Monday, March 11, 2019


Music Week

Music: current count 31246 [31207] rated (+39), 252 [257] unrated (-5).

Surprised the rated count is so high, as the week went by in a daze -- often literally, as the latest correction for my failing eyesight disorts my rectangular view of the world into a slightly tilted trapezoid. I feel lucky not to have fallen down, but have had numerous mishaps where I reach for something (say, an elevator button) and miss. Not sure whether I should go back and complain, or count my blessings that details have gotten a lot sharper. Still, one bummer is that the eyes and/or glasses have contributed to a reading slump.

Also, I had a moment of terror mid-week, when my computer screen went black. Problem seems to be a relatively new LG monitor lost power, but I haven't fully checked that out. I swapped in an older Samsung monitor, which worked, but isn't quite a sharp. I went out and bought a new HP 25-inch monitor, but don't have it plugged in yet. I've had a plan for some time now to rearrange my work area, so this disruption complicated things -- and in my dazed mental state slowed me down even further. I keep letting little things get in the way. For instance, I decided that it would be better to cut a hole in the side of the desk to route wires through, then couldn't find my hole saws. After spending a couple days looking everywhere, I broke down and bought a new set -- but haven't gotten around to using them yet. I seriously intend to do so after I get this posted.

One thing the new arrangement will let me do is use two computers again. I'll use the second computer for some much procrastinated website development. One thing I need to do for the Christgau and other websites is convert the character set from ISO-8859-1 (Latin-1) to UTF-8. It's hard to work with two different character sets on the same computer. And I don't want to commit myself to changing everything over at once, so this seems like a sensible migration path. I have everything I need to do this now. Still not looking forward to painful crawling around the floor to get it all hooked up. More details on the tech advisory mail list as I get it all working.

As for this week's music, I worked my way down to the bottom of Phil Overeem's end-of-February 2019 list, leaving four records unheard: three I couldn't find (DKV/Joe McPhee, All the Young Droogs, and the Clifford Thornton Memorial Quartet) plus the Bob Mould record I have yet to look for). Meanwhile, Overeem has moved on with a March list I haven't gotten to (although two records there -- by James Brandon Lewis and Rosie Flores -- are listed below, having gotten to them on my own).

This week's regrades were Robert Christgau's EW picks this week. I had played them previously, liked the music, didn't get much out of the words, so I thought they merited an extra listen. Like the music even more, still didn't get much out of the words (Malibu Ken is reportedly funny, which I usually get even if I don't get it all; I'd say Serengeti is funnier). Also caught up with Christgau's previous week alt-rap picks, which I liked a bit less. Maybe too avant, the exact opposite of the old school People Under the Stairs, easily my favorite hip-hop album this week.

Only B+(***) record below I might have cut short is the Branford Marsalis, which sounds a lot like his good ones -- easily his best since 2012's Four MFs Playin' Tunes, which was more pointedly titled. Old music by Chick Corea and Stanley Turrentine was suggested by Napster -- evidently a couple of those are new digital reissues.

Trying my hand at stuffed peppers (with lamb, currants, pine nuts, and feta cheese), a dish I've never done before. It never seemed suitably fancy for a main course, yet too big for a side dish, especially in a typical feast with so many sides no one would want a whole pepper. On the other hand, might be perfect for a single-dish dinner for two.


New records reviewed this week:

Bali Baby: Resurrection (2018, Twin, EP): Atlanta rapper, out lesbian, released a short album I liked a lot (Baylor Swift, 8 cuts, 27:11) earlier in 2018, follows that up with an even shorter one (9 cuts, 19:33), still choppy but more cryptic. B+(**)

Bali Baby: Bubbles Bali (2019, Billmania Media): Her choppy beats and skimpy tunes are some sort of punk analog, but with 12 cuts running 33:09 I think we can call this a full album. Still cryptic, but a couple songs caught my ear. B+(**)

Better Oblivion Community Center: Better Oblivion Community Center (2019, Dead Oceans): Tuneful, somewhat catchy Joint venture between singer-songwriters Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst. B+(*)

Randy Brecker & NDR Bigband: Rocks (2017 [2019], Piloo): Trumpet player, actually a pretty great one, although he was overshadowed by his brother in their Brothers Band, where they made a bunch of popular but lousy records together. He's made some stink on his own, too, and this half qualifies, but breaks through here and there. Guest saxophonists David Sanborn and Ada Rovatti help. B [cd]

Czarface/Ghostface Killah: Czarface Meets Ghostface (2019, Silver Age): The former a "supergroup" formed in 2013 when Wu-Tang member Inspectah Deck joined 7L & Esoteric, producing a series of comic book-themed albums -- the best last year's Czarface Meets Metal Face with MF Doom. This title seems inevitable, but Ghostface can't help but be serious. B+(**)

Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle (2019, International Anthem): Chicago singer-songwriter, plays clarinet, all other instruments on this debut album (limited edition cassette). Seems to qualify as "spiritual jazz," not something I can particularly relate to. B+(*) [bc]

Dreezy: Big Dreez (2019, Interscope): Chicago rapper Seandrea Sledge, dropped an album in 2016, this considered a mixtape, the difference unclear to me. B+(**)

FAVX: Welfare (2018, Miel de Moscas/Burger, EP): Postpunk group, from Madrid, Spain, six songs (in English), 19:22: can't tell much beyond loud, brash, hooky. B+(**) [bc]

Michael Foster/Katherine Young/Michael Zerang: Bind the Hand(s) That Feed (2018, Relative Pitch): Saxophonist (soprano/tenor), based in Brooklyn, Discogs lists 14 albums since 2013, all but one with co-credits, but he's escaped my attention before. Young plans bassoon and electronics, mostly the latter here, and Zerang is a drummer. Not much unless you listen closely, and even then you wonder why bother? B+(*)

Guillermo Gregorio & Brandon Lopez: 12 Episodes (2017 [2019], Relative Pitch): Clarinet player (alto sax elsewhere), born in Argentina, past 70, based in Chicago, home of the young bassist, who rounds out these abstract duets. B+(**) [cd]

Hama: Houmeissa (2019, Sahel Sounds): Mouhamadou Moussa, from Niger, plays keyboards or builds his music on a laptop (as seems to be the case here). Result is closer to electronica than to Saharan blues or rock. Some vocals, but mostly just for shading. B+(*)

Izumi Kimura/Barry Guy/Gerry Hemingway: Illuminated Silence (2018 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): Japanese pianist, based in Ireland, has a previous album (subtitled Piano Music From Japan and Ireland), draws some major names for this trio here. B+(**) [bc]

Brian Krock: Liddle (2018 [2019], Outside In Music): Alto saxophonist (also clarinet and bass clarinet here), first album under his own name after last year's Big Heart Machine big band. Five or six musicians, with Matt Mitchel (piano) and Olli Hirvonen (guitar). Slippery postbop, hard to pin down. B+(**) [cd]

Lapis Trio: The Travelers (2017 [2019], Shifting Paradigm): Chicago group, principally guitarist Casey Nielson, also Dan Thatcher (bass) and Tim Mulvenna (drums). Light, attractive postbop groove. B+(*) [cd]

James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto (2018 [2019], Relative Pitch): Tenor saxophonist, chops so impressive he got a major label contract out of the gate, made two great albums for them before parting ways -- perhaps they figured he was too far out, but he's only gotten farther out since (especially in the poet-led ensemble Heroes Are Gang Leaders). Quintet here with Jaimie Branch (trumpet), Anthony Pirog (guitar), Luke Stewart (bass), and Warren Trae Crudup III (drums), for some kind of rocking freebop. A- [dl]

David Liebman/Jeff Coffin/Victor Wooten/Chester Thompson/Chris Walters/James DaSilva: On the Corner Live! The Music of Miles Davis (2015 [2019], Ear Up): Saxophonist Coffin was the actual leader here, but artist names listed as "featuring," and Liebman -- who played with Davis on the 1972 album honored here -- does the introductions. The others play electric bass, drums, keyboards, and guitar, so the only trumpet is on the cover. B+(**)

Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul (2018 [2019], Okeh): Saxophonist -- figure tenor plus a token bit of soprano -- with Joey Calderazzo (piano), Eric Revis (bass), and Justin Faulkner (drums). Two songs each for Calderazzo and Revis, one for the leader, covers of Andrew Hill and Keith Jarrett. Nothing surprising, but a very solid return to form. B+(***)

Mdou Moctar: Blue Stage Session (2018 [2019], Third Man): Major guitarist from the famed Tuareg hamlet of Agadez in Niger, deep into the Saharan Desert. I've been impressed by his work before, but wonder sometimes how much one needs. Still, hard to fault this live set recorded on tour in Detroit. In fact, it may be the one to recommend first. A-

Jessica Pavone: In the Action (2018 [2019], Relative Pitch): Plays viola, associated mostly with Mary Halvorson, solo here, also credited with effects -- explains the patch of electronic static late on. Not an instrument I enjoy, but she holds my attention, mostly on edge. B+(**) [cd]

People Under the Stairs: Sincerely, the P (2019, Piecelock 70): Los Angeles hip-hop duo, Christopher Portugal (Thes One) and Michael Turner (Double K), formed in 1997, decided to call it quits with this final album. First I've heard of them, but I feel right at home. After all, their beats would have been recognized as old style even when they started. And while they're not as old as I am, their maturity sounds earned. A-

Powder: Powder in Space (DJ Mix) (2019, Beats in Space): Japanese DJ/producer Moko Shibata, remixing various artists (including one of his own cuts, no one else I particularly recognize). Mostly nice beats with minor variations. B+(**)

Psymun: All Killer No Filler (2018, self-released, EP): Minneapolis DJ Simon Christenson, three albums and various shorter releases, this one 5 tracks, 21:04, "just the latest things I've been working on." High point a bit of rap with Chester Watson. B+(*) [bc]

Idris Rahman/Leon Brichard/Tom Skinner: Wildflower (2017, self-released): Sax, bass, and drums, the first two also in the group Ill Considered, the change of drummers making this a bit more conventional. Rahman also plays flute, both on the opener and its reprise at the end. Notes cite spiritual jazz, including Yusef Lateef. B+(**)

Alfredo Rodriguez/Pedrito Martinez: Duologue (2019, Mack Avenue): Cuban expats, piano and percussion, a duo but both sing so they're mostly accompanists. Not great singers, but you don't miss not having a full band. B+(***)

Rfs Du Sol: Solace (2018, Reprise): Australian alt-dance group, I figure them as electropop rather than electronica, similar to Chromeo but less amusing. B+(*)

Catherine Russell: Alone Together (2019, Dot Time): Got a late start with her first album at 50. This makes 7 since 2006, standards, musical director guitarist Matt Munisteri, Mark Shane on piano, a good retro horn sextion on 7/11 tracks (Jon-Erik Kellso, John Allred, Evan Arntzen). Fine, but not as striking as her recent albums. B+(**)

Dua Saleh: Nur (2019, Against Giants, EP): From Sudan, rapper based in St. Paul, Minnesota, 5 cut (21:06) EP produced by Psymun, a Minneapolis beatmaker with ten or so releases since 2012. Sounds promising, then slips from consciousness. B+(**)

The Specials: Encore (2019, Island): British ska band, founded 1977, heyday 1980-81, split up in 1984, had a brief reunion in 1993, then a stretch that produced four albums 1996-2001. In 2007 they regrouped for some concerts, and have played off and on ever since, but hadn't recorded an album until this one. Not bad, as these things go. Deluxe Edition adds a live disc I didn't bother with. B+(*)

Lyn Stanley: London Calling: A Toast to Julie London (2018 [2019], A.T. Music): Standards singer, from Tacoma, sixth album since 2013, does a fair approximation of London doing classic songbook material you've heard dozens (or hundreds) of times before. B+(*) [cd]

Tallawit Timbouctou: Hali Diallo (2011 [2018], Sahel Sounds): Traditional Saharan group from northern Mali, Aghaly Ag Amoumine sings and plays tehardine, accompanied by a second tehardin (bass) and calabash (percussion). Recommended if you think the better known Saharan bands are just a little too polished. This is pretty raw. B+(***) [bc]

David Torn/Tim Berne/Ches Smith: Sun of Goldfinger (2015-18 [2019], ECM): Guitarist, recorded a couple of albums for ECM 1985-87, more on obscure labels until his return in 2007. In the meantime started producing Berne (alto sax), who followed him to ECM with his Snake Oil group, including drummer Smith. Three 22-24 minute pieces, two by the trio, the middle one an expanded group with piano (Craig Taborn), guitars, and strings (Scorchio Quartet) thickening the atmosphere. The final cut is called "Soften the Blow," but it only gets harder and more furious. B+(***)

Typical Sisters: Hungry Ghost (2017 [2019], Outside In Music): Guitar-bass-drums trio: Gregory Uhlmann, Clark Sommers, and Matt Carroll. Title seems to reference insatiable consumerism, but the message is more like chill out. B+(**) [cd]

Trevor Watts/Stephen Grew: Let It Be: Live in Liverpool (2018 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): Duo alto/soprano sax and piano, the former one of the founders of the British avant-garde, the latter's discography kicking off in 2014. Lively, but a bit arch. B+(*) [bc]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Travailler, C'est Trop Dur: The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent ([2018], Swallow, 2CD): Vincent (1882-1970) was a subsistence farmer who wrote a few Cajun songs. Harry Oster recorded him in 1953, offering three in his 1957 A Sampler of Louisiana Folksongs. Somehow Vincent became the honoree of 2018's Festivals Acadiens et Croles. No dates on these 20 recordings, which include a couple with Vincent but also feature recent artists (Steve Riley, Zachary Richard, etc.). B+(*)

Old music:

Chick Corea: The Complete "Is" Sessions (1969 [2002], Blue Note, 2CD): Expands his 1969 album Is with alternate takes, from a period when the pianist was close to the avant fringe -- there is a fair aount of that here, especially with Bennie Maupin (tenor sax), but Hubert Laws (flute) has other ideas, with Woody Shaw (trumpet) in the middle. Rhythm section was young and fast on their way to becoming major players: Dave Holland (bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums). B+(**)

Chick Corea: The Song of Singing (1970 [1989], Blue Note): Piano trio, with Dave Holland (bass) and Barry Altschul (drums), from a period when the same group plus Anthony Braxton were recording as Circle, and Corea and Holland were playing with Miles Davis. B+(***)

Chick Corea: Verve Jazz Masters 3 (1972-78 [1993], Verve): Early CD-era compilation of a critical period in the pianist's career, when he moved from his early postbop and avant interests to grab a piece of the fusion jackpot and lay claim to his Spanish roots. Mostly electric keyboards, scattered horns and/or strings, a couple of vocals (Gayle Moran). Works as a lively cross-section, although he winds up much less interesting than he started. B+(*)

Joe McPhee & Ingebrigt Hker Flaten: Bricktop (2015 [2016], Trost): Avant tenor sax/bass duo. B+(**) [bc]

Stanley Turrentine: Comin' Your Way (1961 [1987], Blue Note): Tenor saxophonist, at home in soul jazz, later on a marvelous ballad player. Just getting started here, a quintet with brother Tommy Turrentine on trumpet, Horace Parlan on piano, plus bass and drums. B+(*)


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Aesop Rock and Tobacco: Malibu Ken (2019, Rhymesayers): [r]: [was: B+(**)] B+(***)
  • Serengeti: Dennis 6e (2018, People): [r]: [was B+(**)] B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Dan McCarthy: Epoch (Origin)
  • Paul Tynan: Quartet (Origin)
  • Claudia Villela: Encantada Live (Taina Music): April 12