“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)

Top 10 Albums I Discovered/Apprehended/Finally Clicked With In Jan. 2017


Allah Las, Calico Review (Mexican Summer, Sept. 2016)

An Electrifying Evening with the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet (Japanese reissue of 1961 Verve LP) [Boy is it a shame I only saw this as fortune-priced LP a few times. Convinced me there was no question that Diz was indeed at his peak in the early ’60s, but it remains a demanding assertion to check out. Best Lalo Schifrin I’ve ever heard.]

The Very Best of the Highwaymen [see this earlier post. ] Must add that I conclude the finest version of “Desperados Waiting for a Train” became the main hit for these guys.

Populous, Night Safari (Bad Panda). Dreamy, but uneasy.

Sxip Shirey, A Bottle of Whiskey and a Handful of Bees (Via) My review on “Fresh Air” is forthcoming.

Sleater-Kinney Live in Paris (nice imitation-boot packaging)

Systema Solar, Rumbo a Tierra (Nacional). Not afraid to be in-your-earhole raucous. Apt for the times.

Various, The Rough Guide to Hillbilly Blues [Weirdos out in the sticks.]

The XX, I See You (Young Turks). Enveloping, teasing, resistance is futile.

Birthday Weekend Soundtrack

Played nothing but masterpieces or at least some of my favorites done by masters that enraptured me in the years before I turned pro, when I was another young music crazy. Hardly definitive in any way — the only rule was to look through interior and exterior catalogues and obey impulse — I will stick up for all of these as immortal. (Well, except for the Mailbox Moratoriums, of course.)

Glenn Gould, Bach — Goldberg Variations (CBS, 1955)

Duke Ellington, The Essential Collection — 1927-1962 (Columbia) (Sadly, does not include the relative obscurity that, for whatever reason, suddenly made me understand Ellington’s language back in 1975 — “Harlem Air Shaft.”)

John Lennon, Anthology (Capitol, 1998, Disc 1). Gets his personality mixed with artistry across as well as anything I know.

Otis Redding, Live at the Whisky A Go Go — The Complete Recordings (Volt, 2016) Selected program from discs 5 & 6.

Thelonious Monk, The Unique Thelonious Monk (Riverside, 1956) Holy Trinity: Monk, Pettiford, Blakey. All standards that all sound like originals. Not a duff moment.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions, This Year’s Model (Deluxe Edition, Hip-O, 2008). Nothing but Action.

MAILBOX MORATORIUM, PT. ONE (new releases — or at least new to me — that arrived on Saturday)

David Bromberg Band, “The Blues, The Whole Blues and Nothing But the Blues” (Red House). I think I like the new Stones blues album a bit more than Bob C., but he’s right — this is a better, blusier, more confidently American-idiom album than theirs. A music friend has been bugging me to to go Bromberg shows for years and I’ve always grunted and demurred. Now I think I screwed up.

Populous, Night Safari (Bad Panda). Arty labels like they hardly make no more scores another one.


Jelly Roll Morton, Jelly Roll Stomp (Tradition, 1999). No, not his best recordings by a long shot. But the only ones done when he was a “youth” and the king of his world in NOLA.

Svatoslav Richter, At Carnegie Hall, October 28, 1960 — Part II (Columbia). Rachmaninoff, Ten Preludes, encores by Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Debussy and Prokofiev. The selection of encores in particular is absolutely phenomenal.

David Bowie, Blackstar. The first day after my birthday in my life that David Bowie wasn’t around to  celebrate his. You pick up more death references every time you listen.

Parliament, Mothership Connection (Casablanca, 1975) Vinyl version, side 2 only. “Night of the Thumpasorus People,” man, as elegant as deep-down-dirty funk gets.

Funkadelic (The U.S. Funk Mob), Hardcore Jollies (Warner Bros., 1976). Turned loads of people on to this by playing in the Boston record store where I worked the first year I moved. Sat. Nite Fevah, sure, but check this out.


Shabaka and the Ancestors, Wisdom of Elders (Brownswood Recordings) Multi-ethnic mix roughly amounts to current South African jazz jam with political edge, sometimes party sometimes pointed. More listens needed.


Various, Journey Into Paradise: The Larry Levan Story (Rhino, 2006). Let’s get this party started and make it pretty.