Monday, November 26. 2012
Music: Current count 20724  rated (+25), 619  unrated (-7).
Francis Davis' Jazz Critics Poll (7th Annual) is coming up -- ballots due December 6, if I recall correctly -- so it's time to buckle down and at least spin the unplayed records (154 on my pending list at the moment) that look most promising (a lot less, although I'm certain to be wrong about something). I did catch some of them below, with an above-average three A- records below, plus six high B+ and other items of interest. As usual, I feel completely unprepared at this moment -- especially as compared to someone like Tim Niland, who's already posted his ballot. Looking at it, I see that I've heard 9 of his top 10 (two Rhapsody only), none of the reissues, the vocal and Latin but not the debut. The things I miss out on bother me the most -- especially, those over at Improvised Communications (which reps superb artists like Myra Melford, Jon Irabagon, Mary Halvorson, and labels like AUM Fidelity and Playscape), but I'm also reminded that there are a lot of good labels I've lost contact with (Arbors, CIMP, Fresh Sound, Intakt, Smalltown, Songlines) or never had it (Leo, Hatology, Not Two, RogueArt, Steeplechase, Tzadik, the list goes on and on), that regularly produce records worthy of year-end consideration. (At some point in the next few weeks I should go through my metacritic file and come up with a "wish list" -- at present the file lists more than 600 new jazz releases, a number that will expand when more year-end lists appear.
I'll write some more about the metacritic file and year-end lists sometime in the near future. I've been scrambling to bring it up to date before factoring in year-end lists, a task that is near hopeless. Meanwhile, I plan on posting November's belated Rhapsody Streamnotes on Tuesday. I held it back in case I wanted to steal anything from the draft for the Turkey Shoot. Downloader's Diary is scheduled for Thursday. Recycled Goods some time early December, but I don't have much there -- mostly redundant jazz reviews at present, since I haven't continued the last couple months process of cleaning out the unrated shelf.
Greg Abate: The Greg Abate Quintet Featuring Phil Woods (2012, Rhombus): Unreconstructed bebopper, b. 1947, alto sax is his first instrument but he also plays soprano, baritone, and flute (too much, if you ask me). Five (of ten) cuts drop down to quartet with piano-bass-drums; the other five add Woods, doubling down on the heritage. B+(*)
Bobby Bradford/Frode Gjerstad/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Paal Nilssen-Love: Kampen (2010 , NoBusiness): Bradford is a name you should know but may not: b. 1934, plays cornet, is most legendary for the group he co-led with John Carter. Here he landed in Oslo, with Frode Gjerstad (clarinet, alto sax) filling in the Carter role, and the first choice in rhythm sections. [Limited edition vinyl: 300 copies.] B+(***) [cdr]
François Carrier/Michel Lambert: Shores and Ditches (2011 , FMR): From Quebec, alto saxophonist and drummer, have worked together for well over a decade, and one-on-one their free improvs are hard to beat. Joining them at various points are guitar (Daniel Thompson), flute (Neil Metcalfe), and bass (Guillaume Viltard), which is where the record lags a bit. B+(***)
Ernest Dawkins: Afro Straight (2010-12 , Delmark): Saxophonist, b. 1953 in Chicago, came up through the AACM, has a half dozen albums on his own plus many credits, notably with Ethnic Heritage Ensemble. Here he goes for something more mainstream, covering two Coltrane and three Shorter tunes, "Woody 'N You," "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise," and a really lovely "God Bless the Child," and he makes a party out of them, with Corey Wilkes jousting on trumpet, and lots of congas. Two originals: his title tune, and "Old Man Blues," which he sings in a voice not nearly old enough -- the only mis-step here. A-
The Fat Babies: Chicago Hot (2012, Delmark): Led by bassist Beau Sample, based in Chicago, a "young band" playing old music, drawing more on Jelly Roll Morton than on Austin High, but so did the Austin High crowd. Tuba player Mike Walbridge rates a "special guest" shout out: he was one of the notable players in what I reckon to be the third generation of trad jazz musicians, a venerable but still viable link. (His contemporary, Kim Cusack, did the liner notes.) This group is more like the fifth generation, but that happens with music this vital. No matter how much bebop I listen to, I doubt I'll ever escape the conviction that this is what real jazz sounds like. B+(***)
Scott Fields: 5 Frozen Eggs (1996 , Clean Feed): Avant guitarist, b. 1952, based in Chicago, has about twenty albums since 1993, several of which have been picked up and reissued by Clean Feed. Seems like most are cranky solo affairs, but some aren't, and this one is dominated by Marilyn Crispell's piano, at her iciest, creating fractured landscapes that Fields, bassist Hans Sturm, and drummer Hamid Drake trek through. B+(***)
Jan Garbarek/Egberto Gismonti/Charlie Haden: Carta de Amor (1981 , ECM, 2CD): Norwegian saxophonist (tenor and a very distinctive curved soprano), Brazilian guitarist (also plays piano here), legendary bassist and citizen of the world. Note date. The same trio recorded two albums in 1979 with Haden's name first: Folk Songs and Magico. This is a previously unreleased live tape, recorded in Munich, which shares two songs from each. The writing/arranging credits are distributed not quite evenly -- Gismonti has the edge, and the lead. B+(*)
The Peggy Lee Band: Invitation (2012, Drip Audio): Cellist, based in Vancouver, has a half dozen albums since 1999, mostly with more/less the same group here: Brad Turner (trumpet), Jon Bentley (tenor sax), Jerome Berkman (trombone), Ron Samworth (guitar), Tony Wilson (more guitar), Andre Lachance (electric bass), and Dylan van der Schyff (drums). Aside from one by Mary Margaret O'Hara, all Lee compositions. She spots all the pieces and ties them together into a melodic suite that classical training dreams of but almost never achieves. Final piece even reminds me of township jive. A-
Bill McHenry: La Peur du Vide (2012, Sunnyside): Tenor saxophonist, studied with George Garzone, dozen albums since 1998, AMG considers him avant-garde but I've always thought of him as a postbop modernist. Quartet with Orrin Evans on piano, Eric Revis on drums, and Andrew Cyrille on drums, each in their own way nudging the saxophonist out of his comfort zone. B+(***)
Liudas Mockunas & Barry Guy: Lava (2011 , NoBusiness): Duets, saxophonist from Lithuania with a half dozen albums since 2001, and bassist from England with dozens since 1972, many as founder and direct or of London Jazz Composers Orchestra. I've always had trouble with Guy's big bands, but here you get a chance to actually hear all the sound he can coax from the bull fiddle, an astonishing range. [Limited edition vinyl: 300 copies.] B+(***) [cdr]
Ratchet Orchestra: Hemlock (2012, Drip Audio): Huge Canadian outfit led by bassist Nicolas Caloia, thirty-some pieces (seven of those strings, plus two guitars), dates back to the early 1990s and an interest in Sun Ra, although I'm not finding any other recordings. Trends avant, but not because they want to see how much noise they can make; more like that's where the cutting edge is. B+(**)
Michael Sahl & Eric Salzman: Civilization and Its Discontents (1978 , Labor): Sahl is a postclassical composer, a year older than Salzman, his collaborator on several music theatre pieces, this one billed a comedy though more often tagged as their opera. Rocks more than most avant-classicists, but like most modern opera tries to stuff too many words into too little music. B
Felipe Salles: Departure (2011 , Tapestry): Saxophonist (tenor, soprano, flute, bass clarinet), originally from Brazil, teaches at U. Mass (Amherst); fifth album since 2004. Went for a big band suite last time, but scales back to a sextet here, with violin the unorthodox instrument, and gets in some impressive sax runs. Trumpeter Randy Brecker gets in some licks, too. B+(**)
Eric Salzman: The Nude Paper Sermon/Wiretap (1966-72 , Labor, 2CD): Composer, b. 1933; worked as a music critic for New York Times, Stereo Review, and others; produced an important series of post-classical records for Nonesuch. This reissues two of his early records. He describes his The Nude Paper Sermon (1969, Nonesuch) as "tropes for actor, renaissance consort, chorus, and electronics" -- mostly vocals, the voices trained but not hammy enough for opera, abstract and unsettled. The four pieces on Wiretap (1974, Finnadar) delve further into electronics -- Ilhan Mimaroglu was the producer -- and found sounds, even more abstract and unsettled, and all the more invigorating for that. B+(*)
Juma Sultan's Aboriginal Music Society: Whispers From the Archive (1970-78 , Porter): B. 1942 in California, Sultan played percussion with Jimi Hendrix, played with Archie Shepp on records like Attica Blues, eventually became a Christian minister. This is the second slice from his archives, following Father of Origin in 2011 (on Eremite, unheard by me). These pieces are scattered over the years, the only constant someone named Ali Abuwi (oboe, flute, percussion), although one 19:20 track doesn't credit either. This kicks off with a 20:45 piece called "AMS," with Sultan on bass, Abuwi on oboe, and everyone but the guitarist on percussion -- James "Blood" Ulmer is too busy stealing the show. That's followed by 1:27 of "Shake Your Money Maker," the first of several vocals that bind the extended groove pieces to a sense of community. Last two pieces break out the flutes, and for once I don't mind. A-
Gian Tornatore: The Heights (2012, Sound Spiral): Tenor saxophonist, b. in California, studied at Berklee, based in New York since 2002, fourth album. Has a lovely tone, which I fell for on his 2004 debut album, Sink or Swim, and is evident from the start here. Mainstream postbop, a bit on the lush side with trumpet (Gordon Au) for shine and both piano and guitar -- Nate Radley takes the most impressive solos. B+(*)
Wave Mechanics Union: Further to Fly (2012, HX Music): Played this twice while trying to get other work done, so I didn't manage the necessary notes, but sure don't want to spin it a third time. Lydia McCadams is the singer, operatic at the end but cabaret-ish along the way -- maybe that was the Tom Waits cover, or the Fiona Apple or Steely Dan but probably not King Crimson. The orchestra is overstuffed -- flutes and bassoon, tuba and strings -- and some of the arrangements have some appeal. Second group album. B-
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
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