An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Music Week [0 - 9]
Monday, November 21, 2022
Music: Current count 39116  rated (+51), 38  unrated (-8: 10 new, 28 old).
On Thursday, I sent almost 200 invitations out to cast votes in the 17th Annual Jazz Critics Poll. Last year I wound up sending the invites out manually. I've been trying to think of a better method, and came up with two. The initial ballots I would send out using Thunderbird's Mail Merge option. For later notices and reminders, I figured I could use a GNU Mailman mailing list, using "mass subscription" to enroll people, and set up restrictions so only I can send further mail to the list. It took most of the day to figure out how to set those up, and a couple people got confused by the mail list, but it seems to be working fine now. As I'm writing this, I've gotten 46 acks back, and 10 ballots. Deadline will be end-of-day December 12. Results will be published at The Arts Fuse, and on my master website.
I'll possibly send out a few more invites this week. I haven't had much time to try to vet candidates this weekend, especially as I knocked out another Speaking of Which column. Some of this week's records are things I was pointed to by voters. I also found a Michaelangelo Matos ballot with eight records I hadn't heard, so I checked them out: liked all of the electronica, was less taken by two prog-ish pop groups (Au Suisse, Dungen).
Other news for me is that I've recently bought new keyboard, mouse, and speakers for the computer I'm typing this on. In each case the old pieces were failing: the mouse button was unreliable; the cap to one of the keyboard keys ('d') wore a hole in the middle, keeping the switch from engaging, and more keys were dropping out (especially shift states); and the right speaker was cracking up, so I had been listening to only one speaker for months (and wondering why the sound was so crap compared to the cheaper speakers on the other computer).
I went with a Logitech wireless (not Bluetooth) mouse, which is a huge improvement. I'm having more trouble adjusting to the keyboard, which is a bit disappointing give how much the Keychron Q3 cost: the brown switchers have more click than I'm used to, and the backlighting can be disorienting (presumably that and everything else is programmable, but I haven't looked up how to do that through Linux). But it's very sturdily built (weighs about 6 lbs), and the keys and mechanical switches are high quality, so I doubt they'll wear down like the Logitech keyboard did. I could wind up liking it once I get use to the feel. Speakers (Creative Labs Gigaworks T40) are pretty good, too, although I haven't used them much. (I use a second computer for streaming, but downloads land on this one, and I haven't been paying them much attention.)
Bonus is that I had to do some massive tidying up before I could install it all, which gave me lots of time to worry. That gives me a spot where I can organize the 2022 CDs I have in case I want to recheck any. Although I think the current grade sort on my jazz and non-jazz lists is good enough, I doubt that the A-list ranking is anywhere near right.
We have minimal plans for Thanksgiving, as it's always hard to round people up, and we have no particular place to go. I thought we might just grill some hamburgers and eggplant (topped with yogurt, a Turkish thing), and make baked beans, potato salad, slaw, and a spice cake. Should be warmer than last week was, and I can fob the grilling off on a guest, so that's always a treat for me.
New records reviewed this week:
A-Trak: 10 Seconds: Volume 1 (2022, Fool's Gold, EP): Canadian turntablist/electronica producer Alain Macklovitch, active since 1999, mostly singles and EPs, unearthed a broken drum machine during pandemic to "churn out the rawest house beats he's ever made." Four songs, 15:04. B+(***) [sp]
A-Trak: 10 Seconds: Volume 2 (2022, Fool's Gold, EP): Four more songs, 15:30. Pulls it out on the final cut. B+(***) [sp]
Adult.: Becoming Undone (2022, Dais): Detroit duo of Nicola Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller, 10th album since 2000, lots of funky industrial grind, at least until they slow it down. B+(***) [sp]
Franco Ambrosetti: Nora (2022, Enja): Swiss trumpet player, just turned 80, father was a saxophonist, playing together in the George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band. This feels like a bucket list project, with an all-star combo -- John Scofield (guitar), Uri Caine (piano), Scott Colley (bassist), and Peter Erskine (drums) -- backed by a 22-piece string orchestra arranged and conducted by Alan Broadbent. The strings are indeed reminiscent of sessions with Charlie Parker and Clifford Brown, but that doesn't strike me as much of a plus. B+(*) [sp]
Au Suisse: Au Suisse (2022, City Slang): Duo of Morgan Geist and Mike Kelley (aka Kelley Polar), both Americans with a decade-plus experience producing electronic dance music. This is more of a new wave throwback. B+(*) [sp]
The Black Dog: Brutal Minimalism EP (2022, Dust Science, EP): British electronica group, founded 1989, Ken Downie the only original member left, joined by Richard and Martin Dust in 2001. Vast discography. "Brutal" refers to architecture, but the music is less so, even if that's what it's meant to convey. Four tracks, 17:47. B+(***) [sp]
The Black Dog: Concrete Reasoning EP (2022, Dust Science, EP): Three tracks, 12:21, builds on the architectural themes of Brutal Minimalism. B+(*) [sp]
Patricia Brennan: More Touch (2022, Pyroclastic): Vibraphone/marimba player, 2021 album won Jazz Critics Poll as the year's top debut. Second album, runs 70:47, backed with bass (Kim Cass), drums (Marcus Gilmore), and percussion (Mauricio Herrera). B+(***) [cd]
Terri Lynne Carrington: New Standards Vol. 1 (2022, Candid): Drummer, ranges from avant to crossover, is founder and artistic director of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gener Justice. Her "new standards" are defined in a book of 101 lead sheets, the common denominator that all songs are by women. This offers 11 of them. Band on cover: Kris Davis (piano), Linda May Han Oh (bass), Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Matthew Stevens (guitar). Plus there is a long list of guests, including vocalists. Results are rather mixed, which may have been the plan. B+(**) [sp]
Frank Catalano: Live at Birdland (2022, Ropeadope): Saxophonist from Chicago, mostly plays tenor, early albums on Delmark (1998-2001) include a joust with Von Freeman. Quartet with Randy Ingram (piano), Julian Smith (bass), and Mike Clark (drums). The result is an old-fashioned sax stomp, the sort of thing a Sonny Stitt, or maybe a George Coleman, might bust loose. A- [sp]
Callista Clark: Real to Me: The Way I Feel (2022, Big Machine): Young country singer-songwriter from Georgia, signed a contract at 15 with the label that launched Taylor Swift. First album expands on 2021's 5-track EP. I'm not wild about the big money production, but don't doubt her talent. B+(*) [sp]
Duduka Da Fonseca & Quarteto Universal: Yes!!! (2022, Sunnyside): Brazilian drummer, long based in New York, played in the group Trio da Paz (7 albums 1992-2011). Quartet with Vinicius Gomes (guitar), Helio Alves (piano), and Gill Lopes (bass). B+(**) [sp]
Dungen: En Är För Mycket Och Tusen Aldrig Nog (2022, Mexican Summer): Swedish group, albums since 2001, often considered prog or psychedelic, titles in Swedish. B+(*) [sp]
Joe Fahey: Baker's Cousin (2022, Rough Fish): Minnesota singer-songwriter, fifth album since 2006, too much rock reverb for country, but I suppose Americana might claim him. B+(**) [sp]
Avram Fefer Quartet: Juba Lee (2022, Clean Feed): Alto/tenor saxophonist, also plays bass clarinet, reconvenes a trio that produced one of 2011's best records -- Eilyahu, with Eric Revis (bass) and Chad Taylor (drums) -- and adds Marc Ribot (guitar) for very good measure. A- [cdr]
Bill Frisell: Four (2022, Blue Note): Guitarist, many records since 1982, this one a quartet with Gregory Tardy (clarinet, tenor sax), Gerald Clayton (piano), and Johnathan Blake (drums). Postbop, sometimes beguiling, sometimes not. B+(*) [sp]
Kittin + the Hacker: Third Album (2022, Nobody's Bizzness): French electronica duo, Caroline Hervé (more often known as Miss Kittin) and Michel Amato, collaboration goes back to 1997, along with solo work from both. B+(***) [sp]
Laufey: Everything I Know About Love (2022, AWAL): Singer-songwriter, first album after several singles/EPs, full name is Icelandic (Laufey Lin Jónsdóttir), her mother Chinese, a violinist like her grandfather Lin Yaoji. She studied at Berklee -- playing piano, guitar, and cello -- and is based in Los Angeles. B+(**) [sp]
Bill Laurance: Affinity (2022, Flint Music): British keyboard player, original member of Snarky Puppy, with an album of solo piano. B+(*) [sp]
Jeffrey Lewis: When That Really Old Cat Dies (2022, self-released, EP): Cover notes: "Asides & B-Sides" and "Previously Unstreamable Tracks," so the implication is that this compiles old tracks, but tracking them down isn't cost-effective. Seven occasionally interesting songs, 23:07 B+(*) [sp]
Dana Lyn: A Point on a Slow Curve (2022, In a Circle): Violinist, only previous album I can find was in 2004. this is a fairly large group, with Mike McGinniss on clarinet/bass clarinet, Sara Schoenbeck on bassoon, Patricia Brennan on vibes, more strings and percussion, and several singers. B+(*) [sp]
Jim McNeely/Frankfurt Radio Big Band Featuring Chris Potter: Rituals (2015 , Double Moon): I don't often include the "featuring" credit, but after McNeely's 6-part title piece (33:03) the other four pieces were composed by Potter (35:25), and as the soloist Potter owns this record. B+(***) [sp]
Abel Mireles: Amino (2021 , Sunnyside): Mexican-American saxophonist (tenor/soprano), based in New York, first album as leader. B+(**) [sp]
Judy Niemack: What's Love (2021 , Sunnyside): Jazz singer, writes or adds lyrics to most of her songs, debut 1978, second album 1989, has recorded regularly since then. Distinctive stylist, has a first-rate mainstream band here with Peter Bernstein (guitar), Sumner Fortner (piano), Doug Weiss (bass), and Joe Farnsworth (drums), with Eric Alexander (tenor sax) on one track. B+(***) [sp]
Lina Nyberg Band: Anniverse (2022, Hoob): Swedish singer, albums since 1990, backed by piano, guitar, bass, and drums, on a cycle of songs that move from month to month through one year. "September" stands out. B [sp]
The Ostara Project: The Ostara Project (2022, Cellar): Canadian group, named for "the Germanic goddess of the spring equinox," led by Amanda Tosoff (piano) and Jodi Proznick (bass), with alto sax (Allison Au), trumpet (Rachel Therrien), guitar (Jocelyn Gould), drums (Sanah Kadoura), and vocals (Joanna Majoko) -- the latter dominate, unfortunately, not that I don't enjoy a nice "Bye Bye Blackbird." B+(*) [cd]
Dierk Peters: Spring (2022, Sunnyside): German vibraphonist, second album, quintet with Adam O'Farrill (trumpet), Caleb Wheeler Curtis (alto sax), bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]
Zach Phillips: Goddaughters (2022, self-released): Singer-songwriter from San Diego, fourth album, shares a name with a more prolific keyboardist (has a UK website but was born in New Hampshire and is based in Brooklyn, and might be worth some research). This is billed as Americans, which means songs of real life from interesting angles, but I'm every bit as struck by the guitar, which reminds me of classic Who. A- [cd]
Piri & Tommy: Froge.mp3 (2022, Polydor): Drum & bass duo, singer-songwriter Sophie McBurnie (Piri) and Tommy Villers, first album together, or mixtape, or whatever. Easily the catchiest trifle from Michaelangelo Matos's electronica-heavy EOY list. A- [sp]
Plaid: Feorm Falorx (2022, Warp): British electronica duo, Ed Handley and Andy Turner, original members of the Black Dog (with Ken Downie), left in 1995 to focus on their duo, which started in 1991. Another good beats album that doesn't quite blow me away. B+(**) [sp]
Jana Pochop: The Astronaut (2022, self-released): Folk singer-songwriter from New Mexico, base in Austin, first album after a decade-plus of singles and EPs. Has an appealing spaciness. B+(**) [sp]
Pye Corner Audio: Let's Emerge! (2022, Sonic Cathedral): British electronica producer Martin Jenkins, more than a dozen albums since 2010. Shimmering surfaces reinforced with guitar. B+(**) [sp]
Reverso: Harmonic Alchemy (2022, Outnote): Chamber jazz trio, names on the cover, hard to see let alone parse, but clockwise from top: Vince Courtois (cello), Ryan Keberle (trombone), and Frank Woeste (piano). Two previous albums together, The Melodic Line and Suite Ravel. B+(***) [cdr]
Emiliano Sampaio Jazz Symphonic Orchestra: We Have a Dream (2022, Alessa): Brazilian guitarist and trombonist, based in Austria. I don't have a good sense of what his earlier work (e.g., Meretrio) was like, but he's been gravitating toward large ensembles, and goes whole hog here. With enough rhythm to keep it interesting. B+(**) [sp]
Chad Taylor Trio: The Reel (2022, Astral Spirits): Chicago Underground drummer, not much as leader but a lot of superb co- and side credits. Trio here with Brian Settles (saxophones) and Neil Podgurski (piano). Within a free jazz framework, each member gets chances to show off, an aims to please. A- [bc]
Thumbscrew: Multicolored Midnight (2021 , Cuneiform): Trio of Mary Halvorson (guitar), Mark Dresser (bass, electronics), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums, vibes), seventh album since 2014. I'm not a fan of everything Halvorson does, but this group is one where she earns her reputation. A- [dl]
Dan Weiss Trio: Dedication (2020 , Cygnus): Drummer-led piano trio, with Jacob Sacks and Thomas Morgan playing Weiss compositions, each title a "For X," where "X" includes musical influences like Nancarrow and Elvin, cultural ones like Tarkovsky, personal ones like "Grandma May," also one "For George Floyd." B+(**) [cd]
Lainey Wilson: Bell Bottom Country (2022, Broken Bow): Country singer-songwriter from Louisiana, fourth album, has all the tools, though I'm not so sure about the cover outfit. She co-wrote thirteen songs, then finished with a cover of "What's Up (What's Going On)" that blows them away. B+(***) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Roy Eldridge Quartet/Ella Fitzgerald Quintet: In Concert: Falkoner Centret, Copenhagen, Denmark, May 21, 1959 (1959 , SteepleChase): The two headliners shared the same band: Herb Ellis (guitar), Lou Levy (piano), Wilfred Middlebrooks (bass), and Gus Johnson (drums). Opens with two trumpet leads, then Ella takes over with "Cheek to Cheek," tripping up a bit on a mambo piece, but recovering spectacularly with a full scat "How High the Moon." Would like to have heard more from Roy. B+(***) [sp]
Ella Fitzgerald: Ella at the Hollywood Bowl: The Irving Berlin Songbook (1958 , Verve): Previously unreleased 15-song concert, recorded a couple weeks after wrapping the Berlin section of her Songbooks series. B+(***) [sp]
Hal Galper: Ivory Forest Redux (1979 , Origin): Another archival find, this one from early in the pianist's career, in a quartet featuring a young but already distinctive guitarist named John Scofield, backed by bass (Wayne Dockery) and drums (Adam Nussbaum). B+(***) [cd]
Ahmad Jamal: Emerald City Nights: Live at the Penthouse 1963-1964 (1963-64 , Elemental, 2CD): Pianist, born 1930 in Pittsburgh as Frederick Jones, converted to Islam in 1950, shortly before his first records, which became popular and plentiful from 1958 on. This collects two trio sets, with either Richard Evans or Jamil Nasser on bass, and Chuck Lampkin on drums. I give this one a slight edge: it's a bit more sprightly, but he's always entertaining. A- [cd] [12-02]
Ahmad Jamal: Emerald City Nights: Live at the Penthouse 1965-1966 (1965-66 , Elemental, 2CD): Four more sets from the next couple years, with Jamal Nasser on bass, and various drummers (Chuck Lampkin, Vernel Fournier, Frank Grant). B+(***) [cd] [12-02]
Elvin Jones: Revival: Live at Pookie's Pub (1967 , Blue Note): Drummer, best known for John Coltrane Quartet, which he left a year before this set, recorded a couple weeks before Coltrane died. With Joe Farrell (tenor sax/flute), Billy Greene (piano), and Wilbur Little (bass). Runs long, and I might prefer fewer drum solos and less flute, but those are quibbles. B+(***) [sp]
Dickie Landry/Lawrence Weiner: Having Been Built on Sand/With Another Base (Basis) in Fact (1978 , Unseen Worlds): Saxophonist from Louisiana, also a painter, his scattered works often tied to art installations. This is billed as "a structure of Lawrence Weiner," with Weiner one of three spoken voices -- the one in English and German, along with Tina Girouard in English and Britta Le Va in German. B+(**) [sp]
Alhaji Waziri Oshomah: World Spirituality Classics 3: The Muslim Highlife of Alhaji Waziri Oshomah (1978-84 , Luaka Bop): Original name Osomegbe Ekperi, from Edo in Southern Nigeria, a region where Muslims and Christians reportedly live in relative harmony. Dates not specified, but three (of seven) tracks are also on a 1978-84 5-LP box set. Not the hottest highlife I've heard, but the laid-back groove has its own appeal. A- [sp]
Esbjörn Svensson: Home.S. (2008 , ACT): Swedish pianist, leader of the very popular piano trio, E.S.T., until his death in a scuba diving accident in 2008. This is a previously unreleased solo session, thoughtful with some spritely moments. B+(*) [cd]
Mototeru Takagi/Kim Dae Hwan/Choi Sun Bae: Seishin-Seido (1995 , NoBusiness): Tenor sax, percussion, and trumpet trio. Second album the label has released featuring Takagi (1941-2002), a bit more scattered than Live at Little John. B+(**) [cd]
Gebhard Ullmann/Steve Swell/Hilliard Greene/Barry Altschul: We're Playing in Here? (2007 , NoBusiness): Four pieces by Swell (trombone), one by Ullmann (tenor sax/bass clarinet), from a period when they played together frequently. Backed by bass and drums. B+(***) [cd]
Homeboy Sandman: Actual Factual Pterodactyl (2008, Boy Sand Industries): Second album. Way too much here. B+(***) [sp]
Homeboy Sandman: Chimera EP (2012, Stones Throw, EP): Not as manic as the early records, just six songs (23:35). B+(*) [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, November 14, 2022
Music: Current count 39065  rated (+63), 46  unrated (+3: 18 new, 28 old).
PS: As I've been doing most weeks, I started this introduction with a link to the previous day's Speaking of Which column. The political/news posts are a lot of work, and a lot of deadline pressure, so I think they deserve a friendly extra link, especially as I routinely link to Music Week on Facebook, but rarely to my other blog posts. Also, having depressurized after the post, I feel like I can get a bit more personal here -- especially given that the music reviews that make up the bulk of the content are already done and tucked away. But this week I went on at much more than expected length, and a reader -- one who often retweets and/or forwards me -- wrote in to ask if I couldn't break it up into two posts: one politics and one music. That's not unreasonable: I've long had a plan to split it up and maintain separate blogs for politics and music. But practical and personal problems have kept that from happening, and at this point I'm losing interest in both.
So I've done two things: I've moved the political part to the bottom of this post, adding this mini-explanation. And I've also copied the political part to yesterday's post, as a postscript. But while the intro is important to me personally, I doubt that it warrants its own post. It's mostly more drivel on the eternal book question, but if you're curious, by all means scroll down and read. I doubt if this is a satisfactory solution, but it's all I'm prepared to do for now.
I've made a small bit of progress toward organizing the Jazz Critics Poll, but not nearly enough. I was pleased to receive unsolicited mail from one of the voters today, reminding me that people are interested in this happening. I've thus far failed to line up a sponsor, but I want to make my website the focal point, so not lining up sponsorship won't stop it from happening. I would appreciate any suggestions on how to make the presentation more appealing, and/or how to better get the word out when we announce the results.
I'm still planning on sending the voter invites out this week. Basic minimal qualifications for voting are that you need to have heard several hundred new jazz releases this year, and to have written about several dozen of them (broadcast journalists also count -- we have a number of them, although that's not a world I'm very familiar with; thus far I've heard 681 jazz releases, out of 1113 in my tracking file). Here's a list of voters from 2021. If you know someone else who should be voting, let me know.
This week's records started with a long trawl through the late Loretta Lynn's back catalogue. I had looked for her albums a while back and found very little, so it's likely that their addition to streaming services is recent and ongoing (availability starts to get patchy after 1977, and I'm still missing one duet album with Ernest Tubb and several with Conway Twitty -- who, like many country stars of the period, I know almost exclusively from compilations).
A couple of minor notes here: I complained last week about Jerry Lee Lewis albums failing to hit 30 minutes, but threw in the towel here: none of Lynn's 1960s and 1970s albums do (they mostly run 11 tracks). I only did the first (of three, I think) Greatest Hits LPs, partly because I used to own the LP, and partly because she was only beginning to find her unique voice when it came out, so it shows a different side of her compared to the later compilations. One thing I found interesting was that during breaks from this immersion in her work, I found myself recalling other country songs, mostly from George Jones and Merle Haggard. Must be some common bits of melody wafting through all three.
The Mingus record was due to a user question. He asked whether my having skipped the record meant some sort of disapproval. You can rest assured that omissions simply reflect ignorance. Had I been aware of the album (at least during the last 20 years) I would have listed it. Now I am aware, and have listed it.
