Monday, July 22. 2013
Music: Current count 21748  rated (+43), 587  unrated (-12).
Another ridiculously high rated week. For my incoming jazz queue, I have two baskets each good for 28 inches of CDs, so figure they hold about 150 CDs. (When I first set up this system I had three baskets.) Right now three rows are down to a little over half full, and the row I set up for low-priority records isn't quite full (I even pulled a few things from it below). So I've been running way ahead of what I've been getting -- which is probably seasonally depressed right now, but the longterm slope is definitely downward.
Nearly finished the week without any A-list records, then hit two in a row. Both surprises in a way: one a debut from a previously unknown musician, the other from a very famous one who's gotten some of the lowest grades I've ever handed out -- remember Some Skunk Funk? On the other hand, Brecker's previous Wlodek Pawlik album was the one that really surprised me, and this is just an extension of that -- perhaps a little more emphasis on the pianist. And really, Brecker plays in a lot of interesting contexts on other folks' albums, and even when one goes south, the trumpet's never the problem. And we'll be hearing more from Parker: he also has a quasi-dixieland group called Candy Shop Boys, and their first album is supposed to be in the mail.
Note: Made a minor correction to Brahja Waldman last week. The roll-up for July (so far) is here.
Robin Bessier: Other Side of Forever (2013, self-released): Singer, from Olympia, Washington; first album, three originals, two from producer Barney McClure, six standards. Darin Clendenin plays piano, Clipper Anderson bass, Mark Ivester drums, and Jay Thomas plays tenor and soprano sax as well as trumpet/flugelhorn. Nice, clear voice with some bounce, pays off especially on "God Bless the Child." B+(**)
Anna Borges & Bill Ward: Receita de Samba (2012, Brasil): Duo from Boston (married), both sing, Ward also plays guitar and piano; first album, backed with flute, bass, percussion, and more percussion. Sambas by various Brazilians, none named Jobim, light and airy. B
Ron Boustead: Mosaic (2013, self-released): AMG's succinct biography: "Jazz vocalist whose sound is reminiscent of Mark Murphy." I'm far from expert on Murphy, but always regarded him as tied, however ineptly, to bop/vocalese, where Boustead is more into smooth jazz and schmaltz. AMG shows three albums; his website four, but mentions an earlier Chet Baker project from 1983. He co-wrote four songs here, and picks up "under-appreciated tunes by James Taylor, Carole King, Jon Lucien and Bill Withers." C+
Randy Brecker: Night in Calisia (2011 , Summit): Title sometimes reported as Randy Brecker Plays Wlodek Pawlik's Night in Calisia. Second time the trumpeter has collaborated with the Polish composer-pianist, following 2009's Nostalgic Journey: Tykocin Jazz Suite, and I'm pretty sure they're the two best records of his career. Trumpet on top of Pawlik's piano trio backed by Kalisz Philharmonic, as swishy as they get, although the score stretches them, and someone (drummer Cezary Konrad?) minds the rhythm. A-
Gene Ess: Fractal Attraction (2012 , SIMP): Guitarist, b. in Tokyo, grew up on a USAF base in Okinawa, studied at George Mason and Berklee, played in Rashied Ali's quintet, now has five records since 2003. Lineup here is Thana Alexa (voice), David Berkman (piano), Thomas Kneeland (bass), Gene Jackson (drums). Guitar is adventurously post-bop, with Alexa scatting -- a combo I couldn't imagine working but somehow does. B+(**)
Vana Gierig: Making Memories (2013, Enja): Pianist, b. in Germany, studied in Boston, based in New York. First album, all originals, the piano quick and playful. Paquito D'Rivera plays clarinet on five pieces, lifting the album, but strings (violin and cello) on three of them bring it back down. B+(*)
Art Hodes: I Remember Bessie (1976 , Delmark): Pianist, b. 1904 in Russia, not sure when he moved to Chicago but he didn't start recording until he moved to New York in 1938. Smith died in 1937, so they could have crossed paths in Chicago, but most likely he remembered her from records. Solo piano, old blues with some swing to them, the style Hodes grew up on and was exceptional at. B+(***)
Alan Jones & François Théberge: Another View (2010-12 , Origin): Drummer and saxophonist (tenor, soprano, also wood flute, recorder, and trombone), respectively. The drummer, b. 1962 in Washington, grew up in Portland, studied at Berklee, passed through New York, Vienna, and Paris, winding up in Portland again. The saxophonist, b. 1963 in Montreal; studied at McGill, Concordia, and Eastman; passed through Miami, New York, and Paris. They have about a half dozen albums each, not sure if they have any together before this one, which was recorded in many sessions (10 days) in Portland, Paris, and Portland again. Twenty musicians, no track credits so the implication is that all but two (a Portland viola and a Paris cello) played on all tracks, but it doesn't have a big band vibe. It does have vocals: mostly Marilyn Keller, plus Jones on one track, Rebecca Kilgore on another. B+(*)
Eugenie Jones: Black Lace Blue Tears (2013, self-released): Singer-songwriter, based in Seattle, first album, with a notable local band: Bill Anschell (piano), Michael Powers (guitar), Clipper Anderson (bass), Mark Ivester (drums). Two covers ("Take Five," "My Funny Valentine") -- manages to wring a lot of emotion out of the latter -- plus nine originals, most striking. B+(**)
Deborah Latz: Fig Tree (2011-12 , June Moon Productions): Singer, third album, wrote three originals here, the rest standards (Berlin, Porter, Gershwin, Arlen, Mancini), a Jon Hendricks scat, an Alberta Hunter blues, the obligatory Jobim and a bonus samba by Ary Barroso and Luix Peixoto to show that she's not just following the template -- also a pretty Greek ballad that seems to be associated with Haris Alexiou. She moves through this range expertly, with nice touches from John Hart on guitar and Peter Apfelbaum on reeds. B+(*)
Anne LeBaron: 1, 2, 4, 3 (2002-08 , Innova, 2CD): Harp player, b. 1953, AMG classifies her as classical (making it hard to sort her out), Discogs credits her with seven albums since 1979. These are improv sessions recorded with various other, no more than quartet and often less, including some reputable jazz names -- Wolfgang Fuchs, Georg Graewe, Leroy Jenkins, John Lindberg, Torsten Müller, Paul Rutherford -- and others I don't recognize, like the trio with Kiku Day on shakuhachi and Konoko Nishi on koto. Her harp is sometimes amplified, sometimes combined with live electronics. Interesting sounds, but they tend to fragment rather than cohere, making this rather erratic. B
Michael Pagán/Colorado Saxophone Quartet: 12 Preludes & Fugues (2009 , Tapestry): Pagán is normally a pianist, with something like eight albums since 1995. Here he's the composer, arranger, and producer -- if the Colorado Saxophone Quartet had anything else to their name I'd file this under their name and move Pagán into the title, like I do with Bach and Mozart. The CSQ has five members, but on any given cut only four play, with the alto sax split betwen Andrew Stonerock and Kurtis Adams, Clare Church on baritone, and Pete Lewis and Tom Myer juggling tenor and soprano spots. Still, for all the jazz musicians, the classical forms win out in the end, which I don't consider a compliment. B
Matt Parker: Worlds Put Together (2012 , Bynk): Tenor saxophonist, originally from Fort Lauderdale, came up through the Maynard Ferguson band (c. 2006), based in New York, first album. Basic band includes piano, guitar, bass, drums, and Julio Monterrey on alto sax, although he strips down on a couple not-quite-solo cuts and adds a party-load of vocals on another. All interesting, whether he's cooing a ballad or smashing up the joint. [Parker and pianist Jesse Elder also have a side project called Candy Shop Boys, which I'd like to hear something from.] A-
Preservation Hall Jazz Band: That's It! (2012 , Legacy): Institutional band, founded by Allan Jaffe half a century ago, led by bass-and-tuba-player Ben Jaffe these days. While devoted to New Orleans trad jazz, they wrote new songs this time. The title cut is dynamite, and the gospel-blues that follows is solid enough, not that their vocalists will win any prizes. If they were all that good this would be a breakthrough, but they aren't. B+(**) [advance]
Daniel Rosenboom: Daniel Rosenboom's Book of Omens (2012 , Nine Winds): Trumpet player, b. 1982, fifth album not counting a couple of "jazz-rock" groups he's been in (Plotz!, Dr. Mint), or side credits like the Industrial Jazz Group. Quintet with Vinny Golia (contra-alto clarinet, alto flute, tenor sax), guitar (Jake Vossier), bass (Tim Lefebvre), drums (Matt Mayhall). Golia is key, making a lot of noise for the trumpet to slice up. B+(***)
Laila Salins/Anne Sexton: Elevator Into the Sky (2012 , Alectrona): Salins is a singer with a couple previous albums. Sexton is the poet, 1928-74. Salins wrote music for twelve Sexton poems, played by a group directed by pianist Jamie Reynolds and featuring Marty Ehrlich on clarinet, soprano and alto sax -- by far the best thing here. I've never read Sexton, and don't find the words much more intelligible sung than printed in the booklet, in microtype on a halftoned gray background. Was initially tempted to complain about her overarching (cognate: operatic) stylings but I found them growing on me. Guitarist Jim Matus is also notable. B+(**)
Reg Schwager: Duets (2002 , Jazz From Rant): Guitarist, b. 1962, based in Toronto, had a 1985 album and since 2002 another handful. I wrote about his Trio Improvisations (with Michel Lambert) released this year and the label (or maybe the artist) sent me three older releases. These are all duets with bassists -- Don Thompson, Neil Swainson, Dave Young, Pat Collins. The bassists bring one or two songs each, there's a patch of original credits, and three standards. There's a sweet-toned delicacy to the guitar, and the bassists add depth and resonance. B+(***)
Reg Schwager/David Restivo: Arctic Passage (2012 , Jazz From Rant): Guitar-piano duets, mostly the guitarist's tunes although Restivo's piano dominates the play, straightforward as it is. Two old-timey covers are especially notable: "Hard Times Come Around No More" and "Alexander's Ragtime Band." B+(**)
Reg Schwager Trio: Chromology (2010, Jazz From Rant): Guitarist, with Jon Maharaj on bass and Michel Lambert on drums. Eight Schwager originals, sandwiched between a trad opener ("Wayfaring Stranger") and closers from Stephen Foster and Victor Herbert. Schwager has a subtle but intriguing style, modestly and tastefully supported. B+(**)
Scottish National Jazz Orchestra: In the Spirit of Duke (2012 , Spartacus): The names here, featured on the front cover, are tenor saxophonist extraordinaire Tommy Smith and pianist Brian Kellock -- their 2005 duet album, Symbiosis, remains one of my favorites. The big band is Smith's pet project. They've released a bracing version of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue (2009) and now this romp through Ellington's songbook, starting with "Black and Tan Fantasy" with three Ellington or Strayhorn arrangements of Edvard Grieg. Studious at first, they eventually loosen up, especially when they hit "Rockin' in Rhythm" and Smith doing the "wailing interval" between "Dimuendo in Blue" and "Crescendo in Blue." B+(***)
The Summarily Dismissed: To Each! (2012 , Laureniac Song): Ari Shagal describes herself as the "secret daughter" of Todd Rundgren and Laura Nyro (ok, maybe not literally, but she doesn't give us any more bio to go on). First album, original songs, would dub her a singer-songwriter but she only sings 4 (of 11), the other leads going to Fenma Faye (3), Matthew Lomeo (3), and Kenny Washington (1). Arrangements are jazzy, splashed with horns (Jessica Lurie is the only name I recognize), vibes, congas -- it's all a bit much to figure out, not that I mind listening to it. B+(*)
The Swallow Quintet: Into the Woodwork (2011 , ECM): Electric bassist Steve Swallow, of course; 23rd album since 1975 (AMG; Discogs lists 44 and doesn't have this yet). All original compositions, although there are some quotes that can get cheesy. Quintet includes Chris Cheek (tenor sax), Carla Bley (organ), Steve Cardenas (guitar), and Jorge Rossy (drums). B+(**) [advance]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: