Jazz Consumer Guide (18):
These are the prospecting notes from working on Jazz CG #18. 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. Brackets
are also used for qualifying notes: "advance" refers to a record
that was reviewed on the basis of an advance of special promo
copy, without viewing the final packaging; "Rhapsody" refers to
a record that was reviewed based on streaming the record from
the Rhapsody music service; in this case I've seen no packaging
material or promotional material, except what I've scrounged up
on the web. In some of these cases there is a second note, written
once I've settled on the grade. Rarely there may be an additional
note written after grading.
These were written from Aug. 4 to Dec. 22, 2008, 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 293. The
count from the previous file was 291
(before that: 240, 259).
Rabih Abou-Khalil: Em Português (2007 , Enja):
It looks like the German label Enja finally has a US distributor
(Allegro), so we may start seeing their records in a more timely
and complete fashion. (For the last several years they've had a
deal where Justin Time selectively reissued their records.) Enja
has been home to Lebanese oud player Abou-Khalil since 1988, with
at least 10 records. They've all had very distinctive packaging:
cardboard foldout cases with metallic ink. This one, with its
purple background and jeweled fishes, is a beauty. Abou-Khalil
started with his native Arabic music, which flows readily into
jazz due to their joint emphasis on improvisation, but over the
years he's moved fluidly through the realms of European folk
musics -- Morton's Foot (2004) is an especially good
example. Here he goes whole hog into Portugal, setting out an
album totally dominated by Ricardo Ribeiro's vocals. I would
have preferred more instrumental space, maybe a horn beyond
Michel Godard's occasional tuba. The best thing here is the
way the oud weaves through the whole tapestry.
Eric Alexander Quartet: Prime Time: In Concert
(2007 , High Note, CD+DVD): Straight-laced tenor saxophonist,
the very model of a modern mainstream player, with a broad tone and
plenty of energy. I've long admired his work, citing his Dead
Center in an early Jazz CG, but he's slipped up quite a bit the
last couple of years -- Temple of Olympic Zeus also made JCG,
but as a dud. This one is a return to form, probably because the
parameters are so straightforward, and the rhythm section -- David
Hazeltine on piano, John Webber on bass, Joe Farnsworth on drums --
is perfectly suited to the task. Haven't watched the DVD, which
looks to be the same session, in different order, with two extra
songs and a longer version of "Nemesis."
Eric Alexander Quartet: Prime Time: In Concert
(2007 , High Note, CD+DVD): After a stretch of three or
four lousy records -- including his Temple of Olympic Zeus
dud, and his part in David Hazeltine's The Inspiration Suite,
a record that's only barely escaped my duds list -- this is a
return to form. He's a powerful mainstream sax player, and he
charges straight ahead through everything here. Hazeltine, John
Webber, and Joe Farnsworth provide their usual solid support.
The whole thing, and then some, is also on the DVD, if you're
into that sort of thing.
Rashied Ali/Charles Gayle/William Parker: By Any Means:
Live at Crescendo (2007 , Ayler, 2CD): By Any Means
is probably meant to be the group name, but the principals are
listed on the front cover, top to bottom as above (that would be
alphabetically), and their names go further toward explaining
what this is or why anyone should care. This is the same trio
that recorded, under Gayle's name, Touchin' on Trane back
in 1991 -- one of those Penguin Guide crown albums. So
it's a little disconcerting that this gets off so awkwardly at
first -- even more so that Parker is the odd man out. Ali gets
3 of the first 4 pieces; Gayle the other one and the next 3;
Parker recovers on his own 3-song second disc stretch, ending
with a group improv. The sound isn't all that sharp. The moves
are unexceptional for these guys -- Gayle at full speed is
quite a treat, but he's been there and done that many times
Misha Alperin: Her First Dance (2006 , ECM):
Ukrainian pianist, currently based in Norway. Has a couple of well
regarded ECM albums from 1995-97, but little since. Everything in
ECM's current batch (well, except for the Evan Parker) can be viewed
as some sort of chamber music, but this one most of all. Unorthodox
trio, with Arkady Shilkloper on French horn and flugelhorn and Anja
Lechner on cello -- a combination that doesn't produce much momentum.
Misha Alperin: Her First Dance (2006 , ECM):
Was a very slow one, with piano, cello, and French horn or flugelhorn
for a little coloring. Extremely understated, but generates an almost
hypnotic allure, without suspecting as much.
The Stephen Anderson Trio: Forget Not (2008, Summit):
No recording date. AMG thinks this was released in 2004, but booklet
refers to later events, and cover is copyright 2008. A lot of google
noise on Anderson's name, but as best I can figure he studied at UNT,
got a Ph.D., and teaches at UNC-Charlotte. Plays piano. This is his
first album, although he plays on a couple of albums under bassist
Lynn Seaton and one with drummer Joel Fountain. Wrote 7 of 8 songs
here, the exception "For Sentimental Reasons." Jeff Eckels plays
bass, Fountain drums. Solid stuff, thoughtful, logical, forceful --
he's not shy about power chords. Extensive liner notes, with lots of
references to clasical composers.
Angles: Every Woman Is a Tree (2007 , Clean
Feed): Sextet, file under Swedish alto saxophonist Martin Küchen,
who wrote all the pieces, produced the album, wrote the liner notes,
etc. Group includes two more horns: Magnus Broo on trumpet, Mats
Äleklint on trombone. Also vibes (Mattias Ståhl), bass (Johan
Berthling), drums (Kjell Nordeson). Six pieces, titles reflect
war (or antiwar) themes. Takes a while to brew, but the mulitple
hornplay really takes charge in the third cut, "My world of mines,"
and the group rarely flags thereafter.
Roy Assaf & Eddy Khaimovich Quartet: Andarta
(2007 , Origin): Two Israelis, who met by chance in New York
and found they fit. Assaf plays piano; Khaimovich bass. The quartet
fills out with Robin Verheyen on sax and Ronen Itzik on drums, but
Verheyen sits out a couple of cuts to make way for Roy Hargrove on
trumpet. Postbop with a dash of world groove.
Asaf Sirkis Trio: The Monk (2007-08 , SAM
Productions): Israeli drummer, b. 1969 in Petah-Tikva; left Israel
in 1998 for Holland, then France, finally settling in London, where
he joined Gilad Atzmon's Orient House Ensemble. Trio includes electric
bassist Yaron Stavi and guitarist Tassos Spiliotopoulos. The electric
instruments give the record a fusion feel, but upside down, with the
drums out front and the chord instruments striving to catch up. Fifth
album as a leader -- three with a group called Inner Noise. Sounds
like someone to explore further.
Chet Baker: Chet in Chicago (1986 , Enja):
With the Bradley Young Trio -- Young on piano, Larry Gray on bass,
Rusty Jones on drums -- plus tenor saxophonist Ed Peterson on three
cuts. The fifth volume of Enja's Chet Baker Legacy series,
sweeping up the previously unreleased leftovers from a long and
notable career. Sprightly piano, fine trumpet, and Baker whisking
his way through his umpteenth "My Funny Valentine."
Patricia Barber: The Cole Porter Mix (2008, Blue
Note): Advance copy, had it a long time, played it a couple of times
in the car, and was itching to get along with it. First impression
was that Barber's down-and-out voice and demeanor was a poor match
for the supremely buoyant Porter. She literally tackles ten Porter
tunes, blocking them, wrassling them to the ground, rubbing dirt in
the wounds. They're slower and smokier than ever before. Neal Alger's
guitar is the dominant instrument, working the same vein, but five
songs have tenor sax solos which break the mold -- there's nothing
depressive about the way Chris Potter plays here. Three originals
thus far seem more for flow than competition. Looking forward to a
[B+(***)] [advance, Sept. 16]
Patricia Barber: The Cole Porter Mix (2007 ,
Blue Note): She takes Porter as a fellow modernist aesthete and
drags him into a world where modernity's future has dimmed: the
songs are slower, sadder, hazier -- flippant irony giving way to
ambiguity. But the guitar-driven music is, if anything, even more
art deco elegant. Chris Potter's tenor sax breaks grab you every
time, then fade into the smoke.
Jeff Barone: Open Up (2008, Jazzed Media):
Guitarist, b. 1970 Syracuse, NY; studied at Ithaca College
and Manhattan School of Music; based in NYC; second album.
Most of the cuts here are in a group with Ron Oswanski on
organ and Rudy Petschauer on drums, so much so that the
record often falls into a slick groove bordering on smooth.
There are horns, too, which ultimately prove superfluous,
although Joe Magnarelli opens on trumpet like it's his own
album. I like the exceptions better, including a solo piece
called "Quiet Now." Ends with an alternate take of "Falling
in Love With Love" which holds up better than the main take,
possibly because it's set off from the flow, or maybe because
it comes off less cluttered.
Jorge Lima Barreto: Zul Zelub (2005 , Clean
Feed): Portuguese pianist, b. 1949. I've seen a note that credits
him with several books and 16 records, mostly working through groups:
AnarBand (1972), Conceptual Music Association (Associaçao Música
Conceptual, with Carlos Zingaro, 1973), Telectu (with Vitor Rua,
since 1982). Also listed in a "classical composers database" --
good chance some of his work is classified as postclassical avant
whatever. AMG knows about three records (including one Telectu),
plust side credits with Raimundo Fagner, Derek Bailey, Carlos
Bechegas. This is solo piano plus sound effects. The 45:12 "Zul"
is accompanied by "radio SW" -- a source of common tuner sweep
noise. For the 30:10 "Zelub" he uses "4 cd players." The latter
are lower key and offer less contrast in a slightly slower, but
still remarkable, piece. The former is quite wonderful. The piano
as a brittle sound, something I associate with prepared pianos,
but there's nothing in the notes about that, and the effect is
Kenny Barron: The Traveler (2007 , Sunnyside):
First time through I was getting ready to slam this when a track with
guitarist Lionel Loueke caught my ear -- reminded me that my favorite
Barron record paired him with another guitarist, Mino Cinelu, Swamp
Sally (1995, Verve). Loueke appears on three cuts here: one a duo
with the pianist, two augmenting the trio, one of those with vocalist
Gretchen Parlato. Another pass highlights some other points, but they
remain scattered. Ann Hampton Callaway's vocal is nuanced, but Grady
Tate's isn't. Parlato isn't a plus. Loueke fairs better with the trio
than in the duo, which I score heavily for Barron. Soprano saxophonist
Steve Wilson's three pieces improve on rehearing. I can't say whether
I'd like Barron's trio better without the distractions, but here they
come as a relief. And Barron closes with a fine solo on Eubie Blake's
"Memories of You."
Michael Bates: Clockwise (2008, Greenleaf Music):
Bassist, composer, grew up in Canada, played in hardcore and punk
bands before settling into jazz. Has three albums, some attributed
to Michael Bates' Outside Sources, although Bates is the only one
on all three albums. (Actually, my copy, with no mention of Outside
Sources, has a different cover from the one shown on the band's
website and Myspace page. The label's website shows my cover.)
Pianoless quartet this time, with Russ Johnson on trumpet, Quinsin
Nachoff on sax or clarinet, and Jeff Davis on drums. It's worth
the trouble trying to focus on bass/drums, which provide the
foundation for all the free-flying sparks.
B+(***) [Sept. 8]
John Beasley: Letter to Herbie (2008, Resonance):
Pianist, b. 1960 in Louisiana. Toured with Miles Davis and Freddie
Hubbard in the 1980s, cut a couple of crossover albums on Windham
Hill, scratched out a living doing ad jingles and filmworks. Plays
Fender Rhodes and synth as well as piano. Mostly Hancock songs,
with two originals and one by Wayne Shorter. Christian McBride,
Jeff "Tain" Watts, and Roy Hargrove get their name on the front
cover as "featuring" while Steve Tavaglione, Michael O'Neill, and
Louis Conte don't. Emphasizes Hancock's hard bop side over his
fusion moves, which is probably for the best.
Bryan Beninghove: Organ Trio (2007 , CDBaby):
No hint he made any effort to think up a label name, but it's in
the catalog at CDBaby. Tenor saxophonist (credit just: Saxophone),
originally from suburban Baltimore, studied at William Paterson
University (Wayne, NJ), now based in Jersey City. First record,
didn't put much thought into the title either: just exactly what
it claims, a trio with Kyle Koehler on Hammond B-3, Don Williams
on drums. Wrote 4 of 9 songs; no obvious pattern to the covers.
Everyone pumps hard, plays heavy. Reminds me of Willis Jackson.
Evidently Beninghove has other projects, but he's pretty convincing
in this one.
Judith Berkson: Lu-Lu (2006 , Peacock):
Singer, based in Brooklyn, no more bio available. First record,
solo, plays piano/Wurlitzer. Four originals, five covers, 38:11
total, which is really quite enough. Slow and arty, with little
of special interest, although the closing "Some Enchanted Evening"
did something -- more haunted than enchanting, but something.
Will Bernard: Blue Plate Special (2008, Palmetto):
Guitarist. Seemed to have an interesting take on postbop postfusion,
but since he signed with Palmetto he's settled into a light funk
groove which is buoyed mostly by working with competent artisans
like John Medeski and Stanton Moore. Closes with a sweet "How
Great Thou Art."
Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra: We Are
MTO (2005 , Mowo!): Different label, otherwise they
could have called it MTO Volume 2. Bernstein's downtown big
band is a spinoff from his work on Robert Altman's Kansas City
film, basically an attempt to update the blues-based swing bands
that toured around Kansas City in the 1920-30s. Or, at Bernstein
puts it in explaining the title cut: "Don Redman meets Funkadelic
at Count Basie's summer home by the lake." Old songs from Redman,
Basie, and Fats Waller -- a nasty, strung-out "Viper Song"; also
obscurities from Cecil Scott and Preston Jackson, a gritty "Makes
No Difference," a hymnal "All You Need Is Love." Vocals on most
pieces by guitarists Matt Munisteri and/or Doug Wamble. Violin by
Charlie Burnham. Even better are the horns, which clash just enough
to remind you that this is post-avant-garde swing.
A- [Later: A]
Gene Bertoncini & Roni Ben-Hur: Smile (2008,
Jazz Foundation/Motéma): Guitar duets. Bertoncini is older (70),
swing-oriented, has a light touch that works well in intimate
settings. Ben-Hur is much younger but possibly as well known,
with 6 albums since 1997. Starts with "Killing Me Softly, seems
like a faux pas to me. Otherwise, the sort of intricate interplay
Emily Bezar: Exchange (2008, DemiVox): Singer,
keyboardist, from San Francisco or Berkeley, has 5 albums since 1993,
maybe more. AMG has her as Alt Pop/Rock, likening her to Kate Bush --
the vocal resemblance is obvious, although I find Bezar a little
more idiosyncratic at times, more arch at others, and overall much
Adam Birnbaum: Travels (2008, Smalls): Pianist,
first album. Group is nominally a quartet, but saxophonist Sharel
Cassity is rarely to be heard. Postbop, I suppose. Bright and
sharp, but runs on.
Ketil Bjørnstad/Terje Rypdal: Life in Leipzig (2005
, ECM): Norwegian pianist, b. 1952, not sure how many records,
but at least a dozen since 1990, some recordings since 1973; also has
written 20-some books, mostly novels. Guitarist Rypdal is better known,
a major figure at ECM since 1970; trends toward fusion, although he
can also wax lyrical, and has produced a good deal of aural wallpaper.
Duets, reprising several pieces from The Sea, a 1994 album by
a quartet of the same name, a superset. Rypdal's riffs dominate the
sound here in one of his more robust performances. The piano mostly
adds rhythm, a fair trade.
Ketil Bjørnstad/Terje Rypdal: Life in Leipzig
(2005 , ECM): Duo, recorded live during the Leipziger
Jazztage, which has some effect in pumping up the volume of
the sound somewhat harshly. Rypdal's guitar sometimes sounds
a little violinish. Bjørnstad's piano cuts through that, adds
some rhythm, but never quite takes charge.
Art Blakey and the Giants of Jazz: Live at the 1972 Monterey
Jazz Festival (1972 , MJF): Not a happy period in the
drummer's career, but he plays with great physicality here, leading
a ragtag crew of superstars in what could pass as a Jazz at the
Philharmonic blowout; Roy Eldridge, Clark Terry, Sonny Stitt, and
Kai Winding are natural jousters who offers great excitement but
no surprises; the mystery is left to the troubled pianist in one
of his last performances, but Thelonious Monk comps engagingly and
takes a nice feature on "'Round Midnight."
Walt Blanton: Monuments (2006 , Origin):
Plays trumpet, based in Las Vegas, evidently teaches at UNLV,
has two previous albums. This is a trio with Tony Branco on
piano and John Nasshan on drums, also Las Vegas based. Improv
set, free jazz, not so far out but holds your interest, full
of little surprises. At least I'm surprised -- needs another
Walt Blanton: Monuments (2006 , Origin):
Trumpet player; front cover also names Tony Branco (piano) and
John Nasshan (drums). All are based in Las Vegas, and play free
jazz -- not real far out, but open enough to keep you off guard.
Carla Bley and Her Remarkable Big Band: Appearing Nightly
(2006 , Watt): Aside from daughter Karen Mantler on organ, a pretty
standard big band configuration: four trumpets, four trombones, five reeds,
piano, bass, drums. Half or more are well known names, mostly with lengthy
associations with Bley: Lew Soloff, Gary Valente, Wolfgang Pushnig, Andy
Sheppard, Julian Argüelles, Steve Swallow, Billy Drummond. The layering
is impeccable, and she make especially good use of the trombones.
The Complete Arista Recordings of Anthony Braxton
(1974-80 , Mosaic, 8CD): I'll write more about this soon, but
on first pass this half lives up to my memories and expectations,
which include the notion that it's historic enough that we should
grin and bear the other half. I got to this set rather late, so
the story has been rehearsed many times recently. As jazz was in
near free-fall in the 1970s -- icons from both the first and second
generation of jazz stars were dying off or dropping out (Armstrong,
Ellington, Hawkins, Powell, Coltrane, Monk), important labels were
failing, the audience was going pop happy with Joni Mitchell and
Steely Dan -- Braxton emerged as the enfant terrible of the Chicago
avant-garde. Against the tide, ex-Colombia Records honcho Clive
Davis made several moves to jazz up his new Arista label: importing
the Freedom label from France, repackaging the Savoy catalog, and
signing Braxton, who was given free hand to release nine albums.
Eventually, Arista's jazz interests waned, the borrowed catalogues
wandering off elsewhere, the Braxtons banished from print. Since
then, Braxton has released a couple hundred albums, none on anything
remotely resembling a major label. Few people, even among jazz fans
and critics, have heard more than a few of them -- I can only claim
28 of them -- and he takes so many risks it's hard to not run into
a few sour tasting ones along the way. Still, for the handful of
folks who were discovering jazz just about the moment Braxton took
center stage, he was nothing short of a revelation. (I've long
wondered whether my generally blasé reaction to Charlie Parker
was the result of getting to Parker after I had adopted Braxton and
Ornette Coleman.) So I've been looking forward to this box since
it was announced -- my only disappointment is that Sony/Legacy
didn't do the deed themselves. (Back when Sony merged with BMG,
which had previously snarfed down Arista, I urged my publicity
contacts there to reissue Braxton -- but the corporation evidently
had higher priorities, like Barry Manilow.) The first three albums
here are the most user-friendly: New York, Fall 1974 and
Five Pieces 1975 managed to be heady and fun at the same
time, a formula scaled up to hurricane force on Creative
Orchestra Music 1976, most obviously with his irresistable
take on John Phillips Sousa. Braxton never again made music so
tempting to a wider audience. With one exception, the rest of the
albums went small, which left the abstract music full of rough
edges: Duets 1976 with Muhal Richard Abrams; For Trio,
with Henry Threadgill and Douglas Ewart swapping reed instruments
and percussion; The Montreux/Berlin Concerts, with a George
Lewis duet and scattered small groups; Alto Saxophone Improvisations
1979, a more civil solo sax album updating his notorious For
Alto (1969); and For Two Pianos, with Frederic Rzewski
and Ursula Oppens playing a long Braxton score. For the exception,
Braxton went huge -- hell, he redefined huge: For Four Orchestras
squared off four 39-piece orchestras on "Opus 82" -- at the time all
of Braxton's compositions had diagrammatic titles although now they're
easier to keep track of with numbers -- sprawling over three LPs, now
filling up the last two CDs here. The latter is, relatively speaking,
a throwaway, but it's pretty listenable after all these years.
Anthony Braxton/Milford Graves/William Parker: Beyond Quantum
(2008, Tzadik): Five pieces, named "First Meeting," "Second Meeting," etc.
The "Fourth Meeting" is the most immediately compelling -- probably just
the straightest and most accessible. Braxton plays "saxophones": alto is
his preferred tool, and he's one of the most dexterous and expansive alto
saxophonists ever, especially when he doesn't have to navigate his own
contorted compositions. He plays sopranino toward the end; probably others,
but he gets such a wide range of sound out of alto I could be wrong. Graves
is a little-recorded percussion legend, adding some vocalizing and other
strange effects here and there. Parker is a massively-recorded bass legend.
Much food for thought all around.
Brazilian Trio: Forests (2007 , Zoho):
Strange to name your group that. Brazil is a large country, and
its place in the international music business is ever larger --
by most accounts, the second largest music market after the US.
There must be dozens of Brazilian trios of note. Moreover, it's
becoming increasingly clear that there is no typical Brazilian
music: there are numerous indigenous styles, plus fusions with
just about every manner of music from around the world, so what
should we take the label to mean? (Other than that most Americans
don't know diddley about Brazilian music?) On another level, the
principals here have names which are recognizable -- at least I
recognize them, which doesn't quite qualify them as household
names -- so they have no need to lurk behind this cover. Indeed,
the label shows a hint of recognizing this in that they list the
names (albeit in small and poorly contrasting type) on the front
cover: Duduka Da Fonseca (drums/percussion), Helio Alves (piano),
Nilson Matta (bass). All write pieces (as well as Messrs. Lins,
Pascoal, and Nascimento). Didn't expect much when I dropped this
in, but Alves is as fluent in Bud Powell as in samba, and Matta
feeds him an especially strong rhythm track in "Paraty." Will
play it again.
Randy Brecker: Randy in Brasil (2006 , MAMA):
The surviving Brecker Brother. Has a checkered, mostly fusion-oriented,
solo career, but pops up in other contexts, like the Mingus Big Band.
Not sure how much Brazilian music he's done in the past, but he was
married to Eliane Elias, which certainly counts for something. This
one was cut in Brazil, produced by keyboardist Ruriá Duprat, with a
local band including guitarist Ricardo Silveira. Two originals, plus
a lot of Djavan, Ivan Lins, Gilberto Gil, and João Bosco. Flows well,
and the trumpet is competent, but nothing stands out.
Wolfert Brederode: Currents (2006 , ECM):
Dutch pianist, b. 1974. AMG lists one previous album. This one
adds clarinets (Claudio Puntin) to piano trio. Starts with an
easy-flowing rhythmic piece, a mode he returns to now and then.
In between are tone poem things, where the clarinet leads. Seems
simple, and probably is, but as it sinks it it's very attractive.
Dave Brubeck: 50 Years of Dave Brubeck: Live at the Monterey
Jazz Festival 1958-2007 (1958-2007 , MJF): Starts with
Paul Desmond for three 1958-66 quartet cuts and closes with three
2002-07 quartets with Bobby Militello on alto sax -- a sense of
continuity and balance unlikely in any 50-year span. Gerry Mulligan
figures in between, and only one cut lacks a horn, but the unique
pacing of the pianist comes through again and again.
The John Bunch Trio With Guest Frank Wess: Plays the
Music of Irving Berlin (Except One) (2008, Arbors): That's
the back-cover version of the title. Arbors often has different
versions of titles on the spine, front cover, back cover, and the
disc itself. I usually choose the more compact spine, but this
time I figured I'd let them spell it all out. The "except one" is
a song by Gus Kahn, Carmen Lombardo, and Johnny Green: "Coquette."
The other eleven songs are Berlin standards, half deeply ingrained
in every musical consciousness, half less so, allowing for breaks.
Bunch is a veteran swing pianist, b. 1921, Indiana; reportedly
learned to arrange for big bands as a POW in WWII Germany; worked
for Georgie Auld, Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson, Tony Bennett;
later pops up in groups with Bucky Pizzarelli and Scott Hamilton.
Always a delight, his lithe tone meshes especially well here with
Frank Vignola's guitar and John Webber's bass -- the famous melodies
float by as light as clouds, which is why Wess, on 6 of 12 songs,
can stick to flute and not gum anything up.
John Burnett Swing Band: West of State Street/East of Harlem
(2008, Delmark): Chicago-based big band, four trumpets plus guest Randy
Sandke, four trombone, five reeds, the whole kit and kaboodle. Burnett
hails from England, holds down a steady job as a radio DJ, directs the
band. Frieda Lee sings two songs, and Tony Pons does his best Satchmo
impersonation on "Hello Dolly." Website cites them as "keeping alive the
sounds of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Count Basie and
others" -- most obviously Basie, especially when they crank up "April
in Paris" more than one more time.
California Guitar Trio: Echoes (2007 , Inner
Knot): Three guitarists, none from California except in their minds:
Hideyo Moriya (Tokyo, Japan), Paul Richards (Salt Lake City, UT),
Bert Lams (Brussels, Belgium). Started playing together in 1991 and
have a dozen albums now. This is the first I've heard. All covers,
with Pink Floyd providing the title cut, and someone named Ludwig
Van Beethoven raided twice. Most of the songs sound tolerably New
Agey, with little variation from "Bohemian Rhapsody" to "Tubular
Bells." Two come with vocals, a mistake.
Bill Cantrall: Axiom (2007 , Up Swing):
Trombonist, originally from New Jersey, educated in Chicago, based
in New York. First album. Composed 8 of 10 pieces. Group is a
septet: four horns (Ryan Kisor on trumpet, Sherman Irby on alto
sax, Stacy Dillard on tenor sax), piano (Rick Germanson, bass
and drums. Qualifies as postbop, tightly arranged, well played,
avoids common harmonic unpleasantries by leading with trombone.
François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Jean-Jacques Avenel:
Within (2007 , Leo): Avenel is a French bassist,
best (or almost exclusively) known for his work with Steve Lacy
from 1975 on. He has one record under his own name, a world jazz
piece called Waraba, which I recommend highly. Reportedly,
he also plays sanza here (according to the booklet) or kalimba
(according to the label's website). Carrier plays alto and soprano
sax, mostly the former. He's released a number of records since
1998, mostly trios, virtually all with drummer Michel Lambert.
Three pieces here, the middle one called "Core" runs 40:18. Takes
a while to kick in, and requires more attention than I normally
muster, but I've always loved Carrier's sound, and find the
intricate free improv fascinating. [Note: Available on CD, but
also as a download for $6.49, a bump up from Leo's usual $5.49
price, probably reflecting the declining value of the dollar.
The downloads are available in OGG format, which sounds like a
good idea to me, but it wasn't easy to get them -- actually, I
just tried some of their 30-second samples -- to play on a MS
Windows machine. Wound up downloading and installing zipf and
firefox. One reason I thought of the download option is that
Carrier has a new 7-CD set available as download-only on Ayler
Records -- a label I regard highly, but haven't listened to
since they switched to download-only releases, figuring it's
all too much hassle. But I'm starting to be tempted.]
François Carrier: The Digital Box (1999-2006 ,
Ayler, 7CD): Download only, as I understand it, although the label
very generously provided clumsy me with a set of CDRs, packaged with
their usual exceptional care. (Ayler has been going more and more
to download-only product, which I always thought a shame, not least
because their original artwork and packaging is so nice. I understand
they're still producing the artwork, which can be downloaded with the
music, so you can print your own packaging -- not that you're going
to be able to print it on slick card stock.) Sometimes I complain
about multi-disc sets being too much extra work, but one way to
handle that is to just let them flow into a single impression --
and that's a pleasure here. Carrier plays alto sax, increasingly
soprano sax as well. A free player, I go back and forth on how
original or distinctive he is, but he has a spirit and clarity of
vision that becomes increasingly compelling the longer he plays.
First disc here is a 1999 trio with Dewey Redman joining on on
one cut. The rest of the material runs from 2004-06: two discs
of duets with drummer Michel Lambert (a constant presence on all
7 discs); two trio discs with bassist Pierre Côté; two quartet
discs with guitarist Sonny Greenwich and bassist Michel Donato.
The bassless duets run a little slower, working through short,
relatively patchy pieces, more like practice, or work even. The
others offer long takes, the trios more improv, the quartet a
long thematic piece called "Soulful South." It adds up to more
than the sum of the parts.
Bill Carrothers: Home Row (1992 , Pirouet):
Pianist, b. 1964, based in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan -- home
of one of the great jazz fiction in cinema: Jimmy Stewart, in
Anatomy of a Murder, hops out of his convertible and strides
into a local bar, where Duke Ellington is playing. AMG starts Carrothers'
discography in 1999, listing 11 albums. Carrothers' webpage shows 20
album covers, but doesn't offer a discography. This was cut much earlier.
With Gary Peacock on bass and Bill Stewart on drums. Sounds a bit rough
to me -- "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" is rushed almost unrecognizably,
to no clear purpose. Still, an impressive debut -- admittedly, easy to
say after a decade-plus of later records.
Corey Christiansen: Roll With It (2008, Origin):
Guitarist, 37 (I assume that means b. 1971), based in Utah after
some time in St. Louis, second album since 2004. Basically a soul
jazz group, with Pat Bianchi on the B-3, David Halliday on tenor
sax, Matt Jorgensen on drums. Fresher than most; nice tone on the
sax, slick lines from the guitar.
Leonardo E.M. Cioglia: Contos (2007 , Quizamba
Music): Brazilian bassist, b. 1971, working in Brooklyn these days,
with an interesting group: John Ellis (reeds), Mike Moreno (guitar),
Stefon Harris (vibes, 4 cuts), Aaron Goldberg (piano), Antonio Sanchez
(drums). Not much olde Brasil here; more like postbop, sly enough it
escapes the usual traps of ornateness and/or retrovision. Ellis and
Goldberg are more appealing than on their own records. (Harris too,
Ablaye Cissoko/Volker Goetze: Sira (2007 ,
ObliqSound): Cissoko, a Senegalese griot, plays delicate kora and
sings serenely. Goetze plays trumpet, caressing the melodies,
giving them a warm, burnished glow. Graceful and earnest, a bit
Charmaine Clamor: My Harana: A Filipino Serenade
(2008, FreeHam): Vocalist, from the Philippines. Previous album,
Flippin' Out, mixed some native folk with usual standards
for a nice mix of groove and swing. She seems to be going native
here, which is admirable in principle but unfortunately lacking
in groove or swing, or anything recognizable as a beat or pulse.
Mike Clark: Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 1 (2006 ,
Talking House): New label, introducing three volumes in a same-titled
series, the other two by drummer Donald Bailey and saxophonist Billy
Harper -- all veteran players, not a lot under their names, although
Harper is exceptional in several regards. Clark's discography starts
with Herbie Hancock's Headhunters fusion group in 1974, although this
is a pretty straightforward hard bop set, distinguished by bright,
forceful performances from the band: Jed Levy (tenor sax), Donald
Harrison (alto sax), Christian Scott (trumpet), Christian McBride
(bass), Patrice Rushen (piano). Nice drumwork, too.
B+(*) [Jan. 20]
Jay Clayton: The Peace of Wild Things: Singing and Saying the
Poets (2007 , Sunnyside): English vocalist, enjoys a
substantial reputation working well outside the mainstream, although
I'm so far behind the learning curve I can't say much more. Dedicates
this one to Jeanne Lee and Sheila Jordan. Doesn't sound much like
either, but at least that gives you a sense of where she finds peers.
Reminds me a bit of Laurie Anderson at her most austere, with minimal
electronics and some dubbing of background vocals behind her spiel.
PS: Last week I incorrectly identified Jay Clayton as English.
She was born in 1941 in Youngstown, Ohio; spent a little time in Europe,
but has lived most of her life in the US, currently teaching at Vanderbilt.
I thought I knew enough about her I didn't need to do the due dilligence.
In fact, I've heard very little by her, mostly remembering the name
from the Anglo-centric Penguin Guide, and confusing her with
someone else -- probably Norma Winstone. Her new record, The Peace
of Wild Things, is interesting and still in play.
Rebecca Cline and Hilary Noble: Enclave Diaspora
(2007-08 , Enclave Jazz): Noble got top billing last time,
a 2005 album called Enclave (on Zoho) that I liked a lot.
This extends the formula. Cline's a pianist who studied with
Joanne Brackeen and picked up both her latin flair and avant
edge. Noble's a saxophonist who can wax eloquent or turn up the
heat. Quartet, keeping the rhythm bubbling, includes Francisco
Huergo on electric bass; Steve Langone on drums, chocalho, and
pandeira. A little more varied than last time, less conceptually
acute, less of a surprise.
Bill Cole's Untempered Ensemble: Proverbs for Sam
(2001 , Boxholder): Another live recording from the Vision
Festival, belatedly recycled for the rest of us. Sam is alto
saxophonist Sam Furnace, present here, but deceased in 2003. The
Proverbs are from the Yoruba of Nigeria. Cole was born 1937 in
Pittsburgh, where he got BA and MA degrees; got his Ph.D. at
Wesleyan, writing his dissertation on John Coltrane, and taught
from 1974 until retiring in the 1990s at Dartmouth. He's written
books on Coltrane and Miles Davis. His first album under his own
name appeared in 2000; AMG lists 3 prior side credits: Jayne
Cortez, Blaise Siwula, and Ken Colyer. Cole plays exotic wind
instruments, mostly squeaky double reeds from Asia -- Chinese
sona, Indian shenai and nagaswarm, Ghanaian flute, didgeridoo.
He has a half-dozen albums, either duos or Untempered Ensemble.
The latter, as well as many of the duos, include William Parker,
who most likely developed his own taste in exotics from Cole.
Also present here: Furnace (alto sax, flute), Joseph Daley
(baritone horn, tuba, trombone), Cooper-Moore (diddly bow,
rim drums, flute), Warren Smith (percussion), Atticus Cole
George Colligan: Runaway (2007 , Sunnyside):
Pianist, mainstream to postbop, although he's developed a sideline
on Fender Rhodes that qualifies as semi-fusion. Is still under 40,
but has nearly 20 albums since 1996: prodigious, very talented,
has dazzling speed and dynamics ("Ghostland" is a good example
here), a lot of range. Don't think he's every made a weak record,
but this one wanders more than I'd like: four cuts on Fender Rhodes
and/or synths, five cuts with guitarist Tom Guarna, two with Kerry
Politzer vocals, one with Politzer taking over piano while Colligan
plays trumpet. (He previously played drums on Politzer's piano trio
Conference Call: Poetry in Motion (2005-06 ,
Clean Feed): Quartet, consisting of Gebhard Ullman (soprano sax, tenor
sax, bass clarinet), Michael Jefry Stevens (piano), Joe Fonda (bass),
George Schuller (drums). Ullman and Stevens go back ten years, and
Stevens and Fonda go back further, with a co-led group where Fonda
gets top billing. All write. All play free, with some harsh notes,
but mostly inside their framework. Ullman, whom I've often doubted,
is especially solid here.
Sean Conly: Re:Action (2007 , Clean Feed):
Bassist, from Gunnison, CO -- a few hundred miles up river from
here; we used to go trout fishing there, marveling that the cold,
narrow stream there turns into the big muddy that meanders across
the plains here. Based in New York. First album. Writes most of
his own material, although it's hard to get a sense of it, most
being free sax jousts between Michael Attias and Tony Malaby --
good choices for that sort of thing.
Todd Coolman: Perfect Strangers (2008, ArtistShare):
Bassist, based in New York since 1978, teaches at Purchase College,
has a couple of previous albums, a couple of books, a few dozen side
credits going back at least to 1982. The Perfect Strangers are the
composers: seven people I've never heard of who submitted pieces in
response to Coolman's request. The musicians are better known: Eric
Alexander (tenor sax), Brian Lynch (trumpet), Jim McNeely (piano),
John Riley (drums). They make up a sparkling hard bop quintet, with
Lynch standing out -- wonder if producer Jon Faddis favored him.
Cosmologic: Eyes in the Bck of My Head (2006 ,
Cuneiform): San Diego quartet, formed in 1999, same lineup through
four albums: Jason Robinson (tenor sax), Michael Dessen (trombone),
Scott Walton (bass), Nathan Hubbard (drums). Songs are pretty evenly
divided between Hubbard, Dessen, and Robinson. Mostly free jazz,
with two horns flaying apart, the trombone more than holding its
Jerry Costanzo With Andy Farber and His Swing Mavens:
Destination Moon (2004-07 , Semi-Quaver Jazz):
Costanzo is a vocalist, as dead a ringer for Sinatra as I've heard
in many years -- if anything, he makes it look easier, and the band
helps in that regard. Repertoire has something to do with this:
"I Thought About You," "Come Fly With Me," "Young at Heart,"
"Fly Me to the Moon"; with all the flying he throws in one from
Nat Cole: "Straighten Up and Fly Right." Two sessions, separated
by three years and quite a bit of turnover in the band. The edge
goes to the later edition.
Dan Cray Trio: Live: Over Here and Over Heard (2007
, Crawdad): Piano trio, with Clark Sommers on bass, Greg Wyser-Pratte
on drums. Fourth album. One original, plus covers from Jobim, Horace
Silver, Wayne Shorter, Henry Mancini, "More Than You Know," "That Old
Black Magic." Can't think of much to say about it.
Cryptogramophone Assemblage 1998-2008 (1998-2007
, Cryptogramophone, 2CD+DVD): Another jazz label sampler,
founded by Jeff Gauthier to record a series of tributes to the
late Eric von Essen's music, moving on to document work by Alex
and Nels Cline, Mark Dresser, Bennie Maupin, Erik Friedlander,
Myra Melford, various others. A more useful reference than the
Justin Time sampler -- it covers a narrower band of music more
comprehensively, with better documentation -- but still a mere
Brian Cullman: All Fires the Fire (2008, Sunnyside):
Singer-songwriter, from New York, first album. AMG classifies him
as World, mostly based on liner notes he (presumably the same person)
wrote for albums by the likes of Ghazal, the Sabri Brothers, Hassan
Hakmoun, and Vernon Reid (who returns a blurb quote). Hype sheet
quotes someone likening him to Leonard Cohen, which isn't way off
base if you subtract about 95 years off Cohen's voice. Cullman has
a sweet, wry voice, with an effortless meander to the songs, and
something of a philosophical bent. "No God but God" gives me the
Paulo Curado: The Bird, the Breeze and Mr. Filiano
(2006 , Clean Feed): Portuguese alto saxophonist, also plays
a bit of flute (not bad, but a bit of a letdown). Don't have much
biographical info: discography starts 1999, with several appearances
in groups like Lisbon Improvisation Players, but most likely he goes
back further. Bruno Pedroso plays drums. The bassist, as you can
guess, is Ken Filiano, who does his usual superb job, around which
the free improvs spin and dance.
Curlew: 1st Album/Live at CBGB (1980-81 ,
DMG/ARC, 2CD): NYC group, founded in 1979 by saxophonist George
Cartwright, with Tom Cora (cello, indingiti), Nicky Skopelitis
(guitar), Bill Laswell (Fender bass), and Bill Bacon (drums),
who gives way to Denardo Coleman for the CBGB disc. Cartwright
plays alto, tenor, and soprano (listed in that order). The group
has gone on to record 6-8 more albums, mostly on Cuneiform. AMG
styles them as: experimental rock, experimental, avant-prog,
avant-garde, modern creative, jazz-rock, avant-garde jazz. I
don't hear anything particularly rock-ish, but haven't heard
their later albums. The more obvious reference is Ornette, who
had started working with electric guitar a bit earlier, but
when my wife walked in on this, she speculated that it was
Anthony Braxton -- her general-purpose definition for ugly
sax, but not inappropriate here. Will look into this further.
Curlew: 1st Album/Live at CBGB 1980 (1980-81
, DMG/ARC, 2CD): George Cartwright's avant-fusion group
in early creative ekstasis, to borrow a word guitarist Nicky
Skopelitis later used to name his own group, pairing a debut
album plus bonus tracks with a live shot with Denardo Coleman
commandeering the drumkit. The rock element bounces off New
York No Wave in a way that radicalizes the jazz element, so
Cartwright's sax wails more tunefully than Lydia Lunch, and
funk rhythms are free for the taking.
The Miles Davis All-Stars: Broadcast Sessions 1958-59
(1958-59 , Acrobat): Ten tracks from four sessions, with John
Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley missing one each, pianists ranging
from Bill Evans to Red Garland to Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers on bass
except for the cut Candido drops in on; no surprises, at least until
Coltrane catches fire on the last cuts, reminiscent of Bird's Roosts.
Peter Delano: For Dewey (1996 , Sunnyside):
I remember reading a Joshua Redman blindfold test a few years back
where he instantly exclaimed, "gee, doesn't pop sound great." Pop,
of course, was Dewey Redman, and he had one of those sounds that
didn't take a son to recognize. That was my first reaction to this
previously unreleased 1996 album. Redman only plays on three (of
eight) cuts: they jump out of the box, setting the frame so that
Delano's piano trio cuts just seem like filler. They're more than
that: first-rate postbop piano, intense, intricate, innovative.
Of course, there's a lot of that elsewhere, and it never manages
to sound as great as Dewey Redman's tenor sax.
Dominique Di Piazza Trio: Princess Sita (2007 ,
Sunnyside): French bassist, primarily electric, b. 1959 in Lyon. First
album, but appeared on a Gil Evans album in 1987, in John McLaughlin's
trio since 1991, with Bireli Lagrene, and a few others. Trio includes
Nelson Veras on guitar, Manhu Roche on drums. Di Piazza wrote 8 of 12
pieces; Roche one; the others include "Nuages." Sounds to me like the
guitarist has the upper hand, with the bass woven craftily into the
background, but I'm having trouble unpacking it. Veras has one album
on his own. He's an attractive player.
Jason Domnarski Trio: Notes From Underground (2007
, [no label]): Don't have a label for this. Don't know whether
what I have is an advance or final copy: it's in a printed sleeve,
which some larger labels like Palmetto do for advances, but I doubt
that a self-released one-shot would go to the trouble. Piano trio,
with Domnarski on piano, John Davis on bass, Dave Mason on drums.
Second album by Domnarski, who attended Skidmore College and moved to
New York in 2004, and that's pretty much all I know. Seven originals
plus a cover of David Bowie's "Life on Mars." Reminds me a wee bit
of rockish jazz pianists like Esbjörn Svensson and Neil Cowley, but
doesn't connect often enough.
Armen Donelian Trio: Oasis (2007 , Sunnyside):
Pianist. Born in Queens, of Armenian descent, father from Turkey,
mother born in US with roots in Syria; graduated from Columbia in
1972. Has a dozen albums going back to 1980. This is a trio, with
David Clark on bass, George Schuller on drums. Six originals, two
covers -- "Sunrise, Sunset" appeals to me most because the regular
up-and-down lines frame so much variation. Rest needs more time.
Armen Donelian Trio: Oasis (2007 , Sunnyside):
Nice piano trio. Donalian's basic trick is to repeat a rhythm figure
and play off against it -- "Sunrise, Sunset" is a good example, but
not the only one here. Doesn't move far or hard from that model,
which is one reason this never takes off.
Mark Dresser/Ed Harkins/Steven Schick: House of Mirrors
(2006 , Clean Feed): Bassist Dresser is by far the best known of
the three, but Harkins, who plays various trumpets and mellophone, is
co-author of the eight pieces. Harkins has a previous album on Vinny
Golia's 9 Winds label, although may far understate his experience.
Schick plays "multiple percussion." Trumpet always appears somewhat
muddled here, never bright or brassy. One result is that the record
has little sonic presence. Knowing Dresser, that's probably not the
Echoes of Swing: 4 Jokers in the Pack (2006 ,
Echoes of Swing): German group, mostly. Colin Dawson (from England)
plays trumpet and sings two pieces -- doesn't sound like much of a
voice at first, but grows on you. Chris Hopkins (born in US, but
lived most of his life in Germany) plays alto sax. I've run across
him previously as a stride pianist -- good time to put in a plug
for his duet album with Dick Hyman, Teddy Wilson in 4 Hands,
which I shorted as a very high HM -- but he's moved over to make
room for pianist Bernd Lhotzky (born in Germany, listed here as
D/F). The notes credit Lhotzky with his own "critically acclaimed"
piano duet, with Ralph Sutton in 1997; haven't heard it, but his
2006 Arbors album, Piano Portrait, is a respectable-plus
outing. The drummer is Oliver Mewes (just D). Group has been
together ten years, with three previous quartet albums, plus one
by an expanded Echoes of Swing Orchestra. A couple of originals
fit in with the archival projects, which are rarely obvious.
Mathias Eick: The Door (2007 , ECM): Norwegian
trumpet player, b. 1979, also plays guitar and vibraphone here, in a
quartet with Jon Balke (piano, Fender Rhodes), Audun Erlien (electric
bass, guitar), Audun Kleive (drums, percussion), plus Stian Carstensen
(pedal steel guitar) on 3 of 8 cuts. First album, although he's had
a lot of side credits since 2001, notably on Jacob Young's two albums.
Slow, somber ambient jazz, sometimes sumptously gorgeous, but mostly
just plods along, which is fine with me. Balke makes a particularly
Harris Eisenstadt: Guewel (2008, Clean Feed):
Wound up playing this four times straight -- a combination of
distractions and indecisiveness that effectively constitutes a
productivity breakdown. Had I not done so I would have missed
much of what is here, since this record is not only not what
it claims to be -- a celebration of Senegalese pop music, based
on songs from Orchestra Baobab, Super Diamono, Star Number One,
and others -- it also doesn't fit any other recognizable niche.
The closest I can think of is amateur brass band music, played
not for laughs but at least in good humor. Eisenstadt was born
1975 in Toronto; is now based in Brooklyn; plays drums; records
on avant-garde labels, with several interesting albums to his
credit, including a previous afropop excursion, Jalolu.
As a drummer, you'd expect him to try to make more of African
rhythms, but they play no real role here. He backs up four
hornsmen: Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet, flugelhorn), Nate Wooley
(trumpet), Mark Taylor (french horn), and Josh Sinton (baritone
sax). They poke and jab, fill and counter, nothing much that
stands out as a solo. More like they're dallying around until
the murky context emerges, which in time it sort of does.
Karen Emerson: From the Depths (2007-08 , Daring
Kittens): Singer, first album. Has an arresting voice and interesting
phrasing on bopwise material; less so on the Brazilian songs that make
up nearly half of this -- presumably those recorded with Jovino Santos
Neto. The problem is less that the two halves are at odds than that a
handful of awkward spots gum up the works. Otherwise, she could develop
into a striking vocalist.
Bill Evans: Sunday at the Village Vanguard (1961
, Riverside/Keepnews Collection): Always a subtle pianist,
sneaking about here as bassist Scott LaFaro frequently leads and
drummer Paul Motian invents his off-centric drumming; LaFaro died
in a car crash ten days later, his legendary status secured this
weekend, which also yielded Waltz for Debby, this record's
only rival for the highpoint of Evans' career.
Exploding Customer: At Your Service (2005-06
, Ayler): Swedish group, two horns up front -- Martin
Küchen on alto and tenor sax, Tomas Hallonsten on trumpet --
bass and drums in the rear -- Benjamin Quigley and Kjell
Nordeson. Küchen is the effective leader, writing 6 of 7
pieces, his sax more prominent than the trumpet. Like a lot
of Scandinavian groups, they play adventurous free bop with
rock energy. The odd piece out, starting off with a Carla
Bley arrangement of "Els Segadors," adds an infectious Latin
twist, closed out by a riff ("Sin Nombre") from Hallonsten.
Their previous album, Live at Tempere Jazz Happening,
should have been an HM; so should this.
Cynthia Felton: Afro Blue: The Music of Oscar Brown Jr.
(2008, Felton Entertainment): Young singer, certified with: bachelor
of music from Berklee, master of arts in jazz performance from New
York University, doctorate in jazz studies from University of Southern
California. Based in Los Angeles. First album. Long list of musicians
includes Ernie Watts, Jeff Clayton, Wallace Roney, Cyrus Chestnut,
Donald Brown, Jeff "Tain" Watts, Terri Lyne Carrington; also uses
vibes, harp, and violin. Bookends 12 Oscar Brown Jr. songs with two
short takes of "Motherless Child." I don't think the album works.
It has something to do with the chemistry between singer, song, and
band, but I haven't isolated just what it is. Brown was a unique
case: he followed up on the basic vocalese idea but mostly aimed at
writing novelty songs, which were inevitably hit-and-miss and often
even when they worked didn't fit together, novelties being what they
are. Perhaps the songs can't support this much seriousness.
Amina Figarova: Above the Clouds (2008, Munich):
Pianist, b. 1966 in Baku, Soviet Union, now Azerbaijan; based in
the Netherlands. Has at least nine albums since 1995, focusing
more on her compositions than her piano. I figure this as postbop,
probably with some "third stream" elements -- in any case, a mixed
bag, with a lot of horns, some pleasant, promising arrangements.
Probably deserves further research, but hasn't motivated me yet.
Five Play: What the World Needs Now (2007 ,
Arbors): Drummer Sherrie Maricle's small band, a quintet, contrasts
with her big band, DIVA Jazz Orchestra. Both groups are all-female,
more/less swing oriented. (DIVA's latest album was a Tommy Newsom
tribute.) The Burt Bacharach title cut is a bit yucky but helplessly
catchy. Other songs include "Slipped Disc" (Benny Goodman), "Jo-House
Blues" (Toshiko Akiyoshi), "I Am Woman" (Helen Reddy). Musicians are:
Jami Dauber (trumpet, flugelhorn, cornet), Janelle Reichman (tenor
sax, clarinet), Tomoko Ohno (piano), Noriko Ueda (bass). The piano
shines in solo spaces, the rhythm section swings, and the horns take
Carlos Franzetti: Film Noir (2007 , Sunnyside):
Argentine pianist, arranger, composer, b. 1948, moved to Mexico in
1970, US in 1974, now based in New Jersey. More than a dozen albums
since 1995, with classical music and soundtracks outnumbering jazz
titles. Looks like Franzetti only wrote one piece here: "Tango Fatal."
The others are fairly obvious, ranging from "Body Heat" to "A Place in
the Sun" to "Alfie." Andy Fusco gets a "featuring" credit, bringing
his alto sax front and center. Piano-bass-drums are also credited,
but the bulk of the sound belongs to the City of Prague Philharmonic,
whose cheap, lush strings are a plague on the jazz world. As these
things go, super-romantic, lustrous even. Gag me.
Erik Friedlander/Mike Sarin/Trevor Dunn: Broken Arm Trio
(2008, Skipstone): All compositions by cellist Friedlander, so file it
there. Dunn plays bass, Sarin drums. The cello is mostly plucked, more
string band than chamber group. Light, loose, seductive music. Not sure
how deep, but could grow on me even more.
Bill Frisell/Ron Carter/Paul Motian (2005 ,
Nonesuch): I was coming to think that Frisell was avoiding me
when I finally found the right contact and got not just his new
album but some back catalog. I'm never quite sure what I think
of Carter. Bass is an instrument you miss when it's not there,
but rarely listen to when it is. Carter's rep was established
by association with Miles Davis, but has been reinforced only
erratically since then. I've run across records where is sounds
wonderful, and others where it could have been anybody. He's
in between here. Motian is less distinctive than usual, but I
have no doubts as to his import here. His skill at shifting a
piano trio into slightly eccentric orbits is unmatched, so you
can figure he's a big part of the reason the leader's guitar
never slips into cliché. Ten songs: two Frisell originals, one
from Motian, one Carter co-write with Davis, two Monks, four
Americana standards -- one from Broadway, the others country.
Haven't sorted them all, but the last four are marvelous --
even the overdone, overly obvious "You Are My Sunshine."
Bill Frisell: East West (2003-04 , Nonesuch,
2CD): Two live trio sets: one from the Village Vanguard (New York)
in December, 2003 with Tony Scherr (bass) and Kenny Wollesen (drums);
the other from Yoshi's (Oakland, CA) in May, 2004, with Wollesen
again and Viktor Krauss (bass). West mixes three Frisell
originals looped around strong rhythmic figures with three sly
covers -- "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," "Shenandoah," "A
Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" -- for about as fine a demonstration of
Frisell's schtick as I've heard. East is more diverse, a
bit more obscure, and a little shakier, but again the familiar
tunes rendered as minimalist abstractions win out.
Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Summer Suite
(2007 , Libra): A model of composing and arranging for a
group of staunch individualists, a big band that stands on par
with Count Basie's late-1930s juggernaut: Ellery Eskelin and
Tony Malaby on tenor sax; Oscar Noriega and Briggan Krauss on
alto; Andy Laster on barritone; Natsuki Tamura, Herb Robertson,
Steven Bernstein, and Dave Ballou on trumpet; Curtis Hasselbring,
Joey Sellers, and Joe Fielder on trombone; Stomu Takeishi on bass,
Aaron Alexander on drums. Fujii plays piano but is relatively
inconspicuous. Strong solo spots, the tenor saxophonists of
course, but also one or more of the trombonists stand out.
Spans the whole gamut of the genre: loud, quiet, sweet, sour;
pretty good beat, too. The first top-ten record of 2008 I got
to after filling out my ballot. Didn't take any longer last
Satoko Fujii Orchestra Nagoya: Sanrei (2008,
Bamako): To push the Basie comparisons further, this is one of
four territory bands led by Fujii, with Tokyo and Kobe back in
Japan, and New York over here. A while back she released sets
simultaneously from all four, and the Nagoya group was hands
down the winner. They remain an impressive group here, loud
and brassy, with no piano -- Fujii is just listed as conductor.
The pieces are more distributed, with two by Natsuki Tamura,
and two by guitarist Yasuhiro Usui, who seems likely to be
Nagoya's secret ingredient. Starts off fusiony, blasts through
a lot of sci-fi space. Exhilariating much of the time, but
various minor bits I find annoying -- vocal blurts, occasional
squawkfests, a bit wearing.
Satoko Fujii Ma-Do: Heat Wave (2008, Not Two):
A possible problem with recording so often is that so full of
your typical moves seems somewhat ordinary. Fujii is dramatic
as usual; Natsuki Tamura is a little on the rough side, so
he almost matches her for once. Quartet includes Norikatsu
Koreyasu on bass, Akira Horikoshi on drums. Unlike previous
all-Japanese quartets, they show no special fondness for rock
rhythms, so this is kept roughly free. Don't have a lot of
details to go on, not least because the gray-on-black print
is illegible. Much of this would be very impressive in a
blindfold context, but I can point to other albums equal
Renaud Garcia-Fons Trio: Arcoluz (2005 ,
Enja/Justin Time, CD+DVD): French bassist, b. 1962, uses an unusual
5-string double bass, has a technique of tapping strings with the
bow. The fifth string gives him something like cello range. Trio
includes Kiko Ruiz on "flamenco guitar" and Negrito Transante on
drums/percussion. Music draws on flamenco, and reminded me more
than a bit of tango. Garcia-Fons has six albums on Enja, at least
two picked up by Justin Time. DVD adds visuals to the same concert.
I played it but didn't watch much.
Kenny Garrett: Sketches of MD (2008, Mack Avenue):
"MD" would be Miles Davis. Garrett played with Davis at the end
of his run, 1987-92, so there's a connection, one that favors
persistent funk rhythms over ye olde school hard bop. However,
the album subtitle reveals more: "Live at the Iridium featuring
Pharoah Sanders." The live gig is an excuse for stretching it
out and keeping it loose, with five vamp pieces ranging from
9:21 to 14:34. But the real thing going on here is Pharoah
Sanders: at age 68, why on earth doesn't he record more? One
the lions of the 1960s avant-garde, his stringy sound instantly
recognizable from his first record to the present -- a direct
link to Coltrane, but always distinct, a vibe both brighter and
earthier. First cut is something called "The Ring," a minimal
but irresistible rhythm vamp which Sanders turns into distilled
essence of "A Love Supreme." I'm less clear on Garrett's role
in all of this. Coltrane's always been his north star, so I
guess Sanders is a natural interest. But after his Beyond
the Wall dud, this is a complete, delightful surprise.
Mike Garson: Conversations With My Family (2006
, Resonance, CD+DVD): No recording date for the CD, but the
DVD was shot May 7, 2006. Presumably there's some relationship,
but once again I didn't bother with the DVD. Garson rings a bell.
At the time I first heard it, I thought his piano solo in David
Bowie's "Aladdin Sane" was one of the most magnificent things I
had ever heard. Other than that I hadn't noticed him much. Turns
out that before Bowie he started out with Annette Peacock. He has
a dozen or so albums, starting with 1979's Avant Garson.
This has a lot of quasi-classical flourishes, especially when
accented by Christian Howes' violin -- three cuts, but I could
have sworn there were more strings. Claudio Roditti plays trumpet
and/or flugelhorn on two cuts; Lori Bell flute on one; Andreas
Öberg adds guitar on two. The titles are connected with short
interludes, another classical-ish touch. And the piano is rich
and florid -- not something I tend to like, but here I rather do.
Stephen Gauci's Stockholm Conference: Live at Glenn Miller
Café (2007 , Ayler, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1966,
based in Brooklyn, plays free, has a few records out, has yet to
establish himself as a distinctive leader but usually gives a solid
team performance. Two quartet sets here, both with Ingebrigt Håker
Flaten on bass and Fredrik Rundqvist on drums; the first adds Mats
Äleklint's trombone, the second Magnus Broo's trumpet. The trombone
actually has a little more hop to it.
Tobias Gebb & Trio West: An Upper West Side Story
(2008, Yummy House): Drummer-led piano trio, with Neal Miner on bass,
Eldad Zvulun on piano. Drummer Gebb wrote the 4 originals, arranged
the rest. He keeps a slightly metallic beat going through most of the
record, lifting it a bit above the piano. Two guests expand the music:
tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm appears on four cuts, vocalist Champian
Fulton on two (one in common). Both are pluses.
Lafayette Gilchrist: Soul Progressin' (2008, Hyena):
Pianist, based in Baltimore, has played in David Murray groups. This
is his fourth album, the second with a horn-heavy octet he calls the
New Volcanoes. He keeps a regular beat here, as if he's trying to
pass this off as a funk album, but it's more angular, with bits of
dissonance, sometimes a straying horn. I don't recognize anyone in
the band, and none really stand out -- it's easy to imagine someone
like Murray in this mix, which would kick this up to the level of
a nastier Shakill's Warrior. But even with ordinary horns,
this kicks like he's finally onto something.
Gilfema: Gilfema + 2 (2008, ObliqSound): Benin
native Lionel Loueke sets the tone and style here, mostly because
he sings as well as plays guitar, which far outweighs Ferenc
Nemeth's drums and Massimo Biolcati's bass, even though the
latter write equal shares of the music. Loueke straddles jazz
and Afropop without really seeming to belong to either, but
he does have a distinctive sweet-and-slick guitar sound and
some real talent. The "+2" help, too: Anat Cohen on clarinet,
and John Ellis on bass clarinet -- best thing here is when they
pick up a groove and run with it.
Marshall Gilkes: Lost Words (2007 , Alternate
Side): Trombonist, b. 1978 in Maryland, father was "a musician in the
Air Force" -- reminds me of the Robert Sherrill book, Military
Justice Is to Justice as Military Music Is to Music -- based in
Brooklyn; studied with Conrad Herwig and Wycliffe Gordon; plays with
Maria Schneider and David Berger. Second album; wrote all the pieces.
Quinet with Michael Rodriguez on trumpet/flugelhorn, Jon Cowherd on
piano. Postbop, little bit of everything here, sounding promising
then wandering off into something else, also sounding promising.
Dizzy Gillespie Big Band: Showtime at the Spotlite
(1946 , Uptown, 2CD): Diz came up in big bands and preferred
them well into the 1950s, but this is mostly a historical curiosity,
predating his Latin binge with Chano Pozo, with raw audio roughing
up sometimes spectacular solos. Band members include Thelonious Monk,
Milt Jackson, Ray Brown, Kenny Clarke. Sarah Vaughan drops in for a
cameo. Second disc tails off at 37:04.
The Joe Gilman Trio: View So Tender: Wonder Revisited Volume
Two (2004 , Capri): Pianist, b. 1962, based in Sacramento,
where he founded the Capital Jazz Project. Cut two volumes earlier of
Dave Brubeck tunes, following that up here with Stevie Wonder. (Haven't
heard Volume One, or the Brubecks.) Nice set of postbop piano
jazz, only rarely dwelling on Wonder's themes, although I doubt that
this would be anywhere near as melodic without Wonder's starting point.
Marcus Goldhaber: Take Me Anywhere (2007 ,
Fallen Apple): Vocalist, b. 1978, "a suburban kid in Buffalo, NY";
second album. Has a high, thin voice much like Theo Bleckmann's,
but tastes less esoteric, fancying himself as a crooner, with Chet
Baker to fall back on -- compare "I Fall in Love Too Easily,"
which he sings better than Baker, without making the difference
matter. Backed by the Jon Davis Trio -- Davis on piano -- with
Hendrik Meurkens providing a guest harmonica spot. Long: 17 cuts,
75:11. I can imagine some people falling in love with it, but I
can't imagine me ever giving it the time.
Brad Goode: Polytonal Dance Party (2008, Origin):
Trumpet player, b. 1963, from Chicago, lists Cat Anderson among
his teachers; currently teaches in Colorado. Seventh album since
Shock of the New in 1988 -- haven't heard his debut, but
what I have heard suggests more of a postbop/hardbop player. This
quintet is a bit of a change, with some electronics, the emphasis
on groove. Bill Kopper plays guitar/sitar, Jeff Jenkins piano and
other keyboards. Better realized than, say, Nicholas Payton's
or Wallace Roney's jazztronica dabblings, partly because it's
Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band: Act Your Age
(2008, Immergent, CD+DVD): Big band, fifth album since 2001.
Goodwin was born in 1955; plays piano, saxophone (tenor and
alto here). He came up through Louie Bellson's big band. He
wrote about half of the material here; arranged the rest. Band
numbers eighteen, plus some guests, including a sample from Art
Tatum. Fast and slick, packs a punch without looming heavy.
Don't know about the DVD: don't even know if I can access the
"5.1 surround sound versions of all 12 tracks with detailed
on-screen liner notes."
Marco Granados: Music of Venezuela (2008, Soundbrush):
Venezuelan flautist, fronting a group with cuatro, bass, and maracas,
with occasional guests -- two tracks with Francisco Flores on trumpet
raise the bar. Lively, bouncy stuff, played at bebop speeds -- reminds
me of Sam Most more than of any Latins who come to mind, lighter and
more bubbly than Dave Valentin. I like it about as much as I could
imagine liking it.
Al Green: Lay It Down (2008, Blue Note): That he
always sounds so great turns out to be a handicap: it's such a given
that no matter how good his new records sound they'll never measure
up to the old great ones that it's easy to set them aside. Streamed
this first from Rhapsody, liked it, but hedged my bets. Since I got
a copy, I've played it maybe ten times. The songs hold up, notably
without any contribution from Jesus; the guests don't intrude, and
the singer is magnificent. Not Call Me or I'm Still in
Love With You or The Belle Album, of course, but I've
enjoyed this as much as anything recent, and have yet to feel any
need to go back.
Danny Green: With You in Mind (2008 ,
Alante): Pianist, from San Diego, studied at UCSD. First album.
Has an interest in Brazil, including studies with Jovino Santos
Neto. Hype sheet says "File under Jazz, Latin Jazz, Brazilian,"
but this doesn't sound particularly Latin or Brazilian to me --
perhaps a little more consistently grooveful than most postbop.
Green plays some Rhodes and melodica as well as piano. Much of
this is trio, but there's extra percussion by Allan Phillips
and soprano sax by Tripp Sprague.
B+(*) [Jan. 6]
Charlie Haden Family & Friends: Rambling Boy
(2008, Decca): Born 1937 in Shenandoah, IA, into a musical family
which played country and folk music on local radio stations, Haden
picked up the bass, played a bit with Hampton Hawes and Art Pepper,
then not much more than 20 found himself in the Ornette Coleman
Quartet, and the rest, as they say, is history. This is a memoir,
and a showcase for his own musical family, a bunch of folk/country
songs with too many vocalists and a very steady bassist. One cut
is from the scrapbook, billed as "feat. 2-yr-old Cowboy Charlie,"
juvenilia for sure, but you have to cut him some slack for the
yodel, and the back cover photo is beyond cute. Several more cuts
feat. his three daughters, billed as the Haden Triplets -- the
opening "Single Girl, Married Girl" is the album's choice cut.
They could carry their own album, which can't be said for the
two male voices in the Haden family. The Friends are hit and
miss, with Rosanne Cash, Vince Gill, Elvis Costello, and Ricky
Skaggs doing about what you'd expect, and Jack Black doing a bit
better than I expected. Still, the other choice cut here is the
one instrumental, feat. Pat Metheny, a lament on Hurricane Katrina
called "Is This America?" needing no lyrics.
Doug Hamilton: Jazz Band (2007 , OA2): Toronto
big band, together since 1993. Hamilton is a trombonist, but doesn't
play in the band. Didn't find much on him: common name, lots of false
leads. Hamilton and Mark Taylor produced. Taylor's background is
"ex-U.S. Army chief arranger for the Army Blues." Ten members: three
reeds, three brass, guitar, piano, bass, two drummers. Drummer Steve
Fidyk is the only one I recognize. Jim Roberts' guitar stands out
in the mix. Nice, professional job.
Scott Hamilton & Friends: Across the Tracks
(2008, Concord): Sampled this one earlier on Rhapsody. Hamilton
has long been a personal favorite: the original swing-oriented
"young fogey" from the 1970s, now pushing senior citizen status,
with a marvelously light but tasty tone to his tenor sax. This
is an organ group, with Gene Ludwig on B-3, Duke Robillard on
guitar, and Chuck Riggs on drums. Fairly routine stuff, but it
gets better when they slow down to little more than Hamilton's
Lionel Hampton Orchestra: Mustermesse Basel 1953 Part 2
(1953 , TCB): Another Swiss radio shot, with the vibraphonist's
big band -- names include Art Farmer, Clifford Brown, Jimmy Cleveland,
Gigi Gryce, and Quincy Jones -- doing their usual "Hey-Ba-Ba-Re-Bop":
"Setting the Pace," "Flying Home," "Drinking Wine," always "On the
Sunny Side of the Street."
Brian Harnetty: American Winter (2007, Atavistic):
A musician from Ohio, teaches at Kenyon College. This record is
built around Berea College's sound archives, a 75+ year collection
of Appalachian field recordings, radio programs, and oral history.
Some are sung, bringing out the twang of deeply felt voices. Some
are just interviews, old stories. A bit of radio broadcast focuses
on the WWII draft. Most have been augmented with musical flourishes,
mostly percussive. Seems like a highly repeatable formula, but for
now it sounds unique. Harnetty's discography lists 17 items since
2003, mostly self-released, this the only one on a label I've
heard of. AMG files this as folk, but it's pretty avant for that.
Brian Harnetty: American Winter (2007, Atavistic):
Bits of radio news and advertisements, story, song, a little fiddle,
from decades including WWII -- the ceremony launching the draft
lottery is a centerpiece, matched with a snip of Arthur Godfrey
singing "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" -- provide the
human center for Harnetty's electronic soundtrack. Neither the
music nor the samples are all that remarkable, but they merge
into something deeply haunting. Seems like a highly repeatable
formula, and Harnetty's discography lists 17 items since 2003,
but this is the only one I've heard; for now that makes it unique.
Billy Harper: Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 2 (2006
, Talking House): Gospel-tinged tenor saxophonist, cut an
album back in 1975 that inspired the great Italian label Black
Saint. Hasn't recorded much lately -- mostly I've noticed him
popping up in various big bands. Has a thickly muscled tone, a
lot of depth and resonance and, well, soul -- few saxophonists
are as easy to pick out in a blindfold test. First two tracks
feature Amiri Baraka spoken word pieces. Only non-original is
"Amazing Grace." Haven't managed to listen straight through yet,
and there's plenty of time before the delayed official release
date. But it sure is great to hear Harper again, especially when
he really opens up.
[B+(***)] [Feb. 17]
Gene Harris Quartet: Live in London (1996 ,
Resonance): A popular pianist in the Oscar Peterson mode with an
occasional nod to Erroll Garner, not as well known in large part
because he spent most of his career recording first as the Three
Sounds, then in bassist Ray Brown's trio. Jim Mullen's sinuous
guitar enlarges this from trio to quartet. Standards like "Blue
Monk" and "In a Mellow Tone" stretch out past ten minutes because
they're enjoying themselves.
Kieran Hebden/Steve Reid: NYC (2008, Domino):
Hebden is a laptop patch musician, best known for his records as
FourTet. Reid is a storied drummer -- early credits include Martha
and the Vandellas, James Brown, and Fela Kuti -- who cut a couple
of notable avant-garde albums in the 1970s, then largely vanished
until a couple of years ago. His latest record, Daxaar, is
overdue for recognition in my Jazz CG A-list. The pair have two
previous records, listed under Reid's name. This is an advance,
so things may change, but right now it looks like Hebden's name
comes out first. He has an uncanny knack for synth tunes, and
the pieces here would be worth listening to even without Reid's
drumming, but they feel more complete with it.
[B+(***)] [advance, Nov. 18]
Kieran Hebden/Steve Reid: NYC (2008, Domino):
More laptop-centric, more of a lead instrument in any case, the
previous albums credited to Reid first, perhaps in deference to
the elder collaborator, maybe because at first this seemed like
a sidebar to Hebden's Four Tet brand. They now have five records
together, which is most of Hebden's output over the last 3 years.
Doesn't swing a bit, which may be its shortcoming for jazz ears.
Seems to me like one of the things to come, although not the
most impressive of examples.
Dan Heck: Compositionality (2007 , Origin):
Guitarist, graduated from Berklee, was in Seattle for a while with a
band called Bebop & Destruction; now based in South Florida. First
album, calling out trumpeter Thomas Marriott for a featuring role.
Nice, tasty postbop, with the guitar rolling gently off the trumpet
Todd Herbert: The Tree of Life (2007 ,
Metropolitan): Tenor saxophonist, Flash-only website and not
much else, so I'm short on background. Mainstream player --
label website says he "takes John Coltrane as a point of
departure" but he sounds more like Dexter Gordon to me. Leads
a quartet with Anthony Wonsey (piano), Dwayne Burno (bass),
Jason Brown (drums) -- Wonsey gets a lot of space and makes
good use of it. First album was pretty good, and this one is
The Here & Now: Break of Day (2007 ,
OA2): Quintet, with Tatum Greenblatt (trumpet), Ben Roseth (sax),
Drew Pierson (piano), David Dawda (bass), Sean Hutchinson (drums).
I gather they grew up together in Seattle but are now based in
New York. First album. All but Pierson contribute songs. Figure
them for postbop -- neither retro hard bop nor avant-garde, but
somewhere near the cutting of jazz convention.
Michael Higgins: The Moon and the Lady Dancing (2007
, Michael Higgins Music): Guitarist. Cites Joe Pass, Joe Diorio,
Barney Kessel, and others as influences. Second album, a trio with
bassist Jay Anderson and Adam Nussbaum. Very pleasant record.
B+(*) [Jan. 1]
Warren Hill: La Dolce Vita (2008, Koch): Pop jazz
saxophonist, plays alto mostly, also soprano. Has ten or so albums
since 1991. Plays alto with some authority. Hill also programs drum
lines, plays some keyboards, and sings two cuts. The vocals are a
waste, and the grooves are standard issue, bright and bouncy.
Hiromi's Sonicbloom: Beyond Standard (2008, Telarc):
Japanese pianist, full name Hiromi Uehara, b. 1979, came to Berklee
1999, has five US albums since 2003, all on Telarc, where she's
angling for a big audience with some fancy fusion footwork. It's
been hit and miss so far, but she gets some mileage out of these
standards, most impressively an uproarious take on "Caravan." The
band includes Dave Fiuczynski on guitar, Tony Grey on bass, Martin
Valihora on drums. Some things lost me along the way, but at best
the guitar can be spectacular. Ends with the fastest "I Got Rhythm"
I've ever heard.
Dave Holland Sextet: Pass It On (2007 ,
Dare2/Emarcy): One of the great bass players of the last 30-40
years. Started in the avant-garde; emerged around the turn of
the century as the hands-down winner of mainstream polls like
Downbeat's -- I guess we can credit ECM for taming him.
State of the art postbop, synthesizing most of jazz history
into an aggregate stew that neither offers anything startlingly
new or tastefully old. Holland's recent quintets have had a
remarkable balance of forces, with trombone (Robin Eubanks)
and vibes (Steve Nelson) prominent, and no less saxophonist
than Chris Potter. Eubanks looms large here, but Antonio Hart
and Alex Sipiagin aren't in Potter's class; Junior Mance does
a solid job on piano, but he's less distinctive than Nelson.
Not a bad record; just not a very interesing one.
Shirley Horn: Live at the 1994 Monterey Jazz Festival
(1994 , MJF): Very cost-effective: a singer with such voice
and poise a piano trio suits her best, plus she plays a pretty mean
piano; just turned 60, at the peak of her fame coming off a series
of well-regarded albums on Verve, she nails her whole range here --
"The Look of Love," "A Song for You," "I've Got the World on a String,"
"Hard Hearted Hannah."
Maurice Horsthuis: Elastic Jargon (2007 ,
Data): One thing I've found is that there's usually an exception
to any generalization one might make. By now, you know how much
I hate the sound of massed violins, how lame I find classical
string quartets, maybe even how estranged I feel from so much
advanced contemporary composition (or whatever you call it --
maybe only because I get so little opportunity to follow it).
Even at best I figure those things are projects, something that,
given more exposure and understanding, I might some day learn to
sort of like, a little bit at least. But here's an exception:
all strings (4 violins, 2 violas, 3 cellos, double bass, and
electric guitar), a very limited pallette with a lot of sawing
back and forth, but it's really flowing, with waves of ideas,
crashing and bubbling. Need to hold it back as a sanity check.
Horsthuis plays viola. He's part of Amsterdam String Trio, which
has at least four albums. He's also played with Misha Mengelberg's
ICP Orchestra back in the 1980s; also with Han Bennink and Maarten
Altena. Group name could be Maurice Horsthuis' Jargon, in which
case album name might be Elastic.
Maurice Horsthuis: Elastic Jargon (2007 ,
Data): Roughly speaking, a double string quartet plus bass and
guitar -- more precisely, plus an extra cello as well. Horsthuis
plays viola. He dwells somewhere on the border between jazz and
classical, working on occasion with the ICP Orchestra as well
as running the Amsterdam String Quartet. This sounds more like
classical to me, except that it is almost all interesting, with
some brilliant stretches, and nothing that triggers my wretch
Toninho Horta: To Jobim With Love (2008, Resonance):
Banner across the bottom identifies this as belonging to an "Heirloom
Series." No recording date, but it's pitched as a 50th anniversary
celebration of bossa nova -- seems likely to be new. Horta plays
guitar and sings -- make that, plays guitar much better than he sings.
He takes nine songs by Antonio Carlos Jobim, adds three of his own,
plus a stray by Paulo Horta and Donato Donatti, and gives them what
must pass among the nouveaux riches as the luxury treatment. The
results are very mixed: wonderful, awful, permutations thereof. The
band is ridiculously large, with some prominent yanks -- Dave Kikoski
(piano), Bob Mintzer (tenor sax), Gary Peacock (acoustic bass), John
Clark (French horn), Charles Pillow (oboe) -- mixed in with comparable
Brazilians like Paulo Braga and Manolo Badrena and bunches of folks
I've never heard of, many surnamed Horta -- the five flutes give you
an idea. Then there's the 22-piece string section, a surefire recipe
for seasickness. And the backing vocals, another dozen. Gal Costa
even drops in for three cuts. Still, it can be very nice when they
keep it simple, especially when the tune is as irresistible as
Hot Club de Norvège: Django Music (2007 ,
Hot Club): Norwegian quartet, patterned on Django Reinhardt's Hot
Club de Paris, with Jon Larsen on and Per Frydenlund on guitar,
Finn Hauge on violin and harmonica, Svein Aarbostad on bass. Group
formed in 1979 with Larsen and Aarbostad; Hauge joined in 1985.
Don't know how many records -- a dozen or more -- or what they
sound like. This is fairly genteel, rather sweet string music,
with three trad pieces, four from Reinhardt, a couple of originals,
"Coquette," and "My Heart Belongs to Daddy." Hauge sings "I Can't
Give You (Anything but Love)" to open.
Christian Howes: Heartfelt (2008, Resonance):
Violinist, b. 1972, Columbus, OH; now based in New York. Fourth
album since 1997. Small print notes: featuring Roger Kellaway.
Stick describes this as "beautiful, romantic jazz," and that
does seem to be what he's aiming for. When he adds viola things
can get icky, as on the first two cuts. Elsewhere he shows a
Grappelli influence, and pianist Kellaway earns his keep. Bennie
Goodman's "Opus Half" is relatively choice.
Fernando Huergo: Provinciano (2006 , Sunnyside):
Argentine bassist, from Cordoba, graduated from Berklee in 1992,
teaches there and at Tufts. Website claims over 100 albums, 9 as
leader -- most of the latter are in groups, like the Jinga Trio
or Quintet, the Jazz Argentino Band, the Toucan Trio. Credits
include multiple albums with Guillermo Klein and Nando Michelin.
This strikes me as a cross-cultural mixed bag, the distinctively
Argentinian twist on Latin jazz presumably extending beyond the
occasional spots where tango threatens to break out. Otherwise,
it rises and sinks on the strength of Andrew Rathbun's tenor sax
and the weakness of Yulia Musayelyan's flute. Mike Pohjola has
good stretches on piano. May be a sleeper.
Charlie Hunter: Baboon Strength (2008, Spire Artist
Media): Trio, with Hunter on his familiar 7-string guitar, Erik
Deutsch on organ and Casio Tone, and Tony Mason on drums. Fairly
pleasant grooves, and not much more.
Adrian Iaies Trio + Michael Zisman: Vals de la 81st &
Columbus (2008, Sunnyside): Iaies is an Argentine pianist;
b. 1960, Buenos Aires; has 7 CDs since 1998, including a couple with
a group called Tango Reflections Trio. Haven't heard any before, but
it seems to be a safe bet that virtually all of them have a strong
tango interest. Trio includes Pablo Aslan, who has a strong tango
catalog of his own, on bass, and Pepi Taveira on drums. Zisman plays
bandoneón; b. 1981, Buenos Aires, still based there, not the same
as the San Francisco-based mandolinist of the same name. Two cuts
add Juan Cruz de Urquiza on trumpet. Don't think I can suss this
out right now. I'm a sucker for tango, and in that this delivers,
plus something more, to be determined.
Aaron Irwin: Blood and Thunder (2008, Fresh Sound
New Talent): Alto saxophonist, has a previous FSNT album. This is
a sextet, with Chris Cheek on tenor sax, Ben Monder on guitar, and
Eliza Cho on violin. Postbop, almost orchestral, with the two saxes
complementing each other nicely -- long, intricate stretches come
off as quite lovely.
Anne Mette Iversen: Best of the West + Many Places
(2006-07 , Buj'ecords, 2CD): Bassist, from Denmark, now based
in Brooklyn, that's all I know. Quartet includes John Ellis (tenor
and soprano sax), Danny Grissett (piano), and Otis Brown III (drums).
On the first disc (Best of the West) they are joined by the
string quartet 4 Corners; on second disc (Many Places) they
appear on their own. Strings aren't my thing, but they provide a
dreamy backdrop to the sax -- I'm reminded of Winter Moon,
Art Pepper's lush masterpiece; while Ellis isn't as transcendent,
he's rarely played this inventively -- and hold their shape on their
own. Ellis opens up even more on the stringless disc.
Anne Mette Iversen: Best of the West + Many Places
(2006-07 , Bju'ecords, 2CD): Bassist-composer, expansive
set of postbop chamber jazz, rounded out with a string quartet
on the first disc. Not bad as such things go. Second disc is
just quartet, which gives saxophonist John Ellis more elbow
Javon Jackson: Once Upon a Melody (2008, Palmetto):
Once a hard bop contender, lately a lamely confused funkateer, this
splits the difference amiably enough that it's hard to get upset.
"My One and Only Love" is downright lovely. "The In Crowd" isn't
nearly out enough. The originals aren't as catchy as the covers,
for better or worse.
Ahmad Jamal: It's Magic (2007 , Dreyfus):
A relatively major pianist who's largely escaped my attention -- I've
only heard three previous albums, two from the 1950s. Nearly missed
this one too, but when the publicist sent me mail bragging about his
Grammy nomination, I figured I might as well ask. Piano trio plus
extra percussion from Manolo Badrena. When the latter kicks in it's
pretty irresistible. Not fully convinced by the slow/solo stuff, at
least yet. Could move up.
Willi Johanns: Scattin' (1987-2002 , TCB):
Singer, from Germany I take it, age 74 at some point in the liner
notes; second album, following one in 1960 called A Salute to
Birdland. Two sessions: an old one recorded in Italy in 1987
with Dusko Goykovich's Bebop City band -- five cuts at the end of
the album; a more recent one with the RTS Big Band Radio Belgrade,
a group that also featuring Goykovich on trumpet. "Satin Doll" and
"Exactly Like You" show up in both sets. Title cut was written by
Johanns and features a lot of scat. I find scat merely agreeable
when done by someone exceptionally good at it, like Ella Fitzgerald;
to be likable it needs to be done by someone with natural comic
flair, like Louis Armstrong, Leo Watson, and Slim Gaillard -- the
only names that come to mind. Johanns is a cut below both, but
he's a very likable standards singer, and the bands -- especially
the Belgrade big band -- swing hard and are sharp as tacks.
Jeff Johnson: Tall Stranger (2002 , Origin):
Google shows up many Jeff Johnsons; AMG lists 14. This one is a
mainstay of the Seattle jazz scene, playing bass, with four albums
since 1999, several dozen side credits, especially with pianists
Jessica Williams and Hal Galper. This is a trio, with Hans Teuber
(tenor sax, bass clarinet) and Billy Mintz (drums). Slow pieces,
strongly shaped by the bass, with Teuber's reeds following the same
contours. Somewhat abstract, very seductive, rewards attention.
Bujo Kevin Jones & Tenth World: Live! (2004
, Motéma): Jones plays congas, djembe, percussion. Has one
previous album, called Tenth World. Group includes Brian
Horton (tenor sax), Kevin Louis (trumpet), Kelvin Sholar (piano),
Joshua David (electric bass), and Jaimeo Brown (drums). Happy
groove record with some Latin threads and occasionally unruly
horns. Ends with "Watermelon Man," which is almost too easy.
Stanley Jordan: State of Nature (2008, Mack Avenue):
Another well-known guitarist, one I've paid even less attention to
than Metheny -- I have him filed under pop jazz, which may or may
not be fair. Jordan had a run on Blue Note 1984-90 with at least
one gold record, but hasn't recorded much since. Not much info to
go with this advance copy: no musician credits, although Charnett
Moffett, David Haynes, and Kenwood Dennard are somewhere, and there
is something about Jordan playing guitar and piano simultaneously.
Piano is fairly prominent on some pieces, including Horace Silver's
"Song for My Father" and the quasi-classical "Healing Waves." Some
of the guitar is quite elegant -- don't have an ear for his famous
"tapping" method, which doesn't seem much in play. Mix bag of
pieces, ranging from Latin to Mozart. Might as well wait for more
[B+(*)] [advance: Apr. 22]
Sheila Jordan: Winter Sunshine (2008, Justin
Time): Another live album -- 2005's Celebration was a
75th birthday party, and a pick hit in these parts -- but she
must figure that at 79 she should get a jump on her 80th. More
power to her, I say. She got a late start: born 1928, putting
her just two years younger than June Christy, one year older
than Chris Connor, both all but done before Jordan put her
second album out in 1977 (after her now legendary debut in
1962). Some redundancies: yet another "Dat Dere," a song she's
long dedicated to her now-52-year-old daughter, and the usual
closing "The Crossing" and "Sheila's Blues" -- old war stories
about chasing Bird. The piano trio this time accentuates the
bebop, which is less interesting than her bass-only sessions.
Still the fan, including a "Lady Be Good" where she wishes she
could scat like Ella, oblivious to the fact that a generation
or two of jazz singers have grown up hoping to scat like Sheila
Justin Time Records 25th Anniversary Collection
(1986-2007 , Justin Time, 2CD): Canadian jazz label, with
some folk, blues, and world overtones. Got into the business in
1983 with pianist Oliver Jones; has a long list of jazz singers,
including the discovery of Diana Krall, and steady work by Jeri
Brown and Susie Arioli; scored their biggest coup in landing
David Murray in 1996, who led them to Billy Bang, D.D. Jackson,
and Hugh Ragin. Sidelines not documented here include their Just
A Memory archival series and reissues from Enja's catalog. All
this adds up to an eclectic sampler, with high points from great
albums and filler from weaker ones, unnecessary except to draw
attention to a label that's long been worth following.
Ron Kalina and Jim Self: The Odd Couple (2006-07
, Basset Hound): Kalina plays chromatic harmonica. Doesn't
seem to have much of a discography or history, but he looks rather
gray. Self plays tuba. He's been around a long time, with credits
going back to 1976 and seven or more albums since 1992. The group
is rounded out capably by Larry Koonse (guitar), Tom Warrington
(bass), and Joe La Barbera (drums). They play a couple of originals,
some standards, two Charlie Parker tunes, the Neal Hefti-composed
title TV theme. They make an odd buzz, and swing a little.
Kassaba: Dark Eye (2007, CDBaby): Group, quartet,
seems to be based in Cleveland. Group has two pianists, Candice Lee
and Greg Slawson, who alternate, doubling on percussion. Bassist
Chris Vance and saxophonist Mark Boich also have percussion credits
(they claim "25 exotic percussion instruments"). Lee is originally
from Edmonton (Alberta, that's Canada), but got her music degrees
at Cleveland Institute of Music. Vance hails from Buffalo, the rest
from Cleveland, although Boich studied at Berklee -- another George
Garzone student. They claim inspiration from jazz, classical, and
world music. The loose world beats are beguiling, especially when
Boich blows abstractly against the grain. The closer, "Hin Rizzy,"
makes their classical case -- feels kinda static to me, like Bach.
Kassaba: Dark Eye (2007, CDBaby): Cleveland
group, sax-piano-bass-percussion, with two pianists and no full
time percussionist -- just a collection of "25 exotic percussion
instruments" that everyone, especially the odd pianist out, takes
part in. They claim inspiration from jazz, classical, and world;
classical shows up mostly in the piano, world in the percussion,
perhaps a bit too obviously, but it comes together in the dark,
complex, highly flavored groove pieces.
Darrell Katz/Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra: The Same
Thing (2006 , Cadence Jazz): Katz is a composer/arranger --
no performance credits here. He's directed the Jazz Composers Alliance
Orchestra since 1985, through six albums plus three under his own name.
He seems to be based in Boston. Don't know much more. JCAO is a large,
ungainly group, leaning avant-garde. Three of Katz's five pieces here
are built around texts by Paula Tatarunis, with more/less political
overtones. They are sung/recited by Rebecca Shrimpton, in one of those
annoying operatic soprano voices, although the words are consistently
interesting, and the music does something for them. The sixth piece is
the Willie Dixon blues, "The Same Thing," sung by Mike Finnigan. It's
one of those standard pop pieces that take on new life when avant-gardists
keep the 4/4 and twist everything else. Not a record I'd feel like playing
often, but there's a lot in it.
Roger Kellaway: Live at the Jazz Standard (2006 ,
IPO, 2CD): Veteran pianist, b. 1939, introduced himself in the early
1960s, has recorded not all that frequently over the following 40
years. I'm way down on the learning curve on him: seems like a subtle,
clever player, hard to pin down as anything more specific than postbop.
Has mostly recorded in small configurations -- trios, duos, solo --
and I find him most effective here when it's just him and bassist Jay
Leonhart. The three other players here come and go. Russell Malone
plays some tasty guitar solos, but they seem to be on a different
level. Stefon Harris plays vibes. I've never found him enjoyable or
interesting, and this keeps his streak intact. And I have no idea
what to make of Borislav Strulev's cello. Doesn't help that the album
is so reserved you have to reach hard to hear it all. Or that there's
no drummer. Or that it's a double.
Grace Kelly/Lee Konitz: GraceFulLee (2008, Pazz
Productions): Kelly was born 1992, Wellesley MA, Korean parents,
original name Grace Chung. She cut her first record at age 13;
at 16, she now has four. I can't recall ever being impressed by
a prodigy, and it's going to take me a while to swallow this. For
one thing, 7 of 10 songs pair her up with arguably the greatest
alto saxophonist since Johnny Hodges (most days I'd say Art Pepper,
and sometimes I'm tempted by Anthony Braxton, or for sheer guts
Ornette Coleman or Jackie McLean, but never consensus favorite
Charlie Parker). She's not in their league, or anywhere close,
but her three leads slip by graciously enough. Five cuts use a
full band, and they are stellar: Russell Malone on guitar, Rufus
Reid on bass, and Matt Wilson on drums.
Grace Kelly/Lee Konitz: GraceFulLee (2008, Pazz
Productions): Two alto saxophonists, one 15 years old, the other
80. Konitz plays on 7 cuts, 6 with a really superb band -- Russell
Malone on guitar, Rufus Reid on bass, Matt Wilson - drums -- and
one a duo with Kelly. Kelly, née Chung, plays on all 10, including
duos with Malone, Reid, and Wilson. The duos give you a chance to
sort out the saxes. Kelly plays carefully -- the duos are all on
the slow side, even those billed as free improvs -- but she does
have a lovely tone and plots her way through difficult pieces
smartly. The 6 band pieces are cool and comfortable, the group
enjoying themselves, everyone playing delightfullee.
Ruslan Khain: For Medicinal Purposes Only! (2008,
Smalls): Bassist, from Leningrad (booklet says St. Petersburg),
Russia, b. 1972, in New York since 1999. Hard bop quintet --
could have been cut by Hank Mobley (actually, Chris Byars) or
Lee Morgan (Yoshi Okazaki) in the 1960s. Maybe a little looser,
a bit less hard (by which I don't mean soft; more like less
rigid). Richard Clements is on piano; Phil Stewart on drums.
Rebecca Kilgore/Dave Frishberg: Why Fight the Feeling? The
Songs of Frank Loesser (2007 , Arbors): Kilgore is the
singer here; Frishberg accompanies on piano, but doesn't sing. Kilgore
b. 1948 in Waltham, MA; moved to Portland, OR, where c. 1980 she
started a career in swing standards. Has more than a dozen albums,
plus dozens of side appearances, especially with John Sheridan's
Dream Band. She recently sang Loesser on Harry Allen's Guys and
Dolls. Nice voice, nothing idiosyncratic or forced, the sort of
singer you can always enjoy, even with minimal accompaniment, such
Barbara King: Perfect Timing (2008, CCC Music Group):
Vocalist, from Brooklyn, voice described as "Sarah Vaughan-like,"
which gives you the general idea: deep, dusky, but despite the title,
she doesn't quite have the moves down pat. No recording date(s), with
a lot of musicians shuffling in and out, not making much difference.
Song selection is an issue. She manages to make something out of "Let
It Be," but "Forever Young" is beyond redemption.
Oleg Kireyev/Feng Shui Jazz Project: Mandala (2004
, Jazzheads): Kireyev is a Russian saxophonist (tenor, soprano),
from Bashkiria, which I take to be in the southern Urals ("near the
European/Asian border"). Is interested in Bashkiri folk music, other
Asian musics and culture (including the Feng Shui worked into the
group name), and jazz, of course, which he played in Poland in the
1990s. Nowadays you're most likely to find him in Moscow. He has 8
albums since 1989, on Russian and Polish labels until this one got
picked up. Group includes Russians on guitar, bass, and drums, plus
Senegalese conga player Ndiaga Sambe ("joined the band in 2001").
He also plays a bit of keyboards and does a bit of throat singing.
One song starts with the figure from "Message in a Bottle" and works
it progressively into an Asian idiom, playing at Coltrane as his
most oriental. Has a beat, especially when the guitar runs things.
Oleg Kireyev/Feng Shui Jazz Project: Mandala
(2008, Jazzheads): Born in Bakshiria, perched in the Urals on
the ancient seam between Europe and Asia, saxophonist Kireyev's
group plays delicately balanced east-west grooves, with a bit
of throat singing, a lot of sinuous guitar, a Senegalese conga
player, and inspiration from Coltrane.
The Klez Dispensers: Say You'll Understand (2008,
TKD): Klezmer group, natch; second album, following 2004's New
Jersey Freylekhs. I first ran across them on the resume of
alto saxophonist Alex Kontorovich, whose Deep Minor showed
up in a recent Jazz CG. He mostly plays clarinet here, doesn't
appear to be a central figure -- like pianist Adrian Banner, with
most of the "Arr." credits, or vocalist Susan Watts, who also
plays a little trumpet -- but he's certainly an asset. They play
the music for laughs, as well as for sadness. One idiosyncrasy
is how they transliterate the Yiddish -- "Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn"
vs. the proper German "Bei Mir Bist Du Schön" -- but it's still
Yiddish, still part of an old world/new world axis that bypasses
Israel. And the new world wins out in the "Ray Charleston."
Lee Konitz and Minsarah: Deep Lee (2007 ,
Enja): Konitz needs no introduction. He is past 80 now, still
active, still playing difficult music beautifully. Minsarah is
Florian Weber's piano trio, one of those groups named after
their first album. Jeff Denson plays bass, Ziv Ravitz drums.
Mostly Weber pieces, except for the title cut. Was too busy
to do anything more than enjoy the record. Will return to it.
Lee Konitz and Minsarah: Deep Lee (2007 ,
Enja): Past 80, Konitz continues to play difficult music with
delicate beauty. Florian Weber's piano trio, operating under
the name of a past album, stands up well enough on their own.
The combination doesn't combust in great bursts of energy, so
much as they fall back in mutual admiration.
Kopacoustic: Music From the KopaFestival 2006, Volume 1
(2006 , Kopasetic): The first of two samplers from a Swedish
jazz festival, held Sept. 21-22, 2006, in Malmö, sorted not strictly
by acoustic vs. electric so much as by guitar volume -- all six groups
have guitarists, a sure sign of the times. First up here is Krister
Jonsson Trio (Jonsson, guitar; Nils Davidsen, electric bass, Peter
Danemo, drums) + Svante Henryson (cello): 4 cuts, 29:08. Then Footloose
(Mats Holtne, guitar; Mattias Hjorth, bass, Peter Nilsson, drums) +
Lotte Anker (alto sax) & Andreas Andersson (soprano/baritone sax):
1 cut, 18:05. Finally, Cennet Jönsson Quartet (Jönsson, soprano/tenor
sax; Krister Jonsson; Mattias Hjorth; Peter Nilsson) + David Liebman
(soprano sax, flute). Loose, attractive free jazz, guitar-driven, with
cello or light sax to soothe things out.
Kopalectric: Music From the KopaFestival 2006, Volume 2
(2006 , Kopasetic): More guitar-driven free jazz, cranked up a
notch for Lim + Marc Ducret (3 cuts, 31:01) and Elektra Hyde (1 cut,
10:36), and a couple more for Anders Nilsson's Aorta (1 cut, 20:59,
called "Riding the Maelström").
Ralph Lalama Quartet: Energy Fields (2008, Mighty
Quinn): Mainstream tenor saxophonist, b. 1951, cut five albums for
Criss Cross 1990-99. This is his first album in the new millennium,
a quartet, with John Hart's guitar a significant complement for the
sax. Mostly covers (1 original), standards and bop tunes from Parker,
Shorter, and Shaw. I'm not familiar with his early work. This is
beautifully done, but seems like something he could fall back on
any day he wanted.
B+(**) [Oct. 1]
Adam Lane/Lou Grassi/Mark Whitecage: Drunk Butterfly
(2007 , Clean Feed): Bass, drums, alto sax/clarinet respectively.
All three contribute pieces (Lane 4, Whitecage 3, Grassi 2), with the
sax inevitably rising toward the top. Basically freebop, one foot in
the tradition, the other lunging forward. (In her liner notes, Slim
calls it "Avant Swinging Bebop," which is close enough.)
Adam Lane/Lou Grassi/Mark Whitecage: Drunk Butterfly
(2007 , Clean Feed): The bassist gets top billing because of his
knack at setting up grooves that turn free-oriented saxophonists on
rather than off. He did that with Vinny Golia in Zero Degree Music;
here he gets the most accessible work ever out of Whitecage. In her liner
notes, Slim calls this "avant swinging bebop." That's about right.
Jon Larsen: The Jimmy Carl Black Story (2007 ,
Zonic Entertainment/Hot Club, 2CD): Subtitled A Surrealistic Space
Odyssey. Norwegian guitarist, key member of the Django-oriented
Hot Club de Norvège, but more eclectic, with some fusion projects and
who knows what else. Also paints, following Salvador Dali. This spins
off from an album last year, Strange News From Mars, which had
a couple of bits featuring Jimmy Carl Black -- best known as drummer
in the Mothers of Invention before Frank Zappa split them up. Black
does spoken word, reading Larsen's "libretto" over some minimal but
loosey goosey guitar/marimba rhythms. Black starts out reminding us
that he's "the Indian in the band"; later he reads a "semi-alphatetic
list of canine races in cryptic German" -- you know, Amerikanisch
Wienerschnifferhund, Bayerischer Gebirgsschweisshund, Mark Spitz,
Grosspudel; finally he returns to Mars, meeting up with a real
Martian ("And it's a big one!"), who looks "quite like Zorg in my
Gary Larsson calendar" and, uh, has her way with him. Fun music,
funny stuff. Second disc is just Black talking about his life:
growing up in Texas with his racist stepfather; working odd jobs
between stretches with odder bands -- driving a line truck in
Wichita, painting houses in Austin; hanging with Janis Joplin
and Ringo Starr; trying to hide drugs from Zappa; marrying a fan
and settling down in Germany. Black died Nov. 1, shortly after
this came out.
Deborah Latz: Lifeline (2008, June Moon): Vocalist,
has one previous release. Sings standards, a couple (not just "La
Vie en Rose") in French, grabbing "Arr." credits on most of them.
Backed by a good piano trio (Daniela Schächter on piano, Bob Bowen
on bass, Elisabeth Keledjian on drums), blessed with "special guest"
Joel Frahm's tenor sax here and there.
Jo Lawry: I Want to Be Happy (2008, Fleurieu Music):
Vocalist, from Australia, based in New York. First record, with Keith
Sanz on guitar, James Shipp on vibes and marimba, Matt Clohesy on bass,
Ferenc Nemeth on drums, extra piano and accordion, generally helpful.
She works hard at personalizing standard songs, bending notes into odd
shapes, slipping into scat. Some of my favorite songs here, struggling
to peak through. I can't say that she ruins them, but the idiosyncrasies
strike me as gratuitous. To pick one example, Tierney Sutton may not be
a superior singer, but I much prefer her straightforward version of the
Brad Leali-Claus Raible Quartet: D.A.'s Time
(2007 , TCB): Leali is an alto saxophonist, b. Denver,
attended UNT, worked his way up through Count Basie's ghost
band, released a big band album called Maria Juanez
that was a very pleasant surprise. Raible is a pianist; not
sure where from or how old, but passed through Munich and NYC
on his way to his current base in Graz, Austria. He has four
previous records, including a sextet with Leali. He swings,
but also taps Bud Powell for a song, and wrote five more,
including a pretty good jump blues closer, letting Leali wail.
The Peggy Lee Band: New Code (2008, Drip Audio):
Cellist, from Vancouver, been around long enough now you should
recognize her. Group is octet, mostly Vancouver avant-gardists I
recognize from elsewhere, like Brad Turner (trumpet), Jon Bentley
(tenor sax), and Dylan van der Schyff (drums). Two guitars (Ron
Samworth and Tony Wilson), and electric bass thicken up texture,
setting off the cello and horns. Starts with a bent take on Dylan's
"All I Really Want to Do." Tends toward the atmospheric after that,
but complex with surprises.
Tom Lellis/Toninho Horta: Tonight (2008, Adventure
Music): Lellis is one of those male vocalists who always seem to
annoy me, but he comes off quaint and not without charm on this
slow, dainty program that breaks two-to-one sweet standards over
samba fluff. He also plays piano, quaintly, and gets a credit for
shaker that I'm afraid I didn't catch. Horta is a guitarist from
Brazil, who sets the speed and sugar quotient, and sings some too,
also managing to sound quaint.
The David Leonhardt Trio: Explorations (2008, Big Bang):
Pianist, from Louisville, spent time in New York, based now in Easton,
PA. Claims 35 years experience; has 12 self-released records out since
1991, including Jazz for Kids and an Xmas album. This is a trio
with Matthew Parrish on bass, Alvester Garnett on drums. Half originals,
half covers: four rock songs from the late '60s (or maybe 1970), one
each from Jerome Kern and Horace Silver. The rockers, especially
"Sunshine of Your Love," come off like crufty old metal, loud and
clunky. The originals don't offer a lot more.
Daniel Levin Trio: Fuhuffah (2008, Clean Feed):
Cellist. Had trouble finding any biographical: his web page is
Flashed, his MySpace has an empty "about" section, Google shows
a lot of other Dan[iel] Levins, but AAJ came through. B. 1974,
Burlington, VT; attended Walnut Hill School for the Arts, Mannes
College of Music, New England Conservatory. Based in New Haven,
CT. Has three previous albums, one on Riti, two on Hat. This is
a trio with Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on bass, Gerald Cleaver on
drums. The cello is clear and sharp here, free, centered, a bit
limited in range, although the contrast with Flaten's bass is
Joe Locke: Force of Four (2008, Origin): Quartet,
the vibraphonist joined by Robert Rodriguez on piano, Ricardo
Rodriguez on bass, and Jonathan Blake on drums. Robert Rodriguez
has recorded with trumpeter Michael Rodriguez as the Rodriguez
Brothers. Ricardo also seems to be a brother, but doesn't get
much credit on the group's website. Three cuts add a horn: one
with Thomas Marriott on trumpet, two with Wayne Escoffery on
tenor sax. Neither the pianist nor the horns have much impact,
but Locke continues to play remarkably.
PS: Tom Marcello informs
me that bassist Ricardo Rodriguez is not related to Robert or Michael
Rodriguez, aka the Rodriguez Brothers. My source for the error was
my notes on a Rodriguez Brothers album where Ricardo played bass,
which don't actually make the claim, but sort of raise the question.
Also, the drummer is Johnathan Blake, not Jonathan.
Ava Logan: So Many Stars (2006-07 , Diva Vet
Music): Standards singer, originally from DC, now based in Chicago.
First album. Most female singers don't readily disclose their ages,
so I'll risk a guess and say that she's in her 50s. Strong, attractive
voice. Does a nice job on everything here, especially "Day In Day Out"
and "Detour Ahead." Backed by piano trio plus guitar. No doubt she
deserves a break, but probably won't get one.
Lionel Loueke: Karibu (2007 , Blue Note):
Guitarist, born in Benin, moved to Côte d'Ivoire, then to Paris,
then to Boston (Berklee), then to California (Thelonious Monk
Institute of Jazz), now seems to be based in Bergen County, NJ.
He's appeared in quite a few credits since 2001, including some
relatively high profile ones -- Terence Blanchard, Charlie Haden
(Land of the Sun), Herbie Hancock (The River: The Joni
Letters). This is a trio with bassist Massimo Biolcati and
drummer Ferenc Nemeth -- mostly: he also picks up a pair of
distinguished guests, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, one
cut together, one more each. Mixed bag, especially when he
sings, but the closer "Nonvignon" is my favorite track here,
and he sings on it -- reminds me of pennywhistle jive.
Lionel Loueke: Karibu (2007 , Blue Note):
Young guitarist from Benin, via Côte d'Ivoire, Paris, and Boston,
developed a high profile as a sideman, and a very scattered major
label debut. The occasional vocals aren't a plus. The African
grooves are hard to pin down -- the attractive "Nonvignon" could
be pennywhistle. Two pieces with Herbie Hancock are surprisingly
abstract, especially "Light Dark," where Wayne Shorter joins in.
Shorter also plays on "Naima."
Joe Lovano: Symphonica (2005 , Blue Note):
You can probably figure this out by the title. If not, note that
while the WDR Big Band is a crack jazz outfit which works cheap
and occasionally pays dividends, the Rundfunk Orchester is a
classical outfit distinguished primarily by its massed strings.
The saxophonist is often magnificent, the effect heightened by
the swirling sea of indistinct sounds all around him. The latter
at least don't induce nausea, small comfort for symphonyphobes.
B+(**) [Sept. 2]
Rudresh Mahanthappa's Indo-Pak Coalition: Apti
(2008, Innova): Born in Trieste, Italy; raised in Boulder, CO,
the alto saxophonist is a bit removed to represent India in this
alliance, but he sounds more native than ever, not least because
a world class tabla player has got his back. That the latter's
name is Dan Weiss adds yet another twist to world peacekeeping
these days. The Pakistani is guitarist Rez Abassi, who fits the
classical Indian grooves so tightly you suspect the Indo-Pak
split was one of those arbitrary British inventions.
Rudresh Mahanthappa: Kinsmen (2008, Pi): Advance
copy, stuck on the shelf waiting for the real thing to come around,
which thus far hasn't happened. There is a tendency for Americans
a generation removed from their parents' homelands to go back and
find roots. That seemed rather superficial on Mahanthappa's earlier
records, but the Carnatic (South Indian) synthesis here strikes me
as solidly earned. They key may be the other alto saxophonist, Kadri
Gopalnath, who gave enough thought to the subject to cut a record
called Saxophone Indian Style. A. Kanyakumari's violin and
Poovalur Sriji's mridangam (South Indian log drum) add authenticity,
while Rez Abassi's guitar is close enough. Need to listen more.
Tony Malaby Cello Trio: Warblepeck (2008, Songlines):
Saxophonists are natural leaders, even when they don't write much,
just due to the dominant nature of their instrument. Malaby is one
of the few -- Eric Dolphy is the only other one who comes to mind --
who has built a sterling reputation mostly on other people's albums,
so when he does release one it's something of an event. The cello
here is Fred Lonberg-Holm, lately resident in the Vandermark 5. The
third wheel is percussionist John Hollenbeck. This doesn't mesh as
well as I'd like, the cello often more trouble than it's worth.
Also hard to zone in on Lonberg-Holm's electronics, although they
may be confused with Hollenbeck's panoply of percusion instruments
(credits include "small kitchen appliances"). Malaby is first rate,
Rebecca Martin: The Growing Season (2007 ,
Sunnyside): Singer-songwriter, classified as a jazz singer based
on her labels, but the thin voice, light guitar, straightforward
songs, and primitive arrangements all better fit the folk genre.
Band here has impeccable jazz credentials -- Kurt Rosenwinkel,
Larry Grenadier, Brian Blade -- but don't really do much.
Mauger: The Beautiful Enabler (2006 , Clean
Feed): I have no idea where the group name comes from. The group
is an alto sax trio, led by Rudresh Mahanthappa, with Mark Dresser
on bass and Gerry Hemingway on drums. The latter have played much
together, not least in Anthony Braxton's 1980s quartet. All three
write. And while the young saxophonist shows poise in navigating
this tricky material, it's worth concentrating on the mastery in
the rhythm section.
Donny McCaslin Trio: Recommended Tools (2008,
Greenleaf Music): A tenor saxophonist who, it was immediately
obvious, has all the tools. Still, I always managed to resist
him, mostly because his fancy postbop harmonies rubbed me the
wrong way. I figured he'd eventually turn out an album that
simply blew away all my objections, and he still may. But for
now he just ducked under them, making a stripped down trio
album -- Hans Glawischnig on bass, Jonathan Blake on drums --
with a whole lot of sax appeal. It's like he's gotten over
following in Chris Potter's footsteps and instead aimed for
Marc McDonald: It Doesn't End Here (2007 ,
No End in Sight): Alto saxophonist, b. 1961, London, UK; has "led
groups for over 25 years in the New York/New Jersey area and such
cities as Honolulu, London and Athens." First album, although he
has a side credit from 1986, and a few more from 1998 on. Wrote
8 of 11 pieces, covering "Night and Day," "This Heart of Mine,"
and "Blue Skies." Piano-bass-drums quartet, with guitarist Steve
Cardenas guesting on 5 cuts. Very mainstream. I wondered at first
why he would bother, but it's clearly for the sheer beauty of the
Kate McGarry: If Less Is More . . . Nothing Is
Everything (2007 , Palmetto): Vocalist. First
album in 1992; four more since 2001, three on Palmetto since
2005. Irving Berlin song is ordinary, but she's not content
with standards, so moves on to Bob Dylan, Steve Stills, Joni
Mitchell, Ric Ocasek. Could have picked better on all counts,
but she's too limited to work within those limits. Of course,
she also does Jobim, and Djavan for good measure. And writes
two originals. All of this would be merely mediocre but she
brings in fellow Moss-heads Jo Lawry and Pete Eldridge, who
work their usual voodoo. Got a Grammy nod for this.
Carmen McRae: Live at the Flamingo Jazz Club London May 1961
(1961 , Acrobat): Barely accompanied by Don Abney's piano trio,
eleven standards from "I Could Write a Book" to "They Can't Take That
Away From Me," including obvious stops like "Stardust" and "Body and
Soul" and the local nod "A Foggy Day (in London Town)," given readings
at once textbook proper and delectable.
Brad Mehldau Trio: House on Hill (2002-05 ,
Nonesuch): Another background record. I had caught, liked, but
poorly remember, several early Mehldau albums, but none since 2001,
so I'm catching up. This is the same trio he worked with since
1993 or so: Larry Grenadier on bass, Jorge Rossy on drums. At a
high level, he strikes me as similar and comparable to Jarrett --
a bit less labored, or maybe he just makes it look easier, no
doubt a remarkable pianist. All originals. Mehldau's liner notes
run on at great length on how his art relates to Brahms and Bach,
maybe Monk too -- it's way over my head.
Vince Mendoza: Blauklang (2007 , ACT):
Mostly a composer-arranger, no playing credit here. Fifth album
since 1990, first since 1999. The bulk of the album is the six
movement "Blue Sounds," which closes the disc after five pieces --
two originals, one traditional, one each from Miles Davis and Gil
Evans. The record bears the WDR/The Cologne Broadcasts logo,
drawing on the Westdeutschen Rundfunks Köln big band, with a
few ringers thrown in: Nguyên Lê on guitar, Markus Stockhausen
on trumpet, Lars Danielsson on bass, Peter Erskine on drums. So,
basically, a big band, plus strings (String Quarter Red URG 4).
Has some nice moments, but runs too close to classical for my
Metheny Mehldau Quartet (2005 , Nonesuch):
Mehldau's trio, with Larry Grenadier on bass and Jeff Ballard having
replaced Jorge Rossy on drums, plus Metheny, who leans on his lyrical
side. Support is admirable, of course. I could see other folks liking
this a lot, but I just don't have much to say about it.
Andy Middleton: The European Quartet Live (2005 ,
Q-rious Music): OK, this is weird: next up after Saxophone Summit, I
pick a CD almost at random -- well, I discarded two singers first --
and get a saxophonist whose website starts off with praise from Joe
Lovano, Michael Brecker, and David Liebman (also John Abercrombie).
Biography is patchy. Plays tenor sax, maybe a little soprano. Based
in New York City, maybe also in Austria (although the record label is
in Germany). Has an American Quartet as well as this European Quartet,
but the latter includes drummer Alan Jones, who hails from Portland.
Has two previous albums on Intuition (2000-02), one earlier one from
1995; played in a group called the Fensters back in 1991. Figure him
for postbop: he's not very far out of the mainstream, but he has an
arresting sound and some fancy moves. Pianist Tino Derado helps out.
Will give it another shot.
Andy Middleton: The European Quartet Live (2005
, Q-rious Music): Three members of this European Quartet
are, and this must mean something, Americans based in Europe,
including the leader working out of Vienna. Lists Wayne Shorter
at the head of a list of Influences who are mostly just great
musicians, but of six or so tenor saxophonists Shorter's the
best fit. Shows patience and poise on slow ones, poise and
fierce resolve on the fast ones. Good pianist in Tino Derado,
the only born European here. Very solid performance.
Mike & the Ravens: Noisy Boys! The Saxony Sessions
(2006-07 , Zoho Roots): Rock band, led by vocalist Mike Brassard.
Group originally formed in 1962, but this, with same original members,
is their first album. Rocks OK, with a large blues component. Sounds
more advanced than 1962. More like 1968. In fact, sounds an awful lot
Jason Miles: 2 Grover With Love (2008, Koch):
Keyboard guy, producer skills. Miles has been making the rounds
with tributes to anyone he thinks he can cash in on, so it's not
a big surprise that he would zero in on Grover Washington, Jr.
Washington actually had a very sweet way with his saxophones, a
skill that is shared by none of the guests brought in to dress
this pig up (Andy Snitzer, Jay Beckenstein, Najee, Kim Waters).
Miles himself is agreeably funky. Maysa sings "Mr. Magic," a
Steve Million: Remembering the Way Home (2007-08 .
Origin): Pianist, based in Chicago since 1988, fifth album since 1995.
Solo piano, elegant, thoughtful.
Francisco Mela: Cirio: Live at the Blue Note
(2007 , Half Note): Drummer, from Cuba, teaches at Berklee,
turned a lot of heads with his debut Melao in 2006. Follows
that up with a star-studded live album: Mark Turner on tenor sax,
Jason Moran on piano, Larry Grenadier on bass, Lionel Loueke on
guitar. Mela wrote six songs; Loueke one, plus a Silvio Rodriguez
tune. Listening quickly, with distractions, I mostly hear pieces,
mostly Turner's sax and Moran's piano, a little bit of singalong
by Mela and/or Loueke. But "Tierra and Fuego" pulls the whole
herky-jerk Cuban rhythm thing off, and that may just be the start.
Mela's definitely talented, plus he gets top rate musicians to
Memorize the Sky: In Former Times (2007 , Clean
Feed): Subtitle: Live at Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon. Group includes
Matt Bauder (tenor sax, clarinet), Zach Wallace (bass), Aaron Siegel
(drums). Another group name that came out of a former album title.
Group met in Ann Arbor. Bauder, at least, is now based in New York,
but seems to have passed through Chicago, and took a detour to work
with Anthony Braxton. Despite the lack of credits, this sounds like
electronic music: clicks, drones, ambient abstractions.
The Microscopic Septet: Lobster Leaps In (2007 ,
Cuneiform): Seven-piece group: four weights of saxophone, piano, bass,
and drums, led by soprano saxophonist Phillip Johnston and pianist
Joel Forrester. Group recorded enough material 1981-90 to fill up 4
CDs of History of the Micros, then disbanded until this reunion,
Johnston leading scattered projects like his Captain Beefheart tribute
band, Fast 'N' Bulbous. The old Micros were hard enough to pigeonhole,
fitting about as well in postbop as Raymond Scott in show music. The
new one is more prebop, albeit surrealistically, as befits the title
track's take on Lester Young swing. Only personnel change is at tenor
sax, where Mike Hashim replaces Paul Shapiro. Hashim is primarily an
alto saxophonist, having some marvelous records on his resume.
Jessica Molaskey: A Kiss to Build a Dream On (2008,
Arbors): Singer, married to John Pizzarelli, who duets on two songs
and plays some guitar; daughter-in-law to Bucky Pizzarelli, who plays
even more guitar; also inlaw to bassist Martin Pizzarelli. Unrelated
Aaron Weinstein plays fiddle; still very young, he's the obvious pick
for anyone looking for the spirit of Messrs. Grappelli and Venuti.
Cute songs, cute voice, plucky strings.
Giovanni Moltoni: 3 (2008, C#2 Productions):
Guitarist. Don't know how old, or where he comes from; seems to
be in Boston now, with hooks into New York. Studied at Berklee
and New England Conservatory; teaches at Berklee. Third album
since 1996. Also credited with synth here. Quartet includes
Greg Hopkins on trumpet, Fernando Huergo on bass, Bob Tamagni
on drums. Mostly follows the boppish trumpet around, filling
out and adding to the rhythmic push. Nice formula.
The James Moody and Hank Jones Quartet: Our Delight
(2006 , IPO): With Todd Coolman on bass, Adam Nussbaum on
drums. Title song is by Tad Dameron, who's good for three more,
including "Good Bait" co-credited to Count Basie. One Moody song,
plus three from long-time employer Dizzy Gillespie, and one from
Sonny Stitt; Jimmy Heath's tribute, "Moody's Groove"; "Body and
Soul" and "Old Folks" -- no stretching here, just a couple of
octogenarians delighted to still be able to play the music of
their youth. I'm not very familiar with Moody, but he sounds
suave and polished. And Jones is always a gentlemanly accompanist.
Anyone sentimentally inclined toward respecting their elders will
be delighted too. I'll keep it open, in case I am one. (Moody
plays flute on a couple of cuts, which aren't bad but can't
sound as good as his tenor sax; Roberta Gambarini sings the
"bonus" cut: "Moody's Groove" -- a nice toast.)
[B+(***)] [Nov. 18]
The James Moody and Hank Jones Quartet: Our Delight
(2006 , IPO): Bebop upstarts, schooled in swing, of course,
with Coleman Hawkins bridging the way on "Body and Soul" and "Woody
'N You" -- both included here in a program that leans heavily on
Dizzy Gillespie and Tadd Dameron, and focuses more on Moody -- one
by him, "Moody's Groove" about him. Jones, of course, is the perfect
good sport. Moody's tenor sax is delightful; I would have preferred
Thelonious Monk: Thelonious Himself (1957 ,
Riverside/Keepnews Collection): Solo piano, excepting one anomalous
take of "Monk's Mood" with John Coltrane and Wilbur Ware. Covers
like "April in Paris" and "A Ghost of a Chance" are carefully
dissected to reveal odd tangents, but the process is so slow and
painstaking it's hard maintain interest.
Bill Moring & Way Out East: Spaces in Time (2007
, Owl Studios): Bassist-led "collective group" -- second album,
not counting the one Moring did with a Way Out West group. Post-hard
bop, with Jack Walrath on trumpet, Tim Armacost on sax, Steve Allee
on keyboard, Steve Johns on drums, all but Allee contributing a song
or two -- Ornette Coleman is the only cover. Especially good to hear
Walrath, who hasn't recorded much lately.
B+(*) [Oct. 7]
Joe Morris/Barre Phillips: Elm City Duets (2006 ,
Clean Feed): Guitar-bass duets, or at least that's how Morris's credit
leads. Morris has been playing about as much bass over the last 3-4
years as he has guitar, and Phillips has recorded bass duets before --
he was the other half of Dave Holland's Music for Two Basses --
so that's what I sort of expected. It's kind of hard to say what this
sounds like: very abstract, little flow let alone groove, stretches of
near silence and not much you'd call noise. If I had to, I'd try it
again with more volume, but even if that worked -- which with these
two must be the case -- few people would find this sort of thing
Rob Mosher's Storytime: The Tortoise (2007-08
, Old Mill): Soprano saxophonist, from Canada, based in
New York, also plays oboe and English horn here, writing for a
10-piece group with four reed players -- more clarinet and flute
than saxophone -- three brass including French horn, guitar,
bass and drums. Reportedly Mosher is self-taught, so it may not
be fair to attribute this to the jazz-classical merger in the
academies. But this is as pop-classical as Prokofiev, with all
the hokum laid out so intricately you sometimes forget how the
game works. It's an old saw that jazz is America's classical
music, but that came out of an age when we all thought that
America was different, so naturally our classical music would
be something else. Now jazz is the world's classical music, and
it's returning to its common denominator.
Mostly Other People Do the Killing: This Is Our Moosic
(2008, Hot Cup): Ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny, the wisecracking
terrorists of Moosic, PA, move on from playing rings around bebop to
playing rings around Ornette Coleman, often in the process sounding
like a deranged New Orleans brass band. Sometimes even breaking into
Motel: Lost and Found (2007, MGM): All music by DC
bassist Matt Grason, excepting a Herbie Hancock piece. Don't know
much about him, but he's put together a jazz-hip-hop mash-up that
stands on both legs. The Feat. rappers do business as: Priest Da
Nomad, Cool Cee Brown, Sub Z, Kokayi, John Moon, Yu, and Hueman
Prophets. Local DC talent, came out of Tony Blackman's Freestyle
Union. The band are NYC jazzbos -- the two names I recognize are
guitarist Jostein Gulbrandson and saxophonist Jon Irabagon, both
stand up and out here, more than filling the breaks between the
raps. Rhythmically, by hip-hop standards this seems lax -- even
Nicholas Payton and Wallace Roney have employed turntablists and
samplers. Sure, not very well, the point being that there's some
precedent for exploring that angle.
Paul Motian Trio 2000 + Two: Live at the Village Vanguard,
Vol. II (2006 , Winter & Winter): Don't remember
Vol. 1 all that well, but it came out at about the same grade.
Motian is less of a time keeper than a time disrupter, and he never
lets this group settle down into a groove or open up into a jam. In
this trio Chris Potter gets abstract and choppy, not really his
style, but he handles it well enough. The third leg of the trio
is bassist Larry Grenadier. The plus two is pianist Masabumi Kikuchi
and either Greg Osby (alto sax) or Mat Manieri (viola).
Bob Mover: It Amazes Me . . . (2006 , Zoho):
Saxophonist, lists alto ahead of tenor, also sings, b. 1952, broke
in playing with Charles Mingus in 1973 and Chet Baker 1973-75. Cut
a few albums 1977-88, including two 1981 albums AMG likes on Xanadu.
(As far as I know the Xanadu catalog is out of print, but there were
some wonderful things on it -- Charles McPherson's Beautiful!
is one of my all-time most played records.) AMG lists one more in
1997, then this one; CDBaby describes this as his first in over 20
years. It's quiet storm: slow, smokey ballads, the rich, burnished
lustre of sax. Kenny Barron plays some of his best accompanist piano
since Stan Getz died. Mover sings on 6 of 10 songs. Voice reminded
me first of Sinatra, but without the chops. Technically, he's not
even as skilled as Baker, but doesn't have Baker's bathos, which is
what folks seem to love. Still, I find Mover's vocals touching.
B+(***) [Sept. 9]
David Murray/Mal Waldron: Silence (2001 ,
Justin Time): Duo, recorded in October 2001, a little more than
a year before Waldron passed on Dec. 2, 2002. Three Waldron songs,
the title cut from Murray, three more (Sammy Cahn, Miles Davis,
Duke Ellington). Not sure how to rate Waldron's performance here;
Murray runs rings around him, but that's just Murray -- expansive,
bracing, sometimes gorgeous (especially on bass clarinet). Both
artists have excelled in duos before: Waldron with Marion Brown;
Murray on several occasions, my favorite being the ballad set
Tea for Two with George Arvanitas on Fresh Sound -- more
of an Oscar Peterson-type player. This is much more dry.
David Murray/Mal Waldron: Silence (2001 ,
Justin Time): Cut in Brussels a year before Waldron's death,
this may now be seen as a remembrance of an all-time piano great,
but Murray fills the room so prodigiously that you have to work
to hear how skillfully Waldron ties it all together. He first
gained fame as Billie Holiday's accompanist, and even decades
later, with dozens of his own often brilliant albums, that was
what he was best known for. He wrote three songs here, to one
by Murray -- the three covers also favor Waldron. But Murray
bowls over everyone, especially one on one, so this winds up
being another referendum on him.
Willie Nelson/Wynton Marsalis: Two Men With the Blues
(2007 , Blue Note): Recorded live under from two dates organized
by Marsalis's Jazz at Lincoln Center empire. Neither man has any real
claim to the blues, but it was only an organizing idea in the first
place; in any case, the album reverted to Nelson's songbook, with two
originals ("Night Life" and "Rainy Day Blues"), two Hoagy Carmichael
standards Nelson has done before ("Stardust" and "Georgia on My Mind"),
"Bright Lights Big City," "Caldonia," "Basin Street Blues," "My Bucket's
Got a Hole in It," "Ain't Nobody's Business," and a Merle Travis joke
called "That's All" -- not sure how many of those Nelson has recorded
before, but the answer could be all ten. Marsalis provided the band,
framing Nelson's silky voice with polished brass. A quickie, the sort
of trivia that Nelson routinely tosses off as proof of his genius.
Jovino Santos Neto & Weber Iago: Live at Caramoor
(2007 , Adventure Music): Two Brazilian pianists square off for
duets or competing solos. I've always preferred the upbeat, sometimes
funky, Neto over the more meditative, often classical-aspiring, Iago,
but I can't swear to who plays what here. Iago offers three originals;
Neto one. The balance, aside from "Alone Together," are Brazilian
standards, with Jobim twice. Special bonus is Joe Lovano's soprano
sax on "Wave."
New Guitar Summit: Shivers (2008, Stony Plain):
Three guitarists, none of whom strike me as new or novel or
whatever the implication is: Gerry Beaudoin, Jay Geils, Duke
Robillard. Actually, a fourth dinosaur shows up for two cuts:
Randy Bachman, sings too. They work around bass and drums.
Sweet sound. Not much action.
Adam Niewood & His Rabble Rousers: Epic Journey,
Volumes I & II (2008, Innova, 2CD): I picked this up
several times over the last few months; realized it was a double,
and didn't feel up to wading through it. Saxophonist, credited
here with tenor, C-melody, soprano, alto, and baritone, in that
order, followed by clarinet and bass clarinet. Had a 2004 album
called Introducing Adam Niewood, released on the normally
pop-oriented Native Language label, so not having heard it I
filed him under Pop Jazz. My bad. Seven of nine pieces on the
second disc are credited as Free Group Improvisations; he wrote
everything else. Group includes piano (Kristjan Randalu), guitar
(Jesse Lewis), bass (Matt Brewer or Chris Higgins), drums (Greg
Ritchie and/or Rohin Khemani, who adds some exotic percussion).
Has a strong, clear tone on tenor; a distinctly wiry sound on
soprano; not sure about the rest. Plays with some edge and a
lot of polish. Likes a good beat, but doesn't feel bound to it.
Should get another play, sooner or later.
Fredrik Nordström Quintet: Live in Coimbra (2005
, Clean Feed): Swedish tenor saxophonist, b. 1974. (Wikipedia
lists a different Fredrik Nordström, b. 1967, a record producer.)
Eight albums under his name, plus a couple more as Surd and Dog Out.
Plays free, but doesn't make a big impression. Quintet features Mats
Aleklint on trombone and Mattias Ståhl on vibraphone, both notable
The Phil Norman Tentet: "Totally" Live at Catalina Jazz
Club: In Memory of Bob Florence (2008, MAMA, 2CD): Recorded
Jan. 15, 2008. Bob Florence, a big band arranger based in Los Angeles
with numerous records on this label, died at age 76 on May 15, 2008.
Don't know whether Florence was present here, or what the state of his
health was at the time. He wrote and/or arranged several pieces here,
but so did Kim Richmond and Scott Whitfield, who were also introduced.
Tenor saxophonist Norman's group plays these pieces impeccably,
including a sly "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" and a lovely "Nature Boy."
Andreas Öberg: My Favorite Guitars (2008, Resonance,
CD+DVD): Swedish guitarist, b. 1978, based in Los Angeles; fourth
album since 2004. Plays electric, acoustic, 6-string nylon. Two
originals; ten covers, songs by other guitarists like Django Reinhardt,
Toninho Horta, Wes Montgomery, Pat Martino, George Benson, Pat Metheny.
One of those records that I put on, got distracted, didn't dislike
what little I noticed, but didn't notice anything to make it seem
worth another play. Didn't watch the DVD.
Arturo O'Farrill & Claudia Acuña: In These Shoes
(2008, Zoho): This pairs two well connected, highly touted, and as
far as I've discerned until now vastly overrated artists. Still, the
opening title track caught me by surprise, with a brassy vocal where
Acuña has usually been coy, and a lot of drive from the band: choice
cut. She rarely reverts to form here, not that we really need her
takes on "Moodance" and "Willow Weep for Me." O'Farrill put together
a pretty good band here, with Michael Mossman on trumpet, Yosvany
Terry on alto/tenor sax, and some terrific Afro-Cuban percussion --
Dafnis Prieto and Pedrito Martinez. Sometimes they get ahead of the
song, and sometimes I find myself not caring, but they certainly
aren't faking it, or watering it down, or dressing it up for Lincoln
Judith Owen: Mopping Up Karma (2008, Couragette):
British (or should I say Welsh?) singer-songwriter, with eight
(or more) records since 1996. I don't hear her as a jazz singer,
and don't find her very interesting as a rock or cabaret singer.
At least this has fewer annoying vocal tics than the previous
album I've heard (Happy This Way), and the strings and
such are fairly inocuous.
Charlie Parker: Washington D.C., 1948 (1948 ,
Uptown): Easily the most extensively documented jazz musician in
history, with a smattering of legendary studio recordings and a
huge number of more/less bootleg-quality live tapes, some no more
than the alto sax solos cut out from the performance. Aficionados
devour them all. I've never quite seen the point: even when Parker
is at his most inspired, he adds little to what we already know
from crisper sounding and better supported studio work. This new
discovery starts with a very ordinary 7:39 bebop exercise led by
Ben Lary and Charlie Walp, then spruces the group up by adding
Parker and Buddy Rich, who both make a world of difference. Later
the group drops down to a quartet, running through "Ornithology"
and "KoKo," then they finish with a "Dixieland vs. Bebop" joust
with Tony Parenti, Wild Bill Davison, and Benny Morton on "C Jam
Blues." Nice solos by Rich and Parenti, and the aficionados won't
be disappointed with Bird.
Evan Parker/The Transatlantic Art Ensemble: Boustrophedon
(2008, ECM): Large group, like those of Parker's other ECM efforts, in
what sounds a bit like a revival of Globe Unity Orchestra, or maybe Barry
Guy's LJCO -- Guy is present here, part of the European side of the
Transatlantic Art Ensemble. The Americans are led by Roscoe Mitchell,
whose large group efforts are also relevant here. Long and scattered,
often ornery, the sax noise limited to alto and soprano, with clarinet
and flute, trumpet (Corey Wilkes), strings (violin, viola, cello, two
basses). Craig Taborn has interesting moments in piano. Not coherent
enough for a tour de force, but several interesting diversions.
Evan Parker/The Transatlantic Art Ensemble: Boustrophedon
(2008, ECM): Large group, with Roscoe Mitchell leading the American
contingent, notably including Craig Taborn and Corey Wilkes. On the
European side come a batch of strings, notably Philip Wachsmann on
violin, adding up to a thick stew, similar to the Electro-Acoustic
Ensemble even without the electronics. Parker plays soprano sax --
utterly distinctive, of course. The background noise is engaging;
the lurching movements even more so.
William Parker Quartet: Petit Oiseau (2007 ,
AUM Fidelity): Too late to make it into JCG (#17), where Parker and
the alto saxophonist here, Rob Brown, both have pick hits. Just as
well, as this hasn't clicked for me yet -- unlike two previous albums
with the same lineup (O'Neal's Porch and Sound Unity),
or for that matter Raining on the Moon (which added vocalist
Lorena Conquest) and Corn Meal Dance (with Conquest and pianist
Eri Yamamoto). On the other hand, I haven't been convinced to give up,
either. It feels less avant, more composed through. The two horns --
Brown's alto sax and Lewis Barnes' trumpet -- rarely fly off on their
separate paths. The liner notes suggest that for once Parker is working
within the tradition, composing tributes to players like Tommy Flanagan
(or Tommy Turrentine, or Tommy Potter), mapping the Little Bird from
one of his tone poems back to Charlie Parker.
William Parker Quartet: Petit Oiseau (2007 ,
AUM Fidelity): A great group, at least as far back as O'Neal's
Porch, with two spectacularly sparring horns in Lewis Barnes'
trumpet and Rob Brown's alto sax, plus Parker and Hamid Drake on
drums. But this took a long while to register, no doubt benefitting
from more than a dozen spins -- something I almost never get the
chance to do, but this wound up stuck in my boombox in Detroit for
the better part of a week. The problem, if you can call it that,
is that it is pretty mainstream where avant-garde is the norm. The
horns appear tracked for once, depriving us of the joy of free
flight. On the other hand, Parker has cycled around from free to
make grooveful music. Call it his Horace Silver phase -- that's
the level he's working at.
Aaron Parks: Invisible Cinema (2008, Blue Note):
Pianist, from Seattle, reportedly 24, first album, although he has
a number of side credits since 2003: Terence Blanchard, Christian
Scott, Kendrick Scott, Ferenc Nemeth, Tim Collins, Nick Vayenas,
Mike Moreno, 3 or 4 more I don't recognize. Obviously, some folks
think he's a comer. After two plays I don't think much one way or
the other. Most of the cuts are quartet with Moreno on guitar,
Matt Penman on bass, and Eric Harland on drums, with the guitar
wrapping it all together, the piano largely reduced to a rhythm
role. (Some guitar-piano combos work the other way around, which
is more usual on pianists' albums.)
Aaron Parks: Invisible Cinema (2008, Blue Note):
Debut album, on a major label no less, sure to be overrated given
Blue Note's track record in breaking major guitarists -- Robert
Glasper is proof of how that works. This is more inside, mostly
the piano chasing Mike Moreno's guitar, although one cut drops
back to trio, two more to solo. I might be less skeptical if the
latter were more interesting. But the interplay with Moreno is
tight and thoroughly engaging.
Rosa Passos: Romance (2008, Telarc): Brazilian singer,
has recorded more than a dozen albums since 1994, though she may be
older than that -- I've heard tell of a 1979 debut album. Grew up in
Salvador, Bahia. Gary Giddins, who wrote the liner notes, places her
in the bossa nova tradition. Sounds a bit slower and more thoughtful
to me -- no matter how slow she goes she still gets traction. Brazilian
band, nobody I know, but the sax and piano stand out among the solos,
and drummer Celso de Almeida plays with the subtle shiftiness you hope
for in Brazilian jazz.
Bennett Paster & Gregory Ryan: Grupo Yanqui Rides Again
(2006 , Miles High): Paster plays piano; Ryan bass. They met in
1993 as faculty members of the Stanford Jazz Workshop, found a common
interest in Latin jazz, and put out their first Grupo Yanqui album in
2001. Current group is a NYC-based sextet, with trumpet (Alex Norris),
sax (Chris Cheek), drums (Keith Hall), and percussion (Gilad). This
makes all the basic moves, but little of special interest emerges.
Nik Payton and Bob Wilber: Swinging the Changes
(2007 , Arbors): Payton plays tenor sax and clarinet. B. 1972,
Birmingham, England; studied at Leeds College of Music, and perhaps
more importantly under Wilber, who indulged his Sidney Bechet fetish.
Payton was a founder of the Charleston Chasers, and has toured with
the Pasadena Roof Orchestra and what's left of the Duke Ellington
Orchestra. One previous album, called In the Spirit of Swing.
Lives in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, which may have something to do
with why there's a Jobim song here, but few albums lack one; in
any case, this is pretty straight swing, the only unusual point
the preponderance of originals -- 4 by Payton, 7 by Wilber. Group
is Payton's "regular London quartet" -- Richard Buskiewicz (piano),
Dave Green (bass), Steve Brown (drums). Wish I could say more, but
every time I hear something exceptional here I convince myself that
Danilo Perez & Claus Ogerman: Across the Crystal Sea
(2008, Emarcy): Front cover lists Perez alone at top, followed by
the title, then in faint light blue over white: "Arranged and conducted
by Claus Ogerman." Spine credits both Perez and Ogerman. All but two
song credits belong to Ogerman, although most are "after a theme by"
things crediting Hugo Distler, Jean Sibelius, Manuel de Falla, Sergei
Rachmaninoff, and Jules Massenet. Perez's piano is featured, of course,
but awash in a sea of Ogerman strings -- the sort of thing I can rarely
stand, but this is uncloying and exceptionally pretty. Might benefit
from further listening, but might as well turn sour, so consider this
grade a bit more tentative (and polite) than usual.
Houston Person/Ron Carter: Just Between Friends
(2005 , High Note): So easy, but the sort of set you -- or
at least I -- can't help falling in love with. My present quibble
is that I suspect Person of holding back so as not to overwhelm
the bass -- Carter even gets a fair amount of solo room. Songs
they scarcely had to look up: "How Deep Is the Ocean," "Blueberry
Hill," "Darn That Dream," "Lover Man," "Polka Dots and Moonbeams,"
"Always," like that.
Houston Person/Ron Carter: Just Between Friends
(2005 , High Note): Too easy. You'd think that at least they
would jack up the bass volume and let Carter expand a bit on such
obvious standards, but he mostly just strums along -- could be any
old bassist. And it's not like Person is driving him off the stage:
every song is taken in a poke, with the sax volume toned down too.
Still, from "How Deep Is the Ocean" to "Always" he's irresistible.
Anne Phillips: Ballet Time (2008, Conawago):
Singer, definitely jazz, all the way down to writing vocalese
lyrics -- her take on Dexter Gordon's "Fried Bananas" goes so
far as to explain how she wound up writing a lyric to "Fried
Bananas." Reportedly got her start "as a member of the Ray
Charles Singers on the Perry Como Show." Cut an album in 1959
called "Born to Be Blue," then followed it up with a second
album in 2001. This looks to be her third, not counting her
choir arrangements for the Anne Phillips Singers. This one
calls in a lot of chits, arranging 15 songs as duos with 15
musicians -- mostly pianists (notably Dave Brubeck, Marian
McPartland, Roger Kellaway), two guitarists (John Hart, Paul
Meyers), two saxes (Scott Robinson on baritone, Bob Kindred
on tenor), and Joe Locke on vibes. Two pianists sing duets:
Bob Dorough and Matt Perri. Five songs have music or lyric
(not both) by Phillips. The others lean on her guests, or
the Gershwins. The minimal pairings and juxtapositions make
for a very mixed bag -- tricks and oddities that never get
a chance to jell into something genuinely idiosyncratic.
Dave Pietro: The Chakra Suite (2007 , Challenge):
Saxophonist, alto is probably his main instrument, although he lists
it third here, ahead of C-melody but after soprano and F-mezzo. Born
in Massachusetts, studied at UNT, played 1994-2003 in Toshiko Akiyoshi's
big band, and many of his other credits are in big bands -- Mike Holober,
Pete McGuinness, Jim Widner, Gotham Wind Symphony. Sixth album since 1996,
including some Brazilian experiments and a Stevie Wonder tribute. This
one is based on Indian themes, but also includes Brazilian elements.
Todd Isler taps both sources for percussion. Rez Abbasi plays sitar as
well as guitar. Gary Versace plays accordion and piano. The light sax
floats and dances over intriguing rhythms and subtle mood pieces.
The Pineapple Thief: Tightly Unwound (2008, K
Scope): English ("Somerset-based") rock group, led by guitarist
Bruce Soord, has half a dozen albums since 1999. Sounds a little
like Jesus and Mary Chain minus the fuzz -- didn't catch any
lyrics, so I can't speak to the gloom. Better than average for
what they do, but no real business being here.
Chico Pinheiro & Anthony Wilson: Nova (2008,
Goat Hill): Brazilian guitar record: Pinheiro is the effective leader,
the band is mostly Brazilian, and the guest stars include Ivan Lins
and Dori Caymmi, adding vocals that I don't deem much of a plus.
Wilson adds a second guitar, mostly electric to Pinheiro's mostly
acoustic. A couple of duet pieces are intimate and comfy. Group
pieces with piano, bass, drums, percussion, and sometimes horns,
are more ordinary.
Bucky Pizzarelli and Strings: So Hard to Forget
(2008, Arbors): The strings are kept small, essentially a quartet --
Sara Caswell and Aaron Weinstein on violin, Valerie Levy on viola,
Jesse Levy on cello -- plus bass (Martin Pizzarelli, Jerry Bruno),
with Frank Vignola dropping in for a second guitar on 2 tracks.
Nor are the strings very imposing: a lot of this sounds like solo
guitar, with the strings occasionally adding dabs of background
color. That's also the part that works best, which makes me wonder:
why bother with the strings? Partly because it puts him into a
delicately meditative mood, bringing out an aspect of his guitar
playing we haven't hear much of lately. Partly because when it
does work it can be sublime.
Portinho Trio: Vinho do Porto (2008, MCG Jazz):
Brazilian drummer, based in New York, leads a trio with pianist Klaus
Mueller and bassist Itaiguara Brandão (or Lincoln Goines on 3 tracks).
Brazilian tunes, "Satin Doll," "Footprints," a piece from Paquito
D'Rivera. Lively, subtle, with a big boost from "special guest"
trombonist Jay Ashby.
Benny Powell: Nextep (2007 , Origin):
Trombonist, b. 1930 in New Orleans, came up through the Lionel
Hampton and Count Basie bands. Has a lot of side credits, but
very little under his own name -- this is the third title AMG
lists. No special reason to credit, or blame, him for this one
either. Most of the songs were written by saxophonist-flautist
T.K. Blue or pianist Sayuri Goto, not exactly brand names. No
complaints about the trombone, or drummer Billy Hart, but the
rest tends to get soupy, especially when Blue plays flute.
Ends on an up note, with a Blue calypso called "The Caribbean
Andy Pratt: Masters of War (2008, It's About Music):
Singer-songwriter, plays piano, cut his first record in 1969; had
something of a breakthrough on his third album, Resolution,
in 1976: Stephen Holden gave the record an incredible hype review
in Rolling Stone. I got suckered into buying a copy; hated
the overweening popcraft and sententious, witless songs. 32 years
and maybe 15 albums later, he's still quoting Holden's review. I
haven't heard any of the others, but I have to admit I recall the
voice -- pretty distinctive. The arrangements are simpler here,
with rhythm and voice differentiating three covers -- including
a slowed down, shaded Beatles song ("And I Love Her") and a hepped
up, choppy Dylan (the title cut). His originals don't stick, but
they fit the flow.
Noah Preminger Group: Dry Bridge Road (2007 ,
Nowt): Tenor saxophonist, based in Brooklyn, first album, fronting
a postbop sextet with well established musicians: Russ Johnson
(trumpet), Frank Kimbrough (piano), Ben Monder (guitar), John Hebert
(bass), Ted Poor (drums). Not something I find all that interesting,
but well done, superb group, closes strong with the drum-driven
"Rhythm for Robert."
Bobby Previte & the New Bump: Set the Alarm for Monday
(2007 , Palmetto): Drummer/composer, has 30 or so albums since
1985, recently including fusion experiments with Charlie Hunter as
Groundtruther and Coalition of the Willing. New Bump's name may refer
back to his 1985 album Bump the Renaissance, although the lineup
isn't very similar. Original group: tenor sax, french horn, piano,
bass, drums; new group: tenor sax (Ellery Eskelin), vibes (Bill Ware),
bass (Brad Jones), drums (Previte), with guests on trumpet (Steve
Bernstein) and percussion (Jim Pugliese). Piero Scaruffi describes
Bump the Renaissance as "a bizarre compromise between ECM's
baroque jazz and Frank Zappa's nonsensical rock." This sounds like
anything but. Most pieces are notable for their flow, with the vibes
and drums leaping over one another. Eskelin is an inspired choice,
especially when unleashed to find his own path over the rhythm.
Bobby Previte & the New Bump: Set the Alarm for
Monday (2007 , Palmetto): Previte's been leaning
fusion the last few years, and that comes through in the slick
riddims here where his drums and Bill Ware's vibes leapfrog over
each other. That works well enough, but Ellery Eskelin's tenor
sax is so singular it cuts through any accumulated grease, and
guest Steven Bernstein doubles the threat on trumpet.
Dafnis Prieto: Taking the Soul for a Walk (2008,
Dafnison): Cuban drummer, made a big splash when he showed up in
New York in 1999. I no longer have any doubts about his talent, but
still haven't gotten the hang of his music -- mostly Afro-Cuban
with those weird sharp rhythmic shifts, way too complex for my
taste. But he manages his horns well here -- saxophonists Peter
Apfelbaum and Yosvany Terry blend nicely on the relatively straight
"Until the Last Minute," and Avishai Cohen's trumpet impresses.
I may get the hang of it eventually.
Dafnis Prieto: Taking the Soul for a Walk (2007
, Dafnison): Unquestionably the hot young drummer from Cuba.
Everyone but me seems to love him, and I don't doubt his chops or
his ambition, but I don't much enjoy listening to him. He plays
the herky-jerk Afro-Cuban switchback game almost too effortlessly,
burying it in ornate orchestration, especially slick with the
three front-line horns here (Peter Apfelbaum, Avishai Cohen, and
Tito Puente & His Orchestra: Live at the 1977
Monterey Jazz Festival (1977 , MJF): A typical set by the
great timbalero and his venerable orchestra, featuring signature
tunes like "Oye Como Va" and "El Rey del Timbal," rhumbas and
mambos, a dash of riskier Afro-Cuban jazz, and a cha cha take
on Stevie Wonder.
Lucía Pulido: Luna Menguante/Waning Moon (2006 ,
Adventure Music): Hot-blooded, arch-voiced Colombian chanteuse, based
in New York, all the better to pick up talent like bassist Stomu Takeishi,
drummer Ted Poor, clarinetist/flautist Adam Kolker, and (uncredited on
the cover) trombonist Rafi Malkiel. They make all the difference, although
I may be overly wary of such emoting in a language I don't adequately
Quadro Nuevo: Ciné Passion (2000 , Justin Time):
German group, an "acoustic quartet" with Mulo Francel (reeds), Robert
Wolf (guitar), Heinz-Ludger Jeromin (accordion), and D.D. Lowka (bass).
(Jeromin later replaced by Andreas Hinterseher.) I ran across them
first on their later Tango Bitter Sweet, which seems like the
niche they were built for. This reissue rambles through various movie
themes -- "La Strada," "Un Homme et une Femme," "Lawrence of Arabia,"
"Jean de Florette," "Spartacus"; Astor Piazzolla, Ennio Morricone,
James Newton Howard. Some guests, including a string quartet.
Bruno Råberg: Lifelines (2007 , Orbis Music, 2CD):
I remember Christgau complaining about how much he hated the double
listening required for 2-LP sets. Back in the day, they were rare,
usually commemorating a group passing its peak and trying to slough
off quantity for quality, as with the Beatles' "white album" and
Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti. The exceptions were few:
Eric Clapton's Layla was propped up by an endless proven
songbook; the Clash's London Calling was bursting with new
ideas; and the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street, and
to a lesser extent Todd Rundgren's Something/Anything, made
the quantity gambit work. Still, most of that list are currently
available in single-CD packages, so the measure of excess these
days is more inflated still. I mention this because I'm so snowed
by these two discs I don't know what else to say. Råberg is a
bassist, originally from Sweden, now based in Boston, teaching
at Berklee. Has half-a-dozen records since 1992, mostly elegant
postbop. This set of 22 originals (plus Miles Davis's "Nardis")
is uniformly attractive, offering plenty of space for Chris Cheek
(soprano/tenor sax) and Ben Monder (guitar), switching between two
drummers (Ted Poor and Matt Wilson). Plenty of space for the bass
as well, which is always interesting. In fact, there's much of
interest here. Just a lot to sift through.
Mike Reed's People, Places & Things: Proliferation
(2007 , 482 Music): Drummer, b. 1974 in Germany, raised in
Evanston, IL, based in Chicago. Founded something called Emerging
Improvisers Organization. Active in various groups, the best known
being Exploding Star Orchestra. Four albums since 2006, including
two this year. This one is a quartet, with two saxes (Greg Ward on
alto sax and clarinet, Tim Haldeman on tenor sax), bass (Jason
Roebke), and drums. Intended to invoke Chicago's jazz scene from
1954-60 -- John Jenkins and Sun Ra are tapped for two songs each
among 9 non-original songs; Reed wrote 3 -- it sounds like freebop
to me: racing horn movements, sometimes play gets a little rough,
but mostly the horns stay within convention while the rhythm wanders.
Mike Reed's Loose Assembly: The Speed of Change
(2007 , 482 Music): Drummer Mike Reed's other record, along
with People, Places & Things' Proliferation. Loose Assembly
is indeed loose: a quintet, down to one horn (Greg Ward on alto
sax), with cello (Tomeka Reid), vibes (Jason Adasiewicz), bass
(Josh Abrams), and drums. Nicole Mitchell guests on two cuts, but
doesn't make much of a splash. Indeed, the album has a light,
trippy air, modern postbop pieces.
Dianne Reeves: When You Know (2008, Blue Note):
Love songs -- "Lovin' You," "I'm in Love Again," "Once I Loved,"
including some treacly pop tunes and one piece of Jon Hendricks
vocalese. "Over the Weekend" is probably the melodramatic worst.
Two cuts flow the violins, but most are just guitar, keyb, bass,
drums. George Duke produced. The exception to all the above is
the finale, called "Today Will Be a Good Day" -- the only cut
Reeves wrote, citing her monther for inspiration; it marches to
a different beat, with Russell Malone's guitar rockish, a choice
Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog: Party Intellectuals (2008,
Pi): Guitarist, has many projects including the Albert Ayler tribute
band Spiritual Unity and the Cubanos Postizos (Prosthetic Cubans).
This group, named for a French expression ("chien di faïence") for
"frozen with emotion" ("like bristling dogs the moment before they
fight, or lovers immobilized in one another's gaze"), is a postpunk
power trio, with Shahzad Ismaily on bass and synths, Ches Smith on
drums, with all vocals. Music is fierce enough. Not sure how well
the songs hold up, or whether it matters.
[B+(**)] [advance: June 24]
Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog: Party Intellectuals
(2007 , Pi): With so many different moves, feels, feints,
it's surprising that this group numbers just three members, a
basic guitar-bass-drums power trio, like Cream or Mountain, but
not, of course. Guitarist Ribot sings some, as do bassist Shahzad
Ismaily and drummer Ches Smith, and a couple of guests toss off
some curveballs. The latter two also dabbles with electronics.
Opener rocks out hard. "Todo El Mundo Es Kitsch" breaks to laugh
at everyone, with Janice Cruz vocal. Some more hard ones follow,
plus some not so much soft as indeterminate, and some I don't
know what to do with.
Ridd Quartet: Fiction Avalanche (2005 ,
Clean Feed): Jon Irabagon (sax, presumably alto); Kris Davis
(piano); Reuben Radding (double bass); Jeff Davis (drums).
The Canadian pianist has a couple of quartet records with Tony
Malaby on tenor sax, so it's tempting to think of this group
as a variant -- drummer Davis is in both; Radding, a bassist
well traveled in avant circles, subs for Eivind Opsvik -- and
Irabagon is an interesting alternative to Malaby. On the other
hand, the pieces are all jointly credited.
Pete Rodríguez: El Alquimista/The Alchemist (2008,
Conde Music): Trumpeter, b. 1969, from Puerto Rico, based in NJ, has
a couple of previous records. He's ably supported here by Ricardo
Rodríguez on bass, Henry Cole on drums, and Roberto Quintero, and
frequently upstaged by splashy performances from pianist Luis Perdomo
and tenor saxophonist David Sánchez. Impressive as the latter two
are, I find their whiplash approach to Latin jazz often disorienting.
Trumpet sounds fine.
Hans-Joachim Roedelius/Tim Story: Inlandish (2008,
Gronland): Two synth players. Roedelius was part of the kraut rock
group Cluster (sometimes just a duo with Dieter Moebius) from 1970
on, also making a couple of 1977-78 ambient records with Brian Eno.
Story came along in 1981. He has a dozen or so records, mostly
filed under New Age (one was released on Windham Hill), although
there's not a lot of difference between the two. Non-swing ambient
pieces, the first one in particular ("As It Were") is especially
enchanting; the weaker tracks merely more inscrutable.
Sonny Rollins: Road Shows Vol. 1 (1980-2007 ,
Doxy/Emarcy): I've read so many Gary Giddins columns raving about
Sonny Rollins' live performances that my first reaction here is: is
this the best you can do? Looking at the fine print, we see: 7 songs,
from 7 different venues, 2 from 1980, 1 from 1986, 1 from 2000, 3
from 2006-07. The groups are nearly as scattered, with 2 pianists,
3 bassists, 5 drummers, trombonist Clifton Anderson on 4 cuts,
guitarist Bobby Broom on 3, 2 percussionists on 3 cuts. Still,
the striking thing is that none of that matters. One thing you
can't say about Rollins is that he's a team player. He sounds
exactly the same in any context over this 28 year stretch, so
overwhelming it hardly matters who else is on stage. That isn't
to deny the occasional piano or guitar solo. It's just to wonder
who else could piece together such a coherent album from scraps
like this? Giddins wrote the liner notes, proclaiming this one of
Rollins' finest albums. I wouldn't put it in his top ten, and
refer you all back to G-Man, which -- never having seen
him live myself -- is how I've come to imagine him live. I don't
doubt that this series will eventually turn tedious, especially
once Rollins' heirs start vetting the takes, but for now this is
just further evidence of what "saxophone colossus" means.
Curtis Salgado: Clean Getaway (2008, Shanachie):
B. 1954, Everett, WA; based in Portland, OR. Cover hypes him as "a
true soul singer." I make him more as a blues singer, but he goes
with the songs. Reportedly the inspiration for John Belushi's Blues
Brothers. Sang in Robert Cray's band before Cray took over; later
sang in Santana. Good singer, sometimes reminding you of better
ones, like when he's doing their songs.
Angelica Sanchez: Life Between (2007 ,
Clean Feed): Pianist, also fond of electronic keyboards, from
Phoenix, AZ; based in New York; one previous album, plus some
trio work with her husband, tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby.
Wrote all of the pieces here. Only a few stretches showcase
her piano, interesting enough, but she's attracted a very
high powered quintet, with Malaby, Marc Ducret on guitar,
Drew Gress on bass, and Tom Rainey on drums.
Randy Sandke: Unconventional Wisdom (2008, Arbors):
Trumpeter, mostly plays old-fashioned mainstream, or what you might
call swing-bop, but sometimes will surprise you. This quartet, with
Howard Alden (guitar), Nicki Parrott (bass), and John Riley (drums),
should steer to the retro side, but doesn't. I'm not really sure
what they're doing, other than framing a lot of gorgeous trumpet
balladry. Parrott also sings four songs. She has a plain, slightly
hesitant voice, which I think works very well.
Randy Sandke: Unconventional Wisdom (2008, Arbors):
Stuck in my record player for two full days, partly because I've
been hard-pressed to write up something -- more due to distractions
than the music -- and partly because it keeps growing on me. Sandke's
respect for his elders shows up in his naming his son Bix, but he
also writes originals that are interesting in their own right --
part of postbop is that is subsumes all that went before it, but
few composers can weave their own material into the predominant
Berlins, Porters, and Carmichaels as well. He also works in a Bill
Evans piece, and a Jobim, without making the latter seem tokenist
or obligatory. Plays some of his finest trumpet, too. Guitarist
Howard Alden is supportive, never making a bid to steal the show,
as sometimes he does. Bassist Nicki Parrott sings four songs.
She's not a strong or smooth singer, but I find her absolutely
Janine Santana: Soft as Granite (2008, NiNi):
Percussionist, plays congas, guiro, maracas, claves; has a vocal
credit, although Wendy Fopeano and Kihn Imuri also sing, and no
info on who did what. Based in Denver. Alto saxophonist Richie
Cole and percussionist José Madera get "featuring" credit on the
front cover, and Cole wrote some liner notes. Figure them for a
Latin funk band, one that can keep a strong groove running, and
mix in a little something-else when you're not expecting it --
Stevie Wonder's "Big Brother" sounds like it came from another
record, but makes itself at home. No real bio info -- does one
song from Carlos Santana, but no mention of a relationship.
Boz Scaggs: Speak Low (2008, Decca): Another pop
singer running low on juice cracks open the old standards book.
Nice, smart versions of things like "Speak Low" and "Do Nothing
Till You Hear From Me," but I could do without "Dindi." Still,
the main thing is that while there's nothing wrong with Scaggs'
singing, there's not much special about it either -- unlike, say,
Rod Stewart. Instrumentation, strings even, are always tasteful.
Peter Schärli Trio Feat. Ithamara Koorax: Obrigado Dom
Um Romão (2006 , TCB): Schärli plays trumpet; was
born 1955; has at least 8 albums since 1986, including at least
one focusing on Brazilian music. Trio includes Markus Stalder
on guitar and Thomas Dürst on double bass. Koorax is a Brazilian
vocalist, b. 1965 in Rio de Janeiro, the daughter of Polish Jews
who fled Europe during WWII. Dom Um Romão was a famous Brazilian
percussionist, 1924-2005. One cut here incorporates a berimbau
solo Romão recorded in the 1990s. I suppose the lack of drums
in this tribute could signify his absence. Mostly slow Brazilian
tunes, two standards ("Love for Sale," "I Fall in Love Too Easily"),
a Schärli original, done with a lot of haunting, smokey atmosphere.
Jenny Scheinman (2008, Koch): Violinist, the most
consistently impressive one to have emerged since well before Regina
Carter. She's always had a fondness for folkie melodies, but this
takes that seed and grows it into a whole new plant: she plays some
lovely country-ish fiddle, but appears mostly as a vocalist -- not
a jazz vocalist, mind you, more like alt-country, suggesting that
if she wanted to she could smoke Alison Krauss on both counts. If
she doesn't, she's only keeping in character. Wrote four songs,
which tend to rock more than the trad or neo-trad covers she picks.
The one from Lucinda Williams measures up well. The Mississippi
John Hurt ("Miss Collins") and Tom Waits ("Johnsburg, Illinois")
are choice cuts. Tony Scherr fills in guitar, bass, and almost
everything else, with added bass and drums on a few cuts, and a
Bill Frisell cameo on one. Not quite sure what to make of it.
Jenny Scheinman: Crossing the Field (2008, Koch):
Not quite sure what to make of this one either. This is Scheinman's
serious side, as opposed to the alt-country fluke her eponymous
album is. Too serious, maybe. No vocals, a near-allstar group, plus
a massive string orchestra on five cuts, an even larger one on one
more. Lots of good things here: Jason Moran's piano, Ron Miles'
cornet, Doug Wieselman's clarinets, Bill Frisell's guitar, and of
course the violin. Scheinman wrote all the pieces, except for Duke
Ellington's "Awful Sad" -- very unorthodox choice there.
Andy Scherrer Special Sextet: Wrong Is Right
(2007 , TCB): Saxophonist, b. 1946 in Switzerland, based
in Basel; four albums since 2000, but has worked at least since
1972, playing with Vienna Art Orchestra since 1991. Credited
with "saxes" here; all the photos I've seen show him with tenor
sax, but VAO also credits him with soprano sax and piano. Sextet
has two more reeds (both credited with tenor sax and bass clarinet):
Domenic Landolf and Jürg Bucher. They provide a lively front line
that's hard to sort out. Pianist Bill Carrothers gets a front cover
"feat." credit. His solos sparkle, and he keeps the band moving.
Title picks up on a Thelonious Monk quote. Several band members
contribute pieces, plus one from John Coltrane, one from Ornette
Coleman, one from trad. Richly figured postbop, not quite wrong
enough to really do right.
Trygve Seim/Frode Haltli: Yeraz (2007 , ECM):
Norwegians: Seim plays soprano and tenor sax, Haltli accordion. Both
have previous ECM albums -- Haltli's more folkloric, Seim a promising
postbop musician. The instruments mesh nicely here, the sensibilities
evening out. Title cut is Armenian traditional. Two thirds of the
opener are credited to G.I. Gurdjieff. The one other cover is from
Steve Shapiro/Pat Bergeson: Backward Compatible (2007
, Apria): Shapiro plays vibes, and has a background as a producer.
Bergeson plays guitar and harmonica. This is their third album together.
The previous one, Low Standards, was a Jazz CG A-list item in
2005. Nashville Hot Clubber Annie Sellick sings most cuts. Two 1970s
rock classics -- "Heart of Gold" and "Free Man in Paris" -- seem too
indelibly attached to their originators, the bubbling vibes not all
that apparent at first, but older, lower standard fare like "It Could
Happen to You" and "My Heart Belongs to Daddy," works nicely, and the
instrumental breaks swing so effortlessly they could support an album
on their own.
Avery Sharpe: Legends & Mentors: The Music of McCoy
Tyner, Archie Shepp and Yusef Lateef (2007 , JKNM):
Three sections, each starting with a Sharpe original, followed
by two pieces written by the subject. Sharpe is a bassist, born
1955, has 6-8 albums under his own name, a substantial list of
credits, starting with Shepp's Attica Blues Big Band, 25
years with Tyner, and a stretch with Lateef in the early 1990s
that includes one called Tenors of Yusef Lateef & Archie
Shepp -- hard to find on Lateef's YAL label, but one of the
great sax jousts of all time. The band here features John Blake
on violin, Joe Ford on reeds and flute (Lateef, you know), Onaje
Allan Gumbs on piano, Winard Harper on drums. Gumbs is a pretty
good Tyner substitute, and the first section swings hard. Shepp
is a tougher nut to crack, but Lateef's spaciness opens things
up again. The violin is a nice touch. Usually don't expect much
from tributes, but this one is growing on me.
Avery Sharpe: Legends & Mentors: The Music of McCoy
Tyner, Archie Shepp and Yusef Lateef (2007 , JKNM):
Journeyman bassist with a few records under his own name, Sharpe
has direct connections to each of his legends/mentors, including
a credit on a very good joust between Shepp and Lateef. He writes
a song for each, then covers two more, a nice balance. Joe Ford
handles the horn duties, and Onaje Allan Gumbs does a passable
Tyner. John Blake's violin is an interesting twist, and I like
the occasional bass solo. Not quite a tour de force, but a very
clever way to put an album together.
Lee Shaw Trio: Life in Graz (2007 , ARC, CD+DVD):
Pianist, b. 1926 in Oklahoma, spent some time in Chicago, lists Oscar
Peterson among her "studied withs," now based in Albany, NY; has a few
records since 1996, picking up after her husband, drummer Stan Shaw,
died in 2001, but was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in
1993 -- don't know what led to that. Trio includes Jeff Syracuse on
bass, Jeff Siegel on drums. Five originals and three covers, including
pieces from contemporary pianists Ahmad Jamal and Billy Taylor. DVD
has a couple of concert clips and some interviews -- she has a higher
opinion of Oklahoma education than I do. Good mainstream piano trio.
Harry Shearer: Songs of the Bushmen (2008, Courgette):
Eleven songs, one dedicated to Bush administration teamwork ("935
Lies"), the other ten to individuals, starting with Colin Powell's
"Smooth Moves" and ending with Donald Rumsfeld's "Stuff Happens" --
both song-and-dance numbers, more than a little jazzy. Some of the
adaptations are obvious -- "Wolf on the Run" for Paul Wolfowitz,
"Who Is Yoo?" for John Yoo, with Karl Rove's "Turd Blossom Special"
and "The Head of Alberto Gonzalez" the most effective. "Karen" (as
in Hughes) is a duet with a Bush-sounding character asking the
publicist whether they like us yet. The one that cuts deepest is
Condoleezza Rice's "Gym Buds," with Judith Owen singing and someone
named Beethoven contributing the melody.
Jim Shearer & Charlie Wood: The Memphis Hang
(2008, Summit): Shearer is based in New Mexico, where he teaches
his instrument: tuba. I've seen references to a "tuba jazz" deal
with Jim Self, but AMG doesn't credit him with any records other
than this one. He cites Sam Pilafian ahead of Howard Johnson and
Bob Stewart on his MySpace influences list, so figure he likes
old timey jazz. Also dabbles in some classical, playing with the
Roswell Symphony Orchestra. Wood is a Memphis guy, filed under
blues by AMG. He plays organ and sings; has a group he calls New
Memphis Underground. Strikes me as a possible Memphis answer to
Dr. John. Harmonica player Billy Gibson gets a "special guest"
credit on the front cover. Some surprises in the song set here,
starting with a vocalized version of Monk's "Well, You Needn't";
a couple of Andy Razaf lyrics; Joni Mitchell's words to "Goodbye
Pork Pie Hat"; some other oddities. Need to play it again.
Jim Shearer & Charlie Wood: The Memphis Hang
(2008, Summit): Wood is a sly singer, probably more at home with
simpler country/blues fare, but he tackles some difficult pieces
here -- not just Dave Frishberg and Andy Razaf but Joni Mitchell's
lyrics to "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" and Mike Ferro's to "Well, You
Needn't" -- and stays on top of it all. He also plays keyboards,
principally Hammond B3, which gets sharpened up considerably by
Billy Gibson's harmonica. Shearer is less conspicuous, but tuba
is sort of the running gag of the brass section, and his oom-pah
keeps the whole affair in good humor.
Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra: Harriet Tubman
(2007 , Noir, 2CD): Bassist, b. 1966 Alabama, currently
based in San Francisco. Sixth album since 1997, mostly with
his MSJO big band. This one takes its inspiration from Harriet
Tubman (1820-1913), a Maryland slave who escaped to Philadelphia
in 1849. She worked guiding slaves north to freedom, served with
the Union army as an armed scout and spy (liberating 700 slaves
in one operation), and was later a women's suffrage activist.
The music swings, the horns bright and rowdy, as impressive as
any big band work I've heard in several years. I'm less sure
of the words, which break the flow but advance the story. Need
to focus more on them.
Chip Shelton & Peacetime: Imbued With Memories
(2007 , Summit): No birth date given, but if he was in high
school and college (Howard, studying dentistry) in the 1960s, he
must be close to 60 now. Recording career starts in the 1980s.
Mostly plays flute, along with piccolo and a little sax. Band
relies on guitar (Lou Volpe, sweet and tasty), keyboards, and
extra percussion, with a persistent groove. In other words, this
is smooth jazz, maybe with a little higher aims and less cash in
prospect. Jann Parker guests on the obligatory radio vocal cut.
Idit Shner: Tuesday's Blues (2008, OA2): Alto saxophonist,
grew up in Israel, studied in Oklahoma, graduated from UNT, played in
Sherrie Maricle's DIVA Jazz Orchestra; now based in Oregon. First record,
a quartet with Stefan Karlsson on piano, Mike League on bass, Steve
Pruitt on drums. Four of seven songs are listed as traditional: "Yellow
Moon," "Elisheva Doll," "Adon Haselichot," and "Ha Lachma." I wouldn't
classify them as klezmer, but the folk melodies help center the album.
A bit of solo sax near the end is particularly nice.
Judi Silvano: Cleome: Live Takes (2008, JSL):
I think there's some market research that shows that people relate
more readily to records with vocals than they do to instrumentals,
and that in turn is one reason instrumental jazz remains so far out
on the commercial fringe. I personally take the opposite view. I
much prefer the clear sound of horns, especially when the lyrics
don't signify much of anything -- and they never signify less than
in scat, where the comparison to horns is most explicit. Of course,
you could make scat worse by dispensing with the rhythm and letting
the singer wander deaf and blind over the charts, which isn't that
far removed from what Silvano does here. I find the vocal parts
pretty much unlistenable here, which is a shame because the same
music without vocals would easily sail into HM territory. I might
even have cut them some slack, because it's not every day you get
to hear the legendary George Garzone -- an especially nice touch,
given that Silvano could have inexpensively featured husband Joe
Lovano instead. The rhythm section is Michael Formanek on bass
and Gerry Hemingway on drums, with John Lindberg slipping in on
Silvano's two covers. Some remarkable patches here. If my initial
reaction wasn't so visceral, I'd put it back and see what comes of
Nina Simone: To Be Free: The Nina Simone Story
(1957-93 , RCA/Legacy, 3CD+DVD): Package is 5.25 inches high,
11.25 inches wide, no deeper than a jewel box -- a combination that
fits on no known shelving. Starts with 3 Bethlehem tracks (1957),
8 Colpix (1959-64), 5 Phillips (1964-65); ends with 1 Elektra (1993),
the balance inexpensively culled from RCA's catalog, including live
takes of older hits: about the same shape as the 2-CD Anthology
from 2003, just longer, with more marginal stuff. Simone was courageous
politically, cautious romantically, sometimes brilliant, but more often
her covers were only as deep as her voice -- songs like "Mr. Bojangles"
come off as mere exercises. This hits the key points, and stays away
from the dross which dominated her RCA catalog, but offers no surprises.
Documentation is good.
Wadada Leo Smith's Golden Quartet: Tablighi (2005
, Cuneiform): Trumpet player, goes back to the 1970s when he
was one of the AACM cats searching for an avant-garde path out of
the end-of-history that playing far out and radically free led to --
a fellow traveler to Anthony Braxton, Muhal Richard Abrams, and the
Art Ensemble of Chicago. Much of this effort maintains the studied
diffidence that always made him hard to grasp, except when he opts
to channel Miles Davis. Quartet includes Vijay Iyer on keyboards,
John Lindberg on bass, Shannon Jackson on drums.
Martial Solal Trio: Longitude (2007 , CAM Jazz):
French pianist, born in Algeria in 1927, has recorded regularly since
the early 1950s, giving him a discography that rivals contemporaries
like George Shearing, Marian McPartland, and André Previn, maybe even
Dave Brubeck and Hank Jones -- I'm way behind the learning curve on
him, and piano isn't a particularly strong suit, but he certainly
ranks with the major jazz figures of his lifetime. Nearing his 80th
birthday, he remains dazzling on this record, with François Moutin
on bass, Louis Moutin on drums.
Martial Solal Trio: Longitude (2007 , CAM Jazz):
I thought of Solal when I was writing about Paul Bley's 50+ year
career -- both have records dating from 1953, although Solal is
actually 5 years older. Bley probably has more records, but Solal
has a much broader range of groups, everything from solos to big
bands. The problem is that I know so little by Solal, and nothing
that I have heard has knocked me out the way 3 or 4 Bley records
have. The lack of study is partly because Solal is French and
partly because he plays piano, an instrument I haven't pursued
anywhere near as aggressively as I have the saxophones. But this
new piano trio is as bright and complex and challenging as any
I've heard lately. Don't have much more to say about it. He is
an enigma for me, a SFFR. At age 80 I doubt that this is his
peak, but I also doubt that anyone could guess his age in a
The Soprano Summit in 1975 and More (1975-79
, Arbors, 2CD): Clarinetist Kenny Davern and saxophonst
Bob Wilber, two impeccably backward-looking players, ran into
each other in Colorado in 1972, finding common ground as a
soprano sax duo dedicated to Sidney Bechet. Their summits
continued through the 1970s, with occasional reunions into
2001, sometimes with pianist Dick Hyman and other kindred
souls -- guitarist Marty Grosz is prominent here, but Bucky
Pizzarelli also played. Dan Morgenstern picked these sessions
from the archives, including one from April 1975 focusing
on Jelly Roll Morton, and two non-Summit sets: a Davern trio
with pianist Dick Wellstood from 1979, and a 1976 Wilber group
with Ruby Braff. The album never strays from the soprano range,
but lively rhythm sections make up for the lack of contrasting
horns. Superb trad jazz.
South Florida Jazz Orchestra (2008, MAMA): Directed
by bassist Chuck Bergeron, who teaches at University of Miami, has
three records under his own name, maybe three dozen side credits
since 1988. Basic full bore big band line up, plus a spare piano
and a fifth trombone, plus a set of guests: Charles Pillow, Ed
Calle, Kevin Mahogany, and Arturo Sandoval got listed on the front
cover; Mike Lewis, Dana Paul, and Nicole Yarling in the fine print.
No credits on any of those, but some are obvious. John Fedchock,
a big band hand from New York, produced. Well crafted, a lot of
neat details on top of the propulsive swing. The few vocals don't
fare as well, although "Nature Boy" (Mahogany, I presume) is nice
Spring Heel Jack: Songs and Themes (2008, Thirsty Ear):
John Coxon and Ashley Wales built up their brand name as DJs mixing
techno, but parts of their hearts and/or brains were more attached to
free jazz, resulting in a series of inconsistent, sporadically fetching
records. The big names here are saxophonist John Tchicai and trumpeter
Roy Campbell, with other oddities packed in like Orphy Robinson's vibes,
J. Spaceman's guitar, and the leaders' samples. Doesn't add up, but
now and then threatens to.
Spring Heel Jack: Songs & Themes (2007 ,
Thirsty Ear): More themes than songs, pastiches of mood with some
jazz flourishes -- Roy Campbell trumpet, John Tchicai sax -- on
top of a wide range of samples and textures. Took me a while to
warm up to it. Never got a final copy.
Jesse Stacken: That That (2006 , Fresh Sound
New Talent): Pianist, b. 1978, based in New York. First album, a
piano trio with Eivind Opsvik (bass) and Jeff Davis (drums) -- two
names familiar from elsewhere, especially with Kris Davis. I need
to hold this one back: didn't seem very interesting the first time
through, but figured I didn't hear it clearly enough, and the second
play started to click together. Moderately paced, dense, with more
than a little dramatic tension. May be on to something.
Ben Stapp Trio: Ecstasis (2007 , Uqbar):
Plays tuba, wrote everything on this first album (credited, as is
the tuba, to Benjamin Stapp); 26 years old, presumably born 1982;
from California, based in New York. The tuba, like a bass, is a
little hard to follow here -- volume is limited, its role more to
set up a steady flow the others play off of. And the others steal
the show: Tony Malaby (tenor and soprano sax) adds another feather
to his cap as a frontline sideman, and Satoshi Takeishi provides
the complementary offbeat percussion.
John Stein: Encounter Point (2007 , Whaling City
Sound): Guitarist, originally from Kansas City, has a half-dozen albums.
Quartet here, mostly funk licks over Koichi Sato's electric keyboard,
with a little samba wedged in, not just to make drummer Zé Eduardo
Nazario feel at home.
Bobo Stenson Trio: Cantando (2007 , ECM):
Piano trio, with Anders Jormin on bass, Jon Fält on drums. Stenson
has been around quite a while: b. 1944, co-led an early-1970s group
with Jan Garbarek that produced Witchi-Tai-To, one of my
favorite records. Has been recording regularly for ECM since 1998,
with a few more titles going back to 1971. A good fit for Manfred
Eicher's piano taste. Plays songs by Silvio Rodriguez, Alban Berg,
Astor Piazzolla, Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, a couple others, one
group piece, two more by Jormin, who gets some space and comes off
Bobo Stenson Trio: Cantando (2007 , ECM):
Relatively quiet piano trio, also relatively free, a combination
that seems to appeal to ECM honcho Manfred Eicher. Anders Jormin
is a little more than the average bassist in this context.
The Suicide Kings (2008, Blue Plate Music): Country
rock group, formed in 2006, although the key players -- vocalist Bruce
Connole, keyboardist Brad Buxer -- have kicked around for a couple of
decades. Remind me of someone I can't quite pin down. Some grim moments,
which may or may not include the signature song. Some indications that
they're sharper politically than their niche demands.
The Stryker/Slagle Band: The Scene (2008, Zoho):
Fourth album under this name, although guitarist Dave Stryker and
alto saxophonist Steve Slagle appeared on each other's albums long
before their merger. Jay Anderson plays bass, Lewis Nash drums.
Joe Lovano joins in on four cuts, but he's mostly wasted on slow
and overly slick stuff. And then there's Slagle's characteristic
flute cut. On the other hand, the band's usual upbeat postbop is
Natsuki Tamura/Satoko Fujii: Chun (2008, Libra):
Trumpet/piano duos. Husband and wife, they've done this before --
at least three times, with In Krakow in November my pick
of the two I've heard -- as well as appearing on dozens of albums
with various bassists, drummers, and others up to big band weight.
Stef Gijssels wrote an ecstatic review of this in his Free Jazz
blog, ending with "I'm sorry to be so excited." I'm hearing pretty
much the same things, but find the contrast between two dramatic
soloists somewhat disjointed -- maybe just too abrupt. As usual,
Fujii is much the more aggressive player, a reversal from the usual
form where pianists slip into accompanist roles. But Tamura does
more than just decorate her thrashing. He's a lyrical player, yin
to her yang (or is it the other way around?).
Fred Taylor and Inquest: Processional (2006, Crinkle-Cuts):
Drummer, based in NJ. Some months ago I wrote up a note on his latest
trio record, Circling. This is an earlier record, but arrived
later, presumably as background. Quartet, crediting Gary Rollins with
guitars, James Clark with basses, and Craig Lawrence with woodwinds --
back cover picture shows him with a clarinet; booklet also mentions
soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax, and flute, all of which are mild
and atmospheric. Rollins' guitars are more prominent, both driving
and carrying the load. Pleasant, grooveful, could pass for new age.
Fred Taylor Trio: Circling (2008, Fred Taylor Music):
Drummer, b. 1954, Spokane, WA; worked in Seattle, Vancouver, Minneapolis;
now based in NJ. Seems to have a fusion background, although this is
postbop, with Rick Crane on bass, Bob Ackerman on alto sax, flute, and
clarinet. Could just as well be Ackerman's record, especially given that
he wrote most of the pieces -- Taylor's credits are arranging "Dear Old
Stockholm" and his share of the group improv "Inventions I and II."
Martin Taylor: Double Standards (2008, The Guitar
Label): Taylor introduces this as "the first of a series of guitar
duets that I plan to record over the next ten years." However, his
duet partner this time is his self: double-tracked guitar work,
sometimes settling into solo. The standards hold up, and he plays
them with calm eloquence, reminding me of what I first found so
attractive in his work.
Tetterapadequ: And the Missing R (2007 ,
Clean Feed): Quartet, two Italians up front (Daniele Martini on
tenor sax, Giovanni Di Domenico on piano), two Portuguese back
(Gonçalo Almeida on bass, João Lobo on drums). Group name is a
word puzzle, with an 'R' removed to the title. Mostly free, but
rather subdued, with stretches that only barely register -- when
they do it is often the piano -- and others that start to cohere
into something promising. Went sub-audible for long enough to
make me think it was done, then gradually klunked back, ending
with some skronk and a laugh.
Cal Tjader: The Best of Cal Tjader: Live at the Monterey
Jazz Festival 1958-1980 (1958-80 , MJF): A short set
from 1958 with Buddy DeFranco bebop over the vibraphonist's Latin
stew, and four choice 1972-80 shots, starting with Dizzy Gillespie
and Clark Terry teaching him how to play "Manteca." I remember
going through my database once and deciding that Tjader was the
most accomplished jazz musician on the list that I hadn't heard
yet, so I'm far from an expert, but these cuts strike me as a
well chosen primer.
Townhouse Orchestra: Belle Ville (2007 ,
Clean Feed, 2CD): Old fashioned free jazz quartet, just two group
improvs, one 44:47, the other 45:10, which is to say they don't
run on beyond endurance, and once you've played one, there's
still another variation available. Evan Parker has been doing
this sort of thing for a long time. He sticks to tenor sax here,
less distinctive than his soprano, but less shrill and wearying
as well. Pianist Sten Sandel makes a good foil, and the Norwegian
rhythm team of Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (bass) and Paal Nilssen-Love
(drums) -- names familiar from Ken Vandermark projects like School
Days -- push things along.
Trio Viriditas: Live at Vision Festival VI (2001
, Clean Feed): Alfred Harth (aka A23H) on reeds, pocket trumpet
voice; Wilber Morris on bass; Kevin Norton on drums. Harth is a new
one to me. (Not really: I found one co-credit in my database, but it
didn't register in my memory.) AMG lists him under Opera with virtually
no info. Other sources show a discography going back to 1969, including
7 albums as Duo Goebbels/Harth (that would be keyboard player Heiner
Goebbels); collaborations with John Zorn, Peter Brötzmann, Lindsay
Cooper, Otomo Yoshihide; various groups, sample names: Just Music,
Duck and Cover, Vladimir Estragon, Gestalt et Jive, Imperial Hoot,
Sogennantes Linksradikales Blasorchester (So-Called Left-Radical Brass
Band). He's usually identified as a multi-media artist. Morris and
Norton are, or should be, well known, at least in avant-jazz circles.
This starts up awkwardly, but settles into free jazz's alternative
equivalent of a groove. Not credited, but I could swear this ends
with a long quote from "On the Street Where You Live."
Vassilis Tsabropoulos/Anja Lechner/U.T. Gandhi: Melos
(2007 , ECM): Piano, cello, percussion. The cello is the sonic
center here. Mostly slow, very pretty. Not much percussion.
Tuner: Totem (2005 , Unsung): Another
rock record slipped into the stack. Quasi-industrial, chompy
hard beats, fuzz guitar, more instrumental than not, with
long stairstepped segues and some chant-like but ignorable
vocals. "Dexter Ward," with its long instrumental outro, is
a good example.
Tuner: Pole (2005-06 , Unsung): Not
background; just an earlier record I shelved and didn't bother
with. Group is duo with Markus Reuter on guitars (mostly) and
Pat Mastelotto on drums (mostly), with nine guests listed.
Like the quasi-industrial instrumentals; don't like the cult
doom-and-gloom vocals -- the talkie ones aren't so bad, but
the whispery ones are just creepy.
Steve Turre: Rainbow People (2007 , High Note):
Poll-winning trombonist, also plays conch shells (and sometimes wins
polls for that as well), on his 13th album. I've heard most of them,
and like most of what I've heard, but I've never managed to characterize
his sound -- how many ways can you spell eclectic? -- and I still don't
have a clue what the shells sound like. With Sean Jones (trumpet), Kenny
Garrett (alto sax, 4 tracks; note Charlie Parker cover), Mulgrew Miller
(piano; note McCoy Tyner cover), Peter Washington (bass), Ignacio Berroa
(drums), Pedro Martinez (percussion, 1 track, note Latin move). Starts
with the strong title track, and pulls off various surprises after that.
Liked it more the first play.
Steve Turre: Rainbow People (2007 , High Note):
The poll-winning trombonist of the last decade-plus, strikes me as
something of a chameleon, with no particular style of his own but a
remarkable knack for blending in wherever he goes. Taps Mulgrew Miller
to play a little McCoy Tyner, Kenny Garrett for some Charlie Parker,
Pedro Martinez for a slick Latin closer. Gets superb help from Peter
Washington and Ignacio Berroa, of course. Pretty good trombone, too.
McCoy Tyner: Guitars (2006 , McCoy Tyner
Music/Half Note, CD+DVD): Quartets, with Ron Carter on bass, Jack
DeJohnette on drums, and a smattering of guitarists sharing the
center stage with Tyner: Marc Ribot, John Scofield, Derek Trucks,
Bill Frisell, and Bela Fleck (uh, banjo). Scattered results, with
Ribot's metallica and Fleck's hokum the outliers, and Trucks
playing it safest with "Slapback Blues" and "Greensleeves."
Scofield's "Mr. P.C." is pretty safe, too. Frisell's closer,
"Baba Drame" from Boubacar Traore, is the choice cut. Comes
with a DVD I haven't seen yet.
The Warren Vaché-John Allred Quintet: Live in Bern
Switzerland at Marians Jazzroom: Jubilation (2007 ,
Arbors): The leaders play cornet and trombone, respectively,
although Allred makes less of an impression than usual, and
Vaché is clearly the leader. With Tardo Hammer on piano, Nicki
Parrott on bass, Leroy Williams on drums. Seems like a typical
cross-section of Vaché's shtick: Gershwin and Berlin, "Caravan,"
"Old Devil Moon," a couple of newer tunes strong on melody (two
from Horace Silver, one from Junior Mance), a couple of his
haphazard but charming vocals, one a trash-talking duet with
Parrott (pronounced "pa-rot") -- in fact, called "Sweet Hunk
Bebo Valdes & Javier Colina: Live at the Village
Vanguard (2005 , Calle 54/Norte): Piano-bass duets,
with the 86-year-old Cuban legend working his way through a set
of Cuban classics plus "Yesterdays" and "Waltz for Debby."
Peter Van Huffel/Sophie Tassignon: Hufflignon
(2008, Clean Feed): Van Huffel plays alto/soprano sax, comes
from Canada, is based in New York and/or Berlin. I've heard a
previous album on FSNT which showed him to be an interesting
postbop player. Tassignon is a vocalist, from Belgium. She
wrote six pieces to Van Huffel's three, with one cover from
someone named Vivaldi. Even without the latter, her voice is
archly operatic, the effect partly moderated by slow speeds
and free structures.
Johnny Varro Swing 7: Ring Dem Bells (2007 ,
Arbors): Veteran swing pianist, b. 1930, broke in Bobby Hackett in
1953, spent much of the next decade with Eddie Condon. Has a pile
of records on Arbors -- his Swing 7 group is pretty much the label's
all-stars: Randy Sandke (trumpet), Dan Barrett (trombone), Scott
Robinson (tenor sax), Ken Peplowski (alto sax/clarinet), Frank Tate
(bass), Joe Ascione (drums). Such a group could hardly do wrong,
especially on proven standard fare, but they never kick it up that
necessary notch. Scattered pleasures, shy of a tour de force.
Eric Vloeimans: Gatecrash (2007 , Challenge):
Trumpet player, b. 1963, the Netherlands, studied with Donald Byrd,
has a dozen or so albums since 1992. With electric keyboardist Jeroen
van Vliet setting the framework for this quartet, he's set up for
some kind of fusion, but tends more toward postbop pastels, partly
because plugging in doesn't guarantee enough of a groove.
Von Garcia: I Think a Think (2008, Sluggo's Goon
Music): Hype sheet describes Sluggo's Goon Music as a collective
as well as a label. Also describes Von Garcia as an "ambient noise
rock project," led by James von Buelow (guitar, keyb, vocal) and
Damon Trotta (bass, dobro, percussion, programming). Other vocals
and instruments are listed -- guitarist Ben Monder, in for a solo
feature, is the only one I recognize. More rock than jazz, but the
vocals are tossed off on the side, the regular beat leans toward
funk, and the guitars get to stretch out. I like it better without
Torben Waldorff: Afterburn (2008, ArtistShare):
Danish guitarist, attended Berklee 1984-88, seems to be based in
New York now, but bio isn't very clear. Cut two records 1999-2004
for Swedish label LJ, and two since then with ArtistShare. Don't
have a good sense of his guitar, but that's mostly because his
band is so obtrusive -- or maybe I just mean tenor saxophonist
Donny McCaslin. I've never cared much for McCaslin's records,
but he's always been a technically astounding player. He's all
over this record. The rest of the band aren't shy, either. Cover
has several pictures of Waldorff's grandmother, née Lore Woger --
dancing on the front, playing alto sax on the back.
Torben Waldorff: Afterburn (2008, ArtistShare):
Played this an extra time just to try to focus on the leader's
guitar, which remains indistinct and underwhelming, although it
does fit in with the flow, and it does all flow. The standout,
of course, is tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin, who dominates
without pushing himself anywhere near his usual extremes.
Marcin Wasilewski Trio: January (2007 ,
ECM): Piano trio. Group drew first notice as three-fourths of
Tomasz Stanko's "young Polish quartet." Beyond three albums with
Stanko, and a couple with Manu Katché, this is the trio's second
album on their own. Top line of the album also names bassist
Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz. First song
is followed by a stretch of five covers: Gary Peacock, Ennio
Morricone, Prince, Stanko, Carla Bley. The covers sustain the
melodicism, but what really carries the album is its measured
logic and attention to detail.
Marcin Wasilewski Trio: January (2007 ,
ECM): A piano trio, they originally appeared as veteran trumpeter
Tomasz Stanko's "young Polish quartet," but here go by their own
own names, with bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal
Miskiewicz joining pianist Wasilewski on the cover. They conjure
up a near perfect quietstorm of ECM piano, every little detail
locked snugly into place. You almost don't notice how artful it
all is, because it almost slips by unnoticed.
Mark Weinstein: Lua e Sol (2008, Jazzheads):
Flute player, has a dozen or so albums since 1996, mostly in
Latin idioms. This one is firmly rooted in Brazil, with Romero
Lubambo on guitar, Nilson Mata on bass (and co-producing), and
Cyro Baptista on percussion. I've never cared much for flute,
but can't complain here: he ranges from decorative to delectable,
and Lubambo is especially superb.
Mort Weiss: All Too Soon (2008, SMS Jazz): Plays
clarinet, b. 1935, grew up in the bebop generation, only dabbled
in music until he retired from business and started issuing his
own records. This is a duo with seven-string guitarist Ron Eschete,
probably a better known player, although the album cover doesn't
attempt to link to his market. Starts with "Scrapple From the Apple,"
adding "Blue Monk" and "Django," but also slips in a few standards --
"Like Someone in Love," "Softly as in Morning Sunrise," etc. About
what you'd expect: low key, nicely done. Thank God for FDR, Charlie
Christian, and Charlie Parker.
Corey Wilkes: Drop It (2007 , Delmark): Hot
young trumpet player in Chicago, b. 1979, moved into Lester Bowie's
Art Ensemble of Chicago slot (big shoes to fill there); also Ethnic
Heritage Ensemble, Exploding Star Ensemble, and various other Roscoe
Mitchell projects. First album. Wants to show his range; also his
hip-hop generation cred, so this is long on funk, most blatantly when
Dee Alexander comes in to sing "Funkier Than a Mosquita's Tweeter" --
song lives up to its billing. Arty touch at the beginning with Miyanda
Wilson reciting Langston Hughes spoken words about some trumpet player,
with Wilkes swaying softly in the background. Stong sax: not sure if
it's Chelsea Baratz or Kevin Nabors (who split tenor duties) and/or
Jabari Liu (on alto) -- not familiar with any of those. Fun record;
need to see how high it goes.
Corey Wilkes: Drop It (2007 , Delmark):
First record, should get some rookie of the year votes over at
the Voice poll -- partly because he's been popping up on other
projects for several years, not least being Lester Bowie's slot
in the Art Ensemble of Chicago. This is more mainstream, with
a couple of shots of funk -- aside from a bit of Langston Hughes
to start off with, the only vocal here is Dee Alexander doing
"Funkier Than a Mosquita's Tweeter." I was tempted at first to
contrast his debut with Wynton Marsalis's, but Wilkes is ten
years older, so of course he has more chops. More like Jon
Faddis, in fact.
Jimmy Witherspoon: Live at the 1972 Monterey Jazz Festival
(1959-72 , MJF): The last of the Kansas City blues shouters,
in a surly mood that could pass for spirit if you cut him some slack;
his Jimmy Rushing tribute is heartfelt but not up to snuff; his
praise for guitarist Robben Ford is earned but not such a big deal;
the bonus track from 1959 towers above the later performance, not just
because Messrs. Hines, Herman, Hawkins, Webster, and Eldridge are in
the band, but they sure help.
The Stephane Wrembel Trio: Gypsy Rumble (2005
, Amoeba Music): Not familiar with this label, so don't know
whether the slim slip cover is just a promo or their idea of
finished product. Copyright is 2005, so don't even know if it is
new. Full artist credit adds: with special guest David Grisman.
The trio has Wrembel on lead guitar, Eric Rodgers on rhythm
guitar, and Jared Engel on bass. Grisman plays mandolin. Has
a rough hewn string band feel, a fairly consistent but limited
sound. Ends on an up notes with two cuts with Brandi Shearer
singing and a more/less different band, including Ralph Carney
Eri Yamamoto: Duologue (2008, AUM Fidelity):
Pianist, from Japan, in NY since 1995, notably working with superbassist
William Parker. Has a previous fine piano trio on AUM Fidelity, and
evidently has a batch of three more 2007 albums on Jane Street that
I haven't heard (haven't heard of the label either). Don't have info
on this, but I gather these are duets, matching her piano with drums
(Federico Ughi or Hamid Drake), bass (Parker), or sax (Daniel Carter).
Each of the pieces are interesting, and they don't seem to scatter
excessively, as this format is wont to do. Drake and Parker are
especially worth focusing on.
[B+(***)] [June 24]
Eri Yamamoto: Duologue (2008, AUM Fidelity):
Young pianist, wrote all the pieces, mostly around rhythm
vamps which, while not all that distinctive, provide common
ground for four pairs of spare, understated duos. She keeps
good company: drummers Federico Ughi and Hamid Drake, bassist
William Parker, and alto/tenor saxophonist Daniel Carter. The
latter is a revelation here, playing tight in what amounts to
a ballad mode.
Eri Yamamoto Trio: Redwoods (2008, AUM Fidelity):
Pianist, from Osaka, Japan, arrived in New York in 1995; cut three
trio albums on Jane Street (presumably her own label) 2001-04,
then fell in with bassist William Parker, recording his excellent
album of piano trio music Luc's Lantern and joining his
Raining on the Moon group for Corn Meal Dance. Meanwhile,
she now has three more albums on AUM Fidelity, a 2006 trio called
Cobalt Blue, and two records this year -- this new trio
and a set of duets called Duologue. The trio here repeats
from Cobalt Blue: bassist David Ambrosio and drummer Ikuo
Takeuichi (also on her three Jane Street albums). All original
pieces. It all seems very measured and sensible, nothing that
really sweeps you away, but each cut with its own bit of interest.
Choice cut: "Dear Friends."
B+(**) [Sept. 9]
PS: I erroneously identified Eri Yamamoto's Cobalt
Blue as on AUM Fidelity. It was released on Thirsty Ear.
Alon Yavnai: Travel Notes (2008, ObliqSound):
Pianist, b. 1969 Israel, moved to Costa Rica in 1990, on to US
in 1993, studying at Berklee and winding up in New York. Works
in a duo with Paquito D'Rivera, as well as in this trio with
Omer Avital (bass, oud) and Jamey Haddad (drums). Thoughtful,
with a nice dynamic rhythm, the sort of thing that may grow on
Alon Yavnai: Travel Notes (2008, ObliqSound):
Piano trio. One of those records that seems very neat and well
ordered, not flashy, not in any big hurry, just calm and proper.
I find it very pleasing, but otherwise don't have much to say
about it. ECM would like this guy. The one cut that's stands
out a bit is the one where bassist Omer Avital switches to oud.
Jacob Young: Sideways (2006 , ECM): Norwegian
guitarist -- American father explains the unusual name. Previous album,
Evening Falls, was an elegant HM. This one follows suit, probably
the same quintet, with Mathias Eick on trumpet and Vidar Johansen on
tenor sax/bass clarinet. Seems a little more subdued.
Jacob Young: Sideways (2006 , ECM): Continues
to be an interesting guitarist although he's showing signs of being
willing to settle down into ECM's file cabinet about midway between
John Abercrombie and Ralph Towner. Group includes two horns --
Mathias Eick on trumpet, Vidar Johansen on tenor sax/bass clarinet --
but they work slow and mostly fill in. Previous album, Evening
Falls, seemed more promising.
Carlos "Zingaro"/Dominique Regef/Wilbert DeJoode String Trio:
Spectrum (2004 , Clean Feed): A bit from the liner
notes (Rui Eduardo Paes): "Violins were forbidden in the 'Machine Gun'
years, when 'classical instruments' were seen as symbols of a closed,
authoritarian, and hierarchic music system. Even today, there's
suspicion. European musicians in the new 'free' music came out of
both the classical and jazz traditions but, influenced by the
turbulent political climate, rejected their origins." Maybe that's
an avant-garde thing, although my impression has long been that the
line between avant-jazz and avant-classical has never been clearly
drawn in Europe -- e.g., the relationship between Cornelius Cardew
and AMM. While there are plenty of bad examples of small and large
string groups backing jazz musicians, violin soloists in jazz are
more likely to draw on folk fiddle or on the raw noisiness of the
instrument -- the Velvet Underground's viola was as ear-opening as
anything specifically within a jazz context. I suppose the reason
this comes up with Zingaro is that he does have the Euroclassical
background and tends to get slotted in avant-classical as much as
jazz. Still, this is in no sense a polite piece of chamber music.
DeJoode plays bass, but Regef fills the middle ranges with hurdy
gurdy, providing buzzes and drones that suggest electronics. Three
long pieces, complexly varied textures, with an uncomfortable bite
to the sound that never really gets monotonous. Most sources skip
the quotes around Zingaro, which may be a nickname or stage name --
Carlos Alves seems to be the given name, although sometimes this
just appears as Carlos Zingaro Alves (with or without quotes). He
has at least 16 albums since 1989; haven't heard any others, but
I've run across him in side roles. This gained enough traction the
second play I'm holding it back for a third.
Carlos "Zingaro"/Dominique Regef/Wilbert DeJoode String Trio:
Spectrum (2004 , Clean Feed): Regef's hurdy gurdy
splits the spectrum between violin and bass, or something like that --
I'm not really sure how to follow it. In any case, the strings squeek,
squirm, and squelch: this is not chamber music in any polite sense.
It is difficult music, a challenge, but it is listenable, a chore
perhaps, but not monotonous or gratuitously violent. Zingaro has
a large discography. The few bits I've heard make him a subject
for future research.
ZMF Trio: Circle the Path (2005 , Drip
Audio): ZMF stands for Jesse Zubot (violin), Jean Martin (drums),
Joe Fonda (bass). Label describes them as international: Zubot is
from Vancouver, Martin from Toronto, Fonda is well known on the
avant-garde in New York. Zubot is also involved in the rockish
Fond of Tigers group, and he runs the label, which has branched
out beyond his own work -- a few more items are on my shelf,
including a new John Butcher album, and he seems to have something
by Leroy Jenkins in the pipeline. Other than that, don't know
much about him. This is avant, by turns aggressive and moody.
Martin wrote one piece, Fonda three, Zubot four. The only outside
credit is to Anthony Braxton. Didn't catch enough of it first
time through, but will play more.
ZMF Trio: Circle the Path (2005 , Drip Audio):
Stands for Jesse Zubot (violin), Jean Martin (drums), Joe Fonda (bass).
Avant-garde, kind of a Revolutionary Ensemble for liberal Vancouver.
The following records, carried over from the
done file at the start of this cycle, were
also under consideration for this column.
- Howard Alden and Ken Peplowski's Pow Wow (2006 , Arbors) B+(***)
- Ab Baars Trio & Ken Vandermark: Goofy June Bug (2007 , Wig) B+(**)
- Nik Bärtsch's Mobile: Ritual Groove Music (2000-01 , Ronin Rhythm) B+(***)
- Nik Bärtsch's Ronin: Randori (2001 , Ronin Rhythm) B+(**)
- Nik Bärtsch: Piano Solo (2002 , Ronin Rhythm) A-
- Nik Bärtsch's Ronin: Live (2002 , Ronin Rhythm) A-
- Nik Bärtsch's Ronin: Rea (2003 , Ronin Rhythm) A
- Nik Bärtsch's Mobile: Aer (2003 , Ronin Rhythm) A-
- Louie Bellson & Clark Terry: Louie & Clark Expedition 2 (2007 , Percussion Power) B+(***)
- Raoul Björkenheim/William Parker/Hamid Drake: DMG @ the Stone: Volume 2 (2006 , DMG/ARC) A-
- Bo's Art Trio: Live: Jazz Is Free and So Are We! (2007 , Icdisc) B+(**)
- Peter Brötzmann/Peeter Uuskyla: Born Broke (2006 , Atavistic, 2CD) B+(***)
- Butcher/Muller/van der Schyff: Way Out Northwest (2007 , Drip Audio) B+(**)
- Chris Byars: Jazz Pictures at an Exhibition of Himalayan Art (2007 , Smalls) B+(**)
- Ralph Carney/Ira Cohen: The Stauffenberg Cycle (2007, Paris) B+(***)
- Ralph Carney/Robert Creeley: Really!! (2007, Paris) B+(**)
- Marc Copland: New York Trio Recordings, Vol. 2: Voices (2006 , Pirouet) B+(***)
- Marc Copland: Another Place (2007 , Pirouet) B+(***)
- Kenny Davern/Ken Peplowski: Dialogues (2005 , Arbors) B+(***)
- Jamie Davis: Vibe Over Perfection (2005 , Unity Music) B+(**)
- Ramón Díaz: Unblocking (2007 , Fresh Sound New Talent) B+(***)
- Bill Dixon: 17 Musicians in Search of a Sound: Darfur (2007 , AUM Fidelity) B+(***)
- Scott DuBois: Banshees (2007 , Sunnyside) A-
- Bill Easley: Business Man's Bounce (2007, 18th & Vine) B+(***)
- Something for You: Eliane Elias Sings & Plays Bill Evans (2007 , Blue Note) B+(***)
- Fieldwork: Door (2007 , Pi) A-
- Satoko Fujii Trio: Trace a River (2006-07 , Libra) A-
- Fulminate Trio (2007 , Generate) B+(**)
- Stephen Gauci's Basso Continuo: Nididhyasana (2007, Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Bobby Gordon: Plays Joe Marsala: Lower Register (2007, Arbors) B+(***)
- Tim Hagans: Alone Together (2007 , Pirouet) B+(***)
- Frank Hewitt: Out of the Clear Black Sky (2000 , Smalls) B+(***)
- Lauren Hooker: Right Where I Belong (2006 , Musical Legends) B+(***)
- Vijay Iyer: Tragicomic (2007 , Sunnyside) A- [Later: A]
- Junk Box: Sunny Then Cloudy (2006 , Libra) B+(**)
- Jon-Erik Kellso: Blue Roof Blues (2007, Arbors) B+(***)
- Nigel Kennedy: Blue Note Sessions (2005 , Blue Note) B+(***)
- The Ray Kennedy Trio: Plays the Music of Arthur Schwartz (2006 , Arbors) B+(***)
- The Klobas/Kesecker Ensemble: No Gravity (2007 , KKEnsemble) B+(**)
- David Kweksilber + Guus Janssen (2003-06 , Geestgronden) B+(***)
- Steve Lehman Quartet: Manifold (2007, Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Luis Lopes: Humanization 4Tet (2007 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Eric McPherson: Continuum (2007 , Smalls) B+(***)
- Maceo Parker: Roots & Grooves (2007 , Heads Up, 2CD) A-
- The Michael Pedicin Quintet: Everything Starts Now . . . (2007 , Jazz Hut) B+(***)
- Art Pepper: Unreleased Art, Vol. III: The Croydon Concert, May 14, 1981 (1981 , Widow's Taste, 2CD) A-
- Steve Reid Ensemble: Daxaar (2007 , Domino) A-
- Barbara Rosene and Her New Yorkers: It Was Only a Sun Shower (2007, Stomp Off) B+(**)
- Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Avatar (2007 , Blue Note) B+(**)
- Felipe Salles: South American Suite (2006 , Curare) B+(***)
- Cynthia Sayer: Attractions (2006 , Plunk) B+(***)
- Sha's Banryu: Chessboxing Volume One (2007 , Ronin Rhythm) B+(***)
- Shot x Shot: Let Nature Square (2007 , High Two) B+(***)
- Spoon 3: Seductive Sabotage (2007 , Evil Rabbit) B+(**)
- The Stone Quartet: DMG @ the Stone: Volume 1 (2006 , DMG/ARC) B+(**)
- Territory Band-6 With Fred Anderson: Collide (2006 , Okka Disk) B+(***)
- Sumi Tonooka Trio: Long Ago Today (2004 , ARC) B+(***)
- Frank Vignola: Vignola Plays Gershwin (2006 , Mel Bay) B+(***)
- Ulf Wakenius: Love Is Real (2007 , ACT) A-
- The Wee Trio: Capitol Diner Vol. 1 (2007 , Bionic) B+(***)
- Paul West/Mark Brown: Words & Music (2007 , OA2) B+(**)
- Jessica Williams: Songs for a New Century (2008, Origin) B+(**)
- Libby York: Here With You (2007 , Libby York Music) B+(***)