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Streamnotes: June 24, 2019
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, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on May 27. Past reviews and more information are available here (13100 records).
Akiko Hamilton Dechter: Equal Time (2018 , Capri): Organ-guitar-drums trio, with Akiko Tsuruga on organ, Jeff Hamilton on drums, and Graham Dechter on guitar. Straightforward soul jazz here, a steady groove with a little embellishment. B+(*) [cd]
Melissa Aldana: Visions (2019, Motéma): Tenor saxophonist, from Chile, studied at Berklee, won a Monk prize. Quintet, with Sam Harris (piano), Pablo Menares (bass), Joel Ross (vibes), and Tommy Crane (drums). Cites Frida Kahlo as inspiration. Mainstream postbop, emphasis on flow. B+(**)
Fabian Almazan Trio: This Land Abounds With Life (2018 , Biophilia): Pianist, born in Cuba, raised in Miami, fifth album since 2012, a trio with Linda May Han Oh (bass) and Henry Cole (drums), plus strings on one track. B+(*)
Rodrigo Amado/Gonçalo Almeida/Onno Govaert [The Attic]: Summer Bummer (2018 , NoBusiness): World class tenor saxophonist from Portugal, with bass and drums. Group name on cover from a 2017 album I filed under the bassist's name (with Amado but a different drummer), but spine here lists the artists as given, omitting the group name. Free jazz, not his best but so right up my alley I finally surrendered. A- [cd]
Rodrigo Amado/Chris Corsano: No Place to Fall (2014 , Astral Spirits): Tenor sax and drums duo, improv pieces in a Lisbon studio. The drummer likes to kick up a racket, so this runs hard and fast (as far as I can tell). [2/5 cuts: 18:45/48:53] B+(**) [bc]
Angles 9: Beyond Us (2018 , Clean Feed): The expanded edition of saxphonist Martin Küchen's Angles 3, fourth album at this number (plus one Angles 8), with five horns, piano (Alexander Zethson), vibes (Mattias Ståhl), bass, and drums. Five cuts, live, huge ensemble sound with some major solos (Magnus Broo stands out). B+(***)
Brad Barrett/Joe Morris/Tyshawn Sorey: Cowboy Transfiguration (2018 , Fundacja Sluchaj): Bass/cello, guitar, and drums trio, all improv, artists listed alphabetically (although Barrett has sole credit as producer). Morris tends to get scratchy and choppy in this sort of group, almost percussion. B+(***) [bc]
Bruce Barth: Sunday (2017 , Blau): Pianist, from California, more than a dozen albums since 1993. Tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi threatens to take this over, but the pianist doubles down and plays harder. With Mark Hodgson on bass and Stephen Keogh on drums, recorded live in Spain. B+(**)
Albert Beger Quartet: The Gate (2017 , NoBusiness): Israeli saxophonist, also plays shakuhachi here in this quartet with piano-bass-drums. Impressive as long as he stays aggressive on sax. B+(***) [cdr]
Jerry Bergonzi: The Seven Rays (2019, Savant): Tenor saxophonist, quintet with Phil Grenadier on trumper and Danish pianist Carl Winther's trio, same line-up as on 2017's Dog Star. More postbop, or maybe I just mean his sax rarely stands out. B+(*)
Big Thief: U.F.O.F. (2019, 4AD): Brooklyn-based indie band, third album (although leader Adrianne Lenker also has a solo). Nothing hard, or even very solid, yet the songs hold together nicely, with lots of minor pleasures. A-
Alan Broadbent Trio: New York Notes (2019, Savant): Mainstream pianist, from New Zealand, discography dates from 1974, close to thirty albums as leader, seems like I first became aware of him in Charlie Haden's Quartet West (1987-2002?). Trio with Harvie S (bass) and Billy Mintz (drums). He's always been a fine pianist, but this one's exceptionally dazzling. A-
François Carrier/Alexander Hawkins/John Edwards/Michel Lambert: Nirguna (2017 , Fundacja Sluchaj, 2CD): Free quartet, the alto saxophonist and drummer long-term companions from Quebec, here live at Vortex in London, with local pianist (Hawkins) and bassist (Edwards), almost as practiced together. Two 51-minute sets, each starting long, closing shorter, the leaders at their most aggressive. B+(***) [bc]
Trish Clowes: Ninety Degrees Gravity (2019, Basho): British saxophonist, sings a bit, fifth album since 2010, backed by guitar-organ-drums, postbop with some chops. B+(**)
Anat Cohen Tentet: Triple Helix (2019, Anzic): Clarinet player, from Israel, based in New York, featured artist here although the music looks to be by Obed Lev-Ari, a "concerto for clarinet and ensemble." Two reeds, two brass, cello and bass, piano and guitar, drums and vibraphone. Best when they kick up their heels. B+(**)
Avishai Cohen: Arvoles (2019, Razdaz/Sunnyside): Israeli bassist, leads a piano trio (Elchin Shirinov and Noam David), adding trombone (Björn Samuelsson) and flute (Anders Hagberg) on four cuts (of 11). Mostly rhythmic vamps, captivating pieces, the horns adding weight and color -- the trombone, anyway. B+(***)
Denzel Curry: Zuu (2019, Loma Vista): Florida rapper, fourth album, sharp and short (12 tracks, 29:02). B+(**)
Dave Douglas/Uri Caine/Andrew Cyrille: Devotion (2018 , Greenleaf Music): Trumpet-piano-drums trio, type suggests I could have credited it just to Douglas, but the other names are stacked above the title. Caine comes out aggressive here, but the trumpet never really takes charge. B+(*)
Hamid Drake/Joe McPhee: Keep Going (2018, Corbett vs. Dempsey): Most sources list McPhee first, but cover favors drummer Drake. Duets, McPhee playing alto sax and pocket trumpet. Brilliant in spots, staggers a bit too. B+(***) [bc]
Rosana Eckert: Sailing Home (2018 , OA2): Singer-songwriter, from Texas, teaches voice at UNT, has a couple previous albums. This one is produced by Peter Eldridge, who plays keyboards and shares three writing credits. B [cd]
Ezra Collective: You Can't Steal My Joy (2019, Enter the Jungle): London-based jazz group, led by drummer Femi Koleoso with his brother TJ Koleoso on bass, Joe Armon-Jones on keys, plus trumpet and sax. More fusion than pop but that's a fine line. B
Fennesz: Agora (2019, Touch): Electronica producer Christian Fennesz, from Austria, big pile of records since 1997. Usually filed under ambient, but the drone here is a bit much. B
Craig Finn: I Need a New War (2019, Partisan): Fourth solo album, after fronting groups Lifter-Puller and the Hold Steady. Has a distinctive voice, writes fine songs about other interesting people, produces them with warmth and sparkle. Worried a bit that the reason the songs haven't sunk in yet is that they're less memorable than his best, but this sounds great, even if it wears a bit thin. Title refers to U.S. Grant, who would think such a thing. B+(***)
Fontaines D.C.: Dogrel (2019, Partisan): Irish post-punk group, led by singer Grian Chatten, first album, 11 songs in 39:55, most with rhythm that reminds me of the Roadrunners with a soupçon of Pogues, ends on a ballad ("Dublin City Sky") that ripens the accent. B+(***)
Satoko Fujii/Ramon Lopez: Confluence (2018 , Libra): Piano-drums duo. Starts and ends slow, contemplative even, with a strong middle section that shows the pianist moving past her Cecil Taylor inspiration. B+(***) [cd]
Mark Guiliana: Beat Music! Beat Music! Beat Music! (2019, Motéma): Drummer, from New Jersey, first album (aside from a duo that listed Brad Mehldau first) was called Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations, and he later used Beat Music Productions as his self-released label name. Single-word titles. Electronic keybs, bass, with occasional vocals. And, yeah, beats. B
Mats Gustafsson/Jason Adasiewicz: Timeless (2017 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Title track is by the late guitarist John Abercrombie, evidently a common touchstone for the Swedish saxophonist and the Chicago vibraphonist (also plays balafon, to fine effect). B+(*) [bc]
Tom Harrell: Infinity (2018 , HighNote): Trumpet player, started in big bands with Stan Kenton and Woody Herman, over 30 albums since 1976, mostly postbop quintets, like this one with Mark Turner (tenor sax), Charles Altura (guitar), Ben Street (bass), and Johnathan Blake (drums). The guitar chimes in nicely with the horns, slick and sophisticated. Impressive until it ceases to matter. B+(**)
Injury Reserve: Injury Reserve (2019, Senaca Village): Phoenix hip-hop trio, debut album after a couple mixtapes, runs rough but the beats and scratches are first-rate, the words come and go, and they know a hook when they hang one. B+(***)
Per 'Texas' Johansson/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Konrad Agnas: Orakel (2018 , Moserobie): Avant-sax trio from Sweden, all three write (but mostly bassist Zetterberg, who some sources credit first). All seems deeply thought out, nothing rushed or frantic. Johansson doubles on clarinet. Not much under his name, but he's been active since the 1990s, often impressive. A- [cd]
Ryan Keberle & Catharsis: The Hope I Hold (2018 , Greenleaf Music): Trombonist, has used this band name since 2012, with Scott Robinson (tenor sax), Jorge Roeder (bass), Eric Doob (drums), and Camila Meza (vocals/guitar). Songs inspired by Langston Hughes. B+(**) [cd]
Angelique Kidjo: Celia (2019, Verve): Pop singer from Benin, father Fon, mother Yoruba, cut her first album in 1981, moved to Paris in 1983, became an international star after Island picked up her 1991 album Logozo, but I've only heard one of her fifteen albums before this tribute to Cuban diva Celia Cruz. The Cuban rhythm picks up the pace, but she still seems a little stiff for the role. B+(*)
La La Lars: La La Lars II (2019, Headspin): Swedish drummer Lars Skoglund, second album under this alias, Discogs lists 70 album credits since 1999, some rock or pop. Quintet, with Jonas Kullhammar (sax, flute, bassoon), Goran Kojfes (trumpet), Carl Bagge (piano), and Johan Bethling (bass). B+(**) [cd]
Matt Lavelle Quartet: Hope (2019, Unseen Rain): Trumpet/flugelhorn player, alto alto and bass clarinet, Quartet same as on their eponymous 2017 debut: Lewis Porter (piano), Hilliard Greene (bass), and Tom Carrera (drums). Surprisingly mainstream, almost lush. B+(**) [bc]
Xavier Lecouturier: Carrier (2018 , Origin): Drummer, based in Seattle, first album, composed 5 (of 10) pieces, with guitarist Lucas Winter contributing three more and much of the sound. B [cd]
Kedr Livanskiy: Your Need (2019, 2MR): Russian, Yana Kedrina, lays her vocals on thick over electronics, the dance beats evidently the work of producer Flaty (Zhenya). B
Rosie Lowe: Yu (2019, Wolf Tone): British (Leeds) singer-songwriter, second album, electropop, but avoid glitz, the slackness drawing you in. B+(**)
Kelsey Lu: Blood (2019, Columbia): Based in L.A., plays cello and sings, last name McJunkins, not sure if Lu is her middle (she has recorded as Lu Lu McJunkins). First album, after an EP. Cover reminds me of Solange, albeit with more exposure. Songs expose more too. Surprise move is the cover of 10cc's "I'm Not in Love." B+(**)
Martha: Love Keeps Kicking (2019, Dirtnap): Indie band from a village called Pity Me in County Durham, far northeast of England. Third album, very upbeat, a bit busy with all four musicians (guitar-guitar-bass-drums) singing. B+(**)
Greta Matassa: Portrait (2019, Origin): Standards singer, based in Seattle, Discogs lists 8 records, one in 1991, the rest 2001-10, so this is her first in a while. Backed by piano trio plus saxophone (Alexey Nikolaev). Does a nice job of navigating the difficult "Lush Life." B [cd]
Dom Minasi: Remembering Cecil (2019, Unseen Rain): Guitarist, cut two albums for Blue Note 1974-75, then nothing until 1999 when he surfaced on avant-oriented CIMP. Solo here, a tribute to the late Cecil Taylor but no songbook -- all inspired-by improvs. Doesn't remind me much of Taylor either, but I like the thoughtfulness that went into it. B+(***) [bc]
Dom Minasi/Juampy Juarez: Freeland (2018, Cirko): Guitar duo. Juarez is from Argentina -- not much info on him, but he seems to have another duo album with John Stowell, and more (although Discogs comes up empty). Nice Monk closer. B+(*)
Thurston Moore/Frank Rosaly: Marshmallow Moon Decorum (2012 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Guitar-drums duo, the guitarist famous from Sonic Youth, but he's occasionally played with jazz groups (e.g., the Thing). One 31:36 piece. Gets loud. B+(*) [bc]
Maren Morris: Girl (2019, Columbia Nashville): Nashville singer-songwriter, Wikipedia lists some juvenilia but her effective debut was a 2015 EP followed by her hit album, Hero. Her follow up sticks to formula, effectively oversinging on top of excess production. B
The Mountain Goats: In League With Dragons (2019, Merge): John Darnielle's 17th album, something to do with dungeons and dragons (the tabletop game), offers the level of songcraft we've come to expect, passes perhaps a bit too easily. B+(**)
The National: I Am Easy to Find (2019, 4AD): Alt/indie band from Cincinnati, released their debut in 2001, Matt Berninger has the voice, while the band has a knack for rhythm -- gives them reliable appeal, as we wait for special moments. Not enough this time, but the talkie "Not in Kansas" is one. B+(**)
Nobject [Martin Küchen/Rafal Mazur/Vasco Trilla]: X-Rayed (2018 , Fundacja Sluchaj, 2CD): Free-wheeling sax-bass-drums trio (sopranino/tenor, acoustic bass guitar), a "new atomic working band." Four tracks from 7:17 to 30:30, short enough (70:30) it could have fit a single CD. Can get intense. B+(**) [bc]
Linda May Han Oh: Aventurine (2017 , Biophilia): Bassist, born in Malaysia, raised in Western Australia, studied in New York, home now. Fifth album (first three as Linda Oh). Mostly strings -- bass and a full string quartet -- plus alto/soprano sax (Greg Ward), piano (Matt Mitchell), bass (Oh), and drums/vibes (Ches Smith). Has a fancy chamber jazz feel. B+(**)
Matt Olson: 789 Miles (2018 , OA2): Tenor saxophonist, originally from Wisconsin, now based in South Carolina, the title reflects the distance he's traveled. Two albums with Unhinged Sextet, second on his own, a trio with Mike Kocour on organ and Dom Moio on drums. "Stompin' at the Savoy" always sounds good. B+(**) [cd]
Orville Peck: Pony (2019, Sub Pop): "Psychedelic outlaw cowboy croons love and loss from the badlands of North America." Wears a red hat and a black leather mask. Voice/guitar reminds of Robert Gordon, which probably means nothing to you. Lost me on a song about Kansas. He could be onto something, or could get even more annoying. B-
Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford (2019, On-U Sound): Hard to know how much to credit dub, which takes existing tracks and adds echo and scratch, but Rainford Hugh Perry has a major player since the 1970s, spawning further dub masters like producer Adrian Sherwood here. Nine distinctive tracks dwell on his Upsetter theme, artfully enough to sound like everything and nothing else before. A-
Red Kite: Red Kite (2019, RareNoise): Norwegian "jazz-rock power quartet, Even Helte Hermansen the guitarist, plus bass, keyboards, and drums, impressive as long as they keep it hard. B+(**) [cdr]
Marlene Rosenberg: MLK Convergence (2016 [2019[, Origin): Bassist, from Chicago, wrote most of the pieces here, with words from Thomas Burrell and Robert Irving III for one political cut ("Not the Song I Wanna Sing"). Otherwise a superb piano trio with Kenny Barron and Lewis Nash. Two covers, both from Stevie Wonder. B+(***) [cd]
Rotten Girlz: Punk You (2018 , Sazas): Slovenian jazz guitarist Samo Salamon's project. Seems like the original idea was to do something rockish, to which end he wrote some lyrics and recruited Eva Fozenel to sing. But his band -- saxophonist Achille Succi and drummer Bojan Krhianko -- didn't see any reason to temper down their jazz chops. The singer tried some scat, then dropped out after 5 cuts. B+(*) [cd]
RPM: Just Like Falling (2019, Unseen Rain): Group named for first initials: Rocco John Iacovone (alto sax/piano), Phil Sirois (bass), and Michael Lytle (bass clarinet). Iacovone has always been a bracing saxophonist, and the bass clarinet provides a nice contrast. B+(**) [bc]
Chanda Rule: Sapphire Dreams (2016 , PAO): Standards singer, born in Chicago, based in Vienna, Austria, has at least one previous album. Mostly Austrian musicians, with notable exception of pianist Kirk Lightsey. B [cd]
The Jamie Saft Quartet: Hidden Corners (2019, RareNoise): Piano player, started as a groove guy but lately has been playing free. With Dave Liebman (tenor/soprano sax, flute), Bradley Christopher Jones (bass), and Hamid Drake (drums). Mixed bag. B+(**) [cdr]
Samo Salamon & Freequestra: Free Sessions, Vol. 2: Freequestra (2016 , Klopotec): Slovenian guitarist, has been producing 3-5 albums per year since 2004. Group here expands from his Rotten Girls trio to twelve, with two more guitarists, piano, violin, tuba, more horns, and a second drummer. Vol. 1 was released in 2017 as Planets of Kei. A- [cd]
Samo Salamon/Szilárd Mezei/Jaka Berger: Swirling Blind Unstilled (2018 , Klopotec): Guitar-viola-drums trio. Mezei was featured in Freequestra Vol. 1, but missed out on Vol. 2. Similar moves here, but the group is too sparse to sweep you away. B+(**) [cd]
Erik Skov: Liminality (2018 , OA2): Guitarist, based in Chicago, wrote all the pieces for a sextet with three horns (trumpet, tenor sax, trombone), bass, and drums. Lively postbop with a bit of groove. B+(*) [cd]
Slowthai: Nothing Great About Britain (2019, Method): English rapper Tyron Frampton, from Northampton, first album, after two EPs and several singles. Hard/harsh but austere beats, thick accent, hard to catch much of an album where words are the main course. B+(***)
Ståhls Trio: Källtorp Sessions: Volume One (2017-18 , Moserobie): Vibraphonist Mattias Ståhl, with Joe Williamson (bass) and Christopher Cantillo (drums). Ståhl should probably be getting some poll recognition. He always adds something to larger groups (like Angles 9), but this configuration shows the limits as a lead instrument. B+(***) [cd]
Mary Stallings: Songs Were Made to Sing (2019, Smoke Sessions): Jazz singer, pushing 80, cut a record with Cal Tjader in 1961 but career stalled after tours with Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie. Restarted in 1990 on Concord, and had some good years with HighNote. All covers here, the ungrammatical title leading into the title of "While We're Young." They're not, although Eddie Henderson's trumpet stands out. B+(*)
Peter Stampfel and the Atomic Meta Pagans: The Ordovician Era (2019, Don Giovanni): Scratchy-voiced folksinger's follow up to The Cambrian Explosion, the ancient eras represented in his selection of moldy standards. Cover adds "featuring Shelley Hirsch." B+(*)
Mavis Staples: We Get By (2019, Anti-): Quickly became the star of her father's gospel family act, tried going secular in the 1970s, much later finding her calling as the torch bearer of the civil rights movement. At 80 she has more gravitas than anyone needs, which lends extra heft to Ben Harper's solemn songs. A-
The Twilight Sad: It Won/t Be Like This All the Time (2019, Rock Action): Scottish post-punk band, fifth album since 2007. Way post-punk, but live up to their name. B
Tyler, the Creator: Igor (2019, Columbia): Tyler Okonma, Odd Future rapper turned soul crooner and slinky r&b producer -- an improvement, for once. B+(**)
Federico Ughi: Transoceanico (2016 , 577): Drummer, from Rome, based in Brooklyn, twenty years worth of records (unnoticed by me thus far), this an avant-sax trio with Rachel Musson (tenor) and Adam Lane (bass). Slows down a bit near the end, but I'll need to keep an ear open for this British saxophonist. A-
Vampire Weekend: Father of the Bride (2019, Columbia): Fourth album, first three were alt/indie darlings, but this one -- six years after the last, minus music wizard Rostam Batmanglij, leaving singer Ezra Koenig the main writer, plus a number of guests -- is a sprawling 18-cut mix: cheerful, often catchy, rarely compelling, with a couple cuts where the pop gets overly ripe. Not something I care about enough to figure out. B+(**)
Ken Vandermark/Mats Gustafsson: Verses (2013 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Avant saxophonists, notes say this was their first time as a duo, but they recorded several albums as a trio with Peter Brötzmann (as Sonore, first in 2003), and they played together before that (Vandermark recorded several albums with Gustafsson's AALY Trio, as early as 1996), as well as in larger groups like Pipeline and the Peter Brötzmann Tentet. Many of those albums sound like rutting contests to me, but they seem to be working together here, perhaps because they can hear one another. B+(**) [bc]
Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising (2019, Sub Pop): Natalie Mering, moniker a corruption of a Flannery O'Connor novel (Wise Blood). Fourth album, heavily orchestrated. B-
Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy! (2019, Jagjaguwar): From Chicago, published poet, filed her first album under rap but she sings her way through this second album. Song titles are names, all one word (save "Sun Ra"), most easy enough to fill out, with her best hooked song, "Betty," reprised ("I am not a typical girl"). Took a while to settle in, and probably has more depth than I'll ever be able to plumb. A-
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Amarcord Nino Rota (1981 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): I file this under producer Hal Willner's name, who went beyond this first album to produce a series of tribute albums worthy of auteur tatus -- most fabulously Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill (1985). Otherwise, this would be "various artists" playing compositions by Nino Rota from the films of Federico Fellini. Mostly jazz musicians, several solo (Jaki Byard, Bill Frisell, Steve Lacy), larger ensembles arranged by Carla Bley and Muhal Richard Abrams, even a medley with the Marsalis brothers. A- [bc]
Paul Bley/Gary Peacock/Paul Motian: When Will the Blues Leave (1999 , ECM): Piano-bass-drums trio. Not sure how far they go back together, but their earlier 1999 album was described as a reunion, Bley did a duo with Peacock in 1970, and Motian joins them in 1975 (if not earlier). All stars by this point, interesting as ever. B+(**)
Alex Chilton: Songs From Robin Hood Lane (1991-94 , Bar/None): Four previously unreleased songs, the others from two early-1990s albums (Medium Cool and Clichés) -- jazz standards, perhaps the point of the titles. B+(*)
Agustí Fernández Trio With William Parker & Susie Ibarra: One Night at the Joan Miró Foundation: July 16th, 1998 (1998 , Fundacja Sluchaj): Pianist, from Barcelona, where this was recorded. Discography starts around 1986, seems especially inspired here playing with Cecil Taylor's bassist, who's worth focusing on. A- [bc]
Beaver Harris/Don Pullen 360° Experience: A Well Kept Secret (1984 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Had this in my database as an unrated LP, but haven't seen it in ages. Harris (1936-91) is a drummer, not much under his name but played in some important avant groups in the 1960s, and later cut an African Drums album. Pullen (1944-95) was a brilliant pianist, and he's often dazzling here, but the group is pretty scattered, with two saxes -- Ricky Ford on tenor and Hamiet Bluiett on baritone -- plus bass and steel drums. B+(***) [bc]
Steve Lacy: Stamps (1977-78 , Corbett vs. Dempsey, 2CD): The soprano sax great's quintet, with Steve Potts (alto/soprano sax), Irène Aebi (cello/violin/voice), Kent Carter (bass), and Oliver Johnson (drums). Second disc was originally released by Hat Hut in 1979, more than doubled here with a previously unreleased 1977 live set: Some vocals at the top, after which they roll hard, even more so on the reissued tracks. B+(***) [bc]
Joe McPhee/Mats Gustafsson: Brace for Impact (2007 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Two avant saxophonists, alto and baritone although both rummage through their closet for exotic variants: pocket trumpet, alto clarinet, and voice for McPhee; slide sax, alto fluteophone, and electronics for Gustafsson. Expect strain and screech, but this has remarkable moments when they manage to hold it together. B+(***) [bc]
Sam Rivers Trio: Emanation (1971 , NoBusiness): Volume 1 of Sam Rivers Archive Project, drawing on a reportedly large trove of private recordings, here from the period when the late 1960s avant-garde retreated to the lofts of Lower Manhattan, chez Rivers in particular. Two massive chunks, 76:41 in total, with the leader playing tenor and soprano sax, a lot of flute, and some striking piano, all backed by Cecil McBee on bass and Norman Connors on drums. A-
Team Dresch: Personal Best (1994 , Jealous Butcher, EP): Relatively minor queercore/riot grrrl group, formed in Olympia, based in Portland, short first album (10 cuts, 24:14). Named for guitarist/bassist Donna Dresch, but vocals are credited either to Jody Coyote (Bleyle) or Kaia Kangaroo (Wilson). B+(*)
Team Dresch: Choices, Chances, Changes: Singles & Comptracks 1994-2000 (1994-2000 , Jealous Butcher): Twelve songs, most from 7-inch singles (starting with their debut "Hand Grenade") with a couple of change-ups and a sense of evolution, adds up to 30:31. B+(*)
Fred Anderson: Dark Day + Live in Verona (1979 , Atavistic Unheard Music Series, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist (1929-2010), born in Louisiana, joined AACM and recorded a bit 1979-80, then ran his club until returning to the fray in the late 1990s. First disc (Dark Day) appeared on an Austrian label in 1979, combined with a previously unreleased live set here -- three long tracks, repeating two titles from the album at much greater length. With Billy Brimfield (trumpet), Steven Palmore (bass), and a young but most impressive Hamid Drake (drums/tabla). A-
Fred Anderson Quartet: The Milwaukee Tapes Vol. 1 (1980 , Atavistic Unheard Music Series): New bassist, but essentially the same powerhouse quartet. B+(***)
Steve Beresford/Tristan Honsinger/David Toop/Toshinori Kondo: Double Indemnity/Imitation of Life (1980-81 , Atavistic Unheard Music Series): Sticker explains: "Two hardcore improvised music LPs on one CD." But they used the original front and back covers from Double Indemnity, only crediting Beresford (piano/flugelhorn) and Honsinger (cello/voice). The second album, Imitation of Life, added Toop (guitars/flutes) and Kondo (trumpet), its cover, where the order was Honsinger-Beresford-Kondo-Toop, probably relegated to the booklet. Hard to sort so much chaos and invention out. B+(*)
Jerry Bergonzi Trio: Lost in the Shuffle (1998, Double Time): With Dan Wall on organ and Adam Nussbaum on drums. Mostly originals (one Hart & Rodgers standard), strong tenor sax showing. B+(**)
Jerry Bergonzi: Spotlight on Standards (2016, Savant): "Witchcraft," "Dancing in the Dark," "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Stella by Starlight," others less famous. Backed by organ (Renato Chicco) and drums (Andrea Michelutti), more energy than a great ballad album needs, but this tenor saxophonist has always been restless. B+(***)
The Peter Brötzmann Trio: For Adolphe Sax (1967 , Atavistic Unheard Music Series): German tenor saxophonist, first album (of hundreds, still coming) fashions his uncompromising avant assault while offering a tribute to the instrument's inventor. I've long found his attack hard to take, but I guess he's wearing me down. With Peter Kowald and Sven-Åke Johansson, plus pianist Fred Van Hove on the final cut. B+(*)
The Peter Brötzmann Sextet & Quartet: Nipples (1969 , Atavistic Unheard Music Series): Dialed back a bit from his legendary octet recording of Machine Gun in 1968, his sextet here offers a "who's who" of the early European avant-garde, with Evan Parker (tenor sax), Derek Bailey (guitar), Fred Van Hove (piano), Buschi Niebergall (bass), and Han Bennink (drums) -- minus the Brits for the flip-side quartet. The piano is especially striking on both. B+(***)
The Peter Brötzmann Sextet/Quartet: More Nipples (1969 , Atavistic Unheard Music Series): Three previously unreleased pieces, the title from the "Nipples" sextet, two shorter pieces from the later quartet. B+(***)
Günter Christmann/Torsten Müller/LaDonna Smith/Davey Williams: White Earth Streak (1983 , Atavistic Unheard Music Series): German bassist-trombonist, born during WWII in what became Poland, played in free jazz groups from 1976 on. Plays trombone here, with Müller on bass, the others scattered sound effects: piano, violin, ukulele, viola, pianoharp, objects, guitar, banjo, drums. B
Franco Et TP OK Jazz: 1967/1968 (1967-68 , Sonodisc): Congo's greatest bandleader, the most comparable Americans would be Duke Ellington and James Brown, from early (1956) up to his death (1989). Discography is vast, begetting a series of hard-to-find chronological compilations (as with Ellington and Brown). I doubt if these are as completist. Seems marginal two or three cuts in, then finds its own sweet groove. A-
Franco Et TP OK Jazz: 1966/1968 (1966-68 , Sonodisc): Should probably have listed this one above 1967/1968, but found it later, and have little more to add. Nothing blows me away, but everything is thoroughly enjoyable. B+(***)
Franco & Le TP OK Jazz: 1971/1972: Likambo Ya Ngana (1971-72 , Sonodisc): Kicks it up a notch here, not that anyone is in much of a hurry. A-
Franco, Vicky Et L'OK Jazz: Marceline Oh! Oh! (1972 , Sonodisc): "Early '70s," some tracks appeared in 1972, near the end of singer Vicky Longomba's 1961-72 stretch with OK Jazz (often as Vicky et l'OK Jazz). Feels a little pieced together, leaving me with little or no sense of Vicky, although Franco often delivers, as he so often does. B+(***)
Franco Et Le T.P. OK Jazz: 79/80/81 Live: Kinshasa Makambo (1979-81 , Sonodisc): Title track is a slow ballad, perhaps a lament, hard to say. Picks up a little midway, especially on the two long takes of "Bokolo Bana Ya Mbanda." B+(***)
Franco Et Le TP OK Jazz: Makambo Ezali Bourreau: 1982/1984/1985 (1982-85 , Sonodisc): Five nice groove pieces, running 9:20 to 12:18. B+(***)
Franco/Simaro/Jolie Detta Et Le T.P. O.K. Jazz: 1986-1987-1988 (1986-88 , Sonodisc): Two (of four) cuts from a 1986 album with singer Jolie Detta. Not sure where the rest comes from, but Discogs credits Franco with 16 albums in these three years, including one with "Le Poete Lutumba Simaro" (4 tracks, none here). The other nine pieces are short (3:02 to 5:39) but meaty. A-
Franco Et Le TP OK Jazz: Les Rumeurs (Inedits 1988-1989) (1988-89 , Sonodisc): Five previously unreleased cuts, 52:33, "en compagnie de Sam Mangwana." Another delightful groove album. B+(***)
Guillermo Gregorio: Otra Musica: Tape Music, Fluxus & Free Improvisation in Buenos Aires 1963-70 (1963-70 , Atavistic Unheard Music Series): Born 1943 in Argentina, moved to Chicago and established himself on clarinet and alto sax from 1996. These are early pieces, starting avant-electronic before moving on, with some solo sax improvs toward the end. B
Mats Gustafsson: Torturing the Saxophone (2008-13 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Solo saxophone, starts on tenor with five short Ellington tunes, including a surprisingly tender "In a Sentimental Mood," before he roughs up with some live electronics. Switches to baritone for the final four tracks -- three Aylers, and a 22:30 meditation on "Danny's Dream" (a signature piece by the great Swedish baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin). B+(*) [bc]
Staffan Harde: Staffan Harde (1968-71 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Swedish guitarist, only released this one album in 1972, cobbled together from three sessions. Two solo tracks, four more with bass and/or piano, one of those with drums. More is merrier, but reports that Harde is a unique guitar stylist aren't unwarranted. B+(**) [bc]
Steve Lacy/Steve Potts Featuring the Voice of Irène Aebi: Tips (1979 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Soprano and alto saxophone duo, plus the vocalist declaiming aphorisms by Georges Braque. I never could stand her singing, which here takes opera to absurdist extremes. The saxophonists are wonderful at first, but they too turn annoying by the end. Originally released 1981 by Hat Hut. B- [bc]
Jimmy Lyons: Jump Up (1978 , Corbett vs. Dempsey, 2CD): Originally released by Hat Hut in 1979 as 3-LP. Alto saxophonist, best known for his work with Cecil Taylor, leads a fiery quintet with Karen Borca (bassoon), Munner Bernard Fennell (cello), Hayes Burnett (bass), and Roger Blank (drums). A- [bc]
Joe McPhee Quintet/Ernie Bostic Quartet: Live at Vassar 1970 (1970 , Corbett vs. Dempsey, 2CD): A double bill organized by McPhee, but two separate groups, no overlap, one disc each (although vibraphonist Bostic played on several other McPhee albums around then, including the masterpiece Nation Time). McPhee, with Byron Morris as second sax (alto) and Mike Kull on piano, plays an expansive set (76:06). Bostic, with alto sax (Otis Greene) and organ (Herbie Leaman) turns in a short (33:03) set, swinging through "Bags Groove" before tackling "Resolution" (from A Love Supreme). B+(*) [bc]
Joe McPhee: The Willisau Concert (1975 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Avant-sax trio, recorded live in Switzerland, the leader playing tenor and soprano, with John Snyder (synthesizer, voice) and Makaya Ntshoko (drums). Favorite moment is when the synth aims at Krautrock, which just challenges McPhee to be more inventive. A- [bc]
Joe McPhee: Variations on a Blue Line/'Round Midnight (1977 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Solo saxophone, starts on tenor with a 17:24 dedication to Coleman Hawkins ("Beanstalk"), then soprano for a piece called "Motian Studies." Closes with the two title cuts -- the most familiar latter resonant on soprano. B+(**) [bc]
Joe McPhee: Glasses (1977 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Solo tenor sax and flugelhorn, a relatively short "Naima" sandwiched between two longer originals (42:24 total). Starts out by tapping a rhythm on a half-filled wine glass, and closes with more percussion, which is all the help he needs. B+(***) [bc]
Joe McPhee: Alone Together: The Solo Ensemble Recordings 1974 & 1979 (1974-79 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Plays his whole gamut of instruments, including alto horn, overdubbing to build up his ensembles (duo, trio, quartet). B+(***) [bc]
Joe McPhee & André Jaume: Nuclear Family (1979 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Duets, both play alto and tenor sax, McPhee also pocket cornet, Jaume also bass clarinet. Recorded in Paris, previously unreleased. B+(***) [bc]
Louis Moholo/Larry Stabbins/Keith Tippett: Tern (1982 , Atavistic Unheard Music Series): South African drummer, English saxophonist (soprano/tenor) and pianist. Stabbins is the least famous, but has a long association with Tippett and side credits with LJCO and many other avant ensembles, and could just as well be Evan Parker there. Still, the star here is the pianist, who plays free jazz as grand drama. A-
Lee Perry: Africa's Blood (1971, Trojan): First LP under his own name, most songs attributed to the Upsetters, although the opening James Brown riff is credited to Dave Barker, and Winston Price also gets a feature. Perry wrote everything but "My Girl," a weak signal of the song. B+(*)
Lee Perry and the Upsetters: Some of the Best (1968-79 , Heartbeat): One of the first US compilations of Perry productions, with credits to Dave Barker, Bob Marley, Junior Byles, and Linval Thompson, as well as lots of Upsetters. Not sure of the dates, but most pre-1974. All singles-length (2:07-3:43). Few stand out, but "Keep On Shanking" is the operative motto. B+(***)
Pipeline: Pipeline (2000 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): A sixteen-piece "free music big-band," organized in Chicago with a bunch of visiting Scandinavians, shelved when the intended label (Crazy Wisdom, in Sweden) was shuttered. Four reed players (leader Mats Gustafsson plus Ken Vandermark, Fredrik Ljungkvist, and Guillermo Gregorio); two brass (Jeb Bishop on trombone and Per-Åke Holmlander on tuba); two each at guitar, piano, bass, and three drummers. Two long pieces (one Vandermark, the other Ljungkvist). This was recorded about the time of Vandermark's first large band project (Territory Band), but is very different: remarkable flow, rhythmic detail, minimal squawk. A- [bc]
Tom Prehn Quartet: Axiom (1963-66 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Danish pianist, recorded a couple of albums in the 1960s, of which this 1963 effort is "arguably the rarest LP in European free jazz." Also one of the most surprising ones, as tenor saxophonist Frits Krogh predates any comparable free jazz in Europe by close to a decade. Adds a previously unreleased 12:36 track from 1966, not quite as good as the original album but clearly related. A- [bc]
Tom Prehn Quartet: Prehn Kvartet (1967 , Atavistic Unheard Music Series): Title from front cover, the reissue back cover translating Tom Prehn Quartet. Same short-lived group, with the leader on piano, plus Fritz Krogh (tenor sax), Paul Ehlers (bass), and Preben Vang (drums). Before launching his own label, Jon Corbett directed this remarkable label series -- I count 38 titles in my ratings database (7 A- or above), but I had missed this one. Similar, a bit more focus on the piano, so less intense. B+(***)
The Upsetters: Super Ape (1976, Mango): Lee Perry's first record appeared in 1969, and through the 1970s he mostly recorded as the Upsetters. This one originally appeared as Scratch the Super Ape in Jamaica, then was picked up by Island, introducing him to the world. This may have seemed slight, or just weird, at the time, its dub effects obscuring reggae's pop sense, but it seems like a classic now. In fact, one cut seems like a radical remix of Junior Murvin's "Police and Thieves" -- a hit a year later, produced by Perry. A-
The Upsetters: Return of the Super Ape (1978, Upsetter): The sequel, didn't get the Island distribution but has been reissued a dozen times or more, with Cleopatra crediting this to Lee "Scratch" Perry & the Upsetters. B+(**)
Phillip Wilson: Esoteric (1977-78 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Drummer (1941-92), from St. Louis, played in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in 1967, moved on to Chicago, where he was involved with AACM, recorded with Anthony Braxton, Lester Bowie, Julius Hemphill, and David Murray, plus a flurry of 1978-79 albums. This turned out to be the last, a duo with Olu Dara (trumpet/serpent). B+(*) [bc]
Current count 31677  rated (+119), 264  unrated (+16).
Excerpts from this month's Music List posts:
So, 29 again. Ran the counter this afternoon, after I found a missed grade and added a "remembered LP" grade -- an LP I distinctly remember having but which didn't get picked up when I jotted down my first grade list (mid-1990s, I think). I may have cut it some slack -- main thing I remember was being disappointed by it.
Once again, surprised that I bagged that many -- after a very slow start, one that kept the Salamon Freequestra album in the changer for close to three days. Finished with Alfred Soto's top 20 list, checking out Mountain Goats, National, Tyler, and Weyes Blood, leaving me with only 5 A- records from his 20 (Control Top's Covert Contracts, Billie Eilish's When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, Robert Forster's Inferno, Lizzo's Cuz I Love You, and Nilüfer Yanya's Miss Universe). Only one Christgau pick in those five (Eilish), and only one more in Soto's other 15 (Sharon Van Etten's Remind Me Tomorrow, a low B+ for me).
Speaking of Eilish, Phil Freeman dissed her album in the course of making a Facebook rant:
I commented, taking exception to his examples: Eilish is currently 12 on my Music Year 2019 list, behind 7 jazz albums (counting my top-rated Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions, which admittedly has vocals, although the other 6 don't) and 4 other non-jazz. Of course, Freeman isn't complaining about me ignoring jazz albums in my annual lists. And I'm not much bothered that who spends most of his non-jazz time listening to metal should have trouble appreciating a lo-fi girl singer-songwriter. Or even that he offers Tyler, a hip-hop artist who buries himself in soft off-kilter tones, as another option in hype. (I agree that he is overrated, but I also find Igor to be his most pleasing and interesting album yet.) Where I disagree is in positing that the Art Ensemble of Chicago survivors reunion album is this year's flagship jazz hope. I played it (both CDs) until I gave up all hope, then let if off easy with a B+(**), which is to say that I currently have at least 50 jazz records this year that I like better.
On the other hand, if I had to handicap the 2019 Jazz Critics Poll, I doubt I'd find more than a couple of my A- records in the top ten: James Brandon Lewis's An Unruly Manifesto seems most likely, then maybe Matthew Shipp's Signature, Moppa Elliott's Jazz Band/Rock Band/Dance Band, Quinssin Nachoff's Path of Totality, or David Berkman's Six of One -- hunches based as much on labels and publicists as on the records themselves. But none of those artists have fared well in past polls, which is a much stronger indicator. Some albums you're more likely to find on JCP ballots (my grades in brackets):
AEC looks pretty imposing on this list: it's big (last year was dominated by 2-CD releases and won by Wayne Shorter's 3-CD monstrosity), has historic cachet that reconciles the avant-garde with the tradition; it augments what's left of a legendary group augmented with lots of guest stars, and is on a label which always places records high in EOY polls (that same label is the reason Mitchell is on this list). None of the other records have that sort of cred, so maybe Freeman is right to pick it. My only complaint is that it isn't good enough. If I wanted to broaden the horizons of non-jazz critics, I'd start by recommending better records.
Christgau remarked recently that EOY list-building has more to do with brand identification than diligent sorting and ranking. I know that to be true of my own lists, where my brand is somone who listens to all kinds of things and doesn't give a fuck about what anyone else thinks. As the Dean, I figure Christgau is more focused on building a pantheon, but individual lists tend to be idiosyncratically personal (and his certainly is). Freeman's referring to corporate lists, which are carefully crafted to cater to a target audience. There's no place for jazz in most, not because their writers dislike jazz (although many do, or simply don't get the exposure -- hardly anyone hears much outside of their niche these days), but because their editors don't expect their readers to be interested in such things. So what you see is what you'd expect when people of limited knowledge try to write down to appeal/appease people who know even less.
Nonethless, as someone who has compiled literally thousands of EOY lists in recent years, I believe that there is actually a tiny trend toward more crossover jazz in predominantly indie/pop lists (although more so in UK than US). Last year the major breakthroughs were Kamasi Washington, Makaya McCraven, and Sons of Kemet (two A- records among those three, the other a high B+, so those picks were much more respectable as jazz than, say, Bad Bad Not Good from a few years back).
I could write volumes more on EOY lists (for data, see last year's EOY aggregate and Jazz Critics Poll). But my bottom line is learn what you can from the data, don't begrudge other people's pleasures, and don't rag on people for not liking what you like.
Back to my original thread about what I reviewed this week: beyond Soto's list, I looked at AOTY's Highest Rated Albums of 2019 and picked out a few records that seemed promising. Three sounded good enough to warrant multiple plays before I settled on B+(***): Fontaines D.C.'s Dogrel (1), Slowthai's Nothing Great About Britain (22), and Craig Finn's I Need a New War. Two previously graded A- in top 25: Dave's Psychodrama (2), and Little Simz's Grey Area (6), and a bunch more I haven't heard. By the way, the Lee Perry dive started with Christgau's review of Rainford. I couldn't find it on Napster, so went to Bandcamp. Obviously, a lot more Perry I haven't heard. I've always recommended the 3-CD compilation, Arkology, but that only gets you 4 prime years (expect overlap with Super Ape). I also really like the recent (2014) Back at the Controls.
Ran the numbers late Sunday evening, but added Monday's unpacking, so the numbers have a slight skew from reality. I'm especially pleased to get a copy of Orakel, the Swedish label Moserobie. It's currently ranked number two on Chris Monsen's Favorites list, and follows a Moserobie release that topped my own 2018 list. It's gotten very expensive to mail CDs from Europe to the US recently, and several of the last few labels I've been getting service from seem to have dropped out (the ones I've felt the worst about are Intakt and NoBusiness, plus Clean Feed a couple years back). With labels like that, I try to find streaming sources, but it's not always easy.
Joe Yanosik wrote to tell me he's working up a Franco discography, and asked whether I've considered doing a deep dive, especially into his numerous Sonodisc recordings. I had, in fact, picked up a couple of them in my shopping days, and have generally enjoyed everything I picked up. Napster has a few of them I hadn't heard, so before long I started working my way through them -- limiting myself to ones I could figure out dates for. The grades below split 3 A-, 4 B+(***), but there wasn't all that much to separate best from worst.
Didn't expect to get to much music this week, but the planned project fell through. Responded to that by feeling listless and depressed, so not much of a recovery. Spent a lot of the time I did use on the Moserobie package, the extra plays merely confirming my first pass impressions. Finally started in on Weekend Roundup early Friday afternoon, and finally felt like I was getting something done -- wouldn't call it mindless, but the task posed enough structure to keep me going through the motions. The result was the most personally satisfying Weekend Roundup all year, plus I ticked off enough records to get close to my 30-per-week target.
The Jamila Woods album was recommended by Michael Tatum, who should have a new Downloader's Diary out this week. I gave it a spin when I first heard about it, and probably would have filed it as a mid-B+, but decided to hold off a while. Returned to it mid-week, and 3-4 plays got better and better. Followed up on some Downbeat jazz reviews -- nothing very good there -- and landed on a couple of Bandcamps that looked promising: Fundacja Sluchaj (François Carrier has been very good at sending me records, so I held off on his record there, but eventually couldn't wait), Unseen Rain (Dom Minasi sent me mail about his record there, and I found more), and Corbett vs. Dempsey (Jon Corbett's obscure reissue label, one I've long wanted to be able to cover). All typically offer the chance to listen to full albums, which makes them reviewable. (Many other Bandcamps have dropped down to a sample cut or two, which makes them unusable for reviews -- that's the main reason I miss more Ken Vandermark albums than I hear these days.) More on the CvD next week, and probably for several weeks to come.
Spoke too soon about NoBusiness dropping me, as I got a big package early last week. The Sam Rivers set was the one I had heard about, so I jumped on it first. Would have been a high B+ had I used their Bandcamp, but having the CD and booklet encouraged me to play it a few extra times.
I also looked up what I've been missing from Intakt -- two monthly packages so far, so four releases -- but nothing looked critical right now (with Fred Frith's 3-CD live set the most imposing). They have a Bandcamp as well, but recent releases only have a couple of cuts available. I think the full records are on Napster -- at least the old ones are -- so I'll catch up there, but no rush.
The Team Dresch reissues were all I got from looking at Pitchfork's Best New Music page -- something I rarely check, but Woods and Denzel Curry are also listed there, along with a Don Cherry reissue of an album (Brown Rice) I gave a B+ to long, long ago, and Slowthai's Nothing Great About Britain (a high B+ last week).
Spent most of the week exploring the Corbett vs. Dempsey catalogue, newly available on Bandcamp. I've been wanting to do that for a while now -- even wrote them an unanswered letter after Amarcord Nino Rota and others placed strong in last year's Jazz Critics Poll. I even bought a couple of John Corbett's recent books (although not yet Pick Up the Pieces: Excursions in Seventies Music, which looks like it parallels my own 1970s experience -- except that he covers a lot of jazz I only got to 20-30 years later). Corbett previously compiled the Unheard Music Series that Atavistic ran in the early 2000s, which brought 50-60 avant-jazz albums out from deep obscurity. Atavistic started in the 1990s as an avant-rock label (big names there were Swans and Lydia Lunch) before they picked up the Vandermark 5, which pulled them more into jazz. Not sure what happened to them, but most of their records are on Napster, so I complemented my CvD dive with a few Unheard titles (Tom Prehn, with one title on each and nothing else anywhere, got me going that way).
The result is a week which is very slanted toward avant-jazz, and mostly old music at that. I went with the CD release dates to decide which CvD records qualified as recent (2018 or later releases, with 2008 the dividing line between new and old music). I went ahead and included records I got to on Monday after my initial freeze Sunday night, figuring it's a short (4-week) month, and it would be nice to keep all this avant-jazz together. That added one more A- record, by Rodrigo Amado. I noted that Amado has another new record out, a duo on Astral Spirits. Their records are on Bandcamp, and I've reviewed a fair number of them there, but recently they've cut them back to 2 cuts each, so I usually don't bother with them, as they're not really reviewable as such. I made an exception here, hedging a bit based on 2/5 cuts. I decided to mark records like that "**?" in my annual list. When/if I get the chance to listen further, I'll revise.
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade: