Jazz Consumer Guide (26):
These are the prospecting notes from working on Jazz CG #26. 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 December 14, 2010 to April 10, 2011, 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 227 (plus 96 carryovers). The
count from the previous file was 248 (+113).
(before that: 218+96, 207+125, 219, 225, 226, 230, 293, 291, 240, 259).
Dan Adler/Joey DeFrancesco/Byron Landham: Back to the Bridge
(2010, Edman Music): Organ trio, obviously. The guy you don't know gets
top billing, slightly larger type (but fewer letters), is pictured on a
bridge with a guitar -- what more do you need to know? Web bio includes
everything I want to know except year born -- probably mid-late 1960s,
in Israel. Trained as a semiconductor engineer/computer scientist, has
an impressive resume there including notable open source software work.
Moved to New York in 1986. Picked up guitar in 4th grade. Studied with
Gil Dor, and cites a lot of other musical influences -- Roni Ben-Hur
stands out, but also DeFrancesco's usual sidekick Paul Bollenback.
First album. Nothing ambitious or pretentious, just does a nice job
of laying in the groove.
Aeroplane Trio: Naranja Ha (2008-09 , Drip Audio,
CD+DVD): Trumpet-bass-drums trio out of Vancouver: JP Carter, Russell
Sholberg, and Skye Brooks respectively. Carter's the only name registered
in my memory: no albums under his own name, but was in the Inhabitants
and I could swear more places than the 7 credits AMG lists. He can play
free, make an impression solo, or toot along when bass-drums work up a
groove. Some tentative spots hold me back, plus I haven't seen the DVD
yet (and in most cases never do).
Afrocubism (2010, World Circuit/Nonesuch): Cuba was
the only new world post where slaveholders didn't try hard to strip
the roots of their chattels, so the island developed as a microcosm
of the mother continent, with well-defined religious and musical
tribes mapping straight to Senegal, Nigeria, and Congo, permitting
hybridized African music to flow back into Africa itself. But Africa
is a big and diverse continent, and Mali was isolated, much of its
land parched, its music simpler and more ethereal, which oddly enough
has lately turned Mali's musicians -- especially kora master Toumani
Diabaté into the continent's most prolific musical diplomats. This
is their record, aided by a few Cubans like Eliades Ochoa, primed
with Benny Moré and Nico Saquito songs, with a sweet but slight
"Guantanamera" to ice the cake.
Afterfall (2008 , Clean Feed): Ad hoc group names
cause paperwork headaches trying to keep track of jazz releases, and
this label is particularly fond of concocting such names. I filed this
under guitarist Luis Lopes, figuring he was the first named and held
home court recording in Lisbon. Moreover, he's on a run, his guitar the
steely backbone of at least four fine records in a row, most with horns
which add to but scarcely eclipse him. Jazzloft, on the other hand,
filed this under soprano saxophonist Joe Giardullo, older and no doubt
better known in America but not exactly a household name. Giardullo
mostly plays tenor here, not all that distinctive, but the extra heft
and depth sounds good, especially mixed with Sei Miguel's muted pocket
trumpet. Also working here are Benjamin Duboc on bass and Harvey Sorgen
on drums. A little more inside than Lopes's Humanization 4tet records,
which makes this a tad less impressive, but that seems to be Lopes's
knack: to make good records without showing off much flash.
Howard Alden: I Remember Django (2010, Arbors):
Of course, being b. 1958 Alden has no direct connection to Django
Reinhardt -- the title comes from a song, mixed in with "Nuages"
and "For Django" and other things less obvious. Swing-oriented
guitarist, lots of records since 1986, coached Sean Penn for
Woody Allen's Django-inspired Sweet and Lowdown. Seems
a bit off the mark here, with Matt Munisteri's second guitar
and Jon Burr's bass but no Grappelli. On the other hand, we are
treated to five cuts with Anat Cohen on clarinet, plus four with
Warren Vaché on cornet.
Geri Allen & Timeline: Live (2009 , Motéma
Music): Pianist, b. 1957, several dozen albums and scads more credits
since 1984 -- a major jazz pianist by any reckoning. Two Jazz CG
appearances: an A- for her superb trio The Life of a Song, and
a dud for the sprawling Timeless Portraits and Dreams. Haven't
gotten anything from her since, including two well-regarded albums this
year. Flying Toward the Sun got nearly all of the poll attention,
finishing ninth at Village Voice, but it takes something really
exceptional in a solo piano record to hold my interest. This has more
rhythmic push -- a trio with Kenny Davis on bass and Kassa Overall on
drums, plus something extra in tap dancer Maurice Chestnut. The piano
remains impressive when it breaks out, the rhythm helps sustain things,
and the taps are hard to figure.
Ernestine Anderson: Nightlife (2008-09 , High Note):
Veteran r&b singer, came up with Johnny Otis 1947-49, moved on to Lionel
Hampton, and has been moving ever since. Cut some records 1956-60, then
dropped out of sight until Concord revived her in 1976 with 12 albums
through 1993, and now has 3 since 2003 on High Note, this one sampling
two Dizzy's Club Coca Cola sets straddling her 80th birthday. Voice is
a bit gruff; songbook is mostly blues. Should be ordinary but actually
she gives a remarkable performance, with a big boost from the label's
resident saxophone genius, Houston Person.
Vijay Anderson: Hardboiled Wonder Land (2008 ,
Not Two): Drummer, based in Oakland. Works with Lisa Mezzacappa's
Bait & Switch (real good album on Clean Feed) and Aaron Bennett's
Go-Go Fightmaster (haven't heard their record, but I've bumped into
Bennett on Mezzacappa's record and an even better one by Adam Lane).
First album under his own name. Two guitars (Ava Mendoza and John
Finkbeiner), two reeds (Sheldon Brown on alto/tenor/soprano sax, Ben
Goldberg on clarinet), and vibes (Smith Dobson V). Starts with slick
textures, and the horns always remain rather soft, rarely standing
out. Nice feature with the vibes.
Laurie Antonioli: American Dreams (2009 ,
Intrinsic Music): Singer, b. 1958 in California, based in Oakland;
third album since 2005, including a duo with Richie Beirach. Wrote
most of the songs -- co-credited with five others, so I figure her
for the lyricist. Covers include "Moonlight in Vermont," "Oh, What
a Beautiful Morning," and a dreadful "America the Beautiful."
Arty high voice. Good band, usually picks up when she lets go.
Especially notable is soprano/tenor saxophonist Sheldon Brown.
Lynne Arriale: Convergence (2010 , Motéma):
Pianist, b. 1957 in Milwaukee, more than a dozen albums since 1993,
teaches in Jacksonville, FL. Trio, with Omer Avital on bass and
Anthony Pinciotti, expanded on most cuts with tenor saxophonist
Bill McHenry. Half originals, half covers, drawn from the rock
era -- Beatles and Stones to Trent Reznor. She cracks "Here Comes
and Sun" and "Paint It Black" down to melodic fragments which pop
up here and there offering the barest whiff of the songs -- very
effective, nice work by Avital with the sax laying out. McHenry
returns on "Call Me" (Blondie); he mostly gets the upbeat pieces,
and is superb, as usual.
Artvark Saxophone Quartet: Truffles (2010, Challenge):
Dutch sax quartet: Rolf Delfos (alto), Bart Wirtz (alto), Mete Erker
(tenor), Peter Broekhuizen (baritone). Delfos appears to be the oldest,
with about 20 years experience vs. 10 (9-12) for the others. Covers
include one by Corea and two by Ibrahim, plus one trad; originals
include one called "Ornat 'King' Coleman." The altos tend to lead,
and the others keep the bounce clean and stress-free.
Gilad Atzmon and the Orient House Ensemble: The Tide Has
Changed (2010, World Village): Saxophonist, alto is his
mainstay but I hear a lot of soprano here, some clarinet. From
Israel, b. 1963, based in London. Writes a lot of political screeds
about Israel, which I mostly agree with but he has a chip on his
shoulders I don't share. Names his band after the headquarters of
the PLO in East Jerusalem. Combines traditional Jewish and Arab
music, a dash of Weimar cabaret, some Coltrane-ish sax, accordion,
some exceptionally lovely piano.
Patti Austin: Sound Advice (2010 , Shanachie):
Soul singer, church-style although she actually got her first break
with song-and-dance-man Sammy Davis. Checkered career, her RCA contract
at age 5 doesn't seem to have left anything in her discography, then
there were patches from 1976 with CTI, Qwest in the 1980s, and GRP in
the early 1990s. She probably has more records than any soul singer
who never appeared in Christgau's Consumer Guide. Probably one of the
most famous singers I've never heard before this album. This one wasn't
easy either: in some sort of "wardrobe malfunction" the disc I received,
with her name and number clearly printed on it -- final product, not an
advance -- has someone else's music on it: no idea who, but the lead
instrument is some kind of electronic keyboard backed by chintzy Latin
percussion and virtually no vocals (not that I bothered listening to
much of it). Finally resorted to Rhapsody (although I won't flag it as
such, since I do have the packaging, just didn't get the music). Mixed
bag of things, including a sturdy "Lean on Me," but I found the cleanup
slots (4-5-6 if you're not into baseball) to be rather disorienting:
the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want," McCartney's
"Let 'Em In," and Dylan's morosely Manichaean "Gotta Server Somebody" --
annoying in any context, but certainly Christianist here. I've rarely
hated a song more, although the grade doesn't really reflect that.
Dmitry Baevsky: Down With It (2010, Sharp Nine): Alto
saxophonist, b. 1976 in Russia; moved to New York in 1996, studying at
New School. Second album. Half quartet, with Jeb Patton (piano), David
Wong (bass), and Jason Brown (drums); four cuts add Jeremy Pelt for a
classic bebop quintet. Indeed, this is classic bebop, with a couple of
songbook standards, Ellington's "Mount Harissa," and everything else
from 1950s boppers (Bud Powell, Clifford Brown, Gigi Gryce, Thelonious
Monk, Sonny Rollins). Not sure he's doing anything Gryce didn't do, or
for that matter Parker -- whom he reminds me more of, at least when
Pelt is goosing him along, but his ballad tone is lighter and cleaner.
Has one of the worst Flash websites I've ever seen; bet it cost him a
Chase Baird: Crosscurrent (2010, Junebeat): Tenor
saxophonist, b. 1988 in Seattle, grew up in Salt Lake City then San
Francisco, studied in Los Angeles. First album. Cites Gato Barbieri
and Michael Brecker as influences/models -- bold, straightforward
players, and Baird makes a strong impression in their wake. Group
includes piano, guitar, bass, drums, and percussion -- possibly a
bit much as the record loses momentum when the sax lays out. Could
be a guy worth watching.
The Lynn Baker Quartet: Azure Intention (2010, OA2):
Saxophonist, opens with soprano but also plays tenor, b. 1955, grew up
in Oregon, teaches in Denver at Lamont School of Music. First album,
sax-piano-bass-drums quartet, lively postbop, gets a lot of mileage
out of pianist Reggie Berg and gives bassist Bijoux Barbosa some
Billy Bang/Bill Cole: Billy Bang/Bill Cole (2009
, Shadrack): The violinist you must know by now. He had my jazz
record of the year last year, and that wasn't the first time he did
that. Cole you should know: I credit him with two A- records, 2002's
Seasoning the Greens and 2008's Proverbs for Sam, both
group albums. His duo albums, like this one and previous work with
Bang and William Parker and others, are a bit sketchier. He was b.
1937 in Pittsburgh; wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on Coltrane; teaches
at Syracuse; mostly plays non-Western wind instruments. He faces off
Bang's violin here with digeridoo, nagaswarm, sona, flute, and shenai,
ranging from deep throated background to even squeakier than Bang's
violin. Takes off slow, wanders a lot; while Cole eventually comes
up with some interesting flurries, Bang pays close attention but
never really takes charge.
BANN: As You Like (2009 , Jazz Eyes): Acronym
group, quartet: Seamus Blake (tenor sax), Jay Anderson (bass), Oz Noy
(guitar), and Adam Nussbaum (drums). Anderson leads on points: he's
credited with "recorded, mixed and mastered"; also wrote 3 of 5 new
songs -- one each for Noy and Nussbaum, four covers (Jerome Kern,
Thelonious Monk, David Crosby, and Joe Henderson). Anderson is a
bassist from Canada: a couple of albums in the 1990s, a long list
of side credits starting with Woody Herman in 1978. He keeps the
rhythm loose and limber here. Nussbaum is the only American, same
type of drummer. Blake is a saxophonist from England, a mainstreamer
with a big, bold tone, always a welcome presence. Noy is an Israeli,
probably a good deal younger, does some of his best work here.
Patricia Barber: Monday Night: Live at the Green Mill Vol. 2
(2010 , Fast Atmosphere): Appears to be download-only, same for
the first volume which dates back several years. Barber sings and plays
piano, with guitar-bass-drums. Seems under the weather at first, hard to
sort out, but fares better with songs I recognize, closing with her own
"Post Modern Blues" followed by "Smile," "The Beat Goes On," and
Matt Bauder: Day in Pictures (2010, Clean Feed):
Plays tenor sax and clarinet. Fourth album since 2003, not counting
a duo with Anthony Braxton and I'm not sure what else. Passed through
Ann Arbor and Chicago; now in Brooklyn. Quintet with Nate Wooley
(trumpet), Angelica Sanchez (piano), Jason Ajemian (bass), and Tomas
Fujiwara (drums). Wooley and Sanchez have good spots on their own,
but aren't a lot of help overall, except in some fluttery free spots
where it all evens out. What's more striking is when Bauder's tenor
sax goes solo or with minimal bass/drums. Turns out he could carry
a mainstream sax ballad album, although he's still a little restless
to settle into that.
Bedrock: Plastic Temptation (2009 , Winter &
Winter): Uri Caine's electric keyboard group, the main reason he polls
so high on an instrument that's actually a small part of his toolkit.
WIth Tim Lefebvre on electric bass and guitar, and Zach Danzinger on
drums, probably others popping in here and there -- vocalist Barbara
Walker with a big-time gospel sample is one. Two previous Bedrock albums
broke my A-list, so I was keenly interested in this one. But Rhapsody
cut short nearly all of the 18 cuts, turning this into an annoying
hodge podge. Not fair, for sure, but I'll note this with a placeholder
grade -- it's probably better but it's not inconceivable that it's
Han Bennink Trio: Parken (2009, ILK): With Simon
Toldman on piano and Joachim Badenhorst on clarinet/bass clarinet:
their names and instruments are on the cover, following Bennink's,
but most sources attribute as above. The New Dutch Swing idea is
reinforced with three Ellington pieces, passages running wistfully
sweet as well as cacophonous, and some fancy unorthodox drumming.
Ends with the title song with a vocal by Qarin Wikström -- has a
bit of Robert Wyatt flare to it.
Jerry Bergonzi: Convergence (2008 , Savant):
Tenor saxophonist, b. 1947 (Wikipedia) or 1950 (AMG, AAJ), website
doesn't offer an opinion; has thirty-some records since 1983, the
ones I've heard (i.e., since 2006) consistently excellent. This one
has bass, drums, two cuts with piano, and a fair amount of overdubbed
soprano sax, a self-interaction that pushes him to new heights.
Natalia Bernal/Mike Eckroth/Jason Ennis: La Voz de Tres
(2010, Jota Sete): Album cover just lists the three last names, one per
line; spine and elsewhere sticks with last names separated by slashes.
All this underscores the tight group dynamic, but Bernal comes first
not just alphatetically. A singer from Chile, based in New York, she
wrote three songs and most likely picked the rest, some from her native
Andes, most from Brazil -- most striking for me is the one US cover,
"Tenderly." Eckroth plays piano/keyboards; Ennis 7-string guitar.
Tim Berne: Insomnia (1997 , Clean Feed): Note
first that this has been kicking around for a long time. I was asked
a while back to write something nice about Clean Feed for the label's
10th anniversary, and I utterly failed to find any way to structure
that -- in large part because I've always been so defensive, and so
rebellious, about getting boxed in to anyone else's notion of what
I ought to write. But one thing I can say about Clean Feed -- one of
the things that distinguishes them from virtually every other jazz
label -- is that they won't hesitate to take a flier on something
everyone else has passed over. And while one might suspect that a
label with their demographic would leap at the opportunity to add
Tim Berne to their catalogue, more likely it's that Pedro Costa has
heard something he wants to give a chance. Berne has released a
superb string of records starting around 2003 -- my pick hit is
Pre-Emptive Denial, attributed to Paraphrase, from 2005 --
but I rarely cared for his earlier works: he emerged around 1980
as a Julius Hemphill protégé and often seemed to be biting off
more than he could chew, making music too complicated to finally
come together. That's sort of the problem here, except that the
final quarter does come together, and the more you listen to the
complex noodling up front the more its incoherent strands take on
their own logic. Big, and actually very talented, group: Baikida
Carroll (trumpet), Michael Formanek (bass), Marc Ducret (guitar),
Dominique Pifarely (violin), Erik Friedlander (cello), Chris Speed
(clarinet), Jim Black (drums), Tim Berne (alto and baritone saxes).
The core of the group -- Berne, Speed, Formanek, Black, sometimes
Ducret -- was working as Bloodcount at the time, and their excellent
Seconds spent ten years on the shelf before Berne released
it himself. Someday I should go back to Berne's early records and
try to figure out whose fault it was that I didn't like them.
David Binney: Graylen Epicenter (2010 ,
Mythology): Alto saxophonist, b. 1961, also plays soprano (especially
well on this record); AMG lists 16 albums since 1989, many more side
credits, a dozen or so as producer. This runs long (73:43), has a bit
of kitchen sink feel -- a second sax (Chris Potter), trumpet (Ambrose
Akinmusire), both piano (Craig Taborn) and guitar (Wayne Kravitz),
bass (Eivind Opsvik), two drummers (Brian Blade, Dan Weiss) sometimes
doubling up plus Kenny Wollesen (percussion, vibes), and occasional
vocals (Gretchen Parlato) mostly in spare horn mode. Postbop largesse,
plenty of dazzling passages.
Bizingas (2008 , NCM East): Quartet, led by
Brian Drye (trombone, piano, synth). Also includes Kirk Knuffke (cornet),
Jonathan Goldberger (guitar, baritone guitar), and Ches Smith (drums,
glockenspiel). Drye: b. 1975 in Rhode Island, father musician, studied
at University of Miami in Florida, based in Brooklyn, has a couple dozen
side credits since 2001, some rock (Clem Snide), some world-ish (Slavic
Soul Party; Brooklyn Qawwali Party but no record yet). Trombone/cornet
harmonics yield a signature sound, the guitar carrying the group through
its circus curlicues. Interesting mix.
Tyler Blanton: Botanic (2010, Ottimo): Vibraphonist,
first album, wrote all the songs. Joel Frahm gets a "featuring" cover
credit, playing tenor sax on two cuts and soprano on five of the other
six -- typically superb, the best thing on the album, but the vibes
do make a nice contrast, and AMG's crediting the album to Frahm was
Dan Block: Plays the Music of Duke Ellington: From His World
to Mine (2009 , Miles High): Block plays tenor and alto
sax, various clarinets, and basset horn. First album under his own
name; I'm having trouble tracking down his side credits, which may
include some classical performances as well as a fair number of more
or less trad jazz groups -- I get more hits grepping my notebook for
him than AMG lists (Linda Ronstadt's big band, David Berger's Sultans
of Swing, George Gee, John Sheridan's Dream Band, Michael Camacho,
Chris Flory, Jerry Costanzo/Andy Farber [on baritone], Marty Grosz's
Hot Winds, Catherine Russell). Ellington and Strayhorn tunes, none
of the really obvious ones you've heard hundreds of times (although
I've certainly played "Mt. Harrissa" that much, enough to recognize
it even without the original's pyrotechnic brass), given the small
group swing treatment, sometimes with Pat O'Leary's cello and no drums;
about half in a septet with Mike Kanan on piano, James Chirillo on
guitar, and Mark Sherman on vibes. Lovely stuff -- Block favors his
clarinet but I'm partial to his tenor sax.
Jane Ira Bloom: Wingwalker (2010 , Outline):
Soprano saxophonist, one of the few specialists; b. 1955, thirteenth
album since 1980. Quartet with Dawn Clement (piano, Rhodes), Mark
Helias (bass), Bobby Previte (drums). Eleven originals, ends with
"I Could Have Danced All Night."
Matt Blostein/Vinnie Sperrazza: Paraphrase (2010
, Yeah-Yeah): Alto saxophonist and drummer, respectively,
split writing credits 4-4, have a couple previous albums together.
Quartet with Geoff Kraly on electric bass and Jacob Garchik on
trombone -- Garchik seems to be the key player, slowing things
down and adding depth.
Blue Cranes: Observatories (2009 , Blue Cranes):
Portland, OR group; second album since 2007. Two saxophones (Reid Wallsmith
on alto, Sly Pig on tenor), keyboards (Rebecca Sanborn), bass and drums.
The horns are mostly yoked together, slowed down and muscled up with a
harmonic fuzz I don't much care for -- reminds me of rock opera more than
anything else. Three cuts add strings, four guitar, the closer adds a
"family percussion section" that concludes with a shout-out.
Ralph Bowen: Power Play (2009 , Posi-Tone):
Tenor saxophonist, can't find any record of when born but 1965 is a
fair guess; 7 or 8 albums since 1992, more going back to 1985 if you
count his group Out of the Blue. Mainstream player, imposing on tenor,
plays a little soprano or alto (not specified which) here, not his
strong suit. Quartet with pianist Orrin Evans, who does what the role
requires but doesn't make his usual strong impression. "My One and
Only Love" is a highlight.
Anthony Branker & Ascent: Dance Music (2010, Origin):
Composer-arranger, b. 1958, evidently started off playing trumpet but
just runs things here. Second album, mostly a sextet plus vocalist Kadri
Voorand, who wrote lyrics to four Branker pieces. Not so danceable, but
bold compositions, strong sax breaks, especially tenor Ralph Bowen.
Amy Briggs: Tangos for Piano (2005 , Ravello):
Pianist, exclusively classical as far as I can tell, although this is
only her first album under her own name. Solo piano. The 22 tangos
include one by Piazzolla, but are mostly by composers not normally
associated with tango -- some I more/less recognize are Stravinsky,
Nancarrow, Rzewski, Harrison, but most are too obscure for me. Drama
and panache, of course, and in some ways it's refreshing not to carry
along the standard instrumental baggage.
Dave Brubeck: Legacy of a Legend (1954-70 ,
Columbia/Legacy, 2CD): The key to parsing the awkward title is the
relatively narrow timespan covered, limited to Brubeck's Columbia
recordings, now managed by Sony's Legacy division. That cuts off
the important early recordings and interesting later ones swept
up in the excellent The Essential Dave Brubeck, released
in 2003 and a better place to start if you want an overview before
delving into his many worthwhile individual albums. Some solos,
but mostly delectable quartet with Paul Desmond, three vocal spots
that should have been better (Jimmy Rushing, Carmen McRae, Louis
Armstrong), and winding up with two cuts featuring Gerry Mulligan.
Henry Brun and the Latin Playerz: 20th Anniversary
(1992-2010 , Richport): Drummer, congalero, "Mr. Ritmo" to his
friends, formed his Latin Playerz group in 1989, but I'm not finding
much discography for them -- AMG only lists one record, Spiritual
Awakenings (2005, Mambo Maniacs), but doesn't, for instance, list
this one. Two songs date from 1992, one 1993, one 2000, one 2004,
three 2006, most newer. The booklet doesn't list the Playerz, but
does spotlight Judi Deleon, presumably the singer. She takes some
overworked standards like "Lullaby of Birdland," "Lover Man," and
"Bye Bye Blackbird," and turns them all into high points.
John Bunch: Do Not Disturb (2010, Arbors): Pianist,
b. 1921 in Indiana; plane was shot down in WWII and he finished the
war in a German POW camp. Played with Eddie Condon, Woody Herman,
Maynard Ferguson; from 1966-72 was Tony Bennett's music director.
Cut his first record in 1975; in the 1990s mostly recorded as New
York Swing Trio with Bucky Pizzarelli and Jay Leonhart. Returns to
that same piano-guitar-bass format here with Frank Vignola and John
Webber, reprising the title song of his first album ("John's Bunch")
and a bunch of standards, the most modern from Brubeck and Parker.
Turns out to have been his final studio album, a long but relaxed
David Caceres: David Caceres (2010 , Sunnyside):
Vocalist-alto saxophonist, b. 1967 in San Antonio, TX; family includes
several musicians, including Ernie Caceres, who played sax for Benny
Goodman and Woody Herman. Studied at Berklee; teaches at University of
Houston. Second album, with Gil Goodstein arranging and playing keybs
on most of the pieces; Aaron Parks playing piano on others. Voice
strikes me as a broad, sly smile, and his sax is even warmer. Margret
Grebowicz duets on one piece.
Roger Cairns and Gary Fukushima: The Dream of Olwen
(2010, AHP): Vocalist and pianist, respectively. Cairns was b. 1946
in Scotland; is based in Los Angeles; has two previous albums, his
2006 debut titled A Scot in L.A. All standards, Alec Wilder
and Marilyn and Alan Bergman getting multiple calls. Very minimal,
like Tony Bennett and Bill Evans, not quite that special.
Vinicius Cantuária & Bill Frisell: Lágrimas Mexicanas
(2011, E1): Brazilian singer-songwriter, b. 1951, has more than a dozen
albums since 1983, a name I've often run across but never before managed
to check out. Plays guitar and percussion, sings all the songs, light and
lyrical, naturally. Frisell, of course, also plays guitar. He presumably
adds something, but for once it's hard to pick out.
Andrea Centazzo/Perry Robinson/Nobu Stowe: The Soul in the
Mist (2006 , Konnex/Ictus): Part of my Nobu Stowe backlog,
but the pianist plays a relatively minor role here. Centazzo wrote the
pieces, plays percussion, also credited for "Mallet Kat Keyb., Sampling";
record feels like the work of a percussionist, jumpy abstractions with
everything else reduced to color, especially Robinson's clarinet.
Chaise Lounge: Symphony Lounge (2010, Big Round):
Charlie Barnett group: he plays guitar, sings a little, writes most
of the songs. Lead singer is Marilyn Older, and the group includes
Gary Gregg (sax, clarinet, flute), John Jensen (trombone), bass and
drums, but gets stretched out this time with Capital City Symphony
adding strings and who knows what else. Two covers -- "Do Nothing
'Till You Hear From Me" and "Luck Be a Lady" -- define the milieu
as retro while Barnett's own songs fit in as period obscurities --
titles include "Dude, She's Waiting," "In Walked Mo," "Blue, the
Distracted Reader," "Lonely Is as Lonely Does."
Mina Cho: Originality (2010, Blink Music): Pianist,
b. 1981 in Seoul, South Korea, started playing gospel in church, moved
on to Berklee, and now has her first album. Piano itself is rich and
flowing, with Andrew Halchak's soprano sax or Shu Odamura's guitar
adding to the lushness. Bonus track is the only non-original, with
a David Thorne Scott vocal in the usual hipster style.
Fay Claassen: Sing! (2009 , Challenge):
Standards singer, b. 1969 in the Netherlands, 7th album since 2000.
Backed by WDR Big Band Cologne, who do their best to remain anonymous,
and fortified on four cuts by WDR Rundfunkorchester, who hardly bothered
me at all. Wide range of material -- fellow vocalist heroes Betty Carter
and Abbey Lincoln; fellow feminists Miriam Makeba, Joni Mitchell, and
Björk; a bit of Louis Jordan sass; the obligatory Jobim ("A Felicidade"
no less); a tortuous "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing"; still, I was most
struck by the two most pre-feminist cuts, a very antiquarian "Tea for
Two" -- I hadn't really noticed the line about not disclosing that they
had a telephone before -- and the submissive "A Good Man Is Hard to
Find." No idea if there's a hidden message here, or it's just stuff
they thought might be fun to try.
Mike Clark: Carnival of Soul (2010, Owl Studios):
Drummer, b. 1946, got a fusion rep playing in Herbie Hancock's
Headhunters. Here he reaches back deeper, mostly to the organ-fueled
soul jazz circa 1960, rotating three organ players, with honking sax
from Rob Dixon, and a "Cry Me a River" vocal by Delbert McClinton.
Seems like basic stuff, but "T's Boogaloo" is irresistible. And for
his finale, he namechecks a drummer great from further back. Calls
that piece "Catlett Outa the Bag."
Clayton Brothers: The New Song and Dance (2010,
ArtistShare): Bassist John Clayton and reedist Jeff Clayton (alto sax
and alto flute this time) are the brothers. They got their start in
the Basie Orchestra, then formed the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra
with drummer Jeff Hamilton -- the group Diana Krall tapped when she
wanted a big band like Sinatra used to use. The quintet includes a
third Clayton, John's son Gerald on piano, plus Obed Calvaire on drums
and Terrell Stafford on trumpet and flugelhorn. Despite the small group
size, they know how to make a splash. It's usually Stafford up front,
of course, but the band swings at unit force, and the sax is much more
than a foil for the trumpet.
Todd Clouser: A Love Electric (2010 , Ropeadope):
Guitarist, b. 1981 in Minneapolis, studied at Berklee, based in Baja,
Mexico -- wanted a slower paced life in which to develop his own voice.
Second album, fusion that grows out of the 1970s but isn't contained
by it. No credits breakdown I can see: Bryan Nichols on Rhodes, Julio
de la Cruz on piano, and Jason Craft on B3 would seem to be either-or;
same for the two bassists (Gordy Johnson and Adam Linz) and the two
trumpeters (Steven Bernstein and Kelly Rossum). One cover, Harry
Nilsson's "One" -- smartly reinforcing the period thing. One uncredited
vocal, on "Mo City Kid" -- unpro but sly.
Avishai Cohen: Introducing Triveni (2009 , Anzic):
Anat Cohen's trumpet-playing, third-world loving brother -- not the bassist
of the same name, although it's worth knowing that Rhapsody has this under
the wrong guy -- leading a trio with Omer Avital on bass and Nasheet Waits
on drums. Wrote four originals. Covers Don Cherry, Duke Ellington, John
Coltrane, Cole Porter. Puts his chops on fine display.
Richard Cole: Inner Mission (2007 , Origin):
Tenor saxophonist, b. 1957, based in Seattle, name inevitably recalls
alto saxophonist Richie Cole (nine years older, presumably unrelated,
recorded extensively 1976-88 and not much since). Fourth album since
1994, all on Origin. Front cover says "featuring Randy Brecker" --
the trumpet player on 5 of 9 cuts, with Thomas Marriott on trumpet
on two others. Bill Anschell plays piano on 6 cuts; John Hansen on
two others, and bassist and drummers come and go. Cole takes Henry
Mancini's "Slow Hot Wind" on soprano. I don't get much out of the
postbop arrangements here, but the sax is often impressive.
David Cook: Pathway (2010, Bju'ecords): Pianist,
based in Brooklyn, looks like he has one self-released album back
in 2002, otherwise this piano trio is it. One cover, Ellington's
"Come Sunday"; eight originals, crisp, thoughtful postbop.
The Cookers: Cast the First Stone (2010 ,
Plus Loin Music): Supergroup -- Billy Harper (tenor sax), Craig
Handy (alto sax), Eddie Henderson (trumpet), David Weiss (trumpet),
George Cables (piano), Cecil McBee (bass), Billy Hart (drums), with
Azar Lawrence joining on 4 of 7 cuts (3 on tenor sax, 1 on soprano).
Second group album, after 2010's Warriors, which got a lot
of favorable notices but didn't come my way. Weiss is probably the
least well known, but he's the arranger, that's his specialty. I
recall Harper and Henderson teaming up before, on Harper's Live
on Tour in the Far East series (Volume 2 is exceptional),
so no surprise that the horns are roaring. Good to hear Cables, not
just comping but weaving it all together.
Patrick Cornelius: Fierce (2009 , Whirlwind):
Alto saxophonist, b. 1978, AMG credits him with two records but his
website claims four going back to 2001. Trio plus two extra horns --
Nick Vayenas on valve trombone and Mark Small on tenor sax -- what
he calls his Chordless Jazz Ensemble. Solid postbop effort, bold
even, fierce too.
Roxy Coss: Roxy Coss (2009 , self-released):
Tenor sax, soprano sax, flute. From Seattle, based in New York,
first album. Money quote from someone at AAJ: "just like Coltrane,
Coss achieves a perfect balance of lyricism and intensity in her
improvisations through a superb sense of timing, rhythmic and
harmonic structure." Not "just like Coltrane"; not remotely near.
Much of the album is wiped out by a pop jazz rhythm section, and
the flute adds no significant weight. When the drummer drops down
to brushes she finally gets a chance, shows some poise and taste.
Just not like Coltrane.
Jacques Coursil: Trail of Tears (2010 , Sunnyside):
Trumpet player, b. 1938 in Paris, parents from Martinique, cut a couple of
well-regarded avant albums in 1969 and pretty much vanished until 2005.
Title comes from the 1830s expulsion of the Cherokee from the Carolinas
and Tennessee to the future Oklahoma. Packaging includes a couple of maps
tracing the route. I first learned about this in 8th grade -- the only
person I recall learning much from was my 8th grade American history
teacher -- but I never quite visualized the routes before: one by river
seems convoluted but obvious, descending the Tennessee to the Ohio to
the Mississippi, then upriver on the Arkansas to Fort Smith and into
Oklahoma; the other a land route further north, across Kentucky and
Missouri where I would have expected a more direct southerly route. The
music is muted, somber, brief, with relatively minor contributions from
Mark Whitecage, Perry Robinson, Bobby Few, Sunny Murray, and others who
normally don't blend into the vintage woodwork.
Sylvie Courvoisier/Mark Feldman: Oblivia (2009 ,
Tzadik): I've seen the artist-order presented both ways here. Feldman's
name is to the left on front cover, but the print only runs from top to
bottom, not from left to right, and other sources credit Courvoisier
first. (The spine is usually more definitive, but rarely scanned.)
Piano-violin duets, sharp and prickly.
Neil Cowley Trio: Radio Silence (2009 , Naim
Jazz): English piano trio, third album. I figure Cowley has been most
influenced by Esbjörn Svensson (aka EST), a much more prominent force
in European jazz than over here. I got an advance of their first album,
Dis-Placed, and wrote it up in an early Jazz CG, but they never
bothered to send me anything more. Like the other albums, this one is
sharply played, beat-wise, catchy, and just tough enough no one will
mistake it for pop. Could aspire to popular, though.
Patty Cronheim: Days Like These (2009 , Say
So): Singer-songwriter, b. 1960, probably based on New York, first
album. Wrote 7 of 10 songs, covering "Summertime," "Superstition"
(lists Stevie Wonder's Talking Book as a desert island disc),
and "Bye Bye Blackbird." Has a slight scratch to her voice, which
works well in a jazz context. Covers aren't especially notable,
although her "Bye Bye Blackbird" is the best of three I've heard
in the last week -- she lets it romp free instead of using it to
end the Beatles' "Blackbird" on an up note. Originals are pretty
solid, with "Don't Work Anymore" outstanding. And she gets terrific
sax breaks from Dan Wall.
Tom Culver: Sings Johnny Mercer (2010, Rhombus):
Singer, based in Los Angeles, second album, does a nice job on 18
Johnny Mercer songs, with enough grit and resonance to salvage
even things like "Moon River."
