Rhapsody Streamnotes: August 21, 2014

Three-and-a-half weeks since last time, this one snuck up on me: with the summer doldrums I'm as surprised as anyone to count 101 squib-reviews below. New jazz slowed to a trickle more than a month ago, with occasional advances for September-October releases. I've scratched the bottom of my barrel, and consulted most of the usual authorities. Still, unless you've been following my Twitter feed, you're unlikely to have run across more than two of nine A- new records this month. (Golem's Tanz and Spoon's They Want My Soul -- also the Calypso set further down -- appeared in Michael Tatum's A Downloader's Diary; The Green Seed got a passing mention in one of those Expert Witness messages via Facebook.) Clean Feed and Intakt are labels I key on (although cf. Hassler and Laubrock below). I saw mention of Ricardo Lemvo and Jonah Tolchin (and Jessica Hernandez) in PopMatters -- not my idea of a reliable review source, but one has to look somewhere. Aside from a couple jazz records that dropped straight into my mailbox, everything I bother with has some critical rep behind it somewhere. I don't have a real metacritic file this year -- just a crib sheet of little use to me and probably none to you.

In the old music section, I've been following my Penguin Guide 4-star search list less than my nose: recent records on Intakt (Michael Griener, Aki Takase, Trio 3) led me down several rabbit holes, and reminded me that I had never finished those Nobu Stowe records the artist sent in many years ago. The Punk 45 compilations were recommended by Jason Gubbels (a third one is not yet on Rhapsody). Soul Jazz (and subsidiary Universal Sound) is another label I'd like to key on -- hence the Sergio Mendes one-shot. Unfortunately, looks like a lot of their catalog isn't available, especially the Studio One compilations.

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 July 30. Past reviews and more information are available here (5201 records).

New Releases (More or Less)

Laurie Antonioli: Songs of Shadow, Songs of Light: The Music of Joni Mitchell (2013 [2014], Origin): Bay Area jazz singer, several albums since Soul Eyes in 1985, this a collection of Joni Mitchell songs, done much like Mitchell did them -- similar voice, keybs, guitar, only slightly burnished by Sheldon Brown's reeds. B [cd]

Clarice Assad: Imaginarium (2014, Adventure Music): Brazilian singer, daughter of guitarist Sergio Assad, straddles pop, jazz, and classical, but in "A Morte Da Flor" falls off the deep end of the latter. B-

Auction Project: Slink (2014, self-released): Quintet, name comes from a 2010 album credited to alto saxophonist David Bixler and pianist Arturo O'Farrill, with violinist Heather Martin Bixler unnamed but on cover, and bass and drums. This one adds featured guest guitarist Mike Stern on two cuts and uillean pipes on one. B+(*) [cd]

Baloni: Belleke (2012 [2014], Clean Feed): String trio, no violin but viola (Frantz Loriot), cello (Joachim Badenhorst), and bass (Pascal Niggenkemper), touted as "slow boiling, chamber jazz-like, surrealistic soundscapes" -- I'd scratch the "chamber" clause, which implies a degree of politesse not evident here. Rather, you get a scratchy search for a profound sound that generally eludes them. B+(**) [cd]

Benyoro: Benyoro (2014, self-released): New York-based group playing West African pop music, led by vocalist Yacouba Sissoko-Kora, from Mali. One of the percussionists also hails from Mali, the bass player from Martinique, the Djembe player from New Rochelle, but authenticity isn't a problem here -- it just doesn't soar quite as high as you'd like. B+(***)

Bolt: Shuffle (2013 [2014], Driff): Avant quartet -- Jorrit Dijkstra (alto sax, lyricon, analog electronics), Eric Hofbauer (guitar), Junko Fujiwara (cello), Eric Rosenthal (drums, percussion) -- offers scratchy little miniatures -- 19 that they recommend you shuffle -- too impolite and eccentric for chamber jazz, uprooting expectations. B+(***) [cd]

Anthony Branker & Word Play: The Forward (Towards Equality) Suite (2014, Origin): Composer and director of a septet plus singer Alison Crockett, with guest spoken word from schoolchildren who have some serious wishes for a better world (none of which involve cutting taxes on the rich). Mainstream with soul flair, the horns -- David Binney (alto sax), Ralph Bowen (tenor/soprano sax, flute), and Conrad Herwig (trombone) especially striking. B+(***) [cd]

Bobby Broom: My Shining Hour (2014, Origin): Guitarist, started out in soul jazz with Charles Earland, has close to a dozen albums on his own as well as side credits in groups like Deep Blue Organ Trio. This is a trio with bass and drums, all standards, no breakthroughs but very listenable, especially songs with a little zip like "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "Jitterbug Waltz." B+(**) [cd]

Henry Butler/Steven Bernstein: Viper's Drag (2014, Impulse): Bernstein is a trumpet player who started avant with an interest in the tradition and became arranger for Robert Altman's Kansas City project, which in turn led to his Millennial Territory Orchestra. Butler is a New Orleans pianist/singer who first worked with Bernstein on Kansas City and has bumped into him a couple times since -- not clear if this was recorded at their 2012 Jazz Standard sets or that was merely the point when this concept came together. They call their nine-piece band the Hot 9 after Armstrong's Hot Fives and Hot Sevens, and there's the rub: Bernstein isn't Armstrong, nor is Butler Earl Hines (nor as a singer can he carry Jimmy Rushing's tune), and the band is full of talented musicians who can play classic jazz but none are specialists who live it. That isn't a crippling complaint -- the record is great fun and I'd love to see the band live -- but it is a bit more than a nitpick. B+(***)

Calle 13: MultiViral (2014, El Abismo/Sony Music Latin): Puerto Rican rap group, with a reggaeton streak although that's hardly the only genre they can jump, and the few bits I can understand show some political smarts (as does a guest list that includes Silvio Rodriguez, Tom Morello, John Leguizamo, and Eduardo Galeano). Even in purely musical terms, I like the hard raps best. B+(***)

Mario Castro Quintet/Strings: Estrella de Mar/Promotional Edition (2014, Interrobang): Young tenor saxophonist, from Puerto Rico, graduated Berklee, sounds like a slightly scruffier David Sanchez, promising enough, but the quintet is cluttered, the strings are crappy, and the singer, well, unnecessary. "Promotional Edition" is printed prominently on the cover in what otherwise is fancier packaging than most commercial releases see, so I decided to honor the fact rather than puzzle over it. Of course, it puts an unfathomable distance between what I heard and what you might be able to buy. B- [cd]

Collier & Dean: Sleek Buick (2013-14 [2014], Origin): Tom Collier plays vibes, marimba, xylophone, and keyboards. Don Dean bass, percussion, keyboards, ukelele, classical guitar. Backup varies, with appearances by Don Grusin (piano) and Ernie Watts (tenor sax), and drums split between Ted Poor and Alex Acuña. Bubbly, frothy groove music. B [cd]

Wayne Coniglio/Scott Whitfield: Fast Friends (2012 [2014], Summit): Two mainstream trombonists, looks like Coniglio's first album but Whitfield has close to a dozen since 1997. Three originals (one Coniglio, two Whitfield), "I'm Confessin'" a gem among the not-very-standard covers. B+(**) [cd]

Cortex: Live! (2014, Clean Feed): Norwegian avant jazz quartet patterned on Ornette Coleman's classic, two previous albums but no one I've heard of: Thomas Johansson (cornet), Kristoffer Alberts (reeds), Ola Høyer (bass), Gard Nilssen (drums). I have a nagging doubt that anyone so inspired could do this: rather than breaking rules and blazing new paths the sax-cornet interplay just seems so right, although it wouldn't without a lot of innovation that now seems so normal. A- [cd]

Sylvie Courvoisier/Mark Feldman Quartet: Birdies for Lulu (2013 [2014], Intakt): Piano and violin for the leaders, bass (Scott Colley) and drums (Billy Mintz) fill the group out. He paints curtains of ice, she breaks them. B+(**)

Jorrit Dijkstra: Music for Reeds and Electronics: Oakland (2013 [2014], Driff): Five reed players -- Dijkstra, Phillip Greenlief, Kyle Bruckmann, Frank Gratkowski, Jon Raskin -- including clarinet, oboe, and English horn as well as various saxes, three players also credited with electronics. Can get ugly in the lower reaches, or squeaky in the upper. B+(*) [cd]

Diva: A Swingin' Life (2001-12 [2014], MCG Jazz): Drummer Sherry Maricle's long-running all-female big band, two cuts featuring Nancy Wilson recorded at MCG in 2001, the rest with quite a bit of turnover from an engagement in Lincoln Center eleven years later, with Marlena Shaw singing on two pieces, including a Basie "Blues Medley" they were born to swing. A lot of pop in the brass section. B+(**) [cd]

Dr. John: Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch (2013 [2014], Concord): Starts with "What a Wonderful World" from the wrong end of Louis Armstrong's songbook, then segues into the worst version of "Mack the Knife" I've ever heard -- a judgment I rendered even before Mike Ladd's rap. Hard to blame the trumpet players (Nicholas Payton, Terence Blanchard, Arturo Sandoval), but the rest of the band cuts the wrong rug, and the good Dr.'s slurred vocals slide all over the place -- a sharp contrast to Armstrong, who always had his unwieldy voice under perfect control. Of course, a tribute doesn't have to sound like its target -- if it did, what would be the point? But nothing here comes close, except Bonnie Raitt's cameo, and "When You're Smiling." C

Jorge Drexler: Bailar en la Cueva (2014, Warner Music Latina): Singer/songwriter from Uruguay, based in Spain, has a dozen (or so) albums since 1992. Strikes me as closer to MPB than to salsa -- for a guy who can't tell Spanish from Portuguese he reminds me mostly of Caetano Veloso, with a slightly more eccentric beat. B+(**)

John Ellis & Andy Bragen: Mobro (2011 [2014], Parade Light): Saxophonist, has an interestingly eclectic catalog which takes an odd turn here, providing the music for a play by Bragen, the combined effect way more operatic than I can handle. B-

Dave "Knife" Fabris: Lettuce Prey (2010 [2014], Musea): Guitarist, has appeared on several albums with pianist Ran Blake (who gets "featuring" credit here), but this seems to be his first album. It's a "kitchen sink" conglomeration with a wild mix of fusion and classical -- a Ginastera string quartet, some Prokofiev, "Sabre Dance," one of those horrible operatic sopranos -- and some smaller pieces, including a nice bit of "Mood Indigo" at the end. B- [cd]

FKA Twigs: LP1 (2014, Young Turks): "Half-Jamaican" UK native singer-songwriter, Tahilah Barnet, nicknamed Twigs, has two EPs, now an LP, backed with trip-hoppy electronics. Her thin, warbly voice is something Tricky led us to expect, and as long as this can pass for Tricky pop it holds up OK, but doesn't have anywhere else to go. B

Danny Fox Trio: Wide Eyed (2012 [2014], Hot Cup): Pianist, second album, trio with Chris Van Voorst Van Beest on bass and Max Goldman on drums. Played this several times and have very little to say about it -- a nice mix of Evans-esque melodic sense with a more Jarrett-like rhythmic push, I guess. B+(***) [cd]

Golem: Tanz (2014, Discos Corason): Punk-klezmer group led by accordionist-singer Annette Ezekiel Kogan, with Aaron Diskin as a second singer, the band anchored by violinist Jeremy Brown and noted jazz trombonist Curtis Hasslebring. Several albums, this the first on a Mexican label, produced by Tony Maimone (Pere Ubu). A-

Grand Fatilla: Global Shuffle (2014, self-released): Boston group, a spinoff from world-jazz eclectics Club D'Elf, pared down to a quartet: Robert Cassan (accordion), Matt Glover (electric mandolin), Mike Rivard (double bass, sintir), and Fabio Pirozzolo (percussion, voice): Argentine tangos, Italian Tarantellas, Turkish sacred Sufi songs, Irish reels, Moroccan trance, Bulgarian dance, all erudite and enjoyable, but nothing that shakes the rafters. B+(*) [cd]

The Green Seed: Drapetomania (2014, Communicating Vessels): Two rappers, two DJs, all the vinyl scratch sounds like a throwback to the '80s but the samples are more fluid, and the underground message is conscious, even when conflicted on matters of the heart. Matters of state, those are more obvious. A- [Later: A] [cd]

Michael Griener/Rudi Mahall/Jan Roder/Christof Thewes: Squakk: Willisau & Berlin (2012-13 [2014], Intakt): Some parsing options here: Griener (drums), Roder (bass), and Thewes (trombone) previously recorded an album called Squakk, effectively the group name here, but Griener is listed above Squakk, the others, including newcomer Mahall (bass clarinet, clarinet, baritone sax), below. Mahall not only adds a useful change of pace, he refocuses the group. A-

Haitian Rail: Solarists (2014, New Atlantis): Rough avant-jazz group, plenty of thrash especially between the guitar (Nick Millevoi) and trombone (Daniel Blacksberg). Bassist Edward Ricart also contributes a song -- the only band member who doesn't is drummer Kevin Shea, already famous for MOPDTK, less famous for Talibam and other marginal noise projects. B+(**)

Hans Hassler: Hassler (2011 [2013], Intakt): Folk background, "the true Swiss king of accordion," leads a quartet with two jazz clarinetists (Jürgen Kupke, Gebhard Ullmann on bass), plus percussion. Feels rushed and cramped. B

Hercules & Love Affair: The Feast of the Broken Heart (2014, Moshi Moshi): Disco group, fifth album including a DJ-Kicks. I figure cartoonishness is a bit of their shtick, but sometimes they overdo it, and more often they cut short the beats. B

Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas: Secret Evil (2014, Instant): Detroit group, has a straightforward, almost trad rock and roll form, the singer-songwriter's voice slightly off in a way that ultimately distinguishes her. First album after a couple EPs, one titled Weird Looking Women in Too Many Clothes. B+(***)

Wayne Horvitz: 55: Music and Dance in Concrete (2012 [2014], Cuneiform): Pianist, although he only composed and mixed these pieces, collaborating with Yukio Suzuki (choreography and dance), Yohei Saito (video artist) and Tucker Martine (producer/engineer). They were recorded at Fort Worden in Port Townsend, WA (out on the Olympic Peninsula), using the concrete bunkers and cistern for resonance. The group includes five horns (trumpet, trombone, clarinet/bass clarinet, alto and soprano sax) plus strings and voice (Maria Mannisto), for a quasi-classical effect. B [cdr]

Ibibio Sound Machine: Ibibio Sound Machine (2014, Soundway): British group with roots in Nigeria, led by singer Eno Williams with musicians from Ghana and Brazil. Framed by bits of gospel, deeper beats in the middle. B+(*)

Darius Jones/Matthew Shipp: Cosmic Lieder: The Darkseid Recital (2011-13 [2014], AUM Fidelity): Alto sax-piano duets, performed live at various spots following the 2011 studio album Cosmic Lieder. Jones is an intense player, sometimes extraordinary (cf. Man'ish Boy (A Raw & Beautiful Thing)) and sometimes just a pain in the ears (his Little Women albums, especially Lung). Shipp's dense clustering mostly slows him down, precluding either extreme. B+(*)

Pandelis Karayorgis Quintet: Afterimage (2014, Driff): Boston-based pianist with a mostly local live in Chicago group -- Dave Rempis (alto, tenor, baritone saxes), Keefe Jacckson (tenor sax, bass clarinet), Nate McBride (bass), and Frank Rosaly (drums). It's almost too much to work with, as the patches where the horns drop out reveal. B+(***) [cd]

Ryan Keberle & Catharsis: Into the Zone (2014, Greenleaf Music): Trombonist, second album with his quartet Catharsis -- Mike Rodriguez on trumpet, also bass and drums -- adding guests Scott Robinson (tenor sax) and Camila Meza (voice). The vocals offer an intriguing tangent, but wind up too much. B+(*) [cd]

Rebecca Kilgore with the Harry Allen Quartet: I Like Men (2013 [2014], Arbors): Standards singer collects a list of songs about men: "The Man I Love," of course, also "The Gentleman Is a Dope," "He's a Tramp," "He's My Guy," "Marry the Man Today," "The Man That Got Away," and so forth -- the biggest turnoff for me was "Goldfinger." Saxophonist Allen should be a big help here, but he doesn't add much. B+(*)

Jonas Kullhammar/Jørgen Mathisen/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Espen Aalberg: Basement Sessions Vol. 3: The Ljubljana Tapes (2013 [2014], Clean Feed): Two tenor saxophonists (the former also credited with soprillo sax and flute), bass, and drums. The two previous volumes were trios without Mathisen, and Vol. 2 was most impressive. This live successor has its hot spots, but also tends to slip on by. B+(**) [cd]

Lake Street Dive: Bad Self Portraits (2014, Signature Sounds): Singer Rachel Price reminds me of Elvin Bishop recycling blues clichés, but Bishop was slighter and had more fun. B+(*)

Adam Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra: Live in Ljubljana (2012 [2014], Clean Feed): An octet, with two trumpets (Nate Wooley, Susana Santos Silva), trombone (Reut Regev), three saxes (David Bindman, Avram Fefer, Mat Bauder), drums (Igal Foni), and the leader's bass mixed up so it's always audible, the heartbeat of a growing, growling organism -- the most Mingus-like of bassists, both for his compositions that sum up all worthwhile jazz history and as a bandleader who can whip a group up into something larger than itself. A- [cd]

Ingrid Laubrock Octet: Zürich Concert (2011 [2014], Intakt): German avant saxophonist, her octet limited to two horns (Tom Arthurs' trumpet is the other), with guitar-cello-bass strings, accordion in addition to piano, and drummer Tom Rainey doubling on xylophone. Intricate layering without much solo punch, but that seems to be the idea. B+(*)

Azar Lawrence: The Seeker (2011 [2014], Sunnyside): Tenor saxophonist, cut his first album in 1974 and doesn't have many since, but he's such a powerful presence if you've ever heard him pop up anywhere, even on the side, you're likely to remember the name. Quintet with Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Benito Gonzalez (piano), Essiet Okon Essiet (bass), and Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums). Big, dramatic sound, overwhelming all else. B+(**)

Gordon Lee with the Mel Brown Septet: Tuesday Night (2014, Origin): Lee is a pianist-composer, wrote everything here (lifting a bit from Rachmaninoff), and is counted in drummer Brown's septet (two saxes, trumpet, trombone, piano, bass, drums). Feels cluttered and rushed, the solos indistinct. B- [cd]

Ricardo Lemvo/Makina Loca: La Rumba Soyo (2014, Cumbancha): The most Cuban-sounding of Congolese stars, this has outsided salsa rhythms with soukous guitar supercharge, for an unrelenting up, up, up. Crazy machine, indeed. A-

Vincent Lyn: Live in New York City (2013 [2014], Budo): Pianist and kung-fu master, several albums, I don't doubt his proficiency but the charm here is tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana. B+(*) [cd]

Bob Mamet: London House Blues (2014, Blujazz): Pianist, from Chicago, brother of playwright David Mamet, half dozen or so albums since 1994, evidently spent some time in smooth/crossover jazz although this is an exemplary mainstream trio, two originals, familiar standards, bright, sparkling even. B+(**) [cd]

Jessica Lea Mayfield: Make My Head Sing . . . (2014, ATO): Singer-songwriter with two previous albums produced by Dan Auerbach (Black Keys). This one done with husband Jesse Newport (mostly bass) and a drummer, is distinguished first of all by the crunchy guitar, supposedly a tribute to '90s grunge. B+(**)

Medeski Martin & Wood + Nels Cline: Woodstock Sessions Vol. 2 (2013 [2014], Indirecto): Last heard with John Scofield, as natural a fit for the organ-drums-bass trio as one could imagine, I have to say they've traded up. Cline is a guitarist more inclined to cut against the grain than go with the flow, which makes this a much rougher-edged combination. M & M (if not necessarily W) have been moving in more avant circles since their early success, and that, too, pays dividends here. B+(***)

Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble: Intergalactic Beings (2010 [2014], FPE): She plays flute, a minor part of the sound and action here, mostly roiling around the dirty bass end with David Boykin's tenor sax/bass clarinet, Jeff Parker's guitar, Joshua Abrams' bass, and (especially) Avreeayl Ra's often stunning percussion. You also get strings (violin/cello), trumpet, and Mankwe Ndosi's voice in the messy mix. B+(***)

Hafez Modirzadeh: In Convergence Liberation (2011 [2014], Pi): Tenor saxophonist, born in North Carolina, has a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology, probably started with his father, Jamal Modir, a Persian percussionist, but he's been all over, studying Persian, South Indian, West African, and Japanese music (among others), but most importantly he is a George Russell protégé -- his first album was called In Chromodal Discourse (1992), and the one prior to this one was Post-Chromodal Out! (2012). This one comes with equations and sketches resembling particle physics. The music itself I find even more daunting, with strings everywhere (ETHEL, a quartet), those quasi-classical vocals I hate so much, and lots of santur, plus a bit of Amir ElSaffar trumpet. B+(**) [cd]

Joe Morris Quartet: Balance (2014, Clean Feed): Guitarist, with Mat Maneri (viola), Chris Lightcap (bass), and Gerald Cleaver (drums) in a strings thing, with Maneri doing the main job of shaping the scratchy, abstruse sounds. B+(**) [cd]

Sam Most: New Jazz Standards (2013 [2014], Summit): Jazz flautist, cut his first records in 1953, this one sixty years later -- a month before his death, in many ways this sums up his whole career: the high bebop lines, a side of baritone sax, a goofed up scat vocal. B+(**)

Myriad 3: The Where (2014, ALMA): Canadian piano trio -- Chris Donnelly (piano), Dan Fortin (bass), Ernesto Cervini (drums, winds) -- dabbling sometimes in electronic synths. Second album, all three write (but mostly Donnelly), postbop but suggests a bit of EST niche if not influence. B+(**) [cd]

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers: Hypnotic Eye (2014, Reprise): A personable young retro-rocker in the late 1970s when he introduced his lightweight "classic rock" formula, he remains personable and listenable 35 years later, and doesn't seem all that much older. B+(*)

Picastro: You (2014, Static Clang): Intriguing little group, basically slowcore with falsetto vocals, occasional fracturing or crazing around the edges. B+(*)

Pink Martini & the Von Trapps: Dream a Little Dream (2013 [2014], Heinz): With the last surviving member of the Trapp Family Singers, Maria von Trapp, passing at age 99, the legacy vocal group is mostly filled with great-grandchildren, doing August von Trapp originals, Rodgers and Hammerstein (you know, The Sound of Music), a tango, pieces from Africa and China, and bits of schmaltz from Brahms and ABBA. Such postmodern eclecticism is a Pink Martini trademark and this is very much their album, the extra voices adding an excessively somber air. B+(*)

Greg Reitan: Post No Bills (2014, Sunnyside): Pianist, fourth album since 2009, a trio with Jack Daro and Dean Koba. Three originals, seven covers, two of those standards ("Stella by Starlight," "I Loves You, Porgy"), the others by fellow pianists (Jarrett, Sample, Silver, Corea, Zeitlin). B+(*)

Dylan Ryan/Sand: Circa (2014, Cuneiform): Drummer, group includes Timothy Young (guitar) and Devin Hoff (bass). Second album, jazz-rock fusion pushing hard on the guitar. B+(*) [cdr]

Irène Schweizer/Pierre Favre: Live in Zürich (2013, Intakt): The great Swiss pianist cut a series of duo albums from 1986 on with various drummers, and Favre's entry was possibly the best -- the closest competitor was Han Bennink. This rematch gives you a sense of the dynamics, plus an unexpected boogie-blues at the end. A-

75 Dollar Bill: Olives in the Ears (2014, self-released): Lo-fi guitar-drum project, guitarist Che Chen credits a teacher from Mauritania for his mix of Arabic modes and Saharan blues, plus drummer Rick Brown, and some others chip in here and there. Available on cassette tape as well as digital download. B+(***) [bc]

Rotem Sivan Trio: For Emotional Use Only (2013 [2014], Fresh Sound New Talent): Guitarist, originally from Israel, now based in New York, second album, backed with bass and drums. B+(**) [cd]

Sohn: Tremors (2014, 4AD): Toph Taylor, from London, first album, singer-songwriter with electronics. Moby-ish if not quite Moby-like. B+(*)

Spoon: They Want My Soul (2014, Anti-): Texas rockers with a long history of corraling pop hooks unveil an edgier sound without losing their knack -- if anything, they've upped their game. A-

Steve Swallow/Ohad Talmor/Adam Nussbaum: Singular Curves (2012 [2014], Auand): Electric bass, tenor sax, drums, respectively. Talmor, b. 1970 in France, is best known for his collaborations with Lee Konitz, but those feature his string arrangements, where he it is a delight to hear his mellow saxophone -- e.g., the closing "You Go to My Head," which more than once convinced me to give this another spin. B+(***) [cdr]

Aki Takase/La Planète: Flying Soul (2012 [2014], Intakt): Starts like chamber jazz with violin (Dominique Pifarély), cello (Vincent Courtois), clarinet (Louis Sclavis) and piano/celesta (Takase), but no one -- least of all Pifarély -- wants to leave it at that, yielding a rather bracing diceyness as it develops. B+(***)

Jonah Tolchin: Clover Lane (2014, Yep Roc): First album for a young singer-songwriter from New Jersey with a vintage country/folk feel, a knack for smartly structured, sensitive and sensible songs -- if anything, reminds me most of T-Bone Burnett. A-

Trio 3 & Vijay Iyer: Wiring (2013 [2014], Intakt): Fifth album for Oliver Lake's sax trio supergroup -- Reggie Workman and Andrew Cyrille -- formed in 2001, plus superstar pianist Iyer for his second ride. Remarkable talents all around, the pianist especially, but Lake doesn't grab me like he can. Cyrille's closing "Tribute to Bu" is hard to top. B+(***)

Matt Ulery: In the Ivory (2013-14 [2014], Greenleaf Music, 2CD): Chicago bassist, has a habit of thinking big, as this sprawling opera indicates. "Contemporary classical music" always seemed like an nomenclature, but then it's never been clear what else to call new works in the Euroclassical tradition -- I, for one, am reluctant to call them jazz although as jazz gains an ever deeper toehold in the academy jazz musicians are increasingly inclined and prepared to veer that way. This sounded awful to me at first, but then the piano reps, and then the strings -- Zack Brock is the featured violinist -- started to cohere. In the end even the singers (Grazyna Auguscik and Sarah Marie Young) aren't that bad. Not that I wouldn't rather hear something that swings or bops or honks or skronks or blasts out in some new direction. B+(*) [cd]

Harvey Wainapel: Amigos Brasileiros Vol. 2 (2013 [2014], Jazzmission): Bay Area Sax/clarinet player, follows up his 2007 Amigos Brasileiros with another volume, this with nine songs encountering nine groups of "great Brazilian musicians" for some lush lounge music. B [cd]

Seth Walker: Sky Still Blue (2014, The Royal Potato Family): Blues singer-songwriter with a handful of albums, both guitar and voice strike me as rather tepid (presumably that's not just white). Only song that hits paydirt is "Jesus (Make My Bed)." B

Reggie Watkins: One for Miles, One for Maynard (2014, Corona Music): Trombonist from West Virginia, second album, plays one Davis song, one Ferguson, one from McCoy Tyner, two from his tenor saxophonist Matt Parker (who has a postmodern feel for older jazz), three of his own. Swings hard throughout, and piles on the horns for the Ferguson piece. B+(**) [cd]

Anna Webber: Simple (2013 [2014], Skirl): Canadian flutist, mostly plays tenor sax here, second album, trio with Matt Mitchell (piano) and John Hollenbeck (drums) doing much to stretch and skew the album. Best when all three thrash, but has a few spots when nothing much seems to be happening. B+(***) [cd]

The Whammies: Play the Music of Steve Lacy Vol. 3: Live (2014, Driff): Six-piece group dedicated to exploring Steve Lacy's slippery music take their act to Italy after two superb studio albums. All recognizable names: Jorrit Dijkstra (alto sax, lyricon), Pandelis Karayorgis (piano), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Mary Oliver (violin, viola), Jason Roebke (bass), and Han Bennink (drums). Slips a bit here and there, but many strong passages. B+(***) [cd]

Walter White: Most Triumphant (2013 [2014], Summit): Trumpet player, from and likely still based in Michigan, refers to a "30 year career" but only a couple albums as leader. This is a quartet with piano-bass-drums, half originals, half covers ranging from Chopin to "Bye Bye Blackbird" -- easy to fall for the latter. Gets a bright, sharp tone, and while the band isn't exceptional they do move things along smartly. B+(*) [cd]

Steve Wilson/Lewis Nash Duo: Duologue (2013 [2014], MCG Jazz): Sax-drums duets, not sure if Wilson plays anything but alto but it's mostly in that range. Three Wilson originals, two Ellingtons, Fats Waller, two Monk medleys, Gillespie, Ornette Coleman, "Freedom Jazz Dance." Wilson is fine, but this is an even better showcase for Nash, probably the best mainstream drummer since, well, ever. B+(***)

Tom Wolfe: Solerovescent (2014, Summit): Guitarist, probably his second record although with gray hair and such a common name I may not be looking hard enough. Bright postbop, with Ken Watters on trumpet, both electric and acoustic bass, and drums. B+(*) [cd]

Wooden Wand: Farmer's Corner (2013 [2014], Fire): Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter James Jackson Toth, has something like sixteen albums since 2004. Mostly guitar, providing a nice, shambling, country-ish air. B+(**)

J.J. Wright: Inward Looking Outward (2013 [2014], Ropeadope): Pianist, leading a trio with Ike Sturm and Nate Wood, manages to stake out a rumbling beat and ride it a long ways. B+(**) [cd]

Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Calypso: Musical Poetry in the Caribbean 1955-1969 (1955-69 [2014], Soul Jazz): Probably too many songs about reincarnation, a common trope for wits with doubts about the human condition. These wordslingers, after all, are all wits -- I'm particularly amused by the one who'd rather talk to Khrushchev than Bulganin -- and the lightweight beatwise music is always a delight. A-

Smoke Dawson: Fiddle (1971 [2014], Tompkins Square): Folk musician born in Brooklyn in 1935, played banjo alongside Peter Stampfel's fiddle in MacGrundy's Old-Timey Wool Thumpers in 1960 -- no album, but a group name worth repeating. His only album was this 1971 solo violin effort, a cult item limited to 750 copies. Only for aficionados of the old-time music, but fine for that. B+(***)

Arto Lindsay: Encyclopedia of Arto (1996-2012 [2014], Northern Spy, 2CD): First appeared in the late-1970s New York No Wave band DNA, rooting him in avant-noise, but as he moved on into the 1980s he revealed a second side rooted in Brazil, where he spent time growing up. First disc here collects studio tracks from 1996-2004 (O Corpo Sutil, Mundo Civilizado, up through Invoke and Salt). Second disc is taken from 2011-12 live shots and is rather dicier, more primitive, sometimes abstract, sometimes wrapped in noise, often remarkable. A-

Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66: Stillness (1971 [2014], Universal Sound): Roughly the end of pianist Mendes' hit period which began with the bossa nova in the year he named the band. Lani Hall is the singer, quick to cover L.A. stalwarts like Stephen Stills and Joni Mitchell. B+(*)

Punk 45: Underground Punk in the United States of America, Vol. 1: Kill the Hippies! Kill Yourself! The American Nation Destroys Its Young (1973-80 [2013], Soul Jazz): Only two songs here I know well ("The Modern Age" and "Chinese Rocks"), the remaining groups more unknown than not -- the best known, the Flamin' Groovies, shows up with a single from 1973, harder-edged than their 1969-71 albums let alone anything in their lame post-1976 pop period. While there are songs called "Kill the Hippies" (Deadbeats) and "Kill Yourself" (Lewd), they are barely proto-hardcore, way short of the Reagan-era Let Them Eat Jellybeans hardcore comp, so without seeing the booklet -- always a strong suit with this label -- it's hard to credit their "American nation destroys its young" thematic. Doesn't sound like that; just art going into a postmodern primitivist phase with more product than usual falling through the cracks. B+(***)

Punk 45: Underground Punk and Post-Punk in the UK 1977-81, Vol. 2: There Is No Such Thing as Society: Get a Job, Get a Car, Get a Bed, Get Drunk! (1977-81 (2014), Soul Jazz): More obscurities -- e.g., none of these bands showed up on Rhino's 1993 DIY: UK Punk I: Anarchy in the UK, only three I recall (Television Personalities, Swell Maps, very early Mekons). Nothing here strikes me as especially great, but they're nowhere near scraping the bottom of the barrel, as the clatter and clank flow surprisingly well. B+(***)

Old Music

The Best Punk Album in the World . . . Ever! (1975-84 [1995], Virgin, 2CD): After listening to the first two Punk 45 compilations and noting their obscure provenance, I recalled this UK set (graded A by Christgau), and while it's long out-of-print, I had little trouble finding the songs and lining them up in Rhapsody's mixer (the only one missing is Adam and the Ants' "Deutscher Girls," perhaps for the better). Each disc starts with the Sex Pistols and never hits that level of punk fury again -- no Clash or Vibrators, the US picks rarely get out of New York (Jonathan Richman, Devo, and the Tubes are exceptions) -- so they encroach upon new wave for hits, picking out relatively crunchy tunes even from Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson. Not as tight thematically as Rhino's 1993 two DIY: UK Punk volumes, but no one I knew in New York in the late 1970s listened to just punk or new wave: we jumped back and forth, like the compilers here. A-

Michael Griener/Jan Roder/Christof Thewes: Squakk (2008 [2009], Jazzwerkstatt): Avant-trombone trio, the drummer and bassist listed first, perhaps alphabetically. Unfamiliar with Thewes but this seems like par for the course as far as German trombonists go -- a course including Albert Mangelsdorff and Conrad Bauer. B+(**)

Richard Hell: Spurts: The Richard Hell Story (1973-92 [2005], Rhino): Bassist Hell doesn't seem to have played on all of these cuts, but those he missed he (co-)wrote and/or remixed -- Neon Boys, Television, Heartbreakers, Dim Stars, bands he played with at some point or other -- and tracks 4-13 recapitulate his 1977-82 heyday with the Voidoids. Discogs credits the liner notes to Robert Christgau and Carola Dibbell, but they're not (yet) on the website. I stumbled upon this by sheer accident. Nice best-of plus brilliant trivia, at least until they get to the dimly remembered Steve Shelley-Thurston Moore Dim Stars. B+(**)

Oliver Lake: Heavy Spirits (1975 [1995], Black Lion): Second album for the alto saxophonist, pasted together from two sessions -- a quintet with Olu Dara (trumpet) and Donald Smith (piano), followed by three tracks with two violinists, a solo track, then one with trombonist Joseph Bowie plus drums. Shows promise but packs too many different looks. B+(*)

The Oliver Lake String Project: Movement, Turns & Switches (1996, Passin' Thru): Lake tries to burnish his bona fides as a composer by building this around a string quartet, some piano (Donal Fox), even laying out on a cut. Not that it doesn't work, but not really what one turns to him for. B

Oliver Lake Quintet: Talkin' Stick (1997 [2000], Passin' Thru): A typical album for the alto saxophonist, the quintet including Geri Allen on piano and Jay Hoggard on vibes instead of a second horn. B+(**)

Oliver Lake Steel Quartet: Dat Love (2003 [2004], Passin' Thru): Lyndon Achee's steel pan drums provide the group name and add a measure of mellow to what otherwise is a typical Lake sax trio, extended blowing on a high level, although also a bit more mellow than usual. B+(***)

Ted Rosenthal: My Funny Valentine (2007 [2008], Tokuma): Piano trio, playing "11 standards from the vast repertoire of vocalist Helen Merrill," which is to say eleven of the juiciest standards around, from "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" to "'S Wonderful." B+(***)

Nobu Stowe & Alan Munshower with Badal Roy: An die Musik (2006 [2008], Soul Note): Japanese pianist, based in Baltimore, with drums and tabla, not exactly a piano trio but the rich, repetitive mid-to-uptempo piano riffs limit the need for a bassist and the extra complexity to the percussion is a plus. Stowe sent me a pile of discs quite some time ago, and if this isn't the best, it's at least the easiest to get into. A- [cdr]

Nobu Stowe: L'Albero Delle Meduse (2009 [2010], self-released): Scant evidence of this ever being released -- I'm working off an advance and assume pianist Stowe is the leader only because he sent it to me. The pieces are joint improvs (except for the closer, Jim Pepper's "Witchi-Tai-To"), and Achille Succi (alto sax, bass clarinet) is listed ahead of Stowe, the rest: Daniel Barbiero (bass), Alan Munshower (drums), Lee Pembleton (sound). B+(***) [cdr]

Nobu Stowe-Lee Pembleton Project: Hommage an Klaus Kinski (2006 [2007], Soul Note): Pembleton's credit here is "sound" -- whatever that means. Better known are the clarinetists, Perry Robinson and Blaise Siwula, the latter doubling on tenor sax. Veers a bit toward soundtrack territory -- presumably Pembleton's responsible for the bird and bug sounds -- which also gives the pianist an excuse to get melodramatic, something his richly textured style is built for. B+(**) [cdr]

Aki Takase/Alex von Schlippenbach/DJ Illvibe: Lok 03 (2004 [2005], Leo): Two avant pianists who have duetted in the past but not like this, mediated as it is by Illvibe's turntables and kitchen sink-ism, amplifying the noise level of musicians who can really bring it. A-

Aki Takase/Silke Eberhard: Ornette Coleman Anthology (2006 [2007], Intakt, 2CD): Eberhard plays alto sax, clarinet, and bass clarinet, in duos with the pianist on a long list of Ornette Coleman tunes (plus one Takase original). Hot stuff, the piano jumping all over the tunes, the sax/clarinet providing just enough color contrast. A-

Aki Takase/Louis Sclavis: Yokohama (2009, Intakt): Sclavis plays clarinet, bass clarinet, and soprano sax, a lighter tone and calmer demeanor than Eberhard had on those Coleman tunes, and the pianist adjusts accordingly. Thoughtful, often lovely. B+(***)

Aki Takase/Han Bennink: Two for Two (2011, Intakt): A piano-drums duo, again a marvelous outing for the drummer, especially when the moment calls for a bit of swing although he's fine with any or no time, and he's equally adept at setting the pianist up or just amusing himself while she surprises us. A-

Tama: Rolled Up (2009, Jazzwerkstatt): Avant piano trio -- Aki Takase (piano), Jan Roder (bass), Oliver Steidle (drums) -- hits hard for the most part, block-chorded fury, not that it isn't tightly controlled. B+(***)

Leroy Vinnegar Sextet: Leroy Walks! (1957 [1989], Contemporary/OJC): Bassist, nicknamed "The Walker" for his walking bass lines, a theme integrated into most of his handful of album titles (from his first album here to 1992's Walkin' the Basses). Cut in Los Angeles with a light, almost frothy West Coast group -- Gerald Wilson (trumpet), Teddy Edwards (tenor sax), Carl Perkins (piano), Victor Feldman (vibes), Tony Bazley (drums). B+(**)


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