An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
My Other Websites
Music Week [0 - 9]
Monday, November 27, 2023
Music: Current count 41262  rated (+52), 2  unrated (-7).
I posted another substantial Speaking of Which last night (5716 words, 106 links). The writing went late, and I had to cut it off with a lot of unfinished business. In particular, I was taken aback by opposition to my plan to end the war by splitting Gaza off from Israel. My intro starts to sketch out the distinction between left as teleology and as practical politics -- one that should be easy enough to keep clear, but again and again we see practical proposals that would actually do some good torpedoed by people who quite rightly want something better. I might get a better response pitching my plan as the only achievable "two-state solution" to the mainstream crowd who still entertains the possibility. (It is the only version that Israel could be persuaded to agree to, and as we should know by now, nothing is possible without Israel's consent.) But no one in that crowd reads me or cares what I think, so I find myself in this dark spiral, ever more convinced of the necessity of moving left, and of the impossibility of actual left politics.
That's already more than what I meant to say here. Other than to note that if I was serious about political writing, I'd be shopping around an essay right now on "Why I've Never Called Myself Pro-Palestinian, and Why It Doesn't Bother Me if You Do." The first part of that I've been considering for a while. The second part is a reaction to a recent conversation with a friend complaining about "the pro-Palestinian left." My core point is that the left is not your problem. Good people having occasional bad thoughts is not your problem. Your problem is quite simply on the right.
Meanwhile, we have quite a bit of business to deal with below.
I'm continuously updating my year-end lists for Jazz and Non-Jazz. Currently there are 65+1 A-list entries in jazz, 44+3 in Non-Jazz. The + numbers are albums in previous years' tracking files that I only got to this year. Other 2022 releases appear in the main lists if they weren't even in the tracking files (or were released on or after Dec. 1, 2022).
The split has increased in recent weeks, as I've focused on new jazz, and had little time to do any non-jazz prospecting.
I've made two promotions this week from A- to A (Irreversible Entanglements and Steve Lehman). These were not surprises, nor would the current number 4: James Brandon Johnson's For Mahalia, With Love.
One thing to note is that my entire 2022 demo queue has been reviewed. No new mail this past week, but I have two unopened packages today: one from Portugal, the other from France, so they are probably 2022 releases. I am sitting on a couple of 2024 releases, but I'm in no hurry for them (well, maybe for Ballister).
It's almost two weeks since the first batch of ballot invites for the 18th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll went out. I have 24 ballots counted, naming 264 albums. (Maximum is 16 per ballot: 10 new, 3 old, 1 each vocal, debut, latin.) As new records receive votes, I add them to my tracking file and to the unheard section of my 2024 jazz list. (Note to self: I should write a program to pull up all of the albums with jazz poll votes, sorted by artist so I don't give away the standings.)
Hopefully the ballots will start rolling in soon. Deadline is December 15. I still have a bunch of notes on possible voters. I'm not done sending out invites, but I haven't had much time to vet them yet. But this is probably your last chance to make a case, for you or someone else, to vote. My approximate guidelines are that you should have listed to more than 200 new jazz records in the last year, and that you should have written about ten or more. As for "broadcast journalists," I have no idea what the criteria should be. Francis Davis invited several dozen, and a few others nominated themselves or others. They've generally been a credit to the Poll, but as someone who literally never listens to jazz radio, I'm in no position to judge.
It's impossible to tell whether we'll wind up with more than last year's 151 voters, but it is very likely that we'll see an increase in ballots from outside the US.
One thing I haven't done yet is set up an EOY aggregator, like I've did for 2022, 2021, etc. It's easy enough to do, and it's probably the only way I'll ever get a handle on non-jazz prospects. But my first glance at the AOTY Aggregate is pretty dismal (top 20, w/my grades): Lankum [**], Sufjan Stevens [*], Young Fathers [***], Julie Byrne [**], Boygenius [B], Wednesday [*], Blur [*], Lana Del Rey [**], PJ Harvey [*], Grian Chatten [**], Caroline Polachek [*], Mitski [*], Paul Simon [B], Yo La Tengo [A-], Anohni [**], Nation of Language [?], JPEGMafia & Danny Brown [*], Kelela [*], Yussef Dayes [A- this week], Overmono [*]. A/A- down in the next 25: Billy Woods & Kenny Segal (28), Robert Forster (32), Joanna Sternberg (43), Olivia Rodrigo (45). That's only 6 of 44 non-jazz A/A- records I've already found this year.
Of course, the real value of the EOY lists isn't who gets the most mentions, but what are the interesting records deep down in isolated lists. I will note that so far 7 of the top 10 new releases in our Jazz Critics Poll are A/A- in my book. That's a freakishly high share, but evens out with just 2 in the second 10, and just 1 of the second 20. Also, after 27 you get into the single-vote albums, most of which won't get more than a couple more votes, if that.
New records reviewed this week:
Ambrose Akinmusire: Beauty Is Enough (2023, Origami Harvest): Trumpet player, from Oakland, became a star when Blue Note picked up his second album in 2010, and remained near the top of the polls with five albums through 2020. However, this self-released solo album appeared with little fanfare, and will remain an item of minor interest. B+(*) [sp]
Balimaya Project: When the Dust Settles (2023, New Soil): West African (Mandé) group, based in London, led by djembe player Yahael Camara Onono, second album. Vocals suggest afropop, but they're playing for a jazz crowd. B+(***) [sp]
Jerry Bergonzi: Extra Extra (2023, Savant): Tenor saxophonist, steady stream of albums since 1984, With Sheryl Bailey (guitar), Harvie S (bass), Luther Gray (drums), plus Phil Grenadier (trumpet) on 3 tracks. B+(*) [sp]
John Butcher/Pat Thomas/Dominic Lash/Steve Noble: Fathom (2021 , 577): English avant-saxophonist, records started appearing around 1985, more frequently after 1998. Live set from Cafe Oto, with regulars on piano, bass, and drums. B+(*) [dl]
Gunhild Carling: Good Evening Cats (2022, Jazz Art): Swedish singer, multi-instrumentalist (trombone seems to be her first choice, but double bass, banjo, flute, bagpipes, and harp are barely half of the list), started out at 10 in her family's Hot Five band. Old-fashioned swing with a touch of cabaret, not all in English but that just adds to the charm. B+(***) [sp]
Daniel Carter/Leo Genovese/William Parker/Francisco Mela: Shine Hear Vol. 1 (2021 , 577): Sax, piano, bass, drums, with Carter and Parker (who also plays gralla and shakuhachi) going way back. B+(**) [dl]
Joan Chamorro & Friends: Jazz House Sessions With Scott Hamilton (2023, Associació Sant Andreu Jazz Band): Spanish bassist, sometime saxophonist, has led several bands, principally the swing-oriented Sant Andreu Jazz Band (others worth noting include Barcelona Hot Seven and the Fu Manchu Jazz Servants). He has a dozen or so albums where he "presents" guests, starting with Scott Robinson in 2011. This one collects pieces from four sessions, going back to 2013 (but no specific credits). Hamilton sounds terrific with a hard-swinging band. I'm less taken by the vocals, which sound Brazilian. B+(**) [sp]
Yussef Dayes: Black Classical Music (2023, Brownswood/Nonesuch): British drummer, first solo album although he had a group called United Vibrations, and duos with Kamaal Williams and Tom Misch. Big album (19 songs, 73:54), a dozen guest spots, I wouldn't say it's jazz, much less classical, but crosses over into a rarefied atmosphere of groove and light, an ambience you can dance in. A- [sp]
Paul Dunmall Ensemble: It's a Matter of Fact (2022 , Discus Music): British saxophonist (tenor/soprano here), very polific since 1986, ensemble here with Julie Tippetts (voice), Martin Archer (alto/baritone sax), trumpet, trombone, guitar, bass, and drums. B+(**) [bc]
Paul Dunmall: Bright Light a Joyous Celebration (2022 , Discus Music): The saxophonist leads a sextet here, with two more saxophonists (Soweto Kinch and Xhosa Cole), vibes (Corey Mwamba), bass (Dave Kane), and drums (Hamid Drake). The drummer goes without saying, but I'm really impressed by the vibes here, and the saxophones live up to the title. A- [bc]
Paul Dunmall New Quartet: World Without (2021 , 577): Tenor/alto sax, backed by guitar (Steven Saunders), bass (Dave Kane), and drums (Mike Levin). Intense, for better or worse. B+(**) [dl]
Peter Evans [Being & Becoming]: Ars Memoria (2022-23 , More Is More): Trumpet player, formerly of Mostly Other People Do the Killing, group name derived from a 2020 album, also with Joel Ross (vibes) and Nick Jozwlak (bass), but with a different drummer: this time it's Michael Shekwoaga Ode. B+(***) [bc]
Kate Gentile: Find Letter X (2021-23 , Pi, 3CD): Drummer, based in New York, several albums since 2015, including a 6-CD 2021 box with pianist Matt Mitchell that was too much for me to handle. Mitchell returns here, with electronics as well, Kim Cass (acoustic and electric bass), and Jeremy Viner (tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet). Might be remarkable, but that there's so much of it makes it hard to tell (or care). B+(***) [dl]
Terry Gibbs Legacy Band: The Terry Gibbs Songbook (2022 , Whaling City Sound): Vibraphonist, birth name Julius Gubenko, recorded for Savoy in 1951, kicking off a very long career, leading his Dream Band, up to a fine 2017 record called 92 Years Young. At 98, he's even credited with a bit of "2-fingered piano" here (also the amuising "vocals on track 4"). The sextet features singer Danny Bacher and tenor saxophonists Scott Hamilton and Harry Allen, with son Gerry Gibbs on drums. B+(***) [sp]
Frode Gjerstad With Matthew Shipp: We Speak (2022 , Relative Pitch): Norwegian alto saxophonist, started in the early 1980s with Detail, then Circulasione Totale Orchestra. Also plays clarinet here, in duets with piano. Hard to think of anyone better in that role than Shipp. B+(**) [sp]
Rich Halley Quartet: Fire Within (2023, Pine Eagle): Tenor saxophonist from Portland, Oregon, has turned his retirement project into a remarkable career. (Checking myself, I find that he had a few albums as far back as 1986 before I first noticed him in 2005 with Mountains and Plains, and that he was only 58 then, but the model stuck in my head, partly because I have other examples, like Fred Anderson and Mort Weiss.) I can't say that he's getting better, but he's been remarkably inspired for two decades, aided here by his best rhythm section ever: Matthew Shipp (piano), Michael Bisio (bass), and Newman Taylor Baker (drums). A- [cd] [12-01]
Matthew Halsall: An Ever Changing View (2023, Gondwana): British trumpet player, 11th album since 2008, also plays keyboards and many percussion instruments, and is credited with several field recordings. He likens this to landscape painting, which gives you the idea. B+(**) [sp]
Scott Hamilton Quartet: At PizzaExpress Live: In London (2022 , PX): Tenor saxophonist, has been "a good wind" blowing retro-swing since 1978, here with his long-running quartet of John Pearce (piano), Dave Green (bass), and Steve Brown (drums), playing standards with consummate ease and grace. B+(***) [sp]
Eirik Hegdal/Jeff Parker/Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten/Řyvind Skarbř: Superless (2022 , Řyvind Jazzforum): Norwegian saxophonist (here: C melody, sopranino, bass clarinet, synth), probably best known for his Team Hegdal, although he's played in the larger Angles configurations, in Gard Nilssen's Supersonic Orchestra, Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, and else where. With guitar, bass, and drums, in an eponymous group album where he wrote five (of 8) compositions. B+(***) [sp]
Henry Hey: Trio: Ri-Metos (2023, self-released): Pianist, has another Trio album from 2003, but many side credits since 1994, including Rod Stewart and David Bowie, also the fusion band Forq. Drummer Jochen Rüeckert returns from his previous trio, with Joe Martin on bass. All contribute songs, plus a standard and two from Vince Mendoza. B+(***) [dl]
Homeboy Sandman: I Can't Sell These Either (2023, self-released): New York rapper Angelo del Villar II, has dropped short albums/long EPs several times a year since 2007, the best in recent years a compilation of stray tracks called I Can't Sell These, hence the title of this 20-track, 59:07 monster. I suspect the commercial lapses have more to do with uncleared samples than any weakness in the material, which certainly isn't obvious. A- [bc]
Jon-Erik Kellso and the EarRegulars: Live at the Ear Inn (2023, Arbors): Trad jazz trumpet player, from Detroit, based in New York, where he's led this band on Sunday nights since 2007. This draws on two dates, so there are some personnel shifts, but most tracks feature Scott Robinson (sax), John Allred (trombone), Matt Munisteri (guitar), and Neal Miner (bass). Catherine Russell sings the closer, "Back O' Town Blues." B+(***) [sp]
Snorre Kirk: Top Dog (2021 , Stunt): Drummer, from Denmark, fifth album since 2012, playing original pieces that aim to swing like Ellington and Basie. Quintet, the saxophone divided between Stephen Riley and Michael Blicher, backed by piano, guitar, and bass. Very nice. B+(***) [sp]
Location Location Location [Michael Formanek/Anthony Pirog/Mike Pride]: Damaged Goods (2023, Cuneiform): Bass, guitar, drums, jointly credited, but still mostly the guitarist's record, which is to say fractured fusion. Group name derives from recording this piecemeal, from different places, then splicing it together. B+(*) [dl]
Harold López-Nussa: Timba a la Americana (2023, Blue Note): Cuban pianist, ten or so albums since 2007. Several albums since 2007, this one a quintet with Gregoire Maret plus lots of rhythm. B+(**) [sp]
John Paul McGee: A Gospejazzical Christmas (2023, Jazz Urbano): Pianist, from Baltimore, teaches at Berklee, coined "gospejazzical" in his dissertation on "A Sound for Distressed Souls" -- the "ical" is the tail end of "classical." Probably weighs out to a third of each, stealthily sneaking up on Xmas standards (with one original). B [cd]
Thandi Ntuli With Carlos Nińo: Rainbow Revisited (2019 , International Anthem): Pianist, from South Africa, also sings, title refers back to a song from her 2019 album. Duo with the percussionist, recorded on his turf in Los Angeles. B+(**) [sp]
Řyvindland Med Eirik Hegdal & Erik Johannessen: Nonett (2021 , Řra Fonogram): Leader, and composer, here is Norwegian trumpet player Řyvind Frřberg Mathisen, who has one previous album under his own name. Featured guests play C melody sax/bass clarinet and trombone, and they're counted in the nonet, along with Karl Hjalmar Nyberg (clarinet/tenor sax), guitar, piano, bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]
Engin Ozsahin: Conversations in Chaos (2023, self-released): Turkish pianist, studied at New England Conservatory but returned to Istanbul. Second album, sextet, not a lot of details, but sounds like very fancy postbop. B+(**) [sp]
Robert Prester & Adriana Samargia: Quenara (2023 , Commonwealth Ave. Productions): Piano and voice, normally the singer would get top billing. He has, uh, a previous album from 2013, on this same label. She doesn't, but has a very distinctive voice and delivery on standards as well worn as "You Go to My Head," "Lover Man," "Body and Soul," and "Sophisticated Lady." Not one I especially like, but one she deserves credit for. He wrote the title song, which I've already forgotten. B+(*) [cd] [01-19]
Quartet San Francisco/Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band/Take Six: Raymond Scott Reimagined (2023, ViolinJazz): String quartet led by violinist Jeremy Cohen, trained in classical but prefers "non-traditional and eclectic," a definition that could have been coined for Scott. This is clearly their project, with the other well-established artists, a big band and a vocal group, brought in for scale and depth. With interview snippets from Scott. B+(***) [sp]
Red Hot + Ra: Solar [Sun Ra in Brasil] (2023, Red Hot Org): New York-based 50(c)(3) non-profit, raises money for "organizations on the front lines of global health epidemics, epidemics, and health crises," notably by organizing star-studded benefit albums, starting with Red Hot + Blue in 1990, taking aim at AIDS. Twenty-some albums later, this is neither their first venture into Brazil nor their first to focus on Sun Ra. Eight tracks by as many groups, with Brazilian rhythms where you might expect swing, and some rap mixed in the vocals. B+(***) [sp]
Red Hot + Ra: Nuclear War: A Tribute to Sun Ra: Volume 1 (2023, Red Hot Org): Only four artists here, all very specifically in tune with Sun Ra: Georgia Anne Muldrow (3:39), Angel Bat David (30:25), Malcolm Jiyane Tree-o (12:09), and Irreversible Entanglements (18:22). B+(**) [sp]
Ernesto Rodrigues/Joăo Madeira/Hernâni Faustino: No Strings Attached (2023, Creative Sources): Portuguese avant-string trio, Rodrigues plays violin, the other two double bass, at least for the 8-part "Expecting String Expression" (30:56). This is followed by a 32:00 live set, with Rodrigues on viola. B+(**) [bc]
Sam Ross: Live at the Mira Room, Vol. II (2023, self-released): Pianist, also plays rhodes here (mostly), in a trio with Simba Distis (upright and electric bass) and Dr. Mimi Murid (drums), following up on a similar 2021 album. Also credit the crowd, which is boisterous enough to deserve a credit, and maybe even steal the show. Short: 5 tracks, 29:51. B+(**) [cd]
Andreas Rřysum Ensemble: Mysterier (2022 , Motvind): Norwegian clarinetist, third group album, twelve-piece group of considerable power, plus vocals that don't help much. B+(**) [sp]
John Scofield: Uncle John's Band (2022 , ECM, 2CD): Guitarist, trio with Vicente Archer (bass) and Bill Stewart (drums). Fourteen songs (86:41), half originals, closes with the Grateful Dead song, opens with "Mr. Tambourine Man." B+(**) [sp]
Elijah Shiffer: Star Jelly (2021 , self-released): Alto saxophonist, based in New York, describes this as a "sax-heavy version of a Nwe Orleans-style 'brass' band" -- three or four saxes (the extra is bass sax on 5 of 8 tracks), trumpet, trombone, a revolving cast of stringed instruments, and drums. The trad jazz angle is a sweet spot for me, but the arrangements are very slippery, leaving me with wonder whether what seems exceedingly clever at first will hold up for the long haul. A- [bc]
Elijah Shiffer: City of Birds: Volume 1 (2023, self-released): Ten songs, each named for a bird sighted in New York City. Third album, alto sax, plus Kevin Sun on tenor sax, Dmitry Ishenko (bass), and Colin Hinton (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Apostolos Sideris: Past-Presented (2023, Parallel): Bassist, from Greece, seems to be in Paris now, after Istanbul and New York, with a previous album on a Spanish label. Sextet, with piano (Leo Genovese), ney, violin, bass, drums, extra percussion, with some background vocals. B+(*) [bc]
Speakers Corner Quartet: Further Out Than the Edge (2023, OTIH): Originally the house band for "the infamous hip-hop/spoken-word open-mic night Speakers' Corner in Brixton, London." Slotted as jazz, but sounds more like trip-hop, with different guests for each song, names (but not voices) I mostly recognize. B+(**) [sp]
Jason Stein/Damon Smith/Adam Shead: Hum (2022 , Irritable Mystic): Bass clarinetist, has a number of albums since 2007, some quite impressive; backed here by bass and drums, for two 21-minute improv pieces. B+(**) [bc]
Elias Stemeseder/Christian Lillinger: Penumbra (2021 , Plaist): Austrian pianist, German drummer, both with sides in synthesizers and other electronics. Agreeably choppy. B+(**) [sp]
Adrian Younge & Ali Shaheed Muhammad: Jazz Is Dead 17: Lonnie Liston Smith (2023, Jazz Is Dead): Funk-fusion keyboard player, led the Cosmic Echoes 1973-85, first new record since 1998. B+(*) [sp]
Dhafer Youssef: Street of Minarets (2023, Back Beat Edition): Tunisian singer-songwriter, plays oud, has lived in Europe since 1990, mostly playing with jazz musicians: here including Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet), Herbie Hancock (keybs), Nguyęn Lę (guitar), Dave Holland or Marcus Miller (bass), Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), Rakesh Chaurasia (bansuri), and Adriano Dos Santos (percussion). B+(**) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Chantal Acda & Bill Frisell: Live at Jazz Middelheim (2017 , self-released): Dutch/Belgian singer-songwriter, has records going back to 1999, backed here by the famed guitarist. Originally released by Glitterhouse in 2018. B+(*) [sp]
Johnny Griffin: Live at Ronnie Scott's (1964 , Gearbox): Tenor saxophonist, an unabashed be-bopper, first records 1956, including a particularly notable appearance with Thelonious Monk. Quartet here, with a local band: Stan Tracey (piano), Malcolm Cecil (bass), and Jackie Dougan (drums), on three side-long pieces (53:54). Not to be confused with a 2008 same-title (In+Out). B+(***) [sp]
Alon Nechushtan: For Those Who Cross the Seas (2006 , ESP-Disk, 2CD): Israeli pianist, based in New York, has a half-dozen albums, mostly 2011-14. Two live sets here, the first disc called "Astral Voyages," the second "Cosmic Canticles." Band names also appear on front cover, offset just enough to spare me listing them all on the slugline, but worth mentioning here: Roy Campbell (flute/trumpet), Daniel Carter and Sabir Mateen (saxophones/clarinet), William Parker (bass), and Federico Ughi (drums). A- [cd]
Peter Evans/Joel Ross/Nick Jozwlak/Savannah Harris: Being & Becoming (2019 , More Is More): Billed as a new group, but since the names are on the cover, handy to just credit them: trumpet, vibes, bass, drums. Ross has gotten a lot of praise for his Blue Notes, but this is much trickier, and he's really superb. [was: U++] A- [bc]
Elijah Shiffer and the Robber Crabs: Unhinged (2017 , self-released): Alto saxophonist, first album, group with Andrew Shillito (guitars and banjo), electric bass, and drums, with Jay Rattman on two cuts (bass saxophone and slide whistle). He has a unique sound, drawing on trad jazz but with impossibly funky rhythms. A- [bc]
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.
Kate Gentile/International Contemporary Ensemble: B i o m e i.i (2022 , Obliquity): + [yt]
Grade (or other) changes:
Irreversible Entanglements: Protect Your Light (2023, Impulse!): [was: A-] A
Steve Lehman/Orchestre National de Jazz: Ex Machina (2023, Pi): [was: A-] A
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, November 20, 2023
Music: Current count 41210  rated (+50), 9  unrated (-13).
Another Speaking of Which last night. I didn't have much time to work to search out stories, even less to annotate them, but did manage a couple hours for yet another iteration of my appropriately, I would say, simple-minded solution to the Israel's war on Gaza. It's just that simple: stop it. If you don't, you'll ultimately wind up inflicting so much self-damage you won't care how much hurt you inflicted on others.
Little chance of this being recognized by the people in power, who are so smitten by the notion that all their problems can be solved by force. They're wrong. But they are capable of doing immense harm in their flailing and thrashing.
On Wednesday, I sent out an initial round of 205 invitations to cast ballots in the 18th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll. I've sent 15-20 more invitations out since then, and will send out a few more over the next week or two. Deadline is December 15. I'm pleased with the results so far, including 14 ballots submitted, and another 60 commitments to vote.
One of the perks of running the Poll is that I get tips on lots of new albums I hadn't heard (or in many cases even heard of). I add these to my tracking file (currently 1046 jazz albums, 1255 non-jazz). You can see a number of them already below, and I suspect that new ones will be most of what I listen to in the coming month. So far 182 records have received votes. I've added the ones I haven't heard (59 music albums + 10 old, so 38% of total) to my EOY Jazz List (scroll down to the 2% note).
Of course, there's also an EOY Non-Jazz List. I've done virtually no recent prospecting for non-jazz records, as I'm trying hard to finish off my 2023 promo queue, as well as keep up with jazz ballot picks. Consequently, it's lagged more than usual (especially more than last year). That will probably change if/when I start collecting EOY lists. At the moment, that seems like a really insane thing to contemplate, but I've described it as "my favorite waste of time," so if some time opens up, I'm more likely to waste it than I am to write some magnum opus on why US foreign policy is totally bankrupt. Let alone one on 2024 elections, as I've fallen into the 20% of Democrats who no longer smile on Biden. (If you doubt why, you obviously haven't been reading lately. Go back to yesterday's link to Biden's op-ed, which most likely his aides told him is today's match for JFK's "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech.)
Two new books under the "Recent Reading" widget. I enjoyed Christopher Clark's Revolutionary Spring so much I decided to read a bit more about 1848, something a bit more about the revolutions that didn't happen, hence China Miéville's book on The Communist Manifesto. It turned out to be more on the text, and less on the history, than I wanted, but still left me with warm and fuzzy feelings for my own flirtation with the red side. It also reminded me that not so long ago, no one could conceive of radical change -- something a great many saw urgent need for -- coming about without violence.
After Viet Thanh Nguyen got banned from the 92nd St. Y for signing a petition calling for a cease-fire in Gaza, I saw an interview with him, and got interested in his new memoir. Then I noticed Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, and figured I should read that one first. Just started it, and I'm already finding things I'd like to share. I've written quite a bit about his subject -- not specifically on Vietnam, but you need only check my birth certificate to see that as the pivotal event in my life.
I ordered two more books. One, mentioned at the end of yesterday's post, is Norman Finkelstein's Gaza: An Inquest Into Its Martyrdom, which seems almost quaint now, given how much more devastating Israel's war against Gaza is now than the periodic assaults since 2006. However, as Nguyen should be among the first to point out, the extreme severity of the current genocide depends for its justification on forgetting everything that Israel did previously, lest the Oct. 7 revolt be viewed as anything other than unprovoked murderous frenzy.
The other book is the paperback reprint of Carlos Lozada's What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era: a book of book reports, that looks like it might be a useful reference.
New records reviewed this week:
Jason Adasiewicz: Roscoe Village: The Music of Roscoe Mitchell (2023, Corbett vs. Dempsey): Vibraphonist, Chicago's go-to guy for the instrument since the early 2000s. He notes that "tuned metal percussion figures prominently in the sound universe of Roscoe Mitchell," so decided to give it a try with a solo album. Nice, but I don't quite get it. Nice piece of art on the album cover, too. B+(**) [bc]
Susan Alcorn/Septeto Del Sur: Canto (2023, Relative Pitch): Pedal steel guitarist, from Baltimore, debut 2000, Discogs credits her with 30 albums. She's joined here by a Chilean folk group, playing and improvising on her compositions, and singing a Victor Jara song to close. B+(**) [cd]
Maria Baptist Quintet: Essays on Jazz (2023, self-released, 2CD): German pianist, several albums since 2002, quintet with two saxophonists (Jan Von Klewitz and Richard Maegraith), bass, and drums, a rather rousing postbop group. Long: 108 minutes. B+(***) [sp]
John Bishop: Antwerp (2023, Origin): Drummer, from Seattle, runs this mainstream label, which did much to put Seattle in the jazz map, and has since branched out, especially to Chicago, Denver, and wherever UNT alumni gather, and here to Belgium, for a trio with Bram Weiters (piano) and Piet Verbist (bass) -- familiar names, especially if you've been on the label's mailing list. B+(**) [cd]
Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band: Kings Highway (2023, Stoner Hill): Drummer, called his 1998 Blue Note debut album Fellowship, which could be taken as the band name, one he's stuck with ever since. With original members Jon Cowherd (keyboards), Myron Walden (alto sax), Melvin Butler (tenor/soprano sax), and Christopher Thomas (bass), the only change Kurt Rosenwinkel taking over guitar (from Jeff Parker). B+(*) [sp]
BlankFor.Ms/Jason Moran/Marcus Gilmore: Refract (2022 , Red Hook): Electronica producer Tyler Gilmore, has a couple previous albums, joined here by two well known jazz musicians, on piano and drums. The electronics help out, and the pianist is formidable, though it all slows down on the backstretch. B+(***) [sp]
Jane Bunnett and Maqueque: Playing With Fire (2023, True North/Linus Entertainment): Canadian soprano saxophonist, formed a bond with Cuban music early in her career (1992, Spirits of Havana), fourth album with this Cuban-Canadian group. I don't doubt the authenticity of the percussion, but I have trouble hearing the vocals as even jazz-adjacent. B+(*) [sp]
Emmet Cohen: Master Legacy Series Volume 5: Featuring Houston Person (2023, Bandstand): Pianist, has a few volumes from 2011 on featuring his own estimable work, along side this series, which started with Jimmy Cobb, Ron Carter, and Tootie Heath before moving on to the saxophonists, adding Benny Golson to the Heath volume, followed by George Coleman, and now Person -- who, by the way, sounds fabulous right out of the gate. With Yasushi Nakamura (bass) and Kyle Poole (drums). A- [sp]
Sylvie Courvoisier: Chimaera (2022 , Intakt, 2CD): Swiss pianist, many albums since 1997, leads a sextet through a series of extended compositions, inspired by painter Odilon Redon ("a universe of symbolism, dreams and fantasy"). Group includes two trumpets (Wadada Leo Smith and Nate Wooley), Christian Fennesz (guitar/electronics), Drew Gress (bass), and Kenny Wollesen (drums/vibes). This would sit nicely in one of Smith's recent boxes. A- [sp]
Dry Thrust: The Less You Sleep (2020 , Trost): Trio of Georg Graewe (organ), Martin Siewert (guitar, electronics), and Didi Kern (drums). Graewe is well known as an avant-pianist. The other have been kicking around the fringe since the late 1990s, with Kern's background mostly in noise-rock (but lately he's popped up with Gustafsson and Vandermark). Interesting but scattered: your basic organ trio improvising not on soul-groove but on no-wave noise. B+(*) [sp]
Antoine Drye With Strings: Retreat to Beauty (Oblation Vol. 3: Providence!) (2021 , Cellar Music): Trumpet player, 2003 debut titled Oblation, so this has been slow coming. Strings just add some sweetener, setting up the voice at the end. B+(*) [sp]
George Freeman: The Good Life (2022 , HighNote): Guitarist from Chicago, at 96 still the younger brother of saxophonist Von Freeman. Two sessions here, one with organ (Joey DeFrancesco, a couple months before he died) and drums (Lewis Nash), the other with bass (Christian McBride) and drums (Carl Allen). B+(**) [sp]
Eric Friedlander: She Sees (2023, Skipstone): Cellist, reconvenes his 2020 Sentinel band -- hard-edged guitarist Ava Mendoza and percussionist Diego Espinosa -- and adds electric bassist Stomu Takeishi. B+(*) [sp]
George Gee Swing Orchestra: Winter Wonderland (2023, self-released): Bandleader, formed his swing band in 1980, and a later 10-piece group called Jump, Jive & Wailers (after the Louis Prima song), but I'm not finding albums for either. (I have a 2007 release in my database.) Xmas music always brings out the bah humbug in me, and this did at first, but the brass section softened me up, then I loved their take on the merely Xmas-adjacent "Baby It's Cold Outside" (criss-crossing vocals by Hilary Gardner and John Dokes, not quite Armstrong and Fitzgerald but really great). I even found myself enjoying "The Christmas Song" after that (if not "O Tannenbaum" and "Jingle Bells"). B+(**) [cd]
Grupo Frontera: El Comienzo (2023, VHR Music): Mexican-American group from Edinburg, in the southern tip of Texas. First album. B+(**) [sp]
Gabriel Guerrero & Quantum: Equilibrio (2019 , Origin): Pianist, born in Colombia, based in New York, website shows this as third album as leader vs. one side credit, Discogs has the split 0-5. Group here is mostly quartet, with sax (Seth Trachy), bass, and drums, with strings on one track and percussion on another, playing complex originals. B+(**) [cd]
David Ian: Vintage Christmas Trio Melody (2023, Prescott): Pianist, can't find him on Discogs but AAJ shows four previous albums: three Vintage Christmas titles, plus one for Valentine's Day. Trio with bass and drums. Best I can say for it is that mid-way I forgot that I was listening to Xmas music, but looking at the song list doesn't suggest why. B [cd]
I.P.A.: Grimsta (2022 , Cuneiform): Norwegian group, fifth album since 2009: Atle Nymo (tenor sax/contrabass clarinet), Magnus Broo (trumpet), Mattias Stĺhl (vibes/soprano sax), Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten (bass), and Hĺkon Mjäset Johansen (drums). B+(**) [dl]
Val Jeanty/Candice Hoyes/Mimi Jones: Nite Bjuti (2021 , Whirlwind): Most often title is given as group name, but the individuals (drums/electronics, vocals, bass) also appear on the cover. Jeanty is Haitian, mostly shows up adding electronic mojo to jazz artists (Kris Davis, Wallace Roney, Terri Lyne Carrington). Nice balance against the bass. Vocals could show up on trip-hop. B+(**) [sp]
Hannah Marks: Outsider, Outlier (2022 , Out of Your Head): Bassist (electric & double), from Brooklyn, out on a jazz label but initially sounds more punk (Sarah Rossy singing), then arty, then Nathan Reising inserts a nice alto sax solo, then, well, I don't know. B+(*) [cd]
Sarah McKenzie: Without You (2023, Normandy Lane Music): Australian jazz singer, pianist, sixth album since 2011, wrote four songs here, the rest Brazilian standards, mostly Jobim. Done expertly, notably because the guitarist is Romero Lubambo. B+(*) [cd]
Hedvig Mollestad Weejuns: Weejuns (2022 , Rune Grammofon): Norwegian guitarist, double live-album debut with new trio: Stĺle Storlřken (organ) and Ole Mofjell (drums). B+(***) [r]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Tryptych I (2022, SMP): Tenor sax and piano duo, relationship goes back at least to 1996, amounts to well over a dozen duo albums, and another dozen-plus trios. First of three more, all released on the same day. B+(***) [bc]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Tryptych II (2022, SMP): Original idea here was to put these duets together in a single "CD-LP-Cassette-Box-Set [which] was specifically recorded for three types of formats." My guess is that the 12-track, 55:42 Tryptych I was the CD, and that this 2-track 36:27 is the LP. Impossible for me to tell whether the music is the same or different, but it's easily equivalent. B+(**) [bc]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Tryptych III (2022, SMP): Reading the fine print more closely, I find that this ("Side A" and "Side B," 30:58) is the cassette version, "a contemplative set with a dramatic ambience." B+(***) [bc]
Jason Roebke: Four Spheres (2022 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Bassist, has played in many Chicago avant groups since 2000. Quartet here with Edward Wilkerson Jr. (tenor sax, alto clarinet), Mabel Kwan (piano), and Marcus Evans (drums), all (curiously enough) also credited with metronomes. B+(**) [bc]
Dave Sewelson/Stephen Moses/Jochem van Dijk/Steve Holtje: Orca Uprising (2023, MechaBenzaiten): Baritone saxophonist, long-time member of Microscopic Septet, with drums, electric bass, and keyboard. B [bc]
Russ Spiegel: Caribbean Blue (2023, Ruzztone Music): Guitarist, albums go back to 1985, has an organ-drums trio here, plus picks up some guests, including Brian Lynch (trumpet 4 of 10 tracks), Tim Armacost (tenor sax on 6, flute on 1), and Hendrik Meurkens (chromatic harmonica on 3). B+(**) [cd]
Trio Grande: Urban Myth (2023, Whirlwind): Will Vinson (alto sax, wurlitzer, synths), Gilad Hekselman (guitar), Nate Wood (drums, bass) -- the first two writing three and four pieces, with two covers (Roy Hargrove, Nik Kershaw). First cut points to some funk-fusion, but they're way too multi-faceted to stay there, especially when Vinson returns to his first calling. B+(**) [cd]
Trio San: Hibiki (2022 , Jazzdor): Trio of Satoko Fujii (piano), Taiko Saito (vibes), and Yuko Oshima (drums), first for the trio, a live set from a festival in Berlin. Takes a bit to get going, and moves uneasily when it does, but impressive slow and somber, more so vibrant. B+(***) [cd]
Anna Webber/Matt Mitchell: Capacious Aeration (2023, Tzadik): Duo, tenor sax/flute and piano. High level, but sketchy. B+(**) [sp]
Mars Williams/Vasco Trilla: Critical Mass (2021 , Not Two): Duo, reeds and toy instruments for Williams -- a Hal Russell disciple, Vandermark Five founder, acid jazz renegade, and author of several An Ayler Xmas volumes -- drums and percussion for Trilla. Some noise, some drone, some inspired jazz. B+(***) [sp]
Joe Wittman: Trio Works (2023, self-released): Guitarist, from New York, has a previous album, this one a trio with Daniel Duke (bass) and Keith Balla (drums), playing six originals and two covers ("Sweet Lorraine" and "Born to Be Blue"). Mainstream guitar groove, nicely done. B+(**) [cd]
Joe Wittman/Vito Dieterle/Jesse Breheney/Josh Davis: Night Out (2022 , self-released): Guitarist's first album, out a few months before Trio Works, with tenor sax, bass, and drums. B+(*) [bc]
Miguel Zenón/Dan Tepfer: Internal Melodies (2023, Main Door Music): Alto sax and piano duo, the pianist from France, with an astrophysics degree, has a Goldberg Variations and a Twelve Free Improvisations in Twelve Keys, but is best known for his duos with Lee Konitz. No Latin Jazz for Zenón here. He's just very adroitly tuned into what the pianist is doing. B+(***) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Fred Anderson: The Milwaukee Tapes, Vol. 2 (1980 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Tenor saxophonist, born in Louisiana, moved to Chicago, helped found AACM, recorded a bit in the 1970s but mostly got by as the owner of a club, restarting his career when he turned 65 in 1994, most often working with his nephew, drummer Hamid Drake. John Corbett released the first volume of these tapes in 2000 as part of Atavistic's Unheard Music Series (virtually everything there is worth checking out), only now coming out with a second set. Quartet with Billie Brimfield (trumpet), Larry Hayrod (bass), and Drake (drums). B+(***) [bc]
Graham Collier: Down Another Road @ Stockholm Jazz Days '69 (1969 , My Only Desire): Bassist (1937-2011), one of the major figures in British jazz to emerge in the late 1960s, leading a sextet here: Hary Beckett (trumpet/flugelhorn), Nick Evans (trombone), Stan Sulzmann (tenor/alto sax), Karl Jenkins (oboe/piano), and John Marshall (drums). This live set expands on five (of six) songs from his third album, Down Another Road. Remarkable compositions and performances. Clearly someone I need to research further. A- [sp]
Eric Ghost: Secret Sauce (1975 , Jazz Room): Jazz flutist Eric Barth Sanders, released two albums 1974-75, had his career interupted by a jail sentence for manufacturing LSD, so his claim to "psychedelic" has some credence. With piano, bass, and free-ranging percussion. B+(***) [sp]
Milford Graves With Arthur Doyle & Hugh Glover: Children of the Forest (1976 , Black Editions Archive): Previously unissued tapes from the percussionist's archive: a trio date with Doyle (tenor sax, flute) and Glover ("klaxon, percussion, vaccine"), a duo with Glover (tenor sax), and a bit of solo (3:13) to close. Graves is fascinating to focus on throughout. Whether you can largely depends on your tolerance for noise: Doyle has always been a screecher, and often little more, although he brings exceptional energy to his part here. Glover has similar intent, but is much less imposing. B+(***) [sp]
Roy Hargrove: The Love Suite: In Mahogany (1993 , Blue Engine): Trumpet player (1969-2018), 1990 debut album was called Diamond in the Rough, led to him winning DownBeat's "rising star" 1991-93, and eventually (2021) entering their hall of fame. Jazz at Lincoln Center commissioned him to do this major piece in 1993, then sat on the tape 30 years? With Jesse Davis (alto sax), Ron Blake (tenor sax), Andre Hayward (trombone), Marc Cary (piano), Rodney Whitaker (bass), and Gregory Hutchinson (drums). Live, sounds great, even with the unconventional climax of scat vocal, long drum solo, and outro credits. Only explanation I can imagine why this was held back so long is that the boss man was jealous. A [sp]
Ahmad Jamal: Emerald City Nights: Live at the Penthouse 1966-1968 (1966-68 , Jazz Detective/Elemental, 2CD): A third 2-CD set for the late pianist and his trio, with Jamil Nasser on bass and Frank Grant on drums. Dependably superb, as you'd expect. B+(***) [cd] [11-24]
Paul Lytton/Erhard Hirt: Borne on a Whim: Duets, 1981 (1981 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Duets, drums and live electronics for the famed British drummer, electric guitars and dobro for the German guitarist -- not someone I recalled, but Discogs credits him with 20 albums, and I recognize a couple. B+(**) [bc]
Les McCann: Never a Dull Moment! Live From Coast to Coast 1966-1967 (1963-67 , Resonance, 3CD): Pianist, from Kentucky, never seemed to get much respect for his distinctive mix of soul jazz and boogie-woogie, but did get an actual hit record in 1969, with Eddie Harris on Swiss Movement (2.5 stars in Penguin Guide, but in my 1K list). This collects five live dates from Seattle (Penthouse) and one from New York (Village Vanguard), where he does his thing, and keeps doing it until he gets really good at it. (Looks like one cut from 1963 belies the subtitle.) A- [cd] [12-01]
Wes Montgomery/Wynton Kelly Trio: Maximum Swing: The Unissued 1965 Half Note Recordings (1965 , Resonance, 2CD): For many years, it seemed like every American jazz guitarist took Wes Montgomery as their model -- a spell even more total than Charlie Parker and (later) John Coltrane held for saxophonists. I've long been skeptical (really for all three), but when Pat Metheny called Smokin' at the Half Note "the greatest jazz guitar album ever made," I had to check it out. I found it, "complete," in a 2-CD compilation, Impressions: The Verve Jazz Sides (probably where I got the Metheny quote), and have since collected CD reissues, the older one giving Wynton Kelly Trio top billing, a later one headlining Montgomery. Metheny's not right, but he's not far off base either: there is some truly remarkable guitar there -- Kelly and the rhythm section (Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb) are pretty great, too. What's offered here aren't outtakes from the same session, but snippets from other live shots from the same year and venue, with spoken intros and a revolving cast of bassists (Chambers, Ron Carter, Larry Ridley, Herman Wright, and Ridley again). There are, for sure, short stretches where Montgomery is on top of his game, and those are sublime. And there's a nice booklet, with a Bill Milkowski essays, and some appreciations from other musicians. This fits into Montgomery's discography rather like the Royal Roost broadcasts do for Parker. How indispensable they are is up to you. B+(***) [cd] [12-01]
Michel Petrucciani: The Montreux Years (1990-98 , BMG/Montreux): The big jazz festival in Switzerland has been an annual affair since 1967. Dozens of artists have released tapes of their performances there, so it's unsurprising that the Foundation itself would want to get into the act. This draws on four performances by the diminuitive French pianist -- who died in 1999, at 37, of a congenital ailment that is impossible to detect in his masterful playing. Selections include duos with bassist Miroslav Vitous, a quartet with synthesizer, a quintet with Steve Grossman on sax, and a sextet with Stefano Di Battista. This winds up being an excellent sampler. A- [sp]
Cal Tjader: Catch the Groove: Live at the Penthouse 1963-1967 (1963-67 , Jazz Detective/Elemental, 2CD): Vibraphonist (1925-82), parents were "Swedish American vaudevillians," moved to Bay Area when he was two, learned to play piano and drums, and tap dance, started out in Dixieland bands, was playing drums in Dave Brubeck's group when he got interested in vibes. There are many testimonials in the booklet here, including one by Terry Gibbs on this story, and how Gibbs "showed him some things," although his knack for "Latin kick" came elsewhere. Tjader's groups from 1953 on were widely recorded. At one point, I tried figuring out who had the most jazz albums among artists I had none from, and Tjader was the easy winner. I picked up a record with Stan Getz after that, but Tjader remains a gaping hole in my expertise. So unlike most recent live archival trawls, I have little to compare this with, giving it an air of fresh discovery. This collects six sets, all quintets with piano, bass, drums, and Latin percussion (especially congas), and it's quite delightful. A- [cd]
Dexter Gordon Quartet: Bouncin' With Dex (1975 , SteepleChase): One of many albums the tenor saxophonist recorded during his years in Copenhagen. First side starts with "Billie's Bounce" and ends with a Gordon original called "Benji's Bounce," with "Easy Living" in between, another Gordon piece and "Four" on the other side. Quartet is the cream of Copenhagen: Tele Montoliu (piano), NHŘP (bass), and Billy Higgins (drums). A- [r]
Dexter Gordon Quartet: Stable Mabel (1975, SteepleChase): With Horace Parlan (piano), NHŘP (bass), and Tony Inzalaco (drums), six standards, ranging from "In a Sentimental Mood" to "Red Cross," most stretched out to 8-9 minutes. B+(***) [r]
Dexter Gordon Quartet: Cheese Cake (1964 , SteepleChase): A live radio shot from his early days in Copenhagen, with Tele Montoliu (piano), NHŘP (bass), and Alex Riel (drums). Short and sweet. B+(**) [r]
Dexter Gordon Quartet: I Want More (1964 , SteepleChase): Another live radio shot from Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen, again with Montoliu and NHŘP, this time with Rune Carlsson on drums. This was a prime period for him, and nearly everything sounds great. B+(***) [r]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, November 13, 2023
Music: Current count 41160  rated (+52), 22  unrated (-6).
Spent way too much time the last few days knocking together another Speaking of Which. To little or no avail, I suspect, but that's what we do around here.
What I should have been doing was getting the 18th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll rolling. I've been saying all along that I'd get the ballots sent out by November 15, which this week is known as Wednesday. I do have the website set up, but have a lot more writing I want to get done -- both to explain the nitty gritty details to users, voters, and myself. The voting itself will be exactly as it was last year, and many years before that. The big problem is deciding who gets to vote, contacting them, and making sure they're on board. We dropped from 156 to 151 voters last year, and I fear that was mostly due to email failures. My fears in that regard got much worse early this year when I discovered that lots of mail from my server wasn't getting delivered. Fixing that was never clear nor simple, so I'm starting from an expectation that this is going to be a tough slog.
It would be nice if all my voters read this blog, or some blog I could communicate via, or at least followed me on X, but that's certainly not the case. What I do have to communicate with are two mailing lists. One is kept in my mailer, which I can then run through a "mail merge" extension to generate individualized messages. I have a shortened invite file, which I intend to run through that grinder later this week. Those I consider the official invites. (For late invites, I'll just use that as boilerplate for private messages.) The other is a GNU Mailman list on my server, which more or less has the same addresses (but maintained separately, ugh!). I'm going to send them a "heads up" message before I send out the invites. Then I'll use that list for subsequent updates: probably 2-3 reminders to vote, a deadline notice, an updates or two on publication dates, including a done. Neither of these work as well as I'd like, but they make it possible to keep most people fairly well informed along the way.
I thought I'd get started on expanding the voter list more than a month ago, and indeed I did (barely) get started, but once again I'm up against a crunch deadline. I have a few new names ready to add now, and a system set up to find more, but I'm still looking for helpful suggestions. One thing I have discovered so far is that the talent pool isn't lacking. I sent out 200 invites last year, to get 151 ballots back. I'm hoping for maybe 250 invites this year. I doubt it will make much difference to the standings, but 50 more voters will probably add 150 more albums to the overall list, and that, I think, would be a big plus. One thing I do with my tracking file is include any year-old album (2022) that I've only noticed in 2023 (i.e., that wasn't in the 2022 tracking file -- one that included everything that got a vote last year) and I have about 75 such records so far this year. By the way, in this year's file the current jazz count is 952 (603 heard by me).
I managed to make a first pass on my EOY files for Jazz and Non-Jazz, currently with 60 and 42 A-list new releases, respectively. We still have a fair ways to go, but that's well below 2022's 75 jazz and way below 2022's 83 non-jazz. For B+(***) albums, new jazz has 145 (vs. 195 in 2022), new non-jazz has 77 (vs. 122 in 2022)
The overall rated number is 1085 in 2023 (604 jazz), vs. 1669 in 2022 (898 jazz), so I'm down 34.9% in rated records this year, down 32.7% in jazz, more in non-jazz. HM/A-list jazz is down 26.2%, while non-jazz is down much more, 44.3%. In some sense, I'm not surprised: The 2022 totals were ridiculously high, so I knew I was going to slip, and through the health scares and what not I figured that to be a good thing. I can't keep racking up those numbers, and having passed 41,000, I don't really want to anymore.
Those numbers will even out a bit over the next couple months, but the drop from 83 to 42 is pretty extreme. One odd thing is that the last two Christgau Consumer Guides have failed to land a single A- on my list (after 4 in September). I didn't think much of that in October, which still has several albums I haven't found, but only Hemlocke Springs in November inspired so much as a second play. But thus far only 14 of my 42 A-list non-jazz albums got an A/A- from Christgau (2 of which I bumped on re-listens after his reviews). Probably says more about me than him, but I know not what.
Lots of records, hastily considered, below. Dave Bayles was actually a post-break listen today (so not in the 52 count), but I figured I might as well report it now. Ortiz, by the way, was a previous Monday listen, so a long stretch where very little blew me away.
Naked Lunch, by the way, was in response to a question, but I haven't gotten around to writing it up in answer form yet.
One more note: I added some code to the RSS generator to split the feed to just provide Music Week or Speaking of Which files: see the left nav menu, under Networking. I never got much feedback on how the RSS stuff is working (and rarely look at it myself, although my mailer dutifully collects the entries). But I regularly look at No More Mister Nice Blog, and I'd like to get back on his blog roll, so it seemed like a good idea. I also found that the Christgau RSS feed has been broken for months, which nobody pointed out. All that took was a "&" instead of "&" in the content, and kerblooey!
New records reviewed this week:
Lina Allemano/Axel Dörner: Aphelia (2019 , Relative Pitch): Two trumpet duets, oscillating between ambient and drone with occasional farts. B+(*) [sp]
JD Allen: This (2023, Savant): Tenor saxophonist, introduced himself in 1998, mostly works in trios, but this is the first to employ electronics (Alex Bonney) in place of bass, with Gwilym Jones on drums. The electronics works well enough, but it still comes down to the man with the horn. B+(***) [sp]
Atlantic Road Trip: One (2023, Calligram): Quintet, recorded in Chicago, so it was probably Scottish alto saxophonist Paul Towndrow tripping, meeting up with trumpet player Chad McCullough, backed with vibes, bass, and drums. B+(**) [cd]
Dave Bayles Trio: Live at the Uptowner (2023, Calligram): Drummer, based in Milwaukee, first album, joined by bassist Clay Schaub (who wrote 5 of 9 songs), and trumpet player Russ Johnson (who wrote 3, and arranged the Monk cover). Very nice showcase for Johnson, who has long impressed. A- [cd]
Bombino: Sahel (2023, Partisan): Tuareg guitarist and songwriter from Agadez, Niger, Omara Moctar, fifth studio album since 2011, all pretty much equal. B+(***) [sp]
Boygenius: The Rest (2023, Interscope, EP): Four songs, 12:06, could easily have fit on The Record, but sucker-priced at $12 for CD, $20 for vinyl. No reason to trust me on them, but I do keep trying, and it's not much of a burden. B [sp]
Zach Bryan: Summertime Blues (2022, Warner, EP): Country singer-songwriter, has produced a lot since his 2019 debut, releasing this 9-song, 28:07 "EP" less than two months after his double album American Heartbreak (34 songs, 121:21). B+(**) [sp]
Zach Bryan: Boys of Faith (2023, Warner, EP): Five songs, 15:59, title track shared with Bon Iver, another with Noah Kahan. B+(**) [sp]
Calcanhar: Jump (2023, Clean Feed): Portuguese duo, Joăo Mortágua (alto/soprano sax) and Carlos Azevedo (piano), both have previous albums, but not many. B+(*) [bc]
Chief Adjuah: Bark Out Thunder Roar Out Lightning (2023, Ropeadope): Or Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah, anything but Christian Scott, who's not only lost his name but his trumpet too, here playing n'goni, other African-inspired instruments, and singing, although the latter often draws on the chiefs of New Orleans Indians. B+(***) [sp]
CMAT: Crazymad, for Me (2023, AWAL): Irish singer-songwriter, initials for Ciara Mary Alice Thompson, second album, impressive range with some pop hooks, has some serious props, but doesn't quite sit right with me. B+(***) [sp]
Mike DiRubbo: Inner Light (2023, Truth Revolution): Alto saxophonist, tenth release as leader, backed by a organ (Brian Charette), guitar (Andrew Renfroe), drums (Jongkuk Kim) trio, soul jazz but in the church of Coltrane. B+(***) [cd] [11-17]
Mia Dyberg Trio: Timestretch (2022 , Clean Feed): Danish alto saxophonist, several albums since 2016, free jazz trio with bass (Asger Thomsen) and drums (Simon Forchhammer). B+(*) [sp]
Nataniel Edelman Trio: Un Ruido De Agua (2022 , Clean Feed): Pianist, from Argentina, second album, a trio with featured names on the cover: Michael Formanek (bass), and Michaël Attias (alto sax). Quite nice. B+(***) [bc]
Phillip Greenlief/Scott Amendola: Stay With It (2017 , Clean Feed): Saxophonist (alto/tenor, also clarinet), new to me but he released a duo with Amendola (drums) way back in 1995, and has racked up another 54 credits (per Discogs) since then, some of which I've certainly heard. Starts impressively free, loses a bit on the change of pace. B+(***) [sp]
Fritz Hauser & Pedro Carneiro: Pas De Deux (2022 , Clean Feed): Swiss drummer, his Solodrumming from 1985 is highly regarded. Joined here by Carneiro, on marimba. Pretty minimal. B [bc]
Scott Hesse Trio: Intention (2023, Calligram): Guitarist, has a self-released album from 1998, a previous trio on Origin from 2015. Based in Chicago, backed by bass (Clark Sommers) and drums (Dana Hall), plays three originals, covers of Coltrane, Shorter, Coleman, and Kern. B+(**) [cd]
The Hives: The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons (2023, Disques Hives): Swedish rock band, released four albums 1997-2007, one in 2012, now this sixth one. I'm unclear on the back story, but some of the sharpest garage rock I've heard in a long time. B+(***) [sp]
Horse Lords: Live in Leipzig (2022 , RVNG Intl., EP): Post-rock group from Baltimore, debut 2012, instrumental (sax, bass, guitar, drums, incorporating electronics. Four songs, 21:46. B+(*) [sp]
Mikko Innanen/Stefan Pasborg/Cedric Piromalli: Can You Hear It? (2022 , Clean Feed): Sax (sopranino/alto/baritone, oboe), drums, organ, with Lori Freedman voice (two tracks). B+(**) [bc]
Guillermo Klein Quinteto: Telmo's Tune (2023, Sunnyside): Pianist, from Argentina, studied at Berklee, based in New York, albums since 1998, most with larger groups. Quintet here with Chris Cheek (tenor/soprano sax), Leo Genovese (piano), Matt Pavolka (bass), and Allan Mednard (drums). B+(**) [sp]
L'Rain: I Killed Your Dog (2023, Mexican Summer): Singer-songwriter Taja Cheek, although her songs are more likely to be instrumental vamps with vocals for shading. B+(**) [sp]
Liquid Mike: S/T [Self-Titled] (2023, Kitschy Spirit, EP): Indie group from Marquette, Michigan, with guitar (Mike Maple), synth (Monica Nelson), bass, and drums, the first two singing (but mainly him). Fourth album, everyone uses S/T as the title but cover reads self-titled (twice; format suggests they just unwrapped the cassette artwork). Eleven songs clocking in at 18:06 without feeling rushed. Sound immediately reminded me of Dead Milkmen, but not that funny, and much more into layering. B+(***) [sp]
Liquid Mike: Stuntman (2021, Lost Dog): First album, 14 songs, 30:39. They sort of got their sound together. Now, content maybe? B [sp]
Liquid Mike: You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth (2021, Sweet Chin Music, EP): Seven songs, 17:22. B [sp]
Liquid Mike: A Beer Can and a Bouquet (2022, self-released, EP): Having found three different labels for their three other releases, I had to punt here. They're all on the same Bandcamp, along with a couple of singles, and no branding to be found there. Nine songs, 22:36, enough to pass for an album these days. B+(**) [sp]
Nellie McKay: Hey Guys, Watch This (2023, Hungry Mouse): Started out as a singer-songwriter in 2004, with show biz roots and ambitions, developed as an interpretive singer with her 2009 Doris Day tribute. This is billed as her first album of original material in 13 years. It was recorded in West Virginia with a group called the Carpenter Ants. I'm finding this very confusing, perhaps because it starts off bland and demure, then gets wilder and wierder (including, if I'm following this correctly, plaudits for Hiroshima and Jeremy Dahmer). Highly subject to revision, if I ever have a reason to play this again. B+(**) [sp]
Mercury [Nicolas Caloia & Lori Freedman]: Skin (2023, Clean Feed): Montreal duo, double bass and clarinets. A little sketchy, especially with so much focus on the bass. B+(**) [bc]
Allison Miller: Rivers in Our Veins (2023, Royal Potato Family): Drummer, debut 2004, original pieces, makes impressive use of a very talented group: Jenny Scheinman (violin), Jason Palmer (trumpet), Ben Goldberg (clarinet/contra-alto clarinet), Carmen Staaf (piano/rhodes/accordion), and Todd Sickafoose (bass), plus some tap dancers. I'm finding it a bit slick and scattered, but perhaps just can't get to the big picture. B+(***) [sp]
Steve Million: Perfectly Spaced (2023, Calligram): Pianist, based in Chicago, albums since 1995, quartet here with Mark Feldman (violin), Eric Hochberg (bass), and Bob Rummage (drums). B+(**) [cd]
Simon Nabatov 3+2: Verbs (2022 , Clean Feed): Russian pianist, long-based in Germany, the "3" his trio with Stefan Schönegg (bass) and Dominik Mahnig (drums), the "2" adding Leonhard Huhn (alto sax/clarinet) and Philip Zoubek (synthesizers). B+(**) [bc]
Simon Nabatov: Extensions (2022 , Unbroken Sounds): Pianist-led sextet, with Sebastian Gille (saxophones) and Shannon Barnett (trombone), plus two bassists and a drummer. B+(***) [sp]
Aruán Ortiz: Pastor's Paradox (2022 , Clean Feed): Cuban pianist, based in Brooklyn, has a large and varied body of work. Three more names on the cover: Don Byron (clarinet), Lester St. Louis (cello), and Pheeroan Aklaff (drums), but Yves Dhar takes over cello on two tracks, and Mtume Gant offers spoken word on three, drawing on phrases from Martin Luther King. A- [cd]
Ethan Philion Quartet: Gnosis (2023, Sunnyside): Bassist, based in Chicago, debut album in 2022 Meditations on Mingus, offers more meditations with a smaller group: Russ Johnson (trumpet), Greg Ward (alto sax), and Dana Hall (drums). B+(***) [sp]
R. Ring: War Poems, We Rested (2023, Don Giovanni): Kelley Deal (Breeders) and Mike Montgomery. B+(*) [sp]
Ned Rothenberg: Crossings Four (2022 , Clean Feed): Reeds player (bass clarinet, alto sax, clarinet), debut 1981, finds himself in stealthy company here with Sylvie Courvoisier (piano), Mary Halvorson (guitar), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums). B+(***) [bc]
Jerome Sabbagh: Vintage (2020 , Sunnyside): Tenor saxophonist, from France, based in Brooklyn, has a steady stream of mainstream releases since 2004. This one employs Kenny Barron (piano), perhaps looking to renew his lease on Stan Getz. B+(**) [sp]
A. Savage: Several Songs About Fire (2023, Rough Trade): Parquet Quarts co-frontman, second solo album, with band work between the first (2017) and now. Music and words evince skill and thought, but only so much one can do with his voice, especially at this tempo. B+(**) [sp]
Troye Sivan: Something to Give Each Other (2023, Capitol): Australian pop singer-songwriter, third album. B+(**) [sp]
Hemlocke Springs: Going . . . Going . . . Gone! (2023, Good Luck Have Fun, EP): Isimeme "Naomi" Udu, b. 1998 in North Carolina, of Nigerian immigrant parents, expands two freak electropop singles into a 7-track, 21:24 EP. Two great songs, two close enough, three more than ok. B+(***) [sp]
Yuhan Su: Liberated Gesture (2023, Sunnyside): Vibraphonist, from Taiwan, studied at Berklee, based in New York, fourth album. With Caroline Davis (alto sax), Matt Mitchell (piano), Marty Kenney (bass), and Dan Weiss (drums). B+(***) [cd]
Kevin Sun: The Depths of Memory (2021-22 , Endectomorph Music, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist, I've been very impressed by everything he's done since his 2018 debut, but his effort here to create extended works is less striking. Three pieces here, totalling 82:28, intricately arranged with basic piano-bass-drums, adding trumpet (Adam O'Farrill) on the last two. B+(***) [cd]
Grzegorz Tarwid Trio: Flowers (2022 , Clean Feed): Polish pianist, has one previous album and several side-credits. Trio here with bass (Max Mucha) and drums (Albert Karch). The rhythm-heavy opening got my attention. B+(***) [bc]
Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers: I Love You (2023, Domestic La La): Australian girl band, lead singer Anna Ryan, slotted punk but I'm thinking more like Go-Go's, first album after an EP. B+(**) [sp]
Trespass Trio Feat. Susana Santos Silva: Live in Oslo (2018 , Clean Feed): One of Swedish saxophonist Martin Küchen's groups -- he plays baritone and sopranino here, with Per Zanussi on bass and Raymond Strid on drums -- with four 2009-17 albums, joined here by the Portuguese trumpet player. B+(**) [bc]
Daniel Villarreal: Lados B (2020 , International Anthem): Drummer, from Panama, based in Chicago, second album, a trio with Jeff Parker (guitar) and Anna Butterss (double & electric bass). Seductive groove music. A- [sp]
Jennifer Wharton's Bonegasm: Grit & Grace (2023, Sunnyside): Bass trombonist, leads a section here with John Fedchock, Nate Mayland, and Alan Ferber, backed by piano, bass, drums, and percussion. Third group album. Fedchock produced. Ends on an up note, with a vocal about Louisiana hot sauce. B+(***) [cd]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Jouk Minor/Josef Traindl/Jean Querlier/Christian Lété/Dominique Regef: Enfin La Mer (1978 , NoBusiness): Free jazz group, with two pieces dubbed suites (33:50 + 16:43), playing baritone sax/contrabass clarinet, trombone, alto sax, drums, and hurdy gurdy -- most with spotty discographies (Regef has the most side-credits, but nothing as leader). Still, often impressive. B+(***) [cd]
The Hives: Barely Legal (1997, Burning Heart): First album for the Swedish punk band, five years before their Veni Vidi Vicious breakthrough. As coarse as it ought to be. Fourteen songs in 27:21. B+(*) [sp]
The Hives: The Black and White Album (2007, A&M/Octone): Fourth album, fourteen songs again, but 47:57. B+(*) [sp]
Howard Shore/Ornette Coleman/London Philharmonic Orchestra: Naked Lunch [The Complete Original Soundtrack Remastered] (1991 , Howe): Soundtrack to the David Cronenberg film of the William S. Burroughs novel, mostly (and most forgettably) composed by Shore, who has some eighty soundtracks 1979-2022, including lots of big budget deals (Lord of the Rings seems to be the one he's most famous for). Coleman composed five tracks (plus two in the six-track bonus section), although he plays (and it really couldn't be anyone else) on the Shore-credited "Interzone Suite," and possibly elsewhere, interesting but not enough to sustain the album. I saw the film, but don't remember much of it, nor do I recall much of the book, which I poked around with in my late teens, treating it more as concrete poetry than as any sort of story. B+(*) [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Tuesday, November 7, 2023
Music: Current count 41108  rated (+30), 28  unrated (-4).
I had a bunch of things I wanted to get done before this update, and I have damn little to show for it. A bunch of things happened, or didn't happen, last week, but if I try to go into that, it'll be days more before I post anything. Maybe next week I can explain.
Meanwhile. I did write another long Speaking of Which, which didn't come out until Monday, pushing Music Week back a day. Rather than wrote more on that here, let me recommend a book about a different time and world that strikes me as especially relevant here: Nicholson Baker's Human Smoke, a chronicle of the prehistory of WWII told through contemporary newspaper clippings: written by the last people who had to figure out the Nazis without having the benefit of knowing how the story ends.
One of my distractions last week was figuring out a sequel for my Oct. 27 birthday dinner. I had shopped for a lot of tapas dishes that I didn't have time to make, so we had a second setting a week later (so Nov. 3). I promised last week to write up my notes on the birthday dinner. I finally did this in the notebook. I also looked up some previous Spanish-themed dinners, and came up with a couple of old pics.
I also finished the indexing on October Streamnotes.
One thing I made very little progress on was setting up the 18th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Poll. I hoped to be able to say more about that here, but that will have to wait until next week. It is still a go, and I hope to send ballot invites out by Nov. 15 (hopefully not much later). Big issue right now is trying to figure out who to invite. I'm surprised as how frazzled I already feel.
Another thing I didn't get done was setting up my EOY files, broken out between jazz and non-jazz (as in previous years -- oops, already have links there to my useless stubs).
The distractions took time away from listening, but the extra day got the rating count up to 30, including five A-list items from my demo queue (a lot more than usual). Would have had six had I gotten to Aruán Ortiz in time.
New records reviewed this week:
Rodrigo Amado/The Bridge: Beyond the Margins (2022 , Trost): Portuguese tenor saxophonist, easily one of the top half-dozen in the world since 2000, which should suffice here, but pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach is a special treat here, and the interaction is so masterful Gerry Hemingway and Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten got in on the action. Beware: it does get a little rowdy. A [cd]
Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Dynamic Maximum Tension (2023, Nonesuch): Canadian big band composer/arranger, studied under Bob Brookmeyer, fourth album since 2009, an extra large one (111 minutes). Not something I'm inclined to get excited about, but fine soloists, some very nice segments, works as background but gets better when you tune in. B+(***) [sp]
Bruce Barth Trio: Dedication (2021 , Origin): Pianist, from Pasadena, first records (c. 1985) were with George Russell, then Orange Then Blue. Trio with bass (Vicente Archer) and drums (Montez Coleman). B+(**) [sp]
Rob Brown: Oceanic (2021 , RogueArt): Alto saxophonist, records since 1989, I associate him mostly with William Parker's groups. Solo here. B+(***) [cdr]
Rob Brown Quartet: Oblongata (2022 , RogueArt): Alto saxophonist (also plays some flute), joined by Steve Swell (trombone), Chris Lightcap (bass, and Chad Taylor (drums), in a superb free set. A- [cdr]
Buck 65: Punk Rock B-Boy (2023, self-released): Venerable rapper from Nova Scotia, dropped this 19-track limited edition cassette (all ten unique copies sold out) by surprise, with a line about the Texas Rangers suggesting he cut that track the day before this dropped. After a layoff, he popped back last year with the superb King of Drums -- so superb I was happy enough when this year's Super Dope sounded just like it. But this one is better still, with the words popping at a pace that justifies his "autodidactic polymath" boast. The beats too, until a change of pace called "Terminal Illiness" seals the deal. A [bc]
DJ Shadow: Action Adventure (2023, Mass Appeal): Electronics producer Josh Davis, early records Endtroducing (1996) and, especially, The Private Press (2002), are favorites, with nothing else -- only four studio albums before this one -- close. Synth beats recognizable, but he's lost the ability to hook a vocal sample, like "what you gonna do now?" B+(*) [sp]
Kurt Elling: SuperBlue: The London Sessions (2022, Edition, EP): Live rehash of his "Grammy-nominated" 2021 SuperBlue, five tracks (28:12), with Charlie Hunter (hybrid guitar) bringing the funk. He cuts the shit, revealing what could pass for soul (e.g., "Lonely Avenue"). B+(*) [bc]
Kurt Elling/Charlie Hunter/Neal Smith: SuperBlue: Guilty Pleasures (2022 , Edition, EP): Vocals, hybrid guitar, drums: Bandcamp page parses this differently (Smith is a "feat."; "Superblue" vanishes), but title and all three names on the cover, as well as a "3" I don't know what to do with. Pretty flash rhythm work recasts the singer as funk, despite the scat. Six songs, 22:08. B+(*) [bc]
Kurt Elling/Charlie Hunter: SuperBlue: The Iridescent Spree (2023, Edition): A skilled jazz singer, started out around 1998, highly regarded by most critics but one I can only rarely stand. The partnership with Hunter gives him an agreeable groove to work from, and reins in his worst effects. So more tolerable. Big deal. B [sp]
Robert Finley: Black Bayou (2023, Easy Eye Sound): Bluesman from Louisiana, got a late start with a debut at 1962, called it Age Don't Mean a Thing, but in his genre age brings gravitas, which is what it's all about. Seven years later, turns out that even he sees age means something after all. B+(**) [sp]
Sue Foley: Live in Austin Vol. 1 (2023, Stony Plain): Blues singer-songwriter from Ottawa, moved to Vancouver and then to Austin, releasing Young Girl Blues in 1992. I always liked her, and much of this is familiar, most likely drawing on her better albums. B+(**) [sp]
Lafayette Gilchrist: Undaunted (2022 , Morphius): Pianist, started out in David Murray's quartet, a dozen-plus albums since 1999. Sextet here, with Brian Settles (tenor sax), Christian Hizon (trombone), bass, drums, and percussion. B+(**) [sp]
Hermanos Gutiérrez: El Bueno Y El Malo (2022, Easy Eye Sound): Duo based in Switzerland, brothers Estevan and Alejandro, father Swiss, mother from Ecuador, fifth album, produced in Nashville by Dan Auerbach. Very tasteful instrumental music, mostly guitar, not in any niche. A- [sp]
William Hooker: Flesh and Bones (2023, Org Music): Avant-drummer, has a long career of going his own way. Drives a sextet here with Ras Moshe (tenor sax/flute), Charles Burnham (violin), On Davis (guitar), and two bassists (Hilliard Greene and Luke Stewart). B+(**) [sp]
Russell Kranes/Alex Levine/Sam Weber/Jay Sawyer: Anchor Points (2022 , OA2): Piano, guitar, bass, and drums; half trio (reference to the Nat King Cole Trio), and half with drums. The trio emphasizes the guitar, while the drums gets the pianist going. First album for Kranes, possibly the rest. B+(**) [cd]
Lil Wayne: Tha Fix Before Tha VI (2023, Young Money): Mixtape, a distinction I've never understood, but number 29 for those who keep track of such things. Sounded sharp at first, but kept hitting the same point again and again, until it no longer even resembled a point. B [sp]
Myra Melford's Fire and Water Quintet: Hear the Light Singing (2022 , RogueArt): Pianist, a major figure since 1990, with Mary Halvorson (guitar), Ingrid Laubrock (tenor and soprano sax), Tomeka Reid (cello), and Lesley Mok (drums). Second group album, a rhythmic tour de force. A- [cd]
Joshua Moshe: Inner Search (2023, La Sape): Saxophonist (soprano/alto/tenor, bass clarinet, synth, piano) from Australia, formerly Joshua Kelly, led the "nu jazz" JK Group), so not a debut. Chasing spirits, often over jazztronica beats. Interesting enough until the ululating. B+(**) [sp]
David Murray/Questlove/Ray Angry: Plumb (2022 , JMI/Outside In Music): Tenor sax/bass clarinet giant, jamming with the drummer and keyboard player from the Roots. Product status is iffy: runs 14 songs, 136 minutes, which can be streamed now, with a 4-LP box is promised for sometime 2024 ($150, "ships in about six months," which sounds more like a reverse twist on loansharking). The Roots guys aren't much more than fit for purpose here, but Murray is once again a tower of strength. A- [sp]
Remembrance Quintet: Do You Remember? (2023, Sonboy): DC-based quintet I filed under bassist Luke Stewart's name, with two reedists (Daniel Carter and Jamal Moore), trumpet (Chris Williams), and drums (Tcheser Holmes), opens their "dig deep into humanity's ancestral stream" with spoken word, asking the title question, answering with unsettled horns and rhythm. B+(***) [sp]
Sampha: Lahai (2023, Young): British singer-songwriter, parents from Sierra Leone, last name Sisay, plays keyboards, second album, falsetto adds to the r&b effect. B+(*) [sp]
Jeff Sanford's Cartoon Jazz Orchestra: Playland at the Beach (2023, Little Village): Bay Area saxophone/clarinet player, originally from New York, leads a nonet with a couple previous albums, traces his interest in cartoon jazz to Raymond Scott and Carl Stalling (who else?). B+(**) [sp]
Jeremy Udden: Wishing Flower (2023, Sunnyside): Alto saxophonist, debut 2006, played with Either/Orchestra before that, also plays Lyricron wind synthesizer here, with Ben Monder (guitar), Jorge Roeder (bass), and Ziv Ravitz (drums). B+(*) [sp]
Miki Yamanaka: Shades of Rainbow (2023, Cellar Music): Japanese pianist, based in New York since 2012, fifth album, with Mark Turner (tenor sax), Tyrone Allen (bass), and Jimmy McBride (drums). Turner feels exceptionally relaxed here. B+(**) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Barry Altschul/David Izenson/Perry Robinson: Stop Time: Live at Prince Street, 1978 (1978  NoBusiness): Drums, bass, clarinet, joint improv, listed alphabetically, although the drummer is probably the best known these days. Not the greatest sound, but remarkable music. A- [cd]
Peter Brötzmann/Sabu Toyozumi: Triangle: Live at Ohm, 1987 (1987 , NoBusiness): Live set from Tokyo, with the German avant-saxophonist in fine form, and a local drummer who's up to the task. B+(***) [cd]
Roy Campbell/William Parker/Zen Matsuura: Visitation of Spirits: The Pyramid Trio Live, 1985 (1985 , NoBusiness): Trumpet player (1952-2014), played in various William Parker projects, including Other Dimensions in Music, and later had the Nu Band, with Mark Whitecage. This was an early version of his trio, which did three 1994-2001 studio albums. A bit spotty at first, but terrific when they get going. A- [cd]
Kim Dae Hwan/Choi Sun Bae: Korean Fantasy (1999 , NoBusiness): Korean duo, drummer (1933-2003), very much in the center here, with trumpet floating around. B+(***) [cd]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Tuesday, October 31, 2023
Music: Current count 41078  rated (+31), 32  unrated (+1).
I spent most of last week thinking about, shopping for, and finally cooking up this year's birthday dinner. I've made it to 73, which is +3 from my grandfather, and -4 from my father, so it's starting to weigh heavy on my mind. Dinner was served on Friday, as several guests had schedule conflicts for Wednesday. Menu was Spanish:
I also opened up a couple cans and jars: octopus, sardines, artichoke hearts. I had bought much more for possible tapas, but ran out of time to get them prepared, or in some cases simply organized. I mixed up a batch of sangria to drink, and had my traditional coconut cake for dessert, with vanilla ice cream. (I know, reminds you of the "white cake" in Tarrantino's Django Unchained. Sometimes we can't help being who we are.)
I meant to write up notes, and will after this post. They should show up in a future notebook entry (which I've already stubbed out, so the link will work, and eventually get you the information). Facebook entry, including a plate pic, is here. A "memory" entry, with a recycled picture of last year's cake, is here. The actual cake was even uglier, and not just because it was less blindingly white. No complaints, except for the guy who was so phobic about seafood he didn't eat anything until the cake was served.
Saturday, I woke up with my vision for how the so-called Israel-Hamas War ends, so I quickly wrote it up as the "First Introduction" to my Speaking of Which. I'm reluctant to call it a proposal, because it is not remotely close to people genuinely concerned with justice for all wanted or hoped for. (I know, for sure, that my wife hates it, and nearly all of my research into the conflict owes to her passionate interest.) And I suppose my plea for someone else to pick up these ideas and run with them is partly due to my reluctance to sign my name to it.
I have, ever since my late teens, devoted myself to conjuring up utopian solutions to practical problems. Because, well, I've never pretended to be an activist. I'm just a thinker, so why constrain myself to things that other people consider possible? But I've also developed a good deal of pessimism, and that creeps in whenever I consider what's possible, as engineers must.
Instantly, when I heard the news of Oct. 7, I understood that Israel's leaders would want to destroy everything and to kill everyone in Gaza, leaving at most an escape hatch through Egypt. I knew that America's leaders would back them to the hilt, as they've long given up any capacity for independent thought, and they're every bit as committed to force as the Israelis. And I expected Israelis to take advantage of this to step up their attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank and elsewhere. And all of that has happened, just as expected. Hence, my first reaction was to warn that this would be nothing less than genocide.
That, too, has been born out, though the point of using the word was to make people conscious of the full danger (and I was far from the only one to raise this alarm). I also intuited how things would play out over time. I can't really explain this, but through all my reading, and a fair number of conversations, I've developed this really complex psychological model of most of the people involved. I intuited that a great many Palestinians would stick in Gaza, even daring Israel to kill them. I doubted that Egypt would have welcomed them anyway, or could have dealt with them (as Israel imagined they could).
I also suspected that a great many Israelis, even ones who have clearly demonstrated their racism and militarism, would grow weary of the killing, and embarrassed by their own inhumanity. (One book I kept thinking back to was Richard Rhodes' Masters of Death, where he explained that the Nazis, who are our archetypal example of cold-blooded killers, designed their death camp processes out of concern that killing Jews in the field was traumatizing German soldiers. While Nazis made no secret of their hatred for Jews, the enormity of the Holocaust was only possible through stealth, under cover of war.) As the killing continued, as the rubble grew, some sense of need to limit the war would grow, and Israel's leaders, even as blinded as they are, will eventually need some escape from their own handiwork.
What's become more and more clear is that Israel can't hide their slaughter in Gaza. The world can, and will, see it, and will not react kindly to the people responsible. And sure, Hamas will get some share of the blame -- they were uniquely responsible for one day, out of more than three weeks now -- but the fact that the slaughter continues, that it has turned into genocide, is solely the dictate of Netanyahu and his mob, not that you should spare those who have aided, abetted, propagandized, and even championed the massacre (which from where I stand mostly look like Americans).
My "vision" is just a way to clean up a particularly sore part of a larger, deeper, and still potentially deadly mess. There are lots of things that should happen afterwards. But what makes it practical now is that the people who are immediately responsible don't have to change character. All they have to do is back off, and let others tend to the wounds. Is that really too much to ask?
Apologies to those of you who just want the latest music dope, but you must know how to scroll past my rants by now. I had damn near nothing, other than the Clifford Ocheltree picks down in the Old Music section, before I started writing Speaking of Which on Saturday. But I worked through a steady stream of records once I started writing, so with the extra day came up with a semi-normal week. Among the high B+, National and Angelica Sanchez tempted me to replays, but they didn't quite manage to move the needle.
This coming week, I will put up a website for the 18th Annual Francis Davis Critics Poll, and I will start communicating with a few possible voters, trying to gauge interest and identify others who should vote with us. The voters from last year are listed here. They will all be invited back, but please let me know if there are any others you read and find useful. I'd like to see more international critics, although those are particularly hard for me to judge. I'm also tempted to slip in a few more jazz-knowledgeable rock critics -- where I figure the minimal qualification is listen to 200+ jazz albums per year (used to be expensive, but easy enough with streaming) and write about at least 5-10 (or more if you, like me, write real short). I'd welcome suggestions from publicists and musicians, but probably not for yourself or each other. (Not an absolute rule, as we've had the odd exception from time to time.)
I'm also toying with the idea of forming an advisory board, if you really want to get deep into the weeds. There's a fair chance I won't be doing this beyond this year, so this might be a chance to eventually step up.
End of October, so I still need to do the indexing on the archive file. It's also time to reorganize my 2023 list into separate jazz and non-jazz lists. I've already started expanding my tracking file so I'll be ready to look up jazz albums when ballots start to flow in. And I will probably set up my usual EOY aggregate files, as they build on the tracking file, and have long been one of my favorite wastes of time.
New records reviewed this week:
Affinity Trio [Eric Jacobson/Pamela York/Clay Schaub]: Hindsight (2022 , Origin): Trumpet, piano, bass; all three write pieces, joined by covers from Cedar Walton (title piece), Charlie Parker (two), "Tin Tin Deo," and "The End of a Love Affair." B+(***) [cd]
Constantine Alexander: Firetet (2023, self-released): Trumpet/flugelhorn player, from Chicago, parents Greek, first album (at least first I can find), basically a hard bop quintet, in which the trumpet stands out. B+(**) [cd]
Bark: Loud (2023, Dial Back Sound): Husband-wife duo, Tim Lee (bass iv guitar) and Susan Bauer Lee (drums), a subset of the Tim Lee 3, both write and sing, several albums, get some help here. B+(**) [bc]
Corook: Serious Person (Part 2) (2023, Atlantic, EP): Singer-songwriter Corinne Savage, apologies for misspelling their name in previous reviews (identity "queer and non-binary," per Wikipedia). Five songs, 14:20. Second sounds like the Moldy Peaches merged into a single person. First and fourth trace the growth of "a pretty cool person." A- [sp]
Paul Dunmall/Olie Brice: The Laughing Stone (2021 , Confront): Duo, saxophone (tenor, alto, clarinet, flute, tenor again) and bass. Nicely balanced. B+(***) [bc]
The Front Bottoms: You Are Who You Hang Out With (2023, Fueled by Ramen): Hooky indie rock band from New Jersey, formed in 2007 by Brian Sella (guitar/vocals) and Mathew Uychich (drums) with various "touring members" coming and going. Eighth album. B+(*) [sp]
Grrrl Gang: Spunky! (2023, Big Romantic): Punkish pop trio from Indonesia, the only female singer Angeeta Sentana, third album, sung in English. Short (10 songs, 24:53), or you could say snappy. B+(*) [sp]
Darius Jones: Fluxkit Vancouver (Its Suite but Sacred) (2022 , We Jazz): Alto saxophonist, established his credentials as an Ayler heir in 2009, had a tendency to go overboard, but keeps that in control here, working with four Vancouver-based strings -- Jesse and Josh Zubot on violin, Peggy Lee on cello, James Meger on bass -- with Gerald Cleaver on drums. Preferred typography for the title is "fLuXkit," and they're doing something unreproducible to "its" -- just some of the many things I don't quite get here, but I can dig the long bass solo just fine, and even more so what comes out of it. A- [sp]
Sunny Kim/Vardan Ovsepian/Ben Monder: Liminal Silence (2023, Earshift Music): South Korean vocalist, debut 2004 (or 2012), appeared on a 2008 Roswell Rudd album which I wasn't wild about. Here backed with piano and guitar. Slow, arch, music has some points, but I find this sort of classical diva thing hard to take. C+ [cd] [11-10]
Frank Kohl: Pacific (2022 , OA2): Guitarist, Discogs has very little but a couple side-credits from 1969, and picture is not at odds with that. I have one previous album in my database. This is solo, not as fancy as the guitarists name-checked in the hype sheet, but really hit the spot on a cold and miserable Sunday morning. B+(***) [cd]
Sofia Kourtesis: Madres (2023, Ninja Tune): DJ/producer from Peru, based in Berlin, first album but active since 2014 (maybe 2001). B+(**) [sp]
Chien Chien Lu: Built in System: Live in New York (2023, Giant Step Arts): Vibraphonist, from Taiwan, has a previous (self-released) album, quartet here with Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Richie Goods (bass), and Allan Mednard (drums). Very nice. B+(***) [sp]
Vic Mensa: Victor (2023, Roc Nation): Chicago rapper Victor Kwesi Mensah, father from Ghana, officially his second studio album, has a bunch of EPs (one in 2010, rest from 2016). Much of this seems pretty sharp, but too many odd moments that flow sideways, if at all. B+(*) [sp]
The National: Laugh Track (2023, 4AD): Indie band led by singer-songwriter Matt Berninger, with most of the music from brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner, with two more brothers (Scott and Bryan Devendorf) on bass and drums. Tenth album, second this year. A very steady group I can't quite put my finger on. B+(***) [sp]
No-No Boy: Empire Electric (2023, Smithsonian Folkways): Julian Saporiti, singer-songwriter from Nashville, parents Vietnamese, Ph.D in American Studies, based in Portland, alias taken from a 1957 novel about a Japanese-American going home to Seattle after two years in an internment camp. Previous albums 1942 and 1975, both remarkable. His music is subtle and nuanced -- even more so than the otherwise similar Sufjan Stevens -- so the stories are critical, and for now a bit beyond my grasp. B+(***) [sp]
Alogte Oho & His Sounds of Joy: O Yinne! (2023, Philophon): Frafra gospel group from northern Ghana, the leader flanked by a chorus of two women and backed by an old-fashioned highlife band, the gospel in another language, but the joy is universal. B+(***) [sp]
Graham Parker & the Goldtops: Last Chance to Learn the Twist (2023, Big Stir): British pub rock breakout star in 1976, first two records were really great, but my interest waned after 1979's Squeezing Out Sparks (another good one), with a 2-CD comp on Rhino (1993) confirming he had lost it from 1980 on. But he never stopped, with only two breaks of more than three years (1996-2001, 2018-or-2019-2023). I rather doubt that I missed much, but he's in good voice and surprisingly light on his feet here. B+(**) [sp]
Ratboys: The Window (2023, Topshelf): Indie band from Chicago, fifth album since 2015, principally Julia Steiner (vocals/guitar) and Dave Sagan (guitar). B+(***) [sp]
Mike Reed: The Separatist Party (2023, We Jazz/Astral Spirits): Drummer, born in Germany but long based on Chicago, with a remarkable series of albums since 2006. Marvin Tate's spoken word is arresting, and the music -- Ben LaMar Gay (cornet), Rob Frye (tenor sax/flute), Coper Crain (guitar), Dan Quinlivan (synth) -- loops sinuously, sometimes gravely. A- [sp]
The Rolling Stones: Hackney Diamonds (2023, Polydor): British group, big in the 1960s, still big in the 1970s, even now they can still cut a fine blues riff, and the singer has lost little of his commanding presence. Still, they're so used to playing arenas that they've recreated that sound in the studio, perhaps because they don't trust the new songs to sell themselves. They don't. But sound is the bigger problem. What you get from them in the arena is spectacle -- plus rehashes of once-great songs. But with their arena-in-the-studio shtick, all you really get is loud. B [sp]
The Angelica Sanchez Nonet: Nighttime Creatures (2021 , Pyroclastic): Pianist, from Phoenix, more than a dozen albums since 2003, many with free jazz saxophonists like Tony Malaby, Ellery Eskelin, Paul Dunmall, Ivo Perelman. Large group here, with an interesting mix of unconventional reeds (Michaël Attias, Ben Goldberg, Chris Speed), brass (Thomas Heberer, Kenny Warren), guitar (Omar Tamez), bass (John Hébert), and drums (Sam Ospovat). B+(***) [cd]
Joe Santa Maria: Echo Deep (2023, Orenda): Alto saxophonist, plays four weights here plus flutes, clarinet, and keyboards; based in Los Angeles, several previous albums. Fusion riffs, with guitar, brass and strings. B- [cd] [11-03]
Slow Pulp: Yard (2023, Anti-): Indie band from Madison, added singer Emily Massey and moved to Chicago, second album. B+(**) [sp]
Steep Canyon Rangers: Morning Shift (2023, Yep Roc): Bluegrass group from North Carolina, debut 2001, have backed banjo-picking comedian Steve Martin on three albums. B+(*) [sp]
Dan Tyminski: God Fearing Heathen (2023, 8 Track Entertainment): Bluegrass singer-songwriter, plays guitar in Alison Krauss's band, did an album in 1985, had a bit part in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, has a couple more albums. Finishes strong with a song about Occam's Razor and an ode to Jimmy Martin. A- [sp]
Pabllo Vittar: Noitada (2023, Sony Music): Brazilian drag queen Phabullo Rodrigues da Silva, reportedly the most popular one in the world. Fifth album, nine songs (plus a 0:39 "Intro"), clocks in short at 21:55. Dance pop, beats choppy like hip-hop but rather oblique, six co-credits. B+(**) [sp]
Pabllo Vittar: After (2023, Sony Music): Remix album, repeating nine titles from Noitada and adding one, most tracks significantly longer (total 36:51), with featured guests. B+(*) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Big Bill Broonzy: Big Bill's Blues (1937-41 , Epic): First-draft compilation, not of the blues songster's early work (for that, see Yazoo's The Young Big Bill Broonzy and/or Do That Guitar Rag) but moving along. Robert Santelli pegged this at 61 in his top-100 blues album list -- behind the Legacy CD Good Time Tonight (1930-40 , years overlap, but no duplicate songs, with some of his most famous appearing here). Title repeats a 1958 album, and has been used for other compilations. A- [sp]
Big Bill Broonzy/Washboard Sam: Big Bill Broonzy With Washboard Sam (1953 , Chess): First LP attributed to either, though Broonzy (Lee Bradley) has many records from 1927 on, and Sam (Robert Brown) played regularly at least back to 1932, crossing paths often enough I've seen reference to them as "half-brothers" (both have disputed birth dates and locales). Not one of Broonzy's more elegant efforts, but keeps digging down, getting that much harder. A- [sp]
The Golden Era of Rock & Roll 1954-1963 (1954-63 , Hip-O, 3CD): A sequel to the label's essential The Roots of Rock 'n' Roll 1946-1954, this kicks off with "Rock Around the Clock" and "Gee," hits its stride with "Maybellene" and "Ain't That a Shame" and "Tutti Frutti" and "Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On" and "Peggy Sue," winding up with "Duke of Earl" and "He's So Fine" and "Surfin' U.S.A." So, a good 80% is totally obvious, and the rest is welcome in context, including a couple originals I know better for covers ("Stranded in the Jungle" and "Susie Q"). A [cd]
Alogte Oho & His Sounds of Joy: Mam Yinne Wa (2019, Philophon): Their debut album, a trio of gospel singers from the far north of Ghana, discovered by German producer Max Weissenfeldt, rooted in highlife, and exuberantly joyful. B+(***) [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Tuesday, October 24, 2023
Music: Current count 41047  rated (+44), 31  unrated (+4).
I took an extra day this weekend. I decided to hold off starting Speaking of Which until late Saturday, and then write intro instead of searching for links. I struggled Sunday with what turned out to be a false start, then wrote yet another intro, taking a break midway to collect some links. It got late, and I decided I should hold off and write up the missing outline points Monday afternoon. Took most of the day before I posted.
I then did the cutover for Music Week, but by then I didn't feel like writing any form of this intro, so I sat on it until Tuesday, fairly late. Tuesday afternoon got wiped out in grocery shopping, a first pass toward a birthday dinner later this week. Frankly, I'd rather think about that than this, but last week is in the bag, so I might as well wrap it up quick.
Next week will be short. I seriously doubt I'll get any listening in until Saturday. I certainly won't be starting another Speaking of Which. And I wouldn't mind just punting for the year. The world has a long ways to go to catch up with what I've written already.
What I do hope to write about next week is the 18th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Poll. I've set up the result directory locally, so I need to post that. The main thing I want to do in the next couple weeks is to expand the voter list. To that end, I'm trying to take a more systemmatic survey of who's writing what. I'd like to extend invites to another 30-50 critics -- probably half outside the US, which (I don't have a reliable count, so I'm only guessing) could double the number of non-US critics. I doubt this will skew the results much, but it should broaden the base. That would be a big plus for people like me who find the bottom two-thirds of the list more interesting than the winners.
As for this week, I started off with a premature jazz ballot, where half of the records selected were unheard by me. The Miles Davis archival piece got me looking at recent Fresh Sound reissues, mostly albums from the 1990s when Jordi Pujols set up sessions with many of his cool jazz heroes, and I wanted to hear them all. (I already knew several, especially with Herb Geller and Bud Shank, and also some very good Charlie Mariano records.)
Then I read that John Zorn's Tzadik records are returning to streaming platforms. (I followed them fairly close before they picked up their toys and headed home.) Tzadik is much more than Zorn's personal label, but he's so prolific all I managed this week was his own 2023 releases (plus a couple slightly older).
Still reading Christopher Clark's Revolutionary Spring, now almost 600 pages in, as the revolutionary hopes get dashed by right-wingers. While I'm not a fan of violence coming or going, that coming from the right is always particularly bitter.
New records reviewed this week:
Afro Peruvian New Trends Orchestra: Cosmic Synchronicities (2023, Blue Spiral): Large band (10 pieces), directed by composer Corina Bartra, first album, richly textured with engaging rhythm. B+(***) [cd]
Dmitry Baevsky: Kid's Time (2022, Fresh Sound New Talent): Russian alto saxophonist, from Leningrad, moved to New York over 20 years ago, great-grandfather was a famous Yiddish ethnomusicologist, has always shown great poise and tone (I count three previous A- albums). Trio with bass (Clovis Nichols) and drums (Jason Brown), plus guest trumpet on three tracks (Stéphane Belmondo). Nine originals with a couple standards and one from Dexter Gordon. Makes it all look easy. B+(***) [sp]
Ron Blake: Mistaken Identity (2021 , 7ten33 Productions): Tenor/baritone saxophonist, had three albums 2003-08, this his first in 15 years. With Bobby Broom (guitar), bass (Nat Reeves or Reuben Rogers), and drums (Kobie Watkins). Mainstream sound, Broom really paves the way. B+(***) [sp]
Flying Pooka! [Dani Oore & Florian Hoefner]: The Ecstasy of Becoming (2021 , Alma): Saxophonist, plays soprano here and is credited with voice, has side credits back to 2005, with piano here, a German based in Canada. I'd like this better without the voice. B+(*) [cd]
Louis Hayes: Exactly Right! (2022 , Savant): Drummer, b. 1937, started 1957 with Horace Silver and Curtis Fuller, played with Cannonball Adderley 1959-65. Scattered albums from 1960, becoming more regular after 1989. Quintet here with Abraham Burton (tenor sax), David Hazeltine (piano), Steve Nelson (vibes), Dezron Douglas (bass). B+(**) [sp]
Marie Krüttli: Transparence (2022 , Intakt): Swiss pianist, has trio and quintet albums, solo on this one. B+(*) [r]
Martin Lutz Group: LoLife/HiLife (2023, Gateway, 2CD): Danish pianist, group plays what they call "afro nordic soul jazz." The "afro" comes from a childhood spent much in eastern and southern Africa, with the horns recycling riffs you'll recognize from township jive classics, although toned down and stretched out a bit. Organized as two discs, but total is just 41:53. B+(***) [sp]
Mendoza Hoff Revels: Echolocation (2023, AUM Fidelity): Noise guitarist Ava Mendoza and bassist Devin Hoff (probably best known for the Nels Cline Singers), with drummer Ches Smith and tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis -- the bigger name here, but taking a supplementary role, mostly buried in the mix, but worth listening for. I probably should like this more than I do, but she's never clicked for me. B+(***) [sp]
Azuka Moweta & Anioma Brothers Band: Nwanne Bu Ife (2022, Palenque): Igbo highlife band, from Nigeria, seems to be their first album. B+(***) [bc]
Gard Nilssen's Supersonic Orchestra: Family (2022 , We Jazz): Norwegian drummer, has played in a number of avant groups since 2002 (Cortex was particularly memorable), runs the trio Acoustic Unity and this unconventional 17-piece big band (7 saxophones, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, 3 basses, 3 drumsets, everyone adds to the percussion), now on their second album. A- [sp]
Ivo Perelman/Nate Wooley: Polarity 2 (2023, Burning Ambulance): Tenor sax and trumpet duo, following up on a 2021 album. B+(**) [bc]
Precarious Towers: Ten Stories (2023, Shifting Paradigm): Described as "a Midwestern all-star band," I recognize Sharel Cassity (alto sax/flute) and Johannes Wallman (piano), but they aren't exactly household names, and I'm not sure I've run across the others: Mitchell Shiner (vibes), John Christensen (bass), and Devin Drobka (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Chapter Five: In the Garden (2023, Constellation): Alto saxophonist, from Chicago, debut 2002 in the trio Sticks and Stones, started the Coin Coin series in 2011, with spoken word narratives exploring ancestral history, this one a "character study" of "an ancestor of Roberts who died from an illegal abortion." B+(**) [sp]
Jim Rotondi Quintet: Over Here (2023, Criss Cross): Mainstream trumpet player, originally from Montana, debut 1997, based in Austria these days, joined here by Americans Rick Margitza (tenor sax) and Danny Grissett (piano), plus bass and drums. B+(**) [r]
Chris Speed Trio: Despite Obstacles (2022 , Intakt): Tenor sax/clarinet player, originally from Seattle, a dozen or so albums as leader, many side credits (especially Tim Berne, Jim Black, Claudia Quintet). Steady trio with Chris Tordini (bass) and Dave King (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Terell Stafford: Between Two Worlds (2023, Le Coq): Trumpet/flugelhorn player, from Miami, debut 1995, mainstream, nice sound, backed by Tim Warfield (tenor/soprano sax), Bruce Barth (piano), bass, drums, and percussion. B+(***) [sp]
Sufjan Stevens: Javellin (2023, Asthmatic Kitty): Singer-songwriter from Detroit, I was disappointed he never pushed his "50 states project" beyond Michigan and Illinois, but he's up to ten studio albums now (per Wikipedia; sometimes it's hard to tell what counts and what doesn't). Seems like he's getting more and more baroque. B+(*) [sp]
True Stomach of a Bird [Ulf Mengersen/Lina Allemano/Kamil Korolczuk]: Computation Intensive Spontaneousness (2023, self-released): German bassist, with trumpet and electronics. B+(*) [sp]
Andrea Veneziani Quartet: The Lighthouse (2022 , self-released): Italian bassist, based in New York, second album, quartet with Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Charlie Sigler (guitar), and Allan Mednard (drums). A very good setting for Knuffke, the guitar a big help. A- [cdr]
Jamila Woods: Water Made Us (Jagjaguwar): Chicago poet-rapper turned singer-songwriter, third album. Throws you various looks, most promising. B+(***) [sp]
Peter Xifaras: Fusion (2023, Music With No Expiration): Guitarist, also plays keyboards, Discogs lists one previous album, from 2000, website offers another, which like this one credits the Czech Symphony Orchestra, among the more typical electronic beats and fills. B+(*) [cdr]
John Zorn: New Masada Quartet (2021, Tzadik): When I heard that Zorn's label Tzadik is returning to streaming streaming, I knew I had my work cut out -- they neve sent out promos, but were on Rhapsody for a while, so I tried to cover them extensively. I figured I'd start with the 2023 releases: Zorn has eight so far, which makes this an average year, but the first entry was this title with a Vol. 2, so I scanned back to catch this one. The original Masada quartet appeared in 1994, with Zorn (alto sax), Dave Douglas (trumpet), Greg Cohen (bass), and Joey Baron (drums). They did a series of albums named after the Hebrew alphabet, then many live albums. Moving on, the new quartet has Zorn, Julian Lage (guitar), Jorge Roeder (bass), and Kenny Wolleson (drums). Maybe it's just that I've been out of touch, but Zorn seems especially fired up here. A- [sp]
John Zorn: New Masada Quartet, Vol. 2 (2022 , Tzadik): More of the same. Guitarist Julian Lage seems a bit better integrated, but that may just mean they're playing more at his speed, rather than challenging him to keep up with the saxophonist, who can blow up at any moment (and isn't that what we live for?). B+(***) [sp]
John Zorn: The Fourth Way (2022 , Tzadik): Credited to the non-playing composer, but played by Brian Marsella (piano), Jorge Roeder (bass), and Ches Smith (drums) -- the little spine wrapper lists another 13 "Brian Marsella Plays John Zorn on Tzadik" albums. B+(***) [sp]
John Zorn: 444 (2022 , Tzadik): No horns, just composer, arranger, conductor here, keyboard-heavy with Brian Marsella on electric and John Medeski on organ, plus electric guitar (Matt Hollenberg) and drums (Kenny Grohowski). This can get too herky-jerky for fusion, but that's not necessarily a plus. It can also settle down into a mild ambiance, not much of a plus either. B [sp]
John Zorn: Multiplicities: A Repository of Non-Existent Objects (2022, Tzadik): Half of a book of new compositions, "inspired by the writings and thought of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze," "wildly imaginative and meticulously structured, filled with unexpected twists and turns jumping from rock, jazz, and classical, to funk, metal and more." Zorn calls this group Chaos Magick: John Medeski (organ), Brian Marsella (Fender Rhodes), Matt Hollenberg (guitar), and Kenny Grohowski (drums). B+(*) [sp]
John Zorn: Multiplicities II: A Repository of Non-Existent Objects (2023, Tzadik): Described as "the acoustic companion piece to Multiplicities Volume One, ten more compositions, with Brian Marsella switching to acoustic piano, Julian Lage (guitar), Jorge Roeder (bass), and Ches Smith (drums). B+(**) [sp]
John Zorn/Bill Laswell: Memoria (2023, Tzadik): Alto sax and bass duo, three live improvs, each dedicated to a recent late great: Pharoah Sanders, Milford Graves, Wayne Shorter. B+(*) [sp]
John Zorn: Quatrain (2023, Tzadik): Composed and arranged by Zorn, played by two guitarists, Julian Lage and Gyan Riley. B+(*) [sp]
John Zorn: Homenaje A Remedios Varo (2023, Tzadik): Tribute to the Spanish painter (1908-63), who fled Spain in 1937 to escape Franco, and France in 1941 to escape the Nazis, winding up in Mexico. Quartet Incerto again, waxing sublime. B+(***) [sp]
John Zorn: Full Fathom Five (2023, Tzadik): More Zorn compositions, played by his quartet Incerto (Julian Lage, Brian Marsella, Jorge Roeder, Ches Smith). Dubbed "modern chamber music." Marsella's touch on Zorn's piano works always impresses. B+(**) [sp]
John Zorn: Nothing Is as Real as Nothing (2023, Tzadik): More compositions and conducting, this time a guitar trio, with Bill Frisell joining Julian Lage and Gyan Riley. B+(**) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Gabe Baltazar Quartet: Birdology (1992 , Fresh Sound): Alto saxophonist (1929-2022), from Hawaii, father born in Manila, got a scholarship to Los Angeles in 1946, and an introduction to bebop (meeting Charles Parker in 1948 in New York). After Army and some time back in Hawaii, he played in the Lighthouse All-Stars, and for Stan Kenton and Oliver Nelson. He returned to Hawaii in 1969, and only has a couple of recordings after that -- although give him a side-credit for Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii. This was recorded in Los Angeles with Frank Strazzeri (piano), Andy Simpkins (bass), and Nick Martinis (drums). Two originals (title comes from his own "Birdology 101"), one by the pianist, one from Russ Freeman, the rest songbook standards (highlight: "In the Still of the Night"). A- [bc]
Basie All Stars: Live at Fabrik Vol. 1: Hamburg 1981 (1981 , Jazzline): As with Ellington, Count Basie's big band spun off smaller groups, with or without the leader. Basie recorded a couple 1983 albums after he missed this set, but here Nate Pierce is the pianist, leading a stellar alumni nonet: Marshall Royal (alto sax), Buddy Tate (tenor sax), Billy Mitchell (synth), Harry "Sweets" Edison (trumpet), Joe Newman (trumpet), Benny Powell (trombone), John Heard (bass), and Gus Johnson (drums). B+(**) [r]
Eddie Bert Sextet: The Human Factor (1987 , Fresh Sound): Trombonist (1922-2012), original name Bertolatus, played with Stan Kenton 1948-55, then switched to Charles Mingus, then Thad Jones & Mel Lewis -- well, he played with a lot of folks, all kinds. Group here has Jerry Dodgion (alto sax), Carmen Leggio (tenor sax), Duke Jordan (piano), Ray Drummond (bass), and Lewis (drums). B+(**) [bc]
Miles Davis Quintet: In Concert at the Olympia, Paris 1957 (1957 , Fresh Sound): Not the trumpet player's legendary Quintet, just a local band but names you should recognize: Barney Wilen (tenor sax), René Urtreger (piano), Pierre Michelot (bass), and American expat Kenny Clarke (drums). B+(**) [bc]
Paul Moer Trio: Plays the Music of Elmo Hope (1991 , Fresh Sound): Pianist (1916-2010), last name Moerschbacher, moved to Los Angeles after graduating Miami in 1951, played with many cool jazz luminaries, recorded a couple albums 1959-61, then this trio with John Heard (bass) and Lawrence Marable (drums). The old albums as well as this one were collected on Fresh Sound's 2018 The Amazing Piano of Paul Moer: Complete Trio Sessions 1957-1991. B+(***) [bc]
Jack Nimitz Quartet: Confirmation (1995 , Fresh Sound): Baritone saxophonist (1930-2009), joined Woody Herman in 1954, Stan Kenton in 1956, played in the big bands of Terry Gibbs and Gerald Wilson, co-founder of Supersax (1973-88), many side credits, only a few albums under his own name. This one is a quartet with Lou Levy (piano), Dave Carpenter (bass), and Joe LaBarbera (drums). All standards, title from Charlie Parker. B+(***) [sp]
The Dave Pell Octet: Plays Again (1984 , Fresh Sound): Tenor saxophonist (1925-2017), originally from Brooklyn but moved to Los Angeles in the 1940s, playing with Les Brown 1947-55, before becoming best known for his 1953-63 Octets. Med Flory (baritone sax) was the only other one who made this reunion, but the arranger list is: Marty Paich, Bob Florence (piano here), Bill Holman, Short Rogers, and John Williams (a former Octet member). B+(**) [sp]
Bill Perkins: Perk Plays Prez: Bill Perkins Recreates the Historic Solos of Lester Young (1995 , Fresh Sound): Tenor saxophonist (1924-2003), also plays clarinet, one of the west coast players who came out of the Woody Herman and Stan Kenton bands to define cool jazz -- all devoted to Lester Young, many getting an extra push on Jordi Pujol's label in the 1990s. Helping out here is the Jan Lundgren Trio. B+(***) [bc]
Frank Strazzeri and His Woodwinds West: Somebody Loves Me (1994 , Fresh Sound): Pianist (1930-2014), from Rochester, moved to New Orleans in 1954 then on to the west coast. Group here with three saxophonists (Bill Perkins, Jack Nimitz, Pete Christlieb) plus bass and drums. B+(**) [bc]
Eddie Bert Quintet: Kaleidoscope (1953-59 , Fresh Sound): Trombonist, three 1953-54 sessions with Duke Jordan (piano), Sal Salvador (guitar) or Vinnie Dean (alto sax), bass (Clyde Lombardi), and drums, collected by Savoy Jazz under this title in 1987. This reissue adds a fourth set from 1959 (same group as the second), plus a 17:33 live take of the title tune. B+(**) [r]
Martin Lutz Group: It's Swing Not Rocket Science (2011, Calibrated): Danish pianist with African roots, looks like his third group album (since 2004), tempted me with the title and lead off with an "African Polka" featuring Marilyn Mazur. Very little doc beyond that. B+(*) [sp]
Jack Nimitz and Friends: Yesterday and Today (1957-2007 , Fresh Sound): Appearing a year before the baritone saxophonist's death, this looks like an attempt to build him up a bit of discography. The old set has trombonist Bill Harris with a cast that rotated over three sessions, with various guitarists (Kenny Burrell, Jimmy Raney, Chuck Wayne), bassists (Oscar Pettiford, Russ Saunders), drummers, and strings. The recent one is a quintet with Adam Schroeder (baritone sax), John Campbell (piano), Dave Carpenter (bass), and Joe LaBarbera (drums). B+(**) [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, October 16, 2023
Music: Current count 41003  rated (+20), 27  unrated (+1).
I worked up a monster Speaking of Which this week (9497 words, 125 links). It was a maddening process, as I kept tripping into rabbit holes and digging in even further, before punting, and repeating. A big part of the problem is that years of repetition has locked people into language and conceptual ruts that were designed to perpetuate conflict, to dehumanize opponents, and to justify abuse of power. I found myself having to define "war" -- as opposed to other degrees and durations of directed violence. I found myself trying to write some kind of disquisition on morality. I got stuck in questions of sequence and causality. And I could always reach back into an encyclopedia of historic facts to illustrate any point I wanted to make. But all the articles I was collecting were just spinning around, some damn near nonsensically.
Still, one point was instantly clear to me from the first reports: Israelis -- not all, but probably most, or at least most of the ones who have any actual political power -- want to empty the entire land of Israel/Palestine of Palestinians, and there are few if any limits to what they're willing to do to accomplish that goal. In other words, they are aiming for genocide, and they are looking for excuses to do it; perhaps I should say, for opportunities to get away with it?
This isn't a new sentiment. It was baked into Zionism from the beginning, but only surfaced as something one could say in 1936, when the Peel Commission proposed partition and forced "transfer" -- the first of many such euphemisms. The plan was put into practice in 1948, as the Deir Yassin massacre was staged to terrorize Palestinians into fleeing -- as more than 700,000 did during Israel's War of Independence. But in the 1967 war, Israel's plans for further mass expulsions had to be toned down to keep from offending the US and its allies (only about 200,000, of a growing population, fled). But as Israel's government has lurched ever more to the right, and as the US has become ever more subservient to Israel's right, the talk and action, especially led by the settlers, has only picked up, reaching a crescendo in the immediate aftermath of the Hamas attack.
The only way to stop this genocide is to make Israel ashamed for even thinking such thoughts. Railing against Hamas won't help. If anything, it only emboldens Israel.
While I was working on this, I found it very hard to prospect for new music, and even harder to write about it. I got off on an odd r&b sax tangent early in the week. I was lucky to come up with three good new saxophone albums (Nachoff fell just shy of the mark with an excess of strings).
But what really made this week so difficult was the death of Donald Barnes (81), known to all of us as Tookie. He came into our lives when he married my dear cousin Jan in 1960. They grew up in Kinsley, KS, and married right out of high school. His father was a welder, and he learned that trade very young. They followed his father to a shop in Wyoming for a couple years, before coming back to Kansas. He got a job at Cessna, and they lived in Wichita for about a year when I was in 9th grade. Their love and friendship was about all that got me through that year. They adopted a daughter that year, Heidi, and I've never seen anyone as happy as he was when he signed the papers. Not long after that, they had a son, Patrick.
But Jan hated the big city, so they left, first to Hugoton in western Kansas, where he built feedlots, and then to Idaho to work on a pipeline. They wound up settling in Soda Springs, where he worked at Monsanto's phosphate plant, becoming an electrician as well as a welder. There was nothing mechanical he couldn't master. Someone once complimented me as the "most competent person" she had ever met. For me, that person was Tookie.
Jan refused to go to college, and wound up working low-paid jobs which she was totally overmatched for. But they loved the outdoors, camping, and hunting. Tookie was an artist, hunting elk with bow and arrow, tying his own flies, crafting antique guns (including a blunderbuss). But the moose head that dominates their living room was Jan's doing. He was quiet and fastidious, with a sly and mischievous sense of humor. She was a force of nature, energizing all around her. She was (well, is) one of the most formidable cooks in the family, continuing to make industrial quantities of bread and rolls for her local farmers market each week. They've always struck me as one of the world's most perfectly suited couples.
I could dredge up dozens, maybe hundreds, of stories, missing only a stretch in the middle of our lives when distance kept us apart. First time Laura and I took a trip together, we went to Yellowstone, then to Soda Springs to see Jan and Tookie. Heidi had been to college, but was there and proclaimed us "perfect for each other," which pretty much sealed the deal. We won't talk about politics here, except to note that no matter we might have disagreed on those things, it never got in the way of our love for each other.
New records reviewed this week:
Tyler Childers: Rustin' in the Rain (2023, Hickman Holler/RCA): Country singer-songwriter, sixth studio album -- a 2011 debut worth searching out, and fifth since his 2017 breakthrough (Purgatory, also recommended, as is 2019's Country Squire). Cuts this one short (7 songs, 28:01), leans on guests (including one, S.G. Goodman, who brought her own song), covers Kristofferson, the Bible too. B+(***) [sp]
Caroline Davis' Alula: Captivity (2021 , Ropeadope): Alto saxophonist, "mobile since her birth in Singapore," debut 2011 but mostly since 2017, different group from that of her 2019 album Alula, the synths replaced with Val Jeanty's turntables/electronics, the new drummer Tyshawn Sorey, with Chris Tordini on bass, and a couple guest spots, and scattered spoken word samples. The rhythm is the star here, wildly unsettled, keeping everything else in the air. A- [cd]
Quinsin Nachoff: Stars and Constellations (2022 , Adyhâropa): Tenor saxophonist, based in New York, ten or so albums since 2006, this one reconvening his Ethereal Trio of Mark Helias (bass) and Dan Weiss (drums), supplemented by string quartet: Bergamont Quartet, conducted by Matthew Holman, doubling up with a second string quartet, The Rhythm Method, on the middle piece. B+(***) [cd]
Angelika Niescier/Tomeka Reid/Savannah Harris: Beyond Dragons (2023, Intakt): Alto saxophonist, born in Poland, 16th album since 2000, recorded in Chicago with cello and drums. A constantly mutating free jazz extravaganza. A- [sp]
Bailey Zimmerman: Religiously: The Album (2023, Warner Nashville/Elektra): Country singer-songwriter, from a small town in southern Illinois, first album after an EP and a couple singles, the title song here big enough to explain the subtitle distinction. Chock full of colloquial clichés, production pumped by producer Austin Shawn, who also claims a big chunk of writing co-credits. B+(**) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Little Willie Jackson & the Original Honeydrippers Jazz Me Blues [The Legendary Modern Recordings] (1947-48 , Ace): Tenor saxophonist (1912-2001), also played clarinet and sang, not to be confused with Willis Jackson. Played in Joe Liggins' band from the mid-1930s, including on their big 1945 hit, "The Honeydripper," which became the name of the band. Recorded this material with the band -- unclear who else was on board, or how much actually got released. All vocal pieces, but well on the jazzy side of jump blues. A- [r]
Willis Jackson: The Remaining Willis Jackson 1951-1959 (1951-59 , Blue Moon): Tenor saxophonist (1928-87), from Miami, nickname Gator, which shows up often in his titles, like his 1952 hit single "Gator's Groove." Played in Cootie Williams' big band, married singer Ruth Brown, recorded the scattered honking sax singles collected here (mostly for Atlantic). B+(*) [r]
Willis Jackson/Pat Martino: Willis . . . With Pat (1964 , 32 Jazz): Discography here is annoying. Digital on Savoy Jazz (now owned by Fantasy, but why use it here?) goes by the title Willis Jackson With Pat Martino, but so does a 2007 Prestige (Jackson's original label) twofer with a different set of songs -- evidently from the same date, originally released as Jackson's Action and Live! Action. The eight songs (51:09) here didn't appear on any of the eight 1963-64 LPs I've tracked down with these two (tenor sax and guitar). 32 Jazz did (often renamed) reissues mostly from the Muse catalog, making me think this came from another LP that escaped Discogs cataloguing, but that question remains. At least going with the 32 Jazz title gets around the title confusion. Nice soul jazz, with bits of standout sax. Organ player is probably Carl Wilson. B+(**) [sp]
Willis Jackson/Richard "Groove" Holmes: Live on Stage (1980 , Black & Blue): Tenor sax and organ quartet, with Steve Giordano (guitar) and Roger Humphries (drums), in a live set that was originally released as In Chateauneuf-du-Pape 1980, then reissued in 1984 by Muse as Ya Understand Me?. B+(***) [sp]
Wild Bill Moore: The Complete Recordings Volume 1: 1945-1948 (1945-48 , Blue Moon): Tenor saxophonist (1918-83), from Houston. His earliest recordings as leader, including a spell at Savoy that included titles like "We're Gonna Rock" and "Rock and Roll." Various lineups, cover featuring: Paul Williams, Milt Buckner, T.J. Fowler, and Shifty Henry. B+(**) [r]
Wild Bill Moore: The Complete Recordings Volume 2: 1948-1955 (1945-48 , Blue Moon): More singles, more honkin', more r&b vocals. Lineups vary, but featured musicians on the cover: Jonah Jones (trumpet), Paul Quinichette (tenor sax), Milt Buckner (piano), Emmitt Slay (guitar). B+(***) [r]
Wild Bill Moore: Bottom Groove (1961 , Milestone): Collects two 1961 Quintet LPs: Wild Bill's Heat, with Junior Mance (piano), and Bottom Groove, with Johnny "Hammond" Smith (organ), both with Joe Benjamin (bass), Ben Riley (drums), and Ray Barretto (congas). Solid soul jazz sets, with Mance adding extra flair. B+(**) [r]
Sam Price and the Rock Band: Rib Joint: Roots of Rock and Roll (1956-59 , Savoy): Piano player from Texas (1980-92), played jazz (notably in the Mezzrow-Bechet groups), boogie woogie, and jump blues as it morphed into rock. Four sessions, with King Curtis (tenor sax) and Mickey Baker (guitar) for the 1956 ones, Haywood Henry (baritone sax) and Kenny Burrell (guitar) in 1957, and Panama Francis (drums) among others in 1959. Not sure I'd count it as rock, but sure swings hard. B+(***) [sp]
The Roots of Rock'n Roll (1948-57 , Savoy): One of a series of cream-colored compilations that Arista released when they picked up right to the Savoy collection. I picked up several at the time, starting with a Charlie Parker set I didn't quite see eye-to-eye with. I missed this r&b set: 32 songs, 28 I playlisted on Napster and 4 more I found on YouTube, most of which I had run across elsewhere (most famously three cuts each from the Ravens and Big Maybelle, and "Cupid's Boogie" among nine Johnny Otis tracks). B+ [r] [yt]
Zoot Sims: For Lady Day (1978 , Pablo): Tenor saxophonist, does a songbook album, all songs from Billie Holiday's songbook, with Jimmy Rowles on piano, George Mraz (bass), and Jackie Williams (drums). B+(**) [sp]
Zoot Sims: The Swinger (1979-80 , Pablo): A studio session from Hollywood with his brother Ray Sims (trombone, also sings one), Jimmy Rowles (piano), John Heard (bass), and Shelly Manne (drums), plus a spare track from New York with different bass and drums. B+(**) [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, October 9, 2023
Music: Current count 40983  rated (+22), 26  unrated (-5).
I expected this week's report to be delayed, and even so short. My plan was to entertain company, and do some fairly serious cooking. My niece came for a visit, but I came down with something undiagnosed and was a terrible host (though I did finally manage to knock out a decent phat thai). But rather than wait another day or two, I found a few minutes to knock this out before bed Monday, and figured it would be best to put it behind me.
Speaking of Which posted Sunday afternoon. I haven't followed the news since then, but I do have one important thing to say:
Anyone who has been paying attention must recognize by now how the Israeli people have been primed to commit massive and indiscriminate slaughter. And they must also understand that Israel, unlike Hamas, has the military power to do so. When Americans swear they continue to stand wholeheartedly with Israel, and don't show any concern for the great likelihood that Israel will commit atrocities, they are assuring Israeli leaders that anything they do will be excused. By the way, the one thing sending American naval ships into the Eastern Mediterranean reminds me of is how they stood by idly while Sharon orchestrated the Sabra and Shatila massacre of Palestinian refugees in Beirut.
As someone who believes in peace, and who has always condemned violence and prejudice on all sides, I am bothered that Hamas has chosen to respond to this cruel occupation in such a manner. But I am also aware that nothing else any group of Palestinians have attempted to secure fundamental human rights that we take for granted in America has made any headway with Israel.
For now, I'll leave it at that, aside from reproducing a tweet I managed Sunday evening:
Nothing much to add to the reviews below, except that the new ones that came closest (Armand Hammer, Sarah Mary Chadwick) got multiple plays without quite convincing me. And while I showed a slight preference for one of the Yazoo comps, I would have gone with the higher grade for a 2-CD package.
New records reviewed this week:
Armand Hammer: We Buy Diabetic Test Strips (2023, Fat Possum): Hip-hop duo of Billy Woods and Elucid (Chaz Hall), sixth album. Hard, and I'm not sure why. (Gave this some extra plays, and it doesn't wear thin. If anything, it gets harder.) B+(***) [sp]
Bowmanville: Bowmanville (2023, StonEagleMusic): Chicago group, cites their local blues legacy and Django Reinhardt's Hot Club de Paris as inspirations -- the latter with its guitar and violin swing (Mason Jilier and Ethan Adelsman), the former with a harmonica-playing blues shouter (Graham Nelson), plus two bassists and a drummer. Six originals (mostly Adelsman) and five covers: "Georgia," "Fly Me to the Moon," "Saint James Infirmary," "Caravan," and "La Vie En Rose." B+(**) [cd]
Geof Bradfield/Richard D Johnson/John Tate/Samuel Jewell: Our Heroes (2023, Afar Music): Saxophonist (tenor, soprano, bass clarinet), backed by piano, bass, drums. Mainstream, very nice. B+(***) [cd]
Sarah Mary Chadwick: Messages to God (2023, Kill Rock Stars): New Zealand born, Melbourne-based singer-songwriter, eighth album since 2012. Mostly declaiming sharp words over piano, although the music picks up a bit midway, probably attributable to producer Tony Espie. B+(***) [sp]
DJ Sabrina the Teenage DJ: Destiny (2023, Spells on the Telly): London-based electronica duo, anonymous but reportedly siblings, aliases DJ Sabrina (as in Sabrina the Teenage Witch) and Salem, in business since 2017. Ninth album (per Discogs, plus a bunch of compilations and mixtapes), this one a monster: 41 songs, 236:00. Way too much. B+(*) [bc]
Arina Fujiwara: Neon (2023, self-released): Pianist, graduated from Manhattan School of Music, first album (or EP, as it's billed: six tracks, 29:26). With string quartet, vibes, guitar, bass, and drums. B+(*) [cd]
Andrew Krasilnikov: Bloody Belly Comb Jelly (2023, Rainy Days): Saxophonist, plays soprano and C-melody here, probably Russian (studied at Berklee and lived in New York before a "return to his roots" moved him to Moscow. Possibly his first album, recorded in Moscow, on a label which recently moved from St. Petersburg to Israel. Quartet with piano-bass-drums, plus spots for extra horns (many on the title track) and marimba. B [cd]
Jeff Lederer With Mary LaRose: Schoenberg on the Beach (2023, Little (i) Music): Saxophonist, plays clarinet and flute here, composed this song cycle based on the twelve-tone music of Schoenberg and Webern, with texts by Goethe, Rilke, and others, sung by La Rose. In other words, this is way too fancy for me to figure out, and just annoying enough to keep me from wanting to try, but yeah, there's something here if you're up to it. B+(*) [cd]
Jeff Lederer/Morningside Tone Collective: Balls of Simplicity: Jeff Lederer Notated Works 1979-2021 (2023, Little (i) Music): "Chamber works" composed over the saxophonist's career. The group is: Leo Sussman (flute), Emmaile Tello (clarinet), Francesca Abusamra (violin), Jordan Bartow (cello), and Weiwei Zhai (piano), conducted by Lederer (although one piece calls for two clarinets), with Jamie Saft as guest pianist. B+(**) [sp]
Ivan Lins: My Heart Speaks (2023, Resonance): Brazilian singer-songwriter, b. 1945, fifty or so albums since 1970, I can't find a recording date (a bit troubling from a label that specializes in archival finds, but they're calling it a "follow up to Eddie Daniels' 2020 acclaimed Resonance tribute to Ivan Lins, Night Kisses," itself a "follow-up to Grammy-nominated Egberti Gismonti tribute!"). Featured guest spots here for Dianne Reeves, Jane Monheit, Tawanda, and Randy Brecker. Songs are Lins classics, played for ultimate lushness by the 91-piece Tblisi Symphony Orchestra. B+(**) [cd]
Madre Vaca: Knights of the Round Table (2022 , Madre Vaca): Jazz collective, from Jacksonville, several previous albums, eleven credits this time, for an eclectic mix. B+(*) [cd] [11-21]
Astghik Martirosyan: Distance (2021 , Astghik Music): Armenian singer, plays piano (as does co-producer Vardan Ovsepian), first album, recorded in Los Angeles, refashions Armenian folk songs. B+(*) [cd] [10-06]
Colette Michaan: Earth Rebirth (2022 , Creatrix Music): Flute player, from New York, four previous albums (back to 2004). Not an instrument I'm particularly fond of, but the bouncy Latin rhythms keep it in the air. B+(*) [cd] [10-15]
Michael Musillami/Rich Syracuse/Jeff Siegel: Flight of Evangeline (2021 , Playscape): Guitarist, couple albums in the 1980s, picked up the pace after he founded Playscape in 2000. Trio with bass and drums. B+(**) [sp]
Elsa Nilsson's Band of Pulses: Pulses (2023, Ears & Eyes): Flute player, from Sweden, based on Brooklyn, classical background, member of Esthesis Quartet. This project, backed by piano, bass, and drums, sports spoken word by poet Maya Angelou. B+(***) [cd]
Oneohtrix Point Never: Again (2023, Warp): Daniel Lopatin, tenth studio album under this alias, other work under his own name (mostly for films) and other aliases. Synths, sometimes configured for strings, a peculiar mix of background dreck with moments that sound pretty interesting, but never really develop. B [sp]
Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Borrowed Flowers (2023, Top Stop Music): Cuban pianist, long based in Florida, thirty-some albums since 1987. Solo here, venerable standards (unless one wants to get snide about Lennon/McCartney and Sting), most done perhaps a bit too slow, but "Take Five" is irrepressible. B+(**) [cd]
Sara Serpa & André Matos: Night Birds (2022 , Robalo Music): Jazz singer, from Portugal, or maybe I should say art singer, as she works in a slow idiom that's suggestive of but not quite as arch as classical. Many of her albums are duos with a solo instrument, like Ran Blake on piano, or Matos on guitar (her third duo with him). Certainly artful. B [cd]
Gianluigi Trovesi: Stravaganze Consonanti (2014 , ECM): Italian saxophonist, debut 1978, plays alto and clarinet here, with a small orchestra (11 pieces: strings, two oboes, bassoon, archiute, harpsichord, percussion/electronics), on a mostly classical program (Purcell, Dufay, Desprez, three Italians I don't recall hearing of, Trovesi himself). B+(*) [sp]
Ben Winkelman: Heartbeat (2023, OA2): Pianist, originally from Oregon, sixth album since 2007, mostly trios, this one adding Gilad Hekselman on guitar (5 of 9 tracks), not much of a difference. B [cd]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Holy Church of the Ecstatic Soul: A Higher Power: Gospel, Funk & Soul at the Crossroads 1971-83 (1971-83 , Soul Jazz): The label has a track record of putting together expert compilations around surprising concepts, so something like this is usually worth a go. But my interest in gospel has long been limited, such that I've only rated records by one artist included here (Swan Silvertones, and nothing since 1965), and haven't even heard of (at least they're not in my "shopping" database) half of them. I do hear the funk here, but don't see why we need to bother God about it. B+(*) [sp]
The Rose Grew Round the Briar: Early American Rural Love Songs, Vol. 1 (1920s-30s , Yazoo): Typical of this label's fine compilations, twenty-three songs from collectors of 78s, nicely integrated because the races had more in common than the law wanted you to think. B+(***) [sp]
The Rose Grew Round the Briar: Early American Rural Love Songs, Vol. 2 (1920s-30s , Yazoo): Twenty-three more love songs, every bit as notable, partly because more than half of the artists return. I give this volume a slight edge, although it could just be that it ends even stronger. A- [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, October 2, 2023
Music: Current count 40961  rated (+43), 31  unrated (+1).
Pretty major Speaking of Which last night (8867 words, 114 links). My wife was more critical than I was of Fredrik deBoer, and recommended the Becca Rothfeld review that I had linked to, only to note that deBoer didn't like it. It now seems to me like she does a pretty fair job of summarizing deBoer's points and their limits. Final paragraph, which doesn't sound like an elite trying to usurp a mass movement and turn it into a vanity project:
I've been focusing a lot on books lately because that's the forum -- not blogs and podcasts, and certainly not X -- where serious thinkers have the time and space to try to put their thoughts into coherent form. My latest Book Roundup has many of these, and this post adds several more: ones I missed like DeBoer's How Elites Ate the Social Justice Movement, Nelson Lichtenstein and Judith Stein's A Fabulous Failure, Steve Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt's Tyranny of the Minority, and Kevin Slack's ridiculous War on the American Republic; one I knew was coming soon: Heather Cox Richardson's Democracy Awakening, so held off on; and a couple future books I only just heard about: Zack Beauchamp's The Reactionary Spirit, and Hunter Walker and Luppe B. Luppen's The Truce. (There are also mentions of several other books I had previously written about.)
One thing I've been thinking about a lot is how changes happen, and why they move in some directions and not others. This isn't the place to attempt a disquisition on what I think, but I will note that my recent reading in Hobsbawm and Clark on 1789-1848 is giving me a lot of case studies (oddly enough, even drawing on Turchin's "elite overproduction" thesis).
One final note is that after I slogged through Hobsbawm's first volume over 5-6 weeks, my wife got an audible of his second volume, and finished it within 3-4 days. Makes me wonder what I could get done if I wasn't listening to music all the time.
I lost less time thrashing this week, trying to find something to play next, mostly thanks to Phil Overeem's latest list. Two records I didn't get around to because they're just too damn long are DJ Sabrina the Teenage DJ's Destiny (six LPs) and the big box (4-CD) of the Replacements' Tim. Given that Tim has long been my favorite of their albums, and that everyone is raving about the new mix, the latter seems like a lock. I did manage to make it through two more sets that ran too long, but were remarkable before I lost track: Kashmere Stage Band and Les Rallizes Dénudés. Phil also initiated the Money for Guns dive. I love that he comes up with records like these.
Still only had one A-list album when I cut off the week, but it took long enough to do the Streamnotes indexing today that I got to the Allison Russell album, and decided to move it up. I also knocked off three jazz CDs from the queue, but they can (and should) wait. Until lately, the queue was almost all scheduled well into the future, but release dates have started to come fast -- ten (of 31) albums are already out. I need to work on that.
I'm starting to think about the Jazz Critics Poll this year. It would be nice to get a jump on it for the first time ever, rather than getting blindsided a few days before the ballots need to be sent out. If you have suggestions, drop me a line.
New records reviewed this week:
Idris Ackamoor & the Pyramids: Afro Futuristic Dreams (2023, Strut): Saxophonist, originally Bruce Baker from Chicago, studied at Antioch under Cecil Taylor, discovered Africa and the cosmos, formed his original Pyramids there, reviving them around 2016 for four albums so far. A mix of cosmic Sun Ra and down home social music, a bit long on strings and vocals. B+(***) [sp]
Farida Amadou/Jonas Cambien/Dave Rempis: On the Blink (2022 , Aerophonic): Chicago saxophonist Rempis recorded in the Netherlands, with the two Belgian musicians on bass and piano, both with electronics. (Cambien is currently based in Oslo.) The background is enticing, something Rempis shows great sensitivity to, not that he never breaks loose for a power solo. A- [cd] [10-10]
Zoh Amba: O Life, O Light Vol. 2 (2021 , 577): Tenor saxophonist from Tennessee, plays some flute, burst onto the scene in 2022 with a half dozen albums of explosive free jazz, as if Albert Ayler had descended from the heavens and taken up improbable earthly form. The one I missed was the first part of this set, with William Parker on bass (and gralla) and Francisco Mela on drums. Two tracks, 39:25. I was reminded of this when I read a review bemoaning the drop from Vol. 1. I can't imagine how the previous album could have caused that remark. B+(***) [bc]
Emil Amos: Zone Black (2023, Drag City): Drummer, and then some, has produced 16 albums since 2000 as Holy Sons, plus two under his name, describes this as "mood music for drug trips spent dreaming up new soundtracks to take drugs to!" B+(*) [sp]
Florian Arbenz: Conversation #10: Inland (2023, Hammer): Swiss drummer, albums back to 2001, most of his work in the group VEIN until 2020, when he started his Conversation series, collaborating via email, initially in duos and trios, but with one of his largest groups here: Martial In-Albon (trumpet), Nils Wogram (trombone), Christy Doran (guitar), and Rafael Jerjen (bass), with Matthias Würsch (glass harmonica) on one track. B+(**) [sp]
Kyle Bruckmann/Tim Daisy/Phillip Greenlief/Lisa Mezzacappa: Semaphore (2022 , Relay): Listing is alphabetical, but Bruckmann (oboe, english horn, electronics) composed three pieces to four by Daisy (drums), with the others -- members of San Francisco's Creative Music Continuum -- on tenor sax and bass. B+(**) [bc]
Chai: Chai (2023, Sub Pop): Japanese pop/rock band, fourth album since 2017, all four-letter words. Could be fun. B+(**) [sp]
Margo Cilker: Valley of Heart's Delight (2023, Fluff and Gravy): Country singer-songwriter from Oregon, second album after 2021's impressive debut, Pohorylle. B+(***) [sp]
Brent Cobb: Southern Star (2023, Ol' Buddy/Thirty Tigers): Country singer-songwriter, sixth studio album since 2006. Easy-going songs, comfort food. B+(**) [sp]
Jeff Coffin/Jordan Perlson/Viktor Krauss: Coffin/Perlson/Krauss (2023, Ear Up): Saxophonist (tenor, soprano, clarinet, bass flute), drums, and bass (brother of Alison Krauss), all three writing songs. Coffin, based in Nashville, has a dozen albums since 1997, and has had long-running gigs with Béla Fleck and Dave Matthews. I've been filing his records under pop jazz, but this one is solidly postbop, impressive even. B+(***) [cd]
Hollie Cook: Happy Hour in Dub (2023, Merge): British reggae singer, daughter of Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook, four studio albums, including Happy Hour in 2022, this her second dub remix. B+(*) [sp]
Charles Wesley Godwin: Family Ties (2023, self-released): Country singer-songwriter from West Virginia, third album, a long one (19 songs). B+(*) [sp]
Laurel Halo: Atlas (2023, Awe): Electronic musician, from Ann Arbor, moved to Los Angeles, more lately spending time in Berlin, London, and Paris -- where this fifth album was recorded, with guest sax, violin, cello, and vocals, but nothing to break with the ambiance. PopMatters called this "her most glacial music yet." B [sp]
Heather Lynne Horton: Get Me to a Nunnery (2023, Pauper Sky): Singer-songwriter, third album, married to Michael McDermott (plays here, Americana singer-songwriter from Chicago, 23 albums since 1991 per Discogs, none that I've heard). Opens with a wall-of-sound piece I can't stand, before falling back into pained troubadour mode with weeping strings. B- [sp]
Loraine James: Gentle Confrontation (2023, Hyperdub): British electronics producer and vocalist, fifth album. Goes downtempo for "vignettes of memory and emotion," trip hop without the trip, or the hop. B+(*) [sp]
Jlin: Perspective (2023, Planet Mu, EP): Electronica producer Jerrilyn Patton. She's taught a course called "Rhythm, Variation, & Vulnerability." This doesn't feel like a text, but its six tracks (27:21) are exemplary. B+(***) [sp]
Nils Kugelmann: Stormy Beauty (2022 , ACT): German bassist, first album, with piano (Luca Zambito) and drums (Sebastian Wolfgruber). B+(**) [sp]
Lewsberg: Out and About (2023, self-released): Dutch VU-influenced alt-rock group, from Rotterdam, fourth album since 2017, songs in English, bassist Shalita Dietrich the main (but not only) singer. B+(**) [sp]
Fred Lonberg-Holm/Tim Daisy: Current 23 (2022 , Relay): Duo, cello/electronics and drums/percussion, both from the final edition of Vandermark 5, which takes them back 20 years. B+(**) [bc]
Lydia Loveless: Nothing's Gonna Stand in My Way Again (2023, Bloodshot): Singer-songwriter from Ohio, last name Ankrom, started in a family band called Carson Drew, her 2011 debut on alt-country label Bloodshot impressed me, nothing quite so much since then. B+(*) [sp]
Francisco Mela and Zoh Amba: Causa Y Efecto Vol. 1 (2021 , 577): Cuban drummer, moved to Boston in 2000 to study at Berklee, has a distinguished career in Afro-Cuban jazz, but lately has been appearing in small free jazz sets, like this one with the young tenor saxophonist (she also plays a bit of flute). B+(***) [dl]
MIKE/Wiki/The Alchemist: Faith Is a Rock (2023, ALC): New York rappers Michael Bonema and Patrick Morales, backed by producer Alan Maman. B+(*) [sp]
Billy Mohler: Ultraviolet (2023, Contagious Music): Bassist, known to play guitar elsewhere, has a fairly wide range of pop and rock side credits, but this is his third quartet album with Shane Endsley (trumpet), Chris Speed (tenor sax/clarinet), and Nate Wood (drums). Nine tracks, 32:24. B+(***) [cdr] [10-13]
Money for Guns: All the Darkness That's in Your Head (2023, Money for Guns): Google search for group name yields one plausible link, and lots of: "cash for arms," "sell your guns," "how to sell a gun online," "guns into cash," "money quick guns." Drop the title in and you don't get much more, even from the band's own website. Didn't sound like much at first, then I detected a pub rock vibe, then jotted down a line ("all the Catholic girls love Paul Simon"), and it got more interesting from there out. [PS: While Discogs has nothing, Spotify has ten albums, going back to 2011, one credited to Frustrated Bachelors 2003-06. Discogs identifies them as a band from Columbia, MO, and names three members, two in Money for Guns -- Dave Birk, Will Saulsbery. I've since heard they are now based in St. Louis.] B+(**) [sp]
Wolfgang Muthspiel: Dance of the Elders (2022 , ECM): Austrian guitarist, younger brother of trombonist Christian Muthspiel, has a couple dozen albums since 1989, early records mapped out a fusion groove comparable to John Scofield (Black & Blue, from 1992, is a favorite), but has slowed down, especially since landing on ECM in 2014. This one is a nice trio with Scott Colley (bass) and Brian Blade (drums), playing five originals plus covers of Brecht/Weil and Joni Mitchell. B+(**) [sp]
Jessica Pavone: Clamor (2023, Out of Your Head): Violinist, closely associated with Mary Halvorson and more broadly with the Braxton crowd, twenty-some albums since 2001, some I can't stand while others improbably impress. She plays viola here in a string sextet (two each violins and viola, Matana Roberts on cello, Shayna Dulberger on double bass, with Karen Young for bassoon solos on the middle two tracks. B+(***) [cd] [10-06]
Chappell Roan: The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess (2023, Amusement/Island): Pop singer, songwriter (I guess), Kayleigh Amstutz, from a suburb of Springfield, MO, via Los Angeles. First album after a 2017 EP, produced by Dan Nigro (cf. Olivia Rodrigo). B+(**) [sp]
Bobby Rush: All My Love for You (2023, Deep Rush/Thirty Tigers): Blues singer-songwriter Emmett Ellis Jr., born in Louisiana, made his way to Chicago in the 1950s, recorded some singles, but only released his first album in 1978 -- a one-shot with Philadelphia International. Went back south to "put the funk into the blues," and has been grinding out records ever since, still sounding vital as 89. B+(***) [sp]
Allison Russell: The Returner (2023, Fantasy): Singer-songwriter from Montreal, absent father from Grenada, had a harrowing childhood, ran away to Vancouver at 15, joined a Celtic folk band, navigated through several other groups, including roots supergroup Our Native Daughters. Second solo album, no reason to file this under folk -- well, bits of banjo and French, but the hooks are pop, and the barbs pointed. Hits its stride with "Eve Was Black." A- [sp]
Slayyyter: Starfucker (2023, Fader): Electropop singer-songwriter Catherine Garner, from Kirkwood (MO), based in Los Angeles, her debut a 2019 "mixtape," second album since. Some songs remind me of Madonna. Some videos remind me of that Sex book. B+(***) [sp]
Veronica Swift: Veronica Swift (2023, Mack Avenue): Jazz singer, parents were pianist Hod O'Brien and singer Stephanie Nakasian, which gave her a leg up in recording her debut album at age nine. Third album since turning 21, an elaborate showcase for her talents and technique, starting with dazzling scat, swinging with some kind of big band, touching base with Brazil, sopping up strings and exotic guitar, throwing in an aria for all I can tell -- the label isn't very forthcoming on details -- then some rocked-out show tunes. I should be awed, but I'm not even dumbfounded. Just dumb. B- [sp]
That Mexican OT: Lonestar Luchador (2023, Manifest/Good Talk/Good Money Global): Texas rapper Virgil René Gazca, from Bay City (down the coast southwest of Houston), "OT" for "Outta Texas," first album after an EP and some singles. B+(**) [sp]
Tinashe: BB/ANG3L (2023, Nice Life, EP): R&B singer from Kentucky, last name Kachingwe, 2014 debut on RCA was a minor hit, left the label after declining sales of two more albums, third independent album (but at 7 songs, 20:45, we're calling it an EP). [sp]
Brad Turner Quintet: The Magnificent (2023, Cellar): Canadian pianist/trumpet player, at least one previous album plus several featured credits, with Cory Weeds (tenor sax), Peter Bernstein (guitar), bass, and drums, playing the leader's compositions. B+(*) [cd]
Fay Victor: Blackcity Black Black Is Beautiful (2023, Northern Spy): Jazz singer-songwriter, from Brooklyn but she's been around, with childhood years in Zambia and Trinidad, started singing with a three-month gig in Japan with Bertha Hope, then several years in Amsterdam before returning to New York, earning a reputation as a successor to Betty Carter, both as a singer and as a bandleader. This one, however, is solo, an ambitious work built out of processed tracks with keyboards, and multi-layered voices. B+(**) [sp]
Hĺvard Wiik/Tim Daisy: Slight Return (2023, Relay): Norwegian pianist, plays in Atomic, played in Ken Vandermark's Free Fall trio, their association bringing him into contact with the Chicago (ex-Vandermark 5) drummer. B+(***) [bc]
Simón Willson: Good Company (2022 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Bassist, from Chile, based in New York, first album, mostly quartet with piano (Isaac Wilson), drums (Jonas Esser), plus tenor sax (Jacob Schulman), adding a little extra oomph on 8 (of 10) tracks. B+(**) [cd] [10-13]
John Wojciechowski: Swing of the Pendulum (2022 , Afar Music): Tenor saxophonist, originally from Detroit but long based in Chicago, has several albums since 2015. Strong tone, solid quartet, with Clark Sommers (bass) contributing three songs, plus Xavier Davis (piano) and Dana Hall (drums). B+(**) [cd]
Miguel Zenón & Luis Perdomo: El Arte Del Bolero, Vol. 2 (2023, Miel Music): Alto sax and piano duo, from Puerto Rico and Venezuela, have played in Zenón's Quartet since 2002, with a previous volume of bolero duets in 2021. This is very pretty, only picking up the pace toward the end. B+(***) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
The Frustrated Bachelors: In the End It Wasn't Enough: All the Good Ones 2003-2006 (2003-06 , Money for Guns): Discogs identifies this as a Columbia, MO band that registered a song on an anthology somewhere. At least two of the members (Dave Birk and Will Saulsbery) went on to form the equally obscure group Money for Guns. Looking for product to dump on Spotify, they dug these fifteen songs out of their archives. "You'll Never Raise the Dead" sounds like a Nirvana outtake, which I don't mean as top tier praise, but is something. Not all like that, of course. B+(**) [sp]
Les Rallizes Dénudés: Citta' '93 (1993 , Temporal Drift): Japanese experimental rock group, formed in 1967 but didn't anything until 1991, when they dropped three albums, including early studio tapes and a '77 Live. Wikipedia suggests their early works were psychedelic rock. Here they hint at Velvet Underground, before eventually plunging into an all-out noise assault: the last two pieces run 24:12 and 39:13, bringing the eight track total to 118:29. It's pretty remarkable, but a lot to sit through. B+(***) [bc]
Money for Guns: Dead Tracks (2007-20 , Money for Guns): Vault dive, collected when they decided to put their works out on Spotify. Mostly acoustic, could have stayed there. B [sp]
Farida Amadou/Pavel Tchikov: Mal De Terre (2020 , Trouble in Mind): Bass and guitar duo, with electronics and effects, two improvised sessions. Leans toward a slightly unsettled ambiance. B+(*) [sp]
Kashmere Stage Band: Texas Thunder Soul 1968-1974 (1968-74 , Now-Again, 2CD): Big band, from Kashmere High School in Houston, directed by Conrad O. Johnson, inspired by bands like the Bar-Kays and the J.B.'s. Johnson released several albums by the bands. The band was featured in the documentary, Thunder Soul, in 2011, which occasioned this reissue. B+(***) [sp]
Wolfgang Muthspiel/Scott Colley/Brian Blade: Angular Blues (2018 , ECM): Guitar, bass, drums. The collaboration with drummer goes back at least to a very good 2006 duo album, while the bassist replaced Larry Grenadier from two previous ECM albums. B+(**) [sp]
Ernst-Ludwig Luten Petrowsky/Uschi Brüning/Michael Griener: Ein Résumé (2013, Jazzwerkstatt): "Luten" is the alto saxophonist's nickname. It shows up in various titles, but rarely on the slug line. He's also credited with piano, clarinet, and voice here, but the real vocalist is Brüning. Their duet on "You Don't Know What Love Is" reminds me of Sheila Jordan. That's the high point, among various scattered treats, etc. Griener plays drums. B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, September 25, 2023
Music: Current count 40918  rated (+35), 30  unrated (-2).
Seems like I had very little to show for the first half of the week. I finally resolved to deal with a couple major technical problems: why email from my server often fails to reach its intended destination, and why my printer/scanner rarely functions properly: jobs sent to print get held up in a blocked queue, which reblocks itself when you try to enable it; and Xsane shows you test scans, but craps out when you try to get the actual scan data (but for some reason Simplescan works -- you just lose all of the fancier Xsane controls).
I blame the latter on Hewlett-Packard, which has now eclipsed Apple as my most hated company in greater Silicon Valley (i.e., I'm not excluding Microsoft, which thanks to many years of total avoidance is now no worse than 3rd). The former problem is harder to assign blame for, but most of the problems have come with Gmail accounts, and Google has made getting help virtually impossible, so 4th (with a star)?
I can't report unequivocal success in either case, but I'm a bit more hopeful. Email delivery is tied up with the rather fluid notion of reputation. When the problem first appeared, I was forwarding a lot of server admin email to my Cox account, then throwing almost all of it away. Cox's email forwarders seem to have gotten tired of this, so they started blackballing me, and eventually I got nothing. That's when I noticed I was having trouble with Gmail, as well. I devised a workaround for the server admin email, so now I store it locally, and fetch it using POP (after which I filter the excess baggage out, as before). I set up a couple more email accounts like this for special purposes (such as the Q&A form).
When I retested things last week, I found that server mail is being delivered on Cox. Some further tests showed that most of the mail going to Gmail is also being delivered, but that some of it is going to users' spam folders. Of course, hardly any of us have the presence of mind to check whether anything worthwhile turns up flagged as spam. I still get a few spam-related bounce messages on the server, and don't really know what to do about them, other than to alert the people who were supposed to receive the mail, and hope they can persuade Google to fuck up less, but that's tough.
As for the printer, my next move is to crawl under the desk and hook up a USB cable, which HP doesn't like but seems to allow. I also spent most of a day working on a website I host. I converted the hand-coded version to WordPress a couple years ago, but never got the client's sign off, so both versions have been online but dormant. The intervening time left a bunch of digital cobwebs I needed to clean up, and I had to write up a guide to how it all works.
Then, midweek, I decided I wanted to push to get a Book Report post out ahead of the usual Sunday Speaking of Which. I managed to pull both off, but it was a huge amount of work -- during which I finally managed to give a cursory listen to a few recent records. Note that there are a couple music-related links in Speaking of Which: one on Sam Rivers, one on Nick Shoulders, plus something on Jann Wenner. I've been doing that for a bit: it's easier than trying to add a links section to Music Weekl, and I'm not that big on compartmentalization.
I do have a couple things to add on Wenner. Conservatives scream "cancel culture" any time anyone has the temerity to challenge them, but what really gets their goat is the exposure that they're not always the ones in charge -- you know, the ones doing the canceling. They have a lot of trouble understanding why anyone in a position of property and power could turn on them. After all, the whole point of conservatism is to protect the rich and powerful from the masses.
Wenner, as far as I can tell, has never been one of them politically, but he is a very rich guy, who achieved a power base by being the owner of a prominent publication, and he has a lot of practice (practically a whole lifetime) acting on his privileges. During his entire tenure, he has made thousands of decisions, big and small, often arbitrary according to his whims and prejudices. My very distant impression is that the magazine's success is largely due to more talented people managing to work around his idiosyncrasies, but I've heard various stories of him stepping in, and invariably they're turns for the worse. Since he's retired, he no longer has an organization dedicated to keeping him from exposing his ignorance and incompetence, and that's what you're seeing in this "scandal": the real Jann Wenner, a rich, tone-deaf boob.
As for his book, no one would care about him peddling a set of interviews with famous old (and in a couple cases now dead) white guys. He could even keep the title (The Masters). Even if you had a second thought on seeing the seven bold names on the cover, by the time you read "By Jann S. Wenner" you'd know: of course, those were just the kind of guys he'd love to hang with, and being the fount of free publicity, who would hang with him. His problem was in trying to pass this conceit off as some sort of meritocracy. And, needless to say, the really weak link was Wenner himself. His further dissembling about blacks and women -- things absolutely no reasonable person would think of much less utter -- just dug him deeper into the pit of his vanity project.
This week closes out the September Streamnotes archive. I'm not going to hold this up to do the usual indexing. (Oops, I still haven't done August Streamnotes. That probably doesn't matter to you, but it's fairly important for me when I can't remember whether or when I reviewed something already.)
Not much to say about this week's records. Three high HM pop records (Doja Cat, Underscores, Yeule) got at least two plays each. Doja Cat might benefit from more, but my irritation with glitch pop both means that I'm done with those and that some of you will probably love them much more than I can imagine. At some point I'll have to admit that I'm just too comfortable in my ears to keep up with all this cutting edge shit.
The Fujiwara album has some upside, too, but I took its thinness as a limit, even though it's a big part of the concept. The match up with Brennan and Reid is inspired, perhaps even by our Jazz Poll, where both won Debut Album recently. Billy Bang fans should know about the Jazz Doctors reissue, especially the previously unreleased second half. (Frank Lowe fans can pass.)
The Estes album was one of Clifford Ocheltree's daily picks. Nice to wake up to his posts, which very often make me want to search out something (or, if I'm lucky, pull it off my shelves). Brad Luen, by the way, has a good review of Olivia Rodrigo, and features three jazz albums after that.
I only found out about Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky's July 10, 2023 death this week. Much of his work remains hard to find, but the Zentralquartett albums on Intakt are all superb, as is The Salmon, with Michael Griener (drums). I'm playing another I just found, for next week.
The Zoh Amba record got me looking through my cache of download links from 577 Records. (I ignore most downloads links, but have been saving those, then forgetting them.) Two more records (so far) for next week. I've been meaning to trawl through this trove, so perhaps this will get me moving.
I'm starting to think about the Francis Davis Jazz Poll this year -- that's one thing I need working email lists for -- so I'm starting to get serious about whittling down my queue. Still, got a lot of mail last week, so the net effect was negative.
New records reviewed this week:
Zoh Amba/Chris Corsano/Bill Orcutt: The Flower School (2023, Palilalia): Tenor sax/acoustic guitar, drums, electric guitar, coming in from different directions and smashing each other up. Five tracks, 30:49. B+(*) [bc]
Be Your Own Pet: Mommy (2023, Third Man): Nashville punk band, formed in high school, recorded two albums and a couple EPs 2006-08, broke up, regrouped 15 years later to open for a Jack White tour. Maybe it's the new company they're keeping, but sounds like they're trying harder to pump their sound up to fill the larger auditoriums. B+(**) [sp]
Johnathan Blake: Passage (2023, Blue Note): Drummer, from Philadelphia, fifth album as leader since 2012, second on Blue Note. Opens with a short drum solo, slips in a short Dezron Douglas bass solo later, otherwise Blake wrote five (of 8) songs, draws one each from Douglas and pianist David Virelles, and one from the late Ralph Peterson Jr. Also showcases label mates Immanuel Wilkins (alto sax on five cuts, most spectacularly the first) and Joel Ross (vibes). B+(**) [sp]
Benjamin Boone: Caught in the Rhythm (2019-21 , Origin): Saxophonist, did two excellent albums with poet Philip Levine (2018-19), continues in that vein here, rotating six less famous poets (Faylita Hicks gets four tracks, T.R. Hummer three), various musicians, including some high profile guests. Most words are sharp and angry, with intense music to match, especially the sax. A- [cd]
Doja Cat: Scarlet (2023, Kemosabe/RCA): Rapper-singer Amala Dlamin, from Los Angeles, fourth album, claims the lyrics but very little of the music. The harder stuff is mixed up front, but the softer, less obvious back end is make-or-break. B+(***) [sp]
Michael Echaniz: Seven Shades of Violet (Rebiralost) (2023, Ridgeway): Pianist, from "West Coast" (studied at Santa Clara, California Jazz Conservatory, and CalAfts), first album, wrote nine (of 11) pieces, plays some organ and other keyboards, produced by bassist Jeff Denson, vocals on several tracks, guests I rarely notice. B+(*) [cd]
Tomas Fujiwara: Pith (2023, Out of Your Head): Drummer, from Boston, where he studied under Alan Dawson, moved to New York, has been in various ensembles with Anthony Braxton and/or his students. Trio here with Tomeka Reid (cello) and Patricia Brennan (vibes), for a dazzling exhibition of rhythm. B+(***) [cd]
Vince Gill & Paul Franklin: Sweet Memories: The Music of Ray Price & the Cherokee Cowboys (2023, MCA Nashville): Country singer, vaulted to stardom in 1989, and close to 20 albums later still bankable, teams up with the steel guitarist for their second standards album, after Bakersfield in 2013. Only two songs (of 11) actually written by Price. Sounded pretty good most of the way through, but tails off, and "Danny Boy" doesn't seem like such a good idea. B+(*) [sp]
Carlos Henriquez: A Nuyorican Tale (2023, self-released): Bassist, from the Bronx, plays in Jazz at Lincoln Center, fourth album. Some lyrics. Lots of rhythm. B+(**) [cd]
Per Texas Johansson: Den Sämsta Lönningen Av Alla (2023, Moserobie): Tenor saxophonist, numerous side credits since 1993, leads a septet here, also playing clarinet, oboe, English horn, and bass clarinet here, with an odd mix of other instruments: pedal steel guitar, piano, violin, vibes/marimba, bass, drums -- mostly name I recognize (e.g., Matthias Stĺhl, Petter Eldh, Konrad Agnas). B+(***) [cd]
Per Texas Johansson: Orkester Omnitonal (2023, Moserobie): Big band, directed by Johan Siberg. Johansson leans more toward clarinet in this context, long pieces which swoop and sway, meander and sometimes surprise. B+(***) [cd]
Low Cut Connie: Art Dealers (2023, Contender): Philadelphia band, principally Adam Weiner, surprise find with their 2011 debut, next two albums I liked almost as much, since then I lost the thread (not that I didn't enjoy lockdown covers, collected as Tough Cookies). Here, however, he starts off like he's trying to be a harder rocking Billy Joel, before he loses speed to density. B [sp]
Buddy & Julie Miller: In the Throes (2023, New West): Husband and wife singer-songwriters, both have solo careers as well as six duo albums since 2001. They sound terrific together, but I'm unsure about the songs. B+(**) [sp]
Kylie Minogue: Tension (2023, BMG): Australian dance-pop diva, first album 1988, this is number sixteen, after Disco in 2020. B+(**) [sp]
Willie Nelson: Bluegrass (2023, Legacy): Twelve old songs (from Nelson's songbook) + bluegrass musicians (acoustic guitar, banjo, dobro, mandolin, fiddle, upright bass, no drummer) = new album. Docked a notch for cover art that shows even less imagination than the concept. B+(*) [sp]
Octo Octa: Dreams of a Dancefloor (2023, T4T LUV NRG, EP): Electronica producer Maya Bouldry-Morrison, from New Hampshire, several albums, more singles/EPs since 2011. Three tracks, 24:59. B+(**) [sp]
Joel Paterson: Wheelhouse Rag (2021 , Jalopy): Roots guitarist, from Chicago, learned by ear from old blues and country records, taste in album cover art is also retro, this his ninth since 2001, 14 pieces, subtitle: "The original fingerstyle guitar instrumentals of Joel Paterson. B+(**) [sp]
Ivo Perelman/Matt Moran: Tuning Forks (2023, Ibeji Music): Duo, tenor sax and vibraphone, the former's eighth album so far this year (four duos, three trios, one quartet). B+(***) [bc]
Pink Monads: Multiple Visions of the Now (2022 , 4DaRecord): Quartet, first album: Edith Steyer (clarinet), Céline Voccia (piano), Marialuisa Capurso (voice), Sofia Borges (drums), with a field recording from Morocco. The voice gives a focal point the others scatter around, but their action is much more interesting. B+(**) [cd]
Brandon Sanders: Compton's Finest (2023, Savant): Drummer, born in Kansas City but grew up in Los Angeles, debut album at 52, with Chris Lewis (tenor sax), Warren Wolf (vibes), Keith Brown (piano), and Eric Wheeler (bass), with Jazzmeia Horn singing two songs: one of his two originals, and "In a Sentimental Mood." B+(**) [cd]
Matthew Shipp: The Intrinsic Nature of Shipp (2023, Mahakala Music): Solo piano, one of the greats, but much more like this to choose from. B+(**) [sp]
Nick Shoulders: All Bad (2023, Gar Hole): Country singer-songwriter, based in Fayetteville, fourth album, does his own cover art. The straightforward country songs don't do much for me, but he's more fun when he commandeers a standard and steers it hard left ("Arkansas Troubler," "Won't Fence Me In"). Notable lyric: "workers of the world, I appreciate'cha/ for your poorly compensated toil, I appreciate'cha." B+(**) [sp]
Michael Jefry Stevens Quartet: Precipice (2022 , ARC): Avant-pianist, from New York, based in Black Mountain, North Carolina; quite some number of records since 1991, but not so many with his name first (e.g., Fonda/Stevens Group has 13). Quartet with Christian Howes (violin) filling the role of a horn lead, backed by bass (Bryan McConnell) and drums (Rick Dilling). Even swings some. A- [cd]
Underscores: Wallsocket (2023, Mom + Pop): Glitch pop artist April Harper Grey, lots of self-released singles and EPs since 2015, second album, first picked up by a known label, cites Skrillex for inspiration, opened for 100 gecs in 2021. I don't like either of those models, and this isn't something I can imagine ever really enjoying, but I'm seriously impressed by a couple songs -- "Old Money Bitch," of course, and the ballad "Good Luck Final Girl" -- and a bit more amused than annoyed by the rest. B+(***) [sp]
Vin Venezia: The Venetian (2023, Innervision): Guitarist, plays electric, baritone, acoustic, nylon, and synth guitars; second album, ends with an original but mostly arranges jazz standards (Davis, Corea, Strayhorn, Jobim). Backed by bass (Harvie S), drums (Richie Morales), with tenor sax (Davie Walsh, one track of Bob Magnuson), and occasional piano (David Budway on 4 of 13 tracks). Runs the gamut, but always in good taste. B+(**) [cd] [10-20]
Yeule: Softscars (2023, Ninja Tune): Glitch pop artist Natasha Yelin Chang, aka Nat Cmiel, from Singapore, studied in London, based in Los Angeles, third album (after several EPs). I don't quite know what to make of this. B+(***) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
François Carrier Ensemble: Openness (2006 , Fundacja Sluchaj, 3CD): Montreal-based alto saxophonist, goes back to the 1990s, always with drummer Michel Lambert, here at the La Chapelle festival, hosting Tomasz Stanko (trumpet), Mat Maneri (viola), and Gary Peacock (bass), over two nights. All improv, not so far out you can't just relax to it, but never slouches off or misses a step. A- [dl]
Alan Goldsher: The Complete Pocket Sessions (2019 , Gold Note): Email billed this as "the original jazztronica" -- a phrase that had appeared at least 20 years before the two albums remastered here (The Pocket and The Other Pocket). Goldsher plays bass and keyboards, has a bunch of releases since these albums kicked him off, and has a longer career (since 2002) as a writer of fiction and non (including books on Modest Mouse, Dave Brubeck, and Art Blakey's sidemen). B- [sp]
The Jazz Doctors: Intensive Care/Prescriptions Filled [The Billy Bang Quartet Sessions 1983/1984] (1983-84 , Cadillac): Two sessions in London, the first -- a quartet with Billy Bang (violin), Frank Lowe (tenor sax), Rafael Garrett (bass), and Dennis Charles (drums) -- released as Intensive Care; the second -- Bang, Lowe, Wilber Morris (bass), and Thurman Barker (drums) -- previously unreleased, but titled Prescriptions Filled. B+(***) [sp]
Roberto Magris & the JM Horns: High Quote (2012 , JM): Italian pianist, from Trieste, has a label in Kansas City, and recorded this in Lenexa, KS a decade ago, with a substantial horn section, bass, drums, and congas, with vocals by Monique Danielle on two tracks. B+(*) [cd]
Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky: Luten at Jazzwerkstatt Peitz (2011 , Jazzwerkstatt): German alto saxophonist (1933-2023), also plays clarinet, nickname Luten, one of the first important free jazz musicians to emerge from the GDR, probably best known for Zentralquartett (with Conrad Bauer, 1974-2016). Live set here came out a couple months before his death. With Alexander von Schlippenbach (piano) and Christian Lillinger (drums), a long piece (32:21) and a "Freie Improvisation" (10:28). B+(***) [sp]
Mark Reboul/Roberta Piket/Billy Mintz: Seven Pieces/About an Hour/Saxophone, Piano, Drums (2004 , ESP-Disk): Saxophonist, Discogs only offers two side-credits, one from 1985, the other 2007, so this is his belated debut, backed by relatively well known (even then, but more so now) pianist and drummer. Rather understated, but draws you in. B+(***) [cd]
Sleepy John Estes: The Legend of Sleepy John Estes (1962 , Delmark): Memphis bluesman John Adam Estes (1899-1977), first recorded for Victor in 1929, his 1929-40 compilations -- I have one on Yazoo, another on Wolf -- are highly recommended (but mostly interchangeable). Recorded a couple tracks for Sun in 1952, but hadn't been heard from since, until Bob Koester tracked him down and cut him loose for his first proper LP. Half of these 12 songs repeat from the earlier comps, his quavery voice and spare guitar timeless. A- [sp]
Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky: Ein Nachmittag in Peitz (1981 , Jazzwerkstatt): Plays alto sax, baritone sax, and flute on three tracks, just talks on one more (beware: 9:39, in German, with laughter). The music begins and ends with duets with Harry Miller (bass, cello, 13:53 and 12:12), separated by the talk and a 41:01 piece called "Relaxing With Heinz, Klaus, Joe and Tony" -- that's Becker (trumpet), Koch (bass), Sachse (guitar), and Oxley (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky/Conny Bauer: Wanderung Durch Den Thüringer Wald (2011 , Jazzwerkstatt): Duo, alto sax and bass trombone, they've been playing together at least since 1973, most notably in Zentralquartett. B+(**) [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: