No Final Judgment Required (February 11th, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

I have to remind myself that this is just a listening diary; I don’t have to render final judgment, as if that’s even possible, given Heraclitus’ dictum. Reason that occurs to me is I’m preparing to report on a couple of fresh items, and hesitated, thinking I needed multiple spins under my belt to lay down any verbiage. No I don’t!

Kendrick Lamar, et al.: Soundtrack to the film Black Panther–Lordy, I had high hopes for this, a condition in which I am not alone. Well: it’s solid, it’s streamlined, it’s got nuggets of language that signal symbolic import…but damned if, taken altogether, the effect isn’t a little muted, a little too professional, given this occasion and these times. On top of that, was I wrong to be excited about the possible tapping of African influence for the musical settings? There are brief sprinklings, but that’s it; thing is, the potential for a stunning sound environment was breathtaking. The highlights are, unsurprisingly, the tracks Mr. Lamar dominates–and shining appearances by Khalid (“The Ways”), Ab-Soul and Anderson .Paak (“Bloody Waters”). Maybe the movie will tease out the record’s virtues.

Rich Kreuger: Life Ain’t That Long–I have a stubborn opinion regarding Bruce Springsteen. Though by unanimous acclaim his greatest work is from Born to Run on, I’ve always had a deeper, more durable feeling for the goofy humor, crazy images, and exciting loghorrea of Greetings from Asbury Park and The Wild, The Innocent, and The E-Street Shuffle, not to mention the loosey-goosey quality of his band. We will never see its like again; those qualities seem so much the product of a young man discovering his powers. Well–imagine those qualities–adjusted for grizzledness–emanating from a long-striving singer-songwriter..say, a 58-year-old neonatologist with a knack for reflection and the TMI temptations that can frequently come with it. That’s what we have in Chicago’s Mr. Kreuger, whom I learned about from a certain critic named Robert Christgau, who I’ve occasionally (along with many pals) been a signal extender. This record does reach out and grab you with its details and desperation, though I am not sure about the drummer, and the general lack of discernible melody can interfere with Rich’s loghorreic charm. But damn, I’m rooting for him, and I’d see him live in a heartbeat. Get his music and more info here.

Short-shrift Division:

Modern Jazz Quartet: Dedicated to Connie–A magical ’60s concert from Slovenia, excavated by leader John Lewis on the occasion of drummer Connie Kay’s passing.

Memphis Minnie: Complete Published Recordings 1937-1963–Told ya I was nursing a blues hangover she laid on me. Take a nip:

“What Kind of Woman is That?” (February 10th, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

Answer: a talented, prolific, assertive one! I think it’s a bit criminal that, in discussions of the giants of pre-war black music, Memphis Minnie is often peripheral if she’s mentioned at all. Criminal, because JSP’s five discs of her “complete published work” from 1929-1937 are of consistent high quality, spiked by a heavy dose of her ringing, stinging, grooveful guitar, her mordant wit, and her entertaining skirmishes with her (temporary) husband Kansas Joe McCoy and the Memphis Jug Band. Ms. Lizzie Douglas was a major figure–don’t let anyone fool you. And guess what? JSP’s second five-disc set, covering the rest of her approximately quarter-century career, pretty much follows suit, featuring indelible classics like “Me and My Chauffeur Blues” and “Kissin’ in the Dark.”

But enough of my yackin’: partake of this playlist, and consider that JSP’s stellar sets, graced with very good sound, are usually $10 cheaper than a new piece of vinyl.

Caveats: the second JSP box has a healthy share of alternate takes, and seekers after “When the Levee Breaks” should be apprised that it’s categorized under Kansas Joe’s output.

Cross-caveat: the sound on the second box, better for chronological reasons, mitigates against the effect of the above.

Short-shrift Division:

Sonny Boy Williamson II (Aleck Miller): Boppin’ with Sonny Boy and 1951-1953–Trumpet label mastery (pre-Chess Records).

Otis Spann: Good Morning Mr. Blues–Blues piano…ever played better than here?