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Streamnotes: October 28, 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 September 30. Past reviews and more information are available here (13689 records).
Rez Abbasi: A Throw of Dice by the Silent Ensemble (2017 , Whirlwind): Guitarist, from Pakistan, has recorded regularly since 1993. Based this one on an Indian-German silent film from 1929. Quintet with Pawan Benjamin (sax, flute, bansuri), plus bass, drums, and percussion (Rohan Krishnamurthy). B+(*) [cd]
Yazz Ahmed: Polyhymnia (2016-19 , Ropeadope): British-Bahraini trumpet player, third album. Long list of credits for this, as it seems to have undergone a lot of "additional recording and overdubs" following the initial 2016 session. B+(**)
Mats Åleklint/Per-Åke Holmlander/Paal Nilssen-Love: Fish & Steel (2018 , PNL): Eponymous group album, but the names are on the cover so I figure they deserve the credit -- especially since the Swedes (trombone and tuba), prolific as they are, rarely get lead billing. B+(***) [bc]
Laurie Anderson/Tenzin Choegyal/Jesse Paris Smith: Songs From the Bardo (2019, Smithsonian Folkways): Spoken word and violin, an exploration of impending death, or maybe just The Tibetan Book of the Dead: "bardo" in Tibetan Buddhism is the state of existence vbetween death and rebirth. Choegyal chants, plays various Tibetan instruments, Smith mostly piano, with extras adding cello and percussion. Proceeds too slowly for my taste, but makes me wonder. B+(***)
Michaela Anne: Desert Dove (2019, Yep Roc): Country singer, moved from Brooklyn to Nashville to break into the business, but recorded this third album in California, which seems like fate. B+(*)
Simone Baron & Arco Belo: The Space Between Disguises (2019, GenreFluid): Pianist, also plays accordion, seems to be her first album. Core trio helped with production, adding strings and percussion, which makes it sound way too chamberish for my taste. B- [cd] [11-08]
Ben Bennett/Zach Darrup/Jack Wright: Never (2018, Palliative): Percussion, guitar, and sax, unnamed improv pieces, inventive but pretty harsh. Wright, from Pittsburgh, has been around a while, first album in 1982, Discogs lists 52 albums, I've heard one. Darrup, from Philadelphia, has one previous, a duo with Wright, and Bennett, also from Philadelphia, has several, including at least three with Wright. [3/5 tracks, 37:44/63:25] B+(*) [bc]
Big Thief: Two Hands (2019, 4AD): Adrianne Lenker's group, fourth album, hot on the heels of this year's U.F.O.F., a widely praised breakthrough album. Comparable songs here, somewhat less compelling. B+(**)
The Nat Birchall Quartet: The Storyteller: A Musical Tribute to Yusef Lateef (2019, Jazzman): British tenor saxophonist, main influence is Coltrane, also plays soprano sax and bass clarinet but no flute here (a big part of Lateef's repertoire). With Adam Fairhall or John Ellis on piano, Michael Bardon on bass, and Andy Hay on drums, plus Birchall and Hay add some African percussion. Some originals as well as originals and covers from Lateef's songbook. Still sounds more like Coltrane, but that's nothing to sneeze at. B+(**)
Bonnie Bishop: The Walk (2019, Thirty Tigers): Singer-songwriter from Texas, eponymous debut in 2002, eighth album, can pass for country but reminds me more of Bonnie Raitt. Seven songs, stretched out past 40 minutes. B+(**)
Bon Iver: I, I (2019, Jagjaguwar): Justin Vernon, from Wisconsin, discography dates back to 1998 but his platinum breakthrough came with this group name in 2008. Fourth Bon Iver album, title stylized lc, as in math, but harder to figure. Rather quirky music, opaque to me, but possible to imagine there's more to it somewhere. B
Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die II: Bird Dogs of Paradise (2018 , International Anthem): Trumpet player, from Chicago, second album, also sings, plays synths and percussion. The vocals (including a bit from Ben LaMar Gay) add to the exuberance, but are beside the point, which starts with the excitable groove. A-
Danny Brown: Uknowhatimsayin¿ (2019, Warp): Detroit rapper, underground, fifth album, slung a load of sex rhymes on XXX, but no, I don't really follow what he's saying now. Do dig the beats, and the squeaky voice, and wonder whether a few more spins might make the difference. B+(***)
Katerina Brown: Mirror (2019, Mellowtone Music): Singer, based in Bay Area, songs include three in her native Russian (with English versions tacked on as "bonus tracks"). With pianist Adam Shulman, other scattered about, with a Kenny Washington duet. B [cd]
Daniel Carter/Julius Priester/Adam Lane/Reggie Sylvester/David Haney: Live Constructions Volume 2 (2018 , Slam): Leader plays saxophones and trumpet, did Volume 1 with Haney (piano) and Hilliard Greene (bass), returns in a new set, adding trombone (Priester) and drums (Sylvester), with Lane taking over the bass slot. Keeps it rather skeletal. B+(*)
Daniel Carter/Stelios Mihas/Irma Nejando/Federico Ughi: Radical Invisibility (2018 , 577): Saxophonist, best known for his work in William Parker's groups, also credited with trumpet, clarinet, flute, and keyboard. The others play guitar, bass, and drums, recording in New York, all titles joint credits. B+(**) [bc]
Cashmere Cat: Princess Catgirl (2019, Mad Love/Interscope, EP): Norwegian DJ Magnus August Hølberg, second album (if 7 songs, 18:34 counts). No ID on the voice (other than a Christina Aguilera sample), which fits the cartoon cover. B+(*)
Cherry Glazerr: Stuffed & Ready (2019, Secretly Canadian): Alt/indie band from Los Angeles, pricipally singer-guitarist Clementine Creevy, with bass and drums. Third album. B
Chromatics: Closer to Grey (2019, Italians Do It Better): Electropop band from Portland, OR; fifth album since 2003, first in seven years (not counting the much bruited but unreleased Dear Tommy). Apt title. Docked a bit for reminding me of "Sound of Silence" (sorry about that). B
Cigarettes After Sex: Cry (2019, Partisan): Mainly Greg Gonzalez, from El Paso, relocated to New York, and recorded this second album in Mallorca and Germany. First album had a Pet Shop Boys vibe. This one is slower and milder, takes longer to seduce you, but comes close. B+(***)
George Coleman: The Quartet (2019, Smoke Sessions): Tenor saxophonist, probably best known as the guy who kept the tenor sax slot warm for Miles Davis between Coltrane and Shorter, but he's recorded a dozen-plus albums under his own name, some really great -- like My Horns of Plenty (1991), and (after a long break) A Master Speaks (2016). Not sure exactly when this one was recorded: most likely shortly before or after his 84th birthday, well before pianist Harold Mabern (83) died in September. The octogenarians are delights, ably supported by John Webber and Joe Farnsworth. A-
The Comet Is Coming: Afterlife (2019, Impulse!): British fusion trio, sax/keybs/drums credited to aliases (King Shabaka, Danalogue, Betamax). Short album (6 traks, 32:19). B+(*)
Harry Connick Jr.: True Love: A Celebration of Cole Porter (2019, Verve): Singer, backed by a 25-piece orchestra which seems like overkill on the one hand and nothing special on the other. Still, easy to get a kick out of the Porter songbook. B+(*)
Crosscurrents Trio [Dave Holland/Zakir Hussain/Chris Potter]: Good Hope (2018 , Edition): Bass, tabla, and saxes (mostly tenor), writing credits pretty evenly divided. Potter is always capable of a bravura performance, but is rarely as consistent as here -- a credit to the others, especially Hussain, whose subtle beats entice and disarm the saxophonist like a master snake charmer. A-
Croy & the Boys: Howdy High-Rise (2019, Spaceflight): Singer-guitarist Bad Boy Croy leads a five-piece band including a bassist named Amy Hawthorne, presumably writes the humorous ditties he sings -- assuming you find the humor in laments like "I'm Broke" and "Luxury (Is a Four Letter Word to Me)." B+(**)
Kris Davis: Diatom Ribbons (2018 , Pyroclastic): Avant-pianist, from Canada, debuted in 2003 and quickly established herself as a major figure, especially in groups with tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby. Here she makes some kind of breakout bid, doubling down at tenor sax (Malaby + JD Allen), spotting two top guitarists (Nels Cline and Marc Ribot), mixing in turntables, electronics, and vocal bits, without making it too easy. B+(***)
Drumming Cellist [Kristijan Krajncan]: Abraxas (2019, Sazas): Kristijan Krajncan, from Slovenia, plays cello and dubs in percussion tracks, second album, not quite solo in that he works in a couple guest spots (electronics, harpsichord). The upbeat pieces move smartly, and the occasional change of pace remains of interest. A- [cd]
David Finck: Bassically Jazz (2019, Burton Avenue Music): Bassist, looks like his third album, with many more side credits (website lists 122) since 1988. Centers on the leader's instrument, with weak horns (flute/trombone), piano (Jim Ridl) and vibes (Joe Locke), guitar, drums, vocals (Linda Eder or Alexis Cole) on three cuts. B+(*)
Michael Formanek Very Practical Trio/Tim Berne/Mary Halvorson: Even Better (2019, Intakt): Bassist, long list of albums, his collaborators here stellar enough their names appear before and bolder than the title. Interesting mix, but seems to be lacking something. Drums? B+(***)
Bill Frisell: Harmony (2016 , Blue Note): Guitarist, has often dabbled in Americana over his long career, hooks up with vocalist Petra Haden, with Hank Roberts (cello, voice) and Luke Bergman (baritone guitar, acoustic guitar, bass, voice). Recording date not given, but originally performed in November 2016, so will go with that. Some songs are striking: "Hard Times" for its simplicity, "Lush Life just the opposite. Here and there a gemlike bit of guitar catches your ear. B+(*)
Satoko Fujii/Joe Fonda: Four (2018 , Long Song): Piano-bass duo, fourth album together, two cuts add Natsuki Tamura on trumpet. B+(***) [11-08]
Girl Band: The Talkies (2019, Rough Trade): Irish alt/indie post-punk band, no evident females, Dara Kiely the singer, backed with guitar-bass-drums. Second album, four years after their first, bleak and claustrophobic, what passes for their comfort zone. B+(*)
Robert Glasper: Fuck Yo Feelings (2019, Loma Vista): Once and future jazz pianist, promised to bring a shot of hip-hop into the jazz milieu, never impressed me much, but this jam session qua mixtape proves his knack for networking. Long guest list, long album (19 tracks, 71+ minutes), moments come and go. B+(*)
Binker Golding: Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers (2018 , Gearbox): British tenor saxophonist, half of Binker & Moses, goes for a conventional quartet here with Joe Armon-Jones (piano), Daniel Casimir (bass), and Sam Jones (drums). All originals, most build on riffs, and the larger group pays dividends in swing. A- [cd]
Kim Gordon: No Home Record (2019, Matador): Sonic Youth chanteuse (1983-2009), now 66, first nominal solo album although she had a side project in the 1990s (Free Kitten), several more since, including post-SY albums as Body/Head and Glitterbust. She does a masterful job of capturing Sonic Youth's sound, then folds it back on itself, making it more impenetrable then ever. But didn't she used to be the one who opened it up? B+(***) [Later: A-]
Homeboy Sandman: Dusty (2019, Mello Music Group): New York rapper Angel Del Villar II, nine albums and nine EPs since 2007, not that there's much distinction between them, as his albums all fit comfortably on vinyl -- this is one of his longer ones, with 15 cuts (34:52). B+(***)
Abdullah Ibrahim: Dream Time (2019, Enja): Great South African pianist, 85, playing a solo program of 17 pieces, not his catchiest or most dynamic but touching nonetheless. B+(**)
Gethen Jenkins: Western Gold (2019, 5 Music): A throwback to the Outlaw Country vogue, which is to say he sounds a lot like Waylon Jennings, and doesn't seem to be much smarter. Choice cut: "Basket Case." B+(*)
Georgette Jones: Skin (2019, self-released): First name Tamala, Georgette seems to be the middle, and Jones is inherited from famous father George, though web search makes more of her mother, Tammy Wynette. Worked as a registered nurse before recording her debut album in 2010. B+(**)
Ras Kass: Soul on Ice 2 (2019, Mello Music Group): Rapper John Austin IV, recorded two albums for Priority 1996-98, third album here reprises his debut title. He remained active in his missing decades, appearing on other albums and releasing a pile of mixtapes. Sounds old school. B+(***)
Roger Kellaway: The Many Open Minds of Roger Kellaway (2010 , IPO): Pianist, debuted with A Portrait of Roger Kellaway in 1963, many albums since and still active as he turns 80, although this one has been sitting in the vault a while. Trio with Bruce Froman on guitar and Dan Lutz on bass. Seven standards, the piano racing even as they're stretched between 5:02 and 12:12, closes with a sparkling "Caravan." A- [cd] [11-01]
Chris Knight: Almost Daylight (2019, Drifters Church): Country singer-songwriter from Kentucky, ninth album since 1998 (seven years since his last and best, Little Victories). The band has muscled up, his voice thick and grizzled -- nowhere more than on John Prine's "Mexican Home," their duet close to seamless. A-
Krokofant: Q (2019, Rune Grammofon): Norwegian fusion trio -- Tom Hasslan (guitar), Jørgen Mathisen (sax), Axel Skalstad (drums) -- had three numbered albums before this one, which adds bass Ingebrigt Håker Flaten) and vibes (Axel Skalstad). Saxophonist has some avant chops, not much in evidence. B
Remy Le Boeuf: Assembly of Shadows (2019, SoundSpore): Saxophonist, from Santa Cruz, second solo album after several in his brother act. Big band, conducted by Gregory Robbins, no strings in the credits but I was faked out, maybe because the long suite sounds so classical, with no swing and a lot of Anne Webber's flute. I took an instant dislike to it, but on second play have to admit some intricate (and quite lovely) passages (and no strings). B [cdr] [11-01]
Little Brother: May the Lord Watch (2019, Imagine Nation Music/For Members Only/Empire): Hip-hop group from Durham, North Carolina, four albums 2003-10, regrouped as a duo (rappers Phonte [Coleman] and Big Pooh [Thomas Jones]) for this album. Nice flow, solid album. B+(**)
L'Orange & Jeremiah Jae: Complicate Your Life With Violence (2019, Mello Music Group): Hip-hop producer ("sampledelic North Carolina cubist") and Chicago lyricist ("fracture rap demigod"), second album together (L'Orange has also worked with Mr. Lif, Kool Keith, Stik Figa, and Homeboy Sandman, but his first round with Jae was his best). Dingy film noir dystopia, not sure whether futuristic (as suggested), uncannily perceptive, or just an improved Czarface yarn. A-
Doug MacDonald & the Tarmac Ensemble: Jazz Marathon 4: Live at Hangar 18 (2019, DMAC, 2CD): Guitarist, originally from Philadelphia but long-established on the West Coast. Recorded this in Los Angeles with a nine-piece group featuring Kim Richmond (alto sax, better known as a big band arranger). Mostly standards, "Pennies From Heaven" as delicious as ever. B+(*)
Dan McCarthy: City Abstract (2019, Origin): Vibraphone player, from Canada, quartet with guitar, bass, and drums, none of which add much. Opens with a dedication to Carla Bley, closes with one to Gary Burton. B
John McPhee/Paal Nilssen-Love: Song for the Big Chief (2017 , PNL): Tenor/pocket trumpet and drums duo, something they've done before (e.g., the 7-CD Candy box set), something the drummer has done with lots of saxophonists. All pretty consistent, but this one was recorded just after Sunny Murray died, recalling his 1969 album Big Chief. B+(**) [bc]
Mika: My Name Is Michael Holbrook (2019, Republic/Virgin EMI): Parents American (Israeli and Lebanese roots), born in Beirut, moved to Paris at 1, then to London at 9, so counts as a British pop star. Title is true, but omits last name Penniman. Fifth album. B+(**)
Mike & the Moonpies: Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold (2019, Prairie Rose): Austin-based honky tonk band, Mike Harmeier leader, sixth album since 2010, for a change of pace trekked to England to record in the Abbey Road studio backed by the London Symphony Orchestra. Nothing fast or hard, but the strings are unobtrusive. Still, seems a bit budget-limited: 8 tracks, 31:36. B+(*)
Bernie Mora & Tangent: No Agenda (2019, Rhombus): Guitarist, has a couple previous albums with this group name -- only player I recognize is saxophonist Doug Webb. Fusion, comes out roiling, never really loses that, although attention is something else. C+ [cd]
Simon Nabatov: Readings: Red Cavalry (2018 , Leo): Russian avant-pianist, long based in Germany, based this on Isaac Babel texts, read dramatically by Phil Minton. The music -- with Frank Gratkowski (reeds), Marcus Schmickler (electronics), and Gerry Hemingway (drums) -- is most interesting when it breaks free. B+(*)
Simon Nabatov: Readings: Gileya Revisited (2018 , Leo): Gileya is the Russian Futurist group from the 1920s, better known today for their art (e.g., El Lissitzy) than for their writings, which provide the texts here. Same group as on Red Cavalry, except that Jaap Blonk is the voice here. Tough going, with occasional flashes of brilliance. B+(*)
Miles Okazaki: The Sky Below (2019, Pi): Guitarist, most recently heard on his 6-CD Work, where he played solo every tune Thelonious Monk ever wrote. Returns to a quartet format here, with Matt Mitchell (keyboards), Anthony Tidd (electric bass), and Sean Rickman (drums). B+(***) [cd]
Angel Olsen: All Mirrors (2019, Jagjaguwar): Singer-songwriter from St. Louis, based in Asheville, NC; fourth album since 2012, the previous one (My Woman) finishing high in critics polls. Music here built up from strings, some songs strong enough to suggest what all the fuss is about. B+(*)
Anne Phillips: Live at the Jazz Bakery (2019, Conawago): Singer, recorded an album in 1959, another in 2000, then (I guess) this one, with scattered studio work (she was a backup singer on Leslie Gore's "It's My Party") and advertising jingles. Much too much talk in between songs, but she explains it all if you're interested. Husband Bob Kindred plays sax, Roger Kellaway piano, and Chuck Berghoffer bass. B- [cd]
Jessica Pratt: Quiet Signs (2019, Mexican Summer): Singer-songwriter, from San Francisco, plays guitar (although this opens with a piano solo), sometimes slotted as folk, probably for its bare DIY-ness. Short (9 tracks, 27:48), and yes, quiet. B-
Joshua Redman & Brooklyn Rider: Sun on Sand (2019, Nonesuch): Tenor sax trio, with Scott Colley and Satoshi Takeishi, and a string quartet, playing a suite composed and arranged by Patrick Zimmerli. Brooklyn Rider has over a dozen albums since 2008, including two volumes of Philip Glass and several with Béla Fleck, but nothing recognizably jazz. Strong pulse through the strings, more modernist than jazz. B+(**)
Reut Regev's R*Time: Keep Winning (2019, Enja): Trombonist, like husband-drummer Igal Foni born in Israel, based in New York. Quartet with Jean-Paul Bourelly (guitar) and Mark Peterson (bass). Strong groove but doesn't lose interest when they break it up. Daughter Liana, age 7, adds a vocal interruption. A-
Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis (2019, Constellation): Alto saxophonist from Chicago, latterday AACM member, Bandcamp page says she's in Indonesia (but I've also heard New York, and this was recorded in Montreal). I've had problems with the vocals before, but these seem to fit the bill. Band includes two guitarists who switch off to other instruments, bass, drums, occasional vibes, and Steve Swell (counted as a guest) on trombone. B+(***)
Rocket 808: Rocket 808 (2019, 12XU): Austin band, a project of guitarist John Schooley (best known for the Revelators), mostly instrumental rock band, guitar reminds me of Link Wray, but not that special. B [bc]
Poncho Sanchez: Trane's Delight (2019, Concord Picante): Congolero, born in Texas, grew up in California, 1980 debut album Salsa Picante. Covers three Coltrane tunes here, the title one of two originals. Some vocals. B
Carmen Sandim: Play Doh (2019, Ropeadope): Pianist, from Brazil, based in Colorado, second album, all originals, septet gives her lots of options with three horns, guitar, bass, and drums. B+(*) [cd]
Louis Sclavis: Characters on a Wall (2018 , ECM): French clarinetist, records since 1981, 13th for ECM since 2002. Quartet, opens with piano (Benjamin Moussay). Cover shows a concrete wall, looks like Israel's West Bank partition, although looks small because a human figure has been painted nearly the height of a panel. B+(*)
Sleater-Kinney: The Center Won't Hold (2019, Mom + Pop): Second album after their 2005-15 hiatus, with two singer-guitarists I've never cared much for, and a terrific drummer (Janet Weiss) who's on this album but has since quit the band. Good news here is by midway I lost track of whatever it was used to irritate me so much (Carrie Brownstein's screech?). Not so good news is by the end I was scarcely paying attention at all. B
Tyshawn Sorey and Marilyn Crispell: The Adornment of Time (2018 , Pi): Drums and piano, more of the former, a single 64:57 piece recorded live. Seems more cut up than that, with a complete stop in the middle making you wonder whether the record is over, and a lot of stretches where nothing much happens, but does close strong. B+(**) [cd]
Chris Speed Trio: Respect for Your Toughness (2018 , Intakt): Tenor saxophonist, plays free but rarely shows any strain (much less screech), with Chris Tordini (bass) and Dave King (drums) -- all musician names on the front cover, but below the title. B+(***)
Chip Stephens/Stenn Wilson: Sadness & Soul (2018 , Capri): Piano and baritone sax, just the duo, make a point of noting the antiquity of their instruments (1876 and 1946, respectively). Title tune is original, rest are standards, two from Coltrane the most recent, Monk's "'Round Midnight" as vintage as the sax. B+(**) [cd]
Mike Stern-Jeff Lorber Fusion: Eleven (2019, Concord): Fusion guitarist and smooth jazz keyboardist, both looking their age (66-67), with Jimmy Haslip co-producing. Not much to it. C+
Michael Jefry Stevens & the Mountain Chamber Jazz Ensemble: The Poet Is in the House (2019, ARC): Avant-pianist, based in Black Mountain, NC, where he rounded up this 14-person group, with everything from strings to voice. A pretty mixed bag, the vocals a particular sore point. B [bc]
Kevin Sun: The Sustain of Memory (2019, Endectomorph Music): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1991, based in New York, has degrees from Harvard and New England Conservatory, a blog which serious jazz students will find worth perusing, and a previous Trio album which was by far the most impressive debut of 2018. Expands every which way here, except in song count, where the limit is three long ones (36:27, 29:23, 48:22). Adds Adam O'Farrill on trumpet, pianist Dana Saul -- whose Ceiling in in the running for this year's finest debut -- on tracks one and three, and swaps his Trio bassist and drummer for others on the long finale. I'm slightly less impressed by the sprawl, but he's still on track as a major talent. A- [cd] [11-15]
Tegan and Sara: Hey, I'm Just Like You (2019, Warner Brothers): Twin sisters, last name Quin, from Canada, ninth album since 1999. I thought they found their calling when they went electropop last time, so I'm a bit disappointed they're leading with the guitars this time. Not real disappointed, mind you. B+(**)
Tinariwen: Amadjar (2019, Anti-): Tuareg group from Mali, steady stream of albums since 2002. Recent albums appear to credit "+10:1," evidently the band's name in Tamasheq. Hard to differentiate among their many albums, but this one seems relatively laid back. B+(**)
Gebhard Ullmann/Hans Lüdemann/Oliver Potratz/Eric Schaefer: MikroPULS (2017 , Intuition): German reeds player, sticks with tenor sax here, supported by piano, bass, and drums. Free jazz, but almost a ballad album, with all four contributing pieces, with a nice flow, intricate, touching even. A- [cd]
Kiki Valera: Vivencias En Clave Cubana (2018 , Origin): Cuban cuatro master, a member of Familia Valera Miranda, "a century-old group and one of the most important purveyors of the Son Cubana." Indeed, sounds impeccably Cuban, with Coco Freeman's vocals, a dash of trumpet, and lots of percussion. B+(***) [cd]
Andrés Vial/Dezron Douglas/Eric McPherson: Gang of Three (2019, Chromatic Audio): Piano-bass-drums trio, the pianist from Montreal, did a find Monk album last year, this one even more impressive with all original pieces. B+(***) [cd]
Devin Brahja Waldman: Brahja (2019, RR Gems): Saxophonist, also plays other instruments (piano, synthesizer, drums here), has several previous albums. Some version confusion here: Bandcamp offers four tracks (31:30), Discogs for the LP lists eight tracks (46:25), but my CDR from the artist adds a ninth track (total 54:51). Lineups vary, scattered vocals, seductive grooves, bits of exotica, steady saxophone. B+(***) [cdr]
Kelsey Waldon: White Noise/White Lines (2019, Oh Boy): Country singer-songwriter from Monkey's Eyebrow, Kentucky, probably the best voice in recent years, and one of the better songwriters. Third album, all superb; this one on John Prine's label, first new artist there since Todd Snider. A-
Alice Wallace: Into the Blue (2019, Rebelle Road): Southern California-based Americana singer-songwriter, fourth album, big voice, overly dramatic, sometimes reminds me of the Eagles, but she's not that kind of jerk. B
Rodney Whitaker: All Too Soon: The Music of Duke Ellington (2017 , Origin): Bassist, from Detroit, teaches at Michigan State, ten or so albums since 1996, mainstream affairs, this his first explicit nod to swing. Leads a sextet which covers the bases: trumpet (Brian Lynch), tenor sax (Diego Rivera), trombone (Michael Dease), piano (Richard Roe), and drums (Karriem Riggins), with Rockelle Whitaker vocals on most tracks. Delightful program. B+(***)
Barrence Whitfield Soul Savage Arkestra: Songs From the Sun Ra Cosmos (2019, Modern Harmonic): Retro blues-rocker, born in Florida (as Barry White), studied in Boston, long based there, band called Barrence Whitfield & the Savages. Sun Ra's songbook takes him to some strange places, but "Muck Muck" was made for him. B+(**)
Carrie Wicks: Reverie (2019, OA2): Singer-songwriter, based in Seattle, backed by a nice jazz combo, with Brent Jensen on sax (soprano/alto) and Bill Anschell's piano trio. Can't say much on the originals (all co-written, most with Ken Nottingham), but the covers are nice and poised. B+(*) [cd]
Young M.A: Herstory in the Making (2019, M.A Music/3D): New York Rapper Katorah Marrero, first album after an EP (Herstory), a couple mixtapes, a hit single ("OOOUUU"). Gender not always clear, especially when she goes on a rant about her "bitches." B+(*) [Later: B+(***)]
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
The Daisy Age (1989-94 , Ace): A blip in the history of hip-hop, where pop rap took an underground twist, perhaps all the more to distinguish itself from the contemporary vogue for gangsta. I didn't respond at all well to De La Soul at first -- they lead off here, and are credited with a ridiculous acronym for DAISY -- but I've logged A-list albums for nine other artists here (although a couple only with later compilations), and eventually got into some later De La Soul albums. Half of these cuts are well remembered (not that I've pulled the albums out recently). The others fit the flow, which is what a good various artists comp should do. [NB: 2-LP adds 2 cuts: Fu-Schnickens with Shaquille O'Neal: "What's Up Doc? (Can We Rock?) (K-Cut's Fat Trac Remix); Leaders of the Old School: "Case of the P.T.A."] A [cd]
The Exbats: E Is 4 Exbats (2016-18 , Burger): Post-punk trio from Arizona, drummer-vocalist Inez McLain, her father Kenny on guitar, plus a bass player. Most songs appeared on previous albums with titles that make me curious. B+(***)
Fania Goes Psychedelic (1967-71 , Fania): Not clear what (if anything) distinguishes this from boogaloo, but then "psychedelic" never had a substantive definition -- close enough for Ray Barretto to call the lead song "Acid." B+(***)
Ernest Hood: Neighborhoods: Memories of Times Past (1975 , Freedom to Spend): One-shot album (although Hood also recorded a single as Hawg Thistlefield and the Hawg Brothers Family Band): zithers, synthesizer, and found sounds. Aims at ambience and nostalgia, but too modern and unsettled to relax and doze off. B
Abdallah Ag Oumbadougou: Anou Malane (1995 , Sahel Sounds): Tuareg guitarist-singer from Niger, recorded this in Benin. Regarded as a classic in the style, so steady you start to wonder if it isn't too easy, but that's only because the balance is so impeccable. A-
The Rough Guide to the Roots of Country Music: Reborn and Remastered (1926-33 , World Music Network): A primer on the oldtime folk music of the white American south, the legacy country music claimed as its roots. Some familiar names, some more obscure. Not able to sort this out compared to similar comps, but this would fill the gap fairly well. Main caveat I have is that the label is notoriously shoddy in its documentation, but I haven't seen whatever accompanies this one. B+(***)
Esbjörn Svensson Trio: E.S.T. Live in Gothenburg (2001 , ACT, 2CD): Swedish piano trio, formed in 1993, ended with the pianist's death in 2008, was very popular in Europe, less so here. Much of their appeal was rhythmic, good examples of that here, but they're remarkably listenable even when they slow it up. A- [cd]
Cecil Taylor: Mysteries: Indent: Antioch College/Yellow Springs, Ohio/March 11, 1973 (1973 , Black Sun): Mysteries seems to be a series of vault recordings by the late avant-pianist. Cover omits "Mysteries," but includes the rest, as above. However, title is usually given as Mysteries: Second Set of Indent. Indent appeared in 1977 on Arista/Freedom, as one of Taylor's first solo records. I didn't care for it at the time, but this second set is pretty spectacular. B+(***)
Cecil Taylor: Mysteries: Untitled (1961-76 , Black Sun): That's the title, plain as day on the cover. One 49:14 solo set (previously unreleased) from the Bösendorfer Festival in November 1976, plus three well-known group tracks from Taylor's side of a 1961 two-artist LP shared with Roswell Rudd. B+(**)
Saadet Türköz/Elliott Sharp: Kumuska (2007 , Intakt): Turkish singer, ancestors recently arrived from Central Asia, now based in Switzerland, backed by the American, who gives up his usual guitar for analog synthesizers, bass clarinet, and glissentar. B+(*)
Barney Wilen: Live in Tokyo '91 (1991 , Elemental Music, 2CD): French tenor saxophonist (1937-96), a terrific musician. Very solid live shot, quartet with piano (Olivier Hutman), bass, and drums. B+(***)
World Spirituality Classics 2: The Time for Peace Is Now (1970s , Luaka Bop): Cover explains: "These undeniably soulful, passionate, and urgent songs from obscure 45's, dug up from a long dormancy in attics, sheds and crates across the American south, are a subset of seventies-era gospel, focusing not on Jesus or God, but instead on ourselves, and how we exist with each other." B+(***)
Black Sheep: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing (1991, Mercury): Hip-hop duo (Dres and Mista Lawange), from New York but met up in North Carolina, affiliated with Native Tongues ("which included the Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest, and De La Soul"). First album, a little rough out of the gate but finds its flow. B+(**)
Brand Nubian: Foundation (1998, Arista): Afro-centric hip-hop group from New Rochelle, New York, named like their first hit single in 1989. Fourth album, second best after their 1990 debut. Choice cut: "Probable Cause." B+(***)
Chromatics: Kill for Love (2012, Italians Do It Better): Fourth album, the one that showed up on Uproxx's decade list, and it's easy to hear why: the guitar has some bite to it, and the table-setting cover is Neil Young's "Into the Black" (from Rust Never Sleeps). B+(***) [sc]
Bertrand Denzler Cluster: Y? (1998 , Leo Lab): French tenor saxophonist, couple dozen albums since 1992. Quartet, with Benoît Delbecq on prepared piano, Hélène Labarrière on bass, Norbert Pfammatter on drums. B+(***)
Bertrand Denzler/Norbert Pfammatter: NanoCluster 02/2000 (2000, Leo Lab): Half of the saxophonist's Cluster group, retaining just tenor sax and drums. Ten numbered free improvs, impressive rigor, but sometimes less is less. B+(**)
The Exbats: A Guide to the Health Issues Affecting Rescue Hens (2016, Burger): First album, released on cassette tape. Playing these after the compilation (E Is 4 Exbats) gives me a combination of déjà vu and roughly comparable filler. B+(**)
The Exbats: I've Got the Hots for Charlie Watts (2018, Burger): Second album (cassette), as above, but hedged up for the title (and maybe for some of the filler). B+(***)
Fu-Schnickens: Greatest Hits (1992-95 , Jive): Brooklyn hip-hop trio, cut two albums 1992-94, reduced them to four cuts each and added four odds and ends in this career-capper. Don't know that any of them went any further. Dense, rapid-fire, turntables and a sideline in dancehall toasts. B+(***)
Joanna Newsom: The Milk-Eyed Mender (2004, Drag City): Plays harp, sings in a weird child's voice. Christgau gave this, her first album, an A-, then slammed her second (Ys) with a C+, noting "original in one thing, worth doing another." I hear the "original" in this one, but also the likelihood that it will soon wear out its novelty. B+(*)
Joanna Newsom: Ys (2006, Drag City): "Second system complex" that an engineer, having been cautious and successful on a first project, will build on confidence gained and take more risks on a second effort, ultimately failing. Something of that here, with two tracks stretched to 12:08 and 16:53, five total to 55:42. On the other hand, this sold better and made more year-end lists, which can only partly be attributed to momentum. Of course, I can't speak to the "ach Gott!" libretto, although her whimsy is less obvious, ditto her annoying quirks. B
Joanna Newsom: Have One on Me (2010, Drag City, 2CD): Third album, sprawls to 124:08, filling 3-LP or 2-CD, with more than two dozen musician/vocalist credits. She remains a distinctive voice and idiosyncratic artist, but this all tends to flow together, not unpleasantly, but not adding up to much. B
Reut Regev: This Is R*Time (2008 , Ropeadope): Trombonist, also plays flugabone (no slide, looks like a bugle swallowed the guts of a French horn), first album, with guitar (David Phelps), drums (Igal Foni), electric or acoustic bass, congas on a couple cuts, bongos on one. B+(**)
Esbjörn Svensson Trio: Plays Monk (1996, Superstudio Gul; , ACT): Major Swedish piano trio with Dan Berglund (bass) and Magnus Östrum (drums), first album in 1993, so this is fairly early. Monk tunes, nicely done but fancied up a bit, with strings on a couple. B+(**)
Esbjörn Svensson Trio: Winter in Venice (1997, Superstudio Gul; , ACT): Original material, including the four-part "Semblance Suite in Three or Four Movements." B+(*)
Esbjörn Svensson Trio [EST]: From Gagarin's Point of View (1999, ACT): Looks like this was initially released by Superstudio Gul, but picked up fast by the German label, which went on to reissue earlier albums. First appearance of initials on the cover, more background image than logo, and first album where Magnus Öström pushes the rhythm to the fore, which would significantly broaden their popular appeal. B+(**)
Esbjörn Svensson Trio [EST]: Good Morning Susie Soho (2000, ACT): "EST" on spine but spelled out on cover. B+(***)
E.S.T.: Leucocyte (2007 , ACT): Recorded in Australia, not released until shortly after pianist Svensson died in a scuba diving accident. Two long, multi-part pieces (plus a few more), the title tract running 27:37. Everyone doubles on electronics, adding bits of sparkling light to the settings. B+(**)
E.S.T. [Esbjörn Svensson Trio]: 301 (2007 , ACT): Named for the studio in Australia where Leucocyte was recorded, sessions from that same month. My favorite here is the drum roll of "Three Falling Free: Part II." B+(***)
Rodney Whitaker: Ballads and Blues: The Brooklyn Sessions (1998, Criss Cross): Bassist, first album as leader after more than a decade of side-credits, especially with Roy Hargrove, also Terence Blanchard and Eric Reed. Three pieces by Paul Chambers (also one by George Duvivier) proclaim his roots. With Ron Blake (tenor/soprano sax), Reed (piano), Stefon Harris (vibes), and Carl Allen (drums), plus Wycliffe Gordon (trombone) on two tracks. B+(**)
Barrence Whitfield & the Savages: Soul Flowers of Titan (2018, Bloodshot): I've long thought of him as a blues-rocker, but he owes more to, and sounds more like, 1950s rockers like Chuck Berry and Little Richard than the 1960s bluesmen (or Englishmen) who defined the genre. Doesn't necessarily pick or write great songs, but when he does he can really burn it up. B+(***)
Current count 32276  rated (+120), 224  unrated (+5).
Excerpts from this month's Music List posts:
Current count 32276  rated (+28), 224  unrated (+0).
Birthday last week, so I lost a day to cooking, most of another to shopping and prep. . . .
October archive (see link above) is wrapped up and indexed. Not much to say about this week's haul, except perhaps that The Daisy Age was the surprise A+ in Robert Christgau's first new Consumer Guide under his And It Don't Stop subscription newsletter, and the only new CD I've bought in 3-4 months (not that I couldn't have assembled the play list from Napster). Back when I was writing Recycled Goods, I tried to get on Ace Records' promo list, but never got so much as a reply. So I was pretty jealous when Bob told me a few years back that they had started sending him records. This looks like the tenth of their records he's reviewed since 2013. (If anyone cares, I'd review every damn one.)
Some of the old music this week were rap records from that vintage (1989-95). Also filled in some EST back catalogue, after reviewing their Live in Gothenburg as an A- last week (which makes it, in my humble estimation, their best record ever).
Best-reviewed albums from the week of 10-25 (according to my metacritic file (4+ counting my grades in brackets, but paren totals don't count my grades): Anna Meredith: FIBS (9); Rex Orange County: Pony (5); Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Colorado (5); Blaenavon: Everything That Makes You Happy (4); Cigarettes After Sex: Cry (4) [***]; Hana Vu: Nicole Kidman/Anne Hathaway (4). Also note: Kanye West: Jesus Is King (2).
Best-reviewed albums from 10-18: Floating Points: Crush (13); Foals: Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost (Part 2) (9); Caroline Polachek: Pang (9); Battles: Juice B Crypts (7); Clipping: There Existed an Addiction to Blood (7); Vagabon (7); Patrick Watson: Wave (5); Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis (3) [***].
New records I want to track down: The Bad Plus: Activate Infinity; Lakou Mizik: HaitiaNola; Nellie McKay: Bagatelles; Van Morrison: Three Chords & the Truth.
Also out since last week, previously graded: Randy Brecker/Ada Rovatti: Brecker Plays Rovatti: Sacred Bond [**]; Jeff Denson/Romain Pilon/Brian Blade: Between Two Worlds [*]; Laszlo Gardony: La Marseillaise (Sunnyside) [**]; Carmen Sandim: Play Doh (Ropeadope) [*]; Leo Sherman: Tonewheel (Outside In Music) [*]; Esbjorn Svensson Trio: EST Live in Gothenburg (2001, ACT -2CD) [A-].
Current count 32248  rated (+36), 224  unrated (-5).
As of late Sunday. Monday's mail unpacked below but not counted above.
Last couple weeks I've barely been able to scratch out two A- records. In fact, only one of the last six weeks yielded more than three, but I'm up to a nearly unprecedented nine here (E.S.T. a late add). One reason is I did something different last week, in that I jotted down a list of seven "new records I most want to track down." I found all seven, and got four A- records there (Jaimie Branch, Chris Knight, L'Orange & Jeremiah Jae, Kelsey Waldon). Although I must admit that part of the reason I did that was that Knight and Waldon were riding multiple A/A- streaks, and L'Orange/Jae's previous also came in at A-. Nor was Branch much of a surprise. Had I looked further, I would also have flagged Crosscurrents Trio (Dave Holland has his own streak going), and maybe the two new Intakt releases.
Also got a couple pleasant surprises out of the promo queue. My other main source this week was Saving Country Music: I added their top-reviewed albums to my metacritic file, but the winners there were the expected ones from Knight and Waldon. Adds to this and my tracking file help keep me up to date. For instance, I can tell you the best-reviewed new records of the week (10-18): Battles: Juice B Crypts (6); Foals: Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost (Part 2) (6); Vagabon (6); Clipping: There Existed an Addiction to Blood (5); Floating Points: Crush (4); Caroline Polachek: Pang (4); Patrick Watson: Wave (4). Best-reviewed new records of the previous week (10-11): Big Thief: Two Hands (17); Kim Gordon: No Home Record (12); Elbow: Giants of All Sizes (9); Richard Dawson: 2020 (8).
New records I most want to track down: Homeboy Sandman: Dusty; Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis; Rocket 808.
Also out 10-18, listed below or previously graded: Gebhard Ullmann: MikroPULS [A-]; Michael Formanek: Even Better [***]; Petros Kampanis: Irrationalities [**]; Derel Monteith: Connemara [**]; Chris Speed: Respect for Your Toughness [**]; Chip Stephens/Stenn Wilson: Sadness & Soul [**]; John Yao: How We Do [**]; Rez Abbasi: A Throw of Dice by the Silent Ensemble [*]; Derel Monteith: Quantity of Life [*]; Carrie Wicks: Reverie [*]; Katerina Brown: Mirror [B]; Dan McCarthy: City Abstract [B].
Old records this week were mostly the result of collecting several recent decade-or-two best-of lists. I've started to copy these down, mostly to provide a checklist against my own listening. There weren't many titles I hadn't heard, but I had totally missed Chromatics and Joanna Newsom, so now I know something. You can find the lists with my grades here (original links in the files):
Current count 32212  rated (+29), 229  unrated (+0).
Cutoff was Sunday evening, after posting Weekend Roundup. Didn't have all of the unpacking done, so unrated count is a bit low. The two A- records came early in the week. Both are available on Bandcamp: Drumming Cellist, Abdallah Ag Oumbadougou. There's a good chance that The Rough Guide to the Roots of Country Music might have hit A- on a second or third play, but not having the booklet, having to spend close to an hour checking dates, and the suspicion that I've heard everything there elsewhere didn't dispose me to be especially generous.
I saw a little bit (maybe 10%) of Ken Burns' Country Music PBS series. Not much there I didn't already know, but thought what I saw was pretty useful -- certainly didn't strike me as distorted and deceptive, like his Jazz series. As far as I can tell, the only product tie-ins are called The Soundtrack, available in both a 2-CD edition and a 5-CD box. I don't like streaming boxes -- actually, I don't have the patience, in large part because it's hard to break them up in to listenable chunks, and there's no booklet to help you keep score -- so I probably won't bother, but the tracklists look impeccable. Probably not as good as Classic Country Music: A Smithsonian Collection (also 5-CD), but better than Columbia Country Classics (from 1990, also 5-CD). Virtually no overlap with Rough Guide, for reasons that hardly need explication.
I read about the Exbats in last week's Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide. If the link doesn't seem to work, maybe you should subscribe? I was pleased to find my previous A- picks for Chance the Rapper and Tyler Childers as good or better. Also that he found more than I did in Black Midi, Chuck Cleaver, Rapsody, and Sleater-Kinney. Some folks have asked about XgauSez. It's on a new schedule, fourth Wednesday of each month, and subscribers will get it delivered to their mailboxes.
Continuing to plug things into my tracking and metacritic files, which is helping me keep up to date. For instance, I can tell you the best-reviewed new records of the week (10-11): Big Thief: Two Hands (15); Kim Gordon: No Home Record (12); Elbow: Giants of All Sizes (8). Best-reviewed new records of the previous week (10-04): Angel Olsen: All Mirrors (24) [*]; Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Ghosteen (22); Danny Brown: Uknowhatimsayin¿ (16) [***]; Wilco: Ode to Joy (10); DIIV: Deceiver (9). New records I most want to track down: Yazz Ahmed: Polyhymnia; Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die II: Bird Dogs of Paradise; Bill Frisell: Harmony; Abdullah Ibrahim: Dream Time; Chris Knight: Almost Daylight; L'Orange & Jeremiah Jae: Complicate Your Life With Violence; Kelsey Waldon: White Noise/White Lines.
Current count 32183  rated (+27), 229  unrated (+10).
Slow start on the week, partly because I flushed Monday's listening out in September Streamnotes, and ended this Sunday night. Partly because the Kevin Sun 2-CD album sat in the changer four daya while I slowly made up my mind. Sun's album never quite matched his Trio debut, nor is the George Coleman album quite as terrific as his The Master Speaks, but in the end both came close enough. Among the also-rans, Laurie Anderson's spoken word over Tibetan ghost music came closest, and might deserve further attention. Turns out Phil Overeem likes the album a lot (number 9 on his latest list. Also found my two good vault albums there. More to follow next week.
I added those and a few others to my metacritic file. In turn I checked out several of the better-rated albums I hadn't bothered with, but didn't find I enjoyed it much. Most I'm pretty sure of, but artists like Angel Olsen, Bon Iver, and Jessica Pratt just make me wonder if I'm getting too old for this shit. Also in the "don't do it for me" category are fairly ordinary rockers like Cherry Glazerr, Sleater-Kinney, and Girl Band.
Got a lot of mail last week (today's take is listed below but not counted above). I'm noting future release dates as I get them, also when I do reviews. The queue is usually sorted FIFO, as I suspect keeping it sorted by release date would be a big hassle. Upcoming week may be less than usual, as I have some house projects, plus a bit of cooking coming up. Then some medical shit, before Trump takes that away, too.
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade: