Jazz Consumer Guide (16):
These are the prospecting notes from working on Jazz CG #16. The
idea here was to pick an unrated record from the incoming queue,
play it, jot down a note, and a grade. Any grade in brackets is
tentative, with the record going back for further play. Brackets
are also used for qualifying notes: "advance" refers to a record
that was reviewed on the basis of an advance of special promo
copy, without viewing the final packaging; "Rhapsody" refers to
a record that was reviewed based on streaming the record from
the Rhapsody music service; in this case I've seen no packaging
material or promotional material, except what I've scrounged up
on the web. In some of these cases there is a second note, written
once I've settled on the grade. Rarely there may be an additional
note written after grading.
These were written from Jan. 7 to Apr. 7, 2008, with non-finalized
entries duplicated from previous prospecting. The notes have been
sorted by artist. The chronological order can be obtained from the
notebook or blog.
The number of records noted below is 240. The
count from the previous file was 259
(before that 269).
Howard Alden and Ken Peplowski's Pow-Wow (2006
, Arbors): I still think of Alden as a young guy, but he's
pushing 50 now. He came up well after bop became postbop, so he
never had to pay much heed to it, developing a swing style on
guitar that never really existed before -- real swing guitarists
(unless you count Charlie Christian, which most don't, or Django
Reinhardt and Eddie Lang, other stories completely) played rhythm.
(Oh yeah, George Van Eps was an influence, a pretty obscure one.)
He has a couple dozen albums since 1985. Peplowski plays clarinet
and tenor sax, where swing traditions are much clearer. He's a
year younger, also has a couple dozen albums. Don't know how many
times they've played together before -- at least 11 times, but
working in the same circles with each over 100 credits there are
doubtless more. This isn't even their first duo: they did one in
Concord's Duo Series in 1992 (which my records say I have ungraded
but I can't find). I'm not much of a duo fan, but works out pretty
well. Peplowski has a knack for tracing out clear melodies even
solo. Alden can pick him up with some rhythm, fill out his lines,
or add something on his own. The album wanders around quite a bit,
mixing Bill Evans with Ellington, Bud Powell with Cole Porter,
hopping off to "Panama."
Steve Allee Trio: Colors (2006 , Owl Studios):
Piano trio, with Bill Moring on bass, Tim Horner on drums. Allee
hails from Indianapolis. Played with Buddy Rich when he [Allee] was
19. Fifth album since 1995. Sharp, solid mainstream record, not much
more to say about it.
Ben Allison & Man Size Safe: Little Things Run the
World (2007 , Palmetto): Another Flash-only website.
An advance copy with little information; e.g., credits like "Michael
Blake (sax on selected tracks)"; no recording date (AMG gives Aug.
17-18, 2007); no song list (AMG doesn't have one either, but I
picked up one from Palmetto website; no catalog number (AMG has
one but it looks wrong). Presumably Allison wrote all the pieces,
since that's something he does. Also, like Gress, he's one of the
major bassists of his generation -- not as much session work, but
a stronger record as a composer. "Man Size Safe" is a song title
as well as the first indication of a group name. Group includes
Ron Horton on trumpet, Steve Cardenas on guitar, Michael Sarin
on drums, and Blake more or less. Allison was part of a group
that called itself the Jazz Composers Collective (along with
Horton and Blake, Frank Kimbrough and Ted Nash). They all do
sort of left-of-center postbop, but Allison seems to get more
kick out of his melodies. This is interesting, thoughtful stuff,
but I'll hold off until I know more.
Karrin Allyson: Imagina: Songs of Brasil (2007
, Concord Jazz): Singer, from Great Bend, pretty close to
the dead center of Kansas, although we think of it as out west.
Ten or so albums since 1992, starting with cabaret material and
moving around a bit, including a couple of previous forays into
Brazil. Plays some piano too, but Gil Goldstein is also credited
here (also on accordion), and I don't have the breakdown. Most
songs start off in Portuguese, then slip into English. I don't
find either all that convincing, although it settles into a bit
of a groove.
Patrick Arena: Night and Day (2008, Arenamusic):
Singer, based in Western PA, maybe from there too, as his CV
indicates he studied drama at Duquesne 1970-72, from which I
also deduce he's over 50. Spent some time in NYC. Teaches voice.
His strikes me as soft-toned, unmannered, with limited range,
although he can modulate the volume. A couple of originals and
some peculiar covers, like "I'm Always Drunk in San Francisco."
Marcos Ariel: 4 Friends (2007, Tenure): Brazilian
pianist, from Rio de Janeiro. Recorded his first record, Bambu,
in 1981. Divides his time between Rio and Los Angeles. First I've
heard of him, and I don't have a good feel for his discography.
May be inclined toward progressive or fusion -- he classifies
himself on MySpace as "Nu-Jazz / Down-tempo / Lounge." This is
a Brazil-rooted jazz quartet -- piano (Ariel), guitar (Ricardo
Silveira), bass (Joăo Baptista), drums (Jurim Moreira) -- with a
twist when Ariel moves to synth and starts pumping in fake horn
sections. The synth parts are a bit off, partly undeveloped, but
mostly because his piano is so crisply rhythmic. Also because it
complement Silveira, who is as superb as ever.
Susie Arioli Band: Live at Le Festival International de Jazz
de Montreal (2006 , Justin Time, CD+DVD): Canadian
singer, originally from Toronto, now based in Montreal; interprets
standards mostly from the swing era, although she's also shown a
special fondness for country tunesmith Roger Miller -- two of his
songs here. Band credit adds "featuring Jordan Officer" -- Officer
plays guitar, wrote a couple of instrumentals, has been a fixture
in Arioli's band since 1998, but the band also features a second
guitarist, Michael Jerome Browne, as well as bass (Shane MacKenzie).
Drummer Rémi LeClerc is listed here as a special guess, but Arioli
plays a snare with brushes, and that mostly suffices. DVD repeats
the live CD tracks in slightly different order, adding 5 songs (or
6 counting "Nuages" in the extras). Hype sheet says she's sold 200k
copies over 4 previous albums. Crowd is packed, mood is romantic,
music mellow and tasteful.
At War With Self: Acts of God (2007, Sluggo Music):
Picked this off the shelf after noticing that Dave Corp's Dave Archer
plays synths here. Needn't have bothered. Leader is Glenn Snelwar
(another Gordian Knot connection), who plays guitar and more synths.
Someone named Mark Sunshine sings. Hype sheet describes this as "an
amalgam of tight-knit compositions encompassing progressive rock,
metal, jazz, ambient and classical stylings." Simple algebra factors
all that down to progressive rock. Not bad as such, but not much
Derek Bailey: Standards (2002 , Tzadik):
Don't have a recording date, but reports are that this set was
recorded two months before the widely acclaimed 2002 album
Ballads. Bailey was an avant-garde guitarist -- perhaps
I should say the avant-garde guitarist, at least on
the British scene. The has a vast catalog, of which I've heard
next to nothing (4 albums), and have no particular insight to.
Not sure whether he's mannered or just obscure, or whether I'm
just confused. This is acoustic guitar, solo. The seven songs
are credited to Bailey. They may or may not code references to
real standards -- "Please Send Me Sweet Chariot" seems like a
promising title. No idea what it means. But there is something
semi-hypnotic about his approximately random attack. It must
means something that I wouldn't mind hearing it some more.
Cyro Baptista: Banquet of the Spirits (2008,
Tzadik): Brazilian percussionist, in US since 1980, with several
previous albums on Tzadik and a lot of side credits. Starts out
in disjointed Brazilian psychedelic mode, with Baptista singing
over his disjointed beats, a style I've rarely if ever managed
to follow. Later on several pieces pick up a Middle Eastern vibe,
thanks to Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz, playing oud, bass, and gimbri,
and they're easier to handle. Probably some good ideas here, but
too much weirdness for me to handle on short order.
Daniel Barry: Walk All Ways (2007, OA2): B. 1955
Erie, PA; studied at University of California Santa Barbara; now
based in Seattle. Plays cornet. Also credited here with melodica
and misc. percussion. First album under his own name, but has
several more in a big band called the Jazz Police, including
The Music of Daniel Barry. He also has a prominent role
in the Seattle Women's Jazz Orchestra, another big band. This
record is also on the largish side, ranging from the delightful
conga-powered "Mighty Urubamba" that leads off through some
things that slide through classical territory leaning heavily
on violin, cello, accordion, and James DeJoie's clarinets,
flute, and bari sax. The cornet is always bright and welcome,
the arrangements clever and classy.
Sam Barsh: I Forgot What You Taught Me (2008,
RazDaz/Sunnyside): Plays electric keyboards more than piano.
Based in New York since 2001. Plays in bassist Avishai Cohen's
groups. This first album is a quartet with vibes (Tim Collins),
bass and drums. Mostly groove pieces, the keyboards plasticky
but not quite cheesy. Plays some melodica too, which fits.
Nik Bärtsch's Ronin: Holon (2007 , ECM):
Don't have record date, so I'm guessing. ECM usually has those
things, although the booklets have been getting more minimalist.
Swiss pianist, b. 1971, into zen, funk, martial arts, green tea,
most of which are combined here, although possibly misapplied.
A ronin is an outcast samurai warrior, a loner. The five-piece
band, however, has two albums now, and play tighter than ever.
Electric bass, drums, and percussion chug out regular rhythms,
similar to Nils Petter Molvaer, maybe more mechanistic, with
minor shifts to keep from wearing down. Bärtsch played Fender
Rhodes on the earlier Stoa, but goes with acoustic piano
here, adding a layer that again shifts subtly. Someone who goes
by the name Sha plays bass and contrabass clarinets and alto
saxophone, but he blends in and is pretty inconspicuous. Six
pieces are titled "Modul" followed by a number. They start
simple and build a bit. It's not postbop and not avant-garde
and it doesn't fuse anything obvious, but it's got more going
for it than dance electronica or experimental rock.
Al Basile: Tinge (2007 , Sweetspot):
Born 1948 in Haverhill, MA. Learned trumpet as a teenager, but
majored in physics at Brown, and seems to have had a spotty
musical resume until he started recording in 1998. Played
trumpet in Roomful of Blues 1973-75. Started singing in clubs
in Providence in 1977. Has six albums now. Don't know about
the others, but this one, with Duke Robillard producing and
playing guitar, is straight blues with a dash of Jelly Roll
Morton providing the title. Basile's liner notes include
references to Louis Armstrong and Cootie Williams. Smart,
Joe Beck & John Abercrombie: Coincidence (2007
, Whaling City Sound): Guitar duets. Mostly standards, plus one
original from Beck, two from Abercrombie. Abercrombie is by far the
better known, with a long string of albums on ECM. Beck has a pretty
scattered career, with fusion, funk, and soul jazz as well as more
mainstream records. Both are contemporaries (Abercrombie born 1944,
Beck 1945). This seems evenly balanced, conversational even.
Louie Bellson & Clark Terry: Louie & Clark Expedition
2 (2007 , Percussion Power): Two old timers, Terry born
1920, Bellson 1924 (as Luigi Balassoni). Both came up in big bands,
crossing paths in 1951 with Duke Ellington. Bellson by then had worked
for Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Harry James. Terry was in between
stretches with Count Basie. Don't think there's a previous Louie
& Clark Expedition record -- most likely they're referring
back to something that happened even before their time. Back in the
day this may have been nothing special, but it packs a punch, and the
good vibes are palpable. Bellson has extra help on drums: Sylvia Cuenca
and Kenny Washington. There are extra trumpets too, but Terry is
credited with six solos. Release date is the official one given by
the publicist, who seems to like a lot of lead time. Looks to me
like the album is already on sale at CD Baby.
B+(***) [Apr. 2]
Marco Benevento: Invisible Baby (2007 , Hyena):
Piano, electronics, keyboards, in trio with bass (Reed Mathis) and
drums (Matt Chamberlain and/or Andrew Barr). I suppose you could call
this instrumental music "nu rock" (in reference to "nu soul" but I
don't mean it so badly) -- there's another term that escapes me. I
find the swelling riffs particularly annoying, but don't mind when
he takes time out to play with his toys, and find one heavy groove
cut choice: "The Real Morning Party."
Steven Bernstein: Diaspora Suite (2007 ,
Tzadik): Trumpet player, refers to Oakland as his hometown in
liner notes here, although he's better known in New York. Credits
include Lounge Lizards, Sex Mob, Robert Altman's Kansas City
band, Baby Loves Jazz band, Millennial Territory Orchestra.
This is his fourth Diaspora title in Tzadik's Radical Jewish
Culture series. They refer back to sephardic folk songs, sometimes
reframed in terms of where the diaspora found themselves, as with
Diaspora Hollywood. This one jelled conceptually when the
Kansas City band reunited after Robert Altman's death --
something about setting the scene then letting the improvisations
fly. Large group: hype sheet refers to it as a nonet, but I count
ten musicians -- possibly explained by a hint in the liner notes
that Will Bernard added his "guitar sweeteners" after the fact.
The group swallowed the Nels Cline Singers whole, with extra
guitar and percussion, Ben Goldberg's clarinets, Peter Apfelbaum's
tenor sax (or flute, or qarqabas, evidently metal castanets from
Morocco), Jeff Cressman's trombone. I thought it sounded fabulous
first time through, but haven't caught the mood since. Will keep
it in play.
Steven Bernstein: Diaspora Suite (2007 ,
Tzadik): A little overblown, but what do you expect in a suite?
Using the Nels Cline Singers, plus extra guitar, as the core of
his rhythm section, Bernstein gets by with two brass and two
reeds, and sounds Ellingtonian in the bargain. What confused
me at first was that by styling this as a Robert Altman tribute,
I figured he was aiming for Basie.
Cindy Blackman: Music for the New Millennium
(2008, Sacred Sound, 2CD): Drummer, born 1959 in Ohio, raised in
Connecticut, studied at Berklee and with Alan Dawson. Has a pile
of records as a leader: 4 on Muse, 3 on High Note. Don't know
when this was recorded (AMG lists whole thing as 2004, which
looks to be wrong). Quartet, with JD Allen on tenor sax, Carlton
Holmes on keyboards, George Mitchell on bass. AMG classifies
Blackman as hard bop, which seems fair: this is solid mainstream
fare with nothing aiming towards postbop. Blackman's drumming is
heightened in the mix, but not heavy handed. It's her record,
and shows her off well. I'm even more impressed with Allen. He's
got a distinct tone, commanding presence, can move around and
flash some muscle. From Detroit, about 33, has two albums I
haven't heard -- the one called Pharoah's Children most
likely has nothing to do with Sanders.
Walt Blanton: Monuments (2006 , Origin):
Plays trumpet, based in Las Vegas, evidently teaches at UNLV,
has two previous albums. This is a trio with Tony Branco on
piano and John Nasshan on drums, also Las Vegas based. Improv
set, free jazz, not so far out but holds your interest, full
of little surprises. At least I'm surprised -- needs another
Jane Ira Bloom: Mental Weather (2007 ,
Outline): Can't say much for my "mental weather" here, having
played this three times and formed no opinions. Bloom plays
soprano sax, and is one of the few and best known specialists,
a postbop player staying clear of the instrument's avant-garde
paradigms. Quartet with Dawn Clement on piano/Fender Rhodes,
Mark Helias on bass, Matt Wilson on drums. Seems interesting,
but hasn't clicked yet.
Ryan Blotnick: Music Needs You (2007 ,
Songlines): Guitarist, b. 1983 in Maine, studied in Copenhagen,
and recorded this album in Barcelona, although his home base
these days looks to be Brooklyn. First album. Website lists a
number of interesting musicians he's played with, but doesn't
provide any further discography, and AMG lists no side credits.
Quintet, with Pete Robbins (alto sax), Albert Sanz (piano),
Perry Wortman (bass), and Joe Smith (drums). I've run across
Sanz and Smith before on Fresh Sound, while Robbins had a
good album a couple of years back on Playscape. Split the
difference between those labels and you should get cool-toned
postbop with a quietly subversive avant edge, which is about
what Blotnick delivers here. I might even go further and say
that this is what cool jazz would sound like if anyone was
still making any. Mostly slow, but sneaks up on you. Robbins
doesn't stand out until six cuts in, one called "Liberty."
Could be I'm calling this prematurely, but it's awful subtle.
Jimmy Blythe: Messin' Around Blues: Enhanced Pianola
Rolls (1920s , Delmark): Born 1901 in Kentucky,
moved to Chicago in 1916, died 1931, played piano, best known
for his classic jazz sessions with clarinetist Johnny Dodds.
These solo recordings are taken from piano rolls -- they're
described as "enhanced," but the only detail given is that
the tempos have generally been slowed down -- elegant and
robustly rhythmic rather than hot frenzy. Don't have dates,
but mid-1920s are probable.
Paul Bollenback: Invocation (2007, Elefant Dreams):
Four extra names on front cover, but nothing inside provides credits.
The names are Randy Brecker, Ed Howard, Victor Lewis, and Chris
McNulty, which presumably means trumpet, bass, drums, and vocals,
respectively. Guitarist. Originally from Illinois, but spent some
eye-opening years in New Delhi as a teenager. Currently based in
New York. Seven albums, starting 1995. Likes nylon strings. Don't
know what he's using here, but he gets a soft, silk sound that is
quite attractive. The trumpet is a nice, but somewhat rare, touch.
I don't care for the scat at all, but the final cut, Coltrane's
"After the Rain," holds together so nicely maybe I should give
it another play.
Paul Bollenback: Invocation (2007, Elefant Dreams):
Clear, ringing tone on guitar, nicely defined, graceful, usually
makes sense. Turning it into an album is an open proposition. A
guest like Randy Brecker helps. On the other hand, I find Chris
McNulty's scat distracting, not to mention annoying.
Frederic Borey Group: Maria (2005 , Fresh
Sound New Talent): French saxophonist, plays tenor and soprano.
Looks like his first album. Quartet includes guitar, bass, and
drums. Don't know much about him. After some searching, I found
a French website, implemented wholly in Flash, and for that
matter possibly the most annoying Flash I've ever seen. Example:
a bio page is cut up into four pieces which are perpetually
animated, sliding around the window. I could probably glean
some useful info even in French if only I could get it to hold
still. Flash itself doesn't provide any controls for slowing
or stopping animation, for turning off the sound, or anything
else that would be useful -- killing the process and replacing
it with a black window is at the top of my wish list. (Sorry
to run on like this, but someone has to say it somewhere.) As
for the record, it's soft-toned postbop, especially with the
soprano, which tends to be cloyingly pretty. Borey's tenor is
more substantial, and it's a pleasure to follow his logic. Much
of the backdrop is due to guitarist Piere Perchaud, who does a
particularly nice job of setting the sax up.
Bo's Art Trio: Live: Jazz Is Free and So Are We!
(2007 , Icdisc): Bo is Bo van de Graaf, Dutch saxophonist
(soprano, alto, tenor). Don't have much background, but he's been
around since 1976, discography since 1981, mostly on BVHaast. Has
some sort of relationship with film composer Nino Rota. He formed
Bo's Art Trio in 1988 with pianist Michiel Braam and drummer Fred
van Duijnhoven. Like much of the Dutch avant-garde, the operative
concept here is humor -- most obviously on the two pieces where
Simon Vinkenoog shouts poetry over Braam's jokey, crashing piano
chords: D.H. Lawrence's "A Sane Revolution" from 1928 and a "Jazz
and Poetry" original, in Dutch, I believe. Those pieces may limit
the appeal. Van de Graaf's saxes are bright and edgy, bursting
Richard Boulger: Blues Twilight (2005-06 ,
City Hall): Trumpet player, originally from Massachusetts, then
Connecticut. Studied with Jackie McLean and Freddie Hubbard, who
penned the liner notes here. Released first album in 1999. Joined
Gregg Allman and Friends in 2001. This is his second album, cut
over two sessions, the first blessed by John Hicks on piano, the
second helped out by Anthony Wonsey. Hard bop, pretty vigorous.
One thing I don't like is having the sax (David Snitter or Kris
Jensen) shadow the trumpet, and there's a lot of that here. On
his own, Boulger cuts a fine figure.
Kelly Brand Nextet: The Door (2008, Origin):
Pianist, based in Chicago. Fourth album. Composed and arranged
all except for a Wayne Shorter piece. Several songs have lyrics,
which are sung by Mari Anne Jayme. Postbop group, with trumpet,
tenor sax/flute, cello, bass, and drums. Smart, even tempered,
carefully poised. Hype sheet quotes someone calling this
"noteworth craftsmanship and flowing serene energy"; another:
"elaborate, listener-friendly pieces that score points for
both poise and intellect." Neither quote stretches far.
Anthony Braxton: Solo Willisau (2003 ,
Intakt): I need to go back and listen to For Alto again.
It was recorded 35 years earlier, is legendary as the first
solo saxophone record (although Coleman Hawkins and possibly
a few others did solo pieces). Penguin Guide ranks it as a
crown album. Last time I played it I noted that it was the
ugliest thing I ever heard. I doubt that I say the same now,
but you never know. To this day when my wife wishes to show
extreme disgust over some quarrelsome saxophonist I'm playing,
she asks if it's Anthony Braxton. That's unfair and way off
base. For Alto aside, when I first started listening
to jazz in the mid-1970s, the first two artists I really keyed
onto were Braxton and Ornette Coleman. (I figure that's why I
grew up thinking Charlie Parker was a piker.) After Lee Konitz,
Downbeat's critics should give Braxton some serious Hall of
Fame consideration -- although that seems a long ways away,
given that he's not on the ballot and stuck down around #9 in
the alto sax category. This new one isn't anywhere near the
ugliest ever, but it is solo, which gives it a narrow tone
range and makes it tough to sustain much rhythm. He does "All
the Things You Are" and seven originals, each running 8-12
minutes. At least some of it is sustained invention of a high
order, but it's abstract, difficult, tough to keep up with,
and ultimately of rather marginal interest.
Anthony Braxton: Solo Willisau (2003 ,
Intakt): For Alto redux, 35 years to the wiser, no longer
shocking, but still a contrarian puzzle. For one thing, I don't
understand why he still insists on fishing sounds out of the
horn that neither God nor Adolph Sax ever imagined. Most folks
play alto for its smooth control at whiplash speeds, and Braxton
has shown that he's second to none in that regard -- compare his
Charlie Parker record to the relatively lead-footed originals.
But at times he huffs and puffs here like he's playing bagpipes
(which he has done, and I swear they're even uglier than For
Alto). So I don't get it, but I'm way past minding. He's
one of the geniuses of our age.
Melody Breyer-Grell: Fascinating' Rhythms: Singing
Gershwin (2008, Rhombus): Singer, born in New York,
raised on Long Island. Don't know when, or how long she spent
"honing in on her skills" -- her web bio doesn't offer much
for a timeline, but she emerged in 2004 with an album called
The Right Time (Blujazz), and this is her second.
Gershwin songs, hard to go wrong there. Strong voice, able
to spin some nuance that I don't always like. First half
she seems game to challenge the standards head on, and she
gets plenty of help from her band, especially saxophonist
Don Braden. Toward the end she feels the need to try to do
something a bit different. She talks her way through much
of "They All Laughed," then sandwiches "Embraceable You"
and "Our Love Is Here to Stay." Score some points for
interest and form. Try not to think too much about Ella.
B+(*) [Mar. 4]
Peter Brötzmann/Peeter Uuskyla: Born Broke (2006
, Atavistic, 2CD): Duo, stripped down from the trio that
recorded the excellent Medicina in 2004. The loss of the
bassist limits the color and shadings, but drummer Uusklya breaks
loose impressively. Brötzmann is credited on the back cover with
tenor sax and clarinet, but the booklet photos show him on alto
sax with some other instruments sitting off to the side, possibly
his trusty taragato. Does sound more like tenor, though. One can
argue that he's mellowing a bit, but that's sort of like saying
the Himalayas are eroding. First disc has three pieces totalling
57:51; second one piece at 38:24. The thin, harsh sound wears
over time, but the rough hewn musicianship can be dazzling.
Rob Brown Ensemble: Crown Trunk Root Funk (2007
, AUM Fidelity): Born 1962 in Virginia, based in New York,
plays alto sax, mostly in William Parker projects like the Little
Huey Orchestra, In Order to Survive, and the extraordinary Quartet
behind O'Neal's Porch and Sound Unity, expanded to
Raining on the Moon and expanded again. He's been building
up a catalog under his own name, now up to 19 titles, mostly duos
or trios on very small labels. He plays fast and fierce, thrilling
when it all comes together. This group was assembled for a Vision
Festival show, then reconvened in the studio, where they play 7
Brown originals. Craig Taborn (piano, electronics), William Parker
(bass), Gerald Cleaver (drums) -- terrific rhythm section, they
keep Brown flying all through the session, or soaring gracefully
on the rare spots when they slow down a bit.
A- [Mar. 11]
Bob Brozman: Post-Industrial Blues (2007 ,
Ruf): Guitar collector, particularly fond of National Resonator
guitars, with half a dozen models featured here, as well as lap
steel, 7-string banjo, dobro, a resophonic ukulele, and a closet
full of exotic instruments (sanshin, chaturangui, gandharvi, etc.)
that mostly turn out to be disguised guitars. Studied ethnomusicology
at Washington University in St. Louis, probably about the same time
I was there. Has a dozen-plus albums, half or more blues-themed
(like this one), the other half more worldly, ethnomusicologically
speaking. The blues are straightforward, although the guitar is a
little bent. Two more/less non-originals, the Doors' "People Are
Strange" and Nat Cole's "Frim Fram Sauce," renamed "Shafafa."
Bill Bruford/Michiel Borstlap: In Two Minds (2006-07
, Summerfold): Borstlap plays piano and electronic keyboards;
Bruford drums, of course, with a credit for "log drum" which comes
as a nice touch. At one point they get an Asian effect that I can't
quite place. Mostly intimate conversation. They've done this duo
before on Every Step a Dance, Every Word a Song -- another
Katie Bull: The Story, So Far (2006 , Corn Hole
Indie): An adventurous jazz singer, citing Jay Clayton and Sheila Jordan
as influences, working with mostly avant musicians like Michael Jefry
Stevens and Joe Fonda. Fourth album, a very ambitious song suite, with
a DVD (unviewed) documenting her performance art. You can use her cover
of "Twisted" for calibration: it is looser and quirkier than Annie Ross
(or Joni Mitchell, even), and those traits pop up every now and then in
her originals. Problem is I don't find myself caring, even when she
taunts Bush for not finding any WMD.
John Butcher/Torsten Muller/Dylan van der Schyff: Way Out
Northwest (2007 , Drip Audio): Recorded in Vancouver
by local drummer van der Schyff. Butcher is an English avant-garde
saxophonist, plays tenor and soprano here. Has a PhD in theoretical
physics (thesis: "Spin effects in the production and weak decay
of heavy Quarks"). He has a long list of records, and is well known
to anyone who reads The Penguin Guide more assiduously than
The Bible, although few others are likely to have even heard
of them. I've only heard three albums myself, nothing I much cared
for, but hardly a representative sample. Müller (umlaut omitted
here) is a bassist, b. 1957 in Hamburg, Germany, but since 2001
based in Vancouver. Müller has no albums of his own, but pops up
all over the place, a notable common denominator here being his
relationship with the late trombonist Paul Rutherford, to whom
this record is dedicated. This is pretty rough free music, very
democratic, or maybe I mean anarchic. One thing I rate avant
records on is their crossover potential, and this clearly fails
on that account. On the other hand, sometimes I like something
perversely difficult I chuck my normal standards. This gorgeous
ugly mess may be one of them.
Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet: The Middle Picture (2005-06
, Firehouse 12): Plays cornet. Student of Anthony Braxton; seems
to have a continuing relationship. First and last cuts are trio with
guitar (Mary Halvorson) and drums (Tomas Fujiwara). The rest add a
second guitar (Evan O'Reilly), Jessica Pavone (viola, electric bass),
and Matt Bauder (tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet). Very fractured,
discontinuous music. The two covers ("In a Silent Way" and "Bluebird
of Delhi") are useful for gauging the deconstruction -- the latter,
from Ellington's The Far East Suite, is especially striking.
The originals are difficult abstractions, intriguing but hard to
get a handle on. The sort of thing I'd save for some extra plays
if that were practical.
Cachao: Descargas: The Havana Sessions (1957-61
, Yemaya, 2CD): The best known, or at least the best nicknamed,
of a family of legendary Cuban bassists, Israel Lopez wrote hundreds
or thousands of songs, ranging from an early role in the invention
of the mambo to two volumes of Grammy-winning Master Sessions
in 1993. But he's most famous for his descargas, or jam sessions.
Hadley Caliman: Gratitude (2007 , Origin):
Tenor saxophonist, started in Los Angeles in the 1950s -- website
says he's 77, booklet says 76, AMG says born 1932. Had an eponymous
record in 1971, a couple more over the years, but this is the first
one in a good while. Recorded in Seattle. Quintet: Thomas Marriott
(trumpet), Joe Locke (vibes), Phil Sparks (bass), Joe La Barbera
(drums). The vibes are a nice touch, lightening and sharpening a
fairly conventional west coast bop group.
The Roy Campbell Ensemble: Akhenaten Suite (2007
, AUM Fidelity): The only time I tempted to visit New York
for live jazz is when the Vision Festival is on. For several years
I was seeing very selective compilations from the concert series.
Lately we're starting to see more full concerts, such as this one,
subtitled Live at Vision Festival XII. Campbell plays
trumpet and its relatives, and picks up something called an
arguhl (a two-tube "clarinet") to flavor his Egyptian themes --
beyond the title suite, he plays "Pharoah's Revenge" and "Sunset
on the Nile." Born 1952 in Los Angeles, moved east in the late
1970s, joining Jemeel Moondoc's Muntu Ensemble, hooking up with
various William Parker projects, including Other Dimensions in
Music. This is Campbell's 7th album since 1991 under his own
name, but there are more albums with him in a leading role,
and lots more joining in. Group here includes Bryan Carrott on
vibes, Hilliard Greene on bass, Zen Matsuura on drums, and
Billy Bang on violin. Bang makes the difference, his natural
swing propelling the album as unstoppably as the Nile, but
the vibraharp accents kick it off in surprising directions.
Cannon Re-Loaded: An All-Star Celebration of Cannonball
Adderley (2006 , Concord Jazz): An assembled studio
band, doing ten songs more/less associated with Adderley. Group
leader and alto saxophonist is Tom Scott, the all-star of
L.A. studio hacks. He doesn't break any new ground, but he's got
a gorgeous sound, swings hard, and carries the album. Playing Nate
is an underutilized Terence Blanchard. The keyboards are doubled
up with Larry Goldings on organ and George Duke on everything else.
Marcus Miller plays bass, spelled by Dave Carpenter on two cuts.
Steve Gadd is the drummer. I could do without Nancy Wilson singing
two songs, but have to admit that "The Masquerade Is Over" ain't
half bad. The Adderleys were respectable hard boppers who somehow
were remarkably popular, an equation that doesn't seem to be
repeatable any more, even though it's hard to imagine how anyone
could dislike them. This is an honest, somewhat obvious attempt
to bring them back and make them sound contemporary. Works
about as well as it can -- but 50 years ago we were different,
mostly younger (as I recall).
Ila Cantor: Mother Nebula (2006 , Fresh
Sound New Talent): Guitarist. Website says she was raised in
New York, but also says she moved there after high school. I
figured her for Spanish, but website says she moved to Barcelona
later, "to experience a new culture, language, and life." Two
sources say she's the daughter of an author and filmmaker, but
don't give a name. She has several groups/projects, both in
Barcelona and in New York, including a cabaret group called
The Lascivious Biddies. This is a New York group, a quartet
with Frederik (or Frederick, on the front cover) Carlquist on
tenor sax, Tom Warburton on bass, Joe Smith on drums. First
cut starts with an agreeable funk groove, and Carlquist's sax
stands up and comes out honking. That sets up the vibe for
the rest of the album, even while it strays further afield.
I'm most impressed with Carlquist, but can't find much -- a
Fredrik Carlquist has two albums on Dragon, and I've also
seen a Frederic Carlquist.
Ila Cantor: Mother Nebula (2006 , Fresh
Sound New Talent): Guitar-sax-bass-drums, same lineup as Jostein
Gulbrandsen's record on the same label, but different players,
and that makes all the difference. Cantor's guitar is rockish,
funky, and the bass-drums (Tom Warburton, Joe Smith) follow
suit. Tenor saxophonist Frederik Carlquist, on the other hand,
lacks Jon Irabagon's avant edge nor does he try to honk his
way through. Rather, he plays the straight man in the group:
soft-toned, articulate, logical. I like him quite a lot.
Never did track down Cantor's group, the Lascivious Biddies.
John Chin: Blackout Conception (2005 ,
Fresh Sound New Talent): Pianist. Born 1976 in South Korea, grew
up in Los Angeles, went to Cal State when he was 14, got interested
in jazz piano, graduated at 19, headed on to Rutgers, where he
studied under Kenny Barron. First album. Starts as a quartet
where the first thing you notice is the tenor sax: Mark Turner.
He plays on the first two cuts, the fourth and sixth. The other
three drop back to a trio and let the pianist stretch out. He
sneaks up on you.
John Chin: Blackout Conception (2005 ,
Fresh Sound New Talent): Three trio cuts let postbop pianist
Chin stretch out and show you what he's got up his sleeve.
The other four cuts add tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, who
predictably steals the show. Good showcase, but slightly
uneven as an album.
Charmaine Clamor: Flippin' Out (2007, FreeHam):
Jazz singer, from Subic-Zambales in the Philippines, presumably
based in the US these days, on her second album. First song is
a "My Funny Valentine" spinoff ("My Funny Brown Pinay") that I
found annoying, and she continued to dig a whole for herself
until midway through I noticed that her take on Nina Simone's
"Sugar in My Bowl" wasn't bad. That was followed by a 5-piece
"Filipino Suite" that started with some interesting percussion
courtesy of the Pakaragulan Kulintang Ensemble. That didn't
quite sustain my interest, but her "Be My Love" ballad came
off well. So I figure I should play it again, but not now.
Charmaine Clamor: Flippin' Out (2007, FreeHam):
Filipino singer, recasts "My Funny Valentine" as "My Funny Brown
Pinay" and enlists the Pakaragulan Kulintang Ensemble for her
5-part "Filipino Suite," which doesn't push the exotica all that
hard. Her torch ballad "Be My Love" drags a bit, but she shows
a sweet tooth with some R&B grit on "Sugar in My Bowl" and
The Nels Cline Singers: Draw Breath (2007,
Cryptogramophone): The group name always throws me: there are no
vocalists here, although Cline claims a credit for "megamouth"
here, whatever that is. Cline plays guitar, electric more than
acoustic, with or without effects. The group is what back in the
'60s was called a Power Trio: guitar-bass-drums, like Cream, or
the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Devin Hoff plays contrabass, which
I take to be the big acoustic one. Scott Amendola is credited
with drums, percussion, "live" electronics/effects. Glenn Kotche
appears on one track, as if Amendola isn't enough. This is their
third album, although Cline has other projects, including a rock
band called Wilco -- or maybe he's just hired help there. This
is as close as anyone's gotten to heavy metal jazz. I'm not sure
if that's a good or bad thing; if I'm just not in the mood, or
just got put out of the mood. I think I'll put it on the replay
shelf and wait for a better time. Could be it's amazing. Could
be it's not. I do recommend an earlier one called The Giant
Pin (2003 , Cryptogramophone).
The Nels Cline Singers: Draw Breath (2007,
Cryptogramophone): Looking at the year-end lists, it's clear
that Cline has started getting some attention from outside the
jazz world, no doubt due to his employment by Wilco. Their
latest album has a guitar dimension they've never had before,
but ultimately it takes a back seat to the singer and the
songs. Here, in this non-vocal group, guitar is king. I go
back and forth on the album. The long "Mixed Message" is as
impressive a piece of power trio fusion as I've heard in a
long time, at least when it's cranking. But the atmospheric
stuff doesn't do much for me one way or another.
Vidal Colmenares: . . . Otro Llano (2006 ,
Cacao Musica): English trot in the booklet starts: "During the
late 80's, analists and experts in marketing processes developed
a gradual list, by category or importance order, called the scale
of audience intensity." I've seen worse mechanical translations,
but few so inadvertently and perversely coherent. It's hard to
piece together much real information from the booklet, let alone
from secondary sources. Wikipedia describes Colmenares' home town,
Barinas, Venezuela, thus: "Barina's is a bit grubby, similar to a
rubbish tip. Hot chicks, but they all have the child running behind
them." Oh well. Colmenares was born there in 1952, has a gray
moustache and a nice smile. Presumably he sings and plays cuatro
(a four-string guitar common in Venezuela) -- credits don't say
what he does, but the lead vocals are consistent, a slightly
pinched sound reminiscent of Speedy Gonzales caricature, but
more pliable. The llanos are the highlands straddling Venezuela
and Colombia. The booklet includes pictures of cows and Colmenares
on horseback, suggesting this is the real c&w of the llanos.
Sounds about right.
Marc Copland: New York Trio Recordings, Vol. 1: Modinha
(2006, Pirouet): Got this for background after listening to Vol. 2.
Gary Peacock plays bass on both, but the drummers change: Bill Stewart
here, Paul Motian there. One thing I always remember about Stewart is
how he completely slam dunk aced a blindfold test a few years back (in
Jazz Times, I think). That almost never happens: not only did he
recognize everyone, he provided a lot of detail on why. Clearly, he
knows his trade and its lore. Compared to Motian, however, he's very
straightforward, which makes him hardly a factor in these fine piano
trio recordings. Three covers here provide some melodic highlights --
especially lovely is the closer, "Taking a Chance on Love."
Marc Copland: The New York Trio Recordings, Vol. 2: Voices
(2006 , Pirouet): Pianist, originally from Philadelphia, based in
New York, closing in on 60 now. Always well regarded. I've only heard a
couple of his records, and don't have Vol. 1 to compare this one
to. What I've heard before struck me as good, and this as better. One
could say that by association at least he's moved into the front ranks
of contemporary pianists: he's working here with Gary Peacock (as he
has many times in the past) and Paul Motian (who has a Hall of Fame
career making pianists look good, starting with Bill Evans; Copland's
usual drummers have been Billy Hart and Bill Stewart). One of those
quietly unassuming piano records that sneaks up on you, never hitting
a false note, full of subtle nuances, the only thing we've come to
expect from masters like Peacock and Motian.
Marc Copland: New York Trio Recordings, Vol. 2: Voices
(2006 , Pirouet): The change from Vol. 1 was to replace
Copland's usual drummer Bill Stewart with veteran maestro Paul Motian.
Motian has made a whole career out of teasing pianists, and Copland is
notable enough he'll slot right into a long list that starts with Bill
Evans and extends through and beyond Marilyn Crispell. Gary Peacock
plays bass. He has a long history with Copland, and takes a large role
here -- in addition to his solo time he wrote four songs to Copland's
three (Miles Davis' "All Blues" is the only cover).
Dave Corp: The Sweet Life (2007, Sluggo Music):
Band name: the musicians are Dave Archer (keyboards), Mr. Grin
(bass), Matt Hankle (drums). Archer wrote the songs and produced,
so figure him as leader. Fusion record, on the loud side. Not
sure what the favored keyboard is, but it's played like an organ,
just short on funk and soul, long on arena theatrics.
Buddy DeFranco: Charlie Cat 2 (2006 , Arbors):
Born 1923, DeFranco came up in the swing bands of Gene Krupa and
Charlie Barnet, but adapted to bebop, one of the few young reed
players to stick with the instrument. He started recording around
1952, his output waxing and waning with business cycles, but he
pretty much always sounds the same: the bright tone and fleet
dynamics you remember from the swing masters, occasionally showing
off his bebop moves. He hasn't recorded a lot lately, but sounds
fine here -- well supported with Howard Alden and often Joe Cohn
on guitar, Derek Smith on piano, Rufus Reid on bass, Ed Metz Jr.
on drums, and Lou Soloff adding some contrast on trumpet.
Buddy DeFranco: Charlie Cat 2 (2006 ,
Arbors): This reminds me of what Louis Armstrong used to call
"the good ole good uns," even though DeFranco remains for all
intents and purposes a bebopper -- "Anthropology" closes this
out in a rush. But his chosen instrument is clarinet, which
tends to refer back to the swing era, especially when he's
lined up with the usual Arbors crew, including Howard Alden
and/or Joe Cohn on guitar, Derek Smith on piano, Rufus Reid
on bass, and Ed Metz Jr. on drums.
Delirium Blues Project: Serve or Suffer (2007
, Half Note): I suppose "What Is Hip" is intended to be
delirious. It is the least blue of these nine songs, with Lil
Green's "In the Dark" the most archetypal, "Don't Ever Let
Nobody Drag Your Spirits Down" the most ordinary, and pieces
by Tracy Nelson, Joni Mitchell, and Mose Allison not much one
way or another. Kenny Werner is the leader, arranging the songs
and playing keyboards. Never thought of him as a blues guy --
Copenhagen Calypso is one of his more memorable titles.
Roseanna Vitro sings. I liked her Ray Charles record quite a
lot, but these songs rarely fit. The band has some all-stars,
and they deliver a couple of scorching solos -- Ray Anderson
on trombone and James Carter on tenor sax are standouts, and
Randy Brecker has some moments on trumpet. Recorded live at
the Blue Note.
Tom Dempsey & Tim Ferguson: What's Going On?
(2007 , City Tone): Dempsey plays guitar; Ferguson bass.
Just duets: slow-to-moderate, intimate, quite lovely. Couple of
originals, scattered covers, including Marvin Gaye title song,
"Stardust," Billy Strayhorn's "Isfahan," Charlie Haden's "First
Song (For Ruth)," two pieces from different Jones brothers.
Bill Dixon With Exploding Star Orchestra (2007
, Thrill Jockey): Dixon is an avant-garde trumpet player,
probably best known for his 1966 appearance on Cecil Taylor's
Conquistador. He has a fairly thin discography since then,
mostly on the Soul Note label in Italy, mostly small groups, many
duos. He's something of a legend, but often a tough slog. Exploding
Star Orchestra is a large ensemble of Chicago avant-gardists led
by Chicago Underground cornet player Rob Mazurek. Long list of
familiar names here, including: Nicole Mitchell (flute), Matt
Bauder (bass clarinet, tenor sax), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Jeff
Parker (guitar), Jim Baker (piano), Jason Adasiewicz (vibes), a
half dozen more. Three sprawling pieces, two by Dixon sandwiching
one by Mazurek. A slog, with moments of amusing clarity. Haven't
made up my mind yet. For that matter, I still have last year's
Exploding Star Orchestra on the replay shelves.
Bill Dixon With Exploding Star Orchestra (2007
, Thrill Jockey): Dixon is a logical fit for Rob Mazurek's
supernova big band -- an esteemed avant-gardist, a rarely heard
trumpet, normally the sharpest instrument in the band (although
Mazurek's cornet provides some competition). He composed two
long pieces; Mazurek dedicates the third to him. Still, Dixon
tends to get lost in the mix. Similar to last year's mixed bag,
but a bit more climactic.
Dave Douglas & Keystone: Moonshine (2007
, Greenleaf Music): I don't doubt for a moment that
Douglas is brilliant, but often find that he is either over
my head or beyond my ken. As near as I can tell, he does two
things here: especially on the first half, he concocts postbop
so tricky it puts classical music to shame; and he returns to
his electronics experiments, mostly as coloring, but DJ Olive
finally gets the upper hand with "Kitten." One piece in the
lurch is called "Flood Plane," with a Bush sample mumbling
something about terrorists as Douglas conjures the lost
spirits of New Orleans over Olive's scratching. Relatively
small group, with Marcus Strickland taking over the sax
spot, and Adam Benjamin on Fender Rhodes. Interesting, but
after four plays I'm still stumped.
Greg Duncan Quintet: Unveiled (2006 , OA2):
Trumpet player, based in Chicago. Attended Washington State, then
University of North Texas, and did a tour with the Glenn Miller
Orchestra. Quintet pairs him with Dan Nicholson on tenor and alto
sax, in front of Marcin Fahmy (piano), Jeff Green (bass), and Jon
Deitemeyer (drums). Hard bop lineup, but he's moved into postbop,
with bright, aggressive displays from the horns, tricky harmonic
manoeuvres, shifty time, lush piano. Mostly originals, keying off
pieces by Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson, ending with "My Foolish
Heart." Pretty impressive first album.
Bill Easley: Business Man's Bounce (2007,
18th & Vine): Saxophonist, mostly plays tenor here, but
claims a clarinet solo, and may work some flute in as well.
Born in Olean NY (1946?), moved to NYC in 1964, but went to
college at Memphis State, and got his first record credits
with Rufus Thomas and Isaac Hayes. Credits include a lot of
Jimmy McGriff, soul singers, Jazz at Lincoln Center. He's got
a robust, gutbucket R&B tone, and can bop a little. Starts
with "Straighten Up and Fly Right," which he describes as "Hip
Hop for senior citizens and their parents." Frank Wess joins
on "Mentor"; Warren Vaché on "Memphis Blues," where Easley
dusts off his clarinet.
Marty Ehrlich & Myra Melford: Spark! (2007,
Palmetto): One of those razor-thin slipcase specials that got
lost on my shelves, discovered only when I reached for the next
record over and it fell out. Duos. Melford plays piano; Ehrlich
alto sax and clarinet. Both are important figures who should by
now need no introduction. Pieces are evenly divided, with one
extra each by Robin Holcomb and Andrew Hill. This suffers the
usual duo problems -- the instrument imbalance, uncertainty and
the resultant tendency to slow down, erratic flow -- but comes
through often enough to suggests it may be worth the time to
sort out. Hope I can find it again.
Marty Ehrlich & Myra Melford: Spark! (2007,
Palmetto): Deceptively calm sax-piano duets from two musicians
used to playing on the edge, but not so calm they slip into the
background. Not sure what the idea behind the title was, but by
removing all the tinder their spark never gets engulfed in fire.
Something for You: Eliane Elias Sings & Plays Bill
Evans (2007 , Blue Note): For starters, I still
find Evans impenetrable, which isn't to say I'm immune to his
charms, although he really has to be doing something special to
overcome my resistance. Pianist Elias manages to evoke the same
conflicted responses, so she must be doing something right. In
general, she's a better pianist than singer. (Except when she's
doing Jobim. Maybe Astrud Gilberto skewed the field so far that
even Elias seems vibrant by comparison, or maybe she's just so
much more at home there.) But the paleness in her voice suits
the half-plus songs with vocals here, although only "Detour
Ahead" really catches my ear. Bassist-husband Marc Johnson
played with Evans, and managed to borrow Scott LaFaro's bass
for a couple of songs, so he's beyond reproach. Joey Baron is
exceptionally quiet, never reminiscent of Paul Motian. No idea
whether Evans fans will like this or not. I find it charming,
but can't claim I understand why.
Kurt Elling: Nightmoves (2007, Concord): Widely
touted as the top male vocalist in jazz, a highly problematic
category. I've only listened to him rarely, more often than not
with much displeasure. This may reverse the ratio -- his "Undun"
swings fine -- but "A New Body and Soul" brings out all the usual
annoyances: the awkward forced word-fit of vocalese, the hipster
posturing, the fact that his voice doesn't have a crooner's reach.
Need to play it again and see which way it falls.
Kurt Elling: Nightmoves (2007, Concord): Live
in Chicago led the Penguin Guide to exult: "what an electrifying
performer Elling is!" They went on to dub Man in the Air "the
jazz vocal album of the last decade." He seems to be the consensus
male jazz vocalist pick. I don't think he has a lot of competition,
but I've never heard anything from him that caught my ear. He does
some vocalese, awkwardly forcing his voice through word mazes, with
little vocal reach. The small groups here are too intimate to give
him much cover. Fussy, arty, deadly dull, except for Randy Bachman's
"Undun," which has a genuine pop hook and swings a little. I don't
know his records well enough to know how this compares, but something
Duke Ellington Legacy: Thank You Uncle Edward
(2007 , Renma): Nine-member group, eight instruments plus vocalist
Nancy Reed, at least for this record -- website shows two other
lineups, the common denominators being leader-saxophonist Virginia
Mayhew, trumpeter Mark McGowan, pianist Norman Simmons, drummer
Paul Wells, and namesake guitarist Edward Ellington II, Mercer's
son, Duke's grandson. Two guests here are Joe Temperley on bass
clarinet/baritone sax and Wycliffe Gordon on trombone. (If you're
counting, that leaves bassist Tom DiCarlo.) Ellington songs (one
from Mercer, the rest from Duke) aside from the well disguised
"Toe Tickler" by Mayhew. Five vocals, mostly unexpected -- e.g.,
Jon Hendricks vocalese on "Cottontail." The arrangements are big
and bold, and the band swings hard. Didn't much notice the guitar.
John Ellis & Double Wide: Dance Like There's No
Tomorrow (2007 , Hyena): Saxophonist, mostly tenor
(also soprano and bass clarinet here), originally from rural North
Carolina, now in New York, with an identity-forming stop in New
Orleans along the way. Fifth album: one in 1996; another on FSNT
in 2002; three now on Hyena, where he's been going for a soul-funk
vibe, which he mixes up a little more than usual this time. This is
a quartet, with Gary Versace on organ and accordion, Matt Perrine
on sousaphone (a marching band tuba filling in for bass), and Jason
Marsalis on drums. He's got a distinctive tone on tenor sax, which
the deep brass only adds to.
Lisle Ellis: Sucker Punch Requiem: An Homage to Jean-Michel
Basquiat (2005 , Henceforth): Ellis is a bassist, also
interested in electronics. Originally from Canada. Three previous
albums, plus three more as part of What We Live, plus scattered
credits, mostly avant-garde. I can't tell you what if anything this
has to do with Basquiat, a painter and drug casualty evidently quite
fond of jazz, except that Ellis pulled "sucker punch" out of a bit
of Basquiat graffiti. Group here strikes me as an odd bunch. Pamela
Z's electronically filtered vocals add an air of high church to the
requiem, and I suppose Holly Hofmann's flute could signify angels.
Mike Wofford is a first-rate pianist who works a lot with Hofmann.
Susie Ibarra is an interesting percussionist formerly associated
with David S. Ware and Assif Tsahar. They work hard to hold this
together, but George Lewis is pretty inscrutable on trombone. On
the other hand, the one thing you really do notice here is the sax,
unmistakably the work of Oliver Lake.
Mike Ellis: Chicago Spontaneous Combustion Suite
(2000 , Alpha Pocket): Ellis plays saxophones, listing
sopranino, soprano, and baritone in that order. Don't know much
about him: his website bio starts (or actually, working backwards
ends) in 1977 with him studying at Berklee with Billy Pierce.
Further studies with Ernie Wilkins, Clifford Jordan, and Steve
Lacy. Work with Alan Silva. A group called M.E.T.A. Later got
involved with Brazilian music. This is a single 19-part suite,
with a quintet, two trumpets (Jeff Beer, Ryan Shultz), bass,
drums, constructed is a lean, spare avant vein -- nothing much
happens, but the meandering holds your interest anyway.
Mike Ellis: Bahia Band (2005 , Alpha Pocket):
Recorded in Salvador, Brazil, with a mostly Brazilian band, picking
up a Professor of African Percussion at the Music Academy of Bahia
named Dou Dou Coumba Rose, a Jamaican vocalist from Guyana named
Ricky Husbands, a guitarist named Munir Hossn who claims Barcelona,
Paris, and Senegal among his homes but was born in Brazil. Mostly
guitar (Mou Brasil as well as Hossn) and percussion, setting up a
complex, rumbling riddim, which the horns -- Gileno Santana on
trumpet, Marcio Tobias on alto sax, Ellis on soprano -- ride along
with, although Ellis in particular remains sharp enough to cut the
grease. More elemental than Speak in Tones, and better for it.
Peter Erskine/Tim Hagans & the Norrbotten Big Band: Worth
the Wait (2006 , Fuzzy Music): The Norrbotten Big Band
is based in Sweden, ready on call to back up guest stars for impromptu
radio concerts. (Don't know how common this sort of group is, but the
only other one I run into as often is WDR Big Band Köln.) I have no
idea how many records they've appeared on. In a little digging I dug
up recent titles with artists I've never heard of -- Jonas Kulhammar
(Snake City North, on Moserobie) and Lennart Ĺberg (Up
North, on Caprice) -- as well as a Randy Brecker thing I scored
as a dud and a previous meeting with Hagans that actually got filed
under the band's name. My impression is that they're a sharp outfit,
ready and willing to follow anyone down any hole. Erskine is best
known as a fusion drummer (Weather Report) and Hagans as a hard bop
trumpeter, but they both started out in Stan Kenton's big band, with
Erskine moving on to Maynard Ferguson and Hagans moving to Europe
to work with Thad Jones and Ernie Wilkins and returning frequently
to the format, especially with Bob Belden. Four Erskine originals,
two each arranged by Hagans and Bill Dobbins, plus three pieces by
Hagans. Clean, crisp work; a lot of horn power but not overdone,
with more than the usual space for drum solos.
Exploding Star Orchestra: We Are All From Somewhere Else
(2006 , Thrill Jockey): This is cornetist Rob Mazurek, better
known as the cornerstone of Chicago Underground Duo, Trio, and Quartet.
This, his big Sun Ra move, could have been attributed to the Chicago
Underground Big Band. Two multi-part pieces called "Sting Ray and the
Beginning of Time" and "Cosmic Tones for Sleep Walking Lovers" and a
one-part interlude called "Black Sun." Starts out in fine orbit before
it cracks up a bit, then wanders off into a cloud of microscopic space
dust. Eventually the cosmic tones start to emerge -- something else
I guess we can blame on flutes. Not unlike the man from Saturn, the
best parts sound fabulous; not so sure about the rest.
Exploding Star Orchestra: We Are All From Somewhere Else
(2006 , Thrill Jockey): Rob Mazurek's Chicago-based big band
for all intents and purposes is the new Sun Ra Arkestra. They make
for an unworldly space jazz, but where Ra could tap into his roots
and swing, the group here relates more to prog rock and whatever
experimental rock came on down the road -- e.g., the label's main
act is Tortoise. Magnificent in parts, scattered elsewhere.
Kali Z Fasteau/Kidd Jordan: Live at the Kerava Jazz Festival:
Finland (2007 , Flying Note): Credit can/should also
include drummer Newman Taylor Baker, whose name is on the front cover
in smaller print on the cover but not on the spine. Jordan is a veteran
from New Orleans who plays raw avant tenor sax, a throwback to the
1960s when ugliness was creed. Fasteau plays all sorts of things,
taking nine songs on nine different instruments: mizmar, piano, nai
flute, cello, synthesizer, voice, violin, drums, soprano sax. She
offers a wide range of contrasts to Jordan's constant. Gets loud,
weird, sometimes mesmerizing. Audience has fun.
Bobby Few: Lights and Shadows (2004 ,
Boxholder): Pianist, born in Cleveland in 1935, followed Albert
Ayler to New York in 1962 and headed further east in 1969 to
France, where he teamed up with Steve Lacy. Still in Paris,
with a sizable discography. This one's solo, original improvs
except for a Lacy piece. My usual caveats about solo piano
apply, including my difficulty finding words, but this strikes
me as well above average, the work of someone who's spent a
lot of time digesting Lacy's oeuvre, itself built on the work
of pianists Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols.
Irving Fields Trio: My Yiddishe Mama's Favorites
(2007, Tzadik): A pianist, b. 1915, still playing at 92. In his
heyday he was what we'd now call a "lounge pianist," best known
for his 1959 novelty record, Bagels and Bongos, which was
a remarkably successful recasting of Jewish songs like "Hava
Nagila" with Cuban percussion. He returned to the bongos thing
many times, recording not only More Bagels and Bongos
but also Pizzas and Bongos, Bikinis and Bongos,
and Champagne and Bongos. It seems inevitable that he
would be rediscovered by Cuban percussionist Roberto Rodriguez,
who elevated Jewish-Cuban fusion to a whole new level, and that
they would record as part of John Zorn's Radical Jewish Culture
series. This is a much tamer, more respectful album: the songs
are older, the piano dominates, the percussion is subdued and
sometimes incidental. But they do reprise "Hava Nagila," and
that picks up the pace. Greg Cohen plays bass.
Irving Fields Meets Roberto Rodriguez: Oy Vey!!! . . .
Olé!!! (2006, Tzadik): An earlier meeting, this time
Fields' piano fits nicely into Rodriguez's rhythmic framework,
with the instrumentation filled out by Gilad Harel on clarinet,
Uri Sharlin on accordion and organ, and Meg Okura on violin --
also some vocal early on, but thankfully that didn't stick. The
principals alternate songs, including Fields oldies like "Miami
Beach Rhumba," "Managua Nicaragua," and "Song of Manila." Not
sure how good it all is, but the shtick is pretty irresistible.
Jeremy Pelt & Wired: Shock Value: Live at Smoke
(2007, MaxJazz): Trumpet player, got some notice a few years back as
the hot new kid on the block. Doesn't seem so hot here: don't know
whether he's using a mute, riding the flugelhorn, or stuck in his
effects -- probably a bit of all three. Opens with a long blues jam
called "Blues," led by guitarist Al Street. Frank LoCrasto plays
Fender Rhodes and B3, a smorgasbord of soul jazz clichés. Bass is
probably electric too, hence the group name. Becca Stevens sings
one song, which started off unpromising anyway. Only the closer,
"Scorpio," starts to show off his trumpet to advantage. Too little,
The David Finck Quartet: Future Day (2007 ,
Soundbrush): Bassist, from Philadelphia I think, studied in
Rochester, settled in New York. First album as leader, but he's
done quite a bit of studio work: his website lists 122 albums
going back to 1980; AMG comes up with more. He's worked with a
lot of singers, mostly pop -- he flags 5 gold and 4 platinum
albums, including Rod Stewart's Great American Songbook
series -- but also Rosemary Clooney, Harry Connick Jr., Mark
Murphy, Peter Cincotti, and one album with Sheila Jordan. Some
other credits include Steve Kuhn, Paquito D'Rivera, Claudio
Roditti, and André Previn, who praises him lavishly. He wrote
two pieces here, with four more from the band, and six covers.
Starts off with a nice bass groove, and much of the album is
deliriously upbeat. Locke's strong suit is the way he interacts
with pianists, effectively turning the two of them into one
supersplashy instrument. Jeremy Pelt (trumpet) and Bob Sheppard
(tenor sax) appear here and there as special guests. I didn't
keep score -- you don't really notice them until you realize
that things have slowed down a bit, which probably isn't a
Fleurine: San Francisco (2007 , Sunnyside):
Singer, originally from Netherlands, now based in New York. Three
previous albums, including a duo with pianist Brad Mehldau, who
appears on three cuts here. Toured Cuba with Roy Hargrove in 1996.
Brazilian music here, Chico Buarque conspicuous among the composers,
the lyrics (some of which she added) split between Portuguese and
English. Nice, light, authentic feel from the percussion (Gilad)
and guitar (Freddie Bryant and Chico Pinheiro). Chris Potter adds
to one song each on alto flute, bass clarinet, and tenor sax. No
idea where the title comes from: hopefully not a nod to the Bay
Area's abysmal Brazilian scene, which is way beneath her.
Fond of Tigers: Release the Saviours (2007, Drip
Audio): Seven-piece instrumental group from Vancouver, classified
by AMG as rock but really more of a fusion band, with an insistent
pulse and a bit of avant edge. Credits listed alphabetically, from
bassist Shanto Bhattacharya down to violinist Jesse Zubot. No
song credits. Zubot gets an extra credit as producer, but his
violin isn't all that prominent. Nor, for that matter, is the
only horn, JP Carter's trumpet.
Elli Fordyce with Jim Malloy: Something Still Cool
(1999-2006 , EF Music): Fordyce is a singer based in NY,
b. 1937, with her first album. (I saw one website that had her
born in 1974 with 6 albums, but nothing else I see gives that
any credence. Scott Yanow's liner notes ask: "How can the singer
possibly be 70 when her voice can pass for 40?") She likes the
cool jazz of the 1950s, explaining that she hired trumpeter James
Magnarelli for his fondness for Chet Baker. Malloy is another
singer; has an album of mostly 1950s bop standards called Jazz
Vocalist. He appears in duets on 5 songs, and they make a
nice pair. Two cuts with just David Epstein on piano. The rest,
including all the duets, have Harry Whitaker's piano trio, some
with Magnarelli and/or percussionist Samuel Torres added. Good
liner notes; solid craftsmanship.
Free Fall: The Point in a Line (2006 ,
Smalltown Superjazz): Third album by Ken Vandermark's trio,
featuring the same clarinet-piano-bass lineup as appeared on
Jimmy Giuffre's namesake album. Hĺvard Wiik plays Paul Bley,
Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten plays Steve Swallow, and Vandermark
handles the clarinets. Beyond the lineup, I've never seen
much affinity to Giuffre's trio, but I've also never turned
into a big fan of the Free Fall album. Still, this
is an interesting album on whatever terms apply: Wiik is
more pro-active on piano, and Vandermark's aggressiveness
is muted by the clarinet's limited volume.
Free Form Funky Freqs: Urban Mythology: Volume One
(2007, Thirsty Ear): Guitar improv from Vernon Reid, with Jamaldeen
Tacuma reverbing the funk bass and G. Calvin Weston on drums, with
extra beeps, bonks and warps plugged in by Reid, but -- they swear --
no guitar, bass, or drum overdubs. Accept it for what little it is
and you'll have a nice time. Don't hold your breath for Vol. 2.
Paolo Fresu/Richard Galliano/Jan Lundgren: Mare Nostrum
(2007 , ACT): Fresu's trumpet and flugelhorn finally got an
ear when Carla Bley tracked him down last year. This is a good chance
to hear more. Lundgren's piano is a little short on rhythmic push,
but has to do. At least he punctuates the lushness of Galliano's
accordion. Not quite prepared to deal with this right now. Wouldn't
be a bad idea for me to revisit Bley's record, either.
Taeko Fukao: One Love (2006-07 , Flat Nine):
Singer, born and raised in Japan, moved to New York in 1998. Sings
standards, in English with no accent or affects we might remotely
consider oriental. Piano-bass-drums band. Strikes me as utterly
conventional -- not a complaint, but not much of a recommendation
Roberta Gambarini & Hank Jones: You Are There
(2005 , Emarcy): Italian singer, from Torino. Don't know how
old she is, but she seems to have recorded in Italy since 1986 or
so. First US release was Easy to Love in 2006, which got a
lot of notice, although I missed it. This looks to be import only,
at least for now -- it seems like a lot of jazz artists on major
labels in Europe and Japan never get picked up here. But it's
probably just a matter of time in this case, not only because
she's crossed her first hurdle but because her duet partner is
something of a name in these parts. Just voice and piano. She
sings in remarkable English, marvelous voice, clear and precise,
a good ear for detail. The songs are all standards -- "Stardust"
and "Lush Life" the most common, the latter as nicely turned out
as any I can recall. Also a luscious version of "Just Squeeze Me."
Other songs haven't connected yet, partly lack of familiarity.
Of course, it's tempting to pick this up just for the pianist,
and anyone so inclined won't be disappointed.
Jacob Garchik: Romance (2007 , Yestereve):
Trombonist, originally from San Francisco, in New York since 1994.
Second album. Side credits include Lee Konitz's New Nonet, John
Hollenbeck's Large Ensemble, Frank London's Klezmer Brass All Stars,
and Slavic Soul Party. I recall liking Abstracts, his first
album, but didn't manage to write more than a note on it -- "free
jazz, sharply played." This isn't, even though it's the same trio
(Jacob Sacks on piano, Dan Weiss on drums). Slow, arty, even more
abstract. Judith Berkson adds her voice to two cuts. More dead
Giacomo Gates: Luminous (2007 , Doubledave
Music, CD+DVD): Vocalist, born c. 1950 in Connecticut; spent 12
years in Alaska, operating bulldozers and working as a bouncer;
caught Sarah Vaughan at a festival in Fairbanks -- she encouraged
him, not least to get the hell out of Alaska. Cut his first record
in 1995, and now has four. Hype sheet argues that he is "the
acknowledged heir to the Eddie Jefferson/Jon Hendricks tradition
of jazz singing." He does do some of their vocalese -- the DVD has
two Charlie Parker pieces with Jefferson lyrics, and the singer
and band's relief at getting through them without stumbling is
palpable. They're not my favorite spots on the album, nor is the
scat, although both are proficient. What I do like are the talky
intros that effortlessly move into song, the idiosyncratic song
selection -- one of the best is an original, "Full of Myself,"
passed off as a bonus track -- and the band's genteel swing.
Didn't expect to bother with the DVD until I heard the CD. It's
not much -- just four cuts, with a different band, plus interview
which rifles through a lot of names.
Giacomo Gates: Luminosity (2007 ,
Doubledave Music): Finally, a male jazz singer in "the Eddie
Jefferson/Jon Hendricks tradition" I actually enjoy. He talks
his way offhandedly into introductions, then slips effortlessly
into song. Pulls a couple of gems out like "Hungry Man," and
wrote one himself ("Full of Myself" -- of course, he couldn't
be). Would even be better if he didn't keep working his way
into those vocalese jams, but at least he keeps his cool.
Can't say that for any of his obvious competition.
Charles Gatschet: Step Lightly (2006 ,
Barnstorm): Guitarist, from Kansas City, second album. Album
cover features mountain waterfalls, stones polished by moving
water. Instrumentation is on the lush side, with Ali Ryerson's
flute and/or Greg Gisberg's trumpet/flugelhorn prominent over
piano, bass, drums, and guitar. Covers are mostly bop-vintage,
but Gatschet's originals introduce world beats.
Stephen Gauci's Basso Profundo: Nididhyasana
(2007, Clean Feed): Gauci is a tenor saxophonist, b. 1966,
based in Brooklyn, has appeared on 10+ records since 2001,
mostly with bassist Mike Bisio. The group here is a quartet
with two basses presumably the source of the name: Bisio and
Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten (of various Ken Vandermark bands).
The fourth member is trumpeter Nate Wooley, which gives the
group a two horn front line. No drummer, but there is some
percussion, presumably from tapping on the bass. The horns
split free, but they're less interested in fireworks than
Stephen Gauci's Basso Continuo: Nididhyasana
(2007, Clean Feed): Two basses provide the drive and drone, the
phat sonic middle, while two horns -- Gauci's tenor sax, Nat
Wooley's trumpet -- work harder at blending in than at standing
out. No drums, although now and then you do hear some percussion,
probably tapping on the heavy, hollow bass bellies.
Chris Gestrin: After the City Has Gone: Quiet
(2007, Songlines, 2CD): Canadian pianist, from near Vancouver,
graduated from Berklee. Has a mixed bag of side credits (Randy
Bachman, Loudon Wainwright III, K-OS, DOA, Nickelback, Swollen
Members, Bruno Hubert's B3 Kings), 4 or 5 albums on his own.
This is a set of 28 solo, duo, and trio pieces, mostly with
other Vancouver musicians I recognize -- Jon Bentley (saxes),
JP Carter (trumpet), Ron Samworth (guitar), Gordon Grdina (guitar,
dobro), Peggy Lee (cello), Dylan van der Schyff (drums). They
are mostly slow, quiet, and abstract -- chance encounters of
sound without much thought to melody. Several instruments are
prepared and/or processed. Didn't sound like much at first,
and it seems like a lot to slog through it all, but I find it
growing on me. Should probably keep it pending, but it's been
on the shelf a long time already, and I'm doubting I'll find
the time it needs.
Hans Glawischnig: Panorama (2006 , Sunnyside):
Born 1970 in Graz, Austria; his father Dieter Glawischnig, a pianist
and NDR Big Band director; his mother a US native. Plays bass. Moved
to Boston to study at Berklee, then to New York for Manhattan School
of Music. Second album as leader, following an easily overlooked Fresh
Sound New Talent album from 2001, but he's played on more than two
dozen albums since 1997, often under Latino leaders (Ray Barretto,
Miguel Zenon, Luis Perdomo, Dafnis Prieto). This one will be noticed:
he's got a name people have been noticing, and a label that will get
him more visibility. It has the air of an overelaborate debut: it
deploys nine musicians in groups of 3-5, calling in chits and adding
to the star power (only 2 of 3 drummers aren't household names, at
least chez moi). The small groups work well enough each on its own,
but fit uncomfortably together, partly because shifts like alternating
alto saxophonists Miguel Zenon and David Binney wind up sounding so
much the same. Another example is piano: Chick Corea leads two trios
cuts, while Luis Perdomo fills in the groups, a distinction that could
be chalked up to different roles rather than different pianists (who
all in all aren't all that different). The one cut with Rich Perry's
tenor sax does stand in contrast to the six cuts with alto, but comes
as an isolated surprise. The unifying thread is the bassist-composer,
which is no doubt the plan. Advanced, interesting postbop, informed
by Latin jazz but not really part of it. Bass presence but not much
solo space. For various good and not so good reasons this is likely
to show up in a lot of year-end lists.
Drew Gress: The Irrational Numbers (2006 ,
Premonition): Flash-only website. For a while after I killed off
Flash life was good, but I've run into a few of these things
lately, and this one pushed me over the edge into complaining.
Don't really need to do much research on Gress anyway. He's one
of the top bassists in New York, showing up on 6-10 records per
year since the early 1990s, including Fred Hersch, Dave Douglas,
Tim Berne, John Hollenbeck (Claudia Quintet), Uri Caine, George
Colligan, Marc Copland, Tony Malaby, Ellery Eskelin, Steve
Lehman, Ralph Alessi, many more -- AMG lists about 130 albums.
This is the fourth under his own name: his compositions, with
an all-star quintet: Berne (alto sax), Alessi (trumpet), Craig
Taborn (piano), Tom Rainey (drums). Not sure why I don't like
it more: the free form passages are exciting, but most of it
consists of intricate postbop layerings, possibly interesting
on paper, but hard to follow or get into.
B+(*) [Feb. 19]
Grupo Los Santos: Lo Que Somos Lo Que Sea (2007,
Deep Tone): A New York quartet not obviously connected to Cuban,
let alone Brazilian, music, either by name or instrument: Paul
Carlon on tenor sax, Pete Smith on guitar, David Ambrosio on bass,
William "Beaver" Bausch on drums. I've been playing this opposite
Cachao for, well, a ridiculous number of times, and it's lacking
the extra percussion, the choruses, and Chocolate Armenteros'
trumpet from the classic stuff, but it holds up awfully well.
I've been impressed by Carlon before, but Smith is a revelation,
and not just on the two Brazilian pieces (a choro and a samba).
Bausch writes about half of the pieces, and may have more up
his sleeve than is obvious. There is a bit of extra percussion
on two tracks, which credit Max Pollak with "Rumba Tap" -- I
think that's tap dancing to a rumba beat. Sounds like it,
Jostein Gulbrandsen: Twelve (2006 , Fresh
Sound New Talent): Norwegian guitarist, based in New York since
2001, Manhattan School of Music guy. First album, quartet, with
Jon Irabagon (tenor sax, clarinet), Eivind Opsvik (bass), Jeff
Davis (drums). First thing I noticed was how much I liked the
sax, the way it stretched time out into fractured, disjoint
slabs. Turns out I've run across Irabagon before but forgot
the name: he's in Moppa Elliott's Mostly Other People Do the
Killing, my current leading contender for a pick hit slot. A
couple of songs later the guitar came into better focus, but
he's hard to pigeonhole -- of the usual list of influences on
his MySpace page I only hear Jim Hall and Wolfgang Muthspiel,
and not much of either. More strong sax follows. A very bent
cover of "Message in a Bottle." A bass solo -- Opsvik is a
name I do recall, shows up on a lot of good records. Slow
guitar solo to close. Either a strong HM or better.
Jostein Gulbrandsen: Twelve (2006  Fresh
Sound New Talent): I doubt that I would have noticed the leader's
guitar had I not first fallen for Jon Irabagon's tenor saxophone.
Irabagon plays in Moppa Elliot's "terrorist bebop band" Mostly
Other People Do the Killing, where he has plenty of competition
on trumpet. Here he has the field to himself, playing high octane
avant-skewed runs that I find utterly captivating. Also a bit of
clarinet, much lower keyed. The guitarist adds some licks to the
high-speed stuff, but emerges more when the sax quiets down.
Frode Haltli: Passing Images (2004 , ECM):
Norwegian accordionist, second album, both on ECM. This one with
Arve Henriksen on trumpet, Garth Knox on viola, and Maja Solveig
Kjelstrup Ratkje singing (or vocalizing -- there's not a lot of
conventional singing). Songs are evidently folk based, including
one by good ole' trad. Dense, dark, minimal sounds; any other
trumpet player would bust out of this, but Henriksen provides
little more than harmonic overtones to the accordion. Might be
worth another play, but the pickings look pretty slim.
Frode Haltli: Passing Images (2004 , ECM):
Accordion, an instrument with folk referents, although this comes
closer to chamber music, with trumpet and voice for highlights --
not that there are many -- and viola for extra density.
Mary Halvorson & Jessica Pavone: On and Off
(2007, Skirl): Halvorson plays guitar: grew up in Boston, studied
at Wesleyan with Anthony Braxton, works out of Brooklyn. Plays in
Braxton's Quintet, Taylor Ho Bynum's Trio and Sextet, her own trio.
Pavone plays viola. Also has a relationship with Braxton and Bynum,
and has appeared on a couple of Assif Tsahar's records. Also that
Vampire Weekend record that's been getting a lot of hype lately.
She has a couple of string thing records on her own label. Name
reminds me of the great bassist Mario Pavone, but I haven't seen
any references. AMG classifies both as Avant-Garde Music, not as
Jazz. Fairly abstract chamber music -- not as broken up as on the
Bynum album, but no swing or bop. Not an instrumentation I find
appealing, plus I usually demur (or worse) from vocals, which
both indulge in, but in the end I found this oddly charming.
Brian Harnetty: American Winter (2007, Atavistic):
A musician from Ohio, teaches at Kenyon College. This record is
built around Berea College's sound archives, a 75+ year collection
of Appalachian field recordings, radio programs, and oral history.
Some are sung, bringing out the twang of deeply felt voices. Some
are just interviews, old stories. A bit of radio broadcast focuses
on the WWII draft. Most have been augmented with musical flourishes,
mostly percussive. Seems like a highly repeatable formula, but for
now it sounds unique. Harnetty's discography lists 17 items since
2003, mostly self-released, this the only one on a label I've
heard of. AMG files this as folk, but it's pretty avant for that.
Matt Haviland: Beyond Good & Evil (2002 ,
Connotation): Trombone player, born 1961 in Iowa, graduated Berklee
in 1983, then moved to New York. Looks like much of his experience
is in big bands, with Illinois Jacquet, Steven Bernstein's Millennial
Territory Orchestra, and Slide Hampton's World of Trombones names
that stand out from the list -- for me, anyway; you may be more
impressed with Maria Schneider. First album. I'm tempted to call
his near-all-star band a hard bop group: Vincent Herring on alto
and tenor sax, Benny Green on piano, Ugonna Okegwo on bass, Gene
Jackson on drums, plus Scott Wendholt on trumpet for two tracks.
Haviland wrote 7 pieces, all but "But Beautiful," Cedar Walton's
"Bolivia," and a 1:07 bass intro. Straight stuff, but proficient,
Helena: Fraise Vanille (2007 , Sunnyside):
Stage name for Helena Noguerra, b. 1969 in Belgium, her parents
Portuguese immigrants, her older sister the estimable pop star
Lio. Based in Paris. Started as a model. Branched out into acting,
music, and has written at least one novel. Bunch of records. This
one is a tribute to songwriter Serge Rezvani. With its acoustic
guitar it strikes me as folkie, with a lithe eurobeat.
Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez: Italuba II (2006
, Cacao Musica): Cuban drummer, b. 1963, came to the US
c. 1993, where he's established himself as a superb Latin jazz
drummer. AMG talks about Hernandez's early interest in rock,
and how that's inflected his drumming. That isn't clear here.
What we have instead is a solid Afro-Cuban jazz quartet, with
trumpet and piano. Tricky rhythms, shifts, halts, all sorts of
unpredictable happenings. No vocals, just jazz.
Frank Hewitt: Out of the Clear Black Sky (2000
, Smalls): Fifth posthumous album, another piano trio, cut
in two late-night sets live at Smalls. Ari Roland plays bass,
Jimmy Lovelace drums. Mostly covers, including two from Rodgers
and Hart, Dizzy Gillespie's "Manteca," Tom Jobim's "The Girl From
Ipanema," and two takes of Erroll Garner's "Misty." It's probably
a good sign that the more familiar a piece is, the more intriguing
Hewitt's machinations become -- "The Girl From Ipanema" is plumbed
for ideas instead of atmosphere. Fairly mild-mannered bebop, witty
inside stuff, not a lot of flash. People may wonder why Hewitt
didn't get noticed, but he didn't do the sort of things that get
noticed, nor did he settle into a university and cut records to
bolster his résumé. He just hung out in the underground and played
Amos Hoffman: Evolution (2007 , RazDaz/Sunnyside):
Israeli guitarist, mostly plays oud now. Spent some time in New York,
but is now based in Tel Aviv. Third album. Strong middle eastern flavor,
with alto flute (Ilan Salem), bass (Avishai Cohen), and percussion (Ilan
Katchka). Cohen contributes an unnecessary vocal, also plays some piano,
but the string interplay predominates.
Diane Hoffman: My Little French Dancer (2006 ,
Savsomusic): Singer. Born and raised in Cambridge, MA; passed through
California on way to New York. Looks like she has one previous album,
although it's not mentioned on her website. (MySpace page shows the
first, Someone in Love.) This at least is a straightforward
jazz vocal album. She has the voice, the nuances, the sense of humor,
the repertoire. Well, almost the repertoire -- songs are a little
weak, but at least not beat to death.
Maurice Horsthuis: Elastic Jargon (2007 ,
Data): One thing I've found is that there's usually an exception
to any generalization one might make. By now, you know how much
I hate the sound of massed violins, how lame I find classical
string quartets, maybe even how estranged I feel from so much
advanced contemporary composition (or whatever you call it --
maybe only because I get so little opportunity to follow it).
Even at best I figure those things are projects, something that,
given more exposure and understanding, I might some day learn to
sort of like, a little bit at least. But here's an exception:
all strings (4 violins, 2 violas, 3 cellos, double bass, and
electric guitar), a very limited pallette with a lot of sawing
back and forth, but it's really flowing, with waves of ideas,
crashing and bubbling. Need to hold it back as a sanity check.
Horsthuis plays viola. He's part of Amsterdam String Trio, which
has at least four albums. He's also played with Misha Mengelberg's
ICP Orchestra back in the 1980s; also with Han Bennink and Maarten
Altena. Group name could be Maurice Horsthuis' Jargon, in which
case album name might be Elastic.
Norman Howard & Joe Phillips: Burn Baby Burn
(1968 , ESP-Disk): A trumpet player from Cleveland, Howard's
discography was hitherto limited to appearing on two Albert Ayler
albums. He recorded two sessions for ESP-Disk in 1968 which weren't
released at the time. It isn't clear from the booklet whether this
is only the first or includes parts of the second (referred to as
"Signals"). (It also isn't clear whether the subject of the first
line -- "I was born August 25th of 1944 in Cleveland, Ohio" -- is
Howard or writer Michael D. Anderson. Philips plays alto sax --
don't know much more about him. The other musicians are just names:
Walter Cliff on bass, Corney Millsap on drums. Before I dug into
the booklet, the record struck me as austere free jazz, somewhat
old-fashioned, although there are noisy stretches later on. Makes
more sense as part of Ayler's undertow, opened up by the lack of
a clear leader. An interesting piece of history.
Diane Hubka: Goes to the Movies (2005-06 ,
18th & Vine): Singer; plays a little 7-string guitar, although
most of the fine guitar here is credited to Larry Koonse. Website
bio has no biographical information, and is otherwise dubious --
"arguably the biggest discovery since Roberta Gambarini"? (FYI,
I've never heard Gambarini, although I recognize the name.) Looks
like she came from Appalachia, worked in DC and/or NYC, has three
previous albums, mostly on Dutch labels, and a favorable entry in
Penguin Guide, likening her to Sheila Jordan. I don't hear
that here, but haven't heard the earlier albums. She has a clear,
clean, articulate voice, and gets unassuming support from a quintet
led by pianist Christian Jacob, with Carl Saunders providing finish
touches on trumpet and flugelhorn. Record rises and falls on the
songs, which include enough melodramatic themes and noirish ballads
to turn me off. Could use another play.
Diane Hubka: Goes to the Movies (2005-06 ,
18th & Vine): Clear, clean, articulate voice, as good as the
songs, which as you know with movie music isn't always that good.
But with 13 songs from 42 years (1937-79) they don't sink too far --
the mixed flow is the main distraction. The small group helps,
especially Carl Saunders on trumpet/flugelhorn and Larry Koonse
Charlie Hunter Trio: Mistico (2007, Fantasy):
Guitarist, currently plays a custom-built 7-string guitar cut
down from an 8-string. Has recorded prolifically since 1993,
including several albums with Bobby Previte as Groundtruther
and Stanton Moore and Skerik as Garage a Trois -- including
one in my replay queue. This seems about par. He is at the
center of a cluster of fusion musicians that combine loping
rhythms, funk, and electronics in interesting ways.
Charlie Hunter Trio: Mistico (2007, Fantasy):
Around the eighth cut, "Special Shirt," it finally dawned on me
what this is: jazz bubblegum. Maybe I'm oversimplifying. Title
cut came next and it's more phantasmagorical, almost a Pink Floyd
instrumental. The 7 or 8 out of 10 cuts are just slinky fusion
guitar over cheesy keybs and drums -- pop jazz, but before the
dark ages set in.
Jason Kao Hwang/Edge: Stories Before Within
(2007 , Innova): Hwang was born in the US (Waukegan, IL),
of Chinese extraction. He made a strong effort to master Chinese
classical music, but now works mostly in avant jazz. He plays
violin, often with a Chinese inflection. He has several records
I've been very impressed by -- e.g., Ravish Momin's Climbing
the Banyan Tree. Group here: Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet), Ken
Filiano (bass), Andrew Drury (drums). Bynum was a student of
Anthony Braxton, and still plays with Braxton -- I've tried to
get hold of some of his material, thus far to no avail. Filiano,
as I've mentioned many times by now, always seems to show up on
good records. Got distracted in the middle of writing this and
lost my thread, but I wanted to give it more time anyway.
Jason Kao Hwang/Edge: Stories Before Within
(2007 , Innova): Dense shades of Chinese jazz fiddle,
tarted up by Taylor Ho Bynum's cornet. Plus bass and drums,
The Inhabitants: The Furniture Moves Underneath
(2007, Drip Audio): Vancouver group: JP Carter (trumpet), Dave
Sikula (guitar), Pete Schmitt (bass), Skye Brooks (drums), with
use of effects by the first three. Carter and Brooks are also
in Fond of Tigers. Quasi-rockish instrumentals, starting off
loud and brash, mellowing out later. The latter pieces with
their ripened textures are more pleasing, and marginally more
Vijay Iyer: Tragicomic (2007 , Sunnyside):
This took a while to sink in. The turning point may been when
I flashed on the notion that Iyer is a new generation McCoy
Tyner. Iyer has equivalent facility with the keyboard, although
he rarely if ever lapses into Oscar Peterson swing -- he draws
the line at, well, McCoy Tyner, but more often favors rhythmic
repetition and variation rather than line development. Like
Tyner, he generally works in a sax quartet, and like Tyner he
often overshadows, indeed overpowers, the horn. One might also
note that Iyer's saxophonist, Rudresh Mahanthappa, has a strong
Coltrane-ish streak, but that's not so evident here. Mahanthappa
has strong and weak outings, and he didn't make much of a first
impression here. He only plays on 7 of 11 cuts, often making
little more than a buzz around Iyer's prodigious piano. The
trio cuts open up more, not least because they give Stephan
Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums more room to shine.
One solo cut is further dampened, but logically impeccable.
The Jack & Jim Show Presents: Hearing Is Believing
(2005 , Boxholder): First, I have to admit that I had never
heard of Jimmy Carl Black. Turns out that he was best known for being
in my least favorite band of the twentieth century, the Mothers of
Invention, usually filed under the bandleader's name, Frank Zappa,
but his website discography totals 77 albums without getting past
2002. Black played drums, and introduced himself as "the Indian of
the group." Later he had a band called Geronimo Black. Anyhow, he's
the Jim. Jack must be guitarist Eugene Chadbourne, who I have heard
of and rarely heard -- his website discography claims 180 records,
so I haven't heard much. Together since 1995 as the Jack & Jim
Show they have 8 previous albums. Might as well list them to get
a whiff: Locked in a Dutch Coffeeshop, Pachuco Cadaver,
Uncle Jimmy's Master Plan, The Early Years, The
Perfect C&W Duo's Tribute to Jesse Helms, The Taste of
the Leftovers, 2001: A Spaced Odyssey, Reflections
and Experiences of Jimi Hendrix. They do a mix of deconstructed
parodies (including three Beatles songs; one each from Marvin Gaye,
Tim Hardin, and Dizzy Gillespie) and perverse protest songs ("Cheney's
Hunting Ducks" is a choice cut, "Girl From Al-Qaeda" is abducted and
held hostage from Jobim and Getz). Chadbourne plays some extreme
skronk guitar, and Oxford avant-gardist Pat Thomas slums with some
amusing keyboards. Title parses as: you won't believe this until
you hear it.
Keefe Jackson's Project Project: Just Like This
(2007, Delmark): Jackson plays tenor sax and bass clarinet. He
moved to Chicago from Fayetteville, AR in 2001. Has an earlier
record I haven't heard by a small group called Keefe Jackson's
Fast Citizens. Project Project is a large improv-oriented band:
5 brass, 5 reeds, bass and drums. Loose, rowdy, occasionally
rapturous solos, nothing that stands out much from any number
of similar configurations.
Grupa Janke Randalu: Live (2007 , Jazz 'n'
Arts): Bodek Janke, percussion; Kristjan Randalu, piano. Randalu
comes from Estonia. His parents were classical pianists. He studied
in Germany and England, then came to New York (Manhattan School of
Music) in 2003. Currently splits time between New York and Germany,
teaching in Karlsruhe. Sixth album since 2002 (first I've heard).
Janke is Polish, b. 1972, based in New York, "a cultural commuter
between the USA, Kazakhstan, Russia, Poland and Germany," with a
wide range of folk and world as well as jazz influences. This flows
well, is consistently engaging; may be a little more percussive
without a bass, but doesn't seem lacking. First rate, but one I
haven't pinned down yet.
Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: Setting
Standards: New York Sessions (1983 , ECM, 3CD):
Born 1945, Jarrett started recording in 1966, minor bits with
Art Blakey and Miles Davis, a major role in Charles Lloyd's
quartet at their popular peak. His own records start in 1967
with Life Between the Exit Signs, and picked up the
pace in the 1970s when he juggled two distinctive quarters,
one US-based with Dewey Redman on Impulse, the other Europe-based
with Jan Garbarek on ECM, while recording bunches of solo piano
records, most famously The Köln Concert, which at five
million copies is probably the best-selling jazz album ever. He
had rarely played in piano trios, but put one together for a set
of standards in January 1983 -- actually, he revived the trio
that recorded Gary Peacock's Tales of Another in 1977,
with Jack DeJohnette on drums. He dubbed them the Standards Trio,
but more than two decades and two dozen later they're just The
Trio. The sessions produced two volumes of Standards and
a set of original improvs released as Changes -- now all
conveniently boxed for their 25th anniversary. The songbook is
neither obvious nor numerous -- 11 songs, averaging 8 minutes,
with "God Bless the Child" spread out to 15:32, mostly because
they found so much to work out. A turning point in an illustrious
career, but more beginning than peak.
Stanley Jordan: State of Nature (2008, Mack Avenue):
Another well-known guitarist, one I've paid even less attention to
than Metheny -- I have him filed under pop jazz, which may or may
not be fair. Jordan had a run on Blue Note 1984-90 with at least
one gold record, but hasn't recorded much since. Not much info to
go with this advance copy: no musician credits, although Charnett
Moffett, David Haynes, and Kenwood Dennard are somewhere, and there
is something about Jordan playing guitar and piano simultaneously.
Piano is fairly prominent on some pieces, including Horace Silver's
"Song for My Father" and the quasi-classical "Healing Waves." Some
of the guitar is quite elegant -- don't have an ear for his famous
"tapping" method, which doesn't seem much in play. Mix bag of
pieces, ranging from Latin to Mozart. Might as well wait for more
[B+(*)] [advance: Apr. 22]
Plamen Karadonev: Crossing Lines (2007 ,
Mu): Pianist (also plays keyboards and accordion), from Bulgaria,
where he studied at the Academy of Music and played for the National
Radio Big Band. Got a scholarship to Berklee in Boston, where he's
currently based. First album: in fact, a good example of what we
might call First Album Syndrome, where a new artist tries to show
off as many friends, connections, styles, and skills as possible.
Originals, covers (Cole Porter, John Coltrane, Ivan Lins), a take
on Schuman, expansive piano pieces, two guest shots for trombonist
Hal Crook and two more for saxophonist George Garzone, three cuts
with vocals by Elena Koleva. The individual pieces are impressive
enough -- even the rather limited vocals come through. Garzone,
of course, is always a treat, but the piano more than holds up,
and the accordion solo on the Lins piece is lovely.
Kassaba: Dark Eye (2007, CDBaby): Group, quartet,
seems to be based in Cleveland. Group has two pianists, Candice Lee
and Greg Slawson, who alternate, doubling on percussion. Bassist
Chris Vance and saxophonist Mark Boich also have percussion credits
(they claim "25 exotic percussion instruments"). Lee is originally
from Edmonton (Alberta, that's Canada), but got her music degrees
at Cleveland Institute of Music. Vance hails from Buffalo, the rest
from Cleveland, although Boich studied at Berklee -- another George
Garzone student. They claim inspiration from jazz, classical, and
world music. The loose world beats are beguiling, especially when
Boich blows abstractly against the grain. The closer, "Hin Rizzy,"
makes their classical case -- feels kinda static to me, like Bach.
Stacey Kent: Breakfast on the Morning Tram (2007,
Blue Note): Vocalist, originally from New Jersey, studied comparative
lit at Sarah Lawrence in New York, and took her degree to England,
where she married saxophonist Jim Tomlinson and stepped into what's
evidently a very successful singing career. Looks like she has ten
records since 1997. This is the first I've heard, and it's sent me
up and down. She has an attractive voice, thin, clear, with nary a
hint of the mannerisms so many jazz singers cultivate. The settings
are spare, mostly keyed off the guitar, with Tomlinson's sax mostly
limited to breaks. Two covers -- "Hard-Hearted Hannah" and "What a
Wonderful World" -- are exceptionally reserved. Four songs have
lyrics by novelist Kazuo Ishiguro. Three songs are in French --
the first two especially beguiling. Penguin Guide: "Problem is, the
singer has simply repeated the formula across each subsequent record,
and given her temperate approach they've taken on a soundalike
Stacey Kent: Breakfast on the Morning Tram (2007,
Blue Note): An art singer, or perhaps a pop singer in an alternate
universe, which may be the England and France that adopted this
New Jersey native. Doesn't write, but four songs are originals,
written by husband-saxophonist Jim Tomlinson and novelist Kazuo
Ishiguro, an often impressive combination. The title track is a
richly detailed recipe for putting heartbreak aside. She has an
interesting knack for repertoire, taking "Hard Hearted Hannah"
and "What a Wonderful World" slow enough to reveal details you
missed before. Three songs in French: a samba and two by Serge
Carla Kihlstedt/Satoko Fujii: Minamo (2002-05 ,
Henceforth): Violin-piano duo. Kihlstedt is best known for her work
in Tin Hat, although she's shown up in a number of contexts, including
ROVA's latest assault on Ascension. The first three tracks,
totalling 20 minutes, were recorded as an opening act for a ROVA
concert in San Francisco. The final 28:40 tracks was recorded at
Wels in Austria. The latter set meshes better, probably because
the violinist is more aggressive. The pianist can brawl with the
best of them, but she tends to hold back when not provoked. Which
is OK too, in the limited way of duos.
Frank Kimbrough: Air (2003-07 , Palmetto):
Pianist, part of the Jazz Composers Collective circle in New York.
Has 8-10 records since 1988, plus a fair amount of session work --
his role in Maria Schneider's orchestra may be a draw. I've heard
a couple, and haven't heard much in them. This solo set started
promising, but didn't sustain my interest. But that's usually the
case with solo piano, so I'm not sure what this proves.
Omer Klein: Introducing Omer Klein (2007 ,
Smalls): Pianist, from Netanya, Israel, studied at New England
Conservatory in Boston, moved to New York in 2006. Despite the
title here, he has a previous album called Duet with
bassist Haggai Cohen Milo on Fresh Sound New Talent -- a nice,
quiet, intimate introduction to his style. This is a trio with
Omer Avital on bass (and one track oud) and Ziv Ravitz on drums,
plus extra percussion by Itamar Doari. One result is that this
is much more upbeat. Klein even breaks out in a vocal at one
point, not a highlight. Should give it some more time.
Omer Klein: Introducing Omer Klein (2007 ,
Smalls): Let me start with one more pitch for Klein's earlier
Duet with bassist Haggai Cohen Milo, on Fresh Sound New
Talent a couple years back. That's where I got introduced, and
was impressed with his subtle melodicism. Still, this is an
advance, and not just because added drums and percussion push
a much more upbeat rhythm -- actually, bassist Omer Avital may
have as much as anyone to do with that.
The Klobas/Kesecker Ensemble: No Gravity (2007 ,
KKEnsemble): Bay Area group. Klobas plays bass, has a classical
background as well as some jazz credits, teaches at Cal State
Hayward. Kesecker plays vibes and marimba. He's played with
Zakir Hussain in the past, and Hussain returns the favor here,
gaining a front cover "guest artist" notice. Hussain's tabla
doesn't stand out all that much, but contributes to the fertile
rhythms. The non-guest who does stand out is saxophonist Gene
Burkert. He's credited with woodwinds here, given no further
specifics. His tenor sax powers through the first piece, the
perfect foil for the rhythmic accents. His other horns are
less impressive, but the record picks up whenever the tenor
returns. Having trouble (some merely technical) getting more
info on these guys. Fun record. Amusing cover shot -- grins
Adam Kolker: Flag Day (2007 , Sunnyside):
Played this a bunch of times over the last week, and the least I
can say is that it proved to be an exceptionally satisfying tonic.
B. 1958, New York, currently teaches at U. Mass. (Amherst). Also
plays flute and clarinet, but sticks to tenor sax here. Several
albums since 1999, including one called Sultanic Verses,
but this is first I've heard. Was part of Orange Then Blue in
late 1980s; played regularly with Ray Barretto from 1994. Seems
amenable to big bands -- press mentions Gil Evans, Maria Schneider,
Kenny Wheeler, Village Vanguard Orchestra, Jazz Composers Octet --
but this is a slim little quartet, with guitarist John Abercrombie
and drummer Paul Motian doing subtle things on the side, bassist
John Hebert even more inscrutable in the background. Kolker has
a soft, airy tone, with oblique lines that slip past everything
else. Still on the fence here, unsure this is substantial enough,
but thus far it hits the spot.
Adam Kolker: Flag Day (2007 , Sunnyside):
Very pleasing, easily listenable sax quartet, where three notable
sidemen each have something distinctive to add: John Abercrombie
on guitar, John Hebert on bass, Paul Motian on drums. Mellow sax,
Lee Konitz-Ohad Talmor Big Band: Portology (2006
, Omnitone): Konitz came in #3 in Downbeat's Hall of Fame
ballot last year, behind recently deceased Andrew Hill and Michael
Brecker (who got in on the popular ballot) and ahead of still
ticking (actually, like Konitz, still working) Hank Jones. Unless
someone important dies, he should be next in line. (Jackie McLean,
embarrassingly, wasn't even on the ballot when he died, then lept
to the top of the list.) It's taken him a long time, but he's
never been anywhere near the mainstream. Early on he was way
ahead of his time -- looking back I'm tempted to call his 1949-50
Subconscious-Lee the first great postbop album -- and even
when time caught up he remained sui generis. Even in the middle
of a big band built for camouflage it's trivial to pick him out.
On the other hand, don't know much about Ohad Talmor, who is here
billed as conductor, arranger, musical director, and co-composer.
He was born in France of Israeli parents, grew up in Switzerland,
moved to New York in 1995. Plays tenor sax in his own groups, but
works more as arranger/director in projects with Konitz and Steve
Swallow. I dudded his Swallow project record. Haven't heard his
previous work with Konitz. This one makes use of an extant big
band from Portugal, Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos, which I've
previously on an album with Chris Cheek that I also disliked.
So I'm inclined not only to credit this to Konitz but to give
him extra credit for degree of difficulty. Or maybe I should
save it for another spin.
Ted Kooshian's Standard Orbit Quartet (2007 ,
Summit): Kooshian is a pianist, originall from California, since
1987 in New York. Plays in Ed Palermo's big band. Second album
under his own name. Standard Orbit Quartet includes Jeff Lederer
on saxophones/clarinets, Tom Hubbard on bass, Warren Doze on drums.
The standards include a few rock songs (Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog,"
the Police's "Message in a Bottle," Peter Babriel's "Don't Give Up")
and a bunch of TV and movie themes ("Top Cat," "Captain Kangaroo,"
"The Simpsons," "Batman," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Bullitt,"
"Spider Man," etc.). Plenty of opportunities for laughs, but they
play it pretty straight and come up with an exceptionally listenable
mainstream jazz album.
Piers Lawrence Quartet: Stolen Moments (2007 ,
JazzNet Media): Guitarist, born New York, raised San Francisco,
studied in Switzerland, now back in New York. First album. Quartet
is filled out with Chuk Fowler on piano, Jim Hankins on bass, Sir
Earl Grice on drums, all unknowns to me. Three originals, plus
covers from Sonny Rollins, Oliver Nelson, Charlie Parker, Sammy
Fain/Paul Francis, Jaco Pastorius. Lawrence has a nice sound on
elegant lines that work well with the piano. Very pleasant album.
B+(**) [Mar. 1]
Jerry Leake: Vibrance: Jazz Vibes & World Percussion
(2005-06 , Rhombus Publishing): Leake teaches percussion with
an insatiable desire to span the world, writes books about it, and
produces CDs that could function as textbooks. Although vibraphone
is front and center here, his credits include a couple dozen other
percussion objects from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The only
other players are Jonathan Dimond on electric bass and Lisa Leake
with a couple of rather odd vocals -- two Jobim songs in the first
semester ("Theme 1: jazz/latin & world percussion") and "My
Funny Valentine" in the second ("Theme 2: standard jazz"). The
extras tend to distract. Lots of everything here, but short on
focus. Leake has an interesting approach to vibes.
Joăo Lencastre's Communion: One! (2006 ,
Fresh Sound New Talent): Portuguese drummer, don't have much to
go on, but MySpace page lists "Jazz/Drum & Bass/Experimental."
His group here is a quintet with Phil Grenadier (trumpet), Bill
Carrothers (piano), André Matos (guitar), and Demian Cabaud
(bass). For a quintet this is a rather lean and mean group with
a very spare sound -- the trumpet is lean with no other horns
to harmonize, and Carrothers is an edgy pianist. Matos is also
Portuguese, although he lived in Boston for a few years, studying
at New England Conservatory.
Joăo Lencastre's Communion: One! (2006 ,
Fresh Sound New Talent): Recorded at the Hot Club de Portugal,
with a couple of well-known Americans -- trumpeter Phil Grenadier
and pianist Bill Carothers -- in the drummer's band. Covers from
Ornette Coleman, Freddie Hubbard, George Gershwin, and Bjork,
sandwiching group improvs. Postbop, a little slow and fussy for
my taste, but full of interesting little details.
Jamie Leonhart: The Truth About Suffering (2008,
Sunnyside): Singer-songwriter, sharing some/most credits with
pianist-husband Michael Leonhart. Born in New York, granddaughter
of a cantor. Debut album, not counting a self-released EP that
AMG lists first. Doesn't sound all that jazzy, but at least one
jazz vocal niche is pure marketing accident: a few club dates,
a jazz label, who knows? Sounds better when I listen closely,
and I can't say that I gave it a fair hearing. Not something
I'm much interested in.
David Liebman/Roberto Tarenzi/Paolo Benedettini/Tony Arco:
Dream of Nite (2005 , Verve): Never got a final
copy of this. I gather from the cover scan Liebman is David, not
Dave, like my copy of the credits says. Also looks like it was
originally released on EmArcy in Italy, then picked up by Verve
here, and came out last November. Recorded in Italy, live (I think),
with a local group, none of whom I recognize. Pianist Tarenzi wrote
two tunes; if drummer Arco is the same as A. Arcodia, he wrote one
also. Last two pieces are Liebman's, and they do one from M. Davis.
Benedettini plays double bass. The band is pretty sharp, especially
Tarenzi, and they keep Liebman on his postbop toes. For once, I
can't even complain about the soprano.
Little Annie & Paul Wallfisch: When Good Things
Happen to Bad Pianos (2007 , Dutro Jnana): Singer
with piano accompaniment, and sometimes a little more. Wallfisch
is the pianist, credited with "Steinway upright in a flooded
basement, synthesizers, guitars, bass and percussion." Cover
has photos of some pretty wrecked pianos. Wallfisch has a
tattered list of rock credits: Love and Rockets, Congo Norvell,
Firewater, Botanica, Gene Loves Jezebel, Sylvain Sylvain, Silos,
Thomas Truax, as well as a previous Little Annie album called
Songs From a Coalmine Canary. Little Annie is Annie
Bandez, aka Annie Anxiety, or some combination thereof (e.g.,
Little Annie Anxiety Bandez). She started out in front of a
group called Annie and the Asexuals. Don't know how old she
is, but she has a long list of solo recordings going back to
1981. Cracked, strained voice, sometimes passing for character,
sometimes falling into comedy, often depending on the song:
"It Was a Very Good Year," "Song for You," "Private Dancer,"
"One for My Baby," "Yesterday When I Was Young," "I Still
Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," etc. One original. I'm
amused, just not sure how far I'm willing to fall.
Little Annie & Paul Wallfisch: When Good Things Happen
to Bad Pianos (2007 , Durtro Jnana): The former leader
of Annie and the Asexuals, a/k/a Annie Anxiety or sometimes even
Annie Bandez. Rough, rockish voice, more attitude than art, but
that suffices, especially on songs that pay dividends in kitsch --
"Song for You," "Private Dancer," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm
Looking For," but also "Yesterday When I Was Young" and "It Was a
Very Good Year" and "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)."
Wallfisch plays piano. Doesn't live up to the destruction of the
cover photos. Probably just as well.
Charles Lloyd Quartet: Rabo de Nube (2007 ,
ECM): The young rhythm section -- Jason Moran on piano, Reuben
Rogers on double bass, Eric Harland on drums -- were born a good
decade into Lloyd's career, and are if anything more mainstream,
but no slouches when it comes to running a groove. The live date
in Basel is relatively conventional for Lloyd as well: Coltrane
tenor sax, a boppish alto flute feature, a little exotica on the
tarogato. All originals, except for the title cut from Silvio
Rodriguez, a nice chill down piece.
Rob Lockart: Parallel Lives (2006 , Origin):
Tenor saxophonist, based in Los Angeles. Looks like his first
album, although he has a couple dozen side credits going back
to 1989 -- mostly with folks I don't know, but Bob Sheppard
returns the favor for a one cut sax duet here, and Larry Koonse
drops in for another cut. Otherwise this is a quartet, with
Bill Cunliffe on piano, Jeff DiAngelo on bass, Joe La Barbera
on drums. They have a big, boisterous hard bop sound. It's fun
for a while, but ultimately not all that interesting.
The Joe Locke Quartet: Sticks and Strings (2007
, Jazz Eyes): No piano for once, actually a nice change of
pace. The strings are Jonathan Kreisberg's electric and acoustic
guitars and Jay Anderson's bass. The sticks would be drummer
Joe La Barbera and the vibraphonist. The mix is unusual, with
Kreisberg providing texture and Locke accents. (AMG compares
this to Gary Burton/Pat Metheny, which if memory serves isn't
right at all.)
The Joe Locke Quartet: Sticks and Strings
(2007, Jazz Eyes): Even handed: Locke's vibes and Joe
La Barbera's drums count as sticks; Jay Anderson's bass
and Jonathan Kreisberg's guitar provide the strings.
Kreisberg is very appealing here, both on acoustic and
electric, and the contrast to the vibes works nicely.
Lionel Loueke: Karibu (2007 , Blue Note):
Guitarist, born in Benin, moved to Côte d'Ivoire, then to Paris,
then to Boston (Berklee), then to California (Thelonious Monk
Institute of Jazz), now seems to be based in Bergen County, NJ.
He's appeared in quite a few credits since 2001, including some
relatively high profile ones -- Terence Blanchard, Charlie Haden
(Land of the Sun), Herbie Hancock (The River: The Joni
Letters). This is a trio with bassist Massimo Biolcati and
drummer Ferenc Nemeth -- mostly: he also picks up a pair of
distinguished guests, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, one
cut together, one more each. Mixed bag, especially when he
sings, but the closer "Nonvignon" is my favorite track here,
and he sings on it -- reminds me of pennywhistle jive.
Wendy Luck: See You in Rio (2006, Wendy Luck Music):
Singer, also plays flute. Third album. AMG classifies her as new age,
which indicates the flute came first. Sort of a wispy blonde voice,
attractive enough, unmannered and carefree on lightweight Brazilian
fare. One long quasi-classical flute feature, "Bachianas Brasilieras
No. 5" by Heitor Villa-Lobos, is neither here nore there.
Frank Macchia: Landscapes (2007 , Cacophony):
Saxophonist, from San Francisco, went to Berklee in 1976, returning
in 1981, currently residing in Burbank, where he's done orchestration
on 30-40 films (first three on list: Superman Returns, 300,
The Bee Movie). Created a series of "horror stories with music"
called Little Evil Things. Has a pile of records since he
started releasing them himself. This is his second to feature the
Prague Orchestra. Several old chestnuts, many by Trad., sentimental
and/or corny, wrap around his six-part original "Landscapes Suite --
for Saxophone & Orchestra." Nice tone on the sax. Can't say
anything nice about the Prague Orchestra.
Raymond MacDonald/Günter "Baby" Sommer: Delphinius & Lyra
(2005 , Clean Feed): MacDonald is a alto/soprano saxophonist from
Scotland. Has a group called the Burt-MacDonald Quintet ("one of the most
adventurous jazz groups in Scotland"; Burt is guitarist George), and plays
in the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, a/k/a GIO. MacDonald is pretty obscure,
but Sommer has been one of the main drummers of Europe's avant-garde over
the last three decades, despite spending much of that time in the GDR. His
own discography is thin, but includes a number of notable duos, especially
with Cecil Taylor and Irčne Schweizer. He brings a lot to this duo, even
when the main thing you hear is MacDonald's piercing squall. One section
erupts in shouts. These guys are having a blast.
Raymond MacDonald/Günter Baby Sommer: Delphinius &
Lyra (2005 , Clean Feed): Duo, free saxophone
(mostly alto, some soprano) over drums. MacDonald is little
known but worth following if you're into this sort of thing.
Sommer is a veteran avant-gardist, his discography including
previous duos with Cecil Taylor and Irčne Schweizer -- a good
partner for this sort of thing.
Robert MacGregor: Refraction of Light (2006 ,
Black Tri): Young (b. 1983) tenor saxophonist, from Los Angeles,
part Chinese, studied at Manhattan School of Music under Steve
Slagle and Dick Oatts. In a quartet here with folks I don't know,
with trumpet and flute added for one song. I didn't expect much,
but he's got a distinct sound, and maneuvers easily around tricky
postbop. Pianist Miro Sprague holds his own as well.
[B+(**)] [Aug. 1]
Robert MacGregor: Refraction of Light (2006
, Black Tri): Young tenor saxophonist with a distinctive
sound and plenty of chops, leading a young postbop group with
a pretty good pianist named Miro Sprague.
Machan: Motion of Love (2007, Nu Groove): Singer,
plays guitar, writes her own songs. As far as I can tell -- numerous
expletives about Flash, MySpace, etc. deleted -- she comes from
Japanese parents, grew up in the US, and, well, hell if I know.
Says somewhere she was inspired by Joni Mitchell and James Taylor;
she's appeared with Pink Floyd and George Benson, and toured with
Sting (presumably as a backup singer). Second album. Some jazz
players on board here, such as John Scofield, Randy Brecker, John
Medeski, Nanny Assis. Sounds like a pop record to me, but with a
cool breezy groove.
Sean Malone: Cortlandt (1996 , Free Electric
Sound): Malone plays fretless bass and stick (aka Chapman Stick,
a fretboard with 8-12 strings combining bass and guitar ranges with
a few other tricks), and contributes programming to most cuts. He's
appeared in the groups Cynic and Gordian Knot. Minor fusion pieces,
most with extra guitar and drums; originals plus a few others, like
one by Bach and another from Coltrane.
Manhattan New Music Project: Performs Paul Nash: Jazz
Cycles (2004 , MNNP): Two Paul Nash entries in
Wikipedia, neither right in this case. This Paul Nash is a
composer, educator, jazz guitarist, born 1948, died 2005. He
founded the 10-piece Paul Nash Ensemble in 1977. After some
time in Bay Area, he returned to New York in 1990 and founded
the Manhattan New Music Projec, which survives him. Seven
piece postbop group with some names: trumpet (Shane Endsley),
saxes (Bruce Williamson and Tim Ries), piano (Jim Ridl),
guitar (Vic Juris), bass (Jay Anderson), drums (Grisha
Alexiev). Suite-type material. The horns are pretty sharp,
and the rhythm section moves gracefully.
Chuck Manning: Notes From the Real (2005-06 ,
TCB): Tenor saxophonist, born 1958, based in Los Angeles, first
album under his own name, but has a 1991 record listed under
Ecklinger/Manning Quintet, at least three with Los Angeles Jazz
Quartet, and various side credits, especially with James Carney,
Elliott Caine, Bil Cunliffe, and Darek Oleskiewicz. I'm sure
I've heard him along the way. He has a huge sound, sort of a
throwback to guys who would just bowl you over, like Illinois
Jacquet. Quartet here: Jim Szilagyi on piano, Isla Eckinger (of
his early quintet) on bass, Tim Pleasant on drums. Straightforward,
perhaps to a fault, but I wouldn't complain much.
Keith Marks: Foreign Funk (2006 , Markei):
Reported to be "a 35 year veteran of the entertainment business,"
but this looks like the first album under his name. AMG has some
very scattered credits: Beaver Harris, Jerry Goodman, Tommy Shaw,
Wishbone Ash, Styx. Harris is pretty obscure these days, but he
was a drummer with a pan-African orientation working on the avant
fringes, leading a group called The 360 Degree Music Experience.
Someone could make something out of that. As for the others, I
guess money's green. Marks plays flute. He gets a nice airy sound
out of it, and it's not really the problem, although it is kind
of limited. The problem is the songs, which pace the title cut,
are neither foreign (world would be more politically correct, and
for once smarter to boot) nor funky: low points include "Mission
Impossible," "Eleanor Rigby," and that old Seals & Croft
barfer, "Summer Breeze."
B- [Apr. 1]
Thomas Marriott: Crazy: The Music of Willie Nelson
(2006 , Origin): From Seattle, plays trumpet and flugelhorn,
has 3 albums since 2005 (not counting his Xmas album, The Cool
Season). Quintet with Mark Taylor on sax, Ryan Burns on Moog
or Fender Rhodes, Geoff Harper on bass, Matt Jorgensen on drums.
The process is similar to what Jewels & Binoculars has done
with Bob Dylan, but the extra horn and keyboards generate a lot
of excess filigree, complicating the melodies and camouflaging
the improvisation. "Crazy" itself, of course, is indelible enough
to hold up, and there are other sweet spots.
Virginia Mayhew Septet: A Simple Thank You (2007
, Renma): Saxophonist, plays tenor and soprano here. b. 1959
San Francisco, based in New York since 1987. Sixth album. Might
as well think of the Septet as a small big band: the hornplay,
with two brass and two reeds, is constant and complex; the rhythm
of guitar, bass and drums is inconspicuous but capable of pushing
the horns hard. Best thing here is the closer, "Sandan Shuffle,"
for just that reason. Didn't much care for the intricate postbop
until then, but going back I find more hot spots, including a
Fergus McCormick: I Don't Need You Now (2008,
CDBaby): I used to get a couple of country albums per month,
mostly alt/obscure stuff, good for a couple of A-list albums
per year, including some things hardly anyone else noticed.
Sometimes I think that if Christgau had asked me to do a
Country Consumer Guide instead of a Jazz Consumer Guide, I'd
have been just as happy, and in the long run it'd have been
a lot less work. As it is, the jazz has been crowding out
everything else, and now I'm down to, well, this may be the
only country-ish album I've gotten this year. It doesn't
belong here, but I don't have anywhere else to put it either.
Singer-songwriter, based in New York; Wikipedia describes him
as British-American, but he grew up in Flemington NJ, played
in Princeton, went to college at Reed in Portland OR, toured
from Colorado to Maine, the north of England to east Africa
and Rio de Janeiro. Third album. No evidence that he spent
any time trying to come up with a label name. Guitar-centered,
easy strum, although there's piano, bass, drums, strings even.
Soft tone to his voice, some topical songs including one for
New Orleans, and smart personal stuff.
The Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra: First Flight
(2006 , Summit): Trombonist, born 1963, based in New York
since 1986, most of his credits are with big bands, starting with
DMP Big Band's Glenn Miller Project, with Maria Schneider's
Concert in the Garden and Mike Holober's Thought Trains
among the highlights. Hype sheet also connects him to the Lionel
Hampton Band, the Woody Herman Orchestra, and the Jimmy Heath Big
Band. John Fedchock wrote his liner notes, and he's got a half
dozen or so New York musicians I recognize in the band, including
pianist Holober. Pretty slick as these big bands go. McGuinness
also sings on two cuts, including a run of scat.
Marian McPartland: Twilight World (2007 ,
Concord Jazz): A piano trio, with Gary Mazzaroppi on bass and
Glenn Davis on drums -- not names I recognize, and not all that
important here. A hard record for me to judge, not just because
I rarely have much to say about piano trios, but also because
this is so straight mainstream it's hard to discern anything
that signifies this is jazz -- except her erudition and fine
sense of musicality.
Eric McPherson: Continuum (2007 , Smalls):
Drummer. First album, but has an impressive list of credits
starting around 1990. Studied with Jackie McLean, and has some
sort of relationship to Max Roach (M'Boom). Other credits
include: Jesse Davis, Abraham Burton, Myron Walden, Avishai
Cohen, Steve Lehman, Jeremy Pelt, Luis Perdomo, Andrew Hill,
Steve Davis, Jason Lindner, Charnett Moffett. Burton was the
name that caught my eye. An alto saxophonist with roots in
Belize, he cut two of the best albums of the 1990s (on Enja,
look for 1995's The Magician) but has scarcely been
heard from since. He appears here, playing tenor and soprano
as well as alto, plus a bit of flute, and he's rivetting on
all but the flute. Relatively short at 39:39, cut over three
sessions with two bassists and occasional guests, this is a
little scattered, but the pieces are interesting in their
own right. Carla Cherry does a spoken word piece over drums
and Trevor Todd's yirdaki (Australian instrument, may or may
not be same as didgeridoo). One cut subs Shimrit Shoshan's
Fender Rhodes for David Bryant's piano. But mostly, hope to
hear more from Burton.
José Alberto Medina/JAM Trio: In My Mind (2007,
Fresh Sound New Talent): Medina is a pianist, originally from
the Canary Islands, now in Barcelona. JAM is presumably just
his initials. A previous album, First Portrait, with
the same credit used different players at bass and drums. This
time they are Paco Weht and Mariano Steimberg. Don't know either
of them, but Steimberg has a MySpace page, says he's based in
Barcelona, influenced by Miles Davis and Squarepusher, credits
include programming as well as drums. One song here has a vocal
by Oscar Aresi. Medina has a light touch and lovely tone, and
this works nicely within the piano trio format.
Brad Mehldau Trio: Live (2006 , Nonesuch,
2CD): I thought I might use the last week of the cycle to stream
some records I never got -- the paranoid idea being that I might
pounce on one or two for my Duds list. But to stream them, I have
first to think of them, and this was the first that popped into
my mind. I haven't gotten any of Mehldau's releases since Jazz
CG started, although the publicist has been more/less supportive
in general. (Bill Frisell's records have also been hard to come
by, but they send me the Black Keys, so what can I say?) In some
ways it's just as well. With few exceptions, Mehldau works trio
or solo, and I often have trouble there. Mehldau is probably the
biggest star to come out of the Fresh Sound New Talent series,
and he made a tremendous splash when Introducing Brad Mehldau
came out on Warner Bros. I concurred, but the following five Art
of the Trio volumes left me increasingly speechless -- I think
Vol. 5 is still unplayed (at least unrated) somewhere on a
shelf here, and that's the last I have. I don't doubt that he is one
of the major jazz pianists of the age, but he's so unidiosyncratic
he's hard to characterize, and so consistent he's hard to sort.
Larry Grenadier has been his bassist since 1995. Jeff Ballard plays
drums, replacing Jorge Rossy sometime between 2002 and 2005. They
take 12 songs deep here, the shortest the opener at 8:44, longest
"Black Hole Sun" at 23:30, most in the 10-15 minute range. I got
the most mileage out of "The Very Thought of You," no doubt because
it was the most familiar song. Too long to digest, so pleasant and
thoughtful and moderate it folds readily into the background. No
doubt the sound is better on disc. Grades on streamed records are
necessarily swags, but will hold for now. At some point I have
some catching up to do with Mehldau.
Giacomo Merega/David Tronzo/Noah Kaplan: The Light and Other
Things (2006 , Creative Nation Music): Merega plays
electric bass, came from Genoa in Italy to Boston and on to Brooklyn.
Tronzo is a guitarist, originally from Rochester. He's almost invariably
described as a legend. I've heard very little by him, and have come
to no firm conclusions. Kaplan also came to Brooklyn via Boston, with
California his starting point. He plays tenor and soprano sax. Both
Merega and Tronzo are credited prepared as well as unadulterated
instruments. They produce grungy, abstract string sounds. Kaplan
can either riff over them or try to blend in. It's the sort of thing
we used to think might be really interesting if we had really good
drugs. I don't, but I'm moderately amused nonetheless.
Pat Metheny: Day Trip (2005 , Nonesuch):
Guitarist, from the Kansas City suburbs, cut his first record in
1975, has worked steady ever since, about as big a star as any
jazz guitarist can be. (Don't have any sales figures, so that's
just a guess.) I've never been much of a jazz guitar fan, and
I've paid him especially scant attention over the years -- just
6 records in my database, including the great Ornette Coleman
vehicle Song X and a bunch of stuff I didn't care for,
most of which can be blamed on Lyle Mays' cheezy keybs. No Mays
here: just Christian McBride on bass, Antonio Sanchez on drums,
giving this a lean sound, reminiscent of Metheny's Charlie Haden
duo, Beyond the Missouri Sky. The clarity is certainly
welcome, although I'm still on terra incognita.
Pat Metheny: Day Trip (2005 , Nonesuch):
The bad news is that Metheny's got not just his own face but
his whole trio on the April 2008 cover of Downbeat.
Early on in Jazz CG history I noticed that there was a strong
correlation between my duds list and Downbeat's cover.
Incidentally, it's usually been the case that I had nailed the
records before the Downbeat covers appeared, although
with Jazz CG's notorious lag time it may have looked otherwise.
I've never been a Metheny fan -- never been much of a guitar
fan, although I can point to exceptions -- and he certainly
qualifies as big enough to fail. On the other hand, when I put
this on this morning I figured it for an Honorable Mention,
not a Dud. Four plays later it's Neither. I like the simple
framework Christian McBride and Antonio Sanchez provide, and
the small figure guitar lines, but I can't get excited about
Hendrik Meurkens: Sambatropolis (2007 , Zoho):
Parents were Dutch, but he was born in Hamburg, Germany. Studied at
Berklee, became fascinated with Brazilian music in early 1980s, and
has played little else since. Started on vibraphone, but that's
become his second instrument now (5 of 11 tracks), behind harmonica.
Has 17 albums since 1990, the new title a neat bookend to his first,
either Sambahia (according to AMG) or Sambaimportado
(his website). They seem to be averaging out. While he brings a new
instrument to Brazilian music, he winds up just folding it into the
signature light beat and lazy melodies.
Miles . . . From India: A Celebration of the Music of
Miles Davis (2007 , Times Square/4Q, 2CD): Can't
find the paperwork on this one either. I finally surmised that
this is an advance copy, but it came in a jewel case with enough
of a booklet to sort out the rudiments. Album concept: Yusuf
Gandhi and Bob Belden. Arranged by: Bob Belden and Louiz Banks.
Produced by: Bob Belden. I filed it under Belden, but he doesn't
play on it. The songs are by Miles Davis, excepting the title
track by John McLaughlin (who evidently produced it independent
of Belden). I count 35 musicians, none on all tracks. Some Davis
alumni pop up: Ron Carter, Chick Corea, Gary Bartz, Dave Liebman,
Michael Henderson, Marcus Miller, McLaughlin, Pete Cosey, Mike
Stern, Jimmy Cobb. Also a bunch of Indian musicians: Badal Roy
(tabla), U. Srinivas (mandolin), and Rudresh Mahanthappa (alto
sax) among the few that I recognize. Wallace Roney plays some
trumpet. Looks like at least some of the group will be touring,
at least to New York and San Francisco. The fusion has many
appealing moments, with Kala Ramnath's violin most effective
at extending and relocating the melodies. Don't much care for
the scattered vocals.
[B+(**)] [advance: Apr. 15]
Marcus Miller: Marcus (2008, Concord Jazz):
Two cuts in (called "Blast" and "Funk Joint") I wondered whether
his minimalist bass fuzz would sustain interest at album length.
Three cuts I got a negative answer, in the form of vocalist Corrine
Bailey. I could have gone longer, but he didn't. Fourth cut fuzzed
up Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground." Fifth cut guest slots Keb' Mo':
'nuff said. More fuzz, especially on pieces he was inspired to
call "Pluck" and "Strum." More guests. "When I Fall in Love" is
semi-amusing; "What Is Hip?" isn't. Closes with a second take of
"Lost Without U" with Lalah Hathaway singing, an improbable and
mostly fuzzless choice cut.
Yoko Miwa Trio: Canopy of Stars (2004 , P.J.L):
Pianist, from Japan, based in Boston since 1996, has a couple of
previous albums. Her website quotes what I wrote about her 2004
album Fadeless Flower: "Young mainstream piano trio aim
for clean sound, delicate balance, inconspicuous beauty." Trio
this time includes Massimo Biolcati on bass, Scott Goulding on
drums (repeating from last time). Not much more to add other than
that she mixes it up a bit more, including a tango and a waltz.
Fabio Morgera: Need for Peace (2007, Smalls):
Trumpeter, b. 1963 in Naples Italy, moved to Los Angeles in
1985 and on to New York in 1990. Has 7 or more albums under his
own name, plus a parallel track since 1990 working with acid
jazz group Groove Collective. The key fact here is that half
of the 16 songs have vocals, but they are sung by four different
singers (Morgera taking one song), none all that distinctive or
attractive. The other half are instrumentals, although they are
not staged much differently, with smokey cocktail bar piano and
Morgera's deftly phrased, eloquent trumpet. I'd like to hear a
more instrumental album, or a better singer.
Dave Mullen and Butta: Mahoney's Way (2006, Roberts
Music Group): You must know by now that I hate Flash websites, but
Mullen's is annoying enough to spur me into reiterating the obvious.
Mullen is a saxophonist. Don't know where he comes from or when, but
he's spent time in Boston and New York, and he's one of the hundreds
or maybe thousands who have studied with George Garzone. Claims he
was inspired by his father's record collection, accumulated as a DJ
in the '50s/'60s, with honking sax the standout trait. He means to
update that, with synth beats, guitar (including Nile Rodgers on one
track, Marc Ribot on three), raps, and a chorus of True Worship
Ministries Singers (three tracks). I'm not sure that any of that
works, but I got up in a real foul mood this morning, heard most
of it under that haze, and need to move on. Two cuts where he kicks
back and plays sax ballads are quite nice. Don't know about the one
called "For Rashaan" -- there's a picture of Mullen playing soprano
and tenor at the same time so most likely he is thinking of Kirk,
but is the typo deliberate or just sloppy? AMG likens him to Kirk
Whallum, but I suspect he has a more determined vision -- could
even be an American Courtney Pine, a concept I'll have to put off
[B] [Oct. 1]
Dave Mullen and Butta: Mahoney's Way (2006 ,
Roberts Music Group): I'm not sure that Mullen won't wind up
smothered in smooth jazz jam -- his credits include keys and
sequencing, drum programming, vocals, flute and trumpet, as
well as his lead tenor sax and kiss-of-death soprano, which
position him well for the slick side. Still, he opens with a
slice of R&B honk called "Flip It," then introduces his
title cut with a rap. When he reaches for a soul cover, he
picks Stevie Wonder's "As," then turns it over to Nile Rodgers
for a hardcore funk beat, and roasts the True Worship Ministries
Singers with his tenor sax, lest they get too Godly on him.
His originals have overreaching messages (e.g., his "Prayer
for Our Times") and one called "Lost Souls" breaks into a
chorus chant of "a love supreme." His other cover is a nice
sax ballad of "Bewitched" -- a soft landing at the end. The
synthesis strikes me as over his head, but for now at least
his head's in the game.
Alfredo Naranjo: Y El Guajeo (2006 ,
Cacao Musica): One of five releases from this Venezuelan label,
featuring fancy packages which fold out to reveal a lengthy
spiral-bound booklet in English and Spanish and a poorly glued
sleeve to hold the disc. Naranjo plays vibraphone, xylophone,
and piano. He leads a large group supplemented by guests like
Jimmy Bosch on trombone. Latin jazz, sound pretty average to
me, with those tricky shifts and stops that throw us gringos
pretty badly. Big beat, but the vocals get tedious.
Zaid Nasser: Escape From New York (2007, Smalls):
Alto saxophonist, on his first album, but evidently he's played
around Smalls for quite a while. Father is bassist Jamil Nasser
(né George Joyner), who played with BB King and numerous beboppers
from the 1950s forward. The father provides the context for Zaid
working with such old timers as Bill Doggett and Panama Francis,
although I have to wonder about: "As a young saxophonist, he often
spent his days with Papa Jo Jones, getting lessons in jazz and
life from Father Time himself." Very young, I figure -- Jones died
in 1985, when Nasser was unlikely to be more than 17. In any case,
Nasser's references are bebop, which he plays with a freshness and
eloquence that was rare in its heyday. The quartet, with Sacha Perry
on piano, Ari Roland on bass, and Phil Stewart on drums, is more
conventional, setting a pace that keeps things interesting.
Zaid Nasser: Escape From New York (2007, Smalls):
An alto saxophonist who not risks sounding like Charlie Parker
and winds up showing how it should be done. He taps Ellington
for two tunes, wails through "Chinatown My Chinatown," plucks
a barnburner from oldtime bebop pianist George Wallington,
strings them together with a couple of originals, including
one from pianist Sacha Perry. Not a tribute. More like 55th
Street is back in business.
Nanette Natal: I Must Be Dreaming (2005-07 ,
Benyo Music): Jazz singer, with a dark, smoky voice, and deft feel
for the beat. Bio says her career started in 1962 singing classical,
then moved through blues and rock -- AMG gives two stars to a 1971
recording on Evolution called The Beginning -- before settling
into the jazz lofts. Launched her own label in 1980, releasing an
album every few years since -- I've counted 8, with 6 in print, but
have only heard 2004's It's Only a Tune. This one has politics,
and could use a lyric sheet -- "here living's hard if it doesn't come
easy" and "the jails are filled to capacity/in the land of the brave
and the free" are two lines I jotted down. Next time around I'll
probably find more.
Nanette Natal: I Must Be Dreaming (2005-07 ,
Benyo Music): A jazz singer-songwriter who's remained obscure for
decades reinvents herself as the new Odetta, as straightforward
as any basic blues singer: "tv news makes my blood boil/the mission
was to grab the oil"; "the jails are filled to capacity/in the land
of the brave and the free"; "a city dies before our eyes/the bursted
levees, the broken lies." The line about dreaming is her stab at
irony: it's no dream when "living's hard when it doesn't come easy."
Josh Nelson: Let It Go (2007, Native Language):
Young (28?) pianist, born in Long Beach, attended Berklee, now
based in Los Angeles. Cites Bill Cunliffe and Alan Pasqua as
mentors. Looks like his second album, after Anticipation
(2004). Seems to me that the label specializes in pop-jazz --
I don't normally get their records -- but this is thoughtful,
smartly composed and arranged postbop. (Nelson's lists Rhodes
and Hammond C3 among his credits, but acoustic piano dominates.)
Much of the credit goes to a first-rate band: Seamus Blake on
tenor sax, Anthony Wilson on guitar, Derek Oleskiewicz on bass,
Matt Wilson on drums. Two cuts add a string quartet -- one also
pitching singer Sara Gazarek. She's unnecessary here, but not
unfortunate. (Evidently Nelson also runs a promo company, and
she's a client, as well as a label-mate.)
Josh Nelson: Let It Go (2007, Native Language):
Pianist, works in some electric keyboards, but mostly stays
acoustic when the Seamus Blake plays tenor sax, getting a
little sharper contrast that way. The first-rate band also
includes Anthony Wilson on guitar, Derek Oleskiewicz on bass,
and Matt Wilson on drums. Serious talent, impressive work,
leans toward the side of postbop I find more artful than
Jovino Santos Neto: Alma do Nordeste (Soul of the
Northeast) (2008, Adventure Music): Pianist, also plays
melodica (2 cuts) and flute (1 cut). Born 1954, Rio de Janeiro,
studied in Montreal, lives in US now. I picked this out of order
after seeing him write about the Felipe Salles record, which he
wasn't otherwise involved with. Compared to Salles, this seems
to be the real Brazilian Nordeste, with its tumbling profusion
of rhythm, guitar, accordion, and flutes. Neto ties it together
with piano. I prefer Salles' record because the sax pulls it
back into a recognizable jazz context. Three cuts with tenor
sax here, three more with soprano, are barely recognizable.
David "Fathead" Newman: Diamondhead (2007, High Note):
Pretty good band here, with Peter Washington on bass, Yoron Israel
on drums, Cedar Walton on piano, and Curtis Fuller smearing some noise
on trombone. Fathead, however, sounds thin and wasted, and spends much
too much time on flute.
Russ Nolan & the Kenny Werner Trio: With You in Mind
(2007 , Rhinoceruss Music): Saxophonist, originally from Chicago
suburbs, in New York since 2002, another alumnus of the University of
North Texas. (Wikipedia reports that UNT, north of Dallas in Denton, has
the largest music school in the country, and was the first university
to offer a Jazz Studies degree, back in 1947. Hype sheet refers to North
Texas State University, which is what UNT was called before 1989. Don't
have any timeline for Nolan before 2002, but he could have gone there
before 1989.) Second album; the first, Two Colors, with pianist
Sam Barsh, who moves over to producer here. Werner provides a pretty
sophisticated postbop operating platform, setting up Nolan for some
fancy runs. After four plays, I'm more impressed than enamored; hard
pressed to find fault, anxious to move on.
NYNDK: Nordic Disruption (2007 , Jazzheads):
Group name stands for: NY (New York: trombonist Chris Washburne),
N (Norway: saxophonist Ole Mathisen and bassist Per Mathisen), DK
(Denmark: pianist Soren Moller). Also on this record "special guest"
drummer Scott Neumann. Second group album, the first with guests
Tony Moreno on drums and Ray Vega on trumpet. Postbop, a little
harder and more aggressive with the horns than usual -- trombone
Mark O'Leary: On the Shore (2003 , Clean
Feed): Irish guitarist, based in New York. Has a half-dozen albums
since 2000 on Leo, mostly well regarded, some with interesting
names (Tomasz Stanko, Matthew Shipp, Mat Maneri, Uri Caine, Cuong
Vu, Tom Rainey), none that I've heard. This one looks to have been
on the shelf for a while. It was recorded in California with
percussionist Alex Cline and a couple of trumpets. Hard to get
a handle on it: mostly atmospheric, but not so consistently so
that you can be sure of his intent. One note says this was
influenced by Arvo Part, but also by Edward Vesala. Don't know
what to make of that either.
Mark O'Leary: On the Shore (2007, Clean Feed):
Avant guitarist, has a lot of work out lately, and I'm way behind
the learning curve. This one was evidently influenced by Arvo
Part, mostly atmospheric trending towards ethereal, sometimes
with a couple of trumpets, mostly shading, occasionally to pick
up the pace and thicken the mix -- indeed, it all comes together
in a choice cut called "Point Mix." He remains a future project.
Out to Lunch: Excuse Me While I Do the Boogaloo
(2007, Accurate): Gratuitous AMG slam du jour: they label this
group/record country. The hype sheet references Medeski Martin
& Wood, Groove Collective, Club D'Elf, and others, summing
up: "James Brown soul to dub influenced reggae, from jazz to
house." I guess "acid jazz" doesn't buy you much these days.
Actually, I find them a little soft and wobbly for any of those
comparisons. The leader is Brooklyn saxophonist David Levy, who
hails from Canada and passed through New England Conservatory.
Levy's credit list here starts with bass clarinet and clarinet,
which has something to do with the soft touch. Josiah Woodson
plays trumpet and flute; Petr Cancura tenor/soprano sax and
clarinet; Eric Lane keybs; two bassist alternate, and there
are drums and electronics. Debut album, although AMG lists one
from 2003 that probably doesn't belong here.
The Paislies (2005 , Fresh Sound New Talent):
New York group, six members: Samir Zarif (soprano and tenor sax),
Jesse Lewis (guitar), Eliot Cardinaux (nord electro 2 and organ),
Miro Sprague (piano), Perry Wortman (bass), Paul Wiltgen (drums).
Of these, only Sprague rings a faint bell -- has a couple of
albums, but I haven't heard them. Sprague's website describes
the Paislies as a cooperative group. Don't see any song credits
to indicate otherwise. I'm fond of collectivism in politics and
business, but one thing I'm attracted to in jazz is a strong
sense of individuality. That's often a problem with larger
groups, especially without a strong leader, and I don't hear
anyone standing out here. Postbop, soft tones, not a lot of
beat, the dual keyboards a bit unusual. Young guys as far as
I can tell. Zarif comes from Houston via New Orleans. Lewis is
from Boston via New Orleans. Cardinaux has a MySpace page with
nothing on it. Sprague has trio and quintet albums, but not
much of a biography. Wortman grew up in Tulsa and gigged in
OKC. Wiltgen comes from Luxembourg, has his own group, is into
Baha'i. Some (or maybe all) of them intersected at Manhattan
School of Music. Most have MySpace pages, which I mostly ignore
because they're mostly useless, but musicians like them because
they can forcefeed you music -- annoying when you're trying to
listen to something else. Group has a Flash page: flashier than
average, but also not much help. Some of these guys may turn
out to be good, but it's pretty early to tell.
Mitch Paliga: Fall Night (2006 , Origin):
Originally from Montana, based in or near Chicago since 1990,
teaches at North Central College in Naperville, IL. Plays soprano
sax, leading a quintet with an interesting postbop mix: Jo Ann
Daugherty (Fender Rhodes, accordion), John McLean (guitar),
Patrick Williams (acoustic bass), Ryan Bennett (drums). Bright
and lively, doesn't get caught up in overly fancy harmonics.
Maceo Parker: Roots & Grooves (2007 ,
Heads Up, 2CD): An alto saxophonist, Parker has played on dozens
of great albums, but he's never put his name on one before. He
joined James Brown in 1964, then moved on to George Clinton in
1975 and back to Brown in 1984. Both leaders spun off instrumental
albums, first as the J.B.'s, then as the Horny Horns. Since 1989
Parker has recorded a dozen albums, mostly underachieving the
modest goals announced in their titles: Roots Revisited,
Mo' Roots, Life on Planet Groove, Funk Overload,
etc. This looked like another, until I popped it in and it blasted
off into "Hallelujah I Love Her So." First disc is titled "Tribute
to Ray Charles," and works through "Busted," "Hit the Road Jack,"
a few more, climaxing with "What'd I Say." Parker sings a few --
he's more Cleanhead Vinson than Ray Charles, but that works for
me. Parker doesn't have the direct connection that Fathead Newman
has, but he started out when Charles was laying the foundation his
whole career was built on. Second disc is called "Back to Funk":
five originals and "Pass the Peas" from J.B.'s days. It's less
obvious and every bit as exciting. The secret in both cases is
the band. Directed by Michael Abene, the WDR Big Band Köln will
play anything with anyone -- their purpose, after all, is to
crank out radio shots with visiting dignitaries -- and they've
never amounted to much, but they have a ball here. Maybe it's
too easy: Charles ran a big band himself, and scaling Parker's
grooves up to J.B.-size is as obvious as it is fun. Parker
gloats in the dęjŕ vu. With Charles and Brown gone, he's just
the guy to honor them. [Note: Don't know when this was recorded.
