Monday, July 24, 2023

Music Week

July archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 40606 [40575] rated (+31), 10 [17] unrated (-7).

I published another Speaking of Which last night. With a couple edits today, it comes to 5,264 words (85 links). Big news since then is that Israel, under Netanyahu's far-right government, has passed its bill to curtail Israel's Supreme Court from overruling anything the government does. Presumably this will help keep Netanyahu, who has been fighting corruption charges, out of jail, and will further protect his allies, some of whom have long criminal records. Many Israelis, and many long-time American supporters of Israel, regard this law as an assault on what's long passed for democracy in Israel. Here are some New York Times reports:

I'll probably have more to say about this next week. Meanwhile, for a more critical view -- which compared to the New York Times, also means a more balanced view -- Mondoweiss is a good source. The first article out there is: New Israeli law is shock to U.S. Zionists, who fear break with American Jews.

While looking at the Times, I noticed an obituary for Reeves Callaway (75). I'm not sure whether I ever heard of him, but he led pretty much the life I imagined for myself when I was a teenager (my actual models were Colin Chapman, Carroll Shelby, and Carlo Abarth -- I liked to imagine shutting down my neighbor's GTO with one of Abarth's souped-up Fiat 850s).

I don't have much to add about this week's record reviews, except that it's gotten hard for me to think of things I really want to listen to next. Not only am I playing more non-work CDs when I get up, I'm finding myself stuck in extended patches of silence (or tinnitus). Very little in my demo queue has been released, and I inadvertently jumped the gun on a couple items.

In the Old Music section, Allen Lowe has been rhapsodizing about Tony Fruscella. I previously gave his 1955 eponymous album -- the only one released under his name in his brief lifetime (1927-69) -- a B+(***), which on replay seems about right. I only found two more albums, and didn't bother with the one I couldn't date. Jazz Factory has boxes of everything, but I haven't heard them.

As you probably know, Tony Bennett died last week, at 96. I liked his big hit when it came out, and I've always thought he was a good singer and a generally cool guy, but stuck in a niche that was neither jazz nor rock. So I thought I'd try a few of his early albums, focusing on things that seemed closer to jazz, but that didn't last long. (Another Lowe favorite, Dave Schildkraut, showed up in the Bennett credits, but I can't say as I noticed him in the music.) I considered a 1987 compilation called Jazz, but didn't have the time to track down where it all came from, so passed for now. My grade list for Bennett is here. Nothing A-listed, or even close, I'm sorry to say.

Looks like the heat has finally arrived here in Wichita, with 100F forecast every day through Friday. Still not the worst we've ever seen. I still have a long list of domestic projects, which have been frustrating me no end. Despite service calls, I'm still not receiving server email. I did get the server admin messages rerouted, so that's manageable. I have a new scanner to set up. Also a broken CD player: if I can't fix it (and thus far I haven't even managed to take it apart), I'll need to find service. I did manage to get the car oil changed (a typically bad experience with this dealer). I still need to line up a new doctor, as mine quit. Probably much more I'm blotting out of my increasingly feeble mind. At least July has one more Monday, so I don't have to face wrapping up the monthly archive yet. Got a couple packages in the mail today, to be unpacked next week.

New records reviewed this week:

Blur: The Ballad of Darren (2023, Parlophone): One of the big britpop bands of the 1990s, with six albums from that decade, but this is only their third since (2003, 2015). Maintains an air of grandeur. B+(*) [sp]

The Cucumbers: Old Shoes (self-released, EP): New Jersey group founded in 1983 with Deena Shoshkes and Jon Fried, released a delightful EP then, and an eponymous album in 1987 that remains a favorite. Since then, Deena has released several solo albums while occasionally reviving the group, as she does here, for a brief seven songs (23:11), as delightful as ever. Like old shoes, "I'm the one that fits you." A- [cd]

Sammy Figueroa: Something for a Memory (Busco Tu Recuerdo) (2022 [2023], Ashé): Percussionist (especially congas), from the Bronx, has led His Latin Jazz Explosion since 2006, before that had many side-credits, notably with pop bands like Chic. Thinking about his father here, a bolero singer named Charlie Figueroa, who died young, leaving no direct memories on his son. Featuring Gonzalo Rubalcaba (piano) and Aymée Nuviola (vocals), with Figueroa also singing, plus a sample from the father. B+(**) [cd]

Paulo Fresu/Omar Sosa: Food (2023, Tuk Music): Italian trumpet/flugelhorn player, in a duo with the Cuban pianist, playing a variety of keyboards, samplers, and effects, also credited with voice. Guest slots provide additional vocals, cello, and steel pan. The trumpet is very nice. B+(**) [sp]

Max Gerl: Max Gerl (2023, JMI): Bassist, electric and acoustic, with a nice solo album, ten originals plus a Monk. B+(*) [cd]

Jenny Lewis: Joy'all (2023, Blue Note): Singer for Rilo Kiley (2001-07), released a solo album in 2006, four more since. Nice enough. B+(**) [sp]

Doug MacDonald: Big Band Extravaganza (2022 [2023], DMAC Music): Touted as "the great straight ahead jazz guitarist," which means he probably wouldn't mind if I thought of Wes Montgomery (when I thought of anyone at all). B+(**) [cd]

Donny McCaslin: I Want More (2023, Edition): Tenor saxophonist, plays some flute, regular albums since 1998, as well as session work, notably for Dave Douglas, David Bowie, and Maria Schneider (for which he won a couple Grammys). Always impressive chops, but his slick postbop can be a turn off, especially when he goes with the synths as here. B [sp]

Lori McKenna: 1988 (2023, CN): Singer-songwriter from Massachusetts, 12th album since 2000, title refers to the year she got married, at 19, a union that endures, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and increasingly in well-observed song. A- [sp]

Near Miss: The Natural Regimen (2022 [2023], Kettle Hole): Chicago trio, with two tenor saxophonists (Rob Magill, also on soprano and bass clarinet, and Gerrit Hatcher) plus drums (Bill Harris). A bit rocky, but they may prefer it that way, at least to hitting some hypothetical bulls eye. B+(***) [cd]

Palehound: Eye on the Bat (2023, Polyvinyl): Indie band, fourth album since 2015, singer-songwriter El Kempner, trans pronouns but sounds female. B+(**) [sp]

Nate Radley & Gary Versace: Snapshots (2023, SteepleChase): Guitar and piano duo. B+(**) [sp]

The Rempis Percussion Quartet: Harvesters (2023, Aerophonic, 2CD): Saxophonist Dave Rempis, from Chicago, plays alto and tenor, assembled this two-drummer quartet (Tim Daisy and Frank Rosaly), with bass (Ingebrigt Håker Flaten), in 2006, and returns with their ninth album. I hit the second disc first, and thought it was nicely balanced, as cogent or more as anything they've done. The first was more typically aggressive, although it settled down after a nice bass solo. Next piece added Jean-Luc Cappozzo on flugelhorn. A- [cd]

Marc Ribot/Ceramic Dog: Connection (2023, Knockwurst): Jazz guitarist, although this group, with Shahzad Ismaily (bass) and Ches Smith (drums), dating back to 2008, is more rock-oriented (or maybe "post-rock"), with vocals. Also some fairly major guest spots, including James Brandon Lewis (sax) on two tracks, Anthony Coleman (farfisa) on three, and Oscar Noriega (clarinet) on one. Includes a noise blast I could do without, and ends on an instrumental romp I'd' like to hear more like. B+(**) [sp]

Arman Sangalang: Quartet (2022-23 [2023], Calligram): Tenor saxophonist, from Chicago, studied at Indiana and Northern Illinois, first album, with David Miller (guitar), Matt Ulery (bass), and Devin Drobka (drums). B+(**) [cd] [08-04]

Lisa Marie Simmons/Marco Cremaschini: NoteSpeak 12 (2023, Ropeadope): Poet, born in Colorado, "survived several troubled adoptions and foster homes," sang in church choir, moved to New York, wound up in Italy, with keyboardist Cremaschini providing music for her words. Has a previous NoteSpeak album from 2020. This one is supposedly captivated by the number 12 (as in the 12-tone scale). The music is full-bodied without drawing attention away from the words, and the speaker can sing as easily as speak, but holds your interest either way. A- [sp]

Tyshawn Sorey Trio: Continuing (2022 [2023], Pi): Drummer-led piano trio, with Aaron Diehl (piano) and Matt Brewer (bass). Four covers, none I immediately recognized as standards -- ok, I should have noted "Angel Eyes," but the others are composed by Wayne Shorter, Ahmad Jamal, and Harold Mabern -- ranging from 10:25 to 15:43. Sounds more together than your average piano trio, but I can't really tell you why. A- [cd]

Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway: City of Gold (2023, Nonesuch): Bluegrass singer-songwriter, plays banjo and guitar, from California, fourth album after a 2017 EP. B+(***) [sp]

Paul Tynan & Aaron Lington: Bicoastal Collective: Chapter Six (2022 [2023], OA2): Trumpet/flugelhorn and baritone sax, respectively, backed by electric bass (Trifon Dimitrov) and drums (Joe Abba). B [cd]

Colter Wall: Little Songs (2023, Black Hole/La Ronda): Canadian country singer-songwriter, more western than most. Fourth album, songs advertised as "little" but carefully nuanced. B+(***) [sp]

Adrian Younge: Jazz Is Dead 18: Tony Allen (2018 [2023], Jazz Is Dead): Bandcamp page credits, Allen, Younge, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, but cover omits Muhammad, and 18 releases in I see no need to mess with the what's become canonical order. Nigerian drummer Allen is unusual in two respects: he's relatively famous, and he's dead (in 2020, at 78), so for once we get a date on the sessions. He also gives you more than the usual beat, along with organ vamps and section horns. On the other hand, the title has never been more ā propos. Eight songs, 27:58. B+(*) [sp]

Nicole Zuraitis: How Love Begins (2022 [2023], Outside In Music): Jazz singer-songwriter, plays piano, at least four previous albums, starting in 2008. This is divided into "oil" and "water" sides. Co-produced by bassist Christian McBride, with Gilad Hekselman (guitar), Maya Kronfeld (organ/keyboards), and Dan Pugach (drums), plus guests. B+(*) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra: 60 Years (1961-2019 [2023], The Village): Six previously unreleased pieces (83:35) from Los Angeles pianist Horace Tapscott's community organizing project, dates not missing (at least from what I've found, which alludes to the group's founding in 1961, and continuation twenty years after Tapscott's death in 1999. I think of this as social music from the brief period when the avant-garde sought a deeper audience in black power, but in retrospect the vocals didn't always help. B+(***) [bc]

Old music:

Count Basie/Tony Bennett: Basie/Bennett: Count Basie and His Orchestra Swings/Tony Bennett Sings (1958 [1959], Roulette): Basie's "New Testament" band got very busy during this period, not just cranking out their own bombastic swing albums but appearing with others who wanted to sing or play along. Bennett recorded several albums with them, and the uplift helps on the fast ones, which makes me wonder why the singer decided to slow it down. B+(*) [r]

Tony Bennett: Cloud 7 (1954 [1955], Columbia): The late singer's first LP -- preceded by the 10-inch Because of You in 1952 -- offering ten standards, 33:05, with small jazz combos: two tracks with Al Cohn (tenor sax) and Gene DiNovi (piano), others with Dave Schildkraut (alto sax), Charles Panely (trumpet), and Chuck Wayne (guitar), among others. Good voice and nice band(s), but doesn't sound major. B+(*) [sp]

Tony Bennett: The Beat of My Heart (1957 [1996], Columbia/Legacy): One of the early albums treated to an expanded CD reissue, with six songs added (but one dropped). Mitch Miller remained the producer at Columbia, but British pianist Ralph Sharon, who would serve as Bennett's music director at least through 2001 (he died at 91 in 2015), took over the arranging, and was presumably responsible for the scattershot lineup of jazz notables, including six drummers (ranging from Art Blakey to Jo Jones to Candido), three each flutes and trombones, Nat Adderley on trumpet, and Al Cohn on tenor sax. One of his jazziest records, both by song selection and arrangement, but also a rather weird one. B+(**) [sp]

Tony Fruscella: Tony's Blues: The Unique Tony Fruscella (1948-55 [1992], Cool & Blue): Trumpet player (1927-69), from New York, recorded an eponymous album for Atlantic in 1955, another session that wasn't released at the time, and a few live sets, like this one: one 1955 track with Hank Jones, eight short tracks from 1948 (23:00) with Chick Maures (alto sax) and Bill Triglia (piano), and three long tracks (39:23) from 1955 with Phil Woods (alto sax) and Triglia. Fruscella has a reputation as a forgotten hero. He makes a fine showing here -- as does Woods -- but this doesn't feel all that unique. B+(**) [sp]

Shuckin' Stuff: Rare Blues From Ace Records (MS) (1955-81 [2002], Westside, 2CD): A r&b label run by Johnny Vincent in Jackson, Mississippi, from 1955-62, with a revival in 1971 (a few of these tracks are dated 1977-81, and more are listed as previously unreleased), before it was sold to Demon Music Group in the UK. A couple songs, including the title track, I know from elsewhere -- The Best of Ace Records, Vol. 2: The R&B Hits is one I play a lot -- but most cuts are fairly generic blues, and I like them just fine. B+(***) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • The Cucumbers: Old Shoes (self-released) [07-21]
  • Mike Jones Trio: Are You Sure You Three Guys Know What You're Doing? (Capri) [08-18]
  • Near Miss: The Natural Regimen (Kettle Hole) [07-07]

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