Monday, September 9. 2013
Music: Current count 22016  rated (+40), 571  unrated (-3).
Late getting this up today. Spent the whole day fixing much too much Indian food for a dinner party for seven tonight: a lamb and potato curry (rogani ghosht), saffron pilaf with peaches, kali dal (a very rich small black lentil mash), cabbage, eggplant (bharta), yogurt with spinach (palak raita), served with a homemade lemon pickle, several store-bought chutneys and pickles, and heated-up (and not very good) paratha. My dessert pudding was inedible, but I had a can of gulab jamun and one of the guests brought ice cream, so we made do. (I have a long history of flubbing Indian desserts.) Much talk about Syria, which we all agree the US shouldn't bomb, although a couple people were more sensitive to the plight of the Syrians and more inclined to grasp at straws.
Didn't manage to play much today, or unpack today's mail. Last week, however, was pretty productive, especially as I close in on wrapping up September's Recycled Goods (which, as it turns out, won't be a 1960s special -- wound up spending much too much time listening to Polish jazz). Today's Jazz Prospecting list is perhaps the first to benefit from holding records back until release week. I started this practice over a month ago when I realized that I had managed to write up this week's top-rated album way ahead of its release date. After slow weeks for August and Labor Day, the new releases are picking up this week. (Though I will note that because I only had an advance copy of Dave Holland's new one, I missed its release date.)
Rated count topped 22,000 this week. With all the Rhapsody quickies, I'm rolling over thousand marks just about once a year. Still, I recall a conversation long ago -- perhaps as far back at the late-1970s although it could have been later -- with Bob Christgau and John Rockwell where record collection size came up, and those numbers stuck in my mind. Bob had something like 10K LPs stashed away at various addresses, but Rockwell, who wrote equally about classical music, had twice as many. I doubt that I had more than 3,000 LPs when I moved from New Jersey and sold most of them off. Of course, again thanks to Rhapsody, I doubt that I have half as many CDs as I have rated, and finding places to store those I do have is maddening.
Lucian Ban: Elevation/Mystery (2010 , Sunnyside): Pianist, b. 1969 in Romania, based in New York. Seventh or so album since 2002, most with baritone saxophonist Alex Harding, and second one this year, following Transylvanian Concert with Mat Maneri on ECM. That stretched out his folkloric/classical side, but this one -- a quartet with Abraham Burton (tenor sax), John Hébert (bass), and Eric McPherson (drums) -- recorded live at Cornelia Street Cafe in NYC sets him in an avant context, especially when the saxophonist works up a full head of steam. Nor is a quiet spot with just the bassist any less interesting. By the way, the "Mystery" part of the title is obscured -- how clever some graphic designers are! I missed it on unpacking, and most likely others will too. A- [September 10]
Cheryl Bentyne and Mark Winkler: West Coast Cool (2013, Summit): Standards singers, both have long careers; Bentyne principally with Manhattan Transfer since 1979 but also 13 albums under her own name; Winkler with a dozen albums since 1985. The "West Coast Cool" songs start with Dave Brubeck and Chet Baker, include a Neal Hefti piece by that title, and inevitably end up with Nat Cole and Bobby Troup medleys -- the warmer and more personable Winkler makes "Hungry Man" a highlight. B+(**) [September 10]
Brandon Bernstein Trio: But Beautiful (2012 , Jazz Collective): Guitarist, based in Los Angeles, teaches at Pasadena City College, co-authored a book of Kurt Rosenwinkel transcriptions for Mel Bay; website refers to his "CDs" (plural), but I've only found one previous one, a collection of Tom Waits songs. This trio, with bass and drums, is all standards (two by Jimmy Van Heusen). Has a light tough, with a bit of Django. B+(**)
Brussels Jazz Orchestra/Joe Lovano: Wild Beauty (2012 , Half Note): Lovano is listed on cover and spine as "featuring" but he's more than just the guest draw here; he's the main point. Title could be, or subtitle probably is -- parsing album covers is such a wretched business -- Sonata Suite for the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, but I'll stick to the big type. The other name phrase on the cover is "arranged by Gil Goldstein." The compositions belong to Lovano, so it would make most sense to credit the whole thing to Lovano and combine title: subtitle. The big band -- no strings here other than guitar and bass -- has a huge sound and gallops hard, its occasional lurches and lapses annoying, but the leader towers above it all, a talent that goes back to his days with Woody Herman. B+(***) [September 10]
Stephan Crump's Rosetta Trio: Thwirl (2012 , Sunnyside): Bassist, eighth album since 1997, a turning point being 2006's Rosetta, where he introduced this trio with Liberty Ellman on acoustic guitar and Jamie Fox on electric guitar, with 2010's Rosetta Trio album Reclamation the breakthrough. The group's sound has always been meticulously balanced so no single instrument dominates, but the risk is that none will stand out, which is the problem here. B+(**) [September 10]
Charles Evans: Subliminal Leaps (2013, More Is More): Baritone saxophonist, two previous albums including his solo debut, has a chamberish quartet here with David Liebman's soprano sax for contrast, Ron Stabinsky on piano, and Tony Marino on bass. No drummer to rush things along. B+(**) [September 10]
John Funkhouser: Still (2013, Jazsyzygy): Pianist, has at least one previous album under his own name, plus the 1998 eponymous group album Funkhouse suggesting that his name overdetermines his style. Mostly trio, plus guitar on 3 (of 8) cuts and Aubrey Johnson vocalizing on two cuts. Three covers: "House of the Rising Sun," "My Romance," "Little Rootie Tootie." Does get the funk idea. B+(*) [September 12]
Dave Holland: Prism (2012 , Dare2): This is being touted as a return to Holland's early days with Miles Davis at the birth of fusion. If he has to step back, I'd rather recall his work with Sam Rivers or Anthony Braxton -- Conference of the Birds, from 1972, remains his greatest record -- but you have to take what you can get. Quartet, with Kevin Eubanks on guitar, Craig Taborn on keyboards, and Eric Harland on drums. Jumps off with impressive flow, with Eubanks reminding one of another Davis alumni (Scofield, not McLaughlin), and Taborn showing why he's the most effective Fender Rhodes player of his generation. Still, lacks that extra point of reference Davis added, and trails off into ballad territory by the end. B+(**) [advance]
Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd: Holding It Down: The Veterans' Dreams Project (2012 , Pi): Ladd does spoken word projects, eleven since 1997, including two memorable discs with pianist Iyer providing the music: In What Language? (2003), and Still Life With Commentator (2007). This new project pulls texts from Iraq and/or Afghanistan veterans describing their dreams, the texts read by Ladd, Maurice Decaul, Lynn Hill, and Pamela Z. The words are vivid and often disturbing, a fair reminder of the hell our politicians have put these people through. Less sure what the make of the music, with Liberty Ellman (guitar), Okkyung Lee (cello), and Kassa Overall (drums), dreamy or just put together by chance, nor am I sure how much hell I care to listen to, just to reconfirm what a horrible idea that whole "war on terror" was. B+(**) [September 10]
Chad Lefkowitz-Brown: Imagery Manifesto (2013, self-released): Tenor saxophonist, first album, wrote all the pieces; group includes trumpet, guitar, piano, bass (Linda Oh), and drums for a complex and dense postbop gumbo. Website gave me a lot of aggravation, but that's neither here nor there. B+(*)
Pedro Martins: Dreaming High (2009-10 , Adventure Music): Guitarist, from Brazil, b. 1993 so Martins would have been 16 when this was recorded. (Looks like his first album, originally released as Sonhando Alto in 2011.) All original pieces. Guitar doesn't stand out a lot, but he gets good help, especially Josué Lopez on tenor sax. B+(*)
Pete McGuinness: Voice Like a Horn (2013, Summit): Vocalist, started out playing trombone which he still does here. Has a couple previous albums, one with a quintet, one with a big band, is co-lead with the New York Trombone Conspiracy; side credits include a lot more big band work. Backed here by Ted Kooshian's piano trio, plus "special guest" slots for Jon Gordon (alto sax) and Bill Mobley (trumpet), two cuts each. Songbook standards plus "Birks' Works" -- an occasion to let the scat fly. But his voice isn't really "like a horn" -- nothing wrong with his scat runs, but he has a firm grip on the text and the language, something vocalists who aspire to mimic horns often lose. B+(***)
M1, Brian Jackson & the New Midnight Band: Evolutionary Minded (2013, Motema): The late Gil Scott-Heron's one-time partner raises the banner again, recycling a list of songs for the revolution still to come, with help from various MCs -- M1 up front, Chuck D, Stic Man, Killah Priest, and Wise Intelligent get "feat." slots, as well as singers named Martin Luther and Gregory Porter, and spoken words from gun rights advocate Bobby Seale. B+(***) [September 10]
James Zollar: It's All Good People (2012 , JZAZ): Trumpet player, originally from Kansas City, only three albums under his own name since 1997 (the excellent Soaring With Bird), but his side credits include David Murray, Billy Bang, Sam Rivers, Don Byron, Bob Stewart, and quite a bit with Marty Ehrlich. Surprisingly goes for down home funk grooves here, with a bit of rap, vocals by Sheryl Rene and Erika Matsuo, a bit of Gregoire Maret harmonica, and a closer looking back at his elders, called "For Cootie & Clark." I'd be tempted to say he's wasting his talent here, but the trumpet is stellar, and I can't begrudge a guy for having a good time. B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: