Monday, June 17, 2019


Music Week

Music: current count 31641 [31614] rated (+27), 256 [251] unrated (+5).

Didn't expect to get to much music this week, but the planned project fell through. Responded to that by feeling listless and depressed, so not much of a recovery. Spent a lot of the time I did use on the Moserobie package, the extra plays merely confirming my first pass impressions. Finally started in on Weekend Roundup early Friday afternoon, and finally felt like I was getting something done -- wouldn't call it mindless, but the task posed enough structure to keep me going through the motions. The result was the most personally satisfying Weekend Roundup all year, plus I ticked off enough records to get close to my 30-per-week target.

The Jamila Woods album was recommended by Michael Tatum, who should have a new Downloader's Diary out this week. I gave it a spin when I first heard about it, and probably would have filed it as a mid-B+, but decided to hold off a while. Returned to it mid-week, and 3-4 plays got better and better. Followed up on some Downbeat jazz reviews -- nothing very good there -- and landed on a couple of Bandcamps that looked promising: Fundacja Sluchaj (François Carrier has been very good at sending me records, so I held off on his record there, but eventually couldn't wait), Unseen Rain (Dom Minasi sent me mail about his record there, and I found more), and Corbett vs. Dempsey (Jon Corbett's obscure reissue label, one I've long wanted to be able to cover). All typically offer the chance to listen to full albums, which makes them reviewable. (Many other Bandcamps have dropped down to a sample cut or two, which makes them unusable for reviews -- that's the main reason I miss more Ken Vandermark albums than I hear these days.) More on the CvD next week, and probably for several weeks to come.

Spoke too soon about NoBusiness dropping me, as I got a big package early last week. The Sam Rivers set was the one I had heard about, so I jumped on it first. Would have been a high B+ had I used their Bandcamp, but having the CD and booklet encouraged me to play it a few extra times.

I also looked up what I've been missing from Intakt -- two monthly packages so far, so four releases -- but nothing looked critical right now (with Fred Frith's 3-CD live set the most imposing). They have a Bandcamp as well, but recent releases only have a couple of cuts available. I think the full records are on Napster -- at least the old ones are -- so I'll catch up there, but no rush.

The Team Dresch reissues were all I got from looking at Pitchfork's Best New Music page -- something I rarely check, but Woods and Denzel Curry are also listed there, along with a Don Cherry reissue of an album (Brown Rice) I gave a B+ to long, long ago, and Slowthai's Nothing Great About Britain (a high B+ last week).

New batch of Robert Christgau's XgauSez questions and answers up tonight. Still hope to launch something like that myself.


New records reviewed this week:

Fabian Almazan Trio: This Land Abounds With Life (2018 [2019], Biophilia): Pianist, born in Cuba, raised in Miami, fifth album since 2012, a trio with Linda May Han Oh (bass) and Henry Cole (drums), plus strings on one track. B+(*)

Brad Barrett/Joe Morris/Tyshawn Sorey: Cowboy Transfiguration (2018 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): Bass/cello, guitar, and drums trio, all improv, artists listed alphabetically (although Barrett has sole credit as producer). Morris tends to get scratchy and choppy in this sort of group, almost percussion. B+(***) [bc]

François Carrier/Alexander Hawkins/John Edwards/Michel Lambert: Nirguna (2017 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj, 2CD): Free quartet, the alto saxophonist and drummer long-term companions from Quebec, here live at Vortex in London, with local pianist (Hawkins) and bassist (Edwards), almost as practiced together. Two 51-minute sets, each starting long, closing shorter, the leaders at their most aggressive. B+(***) [bc]

Trish Clowes: Ninety Degrees Gravity (2019, Basho): British saxophonist, sings a bit, fifth album since 2010, backed by guitar-organ-drums, postbop with some chops. B+(**)

Anat Cohen Tentet: Triple Helix (2019, Anzic): Clarinet player, from Israel, based in New York, featured artist here although the music looks to be by Obed Lev-Ari, a "concerto for clarinet and ensemble." Two reeds, two brass, cello and bass, piano and guitar, drums and vibraphone. Best when they kick up their heels. B+(**)

Denzel Curry: Zuu (2019, Loma Vista): Florida rapper, fourth album, sharp and short (12 tracks, 29:02). B+(**)

Fennesz: Agora (2019, Touch): Electronica producer Christian Fennesz, from Austria, big pile of records since 1997. Usually filed under ambient, but the drone here is a bit much. B

Mark Guiliana: Beat Music! Beat Music! Beat Music! (2019, Motéma): Drummer, from New Jersey, first album (aside from a duo that listed Brad Mehldau first) was called Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations, and he later used Beat Music Productions as his self-released label name. Single-word titles. Electronic keybs, bass, with occasional vocals. And, yeah, beats. B

Per 'Texas' Johansson/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Konrad Agnas: Orakel (2018 [2019], Moserobie): Avant-sax trio from Sweden, all three write (but mostly bassist Zetterberg, who some sources credit first). All seems deeply thought out, nothing rushed or frantic. Johansson doubles on clarinet. Not much under his name, but he's been active since the 1990s, often impressive. A- [cd]

Angelique Kidjo: Celia (2019, Verve): Pop singer from Benin, father Fon, mother Yoruba, cut her first album in 1981, moved to Paris in 1983, became an international star after Island picked up her 1991 album Logozo, but I've only heard one of her fifteen albums before this tribute to Cuban diva Celia Cruz. The Cuban rhythm picks up the pace, but she still seems a little stiff for the role. B+(*)

La La Lars: La La Lars II (2019, Headspin): Swedish drummer Lars Skoglund, second album under this alias, Discogs lists 70 album credits since 1999, some rock or pop. Quintet, with Jonas Kullhammar (sax, flute, bassoon), Goran Kojfes (trumpet), Carl Bagge (piano), and Johan Bethling (bass). B+(**) [cd]

Matt Lavelle Quartet: Hope (2019, Unseen Rain): Trumpet/flugelhorn player, alto alto and bass clarinet, Quartet same as on their eponymous 2017 debut: Lewis Porter (piano), Hilliard Greene (bass), and Tom Carrera (drums). Surprisingly mainstream, almost lush. B+(**) [bc]

Xavier Lecouturier: Carrier (2018 [2019], Origin): Drummer, based in Seattle, first album, composed 5 (of 10) pieces, with guitarist Lucas Winter contributing three more and much of the sound. B [cd]

Greta Matassa: Portrait (2019, Origin): Standards singer, based in Seattle, Discogs lists 8 records, one in 1991, the rest 2001-10, so this is her first in a while. Backed by piano trio plus saxophone (Alexey Nikolaev). Does a nice job of navigating the difficult "Lush Life." B [cd]

Dom Minasi: Remembering Cecil (2019, Unseen Rain): Guitarist, cut two albums for Blue Note 1974-75, then nothing until 1999 when he surfaced on avant-oriented CIMP. Solo here, a tribute to the late Cecil Taylor but no songbook -- all inspired-by improvs. Doesn't remind me much of Taylor either, but I like the thoughtfulness that went into it. B+(***) [bc]

Nobject [Martin Küchen/Rafal Mazur/Vasco Trilla]: X-Rayed (2018 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj, 2CD): Free-wheeling sax-bass-drums trio (sopranino/tenor, acoustic bass guitar), a "new atomic working band." Four tracks from 7:17 to 30:30, short enough (70:30) it could have fit a single CD. Can get intense. B+(**) [bc]

RPM: Just Like Falling (2019, Unseen Rain): Group named for first initials: Rocco John Iacovone (alto sax/piano), Phil Sirois (bass), and Michael Lytle (bass clarinet). Iacovone has always been a bracing saxophonist, and the bass clarinet provides a nice contrast. B+(**) [bc]

Erik Skov: Liminality (2018 [2019], OA2): Guitarist, based in Chicago, wrote all the pieces for a sextet with three horns (trumpet, tenor sax, trombone), bass, and drums. Lively postbop with a bit of groove. B+(*) [cd]

Ståhls Trio: Källtorp Sessions: Volume One (2017-18 [2019], Moserobie): Vibraphonist Mattias Ståhl, with Joe Williamson (bass) and Christopher Cantillo (drums). Ståhl should probably be getting some poll recognition. He always adds something to larger groups (like Angles 9), but this configuration shows the limits as a lead instrument. B+(***) [cd]

Mary Stallings: Songs Were Made to Sing (2019, Smoke Sessions): Jazz singer, pushing 80, cut a record with Cal Tjader in 1961 but career stalled after tours with Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie. Restarted in 1990 on Concord, and had some good years with HighNote. All covers here, the ungrammatical title leading into the title of "While We're Young." They're not, although Eddie Henderson's trumpet stands out. B+(*)

Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy! (2019, Jagjaguwar): From Chicago, published poet, filed her first album under rap but she sings her way through this second album. Song titles are names, all one word (save "Sun Ra"), most easy enough to fill out, with her best hooked song, "Betty," reprised ("I am not a typical girl"). Took a while to settle in, and probably has more depth than I'll ever be able to plumb. A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Agustí Fernández Trio With William Parker & Susie Ibarra: One Night at the Joan Miró Foundation: July 16th, 1998 (1998 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): Pianist, from Barcelona, where this was recorded. Discography starts around 1986, seems especially inspired here playing with Cecil Taylor's bassist, who's worth focusing on. A- [bc]

Beaver Harris/Don Pullen 360° Experience: A Well Kept Secret (1984 [2018], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Had this in my database as an unrated LP, but haven't seen it in ages. Harris (1936-91) is a drummer, not much under his name but played in some important avant groups in the 1960s, and later cut an African Drums album. Pullen (1944-95) was a brilliant pianist, and he's often dazzling here, but the group is pretty scattered, with two saxes -- Ricky Ford on tenor and Hamiet Bluiett on baritone -- plus bass and steel drums. B+(***) [bc]

Sam Rivers Trio: Emanation (1971 [2019], NoBusiness): Volume 1 of Sam Rivers Archive Project, drawing on a reportedly large trove of private recordings, here from the period when the late 1960s avant-garde retreated to the lofts of Lower Manhattan, chez Rivers in particular. Two massive chunks, 76:41 in total, with the leader playing tenor and soprano sax, a lot of flute, and some striking piano, all backed by Cecil McBee on bass and Norman Connors on drums. A-

Team Dresch: Personal Best (1994 [2019], Jealous Butcher, EP): Relatively minor queercore/riot grrrl group, formed in Olympia, based in Portland, short first album (10 cuts, 24:14). Named for guitarist/bassist Donna Dresch, but vocals are credited either to Jody Coyote (Bleyle) or Kaia Kangaroo (Wilson). B+(*)

Team Dresch: Choices, Chances, Changes: Singles & Comptracks 1994-2000 (1994-2000 [2019], Jealous Butcher): Twelve songs, most from 7-inch singles (starting with their debut "Hand Grenade") with a couple of change-ups and a sense of evolution, adds up to 30:31. B+(*)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • The Attic: Summer Bummer (NoBusiness)
  • Albert Beger Quartet: The Gate (NoBusiness)
  • Whit Dickey/Kirk Knuffke: Drone Dream (NoBusiness): cdr
  • Kang Tae Hwan/Midori Takada: An Eternal Moment (1995, NoBusiness)
  • Jan Maksimovic/Dimitrij Golovanov: Thousand Seconds of Our Life (NoBusiness)
  • Jenna McLean: Brighter Day (Moddl)
  • Sunny Murray/Bob Dickie/Robert Andreano: Homework (1994, NoBusiness)
  • Sam Rivers Trio: Emanation (1971, NoBusiness)