Monday, November 19. 2012
Music: Current count 20699  rated (+20), 626  unrated (+10).
Don't know what to attribute the low rated count to. I only did enough Jazz Prospecting to keep this week's post alive, the rest of my effort going into the Rhapsody Streamnotes file, which I'll post shortly after Thanksgiving's Turkey Shoot. One possible problem is that five of the ten records wound up in the high HM range (***), and they generally got 4-5 spins before I finished writing them up. The (**) records also took a lot of time, and Taylor's was a double I had been passing over for months. Not even sure I could rank the top five: Dunietz peaks highest, probably followed by Sanchez (yes, I mean Malaby), but Attias is the one that might sneak up on you.
Someone brought to my attention a Kyle Gann post about his experience writing his Village Voice Consumer Guide to "new" or "postclassical" music: in particular, trying to factor cross-genre accessibility into the grading scheme. By the time he was writing, my interest in that music was residual -- something barely left over from my academic demise, although my acquaintance with Tom Johnson helped keep it alive -- but I bought a few of his top-rated items, but didn't get much out of them. (Much more useful was Jon Pareles back when he was writing for Crawdaddy, but he was a pop critic with a taste for esoterica, like myself.)
Unlike Gann, I never got lectured on how to grade, but that may have seemed unnecessary. I've never offered anywhere near as many full A grades as previous Jazz Consumer Guiders (Gary Giddins and Francis Davis), or even as many as Christgau, but the reason there has less to do with nitpicking or trying to be tough as the fact that I had already set a grading curve over the whole sweep of jazz history, which means lots of records by names like Armstrong, Ellington, Hawkins, Holiday, Monk, Mingus, Davis, Coltrane, and Coleman. That's a tough crowd to break into, and it usually takes time, something I haven't had much of with all the new stuff coming in. So I wind up focusing on the A-/B+(***) line: to break that a record has to be consistently pleasurable, interesting, more than a little distinctive.
But does it have to be accessible? Certainly not to people who arbitrarily refuse to listen to jazz: that's an impossible demand, and one I have no interest in dignifying. But I do like to think that the records I pick are so good that someone not intimately involved with the specific subgenre might still grasp the appeal. And that appeal is something I expect to be far stronger at the full A level -- although occasionally I'll come decide I like a record so much I don't really care what other folks think.
The grade level I'm probably most suspect at is B+(*), which for the most part signifies something beyond ordinary competence but lacking exceptional interest. The fact is that there are very few bad jazz records -- and most that do exist are deliberately slotted for the smooth market, which isn't really jazz at all -- and there's even less reason to get nasty about marginal interest. It's also a time-saver not to have to figure out how unsatisfying those records are. But there are two examples below, and while I did save some time with them, I really doubt that they would sink deeper with further analysis. They are what the grade signifies: pretty good records, pleasant enough to listen to, but not what you'd pull off a shelf that -- since both are by guitarists -- actually has prime records by Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, John Scofield, and Sonny Sharrock. So I'm trying to be nice about it, but those are the breaks.
Accidental Tourists: The L.A. Sessions (2010 , Challenge): Piano trio, file it under pianist Markus Burger, b. 1966 in Germany, with a handful of records since 1999. He's joined by Bob Magnusson (bass) and Joe LaBarbera (drums), playing seven originals and five covers, in a nicely balanced, engaging set. B+(**)
Michaël Attias: Spun Tree (2012, Clean Feed): Alto saxophonist, b. 1968 in Israel but has been around, with long stretches in France and the US. Postbop quintet, superb Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Matt Mitchell centering on piano, with Sean Conly on bass and Tom Rainey on drums. Lots of fast, slippery changes. B+(***)
Kelly Bucheger: House of Relics (2011 , Harder Bop): Alto saxophonist (tenor too), based in Buffalo, first album as far as I can tell but has been around long enough to have a story about being eight years older than James Carter: Bucheger was lead tenor in a Marcus Belgrave big band, when they picked up a 16-year-old Carter for second chair, an experience so scarifying that Bucheger quit music for a while. His favorite relics are hard bop, and this is mostly quintet with Tim Clarke's trumpet complementing his sax, and Michael McNeill on piano -- far less avant than on his superb recent Passageways -- and Bruce Johnstone's bari sax added on three cuts. Calls his blog (worth checking out, including the Carter story) "Harder Bop," but the music isn't harder, edges more into postbop, which happens when your favorite relics clash. B+(**)
Graham Dechter: Takin' It There (2012, Capri): Guitarist, from Los Angeles, second album, quartet with piano (Tamir Hendelman), bass (John Clayton), and drums (Jeff Hamilton). Starts out with Wes Montgomery, then Barney Kessel, sources his band enjoys. B+(*)
Maya Dunietz/John Edwards/Steve Noble: Cousin It (2008 , Hopscotch): Avant piano trio, recorded in London, home base of Edwards (bass) and Noble (drums). Pianist Dunietz, b. 1981 in Israel, seems to have a varied career ("active in jazz, rock, funk, polka -- both classical and avant garde, both local and international"), also playing accordion and singing, but just piano here. Superb when she plays with the drummer, adding to the free percussive frenzy. B+(***)
Jeff Holmes Quartet: Of One's Own (2012, Miles High): Pianist, b. 1955 in Massachusetts, studied at Eastman, teaches at U. Mass., looks like he has one previous album, plus a couple with New England Jazz Ensemble; also plays trumpet/flugelhorn, but not here. Quartet includes Adam Kolker (tenor, soprano, bass clarinet), James Cammack (bass), and Steve Johns (drums), with Kolker making a strong impression. B+(**)
Jason Kao Hwang: Burning Bridge (2011 , Innova): Violinist, b. 1957 in New York, worked his way back to his Chinese roots which ultimately affected his tone, and led him to include pipa (Sun Li) and erhu (Wang Guowei) in this octet. With Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet, flugelhorn), Steve Swell (trombone), Joseph Daley (tuba), Ken Filiano (bass), and Andrew Drury (drums) -- a lot of brass to play off against the strings. B+(***)
Weber Iago: Adventure Music Piano Masters Series Vol. 3 (2010 , Adventure Music): Pianist, from Brazil, at least seven albums since 2004, working solo here, all original compositions in a mainstream jazz vein, measured and thoughtful, a pleasant surprise. B+(**)
Frank Kimbrough Trio: Live at Kitano (2011 , Palmetto): Pianist, b. 1956, more than a dozen albums since 1998, part of the Jazz Composers Collective in New York, along with Ben Allison and Matt Wilson. He's the one I've been least impressed with, but this hits a sweet spot as a slow, thoughtful manoeuver through five covers (Pettiford, Ellington, Motian, Hill, "Lover Man") and three originals. With Wilson on drums and Jay Anderson on bass. B+(***)
Melvin Taylor: Beyond the Burning Guitar (2010 , Eleven East, 2CD): Guitarist, b. 1959 in Mississippi but raised in Chicago where he developed his blues chops. Four albums 1982-2002, plus this his first in a decade, also the first without a blues theme. Liner notes cite Hendrix and Montgomery, but I only hear the influence of the latter. Credits include an extra line citing "Melvin Taylor" for bass guitar -- maybe there's another one. B+(*)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
The author does not allow comments to this entry