Jazz Prospecting: November 2012

Greg Abate: The Greg Abate Quintet Featuring Phil Woods (2012, Rhombus): Unreconstructed bebopper, b. 1947, alto sax is his first instrument but he also plays soprano, baritone, and flute (too much, if you ask me). Five (of ten) cuts drop down to quartet with piano-bass-drums; the other five add Woods, doubling down on the heritage. B+(*)

Accidental Tourists: The L.A. Sessions (2010 [2012], Challenge): Piano trio, file it under pianist Markus Burger, b. 1966 in Germany, with a handful of records since 1999. He's joined by Bob Magnusson (bass) and Joe LaBarbera (drums), playing seven originals and five covers, in a nicely balanced, engaging set. B+(**)

Harry Allen & Scott Hamilton: 'Round Midnight (2012, Challenge): Two generations of retro-swing tenor saxophonists, reigning champions respectively -- Allen a Coleman Hawkins stalwart, Hamilton more of a Lester Young/Zoot Sims swinger -- backed by piano (Rossano Sportiello), bass (Joel Forbes), and drums (Chuck Riggs). One Allen original ("Great Scott"), a bunch of standards, a riff piece from Lockjaw Davis, they sound great together, making it look all so easy. B+(***)

Michaël Attias: Spun Tree (2012, Clean Feed): Alto saxophonist, b. 1968 in Israel but has been around, with long stretches in France and the US. Postbop quintet, superb Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Matt Mitchell centering on piano, with Sean Conly on bass and Tom Rainey on drums. Lots of fast, slippery changes. B+(***)

Bobby Bradford/Frode Gjerstad/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Paal Nilssen-Love: Kampen (2010 [2012], NoBusiness): Bradford is a name you should know but may not: b. 1934, plays cornet, is most legendary for the group he co-led with John Carter. Here he landed in Oslo, with Frode Gjerstad (clarinet, alto sax) filling in the Carter role, and the first choice in rhythm sections. [Limited edition vinyl: 300 copies.] B+(***) [cdr]

Kelly Bucheger: House of Relics (2011 [2012], Harder Bop): Alto saxophonist (tenor too), based in Buffalo, first album as far as I can tell but has been around long enough to have a story about being eight years older than James Carter: Bucheger was lead tenor in a Marcus Belgrave big band, when they picked up a 16-year-old Carter for second chair, an experience so scarifying that Bucheger quit music for a while. His favorite relics are hard bop, and this is mostly quintet with Tim Clarke's trumpet complementing his sax, and Michael McNeill on piano -- far less avant than on his superb recent Passageways -- and Bruce Johnstone's bari sax added on three cuts. Calls his blog (worth checking out, including the Carter story) "Harder Bop," but the music isn't harder, edges more into postbop, which happens when your favorite relics clash. B+(**)

François Carrier/Michel Lambert: Shores and Ditches (2011 [2012], FMR): From Quebec, alto saxophonist and drummer, have worked together for well over a decade, and one-on-one their free improvs are hard to beat. Joining them at various points are guitar (Daniel Thompson), flute (Neil Metcalfe), and bass (Guillaume Viltard), which is where the record lags a bit. B+(***)

Ernest Dawkins: Afro Straight (2010-12 [2012], Delmark): Saxophonist, b. 1953 in Chicago, came up through the AACM, has a half dozen albums on his own plus many credits, notably with Ethnic Heritage Ensemble. Here he goes for something more mainstream, covering two Coltrane and three Shorter tunes, "Woody 'N You," "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise," and a really lovely "God Bless the Child," and he makes a party out of them, with Corey Wilkes jousting on trumpet, and lots of congas. Two originals: his title tune, and "Old Man Blues," which he sings in a voice not nearly old enough -- the only mis-step here. A-

Graham Dechter: Takin' It There (2012, Capri): Guitarist, from Los Angeles, second album, quartet with piano (Tamir Hendelman), bass (John Clayton), and drums (Jeff Hamilton). Starts out with Wes Montgomery, then Barney Kessel, sources his band enjoys. B+(*)

Dave Douglas Quintet: Be Still (2012, Greenleaf Music): The modernist trumpet great gets sentimental, marking the death of his mother with hymns and folk songs, even a plaintive bluegrass singer, Aoife O'Donovan (of Crooked Still). Jon Irabagon joins on tenor sax, with Matt Mitchell on piano, Linda Oh on bass, Rudy Royston on drums. I feared an art-song move at first, but the context helps, as does the fact that Douglas's brass band experiments have provided an interesting parallel to Bill Frisell's string band Americana. The more conventional group doesn't belabor the point, nor does the saxophonist heave any bombs, although his occasional solos are notable. A-

Maya Dunietz/John Edwards/Steve Noble: Cousin It (2008 [2012], Hopscotch): Avant piano trio, recorded in London, home base of Edwards (bass) and Noble (drums). Pianist Dunietz, b. 1981 in Israel, seems to have a varied career ("active in jazz, rock, funk, polka -- both classical and avant garde, both local and international"), also playing accordion and singing, but just piano here. Superb when she plays with the drummer, adding to the free percussive frenzy. B+(***)

Kait Dunton: Mountain Suite (2012, Real and Imagined Music): Pianist, based in Los Angeles, second album, a hard bop quintet in postbop mode -- John Daversa (trumpet), Bob Mintzer (tenor sax), Derek Oleszkiewicz (bass), Peter Erskine (drums) -- the horns smartly orchestrated, the piano always impressive. B+(**)

The Fat Babies: Chicago Hot (2012, Delmark): Led by bassist Beau Sample, based in Chicago, a "young band" playing old music, drawing more on Jelly Roll Morton than on Austin High, but so did the Austin High crowd. Tuba player Mike Walbridge rates a "special guest" shout out: he was one of the notable players in what I reckon to be the third generation of trad jazz musicians, a venerable but still viable link. (His contemporary, Kim Cusack, did the liner notes.) This group is more like the fifth generation, but that happens with music this vital. No matter how much bebop I listen to, I doubt I'll ever escape the conviction that this is what real jazz sounds like. B+(***)

Scott Fields: 5 Frozen Eggs (1996 [2012], Clean Feed): Avant guitarist, b. 1952, based in Chicago, has about twenty albums since 1993, several of which have been picked up and reissued by Clean Feed. Seems like most are cranky solo affairs, but some aren't, and this one is dominated by Marilyn Crispell's piano, at her iciest, creating fractured landscapes that Fields, bassist Hans Sturm, and drummer Hamid Drake trek through. B+(***)

Carlos Franzetti: Pierrot et Colombine (2012, Sunnyside): Argentinian composer; moved to Mexico, then New York, writing ballet music and soundtracks and symphonies and winning a Grammy. He pulls these pieces out of tango and French café music, imagining they fit classic characters in commedia dell'arte, and he plays Hohner melodica along with piano, violin, clarinet/alto sax, bass, and a string orch that for once manages to keep out of the way. I never found him this charming before. B+(*)

Jan Garbarek/Egberto Gismonti/Charlie Haden: Carta de Amor (1981 [2012], ECM, 2CD): Norwegian saxophonist (tenor and a very distinctive curved soprano), Brazilian guitarist (also plays piano here), legendary bassist and citizen of the world. Note date. The same trio recorded two albums in 1979 with Haden's name first: Folk Songs and Magico. This is a previously unreleased live tape, recorded in Munich, which shares two songs from each. The writing/arranging credits are distributed not quite evenly -- Gismonti has the edge, and the lead. B+(*)

Jacob Garchik/Jacob Sacks/David Ambrosio/Vinnie Sperrazza: 40Twenty (2011 [2012], Yeah-Yeah): Trombone, piano, bass, drums, respectively. Garchik is a busy guy, with lots of side-credits in addition to his own projects, most notably his "atheist trombone album," The Heavens. He stays nimbly out front in this enjoyable postbop group. B+(**)

Vinny Golia/Marco Eneidi/Lisa Mezzacappa/Vijay Anderson: Hell-Bent in the Pacific (2012, NoBusiness): Free improv, cut in San Francisco but released in Lithuania. Eneidi plays alto sax; Golia mostly tenor but also sopranino, soprano, clarinet, and bass clarinet. They clash hard early on, but sort out their differences thereafter. Mezzacappa plays bass and Anderson drums. Artist order from the spine and back cover; front cover seems to put Mezzacappa first. B+(**)

Jeff Holmes Quartet: Of One's Own (2012, Miles High): Pianist, b. 1955 in Massachusetts, studied at Eastman, teaches at U. Mass., looks like he has one previous album, plus a couple with New England Jazz Ensemble; also plays trumpet/flugelhorn, but not here. Quartet includes Adam Kolker (tenor, soprano, bass clarinet), James Cammack (bass), and Steve Johns (drums), with Kolker making a strong impression. B+(**)

Jason Kao Hwang: Burning Bridge (2011 [2012], Innova): Violinist, b. 1957 in New York, worked his way back to his Chinese roots which ultimately affected his tone, and led him to include pipa (Sun Li) and erhu (Wang Guowei) in this octet. With Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet, flugelhorn), Steve Swell (trombone), Joseph Daley (tuba), Ken Filiano (bass), and Andrew Drury (drums) -- a lot of brass to play off against the strings. B+(***)

Weber Iago: Adventure Music Piano Masters Series Vol. 3 (2010 [2012], Adventure Music): Pianist, from Brazil, at least seven albums since 2004, working solo here, all original compositions in a mainstream jazz vein, measured and thoughtful, a pleasant surprise. B+(**)

Manu Katché (2012, ECM): Drummer, b. 1958 in France, cut a record in 1992, then nothing until joining ECM in 2006, now up to four there. Side credits include Jan Garbarek, who put his 2006 album (Neighbourhood) over the top, and various rockers, from Sting to Dire Straits to Tori Amos to Jeff Beck. Quartet here with Nils Petter Molvaer (trumpet), Tore Brunborg (tenor/soprano sax), and Jim Watson (piano, organ) -- Molvaer provides some loops, but Katché keeps the rhythm easy and conventional. B+(**)

Frank Kimbrough Trio: Live at Kitano (2011 [2012], Palmetto): Pianist, b. 1956, more than a dozen albums since 1998, part of the Jazz Composers Collective in New York, along with Ben Allison and Matt Wilson. He's the one I've been least impressed with, but this hits a sweet spot as a slow, thoughtful manoeuver through five covers (Pettiford, Ellington, Motian, Hill, "Lover Man") and three originals. With Wilson on drums and Jay Anderson on bass. B+(***)

Diana Krall: Glad Rag Doll (2012, Verve): Singer, plays piano, b. 1964 in British Columbia; thirteenth album since 1993, over 15 million copies sold (wonder whether that's more than her famous, older, and more prolific husband), which seems to have generated some backlash. As a singer she's a model of precision and economy, and this, like most of her albums, mails one finely wrought standard after another. These reportedly date from the 1920s and 1930s (although "Lonely Avenue" is later), the archive work credited to her father's collection of 78s. Producer T-Bone Burnett is right at home in the era, most of his moves in the guitar-ukulele-banjo section. My copy has four "bonus tracks" -- piano-voice only outtakes, nice but inessential. A-

Bill Laswell: Means of Deliverance (2012, Innerhythmic): B. 1955, usually plays bass when he plays, although he shows up more as producer, composer, and/or engineer; AMG credits him with 77 albums since his 1983 debut Baselines, and they give him credits on 949 albums, although those credits include things like mixing Jivamukti Basic Yoga Class and fiddling with at least a ton of reggae/dub comps. This one is solo acoustic bass (plus a tiny bit of vocal sample). He sticks to basics, minimal figures that keep the beat moving, about as engaging as possible. B+(**)

The Peggy Lee Band: Invitation (2012, Drip Audio): Cellist, based in Vancouver, has a half dozen albums since 1999, mostly with more/less the same group here: Brad Turner (trumpet), Jon Bentley (tenor sax), Jerome Berkman (trombone), Ron Samworth (guitar), Tony Wilson (more guitar), Andre Lachance (electric bass), and Dylan van der Schyff (drums). Aside from one by Mary Margaret O'Hara, all Lee compositions. She spots all the pieces and ties them together into a melodic suite that classical training dreams of but almost never achieves. Final piece even reminds me of township jive. A-

Mahlis-Panos Project: Protoleia (2011 [2012], self-released): Dimitris Mahlis on oud and nylon string guitar, Anastasios "Toss" Panos on drums and percussion, Dan Lutz on acoustic and electric bass. Not much bio: Panos, at least, is based in Los Angeles, and hype sheet refers to their "shared Greek heritage" so they are likely a generation (or more) removed. The oud is sharp and tart, nicely accented by the drums. And, as usual, the bassist makes it all sound better without grabbing the credit. B+(**)

Bill McHenry: La Peur du Vide (2012, Sunnyside): Tenor saxophonist, studied with George Garzone, dozen albums since 1998, AMG considers him avant-garde but I've always thought of him as a postbop modernist. Quartet with Orrin Evans on piano, Eric Revis on drums, and Andrew Cyrille on drums, each in their own way nudging the saxophonist out of his comfort zone. B+(***)

Liudas Mockunas & Barry Guy: Lava (2011 [2012], NoBusiness): Duets, saxophonist from Lithuania with a half dozen albums since 2001, and bassist from England with dozens since 1972, many as founder and direct or of London Jazz Composers Orchestra. I've always had trouble with Guy's big bands, but here you get a chance to actually hear all the sound he can coax from the bull fiddle, an astonishing range. [Limited edition vinyl: 300 copies.] B+(***) [cdr]

Jimmy Mulidore: Jazz for the Ages (2012, Muldoon Jams): Plays reeds, from Youngstown, OH; lists 11 CDs on his website, but no dates, and only two show up at AMG. This was cut at four sites, two live, with different studio bands, the live cuts borrowing from both. He plays clarinet, tenor/alto/soprano sax, flute, and bass clarinet here, with clarinet enjoying a 4-3 edge over alto, soprano, and flute, with one cut each for the others. Mix of originals and sax standards ("Doxie," "Freedom Jazz Dance," lots of Coltrane starting with "Giant Steps"). Anita Lea sings one. Randy Brecker, Richie Cole, and Eric Alexander drop in -- only time my ears really pricked up was on the latter's solo. (Note: I also have, but haven't watched, one of his DVDs, Jimmy Mulidore and His New York City Jazz Band.) B

Negroni's Trio: On the Way (2012, AA): Pianist José Negroni, from Puerto Rico, and his son, drummer Nomar Negroni, plus various others. Fourth album as Negroni's Trio, which indeed started as a trio (with Jaime Rivera on bass), but is up to quintet now, with Josh Allen taking over the bass slot, Ed Calle on tenor and soprano sax, and Federico Britos on violin. Calle adds a sharp edge to the Latin rhythms, and the violin broadens the sound. B+(**)

Sam Newsome: The Art of the Soprano, Vol. 1 (2011 [2012], self-released): Saxophonist, b. 1965; nine or so records since 1999; I have him listed tenor first but he plays soprano here, solo, but he tricked me at first, tapping out a percussive rhythm on the Ellington opener that reminded me of steel drums. That's a neat trick, and by no means his only one. He returns to Ellington two more times, interleaving "A Love Supreme" and series of Africana, including a bit of Fela. B+(***)

Lou Pallo of Les Paul's Trio: Thank You Les (2012, Showplace Music Production): A tribute to pioneering electric guitarist Les Paul, from his long-time rhythm guitarist, the first album under Pallo's name. I've never quite known what to do with Paul, ultimately filing his records under "vocal-20" even thought he actual singer was his wife, Mary Ford, and that only for a small slice of a sprawling career. Best thing I ever heard him do was on Jazz at the Philharmonic's The First Concert, but I've never heard him do anything like that ever again. The one other record I can recommend is his collection with Ford, The Best of the Capitol Masters: 90th Birthday Edition (1948-57 [2005], Capitol), where their penchant for kitsch works out more often than not. But this tribute comes close, and may even win out in the end. The guest list salts the famous (Keith Richard, Steve Miller, Billy Gibbons, José Feliciano, Slash) with virtuosos (Bucky Pizzarelli, Frank Vignola) but works just as well with lesser knowns (Blondie Chaplin, Nicki Parrott!) and unknowns (Johnny A?). Again, the key is kitsch, from "Vaya Con Dios" to "Nature Boy" to "Smile" to "Over the Rainbow." And while I count thirteen guitarists, I really only hear one -- which sounds like Paul on a good day. B+(***)

Paradoxical Frog: Union (2011 [2012], Clean Feed): Trio, second album, adopting as group name the title of the debut. Kris Davis (piano), Ingrid Laubrock (tenor and soprano sax), and Tyshawn Sorey (drums, melodica, trombone), all three contributing songs. Sorey is a bit hard to pick out of the mix, which plays more like a duo with his drum or whatever sneaking in unexpected. B+(**)

Eric Person: Thoughts on God (2012, Distinction): Plays alto and soprano sax, has more than a dozen albums since 1992, spent some time in the alto slot with the World Saxophone Quartet. Says he envisioned this project in 1984, "a dream of mine." He did manage to round up a talented array of horns: five reeds, four brass, more to play up the choral aspect than to show off his big band arranging. Still, I have to wonder, why does anyone think God likes flutes? B

Preservation Hall Jazz Band: 50th Anniversary Collection (1962-2010 [2012], Columbia/Legacy, 4CD): By all accounts, jazz originated in New Orleans, but from the 1920s on jazz musicians couldn't wait to get out of the Crescent City. Meanwhile, the native jazz of New Orleans became trad jazz, eclipsed by swing and bop and cool and avant and all manner of postmodernism, so archaic it could be welcomed back as tourist music -- all of this within the lifespan of musicians like De De Pierce, George Lewis, and Cie Frazier, who were welcomed back as folk heroes. In the 1960s Allan Jaffe opened Preservation Hall and organized its Jazz Band, an institution that has continued for fifty years, though dozens of personnel changes all dedicated to maintaining the old sound. They've mostly achieved that aim, but with fifty years to choose from, the compilers have opportunities to mix it up, like guest vocals by Tom Waits, Richie Havens, and Del McCoury. Still, I prefer the old stuff, especially guys like George Lewis, whose take on the music had less to do with respecting history than with staying alive. B+(***)

Reggie Quinerly: Music Inspired by Freedman Town (2012, Redefinition Music): Drummer, from Houston, a neighborhood of which was organized as Freedman Town in the 1860s by emancipated slaves, the history at the roots of his compositions. Enoch Smith, Jr., fills you in on some of that history. The piano (Gerald Clayton, or maybe Smith) has a way of crossing ragtime and avant-garde, while Tim Warfield's tenor sax goes for the soul. Closes with two covers: Sarah Elizabeth Charles singing "I'm Old Fashioned," and a "Sentimental Journey" that wears heart on sleeve. B+(**)

