Jazz Prospecting: December 2013

The Ambush Party: Circus (2011 [2013], De Platenbakkerij): Dutch avant-garde quartet: Natalia Sued (tenor sax, clarinet), Oscar Jan Hoagland (piano), Harald Austbř (cello), Marcus Baggiani (drums). Second album, as far as I can tell, recorded live at Moers Festival in Germany. The broken improv reaches a fine pitch in "The Tiger Is Loose" but only after a lot of ambling, with a bit of opera vocal to come. I don't know how many jazz albums refer to the circus, but a high percentage of them seem to be Dutch. B+(**)

Autumn in Augusta: Songs My Mama Would Like (2013, self-released, EP): Lucy Smith sings five old songs over piano-bass-drums, one a melody from someone named Beethoven, two others from lesser known artists who sign their work as "Traditional." Just runs 18:42 but feels heartfelt, substantial. B+(***)

David Bach: Otherworld (2013, Integrity Music): Keyboard player -- Rhodes, synths, organ, even a Steinway Grand -- fifth album since 1995, backed by a large but often shuffled group, creating a sort of grand pastorale, all evanescent effects aorund the leader's melody, or more rarely a synth beat. B

Chris Biesterfeldt: Urban Mandolin (2013, self-released): Mandolin player, first album, a trio with bass and drums. Concept here is to retrace a broad swathe of jazz history, starting literally with "Bebop" and proceeding through Monk, Jimmy Smith, and fusion to "Some Skunk Funk," with side trips for Bach, the Beach Boys, and Frank Zappa, inserting mandolin everywhere, as if it belonged. B

Alan Blackman: The Coastal Suite (2011 [2013], self-released): Pianist, based in Baltimore, has a couple previous albums since 2000. This extended piece was commissioned by Chamber Music America's 2011 New Jazz Works, but it's scaled down to a small jazz combo with Rogerio Boccato providing extra percussion and Donny McCaslin on tenor and soprano sax. Eloquent material, especially with McCaslin up front. B+(**)

Jane Ira Bloom: Sixteen Sunsets (2013 [2014], Outline): Soprano saxophonist, one of the few specialists, with more than a dozen albums since 1980. Quartet with piano (Dominic Fallacaro), bass (Cameron Brown), and drums (Matt Wilson). Intent seems to be picturesque, and in that succeeds admirably -- a little static but very pretty. [Hype sheet has this as a 2014 release, but other sources say December 15, or earlier for Blue-ray Audio.] B+(**)

Daniel Carter/Daniel Levin/Satoshi Takeishi/Devin Brahja Waldman: Say Hello to Anyone I Know (2013, Fast Speaking Music): Waldman plays alto sax, as does Carter but the elder player avoids harsh conflicts by also playing tenor, soprano, flute, clarinet, and trumpet. Levin plays cello, lifting him in the mix as compared to a bassist, and Takeishi percussion, not that he gives the band a beat to work with. B+(**)

Jason Paul Curtis: Love Holiday (2012, self-released): Singer, first album, calls his piano trio (Ray Mabalot is the pianist) Swinglab (10 cuts), and his big band Swing Machine (2 cuts). Wrote 5 (of 12) songs here, the holiday themes discreet enough I didn't realize what I was getting into until Santa Claus popped up. Also co-opts two Cole Porter songs, winter (if not holiday) fare: "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" and "In the Still of the Night." B+(*)

Barry Danielian: Metaphorically Speaking (2013, Tariqah): "Our enemies are resourceful. They never stop thinking of new ways to harm the American people . . . and neither do we." Quoted here as spoken by George W. Bush, who did more damage, both here and abroad, than Osama bin Laden ever imagined, and as the quote suggests did it as much by accident as by intent. Glad to see someone hasn't forgotten that. Trumpet-led synth funk, not far removed from disco, which I don't consider a dis but does remind me that we've been there, done that. B+(*)

Kris Davis: Massive Threads (2012 [2013], Thirsty Ear): One of the most impressive pianists to emerge in the last decade, even if the more obvious reason why her Quartet albums were so successful was saxophonist Tony Malaby. Second solo album, a mix of loud and quiet exercises, each impressive in its own way. B+(***) [advance]

Kaja Draksler: The Lives of Many Others (2013, Clean Feed): Pianist, b. 1987 in Slovenia, shortly before the breakup of Yugoslavia, currently based in Amsterdam. Plays in European Movement Jazz Orchestra, leads Kaja Draksler Acropolis Quintet. This is solo, has some dramatic passages but mostly sneaks up on you. B+(**)

Ayman Fanous/Jason Kao Hwang: Zilzal (2011 [2013], Innova): Fanous plays guitar (6 tracks) and bouzouki (3). He was born in Cairo, Egypt; grew up in the US, cut an album with cellist Tomas Ulrich. Hwang is one of the best known violinists in jazz, playing viola here on 4 (of 9) tracks -- either way the dominant instrument here. B+(***)

Jörg Fischer: Spring Spleen and Twelve Other Pieces (2012, Gligg): Drummer, from Germany, plays in Lurk Lab and has a couple other albums, including a duo with Peter Brötzmann. This one is solo percussion, the first couple pieces thoroughly enjoyable, varies less after that. B+(**)

Jörg Fischer/Matthias Schubert/Uli Böttcher: Lurk Lab (2012, Gligg): Avant sax trio, listed in front cover order: drums, tenor sax, live electronics. All joint credits, so figure improv. Böttcher seems more like a second drummer than a surrogate bassist, but that's probably an oversimplification -- he also throws in some whistles and whizzes, and at full fury the flurry can be pretty amazing. A-

Nnenna Freelon/John Brown Big Band: Christmas (2012 [2013], Brown Boulevard): Singer, has more than a dozen albums since 1992 including tributes to Stevie Wonder and Billie Holiday. Brown plays bass, leads a swing-oriented big band, and joins in on one vocal. Many of the obvious Xmas tunes get wrapped up in two quick medleys, leaving room for "Baby, It's Cold Outside." Nothing wrong with this if you want something a little more, uh, contemporary than Ella Fitzgerald, but it still leaves me cold inside. B

Annette Genovese: Dream With Me (2013, self-released): Singer, wrote (or co-wrote) 3 of 8 songs; Discogs lists a 12-inch under her name from 1982; hype sheet says she "has performed and recorded in the New York Tri-State area for over 25 years and done 3 tours in the Middle East." She does a fine job here, with a strong opening version of "Seńor Blues," and she gets some nice guitar from Rob Reich. B+(*)

Haynes & Smoker: It Might Be Spring (2013, Alvas): Phil Haynes (drums) and Paul Smoker (trumpet), just the two of them so this lacks the propulsion of their recent quartet (or Notet) record, but adds a shot of intimacy -- especially since, as the title suggests, they're mostly doing warm and fuzzy standards, including "My Funny Valentine," "My Melancholy Baby," and "Summertime." A-

John Hébert Trio: Floodstage (2012 [2013], Clean Feed): Bassist-led piano trio, Hébert composing all but two pieces: one by pianist Benoît Delbecq and the trad gospel "Just a Closer Walk With Thee." Gerald Cleaver is the drummer. Delbecq opens on "analog synth and tronics" throwing the sound off a bit; otherwise a fine piano trio album. B+(***)

Marquis Hill: The Poet (2013, Skiptone Music): Trumpet player, age 26 (can we assume 1987?), based in Chicago, second album, backed by alto sax, vibes, piano, bass, drums, percussion, featuring spoken word (i.e., raps) by Mary E. Lawson and Keith Winford, poetry by Kevin Sparks. The vibes gives this a certain bubbliness, and the closing rap works for me. B+(**)

Brad Hoyt: Far Away From Everyday (2013, Harp Guitar Music): This seems to be a showcase for harp guitar, which is a guitar with an extra set of strings to one side spread out like a harp, although there seem to be a wide range of design. Hoyt's previously recorded as part of the Harp Guitar Collective, and he has various of his cohort here, as well as a lot of strings, flutes, etc. Does make for fairly lush instrumentals, of a new agey sort. B

Anna Kaluza/Artur Majewski/Rafal Mazur/Kuba Suchar: Tone Hunting (2012 [2013], Clean Feed): Alto sax, trumpet/cornet, acoustic bass guitar, drums/kalimba. Kaluza is German, from Köln, has a couple previous albums. The others are probably Polish -- I've run across Mazur and Majewski before. Group improvs, no titles (unless you count "Track 1," etc.), no clash, just even-tempered exploration. The kalimba is a nice touch. A-

Wouter Kellerman: Mzansi (2013, self-released): South African flute player, b. 1961; Wikipedia article says more about his philanthropy than his music, although it doesn't omit opening for Johnny Clegg's 2009 tour, so maybe there isn't that much to write about. Does look like he has a couple previous albums. This one is MOR South African pop, pretty pleasant unless you're hung up about flutes. B

Peter Kerlin Octet: Salamander (2013, Innova): Bassist, first album, lists eleven musicians here, so presumably not all play not all of the time. Nor does Octet match up with any previous configuration: no horns here, but the compositions are scored for two vibraphones, two basses, organ, drums, percussion, and viola. (The excess on the musician list comes from three bass and three viola credits.) Dense pieces with a little sparkle, moving surely from the bottom. B+(***)

Mark Lettieri: Future Fun (2013, Markus Justinius Music): Guitarist, plays in a "fusion-influenced jam band" called Snarky Puppy, second album under his own name. Can't read the credits, but I only hear bass and drums under the guitar, which nods toward Hendrix with occasional John Scofield licks. Can't read the times either, but strikes me as short, like under 30 minutes. B+(*)

Mike Longo and the New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble: Live From New York (2013, CAP): Pianist, b. 1939, played with Dizzy Gillespie 1966-73, has twenty-some albums since 1972, this one leading a full big band with Ira Hawkins singing several songs in the middle of the set. He's a throwback to old crooners and isn't helped by songs like "I'm Old Fashioned" and "Muddy Water." The band, however, is sharp and detailed, especially the trombones. B+(**)

Lurk Lab: Live at Shelter Sounds (2012 [2013], JazzHausMusik): Matthias Schubert (tenor sax), Uli Böttcher (live electronics), Jörg Fischer (drums). Three live improv pieces, two topping 20 minutes. Similar to what they came up with in the lab, but the sound is a bit more distant, and the electronics can come unplugged. B+(***)

Earl McIntyre: Brass Carnival & Tribute (2010 [2013], self-released): Trombonist, often bass trombone, sometimes tuba: first album under his name but he's been around for ages, playing in the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, Mingus Big Band, George Gruntz Concert Band, Howard Johnson's Gravity, Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy. Lots of brass here, bottom-heavy with both Johnson and Bob Stewart on tuba, sometimes McIntyre too, but no reeds, and the rhythm section is just Vinnie Johnson on drums and Warren Smith on vibes and tambourine. Two Renée Manning vocals aren't high points, but I doubt they were aiming for high. B+(*)

New York Art Quartet: Call It Art (1964-65 [2013], Triple Point, 5LP): Extravagant packaging, with the 5 LPs each in its own jacket, packed alongside a 156-page clothbound book, both enclosed in a very handsome plywood box. The group, with Roswell Rudd on trombone and John Tchicai on alto sax, was more at home in Copenhagen than in New York. They cut the one album they're known for on ESP-Disk, another for Fontana in England, but other recordings have leaked out over the years -- notably Old Stuff, released by Cuneiform in 2010, and now this stack of "previously uncirculated" vinyl. Hard for me to evaluate -- among other things I'm just not accustomed to evaluating things in 15-20 minute chunks anymore -- but everything I play has its fascinating points. Retails at $340 (plus shipping), which I regard as insane. But it is quite a piece of product, and presumably the market knows best. A-

Pascal Niggenkemper Vision7: Lucky Prime (2012 [2013], Clean Feed): German bassist, based in New York, I first noticed him in HNH (with Joe Hertenstein and Thomas Heberer), but he has a couple of trio records with Robin Verheyen (sax) and Tyshawn Sorey (drums), and now this expansive septet. Emilie Lesbros wrote lyrics to most pieces, sings, and directs traffic, which can get chaotic -- Frank Gratkowski (bass clarinet, alto sax), Eve Risser (piano), Frantz Loriot (viola), Els Vandeweyer (vibes, marimba), and Christian Lillinger (drums): combinations that are inherently risky but succeed more often than not. B+(***)

William Parker Orchestra: Essence of Ellington: Live in Milano (2012, AUM Fidelity, 2CD): Big band, only two deep at trumpet and trombone but six saxes including Kidd Jordan, fęted as "special guest" although half the orchestra are more famous (or should be), especially the rhythm section: Dave Burrell, Parker, and Hamid Drake. This mixes Ellington standards with originals where Parker seeks what he calls "essences" -- a license to quote and maul and occasionally find some sort of synthesis. When the band eventually converges on a melody, Ernie Odoom sings familiar lyrics or, in "The Essence of Ellington," totally new ones. Messy, but also chock full of wonderful passages. Surely Duke would agree: beyond category. A-

William Parker: Wood Flute Songs: Anthology/Live 2006-2012 (2006-12 [2013], AUM Fidelity, 8CD): I previously wrote up Rhapsody Streamnotes on four digital releases -- at least they showed up on Rhapsody -- comprising six CDs here, so in my current end-of-year rush I focused on the other two discs: a septet live at the Vision Festival in 2009 with Billy Bang, Bobby Bradford, and James Spaulding joining Parker's stellar Quartet (Lewis Barnes, Rob Brown, and Hamid Drake -- they've been together since the extraordinary O'Neal's Porch in 2000); and a big band (William Parker Creation Ensemble) live shot at AMR Jazz Festival in Geneva in 2011. Both discs zing, as does, really, the rest of the box. The two early live sets weren't as consistent as I'd like (cf. 2005's Sound Unity), but their top spots are rarely equalled, and the last two discs -- an expansion of the group that cut Raining on the Moon and a revival of In Order to Survive with an outstanding performance by Cooper-Moore on piano -- just raise the bar. Music at this level deserves to go on and on and on. A-

Mary Ann Redmond/Paul Langosch/Jay Cooley: Compared to What (2013, self-released): Singer, from Virginia, based in DC area; fifth album since 1997, first with cover credits for producer-bassist Langosch and arranger-keyboardist Cooley, but the band is deeper, with Don Mattacks (drums), Dan Hovey (guitar), and Bruce Swaim (tenor sax). Two originals, ten standards counting rock-era singer-songwriters Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, and Lennon-McCartney. As usual, the songs make the singer, and songs like "I Got It Bad" and "Come Rain or Come Shine" are standards for good reason. B+(*)

Sonya Robinson: Whistle (2013, FLV): Violinist, has a couple previous albums. Can't find or read the credits, but the violin makes for a reassuring lead instrument, the horns adding some lustre. Conspicuous cover: "The World Is a Ghetto." B+(*)

Ted Rosenthal Trio: Wonderland (2013, Playscape): Pianist, fourteenth album since 1989, one of the 40-50 mainstream masters with a Maybeck Recital Hall Series album. I was aware of the name but hadn't listened to him until Out of This World turned out to be my favorite piano trio album of 2011. This is his Xmas music album, and he quotes the overly familiar refrains often enough to remind you of the fact, it's also a prime example of how to jazz up such material. B+(*)

The Ali Ryerson Jazz Flute Big Band: Game Changer (2013, Capri): Nineteen flute players counting the "guest soloists" (Holly Hofmann, Hubert Laws, and Nestor Torres), the only other names I recognize belong to Ryerson and Jamie Baum, backed by piano-bass-drums (Mark Levine, Rufus Reid, Akira Tana), running through ten famous jazz standards -- none of which I recognized while listening to this, and not because the interpretations were radical. If anything, so featureless I'm not sure I would have noticed they were playing flutes had I not been already aware. B-

Angelica Sanchez/Wadada Leo Smith: Twine Forest (2013, Clean Feed): Piano-trumpet duets, the songs composed by the pianist, who makes a strong impression when leading then falls to the side when the trumpet takes over. He's impressive too, and when the pair connect they can blow you away. Then they back off leaving you to wonder what's going on, before they attack again. B+(***)

Elliott Sharp Aggregat: Quintet (2013, Clean Feed): I think of him as a guitarist but I'm barely familiar with the many dozens of albums he's released since 1979. But he played tenor and soprano sax as well as guitar on his 2012 trio album Aggregat, and here he ditches the guitar in favor of clarinet, while adding two more horns -- Nate Wooley on trumpet and Terry L. Green on trombone -- to get to a quintet. B+(**)

Sarah Silverman: Sarah (2013, self-released): Cover just says Sarah (and in small print "featuring Bruce Barth"), downplaying her last name to avoid confusion/competition with the comedian. She plays piano on one song, otherwise deferring to Barth. She wrote two (on one adding lyrics to a Grieg melody), but mostly does standards, medleying "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and "I Get Along Without You Very Well." B

Suzanna Smith: Halfway Between Heaven and Love (2012 [2013], Ink Pen): Singer, based in Oakland, first record, most songs originals co-written with pianist Michael Coleman and backed by a fairly deep band. B+(*)

The Paul Smoker Notet: Landings (2012 [2013], Alvas): Quartet, actually: the leader on trumpet, Steve Salerno on guitar, Drew Gress on bass, and Phil Haynes on drums. Smoker, b. 1941 in Indiana, has a dozen albums (Wikipedia) or fifteen (AMG) or more (two recent ones are in neither list), although I had only heard one until recently. But the guitar sets the trumpet remarkably well, and Smoker is always up to something interesting. A-

Soar Trio: Emergency Management Heist (2013, Edgetone): Sax-piano-bass trio, the best known member pianist Thollem McDonas, with 23 albums in the past 6 years (one of which I've heard and, I might add, liked). The others are Skeeter C.R. Shelton on alto sax and Joel Peterson on bass. Testy, free-ranging music, doesn't seem to be excessively slowed down by the lack of a drummer. B+(***)

Spinifex: Hipsters Gone Ballistic (2013, Trytone): Dutch group, named for some kind of beach grass; seems like fusion at first, built around Jasper Stadhouders' guitar, but the horn players -- Gijs Levelt on trumpet, Tobias Klein on alto sax -- have their own minds, and the rhythm section doesn't guarantee regular time, or any other. Doesn't work often enough, but good for some cheap thrills. B+(*)

Lizzie Thomas: Easy to Love (2013, self-released): Standards singer, based in New York, second album, with Xavier Davis arranging and playing piano, and Ron Affif on guitar (7 of 10 cuts); uses trumpet (Antoine Drye), sometimes clarinet and/or trombone (Frank Lacy) but no sax. Nails nearly every song, even the obligatory Jobim ("One Note Samba"). B+(**)

Two Al's: And the Cowgirls Kept On Dancing (2013, Brokken): One Albert and one Alan, but I guess that works. Albert van Veenendaal has recorded a number of remarkable albums on prepared piano -- Predictable Point of Impact and Minimal Damage are two I particularly like. Alan Purves is credited with "percussion, squeaky toys, brim bram, little instruments" -- in other words, exogenous effects as unpredictable as the tricks wired into the piano. Works much more often than not. A-

Corrie Van Binsbergen: Self Portrait in Pale Blue (2013, Brokken): Dutch guitarist, b. 1957. I've only heard a couple of his records, and suspect this meditative solo effort is an outlier. The pieces are numbered, probably improv but cautiously picked out, the sort of thing new age might be without the sedatives. B+(**)

Volcán: Volcán (2013, 5Pasion): Pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba is the main talent hiding behind this eponymous group album -- wrote three (of eight songs), the others standards including "Salt Peanuts" from his mentor. The others are Jose Armando Gola (electric bass), Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez (drums), and Giovanni "Mańenguito" Hidalgo (congas, percussion), with Maridalia Hernandez singing one of two Joăo Bosco tunes. B+(***)

Cory Wright Outfit: Apples + Oranges (2012 [2013], Singlespeed Music): Tenor saxophonist, studied at Oberlin and USC, based in Bay Area; second album, plus side credits with Vinny Golia, Anthony Braxton, Yusef Lateef/Adam Rudolph, Industrial Jazz Group. Quintet, with Evan Francis on alto sax, Rob Ewing on trombone, Lisa Mezzacappa on bass, and Jordan Glenn on drums -- the trombone a nice touch. B+(**)

Xiu Xiu: Nina (2013, Graveface): Jamie Stewart, who has done business as Xiu Xiu to the tune of more than a dozen post-rock albums since 2002, offers his "tribute" to Nina Simone. Good news here is the band, who offer all the jazz cred you'd ever want: Tony Malaby (tenor sax), Tim Berne (alto/baritone sax), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Andrea Parkins (accordion, electronics, piano, hang), and Ches Smith (drums). On the other hand, there's the guy with the creepy "vox" -- only reminds you of Simone at her most overwrought, although this coming is more farce than tragedy. B+(*)

