Rhapsody Streamnotes: August 10, 2010

More than the usual load this month, which is partly cyclical: the month was spent in the low ebb of the Jazz CG cycle, letting me indulge more than usual my desire to listen to something else. There's also an element of post-Christgau activism, much the same response Michael Tatum had. And Tatum's correspondence added to the flurry: he hepped me to the Books, Wainwright, and Best Coast, while I pointed him to Sleigh Bells. (Gauthier had been on my rader, but Rhapsody was being fussy there.) It's also a bit long because I held this back a few days to give him first shot -- although the lag worked the other way on Arcade Fire, which he'll certainly have something more substantial to say next month.

One new thing here is that I've included a couple of records that I didn't survey via Rhapsody. I cover new jazz in Jazz CG and Jazz Prospecting, and new world music in Recycled Goods (on the pretext that since it comes from abroad even the new stuff gets recycled a little bit), which leaves a very small number of other records -- things that I would have done here but one way or another managed to wrangle a hard copy. Somewhile back I tried to handle them separately, but I never had enough to fill an at-all-regular column. So I figured I'd put them here, marking them as [cd] or [advance] (for promos that aren't quite real). Only two this time, and I don't expect there'll be many more in the future. (The Hold Steady record, which I preemptively bought then didn't get to, is the only one I'm sure is on the shelf.)

More albums pictures this time, simply because the A-list got out of hand: left M.I.A. and Sage Francis out thinking they're slightly more marginal; left Wainwright out because his business model didn't make it easy to grab a cover -- a different kind of marginality. Order has no significance.

Usual caveats apply: These are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Rhapsody (except as noted; e.g. [cd]). They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on July 8. Past reviews and more information are available here.

Big Boi: Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (2010, Def Jam): Half of OutKast on his own, give or take a dozen or more guest stars each contributing to a big, messy, excessively sweet pot of ear candy. Had trouble finding the center, but virtually all OutKast albums take a while to kick in -- not that "Tangerine" had any problems. First two plays left me on the fence, but when I went back to another I lost my doubts -- even the fake operatic shit did the trick. A- [later: A]

Kelis: Flesh Tone (2010, Interscope): More coherent, mostly because the beats are narrower and more mechanical, almost as narrow and mechanical as her voice. One advantage this has is that it builds momentum gradually over the course of the album. "Brave" should make a pretty good single; not as tasty as "Milkshake," but she's moving on. B+(*)

Drake: Thank Me Later (2010, Universal Motown): Young rapper from Canada, had a good EP last year and sustains it over 60 minutes this time. B+(***)

The-Dream: Love King (2010, Def Jam): I've been resistant to his charms and spiel thus far, but something clicks here -- maybe it's the Neptunes, maybe just the hinted Nelly-like encouragement from his posse. I still don't buy the argument to "Sex Intelligent" but the ear candy is hard to resist, and he keeps is going for much longer than anyone has a right to. Comes in at 54:44, so maybe he's not quite a sixty-minute man, but he makes a pretty good run at it. A-

Bako Dagnon: Sidiba (2010, Discograph): Malian griot, female division although I wouldn't swear that by her voice -- lower and slightly muddier than Youssou N'Dour. Music is rather spare, mostly guitar or guitar-like with little percussion. Thoroughly enchanting at first, wears a bit thin by the end. B+(***)

Salif Keita: La Différence (2009 [2010], Decca): The most famous of Mali's vocalists, going back to Les Ambassadeurs, with a solo career since the mid-1980s -- his reputation in a voice that exudes power but also grace. Looking back over my database, I see that through a half-dozen previous records I've never much warmed to him, though I can't tell you why. Problem here is the music, which wraps around him like a decadent toga, the least glitz a distraction, best at its plainest. B

Kylie Minogue: Aphrodite (2010, Astralwerks): Australian dance diva, cut her first album in 1988 at 20 and has a dozen now that she's passed 40. Never listened to her before, but she hits her stride here midway through on the title track and the rest of the album is fully functional and fun. B+(***)

Kele: The Boxer (2010, Glassnote): Bloc Party singer-songwriter-guitarist goes solo, producing a pretty typical Bloc Party album; synth beats, plasticky grooves, wan vocals, a bit of angst, but exhilarating out the gate. B+(**)

Kesha: Animal (2010, Jive): Né Kesha Rose Sebert, 1987, d/b/a Ke$ha, a piece of typographic banality we'll overlook for now. Daughter of a Nashville songwriting pro, moved to LA to ply her hitmaking connections, and launched this number one album with a number one single. First two songs are terrific ("Your Love Is My Drug" and "Tic Tok"), and nothing falls way short -- can't say as I liked the message in "DINOSAUR" but the pop hooks (if not the CAT scan lyric) pulled it out. For all the "$$$" seems more like a party girl, sometimes aspiring to be Amy Winehouse when she grows up. A few more plays could cinch this, but it feels like it'd be irresponsible to credit her now. B+(***)

Laurie Anderson: Homeland (2010, Nonesuch): Ambitious, distinctive, thoughtful, clever, unique, asking big questions, evincing deep concerns, but still this is not just dreary but rather murky in the early going, and stretches out with pieces like "Another Day in America" and "Dark Time in the Revolution" that deserve to be called didactic. Only "Only an Expert" really brings it together, partly because it quickens the pace and beefs up the harmony but also because the insights it drives home are profound. B+(***) [advance]

The Coathangers: Scramble (2009, Suicide Squeeze): Atlanta girls scratch out some art moves to follow up an eponymous punk debut that got by on attitude alone -- not too arty, mind you, more like the sort of competence that comes from practicing. Haven't worn out their attitude either. B+(***) [cd]

M.I.A.: Maya (2010, XL/Interscope): I expect I'll pick up a real copy fairly soon, but gave it a spin anyway. Unique shtick, Bollywood raps with sharp beats and harsh, shrill shoots. Wouldn't call her a terrorist, but she does thrive on conflict. Deluxe edition adds four tracks, not as dressed up as the four on the cheap edition. Not sure what else. [PS: All the Deluxe edition adds is four cuts, on the same cheap piece of plastic -- a price differentiation strategy that augurs ill for the future. Did buy a copy, the overpriced one. I'll stick with my grade, but do wonder how often I'll feel like playing it once the shock-excitement wears thin.] A-

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti: Before Today (2009-10 [2010], 4AD): Group led by guitarist Ariel Pink, né Ariel Marcus Rosenberg. Ninth record since 2004, counting things like Oddities Sodomies Vol. 1. Lo-fi, uses other vocalists, including some falsetto. Some songs are evidently rerecorded from early albums, which may explain why it seems so erratic. Last couple songs start to sound like the Fall -- i.e., better. B-

The Like: Release Me (2010, Downtown): Four LA girls in mod dresses on the cover. So straightforward it could have been done in the 1960s. B

Sage Francis: Li(f)e (2010, Anti-): Alt-rapper, works with alt-rockers and comes off more as performance poet, but actually sings some and the unsynthy music rings true. One piece on a dutiful son with transportation challenges. One piece on growing up which makes it all seem to be a miracle, or lots of dumb luck, anyway. A-

Rhymefest: El Che (2010, Rose Hip): Chicago rapper, given name Che Smith, which he plays off for the title and hints at some political import. I liked his 2006 album Blue Collar both for his plainspokenness and his guest networking, but I'm less clear on this one. B+(**)

She & Him: Volume Two (2010, Merge): Actress-singer Zooey Deschanel wrote most of the songs -- note that the two exceptions are the two Christgau picked out as choice cuts. I'm not that picky, or at least didn't find them standing out compared to some of the others. Him is Matthew Ward, a singer-songwriter on his own who takes a back seat here. Light, straightforward pop, serious enough. B+(*)

Casiokids: Topp Stemning På Lokal Bar (2010, Polyvinyl): Norwegian group, sing in Norwegian (or something like that), play more/less danceable synth pop, none of which does much to overcome the language barrier. Album appears to exist in two versions, one 8 cuts long, the other 16 (mostly remixes and alts). Played the short one, pleasant for sure, but not enough to convince me I need to hear the long one. B

Devin the Dude: Suite #420 (2010, E1 Music): Weed anthems and arcana, including a little sex on the side, rolled thin and kept tight under wraps. Funny little skit on Twitter and Google. B+(*)

Field Music: Field Music (Measure) (2010, Memphis Industries): English group, brothers David and Peter Brewis, third album since 2005. Expected something more techno, but sounds more like Oasis to me: light pop songs with heavier guitar, but also a bit more experimentation. B+(*)

Sleigh Bells: Treats (2010, Mom & Pop Music): Brooklyn duo, Derek Miller (guitar) and Alexis Krauss (vocals), sounds like heavy synth pop but all that noise is evidently just ginned up from laptop and distortion pedals. Short songs, Loud, sharp, shrill even, but not from attitude. B+(***)

Reflection Eternal [Talib Kweli + Hi-Tek]: Revolutions Per Minute (2010, Warner Brothers): Most sources go with Reflection Eternal as artist name here, even though the front cover identifies Talib Kweli + Hi-Tek in larger, bolder type. (Reflection Eternal was the title of their 2000 album, which I don't think they've reused in the meantime.) Flows along with periodic consciousness: one called "Ballad of Black Gold" could use some bonus verses about BP, but people need to hear more about Nigeria. A-

The Books: The Way Out (2010, Temporary Residence): Duo, guitarist-vocalist Nick Zammuto, cellist Paul de Jong, although most of what they work with seem to be samples, and they like to call the results collages. First thing you notice is the spoken text, which works when it's clever as it most often is, but soon the electrothrash sorts out into interesting patterns as well, and I even find myself caring about stories, like "The Story of Hip Hop." A-

Zu: Carboniferous (2009, Ipecac): Italian group, loosely aligned with The Ex and connected to Ken Vandermark and Mats Gustafsson, both with guest shots and collaboration albums in the catalog -- Radiale with Spaceways Inc. was my first Jazz Consumer Guide Pick Hit. Also seem to have a fascination with geology, born out on an album called Igneo which won me over on many levels. Was surprised to see this appear last year mostly on metalhead lists, but that's clearly where they aimed it. Mostly instrumental and not bad but rather monotonous as far as that goes. Vocals are truly dreadful. B-

Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse: Dark Night of the Soul (2010, Capitol): Brian Burton first came to our attention with his bootleg mashup of Jay-Z's Black Album with the so-called Beatles "White Album," and he keeps coming back in various guises, the best known Gnarls Barkley. Sparklehorse is some kind of alt rock group, led by a Mark Linkous who co-wrote most of the songs here and shot himself three months before the album was released. (Didn't know that when I played this, and don't feel like going back to plumb for clues.) Various guests are brought in to sing. Black Francis and Iggy Pop move the music toward metal, but nearly everyone else succumb to Burton's postmodern Beatles aura, which isn't such a bad thing. B+(*)

Mulatu Astatke: Mulatu Steps Ahead (2010, Strut): The Ethio Jazz guru, on his own without the Heliocentrics helping to jack up the beats, falls back into a well-worn groove with soft vibes and airy moods, with a little vocalizing from way back home. B+(**)

Loudon Wainwright III: 10 Songs for the New Depression (2010, Second Story Sound): The folk singer from posh Westchester County has been boning up on economics, reading Paul Krugman's op eds in the New York Times and packing Maynard Keynes for his beach reading. After all, he's stuck with a California house he can't sell, and his "financial advisors tell me that the present will most assuredly stretch into the foreseeable future." Moreover, after his Charlie Poole project he has a few usable Old Depression songs on his mind, like "The Panic Is On" (recently done by Maria Muldaur on his similarly themed Good Time Music for Hard Times) and "On to Victory, Mr. Roosevelt." The others are originals, with "Cash for Clunkers" upbeat, "Halloween 2009" spooky (with a line about Greenspan "on the lam"). Sucker-priced at $20, more than his 2-CD High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project -- maybe someone should hide his economics primers. A-

Jace Everett: Red Revelations (2010, Wrasse): Country singer, second album, strays from Nashville formula to pick up a rock-retro beat and some psychobilly echo around his deep voice and shallow thoughts -- only "Little Black Dress" puts them to good use. A little monotonous. B

Asleep at the Wheel/Leon Rausch: It's a Good Day (2010, Bismeaux): After 40 years, Ray Benson's band has settled into a western swing groove, and after a few false starts they've got it down pat. Maybe it makes them feel young to work with even older artists, like Willie Nelson, or in this case Leon Rausch, who took over as the singer in Bob Wills' band in 1967, making him one of the last direct links. Old tunes, four from Wills, one from Earl Hines, a "Basin Street Blues" and a "Route 66" that gets a workout. Elizabeth McQueen also sings some. B+(***)

Carrie Rodriguez: Love and Circumstance (2010, Ninth Street Opus): Austin country singer, third album not counting the fetching debut that Chip Taylor got his name up front on. Covers, two from her family, most of the rest picked up from the alt-country fringe running as far afield as Richard Thompson and Steve Van Zandt, with a Spanish-language piece to close, she's about as good as her songs -- Lucinda Williams' "Steal Your Love" is a choice cut. B+(*)

Robbie Fulks: Happy: Plays the Music of Michael Jackson (2002 [2010], Bloodshot): Not sure of recording date, which could be a tad earlier. At any rate, planned release was cancelled in 2004 when Jackson became untouchable. Now Jackson is dead and Fulks has moved on to another label, so why not? Sure, Fulks' twang is unsuppressable, but Jackson's funk lines send it into outer space, so universal it's hard to dismiss most of this as a joke, even when it is. More problematic is when they try to cover the Five's harmonies, run through the horror movie motifs of "Privacy," or do anything with "Ben." B

Deadstring Brothers: São Paulo (2010, Bloodshot): Detroit band, dead ringers for the Exile-era Rolling Stones, at least when Jagger tries on his country drawl, Kurt Marschke's sweet spot. Repeated listenings are likely to surface minor imperfections -- the guitars are close, but Charlie Watts is nowhere in evidence, and no one has the ego to pretend to be the world's greatest rock and roll band. Last few cuts back down even more. B+(*)

Alejandro Escovedo: Street Songs of Love (2010, Fantasy): Started way down in Americana, but with a new label his tenth album surrounds his "Tender Heart" with a lot of dense rock muscle -- it's almost as rippled as Springsteen, but lacks space and depth and lyrics you can follow and care about even if they turn out to be despicable. This, on the other hand, is claustrophobic. Chuck Prophet co-wrote most of the songs. B-

Best Coast: Crazy for You (2010, Mexican Summer): LA group, Bethany Cosentino singing; Bobb Bruno enveloping her in harsh, echoey surf guitar; Ali Koehler the drummer. Thirteen cuts in 31:31. A couple come close to breaking through, but then a couple are just short of migraine-inducing, and it's not like there's much range between one and the other. B+(*)

Arcade Fire: The Suburbs (2010, Merge): Montreal group, third album spaced on three-year intervals, each one hugely praised, this one at 16 cuts in 63:57 pretty monumental. Not my thing, but rocks awful hard for someone so sincere, and the guitar shimmer is pretty amazing, leading a harmonic richness that has rarely been equalled. Finally turned it down and found some songs speaking to me -- "City with No Children," don't recall the others. A-

Mary Gauthier: The Foundling (2010, Razor & Tie): Three records from 1997-2002 (Dixie Kitchen, Drag Queens in Limousines, Filth & Fire -- sounds like a real Dixie kitchen) were most likely primitive and raw, something to check out sometime. They landed her two records on Lost Highway, with Mercy Now still raw but a major accomplishment. This one is over that, her craftsmanship honed to yield several very seductive songs. Lacks that sharp edge, but portends a future. B+(***)

Hank Williams III: Rebel Within (2010, Sidewalk): Mostly goes by Hank III, like redneck royalty, which I suppose he is. Voice seems a little starchy, as if he's actually been living the depraved life he sings about, or maybe he's just bored. First few songs, including the title one, he just sort of walks through. Still, they're not the problem; that would be the thrash rock one toward the end. B+(**)

Blake Shelton: Hillbilly Bone (2010, Warner Brothers): Six cut, 24:25 EP, thrown together fast when the title yarn smelled like a hit. Second cut doubled down on the attitude with the title "Kiss My Country Ass." Too bad they couldn't think of (or find) more, since even at six cuts it starts to thin out. Your basic good old country singer, with five previous albums since 2001. Hadn't checked him out before, but he'll probably have a good best-of someday. B+(**)


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

  • Sam Amidon: I See the Sign (Bedroom Community)
  • Autechre: Move of Ten (Warp)
  • El Guincho: Piratas de Sudamérica, Vol. 1 (Young Turks)
  • Konono No. 1: Assume Crash Position (Crammed Discs)
  • Georgia Anne Muldrow: Kings Ballad (Ubiquity)
  • John Prine: In Person & On Stage (Oh Boy)

Recycled Goods

The following were written during this period for Recycled Goods:

Fred Anderson: On the Run: Live at the Velvet Lounge (2000 [2001], Delmark): Born 1929 in Monroe, Louisiana. Made the trek to Chicago, picking up the tenor sax in the early days of the AACM. Cut a few obscure records 1978-80 then went inactive, but as the proprietor of the Velvet Lounge in Chicago he kept connected. Finally resumed recording around 1995, perhaps figuring that with social security checks coming he could once again afford to be a fringe musician. I still haven't managed to hear his early sides, but I suspected that getting old and slowing down helped focus his play. Certainly also helped that a teen from Louisiana he mentored turned out to be his long-time drummer, Hamid Drake. He hit a sweet spot with Back at the Velvet Lounge in 2002, and his next four albums were equally sublime: Back Together Again (with Drake, 2004, Thrill Jockey), Blue Winter (with Drake and William Parker, 2004, Eremite), Timeless (2005, Delmark), and From the River to the Ocean (with Drake, 2007, Thrill Jockey). He died, age 81, on June 24, so I thought it would be a good time to see what more I could find. His latest albums slip a bit, and I didn't find any early ones, but I did find this trio, with Drake and bassist Tatsu Aoki, the first of four Velvet Lounge live shots Delmark released. Takes a while to get in gear, with Anderson reticent and Drake showy, but the fourth (of five) pieces, the 18:53 "Tatsu's Groove," does the trick, with Anderson unleashing a relentless torrent of ideas. Final cut, appropriately named "Hamid's on Fire," is equally powerful. B+(***)

Billy Eckstine: Jukebox Hits 1943-1953 (1943-53 [2005], Acrobat): One of the legendary crooners of the postwar era; sauve, debonair, with a deep, rich baritone that seems stuffy now but was exceptional at the time; this cross-section starts his crack big band that folded in 1947 and ends with a small combo backing a surprising spat of scat, but in between there is little but strings gradually encasing his marvelous voice in concrete. B

Billy Eckstine: Basie and Eckstine, Inc. (1959 [1994], Roulette): Basie is less than atomic here, maintaining a comfortable simmer for the classic crooner, a bluesman in a pinch but not a shouter like Jimmy Rushing or even Joe Williams; not much swing, but the brass remains short and sharp, as finely burnished as the baritone. B+(*)

Helen Humes: Sneakin' Around [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1974 [2002], Black & Blue): Count Basie's girl singer -- picked up the job when Billie Holiday left -- basically a blues shouter with a smooth, even-tempered delivery, singing songs she likes, cut cheap in France with Gerard Badini unstable on tenor sax, filled out with extra takes. B+(**)

Byard Lancaster: It's Not Up to Us (1968 [2003], Water): Released on Atlantic spinoff Vortex when this Philadelphia avant-gardist was stepping out of Coltrane's footsteps; plays a lot of flute here, substantial enough to lead especially with Sonny Sharrock's guitar covering his back, but his alto sax has more muscle. B+(**)

Byard Lancaster: Personal Testimony (1979 [2008], Porter): Starts with a 1979 solo album with piano and/or percussion overdubbed on his flute, alto sax, and other reeds -- not enough to overcome the minimal framework of solo efforts, but a rough precis of his toolkit; reissue adds six new pieces, also solo with overdubs, if anything sparer and starker. B+(*)

Sounds of Liberation (1972 [2010], Porter): Philadelphia group, very much of the black power moment when shards of avant-sax clashed with funky conga rhythms, merging into something far out but not inaccessible; Byard Lancaster is the saxophonist in a septet with guitar, bass, and four percussionists counting vibraphonist Khan Jamal, the founder and best known member of the one-album group. A-

Jazz Prospecting

The following were written during this period for Jazz Prospecting:

Regina Carter: Reverse Thread (2010, E1 Entertainment): Violinist, got a major label break when cousin James Carter was on Atlantic, and proved popular enough to stick in the big leagues, even winning a MacArthur "genius grant." This troll through Afropop may be a genius concept but it's no genius execution. A lot of sawing on top of guitar (Adam Rogers) or kora (Yacouba Sissoko), accordion (Will Holshouser or Gary Versace), bass (Chris Lightcap or Mamadou Ba), and drums (Alvester Garnett), does develop some rhythmic roll, but seems to come from neither here nor there. Might get better with more exposure, or might seem even more misaprised. B+(*)

The Dreamers: Ipos: The Book of Angels, Vol. 14 (2009 [2010], Tzadik): John Zorn group, appeared on his albums The Dreamers and O'o, not that Zorn actually plays in it. Marc Ribot's guitar and Jamie Saft's keybs tend to lead, backed by a groove-happy rhythm section -- Trevor Dunn (bass), Kenny Wollesen (vibes), Joey Baron (drums), and Cyro Baptista (percussion). It occurs to me that Ribot is especially adept at taking up these dress-up roles, like with his Cubanos Postizos. B+(***)

Ben Goldberg Quartet: Baal: The Book of Angels, Vol. 15 (2009 [2010], Tzadik): First of these I've heard, variations on John Zorn's Jewish-themed Masada songbook. Goldberg's clarinet stays on top of it all, although pianist Jamie Saft gets in some long runs. With Greg Cohen on bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums. B+(***)

Mycale: Mycale: The Book of Angels, Volume 13 (2009 [2010], Tzadik): More of John Zorn's new-old Jewish music, this time rendered a capella by a group of four women vocalists: Ayelet Rose Gottlieb, Sofia Rei Koutsovitis, Basya Schecter, and Malika Zarra -- I've run across records under the first three names already. Lyrics picked up from various texts in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, French, and Arabic. The music has some bounce and resonance, sort of a klezmerish barbershop quarter. B+(**)

Evan Parker: House Full of Floors (2009, Tzadik): Mostly trio with John Russell on guitar and John Edwards on bass, Parker playing both soprano and tenor sax, scratchy and patchy on both, with most of the muscle coming out of the bass. Aleks Kolkowski joins in on three tracks, playing stroh viola, saw, and wax cylinder recorder, respectively. I take this for easy listening background music, but you probably don't. B+(*)

Ivo Perelman: The Ventriloquist (2001 [2002], Leo): Rhapsody has two copies of this with different artwork -- this one matches Leo's website. With Paul Rodgers on guitar, Ramon Lopez on drums, and either Louis Sclavis on bass clarinet or Christine Wodrascka on piano. The horns squeak more than squawk, but that's the basic range, at a pretty intense level. The piano pieces, especially the long title track, are at least as intense; she throws fits of unbalanced chords, and Perelman has to play his ass off to keep from being buried. Very intense, not comfortable with it myself. B+(***)

Ivo Perelman & Dominic Duval: Nowhere to Hide (2009, Not Two): Tenor sax-bass duo, a subset of the trio that recorded Mind Games, which benefitted from the accents and dynamics of drummer Brian Wilson. Perelman is close in tone and temperament to the later albums -- much mellower than on the early albums -- but stretches a bit thin here, partly listener fatigue setting in approaching 76 minutes. B+(**)

John Zorn: The 50th Birthday Celebration, Vol. 1: Masada String Trio (2003 [2004], Tzadik): Looked for the new Masada String Trio, Haborym (Book of Angels, Vol. 16), not available (yet), and found this one from a few years back, one of a big stack of live shots from Sept. 2003 when Tonic put on a series to honor the club's owner. Most are Zorn-less groups picking over his songbook. This trio consists of Mark Feldman on viola, Erik Friedlander on cello, and Greg Cohen on bass. The Jewish themes provide some bounce, lack of violin cuts down on the screech, and the bass adds depth. Could do without the applause. B+(***)

John Zorn: The Goddess: Music for the Ancient of Days (2009 [2010], Tzadik): Another Zorn-as-composer-only album, the titles casually plundered archaeology, but actually nothing ancient about it; reminds me more of cocktail jazz, exotica with the spurious weirdness supplanted by a higher-powered Riley/Reich minimalist engine. Played on piano (Rob Burger), guitar (Marc Ribot), harp (Carol Emmanuel), vibes (Kenny Wollesen), bass (Travor Dunn), and drums (Ben Perowsky). B+(**)

John Zorn: In Search of the Miraculous (2009 [2010], Tzadik): Zorn's promised one record each month this year, which isn't a lot more prolific than his usual pace, but seems likely to involve cutting some corners. Composer-only album, built around the Rob Burger-Greg Cohen-Ben Perowsky piano trio that cut Alhambra Love Songs, with a few extras -- Shanir Blumenkranz (electric bass), Kenny Wollesen (vibes), but focuses more on the piano, adding a bit of dramatic range rather than sinking into minimalist repetition. Gains something toward the end. B+(***)

John Zorn: Dictée/Liber Novus (2009 [2010], Tzadik): Two pieces, close to 20 minutes each, one based on Korean-American writer/conceptual artist Theresa Hak-Kyung Cha, the other "a mythic psychodrama inspired by the legendary Red Book of Carl Jung. Keybs (Sylvie Courvoisier and Stephen Goslin on piano, John Medeski on organ), Ned Rothenberg's reeds (shakuhachi, bass flute, clarinet), percussion and sound effects, could be a soundtrack cluttered with random events, not horror but not normal either. B+(*)

John Zorn/Fred Frith: Late Works (2009 [2010], Tzadik): Alto sax/electric guitar duo, the latter's screech closely tuned to match the former. Ten pieces, most likely improv, although occasional oblique strategies lurk. Often interesting, but does wear a bit thin. B+(*)