What I’ve been listening to lately

  • Marc Ribot – Plays Solo Guitar Works of Frantz Casseus. Ribot wrote movingly about Casseus, a family friend and his first guitar teacher, in his quasi-memoir Unstrung. The self-described noise guitarist plays these pieces straight, in support of Casseus’ ambition to make a distinctive Haitian contribution to the classical guitar repertoire. They are lovely, rhythmic miniatures.
  • The Temptations – Psychedelic Soul. Obituaries are a sad way to discover new music. In this case Richard Williams’ appreciation of Barrett Strong, who passed in January, led me to the 1968-1972 era of The Temptations and their collaborations with Strong and Norman Whitfield. This work is both extraordinarily creative and sublimely funky; everyone knows “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” but there is so much more great stuff on this collection.
  • Tyshawn Sorey – The Off-Off Broadway Guide to Synergism. This epic live recording topped many best-of-2022 lists, and deservedly so. Drummer Sorey here takes off his avant-composer hat to back his piano trio, and invites elder Greg Osby along for the ride to play standards and modern jazz classics. It’s all absolutely fresh and in the moment.
  • New Kingdom – Paradise Don’t Come Cheap. The golden age of hip-hop in the early 90s was a historic flowering of a new art form: a hundred flowers bloomed, though not all of them lasted. The unique sound of this album had few precedents (their previous album was pretty weak and inconsistent), and was not followed up. But the growled, hallucinatory lyrics atop echoey, bluesy beats still sound intense and compelling.
  • Muhal Richard Abrams – The Hearinga Suite. A sterling example of modern big band music, complex and interesting but not nearly as forbidding as some of Abrams’ earlier, more avant-garde excursions. Abrams deploys the full power of the massed ensemble sparingly, mostly preferring to string together different smaller combinations of instruments. The 1980s-vintage synthesizers now sound a bit dated, but otherwise this music is still remarkably cliché-free.

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