Monday, January 19. 2009
No news on the pending Jazz Consumer Guide column. It's in the Voice's mill and presumably will come out sooner or later. I'm preoccupied with work on my house. Taking spare moments to keep from falling too far behind, but time for working on this is limited. I expect it to get far worse over the next 2-3 weeks, then start to return to normal. We've been somewhat limited as long as we were still making decisions, but the big ones are nearly all done now. In particular, there is a lot of painting to be done once we select the colors, which should be today. Meanwhile, I'll limp along with whatever jazz prospecting I can slip in. Here's some.
Brian McCree: Changes in the Wind (2005-06 , Accurate): Low profile: Google ignores my spelling and returns links to a Flint, MI stand-up commedian named Bryan McCree. Wrong guy. This one plays bass. First album, with close to 10 side credits back to 1991. Worked in Boston for a while, but moved to Hawaii in 2003. Largely a group album, with one McCree original, two covers ("Nature Boy," "The Breeze and I"), and the rest from the band: two from Salim Washington (tenor sax, flute, oboe); one each from Bill Lowe (bass trombone), Joel LaRue Smith (piano), and Ron Murphy (vocals). Murphy's deep vocals, limited to the opening "Nature Boy" and his "Cookie" at the end, frame the album with soulful gravitas -- not as impressive as Everett Greene, but in the same vein. Washington is a first-rate saxophonist, with more edge than expected in the otherwise mainstream flow, and his flute piece holds up pretty nicely. B+(**)
Matt Criscuolo: Melancholia (2008 , M): Alto saxophonist, from the Bronx, attended Manhattan School of Music. Third album, a sax-with-strings thing which comes off better than usual, something we can credit to pianist-arranger Larry Willis. Still, that means pretty at best, and at worst struggles to keep seasickness in check. Starts with two originals, then one from Willis, two each from Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, and the title track from Billy Eckstine. Not a title I'd aspire to. B- [Mar. 3]
Ray Bryant: In the Back Room (2004-08 , Evening Star): Veteran pianist, b. 1931, came up in the late 1950s, has worked steadily ever since, with some popular success in the 1960s, and not much credit thereafter. This one is solo, a format he uses more often than I'd advise. A mix of originals and Fats Waller songs, with a couple more -- closing songs are "Easy to Love" and "St. Louis Blues." Always had a light, elegant touch, much in evidence here. B+(**)
The Blue Note 7: Mosaic (2008 , Blue Note): Bill Charlap's superb trio with Peter Washington and Lewis Nash, plus four: Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Steve Wilson (alto sax, flute), Ravi Coltrane (tenor sax), Peter Bernstein (guitar). Songs from landmark Blue Note albums, written by Cedar Walton, Joe Henderson, McCoy Tyner, Bobby Hutcherson, Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock, Duke Pearson, Horace Silver. How bad can it be? Still crunching the numbers here, but it doesn't sound promising. [B-]
Donald Bailey: Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 3 (2008 , Talking House): Drummer, b. 1934, best known for his work with Jimmy Smith 1956-63, which pretty much covers Smith's prime period. Quite a few scattered credits follow: AMG goes into three pages, with the rate picking up after 1990, but the later listings include lots of reissues. First album, or maybe second. Drummers who don't write rarely get their name on top of albums -- Art Blakey being the rule-proving exception -- but we've seen a few exceptions lately, including Mike Clark's on this same label. Can't say as he has any particular style, but he has interesting taste in friends: he turns most of the album over to tenor sax titan Odean Pope, for a bruising, bravado performance, then closes out with Charles Tolliver on two cuts, one enhanced by the leader's harmonica. B+(***) [Mar. 17]
Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet: Infinity (2008, Patois): Trombonist, b. 1952 in San Francisco, studied at SF State and, committing himself to Latin jazz, La Escuela Nacional in Havana. Latin credits predominate, although he also played with the Asian-American Jazz Orchestra. Sixth album since 2000. The four I've heard have been perfunctory and underwhelming: I like the trombone quotient, don't care much for the occasional vocals (two here by Jackie Ryan, one by Orlando Torriente), and wish somone would set a fire under the percussionists. This one is typical: lots of nice moments, nothing that really stands out. B
Donald Vega: Tomorrows (2008 , Imagery): Pianist, from Los Angeles (most likely; details are fuzzy), studied at USC, Manhatton School of Music, Julliard -- the latter under Kenny Barron, who seems to be the appropriate model. Wrote six of nine pieces, with "Speak Low," "Indian Summer," and Charlie Haden's "Our Spanish Love Song" the covers. Trio, with David J. Grossman on bass, the redoubtable Lewis Nash on drums. Maria Neckam sings one Vega original -- neither the singer nor the song are very deep, but it mostly works. A subtle, erudite pianist, doing nice work. B+(*)
The Burr Johnson Band: What It Is (2008 , Lexicon): Guitarist, toured with Jack McDuff; ninth record since early 1990s, including 2 for children, several with this Band, a guitar-bass-drums trio. Favors funk licks, and puts some fancy spin on them. Three songs come with lyrics, and an uncredited singer with reason to remain anonymous. B [Feb. 5]
