Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Music Week

March archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42007 [41974] rated (+33), 28 [27] unrated (+1).

Just a day late, although it feels like longer, and feels like it should have been longer still. I did manage to wrap up a small essay that's been hanging over my head for weeks -- or at least I'm hoping, as a final sign off would be nice. This pushed Speaking of Which back a day, which I didn't mind.

While I've occasionally threatened to kill it, the process of scanning my news sources, plucking out what strikes me as important and/or interesting, and occasionally commenting -- sometimes taking off on a tangent of personal/philosophical interest, sometimes just to heckle -- has been giving me a strange sense of comfort in what are clearly discomforting times.

Besides, this week the writing project I most seriously considered killing was Music Week. As to why, you're free to dig into the notebook, but what you'll find there is rather sketchily one-sided, with very little of what I really think, let alone why. Nor is there more than a hint of how much pain and anger I've felt this week. In my experience, such emotions do no good, although for better or worse -- sure, mostly the latter -- they are a big part of who I am, and how I came to be this way.

You also can simply ignore most of that paragraph, and just accept what I have to say in this one. Music Week changed this week, and may be changed for good, although I rather doubt it. Midweek I stopped reviewing new music, so everything in this week's "New records" section was done by Wednesday last. I don't plan on resuming any time soon, although that's no guarantee I won't have a few next week, and the odds of at least some appearing increase over time. In particular, it's inevitable that at some point I'll return to my promo queue, and when I do play something, I'll probably write it up in my logs, because, well, that's what I do.

Indeed, I started on that this week. After several days of playing my kind of comfort food, I decided I wanted to hear some Art Pepper. But instead of pulling out an old favorite -- of which there are dozens, including any random disc in The Complete Galaxy Recordings -- I remembered a 7-CD box that came out last year, that I thought I could stream. I put it off, mostly due to the length, but I figured I had time now, and was looking to fill it up. Unfortunately, while the title is listed (The Complete Maiden Voyage Recordings, what's actually available is a 4-CD release from 2017, which I couldn't find a label for. But I did find an Unreleased Art volume I hadn't heard, and that got me looking around. And as I did play them, I wound up doing what I always do.

I trust there are no surprises in the "Old music" section this week. Four A/A- records are ones I previously had graded that high in other forms. Getz's Nobody Else but Me is an old standby from one of the primo shelves, and I was surprised I only had it listed at B+, so an upgrade was clearly in order. The Jaki Byard is a bootleg that Allen Lowe raved about. I found it when I was trying to clear up some tabs, and decided I might as well play it, and write it up.

I moved from Getz to Geller by proximity. He's long fascinated me, so seemed worth the dive. Playing him now as I write, so next Music Week will at least have him. His late period seems to produce consistently fine but less than spectacular records.

Indexing February still delayed, as is damn near everything else in my life.

By the way, Kansas's first presidential primary in ages was today. We braved a line of absolutely no one to vote for Marianne Williamson in the Democratic primary. I gave up my Independent status in 2008 to caucus for Obama (against Clinton), and again in 2016 for Sanders (again, against Clinton), both of whom won big in Kansas. Williamson didn't win: current returns (91.9% in) give her 3.4% to Biden's 83.9%, with 10.2% "none of the names shown." Still, anyone who wants to create a Department of Peace gets my vote over Biden's war machine.

Trump is leading Haley 75.3% to 16.1%, with 5.2% for "none of the names shown." Trump had lost the 2016 caucus to Cruz.

PS: Oops! Was thinking about this most of the week, then slipped my mind when I initially posted. Meant to mention that the rated count ticked over another thousand mark this week, now over 42,000.

New records reviewed this week:

Lynne Arriale Trio: Being Human (2023 [2024], Challenge): Pianist, originally from Milwaukee, 17th album going back to 1994, mostly trios, this one with Alon Near (bass) and Lukasz Zyta (drums). B+(**) [cd]

Blue Moods: Swing & Soul (2023 [2024], Posi-Tone): Second album, "celebrating Duke Pearson," for label regulars Diego Rivera (tenor sax), Art Hirahara (piano), Boris Kozlov (bass), and Vinnie Sperrazza (drums), with Jon Davis taking over piano on two tracks. Very upbeat, joyous even. B+(***) [sp]

Gerald Cannon: Live at Dizzy's Club: The Music of Elvin & McCoy (2023 [2024], Woodneck): Bassist, mainstream, several albums under his name since 2000, more side-credits back to 1989, including 75th Birthday Celebration with Elvin Jones, a couple with McCoy Tyner, and most of the stars he lined up for this set of two Jones pieces, five Tyners, and one original: Eddie Henderson (trumpet), Sherman Irby (alto sax), Joe Lovano (tenor sax), Steve Turre (trombone), Dave Kikoski (piano), Lenny White (drums). B+(***) [sp]

The Chick Corea Elektric Band: The Future Is Now (2016-18 [2023], Candid, 2CD): Fusion group, originally formed in 1986, active for a decade after that, with a similar Elektric Band II appearing for a 1993 album, and an outlier album in 2004. This was collected from five concerts, August 2016 to May 2018. Lineup: Corea (piano/keyboards), Frank Gambale (guitar), John Patitucci (bass), Dave Weckl (drums), Erik Marienthal (sax) -- all in the band as of 1987. B+(*) [sp]

Patrick Cornelius: Book of Secrets (2022 [2023], Posi-Tone): Alto saxophonist, from San Antonio, based in New York, ten or so albums since 2006. Also plays soprano, alto flute, and clarinet here (on two tracks with Diego Rivera guesting on tenor sax). Backed by Art Hirahara (piano), Peter Slavov (bass), Vinnie Sperrazza (drums), and Behn Gillece (vibes). B+(**) [sp]

Stephan Crump: Slow Water (2023 [2024], Papillon Sounds): American bassist, debut 1997, many albums since, as well as sidework (especially with Vijay Iyer). [Major failing that he does not yet have a Wikipedia page.] Chamber jazz move, thick with slowly moving strings, occasional flashes of brass. Refers to a recent book by Erica Gies: Water Always Wins: Thriving in an Age of Drought and Deluge. B+(***) [cd] [05-03]

Art Hirahara: Echo Canyon (2023, Posi-Tone): Pianist, based in New York, side credits back to 1995, but emerged as a leader in 2011 and, especially with this trio of Boris Kozlov (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums) has become his label's default rhythm section. B+(**) [sp]

Mannequin Pussy: I Got Heaven (2024, Epitaph): Post-punk band from Philadelphia, Missy Dabice the singer, fourth album since 2014, harder than I care for, but do mix it up a bit. B+(**) [sp]

Pissed Jeans: Half Divorced (2024, Sub Pop): Another post-punk band with some critical acclaim. Sixth album since 2005. B+(*) [sp]

Diego Rivera: With Just a Word (2022 [2024], Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist, Mexican-American family, born in Ann Arbor, director of jazz studies at Texas (Austin), sixth album as leader since 2013, plus side projects like Blue Moods. Latin-tinged mainstream quintet here with Pete Rodriguez (trumpet), Art Hirahara (piano), Luques Curtis (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Jeremy Rose & the Earshift Orchestra: Discordia (2023 [2024], Earshift Music): Composer, plays soprano sax and bass clarinet, leading a conventional 17-piece big band and drummer Chloe Kim. Theme: "the paradoxes of our information era" and "the dangerous implications of misinformation," exacerbated by AI. B+(***) [cd]

Bill Ryder-Jones: Iechyd Da (2024, Domino): English singer-songwriter, co-founded the Coral, seventh album since going solo in 2011, first one I've checked out, mostly because it's currently [03-12] the top-rated 2024 album at AOTY (88/16 reviews, but mostly from UK sources). He's not much good as a singer, but is touchingly vulnerable, and gets help from lush orchestrations and a kiddie choir, which somehow turns in miracles. Nearest similar example I can think of someone I wound up liking despite hardly liking anything about him is Sufjan Stevens. Ryder-Jones seems even more improbable. A- [sp]

Nadine Shah: Filthy Underneath (2024, EMI North): British singer-songwriter, from Whitburn, lives in Newcastle, father Pakistani, fifth album since 2013. B+(*) [sp]

Sheer Mag: Playing Favorites (2024, Third Man): Postpunk band from Philadelphia, Tina Halladay the singer, third album, after EPs in 2015-16 and albums in 2017 and 2019. B+(**) [sp]

Rafael Toral: Spectral Evolution (2024, Moikai): Portuguese guitarist, mostly works in electronics, quite a few albums since 1994, some (like Space Quartet) more obviously connected to jazz. This is solo, starts with guitar which is soon heavily overlaid. B+(*) [sp]

Hein Westergaard/Katt Hernandez/Raymond Strid: The Knapsack, the Hat, and the Horn (2022 [2024], Gotta Let It Out): Guitar-violin-drums trio from Sweden. A little sketchy. B+(**) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:


Old music:

Jaki Byard: Live in Chicago 1992 (1992, Jazz³+): Pianist (1922-99), started with Charlie Mariano in 1950, later with Maynard Ferguson and Charles Mingus, his own albums from 1960 on. This is solo, from Chicago Jazz Festival, 45:58, doesn't seem to have a proper release so is some kind of bootleg. At one point he manages to blow some sax while playing along. B+(**) [yt]

Herb Geller: European Rebirth: 1962 Paris Sessions (1962 [2022], Fresh Sound): Alto saxophonist (1928-2013), from Los Angeles, recorded some fine albums 1954-58, but after his wife Lorraine died of an asthma attack in 1958, he left the US, played bossa nova in Brazil, then on to Europe, only really getting back into recording around 1984. Fifteen tracks from various Paris sessions, plus two bonus tracks from festivals. B+(***) [sp]

Herb Geller: Plays the Al Cohn Songbook (1994 [1996], Hep): The alto saxophonist plays twelve songs Cohn wrote, plus one original and one standard. With Tom Ranier (piano, tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet), John Leitham (bass), and Paul Kreibich (drums), plus a couple of vocals by Ruth Price. B+(**) [r]

Herb Geller: To Benny & Johnny, With Love From Herb Geller (2001 [2002], Hep): Benny Carter and Johnny Hodges, two of the alto saxophonist's heroes and models as he started his own career -- Charlie Parker is often cited as a third, but at this late date, he seems to be more in the mood for easy swing. With Hod O'Brien (piano), Chuck Berghofer (bass), and Paul Kreibich (drums). B+(**) [r]

Herb Geller: Plays the Arthur Schwartz Songbook (2005, Hep): Fourteen songs plus a medley, all co-credits with lyricists irrelevant here (Howard Dietz, Frank Loesser, Leo Robin, E.Y. Harburg). Alto or soprano sax, backed with piano (John Pearce), bass (Len Skeat), and drums (Bobby Worth). B+(**) [r]

Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd: Jazz Samba (1962, Verve): The first of a series of immensely popular albums that reflected and contributed to what was then called "the bossa nova craze." I know this music from a later 4-CD compilation: The Girl From Ipanema: The Bossa Nova Years (1989, following a 5-LP edition in 1984). Getz was well established, having started as a bebopper, deftly maneuvering through the "West Coast Cool Jazz" scene, and grasping other opportunities -- his 1961 album Focus was the first "sax with strings" album where the strings were every bit as interesting as the sax. He had developed as a fine ballad player -- and would continue to grow up to his final act, 1991's duos with Kenny Barron, People Time. Byrd takes the lead here in laying out the rhythms, which Getz rides so gracefully. Getz followed this with a big band album, a minor misstep, then recruited Luiz Bonfa for Encore, Laurinda Almeida, then João Gilberto for the best album of the series, which made the latter's wife, singer Astrud Gilberto, a star. A- [sp]

Stan Getz With Al Haig: Preservation (1948-51 [1967], Prestige): A compilation of Getz's earliest 78s, all with Haig on piano, his name below the title but set off from the others: Kai Winding, Jimmy Raney, Tommy Potter, Gene Ramey, Roy Haynes, Stan Levey, Blossom Dearie and Jr. Parker. Title, from a song here, reflects the influence of Lester Young, especially the light tone. A dozen songs, three vocals of varying interest -- I'd rather hear more of Getz, but I'm not going to complain about Haig's solos. B+(**) [sp]

Art Pepper & Warne Marsh: Unreleased Art: Volume 9: At Donte's, April 26, 1974 (1974 [2016], Widow's Taste, 3CD): Alto saxophonist, spent most of the years 1954-65 in prison, produced some brilliant albums when he was briefly free, especially the run from Modern Art (1957) to Smack Up (1960), but he has little to show for the period from 1965 until 1975, when he recorded Living Legend, kicking off a staggering series of albums and live performances up to his death, at 56, in 1982. In 2007, his widow, Laurie Pepper, started releasing old tapes, with ten (often multi-CD) volumes through 2018. This is the only one I missed, unusual both in that it's from just before his big comeback, and also that it pairs him with another leader, tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh. They were backed by Mark Levine (piano), John Heard (bass), and Lew Malin (drums). Some terrific playing here, especially toward the end. Harder to get a real handle on Marsh here. Pepper makes the point that they hadn't seen, much less played with, each other in 17 years. B+(***) [r]

Art Pepper: Surf Ride (1952-53 [1957], Savoy): Possibly his first LP, compiled from three dates, two with three tracks, the last with six. Different groups on each, with Russ Freeman, Hampton Hawes, and Claude Williamson the pianists, and Jack Montrose (tenor sax) added on the backstretch. Exceptionally lively, ten originals plus a Lester Young and "The Way You Look Tonight," with Montrose joining the race when he could. Not quite everything Pepper recorded for Savoy, so any compilation -- one I've long recommended is Straight Life: The Savoy Sessions (1984) -- is likely to be redundant. [NB: The 2-CD The Complete Surf Ride, which appeared in Japan in 1987, has four more songs and 25 extra takes, inline, so it's likely to be too redundant.] A- [sp]

Art Pepper Quintet: Live at Donte's 1968 (1968 [2004], Fresh Sound, 2CD): Digging around, I found this rare item from Pepper's missing decade (1965-75), recorded in North Hollywood, with Joe Romano (tenor sax), Frank Strazzeri (piano), Chuck Berghofer (bass), and Nick Ceroli (drums). Only six songs, but four of them top 19:37, and the others 13:35 and 10:07 ("incomplete"). Basically the formula he would use for the rest of his life, at least after losing the extra sax. B+(***) [r]

Art Pepper/Warne Marsh: Art Pepper With Warne Marsh (1956 [1986], Contemporary/OJC): This is where they met previously, both West Coast saxophonists, alto and tenor, Pepper a scrappy be-bopper out of the Stan Kenton band, Marsh a serious protégé of the more idiosyncratic Lennie Tristano (as was Lee Konitz, who often played with Marsh). With Ronnie Ball (piano), Ben Tucker (bass), and Gary Frommer (drums), the CD adding extra takes of three (of seven) pieces. Everyone here has a feather-light touch, so that even "Stompin' at the Savoy" seems to float. [NB: Some of this was released as The Way It Was! in 1972.] A- [r]

Art Pepper: No Limit (1977 [1978], Contemporary): Studio album, quartet with George Cables (piano), Tony Dumas (bass), and Carl Burnett (drums), covers "Ballad of the Sad Young Men," plus three originals: two for his wife, the last a mambo. The latter adds a second horn, a tenor sax, dubbed in by Pepper, and quite wonderful. A- [sp]

Art Pepper: Saturday Night at the Village Vanguard (1977 [1992], Contemporary/OJC): After being blown away with the Thursday and Friday Night sets, I sprang for the whole 9-CD The Complete Village Vanguard Sessions box, and never looked back. But three tracks here were released on vinyl in 1977, and a fourth added (52:00 total) for the 1992 CD. This was his all-star group, with George Cables (piano), George Mraz (bass), and Elvin Jones (drums). Two standards, two original I've heard many times and never tire of. A- [r]

Art Pepper: More for Les: At the Village Vanguard, Volume Four (1977 [1992], Contemporary/OJC): As the box proved, there was a lot more great music after extracting the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Night LPs, so they cobbled a fourth volume together in 1985, and expanded it some for the CD. In the intro, Pepper gushes that he's never before appeared with players of this caliber (George Cables, George Mraz, Elvin Jones), which is not quite true (see Meets the Rhythm Section), but he plays like it is, because they play like they are. Title song is an original. The standards are equally his: I've heard him play them many times, rarely (if ever) better than here. A [sp]

Sonny Redd/Art Pepper: Two Altos (1952-57 [1992], Savoy): Pepper you know. The other alto saxophonist here is Sylvester Kyner Jr. (1932-81), from Detroit, started with Barry Harris, mostly played in hard bop groups, got his debut (sort of) here, recorded five albums 1959-62 (dropping the extra d, so just Sonny Red), only one more after that. This was slapped together from four sessions, different personnel for each (drummer Larry Bunker is on two). No alto duets either: Pepper leads on four tracks, Redd on the other two. Nice enough. Front cover puts Pepper first, but spine has Redd, and he needs the credits more. This came out on LP in 1959 on Regent, as Redd's career was taking off, and Pepper was headed back to the slammer. B+(*) [sp]

Sonny Red: Out of the Blue (1959-60 [1996], Blue Note): Alto saxophonist, formerly Redd, first and only album for Blue Note, originally eight tracks with Wynton Kelly, six from 1959 with Sam Jones and Roy Brooks, plus two from 1960 with Kelly, Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Cobb, the CD tacking on five more from the latter session. A very solid outing, not least for the bonus tracks. B+(***) [sp]

Limited Sampling: Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.

Stephan Crump/Steve Lehman: Kaleidoscope and Collage (2011, Intakt): Bass and alto sax duo, both with previous connections to Vijay Iyer, although none that I see with each other. [1/2 tracks, 16:40/39:02] - [r]

Grade (or other) changes:

Stan Getz: Nobody Else but Me (1964 [1994], Verve): At the time, Getz's samba albums were selling so well they didn't bother releasing this quartet session, which aside from the infusion of Gary Burton's vibes sounds much in line with his early bebop efforts. Mostly standards, starting with a memorable "Summertime," but also including two Burton originals. With Gene Cherico (bass) and Joe Hunt (drums). [was: B+] A- [cd]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Martin Budde: Back Burner (Origin) [03-22]
  • Four + Six: Four + Six (Jazz Hang) [03-29]
  • Romy Glod/Christian Ramond/Klaus Kugel: No Toxic (Nemu) [01-02]
  • Johnny Griffin: Live at Ronnie Scott's (1964, Gearbox)
  • Jazz Ensemble of Memphis: Playing in the Yard (Memphis International) [04-05]
  • Last Day Quintet: Falling to Earth (Origin) [03-22]

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