The new stuff came late in the week, mostly promos that weren't due for release until early November, plus a couple of the August NoBusiness releases I just got this week. I've aded things to my jazz and non-jazz files, but haven't gotten around to rethinking the order (what's currently there is likely to change, possibly a lot). I see that AOTY is reporting the first 2022 Music Year End Lists (Decibel, Uncut). I haven't tracked them yet, but will soon begin to (the current Aggregate File has 80+ ratings (*) and mid-year lists (+), so is somewhat biased toward early-year releases, but the ranking there is: Wet Leg, Big Thief, Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, Rosalia, Beyoncé, Mitski, Black Country New Road, The Smile, Nilufer Yanya. I weigh the EOY lists more heavily (5 points for top picks, 4 for 2-5, 3 for 6-10, 2 for 11-20, 1 for all other mentions), so the current numbers will soon get swamped.
I just realized that one of the reasons I've been avoiding playing downloads (e.g., the new Thumbscrew album) is that the Klipsch speakers on the machine I collect them on are flaky, with one side turned down to squelch noise. I've just ordered a new pair of (slightly cheaper) Creative Labs speakers, so hopefully that will fix the problem. I had to replace the mouse last week, and I'm delighted with the new one, not least for eliminating the wire.
New records reviewed this week:
The Attic [Rodrigo Amado/Gonçalo Almeida/Onno Govaert]: Love Ghosts (2020 , NoBusiness): Portuguese tenor saxophonist, one of the best avant players over two decades, third group album (the first I filed under bassist Almeida's name; this one has a new drummer). A- [cd]
Jakob Bro/Joe Lovano: Once Around the Room: A Tribute to Paul Motian (2021 , ECM): Danish guitarist, albums since 2013, 6th album on ECM since 2015. Bro played on Motian's Garden of Eden (2006), while Lovano (tenor sax/tarogato) played in a long-running trio with Motian and Bill Frisell. Group here adds Anders Christensen (bass guitar), two double bassists (Larry Grenadier and Thomas Morgan), and two drummers (Joey Baron and Jorge Rossy). Only one Motian composition here (vs. two for Bro, three for Lovano). B+(***) [sp]
Armani Caesar: The Liz 2 (2022, Griselda): Buffalo rapper, released a mixtape in 2020 called The Liz, gets dark, dense, and obscure. B+(*) [sp]
Coco & Clair Clair: Sexy (2022, self-released): Atlanta-based pop/rap duo, Taylor Nave and Claire Toothill, first album after a 7-track 2017 EP. Hard to gauge sexy, but cute, clever, sometimes nasty, sure. B+(*) [sp]
George Colligan: King's Dream (2022, P.Ice): Pianist, more than two dozen albums since 1995, solo, original compositions. Title reflects on Martin Luther King, promising "a balm for turmoil of recent days." B+(**) [cd]
Olli Hirvonen: Kielo (2022, Ropeadope): Finnish guitarist, fourth album, has a solid rock-fusion vibe. B+(*) [cd]
Homeboy Sandman: Still Champion (2022, self-released): New York rapper Angel Del Villar II, many albums/EPs -- he seems to prefer 20-30 minute chunks -- since 2007, with this his third album this year (10 tracks, 33:23). Produced sparingly by Deca. Takes a couple tracks before his words start to flow with the mix, but they never melt into oblivion -- just too fascinating. A- [sp]
Dan Israel: Seriously (2022, self-released): Singer-songwriter from Minneapolis, started around 1998, Discogs lists 13 albums plus a compilation (Danthology). Bandcamp page includes a full lyric sheet, but this rocked past me so fast I never wondered about the words. B+(*) [bc]
Song Yi Jeon/Vinicius Gomes: Home (2020 , Greenleaf Music): Voice and guitar. She was born in South Korea; educated in Graz, Basel, and Boston; based in Switzerland; third album, backed by the Brazilian (NY-based) guitarist. Seems like a fairly limited concept, but grows on you. B+(***) [cd] [11-18]
Kirk Knuffke/Michael Bisio: For You I Don't Want to Go (2020 , NoBusiness): Cornet and bass duo. Knuffke has managed to slip easily between mainstream and avant contexts, so singularly it's never clear where this modest, bare bones project fits (not that it matters). A- [cd]
Sarathy Korwar: Kalak (2022, The Leaf Label): Percussionist, born in US, raised in India, based in London. Fourth album. Describes this as "an Indo-futurist manifesto." Opens with a recipe that lost me with the 10 crushed chili peppers, then enters a vocal piece I can only find exotic. After that, the music gets more enticing, especially the drums, so when the vocals return they have something to build on. B+(***) [sp]
Dave Liebman: Trust and Honesty (2022, Newvelle); Leader plays soprano and tenor sax, accompanied by Ben Monder on guitar and John Hébert on bass, with Monder taking most of the leads. Nothing rushed, so you need to let it seep in. B+(**) [sp]
Mama's Broke: Narrow Line (2022, Free Dirt): Canadian folk duo from Nova Scotia, Amy Lou Keeler and Lisa Maria, play string instruments (mainly guitar and violin, plus banjo and a bit of cello). Second album. Rather dank. Perhaps you have to be a lyrics hound to care enough, but I can see the appeal. B+(**) [sp]
Mama's Broke: Count the Wicked (2017, self-released): First album, following a 2014 EP. Music has a bit more snap. Can't speak to the lyrics. B+(***) [sp]
Timothy Norton: Visions of Phaedrus (2021 , Truth Revolution): Bassist, debut album, leads a smart postbop sextet with trumpet (Josh Evans), sax (Jerome Sabbagh), piano (Randy Ingram), guitar, and drums. B+(***) [cd]
Houston Person: Reminiscing at Rudy's (2022, HighNote): Mainstream tenor saxophonist, started in the 1960s at Prestige, where he also did A&R, and has followed Joe Fields (the late, so now producer Barney Fields) from label to label. Easy-going live set, standards he's mostly done before, backed by guitar (Russell Malone), piano (Larry Fuller, bass (Matthew Parrish), and drums (Lewis Nash, also credited with a crooning vocal). Spottier than his best records, but some lovely parts. B+(***) [cd] [11-18]
Smino: Luv 4 Rent (2022, Zero Fatigue/Motown): Rapper Christopher Smith Jr., from St. Louis, third album, pretty sneaky. B+(**) [sp]
Sonido Solar: Eddie Palmieri Presents Sonido Solar (2022, Truth Revolution): Palmieri arranges and plays piano on just two tracks, but his imprimatur means something to the actual band leaders: Jonathan Powell (trumpet), Louis Fouché (alto sax), Luques Curtis (bass), and Zaccai Curtis (piano). They are joined by trombone, tenor sax, and three percussionists, playing Latin jazz classics. B+(**) [cd]
They Might Be Giants: Book (2021, Idlewild): Billed as "two catchy weirdos," I loved their 1986 debut -- "of course you do" was Bob Christgau's reaction when I gushed about how much -- but they wore out their welcome pretty fast, even as Christgau maintained his more moderate level of interest, which turned out not to include six albums since 2013 (his last-reviewed Nanobots, until this one). I only noticed (or bothered with) one of those, Glean, a low B+ from 2015, although this one was in last year's tracking file. This is comparably idiosyncratic. Reportedly comes with a book, which I haven't seen. B+(*) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Yuji Takahashi/Sabu Toyozumi: The Quietly Clouds and a Wild Crane (1998 , NoBusiness): Japanese piano and drums duo. Takahashi lived in Europe 1963-66, where he studied with Iannis Xenakis, and in the US 1966-72, with most of his early work classical (including Bach, Beethoven, Satie, Messiaen, and Cage; in 1979, he recorded Rzewski's The People United Will Never Be Defeated). B+(***) [cd]
Homeboy Sandman: Nourishment (Second Helpings) (2007, Boy Sand Industries): New York rapper Angel del Villar II, first album, title recycled from a debut EP, long semi-popular career ahead of him. Fast and freaky. B+(**) [sp]Loretta Lynn: Loretta Lynn Sings (1963, Decca): First album, after a couple singles including a 1960 hit (14) with "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl." She went higher with "Success" (6) here, and with the album itself (2). Nothing here that wound up in her canon, but she sure does sing, and her covers are nearly always definitive -- including a superb "Act Naturally," months after Buck Owens and a couple years before Ringo. A- [sp]
Loretta Lynn: Before I'm Over You (1964, Decca): She wrote a song here ("Where Were You"), but it's outshone by the covers, especially the sly "Wine, Women and Song," and how often she makes you forget well-known hits, like "Loose Talk" (Carl Smith) and "The End of the World" (Skeeter Davis). B+(***) [sp]
Loretta Lynn: Songs From My Heart . . . (1965, Decca): Two original songs, still nothing notable, but she got a hit with "Happy Birthday," and "Oh, Lonesome Me" is as great as ever. B+(**) [sp]
Loretta Lynn: Blue Kentucky Girl (1965, Decca): Johnny Mullins wrote the title song for her, not just a hit but a signature song. She wrote four songs, mostly slow spots. "The Race Is On" opens the second side. B+(**) [sp]
Loretta Lynn: Hymns (1965, Decca): Too great a singer to make a really bad album, and this fills a niche that is all but expected in Nashville, but the songs about children praying got under my skin, and the old time religion just fills me with dread. B [sp]
Loretta Lynn: I Like 'Em Country (1966, Decca): The one original in a sob story "Dear Uncle Sam," which could use more context and anger. Covers of Hank Williams and Johnny Cash don't disappoint. B+(*) [sp]
Loretta Lynn: You Ain't Woman Enough (1966, Decca): Do you suppose "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" (covered here with extra twang) got her thinking? The title cut was her first self-penned masterpiece -- the one that stuck with me last time I played her Definitive Collection. B+(**) [sp]
Loretta Lynn: Don't Come Home a Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind) (1967, Decca): Another signature song, her first number one single. Two more Lynn originals add to her anger and frustration: "Get Whatcha Got and Go" and "I Got Caught." B+(***) [sp]
Loretta Lynn: Loretta Lynn's Greatest Hits (1961-67 , Decca): With just 11 songs (26:06), and nine of them 1965 or earlier (including the better-forgotten "Dear Uncle Sam"), you can do much better: I'd rank them: 20 Greatest Hits , Country Music Hall of Fame , then The Definitive Collection (2005), with the 3-CD Honky Tonk Girl (1994) nearly all first rate. A-
Loretta Lynn: Who Says God Is Dead! (1968, Decca): Note punctuation, on one of four originals here, which (aside from "Mama, Why?") aren't as perverse as last time. Bluegrass helps, and standards like "The Old Rugged Cross" and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" are reliable. B+(*) [sp]
Loretta Lynn: Fist City (1968, Decca): Title song was her second number one single, just one of five songs she wrote (or co-wrote). While she's willing to fight for her man there, she wastes no time dumping him in "You Didn't Like My Lovin'." A- [sp]
Loretta Lynn: Your Squaw Is on the Warpath Tonight (1969, Decca): Title cut explains that "squaw" is nickname given by an abusive or at least damn annoying husband, but the album cover takes one aback these days, as does the choice of "Kaw-Liga" as a cover (although "Harper Valley P.T.A." isn't much better). Also comes up super short after a song (not one Lynn wrote) was pulled due to a copyright dispute. B+(*) [sp]
Loretta Lynn: Here's Loretta Singing "Wings Upon Your Horns" (1969 , Decca): Single wasn't that big (11) or for that matter that memorable: "loss of innocence" is a more common phrase for those not obsessed with demons and angels, a recurring theme here. Though not really on "Let's Get Back Down to Earth," the best song here. B+(*) [sp]
Loretta Lynn: Loretta Lynn Writes 'Em and Sings 'Em (1965-69 , Decca): She started writing songs a couple albums in, and gradually increased, but no more than five songs (including co-writes) to an album. She didn't have enough for a full album when she went into the studio in December 1969, but instead of adding cover filler, they dropped a few of her self-penned hits into the mix: "You Ain't Woman Enough," "Fist City," "Your Squaw Is on the Warpath," "Wings Upon Your Horns." Two great songs there, and two pretty good ones, which is about all I can say for the new ones. This was probably more useful at the time, but I had to assemble it as a playlist, checking out the missing "What Has the Bottle Done to My Baby" on YouTube. B+(***)
Loretta Lynn: Coal Miner's Daughter (1970 , Decca): Title song was an inspired piece of storytelling, another number one hit and her first song to graze the pop charts (83), and went on to serve as the title of her autobiography and of the movie made about it, as well as a 2010 tribute to Lynn. Only two more Lynn credits here. The rest reveal little, but show off her still remarkable voice. B+(***) [sp]
Loretta Lynn: I Wanna Be Free (1971, Decca): Title song was a country hit (3), but little remembered. It's one of four Lynn credits here, along with covers she doesn't need but handles as well as you'd expect ("Rose Garden," "Me and Bobby McGee," "Help Me Make It Through the Night"). B+(*) [sp]
Loretta Lynn: You're Lookin' at Country (1971, Decca): The title song is perfectly iconic, but they she throws a cover of the perfectly fake "Take Me Home, Country Roads." Beyond that, the usual batch. B+(**) [sp]
Loretta Lynn: Alone With You (1961-64 , Vocalion): Eleven tracks compiled from her first three albums, avoiding all five charting singles, including just two of her own writing credits. Makes you wonder why, other than to show off Owen Bradley's production skills. B+(**) [sp]
Loretta Lynn: One's on the Way (1972, Decca): Shel Silverstein wrote the title song, but I can't imagine anyone else singing it. She only co-wrote one song, the trivial "L-O-V-E, Love," but the filler is uniformly solid, "It'll Feel Good When It Quits Hurtin'" fits her nicely, and you have to wonder why it took her so long to do "Blueberry Hill." B+(***) [sp]
Loretta Lynn: Here I Am Again (1972, Decca): Shel Silverstein wrote the title song again, but not one he will be remembered for. Lynn's sole co-credit is for the so-so "I Miss You More Today." The rest is decent enough, except for a cover of "Delta Dawn" where the star gets submerged in the backup. B+(*) [sp]
Loretta Lynn: Entertainer of the Year (1972, Decca): This breaks her usual habit of naming the album for the top single, but the label didn't care call the album "Rated X." The song wasn't about sex per se, but about the tainted past of divorcées -- a quaint relic of an earlier period which Lynn did as much as anyone to end. B+(*) [sp]
Loretta Lynn: Love Is the Foundation (1973, MCA): Shel Silverstein came to the rescue again with "Hey Loretta" ("I love you more than my Irish setter," "this a-women's liberation, honey, is gonna start right now"). Would have been a good album title, too, but they went with the William Cody Hall title song first, and it sold well enough. B+(**) [sp]
Loretta Lynn/Conway Twitty: Country Partners (1974, MCA): Second duet album together, note that the billing order flipped. This opens with a definitive break up song ("As Soon as I Hang Up the Phone"), and the few exceptions are at best nostalgic. B+(***) [sp]
Loretta Lynn: They Don't Make 'Em Like My Daddy (1974, MCA): Jerry Chestnut wrote the title track, another perfect single attached to another beautifully sung but less than remarkable album. Note that this is one of her first albums to inch above 30 minutes. B+(*) [sp]
Loretta Lynn: Back to the Country (1975, MCA): No self-penned songs (again), although the single couldn't have been written for anyone else, and was ultimately a milestone: "The Pill." B+(*) [sp]
Loretta Lynn/Conway Twitty: Feelins' (1975, MCA): First I was confused by that apostrophe, then by the song it was attached to, then it got worse. Some of their best songs are marked by humor, but never this sophomoric. B- [sp]
Loretta Lynn: When the Tingle Becomes a Chill (1976, MCA): Lola Jean Dillon wrote the moving title song. Lynn's only song is "Red, White and Blue," where her Cherokee identity resurfaces. B+(*) [sp]
Loretta Lynn/Conway Twitty: United Talent (1976, MCA): Title is kinda creepy, as is the embrace on the cover, and for that matter the talkies "The Letter" and "God Bless America Again." On the other hand, the rest is more upbeat, but maybe because they rushed to get this over with in an exceptionally short 24:42. B [sp]
Loretta Lynn: I Remember Patsy (1977, MCA): Patsy Cline had four top-two hits before her plane crash death in 1963: "Walkin' After Midnight" (1957), and from 1961-62 "I Fall to Pieces," "Crazy," and "She's Got You," plus a couple lesser hits -- a fairly thin discography for such a legend, but her voice elevated lesser fare, and that's all history required. Cline befriended Lynn when the latter arrived in Nashville, but only three years separated them (b. 1932 to 1935; first singles 1955 to 1960). This tribute remakes nine songs from Cline's songbook, and goes straight for the top shelf: the four I listed above, and "Sweet Dreams," "Faded Love," "Why Can't He Be You," "Back in Baby's Arms," "Leavin' on Your Mind," then ends with a 7:11 interview excerpt to establish Lynn's bona fide -- as if her voice wasn't ticket enough. B+(***) [sp]
Loretta Lynn: Out of My Head and Back in My Bed (1978, MCA): Another number one single, but neither it nor the follow up stick for me. B [sp]
Loretta Lynn: Making Love From Memory (1982, MCA): I Remember Patsy was her last top-10 country album until 2004's Van Lear Rose, and this was the first one that didn't chart at all. A couple odd things here, like the jazz steps on "When We Get Back Together," but I rather like Lynn's own song, "Then You'll Be Free." B [sp]
Loretta Lynn: Lyin', Cheatin', Woman Chasin', Honky Tonkin', Whiskey Drinkin' You (1983, MCA): Title song injects a badly needed bit of energy, if not quite anger, but it fades, like her career trajectory. B+(*) [sp]
Loretta Lynn: Just a Woman (1985, MCA): Three singles stiffed, and the album topped out at 63, but having put Owen Bradley in the rear view mirror, there is much evidence that she's trying harder, including two songs she wrote, and a closer about a wedding ring, called "One Man Band." B+(**) [sp]
Loretta Lynn: Who Was That Stranger (1988, MCA): Two originals, neither of them singles, but the singles stiffed. All the fun here comes from the fast ones, which are more plentiful than in a long time. B+(**) [sp]
Loretta Lynn: Still Country (2000, Audium): First studio album since 1988. Not much more to say about it. B+(*) [sp]
Charles Mingus: Tonight at Noon (1957-61 , Atlantic): Outtakes from The Clown (1957) and Oh Yeah (1961), compiled into a 38:08 LP in 1964 after the bassist had moved on to Impulse!, then basically forgotten about until digital reissues became trivial. In the meantime, the cuts were added as bonuses to CD reissues, and compiled into Rhino's 6-CD Passions of a Man: The Complete Atlantic Recordings. Of course, parts -- especially those with Booker Ervin and Roland Kirk -- sound brilliant. Pianist Wade Legge, who died at 29 after an impressive list of side-credits, may also be worth a deeper look. B+(***) [sp]
Dolly Parton/Loretta Lynn/Tammy Wynette: Honky Tonk Angels (1993, Columbia): Credit per spine, which makes sense given that it had been several years since Lynn and Wynette had recorded (1988 and 1990). Starts with the Kitty Wells hit, which has never before been encased in such vocal splendor. Wells is credited as a special guest, as is Patsy Cline ("Lovesick Blues" 30 years after her death). Lynn and Wynette write their own showcases, and Parton amends the roster of "I Dreamed of a Hillbilly Heaven." B+(**) [sp]
Ernest Tubb and Loretta Lynn: Mr. and Mrs. Used to Be (1965, Decca): Duets, the first of three albums together. Tubb was 51 and declining, Lynn 30 and on the rise, their voices an odd mix, and they spend more time breaking up than anything else. B [sp]
Ernest Tubb and Loretta Lynn: Singin' Again (1967, Decca): Country music's odd couple, back for a second engagement. The voices still don't mix, but through mutual respect they mesh much better. And Loretta's getting better at faking romance, but "Beautiful Friendship" is more to the point. B+(**) [sp]
Conway Twitty/Loretta Lynn: Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man (1973, MCA): A better duet partner for Lynn than Ernest Tubb, whose flat Texas tone never quite meshed with Lynn. Twitty, two years older with a 1959 start in rockabilly, was a comparable star in Nashville: 10 number 1 singles through 1973, vs. 7 for Lynn, though Lynn was arguably more famous beyond country music. The obvious competition was George Jones and Tammy Wynette, who released during their 1969-75 marriage, and has real chemistry before they started developing their breakup material. Twitty and Lynn was just an act, which helps explain why they were doing covers of "Bye Bye Love" and "Release Me" on their first album. But the intercourse of their voices was something to marvel at. B+(***) [sp]
Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn: Two's a Party (1981, MCA): Their tenth (and last) duet album, laid on thick. B [sp]
Conway Twitty/Loretta Lynn: The Best of Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn [20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection] (1971-88 , MCA Nashville): They knocked out an album every year for a decade, then one more after a seven year break. This 12-track max series should be ideal for hit-and-miss artists, but picking one song per album overrepresents the bad ones, and misses their one stroke of genius: "You're the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly." Pick any of several alternative comps that have it, even the 24-track The Definitive Collection, which picks up everything here and still improves on it. B+(***) [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, November 7, 2022
Music: Current count 39002  rated (+58), 43  unrated (-4: 15 new, 28 old).
Rating count shot through the roof this week because I spent several days listening to the late Jerry Lee Lewis, and his Mercury albums rarely cracked 30 minutes, so they went fast. Nothing below impressed me as much as his best compilations and live albums, but I enjoyed almost every minute. There must be a solid A- Smash/Mercury best-of somewhere. (Christgau lists 1970's The Best of Jerry Lee Lewis at A- and 1985's Milestones at A, but those weren't available, and I didn't bother reconstructing them.)
Last time I looked, there was very little back catalog available from Loretta Lynn, but that seems to have changed recently, so she may be next week's focus. [PS: The first records are remarkable. I expected the country music norm of lots of filler around a famous single or two, but her voice is extraordinary, and the covers show it off.]
I spent a lot of time compiling my 2022 best jazz and best non-jazz files. I hadn't run any numbers before, so the big surprise was that I'm starting out with 73 non-jazz A-list new albums (which is a bit more than I usually wind up with) but only 49 jazz (which usually starts higher than non-jazz, but the numbers tend to even out as I scour EOY lists. On the other hand, B+(***) albums favor jazz 147 to 92, while lower grades are fairly even at 388 jazz, 376 non-jazz. In 2021, jazz divided at 77 A-list, 163 B+(***), and 455 lower; while non-jazz had 83 A-list, 122 B+(***), and 368 lower.
As best I recall, I used to get into November with a 2-to-1 jazz advantage overall, with somewhat reduced but still positive ratios in the upper grade tiers. The only thing I did differently this year was to track the metacritic file from early in the year, so I suppose that made me more aware of new non-jazz (especially hip-hop and country) records. The change in jazz grades suggests that I've shifted the line between B+(***) and A- down. I don't know about that. I could test this by going back to a few dozen B+(***) albums to get a sense of how many I had cut short. Probably a few, but I'd be surprised if they made up the deficit.
The thing that bothers me most about the lists is the ordering of the A-lists, especially for jazz. I have less sense of a top album, a top-five, a top-ten, etc., than ever before (e.g., I haven't played the Omri Ziegele album since I reviewed it, which is likely given that I streamed it, but I haven't played the top-rated CDs (Marta Sanchez, Andrew Cyrille, Rob Brown, Manel Fortiá) either, or anything else on the A-list. I'm sure that if I played them again, I'd like them again, but have absolutely no sense of how to order them. In such circumstances, what tends to happen is I add new records near the bottom of the list (this week's A- records are at 45 and 46), so early records wind up toward the top of the list. The non-jazz list is in slightly better shape, but I expect both will see a lot of reordering in the coming weeks. Plus additions, of course.
I arbitrarily nudged the Selo I Ludi grade up not due to any relistening but because I wanted to include it in the latecomer section of the EOY lists. Just seemed like the sort of record that belongs there. I'm not through reviewing the year's Streamnotes archives for possible additions. It's a slow, unpleasant process.
I should note that yesterday's Speaking of Which includes a long note on a piece by Brad Luen that Robert Christgau reprinted as a guest post last week. One more thing I want to stress is that it doesn't take a very high percentage of deaths (or other calamities) to produce a huge psychic toll. I'd say there is zero chance of all human beings being exterminated, and given that there is virtually zero chance of eradicating civilization (by which I mean our accumulated knowledge about the world). But there are a lot of bad things that can happen, and they reverberate through the living, often mutating into further bad things. One question I've been wondering about for at least 30 years is how close we are to the limits of Earth's carrying capacity. This isn't simply a question of population and resources, but varies considerably by organizational efficiency. The closer we are to the edge, the more fragile our world becomes. And if bad things create bad people -- which is suggested by the rise of neo-fascist parties around the world -- the risks of real systemic breakdown explode. These thoughts are the foundation for much of what I wrote yesterday.
I'm aiming to send out Jazz Critics Poll ballot requests by November 15. I've done some website setup, and should start assembling a mail list later this week. Sponsorship is still unsettled, but I'm not going to worry about that.
After I started writing this, I noticed that I still had unpacking to do. Next week for that.
New records reviewed this week:
Konrad Agnas/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Mattias Ståhl/Per Texas Johansson: All Slow Dream Gone (2022, Moserobie): Texas -- cover/spine only offers one name each, and that's how he appears -- plays clarinets (including bass and contrabass), an impressive showing over a first-rate rhythm section (drums, bass, vibraphone). A- [cd]
Daniel Avery: Ultra Truth (2022, Phantasy Sound): British electronica producer, 2013 debut called Drone Logic, this starts with a piano riff that expands into a reverb cloud. I prefer drums, and sometimes this delivers. B+(**) [sp]
Brian Charette: Jackpot (2021 , Cellar): Organ player, debut 2009, seemed at first like he wanted to set out a new path for his instrument, but hard to do that when the temptations of soul jazz are so obvious. Quartet with Cory Weeds (tenor sax), Ed Cherry (guitar), and Bill Stewart (drums). B+(*) [sp]
Shemekia Copeland: Done Come Too Far (2022, Alligator): Blues singer, father was Johnny Copeland, 11th album since 1998. The high-minded opener should hit harder, but her formula for success isn't really "Dumb It Down"; it's catchier tunes, with a bit of humor. B+(**) [sp]
Trevor Dunn Trio - Convulsant Avec Folie à Quatre: Seances (2022, Pyroclastic): Bassist, electric as well as double, started in a band called Mr. Bungle, has a dozen or so albums as leader, a much longer list of side credits (Discogs lists 249). This revives his 2004 group Trio-Convulsant, with Mary Halvorson and Ches Smith returning on guitar and drums, and adds a chamber jazz quartet, consisting of Carla Kihlstedt (violin), Mariel Roberts (cello), Oscar Noriega (clarinet), and Anna Webber (flute). B+(***) [cd]
R.A.P. Ferreira: 5 to the Eye With Stars (2022, Ruby Yacht, EP): Chicago rapper, previously Milo, fell back on his own name, the initial standing for Rory Allen Philip. Starts brilliantly, doesn't fade so much as fracture. Short album: 9 tracks, 23:09. B+(***) [sp]
Joe Fiedler: Solo: The Howland Sessions (2022, Multiphonics): Trombonist, debut 1998, did a tribute to Albert Mangelsdorff in 2005, marks the 50th anniversary of Mangelsdorff's first solo performance with his own solo album. Tough going, but interesting. B+(**) [cd]
Fred Again: Actual Life (January 1-September 9 2022) (2022, Atlantic): British electronica producer Fred John Philip Gibson, third album, all stylized as time slices in everyday life. B+(*) [sp]
Satoko Fujii: Hajimeru (2021, Libra, EP): Japanese avant-pianist, very prodigious, slipped this 4-track, 29:01 digital album out with no publicity last year. B+(*) [bc]
Satoko Fujii: Bokyaku (2022, Libra): Concept here is to take found noises ("trains, airplane, helicopters, laundry machine, water drops, parked boats, constructers, etc.") and play a little music to go with them. Perhaps too little. B [bc]
Steve Gadd/Eddie Gomez/Ronnie Cuber: Center Stage (2022, Leopard): Credit below the title is WDR Big Band, arranged & conducted by Michael Abene, with the guest stars on drums, bass, and baritone sax. I don't know when this was recorded, but it came out two weeks before Cuber died (at 80). He sounds pretty good here, buoyed not less by the heft of the big band than by his rhythm co-stars, ably aided on a selection of funk tunes by WDR's guitar (Bruno Müller) and organ players (Bobby Sparks II). B+(*) [sp]
Gato Libre: Sleeping Cat (2022, Libra): Trumpet player Natsuki Tamura's group, ninth album since 2004, with trombone (Yasuko Kaneko), and wife Satoko Fujii backing on accordion (instead of her usual piano). Slow, a bit too sketchy. B+(*) [bc]
Buddy Guy: The Blues Don't Lie (2022, RCA/Silvertone): Chicago blues legend, 86 now, born in Louisiana, moved to Chicago and got picked up by Chess, his first recordings -- I Was Walking Through the Woods, from 1960-64 -- made Robert Santelli's top 100 blues albums list. I was less impressed by him than by the giants's of the Chess blues stable, at least until he teamed up with Junior Wells (Hoodoo Man Blues was number 8 on Santelli's list, vs. 78 for Guy's album). He's long since outlived all of them, developed as a singer, never had to make any excuses for his guitar, and I now find he's had a half-dozen albums between the last one I noticed (2010) and this one. He gets a lot of help here, but is just as effective on the closing solo take of "King Bee" (but he's still not Muddy Waters). B+(***) [sp]
Jupiter: The Wild East (2022, Moserobie): Originally (2004) a guitar-organ duo of Håvard Stubø and Steinar Sønk Nickelsen, soon joined by saxophonist Jonas Kullhammar, and eventually by drummer Johan Holmegard. Best when the sax breaks out. B+(*) [cd]
Kanda Bongo Man: Yolele! Live in Concert (2016 , No Wahala Sounds): Congolese soukous star, emerged in the 1980s, got some US recognition when Hannibal several albums 1987-93 (from Amour Fou to Soukous in Central Park). B+(**) [sp]
Kanda Bongo Man: Kekete Bue (2022, No Wahala Sounds): First new album since 2010, although it includes "reinterpretations of some of his classic songs." B+(**) [sp]
Mavi: Laughing So Hard, It Hurts (2022, United Masters): Rapper Omavi Minder, from North Carolina, has a 2019 album after a couple self-released efforts. B+(**) [sp]
Bill Orcutt: Music for Four Guitars (2021 , Palilalia): Guitarist, founded the noise-punk duo Harry Pussy (1993-98), released a solo album in 1996, a couple dozen fringe albums since. He plays all four guitars here, so a solo album with overdubbed overtones, more metallic klang around rough-hewn riffs. B+(**) [sp]
Phoenix: Alpha Zulu (2022, Glassnote): French indie pop band, sing in English, seventh album since 2000, of which their fourth (Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix) was an international breakout with solid critical support. They remain catchy, but I suspect a long popular slide is in order. B+(*) [sp]
Plains: I Walked With You a Ways (2022, Anti-): Alt-country duo of Jess Williamson (who has four albums since 2014) and Katie Crutchfield (aka Waxahatchee, five albusm since 2012, after her debut with P.S. Eliot). Starts with harmonies as tight as the McGarrigles, and develops from there. A- [sp]
Rufus Reid Trio and the Sirius Quartet: Celebration (2022, Sunnyside): Bassist, several dozen albums since 1979 plus hundreds of side credits. Trio with Steve Allee (piano) and drums (Duduka da Fonseca), plus string quartet on six (of 11) tracks. B- [sp]
Antonio Sanchez: Shift (Bad Hombre Vol. II) (2022, Warner): Mexican drummer, based in New York since 1999, usually a jazz guy, but he seems to have gotten into this via soundtracks, and has lined up guest singers for nearly every track. B [sp]
Josh Sinton's Predicate Quartet: Four Freedoms (2022, Form Is Possibility): Leader plays baritone sax, bass clarinet, and alto flute, played in the Steve Lacy tribute group Ideal Bread. Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet) is most impressive here, backed by Christopher Hoffman (cello) and Tom Rainey (drums). A- [cd]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Crossroads Kenya: East African Benga and Rumba, 1980-1985 (1980-85 , No Wahala Sounds): Seven singles (48:31) by as many bands, none I recall, but I couldn't name most of the bands on the so-far definitive Guitar Paradise of East Africa compilation. This may be second- or even third-tier, but that guitar sound is pretty hard to resist. A- [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: The Killer Keys of Jerry Lee Lewis (1956-60 , Sun): Sun Records 70th anniversary series, remastered from original mono tapes, on vinyl, 14 "favorites, alternative versions & deep cuts." Seems like a fairly arbitrary collection, with two big hits but only a couple more obvious picks. B+(***) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: Jerry Lee Lewis (1958, Sun): After his two breakthrough hits in 1957 ("Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On," "Great Balls of Fire"), and one last top-ten single in early 1958 ("Breathless"), Sam Phillips figured he'd try an LP. They seem to be throwing a lot of shit at the wall, with covers of Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins not measuring up. But "Jambalaya" and "When the Saints Go Marching In" do get the blood pumping. B+(***) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: The Essential Jerry Lee Lewis: The Sun Years (1956-63 , Legacy, 2CD): Sure, a top shelf single-CD compilation like Rhino's Original Sun Greatest Hits is more choice, but Rhino's supplementary single-CD Rare Tracks was nearly as good. This isn't as consistent as either, but runs 40 tracks without breaking down. A- [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: The Golden Cream of Country (1956-63 , Sun): Released by Shelby Singleton, who had produced Lewis at Smash, soon after he bought the Sun catalog. His earliest hits charted even higher on the country charts than on the pop charts, and by 1968 he had settled into a country music niche, so Singleton scoured the archives to construct a competitive album. No dates were offered, so I'm going with Lewis's Sun tenure, but most likely toward the end of that, and even so some pieces sound like they could be doctored (strings weren't big at Sun, and Linda Gail Lewis (who would have been 16 in 1963), joins for a duet). Eleven songs (none essential), 26:56. B [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: A Taste of Country (1956-63 , Sun): Even his biggest early singles placed higher on the country chart than on pop, so it shouldn't be surprising that even when he was recognized as a rock star, he recorded a lot of country filler. He reinvented himself as a full-fledged country artist when he moved to Smash in 1964. When Shelby Singleton (who had produced Lewis at Smash) bought Sun in 1969, he cashed in with this "new" album of oldies: mostly ballads but Lewis can't quite contain himself when Hank Williams is concerned ("Your Cheatin' Heart," and better still is "You Win Again," one of the few covers Lewis owns). Short: 11 tracks, 26:37. B+(***) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: Country Songs for City Folks (1965, Smash): I guess the concept is that "city folks" wouldn't already know these 12 hit songs, but half of them I recall as hits from a time when I wouldn't be caught dead listening to country music: the biggest was "King of the Road," but it was hard not to also recognize "Walk Right In," "Ring of Fire," "Detroit City," "Wolverton Mountain," and "North to Alaska" (where little sister Linda Gail Lewis made her debut). B+(**) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: Soul My Way (1967, Smash): Jerry Kennedy took over as producer, and toyed with the idea of flipping Ray Charles over, which works surprisingly well when he picks something upbeat (e.g., "Turn on Your Love Light") and turns on the Memphis horns. Not everything fit that mold, so this is remains a curiosity, a road not taken. Short: 26:56. B+(**) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: Another Place, Another Time (1968, Smash): This is where Lewis finally makes his commitment to contemporary country music, scoring two top-five singles (the title track and "What's Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me)"). Eleven songs, 27:33. B+(***) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis & Linda Gail Lewis: Together (1969, Smash): His little sister was 12 years younger, with a brash but not very artful voice. She appeared as a duet partner on a couple previous songs, but gets a whole album here (and another on her own, but just one). For a guy who famously married an underaged cousin (along with seven other wives), they don't have much chemistry, but his leads are solid enough. She finally got another shot in a rockabilly revival in 1990, and hung on for a couple dozen mostly good albums. B+(*) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: She Still Comes Around (To Love What's Left of Me) (1969, Smash): Two more hit singles, the title track and "To Make Love Sweeter for You" (his first #1 since "Great Balls of Fire"). Eleven songs: 27:48. B+(**) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: Sings the Country Music Hall of Fame Hits, Vol. 1 (1969, Smash): With a couple country hit albums under his belt, this must have seemed like the easiest way to get a third, and indeed this was his highest charting country album ever. This doesn't have the crossover novelties of Country Songs for City Folks, but if you listened to country music from the late-1940s into the mid-1960s, you should recognize them all. (Granted, "Sweet Dreams" did cross over for Patsy Cline, #44 in 1963, and Tommy McLain, #15 in 1966, but the original country hits were by writer Don Gibson and coverer Faron Young in 1956.) Of course, he sings them credibly -- not that you'd pick these versions over Williams or Frizzell or even Gibson -- and he adds his signature piano. But Linda Gail heats up "Jackson" enough to give Cash & Carter a run for the money. B+(***) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: Sings the Country Music Hall of Fame Hits, Vol. 2 (1969, Smash): Same deal here, extending the session to a second day, with Linda Gail returning for a second closing duet ("Sweet Thang"). B+(**) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye (1970, Mercury): New label, same producer (Jerry Kennedy), eleven short songs (26:51), most well-known filler ("Working Man Blues," "Waiting for a Train," "Brown Eyed Handsome Man," "Since I Met You Baby"), a formula that can easily be milked for three albums a year. He's enough of a stylist that he doesn't have to eclipse Chuck Berry or Merle Haggard to be entertaining singing their songs. And give him a song like "When the Grass Grows Over Me" and he'll own it. B+(***)
Jerry Lee Lewis: There Must Be More to Love Than This (1971, Mercury): The only Lewis to co-write a song here is Linda Gail. The rest (aside from "Sweet Georgia Brown") come from contemporary Nashville songsmiths, who have reams of songs for any situation, especially a crumbling marriage. B+(**) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: Touching Home (1971, Mercury): Another solid if unspectacular album, with the usual pair of modest hit singles. B+(**) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: Would You Take Another Chance on Me? (1971, Mercury): Feeling the gravity of the countrypolitan trend, but he doesn't let it sink him, partly because he can talk as well as sing through the murk. Or turn up the heat, as he does on "Me and Bobby McGee." B+(**) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: The "Killer" Rocks On (1972, Mercury): "Me and Bobbie McGee" was enough of a hit -- his first top-40 pop hit since "High School Confidential" in 1958 -- that they decided to recontextualize it in an album of rock covers (if you count two tracks by Joe South). "Chantilly Lace" is in his wheelhouse, and his Elvis impression is getting better. B+(**) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: Who's Gonna Play This Old Piano? (1972, Mercury): Back in his country groove, the title song custom built for him, several others of note. B+(**) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: Sometimes a Memory Ain't Enough (1973, Mercury): Producer Sam Kesler provides the title single, and revives an oldie he co-wrote for Elvis. Of the rest, "Falling to the Bottom" fits Lewis best. B+(*) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: The Session . . . Recorded in London With Great Artists (1973 , Mercury): Originally released on 2-LP, trimmed down to 14 tracks (56:35) for CD (which matches my stream), later offered in a 2-CD "Complete" edition (2006, Hip-O Select, 25 tracks, 94:03). I'd be curious about some of the missing songs ("Be Bop a Lula," "Satisfaction") but chances are the editions even out. The "great artists" aren't so great: most famous are Albert Lee, Peter Frampton, Rory Gallagher, Gary Wright, Delaney Bramlett, and Klaus Voorman. Good enough for an oldies show, with a major in red hot piano. B+(***) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: Southern Roots: Back Home in Memphis (1973, Mercury): So he does a couple soul songs with the Stax crew including Memphis horns ("When a Man Loves a Woman," "Hold On! I'm Coming"), but he's also being pulled back to Louisiana, with Huey P. Meaux producing, feeding him both "Blueberry Hill" and a Doug Sahm song ("The Revolutionary Man"). But he tops them all with "Meat Man." B+(***) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: I-40 Country (1974, Mercury): I-40 crosses Tennesse, passing through Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville, extending east across North Carolina to Wilmington, and west across Arkansas and Oklahoma on to Barstow, California (2,556 miles total). What the highway has to do with this record isn't evident: maybe the Memphis-to-Nashville path he followed, but he's usually more fun when he heads the other way. B+(*) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: Boogie Woogie Country Man (1975, Mercury): His 30th album, with two songs by a young songwriter named Tom T. Hall, he cuts back on the strings and powers through eleven songs in 28:55. Holds the title song back until the end. B+(*) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: Odd Man In (1975, Mercury): Picks up where the last album left off with another boogie woogie, then segues into "Shake, Rattle & Roll." Reprises "Goodnight Irene," and boogie woogies "Your Cheatin' Heart." B+(**) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: Country Class (1976, Mercury): Eleven more songs. I wouldn't say he's just going through the motions, but nothing especially notable here. Ends with a creepy one about making love to one woman while thinking of another. B+(*) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: Country Memories (1977, Mercury): Opens with "Middle Age Crazy," where the line "trying to prove he still can" suggests self-revelation, but he distances himself a bit by taking it easy when a little crazy might have helped. He follows this with a real nice Ernest Tubb song, and includes a lovely "Georgia on My Mind." B+(***) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: Jerry Lee Keeps Rockin' (1977 , Mercury): His last album for Mercury, feels a bit like contract filler, although he acquits himself well on familiar hits ("Blue Suede Shoes," "Sweet Little Sixteen," "Lucille"). I assume the recording date is 1977, because that's the year Lewis's Mercury compilations end. B+(*) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: Jerry Lee Lewis (1979, Elektra): After a decade-plus in Nashville cranking out 2-3 solid mainstream country albums each year, he goes to Los Angeles, where producer Bones Howe wanted him to rock a little. He obliges. B+(**) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: When Two Worlds Collide (1980, Elektra): After his return to rock and roll stiffed (186 pop, 23 country), the label beat a retreat to Nashville. This one didn't do any better (32 country). Title song from Roger Miller. Fave is a dixieland throwback. B+(*) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: Killer Country (1980, Elektra): Leans back toward rock, but scores his biggest hit in a while with another middle-age crazy tale, "Thirty-Nine and Holding." Includes interesting takes on "Folsom Prison Blues" and "Over the Rainbow." B+(**) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: Young Blood (1995, Sire): After being dropped by Elektra, he released two albums on MCA and three more on off labels before this one-shot, recorded in five studios over a couple years. A mix of rockabillied country songs and countrified rock and roll. Voice isn't in great shape, but he can still boogie. B+(*) [sp]
Jerry Lee Lewis: Last Man Standing (2006, Artists First): Somehow, Lewis managed to outlive all the other major Sun stars from the 1950s, so he claimed the title with an album of 21 old songs featuring that many duet partners, where the median name is probably more famous than Lewis (and only certain exception is Delaney Bramlett, although in a better world Toby Keith and Kid Rock would count, and maybe Robbie Robertson, Don Henley, and/or Eric Clapton). Still, I'm not sure the guests add (or detract) all that much. B+(**) [sp]
Linda Gail Lewis: The Two Sides of Linda Gail Lewis (1969, Smash): Jerry Lee's little sister, appeared as a duet partner in 1967 (when she was 20, and he 32), raised her profile in 1969 with their Together and this solo album -- the only one she released until 1990. She sings with gusto, and wrote a couple songs, but not as good as the ones Hank Williams wrote. B+(*) [bc]
Grade (or other) changes:
Selo I Ludy Performance Band: Bunch One (2019, self-released): Ukrainian covers band, struck me as "pure corn," a favorite of Ukraine sympathizers in the first month of the Putin invasion. [was: B+(**)] B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, October 31, 2022
Music: Current count 38944  rated (+26), 47  unrated (+4: 19 new, 28 old).
Rated count the lowest in quite some time (3rd lowest in 2022, after a 0 and a 21), mostly because I spent two days cooking birthday dinner (if you're interested, there's a writeup in the notebook), and took a while after that to get back to work. I did catch up some while working on Speaking of Which, but had trouble thinking of things to search out.
I got a kind note from Don Malcolm suggesting I write more about the late Mike Davis, but I haven't read that much by him -- in particular, I don't have his Los Angeles books, and I have very little personal experience with the city or the area, so I've always wondered how much I'd get out of them. But I did manage to collect some links, including an interview from shortly before he died. One thing I was struck by was how often he was identified as a Marxist historian. As far as I can tell, that's not something he wrote much about (although he was often published by Verso Books, and one recent title there was Old Gods, New Enigmas: Marx's Lost Theory). But I know from my own experience that once you get the key ideas from Marx and his followers, you can go anywhere and examine anything and find fresh insights. That's what Davis did -- and also what Barbara Ehrenreich did, although somewhat less obviously.
Best thing about my birthday was hearing from several friends and relatives I've been missing. I still have a lot of catching up to do.
I saw a newspaper article last week explaining that despite reports to the contrary, Jerry Lee Lewis was still alive. Next day, he died, at 86. I'll listen to some more albums in the next week, but for now here's my list (long on compilations and live albums). Although Rhino's Original Sun Greatest Hits is the A+, the one I return to most often is a later live album called Rockin' My Life Away.
I got zero response to my Jazz Critics Poll request last week, so I'm just going ahead. I'll set up the website framework and mailing list later this week, and should be ready to send out the ballot invites mid-November. I have one probable sponsor lined up, which is one more than I minimally need, so I expect it to go fairly smoothly.
I got my copy of Rick Lopez's magnificent The Sam Rivers Sessionography: A Work in Progress, so let's go ahead and put it in my book scroll. Lopez has been producing extraordinary sessionographies for 20+ years -- I first ran across him when I was writing my William Parker/Matthew Shipp Consumer Guide in 2003, where I raved about his "treasure troves of information, some of the finest scholarship available on the internet today." I should have gone farther and pointed out that this is what the Internet was built for, and what vulture capitalists have denied us with their relentless monetization. Few people are more worthy of your support (and, as I said, the book is gorgeous). By the way, you can find an excerpt at Perfect Sound Forever.
New records reviewed this week:
Arild Andersen Group: Affirmation (2021 , ECM): Norwegian bassist, started as a George Russell protégé in the late 1960s, has had a long and fruitful career. Quartet here with Marius Neset (tenor sax), Helge Lien (piano), and Håkon Måjset Johansen (drums), the multipart title piece jointly credited, plus his own "Short Story." Remarkable balance and poise. A- [sp]
Tim Berne/Matt Mitchell: One More, Please (2021 , Intakt): Alto sax and piano duo, their first duo record 2017's Førage, this the fifth by my count, but the only other one I've managed to hear is 2020's Spiders, still a slight preference although most likely they're all quite close, high-level collaborations. B+(***) [sp]
Bi Ba Doom: Graceful Collision (2022, Astral Spirits): Free jazz trio, first album as such but musicians are fairly well established: Chris Pitsiokos (alto sax), Luke Stewart (bass), and Jason Nazary (drums), everyone also electronics. B+(***) [bc]
Sarah Buechi/Franz Hellmueller/Rafael Jerjen: Moon Trail (2021 , Intakt): Swiss vocalist, titles in English (except for one in French, one in German), modestly backed with guitar and bass. She sings with rare poise, although the best known standards (like "I Thought About You") can feel tortured. B+(**) [sp]
Tito Carrillo: Urbanessence (2021 , Origin): Trumpet player, from Chicago, second album, original pieces, played by a sextet with sax (Troy Roberts), piano (Ben Lewis), bass, drums, and congas. B+(*) [sp]
The Claudettes: The Claudettes Go Out! (2022, Forty Below): Indie band from Chicago, founded by keyboardist Johnny Iguana in 2013, singer Berit Ulseth, fifth album. B+(*) [sp]
Zella Day: Sunday in Heaven (2022, Concord): Indie pop singer-songwriter from Arizona, self-released an album at 14 in 2009, second album since. B+(*) [sp]
John Dikeman/Stefan Gonzalez/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Jonathan F Horne: Texas Butt Biters (2019 , Astral Spirits): Sax. drums, bass, guitar, recorded in Amsterdam (Dikeman's home turf), although the others have ties to Texas. B+(*) [bc]
Kaja Draksler/Susana Santos Silva: Grow (2021 , Intakt): Piano and trumpet duo, from Slovenia and Portugal, both have been very active of late, including a previous duo in 2015 (This Love, on Clean Feed). Has an uncomfortably industrial feel, not expected given the instruments. B [sp]
Dry Cleaning: Stumpwork (2022, 4AD): English post-punk band, second album after an acclaimed debut, Florence Shaw vocalist (mostly spoken word). It's a vibe I'm hopelessly attracted to, even if I never seem able to parse it. A- [sp]
Lincoln Goines: The Art of the Bass Choir (2020-21 , Origin): Bassist, seems like he's been around a while but his may be his first leader album. Employs 10 bassists, but usually in duos, with a drummer (of four total), cello on two cuts, voices on two more (one an Adam Nussbaum rap, praising Jaco Pastorius). Cites "Steve Swallow's upper register explorations" as an inspiration, so much of this sounds like guitar. B+(*) [sp]
Eric Jacobson: Discover (2022, Origin): Trumpet player, leads a hard bop quintet, with Geof Bradfield (tenor sax), Bruce Barth (piano), bass, and drums, playing half originals, plus covers including Dizzy Gillespie and Blue Mitchell. B+(**) [sp]
Benjamin Lackner: Last Decade (2021 , ECM): German pianist, albums since 2003 (mostly as Benny). This is a quartet with Matthias Eick (trumpet), Jérôme Regard (bass), and Manu Katché (drums). B+(**) [sp]
Michael Marcus: Abstractions in Lime Caverns (2021 , ESP-Disk): Plays reed instruments (here: soprano/tenor sax, alto tarogato, G clarinet, bass flute, gong), discography starts 1990, including Cosmosamatics (with Sonny Simmons, 9 albums) and Duology (with Ted Daniel, 4 albums). These are duos with drummer Jay Rosen, expanded to trios (2 tracks) or quartets (3) with Frank Lacy (French horn) and/or Tarus Mateen (bass). B+(***) [cd]
John McCowen: Models of Duration (2020 , Dinzu Artefacts/Astral Spirits): Contrabass clarinet player, has several albums, this one solo, nothing electronic but sounds like a cross of Stuart Dempster's deep drones and an amplifier feedback album like Metal Machine Music. I don't think he's trying to be annoying, but the title suggests a test of endurance. B [bc]
Mali Obomsawin: Sweet Tooth (2022, Out of Your Head): Bassist, from the Wabanaki First Nation of Canada, also sings and plays hand drums, organized her debut albums as three movements, drawing on folk tales and jazz musicians, including co-producer Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet/flugelhorn), saxophonists Noah Campbell and Allison Burik (also bass clarinet), guitarist Miriam Elhajli (also sings), and Savannah Harris (drums). A- [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Fruition (2021 , ESP-Disk): Tenor sax and piano duo, they have well more than a dozen, starting with 1996's Bendito of Santa Cruz, and the obsessive documentation of every encounter can grow numbing. For many years I was sent all of them, and tried my best to figure sort them out. All of Perelman's records are good, and many are outstanding, and same for Shipp. But for me at least, the torrent has slowed down, even as Perelman's ambitions have grown: I never heard last year's 9-CD Brass and Ivory Tales or the Special Edition Box (only 1-CD + Blue-Ray + book, with Shipp) or this year's 2-CD Magic Dust or this week's Reed Rapture (duets with 12 famous saxophonists that would fill up as many CDs). On the other hand, this single (11 tracks, 60:13) really hits the spot. A- [cd]
Barre Phillips/György Kurtág Jr.: Face à Face (2020-21 , ECM): Bass and electronics duo. Phillips has albums going back to 1969, including a bass duo with Dave Holland in 1971. Kurtág's father is a famous Hungarian composer (b. 1926, so 96). B [sp]
Tegan and Sara: Crybaby (2022, Mom + Pop): Twin sisters, last name Quin, from Canada, tenth album since 1999. Gloomy song titles, but otherwise pretty jaunty. I must be missing something. B+(***) [sp]
Walking Cliché Sextet: Suite Chase Reflex (2019 , self-released, EP): Korean-born, New York-based bassist SeaJun Kwon, debuts with a single 26:15, leading a sextet with tenor sax (Jacob Shulman), alto sax (Aaron Dutton), trombone (Michael Prentky), piano (Erez Dessel), and drums (Charles Weller). B+(*) [bc]
Walking Cliché Sextet [SeaJun Kwon]: Micro-Nap (2020-21 , Endectomorph Music): Aside from part-time subs on piano and drums, same group for a 50:33 program, starts with piano intro before rousing the horns, before finally smoothing out with the 15:31 "Suite Transient." B+(***) [cd]
RA Washington/Jah Nada: In Search of Our Father's Gardens (2021 , Astral Spirits): Washington, from Mourning (A) Blkstar (an Ohio-based "gender and genre non-conforming amalgam of Black Culture"), plays piano, drums, and sings; Nada, from other Ohio groups (the only one I've heard of is Obnox) plays bass, synths, and drums; others from their circle add horns, guitars, and vocals. B+(*) [bc]
Brodie West Quintet: Meadow of Dreams (2020 , Astral Spirits): Alto saxophonist, from Toronto, has a couple previous albums going back to 2003, including a duo and a trio with Han Bennink. This one has piano (Tania Gill), bass (Josh Cole), and drums (Nick Fraser), plus wild card Evan Cartwright (credits: drums, vibraphone, and guitar). B+(*) [bc]
Chris Williams/Patrick Shiroishi: Sans Soleil II (2022, Astral Spirits): Trumpet and saxophone duo, both play related instruments and other "objects" and, yes, they've done this before. B+(*) [bc]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Ron Carter: Finding the Right Notes (2014-21 , In+Out): Bassist, probably holds the record for most albums anyone has played on (Wikipedia says 2,221 recording sessions). Title is from a 2014 "autobiography" which has Dan Ouellette's name on the cover, and was the basis for a PBS documentary, to which this is the official soundtrack (the 2-LP adds one song and reorders others). Although he has a substantial number of albums as leader (or co-, Wikipedia count is 61), he spent his career (still active at 85) making other people sound good. This starts way down the road, at 74, the tracks picked less for representativeness than to support views of him soloing, or playing in small groups (like duos with Bill Frisell or Jon Batiste). B+(**) [sp]
Sun Ra & His Blue Universe Arkestra: Universe in Blue (1971 , Cosmic Myth): Dates unknown, "probably live in California, ca. August 1971," released on LP with two different covers in 1972, and neglected since. Starts with sludgy blues organ, then a June Tyson vocal on "When the Black Man Rules This Land." Adds two bonus tracks, a plus, especially when John Gilmore gets cranked up. B+(**) [sp]
Michael Marcus: Sunwheels (2000 , Justin Time): Cover extends the credit: "with Rahn Burton/Nasheet Waits/& Special Guest Carlos 'Patato' Valdes." Back cover just lists Marcus, shown with tenor and soprano saxophones, the others playing organ, drums, and congas. B+(***) [sp]
Michael Marcus Trio: Blue Reality (2001 , Soul Note): Plays alto sax and saxello here, with Taurus Mateen (bass, electric bass, percussion) and Jay Rosen (drums). Album title was resurrected by Marcus and Rosen for their Blue Reality Quartet! in 2020, which missed having a bassist tie things together like Mateen does here. (The Quartet doubled up on reeds and drums with Joe McPhee and Warren Smith.) A- [sp]
Michael Marcus: Speakin' Out (2001-02 , Drimala): Solo album, mixes it up by playing clarinet, tenor sax, alto sax, saxello, and bass clarinet. This has the usual limits, but Marcus has spent most of his career working with minimal support, so he's well prepared to go it alone. B+(**) [sp]
Michael Marcus: Stone Jump (2019-20 , Not Two): Five more names on the cover, but over several sessions we're mostly looking at quartets, with piano (John Austria on electric, or Denton Darien on acoustic), bass (Tyler Mitchell), and drums (Warren Smith), with Lawrence Feldman's alto flute on two tracks. By his usual standards, this feels rather luxe -- even has ballads. B+(**) [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, October 24, 2022
Music: Current count 38918  rated (+38), 43  unrated (+2: 15 new, 28 old).
I spent a lot of time working on my Book Roundup post, which got rushed out late Saturday. I suppose it wouldn't tip my hand severely if I linked to my Books: Next Draft file, which is where I've been organizing the column. The "Main" and "Secondary" sections should be empty after each post. "Draft" contains entries I've written a bit about: I may be planning to return and write more, or they simply didn't make the cut, but they may show up in a future "Main" section. Similarly, "Noted" missed the "Secondary" cut, but could be expanded into "Main" section entries later (or grouped under other "Main" section entries).
That left me Sunday to scratch together a Speaking of Which. Considering the late start and limited time, and the fact that I posted before midnight, I feel like I came up with quite a bit. I wrote half of the introduction to start, then finished it at the end. As we get closer to the election, I feel more like spelling out the obvious.
I have very little to add on the music, except that I found out about Mary McCaslin's death last week, which sent me back to pick up the ones I missed. The others are here. I played Swift and Jepsen today, in that order, while trying to write, so I wasn't hanging on every word (not that I ever am, but they got three plays each). Swift is higher on the list, and more likely to go up than down (unlike Jepsen, which tails off a bit toward the end -- maybe because I wound up listening to the longer version).
One more thing here, and it's important (at least to me): if you've voted in Francis Davis's Jazz Critics Poll in the past, and you would like to help out with my organization of this year's poll, send me an email to express your interest. I want to set up a mailing list, and need some people to test it out on before I send out the actual ballot invitations (around mid-November, with a mid-December deadline). I'll also explain some of the mechanics of how the poll works, and how I see using the website as a voter reference (e.g., I'd like to add a FAQ). I'd welcome comments and questions, but I'm not asking a lot: mostly just tolerate getting some test email. Also, as per recent years, if you want to nominate a voter, or nominate yourself, please let me know.
Need to get this up and out of the way early, so I can get on with cooking birthday dinner. Going with some favorite comfort foods this year, not least because I expect that will reduce wear and tear.
New records reviewed this week:
Claudia Acuña: Duo (2022, Ropeadope): Singer from Chile, based in New York since 1995, presents nine songs, featuring jazz notables like Kenny Barron, Christian McBride, Fred Hersch, Regina Carter, and Russell Malone. Remarkable singer, working in her native Spanish. I find her a bit too operatic, but one can't help being impressed. B+(*) [cd]
The Airport 77s: We Realize You Have a Choice (2022, Jem): Indie band from Maryland's DC suburbs, guitar-bass-drums with a bit of keyb, longer follow-up to their 2021 (8 songs, 25:56) debut. Chunky rhythms, some hooks, closer to rockabilly than to punk. B+(*) [sp]
Akusmi: Fleeting Future (2022, Tonal Union): French producer Pascal Bideau, first album under this alias, plays alto sax, flute, keyboards, guitar, bass guitar, percussion, with a group that also includes saxophonist Ruth Velten, plus trombone and drums -- sort of a jazz band playing dance music riffs. B+(**) [sp]
Gyedu-Blay Ambolley: Gyedu-Blay Ambolley and Hi-Life Jazz (2022, Agogo): Saxophonist from Ghana, bandleader since 1973, his debut album defined a genre, Simigwa, but his roots are in high-life, which he's messed with enough to be called "the godfather of hiplife." I'm not seeing credits or dates, but this seems to be new (he is 75 this year), and not better for the postmodern effects. B [sp]
Bibio: Bib10 (2022, Warp): Electronica producer Stephen Wilkinson, from England, tenth album since 2005, has a similar number of EPs. B+(*) [sp]
Burial: Streetlands (2022, Hyperdub, EP): William Bevan, electronica producer since 2005, niche ambient. He mostly releases EPs: this 3-track job runs long enough at 34:27 but the concept is so small we might as well label it accordingly. B [bc]
Tommy Crane: We're All Improvisers Now (2020-21 , Whirlwind): Montreal/New York-based drummer, has a couple albums, also plays keyboards and synth bass here, augmented by occasional guests: saxophonists Charlotte Greve, Logan Richardson, and Chris Speed get one track each, guitarist Simon Angell three, electric bassist Jordan Brooks six, French horn (Pietro Amato) two. Lives up to its billing as "tranquil yet propulsive," but not to its title. B+(*) [sp]
Criolo: Sobre Viver (2022, Oloko): Brazilian singer-songwriter Kleber Cavalcante Gomes, raps some, eighth album since 2006. B+(**) [sp]
Jens Düppe: Ego_D (2022, Enja/Yellowbird): German drummer, has a few albums since 2004, also plays piano (like a drum), possibly everything else here, including some (but not all) of the spoken word, which starts with "the beat." B+(***) [sp]
Open Mike Eagle: Component System With the Auto Reverse (2022, Auto Reverse): Chicago rapper, born with the name Michael Eagle, eighth album since 2010, reportedly a revue of his whole oeuvre, hard for me to ascertain even though I'm something of a fan. I just enjoy the ride. A- [sp]
Flohio: Out of Heart (2022, AWAL): London rapper Funmi Ohiosumah, billed as her debut album (although Discogs lists another, from 2020). B+(**) [sp]
Darryl Harper: Chamber Made (2022, Stricker Street): Clarinet player, has been around a while, although there is little on him in sources like Discogs (at least that I can find; he's cut a number of albums as The Onus). This starts with a "Suite for Clarinet and String Quartet" written by Ryan Truesdell. The album is filled out with pieces written by others (Stevie Wonder is the only one that qualifies as a cover), further exercising the "chamber jazz" idea. B+(*) [cd] [10-28]
Hickeys: Fragile Structure (2022, self-released): Spanish rock group, four women, sing in English (I think), a little darker and harder than indie pop. B+(**) [sp]
Jason Kao Hwang/J.A. Deane [Dino Duo]: Uncharted Faith (2021 , Tone Science Music/Blue Coast Music): Violin/electronics duo, started with violin solos which Deane (aka Dino) added to remotely while suffering from throat cancer, dying before release. I wasn't familiar with Deane, but Discogs credits him with a dozen albums (1986-2011). B+(**) [sp]
Dieter Ilg: Dedication (2020 , ACT): German bassist, more than two dozen albums since 1989, at least if you count group efforts, especially with Marc Copland and Charlie Mariano. Solo bass, twelve original pieces, although he cites inspirations on three: Bach, Beethoven, and Nat Adderley. Solo bass albums have inevitable limits, but this one remained engaging and interesting, even while I was working on other stuff. B+(**) [sp]
Dieter Ilg: Ravel (2021 , ACT): He has been leaning toward classical composers lately, with volumes on Bach and Beethoven. This trio -- Rainer Böhm (piano) and Patrice Héral (drums) plays eleven pieces by Maurice Ravel, a name but not music I know, but evidently able to craft fetching melodies. B+(*) [sp]
Carly Rae Jepsen: The Loneliest Time (2022, Interscope): Canadian pop singer, sixth album, light and catchy, works with a bunch of producers and gets something out of all of them. Weak spot is Rufus Wainwright's help on the title track. A- [sp]
Keith Kirchoff/Dominic Lash/Steve Noble: Christian Wolff: Exercises and Explorations (2013 , Spoonhunt): Wolff is an avant-classical composer (b. 1934 in France; his parents were German book publishers Kurt and Helen Wolff, who fled Nazi Germany and wound up in New York, where they helped found Pantheon Books). Wolff's was associated with John Cage and Merce Cunningham in the 1950s. His later work often had political references, like the piece dedicated to Marxist economist Harry Braverman. He doesn't play here, so I moved his headline name to the title and credited the work to the musicians, who play piano, bass, and drums (in the Vortex, a London jazz club). B+(***) [sp]
Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet: Spirit to All (2022, Wirlwind): Polish bassist, mostly works through this Quintet -- tenor sax (Marek Pospiezalski), trumpet (Oskar Torok), piano (Joana Duda), and drums (Oba Janicki) -- which over 10+ years has earned the right to go by the initials WMQ. I rarely mention composers because everyone does that these days, but what's outstanding here isn't the individual performances (note-perfect as they are), but the flow and texture. A- [sp]
Louis Moutin/Jowee Omicil/François Moutin: M.O.M. (2022, Laborie Jazz): The French brothers play drums and bass, usually in groups like Moutin Réunion Quartet or Moutin Factory Quintet. Trio here, with Omicil -- born in Montreal of Haitian descent, studied at Berklee, divides his time between Miami and Paris -- playing sax and clarinet, most impressively. B+(***) [cd] [10-25]
Carlos Niño & Friends: Extra Presence (2019 , International Anthem): Percussionist, based in Los Angeles, also does electronics, released an album in 2020 called Actual Presence, which is expanded and remixed here from 10 to 18 tracks. Opens jazzy with Devin Daniels on alto sax, but later pieces shade into ambience. B+(*) [sp]
Christopher Parker & the Band of Guardian Angels: Soul Food (2019 , Mahakala Music): Pianist, from Little Rock, but recorded this group in Brooklyn, with Jaimie Branch (trumpet), Daniel Carter (winds), William Parker (bass), Gerald Cleaver (drums), and wife Kelley Hurt (vocals). I could do without the vocals, but the band lives up to its reputation. B+(**) [sp]
John Patitucci Trio: Live in Italy (2022, Three Faces): Bassist, website lists 17 albums since 1988, skipping over a long list of side-credits, including long stints with Chick Corea and Wayne Shorter. He did a previous Trio album in 2009, with Joe Lovano (tenor sax) and Brian Blade (drums). This one has Chris Potter ably taking over the saxophone spot. B+(**) [sp]
Photay With Carlos Niño: An Offering (2021 , International Anthem): Electronica producer Evan Shornstein, has several albums and EPs since 2014, self-released this collaboration with percussionist Niño in 2021, has an ambient feel with a lot of shimmer. B [sp]
Charlie Puth: Charlie (2022, Atlantic): American pop singer-songwriter, third album. Catchy enough it seems like there must be a boy band in his past, but not really a surprise there isn't. B+(**)
Kristjan Randalu/New Wind Jazz Orchestra: Sisu (2021 , Whirlwind): Pianist from Estonia, albums since 2002. The 11-piece Orchestra is directed by Wolf Kerschek, with a couple of famous guests (Ingrid Jensen, Ben Monder) added for one track each. B
The Daniel Rotem Quartet: Wise One: Celebrating the Music of John Coltrane: Live at Bluewhale (2020 , self-released): Saxophonist from Israel, based in Los Angeles, looks like his fourth album since 2018. With Billy Childs (piano), Darek Oles (bass), and Christian Euman (drums). Coltrane songs (one trad., "Song of the Underground Railroad"). B+(**) [sp]
Harvie S & Roni Ben-Hur With Sylvia Cuenca: Wondering (2022, Dot Time): Bass, guitar, and drums. The guitarist suggests a cross between Joe Pass and Wes Montgomery, the former's precision and he latter's effortless groove. The leaders have done this before with another drummer, but this one deserves more than afterthought billing. B+(***) [cd]
The Angelica Sanchez Trio: Sparkle Beings (2022, Sunnyside): Pianist, from Arizona, debut 2003, this a trio with Michael Formanek (bass) and Billy Hart (drums). B+(**) [sp]
Jason Stein/Damon Smith/Adam Shead: Volumes & Surfaces (2021 , Balance Point Acoustics): Bass clarinet player, based in Chicago since 2005, has had a string of superb albums. Backed by bass and drums. B+(**) [sp]
Taylor Swift: Midnights (2022, Republic): Tenth album, I'm listening to the 13-track, 44:02 "Standard Edition," but two longer versions are available. Serious people are studying this like the pop event of the year (at least, post-Beyoncé, who got a similar treatment). I've heard all of her albums, and mostly liked them, but I couldn't recall a single song on Rob Sheffield's top-50 ranking (not that I would do any better with a Beyoncé list). But I can say that this seems real fine as background while I'm trying to write, and when I stop a minute to tune in, it just gets better. But I can't begin to tell you how good this really is, or how it stacks up against any of her other good albums. A- [sp]
Bilana Voutchkova/Susana Santos Silva: Bagra (2021 , Relative Pitch): Bulgarian violinist, 10+ albums since 2013, duets with the even more prolific Portuguese trumpet player. Both also credited with "objects," which include something flute-like. Free improv, often too subliminal for my ears. B [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
The Jazz Passengers: Reunited (2010 , Enja/Yellowbird): Group founded in 1987 by Roy Nathanson (sax) and Curtis Fowlkes (trombone), with Bill Ware (vibes), Sam Bardfield (violin), Brad Jones (bass), and EJ Rodriguez (drums), recording regularly through 1998, less often since (most recently 2017). Group here adds guests Marc Ribot (guitar, 1-6), and spots three vocalists: Elvis Costello, Deborah Harry, and Susi Hyldgaard (but not on "Reunited," which sounds odd enough to be Nathanson and Fowlkes). Reissue adds two tracks. B+(**) [bc]
Mal Waldron: Searching in Grenoble: The 1978 Solo Piano Concert (1978 , Tompkins Square): Pianist, was long remembered as Billie Holiday's last accompanist, but did brilliant work throughout a long career (1956-2002). B+(***) [sp]
Mary McCaslin: Way Out West (1973, Philo): Folk singer-songwriter, born in Indianapolis but raised in California, where she developed a fondness for western ballads. Second album, the first to get much notice. While I missed it at the time, I recognize half of the songs from her 1992 The Best of Mary McCaslin: Things We Said Today, and the other half could fit just as well. A- [sp]
Mary McCaslin: A Life and Time (1981, Flying Fish): Last album of her 1973-81 prime period, only to be followed by a couple of distant additions (1994, 2006). Voice is prime, songs (only three originals, plus one by husband Jim Ringer) are pretty good, too. B+(***)
Jowee Omicil: Let's Do This (2006, Jowee Juise): First album, just has "Jowee" on the cover, with a picture of the artist with soprano sax pointed to the heavens. Also also plays clarinet and alto sax, with Darren Barrett on trumpet, and a groove-oriented rhythm section. B [sp]
Jowee Omicil: Let's Bash (2017, Jazz Village): Fourth album, doubles down on the funk concept, adds some narration, and at times waxes elegant. B+(*) [sp]
Jim Ringer: Waitin' for the Hard Times to Go (1972, Folk-Legacy): Folk singer-songwriter from Arkansas (1936-92), married Mary McCaslin, released six albums 1972-81, including one duo album with McCaslin (The Bramble & the Rose). This was his first, mild-mannered and easy-going, and smart enough to sneak in a John Prine cover. B+(*) [bc]
Jim Ringer: The Band of Jesse James: Best of Jim Ringer (1973-81 , Rounder): Nothing here from Ringer's first album, but all the rest are sampled liberally, with Mary McCaslin two duets from The Bramble & the Rose sorted to the end. McCaslin wrote the liner notes, a few years after Ringer's death. B+(*) [sp]
Rocket From the Tombs: The Day the Earth Met the . . . Rocket From the Tombs (1975 , Smog Veil): Legendary Cleveland punk rock band, nothing released during their 1974-75 lifetime: singer David Thomas and guitarist Peter Laughner moved on to Pere Ubu (Laughner died young, leaving "Life Stinks!"), while a couple others wound up in Dead Boys (long-forgotten, but for a while they were the more famous group). These live tapes surfaced in 2002, just before Thomas organized a revival of the band. The high points are songs I know from Pere Ubu, which quickly developed into a more nuanced band. Still, this sounds pretty remarkable. A- [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, October 17, 2022
Music: Current count 38880  rated (+33), 41  unrated (+3: 13 new, 28 old).
Spent a fair chunk of time last week working on my construction project (something I should have been able to do in 2 days, finished, but given my decrepit and disorganized state took 7 days, scattered over 12, with no finish. The notebook has a gruesome blow-by-blow recounting, but no pictures.) Still need to clean up the space, and start using it. No interest or constructive suggestions on my Facebook post about magazines and jigsaw puzzles, so the magazines at least will be put in next week's recycle bin. I do much appreciate Clifford Ocheltree's note of sympathy.
I also reposted some AI-transformed photographs of my sister done by her son, Ram Lama Hull. You can also check out his artwork (beware that when I typed his name into Google, I was offered a chance to change my "parental controls") on Twitter, Instagram, and/or Facebook. It looks like his website has lapsed, so we need to work on that.
By the way, although most of my Facebook posts are public, my only reason for having an account there is to follow family and old personal friends. I almost never publicize my writing there, so I tend to ignore friend requests of people I don't know personally (although I've let a few "virtual friends" through based on personal email interactions). I gather it's possible to follow someone on Facebook without getting approval as "friends," so that would seem to be an option if you have some peculiar interest in what I do there.
I always announce new writing on Twitter, and occasionally make other posts there, so suggest you follow me there. I appreciate your interest there. Latest writing, by the way, was yesterday's Speaking of Which. Didn't start it until Sunday noon, and still came up with a decent-sized post.
I heard from Chris Monsen a few days ago that Frode Gjerstad is taking down his Bandcamp account, so made a mad rush to listen to a few things I had missed. All good records, many live sets posted in 2019, but none I spent enough time with to get to really like, and many more I didn't get to at all. No links, as indeed they are gone now.
Robert Christgau published his October Consumer Guide last week. Nothing there I hadn't already heard, although I had two full-A albums at much lower grades (Amanda Shires: **; Harry Styles: B). I also left the A- Beths at ***, the same grade I went with for Christgau's B+ Ezra Furman and Rhett Miller. (For whatever it's worth, I also had the A- Styles at B, and the ** Styles at C+.) But I had A- grades for A-listed Gogol Bordello, Sudan Archives, and Loudon Wainwright III (and also for *** Charli XCX), and various shades of B+ for everything else (though never exactly the same).
After that, I was scrounging, which always slows me down and bums me out. I'm thinking now that I'll stop the tracking files after this year, and settle into a life of playing old stuff (of which I still have thousands of CDs). Still, it's hard to go cold turkey. One thing that will keep me going this year is that I'll be running this year's edition of the Jazz Critics Poll that Francis Davis started up at the Village Voice back in 2006. I should be able to send ballot requests out mid-November, with a probable deadline of December 11. If anyone has thoughts on this project, please contact me directly by email. I doubt there will be many changes from last year. The tools for tabulating the ballots work very well, but there is a lot of work getting people to vote and writing things up.
I expect next week will be another slack one, as I need to spend more time on housekeeping issues, including some cooking. I also need to figure out my way around a new Chromebook. If it works out, I won't be so tied down to my desk.
Odds are finally better than 50-50 that I will manage a Book Roundup this week. I have enough material, but just need to sort and prioritize it.
New records reviewed this week:
The 1975: Being Funny in a Foreign Language (2022, Dirty Hit): English alt/indie band, fifth album since 2013, got a critical rep early which I never quite heard, but this has a sunny appeal that only comes when you craft something catchy. B+(***) [sp]
Ahanes: Petrichor (2021 , Clean Feed): Three Greek jazz musicians -- Nicky Kokkoli (sax), Giannis Arapis (guitar), and Alex Zethson (keyboard) -- ventured to Stockholm for a winter festival, picked up three locals for this sextet: Mats Åleklint (trombone), Torbjörn Zetterberg (bass), and Nils Agnas (drums). B+(**) [sp]
Alvvays: Blue Rev (2022, Polyvinyl): Canadian indie pop group, Molly Rankin sings and plays guitar, third album, nice, upbeat appeal. B+(**) [sp]
Anat Cohen: Quartetinho (2021 , Anzic): Israeli clarinet player, based in New York, has long been drawn to Brazilian music, delivered mostly by Vitor Gonçalves (piano, accordion, Fender Rhodes) here, the quartet fleshed out by Tal Mashiach (bass, guitar) and James Shipp (vibraphone, percussion, glockenspiel, analog synth). B+(**) [sp]
Whit Dickey Quartet: Root Perspectives (2022, Tao Forms): Drummer, worked with pianist Matthew Shipp from the early 1990s, both in and out of the David S. Ware Quartet. Produces yet another variation of that here, with Tony Malaby on tenor sax and Brandon Lopez on bass. Kicks off loud, and rarely lets up, but Malaby doesn't sound quite right: like he's straining to channel Ware. B+(**) [cd] [10-21]
Charlotte Dos Santos: Morfo (2022, Because Music): Pop singer, born in Oslo, father Brazilian, mother Norwegian, studied as a jazz singer at Berklee, based in Berlin, first album after a 2017 EP. B+(***) [sp]
Eliane Elias: Quietude (2022, Candid): Brazilian pianist-singer, back in São Paulo immersed in dreamy samba. B+(**) [sp]
Brian Eno: Forever and Ever No More (2022, Verve): Cover squeezes all the spaces out from the all-caps title -- a conceit I decided not to humor after finding that my first attempt at typing the title came out wrong. One of his few albums lately to offer lyrics, but the music is drearily ambient, probably to fit the gloom of the words, but vice versa is also possible. B+(*) [sp]
Amina Figarova: Joy (2022, AmFi): Pianist, born in Baku (now Azerbaijan), trained in classical music, moved to Rotterdam in 1988, then studied at Berklee and switched to jazz. Dozen-plus albums since 1993. Husband Bart Platteau plays flute, in a band that includes trumpet (Alez Pope Morris) and saxophone (Wayne Escoffery), with a vocal guest spot. B+(*) [cd]
Paolo Fresu/Dino Rubino/Daniele Di Bonaventura/Marco Bardoscia: Ferlinghetti (2022, Tuk Music): Trumpet/flugelhorn player, originally from Sardinia, many albums since 1985, this is soundtrack music for a documentary about famed beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. With piano, bandoneon, and bass. B+(***) [sp]
Paul Heaton + Jacqui Abbott: N.K-Pop (2022, EMI): Formerly of the Beautiful South, he the main writer/singer (first noticed in the Housemartins), but she added another dimension, and still helps. It's been some time since they were as good as they used to be, but stick around long enough and they'll pay off. B+(***) [sp]
Loraine James: Building Something Beautiful for Me (2022, Phantom Limb): British electronica producer, aka Whatever the Weather, fashioned this as an homage to the music of Julius Eastman, who's receiving renewed interest well after his short and troubled life (1940-90). There's a compositional sophistication here that rarely shows up in electronica, but also a layer of electronic glitz that the chamber groups that have been reviving Eastman lately haven't imagined. Makes me wonder what she might do with Harry Partch. A- [sp]
Ted Kooshian: Hubub! (2022, Summit): Pianist, sometimes plays electric, leads a quintet with trumpet (John Bailey), tenor sax (Jeff Lederer), bass, and drums, with occasional guests, including a vocal (Jim Mola). Originals (aside from "Somewhere"), bright and sunny. B+(**) [cd]
Tove Lo: Dirt Femme (2022, Pretty Swede): Swedish pop singer, original name Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson, fifth album since 2014. Has a reputation for dark and dirty, but this is pretty snappy. "Love can forget a lot/ it's why we go on at all." A- [sp]
M.I.A.: Mata (2022, Island): London-born Mathangi Arulpragasam, parents from Sri Lanka, burst on the scene with a Diplo-produced mixtape in 2004, then major albums in 2005-07. Sixth album, all short titles, album a trim 33:02. Not sure about the words or meanings, but the beats are clearly something I've been craving lately. A-
Margaux Oswald: Dysphotic Zone (2021 , Clean Feed): Pianist, born in Geneva, based in Copenhagen, first solo album after a couple co-credits, short (2 pieces, 32:50). Leans heavy into the instrument. B+(*) [sp]
Kerry Politzer: In a Heartbeat (2022, P.Ice): Pianist, teaches in Portland, half-dozen albums since 2000, original compositions here, quintet with trumpet (Thomas Barber), sax/flute (Joe Mains, bass, and drums (husband George Colligan, a major pianist in his own right). B+(**) [cd] [10-21]
Marek Pospieszalski Quartet: Dürer's Mother (2019 , Clean Feed): Polish tenor saxophonist, has several albums and side projects, quartet here with piano (Elias Stemseder), bass, and drums. Original pieces inspired by "composers, from Schubert to Britten to Lachenmann." B+(***) [sp]
Susan Reed: Thousands of Ways (2021 , OA2): Violinist, also sings (3 songs here?), has a couple books and several albums (some oriented to children), is grooming her daughters for a string band. All originals, backed by guitar, bass (David Friesen), and drums. B+(***) [cd] [10-21]
Eve Risser/Red Desert Orchestra: Eurythmia (2021 , Clean Feed): French pianist, albums since 2008, one from 2016 leading a White Desert Orchestra. Afro-European fusion, group includes five horn players, electric guitar and bass, plus a Mali component with balafon and djembe. B+(***) [sp]
Oliver Sim: Hideous Bastard (2022, Young/XL): Bassist-vocalist from the XX, first solo album. B+(*) [sp]
Günter Baby Sommer & Raymond MacDonald: Sounds, Songs & Other Noises (2016-19 , Clean Feed): Drums and sax (alto/soprano) duo, the latter from Glasgow. Seems like I should be more familiar with him, but most of his albums are improv duos, including a previous one with Sommer. B+(**) [sp]
Sun Ra Arkestra Directed by Marshall Allen: Living Sky (2022, Omni Sound): Sun Ra died in 1993, so you could count this as a ghost band, but his long-time alto saxophonist is no ghost, still carrying the flame at age 98. The big band is bigger than ever (20 pieces, including a string quartet). Mostly extended vamp pieces, background music that swings gently and/or roils, highlighted by a scratchy alto sax -- presumably Allen, just enough to rough up the edges. A- [sp]
Bernardo Tinoco & Tom Maciel: NoMad Nenúfar (2022, Clean Feed): Saxophonist (alto/tenor), also credited with duduk and flute, has a previous album leading the group Garfo. Duo with Maciel playing piano, synths, and drum machine, although they add a live drummer (João Pereira) for three (of 5) tracks. B+(*) [sp]
Steve Turre: Generations (2022, Smoke Sessions): Trombonist, also plays shells, leads a quintet with a trumpet player named Wallace Roney Jr. -- son of the famed trumpet player who died at 59 in 2020, and also of the late pianist Geri Allen (who passed in 2017) -- and a drummer named Orion Turre (the leader's son, also via cellist Akua Dixon). Also a long list of "special guests." B+(**) [sp]
Bobby Watson: Back Home in Kansas City (2022, Smoke Sessions): Alto saxophonist, grew up in Kansas City, joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, recorded several masterpieces in the 1990s (mostly on the Italian RED label), returned as Director of Jazz Studies at UMKC in 2000, retiring 20 years later. Leads a quintet here not far removed from Blakey's, with Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Cyrus Chestnut (piano), Curtis Lundy (bass), and Victor Jones (drums), with a guest spot for singer Carmen Lundy. B+(*) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Sun Ra Arkestra/Salah Ragab/The Cairo Jazz Band: The Sun Ra Arkestra Meets Salah Ragab in Egypt (1983 , Strut): "First ever official reissue," unfortunately the Bandcamp page doesn't do much to clarify who's playing what when. The earlier Praxis (1983) release does attribute the first album side to Sun Ra, with drummer Ragab's quintet playing the middle track on the B-side, sandwiched between two longer Cairo Jazz Band tracks (also led by Ragab). Impressive as the Arkestra is, the Egyptians more than hold up their end. B+(***) [sp]
Detail [Johnny Dyani/Frode Gjerstad/John Stevens]: Backwards and Forwards: First Detail (1982 , Impetus): Avant-jazz trio (bass, alto sax, drums), first record together (and Gjerstad's first ever), group continued at least to Last Detail in 1996 (with Kent Carter after Dyani died in 1986). Also note that while the cover bills this as "First Detail," the 2015 Rune Grammofon album First Detail was recorded nine days earlier, and "First Detail" returned as a song on their Last Detail album. B+(**) [bc]
Detail [Frode Gjerstad/Johnny Dyani/John Stevens] + Paul Rutherford/Barry Guy: A Concert: Detail + (1983 , Circulasione Totale): Cover lists last names, and not in the order given above, which inserts Rutherford/Guy after Gjerstad (who, by the way, plays soprano and tenor sax instead of his usual alto). B+(***) [bc]
Detail/Bobby Bradford: In Time Was (1986 , Circulasione Totale): Live recording from Bracknell Jazz Festival, with Johnny Dyani on bass, a few months before he died, plus Frode Gjerstad (sax) and John Stevens (drums), plus Bradford on cornet, who is the star here. B+(***) [bc]
Detail/Billy Bang: Detail + Billy Bang (1989 , Circulasione Totale): After Johnny Dyani died in 1986, Kent Carter took over bass in the trio with Frode Gjerstad (tenor sax) and John Stevens (drums). This adds violinist Billy Bang for a 49:41 improv. B+(***) [bc]
Frode Gjerstad Trio: Remember to Forget (1997 , Circulasione Totale): Norwegian alto saxophonist, started with the group Detail in 1982, has by now a large discography of his own, and more side credits. Recorded this at Cafe String, Stavanger, when William Parker and Hamid Drake were visiting. B+(***) [bc]
Frode Gjerstad Trio: Mothers & Fathers & (2005 , Circulasione Totale): Part of a large stash of live tapes Gjerstad put up on Bandcamp. Gjerstad plays alto-, bass-sax, and clarinet, with Jon Rune Strøm on bass and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. B+(***) [bc]
Frode Gjerstad/Louis Moholo-Moholo: MIR-13 (2013 , Circulasione Totale): Sax and drums duo, live shot from a club in Oslo (MIR). B+(*) [bc]
Frode Gjerstad Trio With Steve Swell: At Constellation (2014 , Circulasione Totale): Leader credited with "reeds," backed by Jon Rune Strøm (bass) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums), from an appearance in Chicago, with the trombonist chiming in. B+(***) [bc]
Archie Shepp/Attica Blues Big Band: Paris: Live at the Palais Des Glaces (1979 , Blue Marge): Circa 1970, there was a brief period when avant-jazz met black nationalism and tried to merge into a semi-popular community music. Shepp exemplified the concept, especially with his 1969 Kwanza and 1972 Attica Blues. The latter inspired this big band, with Ray Copeland directing and several vocalists. B+(***) [bc]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last two weeks:
Monday, October 10, 2022
Music: Current count 38847  rated (+43), 38  unrated (-5: 10 new, 28 old).
This will be real short, because I got other things I need to do this afternoon, and the less I leave hanging over my head the better. I went crazy writing another Speaking of Which yesterday, and I think it's better -- at least in the sense of giving you things to think about -- than anything I can do in my present mental state.
I spent the entire week feeling especially down about my music writing, so I'm surprised that I wound up with as many records as I did. I got to most of them while working on "Speaking," so can't claim I was paying close attention. Chances are a couple of the high B+ records deserve better. I'll leave it to others to sort that out -- Christian Iszchak is already on the case.
Unpacking is incomplete, so the drop in unrated is temporary. I'll catch up later.
Got some cooking and carpentry to do today. Weather should be pretty nice.
New records reviewed this week:
Al-Qasar: Who Are We? (2022, Glitterbeat): Moroccan vocalist Jaouad El Garouge fronts this Paris-based, mostly French group playing mostly Arabic instruments, with Thomas Attar Bellier the composers and electric saz/guitar player, and guest spots including Lee Ranaldo and Jello Biafra. B+(***) [sp]
Zoh Amba: Bhakti (2022, Mahakala Music): Young tenor saxophonist from Tennessee, started this year with albums on Tzadik and 577 that I haven't heard but have heard much about. She got a feature in the New York Times recently, so she's the very definition of a rising star. Three long and noisy pieces here (60:08), easy to hear what the excitement is about, with a superb rhythm section: Micah Thomas (piano), Tyshawn Sorey (drums), and Matt Hollenberg (guitar). B+(***) [sp]
Oren Ambarchi: Shebang (2022, Drag City): Australian guitarist, started as a drummer, close to 60 albums since 1998. Basically a jangle rhythm piece (nominally four parts, 35:00), with guests adding minor coloring and Joe Talia on drums. B+(***) [sp]
The Bad Plus: The Bad Plus (2021 , Edition): Established as a piano-bass-drums trio in 2000, after bassist Reid Anderson and pianist Ethan Iverson had released several very strong albums, while drummer Dave King had developed a style that satisfied both jazz and rock fans without wholly belonging to one or the other. They were remarkably successful as jazz groups go, most famous for their occasional covers of rock songs (initially Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit"), filling an ecological niche that E.S.T. proved popular in Europe, but which no other American group came close to. When Iverson left in 2017, Anderson and King tapped Orrin Evans to fill the piano chair, but Evans left in 2021 to return to his own substantial, multi-faceted career. Here they take a different tack, reintroducing themselves as a pianoless quartet, with Chris Speed (tenor sax) and Ben Monder (guitar) -- well-established names in their own right, though a little too buttoned down -- playing eight songs, with Anderson and King writing four each. B+(**) [sp]
Benjamin Tod: Songs I Swore I'd Never Sing (2022, Anti-Corp): Country singer-songwriter, last name Flippo, third solo album, also has a group called Lost Dog Street Band. Original songs, but passed by for other projects, presented here as guitar-and-voice demos. B+(*) [sp]
Björk: Fossora (2022, One Little Independent): Iceland's superstar, albums since 1993, first track got me thinking about how charming her quirky rhythms can be. Much of the rest reminded me how cloying her operatic/art song side can be. Well, not quite, as it almost works this time, and that hasn't always been the case. B [sp]
Owen Broder: Hodges: Front and Center, Vol. 1 (2021 , Outside In Music): Saxophonist, one previous album plus appearances with Anat Cohen and in Cowboys and Frenchmen, mostly plays alto here, plus a bit of baritone on a piece Gerry Mulligan wrote for an album with Johnny Hodges. I wasn't much impressed by his exploration of Appalachian roots music, but this I find thoroughly delightful. I don't even feel the desire to refer back to the classics. A- [cdr] [10-14]
Dan Cavanagh and James Miley With John Hollenbeck: Another Life (2019-21 , S/N Alliance): Two pianists, three compositions each (plus two standards and an improvisation), both also play synthesizers, plus drums. Remarkably sparkling, especially on the Jerome Kern/Radiohead opener. B+(**) [cdr] [10-21] *
Tyler Childers: Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven? (2022, Hickman Holler/RCA, 3CD): Country singer-songwriter, from Kentucky, has an impressive string of albums, often touching on religious themes. This one offers eight more songs on religion, some gospel and some more tentative (does God allow hunting on "His grounds"?), rendered three times each on discs labeled "Hallelujah," "Jubilee," and "Joyful Noise." The first two aren't much different, with "Jubilee" perhaps a bit brighter and clearer. The third doesn't strike me as joyful at all: darker and denser, stiff keyboard rhythm and little refrain, disturbing but I doubt I'd give it a second thought if it came to me as electronica. Not that religion doesn't disturb me when I think about it, but like Kant I usually assume it's a benign tonic for the masses (unlike Kant I don't think we really need one). B+(*) [sp]
Death Cab for Cutie: Asphalt Meadows (2022, Atlantic): Indie rock band from Washington state, debut 1997, 14th album, easy enough, but easily forgotten. B [sp]
James Devane: Beauty Is Useless (2022, Umeboshi): Electronica producer, second solo album (first was 2008), has four more in the duo En. Beats with a little extra fuzz -- wouldn't want anyone thinking this is too pretty. B+(*) [bc]
Dodie: Hot Mess (2022, Doddleoddle, EP): English singer-songwriter Dorothy Clark, mostly EPs since 2016 plus one album in 2021. Four tracks, 12:36. B [sp]
Dr. John: Things Happen That Way (2017 , Rounder): New Orleans pianist Mac Rebennack, had a few days as a pop star in the late 1960s, after which he returned to roots and they saw him through to his death in 2019. This is revealed as his final studio album, amid controversy over post-production. A batch of mostly-country covers, unclear how much piano he plays, but on this material his voice is his calling card. Reminds me a bit of Louis Armstrong's last records, when he couldn't play trumpet, and his voice had withered, but he could still get by on charisma. B+(*) [sp]
John Fullbright: The Liar (2022, Blue Dirt/Thirty Tigers): Country singer-songwriter, born in/near Woody Guthrie's home town in Oklahoma, debuted at the Folk Festival there, moved on to the Turnpike Troubadours. Fourth solo album. Mixed bag of songs. When he turns to God he can get real creepy ("Stars"), but when he focuses on human foibles he can be insightful and amusing ("Social Skills"). B+(**) [sp]
Freddie Gibbs: $oul $old $eparately (2022, Warner/ESGN): Rapper Fredrick Tipton, albums since 2013. Do British rappers incorporate pound signs into their titles, or is that a peculiarly American fetish? The album itself is nowhere near that shallow. B+(***) [sp]
Gunna: DS4EVER (2022, YSL/300 Entertainment): Rapper Sergio Giavanni Kitchens, from Georgia, associated with Young Thug (e.g., Slime Language 2), third album. B+(**) [sp]
Hellbound Glory: The Immortal Hellbound Glory: Nobody Knows You (2022, Black Country): Country rock band, principally Leroy Virgil, founded the band in Reno, Nevada, their first album called Scumbag Country (2008). Title refers to a 1920s song that never seems to go out of style. B+(*) [sp]
Dylan Hicks & Small Screens: Airport Sparrows (2022, Soft Launch): Singer-songwriter from Minneapolis, occasional albums since 1996, has written a couple novels. B+(**) [sp]
Ka: Languish Arts (2022, Iron Works, EP): New York rapper Kaseem Ryan, day job as a firefighter captain, named his label for first album title (2008). Came up with two short download-only albums this year, each 10 tracks, this one 28:23. Low-key, easy roll, underground. B+(***) [yt]
Ka: Woeful Studies (2022, Iron Works, EP): Ten more tracks, 26:27. B+(**) [yt]
Pablo Lanouguere Quintet: Altar (2022, Piano Piano): Bassist, from Buenos Aires, based in New York, at least one previous album, leads a string-dominated quintet with violin (Meg Okura), guitar (Federico Diaz), piano (Emilio Teubal), and drums, with bandoneon on two tracks and vocals on two more. And yes, I hear tango. B+(**) [cd] [10-14]
Ari Lennox: Age/Sex/Location (2022, Dreamville/Interscope): R&B singer Courtney Salter, from DC, second album. B+(**) [sp]
Maddie & Tae: Through the Madness (2022, Mercury Nashville, EP): Country vocal duo, last names Font (née Marlow) and Kerr (née Dye), two albums, several EPs, this one retroactively dubbed Vol. 1, but not on the packaging. Eight songs, 27:04. B+(*) [sp]
Maddie & Tae: Through the Madness Vol. 2 (2022, Mercury Nashville, EP): No guests this time, but it picks up a bit on the closer ("Spring Cleaning"). Eight more songs, 25:23. B+(*) [sp]
Midlake: For the Sake of Bethel Woods (2022, ATO): Folk-rock band, four albums 2004-13, this is their fifth. B [sp]
Rhett Miller: The Misfit (2022, ATO): Singer-songwriter for Old 97's, with a long-running string of solo albums on the side: this is the eighth since 2002, all but an eponymous 2009 effort with definite article titles (The Believer, The Dreamer, The Messenger, etc.). Allows him to pursue his more personal idiosyncrasies. B+(***) [sp]
Momma: Household Name (2022, Lucky Number): Indie band from Los Angeles, Etta Friedman and Allegra Weingarten, third album after an EP. Nice enough. B+(*) [sp]
Off!: Free LSD (2022, Fat Possum): Hardcore band, I liked their 2010 compilation The First Four EPs quite a lot, returns after an 8-year gap with two (of 4) original members (vocalist Keith Morris and guitarist Dimitri Coats) and their longest album ever (20 songs, 38:23). B+(**) [sp]
J.S. Ondara: Spanish Villager No: 3 (2022, Verve Forecast): Folk singer-songwriter, actual name Moses Mauti Junior, born and raised in Kenya before moving to Minneapolis. B+(*) [sp]
Beth Orton: Weather Alive (2022, Partisan): English singer-songwriter, debut album 1993, six-year gap before this one ties her longest previous gap. B+(**) [sp]
The Paranoyds: Talk Talk Talk (2022, Third Man): Like Momma, another Los Angeles indie band with a couple albums. Their fuzz sounds much better to start, but it wears off. B+(*) [sp]
Jussi Reijonen: Three Seconds [Kolme Toista] (2021 , Challenge): Finnish guitarist, also plays oud, has lived in the Middle East, Tanzania, and the US. Second album, international cast. B+(**) [cd] [10-14]
Iara Rennó: Oríkì (2022, Dobra Discos): Brazilian, started in DonaZica (2003-05), fifth album since 2008, sings and produces, but starts with an instrumental. B+(**) [sp]
Jeremy Rose & the Earshift Orchestra: Disruption! The Voice of the Drums (2022, Earshift Music): Tenor saxophonist, also bass clarinet, from Australia, started in a "world-roots jazz group" called the Vampires (four albums 2012-19). This features drummers Simon Barker and Chloe Kim, who share writing credits. B+(**) [cd] [10-14]
Collin Sherman: Organism Made Luminous (2022, Ex-Tol/Blujazz): Alto saxophonist, based in New York, bills this as "experimental electro-acoustic jazz, ambient, drone, noise." Not sure where he gets the latter categories, though the heavy synths, guitar, and drum programming -- all credited to himself -- suggest a fusion base, without quite feeling bound to it. Discogs lists only one previous album, but his Bandcamp page offers more (and describes this as his 14th release). B+(***) [cd]
Collin Sherman: Suitable Benchmarks of Reform (2022, Ex-Tol): His 13th release, should file it above the more recent album, but got to it second, and should probably work my way further back. Again, he plays everything, including clarinets and oboe as well as the rhythm section (the drums programmed), but that's just background to riff his alto sax against. The loss in group spontaneity pales under his prowess. B+(***) [bc]
Shygirl: Nymph (2022, Because Music): Blane Muise, from England, more singer than rapper, first album after a couple EPs. B+(*) [sp]
Thick: Happy Now (2022, Epitaph): New York punk girl band, second album after a bunch of EPs. B+(**) [sp]
Valerie June: Under Cover (2022, Fantasy, EP): Last name Hockett, five albums since 2006, this 8-song, 28:28 effort cast as an EP, doesn't register as soul or country, so gets slotted as Americana. Covers, scattered from Nick Drake to Nick Cave, only "Imagine" overly familiar. B [sp]
Hannah White: About Time (2022, Paper Blue): English singer-songwriter, evidently there's a "UK Americana" niche she fits in, second album. Slow, touching, doesn't flinch from tragedy or hardships. B+(***) [sp]
Billy Woods: Church (2022, Backwoodz Studioz): Rapper, born in DC, parents were academics, spent the 1980s in Zimbabwe, returned in 1989 and started making music in the late 1990s. Messiah Musik produced. Dense, both in beats and words, and most likely ideas. Some day I should put more time and effort. B+(***) [sp]
Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Cool It Down (2022, Secretly Canadian): Indie rock group, Karen Orzolek singer, released four albums 2003-13, returns with their fifth. B+(**) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
William Parker: Universal Tonality (2002 , Centering/AUM Fidelity, 2CD): From 1994-2006, Parker recorded a number of albums with his big band, the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra. This isn't credited as such, but the 17 musicians here overlap considerably, but this seems more star-laden (two violinists: Billy Bang and Jason Kao Hwang), with vocalist Loreena Conquest featured, reminding us: "Hope is relentless/ it never dies." A [cd]
Old 97's: Hitchhike to Rhome (1994, Big Iron): Country-rock band from Dallas, Rhett Miller was (or still is, as of 2020) the main singer-songwriter, for a strong, lively set, with a Merle Haggard cover. B+(**) [sp]
Old 97's: Wreck Your Life (1995, Bloodshot): Here they move to what at the time was becoming the best alt-country label anywhere. B+(***) [sp]
Old 97's: Hit by a Train: The Best of Old 97's (1994-2001 , Rhino): I wasn't aware of this until Robert Christgau asked me to post his liner notes. Rhino had become a Warner subsidiary, so had access to the group's Elektra albums, a finite set seeing as how the band had moved on to New West, so this leans on Fight Songs and Satellite Rides (their best albums), but starts off with four early songs. A-
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, October 3, 2022
Music: Current count 38804  rated (+36), 43  unrated (-1: 15 new, 28 old).
Made very little progress on my promised books post last week, but wrote another Speaking of Which yesterday, mostly because the war in Ukraine took a couple of nasty turns. Zelensky and his more hawkish backers seem convinced that as long as the arms spigot remain open full bore they can drive Russia from pre-2014 Ukrainian territory and hand Putin a complete defeat, the humiliation of which should drive his top Kremlin lackeys to sweep him from office. Putin, in turn, has called up reinforcements, and (again) threatened to use nuclear weapons: the message there is that Russia cannot be defeated, at least as imagined by his enemies. I believe that he is correct, even if he is not as insane as many of his opponents claim. (If I am right, his sanity may never be forced to a test. However, I do question the sanity of those who think the West can afford to prolong the war indefinitely.) Still, all the more reason to negotiate a ceasefire and start to resolve the remaining issues. Beware that anyone not talking in those terms is totally full of shit.
I don't subscribe to The Atlantic -- well, actually, my wife doesn't; I don't subscribe to anything, but she does and I get a free ride sometimes -- but if I did it would probably prove a rich source of references for Speaking of Which, both for insights and bad examples. In the latter category is a James Kirchick piece that Paul Woodward cited, provocatively titled How the anti-war camp went intellectually bankrupt. I know I shouldn't feel defensive when the author's lead example of "the anti-war camp" is Ron Paul, but he fails even to deal with that case honestly or accurately. There is, in fact, a long history of "Russophobic bloodlust" in the interstices of American foreign policy -- that was precisely the point of backing the mujahideen in Afghanistan -- and while "the last dead Ukrainian" has the brevity of a snappy talking point, it's hardly "specious": it is the logical endpoint of all proxy wars (of which this is one, even if that's not the only thing this war is). I suppose I should expect pieces like this: every war starts off with slanders against its critics. Not only does this pave the way for escalation, it lays a foundation for excuses after a war turns disastrous ("who would have thought?").
By the way, I looked up Kirchick, who Google describes as "a conservative or neoconservative." One recent article I found by him was The Sanctification of George Soros. Consider this line in the sixth paragraph: "Soros, in case you couldn't tell, happens to be Jewish, a fact that has absolutely nothing to do with his ideas about criminal justice reform, or with Rubio's opposition to them." I can't say for sure about Rubio, but I think it's pretty certain that most of the right-wingers who depict Soros as an ultrarich puppet master behind the left's nefarious schemes not only know that he is Jewish but fully understand the resonance of 150 years of antisemitic propaganda. That's precisely why they single him out.
I finally did the indexing for September Streamnotes, adding in the month's Music Week intros. I found myself hating that bit of busy work more than ever, spending the whole time thinking about how I don't want to keep doing this. I suppose I'll hang on until the end of 2022, but that's likely to be it.
Birthday coming up toward the end of October, which has me thinking about my annual dinner ritual. Even modest dinner efforts have been prohibitively painful, so it's tempting to call it quits there, too. But as I think about it, one possible approach would be to recruit some help to largely take over, and a fallback would be to do one that is so simplified I can still do it myself. (The latter involves chicken and dumplings.)
Not a lot of records this week, but a high percentage of them are very good. As usual, Phil Overeem's latest list helped.
New records reviewed this week:
Horace Andy: Midnight Scorchers (2022, On-U Sound): Journeyman reggae singer, perhaps best known for his 1972 hit "Skylarking," nicely summed up by his 1970-76 comp Feel Good All Over, may have hit a peak with 1977's In the Light, but never let up, so he has dozens of later albums I haven't heard. The one I have heard was this year's much-touted "comeback" (after a 3-year gap) Midnight Rocker. Nice record, but this one turns up the heat considerably, earning its title. B+(***) [sp]
Kenny Beats: Louie (2022, XL): Producer Kenneth Blume III, first album under his name only -- he has at least four more co-credited to rappers, and is producer for many more. B+(*) [sp]
Kristin Berardi: The Light & the Dark (2019 , Earshift Music): Australian jazz singer, writes her own songs, albums since 2006. This one recorded in New York, with Ingrid Jensen on trumpet, Miro Sprague on piano, plus bass and drums, and a couple guest spots. B+(*) [cd] [10-14]
Crow Billiken: If I Don't Have Red I Use Blue (2022, self-released, EP): Rapper R.A.P. Ferreira delivers a short country blues album (6 songs, 21:37). "Alvin Youngblood Hart, Skippy James, Robert Petway, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and Leroy Stewart Sr all contributed compositionally." B+(*) [bc]
Bitchin Bajas: Bajascillators (2022, Drag City): Cooper Crain, nominally a solo side project, but he has close to twice as many albums here (11 since 2010) as with his psychedelic drone group Cave (6 since 2008). It probably helps that these are conceptually simpler: four pieces ranging between 9:42 and 14:30, most attractive groove patterns drawn out. B+(**) [sp]
Alina Bzhezhinska & HipHarpCollective: Reflections (2022, BBE): Harpist, born in Ukraine, based in London, has at least one previous record, Bandcamp credits this to AlinaHipHarp. Credits unclear, but there is some sax (Tony Kofi), trumpet (Jay Phelps), bass, percussion, vocals (rap), and violin/viola (Ying Xue). B+(*) [sp]
Corey Christiansen: Standards (2022, self-released): Guitarist, from Utah, from 2000-07 worked as "senior editor ad guitar clinician" for Mel Bay Publications, and released his first album and books there. Since then he released six albums on Origin, and now this crowdfunded trio with Ben Williams (bass) and Carl Allen (drums). B+(**) [sp]
DJ Marz Y Los Flying Turntables/DJ Jester the Filipino Fist: Made in USA (2022, self-released): Mixtape, the DJs based in Texas (Austin and/or San Antonio), almost zero chance the samples got cleared. Looks like three cuts/one side each, the same title covering everything. The sort of thing that's only as good as it's funny. B+(**) [bc]
John Escreet: Seismic Shift (2022, Whirlwind): English pianist, eighth album since 2008, trio with Eric Revis (bass) and Damion Reid (drums), original pieces, kicks it up a notch (or two). B+(***) [cd] [10-07]
Fox Green: Holy Souls (2022, self-released): Mild-mannered rock band from Little Rock, probably wouldn't have given them a second listen but for knowing the guitarist. But the extra listens helped, especially once the Howlin' Wolf tribute caught my ear, and each song on the second side came into focus. A- [sp]
Gogol Bordello: Solidaritine (2022, Cooking Vinyl): Gypsy-punk band from New York, led by Ukrainian singer-songwriter Eugene Hütz, the only continuous member since their 1999 debut, although Russian violinist Sergey Ryabtsev comes close. I'm not catching every word, but the raw energy and rustic rage makes a fine soundtrack for writing my thoughts on the Ukraine War. A- [sp]
Keith Jarrett: Bordeaux Concert (2016 , ECM): The best-selling pianist in jazz history has recorded nothing since his 2018 stroke, but his label has kept him current by releasing older tapes each year. This is the third solo set from his 2016 tour of Europe (following Munich 2016 and Budapest Concert). With over two dozen solo albums, I've given up on comparing them, so any grade is just a momentary impression. He is, of course, a great pianist, but he's also slowed down a bit. B+(**) [sp]
Laura Jurd: The Big Friendly Album (2021 , Big Friendly): British trumpet player, best known for her band Dinosaur, has a couple albums on her own. Group here extends the brass with euphonium and tuba, plus guitar (Alex Haines), bass, and drums, with Jurd playing some piano, plus several guest spots (strings, soprano sax, and Frode Haltli's accordion on five tracks. Has a playful feel, almost circusy. B+(**) [sp]
Nikki Lane: Denim & Diamonds (2022, New West): Country singer-songwriter, fourth album since 2011. B+(**) [sp]
Yosef Gutman Levitt: Upside Down Mountain (2022, self-released): Bassist from South Africa, based in Jerusalem, plays acoustic bass guitar, doc sometimes omits "Levitt" from his name. Has a few albums, this one with Omri More (piano) and Ofri Nehemya (drums). Nice ambiance to it. B+(**) [cd]
Marxist Love Disco Ensemble: MLDE (2022, Mr Bongo): Italian group, seeks to resurrect the cheesy Euro-disco of the mid-1970s (they cite Patrick Juvet as an inspiration -- a name I recall, but not well enough to include when I constructed my original grade list), or maybe to mock it, or perhaps just to embue it with political meaning, although the titles suggest their politics were formed around the same historical moment. B+(**) [sp]
Bennie Maupin/Adam Rudolph: Symphonic Tone Poem for Brother Yusef (2022, Strut): For Yusef Lateef, who had a significant import for both musicians, including a long association with Rudolph. Just a duo here, with Maupin playing various reeds and flutes, and Rudolph keyboards and a long list of percussion. Set up as five movements, the middle drags a bit as if trying to find its way out of something dark and foreboding -- which it eventually does. A- [sp]
Ashley McBryde: Presents: Lindeville (2022, Warner Music Nashville): Country singer-songwriter from Arkansas, "presents" a concept album based in a fictional town named for Dennis Linde (1943-2006 -- been a while since I've thought of him), with guest artists playing various roles, taking over most of the songs, for better or worse. B+(***) [sp]
Marc Mommaas: The Impressionist (2021 , Sunnyside): Dutch saxophonist (tenor/soprano), based in New York, sixth album since 2003 on label. Quartet with Gary Versace (piano), Nate Radley (guitar), and Jay Anderson (bass). B+(**) [sp]
The Ogún Meji Duo: Freedom Suite (2021 , CFG Multimedia): Columbus-based duo of Eddie Bayard (sax) and Mark Lomax II (drums), have a long-term partnership not limited to the seven albums they're released under this name. This takes off from Sonny Rollins' 1958 album. Hard to say how closely this adheres, as Rollins has never had a drummer who can solo like Lomax, and Bayard is one of the few saxophonists up to the task. A- [os]
The Red Microphone: A Bleeding in Black Leather (2022, ESP-Disk): Group formed in 2010, with John Pietaro reading Bertolt Brecht to avant-sax (Ras Moshe and Rocco John Iacovone), bass (Laurie Towers), and percussion (Pietaro), reconvened here with some extras (mostly guitar), with Pietaro reading his own poetry (also published in book form). Several stories stand out, including a history of bebop and one on a New York neighborhood that turns tragic. "Punk Jazz" earns its title. Ivan Julian produced. A- [cdr]
Todd Snider: Live: Return of the Storyteller (2021 , Aimless, 2CD): This one is easy. I doubt I'll ever like it as much as his 2011 Live: The Storyteller -- I recognize fewer of the songs (as much as I like his recent albums, I don't know them nearly as well as the ones from East Nashville Skyline through The Devil You Know), and the stories seem more random. But I enjoy them nonetheless, and most of all the pacing, which I doubt anyone else can match. A- [sp]
SonnyJim & the Purist: White Girl Wasted (2022, Daupe, EP): British rapper, Sonny Sathi, has released a lot of material since 2008, mostly co-credits, this one with Lawrence Lord, who also has a long list of credits. Includes a piece featuring MF Doom & Jay Electronica. A quick play (8 tracks, 20:41). B+(*) [sp]
Sunny Sweeney: Married Alone (2022, Aunt Daddy): Country singer-songwriter, has a great voice and solid-plus songs. B+(***) [sp]
Andrés Vial: When Is Ancient? (2020 , Chromatic Audio): Pianist, from Montreal, third album, trio with Martin Heslop (bass) and Tommy Crane (drums), names on the cover but parsed below the title. Original pieces, nice, engaging. B+(**) [cd]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Biluka Y Los Canibales: Leaf-Playing in Quito, 1960-1965 (1960-65 , Honest Jon's): Brazilain Dilson de Souza, traveled to Ecuador, where he learned to play a picked ficus leaf. No idea what that should sound like, unless it's the flute over the jaunty organ grind and percussion. B+(**) [sp]
Lionel Hampton Orchestra: 1958: The Mess Is Here Revisited (1958 , Ezz-Thetics): Started as Louis Armstrong's drummer, but soon switched to the vibraphone, which he established as a jazz instrument. His late-1930s studio sessions introduced Dizzy Gillespie and bebop, and his 1940s big band (with Illinois Jacquet) deserves at least an assist for inventing rock and roll. He continued recording well into the 1990s. This is a big band he put together in Germany, with power horns, dazzling vibes, a strong blues vocal from Cornelius James, ending with an upbeat "Hamp's Boogie Woogie." B+(***) [bc]
Andrew Hill: Point of Departure to Compulsion!!!!! Revisited (1965 , Ezz-Thetics): Two of the pianist's Blue Note albums squeezed onto a single CD. Point of Departure has long been counted as a high point, with saxophonists Eric Dolphy ad Joe Henderson, Kenny Dorham on trumpet, Richard Davis (bass) and Tony Williams (drums). The later album may have been picked to fit -- a tight squeeze at 79:47, helped by using a couple alternate takes -- but is another essential album, with John Gilmore (tenor sax/bass clarinet), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), bass, drums, percussion (including African thumb piano). I'm not a big fan of the label's reissuing of albums that are already widely available, but I can't quarrel with the music. A- [bc]
Luciano Luciani Y Sus Mulatos: Mulata, Vamos A La Salsa (1970 , Vampisoul): Alto saxophonist from Italy, moved to Peru and put this band together, with Benny del Solar and Kiko Fuentes on vocals, and lots of percussion, combining his interest in cumbias and Nuyorican salsa. First album, after a couple singles, released another in 1975 but is hard to find. B+(***) [bc]
Archie Shepp: Fire Music to Mama Too Tight Revisited (1965-66 [2022, Ezz-Thetics): Tenor saxophonist, made his initial mark 1963-64 in Denmark with New York Contemporary Five, followed by a wave of explosive albums on Impulse! -- starting with Four for Coltrane and Fire Music, and continuing to 1973. This collects two albums on one CD, starting with Fire Music -- a sextet with Marion Brown (alto ax), Ted Curson (trumpet), trombone, bass, and drums -- and tacking on Mama Too Tight, an octet several albums down the road. I suspect the latter was picked because it's short enough to fit (78:28 total). The roster looks impressive on paper -- Perry Robinson (clarinet), Tommy Turrentine (trumpet), Roswell Rudd and Grachan Moncur III (trombones), Howard Johnson (tuba), Charlie Haden (bass), and Beaver Harris (drums) -- but it doesn't quite cohere. B+(**) [bc]
Horace Tapscott Quintet: The Quintet (1969 , Mr Bongo): Piano great, the central figure in the Los Angeles jazz scene, recorded this for Flying Dutchman to follow his debut A Giant Is Awakened, but somehow it didn't get released. With Arthur Blythe (alto sax), Everett Brown Jr. (drums), and two bassists (David Bryant and Walter Savage Jr.). B+(***) [sp]
Amina Baraka/The Red Microphone: Amina Baraka & the Red Microphone (2017, ESP-Disk): Née Sylvia Robinson, mother and grandfather were union organizers, she was a founder of the Newark Art Society in 1963, before she married writer Amiri Baraka in 1966. She is a poet in her own right, and here ventures into spoken word over avant-jazz. The group was organized by percussionist John Pietaro, with two saxophonists (Ras Moshe Burnett and Rocco Jon Iacovone), and bass guitar (Laurie Towers). "The Things I Love" is easy to love, but she doesn't flinch from harsher fare, like "The Fascist," which gives the band reason to drill down. A- [sp]
Ronnie Boykins: The Will Come, Is Now (1975 , ESP-Disk): Bassist from Chicago, died young (1935-80), best known in Sun Ra Arkestra, recorded this one album as leader, untitled at first, named for its lead song in a 2002 reissue. With three saxophones (alto and soprano, plus flute), trombone, and congas (no one I've ever heard of), but the bass leads are most intriguing. B+(**) [sp]
Matt Lavelle & Reggie Sylvester: Retrograde (2018, ESP-Disk): Duo with drums, Lavelle playing trumpet, flugelhorn, and alto clarinet. B+(***) [bc]
The Ogún Meji Duo: For Those Who Have Gone, but Still Remain (2018, CFG Multimedia): Sax and drums duo, Edwin Bayard and Mark Lomax II. Not much info beyond "pay homage to artistic Ancestors," of which Albert Ayler, Sunny Murray, and Charlie Cook (?) are named in titles, the other piece called "Each Passing Moment." Short (34:48) but dense. B+(***) [sp]
The Red Microphone: And I Became of the Dark (2020 , ESP-Disk): The group from the Amina Baraka album, formed a decade earlier to support a Brecht reading, but this seems to be the first album they did on their own, with percussionist John Pietaro providing words ("provocative, political poetry") and vocals, and Dave Ross joining on guitar. First track, "Revenge of the Atom Spies," is fast enough you can say he's singing. B+(***) [bc]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, September 26, 2022
Music: Current count 38768  rated (+51), 44  unrated (-0: 16 new, 28 old).
I want to keep this brief. I haven't wrapped up the September archive file (link above) yet. I also haven't caught up with last week's releases in the metacritic file. Plenty of time for that sort of thing later.
I wrote up another big Speaking of Which yesterday. I picked up a couple links as far back as last Tuesday, but didn't write much of anything until Saturday. In between, I worked some on a future Book Roundup post, which I had hopes for last week but couldn't pull together in time. For what little it's worth, I developed a new scratch file to work in until I get enough material for a real post. No problem sharing the link, but I don't know how useful it will be (for you, although the jury is still out on how well it works for me).
I got some tips for this week's music from Chuck Eddy's Best Albums of 2022 So Far list, including an A- rapper I had never heard of. Christian Iszchak published a similar list. I spent less time with it, because I was already much more in tune with it -- I have 32 of 50 albums at A- or higher, 9 more at B+(***), only 1 as low as B, the last unrated belatedly added to today's list.
The Britney Spears dive was occasioned by a question to last week's Xgau Sez.
Pharoah Sanders died last week. I don't have much to say at this point, but my grade list is here. While there are good albums early and late -- in between was a struggle for most jazz musicians -- my favorite is 1990's Welcome to Love, which I've long regarded as the most gorgeous saxophone record ever recorded. Here are some obituaries: Andy Cush (Pitchfork); Andrew Flanagan/Nate Chinen (NPR); Jon Parles (New York Times).
Three more death to note way too briefly: Hillary Mantel (one of my wife's favorite writers); Anton Fier (drummer for Golden Palominos and other groups); Richard Cobeen (a music teacher and friend of friends). Also note that Dorothy Billings' memorial is this week.
Got a new dishwasher installed this week. I was surprised at how painful the whole process was: how hard it was to compare shopping information, how difficult to deal with dealers, how messy the whole delivery and installation process got. I'm not happy either with my choice or with the install (although not really the fault of the guy who did it). I've installed my own before, but decided to save myself some pain. If I ever do feel better, maybe I'll pull it out and redo it right, but for now it works ok. I used to pride myself as a smart shopper, but I'm on an extended losing streak.
Upgraded one computer to Ubuntu 22.04 last week with no issues, then finally did my main writing computer last night. Big problems. They lost my Firefox data (history, bookmarks, passwords, settings). Also broke my web server. Both problems are fixed now, but it took quite a bit of digging, config file editing, and shell programming to get it fixed. One reason I'm rushing to get this out.
New records reviewed this week:
Ingrid Andress: Good Person (2022, Warner Music Nashville/Atlantic): Country singer-songwriter, grew up in Colorado, studied at Berklee, second album. B+(*) [sp]
Linda Ayupuka: God Created Everything (2022, Mais Um Discos): Singer from Ghana, first album, "the future of fra fra music." Voices over beats, of varying intensity. B+(**) [sp]
Sasha Berliner: Onyx (2022, self-released): Vibraphonist, second album, backed by James Francies (keyboards), Burniss Travis (bass), and Marcus Gilmore (drums), with guests Jaleel Shaw (alto sax), Julius Rodriguez (synths), and Thana Alexa (vocals). B+(**) [bc]
The Beths: Expert in a Dying Field (2022, Carpark): Indie pop band from New Zealand, Elizabeth Stokes the singer and rhythm guitarist, Jonathan Pearce the lead guitarist. Third album, jumps out fast. B+(***) [sp]
Bobby Broom: Keyed Up (2021 , Steele): Guitarist, debut album 1981, does a pretty fair Wes Montgomery impression. Quartet with piano/organ (Justin Dillard), bass (Dennis Carroll), and drums (co-producer Kobie Watkins). Makes it look easy. B+(**) [cd]
Butcher Brown: Butcher Brown Presents Triple Trey (2022, Concord Jazz): Jazz quintet from Richmond, Virginia; albums since 2013 veer between punk and funk with a Fela tribute on the side, but mostly this one, featuring MC and multi-instrumentalist Tennishu, goes for hip-hop. B+(*) [sp]
Cäthe: Chill Out Punk (2022, Träum Weiter!): German singer-songwriter, last nameSieland, fourth studio album since 2011. Light electropop, or perhaps deeper if I could decipher more than the occasional word, but definitely a chill album, and no, not punk. B+(***) [sp]
Cave In: Heavy Pendulum (2022, Relapse): Metalcore band from Massachusetts, debut 1998, a couple of their early releases wound up in my database but I never heard them until this showed up as the highest rated unheard album this year (tied for 150 on my list). Only their 7th studio album: they had a hiatus between their 2005 and 2011 releases, and didn't follow the latter up until 2019. Gruff vocals, more tolerable than the usual metal thrash, but awful long. B-
Raven Chacon/Tatsuya Nakatini/Carlos Santistevan: Inhale/Exhale (2020 , Other Minds): Trio from New Mexico: guitar, percussion, bass, with electronics, live improvs on two side-long pieces (39:10 total). B+(*) [sp]
The Comet Is Coming: Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam (2022, Impulse!): British fusion group, third or fourth album since 2016, with King Shabaka (Shabaka Hutchings) on tenor sax, Danalogue (Dan Leavers) on keyboards, and Betamax (Maxwell Hallett) on drums. B+(**) [sp]
Deca: Smoking Gun (2022, Coalmine): New York rapper Matthew Kenney, 10th album since 2004, delivery reminds me of Buck 65, beats too, guest spots for Blu and Homeboy Sandman. A- [sp]
Jeff Denson/Romain Pilon/Brian Blade: Finding Light (2022, Ridgeway): Bassist, albums since 2012, divided songwriting with guitarist Pilon 6-4, with Blade on drums. Tends toward ambient. B+(*) [cd]
DJ Travella: Mr Mixondo (2022, Nyege Nyege Tapes): Nineteen-year-old singeli producer from Tanzania: hip-hop beats, but faster. B+(*)
Djo: Joe Keery (2022, Awal): Joe Keery, better known as an actor (Stranger Things, since 2016), started in the band Post Animal, second solo album. B [sp]
Edoheart: Pandemonium (2022, Edoheart, EP): Esohe Arhebamen, from Nigeria, family moved to Detroit when she was seven, alias honors the Edo people of Nigeria, has studied the butoh dance of Japan, choreographed, published books of poetry, and released close to 10 albums and EPs. This one runs five tracks, 17:24, a star burst of ideas. B+(**) [sp]
El Khat: Albat Alawi Op. 99 (2022, Glitterbeat): Tel Aviv group, varied backgrounds (Iraq, Poland, Morocco, Yemen), named for a social drug common in Yemen, which "provides a feeling that promotes community and relaxation." B+(*) [sp]
Emperor X: The Lakes of Zones B and C (2022, Dreams of Field): Singer-songwriter Chad Metheny, originally from Florida, based in Berlin, debut 1998 but I didn't notice him until 2011's Western Teleport. I've been impressed with most of his work, but don't seem to be latching onto much here, even though the song titles are interesting, and the music is forthright. B+(**) [sp]
Alex G: God Save the Animals (2022, Domino): Singer-songwriter Alex Giannascoli, fourth album on this indie label after as many self-released efforts, going back to 2010. B
Noah Garabedian: Consider the Stars Beneath Us (2022, Outside In Music): Bassist, has a previous record or two, wrote everything here, played by Dayna Sephens (tenor/soprano sax), Carmen Staaf (piano), and Jimy Macbride (drums), with producer Samuel Adams credited for "effects, programming, additional recording, Moog Minitaur, Juno JU-06A." B+(***) [cd]
Connie Han: Secrets of Inanna (2022, Mack Avenue): Pianist, from Los Angeles, fourth album, trio with John Patitucci (bass) and Bill Wysaske (drums), plus spots for Rich Perry (tenor sax) and Katisse Buckingham (flute/piccolo). B+(*) [sp]
Jasper Høiby/Planet B: What It Means to Be Human (2021 , Edition): Danish bassist, several albums, this is second of a promised four albums, starting with 2020's excellent Planet B, same trio with Josh Arcoleo (sax) and Marc Michel (drums). The bass is the pulse of life, the sax an adventure, the drums play off that. Includes spoken word texts from Grace Lee Boggs, Ruby Sales, and Jane Goodall. A- [sp]
Jon Irabagon: Rising Sun (2021 , Irabbagast): Tenor saxophonist, Filipino roots, first noticed in Mostly Other People Do the Killing, won a Monk Prize (which got him a record on Concord, where he had to make nice and delivered a pretty good one anyway). Hit and miss in his solo work. Composed this (only cover is "Bebop") during an extended family roadtrip through the upper mountain states, and recorded it with a stellar quartet -- Matt Mitchell, Chris Lightcap, and Dan Weiss -- with guest spots for Miles Okazaki (guitar) and Adam O'Farrill (trumpet). B+(***) [bc]
Samara Joy: Linger Awhile (2022, Verve): Jazz singer, grew up in the Bronx, second album, still 22. Credits hard to come by, but guitarist Pasquale Grasso is featured on three songs, backed by Ben Paterson (piano), David Wong (bass), and Kenny Washington (drums). Mix of standards and jazz tunes she's written vocalese lyrics to. B+(**) [sp]
Julian Lage: View With a Room (2022, Blue Note): Guitarist, I count nine albums on mid-to-major labels, including his 2009 debut. Trio returns with Jorge Roeder (bass) and Dave King (drums), plus second guitarist Bill Frisell. B+(**) [sp]
Ingrid Laubrock/Tom Rainey: Counterfeit Mars (2021 , Relative Pitch): Saxophone (tenor/soprano) and drums duo, something they've done a lot of since the pandemic locked them down. B+(***) [bc]
Urs Leimgruber/Christy Doran/Bobby Burri/Fredy Studer: OM 50 (2022, Intakt): Avant-fusion band (soprano sax, guitar, bass, drums), founded 50 years ago, released 5 albums 1975-80 -- their 2006 A Retrospective is a good sampler -- got back together for a live album in 2010, another in 2020, then this shortly before the drummer died. Too many spots where they lay back, but most are rewarded with outstanding returns. B+(***) [sp]
James Brandon Lewis Quartet: MSM Molecular Systematic Music Live (2021 , Intakt, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist, swept last year's Jazz Critics Poll with his Red Lily Quintet album Jesup Wagon, building on a streak of superb albums going back to 2014 (Divine Travels, on Okeh). This live set expands on his 2020 Quartet album Molecular -- with Aruán Ortiz (piano), Brad Jones (bass), and Chad Taylor (drums) -- reprising 9 (of 11) songs, stretch to 89:48. B+(***) [sp]
Charles Lloyd: Trios: Ocean (2020 , Blue Note): Second of three trio albums, following Trios: Chapel earlier this year, with a box set scheduled for November 18 collecting all three. This one has the tenor saxophonist backed by piano (Gerald Clayton) and drums (Anthony Wilson), with Lloyd also playing a fair amount of flute. B+(**) [sp]
Marilyn Mazur's Shamania: Rerooting (2022, Clap Your Hands): Percussionist, born in US but family moved to Denmark when she was six, albums since 1984, including Shamania in 2019. Josefine Cronholm and Sissel Vera Petterson sing -- latter also plays alto sax, with Lotte Anker on tenor sax, plus trumpet, trombone, keyboards, electric bass, and two more percussionists. B+(**) [cd]
Makaya McCraven: In These Times (2022, International Anthem): Chicago-based second-generation drummer, mother a Hungarian folk singer (he includes one of her songs here), albums since 2012 including some crossover potential -- this one is distributed by XL in Europe, and Nonesuch in the US. Long credits list, which doesn't qualify as a big band but provides even more textural and rhythmic options. Unfortunately, that's basically all he has, but it makes for a swell ride, as long as it lasts. B+(**) [sp]
Cario Mombelli: Lullaby for Planet Earth (2021 , Clap Your Hands): From South Africa, plays electric bass, voice credit threw me as there's not much of that. Has a record with Charlie Mariano from 1990. Otherwise, discography picks up in 2014. This was recorded in Basel with Wolfgang Muthspiel on guitar and Jorge Rossy on drums and vibraphone. Atmospherics, light and airy. B+(***) [cd]
Ali Shaheed Muhammad & Adrian Younge: Jazz Is Dead 14: Henry Franklin (2022, Jazz Is Dead): The producers continue their tongue-in-cheek series featuring (mostly) forgotten figures of the decade jazz came closest to dying: the 1970s. Franklin is a bassist who released three obscure albums in the 1970s (the first two on Black Jazz), then struggled to find an outlet until 2000. Eight tracks with 7-9 musicians each, total 31:06. B+(*) [sp]
No Age: People Helping People (2022, Drag City): Indie rock duo, Randy Randall and Dean Allen Spunt, have an impressive string of albums since 2007. This one flies a bit under the radar. B+(**) [sp]
Oriental Brothers International Band: Oku Ngwo Di Ochi (2022, Palenque): Nigerian highlife band, founded in 1973, working under various names, sometimes featuring vocalist Dr. Sir Warrior or guitarist Godwin "Kabaka" Opara, neither of whom are still around for this new recordings (their first in 20 years). But the current crew, including band leader Ferdinand Dansatch Opara, have earned the right to keep this marvelous band name going. A- [bc]
Chris Pitsiokis: Art of the Alto (2022, Relative Pitch): Alto saxophonist, has produced quite a bit since 2012, including his group CP Unit. This one is solo, second time he's done that. First impression is that this is as good/bad/unlistenable as Anthony Braxton's For Alto. But ultimately it's a bit more varied, which helps. B+(*) [bc]
Shawn Purcell: 180 (2022, Origin): Guitarist, from Pittsburgh, based in DC region, spent eight years in Airmen of Note, teaches at George Mason. Basically an organ trio, with Pat Bianchi and Jason Tiemann, plus trombone on one track, vocals (Darden Purcell) on three. B [cd]
Joshua Redman/Brad Mehldau/Christian McBride/Brian Blade: Long Gone (2022, Nonesuch): Supergroup (tenor sax, piano, bass, drums), all four established themselves as leaders in the 1990s, came together for the well-regarded 2020 album Round Again. B+(***) [sp]
Sampa the Great: As Above, So Below (2022, Loma Vista): Rapper Sampa Tembo, from Zambia, raised in Botswana, based in Australia after she turned 20. Second album (after two mixtapes). B+(**) [sp]
Rina Sawayama: Hold the Girl (2022, Dirty Hit): Pop singer, born in Japan, moved to London at age five, got a degree at Cambridge in political science, has worked as a model and actress. Twenty singles, but this is just her second album. I didn't like her earlier work, possibly sounded too metal, but this at best sounds like '90s Madonna, and there's something to even the most overwrought ballads. B+(**) [sp]
Suede: Autofiction (2022, BMG): Britpop group, first four albums (1993-99) were big hits in UK, three later albums (2013-18) returned to top ten there. For most of this time, they were known as London Suede in the US, but that seems not a problem this time. Music seems framed for the arena: big and heavy. B [sp]
Two Shell: Home (2022, Mainframe Audio, EP): British electronica duo, from London, eight releases since 2019, mostly EPs, which is how this one is billed, but at 5 tracks, 33:03 it could be an album. But it seems to slip by awful fast. B+(*) [sp]
Will Vinson: Tripwire (2021 , Whirlwind): British alto saxophonist, based in New York, dozen-plus albums since 2004, this a trio with Matt Penman (bass) and Eric Harland (drums), plus guest Melissa Aldana (tenor sax) on two tracks. B+(***) [sp]
Katharina Weber: In Marta's Garden: Piano Solo (2022, Intakt): Swiss pianist, has a 2001 duo credit, a previous 2008 solo album, more albums since. B+(*) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Suzi Analogue: Infinite Zonez (2016-19 , Disciples): Hip-hop/electronica producer, compiled this from four Zonez volumes. B+(*) [sp]
John Ondolo: Hypnotic Guitar of John Ondolo (1961-68 , Mississippi): Tanzanian singer-songwriter, frequented the Kenyan scene in Nairobi, played guitar, a member of Vijana Jazz Band. This collects early singles. Feels primitive, but is still very beguiling. A- [bc]
Celestine Ukwu and His Philosophers National: No Condition Is Permanent (1971-74 , Mississippi): Nigerian (Igbo) highlife singer (1940-77) and bandleader, recorded a half-dozen albums with this group (1971-76). Five tracks (32:57), selected from singles and albums. Loses a bit when they slow it down, but the closer ("Tomorrow Is So Uncertain") is especially lovely. B+(***) [bc]
The Dils: Class War (1977-80 , Bacchus Archives): Los Angeles punk band, released two singles in 1977 ("I Hate the Rich"/"You're Not Blank" and "Class War"/"Mr. Big"), and three more songs in 1980, with a 10-track live album appearing in 1990, all combined here. Two members went on to the country-rock Rank and File. The singles are notably political, and they display some embryonic tunecraft. B+(*) [sp]
Highlights From the Mercury Blues 'n' Rhythm Story (1945-55 , Mercury/Chronicles): Single-CD sampler from the 8-CD box, 20 tracks. Cuts way back on the redundancy with only one song per artist, but plenty to go around. I suspect I could pick an alternate I'd like even more, but this does the job. A-
Nova Twins: Nova Twins EP (2016, Robotunes): British funk-metal duo, Amy Love and Georgia South, 5-song debut (15:03), start out closer to hip-hop but with heavier bass lines. I recommend their two subsequent full-length albums, but this should get you going. A- [sp]
Britney Spears: . . . Baby One More Time (1998 , Jive): Teen pop princess, cast in The Mickey Mouse Club at 11, signed a record deal at 15, released this debut album at 17, looking pert and wholesome on the cover, last time you could say that. Sold 25 million copies: her most ever, although the next one came close (20 million). Front-loaded. The ballad "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart" seemed like a fall, but turned out to be catchy enough. B+(**)
Britney Spears: Britney (2001, Jive): Third album, another big seller (10 million), seems to have found her sound here, compressed with a staccato beat. B+(***)
Britney Spears: Circus (2008, Jive): Sixth album, after In the Zone (B) and Blackout (high B+), which this outsold 4 million to 3.1. Her ballad is a bust, but the dance beats are tight, even if there's little to distinguish the songs. B+(*)
Britney Spears: The Essential Britney Spears (1998-2012 , RCA/Legacy, 2CD): Seven albums in -- Britney Jean came out later and contributed nothing here -- so less to choose two discs (33 songs) from than the single disc (14 songs) Greatest Hits from 2004. But as she grew out of teendom, she got dirtier, and her beats got denser, so while she never came up with a particularly interesting pop persona, her records got better even as the individual songs grew less memorable. Her early phase end 9 songs in with "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman." The rest is consistenty enjoyable, although I could say the same for 2011's Femme Fatale (4 songs here), or for that matter 2016's Glory (her last album before her neuroses and conservatorship put her out of commission). A-
Britney Spears: Britney Jean (2013, RCA): Still charting high (although topping out at 4 was her lowest ever), but the raw sales have collapsed (as was happening throughout the industry). She describes this as her most personal album, and indeed has a piece of all the songwriting credits, but also a lot of help. B
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.
Neptune Power Federation: Le Demon De L'Amour (2022, Cruz Del Sur): Australian fuzz metal band since 2012, singer Lauren Friedman (aka Screaming Loz Sutch), have a drummer who goes by Mr Styx. - [yt]
Grade (or other) changes:
Britney Spears: Greatest Hits: My Prerogative (1998-2004 , Jive/Zomba): Premature: compiled after four albums, baited with two new singles: the title cut (a Bobby Brown cover) is sharper than all but a couple of her own hits, which oddly seems to diminish them. [was: B] B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, September 19, 2022
Music: Current count 38717  rated (+32), 46  unrated (-2: 19 new, 27 old).
Rated count is down, but that's partly explained by multi-disc sets: especially the 8-CD Mercury box, which took more than a day (including one I did some cooking on). But I also played more old music, including a big chunk of the ridiculously packaged Beg Scream & Shout: The Big Ol' Box of '60s Soul (an A- in my database).
This week's two A- records were featured in Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide. I previously graded Etran De L'Aïr: Agadez, and The Mountain Goats: Bleed Out as A-; also Kabaka International Guitar Band and The Mountain Goats: Getting Into Knives as B+(***). I didn't get to Fox Green this week, and doubt I'll be seeing the Dusty Springfield comp (Ace rarely shows up on streaming services, although sometimes someone constructs a usable playlist; I still have no clue how to construct a playlist on Spotify).
Another Speaking of Which out Sunday night. I've started reading J. Bradford DeLong's big book (Slouching Towards Utopia), and it's already kicking off a lot of thoughts in my head. For instance, DeLong argues that before 1870 gains in technology and productivity were always diverted into more population (per Malthus) instead of more wealth per capita, but that changed after 1870 (basically doubling wealth every 33 years, until recently). It occurs to me that the 1870 shift wasn't global. In particular, Africa continued growing population, which correlates with low per capita growth, and widespread poverty. On the other hand, Asia did make the shift, mostly well after 1870, but the richest nations there are par with Europe, and most others are catching up fast (aside from politically excluded countries like Afghanistan and North Korea). It's a big book, so I'll probably be stuck on it for quite some time.
I've been wanting to do a Books post. Perhaps this week. Also have quite a bit of domestic work to get done, hopefully this week (but not likely until it cools off a bit). Only 7 September releases in my demo queue, and 2 of those not until 9/30. On the other hand, September is bringing more interesting new releases: in addition to the Miles Davis box below, there are new records waiting from the Beths, Gogol Bordello, Jesca Hoop, Samara Joy, Julian Lage, James Brandon Lewis, Rhett Miller, No Age, Rina Sawayama, Suede, and something called the Marxist Love Disco Ensemble. Also finally out is Jessica Pavone's Spam Likely, which I gave an A- to back in June.
New records reviewed this week:
Stacy Antonel: Always the Outsider (2022, self-released): Singer-songwriter, move to Nashville puts her in the country orbit, but she won't let that define her (even as she loads up on pedal steel). B+(*) [sp]
The Broken Spokes: Where I Went Wrong (2022, Broken Spokes Music): Country band from Houston, self-titled debut in 2016, singer Brent McLennan and guitarist Josh Artall write the songs, which feature more than a little western swing, and they keep the ballads on the sweet side. B+(**) [sp]
Charley Crockett: The Man From Waco (2022, Son of Davy): Country singer-songwriter from Texas, debut 2015, 11th album since 2015, 2nd this year. Trad sound, supplemented with horns. B+(**) [sp]
John Dikeman/Peter Ajtai/Nicolas Field: The Throes (2018 , Orbit577): Avant sax-bass-drums trio, recorded in Amsterdam. Major thrash, for five tracks, 61:17. B+(*) [bc]
Dave Douglas Quintet: Songs of Ascent: Book 1 -- Degrees (2020-2021 , Greenleaf Music): Trumpet player, postbop composer, long history as a preëminent player, most often leading quintets with someone equally skilled on reeds (Jon Irabagon here). Rhythm section is also superb: MattMitchell (piano), Linda May Han Oh (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums). Thematically, he continues from last year's interest in Secular Psalms. There's also a Book 2 -- Steps, which is exclusive to his digital subscribers. B+(***) [10-07]
Homeboy Sandman: I Can't Sell These (2022, self-released): New York rapper Angel Del Villar II, very prolific since 2007 (mostly in the EP-to-short-album range), counts this 20-track long-player as a mixtape, based as it is on uncleared samples. Helps with the music, but I mostly hear words, which fascinate and pick up momentum over the long haul. A- [bc]
Jockstrap: I Love You Jennifer B (2022, Rough Trade): English electropop duo, Georgia Ellery (also of Black Country, New Road) and Taylor Skye, first album after several EPs. Has an interesting glitchiness, which isn't quite the same thing as hooklessness. B+(**) [sp]
Freedy Johnston: Back on the Road to You (2022, Forty Below): Singer-songwriter from Kinsley, KS, moved to New York 1985, debut album 1990. Only his second album since 2010, nice and tuneful. B+(**) [sp]
Kimberly Kelly: I'll Tell You What's Gonna Happen (2022, Show Dog Nashville): Country singer from Texas, father and sister in the business, self-released her debut in 2007, this her third album, shows a lot of poise. Has a connection to Billy Joe Shaver that pays off with an ace cover of "Black Rose." B+(***) [sp]
Mach-Hommy: Dollar Menu 4 (2022, self-released, EP): Rapper Ramar Begon, born in Haiti, grew up in New Jersey, has an album dated 2004 but really picks up only in 2016, with 2021's Pray for Haiti his breakthrough. Released three Dollar Menu tapes in 2017, follows up here with Tha God Fahim: 9 songs, 25:06. B+(***) [sp]
Sana Nagano: Anime Mundi (2020 , 577): Brooklyn-based violinist, second album, trio with Karl Berger (vibes) and Billy Martin (drums). B+(**) [cd] [10-28]
Rachika Nayar: Heaven Come Crashing (2022, NNA Tapes): Brooklyn-based sound designer, uses guitar and electronics, third album, "a left-turn into electronic maximalism." B+(**) [sp]
Petrol Girls: Baby (2022, Hassle): English punk band, Ren Aldridge sings (or more often screams), started with an EP in 2014, no longer all girls, this is their third album, 11 songs in 34:00. B+(**) [sp]
Rick Rosato: Homage (2021 , self-released, EP): Bassist, originally from Montreal, based in New York, first album, solo: eight tracks, 22:51: the original title track, a Monk, one from Elvin Jones, the rest blues. B+(*) [cd] [10-14]
Santigold: Spirituals (2022, Little Jerk): Singer-songwriter Santi White, from Philadelphia, eponymous debut 2009, fifth album but first I've heard in a decade. No obvious gospel tropes or stylings here, but fine with me if the spirit wants to move. A- [sp]
Mista Savona: Havana Meets Kingston Part 2 (2022, Cumbancha): Australian keyboardist/producer, into dancehall, released a 2007 album called Melbourne Meets Kingston, followed it up in 2014 with a Mista Savona Presents Sizzla, then in 2017 with his first Havana Meets Kingston. Seems like a smoother mix than you get with reggaeton. B+(**) [bc]
Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers: Pretty Good for a Girl Band (2022, Domestic La La, EP): Australian girl band, leans punk but not real hard, released an EP in 2017 and a couple singles. This one runs 5 songs, 15:01. B+(*) [sp]
Kate Vargas: Rumpumpo (2021, Bandaloop): Singer-songwriter, plays guitar and flute, distinctive voice, fourth album since 2013. B+(**) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Miles Davis: Live: What It Is: Montreal 7/7/83 (1983 , Columbia/Legacy): After hiatus 1975-80, Davis staged a minor comeback in the early 1980s, probably peaking with the live Star People in 1983. This is much the same band, with the leader on trumpet and keyboards, Bill Evans (sax/flute), John Sccofield (guitar), Darryl Jones (bass), Al Foster (drums), and Mino Cinelu (percussion). Nine songs, 82:59, heavy on the funk groove. B+(***) [sp]
Miles Davis: That's What Happened [The Bootleg Series, Vol. 7: 1982-1985] (1982-85, Columbia/Legacy, 3CD): Third disc reissues the Montreal date, available earlier this year on 2-LP. It's preceded by two discs of studio outtakes, mostly the residue of producer Teo Macero's editing. They are pleasantly inconspicuous. The live set is much hotter, but no more varied. B+(**) [sp]
Lou Reed: Words & Music, May 1965 (1965 , Light in the Attic): Looks like Reed is going to get the full posthumous archive exploitation, starting with his earliest and crudest demos, mailed to himself to establish copyright: some songs that would become famous, some long forgotten, some with John Cale joining in, a Dylan-ish "Men of Good Fortune." I've only heard the 11 tracks of the most basic edition, and haven't seen Greil Marcus's liner notes. Rest assured that there are other options to take more of your money. At this level, it offers minor charms and amusements, as well as much room for improvement. B [sp]
Lou Reed: I'm So Free: The 1971 RCA Demos (1971 , RCA): Guitar and vocal takes of 17 songs -- all 10 from his 1972 eponymous solo debut, 4 more from Transformer, 2 that appeared on later albums ("Kill Your Sons" on Sally Can't Dance, and "She's My Best Friend" on Coney Island Baby), plus a VU song Mo Tucker originally sung ("I'm Sticking With You"). The album mixes have always had their detractors, but bare demos feel a little monotonous. B+(**)
Charles Stepney: Step on Step (, International Anthem): From Chicago, died young (1931-76), has some side credits but is best known as a producer, initially for Chess in the 1960s, later for Earth, Wind & Fire and other groups. No albums under his name until this one, which collects 23 undated demo pieces for 78 minutes -- mostly keyboard vamps, with some extraneous patter. The NY Times had a long review of this that described it as "a legacy of love" for someone who was "underrated, under-known, but he was magnificent." Maybe so, but aside from beat samplers, I doubt many will care. B [sp]
Stereolab: Electrically Possessed [Switched On, Vol. 4] (1999-2008 , Duophonic/Warp, 2CD): British electropop, principally Tim Gane (guitar/keyboards) and Laetetia Sadier (vocals/other instruments), founded 1990, broke up 2009, regrouped 2019. Switched On was a 1992 album compiled from earlier EPs and singles, and two more volumes followed to 1998. This picks up with the 1999-2000 EPs The Underground Is Coming and The First of the Microbe Hunters, and then adds various scraps. Initial groove piece is terrific for 9:29, later vocals a bit less so. B+(***) [sp]
Stereolab: Pulse of the Early Brain [Switched On, Volume 5] (1992-2008 , Duophonic/Warp, 2CD): Fifth volume of miscellaneous cuts, has to dig a little deeper, which sometimes means earlier. B+(**) [sp]
The Mercury Blues 'n' Rhythm Story 1945-1955 (1945-55 , Mercury/Chronicles, 8CD): Two discs each for Midwest Blues, Southwest Blues, West Coast Blues, and East Coast Blues. Mercury started in 1945 as an independent in Chicago, but they aimed big and spread everywhere, adding labels like EmArcy and Norgran (for jazz) and Smash, moving into Nashville and on to Europe, getting sucked up by Philips (eventually merged into Universal). Despite this breadth, this box winds up leaning heavily on a few artists: on the blues end, Big Bill Broonzy and Sunnyland Slim, and somewhat jazzier, Roy Byrd, Dinah Washington, and Cleanhead Vinson. Comes in an old-fashioned long box with four 2-CD jewel cases, and a big and useful booklet. B+(***) [cd]
Stereolab: Peng! (1992, Too Pure): Described as an "English-French rock band," based in England but singer Laetitia Sadier is French, the others on this debut album have proper English names (Tim Gane, Martin Kean, Joe Dilworth), but also give credit to a Charles Baudelaire text. Finds its groove with "Perversion," then sustains with some Velvet Underground airs. B+(**)
Stereolab: Switched On (1990-91 , Slumberland): Starting off a future series, this combines four tracks each from two EPs (Super-Electric and Super 45) with the two tracks from their single Stunning Debut Album. Seems elementary, but sometimes a groove is all it takes (especially with those Velvet Underground overtones). B+(**) [sp]
Stereolab: Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements (1993, Elektra): Title sounds like mere description, but not all that accurate, as most of it is pretty catchy, even a bit song-like. B+(***) [sp]
Stereolab: Mars Audiac Quintet (1994, Elektra): Guitar grinds a little more. B+(**) [sp]
Stereolab: Refried Ectoplasm [Switched On Volume 2] (1992-93 , Drag City): A second compilation of non-album tracks, mostly from 7-inch singles, with one previously unreleased track. Steady groove pieces amplified with drone, a hook in its own right. B+(***) [sp]
Stereolab: Aluminum Tubes [Switched On Volume 3] (1994-97 , Drag City, 2CD): Mostly EPs and side projects (like the "One Note Samba" with Herbie Mann from Red Hot + Rio). This period straddles their best album (Tomato Emperor Ketchup) and the much lamer Dots and Loops, so no surprise that it's more scattered than the first two Switched On volumes. Also longer: 113:12. B+(*) [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: