New This Week: Rick Ross, Blur, & More

Jayson Greene

By Jayson Greene

on 07.31.12 in Spotlights

This wasn’t supposed to be a big release week, but somehow, when I start sorting through what came to the site, I end up overwhelmed with new things anyway. Let’s start with the big obvious new ones, and then drill down to the weird/cool little things I found like change in the couch.

Rick Ross – God Forgives, I Don’t – The big, inescapable summer victory lap from the man who has come to dominate commercial rap. Ian Cohen has this to say about the outsized kingpin’s long-delayed fifth studio effort:

If you judge a hip-hop record’s impact simply by its ubiquity in radio playlists, YouTube rotations and passing cars, Rick Ross’s fifth LP God Forgives, I Don’t will be an unqualified success, 2012′s Blueprint 3, Recovery or Tha Carter IV. For everyone else, it will also be 2012′s Blueprint 3, Recovery or Tha Carter IV, an overlong and oversafe victory lap that proves its creator is far more interesting when he’s got something to prove. Which isn’t to say God Forgives doesn’t get the job done in a lot of ways. It’s every bit as much of a rap-as-videogame diversion as his previous work — while the boasts are increasingly absurd and outlandish, Ross continues to grow as an actual technician on the mic. Likewise, the beats are every bit as expensive and domineering and they will dominate hip-hop radio because they’re defining its sound in real time.

Blur, Reissues: Leisure, Modern Life Is Rubbish, Parklife, Blur The Great Escape, - The greatest Brit-pop band of all time (you can argue Oasis, but come on) gets the deluxe-reissue treatment. Instead of rambling on, I will instead point you to two places: 1) Hua Hsu’s excellent, comprehensive Damon Albarn and Blur Icon piece, and 2) Lindsay Zoladz’s must-read piece on Blur over at Pitchfork today.

Christian Scott, Christian Atunde Adjuah- Bold, convention-busting new record from jazz-trumpet phenom Christian Scott. Ken Micallef writes:

New Orleans native Christian Scott has often shown a penchant for pushing the envelope. Though reliably anchored by his warm, typically muted trumpet work, his previous albums have incorporated influences from fusion to funk to world music. But with ChristianaTundeAdjuah, the 29-year old takes a bold leap: A two-CD release comprised of 23 tracks, ChristianaTundeAdjuah draws on New Orleans second-line rhythms, the African Diaspora and the electronic loop programming of Squarepusher and Aphex Twin. These influences aren’t always literal, but they dance around the edges of Scott’s charged compositions like ghosts haunting a dream.

Ice Choir, Afar -Gentle, prismatic, heavily-80s synth-pop heart-bleed from Kurt, the drummer from Pains. Lovely.

R. Stevie Moore, Lo-Fi High Fives (A Kind of Best Of) - Before there was Ariel Pink, before there was Bob Pollard, there was this guy: R. Stevie Moore, a maker of homemade tapes of warbly, heartsick pop music that caught the attention of just enough music fanatics to stoke a low-level cult. He sounds startlingly current at this indie moment: It’s time he was given his due as a true godfather of the Lo-Fi movement. This is an excellently curated “Best of” of sorts, as the title indicates.

Shoes, Ignition – Long-lost, quietly legendary power-pop group (from the first wave, the one that really went broke) reform and return with more winsome heartache, “woos,” and “sha-la-las.” This stuff never goes out of style, because it was never in. But this is a welcome return.

Apache Dropout, Bubblegum Graveyard – Comic-books-and-gore garage-pop, shot through with goofy spazz-swagger and sweetened withBrillBuilding chord changes.

Jesse Harris, Sub Rosa – Agreeably bopping rock-pop with a jaunty jazz angle from Jesse Harris, who employs guest turns from Norah Jones and Conor Oberst.

Conan, Monnos – Powerfully sludgy stoner-metal, La Brea tar-pit drop-D guitars, cleanly wailed vocals, the whole nine.

Nachmystium, Silencing Machine – The sixth album from theChicago black-metal stalwarts re-embraces the frosty Norwegian root of their sound, burn off some of the more experimental touches of recent efforts and bear down.

Blackalicious, Melodica – Indie-rap stalwarts return with more of the playfully verbose, gently thoughtful hip-hop with which they made their name.

La Coka Nostra, Masters of the Dark – Glowering, textbook roughneck rap, full of tough guys, twisted syllables, and broken-bottle-on-concrete beats.

Serengeti, C.A.R. – Dazed impressionist spoken-word-poet-and-rapper Serengeti takes us on another abstracted stroll through his consciousness. On Anticon.

Berlin Symphony Orchestra, Le Sacre Du PrintempsGreat recording of a classic, still-modern work. The jazz combo Bad Plus, who have made their name tearing into rock touchstones by Nirvana and Black Sabbath, are currently applying their talents to The Rite of Spring.

Gaza, No Absolutes In Human Suffering – Pummeling, remorseless noisecore fromSalt Lake City. These guys remain no fans of organized religion, and are not at all shy about telling you so. Jon Wiederhornon the 1s and 2s:

For six years now, Salt Lake City abrasive noisecore band Gaza have combined cacophonous blastbeats, angular death metal riffs and trudging rhythms into an unrelenting barrage of hostility aimed at squarely organized religion. The band’s third album, No Absolutes in Human Suffering, shows no end to the biting animosity. “It sure was nice of Jesus to take time away from ignoring ethnic cleansing genocide and famine-bloated children,” roars vocalist Jon Parkins over a bed of pummeling drums and buzzsaw guitars on “The Truth Weighs Nothing.”

Johann Johansson, Copenhagen Dreams - Minimalist composer Johann Johannsson wrote the forlorn, murmuring, subdued score for the dreamy documentary Copenhagen Dreams.

David Greilsammer, Baroque Conversations – Wonderful collection by one of the most incisive Mozart interpreters around.

Osvaldo Golijov, La Pasion Segun San Marcos - Composer Osvaldo Golijov’s red-blooded, incendiary Arrival Work, recorded by the group of musician that made it famous. If you haven’t experienced this culture-melting work yet, this is your time.

A huge drop of new releases this week. I probably could’ve listed another five to ten more that deserved some mention. A couple familiar names to Jazz Picks readers, and a bunch who are making their first appearance in these columns. A couple albums on today’s list that will be getting some album of the year recognition when those lists start getting compiled in December. Let’s begin…

Laurent Coq, Rayuela: Based on the literary work Rayuela by Argentinean writer Julio Cortázar. Pianist Coq, with collaborator Miguel Zenon, may have created one of the most beautifully textured albums of 2012. Coq’s piano, Zenon’s alto sax, Dana Leong working both cello and trombone, and Dan Weiss employing drums, tablas, and other percussion, they all work to make a very massive, though light and pretty, set of compositions that mesh brilliantly. Zenon has been one of the more fantastic players on the scene. When Leong’s cello and Weiss’s tablas drift through tunes, it’s pretty damn magical. Pick of the Week.

Christian Scott, Christian aTunde Adjuah: Describing his music as “stretch music,” trumpeter Scott doesn’t look to shed jazz traditions so much as make his music genre-blind. By utilizing elements of other musics on this album, he may have succeeded. Of greater importance, however, is that Scott has created an immaculately dynamic double-album that’s almost impossible to appreciate the breadth of. Scott’s trumpet taking long soaring arcs over an octet that includes guitar, alto sax, drums, bass, tenor sax, trombone, and piano. An album full of life and expression. Highly Recommended.

Ralph Peterson, The Duality Perspective: Drummer Peterson combines songs for his Fo’tet and his Sextet, really giving two albums under one cover (download). First five tracks are the Fo’tet, a wonderful mix of modern avant-garde and Roots of Blues musics. The mix of Peterson’s percussion, Felix Peiki’s clarinet, and Joseph Doubleday’s vibes really carry the session. What’s nice is that the oddities of the first half of the album lead nicely into the more straight-ahead jazz of the Sextet’s half of the album. Highly Recommended.

Fred Lonberg Holm, Gather: Strong line-up for cellists newest release. Holm’s Fast Citizens ensemble is made up of Aram Shelton on alto and clarinet, Keefe Jackson on tenor & bass clarinet, Josh Berman on cornet, Anton Hatwich on bass, and Frank Rosaly on drums, with some shared responsibilities on trumpet. It’s an intriguing mix of noisy improv, straight-ahead modern, and hazy interludes of a rock-like nature. Recommended.

Matt Otto, Broken Waltz: Album with an easy sway, even as it takes asynchronous steps. Tenor & soprano saxophonist Otto leads a sextet that brings Rhodes, bass clarinet, drums & bass, and the vocals of Sara Gazarek into the mix. Tunes drift way more than they groove, which lets the bass clarinet use its nuanced range and lets Rhodes try something a little different. Neat album. Find of the Week.

John Abercrombie Quartet, Within A Song: Guitarist Abercrombie records again for ECM, and again, it’s very tasteful music. Quartet includes Joe Lovano’s tenor sax, Drew Gress’s bass, and the drumwork of Joey Baron. Plenty of classic tunes get covered. Nothing particularly new is getting stated with this music, but considering Abercrombie’s typical level of quality, that isn’t necessarily a criticism.

Michael Pedicin, Live at the Loft: Tenor sax vet Pedicin has been making quality jazz under the radar for a little while now. He’s back with another recording, bring a quintet in for a live date that features only ballads. Most he stays true to form on, though a few nice up-tempo surprises. A special treat is his version of Coltrane’s “Africa,” which gets a nice bit of swing into it.

Senri Oe, Boys Mature Slow: Title refers to Japanese pop star Oe’s decision to walk away from stardom and move to New York to study jazz at 47 years of age. Leading this quartet of piano, trombone, trumpet, bass, and drums, it appears to have worked out pretty well. Plenty of chipper straight-ahead jazz. Decent solos, decent interplay between quintet members, and good ol’ fun music to kick back and listen to. Recommended.

Sean Noonan, A Gambler’s Hand: Drummer Noonan’s music takes a storytelling approach. Noonan likes building a narrative for his music. Definitely the case here, a suite of compositions for drums and string quartet. Very much a Third Stream recording, mixing in classical and jazz… heavier on the former in this instance. Really one of those albums that moves beyond the concept of genre. Some breathtaking moments on strings, like the “I Feel the Clouds,” but also plenty of bluster and drama to keep the heart racing. Something different, for sure.

Fischermanns Orchestra, Conducting Sessions: Big band that’s way more avant-garde than anything your parents used to dance to in the ballrooms. Squaks and skronks aplenty throughout the compositions, though even with the dissonant noises, there are times when forms become apparent. Neat album, definitely not your everyday thing.

Duo Hatti, Beaute Ma Toute Droite: Interesting duo album that has pianist Matteo Mengoni doubling up on melodica, and teaming up with Gerard Premand’s clarinets. The album is best reflected through the clashes of jazz composition versus free improvisation, as well as jazz vs. tango and Latin music vs. classical. Can’t say the album has a lot of cohesion, nor would I say it’s an obstacle to enjoying it. I love finding albums like this.

Kyle Shepherd, South African History !X: Pianist Kyle Shepherd tells the history of his home through music, offering up a nice array of Cape Jazz. Piano and saxes are the primary instruments, but others get into the mix, and he adds a little bit of samples of local chanting. “Song for Theo” is the album’s charmer.

Le Rex, Ascona: Swiss quintet of alto and tenor saxes, trombone, tuba, and drums. They work the groove and the melody in equal doses, which leads to a lot of catchy tunes in a party time atmosphere. They toy with the “off-mic” sounds that bleed onto the recording, adding to the music’s overall cheerfulness.

Szilard Mezei Szabad Quintet, Singing Elephant: Violist and composer Mezei continues to find the balancing act between compositional form and improvisational approach. This time he leads a quintet that includes tenor sax, trumpet & cornet, bass, and drums in a set of modern avant-garde music. Sometimes the tunes have a pleasant drift, other times they announce themselves with audacity. Fans of Harris Eisenstadt’s work might want to spend some time here.

Flip Philipp, Duffin’: Vibes led quartet that includes organ, guitar, and drums. Consistently up-tempo, plenty of warm bright notes, nothing too daring, but also no glaring weak spots. Just a solid jazz album that deserved some mention.

For you ECM fans, a couple 3-cd “box sets” have hit the site. They both re-release albums from the 70s from each artist, and one adds some previously unissued music. There’s one from saxophonist Jan Garbarek and one from guitarist Terje Rypdal. The Garbarek album collects his 70s albums Sart, Witchi-Tai-To, and Dansere. The Rypdal album is a re-issue of his Odyssey double album, plus some unreleased music from that time.


2 Chainz, “Birthday Song”- All I want for my BIRTDAYYYYY is a bigbootyGUHL.” This is the hook to 2 Chainz’s big new single, “Birthday.” It’s not-very-novel sentiment delivered in a very novel, catchy way. Kanye is on this too, and he is hilarious. The beat sounds like three or four beats that all equally want your attention.

Dum Dum Girls, “Lord Knows” – Beautiful, early-Pretenders seductive gloom from Dee Dee, who just keeps improving.

Kendrick Lamar, “Swimming Pools (Drank)” – Kendrick Lamar, the melancholy poet prince of West Coast rap, releases his new tongue-twisted, gently blunted single, a crooned ode to the numbing immersion of cough syrup.

Mastodon/Feist, Record Store Day 7″ – Record Store Day split from unlikely bedfellows Mastodon and Feist (although the guitar tones in Feist’s Pitchfork set were getting pretty dark and witchy. It would be awesome if she released her version of a Heart record next.)