Monday, August 26. 2013
Music: Current count 21937  rated (+38), 585  unrated (-4).
Busy day today, so late post. Had a potluck dinner-discussion of my Thinking Around the Israeli-American Impasse paper. I'll write more about that in the next day or two, but for now will note that instead of preparing for defending my paper, I focused on the potluck part of the equation and spent the day preparing a legendary Tunisian dish, Mohamed's Bisteeya. Used Ruth Reichl's recipe from Tender at the Bone, substituting chicken for the traditional squab. Played music all day, but didn't have time to write about any of it.
Three A- records this week is rare, but only brings the month to five. The total review count for this month is 53, down quite a bit from the last two months (85 and 78) but about average for the year. Still holding back records until their release week. Looks like things will pick up September 10 -- I have four records already reviewed for that week, vs. just one for next week. Should do a Rhapsody Streamnotes later this week, hopefully by the end of the month. Draft file isn't real thick, but for some reason it's almost all jazz. Hope to have a Downloader's Diary too.
Agachiko: Yes! (2013, Accurate): Singer Gabrielle Agachiko, b. 1958 in Kenya, father Kenyan, mother Afro-American, moved to England at 12, New York at 17, based in Boston now. First album, wrote or co-wrote 8 of 11 songs -- covers are "Angel Eyes," "Since I Fell for You," and one from Nina Simone. Backed by guitar, bass, drums, and some horns -- Ken Field, Scott Getchell, and Russ Gershon. B+(*)
Albare: The Road Ahead (2013, Enja): Alias for Albert Dadon, b. 1957 in Morocco, moved to Israel at age 5, France five years later, then to Australia in 1984, where he married the daughter of a billionaire, is executive chairman of "a diversified funds management and property development company," founded and chaired the Australian Israel Cultural Exchange, chaired the Melbourne Jazz Festival, and eventually recorded at least three albums. With piano, bass, drums, and Allan Harris crooning on one song, a pleasant mild groove album. B+(*)
Bryan Anthony/Gary Norian Trio: A Night Like This (2011, Mercator Media): Standards singer, has worked in the Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey ghost bands, and has a couple previous albums. This one is backed by pianist Norian's trio, and Norian provides four songs. Anthony has a classic crooner pose, a soft and pliable voice, and he sneaks up on you. Francis Davis wrote the liner notes. B+(**)
Will Bernard: Just Like Downtown (2013, Posi-Tone): Guitarist, half-dozen albums since 1998, goes for a soul jazz album this time, but everyone except drummer Rudy Royston is a bit eccentric: Brian Charette on organ, John Ellis on tenor sax and bass clarinet, and the leader himself. B+(**) [August 27]
The Candy Shop Boys: Sugar Foot Stomp (2013, self-released): Throwback side project for saxophonist Matt Parker, who has a recent postbop album I like a lot (Worlds Put Together). With Scott Tixier (violin), Jesse Elder (piano), bass and drums, and Sophia Urista singing 7 of 12 songs -- Cab Calloway ("Kicking the Gong Around"), Harlem Hamfats ("The Candy Man"), "St. James Infirmary," but "Light My Fire" seems a misstep, and "I Want to Be Evil" is less convincing than "When I Get Low I Get High." Instrumentals like "Sugarfot Stomp" and "Black & Tan Fantasy" and "Bernie's Tune" are more than filler. B+(***)
Jonathan Elias: Path to Zero: Prayer Cycle (2011, Downtown): Pianist, b. 1956, studied at Eastman School of Music and Bennington College, classical stuff, worked on movie soundtracks, produced rock groups like Duran Duran and Yes; in 1989 composed a piece called Requiem for the Americas; in 1999 released a choral symphony called The Prayer Cycle. This is presumably more of that, "a powerful poetic response to man's inhumanity to man in the nuclear age, told in seven movements" and tied into some sort of political program -- probably well-intentioned, but none of the music here (spoken word, chorales, classical schmaltz played with synths) makes me want to find out. Sometimes when I sit on an album a couple years I'm pleasantly surprised. Sometimes it's even worse than I imagined. D+
Satoko Fujii: Gen Himmel (2012 , Libra): Solo piano, not sure how many of those she's recorded in a very prolific career -- AMG lists 44 records since 1995 -- but it's not zero and not many. This has none of the thrash I'm so fond of, so it's all the more surprising that this succeeds on its own complex melodic terms. A-
Albert Heath/Ethan Iverson/Ben Street: Tootie's Tempo (2013, Sunnyside): Heath, b. 1935, nicknamed "Tootie," was one of the three Heath Brothers, along with saxophonist Jimmy Heath and bassist Percy Heath. Only two or three albums under his name, but he's played on at least a hundred starting in 1957 with Red Garland and John Coltrane, and this is the second album he's appeared on named Tootie's Tempo -- the other by Tete Montoliu Trio in 1979. Iverson, who's recently eschewed credit in the Billy Hart Quartet, plays piano, and Street bass. Starts out jaunty with "The Charleston," part of a songbook that sometiems predates the drummer, and ends with the title song, mostly drum solo. Nice tribute. (By the way, the only album Percy Heath put his name on came out in 2004, a year before his death. It was called A Love Song, and was even more charming than this one.) B+(***) [August 27]
Lynn Jolicoeur and the Pulse: World Behind Your Eyes (2012 , self-released): Boston singer/band, the writer there is pianist Steven Travis, who has a hand in 5 (of 12) songs, one co-credited with Jolicoeur. Website promises "timeless jazz and pop hits with contemporary flair and romantic soul" -- hard to imagine how that might work without falling through the contradictory cracks. Nothing bad here, but having a sax doesn't make it jazz, covering Sting and writing new songs doesn't make it timeless. Contemporary flair, sure. B
Kaze: Tornado (2012 , Libra): Quartet with two trumpets (Natsuki Tamura and Christian Pruvost), piano (Satoko Fujii), and drums (Peter Orins). The trumpets burst out of the gate, and the pianist almost makes the drummer an afterthought. And when the fury breaks, they keep it interesting in subtler ways. A-
Mark Masters Ensemble: Everything You Did (2012 , Capri): Subtitled "The Music of Walter Becker & Donald Fagen," aka Steely Dan, a 1970s rock group with an uncommon affinity for jazz. The Ensemble has some star power -- Billy Harper and Tim Hagans, most obviously, plus guests like Oliver Lake, Sonny Simmons, and Gary Foster wander in for a cut each -- but mostly the big band takes all the whimsy out of the tunes, which become difficult to discern and distinguish unless Anna Mjoll sings one. B
Stephanie Nakasian: Show Me the Way to Get Out of This World (2011 , Capri): Standards singer, b. 1954, ten albums since 1988, mostly on VSOP, her latest Dedicated to Lee Wiley. Backed here by a basic piano trio led by Harris Simon, leaving the focus on the singer, a subtle interpreter with fine tone who can also sling some scat, but is best when she find a song with some bite to it, like "The End of a Love Affair." B+(**)
Linda Oh: Sun Pictures (2012 , Greenleaf Music): Bassist, third album, quartet with Ben Wendel (credited with trumpet but sounds like tenor sax, his usual instrument), James Muller (guitar), and Ted Poor (drums). Pieces have an inside-out feel to them, nothing showy, fast or loud -- the guitar and sax just build up on the bass waves and carry you along. A- [August 27]
Planet Z: Planet Z Featuring Susan Aquila/Music by Rob Tomaro (2011, Blue Chair): Fusion group, only album, Aquila was trained as a classical violinist but plays a Viper 6-string electric here. Tomaro wrote the pieces, has a Ph.D. in composition from NYU, and plays guitar, with the band adding keyboards, bass, and drums. B
Abigail Riccards: Every Little Star (2013, self-released): Standards singer, has a couple previous albums, this one produced by Jane Monheit (who's featured on Joni Mitchell's "Circle Game," an outlier here). Band includes Michael Kanan (piano) and Peter Bernstein (guitar), framing surefire songs nicely -- "Singin' in the Rain," "I Can't Give You Anything but Love," "Smile," "Bye Bye Blackbird." B+(*)
Imer Santiago: Hidden Journey (2013, Jazz Music City): Trumpet player, originally from Lorain, Ohio; studied at Ohio State under Pharez Whitted, then University of New Orleans; currently based in Nashville, teaching at Tennessee State, also band director at Moses McKissack Middle School and "worship pastor" of The Church at Antioch. First album, quintet plus guests, saxophonist Rahsaan Barber co-wrote three songs. Has a serene tone, does a nice job of pacing this. Two songs are dedicated to Miles Davis and Tito Puente. Stephanie Adlington sings "The Very Thought of You." B+(***) [August 27]
Natsuki Tamura: Dragon Nat (2012 , Libra): Solo trumpet, makes a nice matched set with Satoko Fujii's solo Gen Himmel. But solo trumpet is much harder to pull off, as evidenced by the fact that there are maybe a dozen such albums compared to many hundreds or possibly more than a thousand solo piano sets. B+(*)
Waclaw Zimpel Quartet: Stone Fog (2012 , Fortune): Clarinet player, from Poland, leading a quartet with Krzysztof Dys on piano, Christian Ramond on bass, and Klaus Kugel on drums. Zimpel has a handful of previous albums, including two as Undivided (with pianist Bobby Few), plus he has been involved in a couple of Ken Vandermark projects (ones I haven't heard). He is very striking here, the album held back only by a few long atmospheric stretches, fog perhaps. B+(***) [August 27]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: