An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, October 31, 2022
Music: Current count 38944  rated (+26), 47  unrated (+4: 19 new, 28 old).
Rated count the lowest in quite some time (3rd lowest in 2022, after a 0 and a 21), mostly because I spent two days cooking birthday dinner (if you're interested, there's a writeup in the notebook), and took a while after that to get back to work. I did catch up some while working on Speaking of Which, but had trouble thinking of things to search out.
I got a kind note from Don Malcolm suggesting I write more about the late Mike Davis, but I haven't read that much by him -- in particular, I don't have his Los Angeles books, and I have very little personal experience with the city or the area, so I've always wondered how much I'd get out of them. But I did manage to collect some links, including an interview from shortly before he died. One thing I was struck by was how often he was identified as a Marxist historian. As far as I can tell, that's not something he wrote much about (although he was often published by Verso Books, and one recent title there was Old Gods, New Enigmas: Marx's Lost Theory). But I know from my own experience that once you get the key ideas from Marx and his followers, you can go anywhere and examine anything and find fresh insights. That's what Davis did -- and also what Barbara Ehrenreich did, although somewhat less obviously.
Best thing about my birthday was hearing from several friends and relatives I've been missing. I still have a lot of catching up to do.
I saw a newspaper article last week explaining that despite reports to the contrary, Jerry Lee Lewis was still alive. Next day, he died, at 86. I'll listen to some more albums in the next week, but for now here's my list (long on compilations and live albums). Although Rhino's Original Sun Greatest Hits is the A+, the one I return to most often is a later live album called Rockin' My Life Away.
I got zero response to my Jazz Critics Poll request last week, so I'm just going ahead. I'll set up the website framework and mailing list later this week, and should be ready to send out the ballot invites mid-November. I have one probable sponsor lined up, which is one more than I minimally need, so I expect it to go fairly smoothly.
I got my copy of Rick Lopez's magnificent The Sam Rivers Sessionography: A Work in Progress, so let's go ahead and put it in my book scroll. Lopez has been producing extraordinary sessionographies for 20+ years -- I first ran across him when I was writing my William Parker/Matthew Shipp Consumer Guide in 2003, where I raved about his "treasure troves of information, some of the finest scholarship available on the internet today." I should have gone farther and pointed out that this is what the Internet was built for, and what vulture capitalists have denied us with their relentless monetization. Few people are more worthy of your support (and, as I said, the book is gorgeous). By the way, you can find an excerpt at Perfect Sound Forever.
New records reviewed this week:
Arild Andersen Group: Affirmation (2021 , ECM): Norwegian bassist, started as a George Russell protégé in the late 1960s, has had a long and fruitful career. Quartet here with Marius Neset (tenor sax), Helge Lien (piano), and Håkon Måjset Johansen (drums), the multipart title piece jointly credited, plus his own "Short Story." Remarkable balance and poise. A- [sp]
Tim Berne/Matt Mitchell: One More, Please (2021 , Intakt): Alto sax and piano duo, their first duo record 2017's Førage, this the fifth by my count, but the only other one I've managed to hear is 2020's Spiders, still a slight preference although most likely they're all quite close, high-level collaborations. B+(***) [sp]
Bi Ba Doom: Graceful Collision (2022, Astral Spirits): Free jazz trio, first album as such but musicians are fairly well established: Chris Pitsiokos (alto sax), Luke Stewart (bass), and Jason Nazary (drums), everyone also electronics. B+(***) [bc]
Sarah Buechi/Franz Hellmueller/Rafael Jerjen: Moon Trail (2021 , Intakt): Swiss vocalist, titles in English (except for one in French, one in German), modestly backed with guitar and bass. She sings with rare poise, although the best known standards (like "I Thought About You") can feel tortured. B+(**) [sp]
Tito Carrillo: Urbanessence (2021 , Origin): Trumpet player, from Chicago, second album, original pieces, played by a sextet with sax (Troy Roberts), piano (Ben Lewis), bass, drums, and congas. B+(*) [sp]
The Claudettes: The Claudettes Go Out! (2022, Forty Below): Indie band from Chicago, founded by keyboardist Johnny Iguana in 2013, singer Berit Ulseth, fifth album. B+(*) [sp]
Zella Day: Sunday in Heaven (2022, Concord): Indie pop singer-songwriter from Arizona, self-released an album at 14 in 2009, second album since. B+(*) [sp]
John Dikeman/Stefan Gonzalez/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Jonathan F Horne: Texas Butt Biters (2019 , Astral Spirits): Sax. drums, bass, guitar, recorded in Amsterdam (Dikeman's home turf), although the others have ties to Texas. B+(*) [bc]
Kaja Draksler/Susana Santos Silva: Grow (2021 , Intakt): Piano and trumpet duo, from Slovenia and Portugal, both have been very active of late, including a previous duo in 2015 (This Love, on Clean Feed). Has an uncomfortably industrial feel, not expected given the instruments. B [sp]
Dry Cleaning: Stumpwork (2022, 4AD): English post-punk band, second album after an acclaimed debut, Florence Shaw vocalist (mostly spoken word). It's a vibe I'm hopelessly attracted to, even if I never seem able to parse it. A- [sp]
Lincoln Goines: The Art of the Bass Choir (2020-21 , Origin): Bassist, seems like he's been around a while but his may be his first leader album. Employs 10 bassists, but usually in duos, with a drummer (of four total), cello on two cuts, voices on two more (one an Adam Nussbaum rap, praising Jaco Pastorius). Cites "Steve Swallow's upper register explorations" as an inspiration, so much of this sounds like guitar. B+(*) [sp]
Eric Jacobson: Discover (2022, Origin): Trumpet player, leads a hard bop quintet, with Geof Bradfield (tenor sax), Bruce Barth (piano), bass, and drums, playing half originals, plus covers including Dizzy Gillespie and Blue Mitchell. B+(**) [sp]
Benjamin Lackner: Last Decade (2021 , ECM): German pianist, albums since 2003 (mostly as Benny). This is a quartet with Matthias Eick (trumpet), Jérôme Regard (bass), and Manu Katché (drums). B+(**) [sp]
Michael Marcus: Abstractions in Lime Caverns (2021 , ESP-Disk): Plays reed instruments (here: soprano/tenor sax, alto tarogato, G clarinet, bass flute, gong), discography starts 1990, including Cosmosamatics (with Sonny Simmons, 9 albums) and Duology (with Ted Daniel, 4 albums). These are duos with drummer Jay Rosen, expanded to trios (2 tracks) or quartets (3) with Frank Lacy (French horn) and/or Tarus Mateen (bass). B+(***) [cd]
John McCowen: Models of Duration (2020 , Dinzu Artefacts/Astral Spirits): Contrabass clarinet player, has several albums, this one solo, nothing electronic but sounds like a cross of Stuart Dempster's deep drones and an amplifier feedback album like Metal Machine Music. I don't think he's trying to be annoying, but the title suggests a test of endurance. B [bc]
Mali Obomsawin: Sweet Tooth (2022, Out of Your Head): Bassist, from the Wabanaki First Nation of Canada, also sings and plays hand drums, organized her debut albums as three movements, drawing on folk tales and jazz musicians, including co-producer Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet/flugelhorn), saxophonists Noah Campbell and Allison Burik (also bass clarinet), guitarist Miriam Elhajli (also sings), and Savannah Harris (drums). A- [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Fruition (2021 , ESP-Disk): Tenor sax and piano duo, they have well more than a dozen, starting with 1996's Bendito of Santa Cruz, and the obsessive documentation of every encounter can grow numbing. For many years I was sent all of them, and tried my best to figure sort them out. All of Perelman's records are good, and many are outstanding, and same for Shipp. But for me at least, the torrent has slowed down, even as Perelman's ambitions have grown: I never heard last year's 9-CD Brass and Ivory Tales or the Special Edition Box (only 1-CD + Blue-Ray + book, with Shipp) or this year's 2-CD Magic Dust or this week's Reed Rapture (duets with 12 famous saxophonists that would fill up as many CDs). On the other hand, this single (11 tracks, 60:13) really hits the spot. A- [cd]
Barre Phillips/György Kurtág Jr.: Face à Face (2020-21 , ECM): Bass and electronics duo. Phillips has albums going back to 1969, including a bass duo with Dave Holland in 1971. Kurtág's father is a famous Hungarian composer (b. 1926, so 96). B [sp]
Tegan and Sara: Crybaby (2022, Mom + Pop): Twin sisters, last name Quin, from Canada, tenth album since 1999. Gloomy song titles, but otherwise pretty jaunty. I must be missing something. B+(***) [sp]
Walking Cliché Sextet: Suite Chase Reflex (2019 , self-released, EP): Korean-born, New York-based bassist SeaJun Kwon, debuts with a single 26:15, leading a sextet with tenor sax (Jacob Shulman), alto sax (Aaron Dutton), trombone (Michael Prentky), piano (Erez Dessel), and drums (Charles Weller). B+(*) [bc]
Walking Cliché Sextet [SeaJun Kwon]: Micro-Nap (2020-21 , Endectomorph Music): Aside from part-time subs on piano and drums, same group for a 50:33 program, starts with piano intro before rousing the horns, before finally smoothing out with the 15:31 "Suite Transient." B+(***) [cd]
RA Washington/Jah Nada: In Search of Our Father's Gardens (2021 , Astral Spirits): Washington, from Mourning (A) Blkstar (an Ohio-based "gender and genre non-conforming amalgam of Black Culture"), plays piano, drums, and sings; Nada, from other Ohio groups (the only one I've heard of is Obnox) plays bass, synths, and drums; others from their circle add horns, guitars, and vocals. B+(*) [bc]
Brodie West Quintet: Meadow of Dreams (2020 , Astral Spirits): Alto saxophonist, from Toronto, has a couple previous albums going back to 2003, including a duo and a trio with Han Bennink. This one has piano (Tania Gill), bass (Josh Cole), and drums (Nick Fraser), plus wild card Evan Cartwright (credits: drums, vibraphone, and guitar). B+(*) [bc]
Chris Williams/Patrick Shiroishi: Sans Soleil II (2022, Astral Spirits): Trumpet and saxophone duo, both play related instruments and other "objects" and, yes, they've done this before. B+(*) [bc]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Ron Carter: Finding the Right Notes (2014-21 , In+Out): Bassist, probably holds the record for most albums anyone has played on (Wikipedia says 2,221 recording sessions). Title is from a 2014 "autobiography" which has Dan Ouellette's name on the cover, and was the basis for a PBS documentary, to which this is the official soundtrack (the 2-LP adds one song and reorders others). Although he has a substantial number of albums as leader (or co-, Wikipedia count is 61), he spent his career (still active at 85) making other people sound good. This starts way down the road, at 74, the tracks picked less for representativeness than to support views of him soloing, or playing in small groups (like duos with Bill Frisell or Jon Batiste). B+(**) [sp]
Sun Ra & His Blue Universe Arkestra: Universe in Blue (1971 , Cosmic Myth): Dates unknown, "probably live in California, ca. August 1971," released on LP with two different covers in 1972, and neglected since. Starts with sludgy blues organ, then a June Tyson vocal on "When the Black Man Rules This Land." Adds two bonus tracks, a plus, especially when John Gilmore gets cranked up. B+(**) [sp]
Michael Marcus: Sunwheels (2000 , Justin Time): Cover extends the credit: "with Rahn Burton/Nasheet Waits/& Special Guest Carlos 'Patato' Valdes." Back cover just lists Marcus, shown with tenor and soprano saxophones, the others playing organ, drums, and congas. B+(***) [sp]
Michael Marcus Trio: Blue Reality (2001 , Soul Note): Plays alto sax and saxello here, with Taurus Mateen (bass, electric bass, percussion) and Jay Rosen (drums). Album title was resurrected by Marcus and Rosen for their Blue Reality Quartet! in 2020, which missed having a bassist tie things together like Mateen does here. (The Quartet doubled up on reeds and drums with Joe McPhee and Warren Smith.) A- [sp]
Michael Marcus: Speakin' Out (2001-02 , Drimala): Solo album, mixes it up by playing clarinet, tenor sax, alto sax, saxello, and bass clarinet. This has the usual limits, but Marcus has spent most of his career working with minimal support, so he's well prepared to go it alone. B+(**) [sp]
Michael Marcus: Stone Jump (2019-20 , Not Two): Five more names on the cover, but over several sessions we're mostly looking at quartets, with piano (John Austria on electric, or Denton Darien on acoustic), bass (Tyler Mitchell), and drums (Warren Smith), with Lawrence Feldman's alto flute on two tracks. By his usual standards, this feels rather luxe -- even has ballads. B+(**) [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: