Monday, January 21. 2008
Don't have any further news on when Jazz CG will run. It's not unusual that the Village Voice editors become inaccessible in the weeks before the Pazz & Jop poll is published, so the silence isn't surprising. I'm guessing mid-February. The final Recycled Goods is also stuck in a pipeline somewhere, out of my hands but not yet posted. I'll guess late this week on it. I started working on year-end notes, then tore them up, so at this point I don't know that any will be forthcoming. The one thing I have persisted in doing this past week has been to keep streaming 2007 albums. That was good for an exceptionally high rated count of 40, while still losing ground to the real world queue. It also meant very little jazz prospecting -- in fact, less than I did the previous week when I begged off. I thought about doing the same again, but didn't want to get in too deep of a rut. So here's the first batch of the new cycle.
Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: Setting Standards: New York Sessions (1983 , ECM, 3CD): Born 1945, Jarrett started recording in 1966, minor bits with Art Blakey and Miles Davis, a major role in Charles Lloyd's quartet at their popular peak. His own records start in 1967 with Life Between the Exit Signs, and picked up the pace in the 1970s when he juggled two distinctive quarters, one US-based with Dewey Redman on Impulse, the other Europe-based with Jan Garbarek on ECM, while recording bunches of solo piano records, most famously The Köln Concert, which at five million copies is probably the best-selling jazz album ever. He had rarely played in piano trios, but put one together for a set of standards in January 1983 -- actually, he revived the trio that recorded Gary Peacock's Tales of Another in 1977, with Jack DeJohnette on drums. He dubbed them the Standards Trio, but more than two decades and two dozen later they're just The Trio. The sessions produced two volumes of Standards and a set of original improvs released as Changes -- now all conveniently boxed for their 25th anniversary. The songbook is neither obvious nor numerous -- 11 songs, averaging 8 minutes, with "God Bless the Child" spread out to 15:32, mostly because they found so much to work out. A turning point in an illustrious career, but more beginning than peak. B+(**)
Alfredo Naranjo: Y El Guajeo (2006 , Cacao Musica): One of five releases from this Venezuelan label, featuring fancy packages which fold out to reveal a lengthy spiral-bound booklet in English and Spanish and a poorly glued sleeve to hold the disc. Naranjo plays vibraphone, xylophone, and piano. He leads a large group supplemented by guests like Jimmy Bosch on trombone. Latin jazz, sound pretty average to me, with those tricky shifts and stops that throw us gringos pretty badly. Big beat, but the vocals get tedious. B-
Jose Luis "Changuito" Quintana: Telegrafía Sin Hilo (2005 , Cacao Musica): Cuban, b. 1948, plays timbale, best known for his work in Los Van Van, probably ranks as one of the major percussionists in Cuban music from 1970. This was recorded in Caracas. It looks like the majority of musicians were Cuban, including numerous percussionists on bata drums, bongo, congas, and many others. Most cuts have vocals -- various singers, no complaints on my part. Fine example of contemporary Cuban pop with some jazz cred. B+(**)
Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez: Italuba II (2006 , Cacao Musica): Cuban drummer, b. 1963, came to the US c. 1993, where he's established himself as a superb Latin jazz drummer. AMG talks about Hernandez's early interest in rock, and how that's inflected his drumming. That isn't clear here. What we have instead is a solid Afro-Cuban jazz quartet, with trumpet and piano. Tricky rhythms, shifts, halts, all sorts of unpredictable happenings. No vocals, just jazz. B+(**)
Vidal Colmenares: . . . Otro Llano (2006 , Cacao Musica): English trot in the booklet starts: "During the late 80's, analists and experts in marketing processes developed a gradual list, by category or importance order, called the scale of audience intensity." I've seen worse mechanical translations, but few so inadvertently and perversely coherent. It's hard to piece together much real information from the booklet, let alone from secondary sources. Wikipedia describes Colmenares' home town, Barinas, Venezuela, thus: "Barina's is a bit grubby, similar to a rubbish tip. Hot chicks, but they all have the child running behind them." Oh well. Colmenares was born there in 1952, has a gray moustache and a nice smile. Presumably he sings and plays cuatro (a four-string guitar common in Venezuela) -- credits don't say what he does, but the lead vocals are consistent, a slightly pinched sound reminiscent of Speedy Gonzales caricature, but more pliable. The llanos are the highlands straddling Venezuela and Colombia. The booklet includes pictures of cows and Colmenares on horseback, suggesting this is the real c&w of the llanos. Sounds about right. B+(***)
Santos Viejos: Pop Aut (2006 , Cacao Musica): Rock en español from Venezuela, what they call pop autóctono. In the long run, I figure rock en español will be as great and as awful as rock in english, but not speaking the language it's hard to get the fine points. This comes off as middlebrow, vaguely folkish, not distinctive nor outrageous enough to crack the ice, but it does get more comfortably listenable over time. B
Norman Howard & Joe Phillips: Burn Baby Burn (1968 , ESP-Disk): A trumpet player from Cleveland, Howard's discography was hitherto limited to appearing on two Albert Ayler albums. He recorded two sessions for ESP-Disk in 1968 which weren't released at the time. It isn't clear from the booklet whether this is only the first or includes parts of the second (referred to as "Signals"). (It also isn't clear whether the subject of the first line -- "I was born August 25th of 1944 in Cleveland, Ohio" -- is Howard or writer Michael D. Anderson. Philips plays alto sax -- don't know much more about him. The other musicians are just names: Walter Cliff on bass, Corney Millsap on drums. Before I dug into the booklet, the record struck me as austere free jazz, somewhat old-fashioned, although there are noisy stretches later on. Makes more sense as part of Ayler's undertow, opened up by the lack of a clear leader. An interesting piece of history. B+(**)
Jimmy Blythe: Messin' Around Blues: Enhanced Pianola Rolls (1920s , Delmark): Born 1901 in Kentucky, moved to Chicago in 1916, died 1931, played piano, best known for his classic jazz sessions with clarinetist Johnny Dodds. These solo recordings are taken from piano rolls -- they're described as "enhanced," but the only detail given is that the tempos have generally been slowed down -- elegant and robustly rhythmic rather than hot frenzy. Don't have dates, but mid-1920s are probable. B+(***)
Deepak Ram: Steps (2008, Golden Horn): Born in South Africa; plays bansuri, a long Indian flute, which he studied under Pandip Hariprasad Chaurasia, a name I recognize despite my general ignorance of Indian classical music. Ram has half a dozen albums since 1999, presumably more conventionally Indian and/or inflected by his South African experience -- e.g., he shows up on The Rough Guide to South African Jazz. This, however, is a straight jazz album, a quartet with Ram's deeper, less tinny flute set off against Vic Juris's guitar, with Tony Marino on bass, Jamey Haddad on drums/percussion. Two originals don't stand out against Davis and Coltrane covers, "Summertime" and "My Funny Valentine." Not without charm, but if anything, too straight. B
No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further listening the first time around.