Monday, June 3. 2013
Music: Current count 21501  rated (+35), 634  unrated (+4).
Got a lot of mail, including the Clean Feed package from Portugal, so looking forward to that. Meanwhile, picked through what I had almost at random, winding up with a lot of B+(*) albums -- 13 of 20. Each has something distinctive on top of consistent quality, but not something I found all that interesting. That grade is probably the norm for jazz these days. There's certainly a lot of it.
Saw the movie 42 this afternoon. I knew the Jackie Robinson story from many sources, notably Jules Tygiel's Baseball's Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy, and Red Barber's memoir, 1947: When All Hell Broke Loose in Baseball, but alas nothing much firsthand: Robinson's rookie year was three years before I was born, and he retired the year before the first season I can recall with any immediate authority. The movie made one major error: the Dodgers held their 1947 spring training in Havana, Cuba, and not in Panama. The event barely mattered in the movie -- at least we didn't have to suffer while Rickey was playing his great game, waiting for the team to pressure him to advance Robinson -- making the change all the more puzzling. They did get the trade record right -- I thought that Walker, Higbe, and Casey were moved out earlier than they were. (Walker actually had a pretty good year in 1947, and a strong start with Pittsburgh in 1948 before he collapsed. On the other hand, even before Robinson Rickey rarely waited until an older player was done before he traded them off -- wouldn't have been worth as much.)
But the movie didn't mention Rickey's 1948 trade of Eddie Stanky, who appears as one of Robinson's earliest and staunchest supporters, to Boston to open up second base for Robinson (and first base for Gil Hodges, who had to get out of Roy Campanella's spot). Stanky helped win the 1948 pennant for the Boston Braves. The filmmakers decided to end on clinching the NL pennant, savoring the up note rather than waiting for the Yankees to beat the Dodgers in the World Series. Robinson and Rickey got the publicity, and you can't begrudge them that, but Bill Veeck broke the AL color line later that same year with Larry Doby, who struggled as a pinch hitter to a .156 batting average. But in 1948, Doby outhit Robinson (.301 to .296) and it was Cleveland in the World Series, beating the Braves, with Satchel Paige a late addition, pitching 6-1 down the stretch. Rickey proved that a meticiulously selected, carefully groomed black man at the peak of his physical prowess could play at a high level in the major league. Veeck proved that an untried rookie and a 42-year-old who had been derided as "not good enough" for two decades could win pennants. The dam broke after that, and nowadays one wonders whether the all-white days before 1947 -- Cobb and Ruth and Matthewson and Grove notwithstanding -- should even be considered major league. Integration was the best thing that ever happened to baseball: made me a fan, at least until the 1994-95 lockout turned me off.
PS: Sad to find out that Tygiel died in 2008, only 59 years old.
David Arnay: 8 (2013, Studio N): Pianist, has a couple previous albums. The concept here is to start with a solo piece (a very jaunty "Caravan"), then for each additional piece add one instrument: the duo picks up bass, trio drums, quartet Doug Webb's tenor sax, and so on until you get to the octet at the end. Six originals -- the other cover is "Giant Steps." B+(*)
Diego Barber/Hugo Cipres: 411 (2013, Origin): Barber is a guitarist from Spain, has a couple previous albums, none like this, which is elegant jazztronica driven off Cipres' "desktop" synths. Seamus Blake plays tenor sax (and EWI) for extra lift, Johannes Weidenmueller fattens the bottom, and Ari Hoenig adds some conventional drums. B+(***)
Kenny Blake featuring Maria Shaheen: Go Where the Road Leads (2012 , Summit): Search algorithm woes: an AMG search for "kenny blake" amusingly offered Kenny Chesney and Blake Shelton as 2nd and 3rd choices; more perplexing is Tim McGraw in the 1st slot, although I suppose you could consider him the least common denominator between Chesney and Shelton. The pop saxophonist came in 9th, after the Beach Boys and a phalanx of bad Kennys -- Rogers, Loggins, G, Wayne Shepherd. Sixth album since 1991, first with (or for) singer Shaheen. Most of the songs are originals by producer Peter Morley. Covers include Porter and Jobim: the latter goes far beyond "obligatory" to be one of the album's highlights. Contrary to standard practice, Baker tends to lead the singer's lines, justifying the credit order, but Shaheen is a fine singer. B+(*)
Joe Burgstaller: License to Thrill (2012 , Summit): Trumpet player, b. 1970, played in Canadian Brass, Meridian Arts Ensemble, and NY Brass Arts Trio; teaches at Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, CA. Has two previous albums of classical music: Mozart and Bach. Starts solo here with an original piece, adds one or two instruments (usually piano) for the rest: Vivaldi, Bach, Gershwin, Corea, Fritz Kreisler, Jennifer Higdon, Piazzolla, trad, a "world premier recording" of a piece by Su Lian Tan. Wouldn't call any of it thrilling -- stately, picturesque, pretty in very conventional ways. B+(*)
Marc Cary: For the Love of Abbey (2012 , Motéma): Pianist, b. 1967, has ten albums since 1995. This one is solo, focusing on songs by Abbey Lincoln -- Cary played with her on two 1997-98 albums -- plus one Ellington cover and two originals. B+(*)
Etienne Charles: Creole Soul (2013, Culture Shock Music): Trumpet player, from Trinidad, moved to Florida then New York to study (Florida State and Juilliard), teaches at Michigan State. Second album. Band includes alto and tenor sax, piano, bass, drums, with guest vocals and percussion. Tries to mix it all up, but neither explodes nor coheres. B [advance]
Liz Childs Quartet: Take Flight (2009 , self-released): Standards singer, second album -- one original here, co-credited with guitarist Ed MacEachen, plus sixteen covers for a total of 77:14, including the usual suspects, Bessie Smith, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and two Jobims. Voice suggests a Diana Krall wannabe. Band is a guitar-bass-drums trio, with MacEachen a quality foil, keeping it light but adding something tasty. B+(*)
Corey Christiansen: Lone Prairie (2012 , Origin): Guitarist, fourth album since 2004; group includes keybs/piano (Steve Allee and/or Zach Lapidus, the latter also credited with SuperCollider), bass, drums, percussion. Songs have a western flare, with three originals, one each from Marty Robbins and Ennio Morricone, and six credited as "Traditional" -- e.g., "Red River Valley," "Sittin' on Top of the World." Notes say recording date was August 30-31, 2013 -- clearly a typo, but one that will become less obvious over time. B+(*)
Trilok Gurtu: Spellbound (2012 , Moosicus/Sunnyside): Percussionist, b. 1951 in old Bombay, India; has a couple dozen albums since 1984. Early on he toured with Don Cherry, and this is something of a tribute, framed with tape bits of Cherry from the 1970s, and featuring a long list of trumpet players who wanted to get in on it: Ambrose Akinmusire, Paolo Fresu, Hasan Gozetlik, Matthias Hofs, Ibrahim Maalof, Nils Petter Molvaer, and Matthias Schriefl. Mostly Gurtu originals, but covers include one by Cherry, Dizzy Gillespie's "Manteca," and several Miles Davis pieces, hinting at a spacey world fusion. B+(**)
Molly Holm: Permission (2012 , Rinny Zin): Singer, San Francisco area, studied North Indian Raga and was a member of Bobby McFerrin's Voicestra. First album, half originals, covers include "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," "Afro Blue," "Straight No Chaser," things from Chick Corea and Joe Zawinul. Band includes Larry Schneider on soprano sax and Famoudou Don Moye on drums, and guests pop in and out. Likes to scat, has a bit of Sheila Jordan in her delivery, but interesting as all that is this didn't quite come together. B+(*)
Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: Somewhere (2009 , ECM): He's 68 now, and his label keeps shipping out new product every year, but since he turned 65 or so the recording dates have started to creep back -- the new product more likely to come out of old tapes than new. Critics tend to fall into two camps: some savor every scrap served up, and some have started to wonder whether we have enough of the more/less same thing by now. His "standards trio" with Peacock and DeJohnette dates back to 1983, a couple dozen albums by now, and for someone who isn't a piano fanatic, they do tend to all blur together: impressive, admirable even, but how much do you need? Still, every once in a while they make you pause and appreciate just how extraordinary this group is. Last time for me was My Foolish Heart: Live at Montreux, a 2001 tape released as a double in 2007, but this is another one on that special level, recorded live at KKL Luzern Concert Hall in 2009. A-
Brian Landrus Kaleidoscope: Mirage (2012 , Blueland): Started as a baritone saxophonist, on his fourth album (since 2003) has expanded to include the whole deep end of the reed family: bass clarinet, bass flute, bass sax, contra alto clarinet. Features a string quartet conducted by Ryan Truesdell, plus guitar, keybs, bass, and drums -- all name players (Nir Felder, Frank Carlberg, Lonnie Plaxico, Rudy Royston). A complex concoction, all soft edges with fuzzy splotches. B+(**)
Monday Michiru: Soulception (2012, Adventure Music): Singer, from Japan, AMG lists 23 albums since 1994, pegging her genre as "Electronic" and styles as "Acid Jazz, Club/Dance, Trip-Hop." She is backed by jazz musicians here, including Alex Sipiagin (trumpet) and Adam Rogers (guitar). Indeed, she should know her way around jazz, given that an early album was called Jazz Brat -- an especially good title if your parents are Toshiko Akiyoshi and Charlie Mariano. Having trouble sorting this out, although she has promising moments -- but then the title is a muddle, too. B
PJ Rasmussen: Adventures in Flight (2013, Third Freedom Music): Guitarist, b. 1990, wrote all of his own material, leads a postbop sextet (tenor sax, trumpet, piano, bass, drums), the guitar adding a nice sweetness to music that goes through all of the motions. B+(*)
Rose & the Nightingale: Spirit of the Garden (2012 , Sunnyside): Leader here is cellist Jody Redhage, the composer of all but one tune and four group improvs. Song-oriented, the two singers are Leala Cyr (also trumpet) and Laila Biali (also piano) -- Redhage also has a voice credit, but listed after cello, whereas Cyr and Biali are credited with voice first -- with Sara Caswell (violin, mandolin) completing the group, except when guests Alan Ferber (trombone, 2 cuts) or Ben Wittman (percussion, 5 cuts) drop in. B+(*)
The Rosenthals: Fly Away (2013, American Melody): Phil Rosenthal plays banjo and sings, as he had with the bluegrass band Seldom Scene (1976-86). Daniel Rosenthal is Phil's son. He plays trumpet, notably in jazz big band Either/Orchestra. Phil is a pretty deadpan singer and he doesn't take any chances with his standard fare -- at most a little yodel, but the trumpet is a nice touch. B+(*)
Nick Sanders Trio: Nameless Neighbors (2012 , Sunnyside): Pianist, raised in New Orleans, based in New York; first album, a trio with Henry Fraser on bass and Connor Baker on drums, produced by Fred Hersch. The one thing that jumps out is the rumble on "Motor World" -- makes me wonder if his more delicate work has more going on than initially meets the ear. B+(*)
Benjamin Taubkin + Adriano Adewale: The Vortex Sessions (2010 , Adventure Music): Adewale is a percussionist, b. in Sao Paulo, Brazil; moved to UK in 2000; has an album under his own named group, another group called Sambura. Taubkin is a pianist, also from Brazil, with close to a dozen albums since 1998. These duets were recorded in London at Vortex Jazz Club. B+(*)
Joan Watson-Jones/Frank Wilkins: Quiet Conversations: A Duet (2012, Eye of Samantha): Standards singer, third album since 1998, accompanied by piano, nice and intimate. She did write two originals, buried near the end. Van Morrison's "Have I Told You Lately" is an inspired pick; Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" isn't. B+(*)
Frank Wess: Magic 101 (2011 , IPO): Tenor saxophonist -- also perhaps the most celebrated of all jazz flautists, but none of that here (other than a picture on the inside cover -- b. 1922 so he cut this just shy of 90, came up with Billy Eckstine and Lucky Millinder in the 1940s, was a key member of Count Basie's 1953-64 orchestra, probably cut his best albums in 1989-93 (Dear Mr. Basie, Entre Nous, Tryin' to Make My Blues Turn Green). Quartet: Kenny Barron (piano), Kenny Davis (bass), Winard Harper (drums). Seven standards: Monk, Ellington, "Come Rain or Come Shine," "The Very Thought of You." Slight but lovely. B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: