Monday, April 22, 2019


Music Week

Music: current count 31400 [31371] rated (+29), 256 [252] unrated (+4).

Seems like pretty much everything is a struggle these days. My most common complaint is that I'm getting sick and tired of not being able to do things right. A typical example was trying to repair a screen door lock. A nylon washer disappeared, and has proven impossible to replace. I bought some things I thought I might be able to use, then lost them. Bought some more, and turned out they were too thick, and hole was too small. I tried drilling out the hole, and destroyed the washer. Finally reassembled the door handle without the washer. The set screw is hard to get a grip on. It will no doubt fall apart again in a matter of days, at best a couple weeks. I have a bunch of other things that are falling apart, many because I didn't do a good enough job building them in the first place.

On the other hand, I have gotten a few things done. The new pantry shelf unit is painted and bolted in place, although we haven't really put it to use yet. That's waiting a second pantry improvement. I built a rather neat storage unit, then screwed up hanging the door so it never closed correctly (or at least easily). It finally dawned on me that if I could shave a quarter inch off the bottom surface, it should close without having to change the hinges. All that's left to do there is to rehang the door, and see whether the theory worked. Tomorrow.

At least I finally got my computers moved, making my workspace much more comfortable. Still haven't done the next step, which is to set up virtual web servers on the secondary machine, so I can start redesigning the Robert Christgau and Carola Dibbell websites. I should at least know what I'm doing there.

Meanwhile, another routine week of music discoveries. Hard part for me is deciding what to search out. This seems like a typical week with two weeks of Christgau picks, further search down Phil Overeem's list, and the first Michael Tatum Downloader's Diary in quite a while. Unfortunately, I found myself coming up short with their well-considered picks. Instead, I went with the new Chemical Brothers album (I think someone on the Expert Witness Facebook group raved about it, but don't recall who), and a 1979 jazz album reissue that probably showed up in a Bandcamp Daily list (which I started using a couple weeks back when I couldn't play Napster).

Also, two rare regrades to from B+(***) to A-, originally reviewed by streaming but given a few more changes after CDs arrived. People shouldn't get the idea that all they have to do to get higher grades is to send me CDs, but they do help in cases where I've held a grade back due to some minor reservations.

April Streamnotes should be released with next Music Week, on April 29. Currently have 113 records in the draft file, so I'll probably wind up with 140-150.


New records reviewed this week:

Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are on the Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration (2018 [2019], Pi, 2CD): Formed as a quintet in 1969, out to make "great black music," recorded intensely at first, regularly until the founders started to die out: they tried replacing Lester Bowie (trumpet) in 1999, but didn't do much after Malachi Favors (bass) passed in 2004. Now they are down to two: Roscoe Mitchell (reeds) and Famadou Don Moye (percussion). Joseph Jarman died in 2019 after this was recorded, but doesn't play on it. On the other hand, the Chicago avant-garde turned out en masse here: some vocals I don't like, Moor Mother rap I do, too much strings and flute, but with transcendent stretches, enough to register who they are and what they're about. B+(**)

The Chemical Brothers: No Geography (2019, Virgin EMI): When I organized my database c. 2000 I filed all the electronica albums under "techno," which is evidently a more limited (shall we say technical?) term. But back then I was thinking of artists like this UK duo, with three fairly major albums 1995-99. They've slowed down, with just four even spaced albums since 2005. But this one sounds much like the early ones, with one foot planted in disco, the other pushing metal hard to the floor. A-

Martin Frawley: Undone at 31 (2019, Merge): Australian singer-songwriter, solo after two albums with the Twerps. B+(***)

Ahmed Ag Kaedy: Akaline Kidal (2019, Sahel Sounds): Tuareg from northern Mali, just guitar and vocal, a steady, easy roll, gentle blues minus the downside. B+(**)

Salif Keita: Un Autre Blanc (2018 [2019], Naive): A quite remarkable singer from Mali, born to royalty, cast out for his albinismo, gained fame as "the golden voice of Africa," first with his group Les Ambassadeurs then as a solo act from 1987. Past 70 now, with one of his better albums, the rhythm not quite as effortless as I'd like. B+(***)

Khalid: Suncity (2018, RCA, EP): Surname Robinson, first album showed his mastery of his topic, American Teen, now moving somewhat more cautiously into adulthood. Seven tracks including an intro skit and an interlude, 21:09. B+(*)

Khalid: Free Spirit (2019, RCA): Impressive second album, attractive, catchy in spots, pleasant throughout, but runs a bit longer than my interest holds out. B+(***)

Larry Koonse: New Jazz Standards Vol. 4 (2019, Summit): Guitarist, born in San Diego, based in Los Angeles, father was another jazz guitarist, Dave Koonse, and they have a couple of duo albums (one in 1978 when Larry was a teenager, another in 2003). Not much directly under Koonse's name, but lots of side credits -- seems like every jazz album recorded in LA over the last two decades. He leads a quartet here, with Josh Nelson (piano), Tom Harrington (bass), and Joe LaBarbera (drums), but the real auteur doesn't play: Carl Saunders, who's compiled 100 of his compositions into the book New Jazz Standards, and recruited the leaders of he previous volumes in this series: Sam Most, Scott Whitfield, and Roger Kellaway. As a big band trumpeter, Saunders knows what he's doing. But aren't standards supposed to be recognized first? B [cd]

Joachim Kühn: Melodic Ornette Coleman: Piano Works XIII (2018 [2019], ACT): German pianist, many albums since 1969, including a live duo in 1996 with Coleman. This is solo, Coleman tunes plus one original tribute. Makes a fair case for Coleman as a melodist, but that always seemed rather tangential to his genius. B+(*)

Russ Lossing: Changes (2018 [2019], SteepleChase); Pianist, from Ohio, based in New York since 1986, at least 15 albums, mostly trios (many unconventional), mostly original material, tends to find his own idiosyncratic way (much like his long-time drummer and mentor, Paul Motian). This is fairly conventional, a trio with Michael Formanek and Gerald Cleaver, mostly standards (3 Monk, 2 Ellington, opens with "Bye, Bye Blackbird"). B+(***)

Russ Lossing: Motian Music (2019, Sunnyside): The late drummer Paul Motian led kind of a dual life. On the one hand, he played in a remarkable series of piano trios, starting with Bill Evans and including Keith Jarrett, Paul Bley, Marilyn Crispell, Enrico Pieranunzi, Martial Solal, Geri Allen, and Lossing. On the other, he rarely used piano on his own records (a favorite trio was with Joe Lovano and Bill Frisell). This, a trio with Masa Kamaguchi (bass) and Billy Mintz (drums), is Lossing's second album of Motian compositions. It effectively merges the two paths, but the results, like Motian, are somewhat inscrutable. B+(**)

Reba McEntire: Stronger Than the Truth (2019, Big Machine): Country singer, from Oklahoma, in her sixties now, debut album in 1977, this is her 33rd in 43 years. Neotrad sound, strong drawl, some sad songs, some upbeat, a single ("Freedom") with the potential to be abused something awful. B+(*)

Sam Ospovat: Ride Angles (2018 [2019], Skirl): Drummer, originally from Lincoln, Nebraska; based in Bay Area, has at least one previous record. Trio with Matt Mitchell (most impressive on piano) and Kim Cass (bass), plus scattered guests -- Brandon Seabrook (guitar), Nick Lyons (alto sax), and Lorin Benedict (scat vocals) -- each adding an interesting twist. B+(**) [cd]

Hama Sankare: Ballébé: Calling All Africans (2018, Clermont Music): From Mali, plays a style called calabash, guitar has some drone and voice some moan giving him a desert blues vibe. B+(***)

Hama Sankare: Niafunke (2019, Clermont Music): Second album. Christgau prefers the first but they strike me as pretty interchangeable. B+(***)

Silk Road Assassins: State of Ruin (2019, Planet Mu): UK electronica trio, from Bath, monikers Tom E Vercetti, LovedrOid, Chemist. Vacillates between industrial and grime, picking up my ears with the latter. B+(*) [bc]

Marcos Silva: Brasil: From Head to Toe (2019, Green Egg): Keyboard player, born in Rio de Janeiro, based in Bay Area, which has become a major center for Brazilian music in the US. Band includes Gary Meek on sax and flute. Mostly a pleasant groove album, soaring a bit. B [cd]

Solange: When I Get Home (2019, Saint/Columbia): Knowles, long overshadowed by her sister Beyoncé, got a lot of attention for 2016's A Seat at the Table, follows that up here. I find both albums subdued and inscrutable, this one perhaps even more so. Cover art very similar, with her looking dazed and sad. B+(*)

Spellling: Mazy Fly (2018 [2019], Sacred Bones): R&b singer-songwriter Tia Cabral, second album, "experimental" in the sense that she doesn't fit the mold, or any other I can think of. B+(**)

Sunflower Bean: King of the Dudes (2019, Mom + Pop, EP): Indie rock trio from Long Island, Julia Cumming the singer/bassist, with two albums and three EPs -- this one 4 snappy cuts, 12:03. B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Infinite Spirit Music: Live Without Fear (1979 [2019], Jazzman): One-shot Chicago group, best known member is percussionist and singer Kahil El'Zabar, although Ka T' Etta Aton also sings, and there are two more percussionists, plus Henry Huff (most impressive on sax), Soji Abedayo (piano), and Michaka Uba (bass). I'm not a big fan of the vocals (although the title hits home), but the music transcends such concerns. Vol. 27 in Jazzman's Holy Grail Series. Makes me wonder what else I've missed. A- [bc]

Live at Raul's (1979 [2019], Steady Boy): Ten songs from five punk/garage bands I'd never heard of -- The Explosives, Standing Waves, Terminal Mind, The Next, The Skunks -- recorded live in Austin, TX, released at the time. Reminds one what a shock to the system punk was back then. Also that Austin was still a backwater. B+(*)

Onda De Amor: Synthesized Brazilian Hits That Never Were (1984-94) (1984-94 [2018], Soundway): Crate-digging, no one here I recognize, and nothing that really stand out, but every cut has energy and panache, and they all flow together nicely. B+(**) [bc]

Weaponise Your Sound (2019, Optimo Music): British electronica comp, on "Diet Clinic's sublabel," "all proceeds go to London based charity, Focus E15, which demands social housing, not social cleansing." No one I've ever heard of. Not all electronic, veers a bit into exotica, all worth hearing. B+(**) [bc]

Old music:

Salif Keita: The Mansa of Mali: A Retrospective (1978-94 [1994], Mango): Mostly from three Mango albums, with one long song from much earlier and three more songs from soundtracks. Probably the place to start, though it trails off a bit toward the end. B+(***)

Russ Lossing: Dreamer (2000, Double Time): Pianist's first album, a trio with Ed Schuller (bass) and Paul Motian (drums). Seven originals, two Monks, one piece from Andrew Hill. B+(**)

Russ Lossing/Ed Schuller/Paul Motian: As It Grows (2002 [2004], Hatology): Same piano-bass-drums trio, a couple years down the road, with Lossing writing nearly everything. B+(**)

Russ Lossing: All Things Arise (2005 [2006], Hatology): Solo piano. Opens with a 4-part, 27:00 suite, featuring a fair amount of drama, then tacks on six more pieces: one original, two Ellingtons, Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, "Alabama Song." B+(**)

Timosaurus: I Love You More Than Yesterday (2011, self-released): Avant sax-guitar-drums trio: Matt Nelson, Andrew Conklin, and Sam Ospovat. Free jazz squall up front, energetic but rough. Deconstructs later on, isolating the sounds while still retaining interest. B+(**) [bc]


Grade (or other) changes:

Kuzu: Hiljaisuus (2017 [2019], Astral Spirits/Aerophonic): Chicago trio: Dave Rempis (alto/tenor/baritone sax), Tashi Dorji (guitar), and Tyler Damon (percussion). This is very harsh free jazz, similar to when the Thing hooks up with a rock guitarist who just wants to freak out, but better (if you can stand it). I wrote that back after streaming last fall, then got a CD in the mail in February, causing various bookkeeping issues: the release in September 2018 was vinyl and digital, so is the February 2019 CD a reissue, or should I treat the real new release as 2019? I procrastinated, but when I finally did give it a spin, I was blown away. I used to hate this kind of free jazz squall, then got to where I could stand it, and once in a while even thrill to it -- this one of those rare cases. As for the bookkeeping, this gets a double entry -- I'll leave it in the 2018 lists at the lower grade, but include it in 2019's A-list as a new record. (Some comparable cases: I still figure on treating Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy as a 2018 release even though its CD didn't come out until Feb. 22, as I, and pretty much everyone else, heard it in 2018. On the other hand, I missed the 2018 digital release of Eric Dolphy's Musical Prophet, only hearing it after the CDs dropped on January 25, so I'm treating it as 2019.) A- [cd]

Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature (2018 [2019], ESP-Disk): Piano trio with Michael Bisio (bass) and Taylor Baker (drums). Seemed like a typically solid performance when I streamed it, but I took more time with it after the CD arrived, and it gradually fell into place -- less raw power than his best previous trios, but he keeps building. [was B+(***)] A- [cd]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • The Campfire Flies: Sparks Like Litle Stars (OverPop Music)
  • Mark Dresser Seven: Ain't Nothing but a Cyber Coup & You (Clean Feed): May 10
  • Four: There You Go Thinking Again (Jazz Hang)
  • Bennett Paster: Indivisible (self-released): May 3
  • Trapper Keeper: Meets Tim Berne & Aurora Nealand (Ears & Eyes)
  • Mark Turner/Gary Foster: Mark Turner Meets Gary Foster (Capri): May 17
  • The United States Air Force Band: The Jazz Heritage Series: 2019 Radio Broadcasts (self-released)