Jazz Consumer Guide (24):
Play Louder, and Pray for Peace

Living legends and budding artistes alike break out, rise up,a nd move beyond

by Tom Hull

Pick Hits

Billy Bang: Prayer for Peace (TUM) Back from his second tour of Vietnam, wherein he found peace in transcendent musical fusion, the violinist reflects on the dawn of apocalypse, Hiroshima 1945. Even there, the chill gradually gives way to the fire of one of his trademark riffs, then segues into another from Compay Segundo. Joy all around, from Stuff Smith well beyond Sun Ra, with James Zollar's tart trumpet challenging Bang's razor-sharp violin. A

The Mark Lomax Trio: The State of Black America (Inarhyme) Something about growing up in the Middle West gets you to imagining that the whole country is spinning around your calm, clear-eyed pivot point. This Columbus, Ohio sax trio picks up the pieces from the 1960s collision of black power and avant jazz and dispenses with everything superfluous. Dean Hulett's bass and Mark Lomax's drums hold fast to their lore, while Edwin Bayard's tenor sax meditates on the blues and rises up to break down walls. A


Juhani Aaltonen Quartet: Conclusions (TUM) Well into his seventies, a legend in his native Finland but scarcely recognized elsewhere, Aaltonen's thoughtful flute would sweep the U.S. polls if anyone heard his three spots here. Still, they're light relative to his smoldering, often colossal, tenor sax. A MINUS

Borah Bergman Trio: Luminiscence (Tzadik) At 75 he's outgrown the Cecil Taylor likeness, placing his stately chords with remarkable precision and logic amidst the flutter of Greg Cohen and the percussive spray of Kenny Wollesen. John Zorn joins in for one cut, his abrasive alto sax something else. A MINUS

First Meeting: Cut the Rope (Libra) Trumpeter Natsuki Tamura's noise band, free jazz in a cartoon world, the bam-pop-pow splashed large and crude. Guitarist Kelly Churko churns out the electronics, while Satoko Fujii works her piano as a percussion machine. Amusing when they're just scattering shit; irresistible when they tap into a groove. A MINUS

John Hicks & Frank Morgan: Twogether (2005-06, High Note) Three piano solos packed around two pairs of alto sax duets, all standard stuff from way back when. This might seem like a lazy product concept, but it's all the more poignant in a memoir for the recently departed. A MINUS

New York Art Quartet: Old Stuff (1965, Cuneiform) A short-lived group, long remembered -- their plainly titled third album, 35th Reunion, was cut in 1999 -- they worked more in altoist John Tchicai's Copenhagen than in New York. These radio shots are a happy find, especially for Roswell Rudd's gritty trombone. A MINUS

Ben Perowsky Quartet: Esopus Opus (Skirl) The drummer borrows three-fifths of Claudia Quintet not to match rhythmic wits but to play with the accordion-reeds sound, covering Hendrix and Beatles and Brazilians, and slipping in an original funeral blues that shows how far New York has moved beyond New Orleans. A MINUS

RED Trio: RED Trio (Clean Feed) Prepared piano trio, where Hernani Faustino's bass is almost as percussive as, and even more discordant than, Rodrigo Pinheiro's piano, while Gabriel Ferrandini's percussion is nothing but. A MINUS

Roberto Rodriguez: Timba Talmud (Tzadik) Mixing violin and clarinet with congas, his Cuban-Klezmer fusion is skin deep, a mash-up inspired by juxtaposing titles like "Mambo Kitsch," "Timba Talmud," and "Descarga 1492." (Does that mean "party like the Inquisition just started?") It is party music, fusing the ecstatic impulses of two cultures. He even parties for Obama. A MINUS

Tin Hat: Foreign Legion (BAG) Chamber jazz, tightly arranged around the string framework of Carla Kihlstedt's violin and Mark Orton's guitar, subtly colored by Trio-breaker Ben Goldberg's clarinets. Might have been too pat, but Ara Anderson breaks out of the piano slot, emerging as a triple threat with romping pump organ and biting trumpet. A MINUS

Gerald Wilson Orchestra: Detroit (Mack Avenue) The six-part suite commissioned for the venerable bandleader's former hometown hits all the right notes: sterling solos, including notable use of Yvette Devereaux's violin and son Anthony Wilson's guitar, backed by solid section work combining power and finesse. Two pieces cut with a star-studded New York group are even sharper. A MINUS

Honorable Mention

Nellie McKay: Normal as Blueberry Pie (Verve) A younger, hipper, jazzier Doris Day, kind of like the budding artiste.

Andrea Fultz: The German Projekt (The German Projekt) Von Kopf bis Fuss auf Liebe, maybe Brecht/Weill and Hollaender do sound better in the original German.

Abraham Inc.: Tweet Tweet (Table Pounding) Who better than Fred Wesley to add funky bottom to David Krakauer's klezmer clarinet?

Dave Holland Octet: Pathways (Dare2) Quintet plus extra horns, big band range and punch but nimbler.

Jason Moran: Ten (Blue Note) Postbop stride master rolls over classics and wears out his influences.

The Claudia Quintet + Gary Versace: Royal Toast (Cuneiform) Too rigorous for cocktail jazz, even though the soft instruments lean that way.

Brandon Wright: Boiling Point (Posi-Tone) Auspicious tenor sax debut, runs in fast company and burns up the track.

Bernardo Sassetti Trio: Motion (Clean Feed) Soundtrack piano, calm and composed, pretty but spare, more like serene.

The Gordon Grdina Trio: . . . If Accident Will (Plunge) The oud is delicate and deliberate; the guitar fully charged.

Arild Andersen: Green in Blue: Early Quartets (1975-78, ECM) The bassist's first three discs, from Kurt Riisnaes' cutting sax to Juhani Aaltonen's dry flute.

NYNDK: The Hunting of the Snark (Jazzheads) Too rowdy for chamber jazz, even if the touchstones are classical, if that's what you call Ives, Grieg, Perle, et al.

Scott DuBois: Black Hawk Dance (Sunnyside) Supple guitarist leads an edgy quartet where Gebhard Ullman makes most of the noise.

Jason Adasiewicz's Rolldown: Varmint (Cuneiform) Underground Chicago with a colorful swish of vibes.

Ben Goldberg: Go Home (BAG) Charlie Hunter fusion grooves with clarinet dressing in lieu of synth, and Ron Miles' cornet for occasional bite.

Gabriel Johnson: Fra_ctured (Electrofone) Bold swathes of soundtrack electronica, burnished with bolts of trumpet.

Kirk Knuffke: Amnesia Brown (Clean Feed) Free trumpet trio, with Doug Wieselman a double threat on clarinet and engagingly primitive guitar.

Soren Moller & Dick Oatts: The Clouds Above (Audial) Another NY-DK connection, piano-sax duets that remain bracing until the flute comes out.

Wolter Wierbos: 3 Trombone Solos (Dolfjin) Limited instrument, seldom given such range of expression.

Tord Gustavsen Ensemble: Restored, Returned (ECM) Piano ambience elevated by Tore Brunborg sax, W.H. Auden poetry warmed by Kristin Asbjřrnson.

Roberto Rodriguez: The First Basket (Tzadik) Soundtrack for a David Vyorst film on early Jewish basketballers -- a pastiche of klezmerish pieces con salsa.

Babatunde Lea: Umbo Weti: A Tribute to Leon Thomas (Motéma) Dwight Trible channels the avant-garde's preacher man, Ernie Watts waxes eloquent where Pharoah Sanders turned shrill.

Satoko Fujii Ma-Do: Desert Ship (Not Two) Bass and drums present, but only to heighten the piano-trumpet intercourse.

Matt Lavelle and Morcilla: The Manifestation Drama (KMB Jazz) Somehow manages to get his bass clarinet in your face as much as his trumpet.

Dan Tepfer/Lee Konitz: Duos With Lee (Sunnyside) Young pianist, ancient genius, no drama, nothing rushed, just pick a key and improvise.

Rempis/Rosaly: Cyrillic (482 Music) Sax-drums improvs, like Vandermark/Nilssen-Love but more together.

Minamo: Kuroi Kawa - Black River (Tzadik) Crashing Satoko Fujii piano, soothing Carla Kihlstedt violin, evened out into two discs of intricate serenade.

Luis Lopes/Adam Lane/Igal Foni: What Is When (Clean Feed) Starts with a dissonant guitar nod to Sonny Sharrock nod, ends with badass bass solo.

Edward Ratliff: Those Moments Before (Strudelmedia) Nods to Johnny Hodges and Henry Threadgill, soundtrack locales from Spain to the Orient.

Will Sellenraad: Balance (Beeswax) Long, sinuous guitar lines intertwined with Abraham Burton's earthy sax.

Gary Peacock/Marc Copland: Insight (Pirouet) Famous bassist and not nearly famous enough pianist snuggle up for discreet pleasures.

David Crowell Ensemble: Spectrum (Innova) Philip Glass saxophonist, builds on minimalist rhythmic vamps, tightly boxed but tougher than chamber jazz.

Dave Douglas: Spirit Moves (Greenleaf Music) The spirit of Lester Bowie returns, trademarked by wit and funk, with a brass band "Mr. Pitiful" that is anything but.

John Hollenbeck: Rainbow Jimmies (GPE) A resume stuffer, with two Claudia Quintet cuts, some chamber music and percussion collectives.

Cynthia Sayer: Attractions (Plunk) Banjo picker who sings too much fronts a retro dream band featuring guitar picker Bucky Pizzarelli.

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo: Zakopane (Libra) Big band, no piano, lots of Kelly Churko guitar, more horns.

Fight the Big Bull: All Is Gladness in the Kingdom (Clean Feed) Bigger, and louder, than ever, with Steven Bernstein joining the fray.

John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension: To the One (Abstract Logix) Forty years of meditation on the one true fusion.

Pat Metheny: Orchestrion (Nonesuch) The fancy technology just lets him be himself, more mellifluous than ever.

Ralph Towner/Paolo Fresu: Chiaroscuro (ECM) Lushly resonant guitar, stately trumpet, a masterful match of color and texture.

Led Bib: Sensible Shoes (Cuneiform) Double sax fusion group, drawing from rock the concept that the path to the next is to play louder.

Jones Jones: We All Feel the Same Way (SoLyd) Veteran Russian avant-garde drummer Vladimir Tarasov hooks up with Larry Ochs and Mark Dresser for twisting free improv.

Duds

Herbie Hancock: The Imagine Project (Hancock) As long as Wayne Shorter answers his calls, he'd do the world more good playing jazz than indulging Dave Matthews, Pink, the Chieftains, et al. B

Esperanza Spalding: Chamber Music Society (Heads Up) Soft, shapeless strings, layered in all sorts of scat. B-

Jamie Cullum: The Pursuit (Verve) Fewer tics, lamer songs. C

Addresses

Originally published in Village Voice, Sep 30, 2010

Rated

This table provides a working guide to how the JCG is shaping up. This does not include anything moved to bk-flush: these include items relegated to Surplus, reviewed in Recycled Goods, or just passed over. Entries in black are written, gray graded but not written, red ungraded but with prospect notes (all these are at the bottom of their approximate grade levels, alphabetized). A-list, B-list and Duds are alphabetical; HM lists are ranked, with breaks for three-two-one stars.

Picks
  • Billy Bang: Prayer for Peace (Tum) A
  • The Mark Lomax Trio: The State of Black America (Inarhyme) A
A
  • Juhani Aaltonen Quartet: Conclusions (Tum) A-
  • Borah Bergman Trio: Luminiscence (Tzadik) A-
  • First Meeting: Cut the Rope (Libra) A-
  • John Hicks & Frank Morgan: Twogether (High Note) A-
  • New York Art Quartet: Old Stuff (Cuneiform) A-
  • Ben Perowsky Quartet: Esopus Opus (Skirl) A-
  • RED Trio: RED Trio (Clean Feed) A-
  • Roberto Rodriguez: Timba Talmud (Tzadik) A-
  • Tin Hat: Foreign Legion (BAG) A-
  • Gerald Wilson Orchestra: Detroit (Mack Avenue) A-
HM [A-]
  • Nellie McKay: Normal as Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day (Verve)
  • Andrea Fultz: The German Projekt: German Songs From the Twenties & Thirties (The German Projekt)
HM [***]
  • Abraham Inc: Tweet Tweet (Table Pounding)
  • Dave Holland Octet: Pathways (Dare2)
  • Jason Moran: Ten (Blue Note)
  • The Claudia Quintet + Gary Versace: Royal Toast (Cuneiform)
  • Brandon Wright: Boiling Point (Posi-Tone)
  • Bernardo Sassetti Trio: Motion (Clean Feed)
  • The Gordon Grdina Trio: . . . If Accident Will (Plunge)
  • Arild Andersen: Green in Blue: Early Quartets (ECM)
  • NYNDK: The Hunting of the Snark (Jazzheads)
  • Scott DuBois: Black Hawk Dance (Sunnyside)
  • Jason Adasiewicz's Rolldown: Varmint (Cuneiform)
  • Ben Goldberg: Go Home (BAG)
  • Gabriel Johnson: Fra_ctured (Electrofone)
  • Kirk Knuffke: Amnesia Brown (Clean Feed)
  • Soren Moller & Dick Oatts: The Clouds Above (Audial)
  • Wolter Wierbos: 3 Trombone Solos (Dolfjin)
  • Tord Gustavsen Ensemble: Restored, Returned (ECM)
  • Roberto Rodriguez: The First Basket (Tzadik)
  • Babatunde Lea: Umbo Weti: A Tribute to Leon Thomas (Motéma)
  • Satoko Fujii Ma-Do: Desert Ship (Not Two)
  • Matt Lavelle and Morcilla: The Manifestation Drama (KMB Jazz)
  • Dan Tepfer/Lee Konitz: Duos With Lee (Sunnyside)
  • Rempis/Rosaly: Cyrillic (482 Music)
  • Minamo: Kuroi Kawa - Black River (Tzadik)
  • Luis Lopes/Adam Lane/Igal Foni: What Is When (Clean Feed)
  • Edward Ratliff: Those Moments Before (Strudelmedia)
  • Will Sellenraad: Balance (Beeswax)
  • Gary Peacock/Marc Copland: Insight (Pirouet)
  • David Crowell Ensemble: Spectrum (Innova)
  • Dave Douglas: Spirit Moves (Greenleaf Music)
  • John Hollenbeck: Rainbow Jimmies (GPE)
  • Cynthia Sayer: Attractions (Plunk)
  • Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo: Zakopane (Libra)
  • Fight the Big Bull: All Is Gladness in the Kingdom (Clean Feed)
HM [**]
  • John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension: To the One (Abstract Logix)
  • Pat Metheny: Orchestrion (Nonesuch)
  • Ralph Towner/Paolo Fresu: Chiaroscuro (ECM)
  • Led Bib: Sensible Shoes (Cuneiform)
  • Jones Jones: We All Feel the Same Way (SoLyd)
Duds
  • Herbie Hancock: The Imagine Project (Hancock) B
  • Esperanza Spalding: Chamber Music Society (Heads Up) B-
  • Jamie Cullum: The Pursuit (Verve) C

Album count: 56; Word count: 1617 (graded 15: 765; additional 41: 852).

Note: For comparison purposes recent columns have had: 2 pick hits; 11-15 A-list; 31-37 total HM {3+22+9; 4+25+3; 9+19+9; 4+20+7; 5+23+4}, divided: 3-9 A-graded HM; 19-25 ***-graded HM; 3-9 **-graded HM; 2-3 duds. Current breakdown/targets: 0/2 pick hits; 12/12 A-list; 50/35 total HM; 0/2 duds.

Prospecting

I try to write up an informal note on every jazz record I hear the first (or sometimes second) time I play it. Those notes are collected over the course of a week, then posted in the blog. They are also collected here.

Surplus

The surplus file collects final notes when I decide that I cannot realistically keep a record under active consideration for the Jazz Consumer Guide. These notes are mostly written at the end of a JCG cycle and posted to the blog when the column is printed. In effect, they are the extended copy to the column. There are various reasons for this. For especially good records, it is often because Francis Davis or someone else has already reviewed it and my two cents would be redundant. For old music it is often because I wrote something in Recycled Goods and figure that was enough. Sometimes good records have just gotten old. Most of the time the records aren't all that interesting anyway. I can handle 25-30 records per column. It just doesn't make sense for me to keep more than 60-80 graded records in the active list at the start of a new cycle. In many cases, I decide the prospecting notes or Recycled Goods review suffices, so note that in the file.

Pending

Working on the following (both new and old). When done they will go to the print or done or flush file. When the column is published, the done entries will be dumped into notebook.

Pending: New

Pending: Old