Sunday, February 17. 2008
At the end of each Jazz Consumer Guide cycle I have a lot of paperwork to do. Most of this is only of interest to me. I do things like moving my notes from the print and flush files for the previous cycle to the notebook, where it's easier for me to find them. The thing that takes the most work is making a pass through my "done" file -- the notes repository for all of the records that I've rated, haven't written up reviews for, but think I still might want to. Usually what happens is that the done file grows up to around 120 records. I only have space to review about 30 per column, so that's four columns worth, not even counting the new records will that will come in during the meantime. I figure that of those 120 I will at most wind up using 40, so it does no harm to cut the file back to 60-80. It just forces me to cope with reality.
The problem is, those records didn't get cut when I first rated them for a reason: usually that they're pretty good and deserve at least the Honorable Mention treatment. There are a few exceptions that I hold back for possible Dud treatment, but they are a tiny fraction. There are lots of reasons why good records don't make it to the column. I used to figure that if Francis Davis covered a record in the Village Voice I needn't merely concur, but I wound up losing track of what Davis does, so that's less of an excuse. I also tended to scratch off records that I reviewed in Recycled Goods, but I won't have that excuse any longer. I do prefer covering new jazz in Jazz CG, but I'm starting to work more old records in, and that will probably continue. So more and more, my reasons aren't all that good or clean cut. At the high end, they come down to age, lack of inspiration, and faulty memory. I also try to whittle from the bottom end, leaving only things that have some special interest. Even they tend to get cut as they get old. It's not so much that I think the timeliness is so important to the reader as I figure it shows some marginal loss of interest on my part.
When I do the surplus cut, I find that in most cases what I've already written in Jazz Prospecting suffices. But in a few cases I feel like adding a few more words, maybe even a bit of explanation. These extra notes follow:
Ralph Alessi & This Against That: Look (2005 , Between the Lines): I hate pulling the plug on this, but it's one high HM I did go back and play again and again, but never managed to get anything written about it. Alessi has repeatedly distinguished himself as a sideman, and that has some relevance here. His leads are as tight and tasteful as his support work, only here they're supposed to stand out front. Complex, difficult postbop -- I can't begin to enumerate the interesting ideas. Only a couple of minor flat spots kept it from the A-list, and in any case it deserves a listen. I'm only kicking it off because I'm not up to it, and I'm getting tired of the pressure. B+(***)
Richie Barshay: Homework (2004-05 , AYVA): Picked this up on the rebound along with Francisco Mela (q.v.). Both guys are drummers who can do a lot of different things, and stuff their debut albums so full of it they wind up feeling like recitals or clinics. I like this one a shade more, but never found much to say about it. He's a talent to keep an eye on. B+(***)
Tony DeSare: Last First Kiss (2006 , Telarc): Slick, handsome, he's my favorite Sinatra wannabe. Young enough he may figure Prince and Carole King were part of Tin Pan Alley. Two good albums down. I'll catch him one of these days. B+(***)
Steve Lacy-Roswell Rudd Quartet: Early and Late (1962-2002 , Cuneiform, 2CD): Previously unreleased work from the 1962 quartet that recorded School Days, an album that much later provided Ken Vandermark with a group name, and from the 1999-2002 reunion that recorded Monk's Dream. Both were major figures in the intervening decades, although Rudd had a rougher time, for a while making ends meet playing nostalgia bands in the Catskills. This only loses out to the space crunch: Francis Davis covered it in the Voice, I wrote it up in Recycled Goods, and it's been sitting a while. A-
Francisco Mela: Melao (2005 , AYVA): I only found out about this Boston-based Cuban drummer after his album won the Village Voice Jazz Poll's debut category. One reason it won was that for a debut album it had a lot of star power: Joe Lovano, George Garzone, Anat Cohen, Lionel Loueke. Getting to it so late I never spent enough time sorting it out -- "an embarrassment of riches," I called it. Haven't touched it in a long time since. B+(***)
Golda Solomon: Word Riffs (2006, JazzJaunts): Spoken word poet with jazz accompaniment. I tracked this down looking for background after I heard her on saxophonist Saco Yasuma's Another Rain, and it's more of what intrigued me in the first place. B+(**)
Abram Wilson: Ride! Ferris Wheel to the Modern Day Delta (2007, Dune): Dune is an English label trying to break a peculiarly English form of Contemporary Jazz -- one based on hip-hop, reggae, maybe some African pop, something far hipper than any American label of similar ambitions would risk. I applaud the idea, but the realization has been more miss than hit thus far. A couple of years back saxophonist Soweto Kinch released a pretty good but deeply flawed album, while trumpeter Abram Wilson dropped a really bad one. Last year they traded places, with Kinch going deeper into hip-hop and getting lost, while Wilson rediscovered his footing in New Orleans. I wrote up Kinch as a dud. Figured I'd soften the blow with this as an HM, but didn't get it done. Sorry about that. B+(**)
Yerba Buena Stompers: Dawn Club Favorites (2001, Stomp Off): The first of five Stomp Off albums I got as background on this fine trad jazz group. Their model is Lou Watters' Yerba Buena Jazz Band, formed in 1939 at the beginning of the first great trad jazz revival, and largely responsible for it. Watters' played in San Francisco's Dawn Club, and this is what he played: same lineup, same arrangements, better sound (of course). In my review of the new The Yama-Yama Man, I singled out this and the following New Orleans Favorites as the best of the back catalog. Makes sense that if you're doing repertoire, you'd start from the top. A-
Yerba Buena Stompers: Duff Campbell's Revenge (2005, Diamondstack): Beyond from the five studio releases on Stomp Off, John Gill sent me two live sets on Diamondstack. They are scruffier sounding, a bit looser, not as articulate, but this one in particular is pretty good anyway, a nice little digest of their first four studio albums, with some stories thrown in about someone named Duff Campbell, a notable patron of San Francisco's trad jazz scene. B+(***)
The full surplus file is here.