taylor on bass trombone, Brandon Seabrook on banjo and electronics, and most notably Steven Bernstein on trumpet (with or without slide). A- [cd]
The MUH Trio [Roberto Magris/Frantisek Uhlir/Jaromir Helesic]: Prague After Dark (2016 , JMood): Piano trio, bassist and drummer presumably picked up in Prague, although Uhlir came with two songs. Mostly Magris originals, but covers from Herbie Nichols and Don Pullen are telling, and add to a fine outing. B+(***) [cdr]
Tisziji Muńoz: Tathagata Guitar: Whisperings of Peace (2016, Anami Music): American guitarist, b. 1946 in Brooklyn, based in Schenectady, has many dozens of albums since 1978, could be a major SFFR. This one showed up in a EOY list, and I can't find any info or credits (although it seems to be stocked by dozens of retailers. With bass and drums, I think: three long pieces with ripping leads; still interesting in the middle piece when he lets up. B+(***)
Tisziji Muńoz: Heart Ground (2016, Anami Music): Another of the seven albums the guitarist released in 2016, this one adding John Medeski (on piano) to his rhythm section. While Medeski is fast and florid, that doesn't seem to help the guitar. B+(*)
Doug Munro and La Pompe Attack: The Harry Warren Songbook (2016 , GotMusic): Guitarist, did a previous album called A Very Gypsy Christmas which suggests he's a Django Reinhardt acolyte. Group revolves through four sessions, including bass, sometimes violin, plus up to two more guitarists at any given time (four are credited, Howard Alden is the one you probably know). Picks through more than a dozen great songs, starting with "Lullaby of Birdland." B+(***) [cd]
Brad Myers & Michael Sharfe: Sanguinaria (Hopefulsongs) (2016 , Colloquy): Guitar and bass, respectively, several variants each, percussion too. Mostly duo, but song songs have guests on drums and/or percussion. Intricate, pleasant, hopeful. B+(*) [cd]
Qasim Naqvi: Chronology (2016, New Amsterdam): Pakistani, based in Brooklyn where he plays drums in the avant-jazz piano trio Dawn of Midi, tries his hand at electronic music. Six cuts, no times given, strikes me as short. Uneventful too. B
Old 97's: Graveyard Whistling (2017, ATO): Rhett Miller's guitar band when he's not doing something solo, dating back to 1994, this album almost light and frothy, at least once you get past the Jesus/God songs and into "Irish Whiskey Pretty Girls." B+(***)
Oui' 3: Occupy Your Mind (2016 , ITI): Quasi-fusion trio -- Billy Joe Wiseman (sitar, guitars, synth guitars), Lou Castro (fretted & fretless basses), Jim Xavier (drums) -- everyone sings some. Long suit is groove, making this listenable but not very interesting. B [cd]
Keith Oxman: East of the Village (2016 , Capri): Tenor saxophonist, leads a trio with Jeff Jenkins on organ and Todd Reid on drums. Basically a soul jazz move, mostly bright and upbeat. B+(**) [cd]
Jason Palmer: Beauty 'N' Numbers: The Sudoku Suite (2015 , SteepleChase): Trumpet player, leads a quartet with guitar (Mike Moreno), bass, and drums through 16 named sections, adding up to 75:76. Nice trumpet, nicely set up. B+(**)
Hannah Peel: Awake but Always Dreaming (2016, My Own Pleasure): Singer-songwriter from Northern Ireland, second album, electropop but rather glum. B
Florian Pellissier Quintet: Cap De Bonne Esperance (2016, Heavenly Sweetness): French pianist, discography goes back to 2006, fourth Quintet album, a standard alignment with trumpet, sax, bass, and drums. Fast ones boppish, slow ones seductive, throws in an uncredited vocal at the end ("What a Difference a Day Makes" -- a nice touch. B+(**)
Luis Perdomo: Spirits and Warriors (2016, Criss Cross): Venezuelan pianist, well established in Latin jazz but this is a pretty straightforward hard bop lineup: Alex Sipiagin (trumpet/flugelhorn), Mark Shim (tenor sax/EWI), Ugonna Okegwo (bass), Billy Hart (drums). Title piece is an original six-part suite, followed by covers of Clifford Jordan and Hermeto Pascoal. B+(**)
Awa Poulo: Poulo Warali (2016 , Awesome Tapes From Africa): From southwestern Mali, Fulani, a language/people which spans a stretch of the sub-Saharan Sahel from Guinea to Nigeria. B+(**)
Noah Preminger: Meditations on Freedom (2016 , self-released): Tenor saxophonist, has made a strong impression since his 2008 debut, leads a two-horn quartet here with Jason Palmer getting a lot of lead space on trumpet. Covers from Dylan, Sam Cooke, George Harrison and Bruce Hornsby, along with originals with titles like "We Have a Dream," "Women's March," "The 99 Percent," "Broken Treaties." B+(***) [cd]
Primal Scream: Chaosmosis (2016, First International/Ignition): Scottish band, founded in 1982. I've never heard their early albums, which I guess were something else, but from 1997's Vanishing Point on they've been an electropop band, indeed one that sounds like it came out of the 1980s, not as much fun as the Pet Shop Boys but a good deal deeper than Duran Duran. B+(**)
Quantic Presenta Flowering Inferno: 1000 Watts (2016, Tru Thoughts): Will Holland, DJ born in England, based in New York after several years in Colombia, has twenty albums under various aliases, this the third as Flowering Inferno, some sort of reggae/dub concept, slightly removed. Mostly instrumentals, pretty enjoyable; occasional vocals, like the title song, work too. B+(**)
Renegades of Jazz: Moyo Wangu (2016, Agogo): Led by David Hanke, German, spent childhood years in Tanzania. Starts closer to Africa, but in the end turns into little more than a good groove. B+(***)
The Reunion Project: Veranda (2016 , Tapestry): Names listed on the front cover: Tiago Costa (piano), Edu Ribeiro (drums), Bruno Migotto (bass), Chico Pinheiro (guitar), Felipes Salles (tenor and soprano sax, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet), all Brazilians (though at least the best known ones, Pinheiro and Salles, have Boston connections). All contribute songs (as does Jerome Kern). Relaxed, sinuous beat with slinky guitar and tasteful sax. B+(**) [cd]
Stephen Riley & Peter Zak: Haunted Heart (2014 , SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, mainstream, has recorded on SteepleChase since 2005, paired here with the pianist for bare bones duets. Riley blows softly, almost a whisper, containing the intimacy, which the piano complements nicely. B+(**)
Stephen Riley/Peter Zak: Deuce (2014 , SteepleChase): More tenor sax/piano duets, recorded the same time as their previous Haunted Heart, this time working a few originals (three Riley, one Zak) into the standards mix. Riley may be the softest tenor I've ever heard, but the understated approach works, especially warming up a standard like "Without a Song." B+(***)
Carrie Rodriguez: Lola (2016, Luz): Singer-songwriter, born in Texas (as was her father, folksinger David Rodriguez), cut some records with Chip Taylor then moved on to a solo career. Mexican roots, of course, which she indulges in more than usual this time. B+(*)
Roosevelt: Roosevelt (2016, City Slang): Marius Lauber, German electropop singer-songwriter, constructs wry songs with lush synths. B+(*)
The Sadies: Northern Passages (2017, Yep Roc): Country-ish band from Toronto, been around since the mid-1990s. Memorable song title: "God Bless the Infidels." Forgettable guest star: Kurt Vile. B+(*)
Sampha: Process (2017, Young Turks): Sampha Sisay, born in London, original singer in SBTRKT, first album after two EPs. Somewhere between trip hop and nu soul, evidently very fashionable -- album has an 86 score at Metacritic -- although most of it slips right past me. B+(*)
Sao Paulo Underground: Cantos Invisiveis (2016, Cuneiform): Sister city group, shares Rob Mazurek (cornet, keyboards, percussion) with Chicago Underground, the locals being Mauricio Takara (mostly drums), Guilherme Granado (mostly keyboards), and Thomas Rohrer (rabeca, flutes, soprano sax, electronics, percussion). Dense, complex, intensely rhythmic, closer to hip-hop than to MPB but even that's a stretch. B+(**) [dl]
Scarcity of Tanks: Ringleader Lies (2016, Total Life Society): Cleveland postpunk group, 7th album since 2008, actually a rather massive effort with 22 songs (5 topping 4 minutes, the longest an unpunkish 5:56) and (even more unpunklike) 17 musicians on the credits list (mostly guitar-bass-drums, a couple keyboards, a bit of violin, some percussion -- recognizable names include Nels Cline, Lee Ranaldo, and Mike Watt). Still sounds punkish. B+(**)
Luke Sellick: Alchemist (2016 , Cellar Live): Bassist, from "the rich and eclectic musical climate of Winnipeg, Canada," after a spell at Juilliard currently based in "Harlem, NYC." Relaxed, friendly postbop, with Andrew Renfroe on guitar, either of two drummers, and a rotating horde of horn players (tenor saxophonist Jimmy Greene probably the best known). B+(**) [cd]
Skee Mask: Shred (2016, Ilian Tape): DJ/producer from Munich, Germany, has managed thus far to keep his name private. First album after a couple singles, basically just sketchy rhythm tracks, slight variances in gloss. Still works fine. B+(**)
Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra: Effervescence (2016 , Spartacus): Big band, a project of the Scottish tenor saxophonist, playing repertoire from Woody Herman and Dizzy Gillespie to Chick Corea, a very "youth jazz" thing to do. Smith isn't listed among the saxophonists, but as director and producer. B+(**)
Snakehips: All My Friends EP (2016, Sony Music, EP): British electronica duo, Oliver Lee and James Carter, second EP (four cuts, 13:34), shows off some impressive friends: Tinashe, Chance the Rapper, Anderson .Paak, Malika, Tory Lanez. Songs have some depth and resonance, too. B+(***)
Snakehips: Forever (Pt. II) EP (2015, Sony Music, EP): First EP, also four cuts, 14:37, makes a case for their electronic swish and song craft but the featured vocalists are less than famous: Kaleem Taylor, SYD, Sasha Keable, Daniella T.A.O.L. B+(*)
Sneaks: Gymnastics (2016, Merge, EP): DC group, singer Eva Moolchan, bass and drum machine, minimalist postpunk without anger or frenzy or even much flash, compressing ten songs into a rather satisfying 13:45. B+(*)
Dele Sosimi Meets Prince Fatty & Nostalgia 77: You No Fit Touch Am in Dub (2016, Wah Wah 45s): Afrobeat keyboardist, born in London, parents Nigerian, played with Fela (1979-86) and his successors, his 2015 album forming the base for this live dub remix. B+(**)
Dele Sosimi: You No Fit Touch Am (2015, Wah Wah 45s): The previous year's album: hold the dub echo, bring the guitar and horns forward, you're squarely in Afrobeat territory, even if the songs only run 6:10-9:04. Tuneful, political, learned a lot working with the Kuti clan. B+(***)
Hiromi Suda: Nagi (2015 , BluJazz): Japanese singer, based in New York, third album, wrote six (of thirteen) songs, the rest Brazilian including two Jobims and one Veloso. The latter dominate the album, no small thanks to guitarist Romero Lubambo, with Anne Drummond (flute), Julian Shore (piano), bass and drums helping out. B+(*) [cd]
Thee Oh Sees: A Weird Exits (2016, Castle Face): Rock band from San Francisco, dates back to 1997 although their early albums were released as OCS (which seems to have had several meanings). They have a dozen albums since 2008, counting a sub-30-minute follow-up to this called An Odd Entrances. With its long instrumental jams and occasional whiffs of the SF bands who invented the genre, this probably qualifies as psychedelia. Easy to hear why they have a following, not that I'm so inclined. B+(*) [yt]
Throttle Elevator Music: IV (2014-16 , Wide Hive): LA-based quintet, fourth album, can bounce between deep funk and avant noise, and are probably best when they do both. Bassist Matt Montgomery writes the songs, guitarist Gregory Howe produces, both occasionally play keyboards, but most notable are the horns: Erik Jekabson (trumpet, flugelhorn) and superstar Kamasi Washington (sax). B+(**)
Throttle Elevator Music: Retrorespective (2016 , Wide Hive): Expecting a compilation -- not a bad idea given saxophonist Kamasi Washington's recent breakout stardom -- but the cover actually notes "New Songs From" and re-reading the title uncovered a twist. Group gets a new drummer (Thomas McCree) and adds guitarist Ava Mendoza, but more importantly they open up the throttle on the horns. B+(***)
Tinariwen: Elwan (2016, Anti-): From northeast Mali, which is to say the vast Saharan heartland, though they've long since moved on, finding a convivial desert studio in California near Joshua Tree National Park, convenient for various semi-famous musicians (only one I recognize is Kurt Vile) to drop in and dissolve into what's more than ever trance music. Hard to differentiate among their eight albums, but this one lacks the frenzy I recall, yet doesn't suffer for that. A-
Trouble Kaze: June (2016 , Circum-Disc): Kaze was a Satoko Fujii project, with Natsuki Tamura (trumpet), Christian Pruvost (trumpet), and Peter Orrins (drums), with three albums together. This group doubles up on piano (Sophie Agnel) and drums (Didier Lasserre) as well as trumpet, and sounds like someone is mixing some electronics in. Joint credits, five untitled parts. I find the long sub-audible stretches annoying, but the noise (when it appears) isn't without merit. B+(*) [cd]
Yves Tumor: Serpent Music (2016, Pan): Sean Bowie, raised in Tennessee, based in Turin, Italy, second album, electronica that undulates suggestively, unable to get up and dance. B+(*)
Baron Tymas: Montréal (2015 , Tymasmusic): Guitarist, third album, grooveful, Joshua Rager's piano adds to the lushness, guest vocal doesn't help, guest trumpet does. B+(*)
Ryley Walker: Golden Sings That Have Been Sung (2016, Dead Oceans): Singer-songwriter from Rockford, IL -- I keep forgetting that because he regularly scores much higher on British EOY lists. But then I also file him under folk, probably because of his first label (Tompkins Square) and that's clearly wrong, even if his songcraft is rooted in realism. Album ends with a 41:01 live version of "Sullen Mind" which sounds closer to jazz (excluding the rare vocals but with a noise crackup). Probably best to treat the latter as a free bonus (it fills up sides 3 & 4 of the LP). B+(*)
David Weiss & Point of Departure: Wake Up Call (2015 , Ropeadope): Trumpet player, a postbop figure the New Jazz Composers Octet but a hard bopper with the Cookers, fourth album with Point of Departure although the band has no constants other than the leader, and the tenor sax (Myron Walden or JD Allen) and one of the guitar slots (Travis Reuter or Nir Felder) are split here -- Ben Eunson evidently plays throughout, and his blistering solo on the opener sets the pace, which remains torrid throughout. In fact, front cover is illustrated with guitar and trumpet, so that seems to be the concept. A- [cd]
The XX: I See You (2017, Young Turks): Most sources lowercase xx, although typographically the albums always looked to use multiplication signs if you want to get pedantic about it. Looks close enough to uppercase for me. Tough for me to judge: the hooks slip in with barely a notice, aside from one song ("On Hold") which will wind up among the year's most surefire hits. A-
Peter Zak: Standards (2014 , SteepleChase): Pianist, from Ohio, based in New York, has about a dozen albums since 1989, this a trio with Jay Anderson (bass) and Billy Drummond (drums), playing ten standards. B+(*)
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
African Head Charge: Return of the Crocodile (1981-85 , On-U Sound): Adrian Sherwood dub project, "unreleased tracks and version excursions" between their debut (My Life in a Hole in the Ground) and their best known (Off the Beaten Path). Mostly trivia, but "Low Protein Snack" is a choice cut. B+(**)
Bitori: Legend of Funana: The Forbidden Music of the Cape Verde Islands (1997 , Analog Africa): Victor Tavares, who left Cabo Verde in the 1950s for Sao Tomé & Principe and returned in 1997 with an accordion, reviving a Cabo Verdean style that had been banned by the Portuguese colonial rulers. B+(***)
J Dilla: The Diary (2001-02 , Mass Appeal/Pay Jay): James Yancey, died in 2006 at age 32 (thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura), better known as producer than rapper, although he raps on these tracks, meant to be his mainstream debut. Not sure how much was released at the time -- certainly the single "Fuck the Police," which comes with (but doesn't quite earn) a disclaimer. B+(*)
Doing it in Lagos: Boogie, Pop & Disco in 1980's Nigeria (1979-84 , Soundway, 2CD): Uncertain about the years, but that's all the label talks about online. Deep dumpster diving, 21 artists and tracks I've never heard of, the fad of the moment being to mimic American pop, with Peter Abdul doing an amusing Michael Jackson. The disco is pretty mediocre, but this gets more interesting when they start tuning into P-Funk (e.g., Rik Asikpo's "Too Hot"). B
Anna Homler and Steve Moshier: Breadwoman & Other Tales (1985-93 , RVNG Intl): Homler is a performance artist. She developed her Breadwoman character -- a face covered with a loaf of bread -- in 1982, and used it for her first album. Moshier is a composer, mostly working in Liquid Skin Ensemble. Hard to pin this down, a bit like Laurie Anderson only less witty, not to mention less catchy. B+(**)
Arthur Lipner: Two Hands One Heart: Best of Arthur Lipner (1990-2014 , Malletworks Media, 2CD): Vibraphonist, also plays marimba, picks through nine albums here, divided into "acoustic" and "electric" discs. The former is predictably lighter, skimming on its groove, the latter similar with a few more twists. Makes for a couple hours of more than pleasant listening. B+(**) [cd]
Meridian Brothers V: El Advenimiento Del Castillo Mujer (2005 , Discrepant): Vinyl reissue of the Colombian group's first album, recorded in Copenhagen by "core member" Eblis Alvarez, "abstract folk music" sounding remarkably disjointed -- recommended especially to fans of Tom Zé. A-
New York Noise: Dance Music From the New York Underground 1977-1982 (1977-82 , Soul Jazz): Starts roughly where Brian Eno's No New York sessions left off -- Contortions and Mars included here, plus a later cut by DNA's Arto Lindsay -- and follows as "no wave" bands edge closer to a dance pulse, still keep it close and subtle -- no one here wants to be mistaken for disco. B+(**)
Joe Newman Sextet: The Happy Cats (1956 , Fresh Sound): Trumpet player from New Orleans, played with Lionel Hampton, Illinois Jacquet, and for 13 years Count Basie with a couple dozen albums leading his own small groups (while not straying far: one of the best was called The Count's Men). With Frank Wess (tenor sax/flute), Frank Rehak (trombone), Johnny Acea (piano), Eddie Jones (bass), and Connie Kay (drums), plus some extra tracks. Easy swing, maybe too easy. B+(*)
Senegal 70: Sonic Gems and Previously Unreleased Recordings From the 70s (1970s , Analog Africa): In 2009 Adamantios Kafetzis trekked to Senegal with a machine to digitize music which Moussa Diallo had recorded over four decades in Thičs, yielding "300 Senegalese songs that nobody had ever heard before." Five made the cut here, along with some less obscure period bands. Trivia, sure, but picks up over the second half. B+(**)
Sky Girl (1961-91 , Efficient Space): Compiled by two French DJs, Julien Dechery and DJ Sundae, with fifteen songs I've never heard of, plays like a soundtrack to a relationship movie that isn't bad so much as achingly normal. B+(*)
Anthony Braxton: Quintet (London) 2004: Live at the Royal Festival Hall (2004 , Leo): Playing "Composition 343" (if you're counting), with Taylor Ho Bynum (trumpet), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Chris Dahlgren (bass), and Satoshi Takeishi (percussion). Took some extra volume to bring out the details, and most of what's interesting here is detail, as the piece doesn't exactly move. B+(**)
Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Moscow) 2008 (2008, Leo): Appears on Napster as Composition 367b, which is indeed the title of the main (70:04) piece, followed by a short (3:-1) "Encore." With Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet to valve trombone), Katherine Young (bassoon), and Mary Halvorson (electric guitar). Three horns skews the balance, especially as the guitar gets little solo space. The sort of abstraction that makes his compositions so difficult, with occasional flashes of the chops which can make them exciting. B+(**)
Avishai Cohen's Triveni: Dark Nights (2014, Anzic): Trumpet player from Israel, brother of Anat Cohen, not the bassist, probably has ten albums so far in various groups, this the third Triveni. Core group a trumpet trio with Omer Avital (bass) and Nasheet Waits (drums) although three tracks have guests: two each for Anat Cohen (clarinet) and Gerald Clayton (keyboards). Covers include "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," "Lush Life," and with a Keren Ann vocal, "I Fall in Love Too Easily." B+(**) [bc]
James Luther Dickinson: Dixie Fried (1972, Atlantic): Memphis blues-rocker, died in 2009, Christgau liked (a little) his late albums but never weighed in on his debut (and only album up to 1997), expanded to 16 cuts and reissued by Light in the Attic in 2016. But Napster only offers 9 tracks, the original album. He draws his vocal clues and boogie moves from Jerry Lee Lewis, and they work best when he escapes the background singers that clutter up the first part of the album. Not a lost classic, but potential . . . botched. B
James Luther Dickinson: Jungle Jim and the Voodoo Tiger (2006, Memphis International): He spent the intervening decades producing and compiling records, collecting songs and letting his voice go to pot, playing in bands like Mudboy and the Neutrons and Raisins in the Sun. He released a live one in 1997 and a studio one in 2002, and finally landed on a label built for him. B+(**)
James Luther Dickinson: Dinosaurs Run in Circles (2009, Memphis International): Last album (unless you count the one that came out in 2012, three years post-mortem, I'm Just Dead I'm Not Gone). First time I really noticed his piano playing, probably because he's never taken it this easy before -- more Moon Mullican than Jerry Lee, and I'm happier for that. B+(**)
Jens Lekman: When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog (2004, Secretly Canadian): First album, seems low-budget and straightforward, quietly observant, a bit sweet. He sings the title like he's never heard of the Stooges, but the sentiment isn't as far removed as the music. B+(*)
Brian Lynch Sextet: Peer Pressure (1986 , Criss Cross): First album, age 30, shows how well developed his trumpet was, a bright spot in an impressive postbop lineup: Ralph Moore (tenor sax), Jim Snidero (alto sax), Kirk Lightsey (piano), Jay Anderson (bass), Victor Lewis (drums). I was going to say no hint of his Latin Jazz interest, but then he took Horace Silver's "The Outlaw" out for a spin and got hooked. B+(**)
Brian Lynch Quintet: Back Room Blues (1989 , Criss Cross): Effectively a hard bop record, powered by a superb retro rhythm section (David Hazeltine, Peter Washington, Lewis Nash), with potent Javon Jackson on tenor sax, though there's no doubt the leader is the man with the trumpet. B+(**)
Brian Lynch: Spheres of Influence (1997, Sharp Nine): Still trying to mix it up, with pianist David Kikoski the only other one on all tracks: half go postbop with Donald Harrison (alto sax), Essiet Essie (bass), and Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums); the other half go Latin with John Benitez (bass), Adam Cruz (drums), and Milton Cardona (congas), two of those cuts with an extra five-piece brass section. High point is a Harrison solo. B+(*)
Brian Lynch Latin Jazz Sextet: ConClave (2004 , Criss Cross): The trumpeter's first explicit Latin Jazz group, although by this time he had played on several Eddie Palmieri albums. Two Cubans -- Ernesto Simpson and Roberto Quintero -- keep the percussion bubbling, with Boris Kozlov (bass), Luis Perdomo (piano), and Ralph Bowen (tenor sax). B+(**)
Brian Lynch: Unsung Heroes Vol. 2 (2008-09 , Hollistic MusicWorks): Eleven songs, two by Lynch, the others by other trumpet players: Donald Byrd, Joe Gordon, Howard McGhee, Idrees Sulieman, Tommy Turrentine. Classic bop quintet, Vincent Herring on alto sax, Rob Schneiderman on piano. B+(**)
Brian Lynch and Spheres of Influence: ConClave Vol. 2 (2010 , Criss Cross): Aside from the trumpet player, no continuity in the band from either of the previous albums referred to, but Yosvany Terry (alto sax), Manuel Valera (piano), Luques Curtis (bass), Justin Brown (drums) and Pedro Martinez (percussion) know their stuff. B+(**)
Rova: Long on Logic: Compositions by Fred Frith, Henry Kaiser, and Rova (1989 , Sound Aspects): Saxophone quartet, date back to mid-1970s, going from soprano to baritone: Bruce Ackley, Steve Adams, Larry Ochs, John Raskin. Fred Frith composed and mixed the first three pieces, Henry Kaiser the fourth, all rigorously abstract B+(**) [bc]
Bob Wilber: Horns-a-Plenty (1994, Arbors): The horns are all in the leader's hands: he's credited with four saxes (tenor, alto, curved soprano, and straight soprano) and clarinet. Backed by piano (Johnny Varro), bass, and drums, playing a nice mix of originals and swing standards. B+(*)
The Bob Wilber/Dany Doriz Quintet: Memories of You: Lionel and Benny (1995 , Black and Blue): Doriz is a French vibraphone player and sometime big band leader, so his affinity for Hampton is a given. Wilber gets a chance to air out his clarinet, evoking the small group sessions Goodman organized with Hampton in the late 1930s. B+(**)
Bob Wilber: Nostalgia (1996, Arbors): Playing soprano sax this time, which usually puts him in a Bechet frame of mind, but this is more relaxed, especially with Bucky Pizzarelli's laconic guitar, and Ralph Sutton hamming it up on piano. B+(**)
Bob Wilber/Dick Hyman: A Perfect Match: In Tribute to Johnny Hodges and Wild Bill Davis (1997 , Arbors): Davis always struck me as a middling organ player, but he pioneered the instrument playing it in Louis Jordan's Tympany Five, made several records with legendary alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges in the 1960s, and played some with Duke Ellington just before/after Hodges' death. Of course, Wilber has no chance of matching Hodges, but Hyman's organ is a plus, and the group includes Britt Woodman on trombone and James Chirillo on guitar. The vintage Ellingtonia doesn't quite measure up, but "It's Only a Paper Moon" shines. B+(*)
Bob Wilber and the International March of Jazz All Stars: Everywhere You Go There's Jazz (1998 , Arbors): You may quibble about the ten-piece band's star status -- Antti Sarpila, Bent Persson, and Lars Erstrand count as internationals (and possibly some others I'd have to look up -- Wilber was born in the US but lives in England, as does three-song singer Joanne Horton). Mixed blessings: the Ellingtonia Wilber loves tepid, but they jump all over "Mahogany Hall Stomp." B+(*)
Bob Wilber and the Tuxedo Big Band: Fletcher Henderson's Unrecorded Arrangements for Benny Goodman (2000, Arbors): Fine print reveals that the big band hails from Toulouse, France, but neither the label nor Discogs provides any names -- Arbors usually provides detailed booklets, and this is clearly a coup of sorts. What I can say is that the band is up to the challenge, as is Wilber's clarinet. A-
Bob Wilber and the Tuxedo Big Band: Rampage! (2011, Arbors): Returns direction of the Toulouse, France big band to Paul Cheron, on a program of Wilber arrangements and (mostly) originals. Not sure if it's the songs or the band, but they can't sustain their occasional brilliant flashes. B
Sometimes further listening leads me to change an initial grade, usually either because I move on to a real copy, or because someone else's review or list makes me want to check it again:
American Honey [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] (1974-2015 , UME): [was B+(***)]: A- [cdr]
Additional Consumer News:
Previous grades on artists in the old music section.
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade: