Streamnotes: April 29, 2017

About the same count this time: 115 vs. 114 in March, which compares to 153 in February and 156 in January, back when I was paying more heed to EOY lists. I made a last-minute effort to listen to well-regarded new non-jazz albums, which helped -- new releases are up to 78 from 52, with old music down roughly that much. The old music came from artists I ran into while collating the jazz guides. In a couple cases I checked out musicians I didn't have any rated albums from before (Pete La Roca, Charles Tyler). In some cases (Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard) I pretty much limited myself to their early Blue Note releases. For Horace Tapscott I found a record that I had written a bit about before but hadn't graded.

Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on March 31. Past reviews and more information are available here (9514 records).

Recent Releases

Kevin Abstract: American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story (2016, Brockhampton): Rapper-crooner Ian Simpson, barely out of his teens, plying beats too suave and fills too orchestral. B+(*)

Actress: AZD (2017, Ninja Tune): British electronica guy, Darren Cunningham, ambient with occasional interruptions, both glitches and more violent eruptions. Last track, "Visa," broke the mold. B+(*)

Antonio Adolfo: Hybrido: From Rio to Wayne Shorter (2016 [2017], AAM): Brazilian pianist, based in US (Florida, I think), has several dozen albums since 1969. Eight Wayne Shorter compositions plus Adolfo's closer, all given a nice samba treatment. B [cd]

Arca: Arca (2017, XL): Alejandro Ghersi, originally from Venezuela, studied in New York, now based in London. The music is surreal and eerie, something that one could find oddly attractive, were it not for the arch and arcane vocals. B

Bardo Pond: Under the Pines (2017, Fire): Rock band from Philadelphia, together and fairly prolific since the early 1990s -- Discogs counts 35 albums plus many EPs, Wikipedia only lists 11 studio albums but mentions 11 side projects. Thick trippy guitars with drone feedback and ethereal moans, they pass for psychedelic these days, but I can't latch onto much beyond their dense ambiance. B

Bill Brovold & Jamie Saft: Serenity Knolls (2016 [2017], Rare Noise): Guitar duets -- Saft is normally a keyboard player but is credited with dobro and lap steel here, so he adds some resonance to the relatively placid lead guitar. B+(*) [cdr]

Chicago/London Underground: A Night Walking Through Mirrors (2016 [2017], Cuneiform): Since 1998 Rob Mazurek (cornet/electronics) and Chad Taylor (drums) have led various Chicago Underground duos, trios, and quartets, with Mazurek later taking his Underground concept to Sao Paulo. Here the Chicago duo visits London, meeting up with Alexander Hawkins (piano) and John Edwards (bass) -- both are very active, bringing a lot of heat and dynamism to the cooler orientation of the Chicagoans. A- [cdr]

Jacob Collier: In My Room (2016, Membran): British jazz singer, first album, title from the Beach Boys song. Belongs to the school that thinks tricking thing up makes them jazzier, but also betrays his background singing Bach chorales. C+

Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra: Invitation (2016 [2017], OA2): Big band, produced by alto saxophonist Art Bouton, with baritone saxophonist Wil Swindler doing most of the arranging (and writing the only original piece). Standards from the songbook and major jazz sources like Ellington and Mulligan, done up smartly. B+(**) [cd]

Larry Coryell: Barefoot Man: Sanpaku (2016, Purple Pyramid): Probably the late fusion guitarist's last album, the title referring back to his 1971 album Barefoot Boy like a pair of bookends. And he goes out much like he came in, with a groove. B+(*)

Rodney Crowell: Close Ties (2017, New West): His geography is bracketed by an opener about Houston and a closer on Nashville. He writes substantial, earthy songs, and sings them with a polite drawl, supplemented by duet features for Rosanne Cash and Sheryl Crow. B+(***)

Ernest Dawkins New Horizons Ensemble: Transient Takes (2016 [2017], Malcom): Group's first (2016) album seemed to be credited to Live the Spirit Residency, also on the cover here followed by "Presents # 2" but this is a more sensible credit (of course, I could have followed he cover and added "featuring Vijay Iyer"). Has a rough patch I don't much care for, but coheres more often than not. B+(***)

Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Quartet: Waltz New (2016 [2017], OA2): Guitar and bass, respectively, with several albums together, always interesting postbop. Joel Frahm is very solid at tenor sax, with Eliot Zigmund on drums. B+(**) [cd]

David Feldman: Horizonte (2016 [2017], self-released): Pianist, born in Rio de Janeiro (where he recorded this), has a couple albums, wrote most of the songs here, most with bossa touches -- hard not to with a band that includes Toninho Horta on nylon guitar. B+(*) [cd]

Craig Finn: We All Want the Same Things (2017, Partisan): One of the most distinctive and touching voices in recent rock history (mostly with Hold Steady), a writer with a fine ear for speech and lots of compassion for other people, both down and out and temporarily up -- which seems to be the gamut these days. A-

Gerry Gibbs & Thrasher People: Weather or Not (2016 [2017], Whaling City Sound, 2CD): After several albums with what drummer ("Trasher") Gibbs called his Dream Trio (Kenny Barron and Ron Carter), evidently Hans Glawischnig (bass) and Alex Collins (keyboards) are just people. First disc is "The Music of Weather Report"; second is "The Music of Gerry Gibbs." Upbeat enthusiasm, even some thrashing, but much ado about damn little. [My copy only came with the first disc; I listened to the second on Napster.] B

Rhiannon Giddens: Freedom Highway (2017, Nonesuch): Lead singer for old-timey revival group Carolina Chocolate Drops, also plays banjo, second album on her own. Sounds primal, even when the producer throw in the kitchen sink. B+(**)

Cameron Graves: Planetary Prince (2017, Mack Avenue): Pianist, first album, got a boost as the piano player on saxophonist Kamasi Washington's crossover hit, The Epic. Washington returns the favor here, along with Philip Dizack (trumpet) and Ryan Porter (trombone). Graves pounds the piano hard enough to rock the house, but it all feels stiff and forced to me, except when Dizack tries to light the sky. B-

Iro Haarla: Ante Lucem (2012 [2016], ECM): Second line, same size and darker than the title: "for Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Quintet." From Finland, plays piano and harp, has a handful of albums since 2001. Problem, for me anyhow, is the orchestra (Norrlands Operans Symfoniorkester, conducted by Jukka Iisakkila), although the quintet -- with Hayden Powell (trumpet) and Trygve Seim (soprano/tenor sax) -- is far removed from swing or bop. Still, this achieves much of the beauty and grandeur it aspires to. Just not sure that's a good thing. B+(**)

Mariem Hassan: La Voz Indómita (del Sahara Occidental) (2017, Nubenegra): Sahrawi pop singer, born in what was then called Spanish Sahara and has lately been occupied by Morocco, died at 57 in a refugee camp, but after building a formidable international recording career, and leaving this compilation from her last four years as some kind of testament. Christgau lauds her as "postcolonial Africa's most striking female singer." Maybe, but there's not a lot more to the music, even by Saharan standards. B+(***)

Mariem Hassan/Vadiya Mint El Hanevi: Baila Sahara Baila (2015, Nubenegra): Dance music, so the rhythms pick up, along with what for lack of a better informed context I'll call war whoops. Hanevi makes his mark early on by talking through the dances. While he doesn't have Hassan's legendary voice, the energy he brings makes the difference. A-

Heads of State: Four in One (2017, Smoke Sessions): Mainstream quartet on their second album, with founders Gary Bartz (alto sax), Larry Willis (piano), and Al Foster (drums) -- the bass slot originally filled by Buster Williams goes to David Williams (nickname "Happy") here. Bartz has matured into a lovely ballad player, and of course they swing. B+(**)

Oscar Hernández & Alma Libre: The Art of Latin Jazz (2016 [2017], Origin): Pianist, based in Los Angeles, with sax/flute and "special guest" trumpet (Gilbert Castellanos), bass, congas and drums. All original pieces, pretty much as advertised. B+(**) [cd]

Derrick Hodge: The Second (2016, Blue Note): Bass guitarist, has won a couple Grammys for producing hip-hop/r&b albums, jazz credits include Terence Blanchard and Robert Glasper, this his second album as leader. Mostly multitracked solo, amiable groove, plus a drummer on three tracks, horns on a couple more (not a plus). B

Idles: Brutalism (2017, Bailey): British post-punk group, from Bristol, first album, a little heavy but clear and catchy, one that could grow on you. B+(***)

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: The Music of John Lewis (2013 [2017], Blue Engine): Lewis was the pianist and main composer for the Modern Jazz Quartet, and was an important figure in the decade's brief (but really still evolving) "third stream" movement. Around 2000, when Gary Giddins started pushing for classical-like jazz repertory orchestras, the first person he turned to for leadership was Lewis. So a trawl through the major compositions of Lewis is just the sort of thing the culture empire uptown would sign up for. Executive producer Wynton Marsalis gets his usual "featuring" credit, along with guest pianist Jon Baptiste. B+(*) [cd]

Billy Jones: 3's a Crowd (2017, Acoustical Concepts): Drummer, don't know anything about him. Concept here is a set of duos, some "east coast," some "west coast," less than half with musicians I've heard of (John Vanore, Gary Meek, Mick Rossi, etc.), about half horns, two pianos, one each vibes and vocals. Versatile, I suppose, or scattered. B [cd]

Khalid: American Teen (2017, Right Hand/RCA): Last name Robinson, b. 1998, grew up on Army bases including six years in Germany, sung in the US Army Band. Doesn't strike me as much of a voice, but his songs are offhandedly catchy and they grow on you. A-

Kneebody: Anti-Hero (2017, Motéma): Brooklyn quintet -- Shane Endsley (trumpet), Ben Wendel (sax), Adam Benjamin (keyboards), Kaveh Rastegar (bass), Nate Wood (drums) -- seventh album since 2005. They took a turn toward IDM last time out with Daedelus, but this year's more conventional fusion is also less interesting. B

Julian Lage: Live in Los Angeles (2016, Mack Avenue, EP): Guitarist from California, several records since 2009 but still under 30. This is billed as an EP, but its five cuts run 35:06. Trio with Scott Colley (bass) and Kenny Wollesen (drums). B

Kendrick Lamar: Damn (2017, Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope): Metacritic score 96 on 29 reviews -- if not a lock to top 2017 EOY lists a very strong favorite. As has always been the case, I'm slow getting him -- can't much relate to the slice of life, and the soft beats and sliding melodies take time to sink in. Still, his chronicle of fear really got to me, and there seems to be much more floating in the ozone. Still, doubt I'll really get there: I grew up thinking that the telos of music is pleasure, not (for lack of a better word) art. A-

Allegra Levy: Cities Between Us (2016 [2017], SteepleChase): Jazz singer, describes herself as "sultry," graduated from New England Conservatory, has one previous album. Nice combo here with Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Stephen Riley (tenor sax), Carmen Staaf (piano), Jay Anderson and Billy Drummond. Mostly original pieces, or words she added to label legends Dexter Gordon and Duke Jordan. B+(***) [cd]

Arto Lindsay: Cuidado Madame (2017, Northern Spy): Part of New York's post-punk "No Wave" movement (his band was DNA), although his experience growing up in Brazil has always tugged him towards Tropicália -- his many albums leaning one way or the other, or in this case both. A-

Mike Longo Trio: Only Time Will Tell (2016 [2017], CAP): Piano trio, with Paul West on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. Pianist goes back to the early 1970s, most recently crafting a tribute to Oscar Peterson. Couple originals here, mostly smart covers, including a couple Monks. B+(**) [cd]

The Magnetic Fields: 50 Song Memoir (2017, Nonesuch, 5CD): Fifty-year-old Stephin Merritt's autobiographical concept album, one song for each year of his life, one half-hour CD per decade -- actually a more modest, if less tiresome, project than his famous 69 Love Songs, which actually did fill three hour-long CDs. Perhaps unfair to judge given that Napster only offers 16 songs, but they look to be a fairly random sample, and I'm not sure more would overcome my annoyance. B-

Laura Marling: Semper Femina (2017, More Alarming): British singer-songwriter, sort of a latter-day Joni Mitchell, which works better some times than others. B+(*)

Robert McCarther: Stranger in Town (2016 [2017], Psalms 149 Music): Has a previous album, wrote one song here, covers include Monk and Mancini and two Bill Withers. Band includes horns, piano, guitar, bass, drums. You know he's a jazz singer because he evinces all the usual stereotypical tics. C+ [cd]

MEM3: Circles (2011 [2017], self-released): Canadian piano trio, pianist is Michael Cabe, and Mark Lau gets a bass solo I never fail to notice, but the only familiar name is drummer Ernesto Cervini. He provides enough rhythmic regularity to push this into EST territory, but while I started thinking they were pushing something with a pop angle, after several plays I gave that notion up. B+(**) [cd]

The Microscopic Septet: Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues (2016 [2017], Cuneiform): Group led by Philip Johnston (soprano sax) and Joel Forrester (piano), dates back to 1981 with a break in the 1990s, the addition of tenor saxophonist Michael Hashim the key move to the reunion. Closes with a Joe Liggins song (Dave Sewelson sings), the other dozen tracks split even among the leaders (although Forrester quotes more than the title from "Silent Night" -- nearly a deal breaker for me, until it isn't). Blues, maybe, but the key thing here is swing, which they do not for nostalgia but because it feels right. A- [cdr]

The New Pornographers: Whiteout Conditions (2017, Collected Works/Concord): I lost interest in this Canadian semi-super group shortly after their 2000 debut, while sampling most (but not all) of their later albums just in case I missed something. I have little doubt that this is their best ever -- it's the brightest and catchiest by miles -- but after two plays I'm losing interest again, and wouldn't want to bump it higher just because I'm impressed or surprised. B+(***)

Matt North: Above Ground Fools (2017, self-released): Nashville session drummer writes and (I assume) sings a batch of big beat rock and roll songs, with clear lyrics more than a little sharp. A-

Conor Oberst: Ruminations (2016, Nonesuch): His acoustic album, guitar or piano and harmonica, basically demos of songs written over an Omaha winter, "staying up late every night playing piano and watching the snow pile up outside the window." B+(**)

Conor Oberst: Salutations (2017, Nonesuch): Here he refashions his Ruminations songs (plus a few more) for full band. With his harmonica, I was struck by how accomplished his Dylanisms had become on the demos, but he's got an even better sense of electric Dylan's tricks of the trade. Songs maturing too. A-

One for All: The Third Decade (2015 [2016], Smoke Sessions): Mainstream jazz group, Discogs shows them recording five albums 2001-05 and not much since, but I heard a missing 2006 album, and the labels claims they've recorded 16 albums in 20+ years, making this the start of their third decade. All names you should know: Eric Alexander (tenor sax), Jim Rotondi (trumpet), Steve Davis (trombone), David Hazeltine (piano), John Webber (bass), Joe Farnsworth (drums). B+(**)

Matt Otto With Ensemble Ibérica: Ibérica (2016 [2017], Origin): Tenor saxophonist, has a handful of albums since 2002, teaches at KU. The Ensemble are three guitarists (sometimes oud, cavaquinho, tres, acoustic bass guitar), supplemented by keyboards, bass/cello, and steel guitar -- no drums, so you get that chamber jazz feel, with everything -- especially the sax -- on the pretty side. B+(**) [cd]

Brad Paisley: Love and War (2017, Arista Nashville): Nashville superstar, eleventh studio album since 1999, last eight topped the country charts, has an arena-ready sound which rocks hard but is still recognizably country. Even seems like a nice guy, and not a dumb one. But I've never warmed to any of his albums -- even the three (counting this one) Christgau A-listed. Probably has most to do with that big sound -- I stopped caring for Eric Church, too, when he muscled up -- but there's always a lyric (or two or three) to trip over. First one I caught this time: "let's go to bed early, and stay up all night" -- that's not the worst (certainly not next to "just another day in heaven," or his elegy for vets: "they ship you out to die for us/forget about you when you don't" -- fact is they forget about every one once they can no longer be used). B

The Ed Palermo Big Band: The Great Un-American Songbook: Volumes I & II (2016 [2017], Cuneiform, 2CD): Alto saxophonist way back when, cut his first album in 1982, has led his big band since 1987, recording three or four (maybe more) albums of Frank Zappa music. Here he examines not so much the British Invasion as the prog strain that followed, starting and ending with bits of Sgt. Pepper, navigating through Move, Cream, Procul Harum, Nice, King Crimson, Blodwyn Pig, ELP, Traffic, Jethro Tull, Arthur Brown, plus Radiohead. Vocals by Bruce McDaniel help pin the songs down, and his patter adds an air of nostalgia. "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" followed by "Fire" got to me, too. B+(*) [cdr]

Michael Pedicin: As It Should Be: Ballads 2 (2016 [2017], Groundblue): Tenor/soprano saxophonist, mainstream player, should be a natural for a ballads program, but I find his tone a bit thin. Or it may just be that instead of picking surefire songbook classics he had guitarist Johnny Valentino do most of the writing (8/10 songs). I wouldn't call the Paul Simon cover a plus either, and "Crescent" only reminds me of how truly gorgeous Pharoah Sanders' ballads were. B+(*) [cd]

Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 1: Titan (2016 [2017], Leo): The first of a trove of seven separately issued discs pairing the Brazilian avant saxophonist with the American pianist -- frequent collaborators since 1996's Bendito of Santa Cruz -- with various rhythm sections. Seems like the ideal might be to listen to all of them then start to make whatever marginal distinctions I can find, but for practical purposes all I can do is take them one-by-one and hope I don't get too lost. This one is a trio with William Parker, who in Perelman's 2016 The Art of the Improv Trio lifted Volume 4. He gets this series off to a strong start, too. A- [cd]

Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 2: Tarvos (2016 [2017], Leo): Third member here is veteran drummer Bobby Kapp, who belatedly came to my attention as Shipp's partner on their 2016 duo album, Cactus. The drummer kicks up the energy level here, and the saxophonist responds accordingly. A- [cd]

Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 3: Pandora (2016 [2017], Leo): Quartet here, with William Parker on bass and Whit Dickey on drums, a piano trio that backed David S. Ware back in the early 1990s. This isn't as exciting: Perelman would rather work his way around the edges than channel the Holy Ghost, so the group doesn't push him. Still fascinating to follow. A- [cd]

Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 4: Hyperion (2016 [2017], Leo): Trio, with Michael Bisio -- another frequent Shipp collaborator -- on bass. I was thrown a bit early on by the high notes -- Perelman may play more in the top end of the tenor sax than anyone else -- but they settle down, and midway take a remarkable run. Not sure this counts as a slip, but it doesn't add much. B+(***) [cd]

Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 5: Rhea (2016 [2017], Leo): Quartet with Shipp's usual trio mates Michael Bisio and Whit Dickey. As with the other sessions, the pieces are simply numbered, and it's "Part 6" that puts this over the top with its exhilarating tornado of sound -- everything you could hope for in free jazz. A- [cd]

Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 6: Saturn (2016 [2017], Leo): Just a duo, the only such volume in the series. Gives the pianist the chance for a few solos, something he's done little of so far, but still the focus is on the tenor sax, aiming this time more to woo than to overpower. B+(***) [cd]

Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 7: Dione (2016 [2017], Leo): Trio with Andrew Cyrille on drums, a stellar choice although as always it's the saxophonist who calls the shots and sets the pace. Could be fatigue setting in -- no idea if these were released in the order recorded, as all are listed as October 2016. Or could just be that the reviewer is tiring (although the moment I wrote that the record entered a particularly interesting passage). B+(***) [cd]

Angaleena Presley: Wrangled (2017, Thirty Tigers): Pistol Annies member, cut an excellent debut album in 2014 (American Middle Class), returns for her second. This one takes longer to click, but it ends on a succession of high points, including songs written with rockabilly pioneer Wanda Jackson and the late Guy Clark and a short meditation on a "Motel Bible." A-

Priests: Nothing Feels Natural (2017, Sister Polygon): DC-based post-punk group, first album (after a couple EPs). Guitar-bass-drums plus singer Katie Alice Greer, who centers them while making them seem special. B+(**) [yt]

Priests: Bodies and Control and Money and Power (2014, Don Giovanni, EP): Seven cuts, 17:24, enough to make an impression. B+(*)

Michael Rabinowitz: Uncharted Waters (2017, Cats Paw): Bassoonist, has been playing jazz (at least) since the 1990s, not many of those, so there's a temptation just to let the unusual tone do the work of differentiating this from every other mainstream artist. That's most obvious on the covers, but he also wrote half of the pieces here, and he does a creditable job of taking a heavy and awkward instrument and keeping it breezy. B+(*) [cd]

Rashad: #LevelUp (2017, Self Made): Rapper, can't find anything about him -- not DJ Rashad, Isaiah Rashad, probably not Rashad Stark or Tony Rashad or @RashadtheGod though they all pop up inconclusively. Sixteen cuts, most catchy or punchy or something. B+(**)

Jason Rigby: One: Detroit-Cleveland Trio (2016 [2017], Fresh Sound New Talent): Tenor saxophonist, long based in New York though I'm guessing he ultimately hails from Cleveland, as his trio mates -- Cameron Brown on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums -- are Detroit natives. He's always struck me as a fancy post-bop guy, but this is very down-to-basics. B+(***) [cd]

Scott Routenberg Trio: Every End Is a Beginning (2017, Summit): Pianist-composer, teaches at Ball State (Muncie, IN), has three previous albums going back to 2000. With Nick Tucker on bass and Cassius Goins III on drums. Original postbop. B+(*) [cd]

Trygve Seim: Rumi Songs (2015 [2016], ECM): Norwegian saxophonist (tenor/soprano), sixth album since 2000 (all on ECM), recasts the poetry of Rumi (1207-1273, from Persia) in English translation as songs, sung by classical mezzo-soprano Tora Augestad. The music builds on accordion (Frode Haitli) and cello (Svante Henryson), with Seim's sax acting as a chorus in response to the singer. I rather prefer the sax, which verges on gorgeous. B [dl]

The Shins: Heartworms (2017, Columbia): James Mercer's former band, carrying on as a "shell corporation" for his/their fifth studio album. High-pitched pop, tempted to call it catchy but can't say as it caught me. I was, however, intrigued by the jangle-free change-of-pace "Mildenhall." B+(*)

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers: Sidelong (2015 [2017], Bloodshot): Band from Chapel Hill, NC, lead singer-guitarist previously fronted Sarah Shook & the Devil. Dates confusion suggests the debut was self-released first then picked up by Chicago's premier outlaw country label. She drinks hard, plays hard, doesn't have a lot of range but does have an impact. B+(***)

Bria Skonberg: Bria (2016, Okeh/Masterworks): From British Columbia, plays trumpet, sings, mostly standards but five (of fourteen) originals. Evan Amtzen's clarinet and tenor sax offer a nice complement flirting with trad jazz, but the rhythm section (Aaron Diehl, Reginald Veal, Ali Jackson) are more tuned to swing, and Stefon Harris accents on vibes. The opener, "Don't Be That Way," is choice. B+(***)

Sleater-Kinney: Live in Paris (2015 [2017], Sub Pop): I've dutifully listened to all of the albums, but never became enough of a fan to be able to place any of the songs in this reunion tour set (other than "No Cities to Love" -- the title of their reunion album). B+(*)

Nate Smith: Kinfolk: Postcards From Everywhere (2017, Ropeadope): Drummer, side credits with Chris Potter and Dave Holland, both with a guest spots on this debut (Potter's on a piece called "Bounce"). Easily the best thing on this broad spread -- Lionel Loueke funk, three singers (Gretchen Parlato the best known), Adam Rogers guitar, scads of strings. B

Spoon: Hot Thoughts (2017, Matador): Alt-indie group, based in Austin, goes back to the 1990s with several notable albums. This one holds up at least half way through, an appealing rough chunkiness, then someone's mind wanders -- maybe my own. B+(***)

Colin Stetson: Sorrow (A Reimagining of Gorecki's 3rd Symphony) (2016, 52Hz): Stetson is a saxophonist who's picked up a substantial rock following (ties to Bon Iver and Bell Orchestre), but moves toward classical here, performing a piece by Polish compuser Henry Gorecki (1933-2010). Group includes saxophonists Dan Bennett and Matt Bauder, violinist Sarah Neufeld, two cellos, two guitars, keyboards, drums, with vocals by Megan Stetson. B-

Colin Stetson: All This I Do for Glory (2017, 52Hz): Saxophonist, plays alto and tenor but specializes in the heavy stuff -- bass sax and contrabass clarinet. Born in Ann Arbor, based in Montreal. Only thing that links him to jazz is his instrument -- otherwise he's basically a post-rock experimentalist (only jazz name I see on his "performed and recorded with dozens of artists" list is Anthony Braxton, but maybe that's the only one comparably famous to Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, or closer to his home Godspeed! You Black Emperor). This is industrial/minimalist fusion, recycling rhythms with the extra resonance of wind instruments and some vocal shadowing. Seems fairly simple, but remains unique. A-

Trio 3: Visiting Texture (2016 [2017], Intakt): Andrew Cyrille (drums), Reggie Workman (bass), Oliver Lake (alto saxophone). Thirteenth album together since 1997, recently adding various guests but this is back to basics, nothing fancy but remarkable craft within the free jazz trade. A-

Trio Heinz Herbert: The Willisau Concert (2016 [2017], Intakt): Swiss group, no one named Heinz or Herbert -- two brothers, Dominic and Ramon Landolt, on guitar and keyboards, both cranked up with "effects," and drummer Mario Hänni. Quieter stretches resemble piano trio, but more often their electronics move them into new and surprising sonic terrains -- though nothing I would call fusion. I wound up spending a lot of time on this, torn between the suspicion that what they're doing is marginal and the certainty that it's unique. A- [cd]

Valerie June: The Order of Time (2017, Concord): Last name Hockett, from Memphis, father promoted gospel and soul singers. Her music is commonly described as "a mixture of folk, blues, gospel, soul, country, Appalachian and bluegrass" -- i.e., she's a singer-songwriter who has yet to distinguish her voice, although she definitely has one. B+(**)

David Virelles: Antenna (2016, ECM, EP): Hot young pianist with three previous albums, credited here with piano, organ, various keyboards, prepared piano, computer and sampler. Released as 10-inch EP, six cuts, 21:43. Joined here by a variety of people on one or two tracks each, including two rap-influenced vocalists and Henry Threadgill (alto sax) -- the only other consistent presence (electronics, sampler, cello) is producer Alexander Overington. Breaks noisy in many directions, hard to pin down. B+(**) [dl]

Daniel Weltlinger: Samoreau: A Tribute to the Fans of Django Reinhardt (2016 [2017], Rectify): Violinist, so you might think he'd be more focused on the unmentioned Stéphane Grappelli, especially with the guitar slot rotating among five players -- three with the surname Reinhardt. With bass and accordion on a couple tracks -- the ones you most notice. B+(**) [cd]

Jim Yanda Trio: Regional Cookin' (1987 [2017], Corner Store Jazz): Guitarist, trio includes Drew Gress (bass) and Phil Haynes (drums), released to accompany a new recording of the same trio 30 years later -- Yanda's first released record appeared in 2013. Nice straight line guitar, sounds fresh but stays within the usual limits. B+(*) [cd]

Jim Yanda Trio: Home Road (2016 [2017], Corner Store Jazz, 2CD): This one is new, same trio as 30 years ago, haven't evolved much but have aged gracefully. B+(*) [cd]

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Abdullah Ibrahim: Ancient Africa (1973 [2017], Delmark/Sackville): South African pianist, a major figure in jazz since the mid-1960s, working until 1977 under the name Dollar Brand -- the name this solo album was originally released under in 1974. Two medleys plus a couple other pieces, some with vocals (liner notes says "spoken word"), the last (previously unreleased) piece played on bamboo flute. His rhythmic rumble was (and remains) unique, but clearer elsewhere. B+(**) [cd]

Old Music

Jerry Bergonzi: Inside Out (1989 [1990], Red): Tenor saxophonist from Boston, one of the most consistent mainstream figures since he signed with Savant around 2006, but early on he recorded with this Italian label, here a quartet with Salvatore Bonafede on piano, Bruce Gertz on bass, and Salvatore Tranchini on drums. B+(**)

Stanley Cowell: Blues for the Viet Cong (1969 [1977], Arista/Freedom): Pianist, first album, a trio with Steve Novosel on bass and Jimmy Hopps on drums, some quirky electric piano as well as acoustic ranging from free to boogie -- "You Took Advantage of Me" always perks my attention. I knew this record from its 1977 Arista reprint -- I picked up most of Arista's Freedom reprints around then -- but when Black Lion reissued this on CD, they had second thoughts about the title, picking Travellin' Man instead. A-

Stanley Cowell Trio: Departure #2 (1990, SteepleChase): After a frantic decade jumping around labels from avant Strata-East to retro Concord, Cowell found a home with this Danish label, releasing Sienna in 1989 and this follow up. With Bob Cranshaw on bass and Keith Copeland on drums, alternating bright originals with covers ranging from Ellington to Porter to Parker, thoughtful and often flashy. A-

Stanley Cowell Trio: Live at Copenhagen Jazz House (1993 [1995], SteepleChase): With Cheyney Thomas on bass and Wardell Thomas on drums -- not a dazzling rhythm section, so this rises and falls on the piano, catchiest when he picks up Ellington or Monk. B+(**)

Stanley Cowell: Mandara Blossoms (1995 [1996], SteepleChase): Cover says "featuring Ralph Peterson [drums] & Bill Pierce [tenor saxophone]" and "introducing Karen Francis [vocals] & Jeff Halsey [bass]." B+(*)

Stanley Cowell Quartet: Hear Me One (1996, SteepleChase): With Bruce Williams (alto sax), Dwayne Burno (bass), and Keith Copeland (drums). Five Cowell originals, one by Williams, covers of Monk and Parker. Both sax and piano have specular moments, but sometimes make me wonder. B+(**)

Stanley Cowell: Are You Real? (2014, SteepleChase): Piano trio with Jay Anderson and Billy Drummond. Cowell seems to have stopped recording after 1997, only to pick it up again with 2010's Prayer for Peace. Two originals, six masterful covers, ending with a sparkling Monk. B+(***)

Herbie Hancock: Inventions & Dimensions (1963 [1964], Blue Note): The pianist's third studio album (after Takin' Off and My Point of View), the first recorded after he joined the most legendary edition of the Miles Davis Quintet. Trio, with Paul Chambers on bass and Willie Bobo doing his Cuban percussion thing. B+(*)

Herbie Hancock: Cantaloupe Island (1962-65 [1994], Blue Note): Effectively a "greatest hits" from the pianist's most prime period, with two cuts from his debut with Freddie Hubbard and Dexter Gordon, two from his second album with Donald Byrd and Hank Mobley, one each from his peak fourth and fifth albums with Hubbard, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, and George Coleman on the latter. So a bit redundant, especially given that the Byrd cuts you may not have aren't nearly as impressive as the Hubbards you probably do. B+(***)

Herbie Hancock: Speak Like a Child (1968 [2005], Blue Note): Sixth album, following his stellar Maiden Voyage, but aside from the pianist, in nice form, the only carryover is bassist Ron Carter, and the unconventional horn section -- Thad Jones on flugelhorn, plus alto flute and bass trombone -- never grabs you. RVG Edition adds three alternate takes. B+(*)

Herbie Hancock: The Prisoner (1969 [2000], Blue Note): The pianist's last album for Blue Note, produced by Duke Pearson, with numerous musicians dropping in for a track or two, including three flute (counting tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson). Beyond Henderson, regulars are Johnny Coles (flugelhorn), Garnett Brown (trombone), Buster Williams (bass), and Tootie Heath (drums). Sophisticated postbop composition, overly tricked up production. RVG Edition adds two alternate takes. B+(**)

Mariem Hassan: Mariem Hassan Con Leyoad (2002, Nubenegra): Her first album, backed by the Sahrawi group Leyoad. She emerges as a very strong singer backed by a powerful group -- I almost find it too heavy, especially returning after listening to her last albums. B+(***)

Freddie Hubbard: Goin' Up (1960 [1961], Blue Note): Trumpet player, seems like he was suddenly everywhere in 1960, second album under his own name, a classic hard bop quintet with Hank Mobley (tenor sax), McCoy Tyner (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums). Feels a bit rushed for me -- maybe the rhythm section wanted to see how hard they could push the kid. He keeps up, and turns in a nice ballad. B+(***)

Freddie Hubbard: Hub Cap (1961, Blue Note): Continuing to make the rounds, this time with Jimmy Heath (tenor sax), Julian Priester (trombone), Cedar Walton (piano), Larry Ridley (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums). They tend to switch up too much, but he powers through and blows over them, and the trombone is notably interesting. B+(**)

Freddie Hubbard: The Hub of Hubbard (1969 [1971], MPS): Recorded in Germany, not sure of the conditions but the band is American, probably touring with Hubbard at the time: Eddie Daniels (tenor sax), Roland Hanna (piano), Richard Davis (bass), Louis Hayes (drums). Starts with a blistering "Without a Song," and tears through Porter and Styne plus one original. B+(*)

Abdullah Ibrahim: Duke Ellington Presents the Dollar Brand Trio (1963 [1997], Reprise Archives): The South African pianist changed his name from Dollar Brand to Abdullah Ibrahim around 1977, and later reissues have tended to indulge him -- I'll follow that convention here, although the reissue title remains unchanged. Ibrahim moved to Europe in 1962, and got noticed in Zürich by Ellington, who arranged the trio session for Reprise. Impressive debut, but he was more out to show his command of jazz repertoire than to make his own mark. B+(**)

Dollar Brand/Abdullah Ibrahim Orchestra: African Space Program (1973 [2013], Enja): Big band program, two side-length pieces, the group numbering 12 with 5 saxes and 3 trumpets. Much rougher than necessary. B

Abdullah Ibrahim/Johnny Dyani: Echoes From Africa (1979 [1987], Enja): Piano and bass, both from South Africa, both long in exile, the four songs pointed back home -- even the one dedicated to McCoy Tyner. Both sing, not the calling of either. B+(**)

Abdullah Ibrahim: African Dawn (1982 [1987], Enja): Solo piano, runs through several of his better known pieces, two by Monk, one by Strayhorn, dedications to Coltrane and Monk. B+(**)

Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya: African River (1989, Enja): Group named for his 1986 album, one of his best, with four horns -- John Stubblefield (tenor sax, flute), Horace Alexander Young (alto/soprano sax, piccolo), Robin Eubanks (trombone), and Howard Johnson (tuba, trumpet, baritone sax). Pennywhistle jive beats, looping horns, his favorite formula. B+(***)

Pete La Roca: Basra (1965 [1995], Blue Note): Born Peter Sims, first noticed playing drums for Sonny Rollins (1957-59). This was his first album, the only one he led until 1997's Swing Time. He wrote three (of six) pieces for this young but stellar quartet -- all born between 1937-40, so 25-28 at the time: Steve Swallow (bass), Steve Kuhn (piano), both impressive but Joe Henderson (tenor sax) even more so. A-

Pete La Roca: Turkish Women at the Bath (1967 [2004], Fresh Sound): The drummer's second album, released on a small label I don't recall ever running into but rescued from oblivion by Jordi Pujol's Spanish label. Again, the key is distinctive tenor sax, this time by John Gilmore, but also a pianist who was just starting to get noticed: Chick Corea. (The album was later reissued under Corea's name as Bliss; Sims sued and the album was withdrawn.) A-

Pete (LaRoca) Sims: SwingTime (1997, Blue Note): Partly reverting to his original name, the drummer's third (and last) album. Evidently no table of credits, but Jimmy Owens, Ricky Ford, Dave Liebman, Lance Bryant, George Cables, and Santi Debriano are mentioned in the booklet. More bop than swing, and less hard than playful, making a mess out of "Body and Soul" but still can't salvage "The Candy Man." B

Red Records All Stars [Jerry Bergonzi/Bobby Watson/Victor Lewis/Kenny Barron/Curtis Lundy/David Finck]: Together Again for the First Time (1996 [1998], Red): The saxophonists are not just the front line. They're the stars, and as in most all-star games, they please most when they show off. And the two bass rhythm section keeps pace. B+(***)

Horace Tapscott Quintet: The Giant Is Awakened (1969, Flying Dutchman): Pianist from Los Angeles, first album, as it was for alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe -- the only horn, as the quintet included two bassists plus a drummer, but he does a fine job of wailing over the rumbling rhythm. A-

Gust William Tsilis & Alithea With Arthur Blythe: Pale Fire (1988, Enja): Vibraphonist, from Chicago, moved to LA in 2002 where he mostly does TV/movie music. Presumably Alithea is a band name: Allen Farnham (keyboards), Anthony Cox (bass), Horacee Arnold (drums), Arto Tuncboyaci (percussion). Spotty, although the alto saxophonist can warm things up fast when he gets a chance. [5/6 cuts, missing the 15:35 title piece] B

Charles Tyler Ensemble: Black Mysticism (1966, ESP-Disk): Most sources list this debut's title as Charles Tyler Ensemble. Tyler plays alto sax, backed with "orchestra vibes" (Charles Moffett), cello (Joel Freedman), bass (Henry Grimes), and drums (Ronald [Shannon] Jackson). Avant scratch with some tinkle, but the raw sax keeps gaining stature. B+(***)

Charles Tyler Ensemble: Eastern Man Alone (1967, ESP-Disk): Second album, the group reduced to David Baker on cello and two bassists. The leader's alto sax remains raw and inspired, but Baker's cello plays a much larger role, and its borderline squelch keeps the album on edge. B+(**)

James Blood Ulmer: Revealing (1977 [1990], In+Out): Guitarist, made his initial mark with Ornette Coleman's fusion group, Prime Time. His first album, although it didn't appear until 1990, with George Adams (tenor sax), Cecil McBee (bass), and Doug Hammond (drums). Adams makes the strongest initial impression, but every time he threatens to run off with it the guitar fills in something interesting. A-

James Blood Ulmer: Part Time (1983 [1984], Celluloid): Ulmer peaked with his 1983 album Odyssey, recorded with Charles Burnham (violin) and Warren Benbow (drums) -- a trio which later regrouped several times as Odyssey the Band. This is that same group, recorded live at Montreux Jazz Festival. Repeats half the album (four songs), more frenetic, harder to follow. B+(**)

The James Blood Ulmer Blues Experience: Blues Allnight (1989 [1990], In+Out): Entering full blues crooner mode here, still an idiosyncratic guitarist but the bass-drums-more guitar band would rather be catchy than creative. B+(*)

Blood & Burger: Guitar Music (2002 [2003], Derničre Bande): The principals are James Blood Ulmer and Rodolphe Burger, both guitar and vocals, the latter also keyboards. Burger Burger is French, has a couple dozen albums since 1993, some as Kat Onoma. We get songs from each, notably a rather bent "Are You Glad to Be in America?" plus a slow, gritty cover of the Rolling Stones' "Play With Fire" -- and, of course, a lot of guitar. B+(**)

Bobby Watson: Live in Europe: Perpetual Groove (1983 [1984], Red): Alto saxophonist from Kansas, helped revitalize Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in the late 1970s, cut a few albums for American labels but did his most important work in Italy with this group -- Piero Bassini (piano), Attilio Zanchi (bass), and Giampiero Prina (drums). Mostly standards, fast ones like "Mr. PC," "Cherokee," and "Oleo" served up hot and hearty. B+(***)

Bobby Watson: Appointment in Milano (1985, Red): Same quartet even tighter, Bassini and Zanchi contributing songs, with the alto saxophonist easily soaring over their breakneck rhythm. A-

Bobby Watson & Tailor Made With Tokyo Leaders Big Band: Live at Someday in Tokyo (2000 [2001], Red): Tailor Made was a big band album Watson made in 1993 but only Watson repeats here, backed this time by a crack (if sometimes heavy-handed) Japanese outfit. The alto sax stands out, no surprise. B+(*)

Bobby Watson: The Gates BBQ Suite (2010, Lafiya Music): Big band project, a recurrent theme in Watson's oeuvre, this one built around the UMKC Concert Jazz Orchestra, where his day job of late has been director of jazz studies. Sharp and powerful, but as one title has it, "Heavy on the Sauce." B+(**)

Additional Consumer News:

Previous grades on artists in the old music section.

  • Jerry Bergonzi: Tenor of the Times (2006, Savant): <>B+(**)
  • Jerry Bergonzi: Tenorist (2006 [2007], Savant): B+(***)
  • Jerry Bergonzi: Tenor Talk (2008, Savant): A-
  • Jerry Bergonzi: Simply Put (2008 [2009], Savant): A-
  • Jerry Bergonzi: Three for All (2008 [2010], Savant): B+(***)
  • Jerry Bergonzi: Convergence (2008 [2011], Savant): A-
  • Jerry Bergonzi: Shifting Gears (2012, Savant): A-
  • Jerry Bergonzi: By Any Other Name (2012 [2013], Savant): B+(**)
  • Jerry Bergonzi: Rigamaroll (2012 [2015], Savant): A-
  • Stanley Cowell: Sienna (1989, SteepleChase): B+
  • Stanley Cowell: Back to the Beautiful (1989, Concord): B
  • Stanley Cowell: Live at Maybeck Recital Hall, Volume Five (1990, Concord): B
  • Stanley Cowell: Angel Eyes (19993, SteepleChase): B+
  • Stanley Cowell: Setup (1993, SteepleChase): B+
  • Stanley Cowell: Juneteenth (2014 [2015], Vision Fugitive): B+(*)
  • Herbie Hancock: Takin' Off (1963, Blue Note): A-
  • Herbie Hancock: My Point of View (1963, Blue Note): B+
  • Herbie Hancock: Empyrean Isles (1964 [1999], Blue Note): A-
  • Herbie Hancock: Maiden Voyage (1964 [1986], Blue Note): A
  • Herbie Hancock: 15 other albums
  • Mariem Hassan: Shouka (2010, Nubenegra): B+(*)
  • Mariem Hassan: El Aaiun Egdat (2012, Nubenegra): B+(***)
  • Freddie Hubbard: Open Sesame (1960, Blue Note): A-
  • Freddie Hubbard: Ready for Freddie (1961 [2004], Blue Note): A-
  • Freddie Hubbard: Hub Tones (1962 [1989], Blue Note): B+
  • Freddie Hubbard: Here to Stay (1962 [2006], Blue Note): B+(***)
  • Freddie Hubbard: Breaking Point (1964, Blue Note): B+
  • Freddie Hubbard: Blue Spirits (1965 [2004], Blue Note): A-
  • Freddie Hubbard: The Night of the Cookers (1965 [2004], Blue Note, 2CD): B
  • Freddie Hubbard: 12 other albums
  • Dollar Brand: Cape Town Fringe (1965 [1977], Chiaroscuro): B
  • Dollar Brand: Ode to Duke Ellington (1973 [1978], Inner City): B+
  • Abdullah Ibrahim: Banyana: The Children of Africa (1978, Enja): B
  • Abdullah Ibrahim: Voice of Africa (1976 [1988], Kaz): A
  • Abdullah Ibrahim: Tintinyana (1971-79 [1988], Kaz): A-
  • Abdullah Ibrahim: Blues for a Hip King (1974-79 [1988], Kaz): B+
  • Abdullah Ibrahim: African Marketplace (1979, Discovery): A-
  • Abdullah Ibrahim/Carlos Ward: Live at Sweet Basil Vol. 1 (1983 [1986], Ekapa): B+
  • Abdullah Ibrahim: Ekaya (1983 [1986], Ekapa): A
  • Abdullah Ibrahim: Water From an Ancient Well (1985 [1986], Tiptoe): A-
  • Abdullah Ibrahim: No Fear, No Die/S'en fout la mort (1993, Tiptoe): A-
  • Abdullah Ibrahim: Knysna Blue (1993, Tiptoe): B
  • Abdullah Ibrahim: The Very Best of Abdullah Ibrahim (2000, Music Club): B+
  • Abdullah Ibrahim: Senzo (2008 [2009], Sunnyside): A-
  • Abdullah Ibrahim/WDR Big Band Cologne: Bombella (2008 [2010], Sunnyside): B+(***)
  • Abdullah Ibrahim: Sotho Blue (2010 [2011], Sunnyside): A-
  • Abdullah Ibrahim: Mukashi (2013, Intuition): B+(**)
  • Abdullah Ibrahim: The Song Is My Story (2014 [2015], Sunnyside): B
  • Horace Tapscott/Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra: The Call (1978 [2012], Nimbus): B+(**)
  • Horace Tapscott With the Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra: Live at I.U.C.C. (1979 [2006], Nimbus West): A-
  • Horace Tapscott: Lighthouse 79, Vol. 1 (1979 [2009], Nimbus West): B+(**)
  • Horace Tapscott: Lighthouse 79, Vol. 2 (1979 [2009], Nimbus West): B+(**)
  • Horace Tapscott: The Tapscott Sessions Vol. 8 (1984 [1997], Nimbus West): B+(***)
  • Horace Tapscott: Dissent or Descent (1984 [1998], Nimbus West): B+
  • Horace Tapscott: The Dark Tree (1989 [2014], Hatology): A
  • Horace Tapscott: Aiee! The Phantom (1995, Arabesque): B+
  • Horace Tapscott: Thoughts of Dar Es Salaam (1997, Arabesque): A-
  • Gust William Tsilis: Sequestered Days (1991, Enja): B+
  • James Blood Ulmer: Tales of Captain Black (1978 [1979], DIW): A-
  • James Blood Ulmer: Are You Glad to Be in America? (1980, Rough Trade): B+
  • James Blood Ulmer: Free Lancing (1982, Columbia): B
  • James Blood Ulmer: Odyssey (1983, Columbia): A
  • James Blood Ulmer: America -- Do You Remember the Love? (1987, Blue Note): B
  • James Blood Ulmer: Black and Blues (1990 [1991], DIW): A-
  • James Blood Ulmer: Blues Preacher (1992, DIW/Columbia): B
  • Odyssey the Band: Reunion (1998, Knitting Factory): B+
  • James Blood Ulmer: Memphis Blood: The Sun Sessions (2001, Label M): B+
  • James Blood Ulmer: No Escape From the Blues: The Electric Lady Sessions (2003, Hyena): A-
  • James Blood Ulmer: Birthright (2005, Hyena): A-
  • Odyssey the Band: Back in Time (2005 [2006], Pi): A-
  • James Blood Ulmer: Bad Blood in the City: The Piety Street Sessions (2006 [2007], Hyena): B+(***)
  • James Blood Ulmer: In and Out (2008 [2010], In+Out): A-
  • Bobby Watson: Gumbo (1983, Evidence): B+
  • Bobby Watson: Advance (1985, Enja): B+
  • Bobby Watson: Round Trip (1985, Red): A-
  • Bobby Watson: Love Remains (1986, Red): A
  • Bobby Watson: The Year of the Rabbit (1987 [1998], Evidence): B
  • Bobby Watson: The Inventor (1989, Blue Note): B
  • Bobby Watson: Post-Motown Bop (1990, Blue Note): B
  • Bobby Watson: Present Tense (1992, Columbia): A-
  • Bobby Watson: Tailor Made (1992, Columbia): B
  • Bobby Watson: Midwest Shuffle (1993, Columbia): B+
  • Bobby Watson: This Little Light of Mine (1993, Red): B
  • Bobby Watson: Quiet as It's Kept (1998, Red): A-
  • Bobby Watson: Horizon Reassembled (2004, Palmetto): B+(***)
  • Bobby Watson: From the Heart (2007 [2008], Palmetto): B


Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:

  • [cd] based on physical cd
  • [cdr] based on an advance or promo cd or cdr
  • [yt] available at
  • [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