From Rhapsody Streamnotes

Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet: Ciudad de Los Reyes (2012 [2013], Saponegro): Trumpet player, born in Lima, teaches at NYU, formed this sextet with three percussionists, bass, and guitar in 2005; a nice balance of instruments with just enough splash from the horn. B+(***)

Ralph Alessi & Fred Hersch: Only Many (2011-12 [2013], CAM Jazz): Trumpet and piano duets, no surprise that they should come off a bit slow no one keeping time, but they don't mesh all that well either, just so many thoughtful little figure bouncing around. B

Bobby Avey: Be Not So Long to Speak (2011 [2013], Minsi Ridge): Pianist, won a Monk award, plays in Dave Liebman's group, as a couple albums, goes for a solo this time. One thing he does a lot is flutter his off hand picking up a lot of movement on the cheap -- I'm not sure whether I like the effect, but this grows more impressive toward the end. B+(**)

Samuel Blaser Consort in Motion: A Mirror to Machaut (2013, Songlines): Guillaume de Machaut was a medieval French poet and composer (1300-1377), the source of three songs here, inspiration for the rest. Trombonist, leading a formidable group -- Joachim Badenhorst (tenor sax, bass clarinet, clarinet), Russ Lossing (piano, keybs), Drew Gress (bass), Gerry Hemingway (drums) -- but they mostly stay close to the themes, understated with a gentle flow that could become seductive. B+(**)

Anthony Braxton: Echo Echo Mirror House (2011 [2013], Victo): Not infrequently when I'm listening to some hideous cacophony my wife asks me if I'm playing Anthony Braxton, and for once she'd be right. Septet with many of his star students -- Taylor Ho Bynum, Mary Halvorson, Jay Rozen, Jessica Pavone, Carl Testa, Aaron Siegel; all, by the way, also credited with electronics -- doing one piece (if you're counting, "Composition No. 347") for more than an hour. Not without its glorious moments, but this does wear and tear. B+(*)

Peter Brötzmann/Steve Noble: I Am Here Where Are You (2013, Trost): Wild and wooly sax-drums duo. Unfortunately, Rhapsody only has two of five cuts (23:55 of 53:22), but with these guys that's enough to get the idea, and possibly already more than you can handle. But I'd be game to hear more, especially that tarogato. B+(*)

Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet & 7-tette: Navigation (The Complete Firehouse 12 Recordings) (2012 [2013], Firehouse 12, 4CD): At least this would have been 4CD in a normal world: the $49.99 physical package gives you 2LP + 2CD, or you can buy the LP or CD halves separate, but you can't get the LP pieces on CD or vice versa. What you can do is buy a 4-track digital download, the tracks ranging between 43:25 and 54:10. The leader plays cornet, his sextet including Jim Hobbs (alto sax), Bill Lowe (bass trombone, tuba), Mary Halvorson (electric guitar), Ken Filiano (acoustic bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums, vibes); and for the two septet tracks they double down on drums-vibes, adding Chad Taylor. Attractive group, Halvorson providing the backbone and Lowe giving it some heft, but neither Bynum nor Hobbs use their advantages to step up, leaving an equitable group dynamic -- all the more even as the extended pieces keep recirculating. B+(***)

Terri Lyne Carrington: Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue (2013, Concord): Drummer, I moved her into my "jazz-pop" file a while back after a dreadful album called More to Say. She still wants to do pop things, as the rap narration that pops up here and there on this meditation on the 1962 Ellington-Mingus-Roach trio shows, but as the words make clear, she now sees all that money pop stars lust after as a mixed blessing if not a downright curse. Adds some horns here and there, but pianist Gerald Clayton is the mainstay, with Christian McBride doing his best Mingus impersonation. B+(*)

Club D'Elf: Fire in the Brain (Live at Berklee) (2012 [2013], BIRN Cooperative): Boston "Moroccan-drenched dub-jazz ensemble"; led by bassist Mike Rivard, they've been active since the late 1990s, with Now I Understand -- a 2006 compilation from many live gigs with a revolving cast of dozens -- a recommended introduction. Beyond that they have a large pile of live records, this one long on guitar groove but it's hardly that simple. B+(**)

Tomasz Dabrowski/Tyshawn Sorey Duo: Steps (2013, ForTune): Trumpet-drums duets, spare as you'd expect although the Polish trumpeter has a bright sound -- started to say "a lot of polish on his brass" -- and the American drummer is fine as always. B+(**)

Decoy With Joe McPhee: Spontaneous Combustion (2011 [2013], Otoroku): English piano trio with a couple twists: John Edwards (bass) and Steve Noble (drums) play more free jazz than not, and Alexander Hawkins plays organ here (piano elsewhere) -- he's generally struck me as an EST-type pianist although he's clearly got more tricks than that; on his second album with the trio, the guest plays pocket trumpet and alto sax and tilts this limited edition vinyl decisively toward freedom, not to mention chaos. B+(**)

Roberta Donnay & the Prohibition Mob Band: A Little Sugar (2011 [2012], Motéma): Singer, has a couple previous albums before this flapper revival act, where she's as likely to sing Ida Cox as Irving Berlin. Band includes tuba but also bass. B+(*)

Dr. Kay & His Interstellar Tone Scientists: The Search for True Happiness (2013, Bangles): Norwegian band, comparisons to Sun Ra's Arkestra are greatly exaggerated but not altogether wrong; the real problem is narrator Arthur Kay Piene and his wide-eyed search for answers to his trivial metaphysical questions, most having to do with true happiness. B-

Gilad Edelman: My Groove, Your Move (2011 [2013], Sharp Nine): Alto saxophonist, first album, only bio detail that I know is that he's the son of label owner/producer Marc Edelman, which isn't a bad deal: no one gets a sharper sound out of this sort of retro-bop. One original, one by pianist David Hazeltine, the rest standards more-or-less -- title cut comes from Hank Mobley. Joe Magnarelli adds a bit of trumpet. B+(**)

Marty Ehrlich Large Ensemble: A Trumpet in the Morning (2012 [2013], New World): Four older compositions, one as far back as 1992, run between 11:07 and 23:21 -- the latter the title piece, with a poem by Arthur Brown (1948-82) narrated by J.D. Parran -- and are bracketed by short "Prelude" and "Postlude" pieces. The Large Ensemble is amply stocked with stars -- there are so many they are staggered into shifts, the piano chair, for instance, alternating between James Weidman and Uri Caine. Rich details, strong solos. A-

Lorraine Feather: Attachments (2012-13 [2013], Jazzed Media): Jazz singer, daughter of legendary jazz critic and impressario Leonard Feather, which among other advantages means as a little girl she knew Billie Holiday. She co-wrote most of these pieces (most likely the lyrics), and they have an offhanded '50s vibe -- sometimes reminds me of Donald Fagen at his most jazz-nostalgic -- backed most notably by Charie Bisharat's violin over various combos of piano and guitar, bass and drums. B+(*)

Fire! Orchestra: Exit (2012 [2013], Rune Grammofon): A Mats Gustafsson trio, similar to the Thing but different bass (Johan Berthling, also plays guitar and organ) and drums, beefed up here with an additional 24 musicians. One expects the eleven horns to thrash, but it's less pleasing when the vocalists to it (or for that matter, much of anything). B

Robert Glasper Experiment: Black Radio 2 (2013, Blue Note): With featured guests on every cut, this is effectively a nu soul mixtape, the main difference being that the core group's keyb-bass-drum mix gives it all a consistent light touch, like they're aiming for the background; best when they hit it, because when you stop and notice something it's unlikely to turn out to be worth the trouble. B

Mats Gustafsson/Thurston Moore: Vi Är Alla Guds Slavar (2012 [2013], Otoroku): The ex-Sonic Youth guitarist has a large stack of obscure side projects, including jousts with Gustafsson's pop-horror group, the Thing. This one is relatively even tempered, the saxophonist hemmed in by his choice of soprano, as well as his focus on electronics. The guitar modulates what could be described as minimalism if only it were better behaved. B+(*)

Scott Hamilton: Swedish Ballads . . . & More (2013, Charleston Square): Six songs, two with Stockholm in the title, tenor sax on top of Jan Lundgren's piano trio; lovely but doesn't do much. B+(**)

Bruno Heinen Sextet: Karlheinz Stockhausen: Tierkreis (2013, Babel): Don't know much about the 1974-75 composition that this is based on, but this feels like a nicely varied set of jazz pieces, some playfully cast off Heinen's piano, others leaning more on the three horns (trumpet, tenor sax, bass clarinet) that lead the sextet. B+(***)

Gilad Hekselman: This Just In (2011-12 [2013], Jazz Village): Israeli-born guitarist, based in New York, fourth album, quartet including tenor saxophonist Mark Turner -- not much of a factor here, partly because the guitarist is getting bolder. B+(**)

François Houle & Hĺvard Wiik: Aves (2011 [2013], Songlines): Clarinet and piano duets. I'm often impressed by Wiik's fluidity, perhaps because he often plays in groups where you'd expect a more percussive pianist. His speed puts him in command here, then they slow it down and meander a long stretch. B+(*)

Hunger Pangs: Meet Meat (2013, For Tune): Avant jazz trio, Tomasz Dabrowski on trumpet, Marek Kadziela on guitar, and Kasper Tom Christiansen on drums -- the guitarist essential in that he can swing between support and lead, and when he takes charge he can be scorching. But he doesn't dominate as completely as at first, so an uncertain balance settles in. A-

Abdullah Ibrahim: Mukashi (2013, Intuition): Title is Japanese, but the venerable South African pianist is in his own world, saddened perhaps after his wife's death or just seeking some kind of peace, which leads him to a two-cello quartet and way too much flute, although Cleve Guyton's sax is eloquent and the piano has memorable passages. B+(**)

Hans Koch-Martin Schütz-Fredy Studer and Shelley Hirsch: Walking and Stumbling Through Your Sleep (2011 [2013], Intakt): I find Hirsch's rambling avant raps almost irresistible, and this starts with the Swiss avant trio -- bass clarinet, cello, drums, respectively -- in fine form, but for some reason degenerates into abstract noise, shady metal, and histrionics. B+(*)

Oliver Lake Big Band: Wheels (2013, Passin' Thru): One of the all-time alto sax greats, a rank he probably deserved long ago but the last couple years -- and note that he'll be 70 next year -- he's really surrounded terrific in at least a half-dozen records (cf., especially, his ones with Trio 3). He sounds great here, too, but has a little more trouble dragging the rest of the big band around. B+(**)

Yusef Lateef/Roscoe Mitchell/Adam Rudolph/Douglas Ewart: Voice Prints (2008 [2013], Meta): Percussionist Rudolph is the main force here, but you can't blame him for deferring to his octogenarian saxophonists who decorate his beats with odd ease; Ewart too, his main instrument bass clarinet but he joins Lateef on wood flute and Rudolph on percussion, and probably has something to do with the title. B+(***)

Okkyung Lee: Ghil (2012 [2013], Ideologic Organ): Solo cello and, if my memory of Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music serves, amplifier feedback. Consider yourself warned. B+(*)

Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Liverevil (2013, Hot Cup, 2CD): Guitarist, group originally a quintet when he named it but they've picked up keyb player Matt Kanelos for this live double, where nearly everything runs past ten minutes, stomping and sliding with two saxophones (Jon Irabagon on the little ones, Bryan Murray on the big 'uns). The guitar leads are fresh and bold, and Irabagon is nothing short of sublime on "North Star." A-

René Marie: I Wanna Be Evil: With Love to Eartha Kitt (2013, Motéma): More to the point, "I'd Rather Be Burned as a Witch" ("than never burn at all"), but there's not enough deviltry in Kitt's songbook to carry an album, and Marie (and for that matter the band) looses the smolder on the slow ones. Just as well: I'd rather save "evil" for those who truly are, and are not just nasty, tasteless, or uncouth. B+(*)

Pedrito Martinez: The Pedrito Martinez Group (2013, Motéma): Percussionist, born in Cuba and based in New York, the group including a second percussionist (Jhair Sala, from Peru), electric bass (Alvaro Benavides, from Venezuela), and keybs (Araicne Trujillo, also from Cuba). I don't mind the radical rhythmic jumble so much as the vocals, which demand a level of ecstasy they're unable to deliver. B

Roscoe Mitchell/Tony Marsh/John Edwards: Improvisations (2012 [2013], Otoroku): Recorded in Berlin, Edwards on bass, Marsh on drums, the sort of guys an avant-garde legend would look to pick up for some dates in Europe -- in this case, Berlin; the four cuts are timed for album sides (16:11-17:29). The leader's saxes are a little squeaky, but that's his signature, and while I still prefer Mitchell's similar album on Wide Hive this doesn't fall far behind: he's pretty spry for 73. B+(***)

Marius Neset: Birds (2012 [2013], Edition): Norwegian saxophonist (soprano, tenor), enjoys some crossover appeal in the UK, which judging from the leap on the cover has more to do with showmanship than making concessions to pop taste -- indeed, the rhythms here can get tricky, but that alone doesn't suffice to make this interesting. B

Paris Washboard: Swinging Castle: Paris Washboard in Concert (2012 [2013], K&K Verlagsanstalt): French trad jazz group simplified into a quartet, with clarinet and trombone for horns, washboard for percussion, and pianist Louis Mazetier in the middle, perhaps explaining why so much of the repertoire focuses on Duke Ellington, James P. Johnson, Willie "The Lion" Smith, and Fats Waller. Of the few albums I've sampled, I thought 1996's Love for Sale was exemplary. But this one is a bit slow to get in gear. B+(**)

Mario Pavone Orange Double Tenor: Arc Suite T/Pi T/Po (2010, Playscape): Released on the bassist's 70th birthday, basically a sextet with Dave Ballou on trumpet/cornet and two tenor saxmen -- Tony Malaby and Jimmy Greene -- with Peter Madsen on piano and Gerald Cleaver on drums. Very fancy postbop, lots of whirling pieces, enough to unsettle at first, not that it might not turn beguiling. B+(***)

Mario Pavone: Arc Trio (2013, Playscape): Piano trio with Craig Taborn and Gerald Cleaver, the title a play on the bassist's similar 2008 piano trio, Trio Arc, with Paul Bley and Matt Wilson. Taborn's ECM trio with Cleaver and Thomas Morgan finished second in the Jazz Critics' Poll this year, so I have to wonder how many of those critics also heard this one -- to my ears both tougher and sharper, the obvious difference the bassist and his challenging pieces. A-

Pixel: Reminder (2011 [2013], Cuneiform): Norwegian two horn (trumpet and sax), pianoless jazz quartet, except that the leader is bassist Ellen Andrea Wang, and she also sings -- at which point the group's jazz ambitions fall away and they turn into a fairly ordinary post-rock outfit (which is to say unnecessarily dreary). B- [dl]

Pixel: We Are All Small Pixels (2013, Cuneiform): Second album, shows considerable improvement as a jazz band, both in the horn solos and in the versatility of the bass and drums. On the other hand, the best one can say about leader Ellen Andrea Wang's vocals is that there are fewer of them. B [dl]

Odean Pope: Odean's Three (2011 [2013], In + Out): Tenor saxophonist, grew up in Philadelphia, played with Jimmy McGriff in the 1960s, Max Roach in the 1970s, led a group aptly named Catalyst, is probably best known for his Saxophone Choir records, but nothing that fancy here, just a powerhouse trio with Lee Smith and Billy Hart, an hour of intense and inventive blowing. You got a problem with that? A-

Power of the Horns: Alaman (2013, ForTune): Polish big band led by trumpeter Piotr Damasiewicz, forgoes full sections -- just one trumpet, one trombone, three saxes -- because they play free, but they double up on bass and use three percussionists. Three pieces, the one dedicated to William Parker topping thirty minutes, the free for all often anchored to a beat, not that that holds anyone back. B+(***)

Quest: Circular Dreaming (2011 [2013], Enja): Quartet co-led by Richie Beirach (piano) and Dave Liebman (tenor and soprano sax), dates back to 1982 with six albums up to 1990, one live (2007) and this since. Front cover promises, "Quest plays the music of Miles' 60s," which turns out to mostly mean Wayne Shorter, the saxophonist Liebman briefly replaced in the 1970s. Very tasteful, and possibly the first time ever I find myself enjoying Liebman's soprano as much as his tenor. [Rhapsody only offers 6 of 9 cuts, omitting "Footprints," "Hand Jive," and "Paraphernalia."] B+(**)

Reut Regev's R*Time: Exploring the Vibe (2013, Enja): Trombone player, called her previous album This Is R Time and took that as her band name, even though the only repeat member is husband/drummer Igal Foni. Jean-Paul Bourelly's three vocals are big downs, but his guitar is the essential framework the funk bounces off of, not that the trombonist is content just to have a good time. B+(**)

Adam Rudolph/Go: Organic Orchestra: Sonic Mandala (2012 [2013], Meta): Percussionist, one of the first to make an avocation of collecting rhythms and rhythmic instruments from all around the world, and his albums often flirt with all that organic whatever mumbo jumbo, but they're also given to extended transfixing passages that somehow make it all seem worthwhile. Everything possibly including the kitchen sink goes into this, including at least six reed players doubling on bamboo flute, nearly a dozen strings, nearly as many percussionists, an oboe, a bassoon, and two guys named Haynes on cornet. B+(***)

Clotilde Rullaud: In Extremis (2011, Nota Bene): French jazz singer, second album, stitched together from bits by Piazzolla and Monk and Baden Powell and Sting not to mention Serge Gainsbrough; a bit on the dramatic side but the tension along the way is palpable. B+(*)

Wadada Leo Smith & TUMO: Occupy the World (2012 [2013], TUM, 2CD): Finnish group, acronym expands and translates to Really New Music Orchestra, with a wide spread of instruments -- brass section, not counting Smith, is one each of trumpet, trombone, French horn, tuba; only two saxes (Mikko Innanen and Fredrik Ljungkvist are names worth mentioning) plus flute (Juhani Aaltonen); a string quartet (two violins) plus two basses (John Lindberg is a guest star, Ulf Krokfors the regular), piano and guitar but also harp and accordion, the only real pile up the three drummers. Had trouble focusing on these long pieces -- the title cut, adding "for Life, Liberty and Justice," rumbles on for 33:29 -- but mostly noticed a lot of bass solos. On the other hand, I'm not sure my download is quite right. B+(*) [dl]

Aki Takase: My Ellington (2012 [2013], Intakt): Pianist, more than two dozens albums since 1982, at least three focused on Duke Ellington; solo, intimate, but doesn't push him very hard. B+(*)

Aki Takase: Plays Fats Waller in Berlin (2004 [2013], Jazzwerkstatt): Her second album on Waller -- the first was a year earlier in Hamburg with most of the same players and songs -- done live with a quintet happy to throw a wrench into the works: Thomas Heberer (trumpet), Rudi Mahall (bass clarinet), Eugene Chadbourne (banjo/guitar), and Paul Lovens (drums). Chadbourne also sings a couple, and the pianist's full-tilt stride is always fun. B+(***)

Tarbaby: Ballad of Sam Langford (2013, Hipnotic): Trio with Orrin Evans (piano), Eric Revis (bass), and Nasheet Waits (drums), has a previous record I like a lot (The End of Fear [2010]) and rumors of more in the works. This one, dedicated to a little known boxer from way back, adds horns: Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet) and Oliver Lake (alto sax). Some exceptional passages here, and not just with Lake, who continues his strong run of albums. B+(***)

Emilio Teubal: Música Para un Dragon Dormido (2013, Bju'ecords): Pianist, born in Spain of Argentinian parents; grew up in Mexico and Argentina, winding up in Brooklyn. Rhythm section built to rumble, something Sam Sadigursky's reeds can smooth over or ruffle up -- mostly the former. [Rhapsody only provides 4 (of 9) tracks.] B+(*)

David Weiss: Endangered Species: The Music of Wayne Shorter (2012 [2013], Motéma): Trumpet player, has a knack for arranging large groups -- the New Jazz Composers Octet has been the main beneficiary so far, but this 11-piece group is further proof. Shorter established himself as a formidable composer back with Blakey and Davis, so the arranger has lots to work with. B+(**)

Nate Wooley/C. Spencer Yeh/Audrey Chen/Todd Carter: NCAT (2008 [2013], Monotype): Trumpet, violin, cello, piano, respectively, or so say the credits, but this starts off with sounds, including screams, not easily attributable to any of those instruments, and continues to wallow in some kind of electronic feedback. Vinyl, five untitled tracks running 34:05. B-

Zevious: Passing Through the Wall (2013, Cuneiform): Guitar-bass-drums trio, experimental rock or just fusion, although the constant racing tempo and up-and-down riffing reminds me more of those soundtracks to video games, or maybe someone trying to play Spring Heel Jack on guitar-bass-drums. B [dl]

 November, 2013