Thursday, May 31, 2018


Streamnotes (May 2018)

Back on Monday, when I posted Music Week, I figured I had a couple more days to add to my already substantial Streamnotes draft. But then disaster struck: my main computer seized up, losing (at least for now) what little additional work I had added. What happened was some kind of power surge worked its way through the UPS that supposedly protected the computer, into the computer's power supply and evidently on to the motherboard. Whether it also damaged the hard drives is yet to be determined, but replacing the power supply failed to light the motherboard's always-on LED, so something is probably seized up there. (On the other hand, there are no visible signs of physical damage, like popped capacitors or unseemly burn or smoke residue.)

Realizing that I couldn't repair/rebuild the computer anytime soon, I switched plans: I have a secondary computer which I use for listening to music and occasionally watching video. I rebuilt it a year or two ago, and it's actually a pretty solid machine: AMD 8-core CPU, ASUS motherboard, 32 GB RAM, 1 TB hard disk, a medium-low end video card. Most important, it's up to date, with Ubuntu 16.04 (vs. Ubuntu 12.04 on the dead machine). The outdated software has been a fairly serious problem: among other things, I wound up having to use the newer machine for Facebook and Twitter, and a Chromebook for Amazon (partly why Book Roundups have been rare lately).

The newer machine is running Firefox much faster than the dead one ever did. On the other hand, up-to-date software is causing me other problems, as websites which worked on the older versions have cracked in numerous ways. Most of my work, including my book drafts, has been hidden away on my website, so I figured I could get going again by retrieving data from the server. This is also true for a half-dozen other websites which I built and manage, so getting them back and running again will at least allow me to work going forward. I'm still out a fair amount of data, but the most critical parts (especially to other people) are on those websites.

I ran across a fairly daunting task last night, when I realized that PHP dropped the old mysql database interface module in favor of the "improved" mysqli module, necessitating a complete rewrite of all of the Consumer Guide database at Robert Christgau's website. I tried some band-aid solutions last night, and managed to successfully connect to the database, but that was it. I decided today I need to go back and RTFM ("read the fucking manual") until I actually understand how to use the new "object model." The code is scattered over about 30-40 files, and there is real risk that the rewritten to run under PHP 7 here will break on a server which is still running PHP 5.6.

So I decided to go after (hopefully) simpler problems today. In particular, realizing that today is the last day of May, I thought I should make an effort at posting May's Streamnotes column. The first problem was that when I initially brought up the blog roll, the only thing that appeared was the banner image. So I had to do some research on how to turn error messages on, then march through the wreckage. First problem was that the function split() had been dropped from PHP 7, in favor of explode(), but one of the arguments also had to be tweaked. I won't bore you with further details, but after a couple hours I managed to get the blog roll and individual posts looking right.

Then I figured I could prepare a new blog post, and copy that one file to the server, with a reasonable expectation that it would work. So I went through my usual motions of preparing a Streamnotes post, including opening next month's draft file and indexing this month's records. Of course, I couldn't see anything until I fixed a couple more split() calls, plus a more serious character set matter. But once I finish writing this introduction, all I'm going to upload is the blog file -- lest I inadvertently break something else. I'm not planning on doing a full update until I get a real handle on things.

One thing I can't do now is take the time to write up general comments on the records below. You can find some commentary in my various Music Week posts over the past week -- especially the one linked to above. I will note an exceptional number of A/A- records this month, and a pretty diverse set at that.


Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on April 28. Past reviews and more information are available here (11180 records).


Recent Releases

3hattrio: Lord of the Desert (2018, Okehdokee): Folk group, from the southwest corner Utah near Zion National Park; banjo, fiddle, stand-up bass, sounding pretty rustic, although the bassist is a ringer from Florida who knows his way around the Caribbean. B+(**)

Idris Ackamoor & the Pyramids: An Angel Fell (2018, Strut): Tenor saxophonist, born Bruce Baker in Chicago, based in San Francisco, dates his group back to 1972 at Antioch College, where Cecil Taylor taught, but disbanded in 1977, not regrouping until 2012. Band is funky, with guitar and violin for texture, congas as well as drums. Sax is often terrific, but vocals disappoint. B+(**)

Bill Anschell: Shifting Standards (2017 [2018], Origin): Mainstream pianist, grew up in Seattle, spent a decade in Atlanta before moving back. Trio with Jeff Johnson (bass) and D'Vonne Lewis (drums), playing nine standards -- two from Gillespie, Mal Waldron's "Soul Eyes," Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz," the rest from the Berlin-to-Bernstein songbook, all smartly done. B+(***) [cd]

Anteloper: Kudu (2017 [2018], International Anthem): Duo, Jaimie Branch (trumpet, had a widely praised debut album in 2017) and Jason Nazary (drums, played in groups Bear in Heaven and Little Women). I don't know who is into electronics, but I figure that's the source of the dark atmospherics, with the trumpet blending in more often than standing out. B+(**) [bc]

Tiffany Austin: Unbroken (2018, Con Alma): Jazz singer, writes some lyrics, born in Los Angeles, based in San Francisco. Gospel voice, scats a lot, good horns, and a stellar Cyrus Chestnut/Rodney Whitaker/Carl Allen rhythm section. B+(*) [cd]

Cardi B: Invasion of Privacy (2018, Atlantic): Rapper Belcalis Almanzar, first album after two Gangsta Bitch Music mixtapes and a chart-topping single, "Bodak Yellow," that won last year's Pazz & Jop song category. Big investment here: scads of songwriters, producers, guests, yet consistent, hooky, unpredictable. A-

Alice Bag: Blueprint (2018, Don Giovanni): Alicia Armendariz. lead singer in LA punk band the Bags (1977-80), later chronicled the LA punk scene, wrote an autobiography (Violence Girl: East LA Rage to Hollywood Stage: A Chicana Punk Story), and finally launched a solo career with her eponymous 2016 album. Opens with a foursquare rocker, even brings some punk rage, but the album falls off a bit midway. B+(*)

MC Paul Barman: (((Echo Chamber))) (2018, Mello Music Group): Rapper, several albums since Paullelujah! in 2002, for some reason feels the need to note that he's white in the second song here -- not really necessary as LA Weekly included him in their "Top 20 Whitest Musicians of All Time" list, but I can't fault him for feeling the need to make anti-racialist points that should be common sense by now. Fast, scratchy, high pitched, a lover of words, but not quite as funny as his best past work. B+(***)

Kenny Barron Quintet: Concentric Circles (2018, Blue Note): Timed to coincide with the pianist's 75th birthday, marking 50 years of recording -- actually longer, side credits going back to 1961 with Perry Robinson's Funk Dumpling (1962) an early triumph; his own records start in 1968, with Peruvian Blue (1974) an early landmark; his Stan Getz duos People Time (1991) and Swamp Sally (1995, with Mino Cinelu) are my favorites. New quintet adds Dayna Stephens (tenor sax) and Mike Rodriguez (trumpet) to his recent trio with Kiyoshi Kitagawa (bass) and Johnathan Blake (drums). Young group, well schooled in contemporary postbop -- all these years Barron has made the bulk of his living teaching, and is justly legendary, but academic jazz still has its limits. B+(**)

Berry: Everything, Compromised (2018, Joyful Noise): Rock band, principally guitarist/vocalist Joey Lemon and drummer Paul Goodenough, formed on Martha's Vineyard in 2002, shortly moving to Chicago. At some point they start sounding like late Beatles, minus hooks and catchy melodies and clever lyrics. Kind of like Badfinger, but badder. B-

Black Foxxes: Reiði (2018, Spinefarm): British alt-rock band, from Exeter, a tuneful guitar swarm. Some hear echoes of Smashing Pumpkins, Jeff Buckley, and Radiohead, but even with their incomprehensible title I don't find them anywhere near that pretentious. Melodramatic? Maybe. B

Terence Blanchard: Live (2018, Blue Note): Trumpet player, has done a lot of soundtrack work, pulled this from concerts in Minneapolis, Cleveland, and Dallas, in each case thinking of recent shootings, either by or of police. (The way I'm reading the hype sheet, they're providing dates of the shootings, not of the concerts.) Quintet called E-Collective, with Charles Altura (guitar), Fabian Almazan (piano/synths), David "DJ" Ginyard (bass), and Oscar Seaton (drums). Dense, uplifting, doesn't show off his trumpet very well. B+(*)

Andrea Brachfeld: If Not Now, When? (2017 [2018], Jazzheads): Flute player, eighth album since 2001, started studying classical but followed her instrument into Latin jazz, where she has a couple of "lifetime achievement awards." That's less evident here, where she's backed by Bill O'Connell (piano), Harvie S (bass), and Jason Tiemann (drums). Mostly original pieces, some co-written by O'Connell (strong performance from him), ending with "Amazing Grace." B+(*) [cd]

Greg Burk: The Detroit Songbook (2017 [2018], SteepleChase): Pianist, Michigan native, bunch of records since 2005, trio here, with Matteo Bortone (bass) and John B. Arnold (drums), all originals, smartly executed. B+(**)

David Byrne: American Utopia (2018, Nonesuch): He has a distinctive sound, especially rhythmic, but not as spry as it used to be, which at worst steers him into self-caricature. First solo album since 2004, one that aims at more optimism -- it's part of "a larger multimedia project titled Reasons to Be Cheerful -- than seems warranted, not least by the music. Exception: "Everybody's Coming to My House." B

Jonas Cambien Trio: We Must Mustn't We (2018, Clean Feed): Portuguese pianist, trio adds André Roligheten (soprano/tenor sax, bass clarinet, flute) and Andreas Wildhagen (drums, plus a bit of trumpet), with guest trumpet on two tracks (Torstein Lavik Larsen). Opens strong with lots of rhythmic friction, varying thereafter as Roligheten works through his arsenal. B+(***)

François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Rafal Mazur: Beyond Dimensions (2016 [2018], FMR): Alto sax-drums duo from Quebec, have produced a lot of albums since 1999, often trios with a guest pianist or bassist or, here, their fourth album with Polish acoustic bass guitarist Mazur. Some superb stretches, a shade less satisfying than their Oneness (2017) or Unknowable (2015). B+(***) [cd]

Playboi Carti: Die Lit (2018, AWGE/Interscope): Atlanta rapper Jordan Terrell Carter, had an eponymous mixtape last year that turned some heads, returns with first studio album. Same herky jerk, rhythmic appeal that repeatly snags you then lets you go. B+(*)

Dan Cavanaugh/Dave Hagedorn: 20 Years (2017 [2018], UT Arlington): Piano/vibraphone duets, the musicians meeting as undergrads 20 years prior. Several free improvs, also tunes from Ornette Coleman, Trent Reznor, Herbie Nichols, and an original arrangement of "Maple Leaf Rag." B+(*) [cd]

Cavern of Anti-Matter: Hormone Lemonade (2018, Duophonic): Berlin-based trio, third album, Holger Zapf's electronics plus two guys from electropop group Stereolab, playing their own twist on Krautrock grooves. B+(**)

Ceramic Dog [Marc Ribot/Shahzad Ismaily/Ches Smith]: YRU Still Here? (2018, Northern Spy): Guitarist Marc Ribot's group, second by the trio after eponymous debut, the others play bass and drums but also everyone dabbles in electronics and sings -- leads seem to be Ribot, with lyrics on half of the pieces, maybe more, plus guest horns on a couple. Not sure I get all the politics, or that it really matters. The anger is sure palpable, as is the Arab-Jewish fusion. A-

Chamber 3: Transatlantic (2016 [2018], OA2): I don't know of any formal definition of "chamber jazz," but usually look for a soft instrument (clarinet or violin/viola) and absence of drums. Principals here are Christian Eckert (guitar), Steffen Weber (tenor sax), and Matt Jorgensen (drums), but they're not even a trio -- Phil Sparks plays bass, though his name didn't make the front cover -- actually just a rather nice little postbop sax quartet. Disc is packed, and "When You Wish Upon a Star" is radiant. B+(*) [cd]

Chloe x Halle: The Kids Are Alright (2018, Parkwood/Columbia): Sisters Chloe and Halle Bailey, less than two years apart, harmonize everything, play sumptuous pop which probably wouldn't be recognized as r&b without an assist from the eyes -- even with guest spots for GoldLink and Joey Bada$$. Could grow on you. B+(**)

The Nels Cline 4: Currents, Constellations (2017 [2018], Blue Note): Guitarist, in a two guitar quartet with Julian Lage -- Cline and Lage did a duo album in 2014 -- backed by Scott Colley (acoustic bass) and Tom Rainey (drums). All Cline pieces except for one from Carla Bley. The rhythm section helps. B+(*)

Freddy Cole: My Mood Is You (2018, High Note): Nat King Cole's little brother, 86 now, his eerily reminiscent voice finely aged, takes a set of slow ones, not so much because he's wearing out as enjoying the sublime. With John di Martino (piano), Randy Napoleon (guitar), Elias Bailey (bass), and Quintin Baxter (drums), plus Joel Frahm on tenor sax -- hope Houston Person is OK, but Frahm is well poised to pick up his session work. B+(***)

J. Cole: KOD (2018, Roc Nation): Popular rapper, fifth studio album, all chart toppers. Title repeatedly spelled out, supposed to mean Kids on Drugs or King OverDosed or Kill Our Demons. B+(**)

Confidence Man: Confident Music for Confident People (2018, Heavenly): Dance pop quartet, fronted by a man and woman in white with pseudonyms, backed by two people totally in black, faces hidden behind hoods. Don't know where they're from -- one source says Missoula, MT, another Melbourne down under, their label website only showing UK dates. Reminds me of various things, especially from 1980s new wave disco, which doesn't offer great promise for future efforts, but for now those are all things I enjoy, and there's something to be said for living in the moment. A-

Ry Cooder: The Prodigal Son (2018, Fantasy): Three clever originals, the rest obscure covers, mostly blues/gospel, four by three gents known as Blind -- Willie Johnson, covering all the bases, doubles up. Took several plays to sink in, and still feels a little slick, but hardly glib. A-

Frankie Cosmos: Vessel (2018, Sub Pop): Singer-songwriter Greta Kline, famous actor parents (Kevin Kline/Phoebe Cates), acted some as a child, third album, started DIY as Ingrid Superstar and doesn't get fancy now that she's got label backing. Not exactly awkward, but not untroubled either, or uninteresting. B+(***)

Elysia Crampton: Elysia Crampton (2018, Break World, EP): Electronica, artist has a couple previous albums. Cover here says Ocelote but I've yet to see anyone used that as the title. Six songs, 18:45, big beats, hard and quasi-industrial. B+(*)

Czarface/MF Doom: Czarface Meets Metal Face (2018, Silver Age): The former originally a 2013 album by 7L & Esoteric (George Andrinopoulos and Seamus Ryan, 7 albums 1999-2010) and Wu-Tang Clan member Inspectah Deck, now joined into a "supergroup," now with four subsequent albums. Needless to say, their comic book/underground rap fusion was right up Doom's alley -- indeed, MF stands for "Metal Face." Of course, I'm not properly following the plot, but even at my superficial level this is great fun. A-

Dead Composers Club [Noah Preminger/Rob Garcia]: Chopin Project (2017 [2018], Connection Works): Compositions by Frederic Chopin, arrangements by Preminger (tenor sax) or Garcia (drums), with Nate Radley (guitar) and Kim Cass (bass). Being a classical music phobe, nothing I recognize here, nor anything that triggers my traditional gag reflex. The drummer certainly helps. B [cd]

Benoît Delbecq 4: Spots on Stripes (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): French pianist, with Mark Turner (tenor sax), John Hébert (bass), and Gerald Cleaver (drums), doing original material, prickly and rather abstract. B+(**)

Robert Diack: Lost Villages (2018, self-released): Drummer, from Toronto, first album, quartet with guitar (Patrick O'Reilly), piano (Jacob Thompson), and bass (Brandon Davis) -- giving the short-ish album a luxurious shimmer. B+(*) [cd]

Ron Di Salvio/Bart Plateau: The Puglia Suite (2017 [2018], Blujazz): Piano and flutes, respectively, a duo as far as I've noticed, Di Salvio the main composer. Sometimes I wonder if I'm being too hard on flute players -- I do tend to prefer deeper instruments -- but then there's this, which among other things reminds one how hard it is for flute to escape its role in classical music. B- [cd]

DJ Koze: Knock Knock (2018, Pampa): German DJ/electronica producer Stefan Kozalla, third album, a bit slow finding the groove this time. Mixed bag after that. B

Yelena Eckemoff Quartet: Desert (2015 [2018], L&H Production): Russian pianist, trained under the Soviets in classical music, moved to US in 1991 and took a shot at jazz in 2009. Back cover shows the diminuitive redhead surrounded by three giants with white (or no) hair: Paul McCandless (oboe, English horn, soprano sax, bass clarinet), Arild Andersen (double bass), and Peter Erskine (drums). Lovely pastorales, the piano and reeds alternately delightful. B+(***) [cd]

Kat Edmonson: Old Fashioned Gal (2018, MRI): Singer-songwriter from Houston, fourth album, harkens back to the jazz and pop of the 1940s (more or less). Cute voice, some clever lyrics, including a slam against pop-up ads. B+(*)

Adrean Farrugia/Joel Frahm: Blues Dharma (2017 [2018], GB): Piano/tenor sax duets, the pianist from Canada, teaches at York, two previous albums, not someone I've noticed before but he's forceful here, driving the rhythm, building on it. Frahm is a saxophonist I've often admired, but usually on other people's albums. He's masterful here, a delight. A- [cd]

Fickle Friends: You Are Someone Else (2018, Polydor): British indie pop group, Natassja Shiner sings, plays some keyboards. First album after two EPs and a dozen singles. Bright and bouncy. B+(**)

Flatbush Zombies: Vacation in Hell (2018, Glorious Dead): Hip hop group from Brooklyn, second album after a couple mixtapes. Long, catchy, lot to sort out. B+(***)

Dave Gisler Trio: Rabbits on the Run (2017 [2018], Intakt): Swiss guitarist, backed by Raffaele Bossard (bass) and Lionel Friedli (drums), both names prominent on cover. Starts with an easy atmospheric piece, followed by hard groove with impressive drumming, then works back and forth. B+(***) [cd]

The Go! Team: Semicircle (2018, Memphis Industries): Indie pop band modeled on a high school cheerleader squad, with conceptmeister Ian Parton turning the vocals over to Ninja and adding the Detroit Youth Choir for depth. B+(**)

Benito Gonzalez/Gerry Gibbs/Essiet Okon Essiet: Passion Reverence Transcendence: The Music of McCoy Tyner (2016 [2018], Whaling City Sound): Pianist, born in Venezuela, based in New York, three previous albums. All three have ties to Tyner, who wrote the first nine pieces and dropped in for some booklet photos. Tenth piece is by Coltrane. Last three are tributes, one each. B+(***) [cd]

Jean Grae & Quelle Chris: Everything's Fine (2018, Mello Music Group): Rap duo, Tsidi Ibrahim (daughter of Abdullah Ibrahim and Sathima Bea Benjamin) and Gavin Tennille -- reports are they are engaged or married. Underground beats, often recycling to the title refrain. More his raps than hers, but his sly offhand delivery has never been better framed. A-

Danny Green Trio Plus Strings: One Day It Will (2017 [2018], OA2): Pianist, "Danny Green (6)" at Discogs, they don't show much discography but I've heard four previous records. The strings are a conventional quartet. They're usually the kiss of death, but are just about right here, adding depth and resonance without getting in the way. B+(**) [cd]

Bill Hart Band: Live at Red Clay Theatre (2017 [2018], Blujazz): Guitarist, from Onbatio, has taught in Atlanta for 25 years, sixth album since 1999, leads a sextet with Alex McGinnis on sax, Pat Strawser on keyboards, plus bass, drums, and extra percussion. B [cd]

Eddie Henderson: Be Cool (2018, Smoke Sessions): Trumpet player, well into his 70s now with a discography starting in 1973, substantial although he's rarely claimed the spotlight. Starts here like hard bop still has some tricks to show -- group is a quintet with Donald Harrison (alto sax), Kenny Barron (piano), Essiet Essiet and Mike Clark -- but soon moves into ballad territory, which (especially with Barron) also shines. B+(***)

Fred Hersch Trio: Live in Europe (2017 [2018], Palmetto): Piano trio, Hersch has a lot of these since 1985, including eight on this label. This one was recorded in Belgium, with John Hébert (bass) and Eric McPherson (drums). Seems about par for the course, with two covers each from Monk and Shorter on the ends, originals in the middle. B+(**) [cd]

Hieroglyphic Being: The Red Notes (2018, Soul Jazz): Jamal Moss, from Chicago's acid house movement, long instrumental vamps with a touch of jazz in the air. B+(***)

Tyler Higgins: Blue Mood (2016 [2018], Shhpuma): Guitarist, long list of instruments here including lap steel and celesta, backed by Paul Stevens on drums and piano, with Ellen Higgins voice (not that I particularly noticed). Harsher than ambient, but shades in that direction. B+(*)

Amos Hoffman/Noam Lemish: Pardes (2017 [2018], self-released): Guitar/oud and piano, respectively, based in New York and Toronto but with Israeli roots, in a quartet backed by bass and drums, plus a couple of guest spots (notably the cut with Jacob Gorzhaltsan on clarinet). B+(*) [cd]

Dave Holland: Uncharted Territories (2018, Dare2, 2CD): British bassist, first album (Conference of the Birds, 1972) was a landmark of the 1970s avant-garde, but he edged into the postbop mainstream over the years, winning many polls for his quintet and big band efforts. In some ways he returns full circle here, in a quartet with Evan Parker (tenor sax), Craig Taborn (piano, keyboards, organ, electronics), and Ches Smith (percussion). Still, nothing hair-raising here, with Parker at his most measured. Second disc dials it back further, in case you want to enjoy the bassist. A- [cdr]

Hookworms: Microshift (2018, Domino): British group from Leeds, third album, leans pop in a prog-ish sort of way, not as hooky as their first (especially) or even their second. B+(*)

Hop Along: Bark Your Head Off, Dog (2018, Saddle Creek): Indie band from Philadelphia, third album, singer-songwriter Frances Quinlan is key, having started as a solo act (as Hop Along, Queen Ansleis), with brother Mark Quinlan drums and a couple others. A bit fancy, as the lyrics stretch around slightly off-kilter melodies. B+(*)

Jon Hopkins: Singularity (2018, Domino): English electronica producer, keyboards, bright and shiny, mostly with a good beat, or some gentle ambience, which works too. B+(***)

Hot Snakes: Jericho Sirens (2018, Sub Pop): From San Diego, post-hardcore group, three albums 2000-04, a live one in 2006, then they broke up, with John Reis moving on to Rocket From the Crypt. Reunited in 2011, but this is their first album from their second life. Dense grind, not something I ever want to hear again, but not bad for what it is. B

Kira Kira: Bright Force (2017 [2018], Libra): Part of Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii's record-a-month celebration of turning sixty, resoundingly answering my complaint about last month's entry by returning her piano to center stage -- at least I assume it's her, as the quartet includes a second keyboardist, Alister Spence, on "Fender electric piano, effects pedals and preparations" (actually, pretty easy to keep them straight). With Natsuki Tamura on trumpet (also inspired) and Ittetsu Takemura on drums. A- [cd]

Hayley Kiyoko: Expectations (2018, Empire/Atlantic): Singer-songwriter, dropped her last name (Alcroft), started out in a band called the Stunners before going solo, acts some, first album, electropop but more dream than glitz. B+(*)

Matt Lavelle/Lewis Porter/Hilliard Greene/Tom Cabrera: Matt Lavelle Quartet (2016 [2017], Unseen Rain): Trumpet player, also plays flugelhorn (natch) and alto and bass clarinets -- has a unique style on the latter. Backed by piano/bass/drums, freebop with the leader's Jekyll/Hyde horn shifts. Porter seems to want to split the distance between Kenny Barron and Oscar Peterson, and succeeds pretty niftily. B+(***) [bc]

Matt Lavelle's 12 Houses: End Times (2014 [2017], Unseen Rain): Larger group, I count 16 musicians including Lavelle (credits: cornet, flugelhorn, alto clarinet, conduction) -- not a big band formula, nor an orchestral arrangement, but a powerful array of solo voices erupting out of the matrix -- Anders Nillson (guitar) and Jack DeSalvo (banjo) make an early impression. "12 Houses," by the way, is an Ornette Coleman reference. B+(**) [bc]

Bettye LaVette: Things Have Changed (2018, Verve): Soul singer, cut an album for Motown in 1982, a second album in 1991, a third in 2000 in Europe where she finally started to find some traction. Did an album of Brit Rock songs in 2010 which seemed like a waste, but turned to Dylan here, much more impressively. Probably helps that she steers away from songs you recognize -- mostly from the '80s, I gather. Gives them more charge and depth than Dylan ever did. A

Azar Lawrence: Elementals (2018, High Note): Tenor saxophonist, from Los Angeles, I thought his 1974 debut Bridge Into the New Age was brilliant, but he only released one album between 1976 and 2008 before mounting a comeback that has bounced from label to label. With Benito Gonzales (keyboards), Jeff Littleton (bass), Marvin Smith (drums), Munyungo Jackson (percussion), and a few guest shots. B+(**)

Mike LeDonne and the Groover Quartet: From the Heart (2018, Savant): Organ player, quartet probably dates back to his 2009 album The Groover: Eric Alexander (tenor sax), Peter Bernstein (guitar), and Joe Farnsworth (drums), although Mike Clark drums on two cuts. Those are all marquee names, with the guitarist adding especially tasty licks, but to limited appeal. B+(*)

Bongwool Lee: My Singing Fingers (2016 [2018], Origin): Pianist, from Seoul, South Korea, based in New York, studied classical music before discovering Oscar Peterson. Trio, first album, all originals except for "Bye Bye Blackbird," nicely done. B+(**) [cd]

Igor Lumpert & Innertextures: Eleven (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): Tenor saxophonist from Yugoslavia (Slovenia), cut an album called Innertextures in 2004 and clearly likes the term. Mostly trio with Christopher Tordini (bass) and Kenny Grohowski (drums), plus occasional guests like Greg Ward and Jonathan Finlayson. B+(***)

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks: Sparkle Hard (2018, Matador): Former leader of Pavement (1992-99), seventh album since 2000, most citing his band. At his best, he made music so improbable that it redeemed his obviously inept voice, but decades of recording and touring have narrowed the gap. B+(*)

Ben Markley Quartet: Basic Economy (2017 [2018], OA2): Pianist, several albums including a tribute to Cedar Walton, Director of Jazz Studies at University of Wyoming but seems to be most active in/around Denver. Adds alto saxophonist Greg Osby to his trio. Haven't heard much from him lately, but he's stellar here. B+(**) [cd]

Walter Martin: Reminisce Bar & Grill (2018, Family Jukebox): Singer-songwriter, fourth album, perhaps better known as bassist for the Walkmen, a band I've never had any use for. Don't have much use for him either, although he's not nearly so annoying, and more songs like "Ride Down the Avenue" make me wonder. B

Deanne Matley: Because I Loved (2018, self-released): Singer, from Calgary, wrote four (of twelve) songs here. Band touches all the bases, including a string quartet, but stays nearly tucked into the background. Ranee Lee drops in for "Necessary Evil." B+(*) [cd]

Solon McDade: Murals (2017 [2018], self-released): Bassist, from Edmonton, started out in the McDade Family Band (folk music), later the McDades, moving on to study jazz at McGill in Montreal. First album as leader, composed all the pieces, played by a bright postbop quintet with two saxes, piano, and drums. B+(**) [cd]

MJO Brothers Present: Hip Devotions (2017, Blujazz): "Meditative jazz improvisations devoted to sacred and secular song titles." Three Hanrahans: Curt (saxes), Warren (drums), and Timothy (bass), plus guitar and vibes, with "chant recordings" by the Racine Dominicans. First half tunes are by names I recognize: McLaughlin, Shorter, Coltrane, Ellington. Second half not so much. Both have stretches that are very pretty. B [cd]

Lello Molinari: Lello's Italian Job Volume 2 (2018, Fata Morgana Music): Bassist, both acoustic and electric, teaches at Berklee, has a previous album from 1992, a Vol. 1 from 2015. Lots of Italian names in the band -- Dino Govoni (reeds), Marcello Pellitteri (drums), Sal DiFusco (guitar) -- but don't know anything about them. Mixed up nicely, adding a Meena Murthy (violincello) on a couple cuts. B+(**) [cd]

Janelle Monáe: Dirty Computer (2018, Bad Boy): Third album, continuing her evolution from dancing android to flesh and blood pop star, conscious enough to opine that "everything is sex, except sex is power." Her funk channels Prince rather than George Clinton and James Brown, so it slides off the one, aiming for something more slippery. A-

Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco: You're Driving Me Crazy (2018, Legacy): Morrison continues to release records faster than he can write new songs. The last couple, delving into blues standards (Roll With the Punches and Versatile), have been duds. Here he goes with a jazz group: Joey DeFrancesco (organ), Dan Wilson (guitar), Michael Ode (drums), and Troy Roberts (sax, which Morrison also plays). Half originals, from the jazzy side he has long cultivated; the better known standards (like "Miss Otis Regrets") bigger reaches. Not terrific. Still, his timing and phrasing shames such highly touted male jazz vocalists as Elling and Porter. B+(***)

Mount Eerie: Now Only (2018, PW Elverum & Sun): Phil Everum, has been making albums under this moniker since 2005, with this the second since his wife, Geneviève Castrée, died in 2016. I'm not unsympathetic, and I don't doubt that 2017's A Crow Looked at Me and now this album have something to say about the grieving process -- indeed, I can't even excuse myself by noting how poorly my ears pick up lyrics, as his music offers scant camouflage. But the words are nearly as haphazard as the bare guitar-and-voice music. So art, maybe, but nothing I look for in music. B+(*)

Kate Nash: Yesterday Was Forever (2018, Girl Gang): English singer-songwriter, also acts, which kept her busy the last five years, between albums three and four. This one seems more scattered, but all four are terrific. A-

Meshell Ndegeocello: Yesterday Was Forever (2018, Naïve): Singer-songwriter, originally Michelle Lynn Johnson, plays bass and other instruments, "sparked the neo soul movement," lately has feigned toward jazz -- e.g., with her 2012 Nina Simone tribute. Covers here: only one I got immediately was "Atomic Dog," but seems like all have been stretched out to make them more sinuous (if not necessarily sensual). B+(*)

Willie Nelson: Last Man Standing (2018, Legacy): New songs, working harder to prove he ain't dead yet than he has in quite some time. Gives him a new perspective on life. A-

Angelika Niescier Trio: The Berlin Concert (2017 [2018], Intakt): German saxophonist, alto mostly, discography dates back to 2000. Trio, with Christopher Tordini on bass and Tyshawn Sorey on drums. B+(***) [cd]

Nuance Crusaders: Reflections (2017, Blujazz): Compositions by Mark R. Baldridge, lyrics (not many) by Andrea Litzenberger, played by other musicians I've never heard of, split into two tiers -- a sax/piano/bass/drums quartet and extra guitar, sax, violin (OK, Diane Delin), and the Swing City Express Big Band. Group name some kind of oxymoron, not that I'm inspired to figure it out. B- [cd]

Orquesta Akokán: Orquesta Akokán (2018, Daptone): Afro-Cuban big band, "Akokán" a Yoruba word meaning "from the heart," recorded in Havana. B+(***)

Juan Andrés Ospina Big Band: Tramontana (2017 [2018], self-released): Colombian pianist, also in Banda Magda, with a sprawling international big band -- I count ten countries represented, 27 musicians. Plenty of Latin tinge, but not much more. B [cd]

Parquet Courts: Wide Awake! (2018, Rough Trade): Previously the most consistent Velvets-rooted alt/indie band in the land, here they try to mix things up to sometimes odd effect, not least by employing Dangermouse as producer. Still, half or more of the songs come through as loud and clear as anything this year. Not impossible that deeper exposure will tie up the rough edges. A-

Jeremy Pelt: Noir En Rouge: Live in Paris (2018, HighNote): Mainstream trumpet player, impressed early on with his chops, but I've rarely been impressed by his records. (NB: I've missed three well-received 2015-17 albums in the label drought.) With Victor Gould (piano), Vincente Archer (bass), Jonathan Barber (drums), and Jacquelene Acevedo (percussion). B+(**)

Matt Piet & His Disorganization: Rummage Out (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): Pianist, Chicago area, has a number of records since 2015 -- the one I noticed was a trio with Dave Rempis and Tim Daisy. This is a two-horn quartet with Josh Berman (cornet), Nick Mazzarella (alto sax), and Daisy (drums), with piano rumble filling in for the missing bass, as well as adding flourishes. B+(***)

Matt Piet/Raoul van der Weide/Frank Rosaly: Out of Step: Live in Amsterdam (2017, self-released): Avant piano trio, pianist and drummer from Chicago, bassist local. Improvised live, two pieces, intensely rhythmic. B+(***) [bc]

Matt Piet/Paul Giallorenzo: Wood, Wire, and Steel (2017, self-released): Two Chicago avant pianists, duets, both can work up a sweat, or wax elegant. B+(**) [bc]

Matt Piet & Tim Daisy: Strike One; Strike Two (2017, self-released): Piano-drums duets, two pieces (35:38), strikes hard. B+(***) [bc]

Matt Piet: The Bitter Angles of Our Nurture (2017, self-relesaed): Solo piano, one 40:32 piece. Strong performance, especially rhythmically. B+(**) [bc]

Prefuse 73: Sacrifices (2018, Lex): Electronica producer Scott Herren, bunch of albums 2001-11, but this is only second since. Gets catchier as it lumbers along. B

Princess Nokia: A Girl Cried Red (2018, Rough Trade, EP): New York rapper Destiny Nicole Frasqueri, first album turned some heads, but this set of eight tracks (20:14) is something else, with few raps and much singsong -- not so interesting, at least at first. B+(*)

Charlie Puth: Voicenotes (2018, Atlantic): Pop star, second album, strives to be soulful, claims to be danceable, sometimes is. B+(*)

Reggie Quinerly: Words to Love (2017 [2018], Redefinition Music): Drummer, from Houston, third album, piano trio (Orrin Evans) plus Jaleel Shaw on alto sax on 4/8 cuts, plus lyrics and voice -- either Milton Suggs or Melanie Charles, everyone reminding you they learned in church. B [cd]

Rival Consoles: Persona (2018, Erased Tapes): British electronica producer Ryan Lee West, fourth studio album plus bunches of EPs. Attractive beats and colors, a couple notches above ambient. B+(*)

Kristo Rodzevski: The Rabbit and the Fallen Sycamore (2017 [2018], Much Prefer): Singer-songwriter from Macedonia, based in New York, day job psychiatrist, also plays guitar, third album, gets classified as avant-garde jazz but sounds more like the Go-Betweens. The confusion is explained by the band: Mary Halvorson (guitar), Kris Davis (piano), Ingrid Laubrock (tenor sax), Brian Drye (trombone), Michael Blanco (bass), Tomas Fujiwara (drums and co-producer). OK, they're slumming playing such straightforward rock, except that's not all they do. B+(***) [cd]

Rolo Tomassi: Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It (2017 [2018], Holy Roar): British mathcore (progressive rock, hardcore punk, art punk, post-hardcore) band, singer Eva Spence and synth player James Spence the only constants since 2005. Not sure what the difference between this and death metal, say, except this is consistently listenable, not least because it regularly reverts to normal levels of volume and rage. Still, more of both than I generally care for. B+(***)

Saba: Bucket List Project (2016, Saba Pivot): Chicago rapper Tahj Malik Chandler, underground, nice flow, several pieces pivot back to bucket list concept. B+(**)

Samo Salamon/Tony Malaby/Roberto Dani: Traveling Moving Breathing (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): Slovenian guitarist, composer, produced, his name along on the spine, the three names in order on the cover. Not one of those albums where Malaby blows the lid off, but nice shadings and a few strong runs. B+(***) [cd]

Rob Schwimmer: Heart of Hearing (2018, Sunken Heights Music): Pianist, also plays Theremin and Haken Continuum (a variable pitch control surface, although software can split the space up into scales). Mostly solo, although there is a credit for Jay Anderson (bass) and Jeff Hirschfield (drums), and some voice. Some Chopin, and several "Hallucinations on Popular Songs." B- [cd]

Matthew Shipp: Zero (2018, ESP-Disk): Solo piano. Recognizable with his bold march through dense block chords, but doesn't do much to lively up the progression. Indeed, most song titles return to zero. B+(*)

Matthew Shipp Quartet: Sonic Fiction (2018, ESP-Disk): His regular piano trio -- Michael Bisio (bass) and Whit Dickey (drums) -- plus Polish saxophonist Mat Walerian (lto sax/bass clarinet/clarinet), whose led several recent albums with Shipp. Has some flair when they're all working together, but dull spots in between. B+(**)

Susana Santos Silva: All the Rivers: Live at Panteão Nacional (2016 [2018], Clean Feed): Portuguese trumpet player, prolific since 2013, solo here, also credited with tin whistle and bells, one 42:04 track, aiming at picking up resonance from the "marble acoustics and huge reverberation" of Santa Engrácia's Church in Lisbon. B+(**)

Edward Simon: Sorrows & Triumphs (2017 [2018], Sunnyside): Pianist from Venezuela, dozen or so albums since 1995. Terrific sax solo on the opener (David Binney), nice piano throughout, guests include Adam Rogers (guitar), Gretchen Parlato (vocals), and the Imani winds (flute, oboe, bassoon, clarinet, French horn), in declining order of interest. B+(*) [cd]

Sly & Robbie Meet Nils Petter Molvaer Feat. Eivind Aarset and Vladislav Delay: Nordub (2016 [2018], Okeh): Risks too many cooks, although reggae's premier rhythm section usually work within the borders of the Norwegian trumpeter's jazztronica -- the main difference being the extra resonance of acoustic drums. Aarset is Molvaer's usual guitarist, so I'm not sure why he gets billing while keyboardist/producer Jan Bang doesn't -- probably because Delay's electronics seek to square the circle. A-

Gary Smulyan: Alternative Contrafacts (2017 [2018], SteepleChase): Baritone saxophonist, broke in with Woody Herman in 1978, a dozen or so albums since 1991, often near the top of DownBeat's polls but I haven't heard much. Describes contrafacts as "a music making method that shares the chord progressions with other compositions" -- credits here include Mal Waldron, Jimmy Giuffre, Al Cohn, Ted Curson, Coleman Hawkins, one original. Trio with David Wong (bass) and Rodney Green (drums). Good showcase for his horn. B+(***)

Soccer Mommy: Clean (2018, Fat Possum): Sophie Allison, born in Switzerland but grew up in Nashville. First album after some DIY dating back to 2015. Acoustic guitar strum, tuneful, attractive, starts stronger than it ends. B+(**)

Soccer Mommy: Collection (2017, Fat Possum): Eight songs, 27:13, cheap keyboard and electric guitar on cover but her main instrument is acoustic guitar. One song recycled from her debut EP but time suggests it was recut and I'm not locating the others, so the suggestion that this is her label-signing DIY retrospective is unconfirmed. B+(*)

Sonar With David Torn: Vortex (2017 [2018], RareNoise): Swiss band (two guitars, electric bass, drums), handful of albums including two on Cuneiform and two on Nik Bärtsch's Ronin Rhythm Records (one with Markus Reuter). Classified math/art/prog rock, which doesn't mean much to me. This is instrumental with strong guitar riffing, probably the band's default but also guitarist Torn's preferred metier. B+(***) [cdr]

Speedy Ortiz: Twerp Verse (2018, Carpark): Band led by Sadie Dupuis, named after a comic book character, third album. Long on guitar, some attractive thrash, not much I can make sense of. B+(*)

Jon Rune Strøm Quintet: Fragments (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): Norwegian bassist, both acoustic and electric, leads a group with Thomas Johansson (trumpet), André Roligheten (tenor sax), Christian Meaas Svendsen (more bass), and Andreas Wildhagen (drums). Some strong ensemble work, plus bass duets. B+(**)

Hans Teuber & Jeff Johnson: Deuce (2017 [2018], Origin): Saxophone and bass duets, Teuber credited with tenor, alto, and alto flute. Couple standards, mostly joint compositions. Easy as these things go. B+(*) [cd]

Henry Threadgill: Double Up, Plays Double Up Plus (2017 [2018], Pi): Threadgill's Ensemble Double Up debuted in 2015, recording Old Locks and Irregular Verbs, the Jazz Critics Poll album of 2016. The idea was two alto saxes, two pianos, and two . . . well, one each: tuba, cello, drums. "Plus" adds a third piano -- unless the point is it takes two pianists (David Bryant and Luis Perdomo) to replace Jason Moran. Threadgill doesn't play (Curtis Macdonald and Roman Fíliu return on alto), but composed the tricky, slippery score. Not quite the tour de force of the previous album, but perhaps he was thinking ahead to his larger ensemble. A- [cd]

Henry Threadgill 14 or 15 Kestra: Agg: Dirt . . . and More Dirt (2017 [2018], Pi): Recorded over three days starting on the date of Double Up, the group expanded from 8 to 15, with composer Threadgill (alto sax, flutes) and producer Liberty Ellman (guitar) joining in, two trumpets, two trombones, bass, an extra drummer, but only two pianists (Davids Bryant and Virelles). Two pieces in multiple parts, alternately grand and fancy. Takes a while to sink in. A- [cd]

Tune-Yards: I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life (2018, 4AD): Singer-songwriter Merrill Garbus, with Nate Bronner on bass and co-credited on all tracks. Fourth album, the first three huge critical favorites, especially among Christgau's followers -- second album, Whokill, won the Pazz & Jop poll -- but this one doesn't seem to be anyone's fave (Metacritic score 79 on 31 reviews, so not ignored). Alfred Soto panned it as "for fans only." I've never been one, embracing neither the glitchiness nor the warble, but I can't say this is inferior to her other work. Well, perhaps less personable. B

Kali Uchis: Isolation (2018, Virgin EMI): Pop singer, born in Colombia but raised in Virginia, real name Karly Loaiza, her stage name seems to have been a childhood nickname. First album after a mixtape. Doesn't really fit under any of the assigned genres (hip hop, Latin, funk/soul; I've also seen bossa nova, reggaeton, and trip hop mentioned). Joe Levy tried "vintage and futuristic." Not especially glitzy, but it does grow on you, not like anything you'd expect, but still cozy comfortable. A-

Marike Van Dijk: The Stereography Project Feat. Jeff Taylor and Katell Keinig (2018, Hert/Membran): Dutch alto saxophonist, seems to be based in Brooklyn, released a previous record called The Stereography Project in 2015 so I adjusted the title here. Two sets of songs, the first five written and sung by Taylor, the remaining six by Keinig, all arranged by Van Dijk, with two distinct groups. Plodding, Rather arty. B [cd]

Vin Venezia: Fifth and Adams (2015-16 [2018], Blujazz): Guitarist, haven't found any bio or previous albums but a picture shows gray hair. Recorded over three sessions with varied casts, including a duo with guitarist Mike Stern, another with percussionist Manolo Badrena, but most with David Budway (piano/organ), Harvie S (bass), and Richie Morales (drums), plus Bob Magnuson (tenor sax) on the opener. B [cd]

WoodWired: In the Loop (2017 [2018], UT Arlington): Duo, Drs. Cheyenne Cruz (bass clarinet) and Hannah Leffler (flute), based in Dallas, the former teaches at UT Arlington, the latter graduated from and teaches at UNT. Don't see any other credits but their website notes "their groundbreaking use of live electronics in a chamber music setting" -- sounds like drums to me, plus the occasional bird tweet. The two instruments sound good together, and the extra rhythm helps. B+(**) [cd]

Wussy: Getting Better (2018, Damnably, EP): Talk about stopgap efforts: four songs, all covers, 13:35, the title song from the Beatles, striking me first as a nobel gesture despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, then ultimately as bitter irony. Don't know the other songs: "Runaway," "Nomenclature," "Retarded." B+(*)

Wussy: What Heaven Is Like (2018, Shake It): The Cincinnati group's shoegaze album: lots of jangly guitar drowning out the two vocalists, who elsewhere usually have something to say. Not that I have any complaints about the guitars. B+(***)

The Xcerts: Hold on to Your Heart (2018, Raygun): Scottish power pop trio, Murray Macleod the singer-guitarist, a bit over the top for my taste but not exactly lacking in chops and/or impression. B

Darryl Yokley's Sound Reformation: Pictures at an African Exhibition (2018, Truth Revolution): Tenor saxophonist, also plays some alto, from Los Angeles but based in Philadelphia, played in Captain Black Big Band. Second album, with Zaccai Curtis (piano), Luques Curtis (bass), and Wayne Smith Jr. (drums), with Nasheet Waits (drums) listed as "special guest." Draws inspiration from painter David Emmanuel Noel, also from Mussorgsky. Sounds like there are more horns than the credits show. I was losing track and interest, but the sax storm in "Genocide March" shook me. B [bc]

Young Fathers: Cocoa Sugar (2018, Ninja Tune): Scottish trio, two black (one born in Liberia, the other second generation from Nigeria). I initially filed them as hip-hop, but they sing more than rap. I never warmed to their two previous albums or two earlier mixtapes, but this is pretty solid all around and not much like anything else. A-

YoungBoy Never Broke Again: Until Death Call My Name (2018, Never Broke Again/Atlantic): Rapper Kevin Gaulden, from Baton Rouge, age 18, first album after a stack of mixtapes starting April 2015. Still, nothing here suggests teen rap. B+(**)

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Eliane Elias: Music From Man of La Mancha (1995 [2018], Concord): Brazilian pianist, started singing mid-career but sticks with piano here, backed by Marc Johnson (bass) and Satoshi Takeshi (drums) or Eddie Gomez (bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums), with Manolo Badrena (percussion) on 8/9 tracks. The music is from the 1964 musical rendition of the Don Quixote story -- not all that familiar, but she gives it a strong ride. B+(*)

William Parker: Voices Fall From the Sky (1993-2018 [2018], AUM Fidelity, 3CD): Legendary bassist, has composed hundreds of pieces since 1971 (the earliest date here), occasionally songs with lyrics like his 1991-93 Song Cycle, which provides the earliest songs here. Results have been decidedly mixed -- by far my favorite is the Raining on the Moon group with Leena Conquest. The old recordings on CD-2 suggest a compilation, but nearly everything else has been recorded over 2017 sessions (lapping into January 2018), so the set is much more new than not. Parker uses various musicians and no less than 17 vocalists -- some I recognize from past efforts or from their own notable jazz careers (like Fay Victor), but many I don't. It would take me many hours to sort this all out, but the main thing I'm struck by in two passes is how much of it I never want to hear again: operatic sopranos, arch art-song, avant-warbling. Doesn't all grate, but enough does to make me want to move on. B [cd]

Liz Phair: The Girly Sound Tapes (1991 [2018], Matador, 3CD): Phair recorded as Girly-Sound three cassettes of solo demos -- just guitar and voice -- a couple years before her career took off in 1993 with the instant classic Exile in Guyville. There's a 25th Anniversary box, Girly-Sound to Guyville available cheap ($22) as 3-CD or expensive ($100) as 7-LP which combines the album with the demos, but streaming sources have this alternative: just the demos -- eleven recut for Exile in Guyville, more that trickled out on later albums. I played these in two long stretches, finding the first stretch compelling, still fresh and striking after a quarter century, the second a bit less so. [Amazon prices above; Matador's own store has cheaper prices, except that the demo-only The Girly Sound Tapes MP3 costs more than the 3-CD Girly Sound to Guyville. Caveat emptor.] B+(***)

Liz Phair: Girly-Sound to Guyville: The 25th Anniversary Boxset (1991-93 [2018], Matador, 3CD): Classic album on first disc, demo cassettes crammed into two more, and actually cheaper on CD than MP3. A-

Otis Redding: Dock of the Bay Sessions (1967 [2018], Rhino): Dead in a plane crash at age 26, four of his first five albums (1964-66) went top-10 r&b, but peaked at 54 on the pop charts, with his Carla Thomas duets (King & Queen) and his Live in Europe (both 1967) doing only slightly better. He cut many singles, but 21 and 25 were his highest places. Then, after his death, "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay" hit number one, the album number four. More posthumous releases -- four through 1970, and a half dozen live albums -- trickled out. The Dock of the Bay album was thrown together to cash in on the single, mostly collecting singles dating back to 1965. This recapitulates the hit in the context of contemporary recordings -- I haven't seen any dates, so I don't know how tight the window is, but there isn't any patter or false starts: all twelve songs are in finished form, making this effectively a sampler of Redding posthumous albums: The Immortal Otis Redding (5 cuts), Love Man (3), and Remember Me (2). B+(***)

Old Music

Tommy Flanagan: Giant Steps: In Memory of John Coltrane (1982, Enja): Piano trio, with George Mraz (bass) and Al Foster (drums), playing six Coltrane tunes, starting with the infections "Mr. P.C." Slows down a bit for "Naima" but then ends on a rousing "Giant Steps." A-

Bettye LaVette: Tell Me a Lie (1982, Motown): Born in Michigan, raised in Detroit, cut a single in 1962 when she was 16, a few more over the decade, an album for Atco in 1972 that got shelved, and a decade later this one-shot. Huge voice, already sounds dated -- a plus on the soul ballads, if not the disco. B+(**)

Bettye LaVette: Child of the Seventies (1962-73 [2006], Rhino Handmade): "The Complete Atlantic/Atco Recordings": her previously unreleased 1972 Muscle Shoals album, two 1972 singles plus an unreleased one from December 1973, topped off with four tracks from 1962 singles, back when she was 16. The lost album is no great shakes, but not really because the singer came up short -- the Muscle Shoals crew is a little loose. The early singles aren't unforgettable, but they deserve notice. B+(*)

Bettye LaVette: I've Got My Own Hell to Raise (2005, Anti-): Her breakthrough album was A Woman Like Me, released on a small label in 2003. That got her a contract with a notable indie rock label, one with scant experience in r&b but willing to let her do her thing. B+(**)

Bettye LaVette: Worthy (2015, Cherry Red): Everything she sings sounds like a struggle, and most of the time she overcomes. B+(**)

Otis Redding: The Immortal Otis Redding (1967 [1968], Atco): Second posthumous album, short (30:01), eleven songs from three weeks of sessions just weeks before his death -- but only five on the new Dock of the Bay Sessions -- starting with the magnificent "I've Got Dreams to Remember" and ending with "Amen." Not sure why they sound so much better here. A-

Otis Redding: Tell the Truth (1967 [1970], Atco): Fourth posthumous album, following Love Man. "Demonstration" shows they haven't hit the bottom of the barrel yet, but the fact that they didn't bother with a fifth one until 1992 suggests they were beginning to harbor doubts. Still, some terrific stuff here. Who else has ever been able to credibly cover James Brown and Little Richard? B+(***)

Otis Redding: Remember Me: 22 Previously Unissued Tracks (1962-67 [1992], Stax): No dates on these tracks, but Redding joined Stax in 1962 and died in 1967 and several compilations I have dates for reflect that. Redding's leftovers got combed through pretty thoroughly after his death, so you might not expect much here. The last eight cuts are alternate versions, including two takes of "The Dock of the Bay," but the first fourteen would make a remarkable album -- indeed, they've been released separately as It's Not Just Sentimental. B+(***)

Gary Smulyan Quartet: Homage (1991 [1993], Criss Cross): Baritone saxophonist, probably his second album (after the Quintet The Lure of Beauty), album notes "featuring Tommy Flanagan" (piano), but also notable are Ray Drummond (bass) and Kenny Washington (drums). The rhythm section is right at home playing eight songs written by the homage subject, fellow baritonist Pepper Adams. B+(***)

Gary Smulyan: The Real Deal (2002 [2003], Reservoir): Mainstream quintet, two originals by the baritone saxophonist and a batch of standards and jazz covers, with Joe Magnarelli (trumpet/flugelhorn), Mike LeDonne (piano), Dennis Irwin (bass), and Kenny Washington (drums). B+(*)

Notes

Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:

  • [cd] based on physical cd
  • [cdr] based on an advance or promo cd or cdr
  • [bc] available at bandcamp.com