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Streamnotes: September 30, 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 August 26. Past reviews and more information are available here (13573 records).
Sophie Agnel/John Edwards/Steve Noble: Aqisseq (2016 , ONJazz): French pianist, close to a dozen albums since 2000, backed by bass and drums. Piano sounds prepared, never quite where you expect it. B+(**)
Franco Ambrosetti Quintet: Long Waves (2019, Unit): Swiss trumpet player, father Flavio Ambrosetti was a saxophonist of some note, played in his father's quintet 1963-70, starting a long relationship with pianist George Gruntz. Close to three dozen albums, only one I've previously heard, but his supporting group here would have been hard to miss: John Scofield (guitar), Uri Caine (piano), Scott Colley (bass), and Jack DeJohnette (drums). B+(***)
Reid Anderson/Dave King/Craig Taborn: Golden Valley Is Now (2018 , Intakt): Bad Plus bassist and drummer split writing credits 7-3, with a different keyboard player, but where a big point of Bad Plus was playing acoustic instruments, this is nearly all electronic -- mostly minor groove pieces, occasionally congealing into ambience. Not unattractive, but hard to see the point. B-
AP6C [Alberto Pinton Sestetto Contemporaneo]: Layers (2017 , Clear Now): Pinton, an Italian based in Stockholm, plays baritone sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, piccolo and bass flute. Thirteen albums since 2001, first title adopted for his label name. Mixed bag, with Mats Åleklint's trombone a consistent delight, the leader in fine form, Mattias Ståhl adding vibes, Selma Pinton's vocals a needless complication. B+(**) [cd]
Kenyatta Beasley Septet: The Frank Foster Songbook (2019, Art Vs Transit, 2CD): Trumpet player, from New Orleans, regards Foster (alto saxophonist, a major arranger for Count Basie, died 2011) as a mentor. Beasley's septet is effectively a big band, especially with a batch of special guests. Unabashed swing, runs long. B+(**)
Karl Berger/Jason Kao Hwang: Conjure (2014 , True Sound): Duets, Berger playing piano and vibraphone, Hwang violin and viola. Both are major figures, Berger from as far back as 1967, but these improvs don't generate excitement. B [10-01]
Blarf: Cease & Desist (2019, Stones Throw): Someone named Eric Andre, from Florida, mixed Haitian-Jewish, studied at Dreyfoos School of the Arts and Berklee but seems to be best known for low-budget TV comedy. First album. Has a long stretch of noise, which isn't totally awful, surrounded by all sorts of pastiche -- some bits are funny, sure, but not something I feel up to working through. B- [bc]
Ray Blue: Work (2019, Jazzheads): Tenor saxophonist, several records since 2001, wrote a couple songs here but mostly sticks with standards. Backed by guitar, piano, bass, drums, and occasional guests (some trombone, plus piano spots for Kirk Lightsey and Benito Gonzalez). Easy listening as it should be. B+(**) [cd]
Randy Brecker/Ada Rovatti: Brecker Plays Rovatti: Sacred Bond (2019, Piloo): Rovatti is an Italian saxophonist, four records since 2003, her compositions here, married the trumpet-playing Brecker in 2001, their daughter Stella brightening up the cover and contributing a vocal cameo. Core quintet with the leaders, David Kikoski on keyboards, plus bass and drums, and a few guests (I'm noticing Adam Rogers' guitar), mostly upbeat, running long. B+(**) [cd]
Terrence Brewer & Pamela Rose: Don't Worry 'Bout Me: Remembering Ella & Joe (2019, Strong Brew Music, EP): Jazz guitarist, half dozen albums since 2007, second one titled Groovin' Wes, and standards singer, three albums on her own (first in 1993). "Joe" is Pass, who did a duo album with Fitzgerald in 1970. Six songs, 27:17, not as striking as their inspirations, but a game effort. B+(*) [cd]
Peter Brötzmann/Alexander von Schlippenbach/Han Bennink: Fifty Years After: Live at the Lila Eule 2018 (2018 , Trost): Three founders of the European avant-garde reunite at the venue of the saxphonist's fifty-year-old Machine Gun, but not to look back. The pianist missed that album, but he was as seminal a figure, his initial albums dating from the same period (Globe Unity from 1966). He is remarkable here, adding more dimensions to the saxophonist's primeval roar. A-
Taylor Ho Bynum 9-tette: The Ambiguity Manifesto (2019, Firehouse 12): Cornet player, an Anthony Braxton protégé, often works with a sextet -- Jim Hobbs (alto sax), Bill Lowe (bass trombone/tuba), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Ken Filiano (bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums) -- expanded here with Ingrid Laubrock (tenor and soprano sax), Tomeka Reid (cello) and Stomu Takeishi (elecrric bass guitar). B+(**)
Bill Callahan: Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest (2019, Drag City): American singer-songwriter, recorded thirteen albums as Smog 1990-2005, followed by six under his name. Not much more than voice and guitar, reminds me a bit of Dave Alvin but falls short. The extras on "Lonesome Valley" make a difference. B+(*)
Car Seat Headrest: Commit Yourself Completely (2019, Matador): Will Toledo, self-recorded a bunch of albums before signing his label deal, scored his breakthrough with Teens of Denial (2016), but since then his new product has been old: a remake of his 2011 Twin Fantasy, and now this live tour comp, recycling those same songs once more. I'm not unimpressed, but I've never been much invested. B+(**)
Matt Carson: No Regrets (2019, Bunba): Country singer-songwriter from South Carolina, first album, a short one -- 9 songs, 29:22, six originals, three context-setting covers). A serious young man with hurt in his voice. B+(**)
James Carter Organ Trio: Live From Newport Jazz (2018 , Blue Note): From Detroit, the most impressive of the "tough young tenors" to emerge in the 1990s, unclear why he's been so rarely heard since 2011 (unless he's been holding out for another major label). He formed his Organ Trio for a live album in 2005, revived it for another in 2011, then nothing until this festival date. With Gerald Gibbs on organ and newcomer Alexander White on drums. Some extraordinary saxophone. Organ doesn't strike me as anything special. B+(***)
Cat in a Bag: Cat in a Bag (2019, Clean Feed): Quartet, recorded in Berlin but Portuguese musicians: Bruno Figueira (sax), João Clemente (guitar), João Lucas (bass), Duarte Fonseca (drums). Rockish in spots, although too avant to fit easily into the fusion bag. B+(***)
Corey Christiansen: La Proxima (2019, Origin): Guitarist, sixth album since 2008, backed by bass, drums, and more percussion. Long on groove, with a touch of Abercrombie. B+(*) [cd]
Zack Clarke Trio: Vertical Shores (2017 , Clean Feed): Pianist, based in New York, third album, trio with Kim Cass (bass) and Dre Hocevar (drums). B+(*)
Jimmy Cobb: This I Dig of You (2019, Smoke Sessions): Veteran drummer, played with Miles Davis circa Kind of Blue, with Coltrane in 1958-59, and into the 1960s: the Adderleys, Wynton Kelly, Wes Montgomery. no albums under his own name until 1994, but more than a dozen since. Recorded this one a month after turning 90, with Peter Bernstein (guitar), Harold Mabern (piano), and John Webber (bass). Pretty easy going, with the guitar taking most of the leads, and Mabern (who has since died) a delight. B+(**)
Jimmy Cobb: Remembering U (2016 , Jimmy Cobb World): Cover adds "featuring Roy Hargrove" (actually, just two tracks, with Napster adding "& Javon Jackson," for one of them). Other than that, a trio with Tadataka Unno (piano) and Paolo Benedettini (bass). Hargrove died in 2018, so earlier than that, the best clue being that this was credited as Rudy Van Gelder's last recording session, and he died in 2016. B+(*)
Avishai Cohen/Yonathan Avishai: Playing the Room (2018 , ECM): Two Israelis, trumpet and piano, very intimate. B+(*)
Marco Colonna/Agustí Fernandez/Zlatko Kaucic: Agrakal (2017 , Not Two): Clarinet/baritone sax, backed by piano and drums. Tends toward harsh, but the rhythm can get energetic enough to overcome that problem. B+(**)
Frankie Cosmos: Close It Quietly (2019, Sub Pop): Greta Kline, fourth studio album after dozens of "Bandcamp exclusives," many attributed to Ingrid Superstar. Short songs, 21 of them. B+(**)
DaBaby: Kirk (2019, Interscope): Rapper Jonathan Kirk, second album after a series of mixtapes, much bigger label. Beatwise, streetwise, on the make, bounces off several guests, a snappy 35:08. B+(***)
The Raymond De Felitta Trio: Pre-War Charm (2019, Blujazz): Pianist, better known for directing and writing films, but has a previous album, a solo tribute to Earl Hines. Two trios here, a conventional one with Mike Alvidrez on bass and Paul Kreibich on drums, and another which swaps bass for clarinet (Alex Budman), adding nice colors to the ballads, a plus you don't miss much on the upbeat ones. B+(***) [cd]
Deerhunter: Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? (2019, 4AD): Atlanta-based band, eighth studio album since 2004, only Brad Cox (vocals) and Moses Archuleta (drums) on all of them. Has a certain artiness to it, some nice stretches, some that drag a bit. B
Lana Del Rey: Norman Fucking Rockwell (2019, Polydor/Interscope): Sixth album, starts with a dollop of strings and proceeds so slyly, so ethereally, I never really notice the title in the title song. Still, nearly every song seduces me in the end, maybe with a riff on "Summertime," or a choice expletive I happened to notice. Ends with: "Hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have." Claims it anyway. A-
Jeff Denson/Romain Pilon/Brian Blade: Between Two Worlds (2019, Ridgeway): Bass-guitar-drums trio, Denson and Pilon splitting the writing credits. Nothing very splashy, but intricate, nicely done. B+(*) [cd]
Sam Dillon: Out in the Open (2018, Cellar Live): Tenor saxophonist, studied with Eric Alexander and seems like a chip of the old block. First album, quartet with Peter Zak (piano), Yoshi Waki (bass), and Billy Drummond (drums). Two originals, covers from Porter to Silver to Jobim to Hendrix. Mainstream, strong impression, piano especially sharp. B+(**)
Sam Dillon: Force Field (2018 , Posi-Tone): Another strong outing, four tracks with extra horns (trumpet, alto sax, two of those with trombone), pianist Theo Hill switches to electric for three. Four originals, covers include Chick Corea and Charlie Parker. Not sure the extra flash helps. B+(*)
DSC [Leon Lee Dorsey/Greg Skaff/Mike Clark]: Monktime (2019, Jazz Avenue 1): Bass, guitar, drums, playing eight Monk tunes. Press package makes it clear that Dorsey, a bassist from Pittsburgh with two records 1995-99, is the leader here, although Skaff is more prominent, co-produced, and is marginally more famous (5 records since 1996). B+(*) [cd]
Dump Him: Dykes to Watch Out For (2019, Musical Fanzine/Get Better): Northampton MA punk group, guitar/vocals Mattie Hamer, others list their pronouns as "they/them." Short album (10 songs, 23:21), following a couple of shorter cassettes, but still long enough to evolve from thrash to something approaching songs. B+(*)
Harris Eisenstadt: Canada Day Quartet Live (2018 , Clean Feed): Canadian drummer, released first Canada Day album in 2009, three more through 2015. Groups have varied, but all start with Nate Wooley (trumpet), here joined by Alexander Hawkins (piano) and Pascal Niggenkemper (bass). B+(**)
Peter Eldridge/Kenny Werner: Somewhere (2019, Rosebud Music): Jazz singer, member of New York Voices and Moss, has several previous albums on his own. Werner, of course, is the well-known pianist, so you might hope for something like the Tony Bennett/Bill Evans duets, but the music starts off with thick (hype sheet says "lush") strings. Better on the rare occasions when they let up, but not much. C- [cd]
Eliane Elias: Love Stories (2019, Concord): Jazz pianist from Brazil, pretty well established before she started playing (1990) or singing (1994) Jobim, but vocals and Brazilian rhythms have increasingly dominated her work, as is evident here. That's not necessarily a problem, but sometimes the strings are. B+(*)
Avram Fefer Quartet: Testament (2018 , Clean Feed): Alto/tenor saxophonist, backed by guitar (Marc Ribot), bass (Eric Revis), and drums (Chad Taylor) -- although "backed" isn't quite right word: Ribot dominates so thoroughly I have to strain my ears even to discern the leader's presence. I've played this a lot, and there are stretches near the end that make me want to hear it again, but it takes too long to get there, and I was never hoping for this kind of fancy fusion drive. (Note that without Ribot, this trio's Eliyahu was a ballot pick in 2011.) [Nov. 8] B+(***) [cd]
Gabriel Ferrandini: Volúpias (2017 , Clean Feed): Portuguese drummer, Discogs credits him with 15 albums (since 2009), but this is only the second to list his name first, and he's best known in RED Trio. Another trio here, with Pedro Sousa (tenor sax) and Hernani Faustino (bass, also from RED Trio). B+(**)
Haruna Fukazawa: Departure (2019, Summit): Flute player, from Japan, based in New York, has a previous record as Jazz Triangle. Quintet with Steve Wilson (soprano sax/flute), piano, bass, and drums. Four originals, four covers, nice arrangements of Strayhorn and Silver. B+(*) [cd]
Ezra Furman: Twelve Nudes (2019, Bella Union): Singer-songwriter, started leading Ezra and the Harpoons, still thinks in band terms (I've seen this credited to "Ezra Furman & the band with no name"). Describes this as "our punk record," by which he seems to mean short songs: 11 in 27:27, some crunch to the music, some grit in the lyrics. E.g.: "I refuse to call this living life and I refuse to die . . . The ache inside reminds my mind my body's really there . . . I'm not sure I can bite the hand that feeds me anymore." A-
Jayda G: Significant Changes (2019, Ninja Tune): Canadian DJ Jada Guy, based in Berlin, various singles/EPs since 2015, "has risen steadily and steathily through the dance music underground," this first album with a few vocals a modest step. B+(*)
Vyacheslav Ganelin/Deniss Pashkevich/Arkady Gotesman: Variations (2018 , Jersika): Piano/tenor sax/drums trio, a lineup familiar from the pianist's famous Soviet Era avant-jazz trio. After the break up, Ganelin moved to Israel. Don't know anything about the others, or even where these four LP-length pieces were recorded, but the label is Latvian. Scattered stretches impress as before, but they don't jump out at you. B+(*)
Laszlo Gardony: La Marseillaise (2019, Sunnyside): Hungarian pianist, based in Boston, more than a dozen albums since 1988, this one solo. Originals, one based on the title anthem, plus "O Sole Mio," "Misty," and one from Denny Zeitlin. B+(**) [cd] [10-24]
The Garifuna Collective: Aban (2019, Stonetree): Group from Belize, the former British colony in Central America (northeast of Guatemala), backup for Andy Palacio until his death in 2008. Short album (8 cuts, 27:28), nice groove, relaxed. B+(**)
Ghostface Killah: Ghostface Killahs (2019, Now Generation): Wu-Tang rapper, 13th album on his own. Short one (33:15). Tells a fine tale, beats resolutely old school. B+(***)
Frode Gjerstad/Fred Lonberg-Holm/Matthew Shipp: Season of Sadness (2018 , Iluso): Alto sax/clarinet, cello, and piano. "We are living in a sad moment in time." Avant music that demands thinking, that doesn't lull you into a comfort zone, but also doesn't offer many answers. B [bc]
Gordon Grdina Quartet: Cooper's Park (2019, Songlines): Canadian, plays guitar and oud, long list of albums since 2006. This is a strong quartet, with Russ Lossing (piano, rhodes, clavinet), Oscar Noriega (alto sax, bass clarinet), and Satoshi Takeishi (drums). Five pieces, each developing slowly before finally sinking teeth. B+(***)
Keiji Haino/Merzbow/Balasz Pandi: Become the Discovered, Not the Discoverer (2019, RareNoise): Guitar, electronics, and drums, not that those first two are very distinct. The first two are Japanese, are pioneers in noise with many dozens of albums, things I have only rarely sampled, partly because their appeal to me is pretty limited. B+(*) [cdr]
Tim Hecker: Anoyo (2019, Kranky): Canadian electronica musician, ambient division, close to a dozen albums albums since 2001, previous one with the similar title Konoyo. String sounds give it a bit of fuzz to sharpen the edges, such as they are. B
Weldon Henson: Texas Made Honky Tonk (2018, Hillbilly Renegade): Country singer-songwriter, grew up in Humble, Texas, sounds a lot like vintage Joe Ely. The voice, anyway -- doesn't have the piano, but gets by with his guitar (and some pedal steel), especially when he doesn't dawdle. (Not that I have any complaints about "Not the Kind to Hang Around.") A- [os]
The Highwomen: The Highwomen (2019, Elektra): Patterned on the Highwaymen -- the 1984 supergroup of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson -- starting with Jimmy Webb's title melody, keeping the syllable count from "waymen" to "women." Not so super voices, but accomplished writers -- Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris, and Amanda Shires -- with guest slots (Yola, Sheryl Crow, Miranda Lambert). Lot of talent. Not much to show for it. B
Olli Hirvonen: Displace (2019, Ropeadope): Finnish guitarist, based in New York, third album, quartet with piano (Luke Marantz), bass, and drums. Got some high-flying groove. B+(**) [cd]
Florian Hoefner Trio: First Spring (2018 , ALMA): German pianist, based in St. John's, Newfoundland (not a town I've ever associated with jazz before). Fifth album I've heard, trio with Andrew Downing (bass) and Nick Fraser (drums). Always strikes me as a sharp, thoughtful player, roughly comparable to Fred Hersch. B+(***) [cd]
The Hold Steady: Thrashing Thru the Passion (2019, Frenchkiss): Craig Finn's steady band, seventh studio album since 2004, second since Finn started releasing albums under his own name (four since 2012, including I Need a New War earlier this year). Difference, I reckon, is that he gives the band more head, and they swing as well as rock. Still, Finn's voice uniquely catches the ear, and he's usually reeling off a line you want to hear. A-
Chrissie Hynde With the Valve Bone Woe Ensemble: Valve Bone Woe (2019, BMG): Rocker, long-time leader of Pretenders, only the second album released under her own name, this doing covers with a large orchestra. Not a bad singer for this material, but lushness tends to overwhelm. B
I Jahbar and Friends: Inna Duppy SKRS Soundclash (2019, Bokeh Versions): Jabari Miller, aka Jahbar I, album cover (and Bandcamp page) suggests this parse. Dancehall evolves, picking up all sorts of cosmic crud. B- [bc]
Indoor Pets: Be Content (2019, Wichita): British rock band, first album after an EP, catchy enough to be pop but more crunch than usual. Could turn out to be significant, or not. B+(*)
Ethan Iverson Quartet With Tom Harrell: Common Practice (2017 , ECM): A live set from the Village Vanguard, with the ex-Bad Plus pianist's new trio -- Ben Street on bass and Eric McPherson on drums -- plus trumpet. Two Iverson originals, the rest standards, mostly slow ones suiting Harrell, not giving the pianist a lot of space. B+(*)
Michael Gregory Jackson Clarity Quartet: Whenufindituwillknow (2019, Golden): Guitarist, recorded the album Clarity in 1976 with future stars Oliver Lake, David Murray, and Leo Smith, plus a few more into the 1980s when he turned more to pop and started using the name Michael Gregory. Reclaimed his full name, and his avant-jazz rep, recently. Quartet with alto/soprano sax (Sion Spang-Hanssen), bass, and drums. B+(**) [bc]
Jpegmafia: All My Heroes Are Cornballs (2019, EQT): Rapper Barrington DeVaughn Hendricks, also known as Devon Hendryx, third album after a number of mixtapes. Beats chill verging on abstract, music has a cut-up quality that's off-putting at first. I'm not there yet, but appreciate the cornball effort. B+(**)
Kano: Hoodies All Summer (2019, Parlophone): Jamaican-British rapper Kane Brett Robinson, sixth album since 2019. Grime beats, plays them down. B+(*)
Petros Klampanis: Irrationalities (2017 , Enja): Greek bassist, based in New York, several albums since 2011, leads a trio here with Kristjan Randalu on piano and Bodek Janke on drums. Even before checking the credits, I noticed the clarity of the bass, and the delicacy of the piano. B+(**) [cd] [10-18]
Kokoko!: Fongola (2019, Transgressive): Congolese band, from Kinshasa, first album, armed with homemade instruments -- less rattly than Konono No. 1's, which may mean they're better engineers, but doesn't make them better musicians. B+(**)
The Baba Andrew Lamb Trio: The Night of the 13th' Moon (2018 , LFDS): Alto saxophonist, born in North Carolina, grew up in Chicago and New York, cut his first record in 1995, has a few more, this (I think) the first to adopt the honorific Baba, maybe because it was recorded at Bab Ilo (in Paris). With Yoram Rosilio (bass) and Rafael Koerner (drums). Free improv, bracing, challenging. A-
Landline: Landline (2019, Loyal Label): Brooklyn postbop group -- Chet Doxas (tenor sax), Jacob Sacks (piano), Zack Lober (bass), Vinnie Sperrazza (drums) -- have a novel way of group composing based on a game called telephone. B+(**) [cd] [11-01]
Cate Le Bon: Reward (2019, Mexican Summer): Welsh singer-songwriter, Cate Timothy, based in Los Angeles, fifth album since 2009. B
Led Bib: It's Morning (2018 , RareNoise): British quasi-fusion jazz group, ninth album since 2005, led by drummer Mark Holub with two saxophonists (Pete Grogan and Chris Williams), newcomer Elliot Galvin on keybs, but the big change here is vocalist-lyricist Sharon Fortnam, moving them toward art song -- not that the band never sneaks in some trouble. B [cd]
Urs Leimgruber/Jacques Demierre/Barre Phillips/Thomas Lehn: Willisau (2017 , Jazzwerkstatt): Cover lists the saxophonist (tenor/soprano) above the title, the others (piano, bass, analogue synthesizer) below, Lehn standing out in red (like the title). Joint improv, has some moments but widely scattered. B
Roberto Magris Sextet: Sun Stone (2019, JMood): Pianist, from Italy, mainstream player fond of cool jazz icons -- has featured Herb Geller, and here sets the tables for Ira Sullivan (flute, alto/soprano saxes). Sextet adds trumpet (Shareef Clayton), tenor sax (Mark Colby), bass, and drums. Lush isn't the right word, but does seem like some kind of luxury. B+(***) [cd]
Todd Marcus: Trio+ (2019, Stricker Street): Bass clarinet player, based in Baltimore, fifth album, the trio is with Aleem Saleem or Jeff Reed on bass and Ralph Peterson or Eric Kennedy on drums, the plus is Sean Jones (trumpet) on four cuts. B+(**) [cd]
Ben Markley Quartet Featuring Joel Frahm: Slow Play (2019, OA2): Pianist, fourth album, wrote everything, recruited a top-notch tenor saxophonist, and pace title let him run with a full head of steam. B+(**) [cd]
Joe McPhee/John Edwards/Klaus Kugel: Journey to Parazzar (2017 , Not Two): McPhee plays tenor sax and pocket trumpet, free and hard, backed by bass and drums. B+(***)
Mercury Rev: Bobbie Gentry's The Delta Sweete Revisited (2019, Partisan): Indie rock band from Buffalo, debut album 1991, Christgau described their fifth (first gold) album as "soundtrack-rock." This is their tenth, something different: a remake of most of the one-hit country wonder's 1968 second album with an "Old to Billie Joe" thrown in for good measure. Each song has a guest singer, starting with Norah Jones and finishing with Lucinda Williams, but most could be anonymous. B
Dave Miller Trio: Just Imagine (2019, Summit): Need to sort this out some time. Initially file this under guitarist Dave Miller, but this one plays piano, somewhere in Northern California, "for quite a few years," with a previous album identified as his fifth. Backed by bass and drums, this is a romp through the George Shearing songbook, which is to say standards (including Charlie Parker) done bright and frothy. B+(**) [cd]
Monoswezi: A Je (2017, Riverboat): African-Nordic group, the Africans hailing from Mozambique and Zimbabwe (and Mali?), the others from Norway and Sweden with jazz sides. Third album, low keyed groove and chant. B+(*)
Derel Monteith: Connemara: Solo Piano Improvisations (2017 , self-released): Pianist, based in Illinois (Peoria, I think), grew up and studied in North Carolina, day job attorney. Has two new records, this solo plus a trio, seem to be his debut. Improv pieces have some bounce, leading to a favorable roll. B+(**) [cd] [10-18]
Derel Monteith Trio: Quantity of Life (2019, self-released): Piano trio, with Andy Crawford (bass) and Jason Brannon (drums), playing the leader's sensible, sensitive pieces. B+(*) [cd] [10-18]
Guillaume Muller: Sketches of Sound (2019, self-released): French guitarist, based in New York, first album, quintet with alto sax (Nino Wenger), piano (Jim Funnell), bass, and drums. Maintains a nice groove, with a little spark from the sax. B+(*) [cd]
Muna: Saves the World (2019, RCA): From Los Angeles, three women, Katie Gavin the singer, the others started on guitar but evolved toward electropop -- not sure who the drummer is, but there is one, and that matters. Second album, plenty of ambition, even if they'd would rather save the world than conquer it. B+(**)
Nérija: Blume (2019, Domino): London jazz collective, mostly female septet, best-known is Nubya Garcia (tenor sax), also includes alto sax (Cassie Kinoshi), trumpet (Sheila Maurice-Grey), trombone (Rosie Turton), guitar (Shirley Tetteh), bass (Rio Kai), and drums (Lizy Exell). Some groove with their slick post-bop. B+(*)
Ian Noe: Between the Country (2019, National Treasury): Country singer-songwriter, from Kentucky, first album, after an EP. B+(***)
Laura Noejovich: Laura Has New Standards (2018 , Enchanted Meadow): Older standards too, like "Misty" and "Summertime" and "When You Wish Upon a Star," inadvertently proving that the old ones are still the best, although with her arch soprano and Takeshi Asai's skeletal piano not by much. C+ [cd] [11-02]
Bill O'Connell and the Afro Caribbean Ensemble: Wind Off the Hudson (2019, Savant): Pianist, New Yorker, first album 1978, since then moved into Latin jazz, mostly with the Latin Jazz All-Stars. The Latinos here are mostly in the rhythm section (Robby Ameen, Roman Diaz), while the horn section is chocked full of stars (Craig Handy, Ralph Bowen, Gary Smulyan, Alex Sipiagin, Conrad Herwig). B+(**) [cd]
Octo Octa: Resonant Body (2019, T4T LUV NRG): Maya Bouldry-Morrison, Brooklyn-based DJ, fifth album since 2011. Strong dance moves, occasional bits of subversion. B+(***) [bc]
The Ogún Meji Duo: Spirits of the Egungun (2019, CFG Multimedia): Duo, drums (Mark Lomax) and tenor saxophone (Edwin Bayard), looks like the seventh duo album since #BlackLivesMatter in 2014, although I'm finding very few details on this particular one. They've worked together at least since 1999, powerful in small groups, intense as a duo. The main thing I worry about is that when I go back their trademark sound is so imposing I'll be unable to differentiate and get bowled over by all of them. A-
Tish Oney With the John Chiodini Trio: The Best Part (2019, Blujazz): Jazz singer, bio refers to her as "Dr. Oney," fifth album, writes some, draws on other originals including guitarist Chiodini, who composed three songs for Peggy Lee lyrics. B- [cd]
Oompa: Cleo (2019, OompOutLoud): Boston rapper, second album, "forever representing the queer, black, orphaned, hood kids and them." Underground, breaking out. A-
Mike Pachelli: High Standards (2019, Fullblast): Guitarist, several previous albums. Trio with Tony Levin (bass) and Danny Gottlieb (drums), playing standards. B+(*) [cd]
Jason Palmer: Rhyme and Reason (2018 , Giant Step Arts, 2CD): Trumpet player, half-dozen albums since 2014. Pianoless quartet, second horn is Mark Turner's tenor sax, backed by Matt Brewer (bass) and Kendrick Scott (drums). Four longish pieces on each disc, very solid work. B+(***)
Jeff Parker/Jeb Bishop/Pandelis Karayorgis/Nate McBride/Luther Gray: The Diagonal Filter (2018, Not Two): "The Diagonal" seems to be a group name, but even the label parses the album this way. Boston-based piano trio with two Chicagoans: Parker on guitar and Bishop on trombone. Each impressive on his own, they don't quite fit together seamlessly. B+(**)
Pearring Sound: Nothing but Time (2018 , self-released): Alto saxophonist Jeff Pearring, from Colorado, based in New York since 2002, has a previous album under this moniker. Trio with Adam Lane (bass) and Tim Ford (drums), with a bit of edge and a steady hand. B+(***) [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Efflorescence: Volume 1 (2018 , Leo, 4CD): Tenor sax and piano, long relationship (at least since 1996), lots of recent records, too many to distinguish but their basics are solid as ever. Still, not immune to fatigue, more likely mine than theirs. B+(***) [cd]
Miles Perkin Quartet: The Point in Question (2018 , Clean Feed): Canadian bassist, from Manitoba, has a couple previous albums. This one with trumpet (Tom Arthurs), piano (Benoît Delbecq), and drums (Jim Black). B+(*)
Peterson Kohler Collective: Winter Colors (2018 , Origin): Core group is guitarist Dave Peterson, Lee Kohler (piano), and Rob Kohler (bass), all from Montana, cousins even. Group rounds out with label owner John Bishop on drums and Brent Jensen on sax. Multiple flavors of postbop, depending on where the focus flows. B+(**) [cd]
Alberto Pinton Trio: Röd (2018, Clear Now): Italian reed player, based in Stockholm, plays baritone and alto sax, clarinet, and bass clarinet, backed by bass (Vilhelm Bromander) and drums (Konrad Agnas). B+(***) [bc]
Noah Preminger Group: Zigsaw: Music of Steve Lampert (2018 , self-released): Tenor saxophonist, first album 2007, this a septet, mostly name players: Jason Palmer (trumpet), John O'Gallagher (alto sax), Kris Davis (piano), Rob Schwimmer (haken continuum/clavinet), Kim Cass (bass), Rudy Royston (drums). Lampert, a trumpet player with five records since 2004, doesn't play here, but recently composed the single wide-ranging 48:49 title piece. I can't discern a unifying theme, but the many-faceted band shines. A- [cd] [10-04]
Preservation Hall Jazz Band: A Tuba to Cuba (2019, SWub Pop): Ben Jaffe's venerable New Orleans trad jazz outfit made a pilgrimage to Cuba in 2015, filmed for a documentary with this inevitable soundtrack. I'm not seeing any credits, but figure some pieces to be by other groups, with the Cuban tinge predominant. B+(*)
Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains (2019, Drag City): One-shot album by singer-songwriter David Berman, who recorded as Silver Jews 1994-2008, released less than a month before he killed himself at 52. Seems like a very solid effort, open and accessible, could grow on you, although I doubt I want to explore his suicide. B+(***)
Michele Rabbia/Gianluca Petrella/Eivind Aarset: Lost River (2018 , ECM): Italian percussionist, albums start in 1996 but he rarely gets top billing. Here with trombone and guitar, everyone also credited with electronics or "sounds." Fades into ambient, and doesn't do much there. B
Kojey Radical: Cashmere Tears (2019, Asylum/Atlantic): British rapper Kwadwo Adu Genfi Amponsah, London-born, parents from Ghana, fourth EP, but at 10 cuts, 29:30 I'll count it as an album. B+(*)
Rapsody: Eve (2019, Roc Nation): Rapper Mariana Evans, from North Carolina, old enough to cite MC Lyte as a model. She had a commercial breakthrough last time out, netting more guests and samples here, 16 songs that run long, that will no doubt pay dividends if given more attention than I can muster. B+(***)
Enrico Rava/Joe Lovano: Roma (2018 , ECM): With Giovanni Guidi (piano), Dezron Douglas (bass), and Gerald Cleaver (drums), listed on cover below the title. Leaders play trumpet and tenor sax (plus tarogato), and are justly famous. Live meeting, must have seemed like a big deal, but only occasionally seems to connect. B+(*)
Cene Resnik Trio 'Watch for Dogs': Shades of Colors (2016 , Not Two): Tenor saxophonist, from Slovenia, several other albums. Trio with Giovanni Maier (bass) and Zlatko Kaucic (drums). Starts lost in color, but picks up (or should I say bursts out?) after a few. B+(**)
Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis: Beautiful Lie (2019, Next Waltz): Country singer-songwriters, he from Texas, she from Virginia, married 1996, by which time she was better established, recorded a holiday album together in 2006, three more duo albums since 2013. B+(**)
Christophe Rocher/Joe Fonda/Harvey Sorgen: New Origin (2018 , Not Two): Clarinets-bass-drums trio, the Americans a long-running team, Rocher only described as "European" -- Discogs only lists one previous album, but he's worked in various groups for at least 20 years. B+(**)
Markus Rutz: Blueprints Figure One: Frameworks (2018 , OA2): Trumpet player, based in Chicago, has a deep band with saxophonist Brice Winston a strong contrast up front, backed by piano, guiar, bass, drums, and congas. B+(**) [cd]
Raphael Saadiq: Jimmy Lee (2019, Columbia): Soul singer-songwriter, started in the group Tony! Toni! Toné! (1988-96), went solo in 2002, only his fifth album, eight years after Stone Rollin' took the critics' polls by storm. Ghetto drama, lament for a dead brother, but the music is strong enough to persevere. Highlight is a rap, Change of pace is a gospel in lieu of a funeral. A-
David Sanchez: Carib (2018 , Ropeadope): Tenor saxophonist from Puerto Rico, had a strong run of albums for Columbia 1994-2004 (pick hit: Obsesion), haven't heard much from him since Ninety Miles in 2011. Lots of percussion here, featuring the barril de bomba as well as Obed Calvaire's drums. With Luis Perdomo on keyboards, Lage Lund on guitar, Ricky Rodriguez on bass. Of course, the sax sounds terrific. B+(***)
Dana Saul: Ceiling (2018 , Endectomorph): Pianist, first album, all original pieces, sextet with Kevin Sun (tenor sax), Adam O'Farrill (trumpet), Patrick Brennan (vibes), bass, and drums. Early on the music builds tension while featuring the vibraphone to introduce tiny fissures. Then the horns fill in and finally build the whole thing up. A candidate for debut album of the year (as was Sun's 2018 debut, Trio). A- [cd]
Rob Scheps: Comencio (2019, SteepleChase): Saxophonist (pictured with a tenor, but plays the whole gamut), originally from Oregon, studied at New England Conservatory, may be first album as leader. With Jamie Reynolds (piano), Cameron Brown (bass), and Jesse Simpson (drums). B+(**)
Kendrick Scott Oracle: A Wall Becomes a Bridge (2019, Blue Note): Drummer, fifth album, fourth under this group name, with John Ellis (reeds), Mike Moreno (guitar), Taylor Eigsti (piano), Joe Sanders (bass), and DJ Jahi Sundance (turntables), plus a Derrick Hodge vocal. B+(*)
Sheer Mag: A Distant Call (2019, Wilsuns): Postpunk group from Philadelphia, Christina Halladay the singer, Kyle Seely lead guitar. Got attention with three 7-inch EPs and their 2017 LP. B+(**)
Leo Sherman: Tonewheel (2019, Outside In Music): Bassist, seems to be his first album, originals plus one cover of a Victor Jara song. Quintet, with tenor sax (Paul Jones), guitar (Alex Goodman, piano (Ben Winkelman), and drums (Dan Pugach). Tries to do a lot of different things: Jones' more avant stretches always catch my ear before moving on to something else. [10-25] B+(*) [cd]
Matthew Snow: Iridescence (2018 , self-released): New York bassist, first album, composed six (of eight) pieces, employs a sextet -- no one I've heard of, but alto saxophonist Clay Lyons and trombonist David Gibson impress, guitar and vibes add to the options, and the drummer plays with the band. B+(***) [11-29]
Elza Soares: Planeta Fome (2019, Deck): Brazilian singer, started in 1960 with samba, adding some jazz touches including scat. Thirty-seventh album, most recorded before 1980 and unknown to me, but her two latest blew me away. At 82, her voice is well aged but far from shot. B+(***)
Something Blue [Alexa Tarantino/Nick Finzer/Sam Dillon/Art Hirahara/Boris Kozlov/Rudy Royston]: Maximum Enjoyment (2018 , Posi-Tone): Auteur here is probably producer Marc Free, who created a retro-bop framework for the first three "new" musicians (alto sax, trombone, tenor sax), backed by his standby rhythm section (piano, bass, drums). B+(*)
Harvey Sorgen/Joe Fonda/Marilyn Crispell: Dreamstruck (2018, Not Two): Drums-bass-piano trio, no obvious reason why they are listed in this order, as most pieces are joint improvs (two covers, one from Crispell's long-time drummer Paul Motian). Starts with a soft one, then adds more strength here and there, drawing you in. A-
The Souljazz Orchestra: Chaos Theories (2019, Strut): Canadian acid jazz group, from Ottawa, ninth album since 2005. Some strong sax breaks. B+(*)
Lyn Stanley: London With a Twist: Live at Bernie's (2019, A.T. Music): Standards singer, from Tacuma, half-dozen albums, did a Julie London tribute last year. Reprises three songs here, adds nine more. "You Never Can Tell" jumps out at me, but I'm also taken by her "Body and Soul." B+(**) [cd]
STL GLD: The New Normal (2019, AR Classic): Boston hip-hop band, don't know much about them, but hype speaks of "multifaceted and complex," and there's lots of that. B+(**)
Colin Stranahan/Glenn Zaleski/Rick Rosato: Live at Jazz Standard (2018 , Capri): Piano trio, together since 2010, not a lot of reason to list the drummer first, as Zaleski wrote all but two of the songs (one by Rosato, one by Jerome Kern). Zaleski does the credits toward the end, too. But the names line up with the cover photo, and he looks best in the middle. B+(*) [cd]
Taylor Swift: Lover (2019, Republic): Pop megastar, seventh album, the first six multi-platinum, Wikipedia notes her age (29) and net worth ($360 million). With that kind of money, she can hire good help -- chiefly Jack Antonoff and Joel Little -- while stretching her product out to 18 songs, a bit over an hour. Album has some lulls: no doubt it could be edited down and sharpened up. But two songs I always notice -- "Paper Rings" and "You Need to Calm Down" -- and most others eventually clicked. A-
Rachid Taha: Je Suis Africain (, Naive): Algeria's most famous raï star, based in Paris, died last year at 59, not sure exactly when this was recorded but it sounds like an evolutionary step from his later work, including his "first song in English." The fast ones don't rank with his best, but he's aged gracefully, a most pleasant surprise. A-
Emi Takada: Why Did I Choose You? (2018 , self-released): Standards singer, born in Sapporo, Japan, based in Houston, has a couple albums. Backed by piano (Michael Kanan), guitar, bass, and drums, with Marion Cowings singing some. Swings some, can get a bit corny. B+(*) [cd]
Alexa Tarantino: Winds of Change (2019, Posi-Tone): Alto saxophonist (credit here says "woodwinds"), first album (though I filed Something Blue's Maximum Enjoyment under her name, as first-listed artist). Quintet, with Nick Finzer (trombone), Christian Sands (piano), Joe Martin (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums). B+(**)
The Clifford Thornton Memorial Quartet: Sweet Oranges (2017 , Not Two): Thornton was an avant trumpet player (1936-89), did most of his work 1966-78, including a couple of big years with Archie Shepp, other notable side work from Sun Ra to Joe McPhee to Anthony Braxton. Group here: Daunik Lazro (baritone/tenor sax), Joe McPhee (valve trombone/tenor sax), Jean-Marc Foussat (synthesizer), and Makoto Sato (drums). Title piece runs 43:58, followed by an 8:25 "Encore." B+(*)
Tanya Tucker: While I'm Livin' (2019, Fantasy): Country singer, been around so long I'm surprised she's only 60, but she was 13 when she broke her first hit. Twenty-fifth album, her first since 2009's My Turn, which without much research I ventured was her best ever. (I did listen to The Upper 48 Hits: 1972-1997, and gave it a B.) Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings produced this one, with Carlile co-writing 7 (of 10) songs (only one co-credited to Tucker). Still, the covers are more striking. B+(**)
Tucker Brothers: Two Parts (2019, self-released): Nick (bass) and Joel (guitar) Tucker, first album, with Sam Imboden (sax) and Brian Yarde (drums), plus scattered guests (best known is tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III). B [cd]
Molly Tuttle: When You're Ready (2019, Compass): Bluegrass singer-songwriter from Santa Clara County, California, plays banjo and guitar. Played in family group the Tuttles, at 13 recording an album of duets with her father Jack Tuttle. First solo album, fortified by her fingerpicking. B+(**) [bc]
Ben Van Gelder/Tony Tixier/Tom Berkmann/Mathias Ruppnig: Scopes (2019, Whirlwind): Eponymous band debut, my parsing not unreasonable given the cover. Europeans: sax (Dutch), piano (French), bass (German), drums (Austria), the latter two pegged as the leaders. Fairly comfortable, mildly adventurous postbop. B+(**)
Ken Vandermark/Klaus Kugel/Mark Tokar: No-Exit Corner (2016 , Not Two): Tenor sax and clarinet, a set recorded live at Alchemia Club Krakow, with local bass (Tokar) and drums (Kugel). I should hedge this a bit, but this is the full-throated way you like to hear him play. [3/5 tracks] B+(***)
Luís Vicente/Vasco Trilla: A Brighter Side of Darkness (2018 , Clean Feed): Trumpet and percussion duo, from Portugal and Spain respectively. Three extended pieces, rather difficult going, but they do surprise now and then. B+(*)
Dee White: Southern Gentleman (2018, Easy Eye Sound/Warner Music Nashville): Country singer-songwriter from Alabama, long-haired male barely 20, first album. Oddly enough, song that most impressed me was his drippiest ballad ("Oh No"). Brings out something in his voice. B+(**)
Mareike Wiening: Metropolist Paradise (2018 , Greenleaf Music): German drummer, based in New York, first album, quintet with Rich Perry (tenor sax), Dan Tepfer (piano), Alex Goodman (guitar), and Johannes Felscher (bass). Postbop, goes with the flow. B+(*) [11-01]
Wilma Vritra: Burd (2019, Bad Taste): Collaboration between London-based "artist" Wilma Archer and LA-based rapper Pyramid Vritra. Even-tempered rhymes riding not-quite ambient waves. B+(*)
Charli XCX: Charli (2019, Asylum): British pop singer, Charlotte Aitchison, third album plus several mixtapes. Some grime around the edges. B+(**)
Eri Yamamoto Trio & Choral Chameleon: Goshu Ondo Suite (2018 , AUM Fidelity): Japanese pianist, moved to New York 1995, tenth album since 2002, mostly trios. This adds a huge choir (47 names), to the 7-part, 49:06 title suite, swarming and marching over a tense and dynamic sonic landscape. Then one more piece, a chill down without the choir, which reminds you how fine the piano has been throughout. A- [cd] [11-15]
John Yao's Triceratops: How We Do (2018 , See Tao): Trombonist, based in New York, has several previous albums including a big band affair. Quintet with two saxophonists (Billy Drewes and Jon Irabagon), bass and drums. Like its namesake, slow and dull at first, but formidable when they finally get moving. B+(**) [cd]
Jason Yeager: New Songs of Resistance (2018 , Outside In Music): Pianist, based in New York, fifth album, mostly originals (Chico Buarque gets a cover), most with words (sung by Erini, Farayi Malek, or Mirella Costa), piano trio with guest spots for horns and cello. Much to resist these days, but I doubt these will prove at catchy as the folkies of yore or various hip-hoppers. B+(*) [cd]
Thom Yorke: Anima (2019, XL): Vocalist for Radiohead, probably the most exalted of the 1990s wave of Britpop bands -- can't say as I was ever a fan, but I listened dutifully and rather liked In Rainbows (2007). Third solo album, slotted as electronic, although the London Contemporary Orchestra and Choir are also credited. Not awful, but feels pretty empty. B-
Young Thug: So Much Fun (2019, 300/Atlantic/YSL): Atlanta rapper Jeffery Williams, officially his debut studio album (although I have a dozen others in my database). B+(***)
Miguel Zenón: Sonero: The Music of Ismael Rivera (2019, Miel Music): Tribute to the Puerto Rican singer-songwriter (1931-87), known as El Sonero Mayor. Starts disconcertingly with vocals, what sounds like a sample, but soon the alto saxophonist's superb quartet takes over: Luis Perdomo (piano), Hans Glawischnig (bass), and Henry Cole (drums). Dazzling at speed, soulful on the ballads. A- [cd]
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Alefa Madagascar (1970s-80s , Strut): Sampler into "the unique culture of salegy, soukous and soul on the island in the '70s and '80s." B+(***) [bc]
Louis Armstrong: Live in Europe (1948-52 , Dot Time): Radio shots from two nights in France with his original All-Stars lineup, followed by a set in Berlin four years later, with only Arvell Shaw left from the 1948 group. Latter probably has a slight edge on sound, plus Velma Middleton trading vocals. Classic stuff, but better on any number of live period albums, most impressively The California Concerts. B+(**)
Kwi Bamba: Kwi Bamba & L'Orchestre De Gama Berema (1997 , Ouch!): From Guinea, former leader of 1960s band Nimba Jazz, a precursor of the better known Bembeya Jazz National. Billed as his/their first international release, drawing on Guerzé and Kpellé traditions, happy to have the recording date but know nothing more. Does fit the mold. B+(***) [bc]
John Coltrane: Blue World (1964 , Impulse!): Previously unreleased recordings from a session between Crescent and A Love Supreme, soundtrack tracks recorded for Gilles Groulx, director of Le chat dans le sac. Classic quartet, five songs, extended to 36:33 with three takes of "Village Blues" and a second of "Naima." Nestled in the valley between masterpieces, nothing remotely new here, but remarkable on any other count. A-
Creedence Clearwater Revival: Live at Woodstock (1969 , Craft): Standard live set from a period when the band could do no wrong, hit singles, the odd cover, winding up with two 10+ minute grinds ("Keep On Chooglin'" and "Suzie Q"). Strikes me as redundant, but nothing particularly wrong with it. B+(***)
Nâ Hawa Doumbia: La Grande Cantatrice Malienne Vol. 1: Decouverte 81 a Dakar (1981 , Awesome Tapes From Africa): From the Wassalou region in southern Mali, first album, about 22 at the time, strong vocals over a stringed instrument (kora?). B+(***)
Jambú E Os Míticos Sons Da Amazônia (1974-86 , Analog Africa): Dance rhythms from Belém, near the mouth of the Amazon River, a large city these days but not one that figures prominently in popular Brazilian music. Indeed, sounds closer to Colombia, Cuba, Mexico even. B+(***)
Lost in China: Off the Beaten Track From Beijing to Xinjiang (, Riverboat): Very little info on the artists here, although World Music Network decided to put this on their new music label as opposed to their Rough Guide series. My impression -- more of a wild guess -- is that it favors the isolated north and west rather than the populous south and east. B+(**)
The Vaughn Nark Quintet: Back in the Day (1982-83 , Summit): Trumpet player, based in DC, spent twenty years with the USAF Airmen of Note, spanning the period when this was recorded. Three originals, repertoire from Gillespie through Walrath with a few standards like "Caravan" and "Over the Rainbow." Has some chops. B [cd]
Art Pepper: Promise Kept: The Complete Artists House Recordings (1979 , Omnivore, 5CD): In his last years (d. 1982), the alto saxophonist recorded furiously, piling up so many masterpieces that his 16-CD The Complete Galaxy Recordings seems like an infinite trove of wonders. Still, he managed to sneak aside, recording the 6-CD series of West Coast Sessions for the Japanese Atlas label that Omnivore reissued in 2017, and four more records for Artists House, collected here with extra cuts. The albums were So in Love, Artworks, New York Album, and Stardust, recorded over several dates with two piano-bass-drums trios: Hank Jones/Ron Carter/Al Foster, and George Cables/Charlie Haden/Billy Higgins -- mostly the latter. A lot more than I can readily sort out, but most sounds much like everything else he was doing at the time, which is to say marvelous. A-
Prince: Originals (1981-91 , NPG/Warner Brothers): Previously unreleased demos for songs Prince wrote (or co-wrote) for other artists. As demos go, these are far from minimal, although the backup is fairly generic. Not sure why I find them so tedious. Not his better songs, although the exception ("The Glamorous Life") was simply better in other hands (nod to Sheila E.). B-
Sounds of Liberation: Unreleased (Columbia University 1973) (1973 , Dogtown): Avant-jazz group from Philadelphia led by Byard Lancaster (reeds) and Khan Jamal (vibes), with Monnette Sudler (guitar), Billy Mills (bass), Dwight James (drums), and William Brister (percussion). Group recorded one studio album, which I know from its 2010 reissue as Sounds of Liberation, but was originally (and most recently) titled New Horizons. Lancaster's sax is the strong voice here, but he defers early to the vibes, and B+(*)
Star Band De Dakar: Psicodelia Afro-Cubana De Senegal (1960s-70s , Ostinato): Formed a year after the Cuban Revolution -- this is billed as a 60th anniversary tribute -- Ibrahim Kassé's band, a forerunner of Etoile de Dakar and Orchestra Baobab -- was one of the first to bring Cuban music back to its African roots. Not clear when these particular tracks were recorded. [The band's works have been collected in 12 volumes, but no dates on them either. The songs on this compilation are from volumes 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, and 12.] B+(***)
Two Niles to Sing a Melody: The Violins & Synths of Sudan (1970s-80s , Ostinato): Mostly recorded in Khartoum before the 1989 coup turned the nation toward Salafi Islam and against pop music, although it's possible some tracks were recorded later, in exile -- this label doesn't offer discographical details. Closer to Ethiopia than to Egypt, more emphasis on groove, also on cheese. A- [bc]
Nâ Hawa Doumbia: La Grande Cantatrice Malienne Vol. 3: Korodia (1982 , Awesome Tapes From Africa): Malian singer, recorded in Côte d'Ivoire, seems to be the original title, although I have yet to see a Vol. 2 (and Napster shows an album cover with first song name added). Music is fairly basic, voice grows on you. Rather short: 4 cuts, 29:39. B+(**) [bc]
Teddy Edwards Quartet: Good Gravy! (1961, Contemporary): Tenor saxophonist, from Mississippi via Detroit, a young bebopper in the 1940s, settled into mainstream with Contemporary and Prestige in the early 1960s, spent some time in Europe during the dark years, but came back strong in the 1990s up to his death in 2003. This is a fairly typical quartet, with Danny Horton or Phineas Newborn in piano, Leroy Vinnegar on bass, and Milt Turner on drums. B+(**)
Teddy Edwards: Heart & Soul (1962, Contemporary): Continuity with Vinnegar (bass) and Turner (drums) again, but Gerry Wiggins' organ opens up a nod to soul jazz. B+(*)
Teddy Edwards: Nothin' but the Truth (1966 , Prestige): With Walter Davis Jr. a bluesy piano player, plus guitar and extra percussion to add a whiff of Brazil. Still, his best sax run is the straightest, "On the Street Where You Live." B+(*)
Teddy Edwards Quartet: Out of This World (1980 , SteepleChase): Recorded in Copenhagen with Kenny Drew (piano), Jesper Lundgaard (bass), and Billy Hart (drums): the tenor saxophonist's only album for Nils Winther, although had he stuck around he would have fit nicely with their stable of American expats. B+(**)
Teddy Edwards/Houston Person: Close Encounters (1996 , High Note): Two gracious tenor saxophonists, did a 1994 album together, take seven standards even easier here, backed by piano trio (Stan Hope, Ray Drummond, Kenny Washington). B+(**)
Teddy Edwards: Smooth Sailing (2001 , High Note): The tenor saxophonist's final album, another quartet playing standards, with Richard Wyands (piano), Ray Drummond (bass), and Chip White (drums), released a month before he died. Nice. B+(**)
Bobbie Gentry: Ode to Billie Joe (1967, Capitol): Roberta Lee Streeter, born in Chickasaw County, Mississippi, recorded seven albums 1967-71, first album named for his crossover pop single. Second best song: "Bugs." B
Bobby Gentry: The Delta Sweete (1968, Capitol): Second album, reissued in 1971 as Tobacco Road and 1972 as Way Down South. No hits, a very scattered mix ranging from delta blues to Cajun hoedown to baroque pop (very baroque). C+
Weldon Henson: Weldon Henson's Honky Tonk Frontier (2015, Hillbilly Renegade): Fourth album, does a nice job of working up his light, breezy honky tonk sound, closer to Lubbock than his home town of Humble (near Houston, in 1903 an oil boomtown, later the name of one of the Standard Oil companies). B+(***)
Weldon Henson: One Heart's Gone (2011, self-released): Working backwards, seems closer to his honky tonk roots, but keeps his head down. B+(**)
Steve Lampert: Venus Perplexed (2000 , SteepleChase): First album, unclear how old he was/is but his CV includes touring with big bands led by Buddy Rich, Lionel Hampton, and Gerry Mulligan. Composer only here, but septet includes a credit for Rich Lampert (piano, sequencing, synthesizer, trumpet), as well as Rich Perry (tenor sax), Joe Locke (vibes), Charles Blenzig (piano), plus electric bass, drums, and congas. Postbop, smart and heady, nice tinkle to go with the horns. B+(***)
Steve Lampert: Music From There (2006 , Bridge): A 12-piece suite, electronics plus various jazz musicians, the composer playing trumpet, Rich Perry tenor sax, others scattered about, with words on one piece. B+(**)
Louis Moholo-Moholo: Duets With Marilyn Crispell: Sibanye (We Are One) (2007 , Intakt): South African drummer, duets with the pianist, in her usual good form here. B+(***)
Eddie Money: The Essential Eddie Money (1977-95 , Columbia/Legacy): Shortened his surname from Mahoney, probably thought that was appropriate when his 1977 debut went double-platinum. Released three more platinum albums up to 1986 (highest peak was 17), two more top-200 to 1991 (as far as this comp goes), four more with one just before his 2019 death. Had some singles too, but only 10 cracked the top-40, their peaks almost randomly distributed (4, 9, 11, 11, 14, 16, 21, . . . ). Usually a 2-CD series, but he was so slight this 15-cut single seemed more than adequate, and sat unplayed on my shelves until now. He took a path we came to call "arena rock" -- big sound, sweeping gestures, clichés as hooks, and he played a little sax for occasional flourishes. He was uninteresting at the time. In retrospect, tolerable until he wasn't. B- [cd]
Eddie Money: The Essential Eddie Money (1977-91 , Columbia/Legacy, 2CD): Expanded to 35 cuts for the bits-are-cheap digital era, dropping the one cut from his 1995 album Love and Money (not on Columbia, so the cross-licensing would have hit their budget), filling up with odds and sods -- a single version, acoustic demos, some live cuts. Rounds him out, not that it helps. C+
Alberto Pinton: Nascent (2012 , Redhorn): Quartet, Pinton playing his usual range of reeds (plus melodica), backed with guitar (Peter Nylander), double bass, and drums. B+(**)
Sometimes further listening leads me to change an initial grade, usually either because I move on to a real copy, or because someone else's review or list makes me want to check it again:
Stef Chura: Midnight (2019, Saddle Creek): Singer-songwriter from Michigan, second album, strong on guitar, especially early on. [was: B+(*)] B+(**)
Current count 32156  rated (+172), 219  unrated (-10).
Excerpts from this month's Music List posts:
September 30, 2019
Music: current count 32156  rated (+39), 219  unrated (-10).
When I ran the numbers, they came up a bit short of the list, so I rechecked and found 5-6 I had failed to register grades on. At least one of those should definitely have shown up in this week's list, so I added it, but that makes me suspect I may have slipped up elsewhere. So a reminder: The monthly compilation (link above) is more authoritative than the weekly ones (which are extracted from it). Also, note that some reviews now have a date after the grade. These are records that have future release dates. I've changed my mind several times on how to handle those cases.
Noticed the links in my Music index page needed some updating to reference 2019 files, of which Music Tracking turned out to require the most work: there were literally dozens of dumb typos keeping it from displaying, as well as a bunch of missing grades. I wanted to make sure there was a link to my EOY [Mid-Year] List Aggregate, where I started collecting mid-year best-of list info but have more recently supplemented that with review grades (usually 80+ at AOTY, but I'm tracking other sources as well, especially jazz).
I added several fan lists from an Expert Witness Facebook post, and that (well, plus adding in Michael Tatum's latest grades) was enough to tilt first place from Sharon Van Etten to Billie Eilish. There's still a structural problem that favors records released before July -- Lana Del Rey ranks highest among later releases at 28, and the highest June release is at 21 (Freddie Gibbs & Madlib; highest September release is Charli XCX at 68, followed by Brittany Howard at 73). By the way, one of those fan lists led me to Oompa, another to Octo Octa, and others to most of the African comps below, so they've earned their keep.
Revisited several albums while trying to wrap this up, and wound up promoting Oompa, Andrew Lamb, and Taylor Swift. Possible that Kwi Bamba and Alefa Madasgascar could have benefited from more attention.
September 23, 2019
Music: current count 32117  rated (+37), 229  unrated (+2).
Didn't get my unpacking done until late Monday afternoon, so that became the cutoff -- adding 2 rated albums from Sunday night, and flipping the unrated count from -9 to +2. Before unpacking, I had managed to empty the new jazz queue, but it's up to 12 now. And it turns out that most of the new records don't drop until November, so I probably shouldn't rush on them.
Robert Christgau's first post-Noisey Consumer Guide was mailed out last week. As he promised in his introduction (It's a Start), "the first one is free," so here it is. Follow one of the "Subscribe now" buttons to make get the second and subsequent consumer guides, plus any additional missives, delivered straight to your mailbox.
Probably because he was working off a backlog, but I had heard all but two albums from this month's offering (both various artists comps): The Daisy Age (Ace) and Lost in China (Riverboat). And I only found one of those streamable, so it's in this week's haul. This won't be a regular feature, but I thought I'd table up our grades (his first):
Presumably some of these differences can be chalked up to reports that he plays these records at least twice as many times as I do, plus has the benefit of working from physical copies. (I own none of them, although on his word I've ordered The Daisy Age, which Amazon informs me should arrive by Xmas.) The one I most likely shortchanged was probably the National, which I recall only gaving one spin. The only non-trivial differences are on Paranoid Style (I'm not nearly as impressed by Elizabeth Nelson as he is) and Springsteen (perhaps there is some redeeming social merit there, but I doubt it's worth digging out). Nelson, by the way, has a much-praised recent essay on The Mekons Rock 'N' Roll.
I could do the same thing with Michael Tatum's latest A Downloader's Diary (51), which doesn't have much more I hadn't heard. Again, his grades first, mine after, '*' for ones I got to after the fact:
So not much there I didn't know about and went on to find brilliant (and sure, I still have some listening to do), but the reviews themselves were way beyond anything I could have written (one reason, I'm afraid, I rarely bother anymore).
Took a dive into Teddy Edwards this week. Idea came up when I saw Out of This World as a new reissue, but given that it's digital only, I used the hard-copy dates. His best record remains Together Again!, with Howard McGhee (1961). I might also note that the Art Pepper box isn't quite up to many of his period recordings, including most of The Complete Galaxy Recordings, or a lot of the live bootlegs Laurie Pepper has been reissuing. Still remarkable.
September has five Mondays, one more after today, so I can wait until then to index September Streamnotes.
September 17, 2019
Music: current count 32080  rated (+33), 227  unrated (-2).
Held this back an extra day, as I couldn't quite get it together on time. Cutoff was late Sunday evening, after posting Weekend Roundup, so I've already got a jump on next week.
My listening was even more scattered than usual last week. My A-list finds all came so early that by weekend I forgot that I had any. I hoped Michael Tatum's new A Downloader's Diary -- his third this year after a prolonged lean patch, and his first since moving to Seattle -- would offer some major discoveries, but started with Blarf's Cease & Desist and found it really wasn't for me. Several other records impressed but didn't wow me. Two I had dismissed earlier got new spins, and minor grade upticks. Tatum's review of Purple Mountains is especially insightful, but describing the album as a "suicide note" doesn't do much to draw me in.
Tatum started writing his column in August, 2010, intent on filling in the void left by the second sacking of Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide (by MSN Music). Christgau rebooted at MSN in November 2010 with his Expert Witness blog, while Tatum continued his monthly columns into 2014 (skipping a couple along the way). I tried to help out by publishing (and archiving) his columns. In April 2014, he moved to Odyshape, ending later that year with a piece called The Pause Button. Since then, he's self-published (most recently at Medium), while I've intermittently updated the archive. After a couple thin years, he's made a strong return to form this year, with three columns so far. He's one of the sharpest and most lucid critics around, and deserves your readership and support.
Meanwhile, Christgau has been publishing his Expert Witness blog at Noisey, but that ended in June. With no new publisher forthcoming, Tatum might have had another hole to fill. But Christgau has come up with a new scheme to keep publishing new Consumer Guide capsule reviews. He's launching a subscriber newsletter, based on Substack, called And It Don't Stop. It will cost you $5/month to get a once-monthly batch of new reviews sent to your e-mailbox, plus there will be various extras -- he explains his plans here, in It's a Start. Subscribers will get their first batch of reviews delivered on Wednesday, September 18.
As you probably know, I built and maintain Christgau's website, with its database of 17,271 albums and 1,372 articles (or more, as that easy-to-find number is actually a subset). At some point (undecided at present) I'll add those new reviews and pieces to the website. This isn't fundamentally different from the various timelocks we've been using for years, where publishers insist that their payments merit a period of exclusivity. I don't have any real solutions here, but I do believe that we're all fortunate to have Christgau continuing to write for us. Subscribing helps.
Back to my list this week, aside from Tatum's picks, most of this week's records are things I became aware of feeding data into my metacritic list. I started this year's list by collecting mid-year lists, but then I made two discoveries/decisions: rank info in the lists wasn't very useful (most lists were unranked, and many were shorter than EOY lists so the scales didn't quite fit), so I just started counting references without any weighting; also, I found that I could rather easily supplement the lists with AOTY's ratings lists organized by publication, so I started adding those in (first for publications that didn't offer mid-year lists, eventually for nearly all non-metal sources), usually using 80+ as my standard (90+ for AMG and Exclaim!, where 80s are ultra-common). Thus, I've been able to pick up new records as they're released. The sampling is not as good for post-July records, but it gives newer records some recognition. Thus far, the top-rated August/September releases (points in front, my grades in brackets at end, just before that is the AOTY score and review count):
I'm most surprised that Saadiq has gotten so few reviews. I'm less bothered that Lana Del Rey's point total only places her album at 31. That's a structural problem due to the fact that more mid-year lists were counted than ratings. AOTY's 85 score for the album rates it at 17, with 28 reviews topped only in the top 100 by Sharon Van Etten's Remind Me Tomorrow (84/35), Thom Yorke's Anima (82/29), Bon Iver's i,i (80/31).
I'll note that two 1970s rockers died last week: Eddie Money and Rick Ocasek. The former never interested me much, but I had one of his compilations on my unrated list, so figured I should check it off. Tried looking on Napster before going to my shelves, and found a later 2-CD 35-song edition in place of my 1-CD 15-cut item, so I wound up reviewing both. Ocasek, of the Cars, was more important, but I didn't have any unfinished business with them, so didn't bother. Last one of their records I played was the Cars' 1985 Greatest Hits, giving it B+(**), which is about where I pegged their first two albums (both B+ in my database).
I did some work on the Jazz Guides last week. I still have some group albums to fold in -- I left them out of the first pass because they involve more cross-referencing -- but otherwise am up to date (through August). Current page counts: 1791 + 829.
September 9, 2019
Music: current count 32047  rated (+27), 229  unrated (+2).
Some of these things cut into my listening time, which was pretty scattered anyway. Two records I had held back from last week managed to slip over the A- cusp. After making a dent in my new jazz queue, I got stuck on Avram Fefer's Testament, which I've played at least five times without writing up a grade. Release date isn't until November 8, so I'm tempted to put it aside until then. At some point I started looking for country music, and was struck at how the first four albums I sampled -- Tanya Tucker, Molly Tuttle, Dee White, Matt Carson -- wound up at the same B+(**) with different virtues and flaws. Four more records were easier to spread out (Mercury Rev, Highwomen, Ian Noe, Weldon Henson). Checked out a couple of old Bobbie Gentry albums after listening to Mercury Rev, and was surprised to find that the "classic" was a much bigger mess than the revival.
September 2, 2019
Music: current count 32020  rated (+36), 227  unrated (-9).
Rated count topped 32,000 this week. I'd count that as a milestone, if not exactly news, as the accumulation has been as steady as time since I posted my first rated count of 8,080 in January 2003. That was about the time I started writing Recycled Goods plus the occasional Village Voice review, leading up to Jazz Consumer Guide, and a bit of work for Rolling Stone, Seattle Weekly, and F5. Those outlets opened up a stream of promo copies that continues (somewhat abated, often just a trickle) to this day. But as the mail thinned out, I resorted increasingly to streaming to make up the difference and expand my horizons. Since 2003, I've averaged a bit less than 30 per week (28.75), a bit less than 1,500 per year (1495). If I made a chart of that, I imagine it would show an upward slant from 2003-11 (when Jazz CG ended, then a plateau, tailing off a bit the last couple years).
Before 2003, that 8,080 came from close to 30 years of record buying (with a few promos in the late-1970s). That averages out to about 5 records per week, 270 per year, but a graph wouldn't be flat: you'd find an initial bulge peaking around 1977-78, a long trough, and a marked increase from 1995 on. I listened to music in my teens, but never bought much until I got my first steady job around 1973. My early music writings start in 1974, including a few reviews for the Village Voice in 1975-79. I gave them up around 1980, when I landed an engineering job and moved to New Jersey. I cut way back on my record buying there, and it's possible that some years I bought less than 100, maybe as few as 50. I moved to Boston in 1985, and found myself spending more time in record stores. I started buying CDs relatively late, and my pace picked up around 1995 when I got into a big jazz/roots kick. That continued when I returned to Kansas in 1999, as I built up the level of expertise that allowed me to write Recycled Goods and Jazz Consumer Guide.
As I wrote the above, I listened to three more albums, including a rather nice one by Florian Hoefner that is certain to remain below damn near everyone's interest threshold. I have little more to add on the records listed below. One thing is that there's only one non-jazz album among the new releases (but three in the recent compilations). Partly, I played quite a few new albums from the promo queue. I also added the 4.5/5.0 star reviewed records from The Free Jazz Collective to my 2019 metacritic file, and that pointed me to more new jazz (including several 2018 releases I had missed). But partly it was just one of those weeks when I felt much more certain about the jazz I heard than the non-jazz. The non-jazz exceptions this week came from Phil Overeem's latest list update (ok, Two Niles was on his 2018 list, but I found it on the Bandcamp page for Star Band De Dakar).
I listened to two other non-jazz records from this list, but couldn't make up my mind and held them back: Lana Del Rey's Norman Fucking Rockwell (number 5) and Raphael Saadiq's Jimmy Lee (18). I'm attracted to and resistant to both, which means they'll probably wind up high B+, but I'm not certain enough to say. Thanks to working on the metacritic file, I'm probably more aware of new non-jazz right now than any time this year, but less sure of my ears. On the other hand, this is definitely a good year for jazz.
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade: