Wednesday, October 31, 2018


Streamnotes (October 2018)

New records relatively light this month, and mostly jazz, although I made a last-minute effort to catch up with Robert Christgau's latest picks. I should also note that Christgau's new essay collection, Is It Still Good to Ya? Fifty Years of Rock Criticism 1967-2017 came out last week.

The long list of old music mostly came from my investigation of Will Friedland: The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums. Over the month, I increased my rated share of the 57 albums reviewed there from 33.3% to 89.4%, while picking up a few extra albums in the neighborhood. I also managed to check out a few albums by the late baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett.


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, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on September 30. Past reviews and more information are available here (11969 records).


Recent Releases

David Ake: Humanities (2017 [2018], Posi-Tone): Pianist, postbop, several previous albums, gets stellar support here, especially from Ralph Alessi (trumpet), but also Ben Monder (guitar), Drew Gress (bass), and Mark Ferber (drums). B+(***)

Alchemy Sound Project: Adventures in Time and Space (2016 [2018], ARC): Septet, was momentarily confused by only six names on back cover but they're probably just the writers of the six pieces, one each: Samantha Boshnack (trumpet), Erica Lindsay (tenor sax), Salim Washington (tenor sax/flute/bass clarinet), Sumi Toonka (piano), David Arend (double bass), who play with Johnathan Blake (drums). B+(***) [cd]

Eric Alexander: Song of No Regrets (2017, High Note): Mainstream tenor saxophonist, a steady producer since 1995, best when he sticks to basics, which here is his familiar quartet: David Hazeltine (piano), John Webber (bass), and Joe Farnsworth (drums). Doesn't strictly do that here, adding trumpet (Jon Faddis and Joshua Bruneau) on two tracks (one he plays organ on), and dabs of Latin percussion (mostly Alex Diaz). B+(**)

Danny Bacher: Still Happy (2018, Whaling City Sound): Standards singer, wrote two songs here ("Joi de Vivre" and "In Spite of All of This, I'm Still Happy"), plays soprano sax, also acts, has a previous album. Opts for "happy" songs -- "Laughing at Life," "Lucky to Be Me," "Hooray for Hollywood," and, of course, "Get Happy" (hard to top that one). Booklet says this was recorded October 17-18, 2018 (i.e., a couple weeks after I got my copy). B+(*) [cd]

Joey Baron/Robyn Schulkowsky: Now You Hear Me (2016 [2018], Intakt): Percussion duo, both Americans, Baron well known in jazz circles, Schulkowsky's discography since 1991 more in the domain of avant-classical. B+(**)

The Bottle Rockets: Bit Logic (2018, Bloodshot): Alt/indie band from St. Louis, principally Brian Henneman, has leaned toward country since Bloodshot picked them up in 2002, but this seems rather unexceptional. B+(*)

Jakob Bro: Bay of Rainbows (2017 [2018], ECM): Danish guitarist, fifteen albums since 2003, recorded this one live at the Jazz Standard in NYC, trio with Thomas Morgan (bass) and Joey Baron (drums). B+(**)

François Carrier/Michel Lambert/John Edwards: Elements (2015-16 [2018], FMR): Another superb outing for the Canadian alto sax-drums duo, this time joined by the British bassist. Three pieces, two sessions. A- [cd]

Ernesto Cervini's Turboprop: Abundance (2013-16 [2018], Anzic): Canadian drummer, fourth album, second with this sextet: Tara Davidson (alto/soprano sax), Joel Frahm (tenor sax), William Carn (trombone), Adrean Farrugia (piano), Dan Loomis (bass). Lively postbop, nice horn dynamics. B+(**) [cd]

Mike Clark & Delbert Bump: Retro Report (2018, Ropeadope): Drummer, played with Herbie Hancock back in his funk-fusion heyday (1974-77), with Jack Walrath in the 1980s, finally headlined his own group in 1989 (Give the Drummer Some, followed by The Funk Stops Here). Bump plays organ, appeared on a pretty good Clark album in 2010, has a record by his own Organ Trio. This is soul jazz with extra kick on the one, with Elias Lucero's guitar snazzy enough he'll be headlining some day soon, and a couple spots for horns. B+(**)

Drums & Tuba: Triumph! (2018, Ropeadope): Started in Austin in 1995 as a duo with Tony Nozero on drums and Brian Wolff on tuba, adding various others while recording eight albums 1997-2005, including two for Ani DiFranco's Righteous Babe Records, then nothing until this album. The vocals and drums mark this as ordinary rock, but the tuba is fun. B+(*)

Colin Edwin & Lorenzo Feliciati: Twinscapes Vol. 2: A Modern Approach to the Dancefloor (2018, RareNoise): Two bass players, plus drummer Roberto Gualdi with a couple of spot guests, present a minimal concept groove album -- can't assure you it's danceable, but it's closer to that than it is to jazz (not that I mind). B+(**) [cdr]

Espen Eriksen Trio With Andy Sheppard: Perfectly Unhappy (2018, Rune Grammofon): Norwegian piano trio, with Lars Tormod Jenset (bass) and Andreas Bye (drums), fifth album since 2010. I doubt the piano would command enough attention as the lead, but it does a fine job of supporting Sheppard's sax, which is flat-out gorgeous. A-

Fat Tony: 10,000 Hours (2018, self-released): Rapper from Houston, Nigerian-American (Anthony Lawson Jude Ifeanychukwu Obiawunantu), fifth album, been impressed by earlier releases (at least the ones I've heard), less so here. B+(*) [bc]

Jonathan Finlayson: 3 Times Round (2018, Pi): Trumpet player, New York, often works with Steve Coleman, Steve Lehman, and Mary Halvorson. Third album, sextet with Lehman (alto sax), Brian Settles (tenor sax/flute), Matthew Mitchell (piano), John Hebert (bass), and Craig Weinrib (drums). Postbop, often spectacular, a few spots seem off and give me doubts, but they invariably blast them away. A- [cd]

Nick Finzer's Hear & Now: Live in New York City (2018, Outside In): Trombonist. Went looking for last spring's No Arrival (Posi-Tone), found this, with no discographical info. Probably sextet: Lucas Pino (tenor sax/bass clarinet), Alex Wintz (guitar), Glenn Zaleski (piano), Dave Baron (bass), Jimmy Macbride (drums). Possibly recorded at Smalls, Sept. 6, 2017. Good postbop band. Surprisingly striking: "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing" (not a tune I've ever associated with trombone). B+(**)

The Vinny Golia Sextet: Trajectory (2017 [2018], Orenda/Nine Winds, 2CD): Plays all saxes, clarinets, some flute, percussion too; born in New York, long based in Los Angeles, has a huge discography since 1977, mostly on his own Nine Winds Records, mostly unheard by me (but not for lack of interest). Sextet adds Gavin Templeton (alto sax), Daniel Rosenboom (trumpet), Alexander Noice (electric guitar), Miller Wrenn (acoustic and electric bass), and Andrew Lessman (drums). The rhythm section likes to rock, but Golia's compositions can make that tricky. B+(***)

The Marie Goudy 12tet Featuring Jocelyn Barth: The Bitter Suite (2018, self-released): Trumpet player, from Toronto, all original material, complex flow, Barth's vocals fit awkwardly. B [cd]

Devin Gray: Dirigo Rataplan II (2016 [2018], Rataplan): Spine only lists the drummer, whose name lofts above his illustrious bandmates: Ellery Eskelin (tenor sax), Michael Formanek (bass), Dave Ballou (trumpet). Second group album, fractured freebop, never quite takes off but always seems on the verge. B+(***) [cd]

Hamell on Trial: The night Guy at the Apocalypse: Profiles of a Rushing Midnight (2018, Saustex): Folkie singer-songwriter, originally from Syracuse, has 15 albums since 1989, possibly his best last year (Tackle Box). Christgau likes this one as much, and I suppose I should at least acknowledge its unique appreciation of down-and-out humanity, but all I'm hearing about are drunken louts and saints stumbling thoughtlessly into what normal people would call crimes. B+(*)

Hofbauer/Rosenthal Quartet: Human Resources (2017 [2018], Creative Nation Music): Eric Hofbauer (guitar) and Dan Rosenthal (trumpet/flugelhorn), backed by bass and drums, the horn adding flair and feathering to the guitarist's customarily incisive lines. B+(***) [cd]

Idles: Joy as an Act of Resistance (2018, Partisan): British post-punk band, second album, currently the highest-rated 2018 album at AOTY (88 critic score on 23 reviews), DIY says: "No hyperbole needed, IDLES are the most important band we have right now." Which should make them comparable to the Clash in 1979, but whatever they are, they aren't that. B+(***)

José James: Lean on Me (2018, Blue Note): Standards singer, has done Bill Withers songs in the past, goes for an entire album of them here. It's easy going for James, the most effortlessly listenable album of his career, but one that doesn't give you much reason to choose it over the original. B+(*)

Mark Kavuma: Kavuma (2017 [2018], Ubuntu Music): Trumpet player in England, born in Uganda, debut album, backed by two tenor saxophonists, guitar, piano, drums, and bass. Upbeat starter gets you going. Uneven after that. B+(*)

Shai Maestro: The Dream Thief (2018, ECM): Israeli pianist, trio with Jorge Roeder (bass) and Ofri Nehemya (drums). Thoughtful work, builds on rhythmic rolls. Ends with a bit of Obama spoken word, which seems appropriate. B+(**)

Dave McMurray: Music Is Life (2018, Blue Note): Tenor saxophonist, from Detroit, was a member of Was (Not Was) back from the 1980s on, but released little under his own name aside from three 1999-2003 jazz albums. However, with Don Was in charge of Blue Note, he's getting another shot. Blows hard, enjoys the funk (even covers "Atomic Dog"). B+(**)

Ryan Meagher: Lost Days (2017 [2018], Fresh Sound New Talent): Guitarist, pronounces his name "marr," grew up in California, moved to New York, then to Portland, where he's part of the PJCE. Sixth album, with strong support from Bill McHenry (tenor sax) and George Colligan (keys), plus bass and drums. B+(*)

Ryan Meagher: Evil Twin (2018, PJCE): Used to call this improv, but now "collectively and spontaneously composed music by a double bassless trio of two guitars, two saxophones, and two drummers." Feels unplanned, tentative, but eventually attains a pleasant ambience. B

Myra Melford's Snowy Egret: The Other Side of Air (2017 [2018], Firehouse 12): Pianist, made a strong impression with her first trio recordings in 1990, and has only grown from there. This group refers back to a 2015 album with this same group: Ron Miles (cornet), Liberty Ellman (guitar), Stomu Takeishi (bass guitar), and Tyshawn Sorey (drums). She lays back a bit on the piano, letting the group work her tricky music out. A- [cd]

Allison Miller/Carmen Staaf: Science Fair (2018, Sunnyside): Drummer and pianist, a trio with bassist Matt Penman, plus tenor saxophonist Dayna Stephens (4/9 tracks), also trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire (2 of those 4). Pianist can get heavy-handed, but the trumpet very impressive at start, horns solid throughout. B+(*)

Joe Morris/Ben Hall/Andria Nicodemou: Raven (2016 [2017], Glacial Erratic): Guitar, drums, vibraphone, the latter two also credited with percussion. Guitar has some interesting spots, the percussion just scattered around.. B+(*) [bc]

Moskus: Mirakler (2016-17 [2018], Hubro): Norwegian trio, fourth album, Anja Lauvdal on piano/organ, Fredrik Luhr Dietrichson on bass, Kans Hulbaekmo on drums, vibes, keyboards, musical saw. B+(**)

Kjetil Mřster/John Edwards/Dag Erik Knedal Andersen: Different Shapes/Immersion (2014 [2018], Va Fongool): Sax-bass-drums trio, Mřster also plays clarinet. Two long improv pieces, live at Café Oto. B+(*)

John Moulder: Decade: Memoirs (2009-17 [2018], Origin): Guitarist, couple decades under his belt, cut this in three widely separated spurts (middle one in 2014), presumably with the same sextet. At times, Tim Garland (soprano sax/bass clarinet) and/or Gwilym Simcock (piano) threaten to run away with the album, but it keeps falling back. B [cd]

Maria Muldaur: Don't You Feel My Leg: The Naughty Bawdy Blues of Blue Lu Barker (2018, The Last Music Company): A veteran of Jim Kweskin's 1960s Jug Band, went on to a duo with husband Geoff, then a solo act, starting with one of my favorite early-1970s singles -- seemed like a one-shot, but over the 1980s and 1990s the blues saved her bacon, and she struck gold with a Memphis Minnie tribute in 2001, Richland Woman Blues. She's traded in sex for some time now, but one can imagine her saving Barker for her 70s. Backed by Dave Torkanowsky's hot dixieland band, suggested by Barker's New Orleans roots if not by her music. A-

Wolfgang Muthspiel: Where the River Goes (2018, ECM): Guitarist from Austria, has produced some very attractive records -- 1990's fusion-oriented Black and Blue is my favorite, followed by his more lyrical Bright Side and Friendly Travelers (2006-07). He joined ECM in 2013, which seems to have put a damper on him -- even with all-star support here: Brad Mehldau (piano), Larry Grenadier (bass), Eric Harland (drums), and Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet). B+(**)

Aaron Parks: Little Big (2018, Ropeadope): Pianist, first album on Blue Note in 2008, has a couple more on ECM, but cut another he called Groovements on a Danish label, which is probably what caught this label's attention. Trio plus guitarist Greg Tuchey, more focused on adding to the groove than showing off his own lines. B+(***) [cd]

Matt Penman: Good Question (2017 [2018], Sunnyside): Bassist, from New Zealand, studied at Berklee, moved to New York, then San Francisco, where he is part of SFJazz. This one is built around a trio with Aaron Parks (piano, Rhodes, organ, vibraphone) and Obed Calvaire (drums), adding tenor saxophonist Mark Turner on 6 (of 9) cuts, Nir Felder (guitar, on 2), with Will Vinson (soprano sax) and Rogerio Boccato (percussion) on one cut. Strikes me as the best of Turner's recent performances: still floats in the air, so the rhythm section deserves much of the credit. A-

Madeleine Peyroux: Anthem (2018, Decca): Jazz singer, born in Athens, GA, but moved with her mother to Paris at 13 and launched her career from there. Her early albums were strongly marked by Billie Holiday's phrasing, but I hear little of that here, as she's grown into her own less distinctive style. Mostly originals with hints of politics, more sentimental (I'd say) in the title song (from Leonard Cohen) and the one French standard ("Liberté"). B+(*)

Mikkel Ploug/Mark Turner: Faroe (2018, Sunnyside): Danish guitarist, has toured with saxophonist Turner and decided to write a set of original duet pieces: intimate, calm, atmospheric. B+(**)

R+R=Now: Collagically Speaking (2018, Blue Note): Filed this jazz/funk/rap fusion under Derrick Hodge (bass), who co-produces and has a writing credit on all eleven tracks, although his other co-producers appear on most: Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah (trumpet), Robert Glasper (keyboards), Justin Tyson (drums), Taylor McFerrin (synth), and Terrace Martin (synth/vocoder/sax). Also eleven vocalists, five listed as "featuring," none on multiple tracks. The raps (three, I think) are much the more interesting. The la-la shit is more like a satire of the music. B

Marc Ribot: Songs of Resistance 1942-2018 (2018, Epitaph): Guitarist, has done a wide range of work, turns to political songs here -- musicians are jazzbos, but singers are more scattered, including Fay Victor, Tom Waits, Steve Earl, Sam Amidon, Meshell Ndegeocello, Tift Merritt, Syd Straw. Proceeds to the Indivisible. B+(***)

Riton + Kah-Lo: Foreign Ororo (2018, Riton Time): British DJ, Henry Smithson, started recording in 1999 but first time I've bumped into his, the breakthrough here the addition of Nigerian singer-rapper (songwriter?) Faridah Seriki. Beats skew toward grime, accent too but a bit less, starts with a hit and pads it out superbly. A-

Robyn: Honey (2018, Konichiwa/Interscope): Swedish dance pop star, started at 16 in 1995, peaked in 2010 with Body Talk (cobbled together from three EPs that year). This is her first solo album since then, but I now a bunch of EPs along the way. I should go back and take another listen to her early albums, maybe some of the EPs as well. Two plays in, this is nice but underwhelming. B+(**)

Anne Sajdera: New Year (2018, Bijuri): Pianist, from San Francisco area, second album, first was explicitly samba-oriented, this more conventional postbop, featuring Miroslav Hloucal (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Jan Feco (alto sax), with various others popping up here and there -- Bob Mintzer rates a "special guest" for one track. B+(*) [cd]

Cécile McLorin Salvant: The Window (2018, Mack Avenue): Jazz singer, father Haitian, mother French, took the critics polls by storm with her second album (first promoted by a real label). I was impressed but never became much of a fan, so I was surprised to see this panned in an early review. The complaint seems to be that it's too minimal, with just Sumner Fortner's piano for accompaniment (plus a bit of Melissa Aldana tenor sax that I've already forgotten). Strong, clear voice; impeccable timing; a couple songs in French (I'm always a sucker for that). B+(*)

Christian Sands: Reach Further EP (2017-18 [2018], Mack Avenue): Pianist, from Connecticut, Wikipedia page credits him with albums recorded in 2002 and 2004, but he would have been 12-15 at the time. A decade later he got noticed playing piano in Christian McBride's trio, with the label picking him up for a well-received 2017 album, Reach. This 5-song, 42:50 "EP" is an afterthought, with his trio offering three live takes of Reach songs plus two new ones. The live pieces kick out real energy. B+(**)

Christian Sands: Facing Dragons (2018, Mack Avenue): The pianist expands his trio, adding trumpet (Keyon Harrold), sax (Marcus Strickland), guitar (Caio Afune), two percussionists, but is still careful to keep the piano central. Impressive energy and sweep, but doesn't leave me with much. B+(**)

JP Schlegelmilch/Jonathan Goldberger/Jim Black: Visitors (2018, Skirl): Organ/guitar/drums, Schlegelmilch most familiar from his group Old Time Musketry, which released two good records 2012-15. Strong guitar lead here, but between the "blurry shoegaze" and "drone-heavy psychedelic rock" doesn't quite mesh. B+(*)

Elliott Sharp Carbon: Transmigration at the Solar Max (2009 [2018], Intakt): Guitarist, also soprano sax and electronics, tons of records as his initial avant-garde take eventually found a home on jazz labels. Trio with Zeena Parkins (electric harp) and Bobby Previte (drums). B+(***)

Jared Sims: The New York Sessions (2018, Ropeadope): Baritone saxophonist, second album, also plays tenor this time. Mainstream quartet, with piano (Chris McCarthy), bass (Alex Trembley), and drums (Evan Hyde). B+(**) [cd]

Tyshaw Sorey: Pillars (2017 [2018], Firehouse 12, 3CD): Drummer, has occasionally ventured into long-form compositions before, as with his debut That/Not (2007), but really goes overboard here, with over three hours of slow-moving drone, filled with eerie tension if you bother to listen close enough. Eight musicians listed on the back cover, four on double bass (one of those, Joe Morris, also plays electric guitar, as does Todd Neufeld). B+(**) [cd]

Alister Spence/Satoko Fujii: Intelset (2017 [2018], Alister Spence Music): Spence is Australian, plays keyboards (here: Fender Rhodes electric piano, preparations and effects), was also on Kira Kira's Bright Force -- my favorite so far of Fujii's 60th birthday celebration monthly discs. This is the gloomiest, although my ears perk up when I hear the real pianist poke through. B+(**) [cd]

Mike Steinel Quintet: Song and Dance (2017 [2018], OA2): Trumpet/flugelhorn player, seems to be his first album although I've found side credits as far back as 1978 (recently with Michael Waldrop's big band), has taught at North Texas since 1987. Wrote these nine songs -- one lyric by vocalist Rosana Eckert. Trumpet really lovely. B+(**) [cd]

Chad Taylor: Myths and Morals (2018, Ears & Eyes): Drummer, originally from Tempe, Arizona. I associate him with Chicago, mostly since he's been the strong backbone of Chicago Underground Duo, Trio, etc., but Bandcamp page locates him in Philadelphia. This is a duo with Elliot Bergman on electric kalimba. Not sure about the latter, but Taylor runs a far-ranging clinic on percussion. B+(*)

Tropical Fuck Storm: A Laughing Death in Meatspace (2018, Tropical Fuck Storm/Mistletone): Australian band, from Melbourne, formerly the Drones, first album under their new moniker, sometimes conveniently abbreviated TFS (citing PIL for PUblic Image Ltd.). Has some politics, some spunk, is loud and unruly, not so tropical. B+(**) [bc]

Mark Turner/Ethan Iverson: Temporary Kings (2017 [2018], ECM): Tenor sax/piano duets, credits 6-2 in favor of the pianist, with one cover, a Warne Marsh piece. Cautious flow, deliberate. B+(**)

Steve Turre: The Very Thought of You (2018, Smoke Sessions): Trombone player, leads a veteran quartet with Kenny Barron (piano), Buster Williams (bass), and Willie Jones III (drums), plus "special guests" George Coleman (tenor sax on 2 tracks), Russell Malone (guitar on 4), and "strings" (string octet arranged by Marty Sheller, on 4 tracks). Goes for sentimental ballads, played as pretty as a trombone can. Weak spot, unsurprisingly, is the strings. B+(*)

Colter Wall: Songs of the Plains (2018, Young Mary's): Canadian country singer, from the plains of Saskatchewan, second album. B+(**)

Jeff "Tain" Watts: Travel Band: Detained in Amsterdam (2017 [2018], Dark Key): Drummer, played for Wynton Marsalis 1982-86 and for Branford Marsalis 1983-2009, also appearing with Kenny Garrett and Michael Brecker in the late 1990s. Also has a dozen albums under his own name, including a previous live one called Detained at the Blue Note (2004). This, recorded at Bimhuis, is a trio with Paul Bollenback on guitar and Orlando le Fleming on bass. Starts with "Brilliant Corners," then takes some more. B+(***) [bc]

Walt Weiskopf: European Quartet (2017 [2018], Orenda): Tenor saxophonist, originally from Georgia, has been a solid player since his 1989 debut. Picked up this group -- Carl Winther (piano), Daniel Franck (bass), and Anders Mogensen (drums) -- for a tour of Denmark, Germany, and Norway, then cut this at the end, with each contributing a song, with a couple of covers. A little flashier than his usual mainstream. B+(**)

Brad Whiteley: Presence (2016 [2018], Destiny): Pianist, second album (3 cuts), part trio but mostly quintet (6) or quartet (2) with Tom Guarna (guitar) and/or Michael Eaton (sax). B+(**) [cd]

Chip Wickham: Shamal Wind (2017 [2018], Lovemonk): Plays flute, alto flute, and baritone sax. Second album, recorded in Spain, "adds some Arab-influence percussion to the mix" (of "Latin and flamenco whispers"). With flute it always helps to keep it upbeat, although the "Persian Gulf winds" don't amount to much. B

Patrick Zimmerli Quartet: Clockworks (2017 [2018], Songlines): Tenor saxophonist, from New York, has done quite a bit of classical (which is reflected in song titles like "Waltz of the Polyrhythmic Palindrome" and "Entropic Variation"). Quartet with Ethan Iverson (piano), Christopher Tordini (bass), and John Hollenbeck (drums). B+(**)

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Tohru Aizawa Quartet: Tachibana Vol. 1 (1975 [2018], BBE): Label initials stand for Barely Breaking Even, which is probably more hope than fact. They've started a "J Jazz Masterclass Series" to reissue obscure Japanese jazz, and this certainly qualifies. Aizawa plays piano, leading a quartet with Kyoichiroh Morimura (tenor/soprano sax), bass, and drums. Amusing to see this classified as Latin Jazz (as well as modal and post-bop), but the closing track is called "Samba de Orfeu" (by Ikujiroh Tachibana, as are all five tracks) and it really breaks loose. A-

Calm Waters Rolling Swells & Roiling Seas: A Whaling City Sampler (2004-17 [2018], Whaling City Sound): Label sampler, a fairly useless category unless the label is up to something really distinctive -- some exceptions are Thirsty Ear's early Blue Series years, and the French new wave Ze's Zetrospective, and there are probably some in electronica I don't know about. New Bedford's premier jazz label has been a credit to the industry, but the sampler is rather scattered. B [cd]

Ella Fitzgerald: Ella at Zardi's (1956 [2017], Verve): Previously unreleased, two sets, twenty-one songs, at Zardi's in Los Angeles, very shortly after she left Decca for Verve. She's backed by Don Abney (piano), Vernon Alley (bass), and Frank Capp (drums) -- no big names there, but as she gets on a roll, all she needs. A-

I'm Not Here to Hunt Rabbits ([2018], Piranha): Various artists compilation from Botswana, a patch of desert between South Africa and Zimbabwe, which gives you a rough set of bearings for the music. No idea whether these pieces are new or old. More laid back than mbaqanga, not unlike the drift inland from Senegal and Nigeria to Mali. A-

J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969-1984 (1969-84 [2018], BBE): I'm not sure how jazz was introduced to and developed in Japan, but this makes clear that by the 1970s it was generating a lot of energy. This label is working on a series of obscure (to us, at least) Japanese jazz reissues, and figured they'd launch it with this sampler. They went for the upbeat stuff, easy to relate to, fast and fancy free. Note that the 10-track digital differs from the 9-track CD (mostly by adding the one artist I had heard of, trumpeter Terumasa Hino) and the 12-track 3-LP. A-

Takeo Moriyama: East Plants (1983 [2018], BBE): Japanese drummer, ten records listed at Discogs (1975-2012, the first with Manfred Schoof, the last with Peter Brötzmann). This is a group with two saxophonists (Shuichi Enomoto and Toshihiko Inoue) and bass. Struck by the musicality of the drumming, and the cleverness of concept, almost flirting with circus music, or the Dutch avant-garde. B+(***)

Ralph Thomas: Eastern Standard Time (1980 [2018], BBE): Saxophonist (all of them, flute too), from Chicago, early AACM member, worked for Motown in Los Angeles, soundtracks for Quincy Jones, tried his hand at reggae, samba, salsa, more exotic world musics -- wound up in Thailand. This seems to be his only album, strikes me as a cross between soul jazz and highlife with a little Sun Ra in the aether. B+(***) [bc]

Old Music

Fred Astaire: The Astaire Story (1952 [2017], Verve): Film star, extraordinary dancer, Wikipedia scarcely mentions that he ever recorded music but offers a long list of songs he "introduced" in his films. Actually, his 1930s records -- see Top Hat: Hits From Hollywood (1994) -- are quite marvelous. In 1952, Norman Granz got Astaire into the studio with Oscar Peterson's trio plus guitar (Barney Kessel), trumpet (Charlie Shavers) and tenor sax (Flip Phillips), to recap his career for a 4-LP box set, more than three dozen now-standards. Fine vocals, occasional tap rhythms, the reissue adding two Peterson romps dubbed "Astaire Blues." B+(***)

Fred Astaire: Steppin' Out: Astaire Sings (1952 [1994], Verve): Same sessions, about half of the songs, a bit of interview at the end, some prime pieces but seems to lean a bit to the ballads. B+(***)

Tony Bennett and Bill Evans: Together Again (1976 [2003], Concord): These two recorded The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album in 1975, a schmoozy set of voice-and-piano duets. I recall a review at the time calling it "the ultimate make-out album." I bought a copy, but it never really delivered on its promises -- probably why I never noticed this sequel (and in turn, why they never recorded a third). Reissue expands the original ten tracks to eighteen. B+(*)

Hamiet Bluiett: Birthright: A Solo Blues Concert (1977, India Navigation): Baritone saxophonist, second album, solo, which limits how dynamic he can be, but blues doesn't require much speed -- just depth of feeling. B+(**)

Hamiet Bluiett: Resolution (1977 [1978], Black Saint): Bluiett plays clarinet, flute, and bamboo flute in addition to baritone sax. He's backed by Don Pullen (piano/organ), Fred Hopkins (bass), and two percussionists (Jabali, Don Moye). B+(*)

Hamiet Bluiett: "Dangerously Suite" (1981, Soul Note): Actually steeped much deeper in blues than classical, the only suspect spot being the bit of vocals (Irene Datcher). Well, and Chief Bey's chants, but they're short. Bob Neloms is no Don Pullen, but he acquits himself fine at piano. Choice cut: "Doll Baby." B+(***)

Hamiet Bluiett: Ebu (1984, Soul Note): Quartet, plays alto clarinet as well as baritone sax, backed by John Hicks (piano), Fred Hopkins (bass), and Marvin "Smitty" Smith (drums). B+(**)

Hamiet Bluiett & Concept: Live at Carlos 1 (1986 [1997], Just a Memory): The first of three albums recorded at the NYC club, released a decade later when Bluiett's label, Justin Time, set up a series for vault tapes. With Don Pullen on piano, Fred Hopkins on bass, and Idris Muhammad and Chief Bey with percussion -- lots of fast, intense percussion. A-

Hamiet Bluiett: Sankofa/Rear Garde (1992 [1993], Soul Note): Baritone saxophonist, or contra-alto clarinet for a change up, backed with guitar (Ted Dunbar), bass (Clint Houston), and drums (Ben Riley), with a song each from Houston and Dunbar, covers from Mingus and Hemphill. B+(**)

Hamiet Bluiett: Live at the Village Vanguard: Ballads and Blues (1994 [1997], Soul Note): Same quartet, relaxed, more covers, wider range. B+(***)

Hamiet Bluiett: With Eyes Wide Open (2000, Justin Time): Another quartet, another generation, with Ed Cherry (guitar), Jaribu Shadid (bass), and Nasheet Waits (drums). Good case here for why Bluiett has been the pre-eminent baritone saxophonist of the era. A-

Rosemary Clooney/Duke Ellington: Blue Rose (1956 [2008], Columbia/Legacy): Pop singer, had a string of hits from 1949 to 1956, appearing in several movies in the early 1950s. She had a rough stretch in the 1960s, but after 1977 bounced back as a jazz standards singer, up to her death in 2002. This date with Ellington and his orchestra is a prestige item in her discography, some nice work by all concerned, but seems like it should sparkle more. B+(**)

Rosemary Clooney: Rosie Solves the Swingin' Riddle! (1961 [2004], RCA/Bluebird): Nelson Riddle arranged, a superb job of providing swing and support without showing off, which suits Clooney to a tee -- especially on the fast ones, where the strings are in check (if there at all). A-

Rosemary Clooney: Everything's Coming Up Rosie (1977, Concord): After an eight-year hiatus, Clooney returned in 1976 to cut two albums for United Artists, then she signed with Concord, where she reinvented the jazz art of singing standards. Here she's backed by a retro-swing quintet, with Bill Berry on trumpet and young Scott Hamilton on tenor sax. Might seem even more remarkable if they didn't make it look so easy. B+(***)

Rosemary Clooney: Sings the Lyrics of Johnny Mercer (1987, Concord): Well into a songbook series which started with Sings the Lyrics of Ira Gershwin in 1980 and Sings the Music of Cole Porter in 1982, this is the one rated 4-star in Penguin Guide. A fine one, with Warren Vaché on cornet and Scott Hamilton on tenor sax, with John Oddo on piano and doing the arranging. B+(***)

Nat 'King' Cole: St. Louis Blues (1958, Capitol): Big band album of W.C. Handy songs, arranged by Nelson Riddle, tied to a film "broadly based" on Handy's life, with Cole playing Handy. Strikes me as a bit slick on all sides, but then I mostly know these songs from Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy, which came out a couple years earlier. B+(*)

Doris Day: Day by Day (1956, Columbia): Originally Doris Kappelhoff, started as a big band singer, had a big hit with Les Brown in 1945 ("Sentimental Journey"), turned to movies in 1948, but recorded 20 top ten singles through 1958. Standards, her vocals impeccably clear, orchestration by Paul Weston and His Music From Hollywood -- could hardly be lamer. B

Doris Day: Day by Night (1957, Columbia): Music by Paul Weston and His Music From Hollywood again, the night theme long on the night-time sky ("Moonglow," "Stars Fell on Alabama") slipping into dreams ("Dream a Little Dream of Me," "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams"). B

Doris Day: 16 Most Requested Songs (1945-58 [1992], Columbia/Legacy): All hits, not quite picked by rank but 14 went top ten, the others 13 and 20. Fine singer, but never had a band to push her. Still, my favorites are the last two songs, where she finally picks up the pace a bit: "Que Sera, Sera" and "Everybody Loves a Lover." B+(*)

Doris Day and Harry James: Young Man With a Horn (1950 [1954], Columbia): Tied to the 1950 movie starring Kirk Douglas and Lauren Bacall, featuring Day as a singer, but Day and James (who dubbed Douglas's trumpet parts) had to re-record their bits. By far the jazziest Day ever got, with the LP reissue adding a smashing "Lullaby of Birdland." B+(**)

Doris Day/Robert Goulet: Annie Get Your Gun (1963, Columbia Masterworks): Irving Berlin's 1946 musical about Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill. The original stage soundtrack featured Ethel Merman, while the 1950 movie starred Betty Hutton. Over the years there have been a number of re-stagings, but this was just make-work for Columbia contract vocalists. Goulet got his break as a song and dance man with Camelot in 1960. Day is pretty good here, and Goulet is pretty awful -- at least until he makes a decent showing in "Anything You Can Do." B+(*)

Blossom Dearie: Give Him the Ooh-La-La (1957 [1958], Verve): Jazz singer, actual name (after dropping initial Margrethe), born in New York but moved to Paris in 1952, singing in the Blue Stars (which later, without her, became the Swingle Sisters). Norman Granz discovered her there, brought her back to record six albums. Like her eponymous debut, this one is backed by Herb Ellis (guitar), Ray Brown (bass), and Jo Jones (drums), with her piano and vocals. Standards, a bit less obvious than the debut, one in French. B+(**)

Blossom Dearie: Once Upon a Summertime (1958, Verve): Ed Thigpen takes over as drummer, with Mundell Lowe on guitar sort of melting into the mix. "Tea for Two" starts out too slow, but others of the well-worn standards are delightful, including "If I Were a Bell," "Teach Me Tonight," and "Love Is Here to Stay." B+(***)

Blossom Dearie: My Gentleman Friend (1959, Verve): New guitarist, Kenny Burrell, who is terrific, plus some bits of flute and tenor sax by Bobby Jaspar (married to the singer at the time), with Ray Brown on bass and Ed Thigpen on drums. Her girlish voice stands out a bit more, and I'm a sucker for her two songs in French, and her long, slow burn on "Someone to Watch Over Me." A-

Blossom Dearie: Blossom Dearie Sings Comden and Green (1959, Verve): That would be lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green, although these ten songs are better known for their composers: Jule Styne, Leonard Bernstein, and André Previn. Cover shows the writers lurking behind her, which may explain why this feels a bit self-conscious at first. B+(**)

Blossom Dearie: Soubrette: Blossom Dearie Sings Broadway Hit Songs (1960, Verve): Unclear how to parse the cover, but this makes the most sense. She plays her own piano, but leaves the rest of the music to Russ Garcia and his orchestra. B+(**)

Matt Dennis: Plays and Sings Matt Dennis (1954, Trend): Pianist-singer, leads a trio in a live set at The Tally-Ho in Hollywood, plays a dozen of his own songs (written with various lyricists, most often Tom Adair) -- "Angel Eyes" and "Everything Happens to Me" are the ones you know, though you'll never confuse him with Sinatra. Virginia Maxey chimes in on two songs. B+(**)

Matt Dennis: Dennis, Anyone? (1955, RCA Victor): Another live date, this one at The Encore, the group expanded to a quartet with Bill Pitman on guitar, a little fancier percussion (e.g., "Devil Talk"), and a bit of scat. B+(**)

Matt Dennis: Plays and Sings Matt Dennis: Live in Hollywood (1954-55 [2011], Fresh Sound): Combines two "live in Hollywood" albums, as above. B+(**)

Billy Eckstine: Billy's Best (1957-58 [1995], Verve): Jazz singer, from Pittsburgh, played trumpet when he broke in with Earl Hines' big band; formed his own bebop-oriented big band in 1944 with Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Art Blakey, and Sarah Vaughan. These are new recordings, lushly arranged by Henry Mancini and Pete Rugolo, mostly standards. B+(*)

Ella Fitzgerald: Lullabies of Birdland (1947-54 [1955], Decca): Early LP compilation of songs from 78 RPM singles, mostly backed by Sy Oliver's orchestra. Nothing special there -- the small groups Norman Granz would match her with were more helpful, but the singer is often spectacular. A-

Judy Garland: Judy at Carnegie Hall (1961 [2001], Capitol, 2CD): Originally a double-LP, a very big deal when it first came out, spent 73 weeks on the charts, won four Grammy Awards including Album of the Year (first woman to do so, but list started in 1959 so the male streak was snapped at three). Orchestra plays faultless movie shtick (often lapsing into "Over the Rainbow"), she can really sing but her talk is equally welcome, and the audience adores her. "I know, I'll sing 'em all, and we'll stay all night." I don't think I would have segued from that to "Swanee," even in 1961, but more often than not I'm touched. A-

Benny Goodman/Rosemary Clooney: Date With the King (1956, Columbia, EP): Six cut, 10-inch LP (21:12). Goodman's groups are described as Trio and Sextet, but the latter has a couple of lineups. Hot spots for clarinet and trumpet (Buck Clayton), a duet I don't see a credit for, fine vocals by Clooney. B+(**)

Eydie Gorme and Steve Lawrence: Sing the Golden Hits (1960 [1990], MCA): Married vocal duo, Jewish (she was born Edith Garmezano, he Sydney Liebowitz). She started recording solo in 1953, he joined in 1958. Original album cover omitted their last names, so just Eydie and Steve, and included a couple Christmas songs omitted in this reissue. Not their hits, but the big band arrangements are spunky, and they're fun together. B+(**)

Robert Goulet: 16 Most Requested Songs (1960-69 [1989], Columbia): Emerged in the Broadway musical Camelot, huge voice, got sucked up in Columbia's pop-vocal machinery, a decade too late to actually score any popular hits ("My Love, Forgive Me" peaked at 16 in 1964; next best was "Summer Sounds" at 58 in 1965). Unlike Doris Day, that made it a chore to date these overwrought regurgitations. C

Beaver Harris 360 Degree Music Experience: Beautiful Africa (1979, Soul Note): Drummer, from Pittsburgh, given name William Godvin Harris, played baseball as a teenager for the Kansas City Monarchs in the old Negro Leagues, conceived his jazz as world music; played with Ayler, Shepp, and Rudd in the 1960s before leading his own groups from 1975-83; died at 55 in 1991. Quintet with Ken McIntyre (alto sax, bassoon, flute), Grachan Moncur III (trombone), Rahn Burton (piano), and Cameron Brown (bass). B+(**)

Dick Haymes: Rain or Shine (1956, Capitol): Born in Argentina, moved to Los Angeles at 17, working as a stunt man and film double, then on to New York where is started singing in big bands, his first chart singles with Harry James (1941-42) and Benny Goodman (1942). The hits ended around 1950, but he continued recording into the 1960s, with this his first LP. Remarkable deep voice, never gets caught on the wrong side of a note. Mostly famous standards, orchestrated by Ian Bernard and (sometimes) Johnny Mandel. B+(**)

Peggy Lee: The Man I Love (1957, Capitol): Singer, born Norma Egstrom in North Dakota, joined Benny Goodman's band in 1941, scored her first number one hit in 1942. She recorded for Capitol 1948-52, then Decca, then returned to Capitol for this album, and stayed for a couple dozen more up through 1972. Vocals a bit on the coy side, and Nelson Riddle's arrangements barely move under the dead weight of strings. Frank Sinatra is credited with conducting. Does, however, end on a brassy high ("It Keeps You Young"). B

Marilyn Maye: Meet Marvelous Marilyn Maye (1965, RCA Victor): Standards singer, born in Wichita, grew up in Topeka, moved to Chicago, recorded an album in 1961, seven more for RCA 1965-70 (this the first), still (at age 90) lives in Kansas City. Starts with a breakneck "Get Me to the Church on Time," followed by a damp "Misty." She belts the rest out, the best ones fast and happy. B+(*)

Marilyn Maye: The Happiest Sound in Town (1968, RCA Victor): The sixth of seven 1965-70 RCA albums. Thought I'd try this one because "happy" seems to perk her up, and was pleased to find the arranger (don't know who) ditched the strings and polished up the brass. B+(***)

Anita O'Day: Sings the Winners (1958, Verve): The cover lists plenty of winners -- Duke Ellington, Gene Krupa, Woody Herman, Dizzy Gillespie, etc. -- but the fine print shows that one side is arranged and conducted by Marty Paich, the other by Russ Garcia, doing a little extra to live up to expectations. B+(***)

One for All: Too Soon to Tell (1997, Sharp Nine): First album by what turned out to be a long-running mainstream jazz supergroup, although would have been premature to label them then: tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, who gets big type and "featuring" on the cover, had recorded only his second album a month earlier. Don't know about the others -- Jim Rotondi (trumpet), Steve Davis (trombone), David Hazeltine (piano), Peter Washington (bass), and Joe Farnsworth (drums) -- but you know them now. Still, a little too much. B+(*)

Della Reese: Della (1960, RCA Victor): Started as a gospel singer, moved to jazz, acted some. First LP for RCA after five for Jubilee (1957-59). Distinctive voice, sharp and bitter, opens with "The Lady Is a Tramp" and it takes a while to get used to. B+(**)

Della Reese: Della Della Cha Cha Cha (1961, RCA Victor): Standards, four from Cole Porter, music by O.B. Masingill with lots of Latin percussion. Between the singer's idiosyncrasies and the congas, sounds to me like a camp classic. A-

Robyn: Robyn Is Here (1995 [1997], RCA): Swedish teen pop star, Robyn Carlsson, first album, cut when she was 16 but released in US a couple years later. B+(*)

Robyn: My Truth (1999, RCA): Second album, not sure when it was released in the US (Napster dates it 2014, and their version omits the Swedish-language opener). B+(**)

Robyn: Body Talk, Pt. 3 (2010, Konichiwa, EP): Last of three 2010 EPs (5 cuts, 18:42), all also included in the Body Talk CD that came out the same day -- seemed pretty useless at the time. (The first two had eight cuts each, with just ten making the album.) The album turned out to be one of my favorites in 2010, but I never put much stock in the EPs. B+(***)

Jimmy Scott: The Source (1969 [1970], Atlantic): He was Little Jimmy Scott in the 1950s, with a genetic condition which kept his voice high and his stature small, but various factors I don't understand limited his career, until he made a comeback around 1990. Between 1960 and 1990, his discography shows one album in 1960, two in 1969, and one more in 1976 -- so it's not clear now whether this one was a comeback or a false start. Slow, impassioned, a struggle. B

Jimmy Scott: All the Way (1992, Sire): Little no more, Scott mounted a singular comeback in the 1990s, sounding like no one else ever, and here at least taking his ballads slow, wrenching as much emotion as possible from each. Aided by first-rate musicians, including Kenny Barron, Ron Carter, and Fathead Newman. B+(***)

Bobby Short: Bobby Short (1956, Atlantic): Singer, mostly standards, played piano, second album, starts out taking risks with rhythm, offers interesting takes on "Bye Bye Blackbird" and "I've Got the World on a String," but I started to lose interest with "Hottentot Potentate." B+(*)

Nina Simone: Nina Simone and Piano! (1969 [2011], RCA/Legacy): Sings and plays piano, solo. Legendary deep voice, often remarkable, but can also turn heavy and sodden, and many of her records disappoint. I can see how this minimal setting could show off her undoubted virtues, but it also leaves her limits exposed. B

Frank Sinatra: Songs for Young Lovers (1954, Capitol, EP): The beginning of the third (and most remarkable) chapter in his recording career, following his first whiff of fame as a big band boy singer (for Harry James and Tommy Dorsey), and the mixed bag of his years (1946-50) at Columbia. Sinatra broke out of his "slump" in 1953 with a successful movie role (From Here to Eternity) and a new record contract with Capitol. After a couple of singles, he cut this 10-inch LP (eight songs, 22:00) with Nelson Riddle. Remarkable voice, a few classic songs, so-so arrangements. B+(***)

Frank Sinatra: Swing Easy! (1954, Capitol, EP): With Riddle again, this time taking over the arrangements, which swing so much the singer really opens up. Eight cuts (19:17), all classics. A

Frank Sinatra: In the Wee Small Hours (1954-55 [1955], Capitol): First full-length LP, sixteen cuts, Nelson Riddle arranging and conducting. After Songs for Swingin' Lovers, probably the most legendary of Sinatra's Capitols, although I've always been a bit put off by how slow and weepy it is. Not that he isn't magnificent. A-

Frank Sinatra: Close to Me (1957, Capitol): Nelson Riddle arranged and conducted, but instead of running a full orchestra (big band often plus strings), he built this around a string quartet, with a couple of horns (the name that stands out is Harry Edison on trumpet), flute and harp. Makes for a slow one. Sterling voice, of course. B+(*)

Frank Sinatra: Come Fly With Me (1957 [1958], Capitol): Billy May takes over as arranger/conductor, alternately piling on the brass and wimping out with strings. The title song leads off a series of travel songs -- "April in Paris," "Autumn in New York," "Moonlight in Vermont," "London by Night," "Blue Hawaii," "Brazil," "On the Road to Mandalay" (which seems to have been controversial, for the wrong reasons). B+(**)

Frank Sinatra: Come Dance With Me! (1958 [1959], Capitol): Billy May returns, kicking the fast ones up a notch, but never had a good feel for ballads. B+(***)

Frank Sinatra: No One Cares (1959, Capitol): With Gordon Jenkins piping in the music. Goes for down and out. Someone might find this touching, but the title strikes me as its own best review. B-

Frank Sinatra: Nice 'n' Easy (1960, Capitol): Title song is a bit too nice and easy, but it sets up the concept, which is to craft the most classically romantic album of the singer's career. Almost everything is slow, and Nelson Riddle lays the strings on extra thick. B+(***)

Frank Sinatra: Sinatra's Swingin' Session!!! (1960 [1961], Capitol): A quick and easy wrap to Sinatra's tenure with Capitol, with Nelson Riddle arranging and conducting an old-fashioned big band, and half of the songs recycled from a decade-old Columbia album, Sing and Dance With Frank Sinatra. A little short, but fine songs, impeccably sung, and at least moderately swung. A-

Jo Stafford: Capitol Collectors Series (1944-50 [1991], Capitol): Trained for opera, but was drawn into pop, first through a Stafford Sisters act, then as lead in the Pied Pipers, then solo, "and by 1955 had achieved more worldwide record sales than any other female artist." This has less than half of the 53 singles she charted in the period, mostly dropping standards you know from elsewhere -- plus five I don't see on her charts, a couple of them duets. The music, mostly by Paul Weston, is hum-drum period orchestra, her vocals almost too pristine -- it's a relief when she tries on a novelty voice like on "Ragtime Cowboy Joe." B+(*)

Jo Stafford: Sings Songs of Scotland (1953-56 [1957], Columbia): Title rambles on, "With Words by Robert Burns, Music by Alton Ranker, Arrangements by Paul Weston." Weston's orchestra, too, as lush (and far from authentic) as can be, framing a voice that has never sounded more gorgeous. I found it a chore, but "Auld Lang Syne" closed on a glorious note. B

Jo Stafford: I'll Be Seeing You (1959, Columbia): With Paul Weston and His Orchestra, which goes for swoon over swing every time. The concept refers back to her USO days when she was known as "G.I. Jo," although the cover note actually reads "to 'G.I. Joe'/sincerely/Jo Stafford." Presumably the songs date from WWII, but that's not obvious after Weston's done with them, and I don't feel up to researching that. I will say that the title song [which is the only repeat title from her The Best of the War Years compilation] is exceptionally gorgeous. B+(*)

Kay Starr: I Cry by Night (1962, Capitol): Singer, from Oklahoma (her father Iroquois), moved to Dallas then Memphis, started singing on the radio at age 7, sang for Joe Venuti at 15 and working her way through a series of big bands, signing to Capitol in 1946, with a bunch of hits 1948-57. Billie Holiday once called her "the only white woman who could sing the blues." This is in that vein, and while her "Lover Man" is less ethereal than Holiday's, it makes up with fat-bottomed swing. The combo sets a comfortable, laid back groove, but note that the soothing saxophonist is none other than Ben Webster. A-

Kay Starr: Capitol Collectors Series (1948-62 [1991], Capitol): Twenty-five songs, mostly singles from her hit years plus a few later pieces which partly reflect the rise of rock and roll -- the last is actually called "The Rock and Roll Waltz." Unlike Jo Stafford, for instance, Starr always had a grounding in blues and jazz, and even early on her bands had a little extra hop to them. B+(**)

Maxine Sullivan and Her Jazz All-Stars: Memories of You: A Tribute to Andy Razaf (1956 [2007], Essential Media Group): Much confusion here, as I've seen the same album (song order varies) also listed as Leonard Feather Presents Maxine Sullivan, Vol. II (or Vol. 2), sometimes adding Music of Fats Waller, and in one case attributed to Maxine Sullivan with Charlie Shavers & His Ensemble. Shavers plays trumpet, with Jerome Richardson on sax, Buster Bailey on clarinet, Dick Hyman on piano, Milt Hinton and/or Wendell Marshall on bass, and Osie Johnson on drums. B+(***)

Jack Teagarden: Think Well of Me (1962, Verve): Trombone great, from Texas, started around 1928, I know him best from his Big Eight in 1938 and his late-1940s tenure with Louis Armstrong's All-Stars. As a singer, he was pretty limited, but I always detected a broad smile. Creed Taylor produced this, mostly songs by Willard Robison, backed by dishy strings (Klaus Ogerman, Bob Brookmeyer, and Russ Case each had a hand in the arrangements). B

Tiny Tim: God Bless Tiny Tim (1968, Reprise): Born Herbert Buckingham Khaury in New York, sung in a childish vibrato, played a tiny ukulele, first album, mostly old vaudeville songs with one, "Tiptoe Through the Tulips," breaking as a novelty single. I always figured him for a joke, but there are some (like Friedland) who credit him as a genius/obscurantist. Still doesn't make him listenable. B-

Mr. Tophat Feat. Robyn: Trust Me (2016 [2017], Smalltown Supersound, EP): Swedish DJ/producer Rudolf Nordström, has a pile of singles (mostly with Art Alfie), spins three long dance tracks (34:32) with occasional background vocals B+(**)

Mel Tormé With the Marty Paich Dek-Tette: Lulu's Back in Town (1956, Bethlehem): Jazz singer, started as a child, had a group called the Mel-Tones before he got drafted. Started recording under his own name in 1948, hooking up with arranger/conductor Paich here for the first of a bunch of records (including a 1988 Reunion). Original record seems to have been eponymous, but Polydor added the title for their 1969 reissue, and that's how Friedland and others cite the album. B+(***)

Mel Tormé and the Marty Paich Dek-Tette: Mel Tormé Sings Fred Astaire (1956, Bethlehem): Songs from Astaire's movies and records, which is to say mostly by Irving Berlin (4) or the Gershwins (4), 2 by Dorothy Fields/Jerome Kern, 1 from Johnny Mercer. Terrific songs, one and all, cleverly arranged. A-

Mel Tormé: Tormé (1958 [1959], Verve): The first of a series (up to 1961) of albums for Verve, again with Marty Paich arranging and conducting. Standards, some well known, some less so. B+(**)

Mel Tormé: I Dig the Duke/I Dig the Count (1961, Verve): Original LP had one side of Ellington tunes, the other with a nod to Basie (who wrote less of his band's book, but Strayhorn's "Take the 'A' Train" and "Just a Sittin' and a Rockin'" are on the Ellington side). Johnny Mandel arranged and conducted, and Russ Garcia produced. [Album was reissued on CD in 1984 as The Ellington and Basie Songbooks, but reverted to the original title for digital.] B+(***)

Mel Tormé: Compact Jazz: Mel Tormé (1958-61 [1987], Verve): The singer's brief stretch with Verve yielded seven albums, enough to fill many a CD sampler -- as the label has done with every sampler series they've run in the CD era. I went with this -- their first -- because Penguin Guide rated it 4-stars, and because I bought a dozen or more of these from back in the day, but later series like My Finset Hour are probably interchangeable. Fine voice, not Sinatra or Cole but give him a good song and don't screw up the arrangement and he's quite pleasing. Bands are stocked with West Coast pros (e.g., the drummers are Mel Lewis and Shelly Manne; when Paich isn't playing piano, Jimmy Rowles is; horns include Art Pepper, Bill Perkins, Teddy Edwards, Jack Sheldon, Art Porcino, and on nearly everything, Frank Rosolino). B+(***)

Mel Tormé: The Best of Mel Tormé [20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection] (1958-61 [2005], UME): Universal wound up owning the Verve catalog, and came out with this budget (max 12 songs) series starting in 1999. I've reviewed most of them -- not sure how I missed this one -- so I figured I'd give it a spin. Only repeats 4 (of 16) songs from Compact Jazz (unfortunately, "The Christmas Song" is on both), and partly makes up for the cut with an 8:04 "Blues in the Night." The other common picks are choice cuts. The differences aren't better here. B+(**)

Mark Turner: In This World (1998, Warner Brothers): Fourth (or fifth) album by one of the more impressive mainstream tenor saxophonists to emerge in the 1990s. With Brad Mehldau's early piano trio (Larry Grenadier and Jorge Rossy), plus Kurt Rosenwinkel on guitar. Seems like he can sail through anything -- even turns in a fine Beatles cover ("She Said, She Said"). A-

Sarah Vaughan: After Hours (1961, Roulette): Backed minimally by guitar (Mundell Lowe) and bass (George Duvivier), the framework suits Vaughan, showing off her precise timing and masterful phrasing. Standards, most no doubt appear elsewhere in her catalogue, but unlikely to be rendered with such gem-like clarity. B+(***)

Sarah Vaughan: The Best of Sarah Vaughan [20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection] (1954-66 [2004], Hip-O): Twelve songs, from her 1954-67 tenure at Mercury/Emarcy (later sucked up by Universal and reissued through Verve). Like the earlier Columbias, the (mostly string) orchestras are so swingless I find it a chore to listen to her -- not that there's nothing to find here. Odd song out: "Broken-Hearted Melody." B-

Sarah Vaughan: Live in Japan: Volume 1 (1973 [1991], Mainstream): Backed by a trio: Carl Schroeder (piano), John Gianelli (double bass), and Jimmy Cobb (drums). This live date originally appeared in 1973 on a 2-LP set. Later on CD the first three sides were grouped as Volume 1, with the fourth side and additional material moved to Volume 2. B+(**)

Sarah Vaughan: Live in Japan: Volume 2 (1973 [1991], Mainstream): Opens with a bit of boogie-woogie piano, credited to Vaughan herself, before Carl Schroeder takes over and she reverts to her usual act. No fall off here -- if anything this is a bit more upbeat and fun, though that's not generally what her fans seem to look for. B+(**)

Margaret Whiting: Sings the Jerome Kern Songbook (1960, Verve): Popular singer, from Detroit, recorded from 1942 in big bands -- had a hit with "Moonlight in Vermont" with Billy Butterfield's Orchestra in 1943. Signed to Capitol 1946-56, acted some, dabbled in country music (including a hit duet with Jimmy Wakely in 1949), moved on to Dot 1957-60 (originally and later a country label, but at the time based in Hollywood under Paramount). Then came two 1960 albums for Verve: one a duet with Mel Tormé, the other this sprawling (78 minute) songbook project arranged and conducted by Russ Garcia. No complaints about the singer. B

Revised Grades

Sometimes further listening leads me to change an initial grade, usually either because I move on to a real copy, or because someone else's review or list makes me want to check it again:


Blossom Dearie: Blossom Dearie (1956 [1957], Verve): Debut album, piano and vocals, backed by Herb Ellis (guitar), Ray Brown (bass), and Jo Jones (drums). [was B+]: B+(***)

Robyn: Robyn (2005 [2008], Konichiwa/Interscope): Fourth album, after 2002's Don't Stop the Music was released only in Sweden and Japan, but effectively a career reboot, with a new label, and much sharper disco/electropop, and a nod to hip-hop. [was B]:

Notes

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
  • [bc] available at bandcamp.com