Rhapsody Streamnotes: March 8, 2011

This batch marks the transition from 2010 to 2011. Early in the month I was still scrounging through year-end lists, picking out things I hadn't paid much attention to before. With Pazz & Jop done, I lost my interest in the few mass-approved records I hadn't gotten to and started searching out the obscurities on individual year-end lists of critics I respected. (Jason Gross turned out to be the most productive source: he keeps an especially long and idiosyncratic list.) However, I also started hitting more 2001 albums as they dropped. The bottom line for what follows is 17 2010 releases vs. 32 2011 albums. (One record goes back to 2008, so we have 50 in all.)

For whatever it's worth, I've started a 2011 metafile, catching review ratings as catch can -- certainly not very systematically. I've changed the technology around this year -- one plain data file that I can edit and mechanically sort, and a separate program file which decides how to select and present the data. I've been working on the data file for several weeks now. The program I just hacked together in an hour last night, pretty much copying the old format, but that's far from set in stone. No promises as to how dilligent I'll be in keeping it up. Some sources that metacritic follows tend to run slow, and I can't spend full time tracking them. I have a few other sources I like to follow, and will be adding more as I get around to them. But currently the mass of green print near the top shows that I've been using the file to identify things I should listen to. Also that I can't say that the consensus picks have not been very impressive to date.

These are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Rhapsody. They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on February 8. Past reviews and more information are available here.

Adele: 21 (2010 [2011], XL): Chart-topping British pop singer, b. 1988, second album, each titled for her age at the time. Has some soul to her voice, which ages it, but mostly she just belts songs out, hitting them hard and low and popping out a lot. Reminded me of an unworn Janis Joplin, not that there ever was one, nor that there should be. B-

Gregg Allman: Low Country Blues (2011, Rounder): The surviving Allman brother, has mostly kept the franchise going, but on the side cut three albums in the mid-1970s, two in 1986-88, one in 1997, and now this one. Readymade blues album, mostly old stuff from Sleepy John Estes to Muddy Waters to Elmore James to Otis Rush. Probably something he can keep doing into his 80s, if anyone cares. B+(*)

Allo Darlin': Allo Darlin' (2010, Fortuna Pop): UK group, lead singer Elizabeth Morris, from Australia. No idea where all the "twee" hype comes from, or what it is meant to mean. Songs are simple, straightforward, observant; they make their little points and don't worry too much about form, although there's enough of that. Couldn't find on Rhapsody, so got a download from the publicist; not quite sure what to do about that. B+(***) [download]

. . . And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead: Tao of the Dead (2011, Superball Music): Austin, TX group, AYWKUBTTOD to their friends -- even abbreviated and shorn of leading ellipsis, one of the worst rock group names I've ever run across. Eighth album since 1998, first one I've bothered with. On the hard rock side but not so burdened with heavy metals; fairly uneventful background noise. B

Natacha Atlas: Mounqaliba (2010, World Village): From Belgium, with roots in Palestine, Morocco and Egypt, some Jewish -- calls herself a "human Gaza Strip." Ninth album since 1995 -- Gedida in 1999 was well regarded. Sings in Arabic, French, English, with mideast syncopations coming and going, adding some spice to what otherwise might slip into maudlin chansonnette. More intriguing are the spoken word snippets, talking (in English) about economics and sustainability. B

The Baseball Project: Vol. 2: High and Inside (2011, Yep Roc): The principals are Steve Wynn, Scott McCaughey, Peter Buck, and Linda Pitmon -- they have a long list of band associations but Buck's REM is the only one that validates the supergroup label. But they can whip out melodies any time they find the words, and there's lots of baseball lore to draw on. Vol. 1's references to frozen ropes and dying quails were pretty esoteric -- the former is better known as a line drive, and the latter is a shallow pop-up that drops in front of an outfielder -- as is my favorite line here, the one that insists that 1870s infielder Bob Ferguson had the "greatest nickname of all time: Death to Flying Things." Still, with its toasting of Sal "the barber" Maglie and its lament for poor, dead Ray Chapman, this is almost a major league ploy. Too much Red Sox, of course, but Craig Finn steps in and provides the perfect antidote. A-

James Blake: James Blake (2011, Atlas): Electronica producer from London, UK, dropped three EPs in 2010 that collectively got a lot of attention -- The Bells Sketch, CMYK, and Klavierwerke -- setting up big hype for this full length debut. It would be easy to just dump all over this: morosely slow, tearful, pathos unseemly for anyone who's just, uh, 21, maybe 22. His bleak backgrounds have some tortured beauty to them; his vocals, though, are probably culpable for the torture. B

Bright Eyes: The People's Key (2011, Saddle Creek): Conor Oberst, popped up behind this pseudonym in 1998, is certainly talented and earnest, but I'm still sitting on two ungraded 2002-05 albums; never seem to quite know what to do with him. This starts and ends spoken with semi-deep thoughts or sci-fi babble, as the case may be. The songs flow easily, the words beyond me, but only "One for You, One for Me" rises to the point where the rhythm sweeps all before it. B+(*)

Hayes Carll: KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories) (2011, Lost Highway): Was smart, literate, and down home back on his second album, Little Rock, not that anyone noticed. Only on his third, Trouble in Mind, did heads turn, mostly because he got much wilder and woolier, maybe even more so here. What's missing are the great cosmic jokes as the song where he loses a lover to Jesus, vowing to kick his ass if he ever gets hold of Him. Stories here are more pedestrian, including a couple wrapped up in Afghanistan -- the title is a military acronym, "kiss my ass guys, you're on your own." A-

Carolina Chocolate Drops: Carolina Chocolate Drops/Luminescent Orchestrii (2011, Nonesuch, EP): Four tracks, 18:24, available on 10-inch vinyl as well as CD. The Luminescents add extra strings -- two fiddles as well as guitar and banjo -- and backing vocals, enough to move the trio past their cultivated old-timey primitivism into a more worldly space. A breakthrough, for sure, but suffers the curse of the EP: too short to sink in, or to fully develop its flavors; to counter that less is more suggests that they can't do more of this, which on the surface seems absurd. Of course, it's business that will tell whether this is a one-shot fluke or a taste of something more satisfying. And really, what else is an EP but business? B+(***)

Circa Survive: Blue Sky Noise (2010, Atlantic): Hard to categorize, sort of a lighter, softer arena metal band, not something that appeals to me but they managed to ingratiate themselves somewhat anyway. B

Cut Copy: Zonoscope (2011, Modular): Australian synth pop group, third album since 2004. Best cut by far is tail end of the 15:07 closer, "Sun God"; best thing about it: no vocals. B

The Decemberists: The King Is Dead (2011, Capitol): Portland, OR rock group, fifth studio album since 2002, second on major label. The band is named for a Russian revolt, in turn the subject of an unfinished Tolstoy novel. They are, in short, historically literate and conscious, wedded to a middle-Americana much like Titus Andronicus. But their fascination with history is wrapped up in blood and gore. I could stand this well enough until they started moralizing about it in "This Is Why We Fight." B

The Dirtbombs: Party Store (2011, In the Red): Detroit group, was expecting something more garage/punk, but despite guitar base these are mostly post-disco groove pieces, stripped down to bare metal and worn not quite till they squeal. B+(**)

John Doe and the Sadies: Country Club (2008 [2009], Yep Roc): Ex-X bassist backed by a countryish Canadian band that has made a habit of backing other singers because they don't really have one of their own. Some terrific old country songs here showing Doe's good taste and erudition, only one of which rises above mediocrity: a Merle Haggard rewrite called "Are the Good Times Really Over for Good"; plus three Sadies originals which show nothing. B-

Drive-By Truckers: Go-Go Boots (2009-10 [2011], ATO/Red): No ravers, not much muscle tone, suggests they think their lyrics are so strong the music can write itself. I'm not here to tell you they aren't, but as usual I'm slow on the uptake when it comes to words. But I find the low-key music pretty mesmerizing, and I'm not so slow that I think they have nothing to say. A-

