Monday, February 19, 2024

Music Week

February archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 41864 [41828] rated (+36), 20 [23] unrated (-3).

I posted a long Speaking of Which just before bedtime late Sunday night. I didn't quite get through my usual rounds, so added some more stuff today, which in turn pushed this out late, again. Still unclear how far I'll get Monday night.

Fortunately, I don't have much to say about music this week. The rated count is down, but I hit up several boxes, including the big Mingus one I saw little point in but enjoyed anyway, and yet another iteration of the Massey Hall Quintet/Trio. Also, another big r&b oldies box, again not ideal but quite thoroughly enjoyed.

Very little progress to report on EOY lists, websites, book projects, or anything else. The links, of course, are in the usual place.

New records reviewed this week:

Joe Alterman: Joe Alterman Plays Les McCann: Big Mo & Little Joe: (2023, Joe Alterman Music): Pianist, from Georgia, half-dozen albums since 2009, leads a trio with Kevin Smith (bass) and Justin Chesarek (drums), playing eleven Les McCann compositions, including one written with Alterman in 2021. This came out a few months before McCann (88) died in December. B+(**) [sp]

Carsie Blanton: Body of Work (2023, self-released): Singer-songwriter, originally from Virginia, based in New Jersey, seven albums 2005-21, decided to "undress" 15 songs catalog songs here, releasing them one-per-month digitally, finally compile them on vinyl. So, I gather, it's a bit like the Taylor's Version remakes, but on a much lower budget. B+(**) [sp]

Stix Bones/Bob Beamon: Olimpik Soul (2023 [2024], BONE Entertainment): Billed as a "jazz meets hip-hop EP," the leaders' credits are drums and percussion, respectively (the former aka Franklin Brown), the band adding trumpet, sax, guitar, keybs, bass, and vocalists Abiodun Oyewole and Khadejia Bass. Eight songs, 31:??, some fancy funk, but the mix could be sharper. B+(*) [cd]

Peter Bruun/Søren Kjærgaard/Josas Westergaard: Thēsaurós (2022, ILK): Danish drums-piano-bass trio, playing "an ambitious work" composed by Bruun, in seven parts (83:07). B+(*) [bc]

Mina Cho's Grace Beat Quartet: "Beat Mirage" (2023 [2024], International Gugak Jazz Institute): Korean pianist, based in Boston, fifth album, quartet with Max Ridley (bass), Yeongjin Kim (drums), and Insoo Kim (Korean traditional percussion). B+(**) [cd]

Commodore Trio: Communal - EP (2023 [2024], self-released, EP): Hype sheet credits Joel Tucker (guitar) first but neither cover nor spine mentions him. Joined here by Brandan Keller (tuberg bass) and Justin Clark (drums), for five tracks (20:24) of what they call "improvised art rock." B+(*) [cd]

Dogo Du Togo: Dogo Du Togo (2022, self-released): Massama Dogo, from Lome, in Togo, but now based in DC area. B+(*) [sp]

Jose Gobbo Trio: Current (2023 [2024], self-released): Brazilian guitarist-singer, lyrics here by Deuler Andrade, moved to Iowa in 2011 and on to Illinois, where he teaches. Appears to have some previous albums, but I can't find them in Discogs. With bass (Max Beckman) and drums (Jay Ferguson). Voice barely registers over the rhythm, which is all important. B+(**) [cd]

Mary Halvorson: Cloudward (2023 [2024], Nonesuch): Guitarist, Braxton student at Wesleyan, started with a trio album in 2008, and expanded in various directions, eventually winning a MacArthur genius grant, and topping the 2022 Francis Davis poll with a pair of albums (Amaryllis was the actual winner, but many voters wanted to include the more string-focused Belladonna). This one is a sextet, with trumpet (Adam O'Farrill), trombone (Jacob Garchik), bass (Nick Dunston), drums (Tomas Fujiwara), and vibes (Patricia Brennan), with no vocals and only a bit of violin (guest spot for Laurie Anderson). The state-of-the-art compositions are fashionably tricky, the horns add some weight, the vibes a bit of levity. Many critics seem to be impression, but still seems rather nebulous to me. B+(**) [sp]

Jon Irabagon: Survivalism (2024, Irabbagast): Saxophonist, based in Chicago, best known for "bebop terrorist" group MOPDTK but has a substantial, widely scattered discography on his own. Visited a "munitions bunker in South Dakota" to get the isolated ambiance for this album of solo soprillo sax -- at 33cm (13in), the smallest of all saxophones, pitched a fifth higher than sopranino, a full octave above soprano. Nonetheless, Irabagon spends a fair amount of time here finding more guttural sounds in lower registers, contrast to the high notes, which are never what you'd call flighty. B+(*) [bc]

Jon Irabagon's Outright!: Recharge the Blade (2021 [2024], Irabbagast): Group name refers back to a 2008 album of that name, followed by another (Unhinged) in 2012 -- neither especially successful, as I recall, so I don't really get the thinking behind giving this totally different group an old group name. Leader plays soprano sax here, with Ray Anderson (trombone), Matt Mitchell (piano/keyboards), Chris Lightcap (bass), and Dan Weiss (drums), plus a couple guest spots. B+(***) [bc]

Steven Kamperman: Maison Moderne (2023, Trytone): Dutch clarinetist, half-dozen album since 1999, describes this as "music inspired by the house, life, and passions of Theo van Doesburg," the artist and architect (1883-1931) who in 1917 founded the magazine De Stijl, which advanced abstract art and modernist style, effectively qualifying as a "school." The pieces are supported by piano (Albert van Veenendaal), electric guitar (Paul Jarret), and viola (Oene van Geel). Mostly chamber jazz befitting a museum, but this really sharpens up when Jarret takes the lead and Kamperman introduces some much-needed percussion. A- [cd]

Liquid Mike: Paul Bunyan's Slingshot (2024, self-released): Indie band from Marquette, Michigan, several albums since 2021. They run through 13 crisp songs in 25:31. B+(**) [sp]

Richard Nelson/Makrokosmos Orchestra: Dissolve (2023 [2024], Adhyâropa): Guitarist, member of Aardvark Jazz Orchestra since 1993, released his own Large Ensemble project in 2011, returns here with a 15-piece group. Three complex and lush pieces, 39:22. B+(**) [cd]

Nondi_: Flood City Trax (2023, Planet Mu): Electronics producer Tatiana Triplin, from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, looks to have two previous EPs, another self-released digital album, and some kind of mixtape/remix related to this. B+(*) [sp]

Angel Olsen: Forever Means (2023, Jagjaguwar, EP): American singer-songwriter, six generally well-regarded albums since 2012, released this four song, 16:02 EP. B [sp]

Public Image Ltd.: End of World (2023, PIL Official): Original Sex Pistol John Lydon, 67 when this came out, eleventh group album, eight years after previous. He's managed to keep a consistent sound since 1978, and occasionally to channel some rage against "liars, fakes, cheats and frauds." B+(*) [sp]

Zoe Rahman: Colour of Sound (2023, Manushi): British pianist, father Bengali, eighth album since 2001, brother Idris Rahman plays sax, with several other horn players, bass, and drums. Richly detailed, sometimes to excess. B+(*) [sp]

Andrew Rathbun: The Speed of Time (2022 [2023], SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, based in Brooklyn, more than a dozen albums since 1999, quartet with Gary Versace (piano), John Hébert (bass), and Tom Rainey (drums), all original pieces. B+(***) [sp]

Monika Roscher Bigband: Witchy Activities and the Maple Death (2023, Zenna): German guitarist, fourth Bigband album since 2011. Discogs lists genres as: dark jazz, jazz-rock, psychedelic rock. I was thinking prog rock as light opera -- Roscher sings throughout, in English (not that I followed much of it) -- although the big band was built to play jazz, which does a nice job of shading the straightforward beat. B+(**) [sp]

Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band: Vox Humana (2023, Jazzheads): Bronx-born drummer, graduated from Berklee, joined Mongo Santamaria in 1983, headlined a 1993 album with Tito Puente and Paquito D'Rivera, has led Latin jazz big bands at least since 2007, naming a 2012 album Multiverse. Runs through a lengthy songbook, starting with "Caravan," hitting "Let the Good Times Roll" and "I Love You Porgy," and perhaps most successfully, Steely Dan's "Do It Again." B+(***) [sp]

Adam Schroeder/Mark Masters: CT! Adam Schroeder & Mark Masters Celebrate Clark Terry (2023 [2024], Capri): Big band arrangements of thirteen Terry tunes, Schroeder playing baritone sax, Masters not in the band but with a long career as an arranger. You may recall that Terry played trumpet both for Duke Ellington and Count Basie before leading his own bands, offering plenty of hints for how this works -- largely splitting the difference. B+(***) [cd]

Matthew Shipp/Steve Swell: Space Cube Jazz (2021 [2024], RogueArt): Piano and trombone duets, improvised, first time recording together. A bit sparse, though both have plenty to say. B+(***) [cdr]

Rajna Swaminathan: Apertures (2021 [2023], Ropeadope): Indian percussionist, plays mrudangam, also sings (as does co-producer Ganavya), second album, with Utsav Lal (piano) and a raft of famous jazz musicians: Adam O'Farrill (trumpet), Anna Webber (tenor sax), Miles Okazaki (guitar), Stephan Crump (bass). B+(**) [sp]

Tucker Brothers: Live at Chatterbox (2023 [2024], Midwest Crush Music): Brothers Joe (guitar) and Nick (bass), with sax (Sean Imboden) and drums (Carrington Clinton) at a club in Indianapolis. No song credits, but I always recognize "Caravan." Groove band, nice set. B+(*) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

George Cartwright's GloryLand PonyCat: Black Ants Crawling ([2024], Mahakala Music): Alto/tenor saxophonist, best known for the group Curlew (1980-2003?), based in Minneapolis these days, no recording date given, but it's a live trio date from Clown Lounge, with Adam Linz (bass) and Alden Ikeda (drums) and is released (as have several previous Cartwright albums) in the label's "Reissue Series." B+(**) [bc]

Late Night Count Basie (2023, Primary Wave, EP): The "Count" is in small print, and tends to get overlooked. The songs mostly originate with Basie (well, not "St. Thomas"), and three are credited to his ghost band (Scotty Barnhart, director, with various featured guests), the others to others, as is obvious when Talib Kweli starts rapping over "Didn't You." And "One O'Clock Jump" gets an encore. All in 23:32, but it definitely swings, and jumps. B+(**) [sp]

Charles Mingus: Changes: The Complete 1970s Atlantic Studio Recordings (1973-78 [2023], Rhino, 7CD): I didn't feel much need for this -- and, needless to say, Rhino didn't gift me a copy, so no obligation there -- but looking for something to play while trying to get something else written, this seemed like a pretty nice way to spend 5 hours, 49 minutes. One pass [broken up, with a bit of rechecking, as it turned out], although I've heard most of this before. Starts off with a revitalizing young quartet -- featuring George Adams and Don Pullen, who continued on their own, including a fabulous 1986 album called Breakthrough -- but his health deteriorated fast, and he died of ALS at 56 in 1979. Mostly straight reissues, the breakdown:

  • Mingus Moves (1973, Atlantic; [1993], Rhino): Introduces great 1970s quartet with George Adams, Don Pullen, and Dannie Richmond, plus trumpet (Ronald Hampton), marred by a very unfortunate vocal track. [was: B-] B+(**)
  • Changes One (1974 [1975], Atlantic): Quintet session (with Jack Walrath on trumpet), produced masterpieces: "Remember Rockefeller at Attica," "Sue's Changes," "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love"; even one vocal, George Adams' gravel "Devil Blues." A
  • Changes Two (1974 [1975], Atlantic): Most pointed title: "Free Cell Block F, 'Tis Nazi U.S.A.'; includes a piece by Walrath, a reprise of "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love" with a Jackie Paris vocal; and another tribute, "For Harry Carney." A-
  • Three or Four Shades of Blues (1977, Atlantic): Five older pieces, starting with "Better Get Hit in Your Soul" and "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," with a raft of guest soloists. B+(*)
  • Cumbia & Jazz Fusion (1976-77 [1978]): Two side-long Latin extravaganzas with typical moves and layers. [was: B-] B+(*)
  • Me Myself an Eye (1978, Atlantic): At this point he no longer played, so this was done with a long list of studio musicians: the 30:20 "Three Worlds of Drums," and three older pieces, offering a taste of future legacy bands. B+(***)
  • Something Like a Bird (1978 [1980], Atlantic): Leftovers from the big band session, the sprawling, near-classic 31:24 title piece, and an elegiac "Farewell Farewell," issued posthumously. A-

Vinyl box has an 8th LP of outtakes, which are included inline in the CD and digital editions. B+(***) [sp]

Charlie Parker/Dizzy Gillespie/Bud Powell/Charles Mingus/Max Roach: Hot House: The Complete Jazz at Massey Hall Recordings (1953 [2023], Craft, 3CD): Mingus and Roach started their own label, Debut Records, in 1952, so they grabbed these tapes, redubbed the bass parts, and released them on three 10-inch records, two credited to "The Quintet" (with the saxophonist identified as Charlie Chan), the other a hornless Bud Powell Trio set, already hyped as "the greatest jazz concert ever." The Quintet eventually came out on an CD (OJC-44), with the trio as Jazz at Massey Hall, Volume Two (OJC-111), with sound, like most Parker bootlegs, pretty dicey. I've never been much impressed, even after a 2012 remaster answered most of the sound issue. The overdubs, too, were controversial, so when Jazz Factory released their 1-CD Complete Jazz at Massey Hall in 2003, they went back to the original tapes. This edition tries to have it both ways, again combining the original Quintet and Trio sets on one CD, but also providing the overdubs on a 2nd CD. (Vinyl splits the first CD into 2-LP, with the overdubs on a 3rd.) Sound is pretty decent here, but it's still more typical than exemplary. B+(***) [sp]

Sonny Rollins: Go West! The Contemporary Records Albums (1957-58 [2023], Craft, 3CD): The label exists primarily to produce luxury vinyl reissues of famous jazz albums, but they also release their remastered wares on CD and digital, so it's possible to stream them, and they get a lot of notice. This collects albums recorded for' Contemporary: Way Out West (1957) and Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders. The former, a trio with Ray Brown and Shelly Manne leading off with "I'm an Old Cowhand," is one of his best-known records, and has already been given the Craft treatment. The latter, adding extras (piano, guitar, vibes on one track), is less focused, except when Rollins plays, who continues to show uncanny skill for building on standards. The third disc collects the alternate takes, which were initially added to the OJC CDs. It may be the best of the bunch. A- [sp]

Pharoah Sanders: Festival de Jazz de Nice, Nice, France, July 18, 1971 (1971 [2024], Kipepeo Publishing): British label, banner says "A fundraising project to help Kenyans in need," Bandcamp page offers 46 bootlegs from various venues/dates. This is a quintet with the tenor saxophonist, piano (Lonnie Liston Smith), bass (Cecil McBee), drums (Jimmy Hopp), and percussion (Lawrence Killian). I picked this one out from the list, figuring it would be really nice to hear some vintage Sanders. It hit that spot from the start with a no-vocal 21:30 "The Creator Has a Master Plan." B+(***) [bc]

Old music:

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown: Sings Louis Jordan [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1973 [2019], Black & Blue): Blues singer-guitarist from Louisiana (1924-2005), played drums after WWII, and started recording singles for Peacock in the late 1940s. Album discography doesn't start until just before this one, a Paris session with jazz musicians, including Milt Buckner (organ), Jay McShann (piano), and Arnett Cobb (tenor sax). No new insights into either Brown or Jordan as blues, but the songs are hits, and Cobb is a real plus. B+(**) [sp]

Millie Jackson: On the Soul Country Side (1977-81 [2014], Kent): Hard-belting soul singer, debut 1972, found her concept with 1974's Caught Up, with a focus on cheating songs that suggested country music -- partly acknowledged on her 1981 album Just a Lil' Bit Country. This repeats six songs from that album (omitting four). The other songs include a couple duets with Isaac Hayes. Some songs are country enough for novelties, but most keep a respectful distance. Puzzling, as respect really isn't her thing. B+(***) [sp]

The R&B No. 1s of the '50s (1950-59 [2013], Acrobat, 6CD): Another decade's worth of hits, most justly famous, some as blues but more in the early development of rock and roll, with some novelties and other oddities in the mix. The syrupy strings of "Mona Lisa" is the first song that feels out of place (the first of only two Nat King Cole songs). Another surprise was Elvis Presley showing up, although "Hound Dog" sounds great after "Let the Good Times Roll." That kicked off a period where white artists, and we're not just talking ones who famously sounded black but others like the Everly Brothers, Jimmie Rodgers, Paul Anka, and David Seville --a sudden wave of integration that mirrored my own experience. It wouldn't be hard to edit this down to a solid-A set (probably 4-CD). And it would still be rewarding to stream through the rest. A- [cd]

Grade (or other) changes:

Sonny Rollins: Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders: Barney Kessel/Hampton Hawes/Leroy Vinnegar/Shelly Manne (1958, Contemporary): I thought I should recheck this. [was: B+] B+(***) [r]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Bob Anderson: Live! (Jazz Hang) [03-29]
  • Lynne Arriale Trio: Being Human (Challenge) [03-01]
  • The R&B No. 1s of the '50s (1950-59, Acrobat, 6CD) [2013]
  • Dave Rempis/Pandelis Karayorgis/Jakob Heinemann/Bill Harris: Truss (Aerophonic/Drift) [04-23]
  • Håkon Skogstad: 8 Concepts of Tango (Øra Fonogram) [03-15]
  • Jack Wood: The Gal That Got Away: The Best of Jack Wood, Featuring Guest Niehaud Fitzgibbon (Jazz Hang) [03-29]

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