An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Started this on Sunday, but too many distractions kept me from wrapping it up in a timely fashion. As I've noted already, my sister, Kathy Hull, died last week. We've had visitors and all sorts of chores to do, and I've been plagued by my own health problems. One thing that I did notice was that the sense of horror I felt on hearing the news was one I had experienced several times before: when, for instance, my first wife died, and most recently when Donald Trump was elected president. A big part of that sensation is the dread of facing a future not of unknown and unimaginable consequences but of quite certain pain and loss. The news since election day has merely born out that expected dread. Numerous examples follow, and I'm sure I'm missing at least as much more. One thing I suppose I should take comfort from is that when we finally have a memorial for Kathy (on March 31), we will have fond memories and a lot of art to celebrate. When Trump's term ends we're unlikely to recall a single shred of redeeming value.
Of course, the two events are not comparable in any regard except personal emotional impact on me. The key point is that the shock of the 2016 election, the immediate apprehension of what the American people just did to themselves, hit me pretty much as hard, with much the same body chemistry. Of course, the grief tracks have been/will be different. We will adjust to the impoverished world without her, but the blow has been struck, both final and finite. On the other hand, Trump and his Congress and Courts have barely started to take their toll, which will only grow over time and won't stop when his term ends. On the other hand, there are things that can be done to alter or even reverse the course Trump has set us on. And there is at least one thing I can take comfort in: I've spent literally all of my adult life in opposition to whoever has held political power, as indeed I would still be had Hillary Clinton won, but since the 1970s I've never been in such large or dynamic company. It's also nice to feel no need to defend Clinton when she says something tone-deaf (like her note that she won the urban areas that had fared best under her party's neoliberal advancement) or any of the other petty scandals she's prone to.
By the way, this week is the fifteenth anniversary of Bush's invasion of Iraq. I took another look at what I wrote on March 18, and much of what I wrote then holds up; especially:
I probably tried too hard to rationalize the Bush case, and I spent a lot of time fantasizing that Iraqis might wise up and figure out how to play the PR game in ways that might limit the destruction. That didn't happen first because the seemingly easy military victory unleashed an extraordinary degree of American hubris, and partly because it took very little resistance to change the American stance from would-be benefactor to occupier and schemer. My other mistake was in failing to see how much the US failure in Afghanistan, which was already obvious even if less observed, prefigured the very same failure in Iraq. Not that I was unaware of Afghanistan. Indeed, I've always known that the prime mistake Bush made after 9/11 was driving into Afghanistan.
Even though this isn't appearing until Tuesday, I've tried to limit the stories/links to last Sunday. Some later ones may have crept in -- especially on the Cambridge Analytica story.
Some scattered links this week:
Monday, March 12, 2018
Music: current count 29476  rated (+24), 368  unrated (+0).
Nothing to say about music this week. I woke up last Tuesday to the news that my sister had been struck by a car while walking from the parking lot to her work at Wichita State University. The car was not going especially fast, but knocked her to the ground, and she smashed the back of her skull on the pavement. The skull was cracked, and a CT scan showed multiple brain bleeds. The Wesley Hospital ER stapled the skull together, stabilized her, and put her in the Intensive Care Unit. When we saw her, she was conscious, incoherent, agitated, very frustrated. She developed respiratory problems, which they cleared up (mostly) with a 3-hour bronchoscopy operation. After that, she seemed to be improving, becoming calmer and more coherent, although she had bad periods as well. I never got any meaningful review of her brain scan tests. They were mostly described as "unchanged," and the bleeds were deemed inoperable, so they focused on palliative care. There was much discussion of transferring her to a "brain trauma hospital" in Nebraska, possibly early this week.
Last night, around 4AM, Kathy's heart stopped. This occurred during some form of respiratory therapy. Multiple attempts to revive her failed. A friend was staying overnight at the hospital with her, and tells me that they had "about half the floor in her room" and spent about 30 minutes before giving up. I don't know any more than that. The hospital called her son, Ram, who called me about 4:30 AM. Our brother, Steve, had come to Wichita on Wednesday, and planned on going in early morning. He found out when he woke up, and called me. I couldn't go to sleep, so I picked up and we talked about 7 AM.
I sent email to a couple of people before I went to bed. Ram posted something very brief on Facebook. I shared it, then added my own note. He'll be talking to a funeral director tomorrow, so we'll have a better idea of schedule then. I need to call some people, and to catch up with Ram and Steve, but in my current daze I figured I'd knock this out and get it out of the way. I've had a miserable week, with my own problems as well as this. Feeling shocked and helpless now.
New records rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Sunday, March 11, 2018
Didn't mean to write much this weekend. Just figured I'd go through the motions, starting with the usual Yglesias links, to have something for future reference, and to check how the update mechanism works on the transplanted website. Guess I got a little carried away.
Some scattered links this week:
Monday, March 5, 2018
Music: current count 29452  rated (+29), 368  unrated (+1).
Most of what follows, including all of this week's A- ratings, already appeared in February's Streamnotes, posted last Wednesday. After that I guess I slowed down a bit. Damn little more to report.
I suppose I could offer a link to The new (UK) jazz family tree, although I should note that it actually offers only a rather thin slice of jazz in the UK, with nothing avant (aside from Evan Parker), nothing trad, huge omissions elsewhere (some names that leap to mind: Dave Holland, John McLaughlin, Howard Riley, Tommy Smith, and John Surman, as well as younger musicians like Neil Cowley and Alexander Hawkins). I haven't tried counting, but offhand I think I recognize about a third of the names, mostly falling down where band members are expanded (e.g., the other three-fourths of Camilla George Quartet). The author notes that she started with Emma-Jean Thackray and Sons of Kemet and worked her way out from there. Thackray didn't ring a bell, although I've heard of her group Walrus. Sons of Kemet have a couple albums I like, especially Lest We Forget What We Came Here to Do (2015).
New records rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Sunday, March 4, 2018
Once again having to cut this short because I'm running out of time. Didn't even watch the Oscars tonight, as I tried to gather these links. Nothing terribly new below if you've been reading all along, although the Putnam/Skocpol article might help, as well as Yglesias' near-weekly posts on Republican voting setbacks. I suppose one thing that slowed me down is that this has been an above-average week for palace intrigue, even given renormalization after that's been the case for about 50 weeks in the last year-plus-a-month.
Some scattered links this week:
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Streamnotes (February 2018)
First month post-freeze, so I should be moving beyond 2017, and to some extent I am. Of ten A-list recent releases, four are 2018 (Laurie Anderson, Evan Parker, Amy Rigby, Shopping), four 2017 (Girma Bèyènè, Youssou N'Dour, Anna Tivel, Wu-Tang), and two 2016 (Peter Stampfel, Celebrate Ornette). Still, three of those four 2018 releases were picked up after Monday's Music Week as I was hoping some last-minute scrounging might even out an otherwise thin month.
Still, this says more about waning interest in 2017 than looking forward. For proof, note that most of the records below are old. Partly this is because I finally broke down and finished collecting my various short jazz reviews for my two Jazz Guides. I've folded the extra reviews in, adding 9 pages to the 20th Century (currently 774 pages), and 7 pages to the 21st Century (now 1657 pages). The former is pretty useless, at least compared to The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, which covers about 4-5 times as many records -- an insurmountable head start, I'm afraid. However, my post-2000 coverage is comparable to Penguin Guide in the early years -- it hasn't been updated since the 9th Edition in 2008.
I believe it would take a vast amount of editing to turn my draft file into something useful, and doubt I'm up to the task. Still, even before I worry about spit and polish, I'd like to figure out some way to make the guides available to the tiny number of people who might have any interest in them. Stage 3 will be to try to figure out how to do this, adjusting the format as necessary. As I figure things out, I'll announce what I can on the blog.
Meanwhile, I suppose you can download my draft files: 20th Century, and 21st Century. To get any good out of them, you'll probably need to have LibreOffice installed. I should note that I've been using an old version of the program (220.127.116.11), so I have no idea whether you'll run into problems downloading the current stable (5.4.5) or development (6.0.1) versions. It's likely that I will have to update to move on to whatever the next step is.
Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on January 31. Past reviews and more information are available here (10849 records).
Laurie Anderson/Kronos Quartet: Landfall (2018, Nonesuch): Audio for some form of visual presentation, Anderson's usual work mode, reportedly linked to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy. Music seems less expansive than her best, the string quartet as much anchor as vehicle. Would be neither here nor there but for the spoken word, which is fascinating even at its most elliptical. A-
Louise Baranger: Louise Baranger Plays the Great American Groove Book (2017, Summit): Trumpet player, played in Harry James' band just before his death (in 1983), has at least one previous album. Aside from "Love Potion No. 9" and "The Sidewinder" focuses on 1970s soul tunes -- Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Bill Withers, "Never Can Say Goodbye" -- writing one for Wilson Pickett. B [cd]
David Bertrand: Palmyra & Other Places (2017, Blujazz): Flute player, wrote all the pieces, nicely set off by Rafal Sarnecki's electric guitar, plus bass and drums that keep the beat interesting. Guest soprano sax on one cut. B+(*) [cd]
Girma Bèyènè & Akalé Wubé: Éthiopiques 30: "Mistakes on Purpose" (2017, Buda Musique): Ethiopian, no recording dates but seems to be recent. Bèyènè plays piano and sings, somewhat talky; Akalé Wubé is a band, with sax, trumpet, guitar, bass, and drums, plus some guests drop in. Their relaxed flow doesn't sound all that African, but that's just how unique they are -- and note that the horns can on occasion slip into jazzy dissonance. A-
Nick Biello: Vagabond Soul (2016 , Blujazz): Alto saxophonist, also soprano and synth, first album, postbop septet with Paul Jones (tenor sax), Phil Markowitz (piano), plus viola, guitar, bass, and drums. Biello originals, mostly taken fast with soaring sax. B+(**) [cd]
Dan Block: Block Party: A Saint Louis Connection (2015 , Miles High): Tenor sax and clarinet, quite a bit of the latter. Quintet with Rob Block (guitar), Neal Caine (bass), Tadataka Unno (piano), and Aaron Kimmel (drums). Liner notes by Joe Schwab, proprietor of Euclid Records in St. Louis for 35 years, making me feel old as his shop didn't exist when I lived a half block off Euclid -- what was it, oh dear, 45 years ago? Can't say St. Louis was much of a jazz town then, but old timers remembered it differently. B+(***) [cd]
Owen Broder: Heritage: The American Roots Project (2017 , ArtistShare): Saxophonist, credit here is "woodwinds," ensemble is an octet plus three vocalists, mostly names I recognize, produced by Ryan Truesdell. I don't particularly get the roots concept, other than to recognize some American Indian drums and chants mixed in with the jambalaya. B
Sarah Buechi: Contradiction of Happiness (2017 , Intakt): Swiss singer-songwriter, third album, most songs in English (aside from the trad. "Schönschte Obigstärn"), performed by pianist Stefan Aeby plus strings (violin-viola-cello-bass) and drums. B+(*) [cd]
Harley Card: The Greatest Invention (2015 , self-released): Canadian guitarist, leads a postbop quintet with sax (David French) and piano (Matt Newton), richly complex and grooveful, as such things tend to be. B+(*) [cd]
Dawn Clement: Tandem (2017 , Origin): Pianist, also sings some but gives way to Johnaye Kendrick on two tracks, spots other guests like Julian Priester (trombone, 2 cuts), Mark Taylor (alto sax, 2 others), and Matt Wilson (drums, 2 others). The result is a record which seems all over the place: I'm impressed by the piano, love the bits with Priester and the dramatic jump into "Bemsha Swing," don't follow the vocals, and haven't (and won't ever) sorted the arc or concept. B+(*) [cd]
Ornette Coleman: Celebrate Ornette: Brooklyn Prospect Park (2014 , Song X, 2CD): Not something you can simply go out and buy, let alone stream, unless you fork over $100 for a bloated product with a third CD (the posthumous Ornette Coleman Memorial: Riverside Church), two DVDs, and some paraphernalia ($275 will get you extra vinyl -- makes you wonder if Denardo, beyond his unique apprenticeship on drums, hasn't been taking business school correspondence courses on the side). Still, this is the piece people who caught (or cajoled) the whole thing regard as significant: the full concert featuring Coleman's last public appearance, one where he only plays on the first two tracks, 19:52 of "Ramblin" and "OC Turnaround" -- a brief reminder of his genius, a fitting coda to a extraordinary career that started nearly sixty years earlier. After that, others take over, usually fronting a band known as Denardo VIBE, mostly playing Coleman tunes, easing us into a world deprived of his singular genius for turning chaos into beauty, ending in a 20:21 "Lonely Woman" with four famous-in-their-own-right saxophonists -- Ravi Coltrane, Branford Marsalis, David Murray, Joe Lovano -- trying to pick up his torch. Along the way, various others step on stage, including Geri Allen, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Nels Cline, James Blood Ulmer, John Zorn, Henry Threadgill, Bill Laswell, Patty Smith, and Laurie Anderson. People who were there tell me they were lifted, but in retrospect it sounds more bittersweet. A- [cdr]
Rose Cousins: Natural Conclusion (2017, Old Farm Pony): Singer-songwriter from Prince Edward Island in Canada, generally filed under folk but goes for a lusher pop sound here. B
Roberta Donnay & the Prohibition Mob Band: My Heart Belongs to Satchmo (2018, Blujazz): Old-timey standards singer, cut an album in 1989, a half-dozen more since 1998, as well as appearing in Dan Hicks' 2009-12 bands. Has a trumpet player named Rich Armstrong set the table here before running through a set of songs familiar to Louis Armstrong and anyone who adored him. B+(**) [cd]
Duchess: Duchess (2015, Anzic): Jazz-rooted girl group: Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner, Melissa Stylianou -- based in New York but originally from points north (Gardner from Alaska, the others from Toronto), each with fledgling solo careers, patterned this group after the Boswell Sisters. Backed by piano trio plus Jeff Lederer on sax. Sometimes too slow ("Que Sera, Sera," "P.S. I Love You"), but crackles when they get agitated ("There Ain't No Sweet Man That's Worth the Salt of My Tears"). B+(**)
Duchess: Laughing at Life (2016 , Anzic): A second album, the cover again showing the three singers, but this time a paste-up of three separate photos, their laughs out of sync, their hairstyles decidedly more mature. Starts off with old swing tunes which enhance their Boswell Sisters concept, but changes pace midway and gets a bit lost. B+(*)
Harris Eisenstadt: Recent Developments (2016 , Songlines): Canadian drummer, prolific since 2002, this nonet works its way through a 40:33 composition, abstract with orchestral airs -- flute, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, tuba, banjo, cello, bass, drums, all jazz musicians I readily recognize. B+(**)
Fred Farell: Distant Song (2016 , Whaling City Sound): Farell "sings the music of Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach" -- note, not songs, because lyrics hardly catapult the music into great American songbook. The whole project is a stretch, although I'll note that the booklet includes praise from Sheila Jordan and Jay Clayton, possibly the only singers who could pull this off. But even before I looked at the booklet, I noted that the saxophone was simply gorgeous, and undoubtedly Liebman. Turns out the piano is Beirach, too. B+(*) [cd]
Craig Fraedrich: Out of the Blues (2017, Summit): Trumpet player, studied at UNT, veteran of US Army Blues, teaches at Shenandoah University, calls his group (small purple print) The Jazz Trumpet Ensemble. Starts with five trumpet/flugelhorn players, backs them up with piano-guitar-bass-drums for a brassy big band sound. Mostly originals, plus Fraedrich arrangements of "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" and "Giant Steps." One song is called "Shades of Blue," but I only hear one. B- [cd]
Satoko Fujii: Solo (2017 , Libra): The prolific Japanese avant-pianist turns 60 this year, so decided to celebrate by releasing one album each month, a fairly minor uptick from her usual rate. January's offering is this solo performance, originals plus one piece by Jimmy Giuffre. Her first solo outing since, well, last year's Invisible Hand, the best I could recall of close to a dozen I've heard. More quiet spots here, which for me at least makes it harder to follow, less impressive, but not unremarkable. B+(**) [cd]
Brad Garton/Dave Soldier: The Brainwave Music Project (2017 , Mulatta): Garton seems to be a programmer, who's come up with software to convert EEG (brainwave) data into music. Soldier is a violinist who had a folk group called the Kropotkins and has done all sorts of off-the-wall projects, like orchestrating a choir of elephants. Several other names on the cover, with featured roles on various songs: Margaret Lancaster (flute), Dan Trueman (Hardanger fiddle), Terry Pender (mandolin), William Hooker (drums). I don't understand how this works (what they call "data sonification") but the music is pretty interesting in its own peculiar way. B+(***) [cd]
Camilla George Quartet: Isang (2016 , Ubuntu Music): Alto saxophonist, based in London, first album, has appeared on a couple Zara McFarlane albums, the singer guesting on one cut here. With Sarah Tandy (piano), Daniel Casimir (bass), and Femi Koleoso (drums). Nice tone, hugs the beat. B+(*)
GoGo Penguin: A Humdrum Star (2017 , Blue Note): British piano trio, from Manchester -- Chris Illingworth (piano), Nick Blacka (double bass), Rob Turner (drums) -- aims for crossover if not quite pop stardom with their not quite minimalist groove, B+(*)
James Hall: Lattice (2016 , Outside In Music): Trombonist, from Nebraska, based in New York, at least one previous album. Postbop quintet, matching Jamie Baum's flute against trombone for the horns, often moving pianist Deanna Witkowski over to electric. Goes down so easily you wind up wondering what's there. B+(*) [cd]
Jupiter & Okwess: Kin Sonic (2017, Glitterbeat): Jean-Pierre (Jupiter) Bokondji, born in Kinshasa 1963, grew up in East Berlin (where he father was a diplomat), returned to Zaire in 1979 and joined the band that eventually became Okwess. This picks up various strands of Congolese pop, but frames them harshly, with metal crunching and a dash of western funk. B+(**)
Kaze: Atody Man (2017 , Libra): Two trumpet quartet, Natsuki Tamura and Christian Pruvost, with Satoki Fujii on piano and Peter Orins on drums. Fourth or fifth group album (one was an expanded group called Trouble Kaze). Starts way back but builds into something special. B+(***) [cd]
Rich Krueger: Life Ain't That Long (2017 , Rockink): Singer-songwriter originally from New York but based in Chicago, first album at 58, somehow wrangled a kitchen sink backing group which reminded me of Bruce Springsteen (and Gerry Raferty and Harry Chapin) even before I heard the saxophone. His song about 1977 rings about as true as Don McLean's about 1958, and isn't the only evidence he can write. So I'm not unimpressed, but not enjoying this either. B+(**)
Julian Lage: Modern Lore (2018, Mack Avenue): Young guitarist (30), made the cover of Downbeat, in a trio with Scott Colley (bass) and Kenny Wolleson (drums/vibes). Napster filed under folk for no discernible reason, not that it ticks many jazz boxes either. B
Les Filles De Illighadad: Eghass Malan (2017, Sahelsounds): Tuareg group from Niger, fronted by two sisters harmonizing over sparse guitar and drums. B+(**)
Daniel Levin/Chris Pitsiokos/Brandon Seabrook: Stomiidae (2016 , Dark Tree): Cello-alto sax-guitar free improv trio, the latter two I associate with noise, although they keep that within interesting bounds here -- a little scratchy, rather abstract, a fair complement to a scratchy and abstract cellist. Stomiidae, by the way, are a family of deep sea denizens such as the barbeled dragonfish, pictured on the cover. B+(***) [cd]
Dua Lipa: Dua Lipa (2017, Warner Brothers): British pop singer, born in London in 1995, parents Kosovar Albanians who got out before the US decided to save their people by bombing them. A bit of gravity in her voice, nothing spectacular in the arrangements, but catchy enough and grows on you. B+(**)
Living Fossil: Never Die! (2017 , self-released): Group name stylized with back-and-forward slashes, lower case, no space, but they don't carry that conceit over to their Bandcamp page. Tenor saxophonist Gordon Hyland gets the large type on the back cover, backed by guitar and drums, with duties split between two bassists, plus a couple of others on various cuts. B+(**) [cd]
Kate McGarry/Keith Ganz/Gary Versace: The Subject Tonight Is Love (2017 , Binxtown): Standards singer, half-dozen albums from 1992, 2001, and since 2005. Likes to scat. Backed by guitar and keyboards/accordion. I've never been a fan, but this works out nicely, with a particularly touching "My Funny Valentine" and a rare Beatles cover to close ("All You Need Is Love"). B+(**) [cd]
Hailu Mergia: Lala Belu (2018, Awesome Tapes From Africa): From Ethiopia, plays keyboards, accordion, and melodica; has driven a taxi in Washington DC while his early tapes awaited rediscovery -- since 2013, Brian Shimkowitz has released three of his 1977-85 albums. This, however, seems to be new music, backed by bass and drums, recorded in Virginia. Not as "awesome" as its predecessors, just engaging and rather sweet, catchy too. B+(***)
Juana Molina: Halo (2017, Crammed Discs): Argentine singer-songwriter, seventh album, the sort of thing one would be tempted to call folktronica, with odd bits from all around the world dressed up with keybs, occasional guitar, and backing voices, but kept very understated. B+(*)
David Murray feat. Saul Williams: Blues for Memo (2016 , Motéma): Williams is more poet than singer, but has a half-dozen albums, notably Martyr Loser King (2016). He read a poem at Amiri Baraka's funeral, and Ahmet Ulug got the idea of arranging a meet up with Murray in Turkey, where this album was originally released. The saxophonist is typically magnificent here, the singer/rapper harder to hear and suss out, but offhand doesn't seem like a good match (unlike, say, Murray's work with Ishmael Reed). B+(**)
Musique Noire: Reflections: We Breathe (2017, self-released): Detroit string/percussion quartet, led by Michelle May (violin/flute), third album, adds extras here and there, vocals included. B+(*)
Youssou N'Dour: Raxas Bercy 2017 (2017, self-released): Not sure this even counts as a thing: a concert tape dumped out on YouTube, what in ancient times was called a bootleg and generally ignored by respectable critics, but nowadays is just data, the original source apparently the artist himself. Still, good luck trying to come up with a usable copy -- I'm not sure mine qualifies on that account either. As live N'Dour concerts go, this does live up to his stellar reputation, and I especially like the sharp attack on the drums. A- [dl]
Negative Press Project: Eternal Life: Jeff Buckley Songs and Sounds (2017, Ridgeway, 2CD): Oakland group, Jeff Denson is executive producer, Ruthie Dineen (piano) and Andrew Lion (bass) are arrangers, with various horn players, guitarists, and drums. I never liked Buckley's records, but was pleasantly surprised by the cogency and flow of the long instrumental disc. Much less so, of course, by the vocals on the short second disc. B+(*) [cd]
Arturo O'Farrill & Chucho Valdés: Familia: Tribute to Bebo & Chico (2017, Motéma, 2CD): Cuban pianists (the former actually born in Mexico), both sons of legendary Cuban big band leaders, both (arguably) more accomplished than their fathers. Don't have a lot of details, but first disc is credited to the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, which would be O'Farrill's big band, with the second by the Third Generations Ensemble. Lots of pianistics, horns, and percussion. B+(**)
Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton: Music for David Mossman: Live at Vortex London (2016 , Intakt): Sax-bass-drums trio, have played together a lot over the years, as a trio since 1980, the Parker-Lytton duo going back to 1967, with both playing in Guy's big band in 1972. Mossman was founder of the Vortex, a London club where they've played often for thirty-some years. Not sure this is one of their best, but hard to deny. A- [cd]
Allison Pierce: Year of the Rabbit (2017, Masterworks): Solo debut from the elder sister of the Pierces, who recorded five pleasantly folkie albums 2000-14. More along those lines, especially when the harmony swells up. B
Quelle Chris: Being You Is Great, I Wish I Could Be You More Often (2017, Mello Music Group): Detroit rapper Gavin Christopher Tennille, half-dozen albums since 2009. Fuzzy underground beats, scratches aplenty, voices put me on edge, especially when they get cluttered. B-
Amy Rigby: The Old Guys (2018, Southern Domestic): Possibly the best singer-songwriter in America for the decade 1996-2005, a period bracketed by two A records (Diary of a Mod Housewife and Little Fugitive, nothing much lower in between. Then she married Eric Goulden (aka Wreckless Eric) and cut three duo albums with him -- two better than anything he'd done before. First solo album in 13 years, doesn't rank with her best but at least four songs make me want to come back, everything else I enjoy -- her voice, of course, but also some of the hardest guitar she's ever employed. A-
Jamie Saft: Solo a Genova (2017 , RareNoise): Pianist, seems like he mostly played electric early on but has developed into a remarkable acoustic player, and this live set of mostly standards -- 9/11, but more from rock era songwriters like Dylan, Mayfield, Mitchell, and Wonder than jazz sources (just Coltrane and Davis, with Ives as an outlier) -- is consistently engaging. B+(***) [cdr]
Samo Salamon/Howard Levy: Peaks of Light (2017 , Sazas): Guitarist, from Slovenia, duets with harmonica player Levy, perhaps best known from Béla Fleck and the Flecktones (1988-92, returned in 2011), but he has more than a dozen albums, most on a label called Balkan Samba. Strong presence, the guitarist working deftly around the edges. B+(***) [cd]
Cecilia Sanchietti: La Verza Via (2017 , Blujazz): Italian drummer, leads a piano trio with Pierpaolo Principato on the keys, joined by Nicholas Kummert (tenor sax) on 5/10 cuts. Sanchietti originals plus covers of Keith Jarrett and Maria Schneider. Nice flow, sax adds lustre. B+(*) [cd]
Dolores Scozzesi: Here Comes the Sun (2017 , Café Pacific): Standards singer, second album, produced by Mark Winkler, idiosyncratic mix of things that work and others that don't. She does have a distinctive voice, low but not sultry, and the arrangements are adroit. B+(*) [cd]
Andy Sheppard Quartet: Romaria (2017 , ECM): British tenor/soprano saxophonist, a regular with Carla Bley since the mid-1990s, backed here by Eivind Aarset (guitar), Michel Benita (double bass), and Sebastian Rochford (drums). He slows down and fades into the ether, though this makes for pretty background as long as you can hear it. B+(*)
Shopping: The Official Body (2018, FatCat): British post-punk band, third album, Rachel Aggs plays guitar and sings, bassist and drummer also sing some. Songs are tight, clean, have a rhythm and tone similar to that of such classic post-punk bands as Wire, Gang of Four, and Joy Division. That's pretty good. A-
Dr. Lonnie Smith: All in My Mind (2018, Blue Note): Organ player, cut Finger Lickin' Good in 1967 and hasn't messed with his formula much since then. Trio with Jonathan Kreisberg (guitar) and Johnathan Blake (drums), playing live somewhere, at some time, no details yet on that. I'm not immune to his grove, and his opening "Juju" is fine, but he steps in it on occasion -- a Paul Simon melody for one. B-
Spellling: Pantheon of Me (2017, self-released): Tia Cabral, from Oakland, first album after a couple of EPs, hard to classify, dark as trip hop but short on beats. B
Peter Stampfel and the Brooklyn & Lower Manhattan Fiddle/Mandolin Swarm: Holiday for Strings (2016, Don Giovanni): Went looking for his new one (The Cambrian Explosion) and found this not-so-old one I had missed. The Swarm is often out of control, and the mass of not-very-harmonic voices is unruly, but the leader remains so unique you never for a moment have trouble picking him out from the chaos. A-
Edgar Steinitz: Roots Unknown (2017 , OA2): Physician, professor, lately plays clarinet/bass clarinet/soprano sax, studied with bassist Dave Friesen, who plays on this belated debut, a set of pieces exploring Ashkenazi and Sephardic traditions. Backed with accordion, violin, and percussion, with Jay Thomas guesting on trumpet/flugelhorn, flute, and tenor sax. B+(***) [cd]
Bobo Stenson Trio: Contra La Indecisión (2017 , ECM): Swedish pianist, discography starts in 1971, always impressive, although I tend to think of him for the quartet he co-led with Jan Garbarek. This is a basic trio with Anders Jormin on bass and Jon Fält on drums, Jormin's name on 6 (of 11) compositions (counting a group credit which gives Stenson 2) -- covers include Bartok, Satie, and the title piece from Silvio Rodriguez, all played delicately. B+(**)
Tal National: Tantabara (2018, Fat Cat): Group from Niger, third record, upbeat, intense even. I find their guitars and voices a bit grating, although sometimes they overcome my resistance. B+(***)
Anna Tivel: Small Believer (2017, Fluff and Gravy): Singer-songwriter from Portland, plays guitar and violin, fourth album, has a producer who spruces up the sound without clutter or distraction. A lovely album, I find myself hanging on every word. A-
Traxman: Tekvision (2017, Teklife): Cornelius Ferguson, aka Corky Strong, footwork producer from Chicago. Works with a minimal set of beats, rather clunky. On the short side: 8 cuts, 29:46. B-
Ty Dolla Sign: Beach House 3 (2017, Atlantic): Rapper Tyrone William Griffin Jr., second studio album, title acknowledges two previous Beach House mixtapes (of nine mixtapes since 2011). Sings more than he raps, or perhaps I should say splits the difference? B+(*)
Steve Tyrell: A Song for You (2018, New Design): Born in Houston, moved to New York at 18, established himself as a record producer, working with Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Dionne Warwick, and B.J. Thomas. Appeared as a crooner in Steve Martin's Father of the Bride, leading to a second career as a standards singer, e.g.: A New Standard (1999), followed by nearly a dozen titles like Songs of Sinatra and Bach to Bacharach. He dedicates this album to the late Paul Buckmaster, who evidently worked on the title track. Opens with a Van Morrison song, followed by "Come Rain or Come Shine" and "Try a Little Tenderness" -- tidy arrangements, sweetened by strings from Budapest. B+(**) [cd]
Mike Vax & Ron Romm: Collaboration (2017 , Summit): Two trumpet players: Vax mostly in big bands, including work with Stan Kenton and Clark Terry, with an album under his own name from 1974; Romm a veteran of the Canadian Brass (1971-2000). This one focuses on the trumpet tradition from Armstrong to Adderley -- the latter's "Sweet Emma" is a highlight. B+(**) [cd]
Michael Waldrop: Origin Suite (2017 , Origin): Drummer/vibraphonist, runs a big band here, with various bits recorded elsewhere and tacked together. The title suite is rather short, but the album goes on and on, alternately richly expressive and overblown. B- [cd]
Wu-Tang: The Saga Continues (2017, eOne): Released in October, the group name shortened to note the absence of U-God (some legal issues, royalties maybe), conspicuously produced by Mathematics, pretty much universally ignored (68 at Metacritic on 13 reviews, only one EOY list appearance I've noted, and 100th place at that). I can't say I've ever been much of a fan, and indeed disliked the whole 1990s gangsta fad, but time changes everything, not least how one perceives those who haven't changed. They're old school now, their beats/samples sound great, giving their tales of drug dealing an air of literature, and their defense of black masculinity a quest for dignity and power (albeit with a whiff of sexism). A-
Hideo Yamaki/Bill Laswell/Bjorn Björkenheim/Mike Sopko/Dominic James: Inaugural Sound Clash for the 2 Americas (2017, MOD Technologies): Drummer, bassist, three guitarists, recorded live at the Stone in NYC on Trump's inauguration day, one long piece called "Against the Empire of Alternative Facts." Eschews the rage, fear and loathing the occasional cried out for, settling into a groove showing strength and resilience, not that the path ahead will be easy. B+(***)
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Mulatu Astatke: Mulatu of Ethiopia (1972 , Strut): From Ethiopia, studied engineering in Wales, music at Trinity College in London and Berklee in Boston, playing keyboards, vibraphone, and percussion in a mix he called Ethio-jazz, cutting this early record in New York. B+(***)
Youssou N'Dour: Africa Rekk: Réédition (2016 , Jive/Epic): Since leaving Nonesuch, the Senegalese superstar has become increasingly difficult to follow, his main legit outlet Sony in France (with limited if any US distribution), plus various download-only items, legit or not. This adds (and possibly remixes) a couple songs to his 2016 album, but access seems limited to streaming outlets. But at least that's access, as compared to Christgau's recent picks: the EP #Senegaal Rekk and the live Raxas Bercy 2017. This is about half typical/brilliant, half veering into less satisfying styles, like calypso. B+(**)
Derek Bailey/Evan Parker/Hugh Davies/Jamie Muir/Christine Jeffrey: The Music Improvisation Company (1970, ECM): Very early in the long, storied careers of Bailey (electric guitar) and Parker (soprano sax), at the time no more famous than Davies (electronics), Muir (percussion), or Jeffrey (voice on two tracks, not that you notice). Could be taken as some sort of landmark, but scratchy and abstract, hard to follow without much payoff. B
Kenny Barron: Scratch (1985, Enja): Piano trio, with Dave Holland on bass and Daniel Humair on drums. Five originals, one song from Carmen Lundy. B+(**)
Kenny Barron Trio: Green Chimneys (1983-87 , Criss Cross): Piano trio, with Buster Williams on bass and Ben Riley on drums. One original, nine covers -- including two Monks that jump out at you, although everything is deftly played. B+(***)
Raoul Björkenheim & Krakatau: Ritual (1988-90 , Cuneiform): The American-Finnish guitarist's first album, ten tracks released in Finland in 1988 plus a couple later ones tacked on for the US release. Björkenheim went on to release three more albums as Krakatau with different lineups. Where fusion seeks to make jazz more rocksteady, he starts with rock licks and improvises on them, with saxophonist Tapani Rinne bringing on extra noise. B+(***) [bc]
Carla Bley: Tropic Appetites (1973-74 , Watt): Lovella May Borg, b. 1936, father a piano teacher and church choirmaster, moved to New York at 17, became a cigarette girl at Birdland, changed her name first to Karen then Carla Borg, met and married Paul Bley, divorced him and married trumpet player Michael Mantler, which lasted 1965-91. (She later married bassist Steve Swallow.) Her first record came out in 1966, followed by A Genuine Tong Funeral (her music, but headlined by Gary Burton) and her famous avant-opera, Escalator Over the Hill, with libretto by Paul Haines. Haines wrote parts of this as well, with Julie Tippetts first among the singers. I've never been a fan of any kind of opera, and even though this is far from the classical model, it seems to me that the words just trip up the music. Elsewhere, the music is clever and interesting, except when a tenor saxophone (originally credited to "Unidentified Cat" but instantly identifiable as Gato Barbieri) elevates it to awesome. B+(*)
Carla Bley: Dinner Music (1976 , Watt): Large group, nine musicians, Bley sharing the piano slot with Richard Tee but also playing organ, tenor sax, and singing one song. Scattered, but when something exceptional happens it's usually trombonist Roswell Rudd at work, or sometimes one of the guitarists (Cornell Dupree and Eric Gale). B+(**)
Carla Bley: Social Studies (1980 , Watt): Another large group set: two saxes (Carlos Ward, Tony Dagradi), four brass (Michael Mantler, Gary Valente, Joe Daly on euphonium, Earl McIntyre on tuba), bass, drums, Bley on organ and piano. Nice, richly detailed arrangements. No downside, not much upside either. B+(*)
Carla Bley: Live! (1981 , Watt/ECM): Recorded at Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, her basic tentet, with the leader on organ, Arturo O'Farrill on piano, two saxes, four brass (Victor Chancey's French horn replaces the euphonium), bass and drums. More vibrant than the studio albums, the rhythm steadier, the top brass has some snap, and the saxes soar. A-
The Carla Bley Band: I Hate to Sing (1981-83 , Watt/ECM): Recorded live, first side in San Francisco, second Willow, NY. Band basically the tentet, the main difference between the two sets at tuba (Bob Stewart v. Earl McIntyre). Three songs have lyrics, somewhat reminscent of Brecht-Weill, using five voices played for comic effect. The music elsewhere is more distinctively Bley, full of good humor and wry wit. B+(***)
Carla Bley: Heavy Heart (1983 , Watt/ECM): Composer first and foremost, leaves the piano slot in this tentet to Kenny Kirkland, playing organ and synth herself. One saxophone (Steve Slagle on alto/baritone/flute), trumpet-trombone-tuba, guitar-bass-drums plus extra percussion (Manolo Badrena). B+(**)
Carla Bley: Night-glo (1985, Watt/ECM): Front cover adds, "with Steve Swallow" -- her bass player for a while, and future third husband (1991), with Michael Mantler's role reduced to "general coordination." Back cover lists six rhythm section musicians in larger type -- Swallow first, Bley (organ, synthesizers), Larry Willis (piano), guitar (Hiram Bullock), drums (Victor Lewis), percussion (Manolo Badrena) -- then five horn players in smaller type. Indeed, while the horns are everywhere they're pretty insignificant. But you could almost say as much for the rhythm. B-
Carla Bley: Sextet (1986-87 , Watt/ECM): Same core group, returning with no horns, although Bley's organ provides some horn-like coloring, and guitarist Hiram Bullock gets some solo space. B+(*)
Carla Bley: Fleur Carnivore (1988 , Watt/ECM): Five original pieces, fifteen musicians, recorded live in Copenhagen. Plenty of horn options, a nice mix of spontaneity and plan. B+(***)
Carla Bley/Steve Swallow: Go Together (1992 , Watt/ECM): Sequel to 1988's Duets, just piano and bass, the latter encroaching on guitar territory. Nice piano here, not very flashy, just picking her way through the fetching melodies. B+(*)
Carla Bley: Big Band Theory (1992 , Watt/ECM): Most of Bley's albums to date have had large bands -- 9-11 members -- with a similar (or even slightly expanded) range of instruments, but short of the 4-4-5 horn sections big bands have used since the middle ages. Here she lines the horns up according to the book, her only unconventional decisions the addition of violin (Alex Balanescu) and organ (daughter Karen Mantler), with Bley playing piano. Three original pieces, plus a slow, magisterial "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat." Works pretty much in practice as in theory: more horns, more power. B+(**)
Carla Bley/Andy Sheppard/Steve Swallow: Songs With Legs (1994 , Watt/ECM): Sheppard is a British tenor/soprano saxophonist, did a few albums for Island/Antilles in the late 1980s, got picked up in Bley's large bands and wound up in her inner circle. Intimate trio recordings, closing with one from Monk. B+(**)
The Carla Bley Big Band: Goes to Church (1996, Watt/ECM): Recorded live at Chiesa San Francesco Al Prato in Perugia, Italy, full big band plus organ, original material except for a bit of "Exaltation" by Carl Ruggles. No trace of gospel; if anything, closer to classical, full of pomp and dramatic gestures. B+(*)
Carla Bley: Fancy Chamber Music (1997 , Watt/ECM): Bley and Steve Swallow (piano and bass) are joined by flute, clarinet, and strings (one each: violin, viola, cello). Too fancy for me, although much of it is pretty enough. B
Carla Bley/Steve Swallow: Are We There Yet? (1998 , Watt/ECM): Another duo album, piano and bass, recorded live somewhere in Europe. Swallow wrote three tracks, but his bass is hardly noticeable, making this the closest yet to solo Bley. She also wrote three pieces, plus they cover Kurt Weill ("Lost in the Stars"). B+(*)
Carla Bley: 4X4 (1999 , Watt/ECM): Title could refer to the octet, split between four horns (two saxes, trumpet, trombone) and four rhythm (piano, organ, bass, drums) -- Larry Goldings is the only new musician here, adding an air of soul jazz that's never been in Bley's toolkit. Very scattered, some remarkable bits and much more I couldn't put enough time into to dig or dismiss. B+(*)
George Cartwright: Dot (1994, Cuneiform): Saxophonist (alto/tenor), leader of the punk-fusion group Curlew (1980-2003). Not real clear what the goals is here, sometimes playing soul jazz, on two cases featuring guest vocalists, occasionally breaking into snarling avant sax. B+(*) [bc]
George Cartwright: The Memphis Years: Terminal Moraine (2000, Cuneiform): Names on front cover: Amy Denio (vocals), Paul Haines (lyrics). Leader plays various saxes, the band is fairly large, the music flowing, and he words (including dedications to Kenneth Patchen and Allen Ginsberg) not without interest. B+(**) [bc]
Curlew: Live in Berlin (1986-87 , Cuneiform): Interesting group, cut a remarkable debut album in 1980, only one more album before this started their association with Cuneiform (7 albums, 1990-2003). Saxophonist George Cartwright and cellist Tom Cora are the leaders, keyboardist Wayne Horvitz the best known side man, plus guitar and drums. Hard to peg, some fusion, some avant -- their first album I tied to New York No Wave. CD adds four tracks, including a deliciously bent "Feelin' Good." B+(***) [bc]
Curlew: Bee (1990 , Cuneiform): Seems to have settled down to a regular lineup, with saxophonist George Cartwright outwriting cellist Tom Cora 8-3, with Davey Williams (guitar) breaking ground, Ann Rupel on bass and Pippin Barnett on drums. B+(***) [bc]
Curlew: A Beautiful Western Saddle (1993, Cuneiform): With Amy Denio singing lyrics by Paul Haines, both names noted on cover, art-song, I suppose, since it's nowhere near stilted enough to be opera. Nothing against the vocals, but I generally find the instrumental passages more interesting, with new guitarist Davey Williams emerging as most valuable player. B+(*) [bc]
Curlew: Paradise (1996, Cuneiform): Another lineup shift leaving saxophonist George Cartwright more than ever the leader, with longtime cellist Tom Cora parted, a second guitarist added (Chris Cochrane joins Davey Williams), old bassist, new drummer, and Jim Spake (bari/soprano sax) as "special guest." Mostly simple groove pieces, some (not all) bent into interesting shapes. B+(**) [bc]
Curlew: Fabulous Drop (1998, Cuneiform): George Cartwright's sax, two guitars, electric bass, new drummer (Kenny Wolleson), playing within their formula -- at this stage akin to what was then called acid jazz -- hard and often funky. B+(***)
Curlew: Meet the Curlews (2002, Cuneiform): More personnel churn: saxophonist George Cartwright and guitarist Davey Williams are the only returning members, while pianist Chris Parker changes the band's complexion, for another mixed bag. B+(**)
Curlew: Mercury (2003, Cuneiform): Saxophonist George Cartwright's group, quintet backed with guitar-keyboards-bass-drums, new guitarist Dean Granos most important. They've always had a fusion element, so first thought on hearing their initial screech was the title signifies heavy metal, but slippery. B+(***)
Elton Dean/Howard Riley/Paul Rogers/Mark Sanders: All the Tradition (1990, Slam): English alto saxophonist, best known as a member of Soft Machine as they made their initial jazz-rock move (Third to Fifth, returning for Soft Machine Legacy 2005-06), but he has a substantial avant discography up to his death in 2006. Backed by piano/bass/drums, although Riley is more like a co-leader. Two group improvs, spreading out three covers -- "Darn That Dream," "Crescent," "I Remember Clifford" -- that give the band something to chew on. B+(***)
Elton Dean: The Vortex Tapes (1990, Slam): Five tracks (9:42-18:39) recorded over five dates at the Vortex Club, with varying lineups so you get a long list of extra names (13) on the cover. Still, the groups are small: four quartets, one sextet with Simon Picard and Trevor Watts additional saxes. The first piece, "Second Thoughts," is possibly the best thing I've heard Dean do, with pianist Keith Tippett throwing down blocks and Dean deftly leaping over them. Mileage varies on the other pieces, but when you notice the piano again, on the closer, it's Howard Riley -- very different, but also remarkable. B+(**)
Elton Dean Quintet: Silent Knowledge (1995 , Cuneiform): Quintet picks up three-fourths of Mujician (Paul Dunmall, Paul Rogers, and Tony Levin), with Sophia Domancich on piano. Jousting with Dunmall is exciting, but I almost prefer one relatively intimate stretch without him. B+(***) [bc]
Elton Dean Quartet + Roswell Rudd: Rumours of an Incident (1996 , Slam): Early in the trombonist's comeback stretch, he finds himself in a British free jazz group, not one of Dean's stronger rhythm sections, and thrashes it out on two long improv numbers. B+(**)
Elton Dean/Paul Dunmall/Tony Levin/Paul Rogers/Roswell Rudd/Keith Tippett: Bladik (1996 , Cuneiform): A big step forward for the rhythm section, as Dean introduces Rudd to the quartet otherwise known as Mujician. Three long improv pieces, a fair amount of slash and grind, but the alto and the trombone remain pretty distinctive, and drummer Levin is really terrific. A-
Jack DeJohnette: The DeJohnette Complex (1968 , Milestone): Drummer, from Chicago, sraddled hard bop and free, early on playing with Sun Ra and various AACM guys, joining Charles Lloyd in 1966, developing into one of the great drummers of our time. This first album features Bennie Maupin (tenor sax/wood flute/flute), Stanley Cowell (piano, mostly electric), Eddie Gomez and/or Miroslav Vitous (bass), and Roy Haynes (drums). Maupin and Cowell each have spots where they threaten to break free, but the effect is just scattered, ending on a flute downer. B
Jack DeJohnette: Pictures (1976 , ECM): Solo on three cuts (first side), playing keyboards as well as drums, then duets with guitarist John Abercrombie on the second side (three more cuts). Rather thin basis for an album, with nothing much standing out. B-
Jack DeJohnette: New Directions (1978, ECM): In 1977 DeJohnette unveiled a quartet called Directions (album title New Rags). He retains Abercrombie here, replacing the sax with Lester Bowie's trumpet, and bringing in Edsel Gomez on bass. B+(*)
Jack DeJohnette: Special Edition (1979 , ECM): Quartet with Peter Warren (bass, cello) and two saxophonists: David Murray (tenor, bass clarinet) and Arthur Blythe (alto). That's a lot of firepower, but for some reason it's deployed rather erratically. B+(**)
Jack DeJohnette New Directions: In Europe (1979 , ECM): The quartet from New Directions -- Lester Bowie (trumpet), John Abercrombie (guitar/mandolin guitar), Eddie Gomez (bass) -- with a live set from Willisau, in Switzerland. B+(*)
Amy Denio/Pavel Fajt/Csaba Hajnóczy/Gabi Kenderesi: The Danubians (1999 , Cuneiform): Eponymous group album, but the names are on the cover, and the label identifies this as Denio's project. She hails from Seattle; plays accordion, alto sax, bass, and guitar, and sings, often sampled; has a dozen albums but I first ran into her singing for Curlew. The others seem to be Hungarian, straddling folk and electronica, with Kerendesi's deep voice also sampled. Not sure what to make of the mix, but the sax is impressive. B+(***) [bc]
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band: The New Orleans Album (1989 , Columbia): Formed in the late 1970s, one of the more successful and longer lasting (most recent album 2012) of the tourist era revival bands -- possibly because their idea of tradition draws more on Dave Bartholomew than on King Oliver. This was their fourth album, Core band has two saxes, two trumpets, sousaphone, and drums, with trombone on two cuts, and they make ample use of guests here, including vocals by Eddie Bo, Danny Barker, Elvis Costello, and Bartholomew (who also takesa hot trumpet solo; Bo, of course, plays some piano). B+(*)
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band: Jelly: The Dirty Dozen Brass Band Plays Jelly Roll Morton (1992-93 , Columbia): Basically a party band with occasional references to old New Orleans, more to marching bands than to the revolutionary jazz of the 1920s. Turns out they have little feel for Morton, even with Danny Baker chipping in occasional stories and introductions. B
Paul Dunmall Octet: The Great Divide (2000 , Cuneiform): British avant-saxophonist, plays tenor here as does Simon Picard, accompanied by trumpet, two trombones, his Mujician mates on piano (Keith Tippett), bass (Paul Rogers), and drums (Tony Levin), plus some extra guests: guitarist John Adams on several cuts, more (including Elton Dean and Evan Parker) on the closer -- where the album finally degenerates into a free-for-all. B+(*) [bc]
Paul Dunmall/John Adams/Mark Sanders: Totally Fried Up (1998 , Slam): Avant tenor sax/guitar/drums trio. The guitarist is key here, winding Dunmall up even tighter than usual, although the same trio's earlier Ghostly Thoughts impressed me more. B+(**)
Vinny Golia/Aurora Josephson/Henry Kaiser/Mike Keneally/Joe Morris/Damon Smith/Weasel Walter: Healing Force: The Songs of Albert Ayler (2006 , Cuneiform): Label credits Healing Force as the artist group name, but cover lists the musicians above, credits: reeds, voice, guitar, piano/guitar/voice, guitar/bass, bass, drums. Most likely Kaiser's concept, as he produced and it's on a label he's worked with before. Some chance this could grow on one, mostly depending on how you take the vocals -- a couple are practically pop songs. I'd rather hear Golia more: he's got Ayler's Holy Ghost act pat, not to mention more chops. B+(***) [bc]
Gerry Hemingway Quintet: Special Detail (1990 , Hat Art): Drummer, part of Anthony Braxton's famous 1983-94 Quartet, has a couple dozen albums under his own name since 1979. Quintet includes two Dutch avant-gardists -- Ernst Reijsager (cello) and Wolter Wierbos (trombone) -- bassist Ed Schuller, and Don Byron, not someone you expect playing free, which he does remarkably both on clarinet and baritone sax. B+(***)
Gerry Hemingway Quartet: Down to the Wire (1991 , Hat Art): Two horns: Michael Moore (alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet) and Wolter Wierbos (trombone), the latter not prominent enough, plus Braxton mate Mark Dresser on bass. B+(*)
Gerry Hemingway Quintet: The Marmalade King (1994 , Hat Art): Adds Dutch cellist Ernst Reijsager to the Quartet, although his impact is less obvious than that of Michael Moore on various reeds (mostly alto sax and clarinet), bouncing off against Wolter Wierbos' trombone. B+(***)
Keith Jarrett/Jack DeJohnette: Ruta and Daitya (1971 , ECM): Duets, pianist and drummer, but Jarrett also plays electric, organ, percussion, and quite a bit of flute -- actually pretty good. Earliest recorded album for ECM, although Facing You appeared first. B+(**)
Keith Jarrett: Facing You (1971 , ECM): Solo piano, possible his first ever -- there have been a couple dozen since. This one is fairly measured compared to later outings like The Köln Concert which cemented his reputation as the top pianist of his generation. Might even pass for cocktail rumination, but can't be dismissed as such. B+(**)
Keith Jarrett: Arbour Zena (1975 , ECM): Three pieces, one 27:47 (52:59 total), played by the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, supplemented by Jarrett on piano, Charlie Haden on bass, and Jan Garbarek on tenor/soprano sax. Lovely work from the stars, but the Orchestra just mopes in the background. B-
Keith Jarrett: The Survivor's Suite (1976 , ECM): One 48:39 composition, played by Jarrett's "American Quartet" on his European label: Dewey Redman (tenor sax), Charlie Haden (bass), Paul Motian (drums). Runs the gamut of colors and emotions, including some impressively strenuous sax. B+(**)
Keith Jarrett: Nude Ants (1979 , ECM, 2CD): The pianist's European Quartet, with Jan Garbarek (tenor/soprano sax), Palle Danielsson (bass), and Jon Christensen (drums). Recorded live at the Village Vanguard, encouraging them to vamp at length, six pieces stretched to 101:36. B+(**)
Keith Jarrett: Personal Mountains (1979 , ECM): Same group, recorded a month earlier in Tokyo but unreleased for a decade. A bit more succinct, perhaps a bit more from Jan Garbarek, but makes little difference overall. B+(**)
Franz Koglmann: Schlaf Schlemmer, Schlaf Magritte (1984 , Hat Art): Austrian trumpet player, one of his earlier records, a tentet with a wide mix of horns but the only saxophone is Roberto Ottaviano's soprano. Arty composed music, one hesitates to say classical or "third stream," but more familiar there. B+(*)
Franz Koglmann: About Yesterday's Ezzthetics (1988 , Hat Art): Mostly covers, a look back on the jazz tradition, including two signature George Russell pieces ("Ezz-Thetic" and "Stratusphunk"), two each from Gillespie and Monk, one each from Rollins and Lacy, a couple of songbook standards. Band names on the cover: Steve Lacy (soprano sax), Mario Arcari (oboe), Klaus Koch (bass), Fritz Hauser (drums). Familiarity normally makes it easier to figure out what an artist is doing distinctive but this is still pretty hard to suss out. B+(*)
Franz Koglmann: A White Line (1989 , Hat Art): Cover Lists "guest artists" -- Paul Bley (piano), Tony Coe (tenor sax/clarinet), Gerry Hemingway (drums) -- although they seem to be full-time band members, along with less famous names on oboe, French horn, tuba, guitar, accordion, and bass, and the leader on trumpet: ten in all. Still difficult, but more interesting -- even fun to hear "At the Jazz Band Ball." B+(**)
Eero Koivistoinen: Helium (1999 , Texicali): Finnish tenor saxophonist, made some of the most bracing fusion records of the 1970s, still soars over a hard groove, toughened up by guitarist Raoul Björkenheim, plus African drums on 3/9 tracks. B+(**)
Eero Koivistoinen & UMO Jazz Orchestra: Arctic Blues (2005-16 , Svart, 2CD): Discogs shows a gap in the Finnish sax legend's discography between 2001-14, finally broken by several featured appearances in large contexts. UMO was founded in 1975 and has forty-some albums, at least two previous featuring Koivistoinen's music. Huge, hard to pick out the soloist. Small slice (1/6 LP sides) returns to a 2005 concert. B+(*)
Krakatau: Volition (1991 , ECM): New support for guitarist Raoul Björkenheim's group: Jone Takamäki (tenor sax/wind instruments), Uffe Krokors (bass), Alf Forsman (drums -- starts slow, eventually gains some traction but nothing especially stands out. B
Krakatau: Matinale (1993 , ECM): New drummer makes little difference. Saxophonist Jone Takamäki plays more odd instruments, but atmospherics isn't really this band's strong suit. The only thing that really matters is when they kick it into gear, which doesn't happen often enough. B+(*)
Charles Lloyd Quartet: Fish Out of Water (1989 , ECM): The tenor saxophonist's first album for ECM, backed by label stalwart Bobo Stenson's piano trio -- Palle Danielsson on bass and Jon Christensen on drums -- a match which works nicely all around. B+(**)
Charles Lloyd: The Call (1993, ECM): Quartet, same group as on Notes From Big Sur, with Bobo Stenson, Anders Jormin, and Billy Hart. Long (78:56), relaxed, developing a fine ballad voice. B+(***)
Charles Lloyd: All My Relations (1994 , ECM): Same quartet. Again, long and slow. Too much flute. B+(*)
Charles Lloyd: Canto (1996 , ECM): Same quartet, the tenor saxophonist's change-of-pace instrument a Tibetan oboe. Feels like he's settling in for the long haul, still distinctive even when he doesn't stretch. B+(**)
Charles Lloyd: The Water Is Wide (1999 , ECM): The tenor saxophonist went for a higher-powered quartet on Voice in the Night -- John Abercrombie, Dave Holland, Billy Higgins -- and turned in his best album since his late-'60s heyday. Here he adds pianist Brad Mehldau, replacing Holland with Larry Grenadier (from Mehldau's trio). B+(***)
Charles Lloyd: Hyperion With Higgins (1999 , ECM): Same quintet, but Lloyd has rarely sounded so distinctive, so much so that he sticks with tenor sax throughout. Also brings out the best in Abercrombie, the drummer too. A-
Charles Lloyd: Lift Every Voice (2002, ECM, 2CD): Post-9/11, Lloyd entered the studio in a reflective, expansive mood, with enough originals for a regular album, but also a desire to play traditional hymns, Elllington, Silvio Rodriguez, "What's Going On." He added pianist Geri Allen to his quartet, kept John Abercrombie, split the bass duties between Larry Grenadier and Marc Johnson, and, with Billy Higgins passed, returned to Billy Hart on drums. B+(***)
The Jon Lloyd Quartet: Head! (1993, Leo): British avant saxophonist (alto/soprano), second quartet album, with John Law (piano), Paul Rogers (bass), and Mark Saunders (drums). Lot of good things here, just stumbles a bit. B+(***)
Jon Lloyd Quartet: By Confusion (1996 , Hatology): Tim Wells takes over the bass slot, but not much change as the interaction between Lloyd and John Law is what matters. A bit more complex than Head!, more consistent yet subdued, or maybe I mean inside. A-
Jon Lloyd Group: Vanishing Points (2013, 33): Quintet, new guitarist Rob Palmer joins pianist John Law as co-producers, with Tom Farmer on bass and Asaf Sirkis on drums. Lloyd is credited with soprano sax and bass clarinet, a shift from the alto sax that was his lead axe in the 1990s. Lacks the tension of the earlier releases, leaving it pleasant and often lovely. B+(**)
Joe Lovano Nonet: On This Day . . . at the Vanguard (2002 , Blue Note): Large group with three tenor saxophonists -- Lovano, George Garzone and Ralph Lalama -- alto sax (Steve Slagle), trumpet, trombone, piano (John Hicks), bass, and drums. The fast ones (like "Good Bait") remind me of bebop-era jam sessions. B+(**)
Michael Mantler: Something There (1983, Watt/ECM): Funkless fusion, the leader's trumpet mostly buried in the mix, along with Mike Stern's guitar and Michael Gibbs' strings. Carla Bley produced and plays piano, and Nick Mason is listed on drums. B
Michael Mantler With Don Preston: Alien (1985, Watt/ECM): Trumpet player, from Austria, studied in Boston, moved to New York in 1964 and met and married Carla Bley, returning to Europe after their divorce in 1991. Preston plays synths including electronic drums, setting up the layers the trumpet glides over. B+(*)
Michael Mantler: Live (1987, Watt/ECM): Front cover "with" names: Jack Bruce (vocals), Rick Fenn (guitar), Don Preston (synthesizer), John Greaves (bass/piano), Nick Mason (drums). The musical backdrop, even the trumpet, is atmospheric but bleak, setting up texts by Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, and Edward Gorey -- the latter was the subject of Mantler's extraordinary The Hapless Child, but the music is more constricted here, and no one can replace Robert Wyatt -- least of all Bruce. B-
Michael Mantler: Many Have No Speech (1987 , Watt/ECM): Perhaps the most operatic of Mantler's works, with the leader's trumpet, Rick Fenn's guitar, and the Danish Radio Concert Orchestra doing the gloomy backgrounds. You'd think someone could have fun with a vocal trio of Jack Bruce, Marianne Faithfull, and Robert Wyatt, but Mantler would rather quote Samuel Beckett, Ernst Meister, and Philippe Soupault. C+
Michael Mantler: Folly Seeing All This (1992 , ECM): Long title piece (28:39), two much shorter ones, the last with Jack Bruce bellowing a Samuel Beckett lyric. Seems like about par for the Mantler's string of albums, what with the dense guitar and strings and trumpet coloring, but a tad more appealing. B
Michael Mantler: Cerco Un Paese Innocente (1994 , ECM): "A Suite of Songs and Interludes for Voice, untypical Big Band and Soloists," words by Giuseppe Ungaretti, featuring Mona Larsen and the Danish Radio Big Band "plus soloists" -- don't have a list of the latter, nor is it clear what's "untypical" about the big band, other than that the horn sections are a bit overweight, and I note a synth player and a quartet of strings. B+(*)
Mokave [Glen Moore/Larry Karush/Glen Velez]: Afrique (1993 , Audioquest): Piano trio, did three albums 1991-94. One assumes bassist Moore to be the leader -- probably the best known of the three, mostly as founder of Oregon, although percussionist Velez has his name on more albums. B+(*)
Mujician: The Journey (1990, Cuneiform): Long-running British avant quartet, seven albums 1990-2006, not including pianist Keith Tippett's 1982 Mujician (source of the group name but a solo outing). With Paul Dunmall (clarinet and three saxophones), Paul Rogers (bass) and Tony Levin (drums). This is the first, one 55:02 piece recorded for and broadcast on BBC, runs hot and cold, usually something interesting going on. B+(**) [bc]
Mujician: Poem About the Hero (1994, Cuneiform): Second group album, joint credits, no words although the pieces are named "First Verse," "Second Verse," etc. Again, more remarkable in spots than as a whole, although Dunmall is showing signs of coming into his own, and Tippett is not one to just hang back and comp. B+(**) [bc]
Mujician: Colours Fulfilled (1997 , Cuneiform): Penguin Guide's pick of the litter, has fewer gaps than the live ones, and Dunmall (who I'm often up-and-down on) has developed a dazzling bag of tricks. I thought, for instance, he was pulling a major Evan Parker soprano rip over Levin's massive drumm roll for a climax, but I'm informed he was actually playing bagpipes. A- [bc]
Mujician: Spacetime (2001 , Cuneiform): Formally organized as two large multi-part pieces, "Spacetime" and "Exquisitely Woven Spiritual Communication," with Dunmall limited to soprano and tenor sax, resulting in more texture and less chaos, a sensible thing but not an especially exciting one. B+(***) [bc]
Michel Petrucciani: Oracle's Destiny (1982 , Owl): Pianist, born in France but father from Naples, suffered from osteogenesis imperfecta which stunted his growth, caused his bones to fracture over 100 times, and led to his death at 36. Still, a remarkable pianist on any terms. This was a relatively early album (7th, but only two years after his first), solo, dedicated to Bill Evans but mostly his own compositions (one by Aldo Romano). Not as dynamic as many of his albums, but thoughtful always. B+(**)
Amy Rigby: Live at Cat's Cradle 02/26/2003 (2003 , self-released): Live, no band, just her own guitar, awkward talking, jokes fall flat, no drummer to wink back on "Give the Drummer Some," not even the headliner -- occasional glances over her shoulder to see whether "Todd" has shown up, but at least she gets an encore when he does. Introduces a song from her fourth album, otherwise this mostly recapitulates 18 Again -- a best-of from her three albums that Koch released as they were showing her the door. It's all rather humbling, not that the songs aren't great. B+(**)
Scoolptures: Materiale Umano (2009, Leo): Free improv trio: Achille Succi (bass clarinet/alto sax/shakuhachi), Nicola Negrini (double bass, metallophone, electronics), and Philippe Garcia (drums, voice, electronics). Interesting armory of sounds, a bit scattered as deployed in thirteen pieces where the titles all end in "slice" (e.g., "Brainslice," "Skinslice"). B+(**)
Scoolptures: White Sickness (2009 , Leo): Fourth member Antonio Della Marina (electronics) joins in, the song names all plays on numbers (I think: "Quindiciuno," "Quattrodue," "Dodicidue," etc.). Too volatile for ambient, but too often it does dissolve into the ether. B
Scoolptures: Please Drive-by Carefully (2012 , Leo, 2CD): Quartet again, with bassist Nicola Negrini probably the main driving force, but especially at this length it's much easier to listen to this as saxophonist Achille Succi's show, especially as he's the one who raises the energy level. B+(**)
Scorch Trio: Brolt! (2007 , Rune Grammofon): Guitar-bass-drums trio, basically the Thing with Raoul Björkenheim as chief noisemaker instead of Mats Gustafsson. Eponymous debut (2002) had some minor balance problems, fixed here as everyone seems to converge. B+(**)
Henry Threadgill: X-75 Volume 1 (1979, Arista/Novus): First solo album after several years in Air, a strange, slippery, and unappealing group which as far as I can tell consists of four bass and four flute players, although the latter contingent sometimes switch off to other reeds. Oh, and warbly vocals by Amina Claudine Myers. [PS: Evidently Legacy released an (Extended) version in 2016 with three additional cuts, but I have no idea where they came from, and didn't bother listening to them. No Volume 2 appeared.] C+
Keith Tippett: Mujician Solo IV (Live in Piacenza) (2012 , Dark Companion): Before forming the quartet Mujician, Tippett recorded three solo piano albums under that title, 1982-89. With the group disbanded, Tippett reclaims the name here, although that could just be marketing. Nothing in my database under his name since 1996, but Discogs shows a couple albums per year. This shows him undiminished. B+(**)
Colin Vallon Trio: Ailleurs (2006, Hatology): Swiss pianist, from Lausanne, probably his second album, a trio with Pat Moret (double bass) and Samuel Rohrer (drums). B+(**)
Glen Velez: Doctrine of Signatures (1990 , CMP): Percussionist, born in Mexico, grew up in Texas, moved to New York; main instrument is frame drum, but plays a wide range of drums and exotic percussion. Four extra tar drummers here, plus Steve Gorn's bansuri bamboo flute on the shorter first piece, not that the beats are all that complex -- the softness makes them more trancelike. B+(**)
Mal Waldron Trio: Free at Last (1969 , ECM): Piano trio, recorded in Germany with Isla Eckinger (bass) and Clarence Becton (drums), first record released by ECM (number 1001). Waldron's rhythmic flair strongly evident here. B+(**)
Mal Waldron: Blues for Lady Day (1972 , Black Lion): He played piano for Billy Holiday from April 1957 until her death in 1959, a connection he would be remembered for decades later, even more than his own remarkable output -- 100 albums as leader, at least 70 side credits. This, subtitled "A Personal Tribute to Billie Holiday," is one of a handful of records to recall the connection, solo piano starting with his own title song, continuing into her songbook. [NB: Napster version, licensed from 1201 Records, has two extra trio cuts from A Little Bit of Miles -- see below. Arista/Freedom 1975 reissue includes subtitle on front cover, not evident in the Black Lion artwork. The Arista reissue suggests this originally appeared on Freedom, a French label whose catalog Black Lion later obtained. I used to own most of the Arista/Freedom reissues, but don't recall having this one.] B+(**)
Mal Waldron: A Little Bit of Miles (1972 , Trio/Freedom): Piano trio, recorded in the Netherlands with Henk Haverhoek on bass and Pierre Courbois on drums. Two side-long pieces, the title one especially rousing. [NB: Later tacked onto the reissue of Blues for Lady Day, at least on Napster.] B+(**)
Mal Waldron Quintet With Steve Lacy: One-Upmanship (1977, Enja): The soprano saxophonist is in the quintet, paired with Manfred Schoof on trumpet, backed by bass (Jimmy Woode) and drums (Makaya Ntshoko). Three Waldron originals, the title track and "The Seagulls of Kristiansund" on the first side, "Hurray for Herbie" stretched to fill the second. B+(***) [yt]
Mal Waldron Quintet: Where Are You? (1989 , Soul Note): Pianist, started in the 1950s accompanying Billie Holiday, did some of his most adventurous work 1986-89 for Soul Note. Starts with a solo take of the title piece, then brings in the band -- Sonny Fortune (alto sax), Ricky Ford (tenor), Reggie Workman (bass), and Eddie Moore (drums) -- for two long pieces, followed by a second piano take. B+(**)
Sometimes further listening leads me to change an initial grade, usually either because I move on to a real copy, or because someone else's review or list makes me want to check it again:
Raoul Björkenheim//Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Paal Nilssen-Love: Scorch Trio (2002, Rune Grammofon): [was A-] B+(***)
Charles Lloyd: Notes From Big Sur (1991 , ECM): [was B]: B+(*)
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:
Monday, February 26, 2018
Music: current count 29423  rated (+37), 367  unrated (-8).
Paid more attention to the new jazz queue last week, but still most of the newly rated albums are old -- some from my unrated list (mostly revisited via Napster, but they clear up old U marks), plus a few others that caught my fancy. The connection between this splurge in old music and my work on the Jazz Guide(s) is more tenuous and opportunistic this week, as I've been having trouble thinking of groups/records to look up. On the other hand, few 2018 releases are coming to my attention. Two months into the new year, my A-list is only five albums long: four jazz (Kevin Sun, Gregory Lewis, Evan Parker, Kris Davis/Craig Taborn), one non-jazz (Mary Gauthier). Part seasonal, I guess, and part don't-give-a-fuck. I'm having a tough time this year.
February Streamnotes should be up by Wednesday. Right now looks like: 57 new records, 2 recent old music releases, 97 old releases. Not sure if that counts as a very big month, or a very slim one. When I post it, I'll copy the new reviews into the Jazz Guide files, and call them done -- at least for what I've been calling Stage 2, pretty close to the compilation of all the reviews in my various CG-like columns since 2003. Currently my files contain 765 pages for the 20th Century (music recorded up through 1999), and 1650 pages for the 21st Century (music released from 2000 on). The definitions allow for a small amount of overlap (e.g., records cut in 1999 but not released until 2000, although some are earlier and/or later). Next step will be to figure out some way to make these files more accessible. The most obvious option is to export PDF, which I did at the end of Stage 1. One possible problem is that the PDF files are much larger than the LibreOffice source files -- though whether that turns out to be a real problem will take some testing.
Another approach would be to export the files as HTML and load them on a website somewhere. LibreOffice has a function to do that, but I've never used it, and it doesn't look like it will work nicely. Perhaps the thing to do then would be to write yet another program to read through the generated HTML and hack it up into usable shape. Seems like some of these things must have been done many times before. In addition to the built-in features, there are some obvious extensions to look at; e.g., LibreWeb, and Writer2ePub. (Actually, at first glance LibreWeb doesn't look useful at all. More promising is third-party free software like Calibre and Alkinea.)
Another interesting question is whether I can convert the book(s) to populate a website CMS like MediaWiki. Whereas exporting from LibreOffice to HTML/E-book would be a periodic (and therefore automated) process as changes are made to the original source file, the idea behind using MediaWiki would be put the work into a playpen where it could be further edited/enhanced. One thing that's clear to me is that while I've invested a hell of a lot of work into writing those 2415 (and counting) pages, I've long lost the struggle to keep on top of the domain -- indeed, that's something no one person can do these days. Indeed, I didn't even bother collecting my non-jazz reviews -- probably another 1000 pages buried all over the current website. That's a project for someone else to step up to, but I suppose I can still try to figure out how it might work.
I started collecting the reviews for the Jazz Guide(s) back in August 2016, more than 18 months ago. During all that time I had the luxury of knowing I had something I could work on no matter how low or dull I felt, but that task is pretty much done now, throwing me back into some sort of transitional phase. Wish I felt up to it, but I don't.
New records rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Sunday, February 25, 2018
Too late to write an intro, but you know the drill.
Some scattered links this week:
Monday, February 19, 2018
Music: current count 29386  rated (+41), 375  unrated (+0).
Only one record from my jazz queue this week, and only two other "new" records: a guitar band from Niger recommended by Christgau, and a slice (two of three CDs) from the first serious effort to cash in on Ornette Coleman's death -- courtesy of a reader who didn't think the third leg of this stool was worth the trouble. I played the latter at least three times before deciding that it would be recommended if you didn't have to pay much more than I did -- but I certainly can't see forking over $100 for the "budget" edition. Makes me wonder if Benardo has been taking business correspondence courses along with the world's most demanding home schooling on the drums.
Only one recent reissue/compilation, too, sort of a consolation prize as the new Youssou N'Dour bootleg Christgau recommended in the same post proved too elusive for my hacking talents (or, rather, beyond my patience). Maybe it, too, will someday show up unbidden in my post. Meanwhile, I've been playing old jazz, partly because I've been working hard on my Jazz Guides, and partly because it was easier than thinking up (or, ugh, researching) new things to check out.
There is, actually, a small bit of logic to the old picks. I started by looking for old jazz records marked in my database with a U: stands for "ungraded," the initial default state of my new mail, but also used for old records that I haven't played since I started keeping grades, and otherwise don't remember well enough to specify. These constitute most of the "375 unrated" noted above, and it occurred to me that it would be easier to stream them than to dig the LPs out (assuming I still have them), dust off the old turntable, and flip the damn things over.
Then, once I played the unrated Kenny Barron record (Scratch), I noticed a PG 4-star album by Barron (Green Chimneys), and found it as well. Everyone else on the old music list had at least one unrated album (although I didn't actually find any of the unrated DeJohnettes). How many more depended on how quickly my interest waned, with the exercise not yielding much to crow about. Still, I'll most likely keep poking around a bit as I try to wrap up the Jazz Guide(s). Next on my search list is Ricky Ford, but neither of his two unrated records are on Napster. Still, pointed me to a Mal Waldron record I missed. Alas, not a great one.
Substantial progress on the Jazz Guide(s) last week. I finished going through the gigantic Jazz 00's file, and started working back through a scratch file of Streamnotes reviews, including the year-and-a-half's worth written since I started compiling the book(s). I've worked backwards through about four months of them. This brings my page totals to 1616 (21st Century) + 756 (20th Century). Both files are growing at this point, the newer one 4-5 times as fast as the older -- but given that I have to jump around to add each entry, "fast" really isn't the right word. I have no way of estimating how much longer this mop-up phase will take. I also need to look through my JCG/JP/RG file to see if there are any marginal entries I missed, and I need to take another pass through compilations and archival releases. Still, at this point I'm not trying to be too perfectionist. I just want to get to a point where I can say I've packaged what I've written over the past fifteen years, and this is what it looks like. Turning that into a real book (or books) and/or a website, cleaning up the writing, filling in holes, etc., is a next stage thing, hard even to imagine at this point. Before I move on, I'd at least like to be able to distribute what I have, at least to a few friends and associates. How I do that? Right now I have no real idea.
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Late. No time for an introduction. This is what I came up with in a day of checking the usual sources. Obviously, there's much more to report, but the framework remains the same.
Some scattered links this week: