Monday, August 12. 2013
Music: Current count 21869  rated (+47), 574  unrated (-5).
Big ratings count this week: goes up when I listen to Rhapsody a lot. I have 22 records in the draft file for August's Rhapsody Streamnotes, and 20 of them are jazz records I didn't otherwise get. Only one A- in that batch, and only a couple others in the high HM category, but it makes up a bit for the recent decline in incoming mail. (On the other hand, today's haul was the largest in several months, so at least part of that decline is seasonal.) Also have 19 records in September's Recycled Goods file, and 7 in October's file -- only putting 1960s releases in September, so everything else I run across goes into October. So a very productive few weeks here.
Some of the Rhapsody jazz is tied at the hip to reviews here. For instance, Alex Sapiagin has three new records out, but I only got the one below. A second, on Criss Cross, is in the RS file, but I haven't come across the third, on Smalls Live, yet. I often think of Gary Burton and Chick Corea together -- last year they did sort of a 40th anniversary reunion album together, Hot House, pretty awful I thought -- and they both released new albums last weeks: Burton is below, and Corea (on Concord) is in the RS file. And it turns out both are pleasant surprises, all the more so given that they work the same fusion grooves that have wrecked so many of their joint and separate albums. Also, while I'm not excited by the Joe McPhee album below, I finally got around to listening to his 1970 album Nation Time and was blown away -- probably the best record I've heard all year. So you never know until you know.
By the way, the Jimmy Amadie record is one of the ones I've been holding back until release day (tomorrow, actually). I often despair of being so perpetually lukewarm on piano jazz -- solos even more so than trios -- but records like this one remind me that I know a good one when I hear it.
Jimmy Amadie Trio: Live! At the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2011 , TP): Pianist, based in Philadelphia, has eight albums since 1997. No idea how old he is, although he claims to have played with Charley Ventura, Coleman Hawkins, Woody Herman, and Mel Tormé (and he does have a Tormé tribute album). AMG describes him as "a hot jazz pianist in the 1950s" but doesn't list any credits before 1997. This is a trio, with Tony Marino on bass and Bill Goodwin on drums. All standards, most you've heard a million times -- "Summertime," "My Funny Valentine," "Just in Time," "All the Things You Are" -- and he takes a mainstream tack, and he really makes them sparkle. A- [August 13]
Offiong Bassey (2013, Moonlit Media Group): Singer-songwriter, "first generation Nigerian-American," first album, tends toward gospel or torch effects, doesn't stint on the percussion but doesn't let it run things, has concerns about the world but I didn't find her dis on "experts" in "Weatherman" all that smart. B+(*)
The New Gary Burton Quartet: Guided Tour (2013, Mack Avenue): Vibraphonist, has tons of records going back to 1961 ranging from some of the worst fusion records in history through an intermittent but lengthy affair with Chick Corea and on to admirable but often disappointing obsessions with Carla Bley and Astor Piazzolla. The "new" quartet draws fresh blood from Scott Colley, Antonio Sanchez, and, especially, guitarist Julian Lage, who draws on a sensible fusion core and stretches it out like Wes Montgomery did bop and blues, setting a pace that everyone else chases. B+(**)
Dave Damiani: Watch What Happens (2013, Hard Knocks): Singer, based in Los Angeles, has a previous album. Wrote one song here, the rest songbook standards althogh he's picked up a couple rock-era pop tunes and fit them in -- "Happy Together," "Raspberry Beret." Mostly backed by No Vacancy Orchestra, a conventional big band, with 5 (of 13) cuts backed by the smaller Jazzadelics -- roughly the same rhythm section plus Ricky Woodard on tenor sax. So he comes off as a slightly updated '50s crooner, nothing drippy or weepy or overly melodramatic, and I'm always a sucker for songs like "On the Street Where You Live" and "Old Devil Moon." B+(***)
Ghosts of the Holy Ghost Spermic Brotherhood (2013, Resonant Music): Trio: Michael Evans and David Grollman play "snare drum & objects," the former adding electronics, the latter balloons. Evans' website has a long list of records he's contributed to, with Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill (1984) most likely the best, and Fulminate Trio the only recent one I've heard. Didn't find a website for Grollman, but did find two albums, both duos, one self-described as "creepy and atmospheric free improvisation." Haas I know from Canadian new wave band Marhta & the Muffins, after which he moved on to God Is My Co-Pilot. He has a handful of albums more or less under his own name, and provides the sweetening here, but not much of it. This is basically a noise record, improvised noise, chaotic noise, harsh and uncomfortable noise -- something I don't disapprove of in theory, but don't enjoy much in practice. B-
Rebecca Harrold: The River of Life (2013, Imaginary Road Studios): Pianist, 13 years with the Boston Ballet, also has a background as a singer but not here -- Penni Lane is credited with vocals, mostly background shadings. First album, produced by new age guitarist Will Ackerman, who plays on one cut. All originals. Piano has a new age feel but the record is a little lush, with violin and viola much more prominent than bass and percussion, and the horn credits limited to English horn, soprano sax, and lyricon. B-
Shan Kenner: The Behavior of Vibration (2013, Guitar Lotus): Guitarist, based in Brooklyn after spells in Los Angeles and San Francisco; second album, backed by bass-drums and sometimes piano, has a sort of flamenco thing going. Ten originals, covers of Cole Porter and Bill Evans. B
Joe McPhee: Sonic Elements: For Pocket Trumpet and Alto Saxophone (2012 , Clean Feed): One of only a handful of jazz musicians to have put together a significant career playing both trumpet and a reed instrument -- Benny Carter is probably the most famous, although he gave up trumpet long before his death (probably well before McPhee's age of 73). McPhee's usual reed instrument is tenor sax, but these solo pieces are arranged as dedications to Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman, so he goes with their preferred instruments, pocket trumpet and alto sax. (One might note that Coleman played some trumpet along the way -- a good deal less than McPhee.) The solo pieces are thoughtful but scratchy, which is to say more McPhee than Cherry-Coleman. B+(*)
Terje Rypdal: Melodic Warrior (2003-09 , ECM): Guitarist from Norway, one of the George Russell generation, with dozens of albums since 1967, on ECM since 1971. Being a guitarist, he's worked through several fusion stages, but being an ECM artist I suppose it was inevitable that he'd wind up working with classical orchestras and the Hilliard Ensemble, much like Jan Garbarek. Two long, multipart pieces, one recorded in 2003 with Bruckner Orchester Linz and the Hilliards, their choral voices catnip for people, like my wife, in love with the baroque era. The later piece, with the Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra, is darker, denser, more dramatic -- with less guitar, or jazz interest. B [advance]
Sasha's Bloc: Melancholy (2013, self-released): Group led by bass guitarist Alex Gershman, originally from Moscow, moved to Los Angeles in 1988, has a day job as Chief of Laparoscopic Urologic Surgery at Harbor UCLA Medical Center, also serving as president of the American-Russian Medical Association. First album, sort of a cabaret vocal affair. Lots of musicians, but the only ones listed on the website are pianist Sergei Chipenko and singer Carina Cooper (also Russian, by the way). B+(*)
Alex Sipiagin: From Reality and Back (2013, 5 Pasion): Russian-born trumpet player, moved to US in 1991 and has 14 or so records since 1998. Bright and splashy postbop group, all stars: Seamus Blake (tenor sax), Gonzalo Rubalcaba (piano), Dave Holland (bass), Antonio Sanchez (drums). I should be more impressed, but only Rubalcaba holds any surprises. B+(*)
Tunk Trio: Summer Baby (2013, Tunk Music): Chris Tunkel, percussionist, has a previous album under his own name, wrote five songs, arranged (with keyboardist Curt Sydnor) two others from Charles Mingus and Jimmy Heath; also sings, a bit like Robert Wyatt without the falsetto. Third member of the trio is guitarist Anders Nilsson, whod does some nice work here but not as dramatic as elsewhere -- this is all a rather laid-back affair. B+(*)
Christian Wallumrød Ensemble: Outstairs (2012 , ECM): Pianist, from Norway, eleventh album since 1995 (counting those as Close Erase), seven on ECM. Group is a sextet but unconventional with two horns (trumpet and tenor sax) and two strings (hardanger fiddle/violin/viola and cello, but no bass), Per Oddvar Johansen on drums and vibes. All originals. Inspiration comes and goes. B+(*) [advance]
Nate Wooley/Peter Evans/Jim Black/Paul Lytton: Trumpets and Drums: Live in Ljubljana (2012 , Clean Feed): Wooley and Evans play trumpet, Black and Lytton drums, with Wooley and Black also dabbling in electronics. The two pieces suggest that the whole thing is improv, the trumpets cutting inside rather than blasting away, so it winds up being more the drummers' record. B+(**)
Nate Wooley Sextet: (Sit In) The Throne of Friendship (2012 , Clean Feed): Trumpet player, records quite a lot (AMG lists 13 albums since 2009), comes up with an impressive and rather rather interesting lineup here: Josh Sinton (bass clarinet, baritone sax), Matt Moran (vibes), Dan Peck (tuba), Eivind Opsvik (double bass), Harris Eisenstadt (drums). Sinton's bottom reeds enhance the trumpet contrast, as does the tuba while fattening the bass. When they get it all in sync it's quite a thing, but that doesn't happen often enough. B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: