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Streamnotes: April 25, 2022
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 March 28. Past reviews and more information are available here (19268 records).
Teno Afrika: Where You Are (2022, Awesome Tapes From Africa): Young (22) South African DJ/producer, second album, works in a style called amapiano, which seems to draw as much or more from deep house as South African hip-hop variants like kwaito or gqom. Eight beatwise pieces, five with shared or featured credits, not that any of them seems much different. B+(***)
Mike Allemana: Vonology (2018-21 , Ears & Eyes): Guitarist, grew up near Chicago, moved there and found a mentor in Von Freeman, the subject of and inspiration for these compositions. Octet. Greg Ward and Geof Bradfield are the saxophonists, Victor Garcia (trumpet), Kendall Moore (trombone), Tomeka Reid (cello), bass, and drums, plus a choir, which I don't regard as a plus. B+(*) [cd]
Horace Andy: Midnight Rocker (2022, On-U Sound): Reggae singer Horace Hinds, recorded regularly since his 1972 Studio One breakthrough (Skylarking), at least up to 2010. Still not all that old (71). B+(*)
Nia Archives: Forbidden Feelingz (2022, Hijinxx, EP): British jungle producer-singer, from Manchester, 6 songs, 16:53, impressive start, runs a bit thin. B+(**) [sp]
Lynne Arriale Trio: The Lights Are Always On (2021 , Challenge): Pianist, from Milwaukee, 15+ albums since 1994, all originals here, backed with bass (Jasper Somsen) and drums (EJ Strickland). B+(**) [cd]
Aaron Bazzell: Aesthetic (2022, self-released): Alto saxophonist, born in Boston, grew up in Atlanta, studied at Michigan State, based in Brooklyn. Debut album, all originals, backed by piano-bass-drums. Nice tone, impressive flow. Rachel Robinson sings one track, for radio programmers who are into that sort of thing. B+(**) [cd]
David Binney Quartet: A Glimpse of the Eternal (2021 , Criss Cross): Alto saxophonist, mainstream, started c. 1990, quartet with Craig Taborn (piano), Eivind Opsvik (bass), and Dan Weiss (drums). Mostly originals, covers not obvious standards (Vince Mendoza, Jan Garbarek, Michael Cain) aside from Harry Warren ("I Had the Craziest Dream"). B+(*)
Priscilla Block: Welcome to the Block Party (2022, InDent/Mercury Nashville): Country singer-songwriter, from North Carolina, first album after a couple EPs. Good voice, fairly generic songs, not without interest but not worth much thought. B+(*)
Bouvier: Blachant (2022, Renewell): Singer Dr. Jackie Copeland, "social finance and justice innovator," taps into her South Carolina Gullah-Geechee heritage, touches on Yoruba and other points in the African diaspora, for a debut album. Striking voice, erudite, not sure why it doesn't quite grab me. B+(***) [cd]
Dan Bruce's :Beta Collective: Time to Mind the Mystics (2022, Shifting Paradigm): Guitarist, Chicago-based Collective adds two saxophonists, trombone, vibes, keyboards, bass, and drums; looks like they have a previous album, although aside from Bruce the personnel then was completely different. B+(**) [cd]
Sergio Carolino: Below 0 (2021 , Clean Feed): Portuguese tuba player, invented something called the Lusophone "Lucifer" (a picture looks like an overgrown tuba bell at the end of an oversized saxophone with a couple of trombones up top), played solo here. B+(*)
Hugo Carvalhais: Ascetica (2021 , Clean Feed): Portuguese bassist, fourth album since 2010, original pieces with three co-credited to pianist Gabriel Pinto. Sextet also includes Liudas Mockunas (tenor sax/clarinet), Fabio Almeida (alto sax/flute), Emile Parisien (soprano sax), and Mário Costa (drums). B+(**)
Pastor Champion: I Just Want to Be a Good Man (2018 , Luaka Bop): Outsider gospel artist Wylie Champion (1946-2021), brother of soul singer Bettye Swann, left Louisiana for Oakland, recorded this one album, a homey affair with his electric guitar, basic band, sing-alongs and handclaps, then delayed release by refusing to talk about it. No raising the rafters, no sublimated ecstasy, but down to earth faith to see you through hard times. Got to respect that. A-
Charming Hostess: The Ginzburg Geography (2021 , Tzadik): Klezmer-influenced vocal group from Oakland, principally Jewlia Eisenberg (who died at 50 in 2021), Cynthia Taylor, and Marika Hughes, released a cassette in 1996, four more albums through 2010, and finally this tribute to "Italian antifascist writers, activists and intellectuals Natalia and Leone Ginzburg." Plus a bunch of guests. Eisenberg wrote the songs, a range of songs that could fit light opera, aside from "All You Fascists Are Bound to Lose," which reminds me at least of Woody Guthrie. B+(**) [cd] [05-20]
Chicago Farmer & the Fieldnotes: Fore!!!! (2022, Chicago Farmer, EP): Folkie singer-songwriter Cody Diekhoff, "from a small town in Illinois," albums since 2005. Last couple were pretty impressive. Goes for slow and soulful here, which rarely beats fast and/or funny. Four songs, 19:09. B+(*) [sp]
Chief Keef: 4Nem (2021, Glo Gang/RBC): Chicago rapper Keith Cozart, fourth studio album, lots of mixtapes back to 2011 (when he was 15). Gangsta-ish, doesn't seem worth the risk. B
Jeremiah Chiu & Marta Sofia Honer: Recordings From the Ĺland Islands (2022, International Anthem): Chiu, from Los Angeles, plays keyboards, although that's only fourth on his list of occupations, after "community organizer, graphic designer, artist." Bandcamp page shows six other recordings, at least one LP. Honer plays viola, synthesizer, and hand chimes. There is also a bit of guest flute. The Ĺland Islands are in the Baltic, south of Finland. Although there are bits of field recordings (e.g., birds), this is minimalist ambient music, the sort of thing you might be delighted to find from Jon Hassell. A- [sp]
Rob Clearfield & Quin Kirchner: Concentric Orbits (2019 , Astral Spirits): Piano and percussion duo, from Chicago (although Clearfield has since been described as "France-based"). Two pieces, 30:25 (the digital adds a few more minutes of excerpts). Each build into a strong statement. B+(***) [dl]
Club D'Elf: You Never Know (2022, Face Pelt): Boston group, since 1998, core group includes Mike Rivard (bass), Dean Johnston (drums), and Brahim Fribgane (oud/vocals), with others rotating in and out, most of their records live to capture whatever the combination of the moment is (this is an exception, but the cast is still varied). Half Rivard originals ("following a near death experience in the remote jungle of the Peruvian Amazon"), the rest covers of Miles Davis, Joe Zawinul, Frank Zappa, Nass el-Ghiwane, and traditional Gnawa. B+(**)
Avishai Cohen: Naked Truth (2021 , ECM): Israeli trumpet player, not the same-named bassist, brother of Anat Cohen, records since 2002. Backed by piano (Yonathan Avishai), bass (Barak Mori), and drums (Ziv Ravitz). B+(**)
Confidence Man: Tilt (2022, Heavenly): Australian electropop band, second album, I thought the first one was pretty great, starting with its title (Confident Music for Confident People). Two singers that go by Janet Planet and Sugar Bones, backed by a masked band. B+(***)
Natalie Cressman & Ian Faquini: Auburn Whisper (2022, Cressman Music): Faquini is Brazilian, moved to Berkeley at age 8, plays guitar, wrote or co-wrote all of these songs, and sings most of them. Cressman shares three writing credits, sings some, but mostly plays trombone, which adds some gravity to the froth. Turns out to be surprisingly beguiling. B+(***) [cd]
Charley Crockett: Lil G.L. Presents: Jukebox Charley (2022, Son of Davy): Country singer-songwriter, based in Austin, 11th album since 2015. Fourteen covers, tweaked variously -- Roger Miller's "Where Have All the Average People Gone?" becomes "honest people." B+(**)
Denzel Curry: Melt My Eyez, See Your Future (2022, PH/Loma Vista): Florida rapper, fifth album since 2013. B+(**)
Dedicated Men of Zion: The Devil Don't Like It (2022, Bible & Tire): Gospel vocal group from North Carolina -- the lead group on 2021's Sacred Soul of North Carolina -- backed by the Sacred Soul Sound Section. Second album. B+(***)
Alabaster DePlume: Gold: Go Forward in the Courage of Your Love (2022, International Anthem): Second album, plays tenor sax, guitar, and synths, also spoken word, while crediting another 21 musicians and singers. It's a lot to follow, and I can't claim to, but some stretches are sublime. B+(**)
Kady Diarra: Burkina Hakili (2021, Lamastrock): Singer from Burkina Faso, a wedge of former French colony tucked below Mali and Niger, and above Ghana, formerly known as Upper Volta. Third album, title translates as "Spirit of Burkina," songs in four languages, including Bwaba ("her native") and Bambara (more common in Mali), as well as French. I can't speak to the "political elements," but clearly a strong force with a solid groove, propped up by rock guitar toward the end. A- [bc]
Whit Dickey Quartet: Astral Long Form/Staircase in Space (2021 , Tao Forms): Drummer, more than a dozen albums since 1998, long association with Matthew Shipp, including a spell in the David S. Ware Quartet. With Rob Brown (alto sax), Mat Maneri (viola), and Brandon Lopez (bass), offers adventurous improvs with superb mix and balance. A- [cd] [05-06]
Armen Donelian: Fresh Start (2020-21 , Sunnyside): Pianist, born in New York City, "reinvents himself at age 71," in a trio with Jay Anderson (bass) and Dennis Mackrel (drums). Sings one song. B+(**) [cd]
Dopplereffekt: Neurotelepathy (2022, Leisure System): Detroit techno duo, active since 1995, principles seem to be Gerald Donald (formerly of Drexciya, identified here as Rudolf Klorzeiger) and his wife To-Nhan (I've seen various full names). This does remind me of Drexciya's "deep-sea diving," with swirls of color emanating from basic beats. B+(***) [bc]
Stro Elliot: Black & Loud: James Brown Reimagined by Stro Elliot (2022, Republic): Remix album, I've seen Brown on the artist credit line, as the music (especially the vocals) is uniquely his, but he's dead, and this particular mix is new. Elliot released a hip-hop instrumental album in 2016, joined the Roots in 2017, playing keyboards and beat machines. The shifts seem trivial at first, then subtle, then eventually they sweep the entire edifice into somewhere new. A-
Ensemble 0: Music Nuvolosa (2022, Sub Rosa): French group, nominally avant-classical but open to whatever. I noticed them last year with a version of Julius Eastman's Femenine, then got their name wrong in my review. Two compositions here: Pauline Oliveros: "Horse Sings From Cloud" (19:12); and György Ligeti: "Musica Ricercata" (27:39). B+(**) [bc]
Ilhan Ersahin/Dave Harrington/Kenny Wollesen: Invite Your Eye (2022, Nublu): Ersahin plays sax and keyboards, was born in Sweden to a Turkish father, moved to New York in 1990, owns the bar Nublu and its label, has a dozen or so albums since 1996. Harrington plays guitar, electronics, bass, and percussion, and Wollesen is a well-known drummer. B+(*)
Mané Fernandes: Enter the Squigg (2021 , Clean Feed): Portuguese guitarist/bassist, third album. Group with alto sax (José Soares), flute, synth/piano, synth/accordion, and drums. B+(**) [bc]
Jean Fineberg: Jean Fineberg & JAZZphoria (2022, Pivotal): Bay Area tenor saxophonist, first album as leader, website credits her with side credits on 50 albums, including some that date her: We Are Family (1979, Sister Sledge), C'est Chic (1978, Chic) and Young Americans (1975, David Bowie), and the 1974-77 all-female band ISIS. Octet, mostly women, leans toward swing. B+(**) [cd]
Fly Anakin: Frank (2022, Lex): Virginia rapper Frank Walton, touted as his "proper debut album," but Discogs lists eight more since 2018, mostly shared credits. B+(**)
Ricky Ford: The Wailing Sounds of Ricky Ford: Paul's Scene (2022, Whaling City Sound): Tenor saxophonist, from Boston, debut 1977, recorded for Muse and Candid up to 1991, intermittently since, strong sides with Abdullah Ibrahim and Mal Waldron. Quartet with Mark Soskin (piano), Jerome Harris (bass), and Barry Altschul (drums). Mostly standards, some pointed to South Africa. B+(***)
Chad Fowler/Matthew Shipp: Old Stories (2021 , Mahakala Music, 2CD): Saxophonist from Arkansas, owner of his label, plays stritch and saxello here, in a duo with the pianist, the 14 pieces numbered chapters. B+(***)
Chad Fowler/Christopher Parker: Park Hill Saudade (2021 , Mahakala Music): Another sax/piano duo, both growing up a block from each other in North Little Rock. B+(**)
Freakons: Freakons (2022, Fluff & Gravy): Joint venture by countryish bands Freakwater and Mekons. Freakwater, from Kentucky, recorded 8 albums 1989-99, but only two since. Mekons started as a punk-political band Leeds, UK, in 1979, made a country move in 1985 (Fear and Whiskey), and continued to reconvene periodically even after Jon Langford moved to Chicago and created the Waco Brothers. They find common cause here in "songs about heroic union organizers, deadly mine disasters, wailing orphans, or mining's grim history of economic and ecological devastation." A-
Asher Gamedze With Xristian Espinoza and Alan Bishop: Out Side Work: Two Duets (2019-20 , Astral Spirits): South African drummer, debut album 2020. Two duo sides, each with a fierce saxophonist: Espinoza (tenor) in London, Bishop (alto and voice) in Cairo. B+(**) [dl]
Jacob Garchik: Assembly (2021 , Yestereve): Trombonist, from San Francisco, albums since 2005, this a quintet with Sam Newsome (soprano sax) and Thomas Morgan (bass) joining his long-running trio with Jacob Sacks (piano) and Dan Weiss (drums). B+(***) [cd] [05-13]
Giacomo Gates: You (2022, Savant): Jazz singer, 8th album since 1995, 18 songs with "You" in the title ("Exactly Like You," "I Can't Give You Anything but Love," "You're Blasé," "You've Changed," "You Never Miss Your Water 'Till the Well Runs Dry") backed by Tim Ray's piano trio. B+(***)
Arun Ghosh: Seclused in Light (2022, Camoci, 2CD): Clarinet player, describes himself as British-Asian, several albums working toward a fusion of Indian and jazz, but this rarely rises beyond pleasantly atmospheric. B+(*)
Aldous Harding: Warm Chris (2022, 4AD): Hannah Sian Topp, singer-songwriter originally from New Zealand, based in Wales, fourth album, produced by John Parish. B+(**)
Clay Harper: They'll Never Miss a Five (2022, Clay Harper Music): Singer-songwriter from Atlanta, started in the 1980s in a band call the Coolies, has several solo albums since 1997, also has written a children's book, and opened a number of restaurants (including a barbecue chain called The Greater Good). Seven songs (35:37), opening with an instrumental. B+(*)
Walker Hayes: Country Stuff: The Album (2022, Monument): Country singer-songwriter, from Alabama, got a music degree with "an emphasis on piano," moved to Nashville 2005, released his first EP in 2010, followed by an LP in 2011. Third album, recycled all six songs from 2021's EP. I rather liked the EP [B+(**)], with guest spots by Carly Pearce and Lori McKenna, so was surprised to find this is one of the most widely loathed albums of 2022 (not many critical reviews, but 28 user score on 93 ratings at AOTY, while 174 at RYM give it 1.51 of 5 stars). Country fans may object to the production, which eschews conventional Nashville styles (neotrad, countrypolitan, or arena rock): the rhythm and choruses remind me more of pop rap like Nelly, only, you know, dumbed down for white folk. Lyrics can get dumber still (except, you know, when McKenna wrote them). B
Marquis Hill: New Gospel Revisited (2019 , Edition): Trumpet player, more than a dozen albums since 2011's New Gospel, with six songs repeated here, in a live set that adds more connective material. Different group, an all-star sextet with Walter Smith III (tenor sax), Joel Ross (vibes, a major factor), James Francies (piano), bass, and drums. B+(**) [bc]
Lisa Hilton: Life Is Beautiful (2022, Ruby Slippers): Pianist, 25 albums since 1998, possibly all trios, this one with Luques Curtis (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums). B+(*)
Mike Holober & Balancing Act: Don't Let Go (2022, Sunnyside, 2CD): Pianist, mostly composes and arranges for big bands, went with an octet for his 2015 album Balancing Act, returns with a similar group here -- same brass (Marvin Stamm and Mark Patterson) and reeds (Dick Oatts and Jason Rigby), changes at bass, drums, and voice (Jamile). B+(**)
Ibibio Sound Machine: Electricity (2022, Merge): London-based Afrofunk band, led by UK-born singer Eno Williams, fourth album since 2014. Groove takes off midway, which makes all the difference. B+(**)
Josean Jacobo Trio: Herencia Criolla (2022, self-released): Dominican pianist, leads a trio with Daroll Méndez (bass) and Otoniel Nicholás (drums), plus guests on 4 (of 8) songs, including Miguel Zenón (alto sax). B+(**) [cd]
Benji Kaplan: Something Here Inside (2021 , Wise Cat): Nylon-string guitarist, Brazilian, fourth album, moves into American Songbook standards, done with rare delicacy. B+(*) [cd] [05-06]
Kind Folk: Head Towards the Center (2021 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Quartet -- John Raymond (trumpet), Alex LoRe (alto sax), Noam Wiesenberg (bass), Colin Stranahan (drums) -- take their name from a Kenny Wheeler piece, play tight, subtly inflected postbop. B+(**) [cd]
Terry Klein: Good Luck Take Care (2022, self-released): Folkie singer-songwriter based in Austin, third album, recorded this one in Nashville, opener rocks so hard I filed it there, but he mostly goes mid-tempo, so you can follow words that mean something. A-
Toshinori Kondo x DJ Motive: Zen (2018 , Mohawks): Japanese trumpet player (1948-2020), probably best known (at least in these parts) for his worn with Peter Brötzmann (especially Die Like a Dog, which became the name of their quartet with William Parker and Hamid Drake). DJ Motive is a Japanese hip-hop producer, several albums and more singles since 2005. So this is mostly his work, with the trumpet adding a little color to the atmosphere. B+(*) [bc]
Mike Kuhl/Dave Ballou/John Dierker/Luke Stewart: Kraft (2021 , Out of Your Head): Part of the label's digital-only "Untamed" series, a word (plus ellipsis) prominent enough on the cover to tempt one to include it in the title. Drums, trumpet, reeds, bass. Sharp, impressive freewheeling quartet. B+(***) [dl]
Kyle: It's Not So Bad (2022, self): Last name Harvey, from California (Ventura), started as a soft-edged rapper but mostly sings here (softer than ever). B+(*)
Lavender Country: Blackberry Rose and Other Songs & Sorrows From Lavender Country (2019 , Don Giovanni): Led by Patrick Haggerty, claims their 1973 debut as "the first openly gay country album." Second album 49 years later. Nothing as explicit this time as "Cryin' These Cocksucking Tears," or maybe I'm just a bit slow on the uptake. I did notice that he sounds like he's been taking voice lessons from label mate Peter Stampfel. Also some politics, like "she loves Karl Marx more than she loves me." Last song is called "Eat the Rich." B+(**)
Lights: PEP (2022, Fueled by Ramen): Canadian pop singer-songwriter Valerie Bokan (née Poxleitner), eighth album since 2009. B+(***)
The Linda Lindas: Growing Up (2022, Epitaph): Four teen girls from Los Angeles (well, three: drummer Mila de la Garza is 11; Bela Salazar is oldest, at 17), play punk, released a 4-song EP in 2020, got a bigger push when their video of "Racist, Sexist Boy" went viral. First LP (10 songs, 25:30), cartoon cover suggests a nod to bubblegum. Wish they were as consistently great as they sometimes are. B+(***)
Loop: Sonancy (2022, Cooking Vinyl): English new wave band formed in 1986 by Robert Hampson in Croydon, recorded three albums through 1990, broke up, reformed in 2013, released an EP, and finally this year their first album in 31 years. With its drone and grind, this reminds me of some other 1980s English band I'm having trouble placing -- not the Fall (which had a singer), nor New Order (which had a more compelling groove), or the Three Johns (which had songs); maybe Red Lorry Yellow Lorry? B+(***)
Yuko Mabuchi: Caribbean Canvas (2022, Vista): Pianist, from Japan, studied in Los Angeles, looks to be her sixth album, a venture into easy-going Latin jazz, although most of the pieces are originals. Ends with "Of Freedom," following Coltrane. B+(**) [cd]
Ben Markley Big Band With Ari Hoenig: Ari's Fun House (2021 , OA2): Pianist, teaches at University of Wyoming, plays in Denver area, Discogs credits him with a couple albums in the 1970s which clearly belong to someone else. Hoenig wrote the pieces here, also plays drums, to Markley's arrangements. Very energetic, splashy even. B [cd]
Mazam: Pilgrimage (2020 , Clean Feed): Portuguese quartet: Joăo Mortágua (alto/soprano sax), Carlos Azevedo (piano), Miguel Ângelo (bass), Mário Costa (drums). B+(**) [bc]
Brad Mehldau: Jacob's Ladder (2022, Nonesuch): Pianist, specialized in trios for his first decade, before starting to branch out with larger-scale works and even a splash of fusion. This is a sprawling tableau of prog rock with biblical motifs and allusions, covering Gentle Giant and Rush, and ending in 10:07 of "Heaven." I got turned off by the opening vocal, and nothing that came later changed my mind, but the rare bits of piano impress, and the broad swathes of synths remind me that I once fancied prog rock. But even then I had no use for liturgy, and all the less so here. Still, could be a wondrous piece of work, were one so inclined. B
Paul Messina: Blue Fire (2021, GVAP Music): Saxophonist, also plays flute and keyboards, grew up in Miami, Discogs shows a previous album from 2014, website lists seven more. Scott Yanow notes his "warm melodies, catchy rhythms, and excellent playing." Can't say that adds up to much. B- [cd]
Gurf Morlix: The Tightening of the Screws (2021, Rootball): Singer-songwriter, from Buffalo, moved to Texas, where he performed with Blaze Foley and Lucinda Williams. Thirteenth album since 2000. B+(*)
Maren Morris: Humble Quest (2022, Columbia Nashville): Country singer-songwriter, three early albums on a label called Mozzi Bozzi (2005-11), then caught a break with a major and went platinum. I didn't care for her last two albums, but this one sounds sweet and rings solid all the way through. B+(***)
The Muslims: Fuck These Fuckin Fascists (2021, Epitaph): Second line to the title song is "they can kiss our asses." Punk band from North Carolina, "black + brown queer muzzies," name calculated to offend, but they're serious enough they enunciate clearly, so you can tell how political they are, and they're jokey enough (cf. the Rezillos) you wonder how serious they really are. B+(***) [bc]
Josh Nelson/Bob Bowman Collective: Tomorrow Is Not Promised (2021 , Steel Bird Music): Leaders play piano and bass, backed by Larry Koonse (guitar) and Steve Houghton (drums), with guest spots (4 of 11 songs) for trumpet (Clay Jenkins) and sax (Bob Sheppard). B+(**) [cd]
The Nu Band: In Memory of Mark Whitecage: The Nu Band Live at the Bop Shop (2018 , Not Two): The alto saxophonist died last year at 83. He founded this quartet in 2001 with Joe Fonda (bass), Lou Grassi (drums), and Roy Campbell (trumpet). After Campbell's death in 2014, they brought in Thomas Heberer and carried on, but this looks to be their swan song. There's a nice symmetry to it, given that their debut album was live at this same Rochester, NY venue. B+(***)
Keith Oxman: This One's for Joey (2021 , Capri): Tenor saxophonist, mainstream, based in Denver, dozen albums since 1995. Quartet with Jeff Jenkins (piano), bass, and drums; mostly Oxman originals, with Jenkins contributing two songs, plus a couple standards. Joey is Pearlman, the late bassist who appears on the final cut. B+(***) [cd]
Rich Pellegrin: Passage: Solo Improvisations II (2019 , OA2): Pianist, lives in Seattle when he's not teaching in Florida, fifth album, solo, minor bits and bobs. B+(*) [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Tim Berne/Tony Malaby/James Carter: (D)IVO (2022, Mahakala Music): All-star saxophone quartet, playing tenor, alto, soprano, and baritone, respectively, all improv pieces, but safe to say that Perelman is the prime mover here. I've never been a big fan of the format -- something about the sound of the horns all by themselves -- and nothing here overcomes my reservations. B+(**) [sp]
Danilo Peréz: Crisálida (2022, Mack Avenue): Pianist, from Panama, studied at Berklee, joined Dizzy Gillespie's United Nation Orchestra. A dozen-plus albums since 1993, this one featuring The Global Messengers, with musicians and singers from around the world. Not the sort of project I can easily follow, but some fine piano. B
Marek Pospieszalski: Polish Composers of the 20th Century (2021 , Clean Feed, 2CD): Polish saxophonist, has a previous album tribute to Frank Sinatra, not sure how much else. Octet here, with a second saxophone, trumpet, viola, guitar, piano, bass, and drums, only two names there I recognize (Tomasz Dabrowski and Grzegorz Tarwid), playing 12 pieces by as many composers (Andrzej Panufnik is the only one I sort of recognize; total time 110:08). Strikes me as a little heavy. B+(*) [bc]
Pusha T: It's Almost Dry (2022, G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam): Rapper Terrence Thornton, formerly of Clipse, fourth studio album. Lots of hooks in the samples, most produced by Pharrell, and second most produced by Ye, who still know how to build on a sample. A-
Raw Poetic & Damu the Fudgemunk: Laminated Skies (2022, Def Pressé): Rapper Jason Moore, from Virginia, half dozen albums, most (as here) with DC DJ Earl Davis. B+(**)
Dave Rempis/Elisabeth Harnik/Michael Zerang: Astragaloi (2020 , Aerophonic): Alto/tenor saxophonist, in a trio with piano and drums. Harnik is Austrian, has appeared several times with Rempis and Zerang (both from Chicago). A- [cd]
Diego Rivera: Mestizo (2021 , Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist, working with what's effectively become the label's house band: Art Hirahara (piano), Boris Kozlov (bass), Rudy Royston (drums), with labelmate Alex Sipiagin (trumpet/flugelhorn) sitting in on two (of 10) tracks. Flashy, boppish, Latin tinge, the works. B+(***)
Kalí Rodríguez-Peńa: Mélange (2019 , Truth Revolution): Trumpet player, from Cuba, moved to New York in 2014, a lot of print in the package that I'm having trouble reading, but seems to be his first album. Impressive trumpet, crackling rhythm, scattered vocals. I doubt I'll hear a better Latin jazz album this year. A- [cd]
Joel Ross: The Parable of the Poet (2022, Blue Note): Vibraphone player, third album, his appearance on Blue Note gave him visibility that his peers will be unlikely to match. Still, ambitious album, styled as a 7-part suite played by an 8-piece ensemble, led by Immanuel Wilkins (alto sax), Maria Grand (tenor sax), and Marquis Hill (trumpet), with trombone, piano, bass, and drums. B+(**)
Catherine Russell: Send for Me (2022, Dot Time): Jazz singer, parents were brilliant musicians (Luis Russell and Carline Ray), took a while for her to get going, but has eight albums (and a Grammy) since 2006. Nods to swing and/or New Orleans. B+(***)
Huerco S.: Plonk (2022, Incienso): Electronica producer and DJ Brian Leeds, originally from Kansas, based in Germany, fourth album. Odd song out is "Plonk IX" thanks to a SIR E.U. vocal. B+(*)
Sault: Air (2022, Forever Living Originals): British group, sixth album since 2019, line-up still something of a mystery (one name seems to be Dean Josiah Cover, aka Inflo). Change of pace here, lots of spacey orchestration and choral singing, not much beat. They lost me. B [sp]
Seabrook Trio: In the Swarm (2021 , Astral Spirits): Guitarist Brandon Seabrook, trio with Cooper-Moore (diddley bow) and Gerald Cleaver (drums), their second together. Swings a little. Doesn't get lost carried away Seabrook's usual noise factor. B+(***) [dl] [05-20]
Selo I Ludy Performance Band: Bunch One (2019, self-released): Ukrainian band, from Kharkiv, offers a bunch of covers of western pop songs, some in English, some in German, the accordion and balalaika offering just the right amount of exoticism, along with the rhythmic drive of the bass and drums, to what is otherwise pure corn. B+(**) [Later: B+(***)]
Shenseea: Alpha (2022, Rich Immigrants/Interscope): Jamaican dancehall singer, 40 singles since 2016, 4 of them on this debut album. Her networking offers lots of guest spots, which can make the difference, or not. B+(***)
André B. Silva: Mt. Meru (2021 , Clean Feed): Portuguese guitarist, has a previous album as The Rite of Trio. Group includes alto sax, bassoon, bass clarinet, cello, bass, and drums, but feels like less. B+(*) [bc]
Ches Smith: Interpret It Well (2020 , Pyroclastic): Drummer, expands a trio with Craig Taborn (piano) and Mat Maneri (viola) to include Bill Frisell (guitar). Interesting players, all, but they strike me as distant and disjointed. B+(**) [cd] [05-06]
Somi: Zenzile: The Reimagination of Miriam Makeba (2022, Salon Africana): American-born jazz singer Somi Kakoma, of Rwandan-Ugandan descent, also an actor and writer, albums since 2007, pays tribute to the legendary South African singer. B(*) [cd]
Jon Spencer & the HITmakers: Spencer Gets It Lit (2022, In the Red): Garage rocker, recorded a dozen-plus albums with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (1991-2015), went solo for the 2018 Spencer Sings the Hits. Harsh and erratic, nothing remotely hitbound (even the James Brown). I never bothered with him before, and probably won't again. B-
Spiritualized: Everything Was Beautiful (2022, Double Six/Fat Possum): British prog/synthpop band, debut 1992 when Jason Pierce (aka J. Spaceman) split from the group Spacemen 3 (hence their "space rock" rep, reinforced by their best-known release, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, from 1997). B+(*)
Vince Staples: Ramona Park Broke My Heart (2022, Blacksmith/Motown): Los Angeles rapper, debut 2015, fifth album, seems to be settling into a nice groove and vibe, less downside than in the past, but not much upside either. B+(**)
Luke Stewart's Silt Trio: The Bottom (2021 , Cuneiform): Bassist, from DC, active in a number of groups including Heroes Are Gang Leaders and Irreversible Entanglements. Group debut with Brian Settles (tenor sax) and Chad Taylor (percussion). Taylor's opening rhythm on mbira sets up an enchanting groove, which the sax colors delicately, although later on Settles gets to strut his stuff. A- [dl]
Luke Stewart: Works for Upright Bass and Amplifier Vol. 1 (2021, Astral Spirits): Not a promising title, especially for a single song title (58:12), divided for vinyl purposes into four parts. B+(*) [bc]
Luke Stewart: Works for Upright Bass and Amplifier Vol. 2 (2022, Astral Spirits): Presumably the bass is the sound source, but the amplifiers are where the action is (if you can call it action). B+(*) [bc]
Survival Unit III: The Art of Flight: For Alvin Fielder (2018 , Astral Spirits): File under Joe McPhee (tenor sax), the link to previous Survival Unit iterations (although not to the metal band of that name, which had 15 albums 1999-2007): Survival Unit II was active in 1971, and this trio -- with Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello & electronics) and Michael Zerang (drums) -- has seven albums since 2006. Fielder (1935-2019) was a drummer with Sun Ra, and a charter member of the AACM. His last appearance was on the same three-act bill as this set. A little rough for my taste. B+(*) [bc]
Swedish House Mafia: Paradise Again (2022, Republic): Surprised to see this described as a supergroup, but principals Axwell (Ael Christofer Hedfors), Sebastian Ingrosso, and Steve Angello (Steven Fragogiannis) have individual discographies going back to 1998-2004. Group formed 2010, released a bunch of singles and a live album (2014), then nothing until resurfacing in 2021. Some guest spots or samples for variety and a bit of cheese. B+(**)
Vasco Trilla/Liba Villavecchia: Asebeia (2020 , FMR): Spanish duo, drums and alto sax, Trilla has been prolific since 2013. Title defined as "criminal charge for desecration and disrespecting of divine objects." B+(*) [bc]
Mark Turner: Return From the Stars (2019 , ECM): Tenor saxophonist, one of the "tough young tenors" who broke through in the 1990s. Quartet with Jason Palmer (trumpet), Joe Martin (bass), and Jonathan Pinson (drums). B+(***)
Jordan VanHemert: Nomad (2021 , Origin): Korean-American tenor saxophonist, second album, teaches at Schwob School of Music. Mainstream, trio with Rodney Whitaker (bass) and David Alvarez III (drums), with extra guest spots, including two Sharon Cho vocals. B+(*) [cd]
Liba Villavecchia Trio: Zaidan (2021 , Clean Feed): Spanish saxophonist, from Barcelona, records go back to 1999, trio with Alex Reviriego (bass) and Vasco Trilla (drums). B+(***) [bc]
Bob Vylan: We Live Here (Deluxe) (2019 , Venn, EP): British grime duo, individuals go by Bobby Vylan (vocals) and Bobbie (or Bobb13) Vylan (drums), single appeared in 2020, a fitting answer to you fascist scum out there, but I couldn't find their 2020 EP, until this expanded edition showed up (adds 2 cuts for 10, 23:26, including the 1:10 "Moment of Silence"). I'm tempted to call it the grimest record out of the UK since the Sex Pistols, but they have more self-respect than that. A- [sp]
Bob Vylan: Bob Vylan Presents the Price of Life (2022, Ghost Theatre): First full album, 15 songs, 34:17, a newfound clarity as they've decided the words matter as much as the attitude, so you should hear them. Still, lots of attitude. I may not agree with the politics of "no liberal cunt is going to tell me punching Nazis is not the way," but this is art, and sometimes expression needs to be felt. A- [sp]
The Weather Station: How Is It That I Should Look at the Stars (2022, Fat Possum): Canadian singer-songwriter Tamara Lindeman, sixth album since 2009, could be a band but doesn't feel like it here, in a quiet volume of introspective songs. Her previous one, 2021's Ignorance, got a lot of critical support. This one much less so. B+(*)
Wet Leg: Wet Leg (2022, Domino): British indie rock duo from Isle of Wight, Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers, first album, but hugely anticipated after six singles/videos (33 AOTY reviews first week out). Doesn't quite do it for me, but the second half gets sharper, or at least more distinctive. B+(***)
Jack White: Fear of the Dawn (2022, Third Man): Roots rocker, started in White Stripes. Some solid licks, but more annoying than not here. B-
Fabian Willmann Trio: Balance (2021 , CYH): German tenor saxophonist, has credits back to 2014 but this appears to be the first album under his own name. New Swiss label stands for Clap Your Hands. With Arne Huber (bass) and Jeff Ballard (drums), plus alto sax (Asger Nissen) on two tracks. Mainstream, nice tone, closes with a "No Moon at All" that lingers long past the record. B+(***) [cd]
Billy Woods: Aethiopes (2022, Backwoodz Studioz): DC rapper, mother an English lit professor, father a Marxist writer from Zimbabwe, lived in Africa 1980-89, 14 albums since 2003, not counting his better known work in Armand Hammer. B+(***)
Years & Years: Night Call (2022, Polydor): British singer-songwriter Olly Alexander, seems to have a reputation as an actor, third album with his pop group, catchy enough. [Standard edition; at least two more longer ones exist.] B+(**)
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Pepper Adams With the Tommy Banks Trio: Live at Room at the Top (1972 , Reel to Real, 2CD): Baritone saxophonist (1930-86), made the swing-to-bop transition, an early (1957) album was called The Cool Sound of Pepper Adams, wound up with 18 albums as leader, many more side credits (especially with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra). Nice live set here, stretching out at the University of Alberta, with what I take to be a local group. B+(***) [cd]
Blue Notes: Blue Notes in Concert (1977 , Ogun): Original South African group minus trumpet player Mongezi Feza, who died at 30 in 1975, leaving Chris McGregor (piano), Dudu Pukwana (alto sax), Johnny Dyani (bass), and Louis Moholo (drums). Recorded live at 100 Club, originally released in 1978, this expanded version finally appearing in The Ogun Collection in 2008, finally appearing as a digital in 2021, with a CD coming 2022-04-22. B+(***) [bc]
Dave Brubeck Trio: Live From Vienna 1967 (1967 , Brubeck Editions): As one who usually listens to Brubeck records for Paul Desmond's gorgeous alto sax, it's easy to forget how brilliant a pianist the leader could be, so this is a wake up call. Brubeck rarely made trio records, and this one was an accident: Desmond missed the flight to the last stop of a tour, so the rest -- Eugene Wright (drums) and Joe Morello (drums) -- went on as a trio, their set shifted to mostly standards. Opens with a rousing "St. Louis Blues" followed by Brubeck's "One Moment Worth Years." Second side gets even hotter with Brubeck extemporizing on "Swanee River," and wrapping up with "Take the A Train." A- [cd]
John Coltrane Quartet: Song of Praise: New York 1965 Revisited (1965 , Ezz-Thetics): Two live set, belatedly released as One Up, One Down: Live at the Half Note on 2-CD in 2005, reordered and trimmed a bit to fit onto one 79:52 CD. Coltrane plays four long pieces with great intensity, but the Quartet (most especially Tyner) sounds like it's on the verge of breaking. B+(***) [bc]
Son House: Forever on My Mind (1964 , Easy Eye Sound): Delta blues legend, b. 1902, recorded a handful of sides in 1930, got a more extended hearing from Alan Lomax in 1941-42, then got on with his life, working as a railroad porter and chef, until he got rediscovered in 1960s folk-blues revival. Robert Santelli, in The Best of the Blues: 101 Essential Blues Albums, ranked his 1941-42 sessions at 17, and a 1965 session at 41. This previously unreleased set was recorded just before his "rediscovery," and is as strikingly authoritative as anything he ever did. A-
Lenny Kaye Presents Lightning Striking (1934-2013 , Ace, 2CD): Compilation of 48 songs, mostly from 1955-1979 with a few outliers (mostly metal later), tied to Kaye's new book, Lightning Striking: Ten Transformative Moments in Rock and Roll: the ten chapters are: Memphis 1954; New Orleans 1957; Philadelphia 1959; Liverpool 1962; San Francisco 1967; Detroit 1969; New York 1975; London 1977; Los Angeles 1984/Norway 1993; Seattle 1991. The last two are represented by 8 tracks I have no idea how to evaluate (LA hardcore/Norwegian metal is highlighted by a later Japanese cut; Seattle grunge is barely represented by Mudhoney and Mark Lanegan). Up through Kaye's own minor fame in New York 1975 (he was Patti Smith's guitarist, before that mostly known as the compiler of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era), there's no doubting his expertise or his knack for picking out obscurities that help illuminate the better known hits (not easy for me to figure out the ratio, but 1:1 to 1:2 is ballpark). I have doubts about how useful this is: a better solution might be to program a whole CD for each chapter, adding depth while keeping the periods/styles separate. No doubt Kaye could have found the songs, if only the economics were viable. [From Napster playlist, so some versions may differ; 2 missing songs found on YouTube.] B+(***)
Lčspri Ka: New Directions in Gwoka Music From Guadeloupe 1981-2010 (1981-2010 , Séance Centre): No names I recognize. Takes a couple cuts for the groove to kick in. B+(**) [sp]
Sal Mosca: For Lennie Tristano: Solo Piano 1970 & 1997 (1970-97 , Fresh Sound): Pianist (1927-2007), from upstate New York, student and disciple of Tristano, fairly thin discography which includes albums with Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh. All standards, six cuts from 1970, including two medleys, plus two short ones (7:54) from 1997. B+(**)
Tony Oxley: Unreleased 1974-2016 (1974-2016 , Discus Music): British avant drummer, started in the late 1960s. First three pieces were are from 1973, a quintet with Dave Holdsworth (trumpet), Paul Rutherford (trombone), Howard Riley (piano), and Barry Guy (bass). The fourth piece is another quintet, from 1981, and the last one is a percussion duo with Stefan Hoelker. B+(*) [bc]
Bernardo Sassetti Trio: Culturgest 2007 (2007 , Clean Feed): Portuguese pianist, died 2012 at 41 (fell off a cliff). With Carlos Barretto (bass) and Alexandre Frazăo (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Soft Machine: Facelift: France & Holland (1970 , Cuneiform, 2CD): Canterbury rock group, originally with singer-songwriter Kevin Ayers, who left after their debut album, leaving a prog-oriented trio (Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper, Robert Wyatt), adding saxophonist Elton Dean for their Third album. Dean has joined for these January (Amsterdam) and March (Paris), along with a second saxophonist, Lyn Dobson. Dean puts on a bravura performance on the second disc, before it goes south again. B [dl]
Summer of Soul ( . . . Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised): A Questlove Jam [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] (1969 , Legacy): Soundtrack to Questlove's documentary about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, a series of six free concerts held on Sundays from June 29 to August 24. The Festivals ran yearly from 1967 to 1974, and this particular one was filmed by Hal Tulchin, leaving Questlove 40 hours of video to choose from. The soundtrack offers 17 performances by 14 artists (The 5th Dimension, Sly & the Family Stone, and Nine Simone get two shots each; Mavis Staples appears in a piece with her family, then returns to join Mahalia Jackson in a gospel sequence). Sound is a bit rough in spots, but feels real and immediate. Film won an Oscar, but the soundtrack stands on its own. A- [sp]
Sun Ra Arkestra: Nothing Is . . . Completed & Revisited (1966 , Ezz-Thetics): Revisits the 11-piece group's 1966 ESP-Disk album, reordered and expanded from 39:15 to 64:46. Peak period of their space race. B+(***) [bc]
Amyl and the Sniffers: Amyl and the Sniffers (2019, ATO): Australian punk rock band, fronted by Amy Taylor, first album after a couple of EPs. I put their second album (Comfort to Me) on my 2021 A-list, but didn't bother looking back to see what else they had done. Maybe the album cover looked crude, or the length (11 songs in 29:00) insubstantial? Christgau marked it down ("sound a little thin in the end"), but that strikes me as a formal choice, and few bands have followed it more rigorously. As for statement: "Some Mutts (Can't Be Muzzled)." A- [sp]
Horace Andy: Skylarking (1972, Studio One): First album, backed by Coxsone Dodd's studio band, led by Leroy Sibbles. shows up in several top/greatest reggae lists. Somehow he never strikes me as all that great. B+(**)
Horace Andy: In the Light (1977, Hungry Town): Fifth album, regarded as one of his best, and I can't quarrel with that. Has an even flow, nothing really great, but plainly enjoyable. B+(***)
Mark Charig With Keith Tippett/Ann Winter: Pipedream (1977 , Ogun): Cornet player (also tenor horn), started with Long John Baldry's Bluesology along with Elton Dean, went on to play in Soft Machine, King Krimson, and various projects with Dean, Barry Guy, Chris McGregor, and/or Tippett (organ/piano here; Winter sings; both also play bell). B- [bc]
Chic: C'Est Chic (1978, Atlantic): Funk/disco band, second (and highest charting) of seven 1977-83 albums, the singles (especially their big hit, "Le Freak," but also "I Want Your Love" and "At Last I Am Free") familiar from best-ofs, the filler readily forgotten. [PS: Later found an earlier review, same grade, not in database.] B+(**)
Elton Dean Quintet: Welcomet: Live in Brazil, 1986 (1986 , Ogun): Alto saxophonist, also plays saxello, leads a quintet with trumpet (Harry Beckett), trombone (Paul Rutherford), bass (Marcio Mattos), and drums (Liam Genockey). Album appeared on Impetus in 1987 with just the 43:41 title track cut up. Reissue adds a second track, "Rio Rules" (33:53). Rutherford is most impressive. B+(***)
The Dedication Orchestra: Spirits Rejoice (1992, Ogun): Large orchestra organized to pay tribute to the Blue Notes shortly after pianist Chris McGregor's passing (1990), with only one original member (drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo) but practially everyone else who crossed paths with McGregor, which is to say a "who's who" of the British avant-garde: 21 musicians + 3 vocalists (Phil Minton, Maggie Nichols, Julie Tippetts). As advertised: "a mighty recording, in every way." Gets weird at the end. B+(***) [bc]
The Dedication Orchestra: Ixesha (Time) (1994, Ogun, 2CD): Credits list up to 27 names, haven't checked to see who's come and gone, but Steve Beresford signed on as arranger and musical director. I'm more impressed by the flow, at least until the singers take over and slow down "Lost Opportunities." Runs 90:06. Vocals return at the end. B+(***) [bc]
Stro Elliot: Stro Elliot (2016, Street Corner Music): LA-based hip-hop producer, not sure how he balances that with membership in Philadelphia-based Roots, which he joined in 2017 after releasing this set of beats with occasional vocal samples. B+(*)
Ricky Ford: Manhattan Plaza (1979, Muse): Tenor saxophonist, second album, first (of 10) for Muse. Quintet with Oliver Beener (trumpet), Jaki Byard (piano), David Friesen (bass), and Dannie Richmond (drums). B+(*) [yt]
Alexander Hawkins & Louis Moholo-Moholo: Keep Your Heart Straight (2011 , Ogun): Piano-drums duo, one of the prolific pianist's first albums. B+(**) [bc]
Freddie Hubbard: Keep Your Soul Together (1973, CTI): Oddly enough, nothing in my database for Hubbard between 1971-85, other than a live shot released much later. He recorded 8 albums for CTI -- the first two, Straight Life and (especially) Red Clay are justly famous -- then recorded for Columbia 1974-80. This seems to continue the formula, near-fusion with electric bass/piano/guitar, Junior Cook on tenor sax. B+(**) [yt]
Imagination: Body Talk (1981, MCA): British disco/funk group, first album, title song a minor hit. Hooks are subtle, as are the songs without them. B+(**) [sp]
Imagination: In the Heat of the Night (1982, MCA): Second album, two more hits, only tails off toward the end. "Just an Illusion" made Christgau's 41-song lifetime playlist. B+(***) [sp]
Terry Klein: Great Northern (2017, self-released): First album, short (8 songs, 29:43), deep thinking about life, from "they say life is wasted on the living" to "there is joy in this life if you're willing to make a mess." B+(***)
Terry Klein: Tex (2019, self-released): Second album, got himself a band, still I don't find myself hanging on every word, and the often slack music has something to do with that. B+(*)
Lavender Country: Lavender Country (1973 , Paradise of Bachelors): Originally released by Gay Community Social Services of Seattle, Inc., which was leader Patrick Haggerty's day job. Music is fairly stock, but the lyrics aren't. B+(**)
Radu Malfatti/Harry Miller: Bracknell Breakdown (1977 , Ogun): Trombone player from Austria, duo with South African bassist. Two pieces, 38:21, fairly austere pleasures. B+(*) [bc]
Cecil McBee: Mutima (1974, Strata East): Early album, starts with a piece played on two basses, has a dozen credits scattered about but not totally clear who plays where. Dee Dee Bridgewater offers some vocals. B [yt]
Cecil McBee: Alternate Spaces (1979, India Navigation): Bassist, from Tulsa, doesn't have a lot under his own name (mostly 1975-86), but has played with everyone (both mainstream and avant), and left his mark on dozens of A-list albums. Opens with a bass solo, before the group enters: Joe Gardner (trumpet), Chico Freeman (saxes, flute), Don Pullen (piano), Famodou Don Moye (percussion). B+(**) [yt]
Cecil McBee Sextet: Music From the Source (1977 , Inner City): With Chico Freeman (flute/tenor sax), Joe Gardner (trumpet), Dennis Moorman (piano), Steve McCall (drums), and Don Moye (percussion). Three tracks, recorded live at Sweet Basil's. B+(***) [yt]
Cecil McBee Sextet With Chico Freeman: Compassion (1977 , Inner City): Recorded a day later, same lineup, except Freeman ditched the flute in favor of soprano sax, but his tenor dominates the proceedings. B+(***) [yt]
Cecil McBee: Flying Out (1982, India Navigation): With Olu Dara (cornet), John Blake (violin), David Eyges (cello), and Billy Hart (drums), a pronounced string bias, helps that he also plays some pretty impressive piano. B+(**) [yt]
The Chris McGregor Group: Very Urgent (1968 , Fledg'ling): Reissue of album released by Polydor in 1968, with the original five Blue Notes plus Ronnie Beer (tenor sax). Outsiders finding their footing in the rapidly evolving British avant scene. B+(**) [sp]
Chris McGregor Septet: Up to Earth (1969 , Fledg'ling): Previously unreleased, four pieces, 38:01, transitional step between McGregor's South African Blue Notes and the much larger Brotherhood of Breath he formed in 1970. Built around his piano and Blue Notes Mongezi Feza (trumpet), Dudu Pukwana (alto sax), and Louis Moholo (drums), plus two young British saxophonists (Evan Parker and John Surman), with bass split between Barre Phillips and Danny Thompson. More avant than expected, with a bit of circus-like delirium, and the piano: well, in a blindfold test I would have said Keith Tippett, who ran in the same circle and was sometimes this brilliant. A- [sp]
The Chris McGregor Trio: Our Prayer (1969 , Fledg'ling): Piano-bass-drums trio, common among pianists but the only one I'm aware of with McGregor. Group includes Barre Phillips (bass, contributes one song) and Louis Moholo (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Chris McGregor: Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath (1970, RCA): South African pianist, came to England with his group Blue Notes. Before that group dissipated -- bassist Johnny Dyani moved to Denmark, trumpeter Mongezi Feza died in 1975, McGregor and alto saxophonist Dudu Pukwana died in 1990 -- McGregor formed this larger group, with Harry Miller taking over bass and Louis Moholo on drums, plus a lot of breath: two trumpets (Feza and Harry Beckett), corner (Marc Charig), two trombones (Malcolm Griffiths and Nick Evans), five saxophones (Pukwana, Alan Skidmore, John Surman, Mike Osborne, Ronnie Beer), with Feza and Osborne also on flute. Township jive with avant drive and distortions, a marvelous formula McGregor sustained for two decades. A- [sp]
Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath: Brotherhood (1972, RCA): Second album, sax section down to four (Pukwana, Osborne, Skidmore, and Gary Windo). Opener is one of their more rambunctious South African romps, followed by a dicey piano solo, then more chaos. B+(***) [sp]
Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath: Live at Willisau (1973 , Ogun): The South African rhythm section (McGregor, Harry Miller, and Louis Moholo) backed three saxes (Dudu Pukwana, Evan Parker, Gary Window), three trumpets (Mongezi Feza, Harry Beckett, Marc Charig), and two trombones (Nick Evans, Radu Malfatti). They can get pretty far out, but South African roots run deep, and when they get the jive working (e.g., "Andromeda") it's quite some party. A- [bc]
Chris McGregor: In His Good Time (1977 , Ogun): Solo piano, recorded in Paris, CD greatly expands upon the 1979 album. The African themes sound especially good here. B+(**) [bc]
Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath: Procession: Live at Toulouse (1978 , Ogun): Another hot set, not least because it hews closer to the South African melodies that all the horns (4 saxes, 2 trumpets, 1 trombone) brighten up. Maybe also with Johnny Dyani joining Harry Miller on bass. A- [bc]
Chris McGregor: Sea Breezes: Solo Piano - Live in Durban 1987 (1987 , Fledg'ling): First time back in South Africa since leaving with the Blue Notes in 1964. B+(**) [sp]
Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath/Archie Shepp: En Concert A Banlieues Bleues (1989, 52e Rue Est): Closing in on 20 years since the group's debut, only the pianist and Harry Beckett (trumpet) remain, although at 14 musicians plus singer Sonti Mndébélé, the group is larger than ever. McGregor's South African themes get them going, and Shepp solos mightily and shouts some blues. B+(***)
Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath: The Memorial Concert (1994, ITM): No date or venue given, but McGregor died in 1990, and it's likely this was recorded soon thereafter, with Roland Perrin taking over the piano spot. Even so, only 7 (of 16) musicians returned from their 1989 live album -- the 9 adds having no previous association I'm aware of with McGregor. Not as spirited as I would have liked, but they do have choice picks from the songbook, including two Dudu Pukwana tunes. B+(**)
Harry Miller: Children at Play (1974, Ogun): Bassist, from South Africa, came to England young and played in Manfred Mann (originally a group led by South African keyboardist Manfred Lubowitz, who assumed the group name as his own). Moved into free jazz circles, taking over bass in Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath, and leading his own group, Harry Miller's Isipingo, with many of the same musicians. He founded Ogun Records with his wife, but died in a car crash in 1983. First album under his name, solo but multi-tracked, with percussion, flute, and effects dubbed in. B+(*) [bc]
Harry Miller: Different Times, Different Places (1973-76 , Ogun): Starts with a short set (23:33) from London with Mike Osborne (sax), Nick Evans (trombone), McGregor (piano), and Louis Moholo (drums), then adds a longer one from Chateauvillon (53:53) with Osborne and Moholo, plus Mark Charig (trumpet), Malcolm Griffiths (trombone), and Keith Tippett (piano). A- [bc]
Harry Miller's Isipingo: Family Affair (1977, Ogun): Bassist-led sextet, only album they released at the time, although a couple more have appeared since. Familiar names: Mike Osborne (alto sax), Mark Charig (trumpet), Malcolm Griffiths (trombone), Keith Tippett (piano), Louis Moholo (drums). B+(***) [bc]
Harry Miller: In Conference (1978, Ogun): Features two saxophonists -- Willem Breuker (soprano/tenor, bass clarinet) and Trevor Watts (alto/soprano) -- with Keith Tippett (piano), Julie Tippetts (voice), and Louis Moholo (drums). Terrific version of the South African "Orange Grove." I'm less delighted by the vocals, which enter on the third track. B+(**) [bc]
Harry Miller: Different Times, Different Places: Volume Two (1977-82 , Ogun): Seven tracks from three sessions. The opening delight takes off on Bernie Holland's guitar, with Alan Wakeman chasing on sax. Wakeman returns with Keith Tippett (piano) on three dicier 1978 tracks. The final three tracks feature Trevor Watts (alto sax), with extra brass. More than a few rough edges. B+(***)
Louis Moholo/Evan Parker/Pule Pheto/Gibo Pheto/Barry Guy Quintet: Bush Fire (1995 , Ogun): Three South Africans -- the Phetos play piano and bass -- with two giants of the English avant-garde on sax (tenor/soprano) and bass. B+(**) [bc]
Louis Moholo-Moholo Meets Mervyn Africa/Pule Pheto/Keith Tippett: Mpumi (1995 , Ogun): Piano-drums duos, one each with two fellow South Africans (13:47, 17:32), the last in three "chapters" totalling 45:28. Mpumi was Moholo's wife. [Nompumelelo Ebronah Moholo, 1947-2001; they met in South Africa in 1973; lived in England until they returned to South Africa in 2005. Moholo adopted the double name around 2002, when the death of a grandmother elevated his tribal status. Some earlier albums have picked up the later name.] B+(*) [bc]
Louis Moholo-Moholo Septet/Octet: Bra Louis - Bra Tebs/Spirits Rejoice! (1978-95 , Ogun, 2CD): First disc is a previously unreleased 1995 set, with Evan Parker and Tobius Delius (tenor sax), Jason Yarde (alto/soprano sax), Claude Deppa (trumpet), Radu Malfatti (trombone), Pule Pheto (piano), Roberto Bellatalla (bass), and Francine Luce (vocals). I'm no more happy with the vocals here than elsewhere. However, the reissue of Moholo's 1978 album Spirits Rejoice! is something to savor. B+(***) [bc]
Louis Moholo-Moholo Unit: An Open Letter to My Wife Mpumi (2008 , Ogun): Sextet, the usual mix of South Africans and English avant-gardists -- Jason Yarde and Mtshuka Bonga on saxophones, Pule Pheeto (piano), Orphy Robinson (vibes), and John Edwards (bass) -- plus vocals by Francine Luce. The drummer seems to thrive on chaos, of which there is a bit much. B+(*) [bc]
Louis Moholo-Moholo Unit: For the Blue Notes (2012 , Ogun): Last surviving member of the legendary South African jazz band, although saxophonists Jason Yarde and Ntshuka Bonga played with the band after arriving in England in 1964. Octet, including younger UK stars like Alexander Hawkins (piano) and John Edwards (bass), also Francine Luce (voice). B+(*) [bc]
Louis Moholo-Moholo's Five Blokes: Uplift the People (2017 , Ogun): Drummer, live at Cafe Oto in London, with two saxophonists -- Jason Yarde from the old days, and newcomer Shabaka Hutchings -- plus Alexander Hawkins (piano) and John Edwards (bass). B+(*) [bc]
Nina Simone: Remixed & Reimagined (2006, RCA/Legacy): Vocals probably date from 1967-72, although the larger RCA compilations run 1957-93. Remixes are new, some name I recognize, most I don't. The gravitas of her vocals sometimes benefits from recontextualization, and sometimes doesn't. B
Soft Head [Hugh Hopper/Elton Dean/Alan Gowen/Dave Sheen]: Rogue Element (1978, Ogun): Ex-Soft Machine bassist, used "Soft" for several later group names, with Dean (another Soft Machine alumnus) on alto sax, plus keyboards and drums. Packaging poses a number of problems: group name not on cover, misspelled on spine (Soft Heap is a real Hopper group, just not this one, and the elephant picture caused me to mistype the title). The rhythm section isn't extraordinary on its own, but they really turn Dean loose. A- [bc]
The Soft Machine: Volume Two (1969, Probe): English prog rock group, from Canterbury, founders included Daevid Allen, who left in 1967 and went on to found Gong, and Kevin Ayers, who wrote most of Odd Ditties (a later compilation title) on their first album but left in 1968 for a solo career. That left Mike Ratledge (keyboards), Hugh Hopper (bass), and Robert Wyatt (drums and vocals), plus a bit of sax from Brian Hopper, for an album of amusing and/or pretentious fragments (at one point jumping from Schoenberg to Hendrix without properly crediting either). B
Soft Machine: 5 (1972, Columbia): Saxophonist Elton Dean joined in 1970, for Third. Drummer Robert Wyatt left in 1971, after Four, and was replaced by Phil Howard, who plays on the first half here, replaced by John Marshall for the second half (which also includes a double bassist, Roy Babbington, in addition to bass guitarist Hugh Hopper). After Wyatt's departure, no one much wanted to sing, and Dean remade them as a credible jazz band. [UK title: Fifth.] B+(*)
Soft Machine: Six (1973, Columbia): Karl Jenkins takes over on sax (also oboe, keyboards, celeste), with Ratledge, Hopper, and Marshall settled in. Double album, split between live and studio. B
Soft Machine: Seven (1973, Columbia): Hugh Hopper left to pursue a solo career, leaving Roy Babbington as the bassist. The last of the numbered albums, although the band kept plugging away, with further albums in 1975 and 1976, and occasional revivals later. B+(*)
Keith Tippett's Ark: Frames: Music for an Imaginary Film (1978, Ogun, 2CD): Orchestra 22 strong: 8 horns, 6 strings, double up on piano (Tippett and Stan Tracey), bass (Peter Kowald and Harry Miller), and percussion (Louis Moholo and Frank Perry), with two vocalists (Maggie Nicols and Julie Tippetts). Originally 2-LP, but totals 83:58, so needs 2-CD. Massive, generates a lot of motion with some cacophony. B+(*) [bc]
Keith Tippett Septet: "A Loose Kite in a Gentle Wind Floating With Only My Will for an Anchor" (1984 , Ogun): Four-part suite, brimming with ideas, followed by "Dedication to Mingus," which captures the tone if not quite the excitement. Timings vary between the original 1986 LP release (77:38) and the CD reissue (77:00). With Marc Charig (cornet), Elton Dean (alto sax/saxello), Larry Stabbins (tenor sax), Nick Evans (trombone), Paul Rogers (bass), Tony Levin (drums). B+(***) [bc]
Keith Tippett Octet: From Granite to Wind (2011, Ogun): British pianist, major, accompanied here by wife Julie Tippetts (voice, often not my thing), four saxophonists (Mujician-mate Paul Dunhall by far the best known), bass, and drums, for one 47:00 suite. B+(*) [bc]
Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.
Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath: Country Cooking (1988, Venture): Ex-LP, at least some kind of B+; title song is one of McGregor's classics, and the band has impressive saxophone power in Julian Argueles and Steve Williamson, as well as the ever-dependable Harry Beckett. ++ [yt]
Music: Current count 37777  rated (+180), 127  unrated (-1).
Excerpts from this month's Music Week posts:
Music: Current count 37641  rated (+44), 137  unrated (+9).
Another week. Surprised that the rated count held up, given that I took a day off to cook, and that it feels like I often got stuck looking for new things to play. Also spent a lot of time (4 plays) with Bouvier before I decided it didn't quite click -- easily the most tempting of an admirable bunch of B+(***) albums below. But I guess I got a solid start with the Ogun Bandcamp, which I still haven't exhausted.
Woke up this morning realizing it was already April and we hadn't done anything about income taxes. Tried calling the person who has done them for 20+ years, only to find out that she died last May, so we need to find someone else. Taxes are always a great psychic strain for me, although the relief once it's done is considerable.
I haven't had the slightest inclination to do Wordle, although my wife has a winning streak since her second game (and only loss), and has sought out variants, including the daily Quordle, which appears at midnight, interrupting our television time, so I occasionally consult. Sometimes I think of words, but mostly draw on letter frequencies, which somehow I know a bit about.
The game I have gotten into the habit of is Worldle, which also appears daily, giving you a Rorschach blob claiming to be the borders of a country or territory, which you get six guesses at. Each false guess gives you a distance and direction to the answer. Geography was my subject as a child: by age 10 or so I could rattle off not just all the states and their capitals, but the provinces of Canada and Australia, the SSRs in the Soviet Union, and virtually every nation-state on a continent. I've retained most of that, and have found most of these puzzles instantly recognizable. Today's Latvia took two guesses but less than 5 seconds (my first was Turkmenistan, off by 3224km NW, and while I don't think in metric, that seemed about right for the Baltic area, and the shape excluded every other nation in the area). Monaco took three, and much more time. Only problem has been with islands. Anguila eluded me, although it would have been easy with a map of the Lesser Antilles (I did narrow it down between Antigua and the Virgin Islands). I recognized Kerguelen (after an initial guess of Svalbard), but the name wasn't accepted, so I had to look up French Southern and Antarctic Lands. I can't say as I've ever heard of Heard and McDonald Islands (though consulting maps using directions and distances got me there in three). Christmas Island also took an open book approach, though I sort of recognized it once I got there. I view the game as sort of a two-tiered test: first of what you recognize and recall; second, if I didn't get the answer within a minute, of what you can figure out. My 8th Grade US History teacher was a big believer in open book tests, and I learned more there than I did in practically all the rest of grades 7-9 combined.
No Speaking of Which last week, as I put most of my effort into yesterday's big Book Roundup. I have zero interest or concern in the Will Smith slap that dominated our fickle media's limited attention span. Meanwhile, Republicans have been so puerile it's getting hard to dignify them with scorn. (Madison Cawthorn seemed to top them all last week, but not without stiff competition from Cruz, DeSantis, and Graham.) And Ukraine slogs on, rerunning tragedy inside the country and farce everywhere else. I'm sure I'll have more to say about that at some point. I suppose I could at least link to Jeffrey St. Clair's Roaming Charges, but it's a pretty mixed bag, more reliably on point about WWI than Ukraine. I particularly like a line in a longer Bertrand Russell quote: "The English and French say they are fighting in defense of democracy, but don't want their words to be heard in Petrograd or Calcutta."
What I wanted to mention in the Book Roundup but ran out of time for was how stimulating I've been finding Louis Menand's The Free World. The book, at least as far as I've read, consists of a series of portraits of seminal figures, starting with George Kennan, whose prescription for containment of the Soviet Union was always more nuanced than the policies of his followers. An important nuance was his insight that Stalin's efforts to secure the perimeter around Russia had nothing to do with communist ideology and everything to do with Tsarist Russia's fear and pride. We see this same attitude today with Putin asserting Russia's right to save Ukraine from itself -- as we also see Americans ignoring this crude conceit in favor of ideological and/or psychological explanations.
The book follows with pieces on George Orwell, James Burnham (and C. Wright Mills), Jean-Paul Sartre (and Simone de Beauvoir), Hannah Arendt, and David Riesman. I thought that Riesman's critique of Arendt was particularly timely: "Might Arendt be mistaking the ideology of totalitarianism for the lived reality? Might she be imagining that totalitarian systems are more coherent and all-powerful than they really are? . . . Riesman's suggestion that underneath the ideological swagger, the Soviet Union was a klutzy bureaucracy run by thugs was just the kind of inability to take totalitarianism seriously that she had written her book to warn against." Riesman also has a critique of democracy, where polling is mudied by people insisting on having opinions even when they know nothing, but ignorance itself is some kind of virtue. Still makes for messy politics -- which corresponds rather well to history.
Next up was Clement Greenberg and Jackson Pollock, so finally we get into art. I barely recognized Greenberg's name, but found I could unpack a lot of my own experience from his "Avant-Garde and Kitsch" essay. This was, after all, the world I was born into, even if it took a while for their ideas to sink down to the lower-class Wichita I was desperate to escape. But isn't the avant-garde a vector you can trace back to bourgeois revolution (even as the bourgeoisie themselves elected for kitsch)? And isn't part of the motivation the feeling of superiority you get from mastering the rare and esoteric in a world that is otherwise leveling? I got into avant-garde art and left-wing politics more/less simultaneously, and reconciled the two by insisting that nothing prevents leftists (or anyone) from also enjoying the avant-garde, but experience suggests it's not often that easy.
Quite a bit of unpacking this week. Most pleasant surprise was a package of 577 Records that don't appear to be out yet (although they look like product. On the other hand, it seems like it's gotten much harder to stream their records, so my coverage has gotten spottier.
Music: Current count 37689  rated (+48), 130  unrated (-7).
Continued with the Ogun Bandcamp. Several readers singled out Chris McGregor's first two Brotherhood of Breath albums for praise, so I started there. Aside from new jazz from my queue (topped by Whit Dickey and Kalí Rodríguez-Peńa), plus some of the links I had downloaded and neglected, almost everything else came from sifting through lists, collected in my metacritic file.
Exception: Old records by Bob Andy, Chic, and Soft Machine showed up in research on other records, and seemed like holes in the database ratings. The Soft Machine albums were ones I actually owned, but hadn't remembered well enough to include in my first cut of the ratings list. I probably never owned any Chic before Believer, but C'Est Chic was the only one still unrated.
Thought about writing a theses-type piece on Ukraine, but got lost trying to sort out the ancient history: the arrival of various Slavic groups, Byzantine influences, the Khazars and other Turkic groups, the Varangians (Vikings), the Mongols, the encroachments from the north (Poland, Lithuania, Russia) and the south (Ottomans), the Cossack revolts and mercenaries, more Russians (with its Pale of Settlement), the Germans in the World Wars. Russia clearly dates back through the Tsars to the Grand Duchy of Moscow (1263-1480), or perhaps to Kievan Rus (879-1240), given that both were ruled by the Rurik dynasty, but it's not clear how or when Ukrainians became distinct from Russians (or vice versa) -- only that they did by the late 18th century, when Catherine the Great extended Russian control over most of Ukraine, and started a campaign of Russification (going so far as to refer to Ukraine as Novorussiya -- a term recently credited to Putin), and the breaks from Russian rule in 1917-20 and after 1991 have only added to the separation. That Putin thinks Russia knows best can be credited to the myopia that shields the progeny of former empires from seeing the harm those empires caused. Even Russian leaders who knew better have tended to revert to the mindset of Tsars.
The big question at this point is why do none of the principals (and I think we have to include the US and UK on that list) seem concerned with getting a cease fire? More war means more destruction, but also deeper scars that will take longer to heal. Meanwhile, I think it's clear that many of the assumptions of post-WWII defense strategy have proven to be wrong -- something which NATO powers have missed, given their recent pledges to spend even more money on arms, and place them even more aggressively to threaten Russia. Few seem to recognize that the famous "madman theory" depends on the other side reacting sanely, an assumption Putin has shown to be no longer operative.
Some serious rethinking is called for.
Music: Current count 37739  rated (+50), 128  unrated (-2).
I've been trying to write a piece on Ukraine. Yesterday I got so frustrated with it, I decided I'd post it that night regardless of what state it was in. It's not as if I expect anyone to read it or care. But I wrote another couple points last night, getting as far as this:
That seemed to require at least one more paragraph, on what such an agreement should (really, must) look like. So instead of rushing the post out last night, I decided to give myself another day, and post it tomorrow. But first Music Week.
Robert Christgau interrupted his 80th birthday holiday to post a Consumer Guide. Fourteen albums, seven I had already reviewed:
The rest are caught up below (the Lenny Kaye comp assembled into a nearly complete songlist, the other two songs sampled from YouTube). I have no recollection at all of TV Baby. Christgau also published a 41-song playlist to mark 80 years. I can't describe how awful I felt when I got up this morning, but the piece came with a Spotify playlist (thanks to Joe Levy), and I figured that might pick me up a bit. First 11 songs were all classics from the 1950s, then after Ray Charles, he threw a curve and picked up bits by Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk before trying to cover the 1960s in 8 tracks, and skipping through the 1970s way too fast (4 songs), followed by a break for 2 African pieces. After that there's nothing I would have come close to picking (although "That's the Joint" and "It Takes Two" sounded great, and it would be hard to improve on the James McMurtry and Robyn songs). The only WTF pick was the Brad Paisley. I'm lukewarm on the Selo i Ludy album below, but "It's My Life" ended this list, and sounded pretty good after 38-40.
Music: Current count 37777  rated (+38), 127  unrated (-1).
Rated count down this week, although pretty solid by historical standards. Had a lot of trouble all week long deciding what to play next. Left a fair amount of dead air (like the moment of typing this line). A-list is even shorter this time: three, including an EP built around a 2020 single, "We Live Here" (see video). Having spent the week writing about Ukraine here and here and here, I admit that Bob Vylan's anger was cathartic.
Still, this wraps up a 4-week month where I found 16 A-list albums among 125 new releases, plus a fair amount of old music, where most of the major finds came from the Ogun Records Bandcamp. Ogun was founded by South African expat bassist Harry Miller and his wife Hazel Miller, who revived the label in 1986 after Harry's death. The label was home to fellow South African expats like Chris McGregor and Louis Moholo, as well as a tight circle of English avant-gardists they often played with (e.g., Keith Tippett, Mike Osborne, Elton Dean, Lol Coxhill).
Seems like I should have some more music items to mention. I don't like noting recent deaths, but Art Rupe (at 104) is important enough to make an exception. It finally occurred to me that filling up five hours streaming The Specialty Story would be a suitable wake, and more fun then I normally have. Also lets me put off trying to figure out the Lewis-Stampfel Both Ways album, which a curious reader sent me a zip of. (It was the only album on Robert Christgau's 2021 list I couldn't find to listen to.)
Speaking of Christgau, I've run across a number of links relating to his 80th birthday, but didn't manage to keep track of them. (One I still have in a tab is a reminiscence by Wayne Robbins.) We missed the first half of the Zoom session RJ Smith and Tricia Romano set up. I didn't come up with anything to contribute, but thinking of Robins, one story comes to mind. I had been writing for Bob for a year-plus, and talked to him for edits, but hadn't met actually met him. At the time, I was angling to get into Creem, and had a letter back from Lester Bangs was kind of iffy. I drove to Ann Arbor to see some friends, and on a lark decided to drop into the Creem office uninvited. I did, and couldn't get anyone to talk to me (not that I tried awful hard). When I mentioned this to Bob, he confidently told me that Wayne Robins (who was editor at the time) and Georgia Christgau (Bob's sister, who wrote Creem's film reviews) would like to meet me. A couple days later, they came to Ann Arbor. Still, I never got anything published there, in part because they all soon left for New York.
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade: