An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, January 14, 2019
Music: current count 30949  rated (+36), 263  unrated (+3).
Rated count remains healthy despite my various disabilities. The breakdown shifted rather dramatically toward "recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries" -- probably because I finally added a few rather deep compilation-oriented lists to my EOY Aggregate and its Old Music companion, including the complete Jazz Critics Poll: Reissues/Historical list. Some other late-breaking polls I picked up:
The James Brown compilation topped the Ye Wei list, and could have rated higher had I spent more time with it. The FOLC is one of those retro-rock things Phil Overeem especially loves. I was vaguely aware that a lot of Sun Ra had been reissued last year, so when my first two picks turned out to be especially good, I tried out a bunch more. Trying to figure out the lay of the land, I jotted down a list of 85 more Sun Ra albums on Napster that I haven't heard. I should return to them at some point.
There is a new XgauSez over on Robert Christgau's website, as well as the 2018 Dean's List. I wanted to get the reviews caught up, but in the end decided just to post the list. Still don't feel up to starting the planned site redesign, and probably shouldn't risk it until I do.
I gather there is a Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll in the works, so that will probably wrap up my EOY list madness. Christgau held back his point assignments for the poll, although I wouldn't expect them to post ballots this year after they failed last year. Christgau will be writing some kind of piece for the poll. For the first time in 15+ years I didn't get an invite, so I find myself losing interest. Much more info can be mined from my own EOY Aggregate anyway.
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Grade (or other) changes:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Sunday, January 13, 2019
For many years now, I've identified two major political problems in America. The most obvious one is the nation's habit and obsession with projection of military power as its leverage in dealing with other nations. As US economic power has waned, and as America shed its liberal ideals, it's become easier for others to challenge its supremacy. In turn, American power has hardened around its military and covert networks, placing the nation on a permanent war footing. This near-constant state of war, since 1945 but even more blatantly since 2001, has led to numerous social maladies, like domestic gun violence and the xenophobia leading to the current "border crisis."
The other big problem is increasing inequality. The statistics, which started in the 1970s but really took off in the "greed is good" 1980s, are clear and boring, but the consequences are numerous, both subtle and pernicious. It would take a long book to map out most of the ways the selfish pursuit and accumulation of riches has warped business, politics, and society. One small example is that when GW Bush arbitrarily commanded the world to follow his War on Terror lead ("you're either with us or against us"), he was assuming that as US President he was entitled to the same arbitrary powers (and lack of accountability) corporate CEOs enjoyed.
I used to wonder how Reagan was able to affect such a huge change in America despite relatively sparse legislative accomplishments -- mostly his big tax cut. The answer is that as president he could send signals to corporate and financial leaders that government would not interfere with their more aggressive pursuit of power and profit. Reagan's signals have been reiterated by every Republican president since, with ever less concern for scruples or ethics or even the slightest concern for consequences. All Trump has done has been to carry this logic to its absurdist extreme: his greed is shameless, even when it crosses into criminality.
Still, what the government lockout, now entering its fourth week, shows, is that we may need to formulate a third mega-ailment: we seem to have lost our commitment to basic competency. We should have seen this coming when politicians (mostly Republicans) decided that politics trumps all other considerations, so they could dispute (or ignore) any science or expertise or so-called facts they found inconvenient. (Is it ironical that the same people who decry "political correctness" when it impinges on their use of offensive rhetoric are so committed to imposing their political regimen on all discussions of what we once thought of as reality?)
A couple things about competency. One is that it's rarely noticed, except in the breech. You expect competency, even when you're engaging with someone whose qualifications you can properly judge -- a doctor, say, or a computer technician, or a mechanic. You also expect a degree of professional ethical standards. Trust depends on those things, and no matter how many time you're reminded caveat emptor, virtually everything you do in everyday life is built on trust. We can all point to examples of people who violated your trust, but until recently such people were in the minority. Now we have Donald Trump. And sure, lots of us distrusted him from the start of his campaign. He was, after all, vainglorious, corrupt, a habitual liar, totally lacking in empathy, his head full of mean-spirited rubbish.
On the other hand, even I am shocked at how incapable Trump has been at understanding the most basic rudiments of his job. There's nothing particularly wrong with him having policy views, or even an agenda, but the most basic requirement of his job is that he keep the government working, according to the constitution and the laws as established per that constitution -- you know, the one he had to swear to protect and follow when he took his oath of office. There have been shutdowns in the past -- basically ever since Newt Gingrich decided the threat would be a clever way to extort some policy concessions from Bill Clinton -- but this is the first one that was imposed by a president.
His reason? Well, obviously he's made a political calculation, where he thinks he can either bully the Democrats into giving him something they really hate ($5.7 billion so he can brag about how he's delivering that "big, beautiful wall" he campaigned on) and thereby restore his "art of the deal" mojo from the tarnish of losing the 2018 "midterms" so badly, or rouse the American people (his base, anyway) into blaming the Democrats for all the damage the shutdown causes. Either way, he feels that his second-term election in 2020 depends on this defense of political principle. Besides, he hates the federal government anyway -- possibly excepting the military and a few other groups currently exempt from the shutdown -- mostly because he's bought into the credo that "politics is everything, and everything is politics" (which makes most of the Democrat-leaning government enemy territory).
On the other hand, all he's really shown is that he's unfit to hold office, because he's forgotten that his main job is to keep the United States government working: implementing and enforcing the laws of the land, per the constitution. One might argue that using his office for such a political ploy is as significant a violation of his trust as anything else he's done. Indeed, one might argue that it is something he should be impeached for (although that would require a political consensus that has yet to form -- not that he isn't losing popularity during this charade).
Some scattered links this week:
Monday, January 7, 2019
Music: current count 30913  rated (+39), 260  unrated (+9).
The 13th Annual Jazz Critics Poll results were published by NPR early Saturday morning, with two pieces by Francis Davis:
As has been the case since 2009, I tabulated all of the ballots and formatted them and complete totals here. Since I posted all that, I've had to update the files a few times. Most troubling were cases where I counted votes for the wrong record by an artist (one of the Esperanza Spalding votes should have been for her 2017 album; two of the Mingus votes should have gone to Live in Montreux 1975. Other problems were routine typos, but all (so far) have been easy to fix.
Bigger problem is that I never got copied on Richard Scheinin's ballot, so it didn't get counted. Still unresolved what to do about that, but I took the trouble to dig his top-25 list out of his Twitter feed and added it into my EOY Aggregate. I've also added the entire new and historical album lists, but thus far I haven't dipped into the individual ballots. I've started to pick up individual ballots from All About Jazz writers (only a few of whom voted in JCP), and before long I'll take a look at the JJA member lists (which I wasn't able to find until today). I'm also doing some mop-up on rock/pop lists, but I'm starting to skip lists of little/no interest (chiefly metal). Don't know how long I'll keep this up, as the EOY list season is basically done, and the 223 lists I currently have logged give a pretty fair picture, at least in rock/pop, hip-hop, and (somewhat less) electronica.
While most of the records below are 2018 releases I've noted on lists and am belatedly checking out, two of the new A- albums are 2019 releases (and another by Quinsin Nachoff will show up in next week's report). I'm also treating Eric Dolphy's Musical Prophet as a 2019 release: physical CDs don't hit the market until Jan. 26, although a digital release came out Nov. 23, and enough critics heard and voted for it to finish 3rd in JCP -- alas, not me, not that it would have cracked my ballot (even if I didn't follow my recent rule of only voting for historical records I have physical copies of).
So the only new A- this week from the 2018 lists turns out to be Spiritualized, which at 49 was the highest-rated album I hadn't heard yet. I once loved their 1997 album, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, but last time I checkec them out the record got a B-. Wound up playing the new one three times. Next few EOY Aggregate records I haven't heard don't seem more promising: Julia Holter, Iceage, Kurt Vile, Deafheaven, Anna Calvi, Cat Power, Drake, Troye Sivan, Ghost, Lump, MGMT, Daughters, Florence + the Machine, Jorja Smith, Elvis Costello, First Aid Kit. I'll probably play a few of those before end of January.
Among the top 50 JCP albums, I've managed to hear 47. The exceptions are numbers 50 (Elio Villafranca), 48 (Noah Preminger/Frank Carlberg), and 1 (Wayne Shorter). None of those are available on Napster or Bandcamp, nor do I recall any download offers. Shorter's Emanon is a 3-CD live set with a hard-cover graphic novel costing $53.82 on CD and $156.38 on vinyl. Not sure how well this was serviced -- I don't even get email from Blue Note these days, which hasn't been a problem given that everything else they release is available on Napster, and since they decided to bet on hip-hop fusion they haven't released much that's worth hearing. (This year: two ***, from Rosanne Cash and Charles Lloyd/Lucinda Williams; two **, from Kenny Barron and Dave McMurray; five *: Ambrose Akinmusire, Terence Blanchard, Nels Cline, GoGo Penguin, José James; five B or worse.)
On the other hand, I've only heard 5 of the top-ten historical, with Dolphy's Musical Prophet the only physical (too late). Francis Davis remarked to me that the new albums list seemed to be governed by "more is better": 3-CD Shorter (and Sorey); 2-CDs from Akinmusire, Coleman, Halvorson, Salvant, Washington, plus separates that could have been joined by Threadgill and Thumbscrew (we counted the former separately, but merged the latter), plus 6-CD monsters from Okazaki and Kimbrough -- all in the top-20. But the real home of gigantism is the historical list, where the top 8 were all 2-CD or more, topped by the 21-CD The Art Ensemble of Chicago and Associated Ensembles and the 11-CD Sextet Parker 1993. (I had naively assumed that the latter was just a repackaging of Braxton's brilliant Charlie Parker Project 1993, so didn't bother investigating further, but the full digital is available on Bandcamp. I should take a close look at the site and see what else is accessible.
I've been tempted to revisit several albums after seeing how they placed in various lists. The only one with a regrade so far is Tierra Whack's 15-minute EP Whack World. When Christgau placed it in his top-10, I thought it might overcome my prejudice against EPs. Even without the video, it feels remarkably full. I also gave Mitski's Be the Cowboy (last week's Christgau A-, number 2 in my EOY Aggregate) another chance, but didn't for a moment feel like moving my grade above B. I'm usually a sucker for a well-crafted pop album, but there are several this year that do precious little for me (Robyn, Ariana Grande; I like Sophie a bit more, but a recent retry didn't help it). Right now re-listening to Joshua Redman's Still Dreaming (number 2 for Francis Davis), which will probably get a small bump.
Just finished reading Suzy Hansen's Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World, which winds up with a thoroughly damning critique of US foreign policy, not least because it pains her so much to admit to it all. But the cinch for her seems to have been returning to the US (Brooklyn, Mississippi) and seeing first-hand how the imperialist bile rots the nation from the inside. At a more detail level, she illustrates without coming to any real conclusions the ambivalences she feels about Kemal and Erdogan and their respective cults with their peculiar ways of both dovetailing with and rebelling against American hegemony.
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Grade (or other) changes:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Sunday, January 6, 2019
Another pretty awful week, followed by a few hours grabbing a few links in case I ever want to look back and see what was happening, other than my own misery.
One point I've been wanting to make is that over quite some number of presidential administrations, I've noticed a pattern. At first, presidents are overwhelmed and wary of screwing up, so they tend to defer to their staff, in many ways becoming prisoners of whoever they happened to install -- usually the choice of their staff plus the party's unelected Washington insiders. However, presidential staff are usually careful to flatter their boss, faking fealty, and over time all that deference (even if insincere) bolsters the ego of whoever's president. Meanwhile the president gets comfortable, even a bit cocky about his accomplishments, so starts to impose his opinions and instincts. There are often further stages, and two-term presidents tend to go to seed six years in (Eisenhower and Reagan are obvious examples; Nixon didn't get that far; Clinton, Bush II, and Obama were sidelines with enemy-controlled Congresses). But we've clearly made the transition from Trump being the front man to actually being in charge, running an administration and party that is increasingly deferential to his every whim. And while most of us thought Trump was pretty nuts to start with, he used to stay comfortably within the Republican Party playbook. But increasingly, his chaos and madness are becoming uniquely his own. Sure, he still has to walk back an occasional notion, like his decision to withdraw ground troops from Syria. He may even find he has to give up on his budget extortion ploy (aka, the shutdown).
Lots of bad things are likely to come from this, but one can hope that two recent trends will only take firmer and broader root. The first is the understanding that what's wrong with Trump and what's wrong with the Republican Party are the same things, all the way down to their shared contempt for democracy and the people. The second, an outgrowth of the first, is that the Democratic Party is changing rapidly from a party that opportunistically tries to pass itself off as a "kinder, gentler version" of conservative/neoliberal orthodoxy to one that is serious about solving the real problems of war and powerlessness and inequality that have hurt the vast majority of American voters so grievously since Reagan.
I didn't write much about these themes below, but there's plenty of evidence to back them up.
Some scattered links this week:
Monday, December 31, 2018
Music: current count 30874  rated (+32), 251  unrated (-18).
Surprised I accumulated so many records given how miserable I've been all week. I've only been able to sit at the computer for more than an hour at a time the last couple days. That cut down on how much I could stream, but I did make a considerable dent in my physical CD queue: as of this moment, I have zero pending 2018 albums, and not much looking on to 2019.
I added Robert Christgau's grades to my EOY Aggregate. I've only been adding my own grades as I've collected items from other lists, so there are a lot of things I will eventually add to the list but that aren't there now. Somewhat surprised that the following Christgau-rated albums hadn't appeared in any previously compiled list (his grades, then mine, where I have one):
Those are all 2018 releases. Christgau's Dean's List will no doubt include his usual slew of late finds, but they fall out of this page. List is pretty long, but would be longer had I not already counted lists from known Christgauvians like Chris Monsen (Mekons 77, Amy Rigby, Elza Soares) and John Smallwood (Rigby, Lyrics Born, Wussy: What Heaven Is Like). I'll get to more as I find them, and at some point add in my own thus-far missing grades. Also results from Jazz Critics Poll, once they become public (soon, I think).
I have 175 EOY lists compiled to date, totalling 1798 + 46 albums (latter are reissues; very few lists focus on them so far). Not sure how many more I will pick up before I give up. The effort came to a standstill ten or so days ago, and I doubt I'll ever pick up the slack. The top of the list is fairly stable at this point (not that I've been paying close attention). My main interest in the list is to identify records worth checking out, so my intention now is to focus more on lists that line up well with my own interests. That probably means I've seen enough metal already. On the other hand, the current jazz listings are only about one-third as deep as the Jazz Critics Poll standings (154 vs. 487 new albums) and one-fourth as deep as my own personal ratings (176 vs. 678 new + old albums).
New records rated this week:
Grade (or other) changes:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Tuesday, October 30, 2018
No Weekend Roundup last week, and I didn't have any intention of doing one this week either. But when I sat down at the computer today, I figured I'd copy a few links (without comments) into the notebook for future reference. Wound up with quite a few. I started with Matthew Yglesias, then decided to stick to the format I used there: boldfacing the author, linking the article. Normally I would group related articles, such as on the shutdown/wall, or the Syria withdrawal, but only in a couple instances did I do that -- mostly when an article by a unique writer adds or counters one I already had pegged. I wound up with a couple very brief comments, noted interviews, and added tag quotes or subheds under long articles, where the title didn't explain enough.
Still awful sore, but this was probably the first day in ten where I've been able to sit at the computer for more than an hour without really paying for it. Managed to listen to some music along the way, so Music Week tomorrow won't be a total wash.
Some scattered links this week:
Friday, December 28, 2018
Streamnotes (December, 2018)
Was listening to new things at a pretty good clip until a mysterious health problem brought me to a dead stop a week ago. Feeling a wee bit better today, which makes this a good time to kick out what I have for the month, before it and the year are over. When estimating record counts for the year, it's best to take January 31 as the demarcation between years. So, for instance, I currently have 934 2018-released records graded, so it would be reasonable to estimate that I'll get to 1019 before I freeze my 2018 list. That seems like a bunch, but last year's frozen list had 1145 records (including a few ungraded), so I'm actually running about 13% down from 2017.
Not much more to say at this time, except to link to the still evolving Jazz and Non-Jazz lists, with 59 and 51 A-list new albums, respectively. Been working more on jazz than non-jazz this month, hence the 8-4 A-list edge below (also 3-1 in recent reissues/compilations/archival music).
Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on November 30. Past reviews and more information are available here (12270 records).
Tom Abbs & Frequency Response: Hawthorne (2018, Engine Studios): Bassist, originally from Seattle, released three albums from this group 2003-09, which is when these tapes were conceived (though not finished until recently). Two more original members: Brian Settles (tenor sax) and Chad Taylor (drums), with violinist Jean Cook (replacing cellist Okkyung Lee -- Abbs also plays cello, tuba, and piano), and guests. The string mix is the first thing you notice, but the most fun comes with the tuba bubbling away in the background. B+(***)
Albatre: The Fall of the Damned (2018, Shhpuma): Portuguese-German trio, based in Amsterdam, best known is bassist Gonçalo Almeida (also credited with keyboards and electronics), with Hugo Costa (alto sax & effects) and Philipp Ernsting (drums). Third album, some jazz effects but core sound is closer to metal. B
Anguish: Anguish (2018, RareNoise): Eponymous first group album, recorded in Germany, the likely home of the rhythm section: Hans Joachim Irmler (synths), Mike Mare (guitar), Andreas Werliin (drums). Adding further dimensions are Mike Brooks (Dälek rapper) and Mats Gustafsson (tenor sax/live electronics). B+(**) [cdr]
Lotte Anker/Pat Thomas/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Ståle Liavik Solberg: His Flight's at Ten (2016 , Iluso): Avant sax quartet, pianist Thomas making the biggest splash. B+(**) [bc]
Lynne Arriale Trio: Give Us These Days (2017 , Challenge): Pianist, close to 20 records since 1994, most of them trios, this one recorded in Belgium with Jasper Somsen (bass) and Jasper Van Hulten (drums). Three covers: Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock," Lennon-McCartney's "Let It Be," and a Tom Waits song sung by "special guest" Kate McGarry. B+(*)
Bob Baldori/Arthur Migliazza: The Boogie Kings: Disturbing the Peace (2018, Blujazz/Spirit): Bluesy harmonica and old-time boogie piano on song titles starting with "Shake That Boogie," "Yancey Stomp," "Boogie Stomp," "Boogie Woogie Man," and winding up with "Rockin' Pneumonia" and "Mojo." Fun. B+(*) [cd]
Andrew Barker/Daniel Carter: Polyhedron (2017 , Astral Spirits): Duets, drums and whatever horn Carter feels like at the time (alto/tenor/soprano saxophones, clarinet, trumpet, flute -- to varying effect). B+(**) [bc]
Jon Batiste: Hollywood Africans (2018, Verve): Pianist from New Orleans, best known these days as bandleader for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, has a few scattered albums since 2005, claims his roots here, starting with an original piano boogie, followed by cautious vocals on "What a Wonderful World" and "St. James Infirmary Blues. Gains some confidence as a singer later on, closing with a haunting, string-fortified "Don't Stop." B+(*)
Beak>: >>> (2018, Temporary Residence): Bristol, England trio, third album in a series of putatively greater titles, rock instrumentation (plus strings on two tracks), drawing on electronica models, with weak, prog-ish vocals on maybe half of the tunes. B+(*)
Eraldo Bernocchi: Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It (2018, RareNoise): Italian, 15 or so albums since 1997, solo credits here read: guitars, treated guitars, electronics. I file him under jazz, but this is closer to electronica, with its spacious ambient tableaux. B+(*) [cdr]
The Beths: Future Me Hates Me (2018, Carpark): Indie pop band from Auckland, New Zealand, nominally a guitar-guitar-bass trio although they also have a drummer, all three sing but mostly you hear Elizabeth Stokes. B+(*)
Samuel Blaser: Early in the Mornin' (2017 , Out Note): Trombonist, has recorded regularly since 2009, usually in avant circles. Does half trad. pieces here, with a core quartet -- Russ Lossing (piano/keyboards), Masa Kamaguchi (bass), and Gerry Hemingway (drums) -- with three guest shots: Oliver Lake (alto sax) on the title cut opener, Wallace Roney (trumpet) on another, both on a third. They sparkle, but not so much without them. B+(*)
Kadhja Bonet: Childqueen (2018, Fat Possum): Singer-songwriter, grew up in California, first album after a couple EPs. Plays many instruments, starting with violin. Father worked in opera. Some of that comes through here. B-
Boygenius: Boygenius (2018, Matador, EP): Six-song debut EP for a group with three moderately famous singer-songwriters: Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers. B
Bobby Bradford/Hafez Modirzadeh: Live at the Blue Whale (2017 , NoBusiness): Actually a quartet, with Roberto Miranda on bass and Vijay Anderson on drums, recalling the cornet player's justly famous c. 1975 two-horn quartet with John Carter. Modirzadeh, who was born in North Carolina and teaches at San Francisco State, plays soprano sax, karna and khaen (whatever they are). B+(***) [cdr]
Brockhampton: Iridescence (2018, RCA): Hip-hop collective, formed in Texas but based in Los Angeles, best-known member Kevin Abstract, released three Saturation albums in 2017, followed by this. B+(**)
Sam Broverman: A Jewish Boy's Christmas (2018, Brovermusic): Mathematics professor, sometime Singer-songwriter from Winnipeg, wrote five of ten songs here, picking up Tom Lehrer's "Hannukkah in Santa Monica," picking on straighter Christmas songs from Sammy Cahn, Jule Style, Mel Tormé, and trad., and latching onto a Tom Waits song simply because it has "Christmas" in the title ("Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis"). Aims for humor, and mostly delivers. Whitney Ross-Harris helps with the vocals. B [cd]
Butcher Brown: Camden Session (2018, Gearbox): British jazz-funk group, keyboardist DJ Harrison probably the main guy, with Marcus Tenney on sax and trumpet, Morgan Burrs on guitar, plus electric bass and drums. Vinyl length: 6 cuts, 30:52. I like the trumpet. B+(*)
Carla Campopiano Trio: Chicago/Buenos Aires Connections (2018, self-released): Flute player, from Argentina, studied jazz in Chicago but retains a strong tango influence here (including two Piazzola pieces). B [cd]
Dustin Carlson: Air Ceremony (2017 , Out of Your Head): Guitarist, has a previous "limited edition cassette" that runs 27:08, so you might consider that an EP and this a debut. Septet: two saxes, trumpet, plus a rhythm section I recognize -- Matt Mitchell (Prophet 6, an analog synth), Adam Hopkins (bass), and Kate Gentile (drums). Postbop, most impressive when they venture out. B+(**) [cd]
Guillermo Celano/Joachim Badenhorst/Marcos Baggiani: Lili & Marleen (2016 , Clean Feed): Guitar/clarinet (bass clarinet/tenor sax)/drums trio, recorded in Amsterdam -- home base for Celano and Baggiani, both from Argentina (Badenhorst is Belgian). B+(**)
Christine and the Queens: Chris (2018, Because Music): French pop singer-songwriter Héloïse Letissier, second official album although with all the EPs and various packaging and delayed release dates in (e.g.) the US market seems like more. Band was named for the drag queens in her retinue. Meanwhile she's looking more masculine, and shortening her name to match. Not sure what I can tell by ear. Digital has both an English and a French version of the album. I can't follow the French very well, but am just as happy with it that way. B+(**)
Zack Clarke: Mesophase (2017 , Clean Feed): Pianist, from Houston, based in New York, second album, also credited with electronics. With Charlotte Greve (sax, clarinet, flute), cello, bass, and percussion/waterphone/shakuhacki (Leonid Galaganov). B+(*)
Coyote Poets of the Universe: Strange Lullaby (2018, Square Shaped, 2CD): Country-ish group from Denver, sixth album since 2003, a big one even if you discount a half-dozen striking covers -- the haunting "Wayfaring Stranger" is probably my favorite, the maudlin "Long Black Veil" took the longest to sink in. Singer Melissa Gates has a few Janis Joplin moments, still mesmerizing when she doesn't. The male singer (Andy O or Gary Hoover) is less striking, but poets need to get their words in. A- [cd]
Francesco Cusa & the Assassins Meets Duccio Bertini: Black Poker (2017 , Clean Feed): Drummer, from Italy, discography goes back to 1997, group name has been used for several quartets, here: Giulio Stermieri (organ/piano), Flavio Zanuttini (trumpet/electronics), Giovanni Benvenuti (tenor sax). Bertini plays keyboards on one cut, and does some arranging, involving Florence Art Quartet (2 violin, viola, cello). B+(*)
Maria Da Rocha: Beetroot & Other Stories (2018, Shhpuma): Portuguese, plays violin and synths, viola on one track. Solo. Sort of a drone/noise thing, but surprisingly relaxing for that. B+(**)
Marie Davidson: Working Class Woman (2018, Ninja Tune): French-Canadian electronica, fourth album, also part of darkwave duo Essaie Pas. She talks her way through this -- I can't really follow it all, can't even assure you it's all in English, but "Work It" could be a hit, and even when she goes dark she offers more edge than gloom. A-
Drone Trio [Evelyn Davis/Fred Frith/Phillip Greenlief]: Lantskap Logic (2013 , Clean Feed): Pipe organ, electric guitar, alto/tenor sax, but all are hard to differentiate, subsumed as they are in the drone concept, which comes, lingers a while, and passes. B+(*)
Dystil: Dystil (2017 , Clean Feed): New York trio: Bryan Qu (alto sax), Quincy Mayes (piano, objects), Mark Ballyk (percussion, voice, objects); first album, few side-credits. Sonic mix interesting, could do without the voice (not much, just at the end). On the short side: 11 cuts, 29:23. B+(*)
Jake Ehrenreich With the Roger Kellaway Trio: A Treasury of Jewish Christmas Songs: A Cool Tribute to the Jewish Songwriters (2017 , self-released): Played so straight they could play this at the mall and you'd never notice anything out of the ordinary, except perhaps that this doesn't turn into a public annoyance. Credit Kellaway for avoiding jingoism, Ehrenreich for avoiding melodrama, and the songwriters for avoiding sanctimony or any conspicuous reference to Christianity. B+(*) [cd]
El Eco With Guillermo Nojechowicz: Puerto de Buenos Aires 1933 (2017, Zoho): Argentinian drummer, studied in Boston and New York, draws inspiration from passport photos from when his grandparents immigrated, creating his own melting pot ensemble, with Helio Alves (piano), Fernando Huergo (bass), Kim Nazarian (vocals), Brian Lynch (trumpet), Marco Pignataro (tenor/soprano sax), and strings arranged by Nando Michelin. B+(*)
Orrin Evans and the Captain Black Big Band: Presence (2018, Smoke Sessions): Pianist from Philadelphia, third big band album since 2011. Lineup is a little light -- three each saxes, trumpets, and trombones -- but they get a big sound, even with a distinct piano bias. Still, not much sticks. B
Peter Evans/Agustí Fernandez/Barry Guy: Free Radicals at DOM (2017 , Fundacja Sluchaj): Trumpet/piano/bass, recorded in Moscow, free improv, no drummer to march things along but not really needed here. B+(**) [bc]
Lupe Fiasco: Drogas Light (2017, 1st & 15): Rapper Wasalu Muhammad Jaco, from Chicago, sixth album, early work impressed -- Lasers was my favorite, although it was widely panned. Sixth album, first piece of a proposed trilogy. Not sure what the concept is, or whether it matters. B+(**)
Lupe Fiasco: Drogas Wave (2018, 1st & 15): Second part, still scattered but gives you more to think about. Much more. A-
Adam Forkelid: Reminiscence (2017 , Moserobie): Swedish pianist, first side credit seems to be 1999, only other record I can find under his name came out in 2005, so this trio, with Georg Riedel and Jon Fält named on the cover below the title, isn't a debut, but it is a remarkable breakthrough. I've never been much of a piano jazz fan, so I'm surprised when one feels so right -- reminds me of early Chick Corea with his Spanish tinge, although Bobo Stenson is probably closer to home. A- [cd]
Satoko Fujii/Joe Fonda: Mizu (2018, Long Song): Somehow never got this among the pianist's record-per-month 60th birthday celebration (although I did get Triad, on the same label with the addition of Gianni Mimmo). Piano-bass duets, not their first encounter. B+(***) [bc]
Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo: Kikoeru: Tribute to Masaya Kimura (2018, Libra): Kimura was a saxophonist in the Tokyo big band, who died in 2017. This winds up Fujii's "Kanreki" -- one record each month in 2018, marking the pianist-composer's 60th birthday -- with a bang: no piano, but spectacular horn solos and interplay, with some words leading into the climax. A- [cd]
Fernando Garcia: Guasábara Puerto Rico (2017 , Zoho): Drummer, Puerto Rican, group with tenor sax (Jan Kus), piano, guitar, bass, and extra percussion, plus a guest on the 9:35 title piece: alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón. B+(*)
Vinny Golia/Henry Kaiser/Ra Kalam Bob Moses/Damon Smith/Weasel Walter: Astral Plane Crash (2018, Balance Point Acoustics): Several sources file this under guitarist Kaiser, but Golia (kawala [Egyptian flute], sopranino/soprano/baritone saxophones, saxello, Bb clarinet, piccolo) is first-named on both front and back covers. With two percussionists and Smith on "amplified double bass." Two long pieces (44:16 + 35:29), lots of scratch and wail. B+(**)
The Goon Sax: We're Not Talking (2018, Wichita): Second-generation Go-Betweens, three singer-songwriters (only one a direct descendant), Riley Jones making a big difference on this sophomore album. Also the production, which fleshes out guitar-bass-drums with violin-viola-trumpet. A-
Guillermo Gregorio/Rafal Mazur/Ramón López Trio: Wandering the Sounds (2018, Fundacja Sluchaj): Clarinet, acoustic bass guitar, and drums, recorded on Mazur's home turf of Poland. Actually not sure where "THE" on cover belongs, but the label leans this way. Also unclear on record date (9 calendar days before release, but in what year?). At 75 (more or less), the Argentinian-born clarinetist has rarely sounded more agile. B+(***) [bc]
Barry Guy: Barry Guy @ 70: Blue Horizon: Live at Ad Libitum (2017 , Fundacja Sluchaj, 3CD): British bassist, founder of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra, a major avant-jazz figure, but one I've had a tough time warming to: the only A- record I have listed for him is a trio with Marilyn Crispell and Paul Lytton (Phases of the Night), who play the middle of three hour-long sets at this extended birthday bash. This one is also superb, plus it's bracketed by two duos that are every bit as dazzling: the opener with pianist Agustí Fernandez, and a closer with bassist Joëlle Léandre. Not everyday music, but fits the occasion. A- [bc]
Hamar Trio: Yesterday Is Here (2016 , Clean Feed): Norwegian reeds player Klaus Ellerhusen Holm (clarinet/alto sax), with an improv set in Portugal with Hernâni Faustino (bass) and Nuno Morão (drums). B+(***)
Eric Harland: 13th Floor (2018, 13th Floor): Drummer, many side credits since c. 2000, two previous albums attributed to Voyager, basically the same group here: Walter Smith III (tenor sax), Taylor Eigsti (piano), Julian Lage and/or Nir Felder (guitar), Harish Raghavan (bass). Postbop, sometimes fancy, mostly bright and cheery. B+(*)
Stefon Harris + Blackout: Sonic Creed (2017 , Motéma): Vibraphone-marimba player, major label debut in 1998, group name dates from 2004. All soft edges here, a couple of neo-soul vocals, little of interest. B-
Marquis Hill: Modern Flows Vol. 2 (2018, Black Unlimited Music Group): Mainstream trumpet player, from Chicago, based in New York, Vol. 1 was a 2014 EP. This one has Josh Johnson on alto sax, Joel Ross on vibraphone, plus bass and drums, and various vocal guests, both singers and rappers. B
John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble: All Can Work (2017 , New Amsterdam): Drummer, main vehicle since 2004 has been the Claudia Quintet but this is his third Large Ensemble album. Close to standard horn count, but reeds favor clarinet and flute, with vibraphone/marimba for soft sparkle, and Theo Bleckman's voice gliding through it all. B [bc]
Lonnie Holley: MITH (2018, Jagjaguwar): From Alabama, performance artist, best known for his sculptures, recorded his first album at 62, this his third. This is odd and off-putting at first, but through sheer persistence finds its groove. B
François Houle/Alexander Hawkins/Harris Eisenstadt: You Have Options (2016 , Songlines): Clarinet-piano-drums piano, two Canadians and a Brit, all write, plus choice covers of Charles Ives, Steve Lacy, and Andrew Hill. B+(***)
Ingrid Jensen/Steve Treseler: Invisible Sounds: For Kenny Wheeler (2018, Whirlwind): Wheeler was Canadian, moved to England in 1952, played more flugelhorn than trumpet, often appeared in avant-garde outfits but his own records (especially at ECM) were pretty mild-mannered. Jensen (trumpet) and Tresler (tenor sax) are also Canadians, studied with him, lead a quintet with Geoffrey Keezer (piano) here playing his songs with great vigor. B+(***)
Park Jiha: Communion (2016 , Tak:til): South Korean, plays piri (double reed bamboo flute), saenghwang (mouth organ), and yanggeum (hammered dulcimer), joined by Kim Oki (tenor sax and bass clarinet), John Bell (vibraphone), and Kang Tekhyun (percussion). Mostly pleasant exotica, sometimes haunting, can even push your buttons. B+(**)
JLin: Autobiography [Music From Wayne McGregor's Autobiography] (2018, Planet Mu): Third album from Gary, IN electronica producer Jerrilynn Patton, meant as a soundtrack but holds up nicely on its own. B+(***)
Phillip Johnston: The Adventures of Prince Achmed (2013 , Asynchronous): Saxophonist (soprano here), born in Chicago, grew up in New York, but based in Sydney, Australia since 2005. Best known as co-leader of the Microscopic Septet (since 1983), involved in a number of other projects plus a handful of albums under his own name, starting with Music for Films in 1998. This is another soundtrack project, with trombone, two organ/keyb players, and drums. Lays the organ on pretty thick, but the trombone helps. B+(*) [bc]
Phillip Johnston & the Coolerators: Diggin' Bones (2017 , Asynchronous): Australian group led by the American expat saxophonist (alto/soprano), "funky organ combo jazz with modernist jazz composition" -- Alister Spence (organ), Lloyd Swanton (bass, producer, from the Necks), and Nic Cecire (drums). B+(***) [bc]
Khruangbin: Con Todo El Mundo (2018, Dead Oceans): Guitar-bass-drums trio from Houston, their name a Thai word meaning "flying engine" -- bassist Laura Lee was learning Thai at the time, and their first album was heavily influenced by Thai music -- don't have much use for words although there are some, partly buried in the mix. This one has more Latin tinge. B+(*)
Quin Kirchner: The Other Side of Time (2018, Astral Spirits): Drummer, based in Chicago, first album, also credited with kalimba, sampler, synthesizer. With bass (Matt Ulery), three horns -- Jason Stein (bass clarinet), Nate Lepine (tenor sax), Nick Broste (trombone) -- piano on one cut. B+(***) [bc]
Knalpot: Dierendag (2017 , Shhpuma): Dutch instrumental group, principally Gerri Jäger (drums) and Raphael Vanoli (guitar), both also synth and electronics, with "sounddesign" by producer Sandor Caron. B+(*)
Kirk Knuffke/Steven Herring: Witness (2017 , SteepleChase): Cornet player, paired with "New York's up and coming operatic baritone singer," backed by Ben Goldberg (clarinte, contra alto clarinet) and Russ Lossing (piano). The trad. gospel pieces are most impressive, but Rossini, Puccini, and Verdi remain opera, even if Mancini isn't. B
Martin Küchen/Rafal Mazur: Baza (2017 , NoBusiness): Sax-bass duo, more specifically alto/soprano sax and acoustic bass guitar. Talented musicians with distinctive sounds, but no guarantee that every chance encounter will turn magical. B+(*) [cdr]
Andrew Lamb Trio: The Casbah of Love (2018, Birdwatcher): Saxophonist (tenor/alto/clarinet/flute), with Tom Abbs (bass, cello, didgeridoo, violin, tuba) and Ryan Jewell (drums). Aims for something spiritual. Achievement is subtler. B+(**)
Leikeli47: Wash & Set (2017, Hardcover/RCA): Brooklyn rapper, first album, wears a ski mask, doesn't have a Wikipedia page or any bio I'm aware of. B+(***)
Leikeli47: Acrylic (2018, Hardcover/RCA): Second album, pushes the envelope musically -- nay, more like shreds it, which doesn't mean it always works, even close, leaving the masked woman more opaque than ever. B+(**)
Lotic: Power (2018, Tri Angle): Electronica producer J'Kerian Morgan, originally from Texas, based in Berlin. Name seems to mean "inhabiting or situated in rapidly moving fresh water." Second album. Has a gaudy ring to it, not unlike the contorted cover. B
Low: Double Negative (2018, Sub Pop): Trio from Duluth, Minnesota, basically invented slowcore starting in 1994, 12th album. Always seemed like a neat idea, but I've usually found their records unbearable. This seems likely their best received ever: I suspect because the electronics have taken over and confounded and camouflaged their usual depression. B+(*)
Jessica Lurie: Long Haul (2017, Chant): Alto saxophonist, record produced by bassist Todd Sickafoose, with Brian Marsella (piano), Mike Gamble (guitar), Allison Miller (drums), and "special guest" Naomi Siegel (trombone). Fast and slippery, falls down on occasion. B+(**)
Roberto Magris: World Gardens (2015 , JMood): Pianist, from Trieste in Italy, based in US, with 15+ records since 1982. Quartet, with bass, drums, and extra percussion, about half originals although the standards more often stand out. B+(***) [cd]
Masta Ace & Marco Polo: A Breukelen Story (2018, Fat Beats): Rapper Duval Clear, past 50 now, which moves him from gangsta to old school, teamed up with beats producer Marco Bruno, tells the story of someone moving from Toronto to New York to break into hip-hop (roughly speaking, much Bruno's story), although the music easily tops the story. B+(***) [bc]
Master Oogway: The Concert Koan (2017 , Clean Feed): Norwegian fusion quartet, named for a character in Kung Fu Panda, guitarist Håvard Nordberg Funderud more often than not gets the top hand over saxophonist Lauritz Lyster Skeidsvoll. B+(**)
Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet: Polka (2018, Whirlwind): Polish bassist, Quintet dates to 2011 although he has earlier records back to 2008. This one refers back to a 2014 album: not sure if it's a reissue, a remix, or a revision -- this is presented as "Worldwide Deluxe Edition," and there's also a Polka Live and a Polka Remixed. "Polka" is a song, not the genre here. The music is intricate, layered, meditative, measured, often quite lovely. A-
Peter McEachern Trio: Bone-Code (2017 , Clean Feed): Trombonist, first album I can find under his name but he has side-credits going back to 1979, mostly with Thomas Chapin and/or Mario Pavone -- the bassist here, along with Michael Sarin on drums. I've long had a soft spot for trombone, but this is an exceptional trio. A-
Father John Misty: God's Favorite Customer (2018, Sub Pop): Singer-songwriter Josh Tillman, recorded as J. Tillman 2003-10, joined Fleet Foxes for their 2011 album, now has four albums under this moniker. About par for the course. Closing title: "We're Only People (and There's Not Much Anyone Can Do About That)." B
Liudas Mockünas: Hydro 2 (2017 , NoBusiness): Soprano saxophonist, working solo but also credited with percussion, Hydro reflecting his use of "water-prepared" saxophones. B+(*) [cd]
François Moutin & Kavita Shah Duo: Interplay (2018, Dot Time): French bassist and American vocalist. I don't think he's ever had his name first on an album before, but he's co-led various groups with his brother Louis Moutin, as well as playing in high-profile piano trios with Martial Solal and Jean-Michel Pilc. She has a remarkable resume, including classical piano from age 5, membership in the Young People's Chorus of New York City, a major in Latin American studies at Harvard, fieldwork in Brazil, work for Human Rights Watch, and a chance meeting with Sheila Jordan which steered her toward a Master's in Jazz Voice from Manhattan School of Music. Two guests, two cuts each: Solal and Jordan. B+(***)
Música De Selvagem: Volume Único (2017 , Shhpuma, EP): Brazilian quintet, name translates as Music of Savages, with two saxes, trumpet/euphonium, bass and drums -- vocal not credited. Four cuts, 27:44. B+(*)
Simon Nabatov/Barry Guy/Gerry Hemingway: Luminous (2015 , NoBusiness): Piano-bass-drums trio: Nabatov a Russian who moved to Germany in 1989, has more than two dozen albums; the others, better known for longer -- perhaps the edge that lifts this above his many other fine performances. A- [cd]
Rico Nasty: Nasty (2018, Sugar Trap): Rapper Maria-Cecilia Simone Kelly, several mixtapes, this something of a breakthrough. B+(**)
Fredrik Nordström: Needs (2018, Clean Feed): Swedish saxophonist (tenor/baritone), organized this as a double quartet, inspired by Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz, with trombone (Mats Åleklint), bass, and drums on the left channel, Fredrik Ljungkvist (clarinet/tenor sax), Niklas Barnö (trumpet), bass and drums on the right. Gets the spirit and much of the effect, but not always. B+(***)
Now Vs Now: The Buffering Cocoon (2018, Jazzland): Group name comes from an album pianist Jason Lindner released in 2009 (Gives You Now Vs Now, with bassist Panagiotis Andreou the only other continuity. Third face on their website is probably drummer Justin Tyson, although there are a few other credits -- notably vocalists, although they tend to get in the way of what otherwise is a pretty decent (albeit cheesy) groove record. B
Miles Okazaki: Work: The Complete Compositions of Thelonious Monk, Volumes 1-6 (2018, self-released): Guitarist, from Port Townsend, Washington; based in New York. Four previous albums, so this one more than doubles his catalog, rendering all 70 Monk compositions as solo guitar. B+(***)
Onyx Collective: Lower East Suite Part Three (2018, Big Dada): New York group, "de facto leader" Isaiah Barr (alto/tenor sax, with Roy Nathanson playing alto on 4/10 tracks). First two parts were released as EPs (8 tracks each, but short ones: 19:03 and 22:28; this one runs 37:54). Not a big collective -- just drums and a bass or two, so mostly a sax album: a bit brooding at first, but snaps to. B+(***)
Onyx Collective: Lower East Suite Part One (2017, Big Dada, EP): Not seeing credits here, but basic sax-bass-drums, possible doubles, several pieces named for the streets they were recorded on, only one piece longer than 2:39. Starts with spoken word over sax vamps, but loses that after two tracks. Hit and miss after that. B+(*)
Onyx Collective: Lower East Suite Part Two (2017, Big Dada, EP): A little longer with four tracks topping 3:00, and a bit less focused, too, but has some strong sax moments. B+(*)
Caterina Palazzi/Sudoku Killer: Asperger (2017 , Clean Feed): Double bassist, from Italy, released a quartet album in 2010 called Sudoku Killer, kept that name for two more albums with Giacomo Ancillotto (guitar) and Maurizio Chiavaro (drums), using various saxophonists (two here: Silvio Pomante on 4 cuts, Antonio Raia on the other). I've seen this called noise jazz. There's an element of that, as well as an interest in rock-hard riffs. B+(***)
Barre Phillips: End to End (2017 , ECM): Bassist, born in San Francisco, moved to New York in 1962, then to Europe in 1967, since which he's mostly been associated with European musicians. Tenth album for ECM, starting with Music for Two Basses (1971, with Dave Holland), but his previous one came out in 2006. This is solo bass, inevitably slow and ponderous, but quite lovely in its own way. B+(***)
Chris Pitsiokos/Susana Santos Silva/Torbjörn Zetterberg: Child of Illusion (2017 , Clean Feed): Two clashing horns -- alto sax and trumpet -- with bass in the middle, not as effective an arbiter as drums are. B+(*)
Antonio Raia: Asylum (2017 , Clean Feed): Tenor saxophonist, from Naples, evidently his first album, solo, raw but gets something going. B+(**)
Mattias Risberg: Stamps (2017 , Clean Feed): Pianist, from Sweden (I think), has a previous duo album (with Fredrik Ljungkvist, a tribute to Carla Bley). Solo piano, sometimes prepared, augmented with a pedal-operated Moog Taurus -- an analogue bass synthesizer. B+(*)
Rosalía: El Mal Querer (2018, Sony Music): Spanish flamenco singer, goes by first name, rest Villa Tobella. Rhythm helps. Melodrama doesn't. B
Jacob Sacks: Fishes (2017 , Clean Feed): Pianist, originally from Michigan, studied in New York and is based there, has a couple of previous records, more side credits including the lead role in drummer Dan Weiss' trio. Strong group here with two lead saxophonists (Ellery Eskelin and Tony Malaby), Michael Formanek (bass), and Weiss. The promised joust never really pans out, but everyone gets their spots. B+(**)
Akira Sakata & Chikamorachi With Masahiko Satoh: Proton Pump (2015 , Family Vineyard): Japanese alto saxophonist, from Hiroshima, born 1945, so less than six months old when the bomb hit. Traind as a marine biologists, but started recording in 1975, a major avant-jazz figure in Japan. Chikamorachi is his rhythm section: Darin Gray and Chris Corsano. Satoh is another eminence, a pianist, four years older. Four pieces with science jargon for titles, but otherwise pretty unruly. Sakata's vocal is even rougher than his sax. B+(***)
Akira Sakata/Simon Nabatov/Takashi Seo/Darren Moore: Not Seeing Is a Flower (2017 , Leo): A live set in Japan, Sakata credited with alto sax, clarinet, vocals, percussion. With piano, bass, and drums. Typical free thrash, piano quite strong. B+(**)
Bobby Sanabria Manhattan Big Band: West Side Story: Reimagined (2017 , Jazzheads, 2CD): Drummer-led big band, extra flute/piccolo, electric violin, lots of extra Latin percussion, background vocals and handclaps. Leonard Bernstein's score was never a favorite, so not much peeks through, but as Afro-Cuban big band this sounds pretty generic. B
Scheen Jazzorchester/Eyolf Dale: Commuter Report (2018, Losen): From Norway, thirteen-piece big band, horn sections each one short of a full big band, compositions by pianist Dale (also on harpsichord and celeste), the only other oddity is an accordion. Still leans toward classical in orchestration and temperament. B+(*)
John Scofield: Combo 66 (2018, Verve): Guitarist, amusing to see him listed as "jazz funk" as he basically invented the stuff, a guitar-centric evolution from soul jazz well beyond Wes Montgomery. This is his basic quartet: Gerald Clayton (piano, organ), Vicente Archer (bass), Bill Stewart (drums). Nothing fast or fancy or foolish, just stays very true to himself. B+(**)
Travis Scott: Astroworld (2018, Epic/Grand Hustle): Rapper, Jacques Webster, from Houston, third album. B+(**)
Lauren Sevian: Bliss (2018, Posi-Tone): Baritone saxophonist, bio starts off "Grammy award winning" but not clear on what for. Second album, quintet with Alexa Tarantino on alto sax, Robert Rodriguez (piano), Christian McBride (bass), and E.J. Strickland (drums). B+(**)
Josh Sinton's Predicate Trio: Making Bones, Taking Draughts, Bearing Unstable Millstones Pridefully, Idiotically, Prosaically (2018, Iluso): Mostly plays bass clarinet, here also baritone sax, not much under his own name but he's distinguished himself in a number of groups, like Ideal Bread. With Christopher Hoffman (cello) and Ton Rainey (drums). B+(**) [bc]
Sleep: The Sciences (2018, Third Man): Doom metal power trio from San Jose, started in the early 1990s as Asbestos Death, third album in 2003 (Dopesmoker) credited as stoner rock. This is their first album in 15 years, and the most broadly acclaimed metal album of the year. Indeed, I find myself enjoying the dense, rather flat din, although I still find much of it impenetrable. B+(*)
SLUGish Ensemble: An Eight Out of Nine (2018, SLUGish): Name derived from Steven Lugerner, who plays bass clarinet, baritone sax, Bb clarinet, flute, and alto flute, leading a ten-piece group. Fairly fancy postbop. B+(**) [bc]
Martial Solal: My One and Only Love: Live at Theater Gutersloh (2017 , Intuition): French pianist, possibly the first major jazz figure to emerge from France in the 1950s -- Duke Ellington noted when Solal debuted in the US, "he sparkles with refreshment." Ninety now, playing a solo concert in Germany -- he apologizes for his German and proceeds to narrate in English -- mostly standards (including an Ellington medley). B+(***)
Luciana Souza: The Book of Longing (2018, Sunnyside): Brazilian singer-songwriter, more than a dozen albums since 1999, a couple of titles calling out poets (Elizabeth Bishop, Pablo Neruda), three volumes of Duos -- a fondness for sparse settings for sometimes poignant words. Backed by guitar (Chico Pinheiro) and/or bass (Scott Colley), finds a sad place and tries to find beauty in it. B+(**)
Subtle Degrees: A Dance That Empties (2017 , New Amsterdam): Duo: Travis Laplante (tenor sax) and Gerald Cleaver (drums). Three parts or variations on a common title, with circular breathing turning the sax into a constant rhythm machine. B+(***) [bc]
Earl Sweatshirt: Some Rap Songs (2018, Columbia/Tan Cressida, EP): Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, born in Chicago, raised in Los Angeles, mother a professor of law at UCLA, father (most often absent) a South African poet. No real songs, just fifteen fragments, longest 2:45, only one other topping 2:00, total 24:39. B
Thollem/DuRoche/Stjames Trio: Live in Our Time (2015 , ESP-Disk): Avant piano-bass-drums trio, names on cover a bit mangled, so: Thollem McDonas (piano), Tim DuRoche (drums), Andre St. James (bass). B+(*)
Tirzah: Devotion (2018, Domino): British singer, first album, sort of a low energy, lo-fi approach to r&b, often over minimal backdrops. Could be on to something. B+(**)
Trio HLK: Standard Time (2018, Ubuntu Music): British trio, first album: Richard Harrold (piano), Ant Law (8-string guitar), and Richard Kass (drums), all pieces composed by the pianist, with guest shots up front, three each for Steve Lehman (alto sax) and Evelyn Glennie (vibraphone/marimba). On 2-LP that probably breaks up into more coherent sides, but here comes off as two or three different records. Guitar instead of bass gives them two instruments that can lead and comp, and they push that hard -- also the extra bass strings. Lehman isn't tempted to take over, but he offers his usual brilliance. B+(***) [bc]
Trondheim Jazz Orchestra & Ole Morten Vågan: Happy Endings (2018, Odin): Norwegian jazz orchestra, formed in 1999, twenty-some albums since 2004, almost all tied to a guest star (like bassist Vågan). Seems to have 12 musicians plus voice (Sofia Jernberg), light on brass (trumpet, tromjbone, three reeds) but has violin-cello-bass, synth, two drummers. Has some moments that really threaten to take off. B+(**)
Yves Tumor: Safe in the Hands of Love (2018, Warp): Sean Bowie, born and raised in Tennessee, fled at 17 for California, met Mykki Blanco there, toured with her in Europe and stuck there, currently in Turin. Cites Throbbing Gristle as a major influence -- a legendary group but not one I've ever gotten into, probably because they're too heavy-handed. He is too, but his third album has several charms, like when he lets up a bit and crafts a nice beat. B
Turbamulta: Turbamulta (2018, Clean Feed): Portuguese quintet, translates as "rowdy mob," but nothing mob-like in this group's tinkly avant-chamber music. B
Chucho Valdés: Jazz Batá 2 (2018, Mack Avenue): Outstanding Cuban pianist, cut his first Jazz Batá album in 1972, so this has been a long time coming. He typically plays in a quartet with bass, drums, and congas, replacing the latter here with Dreiser Darruthy Bombale on batá drums -- a mark of the Yoruba vein in Afro-Cuban jazz. I can't say the batá make much difference, but violinist Regina Carter does. B+(***)
Voicehandler: Light From Another Light (2017 , Humbler): Duo -- Jacob Felix Heule (drums) and Danishta Rivero (voice & electronics) -- with at least one previous album. Hard to tell how much voice is involved, as it's heavily treated, effectively electronic. B+(*) [cd]
Walking Distance: Freebird by Walking Distance feat. Jason Moran (2018, Sunnyside): New York quartet -- Caleb Curtis (alto sax + trumpet one cut), Kenny Pexton (tenor sax + clarinet two), Adam Cole (bass + Mellotron one), Shawn Baltzor (drums) -- plus the pianist on 6/12 tracks. Play bebop, one eye firmly attached to Charlie Parker, the other wanders a bit. Maybe not far enough for freebop. B+(***)
The Way Ahead: Bells, Ghosts and Other Saints (2017 , Clean Feed): Albert Ayler tribute band, recorded in Norway, mixed in Sweden: André Roligheten (tenor sax/clarinet), Kristoffer Alberts (alto/baritone sax), Niklas Barnö (trumpet), Mats Äleklint (trombone), Mattias Ståhl (vibraphone), Ola Høyer (bass), Tollef Østvang (drums). B+(*)
Ben Wendel: The Seasons (2018, Motéma): Saxophonist, from Vancouver, BC, based in New York, named twelve songs as months, each dedicated to an "artist who has shaped Wendel's creative vision," but also having something to do with Tchaikovsky. Quintet, with Aaron Parks (piano), Gilad Hekselman (guitar),Matt Brewer (bass), and Eric Harland (drums), with Wendel playing bassoom on four tracks. B+(*)
Mars Williams: Mars Williams Presents an Ayler Xmas (2017, Soul What): Three medleys, like one that sandwiches Albert Ayler's "Spirits" between "O Tannenbaum" and "12 Days of Christmas" -- songs similar to the hymns that inspired Ayler. The saxophonist-leader is up to the concept, and is ably backed up by six other Chicago freethinkers. B+(***) [bc]
Mars Williams: Mars Williams Presents an Ayler Xmas: Volume 2 (2018, Soul What): More, with three cuts (including a full reprise of the central medley from the first volume) recorded with an expanded Witches & Devils band live at Chicago's Hungry Brain, plus two tracks from Vienna with a local group. B+(**) [bc]
Aida Bird Wolfe: Birdie (2018, self-released): Jazz singer, more into vocalese (but doesn't scat) than cabaret, drawing on Jon Hendricks lyrics to Monk and Davis, Joni Mitchell to Mingus. Closes strong, turning the corner on "Valerie," getting crucial sax help on "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," and finally convincing me with "Every Time I Sing the Blues." B+(***) [cd]
Yoko Yamaoka: Diary 2005-2015: Yuko Yamaoka Plays the Music of Satoko Fujii (2018, Libra, 2CD): Japanese pianist, studied at New England Conservatory but recorded this in Tokyo -- don't know of anything else she's recorded. The "Diary" is a book of compositions Fujii regularly adds to, so for Fujii this is a chance to hear another pianist sift through years of work. Solo, less explosive, exposing a solid musical framework beneath the composer's improvisation. B+(**) [cd]
Flavio Zanuttini Opacipapa: Born Baby Born (2018, Clean Feed): Two-horn trio, Zanuttini on trumpet, Piero Bittolo Bon on alto sax, with Marco D'Orlando on drums, nothing in between to mediate or harmonize. Mostly free, with a bit of swing as the horns stand out. A-
Z-Country Paradise: Live in Lisbon (2017 , Leo): Mostly German group, released an eponymous album in 2015, reprise six (of seven) songs here, plus one new one. With Frank Gratkowski (alto sax/bass clarinet), Kalle Kalima (guitar), Oliver Potratz (electric bass), Christian Marien (drums), plus Jelena Kuljic singing/speaking lyrics from poets Charles Simic and Arthur Rimbaud. A-
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Marion Brown/Dave Burrell: Live at the Black Musicians' Conference, 1981 (1981 , NoBusiness): Duets, alto sax and piano. Starts with two Brown originals, then packs three from Burrell between two Billy Strayhorn pieces, ending with a gorgeous "Lush Life." A- [cd]
John Coltrane: 1963: New Directions (1963 , Impulse!, 3CD): Also available on 5-LP. Short of spending an hour or more tracking down the discography, this looks like a reissue of most of Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album, which came out earlier this year, expanded to pick up master takes from the year's other Coltrane albums, including his session with Johnny Hartman and live shots at Newport and Birdland. The Hartman never amounted to much -- Coltrane was so laid back you barely noticed him, and the singer's pristine baritone will never be taken for soul -- but everywhere else, well, even in an era when everyone tries to sound like Coltrane, you can still identify the real thing. Especially on the third disc, with the live cuts. But you do already own Coltrane Live at Birdland, don't you? B+(***)
Detail [Johnny Mbizo Dyani/Frode Gjerstad/Evin One Pedersen/John Stevens]: Detail at Club 7 (1982 , Not Two): Free jazz group -- bass, soprano/tenor sax/bass clarinet, piano/synth, drums -- formed in 1982, continued after Dyani's death in 1986 up to about 1994. This previously unreleased live set was recorded a month before their First Detail album (as it was called when reissued in 2015). B+(***)
Joan Jett: Bad Reputation [Music From the Original Motion Picture] (1976-2016 , Legacy): Various artists, but thirteen tracks attributed to Jett (10 "& the Blackhearts"), two earlier cuts from her earlier teenaged tenure with The Runaways, two more tracks from Bikini Kill (1992, with Jett) and FEA (2016, on Jett's label). Seems to me like Fit to Be Tied (1997) is still a better best-of, but the longer spread here might be a plus. Digital adds a live "Smells Like Teen Spirit" -- was tempted to dock it for that, but I guess not. A-
L7: Fast and Frightening (1990-98 , Easy Action, 2CD): A favorite band in the early 1990s, closed shop in 2000 only to regroup in 2015, then released this odds and sods collection -- covers, odd single sides, contributions to various artist sets, plus a second disc with two live sets (1990 live in Chicago, 1992 radio shot from Brisbane, Australia). I find myself first inspired, then amused, and ultimately exhausted and a bit miffed. B+(**)
L7: Wireless (1992 , Easy Action): A fairly short live shot in Australia about the time of their breakthrough Bricks Are Heavy, part of Fast and Frightening but available separately [looks like the 2-CD was broken up into three digital releases]. Some of their hits, played rough, but tight. B+(***)
Howard Riley: Live in the USA (1976 , NoBusiness): British pianist, a founding figure in the British avant-garde, although less known now than many of the musicians he started playing with in the late 1960s -- Evan Parker, Barry Guy, Tony Oxley, John McLaughlin. Big Penguin Guide favorite, including a crown for 1970's The Day Will Come. That and Angle (1969) are on my A-list, but I've heard little else by him -- chiefly his fine career-spanning 5-CD box, Constant Change 1976-2016 -- but this selection of four longish solo pieces from stops in Buffalo and New York City is dazzling all the way through. A [cd]
Wadada Leo Smith/Sabu Toyozumi: Burning Meditation (1994 , NoBusiness): Trumpet and drums duo, a joint improv set recorded in Yamaguchi, Japan, part of the label's Chap Chap Series (not sure if these are reissues). More recently Smith has emerged as a major composer. This is a reminder of how sharp he could be in an improv setting. A- [cd]
Soul of a Nation: Jazz Is the Teacher/Funk Is the Preacher (1969-75 , Soul Jazz): Second volume in what could develop into a long series, the first subtitled Afro-Centric Visions in the Age of Black Power, which led off promising "the roots of rap 1968-79." This one offers another Gil Scott-Heron spoken word piece ("Whitey on the Moon"), but otherwise focuses more on funk grooves, the best known from Funkadelic, others more obscure, some played by avant-jazz musicians but after social music rather than abstract art. [11/14 tracks] B+(***)
Cecil Taylor: Poschiavo (1999 , Black Sun): Solo piano, one 54:39 improv, recorded in Switzerland at Uncool Festival. Rumbles much, roars on occasion. B+(***)
Boneshaker: Unusual Words (2012 , Soul What): Avant-sax trio from Chicago: Mars Williams (reeds/toy instruments), Paal Nilssen-Love (drums), Kent Kessler (bass), second group record after their 2012 debut. B+(***)
John Coltrane: Newport '63 (1963 , Impulse!): A three-track quartet set (41:17) as advertised, with Roy Haynes on drums, plus a 15:25 "Chasin' Another Trane" from the Vanguard back in 1962 (with Eric Dolphy, Reggie Workman, and Haynes). A-
Billie Holiday: Songs for Distingué Lovers (1956 , Verve): Her final recordings for Verve, a week in Los Angeles that got sliced up into three albums: this, Body and Soul, and All or Nothing At All (also the title of the 1995 2-CD compilation that put he sessions back together again). Six songs, all classics: sure, her voice sounds a little off, but still unique. Meanwhile, the orchestra -- with Harry Edison, Ben Webster, Jimmy Rowles, Barney Kessel, bass and drums -- could hardly be improved on. A-
L7: Slap-Happy (1999, Bong Load): Last album before their break-up. Still rockin' hard, not quite all of the time. B+(**)
Barre Phillips: For All It Is (1973, Japo): Bassist, second album with just his name, actually a quartet of bassists -- with Barry Guy, J.F. Jenny-Clarke, and Palle Danielsson -- plus Stu Martin on percussion. B+(**)
Barre Phillips: Journal Violone 9 (2001, Émouvance): Solo bass, continues a series begun in 1969, followed up in 1979 -- despite the title, this appears to be his third. B+(*)
Terry Pollard: Terry Pollard (1955, Bethlehem): Detroit pianist, also played vibraphone (but not here), cut two 10-inch LPs before "retiring" to her family, the first split with Clark Terry as Cats vs Chicks: A Jazz Battle of the Sexes (note that cover makes them both out as white). Eight cuts, with bass and drums, six with guitar (Howard Roberts), four with trumpet (Don Fagerquist). Fine bebop, especially when everyone gets going. [Reissued 2018 along with 10 additional cuts as A Detroit Jazz Legend (Fresh Sound).] B+(***)
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:
Tuesday, December 25, 2018
Music: current count 30842  rated (+34), 269  unrated (+0).
Surprised the count is this high. I was on a tear early in the week, especially between the time I compiled last week's results and when I finally posted them last Wednesday. However, that came to a screeching halt on Thursday or Friday (I can't remember which), when I woke up and found it very difficult and painful to sit up or stand. It doesn't seem like back pain; more in my hips, evenly distributed. I've had something like this happen a few widely scattered times in the past, but it's always cleared up in a couple of days. This doesn't seem to be getting better. Once I straighten up I can walk around without too much pain, but bending over or kneeling down is tough.
I had ambitious plans for fixing a Christmas Eve dinner, working mostly out of two Yotam Ottlenghi cookbooks, Ottolenghi and Jerusalem. I figured I should do some preliminary shopping on Friday, even though I hadn't fully sorted the menu out, and do a bit more on Sunday before starting to cook that evening. But with the pain and immobility, I started cutting back. I got my wife to drive me to Dillons for the Friday shopping, and made do with the single stop. Then I asked one of my guests to help out with the cooking. Linda Jordan joined me for several hours Saturday evening and from 1:30 through dinner on Sunday, and somehow we knocked out a decent menu of dishes (descriptions from memory):
Saturday night Linda made the pudding and caramel sauce; we roasted the eggplants, cooked the barley, prepped the feta, mixed up the marinade and rubbed it into the lamb. After Linda left I did the mast va khiar and the whipped cream.
Sunday I had to get the lamb into the oven by 1:30. I sliced an onion, and started frying it. Linda arrived and took over. I mostly mixed sauces. I tried cutting the sweet potatoes with a mandoline, but gave up and used the food processor instead (harder to set up, but cut much faster). Two ovens were the key: while the lamb was roasting at 325F, the gratin and the endive needed 400F: 70 minutes for the sweet potatoes and 20 for the endive. We actually had all the side dishes and the latter ready for the oven by 4:30, so there was no last-minute drama. I hadn't really thought that through in the planning, but it worked out perfectly. Food was pretty good, too.
Pain wasn't too bad walking around, or sitting on a high bar stool doing prep. Linda did pretty much all of the stovetop cooking, as well as shuffling things in and out of the ovens. Got a good night's sleep, but this morning was the worst yet -- especially after sitting at the computer 15-20 minutes. This stretch on the computer has gone on for two hours. Not too bad crouched over working here, but I expect it will be tough getting up.
Plan is to come back and post this later tonight. I'm due to post December's Streamnotes sometime this week. I may go ahead and push it out without the usual indexing. Music count for the last 3-4 days has been close to zero. No idea when I'll be able to do more.
I should note that the Howard Riley album below (Live in the USA) would have topped my Reissues/Historical ballot in the Jazz Critics Poll had I gotten to it in time. I've said before that most years I find another A-list album within 2 days of filing my ballot, and a ballot-contender within two weeks. I'm usually thinking of new releases there, but note that Adam Forkelid's Reminiscence (also below) is up at number 12 in my Best Jazz Albums of 2018 list, so just barely below top ten.
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Music: current count 30808  rated (+34), 269  unrated (+10).
Collected the lists late Sunday night, after I wrapped up Weekend Roundup, but still didn't get started writing this until late Tuesday night. Francis Davis was supposed to hand in the 13th Annual Jazz Critics Poll results and analysis today. I assume that happened. At least, I have 139 ballots tabulated (including a couple days of stragglers, but safe to say it's too late to weigh in now). We went back over several contentious and/or confusing issues Monday, making minor adjustments to the votes in cases where some voters got the New and Reissue/Historical categories mixed up. We also carried 2017 votes forward in cases where a record got more votes (not just more points) this year than last.
The poll won't be published until January. Evidently NPR needs the extra lead time to line up sample music and such. I'll try to refrain from commenting until then. One thing the delay does is give me some time to do little bits of programming to clean things up. Probably the most annoying thing for me is that the sort beyond points/votes looks to be accidental. (I think it actually follows the order of albums in the table, which this year were entered as I encountered them on the ballots, mostly in submission order.) Whether I get around to that remains to be seen. Also whether I write up any real commentary on whatever I learned in the process. I've thought about that the last few days, and have a few scattershot notions, but I'm not being very productive.
Actually, I'm feeling pretty fucking depressed. The season may have something to do with it. My mother was a very big Christmas fan, and it's never been the same for me since she passed. And it diminished further when my brother and his family moved away. Then my sister died in March, so this year I'll be cooking Christmas Eve dinner for one nephew, and maybe a couple of friends who don't have their own family obligations. Still, that dinner is a project that give me some meaning. It's much of what I thought about today, and will be until the date. Doesn't seem like much else pressing to do.
We had a tough time organizing our annual latke dinner (Hannukah, but the point is potato pancakes). Did that on Sunday, and my nephew was the only guest who showed up. I grated five russet potatoes, two onions, added five eggs, salt, and pepper, and fried up a bunch of 6-inch discs. Salted some average-looking salmon, and sliced it up. Served sour cream and applesauce (actually the leftover pear-apple mix from the Peace Center desserts). In the past I've made various side dishes, but none of that this time. I did make an apple shalet for dessert: basically, bread pudding with baked sliced apples. It could have used some ice cream, but that's my usual reaction to fruit.
Weather bothers me too. Back in the summer I hated the heat so much I couldn't even recall what cold felt like, but it turns out that it hurts -- even more. I wanted to do some work on my nephew's house, but haven't felt like it (nor has he). Haven't done any projects here, at least beyond some minor leaf work. Nothing inside either. I keep talking about replacing the floor drain in the basement, and spent some money (bought the replacement drain, also a cement chisel since the hard part is busting up the old floor and mixing and pouring a new one), but have yet to start the work. (I did look into renting a small jack hammer, in case the hand tools aren't up to the job.)
And, of course, I'm running into various "confuser" problems. Since I set up an email list for technical advisors, I've been getting ten emails from my server every hour complaining about "excessive resource use" by the various Mailman scripts (none of which have delivered a single email as yet). I'm pretty sure they're false alarms -- e.g., the processes are sleeping, not using anything more than a little RAM -- but this means I find close to 200 new emails when I get up (obviously, not my only source of nuisance email, but a big one). I doubt the list itself will be any help for this particular problem: only two people have asked to join so far, both known to me and neither likely to be much technical help. If you can help on website tech issues, or just want to monitor and occasionally weigh in on user issues, please email me and ask to be signed up.
One tech problem I would have liked to throw open to the list had to do with the RSS Feed at Robert Christgau's website. When I checked it, after posting yesterday's XgauSez Q&A, my browser dropped all of the formatting I had seen from previous tests. I ran it through a validator, found and fixed a couple problems (mostly date/time format), and finally got it to validate. But I still get no format in Firefox. Since I've never used RSS feed clients, I'm having lots of trouble figuring out whether it's working. It could be that Firefox itself has changed: I know now that they've dropped their "Live Bookmarks" feature, but I'm not sure when (or aware of an update on my end). I need to do more research when I get some time, but it's one of those questions that someone probably knows much more about than I do.
I want to backport the RSS code to my own website, but should hold off until I understand it better. I thought I might try some experiments with my WordPress-based Notes on Everyday Life website, but I found it in a terrible mess -- itself a rabbit hole that would take me days (or weeks) to work back out of. Seemed easy when I originally built the site, but I don't seem to be able to get my mind around the tools this time (or have lost the patience for doing so). In fact, I still haven't fixed the boot problem on my new main working computer. Just did a software update this afternoon, so now it wants to be rebooted. Trouble is, it doesn't book cleanly since the last major update. I've been able to overcome this by switching into the BIOS and manually booting from there, but that always seems risky. So for now I think it would be a good idea to hold off until I post this and update everything else. Just a precaution, but as they keep telling us, we live in a dangerous world, where things we depend on can no longer be trusted to fucking work.
I should write something about progress with the EOY Aggregate file, but will have to save that for another day.
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Sunday, December 16, 2018
Some scattered links this (or the previous) week: