Streamnotes: December 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 November 30. Past reviews and more information are available here (16062 records).

Recent Releases

75 Dollar Bill: Little Big Band Live at Tubby's (2020, self-released): Instrumental rock duo -- Che Chen (guitar) and Rick Brown (drums) -- with Saharan influences (Chen studied in Mauritania with Jheich Ould Chighaly). They picked up five more musicians for this gig -- a big band only given their bearings -- including a sax, viola, and more guitars and drums. Last show before Covid lockdown in March. They describe it as "bittersweet." B+(***)

75 Dollar Bill: Live at Cafe Oto Dec. 19, 2019 (2019 [2020], self-relased): As the lockdown progressed, the duo rumaged through their old tapes for product, and picked out this trio date in London, where they were reunited with their former bassist Andrew Lafkas. Digital only, very long, collecting three hour-long sets (12 tracks, 183:09), but the basic patterns never wear out -- in fact, the opener runs 30:26 without ever going anywhere, and the only time you really notice it is when it stops, like an old friend hanging up. A- [bc]

75 Dollar Bill: Power Failures (2018 [2020], self-released): Unclear when these six tracks (77:49) were recorded, but it's basically an "odds and sods" collection, with extra people showing up on several tracks. B+(**) [bc]

75 Dollar Bill Little Big Band: Roulette, March 27, 2017 (2017 [2020], self-released): Nine names on the cover, although the opener is just the two principals (Rick Brown and Che Chen). B+(**) [bc]

Eivind Aarset & Jan Bang: Snow Catches on Her Eyelashes (2020, Jazzland): Norwegian duo, the former plays guitar and bass, the latter samples, mixes, and produces, with a few guest spots along the way (e.g., one track with Nils Petter Molvaer on trumpet). Ambient, washes over you gently. B+(*) [bc]

Bruce Ackley/Fred Frith/Henry Kaiser/Aram Shelton: Unexpected Twins (2016 [2019], Relative Pitch): Cover a 2x2 diagram, so parsing left-to-right or top-to-bottom you get pairs of saxophonists -- Ackley plays soprano, Shelton alto -- and guitarists. B+(**)

Amaarae: The Angels You Don't Know (2020, Golden Child Entertainment): Ama Serwah Genfi, born in New York, parents Ghanaian, grew up in Atlanta and Accra, first album. Distinctive voice and rhythm, often surprises you, not least with the occasional bit of noise. Auteur's own description: "non stop affirmations and incantations 4 bad bitches." A-

Annie: Dark Hearts (2020, Annie Melody): Norwegian electropop singer-songwriter Anne Lilia Berge Strand, called her debut single "Greatest Hit," first album Anniemal. Waited 5 years for her second, 11 more for this one. B+(**)

The Avalanches: We Will Always Love You (2020, Modular): Australian electronica group, emerged in 2000 with an album pieced together from samples -- a novel technique at the time, making it seem like a one-shot, which it was until a second album appeared in 2016. This is a third, also built on sampling, "but it is less of a plunderphonics record than their previous material." Evidently having a name leads to touring, which favors live instruments and vocals. Feels cartoonish to me, which is to say only the catchiest, chintziest tracks click. B+(**)

Bab L' Bluz: Nayda! (2020, Real World): Moroccan-French "power quartet," first album, lead singer Yousra Mansour. B+(*)

Backxwash: God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It (2020, Grimalkin, EP): Rapper Ashanti Mutinta, born in Zambia, moved to Canada at 17 to study computer science, transgender, pronouns she/her, which is part of the subject matter. Second studio album, short (10 tracks, 22:05, as was the first, Deviancy), but dense and heavy. B+(**) [bc]

Barrage: The Was and Is to Come (2020, Řra Fonogram): Bassist Alexander Riris composed these pieces, played by a Norwegian septet, with trumpet, three saxes, piano, and drums. Impressive at speed, loses a bit when they slow down. B+(***)

William Basinski: Lamentations (2020, Temporary Residence): Experimental composer, trained in clarinet, several dozen albums since 1998, his early albums self-descriptive: Shortwavemusic, Watermusic, The Disintegration Loops, the latter followed by II, III, IV. Ambient drone with occasional choir. B+(*)

Matt Berninger: Serpentine Prison (2020, Book): Singer for The National, first solo album, stripped down relative to the band. B+(**)

Nat Birchall: Mysticism of Sound (2020, Ancient Archive of Sound): English saxophonist, records since 1999, plays what they're calling spiritual jazz, in his case heavily indebted to John Coltrane. Plays everything here: keyboard (korg minilogue), bass, drums, percussion, tenor/soprano sax, bass clarinet. Loses some urgency, but nicely at one with the cosmos. B+(**) [bc]

Nat Birchall Meets Al Breadwinner: Upright Living (2020, Tradition Disc): Second album with Alan Redfern, Manchester-based reggae musician (drums, guitar, organ, piano, percussion), who leads a group called the Breadwinners. Lots of dub echo, the leader's tenor and soprano sax (also keyboards and percussion) joined by more horns (trumpet, trombone, baritone sax). B+(***) [bc]

Nat Birchall Sextet: Exaltation: Live in Athens Vol 1 (2018 [2020], Parafono): Quartet plus a couple picked up for the spot: Harris Lambrakis (ney) and Nikos Sidirokastritis (drums). Three pieces, seems short (39:55). B+(*) [bc]

Bktherula: Nirvana (2020, Warner): Atlanta rapper Brooklyn Rodriguez, still in her teens, comes up with 11 short tracks (28:04). Christgau's rave got me to listen hard and long enough to warm to the album, but none of his points stick -- "environmental," "irresistible," "inexplicable," the Eno-Hassell "anthropological minimalism" and "ambient esoteric kitsch," even the more specific "haze of shrooms, lean, and percoset." Well, maybe inexplicable. Come to think of it, if you're unable to explicate, maybe all you do have left is atmosphere. Or maybe it doesn't matter. A-

Ran Blake/Andrew Rathbun: Northern Noir (2018 [2020], SteepleChase): Duets, piano and tenor sax. Opens and closes with "Strange Fruit," which seems about right for the somber, measured intimacy. B+(**)

Urs Blöchlinger Revisited: Harry Doesn't Mind (2018 [2020], Leo): Tribute group for the late Swiss saxophonist (1954-95), a septet led by son Lino Blöchinger, also a saxophonist, playing the old compositions. B+(**)

Blu & Exile: Miles (2020, Fat Beats): Rapper Johnson Barnes III, from Los Angeles, with producer Alex Manfredi, third album together (previous in 2007 and 2012). Title refers to Miles Davis. Subtitle: From an Interlude Called Life. Assembled by mail, runs long (20 tracks, 95:29), covers a lot of ground. A-

Boldy James/Sterling Toles: Manger on McNichols (2020, Sector 7-G): Detroit rapper James Clay Jones III, mixtape assembled by producer Toles based on rhymes from 2007-10. B+(***)

Jorun Bombay & Phill Most Chill: Jorun-PMC (2020, AE Productions): Actual name, DJ/producer from Halifax, Nova Scotia, led a 1990s coalition there that included Buck 65, working here with rapper Phill Stroman. Big, old school beats and scratches. B+(***) [bc]

Christiane Bopp/Jean-Marc Foussat/Emmanuelle Parrenin: Nature Still (2018 [2020], Fou): Parrenin is a French folk singer, plays traditional instruments, vielle here, mixed uncomfortably with Bopp's trombone and Foussat's AKS synthesizer -- all three credited with voice, a rather medieval choral. B+(*) [cd]

Anthony Braxton/Jacqueline Kerrod: Duo (Bologna) 2018 (2018 [2020], I Dischi Di Angelica): Sax and harp duo, the former playing alto, soprano, and sopranino, on his "Composition 189." B+(***)

Phoebe Bridgers: Copycat Killer (2020, Dead Oceans, EP): Her big albums this year, Punisher, ranks third in my EOY aggregate. I'm not a big fan, but can't deny that it has something going for it. This follow-up is a microcosm: four songs, 12:51, too many strings, but we're used to them in movies, where they set up drama. Same here. B+(*)

Phoebe Bridgers: If We Make It Through December (2020, Dead Oceans, EP): Another 4-song EP (11:39), covers which touch on Christmas without getting too comfortable: the title is a Merle Haggard song about how cold and poverty undermines the usual seasonal joy, and even "Silent Night" plays background to a bitter news reel (which would have been even more horrifying had she waited to sample this December's news). "You don't have to be alone to be lonesome," and "it's Christmas, so no one can fix it." B+(***)

Brad Brooks: God Save the City (2020, Brad Brooks): Singer-songwriter based in Oakland, couple previous albums, hard to pin this one down. B+(*)

Peter Brötzmann/Maâlem Moukhtar Gania/Hamid Drake: The Catch of a Ghost (2019 [2020], I Dischi Di Angelica): Gania is a Moroccan guimbri player and singer, from a family of notable Gnawa musicians -- his brother, Maâlem Mahmoud Gania, recorded an album with Pharoah Sanders in 1994. He centers this album, the jazz greats working around him, but also providing him with edges that lift him way above the merely exotic. A-

Peter Brötzmann/Fred Lonberg-Holm: Memories of a Tunicate (2020, Relative Pitch): Tenor sax and cello duo, a small but loud subset of their Chicago Tentet. The former sometimes takes the edge off by switching to clarinet or tarogato, while the latter adds electronics. As Mark Corroto put it, "entertaining and exhausting." B+(*) [bc]

Paul Bryan: Cri$el Gems (2020, self-released): Los Angeles-based bassist, Discogs credits him with one previous album (from 2003), but he seems to do a lot of production work on the side, including Jeff Parker's Suite for Max Brown. Parker plays guitar here, Lee Pardini electric piano, plus three percussionists, in an album that puts groove first but isn't satisfied to leave it there. B+(*)

BTS: BE (2020, Big Hit): Korean boy band, big stars worldwide. I've seen them dance through their revolving vocals a few times, and they're a lot of fun to watch. Less fun to just listen to, and the 3:00 "Skit" in the middle here is dead time, not that the closing single ("Dynamite") doesn't make up for it. Short (8 tracks, 28:30). B+(*)

The Bug: In Blue (2020, Hyperdub): Kevin Martin, British dubstep producer, first album 1998, with earlier groups going back to 1991 (Techno Animal, GOD, Ice, and later King Midas Sound). This one features singer Dis Fig (Felicia Chen). B+(*)

Carne Doce: Interior (2020, Tratore): Brazilian indie rock band, fourth album. B+(*)

Chouk Bwa and the Ĺngströmers: Vodou Alé (2017-18 [2020], Bongo Joe): Haitian group (Chouk Bwa Libčte) and Belgian production duo (Frédéric Alstadt and Nicolas Esterie). B+(**) [bc]

Chubby and the Gang: Speed Kills (2020, Static Shock): British punk group, led by "Chubby Charles" (surname Manning-Walker), first album, 12 songs, 25:37. B+(*)

Code Orange: Underneath (2020, Roadrunner): Metal (or hardcore punk) band from Pittsburgh, fourth album since 2012, highest unheard album (60) on my metacritic list after I suffered through the Deftones. This one is more listenable -- not because it's in any way softer, but more tuneful, at least in a riff-happy sense shared by all decent pop music. B

Conway the Machine: From a King to a GOD (2020, Griselda): Buffalo rapper Demond Price, brother of Westside Gunn, cousin of Benny the Butcher, mixtapes from 2015, first studio album. "It's all good crap." B+(***)

Conway the Machine/The Alchemist: Lulu (2020, Griselda/ALC, EP): Seven tracks, 22:42. B+(**)

Deftones: Ohms (2020, Reprise): Alt-metal band from Sacramento, ninth album since 1995. Only reason I bothered with this was that it was by far the highest ranked album of the year that I hadn't listened to (33 at this moment, with only 4 records in the top 100 I haven't yet heard). Besides, I was nodding off, and figured I could move to the next room and still hear it well enough. C+

Bertrand Denzler/Antonin Gerbal: Sbatax (2019 [2020], Umlaut): Tenor sax and drums duo, one 38:40 piece, all fire and fury. B+(***) [bc]

Disclosure: Energy (2020, Island): English electropop duo, brothers Howard and Guy Lawrence, third album, guest vocals on most tracks. B+(**)

DJ Python: Mas Amable (2020, Incienso): Brian Pińeyro, based in New York but "of Ecuadorean and Argentine extraction," second album. Steady, fairly minimalist beats, talkover, has an appeal. B+(**)

Dorian Electra: My Agenda (2020, self-released): Last name Gomberg (or Fridkin Gomberg), from Houston, second album, short (25:10, but 11 tracks) but densly packed with plastic shrapnel. B

Dave Douglas: Marching Music (2019 [2020], Greenleaf Music): Famous trumpet player, presents "a new suite of compositions" for marching, "when you attend Climate Marches, Demonstrations for Equal Rights, Voting Rights Movements, and all other actions towards a just society" -- recorded before but released after the summer's George Floyd (et al.) protests, so prescient but a little slow on the draw. Backed by guitar (Rafiq Bhatia), bass, and drums. B+(***) [dl]

Dezron Douglas & Brandee Younger: Force Majeure (2020, International Anthem): Bass and harp duets, recorded in their shared Harlem apartment between March and June, 2020. A unique item, the mesh and contrast of the instruments near perfect, but I doubt it's something I'll want to return to, except to recall what those months were like, and how to survive them. B+(***)

Duma: Duma (2020, Nyege Nyege Tapes): Kenyan duo, Martin Khanja (vocals) and Sam Karugu (guitar), based in Kampala, name means "darkness" in Kikuyu, music itself is most often called industrial grindcore or noise, although I recognize the scratchy, hoarse vocals and intense mechanical beats as metal -- conceptual enough to elicit some interest, but wearing all the same. B

Dutchavelli: Dutch From the 5th (2020, Parlophone): UK rapper Stephan Fabulous Allen, born in Birmingham, of Jamaican descent, first album. B+(**)

Kurt Elling: Secrets Are the Best Stories (2020, Edition): Jazz singer, impressed a lot of people but I've always found him way too mannered, and have even started to question his chops of late. Big help here musically from Danilo Perez (pianist and co-producer). B-

Elzhi: Seven Times Down Eight Times Up (2020, Fat Beats): Detroit rapper Jason Powers, first EP 1998. Underground, with some rough edges and awkward moments. B+(**)

Enemy Radio: Loud Is Not Enough (2020, SplitSLAM): A Chuck D project, with DJ Lord Aswod and Jahi Torman, the sound as punched up as Public Enemy can bring it, the message even more deeply political. I missed this when it came out in April, but it belongs in the Spring/Summer soundtrack, and is not likely to lose relevance for quite some time. A-

Roger Eno and Brian Eno: Mixing Colours (2020, Deutsche Grammophon): Eleven years younger, Roger Eno followed his brother into ambient music, working together on Apollo in 1983 (along with Daniel Lanois), and has independently produced 30-some albums before this new collaboration. Pretty. Also pretty long (75:15). B+(*)

Felt: Felt 4 U (2020, Rhymesayers Entertainment): Hip-hop duo, Slug (of Atmosphere) and Murs, fourth album after a decade-long hiatus, the first three (2002-09) framed as tributes to actresses (Christina Ricci, Lisa Bonet, Rosie Perez). Ant produced, so beatwise figure Atmosphere, but Murs delivers the sharper, more political rhymes. A-

Fleet Foxes: Shore (2020, Anti-): Mild-mannered rock group (chamber or baroque pop), formed near Seattle c. 2006, principally Robin Pecknold. Fourth album, I've never understood the critical interest in this group, but this at least is pretty easy listening. B

Four Tet: Sixteen Oceans (2020, Text): British laptronica musician Kieran Hebden's principal alias. B+(*)

Jean-Marc Foussat/Thomas Lehn: Spie(l)gehungen (2017 [2020], Fou): AKS synthesizer duo, French-Algerian and German, similar careers going back to the 1980s with 2-3 dozen albums each, not aware of them playing together before. Plays with noise, the building block of their peculiar topography. B+(***) [cd]

David Friesen With Orchestra and Quartet: Testimony (2018-19 [2020], Origin): Leader plays hemage bass (a small electric) and piano. Quartet includes tenor sax, vibraphone, drums, but most cuts are with the National Academic Symphonic Band of Ukraine. B [cd]

Satoko Fujii/Natsuki Tamura: Pentas: Tribute to Eric and Chris Stern (2019 [2020], Not Two): Piano and trumpet duo, four compositions each. No idea how the Sterns figure into this. B+(**)

Future/Lil Uzi Vert: Pluto x Baby Pluto (2020, Atlantic): Two rappers, title refers back to the 2012 album by Future (Nayvadius Wilburn) and the lead song from the latter's 2020 album. This got pretty severely panned, but I'm finding the dense, beatwise banter about par for the course. B+(*)

GoGo Penguin: Live From Studio 2 (2020, Decca): English piano trio -- Chris Illingworth, Nick Blacka, Rob Turner -- strong on rhythm, a crossover threat niche previously developed by EST and Bad Plus. Digital only, billed as an EP, really a short album (7 tracks, 35:18). B+(*)

Gorillaz: Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez (2020, Parlophone): Pop machine band -- Damon Albarn and Remi Kabaka Jr. -- tied to a cartoon franchise since 2001, although they feel less cartoonish than Avalanches. With guests on most songs, often pairs like Elton John and 6lack, or Tony Allen and Skepta. B+(*)

Devin Gray: Socialytics (2019 [2020], Rataplan, EP): Drummer, composer, leads trio with names below and right of title: Dave Ballou (trumpet) and Ryan Ferreira (guitar). Short (6 tracks, 24:17), but Ballou makes a big impression. B+(**)

Devin Gray/Gerald Cleaver: 27 Licks (2019 [2020], Rataplan): Two drummers, duets, something of an acquired taste. B+(*) [bc]

Muriel Grossmann: Quiet Earth (2020, RR Gems): Saxophonist (alto/tenor/soprano), born in Paris, grew up in Vienna, based in Ibiza since 2004, more than a dozen albums since 2007, current group a quintet with guitar, organ, bass, and drums. Starts with a Coltraneish spiritual jazz vibe, and builds on that. A-

Mickey Guyton: Bridges (2020, Capitol Nashville, EP): Nashville singer-songwriter Candace Mycale Guyton, several EPs since 2014 but nothing longer, got a big production for this one, but only for 6 songs, 18:58, all tightly clustered around 3:00. Got a Grammy nomination for the closer, where "it's a hard life on easy street," and "if you think we live in the land of the free/ you should try to be black like me." B+(**)

Matthew Halsall: Salute to the Sun (2020, Gondwana): British trumpet player, from Manchester, albums since 2008. Spiritual jazz, which for all practical purposes means he's happy to inhabit grooves drawn from Coltrane, with the economy of Miles Davis. Nice trick. B+(***)

Connie Han: Iron Starlet (2020, Mack Avenue): Pianist, from Los Angeles, second album (or third, counting a Richard Rodgers Songbook she did as a teenager). Impressive speed, wrote 5 songs, to 3 by drummer-producer Bill Wysaske, and 2 covers. Gets significant help from Walter Smith III (tenor sax) and, especially, Jeremy Pelt (trumpet). B+(**)

Elisabeth Harnik & Steve Swell: Tonotopic Organizations (2019 [2020], Fundacja Sluchaj): Piano and trombone duets, recorded in Vienna (the pianist's home turf). Limited, but notable streaks from both. B+(*) [bc]

Honey Harper: Starmaker (2019 [2020], ATO): Born William Fussell, grew up with country music in Georgia, seems to be based in UK now, debut album after an EP and singles. Not conventionally country, but maybe a glittered up stage rendition. B

Headie One: Edna (2020, Relentless): British rapper Irving Adjei, first album after a number of mixtapes (since 2014). B+(**)

Headie One x Fred Again: Gang (2020, Relentless, EP): Short mixtape (8 tracks, 22:13), rapper Irving Adjei and producer Fred Gibson. B+(*)

The Heliocentrics: Telemetric Sounds (2020, Madlib Invazion): London-based jazz-funk collective, principally Malcolm Catto (drums) and Jake Ferguson (bass, guitar), named for Sun Ra, ten-plus records since 2007, four featuring obscure masters, the last two co-produced by Madlib, tipping their jazz a bit more to funk. B+(**)

Hemingway, Phillips & Moore: Slips (2019, Ramboy): Drummer Gerry, bassist Barre, saxophonist/clarinetist Michael, with four more/less long pieces alled "Slaps," "Slips," "Sniffs," and "Slides." Spots I focused on are brilliant as expected, but my mind wandered too often to rate it higher. B+(**) [bc]

Ian Hendrickson-Smith: The Lowdown (2019 [2020], Cellar Live): Alto saxophonist, mainstream, his debut a memorable early Jazz CG find, continues in that vein, with Cory Weeds (tenor sax), Rick Germanson (piano), John Webber (bass), and Joe Farnsworth (drums). B+(**)

HHY & the Macumbas: Camouflage Vector: Edits From Live Actions 2017-19 (2017-19 [2020], Nyege Nyege): Jonathan Saldanha and/or his "cryptic collective" from Porto, Portugal, with a strategic intervention by dub producer Adrian Sherwood, working from Barcelos to Tenerife then editing the rhythm tracks under lockdown in Kampala. B+(**)

François Houle 4: RECODER (2019 [2020], Songlines): Canadian clarinet player, from Quebec, albums since 1992. All-star quartet with Gordon Grdina (guitar), Gerry Hemingway (drums), and Mark Helias (bass, also clarinet for duos on the six "Interlude" pieces). B+(***)

Jon Irabagon: I Don't Hear Nothin' but the Blues: Volume 3: Anatomical Snuffbox (2019 [2020], Irabbagast): Tenor saxophonist, has done a fairly wide range of work since staring with Mostly Other People Do the Killing in 2006, but opts for avant-screech here ("46:54 of brutal, non-stop, cataclysmic end-of-the-world guitars, saxophone, and drums"). I mostly blame the guitars (Mick Barr and Ava Mendoza), although drummer Mike Pride is someone I associated with such din. B- [bc]

Nicholas Jaar: Cenizas (2020, Other People): Chilean-American electronica composer, does more dance-oriented work as Against All Logic, uses his own name for more ponderous ambient records, like this one. B+(*)

Nicholas Jaar: Telas (2020, Other People): Four LP-sidelong pieces, starts off like he's thinking about free jazz, but doesn't sustain that mood. B+(**)

Keefe Jackson/Jim Baker/Julian Kirshner: So Glossy and So Thin (2018-19 [2020], Astral Spirits): Chicago trio -- tenor/sopranino sax, piano/synthesizer, drums -- two track live at the Hungry Brain (21:38 and 23:45). B+(***) [bc]

Aubrey Johnson: Unraveled (2017 [2020], Outside In Music): Jazz singer, studied at Western Michigan and New England Conservatory, teaches at Queens College and Berklee (based in New York), seems to be her first album. More than a bit much. B-

Jimmy Johnson: Every Day of Your Life (2019, Delmark): Chicago bluesman, born in Mississippi, brother of Syl Johnson, has recorded albums since 1977, this the first after turning 80. Not a great blues voice, even with age, but still a pretty fair guitarist. B+(**)

JPEGMafia: EP! (2020, Universal Republic, EP): Rapper Barrington DeVaughn Hendricks, three albums, more mixtapes, evidently threw this 9 track, 27:09 EP together from "all singles released this year, mix of young and old." Defies convention, riding the CAPS LOCK except for "living single." B+(**)

Jubileum Quartet [Joëlle Léandre/Evan Parker/Agustí Fernández/Zlatko Kaucic]: A Uis? (2018 [2020], Not Two): Bass, tenor sax, piano, drums; a single 45:02 improv piece, recorded at Cerkno Jazz Festival, "celebrating 40 years of Kaucic's professional career as a musician." B+(**)

Junglepussy: JP4 (2020, Jagjaguwar): New York rapper Shayna McHayle, parents from Jamaica and Trinidad, several albums and mixtapes. Short album (10 tracks, 29:35). Murky early, snaps sharp toward the end. B+(*)

K. Michelle: All Monsters Are Human (2020, EOne Music): Kimberly Michelle Pate, r&b singer from Memphis, fifth album. B+(**)

Kacy & Clayton and Marlon Williams: Plastic Bouquet (2020, New West): From the outer orbits of country music, two cousins from Saskatchewan -- Kacy Anderson (vocals) and Clayton Linthicum (guitar) -- hook up with a country singer-songwriter from New Zealand. B+(**)

Kid Cudi: Man on the Moon III: The Chosen (2020, Republic): Rapper Scott Mescudi, returns to title of his first two albums (2009-10), although an intermediate album (2014) was subtitled The Journey to Mother Moon. B+(**)

Will Kimbrough: Spring Break (2020, Daphne): Singer-songwriter from Mobile, Alabama; based in Nashville, had a group called Will and the Bushmen (1985-91), half-dozen or so solo albums since 1999, side credits with Todd Snider and Amy Rigby (well, also Jimmy Buffett and Rodney Crowell, but first things first; two co-writes here with Snider). Notes on two of the more political songs: "Cape Henry" is not about a Civil War battle; and it's easier to have a "Right Wing Friend" if that friend also loves John Prine (as my own do). A- [cd]

Kirk Knuffke: Tight Like This (2019 [2020], SteepleChase): Cornet player, trio with tuba (Bob Stewart) and drums (Kenny Wollesen), six originals vs. covers from Louis Armstrong (title cut), Teddy Wilson, Pee Wee Russell, Gene Ammons, Nat Adderley, Cannonball Adderley, and Matt Wilson. B+(**)

Simone Kopmajer: Christmas (2020, Lucky Mojo): Jazz singer from Austria, 17 albums since 2004, opens with a delectable "Santa Baby." Aside from "Baby, It's Cold Outside," not enough songs like that, and she runs out of jazz shots well before lapsing into German for a rather lovely "Stille Nacht." B [cd]

The Koreatown Oddity: Little Dominiques Nosebleed (2020, Stones Throw): Los Angeles rapper Dominique Purdy. Half-dozen albums and more mixtapes since 2012. Text on cover larger than title: "When I was a little kid, I was in two serious car accidents that would change the rest of my life." Some autobiography, several captivating riff pieces, much oddity. B+(***)

KRS-One: Between Da Protests (2020, R.A.M.P. Ent Agency): New York rapper Kris Parker, started gangsta in 1987 but after partner Scott La Rock was shot dead he went political and has been old school as long as the term has been used. Nicknamed Teacha, rhymes with Preacha, can wear on you but not for lack of wisdom. No lack of ego either: "I don't battle young rappers/that's child abuse." B+(**) [bc]

Mário Laginha/Julian Argüelles/Helge Andreas Norbakken: Atlântico (2019 [2020], Edition): Piano, soprano/tenor sax, and percussion. Nice balance of forces, with the sax getting ever stronger. A-

Mary Lattimore: Silver Ladders (2020, Ghostly International): Classically trained harpist from North Carolina, seventh album since 2013. Generally classified as experimental or ambient, a few notes convinced me to file her under new age -- that haven for acoustic music which neither swings nor rocks nor evokes trad or classical roots. B+(*)

José Lencastre/Hernâni Faustino/Vasco Furtado: Vento (2018 [2020], Phonogram Unit): Portuguese avant-jazz trio: alto sax, bass, drums. Continues to impress. B+(***) [bc]

Lil Baby: My Turn (2020, Quality Control): Atlanta rapper Dominique Jones, second album, half dozen mixtapes. Trap beats, clipped flow, still works. B+(**)

Lil Uzi Vert: Eternal Atake (2020, Atlantic): Rapper Symere Woods, from Philadelphia, second studio album, after four mixtapes. B+(*)

Brian Lisik: Güdbye Stoopid Whirled (2020, Cherokee Queen): Singer-songwriter from Akron, Ohio. Google identifies him as a journalist, but website is focused on music, including six previous albums. Some garage klang. Relatively short (10 songs, 32:37). B+(**) [cd]

Liv.e: Couldn't Wait to Tell You . . . (2020, In Real Life): Soul singer, far removed from the gospel belter tradition, soft beats with slippery vocals, hard to grasp but eventually you realize you've been simply absorbing them. B+(*)

David Lord: Forest Standards Vol. 1 (2016 [2018], BIG EGO): Guitarist, "operating in the bubble of Wichita, Kansas," teaches at Friends University and runs a studio called Air House Music Academy, not someone I know. First album under his own name -- he claims 16 albums as Francis Moss and with various rock bands -- twelve songs mostly named for fungus, recorded in California with Devin Hoff (bass), Chad Taylor (drums), and Sam Hake (vibes), mixed by Chris Shlarb (who plays guitar on two songs). B+(**)

David Lord: Forest Standards Vol. 2 (2018 [2020], BIG EGO): More songs about fungus and fruit, also recorded in Long Beach, with Billy Mohler taking over at bass and Jeff Parker adding a second guitar on 8 (of 14) pieces. B+(**)

Tkay Maidza: Last Year Was Weird (Vol. 2) (2020, 4AD, EP): Rapper/singer, born in Zimbabwe, first name Takudzwa, moved to Australia when she was 5. Has a 2016 album (Tkay), two short mixtapes since (with a 3rd volume promised for 2021), this one 8 tracks, 26:54. Weirdest is "You Sad," which isn't sad at all. B+(**)

Marlowe: Marlowe 2 (2020, Mello Music Group): Hip-hop duo -- producer L'Orange and rapper Solemn Brigham -- second album. Vast cinematic motifs, reminiscent of Dr. Doom. B+(***)

Terrace Martin/Robert Glasper/9th Wonder/Kamasi Washington: Dinner Party (2020, Sounds of Crenshaw, EP): Two hip-hop/r&b producers, two jazz friends, for a 7-track, 23:03 EP, with Phoelix featured on 4, so I figure him for the singer. The sax is pretty laid back, but still a treat. B+(*)

Terrace Martin/Robert Glasper/9th Wonder/Kamasi Washington: Dinner Party: Dessert (2020, Sounds of Crenshaw, EP): Remixes, the 7 tracks trimmed to 20:34, with extra guests ranging from Herbie Hancock to Rapsody and Snoop Dogg -- best pickup is Cordae on "Freeze Tag." B+(*)

Terrace Martin: Village Days (2020, Sounds of Crenshaw/Empire, EP): Artist credit actually reads "a Terrace Martin project," the title preceded by "Sounds of Crenshaw presents." Typically scattered, with a bit of free jazz sax (Martin's main instrument, though I can't be sure it's him), and a closing "The Christmas Song" that won't be instantly obsolete. Seven tracks, 27:25. B+(**)

Masma Dream World: Play at Night (2020, Northern Spy): Devi Mambouka, from Gabon, father was an ambassador, mother Singaporean, moved to New York at 12. Uses sometimes messy field recordings, conceived as "spirit-led performance art" in a sacred space, "a prime opportunity to awaken one's power source from within." B

Anna McClellan: I Saw First Light (2020, Father/Daughter): Singer-songwriter from Omaha, third album. Lo-fi, sounds like early Liz Phair -- real early. B+(*)

Gayelynn McKinney and McKinney Zone: Zoot Suit Funk (2020, Beatstix): Drummer, from Detroit. Father was a pianist, mother a singer. Debut album 2006. Leans into the funk here, but doesn't really connect until the title song closer. B+(*) [cd]

The Microphones: Microphones in 2020 (2020, PW Elverum & Sun): A revival of Phil Elverum's (Mount Eerie) early (1997-2003) low-fi alias, presented as a single 44:44 track. Gentle guitar strum, vocal enters after 7:45, and eventually gets louder with some keyboard. Promises the song never ends, but it does. B+(**) [bc]

Flo Milli: Ho, Why Is You Here? (2020, RCA): Rapper Tamia Carter, from Mobile, first album, rolls up a couple 2019 singles ("Beef FloMix," "In the Party"). Good beats, plenty sass, not what you'd call deep. B+(*)

Ela Minus: Acts of Rebellion (2020, Domino): Gabriela Jimeno, born in Colombia, based in New York, first album, sings, plays drums, probably electronics. Considerably darker than electropop, but less languid than trip hop. B+(***)

Victoria Monét: Jaguar (2020, Tribe, EP): Soul singer, born in Georgia, father French, creole ancestry on her mother's side, recorded singles and EPs from 2014. This one runs 9 songs, 25:27. B+(**)

Moodymann: Taken Away (2020, Mahogani Music): Detroit techno producer, Kenny Dixon Jr., active since 1992. This one is kind of retro, riding on bass lines reminiscent of Larry Graham. B+(***)

Michael Moore Fragile Quartet: Cretan Dialogues (2019, Ramboy): Leader, an American long based in Amsterdam, plays alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, and melodica, backed with piano (Harmen Fraanje), bass (Clemens van der Feen), and drums (Gerry Hemingway). B+(***) [bc]

Rico Nasty: Nightmare Vacation (2020, Sugar Trap/Atlantic): Rapper Maria-Cecilia Simone Kelly, first studio album after a half-dozen mixtapes (first in 2014, when she was 17). Can't say much about lyrics, but titles run like "STFU," "OHFR?," and "Pussy Poppin," so I figure attitude and beats. Ends with her "breakout" 2018 single "Smack a Bitch," preceded by a remix of same, driving the whole thing home. A-

The NDR Bigband With Michael Moore: Sanctuary (2019, Ramboy): German big band, based in Hamburg, conducted by Tim Hagans, rarely appears ahead of the featured guest, and indeed I'm filing this under Moore (alto sax/clarinet/bass clarinet). But what impresses me most is the rich texture studded with gemlike details. B+(***) [bc]

Keir Neuringer/Shayna Dulberger/Julius Masri: Dromedaries II (2020, Relative Pitch): Alto sax/bass/drums trio, leader has albums since 2010, including one from 2017 with this trio. B+(**) [bc]

Keir Neuringer & Rafal Mazur: The Continuum (2018 [2020], Fundacja Sluchaj): Alto sax and acoustic bass guitar duo, recorded live in Krakow. Circular breathing for continuous engagement, B+(**) [bc]

New Orleans High Society: New Orleans High Society (2020, 1718/Slammin Media): Trad jazz outfit, first album, somewhat sly and off-handed approach to standards from "Down by the Riverside" to "Lil Liza Jane." Trumpeter Cleveland Donald and Angie Z. sing. B+(***)

Guillaume Nouaux: Guillaume Nouaux & the Stride Piano Kings (2019 [2020], self-released): French drummer, debut was 1998 album Creole Pinasse Hot Jazz Band, not a lot since then but these piano-drums duets would seem to be a dream project. Two tracks each from seven retro-swing pianists: Bernd Lhotzky, Louis Mazetier, Luca Filastro, Chris Hopkins, Rossano Sportiello, Harry Kanters, and Alain Barrabes. A couple songs could have been better chosen, but most are bright and cheery. B+(***) [cd]

Waylon Payne: Blue Eyes, the Harlot, the Queer, the Pusher & Me (2020, Carnival): Born into country music -- father played in Willie Nelson's band, mother (Sammi Smith) sang with his godfather, Waylon Jennings. Tried to become a preacher, failed, did some acting (played Jerry Lee Lewis in Walk the Line and Hank Garland in Crazy), and a lot of drugs. He released an album in 2004. As far as I can tell, this is his second. Good songs, but the music slacks off a bit toward the end. B+(***)

Tivon Pennicott w/Strings: Spirit Garden (2020, New Phrase): Tenor saxophonist, grew up in Georgia, parents from Jamaica, second album, has impressed me as a sidean (don't recall where, probably not with Gregory Porter). With Philip Dizack on trumpet and, well, too many strings. B

Zach Phillips: The Wine of Youth (2020, self-released): Singer-songwriter from San Diego, third album, seems nice enough, grows on me though I'm not sure why. B+(*) [cd]

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs: Viscerals (2020, Rocket): Brit rock group, fairly hard (Bandcamp tags range from psych and stoner rock to sludge and doom metal), from Newcastle Upon Tyne. Bass riffs feel strong, guitar shrill, voice hoarse. Not clear if they're full of shit, but no harder to listen to than vintage Black Sabbath. B

Polo G: The Goat (2020, Columbia): Rapper Taurus Bartlett, from Chicago, second album. I initially assumed that the caps were meant to signify "Greatest Of All Time" -- quite a boast for a 21-year-old -- but I'm not finding much evidence for such an interpretation, and that's probably for the best. B+(**)

Chris Potter: There Is a Tide (2020, Edition): Big time tenor saxophonist, plays more soprano than he should, evidently plays everything else in a pinch -- a polite way to describe the circumstances of this lockdown recording, a dubbed solo effort where his credits read: "piano, keyboards, electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar, drums, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, alto flute, percussion, samples, and saxophones." He does a nice job comping behind one monster sax solo, but not much else of interest. B-

PRAED Orchestra: Live in Sharjah (2018 [2020], Morphine): Inspired by Egypt, but recorded in the UAE, with a 13-piece band, including some avant surprises (Hans Koch, Martin Kuchen, Michael Zerang). Starts with some hideous vocals, which only become tenable when the groove pushes them into the background. Away from the vocals, this can be pretty impressive. B+(**)

Katie Pruitt: Expectations (2020, Rounder): Nashville singer-songwriter, originally from suburban Atlanta, raised conservative only to find she's not "Normal" -- nonetheless frames the album cover in church glass. B+(*)

Qwanqwa: Volume 3 (2107 [2020], Wuzzawazee Industries): Ethiopian group, five-piece group with strings and percussion, "some of the most accomplished traditional players in the country": the quote set me to imagine this must be Ethiopia's bluegrass -- even the vocals skew high and lonesome. B+(**)

Abbey Rader/John McMinn: Duo From the Heart (2019 [2020], Abray): Drummer, "whose 'free' approach is heavily influenced by Buddhism." Records since 1979, including work with William Parker and Billy Bang. Duets, McMinn is an alto saxophonist who plays a lot of piano here. B+(**) [bc]

RaeLynn: Baytown (2020, Round Here, EP): Country singer-songwriter Racheal Lynn Woodward, started as a teen contestant on The Voice, recorded an EP (2015), an album (2017), and now a second EP (6 songs, 17:39, named for her hometown in Texas), all for different labels. Voice has a twinkle in her twang, best on big, upbeat songs. Sample lyrics: "breaking up with you is like taking my bra off"; "don't worry, honey, around here we leave he judging to Jesus." B+(**)

Eric Reed: For a Time Such as This (2020, Smoke Sessions): Mainstream pianist, started out with Wynton Marsalis, dedicated his first album to Art Blakey, has many more since 1990. Trio here with Alex Boneham (bass) and Kevin Kanner (drums), plus Chris Lewis (tenor/soprano sax on 4 tracks), and Henry Jackson (one gospel vocal). B+(*)

Matana Roberts & Pat Thomas: The Truth (2018 [2020], Otoroku): Alto sax and piano duets, recorded live in London. B+(**) [bc]

Hans-Joachim Roedelius: Selbstportrait: Wahre Liebe (2020, Bureau B): Krautrock pioneer, in Kluster (later Cluster) from 1970, often uses surname only in solo work, as in his original Selbstportrait (1979), up to nine volumes now. B+(**)

ROPE [Frank Paul Schubert/Uwe Oberg/Paul Rogers/Mark Saunders]: Open Ends (2017 [2020], Trouble in the East): Soprano sax (sounds more like alto to me, at least early on), piano, bass, drums. B+(**)

Michael Rother: Dreaming (2020, Groenland): German guitarist, also plays keyboards, a founder of Krautrock bands Neu! and Harmonia, tenth solo album since 1977. Sophie Joiner sings, over rather lush ambient textures. B+(**)

Saint Jhn: While the World Was Burning (2020, Hitco): Rapper Carlos St. John Phillips, aka Ghetto Lenny, born in Brooklyn but parents from Guyana, spent considerable time there growing up. Third album. B+(**)

Oumou Sangaré: Acoustic (2020, No Format): Wassoulou singer-songwriter from Mali, albums since 1990, some major. Concept here probably not. B+(**)

The John Santos Sextet: Art of the Descarga (2011-15 [2020], Smithsonian Folkways): Percussionist, from and based in San Francisco, best known for his band Machete. Recorded over four sessions, the sextet augmented by twice as many guests. Substantial booklet. B+(***)

Frank Paul Schubert/Dieter Manderscheid/Martin Blume: Spindrift (2019 [2020], Leo): German saxophonist (alto, soprano), twenty-some albums since 2005, trio with bass and drums. Two long pieces, impeccable free jazz sets. B+(***)

Frank Paul Schubert/Alexander von Schlippenbach/Martin Blume: Forge (2020, Relative Pitch): Alto/soprano sax, piano, drums: one 47:30 improv piece, followed by a 6:47 encore. Another impressive outing, even more so. A-

Alvin Schwaar/Bänz Oester/Noé Franklé: Travellin' Light (2019 [2020], Leo): Swiss piano-bass-drums trio, plays eight standards from Ellington to Hancock. B+(*)

J. Peter Schwalm/Arve Henriksen: Neuzeit (2020, RareNoise): Duo, piano and trumpet, although Schwalm also gets credits for drums, electronics, and programming. My usual rule is to solely credit the first-named artist if the name appears above the title, and others come below, but will make an exception here. Nice and a bit atmospheric. B+(**) [cdr]

Ray Scott: Nowhere Near Done (2020, Jethropolitan, EP): Country singer-songwriter from North Carolina, five albums 2005-17, returns with six-songs, a 23:06 EP. More trad than neo, voice reminds me of someone I can't quite peg (Dave Alvin comes to mind). B+(**)

Sevdaliza: Shabrang (2020, Twisted Elegaqnce): Sevda Alizadeh, born in Tehran, of Azerbaijani-Russian-Persian descent, moved to Rotterdam at age 5, played for the Dutch national basketball team, speaks five languages, has recorded in Persian and Portuguese but most of this second album is in English. Music closest to trip hop, loses a bit when the beat slacks off. B+(**)

Nadine Shah: Kitchen Sink (2020, Infectious Music): British singer-songwriter, fourth album (plus 2 EPs) since 2012. Has a distinctive voice, and this record breaks out of the folkie rut. B+(**)

Sturgill Simpson: Cuttin' Grass Vol. 2 (The Cowboy Arms Sessions) (2020, High Top Mountain): Vol. 1 was a lockdown-necessitated break from his arena ambitions, taking old songs and framing them in bluegrass. I haven't figured out whether this is just more easy pickings, or he's evolving this way, but I sure like the sound, and for that matter, the songs. A-

Skurkar: Skjulte Motiver (2019 [2020], Řra Fonogram): Trondheim-based jazz band, two saxophones -- baritone (Jenny Frřysa) and alto (Amalie Dahl) -- bass (Oda Steinkopf), and drums (Emma Lönnestĺl). Starts free and punkish, settles into patterns. B+(***)

Alan Sondheim & Azure Carter: Plaguesong (2020, ESP-Disk): Recorded at home, both in a single room with "little resonance" and "minor background sound on occasion." Carter wrote the lyrics and sings. Both are credited with "instruments." Opens with harmonica, but wanders all over the place. B+(**) [cd]

Sorry: 925 (2020, Domino): Indie rock/pop band from London, first album, principally Asha Lorenz and Louis O'Bryen, both sing, which obscures the voice and persona, so you look more into the background, and find I'm not sure what. B+(**)

Spillage Village: Spilligion (2020, Dreamville/SinceThe80s/Interscope): Hip-hop collective from Atlanta, includes members of EarthGang and rapper JID, first major label outing after three digital-onlys. Framed as a take on religion, ranges far and wide, lost me a bit on "Hapi" (the Nile River God), where the rap parted to let the choir spill over. B+(*)

Squarepusher: Be Up a Hello (2020, Warp): English electronica musician Tom Jenkinson, fifteenth album since 1996. Racing beats, the chase sometimes amusing, a bit more ominous on "Vortrack." B+(*)

Bartees Strange: Live Forever (2020, Memory Music): Singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, actual surname Cox, debuted with an EP of National covers, then released this first album. Sharp-edged, kind of arty, rooted in garage rock, no interest in folkie confessionals. B+(*)

Steve Swell Quintet Soul Travelers With Leena Conquest: Astonishments (2018 [2020], RogueArt): Trombonist, the most accomplished of his generation, leads an all-star group: Jemeel Moondoc (alto sax), Dave Burrell (piano), William Parker (bass), and Gerald Cleaver (drums). The vocalist, who's most often worked with Parker, has a couple of spots, skittering expertly around the tricky music. The title cut features a list of astonishing but lately departed musicians. Great to hear those names. A [cd]

Emma Swift: Blonde on the Tracks (2020, Tiny Ghost): Australian singer, moved to Nashville in 2013. First album, after an EP and a few singles, nothing more than a batch of Bob Dylan covers: two each from Blonde on Blonde and Blood on the Tracks, four more -- she spends even more time on "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" than Dylan did. I don't quite see the point. B

Taylor Swift: Evermore (2020, Republic): A second "surprise" album this year, as with July's Folklore, eschews pop glitz for straightforward songcraft, although she continues to pay close attention to production details, and she's getting all the help she can use, including marquee features for Haim, National, and Bon Iver. All the pandemic has done has been to move her focus from arenas to your living room. Or sometimes bedroom. B+(***)

Talibam! With Silke Eberhard and Nikolaus Neuser: This Week Is in Two Weeks (2020, ESP-Disk): Group is a duo -- Matt Mottel (keyboards, guitar) and Kevin Shea (drums, from MOPDTK) -- with 30+ albums since 2007, joined here by two German horn players (alto sax and trumpet). B+(**)

Jorma Tapio & Kaski: Aliseen (2019 [2020], 577): Finnish saxophonist (alto, tenor, flutes), played in Krakatau and Edward Vesala's Sound & Fury, leads a trio here with Ville Rauhala (bass) and Janne Tuomi (drums). Title is a "Finnish word for a shaman's trip to the underworld" -- a "dark, mysterious" search that the spooky bass and wooden flutes signify. B+(***)

Tell No Lies: Anasyrma (2019 [2020], Aut): Italian quintet, second album, pianist Nicola Guazzaloca the composer, with two saxophonists (Edoardo Marraffa and Filippo Orefice), bass, and drums, plus a couple guest spots. B+(**)

Thelonious Monster: Oh That Monster (2020, Outliner): Los Angeles punk-to-indie band led by Bob Forrest, released four albums 1986-92, regrouped for a not-quite-covers album in 2004, then nothing until this new one. I never got into them, but "Teenage Wasteland" sounds like a breakthrough (if not a breakthrough title). B+(***)

Duval Timothy: Help (2020, Carrying Colour): Pianist, sings some, b. 1989, divides time between London and Freetown, Sierra Leone. I saw this pegged as jazz, but aside from the pure piano bits this is impossible to pigeonhole. B+(*)

Laura Toxvaerd: Tidens Strřm (2019, ILK Music, EP): Danish alto saxophonist, handful of records since 2002, composed and wrote lyrics for 6 songs (26:38), sung by Maria Laurette Friis, and backed by tuba, accordeon, and drums. I might object to the rather arch vocals, but the harsh sax cuts them effectively. B+(**)

Laura Toxvaerd: Drapery (2019, ILK Music): Slightly longer album, came out same day, a quartet with Gustaf Ljunggren (various strings/guitars), Peter Friis Nielsen (electric bass), and Marilyn Mazur (percussion, drums). B+(**)

Lennie Tristano Centennial Quartet: Live @ Berklee (2020, Altered Music Productions): Tribute band, organized by former Tristano students Dave Frank (piano) and Jimmy Halperin (tenor sax), with Rick McLaughlin (bass) and Bob Tamagni (drums). Tristano school faves, including a couple of standards, boppish yet lighter than air. A-

Kali Uchis: Sin Miedo (Del Amor Y Otros Demonios) (2020, Interscope): Pop star, Karly-Marina Loaiza, born in Virginia, father from Colombia, where she moved at some point. Breakthrough album Isolation was one of my favorites in 2018. Switches to Spanish here -- "Without Fear (Of Love and Other Demons)." Loses more than a little in transition: not just the words I don't grok, but also the hooks I don't feel. B+(*)

Birgit Ulher/Franz Hautzinger: Kleine Trompetenmusik (2018 [2020], Relative Pitch): Two trumpet players, German and Austrian, more than a dozen records each since 1996/1998. B- [bc]

Papo Vázquez Mighty Pirates Troubadours: Chapter 10: Breaking Cover (2020, Picaro): Trombonist, born in Philadelphia, lived off and on in Puerto Rico, records start in 1992, many of his groups involving Pirates and/or Troubadours. B+(**)

Luís Vicente/John Dikeman/William Parker/Hamid Drake: Goes Without Saying, but It's Got to Be Said (2020, JACC): Trumpet, tenor sax, bass, drums. Note says "recorded live at ZDB by Kellzo on the 19th July 2020." No idea where that is, or how they managed to get musicians from Portugal, Netherlands, and US together. The horn players have been on the free jazz scene for a while, but nothing like the world's greatest bass-drums team for inspiration. A-

Fay Victor's SoundNoiseFunk: We've Had Enough! (2019 [2020], ESP-Disk): Recorded last December, bet she's even more pissed off now. Adventurous group -- Sam Newsome (soprano sax), Joe Morris (guitar), Reggie Nicholson (drums) -- a little rough and unsteady, but she takes risks others cannot imagine. B+(**)

Virtual Company: Virtual Company (2018 [2020], Confront): Bassist Simon H. Fell, who died in June at 61, organized this "live" set at Café OTO, with Mark Wastell (cello, percussion) and pre-recorded fragments from Derek Bailey (guitar) and Will Gaines (tapdance) -- an "in-concert, virtual Company performance" (reference to Bailey's old avant-improv group, which Fell and Wastell played in). I've probably heard (and certainly appreciated) less by Bailey/Company than any of the other Penguin Guide demigods, and for that matter I've barely scratched Fell, but 46:37 is fascinating in a low-key, off-kilter way. A- [bc]

Kelsey Waldon: They'll Never Keep Us Down (2020, Oh Boy, EP): Country singer-songwriter, from Kentucky, last three albums are aces, this one is dubbed an EP (7 songs, 31:29). The discount may be because these songs are covers, picked to raise some political hell. The ones from Dylan, Prine, and Neil Young are overly familiar, but the title track (from Hazel Dickens) is an anthem we need, and "Mississippi Goddamn" is still a howl they deserve. B+(***)

Why?: Ten Voices (2020, Synesthesia Media, EP): Group with, or alias or, Yoni Wolf, from Cincinnati, who's been dodging the boundaries between hip-hop and indie rock at least since 2002. Four tracks, 16:21, "inspired by The Outlaw's Ocean, a book by Ian Urbina." B [bc]

Working Men's Club: Working Men's Club (2020, Heavenly): Electropop group from Yorkshire, auteur Sydney Minsky-Sargeant. Seems like a throwback to 1980s new wave disco, a bit louder and shriller, which may turn into annoying should the initial thrill wear off. B+(**)

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Sharhabil Ahmed: The King of Sudanese Jazz ([2020], Habibi Funk): Singer from Sudan, plays guitar, oud, other instruments. Not clear when these seven grooveful pieces were recorded, but they combine Middle Eastern and Congolese elements, and one picture shows congas as well as a drum set. A-

Ambiance: Into a New Journey (1982 [2020], BBE): Bandcamp page for this "impossibly rare and sought-after private label spiritual jazz masterpiece" talks about producer Daoud Abubaker Balewa ("Nigeria-born, LA-tutored"), but Discogs shows him as the group leader through six 1979-86 albums, playing sax, flute, and keyboards. The Afro-tinged jazz-funk is enticing until the hit-and-miss vocals intrude. B+(**) [bc]

Available Jelly: Missolonghi: More From 2004 (2004 [2020], Ramboy): Eponymous debut album 1984, group -- originally Michael Moore (alto sax/clarinet/bass clarinet), Michael Vatcher (drums), and others; here Toby Delius (tenor sax/clarinet), Eric Boeren (cornet), Wolter Wierbos (trombone), Ernst Glerum (bass) -- reconvened for 8 albums through 2011. These are outtakes from Bilbao Song. B+(**) [bc]

Dave Brubeck Quartet: Time OutTakes (1959 [2020], Brubeck Editions): Released just ahead of what would have been the pianist's 100th birthday, the introductory product of a family label where there are many more musicians. Outtakes from Brubeck's most famous album, Time Out, a universally applauded masterpiece, famed for the use of unusual time signatures but really the title track is one of the catchiest tunes ever written. At best, this gives you the chance to hear the album slightly differently: repeating five songs, substituting for two more, then tacking on some studio banter that doesn't help. B+(***)

Victor Chukwu: Akalaka/The Power (1977-79 [2020], BBE): Combines two LPs of vintage Igbo highlife, the second title fully credited to Uncle Victor Chuks & the Black Irokos. One of my favorite African styles, not the slickest version but upbeat, a delight. A-

Nat King Cole: Straighten Up and Fly Right: The Best of Hittin' the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943) (1938-43 [2020], Resonance): Single-disc sampler from 2019's 7-CD, 183-track box, which fared well in EOY polls (not that I got a chance to listen). Box is probably de trop, and even this selection feels redundant to other period compilations. B+(***)

The George Coleman Quintet: In Baltimore (1971 [2020], Reel to Real): Tenor saxophonist from Memphis, started with Booker Little (a schoolmate) and Slide Hampton, joined the Miles Davis Quintet 1963-64 (replaced by Wayne Shorter), didn't record albums under his own name until 1977, but still strong in his mid-80s. Quintet with little known group -- Danny Moore (trumpet), Albert Dailey (piano), bass, drums -- on five standards, most 9-11 minutes. Strong performances all around. A-

Full Blast [Peter Brötzmann/Marino Pliakas/Michael Wertmüller]: Farewell Tonic (2007 [2020], Trost): Reeds, electric bass, drums, trio going under the name of their 2006 debut. Front cover just shows the last names. Live shot. Crowd is really into it. B+(**) [bc]

Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live in Maui (1970 [2020], Experience Hendrix/Legacy, 2CD): "The trio's second-to-last performance in the U.S. during their final The Cry of Love Tour," on July 30, before his death (at 27) on September 18. Some parts have been plundered for previous posthumous product. This time, the presentation is as two complete sets (51:34, 48:44), no songs repeated. No surprises here, but a fair sampler from a major artist, enjoyable in its own right. B+(***)

Wolfgang Lackerschmid and Chet Baker: Ballads for Two (1979 [2018], Dot Time): German vibraphone player, young (22) at the time, in a duo with the trumpet legend. Originally released with Baker's name first. Nice showcase for Baker at his most laconic. B+(**)

Wolfgang Lackerschmid/Chet Baker: Quintet Sessions 1979 (1979 [2020], Dot Time): Second album together, also originally released with Baker's name first, with ample cover space for the stellar rhythm section: Larry Coryell, Buster Williams, and Tony Williams. Trumpet stars less here, but the rhythm makes up. B+(***)

George Lewis: Rainbow Family (1984 [2020], Carrier): Avant-trombonist, more than dabbled in electronics, credit here reads "atelier" (workshop), prominently flagging ICRAM (Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique), also four musicians: Douglas Ewart (alto sax, flute, clarinet), Joëlle Léandre (bass), Derek Bailey (electric guitar), and Steve Lacy (soprano sax). Novel experiments in computer music. Still, the stars are computers, which everything else bounces off of. B+(**) [bc]

Misha Mengelberg: Rituals of Transition (2002-10 [2020], I Dischi Di Angelica): Somehow I missed that the great Dutch avant-pianist had passed (1935-2017), although I was aware that he was unable to play and ICP Orchestra had carried on with Guus Janssen. Solo piano from four dates, the longest 3 tracks 30:01 from Kiev in 2005. Marked by his good humor, probably even more so when he sings/talks along. B+(**)

Michael Moore/Simon Nabatov: Ancient Sorrow (1998 [2020], Ramboy): Duo (alto sax/clarinet and piano), not as young nor as far removed as their cover photos: Moore was born in California but moved to Amsterdam, while Nabatov moved from Moscow to Cologne. B+(***) [bc]

Prince Buster: Roll on Charles Street ([2020], Rock A Shacka): Cecil Bustamente Campbell (1938-2016), a major producer during the ska and rocksteady eras -- his "Oh Carolina" leads off the fabulous Tougher Than Tough compilation. These are billed as "classic and previously unreleased Prince Buster productions," with no dates, 12 (of 20) credited to Prince Buster or Buster All Stars, with Roland Alphonso and Don Drummond the most famous other names. B+(**) [bc]

Prince Buster: Let's Go to the Dance: Rock Steady Selection (1967-68 [2020], Rock A Shacka): "We select 20 rocksteady tunes which have never reissued until today after original release date in 1967-68." Mostly production efforts for other performers, leaving 6 songs released as Prince Buster and 1 as Buster All Stars. B+(**) [bc]

Kalie Shorr: Open Book: Unabridged (2019 [2020], Tmwrk): Country singer-songwriter from Maine, self-released her debut Open Book in 2019, after several EPs, and turned a lot of ears. This is a reissue, expanded from 13 to 17 tracks. My initial reaction was that she was overly jacked up, but later plays persuaded me that the songs were solid. That's even clearer here. I doubt the extra songs are worth re-buying the rest, but this is a good one to start with. A-

Strum & Thrum: The American Jangle Underground 1983-1987 (1983-87 [2020], Captured Tracks): Not a period when I paid much attention to pop music, but 28 tracks by as many artists, none I recall, but the guitar sound is distinctive, and everything is upbeat, so this coheres, about as much as Nuggets did for the late 1960s. The difference is that Nuggets mostly picked hits, so they jogged your memory, whereas this leaves you blank. B+(*)

Neil Swainson Quintet: 49th Parallel (1987 [2020], Reel to Real): Bassist, from Canada, quite a few side credits, not much under his own name, but wrote 5 (of 6) pieces here, evidently enough to overcome the relative fame of his front-line horn players: Joe Henderson (tenor sax) and Woody Shaw (trumpet), in typically fine form. B+(***)

Masayuki Takayanagi New Direction Unit: Axis/Another Revolvable Thing (1975 [2020], Blank Forms Editions, 2CD): Japanese guitarist (1932-91). Group includes reeds (Kenji Mori), bass/cello, and percussion. Rather abstract. B+(*) [bc]

Cecil Taylor: At Angelica 2000 Bologna (2000 [2002], I Dischi Di Angelica, 2CD): First disc is solo piano, a typically flamboyant and puzzling set. Second disc is "Rap" -- the artist talking, fielding questions, flaunting his genius. No idea how to assign a grade to that, but while you may (or may not) enjoy that, his piano remains inscrutable. B+(**)

Old Music

Gnod: Just Say No to the Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine (2017, Rocket): British rock band from Manchester, formed 2006, Discogs lists 34 albums, this particular title jumped out at me. Psych and/or drone, I gather, eases off a bit toward the end. Let's post the cover anyway. B+(***)

Gene Russell: New Direction (1971, Black Jazz; [2020], Real Gone Music): Pianist (1932-81), often played electric, recorded four albums 1967-72, with a fifth released in 1981. Co-founder of Black Jazz Records. This is classic piano trio plus congas, a little fancier than soul jazz but funkier than mainstream. B+(***)

Gene Russell: Talk to My Lady (1974, Black Jazz): The pianist mostly plays electric here, wrote three songs, adds some narration to the closer. With Calvin Keys on guitar, plus bass, drums, and congas. B+(*)

Thelonious Monster: California Clam Chowder (2004, Lakeshore): One-shot reunion album 12 years after their run ended with Beautiful Mess, 16 years before Oh That Monster. Fifteen songs with titles like "The Gun Club Song," "The Bob Dylan Song," "The Germs Song," "The Big Star Song," "The Oasis Song." The models I know best are sly and clever and not as close as you'd expect, which makes the rest even harder to peg. Could be SFFR. A-

Further Sampling

Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.

Peter Evans/Joel Ross/Nick Jozwiak/Savannah Harris: Being & Becoming (2019 [2020], More Is More): Trumpet player, quartet with vibes, bass, and drums. [bc: 1/5, 9:43/50:11]: ++

Peter Evans Ensemble: Horizons (2018 [2020], More Is More): Trumpet, violin, synth, percussion. [bc: 2/7, 10:29/42:10]: +

Peter Evans: Into the Silence (2019 [2020], More Is More): Solo trumpet, live in Shenzhen, China. [bc: 1/4, 3:24/40:28]: +

Peter Evans: Standards (2020, More Is More): Trumpet and piano duets, 5 songs, sample is "Embraceable You." [bc: 1/5, 8:59/39:22]: +

Mark Helias/Tim Berne: Blood From a Stone (2020, Radiolegs): Bass/alto sax duo. [bc: 1/5, 9:07/51:04]: +

The Human Hearts: Day of the Tiles (2020, self-released, EP): Franklin Bruno project. Christgau's a big fan, but I don't hear it. [bc: 3/6, 12:16/21:50]: -

Lisa Mezzacappa Six: Cosmicomics (2020, Queen Bee): Bassist, title from Italo Calvino, only horn is tenor sax, so focus on rhythm. [bc: 1/11, 6:25/66:11]: ++

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:

Run the Jewels: RTJ4 (2020, Jewel Runners/RBC/BMG): Rap duo, El-P and Killer Mike, fourth album, released a few days early, because "fuck it, why wait." Hard thrash, which seems just right for well-considered complaints about police violence. The signature album of 2020. [was: A-]: A [cd]

Serengeti: With Greg From Deerhoof (2020, Joyful Noise): Greg Saunier and David Cohn crossed paths several times, including a gig in Berlin that produced a 17:16 "I Got Your Password," leading to the long-distance collaborations added here: Saunier emailed music tracks, a bit fancier than the usual beat tracks, and Cohn added some of his more furious rhymes. [was: B+(*)] B+(***)

Sunny Sweeney: Recorded Live at the Machine Shop Recording Studio (2020, Aunt Daddy): Country singer-songwriter, from Houston, four studio albums since 2006. I never stuck with her albums, so I have no idea how many of these songs are how old, but she's been a consistent songwriter, and this works nicely as a best-of. [Was: B+(***)] A-

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. Blue Note has a knack for picking up unknowns and hyping them into phenoms, so I was skeptical at first, but gave him another shot after he bum-rushed the polls, and was impressed: still more mainstream than avant, but pushing the window. [was B+(**)] A-

Music Weeks

Current count 33007 [33007] rated (+0), 219 [219] unrated (-0).

Excerpts from this month's Music List posts:


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
  • [dl] something I was able to download from the web; may be freely available, may be a bootleg someone made available, or may be a publicist promo