“Covering” The Scene

As I’ve said before I’ve never been more uncertain that I hear all the releases I should every year. The outlets and information sources have never been so scattered. I’ve never felt so many PR providers have no idea what I cover.

But every year I hit a point, usually around this time or a little later, when I conclude that enough innovative, captivating and durable music is being produced to keep me jiggling for another year. Here’s the three that put me over in 2017 (all played for the first time in the last few days):

Bearthoven, Trios (Cantaloupe) Karl Larson piano, Pat Swoboda bass, Matt Evens percussion/drums. Six piece belonging to the vague New Music category, the only writers I know at all being Anthony Vine. Best effect: breaks ways loose of the often too-cozy tent of piano-trio sound.

Jay Som, Everybody Works (Polyvinyl). Jay Som belongs to the vague bedroom pop category and is a solo project of Melisa Duterte, with a few added voices. A fresh twist of intimacy and a needed reminder that all single-soul projects don’t have to sound stunted or samey.

Migos, Culture (Quality Control). I don’t pretend to keep up with hip-hop like I should, but I’m still abashed this trio slipped under my radar until now. In the grand tradition of Atlanta rappers, they’re rootsy and funny and sensual and casually scary at times. Still probing the personalities.

1st Playlist 2017

I assembled a batch of records to show a big music fan we intended to see in DC (though we did not end up doing so) what had most fascinated me during 2017. Hardly definitive and clearly not all from 2017, I will try to annotate it later, but may not …

The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane: Turiyasangitananda (Luaka Bop)

The Creation, Action Painting (Numero Group, reissue of complete works)

Lowell Davidson Trio, S/T (ESP, 1965, 2008 remastered CD)

Gorillaz, Humanz (Warner Bros./Parlophone)

Kendrick Lamare, Damn. (TDE)

Jens Lekman, Life Will See You Now (Secretly Canadian)

Low Cut Connie, “Dirty Pictures” (part 1) (Contender)

Donny McCaslin, Beyond Now (Notema)

The Magnetic Fields, 50 Song Memoir (Nonesuch)

Metalwood, S/T (self-released, 1997)

Nicole Mitchell/Tomeka Reid/Mike Reed, Artifacts (482 Music, 2015)

Joe Morris Quartet, A Cloud of Black Birds (AUM Fidelity, 1998)

On Fillmore, Extended Vacation (Dead Oceans, 2009)

Art Pepper, the Hollywood All-Star Sessions (Galaxy, 1997)

Oumou Sangare, Mogoya (No Format)

Matthew Stevens, Preverbal (Ropeadope)

The XX, I See You (Young Turks)

Stuff in the Air That Came Out of Speakers Today #60

Art Pepper, The Hollywood All-Star Sessions (Galaxy, 1997, five discs)

The general scoop.

Originally recorded at the end of Pepper’s career (1979-1982) and released only on a tiny Japanese label. Finally came out here in 1997 and then about 10 years after that I stuffed it into a storage box and let it rot without playing it. What kind of fool am I? An Art-Pepper-deprived fool, is what.

The consensus is that these sessions present a uniquely relaxed Pepper who can sway and glide through his specialty, ballads. And I hear that. I also hear a lifetime of suffering from the ravages of a ferocious heroin addiction — and the many superb numbers can exorcise any sort of pain.

Along with his autobiography Straight Life, I consider Hollywood All-Star Sessions Pepper’s end-of-the-(hard)-road masterpieces.

A Rare Thrill From the Vinyl Stacks

Usually when I come across an item I did not remember I owned, it’s an ominous indicator. If I forgot this entirely, how good can it be?

Well, on rare occasions, it can be all-out terrific.

I’m playing and putting away vinyl from the treasure boxes reserved outside the warehouse. One such life-enhancer is Julius Hemphil’s masterpiece, Dogon A. D. — sounds the best ever with the revamped turntable. I hold Hemphil just a few shades of genius behind Ornette (they went to the same high school in Texas) and his version of free improv has his own streaks of blues and soul, every time out.

So I’m putting Dogon into its place in the main vinyl shelves and — hello? what’s this? — Julius Arthur Hemphil and the Jah Band, Georgia Blue (Minor Music, 1984)????:

I didn’t remember this existed, let alone that I had a copy.

(That it includes “Dogon II” is the ultimate kicker.) A very fine concert record — a gift from Spring.

R.I.P.: Misha Mengelberg

First a couple of wise men offer their thoughts far better than I could manage off the top of my head:

Kevin Whitehead

and then

Peter Margasak

We saw Misha in various configurations maybe six-seven times over the years. When Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art was running a series of jazz concerts (sigh — seems like a different world) they featured Mengelberg’s I(nstant) C(omposer) P(ool) Orchestra as often as possible — almost every year.

Two shows elsewhere jump out. The very last time we heard Misha was a show at Harvard University. He aged dramatically after his 1997 heart attack, but at this show, maybe 10 years ago, for the first time he sounded a bit … off-target. We did not know at the time that he was showing signs of  Alzheimer’s.

The most sublime Misha moments were during a duet concert with Ab Baars at the Bimhuis, which we were lucky enough to see on our only visit to Amsterdam. You could tell he was playing for the home crowd. I understood Misha’s language — how he was nonstop entertaining without ever being shallow; how Misha’s profound insight into Thelonious Monk was that he was an incessant and sophisticated wit; and that Misha made free improvisation feel joyous and foxy rather than serious and heroic.

I think I spontaneous pulled my first recommendation from the shelves this afternoon:

ICP Orchestra, Jubilee Varia (hatOLOGY, 1999) — his final release before his coronary.

I will close with the funny he said during one of the ICA concerts that I will never forget:

“We have been doing numbers for every letter of the alphabet in sequence. We are down to the letter “K.” This is ‘Ktable.'”

Stuff in the Air That Came Out of Speakers Today #59

Albert Mangelsdorff, Jaco Pastorius, Alphonse Mouzon, Trilogue Live at the Berlin Jazz Days (MPS, 1977)

The final part of my apologetic listen-back to drummer Mouzon (who originated the idea of this trio). Sometimes it’s nothing but joy to follow the minds and spirits of players. They know what they’re doing but there’s no rules — their paths diverge and merge with perfect grace. Something all three sense about each other. Recommended.