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Sunday, May 26, 2019


Weekend Roundup

Here in Wichita it's rained every day for a week with more coming tonight, tomorrow, the day after. We're up to 11.96 inches this month (2nd wettest May ever; annual average is 34 inches). Many rivers in southeastern Kansas have flooded -- my recent trip to Oklahoma was detoured when the Kansas State Turnpike went under water. Wichita used to flood regularly, and my home would surely be under water but for "the big ditch" -- a flood control project built in 1950-59. (See Beccy Tanner: 'Big Ditch Mitch' saved Wichita many times; also, David Guilliams: The Big Ditch: The Wichita-Valley Center Flood Control Project [PDF].) I've been reading up on this, not least because I haven't seen the rivers this high since 1966, when the Ditch spared Wichita (barely) an epochal flood that wiped out the Arkansas River dam in Lamar, CO, and flooded every other town on the river's path into Oklahoma and Arkansas. Reading Guilliams' history reminds me that we had politicians in the 1940s who were as short-sighted as the ones we have today, but I'll always be thankful they got outvoted. That Ditch was the best investment Wichita ever made. Without it I wouldn't be able to get around to this week's other stories.


Some scattered links this week:

Monday, May 20, 2019


Music Week

Music: current count 31518 [31498] rated (+20), 252 [249] unrated (+3).

Rated count well down this week. Wednesday through Friday got totally wiped out, starting with a dental appointment, then shopping for dinner on Friday, then marathon cooking. Zhanna Pataki and I made a blini feast. I found a Russian grocery store in Tulsa the previous week, and picked up a pound of salmon caviar ("Alaskan rubies") and three whole schmaltz herring. The latter went, one each, into sour cream sauce, mustard sauce, and Estonian potato salad (with golden beets, apple, and ham (actually, Canadian bacon). Other side salads: poached cod with horseradish sauce, cucumbers in sour cream, green bean and walnut, carrot and garlic. I got a couple of salmon filets and salted them. I made two loaves of rye bread (only disappointment: came out dense and dry, probably because the dough was, or maybe I just don't know how to properly knead bread; anyway, the expensive Breville food processor wasn't up to the task). For dessert, I made a light sponge cake, and topped it with strawberries and whipped cream (recipe called for smetana, but I didn't allow myself enough time to make my own -- probably should have bought some in Tulsa, when I had the chance). I just now realized that I had brought a jar of eggplant caviar back from Tulsa but failed to serve it. Dinner was spectacular, and exhausting.

A couple weeks ago I learned that Ani DiFranco has written a memoir, No Walls and the Recurring Dream. She grew up in Buffalo, and was close to my cousin's family there, so I have some kind of personal interest in her story, and I've been aware of her musical career from near the beginning. Then last week I noticed her No Walls: Mixtape on Napster, so delved a bit deeper. I read what I could from Google's excerpt, while listening to Mixtape -- unplugged remakes of 25+ years of remarkable songs -- and a couple other items I had missed that I found on her Bandcamp. Stopped short of the bootlegs, although one of my favorites (and one of the best places to start with her) is the live Living in Clip. I was especially pleased that after panning most of her recent albums with Todd Sickafoose I enjoyed Red Letter Year so much. I wrote about her in [The New] Rolling Stone Album Guide. A current grade list is here.

Robert Christgau reviewed Epic Beard Men this week, along with two records by Quelle Chris that I had already reviewed. I gave Guns another spin, enjoyed it, but left my grade at B+(***). For whatever it's worth, I've graded A- all four of Strut's Nigeria 70 compilations. I couldn't begin to rank them, other than to note that I have the CDs to the first, and played one out of my travel case while cooking last week. I doubt any are as good as the best King Sunny Adé albums, or the second edition of The Rough Guide to Highlife, but the new one hits the exact same pleasure centers, and that was good enough for me.

The Ray Charles comp was the one I skipped when reviewing his Atlantics last week. It's the one you'd most likely buy if you're reluctant to get the entire 3-CD box (The Birth of Soul). Not sure why I didn't grade it as high as the box or two of the source albums, other than that I didn't give it a lot of time. I'm still bothered that we don't have the ABC albums available for streaming. And I will note that one problem with virtually every "greatest hit" collection from that period is the mandatory inclusion of two hideous Beatles covers. Compilers don't always pick the best songs, so that may be what's slightly off about the Rhino Atlantic Best Of.

Best jazz album of the week was the first 2019 Clean Feed release I've found on Napster. They've sometimes been hard to search out, but until this year all of their releases have been available for streaming, which lately has saved me the hassle of downloading. Not everything that's come out is available yet, but I'm glad to get what I can. I'll try to catch up in coming weeks. (There are a couple more on this week's list, as well as one where the musician sent me the CD -- thanks for that favor.)


New records reviewed this week:

Charlie Apicella & Iron City: Groove Machine (2018 [2019], OA2): Guitarist, several albums both before and after moving up front in his band. Not as insipid or mechanistic as the title implies, thanks in large part to saxophonist Gene Ghee, although organ player Radam Schwartz (who contributed a piece) probably deserves some credit as well. Covers from Lou Donaldson and Willis Jackson. B+(*) [cd]

Camp Cope: How to Socialise & Make Friends (2018, Run for Cover): Australian group, from Melbourne, three women, Georgia McDonald the singer-guitarist. Second album, singer has a distinctive voice, making a strong impression. B+(***)

Ani DiFranco: No Walls: Mixtape (2019, Righteous Babe): Product tie-in to the folksinger's new book, No Walls and the Recurring Dream: A Memoir, reprising 25 years of songs, mostly unplugged but with a few tricks here and there (also guests on three songs). At first I tried reading excerpts from her memoir while listening to this, but didn't have enough attention to satisfy both. Many striking songs here -- probably also on Canon, her 2-CD retrospective through 2007 -- maybe more so with her accumulated perspective, chops too. A-

Epic Beard Men: Season 1 (2018, Strange Famous): Rap duo from Providence, Rhode Island: Sage Francis, with seven albums and eight mixtapes since 1998, and B. Dolan, five years younger, three albums and three mixtapes on his own. First album, but their collaboration goes back at least a decade. B+(**)

Epic Beard Men: This Was Supposed to Be Fun (2019, Strange Famous): Second album: picks up quickly from the first and powers through, with big, old school beats, pressured rhymes, real stories. A-

The Fictive Five: Anything Is Possible (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): Avant group, retains the title of their 2015 album as group name: Larry Ochs (tenor/sopranino sax), Nate Wooley (trumpet), Harris Eisenstadt (drums), with two bassists (Ken Filiano and Pascal Niggenkemper), both using effects. B+(**)

John Hart: Crop Circles (2017 [2019], SteepleChase): Guitarist, released two Blue Note albums 1990-92, a couple more on Concord through 1997, not much since. Quartet here with alto sax (Dick Oatts), bass, and drums. Three originals, twice as many covers, from "How Deep Is the Ocean" to "Besame Mucho" with stops at Ellington and Monk. B+(**)

Fred Hersch & the WDR Big Band: Begin Again (2019, Palmetto): Pianist, more important as composer here as Vince Mendoza's big band overwhelms his typically erudite playing. B+(*) [cd]

Jørgen Mathisen's Instant Light: Mayhall's Object (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): Norwegian saxophonist (tenor/soprano), has appeared on a few albums since 2014. Quartet with piano (Erlend Slettevoll), bass (Trygve Waldemar Fiske), and drums (Dag Erik Knedal Andersen). Very strong, especially on the closing "Neutron Star," the climax set up by a terrific piano interlude. A-

The Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra: Along for the Ride (2018 [2019], Summit): Trombonist, sings some, discography goes back farther, but organized his big band in 2006, and that's been his main vehicle since. Composed half, arranged all, draws on New York musicians, swings a little. B

Yoko Miwa Trio: Keep Talkin' (2019, Ocean Blue Tear Music): Japanese pianist, based in Boston, eighth album since 2003, mostly trios. Mostly originals, likes to keep them upbeat, plus covers of Monk, Mingus, Beatles, Joni Mitchell, something Latin ("Casa Pre-Fabricada"). B+(***) [cd]

Priests: The Seduction of Kansas (2019, Sister Polygon): Postpunk group from DC, led by singer Katie Alice Greer, second album, expands a bit musically, arguably political because politics matters, but for them the context and form are "character sketches about the everyday banality of evil." B+(***)

Scheen Jazzorkester & Thomas Johansson: «As We See It . . . » (2019, Clean Feed): Norwegian avant-jazz group, 12 musicians, founded in 2010, with a half-dozen albums, most featuring guests like trumpeter Johansson here, rising above the ensemble grind. B+(***) [cd]

The Selva: Canicula Rosa (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): Portuguese trio: Ricardo Jacinto (cello), Gonçalo Almeida (bass), Nuno Morão (drums). Second album. The bassist is best known, laying down a minimalist groove, while the cello rises above. B+(**)

Senyawa: Sujud (2018, Sublime Frequencies): Duo from Jogjakarta, Indonesia: Rully Shabara ("extreme vocals") and Wukir Suryadi ("homemade instruments"). Recommended by Phil Overeem, who is also a big fan of Zeal & Ardor, a group which mashes field blues into metal. These guys do something like that, although I can't identify the original ingredients for you. B+(***) [bc]

Marcus Shelby Orchestra: Transitions (2017 [2019], MSO): Bassist, eighth album as leader, fifth with his big band. Mostly standards here, mostly Ellington and Cole Porter, although he starts off with a Mingus piece, shortening the title to "Remember Rockefeller" (dropping the bit about "Nazi U.S.A."). Tiffany Austin sings several, adding to the reverential air. B+(*) [cd]

Rodney Whitaker: Common Ground: The Music of Gregg Hill (2017 [2019], Origin): Bassist, born in Detroit, director of jazz studies at Michigan State, eighth album as leader since 1995. Group includes Terell Stafford (trumpet/flugelhorn), Tim Warfield (alto/tenor/soprano saxes), and Bruce Barth (piano). Hill wrote all the pieces, co-produced, is pictured on the cover alongside Whitaker, but doesn't play. Whitaker's daughter, Rockelle Fortin, sings lyrics she wrote on four songs. B+(*) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Nigeria 70: No Wahala: Highlife, Afro-Funk and Juju 1973-1987 (1973-87 [2019], Strut): Fourth installment in the label's Nigeria 70 series, the first a sweeping 3-CD set from 2001 that expanded the decade from 1964 to 1980. Further single-CDs came out in 2008 and 2011, so they haven't been in a rush to dump this one out (12 cuts, 81:06). Not the top material, but the highlife and juju styles are pretty irresistible. A- [bc]

Old music:

Ray Charles: The Best of Ray Charles: The Atlantic Years (1951-59 [1994], Rhino): Twenty cuts on one CD, a fine introduction with most of the high points, although I haven't spent enough time with it to swear it's a better than any of the three discs of Rhino's earlier The Birth of Soul box. A-

Ani DiFranco: Red Letter Year (2008, Righteous Babe): Sixteenth album, don't recall exactly when she grew too sophisticated for folk music. Maybe 2001's double Revelling/Reckoning, which started a series of albums I didn't much care for, but she's come out the other end here, with ten instrument credits (some plural), plus a number of notable jazz musicians (Todd Sickafoose, Mike Dillon, Allison Miller, a string quartet led by Jenny Scheinman, and the Rebirth Jazz Band to open and close). Songs too: subject matter ranges from the big bang to the atom bomb, not that it ever strays far from the personal (or the political). A- [bc]

Ani DiFranco: Binary (2017, Righteous Babe): Nineteenth studio album, somehow missed my attention when it came out. Easy to hear why: she started as a folksinger because it was a cheap route, and made it work by being so damn direct. This, with jazz bassist Todd Sickafoose the main musical contributor and another dozen helpers (mostly jazzbos and New Orleans legends, plus a chance to hear Maceo Parker and Skerik on the same track), is all sorts of sophisticated. B+(*)

Larry Ochs: The Fictive Five (2014 [2015], Tzadik): Second album kept this title as group name, but this first album was credited to the saxophonist/composer/producer. Same group: Nate Wooley (trumpet), Harris Eisenstadt (drums), Ken Filiano and Pascal Niggenkemper (bass). B+(*) [bc]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Luke Gillespie: Moving Mists (Patois)
  • Ryan Keberle & Catharsis: The Hope I Hold (Greenleaf Music): June 28
  • Doug MacDonald: Califournia Quartet (self-released)
  • Matt Mitchell: Phalanx Ambassadors (Pi)
  • Samo Salamon & Freequestra: Free Sessions, Vol. 2: Freequestra (Sazas/Klopotec)
  • Samo Salamon/Szilárd Mezei/Jaka Berger: Swirling Blind Unstilled (Klopotec)
  • The Dave Wilson Quartet: One Night at Chris' (self-released): May 27

Monday, May 20, 2019


Weekend Roundup

Ran a day late on this one, partly because I went long on the intro, but also because I found so many links in my early trawl through the usual sources I wasn't able to finish my rounds, then found even more when I tried to wrap up. I'm sure it's always the case that an extra day or two to let the words settle and go back and restructure would be useful, but I've rarely felt that more than this week.


Abortion became a much hotter political issue last week, with the passage and signing of a law in Alabama which criminalizes abortion in all cases except when it is necessary to save the life of the woman, with doctors risking prison terms of up to 99 years if their call on life-saving is disputed. Much focus on this particular law centers on the lack of any exclusion for rape and incest, which most people agree would be reasonable grounds for abortion. (As Phil Freeman tweeted: "Your first mistake was assuming old white men in Alabama were against rape and incest.") But the Alabama law is just one of many state laws Republicans have been pushing lately, all aimed at relitigating Roe v. Wade in the Trump-packed Supreme Court. (E.g., The "heartbeat" bills that could ban almost all abortions, passed in four states including Ohio and Georgia, and coming soon in Missouri; still more draconian bills are in the works, such as A Texas bill would allow the death penalty for patients who get abortions.)

I'll start this off by quoting from a Facebook post by a relative of mine in Arkansas, Marianne Cowan Pyeatt, offering an unvarnished glimpse of what anti-abortion Republicans are telling themselves:

All of a sudden we are supposed to believe that millions and millions of aborted babies are the result of rape and not just a lack of responsibility to use birth control or face the consequences if you can't even be adult enough to take precautions. We all know that the reason they can't make exceptions for rape is because every women would lie and claim to be raped to get an abortion. There are morning after pills for real rape victims or they can give the child away. No one says they have to keep them. And the fact that this is even being debated is because all the people who did very little for decades when they could forget what was going on in those clinics are suddenly facing a world where full-term babies can be murdered at birth. YOU stupid liberals have taken it SO FAR that no decent person can ignore it any longer. And we aren't so stupid as to believe that only abortion of a baby could "save the mother's life" in medical emergencies . . . we know delivery is many, many times faster. At that point, if it dies, at least you tried and the mother is "saved" from her life-threatening condition with no murder involved. I find it hilarious that in insisting on that last frontier of killing babies right up to birth has finally given people the resolve to take a stand and right a wrong.

One thing this shows is that the fight over abortion rights is being fought at the margins, with both sides seeking maximalist positions, although there is nothing symmetrical about the conflict. There is only one fanatical side to this issue: those who, like Marianne here, want to ban all abortions. No one on the opposite side -- and I am about as opposite as anyone gets -- wants to terminate all pregnancies. Rather, we understand that pregnancy is a complicated issue that affects women in many different ways, and that there are some circumstances where some women feel they would be better off with an abortion. We believe that this should be a free and responsible choice, and to make this a real choice for all women requires that we isolate it from the encumbrances of government regulation and economic pressure.

I've long thought that conservatives and libertarians should be strong supporters of abortion rights. Libertarians cherish freedom, and freedom is the ability to make free choices -- among which one of the most important is whether to bear and raise children. Not everyone who wants children is able to have them, but safe abortion at least makes it possible to choose not to have children. As for conservatives, they always stress the responsibilities parenthood infers. It would be perverse if they did not allow those who felt themselves unable to assume the responsibility of raising children the option of not having them. Indeed, in the past have sometimes wanted to impose limits on the fertility of those they deemed unfit to raise children (e.g., the forced sterilization of the eugenics movement). Consequently, the hard turn of Republicans against free access to abortion and birth control has always struck me as bad faith: a political ploy, initially to capture votes of Catholics and Southern Baptists, who had traditionally voted Democratic. I first noticed this in Bob Dole's 1972 Senate campaign, and I never forgave him for politicizing the issue. (He was being challenged by William Roy, a ob/gyn who had occasionally performed abortions, which were legal in Kansas well before Roe v. Wade. Until that time Kansas Democrats were more likely to be anti-abortion than Republicans. Using abortion as a partisan tactic may have started with Nixon's 1972 "silent majority"/"southern strategy." It was especially successful in Missouri. See How abortion became a partisan issue in America.)

Abortion rights are desirable if there are any circumstances where abortion is a reasonable choice. Most people recognize rape and incest as valid reasons, as well as the health of the woman and/or the fetus. Beyond that there arise lots of possible economic and psychological concerns, which can only really be answered by the woman (with the advice of anyone she chooses to consult). We generally, if not always consistently, recognize that our freedom is rooted in a right to privacy. Since a decision to terminate has no broader repercussions, there is no good reason for the government to get involved. (One might argue that a decision not to terminate might concern the state, in that it would wind up paying for the child's education and health care, but no one who supports abortion rights is seeking that sort of oversight. China's "one child" policy is an example, but no one here is arguing for the state to enforce such a thing.)

Regardless of how cynical Republican leaders were when they jumped on the anti-abortion bandwagon, they learned to love it because it dovetailed with the prejudices and fears they exploited (Jason Stanley has a handy list, in his recent book, How Fascism Works), while doing little to detract from their main objective: making the rich richer, and building a political machine to keep the riches coming. (Thomas Frank, in his 2004 book What's the Matter With Kansas?, tried to expose their two-faced cynicism, but he wound up only agitating the anti-abortion mobsters into demanding more results for their votes.) Marianne's post is full of such prejudices, even while she tries to paper over others. But while the first line refers to the Alabama law, she'd rather turn the tables by accusing "stupid liberals" of wanting to kill babies the instant before birth. That would be a symmetrically opposite point of view, but even if legal it's not a real something anyone would do.

Some links on the Alabama law and the assault on abortion rights:


Some scattered links this week:

Monday, May 13, 2019


Music Week

Music: current count 31498 [31469] rated (+29), 249 [248] unrated (+1).

Weird how these weekly totals keep landing on 29 (6th time so far this year). Should have been less, given that I drove to the Tulsa area on Wednesday, returning Friday evening. Took my travel cases for the car, nothing remotely new in them. Packed the Chromebook, but inadvertently left it at home. Supposedly I can check email and web on phone, plus a million apps including Napster, but I've never got the hang of that. My second cousin down there swears she does everything with Siri, and I could see how that might be better than trying to type on a clumsy and error-prone touch screen. As a confirmed Apple-phobe, that isn't even an option I'd consider, but I gather Samsung has something along those lines (bixby?). I suppose I should look into that. Meanwhile, I seem to be the only person I know who can go 3-4 days between charges, so I take comfort in that.

I wanted to visit my cousin Duan, second son of my mother's oldest sister, Lola. I hadn't been down there since his older brother, Harold, passed several years ago, and he's up to 92 now. He's lived in/around Bristow as long as I can remember -- we went to visit Aunt Lola every couple months when I was young, and by then Harold and Duan had their families, my second cousins just a couple years younger than I was, so we were fairly close. Harold and Duan were drafted into WWII, and Duan got called back for the Korean War. That seems to have qualified him for living in the Veterans Center in Claremore, where he moved a few months ago. Probably a good place for him at this stage, but not one I'd ever look forward to (not a prospect with my 4F). Can't say as we had good talks, but was good to see him.

I saw live music twice in Oklahoma, although nothing I can recommend. The first was a free concert at the Veterans Center, with a c&w singer who called himself Cowboy, and who toured with a dwarf pony in tow -- something the vets seemed to appreciate. He mostly played Merle Haggard songs (and nothing as obvious as "Okie From Muskogee"; more like "Silver Wings"). One bizarre moment: he had a little girl bring him up a disguise designed to make him look like Elvis Presley, then launched into a medley of three r&b songs ("Lawdy Miss Clawdy," "See See Rider," don't recall the third), suggesting not only that even today black music was only acceptable if dressed up as white. He then played a fourth Elvis song, something late and not black, and didn't bother with the disguise for that. Blackface has gone out of fashion, but whiteface still works in Oklahoma. (There were a few black residents at the Center, but they were a tiny minority, and I don't recall any at the show.)

Second live music experience was attending a recital at the Coweta High School of their various band ensembles, starting with 6th grade. All three of my second-cousin's granddaughters played there, among at least a hundred others. No strings, but lots of flutes and clarinets -- I counted 12 and 18 in the high school band -- a few saxophones, the odd oboe or bassoon, a fair amount of brass, and a pretty substantial investment in percussion (including a featured percussion ensemble). Best was a pair of Cuban tunes. More typical were the Andrew Lloyd Weber medleys. Lasted over two hours, which was exhausting for all (huge crowd, by the way). They made passing reference to also having a jazz ensemble, but nothing I heard fit that bill.

Given that hole in my week, the only way I got to 29 was by streaming oldies. I started by looking for Betty Carter's album with Ray Charles. Napster didn't have it, or for that matter much of anything else after Charles left Atlantic for ABC. I mostly know his Atlantics through the 1991 Rhino 3-CD box, The Birth of Soul (my grade: A), but since the individual albums were available, I worked through them, yielding most of this week's pick hits. That also got me Ray Charles Presents David 'Fathead' Newman, and I followed that up with a few more of Newman's records (especially his early HighNotes). I didn't go very deep there, as I've never found him to be especially remarkable.

After I got back from Oklahoma, I played the new Greg Abate record, so I took a look at his back catalog. He's a mainstream saxophonist, more rooted in bebop than swing, and I especially liked his 2014 album Motif, so I was more hopeful there. I skipped a few things like his samba album, but got a fairly good sense of where he's come from. Several very nice albums, the best being one with Alan Barnes. The next logical step would be to see what else I can find by Barnes. My database lists six of his albums, all Penguin Guide ***(*)-rated, but I haven't heard any of them yet. Surprised I've missed him, although I have rated records he shared but I've filed under other names: Tony Coe, Scott Hamilton, Warren Vaché.

Revisited the latest Coathangers album this week, after Robert Christgau gave it an A-. As I recall, Michael Tatum also likes the album. I gave it a B+(***) on one or two plays back in March, and found that my review didn't need much tweaking. I played his other pick, Priests' The Seduction of Kansas, after the break, so next week for it and Camp Cope's How to Socialise & Make Friends -- both good, high B+ records.


New records reviewed this week:

Greg Abate with the Tim Ray Trio: Gratitude: Stage Door Live @ The Z (2019, Whaling City Sound): Saxophonist, grew up in Rhode Island, plays alto and tenor, adds baritone and flute here, well schooled in bebop. Ray is a pianist, his trio with bass and drums, featured on Abate's recent albums. Mostly originals, including a Phil Woods tribute, with three covers: one each from Roland Kirk and Joe Henderson, plus a nice feature for the pianist: "Jitterbug Waltz." B+(***) [cd]

Rebecca DuMaine and the Dave Miller Combo: Chez Nous (2018 [2019], Summit): Standards singer, started in New York singing and acting, now based in San Francisco, has several albums, this one backed by Miller's piano trio plus Brad Buethe on guitar. Touches all the usual bases, from Jobim ("So Danco Samba") and the Beatles ("Yesterday"), with two songs in French, all tastefully done. B+(**) [cd]

Peter Jensen & DR Big Band: Stand on Your Feet and Fight: Voices of the Danish West Indies (2018 [2019], ILK): Denmark was a relatively minor player in the transatlantic slave trade, possessing three islands in the Caribbean, populating and exploiting them with 100,000 slaves, and eventually selling them off to the United States to become the US Virgin Islands (St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas). The music here is a lament, contemplating this history, and recalling it through the spoken word of its survivors (recordings made between 1978 and 1985, recalling rebellions in 1878 and 1915). B+(*) [cd]

Ellynne Rey: The Birdsong Project (2019, self-released): Standards singer, second album, band includes Joel Frahm on tenor sax. Casting about for songs featuring birds, she struggles with "Skylark," "The Peacocks," "Song to a Seagull" (J. Mitchell), only hitting her stride near the end -- "Flamingo," "Blackbird," and that ultimate Bird song, "Ornithology." B [cd]

Gwilym Simcock: Near and Now (2018 [2019], ACT): British pianist, half-dozen albums since 2007, this his second solo effort. No shortage of harmonies here, yet this doesn't do much for me. B

Aki Takase Japanic: Thema Prima (2018 [2019], BMC): Pianist, born in Japan but long based in Germany. A lot going on here, with adventurous free jazz, wild flings, scattered electronics, sound effects, even some hip-hop. A major factor is turntablist Takase's son Vincent Graf von Schlippenbach (dba DJ Illvibe), but the band also includes Daniel Erdmann (sax), Johannes Fink (bass), and Dag Magnus Narvesen (drums). B+(***)

The United States Air Force Band: The Jazz Heritage Series: 2019 Radio Broadcasts (2019, self-released, 4CD): Radio shots, hour-long discs with a sound test to start, super-annoying plugs for the Air Force, musicians all prefaced by rank. Three are build around featured guests, including snippets of anodyne interviews. Cyrille Aimée actually sounded pretty good, especially coming on after the group's Tech. Sgt. chick singer. Kenny Barron was a good sport, and Branford Marsalis was on his best behavior. I passed out during the fourth disc. They play perfectly ordinary swing-to-bop, which would be easily forgettable except for the evil of their mission. C- [cd]

Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet: The Rhythm of Invention (2019, Patois): Trombonist, from San Francisco, gravitated toward Latin jazz and has specialized lately. Quintet adds piano, bass, drums, and congas, but doesn't stop there, as the album lists 20 guest musicians, usually 2-4 cuts each, mostly horns and strings, plus a bit of spoken word. B+(*) [cd]

Old music:

Greg Abate Quartet: Bop City: Live at Birdland (1991, Candid): Plays alto, tenor, sopranino sax, and flute, but pictured with the alto. He released an album in 1981, but his career basically starts here, his original title cut pledging allegiance to bebop, although he doesn't do anything more obvious than a piece called "Basting the Bird." With James Williams (piano), Rufus Reid (bass), and Kenny Washington (drums). Nice tone, shown to best effect on an atypical cover of "These Foolish Things." B+(***)

Greg Abate: Straight Ahead (1992 [1993], Candid): As advertised, a quintet with "featuring" names on the front cover because they're bankable: Claudio Roditi, Hilton Ruiz, George Mraz, Kenny Washington. B+(**)

Greg Abate Quintet: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1995, Candid): Featuring Richie Cole (alto sax), the leader's main tool, but that encourages him to switch off to everything from baritone to soprano plus flute. With Chris Neville (piano), Paul Del Nero (bass), and Artie Cabral (drums). Live, somewhere. B+(*)

Greg Abate Quintet: Bop Lives! (1996, Blue Chip Jazz): Just alto sax this time, his group expanded with the addition of Claudi Roditi (5/9 cuts, trumpet on 3, flugelhorn on 2), backed by Kenny Barron (piano), Rufus Reid (bass), and Ben Riley (drums). B+(**)

Greg Abate: Evolution (2002, 1201 Music): A chance to show off all his kit: four saxes (tenor on the cover, no flute this time), all originals, backed by piano-bass-drums (James Williams, Harvie S, Billy Hart). B+(***)

Greg Abate/Alan Barnes: Birds of a Feather (2007 [2008], Woodville): Two saxophonists, a quintet recorded on the latter's label, with John Donaldson (piano), Andy Cleyndeft (bass), and Spike Wells (drums), a strong rhythm team. Reminds me of those Ammons-Stitt blow-outs. A-

Ray Charles: Ray Charles (1953-56 [1957], Atlantic): First album, first on Atlantic, anyway: a 14-cut LP, the first side shows off his distinctive sound, that blend of blues and jive that would soon make him one of rock and roll's most distinctive hit makers. How soon? Well, side two starts with "Hallelujah I Love Her So" and "Mess Around," and ends with "I Got a Woman." A

Ray Charles: The Great Ray Charles (1956 [1957], Atlantic): Where his first and third Atlantic albums were cobbled together from singles, this second album was recorded as such, with eight longer tracks (3:40-5:54, total 37:37), all instrumentals, the idea perhaps to establish a jazz identity as well as r&b. He gets a distinctive sound on piano, but the arrangements are nothing special, and the musicians come and go. B+(**)

Ray Charles: The Genius After Hours (1956-57 [1961], Atlantic): Outtakes from the sessions for The Great Ray Charles, organized into a quickie album when the Genius left the label. Feels more intimate, as the big band stuff got moved out first. B+(**)

Ray Charles: Yes Indeed! (1952-58 [1958], Atlantic): Third album, compiling various earlier singles, some memorable, all true to his form. A-

Ray Charles: What'd I Say (1952-59 [1959], Atlantic): Title song, nominally two parts split on the single, run together for 6:26 here, is Charles' greatest vamp piece. The 3:54 "Rockhouse" also runs two parts, with everything else short, 10 titles totalling 30:08. A

Ray Charles: The Genius of Ray Charles (1959, Atlantic): At this point he's starting to figure that everything he touches turns to genius, and he's half right. He picks a mixed bag of standards, but the arrangements are more crucial: Quincy Jones' big band is stellar on the first side, but Ralph Burns' string orchestra is a drag. B+(**)

Ray Charles: Ray Charles In Person (1959 [1960], Atlantic): Seven-cut, 29:19 live set, recorded in Atlanta. No complaints, far as that goes. B+(*)

Ray Charles: Ray Charles Live (1958-59 [1987], Atlantic): Double LP compilation from 1973, combining Charles two live albums from the Atlantic period -- 1958's Ray Charles at Newport and 1960's Ray Charles in Person (at Herndon Statium in Atlanta) -- reordered with an extra track on the CD reissue, still just 71:55. B+(***)

Ray Charles: The Genius Sings the Blues (1952-60 [1961], Atlantic): A rumage through the tapes to eke out an extra album as he left the label. The theme is a natural one, although this does remind you that before he became a genius, he started out as a pretty fair Charles Brown clone. B+(***)

David "Fathead" Newman: Fathead: Ray Charles Presents David 'Fathead' Newman (1958 [1960], Atlantic): Saxophonist (tenor on 5 cuts, alto on 3), first album in a long career, mostly pleasant soul/groove albums, best known for his work with Charles -- pianist here, along with Hank Crawford (bari sax), Marcus Belgrave (trumpet), bass, and drums. B+(*)

David Newman: Fire! At the Village Vanguard (1988 [1989], Atlantic): From two nights, dropped the nickname, mostly plays tenor sax but opts for the flute for "Filthy McNasty," backed by Kirk Lightsey (piano), Steve Nelson (vibes), bass, and drums, with Hank Crawford joining on alto sax for 4 (of 8) cuts, Stanley Turrentine on tenor for 3 -- not much fire early on, but Turrentine brings it. B+(**)

David "Fathead" Newman: Chillin' (1998 [1999], HighNote): Ray Charles' saxophonist recorded very regularly on his own all the way up to his death in 2009 -- fifty years, about that many albums. His home stretch starts with this first album for Joe Fields' label. With John Hicks on piano, Bryan Carrott on vibes, bass and drums, the leader with a little flute, soprano, and alto as well as his tenor sax. Gentle, often lovely, especially "My Favorite Things." Cadino Newman sings the last two. B+(*)

David "Fathead" Newman: Keep the Spirits Singing (2000 [2001], HighNote): Mostly sax quartet with John Hicks on piano, with a little flute thrown in. But three tracks add trombone and percussion, and Steve Turre nearly runs away with the record on those. B+(*)

David "Fathead" Newman: The Gift (2002 [2003], High Note): Pretty typical album, with the tenor saxophonist showing off his flute and other saxes, backed by John Hicks (piano) and Bryan Carrott (vibes) as well as bass (Buster Williams) and drums (Winard Harper). B+(*)

David "Fathead" Newman: Song for the New Man (2004, HighNote): He seems to have found his voice here, even on the Herbie Mann tribute (long at 8:58). Trombonist Curtis Fuller (5/9 cuts) fits in better, and pianist John Hicks remains strong throughout. B+(***)


Grade (or other) changes:

The Coathangers: The Devil You Know (2019, Suicide Squeeze): Punkish girl group from Atlanta, a going concern since 2007, made me wonder whether they're going soft, but "F the NRA" allayed those fears, and the next song ("Memories") is even better. As for the slow ones, further listening reveals how together they are. [was B+(***)] A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Charlie Apicella & Iron City: Groove Machine (OA2): May 17
  • Fred Hersch & the WDR Big Band: Begin Again (Palmetto): June 7
  • The Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra: Along for the Ride (Summit): June 7
  • Scheen Jazzorkester & Thomas Johansson: As We See It . . . (Clean Feed)
  • Marcus Shelby Orchestra: Transitions (MSO): June 7
  • Rodney Whitaker: Common Ground: The Music of Gregg Hill (Origin): May 17

Sunday, May 12, 2019


Weekend Roundup

I spent much of the week in Oklahoma, visiting my 92-year-old cousin, his two daughters, and various other family. I packed my Chromebook, then forgot it, so went a few days without my usual news sources -- not that anything much changed while I was away. Trying to catch up here, including a few links that seem possibly useful for future reference.

Looks pretty obvious from my "recent reading" sidebar that I'm in a gloomy mood about the viability of democracy in this nation. The odd book out is subtitled "On the Writing Process" -- thought that might inspire me to write about it, and it has made me a bit more self-conscious in my writing. The one I recommend most is Jason Stanley's How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them. I lumped it into a list in my recent Book Reports, but it's well thought out and clear, with a fair smattering of historical examples but more focused on here and now: things you will recognize. I rather wish there was a more generic word than "fascism": one with less specific historical baggage, one that can be used in general discourse without tripping off unnecessary alarms. On the other hand, as a leftist, I've always had a keen nose for generic fascism, so the word suits my purposes just fine. I have, in fact, been using it since the 1970s, which is one reason the modern American conservative movement always seems to coherent and predictable.


Some scattered links this week:


I don't have much to say about Game of Thrones, but I was struck by this ratiocination by Zack Beauchamp: "But it's one thing for Daenerys to act like Bush, and another for her to act like Hitler." He's talking about the indiscriminate fire-bombing of cities full of innocent civilians, but while Bush criminally started wars, lied about his reasoning, rounded up and tortured supposed enemies, disrupted the lives of millions doing irreparable harm, just to show the world that it's more important to fear his "shock and awe" than to respect his self-proclaimed beneficence, and while Hitler did those same things on an even more epic scale, the most comparable historical example of a leader laying waste to entire cities was Harry Truman -- who we generally recall as an exceptionally decent and modest president.

You can say that war does that, even to otherwise decent people. You can say that Hitler and Bush were worse than Truman because they started wars whereas Truman was simply trying to end one he had inherited. (This is not the place to get into how he escalated the Cold War and the Korean War, which in many ways I find more troubling than his "final solution" to WWII.) You can say that Hitler was worse than Bush because his desire for war was more deeply rooted in the uncritical imperialism and racism of the era, which made him even more vindictive and bloodthirsty. But I'd also note that Truman was not above the prejudices of Hitler's era, and that Bush (while less racist than Truman let alone Hitler) was, like all conservatives ever, fully committed to traditional hierarchies of wealth and power, which made it easy for him to run roughshod over all the others.

I have no idea where Daenerys fits among this trio, as she is a fictional character in an imaginary world. Even if she reflects the world of her creators, she does so haphazardly and inconsistently.

Monday, May 6, 2019


Music Week

Music: current count 31469 [31440] rated (+29), 248 [255] unrated (-7).

Had a low energy period after posting April Streamnotes last Monday, so I'm not surprised that the rated count dropped. If anything, I'm surprised it's as high as it is, but that was mostly from streaming back catalog of artists recently reviewed.

I speculated last week that Walt Weiskopf's Worldwide is his best yet, but I had missed most of his 1990s albums, so I had to hedge. There are still a couple things I haven't heard, but nothing old came close to the new one -- best of the albums below is probably Siren (1999). When I gave Betty Carter's The Music Never Stops an A- a few weeks back, I noted lots of holes in my database. Scratching my head for something to listen to, I remembered that, and plugged a few of them (while being unable to find others). The new Teodross Avery album also sent me back. No great finds from any of those excursions.

I also tried looking up the album Carter and Ray Charles did together in 1961, but couldn't find it. I noticed then I had an unrated Charles record, and wondered whether I could build a playlist to duplicate it (as opposed to having to dig up my physical copy). Turns out there's damn few of Charles' ABC records on Napster, but I still got 17/20 songs from Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, while the other three were easy to find on YouTube. Not quite an equivalent listening experience, but close enough, I figured (especially given that I recalled hearing nearly everything). I'll do a few more Ray Charles albums next week, starting with the early Atlantics.

On the other hand, this week's two new A- records are ones I hadn't read a thing about before they showed up. After months of second guessing other folks' picks, I feel like I've done my job.

I'll be posting a new XgauSez overnight (link always points to the latest Q&A).


Teodross Avery: After the Rain: A Night for Coltrane (2019, Tompkins Square): Tenor saxophonist, seemed like a big deal when he debuted on GRP in 1994 but has hardly been heard from since -- tours with Lauryn Hill and Amy Winehouse, some studio work, a Ph.D. and a teaching gig. Not sure when this live quartet set was recorded, but he holds forth on Coltrane, really lighting up a few classics. B+(***)

The Campfire Flies: Sparks Like Litle Stars (2019, OverPop Music): I probably would have filed this as a mid-B+ with a sigle play had it not been for voice-of-the-Cucumbers Deena Shoshkes sending me the CD. She sounded as appealing as ever, but I could have done without the predominant male vocals (members of groups I've never bothered with: Speed the Plough, the Thousand Pities). I guess that's democracy, with all six members singing, most writing and playing multiple instruments. Gradually the male songs emerged more clearly, with several (especially John Baumgartner's "Deep Water") reminding me of the Go-Betweens. And Deena just kept getting better. A- [cd]

Mark Dresser Seven: Ain't Nothing but a Cyber Coup & You (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): Bassist, major figure since the 1980s, with a soft-toned septet -- flute (Nicole Mitchell), violin (Keir Gogwilt), clarinet (Marty Ehrlich, also bass clarinet and alto sax), trombone (Michael Dessen), piano (Joshua White), and drums (Jim Black). B+(**) [cd]

Satoko Fujii: Solo Piano: Stone (2018 [2019], Libra): Japanese avant-pianist, celebrated turning 60 last year by releasing an album each month, back to a more normal pace this year, with her second album through four months. Solo piano, from two sets at Samurai Hotel in New York. Quieter than normal, comtemplating the "beautiful music" her grandmother claimed to hear after she went deaf. B+(**) [cd]

The Invisible Party: Shumankind (2017 [2018], Chant): Guitarist Jon Lipscomb, based in Malmo, Sweden and/or Brooklyn (same page claims both), has appeared in groups like Super Hi-Fi and Swedish Fix, plays punk-noise jazz here, backed by bass (Kurt Kotheimer) and drums (Dave Treut). Most bracing guitar-bass-drums trio I've heard in some time (and, yes, I've heard Harriet Tubman). Everyone agrees this came out in September 2018, but nobody listed it last year, and I first heard about it when it popped up in my mail last week. A-

Jon Lipscomb Quartet: Fodder (2016 [2018], self-released): Avant-guitarist, also has a volume of Solo Guitar Improvisations as well as several group efforts. This seems like a warm up for Invisible Party's Shumankind, with tenor saxophonist Sam Weinberg sharing the spotlight, but not making as much of it. B+(**) [bc]

Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Side Three: New Work (2018 [2019], Edgetone): Alto saxophonist, leads an octet counting guest Vinny Golia, sometimes through a tricky postbop slalom, sometimes blasting through with sheer energy. B+(***) [cd]

The Richard Shulman Trio: Waltzing out of Town (2019, RichHeart Music): Pianist, "since 1984, dedicated his music to the expression of love and the awakening of inner joy," with an upbeat and pleasantly catchy trio. B+(*) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Kinloch Nelson: Partly on Time: Recordings 1968-1970 (1968-70 [2019], Tompkins Square): Guitarist from Rochester, NY; studied classical and jazz (with Gene Bertoncini), but this comes closer to "American primitive" folk. B+(*) [bc]

Old music:

The Teodross Avery Quartet: In Other Words (1994, GRP): Tenor saxophonist (also soprano), debut album, no more than 21 when this was released on a major label, wrote 9 (of 11) songs, rhythm section no better known at the time, but Roy Hargrove got a couple of guest spots. Fashionably mainstream, a hot start, handles the ballad well. B+(**)

Teodross Avery & the 5th Power: New Day, New Groove (1998 [2001], 5th Power): After a second GRP album (New Generation), the saxophonist decided to do a funk/groove album, with raps by Common, Ransom,and Ursula Rucker. Probably figured this was his ticket to mass appeal, but didn't work out that way. Long interview at the end, over a minor vamp. B+(*)

Teodross Avery: Bridging the Gap: Hop-Hop Jazz (2008, BTG Music): I'm not unsympathetic to the ambition of jazz/hip-hop fusion, but this comes up short on execution, on both sides. Inadvertent humor: Roy Ayers comes on to praise Avery by admitting to being stuck in the gap Avery's bridging. Still, this has some moments, mostly because the man can play. B-

Betty Carter/Ray Bryant: Meet Betty Carter and Ray Bryant (1955-56 [1996], Columbia): Lillie Mae Jones, from Detroit, made her debut here, with half an LP backed by pianist Bryant's trio, plus Jerome Richardson on flute (3 tracks). The flip side was just Bryant's trio, with Wendell Marshall (bass) and Philly Joe Jones (drums). Two different things, but the CD reissue tilts toward Carter, leading off with her backed by Gigi Gryce's big band (four cuts, Hank Jones on piano). B+(*)

Betty Carter: The Modern Sound of Betty Carter (1960, ABC): Big band, arranged and conducted by Richard Wess. The music strikes me as modernistic, a not especially interesting impersonation meant to spruce up a passing form. You can say the same for Carter's scat, the more impressive technical feat. B+(*)

Betty Carter: Inside Betty Carter (1964-65 [1993], Capitol Jazz): A one-shot album for United Artists, produced by Alan Douglas, backed by Harold Mabern (piano), Bob Cranshaw (bass), and Roy McCurdy (drums). Mostly ballads, nothing fancy. Reissue adds a 1965 session with Kenny Burrell on guitar, unknowns on piano-bass-drums. B+(*)

Betty Carter: Finally, Betty Carter (1969 [1975], Roulette): Live set, lots of scat, backed by piano trio -- Norman Simmons, Lisle Atkinson, Al Harewood -- including a couple of medleys. B+(*)

Betty Carter: At the Village Vanguard (1970 [1993], Verve): Backed by same piano trio, pushes the envelope a bit harder. B+(**)

Betty Carter: The Betty Carter Album (1976 [1988], Verve): Self-released at the time, reissued after she signed to Verve. Backed by piano trio (Danny Mixon or Onaja Allan Gumbs). Probably more to it, but slipped past me easily. B

Ray Charles: Greatest Country and Western Hits (1962-66 [1988], DCC): Out of print, one of the first wave of Charles CDs (quickly superseded by the also-out-of-print Rhinos), but listed as unrated in my database, so it must be around here somewhere. Wasn't too hard to pick out a playlist, given that 17 (of 20) songs come from Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, where he came up with his shtick -- country tunes with string orchestration (or less often big band) and a chorus. That sounded like genius at the time, but could easily flip to corny. The three later singles are all Buck Owens songs, right up his alley. A-

Jon Lipscomb: Solo Guitar Improvisations Vol. 1 (2016, self-released): Guitarist, recorded these five tracks (39:53) in Sweden. Noise at first, then turns it down and plays with the rhythm, developing some interesting ideas. B+(*) [bc]

Walt Weiskopf: Night Lights (1995, Double Time): Tenor saxophonist, a few records in, quartet with piano (Joel Weiskopf), bass (Drew Gress), and drums (Steve Davis). Mostly standards, three originals, nothing fancy, but strong and dynamic saxophone. B+(**)

Walt Weiskopf: Song for My Mother (1995 [1996], Criss Cross): Nonet, credited on the back cover but not on the front, which just lists the musicians under the leader's much larger name. Expansion from four to nine is all horns: two brass (Joe Magnarelli on trumpet and Conrad Herwig on trombone), two more saxes (Jim Snidero on alto, Scott Robinson on baritone and bass clarinet), and flute (Anders Bostrom, et al.). Still, the flutes are hardly noticeable, while the leader's tenor sax towers over everyone. B+(***)

Walt Weiskopf: Sleepless Nights (1996 [1998], Criss Cross): Sextet, adding alto sax (Andy Fusco) and trombone (Conrad Herwig) to spread out the horns. Originals (plus one standard), sketch pieces stretched out, a platform for some superb tenor sax. B+(***)

Walt Weiskopf: Anytown (1998, Criss Cross): Tenor sax, back by piano trio (Renee Rosnes, Doug Weiss, Tony Reedus) plus very energetic vibes (Joe Locke). Hard postbop. B+(**)

Walt Weiskopf: Siren (1999, Criss Cross): Another nonet album, same lineup as on Song for My Mother except at bass (Doug Weiss replaces Peter Washington). The solos are better distributed, the ensemble even more energetic, and the leader plays his ass off. I do question leaving the blues cover to the flutes. B+(***)

Walt Weiskopf: Man of Many Colors (2001 [2002], Criss Cross): Quartet, moving on to a new generation of players (emerging then, famous now): Brad Mehldau (piano), John Patitucci (bass), Clarence Penn (drums). Two covers ("Haunted Heart" and "People"), originals which show off the group's impressive chops. B+(***)

Walt Weiskopf: Sight to Sound (2003 [2004], Criss Cross): Sextet, new horns (Andy Fusco on alto, John Mosca trombone), familiar rhythm section (Joel Weiskopf, Doug Weiss, Billy Drummond). B+(**)

Walt Weiskopf: Open Road (2014 [2015], Posi-Tone): Second album for producer Marc Free's label, a return to form in a standard quartet setting, with Peter Zak (piano), Mike Karn (bass), and Steve Fidyk (drums). Two covers, ten originals, burns at both ends. B+(***)

Walt Weiskopf: Fountain of Youth (2016 [2017], Posi-Tone): Adds Behn Gillece (vibraphone) to the previous quartet, picking up the pace and adding some sparkle, not ultimately making much difference. Still an impressive tenor saxophonist. B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Yoko Miwa Trio: Keep Talkin' (Ocean Blue Tear Music)

Sunday, May 5, 2019


Weekend Roundup

No time to work on this, as I spent Sunday trying to break in a new Mexican cookbook. Much of Saturday too, and more of Friday -- not that I had even started then. The one story that dominated the interest of the liberal media was Attorney General William Barr's Senate testimony and his failure to appear before the House. I was tempted to tweet when I looked at Talking Points Memo and they had devoted their entire front page to Barr (aside from one bit on the implosion of Stephen Moore's Fed nomination).

Actually, this should have been a banner week for the media to pick apart Trump's increasingly manic and deranged foreign policy. The US hasn't been taken such a nakedly imperial stance toward Latin America since FDR traded in his cousin's penchant for Gunboat Diplomacy for the sunny promise of a Good Neighbor Policy. I didn't link to anything below on Trump's phone call to Putin, mostly because no one seems to know enough about it to write intelligently. But there were also fairly major stories that could have been reported about Korea, China, Iran, Egypt, Turkey, Yemen, and Israel/Palestine (where Netanyahu celebrated his election victory by launching the heaviest assault on Gaza since 2014).


Some scattered links this week:


For the record, tonight's Cinco de Mayo menu, nearly all from The Best Mexican Recipes (America's Test Kitchen):

  • Chicken adobo
  • Braised short ribs with peppers and onion
  • Cheese enchiladas
  • Classic Mexican rice
  • Skillet street corn
  • Restaurant-style black beans
  • Shrimp and lime ceviche
  • Mango, jicama, and orange salad
  • Cherry tomato and avocado salad
  • Key lime pie
  • Duce de leche cheesecake

I generally cut the hot peppers back by 50%. I made the beef and the desserts the night before. Started around noon, aiming at 6pm dinner, but it wound up closer to 7pm, putting a couple guests to work. Used a gluten-free shell for the key lime pie, but made cheesecake crust from scratch, using a box of caramel and sea salt cookies plus some graham crackers. Used store-bought yellow corn tortillas, which were the weak link in the enchiladas (otherwise pretty great). Ten people, so the table was pretty crowded. Kitchen was a colossal mess, but got it straightened out by bedtime.

I've never been a big fan of Mexican food, but figured I should give it a try, especially given access to specialty grocers here. But when I bought my first Mexican cookbook, I found it impenetrable. This one is intentionally simplified, which helped get me started. This cookbook didn't have any desserts, so I scrounged around the web, not finding much that interested me. (I've made flan and rice pudding many times before, but didn't want to do them here. And while I'm partial to cake, tres leches isn't a favorite.) On the other hand, lime figures large in the meal, and I had the pie shell on the shelf. The cheesecake was a second thought, and turned out to be a nice complement.

Monday, April 29, 2019


Music Week

Music: current count 31440 [31400] rated (+40), 255 [256] unrated (-1).

Last Monday of the month, so time to unveil April Streamnotes, including this week's subset below. Five Mondays this month, so the totals are up handsomely from the two previous four-Monday months. Weekly rated count is up a bit, but that's partly because I found five records I failed to record grades for recently. Some of those bookkeeping errors probably caused me to log 29-album weeks (four so far this year) instead of 30, long my standard for a productive week.

Worth noting that all three of this week's new non-jazz A-list albums here also placed high on Phil Overeem's latest list (numbers 4, 6, and 20). For what little it's worth, I wrote those before seeing Overeem's list, but not before Dan Weiss praised them on Facebook (although I think I first heard of Billie Eilish from Christgau).

Those tips help make up for the frustration of declining awareness I've been feeling. Although I still keep a music tracking file, I've stopped making any systematic effort to find and list prospects, leaving me with little concept of what to search out next. As a result, I veer off on arbitrary tangents, as when I found a piece called A Guide to Drexciya's Futuristic Electro. I really liked Drexciya's Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller, Vol. I back in 2012, so that seemed worth pursuing. But it certainly fell far short of a plan.

Finally, a link that makes more sense to list here than in yesterday's Weekend Roundup: Rachel Syme: Vince Aletti's Obsessive Collection of Seminal Fashion Magazinse. Vince was one of the first people I met when I moved to New York City in 1977, so it's good to see him again, even older, as we all are.


New records reviewed this week:

Kevin Abstract: Arizona Baby (2019, Question Everything/RCA): Rapper Clifford Ian Simpson, has a couple albums under this alias, but more recently has been involved in the group Brockhampton. This is short (32:21), released in three spurts before being consolidated into an album. Loose, some catchy bits, more I didn't quite get. B+(**)

Juan Álamo & Marimjazzia: Ruta Panoramica (2016 [2019], Summit): Marimba player, from Puerto Rico, teaches at University of North Carolina, directing the Percussion Ensemble there. Latin jazz, lots of percussion, several cuts with vocals by Christina Alamo Medina. B+(**) [cd]

Anderson .Paak: Ventura (2019, Aftermath/12 Tone Music): California rapper/singer, Brandon Paak Anderson, fourth album, continues in quick succession his crawl up the coast from Venice through Malibu and Oxnard. Some nice pieces here, but feels a bit like leftovers from Oxnard. B+(***)

Brittany Anjou: Enamigo Reciprokataj (2015-16 [2019], Origin): Pianist, based in New York, originally from Seattle. Debut album, two trio sets, with different bassists/drummers. Background includes touring with Bikini Kill and singing in an experimental metal band. Understands that upbeat keeps it moving. B+(**) [cd]

Seamus Blake: Guardians of the Heart Machine (2017 [2019], Whirlwind): Tenor saxophonist, strong mainstream player, born in London, grew up in Canada, based in New York, twenty albums since 1994. Solid quartet with piano (Tony Tixier), bass, and drums. Then he sings one. B+(***)

Club D'Elf: Night Sparkles (Live) (2011 [2019], Face Pelt): Title per cover, although some sources expand to "(Live at the Lizard Lounge, Cambridge, MA)." Group dates back to their 2000 debut, As Above: Live at the Lizard Lounge, with a 2005 album from the same venue. More of their trademark world-groove jams, with guests David Tronzo (slide guitar) and Moussa Traore (djembe). B+(***)

Control Top: Covert Contracts (2019, Get Better): Post-punk trio from Philadelphia, female singer (Ali Carter) on bass, plus guitar (Al Creeton) and drums (Alex Lichtenauer), first album: hard, fast, short (29:28, but 11 songs so I don't count it an EP), "cathartic" is a word often used to describe them. Can't make out many words, but with rants against "capitalist patriarchy, . . . indictments of wrongdoing and abuse of power, odes to empathy and ego death," I wouldn't refuse a lyric sheet. A-

Cooper Moore/Stephen Gauci: Studio Sessions Vol. 1 (2019, Gaucimusic): Piano/tenor sax duets, eight numbered improvs, free and far out. The pianist's name is usually hyphenated, hence my sorting. Focus on the piano here. That's what the saxophonist is doing. B+(***)

Ronnie Cuber: Straight Street (2010 [2019], SteepleChase): Baritone saxophonist, approaching 70 when he assembled this quartet -- George Colligan (piano), Cameron Brown (bass), Joe Farnsworth (drums) -- about as mainstream as you can get, long (71:19) takes of standards ("All the Things You Are," "Summertime") and bop-era classics (three Coltranes, Gillespie's "Groovin' High," pieces by Scott LaFaro and Philly Joe Jones). B+(***)

Billy Eilish: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (2019, Darkroom/Interscope): Teenage (17) singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, last name O'Connell, home schooled, parents in show biz, older brother started writing songs before her. First album, but her debut was a 26:00 EP released in 2017, containing a single she recorded at 14 and turned into a video hit. Nothing here suggests she's so young. Counted as electropop, the songs stick with you but the hooks are so casual you scarcely notice them. A-

Anat Fort Trio: Colour (2019, Sunnyside): Israeli pianist, based in New York since 1996, has a handful of trio albums, this with Gary Wang (bass) and Roland Schneider (drums). B+(**)

Four: There You Go Thinking Again (2018 [2019], Jazz Hang): Saxophone quartet -- Mark Watkins (soprano), Ray Smith (alto), Sandon Mayhew (tenor), Jon Gudmundson (baritone) -- at least one previous album (although with a different alto player). Trick here is that they've doubled down by dubbing in five more saxophone quartets (two cuts each). B [cd]

Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan: Epistrophy (2016 [2019], ECM): Guitar and bass duets, playing standards ranging from "Red River Valley" to two Monks and Paul Motian's "Mumbo Jumbo." Pretty minimal. B+(*)

Stephen Gauci/Sandy Ewan/Adam Lane/Kevin Shea: Live at the Bushwick Series (2019, Gaucimusic): Tenor saxophone, with guitar for extra squeal to go with the squawk, plus bass and drums. Three improvs, 38:10. Vigorous, little harsh for my taste. B+(*) [bc]

Lizzo: Cuz I Love You (2019, Nice Life/Atlantic): Melissa Jefferson, third album, raps, sings, wails, whines, cracks wise. Says she pledges to be "Aretha Franklin for the 2018 generation." Doesn't have the voice, but cranks up the drama, and the music is punched up to the max. She makes an outsized impression, only fading a bit at the end. A-

Lisa Maxwell's Jazz Orchestra: Shiny! (2019, Uncle Marvin Music): Her bio includes a lot of soundtrack work as well as playing saxophone for Guns 'n' Roses and Spinal Tap. This is her big band debut, dedicated to the late trumpeter Lew Soloff, mostly New York players, the best known with fusion/crossover credits. Splashy. B+(*) [cd]

Bennett Paster: Indivisible (2018 [2019], self-released): Keyboard player, grew up in New Mexico, studied in Boston, based in New York, has a few previous records. Backed by bass and drums, guitar (Al Street) on most cuts, tenor sax (Kenny Brooks) on half, plus scattered congas and percussion. Nice, lively mix, with some Latin tinge. B+(*) [cd]

Andrew Rathbun: Character Study (2017 [2018], SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, from Canada, moved to New York, came up in 2000 on Fresh Sound New Talent, mainstream player, gets some strong support from Tim Hagans (trumpet) and a top-notch rhythm section (Gary Versace on piano, Jay Anderson, and Bill Stewart). B+(**)

Eric Reed: Everybody Gets the Blues (2019, Smoke Sessions): Mainstream pianist, couple dozen albums since 1991, his first dedicated to Art Blakey, this one kicking off with "Cedar Waltzin'" (for Walton). With Tim Green (alto sax), Mike Gurrola (bass) and McClenty Hunter (drums). Blues may be the ground, but this is too bright and bouncy to get bogged down. B+(**)

Steph Richards: Take the Neon Lights (2019, Birdwatcher): Trumpet player; from Calgary, Canada; based in Brooklyn; has recorded with Vinny Golia and Henry Threadgill. Second album (first was credited to Stephanie Richards), backed by piano trio (James Carney, Sam Minaie, Andrew Munsey). B+(***)

Dave Scott: In Search of Hipness (2018 [2019], SteepleChase): Trumpet player, based in New York (teaches at Western Connecticut State), not to be confused with Dave Len Scott (another trumpet player), sixth album since 1995. Sextet with violin (Sarah Bernstein), guitar (Nate Radley), piano (Jacob Sacks), bass, and drums. "Hip" strikes me as too dated a word for such fancy postbop. B+(*)

Swindle: No More Normal (2019, Brownswood): British grime/dubstep producer Cameron Palmer, with some ties to the new jazz scene, but this never finds a real vibe, and strikes me as overblown. B-

Trapper Keaper: Meets Tim Berne & Aurora Nealand (2019, Ears & Eyes/Caligola): New Orleans "space-funk" duo, William Thompson IV (mostly keyboards) and Marcello Benetti (drums), one previous album, meet up here with two alto saxophonists (Nealand also plays accordion). One's tempted to credit Berne, but there's a lot going on. B+(***) [cd]

Cory Weeds Quintet: Live at Frankie's Jazz Club (2019, Cellar Live): Alto saxophonist, studied at UNT and Capilano U, owns Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver and their label, fourteen albums since 2008 -- haven't heard any before, but Everything's Coming Up Weeds is a good title. Standard bebop quintet with Terell Stafford (trumpet), Harold Mabern (piano), bass, and drums. Live sound's a little thin. B+(*)

Walt Weiskopf European Quartet: Worldwide (2019, Orenda): Tenor saxophonist, first recorded in 1989, one of a cluster of richly-toned mainstream players from the 1990s, although I can't say as I followed him closely -- mostly a name that followed Benny Wallace like a shadow. Until I track down his 1990s albums, I can't really attest that this is his best ever, but both fast and slow it's a sax lovers delight. The Europeans are Carl Winther (piano), Andreas Lang (bass), and Anders Mogensen (drums). A- [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Afro-Blue Persuasion: Live at Haight Levels: Volume One (1967 [2019], Tramp): Previously unreleased Afro-Cuban jazz from San Francisco, a group led by vibraphonist Ulysses Crockett, with piano (John Miller), tenor sax/oboe/flute (Robert Harvey), bass (Robert Bing Nathan), drums (Robert Belinsky), and "guests" Paul Jackson (bass) and Harold Haynes (congas). Not super Cuban, with tunes like "Straight No Chaser" and a fast-tracked "The Girl From Ipanema." B+(**)

Afro-Blue Persuasion: Live at Haight Levels: Volume Two (1967 [2019], Tramp): More, both volumes could have squeezed onto a single CD but the main release focus is vinyl. Starts with "Cuban Fantasy" and ends with "A Night in Tunisia." B+(**)

Elecktrokids: Elektroworld (1995 [2019], Clone Classic Cuts): Billing: "based in Flint, Michigan, USA, the four young sons of an electrician welded together their debut album." No names, but one or both members of Drexciya are implicated in this Krautrock move, where the few lyrics are repeated at length, a strategy that works better for the beats. B+(**) [bc]

Mark Turner/Gary Foster: Mark Turner Meets Gary Foster (2003 [2019], Capri, 2CD): Foster's is a name I haven't heard in a while. Born in 1936, mostly plays alto sax, debut album in 1968, a few more through 1984, less often up to a 2006 duo with Putter Smith (bass), most when he was featured on someone's album. Turner is 29 years younger, had a smashing debut in 1994 and major label presence for a decade, until a saw mishap set him back. He's been busy lately, but his string of A-list albums predates this, a warm and friendly two-sax quartet, with Smith and Joe LaBarbera (drums). B+(***) [cd]

Old music:

Bill Cunliffe/Gary Foster: It's About Love (2003, Torii): Piano-alto sax quartet, with Jeff D'Angelo (bass) and Tim Pleasant (drums), mostly ballads, lush tending toward gorgeous, lovely showcase for the sax voice. B+(***)

Drexciya: Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller III (1992-97 [2013], Clone Classic Cuts): Detroit techno duo, James Stinson and Gerald Donald, constructed a whole mythology "of underwater dwellers descended from pregnant slave women thrown overboard during the trans-Atlantic deportation. Starting with their 1992 Deep Sea Dweller EP, they kept at it for a decade (Stinson died in 2002), then languished until this Dutch label started collecting their early work on four CDs. I reviewed I and II when they came out, but didn't notice later comps. This is nearly as good (maybe a bit less consistent) as the first. A- [bc]

Drexciya: Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller IV (1992-97 [2013], Clone Classic Cuts): Mopping up, including five "Unknown Journey" cuts. Some introduce a newly developed warble which adds a dimension to their sound, but doesn't seem as perfectly paced. B+(***) [bc]

Drexciya: Neptune's Lair (1999, Tresor): After enough short releases to fill the four Clone Classic Cuts CDs, the Detroit techno duo's first full-fledged album. B+(***)

Drexciya: Grava 4 (2002, Clone): Third (and last) album. Attractive beats, but fades a bit. B+(**)

Billie Eilish: Don't Smile at Me (2017, Darkroom/Interscope, EP): Eight track, 26:00 debut, "a sleeper hit," cracked the charts a month and a half after its release, going on to earn nearly a million "album-equivalent units" and "more than 1.2 billion on-demand audio streams" -- not that I noticed, at least until her follow-up album appeared. Singles are more pop, more easily distinguished from the filler. B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Greg Abate with the Tim Ray Trio: Gratitude: Stage Door Live @ The Z (Whaling City Sound)
  • Brittany Anjou: Enamigo Reciprokataj (Origin)
  • Rebecca DuMaine and the Dave Miller Combo: Chez Nous (Summit): June 7
  • Satoko Fujii: Stone (Libra): June 7
  • The Invisible Party: Shumankind (Chant -18)
  • Peter Jensen & DR Big Band: Stand on Your Feet and Fight: Voices of the Danish West Indies (ILK)
  • Ellynne Rey: The Birdsong Project (self-released): May 1
  • Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Side Three: New Work (Edgetone)
  • The Richard Shulman Trio: Waltzing out of Town (RichHeart Music): May 11
  • Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet: The Rhythm of Invention (Patois): June 7
  • Walt Weiskopf European Quartet: Worldwide (Orenda): May 3

Sunday, April 28, 2019


Weekend Roundup

Started early and still running late. Having recently read Benjamin Carter Hett's The Death of Democracy: Hitler's Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic, I woke up this morning with the idea of writing something about Trump, Republicans, and Fascism for today's introduction. Never got close to that. Hett's book is pretty straight history, but you can find a page here or there where you could easily gloss in Trump's name for Hitler's. Then you move onto other pages where Trump fails any comparison, usually by being too dumb or too lazy. There are also big differences between the Nazis and the Republicans, although differences on race, foreigners, unions, and military muscle are insignificant. The biggest one is that the Nazis actually had their own goon squad that could go out and physically attack their suspected enemies, whereas Republicans only wish they could do that. Still, the key point about Germany in 1932 was supposedly sober conservatives were so desperate to squash the left -- indeed, any trace of popular government, of democracy -- that they were willing to hand power over to a psycho like Hitler and his vicious gang of followers. Republicans seem happy to do the same thing here in America, for the same reasons, and with the same obliviousness to consequences.

I should note somewhere that former Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) died last week. Back in the 1980s he was the model of how a Republican politician could straddle moderate urban politics (he was mayor of Indianapolis) and the Reagan reaction, which for a time helped make the latter seem more innocuous and palatable. He was finally devoured by the right, purged in a primary by an opponent so extreme that the Democrats were able to (temporarily) pick up the seat. I never felt any particular fondness for Lugar, but I could understand why people respected him. Even his breed of Republican is now a thing of the past.

Also noted that historian David Brion Davis has died. His 1967 book The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture greatly affected the way pretty much everyone understood the history of slavery in the Americas. I've often thought I should check out his later books, especially the ones that extended his study into the 19th century. I learned of his death from a cranky Corey Robin note, which I decided not to bother with below. Here's a more useful (and generous) obituary.


Anyhow, this is what the week has to show for itself:

Monday, April 22, 2019


Music Week

Music: current count 31400 [31371] rated (+29), 256 [252] unrated (+4).

Seems like pretty much everything is a struggle these days. My most common complaint is that I'm getting sick and tired of not being able to do things right. A typical example was trying to repair a screen door lock. A nylon washer disappeared, and has proven impossible to replace. I bought some things I thought I might be able to use, then lost them. Bought some more, and turned out they were too thick, and hole was too small. I tried drilling out the hole, and destroyed the washer. Finally reassembled the door handle without the washer. The set screw is hard to get a grip on. It will no doubt fall apart again in a matter of days, at best a couple weeks. I have a bunch of other things that are falling apart, many because I didn't do a good enough job building them in the first place.

On the other hand, I have gotten a few things done. The new pantry shelf unit is painted and bolted in place, although we haven't really put it to use yet. That's waiting a second pantry improvement. I built a rather neat storage unit, then screwed up hanging the door so it never closed correctly (or at least easily). It finally dawned on me that if I could shave a quarter inch off the bottom surface, it should close without having to change the hinges. All that's left to do there is to rehang the door, and see whether the theory worked. Tomorrow.

At least I finally got my computers moved, making my workspace much more comfortable. Still haven't done the next step, which is to set up virtual web servers on the secondary machine, so I can start redesigning the Robert Christgau and Carola Dibbell websites. I should at least know what I'm doing there.

Meanwhile, another routine week of music discoveries. Hard part for me is deciding what to search out. This seems like a typical week with two weeks of Christgau picks, further search down Phil Overeem's list, and the first Michael Tatum Downloader's Diary in quite a while. Unfortunately, I found myself coming up short with their well-considered picks. Instead, I went with the new Chemical Brothers album (I think someone on the Expert Witness Facebook group raved about it, but don't recall who), and a 1979 jazz album reissue that probably showed up in a Bandcamp Daily list (which I started using a couple weeks back when I couldn't play Napster).

Also, two rare regrades to from B+(***) to A-, originally reviewed by streaming but given a few more changes after CDs arrived. People shouldn't get the idea that all they have to do to get higher grades is to send me CDs, but they do help in cases where I've held a grade back due to some minor reservations.

April Streamnotes should be released with next Music Week, on April 29. Currently have 113 records in the draft file, so I'll probably wind up with 140-150.


New records reviewed this week:

Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are on the Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration (2018 [2019], Pi, 2CD): Formed as a quintet in 1969, out to make "great black music," recorded intensely at first, regularly until the founders started to die out: they tried replacing Lester Bowie (trumpet) in 1999, but didn't do much after Malachi Favors (bass) passed in 2004. Now they are down to two: Roscoe Mitchell (reeds) and Famadou Don Moye (percussion). Joseph Jarman died in 2019 after this was recorded, but doesn't play on it. On the other hand, the Chicago avant-garde turned out en masse here: some vocals I don't like, Moor Mother rap I do, too much strings and flute, but with transcendent stretches, enough to register who they are and what they're about. B+(**)

The Chemical Brothers: No Geography (2019, Virgin EMI): When I organized my database c. 2000 I filed all the electronica albums under "techno," which is evidently a more limited (shall we say technical?) term. But back then I was thinking of artists like this UK duo, with three fairly major albums 1995-99. They've slowed down, with just four even spaced albums since 2005. But this one sounds much like the early ones, with one foot planted in disco, the other pushing metal hard to the floor. A-

Martin Frawley: Undone at 31 (2019, Merge): Australian singer-songwriter, solo after two albums with the Twerps. B+(***)

Ahmed Ag Kaedy: Akaline Kidal (2019, Sahel Sounds): Tuareg from northern Mali, just guitar and vocal, a steady, easy roll, gentle blues minus the downside. B+(**)

Salif Keita: Un Autre Blanc (2018 [2019], Naive): A quite remarkable singer from Mali, born to royalty, cast out for his albinismo, gained fame as "the golden voice of Africa," first with his group Les Ambassadeurs then as a solo act from 1987. Past 70 now, with one of his better albums, the rhythm not quite as effortless as I'd like. B+(***)

Khalid: Suncity (2018, RCA, EP): Surname Robinson, first album showed his mastery of his topic, American Teen, now moving somewhat more cautiously into adulthood. Seven tracks including an intro skit and an interlude, 21:09. B+(*)

Khalid: Free Spirit (2019, RCA): Impressive second album, attractive, catchy in spots, pleasant throughout, but runs a bit longer than my interest holds out. B+(***)

Larry Koonse: New Jazz Standards Vol. 4 (2019, Summit): Guitarist, born in San Diego, based in Los Angeles, father was another jazz guitarist, Dave Koonse, and they have a couple of duo albums (one in 1978 when Larry was a teenager, another in 2003). Not much directly under Koonse's name, but lots of side credits -- seems like every jazz album recorded in LA over the last two decades. He leads a quartet here, with Josh Nelson (piano), Tom Harrington (bass), and Joe LaBarbera (drums), but the real auteur doesn't play: Carl Saunders, who's compiled 100 of his compositions into the book New Jazz Standards, and recruited the leaders of he previous volumes in this series: Sam Most, Scott Whitfield, and Roger Kellaway. As a big band trumpeter, Saunders knows what he's doing. But aren't standards supposed to be recognized first? B [cd]

Joachim Kühn: Melodic Ornette Coleman: Piano Works XIII (2018 [2019], ACT): German pianist, many albums since 1969, including a live duo in 1996 with Coleman. This is solo, Coleman tunes plus one original tribute. Makes a fair case for Coleman as a melodist, but that always seemed rather tangential to his genius. B+(*)

Russ Lossing: Changes (2018 [2019], SteepleChase); Pianist, from Ohio, based in New York since 1986, at least 15 albums, mostly trios (many unconventional), mostly original material, tends to find his own idiosyncratic way (much like his long-time drummer and mentor, Paul Motian). This is fairly conventional, a trio with Michael Formanek and Gerald Cleaver, mostly standards (3 Monk, 2 Ellington, opens with "Bye, Bye Blackbird"). B+(***)

Russ Lossing: Motian Music (2019, Sunnyside): The late drummer Paul Motian led kind of a dual life. On the one hand, he played in a remarkable series of piano trios, starting with Bill Evans and including Keith Jarrett, Paul Bley, Marilyn Crispell, Enrico Pieranunzi, Martial Solal, Geri Allen, and Lossing. On the other, he rarely used piano on his own records (a favorite trio was with Joe Lovano and Bill Frisell). This, a trio with Masa Kamaguchi (bass) and Billy Mintz (drums), is Lossing's second album of Motian compositions. It effectively merges the two paths, but the results, like Motian, are somewhat inscrutable. B+(**)

Reba McEntire: Stronger Than the Truth (2019, Big Machine): Country singer, from Oklahoma, in her sixties now, debut album in 1977, this is her 33rd in 43 years. Neotrad sound, strong drawl, some sad songs, some upbeat, a single ("Freedom") with the potential to be abused something awful. B+(*)

Sam Ospovat: Ride Angles (2018 [2019], Skirl): Drummer, originally from Lincoln, Nebraska; based in Bay Area, has at least one previous record. Trio with Matt Mitchell (most impressive on piano) and Kim Cass (bass), plus scattered guests -- Brandon Seabrook (guitar), Nick Lyons (alto sax), and Lorin Benedict (scat vocals) -- each adding an interesting twist. B+(**) [cd]

Hama Sankare: Ballébé: Calling All Africans (2018, Clermont Music): From Mali, plays a style called calabash, guitar has some drone and voice some moan giving him a desert blues vibe. B+(***)

Hama Sankare: Niafunke (2019, Clermont Music): Second album. Christgau prefers the first but they strike me as pretty interchangeable. B+(***)

Silk Road Assassins: State of Ruin (2019, Planet Mu): UK electronica trio, from Bath, monikers Tom E Vercetti, LovedrOid, Chemist. Vacillates between industrial and grime, picking up my ears with the latter. B+(*) [bc]

Marcos Silva: Brasil: From Head to Toe (2019, Green Egg): Keyboard player, born in Rio de Janeiro, based in Bay Area, which has become a major center for Brazilian music in the US. Band includes Gary Meek on sax and flute. Mostly a pleasant groove album, soaring a bit. B [cd]

Solange: When I Get Home (2019, Saint/Columbia): Knowles, long overshadowed by her sister Beyoncé, got a lot of attention for 2016's A Seat at the Table, follows that up here. I find both albums subdued and inscrutable, this one perhaps even more so. Cover art very similar, with her looking dazed and sad. B+(*)

Spellling: Mazy Fly (2018 [2019], Sacred Bones): R&b singer-songwriter Tia Cabral, second album, "experimental" in the sense that she doesn't fit the mold, or any other I can think of. B+(**)

Sunflower Bean: King of the Dudes (2019, Mom + Pop, EP): Indie rock trio from Long Island, Julia Cumming the singer/bassist, with two albums and three EPs -- this one 4 snappy cuts, 12:03. B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Infinite Spirit Music: Live Without Fear (1979 [2019], Jazzman): One-shot Chicago group, best known member is percussionist and singer Kahil El'Zabar, although Ka T' Etta Aton also sings, and there are two more percussionists, plus Henry Huff (most impressive on sax), Soji Abedayo (piano), and Michaka Uba (bass). I'm not a big fan of the vocals (although the title hits home), but the music transcends such concerns. Vol. 27 in Jazzman's Holy Grail Series. Makes me wonder what else I've missed. A- [bc]

Live at Raul's (1979 [2019], Steady Boy): Ten songs from five punk/garage bands I'd never heard of -- The Explosives, Standing Waves, Terminal Mind, The Next, The Skunks -- recorded live in Austin, TX, released at the time. Reminds one what a shock to the system punk was back then. Also that Austin was still a backwater. B+(*)

Onda De Amor: Synthesized Brazilian Hits That Never Were (1984-94) (1984-94 [2018], Soundway): Crate-digging, no one here I recognize, and nothing that really stand out, but every cut has energy and panache, and they all flow together nicely. B+(**) [bc]

Weaponise Your Sound (2019, Optimo Music): British electronica comp, on "Diet Clinic's sublabel," "all proceeds go to London based charity, Focus E15, which demands social housing, not social cleansing." No one I've ever heard of. Not all electronic, veers a bit into exotica, all worth hearing. B+(**) [bc]

Old music:

Salif Keita: The Mansa of Mali: A Retrospective (1978-94 [1994], Mango): Mostly from three Mango albums, with one long song from much earlier and three more songs from soundtracks. Probably the place to start, though it trails off a bit toward the end. B+(***)

Russ Lossing: Dreamer (2000, Double Time): Pianist's first album, a trio with Ed Schuller (bass) and Paul Motian (drums). Seven originals, two Monks, one piece from Andrew Hill. B+(**)

Russ Lossing/Ed Schuller/Paul Motian: As It Grows (2002 [2004], Hatology): Same piano-bass-drums trio, a couple years down the road, with Lossing writing nearly everything. B+(**)

Russ Lossing: All Things Arise (2005 [2006], Hatology): Solo piano. Opens with a 4-part, 27:00 suite, featuring a fair amount of drama, then tacks on six more pieces: one original, two Ellingtons, Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, "Alabama Song." B+(**)

Timosaurus: I Love You More Than Yesterday (2011, self-released): Avant sax-guitar-drums trio: Matt Nelson, Andrew Conklin, and Sam Ospovat. Free jazz squall up front, energetic but rough. Deconstructs later on, isolating the sounds while still retaining interest. B+(**) [bc]


Grade (or other) changes:

Kuzu: Hiljaisuus (2017 [2019], Astral Spirits/Aerophonic): Chicago trio: Dave Rempis (alto/tenor/baritone sax), Tashi Dorji (guitar), and Tyler Damon (percussion). This is very harsh free jazz, similar to when the Thing hooks up with a rock guitarist who just wants to freak out, but better (if you can stand it). I wrote that back after streaming last fall, then got a CD in the mail in February, causing various bookkeeping issues: the release in September 2018 was vinyl and digital, so is the February 2019 CD a reissue, or should I treat the real new release as 2019? I procrastinated, but when I finally did give it a spin, I was blown away. I used to hate this kind of free jazz squall, then got to where I could stand it, and once in a while even thrill to it -- this one of those rare cases. As for the bookkeeping, this gets a double entry -- I'll leave it in the 2018 lists at the lower grade, but include it in 2019's A-list as a new record. (Some comparable cases: I still figure on treating Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy as a 2018 release even though its CD didn't come out until Feb. 22, as I, and pretty much everyone else, heard it in 2018. On the other hand, I missed the 2018 digital release of Eric Dolphy's Musical Prophet, only hearing it after the CDs dropped on January 25, so I'm treating it as 2019.) A- [cd]

Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature (2018 [2019], ESP-Disk): Piano trio with Michael Bisio (bass) and Taylor Baker (drums). Seemed like a typically solid performance when I streamed it, but I took more time with it after the CD arrived, and it gradually fell into place -- less raw power than his best previous trios, but he keeps building. [was B+(***)] A- [cd]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • The Campfire Flies: Sparks Like Litle Stars (OverPop Music)
  • Mark Dresser Seven: Ain't Nothing but a Cyber Coup & You (Clean Feed): May 10
  • Four: There You Go Thinking Again (Jazz Hang)
  • Bennett Paster: Indivisible (self-released): May 3
  • Trapper Keeper: Meets Tim Berne & Aurora Nealand (Ears & Eyes)
  • Mark Turner/Gary Foster: Mark Turner Meets Gary Foster (Capri): May 17
  • The United States Air Force Band: The Jazz Heritage Series: 2019 Radio Broadcasts (self-released)

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