Music Week [0 - 9]

Monday, July 4, 2022


Music Week

July archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 38282 [38227] rated (+55), 78 [87] unrated (-9).

Posted a rather substantial Speaking of Which yesterday. (Added one more link today, after finding a tab I had opened but missed.) After complaining about no Facebook reaction last week, I finally got a like, a comment, and a message from an old Boston friend, so let's dedicate this one to her. I was torn at first between writing one and starting to jot down my latest book thinking. I decided I could do the latter in the end section of the post, but it turns out I never got that far. I had two things I wanted to write about: first was Robert Christgau's Hillary Clinton Lookback; second was further correspondence with Crocodile Chuck, following my last week Q&A. After that it was mostly a matter of filling in the sections on Ukraine, SCOTUS, and the January 6 Committee. As I went through my paces, I found a few more topics to note, and wound up including a couple pages I didn't have much to say about, but felt like bookmarking anyway (e.g., Elizabeth Nelson on Anthony Bourdain, Annie Proulx on swamps).

By the way, I ordered the two Tariq Ali books (on Churchill and Afghanistan). I'm also through the first section of the Millhiser book (Injustices). I was already familiar with a number of the 19th century cases in that section from reading Jack Beatty's Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America, 1865-1900, but Millhiser's description of the conditions is remarkably good. Millhiser also has a more recent (2021) but shorter (143 pp) book: The Agenda: How a Republican Supreme Court Is Reshaping America, and has written a lot more since then in Vox. Another promising book on the recent Supreme Court is Adam Cohen's Supreme Inequalilty: The Supreme Court's Fifty-Year Battle for a More Unjust America. (Cohen previously wrote a whole book on the Carrie Buck case, which Millhiser presents in 4-5 pages.)

Another valuable critic of the right-wing takeover of the Court is Erwin Chemerinsky, who has a number of books on the subject. The only one I've read so far fits into a slightly different genre: books that offer close readings of America's founding documents and find them compatible with progressive reform. Chemerinsky's is We the People: A Progressive Reading of the Constitution for the Twenty-First Century. A similar book is Danielle S Allen's Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality. I recommend them both (Allen's is especially appropriate on this 4th of July), and even more so Ganesh Sitaraman's The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution. I'll also note that two of our greatest historians have found progressive kernels in the Constitution: Gordon S Wood, in The Radicalism of the American Revolution, and Eric Foner, in The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution. I'm fully aware that every step forward is met with vitriol and retrenchment from self-proclaimed conservatives, and that they have often been successful, but when we look back on our history, the moments we're proudest of, and most inspired by, have always aspired toward more universal justice.

I suppose I should note that I started out as a devout believer in what I saw as American ideals, the consistent application of which led me toward a peculiarly individualized understanding of the left. One early step for me was reading Staughton Lynd's Intellectual Origins of American Radicalism (1968). I was so taken by the book that I wrote a defensive letter to Eugene Genovese, who had written a brutal review of Lind's book in The New York Review of Books. Genovese kindly replied, and suggested I read some of his work (which aside from papers at the time was just The Political Economy of Slavery). I did, and that was my introduction to Marxism. I came to understand Genovese's critique, but doubt I ever lost my initial sympathy for Lind -- or for the idea that a better America could draw on the ideals of the Revolution and Reconstruction.

I wrote the above last night, without particularly realizing that today is the 4th of July. We have no holiday plans. I probably won't even bother walking down the block to where the big fireworks show should be visible. I don't mind celebrating the holiday so much -- as I said above, the Declaration of Independence still resonates for me -- but I've come to hate the idea of celebrating by blowing things up.


I don't have much to say about music this week. I'm still trying to track down my long-time unrated list, which is the only reason I bothered with two Christmas albums this week. The top "old music" find this week was an LP I noticed while looking for something else. It turned out to be unrated but not in my unrated list, so finding it was dumb luck. Makes me wonder how many more there are. Otherwise, I've been following tips from more lists than I can keep track of. Some came from mid-year lists, links here.

As we've hit mid-year, I suppose I could offer you a list. The usual full one is here, but to focus a bit, let's omit the jazz (about half of the A-list, more like two-thirds of the overall list), and also omit records Robert Christgau has already reviewed/graded (since you probably know them already). That leaves us with this:

  1. Gonora Sounds: Hard Times Never Kill (The Vital Record)
  2. The Regrettes: Further Joy (Warner)
  3. Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul: Topical Dancer (Deewee/Because Music)
  4. Saba: Few Good Things (Saba Pivot)
  5. Bob Vylan: Bob Vylan Presents the Price of Life (Ghost Theatre)
  6. Nilüfer Yanya: Painless (ATO)
  7. Regina Spektor: Home, Before and After (Sire)
  8. Rosalía: Motomami (Columbia)
  9. Hailey Whitters: Raised (Big Loud/Pigasus)
  10. Craig Finn: A Legacy of Rentals (Positive Jams)
  11. Camila Cabello: Familia (Epic)
  12. Etran de L'Aďr: Agadez (Sahel Sounds)
  13. Wiz Khalifa/Big KRIT/Smoke DZA/Girl Talk: Full Court Press (Asylum/Taylor Gang)
  14. Mxmtoon: Rising (AWAL)
  15. Lady Wray: Piece of Me (Big Crown)
  16. Lyrics Born: Mobile Homies Season 1 (Mobile Home)
  17. Charli XCX: Crash (Asylum)
  18. Kae Tempest: The Line Is a Curve (Republic)
  19. Corb Lund: Songs My Friends Wrote (New West)
  20. Lalalar: Bi Cinnete Bakar (Bongo Joe)
  21. Elza Soares: Elza Ao Vivo No Municipal (Deck)
  22. Freakons: Freakons (Fluff & Gravy)
  23. Nova Twins: Supernova (333 Wreckords Crew)
  24. Pastor Champion: I Just Want to Be a Good Man (Luaka Bop)
  25. Ian Noe: River Fools & Mountain Saints (Thirty Tigers)
  26. Buck 65: King of Drums (self-released)
  27. Moor Mother: Jazz Codes (Anti-)
  28. Fulu Miziki: Ngbaka EP (Moshi Moshi, EP)
  29. Bob Vylan: We Live Here (Deluxe) (Venn, EP -21)

I imagine a couple of those will appear in July's Consumer Guide, but don't dare guess which. Two are items I only wrote up today, too late for this post, so they'll be part of next week's (but I'll give you the album covers anyway).


New records reviewed this week:

Angles: A Muted Reality (2021 [2022], Clean Feed): Octet, led by Swedish alto saxophonist Martin Küchen, who has used the group name for a number of projects, usually qualified by the number of players, from 3-9. Three pieces, 38:26. Takes a while to find the track, but impressive when they do. B+(***) [bc]

Avalanche Kaito: Avalanche Kaito (2022, Glitterbeat): "A Burkinabe urban griot [Kaito Winse] meets a Brussels noise punk duo" [Benjamin Chavel on drums/electronics, Amaud Paquotte bass]. A sign of the times, if not much more than that. B+(*) [bc]

Camille Bertault & David Helbock: Playground (2021 [2022], ACT): French jazz singer, fourth album, wrote three songs here, four more coming from the Austrian pianist, with widely scattered covers (Monk, Scriabine, Gismonti, Björk, "Good Morning Heartache"). B+(**) [sp]

Daniel Carter/Matthew Shipp/William Parker/Gerald Cleaver: Welcome Adventure! Vol. 2 (2019 [2022], 577): Label likes to do these staged 2-volume deals, with Vol. 1 out back in 2020. Carter is credited with saxophones and clarinet; the others you know (piano, bass, drums). B+(**) [dl]

Daniel Carter/Patrick Holmes/Matthew Putnam/Hilliard Greene/Federico Ughi: Telepatica (2018 [2022], 577): Leader plays saxes, clarinet, and trumpet; others: clarinet, piano, bass, drums. B+(*) [dl]

Roxy Coss: Disparate Parts (2022, Outside In Music): Tenor saxophonist, fifth album, backed by guitar (Alex Wintz), piano (Miki Yamanaka), bass and drums. B+(**) [sp]

Amalie Dahl: Dafnie (2022, Sonic Transmissions): Danish saxophonist (alto/baritone, also clarinet), based in Trondheim, first album, group listed as Amalie Dahl's Dafnie, but cover parses as above. Quintet with trumpet, trombone, bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]

Glenn Dickson: Wider Than the Sky (2021 [2022], Naftule's Dream): Klezmer clarinetist, first album under his own name, after group albums with Shirim Klezmer Orchestra and Naftule's Dream. Solo, accompanied by loops. B+(**) [cd] [07-08]

Signe Emmeluth/Dag Erik Knedal Andersen/Magnus Skavhaug Nergaard: The A-Z of Microwave Cookery (2020 [2022], Astral Spirits): Norwegian sax/bass/piano trio, alto/tenor. Joint improv, loses a bit when they slow down, but not much. B+(***) [bc]

David Francis: Sings Songs of the Twenties (2022, Blujazz, EP): Seattle-based standards singer, opens with "Honeysuckle Rose," touches on "Oh, Lady Be Good" and "Rockin' Chair," finishing seven songs in 19:17, not bad, been done better. B [cd]

GoGo Penguin: Between Two Waves (2022, XXIM, EP): British piano trio (Chris Illingworth, Nick Blacka, Jon Scott), albums since 2012, build off a snappy rhythm. Five songs, 24:41. B+(**) [sp]

Hard Bop Messengers: Live at the Last Hotel (2022, Pacific Coast Jazz): Group from St. Louis led by John Covelli (trombone), with Ben Shafer (sax/flute), Luke Sailor (piano), bass, drums, and lounge lizard singer Matt Krieg. Not as hard bop as you'd expect, but they swing some. B+(*) [sp]

Landaeus Trio: A Crisis of Perception (2019 [2022], Clean Feed): Piano trio led by Mathias Landaeus (also some interesting electronics), with Johnny Aman (bass) and Cornelia Nilsson (drums). Pianist has albums going back to 1996, and Trio has appeared on several albums backing up Martin Küchen. B+(***) [bc]

Magnus Lindgren/Georg Breinschmid: Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic XIII: Celebrating Mingus 100 (2022, ACT): Six Mingus classics, four arranged by Lindgren (baritone sax/bass clarinet, from Sweden), the others by Breinschmid (bass, from Austria), both with 20+ year careers that lean toward big bands. Group is an octet (plus vocalist Camille Bertault on one song), which splits the difference between the big bands that have flocked to Mingus since his death and the quintets that Mingus somehow whipped up into sounding even larger. B+(***) [sp]

Jeremy Manasia Trio: Butcher Block Ballet (2021 [2022], Blujazz): Straightforward piano trio, with Ugonna Okegwo (bass) and Charles Ruggiero (drums). B+(*) [cd]

Moskus: Papirfuglen (2020 [2022], Hubro): Norwegian group, albums since 2012, started as a piano (Anja Lauvdal), bass (Fredrik Luh Dietrichson), and drums (Hans Hulbaekmo) trio, but vary their sound more here, adding: synths/cembalo/vocoder, cello/mandolin, jews harp/drum machine/glockenspiel/recorder. B+(**) [bc]

OK:KO: Liesu (2022, We Jazz): Finnish quartet, led by drummer Okko Saastamoinen, with sax (Jarno Tikka), piano, and bass. B+(**) [bc]

Samo Salamon/Arild Andersen/Ra Kalam Bob Moses: Pure and Simple (2021 [2022], Samo): Slovenian guitarist, sends me most of his work, which I'm quite fond of, but rarely this much. The elders on bass and drums are more than inspiring. A- [cd]

Samo Salamon/Sabir Mateen: Joy and Sorrow (2020 [2022], Klopotec): Date given as "a couple years ago." Guitar and tenor sax/clarinet duo. Short (4 tracks, 35:50), some power. B+(***) [bc]

Samo Salamon/Cene Resnik/Urban Kusar: Takt Ars Sessions: Vol. 3 (2022, Samo): Guitar/tenor sax/drums, free improv set, new drummer this time after Jaka Berger on first two volumes. B+(***) [bc]

Linda Sikhakhane: Isambulo (2022, Ropeadope): South African saxophonist (tenor/soprano), studied in New York (Billy Harper was a mentor), based in Norway, third album. His sax has a spiritual (as in Coltrane) vibe to it. Parras and Anna Widauer vocals not so much. B+(**)

Soccer Mommy: Sometimes Forever (2022, Loma Vista): Singer-songwriter Sophie Allison, born in Zürich, grew up in Nashville, third album, starting to lose me. B+(*)

Günter Baby Sommer & the Lucaciu 3: Karawane (2022, Intakt): Venerable German drummer, says here "at the height of his musical career," but he's 78, born in Dresden shortly before the March 1945 fire-bombing that burned much of the city and killed 25,000 (revised estimate, I recall much higher numbers), old enough that he adopted his nickname in honor of Baby Dodds. Still pretty vigorous here. The Lucacius are Antonio (sax), Simon (piano), and Robert (bass), much younger (Antonio was born in 1987), also German (from Plauen). They get better when Sommer lights a fire under them. One highlight is a jive vocal, Sommer again. B+(***) [sp]

Regina Spektor: Home, Before and After (2022, Sire): Singer-songwriter, pianist, born in Moscow, came to US in 1989, and released her first album in 2001. This is number eight. Every song is striking, most lyrics are memorable. A-

The Sun Sawed in 1/2: Before the Fall (2022, self-released, EP): Neo-psychedelic pop outfit from St. Louis, founded 1990 by brothers Ken and Tim Rose, recorded five albums through 2000, one more in 2013, several EPs since 2021. This one is 6 songs, 25:09. B [bc]

Tarbaby Feat. Oliver Lake: Dance of the Evil Toys (2022, Clean Feed): Group a piano trio led by Orrin Evans with Eric Revis (bass) and Nasheet Waits (drums), appeared originally in 2009 on a short eponymous album, with three more albums through 2013, including one with alto saxophonist Lake as a guest. This one also adds Josh Lawrence (trumpet) and extra percussion (Dana Murray) on the title track. Evans' vocal on the opener threw me, but Lake gives another strong performance. B+(**) [bc]

TEIP Trio: TEIP Trio (2020 [2022], Sonic Transmissions): Free jazz trio ("with heavy rock elements") from Trondheim, Norway: Jens-Jonas Francis Roberts (clarinet), Arne Bredesen (guitar), Nicolas Leirtrř (baritone guitar). Closer to ambient, but on the creepy side. B+(*) [bc]

Crystal Thomas: Now Dig This! (2021, Dialtone): Blues singer, plays some trombone, old-fashioned enough the album is in mono, band led by Lucky Peterson on organ, with Johnny Moeller on guitar, plus bass and drums. No originals: writing credits include Albert King, Shirley Scott, Jerry Williams Jr., Janis Joplin. B+(***) [sp]

Kobe Van Cauwenberghe: Ghost Trance Septet Plays Anthony Braxton (2021 [2022], El Negocito): Guitarist, also credited with synths and voice, from Belgium (Antwerp), has a couple albums, including Ghost Trance Solos on this same music. Septet here covers a nice range with trumpet/euphonium, tenor sax/bass clarinet, piano, violin, bass, and drums (no names I recall running into). Four pieces, each 22-25 minutes. I've somehow managed to miss all of Braxton's Ghost Trance Music (GTM) recordings, so entered this with no particular expectations. But for tarters, most pieces are pretty bouncy, in that stilted way of old classical music (Bach?), but much less predictable, and much more interesting. B+(***) [dl]

Bugge Wesseltoft: Be Am (2021 [2022], Jazzland): Norwegian pianist, ventured into electronics with his New Conception of Jazz records. This, however, is mostly solo piano (acoustic, but some electric, kalimba, and effects), with tenor sax (Hĺkon Kornstad) on two tracks. B+(*) [sp]

Wild Up: Julius Eastman Vol. 2: Joy Boy (2022, New Amsterdam): Large group base in Los Angeles, lots of strings with twice as many reeds as brass, and voices as needed. Did Femenine for their first volume of Eastman compositions, expect to release seven volumes before they're done. The previously unrecorded title piece is especially interesting. B+(**)

Tom Zé: Língua Brasileira (2022, Sesc): Iconoclastic Brazilian singer-songwriter, started in the late 1960s with the Tropicália movement, slipped into obscurity but Americans discovered him through two 1990-04 Luaka Bop compilations. I've been up and down on him, and find this one even more confusing than most. B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

A Chant About the Beauty of the Moon at Night: Hawaiian Steel Guitar Masters: Lost + Rare Performances 1913-1921 (1913-21 [2022], Magnificent Sounds): Title about covers it. Sound on the thin side, but could be worse given the dates. An interesting curio. B [bc]

Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten/Rolf-Erik Nystrřm: El Sistema (2000 [2021], Sonic Transmissions): Norwegian bass and sax duo, no spec on the saxophone(s), but alto seems to be his first choice. The combination usually favors the saxophonist, but more often than not the bassist is out front. B+(***) [bc]

Malik's Emerging Force Art Trio: Time and Condition (1982 [2022], Moved-by-Sound): Alto saxophonist Maurice Malik King, from St. Louis, first and possibly only album, trio with Zimbabwe Nkenya (bass violin) and Qaiyim Shabazz (congas). B+(***) [bc]

Asha Puthli: The Essential Asha Puthli (1968-80 [2022], Mr. Bongo): Indian singer and actress, early singles with a group called the Surfers (including covers of "Sound of Silence," "Sunny," and "Fever"), appeared on Ornette Coleman's Science Fiction (2 tracks here), at least four albums for CBS in the 1970s (as far as this album goes). Hard to tell much from such scattered examples, but I rather like her disco phase. B+(***) [bc]

Sirone: Artistry (1978 [2022], Moved-by-Sound): Bassist Norris Jones (1940-2009), from Georgia, best known as a member of the Revolutionary Ensemble (with Leroy Jenkins and Jerome Cooper). First of only several albums as leader, with James Newton (flute), Muneer Bernard Fennell (cello), and Don Moye (percussion). B+(*) [bc]

Old music:

Ray Charles: True to Life (1977, Atlantic): On his return to Atlantic, he tries to turn on the genius, and scores some minor successes. B+(**) [yt]

Jason Paul Curtis: These Christmas Days (2017, self-released): Jazz singer, based in Virginia near DC, fourth album (turns out I got the title wrong of the one I've heard). Mostly originals, half done with a big band called Swing Shift, the other half with a 4-piece combo called Swinglab. B- [cd]

Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition: Irresistible Forces (1987, MCA/Impulse): Drummer, used this group name for six albums (1981-91), here a sextet including "special guest" Nana Vasconcelos (percussion). The others are Greg Osby (alto/soprano sax), Gary Thomas (tenor sax/flute), Mick Goodrick (guitar), and Lonnie Plaxico (bass). B+(**) [lp]

Johnny Dyani Quartet: Song for Biko (1978 [1979], SteepleChase): Bassist, one of the Blue Notes exiled from South Africa, settled in Denmark, where he found Don Cherry (cornet), joined here by two more South Africans: Dudu Pukwana (alto sax), and Makaya Ntshoko (drums). The titles may look back to Africa, but the music plunges head first into freedom. A- [lp]

Kansas: Miracles Out of Nowhere (2015, Epic): Prog-rock band out of Topeka, appeared in 1974 with a lousy album featuring an iconic John Brown painting on the cover (part of a mural in the Kansas State Capitol building). Some time later, I wrote a review making fun of them -- I never was very happy with that piece, because it was built on prejudices, but it went over well with my Voice audience -- and never listened to them again -- even after I got this deluxe package, a CD plus a Blue Ray and DVD of a documentary movie about the band (still haven't watched it, and doubt I ever will). I'm only bothering with the CD now because it's on my checklist. It includes spoken word bits, mostly working as intros to the overblown but not always awful music. C+

Steve Lacy: The Door (1988 [1989], Novus): Soprano saxophonist, started in Dixieland, bypassed bebop for the avant-garde, although he often looked back to Monk and Herbie Nichols -- he plays pieces by Monk, George Handy, and Strayhorn/Ellington here, along with three originals. Two duos here, three quintet pieces (with Steve Potts on alto sax and Bobby Few on piano), adding Irčne Aëbi (violin) and a second drummer, Sam Woodyard (in one of his last performances), for the Ellington. B+(***) [lp]

Michael Mantler/Carla Bley: 13 & 3/4 (1975, Watt): German trumpet player, the former Lovella May Borg's second famous musician husband -- she started touring as Carla Borg in the late 1950s, then married Paul Bley and kept the name. She made her mark initially as a composer, with George Russell and Jimmy Giuffre recording her pieces. Her and Mantler founded the New Music Distribution Service, for artist-owned small labels (theirs was Watt, named for the Samuel Beckett novel), and the Jazz Composers Orchestra, which recorded notable albums by a rotating cast of leaders (Roswell Rudd's Numatik Swing Band is a personal favorite), including Bley's big opera (Escalator Over the Hill in 1971). This album gave each artist a side to compose and conduct, with Bley's band big (19), and Mantler's humongous (56). Both pieces are ambitious, but Mantler's stands out, not just for its grandeur but for Bley's exceptional piano solo midway. Probably no surprise that Mantler wound up doing soundtracks. B+(**) [lp]

Motohiro Nakashima: And I Went to Sleep (2004, Lo): Japanese electronica producer, Discogs lists four albums (2004-09), this the first, but Bandcamp has more recent material. Plays guitar, keyboards, picks up some folk influence, keeps a nice flow. B+(*) [cd]

Sun Ra and His Interglactic Solar Arkestra: Soundtrack to the Film Space Is the Place (1972 [1993], Evidence): Sixteen tracks for a 1974 sci-fi film directed by John Coney, and written by Ra and Joshua Smith, recycling the title of the group's 1973 Impulse album (5 tracks, 42:51; 2 titles appear in both, but in different versions). Not much mood music, but some vocals help with story hints, or are amusing in their own right. B+(**) [cd]

The U.S. Army Blues: Swinging in the Holidays (2017, self-released): Feels stupid to be listening to Christmas music in July, but feels stupid in December too, and this band always gets my blood up, even when they don't personally deserve it. C [cd]

Cedar Walton: Spectrum (1968, Prestige): Pianist (1934-2013), played in the Benny Golson-Art Farmer Jazztet 1958-61, then with Art Blakey (1961-64), led his own albums from 1967, also the group Eastern Rebellion. Second album, one trio track with Richard Davis (bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums), four more with Blue Mitchell (trumpet) and Clifford Jordan (tenor sax). B+(**)

Cedar Walton: The Electric Boogaloo Song (1969, Prestige): Quintet, same horns (Blue Mitchell and Clifford Jordan), different bass and drums (Bob Cranshaw and Mickey Roker), with Walton opening on electric piano for the title cut. B

Cedar Walton: Spectrum (1968-69 [1994], Prestige): Twofer CD, adds The Electric Boogaloo Song to the original album (69:26 total). B+(*)

Cedar Walton: Soul Cycle (1970, Prestige): With James Moody (tenor sax), Rudy Stevenson (guitar), Reggie Workman (bass), and Tootie Heath (drums), again opening electric some kind of soul jazz gesture, but acquits himself better on acoustic. B+(*)

Cedar Walton Quartet: Third Set (1977 [1983], SteepleChase): Walton did much of his best work with sax quartets, especially the 1976 album Eastern Rebellion with George Coleman, Sam Jones, and Billy Higgins. He kept the group name, releasing an Eastern Rebellion 2 in 1977 with Bob Berg taking over at tenor sax, and continued using it into the 1990s with Ralph Moore. This is the quartet with Berg, the third from Montmartre in Copenhagen (Second Set is a favorite). Starts with a Higgins tune, followed by two Walton originals, winding up with two shorter Monk pieces. B+(***)

Cedar Walton: Among Friends (1982 [1992], Evidence): This is a trio, with Buster Williams (bass) and Billy Higgins (drums), plus a guest spot for Bobby Hutcherson (vibes). B+(**) [cd]

Cedar Walton Trio: Cedar (1985 [1990], Timeless): Piano trio, five Walton originals plus one each from David Williams (bass) and Billy Higgins (drums). B+(***) [sp]

The Phil Woods Quintet: Heaven (1984 [1996], Evidence): Alto saxophonist, also plays some clarinet here, started in the early 1950s as one of "Bird's children," much later was often found in the company of Benny Carter or Lee Konitz. This comes off as a hard bop quintet, with Tom Harrell (trumpet/flugelhorn) and Hal Galper (piano) giving him a run for the money. B+(***) [cd]

Tom Zé: Grande Liquidaçăo (1968 [2011], Mr. Bongo): Brazilian singer-songwriter Antônio José Santana Martins, discovered for Americans by David Byrne, who packed his 1973-75 singles into Brazil Classics 4: The Best of Tom Zé. This was his first album, from when he was close to the Tropicália movement. Even then, this is odd enough to be called psychedelic, not that I have any idea what that means. Album was originally released as Tom Zé, as was his next two. B+(**) [bc]

Tom Zé: Tom Zé (1970 [2014], Mr. Bongo): Second album, has retained its original eponymous title. Cover suggests a simple singer-songwriter, but nothing with this guy goes quite the way you expect. B+(***) [bc]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Kevin Cerovich: Aging Millennial (CVJ)
  • William Flynn: Seaside (OA2) [07-15]
  • Meridian Odyssey: Earthshine (Origin) [07-15]
  • Tobin Mueller: Prestidigitation (self-released) [06-22]
  • Samo Salamon/Arild Andersen/Ra Kalam Bob Moses: Pure and Simple (Samo) [06-01]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, June 26, 2022


Music Week

June archive (final).

Music: Current count 38227 [38165] rated (+62), 87 [93] unrated (-6).

Couldn't sleep this morning, so woke up in an exceptionally foul mood. Part of the bad mood had simply carried over from writing yesterday's Speaking of Which, which necessarily focused on the right-wing Supreme Court's renouncing the formerly "settled law" of Roe v. Wade. I've written more than a little on the subject over the years, and I scarcely wanted to rehash all that, but felt obligated to at least register the event and the temperature in the notebook I perhaps foolishly think I might want to look back on some day, as I recollect the changes I've seen.

The post took a lot out of me, and I was further disappointed not to get any reaction at all this morning, either to the regular Twitter or Facebook notices. (I normally limit my use of Facebook to following old friends and family, and normally limit my posts there to food pics.) I mean, I don't mind not getting hate mail, but occasional acknowledgments are appreciated.

The one thing that did lift my spirits is this video, where Olivia Rodrigo calls out the Supreme Court junta by name, with help from Lily Allen. (There's more info in an article here.


This is the last Monday in June, so the monthly archive is officially closed. I haven't done all of the indexing, but the rated count for the 4-week month is 212. I'll finish the indexing and add the Music Week introductions in later this week. Not a lot of work, but I'm hoping to get this out sooner rather than later. Maybe I'll have time to do some yardwork before the trash goes out.

This is probably the first week where I've listened to Spotify more than Napster. Spotify hangs less, and seems to get new records out earlier, and they seem to be a bit easier to find, although I wouldn't say they qualify for a blue ribbon. On the other hand, at least one record below I found on Napster after failing on Spotify.

Also picked up one record under "limited sampling," and it reflects a change in how I'm handling the category. Previously I used it for records where only a few cuts were available on Bandcamp or streaming, but I listened to everything that was available. For Voivod, I simply hit reject 4 tracks in. It wasn't even that I couldn't stand the record; I just got tired of it, and decided I wanted to move on. Good chance there will be more like that in the future. May even encourage me to check out some videos, on the theory that they probably represent choice cuts. I've decided to score such records as rated in the tracking and metacritic files, but I'm not counting them in the rated totals. I may have to fiddle with the tracking stats, as that's where I look to see how many rated records I have each year.

I'm adding some mid-year lists to the metacritic files, starting with those compiled at AOTY, adding in (sometimes informal) lists I'm picking up from Expert Witnesses on Facebook (one with a public link is from Alfred Soto. Few of the lists are ranked, and I'm paying no heed to those that are. Each mention is marked with '+', which is temporary until the EOY lists appear. (I added a couple more -- GQ, Treble, Vulture -- until my eyes gave out. Links are in the legend file files.)

In old music, made some further progress in digging out the unrated albums. Was surprised to find a couple winners there.

Don't know what comes next. I'm too exhausted right now to give it any thought.


New records reviewed this week:

700 Bliss: Nothing to Declare (2022, Hyperdub): Philadelphia hip-hop ("experimental club") duo of DJ Haram (Zubeyda Muzeyyen) and Moor Mother (Camae Ayewa). First album, after an EP, doubles down on the "experimental." B+(*)

Joey Alexander: Origin (2022, Mack Avenue): Actual name Joey Sila, a piano prodigy from Bali, Indonesia, who cut a pretty good first record (My Favorite Things) when he was 11, and is back for his 6th while still just 18. Ten songs spread over 2-LP, all originals, core trio with Larry Grenadier (bass) and Kendrick Scott (drums), joined by guitar (Gilad Hekselman, 3 tracks) and tenor/soprano sax (Chris Potter, 2). He's only grown since his debut, filled out (especially with his writing), turning into a very solid, if not especially remarkable, jazz musician. Helps to be playing with stars, too. B+(***) [sp]

Harry Allen: My Reverie by Special Request (2022, TYR1102): Retro-swing tenor saxophonist, something I especially enjoy, very popular in Japan (where this was released, unsure about the label). Quartet with Dave Blenkhorn (guitar), bass, and drums, playing standard fare (including "Carioca" for a taste of Brazil). B+(**)

Harry Allen & Dave Blenkhorn: Play the Music of Phil Morrison (2022, GMAC): Morrison is a bassist-songwriter, originally from Boston, long based in Brunswick, Georgia, and he plays on this album, along with his regular trio of Keith Williams (piano) and Rudy Manuel (bass). Somehow he hooked up with Blenkhorn (a guitarist from Australia), which brought Allen onto the project. Nice enough, although I wasn't happy when they brought strings in. B+(*)

The Ano Nobo Quartet: The Strings of Săo Domingos (2021 [2022], Ostinato): From Cape Verde, a guitar quartet named after one of the island nation's famed guitarist-songwriters (1933-2004), the four guitarists only identified as: Pascoal, Fany, Nono, and Afrikanu, with one of them singing. B+(*) [bc]

Anteloper: Pink Dolphins (2022, International Anthem): Chicago group, principally Jaimie Branch (trumpet, sings some) and Jason Nazary (drums), with Jeff Parker producing and filling in elsewhere (guitar, bass, synthesizer, percussion), plus Chad Taylor (mbira) on one track (of 5). Folks like to compare this to electric Miles, which is half-true, but seems sludgier to me. B+(**) [sp]

Edwin Bayard/Dean Hulett/Mark Lomax II: Trio Plays Mingus (2022, CFG Multimedia): Normally the drummer's Trio, based in Columbus, Ohio, probably the best-kept secret in American jazz, but playing a set of five Mingus classics, it's nice to be able to file this under the star saxophonist's name, and to include the bassist on the credit line. As great as Bayard is, he stays pretty close to the melodies, although the drummer takes some liberties. B+(***) [os]

Benny the Butcher: Tana Talk 4 (2022, Griselda/Empire): Buffalo rapper Jeremie Pennick, third studio album after a tall stack (2004-16) of mixtapes, including Tana Talk and Tana Talk 2. B+(**)

Cola: Deep in View (2022, Fire Talk): Canadian indie band, first album, singer-songwriter-guitarist Tim Darcy and bassist Ben Stidworthy fresh from Ought, better than average guitar strum, singer seems a bit iffy, last song a promising change of pace. B+(*)

Theo Croker: Love Quantum (2022, Masterworks): Trumpet player from Florida, seventh album since 2007, uses hip-hop beats, sings some but mostly has guests for that, including Jill Scott, Ego Ella May, Jamila Woods, and Wyclef Jean. Opens with a song proclaiming "jazz is dead," but maybe he just forgot how to enjoy it? B+(*) [sp]

Flasher: Love Is Yours (2022, Domino): Indie band from DC, Emma Baker (drums) and Taylor Mulitz (guitar), both sing, neither particularly well, but they're pleasantly catchy. B+(*) [sp]

Foals: Life Is Yours (2022, Warner): British rock band, seventh studio album since 2008, Yannis Philippakis the singer, all tracks also credited to Jimmy Smith (guitar/keyboards) and Jack Bevan (drums). Half of this sounds a bit like a nod to the Spinners, and half doesn't, although they usually keep the beat going. B+(*)

Gordon Grdina's Nomad Trio: Boiling Point (2022, Astral Spirits): Guitar/oud player from Vancouver, second album with this trio, with Matt Mitchell (piano) and Jim Black (drums). B+(**) [bc]

Gordon Grdina/Mark Helias/Matthew Shipp: Pathways (2021 [2022], Attaboygirl): Guitar/oud, bass, piano, Shipp playing hard enough to make up for the lack of a drummer. B+(***) [bc]

Scott Hamilton: Classics (2022, Stunt): Mainstream tenor saxophonist, many albums since 1977, cherry picks some melodies from classical music here, arranging them for quartet with Jan Lundgren (piano), Hans Backenroth (bass), and Kristian Leth (drums). Lovely, of course, but doesn't swing much. B+(**) [sp]

Hercules & Love Affair: In Amber (2022, Skint/BMG): "Dance music project" by Andy Butler, an American DJ now based in Belgium. Anohni and Elin Eyţórsdóttir appear as vocalists, for a note of unnecessary drama. B

Ari Hoenig Trio: Golden Treasures (2021 [2022], Fresh Sound New Talent): Drummer, from Philadelphia, dozen albums since 1999, trio here with Gadi Lehavi (piano) and Ben Tiberio (bass), wrote three originals to go with six standards, like "Cherokee," "Sophisticated Lady," and "Doxy" (a drum solo to close). B+(*) [sp]

Grace Ives: Janky Star (2022, True Panther Sounds/Harvest): Indie pop singer-songwriter, second album, has some beat and quirk. B+(***) [sp]

Randall King: Shot Glass (2022, Warner Nashville): Country singer, from Lubbock, second album, major label after a self-released debut, writes some but has lots of help, photographed with a guitar but subcontracted that too. What he does have is a first-rate voice, and and the production suggests he grew up on Joe Ely, and would be happy to be mistaken for him -- as you probably would with this in a blindfold test. B+(**) [sp]

Kilo Kish: American Gurl (2022, Kisha Soundscape): Art-pop singer-songwriter Lakisha Kimberly Robinson, second album, of a mixed mind whether she wants to go deep or trashy. B+(*) [sp]

Masayo Koketsu: Fukiya (2021 [2022], Relative Pitch): Japanese alto saxophonist, solo, one 46:32 piece, a bit less ugly than Braxton's For Alto. B

Kristina Koller: Get Out of Town (2022, self-released): New York jazz singer, wrote three (of 12) songs on her debut (2017), third album offers interpretations of eight Cole Porter tunes (short at 28:42), nicely done, didn't find the credits. B+(**) [sp]

David Krakauer & Kathleen Tagg: Mazel Tov Cocktail Party! (2022, Table Pounding): New York-based clarinet player, a klezmer specialist since 1995's Klezmer Madness!, with South African pianist Tagg (also plays accordion an cello, arranges and produces), with Yoshie Fruchter (guitar) and Jerome Harris (bass) in the band, plus various guests, notably vocalist Sarah MK. B+(**) [sp]

Martin Küchen/Agustí Fernández/Zlatko Kaucic: The Steps That Resonate (2021 [2022], Not Two): Sax/piano/drums trio, the former playing soprano and sopranino, recorded at BCMF Festival in Slovenia (the drummer's home turf; the others are from Sweden and Spain). Prickly. B+(**) [sp]

Martin Küchen: Utopia (2021 [2022], Thanatosis Produktion): Swedish saxophonist (tenor/alto here, also tambora and electronics), best known for his Angles groups. This looks to be solo, leaning toward ambient. B

Latto: 777 (2022, RCA): Atlanta rapper Alyssa Stephens, formerly Miss Mulatto, second album (32:54), after EPs and mixtapes (3 each). B+(**)

Charles Lloyd: Trios: Chapel (2018 [2022], Blue Note): Trios seems to be a series name, of which this live recording from Coates Chapel in San Antonio is the first: with Bill Frisell (guitar) and Thomas Morgan (bass) -- evidently drums don't work well in the chapel, but that doesn't recommend the flute, either. B [sp]

Lupe Fiasco: Drill Music in Zion (2022, 1st & 15th): Rapper Wasalu Muhammad Jaco, from Chicago, eighth album since 2006. Finds it groove and hangs in there. B+(***) [sp]

Jamal Moss: Thanks 4 the Tracks U Lost (2022, Modern Love): Chicago DJ, better known as Hieroglyphic Being (or at least should be) and in groups like Africans With Mainframes. More than a dozen albums under his own name (most with 4 in the title). Not obvious how this relates to a 2020 album with much the same title (plus a Vol. 1), credited to Hieroglyphic Being. B+(***) [sp]

Mr. Fingers: Around the Sun Pt. 1 (2022, Alleviated): Larry Heard, from Chicago, DJ and electronica producer, records since 1985, crafts a fine groove. B+(**) [sp]

Muna: Muna (2022, Saddest Factory/Dead Oceans): Indie pop band from Los Angeles, three women, third album. B+(*) [sp]

Vadim Neselovskyi: Odesa: A Musical Walk Through a Legendary City (2022, Sunnyside): Urkainian pianist, based in New York and Dusseldorf, albums since 2013, this one solo. Odesa (formerly and still better known as Odessa) is the 3rd largest city in Ukraine (a bit over one million), a port on the Black Sea well to the west of Crimea, founded by Catherine the Great in 1794 on the site of earlier Greek and Tatar villages (Khadjibey). In 1897, it was the 4th largest city in Russia, with a population 49% Russian, 30% Jewish, 9% Ukrainian, 4% Polish, followed by small numbers of Germans, Greeks, Tatars, and Armenians. The main thing I associate with it was the pogroms of 1881 and 1905. Since then the population has shifted from Russian to Ukrainian (in 1939 Jews were a plurality but they were killed off by the Nazis in WWII; by 2001 Odesa was 61% Ukrainian, 29% Russian). We haven't heard much about Odesa during Putin's invasion, at least after the advance from Crimea halted short of Mykolayiv, although the port is blocked by the Russian navy. None of which matters much in listening to these rhythmically interesting pieces. B+(**) [bc]

Perfume Genius: Ugly Season (2022, Matador): Singer-songwriter Mike Hadreas, sixth album. Not someone I'm ever likely to care enough about to get into the weeds, but his use of electronics is getting better (e.g., "Hellbent"). B+(*)

Phife Dawg: Forever (2022, Smokin' Needles/AWAL): Rapper Malik Taylor (1970-2016), rapper along with Q-Tip in A Tribe Called Quest, which split up after 1998 but reunited for a final album in 2016 when Taylor died. In between, he worked on solo projects, releasing an album in 2000, and working on this over a decade, recording about two-thirds of the eventual album. They did a nice job of conjuring up the right air. B+(**) [sp]

Yunč Pinku: Bluff (2022, Platoon, EP): Asha Catherine Nandy, Malaysian-Irish, dance pop producer (and presumably singer), debuts with 4 songs, 13:54, a decent single and beatwise filler. B+(**) [sp]

Ravyn Lenae: Hypnos (2022, Atlantic): R&B singer from Chicago, last name Washington, first album after three EPs. Thin voice, slinky rhythm, could prove seductive. B+(**)

Wadada Leo Smith: The Emerald Duets (2014-20 [2022], TUM, 5CD): Four sets of trumpet-drums duos, mostly playing Smith's compositions. The one with Han Bennink dates from 2014, the others with Pheeroan akLaff, Andrew Cyrille, and Jack DeJohnette 2019-20, with the latter one lapping over into a fifth disc. DeJohnette and Smith are also credited with a bit of piano. Dive in anywhere. A- [cd]

Wadada Leo Smith: String Quartets Nos. 1-12 (2015-20 [2022], TUM, 7CD): The AACM trumpeter really kicked it into high gear around ten years ago, when he turned 70 -- not that his previous decade wasn't remarkably productive, but since 2011 I'm counting 3 2-CD sets, 2 3-CD boxes, additional boxes of 4-5-7 CDs, and at least 10 singles, including some major comissions (e.g., Great Lakes Suites, America's National Parks). No one doubts his trumpet chops, but this is the sort of move jazz musicians take when they want to be considered seriously as a composer, and that's something I'll never be focused enough to evaluate. It probably doesn't help that I associate string quartets with classical music that drives me up the wall, but I recall listening to more abstract pieces back in the 1970s -- e.g., a 3-LP box called The Avant Garde String Quartet in the U.S.A. -- and this is at least as interesting. The pieces tend toward the 20-30 minute range, so two or three to a CD, except for "No. 11" (98:45, spread over 2 discs), leaving "No. 12" (20:33) alone on disc 7. RedKoral Quartet plays, plus harp on "No. 4" and extras on 6-8: Smith's trumpet is a plus on 6 & 8, but largely negated by Thomas Buckner's voice on 8. Comes wrapped up in one of the label's gorgeous boxes, with a nice booklet. B+(***) [cd]

Bartees Strange: Farm to Table (2022, 4AD): Last name Cox, born in England to an American military family, moved to Germany and Greenland before turning to US and settling in Oklahoma. Second album. B+(*) [sp]

Vieux Farka Touré: Les Racines (2022, World Circuit): Guitarist-singer from Mali, ninth album since 2007, traces his roots, which mostly means his father, Ali Farka Touré, who did more than anyone else to bring this twist on the blues to world attention. B+(***)

Erlend Viken/Jo Berger Myhre/Thomas Strřnen: Djupet (2022, OK World): Norwegian trio, playing Hardanger fiddle/octave fiddle, bass/electronics, and drums/percussion. B+(**) [bc]

WeFreeStrings: Love in the Form of Sacred Outrage (2021 [2022], ESP-Disk): String quartet (violins: Charles Burnham and Gwen Lester, viola: Melanie Dyer, cello: Alexander Waterman) plus bass (Ken Filiano) and drums (Michael Wimberly). Dyer formed the group in 2011, but I'm not aware of any other albums. Lovely with a bit of edge. B+(***) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Bob Wilber With Dave McKenna and Pug Horton: Original Wilber (1978 [2022], Phontastic): Trad jazz sax/clarinet player, kicked career off in 1959 with a tribute to Sidney Bechet (who he had played with in the late 1940s), many more records up to his death in 2019. With McKenna (piano), Bill Crow (bass), and Connie Kay (drums), with Horton singing three songs. B+(*) [sp]

Wire: Not About to Die: Studio Demos 1977-1978 (1977-78 [2022], Pinkflag): Outtakes from the group's second and third albums (Chairs Missing and 154), only three songs making it to the final albums, but the demos appeared as a bootleg in the 1980s and eventually wound up on "deluxe editions" of the reissues. And if you don't know those albums, you really should start with the superb On Returning comp, which picks up most of their Pink Flag debut. Still, on its own this is remarkably lean and taut, perhaps a bit softer than the punk times called for, but fresher than most contemporary indie bands. A-

Old music:

Grace Ives: 2nd (2019, Dots Per Inch): First album, at least that I know of, although the beats and synths are so sharp I'd be surprised if she didn't have some practice tapes on a shelf or in her attic. B+(***) [bc]

Mandela: Son of Africa, Father of a Nation [Original Soundtrack: The Essential Music of South Africa] (1954-96 [1997], Mango): Seven tracks are labeled "original score" and are connecting passages, the other 19 offer a wide sample of the exceptionally rich legacy of South African music, along with a ringer -- "Nelson Mandela" by the Specials -- that ties it all together. The 1950s cuts are especially welcome. A-

Dudu Pukwana: Zila '86 (1986, Jika): South African saxophonist, started with the Blue Notes and went with them into exile in Europe, playing with the avant-garde but also recording some exceptional township jive (cf. In the Townships, 1973). This band seems to be a crossover attempt, with pop vocals and dance beats, but much more happening. B+(***) [lp]

RG Royal Sound Orchestra: Impact (2009 [2010], RG): Initials stand for Recaredo Gutiérrez, who is also listed as producer, with ike Lewis as orchestra director, five arrangers, and a big band ("a group of A-List Miami-based musicians"). Opens with a flamenco "Hotel California," then doubles down on "My Way." The third song, "Volare," is more of a mambo. Amusing enough, except that it turns nauseous when they take on "Yesterday" and find it's way too slow to mess with. B [cd]

Terry Riley: Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band/All Night Flight: SUNY Buffalo, New York, 22 March 1968 (1968 [2006], Elision Fields): Live solo set, with Riley playing soprano sax, organ and "time-lag accumulator." "Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band" was the flip side to his career-defining A Rainbow in Curved Air, expanded here to 39:48, finally released in 1996. B+(*)

Dean Schmidt: I Know Nothing (2006 [2007], OA2): Seattle bassist, this is his first and seems to be his only album, employs 10 additional musicians, not broken down by track but not likely to have three keyboard players or two tenor saxophonists constantly on call. Three percussionists, perhaps (congas, guiro, steel pans/vibes). Schmidt seems to be a Latin afficionado. [ex-cd] B+(*) [sp]

Harvie Swartz & Urban Earth: It's About Time (1988, Gaia): Bassist, debut 1978, I know him best for his duos with Sheila Jordan, released Urban Earth in 1985, and kept the title for a group name here and on at least one more album. With Billy Drewes (soprano sax), Jay Azzolina (guitar), Yves Gerard (drums), and a couple guests, for something quasi-fusion. Later changed his name to Harvie S. B [lp]

Steve Tibbetts: Compilation: Acoustibbets/Elektrobitts/Exotibbets (1976-2010 [2010], Frammis, 3CD): Guitarist, from Wisconsin, debut 1976, recorded mostly for ECM from 1982-2018, the "Acoustibbets" don't go far beyond new age, the "elektrobitts" can have a bit of edge and a lot more beat, and the "exotibbets" flit around the world (but especially Nepal and Tibet). I don't think this career-spanning collection was ever real product, but the promo got distributed wide enough to get logged on Discogs and sold on Amazon. Could be worth a more extended dive, but not now. B+(*) [cd]

Turning Point: Matador (2005, Native Language): Jazz-funk group: Thano Sahnas (guitar), Demitri Sahnas (bass), Steve Culp (keyboards), and John Herrera (drums), with guest spots for sax and violin. [ex-cd] B- [sp]

Twice Thou: The Bank Attack (2012, The Buy Back Initiative/Music Group): Boston rapper Marco Ennis, aka E-Devious, first credits go back to 1986, called his first album Long Time Comin', then took a decade before releasing this one. Staunchly political, starts with a tribute to community group City Life/Vida Urbana before moving out to hunt some bankers. Some of the references are ripped from the headlines, but few feel dated -- especially this week. A- [cd]

Twice Thou: Trials & Tribulationships (2015, The Ennis Group): Old school rapper, moves from the simple world of politics into the more complicated intricacies of relationships. B+(***)

Twice Thou: Loose Screws: Las Aventuras de Tonito Montana (2017, The Ennis Group): Comes up with a gangsta story. B+(*) [sp]

The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: The Jazz Heritage Series 2009 Radio Broadcasts (2009, self-released, 3CD): Radio shots, way too much talk, not that the music is much better. Guest artists Kurt Elling, Allen Vizzutti, Rufus Reid. C- [cd]

The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: The Jazz Heritage Series 2010 Radio Broadcasts (2010, self-released, 3CD): Same, Dick Golden's talk sounding even more like recruiting ads. Guest artists: New York Voices, Joey DeFrancesco, Gary Smulyan. C- [cd]

The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: The Jazz Heritage Series 2011 Radio Broadcasts (2011, self-released, 3CD): Guests are Kurt Rosenwinkel, Al Jarreau, and various almuni. C [cd]

The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: The Jazz Heritage Series 2017 Radio Broadcasts (2017, self-released, 3CD): Guests are a step up: Steve Turre, Cyrus Chestnut, and Terell Stafford. The interview with Turre includes a bit about how he figured out how to play shells, where he admits: "I'm not gonna play 'Donna Lee' or 'Giant Steps' on the shells." C+ [cd]


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.

Voivod: Synchro Anarchy (2022, Century Media): Canadian metal band, 15th album since 1984. [4/9] - [sp]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Sarah Bernstein: Veer Quartet (New Focus) [09-02]
  • Columbia Icefield: Ancient Songs of Burlap Heroes (Pyroclastic) [07-29]
  • Randal Despommier: A Midsummer Odyssey (Sunnyside) [07-15]
  • Glenn Dickson: Wider Than the Sky (Naftule's Dream) [07-08]
  • David Francis: Sings Songs of the Twenties (Blujazz) [04-23]
  • Eva Kess: Inter-Musical Love Letter (Unit) [07-22]
  • Jeremy Manasia Trio: Butcher Block Ballet (Blujazz) [06-20]
  • Miró Henry Sobrer: Two of Swords (Patois, 2CD) [07-15]
  • Xiomara Torres: La Voz Del Mar (Patois) [07-15]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, June 20, 2022


Music Week

June archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 38165 [38120] rated (+45), 93 [97] unrated (-4).

When I mentioned to my wife that I had written a "rant about reparations" yesterday, she visibly gulped. This morning she admitted "it was not as bad as I feared." See: Speaking of Which. When I wrote the piece, I wasn't aware (or didn't recall, or maybe I noticed but it just didn't sink in) that the State of California had a task force studying reparations, and that it had just [June 1] released an interim report. Otherwise, I would have included some links, like:

It seems very likely to me that a 500 pp report would contain a lot of information that should be better known, and that they would come up with a number of proposals that are worth considering in their own right, even if (like me) you are wary of trying to sell them as reparations. (Not that there aren't some people who buy into the "liberal guilt trip" logic they usually come off as, and certainly not to offend the people who really do feel guilty.) For instance, one apparently modest proposal is to end "voter approval for publicly funded 'low-rent housing.'"

One pet idea I have is to designate the poorest neighborhoods in major cities as "upgrade zones," where money would be offered to resident homeowners to improve their properties. Advisers would be provided to help owners plan their upgrades, and to negotiate fair prices with contractors, and review their work. The lender (probably city government) would receive a lien to cover the cost of upgrades, but the lien would be written off over 10-20 years, provided the original owner continues to occupy the house. Owners could choose to resell their houses, in which case the remaining lien would be paid off ahead of previous mortgages. Property tax assessments would also be frozen as long as the lien exists, but may be adjusted when the property is sold. This wouldn't help renters much, but could be combined with a program to help renters buy their houses, and thereby become eligible for upgrades.

Needless to say, a similar type of program could be offered more broadly for "green" upgrades, which is another case where helping individual homeowners helps the whole public. I've got a lot of ideas along these lines. If I was younger I'd consider opening a "think tank." Actually, 20+ years ago I had the idea of writing open source business plans, which other people could pick up and run with. (For an example on home automation, look here.)

I did write a bit about inflation yesterday, but more and more I'm convinced that what we're seeing is a self-induced oil panic -- the decision to blockade Russian oil after Putin invaded Ukraine is the pivot, but sanctions against Iran and Venezuela, and continuing conflict in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen also reduces supply -- compounded by monopolistic concentration, which gives companies great leeway to raise prices. In this context, raising interest rates if a blunt and misguided weapon. The one area where higher interest rates may help is in reducing the amount of profitable leverage available to speculators who are to some extent driving up prices. (If you think prices are going to rise, you can bet on that, and help make it happen. But higher interest rates make such bets more expensive and more risky -- especially with the Fed threatening to induce a depression.) I'm glad I'm not one of the economists who recommended that Jerome Powell be re-appointed "because he had learned his lesson." I've always said that Biden should have appointed someone who would look out for him.[*] (Obama made the same mistake with Bernanke, and Clinton with Greenspan.)

[*] I considered singling Larry Summers out, because I was so offended by a line asserting that Summers has been proven right in his prediction that Biden's early stimulus would be inflationary. Now I see that Summers is still peddling the discredited NAIRU theory, saying: "We need five years of unemployment above 5% to contain inflation -- in other words, we need two years of 7.5% unemployent or five years of 6% unemployment or one year of 10% unemployment." As Jeff Stein noted, what Summers is calling for is "devastating joblessness for millions of poor American workers." Zachary Carter added that this is "really bad economics." I miss George Brockway, who worked so hard to expose the intellectual and moral vacuity behind NAIRU (stands for Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment; Yglesias has a piece on NAIRU here; Brockway wrote about it in his collection of New Leader columns, Economists Can Be Bad for Your Health: Further Reflections on the Dismal Science).

At this point, the single most important thing Biden should be doing is impressing on Zelensky the need to end the war, and reassuring Putin that if a fair solution is arrived at, Russia can be more secure and engage world commerce without being plagued by sanctions. He also needs to start dealing honorably with the raft of countries that are currently on the US "shit list" (most likely to be joined soon by Colombia and Brazil[**]).

[**] As Ryan Grim tweeted, "The Colombian right conceded the election, acknowledged it was fair and represented the will of its people." Then he cited the reaction from Ron DeSantis: "The election in Colombia of a former narco-terrorist Marxist is troubling and disappointing. The spread of left-wing totalitarian ideology in the Western Hemisphere is a growing threat. Florida stands with Colombian Americans on the side of freedom." When are Americans going to understand that immigrants no longer get to dictate who wins in the countries they left? I'm especially sick and tired of Cubans, who were generously welcomed to America (despite the fact that some of them turned out to be Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio), holding American foreign policy hostage just to vent their spite. (Sure, one can say the same thing about East Europeans who came here and turned into political totems -- e.g., to pick a more recent example than Zbigniew Brzezinsi or Madeleine Albright, Ukrainian war hawk Alexander Vindman.)


Feeling better this week, if not about the world, at least in my little corner of it. The mini-split air conditioner in the bedroom appears to be truly fixed, which is good for a couple more hours of sleep most nights. These days, even trivial tasks like replacing a porch light or a toilet fill valve feel like accomplishments. Finally making some progress with sorting and storing. Even managed to get the "unrated" list below 100. I have little idea where those 93 LPs and CDs actually are (other than a pile of USAF CDs), but the search is on.

Didn't have too much trouble finding new records to play this week. The demo queue is pretty close to empty, aside from two Wadada Leo Smith boxes (12-CD total, enjoying Emerald Duets today). Dave Sumner's Bandcamp reports pointed me to a lot of interesting items, as did Christian Iszchak's consumer guide (Lalalar wasn't an instant hit, but I stuck with it). Auntie Flo and Shawneci Icecold seemed interesting enough to merit a bit of a dive, even though not much came out of it. I heard about the latter because he wrote in, and I felt like doing some due diligence. I suppose I should mention that the father of one of the Nova Twins is a virtual friend of my wife's. That may have put some pressure on me to get to the record early, but I also pegged their debut, Who Are the Girls, at A-, so it was only a matter of time.

I'm hoping to do a Q&A sometime this week, although I don't currently have a lot to chew on.


New records reviewed this week:

Chad Anderson: Mellifluous Excursions Vol. 1: Where You Been (2022, Mahakala Music): Drummer, has a previous solo album, with Zoh Amba (sax/flute), Warren Smith (vibes), and Barry Stephenson (bass), plus Ankhitek's sharp spoken word on two tracks. B+(***) [bc]

Auntie Flo & Sarathy Korwar: Shruti Dances (2022, Make Music): Former is Brian D'Souza, a British DJ/producer, originally from Goa, "known for taking World Music into the future." Discogs lists four previous records, possibly worth a deep dive. Korwar was born in the US, raised in India, based in London, a percussionist I've had my eye on -- his More Arriving was on my 2019 A-list. His tabla contrasts with the electronics ("meditative drones"), an intriguing synthesis but ultimately a bit thin. B+(**) [sp]

Yaya Bey: Remember Your North Star (2022, Big Dada): R&b singer, originally from Brooklyn, based in DC, second album, nice flow but gradually loses definition. B+(**) [sp]

Steve Davis: Bluesthetic (2022, Smoke Sessions): Mainstream trombonist, debut 1995, I should probably go back and check out his early albums on Criss Cross, but they are probably much like his recent batch. A compatible, distinguished group here: Peter Bernstein (guitar), Geoffrey Keezer (piano), Steve Nelson (vibes), Christian McBride (bass), and Willie Jones III (drums). Not so bluesy, but nice ballad ending. B+(*)

Tetel Di Babuya: Meet Tetel (2021 [2022], Arkadia): Singer from Brazil, also plays violin, actual name Marcela Venditti (or Marcela Sarudiansky -- the name used for the song credits). Mostly in English, with one cover (the closing "Someone to Watch Over Me"), although others (like "Willow Don't You Weep") are substantially familiar. B+(**) [cd]

Donkeyjazz: Play the Blues (2021, Singo): When Napster updated their web interface recently, they offered me a list of "popular jazz artists," headed by this outfit I had never heard of. (Followed by: Maureen, George Benson, Boney James, Fireboy DML, Soul II Soul, Kenny G, Gregory Porter, Nina Simone, Brian Culbertson, Herbie Hancock, Jean Turner; so 4 of 12 I've never heard of; 2 are legends with as many bad records as good; 1 perhaps could have been a legend but wasted it completely; 1 is a singer with some critical rep but nothing I like; 1 is a r&b group with 2 good records 1989-90 but has nothing since 1997; rest, as far as I know, are pop jazz hacks.) When this came up again, I figured WTF and clicked on it. I mean, there's lots of stuff I haven't heard of, and some of it might be worth hearing. But I was surprised to find that Discogs haven't heard of Monkeyjazz either, and shocked that Google has nothing on the album (not even the Napster link). Closest I came was a brief YouTube video ("Donkey Jazz - Freestyle rap/jazzy au piano"), but no vocals here, and the keyboard is vanishingly thin. By the way, Singo is a German company that provides a conduit to streaming platforms, and if you pay them enough they can impersonate a label. Presumably this placement is testimony to their ability to manipulate streaming platforms, because nothing else explains it. C

Binker Golding: (2021 [2022], Gearbox): British tenor saxophonist, best known for his Binker & Moses duo but has several albums on his own: this a quintet with guitar (Billy Adamson), piano (Sarah Tandy), bass and drums. I go up and down on this: an impressive player, has some terrific runs, but all seems a bit slick. B+(***) [sp]

Cameron Graves: Live From the Seven Spheres (2022, Mack Avenue): Keyboard player, two previous studio albums, member of collective West Coast Get Down, straddles jazz and whatever (website sez: "Classical, Rock and Hip-Hop"). B-

I Am [Isaiah Collier & Michael Shekwoaga Ode]: Beyond (2021 [2022], Division 81): Chicago-based sax and drums duo, also features "Sound Healer Therapist and Poet" Jimmy Chan on the 11:29 intro. That didn't engage me, nor did the spiritual searching, but a track toward the end, "Omniscient (Mycellum)," does get it on. B+(**) [bc]

Shawneci Icecold/Daniel Carter/Brandon Lopez: Toro (2021, Underground45): Pianist, seems to have a good deal more than the two albums listed on Discogs, and more hip-hop than jazz, but this (one track, 51:09) is free jazz, with bass (Lopez) and whatever Carter feels like (sounds like trumpet, not his main instrument, then alto sax, but no faster). B+(*) [sp]

Shawneci Icecold/Daniel Carter: Familiar Roads (2021, Underground45): Piano and sax duo, nice but doesn't push very hard. B [sp]

Shawneci Icecold & Fatlip: Carte Blanche (2021, Underground45, EP): Hip-hop, appears on streaming services but hard to find further information, but presumably the jazz pianist (above) does the beats (no evident piano). Rapper is probably Derrick Stewart, ex-Pharcyde, but I'm not sure of that. Five songs, 15:45. B+(*) [sp]

Shawneci Icecold & Rob Swift: For the Heads That Break (2022, Fat Beats, EP): Hip-hop, eight short pieces, 11:27, Swift (Robert Aguilar), who started in the 1990s in the X-Ecutioners, brings the turntable spin. B+(*) [sp]

Brian Jackson: This Is Brian Jackson (2022, BBE): Mostly known as the guy who wrote the music for Gil Scott-Heron (1971-80), has a couple albums of his own, as well as other collaborations, including a recent Jazz Is Dead. This is on a reissues label with a soft spot for 1970s jazz-funk (e.g., Roy Ayers), but is presumably new ("first solo album in over 20 years"). Still, doesn't sound new. B+(*)

Jones Jones: Just Justice (2020 [2022], ESP-Disk): Avant-sax trio with Larry Ochs (tenor/sopranino), Mark Dresser (bass), and Vladimir Tarasov (drums). Fourth group record, starting with sets in St. Petersburg and Amsterdam released in 2009. B+(***) [cd]

Kaleiido: Elements (2022, Exopac): Danish group, or duo: Anna Roemer (guitar) and Cecille Strange (sax), second (or third) album. Tranquil enough this could pass for ambient. B+(*)

Lalalar: Bi Cinnete Bakar (2022, Bongo Joe): Turkish group, generate an enticing but not especially distinctive grind. Title translated to "all it takes is a frenzy." Takes a while to grow on you, as it's less about the frenzy than the steady power, the relentless flow. A-

Brian Landrus: Red List (2021 [2022], Palmetto): Baritone saxophonist, also plays bass clarinet, various flutes. Dedicates this music to "the preservation of our endangered species," with several prominent examples on the cover. He recruited a large supporting cast, and his own leads flow impeccably. B+(***) [cd] [06-17]

George Lernis: Between Two Worlds (2021 [2022], Dunya): Drummer/percussionist, also santur, has at least one previous album. Title is a 5-part suite (24:38), plus three other pieces. Cover notes "Ft. John Patitucci," probably because he's better known than the more prominent musicians: Burcu Gulec (voice), Emiel De Jaegher (trumpet), and Mehmet Ali Sanlikol (piano/voice/oud). B+(*) [cd]

Linus + Nils Řkland/Niels Van Heertum/Ingar Zach: Light as Never (2021 [2022], Aspen Edities): Folk-oriented jazz duo of Ruben Machtelinckx (guitar/baritone guitar/banjo) and Thomas Jillings (tenor sax/alto clarinet/synthesizer). debut 2014, later albums with guests, including 2017's Mono No Aware with this trio (hardanger fiddle, euphonium/trumpet, percussion). B+(*) [bc]

Kjetil Mulelid Trio: Who Do You Love the Most? (2021 [2022], Rune Grammofon): Norwegian pianist, based in Copenhagen, has two previous trio albums plus a solo; backed by Bjřrn Marius Hegge (bass) and Andreas Skĺr Winther (drums). B+(**)

Nova Twins: Supernova (2022, 333 Wreckords Crew): British melting pot "bass-heavy duo fusing grime and punk," Amy Love and Georgia South, second album after several EPs. Drums and guitar give them some cred among metalheads, but the bass is a whole lot funkier, and they get up in your face. A-

Jessica Pavone/Lukas Koenig/Matt Mottel: Spam Likely (2019 [2022], 577): Viola/electronics, drums, keytar/3 string guitar (a "keytar" is a lightweight synthesizer on a strap like a guitar). Two pieces (the other is "Binge Listen"), improvs that start with an interesting sound and expand upon it. A-

André Rosinha Trio: Triskel (2022, Nischo): Portuguese bassist, third album, a trio with Joăo Paulo Esteves da Silva (piano) and arcos Cavaleiro (drums). B+(**) [bc]

Felipe Salles/Zaccai Curtis/Avery Sharpe/Jonathan Barber: Tiyo's Songs of Life (2022, Tapestry): Compositions by Tiyo Attallah Salah-El (1932-2018), né David Riley Jones, fought in Korean War, returned to play saxophone, but wound up spending the last 50 years of his life in jail. Salles is a tenor saxophonist, was born in Brazil, came to US in 1995, teaches at U. Mass., has a half-dozen records. He arranged Salah-El's compositions, radiantly backed by piano, bass, and drums. A- [cd]

Satoyama: Sinking Islands (2021 [2022], Auand): Italian quartet, "deeply influenced by the north european jazz, contemporary classical music and world music," fourth album, members play trumpet (Luca Benedetto), guitar (Christian Russano), bass, and drums. B+(**) [bc]

Matthew Shipp Trio: World Construct (2021 [2022], ESP-Disk): Piano trio, with Michael Bisio (bass) and Newman Taylor Baker (drums). Shipp has recorded many albums like this, the third with this lineup for this label -- Trio albums with Bisio go back to 2009, with Baker to 2015 (before that, you mostly get William Parker and Whit Dickey). Rhythm has always been his strong suit, and you hear that most clearly when he picks up the pace. B+(***) [cd]

Josh Sinton/Tony Falco/Jed Wilson: Adumbrations (2021 [2022], Form Is Possibility): Leader plays baritone sax, alto flute, and bass clarinet; eighth album since 2011 (plus group work, like in Ideal Bread); backed with piano and drums. B+(***) [cd]

Torben Snekkestad/Sřren Kjaergaard: Another Way of the Heart (2021 [2022], Trost): Former plays tenor/soprano sax, trumpet, and clarinet, duo with piano. B+(*) [bc]

Sprints: Manifesto (2021, Nice Swan, EP): Irish post-punk quartet, lead singer/songwriter Karla Chubb, backed by guitar-bass-drums. Four songs, 13:06. B+(*) [bc]

Sprints: A Modern Job (2022, Nice Swan, EP): Moves beyond punk with the spoken word opener, "How Does This Story Go?" -- the music, not the attitude. Title song reveals ambition: "I wish I had a life/ and I wish that this wasn't it." Five songs, 15:29. B+(***) [bc]

SSWAN [Jessica Ackerley/Patrick Shiroishi/Chris Williams/Luke Stewart/Jason Nazary]: Invisibility Is an Unnatural Disorder (2020 [2022], 577): A while back, I got a package of CDs on the 577 label that hadn't been released yet (4 of 5 I couldn't even find release dates for, and this one is still close to 3 months out, but the demo queue is damn near empty). This is about what I'd expect: three pieces (36:52) of medium tempo, medium noise avant tinkering. Principles play: guitar, sax, trumpet, bass, and drums. I especially like the way the guitar weaves in and out. B+(***) [cd] [09-02]

Gebhard Ullmann/Gerhard Gschlössl/Johannes Fink/Jan Leipnitz/Michael Haves: GULFH of Berlin (2018 [2021], ESP-Disk): First four -- tenor sax/bass clarinet, trombone/sousaphone, bass/cello, drums -- released a 2014 album called GULF of Berlin. In addition to his initial, Haves adds "live sound processing" (whatever that is). B+(**) [cd]

Devin Brahja Waldman & Hamid Drake: Mediumistic Methodology (2019 [2022], Astral Spirits): Alto sax/drums duo. Starts a little slow, but doesn't leave at that. B+(**) [bc]

Weakened Friends: Quitter (2021, Don Giovanni): Indie band from Portland, Maine; second album after a couple EPs, Sonia Sturino the singer/guitarist, with Annie Hoffman (bass/vocals) and Adam Hand (drums). B+(**)

Tommy Womack: I Thought I Was Fine (2021, Schoolkids): Singer-songwriter from Kentucky, based in Nashville, started in a band called Government Cheese, solo albums since 1998, surprises with a couple of covers here ("That Lucky Old Sun," "Miss Otis Regrets"). A straight rocker with some stories, including one about a minister buying ice cream, and another about Elvis. B+(***)

Eri Yamamoto/Chad Fowler/William Parker/Steve Hirsh: Sparks (2022, Mahakala Music): Japanese pianist, has had a close relationship with Parker (bass) since she moved to New York. Hirsh plays drums, with Fowler playing stritch and saxello, instruments which dial back his sound just enough to make clear how inventive he can be. A- [bc]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Barney Wilen: Zodiac (1966 [2022], We Are Busy Bodies): French saxophonist (1937-96), backed by Karl Berger (vibes/piano), Jean-François Jenny Clark (bass), and Jacques Thollot (drums), plays 12 short pieces (one for each zodiac sign), intended as a soundtrack but the movie never got made. B

Old music:

Auntie Flo: Goan Highlife (2011, Huntleys & Palmers, EP): Brian D'Souza, originally from Goa -- a colonial enclave claimed by Portugal in 1510 that India invaded and annexed in 1961 -- moved to Glasgow, and eventually to London. This was his first record, two tracks, 12:44: Indian percussion/strings, chants, some electronics, the seed of a formula. B+(*) [sp]

Auntie Flo: Future Rhythm Machine (2021, Huntleys & Palmers): First legit album, eight tracks, 33:04, three with featured guests. Still seems to be dancing around the concept. B+(*) [sp]

Auntie Flo: Theory of Flo (2015, Huntleys & Palmers): Second album, features a singer named Anbuley on six (of 10) tracks. B+(*) [sp]

Auntie Flo: Radio Highlife (2018, Brownswood): Bigger album, more guests, many from Africa, although nothing that especially strikes me as classic highlife. B+(**) [sp]

Jakuzi: Hata Payi (2019, City Slang): Turkish synthpop band, second album. Not exactly Krautrock, but not far removed. B+(**)

Sarathy Korwar & Upaj Collective: Night Dreamer Direct-to-Disc Sessions (2019 [2020], Night Dreamer): London-based drummer, draws on Indian percussion, second album with this fluid group (5 members here -- sax, guitar, keyboards, violin, drums -- vs. 11 for their 2018 My East Is Your West). B+(***) [bc]

The United States Air Force Academy Band: The Falconaires: Sharing the Freedom (2010 [2011], self-released): Other name on the cover is "Lieutenant Colonel Larry H. Lang, Commander." Big band, playing standards with a few originals mixed in, with TSgt Crissy Saalborn taking three vocals. Her "Nature Boy" isn't bad, but all the TSgt- and MSgt- and SMSgt-prefixes gives me the creeps. Nor do I take comfort in that the USAF has worse ways of "sharing the freedom." B- [cd]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Jones Jones: Just Justice (ESP-Disk) [06-18]
  • Brian Landrus: Red List (Palmetto) [06-17]
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: World Construct (ESP-Disk) [06-17]
  • Wadada Leo Smith: The Emerald Duets (TUM, 5CD) [06-17]
  • Wadada Leo Smith: String Quartets Nos. 1-12 (TUM, 7CD) [06-17]
  • Gebhard Ullmann/Gerhard Gschlössl/Johannes Fink/Jan Leipnitz/Michael Haves: Gulfh of Berlin (ESP-Disk -21)
  • WeFreeStrings: Love in the Form of Sacred Outrage (ESP-Disk) [06-17]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, June 13, 2022


Music Week

June archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 38120 [38065] rated (+55), 97 [107] unrated (-10).

It's been a very frustrating week, especially a blow to my confidence that I can manage basic tasks of household maintenance. Still trying to figure out an air conditioner problem with the temperature over 100F. Dreading tomorrow, but no reason to think I won't get through it, or feel better once it's over.

Nothing much more to say about the music below. I did bump two albums I had at B+(**) up a notch today on revisit, but I'm pretty sure that's as high as they will go.

Been trying the new Napster web interface, and so far I hate everything about it. Looks almost exactly like a Spotify clone. Given that Spotify has more music and is much more robust -- comparing Spotify's Linux app to Napster's web interface; Spotify's web interface is probably no better -- the only reasons I thought of for keeping Napster were that it was a bit better for browsing (still pretty awful) and a bit easier for song lists, and they managed to squander both advantages. Plus Napster has a unique problem: it periodically stops with a notice that my account is being used on another device. I've also had to swat down many offers to download the supposedly superior Napster app, only to find they still don't have one for Linux (though supposedly they're working on it now).


New records reviewed this week:

070 Shake: You Can't Kill Me (2022, GOOD Music/Def Jam): Rapper Danielle Balbuena, second album, sings more here, so much so I had this noted as "art pop" before spinning it. Deeper than that. B+(***)

Florian Arbenz/Joăo Barradas/Tineke Postma/Rafael Jerjen: Conversation #5: Elemental (2022, Hammer): Swiss drummer, in several groups including VEIN since 2006, started his Conversation series in 2021 with various guests, this quartet the largest mix to date, the others playing accordion, sax, and bass. B+(***) [bc]

Bad Bunny: Un Verano Sin Ti (2022, Rimas Entertainment): Puerto Rican rapper-singer, fourth album, I figure him for reggaeton but Wikipedia also says "Latin trap." Appeal mostly in the beats, as usual. Long: 81:53. B+(**)

Bloc Party: Alpha Games (2022, Infectious/BMG): British indie band, debut EP 2004, sixth album, suggested genres like "dance-punk," but more clearly within the Britpop gamut, closer to Blur than to Oasis, less catchy than either. B

Boris: W (2022, Sacred Bones): Japanese "heavy rocks" band (to crib from their website, probably more accurate than doom metal, drone, psychedelia, noise, or experimental rock), 27th album since 1996, group name taken from a Melvins song, have some collaborations with noise artists Merzbow and Keiji Haino. Album title is supposedly a postscript to 2021's NO. I'm not getting a typical metal reaction here, but not much else either. B-

Buck 65: King of Drums (2022, self-released): Canadian rapper Richard Terfry, from Nova Scotia, Bandcamp puts him in Toronto, started 1994, went on hiatus in 2015, started to resurface in 2020. No song titles, just "Part" 1-21 (54:53). Rhymes fast and clever, over beats little evolved from his heyday. A- [bc]

Buck 65/Tachichi: Flash Grenade (2022, Black Buffalo): Canadian rappers Rich Terfly and Tyrone Thompson, the latter with a couple 1998-2002 albums, more since 2017. B+(**) [bc]

Burton/McPherson Trio: The Summit Rock Session at Seneca Village (2021 [2022], Giant Step Arts): Unnamed member of the Trio is bassist Dezron Douglas. Abraham Burton released two outstanding albums on Enja in 1994-95, then largely disappeared until he started recording again in 2014. He did, however, record a quartet album in 1998 co-led by drummer Eric McPherson, so their group seems to start there. B+(**) [cd] [06-19]

Neneh Cherry: The Versions (2022, EMI): Don Cherry's step-daughter, released a great hip-hop album in 1988 (Raw Like Sushi), two more through 1996, has occasionally resurfaced with odd projects since then (e.g., The Cherry Thing, with Norway's avant-jazz group, the Thing). This is a various artists tribute she nonetheless claims: 10 pieces (including 2 takes each of "Manchild" and "Buddy X") from those three albums, done by as many guests, some bringing the beat, some not so much. B

Tom Collier: The Color of Wood (2022, Summit): Mallet player, Discogs credits him with a 1988 album, five more 2004-16. Uses three different marimbas here, not sure what (if anything) else. B [cd]

Dan Ex Machina: All Is Ours, Nothing Is Theirs (2022, self-released): New Jersey band and/or singer-songwriter Dan Weiss -- not the drummer, nor the other drummer, but known to me mostly as a rock critic, although I've listened to his Bandcamp oeuvre, which remains too obscure to get listed in Discogs (but AOTY lists two albums and an EP, with a total of 3 user scores). Bandcamp page says these 17 songs were written between 2003-11, and "have been played live for more than a decade," and were "mastered in 2021," and offers shifting lineups, but doesn't come out and say when they were recorded. So we'll treat it as a new album, although it could pass for juvenilia. Gets better down the home stretch, possibly helped by slipping in a couple covers (Kurt Cobain, Lisa Walker). B+(***) [bc]

Drive-By Truckers: Welcome 2 Club XIII (2022, ATO): Southern rock band, many superb albums since 1998. This seems to be one of the more measured ones, with quiet songs just ambling along. I find them gently reassuring. A- [sp]

Eels: Extreme Witchcraft (2022, E Works/PIAS): Indie band from Los Angeles, principally Mark Oliver Everett, who recorded two albums as E (1992-93) before naming this group in 1996. Fourteenth album, first I've bothered with. Has an agreeable sound, without bombast or other excesses. B+(*)

Empath: Visitor (2022, Fat Possum): Noise punk band from Philadelphia, Catherine Elicson the singer, second album. Sound has some appeal, but I don't hear much more. B

Everything Everything: Raw Data Feel (2022, AWAL): English art rock band, from Manchester, sixth album since 2010. Singer Jonathan Higgs leans into his falsetto, electrobeats are snappy and occasionally catchy. B+(*)

Fantastic Negrito: White Jesus Black Problems (2022, Storefront): Xavier Dphrepaulezz, b. 1968 in Massachusetts, moved to Oakland at 12, father Somali, released a record in 1996 as Xavier, switched to this moniker in 2014, fifth album as such. Often described as "black roots music," drawing on blues, soul, and funk, but not precisely defined, as if it's not necessarily rooted yet. B+(***) [sp]

Hugo Fernandez: Ozean (2022, Origin): Guitarist, (4) in Discogs, second album, quartet with electric bass, drums, and trumpet/flugelhorn -- Christoph Titz stars here. B+(***) [cd] [06-17]

Liam Gallagher: C'mon You Know (2022, Warner): Founder, with his brother Noel, of Oasis, which in England seems to be regarded as the greatest band since the Beatles, perhaps even greater, although I don't know anyone who shares that view. After Oasis broke up in 2009, he started Beady Eye. Third solo album since 2017. Sometimes impressive (e.g., "I'm Free"). B+(*)

Mary Gauthier: Dark Enough to See the Stars (2022, In the Black/Thirty Tigers): Folk singer-songwriter, often impressive. B+(***)

S.G. Goodman: Teeth Marks (2022, Verve Forecast): Singer-songwriter from Kentucky, first name Shaina, second album. This didn't really register until the guitar riff that kicks off the second-side opener, the grim but defiant "Work Until I Die." B+(***)

Michael Head & the Red Elastic Band: Dear Scott (2022, Modern Sky): Singer-songwriter from Liverpool, started with the Pale Fountains (1982-85), then Shack (1988-2006). Second album with this group, after an EP in 2013. B

Honolulu Jazz Quartet: Straight Ahead: The Honolulu Jazz Quartet Turns 20 (2022, HJQ): Discogs only lists one album, from 2003, with three members still here -- Tim Tsukiyama (sax), Dan Del Negro (piano), John Kolivas (bass) -- so Noel Okimoto (drums) was a late arrival. I have another album in my database, and Google knows of at least two more. Eight originals (all four write individually), plus five covers, some of which one prays will never become part of the standards repertoire ("Scarborough Fair," "Wichita Lineman"). B [cd]

Kathryn Joseph: For You Who Are Wronged (2022, Rock Action): Scottish singer-songwriter, third album, plays keyboards, not much else going on musically -- though just enough for her purposes. B+(*)

Avril Lavigne: Love Sux (2022, DTA/Elektra): Canadian singer-songwriter, seventh album 20 years after her bestselling debut (also newly available in a 20th anniversary edition). Most pieces co-written with John Feldmann and Mod Sun, who also co-produced with Travis Barker. Twelve fast tracks in 33:38, fierce songs that tend to confuse love and hate, perhaps because the music fits both. B+(**)

Dmitri Matheny: Cascadia (2021 [2022], Origin): Flugelhorn player, born in Nashville, based in Seattle, fifth album since 1995, quintet with Charles McNeal (tenor/soprano sax), Bill Anschell (piano), bass, and drums. B+(*) [cd] [06-17]

Ben Morris: Pocket Guides (2022, OA2): Pianist, based in Boulder, Colorado; first album, original compositions with a text from E.H. Gombrich. Large band: 13 strong, including cello and two violins (one doubling on mandolin, the other on Hardanger fiddle, for a Norse folk touch). Unpleasing to my ears, but cannot deny its art quotient. B- [cd] [06-17]

My Idea: That's My Idea (2021, Hardly Art, EP): Five song (12:41) debut for Brooklyn duo of Nate Amos (from the group Water From Your Eyes) and Lily Konigsberg (who has a 2021 solo album, an earlier duo, and the group Palberta). B+(**) [sp]

My Idea: Cry Mfer (2022, Hardly Art): Full-length debut, 13 songs plus 2 "digital bonus tracks." Small voice, light touch, nice drums. B+(***)

The Mysterines: Reeling (2022, Fiction): Indie rock band from Liverpool, first album after several EPs. Got some chops, but grinds a bit hard, and I suspect they're full of it. B [sp]

Jason Palmer: Live From Summit Rock in Seneca Village (2021 [2022], Giant Step Arts): Trumpet player, prolific since his 2014 debut, this live set a quartet with Mark Turner (tenor sax), Edward Perez (bass), and Johnathan Blake (drums). B+(**) [cd] [06-19]

Red Hot Chili Peppers: Unlimited Love (2022, Warner): Funk rock band from Los Angeles, debut 1984, commercial breakthrough with their 5th album in 1991, releases slowed down after 2002 -- six years before this 12th album, 73:04 long, with John Frusciante back, and Rick Rubin producing. B

The Regrettes: Further Joy (2022, Warner): Band from Los Angeles, Lydia Night the singer (presumably the songwriter), seems to have started as punk or riot grrrl (list of cited influences starts with Bikini Kill, L7, and 7 Year Bitch, but also includes Lesley Gore and the Crystals/Ronettes). Third album, reminded me at first of Voice of the Beehive but wound up close to Lily Allen territory. Line I jotted down: "you're so fucking pretty it takes my breath away." Second pass could add a dozen more. A-

Derek Senn: The Big Five-O (2022, self-released): Singer-songwriter from San Luis Obispo, three previous albums, claims he's sold out a venue in Aberdeen ("where his Americana's more popular than with the Americans"). Some topical songs (from "Quarantine" to "Texas Legislature"), some personal, at least one on the "Zeitgeist." B+(**) [bc]

Alexander Smalls: Let Us Break Bread Together (2022, Outside In Music): Singer, seems to be his first album, if anything he's better known as a chef, with three cookbooks to his name. Not a commanding or even very compelling vocalist, he seems to ease back and let the songs do the work, like the menu composer he is. Starts with "Wade in the Water," "St. Thomas," "Watermelon Man," the title piece (reprised at the end, after "Mood Indigo"). He doesn't sing on "St. Thomas" -- John Ellis reprises the Sonny Rollins classic, and plays some fine bass clarinet later on. Ulysses Owens Jr. seems to be the one who rounded up the all-star band. B+(***) [cd]

Soft Cell: Happiness Not Included (2022, BMG): British electrop duo, Marc Almond and Dave Ball, recorded four albums 1981-84, one in 2002, now one more. They sound little evolved from their heyday, plastic synth melodies formed into songs that are just catchy enough. B+(**)

Spanish Harlem Orchestra: Imágenes Latinas (2021 [2022], Ovation): Led by pianist Oscar Hernandez, eighth album since 2002, exactly as advertised. Thirteen members, including vocalists Marco Bermudez, Carlos Cascante, and Jeremy Bosch. B+(*) [cd]

Grant Stewart Quartet With Bruce Harris: The Lighting of the Lamps (2021 [2022], Cellar): Mainstream tenor saxophonist, debut 1996 but discography picks up around 2004, quartet with piano (Tardo Hammer), bass, and drums, plus Harris on trumpet. B+(**) [cd] [06-17]

John Wasson's Strata Big Band: Chronicles (2022, MAMA): Bass trombonist, originally from Minnesota, studied at UNT, played in their big band and with the USAF, other big bands (best known were Stan Kenton and Woody Herman, late but I don't know how late), recordings mostly with the Dallas Brass (he also holds the position of "staff arranger for the Dallas Cowboys stadium band"). Seems to be his first album. B- [cd]

Orlando Weeks: Hop Up (2022, PIAS): From Brighton, former singer for the Maccabees (2005-15), third solo album. B+(*)

The Whitmore Sisters: Ghost Stories (2022, Red House): Eleanor and Bonnie Whitmore, sisters, first album together although Bonnie has six on her own (since 2004), Eleanor one (plus she plays in Steve Earle's band, and shares the spotlight on four albums with her husband Chris as the Mastersons). Roots sounds, nice harmonies. B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Cumbia Sabrosa: Tropical Sound System Bangers From the Discos Fuentes Vaults 1961-1981 (1961-81 [2022], Rocafort, EP): Six songs, 15:53, physical is 3 x 7" vinyl, short, upbeat singles by Climaco Sarmiento, Michi Sarmiento, Afrosound, Los Golden Boys, and Peyo Torres (2). B+(**) [bc]

Old music:

Bike for Three!: So Much Forever (2014, Fake Four): Long-distance collaboration between Buck 65 (Canadian rapper Rich Terfly) and Greetings From Tuskan (Belgian singer Joëlle Phuong Minh Lę), second album after a 2009 debut. B+(**) [bc]

Buck 65: Sore (2004, WEA, EP): Three mixes of the title single, plus two extra cuts (17:33 total), worth hearing. B+(*)

Buck 65: Dirtbike 1 (2008, self-released): Idea was to knock out three hour-long tapes within three months, this one the first (66:38). B+(**) [bc]

Buck 65: Dirtbike 2 (2008, self-released): Second installment, a month later. Works in more hillbilly twang. B+(***) [bc]

Buck 65 [Produced by Jorun Bombay]: Laundromat Boogie (2014, DWG): This came out a day before his last WEA Canada album (a divorce saga called Neverlove), a song cycle of laundry and dirty romance structured as a single 33:17 mix. B+(***) [bc]

Abraham Burton/Eric McPherson Quartet: Cause and Effect (1998 [1999], Enja): Tenor sax and drums, with James Hurt (piano, wrote 2 pieces vs. 3 for Burton and 1 long one for McPherson) and Yosuke Inoue (bass). Strong saxophone. B+(***) [sp]

Neneh Cherry: Man (1996, Virgin): Third album, last for a stretch out to 2012, picked up a single shared with Youssou N'Dour ("7 Seconds"), Cameron McVey co-wrote most of the songs, produced by Booga Bear, Jonny Dollar, and/or Dave Allen. She seems to have fallen into a soul diva rut. B+(*)

Hata Unacheza: Sub-Saharan Acoustic Guitar and String Music (1960s [2013], Canary): Old timey music from Africa, 18 songs from 16 artists from 7 Central African nations (mostly: the outliers are Sierra Leone to Zambia, with 9 songs from Congo or Kenya) -- the artists served twice are S.E. Rogie (who I'm familiar with) and Jean Bosco Mwenda (who I should be). Flows nicely enough, but all seems a little quaint. B+(***) [bc]

Avril Lavigne: Let Go (2002, Arista): Debut album, she was 17 at the time, but with her advance had moved from Canada to Los Angeles to work with Clif Magness and the Matrix, and they turned out a big hit, selling 16 million copies, led by "Sk8er Boi." So far, so good, but the power ballads suck, and then there's this: "'Cause I'm feeling nervous/ trying to be so perfect/ 'cause I know you're worth it." B-

Avril Lavigne: Under My Skin (2004, Arista): Second studio album, another big seller (6 million worldwide). Mostly co-wrote with Chantal Kreviazuk, I find most of this absurdly heavy, but she does find a bit of clarity on a couple of punkish pieces, perhaps a way out. B- [sp]

Lowkey: Dear Listener (2008, SO Empire): British rapper Kareem Dennis, born in London, mother Iraqi, father English. I heard about him when a Zionist front group tried to get him banned from Spotify. First studio album after several mixtapes. Finding his politics, with a gruesome one on Iraq, and a more affirmative one called "I Believe." B+(**)

Lowkey: Soundtrack to the Struggle (2011, Mesopotamia Music): More political here, with six "skits" that aren't even remotely funny, though there are some nuanced stories, as well as principled and sometimes even hopeful anthems. Music is more assured, the rap fast and sharp. Early intro: "I'm a product of the system I was born to destroy." Runs long: 95:08. A-

Lowkey: Soundtrack to the Struggle 2 (2019, Mesopotamia Music): In 2012, he decided to "step away from music and concentrate on y studies." He returned with a single in 2016, and finally with this album, built around samples of Noam Chomsky, who points out: "Today's Republican Party is the most dangerous organization in human history." At the moment, I'm up to 1933 in a memoir called Defying Hitler, and the SA is already doing things few Republicans can even dream of, but the Nazis were stopped 12 years later, while it's still unclear how evil the Republicans will become, or how long it will take to stop them. The extra study may have sharpened his critique of neoliberalis (cf. "Neoliberalism Kills People"), but hasn't sharpened his beats. New events intrude, like "McDonald Trump" and "Letter to the 1%." Also reprises "Long Live Palestine," because some things haven't changed. A-

Jackie McLean/John Jenkins: Alto Madness (1957, Prestige): Two alto saxophonists, both b. 1931, Jenkins a couple months older but McLean already had a half-dozen albums, with many more to come. Jenkins was also busy in 1957 -- include Kenny Burrell, Donald Byrd, Teddy Charles, Clifford Jordan, Hank Mobley, Paul Quinichette, Sahib Shihab, and Wilbur Ware -- but nothing later until a reunion with Jordan in 1990. Backed by piano-bass-drums, McLean's title piece ran 11:48, Jenkins' two pieces added up to 13:14, and they blew through two standards (another 14:19). B+(**)

Grachan Moncur III: New Africa (1969, BYG Actuel): Trombonist, father was a bassist of some note, died June 3 at 85, played on two landmark Jackie McLean albums in 1963, which got him two Blue Note albums (1964-65; all four plus two more McLean albums Moncur played on were packaged under his name for the first 3-CD Mosaic Select box). Discography after that was rather spotty, with two BYG albums (1969-70, this is the first), a JCOA set in 1975, one on Denon in 1977, and two much later (2004-07). Quintet with Roscoe Mitchell (alto sax), Dave Burrell (piano), Alan Silva (bass), and Andrew Cyrille (drums), plus Archie Shepp (tenor sax) on the last track. B+(***)

Grachan Moncur III: Aco Dei De Madrugada (One Morning I Waked Up Very Early) (1969 [1970], BYG Actuel): Short album (4 tracks, 28:41), recorded in Paris with Fernando Martins (piano/voice), Beb Guérin (bass), and Nelson Serra de Castro (drums). B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Felipe Salles/Zaccai Curtis/Avery Sharpe/Jonathan Barber: Tiyo's Songs of Life (Tapestry) [05-20]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, June 6, 2022


Music Week

June archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 38065 [38015] rated (+50), 107 [107] unrated (-0).

Added a link to yesterday's Speaking of Which moments after posting. It's to an Alex Pareene post, What Do Cops Do?, which referred back to an Alexander Sammon piece I had already commented on (Why Are Police So Bad at Their Jobs?). I had to slip the PS inline because at the end of the paragraph I segued to another Sammon piece, then to three more pieces by Charles P Pierce. This last part should have been broken out into a separate entry, as the subject changed to the relentless scheming that Republicans practice to steal elections. I didn't break it out because I came to the pieces late, but also because also because this is stuff I've been following and commenting on for decades. Pierce's "Ratf*cking" pretty explicitly invokes David Daley's 2016 gerrymandering book, Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy. But in its cynically anti-democratic soul, it goes back at least as far as Nixon's plumbers, which I got an early glimpse into back in 1969, when I read Joe McGinniss: The Selling of the President 1968.

But back to the Pareene piece. He argues that most failures in policing can be explained by a simple rule of thumb: "They do what's easy, and avoid what is difficult." He gives various examples. He cites a study showing that when we hire more police, they arrest more people for misdemeanors ("that is, the unimportant shit"). He concludes: "It's easier to arrest a fifth grader than it is to save one's life. It is far easier to do 'crowd control' -- to restrain a panicking parent, perhaps -- than it is to enter a room currently occupied by a psycho with a semiautomatic rifle."

I don't cite Pierce often enough, but that's mostly because he posts lots of short pieces that can be redundant to the longer ones I tend to cite. However, if you don't have time to shop around, and are especially interested in the pathological (i.e., Republican) side of electoral politics, he covers a lot of ground, and offers a good summary of what's recent. Another blog I recommend for much the same reason is No More Mister Nice Blog. The main guy there signs his pieces Steve M., which I'm a bit subconscious about citing, but he has a keen eye for Republican pathology, and a healthy scepticism about how well Democrats deal with such problems. If all you follow is those two blogs, you'll be pretty well informed.

Not much on Ukraine yesterday, but I want to add one thought. It's not terribly surprising that Russia botched their invasion, and it's been gratifying to see how effective Ukrainians have been at countering the offensive. But that shouldn't blind you to the critically important truth, which is that Russia has a huge margin of strategic depth: it has a much bigger economy, has a lot more soldiers it can deploy, and has a base which is safe and secure from reprisals or subversion. While it's possible that Putin et al. will decide the war isn't worth it, it's more likely that they will keep trying different things until they come up with something that works. I'm reminded here of the US Civil War, which was little short of a disaster for the North at first, but Lincoln kept shuffling his generals until he came up with ones who were effective, ones who could leverage the Union's huge strategic advantages, and turn the war in their favor. Russia seems to be doing that recently, picking up small patches of ground, expensively but inexorably. Earlier, this prospect made me think that it was important to negotiate a fair end sooner rather than later. Now, I see it as more urgent than ever. A piece I recommended yesterday stands out: Ross Barkan: The War in Ukraine Can Be Over If the U.S. Wants It. But the title reminds me that a good many other wars could also be over if the U.S. was so inclined.

Fifth straight Speaking of Which. I still don't want to make a weekly practice of it, but hit a mental dead spot last week when I couldn't think of anything better to do. Had an urgent home repair to do today, and it wound up taking three hours instead of the 15-20 minutes it should have. Moreover, I'm beginning to think I should redo it before long. Much else is proving frustrating. Got some medical anxiety this week, so I don't really see clear sailing ahead.


Another fairly big ratings week. Pulled a lot of records off the upper reaches of the metacritic list, but they are often ones that I wouldn't have bothered with otherwise, and they seem to be falling into perhaps-too-easy piles: the better ones at B+(**) (12 this week), the not-so-great ones at B+(*) (16), with the also-rans at B (5), and nothing lower (not that further exposure wouldn't have turned me vicious; I just didn't bother trying to figure out where). I continue to have mixed feelings about the Ezz-Thetics reissues: Don Cherry's Where Is Brooklyn? and John Coltrane's live A Love Supreme were previous A- albums, and that hasn't hanged. The extras neither help nor hurt, which makes them redundant, but should I grade down for that? I was struck by how much I preferred the Antibes concert to the much-hyped Seattle one that appeared (and swept the Jazz Critics Poll) last year.

Christian Iszchak has been writing annotated monthly listening reports since January, but his entry for May switched to a Consumer Guide format, the best new example of such I've seen since Michael Tatum's Downloader's Diary. I discovered the Wiz Khalifa album there.


New records reviewed this week:

Bad Bad Hats: Walkman (2021, Don Giovanni): Indie rock band from Minneapolis, debut EP in 2012, third album, Kerry Alexander the singer. B+(*)

Band of Horses: Things Are Great (2022, BMG): Rock band, led by singer-songwriter Ben Bridwell, started in Seattle with an EP in 2005 and an LP in 2006, wound up in South Carolina -- same vector as Boeing's 787, but Boeing probably got a better tax deal from the move, as well as cheaper labor and quality control nightmares. Sixth studio album. Nice band. B+(*)

Nat Birchall: Afro Trane (2022, Ancient Archive of Sound): British saxophonist (tenor/soprano), first album 1999 but his real string starts around 2009, has embraced Coltrane as thoroughly as anyone in his generation, picking up (to cite two titles) the Cosmic Language and Sacred Dimension, lacking only the intense desire to see how far he can extend the logic. Still, this is hit first title to explicitly cite Trane, appearing after one called Ancient Africa. Third solo album, where he also plays keyboards, bass, and percussion, on three originals (all with "Trane" in the title) and three covers ("Acknowledgement," "India," "Dahomey Dance"). My guess is that he loses a bit of edge in forgoing the band, but the poise and balance pays off big. A-

Kaitlin Butts: What Else Can She Do (2022, self-released): Country singer-songwriter from Oklahoma City, released a single in 2013 ("Tornadoes and Whiskey") and an album in 2014 (Same Hell, Different Devil), then went quiet until more singles in 2019. Second album, barely (7 songs, 31:47). Strong sound and character, gets a bit heavy. B+(*)

Daniel Carter/Evan Strauss/5-Track/Sheridan Riley: The Uproar in Bursts of Sound and Silence (2018-21 [2022], 577): Carter is credited with voice on two tracks, on the third: flute, clarinet, soprano and tenor sax; Strauss plays keyboards, electric and acoustic bass, bass clarinet, and tenor sax; the others guitar and drums. Seems to have been Strauss who put the final tracks together, possibly over several years. B+(***) [cd] [08-25]

Cypress Hill: Back in Black (2022, MNRK): Latino hip-hop group from South Gate, near Los Angeles; a big deal when they appeared in 1991, only their third album since 2004. Haven't they heard that weed is legal, at least in California? B+(**)

Destroyer: Labyrinthitis (2022, Merge): Canadian band, from Vancouver, fronted by Dan Bejar, 13th album since 1996. Seems like they came up with a new rhythmic fascination here, but I never paid them any heed until Kaputt (2011) got so much attention, and noticed little beyond a knack for hooks. Ends with an off-kilter ballad that is pretty nice too. B+(**)

Dubstar: Two (2022, Northern Writes): English electropop group, released three albums 1995-2000, returned with One in 2018. Steve Hillier left in 2014, leaving founder Chris Wilkie and longtime vocalist Sarah Blackwood. B+(*)

Steve Earle & the Dukes: Jerry Jeff (2022, New West): His third tribute over the last decade to the (slightly) older generation of Texas singer-songwriters, outlaws only in the sense that they stayed outside Nashville's commercial norms: Townes (Van Zandt, 2009), Guy (Clark, 2019), and now Walker. None are as satisfying as last year's tribute to his son, J.T., probably because his son was a better writer and a weaker singer. B+(**)

Ebi Soda: Honk If You're Sad (2022, Tru Thoughts): Jazz-funk group from Brighton, UK, nominally a quintet but drummer Sa Schlich-Davies seems to be the only one on all tracks. Free enough to keep you on your toes. Yazz Ahmed (trumpet) is featured guest on one track. B+(*) [sp]

Tord Gustavsen Trio: Opening (2021 [2022], ECM): Norwegian pianist, albums since 1999, fifth trio album, this one with new bassist Steinar Raknes (also electronics) and long-time drummer Jarle Vespestad. Seems to be slowing down here, and when that happens one tends to lose interest. B+(*)

Hatchie: Giving the World Away (2022, Secretly Canadian): Australian singer-songwriter Harriette Pilbeam, second album, some say dream pop, but her bass lines reverberate somewhere between shoegaze and New Order, and she doesn't shy away from the drum machines. B+(**)

Horsegirl: Versions of Modern Performance (2022, Matador): Indie rock band, guitar-bass-drums (Nora Cheng, Penelope Lowenstein, Gigi Reece) from Chicago, first album, got the sound. B+(*)

Christopher Jacob: New Jazz Standards Vol. 5: The Music of Carl Saunders (2021 [2022], Summit): Saunders is a trumpet player, 79, mostly played in big bands (Stan Kenton, Buddy Rich, Bill Holman, Clare Fischer) and in support of singers (list headed by Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra). This seems to be Jacob's first album -- New Jazz Standards is a label series, with previous volumes by Sam Most, Scott Whitfield, Roger Kellaway, and Larry Koonse -- a trio with Darek Oles (bass) and Joe Labarbera (drums). Nicely done. B+(**) [cd]

Just Mustard: Heart Under (2022, Partisan): Irish band, mild-mannered shoegaze I guess (or metallic trip hop), Katie Ball is the singer, backed by two guitars, bass, and drums. Second album. B+(*) [sp]

Wiz Khalifa/Big K.R.I.T./Smoke DZA/Girl Talk: Full Court Press (2022, Asylum/Taylor Gang): Not exactly a tour de force for the rappers, so the secret ingredient seems to be Gregg Gillis (aka Girl Talk), even though his mix is much more inscrutable than the ones he served up for three superb 2006-10 mash-up albums. A-

Azar Lawrence: New Sky (2021 [2022], Trazar): Tenor saxophonist, recorded three albums for Prestige 1974-76, not much else until 2008, quite a bit since then. B+(*)

Lyle Lovett: 12th of June (2022, Verve): Country singer-songwriter, 12th album since 1986, although this one arrives a full decade after number 11, on a jazz label, with an instrumental written by Horace Silver ("Cookin' at the Continental"). Vocals follow: an offbeat original ("Pants Are Overrated"); three more standards ("Straighten Up and Fly Right"; "Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good to You"; "Peel Me a Grape"); then six more varied originals. B+(**)

Nduduzo Makhathini: In the Spirit of Ntu (2022, Blue Note): South African pianist, ten albums since 2014, this his second for Blue Note. Mostly septet with sax (Linda Sikhakhane), trumpet (Robin Fassie Kock), vibes, bass, drums, and percussion. Guests are a couple of vocalists, and alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, whose big solo is the album's highlight. B+(**)

Todd Marcus Jazz Orchestra: In the Valley (2019 [2022], Stricker Street): Bass clarinetist, fifth album since 2012, leads a 9-piece group: 4 reeds, 2 brass, piano, bass, drums. Big band arranging without the extra bombast. B+(*) [cd] [07-01]

Angel Olsen: Big Time (2022, Jagjaguwar): Singer-songwriter based in Asheville, NC; sixth album since 2012. Slow songs, driven home by repetition, like waves seeping into your consciousness. B+(*)

Kelly Lee Owens: LP.8 (2022, Smalltown Supersound): Welsh electronic musicians, sings some, based in London, despite title this seems to be her third album. Interesting mix, but mostly downers. B

Tess Parks: And Those Who Were Seen Dancing (2022, Fuzz Club): Singer-songwriter from Toronto, based in London, fourth album since 2013. Has depth and resonance, with a dark overcast. B+(***)

Sean Paul: Scorcha (2022, Island): Jamaican rapper, dancehall beats, eighth album since 2000. Upbeat toaster, surprised I hadn't played him before. B+(**)

Pkew Pkew Pkew: Open Bar (2022, Dine Alone): Punk band from Toronto, EP in 2013, debut album in 2016. B+(*)

PUP: The Unraveling of PUPTheBand (2022, Rise/BMG): Canadian post-punk band, acronym for Pathetic Use of Potential, same quartet since 2010 (Stefan Babcock singer), fourth album since 2013. Feels more like they're bulking up, but at some point I suppose it's natural to forget whether you're coming or going. B+(**)

Dave Rempis/Joshua Abrams/Avreeayl Ra + Jim Baker: Scylla (2021 [2022], Aerophonic): Chicago saxophonist (alto/tenor/baritone), trio with bass and drums, plus piano/electronics. Starts with gentle mbira, takes its sweet time to develop, ends with the raw power you expect. A- [cd] [07-08]

Alma Russ: Fool's Gold (2022, self-released): Country singer-songwriter, based in western North Carolina, second album. B+(**)

Scalping: Void (2022, Houndstooth): "Bristol techno, noise and hardcore supremos," first album, has vocals ("abstract doom saying") and industrial clatter. B+(**)

Louis Sclavis: Les Cadence Du Monde (2021 [2022], JMS Productions): French clarinetist, several dozen albums since 1981. Quartet with two cellists (Annabelle Luis and Bruno Ducret) plus percussion (Keyvan Chemirani, on zarb and daf). Upbeat, with a fresh Mediterrean air. A- [sp]

Shabaka: Afrikan Culture (2022, Impulse, EP): Last name Hutchings, born in London, parents from Barbados, best known for starring in the groups Sons of Kemet, Shabaka and the Ancestors, and The Comet Is Coming. Short album (8 tracks, 28:22), seems to be solo with percussion (kora, mbira, bells) added to his shakuhachi, clarinet, and bass clarinet. B [sp]

Shamir: Heterosexuality (2022, AntiFragile): Last name Bailey, grew up near Las Vegas, eighth album since 2015. First three songs have something to do with sexual identity. Not my problem B+(*)

Elza Soares: Elza Ao Vivo No Municipal (2022, Deck): Brazilian samba star, many albums since 1960, died in January at 91 (earlier sources gave her birth as 1937, but now we see 1930). This was recorded live, a few days before her death. The songs include one from 1960, another from 1968, but also four from the last decade, which seems to have been one of her strongest. A-

Sonic Liberation Front and the Sonic Liberation Singers: Justice: The Vocal Works of Oliver Lake (2021 [2022], High Two): Deummer Kevin Diehl's group, had a run of extraordinary albums starting in 2000, including a 2016 meeting with saxophonist Lake (Bombogenic). Down to five members here, plus four singers, with Lake credited as "Composer, Arranger Poet." His spoken poetry is striking enough, the multi-part vocals less so, and a sax solo (presumably Elliot Levin) reminds me where his real genius lies. B+(***) [cd] [06-10]

Caroline Spence: True North (2022, Rounder): Folkie singer-songwriter from Charlottesville, Virginia; fifth album since 2015. B+(**)

Carl Stone: Wat Dong Moon Lek (2022, Unseen Worlds): Not-so-minimalist composer, studied with Morton Subotnick, had a rock band called Z'EV, divides his time between Los Angeles and Japan. Strikes me as messy, a pastiche of vocal samples. B

Oded Tzur: Isabela (2021 [2022], ECM): Tenor saxophonist, born in Israel, studied Indian classical music under Hariprasad Chaurasia, based in New York, fourth album, since 2015, second on ECM, quartet with piano (Nital Hershkovits), bass, and drums. An brief "Invocation" and four longer pieces, the sax nicely centered and defined. B+(***)

Eddie Vedder: Earthling (2022, Seattle Surf/Republic): Former Pearl Jam honcho, third or fourth solo album (depending on whether you count a 2021 soundtrack, if not his first in more than a decade). I knew the name, but didn't make the link: Pearl Jam is a band I've never had the sightest interest in, but the sound comes back whole, and this is probably better than their average album. Not that I found any reason to care. B

Anna Von Hausswolff: Live at Montreux Jazz Festival (2018 [2022], Southern Lord): Swedish darkwave singer-songwriter, plays keyboards (especially pipe organ). Albums since 2010. B

Dallas Wayne: Coldwater, Tennessee (2022, Audium/BFD): Country singer-songwriter, from Missouri, albums since 1990, this one produced by Buddy Cannon. Title song is a retread from a 2000 album. Feels like getting old. B+(*)

John Yao's Triceratops: Off-Kilter (2018 [2022], See Tao): Trombonist, mostly based in New York but teaches at Berklee, has some big band experience, fourth album, a freebop quintet with two saxophonists (Billy Drewes and Jon Irabagon), bass, and drums. B+(***) [cd] [06-10]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Albert Ayler Quartet With Don Cherry: European Recordings Autumn 1964 Revisited (1964 [2022], Ezz-Thetics): Leaders play tenor sax and cornet, backed by bass (Gary Peacock) and drums (Sunny Murray), drawing on two sets in Copenhagen, one in Hilversum. B+(***) [bc]

Don Cherry: Where Is Brooklyn? & Eternal Rhythm Revisited (1966-68 [2022], Ezz-Thetics): Two albums that originally appeared in 1969, but were recorded two years apart: the first a blistering American quartet with Pharoah Sanders (tenor sax), Henry Grimes (bass), and Ed Blackwell (drums), a synthesis of the Coleman and Coltrane strands in avant-jazz; the second a mostly European nonet following his move to Sweden -- the only other American present was guitarist Sonny Sharrock, with vibes, gamelan, and bells among the extra percussion. Both have been trimmed slightly to fit on a single CD (79:51). A- [bc]

John Coltrane: Favorites [Naima/My Favorite Things/A Love Supreme] Revisited (1963-65 [2022], Ezz-Thetics): Live Quartet tracks (with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, Elvin Jones): his most famous composition, his most signature standard, and his most inspired album, adding up to 76:24. The latter is the same Antibes performance that has been reissued many times, including as the 2nd disc in the 2002 Deluxe Edition of A Love Supreme. This all strikes me as terribly redundant, but it's hard to complain while listening -- especially the latter, which strikes me as both more faithful and more adventurous than last year's archive find (A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle). A- [bc]

Los Golden Boys: Cumbia De Juventud (1964-69 [2022], Mississippi): Colombian cumbia group, founded 1960, a collection of "12 of the heaviest songs from their golden era," which evidently ends with the 1972 death of guitarist Pedro Jairo. Dates from the nine titles I was able to trace, so could be earlier and/or later. B+(***) [bc]

Old music:

Eddie Bo: Check Mr. Popeye (1959-62 [1988], Rounder): New Orleans pianist-singer, last name Bocage (1930-2009), Wikipedia says he "released more single records than anyone else in New Orleans other than Fats Domino," and he recorded for over 40 labels. But he sure sold a lot less than Domino. While these 14 cut from Ric are enjoyable, they're pretty easy to forget. B+(**)

Maggie Brown: Maggie Brown (2004, Riverwide): Country singer-songwriter, seems to be her only album -- Discogs also lists a 1970 single, but that seems unlikely; other sources get swamped by Oscar Brown Jr.'s daughter, but her discography is also spotty. That leaves me with Thom Jurek's rave review at AMG, where he begs comparison to Lucinda Williams. Seems like there should be more. B+(***)

Alma Russ: Next Town (2020, self-released): First album, started on fiddle and banjo before picking up guitar, has a small voice, takes a little getting used to. B+(*)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Hugo Fernandez: Ozean (Origin) [06-17]
  • Honolulu Jazz Quartet: Straight Ahead: The Honolulu Jazz Quartet Turns 20 (HJQ) [05-20]
  • George Lernis: Between Two Worlds (Dunya) [06-10]
  • Dmitri Matheny: Cascadia (Origin) [06-17]
  • Ben Morris: Pocket Guides (OA2) [06-17]
  • Alexander Smalls: Let Us Break Bread Together (Outside In Music) [06-10]
  • Spanish Harlem Orchestra: Imágenes Latinas (Ovation) [05-20]
  • Grant Stewart Quartet With Bruce Harris: The Lighting of the Lamps (Cellar) [06-17]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, May 30, 2022


Music Week

May archive (finished).

Music: Current count 38015 [37953] rated (+62), 107 [114] unrated (-7).

After finishing last week with a mere 28 newly rated records, I ventured that "it is possible, but not quite probable, that I will pass 38,000 next week." It turns out I did so easily, with the highest new rating count in recent memory. I spent a fair amount of time last week bringing my metacritic file up to date, so the easiest thing to do was to pick off unheard albums from the upper reaches of the list.

I don't have a cached copy of last week's list, but working from this week's reviews I picked up (sorted by current rank; i.e., at the moment of writing): Kurt Vile (40), Sunflower Bean (50), Warpaint (51), Anaďs Mitchell (57), Kevin Morby (59), Porridge Radio (60), Sasami (62), Sea Power (63), Aurora (66), Ethel Cain (67), Tomerlin (73), Gang of Youths (80), Johnny Marr (84), Daniel Rossen (87), Bastille (105), Metronomy (119), Soul Glo (126), Che Noir (160), Max Cooper (194). Needless to say, I didn't spend a lot of time on these (although Vile and Cooper were pleasant surprises; the lower grades would probably sink even lower with more exposure). Ranked (top 200) late-May releases omitted above: Harry Styles (39), Craig Finn (114), Wilco (155), Mxmtoon (180). Tate McRae is (211), and Van Morrison is unranked (my 1 point will put him on the list, but thus far I've only added my points to albums on the list for other reasons).

That leave as my top-ranked unheard releases: Just Mustard (54: 05-27, playing now), Band of Horses (92), Destroyer (97), Boris (108), Eels (112), Everything Everything (113), Pup (121), Shamir (124), Eddie Vedder (129), Blossoms (132), Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard (133), Grace Cummings (136), Empath (138), Hatchie (141), Melt Yourself Down (142), Midlake (143), The Mysterines (145), Pillow Queens (148), The Regrettes (149), Voivod (153), Orlando Weeks (154), Bloc Party (157), Camp Cope (158), Cave In (159), Crows (162), Liam Gallagher (170), Ghost (171) Kathryn Joseph (176) Lykke Li (178), and most records from (181: Rammstein) on down. Scanning that list, the only ones (besides Just Mustard, which is sounding like a low B+) I'm likely to hit next week are Pup and Shamir (well, maybe Hatchie and/or Everything Everything).

I'm rather pleased with the range of this week's A- records. Also that I took a bite out of the unrated list, and that three of them turned out to be so good (if in totally different ways). I'd really like to cut the list way down, but it's proving difficult to even find the remaining albums. Daunting boxes are a lesser problem, as they'll take a big chunk of time: Richard Pryor (9CD), Frank Sinatra (14CD, but mostly albums I've already graded), Neil Young (10CD), plus another half-dozen in the 3-4CD range. On the other hand, about half of what's left I'd just as soon forget I have.

Highly recommended music history link: Phil Overeem's "Groundbreaking Women in U.S. Music: A History in 150 [or so] Albums": Greatest Hits From Two Essay Assignments.

With five weeks in May, I've added 241 records to the ratings database. See link up top for the monthly archive. I've done the indexing, but haven't yet added the Music Week introductions.


I published a rather rushed Speaking of Which yesterday. Some extra links I would have included had I known of them:

I also wanted to beat Bill Scher: [05-16] The Deeply Flawed Narrative That Joe Biden Bought with a heavy stick. The notion that Obama was a master of practical politics is little short of risible, but using that flimsiest of arguments as a cudgeon against Biden for having attempted (and, thus far, mostly failed) something more ambitious is sinister. Many of the people who think that Obama's star has dimmed (even ones who personally admire him) do so because we realize that his legacy of failure left us with a nation that was willing to give Donald Trump a try. I wish Biden was better able to overcome the damage that Trump (and others, of both parties) did, but it's hard to see how slamming Biden for being too ambitious helps. I also wanted to take a look at another piece of less-than-friendly advice for Democrats, from Matthew Yglesias: [04-14] Moderate Democrats should be popularists. Also saying something similar is Ezra Klein: [05-29] What America Needs Is a Liberalism That Builds. Often these days one gets the impression that the only thing "moderate" Democrats want to do is to chastise us for wanting government to actually do things that help the people who they depend on for votes.


New records reviewed this week:

Oren Ambarchi/Johan Berthling/Andreas Werliin: Ghosted (2018 [2022], Drag City): Australian experimental musician, mostly plays guitar and drums, many albums since 2008 (Discogs lists 83). The others are Swedish, play bass and drums, also play in jazz groups Angles and Fire! Orchestra (Berthling has much the longer resumé, with over 100 album credits). Four pieces, compelling bass lines with improvised guitar flares, very attractive. A-

Aurora: The Gods We Can Touch (2022, Glassnote): Norwegian singer-songwriter, last name Aksnes, third album, has an ethereal vibe that floats away from nominal electropop. B

Bastille: Give Me the Future (2022, Virgin/EMI): British indie band, fourth album. Blah blah blah. B

Bright Dog Red: Under the Porch (2022, Ropeadope): Improvising collective from Albany, founded and led by drummer Joe Pignato, fifth album since 2018, personnel varies but Eric Person (sax/flute) and Tyreek Jackson (guitar) have been on last three, plus this time Matt Coonan (rapper), a second saxophonist (Mike LaBombard), Cody Davies ("sounds"), and various bassists. B+(*)

Bruch: The Fool (2020, Cut Surface/Trost): Austrian singer-songwriter Philipp Hanich, fourth album, plays his own guitar, synthesizer, sampler, and drums, has additional vocals on two tracks. Songs in English, voice and demeanor about midway between Craig Finn and Stephin Merritt. Thus far I'm less taken by his songwriting, but that hardly matters when he cranks the guitar up. B+(***) [bc]

Chris Byars: Rhythm and Blues of the 20s (2022, SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, a retro-bop guy much as Scott Hamilton is retro-swing, but for once looks a bit farther back, but it's sometimes hard to tell with original compositions. Sextet with Zaid Nasser (alto sax), Stefano Doglioni (bass clarinet), John Mosca (trombone), bass, and drums. B+(**)

Ethel Cain: Preacher's Daughter (2022, Daughters of Cain): Singer-songwriter from Tallahassee, Florida; original name Hayden Silas Anhedönia, father was a Southern Baptist deacon, she sang in choir, came out first as gay then as transgender, left the church but carries lots of baggage, and churns up a lot of drama. B+(*)

Che Noir: Food for Thought (2022, TCF Music Group): Buffalo-based rapper, several albums since 2016, including a duo with Apollo Brown. B+(***) [sp]

Rachel Chinouriri: Better Off Without (2022, Parlophone/Atlas, EP): Pop singer-songwriter, born in London, parents from Zimbabwe, young enough she lists Lily Allen as an influence. Third EP, 4 songs plotting a break-up over 13:00. B+(*)

Max Cooper: Unspoken Words (2022, Mesh): From Belfast in Northern Island, got a PhD in computational biology while working as a DJ in a local techno club. Pursued the latter as a career, producing seven albums since 2014. Uses some word samples, but mostly beats -- which are superb when not complicated by avalanches of sound. B+(***)

Bryan Ferry: Love Letters (2022, BMG, EP): Four covers, 14:19: "Love Letters," "I Just Don't Know What to Do," "Fooled Around and Fellin Love," "The Very Thought of You." Not as daring as his early covers, but as poignant as age demands. B+(*)

Craig Finn: A Legacy of Rentals (2022, Positive Jams): Singer-songwriter, leads the Hold Steady and has run five solo albums on the side. A peerless storyteller, an ear for characters, pays a lot of attention to women. A fine voice, as musical talking as singing. A-

David Friend & Jerome Begin: Post- (2022, New Amsterdam): Begin composed, Friend plays piano, Begin processed through live electronics ("breaking the bounds of traditional solo piano music"). B+(*)

Gang of Youths: Angel in Realtime (2022, Warner): Australian rock group, from Sydney, fourth album, fairly diverse, with singer David Le'aupepe "of Samoan and Austrian-Jewish descent," lead guitarist Korean-American, and others from Britain, New Zealand, and Poland. Still strike me as a rather mainstream group, albeit a rather adept one. B+(*)

Keith Hall: Made in Kalamazoo: Trios and Duos (2019 [2022], Zoom Out): Drummer, opens with a tribute to Billy Hart, then seven trio pieces -- with Andrew Rathbun (tenor/soprano sax, bass clarinet, electroniccs) and Robert Hurst III (bass), an interlude, a set of duos with Rathbun, and a final piece for Max Roach. B+(***) [cd] [06-24]

Amanda Irarrázabal/Miriam van Boer Salmón: Fauces (2019 [2022], 577): Chilean bassist, several albums since 2012, duo with violin, a bit hard to get into. B [cd] [07-15]

Milen Kirov: Spatium (2019 [2022], Independent Creative Sound and Music): Pianist, from Bulgaria, came to US to study at University of Nevada, currently based in Los Angeles. Seems to be his first album, solo, runs over 77 minutes. B+(*) [cd] [06-05]

MJ Lenderman: Boat Songs (2022, Dear Life): Singer-songwriter from Asheville, North Carolina; second album. Aside from a little twang, I don't hear the country, but I do hear some Pavement. B+(**)

Johnny Marr: Fever Dreams Pts 1-4 (2021-22 [2022], BMG): Former member of the Smiths (1984-87), the The (1989-92), Electronic (1991-99), Modest Mouse (2007-09), the Cribs (2009), 7 Worlds Collide (2001-09), fifth album as leader. Or maybe it should be treated as a compilation, as it picks up three recent 4-song EPs, adding a fourth. Lots of solid, catchy rockers. B+(*)

Tate McRae: I Used to Think I Could Fly (2022, RCA): Canadian pop singer-songwriter, 18, first album after two EPs and who knows how much else -- Wikipedia credits her "years active" a starting in 2011, and divides her "Life and career" into five periods. I'm not quite blown away, but "You're So [Fucking] Cool" comes close. B+(***)

Metronomy: Small World (2022, Because Music): English electropop group, principally Joseph Mount, seventh album since 2006. B+(**)

Anaďs Mitchell: Anaďs Mitchell (2022, BMG): Folkie singer-songwriter, eighth album since 2002, not counting the folk supergroup Bonny Light Horseman (2020). Nice album. B+(**)

Billy Mohler: Anatomy (2021 [2022], Contagious Music): Bassist, second album, freewheeling quartet with two horns -- trumpet (Shane Endsley) and tenor sax (Chris Speed) -- plus drums (Nate Wood). A- [cd] [06-10]

Kevin Morby: This Is a Photograph (2022, Dead Oceans): American singer-songwriter, born in Lubbock but not particularly attuned to the Flatlanders (or anything country). Still has some song sense, citing Lou Reed as well as Bob Dylan among inspirations. B+(*)

Van Morrison: What's It Gonna Take? (2022, Exile): More prolific longer than any of his generational cohort, this is his 43rd studio album (vs. 41 for Neil Young, way ahead if you count live albums). He still has his voice, and a band that can play his trademark skiffle/swing. But it's got to be a bad sign when the first review offered by Google is from National Review. I wasn't curious enough to look there, but the first review I did look at summed it up: "the Belfast Blowhard continues to rant like your drunk redneck uncle." Actually, he's a lot more coherent than my late Uncle James ever was. Many isolated lines make sense to me, and a few I find amusing. Samples: "government keeps on lying/ everyone is just sad"; or "sometimes you can't have any pleasure/ sometimes it's just so ridiculous"; or "watching morons on TV"; or "this is just my opinion." And if you can tune out the rest, the music is warm and affirming, if not exceptionally so. B+(*)

Ali Shaheed Muhammad & Adrian Younge: Jazz Is Dead 011 (2022, Jazz Is Dead): Hip-hop producers, started this series a couple years ago, with most volumes featuring a notable (still living, but rarely still famous) 1970s figure. This one runs the gamut, with 8 tracks (36:26): Henry Franklin, Lonnie Liston Smith/Loren Oden, Phil Ranelin/Wendell Harrison, Katalyst, Jean Carne, Tony Allen, Garnett Saracho, The Midnight Hour. B+(*) [sp]

Ali Shaheed Muhammad & Adrian Younge: Jazz Is Dead 012: Jean Carne (2022, Jazz Is Dead, EP): Originally Sarah Jean Perkins, married 1970s jazz pianist Doug Carn, sang on his records then went solo, moving on to disco. Not sure when she picked up the 'e' (maybe when she dropped the husband). She plays along with the producers' slick grooves. Back to EP length (7 tracks, 24:36). B+(*) [bc]

Mxmtoon: Rising (2022, AWAL): Singer-songwriter from Oakland, aka Maia Xiao-En Moredock-Ting, based in New York, second album after a much-streamed 2018 EP. A very chipper pop album, with more than a little capacity for reflection. My favorite song here is about growing up: "Everything's gonna get better/ everything's gonna get worse/ when it gets hard, remember that's the way it always works." But that's hardly the only one. A-

Jason Palmer: Con Alma (2022, SteepleChase): Trumpet player, over a dozen albums since 2014. Quartet with Leo Genovese (keyboards), Joe Martin (bass), and Kendrick Scott (drums). B+(**)

Porridge Radio: Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder to the Sky (2022, Secretly Canadian): British indie band, led by Dana Margolin (vocals/guitar), with keyboard (Georgie Scott) prominent in the mix. Albums since 2012, second one on a label I recognize. B+(*)

Potsa Lotsa XL & Youjin Sung: Gaya (2021 [2022], Trouble in the East): German alto saxophonist Silke Eberhard's band in its 10-piece ("XL") configuration, with gayageum (a plucked Korean zither) player Sung. B+(*) [bc]

Daniel Rossen: You Belong There (2022, Warp): Singer-songwriter, guitarist from Grizzly Bear, first solo album. B-

Sasami: Squeeze (2022, Domino): Singer-songwriter Sasami Ashworth, from Los Angeles, formerly played in Cherry Glazerr, second album, riding on hard beats and a bit of noise. B+(**)

J. Peter Schwalm & Stephan Thelen: Transneptunian Planets (2020-21 [2022], RareNoise): Synthesizers and guitars, lineup also includes Eivind Aarset (guitars), bass guitar, drums, and voice samples. Well equipped for their extraterrestrial ventures. B+(**) [cdr] [06-03]

Sea Power: Everything Was Forever (2022, Golden Chariot): British group, long known as British Sea Power -- not without a bit of irony, as their 2003 debut was The Decline of British Sea Power -- but this time decided to distance further from "a rise in a certain kind of nationalism in this world -- an isolationist, antagonistic nationalism." B

Soul Glo: Diaspora Problems (2022, Epitaph): Hardcore band from Philadelphia, or "post-hardcore," or (more descriptively) "screamo." Mostly black, including screamer Pierce Jordan (exception is the white drummer), which I only mention because I'm confused by the group name. Otherwise, the only thing "post-" about them is that they've doubled down on the intensity. B+(*)

Harry Styles: Harry's House (2022, Columbia): English pop star, started on X Factor, joined boy band One Direction, has done some acting and hosted Saturday Night Live, third solo album, all bestsellers. Not bad, but only "Love of My Life" stuck with me. B

Sunflower Bean: Headful of Sugar (2022, Mom + Pop): New York indie band, fronted by singer-bassist Julia Cumming, with Nick Kivlen (guitar) and Olive Faber (drums). B+(**)

Tomberlin: I Don't Know Who Needs to Hear This . . . (2022, Saddle Creek): Singer-songwriter, goes by last name, dropping Sarah Beth. Father was a Baptist preacher. Second album. Delicate songs, helped by occasional shows of strength. B+(*)

Kurt Vile: (Watch My Moves) (2022, Verve Forecast): Singer-songwriter from Pennsylvania, actual name, ninth album since 2008's Constant Hitmaker, which is something he's never been (although he started enjoying modest success with 2013's Wakin on a Pretty Daze). Recorded this leisurely at home but with a band, eventually accumulating 15 songs (73:44). B+(***)

Warpaint: Radiate Like This (2022, Virgin): Indie band from Los Angeles, four women, three lead vocalists, fourth album since 2010. Dream pop, fades fast. B+(*)

Wilco: Cruel Country (2022, dBpm): A likable group led by likable Jeff Tweedy, churning out albums since 1995, this 12th one extra long at 77:04. Not as country-ish as the title suggests, but you can also read it as political: "I love my country like a little boy/ I love my country cruel and stupid/ All you have to do is sing in the choir." In another song, he adds "we'd rather kill than compromise" -- not specifically about Ukraine, but the shoe fits. B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Jim Black: My Choice (2000-13 [2021], Winter & Winter): Drummer, originally from Seattle, studied at Berklee, based in Brooklyn and/or Berlin, many notable side credits since 1993 (when he appeared on Robert Dick's Third Stone From the Sun), most notably with Tim Berne and Ellery Eskelin. Led the quartet AlasNoAxis -- Chris Speed (tenor sax/clarinet), Hilmar Jensson (guitar), Skúli Sverrisson (bass guitar) -- through the six albums selected from here. Fusion instrumentation, but much more slippery. B+(**)

Peter Brötzmann/Fred Van Hove/Han Bennink: Jazz in Der Kammer Nr. 71: Deutsches Theater/Berlin/GDR/04/11/1974 (1974 [2022], Trost): Classic free jazz trio: tenor sax/clarinet, piano, and percussion. Piano is often dazzling, but the sax can rub you raw. B+(***) [bc]

Koichi Matsukaze Trio Featuring Ryojiro Furusawa: At the Room 427 (1975 [2022], BBE): Japanese saxophonist, plays alto and tenor, leads a trio with Koichi Yamazaki (bass) and Furusawa (drums), the 9th album in the label's J Jazz Masterclass Series, originally released in 1976 on ALM. Exceptional freebop. A- [bc]

Ephat Mujuru & the Spirit of the People: Mbavaira (1983 [2021], Awesome Tapes From Africa, EP): Mbira master from Zimbabwe (1950-2001), a Shona, left a handful of recordings, of which this short one (4 tracks, 22:57 is relatively early). B+(*) [bc]

Papé Nziengui: Kadi Yombo (1989 [2022], Awesome Tapes From Africa): From Gabon, sings and plays ngombi (harp) and nkendo (bells), with others on guitar, keyboards, ngomo (drum), and backing vocals. B+(***) [bc]

Sonic Youth: In/Out/In (2000-10 [2022], Three Lobed): Five previously unreleased recordings, mostly instrumental, totalling 44:45. Nothing special, but does a good job of presenting their sound, which is what they've always been most about. B+(**)

Norma Tanega: I'm the Sky: Studio and Demo Recordings 1964-1971 (1964-71 [2022], Anthology): Singer-songwriter, had a minor hit in 1966 ("Walkin' My Cat Named Dog"), turned that into an album, released another in 1971, turned to art later but was involved in several more music projects from the 1990s, died in 2019 (80). This collects the two albums and miscellaneous tracks. I find it grows tedious, but I do like the single. B-

They Shall Not Pass/No Pasaran! [Trost Live Series] (2007-22 [2022], Trost): Austrian free jazz label, decided they wanted to do a Ukraine benefit album, so they solicited live tracks from their roster: the ones I'm most familiar with are Schlippenbach, Full Blast [Brötzmann], Leandre, Amado, Vandermark, The Thing, Jim O'Rourke, with others (Bruch is the most surprising, possibly because it's rock) adding up to 18 tracks (126:31). Title refers to a Spanish Civil War slogan. Proceeds go to a Ukrainian artist collective Vandermark vouched for. Mixed bag, but interesting. B+(*) [bc]

Old music:

Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony (1955-2001 [2003], ATO): Soundtrack to a documentary, which doubles as a sweeping musical history of the South African struggle against Apartheid, with 29 short tracks. Miriam Makeba highlights, Abdullah Ibrahim provides the connecting background, and various choirs form the backbone. The latter isn't my favorite bit, but provides critical mass for the film. B+(**) [cd]

Milton Brown and the Musical Brownies: The Complete Recordings of the Father of Western Swing 1932-1937 (1932-37 [1995], Texas Rose, 5CD): Early Western Swing bandleader and vocalist, started in 1930 when he joined Bob Wills and Herman Arnsparger in the Wills Fiddle Band. In 1931 he joined W. Lee O'Daniel's Light Crust Doughboys, which had a regular radio gig, but Brown wanted to play dances, and to be paid, so he left to form his own band. He died in 1936 after a car accident, leaving a bunch of recordings that were released through 1937. Best known musicians in the group were Bob Dunn (steel guitar) and Cliff Bruner (fiddle), who went on to form the Texas Wanderers (with Moon Mullican). Wills soon followed with his Texas Playboys in 1934, and is best remembered today, but Brown was the real deal. A single-disc selection would be welcome, but owning it all lets you play random discs, with equal pleasure. Nice booklet. A- [cd]

Chris Byars: Jasmine Flower (2013, SteepleChase): Perhaps the most impressive of the young bop-oriented musicians featured on Luke Kaven's short-lived Smalls label, the saxophonist (here playing alto) found a later home on this Danish label, not that it's made him better known. Fifth album here (only the 2nd I've managed to find, after his Lucky Thompson tribute from 2011), mostly quintet with Stefano Doglioni (bass clarinet), John Mosca (trombone), Ari Roland (bass), and Phil Stewart (drums), plus James Bryars (English horn) on five cuts, piano on one. B+(**) [sp]

Chris Byars: The Music of Duke Jordan (2014, SteepleChase): Jordan was a bebop pianist from New York, played in Charlie Parker's 1947-48 quintet (with Miles Davis), married one of the great jazz singers of all time (Sheila took his name, but didn't have much of a career until after they divorced in 1962), recorded a couple dozen albums for the Danish label SteepleChase from 1973. Includes one vocal track with Yaala Ballin, and one piano solo by Mine Sadrazam. B+(***) [sp]

Chris Byars: A Hundred Years From Today (2017 [2019], SteepleChase): Sextet album I missed from a couple years back, same group as the new one, similar formula even though the titles are a couple centuries apart. Original pieces, written to honor old (but unnamed, as far as I can tell) masters. B+(***) [sp]

John Clark: I Will (1996 [1997], Postcards): French horn player, mostly played in big bands (Gil Evans, Carla Bley, Mike Gibbs, McCoy Tyner, George Russell, Bob Mintzer), led four albums 1980-97. Various front lines here, mostly anchored by Pete Levin (keyboards), Mike Richmond (bass), and Bruce Ditmas (drums). Deep into his horn, even while constructing elaborate framing. B+(**) [bc]

Tony Conrad With Faust: Outside the Dream Syndicate [30th Anniversary Edition] (1972 [2002], Table of the Elements, 2CD): Dabbled in lots of things, what we'd call multimedia now, including minimalist composition and/or drone music. In the 1960s he was part of the Theatre of Eternal Music (aka The Dream Syndicate), where he played violin along with La Monte Young and John Cale (whose viola bled into the Velvet Underground). The original LP had two side-long pieces (53:36 total), which fit on the first CD here. The 1993 CD added a third piece (edited down to 20:04), The second CD here offers a complete version (31:09) plus a couple of short pieces (6:54). The music is basically staunch beat and Velvet Underground drone, toned down to dark ambient. Comes in a small box with a nice booklet, plus a larger catalog of the label's other products: a useful overview of the whole scene. Conrad plays violin, with the krautrock group adding guitar/keybs, bass, and drums. A- [cd]

Jars of Clay: The Essential Jars of Clay (1995-2006 [2007], Essential/Legacy, 2CD): Christian rock group from Nashville, 12 studio albums to present, 7 up to when this compilation appeared. There is probably no genre I've avoided more assiduously (classical, metal, and new age included), so this could have spent more than 15 years on my unplayed shelf but for a housekeeping urge. Not that I'm inclined to reject professions of Christianity in country, blues, soul, or hip-hop, but making it your identity suggests a lack of worldly inspiration, or perhaps a cynical marketing tactic. Still, fairly innocuous. C+ [cd]

Jit -- The Movie (1991, Earthworks): Six songs from the movie, and six more for good measure, an exemplary compilation from Zimbabwe bypassing Thomas Mapfumo: Oliver Mutukudzi gets four (of 12) songs, John Chibadura and Robson Banda are also included. No song dates I can see, but the last song is by Tobias Areketa, who died in 1990. A- [cd]

The Mercenaries: Locks, Looks and Hooks (2006, Melted Vinyl): American rock band, first of nine by this name listed in Discogs (plus at least 12 article-less Mercenaries). This one released 5 albums 2001-09, of which this is number four. Actually, fairly good, not that anyone cares anymore. B+(*) [cd]

Mxmtoon: The Masquerade (2019, House Arrest): She identifies as "a young bisexual woman of color from a family of immigrants," the "color" coming from her Chinese-American mother (as opposed to her German-Scottish father). She started making YouTube videos at 17, self-released this debut album at 19, a batch of clever lo-fi tunes. [PS: Didn't bother with the acoustic versions, which on the digital are presented as CD2.] B+(*)

Mxmtoon: Dawn & Dusk (2020, AWAL): Combines two EPs (7 songs each, 20:40 + 22:44), so not technically her second album, but marks a transition to better production. Sample lyric: "everybody needs a different point of view." B+(**) [sp]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Tom Collier: The Color of Wood (Summit) [04-01]
  • Christopher Jacob: New Jazz Standards Vol. 5: The Music of Carl Saunders (Summit) [05-20]
  • Josh Sinton/Tony Falco/Jed Wilson: Adumbrations (Form Is Possibility) [06-03]
  • John Wasson's Strata Big Band: Chronicles (MAMA) [05-20]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, May 23, 2022


Music Week

May archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 37953 [37925] rated (+28), 114 [120] unrated (-6).

Count is down significantly from recent weeks (which would suggest that it is possible, but not quite probable, that I will pass 38,000 next week). Main reason for the slowdown is that my niece Rachel visited for a couple days last week, and I got very little listening in while she was here. Also lost a good chunk of a previous day shopping, and another chunk of a day with a medical thing. Also had a bit of trouble deciding what to listen to -- which led me to a number of less-than-promising albums that ranked relatively high in the metacritic file. (By the way, just discovered that a lot of records had been dropped. Many of the references can be fixed up easily enough, but very likely I'm still missing some. Results are at best approximate, but they give me some sense of what's out there, of what other people think, and whether I should care.)

Spent a fair chunk of time with my niece talking about death and what to do with the detritus we'll leave behind. We wrote up wills and filled out notebooks. She will be the executor. My basic attitude is that after death none of this is my problem anymore, but thinking about it brought some order to my current state assessment, as well as a challenge to my engineering skill. I can draw on what little I learned from my first wife's death, my parents, my father-in-law, Laura's sister, and my sister, as well as numerous other deaths of family and dear friends. Helps, I think, that my mind is uncluttered by religion. (We've been watching Under the Banner of Heaven, which presents the Mormon afterlife framed as a pretty picture but feeling more like an eternal burden.)

The money, assuming there still is some, is the easy part. The stuff is harder to deal with, and I was hoping for help there: who wants what, and what to do with the rest, especially stuff nobody wants. (I'm the sort reluctant to throw away anything that could be useful to someone else, but figuring out ways to distribute it is never easy.) The part we didn't spend much time on is what for lack of a better term we'll call "intellectual property": my writings, most of which are on my websites. I'm sure the estate will want to cut the financial bleed (to say nothing of the admin headaches) of my dedicated server, so I'll need to come up with a plan to roll back and consolidate, folding everything into a single website which could be kept publicly available. I guess that's my legacy, so something I'll need to work on.

I did manage to make one nice meal while my niece was here. She gave me little direction as to what to fix, so I went to the grocery store with only vague ideas. I picked up a chicken -- I've generally been oblivious to rising food prices, but was rather taken aback to pay $20 for a chicken -- and a scattering of vegetables, including an eggplant, zucchini, green beans, brussels sprouts, a bag of small potatoes, tomatoes, onions, asparagus, romaine lettuce. When I got home, I looked at the pile, and the most straightforward menu seemed to be: roasted chicken with samfaina, and salade niçoise. (I had the latter in mind when I stopped at World Market, and picked up some nice canned tuna.)

Samfaina is a Catallan ragout with onion, red bell pepper, eggplant, zucchini, and tomato. You cook it down to marmalade consistency, then add the roasted chicken pieces: a very simple but magnificent recipe, with an easy parallel workflow, which only had to be reheated at the end. I boiled the whole bag of potatoes, keeping four for the salad. The rest I flattened, painted with duck fat, and roasted as a side, along with the brussels sprouts. I boiled the asparagus, then sauteed them with bacon and onion. I also made a batch of gougčres to kick things off. I mixed the salad with the vinaigrette, then scooped it out onto a bed of romaine. So I wound up with only one dish on the stovetop, plus the gougčres in one oven, the potatoes and brussels sprouts in the other. Should have been easy, but the pain caught up to me, and I was a mess at the end. Had a lot of food left over -- aside from the potatoes, which went fast.

For dessert, I made tiramisu (based on a sponge cake and a can of "double espresso") and chocolate mousse. For former was a bit runny (something wrong with the mascarpone), and the latter too stiff (but remedied nicely by folding in a large dollop of whipped cream). I got tired of trying to shave chocolate to garnish the tiramisu, so threw some chips into the mini-chopper -- an effective hack.

We spent some time going through some family memorabilia. Rachel has the idea of hiring a private investigator to try to figure out my mother's movements before she met my father in 1948-49. I dug up a batch of old postcards, which were mostly blank but some offered various addresses. Rachel looked up some census records, and found out something I didn't know: the 1930 census listed Mom, two of her older siblings, and her parents in Oklahoma. I had always assumed that Ben and Mary Brown stayed on their farm in Arkansas until he died in 1936, and that Mom (but no other siblings) was still with them. Then, after Ben's death, Mom and her mother (Mary) moved to Oklahoma, where they stayed with two older sisters (Lola and Edith). I suppose I thought this because Ben and Mary were buried in Flutey Cemetery in Arkansas, along with a number of other relatives (including two of my uncles, Allen and Ted).

But them moving to Oklahoma before 1930 makes sense of some other things I had heard, like that Edith, who was 20 when she married, had met her husband in Oklahoma. Lola (and Melvin Stiner) had moved to Oklahoma around 1926 (their first son had been born in Arkansas in 1925, but their second was born in Oklahoma in 1927). This also gave Mom a longer period in Oklahoma, including some teen years -- she was 17 in 1930. She had some trauma there, which would make more sense if she was younger. They were living in Creek County, which is where Lola and Melvin originally settled. (They later had a farm east of Stroud, close to the county line.) It's possible that Ben and Mary moved back to Arkansas before he died in 1936, but by then Edith was married, and Allen had moved to Kansas (he got married to a Kansas girl in 1939). Mom remained single until 1948, when she married Dad (she was 35; he was a month shy of 26).

What Mom did between 1930 and 1940, when the census showed her living in Augusta, KS, with her sister Ruby, is mostly unknown to us. We also have questions about the 1940s -- one of the postcards I found was dated 1943 and addressed to her in Atlantic City. Rachel recalls Edith bringing up a story about Mom in Chicago, which Mom shut down immediately, and refused to talk about when Rachel tried interviewing her shortly before Mom died. It seems likely now that Mom reinvented herself around 1941, when she started going by Bea (instead of Bessie, which her family never tired of calling her), and again after she got married, and turned into a classic 1950s housewife (and domineering mother -- that, at least, is something I know much about, but hadn't thought about it as a transformation until much later).

This new information means I'll have to do some editing on my memoir manuscript. I got stuck a year ago in trying to make the transition from my family background to my own memories (which should have been easier, but nevermind). A week or two ago, I started to try to make an end run around that block by jotting down annotated lists of things (like all the cars we've owned, or all the games we played), with people and events to follow. These discoveries convinced me I need to go back into the archives and transcribe what's there, sorting out all the people and places. (I know who Evelyn was, but who's Jack?).

I've been putting off a lot of things. Need to start again this coming week.


Seems like I'm running into more B records lately: things that I don't mind, may even enjoy for a while, but don't pique my interest, or seem worth pursuing further. Yet they rarely sink below that level. My current EOY list has a mere 9 B- records (2 this week), and nothing lower (well, one C+ among the archival releases). I'm sure I could find more if I went looking for them, but life's too short for that kind of waste.

Not many new jazz records from my demo queue this week. Everything I have left is scheduled for June or July release, so hasn't seemed like a priority.

Did a last-minute Speaking of Which yesterday, then updated it last night. Left a broken tag that messed up the format, but that's fixed now.


New records reviewed this week:

The Black Keys: Dropout Boogie (2022, Nonesuch/Easy Eye Sound): Blues rock duo, Dan Auerbach (guitar/vocals) and Patrick Carney (drums), 11th album since 2002, about as straight as rock gets these days. Gives them a niche, and makes sure they're stuck in it. B

Bladee/Ecco2k: Crest (2022, Year0001): Swedish rappers Benjamin Reichwald and Zak Arogundade Gaterud (latter was born in London, Nigerian father, moved to Stockholm at age 2), members of Drain Gang, third album together, others apart. B+(*)

Bonobo: Fragments (2022, Ninja Tune): Simon Green, British DJ/producer based in Los Angeles, 7th album since 2000. B+(*)

Cat Power: Covers (2022, Domino): Chan Marshall, 11th album since 1995, usually writes her own songs but this is her third album of other folks' songs (after The Covers Record in 2000 and Jukebox in 2008). Most intriguing song here is "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels," but it's also one of the most disappointing. She does better with Nick Cave. B

Digga D: Noughty by Nature (2022, CGM/EGA): British rapper Rhys Herbert, "one of the pioneers of the UK drill scene," third mixtape at 21, has been in and out of jail, and subject to a CBO (Criminal Behavior Order) which among other restrictions allows police to ban his videos. B+(*)

Sture Ericson/Pat Thomas/Raymond Strid: Bagman Live at Cafe Oto (2019, 577): Tenor/soprano sax, piano/electronics, and drums. Slow start, but Thomas continues to impress. B+(**) [cd] [07-22]

Esthesis Quartet: Esthesis Quartet (2021 [2022], Orenda): Zoom-connected quartet -- Dawn Clement (piano), Elsa Nilsson (flute), Emma Dayhuff (bass), Tina Raymond (drums) -- one from each US timezone, finally met up in Los Angeles to record this. I don't see a vocal credit, but Clement has sung on previous albums. B [cd] [05-27]

Florence + the Machine: Dance Fever (2022, Polydor): English singer Florence Welch and backing band, fifth album since 2009, all bestsellers in UK and US. Jack Antonoff and Dave Bayley split the co-writing and production roles. Mechanical, but not much for dance. B

Girlpool: Forgiveness (2022, Anti-): Indie band from Los Angeles, dream pop (I suppose), Avery Tucker and Harmony Tividad plus hired help, fourth album, goes nowhere. B

Jessy Lanza: DJ-Kicks (2021, !K7): Canadian electronica producer, studied jazz (clarinet and piano), sings, three albums since 2013, plus her contribution to this remix series. B+(*)

Ingrid Laubrock + Andy Milne: Fragile (2021 [2022], Intakt): German saxophonist (tenor/soprano), based in New York, third recent duo album she's done with a pianist (the others were with Aki Takase and Kris Davis). B+(***)

Brennen Leigh: Obsessed With the West (2022, Signature Sounds): Country singer-songwriter from North Dakota, based in Austin, tenth album since 2002, gets a lift here from Asleep at the Wheel. B+(***)

Lyrics Born: Lyrics Born Presents: Mobile Homies Season 1 (2022, Mobile Home): California rapper Tom Shimura, lists 15 collaborators on the cover (starting with Dan the Automator and Blackalicious -- the late Gift of Gab is a huge presence here), seems to be a pandemic project, maybe some kind of touching-base podcast. Big beats and soaring riffs are plentiful, his signature. A-

Leyla McCalla: Breaking the Thermometer (2022, Anti-): Folkie singer-songwriter, born in New York, parents from Haiti, played cello in Carolina Chocolate Drops and Our Native Daughters, fourth solo album. Leans toward Haitian creole songs. B+(***)

David Murray/Brad Jones/Hamid Drake Brand New World Trio: Seriana Promethea (2021 [2022], Intakt): Cover a mass of big type where the small title gets lost, and the "with" used on the Bandcamp page to separate off the bassist and drummer is nowhere to be seen. Opens with bass clarinet before switching to tenor sax. Murray was very prolific, especially with DIW 1985-98, slowed down to about a record/year the following decade (mostly with Justin Time to 2009), then less frequently with Motéma (to 2018). This is his third album on Intakt -- after a duo with Aki Takase and a rather rough one with Dave Gisler and Jaimie Branch -- but his first where he belongs, leading a superb trio. A-

Michael Orenstein: Aperture (2021 [2022], Origin): Pianist, from Berkley, based in Los Angeles, first album, trio with extras on 5 (of 10) songs, using three saxophonists, vibes, and guitar. B+(**) [cd]

Redveil: Learn 2 Swim (2022, self-released): Young (b. 2004) rapper Marcus Morton, from Prince Georges County, Maryland, has a couple previous albums. Fairly slippery, but I lost patience. B [sp]

Eli "Paperboy" Reed: Down Every Road (2022, Yep Roc): Original name Husock, moved from Massachusetts to Mississippi in 2002, in a blues authenticity move which on his seventh album takes a detour here through the Merle Haggard song book. B-

The Smile: A Light for Attracting Attention (2022, XL): English rock band, described as Radiohead (Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood) with a better drummer (Tom Skinner, from Sons of Kemet). B+(*)

The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: The 2022 Jazz Heritage Series (2022, self-released): Opens with "Alright, Okay, You Win" (vocal MSgt Paige Wroble), which after the arty shit I had just listened to sounded real fine. I guess they're not awful, no matter how much I loathe the concept. After that, you get guest spots for Sean Jones (trumpet), Ted Nash (sax), and Diane Schuur (vocals), and a bonus "Besame Mucho" with Jones and Nash. None inspired, none awful. It's a waste, but they've been known to spend your tax dollars on much worse. B- [cd]

Sharon Van Etten: We've Been Going About This All Wrong (2022, Jagjaguwar): American singer-songwriter, sixth album since 2009. Too many songs fade into background, but not all of them. B+(*)

Daniel Villarreal: Panamá 77 (2022, International Anthem): Chicago-based drummer, originally from Panama, makes a nice groove record. B+(**) [sp]

David Virelles: Nuna (2020 [2022], Pi): Pianist, from Cuba, moved to Canada, from there to New York. Appeared on Jane Bunnett's Cuban albums of 2001-02, on his own albums since 2008. Solo here, or duo with percussionist Julio Barretto (three songs). B+(**) [cd] [05-27]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Mavis Staples & Levon Helm: Carry Me Home (2011 [2022], Anti-): Helm was drummer and sometime singer for the Band, recorded some solo albums 1977-82, lost his voice to throat cancer in 1998, recovered for two 2007-09 albums, and died at 71 in 2012. Staples started in her family vocal group, went solo in 1969, and had in 2007 released her best album: the Ry Cooder-produced civil rights anthems, We'll Never Turn Back. Both brought full bands, Helm's including a Steven Bernstein-led horn section, to this session in Helm's studio, broadcast live, but unaccountably unreleased until now. They find common ground in twelve songs, starting with "This Is My Country" and ending with "The Weight." Only wonder here is that this isn't as great as it should be. B+(**)

Old music:

Brennen Leigh: Too Thin to Plow (2004, Down Time): Nice twang for North Dakota, mandolin too, mostly covers demonstrating good taste and smarts. Smartest of all is "Single Girl." Title, of course, refers to the Mississippi ("too thick to navigate"). B+(**)

Brennen Leigh: The Box (2010, self-released): Unfamiliar songs, don't know whether she wrote them, but they ease along, with a dark vibe. Best is the closer, "Unbroken Line." B+(**)

Brennen Leigh: Brennen Leigh Sings Lefty Frizell (2015, self-released): No one ever sung them better, but the band is superb, she acquits herself well on the half that are indelibly etched in my mind, and the other half are obscure enough she just has to handle them adroitly, which she does. B+(***)

Brennen Leigh: Prairie Love Letter (2020, self-released): Includes a couple songs about her early homes in North Dakota and Minnesota, and gets some help from Robbie Fulks. B+(**)

Guillermo Portabales: El Creador De La Guajira De Salon 1937-1943: Al Vaivén de Mi Carreta (1937-43 [1996], Tumbao): Cuban singer-songwriter, popularized the guajira style in these early recordings, some just with his own guitar, picks up a bit when he gets some backup, both vocal and percussion. Still, it is his voice which transcends the language barrier. A- [sp]

Guillermo Portabales: El Carretero (1962-70 [1996], World Circuit): Late recordings, some from 1962-63 in Miami, more from 1967-68 in New York, one song from a month before his death in 1970 (at 59). B+(**) [sp]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • None

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Monday, May 16, 2022


Music Week

May archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 37925 [37881] rated (+44), 120 [126] unrated (-6).

Only "new" A- record below came from Robert Christgau's May Consumer Guide, the quotes because it actually came out in 2019. Aside from Bobby Digital vs. RZA (see below), Scorpion Kings was the only new record reviewed this month I hadn't already weighed in on. (You might quibble about Ann Peebles' Greatest Hits: I have the 12-song 1988 MCA version at A, vs. Christgau's A- for the 16-song 2015 on Hi.) I had four (of six) Christgau A/A- picks at A- (Mary J. Blige, Kady Diarra, Miranda Lambert, Willie Nelson), with slightly lower B+(***) grades for Oumou Sangaré and Wet Leg. I also had his B+/HM picks at similar grades (Linda Lindas, Taj Mahal/Ry Cooder, Muslims, Dolly Parton, the live Ann Peebles). It's rare that I'm out front on so many releases, and that our grades are so similar.

I wound up with six B+(***) new music grades this week (plus two new compilations of old music) -- probably not an exceptional number, but they loom large with the shortest A-list so far this year. Three of them got 2-3 plays: Heroes Are Gang Leaders (their Amiri Baraka Sessions was my top album of 2019); Kendrick Lamar (with a 98/10 rating at AOTY); and Arcade Fire, which probably came closest before I reflected that I had probably overrated their last two, given my lack of subsequent interest. (Actually, the closest was Scorpion Kings Live, which I hedged down for redundancy.)

In Old Music, the Akiyoshi-Tabackin and Armstrong records were recommended on a Facebook group, so I thought I'd check them out. I stumbled across the Crosby comp while looking for something more appetizing from Armstrong. I should have gone on to check out A Centennial Anthology of His Decca Recordings (a Christgau A).

I've just recently seen this bit of interview with Brian Eno on Russia and Ukraine [from 04-09]. I'm skeptical of the usefulness of the book he recommends -- Sebastian Haffner's Defying Hitler: A Memoir, but also a history of how the Nazis took power -- although I'm tempted to order a copy.

PS: Added Ann Peebles: Greatest Hits after deadline, because I mentioned it above. Same for the Crosby Centennial Anthology. Adjusted the rated counts, including some unpacking I had initially missed.


New records reviewed this week:

Arcade Fire: We (2022, Columbia): Canadian indie juggernaut, sixth album since 2004. I was surprised to find that I rated their last four albums A- (after a B+ for their 2004 debut, Funeral), given that I've had zero interest in playing any of them again, and zero anticipation of this album. Also surprised it sounds as good as it does, but not by my inability to decipher the lyrics, or wind up caring. But the structure makes me wonder: four multi-part sets with important-sounding titles ("Age of Anxiety," "End of the Empire," "The Lightning," "Unconditional"), followed by the title song. So could be their greatest ever, but I'll never know. B+(***)

Jonathan Barber & Vision Ahead: Poetic (2022, Vision Ahead): Drummer, released the album Vision Ahead in 2018, kept the title as his group name for next two albums. With alto sax (Godwin Louis), guitar (Andrew Renfroe), electric piano (Taber Gable), and bass (Matt Dwonszyk). B+(*) [cd] [05-13]

Belle and Sebastian: A Bit of Previous (2022, Matador): Scottish group, formed 1996, five (of 7) current members date from then. This seems livelier than the last few, but runs pretty long. B+(**)

Erich Cawalla: The Great American Songbook (2022, BluJazz): Standards singer, plays alto sax, first album, but has been in The Uptown Band since 2005. I can't read the fine print, but one original, big band, a couple guest spots (like Randy Brecker), maybe some strings. B [cd]

Gerald Clayton: Bells on Sand (2022, Blue Note): Pianist, son of John Clayton and nephew of Jeff Clayton, sixth album since 2009, wrote 5 (of 10) pieces. Feature spots for MORO (vocals, 2 tracks), John Clayton (bass, 3), Charles Lloyd (tenor sax, 1, by far the best thing here). B [sp]

Cool Sweetness Sextet: Shoehorn Shuffle (2022, Storyville): Danish retro-swing group, leader seems to be Anders Jacobsen (trombone), who did most of the writing, joined by Mĺrten Lundgren (trumpet), Jens Sřndergaard (tenor sax), Pelle von Bülow (guitar), bass, and drums. B+(*) [bc]

DJ Maphorisa X Kabza De Small: Scorpion Kings (2019, Blaqboy): South African record producers, associated with amapiano but neither on the Amapiano Now compilation that introduced the genre to me last year (although Teno Afrika was). The former is Themba Sonnyboy Sekowe. Unclear on discography, as there seems to be much more on streaming services than in Discogs (usually pretty quick to catalog house music). Christgau singled this one out, presumably after due diligence. Seems like a good start. Covers says "ep," but Spotify stream offers 12 tracks (one marked as a bonus), 76:40. A- [sp]

DJ Maphorisa/Kabza De Small: Scorpion Kings Live (2020, New Money Gang): Little here to suggest that live is any different from the studio, or indeed whatever computer they're splicing on. Aside from the remixes that bump the length to 93:24, they stick to the same 5:56-6:47 length for studio cuts. B+(***)

DJ Maphorisa X Kabza De Small: Scorpion Kings Live 2: Once Upon a Time in Lockdown (2020, Sound African): Cover isn't clear about Live 2, and this is the duo's third album (at least), but the individual names are still on the cover, each a growing brand name, at least in their part of the world. Much like the others, and if it seems a bit less, that's how repetition plays out. B+(**)

Ella Mai: Heart on My Sleeve (2022, 10 Summers/Interscope): Last name Howell, British r&b singer-songwriter, second album. B

Becky G: Esquemas (2022, Kemosabe/RCA): Rebecca Marie Gomez, from California, second album, after singles going back to when she was 15. In Spanish, sounds like reggaeton. B+(***)

Mary Halvorson: Amaryllis (2022, Nonesuch): Guitarist, Anthony Braxton protégé, wide range of albums since 2004 (some I like a lot, some very little at all), won a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant," now gets a double-album major label debut. This one is a six-song suite (37:52) for sextet -- Adam O'Farrill (trumpet), Jacob Garchik (trombone), Patricia Brennan (vibes), Nick Dunston (bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums), adding the Mivos String Quartet on three songs. The horns help, the rhythm typically quirky, the strings unnecessary. B+(***)

Mary Halvorson: Belladonna (2022, Nonesuch): Five songs (37:18), just guitar plus string quartet (Mivos). Halvorson started on violin before switching to guitar (credit Jimi Hendrix), but she's retained a fondness for strings -- one I rarely appreciate. I find they drag here, although the writing is clever enough to pique one's interest, and they have a strong moment toward the end. I expect EOY list compilers will want to combine the two. B+(*)

Stephen Philip Harvey Jazz Orchestra: Smash! (2021 [2022], Next Level): Conventional big band, leader a saxophonist but doesn't play here, offers an "homage to comic book adventures," with plenty of "boom" and "pow" as well as "smash." B [cd] [06-17]

Heroes Are Gang Leaders: LeAutoRoiOgraphy (2019 [2022], 577): Spoken word poet Thomas Sayres Ellis, with James Brandon Lewis (tenor sax) co-credited on the music, and ten more credited musicians and poets. Live set recorded in Paris, in support of their release that year of The Amiri Baraka Sessions, the source of 4 (of 5) tracks here. The studio album was partly recorded with Baraka before he died in 2014, a direct link turned tribute here. The studio album was my favorite that year, but this harder to follow. B+(***) [cd] [06-17]

Kendrick Lamar: Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers (2022, Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope, 2CD): Los Angeles rapper, fifth album since 2011, first album went gold but second was the breakthroughs, as he followed Kanye West as the one rapper every critic had to take seriously. I tried, playing these 18 tracks (73:05) twice, and I'm more than normally perplexed, just doubtful that some of this stuff ever belongs on an A-list album. Then it ends with a song so good ("Mirror") you wonder what else you missed. B+(***)

Leikeli47: Shape Up (2022, Hardcover/RCA): Brooklyn rapper, wore a mask for her first two albums, reveals a bit of jaw line on the cover here (assuming that's her). Compelling as long as she keeps it hard. B+(**)

Randy Napoleon: Puppets: The Music of Gregg Hill (2022, OA2): Guitarist, grew up in Michigan, teaches at Michigan State, which gives him a connection to composer Hill and bassist Rodney Whitaker (who has his own Hill tribute, which Napoleon plays on). Aubrey Johnson sings, which I don't particularly enjoy. B [cd] [05-20]

Elsa Nilsson: Atlas of Sound: Coast Redwoods: 41°32'09.8"N 124°04'35.5"W (2022, Ears & Eyes): Flute player, not the classical violinist nor the Swedish pop singer (aka Tove Lo), although she is Swedish, based in New York, but draws inspiration here from a very specific location in the Trinity Alps of Northern California. Seems to be her first album, backed by piano (Jon Cowherd) and Chris Morrissey (bass). B [cd] [04-22]

Miles Okazaki: Thisness (2021 [2022], Pi): Guitarist, 10th album since 2006. Quartet with Matt Mitchell (keyboards), Anthony Tidd (electric bass), and Sean Rickman (drums). Four pieces average 10 minutes. B+(***) [cd]

Enrico Pieranunzi: Something Tomorrow (2022, Storyville): Italian pianist, many albums since 1975, leading his Eurostars Trio with Thomas Fonnesbaek (bass) and André Ceccarelli (drums). B+(**)

Quelle Chris: Deathframe (2022, Mello Music Group): Rapper Gavin Tenille, albums since 2011. Underground, lazy beats and sly rhymes. B+(*)

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: Endless Rooms (2022, Sub Pop): Australian jangle pop band, third album, needs more jangle. B

RZA Vs. Bobby Digital: Saturday Afternoon Kung Fu Theater (2022, MNRK, EP): Wu-Tang rapper Robert Diggs, appeared as "Bobby Digital" on a 1998 album. Seven tracks, 26:19, cover notes "Produced by DJ Scratch" (co-credited by Discogs). B+(**)

John Scofield: John Scofield (2021 [2022], ECM): Guitarist, many albums since 1978, but this is his first solo album. Five original pieces, eight standards, ending with "You Win Again." B+(*)

Sigrid: How to Let Go (2022, Island): Norwegian pop singer-songwriter, last name Rabbe, second album after a couple EPs. Catchy enough, a bit overpowering. B+(*)

Harry Skoler: Living in Sound: The Music of Charles Mingus (2021 [2022], Sunnyside): Clarinet player, first album 1995, most recent one (which I panned severely) 2009. No more direct relationship to Mingus than seeing him perform, but resolved to make this record after surviving a ruptured artery in 2018. He got some help arranging pieces for string quartet, and rounded up an all-star group: Kenny Barron (piano), Christian McBride (bass), Johnathan Blake (drums), Nicholas Payton (trumpet), and Jazzmeia Horn (vocals). The clarinet and strings play up how lovely the melodies could be, but losing the energy and anger that drove Mingus (and that he often used to terrorize his bands, which often played much bigger than they were). B+(**)

Sofi Tukker: Wet Tennis (2022, Ultra Music): Electropop duo, Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern, second album. Choice cuts: "Larry Byrd," "Freak." B+(**)

Tierney Sutton: Paris Sessions 2 (2022, BFM Jazz): Standards singer, albums since 1998, this a return to the format of her 2014 Paris Sessions, recorded with French guitarist (and since 2019 husband) Serge Merlaud and bassist Kevin Axt. This adds a bit of flute from Hubert Laws ("recorded remotely from his home studio"). Slow and intimate, turns on the song selection, unfortunate to open ("Triste," a medley of "April in Paris" and "Free Man in Paris," "Zingaro") although "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" works better. B

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

The Rolling Stones: Live at the El Mocambo (1977 [2022], Polydor, 2CD): Rare live sets from a "tiny" (300-seat) club in Toronto, where they were billed as the Cockroaches, playing 23 songs (most of which anyone could identify, although I had forgotten a few, like "Melody" and "Luxury"). B+(***)

Cathy Segal-Garcia & Phillip Strange: Live in Japan (1992 [2022], Origin, 2CD): Standards singer, backed by piano. Discogs credits her with five albums from 2002, but this goes back a decade further. Not an especially distinctive singer, and the song selection (including three Xmas songs) leaves a lot to be desired. C+ [cd] [05-20]

Spontaneous Music Ensemble: Question and Answer 1966 (1966 [2021], Rhythm & Blues, 2CD): Early British avant-jazz group, principally John Stevens (drums) and Trevor Watts (tenor sax), also Bruce Cale (bass), with Paul Rutherford (trombone) on the longer (June 22) session. Title derives from a 31:59 intermission at the end of the first disc where the band field rather technical questions from the audience. They resume with their most inspired playing to open the second disc. B+(**) [yt]

Neil Young: Royce Hall 1971 (1971 [2022], Reprise): Solo performance on January 30, in Los Angeles. B+(**)

Neil Young: Dorothy Chandler Pavilion 1971 (1971 [2022], Reprise): Another solo performance, two days later, also in Los Angeles. This one seems to be much bootlegged (Discogs lists 32 releases through 1975; the cover reproduces artwork from one, with the title "I'm Happy That Y'all Came Down"). I give this one a slight edge, mostly built on the edifice of "Sugar Mountain." B+(***)

Neil Young: Citizen Kane Jr. Blues (1974 [2022], Reprise): Another solo performance, this one at the Bottom Line in New York, also much bootlegged under various titles (Discogs lists 11). Songbook has moved on, including a fair slice of On the Beach. B+(**)

Old music:

Toshiko Akiyoshi-Lew Tabackin Big Band: Tales of a Courtesan (Oirantan) (1976, RCA): Japanese pianist, the first to study at Berklee, formed this 16-piece big band after she married sax/flute player Tabackin and moved to Los Angeles (dozen-plus albums 1974-82). This is one of the better known albums, exceptionally punchy, but seems like a lot of flute. B+(***) [yt]

Louis Armstrong: 'Country & Western' (1970, Avco Embassy): Last released album before he died in 1971, most sources include the artist name in the title like the quote was a nickname, and Discogs credits it that way. I often drop quote marks from titles, but let's keep the equivocation here. Armstrong was as much a genius as Ray Charles, but this one came too late. The pre-recorded tracks offer him little to work with (although "You Can Have Her" gets some brass swing going). Armstrong doesn't play, and his singing can get strained. You still get glimpses of his charm and humor, but on songs like "Running Bear" and "Wolverton Mountain" the yucks are inadvertent. B- [yt]

Bing Crosby: Bing Crosby and Some Jazz Friends (1934-51 [1991], GRP/Decca): He started singing in jazz orchestras in 1927, scoring hits with Paul Whiteman, Frankie Trumbauer, the Dorsey Brothers, even Duke Ellington (in 1930). His first movie appearace was in 1930, as a singer in King of Jazz, but by the time he moved to Decca in 1934 he had become a mainstream movie star. Still, he occasionally tapped his jazz roots. I remember being especially touched by a movie scene, where he heartily welcomes a line of black jazz musicians entering his palatial mansion -- here the biggest star in white America was paying homage to real talent. Not to deny his talent, which adds a smooth contrast to Louis Jordan, Louis Armstrong, and Connie Boswell here, but his timing and phrasing works equally well on his own, especially backed by Eddie Condon (four tracks here, vs. two max for anyone else) or Lionel Hampton (whose two tracks are highlights here). A-

Bing Crosby: A Centennial Anthology of His Decca Recordings (1931-57 [2003], MCA/Decca, 2CD): Fifth songs, most you know from other people, but during this quarter-century most Americans learned them from Crosby, with his incomparable talent for making us feel better about ourselves. One intersection with his Jazz Friends comp ("Yes, Indeed"). Four Christmas songs. He owns all four. A-

Jens Lekman: Oh You're So Silent Jens (2002-03 [2005], Secretly Canadian): Swedish singer-songwriter, often compared to Jonathan Richman, Stephin Merritt and/or Scott Walker. Early material, collected from self-released EPs after his 2004 debut album. I think I can hear why people like him, but I'm not comfortable with him yet. B+(**)

Jens Lekman: The Cherry Trees Are Still in Blossom (2002-03 [2022], Secretly Canadian): Reissue of Oh You're So Silent Jens, with a different title, same art work, some extras. B+(**)

Ann Peebles: Greatest Hits (1966-77 [2015], Hi/Fat Possum): Memphis soul great, a tier below Aretha Franklin (as her covers prove, not that she missed by much). I'm quite happy with her 12-track 1988 Ann Peebles' Greatest Hits, but no complaints about getting four extra songs here. A-

András Schiff: Ludwig von Beethoven: The Piano Sonatas: Volume III: Sonatas opp. 14, 22 and 49 (2006, ECM New Series): Pianist, from Hungary, based in Britain, has a large discography of classical music from 1973 on. As you probably know, I hate classical music, and even when I don't hate it, I don't appreciate it. Got this as a promo, and played it because it's been sitting around too long. Played it twice, and only got annoyed when I forced myself to write this interview. Otherwise, it's pleasant, disengaging background, aside from the occasional moments when it hits a point where you can imagine the maestro standing up to bask in the applause. Thankfully, there is none of that. B+(*) [cd]

Sufis at the Cinema: 50 Years of Bollywood Qawwali and Sufi Song 1958-2007 (1958-2007 [2011], Times Square, 2CD): One tends to think of Bollywood as Hindi cinema -- indeed, that's the redirection in Wikipedia -- centered in Mumbai, but this makes a case for music drawn from Urdu traditions, including the most famous Qawwali artist of all, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Hard to tell just how typical this is. B+(**) [cd]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Burton/McPherson Trio: The Summit Rock Session at Seneca Village (Giant Step Arts) [06-19]
  • Erich Cawalla: The Great American Songbook (BluJazz)
  • Jason Palmer: Live From Summit Rock in Seneca Village (Giant Step Arts) [06-19]
  • John Yao's Triceratops: Off-Kilter (See Tao) [06-10]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, May 9, 2022


Music Week

May archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 37881 [37831] rated (+50), 126 [127] unrated (-1).

Been feeling very down, but managed to pull myself together enough to write a Speaking of Which yesterday. I don't know whether it's a cop out to point out that the writing's been on the wall for quite some time. Who knew that resurrecting Cold War totems could lead to the sort of increasingly fevered confrontation we're seeing now between Russia and the US? Who knew that Republican politicization of the courts could lead to stripping away such fundamental rights as deciding for oneself whether to bear children? Who knew that a combination of tax cuts, financial voodoo, and attacks on labor unions might lead to the political distortions caused by the most extreme inequality in American history? Who knew that real progress on civil rights would be reversed by all that inequality? Well, anyone who was paying any attention, that's who.

One thing I didn't manage to mention yesterday is that there is going to be an actual referendum on abortion rights in Kansas on August 2. The Kansas State Supreme Court ruled a while back that abortion rights are guaranteed by the state constitution. Kansas Republicans want to get around that by changing the constitution. That requires a two-thirds vote in the legislature, which they could do thanks to advanced gerrymandering skills, and a majority vote in a statewide plebiscite. They chose to schedule that vote not in November when all the big state offices are to be decided, but on primary day -- traditionally one where only Republicans come out to vote, because it's rare to have competitive races in Democratic primaries, while Republican primaries are frequently and expensively contested. So this may seem like a hopeless cause, but it's worth remembering that abortion was legal in Kansas before Roe v. Wade. Even though Democrats are pretty hopeless here, and the Republican Party has increasingly been taken over by religious fanatics, there used to be a very popular line of moderate Republicans who could break with the party on this issue. Winning on this issue would be big.

While we're at it, I noticed a headline in the paper today: "Biden taps Democrats' abortion fury with midterm wipeout looming." It's on an article by Jordan Fabian, attributed to Bloomberg News. Who says the billionaire press has lost its knack for slanting headlines? I don't doubt that it's possible for Democrats to lose their majority in Congress in 2022, but we're mostly looking at gerrymanders, voter suppression, and the anti-Democratic bias of the Senate. It hardly seems fair to call a slight slip a "wipeout." Indeed, I'm skeptical that we'll even see a real slip. But large segments of the media expect Democrats to be punished whenever something goes wrong, while instantly forgetting all the bad things Republicans do. The logical basis for this (assuming there is one) is that the Republicans have cornered the punisher brand: if you really hate someone, send the Republicans in. But the net effect, in every election Republicans have won since 1980 (and why should we not include 1968 and 1972) is that you only wind up punishing yourself.


I have very little to say about this week's batch of records. The way things have been going, I was surprised to find two A- records in my jazz demo pile. I'll also note that I enjoyed some of the B+(***) records a lot, only to decide not to give them the extra play that might have put them over.


New records reviewed this week:

Poppy Ajudha: The Power in Us (2022, Virgin): British pop singer-songwriter, has some edge in the music, politics too. B+(*)

Deborah Allen: The Art of Dreaming (2022, BFD): Country singer-songwriter, had a couple minor hits in the 1980s (although none that I recall). Eleven years since her last (unless you count Rockin' Little Christmas, from 2013). Overblown, takes a song like "Lyin' Lips" to cut through that. B

Anitta: Versions of Me (2022, Warner): Brazilian pop singer Larissa de Macedo Machado, fifth album since 2013. Starts with two hot rhythm tracks (in Portuguese, presumably, although the rhythm is more reggaeton, then switches to English for a slim funk track that should be a hit ("I'd Rather Have Sex"), then throws out more looks and vibes, including a fair amount of hip-hop. B+(***)

Jon Balke/Siwan: Hafla (2021 [2022], ECM): Norwegian pianist, albums since 1991, one called Siwan in 2009 with texts from Al-Andalus with Arabic vocals, strings, and percussion. Second album since then to adopt the group name, this time with Algerian singer Mona Boutchebak. B

Martin Bejerano: #Cubanamerican (2021 [2022], Figgland): Pianist, born in Florida, father Cuban, fourth album since 2007, backed by bass, drums, and extra percussion (Samuel Torres), with Roxana Amed singing "Mi Cafetad." B+(**) [cd] [05-27]

Will Bernard: Pond Life (2022, Dreck to Disk): Guitarist, started in a group led by Peter Apfelbaum, was part of a band called T.J. Kirk (name-checks James Brown, Thelonious Monk, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk), dozen albums since 1998. I think of him as a mild-mannered fusion guy, but here he's hanging out in a much rougher neighborhood, with Chris Lightcap (bass) and Ches Smith (drums), plus Tim Berne (alto sax) and/or John Medeski (piano/organ, 4 tracks each, 2 in common, so just 2 tracks are trio, which he aces). A- [cd] [05-27]

Steven Bernstein & the Hot 9: Manifesto of Henryisms (Community Music Vol. 3) (2020 [2022], Royal Potato Family): "Henryisms" derive from New Orleans pianist Henry Butler (1949-2018), who played in Bernstein's Kansas City band, and was the leader of a 2014 album Bernstein arranged, Viper's Drag. The arrangements here distribute the "Henryisms" to the band, built around old pieces from Morton and Armstrong to Ellington. Oddly, the Hot 9 left doesn't include a pianist, but guests John Medeski and Arturo O'Farrill fill in. B+(***)

Camila Cabello: Familia (2022, Epic): Cuban-born pop singer-songwriter, came to US when she was six, started in girl group Fifth Harmony (3 albums 2015-17), third solo album. This is about half Spanish, half English, the former up front to establish the rhythm, but once you're in the mood, it's nice to be able to follow the lyrics. A-

Calexico: El Mirador (2022, Anti-): Band from Tucson, twelfth album since 1996 (although Discogs lists twice as many), Joey Burns (vocals/guitar) and John Convertino (drums) founders and constant members, with some Mexican influence, including the occasional song in Spanish. B+(*)

Isaiah Collier & the Chosen Few: Lift Every Voice (2020 [2022], Division 81, EP): Saxophonist, plays soprano here, first appeared in Ernest Dawkins' Young Masters Quartet. Backed by piano, bass, and drums here, two songs (21:15). B+(*) [bc]

Congotronics International: Where's the One (2022, Crammed Discs, 2CD): Supergroup, combining members of Konono No. 1 and Kasai All Stars. Still love the junk instruments, but a little de trop. B+(**) [sp]

George Cotsirilos Quartet: Refuge (2021 [2022], OA2): Bay Area guitarist, handful of albums since 2003, this a quartet with piano, bass, and drums, doing original pieces. B+(*) [cd]

Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters: Mercy Me (2022, Stony Plain): Blues guitarist, doesn't sing much (Diane Blue takes the occasional vocal), albums go back to 1983. Organ prominent, with some sax I don't see a credit for. The guitar intro to "Please Send Me Someone to Love" is tasty, and Blue nails the vocal. She also aces "The Sun Shines Brightly," which I take to be an answer record to "The Sky Is Crying," then ends with "Higher and Higher" (which is what happened to my grade). B+(***)

Yelena Eckemoff: I Am a Stranger in This World (2016-20 [2022], L&H Production, 2CD): Pianist, switched from classical to jazz when she moved to US in 1991. Pieces inspired by Biblical Psalms (this is identified as the "instrumental version"). Mostly with Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Adam Rogers (guitar), Drew Gress (bass), and Nasheet Waits (drums), with the occasional sub. B+(*) [cd] [05-20]

Fontaines D.C.: Skinty Fia (2022, Partisan): Irish band, slotted as post-punk for reasons unclear, third album, kind of a big deal. They do have a sound. B+(*)

Manel Fortiá: Despertar (2022, Segell Microscopi): Bassist, from Barcelona, based in New York, second album, wrote all the pieces for a trio with Marco Mezquida (piano) and Raphaël Pannier (drums). Pieces long on rhythm, the piano dazzling, even through the exceptional bits (where the others shine). A- [cd] [05-12]

Erik Friedlander: A Queen's Firefly (2021 [2022], Skipstone): Cellist, many albums since 1995, as well as quite a few with John Zorn. Quartet here, with Uri Caine (piano), Mark Helias (bass), and Ches Smith (drums). B+(***) [cd]

Anthony Fung: What Does It Mean to Be Free? (2022, self-released): Drummer, from Canada, based in Los Angeles, has a couple previous albums, wrote all but the Wayne Shorter tune here. Quartet with David Binney (alto sax), Luca Mendoza (piano), and Luca Alemanno (bass), plus guest spots. Especially good use of Binney here. B+(***) [cd]

Tee Grizzley: Half Tee Half Beast (2022, Grizzley Gang/300 Entertainment): Detroit rapper Terry Wallace, three albums, fourth mixtape. Hard beats, fast words, more cynical than I'd like: "It's too late to make a smart decision." B+(***)

Japanese Television: Space Fruit Vineyard (2022, Tip Top): British instrumental rock group, surf-to-space guitar (Tim Jones), second album. Not much to it, and what there is gets rather tedious. B-

Kehlani: Blue Water Road (2022, Atlantic): Last name Parrish, r&b singer-songwriter, third album after mixtapes and lots of singles. B+(***)

Koffee: Gifted (2022, RCA): Jamaican singer-songwriter, Mikayla Simpson, first album after a Grammy-winning EP and more than a dozen singles, short (10 songs, 29:06). B+(**)

Jinx Lennon: Pet Rent (2022, Septic Tiger): Irish punk poet, many albums since 2000, voice and words remind me of Craig Finn, except that Finn writes real tunes, while Lennon makes do with volume, beats, noise, and vitriol. He's super upset here, coming up with 25 rants -- even for punk, that runs long. B+(***)

Let's Eat Grandma: Two Ribbons (2022, Transgressive): British "experimental sludge pop" group led by Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth, third album since 2016. B+(*)

Corb Lund: Songs My Friends Wrote (2022, New West): Country singer from Alberta, eleventh album since 1995. A pretty fair songwriter in his own right, some of his friends are even better, most famously Hayes Carll and Todd Snider, but he picks out gems from half a dozen more. A-

Yu Nishiyama: A Lotus in the Mud (2020 [2022], Next Level): Japanese composer/arranger, studied at UNT, teaches in New Jersey, not sure where he rounded up this crackling band. B+(*) [cd] [05-20]

Old Crow Medicine Show: Paint This Town (2022, ATO): Folk band based in Nashville, 12th album since 2000. They lay it on thick, tromping through their clichés, although I rather like the scuffed up "Hillboy Boy." B

Orville Peck: Bronco (2022, Columbia): Masked gay country singer-songwriter, from Johannesburg via Canada, second album. Deep, flexible voice ("a stunningly low baritone with a penchant for a pretty falsetto"), stretches it around dramatic arrangements, which work better than I'd expect (until it doesn't). B+(*)

Jeremy Pelt: Soundtrack (2021 [2022], HighNote): Trumpet player, immediately impressed with his chops, couple dozen albums since 2002. Less flash here, the title camouflage hiding a cornucopia of groove and mood pieces. B+(**)

Placebo: Never Let Me Go (2022, So/Elevator Lady): British rock band, principally singer-guitarist Brian Molko, debut 1996, nine year gap before this eighth album. B+(*)

Oumou Sangaré: Timbuktu (2022, World Circuit): Wassoulou singer from Bamako, the capital of Mali. Her parents were musicians, and she's been a big star since her debut in 1990. B+(***)

Secret People: Secret People (2019 [2022], Out of Your Head): Trio of Nathaniel Morgan (alto sax), Dustin Carlson (guitar/bass VI), and Kate Gentile (drums/vibes). Free rhythm, rather choppy, gets more interesting if you give it a chance. B+(**) [bc]

Aaron Seeber: First Move (2021 [2022], Cellar): Drummer, based in New York, first album, a live set at Ornithology Jazz Club in Brooklyn, the title track the only original, but he rounded up a name band: Warren Wolf (vibes), Tim Green (alto sax), Sullivan Fortner (piano), and Aaron Seeger (drums). B+(**) [cd]

Syd: Broken Hearts Club (2022, Columbia): Sydney Bennett, initially Syd Tha Kid, uncle a reggae producer, joined Odd Future collective, second album. Thin voice, stripped down beats. I liked her debut, then forgot about it. Probably same here. B+(***)

Tears for Fears: The Tipping Point (2022, Concord): British band, debut 1983, Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith the regulars (although Smith checked out for most of the 1990s), seventh album returns them to the top-5 of the UK charts, which they hadn't done since 1993 (first US top-10 since 1989). Overblown but cushy, feels like there must be a story being told but nothing interesting enough to demand the effort. B-

Kae Tempest: The Line Is a Curve (2022, Republic): Formerly Kate, fifth album, has published a novel, three plays, and six poetry collections. The lit cred shifts this from rap to spoken word, the minimal beats neither hip nor hop, but the effect remains subtle and sonorous. Smart, too. A-

Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway: Crooked Tree (2022, Nonesuch): Second-generation bluegrass singer-songwriter, from California, at 13 recorded an album of duets with her father (AJ Tuttle), soon joined the family band (The Tuttles). Third solo album. B+(***)

Cory Weeds Quartet: Just Coolin' (2021 [2022], Cellar Live): Tenor sax, with piano (Tilden Webb), bass, and drums. Nice mainstream effort. B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Áfrika Negra: Antologia Vol. 1 (1981-95 [2022], Bongo Joe): Band from Sao Tome & Principe, on or off the coast between Nigeria and Congo, dates not totally clear but they recorded at least 10 albums 1981-95, broke up, reformed 2012. My first guess was geographical, a fusion of highlife with soukous highlights, but that's close enough the King Sunny Adé's juju. I doubt they'd hold up head-to-head, but at the moment they're sounding pretty great. A-

Chet Baker: Tune Up: Live in Paris (1980 [2022], Circle): Live set, originally released in 1981, group includes guitar (Karl Ratzer), flute (Nicola Stillo), bass, and drums. Three long pieces, stretches of rhythm with occasional patches of poignant trumpet. Baker doesn't sing, but scats aimlessly on the opener. B+(*)

Dexter Gordon: Soul Sister (1962-63 [2022], SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, early work (1943-47) on Savoy and Dial marked him as a major figure, but he struggled (drugs and jail) until he signed with Blue Note (1961-65) and produced some of his greatest work. He moved to Europe during that period, first to Paris then Copenhagen. He continued to record for Prestige (1966-73), then (like many American expats) for the Danish label SteepleChase, which picked up a bunch of his older tapes. This picks up (I think for the first time) two sessions with different piano-bass-drums, one a radio shot from Oslo, the other a live set from Copenhagen. B+(***)

Pat Matshikiza/Kippie Moketsi: Tshona! (1975 [2022], As-Shams): South African jazz, leaders play piano and alto sax, backed by bass (Alec Khaoli) and drums (Sipho Mabuse), with Basil Coetzee (tenor sax) on the side. The longer pieces are classics of township jive, especially "Umgababa." A- [bc]

Pat Matshikiza Featuring Kippie Moketsi: Sikiza Matshikiza (1976 [2022], As-Shams): Septet, first two cuts are near-perfect township jazz, with the alto sax gliding over the piano rhythm. Second side strays a bit, ending with a blues. B+(***) [bc]

Kippie Moeketsi/Hal Singer: Blue Stompin' (1977 [2021], As-Shams): South African alto saxophonist (1925-83), started with Abdullah Ibrahim, featured with Pat Matshikiza (who plays piano on one track here). Singer (tenor sax) only appears on the title track here -- the title of his 1959 album. The other three tracks have Duku Makasi on tenor sax, the last two with Jabu Nkosi (piano) and Enock Mthaleni (guitar). B+(**) [bc]

Ann Peebles & the Hi Rhythm Section: Live in Memphis (1992 [2022], Memphis International): Soul singer, from St. Louis, started with Hi Records in Memphis in 1969, had some hits like "Part Time Love" and "I Can't Stand the Rain." Her Greatest Hits, spanning 1969-77, is essential, but some of the earlier LPs are also superb. Most of her hits are here, but not a sharp as the originals. B+(**)

Lionel Pillay: Shrimp Boats (1979-80 [2022], As-Shams): South African pianist, cover adds "Featuring Basil 'Mannenberg' Coetzee," the tenor saxophonist who only plays on the title cut (25:07). The other side (3 tracks, 22:27) were recorded later, a quintet with Barney Rachabane (alto sax) and Duku Makasi (tenor sax). B+(**) [bc]

Old music:

Ann Peebles: This Is Ann Peebles (1969, Hi): First album, produced a couple low-charting singles, plus another song that made Greatest Hits. Seems odd today that both sides end with Aretha Franklin classics, which were only a year or two old at the time. Promising that they don't miss by much. B+(***)

Placebo: Meds (2006, Virgin): Fifth album, probably should be in my list of unheard Christgau A-list albums, but he never assigned a grade to it (wrote an ungraded essay, included it in his 2006 Dean's List, but only 78 of 81). B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Jonathan Barber & Vision Ahead: Poetic (Vision Ahead) [05-13]
  • George Cotsirilos Quartet: Refuge (OA2) [05-20]
  • Tetel Di Babuya: Meet Tetel (Arkadia) [06-24]
  • Esthesis Quartet: Esthesis Quartet (Orenda) [05-27]
  • Anthony Fung: What Does It Mean to Be Free? (self-released): [05-06]
  • Randy Napoleon: Puppets: The Music of Gregg Hill (OA2) [05-20]
  • Elsa Nilsson: Atlas of Sound: Coast Redwoods (Ears & Eyes) [04-22]
  • Michael Orenstein: Aperture (Origin) [05-20]
  • Dave Rempis/Joshua Abrams/Avreeayl Ra + Jim Baker: Scylla (Aerophonic) [07-08]
  • J. Peter Schwalm & Stephan Thelen: Transneptunian Planets (RareNoise) * [06-03]
  • Aaron Seeber: First Move (Cellar) [05-06]
  • Cathy Segal-Garcia & Phillip Strange: Live in Japan (Origin) [05-20]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, May 2, 2022


Music Week

May archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 54 albums, 8 A-list,

Music: Current count 37831 [37777] rated (+54), 127 [127] unrated (-0).

It's been a very frustrating week for reading the news, with one story after another provoking rage and a sense of doom. I hit some sort of breaking point on Saturday, when I felt the last iota of hope drain from my body. Previously, I might try to document these feelings in a blog post, but I don't feel like indulging in that much self-abuse. I will note that the story that pushed me over the edge was one about Kansas Republicans on the verge of passing a bill legalizing sports betting, taxing the bets at 10%, and dedicating 80% of the revenues to luring professional sports teams to Kansas. I hate betting in all forms, but recognize it's better legal and regulated than left as a cash cow for organized crime, and there's always public needs that could be addressed with additional tax revenues. (Same can be said for drugs, but that seems to be a bigger cognitive problem with local Republicans. When I was growing up, gambling was every bit the sin, but Republicans have come around, probably due to the way it fetishizes money.) The problem is the italicized bit: sports teams are invariably owned by some of the most ridiculously wealthy people in the world -- the KC major league teams are owned by the Hunt and Walton heirs -- so it's especially insane to dedicate a major tax revenue stream to their benefit. Evidently Democratic Governor Kelly is on board with this disgusting scheme. (I'll spare you the rant on the graft involved in Wichita's recent minor league ballpark disaster, which should be cautionary lesson enough.) At the same time, both parties are interested in cutting sales taxes on food, but no one is suggesting making up the difference with the sports-gambling revenues (let alone legalizing marijuana, which would be much more popular).

I'm already starting to forget many of the other outrages in the newspaper lately. An article finally popped up on how Elon Musk plans to recover his sunken investment in Twitter by firing employees and making other service cuts. (As an aside, I saw a graph Musk evidently put out placing himself on a left-right continuum over time. He stays in the same position, but extends the "woke left" line enormously, as if the left is getting more extreme, and is pulling the center past him, moving him from left-of-center to right-of-center. It doesn't take much genius to realize that what's really happening is that he's moving right, reflecting his increasing wealth, but can't see beyond his own ego.)

There's a whole bunch of economic news. Amazon is slipping because they overbuilt warehouses and shipping during the pandemic, and Apple is slipping due to supply chain issues, and Netflix stock collapsed when they lost a few subscribers (which they hope to remedy by kicking freeloaders off). All three companies were hugely overvalued, but we assume markets price stock correctly, so normal corrections look like catastrophes. Speaking of which, Twitter is even more overvalued, but having found a greater fool in Musk, but now, having locked in a price, the only thing they can do is squeeze and devalue. What we need to be doing is figuring out how to stand up free services that compete with big tech but don't do the data mining and brokering they do to make money off your attention. But nobody's talking about that (except Kim Stanley Robinson, but that's science fiction).

There's a story about crypto getting "the regulator they want," which probably means worse than no regulation at all. Then there's the bizarre stuff about GDP shrinking while the Fed is contemplating a half-point interest rate increase, which will lead to disastrous losses abroad as well -- at the same time global supply is being crippled by the Ukraine war and attendant sanctions. Meanwhile, those involved in Ukraine are doubling down, getting even more bloody-minded, which is great for the arms and oil industries, and ominous for everyone else. (Meanwhile, there was another paean to Madeline Albright today.)

And of course there are the usual run of political stories, most involving Trump's involvement in Republican primaries, because the news industry would much prefer talking about Trump than Biden, and have no interest whatsoever in issues other than the culture war flashpoints. (I think only once have I read something about Florida's infamous "don't say gay" bill that pointed out what I take to be the real problem: that the law incentivizes "parents" to file frivolous lawsuits against teachers and school boards. The right seems to feel that, having packed the courts, the best way to advance their claims is to flood them with suits.)

OK, that's too many words for explaining why I decided not to write about this shit anymore. But at least I didn't burn up two days digging up links you're unlikely to follow anyway (not least because so many of them are behind fucking paywalls). How can we have a democracy when information is so exclusively partitioned? A quick look around suggests maybe we don't.


Big piece of news since I wrote the previous section was the tornado that hit Andover, a suburb east of Wichita. It's now considered to be an EF3, on the ground for 21 minutes, during which time it moved 12.5 miles. No official deaths, but something 1,000 structures were damaged. Severe weather had been forecast, but our area (about one mile northwest of downtown) was clear enough that we were out walking the dog when the sirens went off. Storms typically track northeast in Kansas, so I wasn't personally worried: all the storm clouds were north and east of us, and the tornadoes (a second one appeared in Greenwood County) headed away from us. We got some rain and small hail a couple hours later, when the cold front that had triggered the tornado cells finally passed through.


I filled out my ballot for DownBeat's annual critics poll (notes here). I've been voting in it for at least 10 years now, but this was the first year where I was invited in the Veterans Committee. Voters there can pick up to 10 out of 25 nominees, where the winners are anyone who gets picked on 75% or more of the ballots. The winners join DownBeat's Hall of Fame, which is set up to add just 2 new members per year: one each from the Critics Poll and the Readers Poll. That creates a huge bottleneck, which the Veterans Committee doesn't alleviate so much as create another set of idiosyncratic criteria. (Most candidates have to wait 100 years past their birth, but some can get in 50 years after their death, which biases the VC to picking musicians who died young, like Booker Little and Scott LaFaro.) See the notes file for details, but my top choice was Jimmy Rushing.

I've been known to spend a couple days on the ballot -- there are 50 categories to vote for, some extremely competitive, others with hardly anyone of note, and some categories are just hard to judge (e.g., composer, arranger, producer -- but lately have tried to cut corners, especially later on. What slows me down is note taking and checking, so I can save a bunch of time if I simply vote for the same people year after year. Not the way I'd like to do it, but I'm not all that keen on ranking musicians at instrument positions anyway. I take the album categories more seriously, collecting all of their nominees and using them as a checklist to measure how much I've heard. A lot of this week's records are best jazz album nominees that I hadn't heard. They nominated 128 records this year. With this week's haul, I've managed to hear all but three:

  • Michael Formanek Drome Trio, Were We Where We Were (Circular File -22)
  • ICP Septet + Joris Roelofs + Terrie Ex, Komen & Gaan (ICP)
  • Barre Phillips, Thirty Years In Between (Victo)

I can't say I picked up any outstanding records in this exercise. I also have lists of nominees for jazz reissues, blues, and "beyond." Each has its own problems: jazz reissues are hard to find, at least from streaming sources (big boxes of audiophile vinyl seem to be the norm these days); I almost never hear more than 10-20% of the blues records; and while I hear much more of their "beyond," it's never a very coherent category.

I started last week listening to Specialty compilations (after Art Rupe died). After listening to the big box, I looked for a smaller compilation, and found two (almost identical). I went a bit further, but didn't get into the gospel that was an important part of the catalog. I also dug up some extra Mingus albums, after finding the new "lost album" somewhat wanting. A couple other "old music" items were related to recent product, but two more exceptions: Vi Redd was an unfamiliar name on DownBeat's Hall of Fame ballot, so I thought I should look her up. Ricky Ford released a B+(***) album I reviewed a couple weeks ago. I had a couple ungraded LPs by him, but couldn't play them at the time. My wife's ancient Technics turntable seems to have died, so I had to wait until I could buy a new one. I play so little vinyl these days I convinced myself the bottom-of-the-line Audio Technica would suffice. It's no great shakes, but does the job. In coming weeks, I need to see what else in the unrated list I can find on LP.

I screwed up my numbering when I posted my Book Roundup Sunday evening instead of tomorrow, as I had originally planned. That leaves a gap at 3018, but I doubt anyone will notice.


New records reviewed this week:

The Kevin Brady Electric Quartet: Plan B (2020 [2021], Ubuntu Music): Drummer from Dublin, has a couple previous albums (back to 2007), group here with Seamus Blake (sax), Bill Carrothers (electric piano), and Dave Redmond (electric bass), with five pieces by Brady, three by Carrothers. B+(***)

Tomasz Dabrowski: Tomasz Dabrowski & the Individual Beings (2021 [2022], April): Polish trumpet player, also credited with electronics, albums since 2012, septet with two saxophonists, piano/keyboards (Grzegorz Tarwid), bass, and two drummers. Group name, and much else, inspired to Tomasz Stanko. B+(***)

Chris Dingman: Journeys Vol. 1 (2022, self-released): Vibraphonist, albums since 2011, solo album seems to have been a pandemic project, with some overtones above the tinkle. B+(*) [sp]

Nick Finzer: Out of Focus (2021, Outside In Music): Trombonist, albums since 2012, mostly New York but teaches now at UNT. Much unclear about credits here: some solo or duo, two tracks with a quartet (Xavier Davis on piano), a 15-trombone finale -- the fourth Ellington piece. B+(*)

Bruce Forman With John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton: Reunion! (2021, B4Man Music): Guitarist, records (for Muse and Concord) start in 1981. This was advertised as The Poll Winners Revisited, a reference to the 1950s guitar-bass-drums trios of Barney Kessel, Ray Brown, and Shelly Manne, which "established the guitar trio as a viable jazz ensemble." B+(**)

Larry Goldings/Peter Bernstein/Bill Stewart: Perpetual Pendulum (2021 [2022], Smoke Sessions): Organ-guitar-drums trio, a soul jazz staple, trio goes back to Goldings' first album (1991, a trio plus Fathead Newman on two tracks). B+(**)

Russell Gunn & the Royal Krunk Jazz Orchestra: The Sirius Mystery Opus 4 No. 1 (2020 [2021], Ropeadope): Trumpet player, started in 1990s incorporating electronics with a nod to hip-hop. Refers back to a 2016 album. Big band plus extras, spoken word as far out as Sun Ra. Four tracks, 33:55. B+(**)

Tigran Hamasyan: Stand Art (2022, Nonesuch): Pianist, from Armenia, moved to California at 16, eventually returned to Yerevan. Eleventh album since 2006, a collection of standards, with trio (Matt Brewer on bass and Justin Brown on drums), plus guest spots (Ambrose Akinmusire, Joshua Redman, Mark Turner). Most sources elide the title, but words are separate on cover. B+(*)

Oscar Hernández & Alma Libre: Visión (2022, Ovation): Pianist, born in New York, third group album since 2016, with Justo Almario (sax/flute), bass, drums, congas, and some guests (notably Joe Locke on vibes). B+(*)

Bob James Trio: Feel Like Making Live! (2022, Evolution): Pianist, released a debut called Bold Conceptions in 1963, followed it up with an avant-sounding ESP-Disk (Explosions), then settled into a long and undistinguished pop jazz career, in and out of the group Fourplay. B [sp]

Willie Jones III: Fallen Heroes (2020 [2021], WJ3): Drummer, seventh album since 2000, fair number of mainstream side credits. Opens with a solo piece here. Occasional spots for George Cables (piano), Sherman Irby (alto sax), and others. Renee Neufville sings. B+(*)

Anders Koppel: Mulberry Street Symphony (2021 [2022], Cowbell Music, 2CD): Danish composer, father a classical composer, started in 1967 in a rock group (Savage Rose), has gone on to compose for ballets, films, plays, and this at least counts as jazz, with its soloists -- son Benjamin Koppel (sax), Scott Colley (bass), and Brian Blade (drums) -- on top of the Odense Symphony Orchestra. The sax is the star, but he's got a lot to work with. B+(***) [sp]

Miranda Lambert: Palomino (2022, Vanner, RCA Nashville): Country singer-songwriter, ninth album, not sure there's a merely good album in the sequence. Covers a Mick Jagger song, three songs recycled from The Marfa Tapes, co-wrote the rest, most with Luke Dick and Natalie Hemby. Special treat: the B-52s backing up "Music City Queen." A-

The Jeffrey Lewis & Peter Stampfel Band: Both Ways (2017 [2021], self-released): Fringe-folk supergroup, both leaders have multiple albums I love, so their collaboration should delight, but their eponymous 2013 album fell flat for me (though Christgau and others celebrated it). No idea why they shelved this sequel, but as "lost albums" go it hasn't sat long. But with only 3 (of 26) cuts on Bandcamp, and unavailable via streaming, all I did was a "limited sampling" note (++). It wound up the only album on Christgau's Dean's List I didn't hear, until a reader kindly sent me a copy. Lots of minor annoyances here, especially in the first half. But it does pick up with "The New Old Georgia Stomp" (song 17, a public Bandcamp cut), and it's ok-to-good from there out, including covers of the Beachnuts, Hawkwind, and Television, "Heroin" rewritten as "Internet," and a pair of anti-Trump songs (one on tax forms, another that with a "the cat grabbed back" refrain). Lewis's 2020 Tapes and 2021 Tapes ("shelter-at-home recordings & pandemos") are also locked down, so he seems to be the marketing genius preserving their obscurity. B+(**) [dl]

Taj Mahal & Ry Cooder: Get on Board: The Songs of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee (2022, Nonesuch): Traditionalists even in their youth, in the 1970s each found fame providing a gentle slant on old songs and new ones that sounded old. Still, it was a bit of a surprise to find out they had recorded together in 1965-66 in a group called Rising Sons, but the records disappointed. First glance at this album cover looks like an archival find, except the faces are old and grizzled, as we soon find also are the voices. B+(**)

Charnett Moffett Trio: Live (2021, Motéma, EP): Bassist, played electric as much as acoustic, died in April at 54. This was recorded last July, at Yoshi's, five songs (20:13), the cover continuing: "featuring Jana Herzen [guitar/vocals] with Corey Garcia [drums]." Opens with a smoky "Summertime," but when the striking vocals end, the set slides into background. B+(**)

Willie Nelson: A Beautiful Time (2022, Legacy): Seventy-second studio album, released on his 89th birthday. Five original songs, co-authored by Buddy Cannon, including two memorable ones that reflect his seniority ("I Don't Go to Funerals," "Live Every Day" -- "like it may be your last, because some day it will be"). Two covers seem like mis-steps but grow on you: "Tower of Song" (Leonard Cohen, the "golden voice" line less of a joke) and "With a Little Help From My Friends" (Beatles). The rest fits in nicely. A-

Nikara: Nikara Presents Black Wall Street (2021, Railroad Hart): Last name Warren, which may or may not belong in the credit. From Brooklyn, plays vibes, sings (or someone does), Bandcamp tags: hip hop, jazz, r&b, soul. Has elements of each without settling anywhere. No band credits, but Kenny Barron is featured on two tracks. B+(*) [bc]

Mark O'Connor: Markology II (2017-20 [2021], OMAC): Started off as a champion bluegrass fiddler (first album was titled: National Junior Fiddling Champion), also plays mandolin and guitar (his instrument here, title referring back to a 1978 album). B+(*)

Ulysses Owens Jr. Big Band: Soul Conversations (2021, Outside In Music): Drummer, from Florida, half-dozen albums since 2012, experience in several big bands, comes out swinging here, conventional big band with vibes (Stefon Harris) but no guitar (Takeishi Ohbayashi on piano), with vocals by Charles Turner III. B+(*)

Samora Pinderhughes: Grief (2022, Ropeadope): Singer-songwriter from Bay Area, based in New York, plays piano, arranges strings, first album, sister Elena Pinderhughes plays flute, saxes help (Lucas Pino, Immanuel Wilkins). I suppose there might be something subtle here I'm not recognizing. B

Bonnie Raitt: Just Like That . . . (2022, Redwing): Bluesy singer-songwriter, developed a strong following in the early 1970s but didn't really sell well until 1989's Nick of Time. Releases slowed down to every 3-4 years after 1991, the last three appearing after 7-4-6 year gaps. The extra time goes into the songs, and the production looks back to her youth. B+(***)

Scary Goldings: Scary Goldings IV (2021, Pockets): Fourth collaboration between LA-based jazz-funk group Scary Pockets -- unclear who's in them, but they've released a lot since 2017 -- and organ player Larry Goldings, presumably their fourth. Notable guest here is John Scofield (guitar, ft. on 6/10 songs). B+(*) [sp]

SFJazz Collective: New Works Reflecting the Moment (2021 [2022], SFJazz): Founded 2004, Discogs lists 21 albums, personnel has varied over the years, currently nine (including two singers: Martin Luther McCoy and Gretchen Parlato), who either wrote (8 pieces) or arranged (3, including "Lift Every Voice & Sing" and "What's Going On"). Chris Potter plays large, but I weary of the vocals, even when they're good for me. B+(*)

Becca Stevens: Becca Stevens & the Secret Trio (2021, GroundUp Music): Jazz/folk singer-songwriter, half-dozen albums since 2008, fair number of side-credits. The trio is Middle Eastern: Ara Dinkjian (oud), Ismail Lumanovski (clarinet), Tamer Pinarbasi (kanun). There is an odd delicacy to this, one I'm not very comfortable with. B

Trombone Shorty: Lifted (2022, Blue Note): New Orleans trombonist Troy Andrews, debut 2002, moved to Verve 2010, on to Blue Note 2017. His records have always disappointed as jazz. Ups the funk quotient here, bringing more voices to the fore, brass to the back. B

UMO Helsinki Jazz Orchestra: Last Dance: New Music for Jazz Orchestra by Ed Partyka (2020 [2022], Neuklang): Finnish big band, founded 1975 by Heikki Sarmanto and Esko Linnavalli, initials translate to New Music Orchestra, "Helsinki" inserted in 2018. Partyka is a trombonist from Chicago, has worked in big bands and led large groups. Four pieces, 47:58. B+(*)

Sachal Vasandani/Romain Collin: Midnight Shelter (2021, Edition): American jazz singer, several records back to 2007 released under first name only. Backed here by piano only, not much for such a plain voice. B-

Cory Weeds: O Sole Mio! Music From the Motherland (2019 [2021], Cellar Music): Canadian alto saxophonist, owns the Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver, the source of most of the records on his Cellar Live label, as well as a dozen of his own since 2010. Not sure what his claims to Sicily are, as the songs here mostly come from Americans (with names like Mancini, Marmarosa, Martino, Corea, and Chambers). But it's bright and bouncy, with organist Mike LeDonne's Groover Quartet -- Eric Alexander (tenor sax), Peter Bernstein (guitar), Joe Farnsworth (drums). B+(**)

Corey Weeds With Strings: What Is There to Say? (2021, Cellar Music): Tenor sax this time, with piano (Phil Dwyer), bass, drums, and a phalanx of strings. B+(*)

Lucy Yeghiazaryan/Vanisha Gould: In Her Words (2021, La Reserve): Two vocalists, one from Armenia, the other California, alternating songs, backed by fractured guitar and wispy strings.

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Doug Carn: Adam's Apple (1974 [2021], Black Jazz/Real Gone Music): Pianist, fourth album since 1971, last for this label, turns toward gospel, or social relevancs -- lots of voices (notably Jean Carn). B+(*)

John McLaughlin: The Montreux Years (1978-2016 [2022], BMG): Fifth installment in a series that started in 2021, 8 tracks from 5 festivals (82:00; CD drops the one from 1978), with various lineups: 1978 with L. Shankar; 1984 Mahavishnu; 1987 with Paco de Lucia; 1998 with Gary Thomas; 2016 4th Dimension Band. B+(**) [sp]

Charles Mingus: The Lost Album: From Ronnie Scott's (1972 [2022], Resonance, 3CD): Two sets, 2.5 hours of music, recorded for possible release by Columbia, but shelved in 1973 when they killed off their jazz division (keeping only Miles Davis). Mingus struggled after a big year 1964, and there is little from him until live sets pick up in 1970. His studio album for Columbia in 1972 (Let My Children Hear Music) is possibly his worst ever. In 1974, he put a new band together and released a couple of masterpieces, before ALS started to disable him, leading to his death in 1979. This is rather a mess, but not the sort of thing that careful editing could fix: indeed, on his centenary this reminds us that much of his genius was outrageous spontaneity. Not one of his great bands -- a septet with 19-year-old Jon Faddis on trumpet, saxophonists Charles McPherson and Bobby Jones, John Foster on piano (also sings a couple), Roy Brooks on drums (a rare set without Dannie Richmond) -- but few bandleaders could whip up more frenzy. Big booklet. B+(***) [cd]

George Russell: Ezz-thetics & The Stratus Seekers (1961-62 [2022], Ezz-Thetics): Two important albums by one of the most important figures in jazz history. The former, the namesake for this Swiss reissue label, is a sextet with Eric Dolphy (alto sax/bass clarinet) and Don Ellis (trumpet), David Baker (trombone), Steve Swallow (bass), and Joe Hunt (drums). The latter acknowledges that it takes two saxophonists to replace Dolphy. The albums are hard to peg, easy to underestimate, rich and varied and always a step ahead of you. A- [bc]

Irma Thomas: Full Time Woman: The Lost Cotillion Album (1972 [2022], Real Gone Music): Aka Soul Queen of New Orleans, first singles 1959, Wikipedia doesn't show much chart action but any comp of her 1961-66 Minit and Imperial sides is prime. She struggled in the 1970s, finally staged a "living legend" comeback in the 1990s, and is still ticking. This was recorded for Atlantic, but unreleased until 2014. Great singer, but not a very good album. B

Irma Thomas: Live! New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 1976 (1976 [2022], Good Time): Originally released in 1977 by Island, reissued several times since. Starts with the memorably titled "You Can Have My Husband (But Please Don't Mess With My Man)." Runs through several of her big 1960s hits ("Ruler of My Heart," "It's Raining"), followed by some 1970s hits by others ("Shame, Shame, Shame," "Lady Marmalade"). Highlight is the closer, "Wish Someone Would Care," where she really works the crowd. B+(***)

Eberhard Weber: Once Upon a Time: Live in Avignon (1994 [2021], ECM): German bassist, a signature artist for the label since his 1974 debut, hasn't recorded since a 2007 stroke. Since then ECM released a couple albums of reprocessed bass solos, but this is the first live album they've pulled off the shelf. It's a solo performance, but has a light touch and melodic flair that is exceptional. B+(***)

Barney Wilen: La Note Bleue (1987 [2021], Elemental): French tenor saxophonist, established himself in the late 1950s and 1960s, stopped recording after 1972, then started again in 1987 with a remarkable series of albums, including this one. Kicks off with a marvelous "Besame Mucho. [PS: Slightly confused about the editions. Mine has the original album plus three alternate takes not in Discogs, but not the 1989 live album tacked onto the box.] B+(***) [sp]

Old music:

Dopplereffekt: Gesamtkunstwerk (1995-97 [1999], International Deejay Gigolo): Despite German alias/title, this is Detroit techno producer Gerald Donald's post-Drexciya project, collecting a series of EPs plus a couple stray tracks. Vocals presumably his partner, To-Nhan. Lyrics not a strong suit. B+(**)

Ricky Ford: Looking Ahead (1987, Muse): Tenor saxophonist, I probably noticed him first with Abdullah Ibrahim, recorded 10 albums (1979-89) for Muse, this is number eight, with James Spaulding (alto sax/flute) and John Sass (tuba) on 4 tracks, Kirk Lightsey (piano), Cecil McBee (bass), and Freddie Watts (drums) on all eight. B+(**) [lp]

Ricky Ford: Saxotic Stomp (1988, Muse): Another sextet, with Spaulding and Lightsey returning, plus Charles Davis (baritone sax), Ray Drummond (bass), and Jimmy Cobb (drums). Strong sax leads, as usual. B+(**) [lp]

Miranda Lambert: Kerosene (2005, Epic Nashville): Second album, follows a self-released eponymous joint when she was 18, but 3.5 years later she's on a major label, going platinum, and she's never had reason to look back. Does't quite have control of her production, but no shortage of voice or grit. B+(**)

Charles Mingus: Mingus (1960 [1961], Candid): Second album for Candid, recorded a month after Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus. This expands on the quartet -- Ted Curson (trumpet), Eric Dolphy (alto sax/bass clarinet), and Dannie Richmond (drums) -- with a second trumpet, two trombones, two more saxes (Charles McPherson and Booker Ervin), and piano (Nico Bunink or Paul Bley). Opens with a 19:49 "M.D.M. (Monk, Duke and Me)." Second side starts with 13:23 of "Stormy Weather," then reflects on his psychiatric experience in "Lock 'Em Up (Hellview of Bellevue)." A- [sp]

Charles Mingus: Charles Mingus and Friends in Concert (1972 [1996], Columbia/Legacy, 2CD): Recorded at Philharmonic Hall on February 4, six months before the "lost" Ronnie Scott's session reviewed above, and released on 2-LP (87:49) later that fall, expanded to 130:36 for 2-CD. Same core group, except Joe Chambers on drums, plus lots of extras, including: trumpets (Eddie Preston, Lloyd Michaels, Lonnie Hilyer), trombone (Eddie Bert), French horns (Dick Berg, Sharon Moe), tuba (Bob Stewart), saxophones (Gene Ammons, Gerry Mulligan, George Dorsey, Richie Perri, Howard Johnson), even a second bassist (Milt Hinton), and vocals (Honey Gordon on three tracks; announcer Bill Cosby and writer Dizzy Gillespie on "Ool-Ya-Koo"). I also see solos for James Moody, and Randy Weston. Some great pieces, but doesn't feel like Mingus is really in charge. B+(**) [sp]

Charles Mingus: Three or Four Shades of Blues (1977, Atlantic): Late album, opens up with new takes of "Better Get Hit in Your Soul" and "Goodbye Porkpie Hat," plus three lesser pieces. Group with Jack Walrath (trumpet), Ricky Ford (tenor sax), and Dannie Richmond (drums), plus various piano and guitar, bass help although the solos are all credited to Mingus. B+(*) [sp]

Charles Mingus: Thirteen Pictures: The Charles Mingus Anthology (1952-77 [1993], Rhino, 2CD): Part of a series of 2-CD jazz comps, each a handsome book in a hard box, a clever move back when we thought of CD boxes as prestige items. Jazz has rarely seemed right for the "greatest hits" treatment: even at best, think of them as introductory samplers. I had to build a playlist here, but first surprise here is that this ranges way beyond the Atlantic sides the label owns, picking up such obvious peaks as "Haitian Fight Song" and "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" but atypical pieces like a Jackie Paris vocal and a Duke Ellington piano trio. It also packs two long pieces: "Meditations on Integration" (24:50), and "Cumbia & Jazz Fusion" (27:52, one of his last records, one that I panned, although it sounds pretty good here). A-

Vi Redd: Bird Call (1962, United Artists): Sings and plays alto sax, recorded two albums 1962-63, another with Mary McPartland in 1977, and has since picked up some awards, but I hadn't heard of her until she popped up on DownBeat's HOF ballot, at age 93. Mix of standards (including "Summertime") and bebop. Her vocals are fine, but her sax is more persuasive. The vibes (Roy Ayers) are often a plus. B+(***)

Vi Redd: Lady Soul (1963, Atco): Second album, organ (mostly Dick Hyman) and guitar (Bucky Pizzarelli or Barney Kessel) marks a move toward soul jazz. Shows more poise as a singer, but plays her saxophone less (Bill Perkins helps out). B+(**)

Rock 'n' Roll Fever! The Wildest From Specialty (1956-59 [1993], Specialty): The wildest was Little Richard, but this opts for obscurities -- Jerry Byrne's "Lights Out" is the one I'm most familiar with, followed by pieces from the bottom tier of artists with single-CD compilations (Don & Dewey, Larry Williams, Floyd Dixon), and a cover of Huey Smith's "Don't You Just Know It." B+(**)

Specialty Legends of Boogie Woogie (1947-51 [1992], Specialty): Song selection here is easy: look for songs with "boogie" in the title (18 of 19 here, not counting two "unidentified" pieces, leaving as the sole exception "Rock That Voot"), then make sure you hear the tinkle in the piano, even on what would otherwise be a plain jump blues. "Woogie" optional (3 titles). The star here is Camille Howard (8 pieces), followed by Willard McDaniel (4). B+(***)

The Specialty Story (1944-64 [1994], Specialty, 5CD): Art Rupe (né Goldberg) died on April 15, age 104. Among rock and roll's founding entrepreneurs, he's less famous than Sam Phillips, Leonard Chess, or Ahmet Ertegun, but starting in Los Angeles in 1944, with a later pipeline to New Orleans (thanks to Johnny Vincent), he released as many great records as anyone else in the business. His catalog got picked up by Fantasy, which in the early 1990s repackaged it into several dozen critically important CDs. I bought so many that I skipped this flagship box set as redundant, but on his death it looks perfect for a wake. You might fault it for focusing too much on stars you already know (e.g., 19 Little Richard tracks), or you might deem that a feature. A-

Specialty Records Greatest Hits (1946-58 [2001], Specialty): Single-CD selection, all hits, 20 songs from 10 artists, nicely balanced between early jump blues and later rockers, although the latter is dominated by Little Richard (5 songs). Essential music, but note that eight of those 10 artists also own an A/A- single-CD compilation (Jimmy Liggins has two). A

Rip It Up: The Best of Specialty Records (1946-58 [2021], Craft): Repeats 18 songs from Specialty Records Greatest Hits, but let's dock it for dropping two great ones: "Thrill Me" (Roy Milton and Camille Howard), and "Good Golly Miss Molly" (Little Richard). So you can also fault them for lack of imagination, but the label exists to restore indelible classics to vinyl, and that's what they do here. A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • George Cotsirilos Quartet: Refuge (OA2) [05-20]
  • Manel Fortiá: Despertar (Segell Microscopi) [05-12]
  • Secret People: Secret People (Out of Your Head) [04-29]

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