Monday, July 29. 2013
Music: Current count 21779  rated (+31), 580  unrated (-7).
Jazz Prospecting is a bit short this week, partly because I'm holding some things back that haven't been released yet. Not sure whether that's necessary, or even a good idea, but I know some critics and/or publications do that, and some publicists prefer that. I've rarely bothered before, mostly because it's been hard to keep track of, but the metacritic file is forcing me to pay more attention to release dates -- I've gotten into the habit of adding records to it as I unpack them instead of waiting till I get around to them, so the information is more accessible now. Four of the records I wrote up last week have future release dates -- one as far out as October 15 -- so they got held back. All were reviewed from finished copies, so I don't know what the delay in retailing them is. And I'm not holding back my grades: they show up in the year list and metacritic files -- just too much room for error if I try to delay updating those files. Two of the records below are reviewed from advances, but their release dates have come and gone without me getting final copies. No big problem, especially when they aren't very good.
May change my mind on holding records back. We'll see how it goes. By the way, as fewer and fewer actual CDs show up, I'm getting more offers for download links. They're easy for me to miss in my mail, and a hassle for me to process. They limit my listening options, and therefore my time. The only upside is that if they're average or worse I don't have to find space to store them. Some of these problems could be ameliorated if I could overcome some technical obstacles -- e.g., I still haven't figured out how to burn and package downloaded discs. So beware that any such downloads I get and manage to review will show up not here but in my Rhapsody Streamnotes column.
Andy Bey: The World According to Andy Bey (2013, High Note): Singer-pianist, cut his first records 1964-65 as Andy & the Bey Sisters; staged a comeback in 1996, and now has six albums since then. This one is done solo, just voice and piano, meant to be intimate like, say, The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album, but when this really slows down he's neither the singer nor the pianist to pull it off. Much better, however, when "The Joint Is Jumpin'." B
Kenny Burrell: Special Requests (And Other Favorites) (2012 , High Note): Guitarist, one of the last remaining from the generation that gained prominence in the 1950s -- Jim Hall and Mundell Lowe are the only others I can think of offhand. Did his best work in the mid-1960s -- Guitar Forms, Ellington Is Forever -- and has been coasting through more or less charming live records lately (worst: 75th Birthday Bash Live!; best: Be Yourself). This is middling, but when he plays "Make Someone Happy" he does. B+(*)
Anna Estrada: Volando (2012, Feral Flight): Singer, "Bay Area-based," third album since 2008, more Spanish/Portuguese than English, co-wrote one song, draws on Fred Neil ("Everybody's Talking") and the Beatles ("Happiness Is a Warm Gun/I Want You"), does "Beguin the Beguine" in Spanish, works in some bossa nova (no Jobim, but Jorge Ben's "Mais Que Nada" is probably the best thing here). Musicians slip in and out -- too many for me to track, but unobtrusive to listen to. B+(*)
Steve Gadd Band: Gadditude (2013, BFM Jazz): Drummer, fifth album since 2004 although he had an earlier one in 1986. Band appellation is appropriate: guitarist Michael Landau and keyb player Michael Goldings 4 of 9 songs, with Gadd, Walt Fowler (trumpet), and Jimmy Johnson (bass) jointly offering a fifth. Two more pieces come from Keith Jarrett, one from Abdullah Ibrahim, one from Radiohead. Comes off as an attractive variation from the organ groove genre. B+(*)
Nancy Harms: Dreams in Apartments (2012 , Gazelle): Singer, from Minnesota, second album. Four originals (three co-credited to producer Arne Fogel), a piece based on Erik Satie, and five standards ("It Could Happen to You," "Mood Indigo," "Never Let Me Go," "Midnight Sun," "While We're Young"). Aaron Parks plays piano, John Hart guitar on the back stretch, Wycliffe Gordon has a guest spot on trombone. She has a subdued, almost whispery voice -- doesn't grab you but sneaks up effectively on the last two covers. B+(*)
Julia Hülsmann Quartet: In Full View (2012 , ECM): Pianist, b. 1968 in Germany, sixth album since 2003, third on ECM. Quartet with Tom Arthurs (trumpet), Marc Huellbauer (bass), and Heinrich Köbberling (drums), with all four writing songs, plus three pieces by others -- don't see any reason to call them standards. No rush, no clash, the trumpet providing a pivotal voice. B+(**) [advance]
Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra: Jimmy Heath: The Endless Search (2010, Origin): Saxophonist Heath is both the guest star and the composer of the title suite and another piece, roughly the first half of the album, so his name could slide over to the artist side -- or dropped out if you follow the spine. SRJO, directed by drummer Clarence Acox and saxophonist Michael Brockman, dates back to 1995, and this is their third album. Features a long list of Seattle musicians, with Hadley Caliman, Jay Thomas, and Thomas Marriott among the better known. They're a fine ensemble, Heath is a worthy honoree, and when they close out their program with "Haitian Fight Song" and "Creole Love Call," well, can't go wrong with that. B+(**)
Mort Weiss: A Giant Step Out and Back (2013, SMS Jazz): Seventy-eight-year-old clarinet player, started late, says this will be his last album, evidently blaming the economy more than his age. Solo with what I assume are some overdubs, a few originals and a bunch of standards which he uses for the basis of free improvs -- a surprise in that he's always been a swing-to-bop man -- but his command of the clarinet doesn't leave you feeling the need for anything else. Some vocal something-or-other toward the end -- he referred to something like that elsewhere as a "brain fart," and that's as good a term as any. A-
Mark Winkler: The Laura Nyro Project (2012 , Cafe Pacific): Singer, has a dozen albums since 1985, typically writes much of his own material but here picks eleven Laura Nyro songs. I don't recall any of Nyro's albums (1947-97, her main run 1968-75), but she had a rep for combining pop-jazz-gospel-soul with much sensitivity and no humor. Winkler prefers cozy arrangements, using Bob Sheppard's sax sparely, switching him to flute toward the end, and closing with just Eric Reed on piano. B+(*)
Yellowjackets: A Rise in the Road (2013, Mack Avenue): Long-running group, 23rd album since 1981 with 17 Grammy nominations along the way. Only original member left is Russell Ferrante (piano, keybs), with Bob Mintzer (sax) and William Kennedy (drums) veterans, and Felix Pastorius (son of the legend) the newcomer on bass. They sound, at least here, more like hard bop than smooth jazz, except they keep piling ahead: no breaks, not many changes, little of interest other than their usual competency. B [advance]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: