Friday, December 28, 2018


Streamnotes (December, 2018)

Was listening to new things at a pretty good clip until a mysterious health problem brought me to a dead stop a week ago. Feeling a wee bit better today, which makes this a good time to kick out what I have for the month, before it and the year are over. When estimating record counts for the year, it's best to take January 31 as the demarcation between years. So, for instance, I currently have 934 2018-released records graded, so it would be reasonable to estimate that I'll get to 1019 before I freeze my 2018 list. That seems like a bunch, but last year's frozen list had 1145 records (including a few ungraded), so I'm actually running about 13% down from 2017.

Not much more to say at this time, except to link to the still evolving Jazz and Non-Jazz lists, with 59 and 51 A-list new albums, respectively. Been working more on jazz than non-jazz this month, hence the 8-4 A-list edge below (also 3-1 in recent reissues/compilations/archival music).


Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on November 30. Past reviews and more information are available here (12270 records).


Recent Releases

Tom Abbs & Frequency Response: Hawthorne (2018, Engine Studios): Bassist, originally from Seattle, released three albums from this group 2003-09, which is when these tapes were conceived (though not finished until recently). Two more original members: Brian Settles (tenor sax) and Chad Taylor (drums), with violinist Jean Cook (replacing cellist Okkyung Lee -- Abbs also plays cello, tuba, and piano), and guests. The string mix is the first thing you notice, but the most fun comes with the tuba bubbling away in the background. B+(***)

Albatre: The Fall of the Damned (2018, Shhpuma): Portuguese-German trio, based in Amsterdam, best known is bassist Gonçalo Almeida (also credited with keyboards and electronics), with Hugo Costa (alto sax & effects) and Philipp Ernsting (drums). Third album, some jazz effects but core sound is closer to metal. B

Anguish: Anguish (2018, RareNoise): Eponymous first group album, recorded in Germany, the likely home of the rhythm section: Hans Joachim Irmler (synths), Mike Mare (guitar), Andreas Werliin (drums). Adding further dimensions are Mike Brooks (Dälek rapper) and Mats Gustafsson (tenor sax/live electronics). B+(**) [cdr]

Lotte Anker/Pat Thomas/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Ståle Liavik Solberg: His Flight's at Ten (2016 [2018], Iluso): Avant sax quartet, pianist Thomas making the biggest splash. B+(**) [bc]

Lynne Arriale Trio: Give Us These Days (2017 [2018], Challenge): Pianist, close to 20 records since 1994, most of them trios, this one recorded in Belgium with Jasper Somsen (bass) and Jasper Van Hulten (drums). Three covers: Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock," Lennon-McCartney's "Let It Be," and a Tom Waits song sung by "special guest" Kate McGarry. B+(*)

Bob Baldori/Arthur Migliazza: The Boogie Kings: Disturbing the Peace (2018, Blujazz/Spirit): Bluesy harmonica and old-time boogie piano on song titles starting with "Shake That Boogie," "Yancey Stomp," "Boogie Stomp," "Boogie Woogie Man," and winding up with "Rockin' Pneumonia" and "Mojo." Fun. B+(*) [cd]

Andrew Barker/Daniel Carter: Polyhedron (2017 [2018], Astral Spirits): Duets, drums and whatever horn Carter feels like at the time (alto/tenor/soprano saxophones, clarinet, trumpet, flute -- to varying effect). B+(**) [bc]

Jon Batiste: Hollywood Africans (2018, Verve): Pianist from New Orleans, best known these days as bandleader for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, has a few scattered albums since 2005, claims his roots here, starting with an original piano boogie, followed by cautious vocals on "What a Wonderful World" and "St. James Infirmary Blues. Gains some confidence as a singer later on, closing with a haunting, string-fortified "Don't Stop." B+(*)

Beak>: >>> (2018, Temporary Residence): Bristol, England trio, third album in a series of putatively greater titles, rock instrumentation (plus strings on two tracks), drawing on electronica models, with weak, prog-ish vocals on maybe half of the tunes. B+(*)

Eraldo Bernocchi: Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It (2018, RareNoise): Italian, 15 or so albums since 1997, solo credits here read: guitars, treated guitars, electronics. I file him under jazz, but this is closer to electronica, with its spacious ambient tableaux. B+(*) [cdr]

The Beths: Future Me Hates Me (2018, Carpark): Indie pop band from Auckland, New Zealand, nominally a guitar-guitar-bass trio although they also have a drummer, all three sing but mostly you hear Elizabeth Stokes. B+(*)

Samuel Blaser: Early in the Mornin' (2017 [2018], Out Note): Trombonist, has recorded regularly since 2009, usually in avant circles. Does half trad. pieces here, with a core quartet -- Russ Lossing (piano/keyboards), Masa Kamaguchi (bass), and Gerry Hemingway (drums) -- with three guest shots: Oliver Lake (alto sax) on the title cut opener, Wallace Roney (trumpet) on another, both on a third. They sparkle, but not so much without them. B+(*)

Kadhja Bonet: Childqueen (2018, Fat Possum): Singer-songwriter, grew up in California, first album after a couple EPs. Plays many instruments, starting with violin. Father worked in opera. Some of that comes through here. B-

Boygenius: Boygenius (2018, Matador, EP): Six-song debut EP for a group with three moderately famous singer-songwriters: Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers. B

Bobby Bradford/Hafez Modirzadeh: Live at the Blue Whale (2017 [2018], NoBusiness): Actually a quartet, with Roberto Miranda on bass and Vijay Anderson on drums, recalling the cornet player's justly famous c. 1975 two-horn quartet with John Carter. Modirzadeh, who was born in North Carolina and teaches at San Francisco State, plays soprano sax, karna and khaen (whatever they are). B+(***) [cdr]

Brockhampton: Iridescence (2018, RCA): Hip-hop collective, formed in Texas but based in Los Angeles, best-known member Kevin Abstract, released three Saturation albums in 2017, followed by this. B+(**)

Sam Broverman: A Jewish Boy's Christmas (2018, Brovermusic): Mathematics professor, sometime Singer-songwriter from Winnipeg, wrote five of ten songs here, picking up Tom Lehrer's "Hannukkah in Santa Monica," picking on straighter Christmas songs from Sammy Cahn, Jule Style, Mel Tormé, and trad., and latching onto a Tom Waits song simply because it has "Christmas" in the title ("Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis"). Aims for humor, and mostly delivers. Whitney Ross-Harris helps with the vocals. B [cd]

Butcher Brown: Camden Session (2018, Gearbox): British jazz-funk group, keyboardist DJ Harrison probably the main guy, with Marcus Tenney on sax and trumpet, Morgan Burrs on guitar, plus electric bass and drums. Vinyl length: 6 cuts, 30:52. I like the trumpet. B+(*)

Carla Campopiano Trio: Chicago/Buenos Aires Connections (2018, self-released): Flute player, from Argentina, studied jazz in Chicago but retains a strong tango influence here (including two Piazzola pieces). B [cd]

Dustin Carlson: Air Ceremony (2017 [2018], Out of Your Head): Guitarist, has a previous "limited edition cassette" that runs 27:08, so you might consider that an EP and this a debut. Septet: two saxes, trumpet, plus a rhythm section I recognize -- Matt Mitchell (Prophet 6, an analog synth), Adam Hopkins (bass), and Kate Gentile (drums). Postbop, most impressive when they venture out. B+(**) [cd]

Guillermo Celano/Joachim Badenhorst/Marcos Baggiani: Lili & Marleen (2016 [2018], Clean Feed): Guitar/clarinet (bass clarinet/tenor sax)/drums trio, recorded in Amsterdam -- home base for Celano and Baggiani, both from Argentina (Badenhorst is Belgian). B+(**)

Christine and the Queens: Chris (2018, Because Music): French pop singer-songwriter Héloïse Letissier, second official album although with all the EPs and various packaging and delayed release dates in (e.g.) the US market seems like more. Band was named for the drag queens in her retinue. Meanwhile she's looking more masculine, and shortening her name to match. Not sure what I can tell by ear. Digital has both an English and a French version of the album. I can't follow the French very well, but am just as happy with it that way. B+(**)

Zack Clarke: Mesophase (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): Pianist, from Houston, based in New York, second album, also credited with electronics. With Charlotte Greve (sax, clarinet, flute), cello, bass, and percussion/waterphone/shakuhacki (Leonid Galaganov). B+(*)

Coyote Poets of the Universe: Strange Lullaby (2018, Square Shaped, 2CD): Country-ish group from Denver, sixth album since 2003, a big one even if you discount a half-dozen striking covers -- the haunting "Wayfaring Stranger" is probably my favorite, the maudlin "Long Black Veil" took the longest to sink in. Singer Melissa Gates has a few Janis Joplin moments, still mesmerizing when she doesn't. The male singer (Andy O or Gary Hoover) is less striking, but poets need to get their words in. A- [cd]

Francesco Cusa & the Assassins Meets Duccio Bertini: Black Poker (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): Drummer, from Italy, discography goes back to 1997, group name has been used for several quartets, here: Giulio Stermieri (organ/piano), Flavio Zanuttini (trumpet/electronics), Giovanni Benvenuti (tenor sax). Bertini plays keyboards on one cut, and does some arranging, involving Florence Art Quartet (2 violin, viola, cello). B+(*)

Maria Da Rocha: Beetroot & Other Stories (2018, Shhpuma): Portuguese, plays violin and synths, viola on one track. Solo. Sort of a drone/noise thing, but surprisingly relaxing for that. B+(**)

Marie Davidson: Working Class Woman (2018, Ninja Tune): French-Canadian electronica, fourth album, also part of darkwave duo Essaie Pas. She talks her way through this -- I can't really follow it all, can't even assure you it's all in English, but "Work It" could be a hit, and even when she goes dark she offers more edge than gloom. A-

Drone Trio [Evelyn Davis/Fred Frith/Phillip Greenlief]: Lantskap Logic (2013 [2018], Clean Feed): Pipe organ, electric guitar, alto/tenor sax, but all are hard to differentiate, subsumed as they are in the drone concept, which comes, lingers a while, and passes. B+(*)

Dystil: Dystil (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): New York trio: Bryan Qu (alto sax), Quincy Mayes (piano, objects), Mark Ballyk (percussion, voice, objects); first album, few side-credits. Sonic mix interesting, could do without the voice (not much, just at the end). On the short side: 11 cuts, 29:23. B+(*)

Jake Ehrenreich With the Roger Kellaway Trio: A Treasury of Jewish Christmas Songs: A Cool Tribute to the Jewish Songwriters (2017 [2018], self-released): Played so straight they could play this at the mall and you'd never notice anything out of the ordinary, except perhaps that this doesn't turn into a public annoyance. Credit Kellaway for avoiding jingoism, Ehrenreich for avoiding melodrama, and the songwriters for avoiding sanctimony or any conspicuous reference to Christianity. B+(*) [cd]

El Eco With Guillermo Nojechowicz: Puerto de Buenos Aires 1933 (2017, Zoho): Argentinian drummer, studied in Boston and New York, draws inspiration from passport photos from when his grandparents immigrated, creating his own melting pot ensemble, with Helio Alves (piano), Fernando Huergo (bass), Kim Nazarian (vocals), Brian Lynch (trumpet), Marco Pignataro (tenor/soprano sax), and strings arranged by Nando Michelin. B+(*)

Orrin Evans and the Captain Black Big Band: Presence (2018, Smoke Sessions): Pianist from Philadelphia, third big band album since 2011. Lineup is a little light -- three each saxes, trumpets, and trombones -- but they get a big sound, even with a distinct piano bias. Still, not much sticks. B

Peter Evans/Agustí Fernandez/Barry Guy: Free Radicals at DOM (2017 [2018], Fundacja Sluchaj): Trumpet/piano/bass, recorded in Moscow, free improv, no drummer to march things along but not really needed here. B+(**) [bc]

Lupe Fiasco: Drogas Light (2017, 1st & 15): Rapper Wasalu Muhammad Jaco, from Chicago, sixth album, early work impressed -- Lasers was my favorite, although it was widely panned. Sixth album, first piece of a proposed trilogy. Not sure what the concept is, or whether it matters. B+(**)

Lupe Fiasco: Drogas Wave (2018, 1st & 15): Second part, still scattered but gives you more to think about. Much more. A-

Adam Forkelid: Reminiscence (2017 [2018], Moserobie): Swedish pianist, first side credit seems to be 1999, only other record I can find under his name came out in 2005, so this trio, with Georg Riedel and Jon Fält named on the cover below the title, isn't a debut, but it is a remarkable breakthrough. I've never been much of a piano jazz fan, so I'm surprised when one feels so right -- reminds me of early Chick Corea with his Spanish tinge, although Bobo Stenson is probably closer to home. A- [cd]

Satoko Fujii/Joe Fonda: Mizu (2018, Long Song): Somehow never got this among the pianist's record-per-month 60th birthday celebration (although I did get Triad, on the same label with the addition of Gianni Mimmo). Piano-bass duets, not their first encounter. B+(***) [bc]

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo: Kikoeru: Tribute to Masaya Kimura (2018, Libra): Kimura was a saxophonist in the Tokyo big band, who died in 2017. This winds up Fujii's "Kanreki" -- one record each month in 2018, marking the pianist-composer's 60th birthday -- with a bang: no piano, but spectacular horn solos and interplay, with some words leading into the climax. A- [cd]

Fernando Garcia: Guasábara Puerto Rico (2017 [2018], Zoho): Drummer, Puerto Rican, group with tenor sax (Jan Kus), piano, guitar, bass, and extra percussion, plus a guest on the 9:35 title piece: alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón. B+(*)

Vinny Golia/Henry Kaiser/Ra Kalam Bob Moses/Damon Smith/Weasel Walter: Astral Plane Crash (2018, Balance Point Acoustics): Several sources file this under guitarist Kaiser, but Golia (kawala [Egyptian flute], sopranino/soprano/baritone saxophones, saxello, Bb clarinet, piccolo) is first-named on both front and back covers. With two percussionists and Smith on "amplified double bass." Two long pieces (44:16 + 35:29), lots of scratch and wail. B+(**)

The Goon Sax: We're Not Talking (2018, Wichita): Second-generation Go-Betweens, three singer-songwriters (only one a direct descendant), Riley Jones making a big difference on this sophomore album. Also the production, which fleshes out guitar-bass-drums with violin-viola-trumpet. A-

Guillermo Gregorio/Rafal Mazur/Ramón López Trio: Wandering the Sounds (2018, Fundacja Sluchaj): Clarinet, acoustic bass guitar, and drums, recorded on Mazur's home turf of Poland. Actually not sure where "THE" on cover belongs, but the label leans this way. Also unclear on record date (9 calendar days before release, but in what year?). At 75 (more or less), the Argentinian-born clarinetist has rarely sounded more agile. B+(***) [bc]

Barry Guy: Barry Guy @ 70: Blue Horizon: Live at Ad Libitum (2017 [2018], Fundacja Sluchaj, 3CD): British bassist, founder of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra, a major avant-jazz figure, but one I've had a tough time warming to: the only A- record I have listed for him is a trio with Marilyn Crispell and Paul Lytton (Phases of the Night), who play the middle of three hour-long sets at this extended birthday bash. This one is also superb, plus it's bracketed by two duos that are every bit as dazzling: the opener with pianist Agustí Fernandez, and a closer with bassist Joëlle Léandre. Not everyday music, but fits the occasion. A- [bc]

Hamar Trio: Yesterday Is Here (2016 [2018], Clean Feed): Norwegian reeds player Klaus Ellerhusen Holm (clarinet/alto sax), with an improv set in Portugal with Hernâni Faustino (bass) and Nuno Morão (drums). B+(***)

Eric Harland: 13th Floor (2018, 13th Floor): Drummer, many side credits since c. 2000, two previous albums attributed to Voyager, basically the same group here: Walter Smith III (tenor sax), Taylor Eigsti (piano), Julian Lage and/or Nir Felder (guitar), Harish Raghavan (bass). Postbop, sometimes fancy, mostly bright and cheery. B+(*)

Stefon Harris + Blackout: Sonic Creed (2017 [2018], Motéma): Vibraphone-marimba player, major label debut in 1998, group name dates from 2004. All soft edges here, a couple of neo-soul vocals, little of interest. B-

Marquis Hill: Modern Flows Vol. 2 (2018, Black Unlimited Music Group): Mainstream trumpet player, from Chicago, based in New York, Vol. 1 was a 2014 EP. This one has Josh Johnson on alto sax, Joel Ross on vibraphone, plus bass and drums, and various vocal guests, both singers and rappers. B

John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble: All Can Work (2017 [2018], New Amsterdam): Drummer, main vehicle since 2004 has been the Claudia Quintet but this is his third Large Ensemble album. Close to standard horn count, but reeds favor clarinet and flute, with vibraphone/marimba for soft sparkle, and Theo Bleckman's voice gliding through it all. B [bc]

Lonnie Holley: MITH (2018, Jagjaguwar): From Alabama, performance artist, best known for his sculptures, recorded his first album at 62, this his third. This is odd and off-putting at first, but through sheer persistence finds its groove. B

François Houle/Alexander Hawkins/Harris Eisenstadt: You Have Options (2016 [2018], Songlines): Clarinet-piano-drums piano, two Canadians and a Brit, all write, plus choice covers of Charles Ives, Steve Lacy, and Andrew Hill. B+(***)

Ingrid Jensen/Steve Treseler: Invisible Sounds: For Kenny Wheeler (2018, Whirlwind): Wheeler was Canadian, moved to England in 1952, played more flugelhorn than trumpet, often appeared in avant-garde outfits but his own records (especially at ECM) were pretty mild-mannered. Jensen (trumpet) and Tresler (tenor sax) are also Canadians, studied with him, lead a quintet with Geoffrey Keezer (piano) here playing his songs with great vigor. B+(***)

Park Jiha: Communion (2016 [2018], Tak:til): South Korean, plays piri (double reed bamboo flute), saenghwang (mouth organ), and yanggeum (hammered dulcimer), joined by Kim Oki (tenor sax and bass clarinet), John Bell (vibraphone), and Kang Tekhyun (percussion). Mostly pleasant exotica, sometimes haunting, can even push your buttons. B+(**)

JLin: Autobiography [Music From Wayne McGregor's Autobiography] (2018, Planet Mu): Third album from Gary, IN electronica producer Jerrilynn Patton, meant as a soundtrack but holds up nicely on its own. B+(***)

Phillip Johnston: The Adventures of Prince Achmed (2013 [2018], Asynchronous): Saxophonist (soprano here), born in Chicago, grew up in New York, but based in Sydney, Australia since 2005. Best known as co-leader of the Microscopic Septet (since 1983), involved in a number of other projects plus a handful of albums under his own name, starting with Music for Films in 1998. This is another soundtrack project, with trombone, two organ/keyb players, and drums. Lays the organ on pretty thick, but the trombone helps. B+(*) [bc]

Phillip Johnston & the Coolerators: Diggin' Bones (2017 [2018], Asynchronous): Australian group led by the American expat saxophonist (alto/soprano), "funky organ combo jazz with modernist jazz composition" -- Alister Spence (organ), Lloyd Swanton (bass, producer, from the Necks), and Nic Cecire (drums). B+(***) [bc]

Khruangbin: Con Todo El Mundo (2018, Dead Oceans): Guitar-bass-drums trio from Houston, their name a Thai word meaning "flying engine" -- bassist Laura Lee was learning Thai at the time, and their first album was heavily influenced by Thai music -- don't have much use for words although there are some, partly buried in the mix. This one has more Latin tinge. B+(*)

Quin Kirchner: The Other Side of Time (2018, Astral Spirits): Drummer, based in Chicago, first album, also credited with kalimba, sampler, synthesizer. With bass (Matt Ulery), three horns -- Jason Stein (bass clarinet), Nate Lepine (tenor sax), Nick Broste (trombone) -- piano on one cut. B+(***) [bc]

Knalpot: Dierendag (2017 [2018], Shhpuma): Dutch instrumental group, principally Gerri Jäger (drums) and Raphael Vanoli (guitar), both also synth and electronics, with "sounddesign" by producer Sandor Caron. B+(*)

Kirk Knuffke/Steven Herring: Witness (2017 [2018], SteepleChase): Cornet player, paired with "New York's up and coming operatic baritone singer," backed by Ben Goldberg (clarinte, contra alto clarinet) and Russ Lossing (piano). The trad. gospel pieces are most impressive, but Rossini, Puccini, and Verdi remain opera, even if Mancini isn't. B

Martin Küchen/Rafal Mazur: Baza (2017 [2018], NoBusiness): Sax-bass duo, more specifically alto/soprano sax and acoustic bass guitar. Talented musicians with distinctive sounds, but no guarantee that every chance encounter will turn magical. B+(*) [cdr]

Andrew Lamb Trio: The Casbah of Love (2018, Birdwatcher): Saxophonist (tenor/alto/clarinet/flute), with Tom Abbs (bass, cello, didgeridoo, violin, tuba) and Ryan Jewell (drums). Aims for something spiritual. Achievement is subtler. B+(**)

Leikeli47: Wash & Set (2017, Hardcover/RCA): Brooklyn rapper, first album, wears a ski mask, doesn't have a Wikipedia page or any bio I'm aware of. B+(***)

Leikeli47: Acrylic (2018, Hardcover/RCA): Second album, pushes the envelope musically -- nay, more like shreds it, which doesn't mean it always works, even close, leaving the masked woman more opaque than ever. B+(**)

Lotic: Power (2018, Tri Angle): Electronica producer J'Kerian Morgan, originally from Texas, based in Berlin. Name seems to mean "inhabiting or situated in rapidly moving fresh water." Second album. Has a gaudy ring to it, not unlike the contorted cover. B

Low: Double Negative (2018, Sub Pop): Trio from Duluth, Minnesota, basically invented slowcore starting in 1994, 12th album. Always seemed like a neat idea, but I've usually found their records unbearable. This seems likely their best received ever: I suspect because the electronics have taken over and confounded and camouflaged their usual depression. B+(*)

Jessica Lurie: Long Haul (2017, Chant): Alto saxophonist, record produced by bassist Todd Sickafoose, with Brian Marsella (piano), Mike Gamble (guitar), Allison Miller (drums), and "special guest" Naomi Siegel (trombone). Fast and slippery, falls down on occasion. B+(**)

Roberto Magris: World Gardens (2015 [2018], JMood): Pianist, from Trieste in Italy, based in US, with 15+ records since 1982. Quartet, with bass, drums, and extra percussion, about half originals although the standards more often stand out. B+(***) [cd]

Masta Ace & Marco Polo: A Breukelen Story (2018, Fat Beats): Rapper Duval Clear, past 50 now, which moves him from gangsta to old school, teamed up with beats producer Marco Bruno, tells the story of someone moving from Toronto to New York to break into hip-hop (roughly speaking, much Bruno's story), although the music easily tops the story. B+(***) [bc]

Master Oogway: The Concert Koan (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): Norwegian fusion quartet, named for a character in Kung Fu Panda, guitarist Håvard Nordberg Funderud more often than not gets the top hand over saxophonist Lauritz Lyster Skeidsvoll. B+(**)

Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet: Polka (2018, Whirlwind): Polish bassist, Quintet dates to 2011 although he has earlier records back to 2008. This one refers back to a 2014 album: not sure if it's a reissue, a remix, or a revision -- this is presented as "Worldwide Deluxe Edition," and there's also a Polka Live and a Polka Remixed. "Polka" is a song, not the genre here. The music is intricate, layered, meditative, measured, often quite lovely. A-

Peter McEachern Trio: Bone-Code (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): Trombonist, first album I can find under his name but he has side-credits going back to 1979, mostly with Thomas Chapin and/or Mario Pavone -- the bassist here, along with Michael Sarin on drums. I've long had a soft spot for trombone, but this is an exceptional trio. A-

Father John Misty: God's Favorite Customer (2018, Sub Pop): Singer-songwriter Josh Tillman, recorded as J. Tillman 2003-10, joined Fleet Foxes for their 2011 album, now has four albums under this moniker. About par for the course. Closing title: "We're Only People (and There's Not Much Anyone Can Do About That)." B

Liudas Mockünas: Hydro 2 (2017 [2018], NoBusiness): Soprano saxophonist, working solo but also credited with percussion, Hydro reflecting his use of "water-prepared" saxophones. B+(*) [cd]

François Moutin & Kavita Shah Duo: Interplay (2018, Dot Time): French bassist and American vocalist. I don't think he's ever had his name first on an album before, but he's co-led various groups with his brother Louis Moutin, as well as playing in high-profile piano trios with Martial Solal and Jean-Michel Pilc. She has a remarkable resume, including classical piano from age 5, membership in the Young People's Chorus of New York City, a major in Latin American studies at Harvard, fieldwork in Brazil, work for Human Rights Watch, and a chance meeting with Sheila Jordan which steered her toward a Master's in Jazz Voice from Manhattan School of Music. Two guests, two cuts each: Solal and Jordan. B+(***)

Música De Selvagem: Volume Único (2017 [2018], Shhpuma, EP): Brazilian quintet, name translates as Music of Savages, with two saxes, trumpet/euphonium, bass and drums -- vocal not credited. Four cuts, 27:44. B+(*)

Simon Nabatov/Barry Guy/Gerry Hemingway: Luminous (2015 [2018], NoBusiness): Piano-bass-drums trio: Nabatov a Russian who moved to Germany in 1989, has more than two dozen albums; the others, better known for longer -- perhaps the edge that lifts this above his many other fine performances. A- [cd]

Rico Nasty: Nasty (2018, Sugar Trap): Rapper Maria-Cecilia Simone Kelly, several mixtapes, this something of a breakthrough. B+(**)

Fredrik Nordström: Needs (2018, Clean Feed): Swedish saxophonist (tenor/baritone), organized this as a double quartet, inspired by Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz, with trombone (Mats Åleklint), bass, and drums on the left channel, Fredrik Ljungkvist (clarinet/tenor sax), Niklas Barnö (trumpet), bass and drums on the right. Gets the spirit and much of the effect, but not always. B+(***)

Now Vs Now: The Buffering Cocoon (2018, Jazzland): Group name comes from an album pianist Jason Lindner released in 2009 (Gives You Now Vs Now, with bassist Panagiotis Andreou the only other continuity. Third face on their website is probably drummer Justin Tyson, although there are a few other credits -- notably vocalists, although they tend to get in the way of what otherwise is a pretty decent (albeit cheesy) groove record. B

Miles Okazaki: Work: The Complete Compositions of Thelonious Monk, Volumes 1-6 (2018, self-released): Guitarist, from Port Townsend, Washington; based in New York. Four previous albums, so this one more than doubles his catalog, rendering all 70 Monk compositions as solo guitar. B+(***)

Onyx Collective: Lower East Suite Part Three (2018, Big Dada): New York group, "de facto leader" Isaiah Barr (alto/tenor sax, with Roy Nathanson playing alto on 4/10 tracks). First two parts were released as EPs (8 tracks each, but short ones: 19:03 and 22:28; this one runs 37:54). Not a big collective -- just drums and a bass or two, so mostly a sax album: a bit brooding at first, but snaps to. B+(***)

Onyx Collective: Lower East Suite Part One (2017, Big Dada, EP): Not seeing credits here, but basic sax-bass-drums, possible doubles, several pieces named for the streets they were recorded on, only one piece longer than 2:39. Starts with spoken word over sax vamps, but loses that after two tracks. Hit and miss after that. B+(*)

Onyx Collective: Lower East Suite Part Two (2017, Big Dada, EP): A little longer with four tracks topping 3:00, and a bit less focused, too, but has some strong sax moments. B+(*)

Caterina Palazzi/Sudoku Killer: Asperger (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): Double bassist, from Italy, released a quartet album in 2010 called Sudoku Killer, kept that name for two more albums with Giacomo Ancillotto (guitar) and Maurizio Chiavaro (drums), using various saxophonists (two here: Silvio Pomante on 4 cuts, Antonio Raia on the other). I've seen this called noise jazz. There's an element of that, as well as an interest in rock-hard riffs. B+(***)

Barre Phillips: End to End (2017 [2018], ECM): Bassist, born in San Francisco, moved to New York in 1962, then to Europe in 1967, since which he's mostly been associated with European musicians. Tenth album for ECM, starting with Music for Two Basses (1971, with Dave Holland), but his previous one came out in 2006. This is solo bass, inevitably slow and ponderous, but quite lovely in its own way. B+(***)

Chris Pitsiokos/Susana Santos Silva/Torbjörn Zetterberg: Child of Illusion (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): Two clashing horns -- alto sax and trumpet -- with bass in the middle, not as effective an arbiter as drums are. B+(*)

Antonio Raia: Asylum (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): Tenor saxophonist, from Naples, evidently his first album, solo, raw but gets something going. B+(**)

Mattias Risberg: Stamps (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): Pianist, from Sweden (I think), has a previous duo album (with Fredrik Ljungkvist, a tribute to Carla Bley). Solo piano, sometimes prepared, augmented with a pedal-operated Moog Taurus -- an analogue bass synthesizer. B+(*)

Rosalía: El Mal Querer (2018, Sony Music): Spanish flamenco singer, goes by first name, rest Villa Tobella. Rhythm helps. Melodrama doesn't. B

Jacob Sacks: Fishes (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): Pianist, originally from Michigan, studied in New York and is based there, has a couple of previous records, more side credits including the lead role in drummer Dan Weiss' trio. Strong group here with two lead saxophonists (Ellery Eskelin and Tony Malaby), Michael Formanek (bass), and Weiss. The promised joust never really pans out, but everyone gets their spots. B+(**)

Akira Sakata & Chikamorachi With Masahiko Satoh: Proton Pump (2015 [2018], Family Vineyard): Japanese alto saxophonist, from Hiroshima, born 1945, so less than six months old when the bomb hit. Traind as a marine biologists, but started recording in 1975, a major avant-jazz figure in Japan. Chikamorachi is his rhythm section: Darin Gray and Chris Corsano. Satoh is another eminence, a pianist, four years older. Four pieces with science jargon for titles, but otherwise pretty unruly. Sakata's vocal is even rougher than his sax. B+(***)

Akira Sakata/Simon Nabatov/Takashi Seo/Darren Moore: Not Seeing Is a Flower (2017 [2018], Leo): A live set in Japan, Sakata credited with alto sax, clarinet, vocals, percussion. With piano, bass, and drums. Typical free thrash, piano quite strong. B+(**)

Bobby Sanabria Manhattan Big Band: West Side Story: Reimagined (2017 [2018], Jazzheads, 2CD): Drummer-led big band, extra flute/piccolo, electric violin, lots of extra Latin percussion, background vocals and handclaps. Leonard Bernstein's score was never a favorite, so not much peeks through, but as Afro-Cuban big band this sounds pretty generic. B

Scheen Jazzorchester/Eyolf Dale: Commuter Report (2018, Losen): From Norway, thirteen-piece big band, horn sections each one short of a full big band, compositions by pianist Dale (also on harpsichord and celeste), the only other oddity is an accordion. Still leans toward classical in orchestration and temperament. B+(*)

John Scofield: Combo 66 (2018, Verve): Guitarist, amusing to see him listed as "jazz funk" as he basically invented the stuff, a guitar-centric evolution from soul jazz well beyond Wes Montgomery. This is his basic quartet: Gerald Clayton (piano, organ), Vicente Archer (bass), Bill Stewart (drums). Nothing fast or fancy or foolish, just stays very true to himself. B+(**)

Travis Scott: Astroworld (2018, Epic/Grand Hustle): Rapper, Jacques Webster, from Houston, third album. B+(**)

Lauren Sevian: Bliss (2018, Posi-Tone): Baritone saxophonist, bio starts off "Grammy award winning" but not clear on what for. Second album, quintet with Alexa Tarantino on alto sax, Robert Rodriguez (piano), Christian McBride (bass), and E.J. Strickland (drums). B+(**)

Josh Sinton's Predicate Trio: Making Bones, Taking Draughts, Bearing Unstable Millstones Pridefully, Idiotically, Prosaically (2018, Iluso): Mostly plays bass clarinet, here also baritone sax, not much under his own name but he's distinguished himself in a number of groups, like Ideal Bread. With Christopher Hoffman (cello) and Ton Rainey (drums). B+(**) [bc]

Sleep: The Sciences (2018, Third Man): Doom metal power trio from San Jose, started in the early 1990s as Asbestos Death, third album in 2003 (Dopesmoker) credited as stoner rock. This is their first album in 15 years, and the most broadly acclaimed metal album of the year. Indeed, I find myself enjoying the dense, rather flat din, although I still find much of it impenetrable. B+(*)

SLUGish Ensemble: An Eight Out of Nine (2018, SLUGish): Name derived from Steven Lugerner, who plays bass clarinet, baritone sax, Bb clarinet, flute, and alto flute, leading a ten-piece group. Fairly fancy postbop. B+(**) [bc]

Martial Solal: My One and Only Love: Live at Theater Gutersloh (2017 [2018], Intuition): French pianist, possibly the first major jazz figure to emerge from France in the 1950s -- Duke Ellington noted when Solal debuted in the US, "he sparkles with refreshment." Ninety now, playing a solo concert in Germany -- he apologizes for his German and proceeds to narrate in English -- mostly standards (including an Ellington medley). B+(***)

Luciana Souza: The Book of Longing (2018, Sunnyside): Brazilian singer-songwriter, more than a dozen albums since 1999, a couple of titles calling out poets (Elizabeth Bishop, Pablo Neruda), three volumes of Duos -- a fondness for sparse settings for sometimes poignant words. Backed by guitar (Chico Pinheiro) and/or bass (Scott Colley), finds a sad place and tries to find beauty in it. B+(**)

Subtle Degrees: A Dance That Empties (2017 [2018], New Amsterdam): Duo: Travis Laplante (tenor sax) and Gerald Cleaver (drums). Three parts or variations on a common title, with circular breathing turning the sax into a constant rhythm machine. B+(***) [bc]

Earl Sweatshirt: Some Rap Songs (2018, Columbia/Tan Cressida, EP): Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, born in Chicago, raised in Los Angeles, mother a professor of law at UCLA, father (most often absent) a South African poet. No real songs, just fifteen fragments, longest 2:45, only one other topping 2:00, total 24:39. B

Thollem/DuRoche/Stjames Trio: Live in Our Time (2015 [2018], ESP-Disk): Avant piano-bass-drums trio, names on cover a bit mangled, so: Thollem McDonas (piano), Tim DuRoche (drums), Andre St. James (bass). B+(*)

Tirzah: Devotion (2018, Domino): British singer, first album, sort of a low energy, lo-fi approach to r&b, often over minimal backdrops. Could be on to something. B+(**)

Trio HLK: Standard Time (2018, Ubuntu Music): British trio, first album: Richard Harrold (piano), Ant Law (8-string guitar), and Richard Kass (drums), all pieces composed by the pianist, with guest shots up front, three each for Steve Lehman (alto sax) and Evelyn Glennie (vibraphone/marimba). On 2-LP that probably breaks up into more coherent sides, but here comes off as two or three different records. Guitar instead of bass gives them two instruments that can lead and comp, and they push that hard -- also the extra bass strings. Lehman isn't tempted to take over, but he offers his usual brilliance. B+(***) [bc]

Trondheim Jazz Orchestra & Ole Morten Vågan: Happy Endings (2018, Odin): Norwegian jazz orchestra, formed in 1999, twenty-some albums since 2004, almost all tied to a guest star (like bassist Vågan). Seems to have 12 musicians plus voice (Sofia Jernberg), light on brass (trumpet, tromjbone, three reeds) but has violin-cello-bass, synth, two drummers. Has some moments that really threaten to take off. B+(**)

Yves Tumor: Safe in the Hands of Love (2018, Warp): Sean Bowie, born and raised in Tennessee, fled at 17 for California, met Mykki Blanco there, toured with her in Europe and stuck there, currently in Turin. Cites Throbbing Gristle as a major influence -- a legendary group but not one I've ever gotten into, probably because they're too heavy-handed. He is too, but his third album has several charms, like when he lets up a bit and crafts a nice beat. B

Turbamulta: Turbamulta (2018, Clean Feed): Portuguese quintet, translates as "rowdy mob," but nothing mob-like in this group's tinkly avant-chamber music. B

Chucho Valdés: Jazz Batá 2 (2018, Mack Avenue): Outstanding Cuban pianist, cut his first Jazz Batá album in 1972, so this has been a long time coming. He typically plays in a quartet with bass, drums, and congas, replacing the latter here with Dreiser Darruthy Bombale on batá drums -- a mark of the Yoruba vein in Afro-Cuban jazz. I can't say the batá make much difference, but violinist Regina Carter does. B+(***)

Voicehandler: Light From Another Light (2017 [2018], Humbler): Duo -- Jacob Felix Heule (drums) and Danishta Rivero (voice & electronics) -- with at least one previous album. Hard to tell how much voice is involved, as it's heavily treated, effectively electronic. B+(*) [cd]

Walking Distance: Freebird by Walking Distance feat. Jason Moran (2018, Sunnyside): New York quartet -- Caleb Curtis (alto sax + trumpet one cut), Kenny Pexton (tenor sax + clarinet two), Adam Cole (bass + Mellotron one), Shawn Baltzor (drums) -- plus the pianist on 6/12 tracks. Play bebop, one eye firmly attached to Charlie Parker, the other wanders a bit. Maybe not far enough for freebop. B+(***)

The Way Ahead: Bells, Ghosts and Other Saints (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): Albert Ayler tribute band, recorded in Norway, mixed in Sweden: André Roligheten (tenor sax/clarinet), Kristoffer Alberts (alto/baritone sax), Niklas Barnö (trumpet), Mats Äleklint (trombone), Mattias Ståhl (vibraphone), Ola Høyer (bass), Tollef Østvang (drums). B+(*)

Ben Wendel: The Seasons (2018, Motéma): Saxophonist, from Vancouver, BC, based in New York, named twelve songs as months, each dedicated to an "artist who has shaped Wendel's creative vision," but also having something to do with Tchaikovsky. Quintet, with Aaron Parks (piano), Gilad Hekselman (guitar),Matt Brewer (bass), and Eric Harland (drums), with Wendel playing bassoom on four tracks. B+(*)

Mars Williams: Mars Williams Presents an Ayler Xmas (2017, Soul What): Three medleys, like one that sandwiches Albert Ayler's "Spirits" between "O Tannenbaum" and "12 Days of Christmas" -- songs similar to the hymns that inspired Ayler. The saxophonist-leader is up to the concept, and is ably backed up by six other Chicago freethinkers. B+(***) [bc]

Mars Williams: Mars Williams Presents an Ayler Xmas: Volume 2 (2018, Soul What): More, with three cuts (including a full reprise of the central medley from the first volume) recorded with an expanded Witches & Devils band live at Chicago's Hungry Brain, plus two tracks from Vienna with a local group. B+(**) [bc]

Aida Bird Wolfe: Birdie (2018, self-released): Jazz singer, more into vocalese (but doesn't scat) than cabaret, drawing on Jon Hendricks lyrics to Monk and Davis, Joni Mitchell to Mingus. Closes strong, turning the corner on "Valerie," getting crucial sax help on "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," and finally convincing me with "Every Time I Sing the Blues." B+(***) [cd]

Yoko Yamaoka: Diary 2005-2015: Yuko Yamaoka Plays the Music of Satoko Fujii (2018, Libra, 2CD): Japanese pianist, studied at New England Conservatory but recorded this in Tokyo -- don't know of anything else she's recorded. The "Diary" is a book of compositions Fujii regularly adds to, so for Fujii this is a chance to hear another pianist sift through years of work. Solo, less explosive, exposing a solid musical framework beneath the composer's improvisation. B+(**) [cd]

Flavio Zanuttini Opacipapa: Born Baby Born (2018, Clean Feed): Two-horn trio, Zanuttini on trumpet, Piero Bittolo Bon on alto sax, with Marco D'Orlando on drums, nothing in between to mediate or harmonize. Mostly free, with a bit of swing as the horns stand out. A-

Z-Country Paradise: Live in Lisbon (2017 [2018], Leo): Mostly German group, released an eponymous album in 2015, reprise six (of seven) songs here, plus one new one. With Frank Gratkowski (alto sax/bass clarinet), Kalle Kalima (guitar), Oliver Potratz (electric bass), Christian Marien (drums), plus Jelena Kuljic singing/speaking lyrics from poets Charles Simic and Arthur Rimbaud. A-

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Marion Brown/Dave Burrell: Live at the Black Musicians' Conference, 1981 (1981 [2018], NoBusiness): Duets, alto sax and piano. Starts with two Brown originals, then packs three from Burrell between two Billy Strayhorn pieces, ending with a gorgeous "Lush Life." A- [cd]

John Coltrane: 1963: New Directions (1963 [2018], Impulse!, 3CD): Also available on 5-LP. Short of spending an hour or more tracking down the discography, this looks like a reissue of most of Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album, which came out earlier this year, expanded to pick up master takes from the year's other Coltrane albums, including his session with Johnny Hartman and live shots at Newport and Birdland. The Hartman never amounted to much -- Coltrane was so laid back you barely noticed him, and the singer's pristine baritone will never be taken for soul -- but everywhere else, well, even in an era when everyone tries to sound like Coltrane, you can still identify the real thing. Especially on the third disc, with the live cuts. But you do already own Coltrane Live at Birdland, don't you? B+(***)

Detail [Johnny Mbizo Dyani/Frode Gjerstad/Evin One Pedersen/John Stevens]: Detail at Club 7 (1982 [2017], Not Two): Free jazz group -- bass, soprano/tenor sax/bass clarinet, piano/synth, drums -- formed in 1982, continued after Dyani's death in 1986 up to about 1994. This previously unreleased live set was recorded a month before their First Detail album (as it was called when reissued in 2015). B+(***)

Joan Jett: Bad Reputation [Music From the Original Motion Picture] (1976-2016 [2018], Legacy): Various artists, but thirteen tracks attributed to Jett (10 "& the Blackhearts"), two earlier cuts from her earlier teenaged tenure with The Runaways, two more tracks from Bikini Kill (1992, with Jett) and FEA (2016, on Jett's label). Seems to me like Fit to Be Tied (1997) is still a better best-of, but the longer spread here might be a plus. Digital adds a live "Smells Like Teen Spirit" -- was tempted to dock it for that, but I guess not. A-

L7: Fast and Frightening (1990-98 [2016], Easy Action, 2CD): A favorite band in the early 1990s, closed shop in 2000 only to regroup in 2015, then released this odds and sods collection -- covers, odd single sides, contributions to various artist sets, plus a second disc with two live sets (1990 live in Chicago, 1992 radio shot from Brisbane, Australia). I find myself first inspired, then amused, and ultimately exhausted and a bit miffed. B+(**)

L7: Wireless (1992 [2016], Easy Action): A fairly short live shot in Australia about the time of their breakthrough Bricks Are Heavy, part of Fast and Frightening but available separately [looks like the 2-CD was broken up into three digital releases]. Some of their hits, played rough, but tight. B+(***)

Howard Riley: Live in the USA (1976 [2018], NoBusiness): British pianist, a founding figure in the British avant-garde, although less known now than many of the musicians he started playing with in the late 1960s -- Evan Parker, Barry Guy, Tony Oxley, John McLaughlin. Big Penguin Guide favorite, including a crown for 1970's The Day Will Come. That and Angle (1969) are on my A-list, but I've heard little else by him -- chiefly his fine career-spanning 5-CD box, Constant Change 1976-2016 -- but this selection of four longish solo pieces from stops in Buffalo and New York City is dazzling all the way through. A [cd]

Wadada Leo Smith/Sabu Toyozumi: Burning Meditation (1994 [2018], NoBusiness): Trumpet and drums duo, a joint improv set recorded in Yamaguchi, Japan, part of the label's Chap Chap Series (not sure if these are reissues). More recently Smith has emerged as a major composer. This is a reminder of how sharp he could be in an improv setting. A- [cd]

Soul of a Nation: Jazz Is the Teacher/Funk Is the Preacher (1969-75 [2018], Soul Jazz): Second volume in what could develop into a long series, the first subtitled Afro-Centric Visions in the Age of Black Power, which led off promising "the roots of rap 1968-79." This one offers another Gil Scott-Heron spoken word piece ("Whitey on the Moon"), but otherwise focuses more on funk grooves, the best known from Funkadelic, others more obscure, some played by avant-jazz musicians but after social music rather than abstract art. [11/14 tracks] B+(***)

Cecil Taylor: Poschiavo (1999 [2018], Black Sun): Solo piano, one 54:39 improv, recorded in Switzerland at Uncool Festival. Rumbles much, roars on occasion. B+(***)

Old Music

Boneshaker: Unusual Words (2012 [2014], Soul What): Avant-sax trio from Chicago: Mars Williams (reeds/toy instruments), Paal Nilssen-Love (drums), Kent Kessler (bass), second group record after their 2012 debut. B+(***)

John Coltrane: Newport '63 (1963 [1993], Impulse!): A three-track quartet set (41:17) as advertised, with Roy Haynes on drums, plus a 15:25 "Chasin' Another Trane" from the Vanguard back in 1962 (with Eric Dolphy, Reggie Workman, and Haynes). A-

Billie Holiday: Songs for Distingué Lovers (1956 [1958], Verve): Her final recordings for Verve, a week in Los Angeles that got sliced up into three albums: this, Body and Soul, and All or Nothing At All (also the title of the 1995 2-CD compilation that put he sessions back together again). Six songs, all classics: sure, her voice sounds a little off, but still unique. Meanwhile, the orchestra -- with Harry Edison, Ben Webster, Jimmy Rowles, Barney Kessel, bass and drums -- could hardly be improved on. A-

L7: Slap-Happy (1999, Bong Load): Last album before their break-up. Still rockin' hard, not quite all of the time. B+(**)

Barre Phillips: For All It Is (1973, Japo): Bassist, second album with just his name, actually a quartet of bassists -- with Barry Guy, J.F. Jenny-Clarke, and Palle Danielsson -- plus Stu Martin on percussion. B+(**)

Barre Phillips: Journal Violone 9 (2001, Émouvance): Solo bass, continues a series begun in 1969, followed up in 1979 -- despite the title, this appears to be his third. B+(*)

Terry Pollard: Terry Pollard (1955, Bethlehem): Detroit pianist, also played vibraphone (but not here), cut two 10-inch LPs before "retiring" to her family, the first split with Clark Terry as Cats vs Chicks: A Jazz Battle of the Sexes (note that cover makes them both out as white). Eight cuts, with bass and drums, six with guitar (Howard Roberts), four with trumpet (Don Fagerquist). Fine bebop, especially when everyone gets going. [Reissued 2018 along with 10 additional cuts as A Detroit Jazz Legend (Fresh Sound).] B+(***)

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