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Streamnotes: September 26, 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 August 29. Past reviews and more information are available here (20271 records).
Ingrid Andress: Good Person (2022, Warner Music Nashville/Atlantic): Country singer-songwriter, grew up in Colorado, studied at Berklee, second album. B+(*) [sp]
Stacy Antonel: Always the Outsider (2022, self-released): Singer-songwriter, move to Nashville puts her in the country orbit, but she won't let that define her (even as she loads up on pedal steel). B+(*) [sp]
Florian Arbenz: Conversation #6 & #7 (2021 , Hammer): Swiss drummer, has a trio (since 2006) called Vein, started his superb Conversation series during lockdown, entertaining various guests. Guest here is pianist Kirk Lightsey, in a duo for the first part, expanded to a quartet with Tibor Elekes (bass) and Domenic Landolf (tenor sax/bass clarinet). B+(***) [bc]
Jeff Arnal/Curt Cloninger: Drum Major Instinct (2021 , Mahakala Music): Drummer, I've run across him a number of times since 2000, although rarely as first credit. Based in Asheville, NC, as is Cloninger, who works with modular synthesizers. B+(***) [bc]
Linda Ayupuka: God Created Everything (2022, Mais Um Discos): Singer from Ghana, first album, "the future of fra fra music." Voices over beats, of varying intensity. B+(**) [sp]
Karl Berger/Max Johnson/Billy Mintz: Sketches (2017 , Fresh Sound): Mostly piano-bass-drums trio, with Berger also on vibes. All three contribute songs, plus one from Charlie Haden and one trad. B+(***) [sp]
Sasha Berliner: Onyx (2022, self-released): Vibraphonist, second album, backed by James Francies (keyboards), Burniss Travis (bass), and Marcus Gilmore (drums), with guests Jaleel Shaw (alto sax), Julius Rodriguez (synths), and Thana Alexa (vocals). B+(**) [bc]
Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra: Popular Culture (Community Music Vol. 4) (2020 , Royal Potato Family, EP): Nine-piece band, recorded Vol. 3 as the Hot 9, reverts here to band name he set up after arranging the Kansas City soundtrack. Six songs (Grateful Dead, Eddie Harris, Beatles, Bessie Smith, Ellington, and Ellington-via-Mingus), 28:42. Finale is typically gorgeous. B+(**) [sp]
The Beths: Expert in a Dying Field (2022, Carpark): Indie pop band from New Zealand, Elizabeth Stokes the singer and rhythm guitarist, Jonathan Pearce the lead guitarist. Third album, jumps out fast. B+(***) [sp]
Blue Reality Quartet!: Ella's Island (2022, Mahakala Music): Avant jazz supergroup -- Joe McPhee (tenor sax), Michael Marcus (reeds), Warren Smith (vibes), Jay Rosen (drums) -- second group album. Some fine moments, then they dither a bit. B+(**) [sp]
The Broken Spokes: Where I Went Wrong (2022, Broken Spokes Music): Country band from Houston, self-titled debut in 2016, singer Brent McLennan and guitarist Josh Artall write the songs, which feature more than a little western swing, and they keep the ballads on the sweet side. B+(**) [sp]
Bobby Broom: Keyed Up (2021 , Steele): Guitarist, debut album 1981, does a pretty fair Wes Montgomery impression. Quartet with piano/organ (Justin Dillard), bass (Dennis Carroll), and drums (co-producer Kobie Watkins). Makes it look easy. B+(**) [cd]
Rob Brown/Juan Pablo Carletti: Fertile Garden (2020 , NoBusiness): Alto sax and drums duo, two improv pieces (57:08). Brown is an associate of William Parker since the early 1990s -- In Order to Survive, Little Huey, Raining on the Moon, various Quartets (O'Neal's Porch), etc. He is in fine form here, which gives the drummer plenty to work with. A- [cd]
Butcher Brown: Butcher Brown Presents Triple Trey (2022, Concord Jazz): Jazz quintet from Richmond, Virginia; albums since 2013 veer between punk and funk with a Fela tribute on the side, but mostly this one, featuring MC and multi-instrumentalist Tennishu, goes for hip-hop. B+(*) [sp]
Camp Cope: Running With the Hurricane (2022, Run for Cover): Australian alt-rock trio, Georgia McDonald the lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist, two other women on bass and drums. Third album. B+(*) [sp]
George Cartwright/Steve Hirsh/Chad Fowler/Christopher Parker/Kelley Hurt: Notice That There (2020 , Mahakala Music): Date not given, but suggested by "created during the pandemic and in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder." Cartwright plays guitar and sax, Fowler stritch, Parker piano, Hirsh drums, Hurt vocals (not a major factor). B+(**) [bc]
Cäthe: Chill Out Punk (2022, Träum Weiter!): German singer-songwriter, last nameSieland, fourth studio album since 2011. Light electropop, or perhaps deeper if I could decipher more than the occasional word, but definitely a chill album, and no, not punk. B+(***) [sp]
Cave In: Heavy Pendulum (2022, Relapse): Metalcore band from Massachusetts, debut 1998, a couple of their early releases wound up in my database but I never heard them until this showed up as the highest rated unheard album this year (tied for 150 on my list). Only their 7th studio album: they had a hiatus between their 2005 and 2011 releases, and didn't follow the latter up until 2019. Gruff vocals, more tolerable than the usual metal thrash, but awful long. B-
Raven Chacon/Tatsuya Nakatini/Carlos Santistevan: Inhale/Exhale (2020 , Other Minds): Trio from New Mexico: guitar, percussion, bass, with electronics, live improvs on two side-long pieces (39:10 total). B+(*) [sp]
The Chats: Get Fucked (2022, Bargain Bin): Australian post-punk group, second album, knock their songs off like bowling pins. B+(***) [sp]
The Comet Is Coming: Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam (2022, Impulse!): British fusion group, third or fourth album since 2016, with King Shabaka (Shabaka Hutchings) on tenor sax, Danalogue (Dan Leavers) on keyboards, and Betamax (Maxwell Hallett) on drums. B+(**) [sp]
Con+Kwake: Eyes in the Tower (2022, Native Rebel): UK hip-hop duo, Confucius MC (William Carbine-Glean) and producer Kwake Bass, with jazz keyboardist Alexander Hawkins, and Shabaka Hutchings co-credited as producer. B+(***) [sp]
Confucius MC: Somewhere (2021, YNR Productions): British rapper William Carabine-Glean, singles since 2017, seems to be his first album. B+(**) [sp]
Gustavo Cortiñas: Kind Regards: Saludos Afectuosos (2022, Pesato Candente): Drummer, from Chicago, has a couple albums, this one mostly a vehicle for vocalist-pianist Meghan Stagl, with some nice trumpet from Emily Kuhn, plus guitar and bass. B+(*) [cd]
Charley Crockett: The Man From Waco (2022, Son of Davy): Country singer-songwriter from Texas, debut 2015, 11th album since 2015, 2nd this year. Trad sound, supplemented with horns. B+(**) [sp]
Deca: Smoking Gun (2022, Coalmine): New York rapper Matthew Kenney, 10th album since 2004, delivery reminds me of Buck 65, beats too, guest spots for Blu and Homeboy Sandman. A- [sp]
Jeff Denson/Romain Pilon/Brian Blade: Finding Light (2022, Ridgeway): Bassist, albums since 2012, divided songwriting with guitarist Pilon 6-4, with Blade on drums. Tends toward ambient. B+(*) [cd]
John Dikeman/Peter Ajtai/Nicolas Field: The Throes (2018 , Orbit577): Avant sax-bass-drums trio, recorded in Amsterdam. Major thrash, for five tracks, 61:17. B+(*) [bc]
DJ Travella: Mr Mixondo (2022, Nyege Nyege Tapes): Nineteen-year-old singeli producer from Tanzania: hip-hop beats, but faster. B+(*)
Djo: Joe Keery (2022, Awal): Joe Keery, better known as an actor (Stranger Things, since 2016), started in the band Post Animal, second solo album. B [sp]
Tashi Dorji/Susie Ibarra: Master of Time (2020 , Astral Spirits): Bhutanese guitarist based in Ashville, NC; numerous albums since 2009, mostly solo improvs and duos, like this one with the drummer/percussionist. She gets into the Buddhist thing. B+(**) [bc]
Dave Douglas Quintet: Songs of Ascent: Book 1 -- Degrees (2020-2021 , Greenleaf Music): Trumpet player, postbop composer, long history as a preëminent player, most often leading quintets with someone equally skilled on reeds (Jon Irabagon here). Rhythm section is also superb: MattMitchell (piano), Linda May Han Oh (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums). Thematically, he continues from last year's interest in Secular Psalms. There's also a Book 2 -- Steps, which is exclusive to his digital subscribers. B+(***) [10-07]
Drug Church: Hygiene (2022, Pure Noise): Rock band from Albany, NY; somewhere in the punk/hardcore/grunge constellation. Fourth album since 2013. I don't find the grind unlistenable, but don't get much more out of it. B [sp]
Edoheart: Pandemonium (2022, Edoheart, EP): Esohe Arhebamen, from Nigeria, family moved to Detroit when she was seven, alias honors the Edo people of Nigeria, has studied the butoh dance of Japan, choreographed, published books of poetry, and released close to 10 albums and EPs. This one runs five tracks, 17:24, a star burst of ideas. B+(**) [sp]
El Khat: Albat Alawi Op. 99 (2022, Glitterbeat): Tel Aviv group, varied backgrounds (Iraq, Poland, Morocco, Yemen), named for a social drug common in Yemen, which "provides a feeling that promotes community and relaxation." B+(*) [sp]
Emperor X: The Lakes of Zones B and C (2022, Dreams of Field): Singer-songwriter Chad Metheny, originally from Florida, based in Berlin, debut 1998 but I didn't notice him until 2011's Western Teleport. I've been impressed with most of his work, but don't seem to be latching onto much here, even though the song titles are interesting, and the music is forthright. B+(**) [sp]
Silvana Estrada: Marchita (2022, Glassnote): Mexican singer-songwriter, from Veracruz, second album, title translates as "withered." B+(*) [sp]
Steven Feifke/Dijon Watson: Steven Feifke and Dijon Watson Present: Generation Gap Jazz Orchestra (2022, Cellar): Big band, leaders play piano and trumpet, Feifke is the arranger. Guest spots for Kurt Elling and Sean Jones, the band well stocked with mainstream players, some young (like Alexa Tarentino and Roxy Coss), some with big band experience (like John Fedchock). B+(*) [cd]
The Fernweh: Torschlusspanik! (2022, Winterlude): Brit rock group, from Liverpool, name and title sounded German to me, so I called up Google translate and was amused to find that the English for "Fernweh" is "Wanderlust." The title translates as "last minute panic." Second album. Only non-English song title is French ("Pas devant les enfants"). B+(*) [sp]
Tim Fitzgerald: Tim Fitzgerald's Full House (2019-21 , Cellar): Chicago-based guitarist, seems to be his first album, has published a book of Wes Montgomery transcriptions, leads a septet here (wasn't Full House a Montgomery title?), with trumpet (Victor Garcia) and two saxophones (Greg Ward II, Chris Madsen). Ten songs, all penned by Montgomery in new arrangements. B+(*) [cd]
Florist: Florist (2022, Double Double Whammy): Indie folk band quartet from Brooklyn, self-released debut EP in 2013, fourth album on the current label, the eponymous title suggesting that they've reached a level worthy of re-introducing themselves. Emily Sprague sings, and seems to be into modular synthesizers. Nice flow to the music. Does run a bit long. B+(***) [sp]
Forest Chorus: Forest Chorus (2019 , Orenda): Quintet, Finns Mikko Innanen (baritone/alto/sopranino sax) and Joonas Lappänenn (drums), Argentine Seba Saenz (trumpet), and Americans Caleb Vaazey (guitar) and Miller Wrenn (bass). B+(***) [bc]
Chris Forsyth: Evolution Here We Come (2021 , No Quarter): Guitarist, has a couple dozen albums since 1998, but I hadn't heard of him. So I don't know how this record fits in the greater scheme of things, or even whether he's really jazz (which is suggested by many duo albums, including one with Nate Wooley). This is a quartet, with second guitar, electric bass, and drums, kicking off with a delightful groove piece, and more of the same to come. It also has guest spots, including a Steve Wynn vocal on one track, and Marshall Allen playing EVI on the opener. B+(**) [sp]
Al Foster: Reflections (2022, Smoke Sessions): Drummer, joined Miles Davis in 1972, had a couple albums as leader 1978-79, a scattered few since including one in 2019 on this label, huge number of side credits along the way. Leads a powerhouse quintet here, with Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Chris Potter (tenor and soprano sax), Kevin Hays (piano and Fender Rhodes), Vicente Archer (bass). I don't care for the ensemble horn tone, but as soloists they're impressive as expected. B+(*) [sp]
Chad Fowler/William Parker/Anders Griffen: Broken Unbroken (2022, Mahakala Music): Arkansas-based free jazz saxophonist, dials it back a bit here by playing stritch, saxello, and alto flute. Backed by bass and drums, with Griffen also playing some trumpet. B+(***) [bc]
Chad Fowler/William Parker/Anders Griffen: Thinking Unthinking (2022, Mahakala Music): Same group, probably same session, three more pieces (47:58). B+(***) [bc]
Ezra Furman: All of Us Flames (2022, Anti-): Singer-songwriter from Chicago, debut 2007 as front for a band (Ezra Furman & the Harpoons), solo since 2012, has a fairly remarkable string of albums. I'm having trouble focusing on this one, but maybe I should just let it be. B+(***) [sp]
Joel Futterman/Steve Hirsh: Warp & Weft (2021, Mahakala Music, 2CD): Piano and drums duo. B+(***) [bc]
Joel Futterman/William Parker/Chad Fowler/Steve Hirsh: The Deep (2022, Mahakala Music): Piano, bass, sax, drums, playing one 51:56 piece, recorded in one take. Enough going on that the piano explosions stand out even more. A- [bc]
Alex G: God Save the Animals (2022, Domino): Singer-songwriter Alex Giannascoli, fourth album on this indie label after as many self-released efforts, going back to 2010. B
Noah Garabedian: Consider the Stars Beneath Us (2022, Outside In Music): Bassist, has a previous record or two, wrote everything here, played by Dayna Sephens (tenor/soprano sax), Carmen Staaf (piano), and Jimy Macbride (drums), with producer Samuel Adams credited for "effects, programming, additional recording, Moog Minitaur, Juno JU-06A." B+(***) [cd]
Michael Grossman/Jai Morris-Smith: Curious Music (2020-21 , Research/Astral Spirits): Australian guitar duo, both indulging liberally in "treatments," which fade into ambience. B [bc]
Matthew Halsall: The Temple Within (2022, Gondwana, EP): British trumpet player, DJ, label head, dozen-plus albums since 2008. Four tracks, 23:10, mixes in flute, harp, piano/organ, bass drums, extra percussion. Likes a good beat. B+(**)
Connie Han: Secrets of Inanna (2022, Mack Avenue): Pianist, from Los Angeles, fourth album, trio with John Patitucci (bass) and Bill Wysaske (drums), plus spots for Rich Perry (tenor sax) and Katisse Buckingham (flute/piccolo). B+(*) [sp]
Ben Harper: Bloodline Maintenance (2022, Chrysalis): Singer-songwriter from California, 16th album since 1994, mixed race, mixed genre but blues seems to be his default setting, a reserve of strength when he gets topical, as in "We Need to Talk About It." B+(**) [sp]
Heart of the Ghost: Summons (2022, No Quarter): Avant-sax trio from DC area, Jarrett Gilgore on alto/soprano sax, with Luke Stewart (bass) and Ian McColm (drums). They have a couple previous cassetts, plus a live album with Dave Ballou. Hype suggests they started in punk, then got creative. Blasts right out of the gate, still steady with the horn chills down or drops out. B+(***) [bc]
Steve Hirsh/Zoh Amba/Luke Stewart: An Unlikely Place (2022, Mahakala Music): Drums, tenor sax/piano, bass. Amba, originally from Tennessee but based in New York, seems to be the breakout free jazz star of the year, but three earlier albums have eluded my grasp. This is an unplanned 48:19 improv, strong enough to suggest that Amba should be a subject for further research. B+(***) [bc]
Jasper Høiby/Planet B: What It Means to Be Human (2021 , Edition): Danish bassist, several albums, this is second of a promised four albums, starting with 2020's excellent Planet B, same trio with Josh Arcoleo (sax) and Marc Michel (drums). The bass is the pulse of life, the sax an adventure, the drums play off that. Includes spoken word texts from Grace Lee Boggs, Ruby Sales, and Jane Goodall. A- [sp]
Homeboy Sandman: I Can't Sell These (2022, self-released): New York rapper Angel Del Villar II, very prolific since 2007 (mostly in the EP-to-short-album range), counts this 20-track long-player as a mixtape, based as it is on uncleared samples. Helps with the music, but I mostly hear words, which fascinate and pick up momentum over the long haul. A- [bc]
Jon Irabagon: Rising Sun (2021 , Irabbagast): Tenor saxophonist, Filipino roots, first noticed in Mostly Other People Do the Killing, won a Monk Prize (which got him a record on Concord, where he had to make nice and delivered a pretty good one anyway). Hit and miss in his solo work. Composed this (only cover is "Bebop") during an extended family roadtrip through the upper mountain states, and recorded it with a stellar quartet -- Matt Mitchell, Chris Lightcap, and Dan Weiss -- with guest spots for Miles Okazaki (guitar) and Adam O'Farrill (trumpet). B+(***) [bc]
Keefe Jackson/Oscar Jan Hoogland/Joshua Abrams/Mikel Patrick Avery: These Things Happen (2016 , Astral Spirits, EP): Sax quartet, leader plays tenor and sopranino, backed by piano, bass, and drums. Opens with a Monk riff, covers Dewey Redman and Herbie Nichols, includes two songs by the pianist, and returns to Monk again. Short enough we'll call it an EP (21:55). B+(**) [bc]
JER: Bothered/Unbothered (2022, Bad Time): Alias for Jeremy Hunter, of Skatune Network, first album. Upbeat ska. B+(*) [sp]
JID: The Forever Story (2022, Dreamville/Interscope): Atlanta rapper Destin Route, third album, debut was called The Never Story. Slippery, some stories. B+(**) [sp]
Jockstrap: I Love You Jennifer B (2022, Rough Trade): English electropop duo, Georgia Ellery (also of Black Country, New Road) and Taylor Skye, first album after several EPs. Has an interesting glitchiness, which isn't quite the same thing as hooklessness. B+(**) [sp]
Freedy Johnston: Back on the Road to You (2022, Forty Below): Singer-songwriter from Kinsley, KS, moved to New York 1985, debut album 1990. Only his second album since 2010, nice and tuneful. B+(**) [sp]
Samara Joy: Linger Awhile (2022, Verve): Jazz singer, grew up in the Bronx, second album, still 22. Credits hard to come by, but guitarist Pasquale Grasso is featured on three songs, backed by Ben Paterson (piano), David Wong (bass), and Kenny Washington (drums). Mix of standards and jazz tunes she's written vocalese lyrics to. B+(**) [sp]
Kimberly Kelly: I'll Tell You What's Gonna Happen (2022, Show Dog Nashville): Country singer from Texas, father and sister in the business, self-released her debut in 2007, this her third album, shows a lot of poise. Has a connection to Billy Joe Shaver that pays off with an ace cover of "Black Rose." B+(***) [sp]
K.O.G.: Zone 6, Agege (2022, Pura Vida Sounds): Kweku Sackey, from Ghana but based in England, initials for Kweku of Ghana, first album -- Bandcamp has various singles and EPs, attributed to K.O.G. & the Zongo Brigade. Souped up highlife, rapping at times. B+(**) [sp]
The Koreatown Oddity: Isthisforreal? (2022, Stones Throw): Rapper, Dominique Purdy, from Los Angeles (despite the initial misdirection), started in stand up comedy, prolific since 2012. B+(*) [sp]
Julian Lage: View With a Room (2022, Blue Note): Guitarist, I count nine albums on mid-to-major labels, including his 2009 debut. Trio returns with Jorge Roeder (bass) and Dave King (drums), plus second guitarist Bill Frisell. B+(**) [sp]
Ingrid Laubrock/Tom Rainey: Counterfeit Mars (2021 , Relative Pitch): Saxophone (tenor/soprano) and drums duo, something they've done a lot of since the pandemic locked them down. B+(***) [bc]
Steve Lehman & Sélébéyone: Xaybu: The Unseen (2022, Pi): Alto saxophonist, studied under Jackie McLean and Anthony Braxton, has released some of the finest avant-jazz albums of the last 15 years, took a radical turn with his 2016 Sélébéyone, a fusion of electronics, hip-hop, and mbalax -- the title translates as "intersection" from Wolof. Here he doubles down, with vocals in Wolof (Gaston Bandimic) and English (HPrizm), an extra saxophone (Maciek Lasserre on soprano), and drums (Damion Reid). Uncredited electronics and samples. Dense, with sharp edges, the sax breaks remarkable, but few and far between. B+(***) [cd]
Urs Leimgruber/Christy Doran/Bobby Burri/Fredy Studer: OM 50 (2022, Intakt): Avant-fusion band (soprano sax, guitar, bass, drums), founded 50 years ago, released 5 albums 1975-80 -- their 2006 A Retrospective is a good sampler -- got back together for a live album in 2010, another in 2020, then this shortly before the drummer died. Too many spots where they lay back, but most are rewarded with outstanding returns. B+(***) [sp]
James Brandon Lewis Quartet: MSM Molecular Systematic Music Live (2021 , Intakt, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist, swept last year's Jazz Critics Poll with his Red Lily Quintet album Jesup Wagon, building on a streak of superb albums going back to 2014 (Divine Travels, on Okeh). This live set expands on his 2020 Quartet album Molecular -- with Aruán Ortiz (piano), Brad Jones (bass), and Chad Taylor (drums) -- reprising 9 (of 11) songs, stretch to 89:48. B+(***) [sp]
Lykke Li: Eyeye (2022, PIAS): Swedish singer/songwriter, last name Zachrisson, fifth album since 2008. Soft pop, doesn't grab me, but has some moments. B+(*) [sp]
Charles Lloyd: Trios: Ocean (2020 , Blue Note): Second of three trio albums, following Trios: Chapel earlier this year, with a box set scheduled for November 18 collecting all three. This one has the tenor saxophonist backed by piano (Gerald Clayton) and drums (Anthony Wilson), with Lloyd also playing a fair amount of flute. B+(**) [sp]
Mach-Hommy: Dollar Menu 4 (2022, self-released, EP): Rapper Ramar Begon, born in Haiti, grew up in New Jersey, has an album dated 2004 but really picks up only in 2016, with 2021's Pray for Haiti his breakthrough. Released three Dollar Menu tapes in 2017, follows up here with Tha God Fahim: 9 songs, 25:06. B+(***) [sp]
Roberto Magris: Duo & Trio: Featuring Mark Colby (2012-19 , JMood): Italian pianist, from Trieste, started around 1982, has recorded a lot since 2005. Alternates cuts between a duo with saxophonist Mark Colby (the later session) and a trio with Elisa Pruett (bass) and Brian Steever (drums), adding congas to the latter on two tracks. Nice showing for Colby. B+(**) [cd]
Rudi Mahall/Michael Griener: Jazzpreis (2020-21 , Astral Spirits): German duo, bass clarinet/clarinet/baritone sax with drums/vibraphone. Mahall has a lot of shared or side credits since 1992. Griener, two years younger, has about half as many credits, but was leader on a 2014 quartet with Mahall I like, and joined Mahall's group Die Enttäuschung for their 2017 Lavaman album. B+(***) [bc]
Roc Marciano & the Alchemist: The Elephant Man's Bones (2022, ALC/Marci/Empire): Rapper Rakheim Calief Meyer, has a dozen alums since 2010, this the first one with Dan Maman producing. Not much stands out from their inscrutable groove. B+(**)
Matmos: Regards/Uklony Dla Boguslaw Schaeffer (2022, Thrill Jockey): Electronica duo, M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel, originally from San Francisco, now based in Baltimore, 13th album since 1997, a collection of works by Polish computer Schaefer (1929-2019). Opens with beats. Could use more. B+(*) [sp]
Marilyn Mazur's Shamania: Rerooting (2022, Clap Your Hands): Percussionist, born in US but family moved to Denmark when she was six, albums since 1984, including Shamania in 2019. Josefine Cronholm and Sissel Vera Petterson sing -- latter also plays alto sax, with Lotte Anker on tenor sax, plus trumpet, trombone, keyboards, electric bass, and two more percussionists. B+(**) [cd]
Makaya McCraven: In These Times (2022, International Anthem): Chicago-based second-generation drummer, mother a Hungarian folk singer (he includes one of her songs here), albums since 2012 including some crossover potential -- this one is distributed by XL in Europe, and Nonesuch in the US. Long credits list, which doesn't qualify as a big band but provides even more textural and rhythmic options. Unfortunately, that's basically all he has, but it makes for a swell ride, as long as it lasts. B+(**) [sp]
Tommy McLain: I Ran Down Every Dream (2022, Yep Roc): Swamp pop crooner, got on the "one hit wonders" list with his 1966 recording of "Sweet Dreams" -- the only one to chart as pop (15) but these days you know it from Patsy Cline (1963) and I also know it from writer Don Gibson (1956; Faron Young cover sold more, but I'm a bigger fan of Gibson's compilations). McLain recorded a number of albums in the 1970s, but this is only the second one since. Aside from a Fats Domino cover, originals, some sharing credits with Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello and Van Dyke Parks. Nothing immediately grabs me, but some of it sinks in agreeably. B+(*) [sp]
Mdou Moctar: Niger EP Vol. 1 (2022, Matador, EP): Saharan guitarist from Niger, has uniformly appealing albums since 2013, long on groove, not many vocals. This is long enough (42:58), but starting with two "drum machine version" takes and concluding with four live tracks (most of old songs), is nicely discounted, and about as functional as the other albums. B+(***) [sp]
Cario Mombelli: Lullaby for Planet Earth (2021 , Clap Your Hands): From South Africa, plays electric bass, voice credit threw me as there's not much of that. Has a record with Charlie Mariano from 1990. Otherwise, discography picks up in 2014. This was recorded in Basel with Wolfgang Muthspiel on guitar and Jorge Rossy on drums and vibraphone. Atmospherics, light and airy. B+(***) [cd]
Ali Shaheed Muhammad & Adrian Younge: Jazz Is Dead 14: Henry Franklin (2022, Jazz Is Dead): The producers continue their tongue-in-cheek series featuring (mostly) forgotten figures of the decade jazz came closest to dying: the 1970s. Franklin is a bassist who released three obscure albums in the 1970s (the first two on Black Jazz), then struggled to find an outlet until 2000. Eight tracks with 7-9 musicians each, total 31:06. B+(*) [sp]
Mush: Down Tools (2022, Memphis Industries): Post-punk band from Leeds [UK], third album, some jangle in the guitars, some static in the amps. Reminds me of Psychedelic Furs and/or Pavement. B+(**) [sp]
Sana Nagano: Anime Mundi (2020 , 577): Brooklyn-based violinist, second album, trio with Karl Berger (vibes) and Billy Martin (drums). B+(**) [cd] [10-28]
Rachika Nayar: Heaven Come Crashing (2022, NNA Tapes): Brooklyn-based sound designer, uses guitar and electronics, third album, "a left-turn into electronic maximalism." B+(**) [sp]
No Age: People Helping People (2022, Drag City): Indie rock duo, Randy Randall and Dean Allen Spunt, have an impressive string of albums since 2007. This one flies a bit under the radar. B+(**) [sp]
Oriental Brothers International Band: Oku Ngwo Di Ochi (2022, Palenque): Nigerian highlife band, founded in 1973, working under various names, sometimes featuring vocalist Dr. Sir Warrior or guitarist Godwin "Kabaka" Opara, neither of whom are still around for this new recordings (their first in 20 years). But the current crew, including band leader Ferdinand Dansatch Opara, have earned the right to keep this marvelous band name going. A- [bc]
Jessica Pavone: . . . Of Late (2021 , Astral Spirits): Plays viola here, Abby Swidler violin or viola, Aimée Nieman violin on one track, which also has voice from all three. Mostly slow and methodical, thinking of minimalism. A bit more interesting toward the end, but I've never liked the shrillness. B [bc]
Petrol Girls: Baby (2022, Hassle): English punk band, Ren Aldridge sings (or more often screams), started with an EP in 2014, no longer all girls, this is their third album, 11 songs in 34:00. B+(**) [sp]
Chris Pitsiokis: Art of the Alto (2022, Relative Pitch): Alto saxophonist, has produced quite a bit since 2012, including his group CP Unit. This one is solo, second time he's done that. First impression is that this is as good/bad/unlistenable as Anthony Braxton's For Alto. But ultimately it's a bit more varied, which helps. B+(*) [bc]
Shawn Purcell: 180 (2022, Origin): Guitarist, from Pittsburgh, based in DC region, spent eight years in Airmen of Note, teaches at George Mason. Basically an organ trio, with Pat Bianchi and Jason Tiemann, plus trombone on one track, vocals (Darden Purcell) on three. B [cd]
Harish Raghavan: In Tense (2021 , Whirlwind): Bassist, based in New York, second album, quintet with Morgan Guerin (reeds), Charles Altura (guitar), Joel Ross (vibes/marimba), and Eric Harland (drums). B [sp]
Joe Rainey: Niineta (2022, 37d03d): Pow wow singer from Minneapolis ("faithful to tradition"), first album, backed by "cinematic, bass-heavy production from Andrew Broder." Jarring at first, grows on you. B+(**) [sp]
Enrico Rava/Fred Hersch: The Song Is You (2021 , ECM): Trumpet and piano duets: five standards, ranging from Monk to Jobim, one original each, one joint improv. Very comfortable. B+(***) [sp]
Joshua Redman/Brad Mehldau/Christian McBride/Brian Blade: Long Gone (2022, Nonesuch): Supergroup (tenor sax, piano, bass, drums), all four established themselves as leaders in the 1990s, came together for the well-regarded 2020 album Round Again. B+(***) [sp]
Dave Rempis/Tomeka Reid/Joshua Abrams: Allium (2022, Aerophonic): Alto/tenor sax, with cello and drums, in what's by far the most atmospheric album Rempis has ever recorded. Lovely stretch toward the end, but hard to get excited about all the down time. B+(***) [cd] [10-04]
Howard Riley/Keith Tippett: Journal Four (2016 , NoBusiness): Two major avant-jazz pianists in Britain: Riley's 1970 The Day Will Come is a Penguin Crown album, but Tippett (1947-2020) was the flashier player. They each take a warm-up solo here (15:53 for Tippett, 10:26 for Riley) then conclude with a 46:47 duet. B+(**) [cd]
Rick Rosato: Homage (2021 , self-released, EP): Bassist, originally from Montreal, based in New York, first album, solo: eight tracks, 22:51: the original title track, a Monk, one from Elvin Jones, the rest blues. B+(*) [cd] [10-14]
Jeremy Rose: Face to Face (2022, Earshift Music): Australian saxophonist (tenor/soprano, also bass clarinet), several albums (I have a newer one in the queue). Quartet with piano, bass, and drums. B+(**) [bc]
Jackie Ryan: Recuerdos De Mi Madre (2022, Open Art): Standards singer, grew up north of San Francisco, mother was Soledad Garcia, born in Mexico. Songs in Spanish, some even I recognize, with a band that features Paquito D'Rivera. B+(**) [cd] [10-07]
Sampa the Great: As Above, So Below (2022, Loma Vista): Rapper Sampa Tembo, from Zambia, raised in Botswana, based in Australia after she turned 20. Second album (after two mixtapes). B+(**) [sp]
Santigold: Spirituals (2022, Little Jerk): Singer-songwriter Santi White, from Philadelphia, eponymous debut 2009, fifth album but first I've heard in a decade. No obvious gospel tropes or stylings here, but fine with me if the spirit wants to move. A- [sp]
Mista Savona: Havana Meets Kingston Part 2 (2022, Cumbancha): Australian keyboardist/producer, into dancehall, released a 2007 album called Melbourne Meets Kingston, followed it up in 2014 with a Mista Savona Presents Sizzla, then in 2017 with his first Havana Meets Kingston. Seems like a smoother mix than you get with reggaeton. B+(**) [bc]
Rina Sawayama: Hold the Girl (2022, Dirty Hit): Pop singer, born in Japan, moved to London at age five, got a degree at Cambridge in political science, has worked as a model and actress. Twenty singles, but this is just her second album. I didn't like her earlier work, possibly sounded too metal, but this at best sounds like '90s Madonna, and there's something to even the most overwrought ballads. B+(**) [sp]
Joan Shelley: The Spur (2022, No Quarter): Folk singer-songwriter from Kentucky, albums since 2010, some in the group Maiden Radio. Nice voice, very pretty album. B+(**) [sp]
Wayne Shorter/Terri Lyne Carrington/Leo Genovese/Esperanza Spalding: Live at the Detroit Jazz Festival (2017 , Candid): Venerable saxophonist, 83 when he was called on to headline the festival, played one set with his regular quartet, then assembled this one for another set, giving the drummer featured place, followed by piano and bass-vocals. The vocals flow nicely with the music, and as does the sax. B+(**) [sp]
Ben Sidran: Swing State (2021 , Nardis): Pianist, started in a rock band with Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs, has three dozen solo albums since 1970 (of which I've only heard one before this), I have him down as a vocalist but not here: eight standards (including "Ain't Misbehavin'," "Stompin' at the Savoy," and "Tuxedo Junction"), backed by Billy Patterson (bass) and Leo Sidran (drums, his son). B+(**) [cd]
Sonny Singh: Chardi Kala (2022, self-released): Based in Brooklyn, sings, plays trumpet, dhol, and harmonium, drawing on Sikh devotional poetry (gurbani), projecting high spirits as well as "denouncing tyranny, oppression, and dogmatic ideologies, while uplifting oneness and justice." The bit of lyric I understood helped. B [sp]
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: Let's Turn It Into Sound (2022, Ghostly International): Started with a fascination for synthesizers and sound design, debut 2012, sings some, tenth album, some interesting quirks in the electronics. B+(*) [sp]
Something Borrowed, Something New: A Tribute to John Anderson (2022, Easy Eye Sound): Country singer, has a big, goofy voice you can't mistake for anyone else, debut in 1980, 22 albums through 2020, most of them charted but only 3 went gold, starting with 1982's Wild & Blue. Not immediately clear how many of these were written by Anderson, or how recently they were recorded. (This starts with John Prine, who died in 2020, singing "1959," written by Gary Gentry, and ends with a Billy Joe Shaver song, and one by Bo Diddley in the middle.) B+(**) [bc]
Clark Sommers Lens: Intertwine (2021 , Outside In Music): Bassist, side-credits since 1998, has a couple albums with his group Ba(SH), Lens seems to be another group -- although Geof Bradfield (reeds) and Dana Hall (drums) overlap, joined here by Chris Madsen (tenor sax) and Matt Gold (guitar). Original pieces, nicely orchestrated postbop. B+(**) [cd]
Vic Spencer x Small Professor: Mudslide (2022, Coalmine): Chicago rapper, albums since 2012, while producer Jamil Marshall goes back a bit further. Most memorable cut is a murder yarn. B+(*) [sp]
Sudan Archives: Natural Brown Prom Queen (2022, Stones Throw): Brittney Parks, born in Cincinnati, based in Los Angeles, plays violin, sings, raps, and presumably wrote the 18 bits that toss and turn in this kaleidoscope of an album. A- [sp]
Suede: Autofiction (2022, BMG): Britpop group, first four albums (1993-99) were big hits in UK, three later albums (2013-18) returned to top ten there. For most of this time, they were known as London Suede in the US, but that seems not a problem this time. Music seems framed for the arena: big and heavy. B [sp]
Charm Taylor: She Is the Future (2021, Sinking City): Born in St. Louis, based in New Orleans, "liberationist & pollinator is generating new music and art as movement in the throes of social revolution, emergent motherhood, and a global yearning for a better world." First album. Sings some, raps more. B+(**) [bc]
Teddy & the Rough Riders: Teddy & the Rough Riders (2022, self-released, EP): Nashville band, guitar-bass-drums plus pedal steel, released an album in 2019, back here with six songs (19:56). B [bc]
Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers: Pretty Good for a Girl Band (2022, Domestic La La, EP): Australian girl band, leans punk but not real hard, released an EP in 2017 and a couple singles. This one runs 5 songs, 15:01. B+(*) [sp]
Two Shell: Home (2022, Mainframe Audio, EP): British electronica duo, from London, eight releases since 2019, mostly EPs, which is how this one is billed, but at 5 tracks, 33:03 it could be an album. But it seems to slip by awful fast. B+(*) [sp]
Matt Ulery: Become Giant (2022, Woolgathering): Chicago bassist, albums since 2009, goes long on strings here, with three violins, viola, cello, and drums, on the multipart title piece plus one more (total: 36:25). B+(**) [cd]
UNKLE: Ronin II [Mixed] (2022, self-released): Founded in 1990s by British electronia producer James Lavelle, a group that included DJ Shadow (Josh Davis) for their 1998 debut, Psyence Fiction, but has reduced here to someone called Miink and occasional guests, revisiting old tunes and adding a couple new ones. The closer is by far the most impressive. B+(**) [bc]
Kate Vargas: Rumpumpo (2021, Bandaloop): Singer-songwriter, plays guitar and flute, distinctive voice, fourth album since 2013. B+(**) [sp]
Will Vinson: Tripwire (2021 , Whirlwind): British alto saxophonist, based in New York, dozen-plus albums since 2004, this a trio with Matt Penman (bass) and Eric Harland (drums), plus guest Melissa Aldana (tenor sax) on two tracks. B+(***) [sp]
Eric Vloeimans & Will Holshouser: Two for the Road (2021 , V-flow/Challenge): Trumpet and accordion duo, not the most felicitous of combinations, recorded live. B(*) [cd]
Katharina Weber: In Marta's Garden: Piano Solo (2022, Intakt): Swiss pianist, has a 2001 duo credit, a previous 2008 solo album, more albums since. B+(*) [sp]
Wiri Donna: Being Alone (2022, self-released, EP): New Zealand-based "rock project," Bianca Bailey singer-songwriter, six tracks (23:46) EP after a 2-track single. B [bc]
Witchcraft Books [Shorty Skilz/Kanif the Jhatmaster]: Vol I: The Sundisk (2022, Iapetus): Cover can be parsed several ways, with Bandcamp page using "Witchcraft Books" in title as well as artist credit, with the duo names way below. Both artists have separate albums on the label, so I was tempted to elevate their names, but for now will just note them. South Africans (I think), closer to U.S. underground hip-hop than to local grooves (kwaito or amapiano), but was mastered in Marseille and Catalonia, and covers a fair swath of cosmos. A- [sp]
Wrecking Crew: Sedale Threat (2022, self-released): Hip-hop collective, Small Professor brings the beats, others I haven't heard of. Title a Lakers basketball reference I didn't get, although I caught a couple more. B+(**) [sp]
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Suzi Analogue: Infinite Zonez (2016-19 , Disciples): Hip-hop/electronica producer, compiled this from four Zonez volumes. B+(*) [sp]
Miles Davis: Live: What It Is: Montreal 7/7/83 (1983 , Columbia/Legacy): After hiatus 1975-80, Davis staged a minor comeback in the early 1980s, probably peaking with the live Star People in 1983. This is much the same band, with the leader on trumpet and keyboards, Bill Evans (sax/flute), John Sccofield (guitar), Darryl Jones (bass), Al Foster (drums), and Mino Cinelu (percussion). Nine songs, 82:59, heavy on the funk groove. B+(***) [sp]
Miles Davis: That's What Happened [The Bootleg Series, Vol. 7: 1982-1985] (1982-85, Columbia/Legacy, 3CD): Third disc reissues the Montreal date, available earlier this year on 2-LP. It's preceded by two discs of studio outtakes, mostly the residue of producer Teo Macero's editing. They are pleasantly inconspicuous. The live set is much hotter, but no more varied. B+(**) [sp]
Daunik Lazro/Jouk Minor/Thierry Madiot/David Chiésa/Louis-Michel Marion: Sonoris Causa (2003 , NoBusiness): French saxophonist, albums since 1980, plays baritone here, with contrabass sarrusophone, bass trombone/telescopic tubes, and two 5-string basses, so you could say they "get down." B+(**) [cd]
John Ondolo: Hypnotic Guitar of John Ondolo (1961-68 , Mississippi): Tanzanian singer-songwriter, frequented the Kenyan scene in Nairobi, played guitar, a member of Vijana Jazz Band. This collects early singles. Feels primitive, but is still very beguiling. A- [bc]
Prince and the Revolution: Live (1985 , NPG/Legacy, 2CD): March 30 concert in Syracuse, "televised live and semi live around the world," released at the time on tape (VHS/Betamax, with a Laserdisc in 1988), source for numerous bootlegs, until the Estate finally came up with the definitive box set (3-LP, 2-CD, Blu-ray), or just the 2-CD and/or Blu-ray. I'm just streaming the audio. The set draws heavily on his most recent album, Purple Rain, along with familiar earlier material. The auditorium and the crowd don't do the sound any favors, so while the energy is high and the songs are great, I don't see this as terribly useful. B+(**) [sp]
Lou Reed: Words & Music, May 1965 (1965 , Light in the Attic): Looks like Reed is going to get the full posthumous archive exploitation, starting with his earliest and crudest demos, mailed to himself to establish copyright: some songs that would become famous, some long forgotten, some with John Cale joining in, a Dylan-ish "Men of Good Fortune." I've only heard the 11 tracks of the most basic edition, and haven't seen Greil Marcus's liner notes. Rest assured that there are other options to take more of your money. At this level, it offers minor charms and amusements, as well as much room for improvement. B [sp]
Lou Reed: I'm So Free: The 1971 RCA Demos (1971 , RCA): Guitar and vocal takes of 17 songs -- all 10 from his 1972 eponymous solo debut, 4 more from Transformer, 2 that appeared on later albums ("Kill Your Sons" on Sally Can't Dance, and "She's My Best Friend" on Coney Island Baby), plus a VU song Mo Tucker originally sung ("I'm Sticking With You"). The album mixes have always had their detractors, but bare demos feel a little monotonous. B+(**)
Sam Rivers: Caldera [Sam Rivers Archive Project, Volume 6] (2002 , NoBusiness): Featuring Doug Matthews (acoustic & electric bass, bass clarinet) and Anthony Cole (drums, tenor sax, piano), a trio that had been playing together since 1994. Rivers himself plays tenor & soprano sax, flute, and piano, plus gets a vocals credit. Opens with piano, finds new and varied combinations, what improvisation is all about. A- [cd]
Charles Stepney: Step on Step (, International Anthem): From Chicago, died young (1931-76), has some side credits but is best known as a producer, initially for Chess in the 1960s, later for Earth, Wind & Fire and other groups. No albums under his name until this one, which collects 23 undated demo pieces for 78 minutes -- mostly keyboard vamps, with some extraneous patter. The NY Times had a long review of this that described it as "a legacy of love" for someone who was "underrated, under-known, but he was magnificent." Maybe so, but aside from beat samplers, I doubt many will care. B [sp]
Stereolab: Electrically Possessed [Switched On, Vol. 4] (1999-2008 , Duophonic/Warp, 2CD): British electropop, principally Tim Gane (guitar/keyboards) and Laetetia Sadier (vocals/other instruments), founded 1990, broke up 2009, regrouped 2019. Switched On was a 1992 album compiled from earlier EPs and singles, and two more volumes followed to 1998. This picks up with the 1999-2000 EPs The Underground Is Coming and The First of the Microbe Hunters, and then adds various scraps. Initial groove piece is terrific for 9:29, later vocals a bit less so. B+(***) [sp]
Stereolab: Pulse of the Early Brain [Switched On, Volume 5] (1992-2008 , Duophonic/Warp, 2CD): Fifth volume of miscellaneous cuts, has to dig a little deeper, which sometimes means earlier. B+(**) [sp]
Celestine Ukwu and His Philosophers National: No Condition Is Permanent (1971-74 , Mississippi): Nigerian (Igbo) highlife singer (1940-77) and bandleader, recorded a half-dozen albums with this group (1971-76). Five tracks (32:57), selected from singles and albums. Loses a bit when they slow it down, but the closer ("Tomorrow Is So Uncertain") is especially lovely. B+(***) [bc]
Yugen Blakrok: Return of the Astro-Goth (2013, Iapetus): South African rapper, first album, I liked her 2019 album Anima Mysterium but didn't bother to look back at at whatever else was available. Mostly this album, with its cosmic beats and consciousness to match, noting "of all the things to waste the most terrible is the mind," and pushing: "we need a paradigm shift." A- [bc]
Tony Conrad: Early Minimalism: Volume One (1964-65 , Table of the Elements, 4CD): Experimental film/video producer, composed pieces on the drone end of the minimalist scene that developed in New York in the 1960s. The first disc here is "Four Violins," and right away you'll hear the electric viola tone that John Cale brought to the Velvet Underground. Unfortunately, for 32:30 (and it seems much longer) you'll hear nothing else. The later sessions are slightly more fetching, not that the drones vary much there, either. The box is flimsy with a promotional wraparound, but it does include a fairly substantial booklet. B+(**) [cd]
The Dils: Class War (1977-80 , Bacchus Archives): Los Angeles punk band, released two singles in 1977 ("I Hate the Rich"/"You're Not Blank" and "Class War"/"Mr. Big"), and three more songs in 1980, with a 10-track live album appearing in 1990, all combined here. Two members went on to the country-rock Rank and File. The singles are notably political, and they display some embryonic tunecraft. B+(*) [sp]
Kanif the Jhatmaster: The Hashemite (2016, Iapetus): South African hip-hop producer Rufus Sebright, "first appeared on the South African hip-hop scene in '97," but this seems to be his first album headlining. Note that 9 of 10 titles end in "Dub" (the other ends in "Ska"). And that's about all there is to it. B+(*) [bc]
Kanif the Jhatmaster: Flight of the 50 Foot Vimana (2016, Iapetus, EP): As understated as dub, but much more inscrutable. Seven tracks (25:01). B+(**) [bc]
The Mercury Blues 'n' Rhythm Story 1945-1955 (1945-55 , Mercury/Chronicles, 8CD): Two discs each for Midwest Blues, Southwest Blues, West Coast Blues, and East Coast Blues. Mercury started in 1945 as an independent in Chicago, but they aimed big and spread everywhere, adding labels like EmArcy and Norgran (for jazz) and Smash, moving into Nashville and on to Europe, getting sucked up by Philips (eventually merged into Universal). Despite this breadth, this box winds up leaning heavily on a few artists: on the blues end, Big Bill Broonzy and Sunnyland Slim, and somewhat jazzier, Roy Byrd, Dinah Washington, and Cleanhead Vinson. Comes in an old-fashioned long box with four 2-CD jewel cases, and a big and useful booklet. B+(***) [cd]
Highlights From the Mercury Blues 'n' Rhythm Story (1945-55 , Mercury/Chronicles): Single-CD sampler from the 8-CD box, 20 tracks. Cuts way back on the redundancy with only one song per artist, but plenty to go around. I suspect I could pick an alternate I'd like even more, but this does the job. A-
Nazareth: Back to the Trenches: Live 1972-1984 (1972-84 , Sanctuary/Castle, 2CD): Scottish hard rock band, debut 1971, moved into arenas with their 1975 album Hair of the Dog, solid but nondescript, from the era before metal became dead weight. B [cd]
Nova Twins: Nova Twins EP (2016, Robotunes): British funk-metal duo, Amy Love and Georgia South, 5-song debut (15:03), start out closer to hip-hop but with heavier bass lines. I recommend their two subsequent full-length albums, but this should get you going. A- [sp]
Marianne Nowottny: Manmade Girl: SOngs and Instrumentals (2001, Abaton Book, 2CD): Singer-songwriter, second album after a 1999 debut, Discogs lists four more since. Songs fractured, backed with keyboard. Second disc of instruments, slips into background. B+(*) [cd]
Precocious Noise and Early Electronica Pt. 1: Incantations for Tape (1920s-60s , Sound Miracle): Odd electronic music, from days when anything you could coax out of a circuit seemed like a breakthrough. How valuable this is will depend on the documentation. [NB: Streaming issues may have confused me here: it's possible that some pieces were omitted, while others were added at end.] B+(*) [sp]
Precocious Noise and Early Electronica Pt. 2: Wire Recorded Pieces (1921-62 , Sound Miracle): Most of these date from the 1950s, with early ones from 1921, 1938, 1944. Later pieces include a few well-known names, like Ligeti, Ussachevsky, and Pierre Henry. B+(**) [sp]
Enrico Rava: Il Giro Del Giorno in 80 Mondi (1972 , Black Saint): Italian trumpet player, still active, looks like his first album, appeared on a small label at the time before being reissued here. Title translates to Around the Day in 80 Worlds. Quartet with guitar (Bruce Johnson), bass (Marcello Melis), and drums (Chip White). Tries to be funky but also a bit out. B+(**) [sp]
Enrico Rava: The Pilgrim and the Stars (1975, ECM): First of many records on ECM, backed by guitarist John Abercrombie's trio, with Palle Danielsson (bass) and Jon Christensen (drums). They set a fine pace, and he sounds exceptional. A- [sp]
Enrico Rava: The Plot (1976 , ECM): Return engagement, same quartet, similar vibe. B+(***) [sp]
Enrico Rava: Secrets (1986 , Soul Note): Quintet with electric guitar (Augusto Manicinelli), piano (John Taylor), bass (Furio Di Castri), and drums (Bruce Ditmas). B+(**) [sp]
Enrico Rava/Franco D'Andrea: For Bix and Pops (1994 , Philology): Trumpet and piano duets, not a style of music either is known for, and may seem a bit stiff, but nicely done. B+(**)
Enrico Rava/Ran Blake: Duo En Noir (1999, Between the Lines): Trumpet/flugelhorn and piano duets. One Rava original, the rest standards, with Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" a nice addition to the usual fare (not that they will ever run out of things to do with "Tea for Two"). B+(***) [sp]
Lou Rawls: The Essential Lou Rawls (1963-81 , Philadelphia International/Legacy, 2CD): Soul singer from Chicago, started in church, recorded with the Pilgrim Travelers in 1962, also with Les McCann, becoming a fixture at Capitol (1962-70), but wasn't a very big star there (3 singles charted 13-17-18). He got a second chance on Philadelphia International (1976-81), where he scored his biggest hit -- the still remarkable "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine" -- but little else. That's as far as this goes, but he moved on to Epic, and kept releasing records up to his death in 2006. Impresses as a singer, but rarely finds the right song or arrangement. B- [sp]
Shorty Skilz: Spirit Scream (2019, Iapetus, EP): South African rapper, half of Witchcraft Books, short debut album (7 tracks, 24:09). B+(*) [bc]
Britney Spears: . . . Baby One More Time (1998 , Jive): Teen pop princess, cast in The Mickey Mouse Club at 11, signed a record deal at 15, released this debut album at 17, looking pert and wholesome on the cover, last time you could say that. Sold 25 million copies: her most ever, although the next one came close (20 million). Front-loaded. The ballad "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart" seemed like a fall, but turned out to be catchy enough. B+(**)
Britney Spears: Britney (2001, Jive): Third album, another big seller (10 million), seems to have found her sound here, compressed with a staccato beat. B+(***)
Britney Spears: Circus (2008, Jive): Sixth album, after In the Zone (B) and Blackout (high B+), which this outsold 4 million to 3.1. Her ballad is a bust, but the dance beats are tight, even if there's little to distinguish the songs. B+(*)
Britney Spears: The Essential Britney Spears (1998-2012 , RCA/Legacy, 2CD): Seven albums in -- Britney Jean came out later and contributed nothing here -- so less to choose two discs (33 songs) from than the single disc (14 songs) Greatest Hits from 2004. But as she grew out of teendom, she got dirtier, and her beats got denser, so while she never came up with a particularly interesting pop persona, her records got better even as the individual songs grew less memorable. Her early phase end 9 songs in with "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman." The rest is consistenty enjoyable, although I could say the same for 2011's Femme Fatale (4 songs here), or for that matter 2016's Glory (her last album before her neuroses and conservatorship put her out of commission). A-
Britney Spears: Britney Jean (2013, RCA): Still charting high (although topping out at 4 was her lowest ever), but the raw sales have collapsed (as was happening throughout the industry). She describes this as her most personal album, and indeed has a piece of all the songwriting credits, but also a lot of help. B
Stereolab: Peng! (1992, Too Pure): Described as an "English-French rock band," based in England but singer Laetitia Sadier is French, the others on this debut album have proper English names (Tim Gane, Martin Kean, Joe Dilworth), but also give credit to a Charles Baudelaire text. Finds its groove with "Perversion," then sustains with some Velvet Underground airs. B+(**)
Stereolab: Switched On (1990-91 , Slumberland): Starting off a future series, this combines four tracks each from two EPs (Super-Electric and Super 45) with the two tracks from their single Stunning Debut Album. Seems elementary, but sometimes a groove is all it takes (especially with those Velvet Underground overtones). B+(**) [sp]
Stereolab: Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements (1993, Elektra): Title sounds like mere description, but not all that accurate, as most of it is pretty catchy, even a bit song-like. B+(***) [sp]
Stereolab: Mars Audiac Quintet (1994, Elektra): Guitar grinds a little more. B+(**) [sp]
Stereolab: Refried Ectoplasm [Switched On Volume 2] (1992-93 , Drag City): A second compilation of non-album tracks, mostly from 7-inch singles, with one previously unreleased track. Steady groove pieces amplified with drone, a hook in its own right. B+(***) [sp]
Stereolab: Aluminum Tubes [Switched On Volume 3] (1994-97 , Drag City, 2CD): Mostly EPs and side projects (like the "One Note Samba" with Herbie Mann from Red Hot + Rio). This period straddles their best album (Tomato Emperor Ketchup) and the much lamer Dots and Loops, so no surprise that it's more scattered than the first two Switched On volumes. Also longer: 113:12. B+(*) [sp]
Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.
Neptune Power Federation: Le Demon De L'Amour (2022, Cruz Del Sur): Australian fuzz metal band since 2012, singer Lauren Friedman (aka Screaming Loz Sutch), have a drummer who goes by Mr Styx. - [yt]
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:
Britney Spears: Greatest Hits: My Prerogative (1998-2004 , Jive/Zomba): Premature: compiled after four albums, baited with two new singles: the title cut (a Bobby Brown cover) is sharper than all but a couple of her own hits, which oddly seems to diminish them. [was: B] B+(***)
Music: Current count 38768  rated (+173), 44  unrated (-8).
Excerpts from this month's Music Week posts:
September 5, 2022
Music: Current count 38637  rated (+42), 56  unrated (+5: 23 new, 33 old).
I'm tired and sick and generally disgusted, so have next to nothing to say about this week's music. If you want to go to a happier place, try Phil Overeem's September list. That's where I found Witchcraft Books (or whatever the proper credit is). Before that, the only A- record on my list was Vol. 6 of the Sam Rivers archives, which is probably the 6th A- in that series so far.
I wrote a pretty long Speaking of Which over the weekend. I thought I could get up today and give is an extra edit pass, but wound up spending most of the day on the August Streamnotes index. Only thing I got out of that was the news that the Streamnotes index passed 20,000 last month.
I did a fairly extensive update of the Robert Christgau website last week. We've had several episodes where resource limits choked the website, and one of those occurred last week. I had been working on coding changes to check for attempted hacks using HTTP arguments (especially the GET variables set from the URL), so I pushed myself and puts checks on the last such cases. There's no proof that the resource limits were being caused by those hacks, but since I knew it was a security risk, it was the obvious fix to make. I've been monitoring the website more closely since then. We've had one fault, but it was short-lived, and I don't know what caused it. As the changes hit most of the database code, let me know if you run into anything amiss. It's also possible that the checks will catch some reasonable requests, so let me know about that, too.
Given today's fault, the changes don't appear to have fixed the problem. The entry process limit exists primarily as a defense against DOS (denial of service) attacks, but I don't see any evidence of that level of traffic. That means, most likely, that some page requests are causing processes to hang. I have no way of identifying hung processes, so I'm left to guessing, looking at code for suspicious loops. (Code injected through arguments can easily cause hangs like that, so my first guess wasn't necessarily a wrong one.) I put some logging code in to help, but after I didn't get any data back in three days, I discovered a bug, and had to start over. (Ah: caught 17 errors so far, some suspicious, but I forgot to log the script name, so should add that.)
New router seems to be working OK. It picked up all the old DHCP addresses, so I ran into less trouble than expected. In some ways the transition was a little too smooth.
The second album (Holy Souls) from my friend Cam Patterson's band Fox Green is available now. I've been slow getting around to it, but you can listen for yourself on Bandcamp, and order a CD or download there. The first one, The Longest April, was a high B+ both by Robert Christgau and yours truly.
September 12, 2022
Music: Current count 38685  rated (+48), 48  unrated (-8: 19 new, 29 old).
I don't have much to say about music this week, so the reviews can speak for themselves. I did have quite a bit to say yesterday in Speaking of Which. One thing I didn't bother with was the 21st anniversary of September 11. That's something I don't need to be reminded to "never forget," but the endless memorials have grown tiresome, especially as we still haven't come to terms with the much greater tragedy of the wars G.W. Bush and his merry band of Vulcans then launched to remind the world not to challenge American omnipotence.
If you still are interested, I wrote a bit of memoir and comments on various articles in a September 10, 2021 Speaking of Which, which more or less coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Attica prison massacre, so I wrote about that, too. The pieces cited there are still worth pondering (except for Olson, which I ponder enough), starting with Garrett M Graff's After 9/11, the US Got Almost Everything Wrong. I quoted Graff's section heads there, and they sum up the argument (but I'll add some clarifying notes here):
I've written about 9/11 many times over the years. The first was written in October, 2001, and backdated for the September, 2001 notebook. One line from then: "Those of us who survived Sept. 11 have survived a wake-up call: we need to look at our lives, and work all the harder to make right." That wasn't a very popular sentiment at the time. And that's part of the problem now.
Also note that all Responsible Statecraft did on 9/11 this year was to reprise their 9/11 at 20: A Week of Reflection pieces.
September 19, 2022
Music: Current count 38717  rated (+32), 46  unrated (-2: 19 new, 27 old).
Rated count is down, but that's partly explained by multi-disc sets: especially the 8-CD Mercury box, which took more than a day (including one I did some cooking on). But I also played more old music, including a big chunk of the ridiculously packaged Beg Scream & Shout: The Big Ol' Box of '60s Soul (an A- in my database).
This week's two A- records were featured in Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide. I previously graded Etran De L'Aïr: Agadez, and The Mountain Goats: Bleed Out as A-; also Kabaka International Guitar Band and The Mountain Goats: Getting Into Knives as B+(***). I didn't get to Fox Green this week, and doubt I'll be seeing the Dusty Springfield comp (Ace rarely shows up on streaming services, although sometimes someone constructs a usable playlist; I still have no clue how to construct a playlist on Spotify).
Another Speaking of Which out Sunday night. I've started reading J. Bradford DeLong's big book (Slouching Towards Utopia), and it's already kicking off a lot of thoughts in my head. For instance, DeLong argues that before 1870 gains in technology and productivity were always diverted into more population (per Malthus) instead of more wealth per capita, but that changed after 1870 (basically doubling wealth every 33 years, until recently). It occurs to me that the 1870 shift wasn't global. In particular, Africa continued growing population, which correlates with low per capita growth, and widespread poverty. On the other hand, Asia did make the shift, mostly well after 1870, but the richest nations there are par with Europe, and most others are catching up fast (aside from politically excluded countries like Afghanistan and North Korea). It's a big book, so I'll probably be stuck on it for quite some time.
I've been wanting to do a Books post. Perhaps this week. Also have quite a bit of domestic work to get done, hopefully this week (but not likely until it cools off a bit). Only 7 September releases in my demo queue, and 2 of those not until 9/30. On the other hand, September is bringing more interesting new releases: in addition to the Miles Davis box below, there are new records waiting from the Beths, Gogol Bordello, Jesca Hoop, Samara Joy, Julian Lage, James Brandon Lewis, Rhett Miller, No Age, Rina Sawayama, Suede, and something called the Marxist Love Disco Ensemble. Also finally out is Jessica Pavone's Spam Likely, which I gave an A- to back in June.
September 26, 2022
Music: Current count 38768  rated (+51), 44  unrated (-2: 16 new, 28 old).
I want to keep this brief. I haven't wrapped up the September archive file (link above) yet. I also haven't caught up with last week's releases in the metacritic file. Plenty of time for that sort of thing later.
I wrote up another big Speaking of Which yesterday. I picked up a couple links as far back as last Tuesday, but didn't write much of anything until Saturday. In between, I worked some on a future Book Roundup post, which I had hopes for last week but couldn't pull together in time. For what little it's worth, I developed a new scratch file to work in until I get enough material for a real post. No problem sharing the link, but I don't know how useful it will be (for you, although the jury is still out on how well it works for me).
I got some tips for this week's music from Chuck Eddy's Best Albums of 2022 So Far list, including an A- rapper I had never heard of. Christian Iszchak published a similar list. I spent less time with it, because I was already much more in tune with it -- I have 32 of 50 albums at A- or higher, 9 more at B+(***), only 1 as low as B, the last unrated belatedly added to today's list.
The Britney Spears dive was occasioned by a question to last week's Xgau Sez.
Pharoah Sanders died last week. I don't have much to say at this point, but my grade list is here. While there are good albums early and late -- in between was a struggle for most jazz musicians -- my favorite is 1990's Welcome to Love, which I've long regarded as the most gorgeous saxophone record ever recorded. Here are some obituaries: Andy Cush (Pitchfork); Andrew Flanagan/Nate Chinen (NPR); Jon Parles (New York Times).
Three more death to note way too briefly: Hillary Mantel (one of my wife's favorite writers); Anton Fier (drummer for Golden Palominos and other groups); Richard Cobeen (a music teacher and friend of friends). Also note that Dorothy Billings' memorial is this week.
Got a new dishwasher installed this week. I was surprised at how painful the whole process was: how hard it was to compare shopping information, how difficult to deal with dealers, how messy the whole delivery and installation process got. I'm not happy either with my choice or with the install (although not really the fault of the guy who did it). I've installed my own before, but decided to save myself some pain. If I ever do feel better, maybe I'll pull it out and redo it right, but for now it works ok. I used to pride myself as a smart shopper, but I'm on an extended losing streak.
Upgraded one computer to Ubuntu 22.04 last week with no issues, then finally did my main writing computer last night. Big problems. They lost my Firefox data (history, bookmarks, passwords, settings). Also broke my web server. Both problems are fixed now, but it took quite a bit of digging, config file editing, and shell programming to get it fixed. One reason I'm rushing to get this out.
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade: