Monday, December 4, 2023

Music Week

December archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 41321 [41262] rated (+59), 6 [2] unrated (+4).

Running late, so let's make this quick.

Massive Speaking of Which yesterday (7422 words, 173 links), mostly on the genocide Israel is committing, and not just in Gaza, but the death of Henry Kissinger occasioned many glances back into the many atrocities he helped along.

There is also a Q&A related to Hamas, to which I've added a postscript, where everyone doubles down. There's a music review question there, too.

The Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll is coming along nicely, with 48 ballots submitted and counted so far. Deadline is December 15, so a bit less than two weeks away. I meant to send out a reminder to the voters today, but got distracted by other work. Maybe tonight, for sure by tomorrow.

One piece of work is that I wrote up a script to list out the albums that have received votes so far. As the guy counting the ballots, I've been in the enviable position of seeing all this prospecting work, so I thought I should share it. Albums are sorted alphabetically by artist, so you can't tell standings from the lists, but you are certain to discover things you weren't aware of. (At least, I certainly have. All four of this week's A-list jazz albums were unknown to me before the Poll started -- although two of them were recent promos sent to me, that haven't yet received any votes. Two non-jazz albums first came to my attention on Phil Overeem's latest list, which I still have a lot of catching up on.)

I did create my EOY aggregate list file(s), to which I've added 35 lists so far. I usually wind up with more than 300 lists (last year 565), but there is no guarantee I'm going to go that crazy this year.

My own EOY lists for Jazz and Non-Jazz continue to grow (currently 69 and 47 new A/A- albums, respectively). I meant to firm up my Jazz ballot for today's post, but didn't make it on time. Still, the top dozen-plus have been pretty stable recently, with additions landing well down.

I'm probably missing some stuff, especially on indexing. I know I meant to do more maintenance work on the Poll website, yet I've done very little.

Almost done with Viet Tranh Nguyen's Nothing Ever Dies, and I'm getting tired of it. I've long understood how memories of war are orchestrated to promote more wars, not least because I grew up with a counterexample: my father had no fond memories of his "service" in WWII, and while he had no quarrel with the mission, he was quite certain that his role in it was utterly superfluous (unlike the years before and after when he helped build the B-29s, B-47s, and B-52). Next up is the final chapter on "forgetting," which is long overdue.

Not sure what's next to read, but I'm checking Norman Finkelstein's Gaza for reference. I've read a vast amount of material on every aspect of the conflict, so lots of things are instantly clear to me that seem to hopelessly befuddle others. One thing I will say is that the recent books I've read on 1848 impressed on me that we're not very far removed from an age where revolutionary change was only possible through violence -- in large part because it was always resisted with violence. The latter is often still the case today, which is a big problem for the world.

New records reviewed this week:

Aesop Rock: Integrated Tech Solutions (2023, Rhymesayers Entertainment): Rapper Ian Bavitz, Wikipedia counts 10 albums since 2000, but collaborations come close to doubling that. Usually quick with the words, but slows down a bit here. B+(**) [sp]

André 3000: New Blue Sun (2023, Epic): First solo album by the OutKast partner, has gotten a lot of news as his flute album, but barely registers as such, having settled into pleasantly aimless ambiance. B [sp]

Artchipel Orchestra With Jonathan Coe: Suspended Moment: The Music of Jonathan Coe (2021 [2023], British Progressive Jazz): Coe is a well-known British novelist, with a long interest in music, but I'm not sure how much he has actually recorded -- minimally a 2014 solo album called Unnecessary Music. The Italian group takes five of Coe's pieces here for a live concert, with Coe playing keyboards. The first is most impressive as jazz, after which they get more theatrical. B+(**) [bc]

Assiko Golden Band de Grand Yoff: Magg Tekki (2023, Mississippi): Large (17 members) collective from Dakar, Senegal, mostly drums and vocals. B+(*) [sp]

Richard Baratta: Off the Charts (2023, Savant): Drummer, has a couple recent Jazz in Film discs. Quintet here with Jerry Bergonzi (tenor sax), David Kikoski (piano), John Patitucci (bass), and Paul Rossman (congas). B+(**) [sp]

Michael Bates: Metamorphoses: Variations on Lutoslawski (2022 [2023], Anaklasis): Canadian bassist, several album since 2003. Hard to parse the cover here, as credit could be for Michael Bates' Acrobat -- quintet with Marty Ehrlich (clarinet), Sara Schoenbeck (bassoon), Fung Chern Hwei (violin), and Michael Sarin (drums) -- and Lutoslawski Quartet (a string quartet), with vocals (one track) by Anna Lobelian. B+(**) [sp]

Antonio Borghini: Banquet of Consequences (2023, We Insist!): Italian bassist, albums since 2002, leads a Berlin-based sextet of Tobias Delius, Anil Eraslan, Rieko Okuda, Steve Heather, and Pierre Borel. Playfully juxtaposes multiple styles and elements. B+(***) [r]

Bounaly: Dimanche à Bamako (2023, Sahel Sounds): Guitarist Ali Traore, from Niafounke in north Mali, recorded live at a wedding bash in Mali's capitol city, a haven for many refugees from the jihad in the north. With vocals, drums, and calabash, the recording a little crude but powerful. A- [sp]

Danny Brown: Quaranta (2023, Warp): Rapper, actual last name Sewell, sixth album since 2010 -- not counting his recent JPEGMafia duo, which continues to confound me. This rolls on so easily I gave it three plays before I decided all I had to do was tack on a grade. A- [sp]

VV Brown: Am I British Yet? (2023, YOY): British pop singer-songwriter, mother Jamaican, father Puerto Rican, 2009 debut was one of my favorite records that year, this only her 3rd since, and by far the most race-focused. There's probably a story there, quite possibly a grim one, that I feel bad for not taking the time to dig out. But I did catch: "the revolution will not be digitised." And: "this melanin is magical." B+(***) [sp]

Buck 65/Doseone/Jel: North American Adonis (2023, Handsmade): Mixtape with raps by the first two, production by the later. Starts off as nimbly as the former, but loses a bit when the latter aims for more punching power, but winds up just heavy. B+(***) [sp]

Butcher Brown: Solar Music (2023, Concord Jazz): Jazz-funk fusion group from Richmond, Virginia; ninth album since 2013. Many guests this time out. B [sp]

Chicago Edge Ensemble: The Individualists (2023, Lizard Breath): Chicago group, third album, guitarist Dan Phillips is the composer (except for one joint piece, called "Mutualism in Action"). Joined by Josh Berman (cornet), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Krzysztof Pabian (bass), and Hamid Drake (drums). B+(**) [bc]

Michael Dease: Swing Low (2023, Posi-Tone): Mainstream trombonist, has played tenor sax in the past, tries his hand at baritone sax here, with three originals and a bunch of covers, standards and jazz tunes, including a couple by fellow trombonists (Melba Liston, Julian Priester). With Ingrid Jensen on trumpet, trombone (Altin Sencalar 3 tracks), piano (Art Hirahara),' bass (Boris Kozlov), and drums (Rudy Royston). B+(**) [sp]

Hannah Diamond: Perfect Picture (2023, PC Music): British pop singer-songwriter, second album. B+(*) [sp]

Aaron Diehl & the Knights: Zodiac Suite (2023, Mack Avenue): Pianist, several albums since 2013, tackles Mary Lou Williams' 1945 cycle of twelve pieces inspired by the stars. She was one of the major swing pianists of the era, but her bid for high-art respect always struck me as a bit forced. Here, however, Diehl pushes it over the top, with what is billed as "the first fully-fledged professional recording of this incredible arrangement." Even ends with a ridiculous high soprano aria. B- [sp]

Marcelo Dos Reis & Luís Vicente: (Un)prepared Pieces for Guitar and Trumpet (2022 [2023], Cipsela): Guitar and trumpet, electric guitar but feels densely acoustic. Seems marginal, but I find it captivating. A- [cd]

Marcelo Dos Reis: Flora (2023, JACC): Guitarist, trio with Miguel Falcão (bass) and Luis Filipe Silva (drums). B+(***) [cd]

Shuteen Erdenebaatar Quartet: Rising Sun (2021 [2023], Motéma Music): Pianist, from Mongolia, first album, has won a bunch of prizes since she landed in Munich. Quartet with Anton Mangold (alto/soprano sax, flute), bass, and drums. B+(***) [sp]

Diego Figueiredo: My World (2023, Arbors): Brazilian guitarist, couple dozen albums since 1999, with several recent ones on this swing-oriented label: the connection appears to be through Ken Peplowski, who co-headlined an album in 2019, and who plays clarinet and sax here, along with Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Helio Alves (piano), Nilson Matta (bass), and Duduka Da Fonseca (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Don Fiorino/Andy Haas: Accidentals (2023, Resonant Music): No hype sheet, can't even find mention of this on the web. Cover just has the title, so it's probably also meant as the group name, but I substituted the artists' names: a duo, the former playing electric fretless bass and guitar, the latter saxophones with effects. Haas has a longer discography, starting in a new wave rock group I liked in 1980, Martha & the Muffins. They do have one previous duo album, and several more as two-thirds of Radio I-Ching (Discogs lists one album, but I've listened to four, with 2009's No Wave Au Go Go the pick). The other third was Dee Pop, and I found a memorial for him (1956-2021). This wanders a bit, which can happens when you loose your drummer. But this is odd and interesting enough, and it delights me. Now if only I can find a cover scan. A- [cd]

Five-Way Split: All the Way (2023, Ubuntu Music): UK jazz quintet, with original material by Quentin Collins (trumpet), Vasillis Xenopoulos (tenor sax), and Rob Barron (piano), plus bass (Matyas Hofecker) and drums (Matt Home). B+(*) [sp]

Michael Formanek Elusion Quartet: As Things Do (2022 [2023], Intakt): Bassist, emerged as a strong leader in the 1990s, second album with this powerhouse group: Tony Malaby (tenor sax), Kris Davis (piano), and Ches Smith (drums). Strong out of the gate, aims for a soft landing. B+(***) [dl]

Sullivan Fortner: Solo Game (2023, Artwork, 2CD): Pianist, from New Orleans, played in Roy Hargrove's group 2010-17, has led a couple albums on Impulse! This is solo, 20 songs, 79 minutes, mixed up a bit with electric keyboards, percussion, and some vocalizing. B+(*) [sp]

Ghost Train Orchestra and Kronos Quartet: Songs and Symphoniques: The Music of Moondog (2023, Cantaloupe): Moondog was an alias for Louis Hardin (1916-99), a composer, performer, poet, and inventor of musical instruments, largely self-taught, although he drew on Native American music from his childhood in Wyoming, augmented by everything else he ran across, including Latin, jazz, classical, and the minimalists he worked with in New York. I should look deeper into his work, especially given how enticing this improbable collaboration is. Brian Carpenter's 13-piece orchestra is bottom-heavy (bass clarinet, baritone and bass saxophone, bassoon, trombone, and tuba), which keeps the string orchestra centered. And the guest vocalists are mostly from the rock world (or wherever you would slot Petra Haden and Karen Mantler), so they never fall into the usual jazz-classical traps. Dedicated to Hal Willner, who would really dig this. A- [sp]

Hamell on Trial: Bring the Kids (2023, Saustex): Ed Hamell, antifolk singer-songwriter from upstate New York, albums since 1989, some weird and many funny. This one seems exceptionally scattered, with some of the music sounding like he's found new toys, and some I simply don't quite get, but 37 seconds of Ruth Theodore on Tucker Carlson brought a chuckle, and there's probably more (including four more bits with her). B+(**) [sp]

Lafayette Harris, Jr.: Swingin' Up in Harlem (2023, Savant): Pianist, been around a while (at least since 1992), but has no Wikipedia page, and it's hard to construct a discography from Discogs. But he does have friends: Peter Washington (bass) and Lewis Nash (drums), with Houston Person producing (but not playing). B+(*) [sp]

Benjamin Herman: Nostalgia Blitz (2023, Dox): Dutch alto saxophonist, debut 1993, cites James Chance and John Lurie as early inspirations, as well as Parker, Hodges, and -- the one he both played with and covered brilliantly -- Misha Mengelberg. This is just freaky enough to cover all those bases. A- [sp]

Nitai Hershkovits: Call on the Old Wise (2022 [2023], ECM): Israeli pianist, first album was a 2012 duo with bassist Avishai Cohen; fifth album, solo, quietly contemplative. B+(*) [sp]

Anthony Hervey: Words From My Horn (2023, Outside In Music): Trumpet player, has appeared in Christian McBride's big band, this is his first album, produced by Ulysses Owens Jr., with alto sax (Sarah Hanahan), piano (Isaiah J. Thompson and Sean Mason), bass (Philip Norris, and drums (Miguel Russell). Impressive chops, mainstream ideas, so-so vocal. B+(**) [sp]

Jungle: Volcano (2023, Caiola/AWAL): British electropop project, led by producers John Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland, fourth album since 2014, lead vocalist Lydia Kitto. B+(*) [sp]

Sean Mason: The Southern Suite (2023, Blue Engine): Pianist, from North Carolina, based in New York, first album, with trumpet (Tony Glausi), tenor sax (Chris Lewis), bass (Felix Moseholm), and drums (Domo Branch). B+(*) [sp]

MIKE: Burning Desire (2023, 10K): Rapper Michael Bonema, alias choice made him hard to look up when he started c. 2017, but he's piled up six studio albums, five mixtapes, a dozen EPs. B+(*) [sp]

Lisa O'Neill: All of This Is Chance (2023, Rough Trade): Irish singer-songwriter, fifth album since 2009. Folkish, darkly. B+(**) [sp]

OMD [Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark]: Bauhaus Staircase (2023, 100%): One of the new wave bands of the early 1980s to find a synth-fueled dance groove, originally a duo of Andy McCluskey (vocals, bass guitar) and Paul Humphreys (keyboards, vocals), had a nice run until Humphreys split in 1989. McCluskey carried on until 1996, then reunited with Humphreys in 2006, finally releasing an album in 2010. Third album since, initials on the cover, what these days could be called "classic modernism." With music to match. B+(**) [sp]

Ryoko Ono/Satoko Fujii: Hakuro (2023, self-released): Japanese saxophone and piano duo. Ono has a number of albums since 2012, and Fujii has well over one hundred. B+(***) [bc]

PinkPantheress: Heaven Knows (2023, 300 Entertainment): British dance-pop singer Victoria Walker, first studio album after a breakout mini-mixtape and a well-regarded EP. Small voice, comfy in the soft beats. B+(***) [sp]

Tineke Postma: Aria (2022 [2023], Edition): Dutch saxophonist (alto/soprano), eighth album since 2005, with Ben Monder (guitar), Robert Landfermann (bass), and Tristan Renfrow (drums), playing original pieces. B+(**) [sp]

Mette Rasmussen/Paul Flaherty/Zach Rowden/Chris Corsano: Crying in Space (2019 [2023], Relative Pitch): Two saxophonists (both alto, but Flaherty also plays tenor), plus bass and drums, for a live set at Firehouse 12. B+(***) [sp]

Ernesto Rodrigues/Dirk Serries/João Madeira/José Oliveira: Dripping (2023, Creative Sources): Viola, archtop guitar, double bass, percussion. B+(*) [bc]

Aksel Røed's Other Aspects: Do You Dream in Colours? (2023, Is It Jazz?): Norwegian octet, the leader one of three saxophonists, with trumpet (another Røed, Lyder Øvreás), trombone, piano (Isach Skeidsvoll), bass, and drums. B+(**) [bc]

Alex Sipiagin Quintet: Mel's Vision (2022 [2023], Criss Cross): Russian trumpet player, moved to US in 1990, has a substantial discography since 1998, a post-bop player with real chops. Quintet with Chris Potter (tenor sax), David Kikoski (piano), Matt Brewer (bass), and Johnathan Blake (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Guido Spannocchi: Live at Porgy & Bess Vienna (2022 [2023], Audioguido): Italian alto saxophonist, several albums since 2017, this with Danny Keane (piano), Ruth Goller (bass), and Pete Adam Hill (drums). Very strong showing. B+(***) [sp]

Haralabos [Harry] Stafylakis: Calibrating Friction (2023, New Amsterdam): Canadian composer, based in New York, bills this as "a muscular, pyrotechnic blend of progressive metal and symphonic classical music." Somehow not quite that bad. B+(*) [sp]

Chris Stapleton: Higher (2023, Mercury Nashville): Country singer-songwriter, from Kentucky, fifth album since 2015. Strong voice, deep roots, simple ideas. B+(*) [sp]

Earl Sweatshirt & the Alchemist: Voir Dire (2023, ALC/Tan Cressida): LA rapper, Theba Kgositsile, one of the more successful to come out of the Odd Future collective. First with Alan Maman producing, a short one: 11 tracks, 26:37. B+(*) [sp]

Isaiah J. Thompson: The Power of the Spirit (2023, Blue Engine): Pianist, from New Jersey, second album, leads a quartet with tenor sax (Julian Lee), bass (Philip Norris), and drums (Damo Branch or TJ Reddick). B+(***) [sp]

Tyvek: Overground (2023, Ginkgo): "Garage lo-fi punk band" from Detroit, self-released debut 2006, eponymous album on a small but real label 2009, somewhere along the timeline added a saxophone (Emily Roll), adding some overtones to the guitar thrash. Kevin Boyer sings. Reminds me of the early Buzzcocks. A- [sp]

VHS Head: Phocus (2023, Skam): Blackpool electronica artist Ade Blacow, third album. Glitchy, but that's only a first approximation. B+(*) [sp]

J.D. Walter: The Last Muse (2023, Arkadia): Jazz singer, eight or so albums since 2000, second this year (but the one I landed on by accident). Mostly standards, title song and two other originals, unclear on credits (but reportedly "stellar"). Like many male jazz singers, he has considerable technical skills, but sounds tortured. B- [sp]

Jeppe Zeeberg: Occasionally, Good Things Do Happen (2023, self-released): Danish pianist, half-dozen albums since 2014. This is circus-y and/or cartoon-ish, or maybe just a stab at phantasmagorical, not that I care after a while. Near the end, a piano solo that finally puts weird to good use. B- [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Geri Allen/Kurt Rosenwinkel: A Lovesome Thing (2012 [2023], Motéma Music): Piano and guitar duo, a live set from the Philharmonie de Paris. B+(**) [sp]

Axolotl: Abrasive (1981 [2023], Souffle Continu): French avant-jazz trio, recorded one more album after this debut, the group consisting of Etienne Brunet (alto sax/bass clarinet), Jacques Oger (tenor/baritone sax), and Marc Dulourd (guitar). B+(*) [bc]

Graham Collier Music: Smoke-Blackened Walls & Curlews (1970 [2023], British Progressive Jazz): British bassist, his sextet an important group of the era. Previously unissued tape, the music a bit on the brooding side, meant to frame John Carberry's narration, which is not without interest, just not a lot. B+(*) [bc]

Don Ellis: How Time Passes (1960 [2023], Candid): Trumpet player (1934-78), first recording as leader, a quartet with Jaki Byard (piano/alto sax), Ron Carter (bass), and Charlie Persip (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Jean-Marc Foussat: Abattage (1973-81 [2023], Fou): Deluxe reissue of the French sound artist's early work, where he plays guitar, piano, "voix, objets, radio," etc., etc., fascinated with whatever he conjures up. B+(***) [cd]

Ibrahim Hesnawi: The Father of Libyan Reggae ([2023], Habibi Funk): I don't see any recording dates, but reports are that Hesnawi (b. 1954) recorded more than 15 albums from the 1980s to 2000s, yielding nine tracks here, the riddims build up with electric keyboards, and vocals in English and Arabic. B+(*) [sp]

Wynton Marsalis: Wynton Marsalis Plays Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives and Hot Sevens (2006 [2023], Blue Engine): This promises "technically flawless performances . . . transposing the timeless music of the 1920s to the 21st century." Hard to know where to begin here, or whether to bother. No one will mistake Marsalis, Wycliffe Gordon, Victor Goines, or Jon Batiste for the originals, and the late-breaking vocals hardly try. B [sp]

Mike Osborne: Starting Fires: Live at the 100 Club 1970 (1970 [2023], British Progressive Jazz): British alto saxophonist, one of the first important ones on the avant-garde, paired here with tenor saxophonist Alan Skidmore, backed by Harry Miller (bass) and Louis Moholo (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Pet Shop Boys: Smash: The Singles 1985-2020 (1985-2020 [2023], Parlophone, 3CD): Fifty-five songs, most from worthy albums -- even such recent ones as Super (2016) and Hotspot (2020) -- the first two discs largely recapitulating the 2003 2-CD compilation, PopArt: The Hits, plus an extra 68:37 from the later period. A- [r]

Todd Snider: Crank It, We're Doomed (2007 [2023], Aimless): Long-shelved album, recorded after The Devil You Know (perhaps his best studio album ever), "paradoxically [he] felt the album was both too much and too little, needing more but already too much." Some songs were salvaged for Peace Queer and The Excitement Plan, and several were re-recorded later, so much of this is semi-familiar. Perhaps reassuring to recall the doom we (mostly) survived, as opposed to the doom still to come. A- [sp]

Old music:

Don Fiorino/Andy Haas: American Nocturne (2018, Resonant Music): Radio I-Ching minus the drummer, saxophonist Andy Haas making do with a drum machine and electronics, while Don Fiorino plays guitar, glissentar, and lap steel guitar. B+(***) [bc]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Marcelo Dos Reis: Flora (JACC) [09-01]
  • Marcelo Dos Reis & Luís Vicente: (Un)prepared Pieces for Guitar and Trumpet (Cispela) [10-01]
  • Don Fiorino/Andy Haas: Accidentals (self-released)
  • Jean-Marc Foussat: Abattage (1973-81, Fou)
  • Satoko Fujii Tokyo Trio: Jet Black (Libra) [01-24]
  • Adam Schroeder/Mark Masters: CT! Adam Schroeder & Mark Masters Celebrate Clark Terry (Capri) [01-19]
  • Josh Sinton: Couloir & Book of Practitioners Vol. 2 (Form Is Possibility, 2CD) [01-12]

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