Jazz Prospecting: January 2013

Thomas Borgmann/Wilber Morris/Reggie Nicholson: Nasty & Sweet (1998-99 [2013], NoBusiness, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist (credited with "reeds" here), b. 1955 in Germany; not much discography but he does have a 1999 CIMP album with this same trio (credited there as BMN Trio) and a 2003 bash with Brötzmann. This was released as limited (400 copy) vinyl only, and I'm working off CDRs. First disc lives up to the title, and the second starts with a piece from the same date. The 1998 session only slows down toward the end, for a long bass solo and a little sax dirge. A- [advance]

Carter Calvert: Carter Calvert and the Roger Cohen Trio (2011 [2012], self-released): Standards singer, from Cincinnati but most likely based in New York, where she has some measure -- not that I know what it is -- of a Broadway career. First album. Cohen is a drummer, so I'm not sure how he managed to pull rank over pianist Jim West, but they provide suitable support. Not sure what I think about her voice: depends on the song, and they're all over the map. B+(*)

Gustavo Casenave: Tango Casenave (2012, Watch Craft Music): Pianist, b. 1971 in Uruguay, studied at Berklee. AMG lists one previous album, but that strikes me as an underestimate. Composed everything here, tangos with all the classical bombast, even though the group is just piano-violin-bandoneon-bass. Eddie Gomez is cited as a "special guest" on the cover, but only plays on one track. B+(*)

Louis Durra: Rocket Science (2012, Lot 50): Pianist, b. 1961, based in Los Angeles, at least five albums since 2003. Trio, with Ryan McGillicuddy or Larry Steen on bass, Jerry Kalaf on drums. One original, one trad, "One Love" (Bob Marley), one Wonder, three Beatles tunes, all done sensibly. B+(*)

Ken Field: Sensorium: Music for Dance & Film (2012, Innova): I'm not even going to try to read the black-on-blue fine print here, a case of impatience leading to ignorance about who is involved here and what they're trying to do. I do know that Field is Boston-based, an alto saxophonist who also plays flute and other reeds, and has six albums under his own name since 1996, but is probably better known for his group memberships, including Birdsongs of the Mesozoic and Revolutionary Snake Ensemble. Two commissioned series here: one (17:50) for a film by Karen Aqua, the other (37:04) for Bridgman/Packer Dance. Some interesting stretches, others I'm unsure of -- perhaps the normal side-effect of not seeing the big picture, or perhaps just perhaps. B+(**)

David Gilmore: Numerology: Live at Jazz Standard (2010 [2012], Evolutionary Music): Guitarist, b. 1964 in Cambridge, MA; has a couple previous albums, quite a few side credits -- some rock (Bryan Ferry, Ringo Starr), most jazz (Steve Coleman, Don Byron, Wayne Shorter, Rudresh Mahanthappa). Basically a fusion player, with McLaughlin the obvious model. Picked up an all-star band here: Miguel Zenón (alto sax), Luis Perdomo (piano), Christian McBride (bass), Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums), Mino Cinelu (percussion), Claudia Acuńa (voice). Her contribution is almost too subtle to notice, but the sax takes the roiling rhythm and goes off on a magnificent romp. B+(***)

The Group: Live (1986 [2012], NoBusiness): The name, even with its definite article, doesn't do them justice. They came out of the New York loft scene, gigged around for a couple years, and left nothing but this newly discovered masterpiece. The booklet shows two quintet posters: their May 3 (1986?) "world premier" with Ahmed Abdullah (trumpet), Marion Brown (alto sax), Billy Bang (violin), Sirone (bass), and Andrew Cyrille; and another from Sept. 12-13, 1986, with Fred Hopkins on bass. This recording, from Sept. 13, uses both bassists. They play five pieces, with Mingus' "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" and Brown's "La Piacita" running 18 minutes each, and Miriam Makeba's "Amanpondo" at 25 minutes. Bang manages to swing in any or no time; the two horns mesh intuitively, completing each other's thoughts; the two bassists have different strong suits, and Cyrille has rarely had better days. A

Lua Hadar with Twist: Like a Bridge (2012, Bellalua): Singer, has two previous albums, this one recorded live in Berkeley, CA. She's credited with "multilingual vocals" and proves that with maudlin operatic vocals in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Japanese, and Malagasy. The band gets a break with an instrumental "Isfahan." C-

Tianna Hall & the Mexico City Jazz Trio: Two for the Road (2012, Mighty Pretty): Standards singer, third album, calls her regular backup the Houston Jazz Band, hence the name given to pianist Miguel Villicańa's trio. Nice voice, especially comfortable on the most well worn tunes, and the trio is first rate. David Caceres helped out, including a duet on "They Can't Take That Away From Me." B+(*)

Jon Hamar: Hymn (2011 [2012], Origin): Bassist, in Seattle, third album since 2003, a trio with Todd DelGiudice on alto sax and Geoffrey Keezer on piano. Mostly Hamar originals, plus one from DelGiudice; covers include "Isfahan," a "Giant Steps/It Could Happen to You" medley, and "Comes Love." No drummer, no rush. B+(*)

William Hooker Quintet: Channels of Consciousness (2010 [2012], NoBusiness): Drummer, b. 1946 in Connecticut, has at least 25 albums since 1982, avant-garde, at least way out on the margins. Chris DiMeglio does a nice job of adding trumpet scratch, Dave Ross (guitar) and Adam Lane (bass) churn things up, and the drummer claims most of the focus, supplemented by Sanga's percussion. B+(***)

Chris Hopkins/Bernd Lhotzky: Partners in Crime (2012, Echoes of Swing): Piano duets. Lhotzky, b. 1970 in Bavaria. Hopkins, b. 1972 in Princeton, moved to Germany at age six. Both lean toward swing, with Lhotzky owning one of the Arbors Piano Series records. This is delightful, especially when they get into familiar territory, like "I Got Plenty o' Nuttin'." B+(***)

Christian Howes: Southern Exposure (2012, Resonance): Violinist, from Columbus, OH; fifth album since 1997. Special guest here -- important enough that he gets big play on the cover and could just as well have been co-credited -- is French accordion player Richard Galliano, and they also mention Josh Nelson, Scott Colley, and Lewis Nash on the cover. Musical focus is tango, give or take a choro or a "Cubano Chant." B+(**)

I Never Meta Guitar Too (2011 [2012], Clean Feed): Second volume of the label's Elliott Sharp-produced avant-guitar series, sixteen brief selections from as many artists, most (unlike last time) by people I've never heard of -- some that I am familiar with, like Joel Harrison and Steve Cardenas, not that far out. Also none stuck in any of the usual ruts. Thanks to rock and roll, there are a lot of guitarists out there, with more than ever turning to jazz, and thanks to electronics they're moving off into all sorts of directions. This series drives home that point, while still more often than not being something you can play at low volume for ambiance. B+(*)

Jeff Johnson: Suitcase (2011 [2012], Origin): Seattle bassist, one of the label's mainstays, generally a mainstream player but here he not only moves into postbop, he gives us a practicum in how much of the avant-garde has been incorporated into the postbop paradigm. Hans Teuber plays bass clarinet, alto flute, and various saxes, with Steve Moore on piano and Eric Eagle on drums. B+(***)

Jerry Leake: Cubist: Prominence (2012 [2013], Rhombus Publishing): Percussionist, specializes in African and Indian but I doubt there's any corner of the world he hasn't scoured for things to beat up on. He teaches, has written numerous books on the stuff, and has more than a handful of albums. Cubist was a 2010 title that he seems to be stuck on. Cubist Live (2011), co-credited to guitarist Randy Roos, turned his research into fun. This one, where eight vocalists run amok, is no fun. And while I pretty much agree with what I gather to be his political view on world peace, I don't want to be lectured about them, much less in opera. B-

Steve Lipman: Ridin' the Beat (2012, Locomotion): Sinatra-wannabe, based in Connecticut, bills himself as "the singing dentist," has at least one previous album. Seems to have lost some of his voice, and picked up some extra percussion. There must be a hundred better versions of "That Old Black Magic" -- the one I best remember is by Jerry Lewis -- but even this one works for me. B-

Living by Lanterns: New Myth/Old Science (2011 [2012], Cuneiform): Compositions and arrangements by Jason Adasiewicz (vibes) and Mike Reed (drums), "based on unpublished compositions and improvisations by Sun Ra," and performed by a star-laden band that is plenty capable of projecting intergalactic imagination: Greg Ward (alto sax), Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet), Ingrid Laubrock (tenor sax), Tomeka Reid (cello), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Joshua Abrams (bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums), with Nick Butcher adding electronics on two tracks. A-

Luce Trio: Pieces, Vol. 1 (2011 [2012], Museum Clausum): Saxophonist Jon De Lucia, in what he calls his "inspired baroque group," with Ryan Ferreira on electric guitar and Chris Tordini on acoustic bass. Half original compositions, half credits to J.S. Bach, G.F. Handel, and John Dowland. Slow and solemn, stately even. [Bandcamp] B+(*) [advance]

Rudresh Mahanthappa: Gamak (2012 [2013], ACT): Alto sax quartet, with electric guitar (David Fiuczynski), acoustic bass (François Moutin), and drums (Dan Weiss). This fits a trend of groups (often bass-less trios) where the guitar, rather than expanding the harmony, like piano has traditionally done -- both pushes the sax into a frenzy and can take a solo spot beside it, like a second horn. So not pathbreaking, but, of course, he does it better than almost anyone else. A-

José-Luis Montón: Solo Guitarra (2011 [2012], ECM): Guitarist, b. 1962 in Barcelona, Spain. Has at least two previous albums, the first explicitly flamenco. Solo guitar, perhaps chilled a bit under Manfred Eicher's production, very atmospheric, hard to fault. B+(**)

Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Slippery Rock! (2012 [2013], Hot Cup): Peter Evans (trumpets), Jon Irabagon (saxes, including sopranino and a bit of flute), Moppa Elliott (bass), Kevin Shea (drums). Fourth album on Elliott's Hot Cup label -- also a live double on Clean Feed -- breaking a string of two classic album cover spoofs with what looks like a teen boy group splash, and less history in the songlist (unless "President Polk" counts -- "Dexter, Wayne and Mobley" sure does, then blows them up and scampers away). Too bad my eyes can't hack Leonard Featherweight's liner notes, always a source of high-minded obfuscation. That leaves me to draw my own far-fetched analogies: this is slippery in the sense that it follows no discernible time signature, rock in the sense that it is loud and frantic, and that attitude prevails. All these years of waiting for jazz-rock fusion, and what do we get? Fission! A

Nicholl and Farquharson: Della by Moonlight (2012, Big Empty Loo): Bassist Michael Farquharson and keyb player Matthew Nicholl. First track sounds like they're aiming at easy groove elevator music. Then they get pretentious, start writing suites, and bring on the flute, the oboe, the bassoon, and the French horn. C-

Old Time Musketry: Different Times (2011 [2012], Steeplechase): Front cover also adds "LookOut" after "SteepleChase," suggesting a label variant I can find no other explanation of. Group is a quartet, based in New York: Adam Schneit (sax, clarinet), JP Schlegelmilch (piano, accordion, synth, glockenspiel), Phil Rowan (bass), Max Goldman (drums, melodica). Schneit and Schlegelmilch split the writing. They go for soft edges, letting the music just pick you up and sweep you away. A-

Cristina Pato: Migrations (2011 [2023], Sunnyside): B. 1980 in Ourense, Galicia, Spain; plays piano, flute, sings a bit -- attractive, seductive voice -- but her main instrument is the gaita, or Gallician bagpipes -- smaller, more manageable, less irritating than the familiar Scottish variety. Band includes accordion, bass, and drums, and there is a parade of guests on harp (Edmar Castaneda), violin, tabla, bouzouki, cello, etc. B+(***)

Harvie S/Kenny Barron: Witchcraft (2012 [2013], Savant): Bass-piano duets, the bass claiming enough space to even out the piano's natural volume edge. Plus Barron, as you no doubt recall from his early work with Stan Getz, is an attentive as well as remarkable accompanist. B+(***)

Claudio Scolari: Synthesis (2012, Principal): Drummer, b. 1962, studied in Parma, is a "conservatory teacher and member of the most prestigious symphonic orchestra of Italy" -- a name I'm not expert enough to fill in. He has a handful of albums, two with this trio -- Daniele Cavalca (melodica, drums, percussion, piano, synths, vibraphone, bass; Scolari doubles on most of these, so the vibes are distinctive) and Simone Scolari (trumpet). Has a nice beat, a steady roll that the melodica/synths fatten up and the drums/vibes accent. B+(**)

Matthew Silberman: Questionable Creatures (2012, DeSoto Sound Factory): Tenor saxophonist, from Santa Monica, CA; wound up in Brooklyn. Debut album, with two guitarists (Ryan Ferreira and Greg Ruggiero), bass (Christopher Tordini), and drums (Tommy Crane). The guitar work is grooveful and sharp, the sax articulate. One spot blows me away, and none of it disappoints. B+(***)

Sudo Quartet: Live at Banlieue Bleue (2011 [2012], NoBusiness): Avant improvisers, in cover order: Joëlle Léandre (bass), Carlos Zingaro (violin), Sebi Tramontana (trombone), Paul Lovens (drums). The bassist is central, the violin ranging out of her harmonics, the trombone reinforcing them, the drums reacting every which way. B+(**)

Szilárd Mezei Tubass Quintet: Canons: 2nd Hosting (2011 [2012], NoBusiness): Four double basses, including the leader, backed by a tuba (Kornél Pápista), a limited sonic palette but don't discount the bass as a big, resonant drum. Recorded in Novi Sad, Serbia, presumably where the unfamiliar names come from. Limited edition LP (300 copies). B+(**) [advance]

Paul Tynan & Aaron Lington: Bicoastal Collective: Chapter Three (2011 [2012], OA2): Trumpet and baritone sax, respectively, the collective a sextet with Rhodes (Dan Murphy), guitar (Corey Christiansen), bass, and drums; third album together, recorded in "flyover" territory in Indiana. Smart postbop, nice attention to detail. B+(*)

Tim Warfield's Jazzy Christmas (2012, Undaunted Music): Mainstream tenor saxophonist (also soprano, which he plays on the cover), had a couple excellent albums in the late 1990s -- A Cool Blue, Gentle Warrior -- but his career has gone nowhere since then. With Terrence Stafford on trumpet, Cyrus Chestnut on piano, Stefon Harris for tinkle and glitter. Joanna Pascal sings three ("Let It Snow," "Caroling Caroling," "Silent Night"), and Jamie Davis takes "Oh Christmas Tree." Here and there some actual jazz breaks out, but the melodies seep back in. If you must play Xmas music, some of this will amuse you, and little will offend. Ends with a bonus track, "The Dreidel Song," lest anyone feel left out. B

Pamela York: Lay Down This World: Hymns and Spirituals (2012, Jazzful Heart): Pianist, from Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, BC; studied at Berklee, moved to San Diego, then to Houston. Two previous albums, which I believe she sings on; this is piano trio, plus trombone on two cuts. Hymns, some familiar, some with titles I find spooky if not downright terrifying, arranged for piano jazz, that much I can take comfort in. B+(*)

From Rhapsody Streamnotes

Han Bennink Trio: Bennink & Co. (2012, ILK): Legendary Dutch percussionist, age 70, credited with drums here but has been known to hit almost anything, here with Simon Toldam on piano and Joachim Badenhorst on various saxes and clarinet. Free jazz which somehow manages to swing and evoke a carnival air, an effect that the clarinet especially brings out. A-

John Butcher: Bell Trove Spools (2010-11 [2012], Northern Spy): British avant saxophonist, prolific but obscure since 1984, goes solo, with five tracks on tenor and five on soprano. B

Marilyn Crispell/Gerry Hemingway: Affinities (2009-10 [2011], Intakt): Piano-drums duets, half of Anthony Braxton's legendary 1980s quartet, spent a decade together there and never moved far apart. Intense piano runs, then a more delicate stretch with Hemingway on vibes. B+(***)

Die Enttäuschung: Vier Halbe (2012, Intakt): German pianoless quartet, fronted by Rudi Mahall (bass clarinet, baritone sax) and Axel Dörner (trumpet), backed by Jan Roder (bass) and Uli Jennessen (drums), cut their first album together in 1996 but their most notable one came in 2005 when they picked up pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach and recorded everything Monk ever wrote, spread out on the 3-CD Monk's Casino. No Monk tunes here, but the spirit is very much present, with slippery moves and accents popping up in the oddest places. B+(***)

Alexander Hawkins Ensemble: All There, Ever Out (2012, Babel): English pianist, plays some organ, group includes cello, marimba, guitar, bass, drums. Disjointed in various interesting ways, especially when it's just piano, but less clear where it's going when the group joins in. B+(**) [bc]

John Pizzarelli: Double Exposure (2012, Telarc): Guitarist-crooner, a bit surprised to see AMG lists 26 albums under his name, the first titled I'm Hip -- Please Don't Tell My Father (1983, his father the still-active swing guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli). His idea of hip never advanced much beyond Cole and Sinatra, even though the songbook here draws mostly from the 1970s -- Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Dicky Betts, Billy Joel, Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers, Seals & Crofts, Elvis Costello, although he also slips in the Beatles, Leiber-Stoller, and "Lush Life." Large enough band with a few twists -- a bit of Brazil, some vocalese, a duet with Jessica Molaskey. B

Tom Rainey Trio: Camino Cielo Echo (2011 [2012], Intakt): Drummer, best known for his work with Tim Berne, here leading a trio with, as the cover points out, Mary Halvorson (guitar) and Ingrid Laubrock (saxes), their second together. B+(***)

Roller Trio: Roller Trio (2012, F-ire): English "jazz-rock" group -- James Mainwaring (sax, electronics), Luke Wynter (guitar), Luke Reddin-Williams (drums) -- or so they say. First album, nominated for a Mercury Prize, appeals to the noise interest in rock while keeping the rhythm tight, a combination that could be the hard bop of our time, recognizably jazz but with a populist appeal. B+(***)

Irčne Schweizer: To Whom It May Concern: Piano Solo Tonhalle Zürich (2011 [2012], Intakt): Swiss pianist, has rivalled Cecil Taylor for brazen explosiveness since the mid-1970s, tones it down a bit here in what would be dense and intense for anyone else. B+(**)

Gwilym Simcock/Tim Garland/Asaf Sirkis: Lighthouse (2012, ACT): Just last names on cover, the first two -- piano and saxes, respectively, plus a drummer -- much better known in the UK than over here. I've been impressed, technically at least, by all three in the past, but there's a point where speed turns to clutter, and they pass it too often. B

 December, 2012 February, 2013