Monday, December 3. 2012
Music: Current count 20754  rated (+30), 615  unrated (-4).
After two straight sub-30 weeks, seems like I broke out of a slump, not that the net effect is much different. More (and better) prospecting here than in some time, plus put some work into Recycled Goods, which will appear later this week -- thinner than the last two months, but relatively free of my old dirty laundry.
Jazz Poll ballot is due December 9. [Originally wrote Dec. 6, which was the original plan.] The following is my first pass at constructing such a list, just a sort of my current A-list. No guarantee that it will hold (actually, as I look at it I'm certain I'll reshuffle a lot):
The complete A-list currently numbers 97, so 49 jazz, 48 other, with Neneh Cherry the swing vote. The metacritic file currently lists 623 new jazz albums. I haven't factored in any year-end lists yet, so I think it currently has almost no predictive value. Cherry (to a huge extent) and Glasper (much less so) pick up crossover votes that won't be present in the Jazz Poll. Beyond that the top 30-40 slots reflect larger publicity efforts, some of which have escaped me -- my wish list starts with Darius Jones and Mary Halvorson. Further down, the list is mostly the work of Tim Niland, Stef Gijssels, and me, so you can't draw much there.
At this point, the Poll's prohibitive favorite is Vijay Iyer, but I'd like to think Steve Lehman has an outside chance. Beyond that there are some mainstream records I like (but generally not enough to come close to the top of my list above): The Bad Plus, Tim Berne, Anat Cohen, Ravi Coltrane, Chick Corea's Bill Evans tribute (as opposed to his Gary Burton record), Dave Douglas, Kenny Garrett, Branford Marsalis, Matthew Shipp, John Surman, Henry Threadgill, Matt Wilson, Miguel Zenon. I suspect that much of the competition will come from that list, but there are also records I haven't heard (Brad Mehldau, Ahmad Jamal, William Parker's Ellington, Jones, Halvorson), and things I have heard but don't think much of (Robert Glasper, Esperanza Spalding, Pat Metheny, I suppose you could add Christian Scott). We'll see, soon enough. Too soon as far as I'm concerned, as I always feel unprepared when these things sneak up on me.
One more little note: I usually try to flag "advance" copies -- partly a bit of resistance against not getting final copies, partly a reasonable caveat as I can't review the actual packaging and documentation. However, more and more I'm finding these are CDR burns of vinyl- and/or download-only product, so actually the publicists are doing me a big favor. I've started trying to mark these cases. Also, in a couple of cases, I've noticed that it's possible to preview these albums on Bandcamp, and have started to provide the appropriate links. The latter will happen only when I notice them, which is certainly not guaranteed.
Eivind Aarset: Dream Logic (2011-12 , ECM): Guitarist, b. 1961 in Norway, eighth album since 1998. Producer Jan Bang -- a figure on Nils Petter Molvaer's jazztronica albums -- feed him samples, with Aarset adding guitar, bass, percussion, electronics, and what have you, all at the dreamy level promised by the title. B+(**)
Jeb Bishop/Jorrit Dijkstra: 1000 Words (2011 , Driff): Trombone/alto sax duo, both also credited with mutes, which must help homogenize the sound. Bishop is a Chicago trombonist, best known for his tenure in the Vandermark 5, but he has a handful of albums under his own name (starting in 1998 with 98 Duets) as well as several post-V5 group projects. Dijkstra is Dutch, moved to US in 2002, teaches at New England Conservatory, has ten albums. Resembles a sax choir, with the horns hopping over one another in interesting patterns. B+(**)
Caroline Davis Quartet: Live Work & Play (2012, Ears & Eyes): Alto saxophonist, b. in Singapore, based in Chicago, first album, with guitar-bass-drums, no one I've heard of but expect to hear more from guitarist Mike Allemana. Wrote six (of ten) pieces, covering Billy Strayhorn and Charlie Parker, getting songs from two band members (Allemana and drummer Jeremy Cunningham). Unexceptional postbop, flows nicely, makes a strong impression. B+(**)
Kui Dong/Larry Polansky/Christian Wolff: Trio (2012, Henceforth): Dong is a pianist, b. 1966 in Beijing, China; moved to US in 1991 and teaches at Dartmouth, as do the others. Wolff, b. 1934 in France but grew up in the US, also plays piano here. He was influenced by postclassical composers like John Cage and Cornelius Cardew. I first ran across him on one of Brian Eno's Obscure Records. Polansky plays guitar and mandolin -- a way of interjecting some contrasting sounds, not that the pianos are all that predictable. Improv that would satisfy Cage, for just that reason. B+(***)
