Jazz Prospecting: August 2012

John Abercrombie Quartet: Within a Song (2011 [2012], ECM): Guitarist, b. 1944 in Portchester, NY; more than 50 albums since 1971, most on ECM, a major figure albeit a tricky one to get a firm grasp on -- usually lurks in the woodwork, but sometimes can step out and dazzle. Has a group here that makes lurking a pleasure: Joey Baron (drums), Drew Gress (bass), and Joe Lovano (tenor sax). B+(***)

Roni Ben-Hur/Santi Debriano: Our Thing (2011 [2012], Motéma): Guitar-bass-drums trio, with Brazilian drummer Duduka Da Fonseca's name in smaller type as "featuring" (he contributed one song, as did Ben-Hur, to the bassist's four). Ben-Hur is an Israeli with more than a dozen albums since 1995, with a soft tone and boppish demeanor that works nice here, especially on covers from Monk, Jobim, and Berlin. Debriano was born in Panama but grew up in New York, and has a substantial discography of his own. B+(***)

Jerry Bergonzi: Shifting Gears (2012, Savant): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1947, has recorded steadily since 1983. Mainstream player, from 2006 on recorded a series of exceptional albums that underscored both how mainstream he was and how vital mainstream could be -- the titles self-explanatory, Tenorist, Tenor Talk, Simply Put. Here the title suggests kicking it up a notch, and while Phil Grenadier (trumpet) and Bruce Barth (piano) are as secure in the mainstream as he is, they do just that. A-

Otmar Binder Trio: Boogie Woogie Turnaround (2012, Jump River): Pianist, don't have much to go on and have a lot of problems trying to parse the liner, but probably German, claims he first got into boogie-woogie in 1978, but doesn't seem to have any other albums. Mostly trio, with Alexander Lackner (bass) and Michael Strasser (drums). Cover says "feat BJ COLE & christian DOZZLER," but where? on what? (Cole plays pedal steel; Dozzler is credited with "harp," by which I think they mean harmonica.) And there are other musicians, especially on the last track. The music is clearer: piano boogie, with at least one cut recalling Professor Longhair, delightful all the way through. B+(***)

Brazilian Trio [Helio Alves/Nilson Matta/Duduka Da Fonseca]: Constelação (2011 [2012], Motéma): Piano-bass-drums, should attribute this to Brazilian Trio but the stars' names loom in small print above, and if you don't know them you should. Second group album. More jazz than MPB, a fleet piano trio that builds on the native rhythms, with one original from each principal, a lot of Jobim, and the closer from Cedar Walton. B+(*)

Brubeck Brothers Quartet: Life Times (2012, Blue Forest): Dave Brubeck's sons, Chris Brubeck (electric bass, bass trombone) and Dan Brubeck (drums), plus Chuck Lamb on piano and Mike DiMicco on guitar. Several albums since 2000. They don't appear to have any desire to move out of their famous father's shadow: four (of eight) songs are by the senior Brubeck, and a fifth is Paul Desmond's "Take Five," stretched out to 10:25, sounding as glorious as ever. B+(***)

Marco Cappelli's Italian Surf Academy: The American Dream (2012, Mode): Guitarist, has a handful of albums since 2002, goes with a compact group here -- electric bass and drums -- rocking a couple Morricone pieces and more similar items that I don't recognize. Gaia Matteuzzi adds voice to one piece, taunting I'd say, and there is some more uncredited voice that adds to the dramaturgy. Ends with a take of "Secret Agent Man," a nice nod to surf guitar. B+(**) [advance]

Marco Cappelli: In the Shadow of No Towers (2011, Mode, DVD): Two 53-minute video collages based on Art Spiegelman's 2004 graphic book, In the Shadow of No Towers, one narrated in English by John Turturro, the other in Italian by Enzo Salomone. Guitarist Cappelli composed the music with his group Sintax Error -- Daniele Ledda (keyboards, live electronics), Roberto Pellegrini (drums, percussion) -- and while it's mostly soundtrack background, sometimes the music runs ahead of the narrative. Grade for the music. The graphics are probably best experienced in book form, although you do get the basic idea. B+(*)

Neneh Cherry & the Thing: The Cherry Thing (2012, Smalltown Supersound): Avant-garde trumpeter Don Cherry's step-daughter cut a marvelous hip-hop album in 1989 (Raw Like Sushi), a good follow-up in 1992, and not much more. She was born in Stockholm, and Cherry was most influential in Scandinavia, which leads to the Norwegian sax trio known as the Thing: Mats Gustafsson on tenor/baritone sax, Ingegrigt Håker Flaten on bass, Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. The Thing plays a punk variant of free jazz, often starting with rock songs and ripping them up. They're well behaved here, Gustafsson's bari providing a strong hint of menace without disrupting Cherry's flow -- although he does wreck the joint on "Dirt" (a Stooges song). Not the dream album one hoped for, but a working combo that can't help but stir shit up. A-

Neil Cowley Trio: The Face of Mount Molehill (2012, Naim Jazz): Piano trio, with Rex Horan on bass and Evan Jenkins on drums. Fourth album, augmented with strings on most tracks but the effect isn't obvious other than that there's more going on than you'd figure a trio could concoct. Lots of beat and bounce -- at one point Laura came in and approvingly described this as techno; I'm more tempted to say postbop boogie-woogie. Not all like that, and even at his most grooveful Cowley avoids the slickness of smooth jazz. B+(***)

Duduka Da Fonseca Quintet: Samba Jazz -- Jazz Samba (2009 [2012], Anzic): Brazilian drummer, sixth album since 2002, has four-fifths of a prime Brazilian jazz group -- Helio Alves (piano), Guilherme Monteiro (guitar), Leonardo Cinglia (bass) -- plus an interested, dedicated outsider in Anat Cohen (tenor sax, clarinet). Possibly despite her intents, Cohen tilts the field from samba to jazz, and while I generally prefer her tenor the extra weight slows down the drummer, making it basically her show, and not even that much of a samba showcase. B+(*)

Hamilton de Holanda Quinteto: Brasilianos 3 (2011 [2012], Adventure Music): Mandolin player (ten-string, to be precise), b. 1976 in Brazil, specializes in choro. Has a lot of album since 2002, especially once US mandolinist and Adventure Music owner Mike Marshall turned his ear to Brazil. Quinteto includes harmonica, guitar, bass, and drums. I find it hit-and-miss, but the mandolin work is impressive. B+(*)

Ecco La Musica: Morning Moon (2011 [2012], Big Round): Group: Aaron Bittikofer (bass), Jim Crew (accordion, clarinet, marimba, piano), Marco Buongiorno Nardelli (flutes), Ed Butler (drums, fender rhodes, percussion). First album. AMG dubs this classical, which isn't obvious to me, mostly because the rhythm is solid enough to constitute a groove. Lot of flute, though, and some uncredited choir clouding the horizon. B

Eric Erhardt: A Better Fate (2010 [2012], Tapestry): Tenor saxophonist, from Philadelphia, based in Arvada, CO, where he teaches. First album, a broad postbop effort with Russ Johnson sparring on trumpet, both piano (Nick Paul) and guitar (Sebastian Noelle), Linda Oh on bass, percussion (James Shipp) as well as drums (Mike Davis), and Dan Willis (soprano sax, oboe) guesting on two tracks. B+(*)

The Jay Lawrence Quartet: Sweet Lime (2011 [2012], Jazz Hang): Drummer, has a previous album from 2006. He wrote 7 (of 11) pieces, covering Chick Corea, Ray Noble, Sting, and Monk, and turned them over to a mainstream sax-piano quartet: Tamir Hendelman is flashy on piano, and Bob Sheppard exceptionally rambunctious on tenor sax. B+(**)

Maïkotron Unit: Effugit (2011 [2012], Jazz From Rant): Canadian trio, brothers Michel Côté (clarinets, piccolo) and Pierre Côté (cello, bass), plus drummer Michel Lambert, except that both Michels also play something called a maïkotron. As best I have been able to figure out, this is a tenor sax mouthpiece hooked up to all sorts of brass plumbing, in some cases capable of ranging below the bass saxophone -- two inside pictures show four very different-looking contraptions. The group's previous Ex-Voto won me over, but this is a bit less convincing, more limited to the novelty of the sounds. B+(***)

Jacám Manricks: Cloud Nine (2011 [2012], Posi-Tone): Alto saxophonist, b. in Australia, descended from Portuguese in Sri Lanka, studied at William Patterson U. in NJ and Manhattan School of Music, based in New York. Wrote 7 of 9 tunes (covers Jobim and Ivar Widéen). Strong mainstream group: David Weiss (trumpet), Adam Rogers (guitar), Sam Yahel (organ), and Matt Wilson (drums). B+(**)

Daniel McBrearty: Clarinet Swing (2011 [2012], Dan McB Music): B. in Wales, based in Antwerp since 2001, at which point he started gravitating toward trad jazz. Plays clarinet, in a trio with piano and bass. Three originals, standards like "Body and Soul," "Jitterbug Waltz," "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend," "When I Grow Too Old to Dream." B+(*)

Ray Parker: Swingin' Never Hurt Nobody (2012, Pythagoras): Bassist, first album, a string trio with Jon Hart on guitar and Russell George on violin. Mostly standards, ranging out for a Jobim and a bit of Charlie Parker. Closer in feel to the Hot Club de Paris than to the String Trio of New York. B+(*)

Jeremy Siskind: Finger-Songwriter (2012, Bju'ecords): Pianist, third album, a set of original songs (plus a Billy Joel bonus) sung by Nancy Harms, backed by spare piano and occasional woodwinds by Lucas Pino. The songs have dedications, mostly writers (Borges, Kerouc, Wallace Stevens). Not clear on the lyrics, but the sax is always a nice touch. B+(*)

John Stowell/Ulf Bandgren: Throop (2011 [2012], Origin): Acoustic guitar duo, Stowell using nylon strings, Bandgren steel. Stowell has a substantial catalog going back to 1978, always a thoughtful presence. Don't know Bandgren. Prickly. B+(*)

Kenny Wheeler Big Band: The Long Waiting (2011 [2012], CAM Jazz): Long-time major figure, but his flugelhorn only goes so far in a big band, this one enhanced by Diana Torto's scat vocals, something I could do without. Otherwise, the texture and flow is something to marvel at. B+(*)

Jessica Williams: Songs of Earth (2009-11 [2012], Origin): Pianist, b. 1948, has a lot of albums, too many of which are solo, but this one cherry picked from a couple years of live dates stands out, not least because she keeps the left hand hard at work. B+(***)

Denny Zeitlin: Wherever You Are: Midnight Moods for Solo Piano (2011 [2012], Sunnyside): B. 1938, got an MD from Johns Hopkins, has close to three dozen albums since 1964, many, like this one, solo. Two originals, rest standards (including a Jobim), tightly reasoned, authoritatively played. B+(**)

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