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Music Notes


A week ago when I published the last Music Notes, DMX had just suffered his overdose and heart attack. He has since died. It’s just a sad story, a guy who legitimately grew up hard on the streets at just about the hardest time on American urban streets in our history and who just couldn’t escape it no matter how much success he had. Here’s a good discussion of DMX and his enormous talent.

We are at a time when it’s been a long, long, long time without live music, the longest time in probably centuries. We are slowly moving back toward normal, which means eventually, hopefully these venues can open back up. This is a nice discussion by 19 different indie artists what their personal favorite places to play are. I’ve actually only ever been to one of these I think (The Doug Fir in Portland). But I do have my favorite clubs too. Sigh, I want to go to them.

Roger Waters is going to tour again next year. Maybe he will go into long rants about the righteousness of the Syrian government.

Alanis Morrisette’s first release was 30 years ago, in case you need to feel old. It’s also the 40th anniversary of Rick James’ Street Songs.

Brandi Carlile has written a memoir. Could be worth a read.

I can’t say I am comfortable with AI “writing” new songs for dead artists such as Kurt Cobain.

There’s a long history of rappers promoting booze and just as long a history of them not really making any money for their work.

Mildly amusing to see Sean Combs calling out corporations for not really supporting Black communities when he is a corporation of his own.

The Coltrane “alternative top ten,” in other words, albums 11-20 in your collection. Only have about half of these myself.

Ten early Dizzy Gillespie recordings.

One death in the jazz world this week–Buddy Deppenschmidt, who was the drummer for Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd’s 1962 album Jazz Samba, which did much to bring Brazilian music into the jazz world.

Album Reviews:

Sara Evans, Words

Evans was a hit maker in the country music world of the 2000s with her pleasant but fairly bland music, which was just what Nashville was looking for at the time. Still is for that matter, but the women providing the best of country music these days are writing such smart songs that the radio execs don’t want to play them. Anyway, this is Evans’ 2017 release attempting to recapture that gold (or platinum perhaps) of her heyday. It remains pleasant and fairly bland music. I’m sure this sounds great if you want background music while driving in your oversized SUV in the Dallas suburbs, which is the market Nashville idealizes these days.


Harvey Sorgen/Joe Fonda/Marilyn Crispell, Dreamstruck

A solid release from these great players. I know Crispell’s work the best and she’s just a marvelous pianist. The piano/bass/drums trio is not necessarily my favorite grouping, even if is the most iconic in the genre. But they play so well together that it works and is a very fine release. A particular highlight is the cover of Paul Motian’s “Kalypso.”


Nick Fraser/Kris Davis/Tony Malaby, Zoning

This is a limited review because only three of the six songs from this 2019 release are available for streaming. But based on those three tunes, this is pretty fantastic material. Kris Davis on piano is especially powerful here and Fraser’s drumming and Malaby’s sax are as great as always. On three tracks (though only one I could hear), they are joined by Ingrid Laubrock on tenor and Lena Allemano on trumpet. It only adds to the joyful noise here. The “Coda” at the end of the album is a particularly nice yet still tense way to bring people down after listening to this.

A- (though could be an A if I had heard the whole thing)

John Luther Adams, Become Desert  

It’s a bit amusing that if John Adams is a top 5 most famous composer in contemporary American classical music, his equal (I’d probably argue superior) in talent and still a top 10 most famous composer has to use his middle name because he got famous a little later. In any case, Adams has been working over the last several years with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra to record his nature-based compositions. In 2014, their outstanding work Become Ocean won the Pulitzer Prize (it’s a great release). In 2018, its sequel came out, this time inspired by listening to the sounds of the desert. Adams actually wrote a really interesting essay about how to listen to album in the New York Times. Definitely check that out. What I get here is more brilliant, quiet composition where there’s a surprising amount going on for the lack of massive changes in the music. Like walking through the desert, you are in the middle of nowhere and yet if you listen, the whole world is around you, waiting for your ears to pay attention.


Arexibo, Counter!

Now this is interesting. Chinabot is one of my favorite labels, giving all sorts of unknown Asian artists an international presence. In this case, Arexibo is a Korean DJ and mixed-media artist and this album from last year is her debut release as a producer. Largely minimalist, textural sounds that reminds me more of Steve Reich than a lot of club music. I suspect opinions on this album would be quite varied if a lot of you listened to it and expressed them. But it appealed to me pretty strongly.


Ty Segall, Freedom’s Goblin

Every Ty Segall album is exactly the same. For me, that means more than decent guitar rock that could use greater editing and discipline. But I don’t even know what there is to say about Segall at this point. Again, every album is basically the same thing. This one is particularly long I guess.


Cindy, Free Advice

This is a real nice, smart little indie pop album from last year. No one in the band is named Cindy; Karina Gill is the singer. This is a very moody but not necessarily depressing take on the genre, a lot of Galaxie 500 influences. Pretty smart songs that are catchier than you think with limited production that works quite well.


Naked Roommate, Do the Duvet

Heavily post-punk and Krautrock influenced Oakland quartet using the same types of basic electronic beats that underlay those movements. Good bit of funk here too. Some of the songs are pretty silly, but I liked this more than I expected too when I first heard the beats to start the album.


Danish String Quartet, Last Leaf

A nice enough ECM release from this quartet doing traditional Danish folk songs in the classical style. “Nice enough” is the operative phrase here. It’s peaceful music but it’s also basically background music. I don’t really know Danish folk music so I can’t say much about earlier versions of these songs. As always, ECM provides a quality recording.


The Como Mamas, Move Upstairs

The southern gospel tradition as one wants it. The Como Mamas hail from Como, Mississippi and were discovered as part of the Daptone Records revival of 60s and 70s era soul music by contemporary artists. You kinda know what this is when you start it. Like any kind of genre music, the highlights are in the specifics, not in some sort of new method or style. And this trio definitely delivers the goods. Good for Sunday morning, but honestly pretty good for Wednesday afternoon too, which is when I listened in.


As always, this is an open thread for all things music and art and none things music and disease.

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