Hobson's Choice: Of the Waves (2011 , Barnyard): Dictionary defines this as "an apparently free choice that offers no real alternative." AMG describes one Virginia band with this one album, which is in fact by a completely different band, one based on Toronto, calls itself a "contemporary chamber jazz group." The chamber effect is mostly vocal (presumably Felicity Williams), surrounded by guitar, trumpet, marimba. Art song, extended through scatting or warbling -- first song I managed to tune into had a Rumi text that I mistook for Joni Mitchell in her most ponderous phase. B
Holus-Bolus: Pine Barren (2012, Prom Night): Josh Sinton, plays baritone sax and bass clarinet here, in his Steve Lacy tribute band Ideal Bread, and elsewhere. Builds most pieces from rhythmic vamps down low (helped by Peter Bitenc on bass), with vibes for contrast, occasionally breaking loose with hellacious solo runs -- Jonathan Goldberger's guitar, or more often Jon Irabagon's sax. Seems to be download-only. [Bandcamp] A- [advance]
I Compani: Garbo (2011 , Icdisc, 2CD): Extended title adds: and other Goddesses of Cinema, with Brigitte Bardot at least as prominent as Garbo. I Compani is saxophonist Bo van der Graaf's outfit, a group that specializes in film music -- records on Fellini, Nino Rota, Aida, Last Tango in Paris, a side trip into Circusism. The band is large, but only two horns -- the leader's sax and one trumpet -- with piano/synth, bandoneon, a string section, vibes, and drums, and some vocals. The first disc is delirious and exhilarating, especially when the whole group is firing. The second is a bonus, a live "Tango and Impro" concert in memory of actress Maria Schneider (1952-2011), featuring big chunks of Gato Barbieri's heavy-handed Last Tango in Paris soundtrack. It drags a bit, especially compared with the first disc. One more caveat: possibly the worst CD packaging ever. B+(***)
Erik Jekabson: Anti-Mass (2011 , Jekab's Music): Trumpeter, from California, studied at Oberlin, wound up in San Francisco, where the DeYoung Museum commissioned his title piece. Third album since 2004. With violin (Mads Tolling) and viola (Charith Prwardhana) and bits of vibraphone, a nice example of postbop chamber music, although the horns threaten to break loose, especially Dayna Stephens' tenor sax. B+(*)
Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: No New Tunes (2012, Hot Cup): Guitarist, rolled out the Big Five Chord name on his 2003 debut, and is up to five albums now. All originals, not sure whether they're new or not, but the band has been together for some time, and return here more imposing than ever: Bryan Murray (tenor sax), Jon Irabagon (alto sax), Moppa Elliott (bass), Dan Monaghan (drums). The sax thrash is as powerful as ever, and the guitar is even sharper. Download/vinyl only. A- [advance]
Paul Lytton/Nate Wooley: The Nows (2011 , Clean Feed, 2CD): Drums and trumpet, respectively; Lytton, b. 1947 in England, a long-time fixture in avant jazz; Wooley, b. 1974 in Oregon, very prolific on the avant scene since 2005. The drummer does a lot of duos, so he's very prepared for this sort of mix up. But while both sides start as duos, they soon expand to trios, with Ikue Mori (computer) on the first, and Ken Vandermark (clarinets and saxes) on the latter. Even the latter stays within the basic chop-chop format. B+(*)
Medeski Martin & Wood: Free Magic (2007 , Indirecto): Organ trio, been around for twenty-some years, remarkably popular although John Medeski (keyboards) and Billy Martin (drums) have a parallel history of dabbling in avant-garde projects. When they set up their own label and started diving into old live tapes, they initially reached for the one with John Scofield -- it's their thing, right? This one is older, coming from their "first-ever acoustic tour." That mostly means Medeski playing piano, with such astonishing flair you wonder why he doesn't do more of it. Hype sheet talks about him "channeling his inner Cecil Taylor," but I hear as much Bud Powell, and at least a little Jerry Lee. Closes with a Mingus/Sun Ra medley. A- [advance]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Whit Dickey: The Clairvoyant (2012, Leo): Tenor sax, piano, drums. Shipp and Dickey were in David S. Ware's original quartet, and played several duos and trios around that time (c. 1990). Shipp and the Brazilian saxophonist go back about that far too, and while Ware may be the model for their interaction, Perelman has developed his own distinctive voice, especially when he doesn't have to bring the noise. This is part of the second batch of three albums he's released this year, the third with Shipp, a following hugely prolific 2011. A-
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Michael Bisio: The Gift (2012, Leo): Case study, where The Clairvoyant was Perelman-Shipp plus drummer (Whit Dickey), this is the same duo plus bassist (Bisio). The difference is that when the duo slows down they're more likely to stall, but over time they find outs -- a little cocktail jazz, a slow burn, a spot for the bassist -- even solo the saxophonist has little trouble carrying on, wth his most impressive turn solo. B+(***)
Ivo Perelman/Joe Morris/Gerald Cleaver: Living Jelly (2011 , Leo): Tenor sax, guitar, drums, respectively, although Morris is also an accomplished bassist. His leads are more effective than Shipp's in the other two albums, probably because the tone of his guitar lines up more harmonically with the sax -- similarly, his comping is more transparent. But the leader excels here, uncommonly eloquent in the slow stretches and as thrilling as ever at high speed. A-
The Reveries: Matchmakers Volume 2: The Music of Sade (2012, Barnyard): I know so little about Nigerian-born chanteuse Sade Adu or her band that I recognize none of these songs -- indeed, only two (of eight) show up on her first Best Of -- that I have to assume that the nasal falsettos squeezed through "mouth-speaker" and such are meant as satire. Canadian group -- Eric Chenaux (guitar), Ryan Driver (bass), Doug Tielli (guitar), and Jean Martin (drums) -- did this once before with Willie Nelson. B
Scott Robinson Doctette: Bronze Nemesis (2001-09 , Doc-Tone): Plays various saxes, clarinets, flutes, euphonium, Moog theremin, percussion, "gadgets"; b. 1959, has close to a dozen albums since 1984 (his debut was called Multiple Instruments, some close to trad jazz but others not. Front cover proclaims this as "12 Fantastic Musical Adventures Inspired by the Amazing Worlds of Doc Savage!" Comes with a lot of doc, but not knowing the references I'm at a more/less complete loss. Group: Randy Sandke (trumpet), Ted Rosenthal (piano), Pat O'Leary (bass), and Dennis Mackrel (drums), with Dennis Irwin taking over bass for one cut. Suffers a bit from soundtrack syndrome, especially the dingy atmospherics, but there are lots of interesting passages. B+(*)
Sara Serpa/Ran Blake: Aurora (2012, Clean Feed): Serpa is a vocalist, from Portugal, studied at NEC which brought her into contact with the pianist. Blake has a long history of working with singers, often in duo formats -- not unrelated is that he must have more than a dozen solo piano albums -- and this is his second pairing with Serpa. Hard for me to care much about their stripped-down abstractions, except when they offer a bent cover of something familiar, like "The Band Played On." B+(*)
Andrea Wolper/Connie Crothers/Ken Filiano: Trance Formation: In Concert (2009-10 , New Artists): Crothers is a pianist, b. 1941, a student and protégé of Lennie Tristano. She has at least 14 albums since 1974, and I'm embarrassed to say I've yet to hear any of them (although about six were on the 20-page shopping list I used to carry around to used stores). On the other hand, I've heard 35 albums with Filiano, one of the great bassists of our age. Wolper is a singer, married to Filiano, with three previous albums since 2005, a background before that in theatre and writing. All improv, words (if that's what they are) included, which tends to separate the instruments out into their own spaces, with Wolper's voice functoining as a thin and starchy horn. B+(*)
Katherine Young: Releasing Bound Water From Green Material (2012, Prom Night, EP): Bassoon player, has a couple recent records. This download-only has three cuts, runs 21:39, definitely within EP length, although there is also an accompanying Michael Kenney video (which I didn't watch). Percussion trio, with deep drone sounds from the accompanying horns/synth, an interesting concept, just one that doesn't last long. [Bandcamp] B+(*) [advance]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
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