Rhapsody Streamnotes: December 6, 2009

Another batch of short notes/reviews based on streaming records via Rhapsody -- snap judgements based on one or two plays, with minimal research and no reference to packaging. Last batch was posted on November 8, so this is what I have to report since then. The archives are here, including a roll-up of Recycled Goods and Jazz Prospecting. This isn't a good way to work, but it does help satisfy my curiosity, especially about items that I can't afford to buy just to play once or twice and shelve. I'll probably pick up the pace as the month progresses, especially as I get a sense of what other folks are thinking about year-end lists. My Village Voice jazz poll ballot is due Dec. 11, and Pazz and Jop is due Dec. 24.

Basement Jaxx: Scars (2009, Ultra): Plasticky dance electronica, feels a little beat up this time, with some ordinary pop up front and more off-tempo than is good for them. B+(*)

Devendra Banhart: What Will We Be (2009, Warner Brothers): Singer-songwriter, reminds me a bit of Jimmy Buffett without the sense of humor, although perhaps a bit of whimsy. B

Lynyrd Skynyrd: God & Guns (2009, Roadrunner): Not the same band, with Gary Rossington still straggling and little brother Johnny Van Zant the pretender to the throne. Still, as hard rock goes this has some crunch, but the only obvious link to their Southern roots is the steadfast belief that white southerners are cretins. Van Zant's paean to the working man reduces him to great God and good guns, whereas most working men I've known found their strength elsewhere: like, in unions. B

The Antlers: Hospice (2007-08 [2009], Frenchkiss): Group alias for singer-songwriter, Peter Silberman. AMG classifies as folk, certainly wrong for this album. Slight, sly, otherworldly, almost dreamy, voice tending toward falsetto, a song cycle having something to do with illness and death -- I didn't find it very easy to follow, so I'm mostly reacting to the sound, but critics seem impressed by the words. Quotes a bit of Eno at the end. B+(**)

Girl Talk: Feed the Animals (2008, Illegal Art): Couldn't find this last year when it was all over year-end lists. Alias for Greg Gillis, who pastes mixtapes together from snippets of damn near everything, usually mashing several sources, adding some beats or whatever. Wikipedia has a detailed list of sources but still didn't manage to locate a few. First time through you notice lots of great jokes built on vast pop literacy. Don't know what happens on subsequent plays. Still need to get a real copy. A-

They Might Be Giants: Here Come the 123's (2008, Walt Disney): Songs about zeroes, one, two, three, four, five, the secret life of six, two on seven, one on eight, two more on nine, one on ten, nada on eleven, but after twelve and 813 they leap to infinity, after which they conclude with tangents. I loved their first album, but found they got too cute and too rote real quick. Nominally a children's album, cute and rote fit fine, as does the undeniable cleverness. No DVD here, but one comes with the real package. B+(**)

They Must Be Giants: Here Comes Science (2009, Walt Disney): Richer, deeper, altogether more substantial than mere numbers, which Here Come the 123's plays for novelty associations. "Why Does the Sun Shine?" is an old song, one of their classics ("the sun is a mass/of incandescent gas"), done here in a rush, and followed up by the less grounded "Why Does the Sun Really Shine?" Still, like children's science museums, this doesn't dumb down so much as it dwells on the trivial, like the cheery, silly "Electric Car"; on the other hand, such didactic pieces as "Solid Liquid Gas" come up short as entertainment. B+(**)

Patty Loveless: Mountain Soul II (2009, Saguaro Road): Always had the voice and attitude for neo-trad, and now for the second time returns to the hills for a breath of old-timey air: lots of strings and twang, a couple of God songs by Trad. Still, something's off -- maybe all the guests they lined up, and not just the Vince Gill types; there's also the Burnt Hickory Primitive Baptist Congregation. Still, the first whiff was on "Busted," a song I didn't expect I'd ever be turned off by. Maybe it's just that I remember Hazel Dickens' version so clearly. Compared to Dickens, Loveless has always been something of a poseur. B

George Strait: Twang (2009, MCA Nashville): The steadiest of neo-trad singers, although this isn't unscathed by Nashville's string-drenched production. A bigger problem are the upbeat pieces -- e.g., the title cut and one called "Hot Grease and Zydeco" -- which seem forced and labored and a bit deranged. He's much better when he takes it easy. B

Chris Smither: Time Stands Still (2009, Signature Sounds): A folk singer who's been around since the early 1970s, with a bunch of early albums Christgau liked and I cared less for when I caught them at all. Never much of a singer, his voice has deepened and ambles along, but lately he's been coming up with a few timely songs -- "Surprise Surprise" is less tour de force here than "Origin of Species" was last time, but still spot on -- and everyday fare to keep the record on an even keel. Refreshing to hear someone admit "I Don't Know." B+(***)

The Strange Boys: The Strange Boys and Girls Club (2009, In the Red): Austin group, has been described as punkish or even garage, but sounds more like a muddlemouthed version of vintage Kinks/Yardbirds guitars with a slight Dylan affectation. B+(**)

Pants Yell!: Received Pronunciation (2009, Slumberland, EP): Boston group, a minimal trio, led by singer Andrew Churchman, does nine songs in 26:13. Sharp little songs, clear diction, don't have any excuse for not remembering any of the words. B+(*)

Jay Reatard: Blood Visions (2005 [2006], Fat Possum): Jay Lindsey, from Memphis. Has a new record out, but playing catchup I figure I should start at the start, which was Christgau's pick of the litter once he got notices for the later Matador Singles '08. Punk, pure and simple, not all that tuneful but tight enough, not all that memorable but not easily dismissed. Will be a project, but not sure how much I want to chew off at the moment. B+(**)

Jay Reatard: Watch Me Fall (2009, Matador): Skipping over two volumes of collected singles, Lindsey's second album makes giant strides melodically, a clear, strong rock album where the link to punk is evolutionary -- like, say, the later Clash albums, only not that good, maybe because his worldview remains a bit constrained. B+(**)

Jemina Pearl: Break It Up (2009, Ecstatic Peace/Universal Motown): First and middle name; last name Abegg, which means I should sort under J, I guess. Former singer for Memphis teen band Be Your Own Pet, which had a pretty great eponymous debut album but got awkward after that. This is less alt and less sly, meaning more conventionally pop, but similarly upbeat, with a bit of Pink-ish attitude -- "say goodbye with your middle finger" is one line I caught. That I catch any is unusual for me -- second play helped there. B+(***)

The Avett Brothers: I and Love and You (2009, American): A country-ish, or folk-ish, clutch of three brothers from North Carolina, teamed up with Beastie Boys/Johnny Cash producer Rick Rubin, a big improvement over their past efforts -- Emotionalism was one of my lowest-rated albums of 2007. I don't doubt their sincerity, but their sound is scattered, at times poignantly minimal, at others full of progressive swill -- well, sharper than that, but you get the idea. I might like this better if I liked Bright Eyes better. B

Monsters of Folk (2009, Shangri-La): I'm skeptical that a group with Conor Oberst, M. Ward, and two guys I've never heard of before -- one from Oberst's old band, the other from My Morning Jacket, which I've never bothered to check out -- qualify as a supergroup. The name starts out as a major misnomer touting mild-mannered multi-harmonic pop tunes, but midway through adds a bit of folkie or rocker here and there, then back to mild-mannered pop. Listenable eclecticism. B+(**)

Mika: The Boy Who Knew Too Much (2009, Casablanca): Mica Penniman, b. 1983 in Beirut with a Lebanese mother and American father; moved young to Paris, then London. AMG notes that he's been compared to Queen, Elton John, Scissor Sisters, and Rufus Wainwright. The only one of those that popped into my mind was Queen, but only if you can imagine Freddy Mercury vamping on the Beach Boys and Earth Wind & Fire -- he's got a pretty good falsetto. It hasn't all clicked yet, but he's definitely golden. A-

