What I’ve been listening to lately

    • Sun Ra Arkestra – Live in San Francisco. I caught the closing night of the Arkestra’s summer residency in SF, and it was, of course, great. Although I know the Sun Ra repertoire very well, the show was constantly surprising: for instance, “Tapestry from an Asteroid” was enlarged from its original incarnation as a two-minute instrumental miniature to a long, dreamy jam with (newly added?) lyrics. The 93-year-old Marshall Allen continues, amazingly, to lead the band from the stage. His saxophone playing is somewhat diminished, and is now mostly an avant-garde special effect–squawking and screaming while pawing at the keys. But he deploys it in very effective contrast to the more swinging horn section and the ferocious groove from the expanded rhythm section.
    • Augustus Pablo – Africa Must Be Free By 1983 Dub. The dub version of the 1978 Hugh Mundell album is arguably better than the original. In any case it’s another minimalist instrumental reggae masterwork by Pablo.
    • Sweet As Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes From The Horn Of Africa. This amazing new reissue landed at the right time for me, just as I was going back to another African treasure, the moody Ethiopian jazz of Mulatu Astatque. There’s been plenty of good writing on the historical context of these recordings; the music itself is fresh and fascinating.
    • Minutemen – What Makes A Man Start Fires. This album (half of the Post-Mersh Vol. 1 compilation), which I had somehow missed hearing before, is a predecessor and a worthy runner-up to their great epic Double Nickels on the Dime. Decades later, the Minutemen’s punky, jazzy miniatures still sound like nothing else in popular music, and the Watt-Hurley partnership remains one of the great rock rhythm sections.


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