Saturday, December 09, 2017

Sit Down. Be Humble. The Top Albums, Songs and Concerts of 2017


The Top 50 Albums of 2017
1. Kendrick Lamar- Damn
2. Vince Staples- Big Fish Theory
3. Big K.R.I.T.- 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time
4. Lee Ann Womack- The Lonely, the Lonesome & the Gone
5. Miguel Zenón- Típico
6. Tarkovsky Quartet- Nuit Blanche
7. Matt Otto and Ensemble Ibérica- Ibérica
8. Brockhampton- Saturation II
9. Lorde- Melodrama
10. Bobby Watson- Made In America

11. Víkingur Ólafsson- Philip Glass: Piano Works
12. Carlos Vives- Vives
13. Future- Hndrxx
14. Orchestra Baobab- Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng
15. 2 Chainz- Pretty Girls Like Trap Music
16. Aruan Ortiz- Cub(an)ism
17. Tinariwen- Elwan
18. JD McPherson- Undivided Heart & Soul
19. Yelena Eckemoff- Blooming Tall Phlox
20. Gorillaz- Humanz

21. King Krule- The Ooz
22. Rob Luft- Riser
23. Brother Ali- All the Beauty In This Whole Life
24. Wavves- You’re Welcome
25. Migos- Culture
26. Syd- Fin
27. Jonas Kaufmann- L’Opéra
28. Future- Future
29. Sunny Sweeney- Trophy
30. Uniform- Wake In Fright

31. Tyler, the Creator- Flower Boy
32. Rudresh Mahanthappa and the Indo-Pak Coalition- Agrima
33. Miguel- War & Leisure
34. CyHi the Prince- No Dope On Sundays
35. Brockhampton- Saturation
36. Spoek Mathambo- Mzansi Beat Code
37. Thundercat- Drunk
38. Juana Molina- Halo
39. Samantha Fish- Chills & Fever
40. Omar Souleyman- To Syria, With Love

41. Shabazz Palaces- Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines
42. Future and Young Thug- Super Slimey
43. St. Vincent- Masseduction
44. Taylor Swift- Reputation
45. Rich the Factor- El Factor
46. Willie Nelson- God’s Problem Child
47. Avishai Cohen- Cross My Palm With Silver
48. Lil Uzi Vert- Luv Is Rage 2
49. Juanes- Mis Planes Son Amarte
50. Jay-Z- 4:44


The Top 50 Songs of 2017
(Spotify playlist)
1. Brother Ali- “Own Light (What Hearts Are For)”
2. Kendrick Lamar- “Humble”
3. Lil Uzi Vert- “XO Tour Lif3”
4. Calvin Harris featuring Frank Ocean and Migos- “Slide”
5. Valerie June- “Astral Plane”
6. Vince Staples- “Yeah Right”
7. Lorde- “Liability”
8. Sunny Sweeney- “Bottle by My Bed”
9. Young Fathers- “Only God Knows”
10. Future- “Mask Off”

11. Craig Finn- “God in Chicago”
12. Ibibio Sound Machine- “Give Me a Reason”
13. Fat Joe and Remy Ma- “Spaghetti”
14. Alejandro Fernandez- “Agridulce”
15. Rick Ross featuring Young Thug- “Trap Trap Trap”
16. José James- “To Be With You”
17. Brockhampton- “Junky”
18. LCD Soundsystem- “Emotional Haircut”
19. Mark Eitzel- “The Last Ten Years”
20. Isaac Cates & Ordained- “Hold On”

21. Cardi B- “Bodak Yellow”
22. Eli Young Band- “Skin & Bones”
23. Marvin Sapp- “Close”
24. Stik Figa- “Cold”
25. Sam Smith- “Pray”
26. Alan Jackson- “The Older I Get”
27. Princess Nokia- “Tomboy”
28. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit- “Hope the High Road”
29. Hermon Mehari featuring Kevin Johnson- “Cold”
30. Adriel Favela- “Me Llamo Juan”

31. The Roots featuring Bilal- “It Ain’t Fair”
32. Kodak Black featuring Xxxtentasion- “Roll in Peace”
33. Bruno Major- “On Our Own”
34. Future and Young Thug- “Feed Me Dope”
35. Pokey Bear- “I Can’t Be Faithful”
36. Carlos Vives- “Al Filo de Tu Amor”
37. Migos- “T-Shirt”
38. Rich the Factor- “Luther”
39. Queens of the Stone Age- “Un-Reborn Again”
40. Jonwayne- “These Words Are Everything”

41. A Boogie Wit da Hoodie- featuring Kodak Black “Drowning”
42. Bonobo featuring Rhye- “Break Apart”
43. Chronixx- “Majesty”
44. Pokey LaFarge- “Riot In the Streets”
45. Karriem Riggins with Jessica Care Moore- “Suite Poetry”
46. Pistol Pete- “2bad2good”
47. Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee- “Despacito”
48. Deborah Brown- “Ask Me Now”
49. Rodney Crowell- “It Ain’t Over Yet”
50. J Balvin- “Mi Gente”


The Top 50 Concerts of 2017
1. Lawrence Brownlee and Eric Owens- Folly Theater
2. Salif Keita- Town Hall (New York City)
3. Donny McCaslin Trio- Folly Theater
4. Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band- Gem Theater
5. Arcade Fire- Silverstein Eye Centers Arena
6. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit- Uptown Theater
7. Marilyn Maye- Quality Hill Playhouse
8. Fantasia- Sprint Center
9. Municipal Waste- Providence Medical Center Amphitheater (Warped Tour)
10. Eddie Palmieri- Blue Note (New York City)

11. Garth Brooks- Sprint Center
12. A Place to Bury Strangers- Madrid Theatre
13. Danilo Pérez’s “Jazz 100”- Yardley Hall
14. Thundercat- Granada
15. The Lyric Opera’s “Eugene Onegin”- Muriel Kauffman Theatre
16. Jack DeJohnette Trio- Gem Theater
17. Clutch- Uptown Theater
18. Halestorm- Kansas Speedway (Rockfest)
19. Alaturka- Polsky Theatre
20. Patti LaBelle- Muriel Kauffman Theatre

21. Lecrae- The Truman
22. Motionless in White- Midland theater
23. Sheer Mag- Kaiju (Louisville)
24. DJ Shadow- Madrid Theatre
25. Willie Nelson- Starlight Theatre
26. Aaron Neville and Michael Goods- City Winery (New York City)
27. Lou Donaldson- Tompkins Square Park (New York City)
28. Tech N9ne- Midland theater
29. Rich the Factor- 7th Heaven
30. Xenia Rubinos- RecordBar

31. Queens of the Stone Age- Crossroads KC
32. Marco Antonio Solís- Sprint Center
33. Gerald Spaits’ Sax and Violins- Westport Coffeehouse
34. Hudson- Yardley Hall
35. St. Vincent- Uptown Theater
36. Matt Otto Trio with Anthony Wilson and Shay Estes- Blue Room
37. Ramsey Lewis- Gem Theater
38. Raipillan- Festival Vallarta Azteca del Folclor Internacional (Puerto Vallarta)
39. Chris Brown- Sprint Center
40. Greg Tardy Trio- Blue Room

41. Flying Lotus- Midland theater
42. Janet Jackson- Sprint Center
43. Nick Lowe with Los Straightjackets- Knuckleheads
44. The Lyric Opera’s “Everest”- Muriel Kauffman Theatre
45. Lage Lund with the Albert Marques Trio- Cornelia Street Cafe (New York City)
46. PussyVision- Davey’s
47. Pure Disgust- Encore Room
48. Katy Guillen & the Girls- Boulevardia festival
49. Jimmy LaFave- Folk Alliance Conference
50. Soundgarden- Starlight Theatre

(Original image of Lage Lund by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Don’t You Wonder Sometimes About Sound and Vision

My eyes and ears played tricks on me yesterday.  The day of disorientation began when I encountered a gif that prompts an auditory hallucination.  My lunch break was stranger still.  I’ve mocked Taylor Swift’s irritating artifice for years, yet I quickly succumbed to the tactical pop brilliance of her chart-topping Reputation during the noon hour.  I surrender!

I was torn between concurrent concerts by Kodak Black at the Midland theater and the Wood Brothers at the Truman as darkness fell and a bitter wind beset Kansas City.  There are few things I love more than attending shows by artists at their artistic and commercial peak.  I suspect that’s the case with the young rapper behind the momentous “No Flockin’”.  Yet I went with the Wood Brothers, in part because I heard John Medeski- Chris Wood’s bandmate in Medeski Martin & Wood- perform with Hudson in October (my review).

The stab at symmetry failed.  Even though I admired the Wood Brothers’ effort and approach, the trio left me cold.  I felt as if the audience of about 600 was listening to an outstanding backing band akin to Booker T. and the M.G.s or the E Street Band riffing while waiting in vain for Otis Redding or Bruce Springsteen to show up.  David Bowie rescued me on the drive home.  “Sound and Vision” popped up soon after I hit shuffle on a 16-hour playlist of my favorite songs.  At the end of an unsettling day, I needed his admonition to appreciate the resplendent “gift of sound and vision.”


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I revealed my favorite jazz albums and jazz performances of 2017 at Plastic Sax.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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Björk’s Utopia resembles the soundtrack to a fully immersive experience at Disneyland in the year 2033.

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Aida Cuevas’ Arrieros Somos: Sesiones Acusticas is charming.  RIYL: Juan Gabriel, corridos, Yolanda Del Rio.

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A concert featuring Ron Miles and Bill Frisell almost put me to sleep in April.  Miles’ I Am a Man, an album that features Frisell, Thomas Morgan and Brian Blade, is entirely invigorating.

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Even when paired with magnificent talent, noble intentions don’t necessarily make for good music.  Mavis Staples’ cloying If All I Was Was Black is RIYL Sweet Honey in the Rock, resistance, Curtis Mayfield.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Jock Jams


I dedicated much of a recent vacation in Portland to watching men’s college basketball games at the Moda Center.  Teams representing Duke, Michigan State, North Carolina and Gonzaga were among the elite squads competing in the PK80 tournament.  Attending 12 games in three days became a tedious chore, but the soundtrack in the arena was far from tiresome.  Customary jock jams by the likes of Gary Glitter, Bon Jovi and C+C Music Factory weren’t aired.  Instead, crowds were treated to a vibrant playlist of hip-hop and rap hits that included Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble,” Kanye West’s “Power,” Post Malone’s “Rockstar” and Diddy’s “Watcha Gon’ Do.”  Seeing thousands of seated sports fans and a handful of players warming up on the court chanting “percocet, molly, percocet” in unison to Future’s “Mask Off” was one of the most surreal moments I’ve experienced in 2017.


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I wrote a profile of Edison Lights’ Chris Doolittle for KCUR.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I named Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear the KCUR Band of the Week.

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I reviewed the Matt Cook Collective’s Along Those Lines at Plastic Sax.

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Jon Hendricks has died.

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Tommy Keene has died.

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Wayne Cochran has died.

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Jim Nabors has died.

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I felt as if I was trapped in an episode of Portlandia when I caught a set by The Minders at Turn! Turn! Turn! in Rip City last week. 

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CyHi the Prynce’s No Dope On Sundays is a minor masterpiece.  RIYL: Pusha T, the dirty South, Big K.R.I.T.  Here’s “God Bless Your Heart”.

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Björn Meyer’s Provenance is RIYL Steve Tibbets, meditation, Terje Rypdal.

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I love Lizz Wright.  I loathe her new album.  Grace is RIYL Ruthie Foster, naps, Shawn Colvin.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Della Reese, 1931-2017


I marveled at the tart voices of Patti LaBelle and Fantasia on consecutive evenings in March.  Unconventional stylists with piercing voices who value expressiveness more than pretty notes, LaBelle and Fantasia work in the tradition of offbeat R&B shouters like Della Reese and Dinah Washington.  Here’s Reese’s show-stopping reading of “Lonelyville” in the 1958 flick Let’s Rock.  Reese died on November 19.


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I reviewed St. Vincent’s concert at the Uptown Theater.

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I reviewed the Kansas City debut of Flying Lotus for Plastic Sax.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I featured TJ Hooker-Taylor in my weekly KCUR segment.

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I hope you enjoy using the Kansas City Jazz Calendar.

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Malcolm Young has died.  I’m so glad that I was able to see him with AC/DC one last time in 2009.

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The country star Mel Tillis has died.

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Jazz drummer Ben Riley has died.

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The former teen idol David Cassidy has died.

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The music industry titan George Avakian has died.

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Banda Magda’s upcoming dates with Snarky Puppy should help the international fusion band secure a much larger audience in North America.  Tigre is RIYL Dengue Fever, futuristic cocktail lounge music, Pink Martini.  Here’s “Le Tigre Malin”.

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Maciej Obara Quartet’s Unloved is RIYL: Euro jazz, Tomasz Stanko, contemplating loss.

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Lettuce’s Witches Stew, a faithful recreation of tracks from Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew and In a Silent Way, is as pointless as it is impressive.

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Talk about Russian meddling- I’ve become obsessed with the Tarkovsky Quartet’s Nuit Blanche.  The latest release by the chamber quartet named for the Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky is RIYL despair, Jóhann Jóhannsson, contemplating death.

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Sometimes, you really can judge an album by its cover.  Star vocalist Cecilia Bartoli and cellist Sol Gabetta collaborate on festive baroque music on Dolce Duello.  (I don't like it.)

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Sharon Jones’ swan song Soul of a Woman is wonderful.

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I was certain that I would embrace Anouar Brahem’s Blue Maqams.  After all, the imaginative oud player is supported by pianist Django Bates, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette.  Alas, I’m nonplussed.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Album Review: Carlos Vives- Vives


The early darkness imposed by last week’s time change and the predominantly gloomy weather in Kansas City have threatened to turn me blue.  Yet I don’t need a mood therapy light when I have Vives.  The sunny music on Carlos Vives’ tenth studio album plays like a greatest hits collection.  Each of its perfectly constructed 18 tracks is irresistible.  It’s no accident that the colorful video for “La Bicicleta”, the Columbian’s lustrous Latin pop duet with Shakira, has been viewed more than a billion times.  The corny video for “Al Filo de Tu Amor”, one of my favorite tracks, has a measly 41 million views.  The therapeutic sonic sunshine of Vives has rescued me.


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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I featured Stevie Stone on my weekly KCUR segment.

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I bought a $35 ticket to sit in the upper balcony of Muriel Kauffman Theatre to see the Lyric Opera’s production of Joby Talbot's “Everest” last night.  The vertical stage set was reminiscent of the innovative production for Kanye West’s Yeezus tour.  And “Everest” sounded more like “Tommy” than “Turandot.”  So why was I one of the youngest people in the half-full room?

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My review of the Victor Wooten Trio’s appearance at the Madrid Theatre is at Plastic Sax.

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Lil Peep has died.

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Guitarist Dan Devine, a new addition to the Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band, completely changes the dynamic of  the ensemble on the slightly disappointing Body and Shadow.  RIYL: early Pat Metheny, placidity, Ralph Towner.

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Syleena Johnson, the daughter of Syl Johnson, spelled “rehash” wrong in the title of her unnecessary Rebirth of Soul album.  RIYL: Ruth Brown, the good ol’ days, Solomon Burke.  Here’s “Make Me Yours”.

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Yaeji’s self-titled EP is worlds of fun. RIYL: chillout rooms, The XX, alcohol.  Here’s ”Guap”.

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God bless Protomartyr.  I love the vibe of Relatives in Descent even though the songwriting is suspect.  RIYL: the Fall, inebriation, the Hold Steady.  “Don’t Go To Anacita” is the best song.

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ECM Records’ new pact with streaming services makes me feel as if I received an unexpected check in the mail.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, November 10, 2017

I Spit My Heart Out, Looking Out For My Best Interests


The king is dead.  Long live the kings.

Following last night’s slightly disappointing concert by Tyler, the Creator, I’m officially switching my primary deviant hip-hop allegiance to Brockhampton.  Tyler behaved like a semi-responsible adult at the Truman.  That’s not what I want from the disruptive artist I fell hard for in 2011. 

Brockhampton is right on time.  ”Junky” is among the thrillingly subversive anthems on the mind-boggling Saturation 2.  (Saturation, the first album the Texas collective issued in 2017, isn’t quite as transcendent.)

The so-called boy band is loaded with transgressive young talent.  I fully expect two or three of its members to become mainstream stars who will inevitably disappoint me a few years from now.  Until then, the thrill isn’t gone.


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I reviewed Tyler, the Creator’s concert at the Truman for The Kansas City Star.

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I write weekly music previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I named Katy Guillen & the Girls the KCUR Band of the Week.

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Blaque Dynamite’s Killing Bugs is an insanely dense experimental funk album.  RIYL: Flying Lotus, the low end, Thundercat.

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Jerry Granelli’s Dance Hall is like Hudson 2.0.  Veteran jazz cats- in this case a group that includes drummer Granelli, guitarists Robben Ford and Bill Frisell- cover classic rock, blues, jazz and R&B staples by the likes of Bob Dylan, Charles Mingus and Fats Domino.  It’s redundant fun.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, November 06, 2017

Concert Review: Take Me to the River at the Folly Theater


A concert starring the veteran soul and blues men William Bell, Charlie Musselwhite and Bobby Rush was undercut by tedious speechifying and a galling parade of lesser talent at the Folly Theater on Friday.

Apparently intended as an old-school soul revue with an educational component, Take Me to the River was a well-intentioned but woefully misguided presentation that often resembled a patronizing infomercial designed to appeal to PBS viewers who favor Celtic dance specials.  For dedicated roots music aficionados, the show was excruciatingly frustrating.

Despite the presence of organist Charles Hodges and bassist Leroy Hodges- members of the storied Hi Records rhythm section- the first 45 minutes of the show were forgettable.  The Memphis rapper Al Kapone was the only featured entertainer in the opening segment who wasn’t appallingly mediocre.

Each of the three stars was allotted about 15 to 20 minutes.  Even without the dancers that help make his lascivious concerts memorable, Rush, 83, was an astounding force of nature.  Musselwhite affirmed that he’s the greatest living blues harp player.  Bell- the reason I bought $35 rear balcony tickets to the show (I’d never seen him)- looked and sounded half his 78 years.  His set included “I Forgot to Be Your Lover,” but not “Born Under a Bad Sign” or “Private Number.”

Organizers probably hoped that members of the audience of about 700 rushed home to watch the Take Me to the River documentary on Netflix.  That’s the last thing I’ll do after enduring the poorly conceived and extremely disappointing show.  Instead, I’ll begin making plans to catch a proper performance by Bell in 2018.


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I reviewed Marilyn Maye’s return to Quality Hill Playhouse on Sunday.

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Honestly isn’t the album I wanted or expected from Lalah Hathaway.  The glitchy beats and her astounding voice make for an odd pairing, but I suspect I’ll come to embrace the surprising sound.  RIYL: Robert Glasper, legacies, Kelela.  The politically charged video for the title track doesn’t make much sense.

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Enjoying Sam Smith’s The Thrill of It All is a lot like tearing up during sentimental television commercials.  I confess to committing both transgressions in recent days.  RIYL: Dusty Springfield, pablum, Adele.  Here’s ”Pray”.

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I didn’t expect to appreciate Fever Ray’s Plunge, but the album is even more preposterously affected than I anticipated.  RIYL: nails on chalkboards, Björk knockoffs, playing yourself.  Here’s “Mustn’t Hurry”.

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Vincent Herring’s Hard Times is the all-too-rare jazz album that’s capable of connecting with listeners who embrace both Cannonball Adderley and Donny Hathaway.  I’d love to catch this band- saxophonist Herring, pianist Cyrus Chestnut, bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Carl Allen- playing these songs in a crowded club on a Saturday night.

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In theory, Mostly Other People Do the Killing is one of my favorite bands.  The reality is far different.  Loafer’s Hollow, the brainy ensemble’s latest effort, is an attempt to bring avant-garde concepts to trad jazz.  It should be thrilling.  Instead, it’s merely irritating.

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Guitarist Rez Abassi is joined by saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, pianist Vijay Iyer,  bassist Johannes Weidenmueller and drummer Dan Weiss on Unfiltered Universe.  RIYL: John McLaughlin, geniuses, Weather Report.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)