Music News 10/23/2019


Large Ensembles

Matana Roberts, COIN COIN CHAPTER FOUR: MEMPHIS (Constellation, $14.98) – Saxophonist, clarinetist, vocalist and composer Matana Roberts returns to her ongoing Coin Coin project, a 12-part work whose previous “chapters” have come out as three albums released between 2011 and 2015. Her “panoramic sound quilting” techniques employ multiple vocal forms (chants, song-speak, lullabies, recitation) and a range of instruments (guitars, fiddle, trombone, vibes, bass) for her mix of musical storytelling.

Kris Davis, DIATOM RIBBONS (Pyroclastic, $15.98) – An omnipresent collaborator in“downtown” music, pianist Kris Davis releases her third album on her own label, Pyroclastic. On Diatom Ribbons, she “puts her rhythmic, pattern-based…playing into a direct conversation with funk grooves,” to quote from Gio Russonello in his recent New York Times profile. Guests Terri Lyne Carrington (drums) and Esperanza Spalding (vocals) are in the ensemble, as well as two saxes (JD Allen, Tony Malaby), two guitars (Nels Cline, Marc Ribot), turntablistVal Jeanty, bassist Trevor Dunn and vibes man Ches Smith.

Chris Lightcap, SUPERBIGMOUTH (Pyroclastic, $15.98) – Bassist Chris Lightcap assembles his two working bands to form Superbigmouth. He also brings twin saxes (Chris Cheek, Tony Malaby), twin guitars (Jonathan Goldberger, Curtis Hasselbring), plus twin drums (Gerald Cleaver, Dan Rieser), along with Craig Taborn on organ, piano, Wurlitzer. Doubled and tripled melodies mix with grooves to wonderful effect.

Joel Harrison, STILL POINT: TURNING WORLD (Whirlwind, $15.99) – For his boundary-stretching suite, guitarist assembled an ensemble combining musicians from the Indian classical tradition—Anupam Shobhakar (sarod),  V. Selvaganesh (kanjira and vocal percussion), Nittin Mitta (tabla)—with a jazz quartet including Hans Glawischnig and Stephan Crump (bass), Ben Wendel (saxophone/bassoon), Dan Weiss (alternating between drums and tabla)—plus a percussion quartet (Talujon).

Joel grew up around DC, and earlier this year was one of the Spellcasters (three Fender Telecaster-wielding guitarists) who released Music from the Anacostia Delta, their tribute to local guitar legends Danny Gatton and Roy Buchanan.


Chamber Jazz

Ben Goldberg, GOOD DAY FOR CLOUD FISHING (Pyroclastic, $15.98) – A fascinating jazz and poetry collaboration between three great improvisers (clarinetist Ben Goldberg, guitarist Nels Cline, cornetist Ron Miles), and poet Dean Young. Goldberg used Young poems as inspirations for the songs, then Young wrote new poems inspired by those very songs. The beautiful package includes small postcards (recto/verso) of each set of poems.

Joshua Redman & Brooklyn Rider, SUN ON SAND (Nonesuch, $16.98) – A suite of eight songs by composer Patrick Zimmerli, for saxophone (Joshua Redman), bass (Scott Colley), drums (Satoshi Takeshi), and string quartet (Brooklyn Rider). The work was premiered at Wigmore Hall, London, in 2014.

The Bad Plus (Plus)

The Bad Plus, ACTIVATE INFINITY (Edition, $13.98) – The trio’s second album with their new pianist, Orrin Evans, joining Reid Anderson on bass and Dave King on drums. Everyone composes as well.

Craig Taborn, Reid Anderson, Dave King, GOLDEN VALLEY IS NOW (Intakt, $19.99) – Two-thirds of the Bad Plus (see above) are also collaborating with another great pianist, Craig Taborn, on this new side project.


Billy Bragg, BEST OF BILLY BRAGG AT THE BBC 1983 – 2019 (Cooking Vinyl, 2 CDs, $20.98) – Billy Bragg was recently at Politics and Prose for his insightful political book, The Three Dimensions of Freedom. But, of course, he’s put this philosophy into song and action for over three decades. He writes of his new collection: “Work in progress. That’s how John Peel thought of his evening sessions, offering artists the opportunity to try out new songs in a studio environment…That rawness was always a key I’ve collected the best moments across 36 years of my ongoing work in progress.”

Nellie McKay, BAGATELLES (Palmetto, $7.98) – An 8-song EP (extended play) companion to last year’s  Sister Orchid, Nellie McKay sings (and accompanies herself on piano or ukulele on) such gems as “Up a Lazy River,” Accentuate the Positive,” “I Concentrate on You,” and “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” And, on “The Best in Things in Life are Free,” written in 1927, Ms. McKay connects it to our own times in the closing moments: “Healthcare for everyone!”