Jazz Prospecting: November 2013

Tarun Balani Collective: Sacred World (2012 [2013], self-released): Drummer, from India, based in New Delhi; first album, all original pieces by Balani, backed with piano, guitar, bass, and sarangi (a bowed string instrument said to resemble a human voice, although its player, Suhail Yusuf Khan, is also credited with vocals). B+(*)

The George Bouchard Group: Listen to Your Dreams (2013, self-released): Tenor saxophonist, born and raised in Buffalo, NY; teaches at Nassau Community College. Has at least four albums, and a textbook called Intermediate Jazz Improvisation. Group, recorded "live at Mirelle's," includes a second tenor sax (Andrew Grossbard), trumpet (Dave South), piano, bass, and drums, playing a robustly upbeat postbop I couldn't get into. B

Dewa Budjana: Joged Kanyangan (2013, Moonjune): Guitarist, b. 1963 in Indonesia, has been in the band Gigi since 1994; sixth solo album since 1997, although only two are listed at AMG. Fusion-oriented band -- Larry Goldings (organ, piano), Bob Mintzer (saxes, clarinets), Jimmy Johnson (bass guitar), Peter Erskine (drums) -- although the rhythm picks up something I take to be Indonesian. Janis Siegel sings one song, breaking the flow and adding nothing. B-

Kevin Coelho: Turn It Up (2013, Chicken Coup/Summit): Organ player, second album, trio with guitar and drums. Covers Jimmy Smith, "Come Together," "The World Is a Ghetto," "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," "Georgia on My Mind." Two originals, songs anyway. Tacks on two radio edits as bonus cuts. B

George Colligan: The Endless Mysteries (2012 [2013], Origin): Pianist, has put together an impressive discography since 1996. Front cover also names, in slightly smaller type, Larry Grenadier and Jack DeJohnette -- a rhythm section you'd want to brag about too. B+(**)

Laurent Coq: Dialogue (2012 [2013], Sunnyside): French pianist, eighth album since 1998, also shared the headline on Miguel Zenón's recent Rayuela. The dialogues are pretty straightforward here, mostly with Ralph Lavital on guitar, and on 5 (of 11) tracks Nicolas Pelage sings. B+(*)

Eric DiVito: The Second Time Around (2013, Pioneer Jazz Collection): Guitarist, originally from Long Island, based in New York, second album: builds on a trio with bass (Corcoran Holt) and drums (Alyssa Falk Verheyn), most notably with the alto sax of Steve Wilson on three tracks -- a sweet counterpart to the leader's guitar. Also two songs with singer Mavis Swan Poole. B+(*)

Fabric Trio: Murmurs (2010 [2013], NoBusiness): Sax trio, recorded in Berlin: Frank Paul Schubert (soprano/alto sax), Mike Majkowski (bass), Yorgos Dimitriadis (drums). First album, a limited edition (300 copy) vinyl LP, which seems to be a market niche. Free jazz, joint improv, as the title suggests they tend to keep their adventures toned down -- no screech, no bombast, but also no clichés, nothing pat. I find them refreshing, but not very distinct from dozens of other fine records. I'm also glad I have a CD-R and don't have to flip the thing over (although the second side runs on so quietly I might not bother). B+(**) [advance]

Phill Fest: Projeto B.F.C. (2013, self-released): Guitarist, b. in Minneapolis, based in Florida; father was Brazilian keyboardist Manfredo Fest (1936-99), who recorded a number of albums for Concord back in their heyday. Second album, previous one called Smooth Edges. Front cover makes a point of "Introducing Robert Prester" -- keyboard player, I gather (credits are hard to find as most of the type is illegible, but I did notice a pic of harmonica player Hendrik Meurkens. B+(*)

Foreign Motion: In Flight (2013, self-released): Sort of a fusion band, with Cory Wong (guitar), Kevin Gastonguay (keyboards), Yohannes Tona (bass), and Petar Janjic (drums) -- based in Minnesota, I think, although Yona was born in Ethiopia and Janjic in Serbia (the others were born in the US). Wong has a previous album and seems to be the leader but all four contribute songs, and the grooves offer some pleasant surprises. B+(**)

Brian Gephart: Standing on Two Feet (2012 [2013], Origin): Tenor saxophonist, based in Chicago, has a handful of records with Bob Long as Gephart Long Quartet going back to 1992, and at least one Brian Gephart Quartet album. Sextet here, with trombone, guitar, piano, bass, and drums. Upbeat, hard boppish stuff, nothing grabbed me but it's certainly listenable. B

Aaron Germain: Chance (2013, Origin): Bassist, electric and acoustic, leaning electric on his second album, with Nguyen Le on guitar, Frank Martin (piano and, mostly, keyboards), and drums, plus one-track guests on flute and dan t'rung. B-

Ghost Train Orchestra: Book of Rhapsodies (2012-13 [2013], Accurate): I think the leader here is trumpet player Brian Carpenter, whose previous album was also historically themed, Hothouse Stomp: The Music of 1920s Chicago and Harlem. This one explores the 1930s work of Alec Wilder, Raymond Scott, Reginald Forsythe, and John Kirby's Sextet (including Charlie Shavers). The music veers from jazz into classical, sometimes too much for my taste (nor do I care for the choir), but the band is chock full of interesting characters -- Andy Laster, Petr Cancura, Curtis Hasselbring, Tanya Kalmanovitch -- and makes use of violin and tuba. B+(**)

Ricardo Grilli: If on a Winter's Night a Traveler (2012 [2013], Dark House): Guitarist, b. in São Paulo, Brazil; studied at Berklee, now at NYU. First album, with sax (Gustavo D'Amico), piano (Christian Li), bass (Jared Henderson), drums (Lee Fish). B+(**)

Jon Hamar: Idyl Wild (2012 [2013], Origin): Bassist, based in Seattle, fourth album since 2005, quartet with two saxes (Rich Perry on tenor and Todd DelGiudice, who wrote two pieces, on alto) and drums. The saxophonists are aggressive enough to generate an interesting postbop clash. B+(**)

Clarence Johnson III: Watch Him Work (2013, Like Father Like Son Music): Tenor saxophonist (soprano too), fourth album, not smooth enough for smooth jazz, more like a throwback to the honking r&b saxophonists of the 1950s but with all the modern keyboard "sound design" doesn't quite reach there either. Fun, at least, until he lays it on too thick -- definitely in the closer. B

Kidd Jordan/Hamid Drake: A Night in November: Live in New Orleans (2011 [2013], Valid): Louisiana boys, the saxophonist (alto and tenor) a lifelong resident of the Big Easy, the drummer a childhood emigré to Chicago where he was mentored by Fred Anderson, eventually recording several duo albums together. Jordan is a fair substitute, a little squeakier, and Drake is masterful, as always. B+(***)

Harold López-Nussa: New Day (2013, Jazz Village): Pianist, from Cuba, still lives in Havana, has at least three previous albums. Mostly trio, favoring intense rhythm as opposed to the usual Afro-Cuban start-stop time shifts. Some cuts add Mayquel González on trumpet, dropping the piano back to a comping role. B+(***)

Dana Lyn: Aqualude (2012 [2013], Ropeadope): Violinist, b. 1974 in California, studied at Oberlin, based in Brooklyn, has spent a good deal of time learning Irish folk fiddle; has a couple previous albums, more side-credits including the Walkmen and Louodon Wainwright. Quintet with Jonathan Goldberger (guitar), Clara Kennedy (cello), Mike McGinniss (clarinets), Vinnie Sperrazza (drums). Soft instruments, chamber music (I guess): doesn't swing, can't bop, and sure ain't free. C+ [advance]

Ray Marchica: A Different View (2013, Sons of Sound): Drummer, second album, a group effort with Tim Ries (tenor/soprano sax), Ted Kooshian (piano), and Rodney Jones (guitar) contributing ten songs to the leader's one. Group adds a second sax (Morris Goldberg), bass, and percussion. Mainstream leaning a bit toward swing, jaunty even. B+(*)

Sue Maskaleris: Bring Nothing but Your Heart (2013, Jazilian): Singer-songwriter, has at least one previous album; wrote everything here but "Lush Life," with a couple songs in Portuguese. Also plays piano/keyboards, violin, guitar, bass, and percussion, and gets help from a long list of musicians. B

Mumpbeak: Mumpbeak (2013, Rare Noise): Hype sheet says "takes prog-rock to a new place," but bass-heavy groove music with free frissons has been around a long time, not least in producer Bill Laswell's archives. Group includes Roy Powell (Hohner clavinet, FX pedals), Pat Mastelotto (acoustic and electronic drums, percussion), and various electric bassists -- Laswell and Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz double up on most cuts, adding Tony Levin on one, replacing them with Lorenzo Feliciati on another. B+(*) [advance]

Outer Bridge Ensemble: Determined (2013, self-released): Quartet -- Mark DeJong (saxes), Steve Hudson (keyboards), Jerome Jennings (drums), David Freeman (conga, djembe, percussion) -- plus various friends, including James Zollar on trumpet. Website touts their "original sound based in jazz, afro-beat, afro-cuban rhythm, and funk," but almost all of what I hear is fairly inventive postbop. B+(**)

Art Pepper: Unreleased Art Vol. VIII: Live at the Winery September 6, 1976 (1976 [2013], Widow's Taste): Pepper got out of jail in 1965 but played very little until 1975 when he kicked off his final comeback with the brilliant album Living Legend. Most of the previous seven Unreleased Art volumes focus on live gigs from his last years, 1980-82, working with regular touring bands. This catches him a few years earlier, at the Paul Masson Winery in Saratoga with a no-name pickup band from the Bay Area. They aren't bad -- pianist Smith Dobson acquits himself particularly well -- but Pepper plays with exceptional verve, right out of the gate with a fast "Caravan" up through the "Straight Life" encore. Most of these songs are staples on his numerous live albums from the era, but he rarely raced through this this fast and with this much vigor. A-

Quartet San Francisco: Pacific Premieres: New Works by California Composers (2013, Violin Jazz): Conventional string quartet: Jeremy Cohen (violin), Matthew Szemele (violin), Chad Kaitinger (viola), Kelley Maulbetsch (cello). Group has at least six previous records since 2002 -- two playing works by Dave Brubeck. The California composers here are Gordon Goodwin, Vince Mendoza, Patrick Williams, and Cohen himself -- the first two are well-known big band composer-arrangers. B+(*)

Roswell Rudd: Trombone for Lovers (2013, Sunnyside): With the "Joe Hill" suite at the end, this could have been called Trombone for the Masses: I don't mind the rapper there but the NYC Labor Choir takes some getting used to even though I feel like saluting the political point. Everything else is just superb: the opening "Ghost Riders in the Sky" with Steven Bernstein's slide trumpet, Bob Dorough on "Here, There & Everywhere," Fay Victor on "Trouble in Mind," Michael Doucet's violin on "Autumn Leaves" and "Tennessee Waltz," familiar songs that seem perfect when they pop up: "Baby, It's Cold Outside," "Struttin' With Some Barbecue," "Green Onions," "Unchained Melody," "September Song." As for "Joe Hill," well, organize. A

John Stowell & Dave Liebman: Blue Rose (2012 [2013], Origin): Duets. Stowell plays guitar, has about two dozen albums since 1977, should be better known than he is -- AMG, for instance, doesn't have a biography page on him, although they list twice as many albums as his Wikipedia page. Liebman plays soprano and tenor sax, a little piano and a bit of wooden flute. They've recorded together before, but Liebman's recorded with damn near everyone (I'm not up to counting, but it's conceivable he has more album credits than any other active saxophonist, although he's spotted Braxton and Brötzmann a decade and they're contenders). This can be a bit skimpy, but Liebman's as engabed and enjoyable here as he's been in years, probably because the guitarist is always in the right place. B+(**)

Colin Stranahan/Glenn Zaleski/Rick Rosato: Limitless (2012 [2013], Capri): Drummer-led piano trio -- Zaleski is the pianist. Dedicates one song to Fred Hersch, and works mostly in that vein, a bit on the quiet side. B+(*)

John Tchicai/Charlie Kohlhase/Garrison Fewell/Cecil McBee/Billy Hart: Tribal Ghost (2007 [2013], NoBusiness): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1936 in Copenhagen, Denmark; mother Danish, father Congolese; d. 2012. This was recorded in 2007 at Birdland, Tchicai's trio with saxophonist Kohlhase and guitarist Fewell rounded out with bass and drums. Four cuts, one of those limited edition vinyl deals, no timings given but works out to about 35 minutes. Fewell wrote three of the pieces, his guitar tying them into neat little grooves, the saxes not clashing but embroidering. A- [advance]

Fay Victor Ensemble: Absinthe & Vermouth (2013, Greene Avenue Music): Vocalist, originally from Trinidad or Tobago, raised on Long Island, studied at Syracuse and Brooklyn Conservatory of Music; sixth album since 1999. Betty Carter is less an influence than one of her few peers in jazz history: someone who makes art more difficult and demanding than we're often comfortable with, a singer who commands a band as disciplined and prickly as the star. Victor's Ensemble includes Anders Nilsson, one of the most distinctive jazz guitarists working today, and Ken Filiano, one of those bassists who makes everyone sound better -- his presence is as reliable a stamp of quality as casting Harry Dean Stanton in a movie. B+(***)

Tim Warfield: Inspire Me! (2013, HHM): Mainstream tenor saxophonist, has mostly recorded for Criss Cross -- I thought his early records there were terrific (e.g., A Cool Blue and Gentle Warrior) -- but the label tends to underwhelm, and Warfield's releases have tailed off over the years. (Some Criss Cross artists also show up on labels like Sharp Nine and Posi-Tone that consistently get sharper, more vibrant sound.) Warfield returns here with a warm and comforting sound, with Antoine Drye's trumpet on five cuts, Kevin Hays on piano, plus bass and drums. Herb Harris produced, and sings two pieces -- offhand and odd at first, now just part of the flow. B+(***)

Doug Webb: Another Scene (2013, Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist, based in Los Angeles, did a lot of studio work early on and only recently established himself as a lead artist. Quartet, with Peter Zak (piano), Dwayne Burno (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums). I figured him to be a mainstream guy but this is mostly fast stuff, postbop with the emphasis on the bop. B+(**)

Randy Weston/Billy Harper: The Roots of the Blues (2013, Sunnyside): Piano and tenor sax duets, with each taking one solo turn. Pianist is 85, one of the few still working who started in the 1950s. Mostly his songs (10-to-1 over Harper -- the covers touchstones like "Body and Soul," "How High the Moon," "Take the A Train"), and most with allusions to Africa, at least in the title -- no American pianist has searched deeper or longer into the mother continent, going back as far as Weston's 1955 album African Sunrise. Harper is pushing 70 himself, still possessing that rich, gospel-infused tone. B+(***)

Craig Yaremko Organ Trio: CYO3 (2013, Origin): Saxophonist -- credits here are soprano, alto, tenor, flute, alto flute -- third album, with Matt King on organ, Jonathon Peretz on drums, and adding Vic Juris' guitar on two tracks. Starts off marvelously with "Jitterbug Waltz," and is generally most fun when they give you something familiar, like "Bye-Ya" or "Isfahan"; less fun when the leader shows off his flutes. B+(**)

From Rhapsody Streamnotes

Mulatu Astatke: Skeches of Ethiopia (2013, Jazz Village): Ethiopian composer and keyboardist, studied in London and Boston, and worked for a spell in New York with Duke Ellington. He developed his Ethio-Jazz synthesis in the 1970s, and has a handful of albums, but this is the first time he's been able to employ a big band under his own direction. A-

Tim Berne's Snakeoil: Shadow Man (2013, ECM): Second album for this quartet -- the leader, playing only alto sax here, has dozens of albums since 1979 -- with Oscar Noriega (clarinet, bass clarinet), Matt Mitchell (piano), and Ches Smith (drums, vibes). Album starts off on a measured note, but opens up with several long and incendiary pieces -- at least no one will wonder if Berne is toning it down to fit in at his notoriously laid back label. B+(***) [dl]

Carla Bley/Andy Sheppard/Steve Swallow: Trios (2013, ECM): Piano-sax-bass, Sheppard playing tenor and soprano, his leads crisp and tantallizing, on what I gather are all Bley compositions. Lack of drums gives it a chamber effect, for better and worse, not that it wouldn't be perfectly suitable, to cite an early Bley title, for dinner music. B+(***) [dl]

Stephan Crump/Mary Halvorson: Secret Keeper: Super 8 (2011 [2013], Intakt): Bass-guitar interaction, something Crump has had remarkable success at (although more often in his Rosetta Trio than as a duo); of course, Halvorson is less likely to follow his lead, and more likely to do something unexpected on her own. B+(**)

Sunna Gunnlaugs: Distilled (2013, Sunny Sky): Pianist from Iceland, with Þorgrímur Jónsson (bass) and Scott McLemore (drums). Nice, even-handed piano trio. B+(*)

Mary Halvorson Quintet: Bending Bridges (2011 [2012], Firehouse 12): Guitarist, sometimes brilliant, flanked by Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet) and Jon Irabagon (alto sax) -- two horns that can burn down the house although they hold back here, doing little more than reiterating tricky lines laid down on the guitar. B+(**)

Mary Halvorson Septet: Illusionary Sea (2012 [2013], Firehouse 12): Adds two lower-pitched horns to last year's Quintet -- Jacob Garchik's trombone and Ingrid Laubrock's tenor sax -- with the net effect that she's writing more leads for the horns rather than just letting them tag along after his guitar. And when her guitar does break loose she can really shine -- so why rein it all in just to spotlight your clever postbop composition? And to think, this started off looking like the year Jon Irabagon could do no wrong. Even John Hébert has his nose stuck so deep in the charts he can't save the day. B+(**)

Klaus Paier/Asja Valcic: Silk Road (2013, ACT): Duets, accordion player from Austria, also plays bandoneon when he wants to shift the model from polka to tango, and cellist from Croatia, who must have logged a lot of classical music before she reoriented toward jazz. B+(*)

William Parker Quartet: Live at Yoshi's 2006 (2006 [2013], AUM Fidelity): First two of eight CDs in the box set Wood Flute Songs: Anthology/Live 2006-2012, all built around the superb quartet bassist Parker assembled for his 2000 album O'Neal's Porch: Lewis Barnes (trumpet), Rob Brown (alto sax), and Hamid Drake (drums), the bassist also credited with "double reeds." First disc starts off with the weepy 25:12 opener, "Tears for the Children of Rwanda." After a long intro, the horns come out to play, and they banish any thoughts of wood flutes, even on "Wood Flute Song." B+(***)

William Parker Quartet: Live in Houston 2007 (2006-07 [2013], AUM Fidelity, 2CD): The bassist's credit includes "double reeds" and shakuhachi" -- probably the secret ingredient to the exotic vamp of "Red Desert; more song titles although they merge together like inspired long improv, and the flow benefits from two songs with "Groove" in the title; only problem, if that's the word, is when the flow breaks down for a spot of virtuoso bass (or some of that wood flute); includes two tracks evidently left over from Yoshi's. B+(***)

William Parker/Raining on the Moon: Friday Afternoon (2012 [2013], AUM Fidelity): Group named for one of Parker's finest albums (2002), with pianist Eri Yamamoto supplementing the Lewis Barnes-Rob Brown two-horn quartet, and Leena Conquest's working her way through the difficult terrain to sing; she's remarkable in ways that remind one of Betty Carter although she makes it look easier; and by the way, it's time we point out again what a fantastic drummer Hamid Drake is. A-

William Parker/In Order to Survive: Kalaparusha on the Edge of the Horizon (2012 [2013], AUM Fidelity): CD 8 of the box set, minus two outtakes from Corn Meal Moon considered a bonus with the box set. In Order to Survive was a Parker group from the mid-1990s: the Quartet (Lewis Barnes on trumpet, Rob Brown on alto sax, Hamid Drake on drums) plus Cooper-Moore on piano. Live set from the 2012 Vision Festival. If Rob Brown did all that high shit on alto I'm doubly impressed, although that might reinforce the notion that soprano players just don't have the dexterity. And the pianist is just amazing: sets like this make you nominate Cooper-Moore for the most underrated pianist of the last few decades. A-

Pink Martini: Get Happy (2013, Heinz): Portland, Oregon's multilingual lounge band jumps all over the map, opening with "Ich Dich Liebe," followed by "Quizás, Quizás, Quizá," and pretty soon they're into "Je Ne T'aime Plus" and "Pâná Când Nu Te Iubeam" and "Üsküdar'a Gider Iken" and "Zundoko-Bushi" before they segué into Irving Berlin from Anna McGarrigle and close with "Get Happy/Happy Days/Smile" with a brief Scott Joplin interlude. If that sounds like your kind of album, it probably is. Me, I'm always happy to hear China Forbes sing anything, but I'm less sure about the blokes who slip in here and there, like Rufus Wainwright. B+(***)

Gregory Porter: Liquid Spirit (2013, Blue Note): Jazz musicians are the world's virtuosos on every instrument, but jazz vocalists, especially male, are far from world class, trying to make up for various shortcomings with idiosyncratic affects. Beats me why so many critics think Porter has moved to the fore of their pack, but I could say the same about any of the anointed ones, from Jon Hendricks to Kurt Elling to Jamie Cullum. And now that Porter's writing more of his own songs he has fewer good ones, although his choice of covers may be help obscure that fact. B-

Venissa Santi: Big Stuff: Afro Cuban Holiday (2013, Sunnyside): Jazz singer, raised in Ithaca, NY; grandfather a composer in Cuba, explaining her interest in Cuban musical forms. Holiday is Billie, whose songbook is recast in Afro-Cuban forms -- e.g., "Strange Fruit" is a bolero, "I Cover the Water Front" a guaguanco. B+(*)

São Paulo Underground: Beija Flors Velho E Sujo (2012 [2013], Cuneiform): Fourth group release, a sister city analog to the various Chicago Underground outfits, the common denominator cornet player (and electronics dabbler) Rob Mazurek, adding Guilherme Granado on keyboards and Mauricio Takara on percussion, with everyone fiddling with electronics. The cornet is striking, but beyond that it's hard to find a rhythmic thread or much coherency in the sound jumble. B+(*) [dl]

Sons of Kemet: Burn (2013, Naim): English jazz quartet, two of them drummers which among other things means they can keep a beat going and improv on it, the other two horn players, with sax-and-clarinet player Shabaka Hutchings, born in England but raised in Barbados, leading, and tuba player Oren Marshall holding down the bottom. The upbeat stuff is uproarious, the slow stuff -- including an overly reverential "Rivers of Babylon" -- sly and subtle, but less fun. B+(***)

The Thing: Boot! (2013, The Thing Records): Norwegian avant-sax trio -- Mats Gustafsson, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, Paal Nilssen-Love -- presumably named for the horror film, a nod toward pop culture that occasionally they would reiterate by running an alt-rock tune through their machinery, but the two covers this time come from Coltrane and Ellington, a bit of sophistication the saxman beats to a bloody pulp. B+(*)

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