Jazz Consumer Guide (19):
These are the prospecting notes from working on Jazz CG #19. 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 Dec. 22, 2008 to Apr. 12, 2009, 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 230. The
count from the previous file was 293
(before that: 291, 240, 259).
Steve Adams Trio: Surface Tension (2000 ,
Clean Feed): Googling Steve Adams, we find: "a cutting edge
progressive rock guitarist and composer, formerly with ex-Camel
keyboardist Peter Bardens and Mirage"; "bass player for ALO,
Brett Dennen, Sara Bareilles, Tea Leaf Green, Forest Sun";
"gospel acappella music like you have never heard before";
and a bunch of non-musicians, including a Unix/Oracle guru,
a Cincinnati criminal defense lawyer, the CEO of Sabrix, and
some guy running for president. More promising is the Steve
Adams who shows up on websites for Nine Winds (Vinny Golia)
and ROVA -- he would be the 'A' there. Plays four weights of
saxophone, listing sopranino first, as well as bass flute. The
trio adds two guys I don't need to look up: Ken Filiano and
Scott Amendola. Actually, I've heard Adams before in Filiano's
company, and (of course) in Rova; also with Composers in Red
Sneakers, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, and Your Neighborhood Sax
Quartet -- maybe with Golia too -- Adams dedicates a song to
Golia and notes that they met in 1982 -- although I'm way, way
behind there. Three observations: one is that Adams has a lot of
tricks up his sleeve, but only the sopranino doesn't remind me
of something else I've heard before; second is that Filiano, as
dependable as any bassist working today, has rarely played with
this much intensity; third is that Clean Feed has made a habit
of picking up old tapes by unknowns, releasing them presumably
just because they like them.
PS: I was more/less right when I finally recognized ROVA
as an acronym based on its member last name. The original lineup
was Jon Raskin, Larry Ochs, Andrew Voigt, and Bruce Ackley, so
the 'A' was Ackley, not Steve Adams, who replaced Voigt in the
late 1980s. The lineup has remained the same since then.
Jeff Albert Quartet: Similar in the Opposite Way
(2008, Fora Sound): Trombonist, from New Orleans, has a Chicago
connection that teamed him with Jeb Bishop in a group called the
Lucky 7s. Quartet includes Ray Moore on alto sax, Tommy Sciple on
bass, Dave Cappello on drums. Mostly free, but Albert has a little
Trummy Young in his throat, and wouldn't mind tailgating if someone
would pick up the pace. Doesn't happen often enough, but sounds
Arild Andersen: Live at Belleville (2007 ,
ECM): Bassist, one of the young Norwegian players who latched on
to George Russell in the late 1960s, establishing a new postbop
wave that turned into a big chunk of the ECM aesthetic -- Jan
Garbarek and Terje Rypdal are better known, probably because they
aren't bassists. Andersen contributed mightly to all that, moving
on to his Masqualero group -- better known for introducing Nils
Petter Molvaer -- and he has a substantial discography under his
own name: ECM's Rarum XIX: Selected Recordings is an
excellent introduction, one of the best entries in their sampler
series. Useful here to concentrate on the bass lines, and the
lovely soft intro to "Dreamhorse" which starts arco and slowly
resolves into tenor sax. After all, if you don't concentrate on
the bass, you'll just get overwhelmed by the saxophonist: Tommy
Smith, in a muscular, mature, masterful performance.
Clifton Anderson: Decade (2007 , Doxy/Emarcy):
Trombonist, b. 1957 in NYC, studied at Manhattan School of Music,
second album, the title reflecting the ten years since his first.
Best known for playing in Sonny Rollins' band since 1983, which
would seem like a strange pairing except that Rollins is Anderson's
uncle. Lately Anderson has produced Rollins' releases on his Doxy
label. Seems only fair that he should slip one in of his own. Not
much more than a journeyman, but he gathers two solid groups here --
Larry Willis/Bob Cranshaw/Al Foster, Stephen Scott/Christian
McBride/Steve Jordan -- with saxophonists Kenny Garrett and Eric
Wyatt on two cuts each, and extra percussion for the obligatory
Sonny-esque calypso. Tries to play clean and fast like JJ Johnson,
but sticks to the meat of the horn, and get something extra on
Ernestine Anderson: A Song for You (2008 ,
High Note): Singer, b. 1928 in Houston, broke in with Johnny Otis
then Lionel Hampton, finally recording her first album in 1956.
The albums ended in 1960, but like many others she got another
shot at Concord in 1976, which more than doubled her discography.
Like Concord's Carl Jefferson, Barney Fields has a penchant for
picking up discarded artists and treating them well. Anderson
certainly can't complain about the group here: the band is named
on the front cover, and Houston Person's name in in larger type.
Anderson isn't all that distinctive a singer -- the only idiosyncrasy
here is how she works a bit of Leon Russell's accent into his title
song, and that's not much of a plus -- but she's a well practiced
pro, credible on "Make Someone Happy" and "This Can't Be Love" and
"Day by Day" and even "Candy." Still, it's Person you want to hear
more of here.
B+(**) [Jan. 27]
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.
Angles: Every Woman Is a Tree (2007 ,
Clean Feed): Swedish supersextet, led by Martin Küchen, alto
saxophonist from Cosmologic, with Magnus Broo, trumpeter from
Atomic, and other notables on trombone and vibes. The three
horn action can be thrilling or just shrill, with trombonist
Mats Äleklint piling on the dirt. The rhythm takes a while
to hit high gear -- third cut, "My World of Mines" does the
trick. Mattias Ståhl's vibes flesh out the sound of breaking
The Leonisa Ardizzone Quintet: The Scent of Bitter Almonds
(2008 , Ardijenn Music): Vocalist. Has an evidently successful
daytime career as an educator, but has also maintained a group with
husband-guitarist Chris Jennings since 1994. Her previous record,
Afraid of the Heights, has been on my HM-to-do list since it
came out in 2007 -- I liked it when I heard it, then largely forgot
about it. This is much more mixed: "My Romance" sounds awkward, "Take
the 'A' Train" sillier than ever, but the normally treacly "Willow
Weep for Me" scores both on the vocal and the guitar solo, and "Well
You Needn't" makes a plausible case for vocalese -- both of those
are tough tricks.
The Bad Plus: For All I Care (2008 , Heads
Up): Front cover adds: "Joined by Wendy Lewis." Lewis is a singer,
based in Minneapolis, don't know much more. Her presence pushed
the piano trio to doing more cover songs, which leads to some not
very interesting generational issues. They date their classics
from the 1970s with Pink Floyd and Yes, and mix them in with the
1990s as represented by Nirvana, Wilco, and Flaming Lips. Aside
from Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" they are songs I'd happily
never hear again, given a sharp jolt by the band then waxed into
torpor by the singer. Between the touchstones are some short
quasi-classical instrumentals Igor from Stravinsky, Gyorgy Ligeti,
and Milton Babbitt -- the latter repeated in an alternate version.
Donald Bailey: Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 3 (2008
, Talking House): Drummer, b. 1934, best known for his work
with Jimmy Smith 1956-63, which pretty much covers Smith's prime
period. Quite a few scattered credits follow: AMG goes into three
pages, with the rate picking up after 1990, but the later listings
include lots of reissues. First album, or maybe second. Drummers
who don't write rarely get their name on top of albums -- Art
Blakey being the rule-proving exception -- but we've seen a few
exceptions lately, including Mike Clark's on this same label.
Can't say as he has any particular style, but he has interesting
taste in friends: he turns most of the album over to tenor sax
titan Odean Pope, for a bruising, bravado performance, then
closes out with Charles Tolliver on two cuts, one enhanced by
the leader's harmonica.
B+(***) [Mar. 17]
Diego Barber: Calima (2008 , Sunnyside): Spanish
guitarist, b. 1978 in Canary Islands. Won a couple of prizes and moved
to New York. Mostly a quartet, with Larry Grenadier on bass, Jeff Ballard
on drums, and Mark Turner on "s" (presumably tenor sax). Does a terrific
job of pacing, most obviously when Turner sits in (6 of 8 cuts). I've
said this before, but Turner sounds like the very model of a modern
tenor saxophonist. (This was recorded in April last year, before Turner
cut two fingers in a power saw accident in November. Just heard that
he's started to play again.) On his own, Barber slows down and crafts
some fancy Spanish filligree.
Count Basie Orchestra: Mustermesse Basel 1956 Part 1
(1956 , TCB): Volume 19 in TCB's "Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series":
old radio tapes from famous bands who wandered through Switzerland 50+
years ago. Such records are common on European labels, and likely to
become more so as Europe's more sensible copyright laws dump old
performances into the public domain. Most such records I've heard
offer little of new interest and are usually second choices, if that,
for listening pleasure. This is exceptional on both counts: it is
better in almost every respect -- sharper arranging, more virtuosic
solos, even sounds terrific -- than any contemporary Basie recording
I'm familiar with (e.g., the studio April in Paris or 1957's
live Count Basie at Newport). It's also not so far removed
from the Old Testament virtues, like soloists who aren't just cogs
in the machine.
Dave Bennett: Celebrates 100 Years of Benny (2006-08
, Arbors): Clarinettist, b. 1984 in Michigan, all of 2 years
old when Benny Goodman died, has two previous albums: Dave Bennett's
Salute to Benny Goodman and Remembering Benny -- not sure
if that's a niche or just a rut. This album is pieced together from
three groups: a sextet that opens up on "I Got Rhythm" and "Stompin'
at the Savoy"; a trio with Dick Hyman and Ed Metz Jr; another, quieter,
trio with Bucky Pizzarelli and Jerry Bruno. Hyman and Pizzarelli get
special guest billing, but both seem slightly out of character --
Hyman too heavy, Pizzarelli too light. The shifts between the groups
confuse the flow. Did enjoy the closer, "Sing Sing Sing," natch, even
if Metz is a bantamweight compared to Krupa, who still owns the song.
Chuck Bernstein: Delta Berimbau Blues (2007-08
, CMB): Drummer, b. 1940, otherwise best known for leading
a group called Monk's Music Trio. First album under his own name,
something focused on the berimbau, described herein as a Brazilian
diddley bow -- one string, plucked or bowed, tied to a bow with a
sphere at the bottom of the bow that may add some resonance or
just be used for incidental percussion. Reminds Bernstein of
delta blues, which he explores with occasional guests in a series
of very spare pieces -- mostly duos with a little extra guitar,
bass, or drums. One piece has tenor sax, a couple vocals, one with
trombone from Roswell Rudd, who adds his blessing ("every track
raises the bar for World Music"). Strikes me as a novelty, but
that may just mean it's unique.
David Binney: Third Occasion (2008 , Mythology):
Played this three times straight, and I'm not mentally up to it, so
will put it back. Alto saxophonist, won Downbeat's Rising Star
poll a couple years back, leading a top-notch quartet with Craig Taborn
on piano, Scott Colley on bass, and Brian Blade on drums, plus an extra
brass section with two trumpets and two trombones. Runs through all
the moves you'd expect from a top tier alto saxophonist: a lot of
racing and riffing, some slow curves. Pretty sure this will show up
in more than a few year-end lists. Just not sure what I think of it.
Massimo Biolcati: Persona (2008, ObliqSound):
Bassist, b. 1972 in Sweden, grew up in Torino, came to US on a
scholarship to Berklee, moved on to USC then to New York. First
album, split into "Motion" and "Stillness" sections. The former
provides a nice showcae for guitarist Lionel Loueke; the latter
includes one vocal each by Lizz Wright and Gretchen Parlato,
neither making much of an impression, but Peter Rende's piano
gains stature, as does his accordion.
Bipolar: Euphrates, Me Jane (2009, CDBaby):
Quintet (swapping drummers), led by trumpeter Jed Feuer: b. 1948,
grew up in Los Angeles, played piano early on, grounded in classical
music, mostly has soundtrack work on his resume, is working on an
opera based on Slaughterhouse Five. Wrote 4 of 14 songs here,
with one more from pianist Craig Swanson. Rest are arrangements (one
Swanson, rest Feuer) of classics (Bach, Brahms, Beethoven, Debussy,
Faure) and a couple of pop songs (Bill Withers, Beatles, one from
the Frank Sinatra songbook). Pretty light and sprightly, almost
camp. Aside from the Faure, none of the classical pieces trigger
my kneejerk reaction, and the Beatles' "And I Love Her" is rather
pretty, despite the flute.
B [May 5]
Blah Blah 666: It's Only Life (2007-08 ,
Barnyard): Drummer Jean Martin and co-conspirators -- Justin Haynes
("b6 defretted guitar"), Ryan Driver ("street sweeper bristle bass"),
Tania Gill (melodica), and Nick Fraser ("plastic blow thing") --
explore barnyard sounds all too literally, with banjo, ukulele, and
glock prominent among the off instruments, and nearly everyone
[dis-]credited for voice. Two pieces the formula works on are
"Mexican Hat Dance" and "La Cucaracha" -- most likely the band
learned them from cartoons.
Michael Blake/Kresten Osgood: Control This (2006
, Clean Feed): Sax-drums duo. Blake plays soprano, alto, and
tenor, uncharacteristically favoring the alto this time. Osgood
is a Danish drummer, b. 1976, has appeared on several good albums
recently -- Scott Dubois' Banshees is one. Starts a little
awkward, but picks up through a version of Ellington's "Creole Love
Call" that spend a long time away from the melody, and retains its
interest to the end -- a second cover, Charlie Parker's "Cheryl."
(Well, almost -- didn't get the final joke.)
Ran Blake: Driftwoods (2008 , Tompkins
Square): Solo piano, more trouble for me. Blake has played a lot
of solo piano over the years, and I've rarely been up to it. I
gave his last one, All That Is Tied, a polite B+(**) and
promptly forgot about it. The Penguin Guide, which has long shown
an excessive fondness for solo piano, annointed it with one of
their crowns. I need to dig it up and give it another shot. This
one has a sticker saying: "Ran Blake salutes his favorite singers:
Billie Holiday, Mahalia Jackson, Hank Williams, Nat King Cole and
more." Need to figure out what that's about, too -- maybe even
dig up that Unmarked Van (as in Vaughan, Sarah) that I
didn't much care for long ago. (I've given him one A- grade, for
his legendary Short Life of Barbara Monk, a non-solo.)
What I can say is that he picks his way through these songs with
great skill, like a master chef deboning fish. The one that I
feel closest to, "You Are My Sunshine," hasn't been done this
exquisitely since Sheila Jordan sang it for George Russell. No
doubt a major jazz pianist. For me, still a project.
Ron Blake: Shayari (2007 , Mack Avenue):
Saxophonist, sticks to tenor here but plays soprano elsewhere,
b. 1965, Virgin Islands, based in NYC, several albums since 2000.
Seems torn between the idea of crossing over and developing more
of an inside jazz rep. This one swings hard toward the latter.
Most cuts are duos with Michael Cain on piano, introspective
ballad fare. Two cuts add bass (Christian McBride), five drums
(Jack DeJohnette), three percussion (Gilmar Gome), one violin
(Regina Carter), although the additions never really shift the
equation. Impresive straightahead player. Still not sure what
he'll find when he finds himself.
Matt Blostein/Vinnie Sperrazza: Ursa Minor (2006
, Envoi): Front cover lists drummer Sperrazza first; everywhere
else, including spine, lists alto saxophonist Blostein first. Google
swings both ways. CDBaby has Blostein first, so that won out. First,
and thus far only, record for both/either -- a couple of years old,
but Blostein sent it after I complimented him for Liam Sillery's
Outskirts. Alto sax has a light tone, searching, thoughtful,
intricately postbop, even when complemented by Mike McGinnis on tenor
sax (2 cuts) or clarinet (1 cut). Most cuts also include Khabu Young
on guitar, Jacob Sacks on piano, and Thomas Morgan on bass. Most
interesting when they wander into free territory.
The Blue Note 7: Mosaic (2008 , Blue Note):
Bill Charlap's superb trio with Peter Washington and Lewis Nash, plus
four: Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Steve Wilson (alto sax, flute), Ravi
Coltrane (tenor sax), Peter Bernstein (guitar). Songs from landmark
Blue Note albums, written by Cedar Walton, Joe Henderson, McCoy Tyner,
Bobby Hutcherson, Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock, Duke Pearson,
Horace Silver. How bad can it be? Still crunching the numbers here,
but it doesn't sound promising.
Don Braden: Gentle Storm (2008, High Note):
Tenor saxophonist, started out in the early 1990s and has
built up a solid, increasingly mainstream catalog, with a
lustrous tone and rich dynamics. This one so much so that
I wonder if he isn't fated to follow Houston Person in a
line that stretches back through Stanley Turrentine to Ben
Webster. Three originals don't do much one way or another,
but the odd mix of covers give you pause: "Never Can Say
Goodybe"? "Willow Weep for Me"? The former is catchy but
saccharine; the latter is magnificent for all of 7:55.
Mostly quartet, with pianist George Colligan a plus. "My
Foolish Heart" is done as an alto flute-bass duet, a brief
vegan course in a repast of juicy meat and lots of gravy.
Ruby Braff: For the Last Time (2002 , Arbors,
2CD): Touted as Braff's "Historic Final Performance," with a sextet
including tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton and pianist John Bunch, a
mixed and rather tepid souvenir; not clear whether Braff was ailing
but he rarely takes charge, or tops Hamilton, who has many memorable
Anthony Braxton/Kyle Brenders: Toronto (Duets) 2007
(2007 , Barnyard, 2CD): Two discs, two compositions; two reed
players -- Braxton plays sopranino, soprano, and alto sax; Brenders
clarinet, soprano and tenor sax -- tracking each other closely, with
occasional give-and-take, slightly more so on "Composition 356" (the
second disc). Not much dissonance, nor much range or color -- the
soprano/sopranino dominate, but don't squeak much. Little things
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.
Brazilian Trio: Forests (2008, Zoho): Helio Alves
on piano, Nilson Matta on bass, Duduka Da Fonseca on drums: names
that needn't hide behind a flag, not least becuase their energetic
piano jazz doesn't betray a single Brazilian cliché. Note that
two-thirds were tapped for Claudio Roditi's recent quartet, which
is more clearly rooted in Brazil, but gives less space to Alves --
a world class jazz pianist hardly anyone recognizes.
Bridge Quartet: Night (2007 , Origin):
Second album from this group, which was pulled together by
drummer Alan Jones on a break back home in Portland, OR, from
his usual haunts in Europe. They're basically a small time bar
band, playing covers of pieces like "Green Dolphin Street" and
"Bemsha Swing." Thing is, they're really good at it -- maybe
because Jones recruited a couple of ringers. Pianist Darrell
Grant has a substantial catalog, and saxophonist Phil Dwyer
came all the way from Toronto. He holds his own on Sonny
Rollins' "Strode Rode," and does a mean Charlie Parker on
Victor Feldman's "A Face Like Yours." He doesn't have a lot
out under his own name, but has an intriguing sideline: the
Phil Dwyer Academy of Musical and Culinary Arts. He's cookin'
Brinsk: A Hamster Speaks (2008, Nowt): Group led
by bassist Aryeh Kobrinsky: born in Winnipeg, grew up in Fargo,
studied at McGill in Montreal and New England Conservatory, based
in Brooklyn. Group includes trumpet (Jacob Wick), tenor sax (Evan
Smith), euphonium (Adam Dotson), drums (Jason Nazary). Hype sheet
says group "began as a vision of a metal/opera/cartoon with hamsters
singing classical arias over metal-based rhythmic structures." At
least they got rid of the vocal aspect here, and the rhythm is more
free than metal. The horns chew on each other, with the euphonium
an interesting contrast. I suspect it's too limited to go far, but
worth another listen. William Block's comic strip illustrations
are a nice touch.
Brothers of the Southland (2009, Zoho Roots):
Southern rock demi-supergroup, produced by D Scott Miller,
released on the blues subsidiary of a jazz label that gives
me good service. Back cover sez the album showcases "the
great Southern Rock singers Bo Dice (American Idol 2005),
Jimmy Hall (Wet Willie, Jeff Beck, Hank Williams Jr.) and
Henry Paul (Outlaws, Blackhawk) with Dan Toler (Allman
Brothers Band, Dickie Betts), Jay Boy Adams (ZZ Top, The
Band), Steve Grisham (The Outlaws, Gretchen Wilson, Charlie
Daniels), Mike Brignardello (Faith Hill, Dolly Parton) and
Steve Gorman (Black Crowes, Jimmy Page, Bob Dylan, John
Corbett)." The only one of those names that registers in
my mental rolodex is Hall, who has a previous Zoho Roots
album, although I remember the Outlaws -- the target of
one of the high points of my early rockcrit career (cf.
Let's String Up the
Outlaws). Still, I can't say that Faith Hill's bassist
or a trip to American Idol is much to brag about. Nor is
the album, although it's competent and derivative enough
the Outlaws would have been proud to put their logo on it.
Hall's sax is a plus, and Adams' emulation of the guitar
greats is almost perfect.
B [June 9]
Peter Brötzmann/Paal Nilssen-Love: Sweet Sweat
(2006 , Smalltown Superjazz): As a former typographer myself,
I'm unwilling to follow the old Creem practice of blaming
all sorts of shit on the typesetting department, but there is a
fairly common problem that is wedged somewhere between art design
and logo differentiation and typography, and it rears its head up
here once again: how to deal with space removed between two words
that could just as well stand alone? All references to the title
here are all-caps, with no space. My standard practice has been to
canonically restore u&lc to titles (etc.), which turns the
title here to Sweetsweat. On the other hand, the front
cover shows "SWEET" and "SWEAT" in two different colors, implying
two distinct words. One way to deal with this would be to capitalize
the latter, yielding SweetSweat. Another is to insert the
missing space. I've been tending to do the latter lately -- e.g.,
I've taken to referring to High Note Records, rather than HighNote.
Perhaps as a former typographer, I find the no-space versions both
ugly and conceptually muddled. Many such usages are in little more
than muddled. I spent much of my professional life straightening
out their messes, so I'm just continuing that here. Others are
more rigorous, trying to force some obscure point with caps (or
no caps, as in the artist who insists on being called "k.d. lang").
I figure part of a critic's job is to resist such nonsense. Just
wanted to get that off my chest. As for the record, it is crankier
and uglier than the Brötzmann's duos with Peeter Uuskyla, and more
combative than Nilssen-Love's duos with Ken Vandermark and Joe
McPhee, which is to say it's about what you'd expect from the
pairing. I thought elsewhere Brötzmann was aging gracefuly, but
some days he wakes up and reaches for the old machine gun. Worth
listening to, but not the place to start.
Ray Bryant: In the Back Room (2004-08 , Evening
Star): Veteran pianist, b. 1931, came up in the late 1950s, has worked
steadily ever since, with some popular success in the 1960s, and not
much credit thereafter. This one is solo, a format he uses more often
than I'd advise. A mix of originals and Fats Waller songs, with a
couple more -- closing songs are "Easy to Love" and "St. Louis Blues."
Always had a light, elegant touch, much in evidence here.
Buffalo: Collision (Duck) (2008, Screwgun):
Another of alto saxophonist Tim Berne's groups: two thirds of
the Bad Plus -- pianist Ethan Iverson and drummer Dave King --
with the bassist replaced by cellist Hank Roberts, a change
that trades in any real capacity for swing or groove for an
arty sheen on top of the free jazz drama. Iverson plays in
dense blocks, and Berne works his way around the wreckage,
in one spot piling up into a brutish piece of avant-ugly,
but mostly working through intelligently and inventively.
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.
The John Bunch Trio With Guest Frank Wess: Plays the Music of
Irving Berlin (Except One) (2008, Arbors): The piano trio
itself is delightful -- the songs impeccable, the pianist expert,
bassist John Webber a fountain of swing, and Frank Vignola's slinky,
snakey guitar more than makes up for the lack of a drummer. I'm less
pleased with six guest spots for Frank Wess on flute. Wess has done a
better job than most of translating his sax swing to flute, but
there's not enough here to bring the lightness down to earth.
Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Making Love in the Dark
Ages (2008 , Live Wired): Critic Greg Tate's music
thing, billed as "a territory band, a neo-tribal thang, a community
hang, a society music guild aspiring to the condition of all that
is molten, glacial, racial, spacial, oceanic, mythic, antiphonal
and telepathic." Ten or so albums since 2001, mostly molten, glacial,
racial, spacial, etc., crafted with Butch Morris-style conduction,
full of smart ideas, long on mood, short on solos, hard to get much
of a handle on. Starts with a three-part gospel-inflected slavery
epic; ends with the two-part title thing, largely based on a minor
baritone sax riff from "Moist" Paula Henderson, just ugly enough
it doesn't lull you into stupor.
Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra: Where or When
(2008 , Owl Studios): Steven Bernstein's territory band
is a big city concept; Ken Vandermark's is transcontinental. This,
however, is the real thing: a big band that's been working out
of Indianapolis since 1994. Trombonist Brent Wallarab arranges
and conducts. Mark Buselli plays trumpet, in front of the usual
array of 5 reeds, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, piano, bass, drums,
boy and girl singers -- the only anomaly is "horn," played by
Celeste Holler-Seraphinoff. The songs are standards, arranged
conventionally with the feel of well oiled antique wood with
sparkles of brass. Few soloists emerge, but the vocalists do,
especially Everett Greene -- a highlight on that Gust Spenos
Swing Theory album I liked so much last year, even more
so here. His deep, graceful voice is unique, lending gravity
and polish even to "My Funny Valentine." Cynthia Layne offers
a sharp, slightly shrill contrast.
A- [Jan. 27]
Garvin Bushell and Friends: One Steady Roll (1982
, Delmark): One thing I run across a lot when looking up
musicians is the list of famous people one has played with. I
usually skip over this, figuring it's a small world and pretty
much anyone can sit in with anyone else if they happen to overlap
the same small circles. Still, Bushell's list is worth sharing:
James P Johnson, Fats Waller, Willie "The Lion" Smith, Jelly Roll
Morton, Fletcher Henderson, Cab Calloway, Chick Webb, John Coltrane,
Eric Dolphy, Gil Evans, King Curtis. B. 1902, died 1991, wrote an
autobiography in 1988 called Jazz From the Beginning; plays
clarinet and bassoon. Has no albums as a leader. This one comes
from a session led by soprano saxophonist Richard Hadlock, who
also wrote the liner notes. Trad jazz, silkier than the norm --
Leon Oakley's cornet is the only brass, and only on three tracks.
Barbara Lashley sings three pieces -- competent, but not much of
Frank Carlberg: The American Dream (2007 ,
Red Piano): Finnish pianist, in US since mid-1980s. His similar
previous record, State of the Union, was an HM. This one
I like less, but in some ways it's even more remarkable. Both
albums compose complex settings for texts, which are sung by
wife Christine Correa. The texts this time were picked up from
poet Robert Creeley, which may be part of the problem. Although
Creeley has been subject to several jazz efforts -- some with
his own voice, both active and recorded -- they strike me as
unmusical, awkwardly bending around the disconcerted notes.
Then there is the singer, who the notes compare to Jeanne Lee
but whose operatic gravitas reminds me more of Aëbi -- last
time out I noted the comparison, but didn't find Correa nearly
so annoying. She takes a step in that direction here, but is
still a relatively graceful singer. On the other hand, the
non-vocal parts are dramatic and compelling, especially Chris
Cheek's tenor sax solos, ably supported by John Hebert (bass)
and Michael Sarin (drums).
Steve Carter Group: Cosmopolis (2008, CDBaby):
No indication of a label, but record is available on CDBaby --
lacking anything better I usually go with that. Promo sheet lacks
any useful information, but the hype is stratospheric: "The Steve
Carter Group is taking the art of the jazz piano trio into the
21st century. They are modern, fresh, edgy and dramatic. They
are edgy whether they are playing an up-tempo, hi-energy groove
or a beautiful ballad." Of course, they aren't. At best they are
pleasantly funky, with Carter on electric piano and Dennis Smith
on fretless electric bass. Most likely, not the same Steve Carter
who plays guitar and has a couple of Light Fare albums,
nor the Scottish composer-photographer of the same name. This
one has worked with Pete Escovedo and Andy Narell; has TV, film,
and video games on his resume; and was part of a Latin hip-hop
group called Los Mocosos.
Dan Cavanagh's Jazz Emporium Big Band: Pulse (2008, OA2):
Big band: 5 saxes, 5 trumpets, 4 trombones, 2 pianos (including the leader,
also on B3), vibes, bass, drums, percussion, plus poetry and narration by
Timothy Young. The latter is somewhat interesting, allowing the band to
emote symphonically through the three movements of "Mississippi Ecstasy."
The vibes is a nice touch. Some interesting writing; should give it
another shot when I have more time, but with its symphonic ticks I doubt
I'll do much better with it.
Brian Charette: Missing Floor (2008, Dim Mak):
Hammond organ player, based in New York, usual classical piano
training; also works with an electronica band called Mudville,
playing guitar, and possibly dabbling in electronics -- second
instrument listed here is laptop. Has a couple of previous
records. This one is a trio, but bears little affinity for
the usual run of organ-based retro soul jazz. Leon Gruenbaum
plays samchillian -- a keyboard-based MIDI controller based
on intervals rather than fixed pitches; looks like Gruenbaum
is the inventor of this thing -- and sax. The latter has some
edge to it, while the electronics, either from the laptop of
the samchillian, tend to blend in, except when the don't.
Third member is drummer Joechen Rueckert. Mostly originals,
with scattered covers -- "E.S.P.," "The Honeydripper." Moves
B+(**) [promo cdr]
Teddy Charles: Dances With Bulls (2008 ,
Smalls): Vibraphonist, b. 1928 (Theodore Charles Cohen); got his
first break on piano playing for Coleman Hawkins as an emergency
replacement for Thelonious Monk; cut a pile of records 1951-63,
five called New Directions, another the legendary Tentet;
then retired, moving to the Caribbean, opening up a sailing business;
eventually returned to New York, where he still sails. This is his
first studio album since: sextet, with Chris Byars on alto sax/flute,
John Mosca on trombone, Harold Danko on piano, Ari Roland on bass,
Stefan Schatz on drums. One Mingus tune -- Charles' resume includes
Jazz Workshop work with Mingus -- the rest originals. The vibes can
swing, bop, or just tinkle, and are most mesmerizing at high speed.
The young horns are a little slick, happy to be here. Danko is one
of those well-regarded pianists I've been meaning to get to but
still have no feel for.
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,
Fay Claassen: Red, Hot & Blue: The Music of Cole Porter
(2007 , Challenge): Dutch vocalist, b. 1969, fifth album, counting
her 2-CD Chet Baker tribute as one. The Cole Porter songs are all from the
top drawer -- first three are "I Get a Kick Out of You," "Easy to Love,"
and "Love for Sale." Backed by a piano trio which doesn't quite deliver
the requisite, or at least expected, swing. A capable singer, but doesn't
add much of interest here, except for her scat breaks -- not often when
I find a record where I enjoy the scat more than the text.
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.
Clayton Bros.: Brother to Brother (2008, ArtistShare):
Odd that when I look up the Clayton Brothers, I'm first referred to
Rob and Christian Clayton, a pair of artist-designers in Pasadena, CA.
Someone at Wikipedia questions whether they are notable enough for
their page. I don't have an opinion there, but these Clayton Brothers
should qualify easily. Bassist John Clayton and alto saxophonist Jeff
Clayton co-lead the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra with drummer Jeff
Hamilton, a foremost group in the big band backup niche that Neal Hefti
and Nelson Riddle used to rule. The brother act includes a third Clayton,
John's son Gerald, on piano, plus Terrell Stafford on trumpet and Obed
Calvaire on drums. They see this album as a tribute to prior brother
acts -- Adderley, Heath, Brecker, Montgomery, Jones -- but given how
often Jeff gets compared to Cannonball, the Adderleys are listed first
not just for alphabetical reasons. Starts off with a rouser called
"Wild Man" and rarely shows down -- the bass intro to "Where Is Love?"
is an exception. John talks his way through the clever "Walking Bass."
Gerald Cleaver/William Parker/Craig Taborn: Farmers by Nature
(2008 , AUM Fidelity): Artists listed alphabetically, although
Cleaver gets co-credith with Steven Joerg for production; all pieces
attributed to all three, also alphabetically. I'm filing it under
Cleaver, a journeyman drummer who's played on a lot of good records
and is slowly building up a short list of unspectacular ones under
his own name. Taborn is a pianist who came up in James Carter's
quartet. Better known these days for his Fender Rhodes, but plays
acoustic here, poking around abstractly, with muted Don Pullen
flashes. Best thing here is when Taborn picks up a jagged groove
and the others knock him about. Parker, of course, is superb in
his supporting role, and brilliant as a soloist, at least when
you can hear him clearly. Recorded at the Stone, NYC, rather
offhandedly with a bit of applause at the end. Nice pictures,
especially on the back cover.
Nels Cline: Coward (2008 , Cryptogramophone):
Solo guitar: acoustic (some), electric (mostly), effects (lots), some
extra overdub junk. Solo records often sound like practice; this a
bit less than the norm, but not the exception either. Rather, this
plays a like a notebook of ideas, some of which can be developed into
something, others discarded. As such, it oscillates more than usual
between the annoying and intriguing. The latter more often than not
tend to be rockish, dividends perhaps from Cline's slumming with
B [Feb. 10]
Anat Cohen: Notes From the Village (2008, Anzic):
I knew I had this somewhere. Made several searches in the last couple
weeks of last cycle looking for it, but only found it too late. So
chalk it up to the curse of the advance/promo only: they start off
with little motivation to be played, then languish in hard-to-find
limbo, and finally (if I can't dismiss them out of hand) put back
into limbo, perhaps wondering why finalize my opinion on a non-final
copy. What I can say: Cohen seems to be following her polls, in that
she's leading with clarinet here; that's not such a bad thing, but
her one tenor sax feature, an original "Lullaby for the Naive Ones,"
fairly jumps out of the grooves. Her originals certainly hold up.
Her take on "A Change Is Gonna Come" is a bit tentative, and the
Brazilian piece is neither here nore there, but she gets a lot of
mileage out of "Jitterbug Waltz." Good band support, with strong
solos from pianist Jason Lindner. Probably her best since Place
and Time, before all the hoopla began.
Mark Colby: Reflections (2008, Origin): Tenor saxophonist,
don't know how old but probably well into his 50s (gray hair, what little
there is; has taught at Depew since 1983; features a Stan Getz quote:
"I've been listening to Mark Colby for twenty years"). Has several albums,
including a Getz tribute, and much studio work, including the claim that
he's played on over 2,000 commercials. A mainstream player with a touch
of swing -- reminded me more of Bennie Wallace at first than of Getz, but
that's his range. Three originals, some standard standards, "Desafinado,"
Ornette Coleman's "Blues Connotation," and a Phil Woods piece, with the
auteur dropping in to make sure it's done right.
Ravi Coltrane: Blending Times (2006-07 ,
Savoy Jazz): Tenor saxophone in his genes. Was two years old
when his father died, which I suppose gave him a jump on Hank
Williams Jr., although he's taken on his legacy more carefully,
studiously, and modestly. Good, solid, well-rounded player,
with several good, solid records to his credit, including this
quartet set with pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Drew Gress, and
drummer EJ Strickland. Gives Perdomo a lot of room, especially
leading off with his own tune -- I find him excessively busy,
dominating the early going. Album partly rights itself with a
muscular "Epistrophy" -- a Monk tune that keeps Perdomo in
check. Closes with a Charlie Haden piece, "For Turiya," with
Haden and harpist Brandee Younger guesting, both with lovely
Marc Copland: New York Trio Recordings, Vol. 3: Night
Whispers (2008 , Pirouet): Same trio as Vol. 1
back in 2006: Drew Gress on bass, Bill Stewart on drums. (Vol.
2 went with Gary Peacock and Paul Motian.) Actually, Copland's
most common trio. Not leftovers, but it starts slow -- the first
of three takes of "Emily" -- and is relatively difficult to hear
clearly. Includes some intriguing stuff, but not the place to
Matt Criscuolo: Melancholia (2008 , M): Alto
saxophonist, from the Bronx, attended Manhattan School of Music.
Third album, a sax-with-strings thing which comes off better than
usual, something we can credit to pianist-arranger Larry Willis.
Still, that means pretty at best, and at worst struggles to keep
seasickness in check. Starts with two originals, then one from
Willis, two each from Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, and the
title track from Billy Eckstine. Not a title I'd aspire to.
B- [Mar. 3]
Theo Croker: In the Tradition (2008 , Arbors):
Plays trumpet, sings (a little), grandson of Doc Cheatham, who had
the same repertoire, but who was the tradition rather than
merely following it. (Cheatham goes back far enough he may have been
the last person to learn trumpet before hearing Louis Armstrong, but
spent most of his career in big band sections, not emerging as a
front man until well into his 70s.) Cheatham died in 1997, so Croker
would have been about 12 at the time. But Cheatham had just released
his triumphant album with Nicholas Payton, the crowning achievement
of a 70-year-long career, so he must have made a huge impression.
Croker not only follows Cheatham; he does a neat job of fitting
inside Cheatham's limits. His trumpet is so unsplashy that he reminds
liner note writer Nat Hentoff of Count Basie wishing he could find
a trumpet player who wouldn't play so many notes (Buck Clayton was
the verbose offender of the story). His vocals are even more demure,
almost as lame as Chet Baker, which somehow works on "I Gotta Right
to Sing the Blues" but is sorely tried by "I Cover the Waterfront."
Songs are pretty obvious, including yet another "St. Louis Blues."
Still, I find this rather winning, the trumpet lovely, the modesty
becoming. Uncredited vocals -- possibly a band shout out? -- on
"Bourbon Street Parade" is another plus.
Eddie Daniels and Roger Kellaway: A Duet of One: Live
at the Bakery (2005 , IPO): Clarinet and piano,
respectively; veterans who shouldn't need an introduction but
probably do. Title suggests they go beyond intimacy to find
some sort of unity. Sometimes, but most of the time one or the
other is soloing, at a comfortable pace, on well worn standards.
Has its moments, and Kellaway is one of the more dependable
solo pianists around.
Lars Danielsson: Tarantella (2008 , ACT):
Starting to get nervous with this string of A-list records, like
I may be losing my critical mean streak. Still, this is a remarkably
lovely record, with a lot of fascinating detail. Swedish bassist,
b. 1958, with a substantial discography I've only barely touched;
also plays cello and bass violin, which add to the details. Piano
is by Leszek Mozdzer, who collaborated with Danielsson on the
HM-worthy Pasodoble and is even better here in this richer
context. Mathias Eick plays trumpet. His ECM debut was overrated,
but he gives a nicely rounded performance here. John Parricelli
plays odd bits of guitar that complement the bass nicely, and Eric
Harland can go exotic on the percussion as well as do everything
a drummer should do.
Miles Davis: Kind of Blue (Legacy Edition) (1958-60
, Columbia/Legacy, 2CD): The best known and most universally
admired album by the dominant jazz figure of his era, the odds-on
favorite in any all-time greatest jazz album poll, dressed up for
its silver anniversary with alternate takes, false starts, and a
second disc of quasi-related stuff. The latter will interest anyone
who likes to hear John Coltrane expound at length -- Davis himself
once instructed Coltrane that the way to end a solo is to take the
horn from your mouth. The false starts may interest anyone who
ponied up for either of two whole books on the single album: Eric
Nisenson's The Making of Kind of Blue: Miles Davis and His
Masterpiece and Ashley Kahn's Kind of Blue: The Making of
the Miles Davis Masterpiece. I find the extras distracting,
at least from the essential gemlike elegance of the original album:
five cuts, each subtly distinctive, adding up to a transcendence
of its essential blue.
Joey DeFrancesco: Joey D! (2008, High Note):
One thing Joe Fields learned from his early years at Prestige
was the need to keep product circulating. Prestige was notorious
for just corralling a bunch of guys in the studio, letting them
play anything they felt comfortable with, and ripping off an
album or two in an afternoon. Sometimes that worked marvelously:
Miles Davis wrapped up four albums in two days to clear up his
contract so he could move on to Columbia, and they're among the
best hard bop records of the 1950s. Coleman Hawkins turned in
some marvelous records, and Sonny Rollins reached his first
summit with Saxophone Colossus. But others, like Jackie
McLean and John Coltrane, just turned out fast and easy product
before they moved on to labels that made (or let) them develop.
Fields still records a lot of material that seems like average
fare for any given artist, and he staggers releases on a pair
of labels -- Savant and High Note -- to keep more releases in
play longer. I could have written the above to go with half
of his releases, but this one strikes me as a good example:
it is both perfectly typical of DeFrancesco's organ trio work
and exemplary in how it shows how he got to be the top-rated
organ player of the last decade-plus. Jerry Weldon plays tenor
sax: a little more aggressively Coltrane-ish than the norm for
soul jazz outings. Byron Landham drums. DeFrancesco straddles
the bass and piano roles, like he learned from Papa John (not
to mention Jimmy Smith). One semi-novelty is "Take Me Out to
the Ballgame," where the base organ riffs are clichés meant
to be messed with.
Sarah DeLeo: I'm in Heaven Tonight (2008 ,
Sweet Sassy Music): Singer. Second album. Does standards. "Rockin'
Robin" is a strong first move, but the only thing like that --
"On the Street Where You Live" and "You're Getting to Be a Habit
With Me" are more typical. Backed with guitar, organ, occasional
horns -- Jay Collins works some nice sax in. Not sure about the
voice or delivery, which have a few quirks but limited interest.
Delmark: 55 Years of Jazz (1944-2007 , Delmark,
CD+DVD): Bob Koester is still in charge 55 years after founding this
estimable Chicago label, known more for its renowned blues catalog
than for its underrated, and rather scattered, jazz efforts. The CD
picks interesting if not all that representative material, with some
archives -- Coleman Hawkins' early bebop from Rainbow Mist --
and a mix of interests: trad jazz from George Lewis and Art Hodes;
honking r&b from King Curtis; an early adventure by Sun Ra; a
vocal by Francine Griffin; some quasi-mainstream hard bop; stray
excursions into pan-Africanism; a groove piece from Ted Sirota's
otherwise further out Breeding Resistance. Nothing pushes
you very hard -- don't look for Anthony Braxton's For Alto,
or Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, or Ken Vandermark, all
facets of Delmark's history. The DVD has less to choose from: the
dates there range from 2004-07 and they hold less interest, mostly
bare concert shots, sometimes with cheap effects -- Kahil El'Zabar's
Ritual Trio with guest Billy Bang is the exception, a much better
showing for Ari Brown than his own date; a 15:30 excerpt from
Chicago Underground Trio is compelling musically, but unwatchable.
KJ Denhert: Dal Vivo a Umbria Jazz (2008, Motema
Music): Singer-songwriter, also plays guitar, from New York, has
seven or so albums since 1999, although her career goes back to
the 1980s. AMG genrefies her as Neo-Soul; her own website refers
to her as "urban folk & jazz artist." Recorded live in Italy,
with electric guitar and bass, piano and keys, percussion as well
as drums, and Aaron Heick on sax. Covers include "Ticket to Ride"
and "Message in a Bottle." Don't see much point in either.
Greg Diamond: Dançando Com Ale (2007 , Chasm):
Guitarist, b. 1977 in New York, has one Colombian parent (other Jewish),
spent at least part of his early life in Bogotá, Colombia. Debut album.
Looks mostly Brazilian to me, although he covers "Libertango" (Astor
Piazzolla) and "Sofrito" (Mongo Santamaria). Wrote 5 of 10 songs, none
with English titles. Band features Seamus Blake on tenor sax, a smart
move. Nicely percolating "All or Nothing" to close. One vocal, by a
Vanessa Diamond, with a voice I really dislike.
Bill Dixon: 17 Musicians in Search of a Sound: Darfur
(2007 , AUM Fidelity): Recorded in concert at Vision Festival
XII. No idea what Darfur has to do with it. Nor any idea what the
big band was searching for, given that their sound is no surprise:
an elaboration and variation on a dozen other notorious free jazz
phalanxes. Seven brass (including tuba), six reeds (including bassoon,
counted once), bass, cello, drums, vibes (or sometimes more drums).
The slow stuff wavers menacingly; the ensemble work is unruly, with
one piece ("Sinopia") hitting gale force. Impressive on its own
Bill Dixon: 17 Musicians in Search of a Sound: Darfur
(2007 , AUM Fidelity): Thought I had this one nailed. Was so
convinced it belonged in the Honorable Mentions I had a stub for it.
So I play it again, and, duh? Actually, the sainted avant-garde
trumpeter has always been a dicey proposition: while he can play
with fire he's often been just as happy boring you stiff. He doesn't
do that here, unless you turn the volume down to where nothing much
happens -- even then there's one cacophony that hardly needs help
from the amplifier. Still, the slow, menacing stuff is heavy and
dull, and the bright spots are few and far between. The ensemble
work is unruly, or maybe just disorganized. The soloists don't
stand out. They are, after all, just searching for a sound, or
just searching. And pray tell how Darfur is meant to inspire
them: you don't know whether to cry, vent anger, or just slump
into a stupor.
Paul Dunmall Sun Quartet: Ancient and Future Airs
(2008 , Clean Feed): Dunmall has a big discography, both in
his own name and under the group Mujician. I've sampled it lightly,
finding him very hit-and-miss, but always welcoming any new effort
that comes along. Plays tenor sax and, well, bagpipes -- the latter
make a brief appearance here, and aren't as horrible as possible.
The group adds a second saxman, Tony Malaby (tenor, soprano), plus
Mark Helias on bass and Kevin Norton on drums and vibraphone --
support about as solid as you can imagine. Two long pieces. More
hit than miss, but not by much.
Early Trane: The John Coltrane Songbook [The Composer
Collection Volume 2] (1999-2006 , High Note): Easy
to write this off as mere catalog exploitation, but the catalog
is mainstream solid, and they make something of a case for taking
Coltrane -- at least up through "Giant Steps" -- seriously for
repertoire. Mostly saxophonists, of course, especially if you
score Billy Hart's nominal album for Mark Turner, but pianist
Mike LeDonne gets a cut and guitarist Larry Coryell gets two.
Frank Morgan, with two cuts, takes "Equinox," and Fathead Newman
lands "Naima" -- a worthwhile cut from a dud album.
Nathan Eklund: Trip to the Casbah (2008 ,
Jazz Excursion): Trumpeter, b. 1978 near Seattle, studied in New
Jersey, based in Bloomfield, NJ, close to New York. Second album.
Album photos show him marching fast, flugelhorn in tow. Postbop
quintet, with impressive support from guitarist John Hart, even
more so from tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin, who comes close
to stealing the whole show. Eklund is hard pressed to keep up,
but does manage a nice duet with bassist Bill Moring.
Eliane Elias: Bossa Nova Stories (2008 ,
Blue Note): The 50th anniversary of bossa nova; also the 48th of
the Brazilian bombshell pianist-turned-singer, as well preserved
and presented in her black dress as the classic songs. The Jobim
numbers are the most obvious, unnecessary given her definitive
Sings Jobim (1997) but irresistible. Better still are the
bossa-fied Tin Pan Alley standards -- the Gershwins' "They Can't
Take That Away From Me" has never sounded more salacious. Stevie
Wonder's "Superwoman" is the fish out of water -- guess she
figure she's entitled.
Steve Elson: Mott & Broome (2008 ,
Lips & Fingers Music): Saxophonist, lists soprano first
but probably plays tenor more, also some baritone, and clarinet.
Based in New York. Third album since 1994. Fairly mainstream
trio with Yasushi Nakamura on bass and Scott Latzky on drums,
Pete Smith adding guitar on one track (a plus), and Jennifer
Griffith singing several (neither here nor there). CDBaby
recommends if you like Gene Ammons and/or Stan Getz. I don't
hear that, but you got to start somewhere. Choice cut: "Rara
B+(*) [Apr. 28]
Craig Enright: La Belleza . . . (2008 , CDBaby):
Saxophonist, b. 1957 in Omaha, raised across the river in Cedar Rapids,
IA; lives in Stamford, CT, close enough to NYC. Plays latin jazz -- wrote
all the pieces here, ranging from "Iowa Folk Song" to "Bata Boogie."
Quintet, with Enrique Haneine making waves on piano, Alex Hernandez on
bass, Ludwig Alfonso on drums, and Aryam Vazquez on congas. Reminds me
a little of Benny Wallace tonewise, which makes his speed and rhythm
all the more impressive.
John Escreet: Consequences (2008, Positone):
Young pianist, 24 (evidently b. 1984), somewhere in UK, moved
to NYC 2006, Manhattan School of Music, studying with Kenny
Barron and Jason Moran. Leads a quintet with some hot avant
moves -- Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet), Dave Binney (alto sax),
Matt Brewer (bass), Tyshawn Sorey (drums). First piece, "The
Suite of Consequence," runs out to 30:28; nothing else over
10:19, with the closing cover, Andrew Hill's "No Doubt," just
4:00. Some strong spots, especially where the piano blocks
and tackles for the horns. A little rough around the edges.
Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Mama's House Live: 35th Anniversary
Project (2006 , Katalyst Entertainment/City Hall):
Percussionist Kahil El'Zabar dates his mostly trio/sometimes quartet
back to 1973, hence the 35th anniversary concept, underscored by a
return to the two-horn trio format -- most of EHE's lineups featured
bassist Malachi Favors with one horn, often Lester Bowie (trumpet)
or Ari Brown (tenor sax). The horns here are Corey Wilkes (Bowie's
all-purpose successor on trumpet) and Ernest Dawkins (tenor sax).
Recorded live at Sangha. No sermonizing (a frequent risk with
El'Zabar), just a lot of ambling, rough-cut free jazz.
John Ettinger/Pete Forbes: Inquatica (2007 ,
Ettinger Music): Ettinger is a violinist, from San Francisco; this
is his third album, with him also playing a little piano and bass,
as well as setting up loops. Not sure about Forbes. Most likely he
is a singer-songwriter with two previous albums, but here he plays
drums, percussion, banjo (2 cuts), and piano (3 cuts), but doesn't
sing and may not songwrite either. Comes off mostly as an aleatory
electronics album, even if most of the sounds are acoustic. One
cover, a lovely, haunting "Stardust." Compelling when they pick
up a beat, and intriguing when they merely wander.
The Flatlands Collective: Maatjes (2008, Clean
Feed): Dutch alto saxophonist Jorrit Dijkstra is the effective
leader of this group of mostly Chicago-based musicians: James
Falzone (clarinet), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Fred Lonberg-Holm
(cello, electronics), Jason Roebke (bass), Frank Rosaly (drums).
Best when the three horns are all cooking, each on its own track,
with Bishop's trombone buoying everyone else. Stretches of cello
and electronics -- Dijkstra also plays lyricon and analog synth --
are scratchy abstract. The Dutch avant scene has always been noted
for whimsy, while the Chicagoans are known to occasionally suspend
their creativity fetish and just rock out.
Fly: Sky & Country (2008 , ECM): Sax trio,
with Mark Turner leading, Larry Grenadier on bass, Jeff Ballard on
drums. All three write -- breakdown is Turner 4 songs, Ballard 3,
Grenadier 2. Ballard and Grenadier are well known for their work
with Pat Metheny and Brad Mehldau. Turner was one of the best young
tenor saxophonists to come up in the 1990s. From 1994-2001 he cut
3 records for Criss Cross and 4 for Warners, then his discography
dries up until 2008 -- except for a first Fly album in 2004. I've
remarked recently on how impressive he sounded on two recent side
credits: Diego Barber's Calima and Enrico Rava's New York
Days. Can't say as this makes much of an impression: maybe we
can blame the muted sound on producer Manfred Eicher; maybe it's
just too much of the soprano sax that virtually all tenors of his
generation feel obliged to double on. Maybe it's the writing, which
never manages to spring anyone loose. Can't blame it on Turner's
power saw accident, which happened well after this was recorded.
Reports are he's started to play again, but it sounds like a tough
road back. Meanwhile, this isn't bad. It's the sort of inside
playing that might sneak up on you given enough time.
Dave Frank: Turning It Loose! (2007-08 ,
Jazzheads): Pianist, moved from Boston to New York, where he
runs The Dave Frank School of Jazz. Third album. Solo, which
seems to be his preference. Three originals; covers ranging
from "You Stepped Out of a Dream" to "A Night in Tunisia."
Loose enough, but I found myself losing interest on the second
play. You know how it is with solo piano.
Carol Fredette: Everything in Time (2008 ,
Soundbrush): Vocalist, standards singer, or maybe I mean cabaret?
Fourth or fifth album -- one attributed to David Matthews & New
Satelite gives her a "featuring" credit. Previous ones include one
with Steve Kuhn, another singing Dave Frishberg and Bob Dorough
songs. Band varies, including a number of Brazilians. One Jobim
tune -- "Vivo Sonhando (Dreamer)" -- of course, plus one from Ivan
Lins, another from Jayme Silva -- "O Pato (The Duck)", with lyrics
by Jon Hendricks, an amusing novelty tune -- but they are overwhelmed
by the usual standards. Voice has a subtle but interesting character.
B [Feb. 10]
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/Ron Carter/Paul Motian (2005 ,
Nonesuch): More back catalog. Once I decided to bury the excellent
East West in the surplus, it became necessary to clean this
loose end up. Even simpler than the East West trios, most
likely because Motian never indulges a beat. Frisell and Motian
have played quite a lot together in Joe Lovano's company, but
without Lovano's dominance they can wander. And Carter? Well, who
wouldn't want to play with him? Still, I shouldn't gripe. I'm
happy to have the loose Americana -- "Pretty Polly," "I'm So
Lonesome I Could Cry," even "You Are My Sunshine" -- and also
Yoshie Fruchter: Pitom (2008, Tzadik): Part of
John Zorn's far-ranging, mostly admirable Radical Jewish Culture
series, the twist this time being a guitarist-led "punkassjewjazz"
band; sounds more heavy metal than punk, more amusing copping
Black Sabbath riffs than klezmerizing Frank Zappa.
Hal Galper/Reggie Workman/Rashied Ali: Art-Work
(2008 , Origin): Subtitle: "Live at the Jazz Room/William
Patterson University." Piano trio, of course. No excuse for any
jazz fan not to recognize all three names, but Galper certainly
deserves more recognition. He has a couple dozen albums since
1971, including a couple on my A-list (Portrait from 1989;
Just Us from 1993). Influenced by Bud Powell. Taught by
Jaki Byard. This was cut shortly before his 70th birthday, and
he sounds superb at high speed, even better when he slows it
down a bit. He cut a good album for Origin a couple of years
ago using the home team rhythm section (Jeff Johnson and John
Bishop) -- competent as they are Workman and Ali are in a whole
nuther league. (I don't catch much live jazz, but quite a while
back I caught Workman with Mal Waldron and spent the whole set
fixated on him: totally changed the way I hear bass.)
Derrick Gardner & the Jazz Prophets + 2: Echoes of
Ethnicity (2009, Owl Studios): Loud brass band, led by
the trumpeter and his trombonist brother Vincent, the original
sextet fortified with two extra saxophonists in Brad Leali and
Jason Marshall, plus uncounted "disciples" on bass and percussion.
Not bad when you just get one horn -- e.g., Vincent Gardner's
trombone -- riffing over Afro-Cuban riddim, but the massed horns
really rub me the wrong way, and it gets worse when they slow
down. Don't have a technical explanation, so I'll just blame it
on postbop, or too much ambition, or the misjudgments of euphoria.
First album I've seen offering "very special thanks" to "Barack
H. Obama for his inspiration and symbolism of hope for all of
humanity." Easy to trip up on that phrase, "symbolism of hope."
Melody Gardot: Worrisome Heart (2005-06 ,
Verve): Advance copy, has been languishing quite a while; can't
find any supporting hype, credits, anything more than a song list.
Singer, b. 1985, from Philadelphia, was disabled in a car wreck
at age 19, somehow channels that into her music, or so one says.
Nice singer, not much jazz effect, more of a singer-songwriter.
"Some Lessons" is a striking song, sensible, thoughtful.
Gato Libre: Kuro (2007 , Libra): Trumpet player
Natsuki Tamura write the songs here, so figure this as his group, with
wife Satoko Fujii forswearing her explosive piano for accordion. The
others are Kazuhiko Tsumura on guitar and Norikatsu Koreyasu on bass.
Group has a couple of past albums, including the Europe-tour-themed
Nomad which made my A-list. Tamura tends to be more conventional
than Fujii. In particular, he likes simple, straightforward melodies,
and doesn't mind pulling them from folk sources. The European themes
work nice with the accordion, but here he seems unfocused, slipping
in Japanese bits, then not developing them. Some rough spots, some
Gato Libre: Kuro (2007 , Libra): Natsuki
Tamura/Satoko Fujii group, a quartet with Kazuhiko Tsumura on
guitar and Norikatsu Koreyasu on bass. Fujii foregoes her piano
to play accordion, which gives this group a bit of a European
folk flair. I had passed on this earlier, but found it misfiled,
put it on before I could look it up, and suddenly found myself
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.
Tobias Gebb & Trio West: An Upper West Side Story
(2008, Yummy House): Joel Frahm's tenor sax commands your attention
on the four tracks he guests on, sharing two with an equally imposing
vocalist, Champian Fulton. The guest shots punctuate a drummer-led
piano trio, which fills in the remaining spaces with wit and class.
Melvin Gibbs' Elevated Unity: Ancients Speak
(2008 , LiveWired): Bassist, mostly (or wholly) electric,
also programs and plays keyboards; claims 200 album credits (AMG
lists 94 since 1980), but this is first album under his own name.
Broke in with Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society; worked
primarily in groups like Defunkt, Power Tools, Rollins Band, and
Harriet Tubman, with side credits ranging from Sonny Sharrock to
Arto Lindsay to Marisa Monte to John Zorn to Femi Kuti to Dead
Prez. This pulls pretty much all of those credits together, with
several rappers, a Brazilian group [?] called Afoxé Filhos do
Korin Efan, a singer from Antibalas, a rotation of keyboardists
(including Craig Taborn and John Medeski), guitarists (Pete Cosey
is the one I recognize), and drummers (Torreon Gully, JT Lewis).
Funk-world-fusion: not sure how successful it all is, but I've
played it a dozen times for work background, and it sure works
[A-] [Mar. 17]
Adam Glasser: Free at First (2007 , Sunnyside):
South African pianist -- lists chromatic harmonica as his first
instrument, but plays piano/keyboard/synth on 4 cuts. Harmonica
has a nice sound to it, but doesn't build up the music much. Two
songs have vocals -- the first one a South African township jive
thing that reminded me much more of Paul Simon than Mahlathini.
More interesting are two cuts with David Serame narratives, the
sort of spoken word thing that glides easily over light jazz.
Benny Golson: New Time, New 'Tet (2008 ,
Concord): Title makes me wonder whether he's ever considered
calling one of his albums The Tet Offensive. Probably
not -- too much of a sweetheart, for one thing. Will hit his
80th birthday this year. Best remembered for his group with
Art Farmer, for writing several canonical tunes of the 1950s
jazz era, and increasingly for outliving nearly all of his
contemporaries. Also for a keystone role in the movie The
Terminal, where he was singled out as the last person a
fan tracked down for a "great day in Harlem" autograph. Seems
like he's always been on the cusp between one of the greats
and a really good guy who hung with them. This album is of a
piece with his career and its recent framing. The New 'Tet
is a six-piece with brass (Eddie Henderson and Steve Davis)
around the sax, Mike LeDonne on piano, Buster Williams on
bass, and Carl Allen on drums -- all players who fit Golson
like a glove. Golson's long been noted for his arrangements,
a talent he shows off by making Verdi and Chopin listenable,
doing better with El DeBarge, and framing Rollins and Monk
classics, as well as reworking some of his old stand-bys --
the guest vocal by Al Jarreau strikes me as a misstep. For
all his skills, I don't find any of this very interesting --
suitably nostalgic, maybe.
Richie Goods & Nuclear Fusion: Live at the Zinc Bar
(2007 , RichMan): Electric bassist, from Pittsburgh, went to
Berklee, now in New York -- MySpace page says Cortlandt Manor, NY,
somewhere in upper Westchester. Quartet, with Helen Sung on keyboards,
Jeff Lockhart on guitar, and Mike Clark on drums. Hype sheet describes
this as having "a retro 70's fusion flavor." That may be the base, with
covers from Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Lenny White, but the
funk grooves here sound brand new and squeaky clean. The plasticky
sound of the unbranded electric keyboard, at least under Sung's fingers,
is cleaner and more nimble than an organ would be, and the grooves are
much tighter. As fusion, this may seem narrow, but as soul jazz it is
a quantum leap forward.
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."
Tim Green & Trio Cambia: Change of Seasons (2008,
OA2): Piano trio, or two. In one configuration, Green plays piano,
Jake Vinsel plays bass, and Mark Maegdlin plays drums; in another,
Maegdlin plays piano, Green plays bass, and Vinsel drums. Offhand,
I can't tell much difference. Green has the upper hand, with two
previous albums on the label. But both pianists play light, sprightly
lines, often picking up simple melodies.
George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band: Pourqoi Pas? Why Not?
(2007 , TCB): Swiss pianist, past age 75, has run his big band
since early 1970s, currently fortified with a good deal of American
star power -- the tenor sax solo in the first song sent me to the
credit sheet, where I found Donny McCaslin. Album has several strong
spots like that.
Russell Gunn: Love Stories (2008, High Note):
Trumpet player. Has been trying to feel his way toward some sort
of popular breakthrough or encounter for more than a decade: one
of the first to take up electronics, a dabbler in world beat --
one early album was called Ethnomusicology. Here he comes
awful close to pop jazz, mixing in cheesy keyboards and electric
bass, dropping in an obligatory vocal (Heidi Martin on "Love for
Sale," but the opening chords sound like "Jim Dandy to the Rescue").
Results are mixed, with the slow stuff most cloying. I can't blame
this on Kirk Whallum, who despite his own pop jazz resume can play
monster soul sax anytime he feels the urge, and lifts the six cuts
he guests on here.
Gypsy Schaeffer: New Album (2008 , PeaceTime):
Group website title is: "traditional straight ahead free jazz." Seems
like an apt description, because it underlines how unsurprising their
"free jazz" is. Andy Voelker (saxes), Joel Yennior (trombone), Jef
Charland (bass), Chris Punis (drums). Third album. Quite listenable,
especially if you're fond of the sax/'bone harmonics (as I am). But
also quite forgettable, as I keep finding now that I've played this --
what? -- five times.
Jim Hall & Bill Frisell: Hemispheres (2007-08
, ArtistShare, 2CD): One disc of guitar duets, the second
recorded a year later with Scott Colley on bass and Joey Baron on
drums. Hall's always been a subtle artist, and he takes the lead
here with his intricate explorations.
Herbie Hancock: Then and Now: The Definitive Herbie
Hancock (1964-2008 , Verve): This could have been
programmed by an accountant: two title cuts from classic Blue
Notes; an obvious title from Fat Albert Rotunda; two cuts
from the bestselling Head Hunters; the overwrought Stevie
Wonder turn from Gershwin's World (on a song by W.C. Handy --
what was that doing there?); a piece from the Round Midnight
soundtrack (Hancock did a nice bit of acting there); two takes of
"River," the bonus with Joni Mitchell as herself; a Nirvana song
from The New Standard; a Billie Holiday song from the
Starbucks vanity plate album Possibilities, with Damien
Rice and Lisa Hannigan; a cheaper live take of "Rockit" from a
stray DVD. This does indeed span Hancock's career, from hard bop
to funk to fusion to cashing in and coasting. His later material
fares poorly, and the fusion hasn't aged very well -- although
"Rockit" is still a hoot. But the first cut thrilled me as much
as ever: I finally got to this album the day Freddie Hubbard died,
and there he was, unmistakably brilliant, playing with four-fifths
of the Miles Davis Quintet and easily displacing the leader. The
album, Maiden Voyage, is still brilliant. Start there and
you'll never want to go here.
B [advance; PS: later found my final copy]
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]
Billy Harper: Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 2 (2006
, Talking House): Amiri Baraka talks his way through the
first two pieces, then returns at the end with another story of
Africa, the blues people, and the evolution of the music. Worth
listening to, or even studying if you're not hip to the story.
Harper vamps memorably along the way, then blasts open when he
gets the chance -- throw in Keyon Harold's trumpet and Charles
McNeal's alto sax and this sounds like a big band even though
the musician count is six or seven (two bassists, not on all
the tracks together). Harper sounds great on tenor sax; OK
singing "Amazing Grace." Probably not the best place to hear
Fareed Haque + the Flat Earth Ensemble: Flat Planet
(2009, Owl Studios): Guitarist, b. 1963, don't know where but
father is Pakistani, mother Chilean; lived in both parents'
countries, plus Spain, France, Iran, and US, studying at North
Texas State and Northwestern. Seventh album since 1988. Sounds
like south Indian folk grooves -- most of the guests come from
that direction -- spiced up with a bit of fusion. Wonder whether
he got the group/title concept from Thomas Friedman. It certainly
doesn't make sense in such well rounded, universally appealing
Tom Harrell: Prana Dance (2008 , High Note):
Major trumpet player, with a couple dozen albums since 1982, but
someone I've only occasionally been pleased with -- his trumpet is
impressive enough, but his postbop compositional quirks can throw
me. Relatively straightforward posthardbop quintet, with Wayne
Escoffery a fast and slick accomplice on soprano and tenor sax,
Danny Grissett favoring Fender Rhodes over acoustic piano, and
strong propulsion from the rhythm section.
B+(*) [Jan. 27]
Jon Hassell: Last Night the Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes
in the Street (2008 , ECM): But did it really happen
if no one was conscious enough to notice? Violin, guitar, bass, keyb,
"live sampling" (Jan Bang, Dino J.A. Deane), some cuts have drums
credits (not that I recall any), with a light schmear of trumpet,
all toned down and slowed down, even past Hassell's usual standards
of fourth world ambience.
Ken Hatfield and Friends: Play the Music of Bill McCormick:
To Be continued . . . (2008, M/Pub): Guitarist, also plays
mandolin, has half dozen albums since 1998. AMG lists his first style
as "folk-jazz" -- don't really know what that means, but he does
have some folkie in his veins: sharp plucks, a little twang, maybe
a hint of John Fahey or Doc Watson. Don't know much about McCormick,
who presumably wrote the music -- he also wrote the liner notes,
is probably pictured on the back cover, isn't credited as playing
except in some fine print in the booklet, and seems to be the "M"
in M/Pub. Jim Clouse plays soprano and tenor sax, more for color
than anything else. With Hans Glawischnig on bass, Dan Weiss on
drums, and Steve Kroon on percussion. Surprised me enough I'll
have to play it again.
Lisa Hearns: I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good (2006
, [no label]). Vocalist, has a published birthday but not year,
grew up in Massachusetts, graduated from Berklee, based in New York.
First album. Presumably self-released, without bothering to think up
a label name. Out of her depth on the title song, which shouldn't be
sung by people with no plausible reason to complain, and therefore
nothing to overcome. Standards, arranged by bassist Kelly Friesen,
who does a fine job; pianist Keith Ingham helps out, and guitarist
Howard Alden shines on four tracks -- especially "Plus Je T'Embrasse,"
a fast one in French even I can follow, which turns this album from
slightly annoying to moderately engaging and charming.
Alex Heitlinger: The Daily Life of Uncle Roger
(2007 , [no label]): Trombonist, from Colorado, based in
Brooklyn now. Second album, a sextet, with clarinet/alto sax and
trumpet up front, piano/fender rhodes, bass, and drums. Voicings
and harmonies are elegantly postbop, readymade chamber music.
First time through I hated it; second time I tolerated it well
enough. Could grow on me, but unlikely to reach the point where
I'd want to recommend it.
Bill Henderson: Beautiful Memory: Bill Henderson Live
at the Vic (2007 , Ahuh): Live appearance, on the
occasion of Henderson's 81st birthday. He was one of the major
male jazz singers of the 1950s, coming in just after the
vocalese fad. Doesn't do much of that now: just his generation's
version of what Louis Armstrong used to call the "good ole good
'uns" -- "You Are My Sunshine," "Old Black Magic," "Song Is You" --
plus an unnecessary Elton John song. I never was a fan, so can't
credit much sentimental value.
Nicole Henry: The Very Thought of You (2008, Banister):
Singer, MySpace page says she's 90 years old, although from the pics
I've seen I wouldn't put her a day over 39. Based in Florida. Second
or third album. Favors standards -- "Almost Like Being in Love," "At
Last," "All the Way," the title cut, a relatively obscure obligatory
Jobim -- which she approaches with respect and care. Figure her for
a Carmen McRae lineage. Impeccable, for whatever that's worth.
Steve Herberman Trio: Ideals (2008, Reach Music):
Guitarist, based in DC, has a couple of previous records. A subtle
craftsman, hard to pin down -- cites Joe Pass, Joe Diorio, Lenny
Breau, and Gene Bertoncini on his website, which gives you an
idea of family resemblance, but he's better than three of those,
and different from Pass. Covers include pieces by Weill, Jobim,
Gershwin; also "Will You Still Be Mine?" and "Delilah" and Mal
Waldron's "Soul Eyes." Originals flow nicely. With Tom Baldwin
on bass, Mark Ferber on drums.
The Matthew Herbert Big Band: There's Me and There's You
(2008, !K7): The leader was born 1972 in England, works primarily as
DJ and producer, has a couple dozen albums since 1996 and a ton of
remixes, most as Herbert, some as Doctor Rockit, Wishmountain, and
Radio Boy. Fourth Matthew Herbert Big Band album. Didn't recognize
this as a promo at first -- smashed jewel box fooled me -- but cover
is one sheet blank on back, with no obvious information. Only found
one hype sheet, not clearly complete: claims album features "the cream
of British jazz musicians," but doesn't bother to identify any. (I
gather from secondary sources that the lead singer is named Eska
Mtungwazi.) Most songs have vocals, and they have a brassy, Broadway
sound. I have trouble following the plot (if there is one). Herbert
also has a rep as a political theorist, which I don't have any real
grasp of. Could be better if I did, or worse.
Nicole Herzog Septet: Time Will Tell (2007 ,
TCB): Feat. Adrian Mears, trombonist, who wrote 3 of 8 pieces and
is credited with arrangements. Herzog sings. B. 1983, Winterthur,
Switzerland (near Zurich). Website in German only, but songs are
in English and Portuguese (Jobim's "Agua de Beber"; she also does
"One Note Samba"). First album, I think -- her website also refers
to The Latin Side of Life, but I haven't figured out what
that is. Mears is from Australia -- plays didgeridoo as well as
trombone. He moved to Munich in 1992, his credits including a
stretch with Vienna Art Orchestra. With two saxes, trumpet and
trombone, the septet has a rich brassy sound, interesting in its
own right. Less impressed by the singer, and the songs: obvious
and unnecessary -- two Jobims, "The Man I Love," "Afro Blue,"
Frank Loesser's "If I Were a Bell." Mears' songs at least don't
beg comparison, but "While My Baby Sleeps" is rather awkward.
Still, he does have some talent for arranging the brass, and the
rhythm section swings.
Cynthia Hilts: Second Story Breeze (2008, Blond
Coyote): Pianist, singer, probably in that order. Trio, with Ron
McClure on bass, Jeff Williams on drums. Mostly standards, like
"My Favorite Things" and "Three Blind Mice." Played it three
times today. Hard to hear clearly, and not just for the many
distractions that weren't her fault. Doubt that a fourth spin
would make enough of a difference to put this in play.
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.
Hiromi's Sonicbloom: Beyond Standard (2008, Telarc):
Sort of an American EST, less original -- that would be Bad Plus --
but a healthy mix of popular ambition and chops. Standards, aside
from one remake of one of her own -- can't bedrudge her that --
and an unfamiliar Japanese title that you'll recognize as "Sukiyaki"
(assuming you were conscious in the 1960s). Best taken with a dash
of soy sauce: "My Favorite Things" and "Caravan" are amusing, and
she runs through "I Got Rhythm" at record pace. Dave Fiuczynski's
guitar is featured.
The Ron Hockett Quintet: Finally Ron (2008, Arbors):
Trad jazz clarinetist, based in DC for last 29 years, mostly with the
US Marine Band, plus 9 years with the Jim Cullum Jazz Band in San
Antonio, leads his first album. Arbors treats him right, filling out
the quintet with John Sheridan (piano), James Chirillo (guitar), Phil
Flanigan (bass), and Jake Hanna (drums). One original blues; covers
as obvious as "Beale Street Blues" and "On the Sunny Side of the
Street," and as modern as Bob Wilber. Doesn't sound important, but
does sound terrific. I keep forgetting how much I like Chirillo.
Red Holloway: Go Red Go! (2008 , Delmark):
Saxophonist, mostly played alto way back when, but lists tenor first
here. B. 1927, from Chicago, broke in in 1948 with Roosevelt Sykes,
worked with Jack McDuff in the 1960s; managed to get some of his old
soul jazz records recycled in Fantasy's opportuistic Legends of
Acid Jazz series. This is another soul jazz date, with Hammond
B3, guitar, and drums. One original, the self-explanatory "I Like
It Funky." Title cut is from Arnett Cobb, a model. "St. Thomas" and
"Bags' Groove" are highlights, and he even sneaks Jobim's "Wave" in.
Closes with a vocal on a Sykes jive blues, "Keep Your Hands Off Her."
Makes it all look easy.
Mike Holober & the Gotham Jazz Orchestra: Quake
(2008 , Sunnyside): Pianist, teaches at CCNY, has four albums,
at least two with his Gotham Jazz Orchestra big band, plus a couple
dozen side credits going back to 1991. I was pleasantly surprised by
his Thought Trains album, and generally find him to be a handy
guy wherever he shows up. For some reason, he tackles one song each
from the Beatles ("Here Comes the Sun") and the Rolling Stones ("Ruby
Tuesday"). I have mixed feelings, especially about the former, a song
I can easily get too much of, done up with enough clever touches to
be admirable, almost listenable even.
Al Hood: Just a Little Taste: Al Hood Plays the Writing of
Dave Hanson (2008 , CDBaby): Trumpeter, originally from
upstate New York, wrote his doctoral dissertation on Clifford Brown,
teaches at University of Denver since 1999. Don't know what else he's
done, other than play in Phil Collins' big band. This seems to be his
first record, although he's probably well past 50. Hanson is harder
to sort out from the Google chaff. Pianist, based in Denver, plays
here, arranges and conducts. Only wrote 4 of 12 pieces, so the
"writing" Hood plays is mostly his arrangements. The small group
stuff is real solid: Hood has a broad, commanding tone; stands out
cleanly amid the orchestral muck -- the high-rent district of the
woodwind section -- Pam Endsley on flute, Lisa Martin on oboe,
Susan McCullough on horn -- and/or a shitload of strings. I suppose
that makes the arranger feel like he's earning his dime.
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.
Fernando Huergo: Provinciano (2006 ,
Sunnyside): Argentine bassist swings both ways, making first
rate postbop with Andrew Rathbun's sax and Mike Pohjola's
piano leading the way, plus some curious tango featuring
Yulia Musayelyan's flute and Franco Pinna's drums.
Julia Hülsmann Trio: The End of a Summer (2008,
ECM): Pianist, b. 1968 in Bonn, Germany. Has three previous albums
on ACT, including one co-headlined by voalist Anna Lauvergnac;
has also worked with vocalist Rebekka Bakken. This is straight
piano trio, not exactly slow and not exactly meditative, but
something along those lines. Another fine ECM piano album.
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.
Adrian Iaies Trio + Michael Zisman: Vals de la 81st &
Columbus (2008, Sunnyside): Possibly a victim of my method,
as this stuck in my player for six spins, the first three ascending
to A-list candidacy, the next three slightly wearing me down.
Argentine piano trio plus bandoneon (plus trumpet on two cuts).
Mostly tango, of course, even on standards by Monk and Shorter.
Iaies' piano does the prancing, with Pablo Aslan's bass close
to the ground, while Zisman's bandoneon fills the room with
lush, soulful sound.
Abdullah Ibrahim: Senzo (2008 , Sunnyside):
Solo piano from the great South African pianist, now approaching 75.
Originals, many titles I recognized from his past records, strung
together into a single, long meditation, with "In a Sentimental
Mood" slipped in as yet another nod to his accidental mentor, Duke
Ellington. I don't normally fall for solo piano, but none of the
usual rationales seem to apply here -- in particular, the one that
it takes too much effort to follow such intricacy. This one seems
as natural as crystal streams flowing under gentle breezes, with
an occasional figure to fix the location in mother Africa.
Iron City: Put the Flavor on It (2008 ,
Carlo Music): Had artist on this in my queue as Charlie Apicella
& Iron City, but don't see any reason from the package -- my
filing system is hopeless right now, so the odds of finding the
hype sheet are slim to none. Guitarist Apicella is clearly the
leader, writing 5 songs vs. 4 covers -- "Walk On By," "Hey Western
Union Man," "And Satisfy," and one from Apicella's mentor Dave
Stryker. Group includes Beau Sasser on organ, Alan Korzin on drums.
Don't know where the name comes from -- group itself is from Amherst,
MA. Light funk. Mostly harmless.
B- [Apr. 7]
Israel: Naranjas Sobre la Nieve (2007 ,
Sunnyside): Been blogging about Israel the country today, which
isn't really responsible for my annoyance with Israel Fernández
the flamenco singer: the fact is the booklet contents are buried
in a PDF file on the CD, inaccessible while I'm playing it, and
the website is contentless without the acursed Flash plugin.
Also my filing system has turned into a large dump heap, so
finding the hype sheet is beyond my patience. On the other
hand, if I liked anything about the record I might find some
patience. Eighteen years old. Pictured at the piano on the
front cover, but not exactly playing it, and I don't hear
much of it on the album. Can't sing for shit, which may be a
flamenco trademark -- not all that different from El Cigala,
except that the latter makes an impression. Has a pretty good
guitarist, at least in terms of flamenco-ish dramaturgy.
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.
Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: Yesterdays
(2001 , ECM): Standards trio again, together since 1983, prolific,
never breaking new ground, but superb as you'd expect. Hard to choose
among their dozens of albums, but a pair of Fats Waller songs helped to
nudge 2007's My Foolish Heart: Live at Montreux onto my A-list --
the first time that happened with this group. Turned out that was a
6-year-old live tape. New one is also live, also from 2001, which turns
out to be a banner year for the group. (Of course, it may just be that
the years since haven't been so good. Don't know about Jarrett, but he
wouldn't have been the only one in the dumps.) This time the hot sauce
comes from Charlie Parker ("Shaw 'Nuff," "Scrapple From the Apple").
I slightly prefer the ballad in between, "You've Changed."
Jazz Arts Trio: Tribute (2008, JRI): Piano trio:
Frederick Moyer on piano, Peter Tillotson on bass, Peter Fraenkel
on drums. The tribute idea is to pick out performances from their
favorite piano trios and redo (or "reinterpret") them. It's safe
to say their favorite is Oscar Peterson, who accounts for 6 of 11
songs here, the others good for one piece each: Erroll Garner,
Bill Evans, Vince Guaraldi, Herbie Hancock, and Horace Silver.
Nice little exercise, of no particular importance, but anyone
who can play like Peterson is entitled to do so.
The Burr Johnson Band: What It Is (2008 ,
Lexicon): Guitarist, toured with Jack McDuff; ninth record since
early 1990s, including 2 for children, several with this Band, a
guitar-bass-drums trio. Favors funk licks, and puts some fancy
spin on them. Three songs come with lyrics, and an uncredited
singer with reason to remain anonymous.
B [Feb. 5]
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.
Darren Johnston: The Edge of the Forest (2007-08
, Clean Feed): Trumpet player, from Canada, based in San
Francisco, first album as leader, although his name shows up on
another album I have in the queue, plus he has a couple of side
credits. Seems like someone I should have recognized -- in fact,
he appeared on a former Pick Hit here, Adam Lane's Full Throttle
Orchestra's New Magical Kingdom. Pianoless quintet here --
like one of those quartets but with a third horn, the range of
colors and timbres spread wide by Ben Goldberg's clarinet and
Sheldon Brown's tenor sax (or narrowed with bass clarinet), but
they tend to cycle against each other rather than fly apart.
Devin Hoff plays bass, Smith Dobson V drums, and Rob Reich
appears on accordion on one track. Brown is a strong soloist --
another guy I've run across a couple of times, but should
remember from now on. The rhythm section keeps things moving,
and Goldberg is superb as the guy who ties it all together.
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]
Randy Klein: Piano Improvisations: The Flowing
(2008, Jazzheads): Solo piano, simple pieces with titles like
"The Calm," "The Flowing," "Child Like," "Process," "Clean and
Beautiful," "Always Grateful," "A World of Luxury." B. 1949,
AMG lists six records; his website shows nine going back to
1986, as well as a larger number of records as producer and
composer. I never quite know what to do with solo piano, but
this is one of the more pleasantly listenable specimens I've
heard in quite a while.
Diana Krall: Quiet Nights (2009, Verve): Pretty
simple concept, almost inevitable given Krall's market profile:
ballads with some light Brazilian froth (two Jobim standards,
Paulinho da Costa's percussion), swimming in Claus Ogerman's
soft-toned arrangements backed by a massive string orchestra
whose main job is to swoon gently in the background. Can't think
of anyone else who could pull it off. I'm not sure this will
hold up, but it's been a sheer delight ever since I popped it
and heard "Where or When." It's not the commanding performance
From This Moment On was -- more Bennett than Sinatra.
Joachim Kühn & Michael Wollny: Piano Works IX: Live at
Schloss Emlau (2008 , ACT): Six cuts: four piano duos,
one solo by each artist. Kühn I'm pretty familiar with -- b. 1944,
substantial catalog including a duo with Ornette Coleman, a couple
of records that broke through my usual reticence about jazz piano.
Wollny, with 5 records since 2005, I don't know at all. Don't have
much to say on this one: carefully crafted, inside pianism, demands
a lot of concentration; one non-original, credited to somename named
Steve Laffont/Gino Roman/Yorgui Loeffler/Chriss Campion:
Latchès (2008, Sunnyside): French group. Probably an
eponymous group name/album title, but the members' names are
listed on the front cover (not the spine), so I'll go with that.
Roman plays bass. The other three are guitarists, modelled on
Django Reinhardt, of course. Three Django songs; one more by
Lulu Reinhardt (whoever that is); one original from each group
member; a few other scattered covers. Nice enough, but shouldn't
string jazz have a little more buzz?
Matt Lavelle and Morcilla: The Manifestation Drama
(2008 , KMB Jazz): Starts off with an ugly, arresting bass
clarinet riff, followed by fractured piano and conga, with Lavelle
soon switching back to trumpet (or more likely flugelhorn). It's
a thrilling piece -- "God Love Sex" is the title -- but when he's
done he's off to something else. Not all of the ugly turns sublime,
and not all of the pieces to ugly. There's some simple bass/trumpet
stuff that's haunting, and François Grillot's bass solo is a gem.
Pianist Chris Forbes does a crashingly good Cecil Taylor bit, but
can comp gently as well. Andre Martinez's congas give the record
a tribal feel. Lavelle has been studying with Ornette Coleman,
who's pushing him to find his own sound grammar. Not sure what
that means. Feels like a work in progress.
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.
Ray LeVier: Ray's Way (2007 , Origin): Drummer,
based in New York, has worked with KJ Denhert for 10 years, but doesn't
have much in the way of credits. First album. Must have worked his
way around, for he came up with a name roster, having to divide the
guitar slots between John Abercrombie (5 cuts, with Joe Locke on
vibes) and Mike Stern (4 cuts). Dave Binney play sax on two cuts
with each guitarist. François Moutin and Ned Mann split bass duties,
and Federico Turreni gets one cut on soprano sax. LeVier wrote 2 of
9 songs, picking up others from the band, plus "Blues in the Closet"
by Oscar Pettiford. Straightforward postbop, providing an especially
good showcase for the guitarists, with Stern more than holding his
Helge Lien Trio: Hello Troll (2008, Ozella):
Norwegian pianist. Has one solo and six trio albums since 2000,
plus a trio project with two horns called Tri O 'Trang. Trio
adds Frode Berg on bass, Knut Aalefjær on drums. Mostly upbeat
melodic postbop, like they wouldn't mind being grouped with
the late EST.
Charles Lloyd Quartet: Rabo de Nube (2007 ,
ECM): The young rhythm section -- Jason Moran on piano, Reuben
Rogers on double bass, Eric Harland on drums -- were born a good
decade into Lloyd's career, and are if anything more mainstream,
but no slouches when it comes to running a groove. The live date
in Basel is relatively conventional for Lloyd as well: Coltrane
tenor sax, a boppish alto flute feature, a little exotica on the
tarogato. All originals, except for the title cut from Silvio
Rodriguez, a nice chill down piece.
Charles Lloyd: Rabo de Nube (2007 , ECM):
Gave this another listen after it won the Jazz Times poll,
finishing third to Sonny Rollins in the Village Voice poll.
Quartet with Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass, Eric
Harland on drums. Initially struck me as a return to Lloyd's
now-classic Coltrane-focused mainstream -- certainly nothing
to deprecate, but less interesting than recent albums like his
worldly Sangam or the down-home interplay with Billy
Higgins on Which Way Is East. The fact is that Lloyd's
been on a roll at least since 1999's Voice in the Night.
I think the polls are catching up, plus reflecting interest in
Moran, who is superb as always.
B+(***) [formerly B+(**)]
Jessica Lurie Ensemble: Shop of Wild Dreams (2008
, Zipa! Music): Saxophonist, mostly alto, some tenor, originally
from Seattle, now based in New York; also sings here, plays flute,
accordion, and baritone ukulele. Group includes Eric Deutsch (piano),
Brandon Seabrook (guitar), Todd Sickafoose (bass), Alison Miller
(drums) -- several of these intersect with Ani DiFranco bands, and
Lurie herself has played with Sleater-Kinney. Fourth CD since 2004,
although her side credits go back to the Billy Tipton Memorial
Saxophone Quartet in 1992. No indication that she's related to any
of the other Luries, although there's a slick postmodernism to her
instrumentals that follows the Lounge Lizards. I'm less certain
about her vocals.
Frank Macchia: Saxolollapalooza (2008 ,
Cacophony): Saxophonist, b. 1958, from San Francisco, did a lot of
TV and movie work, has a bunch of albums since 2000, starting with
the Little Evil Things series. This one six saxophonists --
Eric Marienthal and Bob Sheppard are the names I recognize -- and
drummer Peter Erskine, with Jay Mason's bass sax subbing for string
bass. The song list is old, starting with trad's "Shortening Bread,"
"Down by the Riverside," and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," advancing
through "Creole Love Song" and "Caravan" to Benny Goodman's "Air
Mail Special," with Nat Adderley's "Work Song" a ringer. Pretty
obvious stuff, although the arrangements and instrumentation have
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.
Rudresh Mahanthappa: Kinsmen (2008, Pi):
Runner-up in the Village Voice jazz poll, placing 15th
in the more mainstream Jazz Times poll, in both cases
running well ahead of better-known bandmate/pianist Vijay Iyer
(Tragicomic, 2nd on my ballot). Like Iyer, he is second
generation Indian-American. He's always struck me as closely
following in Coltrane's giant steps, with a slight shmear of
second-hand Indian music grafted on, but here he makes large
strides forward, on both counts. I found his much simpler trio,
Apti (with Pakistani guitarist Rez Abassi, also here)
more immediately appealing, but this is deeper, richer, rougher,
and more intriguing. He starts with a trio of South Indians --
A. Kanyakumari on violin, Poovalur Sriji on mridangam, and most
importantly Kadri Gopalnath on alto sax. The latter adds a
second track to Mahanthappa's alto sax, altering both the
sound and dynamics -- the rough and ready "Snake!" is a good
example. [Lost my final copy -- another reason why I've been
slow on this -- so I'm falling back to the advance copy.]
Ben Markley: Second Introduction (2008 , OA2):
Pianist, from Longmont, CO, leads a standard bop quintet, with Greg
Gisbert on trumpet and Jim Pisano on tenor sax. Nothing much wrong
with it -- lots of energy, some postbop innovation -- but nothing
that strikes me as out of the ordinary, either.
Denman Maroney Quintet: Udentity (2008 ,
Clean Feed): B. 1949, plays something he calls hyperpiano, which
is basically prepared piano and then some. Has a couple of previous
albums I haven't heard; I've run across him mostly in the company
of Mark Dresser -- an album called Time Changes (2005) pairs
the two to limited but interesting effect. This quintet opens him
up: Ned Rothenberg plays reeds (alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet),
Dave Ballou trumpet, Reuben Radding bass, and Michael Sarin drums.
The two horns are always interesting, although mostly they play it
straight compared to the funny stuff coming off the piano, maybe
even bass and percussion.
(PS: Quintet has another album, Gaga, on Nuscope. A similar
quintet recorded Fluxuations -- sub Mark Dresser on bass
and Kevin Norton on percussion.)
Branford Marsalis Quartet: Metamorphosen (2008
, Marsalis Music): I've long thought that the first brother
was lucky to get to pick tenor sax first, because it gave him a
broader and more open model (Coltrane) than the second could do
on trumpet (Davis). Despite their fame, both have stayed within
their bounds: it's just that Branford gives you the sense that
he really enjoys where he is, whereas Wynton won't be satisfied
until he turns into Napoleon. One indication of Branford's comfort
zone is that this quartet -- Joey Calderazzo on piano, Eric Revis
on bass, Jeff "Tain" Watts on drums -- has been together for 10
years now. Their first album, Requiem (for Calderazzo's
predecessor, Kenny Kirkland), is still my pick from the series,
perhaps because the solemn occasion brought them together, but
they've almost always made solid albums, and this is one more.
Everyone in the group writes -- Branford himself is down to one
song plus "Rhythm-A-Ning" -- creating a bit of a jumble, but
Revis's "Sphere" (following the Monk cover) and Watts's "Samo"
are first rate. I've never like Calderazzo on his own, but he
fills in admirably here. And Branford has mostly switched to
soprano sax, which pace my instincts may be a good thing. All
of Coltrane's children thought they had to master the second
horn, but damn few did -- Marsalis is about as good on it as
Wayne Shorter is, which is saying something.
Martin & Haynes: Freedman (2008, Barnyard):
Drummer Jean Martin, credited here with "suitcase." Guitarist Justin
Haynes, credited here with ukulele. Title references Myk Freedman,
a Canadian lap steel player who wrote (almost) all of the 17 songs
here -- titles lke "Zombies Love Dancin' to This Number," "My
Technical Difficulties Led to Rhythmical Complexities," and "Where
the Tulips Blow in My Imaginary Orchestra." One of those ideas
that never amounts to much: hard to be John Fahey on a ukulele,
or Rashied Ali on a suitcase. Still, it eventually settles into
enough of a vibe to show that the idea wasn't totally crocked.
Mark Masters Ensemble: Farewell Walter Dewey Redman
(2006 , Capri): Big band arranger, b. 1957, started playing
trumpet, learned his craft under Stan Kenton. Eighth album since
1984 -- others include Jimmy Knepper Songbook, The Clifford
Brown Project, and Porgy and Bess: Redefined. This one
is dedicated to the late Dewey Redman, mostly featuring his songs,
with one from Masters, two from the group, and "My One and Only
Love." Arrangements are crisp and detailed, as you'd expect, but
the main point is the solo space, and what makes it work is that
Oliver Lake is the main focal point.
Shawn Maxwell: Originals II (2008 , Dangerous
Curve): Also saxophonist (also flute and clarinet), b. 1976, from
Aurora, IL. Second album, debut was called Originals. Leads
a quartet with piano/keyboards, bass, drums. Postbop, given to high
wails and fast runs on alto sax; impressive enough, but nothing
much catches my ear. On the other hand, his flute feature ("Year
Three") is dreadful, and the clarinet isn't much better. Adds
guest guitar and trombone on one track each. The latter, by Johanna
Mahmud on "Working Dog," is the best thing here.
Maybe Monday: Unsquare (2006 , Intakt):
The group proper consists of Fred Frith on electric guitar, Miya
Masaoka on 25 string koto and electronics, and Larry Ochs on
sopranino and tenor saxes. The "special guests" are: Gerry
Hemingway (drums, percussion), Carla Kihlstedt (electric and
acoustic violins), Ikue Mori (electronics), and Zeena Parkins
(electric harp and electronics). Seems like a jazz analogue to
musique concrète, making me wonder whether anyone had discussed
le jazz concrète -- found one reference to George Russell's
Electronic Sonata for Souls Loved by Nature (1969), an
interesting choice but simple in comparison. Avant-chamber
music, no swing or even much progression, but it all swirls
around uncertain points as the musicians pick up on each other's
cues. Despite all the electronics, instrumental tones predominate --
I started to say acoustic, but Frith and Kihlstedt have their
acoustic instruments plugged in.
Jim McAuley: The Ultimate Frog (2002-07 ,
Drip Audio, 2CD): Skipped this over many times, not feeling up to
a double CD, and not realizing who was on this other than the
to-me-unknown guitarist. The one that should have done the trick
for me was the late violinist Leroy Jenkins. Best known for his
1970s string trio Revolutionary Ensemble, Jenkins put violin
onto the avant-jazz map almost single-handedly -- Billy Bang
came later, and now there are a dozen or so good jazz violinists,
notably including Jesse Zubot, who I mention because he runs the
label that released this. McAuley turns out to be an enigmatic
character, b. 1946 on a farm in Kansas, based in Los Angeles,
with a previous record on Nine Winds from 2005 and a credit in
Acoustic Guitar Trio, a 2001 album with Nels Cline and
Rod Poole on Derek Bailey's Incus label. Reviewers tend to liken
him to Bailey, which strikes me as convergence -- all solo avant
guitarists are inevitably bound to overlap -- but then I can't
claim to know or understand much about Bailey. In an interview
I found, McAuley talks about John Fahey, which make sense, and
recounts playing with John Carter and Horace Tapscott in LA,
which also fits. The two discs include 23 duets plus a solo,
"For Rod Poole." Seven duets with Jenkins date from 2002, the
names just "Improvisation" with a number. They are slight, but
the violin is bracing, the guitar gently picking around the
edges. The other duos -- with guitarist Nels Cline, bassist
Ken Filiano, and percussionist Alex Cline -- date from 2006-07,
fleshing out the album refocusing it on the guitarist. Haven't
really sorted out the guitarists, but the drum counterpoint is
especially vivid, and Filiano is always invaluable. I almost
never fall for abstract, minimalist, avant guitar, but there
always seems to be an exception to every rule, and this is it.
Brian McCree: Changes in the Wind (2005-06 ,
Accurate): Low profile: Google ignores my spelling and returns links
to a Flint, MI stand-up commedian named Bryan McCree. Wrong guy. This
one plays bass. First album, with close to 10 side credits back to
1991. Worked in Boston for a while, but moved to Hawaii in 2003.
Largely a group album, with one McCree original, two covers ("Nature
Boy," "The Breeze and I"), and the rest from the band: two from Salim
Washington (tenor sax, flute, oboe); one each from Bill Lowe (bass
trombone), Joel LaRue Smith (piano), and Ron Murphy (vocals). Murphy's
deep vocals, limited to the opening "Nature Boy" and his "Cookie" at
the end, frame the album with soulful gravitas -- not as impressive
as Everett Greene, but in the same vein. Washington is a first-rate
saxophonist, with more edge than expected in the otherwise mainstream
flow, and his flute piece holds up pretty nicely.
Joe McPhee/Paal Nilssen-Love: Tomorrow Came Today
(2007 , Smalltown Superjazz): McPhee strikes me as the most
doggedly anti-commercial avant-gardist of the last three or four
decades. It's not so much that he's inaccessible but that he's so
preoccupied with his own inner logic that he could care less what
you think -- a couple of meetings with Ken Vandermark, who idolizes
McPhee, come to mind. Norwegian drummer Nilssen-Love, on the other
hand, doesn't seem to have any notion that what he does shouldn't
be embraced by everyone. He came up in rock groups, plays free,
and sometimes ties them all together. His Dual Pleasure
duos with Vandermark were unusually lucid and engaging sax-drums
duos, and here he does the same trick for McPhee.
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
Francisco Mela: Cirio: Live at the Blue Note
(2007 , Half Note): Dedicated to the Mela's late father,
Cirio, who founded El Club de Trovadores de la música Cibana in
Bayamo, Cuba. The young drummer moves far on his second record,
picking up an all-star band -- Mark Turner, Jason Moran, Lionel
Loueke, Larry Grenadier -- each adding something to the jerky
The Eddie Metz Jr. Trio: Bridging the Gap (2008
, Arbors): Second generation drummer. His father, who now
does business as Ed Metz Sr., ran Bob Crosby's Bobcats way past
their prime; and they've jointly appeared, with other Metzen, as
the Metz Family. The trio proper is a piano-bass-drums affair,
with Rossano Sportiello and Nicki Parrott, who have a duo album
I cited as an Honorable Mention (People Will Say We're in
Love). This is more scattered and less distinguished. Several
attempts at modernizing the songbook (Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan)
don't do much. Parrott takes one vocal, which is either too few
or too many. Perhaps sensing the trio isn't enough, they bring
in tenor saxophonist Harry Allen and/or trombonist John Allred
for six cuts (four together, one each). They are in typical form,
but again one wonders if they're used too much or too little.
Hendrik Meurkens: Samba to Go! (2008 , Zoho):
Dutch-born (1957), German-raised, Berklee-educated, New York-based,
plays vibes and harmonica, the latter now his main instrument. Has
14 albums since 1990, nearly all in a Brazilian vein -- his first
was called Sambahia, and this one follows the very similar
Sambatropolis. Soft tones, especially when Rodrigo Ursala
brings out the flutes, and soft rhythms, bringing together the
mushiness samba is prone to, spicing it so lightly one hardly
Bob Mintzer Big Band: Swing Out (2007 ,
MCG Jazz): Looking at Wikipedia, Mintzer's credits are pretty
evenly split between Yellowjackets and his Big Band. The latter
has been cranking since 1985, 6 years earlier than his tenure
started with the Yellowjackets. Both groups have their points,
but neither are consistent enough to recommend. While Mintzer
is easily the best player in the Yellowjackets, it's less clear
that anyone stands out in the Big Band. This one sounded strong
and brassy at first, then gradually wore out its welcome with
too much of the same bombast. One track in the middle features
boy singer Kurt Elling, who recapitulated that dynamic even
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.
Zaid Nasser: Off Minor (2008 , Smalls):
Alto saxophonist, at last check had given up on New York and
decided to check out the jazz scene in Armenia, but came back
for a second album. Classical bebopper, smoother and slicker
than Charlie Parker, maybe not as fast, but I figure he's just
pacing himself. Quartet, with Sacha Perry making an impression
on piano, Ari Roland on bass, Phil Stewart on drums. Only one
original, called "Zaid's Slow Blues." Title cut is from Monk,
good for a workout. "Moonlight in Vermont" and "You'd Be So
Nice to Come Home To" respect their themes. Previous album,
Escape From New York, is overdue for JCG recognition.
Not sure if this is better, but it's at least as enjoyable --
pretty much what mainstream jazz should sound like these days.
The New Jazz Composers Octet: The Turning Gate
(2005 , Motema Music): Trumpeter David Weiss produced, so
he seems to be first among equals, but pianist Xavier Davis edged
him out in compositions, while bassist Dwayne Burno and alto
saxophonist Myron Walden worked in one each. The other members
are Jimmy Greene (tenor sax, soprano sax, flute), Steve Davis
(trombone), Norbert Stachel (baritone sax, bass clarinet), and
Nasheet Waits (drums). The group packs the range of a big band
but with only one player per slot, dispensing with the section
bombast while keeping the harmonic richness and letting the
soloists kick out. Rarely do collectives throw themselves so
hard into each others' material. Maybe Greene, in particular,
decided to make up for not furnishing his own song by lighting
a fire under everyone else's.
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.
Larry Ochs/Miya Masaoka/Peggy Lee: Spiller Alley
(2006 , RogueArt): Ochs is one of the saxophonists in ROVA.
I had read a rave this release in Stef's Free Jazz blog, knew that
I'd never gotten so much as an email response from the label, but
was curious enough to approach the artist. After an amusing round
of emails, Ochs sent me a couple years' output, which I'll slowly
work my way through. Thought I'd start here. Masaoka plays koto
and Lee plays cello, so there's a dominant string motif here.
Ochs plays tenor and soprano sax, the former listed first but
the latter seems the more temperamental fit -- in any case, he
tends to defer to the koto lead, coloring in rather than blowing
ahead. Likewise, Lee plays more like a bassist, just a little
off pitch. Good example of mutual listening, three musicians
feeling their way through difficult and unforseen terrain.
Larry Ochs/Rova Special Sextet/Orkestrova: The Mirror
World (2005 , Metalanguage, 2CD): Two discs, short
enough they could be squeezed into a single long one, each a
"realization" of something dedicated to filmmaker Stan Brakhage.
One performed by the Rova Saxophone Quartet expanded to Sextet
weight with two percussionists; the other by Orkestrova, where
the Rova saxophonists lurk in the reed section of a larger, more
orchestral group -- trumpets, trombone, cellos, bass, guitar,
percussion, electronics. The Sextet tends to play rough, hot
and bothered, with the drums breaking up the sax monotone. The
Orkestrova is more layered and nuanced, far less likely to
break into an old-fashioned noise fit.
Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio: Live in New York
(2004 , OMAC): Fiddler, b. 1961, started off in bluegrass,
where he won some early prizes -- at age 13, he recorded an album
called National Junior Fiddling Champion. Has wandered
around somewhat since then, recording a couple of albums with
Yo-Yo Ma, assuming classical airs with titles like The Fiddle
Concerto. In 2001 he dusted off his interest in Stephane
Grappelli for the album Hot Swing!, and has followed
that up with a couple more Hot Swing Trio albums. Trio includes
Frank Vignola on guitar and Jon Burr on bass, presenting a rather
monolithic string sound. Vignola knows this music well. O'Connor
I'm not so sure about.
The October Trio/Brad Turner: Looks Like It's Going to Snow
(2008 , Songlines): The October Trio consists of Even Arntzen (tenor
sax), Josh Cole (bass), and Dan Gaucher (drums). They are based in Canada --
Vancouver, I think. They have two previous albums: Live at Rime
(2005) and Day In (2006), both at CDBaby, neither heard by me, nor
have I run across any of the three in other contexts. Turner plays trumpet,
also based in Vancouver. He shows up with some frequency, on 6-10 records
I've heard since 1997, many more that missed me. Trying to look up Turner,
I discovered that his Wikipedia page had been deleted. Someone thinks he's
not "notable" -- someone, I dare say, who doesn't have very good ears. As
a quartet, this is a formidable group. The rhythm section is tight and
propulsive. The horns can work together or fly apart. A 16:37 piece called
"The Progress Suite" is varied and elaborately textured. (The notes cite
a C.S. Lewis quote: "If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing
an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the
man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.")
John O'Gallagher Trio: Dirty Hands (2007 ,
Clean Feed): After some sleuthing, I found an announcement that
this batch of Clean Feeds was officially released on Nov. 28,
making them 2008 releases. Until then I was guessing that the
the Darren Johnston, Steve Adams, and John O'Gallagher CDs must
be 2009 releases, given that they don't seem to be available
anywhere (DMG offers pre-orders). So it turns out that Clean
Feed does have some concept of street dates, even though they
may not correspond to reality -- another bookkeeping headache.
As for this record, any group that manages to play 6 straight
nights in Braga, Portugal is likely to show up on the label.
O'Gallagher plays alto sax. I think of him as a postbop player,
but he leans free, and he usually makes a strong impression,
as he does here. The others are Masa Kamaguchi on bass and
Jeff Williams on drums. Seems like an average set, dilligently
working against the grain, exploiting the higher range of the
instrument, with the rhythmic complexity de rigeur these days.
Miles Okazaki: Generations (2008 , Sunnyside):
Guitarist, from Washington state, based in New York. Does his own
graphic art, which gives his two albums -- Mirror came out
in 2007 -- a common brand look. Another thing the two albums share
is powerhouse saxophone -- Miguel Zenón, David Binney, and Christof
Knoche appear on both; the first album also had Chris Potter on one
cut. New this time is vocalist Jen Shyu. Okazaki trends toward fusion,
but mostly flows in and out around the frontliners. The saxophonists
make a strong impression. On the other hand, I don't care for Shyu
at all: something hymnal to her voice, trying to add a luminous aura
to the melodic lines.
B [Apr. 7]
Evan Parker/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: The Brewery Tap
(2007 , Smalltown Superjazz): Parker should be a household
name by now, but isn't anywhere close. B. 1944 in England, cut his
first records c. 1971, and has released a couple hundred since,
plus side credits in nearly every European avant-jazz context of
interest -- his career has roughly the same shape and trajectory
as Anthony Braxton's. Has his own label now, Psi, which I don't
get any service on, so I only pick up occasional scraps, and he
remains a long-term project. Plays tenor and soprano sax. His
soprano is utterly distinctive, shrill, with a lot of circular
breathing -- very impressive, but also discomforting. I usually
prefer his tenor sax, which is featured here, a lot of poking
and prodding, a little circular breathing. Håker Flaten's bass
makes for a nice foil, rounding him out where Paal Nilssen-Love's
drums might sharpen him up. Long improvs. Not clear how much
weight to put on them, given the feeling that he could do this
all day every day, but a very nice showcase.
Houston Person: The Art and Soul of Houston Person
(1996-2008 , High Note, 3CD): Front cover runs on: "Songs of
the Great Composers: Porter, Kern, Ellington, Rodgers and Others"
and "Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder." Person has followed Joe Fields
from his 1966 Prestige debut through Muse Records in 1976 and on
to High Note in 1996. He's hardly worked for anyone else, amassing
50-plus records over 42 years and counting, plus doing double duty
as a producer and accompanist on Fields' other projects. He is a
steady, unexciting worker, with old tastes, gentle swing, a deeply
felt touch for ballads, and the quintessential tenor sax sound.
The only problem with his records is that he's so consistent in
his range that he has problems differentiating himself. But he
doesn't need to here: just one great song after another, summing
him up in a songbook as definitive as Ella Fitzgerald's. No weak
spots, no flow problems. I loaded up all three CDs and haven't
been tempted to change them for 48 hours. I'm reminded of Geoff
Dyer arguing that while people can argue about Parker or Coltrane,
nobody who likes jazz at all can dislike Ben Webster. Person's
been steathily stalking Webster for 40 years now. Still doesn't
have the vibrato, but he's damn close in every other aspect.
Pirouet Jazz Compilation, Vol. 1: The Best Is Yet to Come
(1992-2008 , Pirouet): Then, like, why not wait until you get
it before issuing a label compilation? German postbop label, a home
for underappreciated Americans like Marc Copland and Bill Carrothers,
plus copasetic Germans most likely also underappreciated. The latter
include clarinettist John Ruocco, tenor saxophonist Jason Seizer, and
pianists Pablo Held, Achim Kaufmann, Walter Lang, and John Schröder --
piano is a big thing with this label. The latter are new to me --
evidently the label/publicist are only pushing American names over
here. Lang's duet with Lee Konitz is choice. The only pre-2006 cut
is from Carrothers' rediscovered debut.
Linda Presgrave: Inspiration (2008 ,
Metropolitan): Pianist, b. 1951, worked in St. Louis until 1998
when she moved to New York and started recording -- this is her
third album since 2000. Piano trio with Harvie S on bass, Allison
Miller on drums, plus extra sax on 5 of 10 cuts -- 4 with Stan
Chovnick on soprano, 2 with Todd Herbert on tenor (1 of those
with both). Mainstream postbop, mostly upbeat, with impressive
command. Herbert makes the most of his time.
Putumayo Presents: Women of Jazz (1998-2008 ,
Putumayo World Music): If you trust Putumayo to do your programming,
you won't be disappointed here: with so much to choose from, they
could hardly fail. Still, they came up with nothing more than a decade
old -- Etta Jones is the only artist who worked much earlier. Some
standards, some singer-songwriter fare, not much scat, nothing avant,
no reason to get alarmed; no one to remind you of Betty Carter or
Sheila Jordan. I hear a lot of jazz vocalists -- note that all ten
picks are vocals; none are instrumentals -- and would have picked a
completely different set, with Della Griffin the only find here I
would have regretted missing. Not very useful, but still a very
Enrico Rava: New York Days (2008 , ECM):
Quintet, with tenor saxophonist Mark Turner almost as laid back
as the veteran trumpeter, and Stefano Bollani diddling on piano.
The main thing that keeps this from slipping into dull is Paul
Motian's oblique drumming strategies -- he never quite lands
where you expect. Rava plays much as he has for the last decade,
with elegant simplicity.
Joshua Redman: Compass (2008 , Nonesuch):
Advance copy. Back cover reads, "Full album program from Nonesuch
510844-2 available January 13, 2009," which makes me wonder if
this is the full album. (Length is certainly substantial enough.)
No track credits, but listing two bassists (Larry Grenadier and
Reuben Rogers) and two drummers (Brian Blade and Gregory Hutchinson)
makes me suspect this showcases two sax trios rather than a quintet
with doubled bass and drums. Straightforward, elemental, another
deep excursion into the saxophonist's art.
[B+(***)] [advance: Jan. 13]
Scott Reeves Quintet: Shape Shifter: Live at Cecil's
(2008 , Miles High): Trombonist, has taught since 1976,
currently at City College of New York and Juilliard, not to be
confused with the actor and sometime country singer of the same
name. Plays alto flugelhorn and alto valve trombone here, with
Rich Perry on tenor sax, Jim Ridl on piano, Mike McGuirk on bass,
and Andy Watson on drums. Cecil's Jazz Club is in West Orange,
NJ; evidently named for drummer Cecil Brooks III. Postbop, I
guess. Reeves' brass shadings are interesting, and Perry and
Ridl provide strong support.
Greg Reitan: Some Other Time (2008 ,
Sunnyside): Young pianist, from Seattle, based in Los Angeles; debut
album, a trio with Jack Daro on bass, Dean Koba on drums, none of whom
I was previously acquainted with. AMG's review groups him with Taylor
Eigsti and Eldar Djangirov, but I'd say he's much better -- assured,
straightforward, pleasant. Denny Zeitlin gets thanks. Bill Evans gets
Matt Renzi: Lunch Special (2007 , Three P's):
Plays tenor sax and clarinet. Not very forthcoming on biography:
father played flute in SF Symphony; studied at Berklee with George
Garzone (like, who didn't?), and in India with R.A. Ramamani; has
een all around the world; sixth album since 1998. Only other one
I've heard, The Cave (on Fresh Sound New Talent), made my
HM list. I described it as "centered," adding that "Renzi plays
difficult music but makes it looks easy because he doesn't go in
for the stress and force of most avant saxophonists." Don't have
much more to add on this trio with Dave Ambrosio (bass) and Russ
Meissner (drums) yet.
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.
Tim Ries: Stones World: The Rolling Stones Project II
(2008, Sunnyside, 2CD): Rolling Stones songs. Ries plays tenor sax,
quite a bit of soprano too. Spent some chunk of his career touring
with the Rolling Stones, which may or may not give him some special
insight, but certainly helps when he needs a drummer -- Charlie Watts
on 5 cuts here -- or a little lap steel (Ronnie Wood) or harmonica
(Mick Jagger). The original The Rolling Stones Project came
out in 2005, an eclectic sampling of idiosyncratic band arrangements,
most with guests singers of uneven merit. This one is even more so:
think of it as The Rolling Stones Project hits the road. The
sessions are labelled: Africa, Brazil, Japan, Portugal, Puerto Rico,
Spain, NYC, Paris, with most of those plus Mexico somehow joined
into a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual "Salt of the Earth." Huge range
of guests: flamenco in Spain, fado in Portugal, a Tuareg group in
Africa, Milton Nascimento in Brazil, tablas in India, Eddie Palmieri
in Puerto Rico, Bill Frisell in New York, Keith Richards in Japan.
So many disparate ideas here it's hard (probably futile) to make
sense of them all -- might be a better candidate for Choice Cuts.
Second disc is "enhanced," whatever that means. In the CD player
it adds four tracks to the nine on the first.
Jason Rigby: The Sage (2008, Fresh Sound New Talent):
Tenor saxophonist, also plays some soprano and flute, based in New York,
on his second album. Quintet, hard bop lineup with some postbop flair --
Russ Johnson (trumpet), Mike Holober (Fender Rhodes), Cameron Brown (bass),
Gerald Cleaver (drums) -- and some classic bop speed and panache. The
electric piano has an interesting effect here. It doesn't seem to tie
the horns down like piano usually does, but Rigby plays with so much
intensity it would be hard to corral him anyway.
George Robert Jazztet: Remember the Sound: Homage to Michael
Brecker (2008 , TCB): George Robert is a Swiss alto
saxophonist, attended Berklee 1980, moved on to New York 1985,
eventually landing back at the Lausanne Conservatory. Has something
like 16 albums since 1987. AMG lists him as influenced by Charlie
Parker and Phil Woods; I guess we can add Michael Brecker to that
list. Don't know what other connection there is, but then I'm not
all that up on Breckeriana. The music here is actually all composed
and arranged by Jim McNeely. The Jazztet is a ten-piece group, not
counting "special guest" Randy Brecker. Lushly orchestrated postbop,
a bit overripe.
Claudio Roditi: Braziliance X4 (2008 ,
Resonance): Brazilian trumpeter, actually plays flugelhorn more,
b. 1946, came to US in 1970, has a couple dozen albums plus a
lot of side work; a very dependable mainstream jazz musician,
plus he knows his way around Brazilian music. This is mostly
the latter, with a high-powered quartet: Helio Alves on piano,
Leonardo Cioglia on bass, Duduka Da Fonseca on drums. Nothing
surprising here, just solid with with no frills other than the
lustrous tone of Roditi's horn.
Bob Rodriguez: Portraits (1994 , Art of Life):
Pianist, originally from Cleveland, moved to New York in 1989 to
study with Richie Beirach. Cut a 1994 album on Nine Winds; a couple
more since then. This is an old/early session, solo. A little slow,
thoughtful, in very rich sound. Not bad if you like that sort of
Meryl Romer: So Sure (2008 , Lady Pearl
Music): Singer, based in Boulder, CO; b. 1951, started her jazz
career in 2002, and dedicates this album "to all those who have
waited long enough." Took it seriously when she started, studying
with Casey Collins (producer here, and co-author with Eric Moon
of three originals) and Erik Deutsch (pianist here, arranger),
and sought out further pointers from Sheila Jordan and Jay
Clayton. Attractive voice, best on songs with a little wit
like "Lady Is a Tramp" and "Big Spender," and her "Boulevard
of Broken Dreams" is touching. Band fits well. Hard not to
root for her.
Rova: The Juke Box Suite (2006 , Not Two):
Saxophone quartet, founded in 1977 (same year as the World Saxophone
Quartet), name originally derived from initials of its four founding
members -- Jon Raskin, Larry Ochs, Andrew Voigt and Bruce Ackley --
but Steve Adams replaced Voigt in 1988, breaking that link. Group has
25 albums since 1978 (more, but not by a lot, than WSQ). I've never
much like saxophone quartets or choirs, regardless of how brilliant
I regard the individuals to be: as much as I like the sound of most
saxophones, they have a harmonic monotony unless you add something
to the mix -- bass, drums, almost anything helps. I've heard almost
everything WSQ has released -- their players are major stars in my
view of the jazz galaxy. By contrast I've only lightly sampled Rova --
Beat Kennel and two takes of Coltrane's Ascension, the
second a Penguin Guide crown album -- and never connected to
anything, not that my sample is a good test. (I've always regarded
Ascension with indifference, a feeling that Rova faithfully
regenerated.) In contrast to WSQ, Rova's saxophonists remained unknown
to me -- when I started to write Ochs requesting an unrelated album
from a label I had no contact for, I didn't realize he was part of
Rova. Same for Adams when Clean Feed recently dropped an album of
his. So, obviously, I'm pretty low on the learning curve here. But
this album is a revelation. My complaints about tone and color are
still operative, but are overcome are nearly every front. The world
music juke box concept doesn't ensure danceability, but there's
enough of a pulse, especially from Raskin's baritone, to keep it
all moving, through pieces keyed to Afro-Balkan, Mambo, Niggum,
Choro, Finnish folk (Värttinnä), and Detroit (White Stripes). The
slower, unison themes are rich and often gorgeous; the breakaways
startling and sometimes thrilling.
Roswell Rudd: Trombone Tribe (2008 , Sunnyside):
As best I can figure this, five cuts from the officially designated
Trombone Tribe band -- Deborah Weisz and Steve Swell joining Rudd on
trombone, Bob Stewart on tuba, Henry Grimes on bass and violin, Barry
Altschul on drums -- and ten more tracks representing various other
trombone tribes, including one from Benin (the Gangbe Brass Band of
Benin), one called Bonerama (Mark Mullins, Steve Souter, Craig Klein,
and Eric Bolivar on trombone; Matt Perrine on sousaphone), Steven
Bernstein's Sex Mob (with Rudd guesting on trombone), and a couple
more tracks with an unannointed tribe featuring trombonists Ray
Anderson, Eddie Bert, Sam Burtis, Wycliffe Gordon, Josh Roseman,
and, of course, Rudd. In other words, a whole lot of big, heavy
brass, fired up to celebrate. As a longtime trombone (not to mention
Rudd) fan I can hardly turn my nose up at such riches.
A- [Apr. 7]
Michel Sajrawy: Writings on the Wall (2007 ,
Ozella): Guitarist. Describes himself awkwardly as "a Palestinian
of Christian faith who comes from Nazareth and has an Israeli
passport." That places him among the minority of Palestinians
in the territory that fell to Israeli hands in the 1947-49 war
who neither fled nor were driven into exile. Those Palestinians
were awarded Israeli citizenship in 1951 in a backhanded law to
deny the citizenship and confiscate the property of the majority
of Palestinians who fled for their lives. One old theme in Israeli
propaganda talks about how much better off Arab Citizens of Israel
are than Arabs in other countries (never to mention Palestinian
exiles in the Occupied Territories), but you don't hear much of
that anymore. They are second class citizens, subject to a social
and economic segregation, continuously reminded that this land,
peopled by their forefathers over countless generations, is not
meant for them. Hence the awkwardness. Sajrawy studied electronic
engineering 1990-93; moved to England in 1995, and studied at the
London School of Music. He returned to Nazareth in 2000, setting
up his own studio. Second album. (First is called Yathrib,
the name of pre-Mohammedan Medina.) Quartet with piano, bass, and
drums (alternating two drummers, unknown to me, but names worth
repeating: Ameen Atrash and Evgeni Maistrovski). A piece of hype
compares him to Hendrix, McLaughlin, and Al Di Meola. You can
scratch the first two names off that list. I don't know enough
of Di Meola or other influences like Pat Martino and Pat Metheny,
but they certainly don't have Sajrawy's Arabesque swag, which
adds an element to otherwise solid jazz guitar.
Saltman Knowles: Return of the Composer (2008
, Pacific Coast Jazz): The composers of record are Mark
Saltman (bass) and William Knowles (piano). Fifth album, three
as Soul Service, the last one as Saltman Knowles Quintet, with
Lori Williams featured on vocals. She's added another surname
since then (Lori Williams Chisholm) and developed a number of
annoying vocal tics on top of a voice I find unappealing. Not
much else to complain about: the instrumentals swing hard, and
saxophonist Robert Landham earns his keep.
B- [Feb. 10]
Samba Meets Boogie Woogie (2008, Adventure Music):
An ad hoc group, with guitarist Mario Adnet the probable leader, a
half dozen vocalists named on the cover, and a strong set of Rio
de Janeiro studio pros, none with any obvious expertise in boogie
woogie; so no surprise that samba predominates, or that it reduces
the concept to cute and clever -- that it starts to win you over
is the real surprise.
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
Randy Sandke: Unconventional Wisdom (2008, Arbors):
Searching for a pick hit, I played this one a few more times, and
settled here. The record had already made my top ten for 2008. I
didn't want to put the Nik Bärtsch oldies review into the slot,
and didn't particularly want a higher graded album in the body
than in the pick hit slot -- all of which argued for a battlefield
promotion. The fact is I tend to wind up with about half as many
A albums as Robert Christgau does -- the result, I think, of not
spending enough time with real good records after I decide they're
good enough. This is Sandke's best, a maturing synthesis of his
trad and modernist impulses.
Antti Sarpila Quartet: We'd Like New York . . . in June!
(2008 , Arbors): Not sure what business anyone from Finland
has complaining about the winters in New York. The other three in
this "truly international quartet" have been sighted frequently in
each others' company lately: pianist Rossano Sportiello, bassist
Nicki Parrott, and drummer Ed Metz Jr. They are masters of light
swing, perfectly adequate backup for any Bob Wilber protégé.
Sarpila plays clarinet, soprano sax, and tenor sax -- the latter
a pleasant surprise. Draws some on Chopin, but this group can
The Matt Savage Trio: Hot Ticket: Live in Boston (2008,
Savage): Child prodigy, now a seasoned vet at age 16. I took a swipe
at him last time; was a little surprised he came back for more. I
still think he has some growing up to do to develop real depth, but
can tinkle those ivories, and I like the slow one where he gives the
bassist some ("El Fuego"). Can't follow the live commentary.
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.
Helen Schneider: Dream a Little Dream (2008 ,
Edel): Singer, b. 1952 in New York, cut a record in 1976, performed
in Nashville and Las Vegas, toured Germany in 1978-79, and more or
less stayed, now based in Berlin. Has a few movie credits, many more
stage credits, including the Berlin production of Cabaret,
which she seems perfect for, and a solo show called A Walk on
the Weill Side. Nothing Weimarish here; all American standards,
top drawer stuff like "Where or When," "You Go to My Head," "My
Heart Belongs to Daddy," "Love for Sale," "The Man I Love," "In
My Solitude." Voice is a little affected, but she has no trouble
delivering such sure shot fare. Til Brönner produced, and on four
cuts is credited with "brass section."
Radam Schwartz: Blues Citizens (2006 ,
Savant): Hammond B-3 player, from New York, third album since
1995's Organ-ized (on Savant-predecessor Muse). Mostly
blues licks, fleshed out with two saxophones (Bill Saxton on
tenor, Bruce Williams on alto), guitar, and drums. Someone
named Kice contributes a jiveass money sermon on "Pay Up."
Will Sellenraad: Balance (2007 , Beeswax):
Guitarist, from New York. Third album since 2000. Haven't heard
the first two, but they seem to have a soul jazz focus. This
quartet is advanced bop, with drum master Victor Lewis managing
the beat, bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa pushing a relentless groove,
the guitarist drawing that out into long postbop lines, and
alto saxophonist Abraham Burton building on all that. I've
always been real impressed with Burton, and he's in his usual
fine form here.
Frank Senior: Listening in the Dark (2007
, Smalls): Vocalist, born blind, don't know when but
"after the birth of his daughter" dates from the early 1980s;
based in the Bronx. Liner notes described this as his first
album, but CDBaby has another album, Let Me Be Frank,
which also claims to be his debut. Starts off with a Ray
Charles song which he rips straight up the middle. More
standards follow: "This Can't Be Love," "On the Street Where
You Live," "The Very Thought of You," "Route 66," "The Best
Things in Life Are Free." Bob Mover contributes sax appeal.
PS: Luke Kaven tells me that Frank Senior's Listening
in the Dark is the official release of Let Me Be Frank,
a CDR distributed through CDBaby, so it is indeed his debut.
Shakers n' Bakers: YfZ (Yearning for Zion) (2008,
Little (i) Music): Scary music, although it loosens up and calms down
a bit in the end. The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second
Coming, as the Shakers were formally known, split off from the Quakers
in 1747, forming utopian religious communes dedicated to expunging sin
and purifying the soul. They worked themselves into trances -- I'm
tempted to say delusions -- which became ritualized in song and dance.
I still doubt that their songs bore any resemblance to Jeff Lederer's
avant skronk, but he's turned them into a vision of heaven and hell
that can move even nonbelievers. Mary LaRose and Miles Griffith
declaim the presumably authentic texts. At least some of the music
comes from recent neoclassicism -- John Adams, Gyorgy Ligeti, Arvo
Part. The rest of the band and guests are well known jazz pros. A
lot going on here, but it's not for the squeamish.
Kendra Shank Quartet: Mosaic (2008 ,
Challenge): Sextet, actually: saxophonist Billy Drewes and
guitarist Ben Monder get "feat." credit on front cover.
Shank is a singer, b. 1958, has five albums since 1992,
most recently an Abbey Lincoln tribute. Quartet includes
Frank Kimbrough on piano, Dean Johnson on bass, and Tony
Moreno on drums. Album gives you a sense of how difficult
it is to do new and interesting things in the generally
retro jazz vocal niche, especially for someone who doesn't
write much and doesn't want to be cast as a cabaret singer.
She taps Carole King for the intro, juxtaposes songs like
"Laughing at Life" and "Smile," works in some Rumi poems,
grabs scattered lyrics to Bill Evans and Cedar Walton.
Clear, clean voice; masterful control, with the restraint
not to bury herself in scat; a band that fits tightly
without being obtrusive. Nicely done, but nothing here I
find myself caring about -- not even "All of You."
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.
Harry Shearer: Songs of the Bushmen (2008, Courgette):
The research here is pretty thorough, ranging from Colin Powell's
knack for slipping responsibility to Dick Cheney's witness protection
program for Scooter Libby. High points include Condoleezza Rice's
workout routine "Gym Buds"; Donald Rumsfeld's "Stuff Happens" song
and dance; and ever willing to take one for the team, the serving
up of "The Head of Alberto Gonzalez." The songs read critically,
but given their subjects they strike me as much too nice. I don't
know that more direct rants would be more effective, but I wish
someone would try: it is hard to heap too much abuse on the Bush
administration. Indeed, it's hard to completely grasp how vile
this government has been.
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.
Brad Shepik: Human Activity Suite (2008 ,
Songlines): Subtitle, at least as it appears once in the booklet:
"Sounding a Response to Climate Change." The clear cause of that
climate change is identified as: human activity. The notes go
on to cite books by Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs and Steel
and Collapse), Alan Weisman (The World Without Us),
and David Quammen (The Song of the Dodo) -- all of which,
by the way, I've read and recommend highly. Shepik is a guitarist
who first came to our attention in Dave Douglas's Balkan-flavored
Tiny Bell Trio -- he also plays saz and tambura, which instantly
add a Balkan feel here. That's welcome, but it's hardly necessary
given how terrific the band is. Drew Gress and Tom Rainey are one
of the best rhythm tandems around. Gary Versace is a triple threat
on piano, organ, and accordion, making each pay off -- accordion
fits in especially with the Balkan bits. Ralph Alessi's trumpet
adds a touch of brass; indeed, a lead horn voice.
A- [Feb. 10]
Liam Sillery: Outskirts (2007 , OA2):
Trumpeter, from New Jersey, studied at University of South
Florida and Manhattan School of Music, counting Joe Henderson
as a significant influence. Third album, a quintet with Matt
Blostein on alto sax, Jesse Stacken on piano, Thomas Morgan on
bass, and Vinnie Sperrazza on drums. Sounds almost perfectly
postbop, especially when Blostein is leading. Hadn't run into
Blostein before: he has one record, co-credited with Sperrazza.
Wouldn't mind hearing it.
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.
Greg Skaff: East Harlem Skyline (2007 , Zoho):
Guitarist, grew up in Wichita, now based in New York. Fourth record
since 1996, first I've heard, so I don't know whether his choice here
of an organ trio defines his aesthetic or is just a nod to the organ
grinders he grew up listening to. Seems like a lot of talent -- George
Colligan on Hammond B3, E.J. Strickland on drums -- to spend on
something so limited and retro. Took an extra spin to tune into
that talent, which includes the guitarist.
B+(*) [Feb. 10]
The Skein: Andrea Parkins and Jessica Constable: Cities
and Eyes (2004 , Henceforth): Parkins plays accordion
and piano, most notably in Ellery Eskelin's trio, and dabbles in
electronics. She also gets a voice credit here, but presumably the
lead vocals here belong to Constable, a British composer-singer
who also has ties to Eskelin -- she's on his Quiet Music --
and who also gets a credit here for electronics. I started playing
this a couple of times, quickly deciding I wasn't up for it. The
vocal parts, which cover damn near the whole record, are massively
irritating. The electronics also tends to irritate, but not always,
and here and there can be quite intriguing.
Bob Sneider & Joe Locke [Film Noir Project]: Nocturne
for Ava (2007 , Origin): Attribution parsing problems
here: spine says "Bob Sneider & Joe Locke"; front cover has
Sneider and Locke in relatively bright type, "Film Noir Project"
in smaller and more obscure type. Locke is one of the 3-4 best
known vibes players around. Sneider is less well known: a guitarist,
teaches at Eastman School of Music in Rochester (Locke's home town),
has 4 previous albums since 2001, including a Film Noir Project
called Fallen Angel. I can't think of any recent movie music
albums I've liked, but this one is quite nice, with contributions
by John Sneider on trumpet, Grant Stewart on tenor sax, and Paul
Hofmann on piano, plus Luisito Quintero's extra percussion on top
of bass (Martin Wind) and drums (Tim Horner). Subtle. Will keep it
open and see what develops.
Martial Solal: Live at the Village Vanguard: I Can't Give You
Anything but Love (2007 , CAM Jazz): Past 80 now, the
great French pianist whose early recordings date to 1953 is finally
getting some recognition in the US, especially for last year's trio
album, Longitude. This one is solo, the logical but necessarily
more limited follow up. In the intro he points out that this set is
being recorded, "so I have to be good." He doesn't get good until the
fourth cut, which he picks apart in all sorts of interesting ways,
turning it into the title cut. Similar things happen several more
times -- infrequently enough you're not sure he knows what he's going
to find at the start of each song. This process of discovery is much
of what live jazz is about, but it's still hit and miss in recorded
Peter Sommer: Crossroads (2006 , Capri):
Tenor saxophonist, teaches at Colorado State (Ft. Collins, CO),
second album. With piano, bass, drums, and a second saxophonist,
Rich Perry. Strikes me as a solid young postbop player, but there
isn't much here to set him apart from the ordinary -- even less
when the pianist takes over.
Sound Assembly: Edge of the Mind (2005 ,
Beauport Jazz): Big band, led by David Schumacher and JC Sanford,
who split composing/conducting duties. Neither play here, but
elsewhere Schumacher plays sax and Sanford trombone. Both appear
to be relatively young for this sort of thing, with careers
starting in the mid-1990s; evidently they met at New England
Conservatory, where both studied under George Russell. Band
includes a few names I recognize: Dan Willis (alto sax), Alan
Ferber (trombone), Deanna Witkowski (piano), John Hollenbeck
(drums), Kate McGarry (voice, one song). Impressively complex,
but not much fun.
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.
Michael Jefry Stevens Trio: For Andrew (1996 ,
Konnex): Pianist, b. 1951, more avant-garde, at least as an economic
niche, than postbop. AMG only credits him with 8 albums, mostly
because bassist Joe Fonda's name comes first in the Fonda-Stevens
Group. Trio includes Jeff Siegel on drums, Peter Herbert on bass.
Andrew, of course, is Hill, but this is an oblique tribute. It seems
unlikely that this 12-year-old tape was cut with Hill in mind -- 7
of 9 songs are Stevens originals, neither of the others are by or
particularly associated with Hill. On the other hand, Stevens can
plausibly claim Hill both as influence and inspiration. He's long
struck me as someone I should pay more attention to, but I often
have trouble sorting out subtleties among pianists. This one pays
dividends on close attention, but I'm hard pressed to explain
John Stowell: Solitary Tales (2008 , Origin):
Guitarist, based in Portland, OR, has a career stretching back to
the 1970s but most of his dozen or so recordings are since 2000.
This one is solo, picked out on a nylon-stringed guitar built by
Mike Doolin, who recorded this at home. One song each from Bill
Evans and Ornette Coleman; rest are originals. Steady, assured,
expert; not stuck in any of the obvious jazz guitar ruts.
Introducing Sunny and Her Joy Boys (2009, Stony Plain):
Sunny is singer Sunny Crownover, who grew up in Texas and is based now
in Providence, RI. First among the Joy Boys is guitarist Duke Robillard,
who has some fame as a bluesman but has been trending toward trad jazz
lately. Group name reminds me of Julia Lee (and Her Boyfriends) and
Jimmy Liggins (and His Drops of Joy), but Liggins swung much harder,
and Lee put out much more. Swing era songs -- "That's My Desire,"
"Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea," "I Got It Bad" -- done
so sweetly I can't disapprove.
Tierney Sutton Band: Desire (2008 , Telarc):
Not half the concept happiness was (cf. On the Other Side),
partly because she has trouble focusing ("Fever," "Cry Me a River,"
"My Heart Belongs to Daddy"), partly because she's not sure what
to do with the material ("It's Only a Paper Moon" has an awful
time getting going). "Love Me or Leave Me" suits her fine, but
strays from the concept. The band earns their billing -- feels
like an integral unit.
The Thing: Now and Forever (2000-05 ,
Smalltown Superjazz, 3CD+DVD): An acoustic jazz trio from Norway,
badder than the Bad Plus in every sense of the word. Drummer Paal
Nilssen-Love and bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten grew up in rock
bands before venturing into free jazz not least because it was
noisier and more abrasive. They're best known in the US for Ken
Vandermark projects like School Days. The third wheel is Mats
Gustafsson, who early on invited Vandermark to gig with his Aaly
Trio, and later joined him and Peter Brötzmann in Sonore. He
plays tenor sax when he wants to rip at alto speeds, but these
days mostly blows heavy metal baritone. Gustafsson comes from
the snorting beasts school of post-Ayler sax -- chances are you
either love him or hate him. The group name comes from a song by
Scandinavian folk hero Don Cherry. Their first (and best) album
is all Cherry, except for a couple of short improvs. It's included
here along with a follow-up made with Joe McPhee mostly playing
pocket trumpet, adding a contrasting tone and a more human touch.
The third disc here is a DVD of the group playing an outdoor
concert at Øya in Sweden, with Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston
Moore joining in for one non-song -- really just a noise rant.
Key thing to watch here is Flaten doing everything to his bass
but chewing it up and gargling. Over time, the Cherry repertoire
gives way to rock tunes -- PJ Harvey, White Stripes, Yeah Yeah
Yeahs: it helps a lot to start with a beat before you rip it to
shreds. But they're just as likely to start with nothing, as on
the previously unreleased single-piece fourth disc, something
called "Gluttony" because it's meant to gross you out.
Charles Tolliver Big Band: Emperor March (2008
, Half Note): Trumpeter, emerged on the avant-garde (or
maybe just the far postbop fringe) in the late 1960s, but faded
into obscurity in the 1980s, making a minor comeback on the
coattails of Andrew Hill's fin de millennium resurgence. I've
long admired his 1969 album The Ringer, and hoped to
hear more. He finally came back big time in 2007 with a big
band album jointly released by Mosaic and Blue Note. I thought
it was loud and sloppy, and tagged it as a dud. This live shot
with pretty much the same group is also loud, but what seemed
sloppy then seems more like rough and tough now. Tenor saxmen
Billy Harper and Marcus Strickland stand out among the cast.
Not sure what I really think yet, so I'll keep it open.
Viktoria Tolstoy: My Russian Soul (2008, ACT):
Swedish vocalist, b. 1974, née Kjellberg, but for her career assumed
the surname of her great-great-grandfather, Leo Tolstoy. Eighth album
since 1994, past titles notably including White Russian and
My Swedish Heart. For this record, she bases most of her
compositions from Russian classics, especially one "P. Tschaikowsky,"
presumably the same guy Chuck Berry meant to clue in on rock and roll.
Maybe that's giving her too much credit: the lyrics, in English, are
credited to Anna Alerstedt (with two exceptions, neither to Tolstoy),
and the music was adapted and arranged by Jacob Karlzon (also pianist
here) and Joakim Milder (saxophonist, a well known name in his own
right; he specifically gets credit for the ubiquitous but not all
that intrusive strings). Album was produced by Nils Landgren, whose
trombone smears are the only thing that seems out of place in what
otherwise soundsp like an album of pristine show music.
Trinity: Breaking the Mold (2006 , Clean Feed):
Scandinavian quartet -- maybe just Norwegian; no idea where the name
comes from -- led by reed player Kjetil Møster, with Morten Qvenild
on keyboards, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on bass, and Thomas Strønen on
drums. The latter two show up a lot and are first rate. I've run across
Qvenild a couple of times before, in the groups Shining and In the
Country, and I've heard Møster's MZN3. Free jazz, kranky sax,
some odd and amusing little keyboard fills.
Gianluigi Trovesi: All'Opera: Profumo di Violetta
(2006 , ECM): By most reckoning, I shouldn't be able to stand
this, but in fact I rather enjoy it. Billed as "a journey through
Italian opera," with the clarinettist/saxophonist fronting a large
orchestra -- the Filarmonica Mousiké, conducted by Savino Acquaviva --
it is music I've spent my whole life avoiding (not always successfully).
It helps, I'm sure, that there are no words/vocalists, nor any strings
other than Marco Remondini's cello. Pieces from Monteverdi, Puccini,
Verdi, Rossini, some others less familiar, with bridgework and solos
by Trovesi, bringing it halfway back to jazz.
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.
Donald Vega: Tomorrows (2008 , Imagery):
Pianist, from Los Angeles (most likely; details are fuzzy), studied
at USC, Manhatton School of Music, Julliard -- the latter under
Kenny Barron, who seems to be the appropriate model. Wrote six
of nine pieces, with "Speak Low," "Indian Summer," and Charlie
Haden's "Our Spanish Love Song" the covers. Trio, with David J.
Grossman on bass, the redoubtable Lewis Nash on drums. Maria
Neckam sings one Vega original -- neither the singer nor the
song are very deep, but it mostly works. A subtle, erudite
pianist, doing nice work.
Jonathan Voltzok: More to Come (2008, Kol Yo):
Trombonist, b. 1983 in Israel, moved to New York on a scholarship
in 2004, currently based in Brooklyn. First album, a quartet with
Aaron Goldberg on piano, Barak Mori on bass, Ali Jackson on drums,
with Slide Hampton (trombone) guesting on two tracks, Antonio Hart
(alto sax) on two more. Three covers check bop-era classics --
"Shaw Nuff," "Round Midnight," "Con Alma." The originals I figure
for postbop, although they don't move much beyond JJ.
Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet: Infinity
(2008, Patois): Trombonist, b. 1952 in San Francisco, studied
at SF State and, committing himself to Latin jazz, La Escuela
Nacional in Havana. Latin credits predominate, although he
also played with the Asian-American Jazz Orchestra. Sixth
album since 2000. The four I've heard have been perfunctory
and underwhelming: I like the trombone quotient, don't care
much for the occasional vocals (two here by Jackie Ryan, one
by Orlando Torriente), and wish somone would set a fire under
the percussionists. This one is typical: lots of nice moments,
nothing that really stands out.
Cedar Walton: Seasoned Wood (2008, High Note):
Pianist, age 74, has over 40 years of often superb recordings,
but doesn't seem to get the top-tier ranking he deserves. Part
of this may be that he often focuses on writing for horns, with
some of his best work filed under Eastern Rebellion. Quintet
here, although only the first and last cuts feature both horns:
Jeremy Pelt on trumpet/flugelhorn, Vincent Herring on alto/tenor
sax. Five of eight are Walton tunes, but I haven't checked to
see how many have been around the track before. The others are
"The Man I Love," "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," and
Jimmy Heath's "Longravity." Can't put my finger on why this
works so well, but everyone involved plays above their norms:
Herring especially, but also the pianist get to show off his
craft, and the bassist -- haven't mentioned how great Peter
Washington is, but I'd be remiss not to single him out here.
David S. Ware: Shakti (2008 , AUM Fidelity):
Ware's old Quartet, with Matthew Shipp and William Parker, ran from
1990 to 2006, spanning four drummers, each as distintly interesting
as the seasons. Overlooking the drummer changes, they were the
longest-running major group in jazz history. The new quartet does
without Shipp, or for that matter piano; keeps Parker; brings in a
new drummer, old-timer Warren Smith. The other new player, guitarist
Joe Morris, isn't the threat Shipp was to steal the show -- at least
not Ware's show -- but he fills in interestingly. Still, Ware is
such a singular tenor saxophonist that such differences on the
sidelines pale in comparison.
A- [Jan. 27]
Ben Wendel: Simple Song (2007 , Sunnyside):
Credit reads: saxophones, bassoon, melodica. Cover shows a tenor
sax. Born Vancouver, raised in Los Angeles, attended Eastman School
of Music, based in Santa Monica, CA. First album, but has piled up
a couple dozen side credits since 2002. Mostly originals, plus
covers from Coltrane and Strayhorn ("A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing").
With Larry Koonse on guitar, Darek Oleskiewicz on bass, Nate Wood
on drums, and any of three pianists, the best known Taylor Eigsti.
Postbop, nicely done, probably more substance than I'm giving it
credit for, but nothing much grabbed me -- not even Koonse, who
has sent me to the credit sheets the last half-dozen or so albums
he's been on.
Harry Whitaker: One Who Sees All Things (1981-82
, Smalls): Pianist, b. 1942, worked with Roy Ayers and Roberta
Flack in the 1970s. Lightly recorded, with a 1976 avant-fusion thing
called Black Renaissance: Body, Mind and Spirit, a 2001 pinao
trio, a 2007 recap. This may be taken to fill in a hole, but it raises
more questions than it answers. Seven tracks, five lineups with some
common denominators. Starts off with a somewhat annoying vocalist
doing ethereal scat to a hymn or anthem -- something taking itself
way too seriously. Next few pieces alternate saxophonists Gary Bartz
and Rene McLean, with Terumaso Hino on trumpet, and the last two
bring a larger group together, including Steve Grossman and John
Stubblefield -- and another, less annoying, voice. Bartz at the time
seemed singularly determined to resurrect bebop as true radicalism,
and Whitaker certainly approved of that idea. Some remarkable music
when it all clicks together.
White Rocket (2008 , Diatribe): Irish trio
with eponymous debut album. I filed it under trumpeter Jacob Wick,
figuring him for the lead instrument; pianist Greg Felton matches
Wick's four songs, and drummer Sean Carpio adds one more. Serious
free jazz, often played off against repeated piano riffs.
Bill Wimmer: Project Omaha (2008 , Wimjazz):
Saxophonist, from Lincoln, NE. Reportedly put this group together
using musicians from Omaha, although two -- guitarist Dave Stryker
and drummer Victor Lewis -- are known far and wide. Covers, ranging
from Rogers and Hart to Tony Williams with the obligatory Jobim
and one from Stryker. Rhythm section likes latin. Keyboardist Tony
Gulizia likes to sing, and does a decent job with "I Thought About
You" and "Cherry Red."
B+(*) [Apr. 7]
Mark Winkler: Till I Get It Right (2009, Free Ham):
Singer, based in Los Angeles, writes most of his lyrics (10 of 12
songs here) but credits the music elsewhere. Ninth album since 1985.
Has written several musical revues: "Play It Cool," "Too Old for the
Chorus," "Naked Boys Singing." Stylistically slicker than anyone in
the Mose Allison-Bob Dorough school, not as affected as Mark Murphy
(who wrote the liner notes), more inclined to wax philosphical than
to croon. Cheryl Bentyne chips in on "Cool." Bob Sheppard contributes
some sax, and Anthony Wilson has a couple of nice spots on guitar.
Savina Yannatou/Primavera en Salonico: Songs of an
Other (2007 , ECM): Greek soprano, neither folk
nor classical as far as I can tell -- rather, she rises far
above the fray; I much prefer the stretches where the band,
including accordion, violin, oud, and nay, find their ground
in Balkan rhythms, when her contrast becomes ethereal.
Yuganaut: This Musicship (2005 , ESP-Disk):
Piano trio. Steven Rush doesn't actually list piano among the dozen-plus
instruments. Moog and Fender Rhodes are his main instruments, plus lots
of percussion and blow-toys (ranging from harmonica to elk calls). Rush
teaches at Michigan, where he directs the Digital Music Ensemble, an
out fit that plays John Cage, Philip Glass, and LaMonte Young. Bassist
Tom Abbs -- the member I recognize due to his work with Assif Tsahar
and others in New York -- wanders to violin, cello, tuba, didjeridoo,
and percussion. Drummer Geoff Mann adds cornet, flute, and mandolin
to the more expected vibes, mbira, and percussion. Something of a
scattered noise fest, interesting here and there, cluttered, not so
much annoying as random at worst. Last cut, the 10:09 "Hymn for Roscoe"
(presumably Mitchell), is unusual for its straightforward structure,
even when it erupts in the album's loudest passage. Choice cut.
Joe Zawinul & the Zawinul Syndicate: 75 (2007
, Heads Up, 2CD): Live concert, recorded in Hungary at Veszprem
Festival, in August 2007 about a month before Zawinul died. Title is
his age: 75. Zawinul's reputation is wrapped up with his fusion group,
Weather Report. I never cared much for them, and I don't put Zawinul
very far up in the jazz pantheon, but his eclectic exuberance served
him well in his later years, where he was willing to fusion anything.
He introduces a band here with members from Congo, Brazil, Morocco,
and other points -- most of them sing, or chant or rap, and all of
them add something vital. Weak spot is the superstar guest slot: I
guess if Wayne Shorter wants to drop in and play "In a Silent Way"
you can't turn him down.
Denny Zeitlin Trio: In Concert (2001-06 ,
Sunnyside): Front cover adds: Featuring Buster Williams and Matt
Wilson. Zeitlin is one of those second-tier pianists I've always
meant to listen to more but rarely found the time or opportunity.
B. 1937, has a large catalog dating from the early 1960s. Starts
with two percussive takes on Coltrane's "Mr. PC" that are quite
engaging. Follows with a mix of standards and originals based on
standards -- Zeitlin's "The We of Us" is paired with Cole Porter's
"All of You." Williams works in a 4:34 "Base Prelude" to "Signs
& Wonders." Material comes from three dates over five years.
Zeitlin also has a 3-CD Mosaic Select out, collecting his
1964-67 Columbia trio sessions. Didn't get it, and haven't heard
any of it, but the source albums have long been on my shopping
The following records, carried over from the
done file at the start of this cycle, were
also under consideration for this column.
- Rabih Abou-Khalil: Em Português (2007 , Enja) B+(**)
- Howard Alden and Ken Peplowski's Pow Wow (2006 , Arbors) B+(***)
- Ab Baars Trio & Ken Vandermark: Goofy June Bug (2007 , Wig) B+(**)
- Jorge Lima Barreto: Zul Zelub (2005 , Clean Feed) A-
- 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 Mobile: Aer (2003 , Ronin Rhythm) A-
- Michael Bates: Clockwise (2008, Greenleaf Music) B+(***)]
- Carla Bley Big Band: Appearing Nightly (2006 , Watt) B+(***)
- Bo's Art Trio: Live: Jazz Is Free and So Are We! (2007 , Icdisc) B+(**)
- Anthony Braxton/Milford Graves/William Parker: Beyond Quantum (2008, Tzadik) A-
- Wolfert Brederode: Currents (2006 , ECM) 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+(**)
- François Carrier: The Digital Box (1999-2006 , Ayler, 7CD) A-
- François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Jean-Jacques Avenel: Within (2007 , Leo) A-
- Rebecca Cline/Hilary Noble: Enclave Diaspora (2007-08 , Enclave Jazz) B+(**)
- Todd Coolman: Perfect Strangers (2008, ArtistShare) B+(***)
- Marc Copland: New York Trio Recordings, Vol. 2: Voices (2006 , Pirouet) B+(***)
- Marc Copland: Another Place (2007 , Pirouet) B+(***)
- Cosmologic: Eyes in the Back of My Head (2006 , Cuneiform) B+(**)
- Paulo Curado: The Bird, the Breeze and Mr. Filiano (2006 , Clean Feed) B+(**)
- Kenny Davern/Ken Peplowski: Dialogues (2005 , Arbors) B+(***)
- Jamie Davis: Vibe Over Perfection (2005 , Unity Music) B+(**)
- Peter Delano: For Dewey (1996 , Sunnyside) 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+(***)
- Mathias Eick: The Door (2007 , ECM) B+(**)
- Something for You: Eliane Elias Sings & Plays Bill Evans (2007 , Blue Note) B+(***)
- Exploding Customer: At Your Service (2005-06 , Ayler) B+(***)
- Bill Frisell: East West (2003-04 , Nonesuch, 2CD) A-
- Satoko Fujii Trio: Trace a River (2006-07 , Libra) A-
- Satoko Fujii Orchestra Nagoya: Sanrei (2008, Bamako) B+(**)
- Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Summer Suite (2007 , Libra) A-
- Fulminate Trio (2007 , Generate) B+(**)
- Stephen Gauci's Basso Continuo: Nididhyasana (2007, Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Stephen Gauci's Stockholm Conference: Live at Glenn Miller Café (2007 , Ayler, 2CD) B+(**)
- Lafayette Gilchrist: Soul Progressin' (2008, Hyena) [was: B+(***)] B+(**)
- The Joe Gilman Trio: View So Tender: Wonder Revisited Volume Two (2007, Capri) B+(**)
- Bobby Gordon: Plays Joe Marsala: Lower Register (2007, Arbors) B+(***)
- Al Green: Lay It Down (2008, Blue Note) A-
- Charlie Haden Family & Friends: Rambling Boy (2008, Decca) B+(**)
- Tim Hagans: Alone Together (2007 , Pirouet) B+(***)
- Scott Hamilton & Friends: Across the Tracks (2008, Concord) B+(**)
- Brian Harnetty: American Winter (2007, Atavistic) A-
- Gene Harris Quartet: Live in London (1996 , Resonance) B+(***)
- Frank Hewitt: Out of the Clear Black Sky (2000 , Smalls) B+(***)
- Lauren Hooker: Right Where I Belong (2006 , Musical Legends) B+(***)
- Junk Box: Sunny Then Cloudy (2006 , Libra) B+(**)
- Darrell Katz/Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra: The Same Thing (2006 , Cadence Jazz) 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+(***)
- Ruslan Khain: For Medicinal Purposes Only! (2008, Smalls) B+(***)
- The Klobas/Kesecker Ensemble: No Gravity (2007 , KKEnsemble) B+(**)
- Lee Konitz and Minsarah: Deep Lee (2007 , Enja) B+(**)
- David Kweksilber + Guus Janssen (2003-06 , Geestgronden) B+(***)
- Ralph Lalama Quartet: Energy Fields (2008, Mighty Quinn) B+(**)
- Brad Leali-Claus Raible Quartet: D.A.'s Time
(2007 , TCB) B+(***)
- Steve Lehman Quartet: Manifold (2007, Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Daniel Levin Trio: Fuhuffah (2008, Clean Feed) B+(**)
- Luis Lopes: Humanization 4Tet (2007 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Rudresh Mahanthappa's Indo-Pak Coalition: Apti
(2008, Innova) A-
- Mauger: The Beautiful Enabler (2006 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Donny McCaslin Trio: Recommended Tools (2008, Greenleaf Music) A-
- Eric McPherson: Continuum (2007 , Smalls) B+(***)
- Brad Mehldau Trio: House on Hill (2002-05 , Nonesuch) B+(***)
- Brad Mehldau Trio: Live (2006 , Nonesuch, 2CD) B+(***)
- The Microscopic Septet: Lobster Leaps In (2007 , Cuneiform) A-
- Paul Motian Trio 2000 + Two: Live at the Village Vanguard Vol. II (2006 , Winter & Winter) B+(**)
- Evan Parker/The Transatlantic Art Ensemble: Boustrophedon (2008, ECM) B+(***)
- William Parker Quartet: Petit Oiseau (2007 , AUM Fidelity) A-
- Rosa Passos: Romance (2008, Telarc) B+(***)
- The Michael Pedicin Quintet: Everything Starts Now . . . (2007 , Jazz Hut) B+(***)
- Dave Pietro: The Chakra Suite (2007 , Challenge) B+(***)
- Bruno Råberg: Lifelines (2008, Orbis Music, 2CD) B+(**)
- Mike Reed's Loose Assembly: The Speed of Change (2008, 482 Music) B+(***)
- Mike Reed's People, Places & Things: Proliferation (2007 , 482 Music) A-
- Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog: Party Intellectuals (2007 , Pi) B+(***)
- 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+(***)
- Jim Shearer & Charlie Wood: The Memphis Hang (2008, Summit) B+(**)
- Trygve Seim/Frode Haltli: Yeraz (2007 , ECM) B+(**)
- Avery Sharpe: Legends & Mentors: The Music of McCoy Tyner, Archie Shepp and Yusef Lateef (2007 , JKNM) B+(**)
- Sha's Banryu: Chessboxing Volume One (2007 , Ronin Rhythm) B+(***)
- Idit Shner: Tuesday's Blues (2008, OA2) B+(**)
- Shot x Shot: Let Nature Square (2007 , High Two) B+(***)
- Wadada Leo Smith's Golden Quartet: Tabligi (2005 , Cuneiform) B+(**)
- Spoon 3: Seductive Sabotage (2007 , Evil Rabbit) B+(**)
- Ben Stapp Trio: Ecstasis (2007 , Uqbar) B+(***)
- Bobo Stenson Trio: Cantando (2007 , ECM) B+(***)
- The Stone Quartet: DMG @ the Stone: Volume 1 (2006 , DMG/ARC) B+(**)
- Natsuki Tamura/Satoko Fujii: Chun (2008, Libra) B+(***)
- Martin Taylor: Double Standards (2008, The Guitar Label) B+(**)
- Sumi Tonooka Trio: Long Ago Today (2004 , ARC) B+(***)
- Townhouse Orchestra: Belle Ville (2007 , Clean Feed, 2CD) B+(***)
- Bebo Valdes & Javier Colina: Live at the Village Vanguard (2005 , Calle 54/Norte) 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+(**)
- Eri Yamamoto Trio: Redwoods (2008, AUM Fidelity) B+(**)
- Alon Yavnai: Travel Notes (2008, ObliqSound) B+(***)
- Libby York: Here With You (2007 , Libby York Music) B+(***)
- Yuganaut: This Musicship (2005 , ESP-Disk) B+(**)