U2: No Line on the Horizon (2009, Interscope): Major group, one I dutifully listened to from the start mostly because Brian Eno produced, hanging in through 1988's Rattle and Hum, which I dislike less than anything else I've heard. The recent albums I've been able to check out cheap, so all I've missed is their 1990s triptych -- Achtung Baby, Zooropa, Pop -- pretty good coverage for a band I've never cared for. This one got 5-star reviews from RS and the late Blender, but actually it sounds utterly typical. B

David Byrne/Brian Eno: Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (2006-08 [2008], Todomundo): A lot of really great albums by these two, but none since Eno's John Cale duo Wrong Way Up in 1990 or Byrne's eponymous 1994 album. But this one comes in way overweight, with stodgy beats and stuffy vocals. B-

Dunkelbunt: Raindrops and Elephants (2009, Piranha): German DJ Ulf Lindemann raids Piranha's balkan beat catalog, good for horn riffs and vocal snips, although the simplest mechanical beats work best, and the vocals lean more toward dub -- AMG considers him Reggae, but I wouldn't go that far. B+(**)

Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar: Devla: Blown Away to Dancefloor Heaven (2009, Piranha): Father-son Balkan brass band, both trumpet players, son Marko a little more eclectic in the mix, much as you'd expect from Serbians gone cosmopolitan. Upbeat, nearly frenetic. Several previous albums are possibly more convincing, but not by much. B+(***) [later: A-]

Tinariwen: Imidiwan: Companions (2009, World Village): Tuareg group from Mali, out of the Sahara where the rhythms and choruses have a stately resilience, nowhere near as complex as along the African coast, but no less compelling. Over the course of the record, the solid embankments of the first songs open up a bit, some slowing down and stretching out -- all the more captivating. A-

Sister Fa: Sarabah: Tales From the Flipside of Paradise (2009, Piranha): Hip-hop, from Senegal, rapping in Wolof, Manding, Jola, and French (and, I'd swear, a wee bit of English), often over folkie wisps of kora and djembe, more often with jacked up beats. Good chance the trots would help, especially on a couple of cuts where the beats wane. B+(**)

Kinobe & Soul Beat Africa (2009, Rootstock): A soft-toned vocalist from Uganda who plays traditional instruments like akoga and kora, the former a thumb piano and the latter stringed like a small harp, with a group that does little to muscle up the sound. Rather, they go with the flow. B+(**)

Tune-Yards: Bird-Brains (2009, 4AD): Both AMG and Christgau tried preserving the capitalization on the album cover, which benefits greatly from the particular font choice (where it looks a bit like an extortion note), but turns dreadful in Times or Helvetica: tUnE-yArDs BiRd-BrAiNs. Merrill Garbus is the brains behind this, working samples including something from Africa, with a lot of pop klang. At one point this was tuneful enough that I imagined the Beatles with Yoko Ono whispering in Paul McCartney's ear -- assuming "Admiral Halsey" was part of McCartney's aesthetic and not just bad acid. Then the moment passed and something else came forth -- iirc, Captain Beefheart. Garbus has done puppets, but this sounds more like claymation. Christgau rates this high, but cited a breakthrough cut, suggesting he didn't get it right away. Two frequently botched plays in, I can't say as I get it either. B+(**)

The XX: XX (2008-09 [2009], XL): Everyone seems to insist on lowercase "xx"; some disagreement as to whether the album title contains the definite article. Album cover scans show just one "x" -- typographically more like a multiplication sign, or maybe just a couple of orthogonal white stripes on a black background. Music isn't much more demonstrative: functionally reminds me of trip-hop with none of the doom and gloom, which is to say it revels in its simplicity. Reportedly grows on you, but after three plays it still seems a bit insubstantial. B+(***) [Later: A-]


Records I looked for but didn't find on Rhapsody:

  • Fuck Buttons: Tarot Sport (ATP) [Later: A-]
  • Girls: Album (True Panther Sounds) [Later: A-]
  • Meanderthals: Desire Lines (Smalltown Supersound)
  • Mika Miko: We Be Xuxa (PPM)

Recycled Goods

The following were written during this period for Recycled Goods:

Muhal Richard Abrams: Afrisong (1975 [2009], Why Not): Chicago pianist, a founder and leading light of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, better known as AACM, where creative was avant-garde but imbued with the sense of advancing into new terrain; solo piano, always difficult to pull off but his rhythm and enhancement work on both counts. A-

Air: Air Song (1975 [2009], Why Not): You're going to be reading a lot more about Air when Mosaic comes out with a big box of the trio's Novus recordings, including the long-out-of-print landmark, Air Lore -- where the avant-garde revisited a deep tradition including Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton. This early effort is another belated reissue, even if only a taste of what was to come. The title song floats amiably on Henry Threadgill's flute, with minimal input from bassist Fred Hopkins and drummer Steve McCall. The other three 10-minute pieces are more conventionally intense, with Hopkins aggressively attacking Threadgill's weaving alto sax patterns. B+(***)

Louis Armstrong: Fleischmann's Yeast Show & Louis' Home-Recorded Tapes (1937-70 [2009], Jazz Heritage Society, 2 CD): First disc is a set of radio shots from spots in a Rudy Vallee radio show sponsored by Fleischmann's Yeast: one commercial is included, where the company offers a free copy of an Arthur Murray dance lesson book if you send 81 yeast cake wrappers in. The shots shows Armstrong at his most garrulous, roughhousing his way through declassé songs he loved like "Rockin' Chair" and "Chinatown My Chinatown" and "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead You Rascal You." Could have used more trumpet, but great fun. The second disc is pulled from Armstrong's home recordings, mostly bits where he plays records and talks -- one bit with his trumpet is badly distorted. Best when he's just reminiscing, as in how Lil Hardin convinced him to leave King Oliver and Fletcher Henderson and take has place as "first cornet." Ends with a "Philosophy of Life," which ends: "I've always loved everybody. Still do." B+(***)

Joseph Bonner: Triangle (1975 [2009], Why Not): Known as Joe on his other records, a postbop pianist who combines the relentless flow of a McCoy Tyner with the compositional edge of an Andrew Hill; with Clint Houston on bass and Billy Hart on drums, a quick, smart set, like so many of his records sheltered on an obscure label. B+(***)

George Cables: Why Not? (1975 [2009], Why Not): Postbop pianist, thoughtful, fluid, built a career accompanying famous saxophonists from Sonny Rollins to Joe Henderson to Art Pepper -- the latter pairing good for some of his best records ever -- but has patiently accumulated thirty-some albums under his own name, mostly in the far reaches of the industry; this was his first, good enough to name the label, a nice example of the grace he had from the start and never lost. B+(***)

Boom Boom Rock 'n' Roll: The Best of Freddy Cannon (1959-81 [2009], Shout! Factory): Loud, fast, trashy rock and roll permanently stuck in the pre-Beatles era, produced and mostly written by Bob Crewe and Frank Slay; biggest hit was amusement park anthem "Palisades Park," with "Abigail Beecher" and "Action" nearly as classic; obsolete by 1966, with one later novelty to suggest he had a career. B+(**)

Ray Charles: The Genius Hits the Road (1956-72 [2009], Concord): A 1960 concept album with 12 songs with place names, if you count "Basin Street Blues" and "Georgia on My Mind" -- more typical is "Alabamy Bound," "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny," "Deep in the Heart of Texas," "Blue Hawaii"; like Rhino's 1997 reissue, includes 7 extras, two more Georgias and some country roads. B+(*)

Bing Crosby: Bing With a Beat (1957 [2004], Bluebird): Not a big beat here, but Bob Scobey's band swings easy, providing consistent support, which is all Crosby needs to run through a quick set of elegant standards. A-

Bing Crosby/Rosemary Clooney: Fancy Meeting You Here (1958-59 [2001], Bluebird): A set of travel songs backed by Billy May, who can turn out a little mambo beat anytime the itinerary threatens to go south. B+(**)

