Monday, January 7, 2019


Music Week

Music: current count 30913 [30874] rated (+39), 260 [251] unrated (+9).

The 13th Annual Jazz Critics Poll results were published by NPR early Saturday morning, with two pieces by Francis Davis:

  • The 2018 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll: Top 50 new albums (blurbs by various authors on top ten), five additional blurbs on "Solitary No. 1s" (records that only received one vote, a 1st place, including one I wrote on The Music of Anders Garstedt), and one blurb and top ten (or less) standings for the other categories: Reissues/Historical, Debuts, Latin, Vocals.
  • Wayne Shorter Travels the Spaceways, with Davis's own year summary plus his own annotated ballot.

As has been the case since 2009, I tabulated all of the ballots and formatted them and complete totals here. Since I posted all that, I've had to update the files a few times. Most troubling were cases where I counted votes for the wrong record by an artist (one of the Esperanza Spalding votes should have been for her 2017 album; two of the Mingus votes should have gone to Live in Montreux 1975. Other problems were routine typos, but all (so far) have been easy to fix.

Bigger problem is that I never got copied on Richard Scheinin's ballot, so it didn't get counted. Still unresolved what to do about that, but I took the trouble to dig his top-25 list out of his Twitter feed and added it into my EOY Aggregate. I've also added the entire new and historical album lists, but thus far I haven't dipped into the individual ballots. I've started to pick up individual ballots from All About Jazz writers (only a few of whom voted in JCP), and before long I'll take a look at the JJA member lists (which I wasn't able to find until today). I'm also doing some mop-up on rock/pop lists, but I'm starting to skip lists of little/no interest (chiefly metal). Don't know how long I'll keep this up, as the EOY list season is basically done, and the 223 lists I currently have logged give a pretty fair picture, at least in rock/pop, hip-hop, and (somewhat less) electronica.

While most of the records below are 2018 releases I've noted on lists and am belatedly checking out, two of the new A- albums are 2019 releases (and another by Quinsin Nachoff will show up in next week's report). I'm also treating Eric Dolphy's Musical Prophet as a 2019 release: physical CDs don't hit the market until Jan. 26, although a digital release came out Nov. 23, and enough critics heard and voted for it to finish 3rd in JCP -- alas, not me, not that it would have cracked my ballot (even if I didn't follow my recent rule of only voting for historical records I have physical copies of).

So the only new A- this week from the 2018 lists turns out to be Spiritualized, which at 49 was the highest-rated album I hadn't heard yet. I once loved their 1997 album, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, but last time I checkec them out the record got a B-. Wound up playing the new one three times. Next few EOY Aggregate records I haven't heard don't seem more promising: Julia Holter, Iceage, Kurt Vile, Deafheaven, Anna Calvi, Cat Power, Drake, Troye Sivan, Ghost, Lump, MGMT, Daughters, Florence + the Machine, Jorja Smith, Elvis Costello, First Aid Kit. I'll probably play a few of those before end of January.

Among the top 50 JCP albums, I've managed to hear 47. The exceptions are numbers 50 (Elio Villafranca), 48 (Noah Preminger/Frank Carlberg), and 1 (Wayne Shorter). None of those are available on Napster or Bandcamp, nor do I recall any download offers. Shorter's Emanon is a 3-CD live set with a hard-cover graphic novel costing $53.82 on CD and $156.38 on vinyl. Not sure how well this was serviced -- I don't even get email from Blue Note these days, which hasn't been a problem given that everything else they release is available on Napster, and since they decided to bet on hip-hop fusion they haven't released much that's worth hearing. (This year: two ***, from Rosanne Cash and Charles Lloyd/Lucinda Williams; two **, from Kenny Barron and Dave McMurray; five *: Ambrose Akinmusire, Terence Blanchard, Nels Cline, GoGo Penguin, José James; five B or worse.)

On the other hand, I've only heard 5 of the top-ten historical, with Dolphy's Musical Prophet the only physical (too late). Francis Davis remarked to me that the new albums list seemed to be governed by "more is better": 3-CD Shorter (and Sorey); 2-CDs from Akinmusire, Coleman, Halvorson, Salvant, Washington, plus separates that could have been joined by Threadgill and Thumbscrew (we counted the former separately, but merged the latter), plus 6-CD monsters from Okazaki and Kimbrough -- all in the top-20. But the real home of gigantism is the historical list, where the top 8 were all 2-CD or more, topped by the 21-CD The Art Ensemble of Chicago and Associated Ensembles and the 11-CD Sextet Parker 1993. (I had naively assumed that the latter was just a repackaging of Braxton's brilliant Charlie Parker Project 1993, so didn't bother investigating further, but the full digital is available on Bandcamp. I should take a close look at the site and see what else is accessible.

I've been tempted to revisit several albums after seeing how they placed in various lists. The only one with a regrade so far is Tierra Whack's 15-minute EP Whack World. When Christgau placed it in his top-10, I thought it might overcome my prejudice against EPs. Even without the video, it feels remarkably full. I also gave Mitski's Be the Cowboy (last week's Christgau A-, number 2 in my EOY Aggregate) another chance, but didn't for a moment feel like moving my grade above B. I'm usually a sucker for a well-crafted pop album, but there are several this year that do precious little for me (Robyn, Ariana Grande; I like Sophie a bit more, but a recent retry didn't help it). Right now re-listening to Joshua Redman's Still Dreaming (number 2 for Francis Davis), which will probably get a small bump.

Just finished reading Suzy Hansen's Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World, which winds up with a thoroughly damning critique of US foreign policy, not least because it pains her so much to admit to it all. But the cinch for her seems to have been returning to the US (Brooklyn, Mississippi) and seeing first-hand how the imperialist bile rots the nation from the inside. At a more detail level, she illustrates without coming to any real conclusions the ambivalences she feels about Kemal and Erdogan and their respective cults with their peculiar ways of both dovetailing with and rebelling against American hegemony.


New records rated this week:

  • 6lack: East Atlanta Love Letter (2018, LoveRenaissance/Interscope): [r]: B+(***)
  • Christopher Ali Solidarity Quartet: To Those Who Walked Before Us (2018, Jazz Och Solidaritet): [r]: B+(**)
  • Atmosphere: Mi Vida Local (2018, Rhymesayers Entertainment): [r]: B+(**)
  • Baco Exu Do Blues: Bluesman (2018, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Blue Standard: A Good Thing (2018 [2019], Big Time): [cd]: B
  • Benjamin Boone/Philip Levine: The Poetry of Jazz: Volume Two (2012-18 [2019], Origin): [cd]: A-
  • Sheldon Brown Group: Blood of the Air (2018, Edgetone): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The Coathangers: Live (2018, Suicide Squeeze): [r]: B+(**)
  • CupcakKe: Eden (2018, self-released): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kris Davis/Matt Mitchell/Aruán Ortiz/Matthew Shipp: New American Songbooks: Volume 2 (2018, Sound American): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Dos Santos: Logos (2018, International Anthem): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dave Douglas Quintet: Brazen Heart: Live at Jazz Standard: Saturday (2015 [2018], Greenleaf Music, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Fire!: The Hands (2018, Rune Grammofon): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tim Hecker: Konoyo (2018, Kranky): [r]: B
  • Carlos Henriquez: Dizzy Con Clave: Live From Dizzy's Club Coca Cola (2018, RodBros Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Here's to Us: Animals, Wild and Tame (2018, Hoob Jazz): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rolf Kühn: Yellow + Blue (2018, Edel/MPS): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jon Lundbom Big Five Chord: Harder on the Outside (2018 [2019], Hot Cup): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Mad Crush: Mad Crush (2018, Upon This Rock, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Adrianne Lenker: Abysskiss (2018, Saddle Creek): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jack Mouse Group: Intimate Adversary (2017 [2019], Tall Grass): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Grant Peeples & the Peeples Republik: Settling Scores Vol. II (2018, Gatorbone): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rae Sremmurd: SR3MM (2018, Ear Drummer/Interscope, 3CD): [r]: B
  • Rejoicer: Energy Dreams (2018, ,Stones Throw): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Jay Rock: Redemption (2018, Top Dawg/Interscope): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jeff Rosenstock: Post- (2018, Polyvinyl): [r]: B+(*)
  • Greg Saunier/Mary Halvorson/Ron Miles: New American Songbooks Volume 1 (2017, Sound American): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Boz Scaggs: Out of the Blues (2018, Concord): [r]: B+(*)
  • Serengeti: Dennis 6e (2018, People): [r]: B+(**)
  • Spiritualized: And Nothing Hurt (2018, Fat Possum): [r]: A-
  • Stephan Thelen: Fractal Guitar (2015-18 [2019], Moonjune): [cd]: A-
  • Martin Wind: Light Blue (2017 [2018], Laika): [r]: B-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions (1963 [2019], Resonance, 3CD)
  • Svein Finnerud Trio: Plastic Sun (1970 [2018], Odin): [r]: B+(*)

Old music rated this week:

  • Chicago Farmer: Midwest Side Stories (2016, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Eric Dolphy: In Europe Vol. 1 (1961 [1990], Prestige/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Eric Dolphy: In Europe, Vol. 2 (1961 [2006], Prestige/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Eric Dolphy: In Europe/Volume 3 (1961 [1990], Prestige/OJC): [r]; B+(***)
  • Eric Dolphy: Conversations (1963, FM/Vee Jay): [r]: B+(***)
  • Eric Dolphy: Iron Man (1963 [1990], West Wind): [r]: B+(***)


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Tierra Whack: Whack World (2018, self-released, EP): [r]: [was: B+(***)] A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ran Blake/Clare Ritter: Eclipse Orange (Zoning): February 15
  • Itamar Borochov: Blue Nights (Laborie Jazz): February 1
  • Samantha Boshnack's Seismic Belt: Live in Santa Monica (Orenda): March 15
  • Sheldon Brown Group: Blood of the Air (Edgetone)
  • Chuck Deardorf: Perception (Origin): January 18
  • Joe Fiedler: Open Sesame (Multiphonics Music): February 25.
  • Miho Hazama: Dancer in Nowhere (Sunnyside): February 8
  • Christoph Irniger Pilgrim: Crosswinds (Intakt): January 18
  • Michael Kocour: East of the Sun (OA2): January 18
  • Dave Meder: Passage (Outside In Music): February 8
  • Quinsin Nachoff's Flux: Path of Totality (Whirlwind): February 8
  • May Okita: Art of Life (Origin): January 18
  • Jamie Saft/Steve Swallow/Bobby Previte: You Don't Know the Life (RareNoise): cdr, January 25
  • Wing Walker Orchestra: Hazel (Ears & Eyes): February 15