Liam Sillery: Outskirts (2007 , OA2): Trumpeter, from New Jersey, studied at University of South Florida and Manhattan School of Music, counting Joe Henderson as a significant influence. Third album, a quintet with Matt Blostein on alto sax, Jesse Stacken on piano, Thomas Morgan on bass, and Vinnie Sperrazza on drums. Sounds almost perfectly postbop, especially when Blostein is leading. Hadn't run into Blostein before: he has one record, co-credited with Sperrazza. Wouldn't mind hearing it. B+(**)
John Ettinger/Pete Forbes: Inquatica (2007 , Ettinger Music): Ettinger is a violinist, from San Francisco; this is his third album, with him also playing a little piano and bass, as well as setting up loops. Not sure about Forbes. Most likely he is a singer-songwriter with two previous albums, but here he plays drums, percussion, banjo (2 cuts), and piano (3 cuts), but doesn't sing and may not songwrite either. Comes off mostly as an aleatory electronics album, even if most of the sounds are acoustic. One cover, a lovely, haunting "Stardust." Compelling when they pick up a beat, and intriguing when they merely wander. B+(***)
KJ Denhert: Dal Vivo a Umbria Jazz (2008, Motema Music): Singer-songwriter, also plays guitar, from New York, has seven or so albums since 1999, although her career goes back to the 1980s. AMG genrefies her as Neo-Soul; her own website refers to her as "urban folk & jazz artist." Recorded live in Italy, with electric guitar and bass, piano and keys, percussion as well as drums, and Aaron Heick on sax. Covers include "Ticket to Ride" and "Message in a Bottle." Don't see much point in either. B-
Steve Carter Group: Cosmopolis (2008, CDBaby): No indication of a label, but record is available on CDBaby -- lacking anything better I usually go with that. Promo sheet lacks any useful information, but the hype is stratospheric: "The Steve Carter Group is taking the art of the jazz piano trio into the 21st century. They are modern, fresh, edgy and dramatic. They are edgy whether they are playing an up-tempo, hi-energy groove or a beautiful ballad." Of course, they aren't. At best they are pleasantly funky, with Carter on electric piano and Dennis Smith on fretless electric bass. Most likely, not the same Steve Carter who plays guitar and has a couple of Light Fare albums, nor the Scottish composer-photographer of the same name. This one has worked with Pete Escovedo and Andy Narell; has TV, film, and video games on his resume; and was part of a Latin hip-hop group called Los Mocosos. B
Jazz Arts Trio: Tribute (2008, JRI): Piano trio: Frederick Moyer on piano, Peter Tillotson on bass, Peter Fraenkel on drums. The tribute idea is to pick out performances from their favorite piano trios and redo (or "reinterpret") them. It's safe to say their favorite is Oscar Peterson, who accounts for 6 of 11 songs here, the others good for one piece each: Erroll Garner, Bill Evans, Vince Guaraldi, Herbie Hancock, and Horace Silver. Nice little exercise, of no particular importance, but anyone who can play like Peterson is entitled to do so. B+(*)
Ken Hatfield and Friends: Play the Music of Bill McCormick: To Be continued . . . (2008, M/Pub): Guitarist, also plays mandolin, has half dozen albums since 1998. AMG lists his first style as "folk-jazz" -- don't really know what that means, but he does have some folkie in his veins: sharp plucks, a little twang, maybe a hint of John Fahey or Doc Watson. Don't know much about McCormick, who presumably wrote the music -- he also wrote the liner notes, is probably pictured on the back cover, isn't credited as playing except in some fine print in the booklet, and seems to be the "M" in M/Pub. Jim Clouse plays soprano and tenor sax, more for color than anything else. With Hans Glawischnig on bass, Dan Weiss on drums, and Steve Kroon on percussion. Surprised me enough I'll have to play it again. [B+(**)]
Hendrik Meurkens: Samba to Go! (2008 , Zoho): Dutch-born (1957), German-raised, Berklee-educated, New York-based, plays vibes and harmonica, the latter now his main instrument. Has 14 albums since 1990, nearly all in a Brazilian vein -- his first was called Sambahia, and this one follows the very similar Sambatropolis. Soft tones, especially when Rodrigo Ursala brings out the flutes, and soft rhythms, bringing together the mushiness samba is prone to, spicing it so lightly one hardly notices. B-
Mike Holober & the Gotham Jazz Orchestra: Quake (2008 , Sunnyside): Pianist, teaches at CCNY, has four albums, at least two with his Gotham Jazz Orchestra big band, plus a couple dozen side credits going back to 1991. I was pleasantly surprised by his Thought Trains album, and generally find him to be a handy guy wherever he shows up. For some reason, he tackles one song each from the Beatles ("Here Comes the Sun") and the Rolling Stones ("Ruby Tuesday"). I have mixed feelings, especially about the former, a song I can easily get too much of, done up with enough clever touches to be admirable, almost listenable even. B+(*)
Ray LeVier: Ray's Way (2007 , Origin): Drummer, based in New York, has worked with KJ Denhert for 10 years, but doesn't have much in the way of credits. First album. Must have worked his way around, for he came up with a name roster, having to divide the guitar slots between John Abercrombie (5 cuts, with Joe Locke on vibes) and Mike Stern (4 cuts). Dave Binney play sax on two cuts with each guitarist. François Moutin and Ned Mann split bass duties, and Federico Turreni gets one cut on soprano sax. LeVier wrote 2 of 9 songs, picking up others from the band, plus "Blues in the Closet" by Oscar Pettiford. Straightforward postbop, providing an especially good showcase for the guitarists, with Stern more than holding his own. B+(**)
No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further listening the first time around.
I've been keeping track of incoming material in my notebook for some time now, but hadn't posted it in the blog. Thought it might be of minor interest, and this might be a good time to start.