Rhapsody Streamnotes: April 16, 2014

Only 13 days since last post, but they've been productive ones: 40 records in the new section, 36 in the old. For the old, I've been scanning the database for Penguin Guide 4-star albums that I had missed: I started with Kenny Davern almost by accident and got as far as Michael Garrick, skipping a few things along the way while letting my eye wander here and there. The old records hit much more often than the recent, but the obvious reason is that Messrs. Cook and Morton had already done the hard work and I wound up just picking the low-lying fruit. The overwhelming majority of Penguin Guide 4-stars aren't on Rhapsody, but when I went back to check the entries before Davern I found two each by Rabih Abou-Khalil and Julian Arguëlles and worked them in here.

The new records are about half jazz (21 out of 40), but only two-thirds (14 to 7) were reviewed based on actual discs. The others come from the usual scattered directions. I suppose I shouldn't feel like apologizing for only checking out 19 new non-jazz in two weeks, but obviously the task of covering the wide range of new music is impossible. I miss not having the metacritic file available: it's less that I can't find albums of interest than that I have no sense of what other people (that is, other than close friends) think. I would guess right now that the leading candidate so far for 2014 year-end lists is St. Vincent, possibly followed by Cloud Nothings.

Actually, some further research suggests The War on Drugs' Lost in the Dream for second; see AOTY. The good thing about this list is that they tell you how many reviews the rating is based on, whereas Metacritic just sorts on the ratings average on as few as four reviews: the top of their current list is Slint's Spiderland box set, a deluxe reissue from 1991, with a 100 "metascore" over four reviews. (The actual reviews are {100,100,100,80}, so they're not exactly taking an average. They're probably throwing the outliers out then averaging the rest, which is to say two reviews.) Reissues like this do very well there because they are rarely reviewed and the lucky reviewers of such largesse tend to treat them reverently. You'll find many more obvious examples as you go down the list. You'll also notice that among new releases, Metacritic rates Behemoth's The Satanist (92 with 10 reviews) and I Am the Avalanche's Wolverines (90/4) over St. Vincent (89/40). There are way of expressing this mathematically, but it should be obvious that the latter score is both much more unlikely for an average record to attain and much more predictive of future reviews -- even ignoring the fact that any record called The Satanist is bound to have a limited niche market.

I suppose I should check out War on Drugs (first record wasn't bad, but there's a lot of that going around) and Sun Kil Moon (never bothered with him, or his alias, Mark Kozelek) but I'd be real surprised if AOTY's number four, Wild Beasts, is worth the time. Cloud Nothings is in 11th there, but it's certainly much closer to the alt/indie rock sweet spot than some of the records that edged it out. As I look down the list, I see some more things that I should check out, some I won't (e.g., The Satanist, more sensibly ranked at 22 here), and some I already have. To recap grades of the latter (down to 100, although I'm much more likely to have hit the top 50 than the second):

  1. St. Vincent: St. Vincent [***]
  2. Angel Olsen: Burn Your Fire for No Witness [*]
  3. Neneh Cherry: Blank Project [***]
  4. Todd Terje: It's Album Time [A-]
  5. Cloud Nothings: Here and Nowhere Else [A-]
  6. Carla Bozulich: Boy [***]
  7. Against Me!: Transgender Dysphoria Blues [**]
  8. Tinariwen: Emmaar [***]
  9. EMA: The Future's Void [***]
  10. Isaiah Rashad: Cilvia Demo [***]
  11. Lydia Loveless: Somewhere Else [**]
  12. Young Fathers: Dead [*]
  13. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: Give the People What They Want [*]
  14. Robert Ellis: The Lights of the Chemical Plant [B]
  15. YG: My Krazy Life [B-]
  16. Schoolboy Q: Oxymoron [**]
  17. Ratking: So It Goes [B]
  18. Eagulls: Eagulls [*]
  19. Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks: Wig Out at Jagbags [**]
  20. Cities Aviv: Come to Life [*]
  21. Actress: Ghettoville [*]
  22. Withered Hand: New Gods [**]
  23. Big Ups: Eighteen Hours of Static [A-]

No many bad records there, but I doubt if the ones I missed (most of them) fare so well. Still, AOTY's top 100 records so far this year, the consensus view of all those working critics, only yields 3 of my -- let's see -- 31 A-list records this year, and while the majority of those 31 are jazz (21 to be exact), 70% of my non-jazz A-list is till off AOTY's radar (Hold Steady, Pharrell Williams, Shakira, Laura Cantwell, Jon Langford, Company Freak, New Mendicants). Reminds me of the question from his first wife that Richard Feynman used to title one of his books: "What do you care what other people think?" Curiosity, I suppose. But finding good music is harder work than just following the crowd.


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 April 3. Past reviews and more information are available here (4693 records).


New Releases (More or Less)

Jason Anick: Tipping Point (2013 [2014], Magic Fiddle Music): Plays violin and mandolin, based in Boston, second album. Most tracks with piano-bass-drums, some add alto sax, some swap guitar for piano and add tenor sax. Record picks up on the back stretch, after Anick's originals run out. B+(*) [cd]

Bobby Bare Jr's Young Criminals' Starvation League: Undefeated (2014, Bloodshot): More of a rocker than his father -- no surprise there, even though Sr. rocked more than your average Nashville cat -- which doesn't necessarily make him more fun. B

Kris Bowers: Heroes + Misfits (2012 [2014], Concord Jazz): Pianist, plays more electric keybs than acoustic, won a Monk Prize which set him up for this debut record. He prefers mild grooves, but there is at least one spot where a saxophonist jumps the spotlight and offers something interesting. On the other hand, the three guest vocal spots, including José James, are deadly dull. B-

Carla Bozulich: Boy (2014, Constellation): Former singer for 1994-97 alt-country band The Geraldine Fibbers, went on her own 2003 and has several albums I haven't heard. Dark, dense, brooding, haunting. B+(***)

Sheela Bringi: Incantations (2014, Black Swan Sounds): From Colorado, but draws on her heritage for Indian classical music, especially her 36-string harp and harmonium, as well as an education which included studies with Cecil Taylor and Meredith Monk. The sax offers a jazz touch. B+(**)

Carlene Carter: Carter Girl (2014, Rounder): She had a great record in 1990, I Fell in Love, and a pretty good follow up, but fell off the wagon and the only one much impressed by her 2008 comeback (Stronger) was her therapist. Still, she was born for this comeback move, with nine Carter Family classics going back to A.P.'s days, one each from June and Helen, and her own confessional, "Me and the Wildwood Rose." Brought in some guest props, too. B+(**) [os]

Chicago Underground Duo: Locus (2014, Northern Spy): Cornet player Rob Mazurek and drummer Chad Taylor, either apt to pick up or plug in something else. They've been recording together since 1998, sometimes expanding the Duo to Trio or even Quartet. Rhythmic vamps and atmospherics, typical of what they do with a bit more regular beat. B+(***)

Cloud Nothings: Here and Nowhere Else (2014, Carpark): Harder and denser than I recall, they've given up punk brevity to stretch one song out to 7:23, but that's by far the outlier: at 8 songs, 31:24, some may treat this as an EP but it feels whole, and more could easily become too much. A-

The Tim Daisy Quartet: Streets in Time (2012 [2013], Relay): Drummer-led quartet, the horns Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet) and Steve Swell (trombone), with the always invaluable John Hebert on bass, the trombone leading as much (or more) than the cornet. B+(**) [bc]

The Tim Daisy Trio: A Fine Day in Berlin (2013, Relay): Drummer-led piano trio, with Hĺvard Wiik -- from Norway, plays in Atomic and Vandermark projects like Free Fall -- on piano and Clayton Thomas on bass. Wiik is a strong player, leaning more avant here possibly because this is good company to thrash in. B+(**) [bc]

Tim Daisy & Mikolaj Trzaska: In This Moment (2012 [2014], Relay): Chicago drummer, from Vandermark 5 and Rempis Percussion Quartet, goes head-to-head with the Polish alto saxophonist, called a bit short at five rounds, 31:49. B+(**) [bc]

Keith Davis Trio: Still (2013 [2014], LoNote): Piano trio, pianist teaches in South Carolina, first album as a leader although he claims 30 years as a professional musician. Bassist Ron Brendle makes an impression, and Justin Watt is the drummer. B+(**) [cd]