T-Model Ford and GravelRoad: Taledragger (2011, Alive): Mississippi bluesman, James Lewis Carter Ford, knowing blues is an old-man's game cleverly waited until he was 72 to cut his first album. Eighth album, now 85, he's finally got the hang of it, sounding a lot like John Lee Hooker, only the bass line keeps whispering "spoonful" to me, and the guitar's got some nasty feedback to it. B+(***)

Gay for Johnny Depp: What Doesn't Kill You, Eventually Kills You (2011, Shinebox): New York hardcore group, loud, crude, vocals pitched high, "Suckcess" a rare stab at humor; maybe "Cum On Feel the Boize" where they at least bothered to steal an anthemic hook. B-

Gigi: Maintenant (2008 [2010], Tomlab): Vancouver group, or "music project" which seems to be the preferred nomenclature. Songwriter Nick Krgovich and producer Colin Stewart, various friends and hangers-on. Music is vintage girl group, except that the songs aren't obviously teen-centric or sexually stereotyped, the hooks are often clipped, and sometimes you wonder if they're trying to do girl group sans femmes. B+(**)

Gold Motel: Summer House (2010, Good as Gold): Chicago group, first album, lead singer Greta Morgan gives the record a bubbly, attractive pop sound on top of the jangle guitars. Better than a lot of last year's surf music. B+(*)

The Go! Team: Rolling Blackouts (2011, Memphis Industries): Brighton, UK group; third studio album since 2004. Strike me as teen pop, but loud, raucous; something teens might actually like, as opposed to our teen pop models, which actually are pre-teens prefer. Ends on an up note, very up. B+(**)

Patty Griffin: Downtown Church (2010, Credential): Folksinger, seventh album since 1996, goes to church and finds cheap songs -- 7 of 14 by trad; she wrote two more in the style, and plucked "I Smell a Rat" from Leiber and Stoller. Concept works well enough, probably because like many gospel fans she doesn't really believe in the stuff. Still, she doesn't take the liberties to make it sound as weird as it really is. B+(*)

Happy Birthday: Happy Birthday (2010, Sub Pop): Vermont group, debut record, with a songwriter who calls himself King Tuff and the sister of someone in the Tune-yards; guitar-bass-drums with garage acoustics barbed with quirky pop hooks -- I'm tempted to say too fancy for my taste ("Pink Strawberry Shake" sure is), but sometimes their fanciness is perfectly primitive ("Zit"). B+(**)

P.J. Harvey: Let England Shake (2011, Vagrant): I hated her first two albums (Dry and Rid of Me), but had no real problem with To Bring You My Love, liking it as much as anyone. Since then my grades have mostly fallen two slots below Christgau's, grudging respect for an artist I don't feel any particular fondness. This is a chilly album, lacking the personal tics I found annoying, hinting at political critiques that hole some promise. Still not sure what I think of the Eddie Cochran refrain or the Bob Marley sample -- the most obvious hooks, mostly because they're so obvious. Don't feel much love or concern for England, but enjoyed my time there, struck more than anything by its ordinariness despite the humongous conceits of its upper crust. In my metafile this currently ranks as the record of the year, but it seems pretty ordinary to me. B+(***)

Tim Hecker: Ravedeath 1972 (2011, Kranky): Canadian electronica producer, eighth album since 2001, produces ambient sounds, some too loud to slip into the background, most more modest and touched up here and there. B+(*)

Hot Club of Cowtown: What Makes Bob Holler (2010 [2011], Proper): Cowboy jazz trio, formed in 1998 in San Diego with guitar (Whit Smith), violin (Elana James), and bass (lately Jake Erwin), Smith and James trading vocals. Seventh studio album, not counting a couple out in Japan only, their concept here Django and Grappelli meets Bob Wills. Nice concept, but could use a better singer (or two), and could stand to get a lot hotter. B+(*)

