Down in The Flood: Best Records of 2022, January 1 to July 1.

I apologize for being farther behind in examining new releases this month than I usually am (and I always am). I did have some good reasons. I am one of those people who can read with fine concentration while I have, say, a Last Exit record cranked up to 6 or 7. However, my recently completed journey through the second book in Marlon James’ frightening, mind-boggling, and revolutionary fantasy/horror/unclassifiable trilogy, Moon Witch Spider King could not have been completed with anything other than Bill Evans or Morton Feldman as background, and even those might have been distracting. (Please note: the journey through these books is definitely worthwhile, and one hell of a lot safer than the characters’ journeys.) In addition, rereading Will Friedwald’s assessments of Shirley Horn’s ouevre sent me on another journey to pretty much plumb its depths. Horn’s best work is gorgeously hypnotic, and she did not record much that wasn’t good, so I am talking many hours spent. (Where to start, the uninitiated might ask? The very early Embers and Ashes, which knocked Miles Davis out and confirmed for him that slow tempos and floating space were indeed great ideas, and 1992’s Here’s To Life. Resonance Records’ recently issued Live at the Four Queens is a knockout, with the lagniappe of brilliant notes that will send you further. Ok…I’m getting distracted again.) Plus, I took a little vacation, and both my wife and I are home, so I can’t just listen to anything anytime (I often feel headphones are rude when you have company). Most ironically, the new record that debuted highest on the chart below was maybe my biggest distraction: a scintillating five-disc box of jazz duets that I kept returning to rather than sampling other new stuff–that’s high praise for a new box set, coming from someone who feels he has to “keep up.” Wadada Leo Smith’s The Emerald Duets, on TUM Records (City Hall Records stateside), features the octogenarian trumpet master going head to head–disc-long (the shortest piece runs 36:39)–with four equally masterful drummers: Pheeroan akLaff (67, the baby of the project), Andrew Cyrille (82), Han Bennink (80), and Jack DeJohnette (79). akLaff you may know from his fiery work with Sonny Sharrock; Cyrille’s played with damned near everybody in jazz, specifically including Cecil Taylor and David Murray; DeJohnette, who occupies the last two discs, most will know from his backing of Miles (notably on Bitches Brew); and Bennink is the clown-prince of European improvisatory drumming, best heard on his many recordings with Instant Composers Pool but another musician who has definitely been around (as a young man he even backed Dolphy). On a project like this, there’s no place to hide when there’s only two of you, and if you’re going to play a 74-minute and 58-second piece (Smith and akLaff’s “Litanies, Prayers, and Meditations”), you best keep it lively and shift a few gears. I’m happy to say that this set rewards close attention. If you’ve not heard Smith, he is a responsive player of deep feeling and many moves–he might remind the first-time listener of Miles himself–and he famously can tell a story with his horn. Of course, you can tell jazz drummers apart (it would seem, perhaps, harder to do in duet settings), and these men are indeed stylists. I enjoy each disc, but my favorite, perhaps because it is the most playful (not a mood one frequently associates with Smith) is the Bennink duet, aptly titled “Mysterious Sonic Fields.” Han is a trickster; Smith’s far too wizened to get tricked, and there’s some of the tension. The least interesting discs were those with DeJohnette, maybe because of fatigue (I need to listen to them out of order) but also because of DeJohnette’s switches to piano and Fender Rhodes on disc five, which I consider a distraction, rather than a change of pace. But even it, when you lean forward to listen to these sages listening to each other (these are no dialogues of the deaf), conjures fascination, and the whole set gives one hope for growing older, wiser, and better. I haven’t been encountering that hope all that much lately. My only real beef, and it’s silly, is that Smith didn’t hold onto his previously-released duet piece with the late engine-room wizard (not fair: he was a scientist) Milford Graves, which came out in another TUM box set, Sacred Ceremonies. Speaking of TUM box sets, they are very impressively appointed, with terrific cover art and insightful notes.

I also have been occupied with Smith’s other (yes, other) box set, the seven-disc String Quartets Nos. 1-12, recorded mostly by the Red Koral Quartet, with Smith, who composed the pieces, appearing only briefly on two of then. I do not have the expertise to properly evaluate these compositions–I’m only four-deep into them–but I can say that I’ve had a bit of trouble finding a way into them. Smith’s composing style for the quartet (three violinists and a cellist) not only allows for improvisation but also takes an approach that deliberately eschews development for expression. I hear many moments of tenderness disrupted by dissonant string-strikes and was briefly delighted by some rollercoaster-like passages–but that’s as good as I can do, and it ain’t good enough. Perhaps I’ll report back in August after I’ve absorbed the entire box.

I wrote the above instead of my usual odds-and-sods list of observations because The Emerald Duets is truly a masterful set of performances by five jazz elders who need to get the proper respect while they’re living. This ain’t a rehearsal, and another such performance ain’t guaranteed.

Now, on with the show…

(Bolded items are new to the list)

New Music (Updated 7/2/22 after I hunkered down that morning and got half-caught-up)

  1. 75 Dollar Bill: Social Music at Troost, Volume 3–Other People’s Music (Black Editions Group)
  2. Rosalia: MOTOMAMI (Columbia)
  3. Billy Woods: Aethiopes (Backwoodz Studios)
  4. Tanya Tagaq: Tongues (Six Shooter)
  5. Ricky Ford: The Wailing Sounds of Ricky Ford—Paul’s Scene (Whaling City Sounds)
  6. Stro Elliot & James Brown: Black & Loud—James Brown Reimagined (Polydor)
  7. Miranda Lambert: Palomino (Vanner)
  8. Willie Nelson: A Beautiful Time (Sony)
  9. Wadada Leo Smith: The Emerald Duets (TUM)
  10. Superchunk: Wild Loneliness (Merge)
  11. Gonora Sounds: Hard Times Never Kill (Phantom Limb)
  12. Wet Leg: Wet Leg (Domino)
  13. Amber Mark:Three Dimensions Deep (PMR / Interscope)
  14. Etran de L’Air: Agadez (Sahel Sounds)
  15. Morgan Wade: Reckless (Deluxe) (Ladylike)
  16. Lady Wray: Piece of Me (Big Crown)
  17. Bob Vylan: Bob Vylan Presents The Price of Life (Ghost Theatre)
  18. Moor Mother: Jazz Codes (Anti-)
  19. Mark Lomax II: Prismatic Refractions, Volume I (self-released)
  20. Horace Andy: Midnight Rocker (On-U Sound)
  21. ensemble 0: Music Nuvulosa (Sub Rosa)
  22. Anna von Hausswoolff: Live at Montreaux Jazz Festival (Southern Lord)
  23. Various Artists: Lespri Ka—New Directions in Gwoka Music from Guadeloupe (Time Capsule Sounds)
  24. Ches Smith: Interpret It Well (Pyroclastic)
  25. Mark Lomax Trio: Plays Mingus (CFG Multimedia)
  26. 700 Bliss: Nothing to Declare (Hyperdub)
  27. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: LeAutoRoiGraphy (577 Records)
  28. Jinx Lennon: Pet Rent (Septic Tiger)
  29. Freakons: Freakons (Fluff & Gravy)
  30. Daniel Villareal: Panama ’77 (International Anthem)
  31. Joy Guidry:Radical Acceptance(Whited Sepulchre)
  32. Kehlani: blue water road (TSNMI/Atlantic)
  33. Felipe Salles: Tiyo’s Songs of Life (Tapestry)
  34. Javon Jackson & Nikki Giovanni: The Gospel According to Nikki Giovanni (Solid Jackson)
  35. Oumou Sangare: Timbuktu (World Circuit Limited)
  36. Kendrick Lamar: Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers (pgLang/Top Dawg Entertainment/Aftermath/Interscope)
  37. OGJB: Ode to O (TUM) (Note: Band name – O = Oliver Lake, G = Graham Haynes, J = Joe Fonda, B = Barry Altschul / Title – O = Ornette)
  38. Andrew Cyrille, William Parker, and Enrico Rava: Two Blues for Cecil (TUM)
  39. Luke Stewart’s Silt Trio: The Bottom (Cuneiform)
  40. Tyler Mitchell: Dancing Shadows (featuring Marshall Allen) (Mahakala Music)
  41. Nduduzo Makhathini: In the Spirit of Ntu (Universal)
  42. Isaiah Collier & The Chosen Few: Lift Every Voice (Division 81 Records)
  43. Priscilla Block: Welcome to the Block Party (InDent)
  44. Anitta: Versions of Me (Warner)
  45. Wild Up: Julius Eastman, Volume 2—Joy Boy (New Amsterdam)
  46. Carl Stone: Wat Dong Moon Lek (Unseen Worlds)
  47. Mitski: Laurel Hell (Dead Oceans)
  48. Immanuel Wilkins: The 7th Hand (Blue Note)
  49. David Murray Brave New World Trio: Seriana Promethea (Intakt)
  50. Fulu Miziki: Ngbaka (EP)
  51. David Virelles: Nuna (Pi / El Tivoli)
  52. Leikeli47: Shape Up (Hardcover/RCA)
  53. Hurray for The Riff Raff: Life on Earth (Nonesuch)
  54. Rokia Koné and Jacknife Lee: Bamanan (3DFamily)
  55. Tomas Fujiwara: Triple Double (Firehouse 12)
  56. Ibibio Sound Machine: Electricity (Merge)
  57. Zoh Amba: O Life, O Light, Volume 1 (577 Records)
  58. Burton/McPherson Trio: The Summit Rock Session at Seneca Village (Giant Step Arts)
  59. Kahil El’Zabar Quartet: A Time for Healing (Spirit Muse)
  60. Pastor Champion: I Just Want to Be a Good Man (Luaka Bop)
  61. Nduduzo Makhathini: In the Spirit of Ntu (Blue Note)
  62. Pusha T:It’s Almost Dry (G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam)
  63. Elza Soares: Elza Ao Vivo No Municipal (Deck)
  64. SAULT: AIR (Forever Living Originals)
  65. Nilufer Yanya: Painless (ATO)
  66. Satoko Fujii and Joe Fonda: Thread of Light (Fundacja Słuchaj)
  67. Charli XCX: Crash (Atlantic)
  68. Pete Malinverni: On the Town—Pete Malinverni Plays Leonard Bernstein (Planet Arts)
  69. David Friend & Jerome Begin: Post- (New Amsterdam)
  70. Dedicated Men of Zion: The Devil Don’t Like It (Bible & Tire)
  71. Space Afrika: Honest Labour (Dais)
  72. Charlotte Adigery & Bolis Pupul: Topical Dancer (DeeWee)
  73. Earl Sweatshirt: Sick! (Tan Cressida / Warner)
  74. Belle & Sebastian: A Bit of Previous (Matador)
  75. Big Thief: Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You (4AD)
  76. Jeff Arnal and Curt Cloninger: Drum Major Instinct (Mahakala Music)
  77. Tee Grizzley: Half Tee Half Beast (self-released)
  78. Hoodoo Gurus: Chariot of The Gods (Big Time Photographic Recordings)
  79. Natsuki Tamura: Summer Tree (Libra)
  80. (D)ivo: Perelman, Berne, Malaby, Carter (Mahakala Music)
  81. Spoon:Lucifer on the Sofa (Matador)
  82. Manel Fortia: Despertar (Segell Microscopi/Altafonte)
  83. Ray Wylie Hubbard: Co-Starring Too (Big Machine)
  84. Keith Oxman: This One’s for Joey (Capri)
  85. Marta Sanchez: SAAM (Spanish American Art Museum) (Whirlwind)
  86. Earthgang: Ghetto Gods (Dreamville/Interscope)
  87. Mavis Staples & Levon Helm: Carry Me Home (Anti-)

Archival Digs:

  1. Los Golden Boys: Cumbia de Juventud (Mississippi Records)
  2. Albert Ayler: Revelations—The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings (Elemental)
  3. Cecil Taylor:The Complete Legendary Live Return Concert at the Town Hall (Oblivion)
  4. Various Artists: Lovers Rock—The Soulful Sound of Romantic Reggae (Trojan)
  5. Albert Ayler: La Cave Live 1966 (Ezz-Thetics)
  6. Various Artists: Cumbia Sabrosa—Tropical Sound System Bangers From The Discos Fuentes Vaults 1961-1981 (Rocafort Records)
  7. Various Artists: A Chat About the Beauty of the Moon at Night–Hawaiian Steel Guitar Masters 1913-1921 (Magnificent Sounds)
  8. The Rolling Stones: Live at the El Mocambo (Interscope)
  9. Son House: Forever on My Mind (Easy Eye Sound)
  10. Lavender Country:Blackberry Rose and Other Songs & Sorrows (Don Giovanni)
  11. Horace Tapscott Quintet: Legacies for Our Grandchildren (Dark Tree)
  12. Various Artists: The D-Vine Spirituals—Sacred Soul (Bible & Tire)
  13. Hermeto Pascoal: Hermeto (Far Out Recordings)
  14. Sun Ra: Sun Ra Arkestra Meets Salah Ragab in Egypt (Strut)
  15. Asha Puthi: The Essential Asha Puthi (Mr. Bongo)
  16. Malik’s Emerging Force Art Trio: Time and Condition (moved-by-sound)
  17. Volta Jazz: Air Volta (Numero)
  18. Ronnie Boykins: The Will Come is Now (ESP-Disk)
  19. Cecil Taylor: Respiration (Fundacja Stuchaj)
  20. Norma Tanega: Studio and Demo Recordings, 1964-1971 (Anthology)
  21. Irma Thomas: New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 1976 (Good Time)
  22. Afrika Negra: Antologia, Volume 1(Bongo Joe)
  23. Various Artists: Summer of Soul (Legacy)
  24. Ann Peebles and the Hi Rhythm Section: Live in Memphis (Memphis International)
  25. Neil Young: Carnegie Hall 1970 (Reprise)

August Augury: 67% Exhausted, The End of The End of the Decade Finds a Second Breeze

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Warm Takes

I originally did not buy Lana Del Rey‘s set-up. The nostalgia, iconography, and icon-checks (I liked the dark tinge, but I just didn’t trust it); the tempos; the (somewhat) whispery delivery and sexy presentation (what’s wrong with sexy? I don’t truss it!); the desperation and decadence: the machine seemed built to manipulate. However, friends encouraged me to keep listening, and eventually her strange combination of deviance, sincerity, and trap-springing won me over last year as I consumed her oeuvre up to that point at very close listening range. The new one? She seems to have perfected that combo, the record just sounds magnificent, and the times have further lent themselves to draining one of fucks to give (and that’s scary, actually). Big winner for me–might just move up.

 

There may not be a better-named MC in rap than Rapsody. Her Eve is a tour de force of checklist skillz, and the tribute concept make the album an excellent pairing with Jamila Woods’ r & b version of the same.

Sheer Mag? Rock and FUCKING roll! Fresh and energetic at that! A friend joked that it was a Judas Priest album but that is a compliment right now.

No long-term observer of Raphael Saadiq would deny that the fellow is criminally talented. But from the Tonies through his collaborations and two solo joints, he’s never seemed to me to really get it all together–his career reminds me a bit of Bobby Womack. But the more personal nature of Jimmy Lee‘s songs and its consistent and dynamic flow may mean he’s finally really nailed it. I think he has.

I trust if you’re reading this, you are aware of Poland’s swing to the right, especially in its attitude toward its LGBTQIA population. If you have $50 to donate as the calendar flips, think about trying the 122-track electronic pig-out compilation Total Solidarity. It’s angry, the artists mean it, man, the quality’s hella consistent–and you can dance to it.

And now…

My Album-Lover’s Honor Roll for 2019 (as of August 31, 2019)

(bolded items are new additions to the ongoing list)

  1. Little Simz: Grey Area
  2. Various Artists: A Day in the Life–Impressions of Pepper*
  3. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Bandana
  4. Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy!
  5. Lana Del Rey: Norman F***ing Rockwell
  6. Peter Perrett: Humanworld
  7. Rapsody: Eve
  8. Mexstep: Resistir
  9. Billie Eilish: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
  10. Royal Trux: White Stuff
  11. Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium
  12. Pere Ubu: The Long Goodbye
  13. J Balvin & Bad Bunny: OASIS
  14. Control Top: Covert Contracts
  15. Sheer Mag: A Distant Call
  16. Billy Woods & Kenny Segal: Hiding Places
  17. Damon Locks / Black Monument Ensemble: Where Future Unfolds
  18. Raphael Saadiq: Jimmy Lee
  19. Kel Assouf: Black Tenere
  20. James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto
  21. Teodross Avery: After the Rain–A Night for Coltrane
  22. Various Artists: Total Solidarity
  23. Beyoncé: Homecoming
  24. The Comet is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
  25. Mdou Moctar: Ilana (The Creator)
  26. 2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League
  27. Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Tuba in Cuba
  28. Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains
  29. Sote: Parallel Persia
  30. I Jahbar: Inna Duppy SKRS Soundclash
  31. Quelle Chris: Guns
  32. Young Thug: So Much Fun
  33. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions
  34. Chance The Rapper: The Big Day
  35. Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks
  36. Tanya Tagaq: Toothsayer EP
  37. Abdullah Ibrahim: The Balance
  38. Senyawa: Sujud*
  39. Dave: PSYCHODRAMA
  40. Various Artists: Weaponize Your Sound
  41. Maxo Kream: Brandon Banks
  42. Aesop Rock & TOBACCO: Malibu Ken
  43. Lizzo: Cuz I Love You
  44. DaBaby: Baby on Baby
  45. DKV and Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time
  46. Denzel Curry: Zuu
  47. Saul Williams: Encrypted & Vulnerable
  48. The New Orleans Dance Hall Quartet: Tricentennial Hall Dance 17. October
  49. Mario Pavone: Philosophy
  50. Joachim Kuhn: Melodic Ornette Coleman—Piano Works XIII
  51. The Coathangers: The Devil You Know
  52. GoldLink: Diaspora
  53. Megan Thee Stallion: Fever
  54. Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford
  55. G & D: Black Love & War
  56. Tropical Fuck Storm: Braindrops
  57. The Paranoid Style: A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life
  58. Joel Ross: Kingmaker
  59. Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys: 30 Years Live
  60. Sleater-Kinney: The Center Won’t Hold
  61. Resavoir: Resavoir
  62. Flying Lotus: Flamagra
  63. Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her
  64. JD Allen: Barracoon
  65. Usted Saami: God is Not a Terrorist
  66. Youssou N’Dour: History
  67. Guitar Wolf: Love & Jett
  68. Mannequin Pussy: Patience
  69. LPX: Junk of the Heart (EP)
  70. Chuck Cleaver: Send Aid
  71. Deerhunter: Death in Midsummer
  72. Various Artists: Typical Girls Three
  73. Various Artists: Travailler, C’est Trop Dur–The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent
  74. Nots: 3
  75. Josh Berman / Paul Lytton / Jason Roebke: Trio Correspondences
  76. Jacob Wick & Phil Sudderberg: Combinatory Pleasures
  77. Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues
  78. Santana: Africa Speaks
  79. Judy and The Jerks: Music for Donuts
  80. Tyler, The Creator: IGOR
  81. Fennesz: Agora
  82. Salif Keita: Un autre blanc
  83. Robert Forster: Inferno
  84. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty
  85. Whit Dickey Tao Quartets: Peace Planet / Box of Light
  86. The Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are On the Edge
  87. Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien
  88. Solange: When I Get Home
  89. Freddie Douggie: Live on Juneteenth
  90. Joe McPhee / John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee
  91. Dump Him: Dykes to Watch Out For
  92. Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
  93. Helado Negro: This is How You Smile
  94. Blood Orange: Angel’s Pulse
  95. Lost Bayou Ramblers: Rodents of Unusual Size (Soundtrack to the Motion Picture)
  96. slowthai: Great About Britain
  97. Silkroad Assassins: State of Ruin
  98. Steve Lacy: Apollo XXI
  99. Mekons: Deserted
  100. Que Vola: Que Vola
  101. Kelsey Lu: Blood
  102. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri
  103. Hama: Houmeissa
  104. Steve Earle: Guy
  105. Mdou Moctar: Blue Stage Session
  106. Ill Considered: 5
  107. Girls on Grass: Dirty Power
  108. Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs
  109. Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature
  110. Shovels & Rope: By Blood
  111. Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle
  112. Spiral Stairs: We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized
  113. Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters
  114. Rosie Flores: A Simple Case of The Blues
  115. Jenny Lewis: On the Line

*Technically, these are 2018 releases, but for now, I’m claiming their impact is being felt more strongly this year.

New Releases of Older Material

  1. Peter Laughner: Peter Laughner
  2. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet
  3. Burnt Sugar: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes—Groiddest Schizznits, Vols. 1-3
  4. Creedence Clearwater Revival: Live at Woodstock
  5. George Jones: United Artists Rarities
  6. Horace Tapscott and the Pan Afrikan Orchestra: Why Don’t You Listen–Live at Lacma, 1998
  7. Various Artists: Outro Tempo II–Electronic and Contemporary Music from Brazil 1984-1996
  8. Various Artists: All the Young Droogs–60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks
  9. Gregory Isaacs / Ossie All-Stars: Mr. Isaacs
  10. James Booker: Live at Onkel PO’s, Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976
  11. Cornell Campbell: I Man a the Stall-A-Watt
  12. Tubby Hayes: Grits, Beans and Greens—The Lost Fontana Studio Sessions 1969
  13. Star Band de Dakar: Psicodelia Afro-Cubana de Senegal
  14. Big Stick: Some of the Best of Big Stick
  15. Primal Scream: Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll—The Singles
  16. Masayuki Takayanagi New Directions Unit: April is the Cruellest Month
  17. Various Artists: Rhapsody in Bronze
  18. Stan Getz: Getz at the Gate
  19. Sir Shina Peters and His Internation Stars: Sewele
  20. Sounds of Liberation: Sounds of Liberation
  21. Prince: Originals
  22. Various Artists: Nigeria 70–No Wahala, Highlife, Afro-Funk & Juju 1973-1987
  23. Lee Moses: How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965-1972
  24. John Carter & Bobby Bradford Quartet: No U-Turn
  25. Various Artists: Siya Hamba! 1950’s South African Country and Small Town Sounds
  26. Johnny Shines: The Blues Came Falling Down–Live 1973
  27. Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band: Pedal Steal + Four Corners
  28. Neil Young & The Stray Gators: Tuscaloosa
  29. Sonic Youth: Battery Park, NYC: July 4th 2008