Dadi: Bem Aqui (2009 , Sunnyside): Brazilian
singer-songwriter, full name Eduardo Magalhães de Carvalho, b. 1952
in Rio de Janeiro. Hard to find much info: has at least one previous
album (Dadi, from 2005, released on a Japanese label) and
some (maybe a lot) of session work -- was on a Mick Jagger record,
and several by Marisa Monte. He plays guitar, keyboards, percussion,
and sings. This one has been sitting patiently in my queue for over
a year now. Got zero metafile mentions. All in Portuguese, one cover
(Chico Buarque), only one solo credit among the remaining eleven
songs, several shared with Marisa Monte or Arnaldo Antunes -- makes
me wonder if he isn't some sort of Billy Joe Shaver-type songwriter
recycling his hits-for-others. Reinforcing that is that everything
here is catchy, the quirks engaging, the flow irresistible.
David's Angels: Substar (2009 , Kopasetic):
David is presumably Swedish bassist David Carlsson, although the key
person in the group is Sofie Norling, who sings and wrote all but two
of the tracks. Other angel candidates are keyboardist Maggi Olin and
drummer Michala Østergaard-Nilsen. They are also joined here by well
known trumpet player Ingrid Jensen. Pieces are slow and moody, some
sort of churchly (or classical) chamber effect, which I've yet to
Ernest Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble: The Prairie Prophet
(2010 , Delmark): Saxophonist, alto and tenor, b. 1953, based in
Chicago. Group adds two trumpets, trombone, guitar (Jeff Parker), bass,
and drums. The prophet is the late Fred Anderson, the patron saint of
the Chicago avant-garde. Dawkins has long had a thing for South African
music -- his previous albums include Jo'burg Jump and Cape
Town Shuffle -- and he starts this off by reworking an Abdullah
Ibrahim title, "Blues for a Hip King," into "Hymn for a Hip King."
He also remembers Lester Bowie, and titles his last two pieces
"Mesopotamia" and "Baghdad Boogie" with snatches of old war songs.
The horns come hot and heavy; Parker's guitar is superb throughout.
Joey DeFrancesco/Robi Botos/Vito Rezza/Phil Dwyer: One Take:
Volume Four (2010, Alma): Something the label and producer Peter
Cardinali do: round up a set of musicians, bust them loose on standard
songs with no rehearsals, everything done in one take. Lineup varies a
little. Volume One had DeFrancesco, Guido Basso, Lorne Lofsky,
and Rezza; Volume Two had Dwyer, Botos, Marc Rogers, and Terri
Lyne Carrington; Volume Three went with Don Thompson and Reg
Schwager. Volume Four returns with four repeaters from previous
lineups. DeFrancesco does his usual organ shtick, although with out
his usual guitarist he stands out a bit more, even with the Botos'
contrasting keyboards. But Dwyer is key -- one of those broad-toned
tenor saxophonists born to play soul jazz.
Todd DelGiudice: Pencil Sketches (2010 , OA2):
Saxophonist, alto then tenor, also clarinet and bass clarinet; grew
up in Florida, studied University of Miami; moved to New York, then
on to Eugene, OR for more classical study, playing clarinet in the
Oregon Mozart Players and joining symphony orchestras wherever he
landed -- currently teaching near Spokane, WA. First album, quartet
with piano, bass, and drums, all originals except for "All the Things
You Are." Mainstream, gorgeous alto tone, effortless swing. I haven't
been holding many records back for future consideration because I'm
so jammed I often just want to check things off, but I want to hear
Todd DelGiudice: Pencil Sketches (2010 , OA2):
Highly improbable sax hero -- put more time into his classical study
than into jazz, hopped around various symphonies, wound up teaching
on the scablands of eastern Washington -- nothing sketchy to his
originals, but the bright lustre to his tone and rich ambience really
come out on the sole cover, "All the Things You Are."
De Nazaten & James Carter: For Now (2009 ,
Strotbrock): The Offspring, formerly of libertine Prince Hendrik, a
mixture of Dutch and Surinamese musicians, have been around since
1995 -- I had the Dutch muddled in my memory and started to refer
to them as the Bastards, which they probably wouldn't find offensive.
The apinti drum and skratyi are not just exotic; they make for fine
party instruments, accenting the comic potential of a group that
already had sousaphone and bass sax before teaming up with a world
class baritone saxophonist. Back cover shows them all hopping, with
no one getting a bigger kick than Carter.
Carlo De Rosa's Cross-Fade: Brain Dance (2009 ,
Cuneiform): Bassist, b. 1970, moved to New York 1993; first album,
although I see scattered side credits -- Luis Perdomo, Amir ElSaffar,
Samo Salamon, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Arturo O'Farrill. Quartet with
Mark Shim on tenor sax, Vijay Iyer on piano, Justin Brown on drums.
Shim is a guy I'd pretty much forgotten about: two quite good albums
for Blue Note 1998-2000, only scattered side credits since then, 2-3
per year. Shim is, however, superb here, right on the edge. Brown's
drums shift the beat all over the place, opening up vast spaces for
Shim and Iyer to work in.
Mike DiRubbo: Chronos (2010 , Posi-Tone): Alto
saxophonist, b. 1970 New Haven, CT, studied under Jackie McLean, six
albums since 1999, starting with mainstream mainstays Sharp Nine and
Criss Cross. Sharp player, runs very fast postbop races, lovely tone
and soulful touch on ballads. This one's a trio, with Brian Charette
on organ and Rudy Royston. Six DiRubbo originals, three by Charette.
I don't find the organ all that interesting, but DiRubbo's one to keep
an eye on.
Dollshot: Dollshot (2010 , Underwolf): Group, or
project, or something like that: Rosalie Kaplan (voice), Noah Kaplan
(sax), Wes Matthews (piano, sometimes prepared), Giacomo Merega (bass,
sometimes prepared). First album. Noah Kaplan has a previous album with
Merega and guitarist David Tronzo. Rosalie Kaplan has one of those
operatic soprano voices I can't stand, all the more so with so many
songs by Arnold Schoenberg, Francis Poulenc, and Charles Ives. One
original by Matthews, one by Noah Kaplan, an uncredited "Postlude."
The instrumental passages are more intriguing, and I do like the dusky
Kenny Dorham: The Flamboyan, Queens, NY, 1963 (1963
, Uptown): Hardbop trumpeter, had a strong run 1955-64, sliding
off to a premature death in 1972. Live set, picked up from a broadcast
tape with three stretches of MC Alan Grant talking between six songs --
two Gershwins, two Dorham originals, "Autumn Leaves," and one from
pianist Ronnie Mathews. Dorham is in fine form; tenor saxophonist Joe
Henderson lays back a bit at first, but earns his "featuring" cover
Dave Douglas & Keystone: Spark of Being: Expand
(2010, Greenleaf Music): The new record, or three, or you can buy
them all in a box, or download, etc., in some sort of subscription --
the business plan behind this product is more complicated than the
music. Expand is the second disc if, e.g., you buy the box,
and it's the only one on Rhapsody. The first is Spark of Being:
Soundtrack, the edited soundtrack to a Bill Morrison "multimedia
collaboration." Expand is made up of seven long-ish pieces
before they got hacked up for the soundtrack. The third is Spark
of Being: Burst, which are ten more pieces written for the film
but not used. Group includes Douglas on trumpet and laptop, Marcus
Strickland on tenor sax, Adam Benjamin on Fedner Rhodes, Brad Jones
on Ampeg baby bass, Gene Lake on drums, and DJ Olive on turntables
and laptop. The keyb and electronics are as tightly integrated and
integral as ever, maybe more so. The horns are far less bracing, but
that goes with soundtrack mode. I'm reluctant to rate this higher
without being able to see the rest of the puzzle. But Douglas is in
a prolonged creative stretch, albeit sometimes a puzzling one.
Colin Dean: Shiwasu (2010, Roots and Grooves):
Bassist, b. and raised in Long Island, studied at New School,
first album, composed all the pieces. Quartet with Sean Nowell
on tenor and soprano sax, Rachel Z on piano, and Colin Stranahan
on drums. Nowell and Nicolazzo make typically strong impressions,
the pieces are thoughtfully constructed and flow effortlessly.
The Dymaxion Quartet: Sympathetic Vibrations (2010,
self-released): Drummer Gabriel Gloege, student of Bob Brookmeyer and
fan of Buckminster Fuller, wrote all nine pieces here, arranged as three
sets of three labelled Hong Kong, Paris, and Manhattan. Dymaxion is
Fuller's term, fused together from dynamic, maximum, and tension and
used for all sorts of wild and wooly ideas. This one is a pianoless
quartet: Michael Shobe's trumpet and Mark Small's tenor sax are the
free horns, with Dan Fabricatore on bass. Seems more composed-through
than maximally dynamic, a neat effect but maybe too neat.
Yelena Eckemoff: Cold Sun (2009 , Yelena Music):
Pianist, from Russia, in New York since 1991. Most of her reputation
is based on classical music, but this is jazz, a low-key but smart
and sharp piano trio, with Mads Vinding on bass and Peter Erskine on
Taylor Eigsti: Daylight at Midnight (2010, Concord):
Pianist, b. 1984, got one of those prodigy hypes cutting his first
album in 2001; Concord picked him up in 2006, releasing his third
album, one annoying enough I singled it out as a dud. Haven't heard
much from Concord since then, although Eigsti's only one of many
possible explanations. It's not that he can't play, but he doesn't
have very interesting ideas: here, some trio, occasional electric
keybs, some Julian Lage guitar, five songs handed over to vocalist
Becca Stevens -- a wet blanket on an otherwise ordinary set.
Shauli Einav: Opus One (2010 , Plus Loin Music):
Saxophonist, b. 1982 in Israel, based in New York, second album. Has
a silky, slinky postbop sound; helps when it's offset by Andy Hunter's
Kurt Elling: The Gate (2010 , Concord): Male
vocalist, automatic pick for Downbeat's polls. Between his
hipsterism and penchant for slipping in unnecessary notes I've never
cared for his records. This is less idiosyncratic than most, less
defined, quieter. Not the worst "Norwegian Wood" I've heard. Not
much else either.
Erika: Obsession (2009 , Erika): AMG finds 10
entries for "erika"; no idea which one this one is. Booklet makes a
point of always printing "ERIKA" all caps. Actual name: Erika Matsuo.
Very striking on the right song -- opener "Night and Day" and the
sure-fire "Moondance"; otherwise she leans heavily on Brazilian music:
Jobim, of course, but also Nascimento, Djavan, Caymmi, Lins, nicely
done -- the band includes Paulo Levi and Yosvany Terry on saxes,
Romero Lubambo on guitar, Essiet Essiet on bass, and Nanny Assis on
Kellylee Evans: Nina (2010, Plus Loin Music): Singer,
second album, songs more or less associated with Nina Simone. Doesn't
have Simone's voice, which leaves the most familiar of these songs a
Exploding Star Orchestra: Stars Have Shapes
(2010, Delmark): Rob Mazurek big group, not really a big band
given no sense of sections: one cornet (Mazurek), one trombone
(Jeb Bishop), three reeds (Matt Bauder on clarinet and tenor sax,
Jason Stein on bass clarinet, Greg Ward on alto sax) plus flute
(Nicole Mitchell), double up on bass (Matthew Lux and Josh Abrams)
and drums (John Herndon and Mike Reed, plus Carrie Biolo percussion);
also piano (Jeff Kowalkowski), vibes (Jason Adasiewicz), "word
rocker" (Damon Locks), and various "electro-acoustic constructions"
(Mazurek's main interest -- "rain from the Brazilian Amazon, insects
at the turn of an eclipse, the hammering overdrive of bicycles in
Copenhagen, stacked muted cornets run through various filters drones
built from electric eels and piano feedback, hi-frequency sinuous
lines from tone generators, pitched bass guitars, and other prepared
instruments"). Dedicated "in memory of Bill Dixon and Fred Anderson,"
who've livened up previous group albums, something missing here.
Played it three times and am still not sure what I think.
Exploding Star Orchestra: Stars Have Shapes (2010,
Delmark): Rob Mazurek group, fourteen players but they play relatively
minor roles filling out details in Mazurek's electronic plateaux --
long on atmospherics, reminds me of '70s prog-jazz only chilled out,
reconceived after trip-hop. Mazurek's cornet occasionally shoots
across the horizon, while Jeb Bishop's trombone lurks ominously.
Andy Farber and His Orchestra: This Could Be the Start of
Something Big (2009 , Black Warrior): Conventional big
band, just the way Count Basie intended -- four trumpets, four trombones,
five reeds (plus the leader, so make that six), piano, guitar, bass,
drums; one-cut guest slots for Mark Sherman on vibes and Jerry Dodgion
on alto sax, plus two vocal tracks with Jon Hendricks.
Lorraine Feather: Ages (2008-09 , Jazzed Media):
Daughter of jazz encylopedist Leonard Feather, b. 1948, full name Billie
Jane Lee Lorraine Feather, the first for a godmother named Holiday --
not the first comparison a fledgling jazz singer wants to bring to mind.
Cut an album in 1979, not regarded as much, then restarted her career
in 1997, this her eighth album. She wrote the lyrics, picking up music
from her band and guests -- guitarist Eddie Arkin; pianists Shelly Berg,
Russell Ferrante and Dick Hyman; banjoist Béla Fleck. Several striking
songs, like "The Girl With the Lazy Eye," "Two Desperate Women in Their
Late 30s," and "I Forgot to Have Children."
Cynthia Felton: Come Sunday: The Music of Duke Ellington
(2010, Felton Entertainment): Vocalist, based in Los Angeles, goes by
the honorific Dr. on her business card as Artistic Director of The
Ethnomusicology Library of American Heritage, whatever that is. First
album covered Oscar Brown Jr. This aims for bigger game, although
Ellington doesn't necessarily give a singer much to work with, and
those who have been most memorable have broken rules that Felton
wouldn't dare monkey with.
Scott Fields/Matthias Schubert: Minaret Minuets
(2010 , Clean Feed): Guitar/tenor sax duo. Guitarist Fields
has a couple dozen albums back to 1993. Schubert has four albums
since 1992, including the well-regarded Blue and Grey Suite
from 1994. They previously played together on Fields' 2006 album
Beckett. They're careful here to match up their tones, so
you get close listening and interaction, even balance. Does run
on rather long.
Amina Figarova: Sketches (2010, Munich): Pianist, b.
1966 in Baku, currently Azerbaijan; studied in Baku, Rotterdam, and
at Berklee; based in Rotterdam; 8th album since 1998. The piano leads
are very striking, but most cuts add horns -- Ernie Hammes on trumpet,
Marc Mommaas on tenor sax, Bart Platteau on flute -- which seem less
Billy Fox's Blackbirds & Bullets: Dulces (2009 ,
Clean Feed): Percussionist, credited only with maracas here, has two
previous albums, The Kaidan Suite and Uncle Wiggly Suite,
and a couple of side credits -- e.g., worked with Bobby Sanabria. So
how does a maracas player sustain interest? He recruits players I've
barely (or never) heard of, spread out among two saxes, trumpet, keybs,
a one-track violin guest, and gives them each a few minutes to stand up
and out. Also does a superb job of working out horn charts for transition.
Dave Frank: Portrait of New York (2009 , Jazzheads):
Pianist, based in New York, fourth record since 1997, most or possibly
all of them solo. Does the one thing that most helps carry a solo piano
recording: keeps his own rhythm churning.
Free Fall: Gray Scale (2008 , Smalltown Superjazz):
Ken Vandermark's clarinet trio, modelled on Jimmy Giuffre's famous trio,
with Håvard Wiik on piano for Paul Bley and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on
bass for Steve Swallow. Fourth album for the trio. I've always found
this to be the hardest of Vandermark's groups to connect with, but then
I was mostly baffled by Giuffre's Free Fall album -- unlike the
Steve Lacy-Roswell Rudd School Days, inspiration for one of his
most boisterous groups. Still, this record has slowly gained on me,
in part because the piano moves beyond prickly abstract to provide a
multi-faceted structural underpinning, partly because of the way
Vandermark can muscle up his clarinet, and partly because working
all that tension out the group can occasionally just relax and
enjoy the flow. Memo to self: should pull Free Fall out
some time and give it another chance.
Agustí Fernández Quartet: Lonely Woman (2004 ,
Discmedi): Spanish pianist, b. 1954, hangs in avant-garde circles; AMG
credits him with 7 albums since 2000, which is way short -- doesn't
include this one, or two recent ones I was looking for, or, well, his
website lists 32 solo, duo, trio, and leader albums since 1987, plus
9 collaborations. Rhapsody gave this one a 2010 date, fooling me into
putting it on, and it was good enough I let it spin. Quartet with sax
(Liba Villavecchia), bass and drums; don't have song credits but some
(most? all?) come from Ornette Coleman -- "Lonely Woman" and "Virgin
Beauty" I recognize, and "Latin Genetics" is irresistible.
Paolo Fresu: Mistico Mediterraneo (2010 , ECM):
Italian trumpet player, b. 1961 in Sardinia, has 30-some albums since
1985, mostly on small Italian labels; second release on ECM, or third
if you count Carla Bley's The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu.
The idea here seems to be to come up with a sunnier version of Jan
Garbarek's Officium collaborations with the Hilliard Ensemble.
The vocal ensemble here is A Filetta Corsican Voices -- seven voices,
lead by Jean-Claude Acquaviva, who wrote 5 of 13 pieces. Also playing
is Daniele di Bonaventura on bandoneon. The other pieces, from Bruno
Coulais, Di Bonaventura, and Jean-Michel Giannelli (using texts by
Corsican poet Petru Santucci) appear to be contemporary. Lovely, of
Erik Friedlander: Fifty: Miniatures for Improvising Quintet
(2008 , Skipstone): Reading the cover I get 50 Miniatures for
Improvising Quintet, but Friedlander's own sources spell out Fifty,
so I compromised above. Each miniature is a 14-note figure having something
to do with a Hebrew letter, but they've been glommed together for seven
pieces ranging from 3:53 to 6:26. Quintet is Friedlander on cello, Jennifer
Choi on violin, Sylvie Courvoisier on piano, Trevor Dunn on bass, and
Michael Sarin on drums. String sounds dominate, but they have a cutting
edge, and while the miniatures can break abstractly they can also flow
Ricardo Gallo's Tierra de Nadie: The Great Fine Line
(2009 , Clean Feed): Pianist, b. 1978 in Colombia; studied in
Bogota, later at UNT. Has divided time between Bogota and New York.
Fifth album since 2005. Tierra de Nadie is a New York group, with Ray
Anderson on trombone, Mark Helias on bass, either Satoshi Takeishi or
Pheeroan Aklaff on drums, often with Dan Blake on soprano (6 cuts) or
tenor (2 cuts) sax. Lucid, flowing freebop, very impressive when it
Maxfield Gast Trio: Side by Side (2010, Militia Hill):
Saxophonist, credits list soprano, alto and tenor here. First album he
tried doing a hip-hop beat thing with EWI and it didn't work out so well.
This time he's running a straight sax trio with Brian Howell on bass and
Mike Pietrusko on drums, and turns in a very solid performance.
Eddie Gomez/Cesarius Alvim: Forever (2010, Plus Loin
Music): Gomez is a bassist, b. 1944 in Puerto Rico, AMG credits him
with 17 albums since 1976, plus more than a hundred credits, with
Bill Evans looming large on the first page, also Chick Corea. Don't
know much about Alvim: I've seen him described as "Brazilian-French";
AMG lists one more album (from 2000) and a few side credits, starting
in 1982 playing bass with Martial Solal. (Discogs has three 1976-79
credits with Alvin playing bass with pianist Jean-Pierre Mas.) Plays
piano here, not very splashy. Low key, intimate, rather lovely duet.
Gord Grdina Trio with Mats Gustafsson: Barrel Fire
(2009 , Drip Audio): Grdina, from Vancouver, plays guitar and
oud. He has an interesting string of recent records, none of which
quite prepare you for the electric charge he shows here. The hint
you do get is the presence of Norwegian saxophonist Gustafsson, who
has a group called the Thing which specializes in free jazz blowouts
of postpunk rock tunes and has a long history of jousting with Ken
Vandermark in various groups, including the three-for-all Sonore.
Also key is bassist Tommy Babin, whose highly flamable Benzene group
pointed this way. Gustafsson comes out loud and ugly, but Grdina
rises to the occasion. Then, surprisingly, he picks up the oud and
cranks it to another level, with Gustafsson's noise tunnel trailing
in his wake.
Charlie Haden Quartet West: Sophisticated Ladies (2011,
Decca): Just a quick impression here -- I'm rather surprised not to have
been serviced on this, something that no doubt can be remedied easily
enough. New drummer in Quartet West, Rodney Green, doesn't have much to
do. Ernie Watts' tenor sax is as delicious as ever, but 6 of 12 tracks
are given over to pianist Alan Broadbent's string orch, and 6 of 12
(the same save one) have guest vocalists, spread out with instrumentals.
The ladies: Melody Gardot, Norah Jones, Cassandra Wilson, Ruth Cameron,
Renee Fleming, Diana Krall. The one I did a double take on and had to
look up: Fleming. Which isn't to say that I didn't prefer Jones and
Krall. Ends with the quartet alone playing "Wahoo" -- something I could
have used a lot more of. Not sure how many Quartet West albums this
makes -- at least a half-dozen, plus a best-of, since 1986. At best a
terrific group, given to gimmicks, like patching vocals by Billie
Holiday and Jo Stafford into Haunted Heart. Haden's a soft touch,
and he's never been mushier than with this group. I could see loving
this, as I do Haunted Heart, or not.
Jim Hall & Joey Baron: Conversations (2010, ArtistShare):
Guitar-drums duo, of course. Hall just turned 80 on Dec. 4. His discography
starts in 1957 with the straightforwardly titled Jazz Guitar -- about
the same time as Wes Montgomery, Tal Farlow, Mundell Lowe, Herb Ellis, Kenny
Burrell, Jimmy Raney, Charlie Byrd, a bit after Barney Kessel, the generation
that established postbop/pre-fusion jazz guitar. I missed most of his early
work -- except, of course, the ones with Evans, Rollins, or Desmond -- but
he has a distinctive style and sound. This is fairly minor, pretty much by
intent, but a nice taste. Baron is a fine drummer, of course, and has the
added virtue of even less hair on top than his senior partner.
Scott Hamilton/Rossano Sportiello: Midnight at NOLA's
Penthouse (2010 , Arbors): Duets, tenor sax and piano
respectively. Sportiello is a swing pianist, b. 1974, modeled on
Ralph Sutton and many others from Earl Hines to Bill Evans; has
some solo albums, a couple of duos with bassist-vocalist Nicki
Parrott, but has never been so completely at ease as here. Same
for Hamilton, a very relaxed, easy swinging set.
Joel Harrison String Choir: The Music of Paul Motian
(2010 , Sunnyside): Guitarist, has a lot of half-baked ideas like
Harrison on Harrison, where he plays George Harrison songs. This
one is, well, different. Paul Motian's songs are much more difficult
and much more intriguing. Arranging them for string quartet draws out
the abstractness and sharpens the edges. No doubt it helps that his
string section is made up of jazz musicians: Christian Howes and Sam
Bardfield on violin, Mat Maneri or Peter Ugrin on viola, and Dana
Leong on cello. He also plays guitar, as does Liberty Ellman. Two
non-Motian compositions: "Misterioso" (Thelonious Monk) and "Jade
Visions" (Scott LaFaro), both completely appropriate.
Laura Harrison: Now . . . . Here (2010, 59 Steps):
Vocalist, from Canada, studied at University of British Columbia,
got a DMA from University of Southern California. First page of
booklet mostly talks about crooked lawyers and how much pain and
expense it took to get a Green Card. First album. Classically
precise voice, although she starts out with credible scat on
"Shulie A Bop" (misspelling Sarah Vaughan on the credit). Three
originals, nine covers ranging from Bizet to Ellington to Sting.
David Hazeltine: Inversions (2010, Criss Cross):
Pianist, wrote a song here "For Cedar" (Walton) which helps establish
his niche, although there have been days when I'd take him for a bit
less florid Oscar Peterson. Runs a quintet here which provides too
many distractions to focus on his piano, but Eric Alexander is back
in typical form at tenor sax, and Steve Nelson has a particularly
bright and sunny day on vibes. With John Webber on bass and Joe
Farnsworth on drums, natch.
Benjamin Herman: Hypochristmastreefuzz [Special Edition]
(2008-09 , Dox, 2CD): Title broken up onto three lines on front
cover, but one word on spine, and one word as a song title. I probably
put this off thinking Xmas music, a big mistake that should have been
flagged by the subtitle: More Mengelberg. The Dutch pianist doesn't play,
but did write all but two compositions, and emerges for a short interview
fragment at the end of the first disc -- in Dutch, natch. Herman is a
Dutch alto saxophonist, b. 1968, has a healthy list of albums since 1999,
including Plays Misha Mengelberg in 2000 and Plays Jaki Byard
in 2003. Looks like Hypochristmastreefuzz originally came out as
a single in 2009, then was reissued in 2010 with a second disc, "Live
at the North Sea Jazz Festival." I recognize Mengelberg (b. 1935) as one
of the giants of the European avant-garde, but I've actually listened to
very little by him (or his longstanding ICP [Instant Composers Pool]
Orchestra), so the big surprise for me here is how this all jumps. Mostly
sax-bass-drums, a little guitar, one track with mellotron, one with a
Ruben Hein vocal, another with a bit of choir. Manages to be edgy and
catchy at the same time. Several songs reappear on the live disc, looser
and rougher, as you'd expect.
Benjamin Herman: Hypochestmastreefuzz [Special Edition]
(2008-09 , Dox, 2CD): Playing this a lot, both discs interchangeable,
the only flaws being the Dutch speech at the end of each, although the
Mengelberg interview sounds amusingly loopy, and the live intros shout
out. Found a quote I used in the review, Herman's self-description:
"surf-guitar based, Dutch-impro, cocktail-jazz sort of thing"; Goudsmit
also talks about Dick Dale. Other trivia: on Dutch Wikipedia page, the
list of musicians Herman has played with starts with Candy Dulfer, not
a real avant-garde icon.
[was: A-] A
Yaron Herman Trio: Follow the White Rabbit (2010 ,
ACT): Pianist, b. 1981 in Israel, studied at Berklee, fifth album since
2003. Trio with Chris Tordini on bass and Tommy Crane on drums, recorded
in Leipzig, Germany. Four covers plus ten originals (one group-credited);
covers include one from Nirvana and one from Radiohead.
Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica: The Unforgettable Sounds of Esquivel
(2010, Tiki): That would be Juan Garcia Esquivel (1918-2002), from Mexico,
who led a big band c. 1956-62, hawking his tricked-up standards as exotica,
space age pop, lounge, and latin-esque. In the intensely homogeneous 1950s
it didn't take much to qualify as exotic. Mr. Ho is percussionist Brian
O'Neill, and his 23-piece Orchestrotica from spare parts in greater Boston.
O'Neill is also involved in the similarly inspired Waitiki. Band has some
punch to it -- Russ Gershon is the most recognizable name -- and most of
the songs are proven standards. Not sure what's so exotic or supersonic
about them, but then I never paid much attention to Esquivel.
Ben Holmes Trio (2009, self-released): Trumpet player,
based in Brooklyn, first album, trio with Dan Loomis on bass and Vinnie
Sperrazza on drums. Four originals, two trad. (one Romanian, the other
Turkish, I think), plus a piece called "Lev Tov" by H. Schachal.
John L. Holmes y Los Amigos: The Holmes Stretch
(2010, self-released): Guitarist, b. 1950 in Walla Walla, WA. Can't
find much on him, can't read the microscopic type in the booklet,
don't recognize anyone he's playing with. Could be that he's still
based in Walla Walla. Did see a review that tried to sandwich him
between George Benson and John McLaughlin; he's more interesting
Honey Ear Trio: Steampunk Serenade (2010 ,
Foxhaven): Erik Lawrence (tenor, baritone, alto, and soprano sax),
Rene Hart (bass, electronics), Allison Miller (drums, percussion).
Miller had a very good record with a completely different trio last
year. Lawrence has been around since at least 1991 without making
any notable impact -- AMG lists a couple dozen side credits, none
I've heard (although I have the latest New York Electric Piano in
the queue). Evidently a lot of Lawrence's bread-and-butter work
comes from touring with Levon Helm. About all I know about Hart
is that he's married to Lawrence's sister, and was involved with
him, Miller, and Steven Bernstein in an "acid jazz" group called
Hipmotism (note to self: check that out). Originals by all three,
including one by Lawrence on Eyjafjallajokull -- last year's top
natural disaster, already so dated. Rigorous sax trio, rough and
tough, except for a touchingly tender "Over the Rainbow."
Robert Hurst: Unrehurst Volume 2 (2007 , Bebob):
Bassist-led piano trio, with Robert Glasper on piano and Chris Dave on
drums. The previous Unrehurst Volume 1 was recorded way back in
2000 and released in 2002, also with Glasper -- must have been quite
young then but I can't find any reference that gives a firm birthdate
(one source says "1979?"). Two Hurst tunes, one by Glasper, one Monk,
one Cole Porter. Skillful but fairly ordinary neobop, nice to mix the
bass up a bit.
Robert Hurst: Bob Ya Head (2010 , Bebob):
Bassist, b. 1964, side credits kick off around 1986 with Woody Shaw,
Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Donald Brown, and Vincent Herring;
released two records on DIW 1992-93, one on his Bebob label in 2002,
two more this year. A lot of scattered ideas here, mostly tied to
upbeat grooves, the flaring horns of "Alice and John" most impressive;
a couple of cuts feature girlie choruses, not far removed from disco,
but different, of course; "Unintellectual Property" features sound
bites from noted standup comic G.W. Bush; ends with a bass solo.
ICP Orchestra: ICP 049 (2009 , ICP): Cover lists
the musician names, alternating black and gray; under that ICP Orchestra
in red; at bottom ICP 049 in black and gray. Spine reads: ICP (049)
Orchestra. Pretty sure this is the ICP Orchestra record Francis
Davis picked as last year's best. The group -- ICP stands for Instant
Composers Pool -- dates back to 1967, founded by Misha Mengelberg, Han
Bennink, and the late Willem Breuker. Current lineup is named on the
cover: Mengelberg (piano), Bennink (drums), Tristan Honsiger (cello),
Ab Baars (reeds), Ernst Glerum (bass), Michael Moore (reeds), Thomas
Heberer (trumpet, Mary Oliver (violin, viola), Tobias Delius (tenor
sax) -- at least four expats settled in Amsterdam (Moore, Oliver, and
Honsiger from US; Delius from UK; not sure about Heberer, from Germany,
does play with a lot of Dutch musicians). Have a lot of catching up to
do, especially on Mengelberg, but this sums up the usual virtues of
the Dutch avant-garde: continental culture, with a delirious twist.
Vijay Iyer with Prasanna & Nitin Mitta: Tirtha
(2008 , ACT): Piano-guitar-tabla. Prasanna's guitar propels
the flow, the most distinguishing feature here, very attractive at
times with the soft tap of the tabla. Iyer elaborates but rarely
Jaruzelski's Dream: Jazz Gawronski (2008 , Clean
Feed): Italian sax trio, with Piero Bittolo Bon on alto (and smartphone),
Stefano Senni on bass, and Francesco Cusa on drums. Don't know where they
came from, what they've done in the past, or why they're obsessed with
all things Polish. I can begin to unravel such jokes as "Soulidarnosc" and
"Mori Mari Curi" (the discoverer of radioactive elements like "Polonium"
that killed her) but not "Swiatoslaw" or "Zibibboniek" or "Maria Goretti
Contro Tutti." Presumably the group name honors (if that's the word) the
last Communist dictator of Poland, Wojciech Witold Jaruzelski. Gawronski,
however, appears to be an Italian politician, prominent in Berlusconi's
Forza Italia, first name Jas, easy enough to play off. Gruff, garulous
free sax, with enough beat to keep it steady. For a while I thought "Sei
Forte Papa" was "New York, New York." I wouldn't put anything past them.
Raúl Jaurena & His Tango Orchestra: Fuerza Milongnera
(2008 , Soundbrush): Bandoneon player, from Uruguay, based in New
York but recorded this in Montevideo. Group features four bandoneons,
two violins, viola, cello, piano, guitar, bass, and Marga Mitchell sings
a couple of tunes. Pablo Aslan produced but doesn't play. Deep, rich,
sounds very old-fashioned, downright classical.
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis:
Vitoria Suite (2009 , Decca, 2CD): Cover also
adds: Featuring Paco de Lucia. That would be the famous flamenco
guitarist, a sop to the home crowd as Marsalis takes LCJO on the
road to Spain, and tries his hand at writing his own "Sketches
of Spain." It sprawls over two discs, slipping into occasional
dull stretches but mostly feeding clever arrangement details to
what's become a very imposing big band -- the all-star trumpet
section is if anything topped by the reed section (Sherman Irby,
Ted Nash, Walter Blanding Jr., Victor Goines, Joe Temperley).
Jazz Folk: Jazz in the Stone Age (2008 , 1 Hr
Music): Piano trio, with Peter Scherr on bass, Simon Barker on drums,
and Matt McMahon on piano, listed in that order. Hype sheet treats
this as Scherr's record, with minimal bio on him -- lives in Hong
Kong -- and nothing on the others. The eight songs are all covers,
with "stone age" mostly meaning rock: three from Beck, two Velvet
Undergrounds ("Pale Blue Eyes" and "All Tomorrow's Parties"), one
each from Taj Mahal, Joni Mitchell, and the Grateful Dead. Of course,
I was most moved by "Pale Blue Eyes," and baffled by the Beck pieces.
The Jazz Passengers: Reunited (1995-2010 ,
Justin Time): Group formed in late 1980s by Roy Nathanson (alto sax),
Curtis Fowlkes (trombone), with Bill Ware (vibes) a long-time member.
Cut six albums in 1990s, starting out as an avant-skronk group with
occasional novelty vocals and winding up as a showcase for ex-Blondie
Debby Harry. First new album since 1998, although Nathanson has had
several increasingly vocal albums in the meantime. Mostly new, that
is, because it ends with two live cuts from 1995 with Harry singing --
"One Way or Another" is a special treat. The other outlier is a cover
of "Spanish Harlem" with Fowlkes and Susi Hyidgaard vocals and Spanish
intro and outro chatter, cut in 2010. The rest were cut in 2009, with
guest Marc Ribot on guitar and Sam Bardfield on violin -- the 1995
cuts included a lineup credit with Rob Thomas on violin. The one
cover in that group is the title song, a 1978 hit for Peaches &
Herb, the perfect joke for breaking a decade-long hiatus. Elvis
Costello warbles another, strategically placed first.
Norman Johnson: If Time Stood Still (2010, Pacific Coast
Jazz): Guitarist, b. in Kingston, Jamaica; studied at Hartford Conservatory,
was dean there for nine years. First album under own name, has scattered
credits, mostly backing vocalists. Credits George Benson for inspiration,
and Earl Klugh as an influence; sole cover is from Pat Metheny. Plays some
nylon-string as well as electric and acoustic. Mostly stays in comfortable
grooves with piano-bass-drums-percussion, dressed up with string on one
cut, brass (Josh Bruneau and Steve Davis) on three, with Chris Herbert's
sax on more, flute on one.
Darius Jones/Matthew Shipp: Cosmic Lieder (2010 ,
AUM Fidelity): Avant alto sax/piano duo. Jones emerged with a most
impressive album in 2009, Man'ish Boy (A Raw & Beautiful Thing),
then followed it up last year with Throat, attributed to Little
Women, which crossed my threshold for how much ugly bleating I can stand,
but turns out to have been admired elsewhere -- the record got six votes
in the Pazz & Jop poll, third best among jazz albums (behind Jason
Moran and Mary Halvorson). I'm caught in between here, finding Jones a
bit awkward, doing nothing naturally and getting by forcing it. Shipp
too, although what he does fits in as comping, even if it's exceptionally
Matt Jorgensen: Tattooed by Passion: Music Inspird by the
Paintings of Dale Chisman (2009 , Origin): Drummer,
b. 1972, based in Seattle, sixth album since 2001. Not familiar
with Chisman, although his abstracts in the package and booklet
are interesting and attractive. Music is conventional postbop
quintet, with Corey Christiansen's guitar in lieu of piano, and
Thomas Marriott and Mark Taylor the horns, trumpet and sax. Three
cuts add some strings, and one Richard Cole's clarinet.
Stacey Kent: Raconte-Moi . . . (2010, Blue Note):
Singer, b. 1966 in South Orange, NJ; lives in England, and (this time
at least) sings in French. Thirteenth album since 1997. Light touch,
an elegant stylist. Starts with a particularly charming translation
Majid Khaliq: The Basilisk (2010 , self-released):
Recording date presumed -- got this so early it couldn't have been
recorded this year, but it could have been recorded earlier. (Website
says he "will release" this record in late 2010, but publicist gives
2/15/2011 as the release date.) Violinist. Grew up in New York, cites
Ray Nance as an inspiration, but mostly cites Wynton Marsalis. First
album, with trumpet (Charles Porter), piano, bass and drums. Wrote
5 of 8, with "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" plus one each by McCoy Tyner
and Charlie Parker. Flows along nicely.
Soweto Kinch: The New Emancipation (2010, Kinch):
Alto saxophonist, b. 1978 in London, parents from Barbados and Jamaica.
Has an Ornette-ish twist to his alto, something he could build on, but
he's got this idea of doubling up as a rapper and spinning complex story
lines about life in his 'hood -- interesting idea, but hard to follow,
tripping up both on accents and beats.
The Kora Band: Cascades (2010, Origin): Seattle group,
seems to mostly be the project of pianist Andrew Oliver, but Kane Mathis
is the indispensible kora player. More than half of the 13 tunes are
African, mostly trad. from Gamaia, Mali, and Guinea but also from Les
Tetes Brulees and Ntesa Dalienst; four originals, three from Oliver, one
from Mathis. Group includes Chad McCullough on trumpet/flugelhorn, Brady
Millard-Kish on bass, and Mark DiFlorio on drums. More synthesis than
ersatz, the brass a nice touch.
Boris Kozlov: Double Standard (2007 , self-released):
Bassist, b. 1967 in Moscow, moved to New York in the 1990s, joined the
Mingus Big Band in 1998, has had a lot of side-credits since 2000 or so.
First album, solo bass, two and a half originals -- the fraction mixed
in with a Mingus piece. A little narrow and subdued to focus on, which
tends to be the nature of the beast.
Irene Kral: Second Chance (1975 , Jazzed
Media): Singer, b. 1932 in Chicago, younger sister of Roy Kral
(pianist-vocalist, mostly of Jackie & Roy fame); bounced
through several big bands, getting her name first on a 1958 album
with Herb Pomeroy (The Band and I). Most of her recordings
cluster around 1974-77, just before she died in 1978 of breast
cancer. This is the second 1975 live session the label has come
up with (after 2004's Just for Now). Accompanied by pianist
Alan Broadbent, superb in this context. Some standards, some pop
songs of more recent vintage, mostly ballads which she nails,
but ends on a very upbeat "Nobody Else but Me" and nails it too.
Never heard her before -- just a name I recognized but couldn't
Kristy: My Romance (2010, Alma): Standards singer,
full name Kristy Cardinali, from Montreal; first album, but popped
up on Mario Romano's Valentina album recently. Cover throws
a "featuring" credit to pianist Robi Botos. Nice voice, picks great
songs, makes them feel comfy -- "You Don't Know Me" is an inspired
choice. Second album I've seen lately to pair "Blackbird" with "Bye
Bye Blackbird," but here as separate songs rather than mashed into a
medley. Cut idea, but the Beatles' songs remain obdurately jazzphobic.
I would have preferred more comfort food along the lines of "It Could
Happen to You" and "Teach Me Tonight."
The Brian Landrus Quartet: Traverse (2010 ,
Blueland): Plays baritone sax and bass clarinet, b. 1978, grew up
in Reno, NV; studied in Boston, based in Brooklyn. Has a couple
previous albums on Cadence, but doesn't seem that far out -- at
least he not with this group: Michael Cain (piano), Lonnie Plaxico
(bass), Billy Hart (drums).
Erik Lawrence & Hipmotism (2007, CDBaby): CDBaby
describes this as acid jazz, but while most of the songs offer (or can
be adapted to) funk grooves, and the bassist (Rene Hart) and drummer
(Allison Miller) try to go that way for the first half-plus of the album.
The horns have more leeway: the notes cite Lawrence on baritone sax and
Steven Bernstein on slide trumpet; can't swear they stick to them. The
two Lawrence originals break out into relatively free jazz, and their
take on Fats Domino's "Going to the River" is as stretched out as their
Pink Floyd ("Shine On You Crazy Diamond") is compressed. Toward the
end you can feel the future Honey Ear Trio trying to break out.
Daniel Levin Quartet: Organic Modernism (2010 ,
Clean Feed): Cellist, b. 1974 in Burlington, VT; seventh album since
2002, plus such notable side credits as Soulstorm with Ivo
Perelman. Quartet with Nate Wooley on trumpet, Matt Moran on vibes,
and Peter Bitenc on bass. This feels very compressed, with Wooley
in particular working inside the cello lines.
Pete Levin: Jump! (2008-10 , Pete Levin Music):
B. 1942, started out playing French horn in Gil Evans' orchestras,
then around 1980 switched to keyboards, eventually settling on the
organ. Straight, upbeat soul jazz session, with Dave Stryker adding
quite a bit on guitar, plus Lenny White on drums and Manolo Badrena
on percussion. Closer was a 2008 "Honeysuckle Rose" with the late
Joe Beck on guitar, rescued from the archives and spruced up a bit.
The Dave Liebman Group: Turnaround: The Music of Ornette
Coleman (2009 , Jazzwerkstatt): Quartet, with Vic Juris
on guitar, Tony Marino on bass, and Marko Marcinko on drums. Liebman's
done a lot more Coltrane over the years than he's done Coleman, but
does a fine job on nine covers and one original -- his soprano seems
better suited than usual, and he also plays some wood flute. Juris
is more key than ever.
The David Liebman Trio: Lieb Plays the Blues à la Trane
(2008 , Challenge): With Marius Beets on bass, Eric Ineke on drums.
Three Coltrane pieces, sandwiched between Miles Davis's "All Blues" and
Duke Ellington's "Take the Coltrane" -- all ruggedly blues-based, with
snakey soprano sax twists and more muscular tenor sax. Liebman has well
over a hundred records since the early 1970s, when he came up in Miles
Davis's group. It used to be that saxophonists would strive to establish
their own unique sounds, but Liebman is still a fan, wearing his heroes
on his sleeves -- he's done a Homage to John Coltrane, his own
version of John Coltrane's Meditations. Recently took a shot at
Ornette Coleman too, but this is closer to his heart, and really the
whole reason for his soprano. I still much prefer to tenor, but he makes
both work here.
Dave Liebman Big Band: As Always (2005-07 ,
MAMA): Liebman plays soprano sax and wooden flute, in front of a
big band led by saxophonist Gunnar Mossblad: five reeds, four
trumpets, four trombones, piano (Jim Ridl), guitar (Liebman's
long-time collaborator Vic Juris), bass (Tony Marino), and drums
(Marko Marcinko). Liebman's tunes, arranged by various others.
Dense, complex, not much stands out.
Elisabeth Lohninger: Songs of Love and Destruction
(2009 , Lofish Music): Singer, b. 1970 in Austria, based in
New York since 1994. Third album since 2004. Was immediately struck
by how strikingly her voice reminded me of Joni Mitchell, but stupid
me, it was just a Joni Mitchell song, "River" no less. Followed that
with K.D. Lang, same trick, but my interest was waning. Then came
one in Spanish, and a Beatles tune, but the album recovered some
after that. Bruce Barth is a superb pianist for this sort of thing,
and two guest spots each for Ingrid Jensen and Donny McCaslin shine
things up. Choice cut is "No Moon at All," with Christian Howes
Joe Lovano/Us Five: Bird Songs (2010 , Blue Note):
Second album by Lovano's two-drummer quintet, with Otis Brown III and
Francesco Mela the drummers, Esperanza Spalding on bass, and James
Weidman on piano. Charlie Parker compositions, except for "Lover Man"
and the Lovano original "Birdyard" -- wonder if anyone thought of that
before. (AMG sez no.) None of the sonic crudeness that always turned
me away from Parker's records, nor any of the daring crunchiness that
made Bird such a legend. Don't know why Lovano decided to play this so
sweet, other than that the band isn't really up to it.
Brian Lynch: Unsung Heroes (2008-09 , Hollistic
Music Works): Trumpet player, b. 1956, 15-plus albums since 1986, started
out as a hard bopper, then made a big splash in Latin bands. Pays tribute
here to trumpet players, mostly from 1950s and 1960s: Tommy Turrentine,
Idrees Sulieman, Louis Smith, Claudio Roditi, Kamau Adilifu, Joe Gordon,
Ira Sullivan, Donald Byrd, Howard McGhee, Charles Tolliver -- mostly
adapting their songs, sometimes writing new ones. Lynch has done this
before, in 2000's Tribute to the Trumpet Masters, where he picked
off the more obvious names (Freddie Hubbard, Thad Jones, Lee Morgan,
Booket Little, Woody Shaw, Kenny Dorham, Blue Mitchell, Tom Harrell,
and Tolliver again). Crackling trumpet, helped out by Vincent Herring
on alto sax; congas on two tracks.
Russell Malone: Triple Play (2010, MaxJazz):
Guitarist, tenth album since 1992. Strikes me as about midway
between Wes Montgomery's fluidity and Bill Frisell's poise on
standard American fare, which is a pretty neat trick when no
one gets in the way, or when he lets things get too complicated.
No problems on either count with this guitar-bass-drums trio.
Karen Marguth: Karen Marguth (2009, Wayfae Music):
Standards singer, raised in Livermore, CA; based in Fresno, CA. Fourth
album since 2005. No background given, but most likely well into
middle age. Six cuts are voice-bass duets, which she carries ably,
and "Everything Happens to Me" is just mandolin -- gives it a Tiny
Tim-like feel although her voice is no joke. The other nine cuts
add guitar, electric piano, and drums, turned out nicely.
Marhaug: All Music at Once (2007-08 , Smalltown
Superjazz): Lasse Marhaug, b. 1974 in Norway, has ten or so albums since
2001, does electronics -- at least that's the credit on 3 of 6 cuts here;
others are piano on 2, scrap-metal on 2, and noise on the title track,
not that I notice much difference between electronics, scrap-metal, and
noise, or recognize much in the way of piano. More evident are the guitars
of Jon Wesseltoft (4 cuts) and Stian Westerhus (the other 2), although
they're more electronics than strings, and can pass for noise as well.
Interesting stuff, but I'm not very acclimated to it.
Delfeayo Marsalis: Sweet Thunder (2008 ,
Troubador Jass): Subtitled "Duke & Shak" -- Shakespeare, which
Ellington flirted with a bit on his album Such Sweet Thunder.
Long section in the fold-out booklet sheet "On the Music" -- have
to admit I didn't read it (fit of bad eyesight) so I don't know how
much of this is Ellington as opposed to Marsalis playing Ellington
or what any of it has to do with the Bard. A lot of work went into
the packaging -- unwraps to four panels, lots of details, plus the
booklet, all lavishly produced. Musicians vary, but run between 5
and 8 per song, more often 8, with piano-bass-drums, Tiger Okoshi
on trumpet, Marsalis on trombone, and three reeds -- Mark Gross,
Mark Shim, Victor Goines, Jason Marshall, Branford Marsalis (just
soprano on 4 cuts). Does a nice job of getting the Ellington look
Mike Marshall: An Adventure 1999-2009 (1996-2009
, Adventure Music): Mandolinist, started out in bluegrass with
a 1987 album called Gator Strut, but eventually took a liking
to Brazilian choro and set up shop, releasing a few dozen records by
a wide range of Brazilian artists; this samples his own grooveful
string-driven oeuvre, working back to his first Brazil Duets.
Rebecca Martin: When I Was Long Ago (2010, Sunnyside):
Singer, b. 1969, half a dozen albums since 1999. My impression (cf.
People Behave Like Ballads) was that she wrote her own material
and was only accidentally classified as jazz as opposed to folk or
mild rock), but here she sings standards, barely accompanied by Larry
Grenadier on bass, with occasional incursions (or excursions) by Bill
McHenry on tenor, alto, or soprano sax. Brings out levels of nuance
in her voice I've never suspected before.
Mason Brothers: Two Sides One Story (2010, Archival):
AMG lists two albums, but they're by different pairs of Mason Brothers:
the other one has James Mason and Christian Mason playing guitar,
presumably something country-rock. This one has Brad Mason on trumpet
and flugelhorn, Elliot Mason on trombone and bass trumpet, playing
mainstream postbop. From England, b. 1973 (Brad) and 1977 (Elliot),
both studied at Berklee; Brad has more session work going back to
2004; Elliot holds down a chair in JLCO. Wynton Marsalis wrote the
liner notes. The band shows how well connected they are: Chris Potter
(sax), Joe Locke (vibes), David Kikoski (piano), Tim Miller (guitar),
Scott Colley (bass), Antonio Sanchez (drums). Don't have (or can't
read) track breakdowns, but you'd think that if Potter, to say the
least, had played through I'd have noticed him. Did hear a lot of
trombone, tight, snug between the lines.
Lisa Maxwell: Return to Jazz Standards (2010,
CDBaby): Singer, b. Nov. 29 sometime in the 20th century; second
album, standards as advertised -- Porter, Gershwin, Rodgers &
Hart, Loesser, the obligatory Jobim -- produced and arranged by
pianist George Newall, replete with goopy, anonymous strings.
Nice voice, all smiles.
Donny McCaslin: Perpetual Motion (2010 ,
Greenleaf Music): Tenor saxophonist, you know, an awesome player
when he builds up a full head of steam. Most tracks have Fender
Rhodes (Adam Benjamin, sometimes on piano; two tracks add Uri
Caine on piano, and one subs Caine on Fender Rhodes), electric
bass (Tim Lefebvre), and drums (Antonio Sanchez or Mark Guiliana).
Dave Binney produced, dabbles in electronics, and plays alto sax
on one track. The Fender Rhodes/bass grooves go on way too long
and rarely rise above the pedestrian. The sax is something else,
but you know that.
Chad McCullough/Michal Vanoucek: The Sky Cries
(2009 , Origin): McCullough plays trumpet/flugelhorn, is
based in Seattle, has a previous record plus a later one in my
queue -- I've been negligent getting to this one. Vanoucek is
a pianist, b. 1977 in Slovakia; studied in Bratislava and The
Hague. No idea how he hooked up with McCullough, but together
they've "toured major venues in Washington, Oregon and Idaho."
They split ten compositions, with a post-hard-bop quintet, Mark
Taylor on alto sax, Dave Captein on bass, Matt Jorgensen on
drums. Lively compositions with fluid piano leads.
Barton McLean: Soundworlds (2010, Innova): Avant
composer, b. 1936, student of Henry Cowell. The five pieces date
from 1984-2009; don't know if those are composition or recording
dates, since no separate recording dates are given, and the groups
vary although most was worked out by McLean on his computer and/or
tape recorder. Opener is a concerto with piano solo with Petersburgh
Electrophilharmonia. Closer picks up some Amazonian and Australian
Terrence McManus: Brooklyn EP (2009 , self-released):
Solo guitar, five tracks, only 16:52, just a few bites, albeit tasty ones.
Better is his duo with Gerry Hemingway, Below the Surface Of, and
not just because drums make life better.
Misha Mengelberg Quartet: Four in One (2000 ,
Songlines): Homework, as I try to get some deeper sense of the Dutch
pianist and ICP Orchestra leader. Not much of his several dozen albums
available through Rhapsody, but this item popped up: a quartet with
Dave Douglas on trumpet, Brad Jones on bass, and Han Bennink hitting
things (credit says: percussion). Three Monk pieces in the middle of
a lot of originals, many recycled (Monk-like) from earlier efforts.
The trumpet seems a little thin, but the piano is cagey, darting in
and out unexpectedly.
Misha Mengelberg: Senne Sing Song (2005, Tzadik):
Piano trio, produced by John Zorn with Zorn's house rhythm section,
Greg Cohen on bass and Ben Perowsky on drums. Without the strings
and horns of ICP Orchestra to compound his mischief, the pianist
has to step up and carry the tunes, which he does. I don't often
find a review worth quoting, but Dan Warburton at AMG has this one
figured out: "Mengelberg's music remains a quintessential example
of how recognizable idioms -- from Baroque counterpoint to the
Duke-ish left-hand thunks and Monk-ish whole-tone runs -- can be
extended (and subverted) into something both musically profound
and profoundly musical."
Stephan Micus: Bold as Light (2007-10 , ECM):
German composer, b. 1953, plays various zithers, flute-like things,
and percussion instruments from all around the world. Has a couple
dozen albums since 1976, most on ECM. Did this solo, including three
cuts where he multitracked his own voice. Too exotic to fall into
the New Age genre AMG assigned him to; too minimalist for AMG's
Ethnic Fusion style. An interesting set of upset expectations.
Soren Moller: Christian X Variations (2009 ,
Audial): Christian X was king of Denmark from 1912-47. He was credited
with resisting the Nazis and protecting Danish Jews ("The king declared
that all Danes would wear the Star of David in the event that the Nazis
forced Denmark's Jewish population to do so.") Moller plays piano in
a quartet with Dick Oatts on sax, Josh Ginsburg on bass, and Henry Cole
on drums. The "variations" are organized for quartet or nonet -- the
latter is accomplished by adding the Kirin Winds, a group of classical
wind instrumentalists (flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon) which
adds some fancy overtones.
Moon Hotel Lounge Project: Into the Ojalá (2010 ,
Frosty Cordial): Tom Moon project, first record I'm aware of, wrote all
but one of the songs, plays credible tenor sax against a swishy background
of guitar, bass, electric piano, vibes and percussion. I'm mostly familiar
with Moon as a rock critic, author of 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before
You Die: A Listener's Life List, which aside from a few dozen nods
to the Euroclassics that I'm sure will remain unheard when I die, is a
pretty useful guide. And this is a remarkably enjoyable record, its lounge
concept neither camp nor corny, easy listening where everything else that
conventionally goes by that label turns dull and tedious.
Joe Morris/Luther Gray: Creatures (2010, Not Two):
Guitar-drums duo, both based in Boston where they frequently play
together, especially in an explosive trio with Jim Hobbs; Morris
quite prolific since 1990. Starts out so slow that it takes Gray
a while to come up with something to do, but this come together,
intimate, interactive, interesting.
Joe Morris: Camera (2010, ESP-Disk): Much like the
guitar-drums duo with Luther Gray, except that here the group is
expanded to four, with Katt Hernandez on violin and Junko Fujiwara
Simons on cello. The strings blend well enough with guitar, but
have a sharper sound, and Morris tends to slip into the background.
Thoughtful avant noodling, interesting as long as you can focus on
Mostly Other People Do the Killing: The Coimbra Concert
(2010 , Clean Feed, 2CD): Already forget where -- think it was
that Spanish poll I forgot to vote in -- but I recall MOPDTK named as
best live jazz group, something I have no opinion on not least because
I can't recall the last time I even saw a live jazz group. I suppose
I could try to form an opinion on the basis of live records, but then
you'd have to compete with something like the Vandermark 5's Live
at Alchemia -- 12-CDs that just grow and grow on you. MOPDTK sail
through the first one here in dazzling fashion, but stall a bit on
the second. And where their studio exercises are full of surprises --
and nicely documented in the liner notes so you don't miss them --
recycling their past deconstructions leaves them a bit short in their
strong suit: the unexpected.
Ted Nash: Portrait in Seven Shades (2010, Jazz at
Lincoln Center): Saxophonist, b. 1959, played mostly alto early on
but (I think) mostly tenor now. Uncle was a well known saxophonist,
also named Ted Nash; father played trombone. Broke in with Quincy
Jones at age 17, played in big bandsa (Louie Bellson, Toshiko
Akiyoshi, Don Ellis, Gerry Mulligan, Mel Lewis, most recently the
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, while knocking out ten or so
albums under his own name, some quite good. It's real hard to
judge this one by streaming it: the sound isn't coming through
loud or clear enough to catch the details, so I'm tend to give
Nash credit for things I can't quite follow, but perhaps not as
much as he deserves. Pretty impressive sax player when he bothers
to get out front. Also, I'm a little confused about those shades,
since the seven pieces are named for actual painters: Monet, Dali,
Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh, Chagall, Pollock.
Negroni's Trio: Just Three (2010, Mojito): Piano trio,
fourth album since 2003. The pianist is José Negroni, from Puerto Rico;
his son, Nomar Negroni, plays drums, and Marco Panascia plays bass.
Fast, percussive, not much more.
Willie Nelson/Wynton Marsalis: Here We Go Again: Celebrating
the Music of Ray Charles (2009 , Blue Note): Pretty
simple, the Marsalis quintet (Walter Blanding on tenor sax, Dan Nimmer
on piano) play twelve obvious songs from the Charles songbook for a
live audience with Nelson and Norah Jones trading vocals -- sometimes
Jones has a bit of trouble getting on track, but Nelson is always
right in the groove. Nothing wrong with the horns, either. Still, a
pretty unnecessary album.
Jovino Santos Neto: Vejao O Som/See the Sound
(2009-10 , Adventure Music, 2CD): Pianist, b. 1954 in Rio de
Janeiro, played with Hermeto Pascoal 1977-92, Sergio Mendes, Airto
Moreira, Flora Purim. Seven albums since 1997. Twenty duets with as
many guests, some well known (Moreira, David Sanchez, Bill Frisell,
Joe Locke, Anat Cohen, Paquito D'Rivera), others obscure (to me,
anyway); five vocals, five horns (plus a harmonica), an accordion,
a couple guitars and a couple more mandolins, one piano duo, some
percussion. Varied as it is, it still flows nicely, avoiding the
thinness that often mars duets.
Margaret Noble: Frakture (2010, Amnesty International):
Sound artist, former DJ, some press suggests she started in Chicago,
is now in San Diego, plays turntables and analog synths. Website lists
three albums, but this is the first one cited by places like AMG. This
is presented as George Orwell's 1984 "remixed into sound art
album." The music is intriguingly electronic, with lots of spoken word
samples. I'm not making a lot of sense out of the Orwell thing -- a
book I've largely managed to avoid -- but the electronic collage is
interesting. Proceeds go to Amnesty International.
Mike Olson: Incidental (2009 , Henceforth):
Composer, from Minneapolis, plays keyboards but looking at his web
site there is little there other than his compositional theories and
focus. Six numbered pieces here. Haven't found any other albums by
him. Large cast of musicians, including strings, flutes, bassoon,
guitars, and the usual jazz horns. Fairly dense and gloomy; makes
for an interesting framework.
Harold O'Neal: Wirling Mantis (2008 , Smalls):
Pianist, b. 1981 in Tanzania, raised in Kansas City -- father and uncle
were leaders in Black Panther Party in KC; uncle remains "in exile" in
Tanzania. Studied at Berklee and Manhattan School of Music. First album,
quartet, with Jaleel Shaw on alto sax, Joe Sanders on bass, Rodney Green
on drums. Postbop, Shaw roughs it up a bit, piano whirls around making
a nice impression.
Markku Ounaskari/Samuli Mikkonen/Per Jørgensen: Kuára
(2009 , ECM): Subtitle "Psalms and Folk Songs"; Jørgensen appears
after the title on the front cover line, on the second line of the hype
sheet preceded by "with" but the spine merely lists him last (although
AMG parsed this backwards and credits the album to "Jorgenson"). Drums,
piano, and trumpet/voice respectively. Ounaskari (b. 1967) and Mikkonen
(b. 1973) are Finnish, and don't appear to have much prior discography;
Jørgensen (b. 1952) is Norwegian, has a couple of albums, and appears
on at least ten more (Pierre Dørge, Jon Balke, Anders Jormin, Marilyn
Mazur, Michael Mantler, etc.). The psalms are Russian; the folk songs
Finno-Ugric: Vespian, Karelian, Udmurtian. Ounaskari and Mikkonen wrote
three originals. Much of this is very captivating, but once again I get
thrown off by the occasional vocal.
Chris Parrello: + Things I Wonder (2010 ,
Popopomo Music): Probably should attribute whole title to group name
and consider album eponymous but I didn't want to write both twice
(the style I've been leaning to lately) or italicize it all (a style
I've long used). Parrello plays guitar, composed the songs; Karlie
Bruce wrote and sings the lyrics. Other people I've never heard of
play trumpet, sax, cello, bass, drums, and pedal steel. (Hype sheet
just mentions five names: Parrello, Bruce, Ian Young [tenor/soprano
sax], Rubin Kodheli [cello], and Kevin Thomas [bass]. Website shows
one photo, a lineup of five.) They're probably easier to take as a
rock band than as a jazz group: Bruce sings wordlessly on several
occasions, but she's better when she has something to say; while
the sax and cello avoid rock usages, the guitar and bass don't,
and they seem to be happier playing a groove and riffs.
Jeremy Pelt: The Talented Mr. Pelt (2010 , High
Note): Trumpet player. I first bumped noticed him as a Downbeat
poll rising star, and when I finally heard him I thought he was worthy,
brilliant even. Now this is his eighth album since 2002, and I've yet
to see much from his undoubted talent. This is livelier than most, as
it should be with tenor saxophonist J.D. Allen sharing the front line,
Danny Grissett on piano, Dwayne Burno on bass, and Gerald Cleaver on
drums, but he's yet to break loose over a full album.
Danilo Pérez: Providencia (2010, Mack Avenue):
Pianist, b. 1966 in Panama; father was a bandleader; studied and
now teaches at Berklee. Not someone I've followed closely, but has
a solid reputation, with ten or so albums since 1992, including
one dedicated to Monk. Mixed bag: impressive enough solo or trio,
especially memorable when Rudresh Mahanthappa joins in on alto
sax, but some cuts add classical orch instruments (flute, oboe,
French horn, bassoon) and/or Sara Serpa vocalizing. The one with
flute and Serpa would be unlistenable except for Pérez fighting
back with his most bracing piano.
Jay Phelps: Jay Walkin' (2010, Specific Jazz):
Canadian trumpet player, been in UK since he was 17; first album
at 28, which I guess would make him b. 1982. Kind of a hard bop
throwback, with piano-bass-drums and Shabaka Hutchings on tenor
sax, clarinet, and bass clarinet. A couple of hipster vocals by
Michael Mwenso, and occasional guests, all reinforcing the band
The Pickpocket Ensemble: Memory (2010, self-released):
San Francisco group, fourth album since 2003, plays "café music" -- "the
inversion of folk," as leader Rick Corrigan (accordion, piano) puts it.
Band includes violin (Marguerite Ostro), guitar/banjo (Yates Brown),
bass (Kurt Ribak), and percussion (Michaelle Goerlitz), with Myra Joy
on cello but evidently not in group. Hype sheet talks about them picking
up elements from all over the globe, but nothing very clear emerges from
the cosmopolitan mishmash.
Adam Pieronczyk: Komeda -- The Innocent Sorcerer
(2009 , Jazzwerkstatt): Saxophonist, b. 1970 in Poland, plays
soprano and tenor, has a dozen-plus albums since 1996. Komeda, of
course, is Krzysztof Komeda (1931-69), the pianist-composer who
seems to be the root of all subsequent Polish jazz. Komeda may be
best known for his soundtrack to Rosemary's Baby. I'm not
nearly familiar enough with his dozen or so records, but regard
Astigmatic as one of the high points of European jazz in the
1960s. Komeda has also been the subject of such notable tributes
as Tomasz Stanko's Litania, and this is another one. With
Gary Thomas on tenor sax, Nelson Veras on guitar, Anthony Cox on
bass, and Lukasz Zyta on drums.
Chico Pinheiro: There's a Storm Inside (2009 ,
Sunnyside): Guitarist-vocalist, from Brazil, 5th album since 2003.
Mostly originals, a couple co-written with Paulo César Pinheiro; two
English lyrics: Gershwin's "Our Love Is Here to Stay" and Stevie
Wonder's "As" -- the latter a guest spot for Diana Reeves. The other
name guest is saxophonist Bob Mintzer. Pinheiro's a talented guitarist
and a tossaway vocalist, backed by large bands of evanescent texture --
on three cuts fortified with a large string section. Oddly brilliant,
but I can't say I enjoyed it.
Leslie Pintchik: We're Here to Listen (2010, Pintch
Hard): Pianist, based in New York, third album since 2003 although she
dates her trio and collaboration with bassist-guitarist Scott Hardy
back to 1992. This adds Mark Dodge on drums and Satoshi Takeishi on
percussion. Thoughtful, deliberate. I also have a DVD of here around
here somewhere, but you know how it is with DVDs.
Suzanne Pittson: Out of the Hub: The Music of Freddie Hubbard
(2008 , Vineland): Singer, don't know how old, teaches at City College
in New York, has two previous albums, one from 1992, the other from 1999;
both appear to be substantial projects to pull new vocal music out of
relatively untapped sources: Blues and the Abstract Truth (the
Oliver Nelson classic), and Resolution: A Remembrance of John Coltrane.
She, and/or husband-pianist Jeff Pittson and/or son Evan Pittson wrote
new lyrics for six Hubbard pieces; they picked up other lyrics for two
more, and included three covers ("You're My Everything," "Moment to
Moment," and "Betcha by Golly, Wow!"). Half the tracks add Jeremy Pelt,
who does a pretty good Hubbard impersonation, and Steve Wilson, who at
least at first threatenes to run away with the record. The hornless cuts
are less exhilarating, although Pittson is a technically impressive
singer and scatter, and the project is ambitiously conceived and
Plunge: Tin Fish Tango (2010 , Immersion):
New Orleans trio, "chamber-jazz group" as they call themselves,
led by trombonist Mark McGrain, with Tim Green on sax, James
Singleton on bass, and others as works out -- Tom Fitzpatrick
and Kirk Joseph also play sax on this record. Been around a
while -- AMG lists seven records since 1996. Dominant sound is
the trombone growl, contained in their chamber framework, with
the sax a bit lighter and sweeter.
Noah Preminger: Before the Rain (2010 ,
Palmetto): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1986 (not in current "long bio"
but in my previous notes), based in Brooklyn, second album (AMG
only has one, but I have two, and recall that his first won the
Voice Critics' Poll's debut section). Quartet, with Frank Kimbrough
on piano, John Hébert on bass, Matt Wilson on drums. Wrote 4 of 9
songs, picking up 2 from Kimbrough, 1 from Coleman (pretty sure
that's Ornette), two standards ("Where or When," "Until the Real
Thing Comes Along"). Preminger has a lot of potential, but the
more I play it the more I suspect he's awed by his band, who
try to be supportive but tend to stand out.
Gene Pritsker: Varieties of Religious Experience Suite
(2010, Innova): Following spine here; cover has two blocks of type: on
top, "Varieties of Religious Experience Suite Gene Pritsker's Sound
Liberation"; below and larger, "VRE Suite." Pritsker is a guitarist
and -- sometimes but not here -- rapper. Can't find much discography,
but website claims Pritsker "has written over three hundred ninety
compositions, including chamber operas, orchestral and chamber works,
electro-acoustic music, songs for hip-hop and rock ensembles, etc."
This group is string-driven, with two guitars, cello, bass and drums.
Title comes from William James, who is namechecked in 3 of 8 titles;
Tolstoy gets one more.
Don Pullen: Plays Monk (1984 , Why Not?):
The last pianist to work for Charles Mingus is an odd choice to
play Monk, and I suspect he gave little thought to the project;
he keeps wanting to work in his trademark flourishes, dazzling
of course, but excess baggage especially when playing songs that
hide their odd note choices in a cloak of primitivism.
Eric Reed: The Dancing Monk (2009 , Savant):
Mainstream pianist, recording steadily since the early 1990s, in a
trio with Ben Wolfe on bass and McClenty Hunter on drums, plays ten
Monk songs, with a little more dexterity and a lot less mystery than
Monk himself. Interesting that music that was so idiosyncratic as to
be unplayable in the 1950s now seems so routine.
Tom Rizzo: Imaginary Numbers (2009 , Origin):
Guitarist, based in Los Angeles, plays in the Tonight Show Band,
before that with Maynard Ferguson. First album, looks like it was
originally released in 2009 then picked up by Origin. Runs a bigger
group than necessary -- five horn credits including Bob Sheppard
on soprano and tenor sax and four brass including French horn and
tuba -- but the guitar is the most memorable.
Mario Romano Quartet: Valentina (2010, Alma): Pianist,
from or at least based in Toronto, Canada. First album, but he's been
around since the early 1970s. Quartet with Pat LaBarbera on tenor sax,
Roberto Occhipinti on bass, and Mark Kelso on drums, with someone
identified only as Kristy singing one song (Romano's "Those Damn I Love
Yous" -- only song he wrote here, although Occhipinti wrote one for him,
"Via Romano"). LaBarbera is drummer Joe LaBarbera's older brother; b.
1944, joined Buddy Rich in 1968, has a scattered career after that, with
a half-dozen records on his own. He's an impressive mainstream player,
a fine counterpart to the pianist. Mostly covers from 1950s and 1960s,
many I associate with Miles Davis ("Nardis," "On Green Dolphin Street,"
"Someday My Prince Will Come"); one Beatles song ("Norwegian Wood"),
which hardly spois the day.
[PS: Kristy is Kristy Cardinali; turns out I have her debut album,
My Romance, in my queue.]
Kurt Rosenwinkel and OJM: Our Secret World (2009
, Word of Mouth Music): Guitarist, b. 1970 in Philadelphia,
based in Berlin, Germany; tenth album since 1996 -- a prominent
figure, but one I haven't followed closely. OJM is Orchestra de
Jazz de Matosinhos, a Brazilian big band conducted by Carlos
Azevado and Pedro Guedes, with Ohad Talmor also arranging. Most
impressive when the guitar is cruising away from the band.
Alison Ruble: Ashland (2009 , Origin): Singer,
second album, mix of traditional standards -- "S' Wonderful," "Let's
Fall in Love," "Night and Day" -- and rock-era pieces, if only up to
the early 1970s -- "Route 66," Dylan, King Crimson, Bonnie Raitt,
Emmylou Harris. Arrangements by guitarist John McLean, flute and
sax by Jim Gailloreto, Hammond B3, cello, bass, and drums. Pieces
are handsomely framed and elegantly sung.
Salo: Sundial Lotus (2009 , Innova): Bassist
Ben Gallina wrote all of this (except for an extract from Hindemith),
and it's very much a composer's album -- the three reeds, guitar,
piano, bass and drums deployed precisely, working out an impressive
series of postbop progressions.
Angelica Sanchez: A Little House (2010 , Clean
Feed): Pianist, b. 1972, moved to New York 1994, third album since
2003; has a list of 13 groups she is "a regular member of" -- nearly
everyone mention is someone I want to hear everything by, and while
I've never heard of Kevin Tkacz, "Kevin Tkacz's Lethal Objection w/
Paul Motion & Ralph Alessi" has got to be a winner. This one is
solo piano. Doesn't amount to much as background, except for the bit
on toy piano, but when I sat down at the computer to dismiss it I
started hearing things that intrigued me. Takes focus.
Antonio Sanchez: Live in New York at Jazz Standard
(2008 , CAM Jazz, 2CD): Drummer, from Mexico, b. 1971, studied
at Berklee and New England Conservatory; second album under his own
name, but has scads of side credits. All-star two sax quartet, Miguel
Zenon on alto and David Sanchez on tenor, with Scott Colley on bass.
Often turns into a thrilling sax chase, not that far removed from
Gordon and Gray, or Stitt and Ammons.
Heikki Sarmanto: Moonflower (2007, Porter): Finnish
pianist, b. 1939, discography at Wikipedia lista 38 albums since 1969
but misses this one (AMG has 7 including this); his website claims 30
and shows 21 (but not this). I ran across him on a fusion album by
Eero Koivistoinen, but that seems to have just been a 1970s phase.
Porter, which reissued Koivistoinen's 3rd Version, has several
albums by Sarmanto, so I was expecting more of the same, but this
appears to be a new recording. Quartet, with Juhani Aaltonen on tenor
sax, brother Pekka Sarmanto on bass, and Craig Herndon on drums --
just plays acoustic piano here, nicely setting up Aaltonen, who makes
his usual big impression.
Heikki Sarmanto/The Serious Music Ensemble: A Boston Date
(1970 , Porter): Parsing the cover: "The Serious" is in much smaller
print than "Music Ensemble" so maybe I shouldn't take that so seriously;
the title is also followed by "1970" which is useful but far enough off I
omitted it from the title. Other references vary. Quintet, led by Juhani
Aaltonen's tenor sax, really superb free bop. Cover appears to show Sarmanto
on an electric, but his piano sounds more acoustic, with sharp accents and
smart bridges. Guitarist Lance Gunderson also helps connect the dots. Not
sure where in Boston this was recorded, but starts with a piece called
"Top of the Prude" -- I'm guessing that means the Prudential Center.
Heikki Sarmanto Quintet: Counterbalance (1971 ,
Porter): Nearly the same group as on A Boston Date -- Pekka Sarmanto
plays bass replacing George Mraz (who was probably a one-shot replacement
in Boston; he was a student attending Berklee at the time) -- but the
sound and gestalt is markedly different, with the leader playing tinkly
Fender Rhodes and Juhani Aaltonen forsaking his saxophone for flute. I
should have cited his flute on my Downbeat ballot -- by any fair
measure he's one of the best jazz flute players ever -- but I'd rather
he give the instrument up.
Dolores Scozzesi: A Special Taste (2010, Rhombus):
Singer, b. in New York, don't really grasp her comings and goings
but wound up from 2005 on producing cabaret programs, the first
called "Stuck in the 60s." Covers not quite standards -- Bob Dylan
gets two calls. Voice takes some getting used to but has authority.
Mark Winkler produced.
Serafin: Love's Worst Crime (2010, Serafin): Singer,
from Canada, b. in Vancouver, grew up near Toronto, surname LaRiviere,
third album. Touts a five octave vocal range that effectively made the
opener "Comes Love" sound female, becoming more ambiguous later on. He
wrote most of the songs -- the other covers are "My Baby Just Cares for
Me," "Don't Explain," and "Skylark." Has a cabaret feel, most seductive
in the dark.
Elliott Sharp: Binibon (2010 , Henceforth):
B. 1951, plays guitar, synths, a little clarinet and sax; has seventy
or so records since 1977, mostly outside the jazz, rock, or classical
categories. Composed and plays everything here, which is pleasing but
relatively inconsequential. The main point is the spoken word libretto
written by Jack Womack and performed by five characters. Has something
to do with an artsy "cafe and 24-hour hangout at 2nd Avenue and 5th
Street in the East Village . . . during 1979-81" -- too
specific not to be real, too mythic to be remembered precisely. Might
like it more if I followed it better, or might follow it better if I
liked it more.
Marcus Shelby Orchestra: Soul of the Movement (2010
, Porto Franco): Bassist, b. 1966, seventh album since 1997,
delving into black history last time for Harriet Tubman, and
again here. Heavy with gospel, from "There Is a Balm in Gilead" to
"Go Tell It on the Mountain" to "Take My Hand Precious Lord" with
the iconic "We Shall Overcome" in the middle; four new Shelby pieces
on key moments in the civil rights struggle, and a few more things
that seemed like they'd fit -- can't go wrong with "Fables of Faubus,"
can you? Big band: five trumpets, four trombones, five reeds plus
Howard Wiley toward the end, lots of vocals. Very nice packaging,
things everyone should know and appreciate. I find it overwhelming,
and itch to move on, before I start to get annoyed.
Suresh Singaratnam: Lost in New York (2009 ,
Suresong): Trumpet player, born in Zambia, moved to UK then Toronto
then New York, studying at Manhattan School of Music. Has some
classical music on his resume. First jazz album, fairly dense and
fancy postbop with Jake Saslow on tenor sax, Jesse Lewis on guitar,
piano, bass, drums, plus a guest vocal I could do without. Lewis
has the key support role; trumpet is bright and bold.
Jeremy Siskind: Simple Songs: For When the World Seems Strange
(2010, Bju'ecords): Pianist, b. 1986 in California, based in New York;
second album. Mostly piano trio, with Chris Lightcap on bass and Ted Poor
on drums. Some songs add Jo Lawry singing. Piano often impressive, don't
mind the vocals, but overall I'm not getting much traction, finding myself
with little to say.
Harrison Smith Quartet: Telling Tales (2007 ,
33 Records): Tenor saxophonist, with soprano sax and bass clarinet
for change-ups. From England, b. 1946. AMG lists one previous album,
from 1998, but played in District Six for much of the 1980s with
South African pianist Chris McGregor, and also shows up with the
London Improvisers Orchestra. Quartet, with piano (Liam Noble), bass
(Dave Whitford), and drums (Winston Clifford).
Sean Smith Quartet: Trust (2010 , Smithereen):
Bassist; bio says he "has been an integral part of the international
jazz scene for more than 20 years" but what if anything does that mean?
AMG lists about 15 Sean Smiths; turns out he's the one listed under
Folk, where he's described as "one of the busiest young players on the
international jazz scene." Looks like he has a handful of previous
records going back to 1999, a good deal of side credits -- website
claims over 100 but lists under 20. Wrote all the pieces here. Quartet
includes John Ellis (tenor and soprano sax), John Hart (guitar), and
Russell Meissner (drums). Light and elegant postbop, tasty even.
The Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra: Exploration
(2007, Spartacus): A Scottish big band, organized by Smith after
he returned to his homeland in 2002. Don't know how young the
players are -- no one I recognize other than the guests, notably
vibraphonist Joe Locke, who gets a "featuring" credit on the cover.
Smith conducts and arranges but doesn't play. The best known cuts
are the best by far: a rollicking "A Night in Tunisia" and a spiffy
"Cottontail," with Locke in particularly good form on the former.
Tommy Smith/Scottish National Jazz Orchestra: Torah
(2010, Spartacus): Five pieces, each named for a book of the Torah
or Bible, performed by a conventional big band (four trumpet, four
trombones, five reeds, piano, bass, drums) led and dominated by
Smith's exceptional tenor sax. One stretch where he plays solo is
mesmerizing, rising to magnificent when the band joins in. But
mostly the band camouflages the leader, making this one of his
less distinctive albums.
Sonic Libreration Front: Meets Sunny Murray (2002-08
, High Two): Philadelphia group, led by percussionist Kevin Diehl,
who specializes in Lukumi bata drums (Afro-Cuban, more specifically
Yoruba) but has one paw rooted in the avant-garde, in no small part
due to his relationship with avant-drummer Sunny Murray. Fourth album
since 2000 -- the other three I recommend highly, especially 2004's
Ashé a Go-Go. This one sweeps up two sessions with Murray on
board, one from 2002, the other 2008. Murray's drums are worth focus,
but the band sometimes loses its focus in long ambling patches, only
to burst to life when Terry Lawson cuts loose on tenor sax.
Joan Soriano: El Duque de la Bachata (2010, IASO,
CD+DVD): Supposedly the rougher, cruder country version of merengue, fit
for small-time royalty, the 7th of 15 children with scant education, just
a fine sense of how to keep a guitar rhythm rolling, with a seductive
voice. DVD gives you more personal sense, less music.
Colin Stranahan: Life Condition (2009 , Tapestry):
Drummer, from Colorado, third album since 2004, basically a sax trio
with Ben Van Gelder on alto and Chris Smith on bass, with Jake Saslow
joining on tenor sax on 2 of 8 cuts. Snakey freebop, the beat lagging
behind not so much to steer the sax as to steer our ears.
Milton Suggs: Things to Come (2009 , Skiptone
Music): Vocalist, b. 1983 in Chicago, grew up in Atlanta but is back
in Chicago, having studied at Columbia College and DePaul; second
album. Has an old-fashioned crooner style with a hint of vocalese,
feels much older than he looks. I didn't like his style at first,
and found the nostalgic "Not Forgotten" almost morose, and I'm not
sure I'll ever acquire the taste, but he does some remarkable things
with it. Tasteful horns, everything neatly in place.
Will Swindler's Elevenet: Universe B (2010, OA2):
Saxophonist, alto then soprano, studied at UNT, teaches at Colorado
State. First album. Eleven-piece ensemble, shuffling some of the 14
credited musicians in and out, but basically breaks down to 3 reeds,
flute, 2 trumpets, trombone or euphonium, French horn, piano, bass,
drums. Five originals, covers from Miles Davis (arr. Gil Evans -- a
key influence), Billy Strayhorn, and George Harrison. Took me a
while to get used to the harmonics, but the arrangements have a
silky flow -- not much solo and not much mass.
Jamaaladeen Tacuma: For the Love of Ornette (2010 ,
Jazzwerkstatt): Bass guitarist, b. 1956 as Rudy MacDaniel in Hempstead,
NY; played on a couple of essential Ornette Coleman records -- Dancing
in Your Head (1976) and Of Human Feelings (1979) -- back when
Coleman was incorporating electric guitar and bass and putting forth his
harmolodic theories (Tacuma also appeared on James Blood Ulmer's Tales
of Captain Black. Tacuma's own records start in 1983 as he attempted
to build on his free funk patterns. AMG lists this as his 17th album,
not counting things like his Vernon Reid collaboration as Free Form Funky
Freqs. Here he returns to Coleman, or maybe one should say Coleman returns
to him -- the great man plays alto sax here, as unmistakable as ever, but
strangely subdued, with Toni Kofi's tenor sax more often up front, and
bits of piano and flute floating in the ether.
Tarbaby: The End of Fear (2010, Posi-Tone):
Group's MySpace website explains: "We are not TAR BABY ...... JAZZ
is ..... We simply want to hug him for as long as we live." Site
lists (in this order) band members as: Nasheet Waits (drums),
Stacey Dillard (sax), Orrin Evans (piano), Eric Revis (bass),
but Dillard doesn't appear on this, the group's first record.
Instead, we have "special guests" JD Allen (tenor sax), Oliver
Lake (alto sax), and Nicholas Payton (trumpet). Two group songs,
two from Revis, one each from Evans and Waits, one from Lake,
outside pieces from Sam Rivers, Bad Brains, Fats Waller, Andrew
Hill, and Paul Motian. With Dillard this would have been a tough
postbop group, but with Lake and Allen it's something else, and
they bring out a dimension in Evans I've never heard before.
Tarbaby: The End of Fear (2010, Posi-Tone):
Philadelphia group, mostly. Four cuts are piano trio: Orrin Evans,
Eric Revis, Nasheet Waits); eight add guest horns: Nicholas Payton
(trumpet, 5 cuts), J.D. Allen (tenor sax, 2 cuts), Oliver Lake (alto
sax, 5 cuts, one of the above with all three). I always assumed
this to be Evans' group but I've seen it billed as Nasheet Waits'
Tarbaby; all three write. Previous album had Allen; touring group
includes Stacy Dillard, so I figure this is transitional, trying
to juggle as the group evolves, but the one thing that underscores
is that the concept seems to be sax-piano-bass-drums quartet rather
than trio+horns, and among the former you get the feeling this one
is aiming at the Coltrane Quartet, albeit through the back door.
I never sorted this fully out, but Lake is especially terrific,
giving them an edge they wouldn't have otherwise found, but having
found it they really run with it.
[Was: B+(***)] A-
Dan Tepfer Trio: Five Pedals Deep (2010, Sunnyside):
Pianist, b. 1982, in France but parents American. Looks like fourth
album since 2004 -- AMG lists three, and missed one called Twelve
Free Improvisations in Twelve Keys (2009, DIZ). Only one I've
heard is a duo with Lee Konitz last year, which made my HM list.
Trio includes Thomas Morgan on bass and Ted Poor on drums. Couldn't
follow this closely (my fault) but parts were dazzling, and the
closing coda from "Body and Soul" ended things on a nice note.
Will return later.
Dan Tepfer Trio: Five Pedals Deep (2010, Sunnyside):
Piano trio, with Thomas Morgan on bass and Ted Poor on drums. I have
nothing but admiration for the carefully crafted record -- especially
the solo "Body and Soul" at the end -- but also nothing much to say.
Seems unfair, but after 5-6 plays I don't know what else to do.
Toots Thielemans: European Quartet Live (2006-08 ,
Challenge): B. 1922 in Brussels, Belgium, played some guitar early on
but distinguished himself on harmonica to the point that he has dominated
Billboard's miscellaneous instrument category for ages now. His
records start in 1955 and continue with few gaps -- only four in the last
decade but mostly toward the end. Quartet with piano (Karel Boehlee),
bass (Hein Van de Geyn), and drums (Hans van Oosterhout, so he carries
almost every moment selected here from various unspecified concerts.
Mostly venerable standards, ending with two originals he did much to
turn into standards. His tone is as striking as ever, but that's about
Toca Loca: Shed (2010 , Henceforth): Two pianos --
Simon Docking, from Australia, and Gregory Oh, from Toronto, although
he's also studied in Michigan and worked in San Diego (Toronto seems to
be where the action is, but the record label has a San Diego address) --
plus percussionist Aiyun Huang, born in Taiwan but also based in Toronto
(teaches at McGill) and also passed through San Diego (UCSD). Oh seems
to be top dog, as he's also credited as conductor. Album doesn't have a
jazz feel, and I've shuttled it over to my vaguely defined "avant-garde"
file (mostly following AMG, which pretty much ensures vague defs). Four
11-22 minute cuts, composed by others -- Frederic Rzewski is the only
one I recognize but further research would probably put them all into
the post-classical avant-garde. One cut has some guests on clarinet,
cello, french horn and flute; another has extra percussion, but mostly
I'm hearing piano abstractions varied with the extra percussion. Mostly
interesting stuff, but nothing to sweep you away.
[PS: Digging a bit deeper, Toca Loca has one previous album, P*P.
Oh also scored a "doll opera" called "XXX Live Nude Girls!" which the
poster warns: "contains crude language. adult sexual content. doll
nudity. not suitable for children." See the website for samples of the
Gabriele Tranchina: A Song of Love's Color (2008
, Jazzheads): Singer, b. in Germany, based in New York, second
album, the first self-released in 2003. Most songs are credited to
pianist Joe Vincent Tranchina; one based on Hindu trad, another a
trad Spanish lullaby. Multilingual: English, French, German, Spanish,
Portuguese, the latter leaning heavily on Jobim. Band mostly piano
and Latin percussion: Bobby Sanabria, Renato Thoms, Santi Debriano
Tribecastan: 5 Star Cave (2009 , Evergreene
Music): New York group -- that much shouldn't be hard to figure out --
with pretensions to exotica rooted in the real world today, very much
including Afghanistan but not limited by it, as opposed to Esquivel-ish
fantasies of Polynesian fleshpots. Principals are John Kurth and Jeff
Greene, each with a dozen or more obscure instruments, most with strings,
some flute-like or percussive. Group is rounded out with Todd Isler on
more percussion and Mike Duclos because music always sounds better with
a bassist on hand, and sprinkled with a dozen "special guests" -- the
sort of people easy to find in New York (some names I recognize: Steve
Turre, Charlie Burnham, Al Kooper, Badal Roy). Samantha Parton sings one
song, a cool breeze with words by A.P. Carter. Everything is very mild
and painless; I guess not like the real Afghanistan.
Paul Tynan & Aaron Lington: Bicoastal Collective: Chapter
Two (2009 , OA2): Trumpet/baritone sax respectively,
met at North Texas State, nowhere near any coast. Quintet, with Scott
Sorkin's guitar central and essential.
The Warren Vaché/John Allred Quintet: Top Shelf
(2009 , Arbors): Cornet and trombone for the leaders, piano
(Tardo Hammer), bass (Nicki Parrott), drums (Leroy Williams).
Vaché followed Ruby Braff in keeping the swing revival going,
reverting from trumpet to cornet, with dozens of albums since
1976. Allred is a decade younger, the son of a similar-minded
trombonist, Bill Allred. Vaché, of course, isn't the first
cornet player to appreciate the value of keeping a trombonist
on tap -- Louis Armstrong never went anywhere without one.
Only thing unusual here is that while nearly half of the songs
are Tin Pan Alley standards, the rest come from the bop-era --
Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Clifford Brown, Benny Golson,
Cannonball Adderley, the title track from Blue Mitchell. But
in these hands the once radical break from swing to bop has
blurred to nothing. Booklet credits Vaché with the vocal on
"East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)" but sounds like
Parrott to me.
Chucho Valdes & the Afro-Cuban Messengers: Chucho's Steps
(2009 , Four Quarters): Cuban pianist, b. 1941, son of famed pianist
Bebo Valdés, now in his 90s and at least recently active; led Irakere from
1972, and has released a steady stream of records under his own name since
1986 including several on Blue Note. He is still a spectacular pianist, the
kind that reminds one of Art Tatum although Tatum never tackled such tricky
rhythms. With trumpet and tenor sax that don't often add much, lots of
percussion, a chorus for one song. Swept the Voice poll's Latin
Jazz category -- an obvious choice although it strikes me as a bit out of
Roland Vazquez Band: The Visitor (2010, RVD):
B. 1951 in California, drummer, AMG credits him with 7 albums since
1979's Urban Ensemble. His band is a big one -- four trumpets,
four trombones, five reeds, piano, guitar, electric bass, drums,
congas, vibes. Vazquez composed and conducts but doesn't play. A
lot of star power in the band, but it rarely stands out.
Melvin Vines: Harlem Jazz Machine (2010 , Movi):
Trumpet/flugelhorn player, b. 1952 in Toledo, OH; "mis-educated in the
Ohio public school system for 12 years"; taught himself trumpet, inspired
by Hugh Masekela. First album, as far as I can tell. Harlem Jazz Machine,
a large unit with 8-10 players, has been touring since 2005, especially
in Japan, home of Vines' wife, vocalist Kay Mori. Record starts with two
Vines originals, one by pianist Chip Crawford, a Mori vocal on "My Heart
Belongs to Daddy, then winds up with four covers from trumpet players --
Masekela (vocal by Makane Kouyate), Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan (twice).
Impressive sax work by Yosuke Sato and/or Tivon Pennicot; snazzy Latin
percussion by Roland Guerrero; Masekela's township jive is a highlight.
Vlada: All About You (2003-08 , Glad Vlad):
Singer, family Serbian, given name Vladimir Tajsic, raised in Switzerland,
majored in English and economics at University of Zurich, wound up in
Nashville. First album, assembled from band sessions in Switzerland in
2003, 2006-07 sessions in Nashville, and some final touches back in
Switzerland. Tajsic wrote all the tracks, with some lyrical input from
Sonya Hollan. Don't recall why I had filed this under gospel, but there
is a lot of that. Band includes some pop-jazz notables, like Paul Jackson
Jr. and, featured on three cuts, Kirk Whalum. Singer has his idiomatic
English down smooth: my first reaction was that he's listened to a lot
of Smokey Robinson. Backing vocals from part or all of Take 6.
Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quartet: To Hear From There
(2010 , Patois): Trombonist, from San Francisco, b. 1952, has
eight albums since 2000; side credits go back to the 1970s: r&b,
Latin jazz, Anthony Brown's Asian American Orchestra. Trombone with
piano-bass-drums-percussion; a couple guest vocalists. Originals for
the most part, neatly labelled as jazz-timba or jazz-bolero or Cuban
son-jazz or cha-cha-cha or whatever, with four covers ranging from
Tito Puente to Juan Tizol's "Perdido."
Doug Webb: Renovations (2009 , Posi-Tone):
Saxophonist, plays 'em all but is pictured with a tenor, and that's
mostly what I hear. Lives in LA, where he's done a ton of studio
work. Second album on mainstream-focused Posi-Tone -- has also
recorded for avant-oriented Cadence/CIMP in a group with Mat
Marucci. Quartet, with bass (Stanley Clarke), drums (Gerry Gibbs),
and a changing cast of pianists. All covers, like "Satin Doll" and
"They Can't Take That Away From Me." Big, bold sound, perfect for
Walt Weiskopf: See the Pyramid (2010, Criss Cross):
Tenor saxophonist, b. 1959, grew up in Syracuse, has taught at Eastman
School of Music and Temple University, co-wrote a book on Coltrane;
14th album since 1989, most on Criss Cross. Quartet with piano (Peter
Zak), bass (Doug Weiss), drums (Quincy Davis). Wrote 5 of 10 tracks,
including the first four, but the record only takes off with "Call
Me," the first cover, which dispenses with postbop ideas and peels
back the delicious theme like old-fashioned bebop.
Bob Wilber: Bob Wilber Is Here! (2010, Arbors): Trad
jazz player, plays clarinet, soprano sax, and alto sax; b. 1928 in New
York, played in a high school band with pianist Dick Wellstood, studied
with Lennie Tristano, but broke in playing with Eddie Condon and Buddy
Hackett, was a protégé of Sidney Bechet's who he has long honored in
his Soprano Summit group with Kenny Davern. Clarinetists Antti Sarpila
and Nik Payton are introduced here as Wilber's protégés, and I can't
begin to sort out who's playing what when here. The rhythm section
supplies the necessary swing: Jeff Barnhart on piano, Nicki Parrott
on bass, and Ed Metz on drums. Mostly delightful, although it seems
a bit diluted.
Howard Wiley and the Angola Project: 12 Gates to the City
(2008 , HNIC Music): Saxophonist, tenor and soprano, born in Berkeley,
CA, based in LA. Previous album was called The Angola Project, named
for Louisiana's notorious prison, and he intends to keep working that theme.
That means dragging in gospel singers and a rapper or two (Bicasso? Bisco?),
carrying social and political messages including a lecture on the linkages
between prison and slavery that, well, mostly rings true. In between we get
some of Wiley's saxophone, unspectacular but gritty and soulful, and like
everything else he aspires to, true.
Matt Wilson: Matt Wilson's Christmas Tree-O (2010,
Palmetto): Read the end of the title as a pun on Trio, which is what
Wilson assembled here: Paul Sikivie on bass; Jeff Lederer on various
saxes, clarinets, piccolo, and toy piano; the leader on drums. Songs
are mostly trad, but Wilson (like myself) is just the right age to
include Dr. Seuss and "The Chipmunk Song" among the classics, and
for good measure he works in a solemn "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)."
Not so solemn are the classics, with "Angels We Have Heard on High"
warming to a free sax freakout, and "Hallelujah Chorus" full of
squawk and tympani. Can't recall hearing this at the mall this year;
for one thing, it would have lifted my spirits.
World Saxophone Quartet: Yes We Can (2009 ,
Jazzwerkstatt): Live in Berlin, about two months after Obama took
office as president of the United States. WSQ dates back to 1977,
their initial album (Point of No Return) also released on a
German label (Moers). Back then the foursome were Hamiet Bluiett
(baritone), David Murray (tenor), Oliver Lake (alto), and Julius
Hemphill (alto): four major players each in his own right, but
Hemphill was arguably the leader, the one most focused on the
harmonic possibilities of four saxophones and nothing else. With
Hemphill's death in 1995, the survivors diversified, sneaking in
drums, auditioning a wide range of fourth horns, even juking up
a terrific collection of Political Blues. This one goes
back to their roots, four saxes, nothing else. Not sure why Lake
sat it out; his alto is replaced by Kidd Jordan. The other slot
goes to James Carter, playing tenor and soprano; not only a great
player in his own right, but early in his career he was played on
Hemphill's sax-only Five Chord Stud, and briefly ran his
own sax choir, recorded as Saxemble. As much as I admire
the individuals in WSQ, I've always found the sax-only palette
to be a bit narrow, and that's a limit here, which they work
Samir Zarif: Starting Point (2010 , Mythology):
Saxophonist (tenor on 6 cuts, soprano on 3), b. 1980 in Houston, first
album under his own name -- was in a group called The Paislies which
released an album in 2007 (not a very good one). His saxophone work is
consistently impressive here. He also dables in electronics (2 tracks)
and vocals (4 tracks, twice joined by Maria Neckam). The vocals add a
spacey otherness to the record, something I'm rather ambivalent about.
Zed Trio: Lost Transitions (2009 , Ayler):
French trio, don't know much about them, but here goes: Heddy Boubaker
(b. 1963, Marseille, father Tunisian), plays alto and bass sax, mostly
free jazz but has also played in gnawa bands, name listed on a couple
other albums; David Lataillade, electric guitar; and Frédéric Vaudaux,
drums; no further discography. Choppy free improv, tends to get noisy,
which I like to a point but they do push it.
John Zorn: Interzone (2010, Tzadik): Lost track of
whether Zorn succeeded in his quest to release one record for each
month of 2010, but this is Miss November. It's also the one that sounds
most like a standard-issue John Zorn record: screechy sax, open spaces,
lots of scattershot percussion. John Medeski's "keyboards" sound like
they include a piano; Marc Ribot plays guitar-like instruments; Trevor
Dunn basses; Cyro Baptista, Ikue Mori, and Kenny Wollesen are responsible
for the bumps and blips. Theme has something to do with William Burroughs
and Brion Gysin, which in Zorn's hands means comic book punk jazz with
surreal or absurdist interludes -- the sort of thing he used to do c.
Spillane and Spy vs. Spy before he got all Jewish on us
and/or discovered he discovered he could throw a bunch of index cards
at other musicians and get them to record 3-4 times as many records
under his name as he could do himself. So this feels a bit like a con,
but Ribot is terrific, there are some utterly sublime oases amidst the
chaos and cartoon violence, and, well, unless Medeski somehow snuck a
Cecil Taylor sample into his synth I for one have never heard him play
piano like this. Very tentative grade:
John Zorn: What Thou Wilt (2009 , Tzadik):
Composition only, no Zorn playing. Main group consists of piano,
three celli, and viola, but there's also the Tanglewood Orchestra
on the 13:37 opener, "Contes de Fées," with more violins than I
can count, another phalanx of celli, and the occasional oboe,
bassoon, or flute. Demands a high tolerance for abstract string
sounds, especially on the first piece. The remaining two pieces
bounce the piano off the strings, which is more entertaining to
say the least.
The following records, carried over from the
done and print
files at the start of this cycle, were also under consideration for
- Jason Adasiewicz: Sun Rooms (2009 , Delmark) B+(***)
- Aida Severo (2007 , Slam) B+(***)
- Marshall Allen/Matthew Shipp/Joe Morris: Night Logic (2009 , RogueArt) B+(***)
- Rodrigo Amado: Searching for Adam (2010, Not Two) A-
- Hugo Antunes: Roll Call (2009 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- David Ashkenazy: Out With It (2009, Posi-Tone) B+(***)
- Pablo Aslan: Tango Grill (2010, Zoho) B+(***)
- Michaël Attias: Twines of Colesion (2008 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Roni Ben-Hur: Fortuna (2007 , Motema) B+(***)
- Carlos Bica + Matéria-Prima (2008 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Ketil Bjørnstad: Remembrance (2009 , ECM) B+(***)
- BLOB: Earphonious Swamphony (2010, Innova) B+(***)
- Anthony Braxton: 19 Standards (Quartet) 2003 (2003 , Leo, 4CD) A-
- Anthony Brown's Asian American Orchestra: India & Africa: A Tribute to John Coltrane (2009 , Water Baby) A-
- Kenny Burrell: Be Yourself (2008 , High Note) B+(***)
- Hadley Caliman & Pete Christlieb: Reunion (2009 , Origin) B+(**)
- James Carney Group: Ways & Means (2008 , Songlines) B+(***)
- Commitment: The Complete Recordings 1981/1983 (1980-83 , No Business, 2CD) A-
- Conference Call: What About . . . ? (2007-08 , Not Two, 2CD) A-
- Contact: Five on One (2010, Pirouet) B+(***)
- The Convergence Quartet: Song/Dance (2009 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Correction: Two Nights in April (2009 , Ayler) B+(***)
- Mirio Cosottini/Andrea Melani/Tonino Miano/Alessio Pisani: Cardinal (2009, Grimedia Impressus) B+(***)
- Marilyn Crispell/David Rothenberg: One Night I Left My Silent House (2008 , ECM) A-
- Stephan Crump with Rosetta Trio: Reclamation (2009 , Sunnyside) A-
- Stephan Crump/James Carney: Echo Run Pry (2008 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Chris Dahlgren: Mystic Maze & Lexicon (2008 , Jazzwerkstatt) B+(***)
- Dawn of Midi: First (2010, Accretions) B+(***)
- Decoy & Joe McPhee: Oto (2009 , Bo Weavil) 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+(***)
- Paquito D'Rivera: Tango Jazz: Live at Lincoln Center (2010, Sunnyside) A-
- Ismael Dueñas Trio: Jazz Ateu (2009 , Quadrant) A-
- Hilario Duran Trio: Motion (2010, Alma) B+(***)
- Peter Epstein & Idée Fixe: Abstract Realism (2008 , Origin) B+(***)
- Ellery Eskelin/Gerry Hemingway: Inbetween Spaces (2010, Auricle) A-
- John Fedchock NY Sextet: Live at the Red Sea Jazz Festival (2008 , Capri) B+(***)
- Oscar Feldman: Oscar e Familia (2009, Sunnyside) B+(***)
- Ken Filiano & Quantum Entanglements: Dreams From a Clown Car (2008 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Anat Fort Trio: And If (2009 , ECM) B+(***)
- Stephen Gauci/Kris Davis/Michael Bisio: Three (2008 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Dave Glasser: Evolution (2010, Here Tiz) B+(***)
- Bob Greene: St. Peter Street Strutters (1964 , Delmark) B+(***)
- Henry Grimes/Rashied Ali: Spirits Aloft (2009 , Porter) A-
- Rich Halley Quartet: Live at the Penofin Jazz Festival (2008 , Pine Eagle) B+(***)
- Matt Herskowitz: Jerusalem Trilogy (2009-10 , Justin Time) B+(***)
- Humanization 4tet: Electricity (2009 , Ayler) A-
- Jon Irabagon: Foxy (2010, Hot Cup) A-
- Joan Jeanrenaud/PC Muñoz: Pop-Pop (2010, Deconet) B+(***)
- Theo Jörgensmann/Marcin Oles/Bartlomiej Brat Oles: Live in Poznan 2006 (2006 , Fenomedia) B+(***)
- Jin Hi Kim/Gerry Hemingway: Pulses (2009 , Auricle) B+(***)
- Barb Jungr: The Men I Love: The New American Songbook (2009 , Naim) B+(***)
- Eero Koivistoinen & Co.: 3rd Version (1973 , Porter) A-
- Andrew Lamb Trio: New Orleans Suite (2005 , Engine) B+(***)
- Brian Landrus: Foward (2007 , Cadence Jazz) B+(***)
- Lean Left: The Ex Guitars Meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark Duo, Volume 1 (2008 , Smalltown Superjazz) A-
- Lean Left: The Ex Guitars Meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark Duo, Volume 2 (2008 , Smalltown Superjazz) B+(***)
- Gianni Lenoci: Ephemeral Rhizome (2008 , Evil Rabbit)B+(***)
- Charles Lloyd Quartet: Mirror (2009 , ECM) B+(***)
- The Giuseppi Logan Quintet (2009 , Tompkins Square) B+(***)
- Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Accomplish Jazz (2009, Hot Cup) B+(***)
- Mike Mainieri: Crescent (2005 , NYC, 2CD) B+(***)
- Rafi Malkiel: Water (2009 , Tzadik) B+(**)
- Alexander McCabe: Quiz (2009-10 , CAP) A-
- Terrence McManus/Gerry Hemingway: Below the Surface Of (2008 , Auricle) A-
- John McNeil/Bill McHenry: Chill Morn He Climb Jenny (2009 , Sunnyside) B+(***)
- Sebastiano Meloni/Adriano Orrù/Tony Oxley: Improvised Pieces for Trio (2008 , Big Round) B+(***)
- Lisa Mezzacappa's Bait & Switch: What Is Known (2009 , Clean Feed) A-
- The Microscopic Septet: Friday the Thirteenth: The Micros Play Monk (2010, Cuneiform) A-
- Rakalam Bob Moses/Greg Burk: Ecstatic Weanderings (2002 , Jazzwerkstatt) B+(***)
- Marcin & Bartlomiej Brat Oles: Duo (2008, Fenomedia) A-
- William Parker & the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra: For Percy Heath (2005 , Victo) A-
- Ivo Perelman/Dominic Duval/Brian Wilson: Mind Games (2008 , Leo) A-
- Ivo Perelman/Brian Willson: The Stream of Life (2008 , Leo) B+(***)
- Ivo Perelman/Gerry Hemingway: The Apple in the Dark (2010, Leo) A-
- Ivo Perelman/Daniel Levin/Torbjörn Zetterberg: Soulstorm (2009 , Clean Feed, 2CD) A-
- Profound Sound Trio: Opus de Life (2008 , Porter) A-
- Sun Ra Arkestra [under the direction of Marshall Allen]: Live at the Paradox (2008 , In+Out) B+(***)
- Mike Reed's People, Places & Things: Stories and Negotiations (2008 , 482 Music) B+(***)
- Júlio Resende: Assim Falava Jazzatustra (2009, Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Scenes [John Stowell/Jeff Johnson/John Bishop]: Rinnova (2009 , Origin) B+(***)
- Adam Schroeder: A Handful of Stars (2010, Capri) B+(***)
- Archie Shepp: The New York Contemporary Five (1963 , Delmark) B+(***)
- Trygve Seim/Andreas Utnem: Purcor (2008 , ECM) B+(***)
- David Smith Quintet: Anticipation (2009 , Bju'ecords) B+(***)
- Wadada Leo Smith and Ed Blackwell: The Blue Mountain's Sun Drummer (1986 , Kabell) A-
- Jason Stein's Locksmith Isidore: Three Kinds of Happiness (2009 , Not Two) B+(***)
- Nobu Stowe: Confusion Bleue (2007 , Soul Note) B+(***)
- Steve Swell's Slammin' the Infinite: 5000 Poems (2007 , Not Two) A-
- Ben Syversen: Cracked Vessel (2010, Ben Syversen) B+(***)
- Tide Tables [Paul Kikuchi/Alexander Vittum]: Lost Birdsongs (2005 , Prefecture) B+(**)
- Trichotomy: Variations (2007 , Naim Jazz) B+(***)
- The Ullmann/Swell 4: News? No News! (2010, Jazzwerkstatt) B+(***)
- Matt Vashlishan: No Such Thing (2008 , Origin) B+(***)
- Rob Wagner/Hamid Drake/Nobu Ozaki: Trio (2005 , Valid) A-
- David S. Ware: Onecept (2009 , AUM Fidelity) A-