An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Music Week [10 - 19]
Monday, March 13, 2023
Music: Current count 39787  rated (+57), 48  unrated (-2: 20 new, 28 old).
I thought yesterday's Speaking of Which wound up on the long side, but how long wasn't clear until I ran wc on the directory. At 7131 words, it was the second longest ever, topped only by the 7467-word July 3, 2022 entry. Only two other columns topped 7000 words: August 28, 2022, and November 13, 2022. The average over 67 columns is 4236 words.
The main reason for this week's explosion was the China-brokered normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Aside from the intrinsic value of the story -- anything that reduces a major conflict flashpoint is good news in my book -- this also underscores that most of what the American foreign policy blob says about all three countries is wrong, and that America's general view of foreign policy -- which has almost totally been given over to force projection, deterrence, and sanctions -- is misguided, or perhaps the word I'm looking for is deranged.
Given that the words came out in spurts as I picked up various articles, it's possible that some of the verbiage is redundant. The points, however, are far removed from the conventional nonsense you read everywhere else that they may take some repetition to sink in. I could -- I'm certainly tempted to -- expand on this considerably here.
For instance, Americans believe that negotiations in Ukraine -- which in private they probably admit is the end game -- will turn on how much land each side can capture. Therefore, they believe that force projection is essential to cower Russia into submission. (Of course, it doesn't help that Russians are similarly deluded.) However, that unreasonable attitude not only doesn't point toward peace -- it actually stiffens Russia's resolve to fight on. And because the US is obsessed with force, they view degrading Russian force as a zero-sum gain. Russia, on the other hand, is more likely to view it as an existential threat.
The China-Iran-Saudi deal intersects with Ukraine in three main ways. First, it shows that the US has lost a lot of credibility and influence everywhere but Europe, even among ostensible US allies like Saudi Arabia (and for that matter, Israel) -- hardly anyone else has lined up behind US sanctions. Second, the obsession with force makes it increasingly hard for nations to deal constructively with the US: Americans have gotten so used to ordering their allies around, they've lost any semblance of diplomatic skills. Third, the "pivot to Asia," with its encirclement and containment of China has opened the door for Chinese diplomatic efforts everywhere in the world that America has discarded. After the US pulled out of JCPOA Iran had no other option. The Saudis do have options, but can see the writing on the wall.
Again, mostly old jazz from the Penguin Guide unheard 4-star list. The K-M section has produced fewer A-list albums than the J section did, and I got so frustrated trying to look up entries on the M list I temporarily brought up some new 2023 albums. However, since I'm not keeping a tracking list this year, I only had a few names ready in mind.
I will note that I'm generally skipping over long box sets that are available, like Stan Kenton's Retrospective and MJQ 40. I'm also skipping past many compilation of old jazz, which are rarely available as such (e.g., Classics has mostly vanished, and many European archival labels aren't available). Obscure works from European avant-gardists are also very hard to find (although sometimes I'm surprised). On the other hand, to check items off the list, I sometimes synthesize listed compilations from various sources. (Unfortunately, three John Lewis twofers on Collectables were only half-available to stream.)
I'm able to add two more movies to the short list of 2022 releases from last week:
That brings the A- movies list for the year up from zero to two. We also rewatched the original Enola Holmes (Laura had missed it). Both were great fun, albeit (especially 2) with an excess of fighting (and bomb throwing from the mother).
She Said was as expertly constructed and paced as any newspaper/intrepid reporter film I can remember, and the lead reporters managed to keep their ambitions wrapped in decency. Too bad the New York Times can't bring such diligence to their political reporting. I doubt we'll ever see a movie about Judith Miller's Iraq propaganda (but if we do, I bet it's played for laughs).
I watched the opening and first couple Oscar awards, then decided I'd better get back to work. My distaste for all the nominated films probably had something to do with that. I had read a couple prediction pieces, and as best I recall they were all exactly right. I'm not sure why they were so accurate, but it can't think of any reason that might suggest that's a good thing. [PS: I now see Alissa Wilkinson proclaiming this "the end of predictable Oscar winners," but who didn't predict that EEAAO would win big?]
Laura still wants to see To Louise and Aftersun, so we'll probably get to them this week. Neither of us are keen to see The Whale, but a friend who sometimes comes over to watch movies with us thought it was very good. I have an interest in a couple more movies, but I'd probably prefer to spend our limited time watching crime series (Beyond Paradise is enjoyable so far; we've also been into The Nordic Murders and have just started Bloodlands).
New records reviewed this week:
Robert Forster: The Candle and the Flame (2023, Tapete): Australian singer-songwriter, joined Grant McLennan in the Go-Betweens, initially struck me as the lesser of the pair, but he's the one still ticking, and writing and singing new songs that fit nicely into the band's aesthetic. A- [r]
Ingrid Laubrock: The Last Quiet Place (2019 , Pyroclastic): German saxophonist (tenor/soprano), based in New York, with an "altered string quartet in one electrifying sextet": violin (Mazz Swift), cello (Tomeka Reid), guitar (Brandon Seabrook), bass (Michael Formanek), and drums (Tom Rainey). B+(***) [cd] [03-31]
Liv.e: Girl in the Half Pearl (2023, In Real Life): Hailee Olivia Williams, from Dallas, second album, filed her first one under rap, this one closer to r&b, but only obliquely. B+(**) [sp]
Scott Petito: Many Worlds (2022 , Planet Arts): Bassist, Discogs credits him with four albums (making this his fifth), but many more production and technical credits. This is some kind of fusion, but closer to new age than to jazz. He did, however, get a long list of recognizable jazz names to work on it. B [cd]
Mason Razavi: Six-String Standards (2021-22 , OA2): American guitarist, has several albums. Opens with a "Stompin' at the Savoy" that doesn't stomp but does manage to be beguiling -- an easier trick with "Body and Soul," "But Beautiful," "Darn That Dream," etc. B+(**) [cd]
Rich Thompson: Who Do You Have to Know? (2023, Origin): Drummer, has several albums, this one a quartet with Corey Christiansen (guitar), Bobby Floyd (organ/piano), and Peter Chwazik (bass), playing standards as chintzy muzak, most cleverly on the chintziest ("What a Wonderful World," "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing"). B+(*) [cd] [03-17]
Triogram: Triogram (2023, Circle Theory Media): Bassist Will Lyle leads a trio with Bijan Taghavi (piano) and Kofi Shepsu (drums). B+(**) [cd] [04-07]
Kali Uchis: Red Moon in Venus (2023, Interscope): Pop singer-songwriter Karly-Marina Loaiza, born in Virginia, father from Colombia, third album. B+(**) [r]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Balka Sound: Balka Sound (1981-83 , Strut): Band from Brazzaville, on the north side of the Congo River, won a recording contract in 1979. This compilation is selected from three early-1980s albums. B+(***) [sp]
Wild Bill Davis & Johnny Hodges: In Atlantic City (1966 , RCA): Davis (1918-95) was a keyboard player, mostly organ in his later years, but he played piano with Louis Jordan 1945-49. He recorded several albums with Hodges, starting with Blue Hodge in 1961. B+(**) [r]
Barry Guy & the London Jazz Composers Orchestra: Harmos (1989, Intakt): Bassist-led avant 17-piece big band, one 43:48 piece. B+(**) [r]
Barry Guy & the London Jazz Composers Orchestra: Double Trouble (1989 , Intakt): Another massive piece, 46:20, the musicians impressive when they're isolated, but less pleasing when they pile on. B+(*) [r]
Barry Guy/The London Jazz Composers Orchestra: Portraits (1993 , Intakt, 2CD): Same 17-piece group for another Zürich radio shot, long enough to sprawl over two discs. B+(**) [r]
Barry Guy/London Jazz Composers Orchestra/Irene Schweizer/Marilyn Crispell/Pierre Favre: Double Trouble Two (1995 , Intakt): Guests bring the band up to 19 players, replacing regular Howard Riley two explosive pianists. Again, they tend to pile up, but somehow that bothers me less here. B+(***) [r]
Johnny Hodges and His Orchestra: Castle Rock (1951-52 , Verve): Duke Ellington's star alto saxophonist, quit the band in the early 1950s and recorded a few albums for Norman Granz before returning for Ellington's 1956 Newport triumph -- Paul Gonsalves stole the show, but Hodges was exquisite as ever, as he is here. Tenor saxophonist Al Sears wrote the title song here and it was something of a hit. A- [sp]
Johnny Hodges: Duke's in Bed (1956 , Verve): Full credit adds: "and the Ellington All-Stars without Duke." That means Billy Strayhorn on piano, two trumpets (Clark Terry and Ray Nance), trombone (Quentin Jackson), two more reeds (Jimmy Hamilton and Harry Carney), bass (Jimmy Woode) and drums (Sam Woodyard). Hodges wrote three songs, but the title is an Ellington tune, and not the only one. B+(**) [r]
Johnny Hodges and the Ellington Men: The Big Sound (1957, Verve): Opens with Cat Anderson leading a full trumpet section on three of his own songs (plus one of six Hodges credits), after which they drop back to a smaller big band. B+(**)
Johnny Hodges and His Orchestra: Not So Dukish (1958, Verve): Title comes from bassist Jimmy Woode's song (a slow blues), seems to signify as a declaration of independence, but little else here will fail to register as Ellingtonia. Aside from Roy Eldridge, the band includes Ray Nance (trumpet), Lawrence Brown (trombone), Jimmy Hamilton (clarinet), Ben Webster (tenor sax), Billy Strayhorn (piano), and Sam Woodyard (drums). The only thing un-Dukish here is that the record never really takes off. B+(**) [r]
Johnny Hodges: Sandy's Gone (1963 , Verve): Creed Taylor produced, with Claus Ogerman arranging and conducting orchestra, attempting muzak and failing even that. [NB: A rare record I couldn't even finish.] D+ [r]
Egil Kapstad: Cherokee (1988 , Gemini): Norwegian pianist (1940-2017), in a trio with Terje Venaas (bass) and Egil Johansen (drums). B+(**) [sp]
Egil Kapstad Trio: Remembrance (1993 , Gemini): Another piano trio album, same group. B+(***) [sp]
Jan Kaspersen Quintet: Live in Sofie's Cellar in Copenhagen/Vol. 1 (1991, Olufsen): Danish pianist, albums start 1978, must be a couple dozen. This one features Anders Bergcrantz (trumpet) and Bob Rockwell (tenor sax), with bass (Peter Danstrup) and drums (Ole Rømer). One Monk song, the rest Kaspersen originals, but obviously indebted to Monk (e.g., "Another You Walked In"). Horns impressive, especially Bergcrantz. Runs 73:10. Haven't found a Vol. 2. B+(***) [sp]
Stan Kenton: Innovations in Modern Music (1950, Capitol): Pianist and bandleader (1911-79), born in Wichita, moved to Los Angeles area as a teen, started organizing his own groups in the early 1940s, including one from 1950-51 collected in 1997 in a 2-CD The Innovations Orchestra (Capitol). This is a piece, eight tracks (35:08), billed as Volume One at the time (but I'm not aware of a second volume). Big band, plus strings (directed by George Cast), June Christy vocals on two tracks, many other names among the musicians, and a staff of arrangers including Pete Rugolo and Chico O'Farrill. B [r]
Stan Kenton: New Conceptions of Artistry in Rhythm (1952 , Capitol): His first album was a set of eight songs on 10-inch 78s called Artistry in Rhythm (1946). This title appeared on another 8-song, 10-inch set in 1953, expanded to 12 tracks for CD. Crack band, but something pretentious about the whole thing. B+(*) [r]
Stan Kenton: Easy Go (1950-52 , Capitol): A compilation of singles, twenty songs none running more than 3:16 (or less than 2:36), the brevity keeping the bombast in check, and gives the faux Latin effects a chance to shine. For all the brilliant musicians here, the only one who pops out is Maynard Ferguson, and that's by design. B+(*) [sp]
Stan Kenton: City of Glass (1947-53 , Capitol): Title credit: "Stan Kenton Plays Bob Graettinger," who composed all but two tracks, and arranged those. It's not that they can't make a glorious noise, but it does get tedious over time. B [sp]
David Kikoski: Almost Twilight (1999 , Criss Cross): Pianist, from New Jersey, studied at Berklee, moved to New York, debut 1989. This is a trio with John Patitucci (bass) and Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums), playing all Kikoski originals. B+(***) [sp]
Rebecca Kilgore With Dan Barrett's Celestial Six: I Saw Stars (1994 , Arbors): Standards singer, second album, tends to hang with trad/swing jazz bands like trombonist Barrett's group here, plays some guitar but here leaves most of that to Bucky Pizzarelli. With Dave Frishberg on piano and Scott Robinson on sax and clarinet. B+(**) [sp]
Rebecca Kilgore: Harlem Butterfly: A Remembrance of Maxine Sullivan (2000 , Audiophile): "Accompanied by The Bobby Gordon Trio," with Gordon (clarinet), Chris Dawson (piano), and Hal Smith (drums). Sullivan (1911-87) had her initial impact in 1937, still in the swing era but moving on. The small group preserves this ambiguity, but swings nonetheless. B+(***) [sp]
Jonny King: The Meltdown (1997, Enja): Pianist from New York, day job a lawyer, released a few albums in the 1990s, one more in 2012. High-flying septet here with David Sanchez (tenor sax), Steve Wilson (alto/soprano sax), Steve Davis (trombone), Larry Grenadier (bass), Billy Drummond (drums), and Milton Cardona (congas). B+(***) [sp]
Ryan Kisor: Power Source (1999, Criss Cross): Trumpet player, originally from Iowa, signed to Columbia for his first two albums, has another dozen albums but none since 2008, although he's continued to play in Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Quartet here faces off against Chris Potter (tenor sax), backed by James Genus (bass) and Gene Jackson (drums). B+(***) [r]
Hans Koch/Martin Schütz/Fredy Studer & El Nil Troop: Heavy Cairo Traffic (1995 , Intuition): Avant Swiss trio (reeds, cello, drums) goes to Egypt, hooks up with a trad folk group named for the river. Not clear whether the element of chaos was baked into the music from the start, or it just took these pranksters to bring it out. A- [sp]
Steve Kuhn: The Best Things (1999 , Reservoir): Pianist, from New York, first album a 1960 trio with Scott LaFaro and Pete La Roca; led a group with Sheila Jordan in the 1970s. This is a trio with David Finck (bass) and Billy Drummond (drums), plus singer Luciana Souza for the final track. B+(**) [sp]
Lambert, Hendricks & Ross: The Hottest New Group in Jazz (1959, Columbia): Vocalese trio: Dave Lambert, Jon Hendricks, and Annie Ross. Second album after Sing a Song of Basie, where the idea was to replicate the big band with overdubbed vocals. Here they're backed by the Ike Isaacs Trio, taking standards and bop pieces and adding words (as in "Twisted" -- the Wardell Gray solo that Joni Mitchell later covered), or just scatting. Has its amusing moments, but far from surefire. B+(**) [r]
Lambert, Hendricks & Ross: Sing Ellington (1960, Columbia): With the Ike Isaacs Trio. Probably seemed like a surefire idea after their Basie album, but lack of swing hurts, and many effects just seem perverse. B- [r]
Lambert, Hendricks & Ross: High Flying (1961, Columbia): With the Ike Isaacs Trio. No theme to inspire them, or to drag them down. B [r]
Lambert, Hendricks & Ross: The Hottest New Group in Jazz (1959-62 , Columbia/Legacy, 2CD): Tacks two full albums (Sing Ellington and High Flying) onto their label debut, plus seven extra tracks (generally better, including two "twist" tunes, and two takes of "A Night in Tunisia"). Penguin Guide gave this 4 stars. The earlier compilation, Everybody's Boppin' (1989), hits the highlights without improving the average. B [r]
Joëlle Léandre's Canvas Trio: L'Histoire De Mme. Tasco (1992 , Hat Art): French avant-bassist, sings some (her soprano adding contrast to the bass), many credits since 1982, often duets, fairly minimal affairs. With Carlos Zingaro (violin) and Rüdiger Carl (accordion, clarinet), this has a lot of sonic depth. B+(***) [r]
Joëlle Léandre & Kevin Norton: Winter in New York (2006 , Leo): Bass and percussion duo, Norton playing vibes as well as drums, etc., and Léandre singing a bit toward the end -- not her calling, but works here. B+(***) [sp]
John Lewis: The John Lewis Piano (1956 , Atlantic): Pianist (1920-2001), best known as director of Modern Jazz Quartet, well schooled in the classics, played in groups in the Boy Scouts and the Army, moved to New York in 1945 and got a masters degree at Manhattan School of Music, and jobs with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis (Birth of the Cool). After MJQ got going, he continued to record albums on his own, like this one: a step up from solo, three tracks with minimal Connie Kay drums, two of them with Percy Heath on bass, the others duets with guitar (Barry Galbraith or Jim Hall). B+(***) [sp]
John Lewis/Bill Perkins/Percy Heath/Chico Hamilton/Jim Hall: Grand Encounter: 2° East - 3° West (1957, Vogue): Two east coast musicians (Lewis, bassist Heath) and three from the west coast (tenor saxophonist Perkins, drummer Hamilton, and guitarist Hall). This is about as cool as jazz can get. B+(***) [sp]
John Lewis: Improvised Meditations & Excursions (1959, Atlantic): Straightforward trio album, piano with bass (George Duvivier or Percy Heath) and drums (Connie Kay). Two Lewis pieces, five standards, all impeccably done. A- [sp]
John Lewis: Essence (1960-62 , Atlantic): Subtitle: John Lewis plays the compositions & arrangements of Gary McFarland. McFarland (1933-71) was a vibraphonist perhaps better known as a producer and arranger, including a few bossa nova projects (e.g., Stan Getz: Big Band Bossa Nova). Split over three sessions, with varying groups. B+(*) [sp]
Ove Lind Quartet: One Morning in May (1975 , Phontastic): Swedish clarinet player (1926-91), influenced by Benny Goodman, played in Swinging Swedes 1952-54. Quartet with piano (Bengt Hallberg), vibes (Lars Erstrand), and drums (Egil Johansen), mostly playing standards. If that reminds you of Goodman with Teddy Wilson, Lionel Hampton, and Gene Krupa, that's probably the idea. [CD adds extra tracks.] A- [r]
Joe Lovano: Sounds of Joy (1991, Enja): Tenor sax great, from Cleveland, one of his early albums, a trio with Anthony Cox (bass) and Ed Blackwell (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Junior Mance/Martin Rivera: For Dancers Only (1983, Sackville): Pianist (1928-2021), played with Gene Ammons as early as 1947, his own albums start in 1959. This is a duo with the bassist. Not my idea of danceable, but had he been born a generation earlier, there's little doubt that Mance would have been one of the stride piano greats. B+(**) [r]
Mat Maneri Trio: So What? (1998 , Hatology): Avant violinist (electric here), father was a pioneer in microtonal music. Trio with Matthew Shipp (piano) and Randy Peterson (drums), playing four Miles Davis tunes, with five Maneri originals. Shipp makes a big difference here. B+(***) [r]
Mat Maneri Trio: For Conseqeuence (2001 , Leo): Maneri moves to viola here, as it was becoming his main instrument. Trio with Ed Schuller (bass) and Randy Peterson (drums). B+(**) [r]
Albert Mangelsdorff Trio: Triple Entente (1982 , MPS): German trombonist (1928-2005), long career, one of the most important German jazz musicians ever. Trio with bass (Léon Francioli) and drums (Pierre Favre). Play it pretty close to the vest. B+(***) [r]
Albert Mangelsdorff: Three Originals: Never Let It End/A Jazz Tune I Hope/Triple Entente (1970-82 , MPS, 2CD): Three albums collected, at least two other sets like that, this one a Penguin Guide 4-star. I previously reviewed the first at A-, the second a mid-B+, so averaging is easy: B+(***) [r]
Michael Mantler: More Movies (1979-80 , Watt): Austrian trumpet player (b. 1943), studied at Berklee and moved to New York in 1964, where he married Carla Bley and helped found the Jazz Composers' Orchestra Association (JCOA), New Music Distribution Service, and the label Watt (after the Samuel Beckett novel). He left all that when he returned to Europe in 1991, but along the way wrote a number of striking compositions, some of which he slotted as movie music. A first set called Movies appeared in 1978, followed by this one. Philip Catherine (guitar), Gary Windo (tenor sax), Bley (piano/organ), Steve Swallow (bass guitar), and D. Sharpe (drums) help out. B+(**)
Michael Mantler: Movies/More Movies (1977-80 , Watt/ECM): Combines the two LPs on one 78:40 CD. The first, with Larry Coryell (guitar) and Tony Williams (drums) and no sax (but more trumpet) is a bit meatier, but neither falls into the doldrums soundtracks are prone to. B+(***) [r]
Bill Mays Trio: Summer Sketches (2000 , Palmetto): Pianist (b. 1944), from Sacramento, several dozen albums since 1976, this a trio with Martin Wind (bass) and Matt Wilson (drums), each bringing one original to go with seven standards. B+(***) [r]
Ron McClure Quintet: Closer to Your Tears (1996 , SteepleChase): Bassist (b. 1941), from Connecticut, worked with Buddy Rich, Maynard Ferguson, and Charles Lloyd (1966-69 Quartet), debut as leader 1979. Quintet has no horns, just: guitar (Jay Azzolina), piano (Marc Copland), drums (Billy Hart), and percussion (Manolo Badrena). B+(**) [r]
Howard McGhee/Milt Jackson: Howard McGhee and Milt Jackson (1948 , Savoy): Trumpet player (1918-87), one of the first to join the bebop movement. Early album with the vibraphonist, Jimmy Heath (sax), Vernon Diddle (piano), Percy Heath (bass), and Joe Harris (drums). Jackson adds the right touch of swing. [This set later got rolled into the 1995 CD Maggie: The Savoy Sessions.] B+(***) [r]
Marian McPartland: Contrasts (1972-73 , Jazz Alliance, 2CD): Combines two albums, Plays the Music of Alec Wilder (a delicate and thoughtful trio which I previously underrated at B), and A Sentimental Journey (a throwback to former husband Jimmy McPartland's trad jazz roots, and a personal favorite, an A). Hard to grade such a combo, but at least they come on separate discs. A- [r]
Misha Mengelberg: Mix (1994, ICP): Dutch pianist (1935-2017), founder of Instant Composers Pool (ICP Orchestra), which he led for 45 years. Solo, two pieces each 34:37. B+(***) [yt]
Helen Merrill: At Nalen With Jan Johansson (1959 , Riverside): The singer at Nalen Jazz Club in Stockholm, with the soon-to-be-famous Swedish pianist and unidentified bass and drums. B+(***) [r]
Grade (or other) changes:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Ask a question, or send a comment.
Monday, March 6, 2023
Music: Current count 39730  rated (+50), 50  unrated (+10: 22 new, 28 old).
Fairly substantial Speaking of Which yesterday. Here's a shortcut to the Jimmy Kimmel monologue on Trump as President Karen (whole monologue, but the relevant parts go from from 0:28 to 5:46). Also, again, I want to urge you to read the Spencer Ackerman piece. Much of what I link to is there because I want to say something different about it, but this is actually a tip.
I feel like I should write something more substantial on China, but it's a big question to try to wrap my head around. For now, the big thing to understand is that Americans are almost always talking out of their ass about China. They don't understand China, least of all how they think, including how they feel when they hear Americans lecturing them on democracy and human rights -- knowing as they do what imperialist depredation does to a country. Americans also don't have any sense of the scale and depth of China, even if they know that it's about the same land area as the US, with four times as many people. They're used to being able to push around smaller, weaker countries, and that's no longer an accurate description of China.
On the other hand, China doesn't understand Americans very well, but it would be a mistake simply to dismiss that as their problem. When dealing with others, it's important to make extra effort to hear what they're saying, and to respect the context it comes from. Nobody does that very well, but when you're as powerful and as arrogant as the US is, that turns into a huge risk. If anything should have become clear from the last 20+ years of war (including Ukraine), it's that nearly every belief we have in how military and international policy works is wrong. And that's something we need to realize and correct before we make even more catastrophic blunders with China. But a true reckoning there is a long ways off. It needs to start with looking in the mirror, something we never dare do.
Continuing to work through my list of unheard 4-star Penguin Guide albums. Most of the records only get one spin, so my grades tend to be reserved, but Milt Jackson seemed to demand further study, and the whole J-section kept coming up aces. I often found extra albums of interest where I looked -- some were Penguin Guide 3.5 albums, others just caught my eye. For example, I was looking for a different Illinois Jacquet, but noticed a Black & Blue Sessions album, and I generally like that series. Billy Jenkins has long been one of my interests, so it's tempting to fill in there. After the first Jazz Tribe album, I didn't need much persuasion to try the other two.
I had a problem with Jan Johansson: Penguin Guide reviewed later twofer compilations, but I found the albums broken out separately, so reviewed them as such, then added the twofers so I could check them off the list. A second Quincy Jones album struck my eye, and it turned out I liked it even more than they one they recommended.
Then when I got to Louis Jordan's Swingsation entry, I decided to see what else that particular series of CD compilations had to offer (the only one I had previously picked up was Red Prysock, which I had down as a B): the Hampton and Lunceford discs were subsets of records I already rated highly (I couldn't find the Count Basie Swingsation, but that would have been an easy A- or higher -- I have the 3-CD The Complete Decca Recordings, as well as the 1-CD The Best of Early Basie, as solid A).
After a couple lax weeks, I got quite a bit of mail (with a couple more packages arriving today, not yet logged), so I'm falling behind on new work. I'm also paying very little attention to new releases elsewhere. I'll catch up eventually, but I'm in no hurry. The way things are going, formerly simple things like replacing windshield wipers seem like accomplishments.
My wife has been on a kick to see 2022 Oscar nominated films, We hadn't gone out for one in 3-4 years. We stopped a year or two before the pandemic, when the local Warren chain sold out to Regal (not that we were big Warren fans). Perhaps a bigger reason is that I've been in a long funk over movies, finding them too long and hacnkeyed, but I've tried to be a good sport as long as we can stream the things. These are ones I remember seeing (Oscar-nominated):
That's all but Avatar: The Way of Water. Laura went out to the theater to see it (in 3-D), while (not wanting to be a wet blanket) I stayed home. She thought it was better than Top Gun, but didn't rank it above anything else on the list above. I haven't been keeping track, but scanning through the lists reminds me of a few more 2022 movies I've seen:
On the other hand, scanning through the list, I did see some films that looked possibly interesting and/or enjoyable (not necessarily): Aftersun; Argentina, 1985; Babylon; Downton Abbey: A New Era; Empire of Light; Enola Holmes 2; Living; Till; To Leslie; Where the Crawdads Sing. On the other hand, I've seen quite a bit of TV in the past year, and much prefer the pacing and character development. A rundown of that will have to wait another time.
New records reviewed this week:
Brad Goode: The Unknown (2022 , Origin): Trumpet player, from Chicago. Aside from a 1988 album, his catalog kicks up in 2000, including four early volumes with Von Freeman. This is a fusion quartet, with Jeff Jenkins (keyboards), Seth Lewis (electric bass), and Faa Kow (drums). Has some edge and atmosphere. B+(**) [cd]
Manzanita Quintet: Osmosis (2021 , Origin): Group based in Reno, but recorded this debut in Colorado: Josh D. Reed (trumpet), Peter Epstein (sax), Adam Benjamin (piano/rhodes), Hans Halt (bass), Andrew Heglund (drums), with all but the drummer contributing songs (Halt most at four), plus covers of Monk and Haden. Intricate postbop textures. B+(*) [cd]
Dan Trudell: Fishin' Again: A Tribute to Clyde Stubblefield & Dr. Lonnie Smith (2019-21 , OA2): Keyboard player, mainly Hammond B3 here, hence the tie to Smith. Stubblefield I had to look up, and felt stupid when I did: drummer, James Brown, 1965-70. He led his own bands after that, and recorded a few albums 1997-2006. All Trudell originals, with Mike Standal (guitar), Dana Hall (drums), two saxophonists (Pat Mallinger and John Wojciechowski) and trombone (Joel Adams). B+(***) [cd]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Sil Austin: Swingsation (1957-61 , Verve): Tenor saxophonist (1929-2001), played with Roy Eldridge, Cootie Williams, and Tiny Bradshaw before striking out on his own, recording what at the time was regarded as "overtly commercial rather than jazz," what he described as "exciting horn, honking horn, gutbucket horn, what kids wanted to hear." To me that's the primaeval sound of rock and roll, what drew me to the music in the first place. A- [r]
Charlie Barnet & Jimmy Dorsey: Swingsation (1936-46 , GRP): Popular big band leaders during the 1940s, eight songs from each. Barnet (1913-91) was a saxophonist, began recording in 1933, had a big band hit in 1939 with "Cherokee." As far as I can tell, these tracks date from 1942-46, including a couple of Kay Starr vocals. Dorsey (1904-57) played alto sax and clarinet, working with his younger brother Tommy Dorsey, Paul Whiteman, and Bing Crosby before leading his own big band. His set here starts with "Stompin' at the Savoy," and extends to 1945. MCA has a 20-track CD of Barnet (Drop Me Off in Harlem), but I'm not aware of any comparable compilation of Dorsey. B+(**) [r]
Tommy Dorsey & Artie Shaw: Swingsation (1950-53 , GRP): Another shared set of big bands, split 9-7 for Dorsey. Both were bigger stars than Charlie Barnet and Jimmy Dorsey, but did most of their recording on RCA, only moving to Decca in 1950 (as usual, securing dates on this collection is difficult), so this is something of an afterthought. (Dorsey died at 51 in 1956; Shaw lived until 2004, but he stopped peforming abruptly in 1954.) The highlight, of course, is Shaw's clarinet. Both artists produced substantial bodies of recommended work. Dorsey's career-spanning The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing is big (3-CD) but remarkable. I haven't heard Shaw's 5-CD Self-Portrait, but the 2-CD The Essential Artie Shaw is superb throughout. B+(*) [r]
Ella Fitzgerald With Chick Webb: Swingsation (1937-39 , GRP): She started out as the singer in drummer Webb's Orchestra, then took over in 1939 when he died, and led the band until 1942. Decca has a recommended compilation based on Webb's instrumentals (Spinnin' the Webb), but this is useful to focus on how special the singer is. While she went on to gain command as a singer, she rarely had another band that swung this hard. A-
Benny Goodman: Swingsation (1956 , GRP): Clarinet player, the "king of swing" in the 1930s, recorded for RCA back then, and for Capitol in the 1950s, so the only recordings this label could snatch came from his soundtrack to The Benny Goodman Story. But the idea there was to recreate the old magic: the big band, and some of the small groups, sometimes with old-timers (Teddy Wilson, Harry James, Gene Krupa), plus the occasional ringer (Stan Getz). As with most re-recorded hits, there's an element of disappointment, but it gives a fair taste of what made the band great. B+(**) [r]
Lionel Hampton: Swingsation (1942-47 , GRP): Sixteen tracks from Hampton's Decca years, including two two-part singles ("Rockin' in Rhythm" and "Airmail Special"). Fair sampler with most of his hits, including one vocal ("Blow Top Blues"). A- [r]
Italian Instabile Orchestra: Litania Sibilante (1999 , Enja): Italian avant big band, recorded ten albums 1992-2010, including guest leader projects for Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton. Featured guests here are Enrico Rava (trumpet) and Antonello Salis (accordion), bringing total band size to 20. Most impressive when they figure out how to swing. B+(***) [sp]
Milt Jackson: Ain't but a Few of Us Left (1981 , Pablo): Vibraphonist (1923-99), his early work with Thelonious Monk was especially brilliant. He spent many years in the Modern Jazz Quartet, but recorded extensively on the side. When Norman Granz started Pablo in 1975, Jackson was one of his first calls, along with Oscar Peterson, whose trio, with Ray Brown and Grady Tate, join in here. These guys grew up with bebop, but also knew how to inject an element of swing, thanks to which they left the world a happier place. A- [sp]
Milt Jackson: Wizard of the Vibes (1948-52 , Blue Note): Originally an 8-song, 10-inch LP released in 1952, with John Lewis (piano), Percy Heath (bass), Kenny Clarke (drums), and Lou Donaldson (alto sax). The title was reissued in 1956 with extra tracks from an earlier session with Thelonious Monk. The two sessions were combined for CD as Milt Jackson (or Milt Jackson With the Thelonious Monk Quintet) in 1989, then repackaged here. Still ends with three Kenny Hagood vocals the world would be better off forgetting. A- [r]
Milt Jackson: Early Modern (1949-54 , Savoy Jazz): A compilation in the "Savoy Jazz Originals" series (1998-2002), draws on six sessions: half quartets with John Lewis (piano), the others with different pianists and extra horns (two with Julius Watkins on French horn). I particularly like the early session with Billy Mitchell on tenor sax. A couple years later Jackson recorded two more Savoy albums, perhaps his best ever: Jackson's-ville and The Jazz Skyline. B+(***) [sp]
Milt Jackson/Coleman Hawkins: Bean Bags (1958 , Atlantic): Always a delight to hear the tenor saxophonist, especially with Tommy Flanagan (piano) and Kenny Burrell (guitar) on top of the rhythm: Eddie Jones and Connie Kay, plus the ever-swinging vibraphonist. A- [r]
Milt Jackson & John Coltrane: Bags & Trane (1959 , Atlantic): The vibraphonist easily complemented damn near anyone he played with, so with both stars on the label, this seems inevitable. Jackson wrote two of his more enduring songs for the date, and they added two standards and "Be-Bop" for a fast one. Rhythm section was Hank Jones (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Connie Kay (drums). Everyone's in fine, if less than spectacular, form. CD adds three bonus tracks. B+(***) [r]
Milt Jackson: Memories of Thelonious Sphere Monk (1982, Pablo): Original LP was subtitled Milt Jackson in London, but the 1995 CD reissue dropped that line, offering larger print to the band: Ray Brown (bass), Monty Alexander (piano), and Mickey Roker (drums). Opens with four Monk tunes but, being a live set, they then throw in a 10:23 "Django" and end with two Jackson pieces (one adding Brown to the byline). Jackson was one of the first musicians who got Monk, back in a time others found him impossible. But by this time, everyone got Monk, and this becomes less interesting as a result. B+(**) [r]
Milt Jackson/Ray Brown/Cedar Walton/Mickey Roker Quartet: It Don't Mean a Thing if You Can't Tap Your Foot to It (1984, Pablo): Discogs limits the credit line to Jackson and Brown, possibly because those two are pictured, as the typographic hints are subtle (even more so on the 1990 CD reissue). B+(**) [r]
Milt Jackson Meets the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra: Explosive! (1999, Qwest): Possibly the vibraphonist's last album (dates are uncertain), featured with the big band led by Jeff Hamilton (drums) and brothers John and Jeff Clayton (bass and alto sax). The band has some power, but is mostly restrained. B+(*) [sp]
Illinois Jacquet: Jacquet's Street [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1976 , Black & Blue): Tenor saxophonist, from Louisiana, his solos in the 1940s influenced rock and roll and made him a star with Jazz at the Philharmonic. This is one of several live sets he recorded for Black & Blue in France -- this particular one in Nice, with a sextet of trumpet, trombone, piano, bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]
Ahmad Jamal Trio: Cross Country Tour: 1958-1961 (1958-61 , Chess, 2CD): Pianist, trio with Israel Crosby (bass) and Vernell Fournier (drums). Leads off with the 1958 Chicago set previously released as At the Pershing: But Not for Me -- one of his most famous releases, a popular hit to boot -- then picks from other live albums, including sets at the Alhambra (in Chicago) and the Blackhawk (in San Francisco). Constantly delightful. A- [r]
Ahmad Jamal: À L'Olympia (2000 , Dreyfus Jazz): A 70th birthday party for the pianist, his trio of James Cammack (bass) and Idris Muhammad (drums) joined by tenor saxophonist George Coleman -- a tower of strength here, but when he lays out, the pianist more than holds his own. A- [sp]
Jazz at the Philharmonic: Best of the 1940s Concerts (1944-49 , Verve): Norman Granz started his series of package shows in Los Angeles in 1944, and continued them around the world for decades. The formula was to collect an all-star band and let them jam some blues, drop in a "Ballad Medley," and sometimes feature a singer. This collects nine songs from seven concerts, doubling up on Hollywood 1946 (with Lester Young, Charlie Parker, and Willie Smith) and New York city 1949 (with Young, Parker, and Flip Phillips) but only because the concerts were varied: 1946 switched to a Gene Krupa trio, while 1949 added a singer: Ella Fitzgerald. (The only other singer here is Billie Holiday). Highlights abound, like when Bill Harris reclaims "Perdido" for the trombone. A- [r]
Jazz at the Philharmonic: J.A.T.P. in Tokyo: Live at the Nichigeki Theatre 1953 (1953 , Pablo, 2CD): Group billed as J.A.T.P. All-Stars this time: Charlie Shavers and Roy Eldridge (trumpets), Bill Harris (trombone), Benny Carter and Willie Smith (alto sax), Flip Phillips and Ben Webster (tenor sax), Herb Ellis (guitar), Oscar Peterson (piano), Ray Brown (bass), JC Heard (drums). They're followed by smaller groups: trios led by Peterson and Gene Krupa, then Ella Fitzgerald, bringing the band back to close on "Perdido." Everyone has fun, but Fitzgerald is really at the top of her game. B+(***) [r]
Jazz at the Philharmonic: Stockholm '55: The Exciting Battle (1955 , Pablo): An octet this time, smaller than most JATP groups, but the focus was on the trumpets: Dizzy Gillespie and Roy Eldridge. All-star backup, of course: Flip Phillips (tenor sax), Bill Harris (trombone), Oscar Peterson (piano), Herb Ellis (guitar), Ray Brown (bass), and Louis Bellson (drums). Long blues jams to open and close, sandwiching their usual "Ballad Medley" and Bellson's "Drum Solo Medley." B+(**) [r]
Jazz at the Philharmonic: J.A.T.P. in London, 1969 (1969 , Pablo, 2CD): Looks like two shows, with the first disc headlined by trumpets (Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry) and tenor saxophones (Zoot Sims, James Moody). The second disc opens with the rhythm section -- Teddy Wilson, Bob Cranshaw, and Louis Bellson -- and T-Bone Walker, then brings in Benny Carter and Coleman Hawkins. The latter wasn't in prime form: he only had a couple more months to live, making his solo on "September Song" and his famous "Body and Soul" all the more poignant. B+(***) [r]
The Jazz Tribe: The Jazz Tribe (1990 , RED): Label-organized supergroup, seemed like a one-shot but further albums came out in 1999 and 2009. Otherwise I'd be inclined to credit this to the musicians named on the cover: Bobby Watson (alto sax), Steve Grossman (tenor sax), Jack Walrath (trumpet), Walter Bishop Jr. (piano), Charles Fambrough (bass), Joe Chambers (drums), and Ray Mantilla (percussion). Mantilla wrote half of six originals, with "Star Eyes" the only cover. Mainstream with a little extra, and not just Latin tinge. A- [sp]
The Jazz Tribe: The Next Step (1999, RED): Second album, the group retained three essential members -- Jack Walrath (trumpet), Bobby Watson (alto sax), Ray Mantilla (percussion) -- ably filling in the gaps with Ronnie Matthews (piano), Curtis Lundy a(bass), and Victor Lewis (drums). Still more Latin tinge here: Mantilla seems to be the driving force, although Watson wrote two songs; Lewis, Lundy, and Matthews one each, and "Good Bait" tops them all. B+(***) [r]
The Jazz Tribe: Everlasting (2008 , RED): Another decade, another album. Only personnel change is the piano slot going to Xavier Davis. Still a strong group, with a strong Latin tinge. B+(**) [r]
Billy Jenkins: Beyond E Major (1984 , Allmusic): British guitarist, rather eclectic with a blues sideline, not all that well served by his vocals, which are rare but occasionally present even in his most surrealistic jazz sides. Guitar-bass-drums trio, accompanied (sometimes) with horns. Four pieces: "Country & Western," "The Blues," "Heavy Metal," "Rock and Roll." B+(**) [bc]
Billy Jenkins: Motorway at Night (1987 , De Core): One piece in two takes (20:27 + 22:19). Fairly large groups, including Django Bates (keyboards), Steve Argüelles (drums), and string trio on both, adding Any Sheppard and Iain Ballamy (saxophones) on the second. B+(**) [bc]
Billy Jenkins With the Voice of God Collective: First Aural Art Exhibition (1984-91 , VOTP): This was collected over much of a decade, with various lineups in his often used but rarely defined group moniker. The best are when saxophonist Iain Ballamy comes to play (like the opener), but even without horns the slippery guitar is most often marvelous. A- [r]
Billy Jenkins With the Blues Collective: Life (2001, VOCD): One of his Blues Collective albums, so hard on guitar and harsh on vocals, with a little violin in the mix (Dylan Bates). [Bandcamp dropped two covers from the album.] B+(***) [bc]
Leroy Jenkins: Themes & Improvisations on the Blues (1994, CRI): Violinist (1932-2007), pretty much the first to make a mark with the instrument in avant-garde jazz, especially with his group, Revolutionary Ensemble. Four 13-to-18 minute pieces, two with the Soldier String Quartet, the others with groups that add horns, notably Don Byron (clarinet), Marty Ehrlich (bass clarinet), Vincent Chancey (French horn), and Henry Threadgill (flute). B+(*) [r]
Jan Johansson: 8 Bitar (1961, Megafon): Swedish pianist, died at 37 in a car crash, his brief but stellar career starting with this trio of Gunnar Johnson (bass) and Ingvar Callmer (drums). Four originals are impressive, a Swedish folk song and three standards (including "Night in Tunisia") done with complete authority. A [r]
Jan Johansson: Innertrio (1962, Megafon): Piano trio, this one with Georg Riedel (bass) and Egil Johansen (drums). B+(***) [r]
Jan Johansson: 8 Bitar/Innertrio (1961-62 , Heptagon): Two albums on one CD. A- [r]
Jan Johansson: Jazz På Svenska (1962-64 , Megafon): Piano-bass duo with Georg Riedel, playing Swedish folk songs. This is reportedly the best-selling Swedish jazz album ever, and kicked off a series of Folkvisor albums. B+(***) [sp]
Jan Johansson: Jazz På Ryska (1967, Megafon): "Jazz in Russian," which is to say Russian folk songs. Piano trio with Georg Riedel (bass) and Egil Johansen (drums) grows to include clarinet (Arne Domnérus), trumpet (Bosse Broberg), and tenor sax (Lennart Åberg). B+(***) [sp]
Jan Johansson: Folkvisor (1962-67 , Heptagon): Combines two albums, Jazz På Svensk + Jazz På Ryska. B+(***) [sp]
Charlie Johnson's Paradise Band: Harlem in the 1920s (1925-29 , Digital Gramophone): Pianist (1891-1959), born in Philadelphia, led a band in New York that included Benny Carter, Sidney de Paris, Jabbo Smith, and Jimmy Harrison (names on the cover here). Penguin Guide recommends Hot 'N Sweet's The Complete Charlie Johnson Sessions (1990, 24 tracks, 78:13; probably the same as the 1994 EPM Musique edition). The "complete" sets are padded out with multiple takes. This digital set (not in Discogs as far as I can tell, but seems to match the first side of an undated RCA Japan LP), offers one take each of eight key songs (26:42). By the way, this is not the Charlie Johnson who played trumpet for Ellington in the late 1920s, and who died in 1937. B+(***) [r]
Etta Jones: Sings Lady Day (2001, HighNote): Jazz singer (1928-2001), debut 1958 on King, signed to Prestige in 1961, followed her long-time collaborator Houston Person to Muse and finally to HighNote. Of course, no one sings the Holiday songbook quite like the original, but this comes close, and adds its own depth and poignance. Richard Wyands (piano) and Peter Bernstein (guitar) help a lot, but no saxophonist has ever served singers quite as much as Person, and Jones was his favorite -- all the more so on her last record. A- [sp]
Etta Jones: Don't Go to Strangers (1960, Prestige): After an r&b album on King, Jones moved to Prestige, where she recorded at least eight albums through 1963. Ten standards, kicking off with "Yes, Sir That's My Baby," and ending with "All the Way." Band built around a rhythm section led by pianist Richard Wyands, plus guitar and Frank Wess (preferring flute over tenor sax). B+(***) [sp]
Etta Jones: Lonely and Blue (1962, Prestige): Her Prestige albums came fast: this seems to have been the fifth. Standards, but with a few exceptions ("Gee Baby Ain't I Good to You," "Travelin' Light") less common. Fewer names in the band (Patti Bowen? Wally Richardson?), but Budd Johnson is magnificent on four tracks. Singer's pretty good, too. B+(**) [sp]
Etta Jones: My Buddy: Etta Jones Sings the Songs of Buddy Johnson (1997 , HighNote): Johnson (1915-77) was a jump blues pianist (not the tenor sax great Budd Johnson) who led an important band in the 1940s featuring his sister Ella Johnson's vocals. These songs have long deserved a revival, and Jones is up to the task. And tenor saxophonist Houston Person is near-perfect. A- [sp]
Etta Jones: All the Way: Etta Jones Sings Sammy Cahn (1999, HighNote): Good songs, although perhaps a bit on the elegant side. Solid rhythm section of Norman Simmons (piano), John Webber (bass), and Kenny Washington (drums), with guest spots scattered among Houston Person (tenor sax), Steve Turre (trombone), Tom Aalfs (violin), and Russell Malone (guitar). B+(**) [sp]
Etta Jones: Easy Living (2000, HighNote): More standards, no obvious theme this time, backed by long-time pianist Richard Wyands, Ray Drummond (bass), Chip White (drums), with tenor saxophonist Houston Person (on 7/11 tracks). B+(**) [sp]
Quincy Jones: This Is How I Feel About Jazz (1956 , ABC-Paramount): Conductor-arranger here, wrote three (of six) songs, recording this over three sessions, with varying groups. Only the first two tracks (the last session) qualify as a big band (and barely: full brass sections, four saxophones, piano, bass, drums). The other sessions have 9-11 musicians (including Charles Mingus and Lucky Thompson). B+(***) [r]
Quincy Jones: Go West, Man! (1957, ABC-Paramount): West coast jazz, home of most of the famous names on the cover: Buddy Collette, Bill Perkins, Red Mitchell, Leroy Vinnegar, Mel Lewis, Lou Levy, Benny Carter, Herb Geller, Charlie Mariano, Art Pepper, Walter Benton, Pepper Adams, Harry Edison, Conte Candoli, Pete Candoli, Jack Sheldon. Opens with three Jimmy Giuffre pieces, followed by Johnny Mandel (2), Mariano, and Lennie Niehaus (2), plus a standards medley. Very talented musicians, and Jones has a lighter touch than Stan Kenton or Woody Herman, which pays off dividends here. A- [r]
Louis Jordan: Swingsation (1939-53 , GRP): Jump blues genius, sings and plays alto sax, had a huge number of jukebox hits in the 1940s. this offering 16 of them. I won't recommend this over The Best of Louis Jordan or for that matter Five Guys Named Moe: Vol. 2, but there's nothing here you won't want to hear or own. I've barely sampled the series, but half or more of the artists have earlier CD compilations I'd recommend. A- [r]
Theo Jörgensmann & Eckard Koltermann: Pagine Gialle (1995 , Hatology): German clarinetist, debut 1977, duo here with bass clarinet. B+(***) [sp]
Jimmie Lunceford: Swingsation (1934-37 , GRP): Bandleader (1902-47), started as an alto saxophonist, group was especially admired for its precise timing and tight section work. There are several compilations of prime Decca material -- Stomp It Off (1992), and For Dancers Only (1994) are my favorites, especially the latter. This covers the same territory, if anything too briefly. A- [r]
Sam "The Man" Taylor: Swingsation (1954-56 , Verve): Tenor saxophonist (1916-90) from Alabama, played with Scatman Crothers in the late 1930s, many more jump blues bands, and played sax on many early rock and roll records -- notably Big Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle and Roll," the Drifters' "Money Honey," and the Chords' "Sh-Boom." Most of this comes from a 1956 double pack called Rock and Roll Music With "The Big Beat". B+(***) [r]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
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Monday, February 27, 2023
Music: Current count 39680  rated (+42), 40  unrated (-2: 12 new, 28 old).
I'm growing weary of writing about music, so I'll let these reviews post without introduction. As you can see, I'm still enjoying what I listen to for background, even if my engagement is more limited, and the notes more cryptic.
On the other hand, I put quite a bit of effort into yesterday's Speaking of Which, and I've added a couple more notes today. A cursory glance at the news today shows a torrent of demented thinking. Just in the New York Times, ranging from Damon Linker: My Fellow Liberals Are Exaggerating the Dangers of Ron DeSantis (it "almost certainly would not be worse than Mr. Trump"; my emphasis on his slender thread of hope; but note that he's still upset that LBJ "exaggerated" Goldwater's inclination toward nuclear annihilation with the 1964 "daisy ad"; Goldwater never aired a comparable scare ad about how Johnson would lead us into a quagmire in Vietnam, because he was totally on board with escalating the war there), to Ross Babbage: A War With China Would Be Unlike Anything Americans Faced Before (he wants us to rise to the challenge, largely by obscuring what the real risks may be; 20 years ago Chalmers Johnson explained how easily an adversary like China could destroy America's satellite capability, which is useful for GPS and phone calls, but essential for targeting advanced weapons, and that's just one example Babbage doesn't think to consider).
I will note that I've cached a frozen copy of my 2022 list. The latter will still be updated, at least through the end of 2023, as I find more things, but I haven't been looking very hard of late. The EOY jazz and non-jazz lists will also be updated as needed, but perhaps not that long. Also got my indexing for February Streamnotes out of the way.
New records reviewed this week:
Don Aliquo: Growth (2022 , Ear Up): Tenor saxophonist, also plays bass clarinet, sometimes goes as Jr. to distinguish from his father, another saxophonist (still active at 93, where this one is a mere 63). Teaches at Middle Tennessee, which has led him to associate with free players like Memphis pianist Michael Jefry Stevens. This is more mainstream, with Steve Kovaichek's guitar especially notable. B+(**) [cd]
Iris DeMent: Working on a World (2023, Flariella): Church-trained folksinger from Arkansas, released three stunning albums in the 1990s, contributed the anchor duets on John Prine's In Spite of Ourselves (1999), has appeared only rarely since. This is her first album of new songs since 2012. The time has taken a toll on her still-unmistakable voice, and the times on her patience, but not on her fundamental decency and good sense. Hits a rough patch midway through which might tempted me to cavil, but in the end I'm just happy to hear more. A- [sp]
Margherita Fava: Tatatu (2022 , self-released): Italian pianist, studied at Michigan State (Rodney Whitaker) and U. of Tennessee (Eric Reed and Greg Tardy), based in Knoxville, first album, six originals plus "Rhythm-A-Ning" and "All the Things You Are." Quartet with Tardy never better on tenor sax and clarinet. A- [cd] [03-10]
Thomas Heberer/Ken Filiano/Phil Haynes: Spontaneous Composition (2022, Corner Store Music): Heberer, a German based in New York, plays trumpet and piano, backed by bass and drums. B+(**) [bc]
Yosef Gutman Levitt/Tal Yahalom: Tsuf Harim (2023, Soul Song): Bass and guitar duo, although it's mostly the guitarist who registers. The gentle, soothing, yet intricate pieces draw on Eli Rivkin's transcriptions of traditional Hasidic melodies. B+(***) [cdr] [03-03]
Alex Weiss: Most Don't Have Enough (2023, Ears & Eyes): Tenor saxophonist, albums back to 1995, postbop quintet with Dan Blake (soprano sax), guitar, bass, and drums, plus piano (Marta Sanchez) on two tracks. B+(*) [cd]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Iris DeMent: The Trackless Woods (2015, Flariella): After the eight-year gaps preceding 2004's Lifeline and 2012's Sing the Delta, she tossed this off rather quickly, probably because she picked all the lyrics up from Anna Akhmatova poems. She plays piano and sings, and gets some help from Richard Bennett and Leo Kottke. B+(*) [sp]
Lionel Hampton: Ring Dem Bells [Bluebird's Best] (1937-40 , RCA Bluebird): Vibraphonist (1908-2002), started playing drums for Louis Armstrong, played with Benny Goodman in the 1930s, led a famous series of all-star studio sessions which were collected on three CDs (I've heard two and recommend them: Hot Mallets and Tempo and Swing), distilled here to a brief 16 tracks -- part of a series of 30 CDs RCA released in 2002-03. A- [sp]
Lionel Hampton: Vol. 2: The Jumpin' Jive: The All-Star Groups: 1937-39 (1937-39 , RCA Bluebird): The middle of three CDs RCA released in 1990, following Vol. 1: Hot Mallets, with Vol. 3: Tempo and Swing wrapping up. Too bad Discogs doesn't list credits, as there are terrific players everywhere. A- [sp]
Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra: Midnight Sun: The Original American Decca Recordings (1946-47 , MCA): Hampton's 1940s big band had some significant jukebox hits (e.g., "Flying Home"). Various groups here, mostly big bands but some cuts drop down as far as quartet. B+(**) [r]
George Haslam: Duos East West (1997 , Slam): British baritone saxophonist, also plays tarogato, albums go back to a duo with Paul Rutherford in 1989, when he founded this label. More duos here, with piano, the first five with Vladimir Solyanik in Kyiv, the last five with Ruben Ferrero in Buenos Aires. B+(***) [sp]
George Haslam/Paul Hession: Pendle Hawk Carapace (2002, Slam): Duo, baritone sax/tarogato and drums. B+(**) [sp]
George Haslam/Borah Bergman/Paul Hession: The Mahout (2003 , Slam): Last album's duo joined by the pianist, on five (of seven) tracks, two of his own songs, the other three joint iimprovs. B+(**) [sp]
Jon Hazilla Trio: Tiny Capers (2001, Double-Time): Drummer, teaches at Berklee, had a couple albums in the 1990s on Cadence/CIMP, also has a book on Mastering the Art of Brushes. I was searching for his 1999 album with three saxophones and a trombone (group name: Saxabone), but all I could find is this trio with Bruce Barth (piano) and John Lockwood (bass). B+(**) [sp]
Thomas Heberer/Dieter Manderscheid: Chicago Breakdown: The Music of Jelly Roll Morton (1989 , Jazz Haus Musik): German duo, trumpet and bass, the six old tunes are rendered more distant and more disturbing by the starkly minimal treatment. B+(***) [bc]
Thomas Heberer/Dieter Manderscheid: What a Wonderful World (2001 , Jazz Haus Musik): Another trumpet-bass duo, this time with Louis Armstrong songs. As with the Morton album, they're always a bit off-center. B+(**) [bc]
Peter Herborn: Large One (1997 , Jazzline): German big band arranger, originally a trombonist, recorded this stellar 17-piece group in Brooklyn. B+(**) [sp]
John Hicks: Live at Maybeck Recital Hall, Volume Seven (1990 , Concord): Pianist (1941-2006), joins the label's series of solo piano performances. B+(***) [sp]
John Hicks: Impressions of Mary Lou (1998 , HighNote): Piano trio with Dwayne Dolphin (bass) and Cecil Brooks II (drums), playing seven Mary Lou Williams compositions, including some where she really hits her stride, and five pieces by Hicks. B+(***) [sp]
Andrew Hill: Grass Roots (1968, Blue Note): Pianist (1931-2007), recorded a brilliant series of albums for Blue Note 1963-69, some of which were only released much later. This one came out in 1968, five tracks with Lee Morgan (trumpet), Booker Ervin (tenor sax), Ron Carter (bass), and Freddie Waits (drums). Seems to have been aiming for the soul jazz groove the label had started to favor -- probably why they released it, while shelving superior albums like Passing Ships (2003), Dance With Death (2004), and Change (2007). B+(*) [sp]
Andrew Hill: Grass Roots [Connoisseur Series] (1968 , Blue Note): CD reissue adds five extra tracks (most previously unissued) from earlier in 1968, including three first takes of songs that appeared on the album. The bonus features a different band, with Woody Shaw (trumpet), Frank Mitchell (tenor sax), Jimmy Ponder (guitar), Reggie Workman (bass), and Idris Muhammad (drums). The extra tracks neither add nor detract. B+(*) [sp]
Andrew Hill: Lift Every Voice (1969 , Blue Note): Some brilliant instrumental work here, especially from Woody Shaw (trumpet) and Carlos Garnett (tenor sax), backed by Richard Davis (bass) and Freddie Watts (drums). Only problem, for me anyhow, is Lawrence Marshall's choir, which probably have gospel roots (like the title song), but just chirp along. B [r]
Andrew Hill: Lift Every Voice [Connoisseur Series (1969-70 , Blue Note): CD reissue adds six previously unissued tracks from 1970 with a different group: Lee Morgan, Bennie Maupin, Ron Carter, and Ben Riley, and mostly new singers, although still directed by Marshall. It only gets sillier with length. B- [r]
Andrew Hill Trio: Invitation (1974 , SteepleChase): After parting from Blue Note, Hill -- like many others -- had trouble finding labels. He managed to get this piano trio, with Chris White (bass) and Art Lewis (drums) -- picked up in Denmark. [Originally released 1975. CD adds an alternate take of the opener, "Catfish."] B+(**) [sp]
Andrew Hill: Spiral (1974-75 , Arista/Freedom): And this one by Freedom, a free jazz subsidary of the British label Black Lion, which by this point was distributed by Arista in the US, giving it rare prominence. Pieced together from two sessions, with Ted Curson (trumpet) and Lee Konitz (alto sax) on one (along with Cecil McBee and Art Lewis), the other with Robin Kenyatta (alto sax), Stafford James, and Barry Altschul. A- [r]
Andrew Hill: Divine Revelation (1975 , SteepleChase): Album cover says "Quintet"; spine says "Quartet"; CD itself just credits Hill. Lineup is: Hill (piano), Jimmy Vass (alto sax/flute), Chris White (bass), Leroy Williams (drums). B+(**) [sp]
Andrew Hill Trio: Strange Serenade (1980, Soul Note): Italian label, Hill recorded two albums there in 1980, two more in 1986 -- a big portion of his 1980s output, until Blue Note welcomed him back in 1989. This a trio with Alan Silva (bass) and Freddie Waits (percussion). B+(***) [sp]
Andrew Hill: Faces of Hope (1980, Soul Note): Four solo recordings (41:59) from the same sessions. B+(*) [sp]
Dave Holland Quintet: Points of View (1997 , ECM): British bassist, played everything with everyone in the late 1960s, got the invite to replace Ron Carter in Miles Davis Quintet, was in turn replaced by Michael Henderson when Davis went fusion. Soon developed into a top postbop composer, especially with his Quintets, starting in 1983. This one has Steve Wilson (soprano/alto sax), Robin Eubanks (trombone), Steve Nelson (vibes/marimba), and Billy Kilson (drums). They make for a very meticulous balance of sounds, but not a big deal. B+(**) [r]
Dave Holland Quintet: Not for Nothin' (2000 , ECM): Two albums later, only change is Chris Potter at saxophone (adding tenor to soprano and alto) -- a stronger player, but tucked in neatly. B+(**) [r]
Yuri Honing: Seven (2001, Jazz in Motion/Challenge): Dutch tenor saxophonist, fifth album by my count (including two Trio albums, plus two with Misha Mengelberg), but I could be low, or maybe it's just because it has seven songs. Rhythm section needs no intro: Paul Bley, Gary Peacock, Paul Motian. B+(**) [sp]
Tristan Honsinger: A Camel's Kiss (1999 , ICP): Cello player, born 1949 in Vermont, studied at New England Conservatory, moved to Canada to avoid the draft, then on to the Netherlands, where he joined ICP in 1977, along with many other groups. Mostly duos under his own name, but this is solo. B+(***) [bc]
Elmo Hope Ensemble: Sounds From Rikers Island (1963 , Fresh Sound): Bebop pianist (1923-67), a childhood friend was Bud Powell, debut a trio from 1953, leads a sextet here, with Lawrence Jackson (trumpet), John Gilmore (tenor sax), Freddie Douglas (soprano sax), Ronnie Boykins (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums), with one vocal each from Earl Coleman and Marcelle Daniels. B+(***) [r]
Shirley Horn: May the Music Never End (2003, Verve): Standards singer (1934-2005), played her own piano and was good enough she sometimes got gigs backing other musicians. Debut 1960, struggled to find labels between 1965 and 1987, when she returned on Verve for a remarkable series of albums. This was her last album, the title a final wish, and she ceded the piano to Ahmad Jamal and arranger George Mesterhazy. But her vocals were as crisp and precise as ever -- even on "Yesterday," a song I thought no less than Ray Charles butchered. Slows down a bit much toward the end, but her poise remains remarkable. A- [sp]
Wayne Horvitz: 4 + 1 Ensemble (1998, Intuition): Pianist, albums back to 1979, composed everything, group starts with a delicate chamber jazz feel before revealing considerable strength. With Julian Priester (trombone), Eyvind Kang (violin), Reggie Watts (keyboards), and Tucker Martine ("processing"). B+(***) [sp]
Dick Hyman & John Sheridan: Forgotten Dreams: Archives of Novelty Piano (1920's-1930's) (2001 , Arbors): Piano duets. Hyman (b. 1927) established himself in the 1950s as an encyclopaedist of early jazz piano styles, then took a detour toward synths in the 1990s, only to return to his calling. Sheridan (1946-2021) is more strictly a trad jazz guy. These are old tunes, with multiples by Willie "The Lion" Smith, Rube Bloom, Zez Confrey, and Bob Zurke, plus a couple more. B+(***) [sp]
Abdullah Ibrahim Trio: Yarona (1995, Tiptoe): South African pianist, originally Dollar Brand, many albums since Duke Ellington discovered and presented him in 1963. Trio with Marcus McLaurine (bass) and George Johnson (drums). Recycles some of his old township jazz classics, like "African River" and "Tintinyana," and that always helps. A- [sp]
Abdullah Ibrahim: Cape Town Flowers (1997, Tiptoe): Another trio album, with Marcus McLaurine (bass) and George Gray (drums). B+(**) [sp]
Bobby Marchan: There's Something on Your Mind: The Greatest Hits (1960-72 , Fuel 2000): Originally from Ohio, was working as a drag queen in New Orleans when he joined Huey "Piano" Smith & the Clowns, before going on to record a couple hits and a few more interesting songs. The big ones ("There's Something on Your Mind," "The Things I Used to Do") came as two-part singles. Mixed bag, but such a character one hopes for better. B+(**) [sp]
The New York Allstars: Oh, Yeah! The New York Allstars Play More Music of Louis Armstrong (1998, Nagel Heyer): Trumpet player Randy Sandke's touring revival group, kicked off the The Bix Beiderbecke Era in 1993, recorded an Armstrong tribute in 1995, two Count Basie tributes in 1996, returns with more Armstrong songs here. Septet, with a second trumpet player (Byron Stripling, also a canny but not overused vocalist), trombone, clarinet (Allan Vaché), piano, bass, and drums. Album is dedicated to photographer Nancy Miller Elliot (1940-98), pictured on cover with Armstrong (as she was on the first volume, We Love You, Louis! B+(***) [sp]
The New York Allstars: Hey Ba-Ba-Re-Bop!: The New York Allstars Play Lionel Hampton: Volume One: (1998 , Nagel Heyer): Trumpet player Randy Sandke's retro-swing large group (9 pieces) revive the vibraphonist's big band, opening with "Air Mail Special" and closing with "Flying Home." Antti Sarpila's clarinet and alto sax get a workout, Lars Erstand adds the tinkle, and the rhythm section (including James Chirillo on guitar) do what they should. A- [r]
Huey "Piano" Smith & His Clowns: Having a Good Time (1957-58 , Ace): New Orleans piano player, recorded a few of the most infectious hits to come out of New Orleans in the late 1950s, most collected here ("Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu," "Little Liza Jane," "Don't You Know Yockomo," "Don't You Just Know It," "High Blood Pressure"). Several of those I first heard elsewhere, only to discover how much more fun the originals were. Of course, there are other compilations that pack more value -- my intro was Rhino's Serious Clownin' (1986) -- but the essential core is here, and the filler fits even if it don't always click. A- [sp]
Huey "Piano" Smith: That'll Get It: Even More of the Best (1956-62 , Westside): This is the third helping Westside scraped together in the late 1990s -- after The Very Best Of in 1997, recycling the Having a Good Time cover, and Havin' Fun (More of the Best) in 1999 -- all drawing from Smith's brief tenure on Ace, but how should you figure that? Smith left Ace for Imperial in 1959, but Ace recycled his rhythm tracks under other names for some time after that, and the majority of these songs are attributed to others. Eleven (of 24) tracks were previously unissued. Most are minor, but then you run across a track like "Blow Wind Blow" (Junior Gordon in 1956), and wonder how they missed that. B+(**) [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
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Sunday, February 19, 2023
February archive (in progress).
Music: Current count 39638  rated (+45), 42  unrated (-0: 14 new, 28 old).
I wrote quite a bit of Speaking of Which yesterday. When I got up today, I noticed I still had a tab open to an especially deluded Washington Post op-ed called How to break the stalemate in Ukraine, so I added a couple paragraphs on it. By "breaking the stalemate" they basically mean blowing it up and risking WWIII. Of course, they assume that won't happen. Even though they start from characterizing Putin as a psychotic tyrant set on empire expansion, they assume he is still sane enough to accept the humiliation of defeat (and that he doesn't dare offend China).
Wichita Eagle had an article today denying that Biden would visit Kyiv after Warsaw. Of course, he did land in Kyiv, on his way to Warsaw. I don't mind the security-directed deception. I won't even mind the sabre rattling if it's followed up with serious attempt to settle the war. I understand the logic, but I'm still skeptical that the hot air helps in any way.
Apologies for not relegating the politics to the bottom of this post, after the notes on the music. But no notes this week. I need to get this out of the way so I can get to dinner tonight, and don't have much to say anyway.
Playing The Best of Ace Records Volume 2: The R&B Hits as I post this. Five songs there by the late Huey "Piano" Smith.
New records reviewed this week:
Anthony Branker & Imagine: What Place Can Be for Us? A Suite in Ten Movements (2022 , Origin): Composer and arranger, originally a trumpet player (on a 1980 album), but has only directed nine albums since 2005. Seven piece group here, all familiar names (Walter Smith III, Philip Dizack, Remy Le Boeuf, Pete McCann, Fabian Almazan, Linda May Han Oh, Donald Edwards), with a bit of spoken word (Alison Crickett) to set the direction, from which everything flows organically. A- [cd]
Scott Hamilton: Talk to Me, Baby (2022, Blau): Tenor saxophonist, retro-swing, many albums since 1977, this a quartet with Dena DeRose (piano), Ignasi González (bass), and Jo Krause (drums), a group he's recorded five previous albums with (from 2015). B+(***) [sp]
Ben Rosenblum Nebula Project: A Thousand Pebbles (2023, One Trick Dog): Pianist, also plays accordion, has a couple previous albums, including one by this group: a septet with trumpet, two saxes, guitar, bass, and drums. Originals, aside from a Jobim. B+(*) [cd]
Markus Rutz: Storybook (2023, Jmarq): Trumpet player, based in Chicago, sixth album, mostly original pieces (covers of Kenny Dorham, Joe Henderson, Lil Hardin, and Mal Waldron). Quintet with Sharel Cassity (sax), piano, bass, and drums, with guitar on three tracks. B+(**) [cd]
Greg Ward's Rogue Parade: Dion's Quest (2021 , Sugah Hoof): Alto saxophonist, based in New York but early connections were in Chicago. Second group album, thickly layered with bass (Matt Ulery), drums (Quin Kirchner), two guitars (Matt Gold and Dave Miller), with the sax soaring above. Such layering is common in rock, stifling here. All original pieces by Ward. Title significance unknown. B- [cd]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Walter Blanding: The Olive Tree (1999, Criss Cross): Tenor saxophonist, was one of five who recorded as Tough Young Tenors in 1991, after which he joined the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (as did Herb Harris and Todd Williams -- not a great career move for any of them). He's an impressive player every time out, but only has this one album under his name, ably supported by Ryan Kisor (trumpet), Farid Barron (piano), Rodney Whitaker (bass), and Rodney Green (drums). Four originals, five standards (including Monk, Waller, and a nice "The Nearness of You"). B+(**) [sp]
Free Jazz Quartet: Premonitions (1989, Matchless): One-shot British group (although a second 1992 tape finally appeared in 2009), with Harrison Smith (tenor/soprano sax, bass clarinet), Paul Rutherford (trombone), Tony Moore (cello), and Eddie Prévost (drums). B+(***) [yt]
Chico Freeman: Chico (1977, India Navigation): Tenor saxophonist from Chicago, as was his father Von Freeman, who started out with Horace Henderson in the 1940s, had a band with two brothers that backed visiting acts including Charlie Parker, played with Sun Ra, but didn't really get much attention until after his son broke out. Second album, with Muhal Richard Abrams (piano), Cecil McBee (bass), Steve McCall (drums), and Tito Sampa (percussion). B+(***) [sp]
Chico Freeman: Kings of Mali (1977 , India Navigation): Reaches back to the Mali Empire (c. 1230-1672) for inspiration. Freeman plays some flute in addition to his tenor and soprano sax, riding on piano (Anthony Davis) and bass (Cecil McBee), with vibraphone (Jay Hoggard) and all manner of percussion (Famadou Don Moye). B+(**) [yt]
Chico Freeman: The Outside Within (1978 , India Navigation): Tenor saxophonist, also plays bass clarinet, with a really superb rhythm section of John Hicks (piano), Cecil McBee (bass), and Jack DeJohnette (drums). Liner notes by Amiri Baraka. [NB: This appears to be the same album I had listed as Chico Freeman Quartet, a Penguin Guide **** from 1978.] A- [yt]
Chico Freeman Quartet: No Time Left (1979, Black Saint): Recorded in Milano, with Jay Hoggard (vibes), Rick Rozie (bass), and Famadou Don Moye (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Chico Freeman/Von Freeman: Freeman & Freeman (1981 , India Navigation): Tenor saxophone duo, son and father, recorded live at the New York Shakespeare Festival, with piano (Kenny Barron, spelled by Muhal Richard Abrams on the 20:38 second cut), bass (Cecil McBee), and drums (Jack DeJohnette). Starts with a joust and there's plenty more (ending with one called "Jug Aint Gone" -- the elder certainly knew Gene Ammons), but they also slip in "Lover Man" and "I Remember You." B+(***) [sp]
Chico Freeman: You'll Know When You Get There (1988 , Black Saint): With his father Von Freeman also on tenor sax ("Feat." credit on cover, allows the son to diversify with alto and soprano sax, bass clarinet, and synths). With Eddie Allen (trumpet), Geri Allen (keyboards), bass, and drums. Choice cover of "Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)." B+(***) [sp]
Don Friedman: My Romance: Solo Piano (1996 , SteepleChase): Pianist (1935-2016), originally from San Francisco, moved to New York in 1958 and started recording for Riverside about the same time as Bill Evans (they shared bassists Scott LaFaro and Chuck Israels). This is solo, well-known standards, smartly done. B+(***) [sp]
Richard Galliano: Concerts Inédits (1996-98 , Dreyfus, 3CD): French accordion player, father from Italy, grew up in Nice, debut 1982, draws on forms like tango (he has recorded a couple albums with Astor Piazzolla). This collects three concerts: a solo from the Umbria Jazz Winter Festival, a duo with Michel Portal from NDR in Germany, and a trio with Jean-François Jenny-Clark and Daniel Humair from Montreux, each on its own disc. The accordion in his hands is surprisingly sufficient, probably thanks to the rhythmic intensity. Portal's clarinet adds a bit of harmony, the bass and drums accents. A- [r]
Vincent Gardner Quintet: Elbow Room (2005, SteepleChase): Trombonist, Penguin Guide likes the first of his three The Good Book volumes, each steeped in the bebop/hard bop era, but hard to find. This is slightly earlier, with four originals, a couple standards, a Monk, and Parker and Coltrane to close. With Walter Blanding (tenor/soprano sax), piano (Aaron Goldberg), bass, and drums. B+(**) [r]
Charles Gayle Quartet: More Live at the Knitting Factory: February, 1993 (1993, Knitting Factory Works, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist from Buffalo, also plays bass clarinet and violin here (and piano, quite impressively, elsewhere). In a nutshell, he's the second coming of Albert Ayler, but after a rocky start has proven much more durable. Quartet with two bassists (Vattel Cherry and William Parker, the latter also on cello and violin) and drums (Marc Edwards on the first disc, Michael Wimberly on the second -- the recording spans three dates). B+(***) [r]
Michael Gibbs: Michael Gibbs (1970, Deram): Born in colonial Rhodesia in 1937, moved to Boston in 1959 to study music, and thence to England, where he was one of several composers who broke radical new ground in the late 1960s. This was his first album, a big band extravaganza, with 38 credits, ranging from Cream bassist Jack Bruce to the avant-fringe, in a record that's too big to fit into anyhone's pigeonhole. A- [yt]
The Mike Gibbs Orchestra: Big Music (1988-90 , ACT): Another big band extravaganza, originally released in 1988, the reissue adding a later bonus track. I'm counting 22 musician credits, plus a lot of engineering support -- I won't try to list them all, but the guitar roster is: Bill Frisell, John Scofield, and Kevin Eubanks. B+(***) [yt]
Jon Gordon: The Things You Are (2005 , ArtistShare): Alto saxophonist (also soprano), born in New York, albums from 1989. With Ben Monder (guitar), Joe Martin (bass), and Billy Drummond and/or Bill Campbell (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Stéphane Grappelli/Michel Petrucciani: Flamingo (1995 , Dreyfus): Two French musicians with Italian names: the violinist (1908-97) nearing the end of a long career that goes back to the 1930s with Django Reinhardt in the Hot Club de Paris, and the diminuitive pianist who only lasted a couple more years (1962-99). Also named, in smaller print, on the front cover: George Mraz (bass), and Roy Haynes (drums). B+(**) [sp]
Benny Green/Russell Malone: Jazz at the Bistro (2002 , Telarc): Piano and guitar duo, picking their way through jazz and pop standards, with one (relatively short) original by each. B+(**) [sp]
Bobby Hackett and His Jazz Band: Coast Concert (1955 , Capitol): Cornet player (1915-76), started in big bands of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, was featured on Jackie Gleason's 1950s albums, but mostly stuck with Dixieland, as is the case here. Band includes trombonist Jack Teagarden, who sings "Basin Street Blues." B+(**) [r]
Bobby Hackett/Jack Teagarden: Jazz Ultimate (1957 , Capitol): Trumpet and trombone, still rooted in the trad jazz of New Orleans but smoothes out the polyphony, with Ernie Caceres and Peanuts Hucko on sax and clarinet, plus guitar (Billy Bauer), piano (Gene Schroeder), bass, and drums. B+(**) [r]
Bobby Hackett: Hello Louis: Bobby Hackett Plays the Music of Louis Armstrong (1964, Epic): It's tempting to say that every album Hackett records is a tribute to Armstrong, but this one goes a step further in its focus on Armstrong writing credits, as opposed to the standards that have been part of both's sets forever. Discogs doesn't offer musician credits, but here's what I've gleaned from the back cover: Steve Lacy (soprano sax), Sonny Russo (trombone), Harvey Phillips (tuba), Roger Kellaway (piano), Al Chernet (banjo), Ronny Bedford (drums). Even though it's more explicitly connected, this is also subtler, sounding less like second-tier Armstrong than Coast Concert above. B+(***) [r]
The Bobby Hackett Quartet Plus Vic Dickenson: This Is My Bag (1968 , Project 3): Starts out sounding like one of the trombonist's typically fine albums, then goes soft on the back side. Hackett, you may recall, had a side line adding romantic solos to Jackie Gleason albums, and he slips all too easily into that here. Picks up a bit when Dickenson figures out the game. B+(**) [r]
Charlie Haden/Egberto Gismonti: In Montreal (1989 , ECM): Bassist (1937-2014), started in Ornette Coleman's legendary quartet, branched out enough so broadly that he wound up hosting an "Invitation" series of concerts in 1989 at the Montreal Jazz Festival. Six appeared as The Montreal Tapes 1994-2003. This duo with the Brazilian guitarist/pianist looks a bit different, but belongs in the same series. B+(**) [r]
Charlie Haden/Jan Garbarek/Egberto Gismonti: Magico (1979 , ECM): American bassist, Norwegian saxophonist (tenor and soprano), and Brazilian guitarist/pianist, met in Oslo for five songs (two by Gismonti, one each by the others, a Brazilian cover to open). B+(*) [sp]
Charlie Haden/Jan Garbarek/Egberto Gismonti: Folk Songs (1979 , ECM): A second session, five months later, also in Oslo. Only one song ("Folk Song") was actually traditional. Gismonti wrote three songs, the others one each. B+(**) [sp]
Charlie Haden/Billy Higgins/Enrico Pieranunzi: First Song (1990 , Soul Note): Title and two more songs written by the bassist, with pianist Pieranunzi contributing two songs, and covers from Charlie Parker, Lennie Tristano, and Jimmy Van Heusen ("Polka Dots and Moonbeams" and "All the Way"). B+(***) [sp]
Jim Hall: Jazz Guitar (1957, Pacific Jazz): Guitarist (1930-2013), was part of the generation that moved jazz guitar from swing to bebop. First album, trio with piano (Carl Perkins) and bass (Red Mitchell). Still draws more heavily on swing, with pieces by Ellington and Goodman, standards like "Stella by Starlight" and "Stomping at the Savoy." B+(**) [sp]
Jim Hall: Dialogues (1995, Telarc): Guitar duets, two each with Bill Frisell (guitar), Gil Goldstein (accordian), Tom Harrell (trumpet), Joe Lovano (tenor sax), and Mike Stern (guitar), most with bassist Scott Colley (6) and/or drummer Andy Watson (8). All original pieces, except for "Skylark." B+(***) [sp]
Bengt Hallberg: Time on My Hands (1994-95 , Improkomp, 2CD): Swedish pianist (1932-2013), alone with Arne Domnérus and Lars Gullin one of the first important jazz musicians to emerge in Sweden in the 1950s. Swedish intros. Solo, bright takes on many standards. [Note: Digital split into two volumes.] B+(***) [sp]
Scott Hamilton: From the Beginning (1977-78 , Concord, 2CD): Retro swing tenor saxophonist, originally from Rhode Island, quickly found a home at Concord and recorded regulary for them up to 2008. This collects his first two albums, the marvelous Scott Hamilton Is a Good Wind Who Is Blowing Us No Ill and the somewhat less imaginative 2. The only lineup difference is the addition of Scott Berry (trumpet) on the first disc. Both have the rhythm section of Nat Pierce (piano), Cal Collins (guitar), Monty Budwig (bass), and Jack Hanna (drums). A- [sp]
Scott Hamilton: Tenorshoes (1979 , Concord): Third album, quartet with Dave McKenna (piano), Phil Flanagan (bass), and Jeff Hamilton (drums; no relation, but famous in his own right). B+(***) [sp]
Albert King: The Very Best of Albert King [Blues Masters: The Essential Blues Collection] (1960-73 , Rhino): Got this as a birthday present: always a risky proposition, but I didn't happen to own it, although I had an overlapping comp -- Rhino's The Ultimate Collection (2CD, A-) -- as well as two of his best-regarded albums (both A-): Born Under a Bad Sign (1967) and King of the Blues Guitar (1969). It occurs to me that I should note the series along with the title, given how generic the title is, and how valuable the series was. A- [cd]
Return to Forever: The Anthology (1973-76 , Concord, 2CD): Chick Corea's mid-1970s fusion group, named for his actually-pretty-good 1972 album (with saxophonist Joe Farrell, bass guitarist Stanley Clarke, drummer Airto Moreira, with Flora Purim singing). Only Clarke returned for this period, along with Bill Connors (later Al Di Meola) on guitar, and Lenny White on drums. This picks up most of four albums: Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy (1973), Where Have I Known You Before (1974), No Mystery (1975), and Romantic Warrior (1976). I could credit their energy and drive, but their only knack is to make speed even more oppressive than tedium. C [cd]
Return to Forever Featuring Chick Corea: Hymn to the Seventh Galaxy (1973, Polydor): Complete in The Anthology, so let's assign it a grade. (Also complete is Romantic Warrior, previously graded at C+, which I don't care about enough to lower. By the way, Robert Christgau's grade was D+; this one, citing its "spirit energy," Christgau graded B). C [cd]
Return to Forever Featuring Chick Corea: Where Have I Known You Before (1974, Polydor): Four short pieces were omitted from The Anthology, so pretty much as expected (although the 2:09 title piece is rather nice). Al Di Meolo takes over on guitar, with Corea on keyboards, Stanley Clarke on bass and organ, and White drums and percussion (including congas and bongos). C [sp]
Return to Forever Featuring Chick Corea: No Mystery (1975, Polydor): Same group, Corea claims most of the songs but everyone chips in, and Lenny White's "Sofistifunk" is entertaining while it lasts (3:20). Still the combination of heavy riffs and relentless drumming wears down fast. C- [sp]
Return to Forever: Musicmagic (1977, Columbia): After Romantic Warrior (1976), the lineup broke in half, with Corea (keyboards) and Clarke (bass) staying, Di Meola and White split. Joe Farrell (flute/sax) returned, leading a horn section, Gerry Brown took over at drums, and Corea's wife Gayle Moran sang and played keyboards. It's different, but no better. C- [sp]
Tough Young Tenors: Alone Together (1991, Antilles): Group name, which probably refers back to a 1960 album by Johnny Griffin and Eddie "Lockjaw" Harris, has stuck with me as a catch all for all the mainstream tenor saxophonists who emerged in the 1990s, but here it refers to just five -- Walter Blanding (age 20), James Carter (22), Herb Harris (23), Tim Warfield (26), and Todd Williams (24) -- backed by piano (Marcus Roberts), bass (Reginald Veal), and drums (Ben Riley), on this one album. Not much of a joust: they're well behaved, and a highlight is a lovely "You Go to My Head" by just one of them. I don't know who. Carter is by far the best remembered now, but he was still three years shy of his debut (JC on the Set, 1994). B+(***) [r]
Junior Wells & the Aces: Live in Boston 1966 (1966 , Delmark): Chicago bluesman, up from Memphis, sang and played harmonica, first recordings 1953 but breakthrough was with Hoodoo Man Blues in 1965, the first of many pairings with Buddy Guy. The Aces were a Chicago blues band -- Louis Myers (guitar), Dave Myers (bass), Fred Below (drums) -- that recorded with various guests, notably Robert Jr. Lockwood. This appeared well after Wells' death in 1998. Takes a bit to get going, but eventually gets that mojo working. B+(**) [r]
Junior Wells: Live at Theresa's 1975 (1975 , Delmark): Eleven tracks from January 13, with Byther Smith and Phil Guy on guitar, plus nine more from three days earlier, with Guy and Sammy Lawhorn. B+(***) [r]
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.
Simon H. Fell: Composition No. 12.5: Compilation II for Improvisers, Jazz Ensemble and Electronics (1990 , Bruce's Fingers): British bassist (1959-2020), three dozen albums starting in 1984. This was originally released in 1990 as Compilation II and on cassette as Composition II. Ten-piece group, including violin and cello, Fell also playing keyboards and electronics. [3/9 tracks] ++ [bc]
Simon H. Fell: Composition No. 30: Compilation III: For Improvisers, Big Band and Chamber Ensemble (1998, Bruce's Fingers): Massive piece, with 42 musicians playing for 125 minutes. [3/15 tracks] + [bc]
Paul Hession/Alan Wilkinson/Simon H. Fell: Foom! Foom! (1992, Bruce's Fingers): Penguin Guide filed this under the bassist, but the cover order (last names only) starts with drums then sax (soprano/alto/baritone). [2/6 tracks] + [bc]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
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Monday, February 13, 2023
February archive (in progress).
Music: Current count 39593  rated (+38), 42  unrated (-6: 14 new, 28 old).
Rated count is high enough, but since I decided not to keep a tracking file (like I've done for many years, including 2022 with 5046 albums) I've been blissfully unaware of new non-jazz releases. On the other hand, there is a long list previously unheard music in my Penguin Guide 4-star list, and that suffices for now.
The latest plan is to suck up the recent music reviews into the book drafts, then empty them out into a redesigned website, so I figure anything that helps patch up old gaps is probably worthwhile. On the other hand, I've given up on trying to stay current. Maybe I'm still enough of a jazz critic to play catch up later on, but that'll depend on what else I manage to get going.
This week it's all been catch up. I finally added my Oct. 22 Book Roundup blurbs to my Book Notes compendium (beware: count is now 6145 books, 340k words, a file that should be broken up and stuffed into a database). I've also finally done the indexing for the December and January Streamnotes files, including the Music Weeks roll ups.
I'm still planning on doing the frozen snapshot of the 2022 list by the end of February, although I haven't actually added anything to the list this week (or last, as best I recall).
Incoming mail has been relatively high the last few weeks, so the drop to zero this week probably means little.
I wrote a fairly long Speaking of Which yesterday. One thing I didn't go into is that Democrats could start to divide over foreign policy, where Biden has resurrected the Blob. Left democrats have generally tolerated this, probably because Biden has been more accommodating on domestic policy, and because he handled the Afghanistan debacle with aplomb, but there are lots of obvious pitfalls, including some potential disasters, that could ultimately split the Democratic Party, not unlike Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam War. I don't see anyone -- even Sanders or Warren -- taking these risks seriously, let alone trying to steer foreign policy back onto a saner course. On the other hand, there is a pretty obvious platform that someone could challenge Biden on -- although the chances of winning in 2024 are miniscule, the odds of being right in the long run are much greater.
As noted, I ordered a couple of books from the very prolific Nathan J. Robinson, whose Current Affairs is by far the most useful of the explicitly socialist websites I've seen. (I regularly consult Jacobin and Counterpunch, but find much less there that I feel like forwarding -- Jeffrey St Clair's "Roaming Charges" is an exception, mostly for its breadth of coverage but also because I don't mind a little snark.)
I'm midway through Timothy Shenk's Realigners, which is to say I finished the profile on W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) and am deep inside the one on Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) -- neither of whom realigned anything, but got tossed back and forth trying to find a political party they could identify with. That was, of course, much harder for Du Bois, who I grew up more familiar with.
Lippmann has always been an enigma to me, as I've never understood why so many people accorded him such great respect and authority. From what I've read, I don't see that changing. I turned hard against Cold War Liberals during the Vietnam War, and while he wasn't much of a presence then, he seems to have been one of their prototypes and heroes. One thing I didn't know was that he coined the phrase "the great society," then wound up writing a book called The Good Society.
Next up is the horrible Phyllis Schlafly, although the chapter I'm more worried about is the one on Barack Obama, whose idea of realignment seems to have been to line up Wall Street and Silicon Valley behind the Democrats, and take the rest of us for a ride where the superrich pull away from everyone else.
New records reviewed this week:
Satoko Fujii/Otomo Yoshihide: Perpetual Motion (2022 , Ayler): Piano and guitar duo, both free, frisky, and potentially explosive. B+(***) [cd]
Jo Lawry: Acrobats (2022 , Whirlwind): Standards singer from Australia, based in New York. Several albums since 2008. The secret to this one is minimal (but expert) backing, on bass (Linda May Han Oh) and drums (Allison Miller), which lets her scat and skip over the wit, especially of Cole Porter ("You're the Top") and Frank Loesser. Another standout is "Takes Two to Tango." A- [cd]
Dave Liebman: Live at Smalls (2022 , Cellar Music): Soprano/tenor saxophonist, long list of albums since 1973, plays in fast and relatively avant company here, with Peter Evans (trumpet), Leo Genovese (piano), John Hébert (bass), and Tyshawn Sorey (drums). B+(***) [cd]
Delfeayo Marsalis Uptown Jazz Orchestra: Uptown on Mardi Gras Day (2022 , Troubadour Jass): Trombonist, fourth son and third musician sired by pianist Ellis Marsalis, celebrates his native New Orleans with a big band party album, adding three originals to the standard fare, with several vocalists in the crowd. B+(***) [cd]
Jason Moran: From the Dancehall to the Battlefield (2022 , Yes): "A meditation on the life and legacy of James Reese Europe" (1881-1919), a composer and bandleader born in Mobile, moved to Washington, DC when he was 10, and on to New York in 1904, where he organized his first bands. He went on to lead a military band in WWII, touring widely and recording several songs in France. When he returned to America, he played Carnegie Hall with a 125-piece orchestra. Moran stitched this together from Europe's compositions, three W.C. Handy blues in Europe's repertoire, a couple originals, and bits of Albert Ayler and Pauline Oliveros, played by a tentet with four brass, three reeds, piano, bass, and drums. A- [bc]
Eldad Tarmu: Tarmu Jazz Quartet (2022 , Queen of Bohemia): Vibraphonist, born in Los Angeles, parents were Israeli, hype sheet credits this as his tenth album (going back to 1998, as far as I can tell). With alto sax (Adam Hutcheson), bass, and drums. Sax is impressive, and the vibes are nicely interlaced. B+(**) [cd] [03-01]
Rachel Therrien Latin Jazz Project: Mi Hogar (2022 , Outside In Music): Canadian trumpet player, from Montreal, fifth album since 2011, wrote three songs, covers include Coltrane and Gillespie ("Con Alma"), with a variable cast that always includes plenty of percussion. B+(**) [cd] [02-13]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Ray Brown: The Best of the Concord Years (1973-93 , Concord, 2CD): Bassist (1926-2002), probably held a record for most album appearances (according to a Penguin Guide count; the current leader is almost certainly Ron Carter). He was in Oscar Peterson's trio (1951-65), which was effectively Norman Granz's house band, and recorded extensively in the Poll Winners (with Barney Kessel and Shelly Manne). He was a natural for Concord, where he led his piano trios, and helped out everywhere (piano trios, mostly with Gene Harris and Jeff Hamilton or Mickey Roker, account for 14 of 25 tracks here). B+(**) [r]
Chick Corea: Rendezvous in New York (2001 , Stretch, 2CD): Also released on SACD, so the regular CDs were some kind of afterthought. Opens with three Bobby McFerrin duets, then scattered combos recapitulating much of his career: a trio with Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes; his Bud Powell band with Terence Blanchard and Joshua Redman; a duet with Gary Burton; his Akoustic band with John Patitucci and Dave Weckl, Origin, a duet with Gonzalo Rubalcaba, a New Trio with Avishai Cohen and Jeff Ballard, and a Quartet with Michael Brecker. I tend to favor the horn groups, and could do without McFerrin, but the piano is superb throughout. B+(**) [r]
The Sonny Criss Orchestra: Sonny's Dream (Birth of the New Cool) (1968, Prestige): Alto saxophonist (1927-77), born in Memphis but moved to Los Angeles when he was 15, was a fiery bebop player, recording for Prestige 1966-72. This tentet, with three brass (Conte Candoli on trumpet, plus trombone and tuba), four saxophones (including Teddy Edwards on tenor), and Tommy Flanagan on piano, is exceptional, notably for then-unknown Horace Tapscott as arranger-conductor. B+(***) [yt]
Meredith D'Ambrosio: It's Your Dance (1985, Sunnyside): Jazz singer, plays piano (on 6/14 songs here, with Harold Danko on the others), writes some (4/14 here, counting her lyrics to "Giant Steps"). Fourth album, starting from 1980, also with Kevin Eubanks on guitar, very nicely done. B+(***) [r]
Lars Danielsson Quartet: Poems (1991, Dragon): Swedish bassist, debut 1986, quartet with David Liebman (soprano sax, composer of three tracks to go with the leader's five), Bobo Stenson (piano), and Jon Christensen (drums). I've never been a big fan of Liebman's soprano, but the pacing here is so expert he can do no wrong. A- [r]
Stefano D'Anna Trio: Leapin' In (1991 , Splasc(H)): Italian saxophonist, mostly plays tenor, b. 1959, possibly his first record, a trio with Enzo Pietropaoli (bass) and Fabrizio Sferra (drums). Strong sax runs, probably worth a closer look. B+(***) [r]
Stefano D'Anna Quartet: Carousel (1998, Splasc(H)): Originals, with guitar (Fabio Zeppetella), bass (Pietro Ciancaglini), and drums (Roberto Gatto). Another strong outing. B+(***) [r]
Stefano D'Anna: Runa (2003 , Splasc(H)): Another saxophone trio, this one with Pietro Ciancaglini (bass) and Mimmo Cafiero (drums). A bit sweeter than the debut, but every bit as solid, maybe even better. B+(***) [r]
Carlo Actis Dato: Ankara Twist (1989 , Splasc(H)): Italian clarinet and saxophone (tenor/baritone) player, debut 1985, this is the first of a series of albums that keyed their titles to an exotic city (Delhi Mambo, which I haven't found yet, is the Penguin Guide favorite). Quartet with saxophonist Piero Ponzo (alto, baritone, clarinet, flute), Enrico Fazio (bass), and Fiorenzo Sordini (drums). I'm a bit thrown by the vocal bits, which play almost like skits, but the quirky instrumentals are much fun. B+(***) [r]
Carlo Actis Dato Quartet: Bagdad Boogie (1992, Splasc(H)): Same Quartet, several members credited with "voices, noises." B+(**) [r]
Carlo Actis Dato Quartet: Blue Cairo (1995 , Splasc(H)): Same quartet, less vocal interference (although they sampled some street voices on a side trip to Nepal), but also a bit less persuasive rhythm. B+(**) [r]
Carlo Actis Dato Quartet: Istanbul Rap (2002 , YVP): Same quartet, cover image brandishing a bass clarinet and a fez, album opens with a lively mambo, and rarely lets up. A-
Wolfgang Dauner/Charlie Mariano/Dino Saluzzi: Pas De Trois (1989, Mood): German pianist (1935-2020), early on played in fusion groups like United Jazz + Rock Ensemble. This is a trio with alto sax and bandoneon. B+(**) [r]
Danny D'Imperio: Blues for Philly Joe (1991 , V.S.O.P.): Drummer, started in 1970 with the Glenn Miller ghost band, moved on to other big bands (Maynard Ferguson, Woody Herman, subbed for Buddy Rich). First album as leader, appears to be a tribute to bebop drummer Philly Joe Jones, pieces from that era including the title song penned by Sonny Rollins. Mostly sextet with trumpet (Greg Gisbert), saxes (Gary Pribek and Ralph Lalama), piano (Hod O'Brien), and bass, plus guitar on two tracks. Bebop dynamics with attention to harmonic layering. A- [sp]
Danny D'Imperio: Hip to It (1992 , V.S.O.P.): Pretty much the same group -- Andy Fusco takes over at alto sax, and guitarist Steve Brown plays more, and arranges six of the bebop-era pieces. Still, feels more like a big band outing. B+(**) [sp]
Johnny Dodds: The Chronological Johnny Dodds 1927 (1927 , Classics): Clarinet player from New Orleans, started with Kid Ory (1911-16), moved to Chicago 1920, playing in King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five, and Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Peppers. His second volume in this French archival series, includes groups he led, a duo with Tiny Parham, and other groups led by Jasper Taylor, Jimmy Bertrand, and Jimmy Blythe (including State Street Ramblers and Dixie-Land Thumpers). This intersects with a couple equally recommended compilations: Blue Clarinet Stomp (RCA Bluebird) and Johnny Dodds and Jimmy Blythe (Timeless). A- [r]
Arne Domnérus Quartet: Sugar Fingers (1993, Phontastic): Swedish alto saxophonist (1924-2008), also played clarinet, a major figure from his 1949 debut. Quartet with Jan Lundgren (piano), Sture Åkerberg (bass), and Johan Löfcrantz (drums), plus Lars Erstrand on vibes (tracks 8-12). B+(***) [sp]
Kenny Drew Jr.: Third Phase (1989, Jazz City): Pianist (1958-2014), as was his namesake father, seems to have lived his whole life in the US, while his father moved to Paris in 1961, then on to Copenhagen three years later. Impressive command here, playing standards, backed by Buster Williams (bass) and Marvin "Smitty" Smith (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Dutch Swing College Band: Live in 1960 (1960 , Philips): Traditional Dixieland jazz band founded in 1945 by Peter Schilperoort (clarinet/sax), who led the band (aside from a 1950s sabbatical) until his death in 1990, with the band continuing to the present. They have a lot of albums, with this being one of two singled out by Penguin Guide. B+(***) [sp]
Billy Eckstine: Everything I Have Is Yours: The MGM Years (1947-58 , Verve, 2CD): Jazz singer and pop crooner, led a big band in the 1940s which was an important bebop incubator, where he shared vocal duties with Sarah Vaughan. That big band appears four cuts in with "Mr. B's Blues," leaving one to wonder why so much of the rest of the set consists of string-backed ballads. The early ones are rather starchy, and his voice is one that must have seemed more impressive in the early 1950s but has aged like opera. Still, give him some jazz to work with, and he may surprise you. B+(**) [r]
Marty Ehrlich: Pliant Plaint (1987 , Enja): Alto saxophonist, also plays clarinets and flutes, originally from St. Paul, studied at New England Conservatory, moved to New York in 1978. Early album, a quartet with Stan Strickland (soprano/tenor sax, flute), Anthony Cox (bass), and Robert Previte (drums). B+(**) [r]
Marty Ehrlich: New York Child (1995 , Enja): Quintet, with tenor saxophonist Stan Strickland complementing the leader), and first-rate backing from Michael Cain (piano), Michael Formanek (bass), and Bill Stewart (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Roy Eldridge & Vic Dickenson: With Eddie Locke and His Friends Feat. Budd Johnson, Tommy Flanagan, Major Holley: Recorded in Concert at St. Peter's Church, NYC, May 20, 1978 (1978 , Storyville): I hate having to parse title and credits like this, as I could have sliced it up many ways. Note that "Roy Eldridge & Vic Dickenson" is the only fragment that appears on the spine, though whether that's artist credit, title, or both is up for grabs. Everything else is on the front cover. Back cover reveals that drummer Locke is the leader, and it would literally make more sense to credit this to Eddie Locke and His Friends, given that the whole band ("his friends") got listed sooner or later, but why title an album for its stars then not credit it to them? Vintage (rather than retro) swing, but you knew that. You may have even known that Johnson would be the real star. B+(**) [r]
Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Three Guys From Chikago (1981, Moers Music): Chicago percussionist Kahil El'Zabar, first album, introduces a trio that with various personnel have released 16 albums through 2019. With two saxophonists, Henry Huff (tenor, soprano, bass clarinet) and Edward Wilkerson (alto, tenor, baritone, flute), both also credited with "small instruments." Horns strike me as harsh and unsteady at first, but group gets steadily better, especially on the closer ("Brother Malcolm"). B+(**) [yt]
Bill Evans: The Brilliant (1980 , Timeless): Piano trio, with Marc Johnson (bass) and Joe LaBarbera (drums), from a week at Keystone Corner in San Francisco, less than a month before the pianist died at 51. While he suffered from multiple ailments, in the wake of drug abuse, this particular trio was one of his best, and much of what he recorded in 1980 merits this title. The full stand was later released as The Last Waltz (8-CD, in 2000) and Consecration: Part 2 (8-CD, in 2002), but non-obsessives should be happy with this fine sampler. Timeless went on to release two further volumes under Consecration, which was also the title of an 8-CD box on Alfa Jazz. A- [r]
John Fedchock: New York Big Band (1992 , Reservoir): Trombonist, learned his big band craft with Woody Herman and others, leading to this debut. One thing about staging a big band in New York is that it's easy to find lots of solo talent. Five original pieces, six covers, most easily recognized would be "Caravan" but for "Flintstoned." B+(***) [sp]
Maynard Ferguson: Birdland Dream Band (1956 , Vik): Big band conducted by Canadian trumpet player Maynard Ferguson (whose name doesn't appear on the cover, but shows up on Volume 2), who had moved to the US in 1948 and played in Stan Kenton's Innovations Orchestra 1950-53, followed by a stint playing on Paramount soundtracks. Morris Levy organized this 15-piece band to play at his Birdland club in New York. Ferguson's high notes towered above a brass section that included trombonists Eddie Bert and Jimmy Cleveland; the saxophonists were Al Cohn, Budd Johnson, Herb Geller, and Ernie Wilkins; and the rhythm section: Hank Jones, Milt Hinton, and Jimmy Campbell. B+(***) [r]
Maynard Ferguson: Birdland Dream Band: Volume 2 (1956 , Vik): Twelve more tracks from later in September, personnel varying a bit but the essentials are in place: Al Cohn and Budd Johnson in the sax section, and the leader's stratospheric trumpet. [Both volumes later collected by Fresh Sound as Maynard Ferguson and His Birdland Dream Band.] B+(**) [r]
Dave Liebman: Drum Ode (1974 , ECM): Early record, plays soprano sax, tenor sax, and alto flute, blows free over fusion (electric guitar-piano-bass) and/or worldbeat (drummers Bob Moses and Jeff Williams, Barry Altschul and Steve Sattan just credited with percussion, plus a mix of tablas, bongos, and congas) or sometimes fills in. One vocal by Eleana Steinberg is neither here nor there. A- [sp]
David Liebman/Richard Beirach: Double Edge (1985 , Storyville): Sax and piano duo, better known as Dave and Richie, no idea how many records they recorded together but the first was in 1975 and they go up to 2018. B+(**) [sp]
Dave Liebman Group: Miles Away (1994 , Owl): Before his own records, Liebman spent a couple years in Miles Davis's early-1970s fusion group: something he looks back on here, with five Davis songs in play, also tunes penned by Gil Evans, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul ("In a Silent Way"), Charles Mingus, and a couple others. He plays soprano sax here, with Phil Markowitz on keyboards, Vic Juris (guitar), Tony Marino (bass), and Jamey Haddad (drums). B+(**) [r]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
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Monday, February 6, 2023
February archive (in progress).
Music: Current count 39555  rated (+21), 48  unrated (+9: 20 new, 28 old).
Took a break after the excesses of last week and last month. I spent two days on a fried chicken dinner, during which I only played old favorites. Finally, over the weekend (while writing Speaking of Which), I finally dug up my unplayed Penguin Guide 4-star list, and started up in the 'C' section. (I'm deleting as I knock items off.)
Lots of items from that list aren't on streaming (probably most of them). I've also generally skipped over compilations from familiar artists, especially material I've heard elsewhere (e.g., a lot of Louis Armstrong). And sometimes I've had to make adjustments, like with Eddie Condon's The Town Hall Concerts, where 2-CD sets have recently (hard to tell how recently) been broken up into pieces for download/streaming. (For example, The Town Hall Concerts Five and Six are the first half of the previous Vol. 3. Also, the Condon twofers on Collectables have been split up, with one piece of one of them reduced to EP-length). When I get into an artist like Condon, it's tempting to go deeper, but for now I've mostly restrained myself -- I did substitute the Timeless 1928-1931 for the similar Classics set, and added the 3.5-star In Japan.
Once again, I've neglected my paperwork, including the indexing for recent Streamnotes files. I also haven't frozen the 2022 list. (Started to, then noticed that I didn't freeze 2021 until February 28, so I might keep that consistent this year.) I think I added one set to the EOY Aggregate (from Christian Iszchak, although I should also add the latest from Phil Overeem).
The 12th Annual Expert Witness Poll Results have been turned into a web page. The Expert Witness Facebook group boasts 371 members, but only 43 voted. Would be nice to have the individual ballots collected (and I don't mean in a Google spreadsheet, like PJRP uses). I included the ones I found in my EOY Aggregate (looks like I got 19 of them, plus a few more that I tracked from independent lists, like: Sidney Carpenter-Wilson), Chuck Eddy, Christian Iszchak Brad Luen, Chris Monsen, and no doubt others.
We had a small disaster at the Robert Christgau website, when a software change made by the ISP broke the database access code. They fixed the problem fairly quickly, but it shows that I need to upgrade the code to play nice with PHP 8 (since not breaking websites seems to be beyond the ken of the PHP developers). I've been thinking more lately about a revision of the now-22-year-old website code, and may finally have some time to work on it. We've long needed to migrate to the UTF-8 codeset, and to make everything HTML5 proper (about half of the pages are). There is also a lot of dead PHP 5 code to be cleaned out (PHP 7 broke it, especially the database code). Also need to fix the viewport for cell phones, and that probably means redoing the navigation menus, and replacing the table layout code with divs and spans and more CSS.
Functionality-wise, the main thing I'd like to do is to put all the page metadata into the database (I'm ok with leaving the page text in flat files), so the 2001 Voice-centric directory structure is, if not gone, purely atavistic. This would help make browsing more flexible. I'd also like to add a category/keyword system, which again would add many more dimensions for browsing. Plus I need to do a better job of documenting everything, so the next poor sod who has to maintain the site has some clue as to how it works. None of these things, at least codewise, are very difficult, but there's a ton of data to run through the wringer. That's probably what's been daunting me for years now.
I've also started to think about rebuilding my website. The idea here is to create a new directory structure alongside the old "ocston" framework, then start moving content into it. The new structure would also be build mostly out of flat files, but would have a database to index the files, and possibly manage some structured content (like album grades and/or book blurbs). I've collected lots of content in LibreWriter files, but that hasn't made it any more accessible. So maybe the best solution is to bust it up again? As I want to eventually organize some of this writing in book form, a flexible website configuration might be a useful path forward.
I have an email list for discussing my website plans. If you're interested in the gritty technical details, let me know and I'll sign you up. Traffic on the list has been very light, but would pick up if I ever got my ass in gear.
New records reviewed this week:
Kwesi Arthur: Son of Jacob (2022, Ground Up Chale): Rapper-singer from Ghana, first album, musical flow. B+(**) [sp]
Skip Grasso: Becoming (2022 , Barking Coda Music): Guitarist, has a previous group album. This is a quartet with Anthony Powell (keyboards), Harvie S (bass), and Billy Drummond (drums). All original pieces, pleasant enough. B [cd]
The Dave Stryker Trio: Prime (2022 , Strikezone): Guitarist, trio with Jared Gold (organ) and McClenty Hunter (drums). Creatures of habit, starting off each year with a new album of tasty groove. B+(***) [cd]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Terri Lyne Carrington/Adam Rogers/Jimmy Haslip/Greg Osby: Structure (2003 , ACT): Drums, guitar, bass, alto sax. Everyone brought songs, plus they cover one by Joni Mitchell ("Ethiopia," which Carrington sings). B+(***) [sp]
Betty Carter: Look What I Got! (1988, Verve): Jazz singer (1929-98), started in ill-fitting big bands -- Lionel Hampton reportedly fired her seven times -- kicked around various labels before she finally took charge of her own (Bet-Car), which after 1976 was distributed by Verve, giving her the autonomy she demanded and the exposure she craved. She won a Grammy for this one, although it strikes me as a bit of a muddle -- despite an interesting "The Man I Love," highlighted by Don Braden's sax. B+(*) [sp]
Ron Carter/Jim Hall: Telephone (1984 , Concord): Bass and guitar duo, did a previous album (Alone Together) in 1973, as well as Alive at Village West in 1982. This one was also recorded live. B+(*) [sp]
Soesja Citroen: Soesja Citroen Sings Thelonious Monk (1983 , Timeless): Dutch jazz singer, early album, backed by trio or larger groups up to octet led by pianist Cees Slinger. Various lyricists, mostly Citroen (5/8 tracks). B+(**) [sp]
Soesja Citroen: Songs for Lovers and Losers (1996, Challenge): Smaller but still significant credits on the cover for Louis van Dijk (piano) and Hein Van de Geyn (bass), then "special guest" Ack van Rooyen (flugelhorn on three tracks). Standards, most common, some special. B+(**) [sp]
The Johnny Coles Quartet: New Morning (1982 , Criss Cross): Trumpet player (1926-97), mostly remembered for his one album on Blue Note (Little Johnny C, from 1963), only led a few more dates, plus several dozen side credits (notably with Gil Evans and Charles Mingus). Quartet with Horace Parlan (piano), Reggie Johnson (bass), and Billy Hart (drums), playing three originals, three covers (Mingus, Wayne Shorter, Charles Davis). B+(***) [sp]
George Colligan: Agent 99 (1999 , SteepleChase): Pianist, debut 1999 (title: The Newcomer), trio with Doug Weiss (bass) and Darren Beckett (drums). Two originals, various jazz tunes and standards (including a Jobim). B+(**) [sp]
Eddie Condon: 1928-1931 (1928-31 , Timeless): Swing guitarist (1905-73), played banjo on these 22 early tracks, starting with two from Miff Mole's Molers, followed by eight for Condon-led groups (a quartet with Frank Teschemacher and Gene Krupa, two sextets called the Footwarmers and Eddie's Hot Shots, both with Mezz Mezzrow and Jack Teagarden, with Condon sometimes singing), and the rest with the Mound City Blue Blowers (led by vocalist Red McKenzie, with various lineups at times including Coleman Hawkins, Fats Waller, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, and/or Muggsy Spanier). Condon's networking skills, which crossed racial lines, defined his later career: numerous jam sessions, including the 1944-45 Town Hall Concerts (radio shots which Jazzology eventually released in eleven multi-CD volumes), and many more recordings from his New York City jazz club. B+(**) [r]
Eddie Condon: The Town Hall Concerts Five and Six (1944, Jazzology): The first half (two of four concerts) excerpted from Volume Two of the Jazzology series. Concert Five was a tribute to Fats Waller, who had died six months earlier, with James P. Johnson on piano and Pee Wee Russell on clarinet. The sixth concert is joined by Willie "The Lion" Smith" and Hot Lips Page. Some spectacular music, but also lots of talk, not least about war bonds. B+(***) [sp]
Eddie Condon's All-Stars: Jam Session Coast-to-Coast (1954, Columbia, EP): Four tracks, 23:16, although most editions in Discogs add on another six tracks (24:12) by Rampart Street Paraders (a totally different band, with George Van Eps instead of Condon on guitar). The All-Stars include Wild Bill Davison (cornet), Edmond Hall (clarinet), Gene Schroeder (piano), Walter Page (bass), and Cliff Leeman (drums), plus Dick Cary (trumpet and piano) on two tracks. Opens with "Beale Street Blues," ends with the 10:40 "Jam Session Blues/Ole Miss." B+(***) [r]
Eddie Condon: Bixieland (1955, Columbia): Full subhed: "in which Eddie Condon and his All-Stars jam on a few of Bix Beiderbecke's favorites." With Pete Pesci or Wild Bull Davison (as he's credited here) on trumpet, Edmond Hall on clarinet, and other lesser stars, spiffing up that old-time sound. A- [r]
Eddie Condon: Eddie Condon's Treasury of Jazz (1956, Columbia): Cover notes: "Eleven musical portraits of Eddie's friends in the jazz world." Another batch of what Louis Armstrong (who wrote one song here) used to call the "good ol' good 'uns." Names dropped: Fats Waller, Lee Wiley, Turk Murphy, Duke Ellington, Armstrong, Wild Bill Davison, Pee Wee Russell, Bix Beiderbecke, Red McKenzie, Benny Goodman, The Chicago Rhythm Kings. B+(***) [r]
Eddie Condon: Bixieland/Treasury of Jazz (1955-56 , Collectables): Nice twofer rated **** in Penguin Guide, digitally reverts to its constituent albums, no doubt a bargain if you can find it. I'm only hedging because I haven't. B+(***) [r]
Eddie Condon: In Japan (1964 , Chiaroscuro): Trad jazz guitarist takes his act on the road, introducing his stars through featured songs: Dick Cary (piano/alto horn), Pee Wee Russell (clarinet), Buck Clayton (trumpet), Vic Dickenson (trombone), Bud Freeman (tenor sax), and eventually Jimmy Rushing sings a few. The 1977 LP picked 11 songs, which the CD reissue expands to 15. B+(***) [sp]
Johnny Costa: Classic Costa (1990-91 , Chiaroscuro): Pianist (1922-96), original name Costanza, recorded a couple albums in the mid-1950s, more in the 1990s, but spent most of his career as music director for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. This is solo, 18 standards, distinguished for his speed, dexterity, and (when he slows it down) touch. Ends with an interesting memoir. B+(***) [sp]
Fred Hersch/Jay Clayton: Beautiful Love (1994 , Sunnyside): Piano and voice duo, standards, the singer very precise, with considerable nuance; the pianist equally precise, doesn't overstep his role. Reissue prominently marked as "remastered." B+(**) [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
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Tuesday, January 31, 2023
Music: Current count 39534  rated (+72), 39  unrated (-3: 11 new, 28 old).
I gave myself an extra day this week, figuring that it would be nice to end the month on the end of the month, especially given that January is the effective end of the previous year, the obvious point to declare 2022 wrapped up, and to look ahead to 2023. I figured it would make a good cut-off point for my 2022 Music Tracking File, EOY Aggregate (with its poor cousin for Reissues/Historical). It would also provide a freeze point for my Music 2022 list (saving a snapshot for the moment while I continue to add late finds, up to the end of 2023). As it turns out, I've fallen far short of what I hoped to get done. But I've been desperate to make some sort of break, so this is it.
Needing some time to write this brief intro, I did my cutoff make at 6PM. I may sneak some more material in by the time I post this, but these stats are accurate at cutoff time: new releases reviewed 1652 (all 2022, including reissues/historical, plus 12/2021 releases, plus earlier 2021 not in previous tracking files); limited sampling: 4 (a possibly useful idea that I didn't pursue very hard). That may be an all-time record but I don't feel like spending the time to be sure. (A quick count of list item lines shows 1638 this year; previous high for frozen files was 1624 in 2020, followed by 1440 in 2021, 1334 in 2011, 1236 in 2010, 1222 in 2019, 1173 in 2014, 1147 in 2017, 1135 in 2007. Some caveats with these numbers I don't want to go into here.) Tracking file lists 5392 albums total. EOY Aggregate file lists 4520 new albums + 508 reissues/historical.
My EOY file for Jazz shows 74 new A/A- albums (+1 carried over), and 25 old music A/A- albums. For Non-Jazz, the numbers are 96 new (+ 6 carried over), 11 reissues/historical (+ 1 carried over). That's certainly the longest non-jazz A-list ever. You may recall that the non-jazz list was longer when I first compiled the file -- usually, jazz is longer to start, because I follow it more closely -- but the lists evened up while I was compiling Francis Davis Jazz Poll ballots. This week, all the new A- records are non-jazz (mostly African and/or hip-hop), but that's only about a third of the margin.
The EOY Aggregate is now up to 565 lists (this file includes links to most of them, although for some you need to pass through intermediaries), including lots of individual top-tens (everyone from the Francis Davis Jazz Poll, a fair number of ballots from PJRP (Pazz & Jop Rip-Off Poll) and EW (Expert Witness) polls, other jazz critics I could find, occasional lists like most of the Rolling Stone staff lists. I've included all but metal-exclusivists from the Album of the Year lists, most of the extra lists compiled by Metacritic, and a bunch of lists from Acclaimed Music Forums (incomplete, as I ran out of time midway through rechecking them).
The following are some EOY lists that have influenced my recent listening:
I voted in the PJRP and EW polls. Statistics professor Brad Luen published some centricity/eccentricity data, which rated me the 3rd most eccentric of EW's 43 voters. I probably would have been spared notice (he only listed the top 5) had I not kicked Big Thief off my ballot in favor of William Parker's Universal Tonality -- my top historical release of the year, for which there was no separate category in this poll. The reason I dropped Big Thief is that, while I liked it a lot when I reviewed it, I didn't buy it, and never heard it again since. That's true of a lot of records (including Beyoncé's, which I did buy but still haven't replayed), but I felt that for one certain to finish that high, I should be more sure of myself.
A stray comment in the thread complained that "like half the people didn't even put [Beyoncé] on their ballot." Luen replied: "It did great among FB voters but was soft among non-FB voters (who trend old/grumpy/hetero)." (Luen collected ballots from Facebook and Substack comments as well as direct email.) Having published several ballots already, I took the easy route and emailed my ballot in, thus adding to the demographic Luen identified.
For the record, my albums ballot was (the bracket figure is how many other people voted for the album, and their points):
*Totals for Gonora Sounds not given, so I'm making the most reasonable guess.
Only one of my four jazz albums got another vote (8/1), but all six of my non-jazz picks got other votes (123/13). I'm not sure how the eccentricity figure is calculated, but this doesn't strike me as extremely eccentric. (By the two more eccentric scores were by voters who each voted for nine albums no one else voted for, and voted for the same tenth album, which no one else voted for.) What is odd, in this crowd at least, is that none of my ten albums appeared on Christgau's Dean's List (his top 86 albums for the year, although close to a quarter of them came out in 2021 or earlier). On the other hand, 42 + 4 (carry overs) of his albums appeared on my A-list, so the split at the top is hard to explain.
There is much more running through my head that I could write, not least thoughts triggered by Christgau's year-end essay, and by especially the first of two pieces he reprinted on Tom Verlaine, who died at 73 over the weekend. One part of the reason I moved to New York City in 1977 was Christgau's sense of excitement over the new, still-unrecorded bands centered around CBGB's. I never saw Television, but I was witness to Christgau's first spin of Marquee Moon, which knowing the band as he did, he instantly thrilled to while I was trying to puzzle out not just the music but his reaction. I hadn't given any thought to how I might write a memoir of those years -- I've been focusing more on much earlier periods -- but there's a fair amount to delve into there.
In rushing to get this out, I'm leaving the usual bookkeeping unsettled. I'll have to catch up with that later. (Looks like I never did December, either.) It's also possible I won't declare 2022 over quite yet, but I'm definitely taking a break, especially from deadlines.
My mother was born 110 years ago today, in 2013, the youngest of ten children, the eldest born in 1900. Her parents had died before I was born, but my father's parents were born in 1894/1895, and I knew them fairly well before my grandfather died in 1964. Through them I can reach quite a ways back into history. They've made me sensitive to how much change the last few generations have lived through, and thereby how poorly the ideas and ideals they grew up with fare in today's world. (I may seem old and grump to Luen, but believe me, I know much older and grumpier.)
My mother died in 2000, three months after my father (who was ten years younger, but went first). I made Chinese food for my mother's last birthday. Since then I've often made a special dinner to commemorate her birthday: either Chinese, or the old fare of Arkansas (where fried chicken was the dish you served guests). I couldn't do that this year given the crunch of closing out this post. But that's my next project: Thursday, a belated dinner party, and a much needed break from several months of hacking my way through the year's recorded music. I don't see myself as ever approaching this year's stats again. Regardless of whether I set a personal record this year, what I am most certain of is that there's never been a year before 2022 where I've not heard more music. And that's only going to increase -- at least as long as the electricity stays on.
New records reviewed this week:
Ab-Soul: Herbert (2022, Top Dawg): Rapper Herbert Stevens IV, from Los Angeles, fifth album since 2011. Started out smart and sensitive, but has added a lot of bombast and bullshit. B [sp]
Archers of Loaf: Reason in Decline (2022, Merge): Important alt-rock band in the 1990s, broke up in 2000, main guy Eric Bachmann moving on to record albums under his own name and under the group/alias Crooked Fingers. Band regrouped in 2011, but didn't record a new album until this one. B+(*) [sp]
Authentically Plastic: Raw Space (2022, Hakuna Kulala): A DJ/producer based in Kampala, Uganda, name unknown ("dubbed 'Demon of the Nile' by conservative Ugandan media & politicians," so maybe for good reason), first album. Tracks lead with drums, which may lead to slight tweaks but hold pretty steady. B+(**) [sp]
Avantdale Bowling Club: Trees (2022, Years Gone By): New Zealand-based rapper Tom Scott, second album, sees this as a jazz project. Band may lean that way (including horns, sitar, and tabla), but this is driven by words, and insight ("rat race is nothing but a race to the grave"). B+(***) [sp]
Backxwash: His Happiness Shall Come First Even Though We Are Suffering (2022, Ugly Hag): Zambian rapper, based in Canada, fourth album. She likes heavy beats and harsh sounds, which smack of metal, without falling into doldrums. B+(**) [sp]
Batida: Neon Colonialismo (2022, Crammed Discs): DJ/producer Pedro Coquenão, born in Angola, raised in Lisbon, eighth album since 2009, working name synonymous with a style of electronic dance music in Lisbon, also a Brazilian cocktail. B+(**) [sp]
Ecko Bazz: Mmaso (2022, Hakuna Kulala): Uganda rapper, based in Kampala (which is becoming an important recording center), first album, with help from an international array of beat masters (Debmaster, Slikback, DJ Die Soon). B+(**) [sp]
Bruno Berle: No Reino Dos Afetos (2022, Far Out): Brazilian singer-songwriter, first album. Like more than a little fringe music, it stradles too easy and too weird. B+(**) [sp]
Blackpink: Born Pink (2022, YG Entertainment): K-pop girl group, second album, albeit a short one (8 songs, 24:34), a mix of electropop, hip-hop, plus the occasional change of pace. I'm not wild about the latter, though these aren't bad. Still hard to relate to K-pop, at least removed form the dance videos, which are slick and catchy. B+(***) [sp]
The Bobby Lees: Bellevue (2022, Ipecac): Rock group founded in Woodstock in 2018, Sam Quartin is singer-guitarist, third or fourth album. Harder than most rock I like, but tighter, and while I can't vouch for the lyrics, this has enough edge and snarl to make me think there must be more to it. A- [sp]
Bodysync: Radio Active (2022, self-released): Collaboration between Canadian DJ Ryan Hemsworth and Charlie Yin (Giraffage). B [sp]
Apollo Brown & Philmore Greene: Cost of Living (2022, Mello Music Group): Detroit hip-hop producer Erik Vincent Stephens, several dozen albums since 2007, many featuring guest rappers, like Greene here (two previous albums, his 2018 debut titled Chicago: A Third World City). More hard times, grit, and perseverance, sliding over beats that don't work too hard. A- [sp]
Buruklyn Boyz: East Mpaka London (2022, self-released): Kenyan drill group, basically a clipped form of hip-hop, even more so than the accents suggesting grime. This spareness is their attraction, but also their limit. B+(**) [sp]
Sarah Mary Chadwick: Flipped It (2022, Kill Rock Stars, EP): Singer-songwriter from New Zealand, seems to be based in Australia, album Me and Ennui Are Friends, Baby was a Christgau pick I've never quite fathomed. Five songs (18:37). If you didn't get her before, this primitivist set won't help. B [sp]
Che Noir: The Last Remnants (2022, TCF Music Group, EP): Buffalo rapper, sixth album since 2019, second album this year, a short one (9 songs, 24:08). Beats steady, six feat. guests. B+(**) [sp]
Alaide Costa: O Que Meus Calos Dizem Sobre Mim (2022, Tres Selos): Brazilian singer, debut 1959, 83 when this came out. Not in any great hurry. B+(***) [sp]
DJ Lag: Meeting With the King (2022, Ice Drop): South African DJ/producer Lwazi Asanda Gwala, hailed as a Gqom pioneer since his "2016 breakout" (although amapiano, Afrotech, and Afrhouse are also mentioned). First full-length album, if anything too long (79:00). B+(***) [sp]
Focalistic: Ghetto Gospel (2022, 18 Area Holdings): South African rapper, listed as amapiano, soft edge, easy flow, could be deep or shallow, but pleasing enough not knowing. B+(***) [sp]
Mabe Fratti: Se Ve Desde Aquí (2022, Unheard Of Hope): Cellist, also sings, from Guatemala, based in Mexico City, fourth album. B+(**) [sp]
Moktar Gania & Gwana Soul: Gwana Soul (2022, MusjoMusic/Nuits d'Afrique): Gnawa singer from Morocco, member of a famous family of Gnawa musicians (although the shifting names are disorienting: presumably this is the same Maâlem Mokhtar Gania who recorded with Bill Laswell in 2016 and with Peter Brötzmann and Hamid Drake in 2020. B+(***) [sp]
George: Letters to George (2022 , Out of Your Head): Filed under drummer John Hollenbeck, who wrote all the songs except for two covers (a folk song from Cyril Tawney and an eerie -- or perhaps I mean creepy? -- "Bang Bang"), probably voiced by alto/soprano saxophonist Aurora Nealand. With Anna Webber on tenor sax, and Chiquita Magic on keyboards (Isis Giraldo, also credited with voice). Music is agreeably slippery. B+(***) [cd] [01-27]
Hallelujah the Hills: The Music of the Beatles as Channeled in 1958 by the Echo Lake Home for the Potentially Clairvoyant (2022, Hallelujah the Hills): Beatles songs, mostly done as old-timey ballads, an effect meant to signify time travel. Supposedly the liner notes help. B+(*) [bc]
Marina Herlop: Pripyat (2022, Pan): Spanish (or Catallan) composer, third album, sings and plays keyboards and other instruments, with occasional guest spots. B+(*) [sp]
Honey Dijon: Black Girl Magic (2022, Classic): Transgender DJ, originally from Chicago, now based in New York and Berlin, second album (first was The Best of Both Worlds). Dance beats, all tracks have guest features, presumably singers. The house feels a bit like a cage at first, then grows into a world. B+(***) [sp]
Horse Lords: Comradely Objects (2022, RVNG Intl): Postrock band from Baltimore, fifth album since 2012. Gets a lot more interesting on the third track, where they lose the beat and find a saxophone. Nothing else quite at that level, but lots of interesting patterns and variations. B+(***) [sp]
Ryoji Ikeda: Ultratronics (2022, Noton): Japanese visual and sound artist, based in Paris, twenty or so albums since 1995, "focuses on the minutiae of ultrasonics, frequencies and the characteristics of sound in relation with human perception and the mathematical dianoia applied to music, time and space." That sells his beats short. B+(*) [sp]
Gisle Røen Johansen: Kveldsragg (2018 , Jazzaggression): Norwegian saxophonist, also credited with keyboards, first album, backed by guitar, pedal steel (2/3 tracks), electric bass, acoustic bass (Ingebrigt Håker Flaten), and drums (Gard Nilssen), with minor vocals on the second side. Leans spiritual at first, but toward the end the guitar gets heated up, and the sax comes out to play. B+(***) [sp]
KMRU & Aho Ssan: Limen (2022, Subtext): Kenyan sound artist Joseph Kamaru, based in Berlin, ten albums since 2020. First mention I've seen of this collaborator. Three longish pieces, ambient but a bit harsh. B+(*) [sp]
Knucks: Alpha Place (2022, Nodaysoff): British rapper, Ashley Afamefuna Nwachukwu, born in London, first album after a couple EPs and a mixtape. B+(**) [sp]
Pierre Kwenders: José Louis and the Paradox of Love (2022, Arts & Crafts): Congolese singer-rapper, based in Canada, third album. B+(*) [sp]
Anysia Kym: Soliloquy (2022, self-released, EP): Electronica producer with a minor in hip-hop, based in New York, Bandcamp page has several releases. Seven songs, 14:37, guest spots for Semiratruth and MIKE. B+(*) [bc]
Mike LeDonne/Eric Alexander/Jeremy Pelt/Vincent Herring/Kenny Washington/Peter Washington: The Heavy Hitters (2022 , Cellar): Only surprise here is that LeDonne plays piano instead of organ. Mainstream stars (plus guitarist Rale Micic on one track), sound great at first, but not forever. B+(**) [cd]
Leroy [c0ncernn]: Dariacore 3 . . . At Least I Think That's What It's Called? (2022, self-released): This seems to be the work of a Jane Remover, although that could just be another alias, like Dltzk and High Zoey. Bandcamp and Discogs credit this (and its predecessors) to Leroy, but Spotify and others prefer C0ncernn. The cartoon cover is relatively normal, at least compared to the frantic, glitchy mashup of hard beats and stray sounds. I'm rather surprised that I can stand this, perhaps because it maintains an inherent musicality despite the randomness. B+(***) [sp]
Leroy: Dariacore (2021, self-released): Rewind one year (plus one day), so this is the formula, a little less splashy. B+(**) [sp]
Leroy: Dariacore 2: Enter Here, Hell to the Left (2021, self-released): Same shtick, only more of it. B+(**) [sp]
Zack Lober: No Fill3r (2022 , Zennez): Canadian bassist, originally from Montreal, bow based in the Netherlands, fair number of side credits since 2003, this seems to be his first album as leader. With Suzan Veneman (trumpet) and Sun-Mi Hong (drums). B+(*) [cd] [02-24]
Logic: Vinyl Days (2022, Def Jam): Rapper Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, seventh studio album since 2014, all substantial hits (but this one slipped a bit, chart 12 vs. 1-4 for the rest), but this one got scant notice. Maybe the boasts were in vain -- "when you got this much heat, it's hard to chill" -- or maybe it just runs on too long. Seems pretty solid to me, but what does it mean that my favorite track is the one where he reads the phone book? B+(**) [sp]
Doug MacDonald: Big Band Extravaganza (2022 , DMAC Music): Guitarist, been around, has fun with a conventional big band, most prominent name Kim Richmond (alto sax). B [cd] [01-30]
Madalitso Band: Musakayike (2022, Bongo Joe): Duo from Malawi, made their own instruments: a four-string guitar, a kick drum, a one-string slide bass with a bench to sit on. They generate a propulsive groove and engaging vocals, a bit removed from the South African model but on the fringe of that paradigm. A- [sp]
Kali Malone: Living Torch (2022, Portraits GRM): Stockholm-based electronica composer, originally from Denver, has several albums, this a 33:33 piece split for LP. She plays various synthesizers and software instruments, thickly ambient deepened with trombone (Mats Åleklint). B [sp]
Marlowe: Marlowe 3 (2022, Mello Music): Hip-hop duo, rapper Solemn Brigham and producer Austin Hart (L'Orange). Third album since 2018. Speed raps, hard to imaging improving on the flex beats. A- [sp]
Martha: Please Don't Take Me Back (2022, Dirtnap): English alt-rock band from Durham, fourth album, I was quite taken by their second (Blisters in the Pit of My Heart), but this has fewer hooks and more bluster. B+(*) [sp]
The Master Musicians of Jajouka Led by Bachir Attir: Dancing Under the Moon (2022, Glitterbeat, 2CD): Moroccan group of Jbala Sufi trance musicians, split off in 1992 from an earlier group going back to the 1950s. B+(*) [sp]
MC Bin Laden: Invasão Dos Fluxos (2022, Kondzilla): Brazilian rapper, Jefferson Cristian dos Santos de Lima, moniker got my attention, but he identifies as an evangelical Christian. Genre listed as funk mandelão or funk ostenação or maybe baile funk (to pick one I've actually heard of). Spare metallic beats, grows on you. B+(***) [sp]
Metropolitan Jazz Octet: The Bowie Project (2020-22 , Origin): Featuring singer Paul Marinaro, but driving force seems to be producer Jim Gailloreto (tenor sax/soprano sax/flute), who assembled this group, to play and sing David Bowie songs. Sometimes the songs transcend the arrangements and even the voice. Sometimes not. B [cd]
Moonchild Sanelly: Phases (2022, Transgressive): South African (Xhosa) singer-songwriter, Sanelisiwe Twisha, started as a kwaito dancer, calls her music "future ghetto punk," second album, draws on amapiano, dancehall, and hip-hop, but it winds up sounding like like an exceptionally tight slab of ultra-funky pop. A thick slab, too, running 66 minutes, but the physical is broken up into two CDs (or LPs). A- [sp]
Nerves Baddington: Micro (2022, Apt. B Productions): Hip-hop trio from Birmingham, Alabama, debut album 2017 (Dopamine Decoder Ring), released this and Macro on same day. MC Ryan Howell (InkLine), with John McNaughton on bass and Cam Johnson on drums. Dense beats with a metallic zing. B+(***) [sp]
Nerves Baddington: Macro (2022, Apt. B Productions): Released same day, another 45 minutes of dense soundscape. Marginal distinctions would take more time than I can spend, but either album (or both) could rate higher. B+(***) [sp]
Noori & His Dorpa Band: Beja Power! Electric Soul & Brass From Sudan's Red Sea Coast (2022, Ostinato): Band from Port Sudan, "a truly ancient community," introducing its own distinct style: beja. However ancient it may be, the string grooves aren't all that far removed from guitar music across the whole breadth of the Sahara. Very nice. Perhaps a bit too nice? B+(***) [sp]
Nord1kone/DJ Mrok: Tower of Babylon (2022, SplitSLAM): Rapper and DJ (credited here with "scratches"), don't know much about either, but note that Chuck D shares executive producer credit, and leads a long list of featured guests, including Gift of Gab. Voice doesn't match Chuck D for gravitas, but no reason not to want another Public Enemy knock-off. A- [sp]
Obongjayar: Some Nights I Dream of Doors (2022, September): Nigerian singer-songwriter, Steven Umoh, based in London, first album after several EPs. B+(**) [sp]
Ozzy Osbourne: Patient Number 9 (2022, Epic): Former Black Sabbath leader, 13th album since he went solo in 1980, first one I've bothered to listen to -- and probably the last, although it's no worse than their 1970s albums: a sign of artistic stasis, maybe even mellowing with age (74). B- [sp]
Oùat: Elastic Bricks (2021 , Umlaut): Trio, based in Berlin, of Simon Sieger (piano), Joel Grip (bass), and Michael Griener (drums); first album, original pieces, mostly by Grip with a couple by Sieger. B+(**) [sp]
Rema: Rave & Roses (2022, Marvin/Jonzing World): Nigerian singer-songwriter, Divine Ikubor, first album after a breakout EP. B+(***) [sp]
Dawn Richard & Spencer Zahn: Pigments (2022, Merge): R&B singer from New Orleans, released a 2005 album as Dawn Angeliqué, appeared in the group Danity Kane, went solo in 2013. She tends to recede into Zahn's electronica here. B [sp]
Rizomagic: Voltaje Raizal (2021, Disasters by Choice): Colombian electronica duo, Diego Manrique and Edgar Marún, seems to be their first album. Rhythm vamps, fast and fractured. Short: 7 cuts, 28:43. B+(**) [bc]
Séketxe: Funjada (Kandendue Kaluanda) (2022, Chasing Dreams): Angolan hip-hop crew, related to drill, I don't understand a word, but dig their intensity and fractured beats. Only album I'm aware of, sometimes touted as an EP (8 songs, 30:43). B+(**) [sp]
ShrapKnel: Metal Lung (2022, Backwoodz Studioz): Hip-hop duo, Curly Castro and PremRock (Mark Debuque), started out in Wrecking Crew, second album. Sharp edges turn in on themselves. B+(*) [sp]
Somadina: Heart of the Heavenly Undeniable (2022, self-released): Nigerian, born there but grew up in the Netherlands, first album, billed as an EP (11 songs, 27:33). I've scanned through a dozen articles, and can't identify a label, but I've seen various references to her "shapeshifting identity." Comes out of the gate with a big pop production, then gets more idiosyncratic, opening up space for a slow vamp and a ballad. No connection I can discern to Afrobeat, but there may be one. A- [sp]
Styroform Winos: Styrofoam Winos Play Their Favorite M. Hurley Songs (2022, Sophomore Lounge): Nashville group -- Lou Turner, Trevor Nikgrant, Joe Kenkel, each with a solo album or more -- with a self-titled debut and a second At Home album. Pandemic project, as they picked favorite songs from the whimsical folksinger, and passed them around. I've heard, and enjoyed, almost all of Hurley's albums. Still, the only songs I recognize are from Have Moicy! B+(*)
They Hate Change: Finally, New (2022, Jagjaguwar): Hip-hop duo from Tampa, Vonne Parks and Andre Gainey, who count themselves as anglophiles, so are more into Goldie and Dizzee Rascal than most American rappers. B+(*) [sp]
Pat Thomas: Pat Thomas Plays the Duke (2021 , New Jazz and Improvised Music): British pianist, many albums since 1993, recently noticed tearing into Cecil Taylor, plays his solo arrangements of ten Ellington compositions, from "Prelude to a Kiss" to "C Jam Blues." Few are recognizable, reminding me of the dictum, "it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing." None do (although the closer hops, maybe even pogoes). B+(*) [bc]
Wau Wau Collectif: Mariage (2022, Sahel Sounds): Senegalese-Swedish group, second album, mostly recorded in Senegal and mixed, with overdubs, in Sweden, by producer Karl Jonas Windqvist. B+(*) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Terry Allen & the Panhandle Mystery Band: Smokin the Dummy (1980 , Paradise of Bachelors): Born in Wichita, he grew up in Lubbock, Texas; he trained as an architect, got a BFA, distinguished himself as a sculptor and painter, released an album in 1975, and a better one in 1979, Lubbock (On Everything). This sequel disappointed, but decades later you have to admire his energy and form, even if it doesn't stick with you. B+(**) [sp]
Terry Allen & the Panhandle Mystery Band: Bloodlines (1983 , Paradise of Bachelors): Fourth album, worked harder on his songwriting, built more firmly on gospel, but faith gets tested, not least when Jesus carjacks him. B+(***) [sp]
Broadcast: The Maida Vale Sessions (1996-2003 , Warp): English indietronica band, recorded four albums 2000-09, one more after singer Trish Keenan died in 2011. This came from three John Peel and one Evening Session," the album named for the BBC studio. Ends strong. B+(*) [bc]
Disco Reggae Rockers (1973-86 , Soul Jazz): Mostly reggae-ified covers of American disco tunes, mostly avoiding big hits (although "Move On Up" is an ideal starter), and featuring sub-stellar talent (among the more famous: Derrick Harriott, Devon Russell, Pete Campfell, Hortense Ellis). Pretty hit and miss. B [sp]
Iftin Band: Mogadishu's Finest: The Al-Uruba Sessions (1982-87 , Ostinato): Somali band, shortly before Osama Bin Laden baited the US to intervene and destroy the country. B+(***) [sp]
Rise Jamaica! Jamaican Independence Special (1962 , Trojan, 2CD): Celebrating the 60th anniversary of Jamaica's independence, one disc is devoted to "Jamaican Radio Hits of '62," the other to "The Duke's Dubplates '62" (from the archives of Duke Reid). Reggae's golden years were still in the future, although there are hits you'll recognize: "Miss Jamaica", "Forward March," "Midnight Track," "Housewife's Choice," maybe Lord Creator's "Independent Jamaica." The others, perhaps even more so the not-yet-dub side, feel right for the time. B+(***) [sp]
Mon Laferte: Mon Laferte Vol. 1 (2015, Intolerancia): Singer-songwriter from Chile, recorded an album in 2003 as Monserrat Bustamente, moved to Mexico. B+(*) [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Ask a question, or send a comment.
Monday, January 23, 2023
January archive (in progress).
Music: Current count 39462  rated (+48), 42  unrated (+6: 14 new, 28 old).
Very little to add about this week's music. I was struggling to think of things to look up early in the week, so I wound up searching down the EOY aggregate file for highest-rated unheard records, sometimes singling out genres (country probably got the most attention). The highest-ranked records I still haven't heard yet:
The frequency of unheard items picks up significantly after 300: The Callous Daoboys (303); Knucks (309); Obongjayar (315); Rammstein (317); Dawn Richard & Spencer Zahn (318); Undeath (320); Afghan Whigs (324); The Big Moon (327); Naima Bock (328); Demi Lovato (332); Paolo Nutini (335); Static Dress (340); Big Joanie (344); Porcupine Tree (357); Warmduscher (364); Willow (365); Utada Hikaru (380); Horse Lords (381); The Orielles (389); Slipknot (396); Tedeschi Trucks Band (398); Wild Pink (400); Anxious (403); Jessie Buckley & Bernard Butler (404); Goat (409); Ho99o9 (410); King Hannah (412); King Stingray (413); Natalia Lafourcade (414); Kali Malone (415); Rob Mazurek (417); Meshuggah (419); Muse (422); Caitlin Rose (426); Bruce Springsteen (430); And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead (434); Blackpink (436); Built to Spill (439); Coheed and Cambria (441); Grace Cummings (442); Brian Ennels & Infinity Knives (447); Aoife Nessa Frances (448); Marina Herlop (450); Ithaca (453); The Lounge Society (458); Angeline Morrison (460); Pillow Queens (462); Pixies (463); The Soft Pink Truth (467); Witch Fever (471); Wizkid (472); Backxwash (476); The Black Angels (481); Black Star (482); Broken Bells (484); Alex Cameron (485); Christine and the Queens (489); Jake Xerxes Fussell (492); Future (493); Robyn Hitchcock (496).
I'll probably knock a few more of those off next week (so far: They Hate Change, Knucks). I expect to freeze the 2022 file after next week -- I may as well plan now on closing the week/month on January 31 instead of 30. After that, I'll cut back on the 2022 tracking files, although I'll continue to add late entries to the year 2022 lists, including the jazz and non-jazz best-of lists. Looking forward, I haven't started 2023 tracking and metacritic files. Hoping to focus more on other projects going forward, but I'm reluctant to make promises or resolutions.
I posted a pretty substantial Speaking of Which yesterday. The deeper I get into the Ryan Cooper book, the more impressed I am. Before getting into it, I read most of Denise Low's slim Jigsaw Puzzling: Essays in a Time of Pestilence. We've been doing jigsaw puzzles much earlier than the pandemic. Laura usually wanted to do a puzzle when she had a few days off. I had a pair of Springbok puzzle caddies, so was well-prepared to indulge her. One special memory was from 1991: we were working on one while watching coverage of the Soviet coup against Gorbachev, while a hurricane was blowing outside (we were in Boston). Since she retired, we've had a puzzle going continuously. Low, by the way, was once poet laureate of Kansas, although she's since moved to northern California.
New records reviewed this week:
Courtney Marie Andrews: Loose Future (2022, Fat Possum): Country singer-songwriter from Phoenix, ninth album since 2013, has a light touch. B+(**) [sp]
Kelsea Ballerini: Subject to Change (2022, Black River): Pop singer-songwriter, working out of Nashville, but almost all of her songs have multiple co-writers and kitchen sink production -- nothing distinctively country about that, even when you get a title like "Love Is a Cowboy" or "You're Drunk, Go Home." B+(*) [sp]
Lakecia Benjamin: Phoenix (2022 , Whirlwind): Alto saxophonist, from New York, fourth album since 2012, this one co-produced by Terri Lyne Carrington, who aims for crossover not by compromise but by turning up the heat. Opens and closes with sirens and Angela Davis. Guest vocals from Dianne Reeves and Georgia Anne Muldrow, and spoken word by Sonia Sanchez and Wayne Shorter, but the sax speaks loudest and clearest. A- [cd] [01-27]
The Cactus Blossoms: One Day (2022, Walkie Talkie): Country band from Minnesota, fifth album since 2011. Principally singer-songwriters Jack Torey and Page Burkum. B [sp]
Bill Callahan: YTILAER (2022, Drag City): Singer-songwriter from Maryland, recorded as Smog 1990-2007, tenth album under his own name, seems to be regarded as a big deal but I've never warmed to his deadpan vocals and minimal guitar. Title this time is a mirror image of REALITY -- I won't try to reproduce that affectation here, but much of the press has indulged him. First third of the album drags as usual, but he almost gets interesting after that. B+(*) [sp]
Loyle Carner: Hugo (2022, EMI); British rapper, stage name a play on his last name (Coyle-Larner), third album. B+(**) [sp]
Paul Cauthen: Country Coming Down (2022, Thirty Tigers/Velvet Rose): Country singer-songwriter from East Texas, started in group Sons of Fathers, third album (counting his debut My Gospel). Has a voice you'll be able to recognize again, with more grit and humor than his résumé suggests. B+(*) [sp]
Chat Pile: God's Country (2022, The Flenser): Noise rock/sludge metal band from Oklahoma, named after the toxic waste left around lead-zinc mines. First album. Rates for chops and attitude, and is all the more amusing at the low volume that makes it tolerable to me. And yeah, in case you're wondering, God's country is indeed a toxic dump. B+(*) [sp]
Brent Cobb: And Now, Let's Turn to Page . . . (2022, Ol' Buddy): Country singer, fifth album since 2006, turns to the hymn book here, opening with an easy-going "Just a Closer Walk With Thee," and continuing to pick out old chestnuts that remind me of the comforts of church without the histrionic crap that drove me away. B+(**) [sp]
Luke Combs: Growin' Up (2022, Columbia Nashville): Country singer-songwriter from North Carolina, third album, all number ones, includes a duet with Miranda Lambert. B+(*) [sp]
Rosalie Cunningham: Two Piece Puzzle (2022, Machine Elf): British singer-songwriter, second album after previous group Purson. B [sp]
Lucrecia Dalt: ¡Ay! (2022, RVNG Intl): Colombian singer-songwriter, studied as a civil engineer, based in Berlin, albums since 2005 (initially as Lucrecia), previously unfamiliar to me, and hard to pigeonhole: the beats Latin but subtler, the electronics layered acoustically, the vocals foreign, the pacing and tension unique. A- [sp]
Sarah Davachi: Two Sisters (2022, Late Music): Canadian electroacoustic musician, based in Los Angeles, couple dozen albums since 2013. Plays organ, synthesizer, bells here, with extra strings, voices, and (one cut near the end) trombone, mostly to ambient effect. B+(*) [sp]
Richard Dawson: The Ruby Chord (2022, Domino): British singer-songwriter, from Newcastle Upon Tyne, albums since 2005, draws on (or deconstructs) folk music. Voice reminds me a bit of Robert Wyatt, and music is comparably off-kilter, but that's as far as the similarity goes. B- [sp]
Drake: Honestly, Nevermind (2022, OVO Sound/Republic): Canadian rapper Aubrey Drake Graham, seventh album since 2011, all seven have topped both rap and pop charts, despite that aside from his debut, he albums get very little critical respect. Still, this one slides by painlessly enough. B+(*) [sp]
Drake & 21 Savage: Her Loss (2022, OVO Sound/Republic): Duo with Atlanta rapper Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph. B [sp]
Brent Faiyaz: Wasteland (2022, Lost Kids): R&B singer Christopher Wood, from Maryland, second album. B+(*) [sp]
First Aid Kit: Palomino (2022, Columbia): Swedish folk-pop duo, sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, fifth album since 2010. More pop these days. B+(*) [sp]
Gabriels: Angels & Queens Part 1 (2022, Atlas Artists/Parlophone): Soul group from California, featuring vocalist Jacob Lusk with producers Ryan Hope and Ari Balouzian, first album (or first half of one, Part 1 (7 songs) coming in at 27:29, with a Part 2 promised for March, 2023. B+(**) [sp]
Ghost: Impera (2022, Loma Vista): Swedish rock band, fifth album since 2010, close enough to attract a metal following but I don't particularly feel it -- so this is relatively listenable, but loses interest midway (e.g., "Watcher in the Sky"). B- [sp]
Gilla Band: Most Normal (2022, Rough Trade): Irish band, changed name from Girl Band for this third album. Scattered stabs at punk, hardcore, noise. B [sp]
Keiji Haino: My Lord Music, I Most Humbly Beg Your Indulgence in the Hope That You Will Do Me the Honour of Permitting This Seed Called Keiji Haino to Be Planted Within You (2019 , Purple Tap/Black Editions): Japanese experimental musician, b. 1952, has close to 100 albums, mostly plays guitar and sings, but choice of instrument here is hurdy gurdy, with a lot of drone resonance. B+(*) [sp]
Fred Hersch & Esperanza Spalding: Alive at the Village Vanguard (2022 , Palmetto): Piano and vocal duo, the latter perversely insisting on lower case, and not bothering with the bass she first made her name with. She scats a lot, but finds her voice on "Girl Talk." B+(***) [cd]
Hot Chip: Freakout/Release (2022, Domino): British synthpop band, eighth album since 2004. B+(*) [sp]
Jeremy Ivey: Invisible Pictures (2022, Anti-): Nashville singer-songwriter, plays guitar, started in Buffalo Clover, married the singer (Margo Price), third solo album (counting one co-credited to the Extraterrestrials). B [sp]
Khruangbin & Leon Bridges: Texas Sun (2020, Dead Oceans, EP): Houston psych rock band, mostly instrumental, got a gig opening for retro-soul singer Bridges in 2018, leading to this EP (and another in 2022), which really should be filed under the singer's name. Four songs, 20:58. B+(**) [sp]
Khruangbin & Leon Bridges: Texas Moon (2022, Dead Oceans, EP): A second EP, five songs (22:37). Focus shifts slightly to the band, who are chill. B+(*) [sp]
Lambchop: The Bible (2022, Merge/City Slang): Nashville indie band, albums since 1990, Kurt Wagner sings. Slow and ponderous, as usual. B [sp]
Live Forever: A Tribute to Billy Joe Shaver (2022, New West): Not taking any chances here: the twelve songs are famous, iconic even, and the various artists are not just stars but well practiced in tributes, with Willie Nelson getting a second helping ("Fast Train to Georgia") after sharing the title song with Lucinda Williams. One I didn't recall but I'm glad I heard it here: "Ain't No God in Mexico." Steve Earle picked that one. A- [sp]
The Mars Volta: The Mars Volta (2022, Clouds Hill): Prog rock band from El Paso, seventh album since 2003, seems fairly normal. B [sp]
Carson McHone: Still Life (2022, Merge): Austin-based singer-songwriter, third album, close to country but enough? B+(*) [sp]
Tyler Mitchell Octet: Sun Ra's Journey (2021 , Cellar): Young bassist, his credentials assured by giving a featuring spot to Marshall Allen. B+(***) [cd]
Nas: King's Disease III (2022, Mass Appeal): Rapper Nasir Jones, dropped Illmatic 28 years ago and never let up, although he's return to his 2020 title for a third time. B+(***) [sp]
Kim Petras: Slut Pop (2022, Republic, EP): German pop singer-songwriter, based in Los Angeles, trans, has a lot of singles, as far back as 2008 but especially since 2017, with a couple picked up before this super-trashy, super-smutty 7-track, 15:51 EDM teaser. I, too, "want to see how big it gets." A- [sp]
Aaron Raitiere: Single Wide Dreamer (2022, Dinner Time): Country singer-songwriter from Kentucky, based in Nashville, first album, has written songs for a dozen name singers -- Anderson East, Miranda Lambert, Natalie Hemby, and Ashley Monroe return the favor with cameo and production credits here. B+(***) [sp]
Jim Snidero: Far Far Away (2022 , Savant): Alto saxophonist, from DC area, studied at UNT, moved to New York in 1981, more than two dozen albums since 1984 (more side credits). Very solid outing, with guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel getting a "featuring" credit on the cover, and an impeccable rhythm section of Orrin Evans (piano), Peter Washington (bass), and Joe Farnsworth (drums). B+(***) [cd] [02-03]
Stormzy: This Is What I Mean (2022, Def Jam): British rapper Michael Omari, third album, not much beat. B [sp]
Vieux Farka Touré & Khruangbin: Ali (2022, Dead Oceans): Guitarist-singer-songwriter from Mali, following his famous father's footsteps, tenth (or 12th) album since 2007, joined here by a Houston psych rock trio that has been diversifying of late (e.g., two EPs with Leon Bridges). They are near invisible here, probably for the better. B+(***) [sp]
Phil Venable: Bassworks, Vol. 1 (2022, Soul City Sounds): Solo bass, three pieces (38:35), captivating within those limits. B+(*) [bc]
The Wonder Years: The Hum Goes On Forever (2022, Hopeless): Emo band from Pennsylvania, Dan Campbell the singer, seventh album since 2007. Probably has some merit, but I lose interest when they get pumped up. B [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Miles Davis: Miles Davis With Tadd Dameron Revisited: Live 1949 at the Royal Roost NYC & in Paris at Festival Internationale De Jazz (1949 , Ezz-Thetics): Six tracks from a tentet led by pianist Dameron at the Royal Roost, plus nine tracks by a co-led quintet a Paris festival, with James Moody (tenor sax), Barney Spieler (bass), and Kenny Clarke (drums). Sound reminds me of Bird's Royal Roost dates, although this group is less focused and more slippery. Davis gets some good runs in Paris, especially on "Rifftide." B+(***) [bc]
Miles Davis Quintet: 2nd Session 1956 Revisited (1956 , Ezz-Thetics): When Davis signed with Columbia, he still owed Prestige four albums, which the Quintet -- John Coltrane (tenor sax), Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums) -- knocked out in two sessions, one on May 11, the other on October 26, 1956. The albums were slowly released, up to mid-1961, to capitalize on Columbia's publicity. This singles out the latter session, most of which was released on the first two albums (Cookin' and Relaxin'), plus one track from the other two (Workin' and Steamin'), plus a take of "'Round Midnight" (the title of their Columbia debut). A- [bc]
Dave Bartholomew: The Big Beat of Dave Bartholomew: 20 of His Milestone Productions 1949-1960 (1949-60 (2002), Capitol): Eight of them credited to Bartholomew, three more to Smiley Lewis, the others oddly misdirected. B+(**) [sp]
Doc Cheatham: Hey Doc! [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1975 , Black and Blue): Trumpet player, born in Nashville but remembered for New Orleans. I first noticed him on a 1993 album called The Eighty-Seven Years of Doc Cheatham, which is to say shamefully late, although so he still had another career highlight left: 1997's Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton. He spent most of his career tucked away in big bands (Wilbur De Paris, McKinney's Cotton Pickers, Cab Calloway, Claude Hopkins, Perez Prado, and Benny Goodman). He started headlining around 1973, shortly before this session with Sammy Price (piano), alto sax, trombone, bass, and drums (J.C. Heard). No credit on vocals. B+(**) [sp]
Jan Garbarek Quartet: Afric Pepperbird (1970 , ECM): Norwegian saxophonist, mostly tenor but also credited bass sax, clarinet, flute, and percussion. Not quite his first album, but this begins his long association with ECM. Quartet names on cover: Terje Rypdal (guitar, bugle), Arild Andersen (bass, thumb piano, xylophone), and Jon Christensen (percussion). The sax is rougher on these early recordings, especially here. That's not a complaint. B+(***) [sp]
Jan Garbarek/Bobo Stenson/Terje Rypdal/Arild Andersen/Jon Christensen: Sart (1971, ECM): Norwegian group, all students of George Russell, near the start of major careers. Garbarek plays tenor sax, bass sax, and flute, and wrote four (of six) pieces. The others play piano, guitar, bass, and drums, with Andersen and Rypdal writing one piece each. B+(***) [sp]
Jan Garbarek/Arild Andersen/Edward Vesala: Triptykon (1972 , ECM): Soprano/tenor/bass saxophone-bass-drums trio. Still on edge. B+(***) [sp]
Jan Garbarek: Places (1977 , ECM): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano/alto), quartet with John Taylor (piano/organ), Bill Connors (guitar), and Jack DeJohnettte (drums). Four long-ish pieces, ranges from atmospheric to towering, a master of tone, the guitar filling in eloquently. A- [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
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Monday, January 16, 2023
January archive (in progress).
Music: Current count 39414  rated (+61), 36  unrated (-6: 8 new, 28 old).
Still decompressing from the pressures of releasing the Francis Davis Jazz Poll as well as numerous other stresses I've probably complained about too much already, so I don't have much to say this week. One way of destressing has been to do rote work: the biggest chunk of which was adding all of the jazz critics ballots into my EOY aggregate file (including ones we didn't receive from other sources like Free Jazz Collective). One result of this is that jazz albums have risen to an unnatural prominence in my overall standings (top 30, numbered by overall rank, points in braces, my grade in brackets):
These rankings will probably sink back if/when I add more non-jazz lists (if memory serves, the top jazz album usually winds up somewhere 20-35), but the value of spending much more time on this is receding. I've always maintained that the purpose of the list is to scout out records of possible interest to me, hence there have always been genres that I have sought out (I have 1161 jazz albums listed, of 4062 total) and others that I have avoided -- nonetheless, I counted 219 metal albums, but I've only heard 4; the country and hip-hop lists are actually shorter, but I've heard much more (64 of 138 country, 97 of 212 hip-hop).
Reviewing the ballots, I discovered three errors I had made in compiling, so I was glad to get them compiled. I've also heard from several critics who didn't get invited and (rightly) thought they should have: apologies to Karl Ackermann and Bill Milkowski. If/when we do this again -- and I'm pleased to report that Francis sounds more optimistic than I am -- we should make a serious effort to review and expand the voter rolls well in advance of the November crunch.
One thing I belatedly realized from this chart is that I never received physical CDs of Halvorson's Nonesuch albums nor of Sorey's Mesmerism. I reviewed them from streams as soon as they dropped, but was perplexed at not being able to find them when I racked up all of my 2022 A/A-/B+(***) jazz CDs. I rechecked several top jazz albums during the Poll, but only Wilkins got a grade bump. Although I've heard all 30 albums above, only 12 came as CDs.
One person I want to single out from the Jazz Poll's In Memoriam list is John Swenson. I remember him from when he was reviewing records for Rolling Stone in the mid-1970s. He went on to edit Stone's jazz and blues record guides, and moved on to New Orleans, where he wrote New Atlantis: Musicians Battle for the Survival of New Orleans (post-Katrina). I bumped into him once, and was surprised and flattered that he seemed to be as pleased to meet me as I was to find him. As I recall, we were both pub rock fans at the time, so our later independent paths into jazz may have common roots. He joins John Morthland and Ed Ward in my personal pantheon of recently departed colleagues.
More old music this week, mostly from the Penguin Guide 4-star unheard list. Most get a single play and snap judgment, so I wouldn't be surprised if my grades wind up being low (even for Brubeck's Jazz Impressions of Japan). New records come from various sources, including Jazz Poll ballots, last week's Christgau Consumer Guide, and Jason Gross's Ye Wei Blog list. Plus I finally dipped into my 2023 promo queue.
I finished Fred Kaplan's 1959: The Year Everything Changed. The chapter on Margaret Sanger and the birth control pill is worth the price of the book, but so are another half-dozen chapters, not least those on three revolutions in jazz that hit that year: Miles Davis's Kind of Blue (with due credit for George Russell), Dave Brubeck's Time Out, and Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come. (Charles Mingus and Cecil Taylor get mentioned in passing, but not the former's fabulous Mingus Ah Um.) I turned nine that year, and scarcely noticed anything highlighted (mostly political events, including the space race), but Kaplan shows how the 1960s were locked and loaded, ready to burst forth, as they did for me -- many established so quickly that they looked to me like the natural world yet were still so new and divergent they shocked my parents and their generation's cultural guardians. Some overlap with Louis Menand's The Free World, which is more careful in laying out early post-WWII changes than looking for a specific pivot point.
Last, I wrote yet another Speaking of Which last night, and made a brief pass at touching it up today. The biggest change was that I looked up links for most of the statements I made in the introduction. I probably should do that sort of thing more often, but it's hard to keep up that much focus on something that gets forgotten so quickly.
New records reviewed this week:
Art Ensemble of Chicago: The Sixth Decade From Paris to Paris: Live at Sons D'Hiver (2020 , RogueArt, 2CD): Quintet formed in 1966, the best known group to emerge from the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Music), from their inception dedicated to transcending jazz and performing "great black music." The original group stuck together more than 30 years, until the deaths of Lester Bowie (1999), Malachi Favors (2004), and Joseph Jarman (2019). That left Roscoe Mitchell (sax) and Famoudou Don Moye (percussion), who keep the faith with a long list of guests: I count 18 here, where the vocalists (Moor Mother, Roco Córdova, Erina Newkirk) are most prominent, and the percussionists most numerous. I don't love all the vocals, but there's much to celebrate here. A- [cd] [01-20]
Asake: Mr. Money With the Vibe (2022, 'YBNL Nation/Empire): Nigerian singer-songwriter Ahmed Ololade, first album (after an EP). Draws on hip-hop more than Afrobeat, but gets a nice flow either way. B+(***) [sp]
John Bailey: Time Bandits (2022 , Freedom Road): Trumpet/flugelhorn player, only has a couple albums but has been around a long time. Mainstream quartet here with George Cables (piano), Scott Colley (bass), and Victor Lewis (drums). B+(**) [01-23]
Lucian Ban: Ways of Disappearing (2021 , Sunnyside): Romanian pianist, moved to New York in 1999, dozen-plus albums since 2002, this one solo. Originals plus one piece each by Annette Peacock and Carla Bley. B+(**) [sp]
Barcelona Art Orchestra: Ragtime Stories (2021 , UnderPool): Large (17-piece) group, conducted by pianists Néstor Giménez and Llis Vidal, with Lluc Casares (clarinet/tenor sax) and Joan Vidal (drums) also composing and arranging. May have some swing or earlier references, but is slick and fully postmodern. B+(***) [sp]
Bliss Quintet: Dramaqueen (2022, Jazzland): Norwegian quintet, first album, no credits on Bandcamp page, and I don't recognize any names on the cover, but figure trumpet, sax, piano, bass, drums. B+(*) [sp]
Madison Cunningham: Revealer (2022, Verve Forecast): Singer-songwriter from California, fourth album. B+(**) [sp]
Czarface: Czarmageddon (2022, Silver Age): Hip-hop group, with Inspectah Deck (of Wu-Tang) joining the duo 7L & Esoteric. Twelfth album since 2013. Trademark cartoon cover, lots of turntable squeaks, beats sometimes leaning toward punk. B+(***) [sp]
Falkner Evans: Through the Lines (2022 , CAP): Pianist, originally from Tulsa, moved to New York in 1985, seventh album since 2001, his second solo outing. Measured and thoughtful. B+(**) [cd] [01-20]
Mimi Fox Organ Trio: One for Wes (2022 , Origin): Guitarist, albums as far back as 1987, trio here with Brian Ho (organ) and Lorca Hart (drums). She comes from a generation of American guitarists who were almost all under Wes Montgomery's spell, so the dedication isn't a surprise, but the music -- no Montgomery tunes, six originals (only dedication there is the probable typo, "For Django, Avec Amor"), covers of Bobby Timmons and Lennon-McCartney -- points elsewhere. B+(*) [cd] [01-20]
Fred Frith/Susana Santos Silva: Laying Demons to Rest (2021 , RogueArt): Guitar and trumpet duo, one 41:57 piece, seems abstract at first but grows on you. B+(***) [cd] [01-20]
Hard Rubber Orchestra: Iguana (2022, Redshift): Large Canadian group, founded in 1990 and directed by John Korsrud, based in Vancouver, only a handful of albums. This one credits 21 musicians (including five drummers plus a percussionist), includes' three Korsrud compositions but he's not among the credits. B+(*) [sp]
Sly Johnson: 55.4 (2022, BBE): French singer, first name Sylvère, fourth album, "blends soul and hip-hop" (I'd say funk). Includes a slow, evocative "What's Going On." B+(**) [sp]
Linqua Franqa: Bellringer (2022, Ernest Jennings): From Athens, Georgia, "linguist by day, lunatic lady rapper by night." A little unsteady, but gets political toward the end, asking the labor solidarity "which side are you on?." B+(**) [bc]
Lyrics Born: Vision Board (2022, Mobile Home): Rapper Tom Shimura, boasts he's "The Best Rapper in the World," and while that song doesn't make the case, I can't think of anyone who can pump up a beat like him, then match the clever string of words he flows in and around. He secures guests for six (of nine) songs, yet they all join together. Short (29:34). A- [sp]
Joanna Mattrey/Gabby Fluke-Mogul: Oracle (2022, Relative Pitch): Violin duo (Mattrey's credit: viola, stroh violin), a sound I find intrinsically treacherous. Still, if you can get past that reaction, you get a lot of tricky interaction, including a bit of joust, which is actually a bit less jarring than a free sax squawk. B+(**) [sp]
Fergus McCreadie: Forest Floor (2022, Edition): Scottish pianist, second album, trio with bass (David Bowden) and drums (Stephen Henderson). Impressive speed, retains his touch when he slows down. B+(**) [sp]
Joe McPhee & Tomeka Reid: Let Our Rejoicing Rise (2021 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Opens with a McPhee speech on Juneteenth and "Nation Time," leading into a tenor sax and cello duo, a bit on the solemn side. B+(**) [bc]
Montparnasse Musique: Archeology (2022, Real World): Duo, Algerian-French producer Nadjib Ben Bella, and South African DJ Aero Manyelo, the latter's hip-hop (or kwaito or gqom) with a dash of mbube wrapped up in electronic glitz. A- [sp]
Simon Moullier: Isla (2022 , self-released): Vibraphone player, second album, quartet with piano (Lex Korten), bass, and drums. Nice easy flow. B+(**) [cd] [02-17]
Native Sound System: Nativeworld (2022, Native): Not a group, evidently a British radio show (DJs Sholzstilltippin and Addy Edgal), tied to a Nigerian magazine, so this might be more of a various artists compilation. B+(*) [sp]
Youssou N'Dour Et Le Super Etoile De Dakar: Special Fin D'Année 2022 (2022, self-released, EP): Four tracks, 20:41. Not essential, but the last track would fit nicely in one of his typically brilliant albums. B+(**) [sp]
Maggie Nicols: Are You Ready? (2021 , Otoroku): Scottish free jazz singer, plays piano, original name Margaret Nicolson, first albums 1982. This one is divided into two sets: "Songs" (39:46) and "Whatever Arises" (39:25). [r]
Oort Smog: Smeared Pulse Transfers (2017 , Sweatband, EP): Los Angeles duo, Patrick Shiroishi (sax) and Mark Kimbrell (drums). Billed as prog rock, or experimental, or brutal prog -- anything but jazz, but even they admit Coltrane-Ali is the source of the duo format. I'd venture no wave, but they're probably too young to have even heard of it. Ten punk-length pieces (19:46), not that they feel abbreviated, or distinct. B+(*) [sp]
Oort Smog: Every Motherfucker Is Your Brother (2022, AKP): Slightly longer at 28:59, but only one song, so you can call it anything from a single to an album. Long form means they can take a while warming up before breaking out. B+(**) [sp]
PinkPantheress: Take Me Home (2022, Warner Music, EP): Gemma Walker, British pop singer, got a lot of attention for her To Hell With It mini-album. Three more songs, 7:40, starting off with the previously released single "Boy's a Liar." Pretty good, but very slight. Not sure if she'll ever produce a real album -- her 10-track debut only ran 18:36 -- but it's hard to focus on these micro-doses. B+(*) [sp]
Pongo: Sakidila (2022, Virgin): Angolan singer, Engrácia Domingues, based in Lisbon, first album after a single and an EP. The typical Portuguese lilt lurks in the background, but the beats are so insistent you barely notice it. A- [sp]
Simona Premazzi: Wave in Gravity: Solo Piano (2021 , PRE): Italian pianist, based in New York, fourth album since 2006. Solo, as advertised. Half originals, half standards, including a Monk. All engaging. B+(**) [cd] [02-17]
Scrunchies: Feral Coast (2022, Dirtnap): Punk duo from Minneapois, Laura Larson (guitar) and Danielle Cusack (drums), second album after several previous group alignments (including Buzzcunts, a Buzzcocks cover band). B+(***) [bc]
Elliott Sharp/Eric Mingus: Songs From a Rogue State (2022, Zoar): Guitarist, many albums since 1978, many straying from jazz. Mingus sings, plays some bass. Leans toward blues, or Beefheart, but both harsher and wilder. B+(*) [sp]
Kalia Vandever: Regrowth (2022, New Amsterdam): Trombone player, based in Brooklyn, second album, original pieces, some guest alto sax (Immanuel Wilkins), but mostly built around piano and/or guitar. B+(***) [sp]
Skip Walker: Tina's Contemplation: A Reflection on the Genius of Tina Brooks (2022, Skip Walker Music): Brooks was a short-lived tenor saxophonist (1932-74) who recorded four mostly brilliant albums for Blue Note 1958-61. Walker is a drummer, tackling and contemplating Brooks' songbook with piano (Travis Shook) and bass (Essiet Okon Essiet). Very nice record, but I'm missing the saxophone. B+(***) [sp]
Yelawolf/Shooter Jennings: Sometimes Y (2022, Slumerican): Michael Atha, started out as a white rapper from Alabama, teams up with the son of Waylon Jennings to make a fairly slick but hard-hitting rock album. B [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Ashbury Stabbins Duo: Fire Without Bricks (1976 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Duo, Larry Stabbins (tenor/soprano sax) and Roy Ashbury (drums), originally released in 1977. Struggles to be heard, interesting when it is. B+(*) [bc]
Pedro Lima: Recordar É Viver: Antologia Vol. 1 (1981-87 , Bongo Joe): Singer from São Tome, an island off the west coast of Equatorial Africa, controlled by Portugal until 1975. Lima (1944-2019) recorded regularly in the 1980s-1990s, the source of this compilation (which includes unreleased tracks). Strong influence here of Congolese rhumba and soukous, especially in the guitar. B+(***) [sp]
Mainstream Funk: Funk, Soul, Spiritual Jazz 1971-75 (1971-75 , WeWantSounds): A sampler from Bob Shad's 1964-76 label Mainstream Records, which started as a mostly jazz label -- their first releases were reissues from the Commodore and Time labels. Many of the musicians here were better known for jazz (Sarah Vaughan, who opens with a cover of "Inner City Blues"; Blue Mitchell, Johnny Coles, Buddy Terry), and most of the other cuts are longer on vamps than on vocals. B+(**) [bc]
Freddy Roland Y Su Orquesta De Moda: Freddy Roland Y Su Orquesta De Moda (1968 , Vampisoul): Saxophonist, Ángel Pablo Bagni Stella, from Argentina (1932-2004), played with Pérez Prado, wound up in Peru (home of his wife, a cumbia singer known as Veronikha). Bandcamp page has no credits or dates, but this matches a 1968 LP, which Discogs has as Vol. II. No doubt someone could assemble a quality retrospective (perhaps even one of those 4-CD Proper Boxes), but this slice of time is pretty wonderful. A- [bc]
Abash [Tommy Skotte/Anders Ekholm/Nils Danell]: Abash (1993, Dragon): Swedish trio, first of three albums through 2000, my inclination in parsing the cover is to credit the names and leave Abash as the title, but later albums follow the group name, and that's how I initially filed them. Besides, Ekholm (tenor sax) is the central figure, having written six songs, vs. one each' for bassist Skotte and drummer Danell). B+(***) [r]
Albert Ayler: Nuits De La Fondation Maeght 1970 (1970 , Water): Tenor saxophonist, the defining force of the 1960s avant-garde, his death in November 1970 slamming the door on an era (especially coming after Coltrane's death in 1967). His last albums on Impulse were poorly regarded, but these final live sets have been widely bootlegged, and given the 4-CD box set treatment by Elemental Music in 2022 (Revelations: The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings, which finished 3rd in the Jazz Critics Poll, but only fragments are available to stream). This edition is a good sampler, superseding the two Shandar LPs with a single 73:55 CD. Quartet, with Call Cobbs (piano), Steve Tintweiss (bass), and Allen Blairman (drums), with a Mary Maria vocal at the end. A- [sp]
Jon Balke & Magnetic North Orchestra: Kyanos (2001 , ECM): Norwegian pianist, albums since 1991, group a septet from his 1994 album Further, with trumpets (Per Jørgensen and Arve Henriksen), sax (Morten Halle), cello, bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]
Tony Bevan/Paul Rogers/Steve Noble: Bigshots (1991 , Incus): British saxophonist (tenor/soprano), second album, a trio with bass and drums. B+(*) [bc]
Tony Bevan/Alexander Frangenheim/Steve Noble: Twisters (1995 , Scatter): A second trio, Bevan playing soprano and bass saxophone, with bass and percussion. B+(*) [bc]
Michiel Borstlap: The Sextet Live! (1995, Challenge, 2CD): Dutch pianist, first album, has a fairly stellar front line with trumpet (Eric Vloeimans), alto/c-melody sax (Benjamin Herman), and tenor/soprano sax (Yuri Honing), plus bass and drums. Plenty of energy, especially on trumpet. B+(**) [r]
Anthony Braxton: In the Tradition (1974 , Steeplechase): Often identified as Volume 1 these days, but I don't see any edition in Discogs, starting with the original five-track LP release in 1974, that makes that explicit. One of the lowest-rated albums in all of the Penguin Guide, but one can only speculate over the pique. Maybe the stinky sound of the contrabass clarinet, which all but buries "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," but on "Ornithology" it merely slows Braxton down to human speed. The Copenhagen rhythm section is pretty great, with pianist Tete Montoliu getting a lot of solo space, backed by NHØP (bass) and Tootie Heath (drums). B+(**) [sp]
Anthony Braxton: In the Tradition: Volume 2 (1974 , Steeplechase): A second set of tunes from the same session, this first appeared in 1976, and picked up a seventh piece for CD reissue. Similar mix of tunes, including more Marsh and Parker, plus a long "Body and Soul." B+(**) [sp]
Anthony Braxton: Five Compositions (Quartet) 1986 (1986, Black Saint): Numbers 88, 101, 122, 124, and 131, recorded in Milan with David Rosenboom (piano), Mark Dresser (bass), and Gerry Hemingway (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Anthony Braxton: Ninetet (Yoshi's) 1997 Vol. 1 (1997 , Leo, 2CD): Two compositions, 207 and 208, one 73:09, the other 74:00, performed by a group with six saxophonists plus guitar (Kevin O'Neil), bass (Joe Fonda), and percussion (Kevin Norton). B+(***) [r]
Bob Brookmeyer New Art Orchestra: New Works/Celebration (1997 , Challenge): Valve trombonist (1929-2011), started playing piano in big bands, first album (1954) was a quartet, but he was always well-regarded as an arranger, and formed this big band here (eventually recording six albums through 2011). B+(**) [sp]
Reuben Brown Trio: Ice Scape (1994 , SteepleChase): Pianist, very little about him online, aside from a couple appearances in the 1970s, and two albums on SteepleChase. This one gets help from Rufus Reid (bass) and Billy Hart (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Reuben Brown: Blue and Brown (1994 , SteepleChase): A second album, this one solo. B+(**) [sp]
Dave Brubeck: Octet (1948-49 , Fantasy/OJC): Some of the pianist's earliest recordings, first appearing in 1950 as Old Sounds From San Francisco (two EPs, then a 10-inch LP, and finally as Octet on a 12-inch LP in 1956). Group included Dick Collins (trumpet), Bob Collins (trombone), David Van Kriedt (tenor sax), Paul Desmond (alto sax), William O. Smith (clarinet & baritone sax), Jack Weeks (bass), and Cal Tjader (drums). Some slick moves, not that all of them work. B+(**) [r]
Dave Brubeck Quartet: Jazz at the College of the Pacific (1953 , Fantasy/OJC): Early quartet featuring Paul Desmond (alto sax), with Ron Crotty (bass) and Joe Dodge (drums), shortly after the highly recommended Jazz at Oberlin, and shortly before the more famous Jazz Goes to College. B+(***) [r]
The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Brubeck Time (1954 , Columbia): Two originals plus six standards, from "Jeepers Creepers" to "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" The first of many Brubeck albums with "time" in the title, but this one doesn't seem to have anything to do with the unorthodox time signatures he made much of from 1959 (Time Out) forward. B+(***) [r]
The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Jazz Impressions of the U.S.A. (1956-57 , Columbia): The first of several Jazz Impressions albums, must have seemed like an easy take for a group that made its bread and butter touring college campuses. The cover is a map with the song titles, like "Ode to a Cowboy," along the borders and coasts. B+(***) [sp]
The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Jazz Impressions of Eurasia (1958, Columbia): On one of those State Department "good will" tours, they crossed Northern Europe to Poland, then down to Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and on to India, Pakistan, Ceylon, and Afghanistan ("one of the most fascinating countries we visited," where they were "awakened by the weirdest sound I ever heard"). A bit more exotic, but hasn't found the handle yet. B+(**) [sp]
The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Jazz Impressions of Japan (1964, Columbia): The pianist studied with Darius Milhaud, who advised him to travel the world and keep his ears open. Brubeck did, even if the Japanese affects here are somewhat stock (gongs and such). Upbeat songs like "Toki's Theme" really jump out, and Paul Desmond is even more sublime than usual. A- [sp]
The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Jazz Impressions of New York (1964 , Columbia): Four songs with "Broadway" in the title, others with "Washington Square" and "Central Park," but also a "Bossa Nova" and a "Rumba." B+(***) [sp]
Gary Burton/Keith Jarrett: Gary Burton and Keith Jarrett (1969-70 , Atlantic): The vibraphonist was two years older than Jarrett, but got a quick jump with New Vibe Man in Town at 18 in 1961, and had something of a fusion rep, although that was not his only spin. The pianist released his first two albums in 1968, after playing with Art Blakey and Charles Lloyd, and added a short stint with Miles Davis before this album came out. Jarrett plays electric piano and soprano sax here, the group filled out with guitar (Sam Brown), bass (Steve Swallow), and drums. B [sp]
Stoney Edwards: Mississippi You're on My Mind (1975, Capitol): Black country singer, recorded six albums for Capitol 1971-76, newly reissued (at least digital) -- I've looked for this for ages, but until now only found the 20-track Razor & Tie The Best of Stoney Edwards: Poor Folks Stick Together, still the better deal. One song name-checks Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell. He draws more on the latter. A- [sp]
Jackie McLean & Tina Brooks: Street Singer (1960 , Blue Note): Brooks is a tenor saxophonist, had a hot streak recording four albums 1959-61 for Blue Note, dropped from sight, and died at 42 in 1974. This session, recorded with McLean on alto sax, and a rhythm section of Kenny Drew, Paul Chambers, and Art Taylor, was shelved until it came out in Japan in 1980, and finally in the US in 2000. No idea why they sat on this, other than that McLean was in the midst of his own hot streak, from New Soil to Let Freedom Ring to One Step Beyond and Destination: Out -- maybe a classic joust didn't seem far out enough? Also note that only Brooks' True Blue was released at the time. A- [sp]
Lucinda Williams: Little Honey (2008, Lost Highway): Only album in my database I hadn't heard, so I figured why not? Voice going but not yet gone. Songs substantial by any standards but maybe not hers. Identifies rock and roll, and has the guitars to prove it. B+(***) [sp]
Grade (or other) changes:
PinkPantheress: To Hell With It (2021, Parlophone, EP): British pop singer, barely 20, first short mixtape (10 songs, 18:36), vocals feathery light, enough so that this got tagged as "atmospheric drum & bass," but pay close attention and get to the point. Hint for me was a turn of phrase I hadn't heard since Lily Allen. [was: B+(**)] A- [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
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Monday, January 9, 2023
January archive (in progress).
Music: Current count 39353  rated (+23), 42  unrated (+3: 14 new, 28 old).
In early November, Francis Davis decided that he couldn't afford the time needed to run a 17th annual edition of his Jazz Critics Poll. He asked me to take over, as I had done most of the grunt work last year, and had helped out for many years before that. I agreed, figuring I'd spent a lot of time this year tracking music, even aggregating ratings, plus I had been procrastinating on other projects, so why not finish out the year doing a good turn? I organized a mailing list, and sent ballots out around November 13, with a December 12 deadline. I wound up collecting and compiling 151 ballots: down a bit from 2021's 156, but still a good showing. I worked out a deal with Arts Fuse to publish the results, and started to prepare them for publication.
Then I got Covid. While I was never very sick, it created a lot of stress as we tried to keep my wife from getting infected. Also producing a lot of stress was the terminal spiral of our dog Sadie, nearly 15, inherited 8 years ago with Liz Fink died (and as such, sort of a sacred trust). I totally missed our original delivery date, and didn't make any serious progress until New Year's. I finally pulled most of it together on Wednesday, and sent the pieces in Thursday. They were published Friday afternoon, about the same time we had a vet visit to put the dog down.
The archive index page is: The 17th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Poll: 2022. This includes links for the articles published at Arts Fuse:
The two pieces by me were originally conceived of as four, but Bill Marx wanted to combine the tables with the essays. Francis's essay came in after I had handed all of my pieces in. He had seen all of my stuff by then.
The archive page also includes links for complete results (the Arts Fuse list stops at 50 new releases, and 20 reissues/historical), and for all of the individual voter ballots:
I suppose I'll have more to say about the Poll, its results, and the process behind it, but at this point the combination of exhaustion and frustration probably makes that unwise. As I point out in one (or both) of the essays, the most important point for the poll is the data it generates, so please dig into that. You're bound to learn some things.
My listening of late has been very skewed. One thing that has frustrated me immensely, and is wholly my own fault, is that my system for filing CDs has completely broken down, to where I can't find anything. I should have spent the last several weeks rechecking the year's highest rated albums, but have failed in that almost completely. I wound up streaming the top three finishers, leaving Mary Halvorson's Amaryllis and Cécile McLorin Salvant's Ghost Song at my original B+(***) -- although Salvant's Kurt Weil cover is pretty great -- but I did bump up the grade for Immanuel Wilkins's The 7th Hand considerably. Below that, I could neither stream nor find my copy of Tyshawn Sorey's Mesmerism, another B+(***) first time around. I only had two of the top ten finishers made my A-list, and only three of the next ten (ok, four more from 21-30, three from 31-40, and two from 41-50).
Still, I emerged from this experience with more respect than ever for my fellow voters. I suspect that Francis was a bit reluctant to hand his baby over, because he regarded me as some kind of fringe critic. I found myself caring very little about the standings, as long as the ballots showed considerable thought, which they did.
So, instead of catching up with new jazz (as I did a lot of in November and especially December), I played old records, especially a lot of Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, and Lester Young. Then last week, I pulled up a list of unheard Penguin Guide 4-star albums, and thought I'd knock off a few. Hence, the reviews below are almost all modern but not recent jazz. No idea why I first landed on an Italian clarinetist, but I worked back from him, then returned to the top of the list.
I should mention that despite being so out of it, I did manage a Speaking of Which news revue yesterday. I also added three books to the Recent Reading roll, after several weeks of neglect.
Matt Taibbi did some brilliant work early in his career -- like his designation of presidential campaign coverage as "the stupid season," and his Wimblehack rankings of America's worst political journalists (note that Karen Tumulty has defended her title numerous times, not that I'm sure she's still the worst). But his Twitter feed has become little short of obnoxious, so I was thinking of dropping him -- but I figured the book looked like it had a sound premise, so maybe I should give him that chance. It is, indeed, a pretty good book, even if a little too both-sidesy. And sure, he goes a bit off the deep end on Russiagate, but that's more in his conclusions than in the reporting. And although Rachel Maddow (who I find seriously annoying) splits the cover, in the book she's relegated to an appendix.
Lepore's The Name of War is more about how Prince Philip's War (1675-76) has been remembered than what actually happened, which borders on genocide. Kaplan's 1959 makes a case for that year as one of pivotal change in America. So far, it's pretty convincing. A big concern of my memoir is how much America has changed, especially in the first twenty years of my life (the 1950s and 1960s). By the way, Kaplan is a Jazz Critics Poll voter, and he has a very detailed chapter on Kind of Blue in the book.
New records reviewed this week:
75 Dollar Bill: Social Music at Troost Vol. 3: (Other) People's Music (2015-17 , self-released): Guitar and drums duo, Che Chen and Rick Brown, debut 2014, have added others especially to the live albums they've been releasing on Bandcamp since the lockdown, including sax, vocals, and bass to some of these pieces, as well as "bar patrons, friends, neighbors." This is a set of covers, ranging from Harry Partch and Pauline Oliveros to Yoko Ono to Bob Dylan and Dolly Parton. Phil Overeem's record of the year. A- [dl]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Chet Baker Trio: Live in Paris: The Radio France Recordings 1983-1984 (1983-84 , Elemental Music, 2CD): Collects two sets of radio shots, with Baker playing trumpet and singing, backed by piano (Michel Graillier) and bass (Dominique Lemerle or Riccardo Del Fra). B+(*) [sp]
Arcana: The Last Wave (1995 , DIW): Avant-fusion trio, recorded two albums, this first one with Derek Bailey (guitar), Bill Laswell (bass), and Tony Williams (drums), with Laswell producing. B+(***) [sp]
Derek Bailey: Drop Me Off at 96th (1986-87 , Scatter): British avant-guitarist, revered by the Penguin Guide but barely sampled by me, solo from two live sessions. My favorite bit is one where Bailey talks about his record company catalog, as his scattered guitar licks take a back seat. B+(**) [bc]
Chet Baker: The Best Thing for You (1977 , A&M): Don Sebesky produced this session, which doesn't look to have been released until shortly after Baker's death in 1988. The first side is standards, with Paul Desmond (alto sax), Kenny Barron (piano), Ron Carter (bass), and Tony Williams (drums). Second side is a 17:03 Sebesky piece with a bunch of extras. Both sides impress, even Sebesky's kitchen sink treatment. A- [sp]
Chet Baker Quartet Featuring Phil Markowitz: Live at Nick's (1978 , Criss Cross): Trumpet and vocal (including some scat), from a live set in London, with Markowitz on piano, Scott Lee on bass, and Jeff Brillinger on drums. Reissue adds two pieces, expanding from 44:53 to 68:37. B+(***) [r]
Chet Baker Quintet Featuring Warne Marsh: Blues for a Reason (1984 , Criss Cross): No vocals, just trumpet and tenor sax, backed with piano (Hod O'Brien), bass (Cecil McBee), and drums (Eddie Gladden). Marsh makes a huge difference here, cutting corners and slashing around curves, but Baker, too, gets the idea. A- [r]
Chet Baker Trio Featuring Philip Catherine: Chet's Choice (1985 , Criss Cross): Trumpet/vocal with guitar and bass (mostly Jean-Louis Rassinfosse), the CD adding three tracks. Catherine provides a bit of groove, keeping it all running smoothly. A- [r]
Bernt Rosengren: Notes From Underground (1973 , EMI Svenska): Swedish tenor saxophonist, also plays flute and piano, played early on with George Russell, Krzysztof Komeda, and Don Cherry. The occasional vocal tracks have a Middle Eastern sound, and Okay Temiz helps the the percussion (and Bengt Berger plays tabla). The horns can get intense. B+(***) [sp]
Bernt Rosengren: Stockholm Dues (1965 , Columbia): The Swedish tenor saxophonist's first album, at least as a leader, reissued in a "Swedish Jazz Masters" series with three extra tracks. With trumpet (Lalle Svensson), piano, bass, and drums, plus vocals on a couple tracks. B+(**) [sp]
Jimmy Rowles and George Mraz: Music's the Only Thing That's on My Mind (1976 , Progressive): Piano and bass duets, with Rowles singing three songs. B+(**) [sp]
Jimmy Rowles: Shade and Light [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1978 , Black & Blue): Piano trio with George Duvivier (bass) and Oliver Jackson (drums), recorded in Paris. B+(***) [sp]
Terje Rypdal: Lux Aeterna (2000 , ECM): Norwegian guitarist, early on was one of many Norwegians influenced by George Russell, recorded with ECM since 1971. This is a large-scale suite in five movements, featuring Bergen Chamber Ensemble conducted by Kjell Seim, with organ and many strings, way too thick, also a vocal section. Only Palle Mikkelborg's trumpet stands out. B- [sp]
Terje Rypdal: After the Rain (1976, ECM): Essentially a solo album, with the guitarist dubbing in keyboards, soprano sax, flute, and bells. Guitar tone cries and shimmers. B [sp]
Randy Sandke and the New York Allstars: The Rediscovered Louis and Bix (1999 , Nagel Heyer): Trumpet player (also cornet here), not exclusively a trad jazz guy but is such a Beiderbecke fan that he named his son Bix, and Armstrong is hardly an afterthought. One side for each, drawing on obscure compositions. George Avakian produced ("presents"), and the Allstars are aptly named (as well as a nod to Armstrong: featured on the cover are Kenny Davern, Wycliffe Gordon, Dick Hyman, and Ken Peplowski, with many more in the fine print. A- [sp]
Louis Sclavis/Dominique Pifarély/Marc Ducret/Bruno Chevillon: Acoustic Quartet (1993 , ECM): French clarinetist, many albums since 1981, Discogs co-credits with with the violinist, and indeed only their names are above the title, and Pifarély wrote three tracks to Sclavis' four, but the other names (on guitar and bass) are in the same oversized type as the leaders. B+(***) [sp]
Louis Sclavis Sextet: Les Violences de Rameau (1995-96 , ECM): Play soprano sax as well as his usual clarinets, in a group with trombone (Yves Robert), violin (Dominique Pifarély), keyboards, bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]
Louis Sclavis Sextet: Ellington on the Air (1991-92 , Ouch!): An earlier Sextet album, originally issued on IDA, with the same group as above. This one is built around Ellington pieces (including Bubber Miley and Juan Tizol). B+(***) [sp]
Louis Sclavis Quintet: L'Affrontement Des Prétendants (2000 , ECM): Clarinet and soprano sax, joined up front by Jean-Luc Cappozzo on trumpet, backed by cello (Vincent Curtois), bass (Bruno Chevillon), and drums (François Merville). B+(***) [sp]
Bud Shank: The Doctor Is In (1991 , Candid): Alto saxophonist, originally from Ohio, studied in North Carolina, moved to California and played with Short Rogers, Charlie Barnet, and Stan Kenton. A cool jazz icon in the 1950s, recorded regularly but seems like he caught a second wind in the early 1990s. Quartet with Mike Wofford (piano), Bob Magnusson (bass), and Sherman Ferguson (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Tommy Smith: Spartacus (2000 , Spartacus): Scottish tenor saxophonist, had a run of flashy records on Blue Note (1989-94) and Linn (1995-2000) before settling into his own label here. Quartet, featuring credit for pianist Kenny Barron, with James Genus (bass) and Clarence Penn (drums). Leans toward ballads. B+(**) [sp]
Gianluigi Trovesi: Around Small Fairy Tales (1998, Soul Note): Italian clarinet and alto saxophone player, albums since 1978, throw in the kitchen sink here, in the form of Orchestra Da Camera Di Nembro Enea Salmeggia, with oboe, harp, vibes, and at least a dozen string instruments. B+(**) [sp]
Gianluigi Trovesi/Gianni Coscia: In Cerca Di Cibo (1999 , ECM): Clarinet (piccolo/alto/bass) and accordion duets. B+(**) [sp]
Gianluigi Trovesi: Dedalo (2001 , Enja): Leads off with alto sax here, later switching to his clarinets, backed by the WDR Big Band, in an exceptionally festive mood. Also named on the cover: Markus Stockhausen (trumpet), Fulvio Maras (percussion, and Tom Rainey (drums). The opener "Hercab" is funky enough they reprise it live at the end. A- [sp]
Gianluigi Trovesi Ottetto: Fugace (2002 , ECM): The leader, composer of all but two fragments (from trad. and W.C. Handy), plays alto sax and clarinet, the octet rounded out with trumpet, trombone, cello, two bassists, drums, and percussion (Fluvio Maras), with several of those also credited with electronics. B+(***) [sp]
Grade (or other) changes:
Immanuel Wilkins: The 7th Hand (2022, Blue Note): Alto saxophonist, major debut in 2020, second album, quartet with Micah Thomas (piano), Daryl Johns (bass), and Kweku Sumbry (drums), plus guest spots. Even more ambitious: "hour-long suite comprised of seven movements that strive to bring the quartet closer to complete vesselhood." Impressive chops, but also structure and flow. Once again I underrated him. [was: B+(*)] A- [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
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