Rhapsody Streamnotes: February 26, 2013

Short month, but that hardly explains the shortest Streamnotes column in several years, practically ever. Most likely it's just been too many other demands on my time -- after all, time is what this process takes (more for just listening than to write these shorter-than-usual squibs). Also may have something to do with the seasonal shift. Usually February is when I get to year-end-list records I hadn't previously noticed, but I was thorough enough in 2012 that I caught most of them. (Of course, there are exceptions: the Yo Ma Ma thing below never appeared on any list, only showing up in Chistgau's CG after his own list had closed.)

Curiously, I didn't collect any "missing" records this month. That's probably just sloppy record keeping on my part, but also suggests I haven't been looking very hard. Guess it's been that kind of month.

These are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Rhapsody. They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on January 29. Past reviews and more information are available here (3152 records).

Patricia Barber: Smash (2012 [2013], Concord Jazz): Jazz singer, plays her own piano, came up with a cool take on the standards but wrote all her own here and stretches them out as if the singer isn't the focus -- but the songs seem to demand that, so after two (or is it three?) plays all I am is confused. B

Batida (2012, Soundway): Angolan-Portuguese DJ Pedro Coquenão (aka DJ Mpula), remixing 1970s Angolan tracks -- guitar-based, part of the greater soukous orbit -- with dance beats and loops and other ephemera -- although he has respect enough for the originals to let them power through. A-

Beach Fossils: Clash the Truth (2013, Captured Tracks): A lo-fi group with catchy strum and scarcely any drang. B

Bettie Serveert: Oh, Mayhem! (2013, Second Motion): Dutch band, fronted by singer Carol van Dijk, been around since 1992, can catch you with a pop hook or just blow you away -- their favored mode this time out. Somehow I've always found them resistible. B+(***)

Erin Boheme: What a Life (2012 [2013], Heads Up): Nominally a jazz singer, writes some and doesn't go in for standards. Cut her first album in 2005 as a teenager and comes back here much more mature, backed by guitar/keyb/bass/drums and sometimes strings. Has an appealing voice and poise but no niche. B+(*)

Cold Specks: I Predict a Graceful Expulsion (2012, Mute): Canadian-born, London-based singer-songwriter Al Spx, black and female by the way, which makes her an interesting contrast to Alabama Shakes, a band that takes what nature gave and stays as obvious as possible. Nothing obvious here at all. B+(**)

Darkstar: News From Nowhere (2013, Warp): Brit electronica duo, Aiden Whalley and James Young, get all tinkly and shimmery, especially on a reputed Beach Boys homage which manages to isolate and celebrate the most treacly aspect of Brian Wilson's vision. C+

Diplo: Express Yourself (2012, Mad Decent, EP): Thomas Pentz, DJ, producer, remixer, has tons of stuff since 2003, can't begin to sort it out but seems to lean towards dubstep and moombahton; goes for loud and chintzy here, which for six cuts (24:44) keeps you on the edge without pushing you over. B+(**)

Dobie: We Will Not Harm You (2013, Big Dada): Tony Campbell, had something to do with Soul II Soul way back when but his own flow of (mostly) EPs, at least under this moniker, picks up in 1995. Two EPs last year seemed like they would have achieved critical mass fused together. This one has the length if not the mass -- "subtler," critics scoff, but that actually works for me. A-

The Bryan Ferry Orchestra: The Jazz Age (2012 [2013], BMG/Relativity): No vocals, so banish the thought of the Roxy Music majordomo channeling Billy Banks or Ted Lewis. The band most likely consists of English trad jazz vets -- Alan Barnes is the only name that I recognized and he is, of course, essential -- while the songs have been radically rearranged from Ferry's Roxy songbook. Even so, the only one I figured out first time through was "Virginia Plain" and that neither amused nor thrilled me, which leaves us with what? B

Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside: Untamed Beast (2013, Partisan): Tough girl, rides a beat that's a little more heavy handed than rockabilly, and swears over it. B-

Max Gomez: Rule the World (2013, New West): Singer-songwriter from New Mexico, first album, leads off with trite clichés like the title song, runs out of gas at the end and finds some soul in "Cherry Red Wine." B

Kitty: D.A.I.S.Y. Rage (2013, self-released, EP): Soft-voiced, slow-witted girl rapper, lays out eight tracks, 32:46, with three or four feat.'s to pick up the pace or drive some point home, not that her own bubbly aloofness isn't without charm. B [bc]

Roger Knox and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts: Stranger in My Land (2013, Bloodshot): Aboriginal Australian country singer, aka Black Elvis or Koori King of Country, has a few albums down under and now this intro backed by Jon Langford's signature backup band, with help from Dave Alvin, Kelly Hogan, Sally Timms, Charlie Louvin, and others. More western than country, with a black-identified race consciousness that signifies here more than it should, plus kangaroos and bandicoots. A-

Joe Lovano Us Five: Cross Culture (2012 [2013], Blue Note): Traditional sax-piano-bass-drums quartet upgraded for the modern era by doubling up the drummers -- Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela -- but what distinguishes the third group album is how much weight the leader carries: one of the great tenor saxmen of the last thirty years, in fine form here. A-

Jasmine Lovell-Smith's Towering Poppies: Fortune Songs (2012, Paint Box): Soprano saxophonist, from New Zealand, based in New York (and Middleton, CT; i.e., Wesleyan). This quintet is effectively chamber jazz, the trumpet and sax delicately balanced contrasts, the piano-bass-drums more intent on providing a stable base than on moving things along. B+(***) [bc]

Monoswezi: The Village (2013, Riverboat): Vocals and mbira from Zimbabwe, percussion from Mozambique, je ne sais quoi from Scandinavia, but something chilly. B+(**)

Gurf Morlix: Blaze Foley's 113th Wet Dream (2011, Rootball): Fifteen songs by ex-wife Lucinda Williams' favorite "Drunken Angel," Morlix gives them a certain calm certainty that Foley never managed on his own. A-

Aaron Neville: My True Story (2013, Blue Note): Oldies project, co-produced by Keith Richards and Don Was, pulls twelve well-known songs from the 1950s (and a bit of the '60s). An inessential reminder of how great those songs were, unless you're a complete sucker for Neville's voice, in which case indulgence is in order. B+(***)

Parquet Courts: Light Up Gold (2012 [2013], What's Your Rupture?): Not sure how this leaked out, but it showed up on a handful of 2012 EOY lists -- more so than any other album with a 2013 release date. Group founded in Austin, moved to Brooklyn, their postpunk is nearly pristine (or at least classic) excepting two cuts at the end. A-

Pere Ubu: Lady From Shanghai (2013, Fire): New wave band from Akron, vital and important from 1975 (The Modern Dance) to about 1989 (Cloudland), after which they've limped along as a front for singer David Thomas' erratic career. Promising "dance music, fixed" -- bent rhythms, industrial clatter, nothing transcendental but a strong whiff of old times. B+(**)

Public Enemy: Most of My Heroes Still Don't Appear on No Stamp (2012, Enemy): Most of mine too, but those who do are invariably misconstrued, so much so that the honor seems dubious, almost an invitation to fraud. No doubt Chuck understands all this. He's just looking for hooks to pile onto the hardest beats in rap, and reminding us that no matter how much has changed since he/they developed their stance, it's still not enough. A- [cd]

Public Enemy: The Evil Empire of Everything (2012, Enemy): More scattered, as their second disc rounds up the miscellany that didn't fit into the first. Still, the politics is sharp and nasty, the beats as hard as ever, and the slips only occasional. Not as rock solid as Most of My Heroes, but compared to the rest of the world, a distinction not cost-effective. A- [cd]

Wayne Shorter Quartet: Without a Net (2011 [2013], Blue Note): After twenty years of making lousy records, Shorter put a first-rate young quartet together in 2001 and became interesting again: Danilo Pérez (piano), John Patitucci (bass), and Brian Blade (drums). He's kept the group going for a decade, and nearing eighty he recycles tunes on this tough and searching live set. Includes a 23-minute piece with the Imani Winds complicating things. Gets stronger at the end with two group titles. B+(**)

Sun Araw & M. Geddes Gengras Meet the Congos: Icon Give Thank [FRKWYS Vol. 9] (2012, RVNG Intl.): The Congos were a 1970s reggae vocal group associated with Lee "Scratch" Perry, and I guess they're still around, even doing live gigs with Araw (Cameron Stallones) and (maybe) Gengras. Don't know much about the others, except that Araw is prolific and Gengras isn't. They mix the vocals down into a deep psychedelic rasta slurry which moves you along but is a bit unforgiving about it. B+(*)

Wax Tailor: Dusky Rainbow From the Dark (2012, Le Plan/Lab'oratoire): French trip-hop/hip-hop producer Jean-Christophe Le Saoût, rap-heavy album (all English), feels like a concept thing but I didn't try to follow the story line -- just pleased enough at the way the words rock and roll over the beats. B+(**)

Kelly Willis/Bruce Robison: Cheater's Game (2013, Premium/Thirty Tigers): Wife-husband country duo, first album together after each has put out 7-8 solos, with Robison the songwriter (6 of 13 here), Willis the better singer. The title promises a cheating theme, but they don't stick to any theme, and the voices are more likely to merge than to jive. B+(***)

Wussy: Berneice Huff and Son, Bill Sings . . . Popular Favorites (2013, Shake It): No idea what the provenance of these "remixes, demos, live versions, covers, and ancient interview snippets" is -- I wouldn't even know if they were recutting their greatest non-hits, since none of their studio albums have sunk in to the point of recognition. But nothing here belies their reputation as a pretty good band -- Christgau has lauded them as the best in the land -- and in the past I've found offhanded charm an easier intro than studio masterpieces. B+(***) [dl]

Yo La Tengo: Fade (2013, Matador): Alt-indie trio started out mid-1980s, producing a dozen-plus albums and an awful lot of collectorama -- looking back reminds me that I never graded two early albums which may have been vinyl and long gone, and I barely recall the occasional later albums I managed to admire. This one is described by fans as their quietest and as exceptionally pretty, which I take to mean subtle, an unpromising adjective. Ira Kaplan isn't a very engaging singer, and nothing here grabbed me until the 6:14 closer ("Before We Run") found its horns-and-strings groove. B+(**)

Yo Ma Ma: Symptomology / Stephen Kalinich & Jon Tiven: Shortcuts to Infinity (2012, Ms Music, 2CD): Attribution is treacherous here, but these guys don't have a lot of marketing expertise. Kalinich recorded an album in 1969 that included some songs co-written with Brian Wilson but didn't get released until 2008. Tiven led a Velvets-influenced garage group called the Yankees, with one release in 1978, then popped up with a couple albums in the 1990s. Second disc here (at least by this accounting; other sources differ) bears their names, while the first is credited to their doppelganger identity: coarse, funny, punky. The second slips more often, but picks up when it needs to, and has the allure of stuff you're not going to hear anywhere else. A-


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

Recycled Goods

The following were written during this period for Recycled Goods:

Anthony Braxton/Marilyn Crispell: Duets: Vancouver 1989 (1989 [1990], Music & Arts): Half of Braxton's remarkable 1984-93 quartet, strip the rhythm off and he slips into his solo abstractions, which she not just props up but muscles around. B+(***)

Marilyn Crispell: Selected Works: 1983-1986: Solo Duo Quartet (1983-86 [2001], Leo, 2CD): Part of the label's "Golden Years of New Jazz" series, starting off solo piano (6 cuts, 48:15), adding drummer Doug James (7 cuts, 43:31), and finishing with a 38:00 bass-cello-drums quartet improvisation; she is rarely less than riveting, James is growing on me, and the strings just make the piano that much more percussive. A-

Marilyn Crispell/Reggie Workman/Doug James: Gaia (1987 [1988], Leo): Avant-piano trio, starts cautiously but when she picks up speed she is dazzling, breaking only to let the bassist work up some serious mojo (and to give James a crashing solo). A-

Marilyn Crispell Trio: Live in Zürich (1989 [1990], Leo): Piano trio, with Reggie Workman and Paul Motian, two who know a lot about filling out and balancing off a piano trio, although for once the drummer doesn't make it look easy -- Crispell's crisp, deep, muscular, and prickly piano keeps him on his toes. A-

Marilyn Crispell: Live in San Francisco (1987-89 [1990], Music & Arts): Eight solo pieces, including Monk, Coltrane, "When I Fall in Love" -- exacting, but not at his most exciting -- followed by two live-but-non-SF curiosities: a 10:10 duet with Anthony Braxton (mostly on flute), and a 5:30 group led by Reggie Workman with Jeanne Lee singing and Don Byron on clarinet. B+(**)

Marilyn Crispell/Georg Graewe: Piano Duets (1991 [1992], Leo, 2CD): A piano pairing even more resourceful than the previous year's Overlapping Hands with Irène Schweizer, probably because Graewe dissimilarity offers a more complementary approach; the "tuned pianos" of the first disc give way to "detuned pianos" on the second without any calamity, as both pianists take what the machines give, turning surprise into delight. A-

Marilyn Crispell: Highlights From the 1992 American Tour (1992 [1993], Music & Arts): Seven piano trio cuts with Reggie Workman and Gerry Hemingway, from four tour stops, the title unclear from the cover -- Rhapsody goes with a song list, starting with "Suite for Two"; the suite is less compelling than the rhythm grind, which picks up on the second half. B+(***)

Marilyn Crispell: Stellar Pulsations/Three Composers (1992 [1993], Leo): Cover continues, "Music by Robert Cogan/Pozzi Escot/Manfred Niehaus," so those are the composers; Ellen Polansky is also credited with piano on the rigorous first piece; Crispell is joined by Don Byron and Gerry Hemingway for the chamberish second, and the entire WDR Radio Orchestra swims up the Third Stream on the finale, "Concerto for Marilyn" -- punctuated, of course, by some exceptional piano. B

Marilyn Crispell/Tim Berne: Inference (1992 [1995], Music & Arts): Piano-alto sax duo; Crispell's piano is so dense, so harmonically rich, so percussive that she covers much of what a bass and/or drums would do, but the sax holds center stage, and at this point in his career Berne tended to irritate as well as intrigue. B+(*)

Marilyn Crispell/Anders Jormin/Raymond Strid: Spring Tour (1994 [1995], Alice): Piano trio cut in Sweden, home turf for the others; all three contribute songs, with Jormin's genteel avant-ambiance already pointing him toward ECM; the pianist obliges by forgoing her pyrotechnics in favor of lighter, subtler abstractions. B+(**)

Marilyn Crispell: Live at Mills College, 1995 (1995, Music & Arts): Live solo piano, four long cuts -- one by Monk, one a standards medley, two originals -- plus a short one called "Drums"; not much reason to prefer this over similar records, except when she gets rowdy, which happens often enough. B+(***)

Marilyn Crispell: The Woodstock Concert (1995 [1996], Music & Arts): Another solo, less than three months after Live at Mills College, two months before the superb Contrasts: Live at Yoshi's (1995), even more of a tour de force -- "In Lingering Air" multiplies her percussion and harmonics into something wondrous, a level she returns to time and again, but by then even a relatively quiet stretch pulls you in. A

Marilyn Crispell/Stefano Maltese: Red (1999 [2000], Black Saint): Sicilian saxophonist, plays soprano, alto, and tenor here, plus bass clarinet, has more than a dozen albums but little you'll find outside Italy; the first of two duos with the pianist, good-natured exploration without a lot of clash. B+(*)

Barry Guy/Mats Gustafsson/Raymond Strid Trio with Marilyn Crispell: Gryffgryffgryffs (1996 [1997], Music & Arts): Bassist Guy is a recurrent figure in Crispell's discography; drummer Strid is a guy you look up when playing in Sweden, where this was originally a radio program; the Norwegian saxophonist is in subdued form, playing a little cat-and-mouse game with the pianist, impishly favoring the mouse. B+(**)

Joseph Jarman/Marilyn Crispell: Connecting Spirits (1996, Music & Arts): Jarman was an AACM founder and saxophonist in the Art Ensemble of Chicago up to 1993 and again after 2003; don't have the credits here, but he's mostly on soprano, going for that high lonesome sound, but it's not all striving, as the blissful "Dear Lord" shows, not to mention the triumphant "Connectivity." B+(**)

Ivo Perelman/Marilyn Crispell/Gerry Hemingway/William Parker: En Adir: Traditional Jewish Songs (1996 [1997], Music & Arts): The songs may predate credits, but nothing her makes the first concession to klezmer. The Brazilian tenor saxophonist, relatively early in his career, claims the arranging credits, and indeed throws out a bit of melody before bouncing off the changes into the avant stratosphere, and the rhythm section does it all. A-

Reggie Workman Ensemble: Altered Spaces (1992 [1993], Leo): Violinist Jason Hwang joins, replacing the guitar and stabilizing the group that seems fated to the chamber jazz promised by the clarinet (Don Byron) and voice (Jeanne Lee), intercut with lots of bass solos. B


Everything streamed from Rhapsody, except as noted in brackets following the grade:

  • [cd] based on physical cd (but made most sense to review here)
  • [bc] available at bandcamp.com
  • [dl] something I was able to download from the web; may be freely available, or may be a promo deal