Wanda Jackson: The Party Ain't Over (2011, Nonesuch): Rockabilly singer from the 1950s, known as "the female Elvis" much like Spottswood Poles was known as "the black Ty Cobb" -- which is to say at least partly for lack of better competition. (Josh Gibson could kick up a more serious argument as "the black Babe Ruth.") Found Jesus as rockabilly went out of fashion, but has been game to revert whenever market interest emerged, like here reflecting the fame of Jack White -- and Loretta Lynn, the last venerable star to get White's attention. So think of this as White's rockabilly fling, if you like. Jackson's voice is pretty shot, and she doesn't have enough sense to resist White's cute songbook ideas, ranging from "Busted" to "Rum and Coca-Cola" to "Nervous Breakdown" to something by Amy Winehouse. Note that I'm stopping short of blaming White for "Dust on the Bible" -- I figure that's just Jackson's way of tithing. B-

Jaill: That's How We Burn (2010, Sub Pop): Indie rock group from Milwaukee; debut, at least on a real label. Tuneful, jangly, not too dumb to listen to, but not so smart I'll stick with them. B+(**)

Nicolas Jaar: Space Is Only Noise (2011, Circus): B. New York, moved to Santiago, Chile young, started dabbling with electronics, finally moving back to New York. Cites Mulatu Astatke and Erik Satie as influences. Spare, spacious, modest beats with some talk or other, things that don't seem like much but grow on you. Not sure this wouldn't go higher if I gave it the time. B+(***)

Kode9: DJ-Kicks (2010, !K7): Scottish dubstep producer Steve Goodman; has a couple of previous albums, but this is more of a remix project, part of a long-running series on the !K7 label going back to 1995 -- I count 33-35 discs at various sources. The various artists kick up the variation, with a few bits distinctly out of the norm -- which seems to revolve around clever electronic percussion. Better than listenable, but doesn't break out of its norm. B+(**)

Talib Kweli: Gutter Rainbows (2011, Duck Down Music): Underground-ish hip-hop, his best records have been collaborations with others, but all of them sound good, none spectacular. Some rumble jumble noise here I didn't parse, and lots of acceptable grooves and rhymes. B+(**)

The Low Anthem: Smart Flesh (2011, Nonesuch): Rhode Island group, fourth album, two self-released and two now on prestige major Nonesuch. Favors folk melodies, rustic themes. Rather liked their previous album with its "Charlie Darwin" theme, but Christgau insists that after multiple plays none of the songs held up. No idea about these, but they do have understated grandeur; helps them get by. B+(*)

Lykke Li: Wounded Rhymes (2011, Atlantic): Swedish singer-songwriter, b. Li Lykke Zachrisson in 1986, second album; plays a rich kid in one song, a prostitute in another, not sure she can tell the difference. Mostly keybs, nice drums, uninteresting voice. B-

Jessica Lea Mayfield: Tell Me (2011, Nonesuch): Young singer-songwriter, second or third album, has a country voice which gets more ingratiating over the course of the album, but the music has clever rockish touches, synth drums and the like -- Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) produced, but doesn't feel the need for his usual faux blues. Can't follow well enough to truly evaluate, but for now she sounds a good deal older than 21. B+(*)

Minks: By the Hedge (2011, Captured Tracks): New York lo-fi duo, fuzzy strumming guitars and low-keyed vocals, seems like a viable formula to me. B+(**)

Motörhead: The World Is Yours (2010 [2011], UDR): Heavy metal group, dates back to 1977, which makes leader Lemmy Kilmister 65 now. Have only listened to a handful of 30+ albums, but they've always had the bass-guitar-drums crunch right, Lemmy is a deep-throated barker as opposed to the high-pitched whiners that front most metal bands, and the lyrics are if not smarter than the competition boxed up so the clichés are harmless -- now and then funny, even. Makes them uniquely listenable. I'd be more impressed if I hadn't heard it all before. B+(***)

Aaron Neville: I Know I've Been Changed (2010, Tell It): Recognition of Neville's saintly voice was instantaneous, but deciding I wanted to hear it took a few songs -- the fourth one in did it: "I Am a Pilgrim," which I knew from Merle Travis but he used to introduce it as an old favorite he had learned around a campfire so who knows how far it does back it goes. Gospel-themed, but misses the usual pitfalls, finding a human scale and tone. Joe Henry produced, and Allen Toussaint played piano. A-

Old 97's: Mimeograph (2010, New West, EP): Real EP here, four songs, live I think, all covers -- Rolling Stones, Fratellis, REM, David Bowie -- sounds pretty good as far as it goes, which isn't very far. Nice to hear Bowie's "5 Years." B+(*)

Parlovr: Parlovr (2009 [2010], Dine Alone Music): Montreal group, the 'v' intended as a Latin 'u' not that they mean to pronounce it anyway. They call what they do sloppy pop; may be a bit too melodic for punk, but that's another way to look at it, and more appropriate when they get loud and into a drone which is what they do best. Songs are mostly 3-4 minutes, two under 3, one runs on to 10:40; a couple sounded off to me, but they fixed that. B+(***)

Saigon: The Greatest Story Never Told (2011, Suburban Noize): Rapper, Brian Daniel Carenard, first studio album after a pile of street albums and mixtapes, and evidently a pretty long gestation. Eighteen cuts, 79 minutes, mostly produced by Just Blaze, with Kanye West on one song. Big feel, some stuff I like, some I might get behind with a little more time and motivation. B+(**)

Ty Segall: Melted (2009 [2010], Goner): Singer-songwriter, worked with various marginal groups -- Epsilons, Party Fowl, The Traditional Fools, The Perverts -- before going solo, working in a lo-fi aesthetic. His primitivist attack and crunch has some appeal, but I haven't pulled much out of it. B+(*)

Smile Smile: Truth on Tape (2010, Kirtland): Nominal folk-pop duo from Dallas, boy-girl, Ryan Hamilton and Jencey Hirunrusme; folk because they're low-tech, song-simple, harmony-oriented, but pop because they like cute hooks -- the falsetto "whoo-hoo-hoo" on the old folks opener "Tempo Bledsoe" sure hooked me. Nominal because Hirunrusme plays unfolkie piano, and they keep a drummer handy. Wish they had more hooks like that, or were funnier and more risque like Timbuk 3, but nearly every one of their sincere little songs impressed me. A-

Sonic Youth: Simon Werner A Disparu (2010 [2011], SYR): Self-released soundtrack music, using the French title of Fabrice Gobert's film -- Wikipedia redirects me to Lights Out (film), which includes an English-language poster, so that must have been an option. Sort of their trademark guitar sounds, plus a bit of piano but no vocals -- works as discreet background noise, but not too discreet or too background. About what I'd expect if I ordered up some cut-and-paste music from them for an undisclosed film project, then underpaid them, as expected. B+(**)

Kelley Stoltz: To Dreamers (2010, Sub Pop): Singer-songwriter from Detroit, based in New York, cut his first albumin 1999 and has eight now. Fairly catchy little tunes; AMG roots them in the Kinks and Byrds and other 1960s fare, but I don't hear anything that specific. B+(**)

Jazmine Sullivan: Fearless (2008, J): After having underrated her sophomore effort, I noticed this debut, which would have helped clue me in. Big difference is that the new one is a much bigger budget collaboration. She's got less makeup, less vocal range, less frosting, all of which makes her more real. Starts and ends with singles that jump out of the grooves, showing that they can still (on rare occasions) make 'em like they used to. B+(**)

Mark Sultan: $ (2009 [2010], Sultan): Montreal singer-songwriter, has drifted in and out of various garage rock bands -- best known is the King Khan & BBQ Show, but also the Spaceshits, Les Sexareenos, Almighty Defenders, and the Ding Dongs. Second album under what's evidently his own name, following 2007's The Sultanic Verses. Has a 1960s sound, quasi-punk, but sloppier and more chaotic. B

Teddy Thompson: Bella (2011, Verve Forecast): Second-generation singer-songwriter, son of Richard and Linda, has knocked out six albums now since 2000. Has many skills but I'm not sure songwriting is among them -- the one record by him that I liked was full of covers. This one isn't. B

Thompson Square: Thompson Square (2011, Stoney Creek): Country music duo, husband Kiefer Thompson from Oklahoma and wife Shawna Thompson from Tennessee. Loud, overproduced, trivially anthemic ("One of Those Days," "As Bad as It Gets"), occasionally stupid ("would you drive my getaway car?"). Give them a few hits and they might make Lady Antebellum look like hippies. C-

Toro y Moi: Underneath the Pine (2011, Carpark): Sophomore effort from Chaz Bundwick, electronics and vocals, a good deal lusher with more flowing melodies than the first time, like he's getting the hang of it. B+(**)

The Upsidedown: The Town With Bad Wiring (2010, Reverb): Portland, OR group; 2004 debut album was called Trust Electricity. They do, maintaining an even-tempered drone around the guitars, slower than Jesus and Mary Chain or Psychedelic Furs, almost sanctified. Makes for a very effective sound, something that can be tweaked slightly to get a surf guitar effect, or to play off the Velvet Underground, or to work in subtle pop hooks. B+(***)

Yuck: Yuck (2011, Fat Possum): UK group, debut album; guitar band, gets a lot of metallic drone which they tried to crank up for the leadoff single but is actually more attractive -- wouldn't go so far as to say mesmerizing -- when they tone it down a bit, as they do more often than not. Definitely not yucky. B+(**)


Records I looked for but didn't find on Rhapsody:

  • Nick Curran and the Lowlifes: Reform School Girl (Electro-Groove)
  • KORT: Invariable Heartache (City Slang)
  • Maxilla Blue: Volume Two (Central Standard)
  • More or Les: Brunch With a Vengeance (Fuzzy Logic)
  • Radiohead: The King of Limbs (self-released)
  • Shit Browne: Every Single Penny Will Be Reinvested in the Party (Asphalt Duchess)

Recycled Goods

The following were written during this period for Recycled Goods:

Alpha Blondy & the Solar System: Grand Bassam Zion Rock (1996 [2011], VP): Rastaman from Côte d'Ivoire, b. Seydou Koné in 1953, released some spotty albums on Shanachie in the 1980s which reduced to a very fine The Best of Alpha Blondy (1984-89 [1990], Shanachie); I noticed this later record among seven reissues picked up by VP; more français than I recall from his early albums, which in the end turns into a distinction. B+(*)

Kenny Dorham: The Flamboyan, Queens, NY, 1963 (1963 [2010], Uptown): Live radio shot of the trumpeter's hard bop quintet, with Joe Henderson on tenor sax and Ronnie Mathews on piano, not long before Dorham's health started to fail, leading to his death in 1972; two originals ("Straight Ahead" of course, and "Una Mas" showing his Latin flare), a couple of Gershwin standards, a lot of hot trumpet on the opener, three interruptions by MC Alan Grant. B+(***)

George Jones: The Great Lost Hits (1965-72 [2010], Time Life, 2CD): Not so great, and not so lost unless you're a Sony accountant, in which case you may wonder why songs like the opener, "Walk Through This World With Me," are a little off -- it's because some like that are non-hit versions. Everything here comes from Pappy Dailey's Musicor label, Jones' least consistent period although such hokum as "Love Bug" and "I'm a People" are classic, the Melba Montgomery duets are notable, and he never really disappoints. B+(**)

Charanjit Singh: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat (1982 [2010], Bombay Connection): Bollywood session musician hits the synths, may be working in raga form but doesn't slouch on the disco beats. B+(***)

Vagrants: I Can't Make a Friend 1965-1968 (1965-68 [2011], Light in the Attic): Long Island group, had a typical 1960s garage guitar sound, best known alumni Leslie West, cut a few singles which Arista in 1987 tried to pass off as The Great Lost Vagrants Album, recycled in 1996 and again now; I hear faint echoes of the Hollies and the Move, but nothing stands out. B

Palenque Palenque! Champeta Criolla & Afro Roots in Colombia 1975-91 (1975-91 [2010], Soundway): In Spanish, presumably, as dance pop in Colombia must be, although Palenquero is a Spanish-Bantu creole language still spoken thereabouts, a link to African roots that separates this from the cumbia-salsa norms -- sounds more like ska or calypso, although denser rhythmically. A-

The Sound of Siam: Leftfield Luk Thung, Jazz & Molam in Thailand 1964-1975 (1964-75 [2010], Soundway): One of the few third world countries never to have been knuckled under by European imperialists, Thailand should by all rights have its own sound and traditions, and it does -- split between the classical of the elites and the folk of the countryside, but also note the timespan, a decade when Bangkok was the American soldier's favorite r↦r retreat from the wretched war in Vietnam, so factor some surf music and jazz in, and don't make it too strange to foreign ears. B+(**)

Jazz Prospecting

The following were written during this period for Jazz Prospecting:

Howard Alden: I Remember Django (2010, Arbors): Of course, being b. 1958 Alden has no direct connection to Django Reinhardt -- the title comes from a song, mixed in with "Nuages" and "For Django" and other things less obvious. Swing-oriented guitarist, lots of records since 1986, coached Sean Penn for Woody Allen's Django-inspired Sweet and Lowdown. Seems a bit off the mark here, with Matt Munisteri's second guitar and Jon Burr's bass but no Grappelli. On the other hand, we are treated to five cuts with Anat Cohen on clarinet, plus four with Warren Vaché on cornet. B+(*)

Artvark Saxophone Quartet: Truffles (2010, Challenge): Dutch sax quartet: Rolf Delfos (alto), Bart Wirtz (alto), Mete Erker (tenor), Peter Broekhuizen (baritone). Delfos appears to be the oldest, with about 20 years experience vs. 10 (9-12) for the others. Covers include one by Corea and two by Ibrahim, plus one trad; originals include one called "Ornat 'King' Coleman." The altos tend to lead, and the others keep the bounce clean and stress-free. B+(**)

Gilad Atzmon and the Orient House Ensemble: The Tide Has Changed (2010, World Village): Saxophonist, alto is his mainstay but I hear a lot of soprano here, some clarinet. From Israel, b. 1963, based in London. Writes a lot of political screeds about Israel, which I mostly agree with but he has a chip on his shoulders I don't share. Names his band after the headquarters of the PLO in East Jerusalem. Combines traditional Jewish and Arab music, a dash of Weimar cabaret, some Coltrane-ish sax, accordion, some exceptionally lovely piano. B+(***)

Vinicius Cantuária & Bill Frisell: Lágrimas Mexicanas (2011, E1): Brazilian singer-songwriter, b. 1951, has more than a dozen albums since 1983, a name I've often run across but never before managed to check out. Plays guitar and percussion, sings all the songs, light and lyrical, naturally. Frisell, of course, also plays guitar. He presumably adds something, but for once it's hard to pick out. B+(*)

Mike Clark: Carnival of Soul (2010, Owl Studios): Drummer, b. 1946, got a fusion rep playing in Herbie Hancock's Headhunters. Here he reaches back deeper, mostly to the organ-fueled soul jazz circa 1960, rotating three organ players, with honking sax from Rob Dixon, and a "Cry Me a River" vocal by Delbert McClinton. Seems like basic stuff, but "T's Boogaloo" is irresistible. And for his finale, he namechecks a drummer great from further back. Calls that piece "Catlett Outa the Bag." B+(***)

Avishai Cohen: Introducing Triveni (2009 [2010], Anzic): Anat Cohen's trumpet-playing, third-world loving brother -- not the bassist of the same name, although it's worth knowing that Rhapsody has this under the wrong guy -- leading a trio with Omer Avital on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums. Wrote four originals. Covers Don Cherry, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Cole Porter. Puts his chops on fine display. B+(***)

Kenny Dorham: The Flamboyan, Queens, NY, 1963 (1963 [2010], Uptown): Hardbop trumpeter, had a strong run 1955-64, sliding off to a premature death in 1972. Live set, picked up from a broadcast tape with three stretches of MC Alan Grant talking between six songs -- two Gershwins, two Dorham originals, "Autumn Leaves," and one from pianist Ronnie Mathews. Dorham is in fine form; tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson lays back a bit at first, but earns his "featuring" cover credit. B+(***)

Taylor Eigsti: Daylight at Midnight (2010, Concord): Pianist, b. 1984, got one of those prodigy hypes cutting his first album in 2001; Concord picked him up in 2006, releasing his third album, one annoying enough I singled it out as a dud. Haven't heard much from Concord since then, although Eigsti's only one of many possible explanations. It's not that he can't play, but he doesn't have very interesting ideas: here, some trio, occasional electric keybs, some Julian Lage guitar, five songs handed over to vocalist Becca Stevens -- a wet blanket on an otherwise ordinary set. B-

Kurt Elling: The Gate (2010 [2011], Concord): Male vocalist, automatic pick for Downbeat's polls. Between his hipsterism and penchant for slipping in unnecessary notes I've never cared for his records. This is less idiosyncratic than most, less defined, quieter. Not the worst "Norwegian Wood" I've heard. Not much else either. B-

Scott Hamilton/Rossano Sportiello: Midnight at NOLA's Penthouse (2010 [2011], Arbors): Duets, tenor sax and piano respectively. Sportiello is a swing pianist, b. 1974, modeled on Ralph Sutton and many others from Earl Hines to Bill Evans; has some solo albums, a couple of duos with bassist-vocalist Nicki Parrott, but has never been so completely at ease as here. Same for Hamilton, a very relaxed, easy swinging set. B+(***)

David Hazeltine: Inversions (2010, Criss Cross): Pianist, wrote a song here "For Cedar" (Walton) which helps establish his niche, although there have been days when I'd take him for a bit less florid Oscar Peterson. Runs a quintet here which provides too many distractions to focus on his piano, but Eric Alexander is back in typical form at tenor sax, and Steve Nelson has a particularly bright and sunny day on vibes. With John Webber on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums, natch. B+(**)

Soweto Kinch: The New Emancipation (2010, Kinch): Alto saxophonist, b. 1978 in London, parents from Barbados and Jamaica. Has an Ornette-ish twist to his alto, something he could build on, but he's got this idea of doubling up as a rapper and spinning complex story lines about life in his 'hood -- interesting idea, but hard to follow, tripping up both on accents and beats. B

Joe Morris: Camera (2010, ESP-Disk): Much like the guitar-drums duo with Luther Gray, except that here the group is expanded to four, with Katt Hernandez on violin and Junko Fujiwara Simons on cello. The strings blend well enough with guitar, but have a sharper sound, and Morris tends to slip into the background. Thoughtful avant noodling, interesting as long as you can focus on it. B+(*)

Joe Morris/Luther Gray: Creatures (2010, Not Two): Guitar-drums duo, both based in Boston where they frequently play together, especially in an explosive trio with Jim Hobbs; Morris quite prolific since 1990. Starts out so slow that it takes Gray a while to come up with something to do, but this come together, intimate, interactive, interesting. B+(**)

Walt Weiskopf: See the Pyramid (2010, Criss Cross): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1959, grew up in Syracuse, has taught at Eastman School of Music and Temple University, co-wrote a book on Coltrane; 14th album since 1989, most on Criss Cross. Quartet with piano (Peter Zak), bass (Doug Weiss), drums (Quincy Davis). Wrote 5 of 10 tracks, including the first four, but the record only takes off with "Call Me," the first cover, which dispenses with postbop ideas and peels back the delicious theme like old-fashioned bebop. B+(*)