Monday, September 29. 2008
Two weeks and change into my big break from music writing, so Jazz Prospecting is sparse this week, just barely topping my minimum catch to bother posting any at all. I did manage to get some significant new shelving built this past week, including three CD cases that should hold close to 3000 CDs. Hopefully, the prospect of not feeling buried will perk up my spirits.
Bracketed grades are tentative, which is more common these days because I'm less able to focus. Bracketed dates are future release dates, and may include notes about advances. In one case I streamed a record from Rhapsody that I didn't receive and can only vouch for in the most limited of ways. Such records should be tentative, but since I don't have the prospect of inspecting them further, I consider those grades final -- if I do get another shot at it, I'll reopen the case. Didn't get my mail catalogued this week. I'll catch up with it later.
The Suicide Kings (2008, Blue Plate Music): Country rock group, formed in 2006, although the key players -- vocalist Bruce Connole, keyboardist Brad Buxer -- have kicked around for a couple of decades. Remind me of someone I can't quite pin down. Some grim moments, which may or may not include the signature song. Some indications that they're sharper politically than their niche demands. B+(*)
Bobo Stenson Trio: Cantando (2007 , ECM): Piano trio, with Anders Jormin on bass, Jon Fält on drums. Stenson has been around quite a while: b. 1944, co-led an early-1970s group with Jan Garbarek that produced Witchi-Tai-To, one of my favorite records. Has been recording regularly for ECM since 1998, with a few more titles going back to 1971. A good fit for Manfred Eicher's piano taste. Plays songs by Silvio Rodriguez, Alban Berg, Astor Piazzolla, Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, a couple others, one group piece, two more by Jormin, who gets some space and comes off surprisingly poignant. [B+(***)]
Vassilis Tsabropoulos/Anja Lechner/U.T. Gandhi: Melos (2007 , ECM): Piano, cello, percussion. The cello is the sonic center here. Mostly slow, very pretty. Not much percussion. [B+(**)]
Portinho Trio: Vinho do Porto (2008, MCG Jazz): Brazilian drummer, based in New York, leads a trio with pianist Klaus Mueller and bassist Itaiguara Brandăo (or Lincoln Goines on 3 tracks). Brazilian tunes, "Satin Doll," "Footprints," a piece from Paquito D'Rivera. Lively, subtle, with a big boost from "special guest" trombonist Jay Ashby. B+(*)
Pete Rodríguez: El Alquimista/The Alchemist (2008, Conde Music): Trumpeter, b. 1969, from Puerto Rico, based in NJ, has a couple of previous records. He's ably supported here by Ricardo Rodríguez on bass, Henry Cole on drums, and Roberto Quintero, and frequently upstaged by splashy performances from pianist Luis Perdomo and tenor saxophonist David Sánchez. Impressive as the latter two are, I find their whiplash approach to Latin jazz often disorienting. Trumpet sounds fine. B+(*)
Anthony Braxton/Milford Graves/William Parker: Beyond Quantum (2008, Tzadik): Five pieces, named "First Meeting," "Second Meeting," etc. The "Fourth Meeting" is the most immediately compelling -- probably just the straightest and most accessible. Braxton plays "saxophones": alto is his preferred tool, and he's one of the most dexterous and expansive alto saxophonists ever, especially when he doesn't have to navigate his own contorted compositions. He plays sopranino toward the end; probably others, but he gets such a wide range of sound out of alto I could be wrong. Graves is a little-recorded percussion legend, adding some vocalizing and other strange effects here and there. Parker is a massively-recorded bass legend. Much food for thought all around. A- [Rhapsody]
Mike Clark: Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 1 (2006 , Talking House): New label, introducing three volumes in a same-titled series, the other two by drummer Donald Bailey and saxophonist Billy Harper -- all veteran players, not a lot under their names, although Harper is exceptional in several regards. Clark's discography starts with Herbie Hancock's Headhunters fusion group in 1974, although this is a pretty straightforward hard bop set, distinguished by bright, forceful performances from the band: Jed Levy (tenor sax), Donald Harrison (alto sax), Christian Scott (trumpet), Christian McBride (bass), Patrice Rushen (piano). Nice drumwork, too. B+(*) [Jan. 20]
Billy Harper: Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 2 (2006 , Talking House): Gospel-tinged tenor saxophonist, cut an album back in 1975 that inspired the great Italian label Black Saint. Hasn't recorded much lately -- mostly I've noticed him popping up in various big bands. Has a thickly muscled tone, a lot of depth and resonance and, well, soul -- few saxophonists are as easy to pick out in a blindfold test. First two tracks feature Amiri Baraka spoken word pieces. Only non-original is "Amazing Grace." Haven't managed to listen straight through yet, and there's plenty of time before the delayed official release date. But it sure is great to hear Harper again, especially when he really opens up. [B+(***)] [Feb. 17]
No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further listening the first time around.