Jazz Consumer Guide (21):
These are the prospecting notes from working on Jazz CG #21. 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 July 20, 2009 to October 18, 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 225 (plus 114 carryovers). The
count from the previous file was 226.
(before that: 230, 293, 291, 240, 259).
Rez Abbasi: Things to Come (2008-09 , Sunnyside):
Pakistani-American guitarist, did a record a few years back that I
liked quite a bit, Snake Charmer. Lately he's joined Rudresh
Mahanthappa's Indo-Pak Coalition, and here he expands that group to
include pianist Vijay Iyer. So this should be a major album, but I'm
not feeling it -- perhaps with all this talent I'm expecting something
with a strong South Asian vibe and that's missing. (Note that Dan
Weiss, who is a superb tabla player, is only credited with drums.)
I could take the easy way out and blame it on Kiran Ahluwalia's
vocals (4 of 8 tracks) -- I can think of many more cases where the
wife singing bogged down a record -- but I'm not sure that's it
either. Will keep it open, noting that the three principals have
strong solo spots, and that it's sounding better while typing this
than it did before I sat down.
John Abercrombie: Wait Till You See Her (2008
, ECM): Guitarist, a steady producer since the early 1970s,
in a quartet with Mark Feldman (violin), Thomas Morgan (bass),
and Joey Baron (drums). Feldman, who's perhaps the least swinging
violinist in jazz, dominates the sound, so it takes some effort
to locate the guitar and note how neatly it fits in.
The Aggregation: Groove's Mood (2008 ,
DBCD): Big band, arranged and produced by trumpeter Eddie Allen,
who certainly favors the sound of trumpets, although he manages
to keep every other cog in the machine engaged. Lists Kevin Bryan
as the lead trumpet, but takes his own solos, plus hands out one
each to the other trumpets: John Bailey, Guido Gonzalez, and
Cecil Bridgewater. Allen wrote 3 of 10 pieces, including the
four-part "The Black Coming"; other sources include Freddie
Hubbard, James Williams, Stevie Wonder, and trad. Two Wonder
songs, "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" and "Ma Cherie Amour,"
get vocals from LaTanya Hall, who pretty much nails them.
Jon Alberts/Jeff Johnson/Tad Britton: Apothecary
(2007-08 , Origin): Piano trio, first album by Alberts, who
evidently owns the Fu Kun Wu Lounge in Seattle where most of this
was recorded. "Green Dolphin Street," "Nardis," "Footprints," a
couple of Monk tunes. Didn't sound like much at first, but sort
of snook up on me -- the Monks most idiosyncratically straightened
Dee Alexander: Wondrous Fascination (2006-07 ,
no label): She won Downbeat's Rising Star Female Vocalists poll,
so I figured I should check her out. This is the only thing Rhapsody
has: a pop gospel album with The Christ Community Worship Team. She's
not an over-the-top gospel diva -- her voice only barely emerges above
the crowd. Not a lick of jazz either. Sounds awful at first, but over
the course develops a humdrum routine catchiness. The record I still
want to find is Wild Is the Wind (Blujazz).
Eric Alexander: Revival of the Fittest (2009, High
Note): Apposite title: normally a very "solid" (a title), "dead
center" (another title) "man with a horn" (yet another title), he's
been rather erratic the last few years, but he sounds pretty revived
this time. Maybe it was David Hazeltine's fault? He certainly owes
Harold Mabern hearty thanks this time.
J.D. Allen Trio: Shine! (2008 , Sunnyside):
Tenor saxophonist. Wikipedia lists him as J.D. Allen III, b. 1972,
Detroit. Fourth album since 1996, plus a dozen-plus side credits,
usually making a big impression. Trio includes Gregg August on
bass and Rudy Royston on drums. Played this last night while on
my way to bed, then twice this morning while reading. Not sure
whether it's just a real solid freebop outing or he's breaking
loose as a major voice. Latter seems likely to happen sooner or
J.D. Allen Trio: Shine! (2008 , Sunnyside):
Tenor sax trio, a real solid freebop outing, promising a bit more
at the start.
Herb Alpert & Lani Hall: Live: Anything Goes
(2009, Concord): Hall, a/k/a Mrs. Herb Alpert, first emerged as
the vocalist for Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66. She cut 7 albums
for A&M from 1972-84, a couple in Spanish. Alpert, of course,
is a trumpeter whose Tijuana Brass band scored several pop hits
in the 1960s, "Whipped Cream" being one of the more substantial.
Mostly indelible standards, with "Besame Mucho" and a Djavan song
the only entries from south of the border. Hall rarely gets much
traction with the songs; Alpert's trumpet is a plus.
Rodrigo Amado/Kent Kessler/Paal Nilssen-Love: The Abstract
Truth (2008 , European Echoes): Portugese saxophonist,
in a trio with two frequent Kent Vandermark associates -- same group
recorded Teatro in 2004. Also leads the Lisbon Improvisation
Players and shows up on some side projects where he is invariably a
plus -- roughly analogous to someone like Tony Malaby. Abstract free
jazz, ably supported, not too rough, but doesn't quite ignite --
it's easy enough to imagine Vandermark in the same company pushing
the envelope harder. Best stretch is one on baritone. Dedicates the
album to Giorgio De Chirico. Also does photo work, worth checking
out on his website.
Fred Anderson: Staying in the Game (2008 ,
Engine): Pushing age 80, seems to be mellowing still, but this is
pretty much his standard trio disc, the slight dropoff partly
attributable to Tim Daisy instead of Hamid Drake on drums, partly
sound -- although regular bassist Harrison Bankhead comes through
loud and clear.
Dan Aran: Breathing (2009, Smalls): Israeli drummer,
b. 1977, based in New York. First record, another postbop thing with
a broad range of nice moves -- a slow take of "I Concentrate on You"
with a long piano intro followed by gentle horns is particularly
lovely. Uses various combinations of Avishai Cohen (trumpet), Eli
Degibri (tenor sax), Jonathan Voltzok (trombone), Art Hirahara or
Uri Sharlin (piano), Matt Brewer or Tal Ronen (bass), as well as
a couple of others -- Gilli Sharett's bassoon is the aforementioned
horn on "I Concentrate on You."
Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Infernal Machines
(2008 , New Amsterdam): Cover looks familiar, but I don't have
any note of this in my records. Argue is from Vancouver, arrived in
New York in 2003, studied with Bob Brookmeyer. Big band arranger, with
a big band that probably intersects quite a bit with Mike Holober's
group(s). Name comes from a John Philip Sousa line, the residue of an
era when machines could appear monstrous. Argue's band, however, is
nothing like that. This one is clean and functional verging on slick
As If 3: Klinkklaar (2008 , Casco): Dutch
piano trio, pianist is Frank Van Bommel, who has a couple of previous
albums since 1995. Raoul Van Der Weide plays bass, and Wim Janssen
drums. Claims Mal Waldron and Misha Mengelberg as influences -- I
can at least hear Waldron. Sharp work; good rhythmic sense and
David Ashkenazy: Out With It (2009, Posi-Tone):
Drummer, from Southern California, based in New York; first
record, wrote 2 of 8 songs, adding covers from Shorter, Foster,
Lennon/McCartney, Alberstein, Frisell, McHugh (just gives last
names, only some obvious). Sax-organ-guitar quartet, usually a
soul jazz cliché, but Gary Versace is one of the few organists
working who manages to stay out of the usual ruts, and Joel
Frahm and Gilad Hekselman are also inspired choices. Strikes
me as a drummer who likes to swing as well as bop. Studied-with
list offers some hints: Jeff Hamilton, Joe LaBarbera, Peter
Erskine, Kenny Washington. Played some klezmer and reggae as
a teen, too.
The Hashem Assadullahi Quintet: Strange Neighbor
(2009, 8Bells): Saxophonist, plays alto and soprano, b. 1981,
studied in Texas and Oregon, based in Eugene, OR, although he
seems to have some kind of deal going in Thailand. First album,
with Ron Miles (trumpet), Justin Morell (guitar), Josh Tower
(bass), and Jason Palmer (drums). This has sort of a suite
feel to it, not just in the first five linked pieces: the
instruments tend to fold together in neat bundles with few
attempts to break out and solo. Reminds me a bit of Mingus,
only mellower, the guitar sweeter and tighter than a piano
Ab Baars/Ig Henneman/Misha Mengelberg: Sliptong
(2008 , Wig): Dutch trio. Baars plays tenor sax, clarinet,
and shakuhachi; Henneman viola; Mengelberg piano, although at
first I was tempted to say percussion. All three play abstractly,
leaving a lot of space between the instruments. As such, it takes
considerable effort to latch on to what they're doing. I played
this twice, and pretty much failed, although I have no doubt
that Mengelberg is one of the great pianists of our era.
Yaala Ballin: Travlin' Alone (2009, Smalls):
Singer, b. 1983, from Israel, based in New York, debut album.
Nice voice, soft curves wrapped around songs like "I Remember
You," "I Only Have Eyes for You," "The Gypsy." Good group,
including Ari Roland, Sacha Perry, and Chris Byars, who should
be on the short list for singers looking for saxophone support.
Cyro Baptista & Banquet of the Spirits: Infinito
(2009, Tzadik): Brazilian percussionist, has half dozen albums since
1997, including last year's group-giving Banquet of the Spirits.
Not really sure who all plays on this, as the three or four sources
I've found disagree. Core band is evidently Baptista on all sorts of
percussion and exotica; Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz on bass, oud, gimbri;
Brian Marsella on keyboards and maybe melodica; Tim Keiper on drums.
Add to that a list of guests that may or may not include Anat Cohen,
John Zorn, Erik Friedlander, Zé Mauricio, Romero Lubambo, Ikue Mori,
Peter Scherer, and a lot of people I don't recoginze (Tom-E-Tabla?).
Some vocals. Traces of Brazilian and Middle Eastern musics, but no
clear fusion or synthesis. Some of it's intriguing, but most I don't
Count Basie Orchestra: Swinging, Singing, Playing
(2009, Mack Avenue): The massed horn attack still sends a tingle
up your spine. The solos are less impressive, with the recognizable
names down to trumpeters Scotty Barnhart and James Zollar, so the
guests help there, but only Curtis Fuller shows up with a horn --
well, Frank Wess brought his flute -- and only Hank Jones adds much
of note. Then there are the singers: Nnenna Freelon and Janis Siegel
better than expected; Jamie Cullum even worse, and Jon Hendricks
on some other planet.
Jim Beard: Revolutions (2005-07 , Sunnyside):
Full credit: With Vince Mendoza and the Metropole Orchestra. Three
cuts from a 2005 session, the other 7 from 2007. Former has 54
musician credits, latter 51, about half strings in each case, most
of the names strike me as Dutch. Keyboardist, b. 1960, fifth album
since 1990, the first a large group on CTI, Song of the Sun.
Substantial list of side credits, many on synthesizer, also as a
producer. Mostly bright, fanciful, the strings neatly tucked in,
the horns tame, a little extra percussion.
Joe Beck/Laura Theodore: Golden Earrings (2006-07
, Whaling City Sound): Theodore is a singer, from Cleveland,
age unknown, has four albums since 1995 (not counting this one).
She conceived this as a Peggy Lee tribute, with 9 Lee originals
and other related songs like "Fever." Lee was married to guitarist
Dave Barbour, which suggested doing the songs with just guitar as
accompaniment. Beck, with his homebrewed alto guitar, was a good
choice. He supports the songs and fills out all the detail one
needs. Beck died in 2008, a few days shy of age 63. He had a long
and rather mixed career -- worked with David Sanborn, Dom Um Romăo,
Esther Phillips, most recently John Abercrombie; paid tribute to
Django Reinhardt, and kept returning to Brazil -- but he was often
best just on his own.
Fernando Benadon: Intuitivo (2009, Innova):
Composer, b. 1972 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, studied at Berklee,
teaches at American University. Doesn't play here. Says he recorded
each of the musicians playing independently then put this together.
Mostly string music: two violins, viola, bass, also clarinet, drums,
percussion. Sounds pretty beguiling, with enough edge to keep you
from nodding off.
Fernando Benadon: Intuitivo (2009, Innova): Not
exactly a string quartet -- 2 violins, viola, bass, plus clarinet
and percussion; not exactly chamber music either -- edgy, abstract
George Benson: Songs and Stories (2009,
Concord/Monster Music): Listenable enough for a while, as long
as he keeps his soft soul personable, but by the end Marcus
Miller's programming gets the best of him. Not sure whether
Lamont Dozier's "Living in High Definition" is intended as
funk, samba, or disco, but it fails on all three counts.
Borah Bergman Trio: Luminescence (2008 ,
Tzadik): Piano trio, with Greg Cohen on bass and Kenny Wollesen
on drums. Bergman was born in 1933, took a while before he started
recording (1976) and didn't record regularly until the 1990s. I
have one of his records from 1983, A New Frontier, on my
A-list, but haven't heard much by him. Early on he evoked Cecil
Taylor, but that isn't evident here. This is one of the most
even-tempered piano trio albums I've heard in a long time, the
rhythm hushed, the chords masterfully sequenced. John Zorn joins
on alto sax on one cut, filling in background colors.
David Berkman Quartet: Live at Smoke (2006 ,
Challenge): Pianist, b. 1958, from Cleveland, based in Brooklyn,
sixth album since 1995. Made a strong impression on his first two
Palmetto albums, but hasn't been heard from since 2004. Quartet
includes Jimmy Greene (tenor sax, soprano sax), Ed Howard (bass),
and Ted Poor (drums). This strikes me as a very centered, settled,
group, sure of itself, relaxed, consistent. This is especially
true of Greene, who's never much impressed me before, but is
note perfect here.
David Berkman Quartet: Live at Smoke (2006 ,
Challenge): Very solid, perhaps exemplary, mainstream postbop quartet,
the pianist-leader always cogent, Jimmy Greene a pleasant surprise
on tenor sax, even making a strong showing on soprano. Not sure why
I don't rate this higher; probably because after a half-dozen plays
I'm short for words.
Rogério Bicudo/Sean Bergin: Mixing It (2008 ,
Pingo): Title is a misnomer: these duets don't really mix. Rather,
the ex-Brazilian guitarist and ex-South African saxophonist, both
now based in the Netherlands, play their own parts in each other's
presence. Imagine Stan Getz and Luiz Bonfa in the studio, playing
show and tell, trying to figure each other out, without the percussion
and all the other stuff that smooth things over. Of course, Bergin's
not as smooth as Getz, and Bicudo isn't as slick as Bonfa -- and when
he sings Jobim, he reminds me of Astrud Gilberto, affectless, only
clunkier, as males tend to be. Bergin's attempt to mix in a bit of
Abdullah Ibrahim does little to change the focus on Brazil. Still,
I find this charming.
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.
David Binney: Third Occasion (2008 , Mythology):
Alto sax journeyman, has appeared on 60 or so albums since 1989, 13 of
his own, without making much of a splash until he won Downbeat's
Rising Star poll at age 45 -- i.e., he's the sort of guy who sneaks up
on you. Here he's got an all-star quartet (Craig Taborn, Scott Colley,
Brian Blade; if not stars at least I don't have to tell you what they
do), and slips in some extra brass so subtly I scarcely noticed. Nothing
here especially turns me on, but every time I notice they're in a nice
groove, everyone doing something that sounds right.
The Terence Blanchard Group: Choices (2009, Concord):
This is a mess, difficult to sort out under the best of circumstances,
hopeless streamed one time through a tinny computer. Blanchard has
done a fair amount of soundtrack work, on top of which he likes to
orchestrate high-minded concept albums -- e.g., his score to Malcolm
X followed by The Malcolm X Jazz Suite (much better). He
makes both work sometimes but he's also pretty erratic. This has a
few overripe stretches, but it also has some respectable semi-trad
jazz and some blistering trumpet. It also has long stretches of
spoken word, courtesy of Dr. Cornel West, that break up the music.
I couldn't follow them all, but what I heard is interesting in its
own right, if not necessarily in the context of an album. Generally
less conspicuous, but more annoying, are the soft soul vocals of
Bilal. Real grade could be a bit higher or lower -- maybe more but
right now it doesn't seem cost-effective to figure it all out.
Blink.: The Epidemic of Ideas (2008, Thirsty
Ear): Chicago group, evidently they prefer lower case with a
period at the end, but the typographer (not to mention the
database architect) in me rebels. No one I'm familiar with:
Jeff Greene (bass, sample, harmonium), Quin Kirchner (drums,
percussion, glockenspiel), Dave Miller (guitar, effects), Greg
Ward (alto sax). Don't know if there's any sort of pecking
order there, although Greene is front and center in the group
photo over at MySpace. Got an advance on this last summer and
it fell through the cracks. Greene seems happy enough with
rock grooves, while Ward plays a fairly aggressive freebop.
Haven't paid enough attention to the drummer, who should be
decisive. Maybe I can get a real copy.
Blink.: The Epidemic of Ideas (2007 ,
Thirsty Ear): Chicago freebop group. I don't get the period
in the band name, but they certainly have a lot of ideas.
Greg Ward (alto sax) and Dave Miller (guitar) also show up
in the latest version of Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls. Bassist
Jeff Greene and drummer Quin Kirchner evidently have some
background in rockish grooves. Fast, slow, up, down, all
sorts of ideas.
Ryan Blotnick: Everything Forgets (2008 ,
Songlines): Guitarist, b. 1983 in Maine, spent some time studying
in Copenhagen, based in New York. Second album. First was an HM
here. This one is relatively slow and atmospheric, harder to get
a grip on. Joachim Badenhorst's reeds are subdued, and acoustic
bassist Perry Wortman is joined by electric bassist Simon Jermyn,
leaving much of the album rounding the basses.
Luis Bonilla: I Talking Now! (2008 ,
NJCO/Planet Arts): Trombonist, b. 1965 in Los Angeles, has a
couple of previous albums on Candid (1992 and 2000), a lot of
side credits -- mostly Latin groups, but also Lester Bowie,
Gerry Mulligan, Matt Catingub, Toshiko Akiyoshi, George Gruntz,
Gerald Wilson, Dave Douglas Brass Ecstasy. Quintet, with Ivan
Renta on sax, Arturo O'Farrill on piano, Andy McKee on bass,
John Riley on drums. Some of this gets into the radical shifts
of Afro-Cuban jazz, which the trombone lead gives a distinct
aroma to. On the other hand, a lot of it strikes me as rather
Ralph Bowen: Dedicated (2008 , Posi-Tone):
Mainstream tenor saxophonist, originally from Canada, has taught
at Rutgers since 1990 and Princeton since 2000. Has four previous
albums, starting in 1992, on Criss Cross, a Dutch label with
conservative American tastes. Group includes Sean Jones (trumpet),
Adam Rogers (guitar), John Patitucci (bass), and Antonio Sanchez
(drums). Bowen's got a distinctive sound and take firm command
on six originals (each dedicated to someone I don't recognize).
Rogers does a nice job of filling in, and even Jones, who doesn't
play much harmony, manages a solo with Bowen's authority.
Michiel Braam's Wurli Trio: Non-Functionals! (2009,
BBB): Dutch pianist, b. 1964, of Bik Bent Braam fame. Has 20-some
albums since 1989 in various guises, including one previous one by
his Wurli Trio. The name comes from the Wurlitzer 200A electric
piano featured here. Pieter Douma plays various basses, and Dirk-Peter
Kölsch hits things (credits: "drums, all possible soundobjects").
Nine compositions are declared "non-functional" and simply numbered.
Seems like a pretty simple idea, and I doubt that any amount of
close listening will change that opinion. Still, an attractive,
amusing outing. Tempting to slot it with soul organ grooves, but
that's only pro forma. It occurs to me that I should try to do
something long on the Dutch avant-garde, if for no other reason
than that it's one of the few places in Europe I get things with
some regularity (Portugal and Norway are the others). Well, that
and because these guys have a wicked sense of humor.
Anouar Brahem: The Astounding Eyes of Rita (2008
, ECM): Oud player, from Tunisia, b. 1957, eighth album since
1991, all on ECM. He's generally struck me as the milder, blander
alternative to Lebanese oudist Rabih Abou-Khalil, but he's settled
into such a seductive groove here one can hardly complain. Group
is a quartet with Klaus Gesing on bass clarinet, Björn Meyer on
bass, and Khaled Yassine on percussion (darbouka and bendir). The
bass clarinet adds depth without standing out on its own. Album
is dedicated to the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, whose
poem "Rita and the Rifle" is featured in the booklet.
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.
Cecil Brooks III: Hot Dog (2008 , Savant):
Drummer, proprietor of Cecil's Jazz Club in West Orange, NJ. Leads
a trio here with Kyle Koehler on organ and Matt Chertkoff on guitar.
Would be a throwback to the old soul jazz days except for the odd
song selection. Nothing quite spoils a bright day like "Sunny."
And "Hey Joe" won't make you forget Hendrix; it won't even make
you remember Hendrix.
Bug: The Gadfly (2008 , Origin): Quintet,
principally the work of brothers Jeff and James Miley (guitar
and piano/rhodes, respectively), with Peter Epstein a token horn
on alto sax. Postbop, further indication of how the guitar has
pushed the trumpet out of jazz's standard quintet configuration.
Jane Bunnett: Embracing Voices (2008 ,
Sunnyside): Soprano saxophonist, also plays quite a bit of flute,
has 16 albums since 1988, most Latin-oriented, many specifically
Cuban. This one offers vocals, primarily Grupo Vocal Desandann,
a large (10-voice) Cuban acapella group with Haitian roots. They
can take the lead or back up Kellylee Evans, Molly Johnson, or
Telmary Diaz. The instrumental sections are very agreeable --
the grooves flow effortlessly, the flute fits in organically,
the soprano sax standing out a bit stronger. The vocals don't
drag things down, either.
Rob Burger: City of Strangers (2009, Tzadik): Tin
Hat founder, plays piano but also lots of other instruments, like
accordion, guitars, lap steel, banjo, ukulele, harmonica, marimba,
vibes, jew's harp. Short pieces, 31 in all, many just soundtrack
fragments, most augmented with viola and violin, one with Marc
Ribot guitar. Nice enough, but doesn't flow all that well, and
is far from substantial.
Mark Buselli: An Old Soul (2008 , Owl Studios):
Trumpeter, co-leader with Brent Wallarab of Buselli Wallarab Jazz
Orchestra, a group based in Indiana that released my favorite big
band album of the last couple of years -- Where or When, in
the JCG print queue. Evidently the plan is for the two leaders to
each take a shot at arranging an album, but for all practical
purposes the whole gang is there, plus a bunch of extra strings.
Kelly Strutz sings five songs -- reminds me of Cory Daye on "If
I Should Lose You."
James Carney Group: Ways & Means (2008 ,
Songlines): Pianist, from Syracuse, NY, based in Los Angeles and/or
Brooklyn (sources differ), fifth album since 1993. Group is a septet:
Peter Epstein (soprano/alto sax), Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Tony Malaby
(tenor sax), Josh Roseman (trombone), Christ Lightcap (bass), Mark
Ferber (drums). Seems like a lot of horn power, but the horns are
folded in tightly, layered for color, the individual personalities
appearing here and there -- Epstein has an especially delectable
lead spot. Carney plays some electric piano and analog synth, only
gradually emerging as a leader with intricate ideas and taste.
James Carter/John Medeski/Christian McBride/Adam Rogers/Joey
Baron: Heaven on Earth (2009, Half Note): The liner notes
start by comparing Carter to LeBron James, presumably because it's
obvious he's a spectacular talent even on a losing team. The team
actually isn't that bad, but only Rogers adds much of note, with
Medeski unable to get any traction until they slow down and throw
him a blues. McBride and Baron could be anyone, even though we know
they're not. No new ground for Carter here: starts with one from
Django Reinhardt, recaps Don Byas and Lucky Thompson, pulls a blues
attributed to Leo Parker and Ike Quebec, winds up with Larry Young's
title cut. Carter plays soprano, tenor, and quite a bit of baritone.
I've complained about his poll winning on the latter, but he makes
a good case here.
Edmar Castaneda: Entre Cuerdas (2009, ArtistShare):
Harp player, b. 1978 in Bogota, Colombia; moved to US in 1994, has
a couple of previous albums. The list of previous jazz harpists is,
well, Dorothy Ashby, who cut an album I still haven't heard in 1958.
Didn't expect this to work, but the harp has a sharp plucked sound,
sort of a heavier, more flexible glockenspiel. He also gets a lot
of help from his trio mates: Marshall Gilkes on trombone and Dave
Silliman on drums/percussion. The guests (John Scofield, Andrea
Tierra, Joe Locke, Samuel Torres) are less notable.
Edmar Castaneda: Entre Cuerdas (2009, ArtistShare):
Harp player, originally from Colombia, based in New York, leading
a trio with trombone and drums and occasional guests. The complex
stringiness of the harp sound is unusual and distinctive. A couple
of cuts have a tango feel. Didn't much care for Andrea Tierra's
rather diva-ish guest vocal. An interesting talent.
Chuck & Albert: Énergie (2009, chuckandalbert.com):
Two brothers, Chuck and Albert Arsenault, one plays guitar and harmonica,
the other fiddle and assorted things, ranging from cowbell to diaper-wipe
box. They make Canadian hillbilly music, assuming Prince Edward Island
has anything that might pass for hills, in any case en français, so you
may have to go to the trot sheet for the jokes, not that the music itself
in any way lacks good humour.
Gerald Clayton: Two-Shade (2009, ArtistShare):
Pianist, b. 1984 in Netherlands, son of bassist John Clayton --
you know: Clayton Brothers, Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra -- grew
up in Los Angeles, based in New York. Side credits with family
bands, Michael Bublé, Diana Krall, Roberta Gambarini, Kendrick
Scott, a few more, starting in 2004. Debut album, a piano trio,
with Joe Sanders on bass, Justin Brown on drums. Billed as a
prodigy, which at age 25 I won't hold against him. Don't have
any opinion on album yet, except that it's clearly worth taking
C.O.D.E.: Play the Music of Ornette Coleman and Eric
Dolphy (2008, Cracked Anegg): I guess the artist credit
is a trivial cipher for "Coleman, Ornette; Dolphy, Eric." The
group consists of Ken Vandermark (clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor
sax), Max Nagl (alto sax), Clayton Thomas (bass), and Wolfgang
Reisinger (drums). The nine tunes are from Coleman and Dolphy
(two medleyed together), each member arranging. Nagl has been
on my shopping list a long time, but I hadn't managed to find
anything by him before. Similar to the Vandermark 5's Free
Jazz Classics, both in the assured command of tricky music
and their willingness to run with it.
Freddy Cole: The Dreamer in Me (2008 , High
Note): Played this in the car and Laura was trying to figure out
who it was: "it isn't Nat King Cole." I had to laugh. She wasn't
aware of Nat's baby brother, who has the genes, the speakeasy pipes,
even a bit of the piano. Last album I thought he was finally growing
out of big brother's legacy, now that he's gotten to be a good deal
older than Nat ever was. But he's straddling here, on the one hand
sounding more like Nat than ever, on the other feeling exceptionally
confident on his own. A live set at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola. Plays
piano on four cuts, giving way to John di Martino on the other seven.
Namechecks Von Freeman on "The South Side of Chicago," but the sax
man is Jerry Weldon -- sounding momentarily a lot like Freeman.
With Randy Napoleon on guitar, Elias Bailey on bass, Curtis Boyd
George Colligan: Come Together (2008 ,
Sunnyside): Piano trio, one of the most consistently impressive
pianists of his generation (b. 1970), but I've yet to hear a full
record I really like -- admittedly, I missed a skein of
well-regarded albums on Steeplechase. Liner notes advise: "It
might take 2 listens to hear our lifetimes of musical development."
Having played this 5 or 6 times, I'm sure it takes more. I don't
have any complaints or insights. I do have a long-established pet
peeve against covering Beatles songs -- maybe I know them too
well as originals, or maybe they're just such protean rock they're
unjazzable -- but they nail the title tune about as well as I can
Harry Connick, Jr.: Your Songs (2009, Columbia):
Searching the top of the bestseller list for a dud, but this isn't
it -- just can't bring myself to dislike it. A long list of stellar
credits (don't have song-by-song breakdowns) are almost impossible
to recognize: Wayne Bergeron, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis,
Ernie Watts. The music is almost totally dominated by anonymous
string orchestration, more Nelson Riddle than Billy May, and not
Riddle -- but then Connick isn't Sinatra either, so the downsizing
works surprisingly well. Half the standards come from the rock era,
with obvious lemons from Elton John, Billy Joel, Bacharach and David,
even the Beatles, turning into bright spots. At worst, a little dull.
Nicola Conte: Rituals (2009, Emarcy): Italian
guitarist, DJ, producer, dabbles in film scores, bossa nova, acid
jazz, ethnic Indian music. AMG files him under electronica, which
is true of most of the beats here. A mixed bag of pieces, with
five vocalists, all in English, and large groups of musicians,
mostly Italian. On a couple of items the horns steer the pieces
toward jazz. By far the best is "Caravan," and blazing trumpet
solos by Till Brönner and Fabrizio Bosso, and a vocal by Philipp
Weiss that actually helps. Certainly a choice cut. The rest I'm
not so sure of.
Paolo Conte: Psiche (2009, Platinum/Universal):
Italian singer-songwriter, b. 1937, likened by some to French
paragons like Jacques Brel and Georges Brassens; given his
gravelly voice and casual worldliness the analogue I'm tempted
to offer is Leonard Cohen. I doubt, though, that it holds up
to close examination.
Chick Corea & Gary Burton: The New Crystal Silence
(2007 , Stretch, 2CD): Back in 1972 ECM released the old Crystal
Silence, giving Burton top billing. The pair bounced into each other
several times since then, leading to this 35th anniversary reunion. Two
discs: the first fortified by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the second
a bare duo. Needless to say, the latter works better, mostly by avoiding
the excess gunk. Still, on their own this is pretty thin.
The Neil Cowley Trio: Loud Louder Stop (2008,
Cake): British pianist, leading a trio with Richard Sadler on
bass and Evan Jenkins on drums. First record, Dis-Placed,
won a BBC Jazz Album of the Year poll; I liked it enough to
include it in a Jazz CG. Similar stuff this: bright acoustic
(and some electric) piano; sharp chords, often repeating,
always keenly rhythmic. They get compared to E.S.T. a lot --
there seems to be a certain pop cachet to that in Europe,
but they strike me as both brighter and more mainstream, a
bit like Ramsey Lewis at his very best. Except that Lewis
was almost never at his best, and these guys always are.
David Crowell Ensemble: Spectrum (2009, Innova):
Alto saxophonist, based in New York, studied at Eastman with Walt
Weiskopf, has spent a couple of years playing woodwinds for Philip
Glass. Debut album, a quartet with guitar, electric bass, and drums,
the guitar sometimes providing a synthesizer effect. One cut adds
Red Wierenga on Fender Rhodes, reinforcing the effect. Several
pieces build on minimalist rhythms vamps. Two pieces are group
On Ka'a Davis: Seed of Djuke (2009, Live Wired):
Guitarist, from Cleveland, based in New York, first album, although
he seems to have been working on this much longer. Hype sheets look
to Sun Ra and Fela Kuti as influences, but strip the excess vocals
and percussion away and you'll find a mess of Miles Davis fusion.
The underrated horns are simply listed as "fronting" and "backing,"
as are the singers. (Nothing specific about the latter, but I'm
reminded that one reason I like jazz is that it shuts people up.
Maybe I'm just going through an anomalous random stretch, but it
seems like vocals are showing up on more than half of the records
I've run across recently.)
Kevin Deitz: Skylines (2005-08 , Origin):
Bassist, b. 1959, based in Portland, OR, seems to be active in
classical as well as jazz, plays both acoustic and electric basses,
including a 7-string fretless. First album, mostly cut in 2007
with two earlier cuts and one later one. Groups range from a
piano trio (where Deitz also plays accordion) to an octet full
of horns. Pieces lean Latin then lean away, the first on the
slick side, but others show a wide range of talents.
Digital Primitives: Hum Crackle & Pop: (2007-09
, Hopscotch): Trio: Cooper-Moore (vocal, banjo, twinger, diddley-bow,
mouth bow, flute), Assif Tsahar (tenor sax, bass clarinet), Chad Taylor
(drums, m'bira, percussion). Previous album together was called Digital
Primitives, so this is another band in the wake of an album. Acoustic
group, with Cooper-Moore's homemade instruments definitively a primitive
one. Early on Tsahar struck me as a guy who'd just screech when he ran
of ideas, but the only time that happens here is when it's the right
thing to do. I caught a couple of YouTube videos of Cooper-Moore, which
make me realize I should revise my view of him as a hermit. He's the
life of the party here, and Taylor rounds him out into a terrific
rhythm section. His one vocal is a bit trite, but he no doubt means
it as profound.
Stacy Dillard: One (2008 , Smalls):
Saxophonist (mostly tenor, some soprano), from Michigan, 32
(presumably b. 1976 or 1977). Website lists 4 albums since 2006,
but this is the only one on a label I've heard of. Wrote all the
pieces. Quintet with fender rhodes, guitar, bass, and drums --
no one I recognize. Dillard gives a bravura performance, fierce
at high speeds, soulful when he slows down.
Mike DiRubbo: Repercussion (2008 , Posi-Tone):
Alto saxophonist, b. 1970, from Connecticut, based in New York.
Fifth album since 1999, mostly on conservative mainstream labels
like Sharp Nine and Criss Cross. Quartet with Steve Nelson on
vibes, Dwayne Burno on bass, and the late Tony Reedus on drums.
(Reedus died in November 2008; this was recorded in June.) The
vibes fill a pretty traditional piano role here, the one thing
that shifts this out of a standard bop orbit. DiRubbo has great
presence, raising the usual music to an exceptional level. Could
Mike DiRubbo: Repercussion (2008 , Posi-Tone):
An impressive alto sax quartet -- big sound, bold moves, still well
inside the postbop tent -- with vibraphonist Steve Nelson the fourth
leg, a contrast in the rhythm section more than a second solo option.
Dedicated to drummer Tony Reedus, who died five months after the
record was cut.
Diverse (2009, Origin): Eponymous group album,
from Kansas City, students of Bobby Watson at University of
Missouri-Kansas City, won a competition the label sponsored at
the 2008 Gene Harris Jazz Festival. Watson produced, and appears
on one track. Members: Hermon Mehari (trumpet), William Sanders
(tenor sax), John Brewer (piano, rhodes), Ben Leifer (bass),
Ryan Lee (drums). Mehari seems to be leader -- at least owns
the contact email -- but Leifer is the most prolific writer,
with 5 of 10 individual credits (plus a share of 2 group
credits). Fashionably postbop, but nothing jumps out at me,
and it drags more than a little.
Dave Douglas: Spirit Moves (2008 , Greenleaf
Music): You'd think I would have gotten this. Some sources credit
this to Brass Ecstasy, but cover just lists the musician names,
Douglas above the title, the others below. Brass Ecstasy groups
four brass -- trumpet, french horn (Vincent Chancey), trombone
(Luis Bonilla), and tuba (Marcus Rojas) above drums (Nasheet Waits) --
a tip of the hat to Lester Bowie. Two covers ("Mr. Pitiful" and "I'm
So Lonesome I Could Cry") are fully formed, and "Great Awakening"
shines with exuberance. The other originals are less scrutable, but
I've always been a slow study with Douglas. Sometimes he pays off
Eldar: Virtue (2008 , Masterworks Jazz):
Russian whiz kid, b. 1987 in Kirgizstan; not sure when he moved
to US, but he lived in Kansas City for a while before landing
in New York. Eight record since 2001; first since turning 21.
He's a powerhouse pianist; likes to jam thick chords together
at oblique angles, but it still strikes me that his models
are classical like Rachmaninoff rather than jazz, like Tatum
or Taylor. Mostly trio, with extra sax on four tracks -- Joshua
Redman on one, Felipe Lamoglia on three, with Nicholas Payton
chiming in on one of those. The horns are put to good use on
"Long Passage," the one cut written by bassist Armando Gola,
where Eldar switches to electric. Follows that up with a soft
touch ballad that is quite nice. I tend to be real skeptical
of prodigy claims, but this is the third album I've heard,
and they've been improving. He should turn out OK.
Kurt Elling: Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music
of Coltrane and Hartman (2009, Concord): The 1963 John
Coltrane and Johnny Hartman is one of those records that always
seemed like it should be better than it is. Coltrane's Ballads,
from 1962, was one of his most deeply pleasurable albums. Hartman
was a smooth singer who could be an asset in the right setting. The
Tyner-Garrison-Jones rhythm section was in peak form. But it really
doesn't live up to all the wishful thinking invested in it. Elling
doesn't exactly try to recreate it: he adds a couple songs, working
several others into medleys. He adds some strings. He taps Ernie
Watts for the tenor sax role -- a welcome choice but about as far
away from Coltrane as contemporary saxophonists get. Of course,
Elling is even further removed from Hartman. He manages to bury
his vocalese shtick, only rarely lapsing into his idiosyncrasies,
mostly keeping his voice in tune. Recorded live, throwing in some
backstory of the album.
Michael Farley: Grain (2009, Innova): Ethnomusicologist,
teaches at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY. Studied at Central
Missouri State and University of Iowa. Not sure how old, but he writes:
"Since my first trip across Kansas (1955?) I loved the way wheat looks
and sounds as it moves in the wind." First album I can find -- google
knows about dozens of Michael Farleys but damn little about this one.
Four pieces plus a Quiktime video called "Milton Avery in Kansas" --
would like to see that some time, but don't have time or patience to
figure out how now. Cover advises using headphones and warns: "Woe unto
those who labor in the fields of tall amplifiers/They know not what
they sow." Probably good advice, not followed, so I didn't follow the
spoken word text close enough. The middle two pieces, both 2-channel
tapes, one of piano and the other electronic sounds, could also benefit
from closer concentration. The final piece, "Brown's Hymn," is another
spoken word/sax noodle, themed toward understanding the blues. Even
without headphones, I'm attracted by the intelligence and ambiance.
With headphones there may be some upside potential.
Fire Room: Broken Music (2005 , Atavistic):
Trio, another Ken Vandermark project, with Paal Nilssen-Love on
drums, and Lasse Marhaug doing something with electronics. The
electronics include low-pitched buzzes and warbles, and can get
loud and ugly, although Vandermark -- playing tenor and baritone
saxes here -- is more than his match. Don't have a settled sense
of this yet, other than that the drummer is very much in the game.
Fire Room: Broken Music (2005 , Atavistic):
Trio, with Ken Vandermark on tenor and baritone sax, Paal Nilssen-Love
on drums, and Lasse Marhaug doing something ugly with electronics.
Vandermark and Nilssen-Love have a couple of good duo albums, and
more small group albums, so the delta here is Marhaug. Loud static,
low warbling, hard to see how what he does helps out, even though
there are short stretches when the energy pays off.
Béla Fleck/Zakir Hussain/Edgar Meyer: The Melody of Rhythm:
Triple Concerto & Music for Trio (2009, Koch): Banjo,
tabla, bass for the principals. Their trio pieces are modestly
exotic, the strings in sharp contrast, the percussion balancing
them in tone and shifting the music. The three movement concerto
is fortified by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, conducted by
Leonard Slatkin. The trio still stands out there, making you
wonder why they need the semiclassical backdrop anyway. Probably
some institutional money and prestige riding on it.
Bob Florence Limited Edition: Legendary (2008 ,
Mama): I guess you could call this a ghost band, but the corpse is
relatively fresh -- this was recorded Oct. 22-23, 2008, a bit more
than five months after Florence died. While Florence has a trio album
as early as 1958, his discography picks up in the 1980s as he made
his reputation as a big band arranger. The group is fresh and sharp,
with Alan Broadbent ably filling in the piano chair.
Flow Trio: Rejuvenation (2008 , ESP):
Basic avant-sax trio, with Louie Belogenis on tenor sax, Joe
Morris on bass, and Charles Downs on drums. Sax is rather
lacklustre, partly sonic but mostly because the one thing
this group doesn't do is flow.
Elli Fordyce: Sings Songs Spun of Gold (2008 ,
Fordyce Music): Vocalist, b. 1937, released her first album in 2007;
this is her second. Standards, some backed by guitar-bass-drums, some
piano-bass-drums, two just piano; two Jobims get extra percussion,
one with flute by Aaron Heick. Jim Malloy duets on "Oops!" with some
extra percussion from tap dancer Max Pollack. Distinctive singer --
"Let's Get Lost" is one song she adds something to, and she steers
"Desafinado" well away from the usual clichés.
Forgas Band Phenomena: L'Axe du Fou/Axis of Madness
(2008 , Cuneiform): Fusion group, led by drummer Patrick Forgas.
Second album. Moves swiftly through four long-ish pieces, with Karolina
Mlodecka's violin the signature instrument, two horn players punching
in highlights, guitar-keyboards-bass chugging along. They make it look
Carlos Franzetti: Mambo Tango (2009, Sunnyside):
Argentine pianist, b. 1948, has a dozen or so albums since 1993.
This one is solo piano, three originals including the title cut,
plus standards ending with Bill Evans and Duke Ellington. Does
very little for me one way or the other -- a victim, no doubt,
of casual listening, a bad habit I expect superior records to
kick me out of. This one is merely very nice.
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.
Erik Friedlander/Mike Sarin/Trevor Dunn: Broken Arm Trio
(2008, Skipstone): Cello-drums-bass trio. Not sure why it's ordered
that way -- maybe alphabetical by first name? In any case, Friedlander
is the auteur, providing the helpful note that the music was inspired
by Oscar Pettiford and Herbie Nichols. Small chamber bop, light, loose,
Bill Frisell: Disfarmer (2008 , Nonesuch):
Mike Disfarmer (1884-1959) -- "not a farmer"; original name Mike
Meyers -- was a photographer in north-central Arkansas, just a
few miles south of where my mother grew up. His portraits capture
both the dignity and pain of Depression-era farmers, although
thumbing through his gallery I'm struck by the lack of backgrounds
and the absence of blacks (perhaps not so odd, given how scarce
blacks were in my mother's hill country). For Frisell, this just
sets up another excursion through string-band Americana, with Greg
Leisz on steel guitars and mandolin, Jenny Scheinman on violin,
and Viktor Krauss on bass. You can split the 26 short pieces into
covers and originals. The covers -- "That's All Right, Mama"; "I
Can't Help It"; "Lovesick Blues" -- are so indelible they jump
right out, focusing your attention on the striking variations.
The originals are subtler, largely of a piece, small notions that
just sort of flow into one another, like the title series: "Think,"
"Drink," "Play." It seems like Frisell has been refining this
approach all his career, but he's rarely gotten it down to such
Roberta Gambarini: So in Love (2008 , Emarcy):
Italian singer, moved to US in 1998, with three albums albums since
2006; touchy about her age but has an album on Splasc(h) from 1991.
I missed her first album, heard the second on Rhapsody way after the
fact, and only got this lousy promo after the June release. She has
a remarkable voice which sounds serious and unmannered on even the
plainest ballad, but she can also scat and bite into vocalese. Side
credits include James Moody on tenor sax, Roy Hargrove on trumpet
and flugelhorn, a bunch of piano-bass-drums players. Song selection
seems a problem here: "Crazy" and "That Old Black Magic" remind me
of other, better versions. Promo ends strong with her words on top
of a Johnny Griffin riff, but the final release fades away with a
medley from "Cinema Paradiso" and "Over the Rainbow."
Jan Garbarek Group: Dresden (2007 , ECM,
2CD): Quartet, with Rainer Brüninghaus on piano/keyboards, Yugi
Daniel on electric bass, Manu Katché on drums. The leader is
credited with soprano and tenor sax, and selje flute. Plays a
small curved soprano, which is closer to alto in dynamics than
the straight horn is. Probably splits about 50-50, with the
flute minor and unobjectionable. I can't really single out
anything that makes this album work so well. Maybe it's that
after so many highly conceptual studio albums, it's just real
nice to hear him open up and blow.
Melody Gardot: My One and Only Thrill (2009, Verve):
Singer-songwriter from New Jersey; second album, evidently some kind
of bestseller. Wrote 9 songs, co-wrote 2, and picked one cover, "Over
the Rainbow." Her voice has unobvious appeal, and most of the songs
work in unpredictable ways. Six are swathed in strings, which sound
awful at first but quickly recover -- another burden she manages to
slough off. Name sounds French; not sure how that works, but the one
song she wrote in French is a choice cut.
Paul Giallorenzo: Get In to Get Out (2005 ,
482 Music): Pianist, originally from New York, based in Chicago,
has several groups/projects in the fire. This one is a quintet,
with Josh Berman (cornet), Dave Rempis (alto/tenor/baritone sax),
Anton Hatwich (bass), and Frank Rosaly (drums). First song out,
"Vacillation," takes a neat little repetitive riff and breaks it
wide open. Some good stuff later on where Rempis gets a beat and
rips loose. Don't have a good sense of the piano yet.
Paul Giallorenzo: Get In to Get Out (2005 ,
482 Music): The pianist-leader has a couple of other groups/projects
which appear to be more experimental -- electronics and such. This
is a flashy postbop quintet with Josh Berman on cornet and Dave
Rempis on various saxes. First two cuts rush out in torrents, with
the pianist waxing Monkian and Rempis having a field day. Third
one, "Porous (for Quintet)," starts slow and grim but unfolds
dramatically. Only quibble I have is when they try to rein in
the two horns into postbop harmony. Pretty impressive when they
David Gibson: A Little Something (2008 ,
Posi-Tone): Trombonist, has three previous albums on Nagel Heyer
since 1999. Quartet with Julius Tolentino on alto sax, Jared
Gold on organ, and Quincy Davis on drums. Straightforward, with
elements of soul jazz and hard bop. Tolentino is a sharpshooter,
and I'm always sympathetic to trombone leads, but this drags a
bit, the organ not generating much heat.
Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band: I'm BeBoppin' Too
(2008 , Half Note): Ghost bands always seem to run into trouble,
even though they start off with great songbooks and fond memories.
Problem here isn't that James Moody can't play James Moody anymore,
or that Slide Hampton can't update the classic arrangements. More
like that Frank Greene can't hold a candle to Dizzy Gillespie, but
even there the problem isn't technical so much as existential. Even
Jon Faddis, who played Gillespie's stunt double for a decade-plus,
couldn't raise the energy level of a big band like Gillespie, and
then there's the matter of levity -- Diz wasn't what you'd call a
real funny comic, but he could always lift you up. Moody and Roy
Hargrove contribute a couple of forgettable stabs at scat. Roberta
Gambarini sings three songs, but they don't suit her.
Robert Glasper: Double Booked (2009, Blue Note):
He got a huge PR boost in signing with Blue Note, whose previous
discoveries had included Jason Moran and Bill Charlap. Certainly
attractive is the idea of a young whiz who can incorporate hip-hop
influences into the jazz lexicon. However, he's yet to deliver
the goods. Here he keeps his two sides separate. The first half
trio tracks show him making nice progress as a postbop pianist.
Nothing really stands out, but it all comes off as fundamentally
sound. Second half is his Robert Glasper Experiment, where he
plays more electric piano, adds Casey Benjamin on sax and vocoder,
and works in some turntables and voices and -- well, I don't have
the details. Benjamin's sax charge carries one piece, but other
experiments, as can happen, turn into stink bombs. I think Bilal
is involved in one of the worst.
Jeff Golub: Blues for You (2009, E1 Music): Pop
jazz guitarist, 9th album since 1988. Should be on safe ground
sticking to blues, but fails to ask the basic question: blue
about what? Can't be the roster of guest vocalists (Marc Cohn,
Billy Squier, John Waite, Peter Wolf) or instrumentalists --
Chris Palmaro (organ), Kirk Whallum (sax), Jon Cleary (piano),
each given one song to show off on. Thick, slick; I don't buy
it for a minute.
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.
Richie Goods & Nuclear Fusion: Live at the Zinc Bar
(2007 , RichMan): Electric bassist, leading a quartet with
Jeff Lockhart on guitar, Helen Sung on keybs, and Mike Clark on
drums, formidable musicians. More fusion than soul jazz or pop,
hot and frenzied, but like all contained fusion experiments thus
far, doesn't generate more energy than is input.
Gordon Grdina's East Van Strings (The Breathing of
Statues (2006-07 , Songlines): Canadian guitar and
oud player, based in Vancouver, does interesting work but doesn't
make it easy. This set where he's joined by violin-viola-cello
is a good deal more difficult than usual. From the other room it
sounds like slightly annoying classical chamber music. When I
settle down and pay close attention it seems more interesting
but still rather inscrutable. The string players are notable
jazz musicians in their own right: Jesse Zubot (violin), Eyvind
Kang (viola), and Peggy Lee (cello). I suspect that there is a
good deal more to this, but doubt that I'll ever figure it out.
Marty Grosz: Hot Winds, the Classic Sessions
(2008 , Arbors): The title, which can be read several
ways, suggests that this has been pulled off someone's archival
shelf, but the recording dates are recent. the "classic" left
unexplained. Grosz plays acoustic guitar, banjo, and sings 5 of
15 cuts. He was born in 1930 in Berlin, the son of Georg Grosz,
the legendary painter/caricaturist who fled the Nazis in 1932,
settling in the US in 1933. Marty took to his new home, especially
its trad jazz. He cut one record in 1959, one in 1986, and a
steady stream since 1986. Famed for his humorous monologues,
but none here. Dan Block and Scott Robinson are the Hot Winds,
rotating through a range of clarinets and saxophones, with
Robinson also playing cornet and echo horn. Bassist Vince
Giordano occasionally switches to tuba and bass sax, and Panic
Slim [aka Jim Gicking] adds trombone on 5 tracks. Easy going
swing faves -- Ellington, Fats Waller, a lot of obscurities
with one original. Not classic, but loose as a goose.
Barry Guy/Marilyn Crispell/Paul Lytton: Phases of the
Night (2007 , Intakt): If you take Penguin
Guide as gospel, there is probably no major jazz artist
that I am further behind on than Barry Guy. (I've rated one
Guy record plus two from London Jazz Composers Orchestra, for
most intents Guy records. For comparison, I have 5 from Derek
Bailey, not much better, especially percent-wise.) Guy seems
to have written these four pieces, reportedly inspired by
paintings by Max Ernst, Dorothea Tanning, Wilfredo Lam and
Yves Tanguy. They do vary in density, detail, and color, the
denser the better with this group. The pieces tend to start
with bass rumble, and while Crispell is awesome, she never
quite beats Guy into the ground. Remarkable, I think. Wish
I knew for sure.
Mary Halvorson/Jessica Pavone/Devin Hoff/Ches Smith: Calling
All Portraits (2008, Skycap): Starts on something of a false
note with a title scream, a feint toward punk or antifolk followed by
a hard left into something else. Halvorson's guitar has the least
presence here. Hoff's bass, on the other hand, is amped up to the
point where he's the evident leader, while Pavone's violin slices
through everything without the slightest hint of sweetness. Mostly
odd groove music with a lot of sharp edges. Hard to say what it all
means, but the bass and drums provide balance and diversity that the
duo lacks. Maybe humor too.
Mary Halvorson Trio: Dragon's Head (2008, Firehouse
12): Away from Jessica Pavone, this finally provides some sense of
what Halvorson's guitar sounds like, although the answer isn't simple.
Trio includes John Hebert on bass and Ches Smith on drums. As much
fun as Devin Hoff was on Calling All Portraits, Hebert is a
relief here, totally engaged in whatever's happening, as supportive
as a bassist can be. Halvorson does a number of interesting things
here, including some surprising heavy metal crunch, but mostly a
lot of poking and prodding, small figures that stay far clear from
ye olde bebop lines. This got a lot of poll votes last year. Seems
like it is the sort of record an artist can build a reputation on.
Mary Halvorson & Jessica Pavone: Thin Air
(2008 , Thirsty Ear): First time I heard the vocals here
I flashed on the thought that this might be a jazz analogue to
anti-folk -- much more learned, of course, but something meant
to upset the cart. Second time through I heard echoes of Syd
Barrett. But by then Halvorson's guitar and Pavone's violin
had started to come into their own and the occasional words
seem to matter less. Halvorson's developed a critical cult in
the last couple of years. B. 1980 in Boston, studied enough at
Wesleyan to get associated with Braxton, moved on to Brooklyn.
I haven't heard her Dragon's Head record, which finished
strong in 2008 year-end polls, and only caught a previous duo
with Pavone, On and Off on Rhapsody, with one play not
making much sense of it. Pavone is from New York, a few years
older, attended University of Hartford, and was drawn into
Braxton's orbit at Wesleyan, and of course returned to New York.
(She is evidently not related to the great bassist Mario Pavone,
who also has a Braxton connection.) This will take some time to
sort out, if indeed I ever do. Note that Halvorson and Pavone
are on the current cover of Signal to Noise, whose eds.
are no doubt pleased with the contrast that Diana Krall is on
the cover of Downbeat.
Roy Hargrove Big Band: Emergence (2008 ,
Emarcy): Mainstream trumpet player, made a big splash early on
which still serves him well in polls. Has tried his hand at
Cuban and pop-funk, and now moves on to big band, weighing in
heavy at 18 pieces plus occasional vocalist Roberta Gambarini.
Some nice things here, like a "My Funny Valentine" that stays
on the delicate side, and plenty of power when Hargrove wants
to put pedal to the metal. Gambarini is nothing special here.
Eddie Harris/Ellis Marsalis: Homecoming (1985-2009
, ELM): Reissue of a 1985 duo album, which takes a while to
get going -- "Out of This World" did it for me. Harris wasn't an
especially consistent tenor saxophonist, but he left a handful of
marvelous records before he died in 1996 -- a personal favorite
is There Was a Time (Echo of Harlem) (1990, Enja). Good to
hear him again, and he brings out the Les McCann in Marsalis. The
record is filled out with four new tracks: three piano duos with
Jonathan Batiste and a quartet adding bass and drums and moving
Batiste to melodica. I wouldn't have bothered -- pleasant enough,
but it messes with my bookkeeping system.
Stefon Harris & Blackout: Urbanus (2009,
Concord): Vibraphone player, got a big boost signing with Blue
Note in 1998, one of the first jazz musicians who grew up with
hip-hop and promised to fuse the two together. This album looks
like he's still pushing that line, but it sounds like something
else altogether: fractured rhythmically, Monk-like but working
different angles, augmented by Marc Cary's keybs and a palette
of soft reeds -- flute, alto flute, clarinet, bass clarinet.
Some vocals, or vocoder, muddies the water a bit -- not to my
taste, but interesting still.
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.
Ken Hatfield and Friends: Play the Music of Bill McCormick:
To Be Continued . . . (2008, M/Pub): Neither guitarist
Hatfield nor his mentor, composer McCormick, ring a bell for me.
Hatfield has half a dozen or so self-released albums, reportedly
drawing as much on folk and classical as jazz, and dabbling a bit
in nylon strings. He plays impressively here, has a rhythm section
that keeps things moving, and has a tasteful saxophonist (soprano
and tenor) named Jim Clouse who hits the right highlights. Nice
record, very playable, rather interesting.
John Hébert: Byzantine Monkey (2009, Firehouse 12):
Bassist, originally from New Orleans, now based in New Jersey or New
York. First album under own name, but he's no stranger: I recognize
about 15 albums on his credits list (out of 50-some), and I've often
noted his work on them. Very interesting group he's rounded up here:
Michael Attias (alto sax, baritone sax), Tony Malaby (tenor sax,
soprano sax), Nasheet Waits (drums), Satoshi Takeishi (percussion),
Adam Kolker (4 tracks: flute, alto flute, bass clarinet). Kolker's
bass clarinet holds the second track together, and his flute runs
away with the third. "Blind Pig" is a slow, melancholy bass rumble,
very attractive. "Cajun Christmas" seems a little wobbly, a bit of
postbop harmonics sliding in. Lost track after that, but seems like
a very worthy debut.
Hemispheres: Crossroads (2008-09 , Sunnyside):
Group led by percussionist Ian Dogole, who has one previous Hemispheres
album, one by Ian Dogole & Global Fusion, a couple under his own
name, some earlier work in a group called Ancient Future. AMG lists
him as New Age, which doesn't seem quite fair. Two solo pieces here --
one on kalimba, the other on hang -- are basic but intriguing. The
other pieces are fleshed out with Sheldon Brown and Paul McCandless
on various reeds/horns, Frank Martin on piano, and Bill Douglass on
bass. McCandless's presence suggests Oregon, but doubling up on the
wind instruments gives us something lusher, which is not necessarily
a good thing -- clarinet and English horn, piccolo and soprano sax,
like that. Final cut adds Hussein Massoudi tombak and vocals on a
Persian piece. For once the vocal helps concentrate and clarify.
Cover is a satellite image of Istanbul straddling the Bosphorus.
As good a place to start as any.
Fred Hersch Pocket Orchestra: Live at Jazz Standard
(2008 , Sunnyside): Not much of an orchestra: just the pianist,
percussionist Richie Barshay, and an alternating choice of vocalist
Jo Lawry or trumpeter Ralph Alessi. I'd take Alessi any day, and his
first shot, on the appropriately named "Stuttering," had me thinking
I'd picked up my third straight A-list record. Lawry will take more
time to get used to, but she has a serviceable voice and offers some
energetic scat. Barshay has really wound Hersch up. Always an elegant
stylist, I've never heard him play with such vigor.
Fred Hersch Pocket Orchestra: Live at Jazz Standard
(2008 , Sunnyside): Small pocket: just pianist, drummer, and
either vocalist or trumpeter. Hersch and Richie Barshay play up a
storm, and Ralph Alessi is superb as always. Vocalist Jo Lawry has
a lot of spunk too, but I can't quite get into her voice or act.
Fred Hersch: Plays Jobim (2009, Sunnyside): Solo
piano, aside from one cut with percussion. Focuses on some "lesser
known" pieces. Hersch notes several sources of interest in Jobim,
including a short stretch playing with Stan Getz. Basically, any
jazz musician in the last 30-40 years was bound to bump into Jobim
sooner or later, and Hersch has worked through enough songbooks to
make this one inevitable. Still, I'm reminded that he took on Bill
Evans nearly 20 years ago, and that one meant more -- not, I think,
a coincidence that I'm reminded more of Evans here than of Jobim.
Jake Hertzog: Chromatosphere (2009, That's Out):
Guitarist, b. 1986, graduated Berklee, based in Champaign, IL;
first album. I've rather avoided playing this: front cover looks
like fusion, back cover suggests a fashion sense stuck in the
1970s, and the shrinkwrap was still shrunk and wrapped. Had I
opened it I might have read: "Jake Hertzog is a jazz guitarist
of and for the 21st century. . . . Players in this century are
mainly influenced by Pat Metheny, Mike Stern and people outside
the jazz orbit like Jimi Hendrix. As a result they sound much
different from their predecessors on the instrument." In general,
that's not true, not enlightening, and not interesting. As for
Hertzog, well, what I said. Leads a trio, plus piano on three
cuts. Not very fusiony, although he's no doubt listened to rock
guitarist -- Duane Allman is a name that comes to mind. Has a
distinctive tone, which comes through most clearly in an old
song like "Almost Like Being in Love."
John Hicks: I Remember You (2006 , High Note):
Hicks died May 10, 2006. Recording date here is only given as 2006,
so we don't know whether this was his last, or whether it was days,
weeks, or months before his death. Solo piano. Nine standards. Takes
them in a fairly gentle stride. A thoughtful reminder of a great
Laurence Hobgood: When the Heart Dances (2008 ,
Naim Jazz): Pianist, b. 1949 in North Carolina, grew up in Texas (his
father had "a job" at Southern Methodist University), moved to Chicago
in 1988. Fifth album since 2000. Two cuts solo, the rest duets with
bassist Charlie Haden. Three Hobgood originals, two from Haden. The
duos are lovely, except for the three cuts when the third name on the
cover joins in: vocalist Kurt Elling. Hobgood has played for Elling
since the early 1990s, so you can figure this as returning the favor.
But there's something about Elling I find unbearable, and while he's
on his best behavior here -- slow, smokey ballads that eliminate his
tendencies to get slick and/or smarmy -- he's still tough to take.
Dave Holland/Gonzalo Rubalcaba/Chris Potter/Eric Harland:
The Monterey Quartet: Live at the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival
(2007 , Monterey Jazz Festival): All-star live jam session,
does pretty much what you'd expect, with both Rubalcaba and Potter
working their full mojo in. Only surprise for me is that Harland,
who has no catalog under his name, contributed his share of songs --
breaks out two each. No surprise that Holland and Harland can go
Cuban, even on their own songs.
John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble: Eternal Interlude
(2009, Sunnyside): Downbeat's rising star composer/arranger,
next in line to challenge Maria Schneider in those slots. Rather
dazzling for the most part, although I get lost in a couple of
spots -- when the pace slows, so does my consciousness. (Cf. "The
Cloud," ending with unintelligible words from Theo Bleckmann.)
I'm not a doubter; I'm just not sure yet what I believe in.
John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble: Eternal Interlude
(2009, Sunnyside): Dazzling at times, annoying at others; full
of thick, luminous sheets of sound, but the potential solo power,
including Tony Malaby and Ellery Eskelin on tenor sax, rarely
pokes through; not much interest in the rhythm section, even
though that's where the leader resides. Theo Bleckman speaks
an intro, and adds some verbal mush elsewhere.
Bobby Hutcherson: Head On (1971 , Blue Note):
An album from Blue Note's dog days, the great vibraphonist working
with classical pianist Todd Cochran on suite things with a large
band; the reissue adds 40 minutes of extras that blow away the
original album, especially the exciting 15:40 fusion romp "Togo
Land" and some serious bebop soloing from Harold Land.
Isotope: Golden Section (1974-75 , Cuneiform):
British fusion band led by guitarist Gary Boyle, recorded three albums
from 1974-76 with various lineups. These tracks -- 6 from Radio Bremen,
plus earlier tracks from London (5) and New York (2) -- feature the
group's second lineup: Hugh Hopper (Soft Machine) on bass, Laurence
Scott on keyboards, and Nigel Morris on drums, plus Aureo de Souza on
percussion for the Bremen shots. Morris and Hopper always find an
interesting groove, allowing Boyle to send out Montgomery-sized note
strings with McLaughlin-inspired steeliness. No vocals to spoil the
mood. Some redundancies but they just add up to more.
Darius Jones Trio: Man'ish Boy (A Raw & Beautiful
Thing) (2009, AUM Fidelity): Alto saxophonist, based in
Brooklyn, has previously appeared with Tanakh and Little Women,
not sure in any capacity other than playing alto sax. Rounding
out the trio: Cooper-Moore (piano, diddley-bo) and Rakalam Bob
Moses (drums). This has been stuck indecisively in my box for
several days now, neither improving nor slipping, so I want to
move on. Good to hear Cooper-Moore play some piano these days,
but it's mostly buried under the sax, where it may not be the
Mimi Jones: A New Day (2007-08 , Hot Tone
Music): Looks at first like a soft soul set -- MySpace lists "Mimi
Jones aka. Miriam Sullivan" as Nu-Jazz. First record. Not much of
a singer -- a soft disco purr as opposed to the usual gospel roar --
but sometimes sneaks up on you. Also plays bass, which keeps her
head in the groove and pops out front on occasion, a nice touch.
Wrote most of the songs -- "Silva" is a good one. Band is slick
and unassuming: guitar, keybs, drums, Ambrose Akinmusire's trumpet
on two tracks. Closes with a nice "We Shall Overcome."
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]
Stanley Jordan: State of Nature (2008, Mack Avenue):
Release date 4/22/08 -- never got a final, so this has languished
and now I'm just closing out the paperwork. Some pieces show promise,
but overall too messy for my taste, like with the juxtaposition of
Mozart with Silver.
Arthur Kell Quartet: Victoria: Live in Germany
(2008 , Buj'ecords): Bassist-composer, based in New York.
Thin discography, with two previous albums (Traveller, an
A-list record from 2005, and See You in Zanzibar, which
I haven't heard) and virtually no side credits. Website claims
to have played extensively in the 1980s with Thomas Chapin,
Bobby Previte, and Marc Ribot. Quartet here has Loren Stillman
on alto sax, Brad Shepik on guitar, and Joe Smith on drums.
Kell does a good job of keeping Stillman on his toes -- he's a
mainstreamer who has never much impressed me before -- and
Shepik is terrific throughout.
Arthur Kell Quartet: Victoria: Live in Germany
(2008 , Bju'ecords): Bassist-led quartet, all compositions
by the leader, most with a strong pulse, some built around sax
figures that recall Ornette Coleman. I would never have taken
alto saxophonist Loren Stillman for Coleman before, but he's all
over these pieces, a veritable tour de force. Guitarist Brad
Shepik, who has a lot of experience improvising on Balkan beat
lines, is even better. And Joe Smith, well, as Ornette would
say, he plays with the band.
Sřren Kjćrgaard/Ben Street/Andrew Cyrille: Optics
(2007 , ILK): Danish pianist, won some prize in 2000, having
trouble figuring out much of anything else, even whether this is
his first album. Street plays bass, and Cyrille you know. A couple
of things catch my ear: a sly little rhythmic figure in "Cyrille
Surreal"; a piece of blockish denseness later on. Lots of quiet
stuff in between. Will figure out more later.
Sřren Kjćrgaard/Ben Street/Andrew Cyrille: Optics
(2007 , ILK): Sly, dense little piano trio, some soft noodling
and some edgier stuff. The leader is a young Danish pianist who seems
to be affiliated with the label. The others are pros who keep this
on the up and up.
A.J. Kluth: Twice Now (2008 , OA2):
Saxophonist (tenor, soprano), from Chicago, b. 1980, has
published a book of transcribed Chris Potter solos. First
album, quintet with guitar-piano-bass-drums, no one I've
heard of, although guitarist Nick Ascher contributes four
songs (topping Kluth's three) and is a prominent soloist.
Two covers, one from Chick Corea, the other from Radiohead.
Bright and energetic, but run-of-the-mill postbop, not all
Steve Kuhn Trio w/Joe Lovano: Mostly Coltrane
(2008 , ECM): No complaints about the advertising here:
eight Coltrane pieces, two by Kuhn, two common covers (but not
so common as "My Favorite Things"; likewise, the originals don't
include "Naima" or "Giant Steps"). Lovano plays the sax parts,
sounding more like Lovano than like Coltrane, subbing tarogato
for soprano. Kuhn played a bit with Coltrane way back around
1960, which has something to do with why he did this, but it's
not clear what he's up to here. His solo spots are fine but
not that interesting; same pretty much for Lovano.
Led Bib: Sensible Shoes (2008 , Cuneiform):
English group, led by drummer Mark Holub, with two saxophones (Pete
Grogan and Chris Williams, who wrote 2 of 9 pieces), keyboards (Toby
McLaren), and bass (Laran Donin). Third album since 2005, the previous
ones on Slam and Babel (English avant-garde labels with virtually no
US presence). It's tempting to slot this has a fusion group, mostly
because they're loud, sometimes melting down into chaos, but then
they'll throw you something that isn't. I've played this too many
times; doubt that I'll ever put it together.
Steve Lehman Octet: Travail, Transformation, and Flow
(2008 , Pi): Alto saxophonist, don't see a birthdate anywhere,
but he studied under Anthony Braxton and Jackie McLean, has six or
more albums under his own name since 2001, plus two with Vijay Iyer
as Fieldwork. His recent press has been playing up his Downbeat
Rising Star votes (finished #5 last year), which seems more or less
right -- although you could argue that Downbeat's critics
aren't his natural constituency, given that they left McLean off
their Hall of Fame ballot until after he died, and that they still
haven't considered Braxton. (On the other hand, Lehman records for
more critic-friendly labels than Braxton, at least in the last
20 years.) As with Braxton, Lehman's technique is slowed by his
compositions, which are difficult little pieces that play against
your expectations. I've found that they work best in small groups,
as on his Demian as Posthuman. Scaling them up to octet
strength is tricky, but he does a good job of keeping the five
horns (Mark Shim on tenor sax, Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet,
Tim Albright on trombone, and Jose Davila on Tuba) distinct, and
Chris Dingman's vibes fly against the grain -- not that there is
much of a grain with Drew Gress on bass and, especially, Tyshawn
Sorey on drums. Don't have it sussed out adequately. Nor do I
recognize the last piece, the only one Lehman didn't write --
evidently comes from somewhere in the Wu-Tang empire.
Steve Lehman Octet: Travail, Transformation, and Flow
(2008 , Pi): Probably the most famous free jazz octet was the
one that David Murray ran during the early 1980s. It was never one of
my favorite formats, although a lot of people will list Ming
as Murray's greatest album, and I eventually turned into a big fan of
the album. Lehman's octet is slightly different: the five horns split
in favor of the brass, with Jose Davila's tuba the decisive change;
Chris Dingman's vibes replace the piano; the leader plays alto sax
(Mark Shim is the tenor), so the leads shift up a register. Lehman's
music is more acutely angular, pitched a bit higher, and almost as
tight as his duos and trios on the nearly minimalist Demian as
Daniel Levin Quartet: Live at Rowlette (2008 ,
Clean Feed): Cellist, based in New York, has a couple of records out.
This quartet has evidently been together since 2001. Seems like an
odd choice of instruments at first -- cello, trumpet (Nate Wooley),
vibes (Matt Moran), bass (Peter Bitenc) -- and indeed they tend to
fall apart into separate pieces (well, not so sure about the bass).
Odd pieces, more or less interesting, especially the cello.
Rozanne Levine & Chakra Tuning: Only Moment
(2008 , Acoustics): B. 1945, mostly plays alto clarinet,
studied with Perry Robinson, married Mark Whitecage. Didn't have
much of a track record until the 1990s when she started performing
under William Parker's umbrella, finally teaming up with Whitecage
for the duo RoMarkable. Her Chakra Tuning group includes Whitecage,
Robinson, and violinist Rosi Hertlein. Album starts and ends with
solos, with four group cuts and four Whitecage duos in between.
With Whitecage and Robinson mostly playing clarinet (some soprano
sax, something called a 1/2 clarinet, some percussion) the layering
can get dense or remain airy. The group improv ("Town Meeting")
is a bit wobbly. I have more reservations about the title cut,
with lyrics "inspired by The Yin Yoga Kit: The Practice of Quiet
Power," sung by Hertlein in a quasi-operatic soprano -- a tour
de force that's not really my cup of tea.
Lhasa: Lhasa (2009, Nettwerk): A singer-songwriter
whose exotic name gets her slotted as world music -- the full McCoy
is Lhasa de Sela, from Big Indian, NY; parents from Mexico; she
wound up in Montreal, Canada, or maybe France. This doesn't sound
like it comes from anywhere or is going anywhere. Doesn't even
sound folkish, just sort of neutral, peaceful, New Age with words.
Christian Lillingers Grund: First Reason (2008
, Clean Feed): German drummer (Lillinger; the s would be
's in English), b. 1984, first album, built this group from the
ground up with two bassists, two saxophonists (also on clarinet),
and famous guest pianist Joachim Kühn on 3 of 11 tracks. Good to
focus on the drum-and-bass and let the horns fly where they may.
Gets a little shrill at toward the end.
Joe Locke/David Hazeltine Quartet: Mutual Admiration Society
2 (2009, Sharp Nine): Vibes-piano duet, reinforced by Essiet
Essiet on bass and Billy Drummond on drums. As the title suggests,
Locke and Hazeltine have done this before, with their 1999 album
Mutual Admiration Society. Vibes-piano is one a combination
that tends to work, as Milt Jackson/John Lewis showed many times.
Locke first came to my attention in a duo with Kenny Barron, But
Beautiful. Hazeltine is one of the best mainstream pianists
working, notable both as a trio leader and accompanist. Nice enough,
but still this scoots by without leaving much of an impression,
like all the mutual admiration doesn't produce any tension to spark
Frank London/Lorin Sklamberg: Tsuker-Zis (2009,
Tzadik): London plays trumpet, mostly in klezmer-rooted contexts,
like his Hasidic New Wave band and vocalist Sklamberg's main gig,
the Klezmatics. London's Carnival Conspiracy (2005, Piranha)
is probably his high point, but there's a lot in his discography
that I haven't explored, including a 1998 album co-credited to
Sklamberg called Nigumin. Title here is Yiddish for "sugar
sweet." Texts are evidently Hasidic, mostly holiday songs, many
in Yiddish, at any rate nothing in English. For all I know, this
may be as inocuous as the musically similar Klezmatics album of
Woody Guthrie's Happy Joyous Hanukkah, but it feels more
distant, exalted maybe. Sklamberg's voice is full of wonder; you
have to search a bit for London's horn, which rarely crowds the
stage, but is welcome when it does.
Luis Lopes/Adam Lane/Igal Foni: What Is When (2007-08
, Clean Feed): Guitarist, from Portugal, has a previous album
called Humanization 4Tet that was a solid HM, largely on the
strength of Rodrigo Amado's tenor sax. This one is just guitar, bass
and drums, so he takes more of a lead here -- for good measure, he
starts with a piece dedicated to Sonny Sharrock. It ends, though,
with an impressive segment from Lane.
Joe Lovano Us Five: Folk Art (2008 , Blue
Note): Quintet, a new working band with two drummers (Otis Brown III
and Francisco Mela), bass (Esperanza Spalding), and piano (James
Weidman). Lovano strays a lot from his tenor sax -- his website
even has a picture of him playing two horns Kirk-style, a straight
alto sax and a tarogato -- for a slippery, unsettled feel. The
rhythm section helps to grease the skids. I'm less impressed with
Weidman, who fills up a lot of space with fast but uninteresting
bebop lines. Most likely a promising group that hasn't found itself
yet, but maybe I just haven't found them.
Joe Lovano Us Five: Folk Art (2008 , Blue
Note): With a very young band, the reigning saxophonist of his
generation feels free to indulge his idiosyncrasies: aulochrome,
straight alto sax, taragato, why not two at once? Sounds like
he's entering his Rahsaan Roland Kirk phase.
Pamela Luss with Houston Person: Sweet and Saxy
(2009, Savant): Best use of "saxy" in an album title ever was a
four-tenor blowout from 1959 called, without a gram of hyperbole,
Very Saxy. The lineup: Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Buddy Tate,
Coleman Hawkins, and Arnett Cobb. None of those guys would ever
get taken for sweet -- Hawkins has some ballad albums to die for,
but he was more like cool and debonair. Person, like Ben Webster,
could do sweet, but I wouldn't want to rub him the wrong way
either. His problem here is Luss: the album could use a lot more
sax, and maybe even a little more sweetness. Luss's problem is
song selection: seems like an odd set of ill-fitting songs. One
bright spot is guitarist James Chirillo.
Carl Maguire's Floriculture: Sided Silver Solid
(2009, Firehouse 12): Pianist, called his first album Floriculture
(2005, Between the Lines) and kept he name for his group, even though
only Dan Weiss (drums) returns here: John Hebert takes over the bass
slot, Oscar Noriega alto sax (although clarinet and bass clarinet are
more prominent), and most importantly Stephanie Griffin expands the
quartet to quintet with her viola -- the dominant sound, giving the
whole an abstract, fractured chamber music feel, punctuated by the
occasional Sturm und Drang.
Tony Malaby: Paloma Recio (2008 , New World):
Album name seems likely to return as a band name in future releases.
Quartet, Malaby on tenor sax, Ben Monder on guitar, Eivind Opsvik
on bass, Nasheet Waits (a busy guy all of a sudden) on drums. Malaby
and Monder both have a habit of stealing other people's shows while
selling themselves short on their own records. They starts out a bit
reticent, but picks up some muscle as it goes along -- I'm tempted
to credit Opsvik, who plays with Malaby in the Kris Davis Quartet
and is a tower of strength here. Seems like the sort of record that
could slowly grow on you.
Joe Maneri/Peter Dolger: Peace Concert (1964
, Atavistic Unheard Music Series): An alto sax-drums free
improv taped as part of "an all-night peace concert" at St. Peter's
Church. Interesting enough, cerebral with little flash, but short
at 24:23. The record is padded out with Stu Vandermark's 2006
interview of a reticent Maneri, longer at 26:04, an extra you
won't want to bother with twice and may not make it through once.
Eyal Maoz's Edom: Hope and Destruction (2009, Tzadik):
Guitarist, born in Israel, based in New York. Has a previous Tzadik
record called Edom, elevated here to band name despite a couple
of personnel changes, and a new duo with Asaf Sirkis, Elementary
Dialogues (Ayler). This is a quartet with Brian Marsella on keybs,
Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz on bass (pictured electric), and Yuval Lion on
drums. Fusion, more than halfway to prog rock, what "radical Jewish
culture" there is largely washed out -- "Two" is a partial exception.
Jason Marsalis: Music Update (2009, ELM): Another
Marsalis brother, b. 1977, plays vibes. Third album, a quartet with
piano-bass-drums. Mostly light groove pieces, a couple of which
build up into something, most of which are pleasant enough.
Wynton Marsalis: He and She (2007 , Blue
Note): Marsalis was long overrated as a composer, but the more he
sinks his teeth into the tradition, the better he gets at making
it pay. He is exceptionally comfortable in these pieces, at times
achieving a grace and elegance that is downright Ellingtonian. A
quintet with Walter Blanding on tenor and soprano sax, Dan Nimmer
on piano, Carlos Henriquez on bass, and Ali Jackson on drums --
Blanding doesn't make much of an impression, but Nimmer more than
earns his keep. The problem is that the music is broken up with
numerous "poems" -- more like a libretto, as surface-deep on the
battle of the sexes as he's previously been on slavery.
Masada Quintet: Stolas: The Book of Angels Volume 12
(2009, Tzadik): A John Zorn joint. He's listed as playing on this, but
I gather he only plays on one cut. The quintet is stellar: Dave Douglas
(trumpet), Joe Lovano (tenor sax), Uri Caine (piano), Greg Cohen (bass),
Joey Baron (drums). I take his word that there are 11 previous Book
of Angels volumes, although I have no idea how they are organized
or filed. Masada was a Zorn quartet (with Douglas, Cohen, and Baron)
dating back to 1994, launched with a series of records Alef,
Beit, Gimel, etc., shifting to numbers later on, then
finally mutating into all sorts of things around 2004. For all the
stylistic pastiche Zorn works in, what this most reminds me of is
Sun Ra: a case where no amount of interstellar weirdness can quite
shake an inate sense of swing.
Barney McAll: Flashbacks (2009, Extra Celestial
Arts): Australian pianist, b. 1966, moved to New York in 1997,
fifth album since 1996 (or sixth since 2001, depending on your
source). Plays keyboards and something called a Chucky here.
Musicians come and go, but most tracks include Jay Rodriguez
(tenor sax), Josh Roseman (trombone), Kurt Rosenwinkel (guitar),
Drew Gress (bass), Obed Calvaire (drums), with Pedrito Martinez
(bata drums, percussion) on half. That's quite a lot of fire
power, with Rosenwinkel's guitar especially prominent. Quiet
spots featuring piano are quite nice; the louder runs powerful.
Maybe a bit too rich for my taste, but impressive postbop.
Christian McBride & Inside Straight: Kind of Brown
(2009, Mack Avenue): Bassist, wound up on the cover of Downbeat's
critics poll issue, winning acoustic bassist over perennial Dave Holland,
coming in second on electric bass. He has nine or so albums since an
impressive major label deubt in 1994 and a huge number of side credits
(AMG's list runs to four pages, but there looks to be a lot of chaff
in there). This is basically a Holland-style group, with high saxophone
(Steve Wilson on alto and soprano) and vibes (Warren Wolf Jr.) to steer
clear of the bass, although McBride goes one step further, omitting the
trombone in favor of pianist Eric Reed. McBride swings harder and has
a fondness for funk, but he doesn't exert enough gravity to keep the
lighter elements from floating away.
Donny McCaslin: Declaration (2009, Sunnyside):
Tenor saxophonist, you know that. I've always been impressed by his
chops. He's one guy who can show up at a session and run away with
it. But his albums always left me lukewarm, at least until last
year's Recommended Tools, where he cut the complexity down
to a bare-bones trio and just blew: my review line was, "like he's
strayed from Chris Potter's footsteps to chase after Sonny Rollins."
Well, he's back to Potter-ville here (or Douglas-ton) with a
piano-guitar quintet -- Edward Simon, Ben Monder, Scott Colley,
Antonio Sanchez -- plus a brass choir on 5 of 8 songs. Fancy
postbop arranging, slinky harmonies, less emphasis on sheer
virtuosity. Sounded better the second play than the first, so
I'll keep it open.
Chad McCullough: Dark Wood, Dark Water (2008
, Origin): Trumpeter, based in Seattle. Debut album, leads
a sextet through 7 originals, 1 by pianist Bill Anschell, and
"Blackbird" by you know who. Shares front line with two saxes
(Mark Taylor, Geof Bradfield), backed by piano (Anschell), bass
(Jeff Johnson), and drums (John Bishop). Postbop, the sort of
thing I find overly fancy and not all that inspired. Does have
a bright, strong tone to his trumpet.
John McLaughlin/Chick Corea: Five Peace Band Live
(2008 , Concord, 2CD): Another anniversary reunion, this time
looking back 40 years to joint service under Miles Davis. Corea plays
electric piano here, chasing or pushing McLaughlin through a series
of 20-minute groove pieces, with Christian McBride and Vinnie Colaiuta
helping out. It's pretty good for what it is, even when Corea is just
diddling on his own, as happens a lot in "Dr. Jackle," but the pay
off comes when Kenny Garrett chimes in. I've gotten to where I don't
expect much from these guys, so this is a very pleasant surprise.
Medeski Martin & Wood: Radiolarians II
(2008 , Indirecto): The second of three discs of presumably
related material -- I didn't get these, although I've been getting
hype for a forthcoming box set that pulls them all together (not
that that guarantees I'll get the box set either). Radiolarians
are protozoa with intricate mineral skeletons. Medeski composed
all but one of the pieces here (other comes from Rev. Gary Davis),
but the stripped down, rhythm-first feel reminds me more of Billy
Martin's sideline records, especially when Medeski plays piano.
I like it more than anything I've heard by the group in a long
time. Medeski wheels the organ out near the end on "Amish Pintxos"
and that works fine too.
Medeski Martin & Wood: Radiolarians III
(2008 , Indirecto): Evidently the end of this series,
starts more abstractly with more piano, shifts midway to organ
and pumps up the volume, ends toned down again. Group comps
Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Strings: Renegades
(2008 , Delmark): Flautist, b. 1967, based in Chicago since
1990. Downbeat Critics Poll ranks her #1 rising star and #4
overall on flute, trailing senior citizens (and saxophonists) James
Moody, Lew Tabackin, and Frank Wess, ahead of James Newton, Hubert
Laws, Dave Valentin, Jamie Baum, and a bunch of others who primarily
play something else. Her growing rep is deserved on a lot of levels,
not least her ambition in breaking new ground, but still it's just
flute, there's not much competition, and I've never much cared for
it. Here she's backed with three strings -- Renee Baker doubling on
violin and viola, Tomeka Reid on cello, Josh Abrams on bass -- and
percussion, which sets off the flute nicely and gives her composing
space without the flute -- actually the more impressive share of
the record. One bit of uncredited vocal, more a proclamation than
a lyric: I make it out to be, "I will never again let my destiny
be in the hands of another."
Guilherme Monteiro: Air (2005-06 , Bju'ecords):
Brazilian guitarist, b. 1971, in New York since 2000. Debut record,
although he's also recorded in Forró in the Dark. Most cuts include
Ben Street (bass), Jochen Ruckert (drums), and Jerome Sabbagh (tenor
sax); two have pifano or alto flute and percussion; three have voice,
with Chiara Civello on one, Lila downs on another. All very low key,
James Moody: 4A (2008 , IPO): Tenor saxophonist,
made his name in early 1950s both in Dizzy Gilllespie's bands and on
his own. Has a checkered discography that I've sampled only lightly,
but into his 80s a venerable figure. About as good a deal as one can
hope for: a straightforward quartet with Kenny Barron (piano), Todd
Coolman (bass), and Lewis Nash (drums); nothing on flute; a set of
standards -- I'm always a sucker for "Bye Bye Blackbird."
Joe Morris: Wildlife (2008 , AUM Fidelity):
After many years as an obscure and difficult guitarist, Morris
picked up the double bass and has developed into a lucid and
energetic pacemaster. He's not interesting enough to salvage such
bass-centric productions as his Elm City Duets with Barre
Phillips, but he sure can set up a free-wheeling saxophonist --
witness Ken Vandermark on Rebus and Jim Hobbs on Beautiful
Existence. His latest find is Petr Cancura, a Czech-born,
Canadian-raised, Brooklyn-based tenor saxophonist who doesn't
stray far from the line that runs from Albert Ayler through David
S. Ware and many lesser figures. Luther Gray is the drummer, and
he's very tight with Morris.
Joe Morris Quartet: Today on Earth (2009, AUM
Fidelity): After several records on bass, Morris returns to his
main instrument, guitar. The net effect is that he competes for
lead time with alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs, each interesting in
his own right, but neither runs away with the show. That's a bit
of a letdown for Hobbs, who's made a big impression both with
Morris on bass and in his own group, the Fully Celebrated, with
Timo Shinko on bass, as he is here.
Van Morrison: Astral Weeks: Live at the Hollywood Bowl
(2008 , Listen to the Lion): Live concert revisit of Morrison's
foundational album -- some singles preceded it, including his still
greatest single song ("Brown Eyed Girl"), variously reissued as T.B.
Sheets and Bang Masters, and Them came even earlier, but
this is where he traded in his pop-rock attack for a career of Celtic
mystique, blue-eyed soul, and jazz riffs. Fans are divided between
those, like Lester Bangs, who couldn't get enough of the introspection
and others, like Robert Christgau, who preferred the elegant popcraft
of Morrison's next album, Moondance. I lean toward the latter
group, but never doubted the revelation here. The concert reorders
some songs, loosening them up, and he's matured into his voice -- a
wonder of the world forty years ago and even more so now. It's not
reinvention on the level of Leonard Cohen's Live in London,
so it could be docked for redundancy. Still, if he wants to keep
doing this sort of thing, I'm not going to complain till he gets
to Hard Nose the Highway.
Mr. Groove Band: Rocket 88: Tribute to Ike Turner
(2009, Zoho Roots): Tim Smith on bass, Roddy Smith on guitar, a
bunch of others, a lot of guests, with Bonnie Bramlett (1 track)
and Audrey Turner (3 tracks) pictured on the back cover, but most
of the vocals are by Darryl Johnson. The songs are more Tina than
Ike, but none of the singers make you think of Tina, let alone
forget her. The horns are deployed in soul arrays, never allowed
to bust out like Jackie Brenston -- even on the title track. And
the guitar is off, which if you're serious about Ike should really
have been the point. They can't even plead ignorance: the record
ends with a "bonus track" instrumental that puts them to shame --
an outtake from a 2007 record by guess who? Ike Turner!
My Cat Is an Alien & Enore Zaffiri: Through the
Magnifying Glass of Tomorrow (2009, Atavistic, CD+DVD):
Well, aren't they all. Two brothers from Italy, Maurizio and
Roberto Opalio, play alien guitar and astral guitar respectively,
odd bits of percussion, and "alientronics" -- sounds more like
old-fashioned transistors. They have a lot of records out since
1998, some under their respective names. Zaffiri is creditd with
"real-time recording of reel to reel tapes" -- another old-fashioned
touch. Two improv pieces of wobbly ambience, rather attractive,
not very substantial. Comes with a DVD with two videos -- one
a "duo video"; i.e., two shots side-by-side -- underscored with
even more ambient music. Doesn't come with the drugs to make
the DVD watchable.
M. Nahadr: EclecticIsM (2009, Live Wired): Vocalist,
also plays keyboards and gets a "programming" credit. First album,
although I haven't explored her M alias or Mem Nadahr, which seems
to be her real name. Wikipedia article focuses on her "albinistic
Afro-American" genetics. Her label slots her as a jazz vocalist,
but there's little here to distinguish her from the run of neo-soul
divas, either in soft coo or in full-blooded gospel shout. Maybe
a little more eclecticism in the synth-based music.
Ted Nash: The Mancini Project (2007 ,
Palmetto): Saxophonist, leaning more toward tenor this time,
also playing alto, soprano, alto flute, and piccolo, leading
a quartet -- Frank Kimbrough (piano), Rufus Reid (bass), Matt
Wilson (drums) -- on an all-Mancini program. Most Mancini
projects play up the playful side of catchy soundtrack tunes,
but Nash drills straight into the melodies. Would have preferred
less flute, but even that is nicely thought out.
Ben Neill: Night Science (2009, Thirsty Ear):
Trumpeter, b. 1957, has ten or more records since 1991. AMG
classifies him under Avant-Garde Music, but the genres are pure
electronica: trance, ambient, jungle/drum 'n' bass. This is the
first I've heard, a set where he evidently multitracks and mixes
everything himself, using programmed beats, electronics, and a
contraption he calls the mutantrumpet: looks like a trumpet with
three bells (one muted), some extra valves, and a PC board to
control multiple MIDI channels and interface to a computer. The
result sounds a lot like Nils Petter Molvaer, a wee bit cooler
because there is no pretense of living in the jazz moment.
Ben Neuman: Introductions (2008 , OA2):
Another young pianist, from Chicago, who plays fluid postbop.
How young? Well, Joey Calderazzo is third on his influences
list, following Tyner and Jarrett. First album, a trio with
Dennis Carroll and George Fludas. Wrote one song, filling up
the album with standards plus Coltrane, Silver, and Hancock.
Sean Nowell: The Seeker (2008 , Posi-Tone):
Tenor saxophonist, b. 1973, from Birmingham, AL, based in New
York. Second album. Six credits, but cello and guitar appear
after drums, like an afterthought, and not one that I noticed
along the way. Nowell is also credited with clarinet and flute,
also inconspicuous. Otherwise, a conventional, mainstream sax
quartet with piano-bass-drums. Upbeat, boppy, never boring, not
something any jazz fan would be tempted to complain about.
The Nu Band: Lower East Side Blues (2008 ,
Porter): Quartet, label describes them as free bop. Veterans: the
horns are Roy Campbell (trumpet, pocket trumpet, flugelhorn) and
Mark Whitecage (alto sax, clarinet); the rhythm section is Joe Fonda
(bass) and Lou Grassi (drums). Third album together since 2001. All
four contribute songs, with Fonda's called "In a Whitecage/The Path,"
and Whitecage's "Like Sonny." Despite the "Charlie Parker Place"
roadsign on the cover, doesn't strike me as boppish -- has a bit
of a world music vibe.
Old Dog: By Any Other Means (2007 , Porter):
Quartet, led by saxophonist Louie Belogenis (or Louis -- google
gives Louie the edge by a little more than 3-to-1), credited with
tenor here. Other members: Karl Berger (vibes, piano), Michael
Bisio (bass), Warren Smith (drums). Belogenis' early credits (c.
1992) are with God Is My Co-Pilot (seems to be a post-no-wave rock
group with porn themes) and Prima Materia (Rashied Ali group
channeling Coltrane and Ayler); later he fronted a group with
Roy Campbell called Exuberance. Seems like a formidable player,
especially well versed in late Coltrane. Berger lays out the
first cut, then enters on piano, then moves to vibes, making
good use of both instruments. The sort of record I would put
back for further listening if I actually had it.
Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton: Imaginary Values
(1993 , Maya): Cautionary tale: I thought I'd check to see
if I could find anything recent and unheard by Parker on Rhapsody,
given that I have a lot of his material written up for the CG.
Rhapsody listed this as 2008 -- their dates are often useless,
but they're the first ones I see. AMG and Amazon have it as 2007;
not too far out of date. AMG gives the label as TCB, but almost
everyone else agrees on Maya. So I play it and research some more.
It shows up in discographies as recorded in 1993 at the Red Rose
Club in London. Penguin Guide, which only lists recording
dates, has it as a 4-star, rating it one of the trio's best efforts.
Hard for me to tell. Rhapsody won't play the 3rd cut or the 6th.
I jump to the 8th ("Invariance"), which PG singled out,
but I don't really get it. This is difficult music, abstract,
lots of oblique angles, prickly spines sticking out every which
way. Parker plays more soprano sax than tenor, which makes this
wobblier than usual, and Guy and Lytton are always difficult.
And it's way too late to keep pursuing a line that isn't going
to produce anything. So for now, but I'm not scratching it off
the shopping list.
Chris Pasin: Detour Ahead (1987 , H2O):
Trumpet player, b. 1958 in Chicago, attended New England Conservatory.
First and only album, released 22 years after it was cut, with 7 of
9 Pasin originals, fronting a group of well known (must less so then)
musicians: Steve Slagle (alto sax, soprano sax on 2 cuts, flute on 1),
Benny Green (piano), Rufus Reid (bass), Dannie Richmond (drums). At
best has a sharp hard bop edge, and is also fine when the horns drop
out. Slagle is a strong soloist on alto sax, but his harmonizing
takes the edge off, and he should lose the flute. Don't know why
Pasin hasn't made more of a career.
Art Pepper: The Art History Project (1950-82 ,
Widow's Taste, 3CD): Three discs, designated "Pure Art (1951-1960),"
"Hard Art (1960-1968)," and "Consummate Art (1972-1982)." The gaps
account for prison time, which would have been clearer had whoever
put this together been better at dates: the first disc actually goes
from a Stan Kenton cut in 1950 up to 1957. Another gap between 1960
and 1968 is buried in the prison-hardened second disc, and the third
doesn't actually get going until 1977. Still, the eras are roughly
correct. Aside from the Kenton, the first disc -- a best-of picked
from a string of superb albums -- has a bright, fresh, clean sound
with no extra lines or baggage, just virtuoso alto sax over impeccable
west coast rhythm. The later material is more weathered and less choice.
Most of the second disc comes from a previously unreleased set with
pianist Frank Strazzeri -- rough stuff, Pepper fiercely determined
to make up for lost time. The third disc adds a little angst to his
extensively documented final period -- cf. the 16-CD Galaxy box, the
9-CD Complete Village Vanguard Sessions, scattered more/less
legit live shots -- when everything he did seemed magical.
Mikkel Ploug/Sissel Vera Petterson/Joachim Badenhorst:
Equilibrium (2008 , Songline): Danish guitarist,
b. 1978, has a couple of previous records -- one on Fresh Sound
New Talent from 2006 I rather liked. Belgium-born, Brooklyn-based
Badenhorst plays clarinet, bass clarinet, and tenor sax, while
Petterson, from Norway, sings, plays soprano sax, and dabbles in
live electronics. I find the vocals a bit of a problem -- less
so when they converge on song form than in just filling around,
hornlike or in one of four "Chorale" pieces -- but can't quite
dismiss them either. Instrumentally the pieces are intricately
Mika Pohjola: Northern Sunrise (2008 , Blue
Music Group): Finnish pianist, b. 1972, studied in Boston, settled
in New York. Has a long list of records since 1996 -- AMG lists 7
for 2009 alone, but this is the only one I've heard. Postbop quintet,
with Steve Wilson ("saxophones"; presumably alto and soprano), Ben
Monder (guitar), Massimo Biolcati (bass), and Mark Ferber (drums).
A wide range of stuff, including a bit of Grieg, some Ellington
channeled through Mingus, some bop, some fusion, some pastorale.
Positive Catastrophe: Garabatos Volume One (2008
, Cuneiform). A peculiar twist on a Latin big band, led by
percussionist Abraham Gomez-Delgado, who has a previous album as
Zemog, and Taylor Ho Bynum, who plays cornet in circles
strongly influenced by Anthony Braxton. The group is touted as
connecting "the dots between Sun Ra, Eddie Palmieri, and beyond"
(dots to beyond?), with the Ra-dedicated "Travels" supposedly a
mash up with Ra, Chano Pozo, and Julie London. I don't hear any
of those things except maybe for one (and only one) Jen Shyu
vocal. But then I don't hear hardly anything I can hang onto
here, neither in the Latin domain (where the beats are skimpy
and the band's lack of cohesion precludes a groove) or as avant.
I reckon the comparisons are no more than cultural dissonance
conceived as a positive postmodern virtue, but I don't see the
point. Still, I hear some things I like, especially in the
engine room, where Michael Attias's baritone and Reut Regev's
flugelbone try to keep things moving.
Chris Potter Underground: Ultrahang (2009, ArtistShare):
After years of complaining about Potter's postbop moves, he blew me
away with two live Village Vanguard albums and impressed me nearly
as much with Underground, a bass-less group powered by Craig
Taborn's Fender Rhodes and Adam Rogers' guitar. These are contexts
where he can loosen up and blow, as he does here. (Nate Smith squares
off the quartet on drums.) Electrified, he quickens the pace and pumps
up the volume.
Dafnis Prieto Si o Si Quartet: Live at Jazz Standard NYC
(2009, Dafnison Music): Cuban drummer, has pretty much blown everyone
away since arriving in New York. There is a style of Afro-Cuban jazz
marked by extreme start-stop rhythmic shifts, overlaid by other time
shifts in dazzling complexity. Prieto does all that, and he's really
quite amazing. His quartet tries to scale those shifts up. They're a
bit less convincing, mostly because none of them can maneuver as fast
as Prieto. Peter Apfelbaum plays tenor sax, soprano sax, bass melodica;
Manuel Valera piano, keyboard, melodica; Charles Flores acoustic and
Profound Sound Trio: Opus de Life (2008 ,
Porter): Andrew Cyrille on drums, Paul Dunmall on tenor sax and
bagpipes, Henry Grimes on bass. Live set, all group improvs, raw
both in sound and substance. Grimes sounds especially primitive
here, Ayleresque even. Dunmall has always been hit-and-miss, but
he's pretty much always on here. He even squeezes out a couple
of minutes of rather sublime music on his bagpipes, elsewhere
more often than not an implement of torture. Cyrille may get
first billing alphabetically, but he does a remarkable job of
holding it all together, and gets to end the set on a rapturous
crash. They didn't try to tone down the applause, and for once
Alvin Queen: Mighty Long Way (2008 , Justin
Time): Basically a hard bop drummer, Queen updates the standard
quintet by trading piano for Peter Bernstein's guitar and bass for
Mike LeDonne's organ (or vice versa), picking up a conga drummer
for good measure. The result is nods toward soul jazz with some
extra funk and fancy twists. Terell Stafford and Jesse Davis have
some good moments as the horns, but mostly toot along. Songs like
"I Got a Woman" and "Cape Verdean Blues" hold up fine, but lesser
fare comes up short in interest.
Rashanim: The Gathering (2009, Tzadik): Group,
evidently led by Jon Madof (guitar, banjo), with Shanir Ezra
Blumenkranz (acoustic bass guitar, bass banjo, glockenspiel,
melodica, tiple, chonguri) and Mathias Kunzli (drums, percussion,
jaw harp, whistling). AMG lists three Rashanim albums, plus an
earlier one by Madof called Rashanim. Chantlike vocals
on "Jeremiah"; otherwise intricate little groove pieces based
on old Jewish themes, captivating, charming, a bit new agey.
Benny Reid: Escaping Shadows (2008 , Concord):
Alto saxophonist, b. 1980, second album; filed it under pop jazz,
which has much more to do with the saxophone, which could fit nicely
in any postbop context -- he has a sweet tone on the ballads and can
romp on the fast ones. Worse than the keybs-guitar-bass is the scat
slung by Jeff Taylor.
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.
Matt Renzi: Lunch Special (2007 , Three P's):
Trio, the leader playing sax (presumably tenor) and clarinet, quite
a bit of the latter. Very centered, all things moderated, has a feel
for the world and a broad sense of its music.
Revolutionary Ensemble: Vietnam (1972 ,
ESP-Disk): The latest reissue of the periodically reissued debut
disk of the Leroy Jenkins-Sirone-Jerome Cooper trio. Nothing
specific about Vietnam, but it was in the air in revolutionary
circles of the time. Jenkins single-handedly invented a new path
for violin in avant-jazz, scratched raw, searching the ins and
outs of his comrades' rhythms.
Revolutionary Ensemble: Beyond the Boundary of Time
(2005 , Mutable Music): A live set cut on a tour in Poland,
effectively a last hurrah before pioneering violinist Leroy Jenkins
died in 2007. The trio with bassist Sirone and drummer Jerome Cooper
worked together from 1971-78, then regrouped for a remarkable album
in 2004, And Now . . . (Pi). So this promises more, but they
come out uncertain and despite various characteristically intriguing
moments never really get their sound together. They come closest in
the two closing improvs, even when Cooper switches to synth.
Dave Rivello Ensemble: Facing the Mirror (2002
, Allora): Composer, conductor, teaches at Eastman School
of Music in Rochester, founded this 12-piece ensemble in 1993.
Studied under Bob Brookmeyer, who wrote the liner notes here.
Elaborate postbop shadings, impressive at first but turn out to
be of limited interest.
Perry Robinson/Burton Greene: Two Voices in the Desert
(2008 , Tzadik): Duo, two mellowed veterans from the 1960s avant
fringe. Robinson plays clarinet, ocarina, wooden flute, sopranino
clarinet. Greene plays piano. Almost too polite, but the closer you
dig into it the more ornate it becomes. I guess small things count
for a lot in the desert.
Roberto Rodriguez: Timba Talmud (2009, Tzadik):
A/k/a Roberto Juan Rodriguez -- not sure how the name appears on
the actual package. Percussionist, from Cuba, played some bar
mitzvahs once he got to Miami and figured out how to put a Cuban
spin on klezmer. He laid out the basic ideas in El Danzon de
Moises and Baila! Gitano Baila!, and has been working
angles and variations since then. This sextet plays his basic
shtick, the percussion played down a bit so it doesn't interfere
with the richness and suppleness of the melodies.
Roberto Rodriguez: The First Basket (2009, Tzadik):
Soundtrack for a film (same name) by David Vyorst, something about
the origins of the Basketball Association of America, which was
founded in 1946 and merged with the National Basketball League in
1949 to form the NBA. Consists of 30 pieces, starting with a shofar
solo call-to-arms, then various more/less klezmerish pieces, some
less enough to be period 1930s swing. Fifteen musicians, probably
split up but I have no notes. A remarkable pastiche of fragments.
Technical problems kept me from following it as well as I would
Adam Rogers: Sight (2008 , Criss Cross): A
guitarist with a light touch on long and elegant lines, backed by
John Patitucci on bass and Clarence Penn on drums. Four originals,
covers of bebop and standards; stays within a fairly narrow sonic
band, requiring more attention than I like but often rewarding it.
Ari Roland: New Songs (2009, Smalls): Bassist,
says here that he's been playing every week with Chris Byars and
Sacha Perry for 22 years now. I figure that makes him 15 when
he started that gig. Byars, a saxophonist who mostly plays alto
here but tenor elsewhere, and Perry, a pianist, are two years
older. Quartet is filled out by drummer Keith Balla. Tight group,
trying to find new angles on old bebop and mostly succeeding.
Roger Rosenberg: Baritonality (2009, Sunnyside):
Baritone saxophonist, also plays soprano sax and bass clarinet.
Second album, the first appearing in 2003, but has side credits
going back to 1970s, starting with Buddy Rich, Mongo Santamaria,
Ray Barretto, George Russell, and John Lennon (Double Fantasy);
Bob Mintzer is a name that pops up a lot after that; also Barbra
Streisand and Steely Dan -- note that Walter Becker is producer
here. Quartet with Mark Soskin on piano, Chip Jackson on bass,
Jeff Brillinger on drums, plus Peter Bernstein's guitar on one
track. The bright bouncy postbop Soskin brings is fine but not
all that interesting; same for Rosenberg's proficient soprano,
but the more stripped down and focused on the baritone the better.
Bobby Sanabria: Kenya Revisited Live!!! (2008
, Jazzheads): Drummer, grew up in South Bronx, of Puerto Rican
lineage; graduated Berklee 1979; credits include Ray Barretto, Mongo
Santamaria, Tito Puente, Larry Harlow, and Mario Bauzá. Cut a record
in 1993 (New York City Ache) and several since 2000. Here he
conducts the Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra in
a live remake of Machito's 1957 Kenya, with Candido Camero
returning from the original band. Big, brassy, lots of percussion,
some solo spots for alto sax and trumpet -- Cannonball Adderley and
Joe Newman appeared on the original album. Don't know how the original
album stacks up in the Afro-Cuban Jazz pantheon, or even what Kenya
has to do with it.
Örjan Sandred: Cracks and Corrosion (2001-09 ,
Navrona): Swedish composer, teaches at University of Manitoba where
he founded Studio FLAT for computer music. Not listed as playing
here, which doesn't preclude programming. One piece from 2001, the
rest from 2008-09; mostly strings, sometimes guitar or harp, with
the occasional flute or clarinet. Rather bare and abstract, not very
jazzlike, but interesting in small doses.
Christian Scott: Live at Newport (2008, Concord,
CD+DVD): Cool young mainstream trumpet player, Downbeat's
Rising Star, has two previous albums on Concord, neither made much
of an impression on me. Sextet, with Walter Smith III on tenor,
both piano and guitar as well as bass and drums. This starts out
sounding funereal, and rarely picks up the place, although the
rhythm is competently complex and Smith cuts a few strong solos.
Can't see DVDs via Rhapsody, not that I'd want to.
Wayne Shorter: The Soothsayer (1965 , Blue Note):
One of his later Blue Note Sessions, unreleased until 1980, probably
because the pieces didn't add up until we started to yearn for classic
performances from Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Ron Carter, and Tony
Williams, and the leader, but not necessarily alto saxophonist James
Spaulding, who seems like the odd cat out.
Edward Simon Trio: Poesia (2008 , CAM Jazz):
Pianist, from Venezuela, moved to New York 1989, 8th album since
1993. Piano trio with John Patitucci on bass (acoustic and electric),
Brian Blade on drums. Never impressed me much before, but I like his
repeating rhythmic riffing that drives most of these pieces. Seems
like fans of the late EST would get off on this.
Fred Simon: Since Forever (2008 , Naim):
Pianist, don't have a birth date but there's a YouTube video of
a 70th birthday party. Cut his first album, Musaic on
Flying Fish, in 1979, and has worked irregularly since then --
AMG likes a 1988 album on Windham Hill (probably why they list
him as New Age) and a 1991 album on Columbia, in both cases
his only record on those labels. They don't rate/review his
three albums on Naim starting in 2000. This is a quartet, with
Paul McCandless (soprano sax, oboe, English horn, bass clarinet,
duduk), Steve Rodby (bass), and Mark Walker (drums, percussion).
McCandless is the draw, and the results are rather mixed. Liked
it more the first play, less the second; want to move on now.
Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls: Seize the Time (2008
, Naim): Chicago drummer, formed his Rebel Souls group in
1996, with a number of Chicago notables passing through. Likes
political themes, although most are no more obvious or in the
way than his Mingus pick, "Free Cell Block F, 'Tis Nazi U.S.A."
Pieces from Miriam Makeba, Caetano Veloso, and the Clash are
done with great care. Group now is a quintet, with two saxes
(Geof Bradfield and Greg Ward), guitar (Dave Miller), and bass
Wadada Leo Smith/Jack DeJohnette: America (2009,
Tzadik): Apparently a new recording, although I keep reading about
a "proposed" ECM date in 1979 of the pair, and they actually go back
further, to Smith's Golden Quartet. Of course, the usual caveats
about duos apply: thin sound, limited colors, slow dynamics. Still,
I find it touching, and masterful.
Warren Smith Composers Workshop Ensemble: Old News Borrowed
Blues (2009, Engine): Hard working, little recorded drummer,
ringleader here for something sort of like a big band but rather
casually arranged: 2 trumpets, euphonium/bass trombone, 5 reeds,
bass violin and guitar but no bass, a second drums/vibes player,
plus extra African percussion. A three-part quite, four pieces
called "Free Forms," one called "One More Lick for Harold Vick"
(an obscure saxophonist c. 1960). I didn't make much sense of it
all, but it just sort of slid by with slippery grooves and good
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.
Bob Sneider & Joe Locke [Film Noir Project]: Nocturne
for Ava (2007 , Origin): Subtle, slippery film music,
played by an even-handed, unusually circumspect eight-piece group.
Paul Hoffman's piano, John Sneider's trumpet, and Grant Stewart's
tenor sax each have their moments, while the leaders lurk in the
shadows. Haven't tried mapping the movies, which I suspect stray
from film noir (at least as far as "Last Tango in Paris" and "Theme
From Blow Up"), the composers including Ellington and Hancock and
Marcus Miller, and three tunes by band members, presumably on film
Jim Snidero: Crossfire (2009, Savant): Alto saxophonist,
b. 1958, studied at UNT, moved to New York, has 15 or so albums since
1987, one a tribute to Joe Henderson. I've heard very little by him --
last time was an organ quartet. This is another quartet, only with Paul
Bollenback's guitar the chordal instrument, a much lighter and snazzier
contrast. Snidero sounds remarkably poised at all speeds. It strikes me
that alto must be easier to play than other saxophones, because there
is a sweet spot in the middle range where some players can make almost
anything sound effortless. Mainstream album, doesn't reach or stretch
much, but Snidero finds that sweet spot consistently.
Sorgen-Rust-Stevens Trio: A Scent in Motion (1994
, Konnex): Harvey Sorgen on drums, Steve Rust on bass, Michael
Jefrey Stevens on piano. No idea why Sorgen is listed first -- he has
only one previous record under his name (Novella, 2001, Leo;
actually same group listed Sorgen-Rust-Stevens) -- other than that
the evident leader, Stevens, has a long history of slipping his name
in the second spot (usually behind bassist Joe Fonda). Stevens and
Rust split the writing credits, with Sorgen getting in on one group
improv. Sorgen's discography, starting roughly 1987, includes multiple
records with Fonda/Stevens and also with Hot Tuna. Rust has a couple
of recent records I haven't heard and a dozen-plus side credits since
1996 with people I haven't heard of. Stevens may be shy about credits,
but he's a dramatic pianist, plays loud, skittering on the edge, but
can duck inside on occasion.
Tessa Souter: Obsession (2009, Motéma Music):
Singer, b. 1956, "of Trinidadian and English parents," based in
New York, third album. Has a commanding voice, considerable poise,
doesn't fit into any well worn niche: not a standards singer, not
an improviser, not a songwriter, not that she doesn't do a little
of each (two originals here). I'd like her better if I liked the
songs better, but "Eleanor Rigby," Nick Drake, "Afro Blue," and
a double dose of Nascimento are a lot to carry. Didn't notice
Luciana Souza: Tide (2009, Verve): Brazilian
singer, has a nice clean tone in the main line of Brazilian
pop and jazz singers, a bit higher pitched. Three Brazilian
songs strike me as exceptional, but none of six in English
piqued my interest. Larry Klein wrote five of the latter, so
he's suspect; the sixth was from Paul Simon, not someone I'm
particularly fond of.
Tim Sparks: Little Princess: Tim Sparks Plays Naftule
Brandwein (2009, Tzadik): Guitarist, which puts him in
a different bandwidth from the legendary klezmer clarinetist.
I made a point of checking out Rounder's Brandwein anthology,
The King of the Klezmer Clarinet, and can vouch for its
clarity, vigor, and good humor. Sparks' guitar is spaced out
a little less succinctly, or perhaps I mean indeterminately?
Moreover, his rhythm section -- Greg Cohen on bass, Cyro Baptista
on percussion -- is far better recorded, sharper, and more varied.
All in all, jazzier.
Tim Sparks: Sidewalk Blues (2009, Tonewood):
Solo guitar, not sure what "fingerstyle" means -- guessing, I
substituted "fingerpicked" in my review of Sparks' Little
Princess. This is a bit less intriguing, probably because
the old blues, gospels, rags, and jazz tunes (Fats Waller the
most recent) have mostly been fingerpicked over before.
Mike Stern: Big Neighborhood (2009, Heads Up):
Electric guitarist, learned fusion under Miles Davis, but it was
rather late in the game when Davis was well past his peak. He's
never much impressed me on his own, garnering a dud for Who
Let the Cats Out? last time. New record is more groovewise,
mostly metallic but one song sounds slightly African. Don't have
the breakdown of which guests play on which cuts, and not sure
that it makes a lot of difference. Most common effect is to wrap
some vocals around the mainline, but not even that gets annoying.
Grant Stewart: Young at Heart (2007 , Sharp
Nine): One album back. Another quartet, with Tardo Hammer (piano)
and Joe Farnsworth (drums) constants, but with Peter Washington in
the bass slot (big improvement, not a surprise). Starts with the
luscious title song, followed by a slow burn on "You're My Thrill."
Turns a bit boppy on the one original, "Shades of Jackie Mac," for
Jackie McLean, and stays more or less in that mode through Ellington
and Jobim. Album cover has a brunette draped over his shoulders,
his best Bennie Wallace move to date. Doesn't have the ballad tone,
but he seems more comfortable here.
Grant Stewart: Plays the Music of Duke Ellington and Billy
Strayhorn (2009, Sharp Nine): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1971,
basically a generation but little else removed from one-time young
fogeys like Scott Hamilton and Ken Peplowski. Last time I reviewed
a record by Stewart the label owner/producer wrote in to register
his dismay and hope that I would listen to the record again. I don't
mind letters like that. I might even learn something some day. But
I didn't change my mind, and he never sent me another record. This
is Stewart's second since then: a quartet with Tardo Hammer (piano),
Paul Gill (bass), and Joe Farnsworth (drums). Eight Ellington and/or
Strayhorn songs, "It Don't Mean a Thing" the only one I can instantly
ID. Reminds me that my main problem with Stewart is that his tone
strikes me as rather dull, at least compared to a dozen similar sax
players. On the other hand, there's something here that resists the
young fogey caricature.
Marcus Strickland: Of Song (2008 , Criss Cross):
After several self-released albums, Downbeat's rising star (#2
at tenor sax, #1 at soprano sax) sloughs an album off on the premier
Dutch mainstream label. Quartet, with David Bryant on piano added to
his trio of Ben Williams on bass and brother E.J. Strickland on drums.
Seems a little slow to me, starting with "Ne Me Quitte Pas" and a
harp-enhanced Oumou Sangare song. "It's a Man's Man's World" is
barely recognizable only from the bass, and I don't think the piano
adds a thing. A good saxophonist with better albums.
Marcus Strickland: Idiosyncrasies (2009, Strick
Muzik): Hard to read this cover, but this looks like a sax trio,
with the leader favoring soprano over tenor and playing clarinet
on one track, with Ben Williams on bass and brother E.J. Strickland
on drums. Strickland is still in his 20s (b. 1979), a guy we've
been watching closely for a few years now, especially as he's moved
up through some of the same circles that put Chris Potter and Donny
McCaslin on the map. I haven't been alone in that regard. The new
Downbeat Critics Poll picks Strickland as its Rising Star
at soprano sax (not actually a lot of competition there) and has
him second to Donny McCaslin at tenor sax (some real competition
there, and you can argue that the 42-year-old McCaslin has risen
enough already). I don't think this is his breakthrough -- more
likely just another good solid album. I want to check out the covers
more closely: Bjork, Stevie Wonder, Jaco Pastorius, Andre 3000,
Jose Gonzales. Standardswise he's in a new zone. I'd also like to
figure out where he thinks the idiosyncrasies are -- I don't hear
John Surman: Brewster's Rooster (2007 , ECM):
Surman should need no introduction, but I'll offer one anyway. Has
played most saxophones, appearing in a book I have somewhere as the
model for the instruments. Plays baritone and soprano here, probably
his most frequent choices. His early work, starting in the late '60s,
is very interesting and rather adventurous, straddling fusion and
avant-garde in a rare moment when one could do both. He moved on to
ECM around 1979 and settled down into a sort chamber music recess,
which I've occasionally admired but rarely cared much about. Many
of those albums were concept-bound. This one seems to just be a
working band: a quartet with John Abercrombie on guitar, Drew Gress
on bass, and Jack DeJohnette on drums. Good group, should work, but
I've played this 5-6 times and it only rises above pleasant postbop
background when you hang right on the speakers. Surman's baritone
can be a little hard to hear, and Abercrombie lays back rather
than taking charge. But the rhythm section keeps on chugging, and
there's more to the leads than I've figured out.
Ricky Sweum: Pulling Your Own Strings (2008
, Origin): Tenor saxophonist (soprano too, of course), b.
1974, grew up in Oregon, based in Colorado Springs, CO, where
he wound up after a tour with the Air Force Academy Band. First
album. Wrote everything, including song titles like "Hot Sonny
Day" and "Under Sonny's Bridge" that most likely aren't about
Stitt. Big sound, bold moves -- well, except for the soprano.
Runs a quartet with guitar, bass, and drums -- Wayne Wilkinson
gets off some nice runs on guitar.
Steve Swell: Planet Dream (2008 , Clean Feed):
Trombonist, b. 1954, from Newark, NJ, based in New York, has a dozen
or more albums since 1996, probably 50-some credits since 1985, most
avant-garde, or at least pretty underground. I've only sampled him
lightly, and don't have much of a feel for what he does. This is an
ugly trio, two horns and a bass, except the bass is actually Daniel
Levin's cello. The other horn is Rob Brown, on alto sax, trying to
sound more like Braxton's For Alto than anything Charlie
Parker might have hallucinated. The trombone only adds to the
effect. Like I said, ugly.
Joris Teepe Big Band: We Take No Prisoners (2008
, Challenge): Dutch bassist, b. 1962, based in New York (or,
as his MySpace page puts it, New Rochelle, NY). AMG lists eight
albums since 1993. Big band is loud, brassy, has some strong sax
Dan Tepfer/Lee Konitz: Duos With Lee (2008 ,
Sunnyside): Tepfer is a pianist, b. 1982 in Paris (American parents),
studied astrophysics at University of Edinburgh, then music at New
England Conservatory. Moved to New York in 2005. Has a previous
trio album. Konitz is 55 years his senior, an alto saxophonist,
one of the all-time greats. All but two pieces are improvs; just
pick a key and start from there. No drama, nothing rushed; just
thoughtful, graceful interaction.
Alex Terrier New York Quartet: Roundtrip (2009,
Barking Cat): French saxophonist, born in Paris; attended Berklee,
another George Garzone student; lives in New York. Second album.
Lively postbop quartet with Roy Assaf (piano), François Moutin
(bass), and Steve Davis (drums), plus guest guitarists on 4 of
10 cuts. Mostly plays soprano, which I find the least attractive.
Lucky Thompson: New York City, 1964-65 (1964-65
, Uptown Jazz, 2CD): An excpetional saxophonist whose slim
discography has gradually built up as lost sessions and live
shots have been uncovered. Two more, the first disc an octet at
the Little Theater, the second a quartet at the Half Note, neither
indispensible but the sheer beauty of Thompson's tenor sax comes
out especially in the smaller group setting.
3 Play +: American Waltz (2009, Ziggle Zaggle
Music): Wound up filing this under pianist Josh Rosen, based on
7 of 8 compositions (the other a group effort). Rosen teaches
at Berklee, and as far as I know has no previous discography.
Bassist Lello Molinari, who also teaches at Berklee, is also
referred to as a cofounder. Group also includes Phil Grenadier
on trumpet and Marcello Pellitteri on drums, and two guests
show up: Mick Goodrick on guitar and George Garzone on tenor
sax. You should recognize Garzone, if not for his relatively
thin but notable discography, as a legendary saxophone teacher.
I think just about every jazz musician who passed through Boston
in the last 30 years credits Garzone. Needless to say, he sounds
terrific here. Grenadier and Goodrick do a nice job of polishing
the edges, and the pianist holds down the center. Having trouble
concentrating on this while trying to write something else, so
will hold it back. An intriguing record.
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.
Charles Tolliver Big Band: Emperor March (2008
, High Note): Same big band as on the widely touted 2007
album With Love, but much sharper live, especially when
the saxophonists get some elbow room. If only they held it all
together more consistently. When they do this is a rich and
powerful experience; otherwise it's just loud, or something
Tortoise: Beacons of Ancestorship (2009, Thrill
Jockey): Instrumental rock group, been around since the early 1990s,
with Jeff Parker, who has some jazz cred, on guitar, but more often
than not he's buried under the keyboards -- presumably John McEntire
and John Herndon, although both are also credited with drums. The
pieces have some structure and sometimes get edgy if not quite
Allen Toussaint: The Bright Mississippi (2008 ,
Nonesuch): A great record producer, especially with Minit Records in
the 1960s and scattered acts into the 1970s like the Wild Tchoupitoulas,
with a pretty sporadic six decade career as a recording artist tries
his hand on a Joe Henry-produced trad jazz album. The songs offer few
surprises -- even the Monk title song bends to the prevailing wind --
and Toussaint is neither an ambitious or impertinent pianist. But he
gets expert help from Don Byron (clarinet), Nicholas Payton (trumpet),
and Marc Ribot (uncharacteristically restrained acoustic guitar), and
on one cut each Joshua Redman (tenor sax, impossible not to notice)
and Brad Mehldau (who takes over piano on Jelly Roll Morton's "Winin'
Boy Blues"). The album shifts slightly starting with the title track
nine tunes in, closing with two Ellington songs sandwiching Leonard
Feather's "Long, Long Journey." Redman runs the first Ellington ("Day
Dream"), then Toussaint offers a typically sly vocal on the Feather --
the only vocal on the record. The finale is "Solitude" -- a poignant
end if ever there was one.
Theo Travis: Double Talk (2007 , Voiceprint):
British tenor saxophonist, b. 1964, has a dozen-plus albums since
1993, also plays soprano, flute, alto flute, clarinet, and something
called wah-wah sax here. First album I've heard, although Penguin
Guide likes him and he's been on my shopping list. This album
has been out long enough it's already in Penguin Guide; he's
got another more recent duo with Robert Fripp, which I didn't get.
Fripp guests on three tracks here, expanding the guitar-organ-drums
quartet. (Mike Outram is the regular guitarist.) Travis has some
affection for the jazz-oriented prog rock of the early 1970s --
Fripp is one example, Travis's membership in the Soft Machine Legacy
Band (taking over for Elton Dean) is another, then there's the sole
cover here, Syd Barrett's "See Emily Play." Travis strikes me as a
strong, distinctive tenor saxophonist, but the record often gets
muddled, especially by the organ -- the guitars are more of a mixed
bag. And Travis's other horns aren't nearly strong enough to rise
above the muck.
Trespass Trio: ". . . Was There to Illuminate the Night
Sky . . ." (2007 , Clean Feed): Annoying title, what
with all the quote marks and elipses. Sax trio: Martin Küchen on
alto and baritone sax, Per Zanussi on bass, Raymond Strid doing
percussion. Küchen leads or is in various groups, notably Angles
and Exploding Customer. He plays loud and free, although this
feels much more compressed and constrained as he makes every
breath seem unbearably arduous.
Tribecastan: Strange Cousins (2008 , Evergreene
Music): Two guys, John Kruth and Jeff Greene, playing exotic instruments,
most I've never heard of -- Greene's include: dutar, fujara, kanun,
khamok, koncovka, rebab, tupan, yayli tambur; Kruth's are more numerous
but more recognizable, like kalimba, mandocello, sheng, penny whistle,
and various oddball flutes. Both columns include strings, winds, and
percussion, none (at least among the ones I recognize) preponderant
enough to classify either player. Some guests drop in here and there:
Jolie Holland (box fiddle), Brahim Fribgane (darbuka, riq), Dave
Dreiwitz (bass, pocket trumpet), Matt Darriau (alto sax, clarinet,
Bulgarian gaida and kaval), and Steve Turre (shells, trombone).
Two covers: one from Don Cherry, the other Sonny Sharrock. Doesn't
sound like anything I recognize. Will give it some time.
Tribecastan: Strange Cousin (2008 ,
Evergreene Music): Cosmopolitan exotica from the New York
melting pot, with Jeff Greene and John Kruth playing a long
list of instruments, rarely any one for more than a couple
of songs -- Kruth leans toward mandolins and flutes, Greene
more often percussive. Supplemented by a short list of guests:
Dave Dreiwitz's bass is the most frequent instrument here;
Matt Darriau on sax and clarinet, gaida and kaval; Brahim
Fribgane on darbuka and riq; Jolie Holland does a song each
on box fiddle and voice; Steve Turre on trombone and shells.
Sometimes this takes on a jazz vibe -- Don Cherry and Sonny
Sharrock provide two reference covers -- but mostly it is
Baptiste Trotignon: Share (2008 , Sunnyside):
Pianist, b. 1974 near Paris, grew up in Loire, studied at Nantes
Conservatory, moved to Paris 1995, has a pile of records since 2000
as well as side credits with Moutin Reunion Quartet. Mostly piano
trio, with Eric Harland and Otis Brown III splitting the drum slot.
Tom Harrell (flugelhorn) and Mark Turner (tenor sax) appear on two
tracks together and one each alone. Mostly fast-paced postbop,
especially on the trio tracks. Nothing strikes me as exceptional,
but it is all expertly fashioned, straight down mainstream.
Jim Turner's Jelly Roll Blues (2007-08 ,
Arbors): Pianist, of course, plays in the Jim Cullum Jazz Band,
a trad-jazz outfit from San Antonio billed as "the only full-time
traditional jazz band in the United States." Solo piano, bunch
of Jelly Roll Morton songs, fine as far as it goes -- I still
prefer Dave Burrell's The Jelly Roll Joys for solo piano,
even more so James Dapogny's Original Jelly Roll Blues,
not to mention Morton himself. Ends with Topsy Chapman singing
"Mr. Jelly Lord" -- a nice bonus.
McCoy Tyner: Solo: Live From San Francisco (2007
, Half Note/McCoy Tyner Music): I don't have any way of easily
checking how many solo piano albums Tyner has recorded. Several,
certainly -- not as many as Paul Bley or Cecil Taylor or Keith
Jarrett, but a few. Not sure how this stacks up, but offhand the
piano doesn't sound very clear, and his speed, which is usually
in the breathless range, is a bit off.
Gebhard Ullman: Don't Touch My Music I (2007 ,
Not Two): German reed player, credited with bass clarinet and tenor
saxophone here. Julian Arguëlles offsets with soprano and baritone
sax, and Steve Swell muddies the waters with trombone. Ullman, b. 1957,
has a long discography of marginally listenable avant-oriented discs,
but this one is very listenable. Some of the hornwork is even neatly
weaved together, and it would be hard to overpraise John Hebert and
Gerald Cleaver in the rhythm section. Cut to celebrate Ullman's 50th
Gebhard Ullman: Don't Touch My Music II (2007 ,
Not Two): More of the same -- most labels would have gone for a
double, but I guess this one is eager to fill up its catalog. Not
as painless as the first volume -- fourth song breaks down into a
nasty squawkfest, the sort of thing that must be more fun to play
than to listen to. Still, it's not that bad; the horn interplay
and the rhythm section are still inspired. Guess it was a happy
Ken Vandermark/Barry Guy/Mark Sanders: Fox Fire (2008
, Maya, 2CD): Two sets recorded in Birmingham and Leeds, more
or less home turf to bassist Guy and drummer Sanders. Vandermark plays
tenor sax and clarinet; sounds magnificent on the former, fierce on
the latter. Don't know whether the pieces are group improvs, come from
Guy's stash, or are more mixed. Doesn't make a lot of difference.
Guy has an interesting bag of tricks, and Vandermark fleshes them
out admirably. A lot to listen to in one shot; wish I had this.
Fay Victor Ensemble: The Freeesong Suite (2008 ,
Green Avenue Music): Vocalist, in past has reminded me of Betty Carter,
an influence virtually none other has risked. Backed by a rather avant
group: Anders Nilsson (guitar), Ken Filiano (bass), Michael T.A. Thompson
(drums). Previous album, Cartwheels Through the Cosmos, made my
A-list. This one is more trouble. Idea was to take some song material
and let the musicians improvise between it. The material tends to be
heavy-handed, arch, and gloomy, and the improvs tend to be tentative,
especially in the guitar, a strong point on the previous album.
Miroslav Vitous Group w/Michel Portal: Remembering Weather
Report (2006-07 , ECM): In writing about Vitous a few
years ago, it occurred to me that had he fallen in with a different
crowd when he landed in New York c. 1969 he could have had a very
different career. Certainly, there was nothing in his proper Czech
communist/classical education that predisposed him to fusion. As
happened, he fell in with Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul and wound
up in Weather Report, at least through 1973's Sweetnighter.
Now it seems like even in his memory he had a different career. I
may be missing something -- I've always had a rather jaundiced view
of the group -- but there's little or no obvious connection between
this album and the old group. The music is new -- the "Variations
on W. Shorter" takes the pre-WR "Nefertiti" as a starting point,
and immediately follows it with a set of variations on Ornette
Coleman's "Lonely Woman" -- and the group has a very different
alignment: no keyboards or percussion, trumpet and tenor sax vs.
Shorter often on soprano, and Portal on bass clarinet playing
more off the bass. Only drummer Gerald Cleaver reminds me a bit
of Peter Erskine, and that includes the bassist, who keeps this
difficult, intricate music equidistant from all concerned. Not
what I expected, which is reason enough to return to it later.
Miroslav Vitous Group w/Michel Portal: Remembering Weather
Report (2006-07 , ECM): Strange thing, memory, blotting
out not just Joe Zawinul's fusion but all keyboards, substituting
bass clarinet for Shorter's soprano, orchestrating a set of strange
and intriguing Dvorak variations on not just Miles Davis but on
Ornette Coleman to boot.
Eric Vloeimans: Fugimundi: Live at Yoshi's (2008
, Challenge): Dutch trumpet player, b. 1963, has a dozen-plus
albums since 1992. Postbop, fairly mainstream, has a nice bright
sound and deft command. This is a rather slow group for him, a
rhythm-less trio with Harmen Fraanje on piano and Anton Goudsmit
Melissa Walker: In the Middle of It All (2009,
Sunnyside): Vocalist, b. 1964, graduated from Brown, fourth album
since 1997, after three on Enja. Standards, more or less: only
"Where or When" has been done a lot; title cut is from Arthur
Alexander, a soul singer who's basically a cult item; second
song comes from Peter Gabriel; the one that most struck me was
"Mr. Bojangles," drawn out nicely with her exaggerated loops.
Arranged by Clarence Penn and Christian McBride, with Adam
Rogers and Keith Ganz on guitar, Aaron Goldberg on piano and
(most significantly) Fender Rhodes, and most valuably Gregoire
Maret on harmonica.
Greg Wall's Later Prophets: Ha'Orot (2008 ,
Tzadik): Another group named after their first album. Basically a
sax-piano-bass-drums quartet, with Wall playing a little clarinet,
shofar, and something called a moseńo in addition to tenor and
soprano. Most important is the spoken word by Itzchak Marmorstein,
in English and (mostly) Hebrew, the gravity underscored by both
Wall and Marmorstein appearing in the credits as Rabbi. The texts
are from Rabbi Avraham Itzchak HaCohen Kook. Rav Kook, as the
Ashkenazi chief rabbi in the British Mandate for Palestine up
to his death in 1935, was a critical figure in reconciling at
least some factions of orthodox Judaism to Zionism. His son,
Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, went on to found the Gush Emunim settler
movement which remains an important part of the Israeli right
and a major obstacle to a peace. The politics may be irrelevant
here (although I can't swear it is not). Rav Kook was a complex
character, and the emphasis here (as far as I can tell) is on
compassion, a worthy subject. The music is easier to follow.
It carries the spoken word texts effortlessly, rising now and
then to dramatic crescendoes much as Marmorstein's mostly sly
Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet: ˇBien Bien!
(2009, Patois): Trombonist, from San Francisco, b. 1952, has
released four quick Latin jazz albums since 2006, the first
three not making much of an impression on me. No obvious Latin
names in the band -- Murray Low (piano), David Belove (bass),
Paul van Wageningen (trap drums), Michael Spiro (percussion) --
but this comes close to getting it right, with all the jerky
time changes and the complex polyrhythms. Four guests add more
trombone (Julien Priester) and vocals. Not sure about the vocals,
sporadic and erratic. Worth playing again.
Cedar Walton: Voices Deep Within (2009, High Note):
Half piano trio, half quartet adding Vincent Herring on tenor sax. The
alternation makes the split less obvious, and also a bit disorienting.
Walton's previous album, Seasoned Wood, was one of his best.
Checking back, I see that not only is Jeremy Pelt gone, the previous
Peter Washington-Al Foster bass-drums section has given way to Buster
Williams and Willie Jones III. Still a good showcase for Walton's
piano, but lacking several of those edges that often make him such
a superb bandleader.
Jeff "Tain" Watts: Watts (2008 , Dark Key):
Drummer, broke in at age 21 on the first Wynton Marsalis album (back
when Wynton was 20 and Branford 21). Has six albums under his own
name -- one cut in 1991, a second (first released) in 1999, picked
up the pace after that. Quartet with Terence Blanchard, Branford
Marsalis, and Christian McBride, high octane mainstreamers who can
run with a fast one. "The Devil's Ring Tone: The Movie" adds some
noise, something about "W" and the Devil.
Emily Jane White: Dark Undercoat (2008 ,
Important): Singer-songwriter, AMG considers her Rock and I
concur, not that she rocks very hard. Rather gloomy, in fact.
Also plays guitar and piano, with bass and drums for backing,
plus cello on one cut. Leaves a haunting effect; not sure of
its literary merit.
Jessica Williams: The Art of the Piano (2009,
Origin): Pianist, b. 1948, has a long list of albums including
a large subset of solo piano, which this adds to. Wrote 6 of 8
originals, adding one each by Coltrane and Satie. Writes a lot
about Glenn Gould in the liner notes. I've sampled her here
and there; always been impressed and pleased, rarely had much
John Zorn: Alhambra Love Songs (2008 , Tzadik):
Hard not to repeat some of the hype here, one of Zorn's most shameless:
"touching and lyrical . . . perhaps the single most
charming cd in Zorn's entire catalog . . . will appeal
to fans of Vince Guaraldi, Ahmad Jamal, Henry Mancini and even George
Winston!" Wow: more charming than Naked City? New Traditions
in East Asian Bar Bands? Kristallnacht? Nani Nani?
(The latter is the worst thing I've heard him do, absolutely hideous,
but I've barely sampled 10% of his catalog, so who knows what horrors
I've missed.) In case you haven't guessed, Zorn is only the composer
here, not a player. The group is a piano trio: Rob Burger, Greg Cohen,
Ben Perowsky. Burger isn't in Jamal's class -- he actually has more
credits on accordion and organ than piano -- but Zorn's melodies have
so much structural integrity he doesn't need to elaborate, especially
with Cohen all but singing on bass.
John Zorn: O'o (2009, Tzadik): Another slice of new
age music from composer/non-player Zorn, following The Dreamers
(an enjoyable 2008 record, presumably same group). Song titles reflect
various birds from "Archaeopteryx" on, the album title (not on the
song list) honoring an extinct Hawaiian bird. Sextet: Marc Ribot
(guitar), Jamie Saft (piano, organ), Kenny Wolleson (vibes), Trevor
Dunn (bass), Joey Baron (drums), Cyro Baptista (percussion). Upbeat,
tuneful, shows flashes of guitar power when Ribot turns it up, or
splashes of vibes on lighter fare.
The following records, carried over from the
done and print
files at the start of this cycle, were also under consideration for
- The Harry Allen-Joe Cohn Quartet: Plays Music From South Pacific (2008 , Arbors) B+(***)
- Bill Anschell/Brent Jensen: We Couldn't Agree More (2008 , Origin) B+(***)
- Atomic/School Days: Distil (2006 , Okka Disk, 2CD) B+(**)
- Jerry Bergonzi: Simply Put (2008 , Savant) A-
- Chuck Bernstein: Delta Berimbau Blues (2007-08 , CMB) B+(***)
- Steven Bernstein/Marcus Rojas/Kresten Osgood: Tattoos and Mushrooms (2008 , ILK) B+(***)
- Bik Bent Braam: Extremen (2008, BBB) B+(**)
- Michael Blake/Kresten Osgood: Control This (2006 , Clean Feed) B+(**)
- Ran Blake: Driftwoods (2008 , Tompkins Square) B+(***)
- Seamus Blake Quartet: Live in Italy (2007 , Jazz Eyes, 2CD) B+(**)
- Theo Bleckmann/Kneebody: Twelve Songs by Charles Ives (2008 , Winter & Winter) B+(**)
- Anthony Branker & Ascent: Blessings (2007 , Origin) B+(***)
- Peter Brötzmann/Paal Nilssen-Love: Sweet Sweat (2006 , Smalltown Superjazz) B+(**)
- Brötzmann/Kondo/Pupillo/Nilssen-Love: Hairy Bones (2008 , Okka Disk) A-
- Brötzmann/Pliakas/Wertmüller: Full Blast: Black Hole (2008 , Atavistic) B+(***)
- Alison Burns and Martin Taylor: 1: AM (2008 , P3 Music) B+(***)
- Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra: Where or When (2008 , Owl Studios) A-
- Butcher/Muller/van der Schyff: Way Out Northwest (2007 , Drip Audio) B+(**)
- François Carrier/Michel Lambert: Nada (2008 , Creative Sources) B+(***)
- Teddy Charles: Dances With Bulls (2008 , Smalls) B+(**)
- Anat Cohen: Notes From the Village (2008, Anzic) A-
- Curlew: 1st Album/Live at CBGB 1980 (1980-81 , DMG/ARC, 2CD) A-
- Lars Danielsson: Tarantella (2008 , ACT) A-
- Peter Delano: For Dewey (1996 , Sunnyside) B+(***)
- Lajos Dudas: Jazz on Stage (2006-07 , Jazz Stick) B+(***)
- Nathan Eklund: Trip to the Casbah (2008 , Jazz Excursion) B+(***)
- Oran Etkin: Kelenia (2009, Motema) B+(***)
- Exploding Customer: At Your Service (2005-06 , Ayler) B+(***)
- Marianne Faithfull: Easy Come Easy Go (2008 , Decca) A-
- Fat Cat Big Band: Meditations on the War for Whose Great God Is the Most High You Are God (2008 , Smalls) B+(**)
- Fat Cat Big Band: Angels Praying for Freedom (2009, Smalls) B+(**)
- Avram Fefer Trio: Ritual (2008 , Clean Feed) [formerly B+(**)] B+(***)
- Béla Fleck: Throw Down Your Heart: Tales From the Acoustic Planet Vol. 3: Africa Sessions (2009, Rounder) A-
- The Fully Celebrated: Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones (2008 , AUM Fidelity) A-
- Andrea Fultz: The German Projekt: German Songs From the Twenties & Thirties (2009, no label) B+(***)
- Hal Galper/Reggie Workman/Rashied Ali: Art-Work (2008 , Origin) A-
- Gaucho: Deep Night (2008 , Gaucho) 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+(**)
- Melvin Gibbs' Elevated Entity:, Ancients Speak (2008 , LiveWired) A-
- Bobby Gordon: Plays Joe Marsala: Lower Register (2007, Arbors) B+(***)
- Steve Haines Quintet with Jimmy Cobb: Stickadiboom (2007 , Zoho) B+(**)
- Arve Henriksen: Cartography (2006-08 , ECM) [formerly B+(***)] B+(**)
- The Ron Hockett Quintet: Finally Ron (2008, Arbors) B+(***)
- Rainbow Jimmies: The Music of John Hollenbeck (2007-08 , GPE) B+(***)
- Adrian Iaies Trio + Michael Zisman: Vals de la 81st & Columbus (2008, Sunnyside) B+(***)
- Abdullah Ibrahim: Senzo (2008 , Sunnyside) A-
- Jon Irabagon: I Don't Hear Nothin' but the Blues (2008 , Loyal Label) B+(**)
- Aaron J Johnson: Songs of Our Fathers (2007 , Bubble-Sun) B+(**)
- Jeff Johnson: Tall Stranger (2002 , Origin) B+(***)
- Darren Johnston: The Edge of the Forest (2007-08 , Clean Feed) A-
- Darren Johnston/Fred Frith/Larry Ochs/Devin Hoff/Ches Smith: Reasons for Moving (2005 , Not Two) 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) [formerly [B+(***)] B+(**)
- David Kweksilber + Guus Janssen (2003-06 , Geestgronden) B+(***)
- Adam Lane/Lou Grassi/Mark Whitecage: Drunk Butterfly (2007 , Clean Feed) A-
- Matt Lavelle and Morcilla: The Manifestation Drama (2008 , KMB Jazz) B+(***)
- Ray LeVier: Ray's Way (2007 , Origin) B+(**)
- Daniel Levin Trio: Fuhuffah (2007 , Clean Feed) B+(**)
- Lucky 7s: Pluto Junkyard (2007 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Denman Maroney Quintet: Udentity (2008 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Branford Marsalis Quartet: Metamorphosen (2008 , Marsalis Music) B+(***)
- Mark Masters Ensemble: Farewell Walter Dewey Redman (2006 , Capri) B+(**)
- Maybe Monday: Unsquare (2006 , Intakt) B+(***)
- Jim McAuley: The Ultimate Frog (2002-07 , Drip Audio, 2CD) A-
- Joe McPhee/Peter Brötzmann/Kent Kessler/Michael Zerang: Guts (2005 , Okka Disk) B+(***)
- Joe McPhee/Paal Nilssen-Love: Tomorrow Came Today (2007 , Smalltown Superjazz) A-
- Eric McPherson: Continuum (2007 , Smalls) B+(***)
- Francisco Mela: Cirio: Live at the Blue Note (2007 , Half Note) A-
- Chris Morrissey Quartet: The Morning World (2008 , Sunnyside) A-
- Zaid Nasser: Escape From New York (2007, Smalls) A-
- Zaid Nasser: Off Minor (2008 , Smalls) A-
- Roy Nathanson: Subway Moon (2009, Yellow Bird/Enja) A-
- The New Jazz Composers Octet: The Turning Gate (2005 , Motema Music) B+(***)
- Michael Occhipinti: The Sicilian Jazz Project (2008 , True North) B+(**)
- Larry Ochs/Miya Masaoka/Peggy Lee: Spiller Alley (2006 , RogueArt) [formerly B+(***)] B+(**)
- Larry Ochs/Sax & Drumming Core: Out Trios Volume Five: Up From Under (2004 , Atavistic) A-
- The October Trio/Brad Turner: Looks Like It's Going to Snow (2008 , Songlines) [formerly B+(***)] B+(**)
- Evan Parker/Ingebrigt Häker Flaten: The Brewery Tap (2007 , Smalltown Superjazz) B+(***)
- Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble: The Moment's Energy (2007 , ECM) A-
- Sun Ra & His Solar Arkestra: Secrets of the Sun (1962 , Atavistic) B+(**)
- Sun Ra & His Astro-Infinity Arkestra: Strange Strings (1966-67 , Atavistic) B+(***)
- Bruno Rĺberg: Lifelines (2008, Orbis Music, 2CD) [was: B+(**)] B+(***)
- Andrew Rathbun: Where We Are Now (2007 , Steeplechase) B+(***)
- Joshua Redman: Compass (2008 , Nonesuch) B+(***)
- The Rocco John Group: Devotion (2008 , Coalition of Creative Artists) B+(**)
- Rova: The Juke Box Suite (2006 , Not Two) A-
- Roswell Rudd: Trombone Tribe (2008 , Sunnyside) A-
- Cynthia Sayer: Attractions (2006 , Plunk) B+(***)
- Louis Sclavis: Lost on the Way (2008 , ECM) B+(***)
- Will Sellenraad: Balance (2007 , Beeswax) B+(***)
- Steve Shapiro/Pat Bergeson: Backward Compatible (2007 , Apria) B+(***)
- Andy Sheppard: Movements in Colour (2008 , ECM) A-
- Idit Shner: Tuesday's Blues (2008, OA2) B+(**)
- The Joel LaRue Smith Trio: September's Child (2007 , Joel LaRue Smith) B+(***)
- Lisa Sokolov: A Quiet Thing (2008 , Laughing Horse) A-
- The Stone Quartet: DMG @ the Stone: Volume 1 (2006 , DMG/ARC) B+(**)
- The Thing: Now and Forever (2000-05 , Smalltown Superjazz, 3CD+DVD) B+(**)
- Rob Thorsen: Lasting Impression (2008 , Pacific Coast Jazz) B+(**)
- Nicolas Thys: Virgo (2008 , Pirouet) B+(***)
- Ton Trio: The Way (2008 , Singlespeed Music) B+(**)
- Townhouse Orchestra: Belle Ville (2007 , Clean Feed, 2CD) B+(***)
- Vassilis Tsabropoulos/Anja Lechner/U.T. Gandhi: Melos (2007 , ECM) B+(***)
- Jeremy Udden: Plainville (2008 , Fresh Sound New Talent) B+(***)
- Ken Vandermark: Collected Fiction (2008, Okka Disk, 2CD) A-
- Ken Vandermark/Pandelis Karayorgis: Foreground Music (2006 , Okka Disk) B+(**)
- Johnny Varro Featuring Ken Peplowski: Two Legends of Jazz (2007 , Arbors) B+(**)
- Ulf Wakenius: Love Is Real (2007 , ACT) A-
- Frank Wess Nonet: Once Is Not Enough (2008 , Labeth Music) B+(**)
- White Rocket (2008 , Diatribe) B+(**)
- Mark Winkler: Till I Get It Right (2009, Free Ham) B+(***)
- Yuganaut: This Musicship (2005 , ESP-Disk) B+(**)
- Miguel Zenón: Awake (2007 , Marsalis Music) B+(**)