Jazz Consumer Guide (24):
These are the prospecting notes from working on Jazz CG #24. 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 June 1, 2010 to August 30, 2010, 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 218 (plus 96 carryovers). The
count from the previous file was 207 (+125).
(before that: 219, 225, 226, 230, 293, 291, 240, 259).
Tony Allen: Secret Agent (2009 , World
Circuit/Nonesuch): Nigerian drummer, b. 1940, learned his craft
listening to Art Blakey and Max Roach records, hooked up with
Fela Kuti early on and put the beat in Afrobeat. Since Fela died
in 1997, Allen carries the flame, laboriously making a pretty
fair approximation of the sort of album Fela knocked off his
cuff. A little short in vocals, sax, and political rants, all
of which were the master's edge.
Remi Álvarez/Mark Dresser: Soul to Soul (2008 ,
Discos Intolerancia): Saxophonist, lists soprano first but cover pic
features tenor -- website also lists alto and baritone up front,
perhaps alphabetically -- from Mexico City. Website shows this as
fifth album since 1996, although it's only the second with his name
first. Duet with the veteran bassist, very solid and relatively
straightforward here, with the sax working cautiously around the
Arild Andersen: Green in Blue: Early Quartets
(1975-78 , ECM, 3CD): Norwegian bassist, one of several
now-prominent musicians spawned by George Russell and Don Cherry
during their late 1960s move to Scandinavia. Has a dozen-plus
albums under his own name, the first three returned to print
here. These are all sax-piano-bass-drums quartets, with flush
flowing rhythms that highlight the leader's bass. Pĺl Thowsen
is on drums on all three. The debut album, Clouds in My
Head, features Kurt Riisnaes on tenor sax, soprano sax,
and flute, with Jon Balke on piano. Balke would have been
close to 20 at the time, but he already has a tough approach,
and makes a much stronger impression than Lars Jansson, who
replaced him on the other two albums. Riisnaes is superb
throughout, but was also replaced on the later albums,
Shimri and Green Shading Into Blue, by Juhani
Aaltonen, who is riveting on tenor sax but plays a lot more
flute, an instrument that he gives a dry, cerebral tone --
fascinating as such things go, but it's still flute, and it
shifts the records toward the airy side -- Shimri
has a slight edge of joyous discovery, but the two are very
Dave Anderson Quartet: Clarity (2009 ,
Pony Boy): Saxophonist, lists soprano first, alto second (but
shows a tenor on his website); based in Seattle; first album,
a conventional quartet with piano, bass and drums, with Thomas
Marriott's flugelhorn added for one cut. Nice mainstream group,
Laurie Anderson: Homeland (2010, Nonesuch):
A rather dreary album, at least partly by intent, which raises
such big and serious questions I'm tempted to grade it up if
only to get a hearing. Some songs are worth hearing more for
didactic purposes than listening enjoyment -- "Another Day in
America" and "Dark Time in the Revolution" are two. Only one
is flat-out brilliant: "Only an Expert" is not only deep but
quickens the pace to drive its points home. Others I'm likely
to remain unsettled over, including four murky ones at the
beginning. Ambitious, distinctive, thoughtful, clever, unique;
still, I find it sitting on my year-end list right below Kesha,
its polar opposite.
Angles: Epileptical West: Live in Coimbra (2009
, Clean Feed): Sextet, haven't tracked every member down
but safe to say Scandinavian. Leader is Swedish alto saxophonist
Martin Küchen, b. 1966, nothing under his own name but also works
in Exploding Customer (which has scored a couple of HMs here),
Trespass Trio, and Sound of Mucus. Second album for group, with
Magnus Broo (trumpet), Mats Älekint (trombone), Mattias Stĺhl
(vibes), Johan Berthling (bass), and Kjell Nordeson (drums).
Big beat, roiling horns, scattered tinkles from the vibes, loud
and propulsive. Makes me smile all over.
[was: A-] A
Ab Baars/Meinrad Kneer: Windfall (2008 ,
Evil Rabbit): Tenor sax-bass duets, although Baars occasionally
lightens up with clarinet, shakuhachi, or noh-kan (a "high pitched
Japanese bamboo transverse flute commonly used in traditional
Imperial Noh and Kabuki theatre"). One of Baars' more appealing,
more charming efforts, although the real test here is following
the bass, which demands and rewards concentration.
Jim Baker/Steve Hunt/Brian Sandstrom/Mars Williams:
Extraordinary Popular Delusions (2005 , Okka
Disk): Couldn't recall playing this before, so put it on by
accident. Played it twice before I went to write it up, then
found that I had already (mis)rated it. Baker is a Chicago
pianist who works in an avant-garde scene that doesn't find
much use for pianists. Hunt plays drums, and Sandstrom plays
bass and electric guitar. They each make interesting noise,
helping out in all sorts of ways. Still, this is mostly about
Williams, who initially emerged as Hal Russell's heir apparent,
played second sax in the original Vandermark 5, then took his
chances with acid jazz. He's back in full bloom here, fierce,
rough, raunchy. Played it a third time thinking I should dial
back toward my original grade. Nah.
[was B+(*)] A-
Billy Bang: Prayer for Peace (2005 , TUM):
No idea how this set, recorded in New York half a decade ago,
came to this Finish label, but the packaging, artwork, and full
biographies are all pluses. The group has an interesting balance,
with pianist Andrew Bemkey and trumpeter James Zollar as prominent
as the violinist -- also with Todd Nicholson on bass and Newman
Taylor-Baker on drums. Starts off with a sprightly Stuff Smith
piece, a mood that returns with the only other non-Bang cover,
an Afro-Cuban piece from Compay Segundo. Title track seems to
drag a bit, but before long its slow build turns elegiac. Not
at his strongest or most consistent, but a thrill nonetheless,
with Zollar more than picking up the slack.
[was: A-] A
Niklas Barnö/Joel Grip/Didier Lasserre: Snus
(2009 , Ayler): Trumpet-bass-drums trio, respectively;
Barnö and Grip from Sweden, Lasserre from France. Snus may or
may not be group name; also is some kind of tobacco product
in Sweden, banned in the EU. Rough free jazz -- the drummer
definitely has a knack for it, the bassist harder to hear at
all clearly. Barnö goes for a gutbucket sound, more like a
trombone, no less dirty but higher and faster.
Carlos Barretto Lokomotiv: Labirintos (2009 ,
Clean Feed): Bassist, from Portugal; website "complete biography"
is nothing more than lists of people he has played with, countries
he has played in, and records he has played on. Recording career
starts around 1991, with a half-dozen or so albums under his name
since 1997. One, cut in 2003, was called Lokomotiv, which
is either the trio name or part of the title depending on how you
parse it. Group includes Mario Delgado on guitar and Jose Salgueiro
on drums and percussion. Takes a lot of concentration to draw much
out of this.
Jamie Begian Big Band: Big Fat Grin (2008 ,
Innova): Guitarist, studied at Hartt School of Music, Manhattan
School of Music; started teaching at Western Connecticut State
University in 1991. Interest in big band led him to Bob Brookmeyer.
Second Big Band album, the first coming out in 2003. Group is
seventeen strong, conventional big band size and shape except
second guitar instead of piano. Draws on New Yorkers, only a few
that I recognize. Some terrific passages scattered about.
Judith Berkson: Oylam (2009 , ECM):
Vocalist -- "soprano" is how she puts it -- plays piano and various
keybs here, accordion elsewhere; studied at New England Conservatory;
based in Brooklyn; cantor at Old Westbury Hebrew Congregation Kehilat
Shir Ami; also has a band named Platz Machen into Hebrew liturgy.
Second album. I've heard the first, Lu-Lu, and, well, didn't
like it. This was headed the same way, but little bits started to
connect -- fragments of Porter and Gershwin, a slice of German (OK,
very probably Yiddish), some piano. Very spare and rather arty.
Carlos Bica + Matéria-Prima (2008 , Clean
Feed): Bassist, from Portugal, based in Germany, has a half-dozen
or more records since 1996, four with his trio Azul (Frank Möbius
on guitar, Jim Black on drums). Not sure if Prima-Matéria is a
distinct group -- doesn't show up on Bica's website project list
nor on trumpeter Matthias Schriefl's MySpace page (Schreefpunk,
European TV Brass Trio, Brazilian Motions, deujazz, 2 Generations
of Trumpets, United Groove-O-Rama, Schmittmenge Meier, Mutantenstadt).
Group also includes Mário Delgado on electric guitar, Joăo Lobo
on drums and percussion, and Joăo Paulo on piano, keyboards, and
accordion. Assembled from three concerts -- the one patch of
applause comes at a bit of surprise, even if well earned. Rather
patchy, the main shift turning on Paulo's accordion, which puts
the band in a mood for tango or something folkloric; otherwise
they have a tendency toward soundtrack, with three placenames in
the titles. Still, Schriefl is a smoldering trumpet player, and
this never settles into the ordinary.
Ketil Bjřrnstad: Remembrance (2009 , ECM):
Norwegian pianist, b. 1952, has recorded with ECM at least since
1994. Leads a trio here, with Tore Brunborg on tenor sax and Jon
Christensen on drums -- all three were previously in Masqualero,
along with Arild Andersen and Nils Petter Molvaer if memory serves.
One title piece in eleven parts.
Ran Blake/Christine Correa: Out of the Shadows
(2009 , Red Piano): Internet down as I play/write this,
so research is limited (and error-prone). Blake, of course, is
the well known pianist, b. 1935, with at least 35 albums since
1961, including collaborations with vocalist Jeanne Lee --
Short Life of Barbara Monk is one of his (and their)
best-known albums. Correa is a vocalist I've bumped into a
couple of times, mostly with pianist Frank Carlberg (if memory
serves, her husband). Rather difficult on both ends, with
Blake's blockish piano interesting but providing little
support, leaving Correa to wing it, which she does with
Ran Blake/Christine Correa: Out of the Shadows
(2009 , Red Piano): I erroneously identified Jeanne Lee
as singing on Blake's Short Life of Barbara Monk. She
sang on Blake's You Stepped Out of a Cloud. The pairing
had stuck in my mind, and looking through my list of Blake's
albums I pulled out the one I liked best. Turns out there was
no singer on that album, and Ricky Ford played tenor sax.
Ran Blake/Sara Serpa: Camera Obscura (2009 ,
Inner Circle Music): Another Ran Blake piano-vocal duo. Serpa was
born in Lisbon, Portugal; studied at New England Conservatory, where
she ran into Blake; based in New York now. More songwise than Blake's
album with Christine Correa; Serpa seems to draw out Blake's support,
where Correa was more intent on challenging him.
B+(**) [Sept. 1]
Theo Bleckmann/Fumio Yasuda: Berlin: Songs of Love and War,
Peace and Exile (2007, Winter & Winter): Twenty-three
songs, most Weill-Brecht or Eisler-Brecht, the few others including
several I'm equally familiar with, like "Lili Marleen" and "Ich bin
von Kopf bis Fuss auf Liebe eingestellt." Yasuda, Bleckmann's partner
in Las Vegas Rhapsody, plays piano and arranges string quartet
for that Weimar feel. Bleckmann is German, gay, possesses remarkable
facility in the upper registers. This is, in short, his patrimony.
One play can't possibly do it justice, but will have to do for now.
Theo Bleckmann: I Dwell in Possibility (2009 ,
Winter & Winter): Vocalist, b. 1966 in Dortmund, Germany. Has a
rather high voice, which he supplements with various toys to produce
odd sounds. Francis Davis raved about him in a recent Village
Voice column: "Beckmann is the most startlingly original male
vocalist since Bobby McFerrin" -- then thinking further insisted
that Bleckmann's "more rigorous intellect" will help him avoid "the
same slippery slope into feckless novelty" McFerrin was prone to.
This is the most hard core of Bleckmann's records, a solo effort,
but not exactly acappella -- his credits read "voice, autoharp,
chime balls, chimes, finger symbals, flutes, glass harp, hand-held
fan, Indonesian frog buzzer, iPhone, lyre, melodica, miniature
zither, nut shell shakers, rotary pan flute, shruti box, tongue
drum, toy amp, toy boxes, toy megaphones, vibra tone, water bottle."
The songs include James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Kurt Schwitters,
Meredith Monk, "I Hear a Rhapsody" and "Comes Love," plus original
music to lyrics from Emily Dickinson, Euripides, and the Egyptian
Book of the Dead. Rather difficult to hear and/or to pick up on,
sometimes cute, no doubt brilliant.
Eric Boeren 4tet: Song for Tracy the Turtle: Live at
Jazz Brugge 2004 (2004 , Clean Feed): Dutch
cornet player, quartet includes Michael Moore (alto sax,
clarinet), Wilbert de Joode (bass), and Paul Lovens (drums).
Radio shot, tape discovered (or brought to Boeren's attention)
only recently. Rough to start, interesting free play, don't
get much sense of Moore although he's in the thick of it.
Bona: The Ten Shades of Blues (2009 , Decca):
No indication of first name on cover, but he's generally gone as
Richard Bona. Born 1967 in Cameroon, moved to Germany, France, New
York; main instrument is electric bass, although he's also credited
with guitars, keyboards, drums, percussions, and samples here, and
he sings on all tracks. Has eight (or more) albums since 1999. The
blues concept here makes for a grand tour of world music, with
various combinations of Indian, African, European, and American
musicians, including bits of Bailo Baa fula flute, Niladari Kumar
sitar, Jojo Kuah drums, Gregoire Maret harmonica, Jean Michel
Pilc piano, Christian Howes violin, Ryan Cavanaugh banjo, and
Bob Reynolds sax. Mildly spiced, gently groveful.
The Britton Brothers Band: Uncertain Living (2009
, Record Craft): John Britton plays trumpet; Ben Britton
tenor sax. Also on hand: Jeremy Siskind on piano, Taylor Waugh
on bass, Austin Walker on drums. First album. The brothers wrote
three tracks each, plus one by Siskind. Name recalls the Brecker
Brothers, but they are more into aggressive postbop and less into
skunk funk. Chris Potter guests on two tracks, and turns it up a
Peter Brötzmann/Paal Nilssen-Love: Woodcuts (2008
, Smalltown Superjazz): Sax-drums duo, or when Brötzmann
decides to cut your ears some slack he switches to bass clarinet
or Bb-clarinet (but no tarogato this time). Nilssen-Love has a
bunch of these duos in his discography now, including a previous
one with Brötzmann (Sweet Sweat), others with Joe McPhee,
John Butcher, Hĺkon Kornstad, Mats Gustafsson, and especially
Ken Vandermark. Seems about par for the course, noisy, exciting,
Bryan and the Haggards: Pretend It's the End of the World
(2010, Hot Cup): Bryan Murray, tenor saxophinist, from WV, now in NY,
natch, hooking up with bebop terrorists Jon Irabagon (alto sax) and
Moppa Elliott (bass) and fellow travelers Jon Lundbom (guitar) and
Danny Fischer (drums), playing four Merle Haggard originals and three
more from Hag's songbook. "Silver Wings" is done bebop-style, with
the straight theme followed by working the changes, but it gets
trickier after that, especially with the Ornette-ish "Lonesome
Fugitive." Then someone uncredited goes Bob Wills on "All of Me
Belongs to You," leading into a comic scat over bass and drums.
Then there is the closer, "Trouble in Mind," done as ear-splitting
dirge, channeling the ghost of Rashied Ali on drums. Not sure
whether this is just an inspired joke or something more, and if
the former not sure we don't need more inspired jokes. But I do
want to note something in Leonardo Featherweight's liner notes,
a story I hadn't heard: "During the performance, [Lefty] Frizzell
noticed Haggard singing along with his songs and invited him up
on stage to sit in with the band. The crowd's appreciation of his
brief performance convinced him that music was to be an important
part of his life, and perhaps his career." Reminds me that hardly
anyone earns his ticket but for the grace of someone who has
Bryan and the Haggards: Pretend It's the End of the World
(2010, Hot Cup): Four of seven songs written by Merle Haggard, a couple
more that I was surprised to find credited elsewhere. The band is a
second cousin to Mostly Other People Do the Killing, with Moppa Elliott
and Jon Irabagon common denominators, guitarist Jon Lundbrom useful for
music that originally guitar-dominated, and Bryan Murray the nominal
leader, not just because his tenor sax looms the largest. Like MOPDTK,
they know their history and run it through hoops, starting with Bird
and skittering through Ornette until "Trouble in Mind" bears the holy
ghost of Albert Ayler, which frees drummer Danny Fischer to rip off
a pretty good Rashied Ali impression.
Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra: Mezzanine (2010,
Owl Studios): The biggest band in Indianapolis, or at least Bloomington,
where this was recorded and Brent trombonist-conductor Wallarab teaches.
I thought their previous album, Where or When, was a terrific
territory band throwback, but they get all orchestral here, and while
arranger fans will find bits to admire, this doesn't really get going
until third cut from the end, where they take a break from Wallarab's
book. Even then, how often are you tempted to call "Stompin' at the
Savoy" and "Cherokee" dainty?
Steve Cardenas: West of Middle (2009 ,
Sunnyside): Guitarist, from Kansas City, based in New York;
third album since 2000; lots of side credits since 1991,
notably with Ben Allison and Paul Motian. Trio here, with
Allison returning the favor at bass, and Rudy Royston on
drums. Nice leads, but still strikes me as a first rate
Frank Carlberg/John Hebert/Gerald Cleaver: Tivoli Trio
(2009 , Red Piano): Piano-bass-drums trio, respectively. Pianist
Carlberg hails from Finland, studied at Berklee and New England
Conservatory, settled down in Brooklyn. Has at least eight records
since 1992. Dense, full of intrigue and pleasure. I'm tempted to
give Hebert a good deal of the credit; he always seems to show up
in the right places.
Paul Carr: Straight Ahead Soul (2010, Paul Carr
Jazz): Texas tenor, b. 1961, studied at Texas Southern University
and Howard, based in DC. Got his blues tone but doesn't indulge
in much honking, and plays a little soprano which doesn't sound
Texas at all. With Bobby Broom on guitar, Allyn Johnson on piano,
Michael Bowie on bass, and Lewis Nash on drums, all filling the
straight ahead formula, plus a little Chelsea Green viola that
goes somewhere else. Willard Jenkins wrote the notes, bringing
up Arnett Cobb. For what it's worth, Cobb's Party Time
has been stuck in my bedroom machine for the last month or two:
a wonderful record, never fails to pick me up.
Bill Carrothers: Joy Spring (2009 ,
Pirouet): Pianist, b. 1964 in Minneapolis; fourteenth album
since 1999 according to AMG, but they really mean 1992, and
they've only rated three, and haven't bothered with a bio.
So while I was tempted to say that he's one of those guys
with a sterling rep that I haven't managed to appreciate,
probably because I just don't seem to hear piano trios all
that clearly -- Walter Norris, Harold Danko, Marc Copland
are other names that pop into my head -- he probably isn't
well enough known for that. (And actually I did love his
2005 album Shine Ball, but that was goosed up with
prepared piano, which I've been a sucker for ever since
I first heard David Tudor playing John Cage.) This is a
trio, with Drew Gress on piano and Bill Stewart on drums --
names that could someday rival Peacock-De Johnette or (in
my mind) Johnson-Baron. Mostly Clifford Brown songs, like
the title track, plus three from Richie Powell, one each
from Duke Jordan and Victor Young, and, of course, Benny
Golson's "I Remember Clifford." Interesting idea I don't
understand well enough, and don't feel like digging into
right now. Will play it again.
Regina Carter: Reverse Thread (2010, E1 Entertainment):
Violinist, got a major label break when cousin James Carter was on
Atlantic, and proved popular enough to stick in the big leagues,
even winning a MacArthur "genius grant." This troll through Afropop
may be a genius concept but it's no genius execution. A lot of sawing
on top of guitar (Adam Rogers) or kora (Yacouba Sissoko), accordion
(Will Holshouser or Gary Versace), bass (Chris Lightcap or Mamadou
Ba), and drums (Alvester Garnett), does develop some rhythmic roll,
but seems to come from neither here nor there. Might get better with
more exposure, or might seem even more misaprised.
Cedar Chest: The Cedar Walton Songbook [The Composer Collection
Volume 6] (2000-08 , High Note): This follows compilations
based on Silver, Coltrane, Ellington, Davis, and Monk. Walton moves into
a slightly younger generation -- he started recording when Coltrane
checked out -- and it's gotten much rarer for jazz musicians to cover
more recent composers. The label has released six albums by Walton
since 2001 -- Seasoned Wood is my pick -- but they must have
considered that too easy. Still, they wound up with Walton playing
piano on 4 of 10 tracks, and he sets a high standard for the others.
Still, the selections are spotty, with two Larry Coryell treats, two
by Fathead Newman, two by Sammy Figueroa.
Bill Charlap/Renee Rosnes: Double Portrait (2009
, Blue Note): Two pianists; you know that. Husband and wife
as of 2007; I didn't know that, and having also not known that
vocalist Sandy Stewart is Charlap's mother, I'm glad not to have
missed that. Rosnes is four years older, from Canada, more of a
modernist and more of a composer -- albeit only one song here
among a batch of eight covers -- where Charlap is more retro and
more of an interpreter. I have them down for one A- each, out
of six Charlap records and three by Rosnes -- both have comparable
discographies, but Charlap has been more active lately. Just piano
here, sounds more like solo than duets, can't tell you who does
what. Attractive, of course, but nothing really enticing.
Corey Christiansen Quartet: Outlaw Tractor (2008
, Origin): Guitarist, b. 1971, father taught guitar at Utah
State for many years; moved to St. Louis where he was AR director
at guitar-oriented Mel Bay for seven years, then eventually moved
back to Utah, where he is Director of Curriculum for The Music
School. Third album since 2004. Guitar-sax-organ-drums quartet.
I run across a dozen-plus such albums every year and usually
have little trouble dismissing them, but this is one of the
better ones, and surprisingly it's not David Halliday's sax
that stands out but Pat Bianchi's organ -- by now, surely the
most clichéd of all instruments. Guitar grooves too.
Retta Christie: With David Evans & Dave Frishberg,
Volume 2 (2009 , Retta): Singer, b. 1959 in Astoria,
OR. Second album, following Volume 1 all the way down to
the cover art, given a different tint here. Standards, but not
too standard: notes place most of them in the 1920s and 1930s
with a Mills Brothers hit from 1944 not so far an outlier.
Evans plays sax and clarinet; is a treat on both, especially
the latter. Frishberg limits himself to piano -- he's a notable
singer in his own right, but plays this one close to the vest.
The Stanley Clarke Band (2010, Heads Up): Bass
guitarist, b. 1951, came out of Chick Corea's Return to Forever
and established a fusion rep in the 1970s, which I can't say I
paid any attention to. This is only the second of 30+ albums
under his name that I've heard. The album is a mess, with Ruslan
Sirota's keybs and Charles Aluna's guitar standard pieces, along
with a lot of guests -- Hiromi gets a shout out on the cover,
and her piano does stand out, if garrishly. Some funk, one cut
dedicated to Zawinul, one cut is called "Sonny Rollins" but
gives you Bob Sheppard instead, some vocals. Hard to sort it
all out; not awful, but little reason to. Nor am I sure if the
"global warming" song is as dumb as it seems, but could be.
The Claudia Quintet + Gary Versace: Royal Toast
(2009 , Cuneiform): Last three Claudia Quintet albums rated
A- in Jazz CG although they've all been sort of marginal: soft
sounds (Chris Speed's clarinet, Ted Reichman's accordion, Matt
Moran's vibes, Drew Gress's bass) floating on John Hollenbeck's
quirky rhythms. This one is much like those, with Gary Versace's
piano adding one more soft touch -- he does take one cut on
accordion, but after Reichman that's anticlimactic. But it also
slips a bit when soft gives way to slow, and I think that tips
this just a bit under. Still a fascinating group.
Billy Cobham/Colin Towns/HR-Bigband: Meeting of the Spirits:
A Celebration of the Mahavishnu Orchestra (2006 ,
In+Out): Songs originally from John McLaughlin, with Mahavishnu
Orchestra drummer Cobham employed for quality control. Arranged
for big band, directed, and mixed by Towns. HR-Bigband is one of
two major outfits in Germany -- WDR Bigband Köln is the other --
that record prolifically under the names of their guest stars.
Martin Scales plays guitar, but most of the lines have been
shunted off to the horns. The music holds up pretty well, and
the drum solos are solid.
Avishai Cohen: Aurora (2008 , Blue Note/EMI
Music): Israeli bassist, b. 1970 (many sites say 1971, but Cohen's
own say 1970), established his jazz career in New York but seems to
be based in Israel now. Eleventh record since 1998, carries a small
Blue Note label as well as EMI Music, but was recorded on France
and isn't on Blue Note's US schedule -- hype sheet gives April 27
as release date. Plays electric as well as acoustic, has a piano
credit and sings most of the songs, with Karen Malka joining in
here and there. Band includes Shai Maestro on piano/wurlitzer,
Amos Hoffman on oud, and Itamar Doari on percussion. Several songs
derive from Ladino folk sources, although most are originals.
Vocals are slight, amateurish; arrangements are slow, with a
baroque feel -- hype sheet cites Bach counterpoint, as well as
pointing out that his Ladino was sharpened playing in New York
Freddy Cole: Freddy Cole Sings Mr. B (2010,
High Note): Nat's baby brother recalls Billy Eckstine. Makes
me wonder how many people today can recall sauve Nat, much
less the debonair Eckstine, let alone relate to him. He had
a deep, rich baritone, an exceptional example of a style that
many 1940s singers aspired to, but which seems old fashioned,
stuffy even, today. Nat, on the other hand, sounds as hip
today as he did before rock and roll, and Freddy had the
same voice, at least until he aged enough to differentiate
it. But in applying the old/new Cole treatment to Eckstine's
songbook, he achieves a remarkable synthesis. Houston Person
joins in on 7 of 12 songs, lifting each, not that Cole can't
get by on John Di Martino's piano and Randy Napoleon's guitar.
Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Harvesting Semblances and
Affinities (2007 , Pi): Sextet, aside for a little
extra percussion on one cut. Thomas Morgan and Tyshawn Sorey make
a superb rhythm section. Coleman's alto sax is smothered in brass:
Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet and Tim Albright on trombone. Then
there is vocalist Jen Shyu, who fills the role Cassandra Wilson
had in Coleman's M-Base collective and adds a little Betty Carter
but with more normal vocal range. Played this three times: first
time I was totally lost, and two subsequent spins brought me to
the point of not caring. All the interest is in the quirks, which
turn out to be fleeting and insubstantial.
Commitment: The Complete Recordings 1981/1983
(1980-83 , No Business, 2CD): Bassist William Parker was
less than 30 when he formed this group, with one self-released
album (released 1981; reissued as Through Acceptance of the
Mystery Peace by Eremite in 1998), side credits with Frank
Lowe and Billy Bang, with Cecil Taylor still in his future.
Violinist Jason Kao Hwang was less than 25. The senior member
was Will Connell, Jr., b. 1938. He turned to music after an
accident in the Air Force nearly blinded him. In Los Angeles
in the 1960s he fell into Horace Tapscott's circle, then moved
back to New York "because I wanted to be a hermit." He plays
flute, alto sax, bass clarinet, wood flutes here. I haven't
found any other credits for him, unless he's the "Will Connell"
playing bass clarinet on a a 2007 Bill Dixon album -- would have
been close to 70, still 13 years younger than Dixon. Fourth
member is drummer Zen Matsuura, who went on to play with Billy
Bang and Roy Campbell -- not a long credit list, but he's on
Campbell's 2007 Akhenaten Suite, deserving of another
plug. Parker recorded a piece called "Commitment" in the late
1970s, but the piece doesn't appear here. What we get is the
1981 Commitment Ensemble album (recorded October 13-14, 1980;
36 minutes on the first disc) and a long live set from Germany
in 1983 (38 minutes on the first disc and 48 more on the second).
One of those records that would have sounded interesting but
unfocused at the time, but sounds prophetic now. Hwang, who
was born in Waukegan, IL, had yet to develop his mastery of
Chinese classical music, so he sounds more like Leroy Jenkins
here -- a pretty good deal. Connell is plug ugly on alto, but
his flutes hit the right notes in contrast to the violin.
Parker and Matsuura keep it all moving at breakneck speed.
Conference Call: What About . . . . ? (2007-08
, Not Two, 2CD): Quartet, on their sixth album since 2000,
the core Gebhard Ullmann (tenor sax, soprano sax, bass clarinet),
Michael Jefry Stevens (piano), and Joe Fonda (bass), with George
Schuller their present and most frequent drummer -- other albums
have used Matt Wilson, Han Bennink, and Gerry Hemingway. Ullmann
is very prolific, but he seems to perform best when someone else
sets the parameters, which Stevens does here -- most likely
Fonda too, as the Fonda/Stevens group goes back even further
and has been recorded even more extensively. Two live in Krakow
sets, the second a bit easier to get into -- Stevens' "Could
This Be a Polka?" had me thinking first of tango -- but both
satisfying mixes of sour and not-quite-sweet.
Contact: Five on One (2010, Pirouet): Not what
you'd call a supergroup, but well-established veterans -- bassist
Drew Gress is the youngest by more than a decade, drummer Billy
Hart the elder by much less -- the front-line players easily
recognized, each with sweet spots that are undeniably theirs,
the rhythm section impeccable, pianist Marc Copland playing both
roles. Most prominent, of course, is the sole horn, Dave Liebman
on tenor and soprano sax. I've never been a fan of his soprano,
but he works it in nicely here -- a sinuous interweaving that
is likely inspired by the master of the art, guitarist John
The Convergence Quartet: Song/Dance (2009 ,
Clean Feed): Artist names listed on front cover alphabetically:
Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet, flugelhorn), Harris Eisenstadt (drums),
Alexander Hawkins (piano), Dominic Lash (bass). All write, Bynum
one song, the others two each. I filed this under Bynum, who has
a substantial discography since 1999, but early on Hawkins is
the focal interest, with his jumpy, blocky chords chopping up
time. B. 1981 in England, based in Oxford, has a new Ensemble
record I haven't heard, played organ on two Decoy albums, seems
like someone to keep an ear opened for. Lash is also from England,
"one of the busiest players on the UK scene." Album ends with a
bang-up fractured version of a South African tune, "Kudala." I'm
tempted to credit Eisenstadt, who regularly works African music
into free jazz contexts, but I also see that Hawkins has played
with Ntshuka Bonga, and has played in a trio with Louis Moholo-Moholo
and Evan Parker.
Chick Corea: Solo Piano: Improvisations/Children's Songs
(1971-83 , ECM, 3CD): Three solo piano albums find Corea in an
exploratory mood. The first two came from a 1971 session, when Corea
was working with Miles Davis on the one hand and Anthony Braxton on
the other, before he took off on Return to Forever. Aside from
pieces by Monk and Shorter on Vol. 2, everything was improvised,
with the melodies on Vol. 1 especially charming. Children's
Songs came twelve years later, all improvised, nothing childish
about it other than that he tries working from elements. Final cut
adds violin and cello, a nice little piece of chamber jazz.
Rich Corpolongo Trio: Get Happy (2009 ,
Delmark): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1941 in Chicago, parents from
Italy. Third album on Delmark, the first two dating from 1996
and 1998 with Corpolongo playing alto and soprano sax but no
tenor. All three have upbeat titles -- Just Found Joy
and Smiles -- but his playing is serious, sober mainstream,
spare and muscular with just bass (Dan Shapera) and drums (Rusty
Jones), with Charlie Parker tunes fore and aft, standards in
between including the title tune, "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams,"
and "Body and Soul."
Correction: Two Nights in April (2009 , Ayler):
Piano trio, from Sweden: Sebastian Bergström on piano, Jaocim Nyberg
on bass, Emil Ĺstrand-Melin on drums. First album, drawn from two
live sets on two consecutive nights, the piano has a hard edge that
leans free but may know a thing or two about rock.
Prime Picks: The Virtuoso Guitar of Larry Coryell
(1998-2003 , High Note): Robert Christgau once wrote: "Larry
Coryell is the greatest thing to happen to the guitar since stretched
gut." But looking through his Consumer Guides, I don't see any
Coryell albums that Christgau actually liked much -- unlike John
McLaughlin, Sonny Sharrock, and James Ulmer -- and he seems to
have given up listening shortly after 1979. This samples five
1998-2003 albums, with two solo cuts and several small groups
that hop around randomly -- two with trumpet, two with vibes,
four with John Hicks on piano, two "Power Trio" cuts with bass
and drums. Best thing is the guitar, as silvery as Coryell's hair.
Mirio Cosottini/Andrea Melani/Tonino Miano/Alessio Pisani:
Cardinal (2009, Grimedia Impressus): This will take
a while to sort out. Impressus Records is Miano's label. I added
this to my "wish list" after Stef Gijssels reviewed it favorably.
Miano noticed and offered to send a copy. GRIM is an acronym for
Music Improvisation Research Group (or a reverse acronym for the
English translation). Not clear what that means or who is involved --
can't access the website listed in the inset. Cardinal could be the
group name, album title, or both. Impressus has four records, the
first three Miano duos. Miano plays piano. I assume he's Italian
("obtained a degree in musicology from the University of Bologna
with a thesis on J. Cage" ), but he's based in New York,
where he's pursued a physics degree. Cosottini plays trumpet,
graduated Academy of Music of Florence (1992), played in the
first of Miano's duos, also in EAQuartet. Pisani plays bassoon
and contrabassoon. His website has some lovely astronomical photos
and a tantalizing series on assembling a 14-inch telescope. Melani
plays drums; is based in Prato, Italy. Enigmatic music. The bassoon
tends to slow things down and fade into atmospherics. Otherwise,
with trumpet leading you get something like Chicago Underground;
with bassoon, more of a chamber jazz effect.
Marilyn Crispell/David Rothenberg: One Night I Left My
Silent House (2008 , ECM): Another record that
should be out by now but hasn't arrived: one that I've been
anxious to get to, as Crispell is one of the most interesting
pianist working today, and Rothenberg -- oops, I must have
been thinking about Ned. David Rothenberg also plays clarinet
and bass clarinet, has ten albums I haven't heard since 1992,
describes himself as a "philosopher-naturalist," with many of
his records tuned into the sounds of nature -- Why Birds
Sing (also a book title), Whale Music, etc. This
is quiet and thoughtful; could perhaps use some more thought
on my part.
Stephan Crump with Rosetta Trio: Reclamation
(2009 , Sunnyside): Bassist, from Memphis, mother "an
amateur pianist from Paris," father "an architect and jazz
drummer"; studied at Amherst, based in New York, plays in
Vijay Iyer's piano trio. Fourth album since 1997; third was
called Rosetta with same lineup here, the bass flanked
by guitarists Liberty Ellman and Jamie Fox. Seems slight at
first, the guitars tuned down to adorn the bass, a balance
that lets you enter the framework. Didn't get much out of
the previous record, but this one draws me in every time.
Jamie Cullum: The Pursuit (2009 , Verve):
Released Mar. 2. Never got a real copy, just this "watermarked"
advance with my name ominously stamped onto it, and no info on
credits -- big band, string orchestra, banks of backup singers,
no doubt a cast of thousands. Maybe then got confused about the
packaging -- AMG lists eight editions, including packages with
bonus tracks, a "deluxe edition," variants with DVDs, and the
"Barnes & Noble Exclusive." With so much marketing, you'd
might think he was popular, but as far as I can tell he remains
a Harry Connick wannabe, handicapped by writing slightly over
half of his songs. On the plus side, he's managed to shed most
of the tics that made Catching Tales so annoying. That
leaves him with . . . uh, nothing.
Kris Davis/Ingrid Laubrock/Tyshawn Sorey: Paradoxical
Frog (2009 , Clean Feed): Not familiar with Laubrock,
although she also appears on the Tom Rainey record still awaiting
my attention. Tenor saxophonist, b. 1970 in Germany, based in London
and/or Brooklyn; five albums since 1997 by most counts, which file
this one under Davis, a pianist from Canada who specializes in fast
and furious saxophonists -- Rye Eclipse with Tony Malaby
is my top recommendation. Sorey is a drummer, plays in Fieldwork
and has a couple albums on his own that are more focused on his
composition than his percussion. This should click in interesting
ways, but Laubrock isn't that fleet and that seems to slow down
the others. Also a queer stretch of silence (or very low volume)
creates a false ending -- not sure what's going on there.
Steve Davis: Images (2009 , Posi-Tone):
Trombonist, b. 1967 in Binghampton, NY, studied with Jackie
McLean, who steered him to Art Blakey. Looks like he has about
18 records since 1996 (mostly for Criss Cross; his MySpace
page says 13, AMG lists 17 and misses this), more than 100
side credits. This is a sextet, three horns (Josh Evans on
trumpet/flugelhorn, Mike DiRubbo on alto sax) with piano,
bass, and drums. Big, brash postbop outing, a lot of bounce
to it. Not sure why I don't find it more appealing: too bright?
not enough trombone? Don't think the problem is DiRubbo, who's
choice for an album dedicated to Jackie McLean.
Steve Davis Quintet: Live at Smalls (2009 ,
Smalls Live): Similar to Davis's Images studio disc -- bright,
energetic, straightforward hard bop -- but cut down a bit with just
trombone and Mike DiRubbo's alto sax up front, and an upgrade on piano
to Larry Willis. The live album artifacts help out, like the short
playlist (four songs) padded out with more improv, or don't much hurt,
like the extended bass solo and the patter. DiRubbo takes at least
one song at Parker speeds -- he's always impressive -- and I like
Davis's slow intro to "Day Dream."
Dawn of Midi: First (2010, Accretions): Piano
trio: Pakistani percussionist Qassim Naqvi, Indian contrabassist
Aakaash Israni, and Moroccan pianist Amino Belyamani. Based in
New York and/or Paris. First album. Evenly balanced group, the
piano more rhythm than melody, especially setting out various
minimalist lines, while the bass covers the whole gamut. Got
stuck playing this too many times today, which makes me want
to force the grade and move on. Agreeable as background, but
really appreciates your full attention.
Hamilton de Holanda Quintet: Brasilianos 2 (2007 ,
Adventure Music, CD+DVD): Brazilian mandolin player, b. 1976, father
a choro guitarist, caught the ear of bluegrass-turned-choro mandolinist
Mike Marshall, who's tapped de Holanda repeatedly for his label. Has
a bit of bluegrass sting, nothing you'd call "high and lonesome," but
with ten strings backed by guitar and bass has a lot of resonance.
Better still is Gabriel Grossi's harmonica, which functions as a horn
without being easy to peg. Haven't got to the DVD.
Dither (2010, Henceforth): Interesting concept,
an electric guitar quartet, similar in principle to sax quartets
but with chords and electronics thickening the sound. Guitarists
are Taylor Levine, David Linaburg, Joshua Lopes, and James Moore.
Starts off very quiet as if they're daring you to turn it up,
although they can and do get plenty loud when they want. Played
it once too loud and once too soft and figured it's not worth
fiddling with the tuning, at least at this point. Could develop
into something, and I've heard enough that I'm hedging. Elliott
Sharp wrote the liner notes.
Dosh: Tommy (2008-09 , Anticon): Full
name: Martin Dosh, from Minneapolis. Fifth record since 2003,
all on Anticon, which is generally an underground hip-hop label,
very underground. This one is more post-rock ambient electronica,
reminiscent of Brian Eno's Another Green World at times,
but not as blessed, not just because it's a bit noisier.
Dave Douglas: A Single Sky (2009, Greenleaf Music):
Guest star shot, backed by Frankfurt Radio Bigband, conducted by
Jim McNeely, who arranged 4 of 7 Douglas compositions -- Douglas
arranged the others. The big band is just that, competent as ever,
although the solos you notice are usually the star on trumpet.
Dave Douglas: Spirit Moves (2009, Greenleaf Music):
A brass band project, with trumpet-french horn-trombone-tuba backed
by Nasheet Waits' drums. Douglas works quotes into his compositions,
some old Americana, some evoking Lester Bowie -- wit and funk aren't
traditional Douglas long suits. Starts strong, wanders a bit, finds
itself third cut from the end when they try a cover, "Mr. Pitiful,"
which is anything but: Otis Redding's horn charts were pretty close
to one-dimensional, but each horn adds lively detail here. Continues
on a high level with Douglas' "Great Awakening," then peters out on
Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry."
The Dreamers: Ipos: The Book of Angels, Vol. 14
(2009 , Tzadik): John Zorn group, appeared on his albums
The Dreamers and O'o, not that Zorn actually plays
in it. Marc Ribot's guitar and Jamie Saft's keybs tend to lead,
backed by a groove-happy rhythm section -- Trevor Dunn (bass),
Kenny Wollesen (vibes), Joey Baron (drums), and Cyro Baptista
(percussion). It occurs to me that Ribot is especially adept at
taking up these dress-up roles, like with his Cubanos Postizos.
Véronique Dubois/François Carrier: Being With
(2009 , Leo): Voice/sax duets. I've always loved Carrier's
sax, but he doesn't have a lot of leeway here, pinned down by a
high, warbly, operatic voice that I find close to unlistenable.
Ismael Dueńas Trio: Jazz Ateu (2009 ,
Quadrant): Pianist, b. 1975 in Badalona, in Spain up the coast
from Barcelona. Fifth album, as best I can reckon, since 2003 --
I've heard the two on Fresh Sound New Talent, both excellent
but somehow lost in my shuffle. Joan Matera plays bass and Oscar
Domčnech drums. For the most part this maintains a steady rhythmic
flow, something I'm tempted to call postmodern stride, although
it may just come from listening to Jarrett and Svensson. But he
doesn't stick to the groove, shifting into melodic passages that
work off something familiar, and in at least one case breaking
into dissonance that resolves itself into something lovely.
Nathan Eklund Group: Coin Flip (2009 ,
OA2): Trumpet player, b. 1978 near Seattle, based in NJ. Group
is a quintet with Craig Yaremko on sax, Steve Myerson on Fender
Rhodes. Postbop, the horns tied together harmonically over the
soft springiness of the electric piano. I was more impressed
last time, when the saxophonist was Donny McCaslin.
The Element Choir: At Rosedale United (2009 ,
Barnyard): Rosedale United is a church in Toronto. The Element Choir
is a vocal group, 51 voices strong, conducted by Christine Duncan.
The vocal group functions more as a crowd than as a choir. They're
matched with a set of musicians who tend toward avant-ambiance:
Jim Lewis (trumpet), Eric Robertson (cassavant pipe organ), Jesse
Zubot (violin), and Jean Martin (drums, trumophone). The organ can
get churchy, the violin elegiac, the trumpet -- well, I forget what
the trumpet does, but at least it was more clear than the choir.
Peter Epstein & Idée Fixe: Abstract Realism
(2008 , Origin): Alto saxophonist here, plays soprano
elsewhere. Had a 2005 album, Lingua Franca, which made
JCG A-list, and another album this year, The Dark, by
EEA, which made the dud list. This isn't a return to form so
much as yet another bold move in some other direction. There
are points of electronic drone where this sounds industrial --
Andy Barbera's guitar, and possibly Sam Minaie's bass, are
suspects, along with the also unknown drummer Matt Mayhall.
But mostly Epstein labors mightily against dark tableaus.
This wallows a bit, but when he's working he makes a strong
impression. Two "special guests" also play reeds: Brian Walsh
on bass clarinet, Gavin Templeton on alto and soprano sax.
No idea what they're doing here.
Ergo: Multitude, Solitude (2009, Cuneiform):
Brett Sroka on trombone and computer; Carl Maguire on Fender
Rhodes, Prophet synthesizer, and effects; Shawn Baltazor drums.
I've run into Maguire before -- a fine pianist who pushes the
state of the art in postbop compositions, but he's less
distinctive here. Sroka has a previous album under his own
name. This is the group's second.
John Escreet: Don't Fight the Inevitable (2010,
Mythology): Pianist, from England, b. 1984, studied at Manhattan
School of Music, based in Brooklyn; second album, like 2008's
Consequences a quintet with Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet,
David Binney on alto sax, Matt Brewer on bass, and Nasheet Waits
on drums (replacing Tyshawn Sorey). Ambitious, aggressive stuff,
especially out the chute with the horns pumping each other up.
First play I found that exhilarating; second play annoying. Gets
more complicated later on, for better or worse.
Peter Evans Quartet: Live in Lisbon (2009 ,
Clean Feed): Trumpet player, best known for his role in Mostly Other
People Do the Killing, but has two solo albums on Psi (haven't heard
either) and a slightly different Quartet on Firehouse 12 -- bassist
Tom Blancarte and drummer Kevin Shea return here, but the guitar is
replaced here by Ricardo Gallo's piano, at once more traditional and
more shocking. AMG describes Evans as influenced by Don Cherry and
Lester Bowie, but I don't hear either. In chops and conception, he
reminds me of early Freddie Hubbard, when he could cross from avant
to hard bop without ever seeming out of place.
Mike Fahie: Anima (2010, Bju'ecords): Trombonist,
b. 1976 in Ottawa, Canada; wound up in New York in 2000. First
album, quintet with Bill McHenry (tenor sax), Ben Monder (guitar),
Ben Street (bass), and Billy Hart (drums), produced by John
McNeil. Postbop, nicely measured, with a lot of space for sax
and guitar to lead, the trombone holding the record down to
Kali Z. Fasteau: Animal Grace (2005-07 ,
Flying Note): Eclectic gadfly; soprano sax is probably her key
instrument, but she also plays piano, violin, mizmar, nai flute,
and sanza here, and uses her voice for something I wouldn't
exactly call singing -- actually sounds processed. She first
landed in free jazz in the mid-1970s with husband-drummer
Donald Rafael Garrett -- cf. Memoirs of a Dream, two
discs from 1975-77. Two sets here: 2007 "Live from Harlem"
duo with South African drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo, and 2005
"Live in the Alps" with Bobby Few's piano trio. In both Kali
Z. makes the rounds, so this has its ups and downs. The ups
include Moholo's game drumming, Few's testy piano, and a
pretty amazing stretch of soprano sax on the noisy closer.
John Fedchock NY Sextet: Live at the Red Sea Jazz
Festival (2008 , Capri): Trombonist, b. 1957,
based in New York, mostly identified with his New York Big
Band which first appeared on record in 1992, and appears
to still be active. Same basic sextet lineup as Steve Davis
uses: trumpet-trombone-sax horn line, piano, bass, drums.
Scott Wendholt plays trumpet, Walt Weiskopf tenor sax, Allen
Farnham piano, David Finck bass, Dave Ratajczak drums (all
but Weiskopf and Finck from the Big Band). More of a swing
player than Davis, especially with Farnham, which may be
why he can run the horns in unison without cloying.
Oscar Feldman: Oscar e Familia (2009, Sunnyside):
Alto saxophonist, b. 1961 in Argentina, based in New York, has
one previous album in 1999. Wrote most of the pieces, one with
Guillermo Klein, one by Klein alone, and one each by Wayne Shorter,
Astor Piazzolla, and Hermeto Pascoal. Core group features Manuel
Valera on piano, John Benitez on bass, Antonio Sanchez on drums,
and Pernell Saturnino on percussion, although he also taps Pablo
Aslan (bass) on four cuts, Diego Urcola (trumpet, trombone),
Mark Turner (tenor sax), Tito Castro (bandoneon), Cuartetango
String Quartet (two cuts), and others. Fierce sax and roiling
percussion will remind you of Gato Barbieri's early "chapters."
First Meeting: Cut the Rope (2009 , Libra):
Quartet: Natsuki Tamura on trumpet, the composer and presumed leader
here; Satoko Fujii on piano, Kelly Churko on guitar, and Tatsuhisa
Yamamoto on drums. Liner notes explain that Tamura threw the band
together when promised 15-20 students would show up -- evidently
all capitalism takes in the small world of avant-jazz. Conceived
as a "noise band" -- a lot of warbling, scratchy, freakout stuff
from the guitar, which the others play around, through, or in spite
of -- Fujii is especially sharp at that. Irresistible when they
tap into a groove, amusing even when they're just scattering shit.
Food [Thomas Strřnen/Iain Ballamy]: Quiet Inlet
(2007-08 , ECM): Group originally an album title from 1999,
by a quartet: Iain Ballamy (saxophones), Arve Henriksen (trumpet),
Mats Eilertsen (bass), and Thomas Strřnen (drums), with at least
Strřnen contributing electronics. The quartet cut four Food albums
through 2004, then slimmed down to Strřnen and Ballamy for a fifth
album in 2007, Molecular Gastronomy. This is number six,
taken from two live performances, one with Christian Fennesz on
guitar and electronics, the other with Nils Petter Molvaer on
trumpet and electronics. First cut, with Fennesz, reminds one of
Molvaer's drum machine, but eventually the percussion gives way
to ambience, laced with Ballamy's reeds and occasionally fortified
by Molvaer's trumpet.
Bill Frisell: Beautiful Dreamers (2010, Savoy
Jazz): Guitarist, has cornered a slice of Americana and keeps
working it, in this basic framework with Eyvind Kang on viola
and Rudy Royston on drums. His originals fit in neatly enough,
but the gems are the covers, including "Beautiful Dreamer,"
"It's Nobody's Fault but Mine" (Blind Willie Johnson), "Tea
for Two," "Goin' Out of My Head," and especially "Keep on
the Sunny Side."
Curtis Fuller: I Will Tell Her (2010, Capri,
2CD): Trombonist, b. 1934, has thirty-some records since 1957,
the majority before 1963, this only the third since 1996.
Basically a mainstream hard bop player: best known early album
was called Blues-ette; he came back after a decade-long
hiatus in 1972 with Smokin' and Crankin'; for
his 2005 outing he vowed to Keep It Simple. But this
album steps up for a bit more: a sextet, dominated by tenor
saxophonist Keith Oxman with Al Hood's trumpet providing the
ear candy; not his best trombone, but he gets in some licks.
Two discs, one studio, the other live (no dates given). The
rhythm section is lively, the sets endlessly enjoyable.
Tia Fuller: Decisive Steps (2010, Mack Avenue):
Alto saxophonist, also plays some soprano, b. 1976 in Aurora, CO;
third album since 2005. Toured for a while with Beyoncé, but her
jazz ambitions certainly aren't pop -- she's more like a younger
generation Kenny Garrett, a mainstream player who can turn up the
heat and draw on deep well of Coltrane antics. Band includes her
sister Shamie Royston on piano, Miriam Sullivan on bass, and Kim
Thompson on drums; guests include Sean Jones on trumpet/flugelhorn,
Christian McBride, and tap dancer Maruice Chestnut.
Cochemea Gastelum: The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow
(2010, Mowo!): Sax player; have him listed on alto first, but plays
more tenor here, more baritone than that, more "electric sax" than
anything, with flute a close second, bass clarinet, all sorts of
keyboards, vibes, drums and percussion. First album, has some studio
work with pop stars like Amy Winehouse (also Sharon Jones, Angelique
Kidjo, New Pornographers), and funk-oriented jazzbos -- Robert Walter,
Will Bernard, Melvin Sparks, Reuben Wilson (also something called
Phat Jam in Milano listed under Archie Shepp). This one was
co-produced by Mocean Worker, who contributed "bips & baps" as
well as most of the bass. Beatwise funk, takes off when Elizabeth
Pupo-Walker turns on her congas, stalls when the velocity drops too
Gerry Gibbs and the Electric Thrasher Orchestra: Play
the Music of Miles Davis 1967-1975 (2008 , Whaling
City Sound, 2CD): Drummer, 44 (b. 1965 or 1966?), born in New
York, grew up in Los Angeles, lives both places now; son of
vibraphonist Terry Gibbs, with whom he has credits going back
to 1987. Sixth album since 1995 -- a sextet album with Ravi
Coltrane called The Thrasher, and Thrasher Big Band
albums since 2005. The group is slimmed down a bit here as
styled for electric Miles Davis: trumpet, two reeds; electric
keyb, guitar and bass; Essiet Essiet on acoustic bass, and
extra gongs and bells; possible electronics on the horns.
Songbook goes back to quintet albums Nefertiti and
In a Silent Way, but covers a lot of ground, leaning
most on Bitches Brew and Live Evil. Doesn't
have the spaciousness or individual virtuosity of Davis's
original records, but is generally fun, emphasis on the
Rosario Giuliani: Lennie's Pennies (2009 ,
Dreyfus Jazz): Alto saxophonist, b. 1967 in Terracina, Italy. Tenth
album since 1997. Mainstream piano-bass-drums quartet, with Pierre
de Bethmann also playing electric piano. Bright, bouncy, beautiful
tone especially on classics like "How Deep the Ocean," some fast
Aaron Goldberg: Home (2007 , Sunnyside):
Pianist, b. 1974 in Boston, passed through Betty Carter's boot
camp, graduated from Harvard, moved to New York; fourth album
since 1999, with a lot of work on the side. Trio with Reuben
Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums; augmented by tenor
saxophonist Mark Turner on three cuts, getting a bit lift on
the opener, "Canción por la Unidad Latinoamericana," and on
"Aze's Blues" -- one of 4 (of 10) originals. Covers scattered
from Mandel to Monk, Jobim to Stevie Wonder, with the title
track from Omer Avital.
Ben Goldberg Quartet: Baal: The Book of Angels, Vol.
15 (2009 , Tzadik): First of these I've heard,
variations on John Zorn's Jewish-themed Masada songbook.
Goldberg's clarinet stays on top of it all, although pianist
Jamie Saft gets in some long runs. With Greg Cohen on bass
and Kenny Wollesen on drums.
Johnny Griffin: Live at Ronnie Scott's (2008
, In+Out): Recorded May 26-27 in London, about two months
before Griffin died on July 25, 2008, so perhaps the tenor sax
great's last record. Sounds rather fit, although he's often
overpowered by Roy Hargrove's trumpet, which in classic Griffin
form provides much of the energy level. With Billy Cobham on
drums, David Newton (mostly) on piano, with Paul Kuhn dropping
in for "How Deep Is the Ocean" and presumably taking the
Scott Hamilton Quartet Plus Two: Our Delight!
(2005 , Woodville): The "plus two" are Mark Nightingale
(trombone) and Dave Cliff (guitar); both do nice work, the
trombonist roughly comparable to John Allred. Ten standards,
starting off in rousing fashion with "Get Happy", ending with
"In Walked Bud," some Ellington/Strayhorn along the way, the
title cut from Tadd Dameron. Delightful indeed.
Scott Hamilton/Alan Barnes: Hi-Ya (2009 ,
Woodville): I heard an interview with Benny Carter once where
a caller asked "what did you learn from Johnny Hodges?" Carter's
answer: "never to play any of his songs." Only two of nine songs
here don't have Hodges' name on them -- some also Ellington or
Strayhorn, but Hamilton gives Barnes some cover with his tenor
sax, and Barnes plays baritone as well as alto. Nice, loose,
plenty of swing. Still, not Hodges -- I imagine Barnes is as
leary of that comparison as Carter was.
Herbie Hancock: The Imagine Project (2010, Hancock):
Recorded in seven countries with guests from even further across the
universe, this is a colossal engagement of liberal internationalism,
and a pretty good showcase for at least some of the talent. But is
the choice of such obvious songs lazy thinking or a real paucity of
alternatives. Lennon's "Imagine," sure, but can't you do better than
Peter Gabriel's "Don't Give Up" for an encore? (Pink sings both,
paired first with Seal then with John Legend.) Lennon-McCartney
return later, showcasing quintessential good guy Dave Matthews,
almost as wasted as Sam Cooke is on James Morrison. Colombia and
Brazil get some respect, but Bob Marley is routed through Somalia
and the Sahara to East L.A., faring better than Dylan "Times They
Are a Changin'" done by the Chieftains with Toumani Diabate kora.
Silly as the others seem, the latter is the album's only real gag
moment. High point? The closer with Chaka Khan, Anoushka Shankar,
and Wayne Shorter. Plus a pianist who always sounds impeccable no
matter how little he does. Not a jazz record, but the finale could
be worked that way.
Hat: Local (2008 , Hatmusic): Spanish group.
I've been listing them under pianist Sergi Sirvent, but this one
swings pretty hard to guitarist Jordi Matas, who outwrites Sirvent
five to three and plays the crucial instrument here, while Sirvent
plays Fender Rhodes and a little trumpet -- not what you'd call
brilliant but he's still rather effective. The quartet is rounded
out with Marc Cuevas on bass (acoustic and electric) and xylophone
and Oscar Doménech on drums and tinaja, each writing one song.
All four also enjoy voice credits, although there's not a lot --
part of the opener, and a Matas song called "Money" that may be
the first such song not to ring up some cash registers. Matas
plays terrific screeching guitar there -- I'd peg it as a rock
song but the musicians are way too fancy and the vocals don't
get any mileage out of their crudeness. Seems transitional, but
no idea to what.
John Hébert Trio: Spiritual Lover (2008 ,
Clean Feed): Bassist, from Louisiana, based in Jersey City,
shows up on a lot of good records, now has two under his own
name. Trio includes Gerald Cleaver on drums and Benoit Delbecq
on piano, clarinet, and synth -- mostly piano, but the switches
muddy that somewhat. If you care to, you can focus on the bass
and be rewarded for your efforts. Otherwise, Delbecq is a fine
pianist -- I recommend his 2005 album, Phonetics, but
you get a taste of that here.
Vincent Herring & Earth Jazz: Morning Star
(2010, Challenge): No recording date. Credited with "saxophone" --
both alto and soprano are pictured in booklet, and that's his
basic kit. Has a steady stream of records since 1990, when he
broke in and seemed likely to be a major force, but I haven't
heard much since then. Group includes Anthony Wonsey on piano,
Richie Goods on bass, Joris Dudli on drums, with Danny Sadownick
adding percussion on 6 of 10 tracks. After initial misdirection
on "Naima," this soon settles into a funk groove album, with
Goods the prime mover, Wonsey playing what sounds like electric
piano. Wonsey wrote three songs, Dudli two, Goods one, Herring
only one -- the one he sounds most eloquent on.
Fred Hersch Trio: Whirl (2010, Palmetto): Pianist,
b. 1955, has more than 30 albums since 1984, seemed to be the big
mainstream piano hope (Bill Evans division) in the early 1990s,
when he came down with AIDS. He became if anything more prolific
after that, and the sidestory gradually faded until now, as he
mounts a comeback after an episode that left him in a coma for
two months. You get no sense of that from the music here, which
is as bright and chipper as anything he's recorded. Don't really
understand how it works. Maybe something about concentrating the
mind. Maybe just another instance of bassist John Hébert elevating
the game. Drummer Eric McPherson does good, too.
Dave Holland Octet: Pathways (2009 , Dare2):
Also buried among the advances -- doubt I'll ever see a final copy.
Recorded live at Birdland, so there are some intros and shout outs.
Not sure if/when Holland has used the octet format before, but it
splits the difference between his quintet (Chris Potter on tenor
sax, Robin Eubanks on trombone, Steve Nelson on vibes, and Nate
Smith on drums) and his big band, adding three more horns (Alex
Sipiagin on trumpet, Antonio Hart on alto sax, and Gary Smulyan
on baritone sax). Mostly Holland pieces, with Potter and Sipiagin
contributing one each. A lot of firepower -- Potter and Eubanks
caught my ears, but Hart and Smulyan also got called out, and
Nelson gets his space. I figure this for smart postbop, and can't
get excited about it, but there's much to admire, so I'll let it
sit for now. Given the reputations of all involved, this will no
doubt fare well in year-end polls.
Dave Holland Octet: Pathways (2009 , Dare2):
Basically Quintet plus extra horns, not as much as the big band,
but plenty for all practical purposes. Recorded live at Birdland,
some applause and shout outs. Intermittently terrific, especially
when trombonist Robin Eubanks bowls his way to the front.
Lena Horne: Sings: The M-G-M Singles (1946-48
, Verve/Hip-O Select): The first black actress granted
a Hollywood contract, she was gorgeous in ways that transcended
race -- her ancestors reportedly included slaveholders like
John C. Calhoun as well as slaves, with a little American
Indian mixed in along the way -- and a pretty good standards
singer. Her "Stormy Weather" was a hit in 1943, the title of
an MGM musical, and not included here although it seems like
it should fit. This picks up a bit later. The house orchestra
is completely ordinary, and more than half of the songs you
no doubt know from Billie Holiday and/or Ella Fitzgerald.
Horne wasn't in their class, but the best songs here -- "A
Foggy Day (in London Town)" and "The Lady Is a Tramp" are
two -- are completely satisfying.
Adrian Iaies Trio: A Child's Smile (2009 ,
Sunnyside): Pianist, from Argentina, b. 1960, nine albums since
2000; second album I've heard, Vals de la 81st & Columbus
a high HM. Piano trio with Exequiel Dutil on bass, Pepi Taveira on
drums. Another fine album, although after three plays I'm blocked
on how to describe it -- the most memorable cuts for me are the
one standard I know, "Just the Way You Are," and "Alfonsina y el
Mar," the one cut with Raul Barboza's accordion added.
Chris Icasiano/Neil Welch: Bad Luck. (2009, Belle):
Icasiano is a drummer, b. 1986, from Seattle; also plays in a group
called Speak, which has an album on Origin I haven't played yet --
presumably more mainstream, where this is pretty free. Welch is a
Seattle saxophonist, b. 1985, plays tenor, soprano, and contrabass
here with some loops and pedals. Not as much muscle as Vandermark
and Nilssen-Love, the reigning champs of sax-drums duos, but what
they lack is interesting in its own right.
Ideal Bread: The Ideal Bread (2008, KMB):
Quartet, brainchild of baritone saxophonist Josh Stinton, only
plays Steve Lacy songs. Other members: Kirk Knuffke (trumpet),
Reuben Radding (bass), Tomas Fujiwara (drums). This album came
out a couple of years ago and showed up on some year-end ballots,
especially as best debut album. I meant to chase them down at
the time, but didn't; remembered them again thanks to their new
album, Transmit: Vol. 2 of the Music of Steve Lacy --
also didn't get that one, and it's not on Rhapsody, but this
one is. I've heard a lot by Lacy but can't pick out any of his
songs, even album titles like "Trickles" and "Esteem." The shift
from soprano to baritone precludes emulation, but the edge is
there, the second horn adds further snap, and Radding has a lot
Keefe Jackson Quartet: Seeing You See (2008 ,
Clean Feed): Tenor saxophonist, also plays bass clarinet, from
Fayetteville, Arkansas, moved to Chicago in 2001, third album
since 2006. Quartet includes ex-Vandermark 5 trombonist Jeb Bishop,
who also plays alongside Jackson in Lucky 7s, plus Jason Roebke
on bass and Noritaka Tanaka on drums. Snakey free jazz, probably
more interesting for Bishop's runs and smears, although Jackson
can pull off some interesting lines.
Sunny Jain: Taboo (2010, Bju'ecords): Drummer,
also plays dhol, Indian-American, b. New York, parents Punjabi
immigrants. Group includes Mary Cary on piano, Nir Felder on
guitar, and Gary Wang on bass, with assorted vocalists on 6 of
7 songs. Compositions based on Indian ragas but don't sound
all that Indian. Project "started through a desire and a sense
of obligation to use my music as a platform to address social
justice issues," which sounds noble and may be worth exploring
but I haven't been able to latch on to much in three plays,
and feel like moving on.
Justin Janer: Following Signs (2009 , Janer
Music): Alto saxophonist, 25 (b. 1985?) from Seattle, grew up in
L.A., based there (although he also lists New York on MySpace).
Bio talks about his Puerto Rican heritage and Latin jazz interest,
but this is postbop, mostly quintet with Ambrose Akinmusire on
trumpet and Fabian Almazan on piano -- one track adds guitar.
Catches my ear when he stretches.
An Excellent Adventure: The Very Best of Al Jarreau
(1975-2004 , Rhino): Originally slotted as a jazz singer because
he scatted a little and tackled a couple of Dave Brubeck-Paul Desmond
odd-time experiments, Jarreau cut a dozen 1975-94 albums for Warners,
grabbing popular and critical acclaim, including Grammys in pop and
R&B as well as jazz while never really fitting anywhere. I find
his "Blue Rondo a la Turk" one of the more hideous pieces of vocalese
ever recorded, and "Boogie Down" one of the lamer exercises in rote
disco. That leaves a couple of decent R&B songs like "We're in
This Love Together" in a compilation that proves Gödels Theorem:
like math, he's a system that cannot both be complete and consistent.
Keith Jarrett/Charlie Haden: Jasmine (2007 ,
ECM): A night-blooming flower, perhaps unfair to try to listen to
music this quiet and uncomplicated during the day when almost any
distraction suffices to break the mood. Standards, love songs, a
couple of old comrades getting sentimental.
Beat Kaestli: Invitation (2009 , Chesky):
Standards singer, from Switzerland, based in New York. Fourth
album since 2002. Subtitled his last one A Tribute to European
Song, but this one is All American -- spine inset refers to
it as "The New York Sessions" -- standards you know played by
pros who keeps discreetly to the background: Kenny Rampton
(trumpet), Joel Frahm (tenor sax), Paul Meyers (guitar), Jay
Leonhart (bass), Billy Drummond (drums). Soft, pliable voice.
Horns don't have much to do, but Meyers sets a nice tone.
Eleni Karaindrou: Dust of Time (2008 ,
ECM New Series): Pianist, specializes in composing for films,
with seven albums on ECM since 1991, hard to tell how much
more. This one is for a film by Theo Angelopoulos. Booklet
has lots of pictures, presumably from the film. Mostly strings,
some orchestral, but with a delicate touch, soft, easy flow,
Manu Katché: Third Round (2009 , ECM):
Drummer, b. 1958 in France, roots from Côte d'Ivoire. Cut an
album in 1992 when he was mostly associated with rock acts like
Sting and Peter Gabriel, and now three ECM albums since 2006 --
the first, Neighbourhood, got a big boost from Jan
Garbarek. The saxophonist here, also favoring soprano over
tenor, is Tore Brunborg, a similar player, but can't light up
a record like Garbarek. Nor does Jason Rebello add much on
keyboards, but Jacob Young's guitar spots (4 cuts) are bright
and lyrical. Kami Lyle sings one, in a voice that is barely
there, and plays a bit of trumpet.
Kihnoua: Unauthorized Caprices (2009 , Not
Two): Larry Ochs group, second his his website's group list after
Sax Drumming Core, but then ROVA is on the far end. Ochs plays
saxophones (probably sopranino and tenor), rough and rugged as
usual, but not as rough as Dohee Lee's vocals -- her attack is
barely restrainted. Also on board is Scott Amendola, drums and
electronics. Group name "borrowed from ancient Greek might have
meant 'the difference.'" Vocals draw on Korean "p'ansori singing"
and "sinawi improvisation," but could just as well be avant horn
attack. Some guests: Liz Allbee (trumpet + electronics), Fred
Frith (guitar), Joan Jeanrenaud (cello).
Randy Klein: Sunday Morning (2009 , Jazzheads):
Pianist, b. 1949, has ten or so records since 1986, produces records
for his Jazzheads label (named after an early album), does theatre
and film work -- discography includes a page as "Composer" listing
Lil Kim, Memphis Bleek, Black Sheep, IRT, Sarah Dash, Millie Jackson,
Candi Staton. Plays here with saxophonist Oleg Kireyev and trombonist
Chris Washburne, mostly duets. Alternating the horns keeps the record
out of a rut, and both make strong contributions -- I've been praising
Kireyev a lot recently, but Washburne does a superb job with the more
Kneebody: You Can Have Your Moment (2009 ,
Winter & Winter): Postbop group with a little funk undertow,
probably related to their fondness for Fender Rhodes and effects.
Adam Benjamin (as I said), Shane Endsley (trumpet), Kaveh Rastegar
(electric bass), Ben Wendel (sax, melodica), Nate Wood (drums --
the only one not credited with effects). Cut an eponymous album
for Dave Douglas's Greenleaf Music label in 2005, and got their
name out front on Theo Bleckman's Twelve Songs by Charles
Ives. Played this one too many times and have to move on:
the horns are names I recognize but have yet to register strongly,
the Rhodes is neither here nor there, and the drummer's a busy
guy who has something beyond funk to add.
Lee Konitz/Chris Cheek/Stephane Furic Leibovici: Jugendstil
II (2005 , ESP-Disk): Bassist Leibovici, who previously
recorded as Stephane Furic, wrote all eight pieces, and acts as music
director for the two saxophonists. He sets the ground rules, reining
in the saxes as they're mostly yoked to the melody -- not much here
for rugged individualists, although the music is pleasantly engaging.
Oliver Lake Organ Quartet: Plan (2009 , Passin
Thru): Follows an Organ Trio record, adding trumpeter Freddie Hendrix
to returning Jared Gold (organ) and Jonathan Blake (drums) -- Lake,
of course, plays alto sax. The second horn reminds me of the harmonics
Julius Hemphill coaxed out of the World Saxophone Quartet (minus the
booming tenor and baritone parts), and Gold does some very interesting
things -- I've seen reviews invoke the idea of Monk on organ, but he
doesn't just jump around a lot; he gets some positive spin on chaos.
Main caveat is that it seems off here and there, a sign of the risks
Domenic Landolf: New Brighton (2009 ,
Pirouet): Swiss tenor saxophonist, b. 1969, also plays bass
clarinet and quite a bit of alto flute here. Third album
since 2004. Trio backed by Patrice Moret on bass and Dejan
Terzic on drums, who keep it simple, straightforward, and
thoughtful. Mix of Landolf, Moret, and group pieces, with
a lovely cover of "My Old Flame" to close.
Lawnmower: West (2008 , Clean Feed):
The label really seems to like group names, something I try
to minimize in my filing: most seem like fronts for some
principal, and even when group distribution is genuine so
many group names become difficult to follow. I originally
tried filing this under drummer Luther Gray: he produced
and wrote the (very brief) liner notes. Don't see any song
credits. Of course, the person you hear is alto saxophonist
Jim Hobbs, who is always out front. Quartet is filled out
with two guitarists, Geoff Farina and Dan Littleton, who
don't make much of a mark. Some bits of Americana worked
into the mix, giving it a bit of folk-gospel roots, but
recast as free jazz, of course.
Lean Left: The Ex Guitars Meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark
Duo, Volume 1 (2008 , Smalltown Superjazz): Maybe
artist name and title should be switched. "Ex Guitars" are Andy
Moor and Terrie Ex of the Dutch mostly-rock group The Ex, which
started much like the Mekons but instead of going country-folk
hung out with African noise bands and avant-jazzers. Drummer
Paal Nilssen-Love and Ken Vandermark (tenor sax, Bb clarinet)
have five or six albums as a duo, many more in larger configs,
and in fact many Vandermark albums have been multi-band mash-ups
along such lines. Cut live at Bimhuis. Liner suggests that
Vandermark couldn't hear himself over the guitars although he
was aware of blowing his lungs out; no problem, the sax is loud
and clear here (especially loud). The guitars are less obvious,
cutting in and out with harmonic strings and blasts of distortion.
While the rockers are ripping up the sonic landscape, the jazz
vanguardists rock out, with Vandermark riffing heavy and the
drummer tying it all together. Three short pieces and one long
at 27:26 for an intense bit over 41 minutes.
Orlando Le Fleming: From Brooklyn With Love (2009
, 19/8): Bassist, b. 1976, Birmingham, UK; moved to New York
2003. Wikipedia has an article on a professional cricket player
named Antony Orlando Frank le Fleming, born on the same day in the
same town (well, pretty large city), who played 1994-96; web site
bio says he played cricked "for five years in the minor counties,"
which I guess is consistent. First album, although he has a healthy
number of side credits going back to 1999, especially with Jane
Monheit. Quartet here, with Will Vinson on alto sax, Lage Lund on
guitar, and Antonio Sanchez on drums. Lund has some tasty guitar
leads here, and Vinson is sharp but moderate. Attractive album.
Seems like I'm on a run of records that sound quite good but don't
quite move me to write about them.
Jim Lewis/Andrew Downing/Jean Martin: On a Short Path From
Memory to Forgotten (2008 , Barnyard): Trumpet, bass,
drums, respectively. Canadians: Lewis teaches at University of
Toronto, which Downing attended. This looks to be Lewis's first
album. Scratchy free jazz, often engaging, a little short of fire
Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth: Deluxe (2008 ,
Clean Feed): I used to be able to ID these cars: cover looks
like a mid-1950s Oldsmobile (1956?), the sketch inside more
like a 1959 Caddy, the ne plus ultra of tailfins. Lightcap's
a bassist, b. 1971, gets around, third album under his own
name after two Fresh Sound New Talents. Runs a big horn line
here, with tenor saxophonists Chris Cheek and Tony Malaby on
all cuts, and alto saxophonist Andrew D'Angelo joining in on
three of eight. Craig Taborn plays Wurlitzer, and Gerald Cleaver
is the drums. Sounds like a freewheeling lineup, but they mostly
hum along in sync. I used to have a monster Olds: a 1965, with
a 425 cu. in. V-8, 4 bbl. carb, put out about 360 hp, ran real
smooth keeping all that power bottled up under its big hood,
kind of like this record.
Joe Locke: For the Love of You (2009 ,
Koch): Instrumentally a fairly snazzy quartet, with
Locke's vibes rattling against Geoffrey Keezer's ivories, and
George Mraz and Clarence Penn pushing the rhythm. Problem is
they added a singer, Kenny Washington, like Jimmy Scott a little
guy with a lot of octaves. First song is awful. Second is "Old
Devil Moon" -- can't hardly ruin that. Evens out a bit after
The Mark Lomax Trio: The State of Black America
(2007 , Inarhyme): Drummer, b. 1979, from Columbus, OH;
describes himself as "the Quincy Jones of his generation";
first group, 1999, was called Blacklist, their first album
Blacklisted; trio has a previous gospel-themed album,
Lift Every Voice!; this one has originals titled
"Stuck in a Rut," "The Unknown Self," "The Power of Knowing,"
and "To Know God Is to Know Thy Self" (well, also "Blues for
Charles"). None of that prepared me for this record, a sax
trio, with unknowns Dean Hulett on bass and Edwin Bayard on
tenor. First approximation on Bayard is that he sounds a lot
like David S. Ware, and I mean a lot.
[was: A-] A
Sarah Manning: Dandelion Clock (2009 ,
Posi-Tone): Alto saxophonist, originally from Connecticut where
she bumped into Jackie McLean and picked up a bit of his overbite.
Passed through San Francisco on her way to New York. Third album,
two covers (Jimmy Rowles' "The Peacocks," Michel Legrand's "The
Windmills of Your Mind") and seven originals, with Art Hirahara
on piano, Linda Oh on bass, and Kyle Struve on drums. Has some
edge to her playing, not just the rough tone, and gets occasional
buzz from the group -- hadn't heard Hirahara before but his solos
Jacám Manricks: Trigonometry (2009 ,
Posi-Tone): Saxophonist, not specified but plays alto in his
photos and has played soprano in the past; based in New York,
teaches at Manhattan School of Music; bio doesn't provide
details like when/where born, how he got to New York, etc.
One previous album, last year's Labyrinth, also an
impressive disc. Wrote all but a Dolphy piece. Postbop, has
a loquacious tone, gets solid support from Gary Versace on
piano and Obed Calvaire on drums, and occasional front line
help from Scott Wendholt (trumpet) and Alan Ferber (trombone).
Sorry for the grade rut, but I can't budge this up or down.
[PS: Looks like he started out in Australia.]
Margret: Com Vocę (2010, Sunnyside): Last name
Grebowicz, from Texas, probably based in New York now although
hype sheet says she teaches philosophy at Goucher College in
Baltimore. Website refers to band as Com Vocę, but hype sheet
gives Margret as artist name, Com Vocę as album title.
She/they have a 2007 album, Candeias, under Com Vocę.
Band isn't really applicable on this album anyway: Margret
sings on all tracks, but only has Ben Monder (guitar) on one
track, Matvei Sigalov (guitar) on another, Monder and Scott
Colley (bass) on a third; tenor saxophonist Stan Killian, who
seems to be her senior collaborator, only appears on 3 of 9
tracks. Only 3 of 9 songs have Brazilian roots, but she does
a fair Astrud Gilberto impression, especially on the sweetly
synthetic "Call Me."
Bobby McFerrin: Vocabularies (2010, Emarcy):
Actually, title is consistently spelled "VOCAbuLarieS" -- a
not-so-subtle way of pointing out that most of the sounds are
vocal. The balance comes from producer-cowriter Roger Treece's
synths and programming, Alex Acuńa's percussion, and small
doses of Donny McCaslin sax and Pedro Eustache woodwinds.
The cover notes Treece's contribution "and over 50 amazing
singers" -- not counting a crowd of 2500 in Bergen, Norway.
Each song has at least 16 singers, a chorale effect that
trivializes any individual -- McFerrin is always credited
as "lead vocal," and Lisa Fischer often as "featured vocal,"
but neither make much of an impression.
Brad Mehldau: Highway Rider (2009 , Nonesuch):
One quick play and there's way too much here to sort out or dismiss.
Haven't sorted out who's on which cuts, but the maximum configuration
is Mehldau on piano, Joshua Redman on tenor sax, Larry Grenadier on
bass, Jeff Ballard and Matt Chamberlain on drums, and Dan Coleman
conducting an orchestra of 30-40 more -- mostly strings, although
I'll note that there is both a bassoon and a contrabassoon. I'm not
inclined to like the orchestral wash, but thus far it sounds fine.
Redman could be more aggressive, but it's Mehldau's thing. I've heard
a fair amount of his piano trios and regard him as quite talented but
still a project for some future day.
Brad Mehldau: Highway Rider (2009 , Nonesuch,
2CD): Started out with piano trios, making an impressive debut and
sustaining his Art of the Piano Trio series longer than anyone
has a right to; dropped the obligatory solo album, but then started
moving onto large canvases, more composer than improviser. This one
sprawls over two discs, awash in a huge string orchestra, which
alternately annoys and soothes me. Joshua Redman also graces the
affair, sounding functionally comparable to Jan Garbarek if not
quite so sweet or sharp.
Myra Melford's Be Bread: The Whole Tree Gone (2008
, Firehouse 12): Pianist, b. 1957, cut a couple of trio albums
in 1990-91 that Francis Davis noticed, and gradually worked her way
into the front rank of cutting edge jazz pianists. Teaches at UC
Berkeley. Be Bread is her most expansive group, previously heard
on the 2006 album The Image of Your Body, much advanced here:
Cuong Vu (trumpet), Ben Goldberg (clarinet), Brandon Ross (guitar),
Stomu Takeishi (acoustic bass guitar), and Matt Wilson (drums).
Dave Mihaly's Shimmering Leaves Ensemble: Eastern Accents
in the Far West (2010, Porto Franco): Drummer, plays some
piano here, also has a voice credit; based in San Francisco, after
starting in NJ and NY; credits Andrew Cyrille, Barry Altschul, and
Zakir Hussain as teachers, and reports that he's taught for some
thirty years. First album according to AMG, although his website
lists several more, including three string quartets and an expanded
"Coretet" version of this group. Two-horn trio, with David Boyce
on tenor sax and Ara Anderson on brass instruments (trumpet, bass
trumpet, sousaphone), both occasionally spelling Mihaly on drums.
I recall Anderson from Tin Hat; Boyce has a couple dozen credits,
the only one I recognize a hip-hop album, Haiku D'Etat
(actually, a pretty good one, with Aceyalone). The two horns
twist in interesting ways, with just enough support from drums
(and sometimes piano) to tie it together.
Mikrokolektyw: Revisit (2009 , Delmark):
Polish duo, Artur Majewski on trumpet, Kuba Sucher on drums, both
working electronics, based in Wroclaw but with some sort of
connection to Chicago -- at least to Rob Mazurek, whose Chicago
Underground is a basically similar cornet-drums duo. Sounds
microtonal at first, but the trumpet offers relief from any
Allison Miller: Boom Tic Boom (2010, Foxhaven):
Drummer, from DC, based in New York, second album after one in
2005, substantial list of side credits since 1999, mostly rock
(exceptions include Virginia Mayhew, Marty Ehrlich, Dr. Lonnie
Smith, Judy Silvano, and Todd Sickafoose). Mostly piano trio
with Myra Melford leading, Sickafoose on bass, and some guest
contribution from violinist Jenny Scheinman -- just one cut as
far as I can tell. Four originals from Miller, two from Melford,
one each from Mary Lou Williams and Hoagy Carmichael ("Rockin'
Chair"). Slows down for the finale, but Melford is in very fine
form -- a better showcase for her piano than her own record.
James Moody: 4B (2008 , IPO): One of
the most popular bebop saxophonists to emerge in the early
1950s, both through his long association with Dizzy Gillespie
and through a few fluke hits of his own, and one of the last
standing. This follows up on last year's 4A, more
standards from the same sessions, the "4" referring to a
quartet with Kenny Barron, Todd Coolman, and Lewis Nash.
Straightforward, beautiful tone, swings through "Take the
A Train," doesn't cut up the Tadd Dameron and Benny Golson
pieces, backup is impeccable, and he leaves his flute in
the case. One to remember him by, but it's still a bit
early for that. Looks like this includes a label sampler,
which with its Roland Hanna and Roger Kellaway piano and
Tad Jones tribute band (One More) should make for
fine dinner background.
B+(***) [Aug. 25]
Jason Moran: Ten (2010, Blue Note): Pianist,
b. 1975, grew up in Houston, studied at Manhattan School of
Music with Jaki Byard, also hooking up with Muhal Richard
Abrams and Andrew Hill. Signed out of college by Blue Note,
his first album appearing on a major label in 1999, making
him an instant rising star. For a while it seemed like he
could do nothing wrong: his first four albums made my A-list,
and I can't offhand tell you if any other jazz pianist has
ever done that. Fifth one was live, an understanable slip,
but his next couple were merely good, and this one (which
I count as his eighth) comes nearly four years after the
last. Not clear where the title comes from, but it looks
like a summing up: covers of Monk and Byard, Bernstein and
Nancarrow, a joint credit with Hill. I've played this 6-8
times, maybe more, but haven't quite gotten into it. The
last two cuts (Byard's "To Bob Vatel of Paris" and Moran's
own "Old Babies") are fairly wonderful with hints of stride,
and there is a lot of fancy stuff up front and thought in
the middle -- impressive stuff, no doubt. Wonder why I don't
like it more.
Joe Morris: Colorfield (2009, ESP-Disk):
Guitarist, from Boston, with about 30 albums since 1990, has been
on a roll lately -- I count three A-list records since 2004 under
his own name, a near miss, and a few more under other names, but
most of those rode in on the coattails of hard-blowing saxophonists
(Ken Vandermark, Jim Hobbs). Missed this one from last year, a trio
with pianist Steve Lantner and his usual drummer Luther Gray. Don't
know Lantner, but he worked with Joe (and Mat) Maneri, has a half
dozen albums since 1997, and provides a consistently interesting
contrast to Morris's irrascible guitar.
Paul Motian/Chris Potter/Jason Moran: Lost in a Dream
(2009 , ECM): This should have been released Mar. 9 but I
never got the usual final copy, and have been thrashing around
trying to find the advance as it's already been widely reviewed.
With no bassist there's no chance of swinging, and with Motian
drumming there isn't much of a beat. Moran is another shrinking
violet, comping gently and somewhat abstractly, perhaps intent
on emulating the Zen master drummer. That leaves Potter in the
spotlight. While he too follows the prevailing mood, he doesn't
shirk his role, which is to render these marginal melodies as
gorgeously as possible, and occasionally hint that there may
be more powerful forces lurking beneath the surface.
Music of the Sphere: Thelonious Monk Songbook [The Composer
Collection Volume 5] (1977-2009 , High Note): Continues
the label's efforts to pad their product line with samplers. You'd
think that Monk's pieces (excepting "'Round About Midnight," natch)
are so distinctive they'd provide a unifying theme for an inherently
disunified various artist selection, but the compiler seems to have
taken that as a challenge to make the selection more perverse. The
Arthur Blythe/John Hicks duo is sketchy. The Joel Harrison nonet is
one I'd just as soon never hear again. Larry Coryell excels, and
Frank Morgan seems refreshingly normal. But I'd still rather hear
the whole of the Mary Lou Williams trio I missed than a pastiche
Wolfgang Muthspiel & Mick Goodrick: Live at the Jazz
Standard (2008 , Material): Guitar duo. Muthspiel
is Austrian, b. 1965, has about 20 albums since 1990. He gets
compared to Metheny and Scofield a lot, but I like him better,
with his early Black and Blue and recent Bright Side
especially recommended (the latter was a Jazz CG pick hit).
Goodrick is an older American, b. 1945, broke in with Gary Burton
alongside Metheny. He has a 1978 ECM album, In Pas(s)ing
(recommended to John Surman fans), a few more in the 1990s, not
much really. The two guitarists sort of melt together here in
a polite encounter that generates little heat. Still, there is
something to be said for that ice tone and the ability to spin
long clean lines.
Mycale: Mycale: The Book of Angels, Volume 13
(2009 , Tzadik): More of John Zorn's new-old Jewish music,
this time rendered a capella by a group of four women vocalists:
Ayelet Rose Gottlieb, Sofia Rei Koutsovitis, Basya Schecter, and
Malika Zarra -- I've run across records under the first three
names already. Lyrics picked up from various texts in Hebrew,
Yiddish, Ladino, French, and Arabic. The music has some bounce
and resonance, sort of a klezmerish barbershop quarter.
Paal Nilssen-Love/Ken Vandermark: Milwaukee Volume
(2007 , Smalltown Superjazz): Chicago reed player Vandermark
plays tenor and baritone sax, Bb and bass clarinet; drums and
percussion for Norwegian Nilssen-Love. Nilssen-Love has played
in several Vandermark groups like School Days and in Territory
Band. They hooked up for an improv duet in 2002 called Dual
Pleasure, followed that with the 2-CD Dual Pleasure 2
in 2003, Seven in 2005, and now two new discs, the one
from Milwaukee cut a day before the one from Chicago. They go
round and round, same basic moves, hard to sort out any real
advantages here or there, but this one, I'd say, has more pure
pleasure than any since the surprise of the debut wore off. For
one thing, Vandermark has developed into a monster baritone
player, so the really rough stuff comes out loud and low.
Paal Nilssen-Love/Ken Vandermark: Chicago Volume
(2007 , Smalltown Supersound): A day later after Milwaukee
Volume, same setup, similar results. Been playing both a lot
since they arrived, but this one remains a bit less focused to me,
with fewer pleasure spots.
NoMoreShapes: Creesus Crisis (2010, Drip Audio):
Canadian trio, from (and/or based in) Calgary: Jay Crocker on
guitar and electronics, J.C. Jones trombone, Eric Hamelin drums
and percussion. One suspects rock backgrounds, but this comes
off more like freebop than any kind of experimental fusion. The
trombone certainly helps.
Mark O'Connor: Jam Session (2000-04 ,
OMAC): Whiz-kid bluegrass fiddler, b. 1961, won some prizes
when he was young, one result being that Country Music
Foundation's compilation of his 1975-84 work is called
The Championship Years. Gradually gravitated toward
jazz, where he seems stuck on Stephane Grappelli. These
cuts actually come from four sessions, two with mandolinist
Chris Thile and guitarist Bryan Sutton, one of those plus
the other two with guitarist Frank Vignola, with either
Jon Burr or Byron House on bass. Informal fun, but doesn't
impress me much one way or the other.
Meg Okura and the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble: Naima
(2009 , Meg Okura): Violinist, also plays erhu, b. 1973 in
Tokyo, Japan, based in New York. Has a previous album, Meg Okura's
Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble (2006), as well as several in
Japan that AMG doesn't have a clue about. Also shows up in side
credits on a couple dozen albums, mostly John Zorn circle but also
with Dianne Reeves, David Bowie, and Ziggy Marley. Group is chamber-ish,
with flutes (Anne Drummond Jun Kubo), piano, cello, bass, drums, and
percussion (Satoshi Takeishi), and the pieces tend to be suite-like,
the last four under the group title "Lu Chai I-IV." The title track,
of course, is an arrangement of Coltrane; everything else original.
Striking music when it all clicks, which often it does.
Open Graves [Paul Kikuchi/Jesse Olsen]: Hollow Lake
(2009, Prefecture): Bay Area-based Olsen is "founder and director
of Deconstruct My House, an organization dedicated to presenting
and fostering experimental music in socially conscious ways"; also
"half of the experimental folk duo Ramon & Jessica." Sounds
like a noble calling. For Kikuchi, see above [Tide Tables]. Not
sure what Olsen does -- uncredited instruments here are "guitar,
voice, slit drum, trombone, bells, walkie-talkies, and Kikuchi
and Keplinger instruments" -- but he manages to ground whatever
percussion Kikuchi attempts. This "seeks resonant spaces and
uncommon environments," which means it is ambient and droney,
not uninteresting, but demands attention it doesn't entice.
Aruán Ortiz Quartet: Alameda (2006 ,
Fresh Sound New Talent): Pianist, b. 1973, from Santiago de
Cuba, passed through Spain and France before moving to US
in 2003, to study at Berklee and wind up in New York. Cut
an album of Cuban standards in 1996, a trio in 2005, and
now this augmented quartet. The extra is tenor saxophonist
Antoine Roney, who joins in on three cuts and gets a
"featuring" shout out on the cover. The quartet includes
Eric McPherson on drums, Peter Slavov on bass, and Abraham
Burton on alto sax. Roney's the better known name, and I
like him well enough, but Burton carries this record, as
he has regularly done throughout his career. Ortiz plays
some electric. Doesn't make much of his Cuban roots, but
I don't doubt he could.
Evan Parker: House Full of Floors (2009, Tzadik):
Mostly trio with John Russell on guitar and John Edwards on bass,
Parker playing both soprano and tenor sax, scratchy and patchy on
both, with most of the muscle coming out of the bass. Aleks Kolkowski
joins in on three tracks, playing stroh viola, saw, and wax cylinder
recorder, respectively. I take this for easy listening background
music, but you probably don't.
Sarah Partridge: Perspective (2009 ,
Peartree): Singer, based in NJ, fourth album since 1998. Did
some acting 1983-93. Duet with pianist Daniel May. Two originals,
the rest standards. Never breaks out of a rather bland rut.
Art Pepper: Unreleased Art, Vol. V: Stuttgart May 25,
1981 (1981 , Widow's Taste, 2CD): Yet another
installment in Laurie Pepper's catalog of late Pepper bootlegs,
eleven days after The Croydon Concert which appeared
as Vol. III in 2008, eight days before Art Pepper
With Duke Jordan in Copenhagen 1981 (released by Galaxy
in 1996 and a favorite of mine ever since), then there is
the Nov. 22, 1981 Abashiri Concert (Vol. 1 in
this series). With Milcho Leviev on piano, Bob Magnuson on
bass, and Carl Burnett on drums: a common tour group for
Pepper, although only Burnett was a frequent player on
Pepper's Galaxy albums of the period -- George Cables was
his most common pianist. I'm not sure you need all of these,
but after a while one starts looking for idiosyncrasies,
and this one has plenty. Leviev is much rougher than Cables
and tends to run on, but he is explosive here. Pepper has
his ordinary moments, but "Landscape" on the first disc is
magnificent; on the second he tears at "Over the Rainbow"
trying to come up with something new after thirty years
of playing the song, and he succeeds, then celebrates by
burning through "Cherokee."
Ivo Perelman/Daniel Levin/Torbjörn Zetterberg: Soulstorm
(2009 [2010, Clean Feed, 2CD): Recording date just given as "April
18" -- presumably before the March 2010-dated liner notes. Tenor
saxophonist, b. 1961 in Brazil, based in New York, has at least 35
albums since 1989, including a few more in the queue that I haven't
gotten to yet. Levin plays cello (as has Perelman on occasion), and
Zetterberg bass, so they sort of flow together into a backdrop for
Perelman's musings, some rough and tumble but most sensitive and
Ivo Perelman/Gerry Hemingway: The Apple in the Dark
(2010, Leo): Hemingway is a drummer with a notable discography under
his own name, as well as renown as a sideman, perhaps most importantly
in Anthony Braxton's 1980s quartet. Perelman is the tenor saxophonist
from Brazil. I have in my notes that he's also played cello (in
Strings, a duo with guitarist Joe Morris), but hadn't noticed
him playing piano before (the only instance I can find is a 1999
album, Brazilian Watercolor). In these duos, he plays piano
about half of the time -- didn't manage to count the cuts -- and
tenor sax the other half. He's more assured, and more relaxed, on
his main instrument, but I'm even more struck by the piano. James
Hall's liner notes described it as "a kaleidoscopic jumber of Erroll
Garner and Monk" but I was thinking more of Cecil Taylor, and not
just because he makes a lot of noise but because he turns it into
Ivo Perelman/Dominic Duval/Brian Willson: Mind Games
(2008 , Leo): Conventional tenor sax trio, with Duval on bass
and Wilson on drums. I saw Duval play once, with Cecil Taylor, who
ran him ragged for about 20 minutes, then after Duval was worn out
Taylor started to play a little himself. Wilson is a drummer. Can't
find out much about him, but he's certainly not the ex-Beach Boys
singer-guitarist who shows up in his stead for the first million or
so Google searches. Pretty good drummer, too. As for the tenor
saxophonist, this is billed marking the 20th anniversary of his
recording career, and he's in his prime, sticking to what he knows
best. Before this string, I had only heard 4-5 of his recordings,
the delta there an unrated duo with Borah Bergman, and only had
one at A-: 1996's Sad Life. It, too, was a sax trio, with
William Parker and Hamid Drake. I wonder whether, had I played
the records in some other order, I might have nitpicked one or
the other down a notch. After three plays I'm not totally blown
away here either, but have no nits to pick. I need to go back the
review the others, and figure out what to do with this cluster --
probably a lead and two high HMs. (Also wonder why they didn't
send me the Perelman/Wilson duo The Stream of Life --
hard to think of any label I don't get that I'd be more excited
to hook into than Leo.)
Ivo Perelman: The Ventriloquist (2001 , Leo):
Rhapsody has two copies of this with different artwork -- this one
matches Leo's website. With Paul Rodgers on guitar, Ramon Lopez on
drums, and either Louis Sclavis on bass clarinet or Christine
Wodrascka on piano. The horns squeak more than squawk, but that's
the basic range, at a pretty intense level. The piano pieces,
especially the long title track, are at least as intense; she
throws fits of unbalanced chords, and Perelman has to play his
ass off to keep from being buried. Very intense, not comfortable
with it myself.
Ivo Perelman & Dominic Duval: Nowhere to Hide
(2009, Not Two): Tenor sax-bass duo, a subset of the trio that
recorded Mind Games, which benefitted from the accents
and dynamics of drummer Brian Wilson. Perelman is close in tone
and temperament to the later albums -- much mellower than on the
early albums -- but stretches a bit thin here, partly listener
fatigue setting in approaching 76 minutes.
Ivo Perelman: Brazilian Watercolour (1998 ,
Leo): Several Perelman albums have been reissued in Brazil on Atraçăo
Fonográphica and worked their way to Rhapsody that way -- this one
under the title Aquarela do Brasil, but aside from a few title
translations this matches the release on Leo. One of the few cases
where Perelman plays a couple of pop tunes from his homeland, here
"Desafinado" and "Samba de Verăo" -- the strain and choppiness he
adds makes them all the more alluring. With Matthew Shipp on piano,
Rashid Ali on drums, Guilherme Franco and Cyro Baptista on percussion
and wood flutes. A singular tenor saxophonist, even on a lite samba.
Also has a piano credit somewhere, but it's not clear to me where
Shipp gives way.
Ivo Perelman with C.T. String Quartet: The Alexander
Suite (1998, Leo): The quartet is sharp and jazzwise,
led from the bassist: Jason Kao Hwang (violin), Ron Lawrence
(viola), Tomas Ulrich (cello), and Dominic Duval (bass). That
makes them about as astringent as the tenor saxophonist, who
squeaks and squawks above them, pretty much as sharp and bloody
as cutting edge gets.
Gregory Porter: Water (2009 , Motema):
Vocalist, based in Brooklyn, first album. Wrote 6 of 11 songs;
one called "1960 What?" on the Detroit riot is a choice cut,
partly because he beefs up the horn section (three trumpets
and trombone), partly because he doesn't try to constrain his
cool. On the other hand, standards like "Skylark" and "But
Beautiful" are really tightened down.
Portico Quartet: Isla (2009 , Real World):
British group: Jack Wyllie (saxes, electronics), Milo Fitzpatrick
(double bass), Duncan Bellamy (drums, piano), and Nick Mulvey
(hang drums, percussion). Record also has a string quartet --
two violins, viola, cello -- arranged by Fitzpatrick, but mostly
what you hear is soprano sax riffing over percussion, not much
as jazz but a very listenable synthesis of postrock minimalism
and world fusion.
Dan Pratt Organ Quartet: Toe the Line (2008 ,
Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist, from Saratoga, CA, moved to New York
in 1997. Group identified as DPOQ on their previous album. Jared
Gold plays organ, Mark Ferber drums, and Alan Ferber chimes in on
trombone. All originals except for Ellington-Strayhorn's "Star
Crossed Lovers." Sounds a lot like Eric Alexander, especially when
he gets up a good head of steam. The trombone is fun as a solo
contrast, but the postbop harmonies are less appealing.
Tom Rainey Trio: Pool School (2009 , Clean
Feed): Album says this was recorded "on September 4th, 2010" --
I assume that's a typo for 2009. Rainey is a drummer who's made
a big impression, especially in Tim Berne's groups. Has a long
credits list going back to 1987, but this is the first album
under his own name. Gets all the composition credits, too. Trio
includes Ingrid Laubrock on tenor and soprano sax and Mary
Halvorson on guitar. Both tend to wobble here, which is sort of
an art form for Halvorson, harder to speculate on with Laubrock.
Free playing, takes a lot of attention, doesn't give much back,
even from the drummer.
Mike Reed's People, Places & Things: Stories and
Negotiations (2008 , 482 Music): Chicago drummer.
Personnel in this particular group has shifted around depending
on what Reed wants to focus on, but the basic theme is 1950s
proto-avant-garde jazz in Chicago, which includes pieces here
from Clifford Jordan, John Jenkins, Wilbur Campbell, Julian
Priester, and (especially) Sun Ra. Art Hoyle (trumpet) and
Priester (trombone) are featured here, as is Ira Sullivan, a
tenor saxophonist who also hails from the 1950s. The younger
set includes Greg Ward (alto sax), Tim Haldeman (tenor sax),
Jeb Bishop (trombone), and Jason Roebke (bass), so we get a
lot of horns freebopping along. Reed wrote three originals,
one for each of his featured guests. In several plays they
have yet to resolve -- when I do perk up it's invariably in
one or another of the covers.
Reed's Bass Drum: Which Is Which (2009 ,
Reed's Bass Drum): Brooklyn-based sax trio, with Jonah Parzen-Johnson
leading on baritone, Noah Garabedian on bass, and Aaron Ewing on
drums. First album. Freebop, moderately paced, no surprise given
how slow the bari takes the corners; marvelous, though, when the
big horn reaches for a bottom note.
Pete Robbins: Silent Z Live (2009 , Hate Laugh
Music): Alto saxophonist, b. 1978, grew up in Andover, MA, studied
at Phillips Academy, Tufts, and New England Conservatory; moved to
Brooklyn in 2002. Fourth album since 2002. Two quintet variants, half
with Jesse Neuman on cornet, the other hand with Cory Smythe on piano;
both with Mike Gamble on guitar, Thomas Morgan on bass, and Tyshawn
Sorey on drums. Gets a sweet sound out of his horn, working freebop
grooves and angles, dicier with the cornet than with the piano, but
engaging in all cases.
Aldo Romano: Origine (2009 , Dreyfus
Jazz): Drummer, b. 1941 in Belluno, Italy, but moved to France
in 1950s and has been long based in Paris. Has a couple dozen
albums under his own name since 1977, and a lot of credits --
AMG, which misses a lot in Europe, has a long page starting
with Gato Barbieri and Don Cherry in 1965, Steve Lacy in 1966,
Rolf Kuhn in 1967, Joachim Kuhn and Steve Kuhn in 1969. Romano
composed these pieces, probably over the course of his career,
with Yves Simon adding lyrics to "Jazz Messengers" which Romano
sings in a touchingly offhand way. Lionel Belmondo arranged
the pieces for a large orchestra -- no strings but flutes,
English and French horns, bassoon, and tuba, along with the
usual reeds, limited brass, piano, bass, and drums -- which
the notes fairly describe as "sumptuous."
Jim Rotondi: 1000 Rainbows (2008 , Posi-Tone):
Trumpet player, b. 1962 in Butte, MT, attended UNT, based in New York,
has more than a dozen albums since 1997, mostly on mainstream/hard
bop labels Criss Cross and Sharp Nine; also more than 50 side credits
since 1992. Sole horn, with Joe Locke on vibes, Danny Grissett on
piano, Barak Mori on bass, and Bill Stewart on drums. Hard-edged,
bright sound, another very solid record.
ROVA & Nels Cline Singers: The Celestial Septet
(2008 , New World): World renowned saxophone quartet plus
world renowned guitar-bass-drums trio, works out to be a pretty
full-featured band. The saxophonists -- Bruce Ackley, Steve Adams,
Larry Ochs, and Jon Raskin -- are used to orchestrating their own
harmony, but assuming the Singers will take up the slack they get
to stretch out a bit here. But Nels Cline, bassist Devin Hoff, and
drummer Scott Amendola don't harmonize so much as build up the
ambient noise level, putting this into Electric Ascension
territory, minus the annoyances of the Coltrane script. Closest
they come is Ochs's 25:23 paean to Albert Ayler, "Whose to Know,"
where the noise climax seems well-earned.
Ellen Rowe Quartet: Wishing Well (2009 ,
PKO): Pianist, b. 1958, from Connecticut, teaches at University
of Michigan, third album since 2001. Runs marathons, climbs
mountains: Aconcagua, Denali -- second album was called Denali
Pass. Wrote 9 of 10 pieces, covering "Alone Together."
Quartet includes Andrew Bishop on tenor and soprano sax, nice
balance since she doesn't push her piano real hard. Higher
peaks come from the guests: Andy Haefner (tenor sax) on one
cut, Ingrid Jensen (flugelhorn) on two. After playing John
Zorn most of yesterday, I found this sublimely relaxing.
Terje Rypdal: Crime Scene (2009 , ECM):
Guitarist, b. 1947, part of the George Russell generation of
Norwegian jazz musicians; started in rock and gravitated in
and out of fusion over the years. Shows some of that here,
but the album, a concert recording at Nattjazz Festival in
Bergen, veers wildly about with a range of things I can't
add up much less reconcile: scattered vocal samples assembled
by drummer Paolo Vinaccia; free-ranging trumpet by Palle
Mikkelborg; grungy organ by Stĺle Storlřkken; and occasional
earth rumbling from the 17-piece Bergen Big Band. Each of
these things are interesting. (Surprised to find him dropped
from the 9th ed. of The Penguin Guide, along with 18
records, all on ECM, very likely all still in print.)
Dino Saluzzi: El Encuentro (2009 , ECM):
Bandoneon virtuoso, b. 1935 in Argentina, picks up from the tango
tradition but usually adds a jazz dimension. Eleventh ECM album
since 1982, plus a few others scattered here and there. Cut a
duet album with cellist Anja Lechner in 2006, and continues that
collaboration here, adding Felix Saluzzi on tenor sax and, most
fatefully, the Metropole Orchestra (Jules Buckley, conductor) for
a live album. Metropole is a Dutch group, limited here to strings,
which pushes all of my I-hate-classical-music buttons. (Not sure
how this group relates to the Metropole Orchestra founded in 1945,
currently directed as a big band by Vince Mendoza.) The Saluzzis
and Lechner are hard pressed to stand out against such dross.
Scenes: Rinnova (2009 , Origin): Guitarist
John Stowell, leading a trio with Seattle stalwarts Jeff Johnson
(bass) and John Bishop (drums). Second album as Scenes, plus an
earlier quartet album titled Scenes. Stowell's credits go
back to the mid-1970s. AMG credits him with 13 albums and a few
more credits, mostly since 2000. Has an engagingly subtle style,
calmly picking his way through intricate sequences. Need more
time to decide just how substantial this is.
Scenes [John Stowell/Jeff Johnson/John Bishop]: Rinnova
(2009 , Origin): Guitar-bass-drums trio. Stowell is a subtle
craftsman, and Seattle's standard rhythm section lay out smartly
measured postbop ambience.
Hiroe Sekine: A-Mé (2009 , Sekai Music):
Pianist, from Japan, studied at USC. First album, produced by
Russell Ferrante, who plays synth on one track. Most tracks are
sextet, with trumpet (John Daversa), trombone (Bob McChesney),
tenor sax (Bob Sheppard, also soprano and flute), bass (Tony
Dumas), and drums (Peter Erskine or Chris Wabich), generating
a robust mainstream sound -- Sheppard is typically superb.
Half originals, half covers -- Gigi Gryce, Frank Loesser,
Jerome Kern, Isham Jones, Milton Nascimento. One solo piece,
which I found quite likable.
Elliott Sharp: Octal Book Two (2009 , Clean
Feed): Guitarist, b. 1951. AMG lists him under classical (chamber
music) since 1986, although his rather large discography goes back
to 1977. I hadn't heard anything until he showed up playing Monk
on Clean Feed, and now I'm up to four records, barely scratching
the surface. Solo guitar -- having a lot of trouble with the small
print here, but the credit actually looks like "Koll 8-string
electroacoustic guitarbass." Interesting but marginal, turning
ambient toward the end.
Avery Sharpe Trio: Live (2008 , JKNM):
Bassist, built his career on long turns with McCoy Tyner and
Yusef Lateef, each honored with a song here. Ninth album since
1988. Group is a trio with Onaje Alan Gumbs on piano and Winard
Harper on drums. Three originals by Sharpe, one by Gumbs, one
more cover: "My Favorite Things."
Archie Shepp: The New York Contemporary Five (1963
, Delmark): One of two contemporaneous John Tchicai groups that
took New York for their name -- the other was New York Art Quartet
with trombonist Roswell Rudd -- yet recorded mostly in the alto
saxophonist's native Denmark. This one sported Don Cherry (cornet)
and Archie Shepp (tenor sax) on the front line, Don Moore (bass)
and J.C. Moses (drums). They recorded a studio album in New York
for Fontana in August 1963, then two live sets at Jazzhus Montmartre
in Copenhagen for Sonet in November. The latter, minus two cuts,
were consolidated by Storyville into a single CD. This reissue
goes back to Sonet's Vol. 1 -- perhaps the other shoe will
fall later, although there is no indication of it here. They went
on to cut one more album for Savoy in 1964, with different bass
and drums, Ted Curson replacing Cherry on two cuts, and Shepp's
name (for the first time, I think) out front. Starts with the
three horns brawling before the rhythm section enters to sort
things out. Rough, primeval avant-garde, of the moment, with
1967-vintage liner notes that fall into the period.
Sierra Maestra: Sonido Ya (2009 , World
Village): Cuban institution, dates back to 1976, started out
playing classic son and pretty much stuck that way, the rhythms
complex, the horns simplistic, the vocals deeply sincere, the
songs scarcely varied in pitch, volume, or temperament -- not
that they don't put out. They always put out.
Ricardo Silveira: Até Amanhă/'Til Tomorrow
(2008 , Adventure Music): Guitarist, from Brazil, where
there are many but he consistently distinguishes himself. Not
sure who plays what here -- album has a "featuring" list but
no instruments and it's certainly incomplete. Actually, there
seems to be a lot of murky orchestral background, not awful
but not clear and not very helpful.
John Skillman's Barb City Stompers: DeKalb Blues
(2009 , Delmark): Trad jazz band, based in DeKalb, IL ("the
birthplace of barbed wire"), led by a clarinetist who played in
the Buck Creek Jazz Band for 32 years, but also owns and runs an
engineering firm in DeKalb. Featuring credit for trombonist Roy
Rubinstein, a 30-year veteran of "the New Orleans style Chicago
Hot Six," whose day job is Assistant Director at Fermilab in
Batavia, IL. Also with Larry Rutan on guitar (a QA manager),
Roger Hintzsche on bass (runs a fertilizer business), and Aaron
Puckett on drums (teaches high school). First album, mostly
pre-swing although it's hard to keep stuff that old pure, and
also hard to resist a Fats Waller song. Starst with "Millenberg
Joys"; ends with "My Old Kentucky Home"; Diana Skillman drops
in to sing "Yes Sir! That's My Baby." Corny, easy to see why
they stick with it even when the bread's got to come from
Dr. Lonnie Smith: Spiral (2010, Palmetto):
Organ player, b. 1942, has twenty-some albums since 1967 with
a big gap from 1979 to 1993. Fourth album with Palmetto, a
trio, with Jonathan Kreisberg, who's found a seductive niche
on guitar, and Jamire Williams on drums. First cut is from
another Smith, Jimmy, setting out the basic funk parameters.
Gets a substantial sound when he slows it down, too.
Sounds of Liberation (1972 , Porter):
Philadelphia group, very much of the black power moment when
shards of avant-sax clashed with funky conga rhythms, merging
into something far out but not inaccessible. Byard Lancaster
is the saxophonist in a septet with guitar, bass, and four
percussionists counting vibraphonist Khan Jamal, the founder
and best known member of the one-album group.
Carmen Souza: Protegid (2010, Galileo Music):
Cape Verdean singer, b. 1981, third album since 2006, backed
by an international band with Portuguese bassist-percussionist
Theo Pas'cal especially prominent, but Cuban pianist Victor
Zamora reminds me of the herky-jerky rhythms unusual in
post-Portuguese music (although Tom Zé is an exception --
maybe psychedelic tropicalia has something going here).
Her vocals are heavily mannered, sometimes so Sprachgesang
I expect to grasp some German words, but the lyrics look to
be all Portuguese, with a thick booklet of trots I haven't
bothered with (and in any case would find arduous to read).
Played it enough to detect that there is something highly
unusual going on here, but still too far out for me to get.
Esperanza Spalding: Chamber Music Society (2009-10
, Heads Up): Bassist, singer, Downbeat cover girl; b.
1984, Portland, OR; third album since 2005, singing more each time,
with a lot more scat here, but also with Gretchen Parlato taking
over two vocals, and Milton Nascimento chiming in on a third (a
Spalding original -- Parlato takes the semi-obligatory Jobim cut).
The chamber effect comes from violin-viola-cello, steadied by Leo
Genovese piano, with Terri Lynne Carrington drums, and Quintino
Cinalli percussion. "Wild Is the Wind" is a welcome cover, but
there's not much else to latch onto.
Speak (2009 , Origin): Seattle quintet, if
you count trumpeter Cuong Vu who dropped in after picking up a
teaching gig at the University of Washington. The others are Luke
Bergman on bass, Chris Icasiano on drums, Aaron Otheim on keyboard,
and Andrew Swanson on sax (probably tenor). All but Vu contribute
songs -- Bergman and Otheim two. Bergman produced. Not as mainstream
as I expected, although the sax-trumpet layering is postbop, while
the electric keyboard is mostly tacky, at least until they mutate
into some sort of horror soundtrack phase, ultimately breaking up
into noise, which is possibly their metier -- at least Swanson
sounds much healthier and happier squawking.
John Stein/Ron Gill: Turn Up the Quiet (2009
, Whaling City Sound): Stein is a guitarist, from Kansas
City, MO, not sure how old but he's pretty thin on top; ninth
album since 1995. Has a light, elegant style, not much evident
here where he winds up playing a lot of bass. Gill is a singer,
from North Carolina, based in Massachusetts, with one previous
album, although like Stein I'd guess he's probably in his 50s.
Billy Eckstein-type voice, but smokier. Draws songs from Victor
Young, Sammy Cahn, Bart Howard, one each from Ellington and
Strayhorn, two Brazilian pieces (neither Jobim), a short Stevie
Wonder medley. "Detour Ahead" is especially striking. Uncredited
on the front cover is pianist Gilad Barkan, who fills his unsung
Stevens, Siegel & Ferguson Trio: Six
(2008 , Konnex): Piano trio, with Memphis-based Michael
Jefry Stevens forgoing alphabetical order for once to claim
first dibs on a record. Siegel is drummer Jeff, nicknamed
"Siege," which leads to all sorts of typographical errors.
Ferguson, Tim, plays bass. Both contribute a pair of originals;
Stevens just places one. The other five cuts are old standards
("Straight No Chaser" on the fence there), given pleasantly
The Stryker/Slagle Band: Keeper (2010, Panorama):
Guitarist Dave Stryker, b. 1957 in Omaha, NE; has a couple dozen
albums since 1989, mostly on Denmark's Steeplechase, a fairly
mainstream label that kept Dexter Gordon's career moving during
his years in exile (Duke Jordan, too, and Jackie McLean, only
in virtual exile). Steve Slagle, b. 1951 in Los Angeles, has a
similar career, less prolific, more of a sideman; worked with
Steve Kuhn in late 1970s, Carla Bley in early 1980s, Mingus Big
Band, and bumped into Stryker on the latter's first (1991)
Steeplechase album, Passage, and frequently thereafter,
consolidating their business in 2003, and releasing respectable
product ever since. With Jay Anderson on bass and Victor Lewis
on drums, high calibre journeymen. Still, through several plays
it keeps growing on me, mainstream postbop burnished up with
Slagle's blues tone -- even the two soprano features fit in
Ike Sturm: Jazzmass (2009, Ike Sturm): Bassist,
b. 1978, based in New York, holds a title as "Assistant Director
of Music for the Jazz Ministry at Saint Peter's Church in
Manhattan." One previous album. I've been avoiding this because,
well, you see the title. No false advertising there. Misty Ann
Sturm sings, best on the pure hymns, with choir and string
orchestra backing, all of which I could do without. The horns
are something else: Ingrid Jensen on trumpet/flugelhorn, Loren
Stillman on alto sax, and Donny McCaslin on tenor. There are
better places to hear them, but they're in form even here.
Sun Ra Arkestra, Under the Direction of Marshall Allen: Live
at the Paradox (2008 , In+Out): Sun Ra died in 1993.
Alto saxophonist Allen joined Ra's Arkestra in 1958, was a mainstay
until the end, and at 86 is the ghost band's undisputed leader. I
don't know how active the Arkestra has been since 1993: Allen's
website shows three albums including this one, another live album
from 2003 and an earlier album dating from 1999. I only count four
band members here who also played on 1990's Live at the Hackney
Empire, the last of Ra's full Arkestra albums I have listings
for: Allen, Noel Scott (as), Charles Davis (ts), and Elson Nascimento
(surdo). The nine songs are split 4-4 between Allen and Ra, with
Fletcher Henderson's "Hocus Pocus" the odd tune out -- Ra learned
his craft arranging for Henderson; don't know if any of Allen's
pieces are new. This covers all the bases, most of the planets and
quite a few moons, cranking up the space synths, cracking up into
cacophony, breaking down with corny vocals, and swinging like hell.
You've heard it all before, yet still can't predict it: this is one
ghost band that never gets trapped in its past because its past is
still so far in the future we can't anticipate it.
Steve Swell's Slammin' the Infinite: Remember Now
(2005 , Not Two): Something from the back catalog, by my
reckoning the second of four Slammin' the Infinite recordings.
No pianist yet, so this is basically two freewheeling horns --
Swell's trombone and Sabir Mateen's saxes/clarinets -- against
freewheeling rhythm. Offhand, about as explosive as the new one;
while the piano is a plus in the new one, it is hardly necessary.
This group projects tremendous energy, makes great noise, and
has a fractal intrigue especially in its churning rhythm. Never
heard of bassist Matt Heyner or drummer Klaus Kugel before, but
they're very solid in this group. Would like to hear more.
Steve Swell's Slammin' the Infinite: 5000 Poems
(2007 , Not Two): Trombonist, b. 1954, didn't record his
own stuff until 1996 but has been prolific ever since. Group
named for a 2003 album, originally a quartet with Sabir Mateen
(alto sax, tenor sax, clarinet, alto clarinet, flute), Matthew
Heyner (bass), and Klaus Kugel (drums), now with pianist John
Blum added. I've heard very little that he's done before --
especially missed out on a long series of CIMP albums -- and
haven't been real impressed by what little I did hear, but
this hits on every cyllinder. I'm impressed that he keeps up
on a much slower instrument with Mateen. I also love how Blum
breaks up the rhythm on piano.
Gabor Szabo: Jazz Raga (1966 , Light in the
Attic): Guitarist, from Hungary, b. 1936, d. 1982, moved to US in
1956 before the uprising to attend Berklee, and stayed on playing
in Chico Hamilton's quintet 1961-66. Starting in 1966 he cut a
series of fusion albums for Impulse, drawing on gypsy rhythms for
his debut (Gypsy '66) and trying to cash in on the sitar
vogue on this his third album. Nothing here suggests he has a clue
how to construct one of Ravi Shankar's ragas, but he likes the
instrument's peculiar twang and puts it to good use, especially
on covers where it adds a distinctive touch ("Caravan," "Paint It
Black," and especially "Summertime"). Label kept the old artwork
and didn't find any extra tracks, but added a 36-page booklet
with a lot more care than Universal will ever muster.
TGB: Evil Things (2009 , Clean Feed):
Portuguese trio: Sérgio Carolino (tuba), Mário Delgado (guitar),
Alexandre Frazăo (drums). Delgado wrote six pieces, Frazăo three;
one is a group improv, and four more are from others -- only
one my eyes can make out is Bill Evans. Rather scattered, as
you might expect given how they juxtapose originals named for
"George Harrison" and "Aleister Crowley" -- the latter may be
the one that sounds like slightly bent Black Sabbath. The
tango/soundtrack-ish "Close Your Eyes" is a choice cut, and
the high-speed tuba bebop solo on "Tangram" is a hoot, but
there's too much evil for my taste; suggest they lighten up
and call their next one Mischievous Things.
3ology: With Ron Miles (2008 , Tapestry):
Longmont, CO-based trio: Doug Carmichael on saxophones, Tim
Carmichael on basses, Jon Powers on drums. Looks like they
have two previous albums (or CDRs), an eponymous one in 2007
and Out of the Depths in 2008, but they had nothing
to do with a 1995 Konnex album called 3-Ology (Santi
Debriano, Billy Hart, Arthur Blythe). Miles plays cornet and
has a substantial discography that far transcends his Colorado
base. He adds an extra dimension here, but the group really
hums even when he lays out. Doug Carmichael plays interesting,
aggressive freebop sax, while Tim Carmichael keeps a steady
rhythmic buzz going on bass.
Steve Tibbetts: Natural Causes (2008 ,
ECM): Guitarist, b. 1954, from Minnesota, had an eponymous
album in 1976 and now has eight ECM albums from 1980, the
last three following 6-, 8-, and 8-year breaks. Also credited
with piano, kalimba, and bouzouki -- not sure whether they
are minor here or just subtly layered, as the hype sheet
suggests. Marc Anderson adds percussion, but there is little
more to it: quiet, measured, slips by all to easily.
Tide Tables [Paul Kikuchi/Alexander Vittum]: Lost
Birdsongs (2005 , Prefecture): Both Kikuchi
and Vittum are credited with compositions, percussion, and
electronics. Kikuchi is from Seattle, drummer for Empty
Cage Quartet, has another collaborative record -- with
Jese Olsen as Open Graves -- in my unplayed box. Vittum
is based in/near San Francisco. Doesn't seem to have any
other credits. This was recorded live in Seattle with a
group of musicians: Daniel Carter (alto sax, flute, trumpet),
Brian Drye (trombone), Matt Goeke (cello), Matt Crane
(percussion), Sam Weng (percussion). CDBaby page describes
this as "Milford Graves meets Aphex Twin meets Konono #1."
Graves is wishful thinking, but the other two bracket the
percussion range, and from the "Recommended if you like"
list we can throw in Harry Partch for orientation. Package
I got is a clear plastic sleeve with a folded print insert.
I'm tempted to treat it as an advance, but if you pay cash
you'll probably get the same.
Ralph Towner/Paolo Fresu: Chiaroscuro (2008
, ECM): Another advance, final due out Mar. 16. Another
intimate duo, slow, meticulous. Towner plays classical, twelve
string, and baritone guitars. He's a long-term ECM fixture,
going back to 1972. Fresu plays trumpet and flugelhorn, from
Italy, younger (b. 1961 vs. 1940 for Towner), also has a long
list of releases, although I've only managed to hear one so
far. The two don't necessarily mix, but Fresu provides a
clear melodic thread distinct from Towner's diddling, while
Towner fascinates with the most minimal of quirks.
Michael Treni: Turnaround (2009, Bell Production,
CD+DVD): Composer-arranger, started out on trombone -- has a side
credit on a 1977 Bobby Watson album -- based on New Jersey; has
a previous album, Detour! (2007), and a more recent one,
America: Land of Opportunity (2010). Big band with some
extra percussion and occasional strings. First solo caught my
ear, but that's just Jerry Bergonzi for you. Don't care much for
the strings, but the brass section work is sharp. Comes with a
DVD I haven't watched. Also a political screed about how socialism
may be OK for classical music but doesn't work for jazz.
Trichotomy: Variations (2007 , Naim Jazz):
Piano trio, from Australia: Sean Foran on piano, Pat Marchisella
on bass, John Parker on drums. First album, or third if you count
two released in Australia under the name Misinterprotato. One track
adds violin-viola-alto sax; another adds trumpet-electronics. Foran
composed 5 pieces, Parker 4, and one was a joint improv. They have
a brash, beatwise, populist feel, not unlike EST or Neil Cowley,
and it suits them well.
B+(***) [July 13]
Steve Turre: Delicious and Delightful (2010, High
Note): Trombone player, from Omaha, also plays conch shells but
I've never figured out how that works or what they sound like.
Fifteen album since 1987, including tributes to J.J. Johnson
and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. This one doesn't quite live up to its
title, but it is boldly flavored, with Billy Harper on tenor
sax -- his rough edges ground down by all that big band work
of late, but his energy undiminished -- Larry Willis on piano,
Russell Malone on guitar (just two cuts), bass, drums, and some
extra bata and djembe on one cut. Harper wrote two songs, Turre
the rest except for "Tenderly." Best record since the Kirk
tribute, but they all seems to be coming up with the same
The Ullmann/Swell 4: News? No News! (2010,
Jazzwerkstatt): There seems to be two Jazzwerkstatt labels, one
based in Vienna with artists I've never heard of, the other in
Berlin with a strong avant-garde roster and nice graphic design.
Gebhard Ullman plays tenor sax and bass clarinet; Steve Swell
trombone, Hilliard Greene bass, Barry Altschul drums. Swell has
played on a couple of recent Ullmann albums, including Don't
Touch My Music; also has a two-horn group with Sabir Mateen,
who's a bit higher strung but similar. Ullmann has been hugely
prolific since the early 1990s, but lately he's gotten much
better at fitting in and finding his niche. Some unison lines
seem like a waste, but their avant shuck-and-jive is a lot of
James Blood Ulmer: In and Out (2008 ,
In+Out): Harmolodic jazz guitarist turned bluesman, returns to
the German label that released his first album back in 1977,
after a series of relatively straight blues sets on Hyena.
Just a trio, with Mark Peterson on bass and Aubrey Dayle on
drums. Aging usually conditions blues voices and Ulmer's is
no exception: at 68 he's more grizzled than ever. But there's
more guitar here, long instrumental stretches that move more
than groove. And while I normally loathe flute, he takes a
lead there that Sonny Boy would relish.
Bo van de Graaf: Sold Out: 25 Soundtracks (2009
, Icdisc): Dutch saxophonist, has contributed to the notion
that the Dutch avant-garde has as much to do with comedy as with
music, although the funniest things here are the titles: "Cat on
a hot thin roof," "Ascenseur pour un escargot," "Lost tanga in
Paris," "Et Depardieu créa la femme," "The gossip father,"
"Koyaanisquatsch," "For your legs only," and the 26th cut,
disguised as a "bonus track" so as not to dispute the title,
"Silence of the lamps (suite)." Would be more fun -- not the
same thing as funnier -- if he played more sax, but only 6 of
26 cuts get that treatment. Mostly he hacks out melodies on
electric keyboards with samples, and employs a few helpers for
bits trumpet, harmonica, english horn, and to voice some Anna
Ray Vega & Thomas Marriott: East-West Trumpet Summit
(2009 , Origin): Marriott's from Seattle; Vega's from the Bronx.
Marriott thanks God in the notes here; Vega thanks Jesus. Presumably
Vega's the hot one here -- play with Ray Barretto and Tito Puente and
you learn to crank it up a couple notches. Each has a moderate pile of
albums. Both can play but neither makes a very distinctive impression.
Together they put together as hot a trumpet album as I've heard in a
The Waitiki 7: New Sounds of Exotica (2009
, Pass Out): Sounds like the old sounds of exotica, as
far as I can bother to recall, except maybe louder. Group is
led by bassist Ray Wong, with soprano sax/flutes, violin,
piano, vibes/xylophone, drums, and a percussion guy who
doubles on bird/animal calls. Some old Martin Denny pieces;
some new ones. Packaging includes a Chee Hoo Fizz recipe
which I'm not about to mix up.
Nasheet Waits: Equality: Alive at MPI (2008
, Fresh Sound New Talent): Cover can be parsed various
ways: one implication is that Equality is meant to be the group
name. Waits is a drummer, best known for driving Jason Moran's
Bandwagon, a piano trio with Taurus Mateen on bass. All three
are present and accounted for here, and all three contribute
songs -- Mateen one, Moran and Waits two each. Moreover, Moran
doesn't seem to be too unhappy to see the tables turned. He
has his own record and has shown up on several more lately,
but this is his most energetic performance in several years.
Oh, and there's a fourth guy here: alto saxophonist Logan
Richardson. He had a terrific debut album, Cerebral Flow,
in 2006, and is in prime form here too.
Myron Walden: Momentum Live (2009, Demi Sound):
Tenor saxophonist, b. 1972 (or 1973?), started on alto, establishing
himself as one of the better mainstream boppers around before taking
time off to refashion himself on tenor. Got hit with a lot of hype
on him last fall, including a bunch of advances for albums that the
publicist never followed up on. The first was called Momentum,
and it seemed like a pretty decent hard bop outing. This is a live
reworking, with Darren Barrett (trumpet) and Yasushi Nakamura (bass)
carrying over from the studio album, Edin Ladin (piano) and John
Davis (drums) replacing David Bryant and Kendrick Scott. Main diff
this time is sonic, where they're going for (or stumbled on) the
thin-skinned underwater sound of Charlie Parker boots. The plus
side is an engaging looseness, especially the horns sliding to and
fro. The piano solos don't do much, and the usual live ballast
doesn't add anything.
Myron Walden/In This World: To Feel (2009 ,
Demi Sound): Last fall's batch of CDRs included two Walden albums
promised for Jan. 15 release. I did what I usually do: wait for
the real copy, which in this case never came. Looks like everyone
else did too. I haven't found a single review of either album,
and the only place where it is Amazon, fronting for a retailed
identified as Myron Walden. Not clear if "In This World" is a
band name or just a logo. One page in the hype package lists the
band as: Jon Cowherd (piano), Mike Moreno (guitar), Yasushi
Nakamura (bass), and Obed Calvaire (drums). AMG, with no track
info, confirms Cowherd-Moreno-Nakamura, but has Brian Blade
and/or Kendrick Scott on drums, plus David Bryant on Fender
Rhodes and Chris Thomas on acoustic bass. Band doesn't matter
much here. Walden's To Feel approach is to run ballads
past us, everything slow and soft.
Myron Walden/In This World: What We Share (2009
, Demi Sound): Same deal here: don't know anything more
about band, recording date (presumed 2009 because I got the
advance before 2010 rolled over), etc. Record is a little more
energetic, and guitar (Mike Moreno?) does a nice job of framing
the tenor sax. Walden is an attractive mainstream player, worth
taking seriously, but he's not making any big breakthroughs. I
have one more CDR in my pile, a 2-cut thing called Singles,
which I assume is just a pure PR fantasy. He seems to have one
more album in the pipeline, Countryfied, also on Amazon.
Didn't come my way.
Christian Wallumrřd Ensemble: Fabula Suite Lugano
(2009 , ECM): Norwegian pianist, b. 1971, fifth album since
1998, all on ECM. Group is a sextet, long on strings -- Gjermund
Larsen on violin/viola/hardanger fiddle, Tanja Orning on cello,
Giovanna Pessi on baroque harp -- with Eivind Lenning's trumpet
for a rare dash of color and Per Oddvar Johansen on percussion
and glockenspiel. More baroque than anything else, with a bit of
Scarlatti tucked into the originals. A lot of this is annoyingly
subaudible, yet it doesn't seem like the kind of music you ought
to crank up.
David Weiss & Point of Departure: Snuck In
(2008 , Sunnyside): Trumpet player, b. 1964, from New York,
in New York, third album since 2001, although I also filed The
Turning Gate by New Jazz Composers Octet, a recent HM, under
his name. Quintet, what's becoming the standard post-[hard]-bop
configuration: trumpet, sax (JD Allen on tenor), guitar (Nir
Felder), batt (Matt Clohesy), drums (Jamire Williams). The back
end is more freebop, the guitar navigates the open spaces, and
the horns slug it out, with Allen frequently making a play to
steal the album.
Wellstone Conspiracy: Motives (2009 ,
Origin): Quartet, new group name but familiar components:
Brent Jensen on soprano sax, Bill Anschell on piano, Jeff
Johnson on bass, John Bishop on drums. Anschell and Jensen
each wrote three of seven originals; Johnson wrote one,
and Anschell arranged Billy Strayhorn's "A Flower Is a
Lovesome Thing" for the closer. Jensen has developed into
the finest mainstream soprano sax specialist around, so
normal here you'd hardly guess what he's playing. The
others are solid pros, a reputation the album consolidates
without adding much to.
Pharez Whitted: Transient Journey (2009 ,
Owl Studios): Trumpet player, from Indiana, studied at DePauw and
Indiana University, two previous albums on Motown (1994 and 1996),
based in Chicago now, teaches at Chicago State. Sexet with Eddie
Bayard -- Edwin on Mark Lomax's more challenging record -- on
tenor and soprano sax, Ron Perrillo on piano/keyboards, Bobby
Broom on guitar, Dennis Carroll on bass, Greg Artry on drums,
with Broom producing. Freddie Hubbard and Barack Obama inspire
pieces. Solid hard bop, nothing spectacular, not much from Bayard,
who made such a big impression on the Lomax album.
Carrie Wicks: I'll Get Around to It (2009 ,
OA2): Singer, based in Seattle area, first album, backed by label
regulars including Hans Teuber on tenor sax and clarinet, Bill
Anschell on piano, and Jeff Johnson on bass. Standards, mostly
from 1940s with Elvis Costello's "Almost Blue" an outlier and a
co-credited original from 2008. Samba-fied medley of "Moonlight
in Vermont" and "No Moon at All" and a "Baby, Get Lost" among
Phil Wilson/Makoto Ozone: Live!! At the Berklee Performance
Center (1982 , Capri): Wilson, b. 1937, plays trombone;
studied at New England Conservatory and the Navy School of Music;
played in big bands with Herb Pomeroy, the Dorsey Brothers, Woody
Herman, and Buddy Rich; taught at Berklee from 1966; has a spotty
recording career which adds up to a couple dozen albums. Ozone, b.
1961 in Kobe, Japan, is a pianist, studied at Berklee, returned to
Japan in 1983, where he is evidently a big deal. He also has a couple
dozen albums, of which this is one of the first. I haven't heard any
others, although I have an advance of a new album on Verve somewhere.
Standards, ranging from "Stella by Starlight" to "Giant Steps"
played with an amusing crudeness -- actually, it's just Wilson
who sounds crude, a badge of merit from trombonists.
Nikki Yanofsky: Nikki (2010, Decca): Standards
singer, from Montreal, b. 1994, which makes her 16 or probably
15 when she recorded this, her second album following a 2008
CD/DVD combo called Ella . . . of Thee I Swing. Produced
by Phil Ramone and Jesse Harris. Didn't bother digging through
the fine print to see who all's playing. No doubt she can belt
the songs out -- a plus on "Take the 'A' Train" and "On the
Sunny Side of the Street" and "Mr. Paganini" but not so much
on "Over the Rainbow." While the Ella and Billie songs don't
match up, at least they swing. The less obvious pieces don't
reveal much of anything, even fandom.
Joel Yennior Trio: Big City Circus (2007 ,
Brass Wheel): Trombonist, from South Orange, NJ; studied and now
teaches at New England Conservatory; first album, although he has
side credits since 2000 with Either/Orchestra, Gypsy Schaeffer,
Alejandro Cimadoro, and Mulatu Astatke. Trio adds guitarist Eric
Hofbauer (Blueprint Project) and drummer Gary Fieldman. Trombone
is a little thin for the lead here, but that has its own appeal,
and Hofbauer is an interesting player even in small roles.
Alper Yilmaz: Over the Clouds (2009 ,
Kayique): Electric bassist, from Turkey, studied industrial
engineering, based in New York since 2000, second album since
2007. Also takes credits for sound design and loops. The bass
lines are highlighted by Nir Felder's guitar, while David
Binney's alto sax provides a sharp contrast.
Denny Zeitlin: Precipice (2008 , Sunnyside):
I'm not good with solo piano, and I'm in no shape to sort this
one out right now, but I can't just dismiss it either. Zeitlin
is in his 70s, has had a long career making small scale piano
albums -- solos, duos, a lot of trios. I've only heard a few --
notably missing his Columbia sessions from the 1960s which were
wrapped up neatly in a 3-CD Mosaic Select box last year.
Never found an album I can flat out recommend, but never been
Ratko Zjaca/John Patitucci/Steve Gadd/Stanislav Mitrovic/Randy
Brecker: Continental Talk (2008 , In+Out):
Guitarist, studied in Zagreb, based now in Rotterdam; AMG lists
3 records since 2000 (not including this one); website lists 8
but not much detail. Mitrovic, b. 1963 in Belgrade, also based
in Rotterdam, plays tenor and soprano sax. The others, better
known, play trumpet (Brecker), bass (Patitucci), and drums (Gadd).
Mostly modern postbop, with nice sax runs and trumpet blasts,
but slips into some skunk funk near the end.
John Zorn: The 50th Birthday Celebration, Vol. 1: Masada
String Trio (2003 , Tzadik): Looked for the new
Masada String Trio, Haborym (Book of Angels, Vol. 16),
not available (yet), and found this one from a few years back,
one of a big stack of live shots from Sept. 2003 when Tonic
put on a series to honor the club's owner. Most are Zorn-less
groups picking over his songbook. This trio consists of Mark
Feldman on viola, Erik Friedlander on cello, and Greg Cohen
on bass. The Jewish themes provide some bounce, lack of violin
cuts down on the screech, and the bass adds depth. Could do
without the applause.
John Zorn: Dictée/Liber Novus (2009 , Tzadik):
Two pieces, close to 20 minutes each, one based on Korean-American
writer/conceptual artist Theresa Hak-Kyung Cha, the other "a mythic
psychodrama inspired by the legendary Red Book of Carl Jung. Keybs
(Sylvie Courvoisier and Stephen Goslin on piano, John Medeski on
organ), Ned Rothenberg's reeds (shakuhachi, bass flute, clarinet),
percussion and sound effects, could be a soundtrack cluttered with
random events, not horror but not normal either.
John Zorn: The Goddess: Music for the Ancient of Days
(2009 , Tzadik): Another Zorn-as-composer-only album, the titles
casually plundered archaeology, but actually nothing ancient about it;
reminds me more of cocktail jazz, exotica with the spurious weirdness
supplanted by a higher-powered Riley/Reich minimalist engine. Played
on piano (Rob Burger), guitar (Marc Ribot), harp (Carol Emmanuel),
vibes (Kenny Wollesen), bass (Travor Dunn), and drums (Ben Perowsky).
John Zorn: In Search of the Miraculous (2009 ,
Tzadik): Zorn's promised one record each month this year, which isn't
a lot more prolific than his usual pace, but seems likely to involve
cutting some corners. Composer-only album, built around the Rob
Burger-Greg Cohen-Ben Perowsky piano trio that cut Alhambra Love
Songs, with a few extras -- Shanir Blumenkranz (electric bass),
Kenny Wollesen (vibes), but focuses more on the piano, adding a bit
of dramatic range rather than sinking into minimalist repetition.
Gains something toward the end.
John Zorn/Fred Frith: Late Works (2009 ,
Tzadik): Alto sax/electric guitar duo, the latter's screech closely
tuned to match the former. Ten pieces, most likely improv, although
occasional oblique strategies lurk. Often interesting, but does
wear a bit thin.
The following records, carried over from the
done and print
files at the start of this cycle, were also under consideration for
- Juhani Aaltonen Quartet: Conclusions (2009 , Tum) A-
- Abraham Inc.: Tweet Tweet (2010, Table Pounding) B+(***)
- Jason Adasiewicz's Rolldown: Varmint (2008 , Cuneiform) B+(***)
- Aida Severo (2007 , Slam) B+(***)
- Arild Andersen: Green in Blue: Early Quartets (1975-78 [2010, ECM, 3CD) B+(***)
- David Ashkenazy: Out With It (2009, Posi-Tone) B+(***)
- Pablo Aslan: Tango Grill (2010, Zoho) B+(***)
- Tommy Babin's Benzene: Your Body Is Your Prison (2010, Drip Audio) A-
- Stefano Battaglia/Michele Rabbia: Pastorale (2009 , ECM) B+(***)
- Roni Ben-Hur: Fortuna (2007 , Motema) B+(***)
- Borah Bergman Trio: Luminescence (2008 , Tzadik) A-
- Michiel Braam's Wurli Trio: Non-Functionals! (2009, BBB) B+(**)
- Alison Burns and Martin Taylor: 1: AM (2008 , P3 Music) B+(***)
- Butcher/Muller/van der Schyff: Way Out Northwest (2007 , Drip Audio) B+(**)
- James Carney Group: Ways & Means (2008 , Songlines) B+(***)
- Chicago Underground Duo: Boca Negra (2009 , Thrill Jockey) B+(**)
- The Nels Cline Singers: Initiate (2009 , Cryptogramophone, 2CD) A-
- Anat Cohen: Clarinetwork: Live at the Village Vanguard (2009 , Anzic) A-
- David Crowell Ensemble: Spectrum (2009, Innova) B+(***)
- The Dynamic Les DeMerle Band: Gypsy Rendezvous, Vol. One (2008 , Origin) B+(***)
- The Dominant 7 and The Jazz Arts Messengers: Fourteen Channels (2009 , Tapestry) B+(***)
- Scott DuBois: Black Hawk Dance (2009 , Sunnyside) B+(***)
- Empty Cage Quartet: Gravity (2008 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Empty Cage Quartet & Soletti Besnard: Take Care of Floating (2008 , Rude Awakening) B+(**)
- Scott Fields Ensemble: Fugu (1995 , Clean Feed) B+(**)
- Fight the Big Bull: All Is Gladness in the Kingdom (2009 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- First Meeting: Cut the Rope (2009 , Libra) A-
- Satoko Fujii Ma-Do: Desert Ship (2009 , Not Two) B+(**)
- Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo: Zakopane (2009 , Libra) B+(***)
- Andrea Fultz: The German Projekt: German Songs From the Twenties & Thirties (2009, The German Projekt) A-
- Dave Glasser: Evolution (2010, Here Tiz) B+(***)
- Ben Goldberg: Go Home (2009, BAG) B+(***)
- Bobby Gordon: Plays Joe Marsala: Lower Register (2007, Arbors) B+(***)
- The Gordon Grdina Trio: . . . If Accident Will (2007 , Plunge) B+(***)
- Bob Greene: St. Peter Street Strutters (1964 , Delmark) B+(***)
- Tord Gustavsen Ensemble: Restored, Returned (2009 , ECM) B+(***)
- John Hicks & Frank Morgan: Twogether (2005-06 , High Note) A-
- Rainbow Jimmies: The Music of John Hollenbeck (2007-08 , GPE) B+(***)
- Gabriel Johnson: Fra_ctured (2009 , Electrofone) B+(***)
- Jones Jones: We All Feel the Same Way (2008, SoLyd) B+(**)
- Barb Jungr: The Men I Love: The New American Songbook (2009 , Naim) B+(***)
- Oleg Kireyev/Keith Javors: Rhyme & Reason (2009 , Inarhyme) A-
- Komeda Project: Requiem (2009, WM) B+(**)
- Kirk Knuffke: Amnesia Brown (2008 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Brian Landrus: Foward (2007 , Cadence Jazz) B+(***)
- Matt Lavelle and Morcilla: The Manifestation Drama (2008 , KMB Jazz) B+(***)
- Babatunde Lea: Umbo Weti: A Tribute to Leon Thomas (2008 , Motéma, 2CD) B+(***)
- Jerry Leake: Cubist (2009 , Rhombus Publishing) B+(**)
- Led Bib: Sensible Shoes (2008 , Cuneiform) B+(**)
- Gianni Lenoci: Ephemeral Rhizome (2008 , Evil Rabbit) B+(***)
- Rozanne Levine & Chakra Tuning: Only Moment (2008 , Acoustics) B+(**)
- Erica Lindsay/Sumi Tonooka: Initiation (2004 , ARC)B+(***)
- The Giuseppi Logan Quintet (2009 , Tompkins Square) B+(***)
- Frank London/Lorin Sklamberg: Tsuker-Zis (2009, Tzadik) B+(***)
- Luis Lopes/Adam Lane/Igal Foni: What Is When (2007-08 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Accomplish Jazz (2009, Hot Cup) B+(***)
- Olivier Manchon: Orchestre de Chambre Miniature, Volume 1 (2010, ObliqSound) B+(**)
- Nilson Matta's Brazilian Voyage: Copacabana (2008 , Zoho) B+(***)
- Nellie McKay: Normal as Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day (2009, Verve) A-
- John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension: To the One (2009 , Abstract Logix) B+(**)
- Eric McPherson: Continuum (2007 , Smalls) B+(***)
- Sebastiano Meloni/Adriano Orrů/Tony Oxley: Improvised Pieces for Trio (2008 , Big Round) B+(***)
- Memphis Nighthawks: Jazz Lips (1976-77 , Delmark) B+(***)
- Pat Metheny: Orchestrion (2010, Nonesuch) B+(**)
- Minamo: Kuroi Kawa -- Black River (2008 , Tzadik, 2CD) B+(***)
- Soren Moller & Dick Oatts: The Clouds Above (2007 , Audial) B+(***)
- New York Art Quartet: Old Stuff (1965 , Cuneiform) A-
- Gia Notte: Shades (2009 , Gnote) B+(***)
- NYNDK: The Hunting of the Snark (2008 , Jazzheads) B+(***)
- William Parker: At Somewhere There (2008 , Barnyard) B+(***)
- Gary Peacock/Marc Copland: Insight (2005-07 , Pirouet) B+(***)
- Ben Perowsky Quartet: Esopus Opus (2009, Skirl) A-
- Edward Ratliff: Those Moments Before (2009, Strudelmedia) B+(***)
- RED Trio (2008 , Clean Feed) A-
- Rempis/Rosaly: Cyrillic (2009, 482 Music) B+(***)
- Júlio Resende: Assim Falava Jazzatustra (2009, Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Roberto Rodriguez: Timba Talmud (2009, Tzadik) A-
- Roberto Rodriguez: The First Basket (2009, Tzadik) B+(***)
- Bernardo Sassetti Trio: Motion (2009 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Cynthia Sayer: Attractions (2006 , Plunk) B+(***)
- Jacques Schwarz-Bart: Abyss (2009, ObliqSound) B+(**)
- Scottish National Jazz Orchestra: Rhapsody in Blue: Live (2009, Spartacus) B+(**)
- Will Sellenraad: Balance (2007 , Beeswax) B+(***)
- Matthew Shipp: 4D (2009 , Thirsty Ear) B+(**)
- Edward Simon Trio: Poesia (2008 , CAM Jazz) B+(***)
- David Smith Quintet: Anticipation (2009 , Bju'ecords) B+(***)
- Bob Sneider & Joe Locke [Film Noir Project]: Nocturne for Ava (2007 , Origin) B+(**)
- Dan Tepfer/Lee Konitz: Duos With Lee (2008 , Sunnyside) B+(***)
- Tin Hat: Foreign Legion (2005-08 , BAG) A-
- Petra van Nuis & Andy Brown: Far Away Places (2009 , String Damper) B+(**)
- Matt Vashlishan: No Such Thing (2008 , Origin) B+(***)
- Torben Waldorff: American Rock Beauty (2009 , ArtistShare) B+(**)
- Mort Weiss: Raising the Bar (2009 , SMS Jazz) B+(***)
- Frank Wess Nonet: Once Is Not Enough (2008 , Labeth Music) B+(**)
- Wolter Wierbos: 3 Trombone Solos (2005-06 , Dolfjin) B+(***)
- Gerald Wilson Orchestra: Detroit (2009, Mack Avenue) A-
- Brandon Wright: Boiling Point (2009 , Posi-Tone) B+(***)