Jazz Consumer Guide (7):
The following are brief notes on records that I've decided will not
appear in this or future Jazz Consumer Guides. Most have been carried
over as prospects from previous columns. They do not include records
that I've reviewed in Recycled Goods, and generally do not include
records that I have noted in my prospecting blogs -- in both cases,
the reason is that I've already said what I want to say about the
record. There are various reasons why a record winds up here. Space
is precious in the Voice, so I only rarely write about records that
Francis Davis or others have already covered. (The Billy Bang records
were covered by me.) Most are records that fall below the bottom of
the Honorable Mentions list and aren't bad enough or important enough
to make the Duds list. Some older records lose timeliness, and some
I just give up on. Part of the idea here is to publish these in the
blog around the time the column comes out, so I can start the next
one reasonably fresh.
Juhani Aaltonen: Mother Tongue (2002 , TUM):
A Finnish saxophonist with a strong reputation from the '70s, Aaltonen
had passed retirement age before TUM brought him back for three of
their first seven releases. All three were reviewed in the 7th Ed.
of the Penguin Guide, which is where I found out about them. I love
the deep tone and precision of his tenor sax, but I've never quite
come up with the review words and the records have aged further on
my shelf. This one, with Finns on bass and drums, I flagged as TUM's
"Pick Hit" in my labels piece.
Juhani Aaltonen/Reggie Workman/Andrew Cyrille: Reflections
(2003 , TUM): This replaces the Finns with two famous Americans,
who are worth following anywhere. Aaltonen plays more flute here, which
I'm inclined to discount, but he plays it with rare authority.
Juhani Aaltonen and Henrik Otto Donner With the Avanti Chamber
Orchestra: Strings Revisited (2003, TUM): Also with Workman
and Cyrille, recorded at the same time as Reflections but released
later. This recreates Aalton's 1976 Strings record. The strings
are dark and swirling, casting shadows everywhere. And the sax works
hard, like a collie herding sheep.
Ahmed Abdullah's Ebonic Tones: Tara's Song (2004 ,
TUM): The Sun Ra trumpet player convenes a reunion, with Billy Bang
among the alumni, and baritone saxist Alex Harding the lone ringer.
Terrific fun, even with Abdullah's three vocals -- two goofball Sun
Ra lyrics, and a note-perfect "Iko Iko."
[Bang review in Voice]
Buyu Ambroise: Blues in Red (2004, Justin Time):
Interesting tenor saxophonist from Haiti, in tone and dynamics
reminds me a bit of Stan Getz. Album is long on piano, courtesy
of Frederic La Fargeas, and short on rhythm, although there are
guests cited for that sort of thing. One vocal is a distraction.
Impressive when it comes together, which isn't often enough.
Paul Anka: Rock Swings (2005, Verve): Pop songs
of the recent era, which means rock songs, done up in big band
arrangements. When Ray Charles did that he was a genius. When
Anka does it he's not even Mitch Miller.
Peter Apfelbaum & the New York Hieroglyphics: It Is
Written (2004 , ACT): While none of the pieces have
more than ten musicians, the total roll call comes to twenty-six.
Good people, too, which shows that Apfelbaum has taste even when
he mostly misuses it. His own contribution ("woodwinds, keyboards,
percussion") is hard to discern.
Atomic/School Days: Nuclear Assembly Hall (2003 ,
Okka Disk, 2CD): A mash-up of two bands, joined at their common bass-drums,
who play loud on everything from free jazz to heavy metal. Atomic is based
in Norway and led by Fredrik Ljungvkist. Ken Vandermark and Jeb Bishop
form School Days' front line. Lots of heat but the fusion is incomplete
even though they generate brilliant flashes.
Gilad Atzmon & the Orient House Ensemble: Musik
(2004, Enja): The German spelling bespeaks old Europe, pre-jazz and
pre-rock, a world where cosmopolitanism was unblemished by nationalism,
where capitalism hasn't been trivialized into consumption, where socialism
still had faith in its future. Atzmon's soprano sax has visceral impact,
but the record turns on the vocal pieces, the weirdest about a happy virus.
Billy Bang: Vietnam: Reflections (2004 , Justin
Time): Fewer demons on Bang's second tour, where he teams with two
Vietnamese-Americans and uses several traditional songs. The album
lacks the raw power and paranoia of its predecessor, but moving on
has ample rewards.
[Bang review in Voice]
Denys Baptiste: Let Freedom Ring! (2003, Dune):
The big band is longer on strings than brass, and while they swing
they rarely elevate. Baptiste plays tenor sax, but doesn't stand
out much. The four long pieces make political points, and Ben Okri's
infrequent bits of poetry are actually a plus, but much as I like
good politics, I prefer great music.
Cheryl Bentyne: Let Me Off Uptown: The Music of Anita
O'Day (2005, Telarc): Not a bad idea -- I'd like to
encourage Bentyne's moonlighting, especially given how miserable
her day job with Manhattan Transfer must be -- but for those of
us who always wanted to hear more O'Day and less Billy May,
bringing in Bill Holman doesn't exactly do the trick.
Erin Bode: Don't Take Your Time (2004, MaxJazz): Her
worst photo is on the cover, but better covers are inside: Bill Monroe,
Stevie Wonder, Irving Berlin.
Anthony Braxton/Matt Bauder: 2 + 2 Compositions
(2003 , 482 Music): Both play sax and clarinet. Each contributes
two compositions. The pieces tend to be notes with not much to connect
them, leaving a puzzle of some interest, but the demands they put on
the listener are rarely appreciated. Perhaps because the payoff is
Zach Brock and the Coffee Achievers: Chemistry
(2005, Secret Fort): Young violinist, trying to find a niche by
trying on a little bit of everything. Found this annoying at first,
but suspect he has a future, and one that might amount to something.
Paul Brody's Sadawi: Beyond Babylon (2004, Tzadik):
Post-postmodern klezmer, as Brody takes the works of Ben Goldberg,
Frank London, David Krakauer and others as a starting point to push
even further afield. Still, it stays closer to the book than many
entries in Tzadik's Radical Jewish Culture series.
Bucketrider: Guignol's Band (1998, Dr. Jim's):
This was a research project that didn't quite pan out: a rockish
avant-jazz band from Australia, led by trombonist James Wilkinson
and saxophonists Adam Simmons and Timothy O'Dwyer. The have a
half-dozen albums -- I've heard three. They're smart and clever,
have some education, know some French, probably read Guy Debord,
like toys. This is the most satisfying one I've heard: all have
their rough spots and occasional patches of brilliance.
Bucketrider: Le Baphomet (2001, Dr. Jim's): Similar
in tone and construction to Guignol's Band, but the peaks are
Bucketrider: L'Événements (2004, Dr. Jim's): The
booklet doesn't explain much more than that the events referred to
date from May-June 1968 -- presumably the student-worker revolt.
Constructed like a soundtrack, the pieces switch between soft
scratches that do little and harsh noisefests that also do little.
Still an interesting group, but not their best outting.
Bull Fonda Duo: Cup of Joe, No Bull (2005, Corn Hill
Indie): Katie Bull takes risks as a singer, but they don't often pay
off. Her previous album, Love Spook, sat on my possible duds
list until I decided it didn't matter any more. One reason is that
this one, stripped down to a duo with bassist Joe Fonda, and larded
with standards that provide more cover for her originals, presents
Greg Burk Trio: Nothing, Knowing (2003 , 482
Music): One of too many piano trios that please and impress me while
leaving me speechless. He's young and knowledgeable. He plays dense
chords and difficult changes, and the group is tightly wound with
veterans Steve Swallow and Bob Moses, who in particular seems to be
having a ball. Also on the shelf is an earlier quartet, Carpe
Momentum (Soul Note), with the inimitable Jerry Bergonzi on
board -- a tasty record that also left me tongue-tied.
François Carrier Trio: Play (2000 , 482
Music): Nothing fancy, just a Canadian alto sax trio, rough and
ready, out on the road. This is a record that appealed to me
instantly, but when I never managed to write anything useful
about it I started to have doubts, wondering whether it's just
that I'm a sucker for rough, avant-ish sax trios.
Bill Charlap: Plays George Gershwin The American Soul
(2005, Blue Note): The four horns are as dapper as Charlap's trio, but
the extra calories just slow down and soften the piano. The songbook,
of course, has been done to death, so perhaps extreme measures are called
for. But Charlap is anything but extreme. He reworks pieces extensively,
then neatly tucks them back within themselves. Nothing wrong with this,
nor with the horns. They're good for a mild sugar buzz, and a sweet smile.
Bill Cole/William Parker: Two Masters: Live at the Prism
(2004 , Boxholder): Cole has made a specialty out of playing odd
wind instruments -- didgeridoo, shenai, sona, shenai, nagaswaram, hojok,
various flutes -- and at least once turned his exotic interests into
a really fine jazz album: Seasoning the Greens (Boxholder).
However, two previous volumes of Duets & Solos wound up
sounding thin and experimental. Parker is one of the world's great
bassists, but he too has a fondness for exotic instruments, and is
far less masterful when he indulges. The results are mixed -- one,
called "Election Funeral Dance," sounds like the work of two snakes
who've disposed of their charmers, but others are more agreeable
Ravi Coltrane: In Flux (2005, Savoy Jazz): He tracks
the father he never knew as assiduously as Hank Williams Jr., but he
keeps better company. His two albums thus far are so solidly crafted
it's hard to nitpick, and it would be churlish to point out that he'll
never be the genius his father was.
[FD in Voice]
Eric Comstock: No One Knows (2005, Harbinger): At
first he sounds like he the next Sinatra-wannabe, then you notice
he's aiming more at Pizzarelli. A patch of three Strayhorn/Ellington
pieces shows you how carefully he navigates, but also how cautious
he can be. And he continues pulling his punches to the end -- must
be a stylistic trait. Smart as far as it goes, and he does have
impeccable taste in musicians.
Harry Connick Jr.: Occasion: Connick on Piano 2
(2005, Marsalis Music/Rounder): No vocals, just Connick on piano
duetting with his label boss, the barely credited Branford Marsalis.
Both players are competent, but neither makes up for not having a
Rita Coolidge: And So Is Love (2005, Concord):
Another of the label's rehab projects as they strive to reinvent
Adult Contemporary with a jazz twist. Sounds professional: she
doesn't wreck the good songs, and doesn't salvage the not-so-good
Dave's True Story: Nature (2005, BePop): Dave is
presumably guitarist Dave Cantor, who writes the songs and plays
along with bassist-producer Jeff Eyrich and extra studio hands.
Kelly Flint sings -- the centerpiece of a straight but warm and
comfortable jazz framework.
Ernest Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble: Mean Ameen
(2004, Delmark): The title cut is a tribute to trumpeter Ameen
Muhammad, with Maurice Brown handling the key instrument. With
Dawkins' alto or tenor sax and Steve Berry's trombone the group
is thick with brass and raucous.
Whit Dickey: In a Heartbeat (2004 , Clean
Feed): The David S. Ware Quartet's first drummer puts together a
solid avant-leaning quintet with Roy Campbell and Rob Brown up
front, and Joe Morris on guitar -- he pitches a few knuckleballs,
but his abstract comping is the highlight here. Nothing wrong,
but don't we expect the chemistry to burn a little brighter?
Sasha Dobson: The Darkling Thrush (2004, Smalls):
There are dozens of movies with this setting: a smoky nightclub, a
singer on stage with a distinct edge but nobody's paying attention.
Dobson could be that singer. She's got a band (Chris Byars' Octet)
good enough to find work on their own. She lets the songs to most
of the work, zipping through "I'm Beginning to See the Light,"
struggling a bit with "Sophisticated Lady."
Down to the Bone: Spread Love Like Wildfire (2005,
Narada Jazz): Smooth, sure, but this time the groove is hard to deny.
Kahil El'Zabar's Ritual Trio: Live at the River East Art
Center (2004 , Delmark): Features guest Billy Bang,
who spars good naturedly with tenor saxist Ari Brown on an outing
still haunted by bassist Malachi Favors' death -- "a big man"? No
doubt. El'Zabar's philosophizing on precious life annoys me, but
his humanity comes through his drums.
[Bang review in Voice]
Avram Fefer/Bobby Few: Kindred Spirits (2004
, Boxholder): Few is a pianist who worked with Steve Lacy
for many years, so on this mostly-Monk program it's tempting to
view Fefer as a substitute, but he's more scattered -- plays
tenor as well as soprano sax, and throws in a little clarinet.
The originals are less shapely.
Avram Fefer/Bobby Few: Heavenly Places (2004-05
, Boxholder): This one is free improv, long and unstructured,
with good spots here and there.
Eric Felten: Meets the Dek-Tette (2004, VSOP):
This was conceived as a tribute to Mel Tormé and cool jazz arranger
Marty Paich, and it exceeds expectations -- certainly mine. Felten
doesn't have the sweetness in his voice that Tormé had, but he makes
a strong impression. The band, with old pros like Herb Geller and
Jack Sheldon, comes off even stronger, while Brent Wallarab's new
arrangements have a crispness that wouldn't be evident if all they
did was recycle Paich's originals.
Renée Fleming: Haunted Heart (2005, Decca): She's
a famous opera singer, as her voice testifies: she dwells in the
deep end of an extraordinary range, has remarkable diction, and
can turn on and modulate a vibrato like no one I've ever heard.
Her accompanists are Fred Hersch and Bill Frisell -- together on
two cuts, just one or the other on the rest. Hersch is as perfect
as I've ever heard him, while Frisell is a model of economy and
elegance. So I'm duly impressed, but otherwise unmoved.
Charles Gayle: Shout! (2003 , Clean Feed):
A typical Gayle album, right down to the change up he plays on
piano. He's no more awkward on piano than on tenor sax, but he
keeps his sax on a shorter leash these days, while he can cut
loose on piano without the ceiling crashing down.
Terry Gibbs: Feelin' Good (2005, Mack Avenue):
Easy swinging date for the veteran vibraphonist, with guests Eric
Alexander and Joey DeFrancesco doing most of the heavy lifting.
Dennis González NY Quartet: NY Midnight Suite (2003
, Clean Feed): González usually works with other horns, and tenor
saxist Ellery Eskelin fills in admirably here. Very solid post-avant
group, but much as I admire it I've never come up with a review line,
and now it's been eclipsed by more recent work.
Gush: Norrköping (2003 , Atavistic): Mats
Gustofsson's baritone sax is as muscular as ever, but the piano
has a rinky-dink feel. One result is that the quiet spots are
more annoying than the squalls.
Julie Hardy: A Moment's Glance (2005, Fresh Sound
New Talent): Mild singer, likes to scat, but doesn't quite have
the lungs for it. Backup is mainstream, supportive, but no more.
Mike Holober and the Gotham Jazz Orchestra: Thought Trains
(1996 , Sons of Sound): A NYC-based big band of convenience,
including a few well known players working for the relatively unknown
pianist/composer/arranger. One of the better big band outtings I've
heard, but I've never found space for it, and now it's slipping out
Dick Hyman and Tom Pletcher: If Bix Played Gershwin
(2004, Arbors): The sort of thought experiment Hyman is uniquely
qualified to work on, with Pletcher helping out on cornet.
Dick Hyman and Randy Sandke: Now and Again (2005,
Arbors): Sandke's three new albums probe modernism in various ways,
but here he's back on familiar turf, working up Armstrong and Morton
classics, Porter and Mercer standards, an original by Hyman that
could have been their title, "Thinking About Bix."
Vijay Iyer: Reimagining (2004 , Savoy Jazz):
Iyer's such a domineering pianist that there's no doubt who the leader
is even when he's working with a saxophonist -- in this case, Rudresh
Mahanthappa. I got to this late, working backwards after making Iyer's
Fieldwork album a Pick Hit. This one is more intricate, measured, and
polished, but lacks the other's physical punch. Clearly a major talent.
Keith Jarrett: Radiance (2002 , ECM, 2CD):
Solo piano. He did a lot of that early on, and freakishly sold a
few million copies of The Köln Concert, so every few years
he does another -- varies the flow of his trio releases. This is
similar in how he turns small movements over to create large ones,
but feels less olympic, less a feat of endurance and athleticism,
more meditate. Guess he's getting on.
Billy Jenkins: Still . . . Sounds Like Bromley
(1995 , Babel): This is a strange record, at times filling
me with awe, at others freaking me out. The huge and diverse lineup
wreaks intense playfulness, sounding like the ultimate psychedelic
circus. One suspects satire at points, but satire without irony is
impossible, and this seems way too naive to be ironic. Rather, it's
mania at play.
Billy Jenkins: Suburbia (1999, Babel): The credits
include screaming kids, lawn mowers, and the kitchen sink. The kids,
at least, appear in a piece called "Coke Cans in Yet Garden," with
Jenkins' electric guitar soaring around them. This starts with a
cryptic, broken blues piece, and ends with an r&b sendup that
concludes suburbia is "a place to come from." Intermittently amazing,
as usual, just a little more intermittent than some of his others.
Antonio Carlos Jobim: Symphonic Jobim (2002 ,
Adventure Music, 2CD): Short on beat, stuffed and mounted by Paulo
Jobim and Mario Adnet with members of the Orquestra Sinfónico do Estado
do São Paulo, conducted by Roberto Minczuk.
Sean Jones: Gemini (2005, Mack Avenue): Young trumpeter,
looks toward Marsalis for direction. He can kick up his heels, which is
attractive in small groups, just him and rhythm, but the producers have
bigger things in mind, unfortunately.
Jumala Quintet: Turtle Crossing (2000 , Clean
Feed): One of those pure improv things that often seems on the edge
between self-indulgence and self-discovery, with three horns -- Paul
Flaherty, Joe McPhee, and Steve Swell -- to scatter the focus,
delight and/or confound.
Kammerflimmer Kollektief: Absencen (2005, Staubgold):
Kraut rock as rhythmic base for scratchy sax improv. The synths tend
to be dreamy, with one track kicking up the reverb to sound like
Hawaiian pedal steel.
Peter Kenagy: Little Machines (2003 , Fresh
Sound New Talent): A thoughtful but slow moving program, led by a
young Boston-based trumpeter in a sextet with two saxes and guitar.
Soweto Kinch: Conversations With the Unseen (2003
, Dune): Kinch plays saxophone with a combination of r&b
excitement and Coltrane-ish expansiveness. He could be a Gene Ammons
for our times, but he aims more for Courtney Pine stardom, maybe
even a bit more -- why else would he mix in three rap pieces? His
pop prospects are strictly U.K., but Ben Ratliff touted this on
a ten-best list. I'm neither convinced nor satisfied, but dig the
effort, and the man can blow.
Ilona Knopfler: Live the Life (2005, Mack Avenue):
Hyped for her "clear, powerful voice" -- sounds light to me, and
I'm surprised to say that I find the French half of the songlist
annoying. The band, which plays thick but lacks any real punch,
doesn't help much either.
Lee Konitz With Alan Broadbent: More Live-Lee (2000
, Milestone): A second helping of duets from this date, much
like the first, with Konitz searching deliberately and thoughtfully,
and Broadbent egging him on. No drop off; if anything it's a wee bit
Simone Kopmajer: Romance (2005, Zoho): A singer,
her precise touch is just nuanced enough to draw you in close.
The band, a piano trio plus Eric Alexander, is impeccable. The
songs are standards, with two takes of Bill Withers' "Whatever
Happens" adapted for torching.
Kathy Kosins: Vintage (2005, Mahogany Jazz/Lightyear):
Her voice commands attention, and her band rewards it. She looks for
songs that haven't been beat to death. The most famous one here is
the rarely jazzed "These Boots Are Made for Walkin," which she
doesn't resolve into recognizable until the chorus, then wanders
into a rap on boots and walkin that cites Bootsy Collins. Will
Friedwald likens her phrasing to Tony Bennett, which is true enough,
but she's hipper than Bennett (not to mention Friedwald), even
though her cover photo looks like a scrap from the '40s.
Bradley Leighton: Groove Yard (2003, Pacific Coast
Jazz): Pretty decent rhythm section, working on standards including
two Jobims and the title cut from Wes Montgomery. File under flutes.
Charles Lloyd: Jumping the Creek (2004 , ECM):
Typically fine album for Lloyd these days, with Geri Allen.
Pedro Madaleno: The Sound of Places (2003 ,
Clean Feed): Portuguese guitarist, subtle but elegant, in a quartet
with saxophonist Wolfang Fuhr, also subtle, but able to draw out
the highlights on the louder instrument.
René Marie: Serenade Renegade (2004, MaxJazz):
A skillful, authoritative singer, or singer-songwriter, as she
wrote all but two songs here. For the covers, she struggles a bit
with "A Hard Day's Night" but aces "Lover Man."
Wynton Marsalis: Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of
Jack Johnson (2004, Blue Note): He's overrated as the new Miles
Davis and ridiculous as the new Duke Ellington, but he's got a knack
for Jelly Roll Morton. As soundtrack music this provides historical
background rather than aesthetic development. Like soundtrack music,
the bits are clipped and shaded for mood, including the inevitable
doom and gloom for the subject's decline and fall.
Wynton Marsalis: Amongst the People: Live at the House of
Tribes (2002 , Blue Note): A fair barometer of his skills
these days: he runs a first rate band, plays first rate trumpet, has
enough fun to be infectious. He's only dangerous when he lets Stanley
Crouch do his thinking for him, of which the liner notes provide the
Pat Metheny Group: The Way Up (2005, Nonesuch): This
album climbed the Contemporary Jazz charts, stalling just shy of Kenny
G, remarkable popular success considering it adheres to none of the
usual conventions -- no cheese, no vocals, no songs. It's a suite, an
opening and three parts, each running past the 15 minute mark. The
texturing feels organic, and Cuong Vu's trumpet adds color. It's not
compelling enough for an artistic breakthrough, but it's not complacent
or formulaic either.
Hendrik Meurkens: Amazon River (2005, Blue Toucan):
Meurkens plays Brazilian jazz. His first instrument was vibes, but
here he has mostly shifted over to harmonia, which tends to thicken
the sound. Two vocals each by Oscar Castro-Neves and, especially,
Dori Caymmi make it murkier.
Wolfgang Mitterer: Radio Fractal/Beat Music: Live at Donaueschingen
2002 (, Hatology): Two discs, nearly two hours, built around
a computer track, assembled mostly from found sounds -- the most recognizable
are saws and planes, and of course there are voices. Extra sounds are added
via electronics and a turntablist, as well as conventional instruments. The
second disc is shorter and more beatwise, a plus.
Barbara Montgomery: Trinity (2005, Mr. Bean and
Bumpy): Slower and heavier than her previous one, the likable
Little Sunflower, which suits two Leonard Cohen songs just
fine, but leaves Stevie Wonder and Van Morrison in limbo, and is
rough on her originals.
Sarah Morrow & the American All Stars in Paris
(2005, O+ Music): The best known of the all stars is Hal Singer, who
had a jukebox hit during the Korean War and cut a couple of those
r&b-ish alto sax albums that Charlie Parker fans turned their
noses up. The only others I even recognize are Rhoda Scott and John
Betsch. Morrow is a young trombonist, and she has a ball.
Mushroom: Glazed Popems (2004, Black Beauty, 2CD):
This San Francisco group tries to make old music new again by
reworking old ideas you probably never heard of anyway. First
disc is "London" -- meant to evoke the '60s when English folk
and jazz intersected in the likes of Bert Jansch. Second disc
is "Oakland" -- meant to be funky, but the receptor cells will
more likely be found in your mind than your ass.
Nanette Natal: It's Only a Tune (2004, Benyo Music):
Definitely a jazz singer, she mostly works at ballad tempi and projects
deep noir. The instrumentation is supportive, decorating without overly
Meshell Ndegeocello Presents: The Spirit Music Jamia: Dance
of the Infidel (2003 , Shanachie): This feels like an
experiment in progress, evolving much like the leader's name (most
lately, Meshell Suhaila Bashir-Shakur). She doesn't sing, nor even
play bass on most tracks. Stars come and go, with only Michael Cain
appearing on a majority of tracks. Strip away the singers (Sabina,
Cassandra Wilson, Lalah Hathaway) and the horns and what you have
left are soft funk grooves, little more than background music. But
the one horn earning its keep is Oliver Lake's alto sax. Choice cut:
David "Fathead" Newman: I Remember Brother Ray
(2005, High Note): A soulful tenor saxophonist often spotlighted
in Charles' primetime orchestra, Newman's as entitled to cash in
as anyone. He takes the usual songs at a leisurely pace, like a
hearse heading to drop off its load. Thankfully, there's no loss
of decorum -- no vocals, no guest stars, no bullshit. John Hicks
and Steve Nelson help out.
Organissimo: This Is the Place (2005, Big "O"):
Tasty little organ-guitar-drums trio, plus guests on one song.
I'm most impressed by guitarist Joe Gloss. I'm most surprised
how many organ trios -- a lineup that flowered and mostly died
in the '60s -- have popped up recently with nothing new to say.
Eddie Palmieri: Listen Here! (2005, Concord):
He's still a research project for me, but this one seems more
ordinary than its predecessor. The hot spots here go to the
big name horn players, while his piano is mostly tucked out
Mario Pavone: Boom (2003 , Playscape):
He played bass with Thomas Chapin for many years, and Chapin
continues to have a strong presence in his work. The group
here -- a quartet with Tony Malaby, Peter Madsen and Matt
Wilson -- has terrific balance, much as Pavone's music tries
to balance risk and reward, adventure and beauty.
Danilo Perez: Live at the Jazz Showcase (2003
, ArtistShare): The label is a marketing group for self-released
albums, the latest twist on ESP-Disk's slogan about how only the artist
decides what you hear. One effect of that is that the brand means
nothing. Perez is a good pianist with a special fondness for Monk,
but lately he's been more impressive on Wayne Shorter's albums than
on his own. I suspect this is just a spare tape used to test the
marketing concept. Nothing special about it.
John Pizzarelli: Knowing You (2005, Telarc): A big
improvement over Bossa Nova, but that's merely a return to
form, achieved by returning to his home turf. Support includes Larry
Goldings, Harry Allen, Ken Peplowski, and his old man, none of whom
Pip Pyle's Bash!: Belle Illusion (2002-03 ,
Cuneiform): Mostly a jam band, led by drummer Pyle, with organ,
guitar and bass keeping the groove rolling. Guitarist Patrice
Meyer has some sharp moves. Elton Dean drops in for two cuts,
and adds a lot.
Rader Schwarz Group: The Spirit Inside Us (1998,
Timbre): The big draw here is neither drummer Abbey Rader, who
developed in the SoHo loft scene before heading to Germany, nor
tenor saxist Gunter Schwarz, otherwise unknown, though both play
well. It's violinist Billy Bang, who contributes but mostly minds
Abbey Rader & Billy Bang: Echoes (1999, Abray):
Rader gets top billing because this came out on his label, but his
drums help to pace and steady Bang. Still, the violinist wrote all
but one of the songs, leads throughout, even recites his poem for
Abbey Rader & Dave Liebman: Cosmos (2001
, Cadence Jazz): Rader's aplomb in these duo frameworks
remains impressive. Liebman's a guy I've been worried about
lately, especially since he's made the soprano sax his primary
instrument. It helps that he plays more of his gruff, puckish
tenor sax here, but even the soprano retains its tartness.
Phil Ranelin: Inspiration (2004, Wide Hive): The
Tribe is back in business again. Founder Ranelin is a trombonist
who likes big bands because they feel like big families. He's got
nine pieces here, not counting the guests, and plenty of them play
Marc Ribot: Spiritual Unity (2004 , Pi): Henry
Grimes came back just in time to get in on the Ayler revival. This is
one more step, an Ayler tribute band much like Yo! Miles. Ribot is
effectively the leader, his guitar filling in for the great man's
tenor sax, with Roy Campbell in brother Donald's trumpet role, Chad
Taylor on drums, and Grimes on bass. Ribot aims more to rekindle the
process than to recreate the music, and the process gets clearer with
the guitar eliminating the overblow, plus Campbell has chops Donald
Tim Ries: The Rolling Stones Project (2002-04
, Concord): Each Jagger-Richards song gets its own treatment --
err, "Honky Tonk Women" gets two -- so the 25 guests are scattered
about, the most persistent being drummer Charlie Watts. This struck
me as a bad idea from the start, and the lineup of singers -- Sheryl
Crow, Norah Jones, Claudia Acuña, and three times Lisa Fischer --
doesn't help one's confidence. Still, this doesn't come off so badly.
The songbook holds up, especially less obvious songs like "Slippin'
Away" and "Waiting on a Friend." The guitar list is critical: John
Scofield, Ben Monder, and Bill Frisell, with the latter taking "Ruby
Tuesday" in a near-solo. Norah Jones' "Wild Horses" is choice. And
the drummer's really something.
Adam Rogers: Apparitions (2004 , Criss Cross):
An guitarist who doesn't fit any of the niche styles I associate with
the instrument, and he's by far the most interesting player here. But
the record itself is busied up with Chris Potter and Edward Simon
flashing their undoubted skills to negligible effect.
Sonny Rollins: Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert (2001
, Milestone): Rollins was too modest in picking these 73 minutes
from a 2:40 concert in Boston four days after the World Trace Center
met its maker, giving lots of space to trombonist Clifton Anderson and
pianist Stephen Scott while shortchanging himself. As he says in his
introduction, "music is one of the beautiful things in life." But when
he cuts loose, especially on "Global Warming," his music is much more:
an overpowering life force, even in the wake of so much death. Exxon may
not believe the science, but they'd be fools to argue with him.
ROVA/Orkestrova: Electric Ascension 2003 (2003 ,
Atavistic): ROVA compensates for their shortage of saxophones by adding
a "rhythm & noise" section plus strings they could have counted under
noise. Coltrane's "Ascension" always struck me as too chaotic for repertoire,
but this is the fourth version I've heard and they all sound so consistent
they must be repertoire. I'd be more impressed if I liked the original.
Randy Sandke and the Inside Out Band: Outside In
(2005, Evening Star): Formerly the Inside Out Collective, the name
change reflecting Sandke's increased dominance, with the writing
credits from the outside end of the band down to two -- one each
from Ray Anderson and Marty Ehrlich. The band still sparkles, but
the easy blues cops from the previous record give way to Sandke's
harmonic theories. In other words, this one's a tad less fun --
except, that is, for a spoken word thing called "Mobius Trip"
consisting of a series of "I went to X" set-ups and "someone said"
punch lines: "I went to Birdland and someone said, 'jazz will never
die as long as people can listen to it with their feet.'"
Randy Sandke and the Metatonal Band: The Mystic Trumpeter
(2003-04 , Evening Star): Small group, but with three front-line
horns this moves like a big band. Sandke has written a book on harmonic
theory, and this seems to be his testing laboratory. Even though this
group is, roughly speaking, the inside half of the Inside Out band, he
breaks ground here as a modernist.
The Randy Sandke Quartet: Trumpet After Dark (2005,
Evening Star): Subtitled "jazz in a meditative mood," but just as
useful as quiet storm make-out music.
Arturo Sandoval: Live at the Blue Note (2004 ,
Half Note): More moderate than usual for a Cuban trumpet who tends
to go over the top, but still messy -- some fertile patches, but
lots of weeds, too.
Sangha Quartet: Fear of Roaming (2003 ,
Fresh Sound New Talent): These guys have been around much longer
than the norm for "new talent": Seamus Blake, Kevin Hays, Larry
Grenadier, Bill Stewart. Blake and Hays split the writing and
arranging credits. Hays works mostly on Fender Rhodes, providing
cushy support for Blake's tenor sax.
John Scofield: That's What I Say: John Scofield Plays the
Music of Ray Charles (2005, Verve): Another entry in the
Ray Charles Sweepstakes -- oh, the things that a bestselling album,
a hit motion picture, and dying (in no particular order) does for
a franchise! Might be interesting if Scofield had an original idea
about Charles, but he just hands the keys to half-a-dozen singers,
of whom only John Mayer is good for a passable imitation. Larry
Goldings is indispensible on the instrumental half, where Scofield
shines as usual.
Sirone Bang Ensemble: Configuration (2004 ,
Silkheart): Live from CBGB's, sound thin and hollow, applause rather
perplexed. The leaders' strings are supplemented by Charles Gayle,
whose primal force is matched by Bang, and drummer Tyshawn Sorey,
who has a blast.
[Bang review in Voice]
Jim Snidero: Close Up (2004, Milestone): Solid
mainstream album with a bright, boppish flair. Eric Alexander
joins on five cuts, doubling the sax appeal.
The Stryker/Slagle Band: Live at the Jazz Standard
(2005, Zoho): Guitarist Dave Stryker, alto/soprano saxophonist Steve
Slagle -- both recorded consistently solid albums for Steeplechase
in the '80s. They fit together nicely, and have recorded another one
Tierney Sutton: I'm With the Band (2005, Telarc):
I take it as a brave move that she identifies with the band instead
of the spotlight, but it would be smarter if she had a better band.
They go with the flow, but rarely set it. Also brave to tear at
these chestnuts, but her voice doesn't get much traction on them,
even if technically she does all you'd expect.
Steve Swell/Perry Robinson: Invisible Cities
(2004, Drimala): A trombone-clarinet duo, with no rhythm, no
bottom, no filler, nothing chordal -- nothing to push it along,
to fluff it up, to put it over, which makes it tough going, even
though it features two impressive musicians. Drimala has made
a specialty of this sort of minimal adventurism.
Gebhard Ullmann/Chris Dahlgren/Peter Herbert: Bass3X
(2004, Drimala): The most successful of a parcel of three Ullmann
records that showed up last year, probably because it places the
clarinetist in a small, if rather unconventional group -- a trio
with two bassists.
Introducing the Javier Vercher Trio (2003 ,
Fresh Sound New Talent): A young Spanish tenor saxist, based in
New York, studied with Bob Moses, leads off with Ornette Coleman.
He is feisty, willing to get bruised up a bit for his art, but
hasn't quite figured out what art that is. Derivative but fun.
David Weiss: The Mirror (2004, Fresh Sound New
Talent): This is a largish group with a lot of horn power -- the
leader plays trumpet, which is only the start. Crackling hot
postbop, with the horn charts laying the harmonics on thick.
I'm impressed by the thought and craft that went into it, and
acknowledge the beauty of the voicings.
Ezra Weiss: Persephone (2005, Umoja): I like him
quite a bit when I can hear his piano, but there's a lot going on
here -- he puts most of his weight on roles like composer and
arranger, and while the result isn't exactly clutter he does
throw up a lot of stuff that strikes me as excessive. So I'm
not a fan, but maybe an admirer.
Björn Wennås: Static (2004 , Beartones):
Young Swedish guitarist, based in Boston. Phil Grenadier's trumpet
provides a contrasting voice, and singer Carmen Marsico scats her
way around four songs, but the guitar's the most promising thing
Matt Wilson's Arts & Crafts: Wake Up! (To What's
Happening) (2004, Palmetto): An eclectic mix of recycled
tunes, each going its own peculiar way, assembled in admiration
of the carefree naivete of his children. Terrell Stafford shines,
and the drummer holds it together.
Mike Wofford: Live at Atheneum Jazz (2004, Capri):
Good mainstream piano album, with Peter Washington and Victor Lewis
filling out the trio on a not-very-familiar standards program.
Also dropping the following. Don't have anything to add to what
I previously said in the prospecting notes,
bk-flush, or the notebook.
- Eric Alexander & Vincent Herring: The Battle: Live at Smoke (2005, High Note) B
- Gregg August: Late August (2003 , Iacuessa) B+(**)
- Richard Bona/Lokua Kanza/Gerald Toto: Toto Bona Lokua (2004 , Sunnyside) B
- Alex Bugnon: Free (2005, Narada) B
- Katie Bull: Love Spook (2004 , Corn Hill Indie) B-
- Greg Burk Quartet: Carpe Momentum (2002 , Soul Note) B+(**)
- John Butcher/Mike Hansen/Tomasz Krakowiak: Equation (2002 , Spool/Field) B+(*)
- Sara Caswell: But Beautiful (2004 , Arbors) B
- Billy Childs Ensemble: Lyric: Jazz-Chamber Music Vol. 1 (2004 , Lunacy Music) B
- Tim Coffman: Crossroads (2004 , BluJazz) B+(*)
- Raynald Colom: My Fifty One Minutes (2004 , Fresh Sound New Talent) B-
- Common Ground: High Voltage (2004 , Delmark) B+(*)
- Jackie Coon: The Joys of New Orleans (2005, Arbors) B
- The Dan Cray Trio: Save Us! (2005, BluJazz) B+(**)
- Sarah DeLeo: The Nearness of You (2005, Sweet Sassy Music) B+(*)
- Harris Eisenstadt: The Soul and Gone (2004 , 482 Music) B+(*)
- Amina Figarova: September Suite (2005, Munich) B+(*)
- Mitchell Froom: A Thousand Days (2005, Kontextrecords) B
- Rick Germanson: You Tell Me (2004 , Fresh Sound New Talent) B
- Jeff Golub: Temptation (2005, Narada Jazz) B
- Donald Harrison/Ron Carter/Billy Cobham: New York Cool: Live at the Blue Note (2005, Half Note) B
- Richie Hart: Greasy Street (2005, Zoho) B
- Wayne Horvitz/Ron Samworth/Peggy Lee/Dylan van der Schyff: Intersection Poems (2003 , Spool/Line) B
- Jazzmob: Pathfinder (2003, Jazzaway) B
- Anders Jormin: Xieyi (1999 , ECM) B+(*)
- Steve Kuhn Trio: Quiéreme Mucho (2000 , Sunnyside) B
- Ramsey Lewis: With One Voice (2005, Narada Jazz) B
- Joe Locke: Rev-elation (2005, Sharp Nine) B+(*)
- Frank Lowe/Billy Bang Quartet: One for Jazz (2001, No More) A-
- Sherrie Maricle & the DIVA Jazz Orchestra: TNT: A Tommy Newsom Tribute (Lightyear) B+(*)
- Mike Marshall: Brazil Duets (2005, Adventure Music) B
- Ben Monder: Oceana (2004 , Sunnyside) B+(*)
- Morthana (2004, Jazzaway) B
- Moutin Reunion Quartet: Something Like Now (2005, Nocturne) B+(*)
- Niacin: Organik (2005, Magna Carta) B-
- Michael Pagán Big Band: Pag's Groove (2005, Capri) B
- Bryn Roberts: Ludlow (2003-04 , Fresh Sound New Talent) B+(*)
- Poncho Sanchez: Do It! (2005, Concord Picante) B+(*)
- Shining: In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be a Monster (2005, Rune Grammofon) B-
- Rebecca Shrimpton and Eric Hofbauer: Madman's Moon (2005, CNM) B-
- Adam Simmons Toy Band: Happy Jacket (Dr. Jim's) B+(**)
- Simply Red: Simplified (2005, Verve Forecast) B-
- Slammin: All-Body Band (2003-04 , Crosspulse) B
- Cinzia Spata: 93-03 (2005, Azzurra Music) B+(*)
- Bobo Stenson Trio: Serenity (1999 , ECM, 2CD) A-
- Nicola Stilo/Toninho Horta: Duets (1999 , Adventure Music) B
- Susan Tedeschi: Hope and Desire (2005, Verve Forecast) B-
- The Deborah Weisz Quintet: Grace (For Will) (2004 , Va Wah) B+(*)
- Gini Wilson: The San Francisco ChamberJazz Quartet (2005, Music Wizards) B
- Andrea Wolper: The Small Hours (2002 , Varis One Jazz) B
- Lizz Wright: Dreaming Wide Awake (2004 , Verve Forecast) B
- Stich Wynston's Modern Surfaces: Transparent Horizons (2004 , TCB) B+(*)
- Denny Zeitlin: Solo Voyage (2005, MaxJazz) B+(*)
Finally, the following appeared (or soon will) in Recycled Goods:
- Albert Ayler: New Grass (1968 , Impulse) B+(*)
- Billy Bang: Sweet Space/Untitled Gift (1979-82 , 8th Harmonic Breakdown, 2CD) A-
- Gato Barbieri: Chapter Four: Alive in New York (1975 , Impulse) B+(*)
- Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers: Drum Suite (1956-57 , Columbia/Legacy) B+(*)
- Kenny Burrell: Prestige Profiles (1956-63 , Prestige) B+(*)
- Graham Collier: Workpoints (1968-75 , Cuneiform, 2CD) A-
- John Coltrane: One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note (1965 , Impulse, 2CD) B+(***)
- Lea Delaria: Double Standards (2002 , Telarc) B+(**)
- The Edge: David Axelrod at Capitol Records (1966-70 , Capitol Jazz) B-
- Either/Orchestra: Éthiopiques 20: Live in Addis (2004 , Buda Musique, 2CD) A-
- Fred Frith: Eleventh Hour (1990-2002 , Winter & Winter) B+(*)
- Dizzy Gillespie/Charlie Parker: Town Hall, New York City, June 22, 1945 (1945 , Uptown) B+(***)
- Dexter Gordon: Daddy Plays the Horn (1955, Shout! Factory) A-
- Andrew Hill: Mosaic Select (1967-70 , Mosaic, 3CD) B+(**)
- Elmo Hope: Trio and Quintet (1953-57 , Blue Note) B+(***)
- Yusef Lateef: Psychicemotus (1965 , Impulse) B
- Hugh Masekela: Revival (2005, Heads Up) B+(**)
- Jackie McLean: Consequence (1965 , Blue Note) B+(*)
- Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman: Song X: Twentieth Anniversary (1985 , Nonesuch) A
- Thelonious Monk Quartet With John Coltrane: At Carnegie Hall (1957 , Blue Note) A
- Moraz/Bruford: Music for Piano and Drums (1983 , Winterfold) B
- Moraz/Bruford: Flags (1985 , Winterfold) B-
- Oliver Nelson's Big Band: Live From Los Angeles (1967 , Impulse) B+(***)
- Art Pepper: Mosaic Select (1956-57 , Mosaic, 3CD) A
- The Essential Tito Puente (1949-63 , RCA/Legacy, 2CD) A-
- The Best of Tito Puente (20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection) (1991-99 , Hip-O) B+(*)
- Putumayo Presents: Swing Around the World (1964-2004 , Putumayo World Music) B+(*)
- Ernest Ranglin: Surfin' (2005, Tropic/Telarc) B+(*)
- Pharoah Sanders: Elevation (1973 , Impulse) B-
- Alan Skidmore Quintet: Once Upon a Time (1970 , Vocalion) B+(**)
- Luciana Souza: Duos II (2005, Sunnyside) B+(*)
- John Surman: Way Back When (1969 , Cuneiform) A-
- Gabor Szabo: Spellbinder (1966 , Impulse) B+(**)
- Stanley Turrentine: That's Where It's At (1962 , Blue Note) B+(***)
- The David S. Ware Quartets: Live in the World (1998-2003 , Thirsty Ear, 3CD) A-
- Michael White: The Land of Spirit and Light (1973 , Impulse) B+(*)
- Mary Lou Williams: Mary Lou's Mass (1969-72 , Smithsonian/Folkways) B
- Larry Young: Of Love and Peace (1966 , Blue Note) A-
- Zucchero: Zucchero & Co. (2005, Concord/Hear Music) C-