R.I.P.: Sunny Murray

Every aspect of Albert Aylers’ Spiritual Unity (ESP) changed my listening life, but the biggest shift came from Sunny Murray’s drum work. I understood free jazz and I understood drum improvisation (I thought), but I still had incorrect notions about drums and time-keeping. Murray took nonstop equal-footing intermingling improvisation to a level I had never imagined. I suddenly realized drums could be melodic. That there could be intuitive mutual timekeeping. For some boneheaded reason I never picked up this obviously crucial disc.

Error corrected.

Good Albums That Were Not Good Enough To Make My NPR Jazz Poll

For serious New Orleans fans:  Kermit Ruffins/Irvin Mayfield, A Beautiful World (Basin Street). Nothing groundbreaking, but seems like half the performers in town are on it.

Clever Concept of the year: Brian McCarthy Nonet, The Better Angels of Our Nature (Truth Revolution Recording Collective). Improvised versions of McCarthy originals like “Shiloh,” and numbers like “The Battle Hymn of the Old Republic.” Best tracks – blues and spirituals.

Leading double disc with a superior single disc inside: Blue Note All-Stars, Our Point of View (guess). Biggest problem is that a fully solid group personality never quite develops.

Brazilian Vocal of the year:  Sazbrina Malheiros, Clareia (Faroul). Not jazz, I suppose, but with elements and makes vintage styles seem fully contemporary.

Vocal Album runner-up. Eliane Elias, Dance of Time (Concord). Jazz, I insist, with plain Brazilian elements.

Local Jazz album of the year: Mark Zaleski Band, Days, Months, Years (self-released). I especially enjoy the ease and enjoyment of the one-time rock/soul fandom that crops up on occasion.

Combined Birthday Vacation/Morning Workout Soundtrack

  1. The Black Lillies, Hard to Please (2015) — Americana mix with a welcome fondness for r & r. Inspired me to check out an earlier release which was meh.
  2. Hard Working American, We’re All in This Together (2017) Only complaint is that it’s so long my road player wouldn’t read the disc.
  3. Go Sailor, S/T (originally recorded 1994-95). Look ’em up.
  4. Jupiter Apple, Uma Tarde Na Fruteira (2007) Droll Italians — lead-off song title: “A Marchinha Psicotica de Dr. Soup”
  5. Jupiter & Okwess, Kin Sonic (2017). Gotta listen some more but maybe yet another new African style. Tuff. Tight.
  6. Rudesh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition, Agrima (2017) Of course improves on all the Indo-Pak borrowings of vintage jazz-rockers.
  7. Maneige, Ni Vent … Ni Nouvelle (1995 reissue of 1977 LP) A Montreal prog outfit I had never heard of but now play at least once a week. Warning: contains flute, but sort of as a sweet, warm-up-the-introduction routine.
  8. Alma Micic, That Old Feeling (2017). This is the album of American songbook vocals that beat down my resistance. I wasn’t as charmed by an earlier record, but this has a certain flintiness that cuts through all the retro fog.
  9. Motorhead, Under Cover (2017). Utterly inspired memorial for Lemmy. Again, the finest metal outfits are also superb outright rock and rollers.
  10. Various, Listen … OKA! (2911). A fusion album featuring Bayaka pygmies that does mesmerizing other straight recordings of similar styles never do for me.
  11. Quicksilver Messenger Service, live at the Fillmore, June 7, 1968 (2015). Yeah, yeah, I’m a Cipollina nut. So stone me. Ran across this and hadn’t listened in a long while.
  12. Oneohtrix Point Never, Rifts (2012). Like I’ve said, somehow this guy was fully formed from the first track: Betrayed in the Octagon has more churning moods, Russian Mind a never-content’s version of ambient. Zones Without People a bit of both.
  13. Peace Worshipers, S/T (2015) One of the many raga-fusion albums to come out this year, with more consistent mood and momentum and deep calm than others. Sorry I still feel too ignorant to write about it.
  14. Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet, Ladilkan (2017) A triumph at the heart of several trends key to this year. A must.
  15. UNKLE, The Road, Part 1 (2017). Not your uncle’s UNKLE or even their earlier selves’. Uneven, but I’m captivated by the determination to keep re-inventing.
  16. Various, Afrobeats Hot Hits (2017) See (and hear) my review.
  17. Various, Gentle Giants: the Songs of Don Williams (2017). Very peculiar anthology in a way. Williams did not write these songs. Only some of those paying him homage try to replicate his style. More of a tribute to his taste in tunes and kind heart.
  18. Laura Veirs, The Triumphs & Travails of Orphan Mae (2001). The earliest album (her second) Veirs has kept in circulation. Her career is a fascinating study in the interaction of precise songwriting and subtle but insistent production. The one show I saw was a pallid dud. Maybe it was an off night. Maybe her work needs the massage of the machines. This argues for the former.

Expert Witness Comment for the Week

About an item from last week’s, actually.

Now that I’ve listened to the American Epic box, I have to underscore that you need to get it for the sound alone. This is the way I’ve always wanted these vintage sides to be. I’ve never heard the voice-to-voice and voice-to-instruments relationships so natural and consistent. They’ve been cleaned up and clear before, sure, but voices and instruments in particular seemed out whack even so. Not here.

I’m not enough of a tech head to have anything to say about the methods used on the recordings, and it may be too late in the game for the recording industry in general, but at least these sides are here.