An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, May 15, 2023
Music: Current count 40204  rated (+46), 42  unrated (-2: 14 new, 28 old).
Nice selection across the board this week. The three new albums all have recommended antecedents: Brötzmann-Drake is their second Moroccan album, following The Catch of a Ghost with Maâlem Moukhtar Gania (a more famous Ganaoua master than Bekkas); Buck 65 follows up on last year's King of Drums with a consistency that's defined its own take on old school; Dave Rempis and Elisabeth Harnik collaborated on an earlier album, Astragaloi (2022, with Michael Zerang).
Same could be said for the reissue/vault finds: Thomas Anderson has a number of fine albums, the most comparable her being 2012's The Moon in Transit: Four-Track Demos, 1996-2009. Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens have another live album from the same tour, 1988's Paris-Soweto. While I can't point to a comparable Pharoah Sanders live album, he has notable earlier albums (like 1967's Tauhid) and even better later albums (1988's Africa, 1990's Welcome to Love, and 1992's Crescent With Love).
Of the high B+ albums, I should note two long (2-CD) sets that cut short, despite the sense that multiple plays might lift the grades a notch: Fire! Orchestra's Echoes, and Matt Mitchell's Oblong Aplomb. I suppose I could say the same thing about Withered Hand, which was impressive enough to grade higher, but didn't have enough personal appeal to make me want to. Robert Christgau gave the record a full A -- he's consistently much more taken with this artist than I am. Christgau also gave full A's to Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens, and to Boygenius -- the latter's The Record I dismissed as a B first time through, although pretty much everyone else loves it.
Noticed that I hadn't done the indexing for the April Streamnotes, so I knocked that out.
I posted a fairly substantial Speaking of Which yesterday evening. The growing right-wing adulation of murderers is especially troubling. Just ten years ago conservatives would take pains to distance themselves from such acts, but no more.
I'm into the last 50 pages of Kurt Andersen's Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire. The book was published in 2017, after Trump took office but before much of his term had played out. I just finished chapters on anti-vaxxers (including RFK Jr.) and "Gun Crazy": both could have been massive expanded to bring them up to the present.
New records reviewed this week:
William Bell: One Day Closer to Home (2023, Wilbe): Soul man, originally from Memphis, signed to Stax in 1961, moved to Atlanta in 1970, had his biggest hit in 1976 ("Tryin' to Love Two"). Should be 83 now, doesn't sound (or look) like it: he still goes to parties, and still sings a classic ballad. B+(**) [sp]
Big Joanie: Back Home (2022, Kill Rock Stars): Postpunk trio, three second-generation British women, cite the Ronettes as their model, but "filtered through '80s DIY and Riot Grrrl with a sprinkling of dashikis" (and, notably, no Spector). Second album. Seems solid, then starts to catch you up. B+(***) [sp]
Peter Brötzmann/Majid Bekkas/Hamid Drake: Catching Ghosts (2022 , ACT): A founder of the German avant-garde, here 81, still strong on tenor sax and clarinet, but takes a back seat here to Moroccan Gnaoua adept Bekkas, who chant-sings and plays guembri, with Drake's drums offering perfect support. This live set recalls another superb 2019 album, The Catch of a Ghost, with Gnaouan master Maâlem Moukhtar Gania joining Brötzmann and Drake -- itself a reprisal of work they did as far back as 1996. A- [sp]
Buck 65: 14 KT Gold (2023, self-released, EP): Halifax rapper, teasing us with 5 tracks (10:59) of extra scraps from his Super Dope album sessions. Among other lines: "where do you run when no one is chasing you?" B+(**) [bc]
Buck 65: Super Dope (2023, self-released): This grabbed me from the first scratches -- having started way back in 1986, he's sounding pretty old school -- beyond which numerous clever lines shoot across the horizon. A- [bc]
Mark Dresser: Times of Change (2019-22 , Pyroclastic): Bassist, came to prominence in Anthony Braxton's Quartet (1986-97), has several dozen albums as leader and many more side-credits. This one is solo, using a number of gadgets and tricks that expand the instrument's sonic range. B+(***) [cd]
EABS Meets Jaubi: In Search of a Better Tomorrow (2023, Astigmatic): Polish group, acronym for Electro-Acoustic Beat Sessions, six albums since 2016 including tributes to Krzysztof Komeda and Sun Ra, mash up here with a Lahore-based Pakistani group, although both have previous albums on this Polish label, and EABS keyboardist Latamik (Marek Pedziwiatr) appeared on Jaubi's excellent Nafs at Peace. B+(***) [sp]
Fire! Orchestra: Echoes (2022 , Rune Grammofon, 2CD): Scandinavian group started as a trio in 2009 (Mats Gustafsson, Johan Berthling, Andreas Werlin), expanded to orchestra size in 2013, and has continued to sprawl, reaching 43 members on this 2-hour epic. Four vocalists appear on one track each (of 14 total). B+(***) [sp]
Champian Fulton: Meet Me at Birdland (2022 , Champian): Standards singer, plays piano, from Oklahoma, based in New York, 16th album since 2007, a live set backed by Hide Tanaka (bass) and Fukushi Tainaka (drums). B+(**) [sp]
Hamish Hawk: Angel Numbers (2023, Post Electric): Scottish singer-songwriter, fourth album since 2014, catchy enough but he does lay it on thick. B [sp]
Durand Jones: Wait Til I Get Over (2023, Dead Oceans): Soul singer, has three albums as Durand Jones & the Indications, just his name on the cover here. Way over-orchestrated for my taste, but has moments that really promise something. B+(*) [sp]
Tyler Keith & the Apostles: Hell to Pay (2023, Black & Wyatt): Memphis garage rock group, back in 2001 Keith called his group the Preachers Kids. B+(**) [sp]
Kid Koala: Creatures of the Late Afternoon (2023, Envision): Canadian DJ/electronica producer Eric San, albums from 1996, including group projects Bullfrog and Deltron 3030. A bit jumbled, with an ongoing robot-hotel shtick. B+(**) [sp]
Kiko El Crazy: Pila'e Teteo (2023, Rimas): Dominican toaster Jose Alberto Peralta, second album, style known as dembow, not far removed from reggaeton. B+(**) [sp]
Toshinori Kondo/Massimo Pupillo/Tony Buck: Eternal Triangle (2019 , I Dischi Di Angelica): Japanese electric trumpet player (1948-2019), probably best known from Peter Brötzmann's Die Like a Dog quartet, with electric bass/electronics and drums. B+(*) [bc]
The Adam Larson Trio: With Love, From New York (2022 , Outside In Music): Tenor saxophonist, eighth album, third in his series of With Love, From albums: this one with Obed Calvaire (bass) and Matt Clohesy (drums). Nice lively set. B+(**) [sp]
The Adam Larson Trio: With Love, From Kansas City (2021 , Outside In Music): Second of his traveling trio albums, after With Love, From Chicago. This one picks up locals Ben Leifer (bass) and John Kizilarmut (drums), performing six originals and Charlie Parker's "Chi Chi." B+(**) [sp]
Jinx Lennon: Walk Lightly When the Jug Is Full (2023, Septic Tiger): Formally, an Irish folk singer-songwriter, but rough enough around the edges for punk. B+(**) [sp]
Johan Lindström/Norrbotten Big Band: Johan Lindström & Norrbotten Big Band (2020 , Moserobie): Swedish big band, has 25 albums since 1989, most featuring guest leaders, like the guitarist, who was "composer in residence" in 2020 -- the only date given, although this was conducted by Joakim Milder, who took over as artistic director in 2023. B+(**) [cd]
Baaba Maal: Being (2023, Marathon Artists): Singer from Senegal, his 1989 US debut (Djam Leeli, with Mansour Seck) was one of the era's most fetching releases. This dials it up, then back down again. B+(**) [sp]
Matt Mitchell: Oblong Aplomb (2022 , Out of Your Head, 2CD): Pianist, two sets of percussion duos, "Oblong" with Kate Gentile (drums), "Aplomb" with Ches Smith (vibes and gongs as well as drums). Both make a strong case. B+(***) [cd]
The National: First Two Pages of Frankenstein (2023, 4AD): Mild-mannered band from Cincinnati, singer-songwriter is Matt Berninger, 9th album, very pleasant. B+(**) [sp]
Naya Bazz [Rez Abbasi/Josh Feinberg]: Charm (2021-22 , Whirlwind): Artist names on cover, small print above group name and title. Abbasi is a Pakistani guitarist who grew up in California. Feinberg is a New Yorker who plays classical Hindustani sitar. They are backed by Jennifer Vincent (cello) and Satoshi Takeishi (drums). B+(**) [cd]
Parannoul: After the Magic (2023, Top Shelf): South Korean, has also released albums as Laststar and Mydreamfever, considered shoegaze/emo, which is to say shrouded in a deep guitar haze. B [sp]
Jeremy Pelt: The Art of Intimacy, Vol. 2: His Muse (2023, HighNote): Mainstream trumpet player, steady stream of albums since 2002, his Vol. 1 came out in 2020, a trio with bass and drums. Different players for this quintet -- Victor Gould (piano), Buster Williams (bass), Billy Hart (drums), Chico Pinheiro (guitar) -- plus occasional and unnecessary strings. B+(*) [sp]
Dave Rempis/Elisabeth Harnik/Fred Lonberg-Holm/Tim Daisy: Earscratcher (2022 , Aerophonic): Alto sax, piano, cello/electronics, and drums/percussion. Group was put together to focus on Harnik, who plays outstanding free jazz here, wrapped in complex layers of sound. A- [dl]
Rudy Royston Flatbed Buggy: Day (2022 , Greenleaf Music): Drummer, several albums as leader plus many more side-credits, released one in 2018 called Flatbed Buggy, and returns with that group here: John Ellis (bass clarinet), Hank Roberts (cello), Gary Versace (accordion), and Joe Martin (bass). Has a soft chamber jazz feel, centered on the cello. B+(*) [cd]
Felipe Salles Interconnections Ensemble: Home Is Here (2022 , Tapestry): Tenor saxophonist, from Brazil, teaches in Massachusetts, eighth album since 2007, two with "Suite" in title, this the third with his nineteen-piece big band, eight of whom are listed as "featured." Latin (Brazilian, at least) touches, sophisticated arranging, solo spots, even a bit of voice (but not too much). B+(**) [cd]
Sexmob: The Hard Way (2023, Corbett vs. Dempsey): Quartet -- Steven Bernstein (slide trumpet), Briggan Krauss (alto/baritone sax, guitar), Tony Scherr (bass, guitar), and Kenny Wolleson (drums) -- goes way back (mostly 1998-2005, occasional records since), here with producer Scotty Hard (beats, synth bass) and scattered guests (John Medeski, Vijay Iyer, DJ Olive). B+(***) [sp]
Alan Sondheim: Galut: Ballads of Wadi-Sabi (2023, ESP-Disk): Wikipedia page describes him as "a poet, critic, musician, artist, and theorist of cyberspace," then talks mostly about the latter: his online writing community, codework concept, aesthetics of virtual environments, his place among postmodernist philosophers. In music, he recorded a couple albums for ESP-Disk in 1967-68, resuming around 2005, especially with his partner Azure Carter (credited here with vocals and anything songlike). Runs long (76 minutes) given a lot of meandering, some with Edward Schneider (alto sax) and/or Rachel Rosenkrantz (bass). Sondheim's own credit is "various instruments." B+(**) [cd]
Star Feminine Band: In Paris (2022, Born Bad): Group of seven girls from Natitingou, in Benin, ages 10-17 (at least when their 2020 debut appeared), sing in French and at least four native languages (Waama, Peul, Bariba, Ditamari). B+(**) [sp]
Ken Vandermark & Hamid Drake: Eternal River (2021 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Tenor sax and drums duo, their first together although they've played in larger groups. Program consists of two medleys of Don Cherry pieces. B+(***) [bc]
Withered Hand: How to Love (2023, Reveal): Dan Willson, singer-songwriter qua band from Edinburgh, two previous albums from 2009 and 2014. As I understand the back story, he's a recovering Jehovah's Witness, still seeking to find redemption in love, the subject of these deadly serious but strangely gorgeous songs. I'm impressed, but also doubt I'll want to hear this again. B+(***) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Thomas Anderson: The Debris Field: Lo-Fi Flotsam and Ragged Recriminations, 2000-2021 (2000-21 , Out There): Singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, been throwing out his homemade records since 1989, the barrel scrapings often more compelling than his first-run albums. A- [sp]
William Bell: Never Like This Before: The Complete 'Blue' Stax Singles 1961-1968 (1961-68 , Kent Soul): Soul singer, from Memphis, last name Yarborough, recorded for Stax 1961-74 but hits were infrequent and modest -- his 1961 debut, "You Don't Miss Your Water," may be his best remembered song. Not great, but he was pretty consistent. B+(**) [sp]
William Bell: The Man in the Street: The Complete 'Yellow' Stax Solo Singles 1968-1974 (1968-74 , Kent Soul): A bit less consistent, following the times. B+(**) [sp]
Ornette Coleman: Genius of Genius: The Contemporary Albums (1958-59 , Craft, 2CD): Coleman's first two albums, Something Else!!!! and Tomorrow Is the Question!, repackaged deluxe vinyl but also on CD and digital. Approached after hearing the later Atlantics (The Shape of Jazz to Come, Change of the Century, etc.) they seemed less than earthshaking (despite the titles and all the exclamation marks), which is to say not quite what you'd instantly recognize as Ornette! Don Cherry is on both, but the former even has a piano (Walter Norris), with long-forgotten Don Payne on bass and Billy Higgins on drums. The second drops the piano, divided bass between Percy Heath (?) and Red Mitchell (??), and has Shelly Manne on drums. B+(***) [sp]
Dredd Foole and the Din: Songs in Heat 1982 (1982 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Dan Ireton, guitar and vocals, leading a postpunk/noise group that included Roger Miller (Mission of Burma) on organ and guitar, plus a third guitarist (Clint Conley), prepared bass (Martin Swope), and drums (Peter Prescott). Looks like only two of these tracks were released at the time. They are joined by extra tracks from two sessions (one studio, one live), including covers of "Sister Ray" and "Final Solution." More volumes are coming. B+(*) [bc]
Buddy Guy & Junior Wells: Live From Chicago Blues Festival 1964 (1964 , Good Time): Chicago blues duo, guitar and harmonica, destined to become big stars but their debut albums were 1966-68, and their breakthrough was 1972. A bit on the murky side, which is almost an aesthetic. B+(***) [r]
Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens: Music Inferno: The Indestructible Beat Tour 1988-89 (1988-89 , Umsakazo): Breakout stars from the 1986 compilation The Indestructible Beat of Soweto, followed by superb albums by each and together -- his groan gains most from the collaboration, and a justly revered live album from Paris. This was scraped together from several stops in Britain at the time, and is as catchy and moving as you'd expect. A- [sp]
Evan Parker/X-Jazz Ensemble: A Schist Story (2012 , JACC): A single 46:04 piece, recorded "as final result of a full week artistic residency at Schist Villages," in Portugal. Parker is credited with "conduction and saxophone," among 18 musicians, including Luis Vicente (trumpet), Rodrigo Amado (sax), and Luis Lopes (guitar), with cello, viola, and harp. B+(*) [bc]
Oscar Peterson: On a Clear Day: The Oscar Peterson Trio - Live in Zurich, 1971 (1971 , Mack Avenue): Pianist, plus Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass) and Louis Hayes (drums), with a previously unreleased live set. Sparkling as ever, but didn't retain much on one quick play. B+(**) [sp]
Abbey Rader/Davey Williams: In One Is All (1999 , Abray): Drummer, part of the 1970s loft scene in New York, moved to Europe but returned in 1989. Williams (1952-2019) was a guitarist, released thirty-some albums from 1977 on, often with LaDonna Smith, Andrea Centazzo, and/or Gunter Christmann. One previous duo with Rader dates from this year. This is a single 52:32 track. B+(**) [bc]
Pharoah Sanders Quartet: Live at Fabrik: Hamburg 1980 (1980 , Jazzline): Tenor saxophonist, followed Coltrane into the avant-garde, establishing himself in a series of 1966-73 Impulse records. He struggled businesswise after that, with a half-dozen albums on Theresa disappearing from print, before returning with several masterpieces in the 1990s, remaining a revered figure up to his death in 2022. But he could still tour, and sounds terrific here on four originals (including "The Creator Has a Master Plan") and a standard, backed by John Hicks (piano), Curtis Lundy (bass), and Idris Muhammad (drums). A- [sp]
Star Feminine Band: Star Feminine Band (2020, Born Bad): From Benin, seven girls age 10-17, first album, recorded at Musée Régional De Natitingou and marketed out of France. Both a bit cruder and a bit more charming than their later In Paris. B+(**) [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: