Monday, December 24. 2007
I spent last week obsessing over year-end lists instead of getting Jazz CG finished by Xmas, a goal I had set back around December 1. It's been an interesting week, and I'll write more about it later, but for now I'm busy cooking for tonight and tomorrow, so this is about all I can get together right now.
Meanwhile, for a survey of how the year-end polls are likely to shape up, look at my cribsheet.
Dave Allen: Real and Imagined (2007, Fresh Sound New Talent): Guitarist, born in Philadelphia, attended Manhattan School of Music in 1988, presumably still based in New York. AMG lists 29 Dave or David (or more famously, in bold type, Daevid) Allens, none of which appear to be him. But he does have a 2005 album, so this is probably his second. It's a quartet with Seamus Blake on tenor sax, Drew Gress on bass, and Mark Ferber on drums. Wrote all the pieces. Has a metallic tone and adept rhythmic sense that fills in well behind and beside the sax. First rate rhythm section. B+(*)
John Chin: Blackout Conception (2005 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Pianist. Born 1976 in South Korea, grew up in Los Angeles, went to Cal State when he was 14, got interested in jazz piano, graduated at 19, headed on to Rutgers, where he studied under Kenny Barron. First album. Starts as a quartet where the first thing you notice is the tenor sax: Mark Turner. He plays on the first two cuts, the fourth and sixth. The other three drop back to a trio and let the pianist stretch out. He sneaks up on you. [B+(***)]
Robert Wyatt: Comicopera (2007, Domino): He has straddled the jazz and rock worlds for 35+ years, remaining so unique in both that nobody knows where he fits. His barely controlled high-pitched voice is unprecedented and unlikely to be followed, yet he has produced such compelling vocal albums as The Hapless Child (under Michael Mantler's name). He has a few more scattered masterpieces, but also quite a lot that is barely (if at all) listenable. Few artists take more risks. None that I know of put less ego on the line. I was a fan early on, but couldn't handle many of his recent, even highly touted, records (e.g., Shleep). This seemed like another at first, with his vocals fitting awkwardly over odd melodies and fractured rhythms, but the record is sprinkled with wondrous instrumental bits -- Gilad Atzmon sax, a piece with vibes and electronics, Eno keybs, something Latin, bits of cornet. Several plays later it's filling out. [B+(***)]
Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Shamokin!!! (2006 , Hot Cup): Quartet led by bassist Moppa Elliott, originally from Scranton PA, now in New York. Elliott wrote all of the pieces except "A Night in Tunisia," the closer they hack up into extended solos -- blurb calls it a "twenty-one minute jazz orgy [including] references to the majority of recorded sound of the last century." Most of the noise comes from the two horns: Peter Evans on trumpet, Jon Irabagon on alto sax. This strikes me as "free bop" -- more tethered to the jazz tradition than similarly configured avant groups, but unruly, eager to break loose, clash, get down and dirty. Might have cracked my Top Ten list had I gotten to it earlier. A-
David Buchbinder: Odessa/Havana (2006-07 , Tzadik): Canadian trumpeter, previous groups include the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band and Shurum Burum Jazz Circus. (AMG also cites an "Arabic fusion ensemble" called Medina, but it doesn't show up in his credits or in his website bio.) Here he trades compositions with Cuban pianist Hilario Durán, who lives in Canada and has worked with Arturo Sandoval. The band is a mix of klezmer and Cuban specialists, including Quinsin Nachoff on reeds and flute, Aleksandr Gajic on violin, Dafnis Prieto on drums, and Roberto Occhipinti on bass. Actually, more klezmer than Cuban, largely because the horns and violin drown out the piano and percussion has trouble keeping up. (Contrast this with Roberto Rodriguez, who starts with Cuban rhythms and adds klezmer on top, a more effective strategy.) One slow spot works nicely. Some of the orchestration is overblown. Nachoff has some strong sax parts. B+(**) [advance]
The John Brown Quintet Featuring Ray Codrington: Merry Christmas, Baby (2006-07 , House of Swing): Brown plays bass, teaches at Duke, also has an Art Blakey tribute album out (more on that later). Codrington plays trumpet in the quintet, and gets to sing here. He's hardly special, but brings good cheer to songs that are nothing but -- God gets dutifully thanked in the liner notes, but the only song here that might upset devoted secularists is "Happy Birthday, Jesus," which reminds me more of Marilyn Monroe singing "Happy Birthday" to JFK. Frosty, Santa Claus, and Rudolph all swing like mad, and it snows all over the winter wonderland. Not even I dare rain on their parade. B+(*)
The John Brown Quintet: Terms of Art: A Tribute to Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, Vol. 1 (2007, House of Swing): Bassist, leading a standard hard bop quintet, with Ray Codrington on trumpet, Brian Miller on saxophones, Gabe Evens on piano, Adonis Rose on drums. Most of these songs I recognize from Blakey's group -- none written by Blakey, only some by group members like Wayne Shorter and Bobby Timmons. I don't really see the point in doing such straight recreations of material that effectively consolidated bebop into mainstream. The result is less notable than Brown's Xmas record, but I wouldn't feel right to grade it lower. B+(*)
Roger Mas 5tet: Mason (2006 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Spanish (or, more precisely, Catallan) pianist, although his favored instrument here is Fender Rhodes. Quintet includes tenor/soprano saxophonist Jon Robles, guitarist Jaume Llombart, no trumpet, but the group is augmented with "special guest" Enrique Oliver on tenor sax. Two covers, one from John Coltrane, the other from Antonio Carlos Jobim. The record has a slick postbop feel, the saxophones omnipresent, the guitarist taking more solos than the leader. B+(*)
And these are final grades/notes on records I put back for further listening the first time around.
Paul Motian Trio 2000 + Two: Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 1 (2006 , Winter & Winter): The Trio has Chris Potter on tenor sax and Larry Grenadier on bass. The "+ Two" are Greg Osby on alto sax and Masabumi Kikuchi on piano. Smells like a quintet to me, but there is probably some arcane logic in the division -- e.g., Motian, who made his reputation backing pianists, for a long time avoided pianists in his own groups, but this isn't the first time Kikuchi has appeared as an add on. Motian is a slippery drummer, and he often throws the saxes off their stride. They deserve credit for keeping their composure and making something of the tricky terrain. B+(**)
Alessandro D'Episcopo Trio: Meraviglioso (2005 , Altrisuoni): Fine piano trio, leaning hard on four Monk pieces, which set the rhythmic frame for a few originals, a trad. Neapolitan song, and the title track from Domenico Modugno. B+(**)
Doug Beavers Rovira Jazz Orchestra: Jazz, Baby! (2006 , Origin): Children's songs, sung by Matt Catingub and Linda Harmon, punched up with big band arrangements. Can't say whether your kids will get off on it, but at least you won't be bored shitless playing this for them. You may even figure it's good for all concerned. B+(**)