I selected three jazz CDs I hadn’t listened to in awhile to celebrate the day. They all were good medicine.
Junko Onishi: Baroque
Ms. Onishi put her all into this outing, which is clearly an homage to her pianistic mentor Jaki Byard, a player of deep-pocketed wiles who ought to be a household name, jazzwise. Best in show are her own Byard-Mingus (and Brechtian) nod “The Threepenny Opera” and a Byard-Months cover that continues, unfortunately, to resonate: “Meditation on a Pair of Wire-Cutters.” Abetted her powerfully in her aims are the irrepressible James Carter (on four instruments in his best performance of the ‘teens), the fiery trumpeter Nicholas Payton, and Detroit secret weapon Rodney Whitaker on bass, whose opening to “Threepenny” will crack your neck.
Houston Person and Ron Carter: Chemistry
These two old pros embody the title concept. The menu is Tin Pan Alley with a side of Monk, and, before you roll your eyes, let me tell you, a) in jazz at least, never underestimate masters who know the nooks and crannies of the grand canon, and b) this is one of Rudy Van Gelder’s last sessions behind the board, which I only mention because the tenor man and the four-string snapper seem to rise to the occasion’s gravitas.
Sun Ra: Discipline 27-II
As I’ve written before in this space, the valve’s all the way open on Sun Ra’s leavings, and not only are they considerable, but, of course, they aren’t all prime. I’m a helpless Ra collector, but I do have a bullshit detector, and this Corbett vs. Dempsey excavation is fo’ real. “Pan Afro” and “Discipline” are not only wonderful, but they are underrepresented in the Arkestra’s recorded pantheon. There’s plenty of prime John Gilmore blowing, and just enough and not too much space for June Tyson and The Space Ethnic Voices. There’s a squeak-squawk add-on, but I judge this the best of the raging Sonny Blount reissue boom.
Fugazi: 13 Songs
Ahhh, youth. They leaned a bit too heavily on staccato guitar and Minutemen innovations, but, returning to them almost 30 years after they backgrounded the relationship that changed my life, I find they’re a largely perfect companion for my rage at the ugliness of my state and federal representation. A linguistic theme is burning, and it all still is, right now, in the moment.