Breath of Air–The Best Records of 2022, January 1 – August 1

As I mentioned last post, I am enjoying fewer free hours to just blast new stuff. My sweetie’s home for the summer, and I feel like I’ve been taking two rigorous classes from Will Friedwald in the history of pop-jazz vocals and music that’s moved from the stage to the American Songbook. Thus, while I’m taking a deep dive into post-Trio Nat King Cole, I feel like I’ve been ignoring many explosions happening in the (not to say pop) music world. Funnily, however, it was while 98.7% engaged in the story of “Mack the Knife” (from Friedwald’s fab Stardust Memories) that I happened to try to be also listening to black midi’s Hellfire and its surging, stop-and-go, nattering power that I heard a kinship between the song, Brecht-Weill’s Threepenny Opera, and that herky-jerky, angry and complicated new album. More amusing, I am currently spending some time with my mom in her senior apartment (my brother and I just sold our parents’ house–my dad died suddenly in June 2020), and, as I am trying to get down to my teaching weight (210ish) and as I arise three hours before she does, I’ve been taking long (3.5 mile) walks and catching up with the new things. Since during the day I have been trying to finish Friedwald’s excellent but FUCKING METICULOUS Straighten Up and Fly Right: The Life and Music of Nat King Cole, and one can only listen to certain (i.e., not NEW) music while plowing through it, and since I have company and won’t put headphones on as a result, the walks are the only time I can really blast some stuff. I know you’ve been waiting for what’s that amusing: though I had intended to wait until stellar songwriting vet Tommy Womack’s new album I Thought I Was Fine arrived in CD form so I could enjoy it that way, I decided to queue it up on my first walk. Well…not only is it really damn great (especially if you’re an old, aching, regretful rock and roll filled with longing), but…yes…wait some more for it…Womack closes down the album with a couple of AMERICAN SONGBOOK NUGGETS (!!!!), “That Lucky Old Sun” and “Miss Otis Regrets”! Friedwald would approve, and Womack does not trip over his effects boxes interpreting them. It seems like a vast world, but one keeps being reminded it’s pretty small.

Couple more things:

Beyonce’s Renaissance just kicked my ass on the same walk as the Womack, and 2/3rds of the way through I thought it her best, but then it kinda lost momentum. What she’s trying to do is no easy thing: a tribute to straight-up dance music that bangs top to bottom. That’s a lot of tracks, Bey.

If you’re receptive to free jazz, you need your ears on Kentuckian Zoh Amba, who can blow and wail to bring Ayler’s ghost a smile.

I am very susceptible to jazz violin. Billy Bang, Leroy Jenkins, Claude Fiddler Williams, Ray Nance–the GREAT Stuff Smith? I listen to at least one of them heavily every month, especially Stuff. Charlie Burnham fiddled on Blood Ulmer’s Odyssey records, and he’s doing some pretty amazing things in his new band, Breath of Air.

I bet some of you have bought multiple mixes of Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers’ LAMF. Is this new “found mixes” yet another stab? No, it’s the thing.

Can a dude make music with a curled-up leaf? Don’t trust me when I say, “Oh yeah”–check out Biluka’s Leaf-Playing in Quito (1960-1965) and find yourself marveling, “That’s a leaf?”

Bolded items are new to the list

New Music 

  1. 75 Dollar Bill: Social Music at Troost, Volume 3–Other People’s Music (Black Editions Group)
  2. Rosalia: MOTOMAMI (Columbia)
  3. Billy Woods: Aethiope(Backwoodz Studios)
  4. Tanya TagaqTongues (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. Tommy Womack: I Thought I Was Fine (Schoolkids Records)
  10. Wadada Leo Smith: The Emerald Duets (TUM)
  11. Superchunk: Wild Loneliness (Merge)
  12. Gonora Sounds: Hard Times Never Kill (Phantom Limb)
  13. Wet Leg: Wet Leg (Domino)
  14. Beyoncé: Renaissance (Parkwood Entertainment)
  15. Amber Mark:Three Dimensions Deep (PMR / Interscope) 
  16. Etran de L’AirAgadez (Sahel Sounds)
  17. Morgan Wade: Reckless (Deluxe) (Ladylike) 
  18. Lady Wray: Piece of Me (Big Crown)
  19. Bob Vylan: Bob Vylan Presents The Price of Life (Ghost Theatre)
  20. Moor Mother: Jazz Codes (Anti-)
  21. Mark Lomax II: Prismatic Refractions, Volume I (self-released)
  22. Horace Andy: Midnight Rocker (On-U Sound)
  23. black midi: Hellfire (Rough Trade)
  24. ensemble 0: Music Nuvulosa (Sub Rosa)
  25. Anna von HausswoolffLive at Montreaux Jazz Festival (Southern Lord) 
  26. Various Artists: Lespri Ka—New Directions in Gwoka Music from Guadeloupe (Time Capsule Sounds) 
  27. Ches Smith: Interpret It Well (Pyroclastic)
  28. Mark Lomax Trio: Plays Mingus (CFG Multimedia)
  29. 700 Bliss: Nothing to Declare (Hyperdub)
  30. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: LeAutoRoiGraphy (577 Records)
  31. Jinx Lennon: Pet Rent (Septic Tiger)
  32. Freakons: Freakons (Fluff & Gravy)
  33. Daniel Villareal: Panama ’77 (International Anthem)
  34. Mary Gauthier: Dark Enough to See the Stars (Thirty Tigers)
  35. Ama Gogela: Phelimuncasi (Nyege Nyege Tapes)
  36. Joy Guidry:Radical Acceptance (Whited Sepulchre)
  37. Kehlani: blue water road (TSNMI/Atlantic)
  38. Zoh Amba: O, Sun (Tzadik)
  39. Felipe Salles: Tiyo’s Songs of Life (Tapestry)
  40. Nancy Mounir: Nozhet El Nofous (Terrorbird)
  41. Javon Jackson & Nikki Giovanni: The Gospel According to Nikki Giovanni (Solid Jackson) 
  42. Oumou Sangare: Timbuktu (World Circuit Limited)
  43. Various Artists: Hidden Waters—Strange and Sublime Sounds from Rio de Janiero (Sounds and Colours)
  44. Nduduzo Makhathini: In the Spirit of Ntu (Universal)
  45. Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity: Elastic Wave (ECM)
  46. Miguel Zeñon: Musica de las Americas (Miel Music)
  47. Isaiah Collier & The Chosen Few: Lift Every Voice (Division 81 Records)
  48. Priscilla BlockWelcome to the Block Party (InDent)
  49. Anitta: Versions of Me (Warner)
  50. Serengeti: Kaleidoscope III (Audiocon)
  51. Kendrick Lamar: Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers(pgLang/Top Dawg Entertainment/Aftermath/Interscope)
  52. OGJB: Ode to O (TUM) (Note: Band name – O = Oliver Lake, G = Graham Haynes, J = Joe Fonda, B = Barry Altschul / Title – O = Ornette) 
  53. Andrew Cyrille, William Parker, and Enrico Rava: Two Blues for Cecil (TUM) 
  54. Luke Stewart’s Silt TrioThe Bottom(Cuneiform) 
  55. Tyler Mitchell: Dancing Shadows (featuring Marshall Allen) (Mahakala Music)
  56. Wild Up: Julius Eastman, Volume 2—Joy Boy (New Amsterdam)
  57. Carl Stone: Wat Dong Moon Lek (Unseen Worlds)
  58. Mitski: Laurel Hell (Dead Oceans)
  59. Breath of Air: Breath of Air (Burning Ambulance Music)
  60. Immanuel Wilkins: The 7th Hand (Blue Note) 
  61. David Murray Brave New World Trio: Seriana Promethea (Intakt)
  62. Fulu MizikiNgbaka (EP)
  63. David Virelles: Nuna (Pi / El Tivoli)
  64. Steve Lehman: Xaybu—The Unseen (Pi Recordings)
  65. Tom Zé: Lingua Brasiliera (Selo Sesc)
  66. Leikeli47: Shape Up (Hardcover/RCA)
  67. Hurray for The Riff Raff: Life on Earth (Nonesuch)
  68. Rokia Koné and Jacknife Lee: Bamanan (3DFamily)
  69. Tomas Fujiwara: Triple Double (Firehouse 12)
  70. DJ Black Low: Uwami (Awesome Tapes from Africa)
  71. Ibibio Sound Machine: Electricity (Merge)
  72. Zoh Amba: O Life, O Light, Volume 1 (577 Records)
  73. Burton/McPherson Trio: The Summit Rock Session at Seneca Village (Giant Step Arts)
  74. Kahil El’Zabar Quartet: A Time for Healing (Spirit Muse)
  75. Pastor Champion: I Just Want to Be a Good Man (Luaka Bop)
  76. Nduduzo Makhathini: In the Spirit of Ntu (Blue Note)
  77. Pusha T: It’s Almost Dry (G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam)
  78. Elza SoaresElza Ao Vivo No Municipal (Deck)
  79. Nilufer Yanya: Painless (ATO)
  80. Satoko Fujii and Joe Fonda: Thread of Light (Fundacja Słuchaj)
  81. Charli XCX: Crash (Atlantic)
  82. Pete Malinverni: On the Town—Pete Malinverni Plays Leonard Bernstein(Planet Arts) 
  83. David Friend & Jerome Begin: Post- (New Amsterdam)
  84. Dedicated Men of Zion: The Devil Don’t Like It (Bible & Tire)
  85. Tyshawn Sorey Trio: Mesmerism (Pi Recordings)
  86. Space AfrikaHonest Labour (Dais)
  87. Charlotte Adigery & Bolis Pupul: Topical Dancer (DeeWee)
  88. Earl Sweatshirt: Sick! (Tan Cressida / Warner) 
  89. Belle & Sebastian: A Bit of Previous (Matador)
  90. Big Thief: Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You (4AD)
  91. Jeff Arnal and Curt Cloninger: Drum Major Instinct (Mahakala Music)
  92. Tee Grizzley: Half Tee Half Beast (self-released)
  93. Hoodoo Gurus: Chariot of The Gods (Big Time Photographic Recordings)
  94. Natsuki TamuraSummer Tree (Libra)
  95. (D)ivo: Perelman, Berne, Malaby, Carter (Mahakala Music)
  96. Daniel Carter et al.: Telepatica (577 Records)
  97. Ghais Guevara: There Will Be No Super-Slave (self-released)
  98. Spoon:Lucifer on the Sofa (Matador)
  99. Pierre Kwenders: Jose Louis and the Paradox of Love (Arts & Crafts)
  100. Manel Fortia: Despertar (Segell Microscopi/Altafonte)
  101. Ray Wylie Hubbard: Co-Starring Too (Big Machine)
  102. Various Artists: if you fart make it sound good (WA Records)
  103. Marta Sanchez: SAAM (Spanish American Art Museum) (Whirlwind)
  104. Earthgang: Ghetto Gods (Dreamville/Interscope)
  105. 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. The Heartbreakers: LAMF—The ’77 Found Mixes (Jungle)
  6. Albert Ayler: La Cave Live 1966 (Ezz-Thetics) 
  7. Various Artists: Cumbia Sabrosa—Tropical Sound System Bangers From The Discos Fuentes Vaults 1961-1981 (Rocafort Records)
  8. Biluka y Los Canibales: Leaf-Playing in Quito (1960-1965) (Honest Jon’s)
  9. Various Artists: A Chat About the Beauty of the Moon at Night–Hawaiian Steel Guitar Masters 1913-1921 (Magnificent Sounds)
  10. The Rolling Stones: Live at the El Mocambo (Interscope)
  11. Son House: Forever on My Mind (Easy Eye Sound)
  12. Lavender Country:Blackberry Rose and Other Songs & Sorrows (Don Giovanni)
  13. Horace Tapscott Quintet: Legacies for Our Grandchildren (Dark Tree)
  14. Various Artists: The D-Vine Spirituals—Sacred Soul (Bible & Tire)
  15. Kabaka International Guitar Band: Kabaka International Guitar Band (Palenque Records)
  16. The Pyramids: AOMAWA—The 1970s Recordings (Strut)
  17. Hermeto Pascoal: Hermeto (Far Out Recordings)
  18. Sun Ra: Sun Ra Arkestra Meets Salah Ragab in Egypt (Strut)
  19. Asha Puthi: The Essential Asha Puthi (Mr. Bongo)
  20. Malik’s Emerging Force Art Trio: Time and Condition (moved-by-sound)
  21. Volta Jazz: Air Volta (Numero)
  22. Various Artists: From Lion Mountain—Traditional Music of Yeha, Ethiopia (Dust-to-Digital)
  23. Ronnie Boykins: The Will Come is Now (ESP-Disk)
  24. Cecil Taylor: Respiration (Fundacja Stuchaj)
  25. Norma Tanega: Studio and Demo Recordings, 1964-1971 (Anthology)
  26. Irma Thomas: New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 1976 (Good Time)
  27. Afrika Negra: Antologia, Volume 1 (Bongo Joe)
  28. Various Artists: Summer of Soul (Legacy)
  29. Ann Peebles and the Hi Rhythm Section: Live in Memphis (Memphis International)
  30. Neil Young: Carnegie Hall 1970 (Reprise)

“They say no man’s left behind, but that ain’t true….” (March 14th, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

You can’t listen to everything. That’s one of the great struggles of my life. When people say, “There’s no really good music these days,” you know they don’t get out much–there’s actually never been more great music available than there is now, nor have there been so many ways to get at it. The difficulty is not just finding it all in a torrent, but making time to listen to it. It’s. Just. Not. Possible.

All of this is just to express my sheepishness in having just gotten to Mary Gauthier and The Songwriting with Soldiers Project‘s Rifles and Rosary Beads, easily one of the most emotionally powerful new albums that lie at your fingertips. If trying to reckon with the cost of our adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq is one of your regular intellectual and spiritual practices, you need to advance directly to this record, which will contribute meaningfully to that reckoning. The Songwriting with Soldiers Project joins established songwriters like Gauthier with combat veterans and their families, and gives them the space and opportunity to collaborate on songs that communicate the latter’s experiences. I have nothing to say to further commend this resultant album that comes within thousands of miles of these lyrics from “Stronger Together”:

They say no man’s left behind but that ain’t true
They hate it that they need us but they do
They lose their fingers lose their limbs
We try to love them together again
They say no man’s left behind but that ain’t true

They’re hurt in paces that the eye can’t see
I miss the man my husband used to be
The military breaks their hearts
We’re there when they fall apart
They’re hurt in paces that the eye can’t see

Stronger together, Sisters forever

EOD* wives don’t sit by the phone
No news is good news back at home
Their mission ready at their best
We take care of all the rest
EOD wives don’t sit by the phone

*Explosive Ordnance Disposal specialist

If that and the above-embedded video don’t work, try this:

Note that line “They genuflect on Sundays / And yet, they’d send us back.”

I am not the biggest fan of folk music (that is not really what this is), but I am also not a big fan of these wars, and the devil’s bargain our soldiers have been thrust into. If I hadn’t been actively firming myself up, I’d have wept at some point in each song instead of during three.

Essential listening. This is not to be swept into the cyberbin of time with the other music we couldn’t reach.

Short-shrift Division:

The long shadow of Rifles and Rosary Beads nearly wiped out my other listening during the day, but I cannot get enough of Johannesburg’s Yugen Blakrok. Her album Return of the Astro-Goth, from 2013, has got me in its grip, and apparently she’s got another in the chute. Dig this video from that album:

Also, I take it you knew she’s on Mr. Lamar’s Black Panther companion, batting third on this track and hitting a triple?

“You’re dead to me”: quite the opposite, young lady!