An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, July 27, 2020
Music: Current count 33697  rated (+47), 220  unrated (-4).
I usually figure 30 records per week is a solid effort. This month I've averaged 40, which is largely attributable to streaming a lot of old jazz records: specifically, Freddy Cole (died this month), Hampton Hawes (got a question on him, Jackie McLean (ran across a complete album I hadn't heard on YouTube, and I always love listening to him), and Sam Rivers (took a look after his latest archival album just missed, and found a lot more than I expected). Of course, never leaving the house helped with the count. I think I made two grocery runs in July, and took my wife to the doctor once. Occasionally, especially after a grocery run, I try to cook something, but not often. Tried making gluten-free raisin bread today. Looks perfect, but I'm pretty sure it would taste better with wheat.
This ends a 4-week month. The link above gets you to the roll up, with 169 records. I revisited the Jessie Ware album and bumped its grade up. It's always sounded like an A- two-thirds of the way through, but took me a while to overcome my reservations over the end. Appears as a re-grade here, but just an edit in the monthly file.
Did play some records from the promo queue this week, including the last of the batch from NoBusiness. Looks like I still have 17 left in the queue, including 2 September releases and 1 October. (Also one more NoBusiness release. Really need to tidy up the mess on my desk.) Also made a late push to check off highly-rated albums in my metacritic file. Top ones I haven't heard yet are: Lianne Le Havas (22); 1975: Notes on a Conditional Form (34); Protomartyr: Ultimate Success Today (48); Paul Weller: On Sunset (51); and The Beths: Jump Rope Gazers (58); and lots more from 70 down (about half from 70-150, more after that).
I spent a lot of time with Taylor Swift's Folklore (four spins, plus some videos, plus I read a half-dozen pieces, mostly in places like Vox which don't normally review records. I liked the record fine, but wasn't blown away by anything on it. Same for the Texas girl group who decided Chicks wasn't the more offensive half of their name. For what it's worth, I always found both parts at least partly ironic, and they've lost some of that with the name change. (On the other hand, Lady Antebellum was never not offensive.) I spent a lot less time with Gaslighter, probably because I didn't sense that it had much potential to get better (as Ware did, and Swift might do).
Vocalese singer Annie Ross died last week, at 89. I'm not a big fan of her records, either with Dave Lambert and Jon Hendricks or not, but I've only sampled them lightly. I did think she was terrific in Robert Altman's The Player, basically playing herself. Another semi-famous musician who died last week was Peter Green (73), widely touted as the founder of Fleetwood Mac, despite the group being named for two other members (their first album was sometimes known as Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac). I have two Green albums in my database: In the Skies (1979), and a compilation, Man of the World: The Anthology 1968-1988, both B+. For an appreciation, see Milo Miles: The Terrifying and Lyrical Greatness of Peter Green. Greil Marcus also has some things to say about Green and Fleetwood Mac.
I answered a couple of questions last week. Please ask more.
New records reviewed this week:
Blaer: Yellow (2019 , Ronin Rhythm): Swiss quintet, pianist Maja Nydegger composed everything, with two saxophonists (Nils Fischer also on bass clarinet), bass, and drums, with Nik Bärtsch as co-producer. Third album. After a couple of atmospheric cuts, starts to tighten down the rhythm, and build on that. B+(**)
Adam Caine Quartet: Transmissions (2018 , NoBusiness): Guitarist, based in Brooklyn, several albums since 2005, including a duo with Robert Dick in 2019. Quartet adds a second guitar (Bob Lanzetti), acoustic bass (Adam Lane), and drums (Billy Mintz), with alto sax (Nick Lyons) on one track. Starts easy, turns into something intense, fades away. A- [cd]
François Carrier/Masayo Koketsu/Daisuke Fuwa/Takashi Itani: Japan Suite (2019 , NoBusiness): Alto saxophonist, from Montreal, picks up a local band in Japan: alto sax, bass, drums. Has its impressive moments, but runs long (78:14). B+(***) [cd]
The Chicks: Gaslighter (2020, Columbia): Formerly the Dixie Chicks, changed their name in June just before their first album since 2006, when they were defying the backlash for disrespecting fellow Texan GW Bush. Leader Natalie Maines, multi-instrumentalist sisters Martie and Emily Erwin (now Maguire and Strayer). Co-produced by Jack Antonoff, who nudges them closer to pop than country. B+(***)
Gerald Clayton: Happening: Live at the Village Vanguard (2020, Blue Note): Pianist, son of bassist John Clayton, nephew of saxophonist Jeff Clayton, has led several albums since 2009. This is a quintet with two saxes (Logan Richardson and Walter Smith III), bass (Joe Sanders), and drums (Marcus Gilmore). B+(**)
Dena DeRose: Ode to the Road (2020, High Note): Jazz singer, plays piano, dozen albums since 1998. Ten tracks, six with scene-stealing guest stars -- two each for Sheila Jordan (vocals), Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), and Houston Person (tenor sax) -- the others with just piano trio (Martin Wind and Matt Wilson). B+(***)
Robert Dick & Adam Caine: The Damn Think (2017 , Chant): Flute and guitar duo. Dick impressed me back in the 1990s, in large part due to his fondness for bass flute, and Caine has a good new quartet album out. Intimate exchange, mixed results. B+(*) [bc]
Gregory Dudzienski Quartet: Beautiful Moments (2019 , OA2): Tenor saxophonist, based in Chicago, has a previous album. Mainstream, nice tone, some swing, backed by piano (Chris White), bass, and drums. All originals. B+(*) [cd]
Extra Soul Perception: New Tangents in Kampala, London & Nairobi Vol. 1 (2019 , Extra Soul Perception, EP): Ad hoc collective, five tracks (16:17), recorded in Nairobi, attributed to various artists. B+(*)
Asher Gamedze: Dialectic Soul (2020, On the Corner): South African drummer, opens with strong sax (Buddy Wells) and trumpet (Robin Fassie-Kock), for the 18:55 "State of Emergence Suite." Slows down then, with Nono Nkoane singing. And don't forget the township jive thing. B+(**)
Ricardo Grilli: 1962 (2020, Tone Rogue): Guitarist, based in New York, third album, previous one was 1954, not clear to me what the dates signify (Grilli was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 1985). Postbop quintet with Mark Turner (tenor sax), Kevin Hays (piano), Joe Martin (bass), and Eric Harland (drums). B+(**)
Bartosz Hadala Group: Three Short Stories (2020, Zecernia): Pianist, born in Poland, moved to New York in 2003, on to Toronto in 2010. Fourth album, group with two saxes, electric guitar and bass, accordion, and drums -- listed as "feat." on the cover are Michael Manring (bass guitar) and João Frade (accordion). B+(**) [cd]
Jon Hassell: Seeing Through Sound (Pentimento Volume Two) (2020, Ndeya): "Fourth world" music pioneer, plays trumpet, keyboards, electronics, following up his previous Pentimento volume, Listening to Pictures. B+(***)
Jarv Is: Beyond the Pale (2020, Rough Trade): Jarvis Cocker, former Pulp front man (1983-2001), fourth solo album, cover reads "JARV IS . . ." but title is somewhere else. Seven songs, co-written with Serafina Steer and (usually) others, all neatly hooked. A-
KA: Descendants of Cain (2020, Iron Works): Rapper Kaseem Ryan, a firefighter from Brooklyn, fifth album at 47. B+(***)
Quin Kirchner: The Shadows and the Light (2019 , Astral Spirits): Chicago drummer, second album. Lineups vary: starts solo, then quartet (Greg Ward on alto sax), septet, trio (Nate Lepine on tenor sax and flute), five tracks expand to septet. Mixed bag, the fancy parts impressive but a bit too slippery. B+(***) [bc]
Jeremy Levy Jazz Orchestra: The Planets: Reimagined (2019 , OA2): Trobonist, has played in the Brian Setzer and Tim Davies big bands, co-led Budman/Levy Orchestra. Arranger and conductor here, running a big band through Gustav Holst's "Planets," a famous piece I never bothered with and have no more desire for. B- [cd]
Lupe Fiasco/Kaelin Ellis: House (2020, 1st & 15, EP): Rapper Wasalu Muhammad Jaco, 7 albums 2006-18, returns with a 5 track, 22:28 EP, with Ellis co-writer and co-producer. Easy gait, with a grin. B+(*)
Lori McKenna: The Balladeer (2020, CN): Singer-songwriter from Massachusetts, doesn't have the twang for country but does have the songs. Not sure this is an exceptional batch, but even her average fare has few rivals. A-
Pink Siifu & Yungmorpheus: Bag Talk (2019, Field-Left): LA-based rapper Livingston Matthews, has a previous album, reportedly more underground. So is this, but more focused on the police ("proceeds go directly to the Anti Police-Terror Project in Oakland). B+(**)
Pink Siifu: Negro (2020, Field-Left): Grim, bleeding into noise, effects, aural graffiti -- Discogs styles include "power violence," which doesn't seem to mean anything in particular, but promises a rough ride. B
Corey Smythe: Accelerate Every Voice (2018 , Pyroclastic): Pianist, has a growing reputation (including a Grammy), and a fondness for arch voices that is amplified more than accelerated here. He uses five voices here, the more the worse. Plays some decent piano when they finally shut up. B- [cd]
Soft Machine: Live at the Baked Potato (2019 , Moonjune): Guitarist John Etheridge remains from the original group, formed in 1966, which put Canterbury and prog onto the rock map. Kevin Ayers and Daevid Allen left very quickly, and Robert Wyatt followed in 1971. While Etheridge can claim continuity, during the 1970s Hugh Hopper, Karl Jenkins, and Elton Dean seemed more like leaders -- the latter's avant sax shifting the group into a jazz orbit (cf. the live Grides, from 1970-71, released after Dean died in 2006). From 1978, the band was succeeded by various soft-named iterations: Soft Heap, Soft Head, Soft Ware, Soft Mountain, Soft Works, Soft Bounds, finally Soft Machine Legacy. Etheridge reclaimed the name in 2015, brought back Roy Babbington (bass) and John Marshall (drums) from the 1970s, and added Theo Travis (sax, flute, keyboards), for a slightly better than average fusion band. B+(*) [cd]
Leni Stern: 4 (2020, LSR): German guitarist, fusion mostly, born as Magdalena Thora, married Mike Stern, 20+ albums since 1986. Sings some, also plays n'goni here, backed by Leo Genovese (keybs), Mamadou Ba (bass), and Alloune Faye (percussion). The latter give this an African vibe, which Stern can play with or against. Vocals not a plus. B-
Tim Stine Trio: Fresh Demons (2018 , Astral Spirits): Chicago guitarist, several albums since 2015, this one with Anton Hatwich (bass) and Frank Rosaly (drums). B+(**)
Taylor Swift: Folklore (2020, Republic): Eighth studio album, recorded simply with Aaron Dessner (The National) and/or Jack Antonoff co-writing and/or producing. Still, far from DIY: full credits include occasional strings and horns, and a Justin Vernon vocal, but you mostly just hear keyboards and drums -- little flash to an album with sixteen long, pleasant, intricate songs. Judging from download counts and reviews, she's caught the spirit of the times. B+(***)
Marcin Wasilewski Trio/Joe Lovano: Arctic Riff (2019 , ECM): Polish piano trio, with Slawomir Kurkiewicz and Micha Miskiewicz, got a measure of fame supporting Tomasz Stanko but has an impressive run of albums on their own. Joined by the tenor saxophonist, who wrote a song, shares credits on five, with two Carla Bley covers. Very chill. B+(**)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers: Just Coolin' (1959 , Blue Note): Previously unreleased, classic lineup with Lee Morgan (trumpet), Hank Mobley (tenor sax), Bobby Timmons (piano), and Jymie Merritt (bass). Terrific group, one one of their best days, always a delight to hear Morgan. B+(***)
Abraham Burton: Live at Visiones, NYC 1993 (1993 , self-released, EP): Alto saxophonist, shortly before he recorded two of the best albums of the 1990s -- still his only ones as a leader, although he contiues with side credits. One 23:52 track, released by pianist Marc Cary, with Billy Johnson on bass and Eric McPherson on drums. Outstanding lead, pretty good piano solo, wonder why there isn't more. B+(***) [bc]
Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers: Get in Union (1959-66 , Global Jukebox): Folk/gospel singer (1902-84), recorded by Alan Lomax. Expands on a 2014 compilation on Tompkins Square, which itself had 26 unreleased tracks. B+(**)
Owl Xounds Exploding Galaxy: The Coalescence (2007 , ESP-Disk): Brooklyn-based group, ran 2004-08, led by Adam Kinney (drums) and Gene Janas (electric upright bass), here also Shayna Dulberger (bass) ad Mario Rechtern (sax). Outtakes -- three cuts, 29:16, but plenty intense -- from session producing Splintered Visions, itself not releaed until 2011. B+(***) [cdr]
Sam Rivers: A New Conception (1966 , Blue Note): Tenor saxophonist (also soprano and flute), third album, quartet with Hal Galper (piano), bass and drums. Standards, sounds new even if not very avant. Plays a lot of remarkable flute. B+(***)
Sam Rivers: Streams: Recorded in Performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival (1973, Impulse!): Trio, with Cecil McBee (bass) ad Norman Connors (drums). One long piece (arbitrarily split on the LP), divided into sections for tenor sax (18:42), flute (13:13), piano (7:31), and soprano sax (9:18). B+(**)
Sam Rivers: Trio Live (1973 , Impulse!): Originally released 1978 as The Live Trio Sessions, the first set ("Hues of Melanin") reordered, moving the piano part up front, then tenor sax, then the long soprano sax, flute, and vocal sections. With Cecil McBee and Barry Altschul. Ends with "Suite for Molde," from the Norwegian jazz festival, with Arild Andersen taking over at bass. It, too, is split between a flute section and the final tenor sax section. Listening to the former makes you wonder if he wasn't the greatest jazz flautist ever. Listening to the latter makes you wonder why he ever played anything else. A-
Sam Rivers: Hues (1971-73 , Impulse!): Scraps from four live performanes, including two tracks from Molde. Cover pictures him with a flute, but only two lute tracks here, plus two piano, two soprano sax, four tenor sax -- in other words, they pieced together a typical trio concert, using three bass-drums pairs. B+(**)
Sam Rivers: Crystals (1974, Impulse!): Big band album, not conventional but 6 brass (including Joe Daley on tuba and euphonium), five reeds (with everyone doubling on flute), bass, drums, extra percussion, but no piano or guitar. Doesn't seem like it's going to work at first, but then it does. B+(**)
Sam Rivers: The Quest (1976, RED): Trio with Dave Holland (bass) and Barry Altschul (drums). Rivers cycles through his instruments, impressive on each, but I can't help but think he'd get more from his rhythm sectio if he played more tenor sax. B+(**)
Sam Rivers: Paragon (1977, Fluid): Trio with Dave Holland (bass/cello) and Barry Altschul (drums). Rotates through his four instruments on the first four tracks, then recapitulates them all on the 12:15 title cut. B+(***)
Sam Rivers: Waves (1978 , Tomato): Quartet with Joe Daley (tuba), Dave Holland (bass/cello), and Thurman Barker (drums). Starts on piano. Rivers cycles around his instruments, impressive on each. B+(***)
Sam Rivers: Contrasts (1979 , ECM): Plays flute, soprano and tenor sax, backed by trombone (George Lewis), bass (Dave Holland), and drums (Thurman Barker). Somewhat buttoned down, so it takes a while to sink in, and fully appreciate the trombone. A-
Sam Rivers Quartet: Crosscurrent: Live at Jazz Unité (1981 , Blue Marge): Recorded live in Paris, with Jerry Byrd (guitar), Rael Wesley Grant (electric bass), and Steve Ellington (drums). Rivers makes his usual round of instruments, with the soprano sax meshing especially well with the guitars. A-
Sam Rivers/Noël Akchote/Tony Hymas/Paul Rogers/Jacques Thollot: Configuration (1996, Nato): Guitar, piano, bass, drums, with Rivers alternating between tenor sax, soprano sax, and flute. B+(**)
Sam Rivers: Concept (1995-96 , RivBea): Nine tracks recorded over five sessions, most with Doug Matthews (bass or bass clarinet) and Anthony Cole (drums, but also plays tenor sax). B+(**)
Sam Rivers & Alexander von Schlippenbach: Tangens (1997 , FMP): Duets, tenor/soprano sax/flute and piano. B+(***)
Sam Rivers/Doug Matthews/Anthony Cole/Jonathan Powell/David Manson: Fluid Motion (2002, Isospin Labs): Soprano/tenor sax, bass, drums, trumpet, trombone: only Rivers well known, but feels like a band album, more mainstream with everyone pitching in. B+(***)
Sam Rivers: Celebration (2003 , Posi-Tone): Live shot from Jazz Bakery, trio with Doug Matthews and Anthony Cole, close in spirit to his 1970s albums, with the leader playing piano and flute as well as tenor and soprano sax -- and mixing things up, drummer Cole also plays tenor sax and piano, while bassist Matthews goes electric, also playing bass violin and bass clarinet. B+(**)
Sam Rivers/Adam Rudolph/Harris Eisenstadt: Vista (2003 , Meta): Starts off on flute, also plays tenor and soprano sax, with two percussionists, Rudolph using hand drums. B+(***)
Sam Rivers/Ben Street/Kresten Osgood + Bryan Carrott: Purple Violets (2004 , Stunt): Trio plus vibes. B+(**)
Grade (or other) changes:
Jessie Ware: What's Your Pleasure? (2020, Interscope): British dance-pop diva, fourth album, starts retro-disco, ends up more new wave, the cool taking a while to carry the day. [was: B+(***)] A-
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: