Karmic Balance for the Ears

Two perfectly offsetting music-listening phenomena today.

Tried two albums from the archives for my pre-coffee floor workout and they were both stinkers (admittedly from the must-listen-to-more shelves), which half-wrecked the workout.

The reverse energy came from listening in the car.

Reina del Cid’s Rerun City (self-released) charmed me the first time through but the second listen convinced me there’s only a couple ordinary tracks on it and that “Let’s Begin” is a tender masterwork. Albums released in December get lost but I’m going to write a plug for her show on Feb. 24 at Atwood’s. Boston locals should go.

I had all these objections to 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo (Cherry Red) by Pere Ubu the first time I heard it. Songs too short. David Thomas is going through the motions. I could hear the arty punk but not the party punk. This time through, all that just vanished. Strong Top 20 candidate and will be on the year-end discs.

NPR Jazz Critics Poll 2017

The results are in.

My selections were a lot closer to the second 10 choices …

Best New Releases

Various, Celebrate Ornette (Song X)
Tim Berne’s Snakeoil, Incidentals (ECM)
Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan, Small Town (ECM)
Wadada Leo Smith, Najwa (TUM)
Paul Jones, Clean (Outside Music)
J.D. Allen, Radio Flyer (Savant)
Wadada Leo Smith, Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk (TUM)
Ron Miles, I Am a Man (Yellowbird)
Kirk Knuffke, Cherryco (SteepleChase)
Greg Abate, Road To Forever (Whaling City Sound)
Reissues or Historical
The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane: Turiyasangitananda (Luaka Bop)
Thelonious Monk Quintet, Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960 (soundtrack) (Sam/Saga)
Best Vocal
Dominique Eade/Ran Blake, Town and Country (Sunnyside)
Best Debut
Jaime Branch, Fly or Die (International Anthem)
Best Latin
Miguel Zenon, Tipico (Miel Music)


Trio of Praises

I’ve done only one (very casual) Best of 2017 Albums list, so I’m not the least surprised that I just now ran across a couple of releases I should have added to it …


Bob Dylan, Triplicate (Columbia) (that’s what he gets for releasing vinyl-only so it could get lost behind a passel of Thelonious Monk albums I brought up for a marathon obit-tribute)

Kendrick Lamar, Damn (Alternative/Innerscope). Crap, I put a selection from this on my Best of the First Half of 2017 mixdisc, but this got switched to a different pile for some unknown reason. Anyway, terrific.

This morning I re-listened to the soundtrack of Linklater’s Boyhood for the first time in a very long while and again marveled at his skill for picking and sequencing songs, in particular making me love tracks (in context) from groups I don’t like at all (The Flaming Lips, for instance).

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.

My #1 for Gonna-Be Overlooked Album of 2017: Peter Perrett

Tipped off by an ace review from Peter Margasak*, I was wowed to hear this was a rock and roll record precisely because, as Langdon Winner once said, it “comes from where no one is looking.” The forms and phrases and even licks may sound familiar — the title track is the latest fever re-dream of “Sweet Jane,” for instance — but the fresh angles and juiced emotions confirm, this is only because Perrett speaks rock and roll. Essential plus: frequent funny lines.

Seek this out.

*About 85% of the time, Peter and I are riding the exact same wave of music. The rest of the time I understand and appreciate his arguments, even if I don’t hear them.

First-Half Soundtrack 2017

  1. Magnetic Fields, “Wonder Where I’m From”
  2. The Creation, “Biff Bang Pow” (stereo version)
  3. Gorillaz (feat. Peven Everett). “Strobelite”
  4. Lowell Davidson Trio, “Strong Tears”
  5. Nicole Mitchell/Tomeka Reid/Mike Reed, “Light on the Path”
  6. Alice Coltrane, “Rama Rama”
  7. Kendrick Lamar, “Blood”
  8. On Fillmore, “Master Moon”
  9. Tom Ze, “Sexo”
  10. Jens Lekman, “To Know Your Mission”
  11. The XX, “Test Me”
  12. The New Pornographers, “Whiteout Conditions”
  13. Matthew Stevens, “Sparkle and Fade”
  14. Carl Craig, “Sandstorms” (from Versus)


Include all my faves? No.

All tracks considered standouts? Yes.

Fussed-over sequence? Nope — instinct and memory plus a few dabs of re-listening for the right track.

Everything released 2017? No, but pretty close.

Everything encountered first in 2017? No, but damn close.