Luther Dickinson: Rock 'N Roll Blues (2014, New West): Son of blues guitarist Jim Dickinson, aka James Luther Dickinson, has played in the Black Crowes and North Mississippi Allstars, turns in an agreeably straightahead album. B+(*)

Dave Douglas/Chet Doxas/Steve Swallow/Jim Doxas: Riverside (2012 [2014], Greenleaf Music): Dedicated to Jimmy Giuffre (1921-2008), always a slippery subject, and writer of one piece. Chet Doxas plays clarinet and sax, and wrote three pieces. Swallow was an obvious choice as he played bass in Giuffre's legendary trio. I've never quite got a handle on Giuffre's contribution to the avant-garde, but the brilliant trumpet adds shine and lustre to every twist and turn. A- [cd]

Duck Sauce: Quack to Be Released (2014, Fool's Gold): Side-project by Boston DJ Armand Van Helden and Montreal turntablist A-Trak, combining duck-oriented cosmological bullshit with vintage disco and funk (samples, I assume, not that I recognize them). Most of "Goody Two Shoes" is choice cut material. B+(*)

Eagulls: Eagulls (2014, Partisan): English post-punk outfit, first album, grinds out ten not especially short songs (half 3:36-5:00). That meets my definition of ambient industrial. B+(*)

Robert Ellis: The Lights From the Chemical Plant (2014, New West): Singer-songwriter, with country roots and folkie idioms but when he picks a cover song it turns out to be by Paul Simon. B

EMA: The Future's Void (2014, Matador): Erika M. Anderson's second album, builds on the promise of her first album with hard, sharp electropop, smart but not without a sense of gloom. B+(***)

Andrew Hadro: For Us, the Living (2013 [2014], Tone Rogue): Baritone saxophonist, first album after side-credist with Chico Hamilton, Chris Potter, and Tony Malaby. Quartet, backed by piano (Carmen Staaf), bass (Daniel Foose), and drums (Matt Wilson). B+(***) [cd]

Ross Hammond: Humanity Suite (2013 [2014], Prescott): Guitarist, originally from Kentucky but based in Sacramento, where he has been very productive since 2003. This was recorded live, a group with two saxophonists (Catherine Sikora and Vinny Golia) and trombone (Clifford Childers, also credited with euphonium, bass trumpet, and harmonica). No track list, but the "suite" concept is suggested by various shifts -- moderate passages which develop themes and momentum, and louder ones when the horns uncork. B+(***) [cdr]

JazzBonez: Watch It! (2013 [2014], Summit): Ten-piece group with six trombones, a piano trio, and vibes; based in Texas, first album, no one in it I've heard of. I was expecting some kind of funk group, but it's postbop, possibly even an original take on big band arranging, but the trombones are disturbingly well behaved. B [cd]

Kool & Kass Are . . . Peaceful Solutions: Coke Boys 5 (2014, self-released): Kool AD (ex-Das Racist) and drummer Kassa Overall, previously collaborated on an album called Peaceful Solutions which gets a plug in their artist line -- something which happens often enough it's become a pet peeve for me. "Stoner" is even more incoherent than you'd expect, but the silly free associations get funnier as the beats firm up. At eight tracks (32:00) neither EP nor LP, just a quick internet dump. B+(***) [bc]

Glenn Kotche: Adventureland (2014, Cantaloupe): AMG credits this to Kronos Quartet, which appears to be only part right: they play Kotche's compositions, but so do others, and the label lists Kotche without providing many details. The more percussion-oriented pieces are very seductive, the more classical-sounding string pieces (that's where Kronos would come into play) only a bit less so. B+(***)

Krom: Krom (2013 [2014], self-released): Piano trio, from the leader's name, their previous album released as Adam Kromelow Trio. Normally I like a strong rhythmic approach to piano, but this makes very little out of the effort. C+ [cd]

Takuya Kuroda: Rising Son (2014, Blue Note): Trumpet player, from Japan, based in Brooklyn, fourth album since 2010. This one is produced by José James, using his band (Kuroda is a member). Funk tracks, keyed by electric bass (Solomon Dorsey) and keyboards (Kris Bowers) with a little trombone, and feature spots for James (vocals) and Lionel Loueke (guitar). Miles Davis and Nils Petter Molvaer have proven how easy it is to crank out enjoyable albums with little more than trumpet riffing over electrobeats -- sure, they hedged their bets with better rhythm sections, but Kuroda only falls off his game when he lets James sing a lazy Roy Ayers tune. B+(*)

Metronomy: Love Letters (2014, Because/Elektra): Brit pop group, has a soft pop feel, playing guitar and keyb off one another, voice often rising into falsetto range. B+(**)

Jaro Milko & the Cubalkanics: Cigarros Explosivos! (2014, Asphalt Tango): Swiss guitarist, Czech heritage, tries to fuse Cuban rhythm and Balkan brass, but may be a bit too far removed from either to achieve the critical temperature, resulting in little more than a swanky groove album. B+(*)

Noshir Mody: Stories From the Years of Living Passionately (2013 [2014], self-released): Self-described "fusion guitarist" from Bombay (Mumbai) in India, third album -- the genre descriptions on CDBaby are: instrumental rock, jazz world fusion, and finally for this one, modern creative jazz. Five songs average a bit over 10 minutes each, by a quintet with soprano sax to heighten the sweet guitar tone and lots of lustrous, shimmering piano. B [cd]

John Németh: Memphis Grease (2014, Blue Corn Music): Bluesman from Idaho, grew up singing in church, playing in bands, and gravitated toward mainstream soul-blues, picking up a bit of Otis Redding in his voice. Cut in Memphis with the Bo-Keys, with a cream Caddy convertible on the cover. Nothing remarkable about that. B+(**)

Matt Newton: Within Reach (2013 [2014], self-released): Pianist, from Canada, second album, a trio plus voice on a couple tracks. The complex shuffle is rather intriguing. B+(*) [cd]

Off!: Wasted Years (2014, Vice): Punk-noise group led by former Circle Jerk Keith Morris, got some attention with compilation of The First Four EPs back in 2010 mostly because the sound was so raw the short songs worked as an ear rinse. Hard to argue that this 16-cut 23:15 album -- pretty close to what all those EPs added up to -- is any better or worse, but it's certainly less fresh. B+(**) [os]

Leslie Pintchik: In the Nature of Things (2013 [2014], Pintch Hard): Pianist, fourth album (not counting the Live in Concert DVD/CD combo), works up some sumptuous postbop adorned with Steve Wilson's saxes (alto, soprano) and Ron Horton's brass (trumpet, flugelhorn), with extra percussion by Satoshi Takeishi. B+(*) [cd]

Louis Prima Jr. and the Witnesses: Blow (2013 [2014], Warrior): A chip off the old block, Prima sings, blows trumpet, and leads a band much like his namesake father did, at least in the Las Vegas phase he was born into (in 1968). (Prima's mother, by the way, was Gia Maione, Sr.'s fifth and last wife.) Second album. Gets the old sound basically right, but this isn't a ghost band or oldies act. B+(**) [cd]

Ratking: So It Goes (2014, Hot Charity/HXC/XL): New York rap crew, has some underground moves but the record is enveloped in a loud electro-warble that is often unpenetrable, irritating even. B

Rufus Reid: Quiet Pride: The Elizabeth Catlett Project (2012 [2014], Motéma): Catlett was an artist (1915-2012), best known for her sculptures. Bassist Reid has just turned 70, and is celebrating with this lushly textured, occasionally scintilating big band work -- de trop, as far as I'm concerned, but I am touched by the ambition. B+(*)

Ellen Rowe Quintet: Courage Music (2013 [2014], PKO): Pianist, fourth album since 2001, leads a postbop quintet -- trumpet player Ingrid Jensen gets "featuring credit" on the front cover but tenor saxophonist Andrew Bishop is every bit as critical. Tends toward a neat complexity, but can get unruly at times. B+(***) [cd]

Sabina: Toujours (2014, Bar/None): Sabina Sciubba, born in Rome, raised in Germany, lives in New York, and found her first taste of fame as lead singer of Brazilian Girls. Her accented voice reminds me of Nico, especially on the Velvets-ish opener, as well as the German closer. B+(**)

Zan Stewart: The Street Is Making Music (2013 [2014], Mobo Dog): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1944, "a lifelong musician" but this is his first album -- he made his living as a journalist (retiring in 2010 from the Newark Star-Ledger) and radio DJ, and won a Deems Taylor award for liner notes on Eric Dolphy. Mainstream sax quartet with Keith Saunders on piano, Adam Gay on bass, and Ron Marabuto on drums. Swings a bit, and grows on you. B+(***) [cd]

Todd Terje: It's Album Time (2014, Olsen): Norwegian DJ, went for old-fashioned synths on his excellent EP It's the Arps, and he adds more angles and textures to similar beats here, some cheesy enough to get slammed as cocktail music but they keep me amused. Odd song out has a vocal which only Bryan Ferry gets away with. And it closes with two super dance vamps. A-

Michael Wollny Trio: Weltentraum (2013 [2014], ACT): Pianist, from Germany, has a handful of albums since 2007. Trio with Tim Lefebvre and Eric Schaefer. Piano is bright and percussive from the start. Final track is a guest vocal, the sort of change in focus and tone I usually disparage, but after I couple plays I came to look forward to it. Song is "God Is a DJ" and vocalist is Theo Bleckmann. I had just made some unhappy remarks about him in my Downbeat poll notes. Shows you how easy it is to be wrong. B+(**) [cd]

Old Music: Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Rabih Abou-Khalil: Between Dusk and Dawn (1986 [1987], MMP): Lebanese oud player, one of his early records, affects a gentle groove with Glen Moore (bass) and Glen Velez (percussion), often adding Charlie Mariano -- striking but restrained on soprano and alto sax -- plus a couple other guest spots. B+(***)

Rabih Abou-Khalil: The Cactus of Knowledge (2000 [2001], Enja): Eleven musicians here (including cello, euphonium, French horn, tuba, and frame drums) and they can lead to a bit of clutter although they more often add depth and detail to the sinewy rhythms of the oud. And the more conventional horns -- especially Ellery Eskelin on tenor sax, but also Antonio Hart on alto, Gabriele Mirabassi on clarinet, and Dave Ballou and Eddie Allen on trumpet -- pump up the volume and often steal the spotlight. A-

Julian Arguëlles: Escapade (1999, Provocateur): British saxophonist, usually a tenor but may be playing alto here, his fifth album (from 1991), an octet with Ian Dixon credited with tenorsax, Django Bates with tenor horn, backed by trombone, piano, guitar, bass, and drums. Take a bit to cohere, but the seductively circling horns eventually weave into something fascinating. B+(***)

Julian Arguëlles: Partita (2005 [2006], Basho): Sax trio, the leader playing tenor and soprano (also bass clarinet, flute, and Norwegian flute), with Michael Formanek on bass and Tom Rainey on drums. Three very smart players, at least when Arguëlles sticks to his saxes. B+(***)

Kenny Davern: Breezin' Along (1996 [1997], Arbors): Swing-oriented clarinet player (1935-2006), works here with two very compatible guitarists -- Bucky Pizzarelli and Howard Alden -- giving these standards a light-as-air feel. B+(***)

Ernest Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble: Cape Town Shuffle: Live at Hothouse (2002 [2003], Delmark): Chicago tenor carrying on the AACM flame -- his 1995 album title was Chicago Now: Thirty Years of Great Black Music -- has a quintet with brass (Ameen Muhammad on trumpet and Steve Berry on trombone) and a very flexible bass-drums rhythm section. Four 14-19 minute pieces include some preaching and poetry, but mostly sizzle. A-

Elton Dean: Elton Dean's Newsense (1997 [1998], Slam): The saxophonist in early 1970's prog-rock group Soft Machine, although that barely (and rather obliquely) hints at his jazz career (up to his death in 2006). It helps here to know that Dean led a 1976-81 nonet called Elton Dean's Ninesense (including South Africans Harry Miller, Louis Moholo, and Mongezi Feza, also Harry Beckett from Barbados), so the name here introduces a new nonet. The horns are dense and thick, but few stand out. B+(*)

Walt Dickerson: Relativity (1962 [1995], New Jazz/OJC): Vibraphonist, a postbop pioneer of the moment although over the decade Bobby Hutcherson became better known. Third album, fronting a piano trio of Austin Crowe, Ahmed Abdul-Malik, and Andrew Cyrille. B+(*)

Walt Dickerson: To My Queen (1962 [1996], New Jazz/OJC): Another quartet, stretches a little further out with the original title piece stretched to 17:28 on the first side, two covers on the flip. Andrew Hill is an improvement at piano although he doesn't push the vibraphonist as far as he can go. B+(**)

Danny D'Imperio: The Outlaw (1994-96 [1996], Sackville): Drummer, played in big bands (Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson, subbed for Buddy Rich when he was ill) but was even more into Philly Joe Jones -- Penguin Guide prefers Blues for Philly Joe, but this is only rated one on Rhapsody. These are bop standards from Gillespie to Shorter, done with 6-to-9-piece groups long on horns -- tenor saxophonist Ralph Lalama is the biggest name other than Hod O'Brien on piano. B+(**)

Johnny Dodds/Jimmy Blythe: Johnny Dodds & Jimmy Blythe 1926-1928 (1926-28 [1993], Timeless): Dodds (1892-1940) was the clarinet player who followed King Oliver and Louis Armstrong from New Orleans to Chicago, playing in the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens. Blythe was a short-lived (1901-31) pianist from Kentucky also in Chicago, and this collects their intersection. A-

Arne Domnérus & Putte Wickman: Happy Together (1995, Ladybird, 2CD): Live set led by the great Swedish tenor saxophonist (1924-2008), a mainstream player with gorgeous tone, joined by the British clarinetist (1924-2006), who leans a bit retro. Usual live shot complaints: runs long, sound thin, too much patter (in Swedish, presumably), still the music is alternately charming and exhilarating. B+(**)

Kenny Dorham: 'Round About Midnight at the Cafe Bohemia (1956 [2002], Blue Note, 2CD): Live record from when the trumpet player was beginning to make his name, with J.R. Monterose on sax, Bobby Timmons on piano, and Kenny Burrell on guitar. Blue Note belatedly released the extra tracks as Vol. 2 and Vol. 3, and ties them up in one hot hard bop package here. A-

Mark Dresser/Denman Maroney: Duologues (2000 [2001], Victo): Bass and piano duets. Not sure if the piano is modified, but Maroney later developed something he calls hyperpiano. What I am sure of is that Dresser gets an amazing range of sound out of his bass. B+(***)

Kenny Drew: Trio/Quartet/Quintet: The Riverside Collection (1956-57 [1988], Riverside/OJC): A fine bebop pianist (1928-93), this starts with trio tracks, then adds Donald Byrd and Hank Mobley to get up to a quintet, sampling three or four albums. B+(***)

Billy Drummond: Dubai (1995 [1996], Criss Cross): Drummer, very popular as a sideman since 1989, recorded three albums as leader for Criss Cross, culminating in this two-tenor sax quartet: Chris Potter and Walt Weiskopf, with Peter Washington on bass. Both saxes kick up a storm without clashing violently, probably because the rhythm keeps them in bounds. A-

8 Bold Souls: Last Option (1999 [2000], Thrill Jockey): Chicago octet led by saxophonist-clarinetist Edward Wilkerson Jr., a live reunion of a group that formed in 1985 and recorded three albums through 1994. The group is deep with brass, providing a steady rumble Wilkerson's leads play off of. A-

Duke Ellington and His Cotton Club Orchestra: Jungle Nights in Harlem 1927-1932 (1927-32 [1991], RCA/Bluebird): One of three long out-of-print Bluebird compilation of early Ellington -- the only one I didn't pick up, hence the make-up. Starts with a few live shots from the Cotton Club with annoying intros by the MC, then some singles to remind you that Ellington never had a good ear for singers, then the band finds its calling, finally ending with two medleys of their classics. The other two are Early Ellington [A+] and Jubilee Stomp [A-]. That they (especially the first, especially after the music was remastered for the 1999 monster box set) are out of print is nothing short of criminal. A-

Duke Ellington: At the Bal Masque (1958 [1959], Columbia): "Satin Doll" is the only Ellington song here, deemed enough of a standard to slip into a schmaltz lineup with the likes of "Satan Takes a Holiday," "Indian Love Call," and "The Donkey Serenade." B

Duke Ellington: At the Bal Masque [Bonus Tracks] (1958-60 [2011], Essential Jazz Classics): Extends the 1959 album with a rare 1960 studio session -- 12 more songs, total 77:25 -- of Ellington standards done with an 8-piece "small band" (Ray Nance on trumpet, Lawrence Brown on trombone, Hodges-Gonsalves-Carney on the saxes): subdued, subtle, often quite gorgeous. B+(*)

Duke Ellington's Spacemen: The Cosmic Scene (1958 [2007], Mosaic): A nine-piece group with Clark Terry on trumpet, three trombones, only Paul Gonsalves and Jimmy Hamilton in the reeds, from about the same time Sputnik was circling and Ellington recorded Blues in Orbit. Often lovely, but lacks a bit of cosmic imagination -- or do I mean Johnny Hodges? B+(***)

Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: Afro-Bossa (1962-63 [1982], Discovery): The title track one-ups the bossa nova craze with its Afro percussion, which could be campy but is actually rather sweet. Then comes a series of obscure but magnificent orchestra pieces, with Jimmy Hamilton rivaling Johnny Hodges for the world's most gorgeous sounds. A

James Emery: Standing on a Whale Fishing for Minnows (1996 [1997], Enja): Guitar player, longtime member of String Trio of New York, holds a star-studded quartet together here, with Marty Ehrlich (clarinet, alto sax) very active on the one hand, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Gerry Hemingway on the other. One of Ehrlich's best outings, with the guitar less showy but engaged in myriad ways. A-

James Emery Septet: Spectral Domains (1997-98 [1999], Enja): Repeats the title song from the previous album, with the same group expanded to include a second sax-clarinet player, Chris Speed, plus Mark Feldman (violin) and Kevin Norton (vibes, marimba, percussion), moving into some very tricky postbop, marvelous when it works but more often just more complex. B+(***)

James Emery: Transformations (2001 [2003], Between the Lines): Front cover also states: "Klangforum Wien conducted by Emilio Pornárico" then "Tony Coe, Franz Koglmann, Peter Herbert." This refers to the title piece, the first 39:27, subtitled "Music for 3 Improvisers and Orchestra." Dizzyingly elaborate orchestral music with strings and bassoons and all that, can create excitement but not my idea of a good time. The remaining space, 25:39, holds "4 Quartets" -- more manageable and interesting groups. B+(*)

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Freedom Jazz Dance (1999, Delmark): Percussionist Kahil El'Zabar's two horn trio, at this point with perhaps his strongest partners -- trombonist Joseph Bowie and saxophonist Ernest Dawkins -- plus "special guest" Fareed Haque on guitar, adding subtle harmonics to the groove while the horns roam free. A-

Orrin Evans: Listen to the Band (1999 [2000], Criss Cross): Pianist from Philadelphia, leans hard bop and/or postbop, fourth album, recruited a formidable sextet -- Ralph Bowen (tenor/alto sax), Sam Newsome (soprano sax), Duane Eubanks (trumpet), Reid Anderson (bass), and Nasheet Waits (drums) -- quite a bit to listen to here. B+(***)

Maynard Ferguson: Maynard Ferguson and His Birdland Dream Band (1956 [2011], Fresh Sound): I wound up caring very little for the trumpeter's later albums, so I was astonished when I first heard his 1955 Octet recordings. This CD combines two LPs and change. The band lives up to its billing: Al Cohn, Budd Johnson, and Herb Geller on the saxes; Hank Jones, Milt Hinton, and Jimmy Campbell for a rhythm section; and a 4-trumpet, 3-trombone brass section with the leader handling the pyrotechnics: over the top, but that's the point. B+(***)

Tommy Flanagan: Let's Play the Music of Thad Jones (1993, Enja): Big print for "Let's," the first of eleven Thad Jones pieces here, but the title reads better if you let it unroll. Piano trio, with Jesper Lundgaard and Lewis Nash. Hard to imagine a more thoughtful or sensitive appreciation, until Hank Jones offered his own Upon Reflection in 1993. B+(***)

Chuck Folds: Hitting His Stride (1992 [1996], Arbors): A stride pianist, associated with Doc Cheatham at least since 1972 -- which means he's certainly not Ben Folds' piano-playing younger brother; among the very few traces of him I've found with Google is a German Wikipedia entry which has him born in 1938 in Massachusetts, and playing with Wild Bill Davison in 1970 before mentioning Chatham in 1972. Solo piano, 21 period pieces, does a particularly ebullient James P. Johnson. B+(***)

Kenny Garrett: Standard of Language (2001-02 [2003], Warner Brothers): Alto saxophonist, got a major label contract in 1989 and became one of the best-known jazz musicians of the 1990s. Early on he struck me as heavily influenced by Coltrane (like pretty much everyone else), but with this quartet he sounds like he's trying to resurrect Bird. A decade ago I would have found that tedious and annoying. Now, much less so, but still a little. B+(**)

Michael Garrick Trio: A Lady in Waiting (1993 [1994], Jazz Academy): British pianist (1933-2011), released 30-plus albums from 1959 on, in a trio here with Dave Green on bass and Alan Jackson on drums. Excellent pianist, doesn't really fit any niche I can define, leaving me uncertain just what to do here. If it's any consolation, AMG has yet to rate 24 of the 25 albums they list. An SFFR. B+(***)

Michael Garrick Quartet and Orchestra with Jacqui Dankworth: For Love of Duke . . . and Ronnie (1995-97 [1997], Jazz Academy): Ellington, of course, and Ronnie is saxophonist Scott. Orchestra masses big band horns around Garrick's trio plus two guitars and vocalist Dankworth (on 4 of 13 songs). Don't have songwriting credits but could be originals, mostly or even all. The band swings and packs a punch. A-

Dennis Gonzalez Dallas-London Sextet: Catechism (1987 [1996], Music & Arts): The avant-trumpet player from Dallas cut this in London, adding Elton Dean (alto sax, saxello), Keith Tippett (piano), and Louis Moholo (drums) to his band. Two takes of a kwela piece are immense fun; the title pieces make for a complex (if rather ponderous) suite; then there is a "Hymn for John Carter" and "The Sunny Murray-Cecil Taylor Dancing Lesson." B+(**)

Haiti Direct: Big Band, Mini Jazz & Twoubadou Sounds, 1960-1978 (1960-78 [2014], Strut, 2CD): Compiled by Sofrito producer Hugo Mendez with an ear for the irresistible dance beat and a domain with deep African ties that has hardly ever been tapped. A-

Tambastics: Tambastics (1992, Music & Arts): Following Penguin Guide, I file this one-shot group/album under flautist Robert Dick, who plays everything down to, and especially, bass flute -- often merging into the murk of Mark Dresser's bass and Denman Maroney's less obvious hyperpiano. At worst, the album sinks into quiet shapelessness, but here and there shakes loose -- often prodded by drummer Gerry Hemingway. B+(*)

Missing

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

  • Imarhan Timbuktu: Akal Warled (2014, Clermont Music)
  • Max Johnson Trio: The Invisible Trio (2014, Fresh Sound)
  • Pink Martini: Dream a Little Dream (2014, Heinz)
  • Mozes & the Firstborn: Mozes & the Firstborn (2014, Burger)

Evidently I didn't take very good notes, because I'm sure I searched for more that I didn't find. I'm deliberately not listing the missing records from the Penguin Guide 4-star search -- no need to track them in the Missing file -- but I'll list them here. When I started this, I was thinking I had worked from "A" on my way to Garrick, but it turns out that my first find was Kenny Davern. Consequently, the following A-D needs to be rechecked -- [*] indicates a record that I found on Rhapsody ([**] reviewed later -- so this will double as a checklist); [?] indicates something that looks to be available in a different edition. Also, note that sometimes things get misfiled on Rhapsody, and take more effort than I've made here to show up.

Table moved here.

Notes

Everything streamed from Rhapsody, except as noted in brackets following the grade:

  • [cd] based on physical cd
  • [cdr] based on an advance or promo cd or cdr
  • [bc] available at bandcamp.com
  • [sc] available at soundcloud.com
  • [os] some other stream source
  • [dl] something I was able to download from the web; may be freely available, may be a bootleg someone made available, or may be a publicist promo