Bing Crosby & Louis Armstrong: Bing & Satchmo (1960 [2009], Capitol): Given his gravel voice, the thing that always surprises you about Armstrong is how precise and nimble his singing was, holding his own even against the supremely fluid Crosby. The pair sang together on occasional 1940s singles for Decca, which were both jazzier and cornier than anything here. Blame it on Billy May, whose arrangements and orchestra explore new levels in self-caricature, but enjoy the singers nonetheless. B+(**)

Ted Curson: Blue Piccolo (1976 [2009], Why Not): A bright, vibrant hard bop trumpeter who spent much of his long career on the margins of the avant-garde, consigned there as much by a collapsing jazz market he got to too late as anything else, not that his early association with Eric Dolphy hurt; a brisk quartet with Jim McNeely tinkling the ivories, with Cecil McBee on bass and Steve McCall on drums; piccolo refers to his tiny trumpet. B+(***)

Walt Dickerson: Tell Us Only the Beautiful Things (1975 [2009], Why Not): A vibraphonist, made a splash in the early 1960s, then dropped out for a decade before returning here, on two long improvs in an edge trio with Wilbur Ware on bass and Andrew Cyrille on percussion; starts tentatively solo, but picks up speed and power, especially from Cyrille. B+(***)

Chico Freeman: Morning Prayer (1976 [2009], Why Not): Second album by a young saxophonist on the make surrounded by the cream of Chicago's AACM -- Muhal Richard Abrams, Cecil McBee, Steve McCall -- with Douglas Ewart floating in for some flute exotica, a distraction from the more interesting free form funk, the funkiest being "Pepe's Samba." B+(**)

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Live at the Cardiff Capitol Theater, Cardiff, Wales Nov 04 1975 [Authorized Bootleg] (1975 [2009], Geffen): The hardest working band in Dixie tries at first to peddle their third album fare -- definitely Nuthin' Fancy -- then back up three to their initial hits, only really catching fire with guaranteed closer "Free Bird." B

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Live at Winterland, San Francisco, Mar 07 1976 [Authorized Bootleg] (1976 [2009], Geffen): Some standbys and the usual "Free Bird" closer, the newer product showcasing some sweet boogie moves as well as the trademark triple guitar attack. B+(**)

Oscar Peterson: This Is Oscar Peterson (1945-49 [2002], Bluebird, 2CD): In case you're wondering how Peterson got so fast and fluid, his earliest recordings show he practiced on boogie-woogie and fast stride; later on you he starts to develop his own expansive, exuberant style, one that served him well for another fifty years. B+(**)

The Oscar Peterson Trio: At the Stratford Shakesperean Festival (1956 [1993], Verve): Strong, somewhat uneven showing from Peterson's famous trio with Herb Ellis on guitar and Ray Brown on bass, with features for each, patter, concert noise, and lots of delicious piano. B+(***)

The Oscar Peterson Trio: At the Concertgebouw (1957 [1994], Verve): Another live set with Ray Brown and Herb Ellis, more consistent and cleaner sounding than the Stratford date, with some dazzling speed pieces, often with Ellis out front. A-

Oscar Peterson Trio: With Respect to Nat (1965 [2008], Verve): Manny Alban's big band cuts belie the Trio credit, but Cole's career was similarly split between trio and big band, and this album, cut shortly after Nat's death, meant nothing but respect; Peterson sings all but one cut, good enough you can imagine him taking a very different career, but not exactly superseding Cole. B+(**)

Frank Sinatra: Live at the Meadowlands (1986 [2009], Concord): Big venue, big moneymaker, should work as a belated souvenir for anyone who caught Sinatra in his twilight, legend fully groomed, songbook amply stuffed; Nelson Riddle's orchestra is as perfunctory as ever; patter adds very little. B+(**)

Muddy Waters: Live at the Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, Nov 04-06 1966 [Authorized Bootleg] (1966 [2009], Geffen): A strong performance by any standard, highlighted by some prickly guitar that looks ahead to Waters' Hard Again period, but is denser and trickier here. B+(***)

Joe Lee Wilson: Shout for Trane (1976 [2009], Why Not): Church-schooled jazz singer from Oklahoma, moved to New York and into the most marginal of niches, singing agit-prop with avant-gardists like Archie Shepp; some of this is a conventional cross of Jon Hendricks and Leon Thomas, but the title shout is more primal, with Monty Waters reducing Coltrane to a screech. B+(**)

Jazz Prospecting

The following were written during this period for Jazz Prospecting:

Jeb Bishop/Harris Eisenstadt/Jason Roebke: Tiebreaker (2008, Not Two): Trombone, drums, bass, respectively. Bishop and Roebke come out of Chicago, Bishop having made a name for himself in the Vandermark 5 before splitting a couple of years ago -- subsequently doing similar work in Lucky 7s and the Engines. Free improvs, don't know whether it was caught live in Poland or packed off on a tape. Trombone doesn't have a lot of range for this sort of thing, so while this is very solid work, it doesn't sweep you away. B+(**)

The Rob Brown Trio: Live at Firehouse 12 (2008 [2009], Not Two): Alto saxophonist, a key player in several William Parker groups, starting to put together a solid catalog on his own. Joined here by Daniel Levin on cello and Satoshi Takeishi on percussion. Mostly rough, but there are several interesting and even eloquent sections, including the Billy Strayhorn-inspired "Stray(horn)." B+(**)

The Fonda/Stevens Group: Memphis (2008 [2009], Playscape): Principals are bassist Joe Fonda (b. 1954) and pianist Michael Jefry Stevens (b. 1951), who have something like ten albums together, probably more each on their own -- not easy to count these things informally (e.g., AMG has separate lists for "Fonda Stevens Group" and "Fonda-Stevens Group"). Quartet this time, with Herb Robertson on trumpet and Harvey Sorgen on drums. Wide range of stuff here, including two group vocals, very rough attempts at r&b -- note that Stevens calls Memphis home -- but mostly slippery freebop that can go fast, slow, inside, or far out. Both principals write five songs each. B+(**)

The Fonda/Stevens Group: Trio (2006 [2007], Not Two): Bassist Joe Fonda, pianist Michael Jefry Stevens, drummer Harvey Sorgen. Stripped down to a trio the piano flowers with a commanding rhythmic density and the bass stretches out. B+(**)

Dennis González/Jnaana Septet: The Gift of Discernment (2008, Not Two): Trumpet player, from Abilene, TX, based on Dallas, has a long list of records since 1985 but after a slow stretch in the late 1990s has been on a major roll since 2003, mostly due to renewed interest in Europe. I've featured a couple of his records -- Idle Wild was a pick hit, Nile River Suite another A-list, and a couple of HMs -- but I haven't heard any of the five records I know of that he's released this year: A Matter of Blood and Renegage Spirits on Furthermore, Hymn for Tomasz Stanko on Qbico, Songs of Early Autumn on No Business, and The Great Bydgoszcz Concert on Ayler. The group here is deep with percussion: three drummers, including Robby Mercado on bata and congas, plus extra percussion from González, pianist Chris Parker, and bassist Aaron González. The six pieces, especially the long ones, stretch out in complex grooves. The seventh member is vocalist Leena Conquest, who appeared on William Parker's wonderful Raining on the Moon. She tends to ululate harmlessly in the background, carried, like González's sharper trumpet, on a vast river of percussion. A-

Jim Hobbs/Joe Morris/Luther Gray: The Story of Mankind (2008, Not Two): Hobbs is an alto saxophonist from Boston who remained obscure despite sounding brilliant every time he popped up. But he's been popping up a lot in the last couple of years, on records led by Morris or in his Fully Celebrated group. Morris plays bass, although elsewhere he's mostly a guitarist. Gray plays drums. Don't know what the circumstances of this record were, but it is up and down, with some very impressive parts as well as indecisive ones. B+(**)

Briggan Krauss: Red Sphere (2008, Skirl): Alto saxophonist, cut three albums for Knitting Factory in the late 1990s, but has a lot of side credits going back to Babkas in 1993, most notably with Sex Mob. Makes some noise here, little resolving into music of note, but much of it works as a foil for his trio mates: Ikue Mori on laptop and Jim Black on percussion. Black is terrific, and Mori provides some variation. B+(*)

Michael Musillami Trio + 3: From Seeds (2009, Playscape): Guitarist, has a dozen albums since 1990, is capable both of metallic density and quick flights. The trio adds Joe Fonda on bass and George Schuller on drums. They are particularly impressive on the title cut where they blow everyone else away. But often, especially on the opener, the +3 add much more: Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Marty Ehrlich on alto sax, and Matt Moran on vibes. A-

Radio I-Ching: No Wave Au Go Go (2009, Resonant Music): Trio: Andy Haas on curved soprano sax and such; Don Fiorino on guitar, mandolin, banjo, lap steel; Dee Pop, a name assumed while playing with the Bush Tetras, on drums. The band's extensive MySpace influences list omits Jan Garbarek, about the only (and certainly the most famous) soprano saxophonist to prefer the curved version. Haas reminds me of Garbarek's crystalline tone snaking over world rhythms -- even when this trio goes to Tin Pan Alley they pick against the grain, offering the Arlen gospel "Judgment Day" and the Mercer western "I'm an Old Cowhand." A-

The Rempis Percussion Quartet: Hunter-Gatherers (2006 [2007], 482 Music, 2CD): Group consists of Vandermark 5 saxophonist Dave Rempis, bassist Anton Hatwich, and two drummers, Tim Daisy and Frank Rosaly. Live set, recorded in South Carolina at a place named Hunter-Gatherers. Impressive sax work. Not obvious that both drummers are engaged. B+(***)

The Rempis Percussion Quartet: The Disappointment of Parsley (2008 [2009], Not Two): Dave Rempis on alto and tenor sax (no baritone), Anton Hatwich on bass (no Ingebrigt Håker Flaten), Tim Daisy and Frank Rosally on double drums. Recorded live at Alchemia in Krakow, Poland. Three cuts, the middle one ran short on all accounts (6:56), but the 15:18 title cut up front is a tour de force, and the drummers get some to kick off the 24:30 finale. That piece ends fast and furious, another tour de force. If only they had another facet to play off against. B+(***)

Revolutionary Snake Ensemble: Forked Tongue (2008, Cuneiform): Self-styled New Orleans Mardi Gras brass band, with some snapshots dressed to the nines in feathers and snakeskin, but actually based in Boston, led by alto saxophonist Ken Field. Second album, following 2002's Year of the Snake (Innova). The other horns are trumpet, trombone, and tenor sax; bass is both acoustic and electric, and there is extra percussion, and vocalist Gabrielle Agachiko not studying war no more "Down by the Riverside" -- one of four Trad. songs here, mixed in with "Que Sera Sera" and "Brown Skin Girl," one by Ornette Coleman, one by Billy Idol, four originals by Field. Fun group. Not sure how firmly they stick. B+(***)

Matthew Shipp Quartet: Cosmic Suite (2008 [2009], Not Two): With Daniel Carter on reeds (although I've seen reference to him starting on muted trumpet, which sounds right), Joe Morris on bass, Whit Dickey on drums. Nine parts. Instrumentation seems a little thin and indecisive for the suite concept, but it could be something that grows on you. The pianist leads most of the way. Carter tries working in nuances, which isn't exactly his thing. B+(**)

Vandermark 5: Annular Gift (2009, Not Two): Live record, cut in Poland, like the group's mammoth (and quite marvelous) 12-CD Alchemia box. Not sure whether any of the pieces had been recorded before -- I vaguely recall seeing (or maybe starting to put together) an index of compositions, but don't recall where. In any case, they aren't dupes from recent studio albums. "Spiel" starts with a cello solo, as Fred Lonberg-Holm continues to get better integrated into the group. Vandermark forgoes the baritone sax that had been an increasing part of his V5 repertoire, so he winds up playing more tenor, and Dave Rempis more alto. The result often tends toward what we might call "freebop and roll." Great sound. Great group. A-