Ratchet Orchestra: Hemlock (2012, Drip Audio): Huge Canadian outfit led by bassist Nicolas Caloia, thirty-some pieces (seven of those strings, plus two guitars), dates back to the early 1990s and an interest in Sun Ra, although I'm not finding any other recordings. Trends avant, but not because they want to see how much noise they can make; more like that's where the cutting edge is. B+(**)

Jason Robinson: Tiresian Symmetry (2012, Cuneiform): Tenor saxophonist, based in San Diego, teaches at UCSD, has a handful of albums since 2002. Goes big this time with a nonet -- more like a 5-horn octet but he doubled up at drums (George Schuller, Ches Smith). Robinson, JD Parran, and Marty Ehrlich play various reeds/flutes, Marcus Rojas and Bill Lowe double on tuba (with Lowe also playing bass trombone); also Liberty Ellman on guitar and Drew Gress on bass. Doesn't quite gel, but offers some moments, notably the guitar. B+(**)

Michael Sahl & Eric Salzman: Civilization and Its Discontents (1978 [2012], Labor): Sahl is a postclassical composer, a year older than Salzman, his collaborator on several music theatre pieces, this one billed a comedy though more often tagged as their opera. Rocks more than most avant-classicists, but like most modern opera tries to stuff too many words into too little music. B

Felipe Salles: Departure (2011 [2012], Tapestry): Saxophonist (tenor, soprano, flute, bass clarinet), originally from Brazil, teaches at U. Mass (Amherst); fifth album since 2004. Went for a big band suite last time, but scales back to a sextet here, with violin the unorthodox instrument, and gets in some impressive sax runs. Trumpeter Randy Brecker gets in some licks, too. B+(**)

Eric Salzman: The Nude Paper Sermon/Wiretap (1966-72 [2012], Labor, 2CD): Composer, b. 1933; worked as a music critic for New York Times, Stereo Review, and others; produced an important series of post-classical records for Nonesuch. This reissues two of his early records. He describes his The Nude Paper Sermon (1969, Nonesuch) as "tropes for actor, renaissance consort, chorus, and electronics" -- mostly vocals, the voices trained but not hammy enough for opera, abstract and unsettled. The four pieces on Wiretap (1974, Finnadar) delve further into electronics -- Ilhan Mimaroglu was the producer -- and found sounds, even more abstract and unsettled, and all the more invigorating for that. B+(*)

Angelica Sanchez Quintet: Wires & Moss (2011 [2012], Clean Feed): Pianist, b. 1972 in Phoenix, AZ; moved to New York in 1994; fourth album, composed all pieces. Very impressive group, with Tony Malaby (tenor/soprano sax) and Marc Ducret (guitar) threatening to run away with the album, plus Drew Gress (bass) and Tom Rainey (drums). She's less avant than her cohort, fast and fluid in the interstices. B+(***)

Avery Sharpe: Sojourner Truth: ". . . Ain't I a Woman?" (2011 [2012], JKNM): Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) was the adopted name of a woman both into slavery in New York, emancipated in 1827; she became a notable abolitionist reader, an excerpt from her famous "Ain't I a Woman?" speech featured here. This is the bassist's 11th album since 1988, possibly his most ambitious, not just in its historical subject matter but in his expansion of the band -- Craig Handy (tenor and soprano sax) and Duane Eubanks (trumpet) join Onaje Allen Gumbs (piano) and Yoron Israel (drums), plus Jeri Brown recites and sings, very effective, touching especially on "Son of Mine" (Truth's son was illegally sold from NY to Alabama; she successfully sued to win back his freedom). B+(***)

Ricardo Silveira: Storyteller (1995 [2012], Adventure Music): Brazilian guitarist, ten albums since 1988, this reissue his latest before Mike Marshall's adventurous label picked him up in 2003. Some solo cuts, most with keybs and rhythm, upbeat, guitar striking as usual. B+(**)

Bobo Stenson Trio: Indicum (2011 [2012], ECM): Pianist, b. 1944 in Sweden, AMG credits him with sixteen albums since 1971, a figure that doesn't include his joint-headlining with Jan Garbarek on the marvelous Witchi-Tai-To. Piano trio with Anders Jormin and Jon Fält. Starts off with a Bill Evans piece and tends to stay in that mode. B+(**)

Juma Sultan's Aboriginal Music Society: Whispers From the Archive (1970-78 [2012], Porter): B. 1942 in California, Sultan played percussion with Jimi Hendrix, played with Archie Shepp on records like Attica Blues, eventually became a Christian minister. This is the second slice from his archives, following Father of Origin in 2011 (on Eremite, unheard by me). These pieces are scattered over the years, the only constant someone named Ali Abuwi (oboe, flute, percussion), although one 19:20 track doesn't credit either. This kicks off with a 20:45 piece called "AMS," with Sultan on bass, Abuwi on oboe, and everyone but the guitarist on percussion -- James "Blood" Ulmer is too busy stealing the show. That's followed by 1:27 of "Shake Your Money Maker," the first of several vocals that bind the extended groove pieces to a sense of community. Last two pieces break out the flutes, and for once I don't mind. A-

Melvin Taylor: Beyond the Burning Guitar (2010 [2012], Eleven East, 2CD): Guitarist, b. 1959 in Mississippi but raised in Chicago where he developed his blues chops. Four albums 1982-2002, plus this his first in a decade, also the first without a blues theme. Liner notes cite Hendrix and Montgomery, but I only hear the influence of the latter. Credits include an extra line citing "Melvin Taylor" for bass guitar -- maybe there's another one. B+(*)

Gian Tornatore: The Heights (2012, Sound Spiral): Tenor saxophonist, b. in California, studied at Berklee, based in New York since 2002, fourth album. Has a lovely tone, which I fell for on his 2004 debut album, Sink or Swim, and is evident from the start here. Mainstream postbop, a bit on the lush side with trumpet (Gordon Au) for shine and both piano and guitar -- Nate Radley takes the most impressive solos. B+(*)

The Urban Renewal Project: Go Big or Go Home (2012, Lombardy): Los Angeles "big band" -- 12-pieces, horns aplenty, can swing or play funk but it gets dicey when they try to both at the same time. Leader is tenor saxophonist R.W. Enoch, Jr., who splits most of the song credits with someone named Logan -- most likely the freestyle rapper who does business as Logic the Topic. His raps help focus the group, but they also employ a singer, Kenny Neely, with an uncanny and seriously annoying combination of slick and sour -- he drives me up the wall. C+

Wave Mechanics Union: Further to Fly (2012, HX Music): Played this twice while trying to get other work done, so I didn't manage the necessary notes, but sure don't want to spin it a third time. Lydia McCadams is the singer, operatic at the end but cabaret-ish along the way -- maybe that was the Tom Waits cover, or the Fiona Apple or Steely Dan but probably not King Crimson. The orchestra is overstuffed -- flutes and bassoon, tuba and strings -- and some of the arrangements have some appeal. Second group album. B-

Ezra Weiss: Our Path to This Moment (2012, Roark): Composer-pianist, b. 1979, has a half dozen albums since 2003, this one played by the Rob Scheps Big Band with "special guest" Greg Gisbert (trumpet) on 3 (of 7) cuts, and Weiss himself sitting down at the piano on three. Pretty average big band until they ignite on the finale ("Wayfaring Stranger"), led by the trumpet, presumably Gisbert. B+(*)

Peter Zak: Nordic Noon (2011 [2012], Steeplechase): Pianist, from Ohio, studied at UC Berkeley, based in New York, ten albums since 1989, mostly trios -- I count one solo, and one with a sax added, plus side dates, mostly with trumpeter Ryan Kisor. This is another trio, with Peter Washington and Billy Drummond -- hard to imagine a better mainstream rhythm section. Three originals, most of the eight covers from 1960s and 1970s jazz sources, a tradition he builds on. A-

 October, 2012 December, 2012