Jazz Prospecting: April 2012

Eric Alexander & Vincent Herring: Friendly Fire: Live at Smoke (2011 [2012], High Note): Two stellar mainstream saxophonists, Alexander on tenor, Herring on alto, flashy piano solos by Mike LeDonne, with John Webber on bass and Carl Allen on drums. Standards (except for Herring's closer) -- one I haven't heard in a long time is "Sukiyaki," a pop instrumental hit from the 1960s. Bright and upbeat, but no evidence of cutting -- very friendly, indeed. B+(**)

Clipper Anderson: The Road Home (2010-11 [2012], Origin): Bassist, originally from Montana, first album, leads a piano trio with Darin Clendenin on piano and Mark Ivester on drums. Wrote 6 of 11 pieces, the covers including two from Bill Evans. Mixed bag. The pianist most likely would be happy to play Evans all night, but there's also a piece where the bass actually leads, and another (less successful) where guest vocalist Gretta Matassa scats out front. Anderson croons one too, a lullaby, sort of. B-

Lynne Arriale: Solo (2011 [2012], Motéma): Pianist, b. 1957 in Milwaukee, 14-15 albums since 1993, pretty sure this isn't her first solo outing. Half originals, two Monks plus standards from Lerner & Lowe, Cole Porter, Billy Joel -- she nearly always drops in something from the rock era. B+(*)

Gerry Beaudoin: The Return (2011 [2012], Francesca): Stumbled across this on Rhapsody, spun it once, and was disappointed. Later received a copy, so figured I'd give it another try, and it turns out to be pretty much what I had expected. Beaudoin's a tasty guitarist with a thing for swing, and his quartet here features hard-swinging tenor saxophonist Harry Allen, who elevates everything he touches. B+(**)

Terence Blanchard: Red Tails (2011 [2012], Sony Classical): Trumpet player doing soundtrack work -- the movie is based on the Tuskegee airmen who broke the color line as fighter pilots in WWII. He's done that before, starting with scoring Spike Lee's Malcolm X in 1992, and he has no qualms about cranking out clichéd movie pomp -- lots of brass frills and typmani here, storm clouds everywhere. Even works "America the Beautiful" into his "End Credits" here. The only respite comes with the four period tunes he didn't write tacked on at the end, credited respectively to Harry James, the Andrews Sisters, Maxine Sullivan, and the Ink Spots. C+

Chris Brubeck's Triple Play: Live at Arthur Zankel Music Center (2011 [2012], Blue Forest): Dave Brubeck's son, plays trombone, bass, piano, sings. Triple Play adds Joel Brown (guitar) and Peter Madcat Ruth (harmonica, ukulele, hi-hat, jaw harp), both with more vocals. Cut live with special guests Dave Brubeck (piano) and Frank Brown (clarinet). Song list is evenly split between Brubeck standards and old blues ("Rollin' & Tumblin," "Phonograph Blues," "Black and Blue," "St. Louis Blues," "Brother Can You Spare a Dime"), so you find these stretches of fancy time-shifting piano in between the harmonica blues. Seems at odd with itself, but Chris Brubeck compounds the conundrum with a "5/4 boogie woogie" called "Mighty Mrs. Hippy" with a long intro to explain the pun, and that segues into a harmonica-led "Blue Rondo a la Turk." B+(***)

Michel Camilo: Mano A Mano (2011, Decca): Pianist, b. 1954 in the Dominican Republic, I count 17 albums since 1985, has the chops to have a real tour de force in there somewhere. This is a trio with Charles Flores on bass and Giovanni Hidalgo doing Latin percussion. Covers from Lee Morgan and John Coltrane, lots of originals, smart and savvy, nicely spiced. B+(**) [advance]

Mindy Canter: Fluteus Maximus: One Session, One Take (2011, Mindela Music): "16 songs were recorded live, in a small, one room studio in northern California. All songs were done in one take including Hammond B3 (dubbed in same session)." Canter, who has a few previous albums, plays flute and keyboards, backed with guitar, bass, and drums. All covers, from "16 Tons" and "Happy Trails" to "Watermelon Man" and "Do It Again" -- oh, and "Mercy Mercy Mercy." Light pop funk on the first half; then Denny Geyer starts singing, proving he's not Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, Tennessee Ernie Ford (nor Merle Travis). B-

François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Alexey Lapin: In Motion (2010 [2012], Leo): Third record for this trio in the last year or so, after Inner Spire (Leo) and All Out (FMR), and they're all pretty close to interchangeable: Carrier's alto sax always probing and poignant, his decade-plus relationship to drummer Lambert has long been telepathic, the Russian pianist something of a mystery, but he's by now so tightly entwined he's integral to the set. A-

Oscar Castro-Neves: Live at Blue Note Tokyo (2009 [2012], Zoho): Brazilian guitarist, b. 1940 in Rio de Janeiro, has a dozen albums since 1987, now based in Los Angeles. Shares vocals with Leila Pinheiro on a mixed bag of tunes, some classic -- can't complain about the Jobim when it tops the show. B+(*)

Joe Chambers Moving Pictures Orchestra: Live at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola (2011 [2012], Savant): Drummer, b. 1942, broke in big in 1964 on albums by Freddie Hubbard and Andrew Hill, and was a regular on Blue Note in the 1960s. Picked up the vibraphone along the way, and has a dozen or so albums under his own name -- but not much like this live big band effort. Chambers' "Moving Pictures Suite" -- three movement at the top of the record, plus the fourth at the end -- is a mess. But the five pieces in between let the nearly-all-star band shine -- especially the three that don't feature vocalist Nicole Guiland, especially the one that started out in Count Basie's big band. B

Andy Clausen: The Wishbone Suite (2011 [2012], Table and Chairs): Trombonist, from Seattle, website says he's 19, has been a bandleader since 14, won a "Gerald Wilson Award for Jazz Composition" in 2009, graduated high school in 2010, studied at Juilliard that fall, returned to Seattle to cut this in 2011. Group is a quintet, with Ivan Arteaga (clarinet), Gus Carns (piano), Aaron Otheim (accordion & piano), and Chris Icasiano (drums & glockenspiel). Interesting combination of instruments, mostly soft sounds, reminds me a bit of Claudia Quintet, maybe a bit more baroque. Not what you'd expect from a trombonist, let alone a teenager. B+(**)

Romain Collin: The Calling (2012, Palmetto): Pianist, b. 1979 in France, won a Monk prize, studied at Berklee, based in New York, second album. Mostly piano trio (Luques Curtis and Kendrick Scott), with extra guitar on three tracks, plus overly sweet cello on two of those. Has a distinctive rhythmic sense, making this lean and dense, except when it isn't. B+(*)

Mike Cottone: Just Remember (2011, self-released): Trumpet player, from Rochester, studied at Eastman and Juilliard, based on New York. First album. Hard bop group, with Jeremy Viner on tenor sax, Kris Bowers on piano, the latter making the strongest impression. Nice "Stardust" at the end. B

Meredith D'Ambrosio: By Myself (2011 [2012], Sunnyside): Singer, plays piano, b. 1941, 16th album since 1978, only her 2nd since 2001. She writes some, but this is all written by Arthur Schwartz, mostly with Howard Dietz's lyrics (also Maxwell Anderson, Johnny Mercer, and E.Y. Harburg, one song each). Done simply, just her piano and voice, nice and easy, a very quiet, intimate night music. B+(**)

Ryan Davidson: Ryan Davidson Trio (2010 [2011], Debris Field): Guitarist, in a trio with Ryan Hagler on bass and Ryan Jacobi on drums. Tight, electric sound, with a whiff of Americana (first song is "Ghost Riders in the Sky"). B+(*)

Rick Drumm and Fatty Necroses: Return From the Unknown (2010 [2012], self-released): Drummer, first album as far as I can tell, the group name a reference to the cancer Drumm was diagnosed with in 2009. Like most drummers, he likes a groove. Guitarists Fred Hamilton and Corey Christiansen add to it, and the horns -- Pete Grimaldi on trumpet, Mike Brumbaugh on trombone, and especially Frank Catalano on sax -- build on that. B+(*)

Ellery Eskelin/Dave Ballou/Michael Formanek/Devin Gray: Dirigo Rataplan (2011 [2012], Skirl): I filed this under drummer Devin Gray, who wrote all the music and dominates the publicity materials, but the cover suggests the attribution above. Starts off with a section that sounds like they're trying to find their key, but once they settle down this starts to get interesting -- the two horns (Eskelin on tenor sax, Ballou on trumpet) slipping in and out of synch, the bass and drums fluttering about. B+(***)

Jared Gold: Goldenchild (2010 [2012], Posi-Tone): Organ player, based in New York; fifth album since 2009, a trio with Ed Cherry on guitar and Quincy Davis on drums. About half originals, covers starting with "A Change Is Gonna Come" and winding up with "When It's Sleepy Time Down South." Light touch, intricately weaved with the guitar for mild mannered funk. B+(*)

Jürgen Hagenlocher: Leap in the Dark (2011, Intuition): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1967 in Germany. Website lists 10 albums since 1997 (AMG has three of them). This is a snappy post-hard-bop quintet assembled in New York: Alex Sipiagin (trumpet), David Kikoski (piano), Boris Kozlov (bass), and Nate Smith (drums). Moves right along, the rare slow bits just there to feature the rich tones. B+(**)

Jeff Hamilton Trio: Red Sparkle (2012, Capri): Drummer-led piano trio, with Tamir Hendelman on piano and Christoph Luty on bass -- no formal credits table on the package, but they are mentioned in passing in Leonard Maltin's liner notes. Hamilton has ten albums since 1982, but is best known as co-leader of the Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra -- the big band backup much favored by singers like Diana Krall. B+(*)

Ross Hammond Quartet: Adored (2012, Prescott): Guitarist, based in California (Sacramento, I think), has five previous records since 2003, nothing much in his bio. Quartet adds Vinny Golia (tenor/alto/soprano sax), Stuart Liebig (bass), and Alex Cline (drums), with producer Wayne Peet on piano for one cut. Not getting anything from Golia's Nine Winds label, it's a rare treat to hear him elsewhere, and he puts on a terrific performance here, fierce and lyrical. Harder to tell about the guitar. B+(***)

Billy Hart: All Our Reasons (2011 [2012], ECM): Veteran drummer, didn't have much under his own name until this star-laden group promoted him to front man, but he's responded this time by writing 4 (of 9) songs -- pianist Ethan Iverson and tenor saxophonist Mark Turner split the remainer, 3 to 2, with bassist Ben Street just helping out. Too bad the pieces aren't crisper: Turner isn't up to speed, and no one else picks up the slack. B+(*)

Conrad Herwig/Richie Beirach/Jack DeJohnette: The Tip of the Sword (1994 [2012], RadJazz): Trombonist, b. 1959 in Oklahoma, has close to 20 albums since 1987; veered into Latin jazz with his 1996 Latin Side of John Coltrane, and has rarely returned, but this earlier set has none of that. If anything he leans avant here, although Beirach's piano softens the tone. The drummer needs no introduction. B+(**)

Jim Holman: Explosion! (2009-11 [2012], Delmark): Pianist, from Chicago, first album, a very upbeat affair, even a whiff of boogie woogie in the piano. Gets even more uproarious on the four cuts with tenor saxophonist Frank Catalano from the 2011 session. Finishes with four earlier cuts, two with alto saxophonist Richie Cole. B+(**)

Steve Horowitz: New Monsters (2011 [2012], Posi-Tone): Bassist, based in San Francisco, has eleven (or more) albums since 1993, some with the group Mousetrap. Quintet, with two saxophones -- Steve Adams, from ROVA on alto and soprano (and flute), and Dan Plonsey on tenor -- plus piano (Scott Looney) and drums (Jim Bove). Actually, I'm not sure why this isn't Plonsey's record: he wrote all of the tunes (except for the Coltrane/Dolphy medley). Plonsey is another Bay Area performer I hadn't heard of: has a half-dozen albums since 1997, plus side-credits like Eugene Chadbourne, Anthony Braxton, and Tom Waits. The monsters on the cover strike me as an attempt to play up the humor while sneaking through what is by far the most avant record this label has yet released. B+(***)

Tommy Igoe and the Birdland Big Band: Eleven (2011 [2012], Deep Rhythm Music): Drummer, has one previous album in 1996, plus there's a 2007 album credited solely to Birdland Big Band. Igoe has scattered side credits going back to 1989, notably with New York Voices (which explains the two Darmon Meader songs here; no vocals, though). Band credits 19 members, but if you factor out the guests (only on some tracks) and the trumpet platoon it drops down to conventional size (no guitar, only three trombones). Don't recognize many names, but appreciate the crisp section work and rhythmic drive. You have to wonder why more big bands don't do "Moanin'." B+(*)

In One Wind: How Bright a Shadow! (2011, Primary): Six-person group from somewhere -- website refuses to show me any info until I upgrade Flash, which I have blocked anyway -- only name I recognize is flute-clarinet player Steven Lugerner, but he's only here for decoration any way. Three singers, guitar, bass, and drums, plus extras whenever they feel the need for more flutes. I find the record unlistenable -- they seem incapable of sustaining a tempo more than two bars, but of course I mean unwilling -- but not uninteresting (which means they sometimes make it work, but not as often as, say, Captain Beefheart). C+

Sheila Jordan/Harvie S: Yesterdays (1990 [2012], High Note): B. 1928, but aside from the one-shot Portrait of Sheila in 1962 she didn't really get her career going until the late 1970s, and still hasn't been given her due -- although she's spent so much time travelling and teaching since 1990 I'm not finding dozens of aspiring jazz singers acknowledging their debts to her. Early on she paid plenty of dues, chasing Bird, and catching his pianist Duke Pearson. George Russell finally put her in front of a microphone: I'd put that on the list of his major accomplishments-- along with synthesizing Cuban be-bop for Dizzy Gillespie, teaching Miles Davis and John Coltrane how to use modes, introducing electronics to jazz, and inspiring a whole generation of Scandinavian jazz stars. I first ran into her on Roswell Rudd's mid-1970s albums -- the totally forgotten Numatik Swing Band and the even-more-marvelous Flexible Flyer -- and followed her through Steve Kuhn's group, into her solo albums -- many with nothing more than bass fiddle for accompaniment. This set, recorded "live in concert, circa 1990," is one of those, with the former Harvie Swartz on bass. More standards, less be-bop/vocalese, than her studio albums, which means more touchstones you think you know but will hear something new in here. Her control is so remarkable that even though she breaks up laughing in the Fats Waller medley she never misses a note. Only in the closer, "I Could Have Danced All Night," does she finally lose it, a joke you can't help but enjoy. A-

Anders Jormin: Ad Lucem (2011 [2012], ECM): Bassist, b. 1957 in Sweden, has at least a dozen albums since 1988. Song cycle, texts in Latin, commissioned for Swedish Jazz Celebration 2010, with two vocalists: Mariam Wallentin (of a group I've heard of, Wildbirds and Peacedrums) and Erika Angell (of two I haven't: Thus:Owls, The Moth). The vocal pieces, which aren't quite art-song or choral, let alone folk or pop, don't especially interest me. The instrumental passages, with Jon Fält on drums, lots of plucked bass, and superbly tasteful clarinet and tenor sax by Fredrik Ljungkvist, do. B+(*)

Kenny & Leah: All About Love (2011, K&L): Soderblom is their shared last name. Kenny plays tenor sax, has a real nice tone. Leah sings, mostly standards, plenty of love songs for that, including "Corcovado" for the obligatory Jobim; has a crisp edge to her voice. Fifth album together, big age difference but for now it seems to work. Five songs with a big string orch drag a bit, but the combo pieces move along. B+(*)

Jonny King: Above All (2010 [2012], Sunnyside): Pianist, b. 1965 in New York, studied at Princeton and Harvard Law, had three albums 1994-97, and now a fourth, a trio (Ed Howard on bass, Victor Lewis on drums), all original pieces. Mainstream piano jazz, fast and assured. B+(**)

Guy Klucevsek: The Multiple Personality Reunion Tour (2011 [2012], Innova): Accordion player, b. 1947 in Pittsburgh, AMG classifies him as avant-garde but in many ways he's a traditionalist, poking his way through European folk music. Eclectic mix here, with three Satie pieces, progressive folk group Brave Combo on six more, scattered jazz musicians like Dave Douglas, Marcus Rojas, and John Hollenbeck, some talk, some song, lots of accordion. B+(**)

Neil Leonard: Marcel's Window (2009 [2011], Gasp): Plays alto and soprano sax, originally from Philadelphia, teaches at Berklee. Looks like he also has a 2001 album (Timaeus), although his website doesn't mention it. Postbop quartet, pianist Tom Lawton nearly steals the show in a couple of sections, plus Lee Smith on bass and Craig McIver on drums. B+(*)

Josh Levinson Sextet: Chauncey Street (2011 [2012], self-released): Trumpet player, from Brooklyn, not aware of him having any previous records, although he's probably been around a while (for one thing, he dates the title song to the 1990s). Straightahead hard bop group, with Kenny Shanker on tenor (and soprano) sax, Noah Bless on trombone, Jeb Patton on piano, plus bass and drums. Beat has a funk influence and occasional Latin tinges, and the trombone helps. B+(*)

Alex Lopez: We Can Take This Boat (2011, Lopez Music): Tenor saxophonist, studied at New England Conservatory, which means Jerry Bergonzi and George Garzone. First album, piano-bass-drums plus guitar on 5 (of 8) tracks. All originals. Mainstream, strong voice. B+(**)

Jocelyn Medina: We Are Water (2011, self-released): Singer-songwriter, studied at Berklee and Manhattan School of Music, based in Brooklyn, second album. One cover here, from Hermeto Pascoal. Band, built around Kristjan Randalu on piano with Rodrigo Ursala on tenor sax and flute, has a real jazz feel, and she likes to scat -- is more convincing then than with her lyrics. B-

Davy Mooney: Perrier Street (2011 [2012], Sunnyside): Guitarist-vocalist, originally from New Orleans, now based in New York; has two previous records. As a vocalist, has a Chet Baker affectation, giving way to Johnaye Kendrick on five songs. As a guitarist, he's too buried to tell, although the slinky postbop occasionally takes shape, at least when saxophonist John Ellis takes charge. C+

John Moulder Quintet: The Eleventh Hour: Live at the Green Mill (2011 [2012], Origin): Guitarist, has 5-6 albums since 1993, figure him for postbop but don't put too much weight on what that might mean. Group includes Geof Bradfield (saxes, bass clarinet), Jim Trompeter (piano), Larry Gray (bass), and Paul Wertico (drums). Live in Chicago, a long set, Bradfield is typically strong which gives the guitar something to play off against. Struck by how the finale rises at the end, like a rock band would do. B+(*)

Eivind Opsvik: Overseas IV (2011 [2012], Loyal Label): Bassist, from Norway, moved to New York in 1998; has average 5-6 side credits since about 2006. Describes Overseas as a band name, this being their fourth album. Group includes Tony Malaby (tenor sax, a frequent collaborator), Brandon Seabrook (guitar), Jacob Sachs (harpsichord, farfisa, piano), and Kenny Wollesen (drums, tympani, vibes). Rather rockish, but in using repeated rhythmic signatures and in indulging in complexly layered noise -- Seabrook's guitar leads more than the sax -- but the harpsichord offers an ironic nod to chamber music, as does the organ to church music. A-

Piero Orodici: Cedar Walton Presents (2011 [2012], Savant): Fine print: "with the Cedar Walton Trio" -- Walton (piano), David Williams (bass), Willie Jones III (drums). One thing that sets Walton apart from nearly every other pianist since he started in the mid-1960s is his featured use of saxophonists (both on his own records and, especially, as Eastern Rebellion). It's relatively easy to focus on his piano here, because what he does goes way beyong comping -- he sets up all the structure the saxophonist needs. The saxophonist in question, Odorici, was b. 1962 in Bologna, Italy, and has a fistful of records on Italian labels, starting with First Play in 1989. Odorici's tenor sails through six standards and one original each by Odorici and Walton, an impressive intro, although it's the rhythm section that makes this special. B+(***)

Mark O'Toole: The Crooner (2011, self-released): Crooner, like he says, more Bennett than Sinatra, based in Las Vegas, where there is a market for this sort of thing. Songs are classic. Arrangements way past their expiry date. You may find yourself hating this and still feel compelled to sing along. You may even improve on it. C+

Johnny Padilla: Bright Morning (2012, self-released): Saxophonist (soprano, alto, tenor -- the latter is pictured), second album (I've been able to find) after one in 1998. Likes to play long and fast bebop runs, with guitarist Zvonimir Tot getting some similar solo space. Bits of Latin percussion add little, and the delicately colored change-of-pace is dull. B

Evan Parker/Wes Neal/Joe Sorbara: At Somewhere There (2009 [2011], Barnyard): Parker, of course, is one of the giant figures in the English/European avant-garde, with well over 100 records since 1967 -- with Globe Unity Orchestra, followed in 1968 with appearances on Peter Brötzmann's Machine Gun and Spontaneous Music Ensemble's Karyobin. The latter two are Canadians, playing bass and drums, part of the free-ish AIMToronto Orchestra, in effect Parker's local pick-up band for this live, single-cut improv blast. With so many albums, it's hard to pick and choose, but I like this one because he sticks to tenor sax and keeps it short (39:56) and simple -- but not too simple. A-

Jeff Parker Trio: Bright Light in Winter (2011 [2012], Delmark): Guitarist, b. 1967 in Bridgeport, CT; based in Chicago, with a handful of records more/less under his own name, more than thirty side credits, mostly avant-leaning groups, not least Chicago Underground. This is a trio with Chris Lopes (acoustic bass, flute, synthesizer) and Chad Taylor (drums), all three writing pieces. Milder than I expected, focusing on delicate melodic lines. Grows on you. B+(**)

Enrico Pieranunzi: Permutation (2009 [2012], CAM Jazz): Piano trio, with Scott Colley on bass and Antonio Sanchez on drums. Seems like I'm always impressed but never have a lot to say about him. B+(***)

John Raymond: Strength & Song (2011 [2012], Strength & Song): Trumpet player, based in New York, first album, produced by Jon Faddis, with Gilad Hekselman on guitar, Javier Santiago on piano and Fender Rhodes, plus bass and drums -- pianist Gerald Clayton and alto saxophonist Tim Green get cover "featuring" credit for two songs each. Trumpet leads are strong and clear, and the guitarist does a notable job weaving in and out. B+(*)

Eric Reed: The Baddest Monk (2011 [2012], Savant): Pianist, b. 1970, lots of records (AMG counts 23) since 1990, basically a mainstream player. Did a Monk-themed album last year, The Dancing Monk, which left much to be desired, but fixes those problems here. Taps Seamus Blake for Monk's favored tenor sax role, and adds Etienne Charles' trumpet for a change of pace and extra polish -- Matt Clohesy plays bass, and Henry Cole drums. The combo lights up the brightest pieces, especially "Bright Mississippi." "'Round Midnight" remains the odd song out, an irresistible choice even though it doesn't fit. The idea here is to turn it over to singer José James, and that's an idea. Two Reed originals meditate on Monk, including the title song done solo, which makes for an effective coda. B+(**)

Ro Sham Beaux: Ro Sham Beaux (2011 [2012], Red Piano): First album for Boston group: Zac Shaiman (saxes), Luke Marantz (keyb), Oliver Watkinson (bass), Jacob Cole (drums, glockenspiel). Don't know anything about the band or what they think they're up to. Wouldn't call this pop or fusion or experimental rock or much of anything else: name presumably means something else, but bounces around in my brain and comes out rambling shambles. B

Marc Rossi Group: Mantra Revealed (2009-11 [2012], Innova): Pianist, teaches at Berklee, AMG lists three records since 1988. This one starts off with a piece for Carnatic guitarist Prasanna and moves on in genre-hopping world-fusion fashion. B+(*)

Andy Sheppard/Michael Benita/Sebastian Rochford: Trio Libero (2011 [2012], ECM): Saxophonist (tenor and soprano here), b. 1957 in England. Won a prize with a record contract at Antilles in 1989: the one record I heard was a rather dazzling pop-fusion thing, leaving the impression that he's sort of the British David Sanborn, but I could be totally off. A string of records for Provocateur ended in 2004. Later I noticed him in Carla Bley's entourage, and now he has two records on ECM. This is a sax trio with Benita on bass and Rochford on drums, credits well distributed. Everything is done at a slow burn, repaying your attention all the way. A-

Cinzia Spata: Into the Moment (2010 [2011], Koine): Singer, from Italy, where I gather she has a considerable reputation, now based in New York. Second album (as far as I can tell), backed by pianist Bruce Barth, bass and drums, with some trumpet by Ken Cervenka and tenor sax by George Garzone. Mostly standards -- "My Favorite Things," "Soul Eyes," "Tea for Two," "East of the Sun" -- horns nicely arranged, striking voice, likes to scat. B+(**)

Melissa Stylianou: Silent Movie (2010 [2012], Anzic): Singer, from Toronto, fourth album since 2003. She co-wrote three pieces, one with pianist Jamie Reynolds, and combined them with nine widely mixed covers -- Paul Simon, Johnny Cash, James Taylor, "Smile," "The Folks Who Live on the Hill," "Moon River," one Brazilian tune (not by Jobim). With Pete McCann on guitar and Anat Cohen on clarinet and sax providing nice touches. B [advance]

Thollem/Parker/Cline: The Gowanus Session (2012, Porter): Thollem McDonas is a pianist from San Francisco, has played on 20-some albums since 2005; might file half under his name, since his specialties seem to be solo and duo sets. The others are bassist William Parker and guitarist Nels Cline. Group improv, broken into six tracks but pretty much one movement, with a lot of rough spots along the way. B+(***)

Scott Tixier: Brooklyn Bazaar (2011 [2012], Sunnyside): Violinist, b. 1986 in France. First album, with guitar, piano, bass, and drums (bassist Massimo Biolcati is the name I recognize); wrote all his own pieces, and makes an impression dashing through the less interesting arrangements. Vocals on one piece add to the chamber music aura. B

The Michael Treni Big Band: Boy's Night Out (2011 [2012], self-released): Trombonist, from Falmouth, ME; studied at University of Miami, taught there and at Berklee; ran a technology company from 1985 on, and claims a couple patents. Booklet starts with the line: "the history of jazz is rife with dramatic comebacks where big league musicians returned to the spotlight with renewed power and conviction after years of scuffling in obscurity," citing examples Bunk Johnson, George Lewis, Frank Morgan, and Henry Grimes. About all I can find for Treni's pre-hiatus period is a side credit with Bobby Watson, but he returned with an album in 2009, and a better one here. Conventional big band (piano, no guitar), plus a string quartet on two cuts, tightly arranged, flows exceptionally well, not a lot of solo space, few names I recognize (Jerry Bergonzi is the major exception). B+(**)

TriBeCaStan: New Deli (2011, Evergreene Music): Mostly John Kruth, who writes most of the material, and Jeff Greene, plus assorted hangers on, guests, and "special guests," on their third group album. Kruth and Greene play scads of world instruments, Kruth leaning toward mandolin/banjo, Greene more of a percussion guy. Steve Turre and Claire Daly are among the better known guests, and Badal Roy is a "special guest." I applaud the cosmopolitanism, but in three albums they've never managed to turn this into more than a very agreeable mix. B+(**)

Upper Left Trio: Ulternative (2011 [2012], Origin): Piano trio -- Clay Giberson (piano, keyboards), Jeff Leonard (basses), Charlie Doggett (drums) -- fourth album, all write (but Doggett only gets one song in). Very solid postbop group, nothing spectacular but I've played this a half dozen times and it's never been less than engaging. B+(***)

Jim Van Slyke: The Sedaka Sessions (2011, LML Music): Singer, second album, does 15 Neil Sedaka songs, two duets with the auteur. Backed by piano trio, simple enough, the main question how to react to his voice, high-pitched, struck me as girly at first, but that may just have been "Love Will Keep Us Together." The later songs get more theatrical. B

Piet Verbist: Zygomatik (2010 [2012], Origin): Bassist, b. 1961 in Belgium; graduated Brussels Conservatory in 1994. First album; doesn't have much of a side discography either, but wrote all the pieces, leading the album off with a bass intro a la Mingus. Uses Fender Rhodes instead of piano, and features tenor sax, adding a bari sax on three cuts. The tenor is split between Fred Delplancq early on and Matt Renzi on the latter half. No surprise that Renzi bumps this up to a higher energy level, adding the edge that makes this album memorable. B+(***)

Anne Walsh: Go (2011 [2012], self-released): Standards singer, mostly (wrote one original here). Originally from Massachusetts. Fourth album since 2006. Nice, clear voice, a light bounce to the arrangements, not the strings help. B+(*)

Nils Weinhold: Shapes (2011 [2012], self-released): Guitarist, b. in Germany, based in New York, first album, trading leads with tenor saxophonist Adam Larson, backed by Fabian Almazan on piano/rhodes, Luques Curtis on bass, and Bastian Weinhold on drums. B+(*)

Mark Weinstein: El Cumbanchero (2011, Jazzheads): Flute player, sixteen albums since 1996, nearly all of them Latin, at least since Algo Más in 2004. With Aruán Ortiz on piano, who also did the arrangements -- strings on most tracks. B+(*)

Dan Wilensky: Back in the Mix (2011 [2012], Speechless Productions): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1961 in Ann Arbor, MI; cut a record in 1997, and now three more since 2010. Mostly quartet with Mark Soskin (piano), Dean Johnson (bass), and Tony Moreno (drums), adding trumpeter Russ Johnson on four cuts. Nice, rich tone, shows off especially well on tunes like "Falling in Love With Love." B+(**)

Mike Wofford/Holly Hofmann Quintet: Turn Signal (2010 [2012], Capri): Piano and flute, respectively; married in 2000, which has intertwined their discography. With Downbeat's poll approaching, I'm reminded that Hofmann will be near the top of the flutist list -- she has a dozen or so albums since 1989, and there aren't many flute players in jazz -- and Wofford -- with twice as many albums going back to 1966 -- won't even make the piano ballot. He is a superb player, but not quite someone you'd slot ahead of contemporaries like Ran Blake and Paul Bley. He carries the album here, with Hofmann and trumpet player Terell Stafford scratching and clawing to keep up. For once I don't mind the weakness of the flute, but the sound is tuned down so low that Terrell's trumpet doesn't sound any brighter. B+(*)

 March, 2012 May, 2012