Jazz Consumer Guide (14):
Prospecting

These are the prospecting notes from working on Jazz CG #14. The idea here was to pick an unrated record from the incoming queue, play it, jot down a note, and a grade. Any grade in brackets is tentative, with the record going back for further play. In some of these cases there is a second note, written once I've settled on the grade. These were written from June 4 to Sept. 16, 2007, with non-finalized entries duplicated from previous prospecting. The notes have been sorted by artist. The chronological order can be obtained from the notebook or blog.

The number of records noted below is 269. The count from the previous file was 218.


Muiza Adnet: Sings Moacir Santos (2006 [2007], Adventure Music): Another spinoff from Ouro Negro, the project that brought Afro-Brazilian composer Santos some small measure of fame. Santos roughs in some vocals shortly before his death, but producer Mario Adnet is in charge of the delicate arrangements, and his sister Muiza is featured in what strikes me as an overly proper framing. Milton Nascimento and Ivan Lins also appear, as do guitarists Marcos Amorim and Ricardo Silveira. B

Don Aliquo: Jazz Folk (2006, Young Warrior): I found info about two Don Aliquos on the web. This one teaches in Tennessee, has four records, and plays classic hard bop with a light touch and well-developed tone. The other is based in Pennsylvania, where this one originally hails from, and looks old enough to be this one's father. The group here is the usual quintet, with Clay Jenkins on trumpet and Rufus Reid on bass making the trip down from New York, plus two fellow academics on piano and drums. Got distracted midway through when my copy started to skip. Got it repaired, but will have to spin it again to decide how exceptional this very mainstream record really is. [B+(**)]

Don Aliquo: Jazz Folk (2006, Young Warrior): Tenor saxophonist, plays rock solid hard bop, based in Tennessee, but helped out by New Yorkers Clay Jenkins and Rufus Reid here. B

Rodrigo Amado/Carlos Zíngaro/Tomas Ulrich/Ken Filiano: Surface: For Alto, Baritone and Strings (2006 [2007], European Echoes): Amado is a Portuguese saxophonist. Plays alto and baritone here, and wrote pieces where he accompanies a string trio -- Zíngaro plays violin and viola, whichever. Has a couple of previous albums, on his own and leading the Lisbon Improvisation Players. The string stuff here is what I like to call difficult music: arch, grating, hard to follow, sometimes hard to stand. I'm always surprised when I do and can, even more so when I start to enjoy it. [B+(**)]

Rodrigo Amado/Carlos Zingaro/Tomas Ulrich/Ken Filiano: Surface: For Alto, Baritone and Strings (2006 [2007], European Echoes): Leader plays both alto and baritone sax, so don't expect much interplay there. Strings are violin/viola, cello, and double bass. The strings can be difficult, both to follow and to stand, but I've gotten used to them and even admire their arch abstraction. I do wish the saxophonist would put out more, which from other records I know he is capable of. B+(*)

Anjani: Blue Alert (2006 [2007], Columbia): Young pianist-singer from Hawaii, wrote this batch of songs with Leonard Cohen, who co-produces. Sometimes his cadences come through, and you can imagine his croak too. The songs are slow, the arrangements rough; they seem to old for her -- "I danced with a lot of men/Fought in an ugly war/Gave my heart to a mountain/But I never loved before"; "Every night she'd come to me/I'd cook for her, I'd pour her tea/She was in her thirties then/Had made some money, lived with men" -- but she looks up them and through them. Maybe too young for him, too, but that seems more like luck than a problem. B+(*)

The Bad Plus: Prog (2006 [2007], Heads Up): Label is sometimes given as Do the Math Records; their logo's on the back above Heads Up, but only the latter is on the spine. The group, of course, is Ethan Iverson on piano, Reid Anderson on bass, Dave King on drums. Each is notable on his own. Together sheer muscule of the bass and drums forces the piano to aim for sharp edges. All three are able to ramp their volume and speed up and down so fast that they become improvisational vectors in their own right. The result is an acoustic piano trio that projects hard rock power, a point they underscore by covering rock anthems instead of tin pan alley standards. They do three or four this time, depending on what you make of Bacharach & David's "This Guy's in Love With You." The others are "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" (Tears for Fears), "Life on Mars" (David Bowie), and "Tom Sawyer" (Rush). Only the Bowie is instantly recognizable to me, although I've no doubt heard many of the dozens of Bacharach-David covers, starting with Herb Alpert's 1968 hit. In between, all three craft originals -- Anderson's "Giant" impressed me the most this time around. [B+(***)]

The Bad Plus: Prog (2006 [2007], Heads Up): The usual mix of covers and originals, or unusual, given that Tears for Fears and Rush mean nothing to me, which makes them more difficult problems than the originals. On the other hand, David Bowie's "Life on Mars" means the world to me, so the climactic rise to its chorus towers above its surroundings like Denali. Still, the best thing here is Reid Anderson's "Giant," and I'm more impressed than ever by drummer Dave King. But I don't have any idea how to fit this into "prog" -- maybe they see it as stunted progress. If so, they're too modest. B+(**)

Chet Baker: Chet (Keepnews Collection) (1958-59 [2007], Riverside): The original back cover touts "the lyrical trumpet of CHET BAKER," but the more descriptive term is "slow"; in Baker's day, that also passed for romantic -- even if you're unsure whether the cover girl draped over Baker's shoulder is in love or merely asleep. B+(*)

Billy Bang Quintet Featuring Frank Lowe: Above & Beyond: An Evening in Grand Rapids (2003 [2007], Justin Time): They pulled this out of the files, recognizing it as the last time Bang and Lowe played together, but regardless of context it is simply fabulous. If Lowe seems uncharacteristically mild, Bang explains that Lowe was only operating on one lung, and in Cleveland "he was so out of breath at the end of the gig that the lady who promoted it wanted to call an ambulance." Lowe looks awful on the back cover here, and finally succumbed to cancer less than five months hence. But the word for his sound here is sweet. Andrew Bemkey's piano adds a contrasting sharpness, and Bang flat out swings. Some spots get rough, including an awkward, ugly close on one piece where all you can do is laugh it off. A-

Stefano Battaglia: Re: Pasolini (2005 [2007], ECM, 2CD): That would be Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922-75), best known for but by no means limited to his films. Battaglia is a pianist and composer who pays homage at great length, writing material that would no doubt work as soundtrack. The two discs have different groups with Battaglia the only common player, but cello dominates both, with violin added on the second, trumpet and clarinet on the first. I'm torn here, impressed by the stately, magisterial music, but anxious to move on. B+(*)

Jerry Bergonzi: Tenorist (2006 [2007], Savant): Tenor saxophonist, from Boston. Couple dozen albums since 1982. Broad, breathy tone, mainstream rhythmic sense, can go fast but prefers moderate paces and pitches a fetching ballad. He fits a type that I'm particularly fond of, but I haven't followed his own work all that closely. Quartet this time, with John Abercrombie's guitar providing the chords. Album gets stronger as it progresses, and Abercrombie fits in particularly well. [B+(***)]

Jerry Bergonzi: Tenorist (2006 [2007], Savant): A mainstream tenor sax album for folks who love sax the way God, er, Coleman Hawkins, intended it: broad, deep, full of spunk, but dependably on the beat, and close enough to the melody you can track it while enjoying the differences. A quartet, with John Abercrombie's guitar fitting in better than the usual piano, and standing out on the rare occasions he feels like it. B+(***)

Andy and the Bey Sisters: 'Round Midnight (1965 [2007], Prestige): Sisters Salome and Geraldine complement brother Andy Bey, producing a tricky mix of harmonies that works sometimes -- the light "Squeeze Me" and the heavy "God Bless the Child" are two for different reasons -- but can also drag and stall, especially 'round the title tune. Andy Bey staged a comeback in the late '90s, leading to this and the 1964 Now Hear bundled together as Andy Bey and the Bey Sisters ([2000], Prestige), priced steeply ($18.98 list; this one lists at $11.98). B

The Birdhouse Project: Free Bird (2006 [2007], Dreambox Media): As one of the few who likes Charlie Parker's tunes better than his playing, I should be relatively favorable toward this project. However, I can't much see the point. The group is a trio: Randy Sutin on vibes, Tyrone Brown on bass, Jim Miller on drums. The vibes should be the lead instrument, but actually Brown's bass sets the pace -- an unfamiliar one for Parker. Brown also manages to hold my attention, which doesn't say much for Sutin. Does have some novelty value, and certainly isn't dislikable. Just not much there. B-

Michael Bisio Quartet: Circle This (2006 [2007], CIMP): Seattle bassist with a two saxophone quarter, featuring Avram Fefer (tenor and soprano) and Stephen Gauci (just tenor), and CIMP regular Jay Rosen on drums. Title on spine and cover includes CIMP 360, the label name and number, figuring that ties in nicely with the first song title. I've gone back and forth on the title, opting here for the simple version. Bisio moved to Seattle in 1976, and has recorded since 1980, with a dozen (maybe more) records either under his own name or matched with others -- the latter include duets with Eyvind Kang, Joe Giardullo, and Joe McPhee. Website spends a lot of time extolling his skills as a bassist, which between CIMP's acoustics and my system are hard to verify. The main thing I hear is two horns engaged, sometimes pulling together gently but more often roughhousing. B+(**)

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers: Caravan (Keepnews Collection) (1962 [2007], Riverside): One of Bu's greatest bands -- Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter, Curtis Fuller, Cedar Walton, Reggie Workman -- but a rather sloppy and indifferent set, perhaps thrown off by the ill-fitting title track. Still, Hubbard, who recorded his own Caravan on Impulse, makes a game showing. B

Theo Bleckmann/Ben Monder: At Night (2005 [2007], Songlines): Bleckmann may be the most interesting jazz vocalist to appear in the last 10-20 years, at least in the sense that he is doing things no one else has ever done, sounding like no one else has ever sounded. His high-pitched voice can sound fey or winsome, but it's less pleasing without appropriate words. Here he mostly exercises it as instrument, aided and abetted by live electronic processing, Monder's guitar, and Satoshi Takeishi's percussion. Monder gains traction when he goes heavy. Interesting, of course, but that's an odd form of praise, or dismissal. B

The Blueprint Project: People I Like (2006 [2007], Creative Nation Music): Don't have a recording date, but the liner notes are dated 2006, so that works. Group consists of three chums from New England Conservatory of Music: saxophonist Jared Sims, guitarist Eric Hofbauer, and pianist Tyson Rogers. All three write and contribute strong performances, but as a trio they'd be short on rhythm. Last time they solved that problem by adding Cecil McBee and Matt Wilson, for a tightly played, craftily thought out postbop eponymous album that made my A-list. This one is much looser and more scattered -- further out, with veteran Dutch anarchist Han Bennink on drums and whatever. Harder to get a grip on this one, although I can say that a Latin piece is fairly wonderful, and Sims aces his clarinet feature. [B+(***)]

Boca do Rio (2007, Vagabundo): Unfair to make fun of these hard-working Brasil wannabes to point out that their rio is the Sacramento; the percussion is pretty sharp, and saxophonist Larry de la Cruz is always welcome, so I guess the problem is the vocals, and not just that Kevin Welch has swallowed way too much US pop harmonizing. C+

Luigi Bonafede/Pietro Tonolo: Peace (2005 [2007], ObliqSound): Two Italians: Bonafede plays piano, Tonolo tenor and soprano sax. Tonolo played on the label's Elton John tribute. I know even less about Bonafede -- AMG credits him with a dozen or so albums, including one with Guido Manusardi in 1986 and one with Massimo Urbani in 1994 (Dedications to Albert Ayler and John Coltrane, a good one). An Italian website has more like 40 albums, mostly on Italian labels AMG never notices. Half of the cuts are duos, moderately paced, played with great care and feeling. The other half add guests playing marimba and/or cello, which fit in nicely. B+(**) [advance, July 17]

Anthony Braxton/Joe Fonda: Duets 1995 (1995 [2007], Clean Feed): This is a reissue of 10 Compositions (Duet) 1995, previously issued on Konnex. Braxton plays C melody and alto sax, contrabass and B flat clarinet; Fonda plays double bass. Composition count doesn't quite add up: 8 pieces here, one of which is called "Composition 168-147"; two are covers, one from Cole Porter, the other from Vernon Duke. Elemental free jazz interplay, just Fonda's bass circled by Braxton's saxophones or clarinets; measured, thoughtful, too carefully planned and executed to be pure improv, but rarely what you expected. B+(***)

Tad Britton: Black Hills (2006 [2007], Origin): Drummer, from Sturgis SD, now based in Seattle, leading a trio with bassist Jeff Johnson and pianist Marc Seales. One original each by Britton and Johnson. Interesting cover pairing: "Fire & Rain" and "Ring of Fire"; opening sequence is Bill Evans followed by George Duke -- "Time Remembered" is done nicely. B

Brian Bromberg: Downright Upright (2006 [2007], Artistry): How do you score this one? Bromberg's a pop-funk electric bassist with aspirations of going straight -- a double meaning for the "upright" acoustic bass he plays here. (Four cuts also have him on "piccolo bass," which looks to be an electric bass guitar.) Helping him out are a bunch of old smoothies, who also get to play "upright" straight-ahead jazz for once in their careers: Rick Braun, Kirk Whallum, Boney James, Gary Meek, Jeff Lorber, George Duke, Lee Ritenour, Gannin Arnold, Vinnie Colaiuta. Not a big surprise that guys like Lorber and Whallum have the chops, but Braun is a totally unexpected pleasure. Also helps that the bass is mixed up phat. But in the end it may be classier than usual, but it's still a pop-funk record. I'm tempted to indulge, but will hold back for now. [B+(**)]

Brian Bromberg: Downright Upright (2006 [2007], Artistry): After a career of hacking out pop-funk, Bromberg's new pleasure in the upright acoustic bass is heartening. This starts off with a suggestion that it might be possible to work a funk groove into something of jazz interest, but settles into routine as it goes along. Not sure whether to blame this on Bromberg's circle of friends: Rick Braun, Kirk Whallum, and Boney James play with more vigor and range than they'd ever risk on their own albums. A more likely clue to the slide is that the first three pieces were written by Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul, and Les McCann, whereas the rest were written by Bromberg. B

Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet: American Landscapes 1 (2006 [2007], Okkadisk): Peter Brötzmann's name has dropped from the masthead, but he's still here, and this is still his band, with Ken Vandermark in the background arranging the Chicago base. (Actually, Brötzmann's name appears in a logo-like thing on the front cover, but not on the spine.) The band is long on loud horns: Brötzmann, Mats Gustafsson, Vandermark (various reeds for all three), Joe McPhee (trumpet, alto sax), Hannes Bauer (trombone), Per-Åke Holmlander (tuba); with two drummers (Paal Nilssen-Love, Michael Zerang), and Kent Kessler's bass matched by Fred Lonberg-Holm's cello. One piece, 43:39, with a long front movement, a squeaky interlude for the strings, and a rebound. Play it at low volume, like I do, and it's easy enough to sort out the multiple waves of undulating rhythm, with the horns compressing into static noise. I'm sure that's not the plan, but I appreciate the sense of structure and the bare tightness. I can only speculate about what happens when you crank it up, but even at my volume level there are parts that pick me up. B+(***)

Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet: American Landscapes 2 (2006 [2007], Okkadisk): Same deal, only longer at 52:48, louder too, which I don't necessarily regard as a plus. For one thing the rhythmic structure is less clear, and that's the thread that all the noise hangs off of. This just makes you work harder, but as free jazz big bands go, this group has gotten remarkably tight. B+(**)

Marc Broussard: S.O.S.: Save Our Soul (2007, Vanguard): Peace, love, and chicken grease -- the signature of a Louisiana man with Cajun credentials as he dives head first into vintage soul -- "Inner City Blues," "I've Been Loving You Too Long," "Respect Yourself," "Love and Happiness," "Yes We Can Can," "You Met Your Match"; overly familiar, marginally distinguished, monumental. I like the closing ballad, "Come In From the Storm," the one original here. B+(*)

PS: Later grade change: B

New Wonderland: The Best of Jeri Brown (1991-2006 [2007], Justin Time): Canadian jazz singer, with nine solid albums providing plenty of choice material, but it's the players who shine -- especially Kirk Lightsey on "Orange Colored Sky" and David Murray on "Joy." On the other hand, they gamble with four previously unreleased cuts, which are anything but choice. B

Dave Brubeck: Indian Summer (2007, Telarc): Solo piano, again, even slower than Previn, and far less idiosyncratic than the work that made him famous. Still, I'm more sympathetic, although it could just be sympathy. Recorded in March, at age 86. Hank Jones is a couple of years older, but their seniority shows just how completely the pre-1945 jazz generation has passed from the scene. B+(*)

Bruford: Rock Goes to College (1979 [2007], Winterfold): An Oxford concert, broadcast by the BBC, two albums into prog-rock's premier drummer's solo career, still pretending his last name was a group, not quite ready to call the music made of Allan Holdsworth's guitar and Dave Stewart's keybs fusion, let alone the jazz that got there first. Added attraction: two Annette Peacock vocals, but little more than perfunctory. B

Kenny Burrell: 75th Birthday Bash Live! (2006 [2007], Blue Note): Advance had a different title, mentioning Yoshi's in Oakland, where some of this occured. However, other tracks were cut at Kuumbawa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz -- maybe the lawyers figured that out. Six tracks, mostly from Santa Cruz, feature the Gerald Wilsons Orchestra, sounding hoarse and wheezy. Joey DeFrancesco (3 cuts) hardly picks up the slack, especially when Hubert Laws (5 cuts) joins on flute. Burrell sings two, no help either. Early in his career Burrell established himself on solid albums with Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane; here the best he can do is Herman Riley, and it takes "A Night in Tunisia" to get Riley going. At least they didn't include any patter, but I'm too annoyed at the black-on-blue booklet print to cut them any slack over that. C+

Donald Byrd: The Cat Walk (1961 [2007], Blue Note): Versatile, prolific trumpet player, leading a group with baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams and pianist Duke Pearson that would just as soon boogie as bebop; Byrd goes both ways, indecisively, to mixed effect. B

Joey Calderazzo: Amanecer (2006 [2007], Marsalis Music/Rounder): Mostly solo piano, with Romero Lobambo's guitar creeping into the background on three songs, Claudia Acuña vocals on two of those plus one more. The solo material is appealing, no doubt because I detect traces of stride in the originals, but also because "Waltz for Debby" is so surefire. Acuña's contribution is arch and dreary, while Lubambo is so supple you barely notice him. B

Michel Camilo: Spirit of the Moment (2006 [2007], Telarc): Another piano trio, also leaning on the Miles Davis songbook -- two pieces by Davis, one each by Coltrane and Shorter. Repeats "Nefertiti" from Robert Irving's record, answering any doubts I had about possible underrating. I haven't cared for Camilo's recent records, but there's no doubting his skills, and this Dominican-Cuban-Puerto Rican trio makes or a stimulating mix -- Charles Flores on bass, and especially Dafnis Prieto on drums. [B+(**)]

Michel Camilo: Spirit of the Moment (2006 [2007], Telarc): Dominican pianist, although even with Puerto Rican Charles Flores on bass and Cuban Dafnis Prieto on drums, this hardly counts as Latin jazz. The covers draw on the Miles Davis songbook, including Coltrane and Shorter, and the originals fit in. A skillful group, and an appealing piano trio record. B+(**)

James Carney Group: Green-Wood (2006 [2007], Songlines): Pianist, originally from Syracuse NY; studied in Los Angeles, where he was based until moving to NYC in 2004. Fourth album, widely spaced since 1994, and little side work, suggesting he sees himself primarily as a composer. Wrote or co-wrote everything here, including two pieces commissioned for the Syracuse International Film Festival. I'd never run across him before, but I recognize and have been impressed by everyone in his septet. The four horns -- Peter Epstein and Tony Malaby on reeds, Ralph Alessi and Josh Roseman on brass -- are especially formidable, but they also strike me as too much. But there are strong stretches here, and sterling individual play, not least from the pianist. B+(*) [Aug. 7]

Amanda Carr: Soon (2007, OMS): Singer, from Boston, second album; standards, like the Gershwins' title tune, "Flamingo," "Squeeze Me," "Good Bait," obligatory sambas (from Jorge Ben as well as the usual Jobim). Website says she currently stars in "A Tribute to Peggy Lee and Benny Goodman"; also says she "frequently is the featured vocalist with The Artie Shaw Orchestra, Harry James Band and has appeared with the Glenn Miller Band, too." Don't know how old she is, but Miller died in 1945, Shaw quit cold in 1954; James held on at least into the 1960s and died in 1983. The oldest date I find on her website is 1998, so it's tempting to say that she only sang with those bands in her dreams. But they do follow her dreams, and had she sang with those bands she would have done fine. I also like Arnie Krakowsky's sax appeal. B+(**)

Postscript: Amanda Carr wrote in to fill me in on the ghost bands. The Artie Shaw Orchestra has been led for years by Dick Johnson, using Shaw's charts. "The band tours around the country frequently with its last 10 week tour ending 4 months ago." The Harry James Band has been led by original first trumpet player Fred Radke "for years now," also based on James' original charts. The Glenn Miller Band has been touring for years, using Julia Rich as regular vocalist, with Carr occasionally filling in. I knew that James and Miller ghost bands had existed at one time, but not that they (let alone Shaw) were still operational. The Ellington Orchestra lasted a while after his death, but not long. Carr also mentions the Basi Band, which has been visible lately with such sleights of hand as Ray Sings, Basie Swings. Carr writes: "the Basie Band just played at the Newport 'JVC' Festival last week and I don't think anyone was disgusted and got up and left because it wasn't with all original players or that they might be 'dreaming' and not actually seeing the Basie Band from the 40's." Of course, they're not seeing the Basie Band from the '70s either, when it was still pretty healthy. In fact, it survived its leader's death better than most due to the strengths of leaders like Frank Foster. I have nothing in principle against doing repertory -- if I pick on the Mingus Big Band it's because I wish they were better -- but there's something fraudulent about institutionalizing them under the original brand names. Same thing happens elsewhere, especially in rock, where pale copies of '50s and '60s groups still tour county fairs. That's probably where I got my distaste. Carr may be perfect for those antique framings, but her own album is a good deal fresher.

Daniel Carter & Matt Lavelle: Live at Tower Records (2006, Tubman Atnimara): A CDR, part of a series of items Lavelle sent me for background. Just a duo, eight pieces, both musicians moving from instrument to instrument: Carter plays tenor sax, alto sax, clarinet, piano, flute; Lavelle plays piano, pocket trumpet, bass clarinet, flugelhorn, trumpet. By far the most interesting is Lavelle's bass clarinet, but overall not a lot of chemistry or action. B-

Ron Carter: Dear Miles, (2006 [2007], Blue Note): Well, he's got a right, and he's still commanding with his bass. The group is a quartet -- actually, a piano trio plus percussion. The pianist is Stephen Scott, a good fit. The songbook is mostly associated with Miles Davis, but only "Seven Steps to Heaven" has even a co-credit to Davis. Two pieces are by Carter, who's also associated with Davis. B+(**)

André Ceccarelli: Golden Land (2006 [2007], CAM Jazz): Drummer, from Nice in the south of France, been around since the mid-'70s, working with Jean-Luc Ponty, Didier Lockwood, Michel Legrand, Birelli Lagrene, Martial Solal, Michel Portal, Stephane Grappelli, Eddy Louiss, Dee Dee Bridgewater -- a few names further afield, like Aretha Franklin. Has several albums under his own name, going back to 1977. This one is a pan-European quartet, with Enrico Pieranunzi on piano, Hein van de Geyn on bass, and David El-Malek on saxophone. Pieranunzi has an especially good outing here, both on fast and slow pieces, but El-Malek is also a discovery. His sax has a deep, rich tone, and he plays with great ease. Born in France, has several albums I haven't heard, with side interests in Jewish folk music and electronics. Together they make impressive, slightly mainstream postbop, but two cuts add a singer I don't find the least bit appealing. Her name is Elisabeth Kontomanou, also born in France, of Greek and African heritage. I can imagine her as the sort who can be mesmerizing in a smoky bar, but here she slows the album down and takes the air out. B

Bill Charlap Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard (2007, Blue Note): The promo sheet reads as if the Village Vanguard is the real star here, citing a long list of famous musicians to have recorded there -- and by the way, omitting the only one I was ever present for: Dexter Gordon's famous 1976 homecoming. In the end, though, this is just a record, a sample of an exceptionally vital piano trio. The advance provides no info on who wrote what or when it was recorded, although there are songs I recognize -- "The Lady Is a Tramp" really jumps out. [B+(***)] [May 22]

Bill Charlap Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard (2003 [2007], Blue Note): Recorded September 2003; not sure why it's coming out now, but the promo package seemed to be pushing the Village Vanguard more than Charlap and Washingtons Peter and Kenny. The latter are the best mainstream rhythm section in the business -- Charlap is lucky to have them, but not undeserving. This adds little of great import, but "The Lady Is a Tramp" stands out. B+(**)

Don Cherry: Live at Café Montmartre 1966 (1966 [2007], ESP-Disk): One annoying thing here is that the booklet doesn't provide the actual date of the performance, and I can't find any secondary sources (like a gigography or even a detailed sessionography) that help narrow it down. The Cherry discographies don't even get down to the song level, but it does appear that this is a different recording from the ones released by Magnetic in two volumes as Live at "Café Montmartre", although all three discs include Bo Stief on bass. Cherry appeared in Copenhagen a number of times in 1966, early on with Jean-François Jenny Clark on bass, then on March 31 with Stief on a 69-minute radio broadcast, which also doesn't match this song list. Musically this may not matter, but part of the reason behind issuing rare historical recordings is to provide the history. This has a non-trivial booklet, so the omission is glaring. The group is a quintet with Cherry on trumpet, Gato Barbieri on tenor sax, Karl Berger on vibes, Stief on bass, and Aldo Romano on drums. The play is red hot, on the cusp of breaking into chaos, and the sound is tuned to rattle your cage. The centerpiece is a 13:20 "Complete Communion," followed by something called "Free Improvisation Music Now" which most likely just combusted on the spot. I have mixed feelings: as a document, the main thing this shows is how ragged they were willing to run to pump up the excitement; still, there are spots where it works, Cherry much more than Barbieri, but the real revelation here is Berger, whose vibes provide a shimmering undertow. B+(*)

Frankie Cicala: Frankie Plays! (2006, 3B's): Guitarist, says he was in the Marines in the '70s when George Benson inspired him. Did a couple of albums in the '90s as Frankie and the Burn. This is the first under his own name. Pop groove thing, has much of Benson's tone, doesn't sing (a plus), wrote most of the songs. B-

Circus (2006, ICP): All pieces are improvs attributed to all five members, who could just as well be listed as the artists of record, had the packaging steered that way. The four instrumentalists are ICP veterans: Ab Baars (tenor sax, clarinet, flute), Tristan Honsinger (cello), Misha Mengelberg (piano), Han Bennink (drums). The fifth is vocalist Alessandra Patrucco. I suppose the attraction of voice in this sort of framework is flexibility and dramatic detail, but I've never found it all that attractive -- Patrucco, dramatizing in a manner I associate unfondly with opera, less than most. Honsinger and Mengelberg also add to the vocal content. The instruments are more interesting. [B]

Circus (2006, ICP): Dutch avant-garde group, with four more/less well known names -- Han Bennink, Ab Baars, Misha Mengelberg, Tristan Honsinger -- and vocalist Alessandra Patrucco. The fractured music is often interesting, but not enough to carry the fractured vocalizing -- at times shrill, often just thin. B

Charmaine Clamor: Flippin' Out (2007, FreeHam): Jazz singer, from Subic-Zambales in the Philippines, presumably based in the US these days, on her second album. First song is a "My Funny Valentine" spinoff ("My Funny Brown Pinay") that I found annoying, and she continued to dig a whole for herself until midway through I noticed that her take on Nina Simone's "Sugar in My Bowl" wasn't bad. That was followed by a 5-piece "Filipino Suite" that started with some interesting percussion courtesy of the Pakaragulan Kulintang Ensemble. That didn't quite sustain my interest, but her "Be My Love" ballad came off well. So I figure I should play it again, but not now. [B]

The Claudia Quintet: For (2006 [2007], Cuneiform): Booklet tells us nothing -- just four graphics, cutouts with large degradé pixels. Pattern shifting is also the music idea, but there at least it's grown far more sophisticated. When I first tuned in, on the group's second album (I Claudia), everything seemed to revolve around drummer John Hollenbeck's post-minimalist rhythms. Two albums later the music has broadened to the extent that there's no clear-cut center: Chris Speed's reeds, Matt Moran's vibes, Ted Reichman's accordion, even Drew Gress's bass, cloud up the picture, obscuring simple reactions or explanations. The hype sheet says "file under: jazz/post-jazz" as if anyone has a clue what "post-jazz" might be. The delta between this and what we conventionally think of as jazz is that this doesn't feel improvised, because it isn't built on individualism -- even when Moran talks, or Speed squawks. Rather, it has an organic vitality to it that envelops you, like something new age or ambient might aspire to but doesn't have the brains to make interesting enough. Yet I'm never really certain with this group: the last two albums took me ages to settle on, and this one raises the same conflicting responses. But it consistently scores points, and builds over time -- almost as if it makes marginality an aesthetic pursuit. Album title reflects each song having some sort of dedication, mostly to people I've never heard of -- the exception is Mary Cheney, who's offered an ode to pity. A-

The Nels Cline Singers: Draw Breath (2007, Cryptogramophone): The group name always throws me: there are no vocalists here, although Cline claims a credit for "megamouth" here, whatever that is. Cline plays guitar, electric more than acoustic, with or without effects. The group is what back in the '60s was called a Power Trio: guitar-bass-drums, like Cream, or the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Devin Hoff plays contrabass, which I take to be the big acoustic one. Scott Amendola is credited with drums, percussion, "live" electronics/effects. Glenn Kotche appears on one track, as if Amendola isn't enough. This is their third album, although Cline has other projects, including a rock band called Wilco -- or maybe he's just hired help there. This is as close as anyone's gotten to heavy metal jazz. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing; if I'm just not in the mood, or just got put out of the mood. I think I'll put it on the replay shelf and wait for a better time. Could be it's amazing. Could be it's not. I do recommend an earlier one called The Giant Pin (2003 [2004], Cryptogramophone). [B+(**)]

Club D'Elf: Perhapsody: Live 10.12.06 (2006 [2007], Kufala, 2CD): The paper insert where you might expect a booklet merely explains the "biodegradable/no plastic/no chemicals/no toxins" packaging -- not that you'll really be in much hurry to throw this away. The diversity shown on their one studio album, Now I Understand, was the result of networking and taking eight years to record the thing. On any given night, they're likely to be much more specialized. On this one the absence of Ibrahim Frigane means no Middle Eastern charms, and the presence of John Medeski means lots of boogie groove. Indeed, it all sort of flows together. Only by the end does one start wondering why Medeski can't keep his own group motoring so effortlessly. Most likely, the answer is bassist and clubmaster, Mike Rivard. B+(**)

Avishai Cohen: As Is . . . Live at the Blue Note (2006 [2007], Razdaz/Half Note): Israeli bassist, based in New York, continues a steady run of first-rate work. Plays electric as well as the big fiddle, and puts the former to good use on the opening "Smash," matching up against Sam Barsh's electric keyboards. Quintet, Diego Urcola on trumpet, Jimmy Greene on various saxophones. Closes with a long, inventive take on "Caravan." No oud, nothing exotic. Not sure how much stock to put in it. Comes with a DVD I haven't seen yet, and may never. [B+(***)]

Avishai Cohen: As Is . . . Live at the Blue Note (2006 [2007], Razdaz/Half Note): The bassist, not the trumpeter, leading a quintet with Diego Urcola on trumpet and Jimmy Greene on various saxophones through a selection of his consistently impressive songbook, closing with a funked up Middle Eastern take on "Caravan." It all works pretty much as it should, with the bright, light informality of a live recording. Comes with a DVD, still unseen. A fine introduction, calling card, resume. B+(***)

Joe Cohn: Restless (2006 [2007], Arbors): Al Cohn's son, basically a rhythm guitarist, which means he tends to disappear behind the horns regardless of how much swing he contributes. Co-led a group that put out a terrific album last year, but most of the credit went to his partner Harry Allen, who does that sort of thing all the time. Here Cohn is alone on the cover, mostly working with a mild-mannered alto saxophonist named Dmitry Baevsky. Their cuts are uniformly nice. But on five cuts, Allen appears as a guest, and he really slices the bacon. So in the end this is half a Harry Allen album -- an inconvincing step forward for Cohn, but one with much to enjoy. B+(***)

John Coltrane: Stardust (1958 [2007], Prestige): Two sessions toward the end of Coltrane's tenure with Prestige, each yielding two stretched out nice-and-easy standards, with Wilbur Harden on the first set, and 20-year-old Freddie Hubbard on the second; the sense of accomplishment is earned, but nothing here suggests the giant steps to come. B+(*)

John Coltrane: Fearless Leader (1957-58 [2006], Prestige, 6CD): Trane's claim to genius conventionally starts with his aptly named 1959 Atlantic debut, Giant Steps, and extends through his universally acclaimed 1964 Impulse! masterpiece, A Love Supreme, or possibly up to his death in 1967, depending on how far out you're willing to go. In the early '50s Coltrane tended to be written off as a Dexter Gordon wannabe, but in 1956 he made a series of appearances that could eventually be seen as prophetic: playing in the Miles Davis Quintet, the Thelonious Monk Quartet, and sparring with Sonny Rollins on Tenor Madness. Between '56 and '59, Coltrane recorded massive amounts for Prestige -- the sessions were eventually collected in a 16-CD box, which by all accounts is a minimally interesting hodgepodge of leader and side sets. It's easy enough to blame Prestige: they may be viewed as a major independent label of the era, but at the time they specialized in quick and dirty: just round up a few guys and reel off some standards, often holding them on the shelf and raiding them after the artist had gone on to greener pastures -- Coltrane's 1957-58 records kept appearing through 1965. Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Rollins managed to record great albums on Prestige anyway, but Coltrane didn't join them until later, when he figured out modal improvisation, found his distinctive eternal search sound, and felt the full brunt of the avant-garde. Searching his Prestige records for that post-1959 development is unrewarding, the big box de trop and the individual titles too slight. But this far more selective box, packing 11 LPs into 6 CDs, gives us a chance at last to savor his post-1956 plateau: at this point he's still a straight shooter, with fast and assured bebop riffing and an authoritative voice for blues and ballads. He still can't tear a standard apart like Hawkins or Rollins, but he's just a tier down. And frequent collaborator Red Garland gives him steadying support. Another big plus is the booklet, especially the indexes by session and album -- as useful as any box booklet I've seen. A-

Jacques Coursil: Clameurs (2006 [2007], Sunnyside): Trumpet player, born in Paris, his parents from Martinique; appeared on several avant records in 1960s (Burton Greene, Sunny Murray, Frank Wright) plus a couple under his own name. Then basically dropped out of jazz, pursuing a career teaching French literature and linguistics, winding up in Martinique. In 2005 Tzadik released a new album titled Minimal Brass. Haven't heard it, but this follow-up is pretty minimal, with percussion and spare trumpet juxtaposed with spoken texts, including a piece by Frantz Fanon and poems by Edouard Glissant. I can't vouch for the texts, but mix appealing in its simple drama. B+(**)

The Neil Cowley Trio: Displaced (2005 [2007], Hide Inside): I just have a CDR with a low-res copy of the cover artwork. Artist has a website implemented in Flash with a minimum of actual information. My notes have release date as Mar. 20, but AMG puts it at May 29, 2006. Evidently it's been out in the UK for a while, as the website has laudatory quotes from the British press, including a "debut of the year" from Mojo. Cowley plays piano, with Richard Sadler on double bass and Evan Jenkins on drums. Haven't heard of any of them. Presumably they're British -- seems to be where they live and work. Cowley likes simple rhythmic vamps, some chord-heavy, a few almost dainty; some get more complex, but he keeps his lines short and punctuates them strongly. Somewhere between EST and the Bad Plus. [A-]

The Neil Cowley Trio: Displaced (2005 [2007], Hide Inside): Scrounging for ideas on this record has led me up a lot of blind alleys, such as one reviewer comparing it to the Clash and concluding, "Actually, it's probably best to avoid the j-word." Their myspace page describes the group as "jazz, acoustic, shoegaze," so I had to be reminded once again what shoegaze is/was. Again, I see no relevance, although even that's better than the tirelessly repeated story about Cowley playing Shostakovich at age 10. Waiting until he turns 34 to release his first record suggests he's survived prodigyhood. Or is it just first jazz record? AMG lists a couple pages of credits, mostly producer credits on various artists techno compilations (titles like: Bossa Barva! Vol. 2, Distance to Goa Vol. 7, Café del Mar: Chill House Mix, Cafe Buddha: The Cream of Chilled Cuisine). Or is that the same Neil Cowley? (If it were me, I'd be more likely to brag about the techno than the Shostakovich.) Actually, they're a rock-ribbed acoustic piano trio, full of fat chords, pogoing beats, assured elaboration, calculated tension and release, showing they know their English folk music -- from Pink Floyd to Coldplay, anyway -- and hope to please as much as to dazzle. Ends with a whiff of electronics remixing a fast one, possibly their next stage. Won a BBC jazz album of the year prize, with acclamations of future stardom. Maybe in the UK, or even Europe; over here I doubt they'll be as big as Jason Moran, but I'm reminded a little bit of when Keith Jarrett broke through to rock audiences in the '70s. A-

Introducing Kenny Cox and the Contemporary Jazz Quintet (1968-69 [2007], Blue Note): A no-name hard bop crew from Detroit, cut two albums sandwiched together on one disc here, then mostly vanished -- a couple showed up on an MC5 record, and hung out with Phil Ranelin's Tribe, and much later Cox appeared on James Carter's Live at Baker's Keyboard Lounge. Actually, they're sharp and lively, especially trumpeter Charles Moore. B+(***)

Tadd Dameron With John Coltrane: Mating Call (1956 [2007], Prestige): In retrospect, as the only horn working with a set of Dameron's songs, Coltrane makes an especially strong show of his early, Dexter Gordon-influenced style, exhibiting a rough hewn muscularity that gets the best of Dameron's usually refined taste. B+(**)

Lars Danielsson & Leszek Mozdzer: Pasodoble (2006-07 [2007], ACT): Bass-piano duet. Swedish bassist, born 1958, has more than a dozen albums as a leader, many more as a sideman. How many is hard to tell because there's a Danish bassist named Lars Danielsson whose website claims to have appeared on more than 100 albums -- appears to be more of a funk/rock player, but he's worked with Nils Landgren and took over a teaching position in Copenhagen from NHØP. Mozdzer is a Polish pianist with the usual Chopin in his closet. The two sound terrific together, in large part because Danielsson's sound is so resonant, underscored all the more by the brightness of the piano. B+(***)

Steamin' With the Miles Davis Quintet (1956 [2007], Prestige): The fourth LP carved from the two sessions that marked Davis's move from indie Prestige to major Columbia, a kiss-off of quickly recorded standards that in retrospect were recognized as his first great Quintet, with John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones emerging; an odd mix of songs, each standing out on its own. A-

Dick de Graaf Quartet: Moving Target (2006 [2007], Soundroots): Dutch saxphonist, tenor plus a bit of soprano, in a piano-bass-drums quartet. De Graaf has been recording under his own name since 1986, and lately is listed as leader in two groups: Trio Nuevo, whose Jazz Meets Tango is in my que, and Istanbul Connection, which isn't. Website brags about his "hip big tone" and gives a lot of play to him being selected to replace the late Bob Berg, and that pigeonholes him pretty well. Straight Hawkins-style on tenor, works around the melodies, loves how the sax sounds, group swings. B+(**)

Hamilton de Holanda: Íntimo (2006 [2007], Adventure Music): Solo 10-string mandolin, by a Brazilian mixing originals with Jobim and other standards; he doesn't stretch out or break new groups, just delivers on the honorably modest title. B+(*)

Alessandro D'Episcopo Trio: Meraviglioso (2005 [2007], Altrisuoni): Italian pianist, born Naples 1959, moved to Milano in 1979, then on to Zurich in 1989, where he's currently based -- teaching, playing with his trio and other bands, etc. Starts with a regular, upbeat original called "Latin Pendulum," followed by the first of four Monk pieces. [B+(**)]

Ron Di Salvio: Essence of Green: A Tribute to a Kind of Blue (2005 [2007], Origin): Jazz pianist, from New York, lives and teaches in Kalamazoo, author of a book called The Marriage of Major and Minor, the Synthesis of Classical and Jazz Harmony. The booklet has some interesting theory about how this relates to the Miles Davis classic, but I'm just reacting to what I hear. Group is a septet, with Derrick Gardner's trumpet fronting three saxophones, and original band member Jimmy Cobb on drums. That affords a lot of harmonic options, a combination I find unappealing. Some pieces add a quartet of voices, arranged for vocalese. Some of this sails along marvelously, but too many things turn me off. B-

Bruce Eisenbeil Sextet: Inner Constellation: Volume One (2004 [2007], Nemu): Guitarist, born 1968 Chicago, grew up in New Jersey, moved to NYC in 1996. Has four or more albums. Has three previous albums on CIMP, a couple more as co-leader (including one with Perry Robinson I'd like to hear). Website also lists a big band record with David Murray "to be released in 2112." Plays free with a heavy metallic ring -- plays Fender Stratocaster on the 47:28 title cut, Ibanez acoustic and Gibson L5 on three short trio pieces that close out the record. The sextet, with violin (Jean Cook), trumpet (Nate Wooley), alto sax (Aaron Ali Shaikh), bass (Tom Abbs) and drums (Nasheet Waits) is a heavy slog I admire more than like, and may be shortchanging. The short pieces are intriguing. Francis Davis wrote the liner notes, and is a fan. [B+(*)]

Bruce Eisenbeil Sextet: Inner Constellation: Volume One (2004 [2007], Nemu): Another guitar record just below my line, this one well to the avant side of the spectrum. The bulk is in the 47:28 title track, a multi-movement mass improv thing with violin, trumpet, alto sax, bass and drums conflicting with the leader's electric guitar. It works about as well as those things do, but not much better. The tail end offers three short pieces where the guitar is clearer. No idea about a Volume Two. B+(**)

Kelly Eisenhour: Seek and Find (2007, BluJazz): Jazz singer, originally from Tucson, graduated from Berklee, currently based in Salt Lake City, teaching at Brigham Young -- has an entry at "Famous Mormons in Music," along with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Osmonds, the Killers, Warren Zevon, and Arthur "Killer" Kane. Third album. Terrific voice, clear, sharp, arresting. Wrote the title cut and some vocalese lyrics, but mostly takes standards and gives them distinctive readings. Bob Mintzer gets a "featuring" on the cover, and repays it with tasty sax accompaniment. B+(*)

Eldar: Re-Imagination (2006 [2007], Masterworks Jazz): Eldar Djangirov, from Bishkek in Kyrghyzstan (his parents are ethnic Russians, father a mechanical engineer, mother a music teacher), emerged a couple of years ago as one of a bunch of teenaged piano prodigies. Born 1987, still a teenager on this his third album, he has the usual classical education and the usual tendencies to show off. On the other hand, anyone who can speed up Oscar Peterson is entitled to flaunt it a bit, and he is beginning to develop a distinctive style on electric keybs, especially when aided by DJ Logic. B+(*)

Booker Ervin: The Freedom Book (1963 [2007], Prestige): Short-lived Texas tenor, seems like most of his titles were plays on "Book" -- this followed The Song Book and The Blues Book; this doesn't qualify as free jazz, but it does open up and range beyond hard bop, with Jaki Byard's piano challenging the sax. A-

Wayne Escoffery: Veneration (2006 [2007], Savant): Tenor saxophonist, with one obligatory cut on soprano. Last time I heard him I flagged his Intuition (Nagel Heyer) as a dud. I got some mail questioning that call, not based on the record but based on a high estimation of his chops. No doubt he has the chops, but he strikes me as a guy who, like Charlie Parker, is a bit too impressed by speed. This one is a definite improvement. I'm still not sure how much he has to offer beyond fierceness and speed, but he doesn't fall flat when he does slow down, and the band -- Joe Locke on vibes, Hans Glawischnig on bass, Lewis Nash on drums -- is a good one, with Locke a fleet match. [B+(**)]

Wayne Escoffery: Veneration (2006 [2007], Savant): Tenor saxophonist, takes one track on soprano without faltering, plays fast postbop, holds an attractive tone when he slows down; basically, has all the tools. Dresses sharp too. Only wrote one song, which holds up. Ends with superb pieces by Ellington and McLean. First rate band, with Joe Locke on vibes a special treat, especially when they race. Hans Glawishnig on bass, Lewis Nash on drums. B+(***)

Exploding Star Orchestra: We Are All From Somewhere Else (2006 [2007], Thrill Jockey): This is cornetist Rob Mazurek, better known as the cornerstone of Chicago Underground Duo, Trio, and Quartet. This, his big Sun Ra move, could have been attributed to the Chicago Underground Big Band. Two multi-part pieces called "Sting Ray and the Beginning of Time" and "Cosmic Tones for Sleep Walking Lovers" and a one-part interlude called "Black Sun." Starts out in fine orbit before it cracks up a bit, then wanders off into a cloud of microscopic space dust. Eventually the cosmic tones start to emerge -- something else I guess we can blame on flutes. Not unlike the man from Saturn, the best parts sound fabulous; not so sure about the rest. [B+(**)]

Eye Contact: War Rug (2006 [2007], KMB Jazz): Musician credits in booklet are: "Cuica-Wind," "The Cuica-Earth," "Lone Wolf-Tree." Elsewhere they've been identified as Matt Lavelle (trumpet, bass clarinet), Matthew Heyner (bass), Ryan Sawyer (drums). Looks like there have been two previous Eye Contact albums, on Utech. Seems understated compared to the other Lavelle records, which may be a help but allows for some dull spots. B+(*)

Art Farmer: Farmer's Market (1956 [2007], Prestige): Bright, joyful hard bop from a rhythm section that includes Kenny Drew and Elvin Jones, but Farmer on trumpet and Hank Mobley on tenor sax don't mesh all that well, nor does either threaten to run off with the record. B

Michael Fein: Four Flights Up (2005 [2006], Dreambox Media): Tenor saxophonist, from and/or in Philadelphia, first album, in a six piece group with alto sax, trumpet, vibes, bass, drums, but no piano or guitar. Mostly originals, but the two covers are the most interesting things here: an elegant "Bye Bye Blackbird" and a solo "Days of Wine and Roses" that shows off Fein's attractive tone. The three-horn front line doesn't do much of interest, but vibraphonist Behn Gillece has some nice moments. B

Alan Ferber Nonet: The Compass (2006 [2007], Fresh Sound New Talent): Trombonist, twin brother of drummer Mark Ferber; not to be confused with saxophonist Alon Farber or trombonist Joe Fielder let alone drummer Alvin Fielder, though sometimes it takes some effort. Third album, second nonet, a configuration I almost always abhor. Played it to clear it off my shelf, then had to play it again to verify what I was hearing. It does have a fair amount of that complex postbop harmony I care so little for, but the delicate parts of something like "North Rampart" are luscious, even when the horns weigh in. And the charging trombone sells the hard stuff. B+(**)

The Essential Maynard Ferguson (1954-96 [2007], Columbia/Legacy, 2CD): Trumpeter, from Quebec, made his rep in Stan Kenton's band for his piercing high notes, enjoyed a long run as a popular bandleader; the '50s sides tend to dissolve into white light, the '60s and '70s add schmaltz and fad -- "Maria" and "MacArthur Park" are the worst, at least until he discovers disco; "Caravan" and "Manteca," from his endgame on Concord, aren't bad. B-

Floratone (2007, Blue Note): I filed this under Bill Frisell, mostly because he has a file, unlike the other three principals. Actually, that's unfair to Tucker Martine, whose albums are scattered under aliases like Mylab, whose album, with Frisell the key musician, I liked enough to feature in an early Jazz CG. Martine has a long list of production credits, most based in Seattle, few related to jazz. I didn't recognize the other two principals; my bad. Lee Townsend, like Martine credited with production, has a long list of jazz production credits going back to 1981, with Frisell at the top of the list; other names include Joey Baron, Jerry Granelli, Dave Holland, Charlie Hunter, Marc Johnson, John Scofield. The fourth member, credited with drums and loops, is Matt Chamberlain. He has one album under his own name but more than 200 credits, almost all rock, especially female singer-songwriters (e.g., Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Melissa Etheridge, Macy Gray, Lisa Loeb, Natalie Merchant, Stevie Nicks, Liz Phair, Shakira). Closer to jazz he's worked with Dave Koz and Critters Buggin -- an "experimental rock" group with a good sense of groove and a honking saxman named Skerik. Martine and Townsend are both credited with "production" -- I think the actual chronology was that Chamberlain and Frisell recorded some jams, then handed them over to Martine and Townsend to sort out. Somewhere along the way guests got dubbed in: Viktor Krauss on bass, Eyvind Kang on viola, Ron Miles on cornet. The pieces all start out on grooves with guitar dressing -- there's nothing much to lift them up, so everything depends on the beats, and they rarely falter. Townsend calls this "futuristic roots music" -- he may be thinking of Frisell's take on Americana mirrored into the future, hoping it takes root. In any case, it sounds easier than it is. There are a lot of people trying to do something like this, but few actually making it work, and these vets have separately worked with most of them -- here they almost bring it together. B+(***)

Sonny Fortune: You and the Night and the Music (2006 [2007], 18th & Vine): Sounds great right out of the blocks, but so mainstream I start to wonder whether that's all there is to it, then he switches from alto sax to flute and I wonder why even bother. Then I got distracted and lost track, so I'll get back to it later. Quartet, with George Cables a definite plus on piano. [B+(*)]

Sonny Fortune: You and the Night and the Music (2007, 18th & Vine): The veteran alto saxophonist sounds great, making giant swipes at familiar songs, with pianist George Cables and rhythm inclined to swing madly. Still, it may be that by making it look so easy they undercut our sense of their accomplishment. Or maybe it just is too easy. B+(*)

Frank Foster: Manhattan Fever (1968-69 [2007], Blue Note): The 6- and 7-piece groups here sound larger than that -- Foster's apprenticeship with Count Basie skilled him at sharpening the edges of the arrangements, and he never wastes an instrument, typically riffing against sharp blasts of brass, then parting the waters for a deft solo with a bit of piano; Duke Pearson produced, and must have pushed him hard. A-

Bud Freeman: Chicago/Austin High School Jazz in Hi-Fi (1957 [2006], Mosaic): Small world, that so many of Chicago's trad jazz greats came out of the same high school, but the lineup here is actually broader, with Jack Teagarden among the ringers. Freeman was an easy swinging tenor saxophonist, emerging in the late '20s as a prototype for the lighter, looser Lester Young sound, and lasting into the '80s. The three sessions collected here didn't have to look too far back to find the camaraderie, the freshness, and the excitement the Austin High Gang grew up with. An early entry in a promising series of "limited edition" -- 5000 copies, big deal -- single-disc reissues: a record I've known about but couldn't find for a long time now. A-

Erik Friedlander: Block Ice & Propane (2005 [2007], Skipstone): Solo cello compositions and improvisations, inspired by trips across the vast American landscape. Pizzicato sounds open and airy, like guitar; arco gets more volume and intensity, while avoiding the squelch of violin and the deep barrenness of bass. Or maybe he's just an exceptional cellist and composer/improviser, because this is both more cohesive and more consistently intriguing than most solo albums; a neat trick. B+(***)

Satoko Fujii Min-Yoh Ensemble: Fujin Raijin (2006 [2007], Victo): Her folk music group -- that's how Min-Yoh translates. Two trad pieces, plus originals. Quartet with Curtis Hasselbring's trombone complementing Natsuki Tamura's trumpet, with Andrea Parkins' accordion matched up against Fujii's piano. No drum, no bass, not much groove. Starts slow, gets loud. At one point someone -- Fujii, presumably -- sings. Another aspect to an amazingly varied oeuvre. B+(**)

Richard Galliano Quartet: If You Love Me (2006 [2007], CAM Jazz): Accordion, more than any other instrument I can think of, signifies a deep emotional attachment to European folk music. Galliano is regarded as a jazz musician, but first and foremost he is an accordionist, and he milks this binding for all it's worth. He takes center stage here, with first rate bass and drums support from George Mraz and Clarence Penn. Most intriguing is the fourth: Gary Burton, on vibes. His fast moves and light touch provide a fanciful contrast to the accordion. [B+(***)]

Rob Garcia's Sangha: Heart's Fire (2005 [2007], Connection Works): Drummer, based in New York (I think), plays Latin, mainstream, free, dixieland, whatever. This one leans Latin, and I'm impressed as long as I focus on the drummer. But I'm more dubious about all the flute and soprano sax, and simply don't care for the singer, who moves this into unappealing prog territory. B-

Red Garland: Soul Junction (1957 [2007], Prestige): The pianist manages to sound bluesy and soulful on his own, taking "I've Got It Bad" slow enough to make the point. The horns work best when they stay in character, as on the long title piece, with both Donald Byrd and John Coltrane contributing blues-tinged solos. When they get out front, as on "Woody'n You" and "Birks' Works," the pace quickens and the piano struggles a bit to keep up. B+(**)

Kenny Garrett: Beyond the Wall (2006, Nonesuch): I've been griping for years now about Nonesuch not sending me their jazz records, and this was one I had in mind, especially when it started showing up in year-end lists. Found a copy at my local public library, so I thought I should give it a spin. Starts heavy-handed, tightening up around itself to build up tension, riffing Coltraneisms in search of mystic aura, which is ultimately provided by a chorus on two songs, after Tibetan samples and erhu proved little more than flavoring. Garrett has pursued Coltrane before, and dedicates this one to McCoy Tyner. (I've read that Tyner was the intended pianist, but unavailable; Garrett reacted with the obvious move, hiring Mulgrew Miller.) But the real heavyweight here is Pharoah Sanders, whose claim on Coltrane is more organic and more singular. I found this more than a little irritating at first, and still find much I don't care for. But it's good to hear Sanders wail, and Miller and Bobby Hutcherson fill in admirably. B

Stephen Gauci Trio: Substratum (2006 [2007], CIMP): Tenor saxophonist, from New York, plays avant, in a trio with Michael Bisio and Jay Rosen -- same group as Bisio's Circle This minus Avram Fefer, but working on Gauci's material rather than Bisio's. Seems like an interesting player, but the record is often inaudible over the ambient hum of my antiquated computers -- he can play hot, feverish runs, but also favors quiet stretches that can be annoying when they drop below my hearing threshold for any appreciable spell. CIMP does this on purpose: they want to create a perfect live sound with a full range of dynamics, but to get the full benefit you have to own the sort of high-end audiophile gear they also hawk, have a perfect room, and sit properly in front of the speakers, volume cranked up, ears cocked for minute details. I don't live like that, which doesn't kill all CIMP records for me, but hurts in cases like this. I like what I can hear, and would like to hear more. B

Lafayette Gilchrist: Three (2007, Hyena): Third album, but could just as well refer to the number of musicians, or maybe even David Murray's "3d family" -- Gilchrist works with Murray. This time the piano trio appears to be purely acoustic. Most pieces have a regular pulse. Booklet refers to Sun Ra, James Brown, Andrew Hill, and CLR James. [B+(**)]

Lafayette Gilchrist: Three (2007, Hyena): Acoustic piano trio, a fairly conservative form, but played with such regular rhythm you'd think they're after a groove record. To show they can do it? That's a rather odd form of artistic ambition. B

The Essential Benny Goodman (1934-46 [2007], Columbia/Bluebird/Legacy, 2CD): The Sony-BMG merger unites most of Goodman's discography, especially from his peak popularity period; this carves the bounty up into evenly balanced slices: live performances, and studio recordings featuring arrangers, singers, and small groups; they provide a useful introduction to the King of Swing in his prime, but if anything slight his still remarkable clarinet. A-

Dexter Gordon: Clubhouse (1965 [2007], Blue Note): The end of Gordon's Blue Note period, this sat on the shelves until 1979. Quintet session, with Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Barry Harris on piano, Billy Higgins on drums, and Bob Cranshaw on bass -- replaced by Ben Tucker for his own piece, "Devilette." Hubbard makes a splash early on, and takes a striking solo on the ballad "I'm a Fool to Want You." Gordon is even better on the slow stuff, reminding you that he's one of the instrument's great stylists. The more upbeat pieces are merely typical. B+(***)

Darrell Grant: Truth and Reconciliation (2005 [2007], Origin, 2CD): Title from a Nelson Mandela quote: "Truth is the road to reconciliation." Grant is a pianist, also employing Fender Rhodes. Born Philadelphia, grew up in Denver, studied in Rochester and Miami, worked in New York, finally moved to Portland in 1997, where he teaches. Six albums since 1993, starting with two on mainstream Criss Cross; couple dozen side credits, including Greg Osby, Craig Harris, Tom Harrell, and Don Braden; early on worked with Betty Carter and Tony Williams, but evidently not on record. I don't get a strong sense of Grant's piano here. Rather, we have a long series of sly pieces, some songs with lyrics, Grant vocals, and more/less political themes. Bill Frisell and Adam Rogers play guitar, which tends to add silky shades to piano; Joe Locke adds some vibes, to similar effect. Steve Wilson's saxophones provide the only horns. They're unspecified, but soprano and alto would be his norm. John Patitucci plays bass; Brian Blade drums -- so it's possible that the leader is the least widely known player here (certainly he is to me). Two pieces provide settings for speech excerpts from Nelson Mandela, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, working quite nicely. B+(*)

Tord Gustavsen Trio: Being There (2006 [2007], ECM): Piano trio, from Norway, with Harald Johnsen on bass, Jarle Vespestad on drums. Third ECM album, nominally the culmination of a trilogy, but I doubt they are that thematic. Johnsen contributes one piece, Gustavsen the rest. Very low key, precise, sensible. I prefer the pieces that pick up some momentum to the ones that are all melody, but he's very adept at the latter. [B+(***)]

Tord Gustavsen Trio: Being There (2006 [2007], ECM): Bankrolled by Keith Jarrett, ECM has cultivated a range of pianists who seem to be converging on a serenely peaceful style, one that is neither swing nor bop nor avant, that moves slowly with assurance, that supplants new age while reducing its avatars to shlock. There are a dozen or more ECM pianists who fit this bill -- even utterly different players like Paul Bley and Marilyn Crispell gravitate that way under Manfred Eicher's production -- but none more so than Tord Gustavsen. B+(***)

Charlie Haden/Antonio Forcione: Heartplay (2006 [2007], Naim): Forcione is an Italian guitarist, or as his website puts it, "acoustic guitar virtuoso" -- close enough for me. Haden you know. So these are bass-guitar duets, simple things, gorgeous in their own way. Similar to things Haden did with Egberto Gismonti -- I'm tempted to say better, but I haven't heard the best regarded one, In Montreal (1989, ECM). I only wonder if there's enough here. [B+(***)]

Charlie Haden/Antonio Forcione: Heartplay (2006 [2007], Naim): Not much here, just simple but elegantly picked guitar and bass, with Haden in his hypersentimental mode. So modest, not to mention quiet, you could easily miss it, which would be a shame. B+(***)

David Haney & Julian Priester: Ota Benga of the Batwa (2006 [2007], CIMP): Piano-trombone duet, the second match for Haney and Priester. Haney is a pianist, born 1955 Fresno CA, grew up in Calgary, studied in Portland OR; has several records since 2001, but this is the first I've heard. Priester is better known, in his 70s now, with a career that straddles avant and mainstream. Duos are an avant staple, a chance for two players to feel each other out with a minimum of preconditions and distractions. They demand such close listening that I often have trouble with them. This, at least, is a good mix of instruments, and Haney adjusts well to the limits of the trombone. The dedication is to Ota Benga (1884-1916), a Batwa pygmy exhibited at the 1906 St. Louis World's Fair. He wound up working at the Bronx Zoo, at first ending to the animals until crowd interest inspired the management to make an exhibit of him. After protests, he was sacked, sent away, and finally committed suicide, hoping to return his spirit to Africa. B+(*)

Happy Apple: Happy Apple Back on Top (2007, Sunnyside): Bad Plus drummer Dave King's other trio, billed as "jazz punk," with Erik Fratzke on Fender bass and Michael Lewis on various saxophones and occasional keyboards, with their seventh album since 1997. I've only heard the last album, The Peace Between Our Companies, which made my A-list. This one is more or less as good -- having a lot of trouble making up my mind. Lewis reminds me a lot of Tony Malaby on tenor and, oh, Michael Blake on soprano -- pretty good models, but not quite distinct. Coming from Minnesota, I'm tempted to call them the Hüsker Dü of free jazz, especially when they go hard or Fratzke gets into one of his rock grooves. But they're more flexible than that, with the slow stuff retaining interest as well. [A-]

Tom Harrell: Light On (2006 [2007], High Note): A somewhat slick but fairly conventional postbop quintet, with Danny Grissett playing Fender Rhodes as much as acoustic piano, and Wayne Escoffery's tenor sax matching up against Harrell's trumpet and flugelhorn. Each player has his moments, but in the end they don't add up to critical mass. B

Joel Harrison: Harbor (2006-07 [2007], High Note): Most jazz musicians these days describe themselves as x-composer, where "x" is their main instrument. I usually leave the composer tag off here because it seems like such a cliché, but I'll mention it here because Harrison is more composer than guitarist. That's not a hard call. His bread and butter appears to be soundtracks, which may be why this album runs toward long set pieces -- groove things and mood things with a slightly metallic taste. But also he employs guitarist Nguyên Lê on 6 of 8 cuts. I don't know either well enough to sort them out, but if I tried it'd probably be on the basis that Lê has a Jimi Hendrix tribute on his resume where Harrison's tribute is to George Harrison. I've heard both and don't care much for either. I'm not all that interested in this one either, but I'm impressed by its dense complexity and get a charge out of Dave Binney's alto sax, even though it's mostly layering. B+(*)

Roy Haynes/Phineas Newborn/Paul Chambers: We Three (1958 [2007], Prestige/New Jazz): Bop piano trio with a nice, evenly balanced feel, with drummer Haynes and bassist Chambers holding their own despite the fact that Newborn was one of the slickest, most voluble young pianists working then; presumably Haynes got top billing as the oldest; fifty years of steady work eventually made him the most famous. B+(**)

The Jimmy Heath Orchestra: Really Big! (Keepnews Collection) (1960 [2007], Riverside): When Blue Note launched their RVG Editions they at least promised a sonic face lift by handing the reissues back to original sound engineer Rudy Van Gelder. The series was successful enough that Van Gelder cut a deal with Concord too. It's less obvious what the Keepnews Collection offers. Orrin Keepnews was producer and co-owner of a series of important labels: Riverside and Milestone in Concord's portfolio, Landmark in limbo. He's credited as producer here, but the 24-bit sound has been remastered by Joe Tarantino -- Keepnews' main contribution is to revisit his liner notes. Still, list price is the same as the previous Original Jazz Classics series, and occasional bonus tracks -- one here, an alternate take of "Nails" -- don't hurt. The choice of records within the Riveside and Milestone catalogs thus far seem completely arbitrary. Still, this one is an overlooked gem: a ten-piece band with Clark Terry, two Adderleys, three Heaths, and plenty of low-pitched horns to flesh out the acrobatics. A-

Helena: Bang! Dillinger Girl & "Baby Face" Nelson (2006 [2007], Sunnyside): The pictures are more suggestive of Bonnie and Clyde, but bank robbers in America are as interchangeable, not to mention boring, as anyone else. Dillinger Girl is Helena Noguerra, who has two previous albums of French pop under her first name. Baby Face Nelson is Federico Pellegrini, who had something to do with a group called Little Rabbits, and who has more recently styled himself as French Cowboy. This album was cut in Tucson with little if any French accent. I don't really know what to make of it. B

The Jon Hemmersam/Dom Minasi Quartet (2006 [2007], CDM): Two guitarist above the line; the other two are bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Kresten Osgood. Hemmersam comes from Denmark, plays Spanish guitar and electric; he has a previous album called Abakvarian, another record with Michael Jefry Stevens and Karen Valeur as the Jazzic Trio, and some other credits I don't quite understand (e.g., "Fusion Energy is a musicschool band leaded by Jon"). Minasi is from Queens, had a brief fling on Blue Note in the 1970s, reappeared with an album in 1999, and has been recording himself steadily ever since. I tend to think of him as a Joe Pass-type who somehow fell into an avant-garde crowd. He plays 12-string here, adding to a density that is all but definitive when they pick up the pace. The Spanish stuff is more ornate and less satisfying. Filiano is a plus, as usual. B+(*)

Todd Herbert: The Path to Infinity (1999-2003 [2007], Metropolitan): Tenor saxophonist, originally from Chicago area, moved to New York in 1997. Has played with Charles Earland, Freddie Hubbard, and Tom Harrell, although AMG doesn't give him any credits. Six cuts date from a 1999 session with George Colligan on piano, Dwayne Burno on bass, and Darrin Becket on drums, showing a straight shooter with some fire -- reminds me of Eric Alexander speeding. The odd cut out came later with David Hazeltine on piano, John Webber on bass, and Joe Farnsworth on drums. The rhythm there is more slippery and the sax less straight, more Prez than Hawk. Might be fruitful to follow up in that direction. B+(*)

Andrew Hill: Compulsion (1965 [2007], Blue Note): Despite the horn firepower -- Sun Ra's John Gilmore smoldering on tenor sax and bass clarinet, Freddie Hubbard firing away on trumpet -- Hill's piano has rarely loomed larger or more critically. He stamps out dense chords and skitters off with abstract fills, his rhythmic eccentricity prodding Cecil McBee and/or Richard Davis on bass, Joe Chambers on drums, with an extra layer of Afro-exotica from Nadi Qamar and Renaud Simmons. A-

Andrew Hill: Change (1966 [2007], Blue Note): The fine print notes that this, minus two alternate takes, was originally issued under Sam Rivers' name as half of the 1976 2-LP Involution. That it should now revert to Hill's catalogue reflects the changing fortunes of the principals. Hill was a pet project of Francis Wolf in the '60s, but much recorded then went unreleased at the time, including this quartet with Rivers. From the late '90s, Hill mounted quite a comeback, with two much admired albums on Palmetto and a return to Blue Note, Time Lines, which swept most jazz critic polls in 2006. I'm not a huge fan of the late albums, but they've led to a massive reissue of Hill's 1963-69 Blue Note period, which has if anything grown in stature. Rivers' career actually parallels Hill's quite nicely, with Blue Note in the '60s, a long stretch in the wilderness, and a comeback in 1999, with two large ensemble albums, Inspiration and Culmination, released on RCA. Hill died in 2007, but Rivers carries on in his 80s, with an exemplary trio album, Violet Violets (Stunt) in 2004. Still, it is appropriate to restore this session to Hill's ledger: he wrote all of the pieces, and once you get past the ugliness of an 11:04 opener called "Violence" the sax calms down and the piano emerges, as impressive as ever. A-

Lisa Hilton: The New York Sessions (2007, Ruby Slippers): Pianist, from Southern California, relationship to Paris unknown, but better looking, for sure. Has 10 self-released albums since 1997, most with b/w photos on the cover and titles like My Favorite Things, one with a cocktail glass on the piano. Just a blue vignette this time, with the title and a list of the musicians: Christian McBride / Lewis Nash / Jeremy Pelt / Steve Wilson. That's a lot of talent, but the horns are severely underused, and the rhythm section is likely to fool a blindfold test. Hilton wrote a little more than half of the pieces, adding covers of Monk, Ray Charles, Johnny Mandell, and Joni Mitchell ("Both Sides Now," reprised at the end). Pleasant. B-

Bruce Hornsby/Christian McBride/Jack DeJohnette: Camp Meeting (2007, Legacy): Hornsby is a Berklee-educated pianist who emerged in the late '80s as a platinum-selling rock star, creating a mix of Americana, schmaltz, and Elton John. I never bothered listening to him until 2006, when Legacy sent me his 4-CD box set, which I played through twice and accorded a polite B. My only other encounter with him was one of Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz sessions in 2005 that Concord's new owners put out when they were trolling for names they've heard of -- Steely Dan and Elvis Costello were the others. It turns out that Hornsby's long been a jazz nerd. Now that his career has coasted to where he's got nothing better to do, he's indulging himself. I don't know whether to encourage him or not. On the one hand, this is a pretty useless piano trio album -- a mix of bop standards that he doesn't add much to and originals that don't take much away. On the other, it's pretty consistently enjoyable. Hornsby himself is more than proficient, and the Bud Powell pieces especially shine. And the bassist and even more so the drummer are superb, as you'd expect. Even the marketing folks figured that out: the advance only has Hornsby's name on it, but the final copy lists all three. Makes sense to me: in this niche, McBride and DeJohnette sell Hornsby much more than the other way around. B+(*)

Diane Hubka: Goes to the Movies (2005-06 [2007], 18th & Vine): Singer; plays a little 7-string guitar, although most of the fine guitar here is credited to Larry Koonse. Website bio has no biographical information, and is otherwise dubious -- "arguably the biggest discovery since Roberta Gambarini"? (FYI, I've never heard Gambarini, although I recognize the name.) Looks like she came from Appalachia, worked in DC and/or NYC, has three previous albums, mostly on Dutch labels, and a favorable entry in Penguin Guide, likening her to Sheila Jordan. I don't hear that here, but haven't heard the earlier albums. She has a clear, clean, articulate voice, and gets unassuming support from a quintet led by pianist Christian Jacob, with Carl Saunders providing finish touches on trumpet and flugelhorn. Record rises and falls on the songs, which include enough melodramatic themes and noirish ballads to turn me off. Could use another play. [B+(*)]

Jason Kao Hwang/Sang Won Park: Local Lingo (2006 [2007], Euonymus): Hwang is a Chinese-American violinist, who has managed to distinguish himself both in Chinese classical music and avant-jazz. Park is a Korean, born 1950 in Seoul, moved to New York in 1980. He plays ajeng (a 6-string bowed zither) and kayagum (a 12-string plucked ziter), which are capable of a rough, sour -- I'm tempted to say ugly -- sound, contrasting with the more conventional violin. Park has worked with Laurie Anderson, Henry Kaiser, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and has a solo album. Like most duo albums, this initially strikes me as limited to the sum of its parts. I have no framework for evaluating Park's mastery. Hwang is one of the most interesting violinists around, but Park controls the tempo and sound. [B+(*)]

François Ingold Trio: Song Garden (2006 [2007], Altrisuoni): Swiss pianist, in a trio with bassist Diego Imbert and drummer Fred Bintner. Looks like his first album. Don't know much more. I like the record quit ea bit, but it's one of those things I don't have much to say about. Given the nominal release date, no problem holding it back for later. [B+(**)] [Sept. 1]

François Ingold Trio: Song Garden (2006 [2007], Altrisuoni): Swiss pianist, first album, sounds impeccable, like what you'd expect in a first rate piano trio while hoping for a miracle. Don't have much to say beyond that, which is why I'm sweeping it under the rug. Not impossible that he'll come back and make us pay attention. B+(**)

Tomas Janzon: Coast to Coast to Coast (2006, Changes Music): Janzon noticed I had put this on down in the "low priority" section of that missed music list I published a few months ago, so he sent a copy. Glad he did. Guitarist, born in Sweden, based in Los Angeles (more or less) since 1991. Record is recorded with several configurations of trio and quartet groups -- no horns, the fourth instrument is either William Henderson's piano or Birger Thorelli's marimba. Cool, intricate style; attractive record. [B+(**)]

Tomas Janzon: Coast to Coast to Coast (2006, Changes): Another good mainstream guitar record just below my line, its virtue in simple and elegant lines, uncomplicated by horns -- just bass and drums, and on a few cuts marimba or piano. Cool. B+(**)

Joseph Jarman: As If It Were the Seasons (1968 [2007], Delmark): The arty 23:47 title cut was done by a trio plus voice, the sort of thing that AACM could do when imagining great black classical music. But when the gang -- including Muhal Richard Abrams, Fred Anderson, and John Stubblefield -- showed up for the 20:58 "Song for Christopher" all hell broke loose. You already know whether you can stand this or not, but if you can, focus on the percussive thrash, credited to Everybody. B+(**)

Jewels and Binoculars: Ships With Tattooed Sails (2006 [2007], Upshot): The group comes from a line in a Bob Dylan song. The group -- Michael Moore on reeds and melodica, Lindsey Horner on bass, Michael Vatcher on bass -- plays Bob Dylan songs. This is their third album, which still doesn't get them very far through the songbook, although the stuff that a non-Dylan fan like me can recognize is thinning out. That in itself matters little: one thing they've already proven is that Dylan is quite a melodist, even blanking out his legendary lyrics. One I do recognize is "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," even though they turn it into a fantastic improvisatory platform. Bill Frisell joins in on three cuts. Haven't noticed them yet. A- [Sept. 1]

Postscript: Played this record another 8-10 times groping for words for the review, mostly in speechless admiration for its balance and elegance. Eventually came up with something, going so far as to bump the grade up to A and making it a pick hit. Looked at Lindsey Horner's website, where he is at pains to insist that the group is collaborative, not a Michael Moore vehicle. Moore had made the same point previously in personal mail. Even believing that, it's hard to know what to do with it. But it may explain why they shopped around for another record label, instead of releasing the record on Moore's Ramboy, like the other two.

Ed Johnson & Novo Tempo: The Other Road (2007, Cumulus): Back cover exclaims: Brazilian Jazz. Website explains: Original Brazilian Inspired Jazz. I would have insisted on a hyphen: Brazilian-Inspired. Johnson plays guitar (mostly nylon-string) and sings; based in or near San Francisco or San Jose (Palo Alto?); has five albums, two with this band, but previous albums were evidently similar. The band (horns and percussion, anyway) aren't bad, but the leader's guitar is nothing special, and the vocals are somewhere between inept and awful -- the constant bubbling of the background voices is especially annoying. C- [Oct. 1]

Etta Jones/Houston Person: Don't Misunderstand: Live in New York (1980 [2007], High Note): Jones only appears on three tracks -- "Exactly Like You," "Ain't Misbehavin'," "I Saw Stars" -- revealing nothing beyond her usual competency, so no point seeking this out on her account. Organist Sonny Phillips is perfunctory at best, and the longer he holds the spotlight the duller the record gets. So that leaves Person -- his tenor sax all honey, so sweet he turns "Blue Monk" out as a natural standard, even managing to elevate Phillips' blues jams. B+(*)

Thad Jones: Detroit-New York Junction (1956 [2007], Blue Note): Eventually the middle Jones brother became well known for his compositions, his arranging, and his band co-leadership with Mel Lewis, while his '50s small group records remained out of print. This sextet, mostly Detroit musicians moved to New York, offers a little bit of everything: bebop trumpet, three original compositions and two Rodgers-Hart standards, clever arrangements. B+(***)

Barb Jungr: Bare Again (1999 [2007], ZC): Reissue of her first album Bare, named for its minimal piano-only accompaniment, with three extra cuts to grow the title. Jungr has some jazz flair, and picks songs come from '60s-'70s pop, with Jacques Brel's "Sons Of" a revelation, Ian Dury's "What a Waste" a surprise, and Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee" a dud. B

Fred Katz: Folk Songs for Far Out Folk (1958 [2007], Reboot Stereophonic): About all I know of Kabbalah is that it seeks to peel off the illusions of G-d, only to find more illusions. I'm tempted to add that's because there is no God, so the only things you can possibly find are illusions. The peeling off metaphor is one we can apply to history. The most nominal categorization of Katz is anthropology professor, a post he used less for science than as a license to indulge his own interests -- mystical religion, political radicalism, ethnomusicology, the "oneness of man." But strip all of those back to their roots, and you find a boy playing classical music on his cello. That at least validates the metaphor, inasmuch as we've found a seed from which all else grows. But peeling off could just as well leave us with an uncomfortable void, as in seeking God, or in peeling off the history of knowledge, where each new achievement reveals a previously held falsehood. The most striking thing about Folk Songs for Far Out Folk is how much our evolving view has change the meaning of those words over the 50 years since the record was conceived. Katz takes three sets of folk songs -- African, Hebrew, and American -- and arranges them for three different orchestras. The African tunes get West Coast brass and Jack Constanzo's bongos for the drums we now know should be there. The Hebrew psalms get flutes and reeds, but nothing suggesting klezmer. The American songs get vibes and guitar. They're interleaved to juxtapose rather than flow, but what they all share is the arranger's classical fix on control. That the albums was marketed as jazz is an artifact of the time, much like the notion that these are still folk songs, and that we are far out folk. B+(*)

Chris Kelsey Quartet: The Crookedest Straight Line Vol. 1 (2006 [2007], CIMP): Soprano saxophonist, born in Maine, based in New York. This looks to be his eighth album since 1997, starting with one called The Ingenious Young Gentlemen of the Lower East Side, mostly for avant-audiophile label CIMP. Pianoless quartet, with John Carlson on trumpet/flugelhorn, François Grillot on bass, Jay Rosen on drums. Haven't been able to focus on the leader, partly because the trumpet seems more prominent, partly due to other distractions. I do like some spots where they kick up the volume. [B+(**)]

Chris Kelsey Quartet: The Crookedest Straight Line Vol. 1 (2006 [2007], CIMP): For some reason I find the sound of soprano sax and trumpet played in unison to be highly irritating. When the two horns -- the leader's soprano sax and John Carlson's trumpet -- diverge, as is most often the case, each takes an interesting path; all the more so when drummer Jay Rosen picks up the pace. B+(*)

Soweto Kinch: A Life in the Day of B19: Tales of the Tower Block (2006 [2007], Dune): Part one (of two) of a concept album about a normal day in the life of three blokes in a Birmingham (UK) housing project (B19) -- Adrian, Marcus, and S -- with the usual hopes and dreams and dreads and ennui. Probably means more if you've been there or at least can grok the accents -- I recall an English (err, Welsh) businessman I used to work with as describing Birmingham as "three million people with a common speech defect." I find it takes an awful lot of effort to follow what on paper appears as 15 skits in a matrix of 15 pieces -- even on paper the organization isn't that neat, with "Opening Theme" and "Everybody Raps" among the pieces. As hip-hop, I'm more impressed by its ambition than by the accomplishment. As jazz it isn't much clearer. Kinch has a plastic take on alto sax -- his tone playful, almost toyish, his lines bent in odd ways -- but he tends to fall back into soundtrack mode here, so only occasional patches suggest that he may be up to something interesting. I don't hate the idea of hip-hop-era jazz, but this one's a long way from sorting out the kinks. [B]

Soweto Kinch: A Life in the Day of B19: Tales of the Tower Block (2006 [2007], Dune): It's just a matter of time before hip-hop seeps into jazz, unless this shotgun wedding spoils the idea forever. Kinch's previous album had a lot of blowing interrupted by a few raps; this is the opposite, with the raps not only predominant but also saddled with the full weight of a narrative concept Prince Paul isn't even ambitious enough to tackle. Moreover, it's so British it doesn't travel well -- like, what are "benefits" that one might worry about losing? And the surfeit of rap is set on grime beats, which seep into the jazz breaks like an oil spill. B-

Roland Kirk With Jack McDuff: Kirk's Work (1961 [2007], Prestige): Soul jazz, a sax-organ quartet, albeit with a few surprises, like the cover picture of Kirk blowing into three saxophones; Kirk's flute work is also novel, emphasizing the instrument's hollow depth. B+(***)

Guy Klucevsek/Alan Bern: Notefalls (2006 [2007], Winter & Winter): I looked Klucevsek up in Wikipedia and saw that they have a link to "Avant-garde accordionists"; clicked that, and discovered that Klucevsek is the only one listed. That seems appropriate. I can think of some avant-jazz accordionists, but no one he's unique in having come out of the what I guess is called "modern composition" these days -- his early discography includes work with Lukas Foss, Virgil Thomson, Pauline Oliveros, people like that. Bern plays accordion as well, but his background is more common, coming out of the klezmer group Brave Old World. In the long run Klucevsek has ranged far and wide, including a fair amount of klezmer and polka, a lot of jazz, and an occasional appearance with someone like Laurie Anderson. This is his second duo album with Bern, who doubles up on accordion on several pieces, but more often plans piano, and in one case melodica. This is another record I'm cutting corners on. It feels composed through, and loses my interest in spots, but the upbeat cuts "Don't Let the Boogie-Man Get You" and "March of the Wild Turkey Hens" are choice. B+(*)

Mark Knox: Places (2006, Dreambox Media): Knox is credited throughout with keys, and on various tracks with percussion programming, samples, and vocals. His keys and beats are light and frothy. The places straddle the map, with an extended sequence in Japan followed by a Vietnamese folk song. Most of it is attractive enough. The only standout is John Swana, whose trumpet burns brilliantly on four cuts. B

Kreepa: Inside-a-Sekt (2006 [2007], Monium): Bad time: playing this but I can't read the cover notes, let alone figure this out. Mostly electronics, or "electro-noise" as the website puts it, with a little trombone. English, I think, but distributed out of the Netherlands. Interesting. Will get back to it. [B+(**)]

Kreepa: Inside-A-Sekt (2006 [2007], Monium): Abstract electronics, mostly, although any sort of instrument can be employed to similar effect, and trombone can occasionally be discerned. While the sounds themselves seem disconnected, they do on occasion add up to something vaguely resembling melody. But most of the attraction is in the minimalist junkyard jumble, a distinctly limited but real pleasure. B+(*)

Joachim Kühn/Majid Bekkas/Ramon Lopez: Kalimba (2006 [2007], ACT): Drummer Lopez has his name on the spine, but on the cover he's listed "with" below the title, while Kühn and Bekkas are in larger print above. He's a useful guy, but the action here is between the top-liners. Bekkas is a gnawa guy from Morocco. He plays guembri ("a bass-like lute"), oud, and kalimba, and sings, more like a stiff chant. I'm not sold on the latter, but I'm not turned off either. He makes for an interesting counterpoint to Kühn, who is dazzling as usual on piano, and surprisingly assured on alto sax. [B+(***)]

Steve Kuhn: Pastorale (2002 [2007], Sunnyside): Another piano trio. Playing this after Chip Stephens reminds me of the difference between college sports and the pros. Stephens is very good at playing other people. Kuhn is, well, Kuhn. He broke through with Kenny Dorham, John Coltrane (before McCoy Tyner replaced him), Stan Getz, and Art Farmer. He recorded as himself in 1963, and has worked steadily ever since. I haven't followed him closely -- I'm not much of a piano person, and don't care for some of his digressions, like the Latin-tinged Quiéreme Mucho. Even this is a bit too inside for my interest span, but he sounds terrific -- as he does on the more recently recorded Live at Birdland, an HM if I ever find the words for it. Major league bass and drums too: Eddie Gomez and Billy Drummond. B+(***)

David Lackner: Chapter One (2006, Dreambox Media): Alto/soprano saxophonist, in a Philadelphia quintet drescribed as "the Dreambox house band." I know very little about Lackner, other than that he's very young (20, I hear) and this is his first album. He wrote all but two of the pieces, covering "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise" and "Cherokee." Has a very nice, warm tone on alto, playing fairly mainstream post-bop. B+(*)

Steve Lacy-Roswell Rudd Quartet: Early and Late (1962-2002 [2007], Cuneiform, 2CD): One thing that distinguished both Lacy and Rudd is that they vaulted directly from trad jazz to the avant-garde, pausing only to snatch up the songbooks of Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols. Instrumentation had something to do with this: before Lacy, the only known soprano sax master was Sidney Bechet, while, pace J.J. Johnson, the trombone had long been a New Orleans staple for dirtying up the lead trumpet -- Louis Armstrong never went anywhere without a Kid Ory or Trummy Young or Jack Teagarden. The first Lacy-Rudd quartet only cut one album, School Days (1963), but it was landmark enough that Ken Vandermark named his trombone-powered pianoless quartet after it. The four early cuts here are unreleased demos -- three takes on Monk and one on Cecil Taylor -- and they are major finds, keys to how to turn a song inside out and make something new of it. The group broke up with Lacy moving to France and Rudd teaming up with Archie Shepp and others before fading into obscurity. Finally, they regrouped for tours in 1999 and 2002, with a new album, Monk's Dream. The balance here are live shots from the tours -- long pieces, mostly Lacy's improv frameworks, plus Monk and Nichols and a sprightly pseudo-African riff from Rudd. They don't blow you away so much as they resonate with the authoritative voices of two major careers bound together at their ends. A-

Adam Lane/Ken Vandermark/Magnus Broo/Paal Nilssen-Love: 4 Corners (2006 [2007], Clean Feed): Recorded over three days in Portugal, with four pieces by Lane and three by Vandermark. Nilssen-Love has played frequently with Vandermark, including some notable duets and in School Days, a two-horn quartet similar to this lineup. Broo plays trumpet in Atomic, which merged with School Days for a 2004 album, Nuclear Assembly Hall, so those three are connected. I think the connection with Lane is new. It's hard to tell offhand what difference Lane makes, but he's been putting together a very impressive body of work. On the other hand, Vandermark is impossible to miss. He mostly plays baritone sax here, with lesser amounts of clarinet and bass clarinet, and he's become a very powerful baritone player. Need to give this more time, especially given that it's not the sort of thing you want to listen to during a tornado warning. [B+(***)]

Adam Lane/Ken Vandermark/Magnus Broo/Paal Nilssen-Love: 4 Corners (2006 [2007], Clean Feed): Three Vandermark songs, which tend to be wild and wooly, mixed in with four Lane songs, which are probably the ones with the sharp patterns and good beats. I'll need to recheck that, but the first cut is a Vandermark squawl, with Broo's trumpet adding a fair share, but it comes together after that. The drummer, of course, can go any which way, and he's busy here. A-

Matt Lavelle: Trumpet Rising Bass-Clarinet Moon (2004, 577 Records): Recorded live, with a quintet. If guitarist Anders Neilson isn't a typo, he's as obcure as the rest -- Atiba N. Kwabena on djembe, flute, percusion; Francois Grillot on bass; Federick Ughi on drums. They provide a more varied background than the duo/trio albums, but the focus is still on Lavelle's trumpet and bass clarinet -- both distinctive. Lavelle describes this as "a summation of my work from 1990-2000," and dedicated it to the late Sir Hildred Humphries, his formative link back to the pre-bop era. B+(**)

Matt Lavelle and Daniel Carter (2006. downtownmusic.net): Another duo, just a CDR in a plastic scallop case, recorded at Downtown Music Gallery. Four pieces, much further developed than the Tower Records set. Still, typical of avant duos, limited pallette of sounds, a lot of feeling each other out, but strong performances if you pay attention. B

Matt Lavelle: Cuica in the Third House (2007, KMB): Solo project, with spoken bits I didn't really follow, and blasts of trumpet or flugelhorn and bass clarinet, as interesting as ever. Limited edition CDR, hand packaged. B

Nguyên Lê: Purple: Celebrating Jimi Hendrix (2002, ACT): Vietnamese guitarist, based in France, with ten or so albums going back to 1989. This is somewhat old, inexplicably showing up in the mail. A trio with guitar, electric bass, and drums, plus guests, including vocals and North African percusion. The vocals have a soft fuzziness, framing the words without really grabbing them, let alone cutting them off as Hendrix did. The guitar also lacks definition, although in the end the purple smudge does have some appeal. B

Nguyên Lê Duos: Homescape (2004-05 [2006], ACT): Home studio recordings, made at leisure with Lê on various guitars with various electronics and either Paolo Fresu or Dhafer Youssef. Fresu plays trumpet/flugelhorn; Youssef plays oud and sings. Not actually specified who played which tracks, but it wouldn't be hard to figure out if I had taken more careful notes. I could also point out choice cuts -- there are some, but not enough to draw another play right now. B+(*)

Joélle Leandre/Pascal Contet: Freeway (2005 [2007], Clean Feed): Duo improv, with Leandre on bass, Contet on accordion. Record split into 12 pieces, titled "Freeway 1" to "Freeway 12." In short, scattered stuff that demands a close ear, and returns somewhat more than passing interest. B+(*)

Alison Faith Levy & Mushroom: Yesterday, I Saw You Kissing Tiny Flowers (2002-05 [2007], 4Zero): Levy is a San Francisco singer-songwriter, with credits going back to a 1994 EP -- only one I've heard before is a bit part on Mushroom's Glazed Popems. AMG classifies her as Alternative Pop/Rock and Indie Rock. AMG classifies Mushroom as Experimental Rock, Prog-Rock/Art Rock, Kraut Rock, Instrumental Rock, Jazz-Rock, Avant-Prog, Psychedelic, and figures their influences to have been Herbie Hancock, King Crimson, Caravan, Can, and Gong. The group has a dozen or so records, but once more, I've only heard Glazed Popems (although I do have a new one with Eddie Gale in the queue), which is some sort of '60s London tribute. Among the others are titles that suggest they're a real critics band, like Mad Dogs and San Franciscans and Foxy Music. I haven't tried to work out the comings and goings, but aside from Levy, the only constant on the four sessions here is drummer Pat Thomas. Maybe it's the band vibe, but Levy reminds me enough of Grace Slick to make this sound like a postmodern, not to mention postrevolution, Jefferson Airplane -- certainly a more interesting tangent than Paul Kantner's Starship. [B+(**)]

Abbey Lincoln: Abbey Sings Abbey (2007, Verve): Few singers I've listened more to and gotten less out of -- such is her reputation, or maybe it's just Gary Giddins' fault. So I wasn't expecting much here, but this starts off with a gallopping pedal steel-enhanced "Blue Monk" before getting down to business recycling the singer's originals. There's a bit of re-recording your hits here, but that's less unbecoming in a jazz singer that it is for, say, Merle Haggard. But it does give you a chance to bump up the average quality level, and while I recognize many, they're not things I've grown accustomed to. [B+(*)] [May 22]

Abbey Lincoln: Abbey Sings Abbey (2006 [2007], Verve): Francis Davis raved about this in the Voice. I suspect that anyone else already in love with her will feel much the same. I've long been a disappointed skeptic, so the best I can say is that listening to her old songs redone here fails to remind me of whatever it was that annoyed me about her in the past. One possibility is that her voice has coarsened her voice, taking it off that pedestal I never cared for. But also, the arrangements are refreshing. The group is string-oriented, with Larry Campbell playing acoustic and electric guitar, National resonator guitar, pedal steel guitar, and mandolin; he's backed with cello, bass, drums, and accordion for color. The pedal steel is the biggest surprise, with "Blue Monk" played as a cowboy tune. The rest of the songs are originals, selected (I assume) for strong melodies that fit the framework -- a "greatest hits" effect, but given my ignorance without regrets. A couple of songs in I thought about suspending my skepticism, but the record runs long and isn't always convincing. B+(***)

The Jason Lindner Big Band: Live at the Jazz Gallery (2005 [2007], Anzic, 2CD): Mainstream pianist, the young potential star Impulse favored over old Frank Hewitt when excavating Jazz Underground: Live at Smalls. Lindner manages to straddle advanced postbop and scattered world music interests -- his record on Fresh Sound World Jazz, Ab Aeterno, is on my Honorable Mention list. His Big Band dates back to 1995 at Smalls, so this particular event was touted as a 10th anniversary celebration. The line-up is notable, with Israelis and Latin Americans in abundance -- Omer Avital, Anat and Avishai Cohen, Rafi Malkiel, Miguel Zenon, Yosvany Terry Cabrera (limited to one track on chekere). Liner notes refer to similar large ensembles -- Maria Schneider, Guillermo Klein, Magali Souriau -- but this group is both simpler and more powerful, at least when they open up. That doesn't happen much on the first disc, but two cuts on the second ("Freak of Nature" and "The 5 Elements and the Natural Trinity") get off on more interesting Latin rhythms; they're also the ones that start with piano leads. B+(*)

Charles Lloyd: Of Course, Of Course (1964-65 [2006], Mosaic): On his second album, Lloyd opens with flute over Gabor Szabo's sweet guitar, with Ron Carter and Tony Williams shuffling along. Lloyd's main instrument was tenor sax, and he soon garnered a following by taking Coltrane to the masses, but this album was more varied and idiosyncratic: his sax reminds me of Warne Marsh, but the flute suggests the more flamboyantly eccentric Roland Kirk, tuned more tightly to the melody, without the special effects. The reissue adds three later tracks, trying out an appealing tropic groove. A-Fred Lonberg-Holm Trio: Terminal Valentine (2006 [2007], Atavistic): Chicago-based cellist, recently joined Vandermark 5 replacing trombonist Jeb Bishop. The initial problem here is that there isn't a lot of sonic variety to a cello-bass-drums trio, so it's hard to tell what's going on without paying close attention. As background this flows agreeably, with some edge that may pan out, but I'll have to return to it later. Another open question is why do so many FLH albums involve valentines? [B+(*)]

Fred Lonberg-Holm Trio: Terminal Valentine (2006 [2007], Atavistic): The latest -- perhaps the title means the last -- of a series of Valentine albums by the Chicago cellist. Sounds sad to me, which may be inevitable given the cello-bass-drums lineup and that they never get out of low gear. B+(*)

Frank London: A Night in the Old Marketplace (2006 [2007], Soundbrush): Alexandra Aron conceived this "tragic carnivalspiel" based on a 1907 Yiddish tale, tapping playwright Glen Berger for the words, klezmerist London for the score, and a dozen or so singers -- best known are Susan McKeown and Lorin Sklamberg. The drama unfolds with Brechtian flair, but I distrust a shady character called "G-d" -- leaving me in doubt as to what it all means. B

Los Angeles Jazz Ensemble: Expectations (2007, Kind of Blue, CD+DVD): Looks like another attempt to hide one of those unpronounceable Polish names. The leader here is bassist Darek Oleszkiewicz, who's also recorded as Darek Oles, and has four albums from 1994 on listed under Los Angeles Jazz Quartet. He was born 1963 in Wroclaw in Poland; moved to Krakow in 1983, and on to Los Angeles in 1988, studying with Charlie Haden, and teaching currently at UC Irvine. The Ensemble is a quintet with vocalist Janis Siegel added on four tracks. Guitarist Larry Koonse is a holdover from the Quartet. Bob Sheppard and Peter Erskine take over sax and drums, respectively, while the added position goes to Alan Pasqua on organ. The songs are a mix of pop and jazz standards -- Tom Harrell's "Sail Away" is the only latecomer. Oleszkiewicz arranged them, and they flow with marvelous ease, with Koonse and Pasqua taking especially attractive turns. I'm not so pleased with the vocals, which might have benefitted from a lighter voice. Haven't watched the DVD, but might. [B+(***)]

Russ Lossing/Mat Maneri/Mark Dresser: Metal Rat (2006 [2007], Clean Feed): Pianist Lossing is the presumed leader here, but Maneri's viola dominates the sound and pushes this so far into abstract chamber music territory that the others can only tag along. Lossing in particular makes an interesting go of it. Dresser is harder to gauge because his bass contrasts less with the viola and tends to get drowned out, but I suspect closer focus will reveal more. Not what you'd call accessible. Nor something I'm inclined to readily dismiss. [B+(*)]

Russ Lossing/Mat Maneri/Mark Dresser: Metal Rat (2006 [2007], Clean Feed): Abstract avant-chamber music, with Maneri's viola occupying the sonic center and providing most of the squeak. Still, it's likely that pianist Lossing is the one providing the bulk of the interest. B+(*)

Allen Lowe: Jews in Hell: Radical Jewish Acculturation (2004-06 [2007], Spaceout, 2CD): Actually, the title goes on: Or: All the Blues You Could Play By Now If Stanley Crouch Was Your Uncle; and on: Or: Dance of the Creative Economy: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About the Space Gallery and Love the Music Business. Lowe wrote in suggesting that if I made this a Dud he could market around that. I doubt that he'll get that particular wish, although the record is a huge mess, a lot of things that fit oddly if at all. Next step is RTFM: Lowe may not be much of a musician -- his alto sax is fine, but he mostly plays guitar here along with banjo, bass, and synth -- and he certainly isn't much of a singer -- but he's a good writer and an exceptional musicologist, and the manual (err, booklet) looks to be as important a part of the package as the discs. All I can really say thus far is that this shatters expectations. [B]

Lucky 7s: Farragut (2006, Lakefront Digital): This is where Jeb Bishop landed on leaving the Vandermark 5, although it's hardly his only project -- a new one called the Engines, which is the Vandermark-less 5 subbing Nate McBride for Kent Kessler on bass, looks most promising. Lucky 7s is led by Bishop and fellow trombonist Jeff Albert, who also plays tuba. Seven piece group, natch, with Josh Berman's cornet and Keefe Jackson's reeds, Jason Adasiewicz's vibes, Matthew Golombisky on bass and Quin Kirchner on drums. Takes a while to kick in, but when it does you get a thick gumbo of New Orleans polyphony gone avant-garde, with the vibes glittering above the fray. [B+(***)]

Lucky 7s: Farragut (2006, Lakefront Digital): Chicago group, led by two trombonists: Jeff Albert, who also plays tuba, and Jeb Bishop, better known from his tenure with the Vandermark 5. When it all comes together -- cornet, tenor sax or bass clarinet, Jason Adasiewicz's vibraphone accents -- as on the last two cuts ("Farragut" and "Bucktown Special") they cook up a tasty polyphonic gumbo. But this starts off slow, with some weak spots along the way. B+(**)

Gloria Lynne: From My Heart to Yours (2007, High Note): Jazz (or pop or soul) singer, recorded a lot for Everest 1958-66, after which her discography thins out. Second record on High Note, after one in 1992 on predecessor label Muse. Interesting reading of "My Funny Valentine," like she's trying to build on Chet Baker's affectuations but can't make herself frail enough. Nothing else caught my interest, but there's no doubting her strength or skill. B

Raymond MacDonald/Günter "Baby" Sommer: Delphinius & Lyra (2005 [2007], Clean Feed): MacDonald is a alto/soprano saxophonist from Scotland. Has a group called the Burt-MacDonald Quintet ("one of the most adventurous jazz groups in Scotland"; Burt is guitarist George), and plays in the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, a/k/a GIO. MacDonald is pretty obscure, but Sommer has been one of the main drummers of Europe's avant-garde over the last three decades, despite spending much of that time in the GDR. His own discography is thin, but includes a number of notable duos, especially with Cecil Taylor and Irène Schweizer. He brings a lot to this duo, even when the main thing you hear is MacDonald's piercing squall. One section erupts in shouts. These guys are having a blast. [B+(***)]

Robert MacGregor: Refraction of Light (2006 [2007], Black Tri): Young (b. 1983) tenor saxophonist, from Los Angeles, part Chinese, studied at Manhattan School of Music under Steve Slagle and Dick Oatts. In a quartet here with folks I don't know, with trumpet and flute added for one song. I didn't expect much, but he's got a distinct sound, and maneuvers easily around tricky postbop. Pianist Miro Sprague holds his own as well. [B+(**)] [Aug. 1]

Robert MacGregor: Refraction of Light (2006 [2007], Black Tri): Young tenor saxophonist with a distinctive sound and plenty of chops, leading a young postbop group with a pretty good pianist named Miro Sprague. B+(*)

Rafi Malkiel: My Island (2006 [2007], Raftone): Latin jazz, with all the bells and maracas, the songs conscientiously broken down by style (bolero, guajira, bomba, danzon-cha, etc.) and country (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Brazil, with New Orleans listed for Duke Ellington's "Black and Tan Fantasy." Malkiel is originally from Israel, now based on New York. He plays trombone and euphonium, composed the majority of the pieces, arranged the rest. I suppose I'll get flack for favoring this over the natives, but I love the light touch and imaginative arrangements -- even the old-fashioned vocals -- and I do enjoy good trombone. [A-]

Billy Martin/John Medeski: Mago (2006 [2007], Amulet): I.e., Medeski, Martin & Wood minus bassist Chris Wood, released on drummer Martin's boutique label instead of major Blue Note. All three principals have had their side projects -- Martin has quite a pile of drum solos and duets, break beats, and DJ mixes; organist Medeski shows up on Thirsty Ears and at Club D'Elf and dabbles in gospel; Wood has the Wood Brothers, which I can't describe off the top of my head, proving how forgettable the album was -- but this seems dangerously close to their meal ticket, with the inevitable groove loss offset by greater freedom and more individual play. The analogy that occurs to me is David Byrne-Brian Eno, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, which felt like a rough draft for a Talking Heads album but stood on its own because it drew out the limited idiosyncrasies of the key players. This is the same idea, but not really on the same level. B+(**)

Martirio: Primavera en Nueva York (2006, Calle 54): Without grokking the Spanish, I'd take this "bolero suite" for torch song -- slow, steady, packing emotional weight regardless of the words. The bonus is in the New York musicians, including two cuts each with Paquito D'Rivera and Houston Person, one with Claudio Roditi, and exceptional piano support from Kenny Drew Jr. B+(***)

Mat Marucci-Doug Webb Trio: Change-Up (2006 [2007], CIMP): Third member of the trio strikes me as better known than the two leaders: bassist Ken Filiano, who gets a "featuring" on the front cover. Drummer Marucci wrote the pieces, excepting "Body and Soul" and one group collaboration. Webb plays soprano sax, tenor sax, and stritch, so he has the dominant voice, making this a basic sax trio. Marucci is the senior member, b. 1945 in Rome NY, with 11 albums going back to 1979, and side credits with Jimmy Smith and John Tchicai, and a more performing credits, mostly mainstream. Webb is younger, b. 1960, has three co-leader albums with Marucci and a forthcoming quartet album under his own name, but it looks like he's done a lot of session work -- his website claims 150 albums but only lists 75; most are unknown to me, none avant-garde, some big bands (Doc Severinsen), some retro (Chris Barber), more pop jazz (Brian Bromberg, Stanley Clarke), quite a few not jazz at all (Rod Stewart, Carly Simon, Holly Near). Webb lists most sax weights (sopranino to baritone) on his instruments list, as well as dozens of flute and reed instruments, whistles and ocarinas. In his notes, Webb writes, "Living in Los Angeles, I don't often get a chance to play as artistically as I would like, so I would like to thank Mat and Bob Rusch for giving me the opportunity." B+(***)

Hugh Masekela: Live at the Market Theatre (2006 [2007], Times Square/4Q, 2CD): A 30th anniversary bash -- for the Johannesburg venue, that is; the South African trumpeter-vocalist goes back further, having started his globetrotting at least a decade earlier. This is a triumph, an informal career summary that tracks the struggle against apartheid and baser oppressions. Its two discs allow him to stretch out and work the crowd, even to preach a little, knowing there's more than celebrating left to do, but pleased to be there that night. A-

Bill Mays/The Inventions Trio: Fantasy (2001-05 [2007], Palmetto): Well-known, well-regarded postbop pianist, originally from Sacramento CA, Mays has more than a dozen albums starting around 1982, including a Maybeck Recital. First time I heard him was in 2005 on Live at Jazz Standard, an impressive piano-bass-drums trio recording. This is a totally different trio, with classical specialists Alisa Horn on cello and Marvin Stamm on trumpet and flugelhorn. The centerpiece is a three-movement original, "Fantasy for Cello, Trumpet and Piano." Other credits include Bach, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Gershwin ("Prelude #2"), and Charlie Parker. Meant to explore the intersections of chamber music and jazz, this slipped and fell into the chamber. B- [advance, Aug. 21]

Donny McCaslin: In Pursuit (2007, Sunnyside): Technically one of the most impressive tenor saxophonists of his generation, a dependably exciting sideman, an ambitious composer, generous to his friends, baffling to me. After reading that Samo Salamon is touring with him, I was surprised to see Ben Monder here, but Monder excels at the sort of backing he plugs in here. Dave Binney produced, and adds stealth alto sax to fatten up the harmony, at least when McCaslin isn't burning down the house. I just wonder why he doesn't do more of it. And why he plays flute. Then I read the "thanks" and encounter more common sources of confusion: Dave Douglas, Michael Brecker, God. Mysterious ways, indeed. [B+(**)]

Donny McCaslin: In Pursuit (2007, Sunnyside): Dedicated to his mentor, Michael Brecker, offering a ready explanation why I can't get into him even though he's beyond any doubt a tremendous saxophone player, but I doubt that it's so simple. For one thing, he's much better than Brecker. In fact, I can't think of anyone who plays with more assurance at breakneck speed. He writes ambitious, difficult pieces. He plays with first class musicians. He's stepped into Chris Potter's shoes more than once and bumped the energy level up. So I really don't know what the reason is. Maybe he's just too much. Or maybe when he does let up I feel he's letting us down. B+(**)

Barney McClure Trio: Spot (2006 [2007], OA2): This looks like a low-value target: organ-guitar-drums trio, three guys I've never heard of: the leader playing organ, drummer Kevin Congleton, guitarist, and with a "featuring" credit, guitarist Mike Denny. But Denny composed half the pieces, and outranks McClure in previous albums, two to one. (Correction: McClure's website lists five previous albums; haven't found any more for Denny.) Actually, this is a terrific record -- light, loose, and lively, none of which are common adjectives for organ trios. [B+(***)]

Barney McClure Trio: Spot (2006 [2007], OA2): Hammond B3 organ-guitar-drums trios are normally as routine as electric guitar blues, a conservatized form that persists in vague remembrance of some primal significance -- the distilled essence of funk, actually. This is not just a cut above run of the mill -- it's light, loose, and lively. Sweet guitarist Mike Denny has a lot to do with that, earning his "featuring" credit. B+(**)

Kate McGarry: The Target (2007, Palmetto): Singer, scats a little. Has three albums on Palmetto now, one or two before that. The only other one I've heard had folkie airs, but she seems to be aiming for dusky moodiness here. At least this feels like she's trying to stretch, but it rarely feels right. The band is built around Gary Versace's organ -- too peppy and eager to swing for the music -- and Keith Ganz's guitars. Exception that proves the rule: "Do Something"; best supporting actor: Donny McCaslin's sax solo on "The Lamp Is Low." B-

Bill McHenry: Roses (2006 [2007], Sunnyside): Tenor saxophonist, born 1972, originally from Maine, moved to Barcelona in 1996, returning to New York. Has 6-8 albums as leader -- the range depends on how you count albums with pianists Ethan Iverson and Ben Waltzer listed first -- mostly on Fresh Sound. Sort of fits in the Chris Potter-Donny McCaslin line, but rougher than either, which comes in handy in this quartet -- I'm surprised to hear guitarist Ben Monder come out so aggressively, but Reid Anderson on bass and Paul Motian make for a curiously unstable rhythm section. [B+(**)]

Erin McKeown: Sing You Sinners (2006 [2007], Nettwerk): Counted as a folk singer, a point reinforced by listing the dates of the songs -- aside from a new one, they range fromn 1930-56, clustered toward the ends. Still, it's no stretch to consider this as jazz: half or more of the songs are standards jazz singers like to work on, she approaches them with interpretive imagination, and the backing swings and shines with horns -- nowhere more so than on "Melody," her original. B+(***)

John McLaughlin/Jaco Pastorius/Tony Williams: Trio of Doom (1979 [2007], Columbia/Legacy): A faint record of a lost opportunity, a dream trio assembled for a rare State Department-sponsored show in Havana, nicknamed "the bay of gigs"; the trio's slice of the released Havana Jam had to be recut in a New York studio, but McLaughlin has finally salvaged the original tapes; no relevations: the guitar comes through strong, the bass remains an enigma. B+(*)

The Essential John McLaughlin (1963-2006 [2007], Columbia/Legacy): By the time the second cut finished my mind was entertaining comparisons between McLaughlin and Jimi Hendrix. They were both born in 1942. By 1970, when Hendrix checked out, McLaughlin had reached a pinnacle in jazz guitar, both denser and fancier than anyone else around, Hendrix included. The first disc here, with one oldie from 1963 and an intense flurry of activity from 1969-72, makes the case, although numerous other selections would have done just as well. The rest of McLaughlin's career wandered idiosyncratically, embracing Indian music, going acoustic, hooking up with symphony orchestras, and occasionally returning to heavy metal fusion. The second disc neither shapes nor makes sense of 35 years. Rather, it just lays out samples and challenges your ears to pick out the guitar. Turns out that works better than expected, too. A-

Jackie McLean: New and Old Gospel (1967 [2007], Blue Note): Charlie Parker's teenage go-fer developed as a great alto saxophonist only after he digested Ornette Coleman's sense of ordered chaos. Here he pays tribute on two gospel-themed Coleman pieces, adding a complementary suite. Coleman, in turn, defers to McLean's superior saxmanship by switching to sloppy trumpet, reaffirming that genius has nothing to do with chops. A-

Steve Miller/Lol Coxhill: The Story So Far . . . Oh Really? (1972-74 [2007], Cuneiform, 2CD): This Steve Miller was a pianist from Canada who enjoyed a brief spell in Canterbury's jazz-rock underground, playing with Alexis Korner, Caravan, and bald soprano saxophonist Coxhill. This rescues two albums with the latter and as many relevant spare parts as they can fit: mostly duos, sometimes augmented by bass, drums, and/or guitar from Miller's slightly more famous brother Phil -- uh, Hatfield and the North, Matching Mole, National Health, 6-8 albums under his own name. Also very brief appearances by relative superstars Kevin Ayers and Robert Wyatt. Coxhill has a long discography going back to the 1950s, one I'm almost totally unfamiliar with. But they come up with an appealing mix of abstract dithering and tone-poem minimalism, and the historical interest makes up for the incongruities. Miller died in 1998, so this is one of his few souvenirs. Coxhill is pushing 75, still working, a subject for future research. B+(*)

Andy Milne: Dreams and False Alarms (2006 [2007], Songlines): Canadian pianist; studied with Oscar Peterson; moved to New York in 1991, working with M-Base; more lately formed a group called Dapp Theory. This is solo piano, mostly folk-rock tunes, with fellow Canadians Joni Mitchell and Neil Young the most frequent sources. Didn't readily ID familiar songs without listening closely, and wasn't able to manage that, although I found the deliberate pacing attractive as background. Life's not fair, but I'm pretty sure that if I stuck with it this is where I'd wind up. B+(*)

Andy Milne + Grégoire Maret: Scenarios (2007, Obliqsound): Maret plays harmonica. He's already won a Downbeat Rising Star poll, and seems likely to replace Toots Thielemans from his Misc. Inst. perch a year or two after he dies. He adds a complementary voice to Milne's piano, but perhaps a bit too complementary: interesting ideas, but not enough range to make for much of a contrast. Two cuts have a guest: Anne Drummond on alto flute; Gretchen Parlato singing "Moon River." B+(*)

Charlie Mingus: Tijuana Moods (1957 [2007], RCA Victor/Legacy): With Pithecanthropus Erectus in 1956 Mingus started to make his move as a composer and arranger, drawing together his experiences with Kid Ory, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and his own experimental workshops into a synthesis that spanned the length and breadth of jazz history with his unique daring and grandeur. A trip across the Mexican border inspired these sessions, producing four Spanish-tinged originals and an arrangement of "Flamingo" that Ellington could be proud of, but the tapes languished until 1962, a mess of false starts and derailments. When Mingus finally patched them into an album, he was pleased enough to proclaim it his best ever. That would be an exaggeration, but he anticipated world-swing moves that Ellington took another decade to match. Reissues in 1986 and 2002 swept up more and more -- the former, dubbed New Tijuana Moods, filled out a CD-length disc with alternate takes, and the latter tacked on a second disc. This time they swing back the other way, sticking with Mingus's edits for a non-redundant 36:00, but adding on a 10:57 bonus track with Lonnie Elder rapping over a Mingus vibe. A

Charles Mingus Sextet With Eric Dolphy: Cornell 1964 (1964 [2007], Blue Note, 2CD): This is touted as a true find -- actually, "a truly spectacular never-before-released performance" -- but I don't hear it. Actually, I don't hear much of anything, which surprises me. The same sextet -- Johnny Coles on trumpet, Clifford Jordan on tenor sax, Jaki Byard on piano, Dannie Richmond on drums, as well as Dolphy on alto sax, flute, and bass clarinet -- recorded Town Hall Concert 1964 two weeks later, an important album in the Mingus discography, then went off to Europe and recorded more, including a much bootlegged Paris concert that Sue Mingus insisted on officially releasing under the title Revenge! This starts out rather slow, with Byard doing a solo piano impression of Art Tatum and Fats Waller, followed by Mingus taking on "Sophisticated Lady" solo, then the band joins in for 29:42 of only intermittently coherent "Fables of Faubus." Nor does it get much better, although "Take the 'A' Train" and "Jitterbug Waltz" are at least recognizable. Dolphy is a major disappointment, especially given what he was doing on his own in what turned out to be his last year. His flute, in particular, is never more than a novelty, and sounds especially corny on "Jitterbug Waltz." This is an advance, and there are some things evidently screwed up on it. Will withhold final judgment until the final arrives. [B-] [July 17]

Charles Mingus Sextet With Eric Dolphy: Cornell 1964 (1964 [2007], Blue Note, 2CD): A cause celebre, a newly discovered tape with what on paper at least looks like one of Mingus's most promising groups: Dannie Richmond on drums, of course; Jaki Byard on piano; Johnny Coles on trumpet; Clifford Jordan on tenor sax; and elevated to near-headliner status, Dolphy on alto sax, flute, and bass clarinet. Dolphy's last year is worth examining under a microscope -- his masterpiece, Out to Lunch, was recorded a month earlier, and he died three months later, barely 36. Mingus was a year beyond one of his own masterpieces, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady. Ever since the promo arrived, I've been reading rapturous reviews: "his greatest small ensemble"; "most adventurous sextet"; "at the apex of its brief yet astonishing collaboration"; "a relaxed maestro at the height of his imaginative powers"; "it truly needs to be heard to be believed"; "the most talked-about jazz album of the year." Or as Gary Giddins summed up in his liner notes, "It doesn't get much better than this." Actually, it does. The most direct comparison is the same band's Town Hall Concert, recorded 17 days later: much shorter, but it captures the two essential new pieces in fuller flower, with more imposing sound. Then there's the Paris concert two weeks hence, given an official release as Revenge! by Sue Mingus in 1996, fuming over the bootleggers who made the European tour the most intensively documented Mingus group ever. Still, for sheer exuberance and panache, nothing by this sextet rivals Mingus at Antibes (1960) or Mingus at Carnegie Hall (1974). So don't believe the hype. On the other hand, this is about as good as, and somewhat more amusing than, the rival boots, and will at least spare you Sue's wrath. It starts with Byard doing his Art Tatum impression, and ends throwing out "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" and "Jitterbug Waltz"; the serious stuff in the middle includes a long "Fables of Faubus" serving as an introduction to the similarly inspired "Meditations"; and best of all, the first side ends with a rousing "Take the 'A' Train," with a monster bass clarinet solo -- Dolphy established the instrument for jazz, and here you can hear why. B+(**)

Brian Stokes Mitchell (2000-06 [2006], Playbill/Legacy): First album by Broadway theatre actor/singer, evidently a notable star with credits going back at least to 1988. Most of these songs are show tunes, smartly arranged for a large orchestra with various soloists, and dashingly sung. Not my thing at all, although I only lost interest toward the end when the drama drowned the finesse, and only gave up when Broadway Inspiration Voices took their toll. B

Roscoe Mitchell/The Transatlantic Art Ensemble: Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2, and 3 (2004 [2007], ECM): I'm reluctant to rate this because I'm only sort of starting to get it, but objectively it's difficult enough that it's likely to end up more or less where it is. The US contingent starts with three quarters of James Carter's old quartet (Craig Taborn, Jaribu Shahid, Tani Tabbal), then adds trumpeter Corey Wilkes and Mitchell playing relatively inconspicuous soprano sax. The Europeans mostly cluster around Evan Parker, significantly including Barry Guy and Paul Lytton. There's also a string section keyed by Philipp Wachsmann's violin -- another Parker connection. Recorded in Munich, which gives the benefit of the doubt to Europe. Starts dull with strings, but flows, branches, flowers, whatever. Some of this sounds like what I imagine Barry Guy's bands should sound like if I could hear them, which thus far has never happened -- of all those I see as projects, he's one of the toughest. Intersects enough with Parker's electro projects, also on ECM, that it could be considered one. Don't know, but I do rather enjoy the complex layering. It's enough to get lost in. [B+(**)]

Roscoe Mitchell/The Transatlantic Art Ensemble: Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2, and 3 (2004 [2007], ECM): Too scattered to hold your, or at least my, attention for any appreciable span, I nonetheless find these rambling abstractions more often than not delightful. The ensemble is a meeting of the continents, with James Carter's old Detroit rhythm section (Craig Taborn, Jaribu Shahid, Tani Tabbal) and Lester Bowie supersub Corey Wilkes following the venerable AACM saxophonist over for the Munich recording, and Evan Parker, Barry Guy, Paul Lytton, and Philipp Wachsmann among the Europeans on the other end. B+(**)

Ravish Momin's Trio Tarana: Miren (A Longing) (2006 [2007], Clean Feed): Indian percussionist, based in New York. Did a previous Trio Tarana album I liked a lot, called Climbing the Banyan Tree (Clean Feed), with Jason Kao Hwang and Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz. The group has changed this time, with Sam Bardfeld replacing Hwang on violin, Brandon Terzic replacing Blumenkranz on oud. Neither strikes me as an improvement -- the Chinese twang of Hwang's violin is particularly missed -- but the riddim rolls on just fine. [B+(***)]

Thelonious Monk Trio (1952-54 [2007], Prestige): Monk recorded four 10-inch LPs for Prestige, released in 1953-54, reissued as 12-inch LPs in 1956-57, and eventually spun into all sorts of confusing packages, culminating in the 3-CD Complete Prestige Recordings. One source of confusion is the naming, where Monk, Thelonious Monk, and Thelonious Monk Trio have all been used to describe the same music -- I'm going with the spine and back-cover title here, as opposed to the front cover, with its small "thelonious," large "MONK," and clear "PRESTIGE LP 7027." Like the cover art, this faithfully reproduces a 1957 12-inch LP that combined a 1953 10-inch LP and two (of four) cuts from a 1954 10-incher. It's hard to see why they didn't restore the missing cuts given that the album only runs 34:27, a limit of '50s technology that is at least sonically transcended here: the effect is to consolidate most (but not all) of Monk's trios in a handy package, separate from the quintets featuring a young and brilliant saxophonist, now available as Thelonious Monk/Sonny Rollins. Classic Monk tunes here like "Bye-Ya," "Monk's Dream," "Blue Monk" -- but the covers may be even more impressive: a solo "Just a Gigolo," Art Blakey's percolating rhythm on "Sweet and Lovely," Monk's own radical take on "These Foolish Things." A

Monk's Music Trio: Monk on Mondays (2005 [2007], CMB): Si Perkoff on piano, Sam Bevan on bass, Chuck Bernstein on drums, the latter always listed first -- he's also producer, executive producer, etc. Songs by Thelonious Monk. Group has been together since 1999, playing two or three Mondays per month at Simple Pleasures Cafe in San Francisco. This is their fifth album -- the third one I've heard. Mondays sounds like their usual grind. B

Térez Montcalm: Voodoo (2005 [2006], Marquis): One thing rock and roll did was make life tough for interpretive singers. Before, songwriters spread their wares like spores, and natural selection favored singers with voice, nuance, and payola. After, most singers hawked their own songs, and those that didn't have them seemed somehow deficient, regardless of vocal skills. It got so bad that good singers wound up stuck in jazz. I bring this up because even though Montcalm wrote three songs here and picked a couple that qualify as pre-rock (although not by much), what grabs me here are her striking reworkings of rock-era pop, especially Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child." Don't know much about her. Hails from Canada. Only address I've seen was Alberta, but she wrote one song in French. Don't know her age, but it says something that she introduces "How Sweet It Is" by talking about how she discovered James Taylor. Plays guitar. Has a voice that beats you into submission, not unlike Annette Peacock. Maybe there's a future for rock-era standards after all. [B+(***)]

Frank Morgan: A Night in the Life (2003 [2007], High Note): Front cover subtitle says: "Live at the Jazz Standard Vol. 3"; there's a previous City Nights: Live at the Jazz Standard from the same dates with the same group, but I'm not aware of a Vol. 2. Six songs: three from Bird, one from Miles, "On Green Dolphin Street" (might as well chalk that up to Miles as well), and "It's Only a Paper Moon." But whereas Parker was sharp, shrill, and explosive, Morgan has mellowed to where he's sweet and soulful. If anything, he reminds me of his Sing Sing bandmate, Art Pepper. In that regard, it does help that the pianist is George Cables. B+(***)

Joe Morris/Ken Vandermark/Luther Gray: Rebus (2006 [2007], Clean Feed): Six pieces, each called "Rebus," with no composer credit -- at least that I can find in the weird and, in this case, severely mangled promo packaging -- so I figure this is pure improv, built around a Morris theme. I've tried focusing on the guitarist throughout: his solos sparkle, and he's played enough bass elsewhere in his career that he fills that role when Vandermark takes over -- which is most of the time. Vandermark sticks to tenor sax here -- he plays all sorts of reed instruments in his conceptual contexts, but the tenor sax is his native language, and I can listen to him spin its stories endlessly. Gray helps out on drums. A-

Postscript: Backed down a bit on this one, filing it as an Honorable Mention. Main problem is I didn't come up with much to say about it -- just a good improv between Morris and Vandermark, what they do when they're kicking back. Space, of course, is an issue: it'll run as an HM alongside other more ambitious Vandermark projects, whereas it'd languish up top. Left the grade the same, although I could have nicked it -- it's real close to the edge.

Paul Motian Trio 2000 + Two: Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 1 (2006 [2007], Winter & Winter): The trio consists of Motian, Larry Grenadier on bass, and Chris Potter on tenor sax; the "plus two" are Masabumi Kikuchi on piano and Greg Osby on alto sax. Played this twice, think it's marginal, and want to move on, but will give it another chance later. Motian is habitually slippery, and that's rubbed off on his usually more straightforward bandmates, especially Potter. [B+(*)]

Maria Muldaur: Naughty Bawdy & Blue (2007, Stony Plain): She sizzles when her handy man greases her griddle, but for a singer who's often put her libido first, this is less risqué than the title promises. The booklet includes respectful sketches of the first wave of what's now called classic female blues: Ma Rainey, Victoria Spivey, Sippie Wallace, Bessie Smith, Mamie Smith, Ethel Waters, Alberta Hunter, and Sara Martin. Spivey is remembered as mentoring young Maria D'Amato in the '60s, recording her first jug band, and urging her to step out and strut her stuff. Wallace offers another direct connection, but all these women who made their mark in the 1920s are long dead now, and the girl Spivey discovered is into her 60s -- perhaps that realization and respect blunted her edge? On the other hand, James Dapogny's band backs up these songs with more flair than anyone since Fletcher Henderson. And Muldaur is still a terrific blues archivist, able to warm up any creaky old song. And it's worth recalling that Hunter came back with her dirtiest album ever at age 84. B+(***)

Dave Mullen and Butta: Mahoney's Way (2006, Roberts Music Group): You must know by now that I hate Flash websites, but Mullen's is annoying enough to spur me into reiterating the obvious. Mullen is a saxophonist. Don't know where he comes from or when, but he's spent time in Boston and New York, and he's one of the hundreds or maybe thousands who have studied with George Garzone. Claims he was inspired by his father's record collection, accumulated as a DJ in the '50s/'60s, with honking sax the standout trait. He means to update that, with synth beats, guitar (including Nile Rodgers on one track, Marc Ribot on three), raps, and a chorus of True Worship Ministries Singers (three tracks). I'm not sure that any of that works, but I got up in a real foul mood this morning, heard most of it under that haze, and need to move on. Two cuts where he kicks back and plays sax ballads are quite nice. Don't know about the one called "For Rashaan" -- there's a picture of Mullen playing soprano and tenor at the same time so most likely he is thinking of Kirk, but is the typo deliberate or just sloppy? AMG likens him to Kirk Whallum, but I suspect he has a more determined vision -- could even be an American Courtney Pine, a concept I'll have to put off thinking about. [B] [Oct. 1]

David Murray Black Saint Quartet: Sacred Ground (2006 [2007], Justin Time): This record does not mark the return of David Murray to church. The title piece and a closer called "The Prophet of Doom" are based on texts by Ishmael Reed, sung by Cassandra Wilson, with little or no gospel reference. Five pieces in between are instrumentals, Murray originals played by his quartet. Just to single out one of them, "Pierce City" has the most intense, uplifting, overpowering tenor sax solo I've heard in this young century, followed by a piano run that flows from the comping and is good enough to forgive Lafayette Gilchrist's last album. Murray returns on bass clarinet to tone down the next cut. I'm not done with this -- the grade here is a minimum, and could rise. Given that my other favorite record this year is Powerhouse Sound, we could wind up with another Vandermark-Murray pick hit billing. I hate being so predictable, and hope someone else steps up to the plate. But this makes that a tall order. A-

Postscript: I had a terrible time writing up a short review of this, and wound up playing it something like two dozen times, hoping words would come. A longer review would have been much easier, and a much longer review would have been possible had I managed to transcribe Ishmael Reed's words. I even managed to look at the Banished trailers -- two anyway -- and some Murray clips on YouTube (one of which refused to play for me). In the process, I had ample time to think about how this ranks among Murray's canon, and wound up moving it up a notch -- I'd put it at the bottom of the full A-list, which would bring it in at #11, but above the longer A-minus list. Or maybe it would edge out Gwotet and/or Jazzosaurus Rex, which are also somewhat marginal. What the new one lacks is the sort of galvanizing bravado that lifted his best work. On the other hand, he's rarely been more consistently gratifying -- Like a Kiss That Never Ends is the one record that combines both virtues; as his last quartet album, it made for a stiff comparison here. I've been extremely reluctant to give out full A grades in Jazz CG, only belatedly registering three this round (Jewels & Binoculars, Powerhouse Sound). But those records are a cut above the rest, so it's proper to note that somehow. A

Mushroom With Eddie Gale: Joint Happening (2007, Hyena): No recording date info -- lack of documentation is Joel Dorn's characteristic contribution to the dark ages -- but at least we have personnel information, which helps sort out who is in Mushroom. Pat Thomas (drums), Ned Doherty (bass), and Matt Cunitz (keyboards) are on all cuts, with Thomas production supervisor and Cunitz cited for production assistance. Four cuts add Tim Plowman (guitar) and David Brandt (vibes, percussion). The other three use Erik Pearson (guitar, flute, sax) and Dave Mihaly (marimba, percussion), to similar effect. Gale is guest and headliner. He produced two terrific avant-funk albums for Blue Note in the late '60s, then largely disappeared until Water Records reissued them in 2003, followed by a nice new groovefest, Afro-Fire, on subsidiary label Black Beauty. Both labels were handled by Runt Distribution, whose publicist at the time was Pat Thomas, q.v. Together, the obvious reference point becomes Miles Davis, although the groove's spacier, and the trumpet brighter and more loquacious. [B+(***)]

Nanette Natal: I Must Be Dreaming (2005-07 [2007], Benyo Music): Jazz singer, with a dark, smoky voice, and deft feel for the beat. Bio says her career started in 1962 singing classical, then moved through blues and rock -- AMG gives two stars to a 1971 recording on Evolution called The Beginning -- before settling into the jazz lofts. Launched her own label in 1980, releasing an album every few years since -- I've counted 8, with 6 in print, but have only heard 2004's It's Only a Tune. This one has politics, and could use a lyric sheet -- "here living's hard if it doesn't come easy" and "the jails are filled to capacity/in the land of the brave and the free" are two lines I jotted down. Next time around I'll probably find more. [B+(***)]

Nordic Connect: Flurry (2005 [2007], ArtistShare): Postbop quintet, led by trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, with her saxophonist sister Christine Jensen equally prominent. Impressive initially, but I lost track along the way, eventually wondering why this is still playing, and when will it ever end. The others are Maggi Olin on piano, Jon Wikan on drums, Mattias Welin on bass. Any or all could be Scandinavian, but they met up in Boston and recorded this in Montreal. It was, however, funded by the Swedish Art Grant Committee, The Swedish National Council for Cultural Affairs, and Concerts Sweden, as well as some Canadian organizations, so I guess those are the real Nordic connections. [B+(**)]

Nordic Connect: Flurry (2005 [2007], ArtistShare): Led by Canadian trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and her lesser-known alto saxophonist sister Christine Jensen, with two-thirds of the rhythm section from Sweden -- pianist Maggi Olin and bassist Mattias Wellin; drummer Jon Wikan was born in Alaska, grew up in Washington, lives in New York. Shiny, luxurious postbop. I go back and forth on it, savoring it when I pay close attention but finding it slips into the background with the slightest distraction. Alas, distraction seems to be the order of the day. B+(**)

Oregon: 1000 Kilometers (2006 [2007], CAM Jazz): The '70s vogue for naming groups (mostly rock) after places warned me away from these guys for a long time -- don't think I bothered until the late '90s, by which time they seemed to have faded into history. Even after I realized that they weren't pop jazz, I still tended to think of them as new agey. In fact, AMG's list of styles reads, unappetizingly: New Age, World Fusion, Fusion, Folk-Jazz, Chamber Jazz, Progressive Jazz. The World Fusion part could have been laid on Collin Walcott, who played sitar and tabla and died in 1984. The other three players -- 12-string guitarist Ralph Towner, oboe/English horn player Paul McCandless, and bassist Glen Moore -- are hard, maybe impossible, to classify. But after Mark Walker's drums settled into the percussion slot, the fusion analogies fell away. Still, such a sui generis act easily baffles me, and four straight plays tell me when to give up. Isolated bits, including Moore's bass solos, are fascinating, but I'm unable to get much further than that. B+(**)

Evan Parker: A Glancing Blow (2006 [2007], Clean Feed): A trio with John Edwards on bass, Chris Corsano on drums. Parker's an important player with a huge discography that I've barely scratched the surface of and can scarcely claim to get. About all I can say is that I find his electronics baffling; his soprano sax can get pretty annoying (and sometimes amazing, as in The Snake Decides); but I usually enjoy his tenor sax, which is much in evidence here. Two long pieces, evidently live, from the Vortex in London. Would like to hear more. Indeed, he's a long-term project. [B+(***)]

Evan Parker: A Glancing Blow (2006 [2007], Clean Feed): A trio with bass and drums, Parker playing tenor and soprano sax on two long pieces. Typical, or at least what I imagine as typical -- Parker is a long-term project for me, but some things, like his circular breathing, are becoming familiar. B+(**)

William Parker/Raining on the Moon: Corn Meal Dance (2007, AUM Fidelity): Another group named for a previous album, which was in turn built on his O'Neal's Porch quartet -- Rob Brown on alto sax, Lewis Barnes on trumpet, Hamid Drake on drums -- plus vocalist Leena Conquest for a couple of songs. This one adds pianist Eri Yamamoto and feeds Conquest a full plate of lyrics. The piano holds the group together, giving it a unifying swing that Parker didn't want with the quartet, but which buoys up the singer, while trimming back the horns. Still, if this was an instrumental album, it would be faultless, a tour de force that could sail right down the mainstream admired by everyone. The caveats concern the singer, who strikes me as too gospelly, and the lyrics, which tend toward the didactic. Still, those concerns may pass. If Parker wants to assert that "God made the land," at least he's not conned by owner "Mister Johnson." And while the prayer that opens the second song seems too crude -- "I am your brother please don't cut my throat" -- the title "Tutsi Orphans" reminds us that such is too often the case. A-

Nicki Parrott/Rossano Sportiello: People Will Say We're in Love (2006 [2007], Arbors): I'm tempted to make this a Pick Hit just for the cover, with the gawky, awkward, besmitten pianist hovering behind the lithe, discreetly charming bassist/singer. He is actually an elegant accompanist, with light touch and considerable speed to build upon the bass melodies. He even joins in on singing one -- terrible voice, of course. She has a delightful voice -- not something you'd put on a pedestal -- but she's also content to just play bass more often than not. Standards mostly. Charming record. B+(**)

The Essential Jaco Pastorius (1975-81 [2007], Epic/Legacy, 2CD): This seems suspiciously thin, ending in 1981 six years before the bassist's young death. It draws seven cuts from his eponymous 1975 album on Epic, and ends with four cuts from 1980-81 albums on Warner Brothers. In between we get 10 Weather Report cuts, 3 with Joni Mitchell; one each with Pat Metheny, Michel Colombier, and Herbie Hancock; with no trace of the numerous live albums that document his later years. I've never managed to figure out what all the fuss was about, and this ill focused, sporadically interesting survey helps little. Rhino has an apparently more definitive compilation called Punk Jazz: The Jaco Pastorius Anthology. Haven't heard it either. B-

Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen/Ulf Wakenius/Jonas Johansen: The Unforgettable NHØP Trio Live (1999-2005 [2007], ACT): Two sets, the first five cuts recorded in Denmark in 1999, the other six in Germany in 2005, a little more than a month before the great Danish bassist died at age 58. From the early '60s on he was the first choice bassist for Americans visiting Copenhagen, or for Ben Webster, Dexter Gordon, and Kenny Drew, relocating there. AMG has five credits pages for him; I haven't tried to weed out the dupes, but that must credit him with more than 300 albums. The first page alone ranges from Count Basie to Anthony Braxton, although most are securely within the bop mainstream. He recorded more than two dozen albums under his own name -- Trio 2, with Philip Catherine, and Friends Forever, his Kenny Drew tribute with Renee Rosnes, are two I especially like, although there are many others I haven't run into yet. This one's a nice souvenir of the bassist's most basic group, with guitarist Wakenius feeling especially frisky, doing standards and folk songs and fast groove pieces, with typical aplomb. This did, however, send me back to Those Who Were, a 1996 d record languishing on my unrated shelves, where I found the closer here, "Our Love Is Here to Stay," opening: much slower, very poignant. Of course, he could play it any way he wanted. B+(**)

Art Pepper: Unreleased Art, Vol. 1: The Complete Abashiri Concert (1981 [2007], Widow's Taste, 2CD): The alto sax great had as many comeback as he had stretches in prison, with 1956, 1960, and 1975 watershed years. The last comeback proved to be his greatest, with a steady torrent of recordings until his death in 1982 -- The Complete Galaxy Recordings, at 16 CDs, never wears out or runs down. No one was more successful at digesting Parker and Coltrane and still coming up with his own unique -- an accomplishment equal in craft and eloquence to what Benny Carter did with a previous generation of saxophonists. But while Pepper's early work could be seen as West Coast cool jazz, his post-1975 period was marked by raw emotion, a trait that became ever more pronounced. This is especially clear in the live material that occasionally appears. I'm not sure that widow Laurie Pepper's releases haven't appeared before: this one lines up with Live in Far North Japan (TDK), but offers more music. The only surprise here is how raw and frenzied the early cuts are. His "Besame Mucho" is much rougher than the one on Art Pepper With Duke Jordan in Copenhagen 1981 from earlier in the year, but remains one of life's great pleasures. Another highlight is "Body and Soul": Pepper's verdict -- "That was one of the nicest things that I think I've played in my life" isn't hyperbole. A-

Art Pepper: Unreleased Art, Vol. II: The Last Concert (1982 [2007], Widow's Taste): Recorded at the Kool Jazz Festival in Washington DC on May 30, less than three weeks before Pepper died on June 15, this was a typical Pepper set: a fast one, a tricky one, something with a Latin bounce, a gorgeous standard, a feature for his clarinet, some talk along the way. He sounds fine all the way through, especially on the clarinet piece, a swinging "When You're Smiling" that he dedicated to Zoot Sims. The latter includes a flashy, almost over-the-top piano solo from Roger Kellaway, filling in for Pepper's usual pianist, George Cables. A marvelous closing act. A-

Susan Pereira and Sabor Brasil: Tudo Azul (2006 [2007], Riony): Brazilian singer, working in New York at least since 1991, although I'm not aware of any previous records. She wrote five of ten songs, sings them with authority but not all that distinctively. What makes the album work is the band. The horns stand out, even Laura Dreyer's flutes, even more so her alto and soprano sax and Claudio Roditi's spots on trumpet. [B+(***)]

Susan Pereira and Sabor Brasil: Tudo Azul (2006 [2007], Riony): Brazilian singer working in New York, where her crack band is able to sustain the golden age samba they grew up on -- light, airy, the easy lilt enriched by guests like Claudio Roditti on trumpet, Hendrik Meurkens on harmonica, and Romero Lubambo on guitar. B+(*)

Misha Piatigorsky: Aya (2007, Misha Music): I haven't started penalizing musicians for offensive websites yet, but entering this one felt like being assaulted. Probably would have been even worse if I had speakers hooked up -- I don't have speakers on my computer to avoid occasions like this. End of rant. Pianist, born Moscow, moved to US in 1981, studied under Kenny Barron at Manhattan School of Music, lives in NYC, has seven albums since 1996, does some producing and soundtrack work. This one pretty much pulls it all together. He's fast and can swing. Some cuts add horns -- Omar Kabir on trumpet and trombone, Boris Kurganov on alto sax -- and they lift the temperature. But most songs have words, and he uses four very different vocalists: Barbara Mendes (Brazilian bombshell), Judy Bady (soul diva), Ayelet Piatigorsky (classical chorale), and Rahj (spoken jive). It's all mixed up, which is no doubt the point. B+(**)

Pink Martini: Hey Eugene! (2005-06 [2007], Heinz): Morris Berman's Dark Ages America makes a case that Portland, Oregon is untethered to American culture without even citing this faux French band. I won't try to claim them for jazz, but their "Tea for Two" puts all the standards interpreters I can think of to shame. So cosmopolitan they sing in a half-dozen languages, and even more styles. I'm tempted to call what they do world cabaret. It's always been rather hit and miss, but this time they have enough high points to carry the rest. In fact, I wonder whether the stuff I don't get isn't just over my head. A-

Play Station 6: #1 (2006 [2007], Evil Rabbit): A sextet of more/less well known Dutch avant-gardists: Maartje Ten Hoorn on violin, Eric Boeren on clarinet, Tobias Delius on clarinet/tenor sax, Achim Kaufmann on piano, Meinrad Kneer on bass, Paul Lovens on drums. Strikes me as par for the course, with each player taking interesting but even-tempered shots without coming together into a more cohesive whole. Nothing wrong with that. B+(**)

Jimmy Ponder: Somebody's Child (2003-06 [2007], High Note): Guitarist, has a couple of dozen albums going back to 1946, plus a vast number of side appearances, mostly for High Note and its predecessor Muse. These are various quartets with piano, bass, and drums, recorded over several years; the exception is a duet with Douglas Malone playing violão, a Brazilian nylon-string guitar. Nice, tuneful album; consistently interesting leads, not much more to say about it. B+(**)

Michel Portal: Birdwatcher (2006 [2007], Sunnyside): French, born 1935, has an extensive discography, mostly plays bass clarinet here, with one song each on clarinet, alto sax, and soprano sax. He has experimented with world rhythms in the past, and they reappear here mostly in Airto Moreira's percussion (7 of 11 tracks). Other musicians shuffle in and out, with tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby making predictably large waves. I'm somewhat at a loss here: some of this sounds terrific, but there's so much going on I can't get a handle on it. Will hold it back. [B+(**)]

Lewis Porter-Furio Di Castri-Fabrizio Sferra Trio: Italian Encounter (2006 [2007], Altrisuoni): The leader of this piano trio appears on his website as Dr. Lewis Porter, and is identified in his bios as "PhD, Brandeis, 1983." He seems to have more books than records, including studies on Lester Young and John Coltrane. He edits a series of books on jazz published by the University of Michigan Press, and has written a substantial "Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians" that I am delighted to find on line. The record is elegant, measured, thoughtful, but other than that I don't have a lot to say about it. B+(*)

Tineke Postma: A Journey That Matters (2007, Foreign Jazz Media): Dutch saxophonist, b. 1978, credited with alto, soprano, and tenor, in that order. Third album; first I've heard. Three Ellington/Strayhorn songs, the rest originals. Works with bass, drums, scattered pianists; three cuts have guitar; three have a wind section of flute, clarinet/bass clarinet, bassoon, and French horn. Studied postbop, elegantly crafted, with a lovely tone where appropriate. Can't get excited, but have to respect what she's done. B+(*)

Chris Potter 10: Song for Anyone (2006 [2007], Sunnyside): Ten musicians, with flute-clarinet-bassoon in the winds section and violin-viola-cello-bass for strings, guitar too, and percussion. With that sort of instrumentation, this is full of orchestral stretches that I find deadly, even when I recognize that they're not so bad. Moreover, the saxophonist often rises to the occasion, or exceeds it, and he has a much more full-bodied sound than the one I found annoying on his early work. So I don't feel the anger to make this a Dud, although I'll keep it active in the "done" file a while in case I find myself hard up. B

Chris Potter Underground: Follow the Red Line: Live at the Village Vanguard (2007, Sunnyside): Easily the top regarded tenor saxophonist of his generation -- Sonny Rollins and Joe Lovano still get more votes in polls, but that's it. I resisted for a long time, but his Lift: Live at the Village Vanguard won me over with its quartet simplicity and high energy. The lineup was typical sax-piano-bass-drums, with peers Kevin Hays, Scott Colley, and Bill Stewart. In 2005 Potter recorded Underground with a funkier quartet: Craig Taborn on Fender Rhodes, Wayne Krantz on guitar, Nate Smith on drums, with no bass. The new Village Vanguard record takes that group with Adam Rogers instead of Krantz into the spotlight and turns up the heat. The highlight is called "Pop Tune #1" as if jump, jive and wail were just an exercise, but all save one of the cuts are like that, at least once they warm up. The slow change of pace is nice too, and he left the soprano in the hotel. This may just go to show that his postbop stuff critics and fans adore is too fancy for me. [B+(***)]

André Previn: Alone (2007, Emarcy): Veteran pianist, born in Germany in 1930, escaping to France and then to the US in 1938. Probably best known for film and Broadway and for conducting various orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra, but he has a long list of jazz records going back to the early 1950s -- mostly trios or less, many keyed to songbooks. I have no idea how they sort out, but this is about what I expected: mild-mannered, elegant, thoughtful, too slow and too straight to overcome my natural resistance to solo piano, but otherwise impeccable. B

The Puppini Sisters: Betcha Bottom Dollar (2006 [2007], Verve): A vocal trio, modelled on the Andrews Sisters down to a good chunk of their songbook, reportedly inspired by The Triplets of Belleville, which as far as I can tell they had nothing to do with. Only one Puppini too: Marcella, an Italian-born, London-based cabaret singer. The other two are Kate Mullins and Stephanie Brown. The frothy sound works best on proven material, but seems more awkward when they try more modern fare, even though songs like "Wuthering Heights," "Heart of Glass," and "I Will Survive" have strengths of their own. [B] [May 1]

The Puppini Sisters: Betcha Bottom Dollar (2005-06 [2007], Verve): The WWII-era pieces that set the stage here refer these figurative-sisters -- Marcella is the only Puppini; Kate Mullins and Stephanie O'Brien were added to the act in London -- back to the Andrews Sisters. Pieces like "Mr. Sandman," "Bei Mir Bist Du Schön," and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" always appealed to me, and here they're as bright and perky as ever. More recent fare, including Kate Bush and Morrissey, are harder sells, but at least I'll take their "Heart of Glass." B+(*)

Flora Purim: Butterfly Dreams (Keepnews Collection) (1973 [2007], Milestone): Sort of a Stanley Clarke groove, George Duke funk album, with mild spicing mostly from fusion percussionist Airto Moreira; the singer aspires more to Ella Fitzgerald than to her Brazilian heritage, resulting in something fast and light but neither here nor there. B

Putumayo Presents: Latin Jazz (1973-2006 [2007], Putumayo World Music): Big subject, but fair enough: aside from one ringer from Iceland, this plots a triangle spanning Havana, San Juan, and the Bronx, name-checking the obvious -- Machito, Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, Poncho Sanchez, Eddie Palmieri -- plus a couple of pleasing surprises in Chocolate Armenteros and Hilton Ruiz. Not classic, but not skimmed from the latest hype either. Choice cuts by Ruiz and Palmieri/Brian Lynch. B+(**)

Quadro Nuevo: Tango Bitter Sweet (2006 [2007], Justin Time): Drummerless German quartet -- reeds, accordion, guitar, bass do the trick -- arguing that all the songs here originated in Europe, reclaiming tango from Argentina, Sidney Bechet from New Orleans, and Aram Khatchaturian from the vast steppes of Russia. They make a fine case, a little too pat for jazz, a little too danceable for chamber music. B+(***)

Alvin Queen: I Ain't Looking at You (2005 [2007], Enja/Justin Time): Drummer, from Queens, has a couple of albums on his own, as well as side credits, going back to the '70s, including: Charles Tolliver, Lockjaw Davis, Horace Parlan, John Patton, George Coleman, Pharoah Sanders, Kenny Drew, Bennie Wallace, Dusko Goykovich, Warren Vaché. Going back to the '60s, as a teenager he played in a Wild Bill Davis Trio, spent six months with Don Pullen backing Ruth Brown, joined Horace Silver's band, then by the time he was 21 moved on to George Benson. I list all this not just to establish Queen's bona fides but because he manages to pull them all together here. Mike LeDonne's organ identifies this as soul jazz, underscored by opening with a Shirley Scott piece, reflected later in a LeDonne original called "Shirley's Song." The B3 usually covers for piano and bass, so most organ records are trios, with drums and either guitar or a horn. This does both, with Peter Bernstein on guitar, Jesse Davis on alto sax, and for good measure Terrell Stafford on trumpet and flugelhorn. Soul jazz may seem like old news -- only two originals here, both by LeDonne, both pointed straight into the past -- but it's rarely been done with so much flair. A-

Boots Randolph: A Whole New Ballgame (2006 [2007], Zoho): Tenor saxophonist, did some pop instrumentals in the early '60s which got classified as country because he was born in Paducah and based in Nashville. No idea what the title means -- there's nothing remotely new here, just a bunch of swing standards like "Stompin' at the Savoy" plus a couple of weak takes on Parker and Monk. Not much impressed by his tone, but I can't get too down on him. [Just noticed that he passed away on July 3, at age 80.] B-

Enrico Rava: The Words and the Days (2005 [2007], ECM): This continues a string of first-rate albums, on CAM Jazz as well as ECM, with the trumpeter wry and laconic, like he's finally settled on his life's work. What's unsettled here is the trombonist, young Gianluca Petrella, who shares the line in front of piano, bass and drums. Petrella's Blue Note exposure won him Downbeat's TDWR poll, a rare breakthrough for any European. While I take that with the proverbial grain of salt, Petrella adds something here. [B+(***)] [Feb 6]

Enrico Rava: The Words and the Days (2005 [2007], ECM): Chamber jazz, in a quintet where the leader's eloquent trumpet is amplified by Ginaluca Petrella's trombone. I wonder sometimes if Rava hasn't grown too subtle -- he's recorded a lot recently, fine albums with little to recommend one album over any other, but this is better than par, just a bit hard to nail down. B+(***)

Duke Robillard's World Full of Blues (2006-07 [2007], Stony Plain): Journeyman blues jockey, sings a little, plays a lot of guitar. Stretches to two discs, not because he has a lot to say -- more like he don't know what to leave out. Then calls the second disc a free bonus because he's not arrogant enough to expect you to pay double for mere encyclopedia; surprisingly, second disc actually kicks in quicker. B+(**)

The Rocco John Group: Don't Wait Too Long (2006 [2007], COCA Productions): COCA stands for Coalition of Creative Artists. Looks like a front group: their "contributors" include three-fourths of this quartet, no other musicians, but a few painters, dancers, poets, etc. Rocco is Rocco John Iacovone. He plays alto sax, and wrote the songs. The group started as a trio in 1997, adding trumpeter Michael Irwin for this album to make a freewheeling pianoless quartet. AMG has no record of Iacovone before this album, but the website lists five albums, a couple cut off the beaten path in Alaska. Iacovone reportedly "cut his teeth" playing in Sam Rivers loft-era orchestra; also studied with Lee Konitz. Album could move up a notch, but it's so much down my alley I feel the need to go cautious. [B+(***)] [June 2]

The Rocco John Group: Don't Wait Too Long (2006 [2007], COCA Productions): Cut his teeth in the '70s lofts with Sam Rivers, an influence on alto saxophonist Rocco John Iacovone, then waited plenty long, including a stretch in Alaska, before returning to find young trumpeter Michael Irwin and find that the two horn, bass and drums quartet is the optimal free jazz vehicle. B+(**)

The Rodriguez Brothers: Conversations (2006 [2007], Savant): The brothers are Michael on piano, Robert on trumpet and flugelhorn. A third Rodriguez, Ricardo, plays bass on four cuts, but doesn't get any mention in the booklet. Father Roberto Rodriguez, born in Cuba, produced. Album dedicated to late grandfather Roberto Rodriguez Nieto. David Sanchez guests on two tracks. I'm tempted to describe this as hard bop, but the beat isn't hard enough -- on the other hand, it isn't notably Latin, although there is a whiff. In any case, both piano and trumpet/flugelhorn stay within conventional forms, even if often fast and fluid bop. B

Wallace Roney: Jazz (2007, High Note): I should be better prepared for this, but will need more time to think about it, or at least to average it out. Strikes me as Roney's archetypal album, at least since he discovered turntables and keybs as a way of jacking up the funk quotient, all the time making his family -- brother Antoine Roney on various saxes and bass clarinet, wife Geri Allen on piano and various keyboards -- pull their weight. Where it all comes together, as on the opening "Vater Time" and the closing "Un Poco Loco," it's a lot of fun, not least because the trumpet soars high in the mix. [B+(**)]

Josh Roseman: New Constellations: Live in Vienna (2005 [2007], Accurate): Trombonist, originally from Boston, based in New York since 1990, has a long list of side credits ranging from Either/Orchestra to Lester Bowie Brass Fantasy to Dave Holland Big Band to the Roots. Third album under his own name. Calls his 7-piece (trumpet, trombone, tenor sax, keybs, guitar, bass, drums) group the Constellations -- only one I recognize there is saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum; the bass and keyb players are from Groove Collective. Starts with a rarefied reggae groove on "Satta Massagana," credited to a different lineup with Will Bernard on guitar, although only one date is given. Shifts after that to postbop with an undertow of bent funk, but returns to Jamaica periodically -- Don Drummond song; another one credited to Drummond and the rest of his band, the Skatalites; John Holt song; also includes a Roseman dedication to Drummond; and, apropros of nothing I can tell, a Beatles song, ending with a live remix of same. Recorded in Joe Zawinul's playpen, so figure him as an influence. Interesting attempt to put something together that breaks ground both as improv and riddim. [B+(**)]

Daniel Bernard Roumain: Etudes 4 violin & Electronix (2007, Thirsty Ear): Been holding off on this advance expecting a final copy to appear and clear some things up, but release date was June 26. I've gotten nothing but advances from this label in quite a while, and the advances and PR packages are severely lacking in information. I do know that DJ Spooky, Peter Gordon, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Philip Glass, and a couple of others appear here because they get "feat." plugs next to titles. Could be duets. One with no "feat." is relatively interesting, with at least three instruments, repeating patterns on piano, a synth (or maybe a horn), and the leader's violin wailing background. Roumain, a Haitian-American violinist, has classical education, long dreadlocks, and hip-hop interests. Not sure if this is considered a jazz release or not -- no indication that it's part of Matthew Shipp's Blue Series, although Roumain has appeared there in the past -- but it is notably lacking both in jazz musicians and in any sort of swing. (I almost said "rhythm," but Glass and DJ Scientific do contribute something there, just nothing jazz-friendly.) Also, the violin tends to appear in sheets, without much bite or spunk. B

Roswell Rudd & Yomo Toro: El Espíritu Jíbaro (2002-06 [2007], Sunnyside): Robert Palmer once called Yomo Toro "the Puerto Rican Jimi Hendrix," but from what I've heard -- and his solo "Inspiración" bears this out -- he's comes closer to John Fahey. Rudd, playing with Steve Lacy and Archie Shepp and leading his New York Art Quartet, was the great trombonist of the avant-'60s. He had a second wind as a Herbie Nichols interpreter, and a third as a world music sojourner, hooking up with musicians from Mali, Mongolia, and now Puerto Rico. Percussionist Bobby Sanabria is a third name on the cover, likely the most responsible for taking such a broad swath of Latin jazz here -- bolero, guaracha, marcha, merengue, cumbia, tango, son (of course). Toro's jíbaro is usually considered a country music, but he swings plenty here. B+(***)

Saltman Knowles Quintet: It's About the Melody (2007, Blue Canoe): Mark Saltman, bassist; William Knowles, pianist. They met in 1994 at University of Massachusetts. This is their fourth album, the first three released as Soul Service. Group includes Mark Prince on drums, Charles Langford on sax, Lori Williams on vocals. For all intents and purpose this is a vocal jazz album, with Williams up front on every song, shaping the melodies, slipping around them, the sort of thing jazz singers do -- some spots remind me a bit of Sheila Jordan, but not so immediately arresting. Langford has a good accompanying sound. B

Dino Saluzzi Group: Juan Condori (2005 [2006], ECM): Argentine bandoneon, born 1935, in a quintet with three younger Saluzzis and a percussionist named U.T. Gandhi. Felix Saluzzi plays tenor sax, soprano sax, and clarinet, although he doesn't stand out -- the string sound of guitar and bass is much more prominent. Folkish, not particularly close to tango. [B+(***)]

Dino Saluzzi: Juan Condori (2005 [2006], ECM): Argentine bandoneon player, working with three younger Saluzzis and a percussionist named U.T. Gandhi. Never got the final copy of this advance, unlike the later duets with Anja Lechner -- a puzzle and an annoyance. Saluzzi recorded an exceptional album in 2001 called Responsorium, which does a lovely job of summing up his brand of jazz-tango. Since then the records I've heard have seemed like broken fragments of the same picture. The larger group here, led by Felix Saluzzi's reeds, suggests a similar richness of vision, but I also hear stretches where it slows down and descends to the merely pretty, or maybe even the merely dull. B+(*)

Dino Saluzzi/Anja Lechner: Ojos Negros (2006 [2007], ECM): Bandoneon-cello duets. Saluzzi is an Argentine who's done some notable work in the past, but seems to be slowing down lately. Lechner is a German cellist with classical credits, an ECM album of Chants, Hymns and Dances by Gurdjieff and Tsabropoulos, an appearances on previous ECM jazz albums by Saluzzi and Misha Alperin. This one is especially slow and resonant. It started growing on me about half way through, and deserves another listen. [B+(**)]

Dino Saluzzi/Anja Lechner: Ojos Negros (2006 [2007], ECM): Bandoneon-cello duets. Drags in spots -- where you'd expect the tango rhythms to quicken the blood, the cello dampens it. Not that there is a lot of rhythm. But every time this starts to get me down, something interesting, intriguing, or just plain lovely happens. B

Bobby Sanabria: Big Band Urban Folktales (2007, Jazzheads): Drummer-percussionist, Puerto Rican parents, from the Bronx, graduated from Berklee in 1979, IAJE's expert on Afro-Cuba jazz, a guy who (counter the standard joke) can teach and do. Big band, throws a lot of everything at you -- more than I can handle, especially when they break out the kazoos for Frank Zappa's "The Grand Wazoo." But more manageable fare like "Bésame Mucho" works for me, as does Chareneè Wade's guest vocal on "Since I Fell for You" and a lucumi-inspired piece called "El Aché de Sanabria en Moderación" where everything seems to work even when none of it suggests moderation. B+(**)

Antonio Sanchez: Migration (2007, CAM Jazz): Drummer, from Mexico City, studied at National Conservatory of Music there, then got a scholarship to Berklee, graduated Magna Cum Laude, did some more study at New England Conservatory, and landed a spot in Dizzy Gillespie's United Nation Orchestra (post-Gillespie, directed by Paquito D'Rivera). First album as leader, but his credits list is impressive, and he calls in a few chits to help out here: David Sanchez (no relation), Chris Potter, Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, Scott Colley -- he even got Metheny and Corea to debut new songs here. The problem is that the band is so great it's hard to tell what the drummer brings other than mainstream postbop competency -- he has quite a bit of Latin jazz in his discography, but doesn't so much as hint at it here. Rather, we get an all-star game, with Potter and David Sanchez in full flower, Metheny and Corea making choice assists. B+(**)

Sten Sandell Trio + John Butcher: Strokes (2006 [2007], Clean Feed): Sandell is a Norwegian pianist, combines interests in free improv, avant composition (Cage, Feldman, Xenakis), classical music from around the world, art rock, and so forth. Also dabbles in voice and electronics, which are used here but not so obvious. Butcher is a British saxophonist; he's recorded quite a bit since 1990, but I've heard very little and don't have much of a sense of him. Two long pieces here, plus one short one at the end -- sort of a throwback to the '70s, when we still thought we could discover new things. Maybe we still can. [B+(**)]

Sten Sandell Trio + John Butcher: Strokes (2006 [2007], Clean Feed): Sandell's avant-leaning piano trio plus Butcher's sax -- the latter is also credited with "amplification/feedback" as if he isn't normally this loud. Very rough, with little gemstones of piano embedded in the matrix. B+(**)

Arturo Sandoval: Rumba Palace (2007, Telarc): The percussion section is up to snuff, but can't salvage the slow ones. The trumpeter can burn white hot or negotiate tricky changes, but by now that's expected. He's turned me off more in the past, but he's also turned me on more. So this is a good example of what Christgau calls Neither. B

Bernardo Sassetti: Unreal: Sidewalk Cartoon (2005-06 [2007], Clean Feed): Among my earliest musical experiences was an extreme distaste for Euroclassical music, which has attenuated only slightly over the years. This makes me suspicious of the classical backgrounds inevitable in the university programs that produce most young jazz musicians these days, not to mention all those "third stream" projects that first appeared when the academy discovered jazz back in the '50s. In bring this up because my first impression of this record was that it sounds like classical music only better. It even crossed my mind that this is what Mozart might sound like if he was really as good as everyone seems to think. Obviously, I need to listen some more. Sassetti's previous records have been small piano groups -- Ascent impressed me enough to make it a Pick Hit. This one has dozens of extra musicians, including a large percussion group, a saxophone quartet, something called Cromeleque Quinteto (clarinet, flute, oboe, bassoon, french horn), and so forth, all deployed with the precision and taste Sassetti exhibits in his piano. [B+(***)]

Bernardo Sassetti: Unreal: Sidewalk Cartoon (2005-06 [2007], Clean Feed): Portugese pianist, often brilliant, but tends to work in soundtrack motifs, which take over here when he employs vast arrays of musicians: Quarteto Saxolinia (saxophone quartet), Cromelque Quinteto (clarinet, flulte, oboe, bassoon, french horn), a battery of percussionists (directed by Miguel Bernat), and various "guests" (flute, alto/soprano sax, tuba, double bass, drums). At least he stays clear of strings. Intriguing music, tasteful, but it often merges into the background. B+(**)

Paul Scea: Contemporary Residents (2005 [2007], BluJazz): Plays flute, soprano and tenor sax, wind synth, etc. Teaches at West Virginia University (Morgantown WV). Has co-led groups with guitarist Steve Grismore (present here) and drummer Damon Short (absent; Marc Gratama is the drummer here), but this is first album solely under his own name. Reports describe him as heavily influenced by the '60s avant-garde, with his flute coming out of a line from Eric Dolphy through James Newton. Hard to tell. There's some edginess in the soprano sax, but the three horns -- Eric Haltmeier plays alto sax and clarinet, Brent Sandy trumpet -- do a lot of bobbing and weaving, and in any case the electric guitar and bass -- Grismore and Anthony Cox -- run on fusion lines. Sounds promising at times, but each of three plays left me with no net impressions. B

Lalo Schifrin & Friends (2007, Aleph): Pianist, originally from Argentina, 75 now, mostly known for 100+ soundtracks, but he studied classical music under Messiaen in France in the 1950s and, more importantly, jazz under Dizzy Gillespie in the 1960s. This takes a half-dozen of his songs including "A Tribute to Bud" [Powell, I presume], adds in "Besame Mucho," "Tin Tin Daeo," and Oscar Peterson's "Hymn to Freedom." The booklet has a lot of words, and generally good bios on the Friends, but doesn't actually have any credits. One assumes that Schifrin plays piano, James Morrison trumpet (or any other brass instrument that appears), James Moody saxes (and maybe flute), Dennis Budimir guitar, Brian Bromberg bass, and Alex Acuña drums/percussion. It's a good group, relaxed, generous, warm, enjoyable. B+(*)

Maria Schneider Orchestra: Sky Blue (2007, ArtistShare): I reckon my continuing indifference to Schneider's highly refined art is subliminal. She doesn't set off the gag reflex that I have long had to highly orchestrated classical music, but that's what I suspect is lurking, somewhere near the chronic level of an allergen. Clearly, jazz fans who also like euroclassical simply adore her -- it's not common for a self-released, no-retail-distribution record like her Concert in the Garden to win a Grammy. Still, for every time a nicely orchestrated motif catches my fancy, three or four fall off my ears leaving nothing. The band is full of well-regarded musicians -- over the last couple of years membership has been a plum on everyone's resume. The packaging has been padded out with pictures and notes in two booklets -- a feast if you're interested. I think it's good that she can record like this. Figuring my disinterest to have mostly been my problem, I was reluctant to saddle Concert as a dud, until it won that Grammy and I didn't have any response to my editor as to why it wasn't a dud. This one is no different, at least insofar as I care to tell. B

Louis Sclavis: L'Imparfait des Langues (2005 [2007], ECM): Working off an advance copy here, although the release date is April 24, so presumably this is out, but not part of the top tier promotion. Quintet here, with Marc Baron's alto sax joining Sclavis' usual clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano sax combo in an unusually fierce -- for Sclavis, and especially for ECM -- front line. Blame that on the rhythm section: Paul Brousseau's keyboards, Maxime Delpierre's guitars, François Merville's drums. They keep the beat steady and charging -- effectively this is a fusion album, improvised enough to keep it interesting. [B+(***)] [Apr. 24]

Louis Sclavis: L'Imparfait des Langues (2005 [2007], ECM): I can't find a thread that ties this record together. Working with a familiar drummer and three upstarts -- Marc Baron on alto sax, Paul Brousseau on keyboards, Maxime Delpierre on guitar -- it's as if the veteran clarinetist's just throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks. It pretty much all does: electronic drones, free sax riffing, rocksteady beats, airy meditations, noisy fusion -- the sounds of tradition passing down, and blowing back. A-

Kendrick Scott Oracle: The Source (2005-06 [2007], World Culture): Young (b. 1980) drummer, attended Berklee, works in postbop veins, appears on Terrence Blanchard's latest. First album, ambitious, complex, rather impressive set of musicians -- e.g., saxophonists are Seamus Blake, Walter Smith III, and Myron Walden; Robert Glasper plays some piano; Lionel Loueke some of the guitar -- yet I find it dissolving into texture and failing to hold my interest, except, say, when Blake takes a solo. B

Seattle Women's Jazz Orchestra: Meeting of the Waters (2005-06 [2007], OA2): Not all female -- lead trumpet Dennis Haldane, drummer Jeremy Jones, musisic director/arranger Daniel Barry are the main exceptions, with some Mikes and Chads on the credits list but not listed on the website roster. Second album. Seems unexceptional for a big band, although not without its attractive moments. Sound quality is a bit iffy. B

John Sheridan and His Dream Band: Swing Is Still the King (2006 [2007], Arbors): A Benny Goodman tribute, more or less, with Ron Hockett on clarinet -- sometimes also Dan Block and Scott Robinson, although they most play saxes -- and Rebecca Kilgore singing a majority of the songs. But it doesn't feel like a Goodman tribute -- the swing is looser, cooler, more delectable. Sheridan is credited with arrangements as well as piano, and its the arrangements that push this past the usual retro limits. A-

Matt Shulman: So It Goes (2006 [2007], Jaggo): Website advises "please turn off any pop-up blocker software/- to enter this website/- for a better viewing experience." Figured I might as well make a U-turn then and there: what I look for in a website is information, not experience. I get too much experience without having to go look for it. Shulman was born in Vermont; studied at Oberlin; moved to New York. He plays trumpet, and has a patent on what he calls the Shulman System, a sort of sling for holding the trumpet in the proper position. He also sings and gets a credit for effects, often tracking them all together. His group is a trio with bass and drums. I don't really know what to make of him. The helpful hype sheet suggests "Miles Davis meets Radiohead," "a Chet Baker for the new millennium," or simply "a new voice from jazz's emerging generation." I doubt that any of those are true, although I'm not expert enough to fully dismiss Radiohead. He does "My Funny Valentine" to beg those comparisons, but it works just as well to defy them. The best I can say is that he's trying to do something new, which might explain why it's so hard to pigeonhole. On the other hand, it's also possible that what he's doing simply isn't clear yet, or is too marginal to care much about. Either way, in the short term I expect reactions to be inordinately pro or con. Given enough time I could go either way myself, but for now I find his trumpet and even more so his voice too limited to carry his ideas, and his ideas too prog -- albeit more avant and less arty than the usual rock usage -- to stand on their own. B

David Sills: Green (2006 [2007], Origin): Tenor saxophonist, based in Los Angeles, with a handful of albums since 1997, both under his own name and as the Acoustic Jazz Quartet. He has a big, smooth mainstream sound, the sort of thing I easily fall for. Also plays a little flute; nothing to complain about. Could be characterized as neo-cool, both in tone and in artful arrangement. Six-piece group, with Gary Foster's alto sax kept close, and both piano and guitar for chords. I don't find such complexity all that useful, but it's worth noting that this is the third appearance by guitarist Larry Koonse in my logs over the last two weeks, and again he adds something special. B+(*)

Ricardo Silveira: Outro Rio (Another River) (2005-06 [2007], Adventure Music): Brazilian guitarist, mostly acoustic, mostly working in small groups with bass and drums -- two cuts add piano, one clarinet, one tenor sax, one cello, several percussion, one voice, not that the extras really add much of anything. Delicate; nice, easy flow; very pleasant as background; as artful but not as tuneful as his Nascimento album. B+(**)

Just Like a Woman: Nina Simone Sings Classic Songs of the '60s (1967-78 [2007], RCA/Legacy): Strong voice, can be a powerful stylist, has no problem convincing you that she's entitled to interpret anything she wants, which makes her inconsistencies and flat out muffs all the more annoying. Four Dylan songs here, two -- "I Shall Be Released," "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" -- worth keeping. B

Carol Sloane: Dearest Duke (2007, Arbors): Jazz singer, first emerged in late 1950s with Les Elgart's orchestra, moving on to replace Annie Ross in Lambert, Hendricks, Etc., with a comeback on Concord in the 1990s, and a 2001 album for High Note insisting I Never Went Away. I never heard her before, but my first impression is that she's a complete pro. The songbook here is Ellington's, which isn't all that easy for a singer. The accompaniment is Brad Hatfield on piano and/or Ken Peplowski on clarinet or tenor sax -- strictly minimal stuff, which doesn't make it any easier either. She does fine, and Peplowski has some especially nice moments. B+(**)

Jimmy Smith: Straight Life (1961 [2007], Blue Note): A simple organ-guitar-drums trio, as restrained as anything he's ever done, which makes the eloquence of his phrasing on such a crude instrument all the more impressive. This has actually been a remarkable installment in Blue Note's Connoisseur Series: five albums, all so obscure I've never heard of them, each surprisingly close to my A- cusp. The series are nominally limited editions, although those that sell out have been known to return as RVG Editions. B+(***)

Mark Solborg 4: 1+1+1+1 (2007, ILK): Danish guitarist, also associated with groups Mold, Revolver, and Ventilator. This is a quartet with Anders Banke on tenor sax and clarinet, Jeppe Skovbakke on bass, Bjørn Heebøll on drums. Banke plays in Piere Dørge's New Jungle Orchestra and also plays in Mold. He has an attractive hard-edge sound, matching well with Solborg. B+(*) [advance, Apr. 26]

Golda Solomon: First Set (2002, JazzJaunts): Solomon describes herself as a "one-of-a-kind 'Medicine Woman of Jazz'"; alternatively, "poet, and Professor Mom." Writes words. Speaks them over jazz -- or actually, with her violin-tuba-drums trio, this sounds a bit like old-timey pre-bluegrass. Has a book Flatbush Cowboy good for an excerpt here. Other bits on meeting Dolphy and "The Etiquette of No." Good diction -- reminds me of Tom Verlaine's pronunciation of that word. Short, EP length: 20:30. B+(**)

Golda Solomon: Word Riffs (2006, JazzJaunts): Full length, or close enough (39:18). I suppose we can chalk this up to Second System Complex. The music has moved from the goofball accompaniment Bernard Purdie threw together to more creditable avant-garde, with Saco Yasuma on alto sax, Eri Yamamoto on piano, Christopher Dean Sullivan on bass, and most importantly Michael T.A. Thompson on drums. The words were consciously written with jazz in mind, with three pieces with "Blues" in the title, two more with "Bop," one called "1960s Jazz Hag," one name dropping Ellington. On average I'd say it's a wash: more exciting music, less intriguing words, same rivetting performance. Something of a learning process, but all things considered she's pretty unique. B+(**)

Somi: Red Soil in My Eyes (2005-06 [2007], World Village): Singer-songwriter, born in Illinois of parents from Rwanda and Uganda. She calls what she does Holistic New African Jazz-Soul, aiming at "introspective bliss and inspiration" -- noble sentiments for music that goes nowhere. The jazz is nu, although musicians like Lionel Loueke and Jeremy Pelt are recognizable, at least on the credits list. The songs are half in an unidentified African language, half in English. B-

Sonic Openings Under Pressure: Muhheankuntuk (2006 [2007], Clean Feed): Alto sax trio, led by Patrick Brennan, who's recorded under this group name with other people before -- this time it's Hilliard Greene on bass, David Pleasant on drums, etc. Brennan came to New York from Detroit in 1975. He plays tight, fast, complex runs over free rhythms, with a hard tone; unpretty, but rigorously functional. Need to play it again, but I'm impressed so far. Don't know how many records he has, but this is the first I've heard. [B+(***)]

Sonic Openings Under Pressure: Muhheankuntuk (2006 [2007], Clean Feed): Don't get as much free jazz as I'd like, but I manage to hear enough to have gotten used to it. Still, my standard for recommendation is that it has something non-devotees can grab onto, which leaves me with a widening gap of stuff I like well enough but can't see breaking out of its narrow niche. Most of this falls in that range, but two cuts in the middle stand out: "The Hardships" starts with a fast, regular beat, then erupts in a torrent of even faster words -- thank David Pleasant for both beats and words, while leader Patrick Brennan's alto sax settles into a skronk groove. That's the hook cut, pop materials done with avant flair. It then sets up "Prosified" with Brennan taking over, writhing snakey improv lines against the beat. B+(***)

Spark Trio: Short Stories in Sound (2006, Utech): Another limited edition CDR, a trio with saxophonist Ras Moshe, drummer Todd Capp, and Matt Lavelle on trumpet and bass clarinet. Energetic thrash, especially from the drummer, who strikes me as overly busy. The horns are in your face throughout. I find them bracing and sometimese exciting, but this is not the sort of thing I can easily recommend to non-believers. B

Martin Speicher/Georg Wolf/Lou Grassi: Shapes and Shadows (2006 [2007], Clean Feed): Free jazz trio; alto sax/clarinet, bass, drums, respectively. Speicher is German, did a couple of records in the '90s, but otherwise I don't know anything about him. I know even less about Wolf. Grassi is an American drummer; runs a group called PoBand with 10 or so records, and has side credits going back to Roswell Rudd's Numatic Swing Band. Another fine record, although after a handful of these I'm hard-pressed to sort them all out; this one winds up as something people who like this sort of thing will like, but probably not much more. B+(*)

Russ Spiegel: Chimera (2006 [2007], Steeplechase): Guitarist, originally from Los Angeles (b. 1962), lived in Germany for a spell, now based in Brooklyn. First album, a sextet including vibes but no piano. Wrote all the pieces except "Cherokee." The two horns -- David Smith's trumpet, Arun Luthra's saxes -- offer rich and varied higlights, but the spots that most struck me were when the guitar rose to the top. Will get back to the album later, but for now I want to not how pleased I was to open my mail and find a Steeplecase CD in it. They're a Danish label, founded in 1972, with a large, well tended, and critically important catalog. Although they have had a few European artists -- Tete Montoliu, John Tchicai, Michal Urbaniak, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen -- they've primarily served as a haven for American artists, starting with Dexter Gordon, Jackie McLean, Duke Jordan, and Archie Shepp, while later filling their catalog with postbop notables like Doug Raney, George Colligan, Harold Danko, Joe Locke, Steve Stryker, Bob Rockwell, many others. Lately they've been hard to get in touch with and follow -- I could say much the same about Criss Cross, a similar Dutch label. [B+(**)]

Russ Spiegel: Chimera (2006 [2007], Steeplechase): Good mainstream guitar record, with all sorts of bells and whistles -- trumpet, sax, vibes, but no piano. Among the options, the guitar stands out. But given my space and time issues, not to mention interests tuned elsewhere, this falls just shy of my scratch line. That should be the definition of an honorable mention, but under current formulas, it's the definition of a near miss. B+(**)

The Chip Stephens Trio: Holding On to What Counts (2006 [2007], Capri): Piano trio, with Ken Walker on bass and Todd Reid on drums. Stephens teaches jazz at Urbana-Champaign, after spells in Boulder and Youngstown -- this was recorded in Denver, where Walker is based. His web page there claims "nearly 40 records and compact discs" but AMG only counts 9, with this the second under his name. Five original pieces, plus covers of Cole Porter, Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner, and a Miles Davis medley. I'm tempted to write this off as textbook stuff, but Stephens' dynamism and flair raises the ante on the standard fare -- the Monk really jumps, the Silver sizzles, a bit of "Sweet Georgia Brown" swings. B+(*)

Joan Stiles: Hurly-Burly (2005 [2007], Oo-Bla-Dee): Pianist, sings credibly on two cuts, but that's not her calling card. Second album, after Love Call (1998-2002 [2004], Zoho), which I've heard but didn't think much of and barely recall. Don't have birth date or biographical info suggesting her age -- one side comment about liking Monk and Evans as a teenager suggests an upper bound of 60. Teaches at New School, and has an interest in Mary Lou Williams. So I didn't expect much here, at least until I read the band roster: Jeremy Pelt, Steve Wilson, Joel Frahm, Peter Washington, Lewis Nash. They appear as a sextet on 4 of 12 cuts, dropping down to subsets for the rest, with one piano solo, a duo with Wilson, and various 3-4 configurations. The songs favor Monk, Ellington, and Williams, with Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz" and Jimmy Rowles' "The Peacocks" thrown in, a Ray Charles song (one of the vocals), and two or three originals -- the question is a juxtaposition of Monk and Ellington-Hodges called "The Brilliant Corners of Theloious' Jumpin' Jeep." The band is terrific, of course, but the pianist is impressively on top of everything. The Charles song has been sung better, but the other vocal, "In the Land of Oo-Bla-Dee," is a gas. Still need to play it again and pay some attention to the solo. [A-]

Joan Stiles: Hurly-Burly (2005 [2007], Oo-Bla-Dee): She sings two songs credibly enough, but her main interest is piano jazz, which she organizes as a pyramid: Mary Lou Williams is her special interest; Ellington and Monk her guiding lights; Fats Waller, Ray Charles, and Jimmy Rowles are tapped for further examples. She writes things like "The Brilliant Corners of Thelonious' Jumpin' Jeep" to stitch it all together, but what moves this beyond concept is the dream band she commands in units from duo to sextet: Jeremy Pelt, Steve Wilson, Joel Frahm, Peter Washington, Lewis Nash. A-

Marcus Strickland Twi-Life Group: Open Reel Deck (2007, Strick Muzik): Should have mentioned Strickland in my Downbeat poll comments. He's one of the best young tenor saxophonists around -- had I mentioned him, he would have been the only one under-30. He gets a lustrous sound with consumate ease and grace, and has a supporting group that merits the marquee -- especially E.J. Strickland, a drummer as telepathic as an identical twin should be, but Mike Moreno on guitar and Carlos Henderson on electric bass redefine how to put a postmodern sax quartet together. Still, the band spends a good deal of time backing guests -- trumpeter Keyon Harrold I'm undecided about, but Malachi's spoken word exploits are riveting. Jon Cowherd also appears on piano leading into his "Subway Suite 2nd Movement" which the band really builds on. Still working on this. [B+(***)]

Helen Sung: Sungbird (2006 [2007], Sunnyside): Pianist, originally from Houston, educated in Boston, based in New York. Trained in classics, didn't take up jazz until well into college, which brought he under Kenny Barron's wing. Works in postbop mainstream, definitely knows her stuff. First album, a trio on Fresh Sound New Talent, was an Honorable Mention here. This one is a quintet, with extra percussion and Marcus Strickland on tenor and soprano sax. It's built on a tour of Spain, with a couple of stabs at tango and other dance themes, including the attractive title cut. I haven't digested the piano yet, which starts solo and takes a while to cohere, but I adore the light melodic flair Strickland adds, and may for once even prefer his soprano over tenor. [B+(***)]

Helen Sung: Sungbird (2006 [2007], Sunnyside): A pianistic tour de Spain, slow on the solo uphill stretches, fleet on the well oiled downslopes when percussionist Samuel Torres joins the trio, and soaring when Marcus Strickland adds his saxophone -- a rare context where the soprano proves more interesting than the tenor. B+(**)

Billy Taylor & Gerry Mulligan: Live at MCG (1993 [2007], MCG Jazz): Like J.J. Johnson on trombone, or later Jack Bruce on electric bass, Mulligan took an instrument out of the back of the band and moved it up by playing in its upper range with the virtuosity expected of the front men. Mulligan's instrument was baritone sax. This has the charm and intimacy of a Stan Getz quartet, but not quite the sweet sound. Taylor gets top bill because he's on his home court, carries his end, and makes his guest feel welcome. B+(***)

Tom Teasley: Painting Time (2007, T&T Music): DC-based percussionist, composer, educator -- the latter two are pretty standard self-descriptions, but Teasley takes his educator roll public, presenting solo concerts called "The Drum: Ancient Traditions Today" and producing videotapes. He has a half-dozen previous records, mostly with titles like Global Standard Time, Global Groovilization, and World-Beat: The Soul Dances. Haven't heard them, but I reckon this to be some sort of advance, at least in titling. Teasley plays several dozen percussion instruments here, not least of which is the standard drum kit. The pieces are groove-based, but they also have some meat on them -- mostly John Jensen's trombone, which takes the leads even when trumpet and sax/flute are available. A surprisingly seductive album; will give it some more time. [B+(***)]

Joe Temperley/Harry Allen: Cocktails for Two (2006 [2007], Sackville): Bought this used in Detroit, not even realizing that it's recent -- cover is old-fashioned, and Allen's so baby-faced you don't recognize him as 40. No new ground here, but Temperley's baritone sax makes a fine foil for Allen's tenor, and the rhythm section -- stalwarts John Bunch and Jake Hanna, Ornette bassist Greg Cohen -- do everything right. I know I'm a sucker for sax that swings this hard, but I could give in and grade this up. [B+(***)]

The Tierney Sutton Band: On the Other Side (2006 [2007], Telarc): Six of eleven songs (or eight of thirteen, given two reprises) have "happy" in the title. Dyslexically there's also "Glad to Be Unhappy," but even the happy songs aren't what you'd call bubbling. The others are "You Are My Sunshine," "Great Day!," "Haunted Heart," and "Smile." Two are apocalyptic: "Great Day!" and "Get Happy," the latter done both up and down, as is the secular "Happy Days Are Here Again." Jack Sheldon guests on two tracks, including a duet vocal and some unseemly patter added to "I Want to Be Happy." As Sutton explains in the liner notes, "Our search for happiness is an odd business." For example, it makes for the first good album I've heard from her. Last one was called I'm With the Band. This one credits the band because this time they're with her. [A-]

The Tierney Sutton Band: On the Other Side (2006 [2007], Telarc): Her pursuit of happiness bags eight songs with "happy" in the title, plus "You Are My Sunshine," "Smile," and "Great Day!" -- more fascinated with the search than the attainment, which she has reservations about anyway. Maybe that explains the odd song out, "Haunted Heart" -- the whole album feels haunted, from its tentative opening exhortation ("Get Happy") to its wistful end. I never thought she had a good album in her, much less a great concept. Last time all she aspired to was to be with the band; this time the band's with her. A-

Art Taylor: A.T.'s Delight (1960 [2007], Blue Note): Hard bop drummer, did a lot of session work and occasionally got an album out under his own name, often with titles like Taylor's Wailers or Taylor's Tenors. The two horns here weren't well known: trumpeter Dave Burns had been around since the '40s, mostly working with Dizzy Gillespie and James Moody without making much of a name for himself, but the young tenor saxophonist turned out to be Stanley Turrentine. Both are fine here; Wynton Kelly and Paul Chambers are dependable as usual; a shmear of Patato doesn't hurt, either. B+(**)

That Devilin' Tune: A Jazz History Volume 1 (1895-1927 [2007], WHRA, 9CD): Allen Lowe turned his 1997 book American Pop: From Minstrel to Mojo: On Record 1893-1956 into a remarkable 9-CD box set that jumped effortlessly among what we subsequently decided were genres, providing us the the most comprehensive general survey of early American music (recorded, anyway). His follow-up is That Devilin' Tune: A Jazz History, 1900-1950, published in 2001, but only converted to CD form in late 2006. The tighter focus of the book is amplified by expanding the CD set to 36 discs, split into four compact boxes each with 9 discs and nearly a quarter of the book. It's a daunting task just to play the discs, and I haven't had time to do more than thumb through the book, so this is very preliminary. But I've played all of the first box at least once -- several discs twice -- so I figure I can at least note this. The first nine discs only bring us up to Louis Armstrong's "Hotter Than That" in 1927 -- the first Armstrong title, although he appears a couple of times, starting with King Oliver in 1923 on disc five. Lowe works his way into recognizable jazz slowly, not getting to the Original Dixieland Jazz Band (1917) until the third disc, offering one song each by Ethel Waters and Mamie Smith (both 1921) on the fourth, introducing Jelly Roll Morton (1923) on the fifth; he sprinkles in early bits by Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, and Bennie Moten, but holds Bix Beiderbecke off until the second box. One result is that the first two or three discs don't sound much like jazz at all; while the last three clearly do sound like jazz, they are still much cruder than your average New Orleans retro band today. I haven't studied this, but it also looks like Lowe has avoided duplicating standard anthologies you're likely to have -- no "Tiger Rag," no "Dippermouth Blues," no "Cake Walking Babies From Home"; the only "St. Louis Blues" is a 1917 version by Ciro's Coon Club Orchestra. But maybe that's not a hard and fast rule. I see two dupes from The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz: "Hotter Than That" and Morton's "Grandpa's Spells." Another curiosity is the lack of anything by Scott Joplin here. Guess I'll have to read the book to figure that out, as well as how all the vaudeville fits in. [A-]

Third World Love: Sketch of Tel Aviv (2005 [2006], Smalls): There is something going on here that I don't get, and don't expect to get in the near future. Website claims the band "organically blends African, Middle Eastern, rock and jazz . . . a poetic journey of rhythms, songs, dance and joyful celebration." There's some of that, but it's hard to sort out, which may be the point. The group is a quartet, with two fairly well known players (bassist Omer Avital and trumpeter Avishai Cohen) and two lesser knowns (pianist Yonatan Avishai and drummer Daniel Freedman). Two songs with vocals -- one a trad Jewish-Yemenite piece sung by Avishai, the other sung by guest Eviatar Banai -- strike me as out of step, but the way Cohen is playing, anything that takes away from the trumpet seems like a bad idea. With their desire to more asses as well as minds, chances are there's a great album in their future. B+(**)

Tied + Tickled Trio: Aelita (2007, Morr Music): German electronica group, dating back to 1994 when brothers Markus and Micha Acher spun off from Notwist. Advance copy, lists three additional musicians -- Caspar Brandner, Andreas Gerth, and Carl Oesterhelt -- but doesn't map them to instruments ("xylophone, glockenspiel, melotrone dismal sounds"). The named instruments add a toy sound to the ambient beats, which are pleasing enough. I would rather like to see more electronica coming my way, but much of it does strike me as anticlimactic. B [advance, June 19]

Tin Hat: The Sad Machinery of Spring (2007, Hannibal): Original Tin Hat Trio members: Rob Burger (piano, accordion), Carla Kihlstedt (violin), Mark Orton (guitar). Burger left in 2004, replaced by Ben Goldberg (clarinet), Zeena Parkins (harp), and finally Ara Anderson (trumpet, piano). Sticker says to "file under Tin Hat Trio," and there's continuity enough, even though I have no clue what they're up to. The common phrase is "chamber music" -- and indeed they seem to be closer to Kronos Quartet than any jazz combos, although they don't have, or much care for, the conventions of a string quartet. The instruments seem to selected for oddness, even before the players started dragging celeste, dobro, auto-harp, bowed vibes, and bul-bul tarang into the mix. I'm puzzled, but not unintrigued. [B+(*)]

Tin Hat: The Sad Machinery of Spring (2007, Hannibal): Up to five players now, with most playing multiple instruments to keep the mix off kilter -- exception is Zeena Parkins, whose harp is odd enough she sticks to it. I never made any sense out of this -- near as I can figure, a bunch of interesting motifs that don't quite add up to pieces. B

Pietro Tonolo/Gil Goldstein/Steve Swallow/Paul Motian: Your Songs: The Music of Elton John (2006 [2007], ObliqSound): Don't know Tonolo except by name, as he has mostly been confined to Italian labels -- a dozen albums on Splasc(h) and EGEA, twice that in side credits, of which Paul Motian's Electric Bebop Band is the exception. He plays soprano and tenor sax -- soprano is usually listed first, but tenor predominates here. Goldstein plays piano and accordion -- seems like I run across him most often on accordion, but these songs feature piano. Swallow and Motian you know. Same group got together in 1999 for Portrait of Duke (Label Bleu). This one was producer Michele Locatelli's idea, and they make a game effort, respecting the melodies but playing around them, much like Motian drums. B+(*) [advance, July 17]

Trio Nuevo: Jazz Meets Tango (2006 [2007], Soundroots): Tenor saxophonist Dick de Graaf meets tango more than half way. The trio includes Michael Gustorff on violin, Hans Sparla on accordion. The violin-accordion is pretty thick, with the sax not much evident except for harmony. Vocalist Sandra Coelers joins for four songs. I don't really know what they're shooting for here. I suppose what attracts me in tango is the rhythm, at least when the dancers are light enough to flow with it. But the spectrum also extends to the heavy, the operatic even, and that's where this seems to go. If someone told me that this was an attempt to conjure up an old-style tango, something free of modernist impulses, I'd likely believe them. But this group makes no such claims. So I mostly find it lumbering, especially the vocal pieces. B

Gianluigi Trovesi/Umberto Petrin/Fulvio Maras: Vaghissimo Ritratto (2005 [2007], ECM): Advance copy. Trovesi is an established saxophonist with records going back to 1978, playing alto clarinet here. Pianist Petrin, like Trovesi, comes out of Italian Instabile Orchestra. Percussionist Maras has played with Trovesi since early '90s. A "chamber improvisation" project which pulls together melodies from classical and pop sources. Starts slow, but proves to be enticing, hard to resist. Title translates as "vague impression" or "beautiful picture" or something like that. [B+(**)] [Apr. 24]

Gianluigi Trovesi/Umberto Petrin/Fulvio Maras: Vaghissimo Ritratto (2005 [2007], ECM): Title translates as "beautiful picture," or is it "vague impression"? Clarinet, piano, percussion. Starts slow, never really picks up speed. Lovely work, for which I'm short on words. B+(**)

Akiko Tsuruga: Sweet and Funky (2006 [2007], 18th & Vine): Claims to be the "only Japanese female organ player in New York," which can't be much of a stretch. Blurb also quotes Dr. Lonnie Smith observing that "she can play!" True enough, plus she has a great smile. This is a trio with guitarist Eric Johnson and drummer Vince Ector, with percussionist Wilson "Chembo" Corniel added on half the cuts. The guitarist is good for this sort of thing, which is cheery more than bluesy. Mostly standard fare, with four originals. No great shakes, but a good deal of fun. B+(*)

Stanley Turrentine: A Bluish Bag (1967 [2007], Blue Note): Two big band sessions, with 6-7 horns and 3-4 rhythm each, the former chopped up for two 1975-79 albums, the latter stuck in the vaults until now. Mr. T doesn't get a lot of solo space, but Duke Pearson's arrangements give everyone a lot to do, and several cuts really swing together. B+(***)

John Vance: Dreamsville (2007, Erawan): Singer, based in Los Angeles, second album, also has acting credits. Has a soft, dreamy voice which is effective and quite appealing on straight standards like "Darn That Dream" and "My Foolish Heart." Has trouble reaching for a note or improvising against the grain. Good, low-key support from the band, including guitarist Larry Koonse on three tracks. He's getting to be a clue of hidden quality, kind of like Harry Dean Stanton in low-budget movies. B+(*)

Albert van Veenendaal/Meinrad Kneer/Yonga Sun: Predictable Point of Impact (2006 [2007], Evil Rabbit): Dutch pianist, born 1956, leans avant, likes to work with prepared piano, in a trio with bassist Kneer and drummer Sun. Van Veenendaal's website lists 36 records, some credits pretty marginal; first is a 1981 LP, then a 1986 cassette, then a few side appearances from 1990; first with his name on marquee was a sax-piano duo in 2002. As far as I can tell, AMG only lists one of these records, with his name misspelled. Has one previous trio recod with this group, and two more prepared piano records on this label. I keep saying that I'll know a piano trio I like when I hear it, and this is it. Mostly hard rhythmic stuff, which bass and drums are clearly up for. One slow stretch shows off the prep very nicely, giving the roll a guitar-like sound. Elegant, low budget package, too. A-

Hope Waits (2007, Radarproof): Singer, co-wrote three of twelve songs, so not really a songwriter, nor much of a jazz interpreter, but she has an arresting, world-weary voice that is especially effective on blues -- "Drown in My Own Tears" is the most striking piece here. Peter Malick, of Norah Jones fame, produced and co-wrote those three originals. Some horn arrangements, and a bit of moody trad jazz background. B+(*)

Muddy Waters, Johnny Winter, & James Cotton: Breakin' It Up, Breakin' It Down (1977 [2007], Epic/Legacy): Once Waters got Hard Again, he went out on the road, with Winter and Cotton above the line, Pinetop Perkins and Bob Margolin below. This previously unreleased concert won't hurt the band's reputation, but songs like "Caledonia" and "Rocket 88" aren't exactly tests of the blues great's mojo -- and the songs that do test him are sharper on the studio record, where more was at stake. B+(**)

Alexa Weber Morales: Vagabundeo/Wanderings (2007, Patois): Singer-songwriter, from Berkeley CA, on her second album; I find her command of Latin idioms completely convincing, entrancing even, but I can't say the same for her Afro-funk, 6/8 gospel, or ballad, and have the usual reservations about that goddess of war. B

Danny Weis: Sweet Spot (2007, Nordost): Guitarist, from Southern California; father played "country jazz" guitar, was friends with Barney Kessel, but Weis turned to heavy metal early in his career, founding Iron Butterfly, then Rhinoceros. AMG lists scattered side-credits over the years: David Ackles, the Everly Brothers (Stories We Could Tell), Lou Reed (Sally Can't Dance), Iain Matthews, Burton Cummings, Bette Midler (Rose). Pushing 60, this is the first record under Weis' own name -- easy grooving pop-jazz, something I'm rather fond of even though it's hard to make any claims for it. B [Sept. 1]

Robin Williamson: The Iron Stone (2005 [2007], ECM): English folk singer, first made his mark with a group called Incredible String Band, now in his 60s. This is something of a departure for ECM, but the band has solid jazz credentials: Mat Maneri on viola, Barre Phillips on bass, Ale Möller on accordion, flutes, etc. I'm not much of a fan, and might not have given this much of a chance, but a song called "Political Lies" caught my ear, and the accompaniment is hard to deny. On the other hand, many pieces do little more than crawl at a spoken word pace, and the deep lonesomeness can be alientating. B+(*)

Abram Wilson: Ride! Ferris Wheel to the Modern Day Delta (2007, Dune): Another concept album, based on a character named Albert Jenkins who, like Wilson, plays trumpet. Works better, partly because the story line is confined to a few songs, which are straightforwardly blues-based. Like the other Dune artists, Wilson is based in London, but he was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and grew up in New Orleans. That explains his references to Delta blues and New Orleans polyphony, the yin and yang of his music. Fits him much, much better than the soul man moves on his previous Jazz Warrior. [B+(***)]

Abram Wilson: Ride! Ferris Wheel to the Modern Day Delta (2007, Dune): Trumpeter-vocalist, from Arkansas via New Orleans but based in London now. Like his labelmate Soweto Kinch, Wilson has a concept album, but it's based on a mythic bluesman, which at least gives him a viable musical context to work with. The group is large, with two saxes, trombone, tuba, guitar, harmonica, piano, bass, and drums to go with the leader's trumpet. They can soar when given the chance. The booklet ends on a Katrina note -- not the concept here, but the fit isn't bad. B+(**)

David Witham: Spinning the Circle (2006 [2007], Cryptogramophone): Pianist, works with electronics, plays accordion, all prominent here. This is only his second album, following the self-released On Line from 1988, but he has a fairly broad albeit scattered resume: studied with Jaki Byard and Alan Broadbent; worked as George Benson's "musical director" since 1990; produces a community TV show called "Portable Universe"; current projects with Ernie Watts, Jay Anderson, Jeff Gauthier, Luis Conte; dozens of credits, although there isn't much overlap between the obscure names AMG lists and the better-known ones listed on his website. This album pulls several of those threads together, but not into a clear picture. The record opens with a synth percussion rush, but rarely returns to it. There is a lot of texturing with guitar -- Nels Cline's electric on two tracks, Greg Leisz's steel on three more, the latter affecting a Hawaiian twist -- and reeds, with an occasional oasis of clearly thought-out piano. Most of the eight pieces have ideas worth exploring further, but few are followed up on. I've played this tantallizing album five times, and doubt that I'm going to figure much more out. B+(**)

The Phil Woods Quintet: American Songbook II (2007, Kind of Blue): Didn't get the previous American Songbook (2002 [2006], Kind of Blue), which leaned a bit more to Porter (3 songs, vs. 1 here) and Gershwin (2 songs, vs. 0 here). This one is pretty much what one would expect, with Bill Charlap holding the center together, the superb Brian Lynch on trumpet, and dependable Woods on alto sax. [B+(**)]

The Phil Woods Quintet: American Songbook II (2007, Kind of Blue): No surprises here. Woods may have started as a pure Parker bebopper, but over time he embraced the whole mainstream of American jazz. I don't see much live jazz, but did see him once, playing good student with Benny Carter. In the senior role here, his own good students include Brian Lynch and Bill Charlap, who hardly need his guidance but are too respectful to hint otherwise. The whole thing strikes me as too respectful, too self-satisfied, too easy -- I'm reminded that when I saw Carter and Woods, it was the much younger Woods who spent the whole set on his stool -- but it still sounds glorious more often than not. B+(**)

Saco Yasuma: Another Rain (2006 [2007], Leaf Note): Alto saxophonist, born in Japan, based in New York since 1989. First album. Composed all but one of the pieces, and rounded up a superb quintet: Roy Campbell on trumpet and flugelhorn, Andrew Bemkey on piano and bass clarinet, Ken Filiano on bass, Michael T.A. Thompson on drums. Mostly free, but she has a disciplined sound, even when she gets rough. She plays xaphoon, some kind of bamboo sax, on one cut, slow with a Japanese folk feel that Thompson gets into. One song has a dramatic torrent of words attributed to Golda Solomon. Both experiments work, as does her main course. [B+(***)]

Saco Yasuma: Another Rain (2006 [2007], Leaf Note): First album by an interesting alto saxophonist, with a strong quintet that takes risks and plays heady avant -- the standout is Roy Campbell on trumpet, but everyone contributes. One song goes slow with the leader playing a bamboo sax on a Japanese folk theme. Another unleashes Golda solomon for a torrent of words. Drummer Michael T.A. Thompson is showing up on a lot of good records lately. B+(***)

Dept. of Good and Evil Feat. Rachel Z (2007, Savoy Jazz): Rachel Z is a pianist originally named Rachel Nicolazzo. She has at least 9 albums since 1992, but I've missed her until now -- my only encounter was the time when I was accidentally caught Mary McPartland toasting her on "Piano Jazz," where she made a favorable impression. AMG lists Wayne Shorter as a "similar artist" -- she recorded a Shorter tribute album, but that hardly makes her similar; "influences" are Joanne Brackeen, John Hicks, and George Garzone -- latter just means she's lived in Boston, where Garzone has taught everyone; "see also" includes Najee, although I certainly don't recommend following up there; "styles" include Crossover Jazz, which she's pretty much managed to crossover from. She's got a couple of cheesecake album covers in the past, but this isn't one. I can't say as I hear much Brackeen or Hicks in her piano, but I couldn't argue strongly against Hancock and/or Tyner. The mod touches here include a couple of rock songs (Sting, Joy Division) and a couple of unclaimed weak vocals on originals. Judging from the typography, the group is a piano trio plus guests Tony Levin on electric bass and Erik Naslund on trumpet. Seems more middle brow than mainstream. Probably of minor interest, but shouldn't be easily dismissed. [B+(*)]

Dept. of Good and Evil Feat. Rachel Z (2007, Savoy Jazz): Z is Nicolazzo to her mother, a charming name if you ask me. Good pianist. So-so singer. Group is a trio with guests, including some fine Eric Naslund trumpet. Impressive talent. Less sure about the identity issues. B+(*)

Paul Zauners Blue Brass: Soil (2006 [2007], PAO/BluJazz): Zauner plays trombone; also runs a label in Austria called PAO, which has released some very interesting records, often world-oriented -- I recommended Quartet B's Crystal Mountain in my first Jazz CG, and it's good enough to plug again, especially since Mihály Borbély is still not a household name in these parts. Looks like Blujazz has picked up the distribution, an improvement publicity-wise. Group is 7-piece: two brass, two reeds, piano (often Fender Rhodes), bass, and drums, with a lot of loose interplay among the horns. Starts off with Abdullah Ibrahim's "African Market Place," a surefire way to warm my heart and wiggle my toes, and returns to Africa for Osibisa's "Vo Ja Jo." Even better is a Latin thing by baritone saxophonist Peter Massink, called "Birds Have to Fly." Standards like "Georgia on My Mind" and "Come Rain, Come Shine" are nicely interwoven, as is a Louis Armstrong tribute. [B+(***)]

Paul Zauners Blue Brass: Soil (2006 [2007], PAO/BluJazz): Austrian trombonist, runs a label with exceptional good taste, proves to be a worldwise connoisseur, mixing two African pieces with American standards and two originals, polishing them all up to a fine lustre. B+(***)

Carry Over

The following records, carried over from the done file at the start of this cycle, were also under consideration for this column.

  1. Ralph Alessi & This Against That: Look (2005 [2007], Between the Lines) B+(***)
  2. Rodrigo Amado/Kent Kessler/Paal Nilssen-Love: Teatro (2004 [2006], European Echoes) B+(**)
  3. "Killer" Ray Appleton/Melvin Rhyne: Latin Dreams (2004 [2006], Lineage) B+(**)
  4. The Leonisa Ardizzone Quartet: Afraid of the Heights (2006 [2007], Ardijenn Music) B+(***)
  5. Lynne Arriale Trio: Live (2005 [2006], In+Out/Motema) B+(***)
  6. Carlos Barretto Trio: Radio Song (2002 [2007], Clean Feed) B+(***)
  7. Richie Barshay: Homework (2004-05 [2007], AYVA) B+(***)
  8. Alvin Batiste: Marsalis Music Honors Alvin Batiste (2006 [2007], Marsalis Music/Rounder) B+(**)
  9. Stefano Bollani: Piano Solo (2005, [2007], ECM) B+(**)
  10. Peter Brötzmann Group: Alarm (1981 [2006], Atavistic) B+(***)
  11. Rob Brown Trio: Sounds (2006 [2007], Clean Feed) B+(**)
  12. Dave Burrell: Momentum (2005 [2006], High Two) B+(***)
  13. Chris Byars: Photos in Black, White and Gray (2006 [2007], Smalls) A-
  14. Chicago Underground Trio: Chronicle (2006 [2007], Delmark) B+(**)
  15. Nels Cline/Wally Shoup/Chris Corsano: Immolation/Immersion (2005, Strange Attractors) C+
  16. Nels Cline: New Monastery: A View Into the Music of Andrew Hill (2006, Cryptogramophone) B+(**)
  17. Harry Connick Jr.: Chanson du Vieux Carré (2003 [2007], Marsalis Music/Rounder) B+(**)
  18. Harry Connick Jr.: Oh, My Nola (2006 [2007], Columbia) B+(***)
  19. The Crimson Jazz Trio: The King Crimson Songbook Volume One (2005, Voiceprint) B+(***)
  20. Kenny Davern/Ken Peplowski: Dialogues (2005 [2007], Arbors) B+(***)
  21. Ernest Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble: The Messenger: Live at the Original Velvet Lounge (2005 [2006], Delmark) B+(***)
  22. Tony DeSare: Last First Kiss (2006 [2007], Telarc) B+(***)
  23. Liberty Ellman: Ophiuchus Butterfly (2005 [2006], Pi) B+(**)
  24. John Ettinger: Kissinger in Space (2006, Ettinger Music) B+(***)
  25. Robin Eubanks + EB3: Live Vol. 1 (2006 [2007], RKM) B+(**)
  26. Alvin Fielder Trio: A Measure of Vision (2005-06 [2007], Clean Feed) B+(***)
  27. Joel Futterman/Alvin Fielder/Ike Levin Trio: Live at the Blue Monk (2006, Charles Lester Music) B+(**)
  28. Gold Sparkle Trio With Ken Vandermark: Brooklyn Cantos (2002 [2004], Squealer) B+(***)
  29. Maria Guida: Soul Eyes (2007, Larknote) B+(**)
  30. Joan Hickey: Between the Lines (2006, Origin) B+(**)
  31. Hiromi's Sonicboom: Time Control (2006 [2007], Telarc) B-
  32. Dave Holland Quintet: Critical Mass (2005 [2006], Dare2/Sunnyside) B+(***)
  33. John Hollenbeck & Jazz Bigband Graz: Joys & Desires (2004 [2006], Intuition) B+(***)
  34. Lauren Hooker: Right Where I Belong (2006 [2007], Musical Legends) B+(***)
  35. The Jazz O'Maniacs: Sunset Cafe Stomp (2005 [2007], Delmark) B+(**)
  36. Jon-Erik Kellso: Blue Roof Blues (2007, Arbors) B+(***)
  37. The Ray Kennedy Trio: Plays the Music of Arthur Schwartz (2006 [2007], Arbors) B+(***)
  38. Omer Klein/Haggai Cohen Milo: Duet (2006, Fresh Sound New Talent) B+(**)
  39. Steve Kuhn Trio: Live at Birdland (2006 [2007], Blue Note) B+(***)
  40. David Kweksilber + Guus Janssen (2003-06 [2006], Geestgronden) B+(***)
  41. Matt Lavelle Trio: Spiritual Power (2006 [2007], Silkheart) A-
  42. Jerry Leake: The Turning: Percussion Expansions (2005 [2006], Rhombus Publishing) B+(***)
  43. Brad Leali Jazz Orchestra: Maria Juanez (2004 [2007], TCB) B+(***)
  44. George Lewis: Sequel (For Lester Bowie) (2004 [2006], Intakt) B+(***)
  45. John Lindberg/Karl Berger: Duets 1 (2004 [2007], Between the Lines) B+(**)
  46. Lisbon Improvisation Players: Spiritualized (2006, Clean Feed) B+(***)
  47. Francisco Mela: Melao (2005 [2006], AYVA) B+(***)
  48. Miles Okazaki: Mirror (2006 [2007], CDBaby) B+(**)
  49. William Parker & Hamid Drake: First Communion + Piercing the Veil (2000 [2007], AUM Fidelity, 2CD) A-
  50. William Parker & Hamid Drake: Summer Snow (2005 [2007], AUM Fidelity) B+(**)
  51. Powerhouse Sound: Oslo/Chicago Breaks (2005-06 [2007], Atavistic, 2CD) A-
  52. Les Primitifs du Futur: World Musette (1999 [2006], Sunnyside) A-
  53. Queen Mab Trio: Thin Air (2005 [2006], Wig) B+(**)
  54. Samo Salamon NYC Quintet: Government Cheese (2004 [2006], Fresh Sound New Talent) B+(**)
  55. Slavic Soul Party! Technochek Collision (2007, Barbès) B+(***)
  56. The Stryker/Slagle Band: Latest Outlook (2006 [2007], Zoho) B+(***)
  57. John Taylor: Angel of the Presence (2004 [2006], CAM Jazz) B+(***)
  58. Thomas Storrs and Sarpolas: Time Share (2005 [2006], Louie) B+(***)
  59. Toph-E & the Pussycats: Live in Detroit (2004 [2006], CD Baby) B+(**)
  60. Gianluigi Trovesi/Gianni Coscia: Round About Weill (2004 [2005], ECM) B+(***)
  61. Tyft: Meg Nem Sa (2005 [2006], Skirl) B+(**)
  62. Lars-Göran Ulander Trio: Live at the Glenn Miller Café (2004 [2005], Ayler) B+(***)
  63. Fay Victor Ensemble: Cartwheels Through the Cosmos (2006 [2007], ArtistShare) A-
  64. Frank Vignola: Vignola Plays Gershwin (2006 [2007], Mel Bay) B+(***)
  65. Larry Vuckovich Trio: Street Scene (2005 [2006], Tetrachord) B+(***)
  66. Torben Waldorff Quartet: Brilliance: Live at 55 Bar NYC (2006, ArtistShare) B+(***)
  67. Bennie Wallace: Disorder at the Border: The Music of Coleman Hawkins (2004 [2007], Enja/Justin Time) B+(**)
  68. David S. Ware Quartet: Renunciation (2006 [2007], AUM Fidelity) A-
  69. Dan Willis: Velvet Gentlemen (2003 [2006], Omnitone) B+(***)