Streamnotes: September 28, 2020


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 31. Past reviews and more information are available here (15505 records).


Recent Releases

The 81's: 2 Things & 118 Others (2020, The 81's): Nashville rock group, principally Tom Siering and Tim Carroll. Group with the obvious website is different (as far as I can tell), making this a debut album. Comparisons to the Blasters are unwarranted, but they have some good lines and riffs. B+(**)

100 Gecs: 1000 Gecs and the Tree of Clues (2020, Dog Show): Dylan Brady and Laura Les, originally from St. Louis, but at last report split between Los Angeles and Chicago. Ten-track debut appeared in 2019. Dan Weiss recommended it, and replied to my review: "I can't believe you found 100 gecs more annoying than black midi." I found it so annoying I didn't check the length (didn't feel like I needed to) so didn't even flag it as a 23:07 EP. Christgau wound up grading both 100 Gecs and Black Midi at A-, but I didn't revisit either. Did check out this remix album, fleshed out to 51:10, mostly through redundancy (18 tracks). This time, I loved the "ringtone" remix (with Charli XCX, Rico Nasty, and Kero Kero Bonito); also "xXXi_wud_nvrstop_ÜXXx" (another baby song, with Tommy Cash & Hannah Diamond). Still found many things annoying, but fans somehow manage to laugh (or snicker?) at them. B+(**)

Jessi Alexander: Decatur County Red (2020, Lost Creek Music): Country singer-songwriter, from Jackson, Tennessee, recorded an album for Columbia in 2005, but was dropped and this is only her second album since, a short one (8 songs, 28:58). Thoughtful songs, aside from the duet with Randy Houser which is plain fun. B+(*)

Pedro Melo Alves: In Igma (2019 [2020], Clean Feed): Portuguese drummer, second album. Other musician names on the cover: Aubrey Johnson (voice), Beatriz Nunes (voice), Mariana Dionísio (voice), Eve Risser (piano), Mark Dresser (bass), Abdul Moimęme (guitar). Way too much voice, a choral cloud, still not enough to obscure the creaky industrialism in the background. B-

American Aquarium: Lamentations (2020, New West): Country-rock band from North Carolina, founded by singer-songwriter BJ Barham in 2005, eleventh album, no other members date back past 2017. B+(**)

Antibalas: Fu Chronicles (2020, Daptone): Brooklyn-based Afrobeat band, founded 1998 by Martin Perna (baritone sax) -- the only original member remaining, although Duke Amayo (vocals/percussion) and Jordan McLean (trumpet) have been with the band nearly as long. B+(***)

Artemis: Artemis (2020, Blue Note): Jazz supergroup founded 2017, seven women from six countries, first album, music director Renee Rosnes (piano), with Ingrid Jensen (trumpet), Melissa Aldana (alto sax), Anat Cohen (clarinet/bass clarinet), Noriko Ueda (bass), Allison Miller (drums), and Cécile McLorin Salvant (vocals on 2 tracks, the 2nd a highlight). B+(**)

Mulatu Astatke & Black Jesus Experience: To Know Without Knowing (2020, Agogo): Ethiopian vibraphonist, also plays keyboards and percussion, invented a style he calls Ethio-jazz, studied engineering in UK and music in London and Boston. Responded to revived interest in his 1970s music by playing with groups like Heliocentrics and Either/Orchestra, and most recently with Black Jesus Experience -- an Ethio-jazz band based in Melbourne, Australia, which adds a bit of hip-hop to the flow. B+(***)

Teodross Avery: Harlem Stories: The Music of Thelonious Monk (2020, WJ3): One of the impressive young tenor saxophonists of the 1990s, got distracted by fusion then dropped out for a long spell, returning with a Coltrane tribute in 2019. Plays 10 Monk tunes here, split between two rhythm sections (pianists Anthony Wonsey and DD Jackson). B+(***)

Jon Balke: Discourses (2019 [2020], ECM): Norwegian pianist, albums since 1991. This one is solo, 16 mostly short pieces. B

Ballister: Znachki Stilyag (2019 [2020], Aerophonic): Dave Rempis sax trio, with Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello/electronics) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums), fifth album since 2010, this one recorded in Moscow, title Russian for "hipster icons." This has long been the most fevered of Rempis groups, and doesn't shirk here. The 38:37 "Fuck the Money Changers" is a tour de force. A- [bc]

J Balvin: Colores (2020, Universal Latin): Colombian reggaeton star, short album (10 tracks, 28:52). Nice beat. B+(**)

Black Thought: Streams of Thought Vol. 1 (2018, Human Re Sources, EP): Philadelphia rapper Tariq Trotter, lead MC of the Roots, first solo effort this 5-track, 17:15 download, produced by 9th Wonder. Sounds like half of a pretty good Roots album. B+(***)

Black Thought: Streams of Thought Vol. 2 (2018, Human Re Sources, EP): Another 9 tracks, 23:25. Second half of that Roots album even stronger, with no reason to miss the live band. A-

The Blam Blams: Opening Night (2020, LunaSea Media): Nashville group, bill themselves as a "theatrical glam rock band," drawing on "Bowie, Queen, and the Beatles." Front cover continues: A Tale of Sydney Fabel & the Galactic Theatre Company. I could care less for the dramaturgy, but pop hooks help. B

Afel Bocoum: Lindé (2020, World Circuit): Guitarist, singer-songwriter from Mali, several albums since 1999, a key player on the 2002 Damon Albarn-produced Mali Music. B+(**)

Bonjintan: Dental Kafka (2018 [2020], Trost): Free jazz quartet, second album, led by Japanese saxophonist Akira Sakata (also clarinet/voice), with Jim O'Rourke (double bass), Giovanni Di Domenico (keyboards), and Tatsuhisa Yamamoto (drums). B+(**)

Alan Braufman: The Fire Still Burns (2019 [2020], Valley of Search): Alto saxophonist, also plays flute, recently reissued his 1975 debut Valley of Search to much acclaim, returns with something new, with Cooper-Moore (piano) from his old group, and relative newcomers James Brandon Lewis (tenor sax), Ken Filiano (bass), Andrew Drury (drums). Always impressed by the pianist, but the horns come on rather heavy. B+(*)

Bully: Sugaregg (2020, Sub Pop): Nashville indie band, principally Alicia Bognanno, third album. Fast, trashy. B+(*)

Burna Boy: Twice as Tall (2020, Atlantic): Nigerian singer-rapper, hip-hop with a little Afrobeat. B+(**)

Steve Cardenas: Blue Has a Range (2019 [2020], Sunnyside): Guitarist, dozen-plus albums since 2000, quartet with Jon Cowherd (piano), Ben Allison (bass), and Brian Blade (drums). Mild. B

Hayes Carll: Alone Together Sessions (2020, Dualtone): Quarantine project: acoustic versions of old songs, many memorable, ranging from 2002-19, plus a Lefty Frizzell cover, with extra help phoned in (Darrell Scott "played just about all the instruments"; Allison Moorer and Ray Wylie Hubbard sang one each). Line I jotted down: "why doesn't anybody speak about truth any more/maybe that's what songs are for." That from Trouble in Mind, still his best. B+(**)

Daniel Carter/Brad Farberman/Billy Martin: Just Don't Die (2018 [2019], Ropeadope): Carter plays flute, trumpet, and tenor sax; the others guitar and drums. Credited as joint improv, but I imagine this as the guitarist's album, mostly because the others seem relucant to step on his toes, let alone show off. B+(*) [bc]

Regina Carter Freedom Band: Swing States: Harmony in the Battleground (2020, Tiger Turn): Violinist, from Detroit, eleventh album since 1995. Cover notes as featuring: Jon Batiste (piano), John Daversa (trumpet), Alexis Cuadrado (bass), Kabir Sehgal (bass/percussion), Harvey Mason (drums). Mostly trad pieces, which the violin lends an old-timey feel to, with messages in the interludes: vote! B+(*)

Lynn Cassiers: Yun (2019 [2020], Clean Feed): Belgian vocalist, plays electronics, third album. With Bo Van der Werf (baritone sax), keyboards, bass, drums, with group improvs and reworked standards. B

Ernesto Cervini: Tetrahedron (2019 [2020], Anzic): Canadian drummer, half-dozen albums since 2006, this a quartet with Luiz Deniz (alto sax), Nir Felder (guitar), and Rich Brown (bass). Cover has a "featuring" credit for Felder, but the saxophonist has most of the appeal. B+(**)

Tyler Childers: Long Violent History (2020, Hickman Holler/RCA): One of the best country singer-songwriters to emerge in recent years throws you a curve with no vocals (until the title song closer), just a batch of old-fashioned fiddle tunes. B+(***)

Cliff Trio [Pandelis Karayorgis/Damon Smith/Eric Rosenthal]: Precipice (2019 [2020], Fundacja Sluchaj): Piano-bass-drums trio. Impressive pianist. B+(**) [bc]

Conference Call: Prism (2020, Not Two): Free jazz quartet, seven albums 2002-13 with George Schuller on drums, replaced here by Dieter Ulrich, joining original members Gebhard Ullmann (tenor sax/bass clarinet), Michael Jefry Stevens (piano), and Joe Fonda (bass). Nice balance here. B+(***)

Elizabeth Cook: Aftermath (2020, Agent Love): Country singer-songwriter, seventh album since 2000, had a breakthrough with 2007's Balls and the even better 2010 Welder. Rocking harder here, which is appealing enough but makes it harder to follow her songs. The exception is the closer, a reworking of John Prine's "Jesus: The Missing Years" to focus on Mary. A-

Chick Corea: Plays (2018 [2020], Concord, 2CD): Solo piano, live, cover throws out some composer names, from 9 o'clock: Corea, Mozart, Gershwin, Monk, Scarlatti, Evans, Jobim, Chopin, Scriabin, Wonder. Play indeed he does. B+(*)

The Croaks: One of the Best Bears! (2018 [2020], Fundacja Sluchaj): Avant-jazz trio: Martin Küchen (sopranino/soprano sax, metal objects), Martin Klapper (amplified objects, toys and small electronics), and Roger Turner (drums, metal and plastic). B+(*) [bc]

Vladislav Delay: Rakka (2020, Warp): Finnish electronica producer Sasu Ripatti, 15+ records since 1999. Industrial rumble, up and down. B+(*)

Vladislav Delay/Sly Dunbar/Robbie Shakespeare: 500-Push-Up (2020, Sub Rosa): Second album pairing the Finnish electronica producer with Jamaica's legendary rhythm section, but 2018's Nordub was dominated by Norwegians Nils Petter Molvaer and Eivind Aarset, leaving Delay's electromurk in the background. Here it's foreground, and while the extra rhythm helps, it's not likely to be recognized as such. B+(**)

Daniel Donato: A Young Man's Country (2020, Cosmic Country Music): Singer-songwriter, Nashville native, more rock and roll than country, has a distinctive guitar style (or maybe that's the bass?), and the guitar leads here. Produced by Robben Ford, who never struck me as that good, but he certainly inspired Donato to show off. B+(***)

Kathleen Edwards: Total Freedom (2020, Dualtone): Canadian singer-songwriter, folkie division, recorded four albums 2003-12, returns from a hiatus here. Seems quite nice, but nothing stands out. B

The Engines: Wooden Legs (2011 [2020], Aerophonic): Free jazz quartet from Chicago, recorded an eponymous album in 2006, two more through 2011, with a couple archive tapes appearing since. Jeb Bishop (trombone), Dave Rempis (saxes), Nate McBride (bass), and Tim Daisy (drums) -- three Vandermark 5 alums plus another frequent collaborator. B+(***)

Joe Farnsworth: Time to Swing (2020, Smoke Sessions): Mainstream drummer, not much under his own name but lots of side credits since 1991. Big-name quartet here, with Kenny Barron (piano), Peter Washington (bass), and Wynton Marsalis (trumpet, who checks out midway). B+(**)

Joe Fiedler's Big Sackbut: Live in Graz (2019 [2020], Multiphonics Music): Trombonist, organized this trombone-tuba choir for its eponymous first album in 2011. Ryan Keberle and Luis Bonilla are the other trombonists, and Jon Sass plays tuba. Dedicated to Roswell Rudd, reprising three of his songs. B+(**)

John Finbury: American Nocturnes (2019 [2020], Green Flash Music): Composer, plays piano on one track but mostly defers to Tim Ray. With strings, harmonica, accordion, Peter Eldridge vocalese on one track. C+ [cd]

Fontaines D.C.: A Hero's Death (2020, Partisan): Rock group from Dublin, Ireland; first album was punkish enough to remind one of the Pogues, second is toned down in several ways. B+(*)

Frazey Ford: U Kin B the Sun (2020, Arts & Crafts): Canadian singer-songwriter, father was an American draft dodger, third album since 2020, before that was in a folkie group called the Be Good Tanyas. Has a nice, light touch. B+(**)

Jason Foureman and Stephen Anderson: Duo (2020, Summit): Bass and piano duo; Foureman teaches in North Carolina, wrote two pieces (rest are covers, mostly by postbop jazz musicians), this looks like his first album. Anderson has a bit more exposure, also seems to have a NC connection. Runs 78 minutes, consistently engaging. B+(**) [cd]

Chad Fowler/WC Anderson: Lacrimosa (2020, Mahakala Music): Saxophone and drums duo, seems to be the first album for either. Fowler mostly plays alto, but ranges up and down from there. Looks like he also has a big job at Microsoft, having started out with open source start ups before cashing in, and running this label on the side. This is rough, can get on my nerves. B+(**) [cd]

Jacob Garchik: Clear Line (2018 [2020], Yestereve): Trombonist, just listed as composer/conductor here. Group is a horn choir: four trumpets, four trombones, five saxophones, no rhythm section -- which, of course, is the rub. B+(*)

Arna Georgia: Yes Girl (2020, Arna Georgia): Country singer, from Sydney, Australia, first album. Nice voice, songs have some promise. B+(*)

Frode Gjerstad/Fred Lonberg-Holm/William Parker/Steve Swell: Tales From (2019 [2020], Fundacja Sluchaj): No credits, but typically sax (alto, I think), cello/electronics, bass, trombone -- the latter two fill ins for a plan that originally called for Matthew Shipp. Lonberg-Holm came best prepared, while the others do what they usually do. B+(**) [bc]

Robert Gordon: Rockabilly for Life (2020, Cleopatra): Rockabilly revivalist from the late 1960s, when he teamed up with Link Wray and tried crashing the CBGB's scene. He recorded 7 records 1977-82, another burst 1994-97, another 2004-07, this one coming after a 6 year hiatus which spanned his 70th birthday. Nothing in my database since his grade B debut, so he's been pretty far out of mind. Fifteen songs here, each with a guest, unlikely any are originals but the only one I instantly recognized was "Hot Dog! That Made Her Mad" (with Rosie Flores). Digital adds as many "original reference mixes" -- sans guests is how I understand that, and often sharper. Not a major talent, but he's entitled to relish his life's work. B+(*)

Frank Gratkowski/Simon Nabatov/Dominik Mahnig: Dance Hall Stories (2017 [2020], Leo): Free jazz, German reeds player who's recorded since 1991, picking up the pace in 2000, playing alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, and flute here, backed with piano and (on 4/8 tracks) drums). Not especially danceable. B+(**)

Gordon Grdina's the Marrow: Safar-E-Daroon (2020, Songlines): Guitar and oud player, from Vancouver, BC, prolific since 2006, second album with this string and percussion group: Grdina on oud, Josh Zubot (violin), Hank Roberts (cello), Mark Helias (bass), and Hamin Honari (tombak, daf, frame-drum). B+(***)

Gordon Grdina: Prior Street (2019 [2020], self-released): Guitarist from Vancouver, BC, also plays oud, has a long list of impressive albums. This one is solo, perhaps his first. B

Guillermo Gregorio/Joe Fonda/Ramón López: Intersecting Lives (2018 [2020], Fundacja Sluchaj): Clarinet player, from Argentina, lived in Europe for a while, but long based in Chicago. Backed by bass and drums. B+(**) [bc]

Charlotte Greve/Vinnie Sperrazza/Chris Tordini: The Choir Invisible (2018 [2020], Intakt): German alto saxophonist, based in New York, several albums since 2009 (four with Lisbeth Quartett). Trio with drums and bass. B+(*)

Tee Grizzley: The Smartest (2020, 300 Entertainment): Detroit rapper Terry Wallace, active since 2016, mixtape. Love the beats. Words rather less so. B+(***)

Tom Guarna: Spirit Science (2019 [2020], Destiny): Guitarist, eighth album since 2005, quintet with Ben Wendel (tenor sax/bassoon), Aaron Parks (keyboards), bass, and drums. Nice groove for postbop. B+(*)

GuiltyBeatz: Different E.P (2020, Banku Music, EP): Ronald Banful, born in Italy (Palermo), moved to Ghana at age 6, learned to make beats on computer, had a hit single with Mr Eazi in 2018, did some production for Beyoncé. Few details available, but looks like six tracks, 16:00. B+(*) [yt]

Haiku Hands: Haiku Hands (2020, Mad Decent): Australian dance-pop outfit, sisters Claire and Mie Nakazawa and Beatrice Lewis. First album. Bassist has a major in Chic riffs, and the oft-repeated lyrics are dumb enough to get smart. B+(*)

Tigran Hamasyan: The Call Within (2020, Nonesuch): Armenian pianist, won prizes as a teenager, based in Los Angeles, tenth album at age 33, draws on folk influences and Middle Eastern scales, once dreamed of being a "thrash metal guitarist." Also sings and plays electronic keyboards and drums, only other regular musician is Evan Marien on bass, but guests come and go. Strong, dramatic, an impressive piece of work, just not one I'm wild about. B+(*)

Ray Wylie Hubbard: Co-Starring (2020, Big Machine): Country singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, called his late-1970s band the Cowboy Twinkies, languished on folkie labels, started producing impressive albums in his 60s, and at 73 has a long list of people who want to appear with him: Ringo Starr, Don Was, Joe Walsh, Chris Robinson -- that's just the first song, but it clears most of the pop names away, leaving a mixed bag of country artists. Not his best batch of songs, but some notable passages. The label brought their big rock production, for better and worse. B+(**)

I Think You're Awesome: Suite to Be You and Me (2019 [2020], Jaeger Community): Danish instrumental group, fifth album since 2014, electric bassist Jens Mikkel the composer/arranger, with two guitarists (one also on banjo), keyboards, drums, a second percussionist also on electronics, and this time Taiga String Quartet. More of a prog rock feel, but can click into place. B+(*)

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: Sherman Irby's Inferno (2012 [2020], Blue Engine): Irby is an alto saxophonist, from Alabama, recorded a couple impressive mainstream albums for Blue Note 1997-98 (cf. Big Mama's Biscuits), not much since, but he's played in JLCO since 2005, and this is his Dante-themed "epic composition." Overture, six movements, big band. B+(*)

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: Black Brown & Beige (2018 [2020], Blue Engine): Duke Ellington composed this suite for his 1943 Carnegie Hall Concert, underscoring the idea that jazz was becoming America's classical music. B

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: Rock Chalk Suite (2019 [2020], Blue Engine): Basketball on the cover, tatooed with two icons, one for jazz, the other for KU. Liner notes by Derek Kwan, executive director, Lied Center of Kansas -- the big performing arts facility in Lawrence, KS. The songs were written by many JLCO members, each a basketball dedication, most (as far as I recall) for KU players -- head honcho Wynton Marsalis claimed Wilt Chamberlain and Lynette Woodward (who was sort of the Satchel Paige of women's basketball, joining the WNBA at 38 after spending her prime years in the Harlem Globetrotters). One vocal, Chris Crenshaw singing Sherman Irby's "The Truth" for Paul Pierce. A better-than-average outing, maybe because the lowbrow concept suits their middlebrow aesthetics. B+(**)

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: Christopher Crenshaw's the Fifties: A Prism (2017 [2020], Blue Engine): A rare JLCO album cover that doesn't mention leader Wynton Marsalis by name, but the website does. Crenshaw plays trombone, has no albums under his own name but deserves full credit here, as composer, musical director and producer (elsewhere he is JLCO's first-call singer). B+(**)

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: The Ever Fonky Lowdown (2019 [2020], Blue Engine, 2CD): A "funky jazz parable for 2020," ranging "from football to politics, from power to poverty, from love and romance to betrayal and corruption; it will make you dance and think." Wynton Marsallis wrote, "based on decades of conversations with my brother Ellis." Wendell Pierce narrates as Mr. Game, several others sing, and they brought in extra congas and persussion. As is often the case, Marsalis' penchant for sprawl overwhelms his limited stores of insight and utter lack of humor. B-

Russ Johnson/Dave Rempis/Joshua Abrams/Isaiah Spencer/Jeremy Cunningham: Harmattan (2019 [2020], Aerophonic): Trumpet, alto/tenor/bari sax, bass, two drummers, one 41:02 live jam. B+(***) [bc]

Karen Jonas: The Southwest Sky & Other Dreams (2020, Yellow Brick): Country singer-songwriter from Virginia, namechecked Oklahoma in her 2014 debut, draws on open spaces here from West Texas to California deserts. B+(**)

Vic Juris: Let's Cool One (2019 [2020], SteepleChase): Cool-toned guitarist, 1953-2019, couple dozen albums since 1978, 50+ side credits (most often with Richie Cole or Dave Liebman). Cut this a few months before his death, with Gary Versace (piano), Jay Anderson (bass), and John Riley (drums). Nice and thoughtful. B+(*)

Kaze & Ikue Mori: Sand Storm (2020, Libra): Free jazz quartet, one of pianist Satoko Fujii's many groups: two trumpets (Christian Pruvost and Natsuki Tamura) and drums (Peter Orins). Sixth group album I'm aware of, this one adding Mori's laptop electronica and some spurious voice (Tamura). Some terrific passages. B+(***) [cd]

Sukyung Kim: Lilac Hill (2019 [2020], self-released, EP): Pianist, from Korea, based in New York, considers this short album (5 tracks, 30:17) an EP. Quintet, alto saxophonist Ethan Helm makes a good showing, backed by guitar, bass, and drums. B+(*) [cd]

Knxwledge: 1988 (2020, Stones Throw): Hip-hop producer Glen Boothe, lots of records since 2010, this one named for his birth year, 22 short tracks, 38:41 (longest 4:28, 3:19, 2:49, 2:09). B [bc]

Diana Krall: This Dream of You (2016-17 [2020], Verve): She pieced this together from older sessions that produced Turn Up the Quiet. I haven't figured out who plays what where, but whether playing in a duo, trio, quartet, or larger ensemble, she's steady, her voice nailing each thoughtful song. B+(***)

La Lucha: Everybody Wants to Rule the World (2019 [2020], Arbors): Translates as fight, or struggle. Florida trio -- John C O'Leary (piano/keyboards), Alejandro Arenas (bass), and Mark Feinman (drums) -- several albums since 2009, this one augmented with guests including producer Ken Peplowski (clarinet) and Houston Person (tenor sax). Latin rhythm when it doesn't get gummed up. Peplowski has an ace solo. B [bc]

La Pingo's Orquesta & Todd Clouser: Midwest/Bajio (2020, Ropeadope Sur): Clouser is a guitarist from Kansas City and Minneapolis, based in Mexico City, writer of 7 (of 9) songs. The Orquesta is from Bajio, considered the Midwest of Mexico. B+(*) [bc]

Bettye Lavette: Blackbirds (2020, Verve): Soul singer, had some singles in the 1960s, an album in 1982, a breakthrough in 2002. Voice ragged, songs slow and deliberate, verging on haunting. B+(***)

Dua Lipa & the Blessed Madonna: Club Future Nostalgia (2020, Warner): Remixes from her second album, a critical and popular hit and well up on my A-list. Unnecessary, of course, but glittering with ear candy -- my favorite a Neneh Cherry rap, reminding me I should dig that CD (Raw Like Sushi) out. B+(***)

The Mark Lomax Trio: The Last Concert: Ankh & the Tree of Life (2020, CFG Multimedia): Drummer, with the magnificent Edwin Bayard ever reliable on tenor sax and Dean Hullett on bass. Two long pieces, develop a bit slowly, peak out where they always do: strain, struggle, redemption. A-

The Magnetic Fields: Quickies (2020, Nonesuch): Stephin Merritt runs through 28 songs, none over 2:35, 46:40 total, additional vocals by Claudia Gonson and Shirley Simms. Perverse fragments: "I've Got a Date With Jesus" was fetching, "You've Got a Friend in Beelzebub" less so. B+(**)

Jacám Manricks: Samadhi (2018 [2020], Manricks Music): Australian saxophonist ("of Sri Lankan & Portuguese origin"), plays alto, tenor, and soprano here, as well as clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, alto flute, and midi strings. Fifth record since 2009, ably backed by piano trio (Joe Gilman, Matt Penman, Clarence Penn). B+(**) [cd]

Arlo McKinley: Die Midwestern (2020, Oh Boy): Singer-songwriter from Cincinnati, first album, landed on John Prine's label, which has usually been a pretty solid recommendation. Unclear why in this case. B

Charles McPherson Quartet: Live at San Sebastián Jazz Festival (2019 [2020], Quadrant): Alto saxophonist, broke in with Mingus in 1961, very influenced by Charlie Parker -- his first albums were Bebop Revisted! and Con Alma! -- developed into a unique voice. Hasn't recorded much since 2000, but his 2015 album The Journey was special. With Bruce Barth (piano), Mark Hodgson (drums), and Steven Keogh (drums), playing five extended pieces. Blues-based jams, form terrific. A-

Joachim Mencel: Brooklyn Eye (2019 [2020], Origin): Pianist, from Poland, also plays hurdy-gurdy, recorded this in Brooklyn with guitar (Steve Cardenas), bass (Scott Colley), and drums (Rudy Royston). B+(*) [cd]

Vic Mensa: V Tape (2020, Roc Nation, EP): Chicago rapper, father from Ghana, original name Mensah, fifth EP (7 tracks, 26:28), has a longer mixtape and a studio album. B+(**)

Meridian Brothers: Cumbia Siglo XXI (2020, Bongo Joe): Colombian group, eighth album since 2006, figure they're updating cumbia for the 21st century -- Cumbia Siglo XX was a pioneering 1970s cumbia group. B+(***)

Merzbow/Mats Gustafsson/Balász Pándi: Cuts Open (2018 [2020], RareNoise): Japanese noise artist Masami Akita, who if anything has a moderating effect on the Norwegian avant-saxophonist, plus a drummer. Not their first record together, but their longest one. Has its moments, but they can wear thin. B+(*) [cdr]

Helen Money: Atomic (2020, Thrill Jockey): Cellist Alison Chesley, originally from Los Angeles, moved to Chicago for college and stayed there, had an acoustic duo called Verbow, did film work and other side projects, plus a half dozen albums as Helen Money. Also plays piano here, accompanied by harp, electronics, and drums. Tight, uncomplicated but rather prog instrumental rock. B+(***)

Moor Mother: Circuit City (2020, Don Giovanni): Camae Ayewa, poet/musician/activist from Philadelphia. I originally filed her under hip-hop, but at this point hell if I know. Styled as a theatrial work in four acts, with spoken word over trumpet, sax, electronics, bass, and drums, with most contributing to perussion. Music veers into free jazz, or maybe just noise. B+(*)

Cahalen Morrison: Wealth of Sorrow (2020, self-released): Country singer-songwriter, from New Mexico, plays guitar and banjo, recorded this solo in "an old adobe chapel." Bare bones folk tunes. B+(**) [bc]

Vee Mukarati: Vital Signs (2020, Primrose, EP): Singer from Zimbabwe, also plays sax, based in Geneva, short album (6 tracks, 26:33), billed as Afro-jazz but strikes me as mbira-driven groove pop. B+(*)

Tatsuya Nakatani/Shane Parrish: Interactivity (2018 [2020], Cuneiform): Percussion and guitar duo, the former originally from Japan but now based in New Mexico, the latter in North Carolina, where this was recorded. B+(**)

Nas: King's Disease (2020, Mass Appeal): Rapper Nasir Jones, went platinum with his 1994 debut (Illmatic), twelfth studio album, debuted at number 5. B+(**)

Adam Niewood: Blue as a Whistle (2018 [2020], SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist (also plays soprano), debut 2004 but second album didn't come until 2015, four more since. Mix of originals, two tracks by guitarist Gene Segal (plays on 4/9 cuts), covers of Coltrane and Mingus. B+(**)

No Joy: Motherhood (2020, Joyful Noise): Shoegaze group from Montreal, fourth album since 2010, Jasamine White-Gluz (vocals, guitar, keyboards) and Jorge Elbrecht (guitar, bass, vocals, additional instruments) the co-writers. B+(*)

Billy Nomates: Billy Nomates (2020, Invada): British singer-songwriter Tor Maries, first album, some sources say "No Mates," produced by Geoff Barrow (Portishead), draws comparisons to Sleaford Mods for her talkie style and class consciousness (well, also Jason Williams' guest verse on "Supermarket Sweep," his voice barbed where hers fades away, too subtle for her material). Grows on you. A-

Adam Nussbaum: Lead Belly Reimagined (2019 [2020], Sunnyside): Drummer, mainstream, since the late 1980s, previously did The Lead Belly Project (2018), with this same quartet: Steve Cardenas (guitar), Nate Radley (guitar), Ohad Talmod (tenor sax). No doubt, Leadbelly is underappreciated as a standards source -- Clifford Jordan's These Are My Roots (1965) is an exception. Talmor isn't as imposing a saxophonist, but the guitarists help. B+(***)

Oddisee: Odd Cure (2020, Outer Note): DC rapper, Amir Mohamed el Khalifa, father from Sudan, grew up in Prince George's County in Maryland, short album with six songs wrapped around five quarantine phone calls -- a sign of the times. B+(***)

Zephaniah OHora: Listening to the Music (2020, Last Roundup): Brooklyn-based trad-friendly country tunesmith, second album, calls his band the 18 Wheelers. Finds his calling in recycling old Merle Haggard riffs. Liberal country anthem of the year: "All American Singer." A-

Okuden Quartet [Mat Walerian/Matthew Shipp/William Parker/Hamid Drake]: Every Dog Has His Day but It Doesn't Matter Because Fat Cat Is Getting Fatter (2018 [2020], ESP-Disk): Alto saxophonist, also plays bass clarinet, soprano clarinet, and flute. Fourth album, all with Shipp on piano, second quartet with Parker (bass) and Drake (drums) -- really hit the jackpot of rhythm sections. Free jazz, nice balance spread over eight Walerian originals (ranging from 10:54 to 18:21), room for the stars as well as the leader. A- [cd]

Old 97's: Twelfth (2020, ATO): Rhett Miller's long-running band, alt-country or "loud folk" or just pop. Wikipedia lists 21 albums since 1994, but if you drop out the compilations, the live albums, and maybe the Xmas album, this may be close to its name. B+(***)

Angel Olsen: Whole New Mess (2020, Jagjaguwar): Singer-songwriter from St. Louis, based in NC, fifth album, well regarded by critics, but more languid than ever. B

Gregory Porter: All Rise (2020, Blue Note): Singer, "the best-selling contemporary Jazz/soul artist with over 3 million album sales." Sixth album since 2010, a long CD which stretches to 2- or 3-LP length. Towering voice, couched in strings with fancy acoutrements. I've never cared for his art, but occasionally here I can fathom the appeal. But he doesn't deliver anything undeniable until the closer, "Revival," where his church roots meet the Four Tops. B+(*)

Ryan Porter & the West Coast Get Down: Live in Paris at New Morning (2020, World Galaxy): Trombonist, from Los Angeles. Napster classified him as children's music, probably because his debut reworked classic children's nursery rhymes (Spangle-Lang Lane). Some confusion over artist credit and title, but I'm going with the front cover small print (ignoring a much larger "Ryan Porter"). Also hard to find credits, surprising given that Kamasi Washington is the tenor saxophonist, and also delivers the album's high points. B+(***)

Pretenders: Hate for Sale (2020, BMG): Chrissie Hynde's London-based band, gold records 1979-1994, fifth since, spaced 3-6 years apart. First I've heard since 2002's Loose Screw, which come to think of it was a pretty good album. So is this, recapturing the old sound and adding contemporary ideas to it. Then it ends with a slow one called "Crying in Public," where the anguish is palpable. B+(***)

The Psychedelic Furs: Made of Rain (2020, Cooking Vinyl): Big group in the early 1980s, started declining with 3rd or 4th album, broke up after 1991, regrouped in 2000 but this is their first album since. First song's an impressive return to form, but while their sound remains distinct, it's carrying some excess weight.

Public Enemy: what You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down? (2020, Def Jam): Time for a "Fight the Power" remix? That's the centerpiece here, and nothing else quite matches it. Still, this is hard and angry like few others can muster, which makes it timely, even if the time frame spans decades. A-

PVRIS: Use Me (2020, Warner): Electropop band from Massachusetts, pronounced "Paris" but styled for legal reasons, third album. Has some bounce to it. B

Dan Reeder: Every Which Way (2020, Oh Boy): Folkie singer-songwriter, originally from Louisiana but he's been around (including a spell in Germany). Fifth album since 2004, all on John Prine's Oh Boy Records. Twenty songs, short, slow and simple, voice an acquired taste. B

Dave Rempis/Elisabeth Harnik/Michael Zerang: Triple Tube (2019 [2020], Not Two): Alto sax/piano/drums trio, recorded at Tube's in Graz, Austria, the pianist's home turf, the others from Chicago. B+(**)

Rempis Percussion Quartet: The Long Haul (2011 [2020], Aerophonic): Chicago group, dates from 2006, led by saxophonist Dave Rempis (alto/tenor/baritone), with two drummers (Tim Daisy and Frank Rosaly) and Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten on bass. Rempis is a terrific saxophonist, and he's frequently in top form here. A- [bc]

Eric Revis: Slipknots Through a Looking Glass (2019 [2020], Pyroclastic): Bassist, probably best known for his work with Branford Marsalis since 1997, but before that started out with Betty Carter, and his own records have been adventurous. Uses two saxophonists here -- Bill McHenry (tenor) and Darius Jones (alto) -- with Kris Davis (piano) and Chad Taylor (drums). The rhythm breaks up nicely, especially with Davis. The saxes take a while to develop -- even Jones, who is usually a terror. A- [cd]

Jenny Reynolds: Any Kind of Angel (2020, Pretty Okay Music): Folkie singer-songwriter, started in Boston, moved to Austin, fourth album since 1998. B+(**)

Ben Rosenblum Nebula Project: Kites and Strings (2020, One Trick Dog): Pianist, also plays accordion, has a previous album. Originals, three covers ("Somewhere," Neil Young, a trad Bulgarian song). Postbop, with trumpet and tenor sax/bass clarinet, guitar, bass, drums, a few guests. B+(*) [cd] [10-16]

Dan Rosenboom: Points on an Infinite Line (2020, Orenda): Trumpet player, several records, leads a quartet with Gavin Templeton (alto sax), Billy Mohler (bass), and Anthony Fung (drums). B+(**)

Rumer: Nashville Tears: The Songs of Hugh Prestwood (2020, Cooking Vinyl): British singer-songwriter, Sarah Joyce, born in Pakistan, where her father was chief engineer on a dam project, turned out her biological father was the family's cook. Grew up in England, moved to Los Angeles, then to Arkansas, where she married Burt Bacharach's former music director. Fifth album, the fourth subtitled A Bacharach and David Songbook. This one covers 15 songs by Prestwood. Leans toward countrypolitan, but the lush settings work for once. B+(**)

Bobby Rush: Rawer Than Raw (2020, Deep Rush): Bluesman Emmett Ellis Jr., at 86 he's slowed down enough to sound like he crawled out of the 1930s Delta. B+(***)

Markus Rutz: Blueprints: Figure Two: New Designs (2018-19 [2020], OA2): Trumpet player, based in Chicago, has a previous Figure One. Six original compositions, covers of McCoy Tyner, Frank Foster, and Sam Rivers; postbop, with sax, piano, guitar, bass, drums, extra percussion. B+(*) [cd]

Christian Sands: Be Water (2020, Mack Avenue): Pianist, Pianist, was a prodigy releasing his first album at 13, mentored by Billy Taylor. Fourth album on this label, albums a mix of trio and extra guests: two tracks add horns, four guitar, one a string quartet. B+(*)

Scenes: Trapeze (2020, Origin): Seattle group, seventh album since the 2001 title attributed to John Bishop (drums), Jeff Johnson (bass), Rick Mandyck (tenor sax), and John Stowell (guitar). Most of the series were trios I filed under Stowell, but Mandyck's return here shifts the focus, and adds a welcome dimension. B+(**) [cd]

Sara Schoenbeck/Wayne Horvitz: Cell Walk (2020, Songlines): Bassoon and piano duets. B

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: Axiom (2020, Ropeadope): Trumpet player from New Orleans, nephew of Donald Harrison, more than a dozen albums since 2002, adopting this extended name in 2012. Live album, septet, with Elena Pinderhughes (flute), Alex Han (alto sax), keyboards, bass, percussion (djembe, congas, bata) and drums. Party friendly. B+(***)

Archie Shepp/Raw Poetic/Damu the Fudgemunk: Ocean Bridges (2020, Redefinition): Order from album cover, but other sources list hip-hop drummer/producer Damu (Earl Davis) first -- he has 51 releases on his Bandcamp page, but while I recognize the name I've never indulged before. Raw Poetic (Jason Moore) is the rapper/lyricist, and Shepp is a tenor sax legend who c. 1970 broadened from avant-garde to black power funk -- hip-hop before the term. As hip-hop, seems a bit scattered, but great to hear the sax, especially when the beats free up. B+(***)

Matthew Shipp Trio: The Unidentifiable (2019 [2020], ESP-Disk): Piano trio with Michael Bisio (bass) and Newan Taylor Baker (drums). There's no shortage of these, and it took me a lot of plays to decide that this one stood out from the crowd -- those trademark hard chords for one, the ability to navigate the trickiest of rhythms for another. A- [cd]

Gary Smulyan: Our Contrafacts (2019 [2020], SteepleChase): Baritone saxophonist, more than a dozen albums since 1991 plus 80 or so side credits (starting with Woody Herman in 1981). Trio with bass (David Wong) and drums (Rodney Green), all originals (6 Smulyan, 2 each for the others). B+(***)

Sneaks: Happy Birthday (2020, Merge): Eva Moolchan, from DC, started in a band called the Shitstains, tried some other aliases (Blood, Young Trynas) before settling on Sneaks. Fifth album, but the first I've heard where her electropop hits a fine balance. Or as she puts it: "I'm not overrated/I'm not underrated/I'm just slightly sophisticated." B+(***) [bc]

South Florida Jazz Orchestra: Cheap Thrills: The Music of Rick Margitza (2020, Summit): Chuck Bergeron directs, and John Hart and Brian Lynch get featured credit on the cover, but the tenor saxophonist is pretty obviously Margitza, and it's great to hear him again at length. B+(**) [cd]

Greg Spero + Spirit Fingers: Peace (2020, Ropeadope): Pianist, Wikipedia lists eight albums 2002-14, including one called Radio Over Miles (2010), which is some kind of mashup of Miles Davis and Radiohead. Since 2014 he's been music director for Halsey, but also released an eponymous Spirit Fingers album in 2018.l Slightly off-kilter fusion band with guitar-bass-drums plus guests -- singer Judi Jackson (4 tracks), saxophonists Braxton Cook and Greg Ward (1 each). The latter are better, not least because they soar with the rhythm, whereas the vocals slow it down. B+(*)

Stillefelt: Stillefelt (2018 [2020], Stoney Lane): British bassist Chris Mapp, also electronics, has at least one previous release, leads a trio here with Percy Pursglove (trumpet) and Thomas Seminar Ford (guitar/electronics). Leans toward ambient. B+(*)

Cecil Taylor and Tony Oxley: Birdland, Neuburg 2011 (2011 [2020], Fundacja Sluchaj): Piano and drums duo. Taylor died in 2018, but until this his most recent records were recorded in 2008, also duos with Oxley. Two (or three) improvs, 57:23, quieter than in their heyday, but can still startle you, remind you how damn near anything is possible. After all, that's what they do. A- [bc]

Henri Texier: Chance (2019 [2020], Label Bleu): French bassist, long list of albums and side credits since 1971. Quintet with Vincent Lę Quang (tenor/soprano sax), Sébastien Texier (alto sax/clarinet/alto clarinet), Manu Codjia (guitar), and Gautier Garrigue (drums). Guitar provides the muscle here. B+(**)

Throttle Elevator Music: Emergency Exit (2020, Wide Hive): California "punk jazz" group, originally (2012) a trio -- Lumpy (drums/guitars), Matt Montgomery (piano/bass), and Kamasi Washington (tenor sax) -- five albums later an octet, adding texture to sound, but also smoothes off the rough edges. B+(*)

Azu Tiwaline: Draw Me a Silence Part II (2020, IOT, EP): Electronica producer from Tunisia. Five tracks, 28:09. B+(*)

Fumi Tomita Featuring David Detweiler: Celebrating Bird/A Tribute to Charlie Parker (2020, Next Level): Bassist, presumably from Japan but based in New York over fifteen years, with at least three previous records. Detweiler plays tenor sax, with Art Hirahara (piano) and Jimmy MacBride (drums). Eight originals, four each by Tomita and Detweiler, all close to bebop standards, lightly glossed over, the rhythm spot on as well. B+(***) [cd]

Toots & the Maytals: Got to Be Tough (2020, BMG): Reggae legends, originally The Maytals in 1962, led by Frederick "Toots" Hibbert, who turned 20 that year. Big stars in the 1970s, slowed down a bit in the 1990s, with their first new record since 2010. Nothing great here, but upbeat, voice I'd recognize anywhere. B+(*)

Kali Uchis: To Feel Alive (Virgin EMI, EP): Pop singer from Virginia, actual name Karly-Marina Loaiza, father a refugee from Colombia. Four tracks, 10:03, follow up to her 2018 hit Isolation. Recorded during quarantine, feels skimpy. B

Village of the Sun Feat. Binker & Moses: Village of the Sun/TED (2020, Gearbox, EP): Two songs, 11:01, where Simon Ratcliffe (of Basement Jaxx) meets Binker Golding (tenor sax) and Moses Boyd (drums). Starts to build something, but ends too soon. B

Ulf Wakenius: Taste of Honey: A Tribute to Paul McCartney (2019 [2020], ACT Music): Swedish guitarist, couple dozen records since 1979, trio with Lars Danielsson (bass/cello) and Magnus öström (drums). Title cut was a Beatles cover in 1963, but is widely known in pop jazz versions by Martin Denny, Acker Bilk, and Herb Alpert. Two originals here, another odd cover choice ("Besame Mucho"), and eight McCartney songs (six co-credited to John Lennon). B

Jim Waller Big Band: Bucket List (2020, self-released): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano, also credited with organ), from California, had a surf group called the Deltas in the 1960s, not much else I can find. Leads a 21-piece big band here, writing 7/14 songs, arranging the rest -- covers include a series of "Goody Goody," "Honky Tonk," and "God Bless the Child." B+(*) [cd]

Greg Ward/Jason Stein/Marcus Evans/Chad Taylor/Matt Lux: 85bears (2020, Ears & Eyes): Chicago group, title refers to Bears running back Walter Payton. Alto sax, bass clarinet, two drummers (Taylor overdubbed 3 tracks in post-production), and bass. Loose-jointed free jazz, highlighted by the contrast of the two horns. B+(***) [bc]

Chip Wickham: Blue to Red (2020, Lovemonk): Flute player, sometimes goes as Roger Wickham (or Kid Costa), third album, with harp (Amanda Whiting), keyboards, bass/cello, drums, and percussion. B-

Immanuel Wilkins: Omega (2020, Blue Note): Alto saxophonist, grew up near Philadelphia, based in New York, first album, produced by Jason Moran, backed by piano (Micah Thomas), bass, and drums. B+(**)

WorldService Project: Hiding in Plain Sight (2020, RareNoise): British "punk-jazz" quartet -- Dave Morecroft (keyboards), Ben Powling (saxes), Arthur O'Hara (bass), Luke Reddin-Williams (drums), plus trombone on 4 (of 9) tracks, some vocals -- fifth album. I've found them to be very annoying in the past, so I reckon this one's marginal listenability an improvement. C+ [cdr]

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Borah Bergman/Perry Anderson/Steve Swell/Ray Sage: Quartets Trios Duos (2007 [2020], Mahakala Music): Piano (d. 2012), clarinet (d. 2018), trombone, drums -- when I looked up Sage, Discogs only listed 3 albums, all from 2007. Swell assembled this, with 2 duos and 5 trios in various configurations, and 2 quartets. He only plays on 6 (of 9) cuts, but they are the ones that jump out at you. A- [cd]

The Claire Daly Band: Rah! Rah! (2008 [2020], Ride Symbol): Baritone saxophonist, half-dozen albums since 1999, this one had a very limited release in 2009. Title is a shout-out to Rahsaan Roland Kirk, covering four of his songs, along with a couple originals, covers of Charlie Parker and Frank Foster, some standards. Daly sings two: "Alfie" and "Everyday People." Quartet with Eli Yamin (piano), bass, drums, the sax shading everything. B+(**) [cd] [10-02]

Rich Krueger: The Troth Sessions (2002 [2020], Rockin'K Music): PhD in biochemistry, postdoc in neuroscience, day job as a clinical associate in pediatrics at the University of Chicago. Released two albums in 2018 that Christgau liked much more than I did -- second suggested that he had been writing songs for much longer. Turns out he had a folk-rock band in the 1980s, and cut these acoustic guitar and voice demos, enough for a short album (9 tracks, 29:07). B

London Jazz Composers Orchestra: That Time (1972-80 [2020], Not Two): Avant big band, I think of it as being bassist Barry Guy's vehicle, but four composers are named on the cover: Kenny Wheeler, Guy, Paul Rutherford, and Howard Riley, each with a 14-18 minute piece, the first two from 1972, the latter 1980. B+(*)

Modern Jazz Quintet Karlsruhe/Four Men Only: Complete Recordings (1968-73 [2020], NoBusiness, 3CD): German group: Herbert Joos (trumpets) probably a best known, with Willfried Eichhorn (reeds), Helmuth Zimmer (piano), Klaus Bühler (double bass), and Rudi Theilmann (drums). Recorded two albums, on the first two CDs here, then when Bühler dropped out they changed their name to Four Men Only, which with the addition of trombonist Wolfang Czelusta became Four Men Only + 1 for the final album. First disc is most impressive, genuinely exciting. A- [cd]

Thelonious Monk: Palo Alto (1968 [2020], Impulse!): Archival album, previously unreleased, so a big deal, recorded on a stage at Palo Alto High School, a side trip from a stand at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco. Quartet, with Charlie Rouse (tenor sax), Larry Gales (bass), and Ben Riley (drums). This was near the tail end of one of Monk's best quartets, with seasoned experts reworking his old songs. A-

Nublu Orchestra Conducted by Butch Morris: Live in Paris (2010 [2020], Nublu): "Conduction No. 190." At some point I should make a chart of who played on each of their live albums -- coming out now at a fairly rapid clip -- but aside from some regulars like Graham Haynes (cornet) and Doug Wieselman (guitar) the lineups seem pretty variable. B+(**)

The Outskirts: You Deserve to Dance (2009 [2020], Aerophonic): Another Dave Rempis sax-bass-drums trio, active 2007-09, this one with Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten (bass) and Frank Rosaly (drums), one drummer short of Rempis Percussion Quartet. Rempis is impressive as usual, but the tape has too many holes where he drops out and you can't hear much. B+(*) [bc]

Dudu Pukwana: Dudu Phukwana and the "Spears" (1968-69 [2020], Matsuli Music): Alto saxophonist from South Africa, left the country in 1964 with Chris MacGregor and the Blue Notes. This combines his first album (1968) with a second unreleased album. Pukwana moved into avant-garde circles quickly enough, but he started out with a jazzed-up take on township jive, which is mostly what he presents here (and even better on 1973's In the Townships). B+(***) [bc]

Peter Stampfel & the Bottle Caps: Demo '84 (1984 [2020], Don Giovanni): Nine tracks, 29:10, 8 of the 12 that appeared on the group's eponymous 1986 Rounder LP, plus a cover of "When It's Springtime in Alaska (It's Forty Below)," a 1959 Johnny Horton hit. Demos usually signify sketchy, but these pieces are fully fleshed out, the guitar rocking hard, Stampfel's unique voice inevitably standing out, but also integral to the flow. I don't remember being especially impressed by the album, and it's possible this impresses partly in stark contrast to the gradual decline of his recent years. A

Triage: Live at the Velvet Lounge (2005 [2020], Aerophonic): Saxophonist Dave Rempis' first group outside of the Vandermark 5, released three 2001-04 albums, the third (American Mythology) one of my early Jazz CG Pick Hits. Trio with bass (Jason Ajemian) and drums (Tim Daisy). B+(**) [bc]

Old Music


Paul Bley: Mr. Joy (1968, Limelight): Pianist, leads a trio here with Gary Peacock (bass) and Bill Elgart (drums). One Bley original, one Ornette Coleman cover, and six songs by Annette Peacock (Gary's ex-wife, by then married to Bley -- she was the Peacock in the Bley-Peacock Synthesizer Show). A lot of banging about here, even on the bass, which kicks around as energetically as a guitar. A- [yt]

EABS: Repetitions (Letters to Krzysztof Komeda): Live at Jazz Club Hipnoza (Katowice) (2018, Astigmatic): Komeda songs, done up with a bit of hip-hop. B+(***) [bc]

EABS: Slavic Spirits (2019, Astigmatic): Original material, at best an idea inspired by Komeda. Group remains mostly electric, but the turntablist and rapper are gone, and missed. B+(*)

Good Ol' Persons: Anywhere the Wind Blows (1989, Kaleidoscope): Bluegrass group, fifth and final album (not counting the 1995 "20th Anniversary" Good N' Live). No recollection why I downloaded this, but found it cleaning up, and recognize the two major singer-songwriters: Kathy Kallick (guitar) and John Reischman (mandolin). B+(**)

Frank Gratkowski Quartet: Spectral Reflections (2001 [2003], Leo): Second Quartet album, after Kollaps (a 4-star Penguin Guide pick). Leader plays alto sax, clarinet, and contrabass clarinet, with Wolter Wierbos (trombone), Dieter Manderscheid (bass), and Gerry Hemingway (drums). B+(***)

Frank Gratkowsi Quartet: Facio (2003 [2004], Leo): Same group, the leader adding bass clarinet to his arsenal. Same ups and downs, too. B+(***)

Devin Gray/Ryan Ferreira/Jonathan Goldberger/Chris Tordini: Devin Gray's Fashionable Pop Music (2012 [2016], Rataplan): Drummer, composes and leads a group with two guitars and bass, through two sidelong pieces ("Antiplutocracy," "Sowieso"). B+(*) [bc]

Last Exit: Headfirst Into the Flames: Live in Europe (1989 [2008], DMG/ARC): Short-lived avant-fusion quartet (1986-89), with Sonny Sharrock (guitar), Peter Brötzmann (reeds), Bill Laswell (bass), and Shannon Jackson (drums); two studio records plus some live tapes -- this one first appeared in 1993. You rarely think of Brötzmann as the guy who adds color and harmony, but that's the role Sharrock leaves him. A- [bc]

Selwyn Lissack/Friendship Next of Kin: Facets of the Univers (1969 [2014], Downtown Music Gallery): Drummer from Cape Town, South Africa, moved to Britain in 1967, recorded this one album, released by Goody in France in 1971, and supplemented with a third long piece here. With Mongezi Feza (pocket trumpet), Mike Osborne (alto sax), Kenneth Terroade (tenor sax), and Earl Freeman (bass/piano/voice). An energetic free-for-all, doesn't strike me as exceptional but does appeal. B+(***) [bc]

Charles McPherson: Con Alma! (1965 [1995], Prestige/OJC): Alto saxophonist, second album, quintet with Clifford Jordan (tenor sax), Barry Harris (piano), George Tucker (bass), and Alan Dawson (drums). Runs through six songs, mostly bebop standards like the title track, "Dexter Rides Again," and "Chasing the Bird." B+(*)

Charles McPherson: Live at the Five Spot (1966 [1994], Prestige): Quintet with Lonnie Hillyer (trumpet), Barry Harris (piano), Ray McKinney (bass), and Billy Higgins (drums), originally released as The Quintet/Live! in 1967, reissue tacks on three extra tracks, bringing the CD to 74:26. Mostly bop repertoire. B+(*)

Charles McPherson: From This Moment On (1968 [1997], Prestige/OJC): Quartet, with Cedar Walton on piano, Pat Martino on guitar, plus bass and drums. Walton and Martino tend to take over, but some find alto sax here and there. B+(**)

Charles McPherson: Horizons (1968 [1998], Prestige/OJC): Sextet, Walton and Martino again, different bass and drums, with Nasir Hafiz's vibes prominent from the start. Four McPherson originals, two covers ("Lush Life" and "I Should Care"). Sax more prominent here, and he's clearly developing his tone and poise. B+(**)

Charles McPherson: Siku Ya Bibi (Day of the Lady) (1972, Mainstream): He left Prestige after McPherson's Mood (1969), and recorded three 1971-73 albums for Mainstream. This is the second, dedicated to Billie Holiday. Good material for alto sax and quintet, but strings spoil half the tracks. B

Charles McPherson: Live in Tokyo (1976, Xanadu): After Mainstream, the alto saxophonist recorded 5 records for Xanadu (1975-81). The first, Beautiful! (1975) is a special favorite. This one retains the bass-drums combo (Sam Jones and Leroy Williams), reverts to the leader's usual pianist (Barry Harris), and adds some guitar (Jimmy Raney). A- [yt]

Charles McPherson: Come Play With Me (1995, Arabesque): Not much to show for the 1980s, but McPherson recorded three albums for Arabesque 1994-98. This middle one is a quartet with Mulgrew Miller (piano), Sati Debriano (bass), and Lewis Nash (drums) -- lovely effort all around. A-

Charles McPherson: Manhattan Nocturne (1997 [1998], Arabesque): Another quartet, with Ray Drummond taking over on bass. [Glitch on first song.] B+(***)

Charles McPherson: Live at the Cellar (2002, Cellar Live): Live shot from the Vancouver club, quartet with local piano trio (Ross Taggart, Jodi Proznick, Blaine Wikjord). Six songs, each topping 10:12 (up to 14:56). Closes strong. B+(***)

Charles McPherson: What Is Love (2010, Arabesque): Released a decade after his 1994-98 records for the label, having trouble with dates and such, but could be new. Quartet with Randy Porter, Rufus Reid, and Carl Allen, plus strings: The Lark Quartet. I'm not a fan of the latter, but even they cannot ruin something as luscious as "My One and Only Love." B+(*)

Charles McPherson Quartet: Love Walked In (2015, Quadrant): Quartet, with Bruce Barth (piano), Jeremy Brown (bass), and Stephen Keogh (drums). Scant discography, but mostly standards, leisurely but only two (of nine) reach 7 minutes. B+(***)

Gwigwi Mrwebi: Mbaqanga Songs (1967 [2006], Honest Jons): South African alto saxophonist, also known as Benjo or Benny, with the better known South African alto saxophonist Dudu Pukwana (who wrote 8 songs to Mrwebi's 6), with Ronnie Beer (tenor sax), Chris McGregor (piano), Coleridge Goode (bass), and Laurie Allan (drums). Original album title was Kwela, after another genre (which unlike here I associate with pennywhistle). Recording isn't spectacular, but I do love this music. B+(**)

Gary Peacock: December Poems (1977 [1979], ECM): Six original compositions, four solo bass, two add Jan Garbarek on tenor/soprano saxophone. B+(*)

Gary Peacock/Art Lande/Elliott Zigmund: Shift in the Wind (1980, ECM): Front cover suggests attributing this to pianist Lande, but back cover lists the bassist first, and the labels solely name Peacock. Compositions were split 3 Peacock, 2 Lande, 2 all including drummer Zigmund. B+(**)

Gary Peacock: Voice From the Past - Paradigm (1981 [1982], ECM): Bassist composed all six pieces, leading a quartet with Tomasz Stanko (trupet), Jan Garbarek (tenor/soprano sax), and Jack DeJohnette (drums). B+(**)

Gary Peacock: Guamba (1987, ECM): Another quartet, with Garbarek again, plus Palle Mikkelborg (trumpet/flugelhorn) and Peter Erskine (drums). B+(***)

Gary Peacock/Ralph Towner: Oracle (1993 [1994], ECM): Bass and guitar duets, recorded in a studio in Norway, song credits split 6-2-1. B+(**)

Pretenders: Break Up the Concrete (2008, Shangri-La Music): Six years after Loose Screw, the longest break to date. The songs may be coming slower, but there's little evidence of a drop in quality, and the slightly more leisurely pace can be a plus. B+(***)

Pretenders: Live in London (2009 [2010], E1/Stroboscopic): Details are sketchy, but this is tied to a film by Pierre & François Lamoureux, some editions also providing a DVD. [Napster just provides 19 tracks, but other editions have more.] Some pretty great songs. B+(***)

Pretenders: Alone (2016, BMG): Regular band went AWOL, so this is just Chrissie Hynde and studio musicians -- most famous is Dan Auerbach (unless Duane Eddy is more famous). Maybe the band mattered more than anyone thought. B+(*)

Wayne Shorter: The Best of Wayne Shorter (1964-69 [1988], Blue Note): One of a series of single-CD "best-ofs" at this time. Shorter recorded 11 albums for Blue Note 1964-70, while he was a key member of the Miles Davis Quintet. I only rate one of those at A-, but graded the 2-CD The Classic Blue Note Recordings a full A. Should be even easier to construct a one-CD best-of, but this one strikes me as decidedly mixed. B+(***)

Jim Waller and the Deltas: Surfin' Wild (1963 [1995], Sundazed): Waller plays piano and organ here, with Terry Christofsen on guitar, Ray Carlson on sax, plus bass and drums, through a set of surf instrumentals. Title cut may have been a minor hit. Guitar fits the surf paradigm, but organ and sax owe more to r&b models. B+(*)

Revised Grades

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:

EABS: Puzzle Mixtape (2012-15 [2016], Astigmatic): Polish group, later albums appear to be Komeda tributes but this early mixtape features electric keyb-bass-guitar and turntables with guest rappers (Jeru the Damaja opens, Ben Lamar Gay plays trumpet, and another rapper is named Marek Pedziwiatr). [was: B+(*)] B+(**) [bc]

No Age: Goons Be Gone (2020, Drag City): Noise pop duo from Los Angeles, formed 2005, released a consistent stream of fine albums. This one seemed to get slammed hard. I gave it a play, concluded it had their sound down pat, but hedged. Several more plays and it's hard to see how anyone could have missed it. [was: B+(**)] A-

Wayne Shorter: Adam's Apple (1966 [1987], Blue Note): One of his best-regarded albums, the title track belongs on best-ofs, and "Footprints" became a signature tune, but the ballads are less rewarding. With Herbie Hancock, Reggie Workman, and Joe Chambers. CD bonus track is a plus. [was: B] B+(***)


Music Weeks

Current count 34098 [33914] rated (+184), 214 [215] unrated (-1).

Excerpts from this month's Music List posts:

September 28, 2020

Music: Current count 34098 [34056] rated (+42), 214 [216] unrated (-2).

Well, that's another month, not exactly wasted but not put to very good use either. I'm still reeling from recent deaths -- among friends, in my family, of semi-famous people I care about, and others I knew nothing of. I've never forgotten one of the late Diane Wahto's letters to the Wichita Eagle, probably right after the stolen 2000 election, where she bravely declared, "we survived one Bush; we can survive another." She did, but lots of people didn't, and she herself didn't survive Bush's partisan successor. Trump's death toll far exceeds the 204,888 Covid death count (as of today), and he's hurt millions more. Hurts my head just to think about it.

Rolling Stone published a third iteration (after 2003 and 2012) of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. I started to transcribe it with my grades, but didn't get very far. Robert Christgau and Carola Dibbell published their ballots (unranked top-50 lists) here. Greil Marcus published a top 40 ballot. Other ballots I've found: Stephen Thomas Erlewine; well, that's it (RS did publish a list of voters, but not their ballots; only 28% were identified as journalists). Wikiwand has some statistics. I wasn't invited. Thought I might edit down a list from my 1,000 Albums for a Long and Happy Life, but haven't found the time. If I do pursue this further, I'll probably listen to some of the ranked records I had missed/passed up (as far as I've checked, 24 of the top 240, so 10%).

Only anomaly in the list below worth mentioning is my dive into old Charles McPherson albums. Phil Overeem likes his newest album, Jazz Dance Suites. I wasn't able to find it, but did find a live album he released back in January, and that got me started. His 1975 album Beautiful! is a long-time favorite, and I also am a fan of his 2015 album The Journey, so I was primed to look for more.

Two grade changes this time, nudging up albums I thought were pretty good to start with. Better to recheck them before the month ends than to complicate my paperwork later.

Four week month, bumped the rated count up by 184 (so average 46/week, way above my long-term historic average) -- a bonus for not otherwise having much of a life, I guess. I haven't run the numbers yet, but I'm probably ahead on the year, even with more old music recently.

September 21, 2020

Music: Current count 34056 [34007] rated (+49), 216 [217] unrated (-1).

I have very little to say here, so will keep it short. High rated counts continue, although some records below (Shipp, Pretenders) took 4-5 plays to settle down. Pretenders record is almost very good, but I shut it down on one song I lost interest in. That left me with some fairly obscure jazz titles for an A-list. Shipp and Bergman suggest it helps to actually send me the record. DMG sent me several records in the past, but I had no idea this Last Exit album existed. Stumbled on it by accident when I was following up on Piotr Orlov's Bandcamp piece, How South Africa's Blue Notes Helped Invent European Free Jazz. Otherwise, I just followed my nose. Especially looked through Music Tracking for priority picks.

Jazz critic Stanley Crouch died last week. I have a question pending on him, so will write more once I collect my few thoughts. Meanwhile, Robert Christgau wrote Appreciation: Stanley Crouch, a towering critic, loved a good fight. Christgau previously reviewed Crouch's book on Charlie Parker, Kansas City Lightning. Crouch tried his hand at writing a Jazz Consumer Guide, although I think he only got one published. (Gary Giddins and Francis Davis also tried their hands at the format, well before mine from 2004-10.) One thing I will say about Crouch is that he was more persuasive writing about what he liked* than what he hated. (Asterisk there is that I haven't read the Parker book. Parker is worshipped by all reputable jazz critics, no doubt including Crouch, but I've never given up my doubts.) By the way, Phil Freeman writes about Crouch in his Ugly Beauty column, along with notes on the late Gary Peacock and a bunch of new records I need to check out.

Haven't done this week's new releases in the metacritic file yet, but did catch up the previous week. That seems to be the new normal.

September 14, 2020

Music: Current count 34007 [33954] rated (+53), 217 [212] unrated (+5).

Got a late start writing today. I had the idea yesterday that I'd finally try to make lasagna -- something I've never tried before, although I have been known to make a pretty awesome pastitsio. Back when I first had the idea -- well over a year ago -- most of the recipes I consulted called for oven-ready noodles, so that's what I bought and still had on hand. I started with Mark Bittman's classic lasagna recipe, and made the bolognese sauce yesterday, but ran out of time and saved it overnight. Bittman called for boiled noodles, but all I had was oven-ready, so I wound up mostly following the box recipe -- adding an extra cup of water to my reduced meat sauce to make sure the noodles had plenty of liquid. Made pretty much every mistake possible in assembling the loaf, and it looked pretty ugly when it came out of the oven. Not bad, but the noodles were the weak link.

A bit surprised the rated count is so high, but my method for getting there was pretty conducive to quantity over writing. I searched through my tracking file for records I had given a medium/high priority to (basically 2 vs. 1, on what I had originally conceived of as a 3-to-0 scale, but haven't been using the ends). Currently I have 164 records at priority 2, mostly jazz. I started the week adding Saving Country Music picks to my metacritic file, so there's a fair number of alt-country albums in this week's crop. I also stumbled my way onto the Aerophonic Records Bandcamp, where Dave Rempis has been releasing a lot of his old tapes (a fairly common strategy for musicians sidelined by the pandemic). I also rummaged through my Downloads directory, sorted out what I had accumulated, and created a log to manage it better.

My other splurge this week was from Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide, which aside from a few records I had previously given various B+ grades to (Chicks, No Age, No Joy, Taylor Swift -- I revisited No Age, see below), and Nat King Cole's Jumpin' at Capitol (released in 1990, an A- from way back, and not the only one), had a lot of things I hadn't heard. Only one I couldn't find was The Human Hearts, which back in 2012 released another Christgau A- I never managed to hear. Surprised I didn't like Billy Nomates more, especially given that I like Sleaford Mods a lot more than Bob does, but maybe that was the point?

Christgau, by the way, published his guide to volunteering to work on the side of sanity and civilization in the 2020 election today: Vote! It Ain't Illegal Yet!. He's practiced what he preaches for many years now. I know a couple others who volunteer regularly to help with campaigns, but no one who's put more into it. All I can manage to do is to write up some obvious truths (as I've been doing weekly in my Weekend Roundups; for the Trump era, you can download this [odt format], which isn't totally up to date).

I usually spend a fair amount of time updating the metacritic file on Mondays before posting this, but decided I'd rather get this out at a decent hour, and catch up later. Also thought I'd do a books post this week, but didn't make much progress on that, given the sheer length of yesterday's Weekend Roundup (1738 lines, 12816 words, making it the longest ever, eclipsing 1601/11281 from two weeks back)..

September 8, 2020

Music: Current count 33954 [33914] rated (+40), 212 [215] unrated (-3).

Another week that started slow but hit 33 records Sunday evening, before I realized I was going to take an extra day. Spent that extra time listening to bassist Gary Peacock, who died last week (85). Wikipedia credits him with a dozen albums as a leader. Discogs expands that list to 69, picking up collaborations with his name further down the artist line. Including side credits, Wikipedia winds up at 98. He started 1958 with Bud Shank, with Bill Evans in 1963, and on two landmark 1964 albums: Tony Williams' Life Time and Albert Ayler's Spiritual Unity. He recorded 10 albums with Paul Bley (mostly after Bley married his wife, Annette), and 22 with Keith Jarrett's Standards Trio. His most impressive album as a leader was probably Tales of Another (1977), with Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette, well before Standards (1983). Ethan Iverson tweeted that he thought Mr. Joy was a masterpiece. I checked it out, under far from ideal circumstances, and concur.

Running into technical problems with Napster, which may mean I need to consider a new streaming provider. I have two computers, and Napster is behaving badly on the new one: search and selection are very slow, actually streaming music virtually impossible. Rebooting offers a temporary workaround. On the other hand, the older computer plays it fine, but the speakers have some unexplained static. Haven't spent any serious time debugging this, but it's one reason I spent more time on Bandcamp this week.

I don't have much more to say at this point. I do have a new batch of answers to reader questions. Ask more.

Notes

Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:

  • [cd] based on physical cd
  • [cdr] based on an advance or promo cd or cdr
  • [bc] available at bandcamp.com
  • [yt] available at youtube.com