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Monday, July 15, 2019


Music Week

Music: current count 31749 [31726] rated (+23), 262 [262] unrated (+0).

Slow getting this out, with Monday wiped out by a house emergency (water heater broke down). Had a nagging sore throat much of the week, but right now mostly feel exhausted. Relatively mild summer so far, but looks like triple digits coming soon and probably persisting. Next couple weeks will probably be worse.

Rated count cut off Sunday evening, but I've added unpacking since then, so the numbers are a little out of whack.

Second straight week with an unusually low rated count (24 last week). Again, spent some time on the Resonance anthologies without writing any reviews, and also found a higher-than-usual split of A- records, plus high B+ that merited extra plays. Most of the finds this week come from Chris Monsen's Jazz favorites list, plus a few more from Phil Overeem's Halfway to Listville. The easiest one was John McPhee's Nation Time: I skipped over it when I was catching up with Corbett vs. Dempsey's Bandcamp a few weeks back, as I had already given Corbett's 2000 reissue a full A, and hadn't noticed the extra cuts. No reason to repurchase if you have the Atavistic release, but the bonuses are just that.

Had a minor role in helping Joe Yanosik publish his magnum opus A Consumer Guide to FRANCO. I have a Guests section on my website, which I've used a few times but never really tried to promote. I've long thought that a better solution would be to set up guest areas on my Hullworks website, perhaps as sub-domains, which could be spun off should the guests decide to pony up for a domain name. I'm in a position where I can host those as well. I also considered hanging Joe's piece at Terminal Zone -- long my pet idea for a music-themed website (named for the zine Don Malcolm and I published back in 1977). In the end, I went with the path that involved the least thought and work.

When Joe first mentioned his Franco project to me, I glanced at Napster's Franco offerings, and spent a week digging around. My own (much more limited) set of Franco grades are here. You can also look up what Robert Christgau has written.

I might as well mention two projects that I've started but haven't gotten very far on. I've started to add recent reviews to the two large book manuscript files I have on jazz. Rather slow work, but I've added 99 pages up to January, 2019, pushing the 20th century jazz guide over 800, and the 21st over 1700. Files are backed up online, in ODT format.

I've also started collecting mid-year lists, as I did last year. This uses the EOY list aggregate format, and most likely will eventually evolve into a full EOY list aggregate later this year. Only have four lists compiled so far (about a third of those collected on AOTY). I'm surprised there aren't more, but haven't really looked yet. The current aggregate is way too sparse to draw any real conclusions from. One issue here is that I'm only awarding 1 point for each list mention. (Two reasons: one is that so far many of the lists are unranked; the other is that it makes it easier to clean up with I replace the midway lists with EOY lists.) The other point I should note here is that I'm factoring in my graces (A: 5, A-: 4, ***: 3, **: 2, *: 1), which currently results in quite a bit of skew. E.g., 6 of the top 8 records now are ones I've graded A- (Billy Eilish, Lizzo, Charly Bliss, Big Thief, Little Simz, Jamila Woods), and the other two (Carly Rae Jepsen and Vampire Weekend) were *** and ** respectively. Expect my picks to slip as I add further lists, while records I like less will make inroads (Solange is the surest shot; maybe also Tyler the Creator, Sharon Van Etten, Jenny Lewis). Record that I haven't heard with the most list mentions so far: Flying Lotus' Flamagra.


New records reviewed this week:

Maria Faust/Tim Dahl/Weasel Walter: Farm Fresh (2019, Gotta Let It Out): Alto saxophonist, from Estonia, based in Denmark, several albums since 2014, this trio gets a buzz from Dahl's electric bass, running through 10 pieces in 37:43. B+(***)

Fire! Orchestra: Arrival (2019, Rune Grammofon): Started as a trio with Mats Gustafsson (baritone sax), John Bethling (bass), and Andreas Werlin (drums), then grew massive, up to 28 members, now down to 14: two vocalists (Mariam Wallentin, who wrote most of the lyrics, and Sofia Jernberg), a string quartet, trumpet, four reeds (arranged by Per Texas Johansson), and keyboards. Starts easy, swells to staggering, slows back down to some kind of lament. I'm baffled by it all, aside from a dirge with familiar lyrics, "At Last I Am Free." B

Alex Fournier: Triio (3028 [2019], Furniture Music): Bassist, from Toronto, second album, calls this his "flagship project," actually started as a quartet and has since grown to six, with alto sax (Bea Labikova), trombone (Aidan Sibley), guitar, piano, and drums. Starts with piano trio, the horns sneaking in and expanding the sound into a very sophisticated postbop harmony. B+(***)

Lafayette Gilchrist: Dark Matter (2016 [2019], self-released): Pianist, first noted in David Murray's Black Saint Quartet, haven't heard much from him since his stretch with Hyena ended in 2008. Solo here, strong on rhythm, which is usually what works for me. B+(***) [cd]

GoldLink: Diaspora (2019, Squaaash Club/RCA): Rapper (or more often singer) D'Anthony Carlos, second album, major groove at least half the way through. B+(***)

Bjřrn Marius Hegge: Ideas (2019, Particular): Norwegian bassist. Title may extend to the fine print: "for Axel Dörner, Rudi Mahall, Hans Hulbaekmo and Hĺvard Wiik" -- no credits, but that's presumably the band here (trumpet, bass clarinet, drums, piano). A-

Megan Thee Stallion: Fever (2019, 300 Entertainment): Rapper Megan Pete, from Houston. First mixtape, after two EPs and a few singles. Trap beats, splashy, cover looks like it's rising out of 1970s blaxploitation movie, hot and steamy. B+(***)

Nature Work: Nature Work (2018 [2019], Sunnyside): Freewheeling quartet, Jason Stein (bass clarinet) and Greg Ward (alto sax) up front, Eric Revis on bass and Jim Black on drums. Impressive at full speed, loses me a bit when they slow down, but that doesn't happen often. A-

Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity: To Whom Who Buys a Record (2019, Odin): Norwegian drummer, third album with this trio, featuring André Roligheten (sax/bass clarinet) with Petter Eldh (double bass). All three contributed pieces, with Nilsen having a hand in most. Slows a bit toward the end, without losing interest. A-

Pere Ubu: The Long Goodbye (2019, Cherry Red): Great post-punk band from Ohio, not sure how much beyond vocalist David Thomas remains, but they can still do weird and murky, even if the rust squeaks here and there. [CD comes with a second, live disc, I haven't heard.] B+(**)

Santana: Africa Speaks (2019, Concord): Guitarist Carlos Santana in group form, eponymous first album appeared in 1969, still kicking 50 years later (dozens of personnel changes along the way, but the early-'70s core group reunited in 2013 (Neal Schon, Gregg Rolie, Michael Carabello, Michael Shrieve). They were a big thing in their heyday, a group I never listened to after growing sick of Abraxas at a party that had nothing else to offer. So while he/they recorded 14 albums through 1979, I'm a bit surprised to find a steady stream of albums since (by decade: 7, 4, 2, 5). back for 50th anniversary with loud drums, bubbling percussion, wailing vocals, and great gobs of trademark guitar. B

Bruce Springsteen: Springsteen on Broadway (2018, Columbia, 2CD): Mostly solo, acoustic guitar, sixteen signature songs with a lot of talk along the way, probably derived from his well-regarded autobiography -- could just as well be reviewed as an audiobook, albeit with exaggerated gestures. I've never been much of a fan, but I have to respect (maybe even admire) what he's made of his life. B+(**)

Bruce Springsteen: Western Stars (2019, Columbia): Turns his eyes to the vast open spaces of the old west, then fills them up with loping melodies and swelling string arrangements. Some of the latter aren't so bad, and some are. Stories too, none amusing enough to get me to notice. B-

Zhenya Strigalev/Federico Dannemann: The Change (2018 [2019], Rainy Days): Saxophone and guitar, with Luques Curtis (double bass) and Obed Calvaire (drums) keeping them on track. Mostly a fusion grind, the guitarist more impressive but the richer tones of the sax no doubt help. Strigalev sings one song, which only Robert Wyatt could get away with. B+(*) [cd]

Gebhard Ullmann Basement Research: Impromptus and Other Short Works (2018 [2019], WhyPlayJazz): Leader plays tenor sax and bass clarinet, recorded the album Basement Research in 1993, and has kept the name for low-pitched groups ever since. This 25th anniversary project has Julian Argüelles on baritone sax, Steve Swell on trombone, Pascal Niggenkemper on double bass, and Gerald Cleaver on drums. B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Dexter Gordon: At the Subway Club 1973 (1965-73 [2019], Elemental Music, 2CD): Five long cuts, 95:57, as advertised, recorded on tour at Subway Jazz-Club in Cologne, the tenor saxophonist backed by Irv Rochlin (piano), Henk Haverhoek (bass), and Tony Inzalaco (drums), plus four extra cuts from earlier European tours, different personnel, none previously released. B+(**)

Clifford Jordan Quartet: Glass Bead Games (1973 [1974], Strata East; [2019], Pure Pleasure): Actually, two quartets led by the tenor saxophonist, both with Billy Higgins on drums, piano/bass duties split between Stanley Cowell/Bill Lee and Cedar Walton/Sam Jones. Piano equally impressive, leader makes it all seem so natural. A-

Eero Koivistoinen: The Front Is Breaking (1976, Love; [2017], Svart): Finnish saxophonist (tenor/soprano/sopranino), liked to play free over funk-fusion grooves. Starts impressive, but not so much when he lays out. B+(*)

Joe McPhee: Nation Time (1970 [2018], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Second album, plays tenor sax and trumpet, with Mike Kull (piano/electric piano), Tyrone Crabb (bass/electric bass/trumpet), and percussion (Ernest Bostic and Bruce Thompson). Original release was on CjRecord in 1971, the 18:30 title cut on one side, two more (22:12) on the other, as was the 2000 Atavistic Unheard Music Series reissue in 2000. This reissue adds three extra cuts, for a total of 65:00. The original album was one of the greatest artifacts of its era, a feat of radical boogaloo, the beat (especially on "Shakey Jake") just regular enough to drive us to ecstasy. The extras aren't as monumental, but hold up pretty well. A [bc]

Harry Mosco: Peace & Harmony (1979 [2019], Isle of Jura): Nigerian singer-guitarist, last name Agada, member of the Funkees, used the alias Mr. Funkees for his first solo album (Country Boy), that name also appearing on cover here. Opens with disco, gets funky, goes reggae for the title cut, dubs out, returns to the dance floor. Not what you'd call an original thinker. B+(*)

Woody Shaw Quintet: Basel 1980 (1980-81 [2019], Elemental Music, 2CD): Previously unreleased live set from Switzerland, with Carter Jefferson (tenor/soprano sax), Larry Willis (piano), Stafford James (bass), and Victor Lewis (drums), plus one later track (10:44) with just trumpet, piano (Mulgrew Miller), and drums (Tony Reedus). Pretty spectacular. A-

Sonic Youth: Battery Park, NYC, July 4th 2008 (2008 [2019], Matador): Live shot, a year before their last album (The Eternal), two years after Rather Ripped, both solid entries in their 25-year run, although I can't say as I remember much from either. I do recall their sound, compressed and sharpened here. Blew me away at first, then faded into the ether. B+(***)

Bruce Springsteen: The Live Series: Songs of the Road (1977-2013 [2018], Columbia): The first of three wide-ranging live compilations, released as digital downloads, loosely organized by theme. These are the car/road songs, with 8 (of 15) from 1977-80, from "Thunder Road" to "Cadillac Ranch." B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • John Bacon/Michael McNeill/Danny Ziemann: Refractions (Jazz Dimensions): August 1
  • Mike Holober/The Gotham Jazz Orchestra: Hiding Out (Zoho): August 9
  • From Wolves to Whales: Strandwal (Aerophonic): August 26
  • Dave Rempis/Joshua Abrams/Avreeayl Ra + Jim Baker: Apsis (Aerophonic): August 26

Sunday, July 14, 2019


Weekend Roundup

Fairly large (7.3) earthquake in Halmahera, Indonesia today. It's in a fairly isolated corner of the nation, an island with about 450,000 people, north of Ceram and midway between the outstretched peninsulas of New Guinea and Sulawesi. Probably not much news on this, unlike last week's similar-sized earthquakes near Ridgecrest, California.

On the other hand, quite a bit of news attention to Hurricane Barry, slowly moving today through north Louisiana and into Arkansas, dumping a lot of rain over already flooded terrain. Two things worth noting here. One is that this is still very early in the season (nominally June 1 to November 30). For a record fifth year in a row, the first named storm (Andrea) appeared before the season officially started. June was quiet, but it's still very rare to have hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico in July. Odder still, where most hurricanes start as low pressure zones over West Africa, then pick up strength crossing the width of the subtropical Atlantic Ocean, this one started in Tennessee, then curved in a clockwise motion through Georgia and Florida before intensifying over the Gulf. I've never seen a storm follow that trajectory, or for that matter one that spent so little time over water developing to hurricane level. Granted, it only briefly achieved level 1 strength, but that doesn't bode well for later storms that traverse much more of the still warming Gulf (currently 86°F). [PS: The Wikipedia page suggests several similar hurricanes, but the only one that comes close is 1940 Louisiana hurricane, which formed in early August off the coast of Georgia, crossed Florida and covered a much longer stretch of the Gulf before making landfall in southwest Louisiana. It is regarded as "the wettest tropical cyclone in state history," with a peak rainfall of 37.5 inches. Barry is forecast to produce up to 25 inches of rain. Actual rain so far appears to be much less -- see Barry downgraded to a depression but still brings risk of flooding from Louisiana to Arkansas. This article also notes that the average date for first hurricane of season is August 10, and that this is the first July hurricane in continental US since Arthur in 2014, and only the 4th in Louisiana history according to records going back to 1851.]


Some scattered links this week:

Monday, July 8, 2019


Music Week

Music: current count 31726 [31702] rated (+24), 262 [260] unrated (+2).

Rated count down this week. Maybe I didn't focus well while Laura was in Boston, but it's also likely that coming up with a relative bounty of A- records had an effect: they always take more time. Also, I didn't take any dives into old music (the VSOP Quintet shows up in Napster's featured new jazz list, but with digital reissues I usually just cite the original release label/date -- and it wasn't good enough to inspire me to check out their other albums).

This is my first Music Week since Robert Christgau posted his final Noisey Expert Witness column, so it's fitting that I looked a little harder than usual for recent non-jazz. In this I was helped by Phil Overeem's halfway through 2019 list (Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, Peter Perrett, Billy Woods & Kenny Segal, Abdullah Ibrahim), and by Facebook comments from Dan Weiss (DaBaby, Open Mike Eagle, Gibbs again -- he's also big on Denzel Curry's Zuu, which I previously had at B+(**)). Most of the others were picked up by scrounging for new music on Napster.

The most controversial of these is probably Madonna's Madame X. Metacritic average is 70. Rob Sheffield wrote a 3-star pan at Rolling Stone, although it reads better than the rating. Spencer Kornhaber takes offense in The paradox of Madonna's gun-control music video. Took me a lot of plays before I recognized that the number of songs I was pleased to recognize exceeded the number of fingers I had available for counting. I have more doubts about the Peter Perrett album, but I gave How the West Was Won an A-, and this one hit the same pleasure spots. Makes me wonder if I underrated Special View (the 1979 Only Ones album), where I remembered his voice from.

I'll also note that I've given Wes's Best: The Best of Wes Montgomery on Resonance 3-4 plays with increasing pleasure. I'd like to review the albums it was selected from before doing the compilation, but the release schedule hasn't made that possible. Haven't played the Bill Evans compilation yet, but same considerations apply there. I've been wanting to hear those records ever since they came out, but probably wouldn't have bothered with the compilations had they not appeared in the mail. Also got a note in email today asking whether I've downloaded recent AUM Fidelity releases. I've looked for them on Napster, but didn't notice the email invites. I'll eventually dig them out, but if you want my attention, best way is still to send a CD.

There will be a new XgauSez out by Tuesday morning. I'm hope to get this post wrapped up before I take a good look at it, and I've been hobbled by Weekend Roundup running into overtime. Also in my input queue is a lengthy and quite extraordinary "Consumer Guide to Franco" that Joe Yanosik compiled and asked if I would publish. Expect that later this week.


New records reviewed this week:

75 Dollar Bill: I Was Real (2019, Thin Wrist): Guitar-drums duo, Che Chen and Rick Brown, the former studied Mauritanian music with Jheich Ould Chighaly, perhaps why their most obvious (indeed, the practically only) connection seems to be with Saharan blues/rock. No vocals on this third album. The 16:55 title cut, fourth in, is where my interest kicks in. B+(***)

JD Allen: Barracoon (2019, Savant): Tenor saxophonist, has a distinctive sound and built his reputation by in a series of powerhouse trio albums. This is another, a return to form with a new set of bandmates, Ian Kenselaar (bass) and Nic Cacioppo (drums). Title inspired by a Zora Neale Hurston book. Originals, but closes with a touching "When You Wish Upon a Star." A-

Gretje Angell: In Any Key (2018 [2019], Grevlinto): Standards singer, born in Akron, based on Los Angeles, father and grandfather both jazz drummers. First album, voice reminds you of Brazilian singers even before she got to "Berimbau" and "One Note Samba." Backed by guitarist Dori Amarillo -- some cuts just him, others with bass, drums, and/or percussion. B+(**) [cd]

Blind Lemon Jazz: After Hours: New Pages in the American Songbook (2019, Ofeh): "Featuring the songs of James Byfield," who usually does business as Blind Lemon Pledge. He is a guitarist, "roots songwriter," sings some but mostly turns his songs over to Marisa Malvino. She brings some blues grit. B+(*) [cd]

DaBaby: Blank Blank (2018, South Coast Music Group, EP): Rapper Jonathan Kirk, born in Cleveland, grwe up in North Carolina, released his first mixtape in 2017, this number nine. Short pieces, packing 10 cuts into 23:57. Reminds me of Young Thug -- he started later, but is a year older. B+(***)

DaBaby: Baby on Baby (2019, South Coast music Group): First studio album after a bunch of mixtapes, songs remain compact and sharp, taking 13 to push the album up to 31:36, scoring a hit single with "Suge" but can't say as it stands out much. B+(**)

Open Mike Eagle: The New Negroes: Season 1 Soundtrack (2019, Comedy Central, EP): Cover adds "With Baron Vaughan & Open Mike Eagle" -- the former the comedian host for the series, with the rapper some kind of sidekick, his role unclear on these nine short cuts (21:56), eight featuring other rappers (Danny Brown, MF DOom, Phonte, Lizzo, etc.). B+(*)

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Bandana (2019, Keel Cool/RCA): Rapper, from Gary, Indiana, second album (plus four mixtapes) with the producer (Otis Jackson), the combo sometimes known as MadGibbs. Lyrics are striking, carried along by the sweeping production. A-

Jesca Hoop: Stonechild (2019, Memphis Industries): Singer-songwriter, eighth album, leans back toward folk this time, not as attractive as her pop move on Memories Are Now. B+(*)

Abdullah Ibrahim: The Balance (2019, Gearbox): South African pianist, cut his first album for Duke Ellington in 1963, is 84 now. His solo pieces are steady here, but the group pieces really come to life, especially "Jabula" -- for some reason, Napster regards that the album title, but other sources read as above. B+(***)

Mike LeDonne: Partners in Time (2019, Savant): Pianist here, although he's played organ more often in the past. Names on the front cover in slightly smaller type, probably because they're more famous than he is: Christian McBride, Lewis Nash. Lively, support is impeccable. B+(**)

Madonna: Madame X (2019, Interscope): She's moved from London to Lisbon, picked up a few new beats, plus Colombian featured Maluma, although that was the sort of timely move she's been making for ages now (single: "Medellin"). As her life in exile puts America ever more distant in the rear-view mirror, her politics grow both snarkier and more empathetic, with the solution a path of personal growth that only she seems to be able to pull off. Still, good for her. [NB: Listened to "Deluxe Edition," two extra songs, pretty good ones.] A-

Buddy & Julie Miller: Breakdown on 20th Ave. South (2019, New West): Husband-and-wife singer-songwriters, have recorded together off and on since 1995, also separately but they're usually better together. B+(**)

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real: Turn Off the News (Build a Garden) (2019, Fantasy): Willie Nelson's son, via his fourth wife, has run this country-rock band since 2009. Fifth album (plus two backing Neil Young). B+(*)

Willie Nelson: Ride Me Back Home (2019, Legacy): Still prolific at 86, a batch of originals (mostly co-credited to producer Buddy Cannon), almost as many covers (two from Guy Clark, one from Billy Joel). Reportedly the final chapter in Nelson's "Mortality Trilogy," but less focused on age and death than the previous entries. No dope songs either. Could be the new normal. A-

Peter Perrett: Humanworld (2019, Domino): Former leader of the Only Ones, possessing one of the most memorable voices of the late 1970s punk invasion. Struggled long after the group broke up, only to make an improbably great comeback album in 2017 (How the West Was Won). This is a fitting sequel, if anything more fleshed out, more powerful. A-

Mette Rasmussen/Julien Desprez: The Hatch (2016 [2019], Dark Tree): Alto sax and electric guitar. Can, on occasion, irritate with too much noise, or nod off with too little, but impressive when walking that fine line. B+(**) [cd]

Rebekah Victoria: Songs of the Decades (2018 [2019], Patois): Standards singer, has a previous album with a group called Jazzkwest ("the jazz band for all occasions!"), works with trombonist Wayne Wallace and his many friends here. Idea here is to pick one song from each decade of the 20th century, although she slips a couple more in. "These Boots Are Made for Walking" (1966) fits most uneasily, then leads into "It's Too Late" (1971). The later songs, from Split Enz and Toni Braxton, are less iconic. B+(*)

Billy Woods & Kenny Segal: Hiding Places (2019, Blackwoodz Studioz): New York rapper and Los Angeles producer, the former with a dozen-plus albums since 2002 (including groups like Armand Hammer). Something of a slog, although much of it is worth the effort. B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Stan Getz: Getz at the Gate: The Stan Getz Quartet Live at the Village Gate Nov. 26 1961 (1961 [2019], Verve, 2CD): Tenor sax great, returns to US after three years in Denmark, a year before his crossover Brazilian moves made him a star. Hype sheet calls this "transitional," but it sounds little changed from his 1955-57 West Coast Sessions, his rhythm as sure, his tone every bit as cool. Pianist Steve Kuhn has some standout moments. John Neves (bass) and Roy Haynes (drums) fill out the quartet. A-

Sourakata Koité: En Holland (1984 [2019], Awesome Tapes From Africa): Kora master, a Malinké from Senegal, sings some, moved to Paris in 1978, cut this in the Netherlands with Joseph Nganga (percussion, background vocals) and S.E.G. Cissé (more percussion). Too amiable for awesome. B+(**) [bc]

Asnakech Worku: Asnakech (1975 [2018], Awesome Tapes From Africa): Actress, dancer, musician, "cultural icon" -- her work was previously featured in Éthiopiques, Vol. 16: The Lady With the Krar (as Asnaqčtch Wčrqu), which overlaps this album recorded with Hailu Mergia on organ and Temare Haregu on drums. Her instrument was the ancient krar ("a lyre, or harp, with 6 strings attached to a cloth-wrapped wooden crossbar, the sound emits from a resonator bowl covered with animal skin"). B+(**) [bc]

Old music:

The V.S.O.P. Quintet: Five Stars (1979, CBS/Sony): Basically, the late-sixties Miles Davis quintet (Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams) with Freddie Hubbard filling in for Davis, who moved on a decade earlier -- the others straggling to cash in on the fusion Davis created. Initially a live band to tour Japan, they release four live albums plus this studio effort. Four pieces, one each from everyone but Carter. None distinguished. B


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Rodrigo Amado/Chris Corsano: No Place to Fall (Astral Spirits)
  • Peter Eldridge/Kenny Werner: Somewhere (Rosebud Music)
  • Augie Haas: Dream a Little Dream (Playtime Music): August 30
  • Rich Halley: Terra Incognita (Pine Eagle): August 9
  • Jelena Jovovic: Heartbeat (self-released)

Sunday, July 7, 2019


Weekend Roundup

Donald Trump's big July 4 "celebration" was the week's big non-event, so naturally garnered plenty of press attention. We'll collect the links here, to try to keep the silliness of the event from infecting everything else:


Some scattered links this week:

Monday, July 1, 2019


Music Week

Music: current count 31702 [31671] rated (+31), 260 [264] unrated (-4).

Noisey has evidently decided to drop Robert Christgau's Expert Witness column, the last one running on Friday. Christgau tweeted:

I do this for money as well as love. So just in case this is the last Expert Witness not just at Noisey, which I'm sad to announce it is, but anywhere, it sticks to albums I'm way late on and albums I wanted to be sure to weigh in on. Enjoy. Consume, even.

Obviously, I should make it a priority to round up these latest Consumer Guide reviews and stuff them into the database. Christgau's first Consumer Guide column was published July 10, 1969, so he's ten days short of fifty years. The whole list is here.

Twice before, Michael Tatum responded to lapses in Christgau's review schedule, first by debuting then relaunching his A Downloader's Diary column. As it happens, he had a new column, his 50th, ready to roll last week when he read Christgau's news, and revised his introduction. (Christgau started the parenthetical numbering scheme, but gave it up after reaching 52 in 1975. I also used it for my Recycled Goods columns.)

I managed to check out a few of Tatum's picks this week, but had previously given A- grades to Big Thief, Coathangers, Control Top, Dave, Billie Eilish, Little Simz, and Jamila Woods -- also a B+(***) to Stella Donnelly, B+(**) to Vampire Weekend. I haven't, however, checked any of his Trash picks.

Streamnotes appeared last week, so this starts a new month.

Don't have anything more to add -- at least anything fit to print. Bad day for me.


New records reviewed this week:

Ilia Belorukov/Gabriel Ferrandini: Disquiet (2017 [2019], Clean Feed): Russian alto saxophonist, never noticed him before but Discogs credits him with 55 albums since 2007. Teams up here with the Portuguese drummer (RED Trio and much more). Choppy, somewhat muted. B+(**)

Lewis Capaldi: Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent (2019, Capitol): Singer-songwriter from Scotland, young, first album, processed as pop with his voice stretched toward soul. Topped charts in UK and Ireland. Impressive so far, but could turn annoying. B+(*)

Charly Bliss: Young Enough (2019, Barsuk): Power pop group, Eva Hendricks sings, second album, seems like they got the tone right, all the hooks buttoned up tight. A-

Sylvie Courvoisier/Mark Feldman: Time Gone Out (2018 [2019], Intakt): Piano-violin duo, several previous records together ("almost 20 years"). B+(*)

Caroline Davis: Alula (2017 [2019], New Amsterdam): Alto saxophonist, handful of albums. With Matt Mitchell on synths, Greg Saunier on drums, bits of voice. Some stretches impress, some make me wonder, strikes me as overly fancy. B+(*)

Whit Dickey/Kirk Knuffke: Drone Dream (2017 [2019], NoBusiness): Drums and trumpet duo, the drummer probably more steeped in free jazz but Knuffke can swing that way when the occasion calls for it. B+(***) [cdr]

Sharman Duran: Questioning Reality (2019, self-released): Singer-songwriter, plays keyboards, from San Francisco, third album, rhythm section marks this as jazz, and Melecio Magdaluyo's sax/reeds drives the point home. Puts her politics up front, asking "who put them in charge?" B+(**) [cd]

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Be Known: Ancient/Future/Music (2019, Spiritmuse): Drummer Kahil El'Zabar's long-running group, debuted in 1981 with Three Gentlemen From Chikago, sixteenth album, only their second since 35th Anniversary Project in 2009. The leader is the only constant, with several long-time members falling by the wayside, replaced here by Corey Wilkes (trumpet), Alex Harding (baritone sax), and Ian Maksin (cello). El'Zabar sings, chants, incants, an heir of Sun Ra, more of this world than out of it. B+(***)

Damon Locks/Black Monument Ensemble: Where Future Unfolds (2019, International Anthem): Chicago-based "sound & visual artists," credited with "electronics, bells, voice" on his first album here, with a "15-piece" ensemble, but only credits three other musicians -- Angel Bat Dawid (clarinets), and two percussionists (remaining credits for singers and dancers). Pulls samples from "Civil Rights era" speeches but feels more contemporary, proof that the struggle for civil rights is ongoing. B+(*) [bc]

Jan Maksimovic/Dimitrij Golovanov: Thousand Seconds of Our Life (2018 [2019], NoBusiness): Duo, soprano sax and piano, both Lithuanians -- probably a point of pride for the label, which has been an invaluable refuge for avant-jazz artists all around the world (including Japan). Relatively quiet, one could say intimate. B+(***) [cd]

Jenna McLean: Brighter Day (2018 [2019], Moddl): Standards singer from Colorado, first album, wrote the title cut and lyrics to a Wayne Shorter tune and some vocalese on "Lover Man." Scats some, takes a nice turn on a Joni Mitchell song. B+(*) [cd]

Gabriele Mitelli/Rob Mazurek: Star Splitter (2019, Clean Feed): Mazurek, from Chicago, has been recording since the 1990s, playing trumpet, dabbling in electronics and astronomy (one of his projects is Exploding Star Orchestra), so it's tempting to take him as the mentor if not leader here, but the younger Italian has the same tool kit -- his credits here: "cornet, soprano sax, alto flugelhorn, electronics, objects, voice"; Mazurek plays "piccolo trumpet, electronics, objects voice." No shortage of spaciness here, and it does tend to break up. B+(*)

Monopiece/Jaap Blonk: Monopiece + Jaap Blonk (2019, Shhpuma): West Coast group, despite name a trio -- Nathan Corder (electronics), Matt Robidoux (guitar), Timothy Russell (percussion) -- first album, with the Dutch vocalist as wild card. Scattered chaos, odd noise. B

Angelika Niescier/Christopher Tordini/Gerald Cleaver: New York Trio Feat. Jonathan Finlayson (2018 [2019], Intakt): German alto saxophonist, bassist and drummer from New York, also the featured trumpet player. Starts with a strong piece called "The Surge." B+(***)

Evan Parker/Paul G. Smyth: Calenture and Light Leaks (2015 [2019], Weekertoft): Tenor sax-piano duo, the latter from Dublin, Ireland, with scattered records since 2003. Expected sound, deliberately paced. B+(**) [bc]

Evan Parker & Kinetics: Chiasm (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): Tenor sax, backed by a Danish piano trio (Jacob Anderskov, Adam Pultz Melbye, and Anders Vestergaard), from two sets recorded two days apart, first in Copenhagen, second in London. LP length (38:13), fine form for the leader, also impressed by the piano. A-

Caroline Spence: Mint Condition (2019, Rounder): Singer-songwriter from Virginia, settled in Nashville, fourth album, first not self-released. Lyrics tend toward the literary, but her voice softens the edges, and the melodies suffice. Took me a while. A-

Aki Takase: Hokusai: Piano Solo (2018 [2019], Intakt): All originals, solo except for two pieces -- one with Alexander von Schlippenbach also on piano, the closer with a Yoko Tawada reading. B+(**)

AJ Tracey: AJ Tracey (2019, self-released): British rapper, debut album after four years of singles, EPs (5), and mixtapes (2, released as Looney). Grime beats, a little slack. B+(**)

Gianluigi Trovesi/Gianni Coscia: La Misteriosa Musica Della Regina Loana (2019, ECM): Duets, piccolo/alto clarinet and accordion, the pair has at least four albums together, with Trovesi's discography (much on alto sax) dating back to 1978. The title is a play on a novel by the late Umberto Eco (1932-2016), a friend and fan of the duo. B+(**)

G. Calvin Weston/The Phoenix Orchestra: Dust and Ash (2019, 577): Drummer, played in Ornette Coleman's Prime Time in the late 1970s, released an album in 1988 with James Blood Ulmer and Jamaaladeen Tacuma, a couple other items. First name Grant, sometimes spelled out, often dropped. Group includes electric guitar, bass, keyb, some strings, and the odd vocal by Kayle Brecher. B+(*)

Wschód: Wschód (2017 [2019], Clean Feed): Portuguese pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro (RED Trio) picked up this trio in Wroclaw, Poland, with Zbigniew Kozera (bass) and Kuba Suchar (drums). Builds to a strong simmer. B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Chance the Rapper: 10 Day (2011 [2019], self-released): Chicago rapper Chancelor Bennett, one of the decade's best, released this debut mixtape in 2012, only 18 when he recorded it, yet bursting with wit, charm, and hooks. A-

Detail: Day Two (1982 [2019], NoBusiness): Group founded in 1982 by South African bassist Johnny Dyani, saxophonist Frode Gjerstad, and drummer John Stevens, initially with a keyboardist not present here -- a set recorded just ten days after the tracks on their debut album, First Detail. They recorded several albums up to Dyani's death in 1986, and regrouped for Last Detail in 1994-95 (with Kent Carter on bass). B+(**) [cd]

Kang Tae Hwan/Midori Takada: An Eternal Moment (1995 [2019], NoBusiness): Alto sax and percussion duets, part of Japan's free jazz scene, little known in the west except for frequent flyers like Satoko Fujii. Tends to move slow, at times feeling more like a bass-percussion group, but no less interesting for that. B+(***) [cd]

Sunny Murray/Bob Dickie/Robert Andreano: Homework (1994 [2019], NoBusiness): Drums, bass, guitar, although there's an asterisk indicating that at some point Dickie switched to bass clarinet and Andreano to bass. Initially released in 1997 in a run of 22 copies. Main interest is the drummer, not least when the others drop out. B+(**) [cd]

Horace Tapscott With the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra and the Great Voice of UGMAA: Why Don't You Listen? Live at LACMA 1998 (1998 [2019], Dark Tree): Los Angeles pianist and community organizer, first albums in late 1960s were phenomenal, much since then is relegated to private sessions although The Dark Tree (1989) is a Penguin Guide crown album, and two late releases on Arabesque caught my ear. Died in 1999, so this is even later, and too much of a sing-along to give you a good sense of his piano (although the opening instrumental piece, the title of his 1995 Arabesque album, is phenomenal). Still, only the choir at the end starts to wear my patience. A- [cd]

David Wertman Sun Ensemble: Earthly Delights (1978 [2019], BBE): Bassist (1952-2013), self-taught, played in New York's late-1970s loft scene, second album -- jumped out at me because I remember the cover, but somehow missed listing it. With Greg Wall (baritone sax), David Swerdlove (soprano/alto sax), John Sprague Jr (flute/percussion), John Zieman (synth), and Jay Conway (drums). What's recently been referred to as spiritual jazz, often remarkable, as rooted in Ayler and Shepp as in hippie mysticism. B+(***) [bc]

Old music:

Peter Kowald/Kent Kessler/Fred Lonberg-Holm: Flats Fixed (1998 [2014], Corbett vs. Dempsey): German bassist (1944-2002), one of few who could keep your interest in a solo album, visits Chicago and picks up two sympathetic players. Kessler was bassist in Vandermark 5, and cellist Lonberg-Holm would join that group in 2006. B+(***) [bc]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ola Onabulé: Point Less (Rugged Ram): August 30
  • Mette Rasmussen/Julien Desprez: The Hatch (Dark Tree)
  • Horace Tapscott With the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra and the Great Voice of UGMAA: Why Don't You Listen? Live at LACMA 1998 (Dark Tree)

Sunday, June 30, 2019


Weekend Roundup

I paid rather little attention to the Democratic Party presidential debates this week: Laura watched them, I overheard some bits, saw some more (not so fairly selected) on Colbert and Myers, and read a few odd things. Some links here, including a few non-debate ones that highlight various candidates, but no attempt at comprehensive:

  • Kate Aronoff: Jay Inslee just dropped the most ambitious climate plan from a presidential candidate. Here's who it targets.

  • Zack Beauchamp: 4 winners and 2 losers from the two nights of Democratic debates: For instance, he counts "Bernie Sanders' ideas" as a winner, but Sanders himself as a loser.

  • Robert L Borosage: The second Democratic debate proved that Bernie really has transformed the party.

  • Ryan Bort and others: A report card for every candidate from the first Democratic debates.

  • Laura Bronner and others at FiveThirtyEight: The first Democratic debate in five charts.

  • David Brooks: Dems, please don't drive me away. My gut reaction is that there's nothing I feel less interest in than mollifying the vain egos of "Never Trump" conservatives. I'd take his polling reports with a grain of salt ("35 percent of Americans call themselves conservative, 35 percent call themselves moderate and 26 percent call themselves liberal"), and also doubt his self-characterization as "moderate," but I'll quote his stab at articulating the "moderate" viewpoint:

    Finally, Democrats aren't making the most compelling moral case against Donald Trump. They are good at pointing to Trump's cruelties, especially toward immigrants. They are good at describing the ways he is homophobic and racist. But the rest of the moral case against Trump means hitting him from the right as well as the left.

    A decent society rests on a bed of manners, habits, traditions and institutions. Trump is a disrupter. He rips to shreds the codes of politeness, decency, honesty and fidelity, and so renders society a savage world of dog eat dog. Democrats spend very little time making this case because defending tradition, manners and civility sometimes cuts against the modern progressive temper.

    Actually, the further left you go the more sharply moralistic the critique of Trump becomes, but despite his "savage world of dog eat dog" line Brooks can't hear this because he only recognizes morality as the imposition of conservative order, where inequality is a given. Brooks' "moderates" are closet conservatives. While there are many Democrats (not just moderate- but also liberal-identified) who agree with most of Brooks' verities ("politeness, decency, honesty and fidelity"), Brooks' knee-jerk anti-left instincts prevent him from joining any democratic movement he can't dictate to. In particular, he cannot conceive of the need to lean a bit harder to the left than he'd like in order to get back to the center he so adores. [PS: Just found this, but not yet interested enough to read: Benjamin Wallace-Wells: David Brooks's conversion story.

  • Alexander Burns/Jonathan Martin: Liberal Democrats ruled the debates. Will moderates regain their voices? Pieces like this are annoying, and are only likely to become more so, and more strident, as the election approaches. A better question is: will "moderates" find anything constructive to say? Their most succinct declaration so far is Biden's assurance that "nothing would change" under a Biden presidency. I suppose that's more honest than the "hope and change" Obama campaigned on in 2008, let alone Bill ("Man from Hope" Clinton's populist spiel 1992, but at least Clinton and Obama waited until after the election to hand their administrations over to crony capitalists and sell out their partisan base. Left/liberals dominate the debates because: the voters recognize that most Americans face real and immediate problems; the left/liberals have put a lot of thought into how to deal with those problems, and the only credible solutions are coming from the left; having been burned before, the party base is looking not just for hope/change but for commitment. It's going to be hard for "moderates" to convince people to follow without promising to lead them somewhere better.

  • John Cassidy: Joe Biden's faltering debate performance raises big doubts about his campaign.

  • Alvin Chang: Kamala Harris got a huge number of people curious about Joe Biden's busing record.

  • Zak Cheney-Rice: Kamala Harris ends the era of coddling Joe Biden on race.

  • Maureen Dowd: Kamala shotguns Joe Sixpack. Favorite line here, and you can guess the context: "In my experience, candidates with advisers who belittle them on background do not win elections." I rarely read Dowd, finding her longer on snark than analysis, but you may enjoy (as I did) her Blowhard on the brink. Again, you can guess the context.

  • David Frum: The second debate gives Democrats three reasons to worry: The view of a Trump hater who hasn't really changed any other of his right-wing views: "the weakness of former Vice President Joe Biden"; "the weakness of the next tier of normal Democratic candidates -- especially Harris -- in the face of left-wing pressure"; "the unwillingness and inability of any of the candidates -- except, quietly, Biden -- to defend their party's most important domestic reform since the Lyndon Johnson administration: Obamacare."

  • Abby Goodnough/Thomas Kaplan: Democrat vs. Democrat: How health care is dividing the party: "An issue that united the party in 2018 has potential to fracture it in 2020." What united the party was the universally felt need to defend ACA against Republican attempts to degrade and destruct it. Looking forward, I think there are very few Democrats who don't see the main goal as comprehensive health care coverage, as a universal right. The differences arise over how to get there from where we are now. One way to do that would be to expand Medicaid and private insurance subsidies under the ACA, and one thing that would help with the latter would be to offer a non-profit "public option" to ensure that insurance markets are competitive. One way to provide that public option would be to let people buy into America's already-established public health insurance option: Medicare. Many candidates have proposals to allow some people to do that. I expect that a Democratic Congress and President to move quickly on implementing some of those proposals to shore up ACA. It's not the case that proponents of a true government-run single-payer system will cripple ACA to force us to take their preferred route (e.g., Bernie Sanders voted for ACA). But there is one major problem with ACA: the Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot force everyone to participate in a scheme that requires some people to buy private insurance. That's a bad ruling, but fixing the Supreme Court is likely to be a harder sell than Medicare-for-All -- especially given that the latter promises better coverage for less cost than any private/public mix of competing insurance plans. You may wonder why some Democrats are against Medicare-for-All. The main reason is they believe the insurance companies are too powerful to fight, but one thing you'll notice is that the people saying that (e.g., Ezekiel Emmanuel) are mostly beneficiaries of insurance industry payola. That preference for ACA over Medicare-for-All is seen as a sign of "moderation" only shows that "moderates" don't have the guts, the stamina, or even the imagination to fight for better solutions. Put Democrats who stand up for their principles and their people in the White House and Congress, and the "moderates" will start compromising in the direction of progress. Until then, why should we listen to anything they say? [PS: For some diagramming, see: Dylan Scott: The 2 big disagreements between 2020 Democratic candidates on Medicare-for-all.]

  • Jeet Heer: Elizabeth Warren's ideas dominated the debate more than her stage presence.

  • Umair Irfan: Climate change got just 15 minutes out of 4 hours of Democratic debates.

  • Caitlin Johnston: Kamala Harris is everything the establishment wants in a politician. Proof of point is no matter how hard the author tries to attack Harris, she only winds up making her look more formidable (which is something we desperately crave, isn't it?).

  • Sarah Jones: Elizabeth Warren thinks we need more diplomats.

  • Jen Kirby: Foreign policy was a loser in the Democratic debates.

  • Michael Kruse: The 2008 class that explains Elizabeth Warren's style.

  • Dylan Matthews and other Vox writers: 4 winners and 3 losers from the second night of the Democratic debates.

  • Anna North: Kirsten Gillibrand gave her opponents a history lesson on abortion politics at the debate.

  • Ilana Novick: Why are Democrats afraid to end private health insurance?

  • Andrew Prokop: This wasn't the way Joe Biden wanted the first debate to go.

  • Gabriel Resto-Montero: Democrats rally behind Kamala Harris following Donald Trump Jr.'s "birther-style" tweet.

  • Frank Rich: Kamala Harris's debate performance should scare Trump.

    There may be no word that Trump fears more than "prosecutor," and no professional expertise that the Democratic base is more eager to see inflicted on him. At a juncture when Trump defends himself against a charge of rape by sliming women who are not his "type," Harris's emergence could not be better timed. She is not his "type," heaven knows, and, not unlike her fellow San Franciscan Nancy Pelosi, she is not a "type" he knows how to deal with at any level, whether on Twitter or a debate stage.

  • David Rothkopf: Hey Dems, take it from this ex-centrist: We blew it. Author is one of the guy who made the Clinton Administration a money-making machine for Wall Street, so that's where he's come from.

    As the first round of debates among Democratic candidates for president clearly showed, the intellectual vitality of the Democratic Party right now is coming from progressives. On issue after issue, the vast majority of the candidates embraced views that have been seen as progressive priorities for years -- whether that may have been a pledge to provide healthcare for all or vows to repeal tax cuts benefiting the rich, whether it was prioritizing combating our climate crisis or seeking to combat economic, gender, and racial inequality in America.

    Indeed, as the uneven or faltering performance of its champions showed, it appears that the center is withering, offering only the formulations of the past that many see as having produced much of the inequality and many of the divisions and challenges of today.

    During the debates and indeed in recent years, it has been hard to identify one new "centrist" idea, one new proposal from the center that better deals with economic insecurity, climate, growth, equity, education, health, or inclusion. You won't find them in part because the ideas of the center are so based on compromise, and for most of the past decade it has been clear, there is no longer a functioning, constructive right of center group with which to compromise.

  • Aaron Rupar: The Democratic debates helped demonstrate the dubiousness of online polls: "Gabbard and Yang were the big winners -- on Drudge, at least."

  • Dylan Scott: Kamala Harris's raised hand reveals the fraught politics of Medicare-for-all. This refers to one of the more weaselly moments in the two debates, where the moderators asked for a show of hands of those who would "abolish private health insurance." The only candidates who raised their hands were Bill de Blasio, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. The framing was designed to split the ranks of Democrats who believe health care should be a universal right, but have different ideas about how to get that from where we are now: creating a public option under Obamacare would help, and/or allowing individuals or various groups to buy into Medicare, are approaches that have broad support. Moreover, nearly everyone who supports those schemes (and for that matter who opposes them) believes that a public insurance program would ultimately drive for-profit private insurance companies out of the arena, even if they were never explicitly prohibited. But the other thing that's confusing about the question is that many (if not most) of the current users of Medicare have private supplemental insurance policies, which pick up most of the co-payments and shortages that current Medicare sticks you with. Sanders' plan would fill in those holes, truly eliminating the need for supplemental insurance, but to most people the words "Medicare for all" leaves open a role for some kind of private supplemental insurance.

  • Danny Sjursen:

    • The Tulsi effect: forcing war onto the Democratic agenda. Misleading to say "she is the only candidate who has made ending the wars a centerpiece of her campaign," as several others are leaning more or less strongly in that direction, but her scrap with Tim Ryan is worth recounting. I don't give her military background anything like the special weight she claims. I'd rather people not have to learn lessons the hard way, but it says something when they do.

    • The Democratic Party can't escape its own militarism: Mostly on Beto O'Rourke, who seems to be hitting this theme hard. Sjursen, like Andrew Bacevich, is an ex-military anti-war conservative, which gives him some peculiar opinions (like favoring bringing back the draft) and no sympathy whatsoever for liberal Democrats. I think at least part of the reason so many of the latter feel so warm and cozy with veterans is that they're desperately trying to bring back a social ethic of public service and common good, and they think that the most undeniable example of that is the people who join the military. I doubt that's a general rule, but there are people who fit that bill, and Democrats have been eager to run them for office.

  • David Smith: No country for old white men: Kamala Harris heralds changing of the guard. Cute title, but unfair to group Biden and Sanders in the photo. Harris attacked the former, but held her hand up with Sanders on the public health care insurance question. I rarely get bent out of shape when people generalize about "old white men" (or "straight male Caucasian") but here it ignores the fact that Biden and Sanders have virtually nothing else in common, and that Sanders has had to work very hard and overcome a lot of adversity to earn a spot on that stage (wasn't Biden first inept run for president in 1988?). Even today he's more likely to be attacked for who he is than anyone else in the candidate roster (not that anyone makes a point of his being Jewish). The only reason he didn't make Smith's "standouts" list -- other than prejudice -- is that he's been outstanding for so long that reporters are starting to take him for granted.

  • Matthew Yglesias:

  • Li Zhou: 14 political experts on why the first Democratic debates were history-making.

You might also find these links useful:

One of my right-wing Facebook friends posted a meme from Fox News with a picture of Bill de Blasio and a quote: "There's plenty of money in this world. There's plenty of money in this country, it's just in the wrong hands. We Democrats have to fix that." Only thing my friend ever posted that I agreed with, and this time completely. The comments validated my suspicion that the poster expected readers to react with horror. I was tempted to comment, or to just give it a big love emoji, but lost the opportunity.


Beyond the candidates and debates, some scattered links this week:

Finally, some book reviews/notes:

Monday, June 24, 2019


Music Week

Streamnotes (June, 2019) archive is available here.

Music: current count 31677 [31641] rated (+36), 264 [256] unrated (+8).

Spent most of the week exploring the Corbett vs. Dempsey catalogue, newly available on Bandcamp. I've been wanting to do that for a while now -- even wrote them an unanswered letter after Amarcord Nino Rota and others placed strong in last year's Jazz Critics Poll. I even bought a couple of John Corbett's recent books (although not yet Pick Up the Pieces: Excursions in Seventies Music, which looks like it parallels my own 1970s experience -- except that he covers a lot of jazz I only got to 20-30 years later). Corbett previously compiled the Unheard Music Series that Atavistic ran in the early 2000s, which brought 50-60 avant-jazz albums out from deep obscurity. Atavistic started in the 1990s as an avant-rock label (big names there were Swans and Lydia Lunch) before they picked up the Vandermark 5, which pulled them more into jazz. Not sure what happened to them, but most of their records are on Napster, so I complemented my CvD dive with a few Unheard titles (Tom Prehn, with one title on each and nothing else anywhere, got me going that way).

The result is a week which is very slanted toward avant-jazz, and mostly old music at that. I went with the CD release dates to decide which CvD records qualified as recent (2018 or later releases, with 2008 the dividing line between new and old music). I went ahead and included records I got to on Monday after my initial freeze Sunday night, figuring it's a short (4-week) month, and it would be nice to keep all this avant-jazz together. That added one more A- record, by Rodrigo Amado. I noted that Amado has another new record out, a duo on Astral Spirits. Their records are on Bandcamp, and I've reviewed a fair number of them there, but recently they've cut them back to 2 cuts each, so I usually don't bother with them, as they're not really reviewable as such. I made an exception here, hedging a bit based on 2/5 cuts. I decided to mark records like that "**?" in my annual list. When/if I get the chance to listen further, I'll revise.


New records reviewed this week:

Rodrigo Amado/Gonçalo Almeida/Onno Govaert [The Attic]: Summer Bummer (2018 [2019], NoBusiness): World class tenor saxophonist from Portugal, with bass and drums. Group name on cover from a 2017 album I filed under the bassist's name (with Amado but a different drummer), but spine here lists the artists as given, omitting the group name. Free jazz, not his best but so right up my alley I finally surrendered. A- [cd]

Rodrigo Amado/Chris Corsano: No Place to Fall (2014 [2019], Astral Spirits): Tenor sax and drums duo, improv pieces in a Lisbon studio. The drummer likes to kick up a racket, so this runs hard and fast (as far as I can tell). [2/5 cuts: 18:45/48:53] B+(**) [bc]

Albert Beger Quartet: The Gate (2017 [2019], NoBusiness): Israeli saxophonist, also plays shakuhachi here in this quartet with piano-bass-drums. Impressive as long as he stays aggressive on sax. B+(***) [cdr]

Hamid Drake/Joe McPhee: Keep Going (2018, Corbett vs. Dempsey): Most sources list McPhee first, but cover favors drummer Drake. Duets, McPhee playing alto sax and pocket trumpet. Brilliant in spots, staggers a bit too. B+(***) [bc]

Rosana Eckert: Sailing Home (2018 [2019], OA2): Singer-songwriter, from Texas, teaches voice at UNT, has a couple previous albums. This one is produced by Peter Eldridge, who plays keyboards and shares three writing credits. B [cd]

Mats Gustafsson/Jason Adasiewicz: Timeless (2017 [2019], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Title track is by the late guitarist John Abercrombie, evidently a common touchstone for the Swedish saxophonist and the Chicago vibraphonist (also plays balafon, to fine effect). B+(*) [bc]

Dom Minasi/Juampy Juarez: Freeland (2018, Cirko): Guitar duo. Juarez is from Argentina -- not much info on him, but he seems to have another duo album with John Stowell, and more (although Discogs comes up empty). Nice Monk closer. B+(*)

Thurston Moore/Frank Rosaly: Marshmallow Moon Decorum (2012 [2019], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Guitar-drums duo, the guitarist famous from Sonic Youth, but he's occasionally played with jazz groups (e.g., the Thing). One 31:36 piece. Gets loud. B+(*) [bc]

Matt Olson: 789 Miles (2018 [2019], OA2): Tenor saxophonist, originally from Wisconsin, now based in South Carolina, the title reflects the distance he's traveled. Two albums with Unhinged Sextet, second on his own, a trio with Mike Kocour on organ and Dom Moio on drums. "Stompin' at the Savoy" always sounds good. B+(**) [cd]

Marlene Rosenberg: MLK Convergence (2016 [2019[, Origin): Bassist, from Chicago, wrote most of the pieces here, with words from Thomas Burrell and Robert Irving III for one political cut ("Not the Song I Wanna Sing"). Otherwise a superb piano trio with Kenny Barron and Lewis Nash. Two covers, both from Stevie Wonder. B+(***) [cd]

Ken Vandermark/Mats Gustafsson: Verses (2013 [2019], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Avant saxophonists, notes say this was their first time as a duo, but they recorded several albums as a trio with Peter Brötzmann (as Sonore, first in 2003), and they played together before that (Vandermark recorded several albums with Gustafsson's AALY Trio, as early as 1996), as well as in larger groups like Pipeline and the Peter Brötzmann Tentet. Many of those albums sound like rutting contests to me, but they seem to be working together here, perhaps because they can hear one another. B+(**) [bc]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Amarcord Nino Rota (1981 [2018], Corbett vs. Dempsey): I file this under producer Hal Willner's name, who went beyond this first album to produce a series of tribute albums worthy of auteur tatus -- most fabulously Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill (1985). Otherwise, this would be "various artists" playing compositions by Nino Rota from the films of Federico Fellini. Mostly jazz musicians, several solo (Jaki Byard, Bill Frisell, Steve Lacy), larger ensembles arranged by Carla Bley and Muhal Richard Abrams, even a medley with the Marsalis brothers. A- [bc]

Steve Lacy: Stamps (1977-78 [2018], Corbett vs. Dempsey, 2CD): The soprano sax great's quintet, with Steve Potts (alto/soprano sax), Irčne Aebi (cello/violin/voice), Kent Carter (bass), and Oliver Johnson (drums). Second disc was originally released by Hat Hut in 1979, more than doubled here with a previously unreleased 1977 live set: Some vocals at the top, after which they roll hard, even more so on the reissued tracks. B+(***) [bc]

Joe McPhee/Mats Gustafsson: Brace for Impact (2007 [2018], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Two avant saxophonists, alto and baritone although both rummage through their closet for exotic variants: pocket trumpet, alto clarinet, and voice for McPhee; slide sax, alto fluteophone, and electronics for Gustafsson. Expect strain and screech, but this has remarkable moments when they manage to hold it together. B+(***) [bc]

Old music:

Fred Anderson: Dark Day + Live in Verona (1979 [2001], Atavistic Unheard Music Series, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist (1929-2010), born in Louisiana, joined AACM and recorded a bit 1979-80, then ran his club until returning to the fray in the late 1990s. First disc (Dark Day) appeared on an Austrian label in 1979, combined with a previously unreleased live set here -- three long tracks, repeating two titles from the album at much greater length. With Billy Brimfield (trumpet), Steven Palmore (bass), and a young but most impressive Hamid Drake (drums/tabla). A-

Fred Anderson Quartet: The Milwaukee Tapes Vol. 1 (1980 [2000], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): New bassist, but essentially the same powerhouse quartet. B+(***)

Steve Beresford/Tristan Honsinger/David Toop/Toshinori Kondo: Double Indemnity/Imitation of Life (1980-81 [2001], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): Sticker explains: "Two hardcore improvised music LPs on one CD." But they used the original front and back covers from Double Indemnity, only crediting Beresford (piano/flugelhorn) and Honsinger (cello/voice). The second album, Imitation of Life, added Toop (guitars/flutes) and Kondo (trumpet), its cover, where the order was Honsinger-Beresford-Kondo-Toop, probably relegated to the booklet. Hard to sort so much chaos and invention out. B+(*)

The Peter Brötzmann Trio: For Adolphe Sax (1967 [2002], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): German tenor saxophonist, first album (of hundreds, still coming) fashions his uncompromising avant assault while offering a tribute to the instrument's inventor. I've long found his attack hard to take, but I guess he's wearing me down. With Peter Kowald and Sven-Ĺke Johansson, plus pianist Fred Van Hove on the final cut. B+(*)

The Peter Brötzmann Sextet & Quartet: Nipples (1969 [2000], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): Dialed back a bit from his legendary octet recording of Machine Gun in 1968, his sextet here offers a "who's who" of the early European avant-garde, with Evan Parker (tenor sax), Derek Bailey (guitar), Fred Van Hove (piano), Buschi Niebergall (bass), and Han Bennink (drums) -- minus the Brits for the flip-side quartet. The piano is especially striking on both. B+(***)

The Peter Brötzmann Sextet/Quartet: More Nipples (1969 [2003], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): Three previously unreleased pieces, the title from the "Nipples" sextet, two shorter pieces from the later quartet. B+(***)

Günter Christmann/Torsten Müller/LaDonna Smith/Davey Williams: White Earth Streak (1983 [2002], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): German bassist-trombonist, born during WWII in what became Poland, played in free jazz groups from 1976 on. Plays trombone here, with Müller on bass, the others scattered sound effects: piano, violin, ukulele, viola, pianoharp, objects, guitar, banjo, drums. B

Guillermo Gregorio: Otra Musica: Tape Music, Fluxus & Free Improvisation in Buenos Aires 1963-70 (1963-70 [2000], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): Born 1943 in Argentina, moved to Chicago and established himself on clarinet and alto sax from 1996. These are early pieces, starting avant-electronic before moving on, with some solo sax improvs toward the end. B

Mats Gustafsson: Torturing the Saxophone (2008-13 [2014], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Solo saxophone, starts on tenor with five short Ellington tunes, including a surprisingly tender "In a Sentimental Mood," before he roughs up with some live electronics. Switches to baritone for the final four tracks -- three Aylers, and a 22:30 meditation on "Danny's Dream" (a signature piece by the great Swedish baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin). B+(*) [bc]

Staffan Harde: Staffan Harde (1968-71 [2015], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Swedish guitarist, only released this one album in 1972, cobbled together from three sessions. Two solo tracks, four more with bass and/or piano, one of those with drums. More is merrier, but reports that Harde is a unique guitar stylist aren't unwarranted. B+(**) [bc]

Steve Lacy/Steve Potts Featuring the Voice of Irčne Aebi: Tips (1979 [2015], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Soprano and alto saxophone duo, plus the vocalist declaiming aphorisms by Georges Braque. I never could stand her singing, which here takes opera to absurdist extremes. The saxophonists are wonderful at first, but they too turn annoying by the end. Originally released 1981 by Hat Hut. B- [bc]

Jimmy Lyons: Jump Up (1978 [2016], Corbett vs. Dempsey, 2CD): Originally released by Hat Hut in 1979 as 3-LP. Alto saxophonist, best known for his work with Cecil Taylor, leads a fiery quintet with Karen Borca (bassoon), Munner Bernard Fennell (cello), Hayes Burnett (bass), and Roger Blank (drums). A- [bc]

Joe McPhee Quintet/Ernie Bostic Quartet: Live at Vassar 1970 (1970 [2011], Corbett vs. Dempsey, 2CD): A double bill organized by McPhee, but two separate groups, no overlap, one disc each (although vibraphonist Bostic played on several other McPhee albums around then, including the masterpiece Nation Time). McPhee, with Byron Morris as second sax (alto) and Mike Kull on piano, plays an expansive set (76:06). Bostic, with alto sax (Otis Greene) and organ (Herbie Leaman) turns in a short (33:03) set, swinging through "Bags Groove" before tackling "Resolution" (from A Love Supreme). B+(*) [bc]

Joe McPhee: The Willisau Concert (1975 [2017], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Avant-sax trio, recorded live in Switzerland, the leader playing tenor and soprano, with John Snyder (synthesizer, voice) and Makaya Ntshoko (drums). Favorite moment is when the synth aims at Krautrock, which just challenges McPhee to be more inventive. A- [bc]

Joe McPhee: Variations on a Blue Line/'Round Midnight (1977 [2012], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Solo saxophone, starts on tenor with a 17:24 dedication to Coleman Hawkins ("Beanstalk"), then soprano for a piece called "Motian Studies." Closes with the two title cuts -- the most familiar latter resonant on soprano. B+(**) [bc]

Joe McPhee: Glasses (1977 [2012], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Solo tenor sax and flugelhorn, a relatively short "Naima" sandwiched between two longer originals (42:24 total). Starts out by tapping a rhythm on a half-filled wine glass, and closes with more percussion, which is all the help he needs. B+(***) [bc]

Joe McPhee: Alone Together: The Solo Ensemble Recordings 1974 & 1979 (1974-79 [2015], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Plays his whole gamut of instruments, including alto horn, overdubbing to build up his ensembles (duo, trio, quartet). B+(***) [bc]

Joe McPhee & André Jaume: Nuclear Family (1979 [2016], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Duets, both play alto and tenor sax, McPhee also pocket cornet, Jaume also bass clarinet. Recorded in Paris, previously unreleased. B+(***) [bc]

Louis Moholo/Larry Stabbins/Keith Tippett: Tern (1982 [2003], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): South African drummer, English saxophonist (soprano/tenor) and pianist. Stabbins is the least famous, but has a long association with Tippett and side credits with LJCO and many other avant ensembles, and could just as well be Evan Parker there. Still, the star here is the pianist, who plays free jazz as grand drama. A-

Pipeline: Pipeline (2000 [2013], Corbett vs. Dempsey): A sixteen-piece "free music big-band," organized in Chicago with a bunch of visiting Scandinavians, shelved when the intended label (Crazy Wisdom, in Sweden) was shuttered. Four reed players (leader Mats Gustafsson plus Ken Vandermark, Fredrik Ljungkvist, and Guillermo Gregorio); two brass (Jeb Bishop on trombone and Per-Ĺke Holmlander on tuba); two each at guitar, piano, bass, and three drummers. Two long pieces (one Vandermark, the other Ljungkvist). This was recorded about the time of Vandermark's first large band project (Territory Band), but is very different: remarkable flow, rhythmic detail, minimal squawk. A- [bc]

Tom Prehn Quartet: Axiom (1963-66 [2015], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Danish pianist, recorded a couple of albums in the 1960s, of which this 1963 effort is "arguably the rarest LP in European free jazz." Also one of the most surprising ones, as tenor saxophonist Frits Krogh predates any comparable free jazz in Europe by close to a decade. Adds a previously unreleased 12:36 track from 1966, not quite as good as the original album but clearly related. A- [bc]

Tom Prehn Quartet: Prehn Kvartet (1967 [2001], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): Title from front cover, the reissue back cover translating Tom Prehn Quartet. Same short-lived group, with the leader on piano, plus Fritz Krogh (tenor sax), Paul Ehlers (bass), and Preben Vang (drums). Before launching his own label, Jon Corbett directed this remarkable label series -- I count 38 titles in my ratings database (7 A- or above), but I had missed this one. Similar, a bit more focus on the piano, so less intense. B+(***)

Phillip Wilson: Esoteric (1977-78 [2016], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Drummer (1941-92), from St. Louis, played in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in 1967, moved on to Chicago, where he was involved with AACM, recorded with Anthony Braxton, Lester Bowie, Julius Hemphill, and David Murray, plus a flurry of 1978-79 albums. This turned out to be the last, a duo with Olu Dara (trumpet/serpent). B+(*) [bc]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Gretje Angell: In Any Key (Grevlinto): July 25
  • Blind Lemon Jazz: After Hours: New Pages in the American Songbook (Ofeh): July 1
  • Mark Doyle: Watching the Detectives: Guitar Noir III (Free Will)
  • Pablo Embon: Reminiscent Moods (self-released): July 8
  • Bill Evans: Smile With Your Heart: The Best of Bill Evans on Resonance (Resonance)
  • Lafayette Gilchrist: Dark Matter (self-released): July 19
  • Jazz Piano Panorama: The Best of Piano Jazz on Resonance ([2019], Resonance)
  • Wes Montgomery: Wes's Best: The Best of Wes Montgomery on Resonance (Resonance)
  • Sing a Song of Jazz: The Best of Vocal Jazz on Resonance (Resonance)
  • Zhenya Strigalev/Federico Dannemann: The Change (Rainy Days)
  • Rebekah Victoria: Songs of the Decades (Patois)

Sunday, June 23, 2019


Weekend Roundup

The week's biggest, and most ominous, story was the Trump administration's decision to launch a "limited" missile attack on Iran, then the reversal of those orders minutes before execution. Here are some links:


Some scattered links this week:


Felt like making a rare political tweet today (tortured into fitting their character count limit, depending heavily on the reader's "cultural literacy"):

Another way Trump isn't Hitler: you can't imagine the latter announcing then postponing Kristallnacht two weeks. Real fascists made the trains run on time. Poseurs and wannabes flirt with evil, then make nice, like "good people on both sides." Vile, at least.

Other tweets I felt like saving:

  • @nycsouthpaw I wonder at Trump's dismal career. Assault after assault. Fraud piled upon fraud. An endless succession of victims churned up behind him like a ship's wake. Somehow cutting the web of consequence that ensnares and stops most bad men in time like a hull through so much blue water.

Monday, June 17, 2019


Music Week

Music: current count 31641 [31614] rated (+27), 256 [251] unrated (+5).

Didn't expect to get to much music this week, but the planned project fell through. Responded to that by feeling listless and depressed, so not much of a recovery. Spent a lot of the time I did use on the Moserobie package, the extra plays merely confirming my first pass impressions. Finally started in on Weekend Roundup early Friday afternoon, and finally felt like I was getting something done -- wouldn't call it mindless, but the task posed enough structure to keep me going through the motions. The result was the most personally satisfying Weekend Roundup all year, plus I ticked off enough records to get close to my 30-per-week target.

The Jamila Woods album was recommended by Michael Tatum, who should have a new Downloader's Diary out this week. I gave it a spin when I first heard about it, and probably would have filed it as a mid-B+, but decided to hold off a while. Returned to it mid-week, and 3-4 plays got better and better. Followed up on some Downbeat jazz reviews -- nothing very good there -- and landed on a couple of Bandcamps that looked promising: Fundacja Sluchaj (François Carrier has been very good at sending me records, so I held off on his record there, but eventually couldn't wait), Unseen Rain (Dom Minasi sent me mail about his record there, and I found more), and Corbett vs. Dempsey (Jon Corbett's obscure reissue label, one I've long wanted to be able to cover). All typically offer the chance to listen to full albums, which makes them reviewable. (Many other Bandcamps have dropped down to a sample cut or two, which makes them unusable for reviews -- that's the main reason I miss more Ken Vandermark albums than I hear these days.) More on the CvD next week, and probably for several weeks to come.

Spoke too soon about NoBusiness dropping me, as I got a big package early last week. The Sam Rivers set was the one I had heard about, so I jumped on it first. Would have been a high B+ had I used their Bandcamp, but having the CD and booklet encouraged me to play it a few extra times.

I also looked up what I've been missing from Intakt -- two monthly packages so far, so four releases -- but nothing looked critical right now (with Fred Frith's 3-CD live set the most imposing). They have a Bandcamp as well, but recent releases only have a couple of cuts available. I think the full records are on Napster -- at least the old ones are -- so I'll catch up there, but no rush.

The Team Dresch reissues were all I got from looking at Pitchfork's Best New Music page -- something I rarely check, but Woods and Denzel Curry are also listed there, along with a Don Cherry reissue of an album (Brown Rice) I gave a B+ to long, long ago, and Slowthai's Nothing Great About Britain (a high B+ last week).

New batch of Robert Christgau's XgauSez questions and answers up tonight. Still hope to launch something like that myself.


New records reviewed this week:

Fabian Almazan Trio: This Land Abounds With Life (2018 [2019], Biophilia): Pianist, born in Cuba, raised in Miami, fifth album since 2012, a trio with Linda May Han Oh (bass) and Henry Cole (drums), plus strings on one track. B+(*)

Brad Barrett/Joe Morris/Tyshawn Sorey: Cowboy Transfiguration (2018 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): Bass/cello, guitar, and drums trio, all improv, artists listed alphabetically (although Barrett has sole credit as producer). Morris tends to get scratchy and choppy in this sort of group, almost percussion. B+(***) [bc]

François Carrier/Alexander Hawkins/John Edwards/Michel Lambert: Nirguna (2017 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj, 2CD): Free quartet, the alto saxophonist and drummer long-term companions from Quebec, here live at Vortex in London, with local pianist (Hawkins) and bassist (Edwards), almost as practiced together. Two 51-minute sets, each starting long, closing shorter, the leaders at their most aggressive. B+(***) [bc]

Trish Clowes: Ninety Degrees Gravity (2019, Basho): British saxophonist, sings a bit, fifth album since 2010, backed by guitar-organ-drums, postbop with some chops. B+(**)

Anat Cohen Tentet: Triple Helix (2019, Anzic): Clarinet player, from Israel, based in New York, featured artist here although the music looks to be by Obed Lev-Ari, a "concerto for clarinet and ensemble." Two reeds, two brass, cello and bass, piano and guitar, drums and vibraphone. Best when they kick up their heels. B+(**)

Denzel Curry: Zuu (2019, Loma Vista): Florida rapper, fourth album, sharp and short (12 tracks, 29:02). B+(**)

Fennesz: Agora (2019, Touch): Electronica producer Christian Fennesz, from Austria, big pile of records since 1997. Usually filed under ambient, but the drone here is a bit much. B

Mark Guiliana: Beat Music! Beat Music! Beat Music! (2019, Motéma): Drummer, from New Jersey, first album (aside from a duo that listed Brad Mehldau first) was called Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations, and he later used Beat Music Productions as his self-released label name. Single-word titles. Electronic keybs, bass, with occasional vocals. And, yeah, beats. B

Per 'Texas' Johansson/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Konrad Agnas: Orakel (2018 [2019], Moserobie): Avant-sax trio from Sweden, all three write (but mostly bassist Zetterberg, who some sources credit first). All seems deeply thought out, nothing rushed or frantic. Johansson doubles on clarinet. Not much under his name, but he's been active since the 1990s, often impressive. A- [cd]

Angelique Kidjo: Celia (2019, Verve): Pop singer from Benin, father Fon, mother Yoruba, cut her first album in 1981, moved to Paris in 1983, became an international star after Island picked up her 1991 album Logozo, but I've only heard one of her fifteen albums before this tribute to Cuban diva Celia Cruz. The Cuban rhythm picks up the pace, but she still seems a little stiff for the role. B+(*)

La La Lars: La La Lars II (2019, Headspin): Swedish drummer Lars Skoglund, second album under this alias, Discogs lists 70 album credits since 1999, some rock or pop. Quintet, with Jonas Kullhammar (sax, flute, bassoon), Goran Kojfes (trumpet), Carl Bagge (piano), and Johan Bethling (bass). B+(**) [cd]

Matt Lavelle Quartet: Hope (2019, Unseen Rain): Trumpet/flugelhorn player, alto alto and bass clarinet, Quartet same as on their eponymous 2017 debut: Lewis Porter (piano), Hilliard Greene (bass), and Tom Carrera (drums). Surprisingly mainstream, almost lush. B+(**) [bc]

Xavier Lecouturier: Carrier (2018 [2019], Origin): Drummer, based in Seattle, first album, composed 5 (of 10) pieces, with guitarist Lucas Winter contributing three more and much of the sound. B [cd]

Greta Matassa: Portrait (2019, Origin): Standards singer, based in Seattle, Discogs lists 8 records, one in 1991, the rest 2001-10, so this is her first in a while. Backed by piano trio plus saxophone (Alexey Nikolaev). Does a nice job of navigating the difficult "Lush Life." B [cd]

Dom Minasi: Remembering Cecil (2019, Unseen Rain): Guitarist, cut two albums for Blue Note 1974-75, then nothing until 1999 when he surfaced on avant-oriented CIMP. Solo here, a tribute to the late Cecil Taylor but no songbook -- all inspired-by improvs. Doesn't remind me much of Taylor either, but I like the thoughtfulness that went into it. B+(***) [bc]

Nobject [Martin Küchen/Rafal Mazur/Vasco Trilla]: X-Rayed (2018 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj, 2CD): Free-wheeling sax-bass-drums trio (sopranino/tenor, acoustic bass guitar), a "new atomic working band." Four tracks from 7:17 to 30:30, short enough (70:30) it could have fit a single CD. Can get intense. B+(**) [bc]

RPM: Just Like Falling (2019, Unseen Rain): Group named for first initials: Rocco John Iacovone (alto sax/piano), Phil Sirois (bass), and Michael Lytle (bass clarinet). Iacovone has always been a bracing saxophonist, and the bass clarinet provides a nice contrast. B+(**) [bc]

Erik Skov: Liminality (2018 [2019], OA2): Guitarist, based in Chicago, wrote all the pieces for a sextet with three horns (trumpet, tenor sax, trombone), bass, and drums. Lively postbop with a bit of groove. B+(*) [cd]

Stĺhls Trio: Källtorp Sessions: Volume One (2017-18 [2019], Moserobie): Vibraphonist Mattias Stĺhl, with Joe Williamson (bass) and Christopher Cantillo (drums). Stĺhl should probably be getting some poll recognition. He always adds something to larger groups (like Angles 9), but this configuration shows the limits as a lead instrument. B+(***) [cd]

Mary Stallings: Songs Were Made to Sing (2019, Smoke Sessions): Jazz singer, pushing 80, cut a record with Cal Tjader in 1961 but career stalled after tours with Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie. Restarted in 1990 on Concord, and had some good years with HighNote. All covers here, the ungrammatical title leading into the title of "While We're Young." They're not, although Eddie Henderson's trumpet stands out. B+(*)

Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy! (2019, Jagjaguwar): From Chicago, published poet, filed her first album under rap but she sings her way through this second album. Song titles are names, all one word (save "Sun Ra"), most easy enough to fill out, with her best hooked song, "Betty," reprised ("I am not a typical girl"). Took a while to settle in, and probably has more depth than I'll ever be able to plumb. A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Agustí Fernández Trio With William Parker & Susie Ibarra: One Night at the Joan Miró Foundation: July 16th, 1998 (1998 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): Pianist, from Barcelona, where this was recorded. Discography starts around 1986, seems especially inspired here playing with Cecil Taylor's bassist, who's worth focusing on. A- [bc]

Beaver Harris/Don Pullen 360° Experience: A Well Kept Secret (1984 [2018], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Had this in my database as an unrated LP, but haven't seen it in ages. Harris (1936-91) is a drummer, not much under his name but played in some important avant groups in the 1960s, and later cut an African Drums album. Pullen (1944-95) was a brilliant pianist, and he's often dazzling here, but the group is pretty scattered, with two saxes -- Ricky Ford on tenor and Hamiet Bluiett on baritone -- plus bass and steel drums. B+(***) [bc]

Sam Rivers Trio: Emanation (1971 [2019], NoBusiness): Volume 1 of Sam Rivers Archive Project, drawing on a reportedly large trove of private recordings, here from the period when the late 1960s avant-garde retreated to the lofts of Lower Manhattan, chez Rivers in particular. Two massive chunks, 76:41 in total, with the leader playing tenor and soprano sax, a lot of flute, and some striking piano, all backed by Cecil McBee on bass and Norman Connors on drums. A-

Team Dresch: Personal Best (1994 [2019], Jealous Butcher, EP): Relatively minor queercore/riot grrrl group, formed in Olympia, based in Portland, short first album (10 cuts, 24:14). Named for guitarist/bassist Donna Dresch, but vocals are credited either to Jody Coyote (Bleyle) or Kaia Kangaroo (Wilson). B+(*)

Team Dresch: Choices, Chances, Changes: Singles & Comptracks 1994-2000 (1994-2000 [2019], Jealous Butcher): Twelve songs, most from 7-inch singles (starting with their debut "Hand Grenade") with a couple of change-ups and a sense of evolution, adds up to 30:31. B+(*)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • The Attic: Summer Bummer (NoBusiness)
  • Albert Beger Quartet: The Gate (NoBusiness)
  • Whit Dickey/Kirk Knuffke: Drone Dream (NoBusiness): cdr
  • Kang Tae Hwan/Midori Takada: An Eternal Moment (1995, NoBusiness)
  • Jan Maksimovic/Dimitrij Golovanov: Thousand Seconds of Our Life (NoBusiness)
  • Jenna McLean: Brighter Day (Moddl)
  • Sunny Murray/Bob Dickie/Robert Andreano: Homework (1994, NoBusiness)
  • Sam Rivers Trio: Emanation (1971, NoBusiness)

Sunday, June 16, 2019


Weekend Roundup

Quite a bit below. After a very depressing/blasé week, I got an early start on Friday, and started feeling better -- not for the nation or the world, but pleased to be occupied with some straightforward, tangible work. One thing I can enjoy some optimism about is the Democratic presidential campaign. I expected it to be swallowed whole with the sort of vacant, pious clichés that Obama and the Clintons have been campaigning on for decades now, but what we're actually seeing is a lot of serious concern for policy. The clear leader in that regard is Elizabeth Warren, and of course Bernie Sanders has a complete matching set with if anything a little more courage and conviction, but I've run across distinct and refreshing ideas from another half-dozen candidates. I haven't noticed Biden rising to that challenge yet. He remains the main beneficiary of as fairly widespread faction that would be quite satisfied with their lives if only the Republican threat would subside in favor of the quiet competency Obama brought to government. Personally, I wouldn't mind that either, but I recognize that has a lot to do with my age. Young people inhabit a very different world, one with less opportunity and much graver risks, so platitudes from America's liberal past don't do them much good, or offer much hope. They face real and growing problems, and not just from Republicans (although those are perhaps the hoariest). Talking about policy actually offers them some prospect that faith alone can never fill. And sooner or later, even Biden's going to have to talk about policy, because that's where the campaign is heading.

This could hardly offer a starker contrast to the 2016 Republican presidential primary, where there was virtually no difference regarding policy -- just minor tweaks to each candidate's plan to steer more of the nation's wealth to the already rich, along with a slight range of hues on how hawkish one can be on the forever wars and how racist one can be when dealing with immigrants and the underclass. The real price of entry wasn't ideas or commitment. It was just the necessity to line up one or more billionaire sponsors -- turf that credibly favored Trump as his billionaire/candidate were one. The fact that Cruz and Kasich folded when they still had primaries they could plausibly have won is all the proof you need that the financiers pulled the strings, and as soon as they understood that Trump would win the nomination, they understood that he was as good for their purposes as anyone else, so they got on board.

Democrats may have a harder time finding unity in 2020, because their candidates are actually divided on issues that matter. On the other hand, they are learning to discuss those issues rationally, especially the candidates who are pushing the Overton Window left. Even if they wind up nominating some kind of centrist, that person is going to be more open to solutions from the left, and that's a good thing because that's where the real solutions are. Franklin Roosevelt wasn't any kind of leftist when he was elected in 1932, and his famous 100 days were all over the map, but he was open to trying things, and quickly found out that left solutions worked better than conservative ones. We're not quite as mired in crisis as America was in 1932, but it's pretty clear that catastrophe is coming if Trump and the Republicans stay in power. The option for 2020 is whether to face our problems calmly and rationally with deliberate policy choices or to continue to thrash reflexively and chaotically. There's no need to imagine how bad the latter may be, because Trump's illustrating it perfectly day by day.


Some scattered links this week:

-- next