Monday, February 5, 2024

Music Week

February archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 41777 [41743] rated (+34), 21 [16] unrated (+5).

Very late start here, but I don't have much to say, so let's just get it out of the way.

I published another Speaking of Which Sunday evening. Came out with more links than usual (141), but fewer words (4726), so I didn't do much commenting. Today I added another 1000 words of introduction, but only 5 more links. Look for the red stripe in the right margin. The new words try to explain why some of the things people say to frame what Israel and the US are doing in ways that further genocide and poison any prospect for peace.

I'm about 100 pages into Greg Grandin's The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America. I thought about quoting several sections that seem particularly relevant to the present, especially about how the notion of an expandable frontier, driven by new settlement, leads to racism at home, war abroad, and genocide for whoever gets caught in the middle. In America this is the dynamic of Jefferson's "Empire of Liberty," of Jackson's "Indian Removal," and of Polk's "Mexican War." Many people understand Israel (like America, South Africa, and Algeria) as an example of attempted Settler Colonialism, but few people have noted the significance of Ben Gurion's refusal in 1948 to declare or, even after defining armistices in 1950-51, define Israel's borders -- even though Ben Gurion had lobbied hard to get the UN to approve a partition plan with defined borders.

I'm struggling to revise an old blog post I wrote about "reading obituaries" for possible inclusion in a book some friends are intent on publishing, and I'm tearing my hair out over my inability to focus on that task, or indeed on much of anything. That in turn has left everything else on hold.

I figured I'd wrap up the EOY aggregate once I counted Robert Christgau's Dean's List: 2023. It's out now, and I've split it up into essay and list, but I haven't counted it yet. I also haven't updated the Consumer Guide database and added the links from the list file to the database. Later this week.

I did add a few things to the EOY aggregate, like the Free Jazz Collective Album of the Year and individual critic lists for their writers who didn't vote in the Francis Davis JCP -- I've taken names, 11 of them, compared to the 7 who did vote.

I'd also like to point out that Mark Lomanno is doing a very nice Month in Review series. It's perhaps a bit more mainstream than the monthly columns Phil Freeman writes for Stereogum and Dave Sumner for Bandcamp Daily, but is a very welcome development. I've been neglecting my 2024 music tracking file, but with both labels and release dates, it makes updating too easy to ignore.

Also note that Paul Medrano is making an effort to track all 2024 New Jazz Music Releases, also in very usable format. I hope some readers here will find a way to help him out.

I also want to recommend one of the very best EOY reports I've seen this year, Tris McCall's Pop Music Abstract 2023, which is basically a whole year's worth of well-written reviews. I added all of the albums cited to my EOY Aggregate (code: tmr:+), even after I realized that not all of them were positive reviews; e.g.:

Sigur Ros -- Atta Oh god no.

Which was even more to the point than even my own B− review. But also take a look at his Lemon Twigs review, which does a marvelous job of putting into words what I was thinking when I simply jotted down C+.

Rated count is significantly down this week, to which I can only say, "whew!" Two 4-CD boxes, though, that I actually bought, and possibly cut them some slack (certainly gave them more time) as a result.

Still lots of technical glitches around the office and home, but I did get my main computer's speakers working, so I'm able to start playing downloads and Soundcloud and YouTube links again.

One thing I didn't do last week was pay any attention to my demo queue, for for that matter to 2024 releases (although five snuck in anyway, including one A−).

New records reviewed this week:

Ben Allison/Steve Cardenas/Ted Nash: Tell the Birds I Said Hello: The Music of Herbie Nichols (2022 [2024], Sonic Camera): Bass, guitar, and tenor sax, fourth album as a trio, also effectively a successor to Allison's Herbie Nichols Project, which recorded three albums 1996-2001, and returns here with arrangements of eight previously unperformed compositions by Nichols (1919-63). B+(***) [sp]

Chuquimamani-Condori: DJ E (2023, self-released): Evidently the work of the California-born electronica producer who has mostly released albums as Elysia Crampton (her name give or take a Chuquimia), although credits here include Elly, Joshua Chuquimia Crampton, and PK Crampton. A back story almost as glitchy as the music, which somehow grows on you if you can resist the temptation to exit immediately. B+(*) [bc]

City Girls: Raw (2023, Quality Control/Motown): Miami hip-hop duo, Yung Miami and JT, third studio album since 2018. B+(**) [sp]

Isaiah Collier: Parallel Universe (2023, Night Dreamer): Chicago-based saxophonist (also flute, keys, vocals), has a couple albums, mostly talks his way through expansive r&b-based grooves, really breaks out when the sax finally breaks free. B+(***) [sp]

Craven Faults: Standers (2023, The Leaf Label): British electronica artist, described as "enigmatic," favors analogue synthesizers, EPs since 2017 and albums since 2020. Nice and steady. B+(***) [sp]

Charley Crockett: Live From the Ryman Auditorium (2022 [2023], Son of Davy): Country singer-songwriter, has been releasing trad-themed records at a furious pace since 2015, building up a songbook that he crafts into a fine best-of here. A- [sp]

DJ Danifox: Ansiedade (2023, Principe): Daniel Veiga, based in Lisbon, draws on Afro-Portuguese styles like batida, talking over light, lilting beats, with bits of guitar amidst the percussion. B+(**) [sp]

Evelyn Davis/Fred Frith/Phillip Greenlief: Lantskap Logic: Hidden Danger Lets Me In (2022 [2023], Clean Feed): Pipe organ, electric guitar, clarinet/alto sax; second group album, after Lantskap Logic in 2013, at which point they referred to themselves as Drone Trio. More ambient here, but set in a very old church. B+(*) [bc]

DJ K: Panico No Submundo (2023, Nyege Nyege Tapes): Brazilian funk producer, (19) of his name at Discogs. Broken beats, heavy chants, metallic clunk and grind. B+(*) [sp]

Chad Fowler/George Cartwright/Kelley Hurt/Christopher Parker/Luke Stewart/Steve Hirsh/Zoh Amba: Miserere (2023, Mahakala Music): Free jazz bash, recorded in Little Rock, with visitors from Memphis and points beyond -- Cartwright (alto/tenor sax, guitar) is the senior citizen and mentor to this bunch, with two more saxophonists (Fowler and Amba), piano (Parker), bass (Stewart), drums (Hirsh), and voice (Hurt). B+(**) [bc]

Chad Fowler/Shanyse Strickland/Sana Nagano/Melanie Dyer/Ken Filiano/Anders Griffen: Birdsong (2022 [2024], 'Mahakala Music): Leader plays strich and bass flute; Strickland French horn and flute, with a vocal bit; the others violin, viola, bass, and drums, quite impressive (except for the vocal). B+(**) [sp]

Jayda G: Guy (2023, Ninja Tune): Canadian DJ and producer, actual name Jayda Guy, moved from Grand Forks to Vancouver, then to Berlin, finally to London. Second studio album, also has a DJ-Kicks. B+(***) [sp]

Tim Hecker: No Highs (2023, Kranky): Canadian electronica producer, ambient division, dozen-plus albums since 2001, wound up writing a PhD thesis on urban noise. Describes this as "a beacon of unease against the deluge of false positive corporate ambient currently in vogue" -- a fair description of much of his own recent work, and much more interesting for the effort. B+(***) [sp]

Abdullah Ibrahim: 3 (2023 [2024], Gearbox): South African pianist, has had a remarkable career since his 1963 debut Duke Ellington Presents the Dollar Brand Trio. Trio here with Cleave Guyton Jr. (flute/piccolo) and Noah Jackson (bass/cello). This offers two sets, the second live before a very appreciative audience. Nice stuff when you pay attention, but much of it slips by easily if you don't stay on top of it. B+(*) [sp]

Jonas Brothers: The Album (2023, Republic): Successful boy band, formed 2006 by brothers Nick, Joe, and Kevin Jonas, sold 17 million copies through 2013, by which time they were pursuing solo projects. Regrouped for a 2019 album, and one more here. It seems to have sold well, but didn't show up in the first 500 lists I collected for my EOY aggregate. Attractive album, although I tired of the overblown finale. B+(*) [sp]

Lia Kohl: The Ceiling Reposes (2021-22 [2023], American Dreams): "Sound artist," based in Chicago, plays cello, synths, kazoo, concertina, wind machine, piano, drums, bells, and live radio. B+(**) [sp]

Jamie Leonhart: The Illusion of Blue (Side A) (2022, self-released, EP): Jazz singer-songwriter, has a previous album from 2008, very little info on this one, except that it seems to be released as two EPs, this one six songs, 22:34. B- [sp]

Jamie Leonhart: The Illusion of Blue (Side B) (2022, self-released, EP): Kicks this one -- five songs, 24:25 -- off with a cover ("What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?"), followed by another covers ("Willow Weep for Me") and other less substantial songs I'd have to look up. B- [sp]

Bonnie Montgomery: River (2023, Gar Hole): Country singer-songwriter from Arkansas, eponymous debut in 2014, fourth album. Claims a "big voice," but there's something a bit off, and big production does the opposite of helping. The more trad backdrops help a bit, but ultimately one just acquiesces, and accepts her as a pretty decent songwriter. B+(*) [sp]

Ulysses Owens Jr. and Generation Y: A New Beat (2023 [2024], Cellar Music): Drummer, debut 2012, leads a large group here through hard bop that may be new to the young musicians, who at least keep it fresh. B+(**) [sp]

The Paranoid Style: The Interrogator (2024, Bar/None): Singer-songwriter (and culture critic) Elizabeth Nelson's front group, several EPs and albums since 2013. The music is almost perfectly straightforward -- aside from flashes of superior guitar, that is -- so one gets the feeling that lyrics are decisive, but I'm too slow on their uptake to note more than their intelligence and erudition. Not sure if I can ask for more than that. A- [sp]

Luciana Souza & Trio Corrente: Cometa (2023, Sunnyside): Brazilian jazz singer, studied in Boston, taught in New York, based in Los Angeles, more than a dozen albums since 1998, trio here with Fabio Torres (piano), Paulo Paulelli (bass), and Edu Ribeiro (drums). B+(**) [sp]

David Tamura + Toadal Package: Final Entrance (2023, JPN): New York-based saxophonist (tenor/soprano, also keyboards), "plays noise rock and free jazz," also in a group called The JazzFakers. Backed here with guitar (Cosmo Gallaro), bass (Brenna Rey), and drums (James Paul Nadien). A bit too noisy for me, but that's probably the point. B+(**) [bc]

Azu Tiwaline: The Fifth Dream (2023, IOT): Electronica producer, from Tunisia, second album. Deep, dark, dreamy too, but with a hard industrial frame, not as advertised "guiding us warmly towards trance-inducing hyper states of dance & delight," but strangely comforting anyway. A- [sp]

Mark Turner Quartet: Live at the Village Vanguard (2022 [2023], Giant Step Arts): Tenor saxophonist, one of the top ones to emerge in the 1990s, with major label releases on Warners, and much more recently on ECM. So I was surprised that this, unlike other albums on this new label, never showed up in my queue. Live set with Jason Palmer (trumpet), Joe Martin (bass), and Jonathan Pinson (drums). Lots of skill here, but not so much spark. B+(**) [sc]

Wiki & Tony Seltzer: 14K Figaro (2023, Wikset Enterprise): Rapper Patrick Morales, prolific since 2015, with producer Antonio Hernandez. B+(***) [sp]

Eri Yamamoto: Colors of the Night Trio (2022 [2023], Mahakala Music): Japanese pianist, moved to US in 1995, played on several William Parker projects, plus her own (mostly trio) records since 2001. This is another trio, with Parker on bass and Ikuo Takeuchi on drums. B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Borga Revolution! Volume 1: Ghanaian Dance Music in the Digital Age, 1983-1992 (1983-92 [2022], Kalita): I've long understood that highlife was the superpowered pop music that evolved in Ghana in the 1970s, whence it spread to Nigeria and mutated into juju and other forms, and of course there was a connection to London, but I didn't realize there was a German one, or that it would be called "burger highlife." That's the focus here, featuring George Darko, Wilson Boateng, and Uncle Joe's Afri-Beat, shifting slightly toward electro-dance music. B+(***) [sp]

Borga Revolution! Volume 2: Ghanaian Dance Music in the Digital Age, 1983-1996 (1983-96 (2023), Kalita): Further explorations in the Ghanaian diaspora, including a couple names likely to be recognized elsewhere (A.B. Crentsil, Pat Thomas). Advantage over Volume 1 is in the more sustained dance grooves. A- [sp]

The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Live From the Northwest, 1959 (1959 [2023], Brubeck Editions): Four cuts from the Multnomah Hotel in Portland, plus three more from Clark College in Vancouver, WA, both in April, before Take Five came out, mixed with four standards up front (starting with a rather frothy "When the Saints Go Marching In"), two originals, then "The Lonesome Road." Fine piano, with Paul Desmond (alto sax), Eugene Wright (bass), and Joe Morello (drums). This is, of course, quite nice, but not much more. B+(***) [r]

Duke Ellington: All the Hits and More 1927-54 (1927-54 [2023], Acrobat, 4CD): This seemed like a useful idea, chronicling the period when jazz was popular music through the longest-running, most consistent, and most often brilliant of the era's big bands, even if strictly following the charts has never been surefire. Also because the standard RCA compilations, up to and including the 24-CD Centennial Edition box, skip over the 1932-40 period, when Ellington recorded mostly for Brunswick -- sides that have only been collected on the French Classics label and, finally in 2010, a pricey 11-CD Mosaic box. This is evenly balanced among all of Ellington's labels, confirming the common judgment that the RCA sides from 1927-28 and 1940-46 were peak periods (along with much of his later work, including Newport in 1956 and many of the suites and tributes and small groups from then through the end of the 1960s), but also reminding us that the maligned 1930s and the Hodges-less early 1950s still produced copious brilliance. About the only complaint one might make is that the chart-focus favors singers, which Ellington had -- how to put this? -- rather idiosyncratic taste in. Comes with a substantial booklet with full credits. A [cd]

Kantata: It's High Time Now (1986 [2023], BBE): Burger highlife band from Ghana, Lee Duodu the lead singer and Ogone Kologbo the guitarist, with sax, keyboards, bass, drums, and more percussion. Takes a bit of time to find the right gear, but finally gets there. B+(***) [sp]

The R&B No. 1s of the '40s (1942-50 [2023], Acrobat, 4CD): As with the Ellington box, the booklet provides detailed credits and useful history. But the strict chart focus produces some anomalies, especially early on, when Paul Whiteman, Harry James, Benny Goodman, Ella Mae Morse, and Bing Crosby topped the r&b charts (the latter with, of all things we don't need another copy of, "White Christmas"). Indeed, up to 1945, the r&b charts seem to have been dominated with novelties ("Cow Cow Boogie" was one of the better ones, by Ella Fitzgerald with the Ink Spots). The transition comes awkwardly with two takes of "I Wonder," Cecil Gant's original and a cover by Roosevelt Sykes, taken from a badly worn 78. After that, the first thing you realize is how Louis Jordan dominated the decade (18 songs, compared to 5 each for Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, and the Ink Spots; Fitzgerald shares 2 songs with the Ink Spots and one with Jordan; no one else has more than 2). Later years advance significantly toward rock and roll, without taking explicit aim -- for that, you'd be better served by the first disc of The Roots of Rock 'n' Roll 1946-1954 (3-CD, on Hip-O) or The First Rock and Roll Record (another 3-CD, Famous Flames) or the first disc of The R&B Box (6-CD, on Rhino, 1944-74, canon-defining), or Rhino's Blues Masters on jump blues (Volume 5: Jumb Blues Classics, and Volume 14: More Jump Blues). And, of course, if you went that direction, you'd need more Louis Jordan: MCA's original CDs The Best of Louis Jordan and Five Guys Named Moe: Vol. 2 are essential. How much more is hard to judge, but the 4-CD Properbox (Jivin' With Jordan) doesn't flag, and there's a similar 4-CD JSP box -- although I've heard that the 9-CD Bear Family box is de trop. A- [cd]

Papa Yankson: Party Time (Odo Ye Wu) (1989 [2023], Kalita): Ghanaian highlife singer-songwriter (1944-2017), various spellings which may or may not include Kofi. B+(***) [sp]

Old music:

  • None.

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Duke Ellington: All the Hits and More 1927-54 (Acrobat, 4CD)
  • Christian Fabian Trio: Hip to the Skip (Spicerack) [02-01]
  • Gordon Grdina/Christian Lillinger: Duo Work (Attaboygirl) [02-16]
  • Gordon Grdina's the Marrow: With Fathieh Honari (Attaboygirl) [02-16]
  • Doug MacDonald: Sextet Session (DMAC Music) [03-01]
  • The R&B No. 1s of the '40s (1942-50, Acrobat, 4CD)

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