Monday, July 3, 2023


Music Week

July archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 40512 [40476] rated (+36), 14 [9] unrated (+5).

I wrote another substantial Speaking of Which yesterday. Well, it didn't seem like such a big deal until I started to wrap up, and added another 1300 words in the form of an 11-point summary of the current state of the Ukraine War. Well, not exactly "current state," which implies a reckoning of the battle lines and various economic factors, which I regard as minor and possibly trivial. What does matter is the mental state of the protagonists, which on both sides remains locked in bizarre belief that the war should continue to play out. I'll resist the temptation to write another 1300 words here, but I do insist that while the decision to invade was solely Russia's fault, and the efforts to thwart the invasion were justifiable, the unwillingness to even start to negotiate a peace deserves blame on both sides.

Laura Tillem cut out the Ukraine part and posted it to Facebook. It's already disappeared from my feed.

In case you missed it, I also published a TV Midyear Report last week. Since then, Endeavour ended, more or less successfully, so B+. The second episode of Ridley brought its case to a close, but I gather there are two more episodes to go, with another closed case. It's pretty solidly in B+ territory. We're still waiting for the last episode of Deadloch, which is only getting better. And I've started season 3 of The Great, and I'm enjoying it immensely (though still impatiently waiting for Peter III's demise, and a bit bothered by rumors that Nicholas Hoult is coming back as another character).

Favorite Facebook meme of the day: "People who wonder if the glass is half empty or half full, miss the point. The glass is refillable."


Weekly rated count continues to drop, as I've been starting off most days with something classic from the cases, before trying to find something new to check out. This has taken some scratching, but I wound up with four A- records, all (I think) initially suggested by members of the Expert Witness Facebook group, many of whom have spawned Substack newsletters. (It could be that I found LaVette on my own, but her records has been much admired by group members in the last few days.) I should construct a list, or at least add them to my "Music" navigation menu, but don't feel up to it today. For a while, I toyed with the idea of setting up my own Substack, but it still doesn't feel right, and the more people who do it, the less inclined I feel.

I thought of doing Madonna after news she was hospitalized. After a strong ending, I could have gone with an A-, but I noticed on Wikipedia that my grade for the previous one-CD sampler was B+(***), and finally decided that works here as well. Why make them extra work? It shouldn't be hard to compile an A- compilation of her post-1990 work, given that half of the albums are already there. Note that the Pet Shop Boys have a similar compilation, but I haven't been able to stream it yet.

Also not getting done today is the indexing I put off for last month's Streamnotes. Maybe next week. Other projects are falling by the wayside. The one that bothers me most is that the Sony CD changer upstairs is broken, so I haven't had any bedtime music for several weeks now. Seems like it's probably just a broken belt, but I haven't even managed to take it apart to see -- at least beyond removing the top, which allowed me to rescue the CD.


New records reviewed this week:

JoVia Armstrong & Eunoia Society: Inception (2021 [2023], Black Earth Music): Percussionist, credited here with hybrid cajon, the group adding "5 Strings," bass, and guitar. Fusion of some sort, lots of riff without much rhyme. B [cd]

Tor Einar Bekken/Inga-Mei Steinbru: Jungle One Jungle Two Jungle Blues (2023, self-released): Piano and drums duo, the former with records as Dr. Bekken back to 1995, the latter apparently not in Discogs. B+(**) [bc]

Ice Cold Bishop: Generational Curse (2023, Epic): Los Angeles rapper, hasn't made it big enough for Wikipedia yet, debut album not yet in Discogs (which has 2022's single), credit jammed together in all-caps but Pitchfork review repeatedly refers to "Bishop." Tight loops, hard to follow, with high voices tracked cartoonishly but something deeper in the message. A- [sp]

Samuel Blaser: Routes (2021-22 [2023], Enja): Trombonist, from Switzerland, couple dozen albums since 2008, mostly plays free jazz but pays tribute here to reggae great Don Drummond, with Alex Wilson (piano/organ/melodica), Alan Weekes (guitar), Ira Coleman (bass), Dion Parson (drums), Soweto Kinch (alto sax/vocals), Michael Blake (tenor sax), and Edwin Sanz (percussion), with Scratch Perry dubbing on two tracks, and extra trombones on another. B+(***) [sp]

Pony Bradshaw: North Georgia Rounder (2023, Black Mountain Music): Country singer-songwriter from north Georgia, fourth album. B+(**) [sp]

Dee Byrne: Outlines (2021 [2023], Whirlwind): British alto saxophonist, has a couple previous albums, leads a sextet, with trumpet, clarinet, piano, bass, and drums -- only name familiar to me is Olie Brice (bass). B+(**) [sp]

Shirley Collins: Archangel Hill (2023, Domino): Venerable British folk singer, now 87, returned from a 38-year hiatus in 2016, with a second album in 2020, and now this third one. Voice continues to wither, as does the songs. B+(*) [sp]

Chuck D as Mistachuck: We Wreck Stadiums: Homage to Rap & Baseball Heroes (2023, SpitSLAM): Public Enemy front man Carlton Ridenhour, feeling nostalgic about his baseball cards, ten years younger than me, which is close enough I recognize the players he namechecks. Interesting as that is, his beats are what I'm more nostalgic for. B+(***) [sp]

McKinley Dixon: Beloved! Paradise! Jazz! (2023, City Slang): Rapper from Virginia, fourth album. B+(*) [sp]

The Sofia Goodman Group: Secrets of the Shore (2023, Joyous): Jazz drummer, based in Nashville, second album, with saxophonists Joel Frahm and Dan Hitchcock, clarinet, guitar, keyboards, bass, and drums, performing Goodman originals (three with co-credits). Fairly luxe postbop. B+(*) [cd] [07-14]

Daniel Hersog Jazz Orchestra: Open Spaces: Folk Songs Reimagined (2022 [2023], Cellar): Canadian trumpet player, second big band recording, big name soloists include Kurt Rosenwinkel (guitar), Scott Robinson (reeds), Noah Preminger (tenor sax), and Frank Carlberg (piano). Seems like I should have recognized most of the folk songs, but they tend to get lost in the arrangements. B+(*) [cd]

Bettye LaVette: LaVette! (2023, Jay-Vee): Soul singer, raised in Detroit, was 16 when she recorded her first hit in 1962 but struggled after that, until the breakthrough of her 2003 album A Woman Like Me. All tracks here were written by Randall Bramblett, who I remember as a singer-songwriter in the mid-1970s, who dovetailed into soul but couldn't pull it off himself. LaVette can, and then some. A- [sp]

Brennen Leigh: Ain't Through Honky-Tonkin' Yet (2023, Signature Sounds): Country singer-songwriter, based in Nashville, ten-plus albums since 2002 (and still doesn't have a Wikipedia page). Starts with a song about escaping Hope, Arkansas. B+(***) [sp]

Mach-Hommy/Tha God Fahim: Notorious Dump Legends Vol. 2 (2023, self-released): New Jersey rapper Ramar Begon, Haitian parents, spent much of his childhood in Port-au-Prince. First EPs in 2011, many albums since 2017, this a short one (27:31). B+(*) [sp]

Gabriela Martina: Homage to Gršmilis (2023, self-released): Jazz singer-songwriter, from Switzerland, second album, backed with guitar (Jussi Reijonen), accordion (Ben Rosenblum), piano (Maxim Lubarsky), bass, and drums. B+(*) [cd] [07-14]

Okwy Osadebe and Highlife Soundmakers International: Igbo Amaka (2023, Palenque): Nigerian, the son of Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe (1936-2007), an Igbo highlife star in Lagos from his first album in 1958. During the 1970s, highlife was eclipsed by juju and afrobeat, but I always found the early stuff especially charming, as is this slight update. A- [sp]

Brandon Ross: Of Sight and Sound (2019 [2023], Sunnyside): Guitarist, short list of records since 2004, played in Harriet Tubman and other groups. Music here -- with Kevin Ross (bass guitar), Chris Eddleton (drums), and Hardedge (sound design) -- was presented to accompany paintings by Ford Crull. B+(*) [sp]

Rome Streetz: Wasn't Built in a Day (2023, De Rap Winkel): Rapper Jerome Allen, busy since 2018, produced by Big Ghost LTD, who sometimes gets a co-credit here. B+(*) [sp]

Marina Sena: Vicio Inerente (2023, Sony Music Brasil): Brazilian singer-songwriter, second album. B+(***) [sp]

Isach Skeidsvoll: Dance to Summon (2021 [2023], Ultraššni): Norwegian pianist, has several albums, the one I've heard is a duo with his brother Lauritz, who plays soprano sax here. Also with Espen Songstad (tenor sax), Aksel ōvreas Reed (baritone sax), Peder Skeidsvoll (pocket trumpet), bass, and drums, with everyone also credited with percussion, some with voice. They make a very impressive noise, but I'm not quite up to it all. B+(***) [sp]

Sam Smith: Gloria (2023, Capitol): British singer, first album (2014) was a big hit, others have followed suit, even this fourth one, after he (ok, they) went non-binary. Has a rich, but limited, soul crooner voice, increasingly turned into a choir here. B [sp]

Emilio Solla/Antonio Lizana: El Siempre Mar (2023, Tiger Turn): Pianist, from Argentina, based in New York, started with the band Apertura (1983-89), most of his albums are steeped in tango. Joined here by the Spanish flamenco-rooted saxophonist, who also sings, with smaller front cover print for Jorge Roeder (bass) and Ferenc Nemeth (drums). B+(*) [cd]

Sonar With David Torn and J. Peter Schwalm: Three Movements (2022 [2023], 7d): Swiss quartet, with two guitarists (Stephan Thelen and Bernhard Wagner), bass (Christian Kunther), and drums (Manuel Pasquinelli) -- tenth album since 2012, sometimes considered math rock (due to the intricate rhythms, or maybe because leader Thelen is a mathematician), but complex enough for jazz with no real hint of fusion. Joined here by guitarist Torn, who's appeared on several of their albums, and Schwalm (electronics). B+(**) [sp]

Joanna Sternberg: I've Got Me (2023, Fat Possum): Singer-songwriter, visual artist, multi-instrumentalist, based in New York, second album. Holds your attention with just guitar or piano and voice. A- [sp]

Sundy Best: Feel Good Country (2023, self-released): Country duo, Kristofer Bentley and Nicholas Jamerson, from Kentucky, five albums 2012-16, split up in 2018, announced a reunion in 2020, which finally led to this. B+(*) [sp]

Pictoria Vark: The Parts I Dread (2022, Get Better): Singer-songwriter, bassist from Iowa City, actual name Victoria Park, has a previous double-EP called Self-Titled (2018). Rob Sheffield is enough of a fan that he brought this to a "Pazz and Jop" podcast with Robert Christgau, who hasn't weighed in yet. I don't have much to say, either. B+(*) [sp]

The War and Treaty: Lover's Game (2023, Mercury Nashville): Michigan duo, Michael and Tanya Trotter, fourth album, first with a major label, which is pushing them as Americana, but their roots are in blues and gospel. B+(**) [sp]

Wild Up: Julius Eastman Vol 3: If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich? (2023, New Amsterdam): Large Los Angeles group, conducted by Christopher Rountree, their third foray into the composer's work. B+(***) [sp]

Jess Williamson: Time Ain't Accidental (2023, Mexican Summer): Alt-country singer-songwriter, from Austin but based in Los Angeles, four previous albums, but is probably best known for her duo project Plains, with Katie Crutchfield. B+(***) [sp]

Denny Zeitlin: Crazy Rhythm: Exploring George Gershwin (2018 [2023], Sunnyside): Pianist, has recorded extensively since 1963. Solo here, a bit of percussion, on eleven Gershwin compositions (no title tune, but "Fascinating Rhythm" appears). B [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Joel Futterman: Inneraction (1984 [2023], Mahakala Music): Avant-jazz pianist, originally from Chicago, debut 1979, has co-led important groups with Kidd Jordan, Hal Russell, and Ike Levin. This reissues his third album, with Jimmy Lyons (alto sax), Richard Davis (bass), and Robert Adkins (drums), with Nat Hentoff's original liner notes. B+(***) [bc]

Madonna: Finally Enough Love: 50 Number Ones (1982-2019 [2022], Warner, 3CD): I can only imagine what it was to grow up with Madonna, but I got a glimpse when walking in New York, when the young daughter of a friend saw an iconic photo of Marilyn Monroe in a store window, and exclaimed. But from the few times I got stuck listening to radio in the 1980s, I got the sense that she produced most of the decade's memorable pop music (seems I only got Prince via albums). Her albums were rarely as great as the singles, but 1990's The Immaculate Collection was just that. That ended with "Vogue," which is track 11 on the first disc here. She never got better than that, but I count nine A/A- albums since, vs. four before, so she's entitled to a career-spanning compilation. This has a couple of dubious covers from back when she was toying with becoming a crossover star, but then she settled back into her dance groove, and hired the best beats she could afford, for a final disc that is serviceable but rather short of immaculate. B+(***) [sp]

Arthur Russell: Picture of Bunny Rabbit (1985-86 [2023], Audika): From Iowa (1951-92), moved to New York in 1973, studied electronic music, became music director of the Kitchen (a famous avant-garde spot), played cello, later moved into dance music, releasing an album as Dinosaur L. His legend has grown since his premature (AIDS) death, especially with the 2004 release of The World of Arthur Russell. This new discovery is a sketchy minimalist piece of solo voice, cello, keyboards, guitar, harmonica, and echoes. B+(**) [sp]

Old music:

Johnny Adams: There's Always One More Time (1983-97 [2000], Rounder): Rhythm and blues singer (1932-98), from New Orleans, ranged into gospel and jazz, had some minor hits in the 1960s, signed with folk-oriented Rounder in 1983, which is where this -- an entry in the label's "Rounder Heritage" series of compilations -- picks up. B+(**) [sp]

Christer Bothťn 3: Omen (2019 [2021], Bocian): Swedish bass/contrabass clarinetist, albums as far back as 1982, spent time in Mali learning donso n'goni (which he was introduced to by Don Cherry), also in Morocco. Trio with Vilhelm Bromander (bass) and Konrad Agnas (drums). B+(***) [bc]

Bashful Brother Oswald: Dobro's Best (1976 [2008], Gusto): Beecher Ray Kirby (1911-2002), from Tennessee, played Dobro resonator guitar, notably in Roy Acuff's Smoky Mountain Boys. He recorded four albums for Rounder, as well as isolated albums for a few other labels. Most (11 of 12) of these songs appeared on his 1976 album for Gusto, 14 Songs, which is the only one on Spotify. B+(*) [sp]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Jeff Babko/David Piltch: The Libretto Show (Tudortones) [06-23]
  • Jalen Baker: Be Still (Cellar) [07-07]
  • Brew: Heat (Clean Feed) [06-23]
  • Alex Coke & Carl Michel Sextet: Emergence (PlayOn) [07-07]
  • Sammy Figueroa: Something for a Memory: Busco Tu Recuerdo (Ashe) [07-14]
  • Jason Kao Hwang Critical Response: Book of Stories (True Sound) [06-31]
  • Izumi Kimura/Gerry Hemingway: Kairos (Fundacja Sluchaj) [07-07]
  • Bruno Perrinha: Da Eros„o (4DaRecord) [05-28]
  • The Rodriguez Brothers: Reunited: Live at Dizzy's Club (RodBros Music) [07-14]
  • Nicole Zuraitis: How Love Begins (Outside In Music) [07-07]

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