Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Listening Booth: Fave music a bit past the half way point, published reviews April through July 3rd, Geri Allen RIP & more

This post should have been posted a month ago, but events has prevented me from finishing it. Since July is a quiet month for me in terms of writing, I don't feel too bad posting it at the end of the summer break.

The few months prior to the summer break were difficult ones. Not only did my dad die in May, just before that and in the weeks following, so did Chris Cornell, Geri Allen, Prodigy, and then Khelan Phil Cohran, all of them musicians who have made an impact on me at least to some extent over the years. Following their respective deaths, I've found solace, power and courage in the music they made, in particular in the case of Cornell and Allen. And as for my dad, some of the music he loved. But life goes on, and additionally, there has been so much great new music released so far this year (and much more just over the horizon) to keep me occupied and to lift my spirits.

None more so than William Parker's terrific, riveting and uplifting Meditation / Resurrection double album, which showcases two of his quartets -- the actual William Parker Quartet as well as In Order to Survive. It's a truly wonderful release. Parker has hit similar heights on record previously, but part of what makes this one so interesting is how the two albums both contrast and mirror each of the two groups, both among the best jazz ensembles of the past few decades, and in doing so revealing the breadth of Parker's work in the quartet format as well as how his singular voice as a musician and composer permeates the music of both, with the unparalleled rhythmic power duo of Parker and Hamid Drake at their respective cores. As I wrote in the conclusion of my review for Musikkmagasinet, whether the music swings hard or moves in more abstract, exploratory patterns, absorbing melodies and impelling grooves never too far away, and few if anyone today makes avant-jazz this warm, energetic, soulful, fiery and engaging quite like Parker and his trusted cohorts.

A couple of words, too, for Geri Allen. I was a tad late to Allen's music, admittedly, not really digging into her discography until I re-listened to and was subsequently captivated by her trio recording Printmakers (Minor Music), featuring Andrew Cyrille on drums and Anthony Cox on double bass, for the 1984 project I started almost 10 years ago. Geri Allen was a terrific pianist and a talented composer whose artistic practice followed its own path. Much has been made of Allen's ability to operate on either side of the trad./mainstream and the avant-garde so-called divide, but to me she rendered such a division pointless, and thus paved the way for how great musicians such as the bassist Eric Revis (who also has a new, really good album out) seem to think and work today. It was as if she ripped away the wires of a dividing fence and danced between the posts with grace and vivacity.

Printmakers remains a fave, but there are many other great recordings with Allen, both as a sidewoman and as a leader and co-leader. From her work with Oliver Lake, Steve Coleman, and Wallace Roney, to the trio recordings with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian and later Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette, up to the very recent group she had with David Murray and Terri Lyne Carrington, and many others, including an album with Ornette Coleman. She'll be sorely missed.

Published reviews, April through July 3rd.
  • Trio 3: Visiting Texture (Intakt Records) Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, April 10., 2017. Original grade 5 out of 6. A
  • Thelonious Monk: Liaisons Dangereuses (1960) Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, May 8., 2017. [Link to online version] Not graded (part of an article). A
  • Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die (International Anthem) Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, May 29., 2017. [Original grade 5 out of 6. A-
  • Akmee: Neptun (Nakama Records) Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen,June 19., 2017. Original grade 5 out of 6. A-
  • William Parker Quartets: Meditation / Resurrection (AUM Fidelity) Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, July 3., 2017. Original grade 6 out of 6. A+
  • Linda May Han Oh: Walk Against Wind (Biophilia Records) Reviewed for Jazznytt #243, Summer 2017. Not graded. B+
  • The Angelica Sanchez Trio: Float the Edge (Clean Feed) Reviewed for Jazznytt #243, Summer 2017. Not graded. A-
Additional published writing: "Opp med Shipp-farten", on Matthew Shipp, Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, April 3., 2017 and Chris Cornell obit, Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, May 22., 2017.

Fave new releases, January through the first week of July 2017:


For the ages:
  • William Parker Quartets: Meditation / Resurrection (AUM Fidelity)
  • Angles 9: Disappeared Behind the Sun (Clean Feed)
  • Harriet Tubman feat. Wadada Leo Smith: Araminta (Sunnyside Records)

Heavy rotation:
  • IDLES: Brutalism (Balley Records)
  • Jens Lekman: Life Will See You Now (Secretly Canadian)
  • Trio 3 (Andrew Cyrille, Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman): Visiting Texture (Intakt Records)
  • Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die (International Anthem)
  • Arto Lindsey:  Cuidado Madame (Northern Spy Records)
  • Khalid: American Teen (Right Hand Music)
  • Akmee: Neptun (Nakama Records)
  • Alexander Hawkins: Unit[e] (self-released)
  • Lisa Mezzacappa: avantNOIR (Clean Feed)
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: Piano Song (Thirsty Ear)
  • Craig Taborn: Daylight Ghosts (ECM) 
  • David S. Ware Trio: Live in New York 2010 (AUM Fidelity) 
  • Emperor X: Oversleepers International (Tiny Engines)

Thoroughly enjoyed:
  • Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo: Peace (Libra Records)
  • CP Unit: Before the Heat Deadth (Clean Feed)
  • Eivind Opsvik Overseas: Overseas V (Loyal Label)
  • Atomic: Six Easy Pieces (Odin)
  • Preservation Hall Jazz Band: So It Is (Legacy Recordings)
  • Lithics: Borrowed Floors (Water Wing Records, 2016)
  • Orchestra Baobab: Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng (World Circut Records) 
  • Wire: Silver/Lead (pinkflag)
  • The Mountain Goats: Goths (Merge Records)
  • Goncalo Almeida-Rodrigo Amado-Marco Franco: The Attic (NoBusiness) 
  • Priests: Nothing Feels Natural (Dischord Records)
  • Steve Coleman: Morphogenesis (Pi Recordings) 
  • Saint Etienne: Sound of Water Heavenly Recordings)
  • Miguel Zenón: Típico (Miel Music) 
  • Nicole Mitchell: Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds (FPE Records)
  • Angelica Sanchez Trio: Float the Edge (Clean Feed) 
  • JD Allen: Radio Flyer (Savant Records) 
  • Oumou Sangare: Mogoya (No Format)
  • Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: The Nashville Sound (Southeastern)
  • Spoon: Hot Thoughts (Matador)
  • Harris Eisenstadt Canada Day Quartet: On Parade in Parede (Clean Feed)
  • Brandon Seabrook: Die Trommel Fatale (New Atlantis)
  • Bardo Pond: Under the Pines (Fire Records)
  • Sunny Sweeney: Trophy (Aunt Daddy Records)
  • Tresspass Trio: The Spirit of Pitesti (Clean Feed)
  • The Microscopic Septet: Been Up So Long it Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues (Cuneiform Records) 
  • Diet Cig: Swear I'm Good at This (Frenchkiss Records)
  • Syd: Fin (Columbia)
  • Amor Amok: We Know Not What We Do (Intakt Records) 
  • Led Bib: Umbrella Weather (RareNoise Records)
  • Nnamdi Ogbonnaya: DROOL (Father/Daughter Records) 
  • Brandon Seabrook: Die Trommel Fatale (New Atlantis Records) 
  • The Necks: Unfold (Ideologic Organ) 
  • Low Cut Connie: Dirty Pictures (Part 1) (Contender) 
  • Omar Souleyman: To Syria, With Love (Mad Decent)
  • Ross Hammond: Follow Your Heart (Prescott Recordings)
  • Jeremy Pelt: Make Noise (High Note)
  • Julia Ulehla & Aram Bajakian/Dálava: The Book of Transfigurations (Songlines Recordings) 
  • Noah Perminger: Meditations on Freedom (self released)
  • Benjamin Brooker: Witness (Rough Trade)
  • Cloud Nothings: Life Without Sound (Carpark Records)

Reissues and vault music:
  • Dave Holland: Conference of the Birds (ECM)
  • Thelonious Monk: Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1960) (Sam Records) 
  • Prince: Purple Rain (Deluxe, Expanded Edition) (NPG Records/Warner)
  • Soundgarden: Ultramega OK (Sub Pop)
     

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Listening Booth: Published reviews and fave music of 1st quarter, January through March, 2017

Not too many albums covered here, partly because I did not write for the latest issue of Jazznytt, but worth the update nonetheless, not least because among these are some terrific albums. Below, 20 of the most notable new albums I heard form January through March (listed 20 because I had to stop somewhere. Albums to be released have not been included).

  • Steve Swell Quintet: Soul Travelers (Rogue Art, released 2016) Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, Januray 16., 2017. Original grade 5 out of 6. -- A-
  •  The XX: I See You (Young Turks) Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, Januray 16., 2017. Originally graded 5 out of 6. -- B+
  • The Modern Times: This is the Modern Times (Drabant) Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, Januray 30., 2017. Originally graded 4,5 out of 6. -- B+
  • Matthew Shipp: Piano Song (Thirsty Ear) Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, February 6., 2017. Originally graded 5 out of 6. -- A-
  •  Liza Mezzacappa: avantNOIR (Clean Feed) Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, February 20., 2017. Originally graded 5 out of 6. -- A-
  •  Angles 9: Disappeared Behind the Sun (Clean Feed) Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, February 27., 2017. Originally graded 5,5 out of 6. -- A
  • Atomic: Six Easy Pieces (Odin/Grappa) Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, Feruary 27., 2017. Originally graded 5 out of 6. -- A-
  •  Harriet Tubman (feat. Wadada Leo Smith): Araminta (Sunnyside Records) Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, March 6., 2017. Originally graded 5,5 out of 6. -- A
  •  Eivind Opsvik: Overseas V (Loyal Label) Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, March 20., 2017. Originally graded 5 out of 6. -- A-
20 engrossing and enjoyable albums, January 1st. - March 31st.:
  • Angles 9: Disappeared Behind the Sun (Clean Feed)
  • Harriet Tubman (feat. Wadada Leo Smith): Araminta (Sunnyside Records)
  • IDLES: Brutalism (Balley Records)
  • Trio 3 (Andrew Cyrille, Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman): Visiting Texture (Intakt Records)
  • Jens Lekman: Life Will See You Now (Secretly Canadian)
  • Lisa Mezzacappa: avantNOIR (Clean Feed)
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: Piano Song (Thirsty Ear)
  • CP Unit: Before the Heat Death (Clean Feed)
  • Eivind Opsvik Overseas: Overseas V (Loyal Label)
  • Atomic: Six Easy Pieces (Odin)
  • Lithics: Borrowed Floors (Water Wing Records, 2016)
  • Orchestra Baobab: Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng (World Circut Records) 
  • Led Bib: Umbrella Weather (RareNoise Records) 
  • Priests: Nothing Feels Natural (Dischord Records)
  • Miguel Zenón: Típico (Miel Music)
  • Spoon: Hot Thoughts (Matador)
  • Bardo Pond: Under the Pines (Fire Records)
  • Sunny Sweeney: Trophy (Aunt Daddy Records)
  • The Microscopic Septet: Been Up So Long it Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues (Cuneiform Records)
  • Syd: Fin (Columbia)

Friday, February 03, 2017

Fave Jazz Recordings of 2016

Below you'll find my picks of the best jazz recordings of 2016. A tad late, I'll concede, especially considering some publications seem to think the year ends in November. Then again, even those of us who write about music professionally come across gems that for whatever reason had slipped us by way into the following year and beyond. I'll also once again note that the past year was an eventful one for me personally speaking, so I did not get to play as much music as I normally would and will have to play catch-up on several notable and/or hyped releases for a while yet. Still, with a good few 2017 recordings having been moved to the front of the listening queue already, I felt this was as good a point as any to post a 2016 list. You may also want to have a look at my NPR Jazz Critics Poll ballot, which I posted in late December.

2016 may have been a rough year on several fronts, but musically there was a lot to be elated by, such as Steve Lehman's Sélébéyone, the powerful beyond jazz-and-hip hop meeting ground that more than any other project proved it is more fruitful to ignore boundaries than to build walls between them. Then there was veteran trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and his Golden Quintet who conjured up America's National parks in their vast expanse and minute details, with stirring bluesy undertones. Mary Halvorson took another step as a composer and set up intriguing interplay between her often angular guitar patterns with steel guitarist Susan Alcorn's gliding lines, plus long time compatriots John Hébert and Ches Smith returning by her side. And that's just three of the many intriguing jazz albums I heard last year. Here's the list (an asterisk denotes I've had a review of the recording published) 

The 15 best, more or less in order of preference:
  • Steve Lehman & Sélébéyone: Sélbéyone (Pi Rcordings) *
  • Wadada Leo Smith Golden Quintet: America's National Parks (Cuneiform)
  • Mary Halvorson Octet: Away With You (Firehouse 12)
  • Anna Högberg Attack: Anna Högberg Attack (Omlott)
  • Jane Ira Bloom: Early Americans (Outline) *
  • Roswell Rudd, Jamie Saft, Trevor Dunn, Balázs Pándi: Strength & Power (RareNoise)
  • Damana (Dag Magnus Narvesen Octet): Cornua Copiae (Clean Feed)
  • Steve Swell Quintet: Soul Travelers (Rogue Art) *
  • Michael Formanek Ensemble Kolossus: The Distance (ECM) *
  • James Brandon Lewis Trio: No Filter (BNS Sessions)
  • Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom: Otis Was a Polar Bear Roayl Potato Family)
  • Aruán Ortiz Trio: Hidden Voices (Intakt Records) *
  • Greg Ward & Ten Tongues: Touch My Beloved's Thought (Greenleaf Music) *
  • Murray, Allen, Carrington Power Trio: Perfection (Motema Music)
  • Henry Threadgill Ensemble Double Up: Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (Pi Recordings)
15 more on heavy rotation:
  • Peter Brötzmann, William Parker, Hamid Drake: Song Sentimentale (CD version, Otorku) *
  • Eric Revis Trio: Crowded Solitudes (Clean Feed) *
  • Jason Roebke Octet: Cineman Spiral (NoBusiness Records) *
  • Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio: Desire & Freedom (Not Two)
  • Jasmine Lovell-Smith's Towering Poppies: Yellow Red Blue (Paintbox)
  • Cortex: Live in New York (Clean Feed) *
  • Marylin Crispell, Gary Peacock, Richard Poole: In Motion (Intakt)
  • Gutbucket: Dance (Gut Records)
  • Bennett / Johnston/ Mezzacappa / Rosaly: Shipwreck 4 (NoBusiness Records) *
  • Nick Fraser Quartet: Starer (self-released)
  • Moskus: Ulv Ulv (Hubro) *
  • Tyshawn Sorey Double Trio: The Inner Spectrum of Variables (Pi Recordings)
  • Julie Kjær 3: Dobbeltgænger (Clean Feed)
  • Rich Halley 5:  The Outlier (Pine Eagle Recordings)
  • Nate Wooley, Hugo Antunes, Jorge Queijo, Mário Costa, Chris Corsano: Purple Patio (NoBusiness Records)
Other notable recordings I thoroughly enjoyed:
  • Mark Dresser Seven: Sedimental You (Clean Feed)
  • JD Allen: Americana (Savant Records)
  • Eve Risser White Desert Orchestra: Les Deux Versants Se Regardent (Clean Feed)
  • Harald Lassen & LAB Trio: Rainbow Session (Hagen Recordings)
  • I.P.A.: I Just Did Say Something (Cuneiform) *
  • Rønnings Jazzmaskin: Jazzmaskin! (Losen Records)
  • Rudy Royston Trio: Rise of Orion (Greenleaf Music)
  • Kenny Barron Trio: Book of Intuition (Impulse/Universal) *
  • Jonathan Finlayson & Sicilian Defense: Moving Still (Pi Recordings)
  • Momentum: Momentum (Clean Feed)
  • Festen: Festen (Clean Feed) *
  • No Project Trio: Vol. II (FMR Records)
  • Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Real Enemies (New Amsterdam)
  • Jeff Lederer's Brooklyn Blowhards: Brooklyn Blowhards (Little (i) Music)
  • Hanna Paulsberg Quartet: Eastern Smiles (Odin) *
  • Fail Better: OWT (NoBusiness Records)
  • Vijay Iyer & Wadada Leo Smith: A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke (ECM) *
  • Nakama: Most Intimate (Nakama Records)
  • Thomas Borgmann, Max Johnson, Willi Kellers: One For Cisco (NoBusiness Records)
  • Matt Brewer: Unspoken (Criss Cross)
  • Mats Eilertsen: Rubicon (ECM)
  • David Helbock Trio: Into the Mystic (ACT)
  • Monkey Plot: Here I Sit, Knowing All of This (Hubro) *
  • Protean Reality: Protean Reality (Clean Feed) *
  • Avishai Cohen: Into the Silence (ECM)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The 2016 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll

The results for the 2016 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll have just been posted online, won by Henry Threadgill's fascinating Ensemble Double Up album Old Locks and Irregular Verbs. A typically strong recording masterminded by an incomparable old master but one I nevertheless enjoyed a bit less than his Pulitzer Prizer winner In For a Penny, In For a Pound, and so it did not make my ballot. Still, out of the ten albums I voted for, four made the top 10, with a fifth in the top 15. None of the rest made the top 50. Individual ballots can be accessed here, but I've also put my own ballot is below. I will post more on these as well as a more comprehensive "jazz of 2016" list soon.

New releases


 1.  Steve Lehman & Sélébéyone: Sélbéyone (Pi Rcordings)

 2.  Wadada Leo Smith Golden Quintet: America's National Parks (Cuneiform)

 3.  Mary Halvorson Octet: Away With You (Firehouse 12)

 4.  Anna Högberg Attack: Anna Högberg Attack (Omlott)

 5.  Jane Ira Bloom: Early Americans (Outline)

 6.  Roswell Rudd, Jamie Saft, Trevor Dunn, Balázs Pándi: Strength & Power (RareNoise)

 7.  Damana (Dag Magnus Narvesen Octet): Cornua Copiae (Clean Feed)

 8.  Steve Swell Quintet: Soul Travelers (Rogue Art)

 9.  Michael Formanek Ensemble Kolossus: The Distance (ECM)

10. James Brandon Lewis Trio: No Filter (BNS Sessions)



Reissues / historical albums:


1.  Peter Brötzmann, Fred Hopkins, Rashied Ali: Songlines (Trost)

2.  Arthur Blythe: In the Tradition / Lennox Avenue Breakdown / Illusions / Blythe Spirit (BGO)

3.  Tom Prehn Quartet: Axiom (Rune Grammofon)



Vocal album:


· Steve Lehman & Sélébéyone: Sélbéyone (Pi Rcordings)



Debut album:


· Anna Högberg Attack: Anna Högberg Attack (Omlott)



Latin album:


· (no pick)

Friday, December 02, 2016

Listening Booth: belated round-up of published reviews, mid April through November, 2016

I'm smack in the middle of paternity leave, which has left and still leaves little to no time for writing. Add to that, I had a very busy summer -- much of it on the road -- and as for the rest, between doing renovation work on the house as well as my professional writing gigs I've not been able to update the blog much at all this year. Still, I thought I had to do something and for now, posting the usual list of music I've reviewed during this period (well, up until I entered the leave period at least) will have to do.

  • Vijay Iyer & Wadada Leo Smith: A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke (ECM) -- Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, April 11., 2016. Originally graded 4 out of 6.
  • The Coathangers: Nosebleed Weekend (Suicide Squeeze) -- Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, April 18., 2016. Originally graded 5 out of 6.
  • Eric Revis Trio: Crowded Solitudes (Clean Feed) -- Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, April 25., 2016. Originally graded 5 out of 6.
  • Kenny Barron Trio: Book of Intuition (Impulse!) -- Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, April 25., 2016. Originally graded 4,5 out of 6.
  • Beyoncé: Lemonade (Parkwood/Columbia) -- Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, May 2., 2016. Originally graded 5 out of 6.
  • Snarky Puppy: Culcha Vulcha (GroundUP Music/Decca) -- Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, May 30., 2016. Originally graded 3 out of 6.
  • Jane Ira Bloom: Early Americans (Outline Records) -- Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, June 13., 2016. Originally graded 5 out of 6.
  • Festen: Festen (Clean Feed) -- Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, June 20., 2016. originally graded 4,5 out of 6.
  • Cortex: Live In New York (Clean Feed) -- Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, August 8., 2016. Originally graded 5 out of 6.
  • Steve Lehman & Sélébéyone: Sélébéyone (Pi Recordings) -- Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, August 29., 2016. Originally graded 6 out of 6.
  • Peter Brötzmann, William Parker, Hamid Drake: Song Sentimentale (CD version, Otoroku) -- Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, September 19., 2016. Originally graded 5 out of 6.
  • Drive-By Truckers: American Band (ATO Records) -- Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, October 3., 2016. Originally graded 5,5 out of 6.
  • Bennett, Johnston, Mezzacappa, Rosaly: Shipwreck 4 (NoBusiness) -- Reviewed for Jazznytt, #240
  • I.P.A.: I Just Did Say Something (Cuneiform Records) -- Reviewed for Jazznytt, #240
  • Jason Roebke Octet: Cinema Spiral (NoBusiness Records) -- Reviewed for Jazznytt, #240
  • Greg Ward & Ten Tongues: Touch my Beloved's Thought (Greenleaf Records) -- Reviewed for Jazznytt, #240
Additional published writing:
  • "Nasjonale natur-verk": interview with Wadada Leo Smith, published in Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, October 17., 2016.
As we're entering poll and year-end lists season, I'm currently revisiting a good deal of the music that has caught my attention throughout this past year, as well as stuff that for various reasons I have not had the time or opportunity to dig into at all. I hope to add a list of some of the most notable of these releases in the coming week, possibly with a comment or two on at least a couple of them.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Wadada Leo Smith interview teaser

This past summer, I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with legendary trumpeter, composer and band leader Wadada Leo Smith. Our conversation covered among many other topics his experience with the AACM, his thoughts collaboration and some of the particulars around his writing and creative process, the blues, his then upcoming album America's National Parks (out today on Cuneiform), politics, and nature.

The resulting piece will be published in the Norwegian weekly music supplement Musikkmagasinet, but here's an audio teaser, with mr. Smith discussing the blues as free music, and including excerpts from to tracks off his new album, respectively "New Orleans: The National Culture Park USA 1718" and "The Mississippi River: Dark and Deep Dreams Flow the River - a National Memorial Park c.5000 BC."

Have a listen here!
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