Monday, January 7. 2013
Music: Current count 20909  rated (+35), 586  unrated (0).
Skipped two weeks, so first Jazz Prospecting since December 17. Not sure how regular this will be in the near future, but when I do managed to collect eight or more entries I'll wrap them up and post them. In the year since the Village Voice stopped carrying my Jazz Consumer Guide column, my incoming mail has dropped by about 20%. I made a bit of that up using Rhapsody, but the net result is that I heard about 100 fewer new jazz records in 2012 than I did in 2011. I've also made less money writing in 2012 than in any year since 2003 -- not that that's why I've been doing this, but it does seem to be the sainted market's way of clearing out dead wood. I'll be thinking about this more in weeks to come, but chances are I'll plod along while trying out some different things.
One thing I have started is to collect last year's Jazz Prospecting pieces in a more permanent and accessible archive (the Jazz CG-era ones are already filed elsewhere). I also want to put some music ratings software together: a website where we can round up a few dozen critics and knowledgable consumers who can rate a thousand or more albums each.
One thing that I have decided is that I'll never again attempt to do a metacritic file the way I've been doing it: as a single person editing a flat file. I've been doing that since 2007, and this year's file is by far the most complete and exacting. It's also the biggest time sink in my life, and it doesn't appear to be terribly useful for others, so something there has to change. It also occurs to me that it's just another data set for the music ratings project.
Similarly, the backbone for a Christgau-like CG database is the same albums table that the ratings project requires. I've long wanted to hang my writings onto such a framework, so that's likely to be another application (or, indeed, built-in). (I've long been reluctant to reuse the Christgau framework due to some technical problems in the database schema, which I hack around for him but haven't resolved to my own satisfaction -- not that what I have on my own website isn't many times hackier.)
Only one 2013 release below, but many more are in the pipeline. The two A- records were discovered within a day or two after my Jazz Critics Poll deadline. Had I looked at the lineups and/or paid more attention to my mail I would have jumped on them sooner, but instead found them in other critics' lists. The A record is classic year-end problems: how can US critics deal with December releases in Lithuania? I think I got my copy on Xmas Eve, so this is one year I can't complain about Santa.
Francis Davis' Jazz Critics Poll should be coming out this week at Rhapsody. I'll have a year-end piece there, and I'll host the ballots as I've done the last few years. Will announce all that when it happens.
Carter Calvert: Carter Calvert and the Roger Cohen Trio (2011 , self-released): Standards singer, from Cincinnati but most likely based in New York, where she has some measure -- not that I know what it is -- of a Broadway career. First album. Cohen is a drummer, so I'm not sure how he managed to pull rank over pianist Jim West, but they provide suitable support. Not sure what I think about her voice: depends on the song, and they're all over the map. B+(*)
Gustavo Casenave: Tango Casenave (2012, Watch Craft Music): Pianist, b. 1971 in Uruguay, studied at Berklee. AMG lists one previous album, but that strikes me as an underestimate. Composed everything here, tangos with all the classical bombast, even though the group is just piano-violin-bandoneon-bass. Eddie Gomez is cited as a "special guest" on the cover, but only plays on one track. B+(*)
Ken Field: Sensorium: Music for Dance & Film (2012, Innova): I'm not even going to try to read the black-on-blue fine print here, a case of impatience leading to ignorance about who is involved here and what they're trying to do. I do know that Field is Boston-based, an alto saxophonist who also plays flute and other reeds, and has six albums under his own name since 1996, but is probably better known for his group memberships, including Birdsongs of the Mesozoic and Revolutionary Snake Ensemble. Two commissioned series here: one (17:50) for a film by Karen Aqua, the other (37:04) for Bridgman/Packer Dance. Some interesting stretches, others I'm unsure of -- perhaps the normal side-effect of not seeing the big picture, or perhaps just perhaps. B+(**)
David Gilmore: Numerology: Live at Jazz Standard (2010 , Evolutionary Music): Guitarist, b. 1964 in Cambridge, MA; has a couple previous albums, quite a few side credits -- some rock (Bryan Ferry, Ringo Starr), most jazz (Steve Coleman, Don Byron, Wayne Shorter, Rudresh Mahanthappa). Basically a fusion player, with McLaughlin the obvious model. Picked up an all-star band here: Miguel Zenón (alto sax), Luis Perdomo (piano), Christian McBride (bass), Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums), Mino Cinelu (percussion), Claudia Acuña (voice). Her contribution is almost too subtle to notice, but the sax takes the roiling rhythm and goes off on a magnificent romp. B+(***)
The Group: Live (1986 , NoBusiness): The name, even with its definite article, doesn't do them justice. They came out of the New York loft scene, gigged around for a couple years, and left nothing but this newly discovered masterpiece. The booklet shows two quintet posters: their May 3 (1986?) "world premier" with Ahmed Abdullah (trumpet), Marion Brown (alto sax), Billy Bang (violin), Sirone (bass), and Andrew Cyrille; and another from Sept. 12-13, 1986, with Fred Hopkins on bass. This recording, from Sept. 13, uses both bassists. They play five pieces, with Mingus' "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" and Brown's "La Piacita" running 18 minutes each, and Miriam Makeba's "Amanpondo" at 25 minutes. Bang manages to swing in any or no time; the two horns mesh intuitively, completing each other's thoughts; the two bassists have different strong suits, and Cyrille has rarely had better days. A
Tianna Hall & the Mexico City Jazz Trio: Two for the Road (2012, Mighty Pretty): Standards singer, third album, calls her regular backup the Houston Jazz Band, hence the name given to pianist Miguel Villicaña's trio. Nice voice, especially comfortable on the most well worn tunes, and the trio is first rate. David Caceres helped out, including a duet on "They Can't Take That Away From Me." B+(*)
Chris Hopkins/Bernd Lhotzky: Partners in Crime (2012, Echoes of Swing): Piano duets. Lhotzky, b. 1970 in Bavaria. Hopkins, b. 1972 in Princeton, moved to Germany at age six. Both lean toward swing, with Lhotzky owning one of the Arbors Piano Series records. This is delightful, especially when they get into familiar territory, like "I Got Plenty o' Nuttin'." B+(***)
I Never Meta Guitar Too (2011 , Clean Feed): Second volume of the label's Elliott Sharp-produced avant-guitar series, sixteen brief selections from as many artists, most (unlike last time) by people I've never heard of -- some that I am familiar with, like Joel Harrison and Steve Cardenas, not that far out. Also none stuck in any of the usual ruts. Thanks to rock and roll, there are a lot of guitarists out there, with more than ever turning to jazz, and thanks to electronics they're moving off into all sorts of directions. This series drives home that point, while still more often than not being something you can play at low volume for ambiance. B+(*)
Jeff Johnson: Suitcase (2011 , Origin): Seattle bassist, one of the label's mainstays, generally a mainstream player but here he not only moves into postbop, he gives us a practicum in how much of the avant-garde has been incorporated into the postbop paradigm. Hans Teuber plays bass clarinet, alto flute, and various saxes, with Steve Moore on piano and Eric Eagle on drums. B+(***)
Jerry Leake: Cubist: Prominence (2012 , Rhombus Publishing): Percussionist, specializes in African and Indian but I doubt there's any corner of the world he hasn't scoured for things to beat up on. He teaches, has written numerous books on the stuff, and has more than a handful of albums. Cubist was a 2010 title that he seems to be stuck on. Cubist Live (2011), co-credited to guitarist Randy Roos, turned his research into fun. This one, where eight vocalists run amok, is no fun. And while I pretty much agree with what I gather to be his political view on world peace, I don't want to be lectured about them, much less in opera. B-
Living by Lanterns: New Myth/Old Science (2011 , Cuneiform): Compositions and arrangements by Jason Adasiewicz (vibes) and Mike Reed (drums), "based on unpublished compositions and improvisations by Sun Ra," and performed by a star-laden band that is plenty capable of projecting intergalactic imagination: Greg Ward (alto sax), Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet), Ingrid Laubrock (tenor sax), Tomeka Reid (cello), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Joshua Abrams (bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums), with Nick Butcher adding electronics on two tracks. A-
Luce Trio: Pieces, Vol. 1 (2011 , Museum Clausum): Saxophonist Jon De Lucia, in what he calls his "inspired baroque group," with Ryan Ferreira on electric guitar and Chris Tordini on acoustic bass. Half original compositions, half credits to J.S. Bach, G.F. Handel, and John Dowland. Slow and solemn, stately even. [Bandcamp] B+(*) [advance]
José-Luis Montón: Solo Guitarra (2011 , ECM): Guitarist, b. 1962 in Barcelona, Spain. Has at least two previous albums, the first explicitly flamenco. Solo guitar, perhaps chilled a bit under Manfred Eicher's production, very atmospheric, hard to fault. B+(**)
Old Time Musketry: Different Times (2011 , Steeplechase): Front cover also adds "LookOut" after "SteepleChase," suggesting a label variant I can find no other explanation of. Group is a quartet, based in New York: Adam Schneit (sax, clarinet), JP Schlegelmilch (piano, accordion, synth, glockenspiel), Phil Rowan (bass), Max Goldman (drums, melodica). Schneit and Schlegelmilch split the writing. They go for soft edges, letting the music just pick you up and sweep you away. A-
Matthew Silberman: Questionable Creatures (2012, DeSoto Sound Factory): Tenor saxophonist, from Santa Monica, CA; wound up in Brooklyn. Debut album, with two guitarists (Ryan Ferreira and Greg Ruggiero), bass (Christopher Tordini), and drums (Tommy Crane). The guitar work is grooveful and sharp, the sax articulate. One spot blows me away, and none of it disappoints. B+(***)
Sudo Quartet: Live at Banlieue Bleue (2011 , NoBusiness): Avant improvisers, in cover order: Joëlle Léandre (bass), Carlos Zingaro (violin), Sebi Tramontana (trombone), Paul Lovens (drums). The bassist is central, the violin ranging out of her harmonics, the trombone reinforcing them, the drums reacting every which way. B+(**)
Paul Tynan & Aaron Lington: Bicoastal Collective: Chapter Three (2011 , OA2): Trumpet and baritone sax, respectively, the collective a sextet with Rhodes (Dan Murphy), guitar (Corey Christiansen), bass, and drums; third album together, recorded in "flyover" territory in Indiana. Smart postbop, nice attention to detail. B+(*)
Tim Warfield's Jazzy Christmas (2012, Undaunted Music): Mainstream tenor saxophonist (also soprano, which he plays on the cover), had a couple excellent albums in the late 1990s -- A Cool Blue, Gentle Warrior -- but his career has gone nowhere since then. With Terrence Stafford on trumpet, Cyrus Chestnut on piano, Stefon Harris for tinkle and glitter. Joanna Pascal sings three ("Let It Snow," "Caroling Caroling," "Silent Night"), and Jamie Davis takes "Oh Christmas Tree." Here and there some actual jazz breaks out, but the melodies seep back in. If you must play Xmas music, some of this will amuse you, and little will offend. Ends with a bonus track, "The Dreidel Song," lest anyone feel left out. B
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
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