Sunday, January 29, 2023

Music Week

January archive (final).

Music: Current count 41743 [41697] rated (+46), 16 [19] unrated (-3).

Over the weekend, I cobbled together another substantial Speaking of Which (130 links, 7048 words). Feels pretty hopeless, but did give me a couple days respite from a week of flopping haplessly, accomplishing nothing.

Speaking of nothing, here's this week's catch. Five of six A- releases are jazz; four of six are 2024 releases. The best of the batch is the exception to both generalizations, which seems about right. They all seem rather marginal, but so do most things these days. Still, they're all interesting, very accomplished records, as are the next tier down. By the way, there's more "burger highlife" coming from the "mysterious bin-bags" that brought forth the Jewel Ackah record.

No telling how far behind I am with various bookkeeping tasks. One thing I did manage to do was to add results from Brad Luen's The 13th Annual Expert Witness Poll to the EOY aggregate, all the way down to the singletons. Several things there I still haven't heard.

New records reviewed this week:

Deena Abdelwahed: Jbal Rrsas (2023, Infiné): Tunisian DJ/producer, moved to Paris at 26, although this, her second album (plus a handful of EPs), was recorded in Tunisia, and bears an Arabic title. B+(***) [sp]

Acid Arab: Trois (2023, Crammed Discs): Paris-based electronic group, founded 2012 by Guido Minisky and Hervé Carvalho, "a distinctive mix of deep club-based beats with arabic instruments and vocals." Third album, title is Arabic for such. B+(**) [sp]

Don Braden: Earth Wind and Wonder Volume 2 (2023, self-released): Mainstream tenor saxophonist, followed a fairly classic arc from Criss Cross in 1991 to major labels to HighNote 2001-08 and winding up with a self-released covers project (first volume in 2018). Still an imposing saxophonist, but no one I can think of has managed to claim these songs for jazz. B [sp]

Helena Deland: Goodnight Summerland (2023, Chivi Chivi): Canadian singer-songwriter, second album, title from her hometown in British Columbia, now based in Montreal, has a light touch. B+(*) [sp]

Disclosure: Alchemy (2023, Apollo/AWAL): British synthpop duo, brothers Howard and Guy Lawrence, fourth studio album since 2013. B [sp]

DJ Girl: Hellworld (2023, Planet Mu): Detroit techno producer Terri Shaska, second album. Some bits (especially vocal riffs) don't do much, but gets much better as the beats pick up (e.g., "When U Touch Me," featuring Lighght, but "Groover" works as well). B+(**) [sp]

DJ Ws Da Ingejinha: Caça Fantasma Vol. 1 (2023, Delama): Funk brasilero artist, Wilson da Silva, from Belo Horizonte, can't find him on Discogs, and not making much sense out of this oddly disjointed mess. But stick with it and it may develop its own logic. B [sp]

Dragonchild: Dragonchild (2023, FPE): Ethiopian saxophonist DA Mekonnen, a founder and leader of the Boston-based Debo Band, offers up a solo album. B+(**) [sp]

Baxter Dury: I Thought I Was Better Than You (2023, Heavenly): Second-generation singer-songwriter, eighth album since 2002. Sounds rather like his father, except there's no mistaking him for genius. B [sp]

Enji: Ulaan (2023, Squama): Mongolian singer Enkhjargal Erkhembayar, based in Germany, third album, draws on folk music with jazz musicians. B [sp]

FACS: Still Life in Decay (2023, Trouble in Mind): Chicago group, several albums since 2017, related to Disappears, which had a nice run of albums, 2010-16. Similar industrial vibe here, a bit on the lumbering side. B+(**) [sp]

Amanda Gardier: Auteur (Music Inspired by the Films of Wes Anderson) (2022 [2024], self-released): Alto saxophonist, based in Baltimore, third album, quartet with Charlie Ballantine (guitar, a major factor here), Jesse Wittman (bass), and Dave King (drums). I don't have any idea what the tie-in to the films might be, but something inspired her. A- [cd]

Samuel Goff/Camila Nebbia/Patrick Shiroishi: Diminished Borders (2023, Cacophonous Revival): Drummer plus two saxophonists, free jazz with Nebbia adding some commentary. The lineup reminds me of Cosmosamatics, which worked to the same impressive effect, although this one tails off toward the end. B+(***) [bc]

Vinny Golia/Max Johnson/Weasel Walter: No Refunds (2014 [2023], Unbroken Sounds): A live sax-bass-drums set from Seaside Lounge a while back, the bassist doing the mix and release. Golia plays clarinet, saxello, soprano and baritone sax. B+(**) [sp]

Hands & Tongues: 3 Meta-Dialogues (2023, 4DaRecord): Three pairings of voice and instrument: Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg with 10-string microtonal guitar (Pascal Marzan); Bill Young with clarinet (Noel Taylor); Rodrigo Brandão with bass (João Madeira). Unable to decipher the words, there's very little to relate to here. B- [cd]

Anders Jormin/Lena Willemark: Pasado En Claro (2021 [2023], ECM): Swedish bassist, debut 1984, on ECM since 2001, second album with the Swedish singer/violinist, who has a similar presume, including an ECM debut in 1996. With, below the title, Karin Nakagawa (25-string koto) and Jon Fält (drums). B+(**) [sp]

La Sécurité: Stay Safe (2023, Mothland): Montreal "art punk" group, first album: "equal parts: jumpy beats, off-kilter arrangements, and minimalistic melodic hooks," also a nice balance between English and French. They remind me of vintage new wave, perhaps Martha & the Muffins spiked with Devo? A- [sp]

Alex Lahey: The Answer Is Always Yes (2023, Liberation): Australian singer-songwriter, turns out layered, hooky pop, with a "wall of sound" effect. Third album. B+(**) [sp]

Maurice Louca Elephantine Band: Moonshine (2023, Sub Rosa/Northern Spy): Egyptian composer, plays guitar, lap steel guitar, and synthesizer, in a group with saxophones, clarinet, tuba, vibes, bass, and drums. (Elephantine was the title of his 2019 album, and plays more prominently on the cover here; artist credit here from Sub Rosa sticker.) B+(***) [sp]

Salvoandrea Lucifora Quartet: Drifters (2022 [2023], Trytone): Trombonist, from Sicily, based in Amsterdam, should count as his first album (although I've heard him before). Quartet with piano (Marta Warelis), bass (Omer Govreen), and drums (Marcos Baggiani). Two lp-side-long pieces, very sharp. A- [sp]

Lyia Meta: Always You (2023, self-released): Malaysian singer-songwriter, based in Kuala Lumpur, identifies as jazz and sings in English as an impressive contralto voice. First full album, after an EP. Quite some accomplishment, yet nothing I much care for. B [sp]

Stephan Micus: Thunder (2020-22 [2023], ECM): German singer-songwriter, on ECM since 1977, sings some and plays everything here, mostly exotic instruments like lute, sarangi, calabash, nyckelharpa, shakuhachi, bass zither, frame drums and various bells. Very ambient, other than the distant rumbling of brass, which helps. B [sp]

Camila Nebbia: Una Ofrenda a la Ausencia (2023, Relative Pitch): Tenor saxophonist from Argentina, debut 2015, has been especially busy of late, here with a solo album, a format with pretty severe limitations. Still impressive, building up over time. B+(**) [sp]

Lothar Ohlmeier/Tobias Klein: Left Side Right (2023 [2024], Trytone): Bass clarinet duo, with a little sax (tenor and alto, respectively) on the side. B+(**) [cd] [02-16]

Omnigone: Against the Rest (2023, Bad Time): California ska-punk band led by Adam Davis, second album, the punk aesthetic pumped up with keyb and horns. B+(*) [sp]

Pardoner: Peace Loving People (2023, Bar/None): Seattle post-punk (or some might say "not really punk") outfit, third album since 2017. B+(*) [sp]

Reggie Quinerly: The Thousandth Scholar (2023 [2024], Redefinition): Drummer, has several albums, wrote all the pieces but one here, that by pianist Manuel Valera. Also with Matt Brewer (bass) and Samuel Torres (percussion), skewing Afro-Latin. B+(**) [cd]

Naoko Sakata: Infinity (2023, Pomperipossa): Japanese pianist, based in Sweden, has several albums, not sure if this is meant as jazz, but is solo piano, boldly imagined, nicely turned out. B+(*) [sp]

Samo Salamon/Vasil Hadzimanov/Ra-Kalam Bob Moses: Dances of Freedom (2021 [2024], Samo): Slovenian guitarist, has many fine albums since 2003, also plays some banjo here, with piano/keyboards and drums/percussion, both outstanding. A- [cd]

Sigur Rós: Átta (2023, Krunk/BMG): Post-rock band from Iceland, eighth studio album, which you already know if you know Icelandic. B- [sp]

Ches Smith: Laugh Ash (2023 [2024], Pyroclastic): Drummer, many side-credits since 2000, his own records fairly scattered (or, I suppose, "eclectic"). He composed this, with electronics and percussion, with a string section, and spots for voice (Shara Lunon), flute (Anna Webber), clarinet (Oscar Noriega), tenor sax (James Brandon Lewis), and trumpet (Nate Wooley), with Shahzad Ismaily (bass and keyboards). Some of this are as impressive as you'd hope for, but only scattered bits, nothing I feel compelled to pursue. So I won't be surprised when this shows up on EOY lists. B+(*) [cd] [02-02]

Jimi "Primetime" Smith & Bob Corritore: The World in a Jug (2023, Vizztone/SWMAF): Blues guitarist-singer from Chicago, based in Minneapolis, third album (21 years after a second called Back on Track), mostly originals credited to Minford James Smith, with Corritore on harmonica. B+(***) [sp]

Jim Snidero: For All We Know (2023 [2024], Savant): Alto saxophonist, many albums since 1989, straightforward trio here with Peter Washington (bass) and Joe Farnsworth (drums), playing eight standards. Splendidly, of course. A- [cd] [02-16]

Jonathan Suazo: Ricano (2023, Ropeadope): Alto saxophonist from Puerto Rico, based in Boston, has a couple previous albums, aims for the whole "Afro-Caribbean experience" here, with lots of guests (he moves to tenor on the Miguel Zenón spot), including vocals. Too massive for my taste, but the sax is most impressive, and the rest is plenty authentic. B+(***) [sp]

Surgeon: Crash Recoil (2023, Tresor): English electronica producer Anthony Child, was most active 1997-2000, with several long gaps since then. Fairly simple patterns run through at a relentless pace, reminds me of some game music themes, but exceptionally compelling. B+(***) [sp]

Rob Sussman: Top Secret Lab (2023, Sus4music): New York-based trombonist, also plays keyboards, released an eponymous album in 2002, since then has mostly appeared in groups like Swingadelic and Funk Shui NYC. Ends with a pretty energetic "When a Man Loves a Woman." B+(*) [cd]

Tomu DJ: Crazy Trip (2023, No Bias, EP): From California, has a couple previous releases, this a short album (7 tracks, 27:06), enticing beats scattered about a swishy ambient space. B+(***) [sp]

Rian Treanor & Ocen James: Saccades (2023, Nyege Nyege Tapes): British electronica producer, working here with a Ugandan, who mixes traditional acoustic instruments with electronics. B+(**) [sp]

Katie Von Schleicher: A Little Touch of Schleicher in the Night (2023, Sipsman): Brooklyn singer-songwriter, fifth album since 2012. B+(*) [sp]

Bobby West: Big Trippin' (2023, Soulville Sound): Los Angeles-based pianist, possibly the same one Discogs credits with session work for James Taylor and Buffy Sainte Marie in the 1970s, and for R. Kelly in the 1990s. Second album, after a debut in 2021. Trio, nice touch on the occasional ballad, but likes them fast, with lots of frills. B+(*) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Jewel Ackah: Electric Hi-Life (1986 [2023], BBE): Highlife singer from Ghana (1945-2018), his name long imprinted on my mind thanks to a single Christgau review of his elusive 1989 album My Dear. Discogs credits him with 27 albums, and a birth date that doesn't jive with other sources. B+(***) [sp]

Eddie Lockjaw Davis Quartet: All of Me (1983 [2023], SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, debut 1951, had a very productive decade with Prestige from 1958, was scrapping for dates after that, this from a stop in Copenhagen with locals (counting expat pianist Kenny Drew, backed here by Jesper Lundgaard and Svend-Erik Nørregaard on bass and drums). [Digital includes an extra track added to the 1994 CD, but the 2023 vinyl does not.] B+(***) [sp]

J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan Volume 4: The Nippon Columbia Label 1968-1981 (1968-81 [2023], BBE): It's hard in America to get any sense of jazz in Japan, but this series seems to be having little trouble picking up superb examples, nearly all from musicians I never heard of. (The Lithuanian label NoBusiness has also been fruitfully exploring Japanese jazz, focusing on the avant-garde there.) Nippon Columbia was founded as Nipponophone in 1910, licensing Columbia trademarks as early as 1931, and changing the company name in 1946, but has always remained independent. Not clear how important jazz was to Nippon Columbia (or vice versa), but this ranges widely and impressively, through hard bop combos, big bands, and a lot of Miles Davis influences. B+(***) [sp]

WaJazz: Japanese Jazz Spectacle Vol. I: Deep, Heavy and Beautiful Jazz From Japan 1968-1984: The Nippon Columbia Masters (1968-84 [2022], Universounds): Label is a Tokyo record store, owned by Yosuk Ogawa, who selected this material (and is credited by Discogs). B+(**) [sp]

WaJazz: Japanese Jazz Spectacle Vol II: Deep, Heavy and Beautiful Jazz From Japan 1962-1985: The King Records Masters (1962-85 [2023], Universounds): A second volume, but only seems to be available as 2-LP, with Bandcamp limited to annoyingly short excerpts (with fades), accenting the eclecticism. B [bc]

Mal Waldron/Terumasa Hino: Reminscent Suite (1973 [2024], BBE): Pianist, started in the mid-1950s supporting singer Billie Holiday, and may still be best known for that, but he produced major works for Prestige 1956-62, and moved decisively into avant-jazz later on, especially with Enja, ECM, and Soul Note. He cut this quintet set in Japan with the well-known trumpet player, each writing a side-long piece. A- [sp]

Old music:

Camila Nebbia/Patrick Shiroishi: The Human Being as a Fragile Article (2021, Trouble in Mind): Sax duo, alto and baritone for Shiroishi, tenor for Nebbia, latter speaks, samples and fx for both. B+(**) [sp]

Tomu DJ: Feminista (2021, self-released): First album, eight songs running 41:49. B+(**) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Acceleration Due to Gravity: Jonesville: Music by and for Sam Jones (Hot Cup) [02-16]
  • Annie Chen: Guardians (JZ Music) [02-23]
  • Daggerboard: Escapement (Wide Hive) [03-08]
  • Emmeluth's Amoeba: Nonsense (Moserobie) [02-09]
  • Kaze: Unwritten (Circum/Libra) [02-09]

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