Jazz CG Review Notes:
These are notes for records reviewed in the Jazz Consumer Guide.
They are moved to the notebook upon publication of the column.
Jazz Consumer Guide (28)
Deadline: October 1 would be approx. three months after #27.
- Aida Severo (2007 , Slam):
British free jazz
quintet, led by pianist Philip Somervell who is in the thick of it,
with two horns -- Joe Egan on trumpet, Chris Williams on alto sax --
flying off at odd tangents or piling on. With Colin Somervell on
bass and Vasilis Sarikis on drums.
- Ralph Alessi and This Against That: Wiry Strong
(2008 , Clean Feed):
Trumpet player, eighth album since 2002, which
moves him beyond the usual temptation to treat him as a superb sideman.
Group names after his 2002 album, although the only constants are
saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and bassist Drew Gress -- Andy Milne plays
piano, and Mark Ferber drums.
- Scott Amendola Trio: Lift (2010, Sazi):
known in the Nels Cline Singers; fourth album since 1999, a trio with
Jeff Parker on guitar and John Shifflett on bass. Mostly hews to rock
grooves, but much more to it. Especially good showcase for Parker.
- Lynne Arriale: Convergence (2010 , Motéma):
Pianist, b. 1957 in Milwaukee, more than a dozen albums since 1993,
teaches in Jacksonville, FL. Trio, with Omer Avital on bass and
Anthony Pinciotti, expanded on most cuts with tenor saxophonist
Bill McHenry. Half originals, half covers, drawn from the rock
era -- Beatles and Stones to Trent Reznor. She cracks "Here Comes
and Sun" and "Paint It Black" down to melodic fragments which pop
up here and there offering the barest whiff of the songs -- very
effective, nice work by Avital with the sax laying out. McHenry
returns on "Call Me" (Blondie); he mostly gets the upbeat pieces,
and is superb, as usual.
- Clint Ashlock Big Band: New Jazz Order (2008 ,
Trumpet player, from Kansas City, leading a standard
big band (although so many musicians come and go I didn't check to
see if all the sections always add up). Bobby Watson joins on two
cuts, which scarcely matters except for the imprimatur he lends to
musicians I've never heard of. The guitar keeps things going, the
section work is snappy, they have a great time -- much like the
territory bands of yore.
- Michaël Attias: Twines of Colesion (2008 ,
Alto saxophonist, b. 1968 in Haifa, Israel; family
moved to Minneapolis in 1977, and he's kicked around a fair amount
since then, including Paris and New York and a stretch studying
at Wesleyan under Anthony Braxton. Fourth album since 1999; has a
couple dozen side credits. Odd album, five musicians only loosely
connected, but they keep slipping into interesting juxtapositions,
so consistently one suspects some sort of plan -- although it
certainly he helps that the musicians are so strong individually:
Tony Malaby (tenor sax), Russ Lossing (piano), John Hébert (bass),
Satoshi Takeishi (drums, percussion).
- Omer Avital: Free Forever (2007 , Smalls):
Bassist, from Israel, has been in New York at least since 1994, with
nine albums since 2001. Quintet, with Avishai Cohen (trumpet), Joel
Frahm (tenor and soprano sax), Jason Lindner (piano), and Ferenc
Nemeth (drums). Group pieces have a sophisticated swing and a bit
of Latin tinge. Three "interludes" spotlight the trumpet, piano,
and bass. Never thought of Frahm as a soprano player before -- maybe
he's just never had such rich, expressive material to play.
- BassDrumBone: The Other Parade (2011, Clean Feed):
Longtime collaborators, Ray Anderson (trombone), Mark Helias
(bass), and Gerry Hemingway (drums) first hooked up in 1977, cutting
Oahpse in 1978. First used the group name on Wooferlo
in 1987, but their reference album for me is 1997's (Hence the
Reason) (Enja). Not sure how many BassDrumBone records there
are -- Hemingway's website refers to Cooked to Perfection
as the group's "sixth and latest," but doesn't have all of its
predecessors, and there are at least two since. This is the latest:
can't say Anderson is at his peak, but he's an able and inventive
frontman, and Helias and Hemingway are marvelous, as usual.
- The Louie Belogenis Trio: Tiresias (2008 , Porter):
Tenor saxophonist, don't have any biographical info but has
recorded since 1993, can't say how many albums or how important he
was to each since he's often worked behind group names -- Prima
Materia, God Is My Co-Pilot, Exuberance, Flow Trio, Old Dog. Always
struck me as a journeyman free player, but his workmanship here is
exceptionally formidable on five group improvs plus a few minutes
of John Coltrane's "Alabama" -- of course the group helps, Michael
Bisio on bass and Sunny Murray on drums.
- Tim Berne: Insomnia (1997 , Clean Feed):
first that this has been kicking around for a long time. I was asked
a while back to write something nice about Clean Feed for the label's
10th anniversary, and I utterly failed to find any way to structure
that -- in large part because I've always been so defensive, and so
rebellious, about getting boxed in to anyone else's notion of what
I ought to write. But one thing I can say about Clean Feed -- one of
the things that distinguishes them from virtually every other jazz
label -- is that they won't hesitate to take a flier on something
everyone else has passed over. And while one might suspect that a
label with their demographic would leap at the opportunity to add
Tim Berne to their catalogue, more likely it's that Pedro Costa has
heard something he wants to give a chance. Berne has released a
superb string of records starting around 2003 -- my pick hit is
Pre-Emptive Denial, attributed to Paraphrase, from 2005 --
but I rarely cared for his earlier works: he emerged around 1980
as a Julius Hemphill protégé and often seemed to be biting off
more than he could chew, making music too complicated to finally
come together. That's sort of the problem here, except that the
final quarter does come together, and the more you listen to the
complex noodling up front the more its incoherent strands take on
their own logic. Big, and actually very talented, group: Baikida
Carroll (trumpet), Michael Formanek (bass), Marc Ducret (guitar),
Dominique Pifarely (violin), Erik Friedlander (cello), Chris Speed
(clarinet), Jim Black (drums), Tim Berne (alto and baritone saxes).
The core of the group -- Berne, Speed, Formanek, Black, sometimes
Ducret -- was working as Bloodcount at the time, and their excellent
Seconds spent ten years on the shelf before Berne released
it himself. Someday I should go back to Berne's early records and
try to figure out whose fault it was that I didn't like them.
- The Chris Byars Octet: Lucky Strikes Again
(2010 , SteepleChase):
Tenor saxophonist, plays some soprano as way
too many do, but actually started on alto; AMG hasn't bothered to
provide a biography yet, but for those who have paid attention he
is one of the major arrivals of the past decade (e.g., his Photos
in Black, White and Gray was one of my pick hits). What you might
call a hard-core bebopper (not same as hard bopper). Focused on Gigi
Gryce last time out, moved back a bit back to Lucky Thompson this
time, who hit the cusp between swing and bebop almost perfectly --
aside from his own superb records he played in the septet on some
of Charlie Parker's most famous singles, and for my money he was
the star. Byars gets a lot of help here, adding Zaid Nasser's alto,
Mark Lopeman's baritone, Scott Wondholt's trumpet and John Mosca's
trombone, which saves him from a more direct comparison. Eloquent
arrangements, rich and flowing, with a touch of swing.
[PS: First thing I did when I got this was to ask the publicist to
fill in the gap left by two recent Byars albums on SteepleChase I
didn't get. Still waiting.]
- Marco Cappelli Acoustic Trio: Les Nuages en France
(2010 , Mode/Avant):
Guitarist, b. 1965 in Naples, in Italy;
studied at Conservatario di Santa Cecilia in Rome, then at Musik-Akademie
in Basel, Switzerland. Website shows four previous albums, including
one as EGP (Extreme Guitar Project). Acoustic Trio adds Ken Filiano
on double bass and Satoshi Takeishi on percussion. Bass seems louder
and more pronounced than the guitar, which furtively sneaks in and
out, with a scratchy abstractness. Takeishi is superb.
- Ralph Carney's Serious Jass Project: Seriously
(2011, Smog Veil):
San Francisco group, led by the sax/clarinet player from
Akron who started up in rock group Tin Huey, has long worked with Tom
Waits, and occasionally thrown off odd projects on the side. Second
group album. First was a dandy, and this comes close to hitting the
same sweet spot. Leads off with one from Buddy Tate, then Coleman
Hawkins, then two (of three) Ellington tunes. Quartet with keyboard,
bass, and drums, plus a guest guitarist on a couple cuts, vocalist
Karina Denike on two, a couple more vocals by guys in the band.
- Chaise Lounge: Symphony Lounge (2010, Big Round):
Charlie Barnett group: he plays guitar, sings a little, writes most
of the songs. Lead singer is Marilyn Older, and the group includes
Gary Gregg (sax, clarinet, flute), John Jensen (trombone), bass and
drums, but gets stretched out this time with Capital City Symphony
adding strings and who knows what else. Two covers -- "Do Nothing
'Till You Hear From Me" and "Luck Be a Lady" -- define the milieu
as retro while Barnett's own songs fit in as period obscurities --
titles include "Dude, She's Waiting," "In Walked Mo," "Blue, the
Distracted Reader," "Lonely Is as Lonely Does."
- Contact: Five on One (2010, Pirouet):
you'd call a supergroup, but well-established veterans -- bassist
Drew Gress is the youngest by more than a decade, drummer Billy
Hart the elder by much less -- the front-line players easily
recognized, each with sweet spots that are undeniably theirs,
the rhythm section impeccable, pianist Marc Copland playing both
roles. Most prominent, of course, is the sole horn, Dave Liebman
on tenor and soprano sax. I've never been a fan of his soprano,
but he works it in nicely here -- a sinuous interweaving that
is likely inspired by the master of the art, guitarist John
- The Cookers: Cast the First Stone (2010 ,
Plus Loin Music):
Supergroup -- Billy Harper (tenor sax), Craig
Handy (alto sax), Eddie Henderson (trumpet), David Weiss (trumpet),
George Cables (piano), Cecil McBee (bass), Billy Hart (drums), with
Azar Lawrence joining on 4 of 7 cuts (3 on tenor sax, 1 on soprano).
Second group album, after 2010's Warriors, which got a lot
of favorable notices but didn't come my way. Weiss is probably the
least well known, but he's the arranger, that's his specialty. I
recall Harper and Henderson teaming up before, on Harper's Live
on Tour in the Far East series (Volume 2 is exceptional),
so no surprise that the horns are roaring. Good to hear Cables, not
just comping but weaving it all together.
- Mirio Cosottini/Andrea Melani/Tonino Miano/Alessio Pisani:
Cardinal (2009, Grimedia Impressus):
take a while to sort out. Impressus Records is Miano's label.
I added this to my "wish list" after Stef Gijssels reviewed it
favorably. Miano noticed and offered to send a copy. GRIM is an
acronym for Music Improvisation Research Group (or a reverse
acronym for the English translation). Not clear what that means
or who is involved -- can't access the website listed in the
inset. Cardinal could be the group name, album title, or both.
Impressus has four records, the first three Miano duos. Miano
plays piano. I assume he's Italian ("obtained a degree in
musicology from the University of Bologna with a thesis on
J. Cage" ), but he's based in New York, where he's pursued
a physics degree. Cosottini plays trumpet, graduated Academy of
Music of Florence (1992), played in the first of Miano's duos,
also in EAQuartet. Pisani plays bassoon and contrabassoon. His
website has some lovely astronomical photos and a tantalizing
series on assembling a 14-inch telescope. Melani plays drums;
is based in Prato, Italy. Enigmatic music. The bassoon tends
to slow things down and fade into atmospherics; otherwise, with
trumpet leading you get something like Chicago Underground.
- Alexis Cuadrado: Noneto Ibérico (2009 , Bju'ecords):
Bassist, from Spain, based on Brooklyn; fourth album
since 2001. Brooklyn nonet, Marc Miralta's cajon and percussion
adding to the Spanish flavor, as do a trio of "special guests" on
four tracks -- not explained on the album but the website credits
them with "Flamenco Handclaps and 'Jaleos'." The rest of the group
are names I recognize: Perico Sambeat (alto/soprano sax, flute),
Loren Stillman (alto/tenor sax), Avishai Cohen (trumpet/flugelhorn),
Alan Ferber (trombone), Brad Shepik (guitar), Dan Tepfer (piano),
and Mark Ferber (drums). Groups that size often get cluttered or
break into pieces but this one is cohesive throughout, the horns
weaving and bobbing, the flow inexorable. Don't have a recording
date, just that the piece debuted in October 2009.
- Miles Davis Quintet: Live Europe 1967: Bootleg Vol. 1
(1967 , Columbia/Legacy, 3CD+DVD):
Something like this was
inevitable -- especially since the DVD was slipped into the 70-CD
Miles Davis: The Complete Columbia Album Collection (now
no longer complete) -- and the Vol. 1 promises more are in
the works. (For comparison, Legacy's Dylan Bootleg series
is up to Vol. 9.) The sets were recorded Oct. 11-Nov. 7,
1967, which slots this between Nefertiti and Miles in
the Sky in the Davis discography, midway in an empty stretch
as far as live recordings go. The group is the Quintet you know
so well: Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams.
The set lists recycle, with "Agitation" leading off the first two
CDs and both sets on the DVD -- it has a strong trumpet lead to
set the stage. Sophisticated music but not so exciting: on the
DVD the group is focused, cool and workmanlike, no excess motion
or emotion. Not a major find, but a remarkable group.
- Ernest Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble: The Prairie Prophet
(2010 , Delmark):
Saxophonist, alto and tenor, b. 1953, based in
Chicago. Group adds two trumpets, trombone, guitar (Jeff Parker), bass,
and drums. The prophet is the late Fred Anderson, the patron saint of
the Chicago avant-garde. Dawkins has long had a thing for South African
music -- his previous albums include Jo'burg Jump and Cape
Town Shuffle -- and he starts this off by reworking an Abdullah
Ibrahim title, "Blues for a Hip King," into "Hymn for a Hip King."
He also remembers Lester Bowie, and titles his last two pieces
"Mesopotamia" and "Baghdad Boogie" with snatches of old war songs.
The horns come hot and heavy; Parker's guitar is superb throughout.
- De Nazaten & James Carter: For Now (2009 ,
The Offspring, formerly of libertine Prince Hendrik, a
mixture of Dutch and Surinamese musicians, have been around since
1995 -- I had the Dutch muddled in my memory and started to refer
to them as the Bastards, which they probably wouldn't find offensive.
The apinti drum and skratyi are not just exotic; they make for fine
party instruments, accenting the comic potential of a group that
already had sousaphone and bass sax before teaming up with a world
class baritone saxophonist. Back cover shows them all hopping, with
no one getting a bigger kick than Carter.
- Carlo De Rosa's Cross-Fade: Brain Dance (2009 ,
Bassist, b. 1970, moved to New York 1993; first album,
although I see scattered side credits -- Luis Perdomo, Amir ElSaffar,
Samo Salamon, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Arturo O'Farrill. Quartet with
Mark Shim on tenor sax, Vijay Iyer on piano, Justin Brown on drums.
Shim is a guy I'd pretty much forgotten about: two quite good albums
for Blue Note 1998-2000, only scattered side credits since then, 2-3
per year. Shim is, however, superb here, right on the edge. Brown's
drums shift the beat all over the place, opening up vast spaces for
Shim and Iyer to work in.
- Ismael Dueñas Trio: Jazz Ateu (2009 , Quadrant):
Pianist, b. 1975 in Badalona, in Spain up the coast
from Barcelona. Fifth album, as best I can reckon, since 2003 --
I've heard the two on Fresh Sound New Talent, both excellent
but somehow lost in my shuffle. Joan Matera plays bass and Oscar
Domènech drums. For the most part this maintains a steady rhythmic
flow, something I'm tempted to call postmodern stride, although
it may just come from listening to Jarrett and Svensson. But he
doesn't stick to the groove, shifting into melodic passages that
work off something familiar, and in at least one case breaking
into dissonance that resolves itself into something lovely.
- Echoes of Swing: Message From Mars (2010 ,
Echoes of Swing):
Retro-swing group, based in Germany, recorded
this (their fifth) album in Austria. Quartet: Colin T. Dawson
(trumpet, b. England), Chris Hopkins (alto sax, b. US but moved
to Germany when he was young), Bernd Lhotzky (piano), and Oliver
Mewes (drums). Dawson sings two songs -- the Chet Baker style
on a Billie Holiday song ("Don't Explain") is a striking effect.
Lhotzky rearranges some Chopin, and there's a piece from Dmitri
"Schostakowitsch," but Teddy Wilson and Ellington are the more
- Peter Epstein & Idée Fixe: Abstract Realism
(2008 , Origin):
Alto saxophonist here, plays soprano
elsewhere. Had a 2005 album, Lingua Franca, which made
JCG A-list, and another album this year, The Dark, by
EEA, which made the dud list. This isn't a return to form so
much as yet another bold move in some other direction. There
are points of electronic drone where this sounds industrial --
Andy Barbera's guitar, and possibly Sam Minaie's bass, are
suspects, along with the also unknown drummer Matt Mayhall.
But mostly Epstein labors mightily against dark tableaus.
This wallows a bit, but when he's working he makes a strong
impression. Two "special guests" also play reeds: Brian Walsh
on bass clarinet, Gavin Templeton on alto and soprano sax.
No idea what they're doing here.
- Ellery Eskelin Trio: New York (2011, Prime Source):
Tenor saxophonist, b. 1959 in Wichita, KS; grew up in Baltimore; mother
played organ, and this record, an organ trio, is dedicated to her; moved
to New York in 1983 and has twenty-some albums since 1988, mostly on
the Swiss Hat label(s). With Gary Versace on organ, Gerald Cleaver on
drums. Five songs, played loose -- only one I initially IDed was "How
Deep Is the Ocean." No grease to the organ: Versace patiently fills in
rather than reiterate the usual grind, leaving Eskelin free to plot out
his own path.
- John Fedchock NY Sextet: Live at the Red Sea Jazz Festival
(2008 , Capri):
Trombonist, b. 1957,
based in New York, mostly identified with his New York Big
Band which first appeared on record in 1992, and appears
to still be active. Same basic sextet lineup as Steve Davis
uses: trumpet-trombone-sax horn line, piano, bass, drums.
Scott Wendholt plays trumpet, Walt Weiskopf tenor sax, Allen
Farnham piano, David Finck bass, Dave Ratajczak drums (all
but Weiskopf and Finck from the Big Band). More of a swing
player than Davis, especially with Farnham, which may be
why he can run the horns in unison without cloying.
- Jake Fryer/Bud Shank Quintet: In Good Company
(2009 , Capri):
Fryer is a young British alto saxophonist with a trad
bent, which nowadays is as likely to embrace 1950s mainstreamers --
Shank, of course, also Phil Woods -- as the pre-boppers. Shank died
shortly after this: a West Coast alto saxophonist, b. 1926, came up
in progressive big bands and recorded some sweet cool jazz records in
the 1950s, although by my reckoning his best records came out in the
early 1990s (cf. Lost in the Stars and I Told You So!).
I haven't managed to untangle the two saxes here, which makes it
possible to view the whole thing as a sharp revival for Shank, and
a fine memento. With Mike Wofford (piano), Bob Magnusson (bass), and
Joe La Barbera (drums). Fryer wrote 6 of 9 pieces -- titles like
"Bopping With Bud," "Tip Top and Tickety Boo," "Breaking Loose,"
and "In Good Company."
- Dave Glasser: Evolution (2010, Here Tiz):
Alto saxophonist, worked his way through the Basie ghost band
with Frank Foster, the Gillespie ghost band with Jon Faddis,
and the still living and vital Basie-Ellington alum Clark
Terry's quintet. Most likely they are all fond of his tone,
which Phil Woods likens to Benny Carter. Glasser was last
heard swinging on Arbors, but here he turns a bit "Monkish" --
one of his titles, while his pianist John Nyerges contributes
a complementary tune called "Monk's Blues," and to drive the
theme home the quartet does "Rhythm-a-Ning." Slim slipcover
slipped in with the advances, but doesn't include any of the
usual intimidating promo talk, so I assume this is finished
product. Didn't even scratch out the UPC.
- Gord Grdina Trio with Mats Gustafsson: Barrel Fire
(2009 , Drip Audio):
Grdina, from Vancouver, plays guitar and
oud. He has an interesting string of recent records, none of which
quite prepare you for the electric charge he shows here. The hint
you do get is the presence of Norwegian saxophonist Gustafsson, who
has a group called the Thing which specializes in free jazz blowouts
of postpunk rock tunes and has a long history of jousting with Ken
Vandermark in various groups, including the three-for-all Sonore.
Also key is bassist Tommy Babin, whose highly flamable Benzene group
pointed this way. Gustafsson comes out loud and ugly, but Grdina
rises to the occasion. Then, surprisingly, he picks up the oud and
cranks it to another level, with Gustafsson's noise tunnel trailing
in his wake.
- Bob Greene: St. Peter Street Strutters
(1964 , Delmark):
Pianist, b. 1922, later organized a group called World of
Jelly Roll Morton -- they have a record recorded in 1982, released
by GHB in 1994; as far as I know Greene's only other record. Group
here is a very trad jazz quartet, with Ernie Carson on cornet, Shorty
Johnson on tuba, and Steve Larner on banjo. Carson, 27 at the time,
is by far the best known. So old-fashioned swing would be showing
off. Still, I've been enjoying this a lot, especially driving around
where I'm not obligated to figure things out.
- Matt Herskowitz: Jerusalem Trilogy (2009-10 ,
Pianist, AMG lists him under classical although his
MySpace lists jazz and alternative first. First record was Plays
Gershwin, so you can take that either way. Uses a lot of strings
here -- Lara St. John's violin, Mike Block's cello, Matt Fieldes's
bass (electric as well as acoustic), the horns limited to Daniel
Schnyder's soprano sax and flute, and Bassam Saba's neys -- Saba
also plays oud, another string instrument. Starts with a piece
called "Polonaise Libanaise," then goes into the title set. Shades
of klezmer, but sounds more like tango to me with its swoosh and
drama. "Crossbones" starts with heavy rock chords, like Keith Emerson
aping Rachmaninoff, then segues into an improv that leaves Emerson
in the dust. Ends with Prokofiev.
- Anne Mette Iversen Quartet: Milo Songs (2011, Bju'ecords):
Bassist, composer of course, from Denmark (not clear from her bio),
studied piano at Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen, bass
at Rhythmic Conservatory of Music (also Copenhagen), got a BFA at
New School in 2001. Based in New York. Fourth album since 2004, a
quartet with John Ellis (tenor sax, clarinet), Danny Grissett (piano),
and Otis Brown III (drums). Ellis is especially fine here, as he's
been on several recent records. Grissett has his spots. As for the
bassist-composer, the whole thing flows effortlessly, her role
inconspicuous, and perhaps all the more remarkable for that.
- Darren Johnston's Gone to Chicago: The Big Lift
(2010 , Porto Franco):
Trumpet player from San Francisco, plays in
the Nice Guy Trio, also pops up in various avant-garde groups. This
trip to Chicago is a fruitful example, hooking Johnston up with: Jeb
Bishop (trombone), Jason Adasiewicz (vibes), Nate McBride (bass), and
Frank Rosaly (drums). The brass attack is neatly balanced, the vibes
bright, the rhythm roiling. Mostly Johnston originals, plus one from
Ornette Coleman and the closer from Duke Ellington, a "Black and Fan
Fantasy" from an even deeper and darker jungle.
- Lee Konitz: Insight (1989-95 , Jazzwerkstatt):
Front cover also has, in much smaller type, name of Frank Wunsch,
the pianist who duets with Konitz on 6 of 9 tracks. Spine only has
Konitz's name, which in the algebra of parsing album covers carries
a bit more weight. Plus the album starts off with three solo cuts,
and Wunsch doesn't make much of an impression even when he plays.
Konitz, on the other hand, does. Like most solo/duo sax records,
he stays within the speed limit, but his tone is uncommonly fine
and the improvs are rigorously intelligent. Pieced together from
five sessions scattered over six years. Includes some soprano sax
as well as the usual alto.
- Ernie Krivda: Blues for Pekar (2011, Capri):
saxophonist, b. 1945 in Cleveland; AMG credits him with 24 records
since 1977, starting on Inner City with a lot on Cadence/CIMP --
labels I don't get and have trouble finding, so this is the first
I've heard by him. Given the labels, I pictured him as more avant,
but he has album titles like Tough Tenor, Red Hot and Focus
on Stan Getz and Perdido, so clearly I need to do some
research and get my bearings. "Pekar" is late cartoon auteur Harvey
Pekar, who's quoted in the booklet: "Ernie Krivda is one of the best
jazz tenor sax men in the world." Five covers (including tunes by
Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon) followed by two originals, each
running 8-12 minutes. Four cuts are spiced up with trumpet (Sean
Jones on two, Dominick Farinacci on the others), and all of them
are barnburners with a powerful swing undertow. Not sure if that's
how Krivda usually plays, or just how Pekar liked it.
- Jerry Leake & Randy Roos: Cubist Live (2010 ,
Leake is a percussionist, collects instruments and
techniques from all around the world, records them, writes books about
them, teaches them -- Indian, Persian, Latin American, all over Africa.
Record company has "publishing" in the title because his books outnumber
his records (currently 7 to 6). First record I heard by him, The
Turning (2006), played like an encyclopedia, which I thought a neat
idea at the time. But so did his last, Cubist, which I backed a
bit down on, only to receive a letter from him chiding me for failing
to recognize his "masterpiece." Well, this isn't a masterpiece either,
but the nine long songs (total 76:41) fit and flow. Thanks to guitarist
Roos -- promoted from producer last time to a byline -- he's got a band
here. The flute-phobic should be warned, but actually this picks up a
head of steam when the flute comes out, and gets even better when Stan
Strickland reverts to sax. Better still when the extra drummers (Ben
Paulding and Marty Wirt, plus Lisa Leake on percussion and Mike Doud
on tabla) quicken the pace. Back cover says "file under world &
rock" but the mix makes most sense as jazz.
- The David Liebman Trio: Lieb Plays the Blues à la Trane
(2008 , Challenge):
With Marius Beets on bass, Eric Ineke on drums.
Three Coltrane pieces, sandwiched between Miles Davis's "All Blues" and
Duke Ellington's "Take the Coltrane" -- all ruggedly blues-based, with
snakey soprano sax twists and more muscular tenor sax. Liebman has well
over a hundred records since the early 1970s, when he came up in Miles
Davis's group. It used to be that saxophonists would strive to establish
their own unique sounds, but Liebman is still a fan, wearing his heroes
on his sleeves -- he's done a Homage to John Coltrane, his own
version of John Coltrane's Meditations. Recently took a shot at
Ornette Coleman too, but this is closer to his heart, and really the
whole reason for his soprano. I still much prefer to tenor, but he makes
both work here.
- Brian Lynch: Unsung Heroes (2008-09 ,
Hollistic Music Works):
Trumpet player, b. 1956, 15-plus albums since 1986, started
out as a hard bopper, then made a big splash in Latin bands. Pays tribute
here to trumpet players, mostly from 1950s and 1960s: Tommy Turrentine,
Idrees Sulieman, Louis Smith, Claudio Roditi, Kamau Adilifu, Joe Gordon,
Ira Sullivan, Donald Byrd, Howard McGhee, Charles Tolliver -- mostly
adapting their songs, sometimes writing new ones. Lynch has done this
before, in 2000's Tribute to the Trumpet Masters, where he picked
off the more obvious names (Freddie Hubbard, Thad Jones, Lee Morgan,
Booket Little, Woody Shaw, Kenny Dorham, Blue Mitchell, Tom Harrell,
and Tolliver again). Crackling trumpet, helped out by Vincent Herring
on alto sax; congas on two tracks.
- Maïkotron Unit: Ex-Voto (2011, Jazz From Rant):
Quebec-based trio: Pierre Côté (bass, cello), Michel Côté (bass
clarinet, saxophones), and Michel Lambert (drums), where the latter
two also play something called a maïkotron. Invented by Michel Côté
in 1983, the only description I've found: "a woodwind instrument,
played with a reed and a tenor saxophone mouthpiece, but made up
of many instruments at once: trumpet valves, the bell of a cornet,
parts of a euphonium and a clarinet." The instrument has evolved
over time, and evidently there are various prototypes, some capable
of ranging below the bass saxophone. This is reportedly the Unit's
seventh album, but the first available on CD -- suggesting it's
been a while. (I can't find any other reference to the missing
records.) Compositions here are based on paintings (numbered
tableaux), most (or perhaps all) named in Latin. I can't say as
I understand any of it, but find it all strangely fascinating --
not the puzzle of mapping the stray sounds to the mysterious
instrument but how the sonic abstractions cohere into quaint
and inimitable grooves.
- Rebecca Martin: When I Was Long Ago (2010, Sunnyside):
Singer, b. 1969, half a dozen albums since 1999. My impression (cf.
People Behave Like Ballads) was that she wrote her own material
and was only accidentally classified as jazz as opposed to folk or
mild rock), but here she sings standards, barely accompanied by Larry
Grenadier on bass, with occasional incursions (or excursions) by Bill
McHenry on tenor, alto, or soprano sax. Brings out levels of nuance
in her voice I've never suspected before.
- Alexander McCabe: Quiz (2009-10 , CAP):
saxophonist, third album since 2001, website suggests he's mostly
interested in doing film music. Mainstream, exceptionally fluid and
inventive, recorded in two sessions with different drummers -- Greg
Hutchinson on two cuts, Rudy Royston on five -- with Ugonna Okegwo
on bass and Uri Caine on piano. Most albums like this trip up on
the piano solos but Caine really takes off.
- Sebastiano Meloni/Adriano Orrù/Tony Oxley: Improvised Pieces
for Trio (2008 , Big Round):
respectively. Meloni and Orrù live in Cagliari, Italy; they have a
short discography which hasn't come to AMG's attention yet. Credits
are split 7 for Meloni, 7 for the group (one is just an Orrù-Oxley
duo). Meloni plays sharp and percussive, able to take the lead when
he sees fit. Oxley is relatively famous: a major drummer of Europe's
avant-garde, past 70 now, with a Penguin Guide crown album
to his credit (1969's The Baptised Traveler).
- Moon Hotel Lounge Project: Into the Ojalá (2010 ,
Tom Moon project, first record I'm aware of, wrote all
but one of the songs, plays credible tenor sax against a swishy background
of guitar, bass, electric piano, vibes and percussion. I'm mostly familiar
with Moon as a rock critic, author of 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before
You Die: A Listener's Life List, which aside from a few dozen nods
to the Euroclassics that I'm sure will remain unheard when I die, is a
pretty useful guide. And this is a remarkably enjoyable record, its lounge
concept neither camp nor corny, easy listening where everything else that
conventionally goes by that label turns dull and tedious.
- New York Standards Quartet: Unstandard (2010 ,
David Berkman (piano), Tim Armacost (tenor sax, etc.,
alto flute), Gene Jackson (drums), Yosuke Inoue (bass), listed in
that order. Berkman has five albums since 1998 -- the first two an
impressive debut, the others dribbling out slowly. Armacost has a
similar pattern, five albums since his 1996 debut on Concord -- I
haven't heard those. I hadn't noticed Inoue, from Japan, but he's
been in New York for 13 years, with six albums. Jackson pops up
all the time. Group has a previous Live in Tokyo (2008).
I saw Benny Carter once and he introduced "How High the Moon" as
"the jazz musician's national anthem," so it's especially poignant
as the lead standard here. Other standards come from Benny Golson,
Jimmy Van Heusen ("But Beautiful"), Bill Evans, and Warren-Dubin
("Summer Night"), but about half of the pieces are originals by
the band -- I guess, the only thing jazz musicians like more than
standards is rolling their own.
- NY Jazz Initiative: Mad About Thad (2010 , Jazzheads):
Well, aren't we all? Thad, of course, is Thad Jones,
elder brother to Hank and Elvin (all three are in Downbeat's
Hall of Fame), trumpeter, composer. NY Jazz Initiative is mostly
an octet (two pianists alternate; an extra trombone shows up on
the first cut), with soprano/tenor saxophonist Rob Derke listed
first and given credit for arranging 4 of 8 pieces -- the other
pieces were arranged by non-members. The three saxes (Derke, Ralph
Lalama, Steve Wilson), trumpet (David Smith), and trombone (Sam
Burtis, who also plays some tuba) light this up.
- Adam Pieronczyk: Komeda: The Innocent Sorcerer (2009 ,
Saxophonist, b. 1970 in Poland, plays
soprano and tenor, has a dozen-plus albums since 1996. Komeda, of
course, is Krzysztof Komeda (1931-69), the pianist-composer who
seems to be the root of all subsequent Polish jazz. Komeda may be
best known for his soundtrack to Rosemary's Baby. I'm not
nearly familiar enough with his dozen or so records, but regard
Astigmatic as one of the high points of European jazz in the
1960s. Komeda has also been the subject of such notable tributes
as Tomasz Stanko's Litania, and this is another one. With
Gary Thomas on tenor sax, Nelson Veras on guitar, Anthony Cox on
bass, and Lukasz Zyta on drums.
- Claire Ritter: The Stream of Pearls Project
(2009-10 , Zoning):
Pianist; b. 1952 in Charlotte, NC; studied with Ziggy
Hurwitz and (later) Mary Lou Williams and Ran Blake. Tenth album since
1988. Eighteen original pieces ranging from 1:41 to 4:30, each referring
to some instance of water in nature: the Charles River, Franconia Notch,
1000 Islands, Horshoe-Niagara Falls, Carolina Ponds, Ocracoke Island,
Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, Currituck Beach, Pamlico Sound. Some of
the pieces are solo piano, translating her sharp eye into sure-footed
sound; others add percussion (Takashi Masuko), banjo, cello, accordion,
vibes. I like it best when the pace picks up and the accordions -- yes,
there are two -- kick in, but every piece finds its place.
- Roswell Rudd: The Incredible Honk (2011, Sunnyside):
The great trombonist of our era, entitled to this title even though
he doesn't do much to earn it here. Most of the record is given over
to a wide range of world music -- Cuban, Cajun, Chinese, Malian --
each with their special guests -- Michel Doucet's take on Rudd's own
"C'etait dans la nuit" is the most successful. Even better is when
Rudd strips down to basics, as on his "Waltzin' with My Baby" or an
amazingly poignant "Danny Boy."
- Tommy Smith: Karma (2010 , Spartacus):
saxophonist, b. 1967 in Scotland, studied at Berklee, had a run on
Blue Note that is long out of print, more records on Linn where his
amazing facility often outran his ideas -- for me his breakthrough
was Blue Smith in 2000, where he finally slowed down and let
his rich tones develop. Returned to Scotland after that, releasing
little publicized records on his own label, cultivating local talent,
directing a group called Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. One of
the few records I managed to get hold of was a duo with pianist
Brian Kellock, Symbiosis (2005) -- an early Jazz CG Pick
Hit, one of the best records of the decade. So I was surprised to
get this one, replete with a full color promo booklet no less: a
quartet with three of his young Scottish protégés -- Steve Hamilton
on piano, Kevin Glasgow on electric bass, Alyn Cosker on drums.
Fine group, but it all turns on the saxophonist, who seems a bit
subdued at first, until he realizes he's got to finish the job
himself, and closes with a dazzling finish.
- Wadada Leo Smith's Organic: Heart's Reflections
(2011, Cuneiform, 2CD):
Mostly electric, including the trumpet as well as lots
of guitars and bass, plus some keyb and laptop, which wouldn't have
been my first expectation for a band named Organic, but the AACM vet
who a decade ago took a wild turn through electric Miles (Yo! Miles)
has his own sense of history. First disc, with its Don Cherry tribute
opening and a big chunk of the title thing, is uproarious. Second
winds down the title thing and ends with tirbutes to Toni Morrison
and Leroy Jenkins, which are more halting, erratic, difficult.
- Terell Stafford: This Side of Strayhorn
(2010 , MaxJazz):
No surprises here: the songs are classic, the rhythm section
(Bruce Barth, Peter Washington, Dana Hall) can swing, the horns drive,
with Tim Warfield favoring his soprano sax over his usual tenor, and
the leader is almost always out front, earning his showcase.
- Kevin Tkacz Trio: It's Not What You Think (2007
, Piece of Work of Art):
Bassist, based in Brooklyn. First (and evidently
only) record, a piano trio with Bill Carrothers and Michael Sarin. Two
songs credited to Tkacz, one to Rogers and Hart, the rest group improvs.
Best thing I've heard by Carrothers in several years, probably because
he gets a little dirty, as does the bass.
- Walt Weiskopf Quartet: Recorded Live April 8, 2008 Koger Hall
University of South Carolina (2008 , Capri):
Presented as a memoir of late drummer Tony Reedus, who died Nov.
16, 2008; the most upfront and personable outing I've heard by
the mainstream tenor saxophonist, plus a strong assist from
pianist Renee Rosnes -- haven't heard much from her since her
Blue Note contract lapsed nearly a decade ago. Paul Gill plays
- Ezra Weiss: The Shirley Horn Suite (2010 , Roark):
Pianist, b. 1979, grew up in Arizona, studied in Oregon,
wound up in New York. Fifth album since 2002. (I still have an
earlier one, Alice in Wonderland: A Jazz Musical, wedged
in my queue; something I should do something about.) A tribute
to Shirley Horn, focusing more to her underrated piano than on
her voice -- although the very similar sounding Shirley Nanette
sings four songs (all Weiss originals). Weiss wrote five of
nine pieces, taking the four covers as instrumentals for a
tasteful piano trio.
- Howard Wiley and the Angola Project: 12 Gates to the City
(2008 , HNIC Music):
Saxophonist, tenor and soprano, born in Berkeley,
CA, based in LA. Previous album was called The Angola Project, named
for Louisiana's notorious prison, and he intends to keep working that theme.
That means dragging in gospel singers and a rapper or two (Bicasso? Bisco?),
carrying social and political messages including a lecture on the linkages
between prison and slavery that, well, mostly rings true. In between we get
some of Wiley's saxophone, unspectacular but gritty and soulful, and like
everything else he aspires to, true.