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Streamnotes: January 31, 2023
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 December 31. Past reviews and more information are available here (21056 records).
75 Dollar Bill: Social Music at Troost Vol. 3: (Other) People's Music (2015-17 , self-released): Guitar and drums duo, Che Chen and Rick Brown, debut 2014, have added others especially to the live albums they've been releasing on Bandcamp since the lockdown, including sax, vocals, and bass to some of these pieces, as well as "bar patrons, friends, neighbors." This is a set of covers, ranging from Harry Partch and Pauline Oliveros to Yoko Ono to Bob Dylan and Dolly Parton. Phil Overeem's record of the year. A- [dl]
Ab-Soul: Herbert (2022, Top Dawg): Rapper Herbert Stevens IV, from Los Angeles, fifth album since 2011. Started out smart and sensitive, but has added a lot of bombast and bullshit. B [sp]
Courtney Marie Andrews: Loose Future (2022, Fat Possum): Country singer-songwriter from Phoenix, ninth album since 2013, has a light touch. B+(**) [sp]
Archers of Loaf: Reason in Decline (2022, Merge): Important alt-rock band in the 1990s, broke up in 2000, main guy Eric Bachmann moving on to record albums under his own name and under the group/alias Crooked Fingers. Band regrouped in 2011, but didn't record a new album until this one. B+(*) [sp]
Art Ensemble of Chicago: The Sixth Decade From Paris to Paris: Live at Sons D'Hiver (2020 , RogueArt, 2CD): Quintet formed in 1966, the best known group to emerge from the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Music), from their inception dedicated to transcending jazz and performing "great black music." The original group stuck together more than 30 years, until the deaths of Lester Bowie (1999), Malachi Favors (2004), and Joseph Jarman (2019). That left Roscoe Mitchell (sax) and Famoudou Don Moye (percussion), who keep the faith with a long list of guests: I count 18 here, where the vocalists (Moor Mother, Roco Córdova, Erina Newkirk) are most prominent, and the percussionists most numerous. I don't love all the vocals, but there's much to celebrate here. A- [cd]
Asake: Mr. Money With the Vibe (2022, YBNL Nation/Empire): Nigerian singer-songwriter Ahmed Ololade, first album (after an EP). Draws on hip-hop more than Afrobeat, but gets a nice flow either way. B+(***) [sp]
Authentically Plastic: Raw Space (2022, Hakuna Kulala): A DJ/producer based in Kampala, Uganda, name unknown ("dubbed 'Demon of the Nile' by conservative Ugandan media & politicians," so maybe for good reason), first album. Tracks lead with drums, which may lead to slight tweaks but hold pretty steady. B+(**) [sp]
Avantdale Bowling Club: Trees (2022, Years Gone By): New Zealand-based rapper Tom Scott, second album, sees this as a jazz project. Band may lean that way (including horns, sitar, and tabla), but this is driven by words, and insight ("rat race is nothing but a race to the grave"). B+(***) [sp]
Backxwash: His Happiness Shall Come First Even Though We Are Suffering (2022, Ugly Hag): Zambian rapper, based in Canada, fourth album. She likes heavy beats and harsh sounds, which smack of metal, without falling into doldrums. B+(**) [sp]
John Bailey: Time Bandits (2022 , Freedom Road): Trumpet/flugelhorn player, only has a couple albums but has been around a long time. Mainstream quartet here with George Cables (piano), Scott Colley (bass), and Victor Lewis (drums). B+(**)
Kelsea Ballerini: Subject to Change (2022, Black River): Pop singer-songwriter, working out of Nashville, but almost all of her songs have multiple co-writers and kitchen sink production -- nothing distinctively country about that, even when you get a title like "Love Is a Cowboy" or "You're Drunk, Go Home." B+(*) [sp]
Lucian Ban: Ways of Disappearing (2021 , Sunnyside): Romanian pianist, moved to New York in 1999, dozen-plus albums since 2002, this one solo. Originals plus one piece each by Annette Peacock and Carla Bley. B+(**) [sp]
Barcelona Art Orchestra: Ragtime Stories (2021 , UnderPool): Large (17-piece) group, conducted by pianists Néstor Giménez and Llis Vidal, with Lluc Casares (clarinet/tenor sax) and Joan Vidal (drums) also composing and arranging. May have some swing or earlier references, but is slick and fully postmodern. B+(***) [sp]
Batida: Neon Colonialismo (2022, Crammed Discs): DJ/producer Pedro Coquenão, born in Angola, raised in Lisbon, eighth album since 2009, working name synonymous with a style of electronic dance music in Lisbon, also a Brazilian cocktail. B+(**) [sp]
Ecko Bazz: Mmaso (2022, Hakuna Kulala): Uganda rapper, based in Kampala (which is becoming an important recording center), first album, with help from an international array of beat masters (Debmaster, Slikback, DJ Die Soon). B+(**) [sp]
Lakecia Benjamin: Phoenix (2022 , Whirlwind): Alto saxophonist, from New York, fourth album since 2012, this one co-produced by Terri Lyne Carrington, who aims for crossover not by compromise but by turning up the heat. Opens and closes with sirens and Angela Davis. Guest vocals from Dianne Reeves and Georgia Anne Muldrow, and spoken word by Sonia Sanchez and Wayne Shorter, but the sax speaks loudest and clearest. A- [cd]
Bruno Berle: No Reino Dos Afetos (2022, Far Out): Brazilian singer-songwriter, first album. Like more than a little fringe music, it stradles too easy and too weird. B+(**) [sp]
Blackpink: Born Pink (2022, YG Entertainment): K-pop girl group, second album, albeit a short one (8 songs, 24:34), a mix of electropop, hip-hop, plus the occasional change of pace. I'm not wild about the latter, though these aren't bad. Still hard to relate to K-pop, at least removed form the dance videos, which are slick and catchy. B+(***) [sp]
Bliss Quintet: Dramaqueen (2022, Jazzland): Norwegian quintet, first album, no credits on Bandcamp page, and I don't recognize any names on the cover, but figure trumpet, sax, piano, bass, drums. B+(*) [sp]
The Bobby Lees: Bellevue (2022, Ipecac): Rock group founded in Woodstock in 2018, Sam Quartin is singer-guitarist, third or fourth album. Harder than most rock I like, but tighter, and while I can't vouch for the lyrics, this has enough edge and snarl to make me think there must be more to it. A- [sp]
Bodysync: Radio Active (2022, self-released): Collaboration between Canadian DJ Ryan Hemsworth and Charlie Yin (Giraffage). B [sp]
Apollo Brown & Philmore Greene: Cost of Living (2022, Mello Music Group): Detroit hip-hop producer Erik Vincent Stephens, several dozen albums since 2007, many featuring guest rappers, like Greene here (two previous albums, his 2018 debut titled Chicago: A Third World City). More hard times, grit, and perseverance, sliding over beats that don't work too hard. A- [sp]
Buruklyn Boyz: East Mpaka London (2022, self-released): Kenyan drill group, basically a clipped form of hip-hop, even more so than the accents suggesting grime. This spareness is their attraction, but also their limit. B+(**) [sp]
The Cactus Blossoms: One Day (2022, Walkie Talkie): Country band from Minnesota, fifth album since 2011. Principally singer-songwriters Jack Torey and Page Burkum. B [sp]
Bill Callahan: YTILAER (2022, Drag City): Singer-songwriter from Maryland, recorded as Smog 1990-2007, tenth album under his own name, seems to be regarded as a big deal but I've never warmed to his deadpan vocals and minimal guitar. Title this time is a mirror image of REALITY -- I won't try to reproduce that affectation here, but much of the press has indulged him. First third of the album drags as usual, but he almost gets interesting after that. B+(*) [sp]
Loyle Carner: Hugo (2022, EMI): British rapper, stage name a play on his last name (Coyle-Larner), third album. B+(**) [sp]
Paul Cauthen: Country Coming Down (2022, Thirty Tigers/Velvet Rose): Country singer-songwriter from East Texas, started in group Sons of Fathers, third album (counting his debut My Gospel). Has a voice you'll be able to recognize again, with more grit and humor than his résumé suggests. B+(*) [sp]
Sarah Mary Chadwick: Flipped It (2022, Kill Rock Stars, EP): Singer-songwriter from New Zealand, seems to be based in Australia, album Me and Ennui Are Friends, Baby was a Christgau pick I've never quite fathomed. Five songs (18:37). If you didn't get her before, this primitivist set won't help. B [sp]
Chat Pile: God's Country (2022, The Flenser): Noise rock/sludge metal band from Oklahoma, named after the toxic waste left around lead-zinc mines. First album. Rates for chops and attitude, and is all the more amusing at the low volume that makes it tolerable to me. And yeah, in case you're wondering, God's country is indeed a toxic dump. B+(*) [sp]
Che Noir: The Last Remnants (2022, TCF Music Group, EP): Buffalo rapper, sixth album since 2019, second album this year, a short one (9 songs, 24:08). Beats steady, six feat. guests. B+(**) [sp]
Brent Cobb: And Now, Let's Turn to Page . . . (2022, Ol' Buddy): Country singer, fifth album since 2006, turns to the hymn book here, opening with an easy-going "Just a Closer Walk With Thee," and continuing to pick out old chestnuts that remind me of the comforts of church without the histrionic crap that drove me away. B+(**) [sp]
Luke Combs: Growin' Up (2022, Columbia Nashville): Country singer-songwriter from North Carolina, third album, all number ones, includes a duet with Miranda Lambert. B+(*) [sp]
Alaide Costa: O Que Meus Calos Dizem Sobre Mim (2022, Tres Selos): Brazilian singer, debut 1959, 83 when this came out. Not in any great hurry. B+(***) [sp]
Madison Cunningham: Revealer (2022, Verve Forecast): Singer-songwriter from California, fourth album. B+(**) [sp]
Rosalie Cunningham: Two Piece Puzzle (2022, Machine Elf): British singer-songwriter, second album after previous group Purson. B [sp]
Czarface: Czarmageddon (2022, Silver Age): Hip-hop group, with Inspectah Deck (of Wu-Tang) joining the duo 7L & Esoteric. Twelfth album since 2013. Trademark cartoon cover, lots of turntable squeaks, beats sometimes leaning toward punk. B+(***) [sp]
Lucrecia Dalt: ¡Ay! (2022, RVNG Intl): Colombian singer-songwriter, studied as a civil engineer, based in Berlin, albums since 2005 (initially as Lucrecia), previously unfamiliar to me, and hard to pigeonhole: the beats Latin but subtler, the electronics layered acoustically, the vocals foreign, the pacing and tension unique. A- [sp]
Sarah Davachi: Two Sisters (2022, Late Music): Canadian electroacoustic musician, based in Los Angeles, couple dozen albums since 2013. Plays organ, synthesizer, bells here, with extra strings, voices, and (one cut near the end) trombone, mostly to ambient effect. B+(*) [sp]
Richard Dawson: The Ruby Chord (2022, Domino): British singer-songwriter, from Newcastle Upon Tyne, albums since 2005, draws on (or deconstructs) folk music. Voice reminds me a bit of Robert Wyatt, and music is comparably off-kilter, but that's as far as the similarity goes. B- [sp]
DJ Lag: Meeting With the King (2022, Ice Drop): South African DJ/producer Lwazi Asanda Gwala, hailed as a Gqom pioneer since his "2016 breakout" (although amapiano, Afrotech, and Afrhouse are also mentioned). First full-length album, if anything too long (79:00). B+(***) [sp]
Drake: Honestly, Nevermind (2022, OVO Sound/Republic): Canadian rapper Aubrey Drake Graham, seventh album since 2011, all seven have topped both rap and pop charts, despite that aside from his debut, he albums get very little critical respect. Still, this one slides by painlessly enough. B+(*) [sp]
Drake & 21 Savage: Her Loss (2022, OVO Sound/Republic): Duo with Atlanta rapper Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph. B [sp]
Falkner Evans: Through the Lines (2022 , CAP): Pianist, originally from Tulsa, moved to New York in 1985, seventh album since 2001, his second solo outing. Measured and thoughtful. B+(**) [cd]
Brent Faiyaz: Wasteland (2022, Lost Kids): R&B singer Christopher Wood, from Maryland, second album. B+(*) [sp]
First Aid Kit: Palomino (2022, Columbia): Swedish folk-pop duo, sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, fifth album since 2010. More pop these days. B+(*) [sp]
Focalistic: Ghetto Gospel (2022, 18 Area Holdings): South African rapper, listed as amapiano, soft edge, easy flow, could be deep or shallow, but pleasing enough not knowing. B+(***) [sp]
Mimi Fox Organ Trio: One for Wes (2022 , Origin): Guitarist, albums as far back as 1987, trio here with Brian Ho (organ) and Lorca Hart (drums). She comes from a generation of American guitarists who were almost all under Wes Montgomery's spell, so the dedication isn't a surprise, but the music -- no Montgomery tunes, six originals (only dedication there is the probable typo, "For Django, Avec Amor"), covers of Bobby Timmons and Lennon-McCartney -- points elsewhere. B+(*) [cd]
Mabe Fratti: Se Ve Desde Aquí (2022, Unheard Of Hope): Cellist, also sings, from Guatemala, based in Mexico City, fourth album. B+(**) [sp]
Fred Frith/Susana Santos Silva: Laying Demons to Rest (2021 , RogueArt): Guitar and trumpet duo, one 41:57 piece, seems abstract at first but grows on you. B+(***) [cd]
Gabriels: Angels & Queens Part 1 (2022, Atlas Artists/Parlophone): Soul group from California, featuring vocalist Jacob Lusk with producers Ryan Hope and Ari Balouzian, first album (or first half of one, Part 1 (7 songs) coming in at 27:29, with a Part 2 promised for March, 2023. B+(**) [sp]
Moktar Gania & Gwana Soul: Gwana Soul (2022, MusjoMusic/Nuits d'Afrique): Gnawa singer from Morocco, member of a famous family of Gnawa musicians (although the shifting names are disorienting: presumably this is the same Maâlem Mokhtar Gania who recorded with Bill Laswell in 2016 and with Peter Brötzmann and Hamid Drake in 2020. B+(***) [sp]
George: Letters to George (2022 , Out of Your Head): Filed under drummer John Hollenbeck, who wrote all the songs except for two covers (a folk song from Cyril Tawney and an eerie -- or perhaps I mean creepy? -- "Bang Bang"), probably voiced by alto/soprano saxophonist Aurora Nealand. With Anna Webber on tenor sax, and Chiquita Magic on keyboards (Isis Giraldo, also credited with voice). Music is agreeably slippery. B+(***) [cd]
Ghost: Impera (2022, Loma Vista): Swedish rock band, fifth album since 2010, close enough to attract a metal following but I don't particularly feel it -- so this is relatively listenable, but loses interest midway (e.g., "Watcher in the Sky"). B- [sp]
Gilla Band: Most Normal (2022, Rough Trade): Irish band, changed name from Girl Band for this third album. Scattered stabs at punk, hardcore, noise. B [sp]
Keiji Haino: My Lord Music, I Most Humbly Beg Your Indulgence in the Hope That You Will Do Me the Honour of Permitting This Seed Called Keiji Haino to Be Planted Within You (2019 , Purple Tap/Black Editions): Japanese experimental musician, b. 1952, has close to 100 albums, mostly plays guitar and sings, but choice of instrument here is hurdy gurdy, with a lot of drone resonance. B+(*) [sp]
Hallelujah the Hills: The Music of the Beatles as Channeled in 1958 by the Echo Lake Home for the Potentially Clairvoyant (2022, Hallelujah the Hills): Beatles songs, mostly done as old-timey ballads, an effect meant to signify time travel. Supposedly the liner notes help. B+(*) [bc]
Hard Rubber Orchestra: Iguana (2022, Redshift): Large Canadian group, founded in 1990 and directed by John Korsrud, based in Vancouver, only a handful of albums. This one credits 21 musicians (including five drummers plus a percussionist), includes' three Korsrud compositions but he's not among the credits. B+(*) [sp]
Marina Herlop: Pripyat (2022, Pan): Spanish (or Catallan) composer, third album, sings and plays keyboards and other instruments, with occasional guest spots. B+(*) [sp]
Fred Hersch & Esperanza Spalding: Alive at the Village Vanguard (2022 , Palmetto): Piano and vocal duo, the latter perversely insisting on lower case, and not bothering with the bass she first made her name with. She scats a lot, but finds her voice on "Girl Talk." B+(***) [cd]
Honey Dijon: Black Girl Magic (2022, Classic): Transgender DJ, originally from Chicago, now based in New York and Berlin, second album (first was The Best of Both Worlds). Dance beats, all tracks have guest features, presumably singers. The house feels a bit like a cage at first, then grows into a world. B+(***) [sp]
Horse Lords: Comradely Objects (2022, RVNG Intl): Postrock band from Baltimore, fifth album since 2012. Gets a lot more interesting on the third track, where they lose the beat and find a saxophone. Nothing else quite at that level, but lots of interesting patterns and variations. B+(***) [sp]
Hot Chip: Freakout/Release (2022, Domino): British synthpop band, eighth album since 2004. B+(*) [sp]
Ryoji Ikeda: Ultratronics (2022, Noton): Japanese visual and sound artist, based in Paris, twenty or so albums since 1995, "focuses on the minutiae of ultrasonics, frequencies and the characteristics of sound in relation with human perception and the mathematical dianoia applied to music, time and space." That sells his beats short. B+(*) [sp]
Jeremy Ivey: Invisible Pictures (2022, Anti-): Nashville singer-songwriter, plays guitar, started in Buffalo Clover, married the singer (Margo Price), third solo album (counting one co-credited to the Extraterrestrials). B [sp]
Gisle Røen Johansen: Kveldsragg (2018 , Jazzaggression): Norwegian saxophonist, also credited with keyboards, first album, backed by guitar, pedal steel (2/3 tracks), electric bass, acoustic bass (Ingebrigt Håker Flaten), and drums (Gard Nilssen), with minor vocals on the second side. Leans spiritual at first, but toward the end the guitar gets heated up, and the sax comes out to play. B+(***) [sp]
Sly Johnson: 55.4 (2022, BBE): French singer, first name Sylvère, fourth album, "blends soul and hip-hop" (I'd say funk). Includes a slow, evocative "What's Going On." B+(**) [sp]
Khruangbin & Leon Bridges: Texas Sun (2020, Dead Oceans, EP): Houston psych rock band, mostly instrumental, got a gig opening for retro-soul singer Bridges in 2018, leading to this EP (and another in 2022), which really should be filed under the singer's name. Four songs, 20:58. B+(**) [sp]
Khruangbin & Leon Bridges: Texas Moon (2022, Dead Oceans, EP): A second EP, five songs (22:37). Focus shifts slightly to the band, who are chill. B+(*) [sp]
KMRU & Aho Ssan: Limen (2022, Subtext): Kenyan sound artist Joseph Kamaru, based in Berlin, ten albums since 2020. First mention I've seen of this collaborator. Three longish pieces, ambient but a bit harsh. B+(*) [sp]
Knucks: Alpha Place (2022, Nodaysoff): British rapper, Ashley Afamefuna Nwachukwu, born in London, first album after a couple EPs and a mixtape. B+(**) [sp]
Pierre Kwenders: José Louis and the Paradox of Love (2022, Arts & Crafts): Congolese singer-rapper, based in Canada, third album. B+(*) [sp]
Anysia Kym: Soliloquy (2022, self-released, EP): Electronica producer with a minor in hip-hop, based in New York, Bandcamp page has several releases. Seven songs, 14:37, guest spots for Semiratruth and MIKE. B+(*) [bc]
Lambchop: The Bible (2022, Merge/City Slang): Nashville indie band, albums since 1990, Kurt Wagner sings. Slow and ponderous, as usual. B [sp]
Mike LeDonne/Eric Alexander/Jeremy Pelt/Vincent Herring/Kenny Washington/Peter Washington: The Heavy Hitters (2022 , Cellar): Only surprise here is that LeDonne plays piano instead of organ. Mainstream stars (plus guitarist Rale Micic on one track), sound great at first, but not forever. B+(**) [cd]
Leroy [c0ncernn]: Dariacore 3 . . . At Least I Think That's What It's Called? (2022, self-released): This seems to be the work of a Jane Remover, although that could just be another alias, like Dltzk and High Zoey. Bandcamp and Discogs credit this (and its predecessors) to Leroy, but Spotify and others prefer C0ncernn. The cartoon cover is relatively normal, at least compared to the frantic, glitchy mashup of hard beats and stray sounds. I'm rather surprised that I can stand this, perhaps because it maintains an inherent musicality despite the randomness. B+(***) [sp]
Leroy: Dariacore (2021, self-released): Rewind one year (plus one day), so this is the formula, a little less splashy. B+(**) [sp]
Leroy: Dariacore 2: Enter Here, Hell to the Left (2021, self-released): Same shtick, only more of it. B+(**) [sp]
Linqua Franqa: Bellringer (2022, Ernest Jennings): From Athens, Georgia, "linguist by day, lunatic lady rapper by night." A little unsteady, but gets political toward the end, asking the labor solidarity "which side are you on?." B+(**) [bc]
Live Forever: A Tribute to Billy Joe Shaver (2022, New West): Not taking any chances here: the twelve songs are famous, iconic even, and the various artists are not just stars but well practiced in tributes, with Willie Nelson getting a second helping ("Fast Train to Georgia") after sharing the title song with Lucinda Williams. One I didn't recall but I'm glad I heard it here: "Ain't No God in Mexico." Steve Earle picked that one. A- [sp]
Zack Lober: No Fill3r (2022 , Zennez): Canadian bassist, originally from Montreal, bow based in the Netherlands, fair number of side credits since 2003, this seems to be his first album as leader. With Suzan Veneman (trumpet) and Sun-Mi Hong (drums). B+(*) [cd] [02-24]
Logic: Vinyl Days (2022, Def Jam): Rapper Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, seventh studio album since 2014, all substantial hits (but this one slipped a bit, chart 12 vs. 1-4 for the rest), but this one got scant notice. Maybe the boasts were in vain -- "when you got this much heat, it's hard to chill" -- or maybe it just runs on too long. Seems pretty solid to me, but what does it mean that my favorite track is the one where he reads the phone book? B+(**) [sp]
Lyrics Born: Vision Board (2022, Mobile Home): Rapper Tom Shimura, boasts he's "The Best Rapper in the World," and while that song doesn't make the case, I can't think of anyone who can pump up a beat like him, then match the clever string of words he flows in and around. He secures guests for six (of nine) songs, yet they all join together. Short (29:34). A- [sp]
Doug MacDonald: Big Band Extravaganza (2022 , DMAC Music): Guitarist, been around, has fun with a conventional big band, most prominent name Kim Richmond (alto sax). B [cd]
Madalitso Band: Musakayike (2022, Bongo Joe): Duo from Malawi, made their own instruments: a four-string guitar, a kick drum, a one-string slide bass with a bench to sit on. They generate a propulsive groove and engaging vocals, a bit removed from the South African model but on the fringe of that paradigm. A- [sp]
Kali Malone: Living Torch (2022, Portraits GRM): Stockholm-based electronica composer, originally from Denver, has several albums, this a 33:33 piece split for LP. She plays various synthesizers and software instruments, thickly ambient deepened with trombone (Mats Åleklint). B [sp]
Marlowe: Marlowe 3 (2022, Mello Music): Hip-hop duo, rapper Solemn Brigham and producer Austin Hart (L'Orange). Third album since 2018. Speed raps, hard to imaging improving on the flex beats. A- [sp]
The Mars Volta: The Mars Volta (2022, Clouds Hill): Prog rock band from El Paso, seventh album since 2003, seems fairly normal. B [sp]
Martha: Please Don't Take Me Back (2022, Dirtnap): English alt-rock band from Durham, fourth album, I was quite taken by their second (Blisters in the Pit of My Heart), but this has fewer hooks and more bluster. B+(*) [sp]
The Master Musicians of Jajouka Led by Bachir Attir: Dancing Under the Moon (2022, Glitterbeat, 2CD): Moroccan group of Jbala Sufi trance musicians, split off in 1992 from an earlier group going back to the 1950s. B+(*) [sp]
Joanna Mattrey/Gabby Fluke-Mogul: Oracle (2022, Relative Pitch): Violin duo (Mattrey's credit: viola, stroh violin), a sound I find intrinsically treacherous. Still, if you can get past that reaction, you get a lot of tricky interaction, including a bit of joust, which is actually a bit less jarring than a free sax squawk. B+(**) [sp]
MC Bin Laden: Invasão Dos Fluxos (2022, Kondzilla): Brazilian rapper, Jefferson Cristian dos Santos de Lima, moniker got my attention, but he identifies as an evangelical Christian. Genre listed as funk mandelão or funk ostenação or maybe baile funk (to pick one I've actually heard of). Spare metallic beats, grows on you. B+(***) [sp]
Fergus McCreadie: Forest Floor (2022, Edition): Scottish pianist, second album, trio with bass (David Bowden) and drums (Stephen Henderson). Impressive speed, retains his touch when he slows down. B+(**) [sp]
Carson McHone: Still Life (2022, Merge): Austin-based singer-songwriter, third album, close to country but enough? B+(*) [sp]
Joe McPhee & Tomeka Reid: Let Our Rejoicing Rise (2021 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Opens with a McPhee speech on Juneteenth and "Nation Time," leading into a tenor sax and cello duo, a bit on the solemn side. B+(**) [bc]
Metropolitan Jazz Octet: The Bowie Project (2020-22 , Origin): Featuring singer Paul Marinaro, but driving force seems to be producer Jim Gailloreto (tenor sax/soprano sax/flute), who assembled this group, to play and sing David Bowie songs. Sometimes the songs transcend the arrangements and even the voice. Sometimes not. B [cd]
Tyler Mitchell Octet: Sun Ra's Journey (2021 , Cellar): Young bassist, his credentials assured by giving a featuring spot to Marshall Allen. B+(***) [cd]
Montparnasse Musique: Archeology (2022, Real World): Duo, Algerian-French producer Nadjib Ben Bella, and South African DJ Aero Manyelo, the latter's hip-hop (or kwaito or gqom) with a dash of mbube wrapped up in electronic glitz. A- [sp]
Moonchild Sanelly: Phases (2022, Transgressive): South African (Xhosa) singer-songwriter, Sanelisiwe Twisha, started as a kwaito dancer, calls her music "future ghetto punk," second album, draws on amapiano, dancehall, and hip-hop, but it winds up sounding like like an exceptionally tight slab of ultra-funky pop. A thick slab, too, running 66 minutes, but the physical is broken up into two CDs (or LPs). A- [sp]
Simon Moullier: Isla (2022 , self-released): Vibraphone player, second album, quartet with piano (Lex Korten), bass, and drums. Nice easy flow. B+(**) [cd] [02-17]
Nas: King's Disease III (2022, Mass Appeal): Rapper Nasir Jones, dropped Illmatic 28 years ago and never let up, although he's return to his 2020 title for a third time. B+(***) [sp]
Native Sound System: Nativeworld (2022, Native): Not a group, evidently a British radio show (DJs Sholzstilltippin and Addy Edgal), tied to a Nigerian magazine, so this might be more of a various artists compilation. B+(*) [sp]
Youssou N'Dour Et Le Super Etoile De Dakar: Special Fin D'Année 2022 (2022, self-released, EP): Four tracks, 20:41. Not essential, but the last track would fit nicely in one of his typically brilliant albums. B+(**) [sp]
Nerves Baddington: Micro (2022, Apt. B Productions): Hip-hop trio from Birmingham, Alabama, debut album 2017 (Dopamine Decoder Ring), released this and Macro on same day. MC Ryan Howell (InkLine), with John McNaughton on bass and Cam Johnson on drums. Dense beats with a metallic zing. B+(***) [sp]
Nerves Baddington: Macro (2022, Apt. B Productions): Released same day, another 45 minutes of dense soundscape. Marginal distinctions would take more time than I can spend, but either album (or both) could rate higher. B+(***) [sp]
Maggie Nicols: Are You Ready? (2021 , Otoroku): Scottish free jazz singer, plays piano, original name Margaret Nicolson, first albums 1982. This one is divided into two sets: "Songs" (39:46) and "Whatever Arises" (39:25). B+(*) [r]
Noori & His Dorpa Band: Beja Power! Electric Soul & Brass From Sudan's Red Sea Coast (2022, Ostinato): Band from Port Sudan, "a truly ancient community," introducing its own distinct style: beja. However ancient it may be, the string grooves aren't all that far removed from guitar music across the whole breadth of the Sahara. Very nice. Perhaps a bit too nice? B+(***) [sp]
Nord1kone/DJ Mrok: Tower of Babylon (2022, SplitSLAM): Rapper and DJ (credited here with "scratches"), don't know much about either, but note that Chuck D shares executive producer credit, and leads a long list of featured guests, including Gift of Gab. Voice doesn't match Chuck D for gravitas, but no reason not to want another Public Enemy knock-off. A- [sp]
Obongjayar: Some Nights I Dream of Doors (2022, September): Nigerian singer-songwriter, Steven Umoh, based in London, first album after several EPs. B+(**) [sp]
Oort Smog: Smeared Pulse Transfers (2017 , Sweatband, EP): Los Angeles duo, Patrick Shiroishi (sax) and Mark Kimbrell (drums). Billed as prog rock, or experimental, or brutal prog -- anything but jazz, but even they admit Coltrane-Ali is the source of the duo format. I'd venture no wave, but they're probably too young to have even heard of it. Ten punk-length pieces (19:46), not that they feel abbreviated, or distinct. B+(*) [sp]
Oort Smog: Every Motherfucker Is Your Brother (2022, AKP): Slightly longer at 28:59, but only one song, so you can call it anything from a single to an album. Long form means they can take a while warming up before breaking out. B+(**) [sp]
Ozzy Osbourne: Patient Number 9 (2022, Epic): Former Black Sabbath leader, 13th album since he went solo in 1980, first one I've bothered to listen to -- and probably the last, although it's no worse than their 1970s albums: a sign of artistic stasis, maybe even mellowing with age (74). B- [sp]
Oùat: Elastic Bricks (2021 , Umlaut): Trio, based in Berlin, of Simon Sieger (piano), Joel Grip (bass), and Michael Griener (drums); first album, original pieces, mostly by Grip with a couple by Sieger. B+(**) [sp]
Kim Petras: Slut Pop (2022, Republic, EP): German pop singer-songwriter, based in Los Angeles, trans, has a lot of singles, as far back as 2008 but especially since 2017, with a couple picked up before this super-trashy, super-smutty 7-track, 15:51 EDM teaser. I, too, "want to see how big it gets." A- [sp]
PinkPantheress: Take Me Home (2022, Warner Music, EP): Gemma Walker, British pop singer, got a lot of attention for her To Hell With It mini-album. Three more songs, 7:40, starting off with the previously released single "Boy's a Liar." Pretty good, but very slight. Not sure if she'll ever produce a real album -- her 10-track debut only ran 18:36 -- but it's hard to focus on these micro-doses. B+(*) [sp]
Pongo: Sakidila (2022, Virgin): Angolan singer, Engrácia Domingues, based in Lisbon, first album after a single and an EP. The typical Portuguese lilt lurks in the background, but the beats are so insistent you barely notice it. A- [sp]
Simona Premazzi: Wave in Gravity: Solo Piano (2021 , PRE): Italian pianist, based in New York, fourth album since 2006. Solo, as advertised. Half originals, half standards, including a Monk. All engaging. B+(**) [cd] [02-17]
Aaron Raitiere: Single Wide Dreamer (2022, Dinner Time): Country singer-songwriter from Kentucky, based in Nashville, first album, has written songs for a dozen name singers -- Anderson East, Miranda Lambert, Natalie Hemby, and Ashley Monroe return the favor with cameo and production credits here. B+(***) [sp]
Rema: Rave & Roses (2022, Marvin/Jonzing World): Nigerian singer-songwriter, Divine Ikubor, first album after a breakout EP. B+(***) [sp]
Dawn Richard & Spencer Zahn: Pigments (2022, Merge): R&B singer from New Orleans, released a 2005 album as Dawn Angeliqué, appeared in the group Danity Kane, went solo in 2013. She tends to recede into Zahn's electronica here. B [sp]
Rizomagic: Voltaje Raizal (2021, Disasters by Choice): Colombian electronica duo, Diego Manrique and Edgar Marún, seems to be their first album. Rhythm vamps, fast and fractured. Short: 7 cuts, 28:43. B+(**) [bc]
Scrunchies: Feral Coast (2022, Dirtnap): Punk duo from Minneapois, Laura Larson (guitar) and Danielle Cusack (drums), second album after several previous group alignments (including Buzzcunts, a Buzzcocks cover band). B+(***) [bc]
Séketxe: Funjada (Kandendue Kaluanda) (2022, Chasing Dreams): Angolan hip-hop crew, related to drill, I don't understand a word, but dig their intensity and fractured beats. Only album I'm aware of, sometimes touted as an EP (8 songs, 30:43). B+(**) [sp]
Elliott Sharp/Eric Mingus: Songs From a Rogue State (2022, Zoar): Guitarist, many albums since 1978, many straying from jazz. Mingus sings, plays some bass. Leans toward blues, or Beefheart, but both harsher and wilder. B+(*) [sp]
ShrapKnel: Metal Lung (2022, Backwoodz Studioz): Hip-hop duo, Curly Castro and PremRock (Mark Debuque), started out in Wrecking Crew, second album. Sharp edges turn in on themselves. B+(*) [sp]
Jim Snidero: Far Far Away (2022 , Savant): Alto saxophonist, from DC area, studied at UNT, moved to New York in 1981, more than two dozen albums since 1984 (more side credits). Very solid outing, with guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel getting a "featuring" credit on the cover, and an impeccable rhythm section of Orrin Evans (piano), Peter Washington (bass), and Joe Farnsworth (drums). B+(***) [cd] [02-03]
Somadina: Heart of the Heavenly Undeniable (2022, self-released): Nigerian, born there but grew up in the Netherlands, first album, billed as an EP (11 songs, 27:33). I've scanned through a dozen articles, and can't identify a label, but I've seen various references to her "shapeshifting identity." Comes out of the gate with a big pop production, then gets more idiosyncratic, opening up space for a slow vamp and a ballad. No connection I can discern to Afrobeat, but there may be one. A- [sp]
Stormzy: This Is What I Mean (2022, Def Jam): British rapper Michael Omari, third album, not much beat. B [sp]
Styroform Winos: Styrofoam Winos Play Their Favorite M. Hurley Songs (2022, Sophomore Lounge): Nashville group -- Lou Turner, Trevor Nikgrant, Joe Kenkel, each with a solo album or more -- with a self-titled debut and a second At Home album. Pandemic project, as they picked favorite songs from the whimsical folksinger, and passed them around. I've heard, and enjoyed, almost all of Hurley's albums. Still, the only songs I recognize are from Have Moicy! B+(*)
They Hate Change: Finally, New (2022, Jagjaguwar): Hip-hop duo from Tampa, Vonne Parks and Andre Gainey, who count themselves as anglophiles, so are more into Goldie and Dizzee Rascal than most American rappers. B+(*) [sp]
Pat Thomas: Pat Thomas Plays the Duke (2021 , New Jazz and Improvised Music): British pianist, many albums since 1993, recently noticed tearing into Cecil Taylor, plays his solo arrangements of ten Ellington compositions, from "Prelude to a Kiss" to "C Jam Blues." Few are recognizable, reminding me of the dictum, "it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing." None do (although the closer hops, maybe even pogoes). B+(*) [bc]
Vieux Farka Touré & Khruangbin: Ali (2022, Dead Oceans): Guitarist-singer-songwriter from Mali, following his famous father's footsteps, tenth (or 12th) album since 2007, joined here by a Houston psych rock trio that has been diversifying of late (e.g., two EPs with Leon Bridges). They are near invisible here, probably for the better. B+(***) [sp]
Kalia Vandever: Regrowth (2022, New Amsterdam): Trombone player, based in Brooklyn, second album, original pieces, some guest alto sax (Immanuel Wilkins), but mostly built around piano and/or guitar. B+(***) [sp]
Phil Venable: Bassworks, Vol. 1 (2022, Soul City Sounds): Solo bass, three pieces (38:35), captivating within those limits. B+(*) [bc]
Skip Walker: Tina's Contemplation: A Reflection on the Genius of Tina Brooks (2022, Skip Walker Music): Brooks was a short-lived tenor saxophonist (1932-74) who recorded four mostly brilliant albums for Blue Note 1958-61. Walker is a drummer, tackling and contemplating Brooks' songbook with piano (Travis Shook) and bass (Essiet Okon Essiet). Very nice record, but I'm missing the saxophone. B+(***) [sp]
Wau Wau Collectif: Mariage (2022, Sahel Sounds): Senegalese-Swedish group, second album, mostly recorded in Senegal and mixed, with overdubs, in Sweden, by producer Karl Jonas Windqvist. B+(*) [sp]
The Wonder Years: The Hum Goes On Forever (2022, Hopeless): Emo band from Pennsylvania, Dan Campbell the singer, seventh album since 2007. Probably has some merit, but I lose interest when they get pumped up. B [sp]
Yelawolf/Shooter Jennings: Sometimes Y (2022, Slumerican): Michael Atha, started out as a white rapper from Alabama, teams up with the son of Waylon Jennings to make a fairly slick but hard-hitting rock album. B [sp]
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Terry Allen & the Panhandle Mystery Band: Smokin the Dummy (1980 , Paradise of Bachelors): Born in Wichita, he grew up in Lubbock, Texas; he trained as an architect, got a BFA, distinguished himself as a sculptor and painter, released an album in 1975, and a better one in 1979, Lubbock (On Everything). This sequel disappointed, but decades later you have to admire his energy and form, even if it doesn't stick with you. B+(**) [sp]
Terry Allen & the Panhandle Mystery Band: Bloodlines (1983 , Paradise of Bachelors): Fourth album, worked harder on his songwriting, built more firmly on gospel, but faith gets tested, not least when Jesus carjacks him. B+(***) [sp]
Ashbury Stabbins Duo: Fire Without Bricks (1976 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Duo, Larry Stabbins (tenor/soprano sax) and Roy Ashbury (drums), originally released in 1977. Struggles to be heard, interesting when it is. B+(*) [bc]
Chet Baker Trio: Live in Paris: The Radio France Recordings 1983-1984 (1983-84 , Elemental Music, 2CD): Collects two sets of radio shots, with Baker playing trumpet and singing, backed by piano (Michel Graillier) and bass (Dominique Lemerle or Riccardo Del Fra). B+(*) [sp]
Broadcast: The Maida Vale Sessions (1996-2003 , Warp): English indietronica band, recorded four albums 2000-09, one more after singer Trish Keenan died in 2011. This came from three John Peel and one Evening Session," the album named for the BBC studio. Ends strong. B+(*) [bc]
Miles Davis: Miles Davis With Tadd Dameron Revisited: Live 1949 at the Royal Roost NYC & in Paris at Festival Internationale De Jazz (1949 , Ezz-Thetics): Six tracks from a tentet led by pianist Dameron at the Royal Roost, plus nine tracks by a co-led quintet a Paris festival, with James Moody (tenor sax), Barney Spieler (bass), and Kenny Clarke (drums). Sound reminds me of Bird's Royal Roost dates, although this group is less focused and more slippery. Davis gets some good runs in Paris, especially on "Rifftide." B+(***) [bc]
Miles Davis Quintet: 2nd Session 1956 Revisited (1956 , Ezz-Thetics): When Davis signed with Columbia, he still owed Prestige four albums, which the Quintet -- John Coltrane (tenor sax), Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums) -- knocked out in two sessions, one on May 11, the other on October 26, 1956. The albums were slowly released, up to mid-1961, to capitalize on Columbia's publicity. This singles out the latter session, most of which was released on the first two albums (Cookin' and Relaxin'), plus one track from the other two (Workin' and Steamin'), plus a take of "'Round Midnight" (the title of their Columbia debut). A- [bc]
Disco Reggae Rockers (1973-86 , Soul Jazz): Mostly reggae-ified covers of American disco tunes, mostly avoiding big hits (although "Move On Up" is an ideal starter), and featuring sub-stellar talent (among the more famous: Derrick Harriott, Devon Russell, Pete Campfell, Hortense Ellis). Pretty hit and miss. B [sp]
Iftin Band: Mogadishu's Finest: The Al-Uruba Sessions (1982-87 , Ostinato): Somali band, shortly before Osama Bin Laden baited the US to intervene and destroy the country. B+(***) [sp]
Laddio Bolocko: '97-'99 (1997-99 , Castle Face): Noise rock band from New York, recorded two albums (Strange Warmings of Laddio Bolocko and In Real Time) and an EP (As If By Remote), all collected here. Guitar, bass, drums, and sax (Marcus De Grazia), some vocal samples, but mostly long instrumental vamps. "The Going Gong" impresses me as jazz. B+(***) [bc]
Based on the above set:
Pedro Lima: Recordar É Viver: Antologia Vol. 1 (1981-87 , Bongo Joe): Singer from São Tome, an island off the west coast of Equatorial Africa, controlled by Portugal until 1975. Lima (1944-2019) recorded regularly in the 1980s-1990s, the source of this compilation (which includes unreleased tracks). Strong influence here of Congolese rhumba and soukous, especially in the guitar. B+(***) [sp]
Mainstream Funk: Funk, Soul, Spiritual Jazz 1971-75 (1971-75 , WeWantSounds): A sampler from Bob Shad's 1964-76 label Mainstream Records, which started as a mostly jazz label -- their first releases were reissues from the Commodore and Time labels. Many of the musicians here were better known for jazz (Sarah Vaughan, who opens with a cover of "Inner City Blues"; Blue Mitchell, Johnny Coles, Buddy Terry), and most of the other cuts are longer on vamps than on vocals. B+(**) [bc]
Rise Jamaica! Jamaican Independence Special (1962 , Trojan, 2CD): Celebrating the 60th anniversary of Jamaica's independence, one disc is devoted to "Jamaican Radio Hits of '62," the other to "The Duke's Dubplates '62" (from the archives of Duke Reid). Reggae's golden years were still in the future, although there are hits you'll recognize: "Miss Jamaica", "Forward March," "Midnight Track," "Housewife's Choice," maybe Lord Creator's "Independent Jamaica." The others, perhaps even more so the not-yet-dub side, feel right for the time. B+(***) [sp]
Freddy Roland Y Su Orquesta De Moda: Freddy Roland Y Su Orquesta De Moda (1968 , Vampisoul): Saxophonist, Ángel Pablo Bagni Stella, from Argentina (1932-2004), played with Pérez Prado, wound up in Peru (home of his wife, a cumbia singer known as Veronikha). Bandcamp page has no credits or dates, but this matches a 1968 LP, which Discogs has as Vol. II. No doubt someone could assemble a quality retrospective (perhaps even one of those 4-CD Proper Boxes), but this slice of time is pretty wonderful. A- [bc]
Abash [Tommy Skotte/Anders Ekholm/Nils Danell]: Abash (1993, Dragon): Swedish trio, first of three albums through 2000, my inclination in parsing the cover is to credit the names and leave Abash as the title, but later albums follow the group name, and that's how I initially filed them. Besides, Ekholm (tenor sax) is the central figure, having written six songs, vs. one each' for bassist Skotte and drummer Danell). B+(***) [r]
Arcana: The Last Wave (1995 , DIW): Avant-fusion trio, recorded two albums, this first one with Derek Bailey (guitar), Bill Laswell (bass), and Tony Williams (drums), with Laswell producing. B+(***) [sp]
Albert Ayler: Nuits De La Fondation Maeght 1970 (1970 , Water): Tenor saxophonist, the defining force of the 1960s avant-garde, his death in November 1970 slamming the door on an era (especially coming after Coltrane's death in 1967). His last albums on Impulse were poorly regarded, but these final live sets have been widely bootlegged, and given the 4-CD box set treatment by Elemental Music in 2022 (Revelations: The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings, which finished 3rd in the Jazz Critics Poll, but only fragments are available to stream). This edition is a good sampler, superseding the two Shandar LPs with a single 73:55 CD. Quartet, with Call Cobbs (piano), Steve Tintweiss (bass), and Allen Blairman (drums), with a Mary Maria vocal at the end. A- [sp]
Derek Bailey: Drop Me Off at 96th (1986-87 , Scatter): British avant-guitarist, revered by the Penguin Guide but barely sampled by me, solo from two live sessions. My favorite bit is one where Bailey talks about his record company catalog, as his scattered guitar licks take a back seat. B+(**) [bc]
Chet Baker: The Best Thing for You (1977 , A&M): Don Sebesky produced this session, which doesn't look to have been released until shortly after Baker's death in 1988. The first side is standards, with Paul Desmond (alto sax), Kenny Barron (piano), Ron Carter (bass), and Tony Williams (drums). Second side is a 17:03 Sebesky piece with a bunch of extras. Both sides impress, even Sebesky's kitchen sink treatment. A- [sp]
Chet Baker Quartet Featuring Phil Markowitz: Live at Nick's (1978 , Criss Cross): Trumpet and vocal (including some scat), from a live set in London, with Markowitz on piano, Scott Lee on bass, and Jeff Brillinger on drums. Reissue adds two pieces, expanding from 44:53 to 68:37. B+(***) [r]
Chet Baker Quintet Featuring Warne Marsh: Blues for a Reason (1984 , Criss Cross): No vocals, just trumpet and tenor sax, backed with piano (Hod O'Brien), bass (Cecil McBee), and drums (Eddie Gladden). Marsh makes a huge difference here, cutting corners and slashing around curves, but Baker, too, gets the idea. A- [r]
Chet Baker Trio Featuring Philip Catherine: Chet's Choice (1985 , Criss Cross): Trumpet/vocal with guitar and bass (mostly Jean-Louis Rassinfosse), the CD adding three tracks. Catherine provides a bit of groove, keeping it all running smoothly. A- [r]
Jon Balke & Magnetic North Orchestra: Kyanos (2001 , ECM): Norwegian pianist, albums since 1991, group a septet from his 1994 album Further, with trumpets (Per Jørgensen and Arve Henriksen), sax (Morten Halle), cello, bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]
Dave Bartholomew: The Big Beat of Dave Bartholomew: 20 of His Milestone Productions 1949-1960 (1949-60 (2002), Capitol): Eight of them credited to Bartholomew, three more to Smiley Lewis, the others oddly misdirected. B+(**) [sp]
Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra: Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra (1989 , ECM): Seventeen-piece avant big band, conducted by Alexander von Schlippenbach, playing a 22:29 piece by Kenny Wheeler, plus two pieces by Misha Mengelberg (27:09 total) -- the latter steering this more toward ICP than Globe Unity. B+(***) [sp]
Tony Bevan/Paul Rogers/Steve Noble: Bigshots (1991 , Incus): British saxophonist (tenor/soprano), second album, a trio with bass and drums. B+(*) [bc]
Tony Bevan/Alexander Frangenheim/Steve Noble: Twisters (1995 , Scatter): A second trio, Bevan playing soprano and bass saxophone, with bass and percussion. B+(*) [bc]
Michiel Borstlap: The Sextet Live! (1995, Challenge, 2CD): Dutch pianist, first album, has a fairly stellar front line with trumpet (Eric Vloeimans), alto/c-melody sax (Benjamin Herman), and tenor/soprano sax (Yuri Honing), plus bass and drums. Plenty of energy, especially on trumpet. B+(**) [r]
Anthony Braxton: In the Tradition (1974 , Steeplechase): Often identified as Volume 1 these days, but I don't see any edition in Discogs, starting with the original five-track LP release in 1974, that makes that explicit. One of the lowest-rated albums in all of the Penguin Guide, but one can only speculate over the pique. Maybe the stinky sound of the contrabass clarinet, which all but buries "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," but on "Ornithology" it merely slows Braxton down to human speed. The Copenhagen rhythm section is pretty great, with pianist Tete Montoliu getting a lot of solo space, backed by NHØP (bass) and Tootie Heath (drums). B+(**) [sp]
Anthony Braxton: In the Tradition: Volume 2 (1974 , Steeplechase): A second set of tunes from the same session, this first appeared in 1976, and picked up a seventh piece for CD reissue. Similar mix of tunes, including more Marsh and Parker, plus a long "Body and Soul." B+(**) [sp]
Anthony Braxton: Five Compositions (Quartet) 1986 (1986, Black Saint): Numbers 88, 101, 122, 124, and 131, recorded in Milan with David Rosenboom (piano), Mark Dresser (bass), and Gerry Hemingway (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Anthony Braxton: Ninetet (Yoshi's) 1997 Vol. 1 (1997 , Leo, 2CD): Two compositions, 207 and 208, one 73:09, the other 74:00, performed by a group with six saxophonists plus guitar (Kevin O'Neil), bass (Joe Fonda), and percussion (Kevin Norton). B+(***) [r]
Bob Brookmeyer New Art Orchestra: New Works/Celebration (1997 , Challenge): Valve trombonist (1929-2011), started playing piano in big bands, first album (1954) was a quartet, but he was always well-regarded as an arranger, and formed this big band here (eventually recording six albums through 2011). B+(**) [sp]
Reuben Brown Trio: Ice Scape (1994 , SteepleChase): Pianist, very little about him online, aside from a couple appearances in the 1970s, and two albums on SteepleChase. This one gets help from Rufus Reid (bass) and Billy Hart (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Reuben Brown: Blue and Brown (1994 , SteepleChase): A second album, this one solo. B+(**) [sp]
Dave Brubeck: Octet (1948-49 , Fantasy/OJC): Some of the pianist's earliest recordings, first appearing in 1950 as Old Sounds From San Francisco (two EPs, then a 10-inch LP, and finally as Octet on a 12-inch LP in 1956). Group included Dick Collins (trumpet), Bob Collins (trombone), David Van Kriedt (tenor sax), Paul Desmond (alto sax), William O. Smith (clarinet & baritone sax), Jack Weeks (bass), and Cal Tjader (drums). Some slick moves, not that all of them work. B+(**) [r]
Dave Brubeck Quartet: Jazz at the College of the Pacific (1953 , Fantasy/OJC): Early quartet featuring Paul Desmond (alto sax), with Ron Crotty (bass) and Joe Dodge (drums), shortly after the highly recommended Jazz at Oberlin, and shortly before the more famous Jazz Goes to College. B+(***) [r]
The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Brubeck Time (1954 , Columbia): Two originals plus six standards, from "Jeepers Creepers" to "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" The first of many Brubeck albums with "time" in the title, but this one doesn't seem to have anything to do with the unorthodox time signatures he made much of from 1959 (Time Out) forward. B+(***) [r]
The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Jazz Impressions of the U.S.A. (1956-57 , Columbia): The first of several Jazz Impressions albums, must have seemed like an easy take for a group that made its bread and butter touring college campuses. The cover is a map with the song titles, like "Ode to a Cowboy," along the borders and coasts. B+(***) [sp]
The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Jazz Impressions of Eurasia (1958, Columbia): On one of those State Department "good will" tours, they crossed Northern Europe to Poland, then down to Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and on to India, Pakistan, Ceylon, and Afghanistan ("one of the most fascinating countries we visited," where they were "awakened by the weirdest sound I ever heard"). A bit more exotic, but hasn't found the handle yet. B+(**) [sp]
The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Jazz Impressions of Japan (1964, Columbia): The pianist studied with Darius Milhaud, who advised him to travel the world and keep his ears open. Brubeck did, even if the Japanese affects here are somewhat stock (gongs and such). Upbeat songs like "Toki's Theme" really jump out, and Paul Desmond is even more sublime than usual. A- [sp]
The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Jazz Impressions of New York (1964 , Columbia): Four songs with "Broadway" in the title, others with "Washington Square" and "Central Park," but also a "Bossa Nova" and a "Rumba." B+(***) [sp]
Gary Burton/Keith Jarrett: Gary Burton and Keith Jarrett (1969-70 , Atlantic): The vibraphonist was two years older than Jarrett, but got a quick jump with New Vibe Man in Town at 18 in 1961, and had something of a fusion rep, although that was not his only spin. The pianist released his first two albums in 1968, after playing with Art Blakey and Charles Lloyd, and added a short stint with Miles Davis before this album came out. Jarrett plays electric piano and soprano sax here, the group filled out with guitar (Sam Brown), bass (Steve Swallow), and drums. B [sp]
Doc Cheatham: Hey Doc! [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1975 , Black and Blue): Trumpet player, born in Nashville but remembered for New Orleans. I first noticed him on a 1993 album called The Eighty-Seven Years of Doc Cheatham, which is to say shamefully late, although so he still had another career highlight left: 1997's Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton. He spent most of his career tucked away in big bands (Wilbur De Paris, McKinney's Cotton Pickers, Cab Calloway, Claude Hopkins, Perez Prado, and Benny Goodman). He started headlining around 1973, shortly before this session with Sammy Price (piano), alto sax, trombone, bass, and drums (J.C. Heard). No credit on vocals. B+(**) [sp]
Stoney Edwards: Mississippi You're on My Mind (1975, Capitol): Black country singer, recorded six albums for Capitol 1971-76, newly reissued (at least digital) -- I've looked for this for ages, but until now only found the 20-track Razor & Tie The Best of Stoney Edwards: Poor Folks Stick Together, still the better deal. One song name-checks Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell. He draws more on the latter. A- [sp]
Jan Garbarek Quartet: Afric Pepperbird (1970 , ECM): Norwegian saxophonist, mostly tenor but also credited bass sax, clarinet, flute, and percussion. Not quite his first album, but this begins his long association with ECM. Quartet names on cover: Terje Rypdal (guitar, bugle), Arild Andersen (bass, thumb piano, xylophone), and Jon Christensen (percussion). The sax is rougher on these early recordings, especially here. That's not a complaint. B+(***) [sp]
Jan Garbarek/Bobo Stenson/Terje Rypdal/Arild Andersen/Jon Christensen: Sart (1971, ECM): Norwegian group, all students of George Russell, near the start of major careers. Garbarek plays tenor sax, bass sax, and flute, and wrote four (of six) pieces. The others play piano, guitar, bass, and drums, with Andersen and Rypdal writing one piece each. B+(***) [sp]
Jan Garbarek/Arild Andersen/Edward Vesala: Triptykon (1972 , ECM): Soprano/tenor/bass saxophone-bass-drums trio. Still on edge. B+(***) [sp]
Jan Garbarek: Places (1977 , ECM): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano/alto), quartet with John Taylor (piano/organ), Bill Connors (guitar), and Jack DeJohnettte (drums). Four long-ish pieces, ranges from atmospheric to towering, a master of tone, the guitar filling in eloquently. A- [sp]
Mon Laferte: Mon Laferte Vol. 1 (2015, Intolerancia): Singer-songwriter from Chile, recorded an album in 2003 as Monserrat Bustamente, moved to Mexico. B+(*) [sp]
Jackie McLean & Tina Brooks: Street Singer (1960 , Blue Note): Brooks is a tenor saxophonist, had a hot streak recording four albums 1959-61 for Blue Note, dropped from sight, and died at 42 in 1974. This session, recorded with McLean on alto sax, and a rhythm section of Kenny Drew, Paul Chambers, and Art Taylor, was shelved until it came out in Japan in 1980, and finally in the US in 2000. No idea why they sat on this, other than that McLean was in the midst of his own hot streak, from New Soil to Let Freedom Ring to One Step Beyond and Destination: Out -- maybe a classic joust didn't seem far out enough? Also note that only Brooks' True Blue was released at the time. A- [sp]
Bernt Rosengren: Notes From Underground (1973 , EMI Svenska): Swedish tenor saxophonist, also plays flute and piano, played early on with George Russell, Krzysztof Komeda, and Don Cherry. The occasional vocal tracks have a Middle Eastern sound, and Okay Temiz helps the the percussion (and Bengt Berger plays tabla). The horns can get intense. B+(***) [sp]
Bernt Rosengren: Stockholm Dues (1965 , Columbia): The Swedish tenor saxophonist's first album, at least as a leader, reissued in a "Swedish Jazz Masters" series with three extra tracks. With trumpet (Lalle Svensson), piano, bass, and drums, plus vocals on a couple tracks. B+(**) [sp]
Jimmy Rowles and George Mraz: Music's the Only Thing That's on My Mind (1976 , Progressive): Piano and bass duets, with Rowles singing three songs. B+(**) [sp]
Jimmy Rowles: Shade and Light [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1978 , Black & Blue): Piano trio with George Duvivier (bass) and Oliver Jackson (drums), recorded in Paris. B+(***) [sp]
Terje Rypdal: Lux Aeterna (2000 , ECM): Norwegian guitarist, early on was one of many Norwegians influenced by George Russell, recorded with ECM since 1971. This is a large-scale suite in five movements, featuring Bergen Chamber Ensemble conducted by Kjell Seim, with organ and many strings, way too thick, also a vocal section. Only Palle Mikkelborg's trumpet stands out. B- [sp]
Terje Rypdal: After the Rain (1976, ECM): Essentially a solo album, with the guitarist dubbing in keyboards, soprano sax, flute, and bells. Guitar tone cries and shimmers. B [sp]
Randy Sandke and the New York Allstars: The Rediscovered Louis and Bix (1999 , Nagel Heyer): Trumpet player (also cornet here), not exclusively a trad jazz guy but is such a Beiderbecke fan that he named his son Bix, and Armstrong is hardly an afterthought. One side for each, drawing on obscure compositions. George Avakian produced ("presents"), and the Allstars are aptly named (as well as a nod to Armstrong: featured on the cover are Kenny Davern, Wycliffe Gordon, Dick Hyman, and Ken Peplowski, with many more in the fine print. A- [sp]
Louis Sclavis/Dominique Pifarély/Marc Ducret/Bruno Chevillon: Acoustic Quartet (1993 , ECM): French clarinetist, many albums since 1981, Discogs co-credits with with the violinist, and indeed only their names are above the title, and Pifarély wrote three tracks to Sclavis' four, but the other names (on guitar and bass) are in the same oversized type as the leaders. B+(***) [sp]
Louis Sclavis Sextet: Les Violences de Rameau (1995-96 , ECM): Play soprano sax as well as his usual clarinets, in a group with trombone (Yves Robert), violin (Dominique Pifarély), keyboards, bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]
Louis Sclavis Sextet: Ellington on the Air (1991-92 , Ouch!): An earlier Sextet album, originally issued on IDA, with the same group as above. This one is built around Ellington pieces (including Bubber Miley and Juan Tizol). B+(***) [sp]
Louis Sclavis Quintet: L'Affrontement Des Prétendants (2000 , ECM): Clarinet and soprano sax, joined up front by Jean-Luc Cappozzo on trumpet, backed by cello (Vincent Curtois), bass (Bruno Chevillon), and drums (François Merville). B+(***) [sp]
Bud Shank: The Doctor Is In (1991 , Candid): Alto saxophonist, originally from Ohio, studied in North Carolina, moved to California and played with Short Rogers, Charlie Barnet, and Stan Kenton. A cool jazz icon in the 1950s, recorded regularly but seems like he caught a second wind in the early 1990s. Quartet with Mike Wofford (piano), Bob Magnusson (bass), and Sherman Ferguson (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Tommy Smith: Spartacus (2000 , Spartacus): Scottish tenor saxophonist, had a run of flashy records on Blue Note (1989-94) and Linn (1995-2000) before settling into his own label here. Quartet, featuring credit for pianist Kenny Barron, with James Genus (bass) and Clarence Penn (drums). Leans toward ballads. B+(**) [sp]
Gianluigi Trovesi: Around Small Fairy Tales (1998, Soul Note): Italian clarinet and alto saxophone player, albums since 1978, throw in the kitchen sink here, in the form of Orchestra Da Camera Di Nembro Enea Salmeggia, with oboe, harp, vibes, and at least a dozen string instruments. B+(**) [sp]
Gianluigi Trovesi/Gianni Coscia: In Cerca Di Cibo (1999 , ECM): Clarinet (piccolo/alto/bass) and accordion duets. B+(**) [sp]
Gianluigi Trovesi: Dedalo (2001 , Enja): Leads off with alto sax here, later switching to his clarinets, backed by the WDR Big Band, in an exceptionally festive mood. Also named on the cover: Markus Stockhausen (trumpet), Fulvio Maras (percussion, and Tom Rainey (drums). The opener "Hercab" is funky enough they reprise it live at the end. A- [sp]
Gianluigi Trovesi Ottetto: Fugace (2002 , ECM): The leader, composer of all but two fragments (from trad. and W.C. Handy), plays alto sax and clarinet, the octet rounded out with trumpet, trombone, cello, two bassists, drums, and percussion (Fluvio Maras), with several of those also credited with electronics. B+(***) [sp]
Lucinda Williams: Little Honey (2008, Lost Highway): Only album in my database I hadn't heard, so I figured why not? Voice going but not yet gone. Songs substantial by any standards but maybe not hers. Identifies rock and roll, and has the guitars to prove it. 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.
Alexisonfire: Otherness (2022, Dine Alone): Canadian post-hardcore band, fifth album since 2002. -
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:
PinkPantheress: To Hell With It (2021, Parlophone, EP): British pop singer, barely 20, first short mixtape (10 songs, 18:36), vocals feathery light, enough so that this got tagged as "atmospheric drum & bass," but pay close attention and get to the point. Hint for me was a turn of phrase I hadn't heard since Lily Allen. [was: B+(**)] A- [sp]
Immanuel Wilkins: The 7th Hand (2022, Blue Note): Alto saxophonist, major debut in 2020, second album, quartet with Micah Thomas (piano), Daryl Johns (bass), and Kweku Sumbry (drums), plus guest spots. Even more ambitious: "hour-long suite comprised of seven movements that strive to bring the quartet closer to complete vesselhood." Impressive chops, but also structure and flow. Once again I underrated him. [was: B+(*)] A- [sp]
Music: Current count 39534  rated (+204), 39  unrated (+0).
Excerpts from this month's Music Week posts:
January 9, 2023
Music: Current count 39353  rated (+23), 42  unrated (+3: 14 new, 28 old).
In early November, Francis Davis decided that he couldn't afford the time needed to run a 17th annual edition of his Jazz Critics Poll. He asked me to take over, as I had done most of the grunt work last year, and had helped out for many years before that. I agreed, figuring I'd spent a lot of time this year tracking music, even aggregating ratings, plus I had been procrastinating on other projects, so why not finish out the year doing a good turn? I organized a mailing list, and sent ballots out around November 13, with a December 12 deadline. I wound up collecting and compiling 151 ballots: down a bit from 2021's 156, but still a good showing. I worked out a deal with Arts Fuse to publish the results, and started to prepare them for publication.
Then I got Covid. While I was never very sick, it created a lot of stress as we tried to keep my wife from getting infected. Also producing a lot of stress was the terminal spiral of our dog Sadie, nearly 15, inherited 8 years ago with Liz Fink died (and as such, sort of a sacred trust). I totally missed our original delivery date, and didn't make any serious progress until New Year's. I finally pulled most of it together on Wednesday, and sent the pieces in Thursday. They were published Friday afternoon, about the same time we had a vet visit to put the dog down.
The archive index page is: The 17th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Poll: 2022. This includes links for the articles published at Arts Fuse:
The two pieces by me were originally conceived of as four, but Bill Marx wanted to combine the tables with the essays. Francis's essay came in after I had handed all of my pieces in. He had seen all of my stuff by then.
The archive page also includes links for complete results (the Arts Fuse list stops at 50 new releases, and 20 reissues/historical), and for all of the individual voter ballots:
I suppose I'll have more to say about the Poll, its results, and the process behind it, but at this point the combination of exhaustion and frustration probably makes that unwise. As I point out in one (or both) of the essays, the most important point for the poll is the data it generates, so please dig into that. You're bound to learn some things.
My listening of late has been very skewed. One thing that has frustrated me immensely, and is wholly my own fault, is that my system for filing CDs has completely broken down, to where I can't find anything. I should have spent the last several weeks rechecking the year's highest rated albums, but have failed in that almost completely. I wound up streaming the top three finishers, leaving Mary Halvorson's Amaryllis and Cécile McLorin Salvant's Ghost Song at my original B+(***) -- although Salvant's Kurt Weil cover is pretty great -- but I did bump up the grade for Immanuel Wilkins's The 7th Hand considerably. Below that, I could neither stream nor find my copy of Tyshawn Sorey's Mesmerism, another B+(***) first time around. I only had two of the top ten finishers made my A-list, and only three of the next ten (ok, four more from 21-30, three from 31-40, and two from 41-50).
Still, I emerged from this experience with more respect than ever for my fellow voters. I suspect that Francis was a bit reluctant to hand his baby over, because he regarded me as some kind of fringe critic. I found myself caring very little about the standings, as long as the ballots showed considerable thought, which they did.
So, instead of catching up with new jazz (as I did a lot of in November and especially December), I played old records, especially a lot of Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, and Lester Young. Then last week, I pulled up a list of unheard Penguin Guide 4-star albums, and thought I'd knock off a few. Hence, the reviews below are almost all modern but not recent jazz. No idea why I first landed on an Italian clarinetist, but I worked back from him, then returned to the top of the list.
I should mention that despite being so out of it, I did manage a Speaking of Which news revue yesterday. I also added three books to the Recent Reading roll, after several weeks of neglect.
Matt Taibbi did some brilliant work early in his career -- like his designation of presidential campaign coverage as "the stupid season," and his Wimblehack rankings of America's worst political journalists (note that Karen Tumulty has defended her title numerous times, not that I'm sure she's still the worst). But his Twitter feed has become little short of obnoxious, so I was thinking of dropping him -- but I figured the book looked like it had a sound premise, so maybe I should give him that chance. It is, indeed, a pretty good book, even if a little too both-sidesy. And sure, he goes a bit off the deep end on Russiagate, but that's more in his conclusions than in the reporting. And although Rachel Maddow (who I find seriously annoying) splits the cover, in the book she's relegated to an appendix.
Lepore's The Name of War is more about how Prince Philip's War (1675-76) has been remembered than what actually happened, which borders on genocide. Kaplan's 1959 makes a case for that year as one of pivotal change in America. So far, it's pretty convincing. A big concern of my memoir is how much America has changed, especially in the first twenty years of my life (the 1950s and 1960s). By the way, Kaplan is a Jazz Critics Poll voter, and he has a very detailed chapter on Kind of Blue in the book.
January 16, 2023
Music: Current count 39414  rated (+61), 36  unrated (-6: 8 new, 28 old).
Still decompressing from the pressures of releasing the Francis Davis Jazz Poll as well as numerous other stresses I've probably complained about too much already, so I don't have much to say this week. One way of destressing has been to do rote work: the biggest chunk of which was adding all of the jazz critics ballots into my EOY aggregate file (including ones we didn't receive from other sources like Free Jazz Collective). One result of this is that jazz albums have risen to an unnatural prominence in my overall standings (top 30, numbered by overall rank, points in braces, my grade in brackets):
These rankings will probably sink back if/when I add more non-jazz lists (if memory serves, the top jazz album usually winds up somewhere 20-35), but the value of spending much more time on this is receding. I've always maintained that the purpose of the list is to scout out records of possible interest to me, hence there have always been genres that I have sought out (I have 1161 jazz albums listed, of 4062 total) and others that I have avoided -- nonetheless, I counted 219 metal albums, but I've only heard 4; the country and hip-hop lists are actually shorter, but I've heard much more (64 of 138 country, 97 of 212 hip-hop).
Reviewing the ballots, I discovered three errors I had made in compiling, so I was glad to get them compiled. I've also heard from several critics who didn't get invited and (rightly) thought they should have: apologies to Karl Ackermann and Bill Milkowski. If/when we do this again -- and I'm pleased to report that Francis sounds more optimistic than I am -- we should make a serious effort to review and expand the voter rolls well in advance of the November crunch.
One thing I belatedly realized from this chart is that I never received physical CDs of Halvorson's Nonesuch albums nor of Sorey's Mesmerism. I reviewed them from streams as soon as they dropped, but was perplexed at not being able to find them when I racked up all of my 2022 A/A-/B+(***) jazz CDs. I rechecked several top jazz albums during the Poll, but only Wilkins got a grade bump. Although I've heard all 30 albums above, only 12 came as CDs.
One person I want to single out from the Jazz Poll's In Memoriam list is John Swenson. I remember him from when he was reviewing records for Rolling Stone in the mid-1970s. He went on to edit Stone's jazz and blues record guides, and moved on to New Orleans, where he wrote New Atlantis: Musicians Battle for the Survival of New Orleans (post-Katrina). I bumped into him once, and was surprised and flattered that he seemed to be as pleased to meet me as I was to find him. As I recall, we were both pub rock fans at the time, so our later independent paths into jazz may have common roots. He joins John Morthland and Ed Ward in my personal pantheon of recently departed colleagues.
More old music this week, mostly from the Penguin Guide 4-star unheard list. Most get a single play and snap judgment, so I wouldn't be surprised if my grades wind up being low (even for Brubeck's Jazz Impressions of Japan). New records come from various sources, including Jazz Poll ballots, last week's Christgau Consumer Guide, and Jason Gross's Ye Wei Blog list. Plus I finally dipped into my 2023 promo queue.
I finished Fred Kaplan's 1959: The Year Everything Changed. The chapter on Margaret Sanger and the birth control pill is worth the price of the book, but so are another half-dozen chapters, not least those on three revolutions in jazz that hit that year: Miles Davis's Kind of Blue (with due credit for George Russell), Dave Brubeck's Time Out, and Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come. (Charles Mingus and Cecil Taylor get mentioned in passing, but not the former's fabulous Mingus Ah Um.) I turned nine that year, and scarcely noticed anything highlighted (mostly political events, including the space race), but Kaplan shows how the 1960s were locked and loaded, ready to burst forth, as they did for me -- many established so quickly that they looked to me like the natural world yet were still so new and divergent they shocked my parents and their generation's cultural guardians. Some overlap with Louis Menand's The Free World, which is more careful in laying out early post-WWII changes than looking for a specific pivot point.
Last, I wrote yet another Speaking of Which last night, and made a brief pass at touching it up today. The biggest change was that I looked up links for most of the statements I made in the introduction. I probably should do that sort of thing more often, but it's hard to keep up that much focus on something that gets forgotten so quickly.
January 23, 2023
Music: Current count 39462  rated (+48), 42  unrated (+6: 14 new, 28 old).
Very little to add about this week's music. I was struggling to think of things to look up early in the week, so I wound up searching down the EOY aggregate file for highest-rated unheard records, sometimes singling out genres (country probably got the most attention). The highest-ranked records I still haven't heard yet:
The frequency of unheard items picks up significantly after 300: The Callous Daoboys (303); Knucks (309); Obongjayar (315); Rammstein (317); Dawn Richard & Spencer Zahn (318); Undeath (320); Afghan Whigs (324); The Big Moon (327); Naima Bock (328); Demi Lovato (332); Paolo Nutini (335); Static Dress (340); Big Joanie (344); Porcupine Tree (357); Warmduscher (364); Willow (365); Utada Hikaru (380); Horse Lords (381); The Orielles (389); Slipknot (396); Tedeschi Trucks Band (398); Wild Pink (400); Anxious (403); Jessie Buckley & Bernard Butler (404); Goat (409); Ho99o9 (410); King Hannah (412); King Stingray (413); Natalia Lafourcade (414); Kali Malone (415); Rob Mazurek (417); Meshuggah (419); Muse (422); Caitlin Rose (426); Bruce Springsteen (430); And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead (434); Blackpink (436); Built to Spill (439); Coheed and Cambria (441); Grace Cummings (442); Brian Ennels & Infinity Knives (447); Aoife Nessa Frances (448); Marina Herlop (450); Ithaca (453); The Lounge Society (458); Angeline Morrison (460); Pillow Queens (462); Pixies (463); The Soft Pink Truth (467); Witch Fever (471); Wizkid (472); Backxwash (476); The Black Angels (481); Black Star (482); Broken Bells (484); Alex Cameron (485); Christine and the Queens (489); Jake Xerxes Fussell (492); Future (493); Robyn Hitchcock (496).
I'll probably knock a few more of those off next week (so far: They Hate Change, Knucks). I expect to freeze the 2022 file after next week -- I may as well plan now on closing the week/month on January 31 instead of 30. After that, I'll cut back on the 2022 tracking files, although I'll continue to add late entries to the year 2022 lists, including the jazz and non-jazz best-of lists. Looking forward, I haven't started 2023 tracking and metacritic files. Hoping to focus more on other projects going forward, but I'm reluctant to make promises or resolutions.
I posted a pretty substantial Speaking of Which yesterday. The deeper I get into the Ryan Cooper book, the more impressed I am. Before getting into it, I read most of Denise Low's slim Jigsaw Puzzling: Essays in a Time of Pestilence. We've been doing jigsaw puzzles much earlier than the pandemic. Laura usually wanted to do a puzzle when she had a few days off. I had a pair of Springbok puzzle caddies, so was well-prepared to indulge her. One special memory was from 1991: we were working on one while watching coverage of the Soviet coup against Gorbachev, while a hurricane was blowing outside (we were in Boston). Since she retired, we've had a puzzle going continuously. Low, by the way, was once poet laureate of Kansas, although she's since moved to northern California.
January 31, 2023
Music: Current count 39534  rated (+72), 39  unrated (-3: 11 new, 28 old).
I gave myself an extra day this week, figuring that it would be nice to end the month on the end of the month, especially given that January is the effective end of the previous year, the obvious point to declare 2022 wrapped up, and to look ahead to 2023. I figured it would make a good cut-off point for my 2022 Music Tracking File, EOY Aggregate (with its poor cousin for Reissues/Historical). It would also provide a freeze point for my Music 2022 list (saving a snapshot for the moment while I continue to add late finds, up to the end of 2023). As it turns out, I've fallen far short of what I hoped to get done. But I've been desperate to make some sort of break, so this is it.
Needing some time to write this brief intro, I did my cutoff make at 6PM. I may sneak some more material in by the time I post this, but these stats are accurate at cutoff time: new releases reviewed 1652 (all 2022, including reissues/historical, plus 12/2021 releases, plus earlier 2021 not in previous tracking files); limited sampling: 4 (a possibly useful idea that I didn't pursue very hard). That may be an all-time record but I don't feel like spending the time to be sure. (A quick count of list item lines shows 1638 this year; previous high for frozen files was 1624 in 2020, followed by 1440 in 2021, 1334 in 2011, 1236 in 2010, 1222 in 2019, 1173 in 2014, 1147 in 2017, 1135 in 2007. Some caveats with these numbers I don't want to go into here.) Tracking file lists 5392 albums total. EOY Aggregate file lists 4520 new albums + 508 reissues/historical.
My EOY file for Jazz shows 74 new A/A- albums (+1 carried over), and 25 old music A/A- albums. For Non-Jazz, the numbers are 96 new (+ 6 carried over), 11 reissues/historical (+ 1 carried over). That's certainly the longest non-jazz A-list ever. You may recall that the non-jazz list was longer when I first compiled the file -- usually, jazz is longer to start, because I follow it more closely -- but the lists evened up while I was compiling Francis Davis Jazz Poll ballots. This week, all the new A- records are non-jazz (mostly African and/or hip-hop), but that's only about a third of the margin.
The EOY Aggregate is now up to 565 lists (this file includes links to most of them, although for some you need to pass through intermediaries), including lots of individual top-tens (everyone from the Francis Davis Jazz Poll, a fair number of ballots from PJRP (Pazz & Jop Rip-Off Poll) and EW (Expert Witness) polls, other jazz critics I could find, occasional lists like most of the Rolling Stone staff lists. I've included all but metal-exclusivists from the Album of the Year lists, most of the extra lists compiled by Metacritic, and a bunch of lists from Acclaimed Music Forums (incomplete, as I ran out of time midway through rechecking them).
The following are some EOY lists that have influenced my recent listening:
I voted in the PJRP and EW polls. Statistics professor Brad Luen published some centricity/eccentricity data, which rated me the 3rd most eccentric of EW's 43 voters. I probably would have been spared notice (he only listed the top 5) had I not kicked Big Thief off my ballot in favor of William Parker's Universal Tonality -- my top historical release of the year, for which there was no separate category in this poll. The reason I dropped Big Thief is that, while I liked it a lot when I reviewed it, I didn't buy it, and never heard it again since. That's true of a lot of records (including Beyoncé's, which I did buy but still haven't replayed), but I felt that for one certain to finish that high, I should be more sure of myself.
A stray comment in the thread complained that "like half the people didn't even put [Beyoncé] on their ballot." Luen replied: "It did great among FB voters but was soft among non-FB voters (who trend old/grumpy/hetero)." (Luen collected ballots from Facebook and Substack comments as well as direct email.) Having published several ballots already, I took the easy route and emailed my ballot in, thus adding to the demographic Luen identified.
For the record, my albums ballot was (the bracket figure is how many other people voted for the album, and their points):
*Totals for Gonora Sounds not given, so I'm making the most reasonable guess.
Only one of my four jazz albums got another vote (8/1), but all six of my non-jazz picks got other votes (123/13). I'm not sure how the eccentricity figure is calculated, but this doesn't strike me as extremely eccentric. (By the two more eccentric scores were by voters who each voted for nine albums no one else voted for, and voted for the same tenth album, which no one else voted for.) What is odd, in this crowd at least, is that none of my ten albums appeared on Christgau's Dean's List (his top 86 albums for the year, although close to a quarter of them came out in 2021 or earlier). On the other hand, 42 + 4 (carry overs) of his albums appeared on my A-list, so the split at the top is hard to explain.
There is much more running through my head that I could write, not least thoughts triggered by Christgau's year-end essay, and by especially the first of two pieces he reprinted on Tom Verlaine, who died at 73 over the weekend. One part of the reason I moved to New York City in 1977 was Christgau's sense of excitement over the new, still-unrecorded bands centered around CBGB's. I never saw Television, but I was witness to Christgau's first spin of Marquee Moon, which knowing the band as he did, he instantly thrilled to while I was trying to puzzle out not just the music but his reaction. I hadn't given any thought to how I might write a memoir of those years -- I've been focusing more on much earlier periods -- but there's a fair amount to delve into there.
In rushing to get this out, I'm leaving the usual bookkeeping unsettled. I'll have to catch up with that later. (Looks like I never did December, either.) It's also possible I won't declare 2022 over quite yet, but I'm definitely taking a break, especially from deadlines.
My mother was born 110 years ago today, in 2013, the youngest of ten children, the eldest born in 1900. Her parents had died before I was born, but my father's parents were born in 1894/1895, and I knew them fairly well before my grandfather died in 1964. Through them I can reach quite a ways back into history. They've made me sensitive to how much change the last few generations have lived through, and thereby how poorly the ideas and ideals they grew up with fare in today's world. (I may seem old and grump to Luen, but believe me, I know much older and grumpier.)
My mother died in 2000, three months after my father (who was ten years younger, but went first). I made Chinese food for my mother's last birthday. Since then I've often made a special dinner to commemorate her birthday: either Chinese, or the old fare of Arkansas (where fried chicken was the dish you served guests). I couldn't do that this year given the crunch of closing out this post. But that's my next project: Thursday, a belated dinner party, and a much needed break from several months of hacking my way through the year's recorded music. I don't see myself as ever approaching this year's stats again. Regardless of whether I set a personal record this year, what I am most certain of is that there's never been a year before 2022 where I've not heard more music. And that's only going to increase -- at least as long as the electricity stays on.
Sources noted in brackets following the grade: