Back In The Game (July 25-29, Columbia, MO)

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After a half-month vacation and a little reorientation, I’ve been digging into records with a passion.

Mulatu Astatke and The Ethiopian Quintet: Afro-Latin Soul, Vols. 1-2–Early Mulatu, minus misterioso sax and his mature stamp, but plus sharp Cuban-flavored attack (mid-Sixties vintage)

Balkan Beat Box: Nu-Med–I miss this band (are they disbanded, I wonder?) and their propulsive, eccentric, surprising rhythms (here, augmented in one case by Delta guitar).

Beats Antique: Shadowbox–This well-named band’s best album end to end, they are well-supported by guests like Preservation Hall, but don’t quite deliver a true banger quite as powerful as “Dope Crunk” (also, consistency be damned, it mighta been even better with about 20 minutes worth of editing).

David Bowie: Santa Monica ’72–After sampling a ’70s Bonnie Raitt radio show (the faucet’s all the way open on these), I jumped at this, and it’s raw and sloppy enough, and the playlist choice enough, to justify a recommendation, especially if you do find Dave’s early ’70s productions too skinny.

Eddie Daniels: Heart of Brazil–I tend to like my Brazilian music nuttier (see below), but this tribute to composer Egberto Gismonti’s music, described by jazz scribe Dan Bilawsky as “a sui generis form of fantasia that proves evocative in its blending of Brazilian forms,” is bright and effervescent enough to steamroller that prejudice (also, GO RESONANCE RECORDS!).

Booker Ervin: “Tex”book Tenor–Ervin’s a brawny and smart ’60s hornman you may have overlooked, and he’s on his game here, assisted ably by Billy Higgins, Woody Shaw, and Kenny Barron, the latter two of whom chip in great tunes. The Blue Note catalog is so dang deep that it’s full of minor classics like this that get a bit of shade.

Etoile de Dakar (featuring Youssou N’Dour): Once Upon a Time in Senegal–The Birth of Mbalax 1979-1981–Look at those dates. The greatest band on the planet? The Clash? The Talking Heads? Maybe–maybe not. This band jumped hella sturdy and cut like a straight razor, with a teenager who already was one of the most distinctive vocalists on the planet. All the great stuff from their early prime is here.

Monsieur Jeffrey Evans & Ross Johnson: “Caldonia” / “Cottonfields”–Evans, formerly of ’68 Comeback and The Gibson Brothers, and Johnson, formerly of Earth about, oh, 40 years ago, continue waging their war to keep Memphis weird. They go 1-for-2 here, with “Cottonfields” an embarrassment except for Johnson’s intro–he has a way of snatching entertainment from the jaws of a flop. Look for their previous full-length, which does work, and features this truly weird semi-classic.

Freddie Gibbs: Freddie–Dude’s done nothing to convince me until now–a decently skilled boor–and the rip-off/tribute to the album cover of one of my teen essentials didn’t do him any favors. Still–somehow he got me on this one. Nine of 10 tracks are under three minutes long–what is this, rap Ramones?–so maybe he’s figured out when to hit the door. And, honestly, seldom have such complete MCs skills been laid (!) upon that trap skitter.

The Elmo Hope Ensemble: Sounds from Rikers Island–Hope, with Sonny Clark, is one of those great hard bop (maybe?) pianists every jazz explorer needs to know but might not, due to their more illustrious peers (and due to their premature deaths at the hands of drugs). This one is special, not only because Hope had Arkestra stalwarts Ronnie Boykins and John Gilmore plus favorite drummer Philly Joe Jones (who really shines) on hand, but also? Any chance to hear Gilmore outside the Arkestra is worth a leaning forward.

Dick Hyman Plays Fats Waller–And plays him into a Bosendorfer reproducing piano! That’s right! Supposedly this process results in recordings closer to the sound at the moment of playing than any other machine can manufacture. Whether that claim still holds true, Hyman is a wizard, Walleriana is one of his great loves, and both facts are luminously proven here.

Abdullah Ibrahim: Yarona and Abdullah Ibrahim and Johnny Dyani: Echoes from Africa–You can listen to these albums in the middle of the night, and they (especially the latter) will sound as if the sun is coming up on a long-awaited morning.

The Internet: Hive Mind–My favorite groove album of the year, a groove so seductive you might miss some very wise words. I love these kids–seems like so much young talent is flowing from the ground that they might indeed save us…

Rodrigo Amado (with Joe McPhee): This is Our Language and The Lisbon Improvisational Players: Spiritualized–Amado is perhaps the best known Portuguese free jazz player in the world, he’s got a great new record out, and when he’s paired with the Merlinesque McPhee or like-minded Lisbonites, the attentive listener is going to be taken somewhere worthy. My current obsession–if only I could hear this music live in mid-Misery!

Lori McKenna: The Tree–There’s so much music out there that this fine songwriter’s been around for over a decade and I’ve just recently heard of her–and I’m supposed to know something about this stuff. Thing is, I checked her new one out based on her writing rep (and she’s sharp), but I came away in love with her singing. The above song and “You Won’t Even Know I’m Gone” you can play for your folks and put a hook in their lip.

Jay McShann (with Claude “Fiddler” Williams): The Man from Muskogee and Claude “Fiddler” Williams: Swingin’ the Blues–Reading around in some old reference books (it’s what I do for fun), I came to the realization that Nicole and I had in fact seen a member of the original Basie band play live! Fiddler Williams (he also guitar-slung) was only with Basie for a blink–he also was with Andy Kirk’s famous orchestra–but had a very quite career until a mid-’70s resurgence that lasted (as Williams did) another twenty years. His high, keening swing–he almost drawls across the strings–is irresistible, and if you just wanna sit back and be transported like they used to was, these records will do the trick. His accomplices, especially McShann and the late, great Henry Butler (on the latter record), are exquisitely skilled as well.

Leon Parker: Belief–The percussion textures on this album are mood-enhancing; it always clears and cleans my mind, somehow. Some great horn and sneaky blues on hand, too.

Hermeto Pascoal: Slaves Mass–Multi-instrumentalist Pascoal recorded this swirling, dizzying, often intimidating salvo of Brazilian sound in 1977–I don’t really know that it fits any genre, though imbibers of jazz, international, progressive, and outsider music are fairly sure to be held in thrall. Didn’t arrive on CD until 2005; I just heard of it three days courtesy of a New Orleans friend who Dropboxed it to me. Mad, magical music.

Esther Phillips: Jazz Moods–Hot–Dinah Washington’s greatest acolyte seldom (some would say never) made a great album, and this has its wince-inducing moments. I don’t think “What A Diff’rence a Day Makes” was meant to be discofied, at least not like it’s done here. But she always had a way of startlingly covering the unexpected, from the likes of The Beatles, Van Morrison, and Charlie Rich. On this comp, the above Gil Scott-Heron interpretation at least matches the original, she risks disaster in trying to convince us that someone other than Bill Withers needed to record “Use Me” and survives, and she blows Joe Cocker out of the water on “Black-Eyed Blues.” Someone needs to get motivated and give us the ultimate Phillips box…oh wait, you can just make your own.

Sam Rivers: Contrasts–Rivers, joined by bassist Dave Holland, trombonist George Lewis, and the very underrated percussionist Thurman Barker (the latter two AACM masters), plays seven original compositions that miraculously and vividly illustrate their single-word titles: “Circles,” “Zip,” “Solace,” “Verve,” “Dazzle,” “Images,” “Lines.” Aside from those variances, the band plays arrangements, near-total improvisations, hard-bop, tone-poetry–it’s really a stunning record that benefits from, as one reviewer noted, not being a stereotypically gauzy ECM release.

Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band: 1984/08/20–East Rutherford, New Jersey–I am not nearly enraptured by Springsteen as I was at 15, and at 22–he just tries too damn hard, and anymore his singing and material grinds me. But for some reason (I forget the trigger) I started scouting for a live ’84 show that might possibly improve on, or at least provide an interesting contrast to, Born in the USA, which I just can’t listen to sometimes because of the production. Went to the ol’ codger’s website and checked this out, which was, in fact, just what I was looking for: a good mix of new and old, some neat surprises (like the above Dobie Gray cover), and…I always listen for a stellar version of “Badlands,” which this has.

Clark Terry (with Thelonious Monk): In Orbit–Ordinarily, if on a record you heard that Monk mostly stayed out of the way, you might not want to listen to it. But in this case you’d be wrong. Monk comps respectfully around the winsome and witty flugeling of a musician I’m sure he already considered a master. And the winsomeness and the wit are probably the reason. Lest any Monkophile be disappointed, he breaks out, with Terry returning the favor of respect, on his own “Let’s Cool One.” A very warm (there’s another “w”) and swinging session.

Tom Waits: Round Midnight–The Minneapolis Broadcast 1975–Still sampling from this burgeoning stream of “bootleg” radio shows, I was bound to reel in a dog. While I am an admirer of Nighthawks at the Diner, this performance, especially the grating opener, a a big, fat, unfunny, bombing “Emotional Weather Report,” reminded me once again how much sheer bullshit has been part of Tom’s schtick. I’m sure my repulsion’s just a temporary thing, though.

“I Need Fuel!” (May 4th, 2018, MO 63, 54, 5, 44)

I road-tripped to my parents’ home in Monett, Missouri, to celebrate my brother’s birthday–he was home from Dickinson, Texas. Unfortunately, my ace-boon pavement podnah Nicole was under the weather, so I was driving solo.

Also, my vehicle is a ’93 Ford Splash with 88,000 miles on it–I don’t entirely trust it, but it does have a nice stereo that masks those worrisome noises. So I selected some special, time-tested records to keep me fully engaged, and to “study” in “The Lab”–my nickname for the truck cab.

Neckbones: Souls on Fire

If the Rolling Stones were from Oxford, Mississippi, fronted by Richard Hell, and drunk on LAMF. Oh yeah: and cut loose with a week’s pay in a casino. But let me pull your coat on lead singer Tyler Keith. I hate to keep making comparisons, but this is true: if you, like me, are a fan of Jeffrey Lee Pierce and The Gun Club, there’s no reason for you to miss Tyler’s work with The Neckbones, The Preacher’s Kids, and The Apostles. It’s got the same fire, the same sense of spiritual hauntedness, the same immersion in the blues-based rock roll verities with a cerrated edge. What it doesn’t have, I think, is Pierce’s doomed aura–and that’s a good thing. Not something you wanna root for, you know?

I’m getting off topic, but proceed thusly through Mr. Keith’s oeuvre:

1) The Neckbones: Souls on Fire

2) Tyler Keith & The Preachers’ Kids: Romeo Hood

3) Tyler Keith & The Preachers ‘ Kids: Wild Emotions

4) The Neckbones: The Lights are Getting Dim

5) Tyler Keith & The Apostles: Do It for Johnny

6) Tyler Keith & The Apostles: Black Highway

7) The Neckbones: Gentlemen

To prove I’m somewhat objective, I’ve never warmed up to The Preachers’ Kids’ The Devil’s Hitlist or Keith’s kinda-solo Alias Kid Twist, though the cassette-only The Apostle is worth the search. To recap, and I will not have stuttered:  Tyler Keith and his projects equal to, if not better, than Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s.

The Rolling Stones: Some Girls and Tattoo You

A few weeks ago, I was having fun making fun of Mick Jagger’s garb and minstrelsy as modeled in videos from these records. Since then, I’ve come back to the videos, then to the records, to just joy in Charlie’s cracking drumming and Keith’s lewd, thick, buzzing guitar lines–sounds of the gods! Played both albums all the way through, loud, with nothing but a smile–and re-re-replays of “Lies,” “Respectable,” “Hang Fire,” “Start Me Up,” and “Neighbors.”

The Go-Betweens: 1978-1990

Yeah, I only listened to this comp THREE TIMES this week. Simply, the cats from Brisbane are my uncontested favorite romantic pop group–the music can rock or be sensuous and luxurious, with constant surprises: spring rain, pool draining, men o’ sand v. girls o’ sea, white witchery + poetry that’s Irish and so black, getting back up on the pony, period blood, cattle and cane. If this album ended after its first 11 tracks, it’d be an A+; as it is, it’s a solid A. Note: I love Grant, but I’m a Robert guy.

Oh, yes, I did. I needed to feel the breeze blowin’ up me, and be reminded what a moon can do (though I was driving into Monett in broad daylight). I also needed to get in touch with the real me before coming all the way home, and the china pig snuffles? They center me.

Short-shrift Division:

I am strange. I grade research papers at midnight to these sounds.

Dennis Gonzales and his New Dallas Sextet: Namesake–Fabulous, passionate, energetic, long-form jazz, from the genre’s most underrated living composer (and one hell of a trumpeter). Secret weapon: on horns and flute, Douglas Ewart!

Roscoe Mitchell: Discussions–The septuagenarian jazz sensei shows no signs of slowing. Playing puts me in a focused, contemplative, unsentimental mood–perfect for scoring freshman essays.

Diggin’ In The Crates, Spousal Style! (April 29th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

Sometimes, pictures really are worth 1,000 words (more like 500, in my case). I’ve posted four times in the last two days, so I am going to let this snap of Nicole’s work as weekend selecter carry the weight. As is frequently true with her when she takes control, she left honky-tonk, south Louisiana, and Fat Possum footprints behind.

(Oops: those are my Marc Ribot and Psychedelic Furs choices in there!)

Phil’s Faves: A Mid-Year Report


These are the “new” recordings that I’ve enjoyed the most in 2014.

1. Allen Lowe: Mulatto Radio–Field Recordings 1-4, or: A Jew At Large in the Minstrel Diaspora – This is the most ambitious recording of 2014–if not the decade, or the century. That difficult-to-love high school principal of jazz, Wynton Marsalis, pissed off Lowe, as ardent a student of our country’s musical history as you can find, in a conversation about jazz that, of course, ventured into areas of race, appropriation, and creative rights. Lowe responded with a four-disc (five, if you ordered it early!) tour de force that’s more alive and interesting than anything Marsalis has recorded in years, if ever. You don’t have to love jazz to be fascinated with the result, which easily lives up to its provocative title and tours every nook and cranny of the genre. And, in this listener and thinker’s view, it wins the argument. Check out my buddy Ken Shimamoto’s much-more-wise commentary at his Stash Dauber blog (he’s a writer/muso like Lowe).

2. Bo Dollis, Jr. and The Wild Magnolias: A New Kind of Funk – What happens when you run a line of serious wattage into a Mardi Gras Indian practice.

3. Obnox: Louder Space – Continuing the fine Cleveland/Columbus tradition of ugly noise and urban protest. Lamont Thomas, with a serious punk pedigree to deepen his geographical birthright, makes a racket to light a fire under Mick Collins’ ass. Euphonious racket!

4. Latyrx: The Second Album Who cares if their first album dropped 17 years ago? Lateef and Lyrics Born are still two of the most unique rappers spittin’.There ain’t no “Balcony Beach”–how could there be?–but there is “Deliberate Gibberish”!

5. Ross Johnson and Monsieur Jeffrey Evans: Vanity Sessions – Out to prove the Memphis rock and roll underground is still nuts now that the Oblivians have grown up, they win, four falls out of six. The title of the opener–“Three-Beer Queer”–says more than any review can.

6. Wussy: Attica! – Robert Christgau calls them a blending of VU and the Flying Burrito Brothers, which is absurd. What they are, with the star- and shock-power of rock and roll browning out, is the voice of far less polymorphously perverse and doomed adults than Reed and Parsons ever were, negotiating the 21st century into a draw and constructing a passionate but unflashy soundtrack to back their bargain. That’s probably absurd, too, but if you are a rock and roll fan of a certain age (say, if you actually walked the Seventies teenage wasteland), and are feeling just a little embattled, this Ohio band is for you.

7. Marc Ribot Trio: Live at Village Vanguard 2012 – Two Aylers, two Tranes, and two sentimental faves, socked home by, arguably, the country’s most daring guitarist.

8. Neneh Cherry: The Blank ProjectStill in a buffalo stance. This mid-forties mama can roll with the zeitgeist–just ask Robyn, who spices up one of the best tracks here.

9. Sonny Rollins: Road Shows, Volume 3 – Old Man River just keeps rolling out the cadenzas. All three volumes are musts.

10. Tinariwen: Emmaar – How many Tinariwen albums does one need? Well, remember what they have always said about ol’ Hank and the Ramones, and ask yourself how many notes it takes you to recognize “Ramblin’ Man” or “Beat on the Brat.” This band has a sound, a groove, and a brood in their wake, not to mention that, politically and aesthetically, Saharan blues is good for what ails ye.

11. The Stooges Brass Band: Street Music – I believe New Orleans music gets short critical shrift because the city’s always been teeming with such traditional music that it’s assumed its innovations are long past. I won’t argue that this band of Stooges is all that innovative, but brass-band toons with the lyrics and cultural weight of “Why They Had to Kill Him” and “We Gotta Eat” aren’t everyday creations. And these guys work in a damned HOT crucible of competition.

12. Natural Child: Dancin’ with Wolves – I admit it: I am a sucker for these Nashville no ‘counts, and even I regard their countryward turn with a tinge of dubiosity. But they are so fun-loving, so unselfconscious, so unambitious, so charming that if I didn’t laud them I would have to turn in my Sir Doug Fan Club badge. Face it: unselfconscious men are hard to find these days.

13. Roscoe Mitchell and Tyshawn Sorey (with Hugh Ragin): Duets – Mitchell’s 73, Sorey’s 33, they both know their Cage and Feldman, and, if you’re not into the sound of becoming–the sound of sound–you best shop elsewhere. But this hands-across-the-generations team-up is relentlessly interesting. All I’d ask is that Sorey played more drums.

14. Parquet Courts: Sunbathing Animal – See Pitchfork. But it’s even better than they say. You gotta watch that groupthink.

Singles (Record Store Day double-header):

Bobby Rush: Upstairs at United – 81 years young this coming November, the inventor of folkfunk and seriously randy grandy is still one of our country’s underappreciated masters, and with the blues influence in our music trickling down to drops, you best get out to see him if he shows up in your ‘hood. But fathers, watch your daughters. Note: he also put out a full-length this year, and we’re only halfway through!

Marc Ribot w/Deerhoof: Who Sleeps, Only Dreams – When our age’s heir to Sonny Sharrock appears, attendez-vous!

Old Stuff/Reissues:

Various Artists: Haiti Direct! – Rhythm nation. And, oh, those guitars and horns.

John Schooley One-Man Band: Schooley’s Greatest Hits – The instrumental fulcrum of two-count-’em-two great lost garage punk bands, The Revelators and the Hard Feelings, Schooley will deliver all of the excitement and relentless rock of Bob Log and his ilk with none of their bullshit. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand — it’s free!

Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys: Riding Your Way–The Lost Transcriptions for Tiffany Music 1946-7 – The best band in the USA, circa 1946-7. Camaraderie, versatility, chopsmanship, rhythm, and high times–plus, of course, you can dance. Aaaaaaaaah-HA!

Various Artists: Angola 2

Various Artists: The Rough Guide to the Music of Mali, Volume 2

D’Angelo: Live at the Jazz Café, London – His band and back- up singers work harder than he does, and it’s still a great show.

Gories: The Shaw Tapes—Live in Detroit 1988

Sid Selvidge: The Cold of the Morning – A Memphis cult hero, his voice was silenced by cancer on May 2, 2013. This reissue of a ’70s Peabody Records release captures him in his prime, comfortable with everything from Furry Lewis to Jimmie Rodgers to Fred Neil and boasting a very flexible, very American voice that gives off not a whiff of minstrelsy or strain.



In the above photo, I am attempting to get a former cat of mine to resolve my own paralysis (caused by an overabundance of rekkids and CDs) and choose between Mingus Atlantics that he wants to hear. I hope that, once this blog is under way, if it ever is and if you ever see it, I will be more successful persuading you to share some of musical experiences, which are fairly constant: if music isn’t blasting from my headphone, truck, home, or device speakers, unless I am talking (and sometimes even then) my memory is spinning it inside my skull. I have heard that if you stop a human at rest and in meditation–particularly a man–and ask him what he’s thinking about, the odds are 9:1 it’ll be sex. Though I have no qualms about that specific mental drifting, if you stop me in the same state, the odds are 9:1 I will be thinking about whether I will ever get to see Swamp Dogg, or if I am right about Natural Child‘s greatness, or if Jean Grae can get this multimedia thing off the ground. I am a musical monomaniac, and four decades of that state of being should produce an occasionally interesting word-birth.

Here’s what I hope to do:

1) Capsule-review records that are making me feel alive. However, I feel no obligation to keep up with what is new; it’s impossible, and besides, for the general Webwanderer, there’s more danger in never running across a stellar release from the past that’s being sucked towards the chronological dustbin. Also, I won’t waste time on hating something. Or even pointing out that something’s simply boring. Indifference is the coldest cut, and life’s too short not to always be writing about what I like.

2) Spin true tales of how music has enriched my life.

3) Post about (notice I didn’t say “write about”) videos, films, concerts and books that feed my obsession.

4) Interact with some fellow travelers.

So…today I leave you with the utterances of Johnny Burnette: “I don’t need a doctor/I don’t need a pill/In other medicine/Is bound to make me ill/I need Rock Therapy/Give it to me, oh give it to me, oh give it to me….”

Oh, and let me proselytize quietly with this loud concert recording: