Monday, February 21. 2011
Should start thinking about closing this column out. Plenty of records in the bag already. Haven't felt like concentrating on the task. In fact, was so down on jazz midweek I thought I'd scratch this week, but came up with enough for now. Not much mail either, so I actually reduced the backlog for once.
One frustration remains having to chase things down. Not below, but I streamed a good jazz record from Rhapsody last week, one by an artist with a couple past A-list records, on a label (Arbors) I used to get regularly. Pictured to the right is a Ken Vandermark record. You'd think as much as I've writen about him I'd get new ones automatically, but I still don't have heard Vandermark 5's The Horse Jumps/The Ship Is Gone. In my book, the last V5 album that fell short of A- was Burn the Incline, back in 2000, more than ten records ago.
Yaron Herman Trio: Follow the White Rabbit (2010 , ACT): Pianist, b. 1981 in Israel, studied at Berklee, fifth album since 2003. Trio with Chris Tordini on bass and Tommy Crane on drums, recorded in Leipzig, Germany. Four covers plus ten originals (one group-credited); covers include one from Nirvana and one from Radiohead. B+(*)
Norman Johnson: If Time Stood Still (2010, Pacific Coast Jazz): Guitarist, b. in Kingston, Jamaica; studied at Hartford Conservatory, was dean there for nine years. First album under own name, has scattered credits, mostly backing vocalists. Credits George Benson for inspiration, and Earl Klugh as an influence; sole cover is from Pat Metheny. Plays some nylon-string as well as electric and acoustic. Mostly stays in comfortable grooves with piano-bass-drums-percussion, dressed up with string on one cut, brass (Josh Bruneau and Steve Davis) on three, with Chris Herbert's sax on more, flute on one. B
Anthony Branker & Ascent: Dance Music (2010, Origin): Composer-arranger, b. 1958, evidently started off playing trumpet but just runs things here. Second album, mostly a sextet plus vocalist Kadri Voorand, who wrote lyrics to four Branker pieces. Not so danceable, but bold compositions, strong sax breaks, especially tenor Ralph Bowen. B+(**)
Gene Pritsker: Varieties of Religious Experience Suite (2010, Innova): Following spine here; cover has two blocks of type: on top, "Varieties of Religious Experience Suite Gene Pritsker's Sound Liberation"; below and larger, "VRE Suite." Pritsker is a guitarist and -- sometimes but not here -- rapper. Can't find much discography, but website claims Pritsker "has written over three hundred ninety compositions, including chamber operas, orchestral and chamber works, electro-acoustic music, songs for hip-hop and rock ensembles, etc." This group is string-driven, with two guitars, cello, bass and drums. Title comes from William James, who is namechecked in 3 of 8 titles; Tolstoy gets one more. B+(**)
Dadi: Bem Aqui (2009 , Sunnyside): Brazilian singer-songwriter, full name Eduardo Magalhães de Carvalho, b. 1952 in Rio de Janeiro. Hard to find much info: has at least one previous album (Dadi, from 2005, released on a Japanese label) and some (maybe a lot) of session work -- was on a Mick Jagger record, and several by Marisa Monte. He plays guitar, keyboards, percussion, and sings. This one has been sitting patiently in my queue for over a year now. Got zero metafile mentions. All in Portuguese, one cover (Chico Buarque), only one solo credit among the remaining eleven songs, several shared with Marisa Monte or Arnaldo Antunes -- makes me wonder if he isn't some sort of Billy Joe Shaver-type songwriter recycling his hits-for-others. Reinforcing that is that everything here is catchy, the quirks engaging, the flow irresistible. A-
Mike Olson: Incidental (2009 , Henceforth): Composer, from Minneapolis, plays keyboards but looking at his web site there is little there other than his compositional theories and focus. Six numbered pieces here. Haven't found any other albums by him. Large cast of musicians, including strings, flutes, bassoon, guitars, and the usual jazz horns. Fairly dense and gloomy; makes for an interesting framework. B+(**)
Eddie Gomez/Cesarius Alvim: Forever (2010, Plus Loin Music): Gomez is a bassist, b. 1944 in Puerto Rico, AMG credits him with 17 albums since 1976, plus more than a hundred credits, with Bill Evans looming large on the first page, also Chick Corea. Don't know much about Alvim: I've seen him described as "Brazilian-French"; AMG lists one more album (from 2000) and a few side credits, starting in 1982 playing bass with Martial Solal. (Discogs has three 1976-79 credits with Alvin playing bass with pianist Jean-Pierre Mas.) Plays piano here, not very splashy. Low key, intimate, rather lovely duet. B+(**)
Vijay Anderson: Hardboiled Wonder Land (2008 , Not Two): Drummer, based in Oakland. Works with Lisa Mezzacappa's Bait & Switch (real good album on Clean Feed) and Aaron Bennett's Go-Go Fightmaster (haven't heard their record, but I've bumped into Bennett on Mezzacappa's record and an even better one by Adam Lane). First album under his own name. Two guitars (Ava Mendoza and John Finkbeiner), two reeds (Sheldon Brown on alto/tenor/soprano sax, Ben Goldberg on clarinet), and vibes (Smith Dobson V). Starts with slick textures, and the horns always remain rather soft, rarely standing out. Nice feature with the vibes. B+(**)
Doug Webb: Renovations (2009 , Posi-Tone): Saxophonist, plays 'em all but is pictured with a tenor, and that's mostly what I hear. Lives in LA, where he's done a ton of studio work. Second album on mainstream-focused Posi-Tone -- has also recorded for avant-oriented Cadence/CIMP in a group with Mat Marucci. Quartet, with bass (Stanley Clarke), drums (Gerry Gibbs), and a changing cast of pianists. All covers, like "Satin Doll" and "They Can't Take That Away From Me." Big, bold sound, perfect for saxophone lovers. B+(***)
Chad McCullough/Michal Vanoucek: The Sky Cries (2009 , Origin): McCullough plays trumpet/flugelhorn, is based in Seattle, has a previous record plus a later one in my queue -- I've been negligent getting to this one. Vanoucek is a pianist, b. 1977 in Slovakia; studied in Bratislava and The Hague. No idea how he hooked up with McCullough, but together they've "toured major venues in Washington, Oregon and Idaho." They split ten compositions, with a post-hard-bop quintet, Mark Taylor on alto sax, Dave Captein on bass, Matt Jorgensen on drums. Lively compositions with fluid piano leads. B+(*)
Tom Culver: Sings Johnny Mercer (2010, Rhombus): Singer, based in Los Angeles, second album, does a nice job on 18 Johnny Mercer songs, with enough grit and resonance to salvage even things like "Moon River." B+(*)
Serafin: Love's Worst Crime (2010, Serafin): Singer, from Canada, b. in Vancouver, grew up near Toronto, surname LaRiviere, third album. Touts a five octave vocal range that effectively made the opener "Comes Love" sound female, becoming more ambiguous later on. He wrote most of the songs -- the other covers are "My Baby Just Cares for Me," "Don't Explain," and "Skylark." Has a cabaret feel, most seductive in the dark. B+(***)
Roger Cairns and Gary Fukushima: The Dream of Olwen (2010, AHP): Vocalist and pianist, respectively. Cairns was b. 1946 in Scotland; is based in Los Angeles; has two previous albums, his 2006 debut titled A Scot in L.A. All standards, Alec Wilder and Marilyn and Alan Bergman getting multiple calls. Very minimal, like Tony Bennett and Bill Evans, not quite that special. B+(*)
Lisa Maxwell: Return to Jazz Standards (2010, CDBaby): Singer, b. Nov. 29 sometime in the 20th century; second album, standards as advertised -- Porter, Gershwin, Rodgers & Hart, Loesser, the obligatory Jobim -- produced and arranged by pianist George Newall, replete with goopy, anonymous strings. Nice voice, all smiles. B
Stephan Micus: Bold as Light (2007-10 , ECM): German composer, b. 1953, plays various zithers, flute-like things, and percussion instruments from all around the world. Has a couple dozen albums since 1976, most on ECM. Did this solo, including three cuts where he multitracked his own voice. Too exotic to fall into the New Age genre AMG assigned him to; too minimalist for AMG's Ethnic Fusion style. An interesting set of upset expectations. B+(**)
Dolores Scozzesi: A Special Taste (2010, Rhombus): Singer, b. in New York, don't really grasp her comings and goings but wound up from 2005 on producing cabaret programs, the first called "Stuck in the 60s." Covers not quite standards -- Bob Dylan gets two calls. Voice takes some getting used to but has authority. Mark Winkler produced. B
Free Fall: Gray Scale (2008 , Smalltown Superjazz): Ken Vandermark's clarinet trio, modelled on Jimmy Giuffre's famous trio, with Håvard Wiik on piano for Paul Bley and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on bass for Steve Swallow. Fourth album for the trio. I've always found this to be the hardest of Vandermark's groups to connect with, but then I was mostly baffled by Giuffre's Free Fall album -- unlike the Steve Lacy-Roswell Rudd School Days, inspiration for one of his most boisterous groups. Still, this record has slowly gained on me, in part because the piano moves beyond prickly abstract to provide a multi-faceted structural underpinning, partly because of the way Vandermark can muscle up his clarinet, and partly because working all that tension out the group can occasionally just relax and enjoy the flow. Memo to self: should pull Free Fall out some time and give it another chance. A-
No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further listening the first time around.
Unpacking: Found in the mail over the last week:
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