Monday, October 31. 2011
Didn't plan on doing a Jazz Prospecting this week, but wound up with ten records anyway, then figured why not? Still in limbo right now. As I noted last week, the Village Voice declined to publish my 27th Jazz Consumer Guide column. The editor had been sitting on it for more than three months, so at this point any sign of movement is welcome. I don't have any other suitors -- at least that I know of, but would be interested in hearing from anyone with a good idea. I can, of course, post it here. Or I can resurrect the presently moribund Terminal Zone and publish it there. But at present the most likely resolution would be to move over to a blog-only slot at the Voice. Details on how (and when) that might happen are up in the air. Until I know how that works I'll keep doing what I have been doing, but maybe not as much of it. And we're both slowly recovering, another reason to take it easy right now.
Meanwhile, Recycled Goods will appear here sometime this week. Michael Tatum tells me he's shooting for Friday for A Downloader's Diary. I have a pile of Streamnotes saved up for sometime shortly after that -- that's actually most of what I did last week.
Again, I would appreciate hearing any future publishing ideas you may have in mind. (Also, as an experiment I'll allow moderated comments for now.)
Pablo Aslan Quintet: Piazzolla in Brooklyn and the Rebirth of Jazz Tango (2011, Soundbrush): The official birth of jazz tango was announced in 1959 by new tango composer Astor Piazzolla, living at the time in New York and recording a record called Take Me Dancing with a jazz quintet. Piazzolla himself considered the record "dreadful" but Aslan, an Argentine bassist based in Brooklyn who over the last decade has produced the best jazz tango albums ever, decided to give it another shot. Aslan added an extra Piazzolla tune to the seven plus two covers from the album ("Laura," "Lullaby of Birdland"). For the group, he went back to Buenos Aires -- Gustavo Bergalli (trumpet), Nicolas Enrich (bandoneon), Abel Rogantini (piano), and Daniel "Pipi" Piazzolla (drums, Astor's grandson). I don't have the original album to compare to, but I don't doubt that Aslan has managed to pep it up. Still, feels a bit compressed. B+(**)
Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra: MTO Plays Sly (2011, Royal Potato Family): A small big band based on pre-Basie models with a postmodern twist -- trumpet (Bernstein), trombone (Curtis Fowlkes), three reeds (Doug Weiselman, Peter Apfelbaum, Erik Lawrence), guitar/banjo (Matt Munisteri), violin (Charles Burnham), bass (Ben Allison), drums (Ben Perowsky) -- has gigged regularly for over a decade but this is just their third album. Eleven Sly Stone songs (counting "Que Sera Sera") with guest vocals, two "Sly Notions" instrumentals, a "Bernie Worrell Interlude": the covers offer more horns but don't stray far from the originals, mostly adding weight (which tends to be the case 40 years down the road). Worrell, Vernon Reid, and Bill Laswell help out; of the singers Dean Bowman is the most Sly-like, and Shilpa Ray the slyest. Fun, of course, but I don't hear it either stepping back or moving forward. B+(**) [advance]
Kenny Burrell: Tenderly: Solo Guitar Concert (2009 , High Note): Eighty-year-old guitarist (must have been 78 at the time), recapitulates a career that took off in the late 1950s, sticking close to his craft and not complicating it by having to work/compete with other musicians. Centerpiece is his "Ellingtonia Montage," much like how Ellington Is Forever sits on the pinnacle of his discography. No surprise that it runs slow or that two-thirds through he announces his intent to play "quieter," but by then he's probably hooked you. B+(**)
Chick Corea/Stefano Bollani: Orvieto (2010 , ECM): Two pianists, nothing else, recorded live at Umbria Jazz Winter 2010. Mostly standards, including two Jobims and "Jitterbug Waltz," plus two stabs at the title improv. I have even more trouble with piano duos than solos -- at least it's clear who's doing what in them -- and there's not enough clash here to convince me when both are playing. B
The Dynamic Les DeMerle Band: Gypsy Rendezvous, Volume Two (2008 , Origin): Volume One is an HM in my ill-fated last Jazz CG column, and this is the same thing only with more faux pas -- DeMerle's Louis Armstrong impression, for one. The setup is that DeMerle plays drums and sings in an amusedly offhanded way, while wife/vocalist Bonnie Eisele takes the straight leads. The band is your basic Hot Club -- violin (Willie Wainwright), guitar (Tom Conway and Phil Benoit), and bass (Marcus Johnson) -- and a couple guests drop in. Think Louis Prima and Keely Smith, but DeMerle isn't as funny, and Eisele isn't as stuck up. B+(**)
Pat Martino: Undeniable: Live at Blues Alley (2009 , High Note): Guitarist, b. Pat Azzara in Philadelphia 1944; cut mostly soul jazz albums 1966-76; suffered a brain aneurysm which caused amnesia, but was able to cut an album again in 1987 and has worked steadily since 1994. I've rarely been impressed by his return -- great story, of course, wish him well and all -- but this one seems to be his calling: an organ quartet, with Tony Monaco on the Hammond, Eric Alexander on tenor sax, and Jeff Watts on drums. Monaco could be a little less soupy, and Alexander could be more boisterous, but the guitarist is always at the top of his game. B+(***)
Carol Morgan Quartet: Blue Glass Music (2011, Blue Bamboo Music): Blue-tinted cover photo too. Trumpet player, from Texas, studied at Juilliard, teaches in New York. Fourth album: quartet with Joel Frahm (tenor sax), Martin Wind (bass), and Matt Wilson (drums). Five covers ranging from Cole Porter to Ornette Coleman, plus a song each from Frahm and Wind. Straight-ahead postbop, nice mix from the horns, strong leads, loses a bit when the tempos slow. B+(**)
Heikki Sarmanto Big Band: Everything Is It (1972 , Porter): Pianist, b. 1939 in Finland, influenced by George Russell, ran an interesting avant-fusion band in the early 1970s, later became artistic director of UMO Jazz Orchestra. His big band is long on reeds (including Eero Koivistoinen and Juhani Aaltonen, names you should know by now), short on brass (three trumpets, two trombones), doubled up on drums. Noisy as these things go, which is fine with me, but the main distinction here is Taru Valjakka's soprano-diva vocals on the "Marat" suite, which I could have done without. B+(*)
Susan SurfTone: Shore (2011, Acme Brothers): Guitarist, signs her songs Susan L. Yasinski. Group includes organ, bass, and drums, by Avory, Lynn, and Stephi SurfTone, respectively. Basically, instrumental rock, like Dick Dale, or Duane Eddy without a signature trick. Her originals all have agreeably brief one-word titles. Ends with a cover of "Riders on the Storm." Nothing wrong with this, but it's pretty far down on the list of things I find interesting. B-
Tarana: After the Disquiet (EP) (2011, self-released, EP): Indian drummer Ravish Momin, from Hyderabad, studied north Indian classical music, then went to Carnegie Mellon for an engineering degree. Has two albums on Clean Feed with different editions of his Trio Tarana, typically violin and oud. (The first, with Jason Kao Hwang and Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz, is excellent.) Here his group is down to two, a duo with Trina Basu on violin, recorded live at Bop Shop in Rochester. Four tracks, 34:06, available digitally at Bandcamp for $3. Something of a retreat, but he still gets most of the trio effect here, adding some electronics for diversity. B+(**)
No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further listening the first time around.
Unpacking: Found in the mail over the last week:
Sunday, October 30. 2011
Some scattered links I squirreled away during the previous few days:
Saturday, October 29. 2011
My original idea here was to pull out 50 albums from my 1960s Jazz list, but my first pass snapping up the A/A+ records exceeded 50, and that didn't include anything by such important players as Eric Dolphy, Andrew Hill, or Wayne Shorter. So, I figured I might as well go for 100. Still no Shorter (Night Dreamer would have been my pick), but the 100 gives you a better sense of the decade, and still only works out to 10 per year.
I avoided compilations and multi-disc boxes -- three 2CD sets below, only one of those (the Fitzgerald/Ellington) assembled well after the fact (and much shorter than the 8CD box version. In two cases I actually prefer longer versions: Coltrane's Live at the Village Vanguard is available in a 4CD set, and Davis's Plugged Nickel sets total 7CD. Both are defining instances of "more is more" -- rare cases where reiteration adds depth. I don't know about the 2CD Armstrong/Ellington option, but imagine it would hold up fine. A few twofers appear below: I'm not trying to cram (otherwise I'd list some more), but they happen to be the configurations I know. I've generally tried not to dwell too long on individual artists: Coltrane gets 7 mentions, Ellington 6 (including Armstrong and Fitzgerald), Davis and Mingus 3, several others 2 (Coleman, Hines, Hodges, Kirk, Montgomery, Peterson, Roach, Rollins, Smith, and Taylor). Some others held to a single record could have been expanded greatly, especially Blakey (6 A- records), Getz (+5), Hill (+8), McLean (7), and Monk (7).
The year breakdown is strongly skewed toward 1960-65 (15, 14, 12, 11, 13, 15) and against 1966-69 (5, 6, 3, 6). While I'm not unfriendly to the avant-garde recordings of the late 1960s, what I like even better are the last magnificent efforts of the pre-bop generation -- a group that faded as the decade progressed. But also the early 1960s were a golden age for Blue Note and Impulse, and a strong period for Verve and Prestige, all of which declined over the course of the decade -- as did nearly every prominent label.
The 1960s were an era when black musicians still dominated jazz, at least at the top ranks: I count 82/100 black artists below, with 5/16 of the whites from Europe (Amalgam, Beck, Komeda, McLaughlin, Riley), 1 from Canada (Bley). US count was 92/100 (one black, Harriott, was from Jamaica). (Some guesswork lies behind these numbers, including arbitrarily splitting up groups.) I wouldn't know how to begin dividing them by genre or style.
The core list, sorted alphabetically by artist, follows. Sorry I don't have time to annotate: much of it I could do off the top of my head, but doing it all adequately would turn into a huge time sink.
Let me also include a short list of historically important albums that I don't like well enough to include in the above:
Other artists with A- records during the 1960-69 decade: Nat Adderley, Curtis Amy/Dupree Bolton, Count Basie, Dave Brubeck, Kenny Burrell, Jaki Byard, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis/Johnny Griffin, Lou Donaldson, Teddy Edwards/Howard McGhee, Roy Eldridge, Don Ellis, Gil Evans, Frank Foster, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Golson, Burton Greene, Edmond Hall, Tubby Hayes, Jimmy Heath, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Helen Humes, Illinois Jacquet, Ahmad Jamal, Keith Jarrett, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, Duke Jordan, Shelly Manne, Les McCann/Eddie Harris, Blue Mitchell, New York Art Quartet, Horace Parlan, Big John Patton, Bud Powell, Ike Quebec, Freddie Redd, Dizzy Reece, Pee Wee Russell, Shirley Scott, Tony Scott, Wayne Shorter, Sonny Simmons, Frank Sinatra, John Surman, Ralph Sutton, René Thomas, Bobby Timmons, Charles Tolliver.
Thursday, October 27. 2011
Enough links here I figured I might as well kick them out now. Make room for more come the weekend.
Monday, October 24. 2011
Update: I've been informed that the Village Voice will not run Jazz CG #27 in its original form. As I understand it, the music section has shrunk to 2.5 pages, and my column no longer fits. We are, however, in further discussions about me continuing to review jazz for the Voice online, which might settle my two major complaints about the old system: too little space, and too much time between appearances.
Also, a reader has pointed out that I don't quite understand the ins and outs of the health care billing/payment/coverage mess. In particular, the surgeon is unlikely to have any incentive to release a patient early. As for the hospital, that depends on a bunch of variables. My view is that what happened in this case had more to do with excessive optimism and lack of cautionary data by both doctor and patient. When I understand this better I'll try to write more.
Jazz Consumer Guide is still in limbo. Normally 11-12 weeks into a cycle I'd be wrapping it up, but given that the previous column hasn't been printed yet I'm at a loss as to what to do. If I were in New York I'd take a break from Occupy Wall Street and camp out in the Voice office until I got a commitment, a kill fee check, or pepper sprayed. We've had some vague talks about possibly moving this into the more comfortable (and less expensive) world of the blogosphere, which would be better than nothing -- as an exile from New York that's how I experience the Voice anyway, although I will note that I was living in Wichita in 1969 when I first subscribed to the Voice (also, by the way, to The New York Free Press). But that was another era, another set of owners. The Voice has been coasting on its reputation for many years now, as one by one the links to its past distinctions have been broken.
Will publish an update when I know more.
I skipped posting Jazz Prospecting last week, so this one collects two weeks of work (and mail). Last Monday was tough. My wife entered the hospital at 5AM for surgery. It went as planned, and she was released on Thursday, but had further complications and she returned to the hospital Saturday noon. She's doing better now, but I don't know when she'll be able to come home without risking another backslide. (I suppose I should update last week's "In the Hospital" post: while the service was stellar, the decision to send her home turned out to be premature, more a case of everyone believing in the standard schedule than observing and understanding what was actually happening. Unsurprisingly, this also has a financial angle: as I understand it Medicare reimburses a fixed amount for a given procedure, so as long as the schedule holds the hospital makes money, but if complications ensue the hospital could lose money. However, having to return to the hospital later is most likely a separate billable matter. I doubt that anyone thought of it that way -- we were all hoping for a normal recovery -- but the flow of money certainly helped ease the way.)
Antonio Adolfo: Chora Baião (2011, AAM): Brazilian pianist, hard to say how important he is down there, but has recorded since 1969. I belatedly caught up with his 2010 Lá e Cá with daughter Carol Saboya and put it on my HM list. Saboya sings one song here, too, but these are mostly instrumentals, mostly choro or baião, uniformly nice and tasteful, nearly as ingratiating. B+(**)
Afro Bop Alliance: Una Más (2010 , OA2): Big band with extra Latin percussion: Roberto Quintero (congas) and Dave Samuels (vibes, marimba), otherwise pretty much the Vince Norman/Joe McCarthy Big band. Hot in spots, merely tepid in others; saved, I think, by Quintero. B+(*)
Rahsaan Barber: Everyday Magic (2010 , Jazz Music City): Saxophonist (tenor, alto, soprano, also flute), teaches at Belmont U. in Nashville; second album. Calls his group Everyday Magic -- Adam Agati (guitar), Jody Nardone (piano), Jerry Navarro (bass), and Nioshi Jackson (drums) -- and adds a couple guests. His tenor is strong and full-toned, and he gets some funk out of the guitar-piano combo without compromising his postbop cred. The other horns slack off a bit. B+(*)
John Basile: Amplitudes (2011, StringTime Jazz): Guitarist, b. 1955 in Boston, ninth album since 1986. Solo, plugged his guitar into an iPhone, some kind of "app," and ProTools with "no amps and some digital plug in effects." One original, mostly standards (including one Jobim), covers of tracks by John Abercrombie and Ralph Towner. B+(*)
Zach Brock: The Magic Number (2010 , Secret Fort): Violinist, b. 1974 in Lexington, KY. Third album since 2005, not counting a couple EPs. Quartet with bass, drums, and extra percussion, with some vocal exuberance toward the end. Poised with some swagger, pushes the violin up front and makes it sing. B+(**)
Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet: Apparent Distance (2011, Firehouse 12): Cornet player, has been popping up all over the place recently, but claims this as his "primary working ensemble." There's a lot to like about the group -- Jim Hobbs (alto sax), Bill Lowe (bass trombone, tuba), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Ken Filiano (bass), Tomas Fujiwara (drums) -- not least its extreme range and diversity (almost to the point of divisiveness). Yet even though the pieces fit together uncomfortably, neither of the most exposive players (Hobbs, Halvorson) break out -- most likely the gravity exuded by Filiano and (especially) Lowe keeps them in orbit. B+(***)
Ernesto Cervini Quartet: There (2010 , Anzic): Drummer, b. 1982, grew up in Toronto, studied there and at Manhattan School of Music, based in New York. Second album -- first was titled Here. Quartet: Joel Frahm (saxophones), Adrean Farrugia (piano), Dan Loomis (bass). Mainstream group, swings, most impressive when Frahm takes charge -- especially on tenor, but he's earned the right to play soprano as well -- and the group, notably the pianist, keeps up. Recorded live at Cory Weeds' Cellar Jazz Club, so everyone gets their solo space. B+(**)
Cecilia Coleman Big Band: Oh Boy! (2010 , PandaKat): Pianist, b. 1962 in Long Beach, CA; based in New York, although she teaches part-time at Cal State Long Beach. Seventh album since 1992; first with a big band (six reeds, standard brass, piano, bass, and drums) -- a few names I recognize, but not many. Wrote all the pieces. Contemporary postbop, well orchestrated but doesn't stand out either in the solos or the crispness of the section work. B+(*)
Patrick Cornelius: Maybe Steps (2010 , Posi-Tone): Alto saxophonist, from San Antonio, studied at Berklee, based in New York. Fourth (or fifth) album since 2001. Quintet with piano (Gerald Clayton), guitar (Miles Okazaki), bass (Peter Slavov), and drums (Kendrick Scott). Wrote 9 of 11 songs (covers Kurt Weill and George Shearing). Those are all strong players, but little things nag at me, like the alto tone at high speed. B+(*)
Andrew Cyrille & Haitian Fascination: Route de Frères (2005 , TUM): Drummer, b. 1939 in Brooklyn, parents (mother at least) from Haiti; has a couple dozen records since 1971 as leader, well over 100 side credits (The Hawk Relaxes seems to have been his first, but more typical was his work in Cecil Taylor's late-1960s groups). The Haitian connection here includes guitarist Alix Pascal and percussionist Frisner Agustin. The others are Lisle Atkinson on bass and Hamiett Bluiett on baritone sax: the latter's gruff but muffled sound is crucial, with everyone else just adding to the seduction. A-
Amir ElSaffar Two Rivers Ensemble: Inana (2011, Pi): Trumpet player, b. 1977 in Chicago, father Iraqi, studied classical music at DePaul before wandering into jazz. Third album since 2003. Like several other prominent second generation hyphenated-Americans, he looks back to his ancestral land for a unique angle on jazz -- the two rivers, of course, the Tigris and Euphrates. Sextet mixes Arab classicists with avant-jazzbos -- Ole Mathisen (tenor/soprano sax), Zafer Tawil (oud, perussion), Tareq Abboushi (buzuq), Carlo DeRosa (bass), Nasheet Waits (drums) -- for a dense, somber sound. B+(***)
Joel Forrester/Phillip Johnston: Live at the Hillside Club (2010 , Asynchronous): The two principals of the Microscopic Septet, which has been making interesting music since 1981 -- most recently, see Friday the Thirteenth: The Micros Play Monk. Here they play as a duo, Forrester on piano, Johnston on soprano sax, which gives you a bare framework of their act and repertoire. Four Monk songs, one from Johnston, the rest Forrester. Tempting to say this would be great if they'd just flesh it out a little: bass and drums, some extra horns with a little more weight like a baritone sax, maybe the marvelous Michael Hashim. B+(**)
Fourthought: Fourthought (2010 , Nambulo Music): New York quartet's eponymous debut album, with two principals writing all but one cover ("Green Dolphin Street") -- Nicholas Biello (alto sax, soprano sax) and Manuel Weyand (drums) -- plus Kerong Chok (piano, Fender Rhodes) and Cameron Kayne (bass). Weyand (b. Germany) and Biello met at Manhattan School of Music; Kayne hails from Buffalo, Chok from Singapore. Smart postbop, some bite to the alto. B+(*)
Roy Haynes: Roy-Alty (2011, Dreyfus): Drummer, not of the first generation of bebop drummers but came hot on their heels with a Zelig-like knack for being everywhere you'd want to be: with Lester Young at the Royal Roost in 1948, with Charlie Parker at St. Nick's in 1951, with Bud Powell and Stan Getz and Wardell Gray and Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins -- all by 1955; with Sarah Vaughan at Mister Kelly's in 1957, with Thelonious Monk at the Five Spot in 1958, on Introducing Nat Adderley. Eventually he went on to cut 30-some albums under his own name, winning Downbeat polls in categories like Jazz Artist of the Year. He'd be considered a grey eminence now, except he keeps his pate shaved and no one in history ever has looked more fit at 86. Roy Hargrove and Chick Corea get a "featuring" sticker. The booklet also spotlights what he calls the Fountain of Youth Band: Jaleel Shaw (alto sax), Martin Bejerano (piano), and David Wong (bass). Not sure if Corea plays beyond his two featured spots. Hargrove is featured on 6 of 10 tracks, Shaw is impressive throughout, and the closer (McCoy Tyner's "Passion Dance") adds Marcus Strickland for a blow out. Presumably it's Haynes talking the intro to "Tin Tin Deo" (with Roberto Quintero's extra percussion) -- who else can plausibly claim to have discovered Chano Pozo? Big, bright, a celebration. B+(***)
Magos Herrera: México Azul (2010 , Sunnyside): Singer, from Mexico, seventh album since 1997. This one was cut in New Jersey with a stellar jazz group -- Tim Hagans (trumpet), Adam Rogers (guitar), Luis Perdomo (piano), John Patitucci (bass), Alex Kautz (drums), Rogerio Boccato (percussion) -- although I don't find she gets much out of them. Songs are all in Spanish, evidently mostly movie themes. Dark voice, dramatic, but one of those hard to judge singers for those of us who don't understand the language. B
Mace Hibbard: Time Gone By (2010 , MHM): Alto saxophonist, b. 1976 in Waco, TX; studied at U. Texas in Austin, based in Atlanta. Second album, hard-bop-style quintet with trumpet, piano, bass and drums. Nice tone, soulful and a bit lush. B+(**)
Mikko Innanen & Innkvisitio: Clustrophy (2009 , TUM): Saxophonist (alto, baritone, soprano), b. 1978 in Lapinjärvi, Finland. I count six albums with his name up front since 2006, plus group albums with Gourmet, Delirium, and Triot (Sudden Happiness was a Jazz CG pick in 2004). Three reed players here -- Innanen, Fredrik Ljungkvist, and Daniel Erdmann, playing various saxes, clarinets, and toy versions thereof. At center is Seppo Kantonen on synth, much splashier than electric piano or organ, plus there's Joonas Riippa on drums and, going along with the toy fascination, pocket trumpet. The splattershot noise gives you a quick jolt, especially right out of the box. Doesn't all live up to that, but breaks out in entertaining ways. B+(***)
Jazzvox Presents: In Your Own Backyard (2009-10 , OA2): Seventeen songs (only two originals) by nine singers -- three by Jo Lawry; two each by Kathleen Grace, Kelley Johnson, Kristin Korb, John Proulx, Stephanie Nakasian, Hanna Richardson; one each by Nich Anderson and Cathy Segal-Garcia -- backed minimally (most with just one of piano, bass, or guitar; no one with more than two, and no drums, but one accordion). Mixed bag, but many cuts are striking, including Anderson's "Time After Time" -- he produced, but seems to be the only one without a record out, and is the only one whose name is missing from the cover. I guess Jazzvox is his baby, and that's enough. B+(*)
Helge Lien Trio: Natsukashii (2010 , Ozella): Pianist, from Norway; fourteen albums since 2000, including some as Tri O Trang (a piano-sax-tuba trio) and HERO (piano-sax duo), but mostly trio records with this same group since 2001: Frode Berg on bass, Knut Aalefjaer on drums. My copy has a sticker with a quote from Jazzwise: "Lien creates music of unexpected depth and slow burn intensity." That is precisely correct -- I would add something about the rumbling of the undercarriage, and point out that he's closer to Jarrett than to most of ECM's northern tier pianists. B+(**)
Charles Lloyd Quartet with Maria Farantouri: Athens Concert (2010 , ECM, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1938, built both a popular and critical rep in the late 1960s with a group that introduced Keith Jarrett. Nothing in my database for him from 1969-89 when ECM picked him up -- AMG lists 9 records 1970-83, two with four stars, most with two, and has an empty gap from 1983-89. Since joining ECM he's been on a roll, especially lately with this quartet: Jason Moran (piano), Reuben Rogers (bass), Eric Harland (drums). Farantouri is a Greek vocalist, b. 1947, has 30 or more albums, and a political record that sent her into exile during the military coup years -- I've seen reference to her as the "Joan Baez of Greece" but caution against taking that seriously. Live concert, spread over two discs. Took me a while to acclimate to her voice, which is deep and striking (the Greek Abbey Lincoln?). A couple instrumentals let the band shine on the first disc, but by the second it all meshes. A-
Luis Lopes: Lisbon Berlin Trio (2011, Clean Feed): Guitarist, from Portugal, has a couple records under his own name, more as Afterfall and Humanization 4tet, and he's shown up on the side of other very solid records. Everything he does is worthwhile, but he's mostly complemented saxophonists (like Rodrigo Amado) -- his 2009 trio What Is When seemed like a bit less, but this trio with Robert Landferman on bass and Christian Lilinger on drums settles it. His use of feedback gives this an extra charge. Also, Lilinger does exactly what you want in a free drummer. A-
Olavi Trio & Friends: Triologia (2008 , TUM): No idea how common a name Olavi is in Finland, but drummer Olavi Luohivouri rounded up two more for this project: Teppo Olavi Hauta-aho (bass), and Jari Olavi Hongisto (trombone). All, in the great Sun Ra tradition, also play percussion, with bird whistles, wood blocks, musical boxes, and toy instruments prominently featured. The "friends" show up on two tracks each: Verneri Pohjola (trumpet, also played with Louhivouri in Ilmilekki Quartet), Juhani Aaltonen (tenor sax, has been active since 1970 and should be a household name by now), and Kalle Kalima (electric guitar, had a recent album on TUM). Combination tends toward the murky side, although every now and then you'll hear something interesting. B+(*)
Dino Saluzzi: Navidad de los Andes (2010 , ECM): Argentine bandoneon player, b. 1935, twelfth album for ECM since 1982. Or maybe more: AMG has lately developed a bad habit of misfiling records under second or third artists, so they attribute this one to cellist Anja Lechner. Third artist here is Felix Saluzzi (tenor sax, clarinet): he makes very little impact here, but is a plus when he does. "Christmas in the Andes": not insuferably Xmas-y; in fact, all Saluzzi originals with a couple of co-credits. Slow, lush sounds in spare arrangements. B
Sounds and Silence: Travels With Manfred Eicher (1980-2008 , ECM): Soundtrack for a film by Peter Guyer and Norbert Wiedner, a documentary on ECM founder/producer Manfred Eicher. Leans toward the classical end of ECM's spectrum -- one Puccini cut, two Arvo Pärt, plus affinity exotica from Gurdjieff, Anouar Brahem, Dino Saluzzi, Eleni Karaindrou -- and away from conventional jazz. Enjoyed a bit of Marilyn Mazur percussion. One could easily construct a better sampler. B-
The Spokes: Not So Fast (2009 , Strudelmedia): Title is descriptive enough: hard to get much momentum without bass and drums, especially if all you have to work with are horns, plus you get that sax quartet feel with nothing but neatly puffed discrete notes. Trio: Andy Biskin (clarinet), Curtis Hasselbring (trombone), Phillip Johnston (soprano sax). All three write: Biskin 6 of 12, Johnston 4, Hasselbring 2. B+(**)
John Stein: Hi Fly (2011, Whaling City Sound): Guitarist, originally from Kansas City, studied and teaches at Berklee; ten albums since 1995. Quartet with Jake Sherman on piano and organ, John Lockwood on bass, and Ze Eduardo Nazario on drums. Wrote 5 of 10 songs, the others trending standard except for Randy Weston's title tune, the originals leaning toward John Scofield-style funk. The organ fits that mode but isn't a major factor. B+(*)
Chandler Travis: Philharmonic Blows! (2009 , Sonic Trout): Gray-beared guitarist-singer, back cover says he's 82, but I haven't found anywhere else that confirms that. AMG lists eight albums since 1993. Before that he was in a rock group called the Incredible Casuals: memorialized here in "The Day the Casuals Went to Sweden," easily the lousiest song here. What that song lacks is the squeaky, shrieking brass the albums opens and closes with, more than fulfilling the party graphics on the cover. B+(**)
Wellstone Conspiracy: Humble Origins (2010 , Origin): Second album under this group name, although there was one previous listing out the four artists: Brent Jensen (soprano sax), Bill Anschell (piano), Jeff Johnson (bass), and John Bishop (drums). The first three write pieces: 5 for Anschell, 2 for Johnson, 1 for Jensen; the other is a Lennon-McCartney piece, "Fixing a Hole." Mainstream group, with Jensen continuing to impress on soprano, and everyone contributing to the seductive flow. B+(***)
Jeff Williams: Another Time (2010 , Whirlwind): Drummer, b. 1950 in Ohio, studied at Berklee with Alan Dawson; joined Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach in 1973, has done steady work as a sideman, with a handful of albums under his own name. He wrote 5 of 8 pieces here, the other three one each from his two-horn quartet mates: Duane Eubanks (trumpet), John O'Gallagher (alto sax), John Hébert (bass). Postbop tone, draws on the avant-garde without really going there. B+(*)
Woody Witt: Pots and Kettles (2010 , Blue Bamboo Music): Tenor saxophonist (also plays some soprano), born in Omaha, studied at University of Houston and UNT, based in Houston, teaching at Houston Community College. Second album, quartet with pianist Gary Norian (who co-produced and wrote 5 of 10 songs, to Witt's 3, with two Eddie Harris covers), bass and drums, plus "special guest" Chris Cortez (guitar) on three tracks. Postbop, nice tone, elegant, graceful. B+(*)
No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further listening the first time around.
For this cycle's collected Jazz Prospecting notes to date for this round, look here.
Unpacking: Found in the mail over the last two weeks:
Sunday, October 23. 2011
Grabbed a few scattered links this past week -- not much because I'm still preoccupied with more personal matters:
Thursday, October 20. 2011
I spent the last four days observing the notorious US health care system in action. My wife underwent surgery, and I mostly hung out, observing. I had been reading more than my share of nightmare stories, but it all went about as well as it could. The case was complicated, but the surgeon and her team seemed to understand it and appreciate the intricacies. The surgery itself went quicker and smoother than anticipated, and the projected three day hospital stay was cared for with patient confidence. There were a few problems that cropped up -- too-frequent oxygen saturation warnings, nausea coming out of the anesthesia -- but they were recognized and sorted out. The nursing staff was far more attentive than I recalled from ten years ago when my parents had extended hospital stays, or my wife's previous surgery when she was booted out of the hospital with unseemly (and as it turned out unfortunate) haste. The room was private, and I was invited to stay as long as I wanted -- 24 hours a day. I even found the nurses asking if there was anything they could do to help me. I managed to be present pretty much every time a doctor came by, and every step was intelligibly explained. It helped that my wife was fully cognizant of the whole process, and always knew what she needed to work on when to make progress. In short, it was pretty close to ideal: the way a hospital should work. No doubt the bill was damn expensive, but I didn't get the sense of wasted effort or overtreatment.
It no doubt helped that the surgery was a well understood procedure, and that the treatment was very closely aligned with it. My wife had no significant illness going into the surgery. That is, for instance, a very different situation from the one where my father entered the hospital with MDS, being treated by a staff of cardiologists who had no idea what they were up against, who made one mistake after another before they finally dumped him off on a doctor who had a clue. Or I could dredge up other cases from my own limited personal experience. (E.g., when my father spent four days in surgical ICU due to a lung infection that defied their treatment until it was fully cultured and identified. Or when my father-in-law was prescribed a drug for an eye problem but given a drug that crashed his blood sugar level, which then resulted in several days of unpleasant tests investigating his presumed hypoglycemia.)
Still, it isn't hard to imagine lots of things that could have gone wrong here that didn't. For one thing, the hospital had instituted a software system that tracked drug doses and interactions -- probably the samd system the VA hospitals are famous for: it slowed the nurses down repeatedly scanning patient and drug barcodes, but it eliminates errors that elsewhere are astonishingly frequent (I recently read as much as one per patient per day). The ratio of nurses to patients was higher than I had ever seen outside of an ICU. We never had to wait more than 1-2 minutes after calling a nurse, and they were never in an excessive rush to go elsewhere. Occasionally I would step out into the hall and see one at a computer . . . looking at what appeared to be continuing ed materials.
I suspect that this was a rare case where business competitiveness served to improve the care level: well-insured patients could choose to come to this hospital vs. the other competitor, and for the types of surgeries this particular ward handled there was enough profit to be made to reinvest some in quality service. So to some extent you can chalk this experience up as a victory for the American system (although as my wife is on Medicare I don't give any credit to the private profit-seeking insurance companies). Still, this doesn't argue that health care reform is not necessary. Rather, this reminds us that a reformed system has to maintain this sort of quality level, and to extend it more evenly and equitably. And it reminds me that it can be done, for even if this particular case represents a shrewd business decision on how to run a wing as a profit center, one key reason it succeeded is that the people working there were free to serve without having to constantly recalibrate their actions in favor of padding the business' bottom line.
Personal note: we're back home today. My wife still has a ways to go to get back to normal, but that seems certain to happen in due course. And I need some sleep, but that too will happen.
Sunday, October 16. 2011
Just looked at my scratch file, and the spot for squirreling away those interesting links was bare. Part of this can be blamed on Salon, which killed Andrew Leonard's How the World Works column, and reduced The War Room to, well, let's see: fully half of the recent articles have been on Herman Cain. Those have long been places I'd go to and easily find worthwhile links. But that's only a small part of it. I have several tabs open to things I meant to write about, and I'm sure I'd find more if I made the effort. This is just a bad day for effort. My wife goes into the hospital for surgery tomorrow morning -- so early in fact I might as well say late tonight. I have stuff to do between now and then. And while I expect everything to go according to plan, with an orderly and complete recovery, the next few days, and for that matter the next few weeks, are going to be rough going.
So no Weekly Roundup this week. For that matter, figure on no Jazz Prospecting on Monday either. I do have a reasonable set of notes written up for that, but don't have the time to wrap them up, write an intro, catalog the unpacking (slow week but big day Friday). Also in no position to explain what is or isn't going on at the Village Voice. So all that will have to wait until later -- probably the following Monday.
Wednesday, October 12. 2011
Went to the DMV today, which remains most people's prime case example of how inefficient and rude government can be. Simple task: needed to get my driver's license renewed. When I got there I was pointed toward a queue the length of one wall then wrapped around another: twenty-some people ahead of me. Wasn't too bad: I could lean against the wall, and I had a book, although I ran out of book in the hour or so it took me to get to the head of the line. The guy a couple slots ahead of me was talkative. A guy with a gray ponytail limped up behind me, and the two started comparing army records. The guy behind me offered to save him a slot if he wanted to sit down, and he did. The two kept yakking for much of the stretch -- mostly touching on politics. The guy ahead of me declared himself to be "a big Ron Paul supporter." The ponytail guy was psyched by Occupy Wall Street. The Ron Paul guy declared them to be "commies" but cut some slack for the crippled vet. Both agreed that politicians are crooks, that money has changed everything, but the Ron Paul guy was fixated on taxes whereas ponytail thought the government should work better.
Occasionally a woman behind me talked about the economy. She pointed out that when she was young she couldn't wait to get her driver license and get a job and get out of her parents' house, but her grown son isn't interested in any of that. On the other hand, she lives in a small town and there are no jobs -- nothing positive to draw her son out into the world. All these people could have understood their problems better, but there was no mistaking that those problems are real, and little sense that any of them are likely to be solved anytime soon. There once was a time when people would think twice before talking politics with total strangers -- same for religion and various other uncomfortable topics. Not now. Politics is everywhere, and everything is politicized -- much like the 1960s, at least for my generation back then.
Watched Charlie Rose tonight and he had on one person pulled from the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators and three left-leaning academic sympathizers -- I guess Rose figured he was wet blanket enough to dampen the enthusiasm. It reminded me again of the 1960s: the movement rep was an ordinary guy who couldn't really articulate the issues, but deep down knew someone has to make a stand, otherwise we're going to keep getting rolled over. On the other hand, Paul Krugman, Marshall Ganz, and Jared Bernstein had plenty of understanding of what's wrong. But they still had problems explaining it all: the problem they faced is that problems are so vast and interconnected that it's hard to know where to start. Money in politics is obviously a big part of the problem, but it's not just that. The problem with money is that it's allowed the rich to tilt the levers of government (and privately owned institutions the public depends on, like the media) to make them richer even at the expense of everyone else.
This actually is a problem that many of us recognized long ago. We have even understood that such increasing inequality is unstable and unviable: that the longer it goes on and the worse it gets, the more damage will be done not just to individuals at the bottom but to the entire social fabric. Yet it's been virtually impossible to get people's attention over such an "abstract" concept. But there really is nothing abstract about it: just start picking people at random from the 99% and you'll see real effects. And now it turns out that many of those people would do something about their plight if they only knew they could. That's the door that the demonstrations have opened, and down at the DMV I could feel the pent-up energy searching for some way to express itself.
One reason I see this resembling the 1960s is that when you think about it you'll realize that the new left won the culture wars back then: civil rights, getting out of Vietnam, abolishing the draft, women's liberation (everything from abortion to equal pay), clean air and water, consumer protection. The problem was that we didn't build the institutional framework to consolidate power to protect (and extend) those gains -- but one key reason that didn't happen was that we distrusted and never grew comfortable with power. So we left the rich too rich and the military-security state too well dug in -- the bases for the right's counterrevolution -- and we lost focus and, at least for a while, just lapsed and enjoyed the better world we had made.
But there's at least one important difference between the movement now and in the 1960s. Back then the US was a relatively affluent, relatively equitable, and much more idealistic society, so much of the movement generously fought for other people's rights. (That at least was the stereotype, although I for one always had personal reasons for my politics.) But things have gotten so much worse that now we all have "skin in the game," and that raises the political stakes -- the need, the resolve, the demand that change be real and secure.
Update: Let me add that the reason the new left issues won out was because they were intellectually persuasive, in large part because they tapped into basic ideas about equality, freedom, justice, and sustainability. The right has worked hard to erode those values, to cheapen and deprecate them, substituting greed and self-interest, order, and faith that if you just follow your betters all will be well. Those are shabby arguments, for as we clearly see now, they do not bode well.
Monday, October 10. 2011
Another week, no news, just plugging away. Next 3-4 weeks are going to be pretty stressful, so the future (if any) of Jazz CG is one thing I shouldn't bother to worry about.
Mike Baggetta Quartet: Source Material (2010 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Guitarist, based in New York. Third album with his name first, plus three duos with Kris Tiner -- one with Tiner's name first, two as Tin/Bag. Quartet includes Jason Rigby on "saxophones" (pictured on soprano, also plays tenor), Eivind Opsvik on bass, and George Schuller on drums. B+(**)
Yaala Ballin: On the Road (2010 , Gallery): Standards singer, born in Israel, has a New York band and a previous album on Smalls, as do most of her band: Zaid Nasser (alto sax), Chris Byars (tenor sax), and Ari Roland (bass); the others are Vahagn Hayrapetyan (piano) and Keith Balla (drums). Leans heavily on blues -- two medleys, "Evil Gal Blues/Salty Papa Blues" and "Long Gone Blues/Wise Woman Blues" tower like the pylons in a suspension bridge, and you never doubt her right to sing those blues. "I Cried for You" can't help but remind me of Jimmy Rushing, a thought that brings me nothing but pleasure. The saxophonists stay within their roles, but are superb, as expected. A-
James Carter Organ Trio: At the Crossroads (2011, Emarcy): With Gerald Gibbs on organ and Leonard King, Jr. on drums, plus others as the opportunity arrises: trumpeter Keyon Harrold (3 tracks), guitarists Bruce Edwards or Brandon Ross (3 tracks each), vocalist Miche Braden (2 cuts; King sings a third). Carter plays soprano sax (1 cut), baritone (3), alto (4), and tenor (7 cuts, 2 of those also on baritone). Gibbs and King wrote one piece each; otherwise all covers, only Ellington's "Come Sunday" (leading into trad's "Tis the Old Ship of Zion" for a little sacred mystique) done much; and while Jack McDuff's "Walking the Dog" is the real spiritual center here, Carter also takes his blues refracted through Julius Hemphill and Ronald Shannon Jackson. Braden's boisterous vocal on "The Walking Blues" comes as a surprise four cuts in, then no more vocals until the gospel sideline at 10-11. Nothing wrong with the vocals -- more wouldn't have been unwelcome -- but what you really want to hear is the saxman busting loose, which doesn't happen often enough but is mighty wondrous when it does. A-
François Couturier: Tarkovsky Quartet (2009 , ECM): Pianist, b. 1950 near Orléans, France; background in classical music. AMG lists five albums since 2002. Has lately been drawing on the filmmaker Andreï Tarkovsky (1932-86) for inspiration. Quartet includes Jean-Marc Larché (soprano sax), Anja Lechner (cello), and Jean-Louis Matinier (accordion). B+(*)
Mike DiRubbo & Larry Willis: Four Hands, One Heart (2010 , Ksanti): Alto sax-piano duo. DiRubbo is b. 1970, has six previous albums since 1999, mostly mainstream labels, consistently makes a strong impression. Willis is 30 years older (b. 1940), has played a bit of everything; rarely got his name up front before 1990, but has a couple dozen albums since; is a thoughtful accompanist, doing a nice job of setting up and fleshing out the sax. One original each, six covers mostly bop era; "Star Eyes" always gets my attention. B+(**)
Scott Fields & Multiple Joyce Orchestra: Moersbow/OZZO (2009 , Clean Feed): Guitarist, from Chicago, has a couple dozen albums since 1993, about as close as anyone to being an American analog to Derek Bailey. Doesn't play here; instead conducts MJO through a 13:54 piece dedicated to Merzbow and the much-longer 4-part "OZZO." MJO was founded in 2008 by Frank Gratkowski (alto sax), Carl Ludwig Hübsch (tuba), and Matthias Schubert (tenor sax), with 24 members credited here -- a little bit of everything (except guitar), including computer and analog electronics. Has that scratchy, abstract feel, but is rarely without interest, and more pleasing than anyone would expect. B+(**)
Bill Frisell: All We Are Saying . . . (2011, Savoy Jazz): Framed as an album of John Lennon songs, although 7 of 16 are of a vintage where they also credit Paul McCartney. Doesn't seem to have been intended as a deep conviction tribute; rather, something that Frisell got roped into trying on a tour and like the sound of. From his liner notes: "This wasn't my idea. I didn't ask to do it. Ever since I've entered into the world of music, I've never really had to figure out what to do. The music always tells you what to do, where to go. There's always something new waiting right there in front of you." That something is the guitarist's logic in picking around a melody, so striking early on when he attacked artists as diverse as Ives and Madonna, honed over 40+ albums into an ingenious reflexive style. His intuitive approach fares about as well as any with the Beatles' songs -- a common temptation to people who grew up with them (Frisell was b. 1951) hoping to modernize the standards songbook, one that has almost never succeeded. With Greg Leisz on steel guitar and Jenny Scheinman on violin, plus Tony Scherr on bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums, the string sound is pure and saccharine sweet -- something one tires of, although it's unlikely that the opener, "Across the Universe," will ever sound more sumptously gorgeous. B+(**)
Jason Kao Hwang/Edge: Crossroads Unseen (2010 , Euonymous): Violinist, group named after a previous album; quartet with Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet, flugelhorn), Ken Filiano (bass), and Andrew Drury (drums). I find the title cut drags melodramatically -- it's not obvious whether this is tied into Hwang's expertise in Chinese classical music, but I get the sense that there should be actors on stage when this plays. The rest of the pieces are more sprightly, as much affinity to Billy Bang as we're likely to find. Don't hear much from Bynum, but you can't go wrong with Filiano. B+(**)
Jason Kao Hwang/Spontaneous River: Symphony of Souls (2010 , Mulatta): Guess I complained too soon about Hwang's classical inclinations. This is a full-fledged symphony, eleven movements, played with 15 violins, 5 violas, 5 cellos, 6 basses, and 7 guitars -- some names I recognize in the small print, but not even the composer stands out in the dank mix. Not without its interest, and might gain something if you cranked the volume up. B+(*)
Tony Malaby: Tony Malaby's Novella (2011, Clean Feed): Tenor saxophonist, credited first with soprano here. Has a dozen albums since 1993, but I mostly run into him on side credits where he always helps out and often steals the show. One such venue is pianist Kris Davis's Quartet. Davis returns the favor here, not just playing but arranging six pieces from previous Malaby albums for a nonet: four reeds, three brass, her piano, and John Hollenbeck's drums -- no bass but Dan Peck's tuba, Ben Gerstein's trombone, Andrew Badro's bari sax, and Joachim Badenhorst's bass clarinet offer plenty of bottom support. The front-line horns are Ralph Alessi's trumpet, Michael Attias's alto sax, and Malaby's soprano/tenor, but they rarely stand out. I haven't managed to take it all in yet, but it sure is heavy. [B+(***)]
Mambo Legends Orchestra: ¡Ten Cuidao! Watch Out! (2011, Zoho, 2CD): Mostly long-time veterans of Tito Puente's big band -- John Rodriguez, Jose Madera, Mitch Frohman, Frankie Vazquez, Cita Rodriguez, Marco Bermudez are singled out on the back cover. Lots of punch in the horns, rhythm up the wazoo, Vazquez's vocals. It's a bit much by the end, but quite a thrill along the way. B+(***)
Oscar Peñas: From Now On (2009 , Bju'ecords): Guitarist, b. 1972 in Barcelona, Spain; attended Berklee, based in New York. Has two previous Fresh Sound New Talent albums. This is a quartet with Dan Blake on tenor and soprano sax, Moto Fukushima on electric bass, and Richie Barshay on drums, with a couple guests here and there. His guitar builds on all that classical heritage, and the soprano in particular is a close harmonic mate. B+(**)
Houston Person: So Nice (2011, High Note): Hard to think of any tenor saxophonists who have aged so gracefully. Age 76 when this was cut. Interesting that he's added a couple Arbors artists to sit in on a few tracks: Warren Vaché (4 cuts, including first three) and Howard Alden (5 cuts, including first two). They help, and I'd love to hear Person and Vaché cover a full album, but the really nice stuff is when they drop down to a quartet -- John Di Martino (piano), Ray Drummond (bass), Lewis Nash (drums). B+(***)
Enrico Pieranunzi Latin Jazz Quintet: Live at Birdland (2008 , CAM Jazz): Pianist, b. 1949 in Rome, Italy, has 30+ records since 1975 -- one of the major jazz pianists of his generation. For this Latin Jazz project, he wrote 6 of 7 pieces (two with "Danza" in the title, one "Choro"), and added two horns to his trio with John Patitucci and Antonio Sanchez: Diego Urcola (trumpet) and Yosvany Terry (alto & soprano sax, plus a percussion credit). B+(**)
Daniel Rosenthal: Lines (2010 , American Melody): Trumpet player, based in Boston, studied with Steve Lacy at New England Conservatory, has played in Either/Orchestra since 2006 (which got him in on their Ethiopian kick). First album. Mostly a two-horn quartet, with Rick Stone's alto sax slipping and sliding around him, cutting a clean harmonic path. Four tracks add Wes Corbett on banjo -- the closer, "Standing," is mostly just the two of them, and especially striking. B+(***)
John Scofield: A Moment's Peace (2011, Emarcy): Guitarist, was a key figure in the 1980s and up through Groove Elation and Quiet in 1994-96 with his fluid style and fascination with funk grooves, but hasn't done much of interest since. This is a back-to-basics quartet, with Larry Goldings on piano and organ, Scott Colley on bass, and Brian Blade on drums. Temper changes depending on Goldings' keyboard choice, but that highlights both sides of Scofield's style. His best album since his heyday: had it come out in 1998 we might complain that he's slowing down, but now it feels like a welcome second breath. B+(***)
JC Stylles: Exhilaration and Other States (2009 , Motéma Music): No periods to be seen anywhere near "JC" -- may stand for his given name, Jason Campbell. Ampersand on spine title but not on cover. AMG misfiled this under Pat Bianchi's name. Stylles is a guitarist, New York-based, first album. Bianchi plays organ, and Lawrence Leathers drums, so this is a soul jazz retro. Nicely done, as these things go. "Love for Sale" is a romp; "Don't Explain" is plaintive and delicate. B+(*)
Tin/Bag: Bridges (2010 , MabNotesMusic): Duo: Kris Tiner (trumpet) and Mike Baggetta (guitar). Third album together, the first under their names, the second a quartet as Tin/Bag. (Artwork uses a vertical bar here, which causes software problems for me so I'm sticking with the slash.) Six Tiner pieces, two by Baggetta, closes with "Just Like a Woman" by Bob Dylan. It all plays very tentative -- slow, indeterminate. Interesting how they tiptoe around Dylan's melody. Harder to appreciate that on their own less known material. B+(*)
Kenny Werner with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra: Institute of Higher Learning (2010 , Half Note): Pianist, b. 1951, has a wide range of records since 1979. This one is a big band using his compositions (plus trad favorite "House of the Rising Sun") and his arrangements. I haven't run into BJO before: AMG lists 4 albums, their website offers 13 since 1999 for sale. Directed by saxophonist Frank Vaganée, a standard-sized big band with guitar but no piano -- guitarist Peter Hertmans gets the first solo, a dandy. Dedicated to Bob Brookmeyer. Liner notes by Maria Schneider. B+(**)
Andréa Wood: Dhyana (2010 , Wood): Title is a Buddhist term (can't do the macron accent over the first 'a' using my chosen codeset); has something to do with reflection/serenity. Singer, first album; wrote 1 of 11 songs, added lyrics to a Wayne Shorter melody for another, arranged the rest. From Washington, DC, one of those "musical families" where she started piano at five (although others play here). Spent three years of her childhood in Prague. Studied at Michigan State and Manhattan School of Music. Nice voice on a straight standard -- "I Only Have Eyes for You" is seductive, for a while. Don't care for the two Brazilian arrangements (yes, one's a Jobim). B
No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further listening the first time around.
Unpacking: Found in the mail over the last week:
Sunday, October 9. 2011
Got up this morning and found I hadn't squirreled away any links during the week: all I had was a bunch of open tabs with promising bits and pieces. So this was rather quickly thrown together, but a couple pieces are exceptionally deep.
Nothing yet on the Occupy Wall Street movement (which, by the way, has a presence here in Wichita). Needless to say, I not only approve of the protests, I think they are necessary. For one thing, they provide a forum for public education on issues that had been quietly swept under the rug after the election in 2008 of Obama and a Democratic Congress. From early 2009 it's become clear that Obama was not going to make the case for change in the economic system, but aside from the occasional carping blogger we've sat idly and impotently on the sidelines, while the right bankrolled the sham Tea Party movement. But the protests don't just provide more balanced information. They provide the sort of emotional heft needed to get that information taken seriously. One may be skeptical about whether it will work, but the American political system is pressure sensitive. Until now, that pressure has only come from the right and its interest groups, and that has swept all good intentions before it. Moreover, the economic issue is one that has tremendous built-up energy behind it. This is not something that's going to evaporate soon because this is something that has so many unconscious and subconscious victims waiting for something to come into focus.
Thursday, October 6. 2011
About a year ago I added a section to my "scratch" file to collect links to music pieces, analogous to my "Weekend Roundup" political links. Problem is: I never accumulated enough to bother posting. But all of a sudden I have a few to share.
Francis Davis: Tenor Uncertainty: Still no resolution on my status at the Voice, but at least there's still some quality jazz crit there. First part of a longer survey of recent releases by tenor saxophonists, starting with what we might call the major leagues: Joe Lovano, David Murray, David S. Ware, two by James Carter. I've weighed in on a couple of these, have Carter's Organ Trio in my queue, and need to figure out how to get hold of Murray's Cuban Nat King Cole album. I didn't pass on Carter's Caribbean Rhapsody because of my "categorical aversion to jazz-and-classical hyphenates," but that's probably why I didn't like it. Carter is prodigious even in this company, and his solo pieces aren't filler: they keep the album hinged. Still, neither of his two Emarcy albums are as much fun as his moonlighting with the Dutch group De Nazaten, where he's not even the most important saxophonist but convinced me that his baritone rep is deserved.
Looking forward to: "Next time: up-and-comers, long shots, and a few out-of-towners." Some overlap here with my pending Jazz CG, but I have some even longer shots from even further out of town -- Rodrigo Amado, for one. Davis is more comfortable than I am with what used to be called Third Stream, with set deals like Lovano playing Parker, and with the supremacy of Sonny Rollins over all other mortals, but he has great ears, and I've found more unknowns through him than through any other jazz critic. If the Voice only keeps one of us, it'd be more useful for me to read him.
Jason Gubbels has started what promises to be a six-part series, Notable Jazz Recordings, 1980-1989: Re-evaluating a Decade -- out so far: Part 1, and Part 2. Consistently interesting selections thus far:
First thing that strikes me here is that while all ten artists are Americans, only two of the records are on US labels (Candid and Blue Note). In particular, Giacomo Pelliciotti's Black Saint and Soul Note labels should be credited with rescuing jazz in the 1980s.
Second thing I'll note is that while these are all good records -- OK, I haven't heard the Konitz, but it's a Penguin Guide 4-star and Konitz's other 4-stars are superb -- none of them come off the top of my 1980s list, which is considerably more mainstream, something like this (I thought about concocting a new one, then found this one I had assembled in 2007):
By the way, Gubbels' recent reviews of Miles Davis and Mekons aced mine -- partly because I keep dragging my feet on the Davis bootleg set, where other notable critics (like Hank Shteamer and Nate Chinen) have gotten with the program. It's not that I'm engaging in anti-hype (although I've been known to do that), nor that I'm wondering why one should spend so much time focusing on such a well known figure while there are so many others one barely knows (although, now that I think of it, I do). It's just highly professional, technically superb jazz in a vein I know all too well -- and it's hard to say that in a snazzy, insightful way.
While I'm at it, let me also point out (as well as clean out my saved music links):
Went through Stef Gijssels' Free Jazz blog tonight, added all the missing records to my metacritic file, and bumped the counts. Rather depressing: I haven't seen 90% of the records he likes, including some by players like William Parker and Ken Vandermark that I've written about a lot, as well as scads of people I've never heard of. I could probably chase most of those down were I to get real aggressive about it, but that doesn't seem worthwhile given my current uncertainty. Also noted that I don't think the other 10% are all that good. Somewhere in the middle of the task I saw a post where he congratulated himself on crossing the one million unique visitor milestone. I recommend his site, but it does seem a little incongruous with narrowly adhering to a niche where a record that sells 500 copies is a blockbuster. I don't watch my own stats enough to have any idea whether I'm within a country mile of that, but I doubt it -- even after 12 years "on the web."
Wednesday, October 5. 2011
Once again, the good stuff has mostly been flagged by others -- I hadn't noticed BLNRB or Note of Hope before they appeared at Expert Witness, and Das Racist and Girls were much talked about (also Wild Flag, which like all its kin I dislike more than my begrudging grades suggest). But I haven't read much about the Mekons -- which strikes me as a year-end list lock -- nor my two country picks: while I worry that I overrated Lydia Loveless, the Connie Smith is real solid -- at least if your roots in country music are deep enough to include someone like Carl Smith. More EW (and DD) picks below the top line: they don't always work for me, but I take their recommendations seriously, so they'll continue to make up a large chunk of this report. Then there's the other stuff: kissed a lot of frogs this month. One thing I noticed, though, is the grades mostly bottom out at B (the grade I was originally tempted to give Mastodon). One advantage of working so fast is you quickly skip over minor annoyances and don't really dwell on how bad a record can be.
These are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Rhapsody. They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on September 6. Past reviews and more information are available here.
Afrikan Sciences: Means and Ways (2011, Deepblak): Oakland outfit, beats up front, some with a little synth backdrop, some with more beats. B+(**)
Apparat: The Devil's Walk (2011, Mute): German techno producer Sascha Ring, has been cranking out product since 2001, moves away from dance toward a fairy tale pop motif with songs and vocals -- the latter are the rub. More pleasing toward the end when his textures come to the fore. B
Katy B: On a Mission (2011, Columbia): Young disco diva, only British so factor in that accent -- a thing of wonder especially when she breaks out to thank everyone from her mum to you the listener for helping with her mission -- and throw in some dubstep beats too. Doesn't amount to much, but not anything I can get worked up about. B+(*)
BLNRB: Welcome to the Madhouse (2011, Out Here): German technocrats go to Kenya and pick up rappers to go with beats they recycled from all over the diaspora. Like many various artist comps, this goes on long enough to find a weak link or two -- near the end where the dub wins out, not that it matters much. A-
Blood Orange: Coastal Grooves (2011, Domino): Devonte Hynes project, formerly recorded two albums as Lightspeed Champion. Has an attractive groove, synth beats and what, but can't get much of the story line -- strippers, transvestites, something like that. B+(*)
Bombay Bicycle Club: A Different Kind of Fix (2011, Island): English guitar band, group harmony vocals, third album since 2009. Pleasant enough, but can't think of anything interesting to say about them. B
A.A. Bondy: Believers (2011, Fat Possum): From Alabama, initials stand for Auguste Arthur. Third album, black and white cover, streetlights at night. Goes for his nocturnal vibe by showing down and cranking up the reverb. B
Jeff Bridges: Jeff Bridges (2011, Blue Note): Terrific actor, has racked up two music-themed movies -- The Fabulous Baker Boys and his Oscar-winning turn in Crazy Heart -- and now two music albums. Credited with writing 2.5 of 10 songs, so I'm not sure the singer-songwriter label applies. T-Bone Burnett produced, which should help. Only vaguely countryish at first although it drifts that way, the impression caused in no small part because I can't recall ever a country singer who brought such thin pipes to a record (not that my memory of Chet Atkins is all that vivid). Still, it gets rather decent as the songs settle in. B
Kate Campbell: Two Nights in Texas (2010 , Large River Music): Singer-songwriter born on the cusp of the "new South" -- has written movingly about civil rights struggles although she would have been pretty young at the time. (B. 1961 in New Orleans, although my recollection places her in Alabama.) Has a steady stream of records since 1994 -- 2004's The Portable Kate Campbell is a good one to start with, but I haven't heard as many as I should. This one is live, which lets her recycle a few good ones. In one she notes that Jesus was "a Jew and a Palestinian too," then wonders what the centers of reaction might make of that -- namechecking Nashville, Wichita, Wall Street, Salt Lake City, and Boston. (Sounds like my life.) Come to think of it, this is another good one to start with -- although it is a little stopgap. B+(***)
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Hysterical (2011, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah): Had a terrific fresh-faced teen-rock debut in 2005, but my how fast they grow up, lose the beat, turn jaded and morose. Well, not morose, but not much fun either. Wonder what inspired the title? B
Das Racist: Relax (2011, Greedhead): Brooklyn rap trio, dropped two free downloads last year that got them a lot of attention, now come back with their official debut album. Bigger budget means louder beats -- as some point I figure they'll hook up with some metal group, make a really crappy album, then slink back into minimalism. But even thickened up they're still pretty idiosyncratic, and can run a world music feint and make it sound like Slim Gaillard. "Rainbow in the Dark" returns to White Castle, making me think they wanted to cash in on their "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell" novelty, but this one goes further. A-
Brigitte DeMeyer: Rose of Jericho (2011, BDM Music): Country-ish singer-songwriter, daughter of Belgian and German immigrants, discovered country music on a dude ranch somewhere ("her family frequented"). Fifth self-released album since 2002 -- back when I occasionally got a few longshot country releases I was blown away by her second, 2003's Nothing Comes Free. This has much the same sharply observed songwriting, the ear for detail, a voice that fits comfortably within her domain, plus a few touches of growing sophistication -- a tasteful horn here, but no overdoing it. B+(***)
DJ Diamond: Flight Muzik (2011, Planet Mu): Chicago DJ, first album, rugged synth music, lots of repetition like it's stuck in a traffic jam. B+(*)
The Drums: Portamento (2011, Frenchkiss): New York group, second album. They have a reputation for working in 1950s rock elementals, but I don't hear it. Rather, at best "Days" sounds like a near perfect Go-Betweens song. On the other hand, "Money" (which I gather is the single), repeats its "I want to buy you something" jibberish ad nauseum. Catchy, but a trivializing point that returns in songs like "I Need a Doctor." B+(*)
Dum Dum Girls: Only in Dreams (2011, Sub Pop): Second album for Dee Dee Whoever's vehicle/group, dispenses with the first album's DIY aesthetic for guitar-driven power pop -- much more impressive at first, but ultimately less interesting. B
Baxter Dury: Happy Soup (2011, Regal): Sure does sound like his father -- almost as much as Sean Lennon, and his songs are closer to the mark, but they stay within normal bounds, something Ian Dury with or without the Blockheads rarely did. May just mean he grew up relatively normal -- hope that's the case, certainly can't begrudge it. B+(**)
Game: The R.E.D. Album (2011, DGC/Interscope): Best-selling LA rapper Jayceon Taylor, debut moved 2.5 million units, this his fourth debuted number one (although that doesn't guarantee he won't continue his declining sales trend). Those numbers buy a lot of bling: a dozen producers (21 cuts stretch way out to 72:34), as many guests, who knows how many samples, all to support a theme that real ganstas are good family types. B
Girls: Father, Son, Holy Ghost (2011, True Panther Sounds): San Francisco duo, although Christopher Owens gets all the writing credits, and I don't much know who the other guy is. Debut album recycled a lot of great pop riffs, as did last year's EP, and this starts out with more, then slows up and turns into a laid back ballad thing, with a whiff of Pink Floyd. Gets better when you're not thinking about where you heard it all before, too. A-
Grouplove: Never Trust a Happy Song (2011, Canvasback/Atlantic): Los Angeles group, debut album after the now obligatory EP. Big sound, upbeat, not necessarily happy but they make well hooked songs that could do it in a pinch. B+(*)
Grace Jones: Hurricane (2004-07 , PIAS America): Born in Jamaica in 1952, a striking model in the mid-1970s who used her rough voice to cut a couple of pretty bad albums before hooking up with Sly & Robbie to produce three remarkable ones 1980-82. Nothing since 1993 until this came out in the UK in 2008. With Ivor Guest, Brian Eno, and others producing, she gets a bit of the magic back. The belated US release adds a second disc dub version, which Rhapsody treats as a separate release, so we'll skip here. B+(**)
Grace Jones: Hurricane Dub (2011, PIAS America): Recycles her 2008 album as dub: vocals stripped or buried, beats jacked up and extended, lots of echo effects, you know the drill. B+(*)
Robert Earl Keen Jr.: Ready for Confetti (2011, Lost Highway): A country singer-songwriter well outside the Nashville orbit with well over a dozen albums I scarcely know. One odd thing here is that his voice slides in and out of a southern drawl -- he's from Houston, b. 1956 -- and the deeper the drawl the better the songs. One keeper is "The Road Goes On and On," where he describes a guy: "now you only rant and rave . . . you lost that grip on the flag you wave, but you wave it right or wrong." Right plainly means something to Keen, as it should. And he works in two covers: one from Todd Snider, the other a "Soul of Man" that digs in deep. B+(**)
Kid Creole and the Coconuts: I Wake Up Screaming (2011, Strut, 2CD): August Darnell's group seems to have lost some coconuts since he relocated from the Bronx to Sweden. First album since Too Cool to Conga! in 2001, an odd mix of songs many of which don't really set right -- some intriguing anyhow. B+(*)
Lenny Kravitz: Black and White America (2011, Roadrunner): For me at least, Christgau torpedoed his career reviewing his much hyped 1989 debut: "For a black Jewish Christian married to Lisa Bonet who overoveroverdubbed his Hendrix-Beatles hybrid himself, not bad. But that's a lot of marketing to live down." This is his first that I've actually checked out, and I'm struck first by the not-badness of it all, reminded of lots of people but not Hendrix and not the Beatles (and not Lisa Bonet), moderately impressed by his perseverance, and pleased to note the peace sign on the cover forehead. B+(*)
Jens Lekman: An Argument With Myself (2011, Secretly Canadian, EP): Album cover reads (quotes included but period added): "The way her shadow used to walk by your side, in a different time, a different city." The given title presumably appears somewhere else. Five song EP, from a Swedish singer-songwriter with two full albums under his belt. Lacks the strings and melodramatics that turned me off his last album. Songs have real detail, even if some are set in Goteborg. If he had a few more, he'd have an album. B+(***)
Lil Wayne: Tha Carter IV (2011, Motown/Cash Money): Back from jail, in a big rush to get fresh product into the stores, which means guest feats. Most sharp enough to enjoy, but every time T-Pain's "How to Hate" comes around I wake up and check the roster -- it's so hideous that even if you stripped the hate and turned it into an instrumental, it'd still be awful. It's such dreck you can't wait for Tech N9ne to show up on the next cut. B+(*) [cd]
Lydia Loveless: Indestructible Machine (2011, Bloodshot): Twenty-one-year-old singer-songwriter from Ohio, figure her for uppity outlaw country -- sounds more than a bit like Miranda Lambert when you can hear her over her rock drummer dad. Cut a record last year that I craved -- even watched YouTube videos -- but couldn't Rhapsody -- so I'm delighted my favorite uppity outlaw label picked her up. "How Many Women" suggests she could be a credible ballad singer, and "Jesus Was a Wino" that she has something to say. A-
Nick Lowe: The Old Magic (2011, Yep Roc): Would be better off trying to recover the old wit, but if he did he might not be such a nice guy, palming off nice songs hoping the real thing never comes along. B
Mastodon: The Hunter (2011, Reprise): Metal band, one of the few that gets much respect outside of the genre's self-imposed ghetto. I don't really have a theoretical reason why I don't care for metal -- I was, in fact, a fan back when Blue Oyster Cult recorded their perfect first side to Tyranny and Mutation -- so sometimes I think I should at least sample something much hyped. Then I do, and wonder why. This isn't awful, especially when the singer shuts up, but also isn't smart or funny or engaging or exciting or interesting -- a lot of negatives for such maximalism. B-
Mates of State: Mountaintops (2011, Barsuk): Husband and wife duo from Lawrence, KS: Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, she plays keybs, he drums, both sing. Sixth studio album in a bit over a decade. Opener "Palomino" rocks the joint: if they kept that up they'd be over the top, so the slower, simpler songs are useful change ups. Still, pretty upbeat -- seems odd for me to gripe about that; more to the point is when the sound avalanches. Didn't catch a lot of lyrics, but "Mistakes" is fair and smart and touching. B+(**)
Megafaun: Megafaun (2011, Hometapes): Psych-folk group (that's what they say) based in North Carolina but mostly from Wisconsin. Fourth album since 2008. Has a lean and lonesome sound, blues twists on the guitar (as opposed to blues riffs). B+(*)
Mekons: Ancient & Modern (2011, Bloodshot): Judging from cover, title might also continue: 1911-2011. Their country music fixation seems to have returned to England, following, as is so often the case, their focus on class -- forms the "ancient" which is periodically intercut with the "modern" of their own punk rock roots. Their best since Out of Our Heads, or maybe longer. When the times get tough they always seem to come up with something stellar. A
Nikki Jean: Pennies in a Jar (2011, S-Curve): Last name Leary, b. 1983 in Minnesota, has sung on some hip-hop records before releasing this debut. Has something of ye olde Motown sound, but doesn't quite have the label's house band. While half of the songs have a bit of sparkle, the other half reminds you of the days when filler really was filler. B
Note of Hope: A Celebration of Woody Guthrie (2011, 429 Records): Following Bragg & Wilco's Mermaid Avenue, Jonatha Brooke's The Works, and a couple of Klezmatics albums, more of Woody Guthrie's leftover lyrics set to idiosyncratic music. The various artists include Lou Reed, Madeleine Peyroux, Tom Morello, Michael Franti, Studs Terkel, Ani DiFranco, Kurt Elling, and Jackson Browne, resulting in an unconventional smorgasbord; some mannered (Reed, Elling), some offhand (Terkel, DiFranco), some perverse (Franti), the opening instrumental and the long closer sung by Browne the most fully satisfying, which only seems right. A-
Owl City: All Things Bright and Beautiful (2011, Universal Republic): Synthpop group from Minnesota, mostly Adam Young. The pumped up synths are sort of fun at first, and "The Real World" is surreally catchy, but second cut in "Deer in the Headlights" suggests that no cliché is going to prove too ripe for Young, and before long he's so wild-eyed he probably believes that space travel lets you "touch the face of God." Recommended to your local FFA: "Plant Life." C+
Radioclit Presents: The Sound of Club Secousse, Vol. 1 (2010, Crammed Discs): London-based DJ/production duo showcase a range of African funk and hip-hop, dance anthems and whatever -- don't have a map, but most seem to come from the southern half of the continent. That super-upbeat township shuffle with the sweet guitar and maybe a thumb piano never fails to thrill me, but the vocalists aren't always up to the beats. B+(***)
The Rapture: In the Grace of Your Love (2011, DFA): New York "dance-punk" group, cut a "mini-album" in 1999, followed by two well-regarded albums in 2003 and 2006 that I more or less liked -- actually, the order was less then more -- but can't recall at all now. The sort of record that might grow on you if you bother to give it a chance, but for now one spin seems sufficient: mostly chunky keybs and whiney vocals, a bit melodramatic. B+(**)
Richmond Fontaine: The High Country (2011, El Cortez): Portland, OR group, founded in the mid-1990s, no members named Richmond or Fontaine, both male and female singers, regarded as Americana. They naturally make the association between high and lonesome but it doesn't do their music much good -- this drags as much as slowcore, just with less intimation that's they're slowed down by dead weight. B
Connie Smith: Long Line of Heartaches (2010 , Sugar Hill): Constance Meador, picked up Smith from the first (of four) husbands, had some forgettable hits in the 1960s for Chet Atkins -- her 1976-72 The Essential Connie Smith is anything but. She should be long forgotten, but husband number four -- 17 years younger, Marty Stuart was one of the first prominent neotrads -- got her back into the studio. With all its aching, breaking hearts, swaying steel guitar, and a voice that comes through ever stronger, this couldn't sound more classic. A-
St. Vincent: Strange Mercy (2011, 4AD): Annie Clark's third album, sounds more than ever like Kate Bush -- not even the American, let alone Texan, analogue. More muscular and more visceral than I expected. I can see the attraction -- just not convinced the payoff is worth the time. B+(**)
George Strait: Here for a Good Time (2011, MCA Nashville): Neotrad country singer, has been for so long now he may have found it amusing that anyone would refer to him as neo- anything. I see this is his 39th album in 30 years. Best since I've been catching new ones on Rhapsody, mostly because it's so effortless, even on a slow ballad, even with a Jesus reference ("Three Nails and a Cross"). B+(***)
Wild Flag: Wild Flag (2011, Merge): Two-thirds of Sleater-Kinney (drummer Janet Weiss, banshee Carrie Brownstein) plus two others -- Rebecca Cole (keybs) and Mary Timony (guitar), the latter formers members of Helium and The Minders, two groups I've never noticed. I've sometimes been impressed by S-K but have never enjoyed them -- something about the vocals rubbed me raw. This is, well, less annoying. "Racehorse" is better than average. B+(**)
Hank [Williams] III: Hillbilly Joker (2011, Curb): He's dropped Williams from the masthead, possibly figuring why go down his father's path of never living up to his name, possibly wanting to strike out on his own, more likely figuring the first name is enough -- it's not like anyone ever saw "Hank" and flashed immediately on Cochran. Has a couple newer albums out on his own label, so this one on the old label has the air of a dealbreaker. Mostly heavy metal. Not bad when he cuts back on the thrash and you can hear his words and voice, but plenty bad when he rocks out -- or climaxes in an orgy of what sounds like donkey slaughter. B-
Withered Hand: Good News (2009 , Absolutely Kosher): Dan Willson from Edinburgh, Scotland, sings in a high enough voice I took him for female until he started fantasizing about his dick, which forced a replay. Wears his religion on his the sleeve of his hair shirt -- I caught any number of references, starting with the cover, and I'm not even very good at that. Similar melodic sense to the Handsome Family, an impressive feat. A unique item: I could see going higher, but he scares me a bit. B+(***)
YACHT: Shangri-La (2011, DFA): Originally a solo project of Jona Bechtolt, now more of a band -- group name an acronym for Young Americans Challenging High Technology, but high theology is more like it, proposing Los Angeles as a fit alternative to heaven, indeed as all the Shangri-La they need, even while Dystopia burns to the ground. B+(**)
Tuesday, October 4. 2011
Still working opportunistically. This month I got a big Impulse package from UME, and a smaller CTI one and some Miles Davis from Sony, so that's the bulk of what follows. Everything else has a small story, but most of them aren't fully developed. I felt like playing Glen Campbell's first album after panning his last -- thought about making a project out of it, but didn't get that far. Other records popped up in researching for recent polls on 1978 and 1983 -- the Jarrett was one I had missed, opening the prospect of filling in more holes in my Impulse inventory, but I didn't make any progress there. Same general story for the Go-Betweens, McKinley Mitchell, Sun Ra, the Residents, Rodney Crowell, Willis Jackson, Cheryl Lynn, and Son Seals. The common thread there is that they're old records I wanted to check out, and it makes more sense to write them up here than anywhere else.
For those keeping score, this is my 90th Recycled Goods column, totalling 3066 records.
Billy Bang's Survival Ensemble: Black Man's Blues/New York Collage (1977-78 , NoBusiness, 2CD): The late, great violinist's first two albums -- the first so obscure I missed it when I assembled a discography for my 2005 Voice piece on Bang. A quartet for the first record, with Bilal Abdur Rahman on tenor and soprano sax, William Parker on bass, and Rashid Bakr on drums. Rahman, an old friend of Bang's, picked up Islam in prison and recorded reluctantly but more often than not his cutting and slashing is terrific here. Both albums are hit and miss, with bits of spoken word spouting political critique -- "when the poor steal, it's called looting; when the rich steal, it's called profit" is one turn of phrase. Second album adds Henry Warner on alto sax and Khuwana Fuller on congas -- Warner's another player who shows up on rare occasions but always makes a big impression. Way back when I would probably have hedged my grade, seeing each album as promising but half-baked, but now they're indisputable pieces of history -- and not just because Bang and Parker went on to have brilliant careers. Also note that the label in Lithuania that rescued them cared enough to provide a 36-page booklet on the era and this remarkable music. A-
Miles Davis Quintet: Live Europe 1967 [The Bootleg Series Vol. 1] (1967 , Columbia/Legacy, 3CD+DVD): Something like this was inevitable -- especially since the DVD was slipped into the 70-CD Miles Davis: The Complete Columbia Album Collection (now no longer complete) -- and the Vol. 1 promises more are in the works. (For comparison, Legacy's Dylan Bootleg series is up to Vol. 9.) The sets were recorded Oct. 11-Nov. 7, 1967, which slots this between Nefertiti and Miles in the Sky in the Davis discography, midway in an empty stretch as far as live recordings go. The group is the Quintet you know so well: Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams. The set lists recycle, with "Agitation" leading off the first two CDs and both sets on the DVD -- it has a strong trumpet lead to set the stage. Sophisticated music but not so exciting: on the DVD the group is focused, cool and workmanlike, no excess motion or emotion. Not a major find, but a remarkable group. A-
The Go-Betweens: Before Hollywood (1983 , Beggars Banquet): Remastered, with artwork counting this off as the second of six albums, where the Australian group with songwriters Grant McLennan and Robert Forster maturing to the point that their fifth and sixth albums (Tallulah and 16 Lovers Lane were masterpieces. The early albums seemed far spottier, with most of the highlights picked for their 1978-1990 best-of, which explains why half of these songs seem so familiar. Retrospectively, the other half can be seen working toward that future. B+(***)
McKinley Mitchell: The Complete Malaco Collection (1977-81 , Waldoxy): Got his start singing gospel, moved to Chicago and cut some soul ballads in the 1960s to little avail. As disco and funk took over, Malaco refashioned '60s soul as a blues form, finally giving him his one shot at an album. This collects his 1978 eponymous album with half a dozen scattered singles -- the three covers stick out from the consistently understated groove, but they work just as well. B+(***) [R]
Sun Ra: Disco 3000: Complete Milan Concert 1978 (1978 , Art Yard, 2CD): Originally credited to Sun Ra and His Myth Science Arkestra with four cuts on an El Saturn LP, expanded here to nearly three times the runtime. Credits are sparse, but Ra's unique take on electric piano sets up a blocky rhythm that occasionally breaks loose but is regular enough to drive the horns forth -- brilliant trumpet (presumably Marshall Allen) and rousing tenor sax (John Gilmore, natch). And when Ra switches to acoustic piano, his boogie jones comes out. No recognizable disco beats here, but Ra's projecting way into the future. A- [R]
Red Hot + Rio 2 (2011, E1 Music, 2CD): Twenty-some years after the first Red Hot + Blue record turned AIDS-fighting pop stars onto Cole Porter in one of the better songwriter-tribute records ever, I lost track of the series fifteen years ago when the first Red Hot + Rio came out. This one doubles down, swelling to two discs to give extra heft to its second volume status. No lack of authentic Brazilian stars here -- Caetano Veloso, Tom Zé, Joyce Moreno, Os Mutantes, also Seu Jorge, Carlhinos Brown, Bebel Gilberto -- often paired with well-meaning Americans ranging from David Byrne to Aloe Blacc, Of Montreal, and Beirut. I don't have full credits, but the rhythm section more often than not saves the show. Give it some time and you'll find some gems, like the one attributed to Toshiyuki Yasuda ("Aguas de Março"). B+(*) [advance]
The Residents: Duck Stab!/Buster & Glen (1978, Ralph): One of the first groups to disdain the industry and release their own shit, starting with their Beatles-parodying Meet the Residents in 1974 and continuing pretty much unabated at least through 2009. Reissues have lost the second half of their original title, but the songs carry on. The funny voices aren't so funny any more, and the intentional weirdness isn't so weird, but at least their tunes remain tuneful. I've rarely sampled them, but know enough to know that's not a given. B+(**) [R]
Randy Weston: Blue Moses (1972 , CTI/Masterworks Jazz): Started out in the late 1950s as a pianist out to explore new things, especially to connect back to Africa, with Morocco a special interest -- three of four titles here have African place names, the exception "Night in Medina" which moves even further afield. Probably this was Weston's first big band venture -- Don Sebesky is credited with the arrangements, but Weston periodically returned to the big band well, and you can taste the excitement here. While CTI's stars take up the solo slots -- Freddie Hubbard is brilliant, and even Hubert Laws' flutes fit in nicely -- the brass section packs quite some whallop. A-
Impulse! Records was founded as a jazz subsidiary of ABC-Paramount Records in 1960, with first Creed Taylor than shortly later Bob Thiele running the label. They were a major jazz label in the 1960s, fading in the mid-1970s, and occasionally revived by subsequent owners -- MCA and Universal (through their Verve subsidiary). To celebrate their 45th anniversary, Verve released a box and a pile of individual artist compilations each titled The Impulse Story. I did an In Series on them at the time, and went back through my library to survey some other albums of note. Back then I wondered why they didn't wait for a big number like their 50th, not realizing that five years later Verve would reduced to little more than a reissue shell. Still, they did manage to come up with something -- evidently thanks to Universal's subsidiary in Germany. Like a jigsaw puzzle, they took 30 relatively obscure albums and pieced them together into 15 of what in early CD days were called twofers. Most of those albums turned out to be new to me -- I recognize 8 that I previously had, 4 of them old friends.
I thought it would be most useful to stage these, with an intro line, a bit including a grade on each separate album, and a summary grade.
The prime drummer of the bebop movement started playing harder in
the 1950s and invented hard bop, running his Jazz Messengers as a
boot camp through which everyone who was anyone in the style passed,
from Horace Silver to Wynton Marsalis. Only cut these two albums on
Originally Alice McLeod, from Detroit, played piano with Terry Gibbs
before marrying John Coltrane in 1965, soon replacing McCoy Tyner in
her husband's group, until his death in 1967. Her own discography
starts up in 1968, a dense flurry of records up to 1978 followed by
a long break and a 2004 comeback.
Pianist, composer, bandleader par excellence since he moved his
Washingtonians to Harlem in 1927. In the early 1960s he branched
out, appearing in small groups and ad hoc combos, including such
peers as Louis Armstrong and Count Basie.
Curtis Fuller: Hard bop trombonist from Detroit, wrote and arranged enough to get his name up front from 1957 on, but not much of a showboat.
Coleman Hawkins: The first significant tenor saxophonist in jazz history, "the fount of all worthwhile saxophone playing" as one critic put it, perhaps slowing down a bit but still instantly recognizable a couple years ahead of his sudden decline from 1966 to his death in 1969.
Milt Jackson: The preeminent vibraphone player of the early bebop world, notably working with pianists Thelonious Monk and John Lewis (Modern Jazz Quartet); prolific, adaptable to all styles, an attentive partner with an irrepressible sense of swing.
Organ player, I always figured she learned in church but she cited
Jimmy Smith as her inspiration. Best known for working with tenor
saxophonists -- Stanley Turrentine, of course, but also Eddie Davis --
but can hold court on her own.
Tenor saxophonist, a stalwart avant-gardist from 1964 who move sharply
political around 1968, growing some ugly funk beats and adding vocals
as if daring the masses to follow his revolution.
Hungarian guitarist, left the country on the eve of the 1956 uprising
and made his way to Berklee. First record peddled his folk jazz as
gypsy music, then he quickly picked up some Indian affects for his
Jazz Raga album.
Pianist, joined John Coltrane's soon-to-be-famous Quartet in 1960
(ahead of Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison), stepping out on his own
with these first two piano trio albums.
Airto: Fingers (1973 , CTI/Masterworks Jazz): Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira and wife Flora Purim cashed in on the 1960s bossa nova craze, then hooked up with Chick Corea's Return to Forever fusion band and fell into CTI's lap; this cooks all their affections down to an unrecognizable mish mash, clunky when he tries to sing, otherwise slick or airy or incoherent. B-
Jackie Cain & Roy Kral: A Wilder Alias (1973 , CTI/Masterworks Jazz): More often just Jackie & Roy, singer and pianist-vocalist-arranger, started out in 1954 and had been around the block a couple times before CTI picked them up; I don't know them well enough to tell how anomalous this is, but the voices are lashed to the contours of some incredibly loopy music, with Joe Farrell's sax the sole relief, the flute and vibes solos faring far less well. C-
Glen Campbell: Big Bluegrass Special (1962, Capitol): His first, co-credited to the now-forgotten Green River Boys, draws heavily on the Delmore Brothers and Merle Travis, trad fare that lets them mix the exemplary guitar up front of the so-so vocals. B+(*)
Rodney Crowell: Ain't Living Long Like This (1978, Warner Brothers): Born in Houston, based in Nashville, still his first album aims more for Gram Parsons country than for newfangled neotrad, hitting the target solid with "California Earthquake" but not producing as much shaking as they claim. B+(***) [R]
Group Doueh: Zayna Jumma (2011, Sublime Frequencies): Recorded in Dakhla on the Western Sahara seacoast, founded in 1502 by Spanish colonists and disputed by Morocco and Mauritania since 1975; Salmou Bamaar (Doueh) is a Hendrix-school guitarist, which puts a charge into the native percussion and vocals. A-
Joe Farrell: Outback (1970 , CTI/Masterworks Jazz): An underrated tenor saxophonist, dead before his 50th birthday, leads a quartet with Chick Corea on electric piano, Buster Williams, and Elvin Jones; the title track opens weakly on flute, so this takes a while to get moving, only catching fire on the final track. B+(*)
Willis Jackson/Von Freeman: Lockin' Horns (1978 , 32 Jazz): Freeman has a rep for going his own way, but he's slumming here, adding a second tenor sax to Jackson's soul jazz group -- Carl Wilson on organ, guitarist Joe "Boogaloo" Jones, and drummer Yusef Ali; early going may just be Jackson, but when they do joust they kick up a storm. B+(*) [R]
Keith Jarrett: Bop-Be (1976 , Impulse): The last album of Jarrett's US Quartet, with Dewey Redman on tenor, Charlie Haden on bass, and Paul Motian on drums, going out with a little bit special from each of the stars; Jarrett had an extraordinarily prodigious stretch in the early 1970s, but thenceforth limited himself to trios and solos -- this reminds you how strong a force he could be in a group. A-
Cheryl Lynn: Cheryl Lynn (1978 , Reel Music): Debut album, leads off with his big disco hit "Got to Be Real"; nothing else like that, of course, some filler and some better than filler, the latter stepping high on hotter beats. B+(**)
Stephin Merritt: Obscurities (1992-99 , Merge): Some singles, some contract work, some unreleased whatevers, from the days when Merritt mostly recorded as Magnetic Fields -- presumably the disc comes with some details but I'm not privy to them; simple melodies with eccentric percussion backing his deep monotone, disjointed pieces juxtaposed, on sonic and possibly historical interest, or not. B+(**) [R]
Son Seals: Live and Burning (1978, Alligator): Blues journeyman, came up too late to make much of name for himself, but typified his label's normalization of the post-rock-and-roll, post-Chicago blues, a genre that will live on as long as a stinging guitar lick promises salvation from bad times. B+(**) [R]
Legend: B+ records are divided into three levels, where more * is better. [R] indicates record was reviewed using a stream from Rhapsody ([X] is some other identified stream source; otherwise assume a CD). The biggest caveat there is that the packaging and documentation hasn't been inspected or considered, and documentation is especially important for reissues. But also my exposure to streamed records is briefer and more limited, so I'm more prone to snap judgments -- although that's always a risk.
For this column and the previous 89, see the archive.
Monday, October 3. 2011
I should be talking about closing out the current jazz prospecting cycle, wrapping up and buttoning down another Jazz Consumer Guide column. However, nine weeks after I submitted the last one it hasn't run, and I'm hearing very little about it. (Left phone messages last week; shot off yet another letter to the editor today.) So we're stalled, treading water, whatever.
Better than average bunch of records below, partly because the Bang and Vandermark discs jumped ahead of the their queue slots, partly because I pushed to get the Miles Davis bootleg ready for Recycled Goods. (Same review will run both places, so consider this a sneak preview. Fits both places for bookkeeping purposes, and technically it's all new music -- except for the DVD. Often I write separate pieces, but sometimes I get lazy.) The Carney record also jumped the queue: I played it a lot, like the first one a bit better, and nothing has lingered this week like his "Linger Awhile." Couldn't easily find cover scans for the three new A- records, and felt like Davis would be too redundant, so I grabbed his. The world needs more serious jass, really.
Should have a Recycled Goods tomorrow with a lot of jazz reissues, then a Rhapsody Streamnotes shortly after that.
Andrew Atkinson Quartet: Live: Keep Looking Forward (2011, self-released): Drummer-led quartet, b. 1982 -- I read his bio as saying in Jamaica, but somehow he wound up in Miami. First album, with Tevin Pennicott on tenor sax, Jim Gasior on piano, and Kurt Hengstebeck on electric bass. Atkinson, Pennicott, and Gasior wrote one song each, plus one split between Atkinson and Pennicott; plus four covers -- a Jobim, "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise," and two from Miles Davis (forgetting about Victor Feldman on "Seven Steps to Heaven"). Group is fast, upbeat, a lot of fun. Pennicott's from Georgia. I noticed him before when he lifted Kenny Burrell's Be Yourself to HM status, and he's even better here, in a real sax blowout. A-
Wolfert Brederode Quartet: Post Scriptum (2010 , ECM): Pianist, b. 1974 in the Netherlands. AMG lists four albums, most likely too few; his website shows 20, many under other names (especially vocalist Susanne Abbuehl). Quartet includes Claudio Puntin (clarinets), Mats Eilertsen (double bass), and Samuel Rohrer (drums). Originals, including one each from Rohrer and Puntin, three from Eilertsen. Very pretty, not quite lush. B+(**)
Frank Carlberg: Uncivilized Ruminations (2011, Red Piano): Pianist, from Finland, AMG lists nine albums since 1992 but that's probably short. Album packaging is sort of a slate gray with white (and light orange) type on it, which my eyes are nowhere near up to deciphering. The music is kind of like that too: I've heard enough to want to move on, but there is a lot of subtle contrasts in the mix: two superb saxophonists in John O'Gallagher and Chris Cheek, the invaluable John Hébert on bass, Michael Sarin on drums, and Christine Correa on vocals. I often can't stand Correa's opera voice, but this time it seems to fit naturally into the overall jumble. B+(**)
Ralph Carney's Serious Jass Project: Seriously (2011, Smog Veil): San Francisco group, led by the sax/clarinet player from Akron who started up in rock group Tin Huey, has long worked with Tom Waits, and occasionally thrown off odd projects on the side. Second group album. First was a dandy, and this comes close to hitting the same sweet spot. Leads off with one from Buddy Tate, then Coleman Hawkins, then two (of three) Ellington tunes. Quartet with keyboard, bass, and drums, plus a guest guitarist on a couple cuts, vocalist Karina Denike on two, a couple more vocals by guys in the band. B+(***)
Ron Carter: Ron Carter's Great Big Band (2010 , Sunnyside): At one point, Morton & Cook (The Penguin Guide) went through their big book counting names and concluded that the guy who had appeared on the most albums was bassist Ray Brown, with just over 300. I did a pretty comprehensive discography of William Parker a while back and saw that he was closing in on 300 -- he's probably topped it now, although not all of those albums would appear in any given edition of The Penguin Guide. I've never tried that with Ron Carter, but I've read claims that he's played on over 1000 albums. That's hard to grasp but it's not inconceivable (figure 25 per year for 40 years). He's certainly played on a lot -- I don't think I saw a single one of the recent CTI reissues that he didn't play on. He even has a lot more under his own name than I expected: AMG lists 53, but I've only picked up five. I've always found him tough to figure, sometimes tempted to view him as someone just fortunate to be in the right places -- above all Miles Davis's late-1960s quintet -- at the right time, but every now and then I hear something from him that makes me wonder if he really isn't one of the foremost bassists of his generation. This record doesn't settle anything. I think he means us to parse the title as "(great) (big band)" rather than "(great big) (band)" -- he's only an English horn over a standard weight, and doesn't have a guitar. But most of the musicians are names you'll recognize. He wrote 2 of 13 pieces, picked most of the rest from the bebop generation (Gillespie, Stitt, Mulligan, Lewis, Nat Adderley, Shorter, with nods to Ellington, Handy, and Sy Oliver. Lays out plenty of solos for his stars. It's all very neat, just not quite enough to bow you over. B+(**)
Come Sunday: Crosscurrents (2011, self-released): Vocal group -- Bill Brickey, Lindsay Weinberg, Alton Smith, Sue Demel -- backed by guitar, bass, and drums, assuming the name of the Duke Ellington song -- they also cite Thomas Dorsey and Mahalia Jackson as inspirations. Thirteen gospel pieces, eight by trad. Best news here is that Stevie Wonder's "Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away" has entered the canon, but I'd much rather hear Wonder do it. B-
Kris Davis: Aeriol Piano (2009 , Clean Feed): Pianist, originally from Canada, based in New York. Has several excellent records, but they've mostly featured top saxophonists like Tony Malaby. This one is solo piano, inevitably a little thin but interesting nonetheless, especially for her rhythmic workings. Note that the inside photos show her leaning over the box, not operating the keys. B+(**)
Miles Davis Quintet: Live Europe 1967: Bootleg Vol. 1 (1967 , Columbia/Legacy, 3CD+DVD): Something like this was inevitable -- especially since the DVD was slipped into the 70-CD Miles Davis: The Complete Columbia Album Collection (now no longer complete) -- and the Vol. 1 promises more are in the works. (For comparison, Legacy's Dylan Bootleg series is up to Vol. 9.) The sets were recorded Oct. 11-Nov. 7, 1967, which slots this between Nefertiti and Miles in the Sky in the Davis discography, midway in an empty stretch as far as live recordings go. The group is the Quintet you know so well: Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams. The set lists recycle, with "Agitation" leading off the first two CDs and both sets on the DVD -- it has a strong trumpet lead to set the stage. Sophisticated music but not so exciting: on the DVD the group is focused, cool and workmanlike, no excess motion or emotion. Not a major find, but a remarkable group. A-
FAB Trio: History of Jazz in Reverse (2005 , TUM): Name comes from a fortunate combination of initials: Joe Fonda (bass), Barry Altschul (drums), and Billy Bang (violin), whose death last year makes this all the more precious. Group did a previous album together, in 2003, Transforming the Space (CIMP) -- a record I like at least as much as this one. A-
Marquis Hill: New Gospel (2011, self-released): Trumpet player, based in Chicago, first album, a mainstream thing with soulful integrity, the front line shared with two saxophones, the rhythm section filled out with both piano and guitar. Modestly runs 36:36 -- in a more commercial genre this would be counted as an EP. B+(*)
Francisco Mela & Cuban Safari: Tree of Life (2010 , Half Note): Drummer, b. 1968 in Bayamo, Cuba. Third album since 2005. The first two were very impressive, but I've played this four times now and already lost my thread of thought. Could do without the vocals (Esperanza Spalding), for one thing. B+(*)
Sean Nowell: Stockholm Swingin' (2010 , Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1973, third album, cut live at the Glenn Miller Café in Stockholm with what appears to be a local crew: Fredrik Olsson (guitar), Leo Lindberg (piano), Lars Ekman (bass), and Joe Abba (drums), with three tunes credited to the band members, one to Nowell, one Swedish trad, plus Ellington, Strayhorn, and Tyner. Nowell is a mainstream guy who flexes a lot of muscle, turning this into a high speed, high volume romp. B+(***)
Oscar Perez Nuevo Comienzo: Afropean Affair (2011, Chandra): Pianist, born in New York, father left Cuba in 1966. Studied at University of North Florida and Queens College. Second album, the first his subsequent group name. With Greg Glassman (trumpet), Stacy Dillard (tenor/soprano sax), Charenee Wade (vocals), bass, drums, percussion. Ends with the three part "The Afropean Suite" but all the pieces are flowing suite-like things, the voice adding an unsettling aura. B [October 11]
Side A: A New Margin (2010 , Clean Feed): Free jazz trio: Ken Vandermark (tenor sax, clarinet), Håvard Wiik (piano), Chad Taylor (drums). First group album, although Wiik is in Vandermark's Jimmy Giuffre-inspired Free Fall group and they have five or so albums together, and Taylor has been bouncing around Chicago's underground long enough he must have bumped into Vandermark somewhere. Writing credits are evenly distributed. Given recording date omits year, but the most likely October is last year. Vandermark takes a clarinet feature with remarkable grace and poise, but he mostly races through fast changes, loud and rough yet they seem remarkably complete and coherent. A-
Geoff Vidal: She Likes That (2009 , Arts and Music Factory): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1980, from New Orleans, based in New York since 2006. First album, a postbop quintet with trumpet, guitar, bass, and drums. Veers into fusion toward the end, with guitarist Joe Hundertmark taking charge. B
No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further listening the first time around.
Unpacking: Found in the mail over the last week: