December 2014 Notebook


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Rhapsody Streamnotes (December 2014 Part Two)

Pick up text from here (except for Holiday Music section, previously run).

Daily Log

Jazz Times Critics Poll list:

  1. Sonny Rollins: Roadshows Volume 3 (Doxy/Okeh)
  2. Ambrose Akinmusire: The Imagined Savior Is Far Easier to Paint (Blue Note)
  3. Jason Moran: All Rise: A Joyful Elegy to Fats Waller (Blue Note)
  4. Mark Turner: Lathe of Heaven (ECM)
  5. Steve Lehman: Mise en Abime (Pi)
  6. Keith Jarrett/Charlie Haden: Last Dance (ECM)
  7. Chick Corea: Trilogy (Stretch/Concord)
  8. Kenny Barron/Dave Holland: The Art of Conversation (Impulse)
  9. Brian Blade: Landmarks (Blue Note)
  10. Yosvany Terry: New Throned King (5Pasion)
  11. Tom Harrell: Trip (HighNote)
  12. Wadada Leo Smith: The Great Lakes Suites (TUM)
  13. David Virelles: Mbókň (ECM)
  14. Diego Barber & Craig Taborn: Tales (Sunnyside)
  15. Andy Bey: Pages From an Imaginary Life (HighNote)
  16. Otis Brown III: The Thought of You (Blue Note)
  17. Bill Frisell: Guitar in the Space Age! (Okeh)
  18. Marc Ribot: Live at the Village Vanguard (Pi)
  19. Cookers: Time and Time Again (Motema)
  20. Trio 3 & Vijay Iyer: Wiring (Intakt)
  21. Arturo O'Farrill: The Offense of the Drum (Motema)
  22. Jeff Ballard: Time's Travels (Okeh)
  23. Sean Jones: Im-pro-vise Never Before Seen (Mack Avenue)
  24. Fred Hersch: Floating (Palmetto)
  25. Bad Plus: The Rite of Spring (Sony Masterworks)
  26. Billy Childs: Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro (Sony Masterworks)
  27. Henry Butler/Steven Bernstein & the Hot 9: Viper's Drag (Impulse)
  28. Joshua Redman: Trios Live (Nonesuch)
  29. Avishai Cohen's Triveni: Dark Nights (Anzic)
  30. Dan Weiss: Fourteen (Pi)
  31. Billy Hart: One Is the Other (ECM)
  32. Christine Jensen: Habitat (Justin Time)
  33. Miguel Zenón: Identities Are Changeable (Miel Music)
  34. Eric Revis: In Memory of Things Yet Seen (Clean Feed)
  35. Melissa Aldana: Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio (Concord)
  36. Frank Kimbrough: Quartet (Palmetto)
  37. Hiromi: Alive (Telarc)
  38. Nels Cline Singers: Macroscope (Mack Avenue)
  39. Edward Simon: Venezuelan Suite (Sunnyside)
  40. Stanton Moore: Conversations (The Royal Potato Company)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Music Week

Music: Current count 24247 [24221] rated (+26), 509 [490] unrated (+19).

Rated count off this week, partly because I replayed a fair number of 2014 releases around P&J ballot time, partly because I got stuck on re-evaluating Wadada Leo Smith's The Great Lakes Suites. To make a long story short, I concluded that the first disc is solid A-, but I still have some doubts about the second. I still prefer Smith's Red Hill (and still have Smith's The Stone (Akashic Meditation) well off the pace). The Great Lakes Suites came in a close second in NPR's Jazz Critics Poll.

Aside from those dead spots, everything else I rated last week came from Rhapsody (or at least the computer). I did get a comeuppance for my excessive pride over exhausting my 2014 queue: two large packages from Europe (France and Poland) with obscure 2014 releases, plus a few more from domestic sources. With all the year-end polls done, I didn't feel any rushing need to catch up. Rather, I kept on collecting year-end list data, trying to pick at anything I could find that seemed promising.

I totally screwed up on Twitter this past week. I may try to catch up a bit in the next few days, but more likely I'll just try to stuff what I can into a December 31 Rhapsody Streamnotes, then freeze the year-end file (and deep-freeze the 2013 list). Then we will enter 2015, and again try to scale back (somewhat).

New records rated this week:

  • Yemi Alade: King of Queens (2014, Effyzzie Music Group): [r]: B+(**)
  • Melissa Aldana: Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio (2014, Concord Jazz): [r]: B+(*)
  • Arca: Xen (2014, Mute): [r]: B
  • Banks: Goddess (2014, Harvest): [r]: B+(**)
  • Battle Trance: Palace of Wind (2014, New Amsterdam): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rubén Blades: Tangos (2014, Sunnyside): [r]: B
  • Michael Blake: Tiddy Boom (2014, Sunnyside): [r]: A-
  • Jimmy Cobb: The Original Mob (2014, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(***)
  • Donald Edwards: Evolution of an Influenced Mind (2013 [2014], Criss Cross): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kevin Gates: By Any Means (2014, Bread Winners Association): [r]: B+(**)
  • Brantley Gilbert: Just as I Am (2014, Valory): [r]: B-
  • Grouper: Ruins (2014, Kranky): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hard Working Americans: The First Waltz (2013 [2014], Melvin): [r]: B+(*)
  • I Love Makonnen (2014, OVO Sound, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • ICP Orchestra: East of the Sun (2014, ICP): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Oliver Lake Organ Quartet: What I Heard (2013 [2014], Passin' Thru): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ludovic Morlot/Seattle Symphony Orchestra: John Luther Adams: Become Ocean (2013 [2014], Cantaloupe): [r]: B+(***)
  • Objekt: Flatland (2014, Pan, 2CD): [r]: A-
  • Noah Preminger: Background Music (2010 [2014], Fresh Sound New Talent): [r]: A-
  • Sleaford Mods: Austerity Dogs (2013, Harbinger Sound): [bc]: A-
  • Sleaford Mods: Divide and Exit (2014, Harbinger Sound): [bc]: A-
  • Ana Tijoux: Vengo (2014, Nacional): [r]: B+(**)
  • Leon Vynehall: Music for the Uninvited (2014, 3024): [r]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Lewis: L'Amour (1983 [2014], Light in the Attic): [r]: B

Grade changes:

  • The Green Seed: Drapetomania (2014, Communicating Vessels): [was A-] A
  • Wadada Leo Smith: The Great Lakes Suites (2012 [2014], TUM, 2CD): [was B+(***)] A-
  • Wussy: Attica! (Shake It): [was A-] A

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Grazyna Auguscik Orchestar: Inspird by Lutoslawski (Fortune)
  • The Michael Blum Quartet: Initiation (self-released)
  • Lukasz Borowicki Trio: People, Cats & Obstacles (Fortune)
  • Herb Geller/Roberto Magris: An Evening With Herb Geller & the Roberto Magris Trio: Live in Europe 2009 (JMood)
  • Jachna Tarwid Karch: Sundial (Fortune)
  • Lucien Johnson/Alan Silva/Makoto Soto: Stinging Nettles (Improvising Beings)
  • Nikola Kolodziejczyk Orchestra: Chord Nation (Fortune)
  • Leszek Kulakowski Ensemble: Looking Ahead (Fortune)
  • Magnolia Acoustic Quartet: Cinderella (Fortune)
  • Myrczek & Tomaszewski: Love Revisited (Fortune)
  • Adam Pieronczyk Quartet: A-Trane Nights (Fortune)
  • Schizophonia: Cantorial Recordings Reimagined (Blue Thread Music)
  • Linda Sharrock: No Is No: Don't Fuck Around With Your Women (Improvising Beings, 2CD)
  • Emilio Solla y La Inestable de Brooklyn: Second Half (self-released)
  • Tom Trio: Radical Moves (Fortune)
  • Trzy Dni Pozniej: Pokoj Jej Cieniom (Fortune)
  • François Tusques/Mirtha Pozzi/Pablo Cueco: Le Fond de L'Air (Improvising Beings)
  • François Tusques/François Toullec/Eric Zinman: Laiser L'Exprit Divaguer (Improvising Beings)
  • Ksawery Wojcinski: The Soul (Fortune)
  • Waclaw Zimpel To Tu Orchestra: Nature Moves (Fortune)

Daily Log

Comment I wrote to Facebook on P&J odds:

The leaders in my EOY list count are: FKA Twigs, War on Drugs, St Vincent, Run the Jewels, Caribou, Aphex Twin, Swans, tie between Flying Lotus and Sun Kil Moon. However, the P&J electorate is skewed in various ways -- no, I don't have a mathematical model, just a bunch of hunches -- and P&J has a later deadline than anything I've counted so far, so my own P&J guess is Run the Jewels, followed by St Vincent, FKA Twigs, and War on Drugs, with Aphex Twin and/or Flying Lotus having a small chance of breaking into the top four. Taylor Swift and Miranda Lambert will certainly do much better than my count suggests (currently 21 and 62) -- I figure them for top-10 and top-20, but not top-5 and top-10. (Swift has only led one list so far, vs. 4 for Lambert.) Tune-Yards is a previous P&J winner with a strong bias, but is 67 in my count -- I figure top-40 is likely but not certain. At least one respected prognosticator has picked D'Angelo. I don't see how that can happen, and doubt he'll match Beyonce's 4th place finish last year, but top-20 is likely and top-10 not out of the question. As I understand the rules, Beyonce will have to get more new votes this year than she got last year, and I don't see any way that can happen. In fact, she hasn't done very well this year even in lists that were way too early last year to have given her a chance. (She's only appeared on 9 of 185 lists this year, but has won three of those.)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Pazz & Jop Ballot

I voted in The Village Voice's Pazz & Jop poll yesterday. My ballot:


  1. Lily Allen: Sheezus (Warner Brothers/Regal) 19
  2. Steve Lehman Octet: Mise en Abîme (Pi) 14
  3. Duduvudu: The Gospel According to Dudu Pukwana (Edgetone) 10
  4. Kate Tempest: Everybody Down (Big Dada) 10
  5. Paul Shapiro: Shofarot Verses (Tzadik) 10
  6. The Green Seed: Drapetomania (Communicating Vessels) 9
  7. Jenny Scheinman: The Littlest Prisoner (Masterworks) 9
  8. The Strypes: Snapshot (Island/Photo Finish) 7
  9. Revolutionary Snake Ensemble: Live Snakes (Accurate) 7
  10. Wussy: Attica! (Shake It) 5


  1. Pharrell Williams: "Happy" [Girl, Columbia]
  2. Leonard Cohen: "Almost Like the Blues" [Popular Problems, Columbia]
  3. Charli XCX: "London Queen" [Sucker, Atlantic]
  4. Lily Allen: "Hard Out Here" [Sheezus, Warner Bros./Regal]
  5. Iggy Azalea: "Fancy" [The New Classic, Island]
  6. Jason Derulo: "Marry Me" [Talk Dirty, Warner Bros.]
  7. Parquet Courts: "Black and White" [Sunbathing Animal, What's Your Rupture?]
  8. Peter Stampfel and the Brooklyn & Lower Manhattan Banjo Squadron: "NSA Man" (Better Than Expected, Don Giovanni]
  9. Nicki Minaj: "Anaconda" [The Pinkprint, Young Money]
  10. Sunny Sweeney: "Everybody Else Can Kiss My Ass" [Provoked, Aunt Daddy]

The songs all came from album tracks, with eight of ten on my A-list, but only one redundant to the albums ballot. The songs are overwhelmingly from major labels -- a testament to today's big pop production machine -- whereas the albums are more scattered (three majors, seven independents). Four albums are jazz, but none of the singles. The albums were carefully considered from the 1004 albums (952 new, 52 comp/archival) released in 2014 that I listened to seriously enough to grade. The songs were picked out much more arbitrarily. Jasons Gross and Gubbels generously shared their year-end song lists, but even after sampling a few things off the top of each I doubt that I've heard 20% of either list (nearly all in the context of albums, but surprisingly few appeared on albums I've heard). I also checked out Spin's year-end list, but closed it after the top two came nowhere close. I suspect that more digging would find a lot of things I'd feel bad about leaving out, but the top half of the list is likely to remain pretty solid.

The albums, of course, were much more rigorously considered. The only one on my ballot that's likely to get more than five votes is Wussy.[*] In my EOY list file, Attica! currently sits on line 347 with 6 points and only one mention so far on a top-ten list (5th on Greg Kot's Chicago Tribune list), but I know at least that many voters certain to vote for it. I was on the fence myself, slightly preferring Digital Primitives' Lipsomuch/Soul Searchin', also considering Parquet Courts' Sunbathing Animal and Old 97's Most Messed Up, and completely forgetting about the year's best compilation, Scratchin': The Wild Jimmy Spruill Story. I normally pay little attention to what other people are voting for, but it seems possible (if not exactly likely) that Wussy will sneak into the top-40, so I felt like doing that.

On the other hand, Wussy is likely to flat out win Odyshape's 2014 EW Pazz & Jop poll, so there's less excuse voting for it there, let alone need or value. So I'm making one change to the ballot above for Odyshape, replacing Wussy with the Jimmy Spruill compilation. It was, after all, an oversight, buried by my bookkeeping system down in the reissues and vault music. Had I thought of it before casting my P&J ballot I probably would have included it there.

I've long hated the top-ten cutoffs, which forcibly magnify marginal distinctions. No competent critic should be limited to ten highly recommended records in a year. When I ran a poll similar to Odyshape's in 2002-03, I tried to rectify this by allowing voters to extend their ballots: records from 11-20 got three points, 21-30 got two points, and anything past 30 was given one point. The long lists had little effect on the standings, but they added many more distinctive records to the totals. I wish Odyshape had adopted this embellishment, but they seem to regard P&J as some sort of holy grail.

I've found about 130 A- or higher albums this year (plus another 200+ high B+ records, and that list -- not my top-10 -- is the real EOY list. I've split the full EOY list into jazz and non-jazz parts -- about 60% of the new albums I've listened to this year were jazz, and they were mostly heard on CD whereas the non-jazz were mostly streamed. I don't consider compartmentalizing jazz to be either natural or desirable, but the differences in sample size and methodology, my status as an expert in jazz and a rank amateur in nearly everything else (except classical, where I'm a committed ignoramus) justifies the split.

[*] Kate Tempest's Mercury Prize-nominated album has some critical support, but thus far it's almost exclusively in Europe. She's tied for 56th place in my EOY count, finishing in the top 20 in 11 polls so far, but no higher than 8th. Steve Lehman won NPR's Jazz Critics Poll, but hardly anyone votes for jazz in P&J. Then there is Lily Allen's major label pop record, but it only has three mentions in EOY lists thus far, none higher than 46th. I expect it to do somewhat better in P&J, but a breakthrough doesn't look to be in the cards. The only other record with even one EOY list mention is Jenny Scheinman's, with just one on an unranked country genre list.

I've been having some discussions about oddsmaking for the P&J poll, so I thought I'd share some of that with you here. My projections are based on two things: a fairly large amount of aggregated EOY list data, and some half-baked ideas about how the critics who vote in P&J differ from my aggregate lists. The biggest difference is that P&J voters are almost exclusively American, whereas about half of the lists I've been counting come from elsewhere.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Music Week

Music: Current count 24221 [24186] rated (+35), 490 [509] unrated (-19).

With Rhapsody broken for most of the last two weeks (v. Saturday's Condemned to Hack post), I wiped out everything that was left in my 2014 queue, wrote up my first 2015 album, and started scrounging through the nether regions of the unplayed queue. The three records listed under "old music" below were actually advance copies from 2004-07, most likely unplayed because I was waiting for finals that never came. There is a good deal more like that -- probably between 50 and 100 records, some final copies (but those are more obviously by choice). I long prided myself on playing everything that came my way, but evidently there were limits -- while my 2014 "pending" list is currently (momentarily?) empty, and my 2013 was reduced to one slab of vinyl, some earlier lists show a dozen or more records as "pending."

Also cleaned out the Christmas records (v. yesterday's Holiday Music Special). Chuck Powell wrote in afterwards to point out that I "missed the only good one": John Zorn's Dreamers Christmas. As I said, I wasn't actually searching for "good" Christmas music; I was just cleaning house. I did have a fleeting thought of using Rhapsody to check out some relatively current product, but didn't have the stomach for it. (Sample titles from Billboard: Pentatonix, That's Christmas to Me; Idina Menzel, Holiday Wishes; Michael Buble, Christmas; Darius Rucker, Home for the Holidays; Josh Groban, Noel; Kelly Clarkson, Wrapped in Red; Mannheim Steamroller, 30/40; Amazon also recommends: Ellen's The Only Holiday Album You'll Ever Need, Vol. 1 (note contradiction); Christmas at Downton Abbey; Dave Koz & Friends, The 25th of December; Christmas With Nashville (the TV series, a "limited collector's edition"); Motown Christmas; A Boston Pops Christmas.)

I also thought about rumaging through my database for previous grades, but I don't have genres tagged so any sort of completism would have been impossibly tedious. Still, some samples:

  • Louis Armstrong & Friends: What a Wonderful Christmas (1950-66 [1998], Hip-O) B+(***)
  • Tony Bennett: Snowfall: The Tony Bennett Christmas Album (1968 [2007], RPM/Columbia/Legacy) B-
  • Tony Bennett: The Classic Christmas Album (1968-2008 [2011], Columbia/Legacy) B+(*)
  • Carla Bley/Steve Swallow/The Partyka Brass Quintet: Carla's Christmas Carols (2008 [2009], Watt) B+(*)
  • Ramsey Lewis: Sound of Christmas (1961 [2004], Verve) D+
  • Johnny Mathis: Gold: A 50th Anniversary Christmas Celebration (1958-2006 [2006], Columbia/Legacy) C+
  • Anita O'Day: Have a Merry Christmas With Anita O'Day (1942-70 [2013], Kayo Stereophonic) B+(*)
  • Phil Spector: A Christmas Gift for You (1963, Abkco) B

That's about half of the albums I've rated with "Christmas" in the title -- not many but not nothing either; the only other one rising to low-B+ is John Brown's Merry Christmas, Baby (2007). Someday I might try to survey the "classics" I've missed -- James Brown, Dave Brubeck, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Vince Guaraldi, Spike Jones, Elvis Presley, John Prine, Mike Seeger, Frank Sinatra -- but I've seen that Ramsey Lewis album show up in an "all-time top five" list, and it's hard to convey just how awful it is.

With all the computer problems I've been facing the last few weeks, I missed posting anything on the 9th Annual Jazz Critics Poll, which Francis Davis started at the Village Voice and most recently found a home for at NPR. A record 140 jazz critics voted this year. The key links:

When Rob Harvilla was involved, both at the Voice and during the poll's brief residency at Rhapsody, I was also asked to write up my own annotated ballot, but that hasn't happened with NPR. While my own ballot is here, a better place to look is my still-evolving file here. Part of the value is that the A-list goes much deeper than top-ten: currently I have 64 new jazz records on the list (plus 65 on the corresponding non-jazz list). But I also give you the complete context with lists of all the other records I didn't think were that good. When I do my EOY list counts, I don't stop at 10 because most of what interests me is further down on the lists -- and frankly, I trust critics with big lists to have done more homework (even if some of it looks suspiciously rote).

But if I could ask one follow-up question of the voters, it would be: which of the top-50 (or top-100) albums have you not listened to? My answer:

  1. Bad Plus, The Rite of Spring (Sony Masterworks) 88.5 (15)
  2. Keith Jarrett & Charlie Haden, Last Dance (ECM) 83 (14)
  3. Fred Hersch, Floating (Palmetto) 67 (12)
  4. Tom Harrell, Trip (HighNote) 56 (9)
  5. Frank Kimbrough, Quartet (Palmetto) 45.5 (8)
  6. Avishai Cohen, Dark Nights (Anzic) 42.5 (11)
  7. Melissa Aldana, Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio (Concord) 39.5 (9)
  8. Sean Jones, Imˇproˇvise Never Before Seen (Mack Avenue) 37 (6)
  9. Mary Halvorson, Reverse Blue (Relative Pitch) 34 (5)
  10. Denny Zeitlin, Stairway to the Stars (Sunnyside) 32.5 (6)
  11. Billy Childs, Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro (Sony Masterworks) 30 (4)
  12. Michael Blake, Tiddy Boom (Sunnyside) 29 (5)
  13. Diego Barber & Craig Taborn, Tales (Sunnyside) 28 (4)
  14. Martin Wind, Turn Out the Stars (What If? Music) 28 (4)
  15. David Weiss, When Words Fail (Motéma) 26.5 (5)
  16. Johnathan Blake, Gone But Not Forgotten (Criss Cross) 26 (4)
  17. Jemeel Moondoc, The Zookeeper's House (Relative Pitch) 25 (3)
  18. Ron Miles, Circuit Rider (Enja/Yellowbird) 24 (4)
  19. Matthew Shipp, Root of Things (Relative Pitch) 23.5 (5)
  20. Hush Point, Blues and Reds (Sunnyside) 23 (5)
  21. Jerome Sabbagh, The Turn (Sunnyside) 23 (5)
  22. Bobby Bradford & Frode Gjersted, Silver Cornet (Nessa) 23 (3)
  23. Audio One, The Midwest School (Audiographic) 22 (3)
  24. Sylvie Courvoisier, Double Windsor (Tzadik) 20 (4)
  25. Andy Bey, Pages From an Imaginary Life (HighNote) 20 (3)
  26. Jimmy Cobb, The Original Mob (Smoke Sessions) 20 (3)

Looking over this list, there are a couple items that seem like very strong A-list candidates (Moondoc finished high on the three ballots that named him, and they're all critics I tend to agree with; same for The Midwest School, plus I heard a cut on bandcamp that blew me away), plus a lot of no doubt quality records -- solid B+ fare with a chance of being better than that. Also occurs to me that I screwed up in several cases -- I must have received download links from Sunnyside and ECM that I failed to act on, and I let HighNote take me off their mailing list when I expected to write much less about jazz than I wound up doing. On the other hand, this rather underscores the point that the labels with good PR distribution are the ones that place in polls like this. They don't have to be big: Pi only released five albums this year, but they placed 1-6-14-33-54. On the other hand, major labels Universal (Verve/Blue Note/ECM) and Sony (Okeh/Masterworks) hogged 11 of the top 20 slots. (Warner's Nonesuch had two top-50 spots at 36 and 43.) And when obscure labels do place, that's often thanks to independent PR firms (e.g., Braithwaite & Katz helped the superb Finnish label TUM take 2nd, but they only placed Wadada Leo Smith, who finished 3rd and 17th the last two years; on the other hand, Smith's other record this year, on Rare Noise (Red Hill), wound up way down at 140th).

I should probably note that this is probably the first year since the first poll in 2005 where my top pick was the poll's top pick. (The winner back then was Ornette Coleman's Sound Grammar -- not a squeaker or anyone's idea of an upset.) Still, I wouldn't read this as implying a convergence of critical opinion -- it's just an exceptional album that hit several different pleasure spots. My only other A-list album was the latest installment of Sonny Rollins' Roadshows -- now that's a consensus pick! Only one more A-list in the next ten (Vijay Iyer), two in the following ten (Thumbscrew and Eric Revis), and three more (Marty Ehrlich, James Brandon Lewis, Farmers by Nature) in the top fifty (making a total of eight). There are a few things we disagree over (I should probably recheck Akinmusire -- I was very surprised to see his record on Davis' ballot; my recall of what's wrong with Jason Moran's Fats Waller rehash is clearer, and I can see that Darius Jones' The Oversoul Manual is a love-or-hate matter), but most of the top-50 records are very respectable efforts -- not sure how much of that to pin on my bias towards sax over piano (lot of piano records on the list), but I'm inclined to think that I rate those records down a bit only because I've looked much further.

My three A- records this week are all pop, all December releases with virtually no EOY list presence thus far. Charli XCX evidently had some advance publicity, popping up on six lists, including 5th place at Rolling Stone and 43rd at Spin. Nothing yet for highly touted D'Angelo (Metacritic score is 95 for 23 reviews -- their second highest rating this year for a new record, edged out by Machine Head's Bloodstone & Diamonds with only 5 reviews; metal albums often have ridiculously high scores because only metalheads can stand to review them) or for Nicki Minaj (Metacritic 71 for 22 reviews; NYT: "full of compromises and half-successes"). I found them all on Rhapsody, and connected almost instantly to Charli XCX. On the other hand, D'Angelo got a lot of spins and is still pretty marginal for me, although no doubt it is a very distinctive album.

I continue to add lists into my aggregation as I find time (and lists). FKA Twigs maintains a small lead over War on Drugs, and there's little reason to think the former has much of a UK bias. I have to rate it a slight favorite to win P&J, but any of the top four would win -- FKA Twigs, War on Drugs, St. Vincent (3), and Run the Jewels (tied at 4 with Caribou although I'd count the latter out) -- with momentum and skew if anything favoring Run the Jewels.

File has grown to 2195 records, but that's still way short of last year's 7867. The 157 polls is also well under half of last year's total (not that the number for 2013 is easy to count). The leader's current score is 148, vs. Kanye West's 356 last year. All of those totals will wind up less than last year because I've changed the methodology.

Pazz & Jop ballot is due December 26, so more on that then. My guess is that about twenty voters there are heavily Christgau-influenced, which this year can be measured by votes for Wussy, Withered Hand, and Black Portland -- very little support for any of those albums elsewhere (current scores: Black Portland 8, Wussy 6, Withered Hand 5). I'll post another Rhapsody Streamnotes by the end of the month, but probably not next week.

New records rated this week:

  • Dean Blunt: Black Metal (2014, Rough Trade): more of a left-field IDM guy, but looking for dramatic gestures, or maybe just a product niche [r]: B+(*)
  • Fiorenzo Bodrato: Travelling Without Moving (2012 [2014], CMC): bassist, frames spoken word like hip-hop, only more complex and sublime [cd]: B+(***)
  • Patrick Breiner's Double Double: Mileage (2013 [2014], Sulde): tenor saxophonist leads rough and scratchy double-bass quartet, pulsing with energy [bc]: B+(*)
  • Peter Brötzmann/John Edwards/Steve Noble: Soul Food Available (2013 [2014], Clean Feed): avant sax-bass-drums trio, live at Ljubljana doing their thing [cd]: B+(***)
  • Malonie Carre: Forever (2014, self-released): singer-songwriter; finally hit the bottom of my 2014 queue -- how appropriate is that? [cd]: B
  • Charli XCX: Sucker (2014, Atlantic): big beat dance pop with postpunk sneer and swagger; imagine "London Queen" as flipside to "I'm So Bored" [r]: A-
  • D'Angelo and the Vanguard: Black Messiah (2014, RCA): 14 years in the desert wilderness, returns with fractured funk, oblique, mysterious [r]: A-
  • Jeff Davis: Dragon Father (2013 [2014], Fresh Sound New Talent): drummer-led postbop quintet, cornet and alto sax up front but Russ Lossing's piano roughs the edges [r]: B+(***)
  • Sax Gordon: In the Wee Small Hours (2013 [2014], Delmark): tenor saxophonist, mostly honks in blues bands but goes for ballads here [cd]: B+(**)
  • Hildegard Lernt Fliegen: The Fundamental Rhythm of Unpolished Brains (2013 [2014], Yellowbird): vocalist Andreas Schaerer contorts around horns/recorders [bc]: B+(*)
  • Anthony Jefferson: But Beautiful (2014, self-released): standards singer from New Orleans, rich and subtle voice on songs that could easily go awry [cd]: B+(**)
  • Link of Chain: A Songwriters' Tribute to Chris Smither (2011 [2014], Signature Sounds): Dave Alvin, Loudon Wainwright, Josh Ritter, others raid the songbook [r]: B+(**)
  • Collette Michaan: Incarnate/Encarna (2014, self-released): jazz flute, camouflaged by Latin beats and chromatic harmonica, offset with trombone [cd]: B
  • Nicki Minaj: The Pinkprint (2014, Young Money): unlikely to duplicate Beyonce's P&J rush even though a better album, just neither great nor safe [r]: A-
  • Paal Nilssen-Love/Terrie Ex: Hurgu! (2013, PNL): guitar-drums duo, half of Vandermark's Lean Left or a smaller fraction of the Ex [bc]: B+(**)
  • Paal Nilssen-Love Large Unit: Erta Ale (2014, PNL, 3CD): eleven-piece group, only two reeds and three brass, more rumble room for the rhythm [bc]: B+(***)
  • Arturo O'Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra: The Offense of the Drum (2014, Motéma Music): pianist competent as ever, gets bump from the horns [r]: B+(**)
  • Sonya Perkins: Dream a Little Dream (2014, self-released): standards singer, good songs, decent piano trio, delicious guest spot for Warren Vache [cd]: B
  • Scurvy: Fracture (2010, Johnny Butler Jazz): scraping the bottom of my barrel, came up with this pretty good avant-fusion group, kudos for the trombone [cdr]: B+(*)
  • Judy Silvano with Michael Abene: My Dance (2014 [2015], JSL): jazz singer backed by nothing but piano; when pressed, she responds with tons of scat [cd]: B-
  • Chris Smither: Still on the Levee (2014, Signature Sounds, 2CD): for his 70th, the folksinger offers his own tribute, old songs redressed, guests invited [r]: B+(*)
  • Michael Snow & Thollem McDonas: Two Piano Concert at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2014, Edgetone): two avants, complex verging on difficult [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jesse Stacken: Helleborus (2014, Fresh Sound New Talent): the pianist continues to grow, but he's not the first leader to be eclipsed by Tony Malaby's sax [r]: B+(***)
  • Subtle Lip Can: Reflective Drime (2014, Drip Audio): violin-guitar-drums, an abstract turmoil of soft sounds, not jarring but definitely abrasive [cd]: B+(**)
  • Scott Wendholt & Adam Kolker Quartet: Andthem (2011 [2014], Fresh Sound New Talent): trumpet and tenor sax for the leaders, bass and drums for lift, the Monk explodes [r]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • George Van Eps: Once in Awhile (1946-49 [2014], Delmark): radio shots from guitar legend, feat. pianist Stanley Wrightsman and tenor sax Eddie Miller [cd]: B+(***)

Old records rated this week:

  • Phil Driscoll: Drops of Praise (2006, Jordan/Koch): [cdr]: B
  • The Gang Font feat. Interloper (2007, Thirsty Ear): [cdr]: B+(*)
  • Carl Hancock Rux: Apothecary RX (2004, Giant Step): [cdr]: B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Andrew Drury: The Drum (self-released): February 17
  • Andrew Drury: Content Provider (self-released): Febuary 17
  • Kenosha Kid: Inside Voices (self-released): March 3

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Holiday Music Special

Many years ago I read that Christmas music outsells jazz -- a factoid that helped harden a prejudice against the stuff into a grudge. There are objectively worse things about the music, like the compulsions retailers feel to play it nonstop during the four (or more) weeks of the "season," as if doing so triggers Pavlovian reflexes to spend. I get some quantity of it every year. Sometimes I review it and pack it away, but mostly it piles up, and I have way too much of that. So this year I'm making an effort to clear the decks. Hopefully this won't encourage anyone to send me more next year.

Eddie Allen: Jazzy Brass for the Holidays (2009, DBCD): Actually no name credit on the cover, but Allen is the leader and arranger, plays trumpet along with Cecil Bridgewater, and is backed by French horn, trombone, bass, and drums. Song selection so standard it could be a high school assignment. Not sure if stating the head then improvising off it works as jazz but it does break the holiday tedium. B-

Chris Bauer: In a Yuletide Groove: Harmonica Jazz for the Holidays (2011, self-released): "Seydel harmonica artist," has two albums, the other Straight Ahead. Quintet with keybs, guitar, bass, and drums, plus a guest vocal from producer Rob Poparozzi. Standards, favors pop like "Frosty the Snowman" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" but works in "My Favorite Things" and "Ave Maria." The very definition of chintzy, but the harmonica is a versatile lead instrument. B- [cd]

Alexis Cole: The Greatest Gift: Songs of the Season (2009, Motéma): A jazz singer with at least eight albums I've never heard, credits this "with family & friends" and throws in a plug for World Bicycle Relief. The friends include some names I've heard of (Don Braden, Alan Ferber, Jon Cowherd, Ike Sturm, Zach Brock). Climactic pop move: "Jesus is the best part of Christmas/365 days a year/Jesus is here." C+ [cd]

Nathan Eklund: Craft Christmas (2011 [2012], OA2): Trumpet player, leads a basic keyboard-bass-drums quartet, song credits range from Trad. to Guaraldi with one original. The trumpet leads are eloquent, but the two vocals detract. B- [cd]

Tobias Gebb Presents Trio West: Plays Holiday Songs, Vol. 2 (2009, Yummy House): Drummer-led piano trio, with Eldad Zvulun on piano and Meal Miner on bass. Short song list, but several tunes get two passes, with "We Three Kings" recast as a waltz, "Silent Night" and "Joy to the World" done in samba, and "O Tannenbaum" in funk and salsa variants. B [cd]

Milt Hinton/Ralph Sutton/Gus Johnson/Jim Galloway: The Sackville All Star Christmas Record (1986 [2014], Sackville/Delmark): Bass, piano, drums, soprano sax, listed roughly in what I take to be the rank order of their fame, although Galloway -- the only one still alive -- is a first-rate trad jazz player. (Or maybe it's just left-to-right to caption the cover picture.) Standard fare, not as rowdy as you'd hope -- seductively subtle, even. B+(*) [cd]

The Hot Club of San Francisco: Hot Club Cool Yule (2009, Azica): Group -- motto is "What Would Django Do?" -- has a dozen albums since 1993. Violin leads over the guitars, sometimes slipping into something pleasantly innocuous, but the guest vocals snap you back, even on the generic "Baby It's Cold Outside." B- [cd]

Knoxville Jazz Orchestra: Christmas Time Is Here (2012, self-released): A full-fledged big band, arranged and conducted by Vance Thompson, also listed as fifth trumpet. More listenable than most, at least until they add the choir(s). B- [cd]

Elisabeth Lohninger Band: Christmas in July (2011, JazzSick): Singer, has an appealing voice ready to swing and fluent in uncounted languages, backed by Axel and Walter Fischbacher (guitar and piano). Twelve songs from nearly as many countries, with a Mel Tormé tune from the US and "Stille Nacht" from Austria. B+(*) [cd]

Eugene Marlow's Heritage Ensemble: Celebrations (2010, MEII Enterprises): Subtitle "interprets festive melodies from the Hebraic songbook," so not our usual Xmas album, but it does start with "Chanukah, O Chanukah." Pianist Marlow is a New York Jew who specializes in Afro-Cuban/salsa/bossa nova and his group spreads out the ethnic polyculture, including the marvelous Michael Hashim on sax. Ends with a 6:37 lecture on philosophy that bears repeating. A- [cd]

Ellis Marsalis: A New Orleans Christmas Carol (2011, ELM): A pianist from New Orleans, anyway, although not one particularly noted for the style. The patriarch of the Marsalis clan, his jazz career only emerging after his sons became famous, he decorates the usual tunes with marching drums, son Jason's vibes, and two singers I've already forgotten. B- [cd]

Will Scruggs Jazz Fellowship: Song of Simeon: A Christmas Journey (2012, self-released): Scruggs, from Atlanta, plays tenor and soprano sax, called his first album Jazz Fellowship and kept that as his group name. He explains: "Using ancient canticles, hymns, and folk melodies, I chose eleven pieces to formulate a layered chronology that illustrates the profound, spiritual mystery of the radical biblical story of the birth of Christ." Sounds ambitious, and I enjoyed the absence of trad Xmas fare . . . until it got woven in. B [cd]

Donna Singer with the Doug Richards Trio: Kiss Me Beneath the Mistletoe (2012, Emerald Baby): About half originals, mostly co-credited to husband Roy Singer (assume he's the uncredited duet partner on two songs), and I must admit I was touched by bassist Richards' song about leaving donuts for Santa Claus. The other half is split between spirituals and classic fluff like "Let It Snow" with something of a fetish for mistletoe. B [cd]

The United States Air Force Band: Cool Yule (2009, self-released): Big band, plus strings, some extras like oboe, a female vocal trio called the "Andrews Sisters" (quotes included), and a male barbershop quartet called the "Crew Chiefs" (again, quotes obligatory). Makes you wonder if they hadn't faked the death of Glenn Miller and kept him working at some "dark site" all these years. I'm tempted to slag them on principle, but frankly they could keep this band running for decades for less than a single F-35, and it would be a better use of the money. Highlight: the cha-cha "Auld Lang Syne" (and yes, that's as good as they get). B [cd]

Ezra Weiss: Alice in Wonderland: A Jazz Musical (2009, Northwest Childrens Theater and School): Been sitting on this, something I'd never expect to have any interest in, and still don't. But the story has a few touchstones I recognize -- mad hatters and decapitating queens and such -- and the music is not without interest. B [cd]

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Condemned to Hack

As I've mentioned several times recently, Rhapsody recently introduced a new website design. This depends on Adobe's execrable Flash product for streaming music -- I'm not sure that is new but this is the first time I noticed a dependency. I've been running Rhapsody reliably on Ubuntu Linux, on a system which is up-to-date (14.04 LTS). The new website initially worked on this machine, but when I did a routine Ubuntu update it broke, giving me an error message that I must have Flash installed and enabled, and a URL to Adobe to "Get Flash." I spent many hours trying to figure this out, and probably made things worse along the way. Long story short, I finally got it working tonight. Still, the results are troublesome. Let me explain.

Flash (or Shockwave Flash) is proprietary (non-free) software developed and maintained by Adobe. It consists of an authoring product, which Adobe makes money on, and a player, which Adobe distributes without charge (but also without source code). Since only Adobe can compile the source code, they can choose which platforms they want to support. For a long time, they supported Linux, but in 2012 they decided to freeze Linux development at release 11.2. (They've since moved on to release 16.0 for Microsoft and Apple.) If you use Firefox go to Adobe's download website from a Linux machine, they offer you version in various package formats. For Ubuntu you want "APT for Ubuntu 10.4+" -- Ubuntu, by the way, has since moved on to 14.04. When you click on the "Download" button, Firefox invokes the Ubuntu Software Manager to handle the package, which is identified as "adobe-flashplugin."

As I understand it, the "adobe-flashplugin" package doesn't actually include the Flash Player binary. What happens is that when you install the installer, it goes out to get the program(s) to be installed -- a bit of indirection which keeps Adobe's "crown jewels" separate from the software depositories which are used to install Linux systems. One problem here is that "adobe-flashplugin" winds up installing a slightly earlier Flash Player version ( than the one advertised. That is most likely Adobe's bug. What makes this worse is that Firefox has been configured to automatically disable old versions of plugins that are believed to have security risks, and the version installed is one of those. I don't know whether the real latest version (.425) would be acceptable to Firefox. I do know that when Firefox offers a link to "Update" the offending plugin, it steers you back to Adobe's website, which gives you the wrong version again. I also know that it takes some twiddling to reinstall Adobe's "adobe-flashplugin" since Ubuntu's Software Center thinks it's already installed and up-to-date (you have to remove it then re-install it). Finally, you have to tell Firefox to allow the website to use Flash despite the security risks. (Hopefully, this is website specific, so you're not opening up a security hole for other websites.)

Now, all that's bad enough, but I had several other problems I had to figure out before I could get the above procedure to work. Linux people never have liked Flash -- even back when it was the only way to stream video and audio over the web, it was buggy, mysterious, and couldn't be fixed. So there have been many efforts to first emulate and eventually to supersede Flash. One hint I found was that Firefox was showing two Shockwave Flash plugins -- the installed by Adobe (when I was expecting -.425), and another at from some mysterious source. Firefox allows you to disable plugins but not to uninstall them, but I didn't get any different results from Rhapsody when I alternately disabled one or the other plugin. Finally, I took a look through the package list and uninstalled everything that looked like it had to do with Flash: namely, I removed flashplugin-installer, pepperflashplugin-nonfree and freshplayer-plugin, they verified that Firefox had no Flash plugins. Then I repeated the installation from Adobe, restarted Firefox, called up Rhapsody, and told Firefox to let me use the insecure Flash plugin. Finally, it worked.

No sooner than I got Rhapsody working again, I ran into another nasty bug. I haven't had time to comment on Francis Davis' 9th Annual Jazz Critics Poll, lately sponsored by NPR, because I've been preoccupied working on my piece of the project, which you can find here. I managed to get all the ballots counted and cross-checked by 4AM Thursday morning -- the schedule was to go live sometime Thursday but NPR didn't actually get their end together until Friday morning. However, I spent all of my time looking at my private copy of the website, and didn't notice that when I uploaded the code things broke. What happened was that any string with accented characters -- artist names like Miguel Zenón (11th) or album titles like David Virelles' Mbókó (14th) -- simply vanished. So I had to figure this out, and fix it.

Turns out that my working machine was running PHP 5.3 while the server is running PHP 5.4. One huge difference between the two is that in 5.4 the lords of PHP decided to make UTF-8 the default character set, replacing the default ISO-8859-1, which all of my data is encoded in. I've been a stickler about accents ever since college, when one of the jobs I had working on Paul Piccone's Telos was to go through the typeset galleys and use presstype to add the missing diacritical marks. When I later worked for typesetting equipment manufacturers, I specified the unified multilingual font package at Varityper, and I worked on a Japanese typesetter at Compugraphic. I later internationalized the prepress software package developed at Contex, and oversaw localization of the software for France. I saw aware of Unicode almost from the start, and I knew the guy at SCO who invented UTF-8. So in some sense I always understood that Unicode and its UTF-8 encoding would become the standard for character encoding, I found ISO-8859-1 sufficient for my own work, adopted it early, and have steadfastly stuck with it.

That's caused me increasing aggravation the last few years. I use emacs to edit my files, and it's long worked very nicely with ISO-8859-1, but it switched allegiance to UTF-8 a few years back, and that's caused me all sorts of problems. In fact, when I discovered this problem, the first thing I suspected was that emacs had saved the files using UTF-8. I've also seen MySQL move from ISO-8859-1 to UTF-8, but a simple configuration switch has allowed me to keep using ISO-8859-1 data for Robert Christgau's website. I spent hours looking for a similar configuration hack to keep PHP 5.4 from breaking not just the new code but lots of old code. While I found several candidates, I couldn't get any of them to work. Ultimately I fixed the problem by writing a wrapper for PHP's htmlentities() function, which when run under 5.4 would pass extra arguments to specify ISO-8859-1 encoding. That's not the limit of the changes, but it's the one function that I was using that was blowing up.

I've since gone back and applied this fix to the totals and ballots from 2011-13. I still need to look at 2009-10, but they are undoubtedly broken too. Updates are always a tough decision: they interrupt your regular work and often break things. As I said above, I have one Ubuntu machine that is up-to-date (the one that Rhapsody broke on), and another that is way out of date (the one with PHP 5.3). I've been meaning to upgrade the latter for some time -- mostly because Firefox has bugs handling Javascript, and those result in my browser crashing a couple times a week. (Hopefully a newer version will work better.) On the other hand, upgrading is going to be arduous. (It involves hopping through several Ubuntu releases, and any one of those hops could leave me broken, so I first need to back up all of my data -- and in this case there's a lot of that.) They I'll have to deal with software changes like PHP 5.4 (actually, more like PHP 5.6). Then I'll have the problem that I'll be ahead of the target servers for my websites. (That may be the point when I finally have to migrate to a new server.)

What was that line from The Godfather they liked to quote on The Sopranos? Something about trying to break out of the family business and go legit, then getting dragged back in. Looks like I'm still periodically condemned to hack.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Music Week

Music: Current count 24186 [24146] rated (+40), 509 [521] unrated (-12).

Pretty well sandbagged at the moment. I got a very late start on my bit posting the ballots for Francis Davis' Jazz Critics Poll (at NPR again this year -- at least the top of the charts and Davis' year-end summary essay). I've been bedeviled by computer problems, and they've wiped out my ability to play Rhapsody in my office. I've spent a lot of time trying to debug that, and won't bore you with details now, but I believe Rhapsody is culpable both for a glaring strategic error -- why adopt proprietary Adobe software when HTML 5 eliminates most of its previous utility, and Firefox's developers would rather implement the HTML spec than try to figure out how to contain Flash's bugs? -- as well as a detection bug (i.e., they think Flash isn't available when it is). Anyhow, screws me over big time -- although I did manage to get through Leonard Cohen's Live in Dublin on my Chromebook.

Much of what's listed below appeared in last week's Rhapsody Streamnotes, so shouldn't be new. I had missed a lot of tweets at that time, and haven't fully caught up. Last couple days, without Rhapsody, I decided to slog through my Xmas music queue -- much of which dates from 2009. I'm not going to bother to tweet on them -- they aren't timely, and they aren't much good. I'll probably run them as a separate post later this week, then archive them with the next RS column. Looking at the database there are a few items I haven't found yet, but really who cares how bad Anita Baker's Christmas Fantasy is, let alone Putumayo Presents Christmas Around the World? My main motivation has been to get them out of the queue and packed away safely out of sight. Oddly enough, I did find one good record in the batch, but its only holidays concession is to start out with "Chanukah, O Chanukah." On the other hand, I can say that the albums aren't as dreadful as I had feared.

One other note: I mentioned some average times for adding new records to my year-end lists after having to cast some ballot. Following the deadline for the Jazz Critics Poll, it took me less than a day to find another A-list record, and little more than a week to find one that would have cracked my top ten. Both figures are less than half of previous medians. Of course, if you want the real Dudu Pukwana, the record to seek out is In the Townships (1973). The new Duduvudu is a little messier, a little more in-your-face, but I don't mind that at all.

Need to get back to work.

New records rated this week:

  • Big K.R.I.T.: Cadillactica (2014, Def Jam): rapper from Mississippi, has underground mores, big time songcraft, exquisite flow, ideas, cares [r]: A-
  • Juan Pablo Carletti/Tony Malaby/Christopher Hoffman: Nińo/Brujo (2013 [2014], NoBusiness): drums, tenor sax, cello, Carletti writing, Malaby selling [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Leonard Cohen: Live in Dublin (2013 [2014], Columbia, 3CD): if you loved "Live in London" as much as I did, you'll dig this too, but have to pay more [r]: A-
  • J Cole: 2014 Forest Hills Drive (2014, RCA): beats quasi-underground, stories real enough, too much N but his free association sparkles [r]: B+(***)
  • Frankie Cosmos: Zentropy (2014, Midheaven, EP): celebrity kid Greta Kline tries for some spit and polish after 40 "albums" in five years [bc]: B+(*)
  • De Beren Gieren & Susana Santos Silva: The Detour Fish: Live in Ljubljana (2014, Clean Feed): piano trio + trumpet, a nice pairing on easy side of free jazz [cd]: B+(**)
  • Duduvudu: The Gospel According to Dudu Pukwana (2009 [2014], Edgetone): remembering the late great South African saxophonist, pumping up township jive [cd]: A
  • Justin Townes Earle: Single Mothers (2014, Vagrant): countryish singer/songwriter, comes up with half a concept, the other half for a sequel [r]: B+(**)
  • Ghostface Killah: 36 Seasons (2014, Tommy Boy): always a story teller, a problem for me because I need to see the printed word, so I go on beats [r]: B+(***)
  • Barry Guy: Five Fizzles for Samuel Beckett (2009 [2014], NoBusiness, EP): solo bass, EP-length for 10-inch vinyl, not every day a bass solo ends too soon [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Half Japanese: Overjoyed (2014, Joyful Noise): been making irritable albums with a few greatest-hits-worthy gems embedded, and do it again [r]: B+(***)
  • Maggie Herron: Good Thing (2014, self-released): standards singer from Hawaii, plays piano, fares best with classics and with two songs in French [cd]: B+(**)
  • Hiss Golden Messenger: Lateness of Dancers (2014, Merge): singer-songwriter from NC does a fair Dylan impression, except I didn't note lyrics [r]: B+(*)
  • How to Dress Well: What Is This Heart? (2014, Domino): mostly sings falsetto, often over synth strings, an effect some consider soulful [r]: B
  • Sam Hunt: Montevalo (2014, MCA Nashville): Nashville rookie sounds like he's trying to sneak into the party behind Luke Bryan, but not shameless enough [r]: B
  • Paul Jones: Short History (2014, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(**)
  • K Michelle: Anybody Wanna Buy a Heart? (2014, Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Loscil: Sea Island (2014, Kranky): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Blue (2014, Hot Cup): note-for-note "Kind of Blue" copy, adds nothing, subtracts nothing, is nothing? [dl]: B
  • Rod Picott: Hang Your Hopes on a Crooked Nail (2014, Welding Rod): welder turned singer/songwriter, breaks up, lives on wheels, not really mobile [r]: B+(***)
  • Diane Roblin: Reconnect (2014, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Joanne Tatham: Out of My Dreams (2014, Cafe Pacific): [cd]: B
  • The Vamps: Meet the Vamps (2014, Island): Brit boy group, built on time-tested commercial riffs, from Paul Simon to Bruno Mars and back [r]: B+(**)
  • Colin Webster/Andrew Lisle/Alex Ward: Red Kite (2014, Raw Tonk): sax-drums-guitar trio, keys off the guitar which can drive the others to fury [bc]: B+(**)
  • Zanussi 5: Live in Coimbra (2013 [2014], Clean Feed): Norwegian quintet, bassist-led with three saxes, propulsive grooves set up sax wails and rumbles [cd]: A-

Christmas clearance sale:

  • Eddie Allen: Jazzy Brass for the Holidays (2009, DBCD): [cd]B-
  • Chris Bauer: In a Yuletide Groove: Harmonica Jazz for the Holidays (2011, self-released): [cd]: B-
  • Alexis Cole: The Greatest Gift: Songs of the Season (2009, Motéma): [cd]: C+
  • Nathan Eklund: Craft Christmas (2011 [2012], OA2): [cd]: B-
  • Tobias Gebb Presents Trio West: Plays Holiday Songs, Vol. 2 (2009, Yummy House): [cd]: B
  • Milt Hinton/Ralph Sutton/Gus Johnson/Jim Galloway: The Sackville All Star Christmas Record (1986 [2014], Sackville/Delmark): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The Hot Club of San Francisco: Hot Club Cool Yule (2009, Azica): [cd]: B-
  • Knoxville Jazz Orchestra: Christmas Time Is Here (2012, self-released): [cd]: B-
  • Elisabeth Lohninger Band: Christmas in July (2011, JazzSick): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Eugene Marlow's Heritage Ensemble: Celebrations (2010, MEII Enterprises): [cd]: A-
  • Ellis Marsalis: A New Orleans Christmas Carol (2011, ELM): [cd]: B-
  • Will Scruggs Jazz Fellowship: Song of Simeon: A Christmas Journey (2012, self-released): [cd]: B
  • Donna Singer with the Doug Richards Trio: Kiss Me Beneath the Mistletoe (2012, Emerald Baby): [cd]: B
  • The United States Air Force Band: Cool Yule (2009, self-released): [cd]: B
  • Ezra Weiss: Alice in Wonderland: A Jazz Musical (2009, Northwest Childrens Theater and School): [cd]: B

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Julian Bahula: Spirit of Malombo: Malombo Jazz, Jabula and Jazz Africa 1966-1984 (1966-84 [2014], Strut, 2CD): 2CD career reconstruction makes case for and sense of South African bandleader [r]: B+(**)
  • Francis Bebey: Psychedelic Sanza 1982-1984 (1982-84 [2014], Born Bad): from Cameroon highlife pioneer, more electronics pushing envelope even further out [r]: B+(**)
  • Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82 (1978-82 [2014], Soul Jazz, 2CD): a 2CD crate dive, digging up obscure 12-inchers only a DJ could love [r]: B+(*)
  • Gipsy Rhumba: The Original Rhythm of Gipsy Rhumba in Spain 1965-1974 (Soul Jazz): Spanish flamenco artists discover the Afro-Cuban dance groove, and make it sound like flamenco [r]: B+(**)
  • Willie Nelson and Sister Bobbie: December Day [Willie's Stash, Vol. 1] ([2014], Legacy): scattershot sampler re-peddles memories, slights his pianist [r]: B
  • Verckys et l'Orchestre Vévé: Congolese Funk, Abrobeat & Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978 (1969-78 [2014], Analog Africa): actually a second tier soukous band, in top form [r]: A-

Grade changes:

  • Bette Midler: It's the Girls! (2014, East/West): [r]: [was: B] B+(**)
  • Rod Picott: Welding Burns (2011, Welding Rod): [cd]: [was: B+(***)] A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Fiorenzo Bodrato: Travelling Without Moving (CMC)
  • Duduvudu: The Gospel According to Dudu Pukwana (Edgetone)
  • Sax Gordon: In the Wee Small Hours (Delmark)
  • Michael Snow & Thollem McDonas: Two Piano Concert at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Edgetone)
  • Subtle Lip Can: Reflective Drime (Drip Audio): December 16
  • George Van Eps: Once in Awhile (1946-49, Delmark)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Daily Log

So much hassle to post a personal note these days I might as well just keep it in the notebook. (No idea who else reads this, but at least it's available.)

Cooked dinner tonight for Marry Harren, Russ and Zhanna. Close enough to Hannukah for lattkes, served with store-bought sour cream and homemade apple sauce. I salted a piece of red trout (looked much better than the salmon in the store). Also made Ottolenghi's chopped liver. (I looked at Ottolenghi's lattke recipe but decided to go with something more basic: six baking potatoes, two onions, three eggs (plus three egg whites I had left over from elsewhere), salt, pepper. Also made a cucumber salad with vinegar, sour cream, a bit of sugar. Also served some herring bits in wine sauce. For dessert, made rice kugel. One of the variants was to add raisins soaked in rum. Don't seem to have any rum, but I did manage to soak some golden raisins in amaretto. One of those dinners where I miss most of the conversation because I'm still cooking. Had half-again as many lattkes left over as were eaten. Hard to see how anything could have been improved on. Frying -- started with three pans then cut down to two -- was as straightforward and clean as ever.

The dinner was a nice diversion from the rest of the day. I was up late last night trying to debug the Rhapsody problem. Rhapsody has a new website design, based on using Flash as the streaming transport. Adobe has stopped supporting Flash on Linux, deadending at release 11, but has moved on to release 16 on Windows and Apple. When Rhapsody doesn't see the Flash it wants it directs you to Adobe's website to "get Flash" -- for Linux that offers you release 11. Following Adobe's instructions didn't initially work -- I had to enable some new source respositories for non-free software. Firefox, meanwhile, had decided that Flash 11 has security flaws so it automatically disables it. Meanwhile, Ubuntu has come up with a version 13 of Flash that fixes those security holes, but isn't accepted by Rhapsody.

Some time ago, I build a computer and had Windows Vista installed on it, and I used it mostly for watching DVDs and listening to music. It crapped out over a year ago, following one of Microsoft's automatic updates, and has been dormant since. I thought about replacing it with a newer machine, but in the meantime tried to see how far I could go with a spare Linux machine. That meant loading a bunch of proprietary audio/video drivers, but until this week's Rhapsody update things had worked out nicely. That in turn pretty much eliminated any desire I had to ever own another Microsoft machine. But Rhapsody has been a big part of my music writing, and now I'm stuck. Moreover, it's probably a stupid coding error on Rhapsody's part, rather than their choice to use Flash (although I certainly disapprove of that) or Adobe's planned obsolescence or Ubuntu's (or Firefox's) inability to manage the plugin.

I did verify today that my Chromebook can still stream music from Rhapsody through the new web interface. I've seen claims that Chrome has Flash built-in so if you get the one, you automatically get the other covered. Last night I tried installing Chrome (also Chromium, a free source repackaging of Chrome) on my Ubuntu music machine, but had no luck with Rhapsody. Digging deeper into the issue I see lots of squabbles. The old Netscape plugin interface is called NPAPI, and it makes it easy for plugins to crash the browser. Adobe, which as far as I can tell has historically been the chief caues of all those crashes, doesn't like NPAPI. They want to use PPAPI, which provides a sandbox mechanism to prevent crashes, so they decided to throw their weight around and discontinue NPAPI plugins (e.g., Firefox). Firefox, on the other hand, regards PPAPI as a waste of time. They have what they regard as a better solution to Flash crashes, which is to implement all the things you used to have to use Flash for as built-in features of HTML 5. Adobe doesn't like that because if their customers started writing proper HTML 5 code they wouldn't need Flash. So why does Rhapsody need Flash? Seems super-dumb.

Meanwhile, I'm having other problems with my flagship computer. Currently, the window manager is wedged, so it's impossible to restore a window that has been minimized. I've seen it get in that state once before. Rebooting will fix it, but I have tons of work open that I'd have to reconstruct. Alternatively, I have work in minimized windows that I can't get to. I figure I'll bite the bullet later tonight. Shouldn't be any risk, but the Ubuntu software on this machine is already way out of date, and the upgrade path will be treacherous -- so that looms as the larger problem.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Rhapsody Streamnotes (December 2014)

Pick up text here.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Music Week

Music: Current count 24146 [24105] rated (+41), 521 [518] unrated (+3).

Thinking about year-end lists, which has meant a mad rush to sample as much reputable but unheard music as possible. That in turn has led to the huge number of new A- records pictured to the right. Unfortunately, virtually none of them come off of the upper reaches of published lists -- the sole exception is Kate Tempest's Everybody Down, briefly in the top-20 of my metacritic aggregate file but totally unknown outside of the UK and currently tied for 44th. My other list-based find is Call Super's Suzi Ecto, a techno album that topped the list at Juno Plus but has yet to appear on a second list. Even the two records that I had previously panned but this week regraded just above the A-/B+ line, Withered Hand's New Gods and Young Thug/Bloody Jay's Black Portland, have fewer points in my aggregate (2 and 1 respectively) -- this after looming large in Odyshape's Mid-Year Report (Withered Hand won; Black Portland, which Christgau has dubbed "the rap album of the year," came in 8th on points, tied with Miranda Lambert's Platinum).

I'll also point out that my own favorite album this year, Lily Allen's Sheezus (which finished 4th in Odyshape) is also stuck with a single aggregate point (The Telegraph ranked it 47). As I proceed, I fold all the new records into my jazz and non-jazz year-end lists -- the former currently lists 62 A/A- albums, the latter 61. There are 95 lists in the current aggregate file, but very few even touch on much less specialize in jazz -- although it's worth noting that my jazz favorite, Steve Lehman's Mise en Abime, is currently leading the jazz subset by a nice margin (7-to-4 for BadBadNotGood). In previous years, I used to be able to find many jazz critics' lists at JJA, but they don't seem to be doing that today. (Also slowing me down is that Large Hearted Boy has stopped posting his invaluable list index.) Nor have I seen the results from Francis Davis' Jazz Critics Poll (which I've collated in past years and presumably will again this year). Looks like I'll have to start scouring the blogs. (I did just add Tim Niland's ballot, and have just found one from Lyn Horton.)

One thing that should be clear is that the top totals are no guarantee of quality. I've heard the top 19 records, so I'll list them here with my grade in brackets (and points in braces):

  1. {88} The War on Drugs: Lost in the Dream (Secretly Canadian) [***]
  2. {76} FKA Twigs: LP1 (Young Turks) [B]
  3. {73} St Vincent: St Vincent (Loma Vista/Republic) [***]
  4. {63} Caribou: Our Love (Merge) [**]
  5. {57} Beck: Morning Phase (Capitol) [B-]
  6. {55} Future Islands: Singles (4AD) [*]
  7. {53} Sun Kil Moon: Benji (Caldo Verde) [***]
  8. {52} Sharon Van Etten: Are We There (Jagjaguwar) [B-]
  9. {51} Angel Olsen: Burn Your Fire for No Witness (Jagjaguwar) [*]
  10. {50} Aphex Twin: Syro (Warp) [A-]
  11. {50} El-P/Killer Mike: Run the Jewels 2 (Mass Appeal) [**]
  12. {49} Damon Albarn: Everyday Robots (Parlophone) [*]
  13. {48} Flying Lotus: You're Dead (Warp) [**]
  14. {47} Mac DeMarco: Salad Days (Captured Tracks) [B]
  15. {47} Swans: To Be Kind (Young God, 2CD) [B]
  16. {42} Jack White: Lazaretto (Third Man) [B-]
  17. {39} Todd Terje: It's Album Time (Olsen) [A-]
  18. {38} Perfume Genius: Too Bright (Matador) [B]
  19. {37} Real Estate: Atlas (Domino) [**]

That works out to 2 A-, 4 ***, 3 **, 3 *, 4 B, 3 B-; which is to say that quality on the list is little better than random. Of course you probably disagree with some (or many) of my judgments here. (Michael Tatum, who correlates with me better than most, had Jack White at A- and Todd Terje at C+.) But odds are that if you have heard 300+ albums this year -- my non-jazz count is currently 322; my jazz count is 563 -- and weren't so sectarian you'd dismiss most of these records a priori you'd come up with a similar range. And the pattern would most likely repeat on down the list, albeit with diminishing returns as the records become ever more obscure (and things like jazz, country, world, and metal creep in).

The list of records I've heard breaks at 20-21 with Ty Segall and Taylor Swift -- neither on Rhapsody, and then there's another gap at 24-25 for Royal Blood and Goat (records I haven't bothered to look up). From there on down to about 150 I've heard about half, and my share thins out past there. Conversely, about one third (20) of my 61 A/A- non-jazz albums have no points so far. Eleven more have 1 point, so that covers the median. (I haven't figured my own list in yet, nor that of many similar-minded critics.) My list sorted by aggregate score:

  1. {50} Aphex Twin: Syro (Warp)
  2. {39} Todd Terje: It's Album Time (Olsen)
  3. {35} Spoon: They Want My Soul (Anti-)
  4. {22} Cloud Nothings: Here and Nowhere Else (Carpark)
  5. {19} Leonard Cohen: Popular Problems (Columbia)
  6. {19} Kate Tempest: Everybody Down (Big Dada)
  7. {18} Parquet Courts: Sunbathing Animal (What's Your Rupture?)
  8. {14} Ought: More Than Any Other Day (Constellation)
  9. {11} Miranda Lambert: Platinum (RCA Nashville)
  10. {8} Pharrell Williams: Girl (Columbia)
  11. {6} The Delines: Colfax (El Cortez)
  12. {6} Lee Ann Womack: The Way I'm Livin' (Sugar Hill/Welk)
  13. {5} Brian Eno/Karl Hyde: High Life (Warp)
  14. {5} Thurston Moore: The Best Day (Matador)
  15. {4} Allo Darlin': We Came From the Same Place (Slumberland)
  16. {4} Willie Nelson: Band of Brothers (Legacy)
  17. {4} Angaleena Presley: American Middle Class (Slate Creek)
  18. {3} Iggy Azalea: The New Classic (Island)
  19. {3} Call Super: Suzi Ecto (Houndstooth)
  20. {3} The Hold Steady: Teeth Dreams (Razor & Tie/Washington Square)
  21. {3} Old 97's: Most Messed Up (ATO)
  22. {3} Wussy: Attica! (Shake It)
  23. {2} The Coathangers: Suck My Shirt (Suicide Squeeze)
  24. {2} Rodney Crowell: Tarpaper Sky (New West)
  25. {2} Fumaça Preta: Fumaça Preta (Soundway)
  26. {2} Mary Gauthier: Trouble & Love (In the Black)
  27. {2} Grieves: Winter & the Wolves (Rhymesayers Entertainment)
  28. {2} Orlando Julius with the Heliocentrics: Jaiyede Afro (Strut)
  29. {2} The New Mendicants: Into the Lime (Ashmont)
  30. {2} Withered Hand: New Gods (Slumberland)
  31. {1} Lily Allen: Sheezus (Warner Brothers/Regal)
  32. {1} Dave Alvin/Phil Alvin: Common Ground: Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy (Yep Roc)
  33. {1} Big Ups: Eighteen Hours of Static (Tough Love/Dead Labour)
  34. {1} Laura Cantrell: No Way There From Here (Thrift Shop)
  35. {1} Chumped: Teenage Retirement (Anchorless)
  36. {1} Jason Derulo: Talk Dirty (Warner Brothers)
  37. {1} John Hiatt: Terms of My Surrender (New West)
  38. {1} Ricardo Lemvo/Makina Loca: La Rumba Soyo (Cumbancha)
  39. {1} Shakira: Shakira (RCA)
  40. {1} Statik Selektah: What Goes Around (Duck Down Music)
  41. {1} Young Thug & Bloody Jay: Black Portland (self-released)

Missing completely are records by: Big KRIT, Company Freak, Deena, Dub Thompson, Golem, The Green Seed, Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott, Homeboy Sandman, Kool AD, Jon Langford, Amy LaVere, Mursday, Parkay Quarts (Content Nausea) Jenny Scheinman, Doug Seegers, Serengeti, The Strypes, Supreme Cuts, Jonah Tolchin, and Leo Welch. Notably, 6 of those 20 are rap records. I've noted previously the relative paucity of (especially US) rap records in a year that is really not lacking for good ones, so won't dwell on that here -- you can, after all, look it up.

The number of EOY lists are likely to nearly double next week, but I don't see a lot of trends in the data. The top five have been very stable (once St. Vincent overcame a shaky start). I don't put a lot of weight on differences in rank -- most lists are graded 3 for 1st place, 2 for 2-20, and 1 for everything else -- so nothing much changes with lists that include all of the top five (which is to say most of them). I'm personally much more interested in what shows up on the margins (again, see that Call Super album): that's why I count everything and don't weigh it much.

You can compare this with the top-ten-only aggregates at places like Metacritic if you want to focus on rank. The big gainers there are Run the Jewels (11-to-4), Taylor Swift (21-to-8), and La Roux (42-to-18), and those will definitely do better at P&J than in my aggregate. (The largest loser is probably Sun Kil Moon, dropping 7-to-12.)

I should be running December's first Rhapsody Streamnotes later this week. Draft file is pretty huge. Two things I wanted to do won't happen this time: one is to clear my queue of Xmas music (didn't happen because I can't stand the stuff); the other is to look at the "deluxe editions" that dominate major label reissues, using Rhapsody to program out the core albums so I just listen to the ephemera. I was originally thinking I'd like to sort through the Led Zeppelin reissues, but there are many more like that. Maybe next time, closer to Xmas. Or maybe next year.

One final announcement is that I'd like to invite you to take a look at Carola Dibbell's new website. It's more focused on her forthcoming novel, The Only Ones, than on her superb music writing, but there are links back to her "corner" of Robert Christgau's website. Right now it's sort of a three-headed hybrid, but in the not-too-distant future I hope to integrate it better stylistically. Let me also note that my wife has read the novel and thinks it's really terrific. Plenty of places you can order a copy. (I haven't read it, but I haven't read any novel since Tom Carson's Gilligan's Wake -- had to since he practically wrote it for me.)

New records rated this week:

  • Lotte Anker/Jakob Riis: Squid Police (2014, Konvoy): a duo, but the latter's minimalist electronic tableaux don't leave the sax much to do [r]: B+(*)
  • Billy Bang/William Parker: Medicine Buddha (2009 [2014], NoBusiness): violin-bass duet, seems like a narrow idea but little short of magnificent here [cd]: A-
  • Beyoncé (2013, Columbia): finally on Rhapsody a year late, the anticipation diminished, leaving fairly prosaic love songs, better than her norm [r]: B+(**)
  • Bishop Nehru/MF Doom: NehruvianDOOM (2014, Lex): young rapper starts to find his way, aided by a producer who likes to invent his own worlds [r]: B+(**)
  • Dave Burrell/Steve Swell: Turning Point (2013 [2014], NoBusiness): another inspired duet, a legendary piano master's sound filled out with rich trombone [cd]: A-
  • Busdriver: Perfect Hair (2014, Big Dada): once-idiosyncratic hip-hop takes several bizarre turns, flinging guests off cliffs as various jokes miss [r]: C
  • Call Super: Suzi Ecto (2014, Houndstooth): techno from Berlin, a hint of industrial with a gentle woosh, barely substantial, endlessly playable [r]: A-
  • The Cookers: Time and Time Again (2014, Motéma): all-star septet likes it hot: better Billy Harper dishing out grits than the trumpet harmony [r]: B+(**)
  • The Core Trio With Matthew Shipp (2014, self-released): Houston-based free sax trio adds the perfect pianist to wind them up and round out the sound [r]: A-
  • Toumani Diabaté/Sidiki Diabaté: Toumani & Sidiki (2014, World Circuit): Mali father-son kora masters play it safe, stress how pretty they can play [r]: B+(**)
  • Emperor X: The Orlando Sentinel (2014, self-released): smart singer/songwriter with electronics minor goes to Europe, writes strange Sarkozy songs [r]: B+(***)
  • Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Black Is Back: 40th Anniversary Project (2014, Katalyst): Kahil El'Zabar's 40th anniversary bash w/his best horns, Ernest Dawkins/Corey Wilkes [r]: B+(***)
  • Orrin Evans: Liberation Blues (2014, Smoke Sessions): pretty good hard bop group on the upside, then come the ballads, then the singer [r]: B+(**)
  • Fire! Orchestra: Enter (2014, Rune Grammofon): whole new dimension in de trop, Marian Wallentin's texts, 29 credits, and can they ever bring the noise [r]: B+(**)
  • Aretha Franklin: Sings the Great Diva Classics (2014, RCA): which don't mean any of that Verdi/Wagner shit -- more like "I Will Survive" [r]: B+(***)
  • Friends & Neighbors: Hymn for a Hungry Nation (2012-13 [2014], Clean Feed): Swedish postbop group named for Ornette; piano lush, horns shiny, bit edgy [cd]: B+(**)
  • Gazelle Twin: Unflesh (2014, Last Gang): Elizabeth Bernholz fills her electronica with industrial klang and mordant vocals, chilly, creepy even [r]: B+(**)
  • Jimmy Greene: Beautiful Life (2014, Mack Avenue): grieving Sandy Hook father plays soothing sax, indulges a children's choir and too many guests [r]: B+(*)
  • Hail Mary Mallon: Bestiary (2014, Rhymesayers Entertainment): Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic try to infect the upper crust with underground beats and snappy rhymes [r]: B+(***)
  • Russ Johnson: Still Out to Lunch! (2014, Yellowbird): trumpeter, Roy Nathanson, and Myra Melford salute Eric Dolphy's 50-year-old masterpiece [r]: B+(**)
  • Kool A.D.: Word O.K. (2014, self-released): follow up to "Not OK," reportedly the outtakes to this one, more proof of how a slacker never misses a trick [bc]: A-
  • Let's Wrestle: Let's Wrestle (2014, Fortuna Pop): British group, has an ear for pop hooks for tends toward twee, comes up shy a title and a couple deeper songs [r]: B+(*)
  • Tony Malaby's Tubacello: Scorpion Eater (2014, Clean Feed): interesting idea to replace bass with cello and tuba, but only works when the sax flies [cd]: B+(***)
  • Nick Mulvey: First Mind (2014, Fiction/Harvest): English singer-songwriter, ethnomusicologist with jazz background feed into subtler details [r]: B+(*)
  • Perfume Genius: Too Bright (2014, Turnstile): third album, trends toward mopey, melodramatic ballads with an air of lushness for comfort [r]: B
  • Roil [Chris Abrahams/Mike Majkowski/James Waples]: Raft of the Meadows (2013-14 [2014], NoBusiness): piano trio led by Chris Abrahams, an impressive figure I missed -- Australian, favors group names [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Slackk: Palm Tree Fire (2014, Local Action): British electronica, grime or garage or house or something like that, neither here nor there [r]: B
  • Tommy Smith/Brian Kellock: Whispering of the Stars (2014, Spartacus): tenor sax-piano duets, mostly ballads ranging from lovely to gorgeous [r]: B+(***)
  • Kate Tempest: Everybody Down (2014, Big Dada): London-born "performance poet" channels class and war through Wu-Tang Clan and Samuel Beckett [r]: A
  • Tinashe: Aquarius (2014, RCA): neo-soul singer from Kentucky via LA, gets a boost when a rapper drops in, or when they just pick up the beat [r]: B+(**)
  • Ton Trio II: On and On (2013 [2014], Singlespeed Music): basic alto sax-bass-drums trio, led by Aram Shelton, who always gets a terrific sound [r]: B+(***)
  • Us Free [Bill McHenry/Henry Grimes/Andrew Cyrille]: Fish Stories (2006 [2014], Fresh Sound New Talent): sax trio with vets who keep it interesting, far from easy [r]: B+(***)
  • The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra: OverTime: The Music of Bob Brookmeyer (2014, Planet Arts): the former Jones-Lewis group at big band strength with Jim McNeely plays Bob Brookmeyer [r]: B+(*)
  • Velkro: Don't Wait for the Revolution (2012 [2014], Clean Feed): sax-guitar/bass-drums trio, builds tone on its groove, no postbop, post-Velvets maybe [cd]: A
  • David Virelles: Mbokó (2013 [2014], ECM): Cuban pianist composes sacred music for biankomeko abakua -- key is "sacred," which means slow it down [dl]: B+(**)
  • Wildest Dreams (2014, Smalltown Supersound): throwback to '60s psychedelic rock, with the instrumental passages much more impressive than the vocals [r]: B+(**)
  • Wu-Tang Clan: A Better Tomorrow (2014, Warner Brothers): a family reunion after seven years, their best times behind them, but mature to worry on [r]: B+(***)
  • Neil Young: Storytone (2014, Reprise): have orchestra, will croon, but deluxe ed. disc of solo demos improves on the standard product [r]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Ted Daniel's Energy Module: Interconnection (1975 [2014], NoBusiness, 2CD): avant trumpet in the NY lofts, with Daniel Carter and Oliver Lake blasting away [cd]: A-

Old records rated this week:

  • Lotte Anker/Craig Taborn/Gerald Cleaver: Live at the Loft (2005 [2009], ILK Music): Danish saxophonist graples with an impressive young rhythm duo [r]: B+(***)
  • Lotte Anker/Craig Taborn/Gerald Cleaver: Floating Islands (2008 [2009], ILK Music): . . . and all three move on to bigger and bolder things [r]: A-

Grade changes:

  • Withered Hand: New Gods (2014, Slumberland): [r]: [was B+(**)] A-
  • Young Thug & Bloody Jay: Black Portland (2014, self-released): [r]: [was B-] A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Billy Bang/William Parker: Medicine Buddha (2009, NoBusiness)
  • Peter Brötzmann/John Edwards/Steve Noble: Soul Food Available (Clean Feed)
  • Dave Burrell/Steve Swell: Turning Point (NoBusiness)
  • Juan Pablo Carletti/Tony Malaby/Christopher Hoffman: Nińo/Brujo (NoBusiness): cdr
  • Ted Daniel's Energy Module: Interconnection (1975, NoBusiness, 2CD)
  • De Beren Gieren & Susana Santos Silva: The Detour Fish: Live in Ljubljana (Clean Feed)
  • Barry Guy: Five Fizzles for Samuel Beckett (NoBusiness): cdr
  • Tony Malaby's Tubacello: Scorpion Eater (Clean Feed)
  • Roil [Chris Abrahams/Mike Majkowski/James Waples]: Raft of the Meadows (NoBusiness): cdr
  • Zanussi 5: Live in Coimbra (Clean Feed)

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Weekend Roundup

I've been meaning on writing something about justice, the lack of it, or the insane perversion of it within the US, but I wanted to start off with a quote and can't find the book. In fact, I can't find most of the things I look for these days: the place is a total mess, and getting oppressively so. Don't even know where to start sorting it out. So I figured I'd skip the links post today, then found a couple already tucked away in the draft file. So it seems like I can't even follow a plan on not doing something any more.

Another thing I've been thinking about is coming up with a more systematic piece on "the four wars of 2014" -- Israel/Gaza, Syria, Iraq, and Ukraine -- and how they are mutually reinforcing, mostly due to delusions prevalent in Washington these days (some examples of which follow).

Anyhow, shorter and more scattered than I'd like, but more than I expected.

  • Thomas Frank: Ann Coulter and David Brooks play a sneaky, unserious class card: As I understand Brooks' post-Ferguson spin (hat tip here to No More Mister Nice Blog), nobody (on the right, anyway) is a racist any more, but good conservatives do practice something he calls "classism" -- i.e., they do look down on lazy people whose lack of responsibility and work ethic have resulted in their being poor and miserable. That, of course, is a spin on reality. The fact is that conservatives encourage their followers to believe such things, and some poor whites are flattered, ignorant, and gullible enough to do so. Frank then tries to link this up with some of Coulter's nonsense, quoting her:

    Liberals thrive on the attractions of snobbery. Only when you appreciate the powerful driving force of snobbery in the liberals' worldview do all their preposterous counterintuitive arguments make sense. They promote immoral destructive behavior because they are snobs, they embrace criminals because they are snobs, they oppose tax cuts because they are snobs, they adore the environment because they are snobs.

    Now, I remember practically the very day in 7th grade when my classmates discovered the word "snob" and it spread like a virus as an all-purpose epithet to shame anyone you had any sort of complaint about. It works, of course, because the only mutually agreeable relationships are based on equality, and it did tend to level the field -- although one soon came to suspect that the ones who led the charge had the most to hide. (And if that suggests that Coulter never really grew out of 7th grade, well, the foo shits.) The fact is, I never knew any real snobs until I went to an expensive private college -- and even that was muted because, after all, I was one of them. Still, nothing in Coulter's paragraph makes any sense. There are lots of things that snobs think and do differently from the rest of us, but none of them made Coulter's list. Frank tries to join the two quotes around "embracing criminals," but that's overwhelmed by the negatives: Brooks seems to be thinking that it's OK to generalize from criminals to class they frequent, while Coulter is generalizing from criminals to the snobs (i.e., liberals) who "embrace" them. And once you criminalize someone, you can never punish them too much.

    When Democrats finally get over the impulse to deny and prevaricate and blame others, and instead ask where they themselves went wrong, one place they might begin is their beloved issue of free trade. Take NAFTA, the granddaddy of all trade agreements, whose twentieth anniversary we celebrated this year: There has never been a more obviously class-based piece of legislation. It was supported with uncanny unanimity by members of the commentariat and the professional class, and, indeed, it has worked well for such people. For members of the working class, however, it has been precisely the disaster their organizations predicted.

    The deal crushed enthusiasm for the Democratic Party among the working-class voters who were then considered part of the Democratic base and contributed to the Democrats' loss of the House of Representatives in 1994, a disaster from which, the economist Jeff Faux wrote in 2006, "the Democratic Party still has not recovered." And, indeed, from which the party seemingly has no desire to recover. Just the other day, President Obama announced that he is fired up and ready to go . . . with the Republicans in Congress on the Trans Pacific Partnership, even though much of his own party is opposed to it.

    Democrats who sign up for our master class on classism might also look back over their response to the financial crisis, during which they bailed out their BFFs on Wall Street and let everyone else go to hell. Or the many favors they failed to do for their former BFFs in organized labor. Or their lack of interest in getting a public option included in health-care reform.

  • Simon Maloy: "A fan of blowing things up": Why new DefSec nominee Ashton Carter was ready to restart Korean War: Not a huge surprise that Obama's pick to replace Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense is a hawk more committed to the military than to democracy, but it's hard to imagine a more vivid example of his myopia than his cavalier attitude toward bombing North Korea. If there's anything one should have learned from studying wars throughout history it's that you never can predict all the consequences. Still, Carter thinks the US can blow up a working nuclear reactor without causing it to malfunction, melt down, explode, and spread toxic radiation. He also thinks that North Korea wouldn't retaliate for such an attack, even though their main defense against US attack for more than 60 years has been the deterrence of their artillery pointed at Seoul. And in any case he thinks that the many thousands of Koreans who would die from that test of will are a small price compared to the risk that North Korea might eventually possess nuclear weapons and long-range missiles (which, by the way, they now do, and like most nations with such arms do nothing with). In other words, Carter is not just the wrong person to become Secretary of Defense; he probably ought to be packed away to a mental ward somewhere. (It goes without saying that he's already been endorsed by Lindsay Graham and Donald Rumsfeld.) Another example of how Obama's "changing the way we think about war"?

  • Ron Paul: Reckless Congress 'Declares War' on Russia: On H. Res. 758: "16 pages of war propaganda that should have made even neocons blush." Only 10 representatives voted against it (5 Democrats and 5 Republicans).

    These are the kinds of resolutions I have always watched closely in Congress, as what are billed as "harmless" statements of opinion often lead to sanctions and war. I remember in 1998 arguing strongly against the Iraq Liberation Act because, as I said at the time, I knew it would lead to war. I did not oppose the Act because I was an admirer of Saddam Hussein -- just as now I am not an admirer of Putin or any foreign political leader -- but rather because I knew then that another war against Iraq would not solve the problems and would probably make things worse. We all know what happened next.

  • Nathan Thrall: Rage in Jerusalem: Useful background about Jerusalem, the center of the ad hoc violence that threatens a "third intifada," how the expanded-and-annexed city's 30% Palestinian minority has been isolated and estranged by the political system.

    Palestinians in general feel disconnected from their political leaders, but the sense of abandonment is particularly acute in Jerusalem, where the PA is strictly forbidden from acting and to which Ramallah, like most of the Arab world, devotes many lofty words but very few deeds. When he assented to the five-year interim arrangements for Palestinian self-governance in the Oslo Accords, Yasser Arafat agreed to exclude Jerusalem from the areas that would be governed pro tempore by the PA. Local leaders, notably the late Faisal Husseini, refused to agree to this, which is one reason Yitzhak Rabin, who resolutely opposed dividing Jerusalem when he was prime minister and said he would rather abandon peace than give up a united capital, chose to bypass Husseini and instead pursued secret negotiations in Oslo with Arafat's emissaries.

    Palestinians in Jerusalem have been bereft of political leaders since Husseini's death in 2001. All four of Jerusalem's representatives in the Palestinian parliament -- all of them members of Hamas, elected in 2006 -- have been deported. Shin Bet, Israel's internal security agency, monitors 'political subversion,' which includes lawful opposition to the Israeli occupation. Since all Palestinian political parties oppose the occupation, they and their activities have, in effect, been criminalised. Even innocuous Palestinian institutions such as the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce have been shut down. Years of Israeli suppression of Palestinian political activity have ensured that when violence erupts in Jerusalem, there is no legitimate leadership to quell it; and spontaneous, unorganised protests and attacks are far more difficult for the security forces to thwart and contain.

  • More Israel links:

Also, a few links for further study:

  • Adam Shatz: West End Boy: Reviews two books on the rise of Islamophobia in Europe, specifically focusing on Anders Breivik's 2011 bombing and killing spree in Norway.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Jazz Poll Ballots

I voted in a couple jazz polls today. (Does Jazz Times know who I am? Do they care?) I submitted the following to Francis Davis for NPR's Jazz Critics Poll this year:

Your choices for this year's ten best New Releases (albums released between last Thanksgiving and this, give or take) listed in descending order one-through-ten.

  1. Steve Lehman Octet: Mise en Abîme (Pi)
  2. Paul Shapiro: Shofarot Verses (Tzadik)
  3. Digital Primitives: Lipsomuch/Soul Searchin' (Hopscotch, 2CD)
  4. Velkro: Don't Wait for the Revolution (Clean Feed)
  5. Revolutionary Snake Ensemble: Live Snakes (Accurate)
  6. Ivo Perelman: The Other Edge (Leo)
  7. Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Cimmerian Crossroads (Edgetone)
  8. Kris Davis Trio: Waiting for You to Grow (Clean Feed)
  9. Craig Handy: Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith (Okeh)
  10. Allen Lowe: Mulatto Radio: Field Recordings: 1-4 (Constant Sorrow, 4CD)
Your top-three Reissues or Historical albums, again in descending order:

  1. Ted Daniel's Energy Module: Interconnection (1975, NoBusiness, 2CD)
  2. Sun Ra & His Arkestra: In the Orbit of Ra (1957-78, Strut, 2CD)
  3. The Buddy Tate Quartet: Texas Tenor (1978, Sackville/Delmark)

Your choice for the year's best Vocal album:

  • Barbara Morrison: I Love You, Yes I Do (Savant)

Your choice for the year's best Debut album:

  • Velkro: Don't Wait for the Revolution (Clean Feed)

Your choice for the year's best Latin jazz album:

  • none

I think I voted for Ivo Perelman under Latin jazz last year. He's from Brazil, ergo Latin, but plays free jazz, so not what you'd recognize as Latin jazz. I also have a few A-list players from Spain and Portugal (Ridrigo Amado, Luis Lopes) I'd be happy to plug. Not sure why I don't find more Latin jazz, other than that very little finds its way to me. I have several A-list Latin pop records (Shakira, Ricardo Lemvo, Fumaça Preta).

I should also note that I've been counting Jenny Scheinman's The Littlest Prisoner as a non-jazz album (where it's currently number two on my list). Obviously would have made the top-ten here had I gone that way.

Not sure when the results will be posted, but I'll be hosting the ballots again this year, so I'll probably know more before it happens.

Some preliminary stats: 60 new A-list albums, 124 new B+(***) [HM], 368 other albums for total of 552; 10 old A-list, 5 old B+(***) [HM], 11 other for total of 26. Didn't find many late-graded 2013 albums: 23 (3 new + 1 old A-list).

In 2012 (at roughly this time), I had 556 new jazz records (similar, but with 80 ungraded in queue, vs. 15 now), and 36 old records (plus 2 undgraded), so the falloff this year is less than I expected. (Not sure about 2013, as I don't seem to have the data readily available.)

I also have a request from Sergio Piccarilli to vote in El Intruso's "8th Creative Music Critics Poll 2014." I've voted in it before, but procrastinated last year and missed the deadline date (January 5th this year).

It will be a pleasure for us to know your opinion about your favorites in these categories (no more than three choices in each category)

  • Musician of the year: Anthony Braxton, William Parker, Ivo Perelman
  • Newcomer Musician: Ben Flocks, James Brandon Lewis
  • Group of the year: Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, Angles 9
  • Newcomer group: Velkro
  • Album of the year: Steve Lehman: Mise en Abime (Pi); Digital Primitives: Lipsomuch/Soul Searchin' (Hopscotch); Revolutionary Snake Ensemble: Live Snakes (Accurate)
  • Composer: John Zorn, Adam Lane, Allen Lowe
  • Drums: Gerry Hemingway, Tom Rainey, John Hollenbeck
  • Acoustic Bass: William Parker, Adam Lane
  • Electric Bass:
  • Guitar: Luis Lopes, Raoul Bjorkenheim, Anders Nilsson
  • Piano: Irene Schweizer, Matthew Shipp, Kris Davis
  • Keyboards/Synthesizer/Organ: Brian Charrette, Jamie Saft
  • Tenor Saxophone: Ken Vandermark, Ivo Perelman, Jonas Kulhammar
  • Alto Saxophone: Francois Carrier, Steve Lehman, Oliver Lake
  • Baritone Saxophone: Scott Robinson, Brian Landrus
  • Soprano Saxophone: Sam Newsome, Liudas Mockunas
  • Trumpet/Cornet: Wadada Leo Smith, Dave Douglas, Ralph Alessi
  • Clarinet/bass clarinet: Rudi Mahall, Andy Biskin
  • Trombone: Roswell Rudd, Steve Swell, Samuel Blaser
  • Flute: Juhani Aaltonen
  • Violin/Viola: Jason Kao Hwang, Jenny Scheinman, Regina Carter
  • Cello: Fred Lonberg-Holm
  • Vibraphone: Matthias Stahl, Jason Adasiewicz
  • Electronics: Kieran Hebden
  • Other Instruments: Richard Galliano (accordion), Cooper-Moore (diddley-bow)
  • Female Vocals: Barbara Morrison, Marlene VerPlanck, Catherine Russell
  • Male Vocals: Freddy Cole
  • Best Live Band: ICP Orchestra
  • Record Label: Clean Feed, NoBusiness, Pi

Names were mostly plucked off this year's top album list, with a few reminders from last year and a few more names from memory -- certainly doesn't constitute any serious, deep thinking: pretty sure everyone mentioned deserves mentioning, but many of those unmentioned don't deserve the slight. Several slots could have gone much deeper: drums, bass, alto sax, tenor sax, piano, trumpet. I dropped my number two and four albums somewhat arbitrarily.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Daily Log

Matt Rice asked:

So, Xgau gave Sunny Sweeney's 2011 album a HM in the latest EW, but he hasn't reviewed the new one yet. Could he be planning to review it alongside Miranda?

I replied:

No inside info here, but I don't think Bob *plans* on reviewing HMs -- otherwise he'd come up with a lot more. They just sort of fall out of his search for A-list albums. Sweeney's new album is almost exactly as good as her 2011 album (although I'd give it a small edge for "Everybody Else Can Kiss My Ass"). The new one, "Provoked," came out on Aug. 5, so if he thought it was worth covering -- factor in that it got much less hype than the 2011 album, and that the 2011 one only wound up with one star -- he could have worked it into a column headed by Angaleena Presley, whose album came out on Oct. 14. (The one bit of inside info I do have is that he's been sitting on the Sweeney squib for more than two years, waiting for a place to use it.) The more interesting question is why he didn't include Lambert along with Presley? Without inside info you never know what omissions mean. For instance, the one I wonder about is the 2nd Parkay Quarts EP, which I like better than the covered one. It came out so close to the review date he may not have processed it yet, but who knows?

Actually, to divulge some more inside info, the first record Bob offered to play when I visited him in April was Old 97's (Most Messed Up), and after I said I've heard it, the next one he offered was Lambert's. I doubt he would have offered it had he not already liked it. To date he hasn't run either Old 97's or Lambert or several other albums he is known to like (e.g., Withered Hand and Wussy, which finished 1-2 in Odyshape's mid-year critics poll -- a group much closer to his taste than I am; he's also mentioned Kool AD and Azealia Banks as possible top-ten records).

Monday, December 01, 2014

Music Week

Music: Current count 24105 [24067] rated (+38), 518 [519] unrated (-0).

My 2014 jazz stocks are dwindling: the pending list is down to 12 records, including two of last week's Clean Feeds. (The package was, by the way, a little light, with only four of eight new titles. Hope they split the shipment rather than start to cut me off.) Beyond that, there's no one I recognize: many singers, at least one flute record. (I've been putting off dealing with 2015 titles -- I have 10 of them, and a few of them are more promising.) I'll square away my jazz ballot sometime in the next few days.

I continue to revise the current jazz and non-jazz lists -- currently I have 58 A-list records on the jazz side, 56 on the other. (By the way, I still need to rewrite the intros and factor the late 2013 releases into those lists. Also need to work on the 2% lists.) I've been looking at available EOY lists, and I've started to count them up. The legend is here, and the new records count is here. Almost 40 lists counted to date, most of the early ones coming from UK/Europe (main resources for me: Acclaimed Music Groups, Ilxor; still waiting for Large Hearted Boy; also see the tabulations at AOTY).

Previous metacritic files have included review grades as well as EOY lists, so I get some idea of how the year is shaping up well ahead of list season. This year I just started the file this past week, and the only data in it are EOY lists, so it started out really skewed when five of the first six lists were from UK mags and record stores (the latter often go 100 deep, since they have that more to sell; the mags usually draw the line around 50, which is about where most serious fans draw the line between A- and B+). The first time I noticed from those lists was the near complete shutout of US rap/r&b albums. For comparison, in 2013 US rap/r&b finished (and I'll throw in the usually higher Pazz & Jop finish in brackets):

  1. Kanye West: Yeezus [1]
  2. Chance the Rapper: Acid Jazz [5]
  3. Janelle Monae: The Electric Lady [8]
  4. Danny Brown: Old [27]
  5. Earl Sweatshirt: Doris [42]
  6. El-P/Killer Mike: Run the Jewels [22]
  7. Drake: Nothing Was the Same [18]
  8. Pusha T: My Name Is My Name [30]
  9. Beyoncé: Beyoncé [4]
  10. ASAP Rocky: Long.Live.ASAP [123]
  11. Eminem: The Marshall Mathers LP 2 [58]
  12. DJ Rashad: Double Cup [73]
  13. Charles Bradley: Victim of Love [131]
  14. Valerie June: Pushin'; Against a Stone [61]

Also finishing P&J top 100:

  1. Ka: The Night's Gambit [69]
  2. Ghostface Killah/Adrian Younge: Twelve Reasons to Die [91]
  3. The Uncluded: Hokey Fright [75]

That strikes me as a pretty typical year, and while it's helped by a few big names (Kanye West, Janelle Monae, Drake, Beyonce, Eminem) it includes a fair number of names you probably hadn't heard of before the year started (Chance the Rapper, Danny Brown, Earl Sweatshirt, etc.). The shutout of the first few lists has opened up a crack, but still this is looking like the year critics forgot about black music. Currently all I see:

  1. Flying Lotus: You're Dead
  2. Neneh Cherry: Blank Project
  3. El-P/Killer Mike: Run the Jewels 2
  4. Freddie Gibbs and Madlib: Pińata
  5. Shabazz Palaces: Lese Majesty
  6. La Roux: Trouble in Paradise
  7. Pharrell Williams: Girl

That's less than half as many records, and some of those are pretty marginal. (Cherry grew up in England and Scandinavia, is on a Norwegian record label, and isn't really hip-hop.) Nor do I see much in the wings. Christgau predicts that Black Portland will "finish P&J" (i.e., top 40), but that record has only one mention so far (31 on Rolling Stone's list). Nor have any of Christgau's other A-list hip-hop records this year garnered even a single mention (Atmosphere, Jason Derulo, Homeboy Sandman, Roots -- I could also add Babyface/Toni Braxton, Iggy Azalea [not US but not FKA Twigs either], Kool A.D., and with one mention Azealia Banks). From my list, aside from Pharrell only Statik Selektah has one mention, while Mursday, Green Seed, Grieves, and Serengeti are shut out. I dug up yet another list, XXL's 25 best from mid-year, and it, too, fared very poorly: only 3 (of 25) records there had been mentioned (at least when I checked; may be one or two more now).

So just because Kanye West sat this year out doesn't mean the records aren't there. What's lacking is the recognition. I suppose one reason that bugs me more than usual is news like Ferguson and the elections. Still, when I shared my early findings with Christgau, he wrote back: "And in case you didn't know, the sites you aggregate are generally speaking black-music clueless, stupidly anti-pop, heedlessly prog, and fatally faddish. . . . PJ will be better." Sure, because it is even more US-biased than my early list returns have been UK/Europe-biased, and because it still polls a lot of newspaper critics (who generally have to write about popular music once in a while, or at least be flexible enough to do so -- something not required of bloggers). But looking at the data, I have no reason to overestimate the smarts and taste of the lists: after all, the current top-10 includes four B/B- records by my counting (FKA Twigs, Beck, Sharon Van Etten, Mac DeMarco), and three more not enough better to actually recommend (Caribou, Damon Albarn, Future Islands).

By the way, I didn't get around to tweeting on the Young Thug records -- for one thing, don't have much to say -- but I have warmed somewhat on Black Portland.

New records rated this week:

  • Damon Albarn: Everyday Robots (2014, Parlophone): threatening to turn into an old geezer, tries to make the best of it by singing like Robert Wyatt [r]: B+(*)
  • Fatima Al Qadiri: Asiatisch (2014, Hyperdub): Kuwaiti jet setter, leery of how orientalism works, rolls her own Chinese caricatures [r]: B+(**)
  • Aurelio: Lándini (2014, Real World): surname Martinez, from Honduras, plays paranda or garifuna, looser and lighter than salsa [r]: B+(***)
  • Iggy Azalea: Reclassified (2014, Def Jam): 5-cut EP padded to LP-length with 7 recycles from her debut, the catchy ones if you still need them [r]: B+(**)
  • Beck: Morning Phase (2014, Capitol): no longer a "loser" or a "soul vulture"; now just pretty and soft and flat, nearly featureless [r]: B-
  • Caribou: Our Love (2014, Merge): utilitarian electronica, whatever works to frame and fashion his pleasant and forgettable pop songs [r]: B+(**)
  • Eric Church: The Outsiders (2014, Capitol Nashville): still one of Nashville's better singer-songwriters, except when working with Casey Beathard [r]: B+(*)
  • Ron Di Salvio: Songs for Jazz Legends (2006 [2014], Blujazz): "Mingustino," "Bud's Blossom," "Mulligan's Stew," like that, for '50s-style vocal quartet [cd]: B
  • Far East Movement: KTown Riot (2014, Interscope, EP): 5-cut EP, featuring monster funk grooves and guest rappers not quite up to them [r]: B+(*)
  • Fucked Up: Glass Boys (2014, Matador): post-hardcore vocal snarl, but the turbulent music is subtler with a sense of popcraft [r]: B+(**)
  • Johnny Griffith: Dance With the Lady (2014, GB): name reminds you of Johnny Griffin, and so does his sax; hard bop quintet with Jeremy Pelt [cd]: B+(*)
  • David Guetta: Listen (2014, Atlantic): hit producer trades quality for quantity, finds he strikes out more often than not; we find that annoying [r]: B
  • Grünen [Achim Kaufmann/Robert Landfermann/Christian Lillinger]: Pith & Twig (2012-13 [2014], Clean Feed): German avant-piano trio, led by Achim Kaufmann but bass and drums play a fully equal role, lots of flex [cd]: B+(***)
  • Hookworms: The Hum (2014, Weird World): Brit drone band with catchy melodies and pop hooks, would be even more impressive with less organ on top [r]: B+(***)
  • Hurray for the Riff Raff: Small Town Heroes (2014, ATO): surprised to see this worthy New Orleans folkie pop up on so many UK EOY lists [r]: B+(**)
  • Jonas Kullhammar: Gentlemen (2014, Moserobie): Swedish saxophonist plays extra nice with Bernt Rosengren joining in, sort of like Sonny and Hawk [cd]: A-
  • Michel Lambert: Journal des Épisodes II (1992-2014 [2014], Jazz From Rant): 97 fragments from a journal, most piano trio, some strings, nicely interleaved [cd]: B+(***)
  • Nikki Lane: All or Nothin' (2014, New West): alt-country singer, short of voice, makes up with songs looking for right time to do wrong thing [r]: B+(*)
  • Luis Lopes Lisbon Berlin Trio: The Line (2014, Clean Feed): electric guitarist, plays the feedback as much as the guitar, w/bass-drums from Grunen [cd]: A-
  • Brian Lynch and Emmet Cohen: Questioned Answer (2012 [2014], Hollistic Musicworks): trumpet-piano quartet (Boris Kozlov, Billy Hart), more in common than they think [r]: B+(**)
  • Wolfgang Muthspiel: Driftwood (2013 [2014], ECM): guitar trio turns down the heat, busts up the groove, as if looking for his inner Ralph Towner [dl]: B+(*)
  • Naomi Punk: Television Man (2014, Captured Tracks): math rock trio, loud, a little stilted, but isn't spasticky just an awkward stage of youth? [r]: B
  • Old Crow Medicine Show: Remedy (2014, ATO): Virginia band, grew up on grunge but found they could play fiddle and banjo faster and louder [r]: B+(**)
  • Old Style Sextet (2014, Blujazz): Illinois music profs, young enough to think trad jazz was invented in the 1960s, mostly by Art Blakey [cd]: B+(*)
  • Parker Abbott Trio: The Wayfinders (2012-13 [2014], self-released): Toronto keybs by Teri Parker and Simeon Abbott (plus drummer), somewhat more than pop jazz [cd]: B
  • Peaking Lights: Cosmic Logic (2014, Weird World): husband-wife duo make lo-fi synth pop, neither here nor there but not without plain appeal [r]: B+(***)
  • Rich Pellegrin Quintet: Episodes IV-VI (2014, OA2): pianist-led hard bop quintet with some postbop tricks, horns shine, surprises scarce [r]: B+(*)
  • Louis Sclavis Quartet: Silk and Salt Memories (2014, ECM): French clarinetist, has drawn on Euro-folk in the past and wanders east here [dl]: B+(***)
  • Brandon Seabrook: Sylphid Vitalizers (2014, New Atlantis): banjo/guitar shredder wreaks havoc solo, give or take Dr. Vitalizer's drum programming [r]: B+(*)
  • Sleaford Mods: Chubbed Up (2013-14 [2014], Ipecac): odds and sods from bitter, angry, sarcastic, not exactly cynical Brit neo-punk duo [r]: B+(***)
  • Sam Smith: In the Lonely Hour (2014, Capitol): young Brit has doo-wop vocal chops, but torturing songs doesn't make them soulful [r]: B-
  • The Soundcarriers: Entropicalia (2014, Ghost Box): Brit group, more prog/psych than anything else, no feel for the jungle, but garish and fun [r]: B+(**)
  • Sunny Sweeney: Provoked (2014, Aunt Daddy): Nashville striver with a chip: "here's to the working class, everyone else can kiss my ass" [r]: B+(*)
  • Mark Turner Quartet: Lathe of Heaven (2013 [2014], ECM): saxophonist gains strength, but the two-horn quartet format could use a hotter trumpet [dl]: B+(**)
  • Marcin Wasilewski Trio w/Joakim Milder: Spark of Life (2014, ECM): renowned Polish piano trio (Kurkiewicz! Miskiewicz!) adds sax appeal [dl]: A-
  • Bill Watrous/Pete Christlieb/Carl Saunders/The Gary Urwin Jazz Orchestra: A Beautiful Friendship (2014, Summit): semi-stars join the latter's big band [r]: B
  • Young Thug & DJ Swamp Izzo: I Came From Nothing (2011, self-released): [r]: B+(*)
  • Young Thug: I Came From Nothing 2 (2011, self-released): [r]: B+(*)
  • Young Thug: I Came From Nothing 3 (2012, self-released): [r]: B+(***)
  • Young Thug/Rich Homie Quan/Birdman: Birdman Presents Rich Gang: The Tour Pt. 1 (2014, Cash Money): [r]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Keith Jarrett/Charlie Haden/Paul Motian: Hamburg '72 (1972 [2014], ECM): recaptured bootleg honors the late greats, shows off a minor sax genius [dl]: A-
  • Salsa de la Bahia: A Collection of SF Area Salsa and Latin Jazz: Vol. 2, Hoy Y Ayer (1983-2013 [2014], Patois, 2CD): not where I'd go looking for boogaloo, but makes a case for respecting the SF Latin scene [cd]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Friends & Neighbors: Hymn for a Hungry Nation (Clean Feed)
  • Grünen [Achim Kaufmann/Robert Landfermann/Christian Lillinger]: Pith & Twig (Clean Feed)
  • Justin Kauflin: Dedication (Qwest/Jazz Village): January 13
  • Luis Lopes Lisbon Berlin Trio: The Line (Clean Feed)
  • Vance Thompson's Five Plus Six: Such Sweet Thunder (Shade Street): January 6
  • Velkro: Don't Wait for the Revolution (Clean Feed)

Daily Log

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Iggy Azalea: Reclassified (2014, Def Jam): [needed to sort out what's new from what's reissued here. in effect, you get a new 5-cut EP + a 7-cut "greatest hits," which may or may not be a good deal.] B+(**) [rhapsody]
  • Young Thug: I Came From Nothing 1 & 2 (2011 [2014], Music Unlimited): [wound up splitting Rhapsody's compilation into the two constituent mixtapes, and reviewing them separately. lost "Intro" from "1"; "2" was somewhat reordered. both were graded as below.] B+(*) [rhapsody]

Nov 2014 Jan 2015