Music Week [0 - 9]

Wednesday, July 17, 2024


Music Week

July archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42668 [42624] rated (+44), 15 [20] unrated (-5).

I put out the call for a Mid-Year Jazz Critics Poll back on June 30, offering a July 14 deadline for ballots, which would give me a few days to wrap things up before ArtsFuse returns from vacation on July 17. Sure, I expected a light turnout: mid-year lists, while increasingly common as click-bait, don't have the same gravitas as year-end wrap-ups, so fewer voters would be prepared let alone interested; there are vacations and other distractions; the voting period was much shorter than for the year-end poll; and I didn't want to work as hard at rounding up voters. (Last year's 159 voters took a lot of hustle on my part, but in taking the poll over from Francis Davis, I really wanted to prove that I could do it, and it was very wearing.) I didn't do any prospecting for new voters, and hoped that sending a single message to my Jazzpoll mailing list would do the trick.

It didn't: by last Wednesday, I had only about two dozen ballots counted, with another dozen promises to vote later, and a half-dozen polite declines, out of approx. 200 invitees. I had figured that 50% (let's say 80) ballots would still be a good showing, and would generate a lot of information. But 25% struck me as way too low. I had reason to suspect that a big part of the problem was that many messages from my server were being flagged and sequestered as "spam," especially by the gmail servers. So I rebooted, and sent a second round of invitations out to a subset of the list -- the ones I hadn't heard from, skipping a few who hadn't voted in recent years -- in MailMerge-customized letters from my regular email account (which has been dicey enough of late). That took many hours I had wanted to avoid, but got an almost immediate response. I streamlined the invitation a bit, and extended the deadline to July 17 (tonight, or effectively tomorrow morning). As of last night, I had 78 ballots counted, and as I'm writing this I have 2 more in my inbox, so I'm happy with my 50%. [PS: By posting time, the count increased to 86.]

I'll need to move on from this to write an essay (intro, overview, whatever), as well as footnotes on various oddities and discrepancies in the voting. I've struggled with the essay the last couple years, so fear I may again. On the other hand, the data is really extraordinary, so just dive into that. And every time I do this, I come away even more impressed with the extraordinary knowledge and exemplary judgment of the fine people who participate in this Poll. There's nothing we need more in this increasingly complex and scatter-brained world than smart people who develop and share their expertise so that we all may benefit. I'm proud to do my bit, and to help them do theirs.

I might as well start here and disclose my own ballot:

NEW RELEASES

  1. Fay Victor, Herbie Nichols SUNG: Life Is Funny That Way (Tao Forms)
  2. Emmeluth's Amoeba, Nonsense (Moserobie)
  3. Luke Stewart Silt Trio, Unknown Rivers (Pi)
  4. Ballister, Smash and Grab (Aerophonic)
  5. Dave Douglas, Gifts (Greenleaf Music)
  6. The Core, Roots (Moserobie)
  7. James Brandon Lewis Quartet, Transfiguration (Intakt)
  8. Romy Glod-Christian Ramond-Klaus Kugel, No Toxic (Nemu)
  9. Ivo Perelman Quartet, Water Music (RogueArt)
  10. Mike Monford, The Cloth I'm Cut From (self-released)

RARA AVIS (REISSUES/ARCHIVAL)

  1. Sonny Rollins, Freedom Weaver: The 1959 European Tour Recordings (Resonance)
  2. Mal Waldron & Steve Lacy, The Mighty Warriors: Live in Antwerp (1995, Elemental Music)
  3. Alice Coltrane, The Carnegie Hall Concert (1971, Impulse!)
  4. Karen Borca Trio Quartet & Quintet, Good News Blues: Live at the Vision Festival 1998 & 2005 (NoBusiness)
  5. Mars Williams & Hamid Drake, I Know You Are but What Am I (1996, Corbett vs. Dempsey)

As lists go, this feels pretty haphazard and tentative. I keep an ongoing ranked list, but don't put much effort into maintaining it. What usually happens is that once I decide an album is A-, I scan the list from the top or bottom (depending on whether it's a real solid A- or a somewhat iffy one), find something that is roughly comparable, and insert the new record above or below that reference point. I fiddled with these a bit, but didn't do much rechecking. Fact is, I never do much rechecking.

This week's batch of reviews are mostly albums that popped up on ballots. I wasn't previously aware that the Kenny Barron, Ivanna Cuesta, Welf Dorr, and [Ahmed] albums existed. Tomeka Reid was one of those download links I've been sitting on -- I probably have nearly 100 stashed away, but I'm loathe to do the extra work when it's so easy to play a promo or stream something -- but it did well enough I felt obligated to listen to it. (Same for Braxton, with all 8 hours + 10:36, available on Bandcamp.) Beger, Borca, and Brötzmann were promo CDs, but they too can be found complete on Bandcamp. I learned about the Armstrong from hype mail the day it became available to stream.

I started to prepare a file with all of my 2024 jazz reviews, similar to my 2023 best jazz, but it isn't ready to be presented yet. I'll clean it up if I decide I want to mention it in my poll essay, or just discard it until end-of-year. (Once I've started it, it's just another thing to try to keep updated.) One thing I can note here is that when I divvied the 2024 file up into jazz and non-jazz sections, the split among new A/A- records was 52-to-25, with old music 12-to-5. That seems like a lot, given that I wound up with only 84 for all of 2023 (and 75 for 2022, 77 for 2021, 86 for 2020, 77 for 2019, 67 for 2018, 84 for 2017, 75 for 2016, 81 for 2015, 69 for 2014, 87 for 2014 -- that's as far as the file series goes back, and the record as far as I can easily tell. Makes me wonder if I'm going soft in my old age, but other explanations are possible, including that the Mid-Year Poll has made me aware of 237 albums I didn't previously have in my tracking file. Most I haven't played yet, but the dozens I have gotten to contributed to this skew.


Given all the extra work on the Mid-Year Jazz Critics Poll, I didn't get around to Speaking of Which until Saturday, when I started with a long section on why Biden should withdraw from the Democratic presidential nomination. This all seems so obvious that it's hard to fathom the negligence and nonsense of whoever's conspiring to keep Biden in the race. On the other hand, much else that popped up in the week's news is hard to fathom. I certainly haven't had the time to figure it out.

The Trump shooting remains a story I know very little about, and have very little interest in pursuing, unless it turns out that my suspicion, as yet purely based on cynicism, that it was a staged PR ploy, turns out to be valid. (By the way, we've been watching the old Jane Marple mysteries. In one of them, the killer creates a blackout, kills someone else, then shoots herself, nicking the ear, so that when the lights come back on, she appears to have been the target (and very lucky). The ear was chosen because it bleeds readily but not seriously. It also emphasizes the luck involved, because it's generally very hard to shoot someone's ear without hitting their head. Of course, there are other ways to fake it, at little risk to Trump. The whole thing would take skill and timing, which seems beyond Trump and his cronies, the chances of such a scheme getting exposed are high, and it's hard to imagine that even Trump could lie his way out of it. On the other hand, how gullible is just about everyone involved so far? So it can't possibly be true, but they're playing it just like it was scripted. And everyone else seems to be falling for it.

Hardly any adds to Speaking of Which today: fixed a couple broken links, some typos. I'll open a file for next week after Music Week goes up. It'll be lower priority than the Poll, but good for the occasional break from thrashing on the Poll essay. I haven't been following the RNC, but I'm sure the people who have will be able to explain in its all its true horror.

There's also this story: Inae Oh: [07-16] The DNC's plan to force Biden's nomination is everything people hate about the DNC. If they go through with this, it won't have been the first time they gamed the rules to help Biden escape normal Democratic procedures: derailing the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, where Biden had performed poorly in 2016, while making South Carolina the first primary, eliminated the most likely path for someone more credible than Dean Phillips to challenge Biden, so no one risked it. This would be shabby in any case, but is especially galling from the people who sell themselves as the guardians of democracy.


The marvelous Swiss avant-jazz pianist Irčne Schweizer has died at 83:

Here's my Grade List. I first got acquainted with her work when I reviewed a 2-CD compilation of her work in 2006:

IRČNE SCHWEIZER: Portrait [1984-2004] (Intakt) Nothing in this year's bumper crop of solo piano is anywhere near as robust as the three solo cuts on this sampler from 14 albums. Eight duos, mostly with drummers, impress even more. The Swiss free jazz pioneer's straight rhythmic undertow rivals Jarrett's, and her pianistics challenge Cecil Taylor's. But as Schweizer demonstrates on the longest piece ("First Meeting," with trombonist George Lewis), her real talent is her spontaneous response to the challenges of such minuscule aggregations. One of the few compilations ever that makes me want to hear every single one of the source albums. A

Her duos with drummers were extraordinary, especially the ones with Han Bennink (1995 and 2015). The latter was my number one jazz record of 2015:

Irčne Schweizer/Han Bennink: Welcome Back (2015, Intakt): Piano-drum duo, both should be household names by now, and indeed the Dutch percussionist is one of the very few Europeans to make Downbeat Hall of Fame ballot. On the other hand, I've had to write in the name of the Swiss pianist the last few years -- this year ahead of Myra Melford and Marilyn Crispell, who are similar players only in the sense that anyone can be described as similar to Cecil Taylor; Schweizer comes as close as anyone to matching Taylor, but she can also work in some boogie woogie or pennywhistle jive, and closes here with a bit of Monk that evokes "Lullaby of Birdland." In the late 1980s Schweizer started a series of duos with top avant drummers (Louis Moholo was the first, followed by Gunter Sommer and Andrew Cyrille). The best was her 1995 meeting with Bennink (although I also have the 1990 Pierre Favre at A). This return engagement belongs alongside. A [cd]


New records reviewed this week:

أحمد [Ahmed]: Wood Blues (2022 [2024], Astral Spirits): British quartet of Pat Thomas (piano), Joel Grip (bass), Antonin Gerbal (drums), and Seymour Wright (alto sax), originally formed as a tribute to bass/oud player Ahmed Abdul-Malik (1927-93), fourth album since 2017, unless the 4-CD Giant Beauty box came out ahead of it (looks like it did, by 4 days). I've had people tell me this is the best live band on the planet. They probably thought the same of Cecil Taylor in the 1970s. A- [sp]

Kenny Barron: Beyond This Place (2024, Artwork): Pianist, I first really noticed him as a duet partner for Stan Getz (People Time, 1991), but he started in the early 1970s (cf. Peruvian Blue, 1974), is a DownBeat hall-of-famer, one of the most storied jazz educators in history, and still pretty sharp entering 80s. Helped out here by Steve Nelson (vibes), Kiyoshi Kitagawa (bass), Johnathan Blake (drums), and especially Immanuel Wilkins (alto sax). A- [sp]

BassDrumBone: Afternoon (2023 [2024], Auricle): Mark Helias, Gerry Hemingway, and Ray Anderson: I've been filing their records under the trombonist since 1986. This one seems a bit muted, but that just brings out the craft in the BassDrum. B+(***) [cd]

Jamie Baum Septet+: What Times Are These (2023 [2024], Sunnyside): Flute player, debut 1996, Septet -- including Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet), Sam Sadigursky (reeds), Brad Shepik (guitar), and Luis Perdomo (piano) -- has four albums 2004-18, expands to nine credits here plus four more vocalists picking their spots. Choice cut is "Sorrow Song," even beyond Kokayi's words. Other vocalists don't fare so well. B+(*) [sp]

Albert Beger/Ziv Taubenfeld/Shay Hazan/Hamid Drake: Cosmic Waves (2023 [2024], No Business): Tenor saxophonist, born in Istanbul, grew up in Israel, studied at Berklee, has a 1995 album, came to my attention with a pair of 2005 albums with William Parker under Hamid Drake's name. The others play bass clarinet and bass, for a dicey free jazz jam, with the drummer as impressive as ever. A- [cd]

Anthony Braxton: 10 Comp (Lorraine) 2022 (2022 [2024], New Braxton House, 10CD): Alto sax legend, credited with "saxophones, electronics" here, with each composition (numbered 423-428, 432-435) running from 41:31 to 60:09. The first six are trio with Adam Matlock (accordion/voice) and Susana Santos Silva (trumpet); the last four are quartet, with a second saxophonist (James Fei) and two bassists (Zach Rowden, Carl Testa). Way too long for anything other than a glancing view, but the first trio has limited appeal: sure, the accordion isn't as grating as Braxton's bagpipe albums, but that's the direction, and the operatic vocals have no more appeal when sung over abstractions than they do over schmaltz. The quartet is similar musically but with fewer annoyances, which doesn't necessarily make it more interesting, or even listenable (though sometimes it is). Length: 490:36. B+(*) [bc]

George Cartwright & Bruce Golden: Dilate (2024, self-released): Saxophonist and drummer, played together in the final iteration of Cartwright's group Curlew (founded 1979, but I think we're talking 2002-03 here). Sounds mostly like electronics and percussion, but all the credits have to say is: "george licked sounds; bruce nailed sounds." Some bits I really like, but others wear me down and out. B+(*) [bc]

Ivanna Cuesta: A Letter to the Earth (2023 [2024], Orenda): Drummer, from Dominican Republic, studied there and at Berklee, based in Boston, first album, composed by, also credited with electronics, with Ben Solomon (sax), Kris Davis (piano), and Max Ridley (bass) -- all terrific here. Bit of guest vocal at the end (Pauli Camou). A- [sp]

Jeremiah Cymerman: Body of Light (2022-23 [2024], 5049): Clarinet player, fifteen-plus albums since 2007, first two pieces here appear to be solo, credits including synths, percussion, sequences, bass. The other two (longer) tracks add drums (Mike Pride) and either guitar-cello or violin. Either way this mostly comes off as ambient. B+(*) [sp]

Welf Dorr/Elias Meister/Dmitry Ishenko/Kenny Wollesen: So Far So Good (2022 [2024], self-released): Alto saxophonist, born in Germany, based in New York, first album appears to be a Flowers for Albert thinking of Einstein not Ayler, unless it was the group called Funk Monk. Backed by guitar, accordion/electric bass, and drums, has traces of soul jazz and funk fusion, but mostly as a vehicle for distinguished saxophone. A- [bc]

Edition Redux: Better a Rook Than a Pawn (2023, Audiographic): I lost track of Ken Vandermark's projects when he pulled most of his work behind the paywall, so I jumped on this new group as soon as I noticed it: Erez Dessel (piano/synth), Lily Finnegan (drums), Beth McDonald (tuba/electronics), and Vandermark (reeds, notably baritone sax). Piano tends to lead, but the real power remains the saxophonist. B+(***) [bc]

Bill Frisell: Orchestras (2021-22 [2024], Blue Note): Guitarist, long-established, leads a trio with Thomas Morgan (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums), featured here surrounded by symphony orchestras (Brussels Philharmonic, Umbria Jazz Orchestra), his (and some other) compositions scaled up by Michael Gibbs. Quick take is that the full strings on the first disc are a turn off. Dispensing with them, the second disc is rather enaging. B+(**) [sp]

Paul Giallorenzo Trio: Play (2021 [2023], Delmark): Chicago pianist, first trio album in 2012, second with this trio of Joshua Abrams and Mikel Patrick Avery. B+(*) [sp]

Erik Griswold/Chloe Kim/Helen Svoboda: Anatomical Heart (2023 [2024], Earshift Music): Pianist, based in Brisbane, Australia, a dozen-plus albums since 2002, has a fondness for prepared piano. Trio with drums and bass. The bit of jerkiness keeps it interesting. B+(**) [sp]

Sarah Hanahan: Among Giants (2024, Blue Engine): Alto saxophonist, first album, quartet with Marc Cary (piano), Nat Reeves (bass), and Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums), with extra percussion on 4 (of 8) tracks. Mainstream, with considerable power, and more than a little finesse. B+(***) [sp]

Simon Hanes: Tsons of Tsunami (2024, Tzadik): California-born, based in New York, plays baritone guitar here, has mostly worked under group names (Tredici Bacci, Trigger, Shimmer, Guerilla Toss; Tsons of Tsunami was the group name for a 2013 album called Fearless Riders of the Holy Curl. He describes these compositions as "surf-based," backed with trombone, horn, waterphone, vibraphone, and drums. B+(**) [sp]

Roger Kellaway: Live at Mezzrow (2023 [2024], Cellar Music): Pianist, first album 1963, first new one since 2019, with bass (Jay Leonhart) and drums (Dennis Mackrel) plus guest Roni Ben-Hur (guitar). He's always been a bop era pianist with a little stride in his style. B+(*) [sp]

Brian Landrus: Plays Ellington & Strayhorn (2023 [2024], Palmetto): Baritone saxophonist, also plays similar instruments, plus some piccolo and flutes, backed quite capably by Dave Stryker (guitar), Jay Anderson (bass), and Billy Hart (drums), playing fourteen songs you can't go wrong with. B+(***) [cd]

Nduduzo Makhathini: Unomkhubulwane (2024, Blue Note): South African pianist, started leading albums in 2014, got a big profile boost when Blue Note picked him up in 2020. Third album there, sings some (not fancy or dramatic, but quite agreeably), backed by Zwelakhe-Duma Bell le Pere (bass) and Francisco Mela (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Fabiano do Nascimento & Sam Gendel: The Room (2024, Real World): Brazilian guitarist, several albums since 2011 -- I particularly liked 2015's Dança Dos Tempos -- here in a very nice duo with soprano sax. B+(**) [sp]

Madeleine Peyroux: Let's Walk (2024, Just One Recording/Thirty Tigers): Jazz singer-songwriter, born in Georgia but grew up in France, ten or so albums since 1996, aimed early for Billie Holiday phrasing, returns after a six-year pause with a new batch of songs that defy expectations. I could see this one being taken for Americana, if you pardon the bit of French (in my book, that's a plus). B+(***) [sp]

Tomeka Reid Quartet: 3+3 (2023 [2024], Cuneiform): Cellist, based in Chicago, helped revitalize the post-2000 AACM, and has an impressive list of albums since her 2015 Quartet, finally a MacArthur "Genius" Fellow in 2022. Same group here, with Mary Halvorson (guitar), Jason Roebke (bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums). Three longish pieces: sags a bit in the middle but closes real strong. A- [dl]

Michael Shrieve: Drums of Compassion (2024, 7D Media): Drummer, played in Santana 1969-74, formed Go in 1976 with Stomu Yamashita and Steve Winwood, with later groups like Spellbinder. I recognized the name, and found him in my database, but in the New Age section, with two unheard albums (1984, 1989). Not much jazz there, but some of his many collaborators here count, starting with percussionists Jack DeJohnette, Zakir Hussain, Airto Moriera, and Babatunde Olatunji. Not just drums, but keyboards, sax (Skerik), and electronics (Amon Tobin). B+(*) [sp]

Harry Skoler: Red Brick Hill (2022 [2024], Sunnyside): Clarinet player, three albums 1995-99, this is only his third since, following a Mingus study in 2022. Strong support here on vibes (Joel Ross), bass (Dezron Douglas), and drums (Johnathan Blake), with one-track guest spots from Marquis Hill (trumpet), Christian Sands (piano), and Grégoire Maret (harmonica). B+(**) [sp]

Something Else! [Featuring Vincent Herring]: Soul Jazz (2024, Smoke Sessions): Mainstream "supergroup," alto saxophonist gets featured spotlight but Jeremy Pelt (trumpet) steals as much spotlight. Also with Wayne Escoffery (tenor sax), Paul Bollenback (guitar), David Kikoski (piano), Essiet Essiet (bass), and Otis Brown III (drums). They swing a little, swagger too. B+(*) [sp]

Gregory Tardy: In His Timing (2023, WJ3): One of many mainstream tenor saxophonist to emerge in the 1990s, starting out on Impulse!, but mostly recording on SteepleChase since then. But he plays clarinet here, paired with violin (Regina Carter), backed by piano-bass-drums. Sometimes the mix pays dividends, sometimes not so much. B+(*) [bc]

Alan Walker: A Little Too Late (2024, Aunt Mimi's): Singer-songwriter, started in a group I've never heard of, the Brilliant Mistakes (three albums 1998-2008), second solo album. Plays piano, some pop craft, some strings. B+(*) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Louis Armstrong: Louis in London (1968 [2024], Verve): A previously unreleased BBC radio shot from July 2, 1968, billed as his "last great performance," three years before his death in 1971. He had been in decline for several years, often unable to play trumpet, but his vocals remained endearing, with a couple songs turning into big pop hits. He's credited with trumpet here, which seems good enough, his voice even better, as he runs through thirteen songs, most signature hits, a proper career summary. A- [sp]

Derek Bailey/Sabu Toyozumi: Breath Awareness (1987 [2024], NoBusiness): British guitarist (1932-2005), a major figure in the avant-garde (albeit one that I've only lightly sampled, and never really gotten the hang of), in an improv duo with the Japanese drummer. Scratchy, abstract, requires close listening, sometimes rewards it. B+(***) [cd]

Karen Borca Trio Quartet & Quintet: Good News Blues: Live at the Vision Festival 1998 & 2005 (1998-2005 [2024], No Business): One of the few bassoon players in any branch of jazz, especially in free jazz, she led groups so rarely that this is her first collection as leader, but Discogs credits her with 30 albums, many with her husband, Jimmy Lyons, also Cecil Taylor, William Parker, Joel Futterman, Alan Silva, Bill Dixon. The early set here has Parker and Rob Brown (alto sax). Brown returns for the late set, with Reggie Workman, and is stellar throughout. A- [cd]

Peter Brötzmann/Toshinori Kondo/Sabu Toyozumi: Complete Link (2016 [2024], NoBusiness): Tenor sax/tarogato, trumpet/electronics, drums. Within our ten-year window for "new releases," with both of the principals recently departed, this feels more like an archival find. They had a fairly long run together in the quartet, with William Parker and Hamid Drake, named for their first album, Die Like a Dog. I always found their records a bit too abrasive, but here I'm not only not bothered, I'm feeling a bit nostalgic. A- [cd]

Nat King Cole: Live at the Blue Note Chicago (1953 [2024], Iconic): Pianist and singer (1917-65), had his first r&b hits in 1942, cracked the pop top ten in 1944 with "Straighten Up and Fly Right," hit number one in 1946 with "For Sentimental Reasons," followed by "Nature Boy," "Mona Lisa," and "Too Young" -- all in these live sets, a quartet with guitar (John Collins), bass (Charlie Harris), and drums (Lee Young). B+(**) [sp]

The Jazzanians: We Have Waited Too Long (1988 [2024], Ubuntu Music): In 1984, Dave Brubeck's son Darius organized a jazz program at the University of Natal, in South Africa. A few years later, he organized this "first multiracial student jazz ensemble from South Africa," and took them on tour, and into the studio. Best known player now is probably Zim Ngqawana (alto sax/flute). They kick off with a very infectious township jive groove. They're not all that delightful. B+(**) [sp]

Charles Mingus: Incarnations (1960 [2024], Candid): The bassist recorded two sessions for Nat Hentoff's label, which immediately led to the albums Presents Charles Mingus and Mingus. In 1985, Mosaic collected those albums and outtakes for The Complete Candid Recordings of Charles Mingus, In 1990, Candid took some of those for Mysterious Blues. This albums grabs five more takes (one previously unissued). B+(**) [sp]

Louis Moholo-Moholo: Louis Moholo-Moholo's Viva-La-Black (1988 [2024], Ogun): South African drummer, moved to Europe in 1964, emerged as a prominent free jazz drummer in the 1970s. Leads a sextet here, with Sean Bergin (tenor/alto sax), Steve Williamson (tenor/soprano sax), Claude Deppa (trumpet/flugelhorn), Roberto Bellatalla (bass), and Thebe Lipere (percussion). B+(**) [bc]

Septet Matchi-Oul: Terremoto (1971 [2024], Souffle Continu): Label dedicated to "Treasures of the French Underground," this one-shot group led by Chilean-French pianist Manuel Villarroel qualifies nicely. No other names I immediately recognize, but some further research may be in order. B+(***) [sp]

Sun Ra & His Arkestra: Pink Elephants on Parade (1985-90 [2024], Modern Harmonic): A "small sample" of songs from Walt Disney movies, eight from two dates in 1988-89, 5 more from 5 different venues, the first 9 tracks previously unreleased. Vocals on most tracks, none slick or particularly funny, but amused? Sure. B+(***) [sp]

John Wright Trio: South Side Soul (1960 [2024], Craft): Pianist (1934-2017), born in Kentucky but moved to Chicago when he was two. First album, with bass (Wendell Roberts) and drums (Walter McCants). [sp]

Old music:

Albert Beger: The Primitive (1995, NMC): Israeli tenor saxophonist, plays some flute, first album, quartet with piano (John Bostock), bass guitar (Gabi Maier), and drums (Asaf Sirkis). B+(**) [sp]

Albert Beger Quartet: The Art of the Moment (2000, Third Ear Music): Curious lack of information on this, label name appears on some streaming sites (NMC seems more likely), quartet with guitar, bass, and drums (no idea who). Impressive saxophonist, rhythm section has some spunk, flute I could do without. Need to work on that discography. B+(*) [sp]

Welf Dorr: Funk Monk 2002 (2002 [2020], self-released): Alto saxophonist, from Germany, based in New York, led the band Funk Monk from 1996-2009, various lineups, released a Live at the Knitting Factory in 1999 but that seems to be all. Dorr salvaged this tape from Izzy Bar in July 2002, and claims all compositions, so no Monk tribute here: more horns (Antonio Dangerfield on trumpet, Melvin Smith on tenor sax, trombone on two tracks), backed by a bubbling array of keys, guitar, bass, and drums. B+(*) [sp]

Welf Dorr: Flowers for Albert (2005 [202], self-released): The saxophone/flute player/composer has laid claim to this tape, although his name appears last on the cover, after Kenny Wolleson (drums), Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet), Hock Temesgen (bass), and Shoko Nagai (piano). Title comes from David Murray's tribute to Ayler, but Dorr's preferred Albert is Einstein, seeing this as the centennial of his three breakthrough papers on physics. B+(**) [sp]

Welf Dorr Unit: Blood (2014 [2018], Creative Sources): Brooklyn group, leader plays alto sax and bass clarinet, backed by guitar (Dave Ross), bass (Dmitry Ishenko), and drums (Joe Hertenstein). Guitar runs a bit heavy. B+(*) [bc]

Welf Dorr/Dmitry Ishenko/Joe Hertenstein: Pandemic House Sessions (2020 [2021], self-released): Previous Unit reduced to a trio, recorded at the drummer's apartment. Losing the guitar gives the saxophonist a lot more breathing room. B+(***) [sp]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Greg Copeland: Empire State (Franklin & Highland, EP) [09-06]
  • Ize Trio: The Global Suites (self-released) [08-02]
  • Frank Paul Schubert/Michel Pilz/Stefan Scheib/Klaus Kugel: Live at FreeJazz Saar 2019 (Nemu) [05-01]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Tuesday, July 9, 2024


Music Week

July archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42624 [42580] rated (+42), 20 [29] unrated (-9).

Some updates, although at this point [07-12] I might as well start working on next week's posts. I added a fair amount to extras I already added to the latest Speaking of Which: most tweets on Biden's probable withdrawal, plus a couple similar pieces including the George Clooney op-ed. I also added links to the Michael Tatum and Robert Christgau Consumer Guides, which are probably of more interest here:

I have a bit more information on the Mid-Year Jazz Critics Poll, but that probably deserves a separate post, which I'm not up to at the moment. The most pressing matter is that response has been light, and I suspect that a bit part of that is due to email problems. As frequent readers may recall, I've been plagued by them for months and possibly years. I tried coming up with workaround strategies, one of which has been completely ineffective: which was to ask people to forward invites, and suggest a willingness to accept unsolicited invites. The only thing I got there was an offer by a long-time virtual friend, who is not really a credentialed critic but whose opinion I value highly, to submit a list.

In a moment of weakness (or possible insanity), I offered to publish his list, and more like it if anyone bothers to submit them. So if you can imagine drawing up a credible list of up to 10 2024 jazz albums and up to 5 2024 archival jazz albums, take a look at the Non-Critic Ballot Invitation, and follow instructions. Those ballots won't figure into official totals, and counting them isn't a priority for me, but I will eventually publish all I receive, and I wouldn't be surprised if, as lists go, your batch winds up being as credible as the ones submitted by the pros. I will be surprised if they wind up being representative of jazz fandom, because I'm doing virtually nothing to promote this, and if you can only read about it here, you're in a very small minority (and I'll be lucky to get ten ballots).

The links below to the Poll Website are still valid, and now point to somewhat more substantial information. On last update, I had 25 ballots. I'm resending the invitations -- a slow and painstaking process -- hoping to avoid spam traps and get some more responses. I will say that the data I have, though sparse, is really terrific stuff. It's a cliché in compiling these lists to say "this is a really great year," but when all is said and done, you'll see for yourself.

Delayed until Tuesday again, because Speaking of Which took all of Monday, itself being pushed out by the seemingly futile notion that I could add a few Afterthoughts to the previous week's massive Speaking of Which.

Seems like I could wind up delaying this post a second day, as it's already late as I'm writing this. Most of Tuesday got chewed up writing two long comments relating to the Biden nomination: one on a Matthew Yglesias post, the other an expansion of my Afterthoughts comment. None of this even mentions the seemingly important (if true) Ben Jacobs: [07-09] How the Democratic movement to dump Biden went bust. Or Nia Prater: [07-09] Why is the Squad backing Biden so forcefully? As Yglesias explained in his piece, the calculation for Democratic politicians is different than the one for journalists and pundits. New York Magazine, which published a number of pieces extremely critical of Biden (probably all op. cit. through my links above) has gotten so into circling the wagons, they've gone into live blog mode: Biden resistance appears to be waning in Congress. On the other hand, Eric Levitz: [07-09] is back with another piece: The arguments for Biden 2024 keep getting worse.

Definitely no Afterthoughts this week, and I'm going to be hard pressed to do a Speaking of Which by Sunday or Monday. Most pressing thing after getting this up will be to follow up on the Mid-Year Jazz Critics Poll. Deadline remains Sunday, July 14. I've received 18 ballots so far, referencing a total of 177 albums. About 50% of those albums were not previously in my tracking file, so I've been using them for prospecting (three of the five A- albums this week came from ballots; the other two are promos I received, with no votes so far).

Probably the most important thing I need to do is to compare the Jazzpoll mailing list, which is where I sent the invites, to the more authoritative list I made last year of people I actually sent invites to, especially the ones I voted. At some point I stopped automatically adding names to the Jazzpoll list, so chances are that a couple dozen people who should have been invited weren't. I'm also worried about invites being diverted into spam folders -- I know of at least two such cases, both with gmail. If I had the time and energy, I would follow up, but it's a lot of work. I also need to go back and review some couple emails I received after last year's poll -- a couple offers of help, at least one person who asked to be invited (and should be).

To make up for these shortcomings in the invitation process, I asked people to inform and possibly invite their colleagues. Thus far I haven't received any takers, or for that matter inquiries. The only evidence I have is that some spam has started getting caught there. Not a lot, and none of it's getting through, but it's one more thing to deal with.

At this moment, the website is a bit behind my local copy, but I will refresh it a couple times this week. I need to edit several documentation files, and change the methodology notes in the totals files. The main things of possible public interest are the invitation, the list of critics who have voted, and the list of new releases and rara avis that have received votes. The actual results won't be public until ArtsFuse publishes them.

I've had very little time for updating my metacritic file, but I have added the mid-year lists I've been noting in the Speaking of Which music section, so there's been a bit of movement. File still needs a lot of work. I did, by the way, start counting all of the metal magazines at AOTY (but I've yet to go back and fill in the ones I skipped earlier). I wish their coverage of jazz, hip-hop, electronica, and country was as deep as their interest in metal, but it isn't. I haven't gotten around to sources like All About Jazz, Saving Country Music, and Hip Hop Golden Age, which would help remedy those deficits. No time, and not much energy these days. Also, I can barely see, so if I don't post this right away, it won't make it tonight.

PS: Facebook blocked me, so I may give that a rest.


New records reviewed this week:

BbyMutha: Sleep Paralysis (2024, True Panther): Rapper Brittnee Moore, from Chattanooga, second album, Bandcamp page attributes it to "BIGMUTHA," but every other source goes as I have it, sometimes no-caps. B+(**) [sp]

Beings: There Is a Garden (2024, No Quarter): New York-based quartet of Zoh Amba (tenor sax, mostly), Steve Gunn (guitar), Shahzad Ismaily (bass, synth), and Jim White (drums). I never thought of Gunn as a jazz musician, and he doesn't have to be one when filling in behind Amba's sax or piano (even more indebted to Charles Gayle than her sax), but when she sings, he presents a Velvet Underground vibe so she can be Moe Tucker. No attempt at fusion here. Just multiplicities. A- [sp]

Chris Byars: Boptics (2023 [2024], SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, what you might call a retro-bebopper, probably the most talented musician to first appear on Luke Kaven's early 2000s Smalls label, which also produced exceptional records by two more musicians in this sextet: Zaid Nasser (alto sax) and Ari Roland (bass). They're joined here by Stefano Doglioni (bass clarinet), John Mosca (trombone), and Keith Balla (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Kim Cass: Levs (2023 [2024], Pi): Bassist, second album, composed everything here, mostly for pianist Matt Mitchell, who he's supported in the past, and is striking (as usual) here. Also with Tyshawn Sorey (drums), and (except for 3-4 tracks) flute (Laura Cocks) and euphonium (Adam Dotson). B+(***) [cd]

Ernesto Cervini's Turboprop: A Canadian Songbook (2022 [2024], Three Pines): Canadian drummer, based in Toronto, half-dozen albums since his 2015 Turboprop introduced his group name. Sextet with two saxophonists (Tara Davidson and Joel Frahm), trombone (William Carn), piano (Adrean Farrugia), and bass (Dan Loomis). Songs are sentimental favorites in his neck of the woods, but they travel well. B+(***) [bc]

Coco Chatru Quartet: Future (2024, Trygger Music): Swedish group, named for "a legendary Swedish adventurer," label for bassist Hĺkan Trygger, who wrote four (of eight) pieces, with two each by Daniel Kĺse (drums) and Linus Kĺse (alto sax), zero by Charlie Malmberg (baritone sax). Slippery postbop, somewhat understated. B+(***) [lp]

Alfredo Colón: Blood Burden (2023 [2024], Out of Your Head): Alto saxophonist, based in Brooklyn, first album, quartet with Lex Korten (piano/keybs), Steve Williams (bass), and Connor Parks (drums), original pieces plus a Son House blues. This develops impressively, in the "spiritual jazz" vein pioneered by Coltrane, Sanders, and Ayler, alongside more recent efforts by saxophonists like Nat Birchall. A- [cd]

GloRilla: Ehhthang Ehhthang (2024, Cocaine Muzik Group/Interscope): Rapper Gloria Hallelujah Woods, from Memphis, two albums, this one's considered her second mixtape, crunk (I've read). Lot of b&n here (as in "ain't no b in me, n"). If you can roll with that, this should rock you. B+(***) [sp]

Conrad Herwig: The Latin Side of McCoy Tyner (2024, Savant): Trombonist, born in Oklahoma, studied at UNT, joined Clark Terry's 1980s band, played with Joe Henderson, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Joe Lovano, Mingus Big Band; first leader album in 1987, joined Eddie Palmieri in 1994, and recorded his initial The Latin Side of John Coltrane in 1996, since followed by Shorter, Hancock, Henderson, Silver, Mingus, and now Tyner. This one has Alex Norris (trumpet), Craig Handy (tenor/baritone sax), Bill O'Connell (piano), with the usual percussion excitement, and a special guest slot for Palmieri. B+(**) [sp]

Janel & Anthony: New Moon in the Evil Age (2024, Cuneiform): Janel Leppin (cello) and Anthony Pirog (guitar), self-released an album together in 2006, another for Cuneiform in 2012. They've since gone on to establish separate careers, but reunite here for what is effectively two albums: the first a ten-track suite of darkly engaging duet instrumentals, the second a singer-songwriter set with Leppin doing most of the singing -- jazz-influenced, no doubt, but not something one would note in a blindfold test. I find the songs a tad more appealing, but probably for the music, as I can't say much about the lyrics. B+(**) [cdr]

Mathias Hřjgaard Jensen: Is as Is (2022 [2024], Fresh Sound New Talent): Danish bassist, lives in Brooklyn, probably his first album as leader (Discogs has three side credits since 2019, his website has 13), all his pieces, quartet with David Mirarchi (alto sax), Jacob Sacks (piano), and Steven Crammer (drums). This is very nice: subtle and intricate postbop that sneaks up on you. A- [cd]

Malcolm Jiyane Tree-O: True Story (2020-21 [2024], New Soil/Mushroom Hour): South African trombonist, second group album. B+(**) [sp]

Alex Kautz: Where We Begin (2024, Sunnyside): Brazilian drummer, based in New York, married to Mexican singer Magos Herrera (featured on two songs here), with John Ellis (tenor sax/clarinet), Chico Pinheiro (guitar), Helio Alves (piano), and Joe Martin (bass). B+(*) [cd]

Cassie Kinoshi's SEED.: Gratitude (2023 [2024], International Anthem): British alto saxophonist, plays in the Afrobeat group Kokoroko, leads the large SEED Ensemble (first album in 2019, nominated for Mercury Prize, was upper case then but lower case now), which is a skeletal big band plus string quartet, flute, tuba, and turntables. Title piece runs 21:56, is packaged with a slightly smaller group on a 5:42 piece (so 27:38 total). B+(*) [sp]

Charlie Kohlhase's Explorer's Club: A Second Life (2022 [2024], Mandorla Music): Saxophonist (alto, tenor, baritone), based in Boston, Discogs credits him on 48 albums since 1985 (many with Either/Orchestra) but Wikipedia hasn't noticed yet, third group album, an octet with tenor sax (Seth Meicht), trumpet (Dan Rosenthal), trombone (Jeb Bishop), tuba (Josiah Reibstein), guitar (Eric Hofbauer), bass, and drums. Originals plus covers from Elmo Hope, Ornette Coleman, John Tchicai, and Roswell Rudd. The bottom horns provide a lot of lift. A- [sp]

Janel Leppin: Ensemble Volcanic Ash: To March Is to Love (2023 [2024], Cuneiform): Cellist, released the album Ensemble Volcanic Ash in 2022, same basic group and concept here but I'm annoyed by the typography, so this is my solution. The music can also annoy, but also can turn remarkable, even living up to this hype: "progressive chamber jazz with the steely avant-garde that descends from Julius Hemphill's 1972 LP Dogon A.D." Hemphill's secret was cellist Abdul Wadud, whose name appears in the opening "Ode." Sextet with Brian Settles (tenor sax), Sarah Hughes (alto sax), Anthony Pirog (guitar), Luke Stewart (bass), and Larry Ferguson (drums). B+(***) [cdr]

Frank London/The Elders: Spirit Stronger Than Blood (2023 [2024], ESP-Disk): Trumpet player, has extensive experience in klezmer music (Klezmatics, Hasidic New Wave, Klezmer Brass Allstars, Klezmer Conservatory Band) as well as straight jazz -- here often evoking Ellington and Mingus, with tributes to Lester Bowie and Ron Miles. B+(***) [cd]

Megan Thee Stallion: Megan (2024, Hot Girl): Rapper Megan Pete, fourth album (plus several EPs) since 2019, I usually like her raunch and roll, but runs long here, for mixed results. B+(***) [sp]

Che Noir: The Color Chocolate, Volume 1 (2024, Poetic Movement, EP): Rapper Marche Lashawn, from Buffalo, Discogs lists as Che'Noir, cover looks more like Chč Noir. EP is four songs, 10:58, but Discogs has more cuts, and Wikipedia has nothing, which is odd given that Discogs lists seven songs and six singles/EPs. Even at this length, this feels pretty substantial. B+(**) [sp]

Clarence Penn: Behind the Voice (2024, Origin): Drummer, has several albums, one original here plus a batch of soul & rock standards from the 1970s-80s, roughly Stevie Wonder to Prince, with sides of Peter Gabriel and Don Henley, employing five guest singers, with Kurt Elling the one you've heard of (but may not want to hear). B+(*) [cd]

Ken Peplowski: Unheard Bird (2024, Arbors): Supposedly another chapter of "Bird with Strings": a first recording of arrangements commissioned for Charlie Parker. The leader, playing clarinet and tenor sax, is not a very obvious choice for this project, but if the idea is simply to make Bird cornier, who is? Peplowski leads a very capable quintet with Terell Stafford (trumpet), Glenn Zaleski (piano), Peter Washington ( bass), and Willie Jones III (drums), while Loren Schoenberg conducts an orchestra of strings, harp, and oboe. B- [sp]

Ken Peplowski: Live at Mezzrow [Smalls Live Living Masters Series] (2023 [2024], Cellar Music): This is more like what he's done so consistently since 1989: tenor sax and clarinet, playing swing standards with the occasional bop reference (Monk, Hank Jones), leading a rhythm section that's been doing just that for decades: Ted Rosenthal (piano), Martin Wind (bass), Willie Jones III (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Carla Santana/José Lencastre/Maria do Mar/Gonçalo Almeida: Defiant Ilussion (2023 [2024], A New Wave of Jazz): Electronics, alto/tenor sax, violin, bass quartet, recorded in Portugal. B+(***) [bc]

Dirk Serries/Rodrigo Amado/Andrew Lisle: The Invisible (2021 [2024], Klanggalerie): Belgian guitarist, Portuguese tenor saxophonist, English drummer, recorded in Belgium, three pieces (56:44). Amado is superb when he gets out front. B+(***) [bc]

Matthew Shipp: The Data (2021 [2024], RogueArt, 2CD): Pianist, brilliant, many albums since the late 1980s, probably has a dozen solos by now, with this one of the better ones, if you're at all so inclined. B+(***) [cdr]

TV Smith: Handwriting (2024, JKP/Easy Action): T for Timothy, was singer-songwriter in British punk band the Adverts, released two 1977-78 albums, best remembered for the single "Gary Gilmore's Eyes," but the song I always think of is "One Chord Wonders." He formed another band, then went solo in 1983, and has recorded pretty regularly since 1992 -- way off my radar. Older now, which means slower, and anger ripened into bitterness, and therefore gravitas. B+(***) [sp]

Anthony Stanco: Stanco's Time (2023 [2024], OA2): Trumpet player, second album, side credits back to 2011, half originals, half jazz standards from Ellington and early boppers (Parker, Monk, Dameron, Davis), half with "Time" in the title. With Randy Napoleon (guitar), Xavier Davis (piano), bass, drums, and on three cuts, Walter Blanding (tenor sax). B+(**) [cd]

TiaCorine: Almost There (2024, South Scope/Interscope, EP): Rapper from North Carolina, merged her first two names together, omitting Thompson Shultz, mother is Shoshone, father has roots in Japan and Africa. She released an EP in 2020, an album in 2022, back here with eight songs, 16:38. Title is about right. B+(**) [sp]

Ryan Truesdell: Synthesis: The String Quartet Sessions (2022-23 [2024], ArtistShare, 3CD): Composer/arranger/conductor, started as Maria Schneider's assistant, made his name with "Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans," has conducted "The Music of Bob Brookmeyer." Here he's composed a bit and arranged or at least currated a lot of new compositions for string quartet, with a few strategic guest spots. B+(**) [cdr]

Steve Turre: Sanyas (2023 [2024], Smoke Sessions): Trombonist, also plays conch shells, couple dozen albums since 1987, quite a bit of side work (Discogs lists 224 albums he played trombone on). Live sextet here with Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Ron Blake (tenor sax), Isaiah Thompson (piano), Buster Williams (bass), and Lenny White (drums). Starts with title track, which Turre wrote for Woody Shaw's The Moontrane (1974), evoking the classic trombone-augmented hard bop sextets of the 1960s. Ends with a very nice "These Foolish Things." B+(***) [sp]

Lisa Ullén: Heirloom (2023 [2024], Fönstret): Swedish pianist, born in Seoul, South Korea, over a dozen albums under her own name since 2006, more side-credits. First solo album, each side with a variation on the same three-part suite. B+(**) [bc]

Jack Walrath: Live at Smalls (2023 [2024], Cellar Music): Trumpet player, started out with Mingus in the mid-1970s, debut album 1979, had an impressive run in the 1990s, has five albums on SteepleChase since 2008 -- quite a bit of work I should catch up on. Quintet here with Abraham Burton (tenor sax), George Burton (piano), Boris Kozlov (bass), and Donald Edwards (drums), revisiting his songbook and adding to the legacy ("A Bite of Tunisia," "Mood for Muhal," etc.). B+(***) [sp]

Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Fu##in' Up (2023 [2024], Reprise): Live album, from Tivoli in Toronto, reprising their 1990 album Ragged Glory, a pretty solid A- at the time, dropping one song ("Mother Earth"), renaming most of the rest (title song becomes "Heart of Steel"), length up 1:50. Hard to see this as necessary, but sounds good and gets better. B+(***) [r]

Denny Zeitlin: Panoply (2012-23 [2024], Sunnyside): Pianist, 86 now, has recorded since 1964, while pursuing a parallel career in psychiatry. This offers a good survey of his range, from solo pieces (2012) to a trio (2019) with Buster Williams and Matt Wilson, plus home recordings in a duo with George Marsh (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Christer Bothén Featuring Bolon Bata: Trancedance [40th Anniversary Edition] (1984 [2024], Black Truffle): Swedish tenor sax/bass clarinet player, first albums were with Don Cherry, this was the first he led, Bolon Bata the band name, went on to a second album in 1988. Before this he lived and studied in Mali and Morocco, also playing doson n'goni and guimbri here, the large groups featuring other African instruments, and various vocals. A- [bc]

Johnny Griffin Quartet: Live in Valencia 92 [The Jordi Suńol Archives 3] (1992 [2024], Storyville): Tenor saxophonist (1928-2008), distinguished himself with Thelonious Monk in the 1950s, had a major career in the 1960s, recorded consistently during the 1970s and 1980s (on widely scattered labels), enjoyed something of a comeback in the 1990s. Live set from Spain -- part of a series of archives that started with albums by Phil Woods and Mulgrew Miller -- with Hervé Sellin (piano), Reggie Johnson (bass), and Doug Sides (drums). Opens fast, closes gently. B+(***) [sp]

Shelly Manne & His Men: Jazz From the Pacific Northwest (1958-66 [2024], Reel to Real): Drummer (1920-84), started in swing bands, quickly adapted to bebop and majored in cool jazz; played with Stan Kenton, André Previn, and Ornette Coleman; led small groups, his 1959 Black Hawk sets with Richie Kamuca and Victor Feldman are especially esteemed. Two LPs here, the first from Monterey in 1958 with Stu Williamson (trumpet), Herb Geller (alto sax), Russ Freeman (piano), and Monty Budwig (bass); the second from Seattle in 1966 has Conte Candoli (trumpet), Frank Strozier (flute/alto sax), Hampton Hawes (piano), Budwig, and Ruth Price (vocals). B+(**) [sp]

Brother Jack McDuff: Ain't No Sunshine: Live in Seattle (1972 [2024], Reel to Real): Organ player (1926-2001), recorded 20-plus albums for Prestige 1960-66, establishing himself as one of the main soul jazz talents of the period, recording much less prolifically thereafter (for Atlantic, Blue Note, Cadet, and after 1992 for Concord). This is previously unreleased, a couple of nice sets with sax (Leo Johnson or Dave Young) and sometimes trumpet (unknown), as well as guitar and drums. B+(*) [sp]

Shelly Manne & His Men: Jazz From the Pacific Northwest (1958-66 [2024], Reel to Real): Drummer (1920-84), started in swing bands, quickly adapted to bebop and majored in cool jazz; played with Stan Kenton, André Previn, and Ornette Coleman; led small groups, his 1959 Black Hawk sets with Richie Kamuca and Victor Feldman are especially esteemed. Two LPs here, the first from Monterey in 1958 with Stu Williamson (trumpet), Herb Geller (alto sax), Russ Freeman (piano), and Monty Budwig (bass); the second from Seattle in 1966 has Conte Candoli (trumpet), Frank Strozier (flute/alto sax), Hampton Hawes (piano), Budwig, and Ruth Price (vocals). B+(**) [sp]

Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre: Live From Studio Rivbea: July 12, 1975 [Rivbea Live! Series, Volume 1] (1975 [2024], No Business): Tenor saxophonist (1936-2013), born in Arkansas, grew up in Chicago (AACM, two albums on Delmark), and on to New York, where he played in the streets, subways, and lofts, first recording as Kalaparusha in 1970, with an uptick in activity around 1998. The label has done a terrific job of releasing archival tapes by Sam Rivers, who was the central figure in New York's "loft scene, so it's nice to see them building out. B+(***) [cd]

Sun Ra: Excelsior Mill (1984 [2024], Sundazed/Modern Harmonic): Solo organ performance, described here as "like a cross between a demonically riffing '50s horror movie villain and a futuristic congregation leader delivering the interplanetary gospel," and indeed this instrument often evokes church and/or horror movies. I'm not particularly fond of either. B [sp]

Old music:

Christer Bothén Trio: Triolos (2003-04 [2006], LJ): Leader plays bass clarinet, ngoni, guimbri; trio with David Stackenäs (guitar) and Peter Söderberg (theorbo, lute, guitar, low budget electronics). Rather abstract, more interesting than compelling. B+(**) [sp]

Ernesto Cervini: Joy (2021 [2022], Three Pines): Toronto-based drummer, composer, several albums, also a tireless publicist for his fellow Canadian musicians (many, including guest vocalists, featured here), credits this as "inspired by Louise Penny's Gamache series of books and the qualities of goodness, decency, courage, and love that permeate them." B+(**) [sp]

Maurice McIntyre: Humility in the Light of the Creator (1969, Delmark): Tenor saxophonist, first album, two suites ("Ensemble Love" and "Ensemble Fate"), the first dominated by George Hines' incantatory vocal, the latter picks up piano (Amina Claudine Myers) and more horns (Leo Smith on trumpet, John Stubblefield on soprano sax). B+(**) [sp]

Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre: Forces and Feelings (1970 [1972], Delmark): Second album, cover has "Kalaparusha" in large type on top line, title (smaller, because it's longer) on second line, then "Maurice McIntyre" (smaller still) as third line, while the back cover credits tenor sax, clarinet, flute, and bells to "Kalaparusha Ahra Difda." Backed by guitar (Sarnie Garrett), bass (Fred Hopkins), and drums (Wesley Tyus), with vocals by Rita Omolokun. B+(**) [sp]

Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre Quartet: Peace and Blessings (1979, Black Saint): Italian label, became a major outlet for American "loft scene" veterans (especially David Murray). This was recorded in Milan, with Longineau Parsons on trumpet (both also playing related instruments), Leonard Jones (bass), and King L. Mock (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Jack Walrath Quintet: In Europe (1982 [1983], SteepleChase): Trumpet player, played with Mingus in the 1970s (and later in various Mingus big bands), early in his career as a leader, with a relatively unknown group (Anthony Cox, on bass, is the only one I recognize), for a set in Copenhagen, playing four of his pieces. B+(*) [sp]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Robby Ameen: Live at the Poster Museum (Origin) [07-26]
  • BassDrumBone: Afternoon (Auricle) [06-24]
  • Mai-Liis: Kaleidoscope (OA2) [07-26]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Wednesday, July 3, 2024


Music Week

July archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42580 [42549] rated (+31), 29 [22] unrated (+7).

Nominally a day late (ok, two days), but last Music Week was two days late, so this is still a short week. I started off most days with old r&b in the CD player -- especially Scratchin': The Wild Jimmy Spruill Story, which combined a few minor hits with some major studio work, leading me to tweet up two singles (Bobby Lewis, Tossin' and Turnin', and Bobby Long, The Pleasure Is All Mine). Beyond that, what I got to was pretty haphazard, with a fair amount of old music left over from the William Parker research.

My piece was published by ArtsFuse, here: Celebrating bassist William Parker's lifetime of achievement. You can also find my 2003 CG, with its updated discography, and my notes file, which includes my full set of reviews of albums Parker. The former could still use some cleanup, especially to separate out the albums that Parker didn't play on -- the CG was originally focused on Matthew Shipp and the Thirsty Ear Blue Series he curated, until I started noticing how many more albums Parker played on and how central they were to the whole circle. The latter needs even more work, as most of it was cut-and-pasted from my book files (which are now several years out of date), with others copied with HTML markup (where they still have bold credits and letter grades). If I didn't fear getting sucked into a huge time sink, I'd go fix those, but for now I can only offer excuses.


Besides, I have a much more urgent website project to work on. I've decided to use my Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll contacts to run a Mid-Year straw poll. I explain this on the website (which still needs a good deal of work) and in the invite letter (which went out to approx. 200 critics on June 30). I'm asking for lists of up to 10 new releases (which can include newly discovered 2023 releases) and/or up to 5 "rara avis" (old music, recorded 10+ years ago, or reissues). Deadline is July 14, and ArtsFuse will publish the results, probably later that week.

The Poll is a quickie experiment. I've simplified the rules to make it easier on voters (and hopefully on he who counts), and I've saved myself a lot of work by only sending out one batch of invites without trying to vet new voters. The problem with the "one batch" approach is that I'm using a server and software that has been known to run afoul of some spam traps. I especially fear that people with gmail addresses may have their invites diverted or discarded. But it's impossible to test and verify these things. I made an effort to research this problem before, to little avail, and I will make another one soon, but in the meantime, please read the following, and follow up if anything seems to apply to you:

  1. If you've ever voted before, or for that matter received an invite before, and haven't received an invite, please check your spam filter. If you find one, take steps to get your mail provider to recognize that the mail isn't spam. If you can't find one, assume you're eligible and use this one. Follow the instructions, and vote. Let me know if you want to be added to my list (jazzpoll [at] hullworks.net). Not everyone who has voted is on the list (various reasons, including sloth on my part), but I can add you. The advantage of being on the list is that I'll send you updates and further requests.

  2. If you haven't received an invite, but think you should be qualified, look up the invite, follow instructions, and send me your lists. You need to have some real expertise in jazz (my first approximation would be listening to 200+ jazz records per year, but that's easy for me to say because I listen to 700+), have some verifiable credentials (you write about some of them, which can be on your own blog or mainstream or niche publications, and/or you broadcast about them, which obviously includes radio but I suppose could extend to podcasts), and construct lists that are focused on jazz (the occasional outlier or, as DownBeat likes to call them, "beyond"; by the way, "smooth jazz" is not jazz, at least for purposes of establishing credibility, although it may be acceptable as "beyond"). If this checks out, I will very likely accept your ballot, and you'll be on the inside track for future invites.

  3. Check with your friends: make sure they got their invites, and let people you think should be voting know that they can vote, and how. They can always hit me up with questions, but we don't have a lot of time, so it's best to move fast.

  4. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to publicize this wider, although bear in mind that I still see this as a forum of critics -- even though I recognize that there are lots of fans that have become pretty expert themselves, especially given how easy it's become to check out new music on streaming platforms.

Also, one key point to emphasize is that this isn't a big deal. I'm not asking you to exercise Solomonic (or Christgauvian) judgment over the jazz universe. Your list doesn't have to find the absolute best records (whatever that might mean). Nor does it have to be ranked. (Although blessed are the rankers, for they get slightly more points weighting for their efforts.) Nor does it even have to be a full list. Just jot down a few albums that you would like to recommend to other people. That's mostly how these lists will be used.

Given the late date, the short deadline, my various shortcuts, and the fact that we've never done this before, I'm not expecting much, but even if we just get 50 voters (as opposed to the 159 in 2023), I think the lists will be interesting and informative.

I started to track mid-year lists when they started appearing just before June 1 -- see my metacritic file, which is running behind at the moment, as the last couple weeks haven't allowed much opportunity to work on it -- and they both give me a broad sense of what's out there and a useful roster of prospects to check out. This also ties into my tracking file, which has a jazz selector (currently listing 400 jazz albums, of which I have 332; this list will expand as I receive your lists: from past experience, about 30% of the albums that show up in ballots are ones I hadn't previously tracked; there's also a no grade variant, for those who don't want to see my grades).

The website started off as a clone of last year's, with minor hacks. As I do more work to it this week, it should become a more useful source of information about the Poll and its progress. For instance, I need to revise things like the FAQ and the Admin Guide. I also hope to get some work done on the older parts of the website, especially to fill in information that predates my involvement (in administration; I've voted every year, from the founding).

I hope to make the website the best source for information about the Poll. But if you wish to follow, check my Music Week posts, and follow me on twitter (or "X" if you prefer; I haven't jumped ship yet, although at this point it's rare for one of my tweets to be viewed by as much as a third of my nominal followers, so the returns seem pretty slim).


Some other website work: I've done an update to Carola Dibbell's website, as her novel, The Only Ones is being reprinted, and she has an event later in July. I haven't done my database update to Robert Christgau's website yet, but have all of the CG reviews in my private copy. I still have to do some cross-referencing work, but should update the website in a couple days.

I have a question about Michael Brecker that I need to research a bit. Would be nice to have a couple more to gang it up with.

We've gone through more email tsuris, as Cox has dumped all of their email customers (or at least us) onto Yahoo. It appears to be stable now, but Yahoo has a pretty poor reputation, so we'll see.

I did post another food pic on Facebook, if you into that sort of thing: Indian chicken, potatoes, cabbage, eggplant, raita, and paratha.

I posted a massive Speaking of Which late Monday night (290 links is probably a record; 11720 words isn't, but is quite a lot). I've added a few more things today, and will probably add some more before I get this posted. I'm inclined to hold off on further complaints about the horrible Supreme Court, but would like to capture as much of the initial reaction to the Trump-Biden debate as may be useful. I'm grateful that I didn't bother with anything written in advance of the debate.

This particular post got delayed an extra day as I got stuck writing a long comment on Robert Christgau's Xgau Sez. And while I got that done by 5PM, the delay occasioned one last round of "addl" tags.


New records reviewed this week:

Arooj Aftab: Night Reign (2024, Verve): Pakistani singer-songwriter, born in Saudi Arabia, returned to Lahore when she was 10, on to US at 19, studied at Berklee, based in New York, fifth album, got some notice in 2023 whens he shared billing on Love in Exile with Vijay Iyer and Shahzad Ismally. B+(***) [sp]

Alan Braufman: Infinite Love Infinite Tears (2024, Valley of Search): Saxophonist, had a few years in New York in the mid-1970s working around the lofts with Cooper-Moore and William Parker, then did something else until retirement age, when he reissued his one album (actually quite good) and some archival tapes, and started working on a new one. This follows up on the promise of 2020's The Fire Still Burns, with James Brandon Lewis (tenor sax), Patricia Brennan (vibes), Ken Filiano (bass), Chad Taylor (drums), and Michael Wimberly (percussion). B+(***) [r]

Ani DiFranco: Unprecedented Sh!t (2024, Righteous Babe): Folkie singer-songwriter, had a lot of edge when she emerged in 1990. This one doesn't particularly grab me, but probably deserves another listen. [PS: It does, as her critique is sharp as ever, but the music still doesn't grab me.] B+(*) [sp]

Dayramir González: V.I.D.A. [Verdad, Independencia, Diversidad Y Amor] (2024, self-released): Cuban pianist, based in New York, has a 2008 album with Habana Entrance, not sure what else. B [sp]

Morgan Guerin: Tales of the Facade (2024, Candid): Self-described "prolific multi-instrumentalist and visionary composer," born "right outside New Orleans," studied at New School and Berklee, based in New York, side-credits since 2019, appears to have three previous albums, plays sax and related, keyboards, electric bass, and drums, but I can't find any credits here, and I'm thrown by all the vocals. B+(*) [sp]

Goran Kajfeš Tropiques: Tell Us (2024, We Jazz): Swedish trumpet player, quite a few albums since his 2000 debut, quartet with Alex Zethson (keyboards), Johan Berthling (bass), and Johan Holmegard (drums), third group album. Has a wide, panoramic feel. B+(***) [sp]

Bill Laurance/The Untold Orchestra: Bloom (2022 [2024], ACT Music): British pianist, member of Snarky Puppy at least 2006-20, own albums since 2012, his keyboards leading an orchestra, conducted by Rory Storm, of 18 strings. Reflects his roots in classical music, and probably impressive as such, but quite enjoyable, too. B+(**) [sp]

Les Savy Fav: Oui, LSF (2024, Frenchkiss): Art punk band from Rhode Island, released five albums 1997-2010, return for another 14 years later. Still a potent combination of hooks and volume. Last song is triumphant: "We were there when the world got great/ We helped to make it that way." B+(**) [sp]

Grégoire Maret/Romain Collin: Ennio (2024, ACT Music): Swiss harmonica player, eponymous debut 2012, second album with the French pianist, backed by guitar-bass-drums, with flute (Alexandra Sopp) and heavyweight vocal guests Gregory Porter and Cassandra Wilson. B+(*) [sp]

Zara McFarlane: Sweet Whispers: Celebrating Sarah Vaughan (2024, Universal): British jazz/soul singer, fifth album, standards. I don't have a good feel for how representative they are, or even much of an idea how Vaughan sung them: I was so surprised by "Inner City Blues" I stopped the record to compare Vaughan's 1972 version. Vaughan's voice is unrivaled for stature and precision, but I rather like McFalane's softer, sweeter tone, and the loose swing of her arrangements. B+(**) [sp]

Ngwaka Son Systčme: Iboto Ngenge (2024, Eck Echo): Spinoff from Kinshasa (Congo) group Kokoko, emphasis on electrobeats. Six songs, 28:22. B+(**) [sp]

Normani: Dopamine (2024, RCA): R&B singer from Atlanta, last name Hamilton, formerly of the vocal group Fifth Harmony (3 albums, 2015-17), first solo album. B+(**) [r]

Carly Pearce: Hummingbird (2024, Big Machine): Country singer-songwriter from Kentucky, fourth album since 2017, found herself in her age-marking 29: Written in Stone. This sounds pretty good -- even the Levi's jingle. B+(***) [sp]

Dave Rempis/Tashi Dorji Duo: Gnash (2024, Aerophonic): Rempis plays his full range of saxophones (soprano/alto/tenor/baritone), with his usual fierce resolve, with Dorji pushing (and occasionally rivaling) on guitar. I'm impressed, as always, but doubt the harsh tone (or maybe the specific harmonics, or the lack of a drummer) will make this an album I return to. B+(***) [cd]

Sisso & Maiko: Singeli Ya Maajabu (2024, Nyege Nyege Tapes): Tanzanian DJ Mohamed Hamza Ally, "figurehead" of the Sisso Records label, with one of his producer/keyboardists, for a volume of high velocity, klang-and-squiggle-filled dance beats. B+(*) [sp]

Jason Stein/Marilyn Crispell/Damon Smith/Adam Shead: Spi-raling Horn (2023 [2024], Balance Point Acoustics): Bass clarinet player, has gotten steadily better since his 2007 debut, adds a stellar pianist to his recent bass-drums trio. A- [sp]

Thollem: Worlds in a Life, Two (2024, ESP-Disk): Pianist, goes by first name, last name is McDonas, nominally a solo album, but draws on samples from previous albums, so side credits for William Parker (bass), Michael Wimberly (drums), Pauline Oliveros (MIDI accordion), Terry Riley (vocals), Nels Cline (guitar, effects, Mega mouth). B+(**) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Alan Braufman: Live in New York City: February 8, 1975 (1975 [2022], Valley of Search): Saxophonist, aka Alan Michael or Alan Michael Braufman, recorded a 1975 album, Valley of Search, that he reissued to much acclaim in 2018, followed up by a new album, The Fire Still Burns, and reissue of some early tapes, like this one, a WBAI airshot with Cooper-Moore (piano), William Parker (bass), John Clark (French horn), Jim Schapperowe (drums), and Ralph Williams (percussion). B+(***) [r]

DJ Notoya: Funk Tide: Tokyo Jazz-Funk From Electric Bird 1978-87 (1978-87 [2024], Wewantsounds/Electric Bird): Not sure how much credit the presenter deserves here. The music is closer to disco than to funk, and has minimal value as jazz. B- [sp]

Charles Gayle/Milford Graves/William Parker: WEBO (1991 [2024], Black Editions Archive): Tenor sax, drums, bass, a major new find in the late drummer's archives, running just over 2 hours (2-CD, 3-LP). Gayle (1939-2023) was like the truest heir of Albert Ayler, pushed to extremes I found very difficult to take when I first ran into him, so my grades are scattered, and likely in need of revision -- e.g., I still have Repent (1992) as a B, but at least get Touchin' on Trane at A-. This is in the same ballpark, but perhaps better mixed to bring out the truly amazing bass and percussion. A- [sp]

Ron Miles: Old Main Chapel (2011 [2024], Blue Note): Cornet player, from Denver, albums since 1987, signed with Blue Note for a 2020 album, shortly before he died at 58 in 2022. This is a live album, dating back to the trio he recorded Quiver with: Bill Frisell (guitar), and Brian Blade (drums). A decade later, this is a lovely memento. B+(***) [sp]

Old music:

Collective 4tet: Orca (1996 [1997], Leo Lab): Originally Heinz Geisser (drums), Mark Hennen (piano), William Parker (bass), and Michael Moss (reeds), for two albums 1992-93, before Moss was replaced by Jeff Hoyer (trombone), and they went on to record six more albums for Leo 1996-2009. Free jazz with chamber music intimacy. Several spots got me thinking this might be great, only to slip back into their framework. B+(***) [r]

Collective 4tet: Live at Crescent (1997 [1998], Leo Lab): Live in Belfast, no idea why. Loses a bit of edge, while retaining the complexity, which is not exactly how live albums are expected to excel. B+(**) [r]

Collective 4tet: Moving Along (2002 [2005], Leo): Recorded the same day as Synopsis. Three long pieces, in their zone, with trombone highlights. B+(**) [r]

Collective 4tet: In Transition (2008 [2009], Leo): One more album, the trombonist departed, replaced by Arthur Brooks (trumpet/flugelhorn), who plays this close to the vest, as pianist Mark Hennen takes a more pominent role. B+(***) [sp]

Marco Eneidi Quintet: Final Disconnect Notice (1994, Botticelli): Alto sax, second horn is Karen Borca's bassoon, an excellent pairing, especially when they get dicey, backed by two bassists (Wilber Morris and William Parker, who also plays some cello) and drums (Jackson Krall). B+(***) [yt]

Marco Eneidi/Glenn Spearman: Creative Music Orchestra: American Jungle Suite (1995 [1997], Music & Arts): Discogs gives title as Creative Music Orchestra, which cover and spine confirm, while other sources cite the title of the 69:05 piece the 21-piece big-band-plus-violins plays. Led by the two saxophonists (alto/tenor), Eneidi does most of the composing, arranging one piece from Cecil Talor, while Spearman wrote the final movement (26:48). Some great potential here, but could use a conductor. B+(**) [sp]

Marco Eneidi/William Parker/Donald Robinson: Cherry Box (1998 [2000], Eremite): Alto saxophonist (1956-2016), born in Portland, as a child took lessons from Sonny Simmons, moved to New York in 1981 to study with Jimmy Lyons, played with William Parker, Bill Dixon, Cecil Taylor, and Glenn Spearman. Trio here with bass and drums. Fierce leads, holding back only to let the others show off their magic. A- [sp]

Marco Eneidi/Vijay Anderson: Remnant Light (2004 [2018], Minus Zero): Alto sax and drums duo, a home-recorded tape unearthed after the saxophonist's death in 2016. B+(**) [bc]

Marco Eneidi Streamin' 4: Panta Rei (2013 [2015], ForTune): Alto saxophonist, American, active in free jazz circles since the early 1980s, picks up a like-minded group in Poland, with Marek Pospieszalski (tenor sax), Ksawery Wojcinski (bass), and Michal Trela (drums). B+(*) [sp]

Heinz Geisser/Shiro Onuma: Duo: Live at Yokohama Little John (2007 [2008], Leo): Swiss percussionist, member of Collective 4tet, Discogs list 10 albums under his name (plus 37 side-credits), in a rare drums duo. B+(*) [sp]

The Ivo Perelman Quartet: Sound Hierarchy (1996 [1997], Muisic & Arts): Brazilian tenor saxophonist, debut 1989, had released four albums through 1995, three more in 1996, then nine in 1997, of which this one looks most impressive on paper: Marilyn Crispell (piano), William Parker (bass), Gerry Hemingway (drums). Flexes some muscle, but not all that interesting. B+(*) [sp]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Derek Bailey/Sabu Toyozumi: Breath Awareness (1987, NoBusiness) [05-27]
  • Albert Beger/Ziv Taubenfeld/Shay Hazan/Hamid Drake: Cosmic Waves (No Business) [05-27]
  • Karen Borca Trio Quartet & Quintet: Good News Blues: Live at the Vision Festival 1998 & 2005 (No Business) [05-27]
  • Peter Brötzmann/Toshinori Kondo/Sabu Toyozumi: Complete Link (NoBusiness) [05-27]
  • Alfredo Colón: Blood Burden (Out of Your Head) [06-14]
  • Nick Dunston: Colla Voce (Out of Your Head) [04-26]
  • The Sofia Goodman Group: Receptive (Joyous) [07-26]
  • Monika Herzig's Sheroes: All in Good Time (Zoho) [07-22]
  • Hyeseon Hong Jazz Orchestra: Things Will Pass (Pacific Coast Jazz) [08-23]
  • Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre: Live From Studio Rivbea: July 12, 1975 [Rivbea Live! Series, Volume 1] (No Business) [05-27]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024


Music Week

June archive (final).

Music: Current count 42549 [42503] rated (+46), 22 [22] unrated (+0).

Updated: look for change bar below.

I perhaps foolishly agreed to write up an article on William Parker, this year's deserving recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award, and a feature evening of performances, at the 2024 Vision Festival, in New York last week. I figured I could dust off the Parker/Shipp Consumer Guide I wrote up back in 2003, and add a few odds and ends about later albums. It turned out not to be not quite that simple.

For one thing, when I finally rounded up all the reviews I had written on albums he had played on, the count came to 249. I then had to go back and check for false positives (the 2003 CG also included albums with Shipp but no Parker, and a few extras by artists in their circle), and for omissions. In this, I was massively aided by being able to consult Rick Lopez's William Parker Sessionography, but I was also slowed by its completeness and accumulation of fascinating detail. Back in the notes for my 2003 CG, I collected a select but fairly extensive discogrpahy. As I needed something similar to keep track of what I was doing, I started to update it, and that wound up taking a lot of time.

By last Thursday, I had gotten so flustered and panicked that I decided I had to give up trying to multitask and just focus on the Parker essay. I had started to write some introductory comments for the week's Speaking of Which, so I stopped there, and vowed to do no more until the piece was done. (I'm belatedly posting that introduction today, but with no news links or comments. Second, I resolved to only play Parker albums until I finished. I later relaxed that to allow myself to play and review albums I hadn't heard before, which is where most of the albums below came from.

I finally sent the essay in yesterday. No word yet on when (or I suppose if) it will be published. I decided that the best way to proceed from here is to post the partial Speaking of Which intro (which already had a sequence number) along with the Music Week reviews, then start on new blog posts for the usual dates next week. Of course, it's never that simple. This also turns out to be the last Music Week in June, so I have to wrap up one month's Streamnotes archive, and open up another.

I also have a jammed up pile of other work I need to crack on with, more email problems, plus home tasks, health troubles, etc. More stuff in flux, but I've droned on enough for here and now.

PS: [06-27] My piece on William Parker has been posted on ArtsFuse now: Jazz Commentary: Celebrating Bassist William Parker's Lifetime of Achievement. I have some notes to go along with this, but they're not really ready for presentation yet, so I'll work on them and have more to say later. Note that I did add the two books I referred at the end to my Recent Reading sidebar and roll.

I changed the status of June Streamnotes to "final," added the Music Week text, and compiled the 2024 and Artists indexes.

Next on my plate is to do some work on the Carola Dibbell and Robert Christgau websites, or maybe something with email, or maybe just get dinner first -- things I need to square away before getting to the mid-year Jazz Critics Poll (which I should send out notices on by Monday, assuming email works by then). But I'm really itching to open up a Speaking of Which draft file, as even with my recent blackout it's pretty obvious that there's an insane amount of important news to note and (mostly) bemoan.

PPS: I was going to apologize for not being able to figure out how to move the right-margin change mark inside the album cover pics so it's clearly tied to the changed text, but then it dawned on me to allow an option to put the change bar on the left, which should be good enough for now.

If the change bar doesn't appear for you, that's because your browser is using a cached CSS file. CTRL-SHIFT-R fixes this in Firefox. I also had to fix a ton of mistakes in the aforelinked Parker-Shipp CG file. I knew it wasn't ready, but should at least have made sure it loaded. That much is fixed now.


New records reviewed this week:

Fox Green: Light Over Darkness (2024, self-released): Alt/indie band from Little Rock, third album since 2020, Wade Derden is the singer and co-writer with Cam Patterson, both on guitar (and mandolin), backed with keyboards, bass, and drums, the production detailed but not cluttered with bits of horns, strings, and backup singers. First take suggests a clear distillation of the Allmans, but that may just be for lack of comparable referents, for what they lack in guitar power they make up for ballad touch and song smarts -- the latter drawing on Jesus, the Devil, and Sleepy John Estes. A- [cd]

Joel Futterman/William Parker: Why (2020 [2024], Soul City Sounds): Piano and bass duo. Futterman started in Chicago, moved to Virginia Beach in 1972, and started recording in 1979, becoming increasingly prolific in the 1990s. He's a very distinctive pianist, and Parker is as robust as ever. B+(***) [sp]

Andrea Grossi Blend 3 + Jim Black: Axes (2023 [2024], We Insist!): Italian bassist, second group album with Manuel Caliumi (alto sax) and Michele Bonifati (guitar), plus a drummer this time -- a really good one. B+(***) [sp]

Jared Hall: Influences (2022 [2024], Origin): Trumper player, based in Seattle, third album, quartet with piano (Tal Cohen), bass (Michael Glynn), and drums (John Bishop), playing originals plus one tune from Gigi Gryce. B+(***) [cd]

Jihee Heo: Flow (2023 [2024], OA2): South Korean pianist, studied in Amsterdam before landing in New York, second album, mostly trio (Alexander Claffy and Joe Farnsworth), nicely done, with a bonus: Vincent Herring (alto sax) joining for two tracks. B+(**) [cd]

Arushi Jain: Delight (2024, Leaving): Based in Brooklyn, plays synths and sings, having trained in India as a classical vocalist, is interested in "instrument design and sonic experimentation with a focus on linking western and eastern musicology." Result is you're engulfed in thick layers of sonic texture, searching for even the faintest hint of beat, which is faint indeed. B- [sp]

Kneecap: Fine Art (2024, Heavenly): Bilingual Irish hip-hop group from West Belfast (Mo Chara, Móglai Bap, DJ Próval), billed as their first album (aside from an 8-song, 31:03, self-released mixtape from 2021). Sounded more post-punk at first, but the cadences eventually signify, and the energy is compounded. Words? Hell if I know, but they have a rep as political. A- [sp]

Jim Kweskin: Never Too Late: Duets With Friends (2024, Storysound): Folksinger and guitarist, best known for his 1963-70 Jug Band, which introduced us to Geoff & Maria Muldaur -- she is the first of his featured friends here to appear here. Lots of friends, lots of songs. B+(***) [sp]

Jon Langford: Gubbins (2023, self-released): This seems to be an "odds & sods" compilation -- "songs that fell between the cracks" -- but without further documentation we might as well treat it as a new album. Eleven songs, 45:29, all interesting, valuable, not quite essential. B+(***) [sp]

Jon Langford & the Bright Shiners: Where It Really Starts (2024, Tiny Global Productions): Nominally an Austin band (or maybe found in northern California), led by the peripatetic Welshman, offhandedly countryish. B+(**) [bc]

Joe McPhee With Ken Vandermark: Musings of a Bahamian Son: Poems and Other Words (2021 [2024], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Mostly as advertised, which is not something I often get into, but pretty interesting spoken word, with little bits of soprano sax by McPhee, or clarinet/bass clarinet by Vandermark, which are always welcome. B+(*) [bc]

Star Splitter [Gabriele Mitelli/Rob Mazurek]: Medea (2022 [2024], We Insist!): Trumpet players (alternatively cornet or pocket trumpet), also credited with electronics and voice, did an album together in 2019 called Star Splitter. Rather tough going. B [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Tony Oxley Quintet: Angular Apron (1992 [2024], Corbett vs. Dempsey): British avant-jazz drummer (1938-2023), his 1969 The Baptised Traveler is a Penguin Guide crown album, the piece here (64:42) dates from the early 1970s, this previously unreleased take from the Ruhr Jazz Festival, with Larry Stabbins (soprano/tenor sax), Manfred Schoof (trumpet/flugelhorn), Pat Thomas (piano/electronics), and Sirone (bass). B+(***) [bc]

Tomasz Stanko Quartet: September Night (2004 [2024], ECM): Polish trumpet player (1942-2018), well known even before the Iron Curtain fell, a spare live tape with what at the time was referred to as his "young Polish quartet," rather than stumbling over the names Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz, and Michal Miskiewicz. B+(***) [sp]

Mars Williams & Hamid Drake: I Know You Are but What Am I (1996 [2024], Corbett vs. Dempsey): The late saxophonist (1955-2023, credited here with "reeds"), started with Hal Russell and continued his NRG Ensemble after Russell's death, bringing in Ken Vandermark for reinforcements, leading to his work in the first edition of the Vandermark 5. Williams' avant-gardism branched out into rock and acid jazz (Liquid Soul), as well as more esoteric ventures (like multiple volumes of An Ayler Xmas). This tape with exceptional drums is just what friends and fans most remember him for. A- [bc]

Mars Williams/Darin Gray/Chris Corsano: Elastic (2012 [2024], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Leader credited with "reeds, toys," joined by bass and drums for an improv set (43:51). Peaks points are intense and thrilling. The same year Williams founded a similar trio, Boneshaker, with Kent Kessler and Paal Nilssen-Love. B+(***) [bc]

Old music:

Peter Brötzmann/William Parker/Hamid Drake: Song Sentimentale (2015 [2016], Otoroku): The bassist and drummer are inventive as ever, while the tenor saxophonist blasts away, even when he switches up on clarinet or tarogato. Nothing obviously sentimental about it. B+(***) [bc]

Rob Brown Trio: Breath Rhyme (1989, Silkheart): Alto saxophonist, first album as leader here (following a duo with Matthew Shipp), with William Parker (bass) and Denis Charles (drums). He has a distinctive tone and flow, which he would go on to use to great effect in Parker's quartets and other projects, in many other associated groups, and sometimes, as here, as a leader. B+(**) [r]

Rob Brown Quartet: The Big Picture (2003 [2004], Marge): Alto saxophonist, with Roy Campbell (trumpet), William Parker (bass), and Hamid Drake (drums). B+(**) [r]

Dave Cappello & Jeff Albert With William Parker: New Normal (2015 [2016], Breakfast 4 Dinner): Drummer, doesn't have much except for duo and quartet work with the trombonist (who I know mostly from a group he co-led with Jeb Bishop), but evidently he got started playing with guitarist Bern Nix (who goes back to the 1970s Loft Scene, but is best known for his work with Ornette Coleman, and maybe James Chance). So Nix, who died in 2017, might have provided a connection to Parker, who adds bass and wood flute, elevating everyone's game. B+(***) [sp]

Kevin Coyne/Jon Langford/The Pine Valley Cosmonauts: One Day in Chicago (2002 [2005], Spinney): An oddball British singer-songwriter from the early 1970s, I'm surprised to only find one of his albums in my database (1974's Marjory Razor Blade, a B+, but a memorable one) as I'm sure I've heard more. He never made it big, but recorded pretty regularly up to his death in 2004, and surely rates a compilation, even if one would be hard-pressed to agree on a "best of." At this point I have no idea whether it would improve on this delightful live set, with a band of fans he found in Chicago. B+(***) [sp]

Jeremy Danneman: Lady Boom Boom (2013 [2015], Ropeadope): Saxophonist, played alto, tenor, clarinet, and more in three sessions that produced as many albums, released on a label that appreciates a good groove and is careless about who played what when in which order. But the personnel could do that and more: William Parker (not just bass), Anders Nilsson (guitar), and Timothy Keiper (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Jeremy Danneman: Help (2013 [2015], Ropeadope): More from the same sessions. B+(**) [sp]

Jeremy Danneman: Lost Signals (2013 [2016], Ropeadope): Same group, same sessions for a third album, with groove appeal informed by third world interests. A- [sp]

Jeremy Danneman and Sophie Nzayisenga: Honey Wine (2015 [2017], Ropeadope): The saxophonist has an organization/project called "Parade of One," slogan "engaging the international community with street performance." He met Nzayisenga in Rwanda, where she plays inanga and sings, and arranged to bring her to New York to record. Visa problems delayed that until here, where they are joined by William Parker (bass) and Tim Keiper (drums). A groove delight. A- [sp]

Jeremy Danneman and the Down on Me: The Big Fruit Salad (2022, Ropeadope): One more album (so far), wrote and sung lyrics, which reduces the saxophone/clarinet. Also lost the bass and drums, so less groove to brag about, but Anders Nilsson returns on guitar, and Joe Exley's sousaphone saves with swing. For singer-songwriter comps, the first two that pop into mind are Thomas Anderson and Ed Hammel. He's not as good (or maybe I just mean as funny) as either, but he's interesting in similar ways. Choice cut: "Tomato." B+(*) [sp]

Die Like a Dog Quartet Featuring Roy Campbell: From Valley to Valley (1998 [1999], Eremite): Peter Brötzmann quartet, name derives from their 1993 album, originally with Toshinori Kondo (trumpet), William Parker (bass), and Hamid Drake (drums), but on this particular date -- recorded in Amherst, MA -- Campbell replaces Kondon on trumpet. B+(*) [sp]

Sophia Domancich/Hamid Drake/William Parker: Washed Away: Live at the Sunside (2008 [2009], Marge): French pianist, side credits start in 1983, with her first trio in 1991. Another trio here, as can happen when famous Americans wander about Europe. Set of three pieces: one joint credit, one from Mal Waldron, and no less than 36:37 of "Lonely Woman." B+(***) [sp]

Hamid Drake & Sabir Mateen: Brothers Together (2000 [2002], Eremite): Duo, Drake plays frame and trap drums, Mateen is credited with clarinets, flute, alto sax, tenor sax, vocals. Terrific. A- [sp]

Farmers by Nature [Gerald Cleaver/William Parker/Craig Taborn]: Love and Ghosts (2011 [2014], AUM Fidelity, 2CD): Drums-bass-piano trio, group name from their 2009 album, third group album, all pieces joint credits so presumably improvised, this from two days in France, 133 minutes. Long, some major high stretches. B+(***) [sp]

Peter Kuhn: Ghost of a Trance (1979-80 [1981], Hat Hut): Clarinet/saxophone player, was consistently excellent in William Parker circles 1978-81, vanished after that until 2015, when he released another series of superb albums. This combines two sessions, one fairly abstract 19:00 clarinet piece with Phillip Wilson on percussion and Parker on tuba, the other a more typical free jazz outing with Dave Sewelson on alto/bari sax, plus guitar, piano, and vibes (but no drums). B+(**) [yt]

Jon Langford & the Men of Gwent: The Legend of LL (2015, Country Mile): Mekons founder, moved from Leeds to Chicago in 1992 without severing his ties, but had already run through several side projects like the Three Johns and the Killer Shrews, adding the Waco Brothers and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts in Chicago. This group is described as "Newport-based" (but otherwise I don't know squat about them, but Newport seems to be Langford's original home town in Wales). This was their debut, and strikes me as not just fresher but wilder and woolier than their latest (which was first for me). A- [bc]

Jon Langford & the Men of Gwent: President of Wales (2019, Country Mile): If only the Waco Brothers had been Welsh. B+(***) [bc]

Jemeel Moondoc Quintet: Nostalgia in Times Square (1985 [1986], Soul Note): Alto saxophonist (1946-2021), his group Muntu made a splash in the late-1970s New York avant-garde, retains bassist William Parker here, joined by Rahn Burton (piano), Bern Nix (guitar), and Dennis Charles (drums). Title piece from Mingus. The others are credited to Moondoc, but "In Walked Monk" sounds kind of familiar (as in Monk's "In Walked Bud"), and "Dance of the Clowns" has at least a whiff of Mingus. B+(***) [r]

Jemeel Moondoc Vtet: Revolt of the Negro Lawn Jockeys (2000, Eremite): Alto saxophonist-led quintet, with Nethan Breedlove (trumpet), Khan Jamal (vibes), John Voigt (bass), and Cody Moffett (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Jemeel Moondoc & the Jus Grew Orchestra: Spirit House (2000, Eremite): The alto saxophonist conducts a strong group of horns here: trumpets (Lewis Barnes, Roy Campbell Jr.), trombones (Steve Swell, Tyrone Hill), saxophones (plus Zane Massey on tenor, Michael Marcus on baritone), with a guitar-bass-drums rhythm section (Bern Nix, John Voigt, Codaryl Moffett). Not quite a big band, but they pack a lot of power, fly free, and even swing some. A- [sp]

Jameel Moondoc With Dennis Charles: We Don't (1981 [2003], Eremite): Alto sax, with the drummer (1933-98, from Virgin Islands, also played with Billy Bang and Cecil Taylor). Challenging free jazz. B+(***) [sp]

Joe Morris/William Parker/Gerald Cleaver: Altitude (2011 [2012], AUM Fidelity): Guitar-bass-drums trio, with Parker switching to sintir (a Moroccan bass lute), live improv recorded one night at the Stone in NYC, four tracks stretched out to 72:27. B+(**) [sp]

William Parker & the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra: Mass for the Healing of the World (1998 [2003], Black Saint): The bassist's 15-piece big band, less brass and more sax, an explosive rhythm section (Cooper-Moore on piano, Susie Ibarra on drums, and Parker), plus vocalist Aleta Heyes for the mass-like bits (not many). A- [sp]

William Parker Quartet: Live in Wroclove (2012 [2013], ForTune): The bassist's "pianoless" quartet, which dates back at least to 2001's O'Neal's Porch, with two freewheeling horns -- Lewis Barnes' trumpet and Rob Brown's alto sax -- and great Hamid Drake on drums. So this is a great band, with some interesting music -- starting with a 47:33 set called "Kalaparusha Dancing on the Edge of the Horizon" -- but it's also a concert, where they pace themselves to set up the moments fans will recall. It's also kind of a big deal for a label that mostly documents the local scene -- in this case, better known as Wroclaw. But it's a tad less compelling than the group's studio albums. B+(***) [sp]

William Parker: For Those Who Are, Still (2000-13 [2013], AUM Fidelity, 3CD): By this time, Parker has become so prolific he's building boxes from scattered sets: this one is formally organized into three albums from five sessions: "For Fannie Hammer" from 2000; "Vermeer," with Leena Conquest, from 2011; "Red Giraffe With Dreadlocks," with Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay, from 2012; a Charles Gayle trio, to open "Ceremonies for Those Who Are Still," with NFM Orchestra and Choir. A- [r]

William Parker/David Budbill: What I Saw This Morning 2014 [2016], AUM Fidelity): Budbill (1940-2016) was mostly a writer, posthumously named "the people's poet of Vermont," also wrote plays, two novels, a libretto, and recorded three albums of spoken word with William Parker providing the music, here mostly using his exotic instruments. Comparable to David Greenberger, but more intimate and personal. [Streamed 14/35 tracks.] B+(***) [bc]

The Cecil Taylor Unit: Live in Bologna (1987 [1988], Leo): Avant-pianist, group was his quintet (more or less, long defined by saxophonist Jimmy Lyons, who died in 1986, leaving a large gap for Carlos Ward to try to fill. Also with Leroy Jenkins (violin), William Parker (bass), and Thurman Baker (drums/marimba). Ward lurks until the rhythm drives him to deliver. A- [r]

The Cecil Taylor Unit: Live in Vienna (1987 [1988], Leo): Same group, recorded four days later, again one long piece, a bit longer at 71:21, but hacked up for the original 2-LP. While I understand that every performance is different, that doesn't make them all cost-effective, even at this level. B+(***) [r]

Cecil Taylor: Tzotzil Mummers Tzotzil (1987 [1988], Leo): The same group a week later in Paris, last stop on the tour, sandwiched between some poetry recorded a few days later in London. I find the poetry exceptionally hard to follow. B+(*) [sp]

David S. Ware Trio: Passage to Music (1988, Silkheart): Tenor saxophone great, started in the 1970s but didn't really take off until he organized this group, with William Parker (bass) and Marc Edwards (drums), soon to be a quartet with the addition of pianist Matthew Shipp. Already quite impressive. B+(***) [r]

David S. Ware Quartet: Cryptology (1994 [1995], Homestead): The one Quartet album that slipped past me, with Matthew Shipp (piano), William Parker (bass), and Whit Dickey (drums), as intense as any in a very remarkable series. This seems to have been where Steven Joerg entered the picture, before his AUM Fidelity label provided Ware and Parker a long-term home. A- [yt]

David S. Ware: Organica (Solo Saxophones, Volume 2) (2010 [2011], AUM Fidelity): Ware's kidneys started to fail in 1999, and he was near death ten years later when he was rescued by a kidney transplant. He died in 2012 of an infection fueled by immunosuppresant meds, but over his last couple years he recorded a wide variety of works, including two solo volumes -- Saturnian from late a late 2009 set, plus two sets here, each opening with a piece on sopranino sax, followed by one on tenor. Usual caveats apply, but interesting as these things go. B+(**) [r]


Grade (or other) changes:

Jon Langford & the Men of Gwent: Lost on Land & Sea (2023, Country Mile): The Waco Brothers return as a Welsh bar band. Multiple plays prove this to be tuneful and thoughtful but most of all consistent, so it's hard to fault the notion that this is a great album, but if it really was, wouldn't I have noticed by now? [was: B+(**)] B+(***) [bc]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Fox Green: Holy Souls (self-released '22)
  • Fox Green: Light Darkness (self-released)
  • Frank London/The Elders: Spirit Stronger Than Blood (ESP-Disk)
  • Michael Pagán: Paganova (Capri) [07-19]
  • Jerome Sabbagh: Heart (Analog Tone Factory) [08-30]
  • Natsuki Tamura/Satoko Fujii: Aloft (Libra) [07-12]
  • Thollem: Worlds in a Life, Two (ESP-Disk)

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, June 17, 2024


Music Week

June archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42503 [42460] rated (+43), 22 [31] unrated (-9).

Going through a very busy stretch, but not sure what I really have to talk about here. I do have a fairly hefty bunch of records to report on, partly aided by recent consumer guides by Robert Christgau, Christian Iszchak, Brad Luen, and Michael Tatum. Still, I'm not sure I've caught up with any of them. I barely got through the I Am Three records Chris Monsen recommended -- their first album I previously had at B+(***) but it, too, sounds terrific, as is often the case with freewheeling Mingus.

The Jasmine In Session comps were recommended by Clifford Ocheltree. I resisted the Eddie Taylor until this morning, when I woke up with songs from it in my head. The recommendation list goes deeper, but so far that's all I've sprung for.

I have a request to write something about William Parker, on the occasion of his Vision Fest Lifetime Achievement Award. Back in 2003 I wrote a fairly extensive consumer guide to the work of Parker and/or Matthew Shipp (who was more my initial interest), and I've tried to keep up since then, including his two new albums below. So I figured: write 3-4 paragraphs of glowing intro, then tack on a dozen (or two) capsule reviews. Whether it's as easily done as said remains to be seen. All I've done so far has been to collect the reviews from the work files: current count is 249, but at the moment I'm listening to a 2009 record I had missed, and I'll probably come up with a few more. (RogueArt sent out email highlighting their 15 Parker albums, of which I've only heard 3 -- thanks mostly to Steve Swell).

What research I've done so far has mostly been humbling. Parker has four volumes of Conversations that I can't begin to get to. I just ordered a copy of Cisco Bradley's Universal Tonality: The Life and Music of William Parker, but won't have time to get very deep into. I do have a copy of Rick Lopez's marvelous The William Parker Sessionography (to 2014; also online, but only up to 2020). But I could easily fritter away all of my scant remaining time just checking items off -- although the annotation is so distracting I might never finish.

Meanwhile, I've burned up a fair amount of time with my metacritic file, to which I've started to add mid-year best-of ("so far") lists. It's still pretty spotty at present, and skewed toward the Christgau-friendly Expert Witness critics -- which has paid off in elevating Waxahatchee over Smile, with Billie Eilish and Beyoncé gaining ground, followed by Vampire Weekend, Adrianne Lenker, Hurray for the Riff Raff, and Maggie Rogers. I only have three A-list albums in the top ten, but Christgau has five in the top six (even though I haven't factored his grades in yet).

The mid-year lists I have are noted in the legend. While the first ones started showing up around June 1, in past years they've peaked in late June, with a few stragglers in July. I haven't noticed any jazz lists yet, so I'm thinking about running my own. I have the mailing list and software from the Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll, and evidently have time to kill.

The biggest time-kill remains Speaking of Which, which again topped 10,000 words on Sunday, with minor additions today.


New records reviewed this week:

Actress: Statik (2024, Smalltown Supersound): British electronica producer Darren Cunningham, tenth album since 2008. B+(*) [sp]

Africatown, AL: Ancestor Sounds (2024, Free Dirt): Oral history from a neighborhood in Mobile, Alabama, which traces its ancestry back to a slave ship in 1807, conceived by producer Ian Brennan (Tinariwen, Zomba Prison Project) and his wife, Italian-Rwandan filmmaker and photographer Marilena Umuhoza Delli. B+(**) [sp]

Bruna Black/John Finbury: Vă Revelaçăo (2024, Green Flash): Brazilian singer, wrote some lyrics to Finbury's pleasantly engaging compositions, played by a star-studded group of Vitor Gonçalves (piano/accordion), Chico Pinheiro (guitar), John Patitucci (bass), Duduka Da Fonseca (drums), and Rogerio Boccato (percussion). B+(**) [cd]

Anthony Branker & Imagine: Songs My Mom Liked (2024, Origin): Original pieces, so Mom must really like her boy. Plenty of reason to. Group has six name musicians (Donny McCaslin, Philip Dizack, Fabian Almazan, Linda May Han Oh, Rudy Royston, Pete McGann) plus lightly used vocalist Aubrey Johnson. B+(***) [cd] [06-21]

Etienne Charles: Creole Orchestra (2018 [2024], Culture Shock): Trumpet player, albums since 2006 frequently refer to "creole," this a big band with lots of extras, including vocals, which I find rather hit-and-miss. B+(*) [cd]

Charli XCX: Brat (2024, Atlantic): British pop star, Charlotte Aitchison, sixth album since 2013, all hits but none huge, with this one getting extra hype and/or anticipation. That come with a big budget, which sometimes pays off, or offers a cushion to soften and blur out the weak spots, which my reticence suggests must be here somewhere, as I'm still on the fence after five plays. B+(***) [sp]

Devouring the Guilt: Not to Want to Say (2021 [2024], Kettle Hole): Free jazz trio, based in Chicago, of Bill Harris (drums), Gerrit Hatcher (tenor sax), and Eli Namay (bass). Two tracks (40:55). Hatcher has a couple of previous albums much like this one. B+(***) [sp]

DJ Anderson do Paraiso: Queridăo (2023 [2024], Nyege Nyege Tapes): DJ from Belo Horizonte, "downtempo and dark baile funk," seems like a fair description, although it doesn't quite convey how gloomy this sounds. B [sp]

Ducks Ltd.: Harm's Way (2024, Carpark): Indie rock duo from Toronto, Tom McGreevy (vocals/rhythm guitar) and Evan Lewis (lead guitar), originally from UK and Australia, second album after a 2019 EP. B+(**) [sp]

Phillip Golub: Abiding Memory (2024, Endectomorph Music): Pianist, has a couple previous albums, quintet with guitar, cello, bass, and drums, leaving the piano very clearly in charge. Liner notes by Vijay Iyer. B+(**) [cd] [06-21]

Grandaddy: Blu Wav (2024, Dangerbird): Indie rock band from Modesto, California, principally Jason Lytle, eighth album since 1994, with a break 2006-17. Doesn't feel like there's much here. B [sp]

Alex Harding/Lucian Ban: Blutopia (2024, Sunnyside): Baritone saxophonist and pianist, they have several albums together going back to a quintet in 2002, and including one from 2005 where Blutopia was the group name. This is another quintet, with viola (Mat Maneri), tuba (Bob Stewart), and drums (Brandon Lewis). B+(**) [sp]

Hermanos Gutiérrez: Sonido Cósmico (2024, Easy Eye Sound): Brothers Alejandro (guitar/lap steel) and Estevan (guitar/percussion), names and much of their music deriving from an Ecuadorian mother, but their father is Swiss, and they at least grew up in and are based in Zurich. After four self-released albums, Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) signed them to his Nashville label, and released El Bueno y el Malo in 2022. More in this sequel, as calming as new age hoped for, with just enough Latin tinge and other cosmic exotica to keep it fascinating. A- [sp]

Mike Holober & the Gotham Jazz Orchestra: This Rock We're On: Imaginary Letters (2023 [2024], Palmetto, 2CD): Pianist, based in New York, mostly big bands, this perhaps his most grandiose project ever, certainly in terms of vocals. B [cd]

Homeboy Sandman: Rich II (2024, self-released): New York rapper Angel Del Villar II, lots since 2007, mostly short like this (11 tracks, 26:56) sequel to 2023's Rich. B+(**) [sp]

I Am Three: In Other Words (2022 [2024], Leo): Nikolaus Neuser (trumpet), Silke Eberhard (alto sax/percussion), and Christian Marlen (drums), song credits split 4-2-5. Group name comes from Mingus, the subject of their two previous albums: Mingus Mingus Mingus (2015) and Mingus' Sound of Love (2018, with Maggie Nichols). A- [sp]

Kaytranada: Timeless (2024, RCA): Haitian electropop producer, grew up in Montreal, sings, raps, fourth album since 2016 (including 2023's Aminé mashup, Kaytraminé). Grows on you. B+(***) [sp]

The Libertines: All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanada (2024, Casablanca/Republic): British rock group, seemed like they may be a big deal with their 2002 debut, folded after their 2004 follow up, returned for a 2015 comeback, and again for this fourth album, slowing down with age. B [sp]

Raul Midón: Lost & Found (2024, ReKondite ReKords): Guitarist, singer-songwriter, from New Mexico, father from Argentina, has done session work on Latin albums, dabbled in jazz, doesn't show much in either here. C+ [sp]

Andy Milne and Unison: Time Will Tell (2024, Sunnyside): Pianist, from Canada, based in New York, albums since 1997, previous group album from 2019 with John Hébert (bass) and Clarence Penn (drums), adding Ingrid Laubrock (tenor sax) and/or Yoko Reikano Kimura (koto) on several tracks here. B+(**) [sp]

Ol' Burger Beats: 74: Out of Time (2024, Coalmine): Norwegian dj/producer Ole-Birger Neergĺrd, a dozen-plus albums since 2015, also released an instrumentals version, but this one features a dozen guest rappers, very underground (but mostly names I recognize, like Billy Woods, Tha God Fahim, Yungmorpheus, Quelle Chris, Fly Anakin, Pink Siifu), easy going over slacker beats. B+(**) [sp]

Alicia and Michael Olatuja: Olatuja (2022-24 [2024], Whirlwind): He plays bass and keyboards, composes, was born in London, raised in Lagos, is based in New York, married to her, the former Alicia Miles, from St. Louis, with a couple records each. B+(*) [sp]

One for All: Big George (2022 [2024], Smoke Sessions): Mainstream sextet, pretty much all stars: Eric Alexander (tenor sax), Jim Rotondi (trumpet), Steve Davis (trombone), David Hazeltine (piano), John Webber (bass), Joe Farnsworth (drums). Discogs lists 19 albums since 1997, open with three tracks for the first LP side, then George Coleman joins for more on the back side, with three George-less bonus tracks added to the CD. Coleman doesn't make much of a splash here. B+(*) [sp]

William Parker/Cooper-Moore/Hamid Drake: Heart Trio (2021 [2024], AUM Fidelity): Longtime collaborators, three-fourths of a quartet called In Order to Survive, where they played bass, piano, and drums. Here they focus on percussion and exotica, with Parker on doson ngoni, shakuhachi, bass dudek, ney and Serbian flute, with Cooper-Moore on his ashimba and hoe-handle harp, and Drake on frame drum as well as his usual kit. For world-class virtuosi, it's a bit underwhelming, but that seems to be the point. A- [cd] [06-21]

William Parker & Ellen Christi: Cereal Music (2024, AUM Fidelity): No recording dates given, but this feels like it was patiently assembled, starting with Parker's words, mostly spoken with some Christi vocals and whatever sound design she came up with, supplemented with Parker's bass and flutes, and a few other samples. B+(***) [cd] [06-21]

Rob Parton's Ensemble 9+: Relentless (2023 [2024], Calligram): Trumpet player, mostly big band records starting around 1991. Lists 19 musicians here, mostly in groups with two trumpets, three saxophones, and two trombones, plus various piano-bass-drums, but adds a third trumpet on 4 tracks, vocals on 2, with 7 arranger credits. Deft layering, less focus on solos, some Latin tinge. B+(*) [cd]

Porij: Teething (2024, Play It Again Sam): British electropop band, from Manchester, first album after a 2020 EP. B+(**) [sp]

Kenny Reichert: Switch (2023 [2024], Calligram): Guitarist, based in Chicago, has a couple previous albums, the first self-released in 2015, leads a quartet here with alto sax (Lenard Simpson), bass (Ethan Philion), and drums (Devin Drobka), plus a guest spot for Geof Bradfield (tenor sax) and voice (Alyssa Algood, 3 tracks, her lyrics, some spoken word). Has some very strong and/or appealing passages. B+(**) [cd]

Brandon Ross Phantom Station: Off the End (2024, Sunnyside): Guitarist, early side credits start in 1975 with Archie Shepp, Marion Brown, and Oliver Lake; group efforts as Harriet Tubman in 1998; and his own albums from 2004. Group here with Graham Haynes (cornet/electronics), David Virelles (keyboards), JT Lewis (drums), and Hardedge (sound design). B+(**) [sp]

Shaboozey: Where I've Been, Isn't Where I'm Going (2024, Republic/Empire): Singer-songwriter from Virginia, parents from Nigeria, original name Collins Obinna Chibueze, third album, slotted alt-country (got him a guest spot with Beyoncé). Not so obvious, but is closer than hip-hop (despite a rap) or afrobeat. B+(*) [sp]

Flavio Silva: Eko (2024, Break Free): Brazilian guitarist, based in New York, several albums, title means "lesson" in Yoruba, nice little quartet with keyboards, bass, and drums. B+(**) [cd]

Uncle Waffles: Solace (2023, Ko-Sign/Encore): Swazi-born DJ and amapiano producer Lungelihle Zwane, third EP, this one 7 songs, 42:52 (which makes it an album in my book). B+(**) [sp]

Kiki Valera: Vacilón Santiaguero (2024, Circle 9 Music): Trad Cuban music, leader plays cuatro, guitar, bass, and percussion, second US album, backed by more percussion, with lead vocals split four ways, and many guest spots involving trumpet. B+(***) [cd]

Matt Wilson: Matt Wilson's Good Trouble (2023 [2024], Palmetto): Drummer, originally from Illinois, studied at Wichita State, moved to NYC in 1992, and quickly established himself as a sideman and leader. I recall a DownBeat blindfold test where he not only grasped everything they threw at him, but went to extraordinary lengths to recognize and appreciate the mindset of whoever's music it was. His records can be very eclectic, but the best ones have featured edgy tenor saxophonist Jeff Lederer, as this one does, along with longtime ally Ben Allison on bass, and novel ingredients Tia Fuller (alto sax) and Dawn Clement (piano and some vocals, including the jazziest John Denver cover ever). Title is from a John Lewis quote. Not yet the group name, but they'll be welcome any time. A- [cdr]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Broadcast: Spell Blanket: Collected Demos 2006-2009 (2006-09 [2024], Warp): British electropop group, more or less, principally Trish Keenan (vocals/keyboards/guitar) and James Cargill (bass), produced three albums 2000-05, plus these demos for an unreleased fourth album. B [sp]

Love Child: Never Meant to Be 1988-1993 (1988-93 [2024], 12XU): NYC-based punk/no-wave band, singers Will Baum and Rebecca Odes on guitar/drums and bass, with Alan Licht (drums/guitar), self-released an album in 1988, got more attention with their 1991 album Okay?, released one more after that, which this 26-cut 2-LP sums up. B+(***) [sp]

Old music:

Ducks Ltd.: Get Bleak (2019 [2021], Carpark, EP): Toronto indie rock duo, immigrants from Australia and UK-via-US, debut four-song EP, expanded to seven (21:48) to complement their 2021 debut. Open with jangly guitar, then a ballad, then more jangle. Go-Betweens comparisons aren't way off base, but not sufficient, either. B+(**) [sp]

Big Walter Horton: In Session: From Memphis to Chicago 1951-1955 (1951-55 [2019], Jasmine): Blues harmonica player and singer, born 1921 in Mississippi, grew up in Memphis, made his way to Chicago in the 1950s and died there in 1981. His discography is very scattered, with a 1964 LP, collabs and a Fleetwood Mac jam session in 1969, and more odds and ends in the 1970s. This picks up a couple early singles, fleshed out with side-credits with Johnny Shines, Tampa Red, Otis Rush, Sunnyland Slim, Jimmy Rogers, and others, the vocals varying but the unified by his exuberant, rowdy harmonica. A- [cd]

Floyd Jones/Eddie Taylor: Masters of Modern Blues (1966 [1994], Testament): Chicago blues guitarist-singers, the original LP "Volume 3" in the label's series, allocated one side each, with Taylor (guitar), Big Walter Horton (harmonica), Otis Spann (piano), and Fred Below (drums) on both sides, with Jones switching to bass on Taylor's side. CD expands from 11 to 16 tracks, offering alternates and mixing them up. B+(***) [sp]

Maggie Nicols/Silke Eberhard/Nikolaus Neuser/Christian Marten: I Am Three & Me: Mingus' Sounds of Love (2018 [2019], Leo): Multiple options for parsing this cover: the singer earns top billing, but the trio -- tenor sax, trumpet, drums -- has a previous Mingus tribute, Mingus Mingus Mingus (2015) under their Mingus-inspired group name, I Am Three. Nicols supplies one lyric, the rest attributed to the composer, including detailed instructions on toilet-training your cat. I always find vocals like this awkward -- arty and disjointed, which is what she does -- but the music is often amazing, and their take of "The Clown" is amazing and definitive. So while all Mingus always sounds great, this adds something new. A- [sp]

Shikamoo Jazz: Chela Chela Vol. 1 (1993-95 [1995], RetroAfric): Tanzanian group, formed 1993, its members veterans of "dance bands of the '60s and '70s," including Kenyan star Fundi Konde, playing their standards. No dates given, and no singles discography I can find. B+(***) [sp]

Shikamoo Jazz: East African Legends Live (1995 [2022], RetroTan): Only date given is July 1995, but the eleven tracks are credited to four permutations (Shilamoo Jazz, Fundi Konde & SJ, Bi Kidude & SJ, SJ + Fan Fan), although they flow together just fine, with oodles of that shimmering groove Earthworks immortalized in their famous Guitar Paradise of East Africa compilation. A- [sp]

Eddie Taylor: In Session: Diary of a Chicago Bluesman 1953-1957 (1953-57 [2016], Jasmine): Blues guitarist and singer (1923-85), up from Mississippi to Chicago, recorded a few albums from 1967 on, before that was best known playing for Jimmy Reed (just 3 tracks here), but also John Brim (4), Sunnyland Slim (4), Floyd Jones (3), Little Willie Foster (2), and John Lee Hooker (3), leaving 10 tracks under his own name -- a couple memorable, the rest pretty good. This took me a while, but I woke up with Reed and Hooker songs in my head, plus one of Taylor's ("Big Town Playboy"). A- [cd]

Eddie Taylor: I Feel So Bad (1972, Advent): Solid Chicago blues album, recorded in Hollywood. B+(**) [sp]

Jody Williams: In Session: Diary of a Chicago Bluesman 1954-1962 (1954-62 [2018], Jasmine): Joseph Leon Williams (1935-2018), originally from Mobile, moved to Chicago, where his guitar ("marked by flamboyant string-bending, imaginative chord voicings and a distinctive tone") got him studio work with Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Bo Diddley, and Jimmy Rogers -- to pick out the most obvious hits on the front half here -- as well as the occasional single (some as Little Joe Lee). That first half is remarkable enough, but the obscurities on the second half -- especially his "Lucky Lou" instrumental -- are the real payoff here. A- [cd]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Kim Cass: Levs (Pi) [06-28]
  • Jon De Lucia: The Brubeck Octet Project (Musćum Clausum) [07-12]
  • Mathias Hřjgaard Jensen: Is as Is (Fresh Sound New Talent) [05-31]
  • Brian Landrus: Plays Ellington & Strayhorn (Palmetto) [07-12]
  • Miles Okazaki: Miniature America (Cygnus) [07-19]
  • Matthew Shipp: The Data (RogueArt) * [06-17]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, June 10, 2024


Music Week

June archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42460 [42421] rated (+39), 31 [36] unrated (-5).

I published a pretty long Speaking of Which Sunday night (209 links, 12260 words). I fixed a couple typos, added a few more items, and a lot of words today -- the latter mostly came from extensive quotes of two articles I had flagged to include but didn't get to in time. I've also been including links to music pieces, which lately have mostly been mid-year lists I've factored into my metacritic file.

I lost a couple days of listening time when I fixed a couple of small dinners, one mostly Chinese, the second more Italian. I rarely cook, let alone entertain, these days, so it's nice to see that I still have some skills.

When I did manage to listen, I racked up records fast, possibly because I did more EPs than usual (7), and also because quite a few records inspired minimal commentary.

I mentioned it in Speaking of Which, but let me add an extra plug for the return of Michael Tatum's A Downloader's Diary, this one (52). In the aforementioned metacritic file, I'm giving his grades the same weight I give Robert Christgau's and my own's (although I haven't added many in yet).


New records reviewed this week:

Altus: Mythos (2024, Biophilia): Quintet, based in New York, inspired by "the Greek myth of Prometheus and the Yoruba myth of Oludumare," of Dave Adewumi (trumpet), Isaac Levien (bass), Neta Raanan (tenor sax), Nathan Reising (alto sax), and Ryan Sands (drums). B+(***) [cdr]

Oren Ambarchi/Johan Berthling/Andreas Werlin: Ghosted II (2024, Drag City): Australian guitarist, started as a drummer, very prolific since 1999, trio here with bass and drums, following Ghosted from 2022. Four pieces, from 7:36 to 13:15, "jazz-funk heads, polyrhythmic skeletons, ambient pastorals, post-kraut drones and shimmering soundtrack reveries." B+(***) [sp]

Bab L' Bluz: Swaken (2024, Real World): French-Moroccan "power quartet," second album. B+(*) [sp]

Evan Nicole Bell: Runaway Girl (2024, Humingbird, EP): Guitar featured on cover and, well, everywhere, kicking off with an Albert King blues, but that's probably not her destiny, just a kicking off point. Three songs plus a longer mix, 17:15. B+(*) [sp]

Blue Lab Beats: Blue Eclipse (2024, Blue Adventure): UK jazztronica duo, producer NK-OK (Namali Kwaten) and multi-instrumentalist Mr DM (David Mrakpor), fourth album, some sources have label as Decca or Blue Note. Guest vocals, some rapped. B [sp]

Aziza Brahim: Mawja (2024, Glitterbeat): Sahrawi singer and actress, born in a refugee camp in Algeria, got a scholarship when she was 11 to study in Cuba, eventually wound up in Spain. Fifth album since 2012, nice, steady flow. B+(**) [sp]

Cakes Da Killa: Black Sheep (2024, Young Art): Rapper Rashard Bradshaw, from New Jersey, got some notice for 2011-14 mixtapes, less so for later albums, this the third. B+(**) [sp]

Madi Diaz: Weird Faith (2024, Anti-): Singer-songwriter, born in Connecticut, mother Peruvian, father Danish (Eric Svalgĺrd), home-schooled, went to Berklee, moved to LA, first album 2007, this is her sixth. I'm rarely so captivated by a set of confessional and meditative songs that I pay enough attention to gather in the details. The song that earned the album a replay was "KFM," for "kill, fuck, marry." One might also note the Lori McKenna co-credit, and the Kacey Musgraves feature. A- [sp]

John Escreet: The Epicenter of Your Dreams (2023 [2024], Blue Room Music): Pianist, albums since 2008, "a powerhouse band reflecting the thriving L.A. scene," with Mark Turner (tenor sax), Eric Revis (bass), and Damion Reid (drums). B+(***) [cd]

Maria Faust Jazz Catastrophe: 3rd Mutation: Moth (2023 [2024], Bush Flash): Alto saxophonist, from Estonia, based in Copenhagen, albums since 2008, Jazz Catstrophe released a big band album in 2013, this "mutation" appears to be a trio, with guitar (Lars Bech Pilgaard) and drums (Anders Vestergaard) but sounds bigger. Am I missing something? A- [sp]

Sierra Ferrell: Trail of Flowers (2024, Rounder): Bluegrass singer-songwriter from West Virginia, plays fiddle as well as guitar, self-released two albums before landing on Rounder for 2021's Long Time Coming. This one's nearly as good. B+(***) [sp]

Margaret Glaspy: The Sun Doesn't Think (2024, ATO, EP): Singer-songwriter with a strong track record, coming off her excellent 2023 album Echo the Diamond, with a new one scheduled for August. Meanwhile: five songs, 20:09. Practically demos, just guitar and voice, yet somehow enough. B+(***) [sp]

Ariana Grande: Eternal Sunshine (2024, Republic): Pop singer-songwriter, went platinum with her 2013 debut, seventh album, four years after her sixth. B+(**) [sp]

The Haas Company [Featuring Andy Timmons]: Vol. 1: Galactic Tide (2024, Psychiatric): Following the publicist's hype sheet, I originally had artist and title swapped. This makes more sense, although the cover typography is less than clear, and the spine is less than that. Leader seems to be drummer Steve Haas (first listed credit), and Timmons plays heavy fusion guitar, but keyboardist Pete Drungle is credited with "musical direction." Band also uses bass (Kirwan Brown or Al MacDowell) and sax (Pete Gallo), with a couple guest spots. Powerhouse fusion. B [cd]

Marika Hackman: Big Sigh (2024, Chrysalis): English singer-songwriter, sixth album since 2015 (after two EPs). No shortage of post-pandemic stress here, a slow start that gradually gains strength and stature. B+(**) [sp]

Jake Hertzog: Longing to Meet You (2024, self-released): Guitarist, leads a postbop quartet with sax (Matt Woroshyl), bass (Perrin Grace), and drums (Joe Peri). B+(**) [cd]

Home Counties: Exactly as It Seems (2024, Submarine Cat): British group, sextet, first album after an EP (or two). Pretty catchy, not that that matters much. B+(*) [sp]

Simone Keller: Hidden Heartache (2022 [2024], Intakt): Swiss pianist, side credits since 2009, including Kukuruz Quartet, first album on her own, subtitle "100 Minutes of Piano Music from the Last 100 Years in the Context of Social Inequality and Unequal Power Relations," which makes me wish I had followed it better, but I'm not that much into close, critical listening. Mostly solo, but scattered side credits for oud, bassoon, trombone, and toy piano. Composers include Julius Eastman -- Kukuruz did a whole album of his work -- and Lil Hardin Armstrong. B+(**) [sp]

Lola Kirke: Country Curious (2024, One Riot, EP): Born in London, raised in New York, she has much more on her acting resume (since 2011) than in her discography (four titles, most EPs like this, 4 songs, 12:13, leading off with an LA twist on "All My Exes." [PS: Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? adds the title song for 15:43. Discogs includes both EPs under the Country Curious title.] B+(*) [sp]

Jon Langford & the Men of Gwent: Lost on Land & Sea (2023, Country Mile): The Waco Brothers return as a Welsh bar band. B+(**) [bc]

The Bruce Lofgren Group: Earthly and Cosmic Tales (2024, Night Bird): Guitarist, has a Jazz Orchestra album from 1999, side credits back to 1972 (ranging from Buddy Rich to Loggins & Messina). Group includes clarinet, cello, vibes, bass, percussion, on eight originals plus covers of Van Dyke Parks and Stevie Wonder. Not unpleasant. B [cd]

Lucy Rose: This Ain't the Way You Go Out (2024, Communion): English singer-songwriter, last name Parton, fifth album since 2012. B+(*) [sp]

MIKE & Tony Seltzer: Pinball (2024, 10k, EP): Rapper Michael Bonema, born in New Jersey, grew up in the Bronx, has released quite a bit since 2015, first album with producer Seltzer, who also has credits back to 2015. Short album: 11 tracks, 21:29. B+(*) [sp]

Mk.gee: Two Star & the Dream Police (2024, R&R Digital): Singer-songwriter Michael Gordon, from New Jersey, plays guitar and piano, first studio album after two EPs and a mixtape. No obvious category here, the rhythm a bit funk, or maybe just a bit odd, with nothing sticking too far out, but he keeps you wondering. B+(**) [sp]

Willie Nelson: The Border (2024, Legacy): Age 91, 75th studio album, title song (plus an old one) by Rodney Crowell, four originals (with producer Buddy Cannon, who co-wrote one more). Voice seems a bit off, but the songs are first rate, especially the meta "How Much Does It Cost?" A- [sp]

Nubiyan Twist: Find Your Flame (2024, Strut): British jazz-funk group, fourth album since 2015. B+(*) [sp]

Yvonnick Prené/Geoff Keezer: Jobim's World (2023 [2024], Sunnyside): French chromatic harmonica player, based in New York, debut 2013, duo here with the pianist, playing five Jobim tunes, two more Brazilian standards, and two originals. B+(*) [sp]

Bruno Rĺberg Tentet: Evolver (2023 [2024], Orbis Music): Swedish bassist, first album 1976, steady since he named his label after his 1998 album Orbis. Tentet doesn't count "special guests" Kris Davis (piano/prepared piano on 6 of 10 tracks) and Walter Smith III (tenor sax on 4). B+(**) [sp]

Rapsody: Please Don't Cry (2024, Jamla/Roc Nation): Rapper Marlanna Evans, from North Carolina, fourth album since 2012. Much to enjoy here, but it's a long and winding road. B+(**) [sp]

Raze Regal & White Denim: Raze Regal & White Denim Inc. (2023, Bella Union): James Petralli, leader of the garage rock band White Denim (2008-21?), co-wrote this batch of songs with the guitarist, who was a childhood friend and has side credits since 2009 (Stalkers, Planes of Satori, Once & Future Band, Nolan Potter's Nightmare Band). B [sp]

A. Savage: The Loft Sessions (2024, Rough Trade, EP): Parquet Courts frontman, initial stands for Andrew, has a couple of solo albums other group fans like much more than I do. Four songs, 13:58, scattered covers I didn't recognize and don't know what to make of. B+(*) [sp]

Shygirl: Club Shy (2024, Because Music, EP): British dance-pop singer-rapper Blane Muise, has a 2022 album, several EPs since 2018, and remixes of most of them. Six tracks, 15:32. B+(*) [sp]

Ballaké Sissoko/Derek Gripper: Ballaké Cissoko & Derek Gripper (2024, Matsuli Music): Kora player from Mali, dozen-plus albums since 2000, surprised not to find him in my database so far. Duo here with the South African guitarist, who has a comparable career since 2003 (also under my radar). B+(***) [sp]

Connie Smith: Love, Prison, Wisdom and Heartaches (2024, Fat Possum): Country singer, had a string of hits on RCA from 1964-72 (although I can't recommend The Essential Connie Smith, from the label's usually dependable best-of series), continued with Columbia and Monument through 1978, dabbled a bit in gospel, had enough of a rep to get comeback shots in 1998 (on Warner Nashville), 2011 (Sugar Hill), and 2021 (Fat Possum). Second album on the latter, framed retro, twelve covers that probably go way back (the ones I recognize sure do, including "End of the World," "The Fugitive," "The Wayward Wind," and an obscure Loretta Lynn gem), sung and played right fine. B+(**) [sp]

Vince Staples: Dark Times (2024, Def Jam/Blacksmith): Rapper from Long Beach, sixth album since 2015, all hits but none huge, some critical rep as well but I've always found turn offs despite his skills. But no real annoyances this time. B+(***) [sp]

Oded Tzur: My Prophet (2023 [2024], ECM): Tenor saxophonist, from Israel, based in New York since 2011, fifth album, third on ECM, quartet with Nitai Hershkovits (piano), Petros Klampanis (bass), and Cyrano Almeida (drums). A warm tone against the ECM chill. B+(**) [sp]

Faye Webster: Underdressed at the Symphony (2024, Secretly Canadian): Singer-songwriter from Atlanta, self-released debut in 2013, fourth album since. Has a light touch I find appealing. B+(*) [sp]

Amber Weekes: A Lady With a Song: Amber Weekes Celebrates Nancy Wilson (2024, Amber Inn): Standards singer, has a couple previous, not especially compelling, albums. As for Wilson (1937-2018), I've only lightly sampled her work, and never been all that impressed. Still, when the song is up to snuff, Weekes can deliver it. B+(*) [cd]

Kelly Willis/Melissa Carper/Brennen Leigh: Wonder Women of Country (2024, Brooklyn Basement, EP): Most sources flip the group and title names, but this way makes more sense. Three country singer-songwriters, Willis produced a series of solid albums in the 1990s, the others started headlining recently (although Carper, who also plays bass, has credits back to 1996). Six songs, 17:57, no reason to doubt they could do much more. B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

The Power of the Heart: A Tribute to Lou Reed (2024, Light in the Attic): Reissue label, has recently been sifting through Reed's archives, supplements their offerings with this collection of covers, presumably new versions although many of the artists go well back -- starting with Keith Richards, doing "I'm Waiting for the Man." Leads off with rockers, odder matches in the middle -- Mary Gauthier doing "Coney Island Baby" for 7:13 is actually pretty great -- then tails off toward the end. B+(**) [sp]

Old music:

  • None


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Bruna Black/John Finbury: Vă Revelaçăo (Green Flash) [05-14]
  • Kiki Valera: Vacilón Santiaguero (Circle 9 Music) [05-31]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, June 3, 2024


Music Week

June archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42421 [42377] rated (+44), 36 [31] unrated (+5).

I had a really miserable night and morning. I often complain about my eyesight, but get along ok, as long as I don't try to read CD booklets (one excuse why my reviews have gotten sparer) or try to file CDs alphabetical-by-artist (one reason everything is such a mess). I went to the eye doctor in April, and he told me I should consider cataract surgery. They set up an appointment, but couldn't with their preferred partner get one until June 3, and then couldn't get me an afternoon appointment. I knew it was coming up this week, but didn't realize it was Monday until the day before. I had put off paperwork and research, figuring it could wait until my usual posts, then had to rush out Speaking of Which, to get a bit of time to prepare.

I hate morning appointments: not only does it cut into my normal sleep schedule, simply knowing that I will have to get up early keeps me from getting any sleep at all. It also didn't help that we had thunderstorms rolling through into the morning. When the alarm went off, I was exhausted and exasperated. Then my wife found a phone message saying that the surgeon's office had a power outage, so they had moved all of their appointments to a different location, ten miles farther east, so a 5-minute drive would become 35-40 minutes. My wife called and canceled the appointment. When I finally got up, I called them. They offered me the same appointment time in the distant place, but wouldn't allow me the time to get there. So we rescheduled, pushing the fateful date back to July 29, but at least I got an afternoon appointment.

I probably shouldn't dread this like I do. We know lots of other people who have had the surgery and come out better for it -- Some with adverse side-effects, but as far as I know, all of those were temporary. And I'm less ignorant about what's involved than I was 24 hours ago -- although much of it does seem to depend on the actual examination. I'm not able to go back to sleep, so will spend the rest of the day feeling jet-lagged and irritable. But before long I should rest up, and put it out of mind, at least until the next panic on July 28.

The early start means I should get this posted at a reasonable hour, although other factors could lead me to use the rest of the day. I've added two small items to Speaking of Which as of 3pm, and more are likely. I also have some catch up bookkeeping to do. And I would like to fiddle with the metacritic file a bit. [PS: One thing I did manage to do was to count albums listed by Christian Iszchak and Steve Pick in their respective Substacks.

Seems like a very high ratio of B+(***) to A- this week (21-2), suggesting that some of those could have benefited from a bit more attention. (I did give two plays for at least a third of the 21; another third could just as easily have landed lower, but got the benefit of doubt; Anycia, Ferragutti, and Popul are the ones I may still wonder about.)

It always pains me when I see zombie birthday notices on Facebook friends, but "Bill Xcix Phillips's birthday is today" always hits me hardest, not only because he was a dear friend and great mentor but because I first heard of his passing when I wished him a "happy" in response to one of those notices. Facebook is a hideous thing in oh so many ways, but these residual bits of long-distance connection are what keep pulling me back in.


New records reviewed this week:

Allie X: Girl With No Face (2024, Twin Music): Canadian electropop singer-songwriter Alexandra Hughes, third album since 2017, but her career started a decade earlier, perhaps why this seems darker and gloomier than pop utopia. B+(***) [sp]

Anycia: Princess Pop That (2024, United Masters): Rapper, first album, 14 tracks (27:20), nice complement to Tierra Whack. B+(***) [sp]

Chief Keef: Almighty So 2 (2024, 43B): Chicago rapper Keith Cozart, fifth studio album since 2012 (Finally Rich, his only record to go platinum), plus many mixtapes, this a sequel to one from 2013. I've never paid much attention to him, so I wasn't aware of this hard drill attitude. B+(***) [sp]

Jamale Davis: Run With the Hunted (2024, SteepleChase): Bassist, has a couple previous albums, this one with John Mosca (trombone), Dario Terzuolo (tenor sax), Mferghu (piano), and Ben Zweig (drums/pandeiro). B+(**) [sp]

On Ka'a Davis: Here's to Another Day and Night for the LWA of the Woke (2024, Tzadik): Guitarist, has a couple previous records going back to 2001, trio here with Ali Ali (trumpet) and Donald Sturge McKenzie II (drums). Shades of Sonny Sharrock, but it can wear thin. B+(*) [sp]

Ekko Astral: Pink Balloons (2024, Topshelf): DC-based postpunk band, "pioneers of 'mascara moshpit' music," or "a complex mesh of bubblegum noise punk and no-wave art rock, Jael Holzman the singer, with extra guitar and percussion, first album. Sounds pretty great until they slow it down and pump it up. B+(***) [sp]

Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti & Frank Rosaly: Mestizk (2023 [2024], International Anthem): Singer from Bolivia, married to the drummer, who I always thought of as a Chicago underground guy but I now find identifies as Puerto Rican, the pair of them based in Amsterdam these days. Helping out are various names familiar from other label projects. B+(***) [sp]

Myriam Gendron: Mayday (2024, Thrill Jockey): Canadian folkie singer-songwriter, from Quebec, mostly in French, drums help. B+(**) [sp]

Gilbert Holmström: Peak (2023 [2024], Moserobie): Swedish tenor saxophonist, b. 1937, debut as leader in 1965 with a free jazz quintet, led a fusion group in the 1970s called Mount Everest. Not a lot of records over the years, but they're fairly evenly spaced out. This, at 86, is a quintet with trumpet (Erik Kimestad), piano (Mathias Landćus), bass, and drums, playing four freebop originals and two Ennio Morricone themes. A- [cd]

Daniel Humair/Samuel Blaser/Heiri Känzig [Helveticus]: Our Way (2022 [2024], Blaser Music): Drums, trombone, bass, really Blaser (42) communing with the elders (85 and 66, in effect three generations). Bandcamp page doesn't list the group name, but it's clear at top of cover, with musician surnames at bottom. Trio have a previous album together, sans group name (1291). Both albums mix new pieces with trad Swiss and jazz classics, this one focusing on Ellington and Monk. B+(***) [sp]

Izumi Kimura/Barry Guy/Gerry Hemingway: Six Hands Open as One (2023 [2024], Fundacja Sluchaj): Japanese pianist, based in Ireland, first album (2010) drew on trad pieces from both homelands, eight albums since with shared credits, second with this trio, but Guy (bass) appears on three others, plus she has a duo with Hemingway (drums). B+(***) [cd]

Old Man Luedecke: She Told Me Where to Go (2024, Outside): Singer-songwriter from Nova Scotia, tenth album since 2003, put his banjo aside and recorded this in the Bahamas. So, kind of a vacation. B [sp]

Mach-Hommy: #Richaxxhaitian (2024, Mach-Hommy): Rapper from New Jersey, Haitian descent looms large, EPs start in 2011, albums from 2013 (with one 2004 exception), prolific since then. B+(***) [sp]

Rob Mazurek: Milan (2023 [2024], Clean Feed): Trumpet player, long based in Chicago, where one of his major groups is called Chicago Underground, goes solo here while playing a variety of instruments -- piano, flute, electronics, percussion, voice. B+(**) [sp]

Jesus Molina: Selah (2024, Dynamo Production): Pianist, from Colombia, studied at Berklee, fifth album since 2017. He has considerable chops and range, at various times experimenting with electronics, strings, chorus, and can turn on the Latin tinge, but doesn't depend on it. Results mixed. B [sp]

Kacey Musgraves: Deeper Well (2024, MCA Nashville): Country singer-songwriter, sixth album since 2013, including a couple that went platinum. This was mostly written with two collaborators (Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk), fourteen songs simply produced, frames her voice nicely, well thought out with surprising depth. A- [sp]

Old Mountain: Another State of Rhythm (2023 [2024], Clean Feed): Portuguese group, principally Pedro Branco (piano) and Joăo Sousa (drums), with two bassists (Joăo Hasselberg and Hernâni Faustino), reportedly their third album (but none yet in Discogs), this one featuring tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby. Opens with an abstract based on "Good Night Irene," followed by originals. B+(**) [sp]

Fabiana Palladino: Fabiana Palladino (2024, Paul Institute/XL): British pop singer, songwriter I assume, first album, although singles credits go back to a 2011 feature for Ghostpoet, has some kind of relationship with the elusive Jai Paul (he had a 2013 album that was leaked to much fanfare in 2019). B+(***) [sp]

Bolis Popul: Letter to Yu (2024, Deewee): Belgian electropop producer, Boris Zeebroek, mother Chinese, may explain his first band name, Hong Kong Dong. First album as leader, although he shared a slugline with Charlotte Adigéry for Topical Dancer, one of 2022's best albums. B+(***) [sp]

Pouty: Forget About Me (2024, Get Better): This is Rachel Gagliardi, co-founder of the bratpunk duo Slutever in 2010 is singer-songwriter here, first album under this alias, nine songs (26:11), not so bratty or punkish these days -- but pouty? sure -- her previous rants turning into questions, like "is there anything left to give a shit about?" B+(**) [sp]

Pylon Reenactment Society: Magnet Factory (2024, Strolling Bones): Pylon was an Athens, GA postpunk/new wave band, less famous than the B-52s, but recorded EPs and two very respected albums 1979-83, with various reunions up to Randall Bewley's death in 2009, but only one more album (1990's Chain). This is a new group with original singer Vanessa Briscoe Hay, doing a pretty good job of extending their original sound. B+(***) [sp]

Terre Roche: Inner Adult (2024, self-released): Middle sister in the Roches, started as a duo with Maggie Roche in 1975, adding younger sister Suzzy in 1979 for a dozen-plus albums up to 1995, after which she has a couple solo albums, also a book or two, which may or may not include this title (label/publishing details unclear to me). B+(**) [sp]

Omar Souleyman: Erbil (2024, Mad Decent): Syrian dabke artist, started as a wedding singer, several albums since 2006, based in Turkey since 2011. Undaunted. B+(***) [sp]

Split System: Vol I (2022, Legless): Garage rock band from Melbourne, Australia. This appears to collect three EPs, all from 2022, so is equivalent to a new release. Very sharp and consistent, within its limits. Eleven tracks (31:46). B+(***) [sp]

Split System: Vol II (2024, Legless): Eleven more fast, sharp, short tracks (33:03). B+(***) [sp]

Swamp Dogg: Blackgrass: From West Virginia to 125th St (2024, Oh Boy): Little Jerry Williams when he cut his first record at 12 in 1954, he grew up to be an Atlantic producer in the 1960s, and Swamp Dogg in 1970, with Total Destruction to Your Mind, an album so deep he spent decades afterwards trying to crack jokes. His latest was called I Need a Job . . . So I Can Buy More Auto-Tune. But while he's always had a fair bit of country in him, he waited until he turned 80 to indulge it here. B+(***) [sp]

TGB: Room 4 (2022 [2024], Clean Feed): Portuguese trio, stands for Tuba (Sérgio Carolino), Guitarra (Mário Delgado), Bateria (Alexandre Frazăo); fourth album since 2004. B+(**) [sp]

Peter Van Huffel's Callisto: Meandering Demons (2022 [2024], Clean Feed): Baritone saxophonist, Canadian, with Belgian roots, living in Berlin, with various albums since 2007 -- Gorilla Mask is one of his groups. Quartet here with Lina Allemano (trumpet), Antonis Anissegos (piano/electronics), and Joe Hertenstein (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Kamasi Washington: Fearless Movement (2024, Young): Tenor saxophonist, started in Gerald Wilson Orchestra (2005-11), also Throttle Elevator Music (2012-21); prominent side credits like Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar, Run the Jewels, Thundercat; fifth solo album: The Epic, from 2015, was a crossover smash, and this one is getting similar buzz, especially with features guests like George Clinton and André 3000. I have mixed views on much of this, but no doubt that he can be a tremendously imposing saxophonist. Massive: 12 tracks, 86:16. B+(***) [sp]

WoochieWobbler: Is My Future Bright? (2024, 3455092 DK, EP): Six songs, 12:34, I know nothing about the artist(s), but figures as atmospheric hip-hop ("lush, preachy"). B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Stan Getz: Unissued Session: Copenhagen 1977 (1977 [2024], SteepleChase): Starts with a studio session recorded just after the live sets that were released as Live at Montmartre, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2: Stan Getz Quartet, filled out with a couple extra live tracks. Quartet with Joanne Brackeen (piano), Niels-Henning Řrsted Pedersen (bass), and Billy Hart (drums). B+(**) [sp]

The Jazz Dispensary: The Freedom Sound! The People Arise (1963-76 [2024], Craft): Jazz Dispensary seems to be a store and/or a label for "top shelf vinyl," although I also see their records out on Craft, which is a reissues company that supplements its LPs with digital releases (sometimes also CDs). This "Record Day Special" picks up some interesting tracks from what we might call the Black Power period, with tracks from Joe Henderson, Gary Bartz, Azar Lawrence, and Ran Blake, with a couple of earlier obscurities (A.K. Salim, The Dungills). B+(**) [sp]

Old music:

Gary Bartz Quintet: Libra (1967 [1968], Milestone): The alto saxophonist's first album, with Jimmy Owens (trumpet/flugelhorn), Albert Dailey (piano), Richard Davis (bass), and Billy Higgins (drums). B+(*) [yt]

Gary Bartz NTU Troop: Home! (1969 [1970], Milestone): Third album, live from Left Bank Jazz Society in Baltimore, another quintet -- Woody Shaw (trumpet), Albert Dailey (piano), Bob Cunningham (bass), Rashied Ali (drums) -- first in 1969-74 series to use this group name. Four originals and an Ellington cover. B+(**) [yt]

Gary Bartz Quintet: Reflections on Monk: The Final Frontier (1988 [1989], SteepleChase): Plays alto and soprano sax, "Quintet" on spine but not front cover, which lists names: Bob Butta (piano), Geoff Harper (bass), Billy Hart (drums), Eddie Henderson (trumpet). Songs by Thelonious Monk, aside from a 2:04 bit of Bartz, and extra lyrics, one song each for Jenelle Fisher and Mekea Keith (not my favorite part). B+(***) [sp]

Ran Blake: The Blue Potato and Other Outrages . . . Solo Piano by Ran Blake (1969, Milestone): He's made a career out of minor little records like this. B+(**) [sp]

The Dungills: Africa Calling (1963, Vee-Jay): Discogs list this as African, but elsewhere I see them desribed as a "Chicago family act." Recorded this one album together, with one song included in a Jazz Dispensary compilation. B- [sp]

Billy Gault: When Destiny Calls: The Music of Billy Gault (1974 [1975], SteepleChase): Pianist, only has this one album, from a period when he was playing with Jackie McLean (he wrote the title track to Ode for Super). Six more of his songs here. Relative unknowns in the group: Billy Skinner (trumpet), Bill Saxton (tenor sax), James 'Fish' Benjamin (bass), best known is Michael Carvin (drums), but that just focuses on the piano -- and the vocalists (Ellen DeLeston and Jon Lee Wilson), who come off as awkward and sometimes poignant. B+(**) [sp]

Daniel Humair: Quatre Fois Trois (1996-97 [1997], Label Bleu): Swiss drummer, started 1960, leads four trios here for 2-3 tracks each (total: 66 minutes; there's also a 1998 edition with a second CD that I haven't heard): Jean-François Jenny-Clark (bass) & Dave Liebman (sax); Marc Ducret (guitar) & Bruno Chevillon (bass); Michel Portal (bass clarinet) & Joachim Kühn (piano); George Garzone (tenor sax) & Hal Crook (trombone). B+(***) [sp]

Daniel Humair/Jerry Bergonzi/J.-F. Jenny-Clark: Open Architecture (1993, Ninety-One): Drummer listed up top, same font size but different color from the alto saxophonist and the bassist. Bergonzi is an American who spent most of his 1990s in freewheeling trios on European labels (especially RED), before taking a more mainstream course after 2000. B+(**) [sp]

Daniel Humair/Samuel Blaser/Heiri Känzig: 1291 (2020, Outnote): Multigenerational drums-trombone-bass trio, Swiss, called themselves Helveticus on their follow up, but cover here just lists the three surnames. Originals from all three mixed in with trad jazz (ODJB, Bechet, Ory, "High Society") and Swiss folk tunes. B+(**) [sp]

Larry Levan: The Sleeping Bag Sessions (1982-86 [2017], Sleeping Bag): Famous DJ/producer (1954-92), in 2006 Rhino released a 2-CD compilation of his work, Journey Into Paradise: The Larry Levan Story, with other compilations surfacing here and there. Sleeping Bag Records was a UK label (1981-92), which I remember as having a Jamaican influence, but looking at their catalog now, the biggest name was rap group EPMD, followed by Mantronix and Joyce Sims. This is one of the few items available under Levan's name: seven mixes of four songs, 44:21. B+(**) [sp]

Jackie McLean Featuring Gary Bartz: Ode to Super (1973, SteepleChase): Quintet, two dynamic alto saxophonists cut loose in Copenhagen with Thomas Clausen (piano), Bo Stief (bass), and Alex Riel (drums); five tracks, ending with 12:01 of "Red Cross." B+(***) [sp]

Swamp Dogg: Little Jerry Williams Anthology (1954-1969) (1954-69 [2000], SEDG): Juvenilia, starting at age 12 but extending to maturity at 27, by which time he was a producer at Atlantic with a little bit on the side, which he then reconceptualized as Swamp Dogg for his proper 1970 debut (the brilliant Total Destruction to Your Mind). Aside from the title, the cover adds "AKA Swamp Dogg," which is close enough for me -- not unlike those rappers who drop their real names into their titles. This collects 28 songs, dates not provided, but leads off with "1965 Kingsize Nicotine Blues," so they didn't go with chronological. Still finding himself. One highlight is his Little Richard impression on "Hum Baby." B+(***) [bc]

Swamp Dogg: I Need a Job . . . So I Can Buy More Auto-Tune (2022, Don Giovanni): Second title of his to mention Auto-Tune (after 2018's Love, Loss, and Auto-Tune). I have no opinion on the aesthetics or economics of the audio processing technology. B+(**) [sp]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Jared Hall: Influences (Origin) [06-21]
  • Jihee Heo: Flow (OA2) [06-21]
  • Big Walter Horton: In Session: From Memphis to Chicago 1951-1955 (Jasmine)
  • Clarence Penn: Behind the Voice (Origin) [06-21]
  • Anthony Stanco: Stanco's Time (OA2) [06-21]
  • Eddie Taylor: In Session: Diary of a Chicago Bluesman 1953-1957 (Jasmine)
  • Jody Williams: In Session: Diary of a Chicago Bluesman 1954-1962 (Jasmine)

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024


Music Week

May archive (final).

Music: Current count 42377 [42349] rated (+28), 31 [27] unrated (+4).

Recovering from my off week, I wrote a pretty substantial Speaking of Which, posted late Sunday but not nearly as complete as I wanted. I expect to add a few more things today, which will probably delay posting this until late. Still, I should get this prepared before it gets too late.

One possible problem is that we're at the end of the month, so I need to open a June Streamnotes file, as well as wrap up the May file (177 albums over five weeks). (Ugh! Looks like I didn't wrap up April either. Caught up now bringing the Streamnotes rated count to 23921. Turns out I had a previous, more generous, review of Serengeti's Kaleidoscope III not logged in the database. This work killed enough of the day to push this post back to Tuesday.

What else needs to be said here?

Last week, I did a Music Week update, and posted notices elsewhere, asking for input on a domain name renewal, and less directly on the possibility of other people using my writings as a starting point for a music reference website. I got zero feedback on the latter. I did get one letter regarding the narrow domain name issue. The advice there was to drop it, and the reasoning made sense to me, so I took if auto-renew. It will probably disappear before before you read this. I still need to do some clean up work on my end. So "Terminal Zone" is dead for now, and the website project is shelved.

I finally broke down and opened up a 2024 metacritic file, which will eventually turn into the EOY aggregate file. I started by looking at AOTY's Highest Rated Albums of 2024 list, and assigning one point for album ratings 80+ from most sources: I don't see much value in loading up on metal specialists (AOTY tracks 6 that I have ignored so far, but metal albums reviewed elsewhere are tracked) the active list is here. Eventually I'll get to pages that are organized by source and sorted by release date, starting with the sources I'm most likely to follow anyway. Later on I'll probably consult Metacritic for additional sources -- they sometimes read ungraded reviews and assign scores which can be used here.

Next step would be to start scanning through untracked sources, especially ones that covers genres that I'm interested in but are gerrymandered against at AOTY, like jazz, hip-hop, country, world, and electronica. Ones with clearly graded reviews are best, but I've been known to count everything mentioned by some reviewers. Also, as usual, I'm adding my grades (a nudge for my favorites, but also, I think, useful info), with more to come. Also coming soon are mid-year best-of lists, which will appear as '+' as opposed to '*' for positive reviews. (Most midyear lists aren't ranked, and the numbers are at best provisional, so I think I'll skip them. EOY lists will eventually replace them.)

I figure this is a spare time project, not something I'll make a point of trying to keep up-to-date. It's useful for me primarily for prospecting (which is one reason I bother little with metal, or for that matter classical). I may not even keep it going -- although having the framework together is a big step toward doing the EOY aggregate, and also helps with Jazz Critics Poll. As my book projects continue to flounder, the odds of me doing that again improve.

The metacritic list exercise led to most of the records below -- not that I needed the list to check out Swift and Eilish, but it provided a nudge. Good as their albums are, the others that made A- are probably a bit better, and sweeter to find. (Well, Murray didn't come from the list, and never needed to.) The high B+ grades are also good records, and could very well click for you.

Not much from the demo queue. I'm keeping it sorted by release date, and the remaining CDs are June-July releases, so I'm trying not to rush them. One the other hand, a hint for publicists: send me a note when something becomes available on Bandcamp or Spotify and I'm liable to cue it up before deleting the mail (I did that three times while writing this, and will give this one a second spin).


New records reviewed this week:

Yaya Bey: Ten Fold (2024, Big Dada): R&B singer-songwriter from Brooklyn, fifth album since 2016. Nice flow, has some grit. B+(***) [sp]

Borderlands Trio [Stephan Crump/Kris Davis/Eric McPherson]: Rewilder (2023 [2024], Intakt, 2CD): Bass/piano/drums, third group album, joint credits, title piece split into "I" (51:49) and "II" (53:04). B+(***) [sp]

Britti: Hello, I'm Britti (2024, Easy Eye Sound): New Orleans singer-songwriter Brittany Guerin, first album, produced by Dan Auerbach. B+(**)

Isrea Butler: Congo Lament (2023 [2024], Vegas): Trombone player, lead in the Count Basie Orchestra ghost band, credits Ike Quebec and Bennie Green albums for inspiring this quintet with Doug Lawrence (tenor sax), Dave Loeb (piano), bass, and drums. Seven covers: two from Green, one Quebec, a Stanley Turrentine, the standards including a delightful "Pennies From Heaven," and a Ma Rainey blues to close. B+(***) [cd] [06-01]

Rachel Chinouriri: What a Devastating Turn of Events (2024, Elektra): English singer-songwriter, family from Zimbabwe, first album after a couple of EPs. B+(***) [sp]

Cindy Lee: Diamond Jubilee (2024, Realistik Studios): Per Wikipedia: "the drag queen hypnagogic pop project of Canadian musician Patrick Flegel, former guitarist and lead singer of Women." Fifth album, 32 songs, over two hours. Lots of things here, probably could be edited into a good album, maybe two, but as is it doesn't sustain the interest it first elicited. B+(*) [yt]

A.G. Cook: Britpop (2024, New Alias): British electronica producer, initials for Alexander Guy, best known under the alias PC Music but third album under this moniker, a long one (three parts: "Past," "Present," "Future"; 24 tracks, 99:43 total). B+(**) [sp]

Charley Crockett: $10 Cowboy (2024, Son of Davy): Country singer-songwriter from Texas, plays guitar, more than a dozen albums since 2015. Easy does it. B+(**) [sp]

DIIV: Frog in Boiling Water (2024, Fantasy): Post-punk/dream pop/shoegaze band from Brooklyn, fourth album since 2012, singer-guitarist Zachary Cole Smith and guitarist Andrew Bailey from the original band, two others from 2013/2015. B+(*) [sp]

Billie Eilish: Hit Me Hard and Soft (2024, Interscope): First two names, skipping Pirate and surnames Baird (mother) and O'Connell (father), also discarded by brother Finneas, who seems to be the composer in their songwriting team, but she's undoubtedly the persona, an artist with a knack for seeing the wonder of the peculiar world she lives in: home-schooled, DIY-recorded, Grammy winner at 17, third album here at 22, most likely another smash -- but once again, I'm slow on the uptake, nudged on by nuggets of genius peeking out from soft and sly but seemingly unremarkable pop schist. Not totally sure here, but I'm probably saving myself some paperwork on down the line (like I had to do last time). A- [sp]

English Teacher: This Could Be Texas (2024, Island): British group, from Leeds, Lily Fontaine the singer, first album after a 2022 EP, much touted, not unreasonably. B+(***) [sp]

Beth Gibbons: Lives Outgrown (2024, Domino): English singer-songwriter, voice of Portishead in the 1990s, treats this as her debut solo album, although she has a 2002 duo with Rustin Man and is featured on a 2019 recording of Henryk Górecki's Symphony No. 3. Some remarkable music here. Songs to match. A- [sp]

Jon Gordon: 7th Ave South (2023 [2024], ArtistShare): Alto/soprano saxophonist, albums start in 1989, "revisits the 1980s heyday of jazz in Greenwich Village," with a fairly large group -- nine musicians, a choir, vocals on three tracks (including a cover of "Here, There, and Everywhere"). Sax is engaging, but otherwise a mixed bag. B+(*) [cd]

Hawkwind: Stories From Time and Space (2024, Cherry Red): British space rock group, debut 1970, slowed down after 1982 (releases in 1985, 1988, 1990) but with never more than a 5-year break (2000-05) and only one more (2012-16) more than two years. Vocalist Dave Brock (guitar, keybs) remains from the original group, with Richard Chadwick (drums) from 1990, one from 2016, the other two from 2021. Nothing in my database since Robert Calvert left in 1979. This sounds about right, but not enough to matter. B [sp]

Julia Holter: Something in the Room She Moves (2024, Domino): Singer-songwriter, from Milwaukee, eleventh album since 2007 (including three early DIY efforts), crafts atmospheric art-pop that I've never particularly related to, although this one has some appeal. B+(*) [sp]

Kelly Moran: Moves in the Field (2024, Warp): Composer, usually filed as modern classical but started in a no-wave punk band, is filed in my database as electronica, but Wikipedia also mentions jazz, dream pop, and black metal. This is acoustic piano, solo, ten pieces, very nice. B+(***) [sp]

David Murray Quartet: Francesca (2023 [2024], Intakt): Tenor sax great, includes a bit more than his usual bass clarinet special, other names on the cover: Marta Sanchez (piano), Luke Stewart (bass), Russell Carter (drums). Sounds great, if a bit more relaxed than usual. (Of course, no sooner than I write that line, he rips off a monstrous solo.) A- [sp]

Rosali: Bite Down (2024, Merge): Singer-songwriter, last name Middleman, fourth album since 2016. B [sp]

Wadada Leo Smith & Amina Claudine Myers: Central Park's Mosaics of Reservoir, Lake, Paths and Gardens (2021 [2024], Red Hook): Trumpet and piano duo. Pretty slow. B+(*) [sp]

Sprints: Letter to Self (2024, City Slang): Irish garage punk band, singer-guitarist Karla Chubb, has a couple EPs before this debut album. Substantial songs, has the sound down perfect. A- [sp]

St. Vincent: All Born Screaming (2024, Virgin): Singer-songwriter Anne Clark, born in Tulsa, grew up in Dallas, studied at Berklee, seventh studio album since 2007. B+(**) [sp]

Taylor Swift: The Tortured Poets Department (2024, Republic): Tenth studio album, not counting the redundant rerecordings, this one coming on the heels of one of the highest grossing tours ever. Not a lot of glitz here, which must mean she's focused on the songwriting. I'm not quick enough on words to qualify that, but I really like the tone and pacing, and don't note anything amiss. Note that I only listened to the basic album, not the extra disc (The Anthology). A- [sp]

Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties: In Lieu of Flowers (2024, Hopeless): Solo project by Wonder Years frontman Dan Campbell, third album since 2014. Has a fairly quiet folksinger phase, which rather often swells to power ballad and beyond -- a trick I quickly tire of. Sample lyric: "if there's a way of fucking up, I'm going to find it." B- [sp]

Conchúr White: Swirling Violets (2024, Bella Union): Singer-songwriter from Northern Ireland, second album. He has all of the songcraft and much of the sensibility of the singer-songwriters known as Withered Hand and Bon Iver and several more that have already slipped my mind. Probably has the same appeal, not that I care that much for any of them. B+(***) [sp]

Kathryn Williams & Withered Hand: Willson Williams (2024, One Little Independent): UK singer-songwriters, latter's real name is Dan Willson, has a few albums since 2009, Williams' longer discography goes back to 1999. I've never run across her before, but he has a reputation as a skilled songwriter with religious airs. This seems nice enough. B+(*) [sp]

Chelsea Wolfe: She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She (2024, Loma Vista): Singer-songwriter from California, seventh studio album since 2010, blends folk, gothic and metal, I guess into "darkwave." This is dark indeed, dense, but not unpleasing. What it all means is beyond me. B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Cannonball Adderley Quintet: Berliner Jazztage, November 2nd 72 (1972 [2023], Lantower): Alto saxophonist (1928-75), an exceptionally popular hard bop star. I recommend his early Emarcy sets (1956-58, collected as Sophisticated Swing) and Somethin' Else (1958, on Blue Note, with Miles Davis), but I have nothing in my database after his 1958-63 series with Riverside ended, but he recorded more for Capitol through 1972 and Fantasy up to his early death. Like most of his records, this features his brother Nat on trumpet -- a giant in his own right, and a more prolific composer. Also George Duke (keyboards, wrote the 19:06 opener, "Black Messiah"), Walter Booker (bass), and Roy McCurdy (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Old music:

Jacques Greene: ANTH01 (2010-13 [2021], LuckyMe): Electronics producer Philippe Aubin-Dionne, from Montreal, alias from a street crossing (like Sleater-Kinney), compilation mostly from 2010-13 singles but I haven't been able to date the end points. B+(***) [sp]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Anthony Branker & Imagine: Songs My Mom Liked (Origin) [06-21]
  • Gilbert Holmström: Peak (Moserobie) [05-24]
  • Alex Kautz: Where We Begin (Sunnyside) [07-05]
  • Izumi Kimura/Barry Guy/Gerry Hemingway: Six Hands Open as One (Fundacja Sluchaj) [04-01]
  • Rob Parton's Ensemble 9+: Relentless (Calligram) [06-07]
  • Kenny Reichert: Switch (Calligram) [06-07]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024


Music Week

Updated May 23, 2024, 19:02 CDT

I slipped up and failed to include "unpacking" when I posted this. Added below.

One more thing I meant to write about is that my domain registration for terminalzone.com is up for auto-renewal on May 28. I won't bother giving you a link, as the page is currently blank. (I thought I had a stub page. It actually had some material years ago, but it got wiped up in a server disaster, and I never got it restored.) Once upon a time, I thought my music and politics posts have somewhat diverging audiences, so it might be better to promote them as two separate websites (possibly with different collaborators). My first step there was to register domain namess for Terminal Zone and Notes on Everyday Life.

Those domain names came from publications I was heavily involved with in the 1970s. Notes on Everyday Life was a left-political tabloid with broad cultural interests -- "everyday life" potentially covered everything -- started at Washington University (St. Louis) by Elias Vlanton, Kevin Dougherty, and Harold Karabell, and they roped me in early on. Over a couple years we published a dozen or so issues, with an ever-changing cast of contributors.

One of those was Don Malcolm, who initially wanted to write about the Beach Boys, and he's the main reason or at least the catalyst for getting me into writing about music. He wrote a column, "Mainline," later collected as Overdose -- a compilation that included my initial batches of CG-like record reviews. (Those writings are preserved here). He followed that up with Terminal Zone, which I did major work on, but we split after a single issue. (I think Malcolm published a second, and maybe a third, issue, before his interests moved onto baseball -- there's more shared publishing history there, but I lost my interest in baseball well before I started thinking about web publishing.)

Anyhow, the question now is whether I keep a domain name I'm not using, and haven't used for ages, or let it expire. The money isn't a big deal -- although the fewer domain names I host websites for, the less I need to lease a dedicated server, and that is a tad expensive, as well as no small amount of management headache. I've dropped or reassigned a couple domains in recent years, and I'm glad I did.

On the other hand, renewing the domain name keeps open the possibility of eventually using it for something worthwhile. I don't feel much (if any) desire to promote myself as a music writer these days, but I do still fantasize about reorganizing my fairly substantial stash of music writings into a website framework that other people can take over and build on -- in effect, the seed for an open source project. I've been kicking variants of that idea around for years, with no great urgency or commitment. At this stage, it's unlikely to happen, unless someone else steps forward and wants to make it happen. It's not necessary to keep my sentimental name, let alone the domain name, but that -- plus the server plus the writings plus the fact that I still have most of my wits and skills and am often willing to lend a helping hand -- makes it the prospect a bit more credible.

I would appreciate any thoughts here. The name itself is of sentimental value to me, but meaningless to almost everyone else, so dropping the domain name won't preclude future website development. (So if the name sucks, that would be a good reason not to invest further in it.) Offers of help are welcome, but I'm unlikely to be very proactive for a while. (I have lots of other things in flux, but I'm feeling less down on myself as a critic than I was back in January, when I was more optimistic about book writing.)

I'm guessing that the most likely scenario is I kill the week waiting for responses that never come, so the domain gets renewed but remains unused for another two years. But I thought I should at least post the thought. Use Contact or Q&A to respond. Notices will follow on Twitter and Facebook (which I'm old-fashioned enough to reserve for personal friends, although my posts there are usually public). If you run across this after the deadline, chances are the opportunity hasn't been permanently lost.

One more note: I've had a request to be able to link directly into my Greil Marcus commentary from the the May 20 Speaking of Which, so I've started to add a few anchors: the Marcus note is here, and you can also jump straight to the music links. No idea how often I'll do this in the future, but it will make it possible to call out particular sections in tweets and comments.


May archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42349 [42312] rated (+37), 27 [22] unrated (+5).

We had a friend from Boston visiting this weekend, Friday to Tuesday. Most of the original planning didn't pan out: people we wanted to invite over for dinner left town, museums and restaurants we expected to be open weren't. We took a day trip into the area in central Kansas my grandmother hailed from, but we were a couple weeks too early to see wheat ripen. I figured we could stop at a legendary Swedish restaurant in Lindsborg, only to find it "closed permanently," so we wound up at Applebee's. So in some ways it was a bust, but the company was much appreciated, and appreciative.

I had written a bit of Speaking of Which before our guest arrived, and added bits here and there when I had a spare moment. I figured there was enough to post Sunday night, but didn't get it done until late Monday (118 links, 7602 words). I added some more after our guest left today, as well as blocking out this Music Week post.

I suppose I should point out that I finally carved out a section there for links to pieces on music. Not much in it this week, but it should go into the template. I still haven't played the Taylor Swift album, or even the new Billie Eilish. Not much strikes me as a priority these days. Speaking of Which also has a long comment on a Greil Marcus "answer," but it has nothing to do with music.

I hadn't expected to get much music reviewed this week, but when you promise a weekly post, you're not promising any quantity (or quality, really). I'm surprised I came up with as much as I did. Not at all clear what to do next.


New records reviewed this week:

John Ambrosini: Songs for You (2024, self-released): Jazz singer, plays piano, seems to be his first album (only Discogs credit is for an eponymous 1997 group album, The Trees), wrote two songs, the rest coming from what we may dub the rock-standards era: Beatles, Billy Joel, Elton John, James Taylor, Stephen Stills, Walter Becker with Donald Fagen or Rickie Lee Jones. Draws on Randy Breker, David Binney, and Joel Frahm for horn spots. Well done, but the familiar songs are not all old friends, and it still seems odd to standardize songs from such an auteurish era. B [cd] [06-01]

Bruno Berle: No Reino Dos Afetos 2 (2024, Psychic Hotline): Singer-songwriter, from Maceio, in northeast Brazil, fourth album since 2014, sequel to his 2022 release. Laid back and slightly off-kilter. B+(***) [sp]

The Bobby Broom Organi-sation: Jamalot Live (2014-19 [2024], Steele): Guitarist, pulled this together from two tours (the latter opening for Steely Dan), both trios with Ben Paterson (organ) and Kobie Watkins (drums), playing songs you know: "Superstition," "Layla," "Tennessee Waltz," "Jitterbug Waltz," "House of the Rising Sun," and a medley in 2019. B+(*) [cd] [05-24]

Carl Clements: A Different Light (2023 [2024], Greydisc): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano here; also bansuri, from his interest in Hindustani classical music), has several albums since 2004 (nine per website). Quartet with piano (Chase Morrin), bass (Bruno Rĺberg), and drums (Gen Yoshimura). Original pieces, some quite impressive. B+(***) [cd] [05-23]

Amalie Dahl's Dafnie: Stĺr Op Med Solen (2023 [2024], Sonic Transmissions/Aguirre): Saxophonist, has a previous group album, one more; group includes trumpet, trombone, bass, and drums. B+(***) [sp]

Adam Forkelid: Turning Point (2023 [2024], Prophone): Swedish pianist, fourth album since 2005, quartet with guitar (Carl Mörner Ringström), bass (Niklas Fernqvist), and drums (Daniel Fredriksson). Original pieces, smart and steady. B+(***) [cd]

Mikko Innanen Autonomous: Hietsu (2021 [2024], Fiasko): Finnish saxophonist, in a live set named for the venue in Helsinki, with Hĺvard Wiik (piano), Ajntti Lötjönen (bass), and Peter Bruun (drums), with some extra strings (and contrabass guitar). B+(**) [bc]

Abbey Masonbrink: Rising (2024, self-released): Singer-songwriter from Kansas, first album, plays banjo but not bluegrass, with producer Rod Pope (Get Up Kids) going for a denser, more electronic mix. Returns to form with a somber, piquant "I Saw the Light." B+(**) [sp]

Modney: Ascending Primes (2023 [2024], Pyroclastic, 2CD): Violinist Josh Modney, based in New York, has a couple previous albums, most ambitiously the 3-CD Engage (2018). This one is pretty ambitious as well, starting solo and ascending to "undectet" (11-piece orchestra). Unfortunately, I played the second disc first, and didn't discover the first until I was more than done with the second. Not that I'm not impressed, but violin can rub me the wrong way, so there's a lot here I simply don't enjoy. But I still feel like its monumental-ness deserves some kind of credit. B+(*) [cd]

John Moreland: Visitor (2024, Thirty Tigers): Country singer-songwriter from Tulsa, debut 2008 but breakthrough was 2015's High on Tulsa Heat. Slows down here, and reflects. "We don't grieve, and we don't rest. We just choose the lie that feels the best." B+(***) [sp]

Bill Orcutt Guitar Quartet: Four Guitars Live (2023 [2024], Palilalia): Guitarist, from Florida, started in rock groups, notably one from 1992-96 he co-led with then-wife Adris Hoyos called Harry Pussy. He released a solo album in 1996, then many more after 2011, along with avant-jazz collaborations (especially with Chris Corsano). His largest project, Music for Four Guitars, appeared in 2022, with Wendy Eisenberg, Ava Mendoza, and Shane Parish. Here they take their 30:58 set on the road, stretching it to 58:14. A- [sp]

Katie Pruitt: Mantras (2024, Rounder): Singer-songwriter from Georgia, filed her first record under country but that's less obvious here. B+(**) [sp]

Ren: Sick Boi (2023, The Other Songs): Welsh rapper/beatmaker Ren Gill, formerly of Trick the Fox and The Big Push, third album. Quick off the mark, but in for the long haul. A- [sp]

Maggie Rogers: Don't Forget Me (2024, Capitol): Singer-songwriter, the kind I have trouble with because I don't like having to pay close attention, but the music and voice are agreeable enough to lessen the chore, and the work pays off more often than not. Third major label album, after two self-released efforts that her discography makes an effort to distance from (although they seem to be available in a juvenilia compilation). Probably worth revisiting the earlier work. A- [sp]

Ann Savoy: Another Heart (2024, Smithsonian Folkways): Originally Ann Allen, from St. Louis, married Cajun accordionist Marc Savoy and joined his Savoy Doucet Cajun Band, also appearing in Magnolia Sisters, and leading a couple albums with Her Sleepless Knights. This seems to be the first with just her name on the credit line. It is a modest endeavor. B+(*) [sp]

Serengeti: KDIV (2024, Othar): Chicago rapper David Cohn, many records since 2003, looks like he's released several since the last I noticed in 2021. KD is his recurring character (or alter-ego?) Kenny Davis (this 18-track album is also available on Bandcamp as Kenny Davis IV). A- [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Congo Funk: Sound Madness From the Shores of the Mighty Congo River: Kinshasa/Brazzaville 1969-1982 (1969-82 [2024], Analog Africa): Some big names here, like Franco and Rochereau, as well a sampling from the north bank of the river, selected to emphasize the influence of James Brown. B+(***) [sp]

Grupo Irakere: Grupo Irakere (1976 [2024], Mr Bongo): Legendary Cuban jazz group, founded by pianist Chucho Valdés in 1973, second album, band toured Eastern Europe in 1977, and gained further international notice when Columbia released an album in 1978, followed by notable defections in 1980-81 (Paquito D'Rivera, Arturo Sandoval). The band continued through 1997, when Valdés left, to be replaced by his son, Chuchito (to 1999). Excitement everywhere. A- [sp]

Todd Snider: Songs for the Daily Planet (Purple Version) (2020 [2024], Aimless): Pandemic project, possibly inspired by Taylor Swift's decision to re-record all of her old records, except that not being Taylor Swift, he decided to give them away as free downloads, and saved some money by just doing acoustic guitar solo versions, but they come out longer as he tells stories and talks around. The cover has some extra print: "Aimless Records Presents" above the cover image, and "Recorded at the Purple Building" below, but I think (Purple Version) suffices. This was his first album, from 1994. B+(**) [sp]

Todd Snider: Step Right Up (Purple Version) (2020 [2024], Aimless): Reminiscing his way through a remake of his second album. B+(**) [sp]

Todd Snider: Viva Satellite (Purple Version) (2020 [2024], Aimless): Project continues through his third and final MCA album, Viva Satellite. Solo guitar and voice, with spoken intros stretching the original 14 songs out to 84 minutes. B+(*) [sp]

Old music:

Jackson Blues, 1928-1938 (1928-38 [1991], Yazoo): Original LP collected 14 tracks from 10 artists in 1968, the dupes three tracks each for Tommy Johnson and Ishman Bracey. B+(**) [sp]

Ville Lähteenmäki Trio: Introducing (2022, Ultraääni): Leader plays bass clarinet, claims the compositions, titled "side A" and "side B," with Nicolas Leirtrř (contrabass) and Trym Saugstad Karlsen (drums). B+(***) [bc]

Ville Lähteenmäki Utopia: Russian Body Language (2020, Art First): Also found this earlier album, probably the bass clarinetist's first, a cassette release recorded and mixed by guitarist Lauri Kallio, with bass, drums, vibes (Mikko Antila), and extra alto sax on one track (Johannes Sarjasto). Most free, some heavy, some light. B+(***) [sp]

Mississippi Moaners: 1927-1942 (1927-42 [1991], Yazoo): Isaiah Nettles, of Carlisle, Mississippi, recorded four songs in 1935, two released as The Mississippi Moaner, one here along with 13 more songs, one per artist, in this interesting compilation of Delta blues obscurities. B+(**) [sp]

The Rough Guide to Delta Blues [Reborn and Remastered] (1928-40 [2016], World Music Network): Generous (25-track) sampler from the northwest corner of Mississippi, noting legends like Son House, Charley Patton, and Skip James, but quickly moving on to the lesser-knowns that make anthologies like this necessary. Starts with the last-recorded piece, Bukka White's "Special Streamline," because even archivalists like to open with a bang. A- [sp]

The Rough Guide to Delta Blues (Vol. 2) (1928-40 [2022], World Music Network): Plenty more where the previous volume came from, giving 22 first-volume artists a second song (opening again with 1940 Bukka White), adding four more (Big Joe Williams, Mississippi Matilda, Louise Johnson, Mississippi Mud Steppers). Some finds here, like "It's Killin' Me" (Willie Lofton), but overall it loses a step. B+(***) [sp]

The Rough Guide to Ragtime Blues [Reborn and Remastered] (1925-38 [2017], World Music Network): Blind Blake, Blind Boy Fuller, and Blind Willie McTell anchor this collection, where "rag" can mean any number of things. B+(***) [sp]

The Rough Guide to Barrelhouse Blues [Reborn and Remastered] (1928-48 [2018], World Music Network): Piano players, a nice selection, with boogie woogie specials like Jimmy Yancey, Pete Johnson, and Albert Ammons pushing into the 1940s. B+(***) [sp]

Serengeti: The Glennon EP (2020, self-released, EP): With nothing in my database since the disappointing 2021 Have a Summer, I'm playing catch up. Five tracks here, 11:46, produced by Glennon Curran. Still, not much here. B- [sp]

Serengeti: Kaleidoscope III (2022, Audio Recon, EP): Nine tracks, 16:01, produced by Rob Kleiner. B [sp]

Serengeti: We Saw Mad Turtles (2022, self-released, EP): Four tracks, 10:12, produced by Arborist. Getting a bit denser. B [sp]

Serengeti: Ajai II (2023, self-released): Short album (10 tracks, 28:37), follows his 2020 release Ajai, produced by Child Actor. B+(*) [sp]

Todd Snider: Step Right Up (1996, MCA): Second album, following his 1994 debut Songs for the Daily Planet, some folk, some country, some flat out rock, can amuse but that's not yet a big part of his repertoire. At least until "Tension" appears, one of his greatest songs (I probably know it from one of the Storyteller live albums). That's where he's found his calling. B+(***) [sp]

Todd Snider: Viva Satellite (1998, MCA): Third album, last for MCA, reportedly got him fired, probably for following their advice and rocking harder -- not something I object to on any sort of principle, but I find the deviant "Guaranteed" much more interesting than the powerhouse "Out All Night". Still, I can't say that his unplugged remake is any better, so maybe not one of his better batches of songs (although "Double Wide Blues" is a keeper). B+(**) [sp]

Todd Snider: Happy to Be Here (2000, Oh Boy): After MCA, Snider landed on John Prine's Oh Boy label. First (well, only) time I heard him was as a solo act opening for Prine, but that was around the time of his third Oh Boy album, Live: Near Truths and Hotel Rooms, so I'm catching up with its predecessors. This was recorded solo, then extra bits were dubbed in (including some awkward horns). B+(***) [sp]

Todd Snider: New Connection (2002, Oh Boy): Some more songs I recognize, like "Statistician's Blues" and "Beer Run," no doubt from elsewhere. B+(**) [sp]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Altus: Mythos (Biophilia) * [06-07]
  • Etienne Charles: Creole Orchestra (Culture Shock) [06-14]
  • Fox Green: Holy Souls (self-released '22)
  • Fox Green: Light Darkness (self-released) * [06-12]
  • Jon Gordon: 7th Ave South (ArtistShare) [05-03]
  • Mike Holober & the Gotham Jazz Orchestra: This Rock We're On: Imaginary Letters (Palmetto) [06-14]
  • Janel & Anthony: New Moon in the Evil Age (Cuneiform) * [06-28]
  • Janel Leppin: Ensemble Volcanic Ash: To March Is to Love (Cuneiform) * [06-28]
  • Flavio Silva: Eko (Break Free) [06-07]
  • Ryan Truesdell: Synthesis: The String Quartet Sessions (ArtistShare) [0l6-21]
  • Juanma Trujillo: Howl (Endectomorph Music) * [07-12]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024


Music Week

May archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42312 [42249] rated (+63), 22 [29] unrated (-7).

Major time sink last week was filling out the DownBeat Critics Poll ballot. I took notes, and they're here, but probably need to be cleaned up a bit more. One thing that slowed me down was that I copied off all of their nominee lists. I could write a sociology dissertation on "How to Lie with Polls," where the most obvious way is the questions you pick and those you leave out, so this is data I've often wished I had kept (although whether I do anything with it remains to be seen).

One thing I have done ever since they started inviting me was to copy down their album lists, figuring I could use them as checklists. Before I got into this year's lists, I calculated that I had heard 84.4% of their new jazz album nominees, 57.5% of their historical jazz albums, 22.5% of the blues albums, and 78.3% of their "beyond" albums. Most of the albums in this week's haul came from the unheard parts of those lists, including a lot of blues guitar-slingers I never bothered with before and probably won't again.

After submitting the DownBeat ballot, I resumed work on Speaking of Which. Sunday night I was mostly done, but still meant to write something on a particularly offensive Jonathan Chait piece, so decided to hold it an extra day. By the time I posted Monday evening, it was 228 links, 11,661 words. I've added a bit more today, flagged as usual.

The extra day added to the rated count (+11 to be precise), as I rarely bothered to give even high-B+ albums a second play. Jimmy Holmes and his protege Robert Connelly Farr were two I wondered about. Much in the long Wes Montgomery and Keith Jarrett sets sounded terrific, but I wound up demurring, partly because I previously had Full House at B+, and Köln Concert at A- (with no other Jarrett solo coming close).

One nice bit of news is that after complaining about Cox's lack of service at some length last week, I got an unsolicited tweet-message from them pointing me to a web page with an email address to appeal blocked mail. I wrote them. They cleared the block a couple days later, and fixed my problem: I can now send email that references my website.

A couple days later, I found another problem, this time with Gmail. Turns out anything I send from my server to a Gmail account gets automatically rejected as "likely suspicious due to the very low reputation of the sending IP address." I've run across this before, and (needless to say) they, too, make it very difficult to get anything resembling service. I've yet to try troubleshooting this particular problem -- which, among other things, means making sure my server isn't committing the offenses charged. It's a pretty low-grade problem right now, but will matter more if/when I revive the Jazz Critics Poll.

I should also note that last week's much-hyped storm front almost completely spared Wichita. We had a cold front that was sweeping southeast across Kansas, and on its edge there developed an almost straight line of storms from Texas into Nebraska. But the actual storm cells were moving north-northeast up the edge of the front. Just before the front passed through Wichita, the line broke, with two larger storms coalescing, one passing north of Wichita, the more southern storm passing to our south and east. The latter did produce tornadoes, but mostly in Oklahoma. There were more tornadoes later that night, around Kansas City and up into Iowa.

I expect to get very little work done in what's left of this week, and none over the weekend. We have company coming, which almost certainly means I won't be posting Speaking of Which then (although I probably will open a draft file in case I do stumble on something I'd want to link to). It will also be tempting to skip a Music Week, although there's no minimum there: if I do post, it will be much shorter than this one.


New records reviewed this week:

Matt Andersen: The Big Bottle of Joy (2023, Sonic): Canadian blues guitarist-singer-songwriter, regular albums since 2004. I don't see credits, but the backup singers loom large here. Actually, it's all big and joyful. B+(**) [sp]

Anitta: Funk Generation (2024, Republic): Brazilian "baile funk" singer-songwriter, Larissa de Macedo Machado, debut 2013, this follows a similarly named 2023 EP, repeats the first single "Funk Rave," expanded to 15 short, hard-hitting tracks, 35:14. B+(***) [sp]

Nia Archives: Silence Is Loud (2024, Hijinxx/Island): British jungle DJ/producer, last name Hunt, has several EPs since 2021, first album takes a big step toward turning her into a dance-pop star. A- [sp]

Duane Betts: Wild & Precious Life (2023, Royal Potato Family): Son of Allman Brothers guitarist Dickey Betts (1943-2024), namesake obvious. First album under his own name but he's been playing in Allman and/or Betts bands since 2005, and quite capably recycles their trademark sound. B+(*) [sp]

Pat Bianchi: Three (2023 [2024], 21H): Organ player, debut 2002, tenth or so album, back-to-basics trio with Troy Roberts (sax) and Colin Stranahan (drums). Opens and closes strong with "Love for Sale" and "Cheek to Cheek." B+(***) [sp]

Muireann Bradley: I Kept These Old Blues (2021-23 [2023], Tompkins Square): Irish folkie, plays guitar, first album, sings twelve old blues, three from Mississippi John Hurt, three following arrangements by Stefan Grossman (plus one John Fahey). B+(***) [sp]

Edmar Castańeda World Ensemble: Viento Sur (2023, self-released): Harp player, from Colombia, ten or so albums since 2005. Not much info available, but I gather the singer is his wife, Andrea Tierra, and the band includes Felipe Lamoglia (sax), Ryan Keberle (trombone), Helio Alves (piano), Grégoire Maret (harmonica), and Itai Kriss (flute), plus percussionists. B+(***) [sp]

Layale Chaker & Sarafand: Radio Afloat (2023 [2024], In a Circle): Violinist, sings some, group with (Jake Charkley (cello), Philip Golub (piano/keyboards), Sam Minais (bass), and John Hadfield (drums). The occasional vocals lend this a Middle Eastern air, while the variety in the instruments frees the violin up as the engaging solo lead. A- [cd] [05-17]

Gary Clark Jr.: JPEG RAW (2024, Warner): Blues singer-songwriter, got a lot of hype with his 2012 major label debut, can't say as I was much impressed. Title acronym for "Jealousy, Pride, Greed, Rules, Alter Ego, Worlds." Five (of twelve) songs feature guests, with Stevie Wonder and George Clinton the big names. B- [sp]

Chris Duarte: Ain't Giving Up (2023, Provogue): Blues-rock singer-songwriter from Texas, regular albums since 1987, like so many his calling card is his guitar. B+(*) [sp]

Tinsley Ellis: Naked Truth (2024, Alligator): Blues-rock singer-songwriter-guitarist based in Atlanta, started in the Heartfixers in 1982, went solo in 1988 and has 20+ albums since. Wrote nine songs here, covers Son House (quite credibly), Willie Dixon, and Leo Kottke. B+(**) [sp]

William Lee Ellis: Ghost Hymns (2023, Yellow Dog): Folkie singer-songwriter from Memphis, plays guitar, opens solo with a front porch blues, picks up some banjo and fiddle for the Jesus-namechecking second song, called "Flood Tale." Both of those songs grabbed me immediately, but then he wandered into other less immediately appealing fare. Still worth the thought. B+(***) [sp]

Empirical: Wonder Is the Beginning (2022 [2024], Whirlwind): British group, half-dozen albums since 2007, led by bassist-composer Tom Farmer, with Jason Rebello (piano), Shaney Forbes (drums), Lewis Wright (vibes), and Nathaniel Facey (alto sax), plus Alex Hitchcock (tenor sax, 3 tracks). B+(**) [sp]

Ethel & Layale Chaker: Vigil (2022 [2024], In a Circle): As best I can tell -- my eyes have gotten so bad it pains me to search out the recording date and credits, let alone decipher the microscopic booklet -- Chaker is a violinist and composer of half of this, and Ethel is her group -- three more violins and a cello -- members of which composed most of the rest. So a strings group, certainly qualifies as chamber jazz. B+(***) [cd] [05-17]

Robert Connelly Farr: Pandora Sessions (2023, self-released): Guitarist, growler, from "Bolton, Mississippi, home of Charley Patton, Sam Chatmon & the Mississippi Sheiks," a protege of Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, plays "thunderous back alley blues" that are "menacing, guttural." Indeed, the sound is very striking at first, but then sort of shrinks, folding back on itself. B+(***) [sp]

Lawrence Fields: To the Surface (2023 [2024], Rhythm 'N' Flow): Pianist, from St. Louis, "long-awaited" debut album -- he has side credits back to 2007, including Joe Lovano and Christian Scott -- a trio with Yasushi Nakamura (bass) and Corey Fonville (drums), originals plus one cover ("I Fall in Love Too Easily"). B+(**) [sp]

Samantha Fish & Jesse Dayton: Death Wish Blues (2023, Rounder): Blues singer-songwriter-guitarist from Kansas City, a dozen or so albums since 2009, some with co-credits (like 2011's Girls With Guitars), this her first with Dayton, a rockabilly/outlaw country artist with more records going back to 1995. They're rough enough to get on each other's nerves, but the exception, a Fish ballad "No Apology," is an oasis of calm in the enveloping chaos. B+(**) [sp]

Sue Foley: One Guitar Woman: A Tribute to the Female Pioneers of Guitar (2024, Stony Plain): Blues guitarist, singer, has written most of her songs since her 1992 debut (Young Girl Blues), mostly covers here, drawing songs from Elizabeth Cotten, Maybelle Carter, Rosetta Tharpe, and others. B+(***) [sp]

Roberto Fonseca: La Gran Diversión (2023, 3čme Bureau/Wagram): Cuban pianist, a dozen or so albums since 1999. A full roster of Cuban musicians, including vocalists, with a guest spot for Regina Carter (violin). Cover depicts a party. Music bears that out. B+(**) [sp]

Amaro Freitas: Y'Y (2024, Psychic Hotline): Brazilian pianist, from Recife, fourth album since 2016. Nine tracks, some solo, some with a guest or two, including Shabaka Hutchings (flute), Brandee Younger (harp), Jeff Parker (guitar), and Hamid Drake (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Gov't Mule: Peace . . . Like a River (2023, Concord): Southern rock jam band, founded 1994 as an Allman Brothers spinoff, Warren Haynes (guitar/vocals) and Matt Abts (drums) founders still carrying on. This one is especially long. B- [sp]

Makiko Hirabayashi Trio: Meteora (2022 [2023], Enja): Japanese pianist, based in Copenhagen since 1990, side credits since 1996, several own albums since 2006. Trio with Klavs Hovman (bass) and Marilyn Mazur (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Hiromi's Sonicwonder: Sonicwonderland (2023, Telarc): Japanese pianist, last name Uehara, studied at Berklee, debut album 2003, a dozen more since, has classical skills, likes electronics, wrote jingles before moving into (and sometimes out of) jazz. This one jams Adam O'Farrill (trumpet) into the sonic tapestry, which helps. Some vocals. B+(*) [sp]

Munir Hossn/Ganavya: Sister, Idea (2023, Ropeadope, EP): Duo, recorded in Miami, the former a guitarist/vocalist from Brazil, the latter a vocalist/bassist (last name Doraiswamy, born in New York but raised in Tamil Nadu), each with a couple of independent previous albums. Seven songs, 19:46. B+(*) [sp]

Hovvdy: Hovvdy (2024, Arts & Crafts): Indie rock duo from Austin, Charlie Martin and Will Taylor, fifth album since 2016, tuneful, easy going, slight, just a whiff of country. B+(*) [sp]

Ibibio Sound Machine: Pull the Rope (2024, Merge): London-based afro-funk band, led by vocalist Eno Williams (UK-born, of Nigerian parents), the band including a guitarist from Ghana and a percussionist from Brazil. Choice groove: "Dance in the Rain." B+(**) [sp]

Christone "Kingfish" Ingram: Live in London (2023, Alligator, 2CD): Blues singer-songwriter from Clarksdale, Mississippi, plays guitar, has two previous studio albums. Pretty young (23), but solid. Run time: 107.12. B+(*) [sp]

Eric Johanson: The Deep and the Dirty (2023, Ruf): Louisiana-born blues-rock singer-songwriter, guitarist, moved to New Zealand after Katrina but returned to New Orleans in 2010, has a half-dozen albums since 2017. B+(*) [sp]

Rickie Lee Jones: Pieces of Treasure (2022 [2023], BMG/Modern): Fifteenth studio album, going back to her eponymous debut in 1979, with its jazzy freak hit single, produced by Russ Titelman, who returns here for this collection of ten standards. They picked great songs, but slowed them way down, exposing the cracks in her voice, but little else. B- [sp]

Live Edge Trio With Steve Nelson: Closing Time (2023 [2024], OA2): Trio of Ben Markley (piano), Seth Lewis (bass), and Andy Wheelock (drums), with the vibraphonist most prominent as guest. Highlight is a Horace Silver cover (of course). B+(**) [cd] [05-17]

John Lurie: Painting With John (2021-23 [2024], Royal Potato Family): Founder of the Lounge Lizards, a jazzy fusion group which recorded four studio and more live albums 1981-98; also did a shtick as Marvin Pontiac, and recorded a few soundtracks, including Fishing With John for an unscripted TV series he did in 1991. This collects music from his more recent TV series, with three seasons on HBO Max. Scattered pieces, most miniatures, some narrated, most minor but often interesting, ends with a Lounge Lizards delight. Spotify counts 56 songs, "about" 75 minutes. B+(***) [sp]

The Taj Mahal Sextet: Swingin' Live at the Church in Tulsa (2023 [2024], Lightning Rod): Folk blues great, first record 1968, no recording date I can see here, but one source had him at 81 in 2023, which is info enough. Six originals, four covers (three blues, one Hawaiian). Seems to be in strong voice, buoyed by a strong band. B+(***) [sp]

Dom Martin: Buried in the Hail (2023, Forty Below): Blues-rock singer-songwriter-guitarist, from Belfast, Northern Ireland, third album, ten originals plus a power ballad rendition of Willie Nelson's "Crazy." B+(*) [sp]

Dave McMurray: Grateful Deadication 2 (2023, Blue Note): Tenor saxophonist, from Detroit, started with Albert King, was in Was (Not Was) and Griot Galaxy, first solo album 1989, second 1996. Got the idea of doing a Grateful Dead tribute after meeting Bob Weir in 2019, released one in 2021, and here's a second. Pleasant-enough songs, some I recognize despite having no interest in the band since the early 1970s, helped with organ and a bit of grit in the sax. Some vocals, not sure whether they hurt or help. B+(*) [sp]

Coco Montoya: Writing on the Wall (2023, Alligator): Blues guitarist-singer-songwriter, from California, albums since 1995. Raw but unexceptional power. B [sp]

Simon Moullier: Inception (2022 [2023], Fresh Sound New Talent): Vibraphonist, from Nantes, France (although web bio doesn't mention that, or anything specific other than "being mentored" at Berklee), fourth album since 2020, trio with bass (Luca Alemanno) and drums (Jongkuk Kim), on one original and eight wide-ranging jazz standards (including a Jobim). B+(**) [sp]

Nat Myers: Yellow Peril (2023, Easy Eye Sound): Roots-blues singer-songwriter-guitarist from Kentucky, happens to be Korean-American, an irony that is not lost on him. First album. Good songs throughout, but "Pray for Rain" is exceptional. A- [sp]

Parchman Prison Prayer: Some Mississippi Sunday Morning (2023, Glitterbeat): Gospel recordings from inmates in a maximum security prison in Mississippi. B+(**) [sp]

Ben Patterson Jazz Orchestra: Groove Junkies (2023 [2024], Origin): Conventional big band, leader/composer plays trombone, graduated from UNT, spent over a decade in the USAF Airmen of Note, has at least two previous albums as leader, his whole career leading right here. He has every reason to be pleased with this one, although I'm not fully convinced by the big Latin jazz number. B+(**) {cd] [05-17]

Nicholas Payton: Drip (2023, PayTone): Trumpet player, from New Orleans, plays keyboard and flugelhorn here, fairly laid back funk tracks with guest vocals. B [sp]

Jessica Pratt: Here in the Pitch (2024, Mexican Summer): Singer-songwriter from San Francisco, based in Los Angeles, fourth album since 2012, has a reputation but I disliked the only previous album I've heard. I don't dislike this rather low key "album of hypnogogic folk music," but didn't find the mysteries intriguing enough to give it a second listen either. B [sp]

John Primer & Bob Corritore: Crawlin' Kingsnake (2024, VizzTone): Mississippi bluesman, played with Magic Slim before going out on his own in 1991, picked up the harmonica player in 2013, and they've been solic ever since. B+(***) [sp]

Jason Robinson: Ancestral Numbers (2023 [2024], Playscape): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano here, also alto flute), albums since 1998, composed everything here, thinking about his ancestors. Quintet with Michael Dessen (trombone), Joshua White (piano), Drew Gress (bass), and Ches Smith (drums). Interesting throughout, but took me a while to work through all of it. A- [cd] [05-14]

Still House Plants: If I Don't Make It, I Love U (2023 [2024], Bison): British art/experimental rock trio, singer is Jess Hickie-Kallenbach, third or fourth album, has very positive reviews from Guardian and Pitchfork, but not much notice elsewhere. I could see her as some kind of jazz singer, only loosely tethered to the off-kilter guitar/drums, but not the kind -- pace "remarkable voice" -- I like. B- [sp]

Natsuki Tamura/Jim Black: NatJim (2023 [2024], Libra): Japanese trumpet player, husband to pianist Satoko Fujii, has more albums with her but quite a few on his own, like this dynamic but choppy improv duo with drums. B+(***) [cd] [05-17]

Ralph Towner: At First Light (2022 [2023], ECM): American guitarist, has recorded regularly for ECM since 1973, also extensively in the group Oregon. Solo here, nice and easy. B+(*) [sp]

Angela Verbrugge: Somewhere (2017-18 [2024], OA2): Standards singer, from Canada, first album, starts a bit flat, and the title song has little to recommend itself, but gets better -- I especially love the one en français, curiously the only one she wrote, and oddly billed as a "remix." B+(**) [cd] [05-17]

Bill Warfield and the Hell's Kitchen Funk Orchestra: Time Capsule (2023, Planet Arts): Trumpet player, has led big bands since 1990, this his second album with this particular group. Opens with a splashy Chrissi Poland vocal. Only a few more vocals, but everything is splashy. B+(**) [sp]

Randy Weinstein: Harmonimonk (2023 [2024], Random Chance): Harmonica player (both chromatic and diatonic) plays seven Monk tunes, 37:46, with various backing, but not much on any given song. B+(**) [cd] [05-15]

Dan Wilson: Things Eternal (2023, Brother Mister/Mack Avenue): Guitarist, second album, leads a quartet with electric piano (Glenn Zaleski), bass (Brandon Rose), and drums (David Throckmorton), with guest organ on two tracks, vocals on three -- a crossover pop move that works better than expected. B+(**) [sp]

Mark Winkler: The Rules Don't Apply (2024, Cafe Pacific): Jazz singer, twenty-some albums since 1980 including duos with Cheryl Bentyne, yet when you look him up in Wikipedia you get some South African writer. Looks for postmodern standards -- "I.G.Y." sounds especially great here, and he does well by "Got to Get You Into My Life" and "Mama Told Me Not to Come" -- and writes some lyrics, mostly celebrating jazz. Recorded in five groups, but dates not given. B+(**) [cd]

Warren Wolf: Chano Pozo: Origins (2023, self-released): Vibraphonist, from Baltimore, tenth album since 2005, including a decade on Mack Avenue (also playing with Christian McBride). Very little info on this, but back story seems to be that it's a tribute to his late father, who nicknamed his son after the legendary Cuban percussionist. B+(*) [sp]

Xaviersobased: Keep It Goin Xav (2024, 34Ent): Young (20) rapper Xavier Lopez, from NYC, first album. B+(*) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Terri Lyne Carrington: TLC & Friends (1981 [2023], Candid): Drummer, from Massachusetts, father and grandfather were musicians (latter played with Fats Waller and Chu Berry), was tutored by Alan Dawson, recorded this when she was 16 but had some major league friends: George Coleman (tenor sax), Kenny Barron (piano), Buster Williams (bass). She wrote one song, but otherwise went with sure covers, slipping Billy Joel between two Sonny Rollins tunes on the second side, "St. Thomas" and "Sonny Moon for Two" (with her father guesting as the second tenor sax). They're all having terrific fun. A- [sp]

Jimi Hendrix Experience: Hollywood Bowl, August 18, 1967 (1967, Experience Hendrix/Legacy): Another installment, we're long past surprises now, let alone amazement, but the quirks are still fun to listen to. Set list: "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Band" to open, two blues, four originals, "Like a Rolling Stone," and "Wild Thing" to finish. B+(**) [sp]

Keith Jarrett: Solo-Concerts Bremen/Lausanne (1973 [2023], ECM, 2CD): Originally a daunting 3-LP box, but this did much to establish Jarrett's reputation as a dazzling pianist before his 1975 solo The Köln Concert became a mega-seller. As with the latter, the CD length got dispensed of the need to slice his long solos up, here giving us the two-part Bremen in 63:10 and the single Lausanne set in 64:53. B+(***) [sp]

A Moi La Liberté: Early Electronic Raď, Algerie 1983-90 (1983-90 [2023], Serendip Lab): Algerian folk music, electrified during the 1980s, spreading from Oran to Paris, accelerated by the civil war (1991-2002), during which several singers became international stars. For me, the introduction was Earthworks 1988 sampler, Rai Rebels, followed by individual albums by Cheb Khaled, Chaba Fadela, and others. This goes a bit earlier, perhaps a bit deeper. B+(***) [bc]

Wes Montgomery: The Complete Full House Sessions (1962 [2023], Craft, 2CD): Hugely influential jazz guitarist, cut this album live at Tsubo in Berkeley, California, released in 1962 with six songs, 43:14, with one of his strongest groups: Johnny Griffin (tenor sax), Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Jimmy Cobb (drums). The 1987 CD picked up three alternate takes, and a 2007 reissue found a few more. This adds a couple more, giving us 14 takes of the original six songs. B+(***) [sp]

Tell Everybody! 21st Century Juke Joint Blues From Easy Eye Sound (2017-23 [2023], Easy Eye Sound): Blues label sampler, label founded by Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) in Nashville, major find to date has been Robert Finley, with most of the artists here not even represented by albums (as far as I can tell; dating previously released songs is also hard, but I did find a couple). B+(**) [sp]

Old music:

Jimmy "Duck" Holmes: Cypress Grove (2019, Easy Eye Sound): 72-year-old blues singer-guitarist from Bentonia, Mississippi, inherited the Blue Front Cafe ("on the Mississippi Blues Trail") from his parents, but only started recording in 2006. Wrote three (of eleven) songs here, his favorite cover source Skip James. B+(***) [sp]

Rickie Lee Jones: Rickie Lee Jones (1979, Warner Bros.): Singer-songwriter, first album, led off with a memorable jive single, "Chuck E's in Love," which took the album platinum, and finished in top 25 in Pazz & Jop that year -- I was reminded of this, because it's the only one of the top-40 I missed hearing. She's had a steady career ever since, but her sales declined, with nothing after album four (1989) charting top-100. B+(*) [sp]

Rickie Lee Jones: Pirates (1981, Warner Bros.): Second album, also went top-ten but the singles stiffed. She does manage to generate some swing on the title cut, but the credits she should have gotten more (rhythm from Victor Feldman, Russell Ferrante, Chuck Rainey, Steve Gadd; horn spots from Randy Brecker, David Sanborn, and Tom Scott; Donald Fagen on synth). B [sp]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Adam Forkelid: Turning Point (Prophone) [03-05]
  • Dave Rempis/Tashi Dorji Duo: Gnash (Aerophonic) [06-25]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

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