Jazz Prospecting: June 2012

Peter Appleyard and the Jazz Giants: The Lost Sessions 1974 (1974 [2012], Linus): Vibraphonist, b. 1928 in England, had an album in 1958 (The Vibe Sound of Peter Appleyard), another in 1977, two more for Concord in 1990-91 (Barbados Heat and Barbados Cool). These previously unreleased sessions pivot around the group, jazz giants indeed: Hank Jones (piano), Zoot Sims (tenor sax), Bobby Hackett (cornet), Urbie Green (trombone), Slam Stewart (bass), Mel Lewis (drums) -- the first three have especially fine spots, and the vibes add some twinkle to the pianist's sparkle. Includes short bits of studio dialogue before each cut, and concludes with 25:13 of out takes, generous on the one hand but too much start-stop to listen to. B+(**)

Lisa Marie Baratta: Summertime Jazz (2012, self-released): Plays alto sax, soprano sax, flute, alto flute, in front of a piano trio here (her second album), but she's also pictured in something called Black Tie Jazz Orchestra. Eleven famous standards, taken at a genteel pace with few liberties, nor does she get much shine, let alone spit and polish, out of her horn. It has the unobtrusiveness of elevator music, but none of the ick, and the tunes are endlessly listenable. B

Todd Bishop Group: Little Played Little Bird: The Music of Ornette Coleman (2011 [2012], Origin): Drummer, based in Portland, OR; second album under his own name (both tributes, the other to Serge Gainsbourg), a couple more as Lower Monumental, Flatland, Iron John. Ornette Coleman doesn't record enough these days, so it's nice to hear his music here, in a quintet with two saxes (Richard Cole, Tim Willcox), piano, bass, and drums. B+(**)

Raoul Björkenheim/Anders Nilsson/Gerald Cleaver: Kalabalik (2012, DMG/ARC): Two guitarists from Scandinavia, perhaps not natural allies back home but they fit together remarkably well in New York, plus a drummer -- always a good idea. Cut live at Bruce Lee Galanter's downtown record store. First four cuts are hard fusion thrash with a lot of intricacy between the lines. Then they cut the volume for a duo that spreads their lines out. A-

Black Music Disaster (2012, Thirsty Ear): Matthew Shipp on farfisa organ, Steve Noble on drums, two electric guitarists -- J. Spaceman and (Jason Pierce, Spiritualized) and John Coxon (Spring Heel Jack). One 38:18 piece, starts with an organ solo that doesn't portend well. Turns into some interesting fusion midway through, but the concept is rather limited, and the farfisa always sounds cheezy. B+(*) [advance]

Ran Blake/Christine Correa: Down Here Below: Tribute to Abbey Lincoln Volume One (2011 [2012], Red Piano): Veteran pianist, active since the early 1960s, has a ton of solo albums, but also has a great fondness for duos with singers, Jeanne Lee a case in point. Correa is another, and she makes a rather convincing Abbey Lincoln here, although the confluence is tightly held, for believers only. B+(**)

Ran Blake/David "Knife" Fabris: Vilnius Noir (2010 [2012], NoBusiness): Piano, some solo, some duo with guitar; released LP only, 500 copies, I got a CD-R. As is often the case with Blake, the covers give you something to go on, helping set off what he adds -- "My Cherie Amour" is the best thing here, a knockout. The guitar slips in and out, not leaving much of a trace, probably the idea. B+(**) [advance]

Ralph Bowen: Total Eclipse (2011 [2012], Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist, originally from Canada, studied at Indiana and Rutgers, teaching at the latter since 1990; ten albums since 1992. Mainstream player, working here with an organ quartet: Jared Gold on the organ, Mike Moreno on guitar, and Rudy Royston on drums. B+(*)

Georg Breinschmid: Fire (2011 [2012], Preiser, 2CD): Bassist, b. 1973 in Austria; has at least four albums since 2008. This is split between two projects: Café Brein, with Roman Janoska on violin and Frantisek Janoska on piano; and Duo Gansch/Breinschmid, with Thomas Gansch on trumpet. Cuts by the two groups alternate on the main CD as well as on the 4-cut bonus. Both groups are given to sing-alongs with a cabaret/folkie air, amusing, I think. B+(*)

Budman/Levy Orchestra: From There to Here (2010 [2012], OA2): Alex Budman plays tenor sax, soprano sax, and bass clarinet. He has a previous record (nice title: Instruments of Mass Pleasure), a couple dozen side credits. Jeremy Levy composes, arranges, and plays trombone. Looks like his first album (side-credits include Brian Setzer and Susan Tedeschi). Everything you'd expect in a big band, including both piano and guitar, plus extra percussion for that Latin tinge, and a string quartet on one track. B

Mel Carter: The Other Standards (2011 [2012], CSP): Minor soul man, b. 1943, EMI has a The Best of Mel Carter that covers his 1964-67 heyday. Like most minor soul men, he's never been short of chops, just songs. At this stage, he reaches for standards of his youth, which means r&b from the 1950s -- Buddy Johnson looms large here, as well as singers like Billy Eckstine and Arthur Prysock -- rather than show tunes from further back. He gets a lift from a brassy big band, and "Goody Goody" is a terrific opener. B+(*)

Edmar Castaneda: Double Portion (2012, Arpa y Voz): Harp player from Colombia, third album, has made enough of a splash that he shows up in those "miscellaneous instrument" polls. Third album, the "double" indicating that he plays Colombian harp as well as classical. One cover, "Libertango" from Astor Piazzolla. Mostly solo, but guest spots by Gonzalo Rubalcaba (piano), Miguel Zenón (alto sax), and Hamilton de Hollanda (mandolina) are all big pluses -- especially the sax. B+(**)

Dan Cavanagh Trio: The Heart of the Geyser (2011 [2012], OA2): Pianist, teaches at UT Arlington, has a couple previous albums, including a big band blast called Pulse. This is a trio, with Linda Oh on bass and Joe McCarthy on drums. B+(*)

Roger Chong: Send a Little Love (2012, self-released): Guitarist, b. 1983, Canada I think -- studied at York, teaches grades 6-8 in Toronto. Website says this is his third album, but I can only find one previous. Sweet tone, disarming when he sings, a very minor album, but a charming one. B+(*)

Chris Cortez: Aunt Nasty (2008-12 [2012], Blue Bamboo Music): Guitarist-vocalist; website claims this is his sixth "solo" album, with 20 total. I am familiar with his Houston label, which lists four of his albums, plus others including his horn players here, Woody Witt and Carol Morgan. The horns help, but the guitar trends to a smooth jazz groove with occasional funk effects. About half vocals. B-

Adrian Cunningham: Walkabout (2011 [2012], self-released): Saxophonist, based in New York since 2008, originally from Australia. Has at least four albums since 2004. Postbop, quartet with piano, bass, and drums, plus a string quartet here and there. Also plays clarinet and flute, quite a bit of the latter. B

Candy Dulfer: Crazy (2012, Razor & Tie): Blonde alto saxophonist, sings some, b. 1969 in the Netherlands, called her 1991 debut Saxuality, followed that up with Sax-a-Go-Go, is up to twelve albums now. Most cuts credit Printz Board with "all instruments"; four make the same claim for Ulco Bed -- synths and drums, mostly, but also background vocals. "Good Music" is pure funk, and as long as she keeps upbeat this is pretty pleasureful. B+(*)

The Element Choir & William Parker: At Christ Church Deer Park (2010 [2012], Barnyard): The Element Choir has seventy voices, conduction by Christine Duncan. They don't sing much, but chant and groan and swoon along with an improv group that features trumpet (Jim Lewis), pipe organ (Eric Robertson), two basses (Parker and Andrew Downing), and drums/percussion (Jean Martin). Not quite sure what to make of it all. B+(*)

Orrin Evans: Flip the Script (2012, Posi-Tone): Pianist, from Philadelphia, in a trio with Ben Wolf (bass) and Donald Edwards (drums). Played it four times and it keeps slipping away from me. B+(*)

Amina Figarova: Twelve (2012, In + Out): Pianist, b. 1966 in Baku, the oil capital of Azerbaijan; had a good classical education in the Soviet Union, then picked up jazz in Rotterdam and Boston (Berklee). Ninth album since 1996, a sextet with three horns -- Ernie Hammes (trumpet), Marc Mommaas (tenor/soprano sax), and Bart Platteau (flutes) -- plus bass and drums. Postbop, all sauve and elegant, but the trumpet leads are striking, and Mommaas does his usual fine job. B+(**)

Fly: Year of the Snake (2011 [2012], ECM): Sax trio: Mark Turner (tenor sax), Larry Grenadier (bass), Jeff Ballard (drums). All three contribute songs, Turner a bit more, the 5-part "The Western Lands" credited to all. Has an inner flow to it that keeps everything tight and coherent, the sax a bit on the sweet side. B+(***)

Narada Burton Greene: Live at Kerrytown House (2010 [2012], NoBusiness): Pianist, b. 1937, cut an exceptionally explosive Quartet album for ESP-Disk in 1964 then faded into obscurity, popping up with a couple widely scattered albums in the 1970s and 1980s, then moving into klezmer in the 1990s -- sample titles: Klezmokum, Jew-azzic Park, ReJew-Venation -- and he's done some solo piano since, returning to his avant roots. This solo set was cut live in Ann Arbor, sharp and full of brittle edges, several pieces titled "Freebop." B+(**)

Tianna Hall: Never Let Me Go (2011, Blue Bamboo Music): Vocalist, from Houston, third album, the usual standards including two Jobims. Ends with a nice "Everything Happens to Me," but doesn't have much of a voice, and this sort of limps through the paces. B-

Rich Halley 4: Back From Beyond (2011 [2012], Pine Eagle): Tenor saxophonist from Oregon; I've been a big fan of his work since Mountains and Plains in 2005, and this is every bit as satisfying as long as the sax is front and center. Less so when he plays wood flute, or when he mixes it up with trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, even though the latter has an appealing rough-and-readiness of his own. B+(***)

Tom Harrell: Number Five (2011 [2012], High Note): Plays trumpet and flugelhorn (quite a bit of the latter), b. 1946, has a sizable discography, adding to it every year. Quintet, right down the middle of the mainstream, with Wayne Escoffery on tenor sax, Danny Grissett on piano and Fender Rhodes, Ugonna Okegwo and Jonathan Blake. Escoffery's solos are typically fluid but a bit subdued. Harrell's are eloquent, and even more subdued. B+(*)

Jazz Soul Seven: Impressions of Curtis Mayfield (2012, BFM Jazz): Ad hoc group, in the order given on the jacket: Terri Lyne Carrington (drums), Russ Ferante (piano), Master Henry Gibson (percussion), Bob Hurst (bass), Wallace Roney (trumpet), Phil Upchurch (guitar), Ernie Watts (sax). No idea why just that pecking order, but Ferrante appears to be the main arranger. The songs, of course, come from Curtis Mayfield, the melodic themes are glorious, and everything else is typical mainstream jazz. B+(*)

Arthur Kell Quartet: Jester (2012, Bju'ecords): Bassist, based in New York but he's been around, including some tramping around Africa. Fourth record since 2001 -- haven't heard the debut, See You in Zanzibar -- but the three quartet albums are superb. Brad Shepik's guitar is essential here, nothing flashy but he brings the gentle bass lines up to conscious level, and Loren Stillman's bright and brittle alto sax builds from there. With Mark Ferber on drums. Live, doesn't grab you and shake you around, but seduces and mermerizes. A-

Guillermo Klein/Los Gauchos: Carrera (2011 [2012], Sunnyside): Argentine pianist, studied at Berklee, stuck around New York, frequently composing and arranging for a near-big band he calls Los Gauchos. This plays like a song cycle, and while I have no idea what the vocals signify, nor do I much care for them, the flow is intriguing, and the solos -- including saxophonists Chris Cheek, Miguel Zenon, and Bill McHenry -- are proper highlights. B+(*)

Frank Lowe: The Loweski (1973 [2012], ESP-Disk): Previously unreleased outtakes from around the time of the tenor saxophonist's first album, Black Beeings. Crude and scratchy, with Joseph Jarman's soprano and alto grating against Lowe's tenor, with a very young William Parker on bass, and Rashid Sinan on drums. I've never been a fan of Lowe's debut, but this goes down easier, in large part because Raymond Lee Cheng's violin provides notable contrast. Cheng was advertised as The Wizard here, and he makes that conceit work. B+(*)

Lisa Maxwell: Happy (2011, self-released): Standards singer, has a couple previous albums. B. 1963 in England, according to AMG, which may be confusing her with the English actress -- don't see anything else in their bios or photos that matches up. This was recorded in Brooklyn, with English pianist Keith Ingham's Quartet backing -- the fourth member is guitarist Ed Gafa. She doesn't have an especially strong or distinctive voice, but she works slyly around the songs, and the pianist is very much at home. B+(*)

Hailey Niswanger: The Keeper (2012, Calmit Productions): Alto saxophonist, b. 1990, studied at Berklee, second album, plus a side-credit on Terri Lyne Carrington's The Mosaic Project. Don't know the quartet, although there's a drummer named Mark Whitfield Jr., and they're joined by trumpeter Darren Barrett on three cuts. She can swing and wail through the straight postbop set, and switch to soprano for a charming "Night and Day." B+(**)

Aaron Novik: Secret of Secrets (2012, Tzadik): Clarinet player, based in San Francisco; third album since 2008, "a darkly epic exploration into the roots of Jewish mysticism through the writings of Eleazar of Worms" [Eleazar Rokeach, a late 12th century rabbi who lived in Worms, in Germany]. Each book of Eleazar's Secret of Secrets is given an 11-17 minute piece, "based on an Ashkenazi dance rhythm wedded to heavy metal beats," but no words. The metal pours out of Fred Frith's guitar and Carla Kihlstedt's electric violin, with drums, percussion, programming, a string quartet, a brass quartet (Jazz Mafia Horns), and Ben Goldberg joining Novik on clarinet. B+(**) [advance]

Alexis Parsons (2006-08 [2011], Ellick): Vocalist, website claims two decades of experience, including study with Jay Clayton and Sheila Jordan, but this appears to be her first album. Eight standards, backed by nothing more than Frank Kimbrough's piano. Credits "Maryanne Faithful" with one song. B+(*)

Giovanna Pessi/Susanna Wallumrød: If Grief Could Wait (2010 [2012], ECM): Pessi plays baroque harp, along with Jane Achtman on viola da gamba and Marco Ambrosini on nyckelharpa, on a program mostly from Henry Purcell (1659-1695), salted with two songs from vocalist Wallumrød, two from Leonard Cohen, and one Nick Drake. Slow and stately, gorgeous if you're into that sort of thing. B+(**) [advance]

Ben Powell: New Street (2011 [2012], self-released): Violinist, don't have any bio readily available, but looks to be his second album. Seven cuts with is piano-bass-drums quartet -- one each with guitarist Adrien Moignard and vocalist Linda Calise guesting -- plus three cuts by his Stéphane Grappelli Tribute Trio, with Julian Lage (guitar) and Gary Burton (vibes). Does like to swing. "La Vie en Rose" with Calise is especially delicious -- I've rarely felt more Francophile. B+(**)

Dafnis Prieto: Proverb Trio (2012, Dafnison Music): Cuban whiz-kid drummer, came to the US and cut his debut in 2004 -- I didn't care for it much, but no denying his chops. This is something different, built around rapper-singer Kokayi (Carl Walker), who has also worked with Steve Coleman's M-Base outfit and has a stack of his own records over at Bandcamp. Third member is pianist Jason Lindner, who plays electric keybs here, sometimes sounding like a recorder, or a flute, with more than a little camp and/or shlock. Drummer takes a back seat, not that he can't help show off a little. Highly recommended anti-war pedagogy: "In War" -- at least once you get past the long intro. B+(**)

Marlene Rosenberg Quartet: Bassprint (2011 [2012], Origin): Bassist, from Illinois, teaches in Chicago; fourth album since 1994, side credits include a 1990 debut with Ed Thigpen. Two songs by Kenny Barron; the rest originals, with Monkish moves to start and close. Builds off her bass lines, with Geof Bradfield (tenor and soprano sax) and Scott Hesse (guitar) elaborating adeptly. B+(***)

Anne Sajdera: Azul (2012, Bijart): Pianist, from San Diego, first album, based in San Francisco since 1985. Mostly trio plus extra percussion, including Airto Moreira on four cuts. Originals, one from Wayne Shorter, one from Sammy Cahn, three from Brazil (Ivan Lins, Egberto Gismonti, Chico Pinheiro). B

John Samorian: Out on a Limb (2010 [2011], self-released): Pianist, UNT graduate, based in NJ; first album. Also sings, splitting the album with wife Kim Shriver, who gets some "featuring" small print on the cover. All originals by Samorian (one song co-credited to Dan Haerle). B

Diego Schissi Quinteto: Tongos (2010 [2012], Sunnyside): Pianist, b. 1969 in Argentina, has at least one previous album. This is a classical-sounding tango album, with violin, bandoneon, guitar, and bass; the pieces all called "Tongo," "Liquido," or "Canción." B

Louis Sclavis Atlas Trio: Sources (2011 [2012], ECM): French clarinet player, twenty-some albums since 1981. Trio adds keyboards (Benjamin Moussay) and electric guitar (Gilles Coronado). The guitar has a charged rough edge the other instruments flesh out, and everyone is so keyed to the flow they avoid thoughts of chamber music without bass or drums. A- [advance: June 26]

Aram Shelton Quartet: Everything for Somebody (2011 [2012], Singlespeed Music): Alto saxophonist, originally from Florida, b. 1976, moved to Chicago in 1999 and built most of his working relationships there before moving on to Oakland. Has a substantial discography since 2001, including projects like Ton Trio, reliably vigorous free jazz. This quartet is Chicago-based, with frequent collaborator Keefe Jackson on tenor sax, Anton Hatwich on bass, and Tim Daisy on drums. Resembles a sax trio with the saxes shadowing each other, but every now and then they spin loose. B+(***)

Mark Sherman: The L.A. Sessions (2011 [2012], Miles High): Vibraphonist, b. 1957, has at least eight records since 1997. This one is basically an organ trio -- Bill Cunliffe on the B3, John Chiodini on guitar, and Charles Ruggiero on drums -- with a layer of vibes, highlighting but also swinging the band like Milt Jackson used to do. B+(**)

Kayla Taylor Jazz: You'd Be Surprised (2011, Smartykat): Standards singer, from Atlanta, fourth album since 2005, all identified as "Jazz" -- maybe her idea of a group, since guitarist Steve Moore shares the cover. With Will Scruggs on tenor and soprano sax, plus bass and drums/percussion. No effort at picking obscure gems: I've heard nearly all of these songs dozens of times, and they rarely disappoint -- sure don't here. B+(***)

Henry Threadgill Zooid: Tomorrow Sunny/The Revelry, Spp (2011 [2012], Pi): Alto saxophonist, also has a not undeserved rep for flute (and bass flute), started with Air in the 1970s, ranks as one of the most important figures in avant jazz. Third Zooid album, group expanded to a sextet with the addition of Christopher Hoffman on cello, fleshing out the mishmash of sounds -- Liberty Ellman (guitar), Stomu Takeishi (bass guitar), Jose Davila (trombone and tuba), and Elliot Humberto Kavee (drums). At its best, the rhythm is remarkably ragged, the sax staggered, a jumble that should crash but doesn't -- clip out this stuff and expand on it a bit and you get the album of the year. No real problem with the flute, but there are spots where they lose focus and ramble, losing the edge. B+(***)

Ben Tyree: Thoughtform Variations (2012, Sonic Architectures): Guitarist, from DC area, plays solo acoustic here, has a previous record (a trio, BT3), plus side credits going back to 1995, including several with Burnt Sugar. This has an intricate feel, but the method of marking time does get to be samey over the long haul. B

Manuel Valera: New Cuban Express (2011 [2012], Mavo): Cuban-born pianist, been in US since 1994, studied at New School, has a handful of albums since 2004. This one reflects his first visit to the island in 17 years, the Cuban rhythms juiced up by Mauricio Herrera, the whole affair dressed elegantly with Yosvany Terry's saxophones. B+(**)

Elio Villafranca/Arturo Stable: Dos Y Mas (2010-11 [2012], Motéma): Piano and percussion, respectively, both born in Cuba, now based in US; duets plus a guest vocalist, Igor Arias, on the closer. B+(**)

Henry P. Warner/Earl Freeman/Philip Spigner: Freestyle Band (1984 [2012], NoBusiness): Clarinets, bass guitar (and piano), hand drums; three cuts originally self-released, with two cuts added here. Warner was b. 1940, played around the NY lofts in the 1970s, shows up playing alto sax on early albums by William Parker and Billy Bang. Spigner's hand drums set up a nice homely vibe that Warner's clarinet sometimes flows with and sometimes cuts against; Freeman plays electric bass and piano, most often against the current, just to keep it all interesting. B+(***)

Marzette Watts: Marzette Watts & Company (1966 [2012], ESP-Disk): Saxophonist (here tenor, soprano, bass clarinet), b. 1938 in Alabama, d. 1998. Looks like he only cut two records, this and The Marzette Watts Ensemble for Savoy in 1968. Free jazz, somewhat underdefined considering he has Byard Lancaster (alto sax), Clifford Thornton (trombone, cornet), and Sonny Sharrock (guitar) to contend with -- the sound you take away is more likely to be Karl Berger's vibes. B+(*)

Frank Wright Quartet: Blues for Albert Ayler (1974 [2012], ESP-Disk): Tenor saxophonist, cut a couple of avant-garde albums for ESP-Disk in 1965-67, not a lot more before his death in 1990 but the label fished out an unreleased winner from 1974 called Unity, and now found another. One of the first things you'll notice here is the guitar -- James "Blood" Ulmer some years before he recorded under his own name. Also with Benny Wilson on bass and Rashied Ali on drums. Wright plays some ugly flute, but his tenor sax is remarkably cogent even while keeping the edges rough. A-

John Yao Quintet: In the Now (2011 [2012], Innova): Trombonist, from Chicago, based in New York, don't have any more bio than that. First album, quintet with Jon Irabagon (alto/soprano sax), Randy Ingram (piano, keyboards), Leon Boykins (bass), and Will Clark (drums). Postbop, Irabagon tends to slink around the leader rather than butting heads. B+(*)

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