Album appears to have been released in Europe in 2007, and
reissued in US by Heads Up, which has been picking up quite
a bit of WDR Big Band material.]
Kat Parra: Azucar de Amor (2008, Patois): Singer,
from California, currently somewhere in the Bay Area. Does a mixed
bag of Latin music, sambas and mambos, Afro-Cuban and Afro-Peruvian,
charangas and danzóns, salsa, with a special interest in Sephardic
whatever -- she sings in Ladino, as well as Spanish, Portuguese,
French, and (not on her list, but I guess this is a given) English.
Second album. It's easier to nitpick the English and/or the slow
ones -- she does "Misty" as a bolero but it still sounds like a
pretty ordinary "Misty" to me. Her "mystic Sephardic ballad" is
appropriately dreamy, something called "Esta Montanya D'Enfrente."
Alan Pasqua, Dave Carpenter & Peter Erskine Trio:
Standards (2007, Fuzzy Music): Back cover says: "It's
high time this trio recorded an album of standards." Not sure how
far back the trio goes -- I have a 2-CD set, Live at Rocco,
from 1999 filed under Erskine's name, a pretty good showing as far
as my attention span could ascertain. Where most standards albums
rise and fall according to the contours of their sources, the
interplay is so subtle and minimal here the songs just dissolve
into the aether, occasionally emerging as recognizable wisps.
The Michael Pedicin Quintet: Everything Starts Now . . .
(2007 , Jazz Hut): A/k/a Michael Pedicin Jr. Born 1945,
plays tenor sax. Father was a musician, but he don't have any
details, other than Jr. saying that father introduced him to
Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, etc. Most likely the father
recorded as Mike Pedicin (b. 1917, Philadelphia, band leader,
played alto sax): Bear Family has a 1955-57 collection by Mike
Pedicin Quintet called Jive Medicin -- AMG likens it
to Bill Haley. Jr. has several albums out since 1980. Lives
in NJ now, but this one was recorded in Philadelphia, with
Johnnie Valentino on guitar, Mick Rossi on piano, Chris
Colangelo on bass, Michael Sarin on drums: a strong group
that carries the album -- Valentino and Rossi have albums
I've recommended in the past -- setting up the saxophonist.
Sacha Perry: The Third Time Around (2007 ,
Smalls): Pianist, from Brooklyn, b. 1970, third album as a leader,
plus side credits with other "Smalls scene" artists, especially
Chris Byars and Ari Roland. Standard bop piano trio, with Roland
on bass, Phil Stewart on drums. Nicely done, but doesn't leave
me with a lot to say.
The Puppini Sisters: The Rise & Fall of Ruby Woo
(2008, Verve): Vocal group, modelled on the Andrews Sisters, led by
Marcella, last name Puppini. Her "sisters" are likely ringers, one
named Kate Mullins, the other Stephanie O'Brien. Their previous album,
Betcha Bottom Dollar, hewed more closely to the concept. Here
they try to move on, you know, advance artistically. Puppini writes
three songs, Mullins one. "Jilted" would be more than adequate filler
if their covers held up better, but they range from "Old Cape Cod" to
"Walk Like an Egyptian," stumbling badly on "Spooky" and "Could It Be
Magic" -- not for Barry Manilow, not here either.
Jose Luis "Changuito" Quintana: Telegrafía Sin Hilo
(2005 , Cacao Musica): Cuban, b. 1948, plays timbale, best
known for his work in Los Van Van, probably ranks as one of the
major percussionists in Cuban music from 1970. This was recorded
in Caracas. It looks like the majority of musicians were Cuban,
including numerous percussionists on bata drums, bongo, congas,
and many others. Most cuts have vocals -- various singers, no
complaints on my part. Fine example of contemporary Cuban pop
with some jazz cred.
Sun Ra: The Night of the Purple Moon (1964-70
, Atavistic Unheard Music Series): Obscure even by Sun Ra
standards, a quartet session from 1970, given a catalog number
for a 1972 ABC-Impulse! release but appeared only on Ra's Saturn
label, now augmented by Wurlitzer and Celeste solos from 1964.
Ra plays various electric keyboards, including one Ra calls a
roksichord (RMI's Rocksichord). Two horns -- Danny Davis on alto
sax, alto clarinet, and flute; John Gilmore on tenor sax -- but
both players spend most of their time rotating on percussion,
offsetting the goofball keyboards. The fourth is Stafford James
on electric bass. The horns go straight for the jugular -- wish
there was more of them, to put some meat on the minimalism. But
the keyb vibe is pretty unique.
Sun Ra: Some Blues but Not the Kind That's Blue
(1973-77 , Atavistic): A 6-track LP recorded in 1977,
released on Saturn in 1978, plus an extra "Untitled" cut from
the same session, plus two 1973 takes of "I'll Get By" done
as trios (one with John Gilmore on tenor sax, the other with
Akh Tal Ebah on flugelhorn). The 1977 sessions were cut with
10 musicians -- John Corbett describes this as a small group,
but it's not much below Arkestra weight. Mostly covers, such
as "My Favorite Things" and "Black Magic." I don't know Sun Ra
well enough to have a good sense of how his discography fits
together -- that may seem overly modest given that I have 30
of his albums in my ratings database -- so my rule of thumb
is to lay back and see how pleasantly surprised I become. By
that standard, this one fares pretty well. The familiar songs
go off in curious directions. The horns cut grease, but this
isn't really that much of a horn album. That's mostly because
the tunes keep returning to the piano (or organ on the 1973
tracks), and Ra's mix of stride, bebop, and something from
the outer reaches of the galaxy is pretty amazing.
Deepak Ram: Steps (2008, Golden Horn): Born in
South Africa; plays bansuri, a long Indian flute, which he studied
under Pandip Hariprasad Chaurasia, a name I recognize despite my
general ignorance of Indian classical music. Ram has half a dozen
albums since 1999, presumably more conventionally Indian and/or
inflected by his South African experience -- e.g., he shows up on
The Rough Guide to South African Jazz. This, however, is
a straight jazz album, a quartet with Ram's deeper, less tinny
flute set off against Vic Juris's guitar, with Tony Marino on
bass, Jamey Haddad on drums/percussion. Two originals don't stand
out against Davis and Coltrane covers, "Summertime" and "My Funny
Valentine." Not without charm, but if anything, too straight.
Enrico Rava/Stefano Bollani: The Third Man
(2006 , ECM): It's hard to make duos work, harder still
when the instruments meet like oil and water, although even
for trumpet and piano I can think of an exception -- Warren
Vaché and Bill Charlap's 2gether (2000, Nagel-Heyer),
but in that case both artists go more than half way to meet
the other. They are great listeners. Rava and Bollani are
pretty good talkers. Despite their mutual admiration, their
oratory sails right past each other, giving us interleaved
halves of two solo albums.
Steve Reid Ensemble: Daxaar (2007, Domino):
Album cover claims "(recorded in africa)" in small bold print
against an outline of the continent. The title is evidently
an archaic spelling of Dakar, the capital of Senegal, where
Reid picked up trumpet (Roger Ongolo), guitar (Jimi Mbaye),
bass (Dembel Diop), kora (Isa Kouyate, also spelled Koyate,
while kora is also spelled korah), and percussion (Khadim
Badji), studio pros with Youssou N'Dour and Super Diamono
and others on their resumes. Kouyate also provides a vocal
on the first song, called "Welcome," which is the only thing
here that is unmistakably Senegalese. The rest are seductive
little groove pieces. While the Africans go with the flow and
flesh them out admirably, the real interest is in the keyboards
(Boris Netsvetaev) and electronics (Kieran Hebden, who also
does business as Four Tet), light and fleeting details in a
thick jungle tableau. Reid's a drummer with a Zelig-like list
of credits -- Martha Reeves' "Dancing in the Streets," John
Coltrane, James Brown, Ornette Coleman, Fela Kuti, Sun Ra,
Miles Davis -- despite spending most of his life in obscurity
as an exile, now snug in Switzerland. He got some notice in
2006 for The Exchange Session, two volumes of laptop-drums
improvs with Hebden, and that paid for his ticket to Africa.
Not the first time he's been back, but this time he brought
something extra to the party.
Júlio Resende: Da Alma (2007, Clean Feed):
Portuguese pianist, don't know much about him other than that
he studied in France. Leads a quartet here with either Alexandra
Grimal or Zé Pedro Coehlo on tenor sax, Joăo Custódio on bass,
and either Joăo Lobo or Joăo Rijo on drums. I'm not familiar
with any of these names, and have very little to go on, other
than the music, which is attractive postbop with a free edge.
Label website claims: "The future of jazz in Portugal will
come from here." I'm not convinced they're wrong.
Júlio Resende: Da Alma (2007, Clean Feed):
I guess you can call this Portuguese soul jazz, dreamy flights
of fancy tethered to Resende's piano. Not that it all trends
toward evanescence. Some cuts are tied down to rhythmic piano
figures, and they're very much awake.
Matana Roberts Quartet: The Chicago Project (2007
, Central Control): Saxophonist (alto, I think), originally
from Chicago, AACM member, now based in New York, but returned to
Chicago to pick up this band, including Fred Anderson (tenor sax),
Jeff Parker (guitar), Josh Abrams (bass), and Frank Rosaly (drums).
She's part of a group called Sticks and Stones with Abrams and
drummer Chad Taylor, and also seems to be involved with Burnt Sugar.
Got this as an advance last fall. Didn't come with much info, and
I never got a final copy, so it's just been sitting on the shelf,
although I did notice it in a couple of year-end lists. Two plays
and I don't have a very clear picture of what's going on here:
free riffing, alternately rhythmic and disjoint, patches of
interesting guitar, but mostly overwhelmed by the horns.
Matana Roberts Quartet: The Chicago Project (2007
, Central Control): Alto saxophonist, Chicago native, AACM
member (young, I think), lives in New York. Got a strong pick up
band when she returned to Chicago for this session, including Fred
Anderson on tenor sax and Jeff Parker on guitar, and got production
help from Vijay Iyer. Doesn't come together much, although there
are interesting patches, especially the guitar.
Scott Robinson: Plays the Compositions of Thad Jones:
Forever Lasting (1992-2005 , Arbors): Not the best
of concepts. Robinson's specialty is in antique reed instruments,
like C-Melody sax, bass saxophone, and contrabass sarrusophone,
to which he adds various flutes and clarinet and a couple of
brass instruments -- echo cornet, french horn, flugelhorn. He
trends toward trad jazz and swing, whereas Thad Jones was postbop
before bop even ran its course. Brother Hank Jones plays piano
on one cut, but Richard Wyands handles most of the others, and
Mike Le Donne chimes in on Hammond B-3 on five -- indeed, the
album's dominant sound motif is bass sax over organ. Listed as
"Great American Composers Series, Vol. 3." Vol.1 was Louis
Armstrong (Jazz Ambassador), a better fit. Don't recall
seeing a Vol. 2.
Ari Roland: And So I Lived in Old New York . . .
(2007, Smalls): Bassist. Can't find any bio that goes any deeper
than: "Bassist Ari Roland grew up inside the New York underground
bop scene." That amounts to about ten years at Smalls, starting
with his first appearance on Impulse's Jazz Underground: Live
at Smalls. This is his second album as a leader. Other credits
include Chris Byars, Frank Hewitt, Zaid Nasser, Sacha Perry, and
Nellie McKay -- the only non-Smalls artist. This is a quartet with
Byars (tenor/alto sax), Perry (piano), and Phil Stewart (drums).
The idea of an "underground bop scene" is worth dwelling on for
a bit. Bebop has been jazz orthodoxy ever since Charlie Parker
routed the dancehalls and juke joints and made heroin king. Today,
minus the scag, it's respectable enough for Lincoln Center. But
Parker also started an undergrounding trend that led to discovery
of numerous new things far beyond his revelations -- the 1960s
avant-garde and all that's flowed out of it, about as uncommercial
as music can get. So "bop underground" strikes me as an oxymoron.
Smalls label mogul Luke Kaven has tried to explain this to me: in
technical terms way over my head, but I know that it is possible
to make new music out of old forms -- for example, there are still
people making brilliant new contributions to trad jazz -- and I
can hear a freshness in the best of these records despite knowing
that they're breaking no bounds. Underground also seems to be a
self-fulfilling commercial prophecy for Kaven, but that strikes
me as contingent. Whereas many avant-garde artists can never break
out of their narrow commercial niche, the Smalls records should be
much more broadly accessible. This is one of the better ones, in
large part due to Byars, but I'm also partial to the fat bass mix
that's the leader's prerogative. Still need to go back and compare
it against Byars' own Photos in Black, White and Gray --
slated for the next JCG, but still unwritten, even though it's one
of my favorites this year.
Ari Roland: And So I Lived in Old New York . . .
(2007, Smalls): A matching bookend to Chris Byars' Photos in
Black, White and Gray, as it should be, given that the quartets
are the same (except for the drummers, Andy Watson instead of Phil
Stewart) and the two writers have long worked in the same milieu.
More bass solos here.
Barbara Rosene and Her New Yorkers: It Was Only a Sun
Shower (2007, Stomp Off): Singer, from Ohio, specializes
in pop songs from the 1920s/1930s. Has three previous albums on
Stomp Off, each with 20+ songs, and one normal-sized album on
Azica. She's been appearing lately with the Harry James ghost
band, as well as Kevin Dorn's Traditional Jazz Collective and
Mike Hashim -- both Dorn and Hashim appear here. One of the
Stomp Offs was a tribute to Ruth Etting and Annette Hanshaw.
She picks more songs from that era here, few I recognize --
one from Etting, one from Clarence Williams, one rescued from
Tiny Tim. The band is superb, with old-timey banjo and tuba,
cornet, and deftly deployed fiddle. Long at 76:35, but only
two of the 23 songs top 4 minutes. Two are instrumentals, but
they slip by rather than stand out. Rosene gets two credits
for whistling, and they do stand out.
Barbara Rosene and Her New Yorkers: It Was Only a Sun
Shower (2007, Stomp Off): A specialist in pre-WWII pop
songs, with tributes to Ruth Etting and Annette Hanshaw in her
catalog, Rosene rescues "Tip Toe Through the Tulips" from Tiny
Tim, and adds 22 more songs only specialists are likely to
recognize. The musicians, including Jon-Erik Kellso on cornet
and trumpet and Mike Hashim on soprano and alto sax dote on
this stuff, and Rosene can brighten any sad day.
Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Avatar (2007 , Blue Note):
Cuban pianist, has a long string of records since 1990, and should
by now be considered one of the world's major jazz pianists. Rather
straight jazz quintet, with Yosvany Terry (various saxophones),
Mike Rodriguez (trumpet), Matt Brewer (bass), and Marcus Gilmore
(drums). Most of the kinks come from the pianist himself, whose
deftness at shifting rhythms, at breaking the flow with abrupt
stops and starts, is unique. Terry continues to impress. Not as
immediately appealing as his last group album, Paseo, but
part of that is added complexity. Still working on it.
Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Avatar (2007 , Blue Note):
It seems to me that the Cuban pianist has moved beyond the rhythmic
conventions of Afro-Cuban jazz into a whole new realm of personal
idiosyncrasy. His quintet has the traditional bebop/hard bop lineup,
with Mike Rodriguez on trumpet, Yosvany Terry on various saxophones,
Matt Brewer on bass, and Marcus Gilmore on drums, but none of the
traditional forms, veering between progressive postbop and points
I don't know how to characterize. Choice cut: "Hip Side" (one of
three Terry pieces).
Greg Ruggiero: Balance (2006 , Fresh Sound
New Talent): Guitarist: credits here read: electric/acoustic/classical
guitars & vocalisms. Not sure what the latter are. Born 1977,
Albuquerque. Based in Brooklyn since 2004. First album. Quintet,
with Rob Wilkerson (alto sax), Frank LoCrasto (piano, keyboards),
Matt Brewer (bass), Tommy Crane (drums/percussion). They form a
small circle, playing in each other's bands -- Wilkerson had a
nice album on FSNT a couple years ago. This one has a sort of
pastoral-industrial feel -- factory rhythms slowed down, rocking
gently back and forth, spread out with soft, lulling tones;
pleasantly engaging background music, nonetheless interesting
when you notice it.
Sabertooth: Dr. Midnight (2007, Delmark): A
quartet consisting of two saxophonists, Cameron Pfiffner and
Pat Mallinger, with Pete Benson on organ and Ted Sirota on drums.
Group formed in 1990 and has long held an after hours gig at
Chicago's Green Mill Lounge. A previous self-released Live
at the Green Mill album came out in 2001. The new one
suggests they haven't gone anywhere. The two saxophonists can
cut it, but Pfiffner likes to relax with his piccolo, Matlinger
prefers a Native American flute, neither strong suits. Mostly
originals by the saxophonists, but the best thing here is by
"traditional," mostly because Sirota gets to shake a Latin
beat. Strikes me as spotty, a problem with gigs: live you
recall the good spots, on record you dread the rest.
Felipe Salles: South American Suite (2006 ,
Curare): Originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil; now based in New York,
since 1995. Plays reeds and flutes: 7 cuts break down to 5 tenor
sax, 4 soprano sax, 3 flute(s), 3 alto flute, 2 bass clarinet, 1
clarinet, 1 baritone sax. Group includes Jacam Monricks on flute
and alto sax, Joel Yennior on trombone, Nando Michelin on piano;
alto bass, drums, percussion. Not sure how far beyond Brazil the
South American theme strays: references include samba, choro,
frevo, afoxé, xote -- all Brazilian, mostly nordeste. Rhythms
twist around quite a bit, providing the suite-like movement;
the flute(s) dance around, but the sax provides a focal point.
Salles has two previous albums on Fresh Sound New Talent --
haven't heard them.
Jesús Santandreu: Out of the Cage (2005 ,
Fresh Sound New Talent): Tenor saxophonist, from Valencia in Spain.
First album, a quartet with Abe Rábade (piano), Paco Charlín (bass),
and Vicente Espí (drums). I've run across Santandreu a couple of
times before: on Espí's Tras Coltrane, where he plays a
lot of you-know-who, and on Zé Eduardo's Bad Guys, teamed
with Jack Walrath's trumpet. Liner notes in Spanish: in addition
to Coltrane, he cites Michael Brecker, Dave Liebman, Jerry Bergonzi,
and Steve Grosman [sic] -- big toned, straight ahead players with
some hop on the fastball. Santandreu plays like them, and in a
pinch will do. Rádabe plays a similarly fat but less nuanced
piano. Good drummer.
Santos Viejos: Pop Aut (2007, Cacao Musica):
Some fancy packaging here, a fold-out wallet with the disc
slipped into a slot on the right panel, and a spiral bound
booklet on the left. A lot of words, too, even with half or
more in Spanish. The label is Venezuelan, flush perhaps with
petrodollars? The group is Venezuelan too, described initially
as Venezuelan Rock, then as Pop Autóctono, or native pop. In
any case, it isn't jazz. And it doesn't have enough force to
overcome the language barrier, although the booklet may give
them a chance to recover. I have four more records pending
with the same packaging. No need to dig deeper right now.
Santos Viejos: Pop Aut (2006 , Cacao Musica):
Rock en espańol from Venezuela, what they call pop autóctono. In
the long run, I figure rock en espańol will be as great and as
awful as rock in english, but not speaking the language it's hard
to get the fine points. This comes off as middlebrow, vaguely
folkish, not distinctive nor outrageous enough to crack the ice,
but it does get more comfortably listenable over time.
Diane Schuur: Some Other Time (2008, Concord):
Singer. Has about 20 albums since 1985, but this is the first
I've heard. Arguably she's the most famous jazz singer I'd
never heard before -- she's had a couple of Grammys and 12
albums on Billboard's Top Ten Jazz Albums lists, but popularity
tends to be suspect in this niche and Penguin Guide
doesn't acknowledge her at all. Standards, well worn ones at
that, like "Nice Work If You Can Get It," "Blue Skies," "Taking
a Chance on Love," "My Favorite Things." One cut is rather
strangely pulled from a 1964 archive, at which point she would
have been 11, and that segues into an apparently new "Danny
Boy." Small group with piano (Schuur on two cuts, Randy Porter
elsewhere), guitar (Dean Balmer), bass and drums. She's an
articulate singer with a finely honed neutral voice, assured.
Given surefire songs and sensible, swinging even, arrangements,
she makes a strong impression.
Jacques Schwarz-Bart: Soné Ka-La (2007, Emarcy):
Tenor saxophonist, from Guadeloupe, b. 1962; father French-Jewish;
grew up partly in Switzerland as well as Guadeloupe. I've run
across him several times before, and he's often impressed me with
strong tenor sax lines, but he's fairly mild here, even playing
a bit of soprano, flute, and guitar. The album mostly rides along
on the gwoka drums, and various vocalists drop in for a world pop
Christian Scott: Anthem (2007, Concord): New Orleans
trumpet player. Young -- don't have a birthdate, but website claims
he's 22, Wikipedia says he graduated from Berklee in 2004, something
doesn't add up. Nephew of alto saxophonist Donald Harrison. Second
album. First one came out last year in a cluster with pianist Taylor
Eigsti and singer Erin Boheme which tempted me to label them the Mod
Squad. Scott had the most talent then, and he has more now, but first
pass through I don't care for this record at all. Seems to me like
he's invented the jazz analogue to heavy metal. Aside for "Like That"
near the end, the music here is all heavy sludge: loud drums, immobile
bass, keyb gumbo. The only saving grace is that it provides deadened
surfaces to scratch with his trumpet or cornet or soprano trombone or
flugelhorn. Part of this may be explained by his Katrina theme, which
may have brought sludge and waste and decay to mind. Still, I should
hold this back for another play. "Like That" lightens up and is rather
pleasant. And the closing, "post diluvial" version of the title track,
features a biting tirade from Brother J of X-Clan. He's reaching, and
my initial distaste may not be the final word.
Vince Seneri: The Prince's Groove (2007 ,
Prince V): Hammond B3 Organ jockey, from New Jersey. Fifth album;
second I've heard. Seems like an antiquated niche, but he kicks
up the classic groove, and makes exceptional use of his guests:
he gets Houston Person to play the slow one, restricts Dave
Valentin's flute to two fast Latin numbers, and keeps Randy
Brecker's skunk funk from getting stale.
[B+(***)] [Mar. 1]
Vince Seneri: The Prince's Groove (2007 ,
Prince V): Seneri not only plays the Hammond B3 Organ, he sells
them through a company called Hammond Organ World. He puts on
a good demo, too, with first rate guest stars -- Dave Valentin
takes the fast latin pieces on flute, Randy Brecker splatters
his trumpet on the funky ones. The only time the groove lets up
is the obligatory sax ballad, which Houston Person aces.
Ken Serio: Live . . . in the Moment (2006 ,
Tripping Tree Music, 2CD): Drummer, evidently fusion-oriented.
Fifth self-released album going back to 1996. Don't know any
bio -- can't find the hype sheet, Flash website, AMG only lists
this album, but CD Baby is better informed. Leads a group with
two guitarists (Vic Juris, Pete McCann) and electric bass (Mark
Egan). Not a lot here, mostly elemental riff pieces with minor
improv, but it's quite listenable. Don't know who does what,
but McCann has previously struck me as a rising talent.
Avery Sharpe: Legends & Mentors: The Music of McCoy
Tyner, Archie Shepp and Yusef Lateef (2007 , JKNM):
Three sections, each starting with a Sharpe original, followed
by two pieces written by the subject. Sharpe is a bassist, born
1955, has 6-8 albums under his own name, a substantial list of
credits, starting with Shepp's Attica Blues Big Band, 25
years with Tyner, and a stretch with Lateef in the early 1990s
that includes one called Tenors of Yusef Lateef & Archie
Shepp -- hard to find on Lateef's YAL label, but one of the
great sax jousts of all time. The band here features John Blake
on violin, Joe Ford on reeds and flute (Lateef, you know), Onaje
Allan Gumbs on piano, Winard Harper on drums. Gumbs is a pretty
good Tyner substitute, and the first section swings hard. Shepp
is a tougher nut to crack, but Lateef's spaciness opens things
up again. The violin is a nice touch. Usually don't expect much
from tributes, but this one is growing on me.
The Marty Sheller Ensemble: Why Deny (2007 ,
PVR): Born 1940, Newark, NJ, Sheller broke in on trumpet, landed
a summer gig in the Catskills, and followed Hugo Dickens back to
Harlem and into Latin jazz, soon hooking up with Mongo Santamaria.
He spent the next 40+ years mostly in the background, working as
an arranger for Santamaria, Willie Colón, Tito Puente, Larry Harlow,
Ruben Blades. First album under his own name. Sheller doesn't play,
but he put together a set of hot, brassy arrangements, and a hot,
brassy band big enough to play them. Dedicated the album to
Santamaria, who generally had a lighter touch.
Matthew Shipp: Piano Vortex (2007, Thirsty Ear):
I got this very late, well after the year-end lists were compiled.
Not sure why. I get everything else from Thirsty Ear, and asked
for and was promised this several times before it finally came
through. I've written about Shipp at great length
here, and two
records back he scored a Pick Hit with his jazztronica triumph,
Harmony and Abyss. This one turned out to be tough to get
into. It's an old fashioned piano trio, with Joe Morris on bass
and Whit Dickey on drums. It seemed to just amble quietly then
finally detonate about six cuts in. Finally I kicked the volume
up a notch, and with Gary Giddins' Jazz Times column as
a guide, started paying attention. The ambling quiet title cut
does indeed draw you into a vortex. The second and fourth pieces
are choppy rhythm things a bit more deliberate than the sixth
one ("Quivering With Speed") I've been noticing all along. The
odd numbered pieces feature lines that go places you don expect.
Morris, who started out as a guitarist, is turning into a sharp
bassist, especially with the bow. Giddins writes about others
writing about how this is more accessible than other Shipp
records. I don't think so. But at least it pays back the
attention it demands.
James Silberstein: Expresslane (2008, CAP): Guitarist.
Not much bio info, just that he's been "a working pro on the New York
scene for the past 25 years." Second album. AMG doesn't list any more
credits. He has a nice loping rhythm and clean tone, but doesn't run
off much, mostly because he has a lot of help here. Most important is
bassist Harvey S (né Swartz), who wrote some, arranged more, and keeps
the rhythm running, often with tricks he picked up mastering Latin
jazz. Horns come and go: Eric Alexander's tenor sax, Jim Rotondi's
trumpet and flugelhorn, Steve Davis' trombone, Anne Drummond's flute.
Kate McGarry scats on one of the two flute tunes, which barely survives
on the strength of S's bassline. Website points out that this hit #13
on the radio charts in its first week. This kind of mix up is typical
of a radio focus -- something for everyone -- but doesn't help over
the course of an album. [PS: Got ahead of myself here: last piece is
a 2:04 solo, a good example of his guitar.]
Horace Silver: Live at Newport '58 (1958 ,
Blue Note): I'm glad that Blue Note keeps digging old concert
tapes up: the 1956 Thelonious Monk/John Coltrane set was a real
find; the 1964 Charles Mingus/Eric Dolphy didn't really deliver
the historical import or musical interest attributed to it --
quite a bit of later material from the same group has been out
for a long time -- but was good to have nonetheless. This one
is slighter than the others in terms of historical interest,
but delightful in its own minor ways. Silver's group included
Louis Smith on trumpet, a little recorded interlude between
Donald Byrd and Blue Mitchell. The rest are: Junior Cook on
tenor sax, Gene Taylor on bass, Louis Hayes on drums, and Silver,
of course, on piano. Only four cuts, with the marvelous "Seńor
Blues" the shortest at 8:42 (not much longer than the earlier
studio version) and "Tippin'" topping out at 13:10 (more than
double the studio version). The extra space is put to good use
by the horns and piano, but this doesn't add much for anyone
familiar with Silver. The earlier Six Pieces of Silver,
with Byrd and Hank Mobley, has 3 of 4 songs; the later Doin'
the Thing is an even better sample of Silver live. I can't
recommend this over either, but it doesn't miss by much, and
it would be churlish to scare anyone away from this "Seńor
Blues," some marvelous piano, and the chance to hear Smith.
Alex Sipiagin: Out of the Circle (2008, Sunnyside):
Trumpeter, b. 1967 Yaroslavl, Russia; won a competition in Rostov in
1990, then moved to New York in 1991. Eighth album, first I've heard
(6 others are on Criss Cross, an important Dutch mainstream label
that has never answered my inquiries). Fancy postbop, with a large
cast of slick players -- Donny McCaslin (tenor sax, soprano sax,
flute), Robin Eubanks (trombone), Adam Rogers (guitars), Henry Hey
(keyboards), Gil Goldstein (accordion), Scott Colley (bass), Antonio
Sanchez (drums), Daniel Sadownick (percussion) -- a sort of creamy
tone I've never cared for, a lot of rhythmic flex. Two songs have
vocals by wife Monday Michiru, the first over a perky Latin groove,
the other a torchy ballad. She's a good singer. He's taken a tack
that I'm not very inclined to follow and made it work well enough
I can't much complain.
Slow Poke: At Home (1998 , Palmetto): This is
a 1998 album with Michael Blake (sax, keyb), David Tronzo (slide and
baritone guitar), Tony Scherr (electric and acoustic bass, guitar),
and Kenny Wollesen (drums and percussion). The original release label
was Baby Tank. This release is remixed with two additional cuts. The
press release describes this as Palmetto's "first digital only release."
It's not clear what that means. Palmetto's website offers something
for $10.99 and an MP3 version for $6.99, but it's not in Palmetto's
normal distribution. My copy is a promo in a jewel box with one-sheet,
one-sided inserts. Anyhow, we'll pretend this is a real release. The
interesting point would be Tronzo's slide guitar, which manages to
stay well outside any jazz guitar idiom I can think of -- sometimes
even sounds Hawaiian.
Slow Poke: At Home (1998 , Palmetto):
Recorded by Lounge Lizards/Sex Mob bassist Tony Scherr at home
in Brooklyn, laid back blues for sophisticates with no reason
to be blue. Slide guitarist Dave Tronzo stretches out melodies
by Duke Ellington and Neil Young, and saxophonist Michael Blake
sails effortlessly along.
Tyshawn Sorey: What/Not (2007, Firehouse 12, 2CD):
As far as I've been able to tell, one of the best young drummers to
appear recently. Plays a little piano too, but so does Corey Smythe --
not sure what the breakdown is, but probably favors the specialist.
In any case, this is a composer's record: the drums play minor, but
sometimes startling, roles, with either piano or Ben Gerstein's
trombone taking the leads. The long (42:50) "Permutations for Solo
Piano" dominates the first disc. I figure it for sub-minimalism,
mostly slow two-note patterns with a lot of resonance. Once you get
acclimated, it doesn't much matter how long it goes on -- could be
hours, but 42:50 is long enough to make the point. I can go either
way on the piece. The trombone leads are more immediately appealing,
especially the latter third of the 22:52 "Sacred and Profane." Most
of the pieces are abstracts, sound dabbling with a limited palette.
Many of them make sense only if you're playing close attention --
which among other things means noticing bassist Thomas Morgan. The
record got a lot of positive notice when it came out, including a
number two spot on Francis Davis's year-end list. When I asked for
a copy, I was pointedly turned down, and I'm still rather pissed
about that. Admittedly, it's the sort of record that I rarely find
much more than interesting. After two plays I could go up or down
on it, making credible arguments either way. But the second play
revealed more, and there's so many diversely interesting stretches
that it could conceivably cohere into a tour de force.
Soul Summit: Live at the Berks Jazz Fest! (2007 ,
Shanachie): I filed this under producer-keyboardist Jason Miles, then
backed off a bit and listed it as Soul Summit -- the only name on the
spine, although the cover is more verbose (lines separated by slash):
"Jason Miles Presents/Soul Summit/Bob Babbitt, Karl Denson, Richard
Elliot, Steve Ferrone,/Mike Mattison, Maysa, Jason Miles, Susan Tedeschi,
Reggie Young/Live at the/Berks Jazz Fest!" The name list leaves out a
couple of trumpets (Barry Danielian, Tony Kadlek), guitarist Sherrod
Barnes, saxophonist David Mann, backup vocalist Emily Bindinger. The
idea is to knock off a set of old-fashioned soul, starting with a bang
with "Shotgun" and ending on the one with a James Brown medley -- both
with smoking tenor sax solos by Elliot. (Never had any reason to take
him seriously before. Looks like he worked for Motown and Tower of Power
before sliding into smooth jazz.) Denson, on the other hand, takes 3 of
4 solos on flute, but remains palpably funky. Most cuts have vocals --
Maysa can easily outsing Tedeschi, but the latter lays credible claim
to "Son of a Preacherman."
Speak in Tones: Subaro (2003-04 , Alpha Pocket,
2CD): Nominally a collaboration between saxophonist Mike Ellis and
percussionist Daniel Moreno, this employs 16 musicians and stretches
out to 155 minutes. I take it there's an Afro-Brazil focus, but the
sessions were recorded in New York with a group that included Malians
Lansine Kouyate and Cheick Tidiane Seck, some notable jazz names
(Antoine Roney, Jerry Gonzalez, Graham Haynes, Jean-Paul Bourelly,
Adam Rudolph), and scattered others. The long groove pieces are
seductive, and it helps that the horns have some sharp edges.
The Gust Spenos Quartet: Swing Theory (2007
, Swing Theory): By day Spenos is a neurologist in
Indianapolis; by night he plays old-fashioned tenor sax.
He has some clever math to explain swing. More importantly,
he has a rhythm section that make it work -- Marvin Chandler
on piano, Frank Smith on bass, Kenny Phelps on drums. He
also taps some guests here: Eric Schneider, who claims four
years experience with Earl Hines and two with Count Basie,
adds alto sax and clarinet; Everett Greene sings two songs;
and Wycliffe Gordon plays trombone and sings one more. The
vocals probably limit how high I can go on this, but I love
the basic sound enough to keep listening.
Andrew Sterman: The Path to Peace: Music Inspired by
the Inner Journey of Mahatma Gandhi (2007 , Orange
Mountain Music): Plays tenor sax and bass flute here, other reed
instruments in a career that goes back to include a couple of
late-1970s Philip Glass works: Music in Twelve Parts and
Einstein on the Beach. Like the latter, this record was
composed for a stage presentation, in this case choreographed
and directed by Sridhar Shanmugam. The eight pieces layer the
clear, elegant sax neatly on top of piano, violin, guitar, bass,
and percussion. Late on ("Satyagraha") there is an emotionally
dense section, but the rule of the day is easy flowing grace --
that it avoids monotony and excessive sweetness is notable given
the general drift. The instrumentals are broken up with three
short "Chant" section, but they don't amount to much.
Loren Stillman: Blind Date (2006 , Pirouet):
Alto saxophonist, b. 1980 in England, studied with Dave Liebman
and Lee Konitz. Has 8 records since 1998, mostly since 2003.
Quartet with Gary Versace on piano, Drew Gress on bass, Joey
Baron on drums. Stillman has a scrawny, delicate sound, and
most of this plays like chamber music. I suspect there's more
to it, but don't feel much motivation to dig it out.
John Surman: The Spaces in Between (2006 ,
ECM): Started recording for ECM in 1979, which by now makes up
the bulk of his career. The more I listen to his pre-ECM stuff,
the more I wonder about why he wound up dedicating himself to
intricate, composerly postbop chamber music when he seemed early
on to have both fusion and avant-garde by the balls. With a full
string quartet, known as Trans4mation, plus bass (Chris Lawrence)
as the sole accompaniment to his bass clarinet, baritone and
soprano sax, this seems more chamberish than ever. But all the
strings do is flesh out the reeds, which intrigue and never lose
John Surman: The Spaces in Between (2006 ,
ECM): Basically a sax with strings record, the strings coming
from a classical string quartet d/b/a Trans4mation plus Chris
Lawrence on double bass. Surman plays baritone sax, soprano sax,
and bass clarinet, so the sound shifts away from the norm. But
he also lets the strings go on their own at length, making for
a cerebral chamber music, but the tone gets monotonous -- never
had much taste for such things. The baritone works because it
provides the most contrast.
Tom Tallitsch: Medicine Man (2007 , OA2):
Tenor saxophonist, originally from Cleveland, now based near
Philadelphia, or maybe Princeton -- teaches at Mercer County
Community College, which should be in Trenton. Second album,
a quintet, with vibes (Tony Micelli), guitar (Victor Baker),
bass and drums. Baker composed 3 of 8 songs; Tallitsch the rest.
The band generates a lot of forward momentum, which serves the
saxophonist well. Mainstream sax, straightforward, solid.
The Thing With Ken Vandermark: Immediate Sound
(2007, Smalltown Superjazz): The Thing is a Norwegian group, led
by (mostly baritone) saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, with Ingebrigt
Hĺker Flaten on bass and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums -- all names
that will be familiar to anyone following Vandermark around.
Vandermark started playing with Gustafsson back when the latter
was in the Aaly Quartet, and they've collided a dozen or more
times since then. Gustafsson is an inveterately noisy player.
for the most part, I find him a difficult taste, but I've liked
it when the Thing takes on pieces of grunge rock, where there
is some structure to wrap the noise around. This isn't that.
It's a four-part improv thing, which comes together neatly
with rotating baritone lines near the end, but makes a bloody
mess along the way.
Third World Love: New Blues (2007 , Anzic):
Fourth album by this group, consisting of three Israelis based in
New York, plus native drummer Daniel Freedman. I've been filing
the records under trumpeter Avishai Cohen (Anat's brother, not
the same-named bassist). The others are pianist Yonatan Avishai
and bassist Omer Avital. All four players write, and the closer
is by someone named Ellington -- Avital, who has a substantial
body of work on his own, has the most, but Avishai's one piece
is particularly nice. Slight Middle East flavor -- nothing too
specific, nor generically world. Subtle enough it gained on the
second play, and might benefit from more exposure.
3 Cohens: Braid (2006 , Anzic): Another
Flash website, but this one at least has an HTML version (a tip
of the hat to Dynamod Web Portals; I don't recommend non-free
software or anything involving Flash, but at least they produce
usable websites). The 3 Cohens are siblings Yuval (soprano sax),
Anat (tenor sax, one cut on clarinet), and Avishai (trumpet),
playing in front of Aaron Goldberg (piano), Omer Avital (bass),
and Eric Harland (drums). All three provide originals (3 for
Yuval, 2 Anat, 4 Avishai), plus there is a cover of "It Could
Happen to You." The horns tend to wrap around each other, with
the higher soprano sax/trumpet pair dominant -- the reference
to braiding has some merit. The rhythm section is relatively
anonymous, although the few occasions where they get an exotic
rhythm to work with help a lot.
Francesco Tristano: Not for Piano (2005 ,
Sunnyside): Well, of course it's piano, just a little loud, with
sharp chords and rolling percussion. Some cuts even have two pianos
(Rami Khalifé on the other). Tristano was born 1981 in Luxemburg,
classically trained at Juilliard, and is now based in Barcelona.
Website gives his name as Francesco Tristano Schlimé. This looks
to be his first jazz record, after a handful of classical things,
mostly J.S. Bach and Luciano Berio. Not much in the way of improv,
but makes a strong impression.
Tomas Ulrich/Elliott Sharp/Carlos Zingaro/Ken Filiano:
T.E.C.K. String Quartet (2007, Clean Feed): Group
name comes from first initials. Ulrich, a cellist, comes first
because he wrote all the pieces. Not your usual string quartet:
Zingaro is the only violin; no viola; Filiano plays bass, and
Sharp plays some kind of guitar ("well, two: one with steel
strings, and the othera heavy, shining steel guitar"). String
sounds do predominate, as much plucked as bowed. Interesting
sonically, but abstract, impenetrable.
Giulia Valle Group: Danze Imprevista (2006 ,
Fresh Sound New Talent): Recorded Nov. 14-15, but doesn't say the
year, so I'm guessing 2006. She has another Flash website, totally
useless. From Tomajazz (as best I can hack the Italian) I gather
she was born 1972 in Sanremo, Italy. Studied in Barcelona and seems
to be based there. Plays bass. Wrote and arranged everything here
except for a piece by Hermeto Pascoal and a theme from Hindemith
she transfigured. Group is definitely Barcelona, with two saxes
(Martí Serra and Miguel "Pintxo" Villar), Sergi Sirvent on piano,
and David Xirgu on drums. Postbop, arty, but also swings some.
I didn't care for the same two sax lineup on her previous
Colorista, but this is more winning.
Ken Vandermark: Ideas (2005 , Not Two):
One of a number of albums -- a couple dozen is a wild guess --
that are little more than impromptu improvs Vandermark cut on
the road with whoever managed to hook up the recording equipment
and a small label interested in the product. Here the road is
in Poland, and the band are the Oles brothers, Marcin Oles on
bass, Bartlomiej Brat Oles on drums. Typical, I would say.
Mostly tenor sax, some clarinet, some baritone -- the latter
strikes me once again as exceptional.
Ken Vandermark & Paal Nilssen-Love: Seven
(2005 , Smalltown Supersound): Rhapsody lists this as a
single, but at 43:55 it comes to more than LP length: one long
pieces (26:36), one medium (14:03), one short (3:19). Duets,
the third set between Vandermark and his favorite Norwegian
drummer. The long one starts ugly and takes a while to sort
itself out, before turning into the usual cornucopia of sonic
assaults. That, in itself, is not something I'm inclined to
complain about. But a better place to start, not least because
it was thought out from the start, is Dual Pleasure.
Vandermark 5: Beat Reader (2006 , Atavistic):
After a record every fall on the dot for six years or more, this one
slipped past New Year's Day. This is pretty much the same record as
the last one, A Discontinuous Line (2006), which marked the
arrival of cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm. Where the previous records with
trombonist Jeb Bishop turned on their crack horn section arrangements,
the Lonberg-Holm records are throwbacks to the earlier improv discs.
That's just fine, especially when they break loose as emphatically as
on the 6th and 8th cuts, "Compass Shatters Magnet" and "Desireless."
After three plays, I'm holding back only because I'm already jammed
with A-list records, and I haven't rated anything they've done lower
since 2000's Burn the Incline. Plus I hope to play it some
Vandermark 5: Beat Reader (2006 , Atavistic):
Downbeat's review mentions a second disc, included with the
first 1500 copies, something called "The New York Suite: Part One's
for Painters (for Willem De Kooning, Hans Hoffmann, Jackson Pollock,
and Mark Rothko), Part 2: Composers (for Earle Brown, John Cage,
Morton Feldman and Christian Wolf), Part 3: Improvisers (for Don
Cherry, Steve Lacy, Archie Shepp and Cecil Taylor)." Didn't get
my copy until well after initial release, and when it did come it
didn't include the bonus disk. Previous teaser discs were eventually
rereleased as Free Jazz Classics, Vols. 1-4. Every review
I've read focuses on the integration of cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm
into the group -- this is the second album since he replaced Jeb
Bishop. I don't really hear it or understand it. The cello lacks
the volume and dynamics to compete with the horns, but one reason
it does emerge more here is that there are a couple of softer
pieces that lead with cello, and it matches up well against
Vandermark's clarinet. But most of the pieces crank up the volume,
and the one thing that emerges most clearly there is how terrific
Vandermark has gotten on the baritone sax. This makes 13 albums
in 11 years. The only one I didn't much care for was Simpatico,
back in 1998, and the last one I held short of the A-list was Burn
the Incline in 2000. Nothing here to complain about.
Peter Van Huffel Quintet: Silvester Battlefield
(2006 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Saxophonist, plays alto
and soprano here, from Canada, now in Brooklyn. Quintet has a
previous 2005 EP. Van Huffel has a 2003 album, Mind Over
Matter, and a couple of group records, but this is the
first I've heard. Quintet adds guitar (Scott DuBois), piano
(Jesse Stacken), bass (Michael Bates), drums (Jeff Davis). This
is postbop pushed a bit toward the edge, fairly adventurous
stuff bit by bit, but it also sounds ordinarily adventurous --
bit by bit, stuff I'm used to hearing.
Nick Vayenas: Synesthesia (2007 , World
Culture Music): Usually the first thing I do when I put a record
on is write down the song list and the personnel list, noting
instruments broken down by track. The requisite information is
available here, on the inside of the cardboard gatefold cover,
but it's formatted using abbreviations of names and instruments
that require several mappings, all printed in microscopic all
caps type with little contrast and registration blur (semi-white
on semi-brown). My eyes just aren't up to it. Vayenas was born
in Boston, studied at Berklee, plays trombone. First album, or
second counting one co-led by saxophonist Patrick Cornelius (on
board here). Other musicians here, as far as I can tell, are:
Aaron Parks, Matt Brewer, Janek Gwizdala, and vocalist Gretchen
Parlato, none of which clearly accounts for the synth fusion
bubbling beneath the horns. I like the trombone, of course, and
Cornelius shows some flashy sax, but the synthy stuff doesn't
quite come off, and Parlato's vocal wash is de trop.
Cuong Vu: Vu-Tet (2007 , ArtistShare):
Trumpet player, fond of electronics, born 1969 in Vietnam,
emigrated to Seattle 6 years later, moved to New York in 1994.
Fifth album since 1999. Also has a significant credits list,
including key roles over several albums each with Chris Speed's
Yeah No, Myra Melford's The Tent and Be Bread, and Pat Metheny
Group. (Other creditss: Orange Then Blue, Bobby Previte, Andy
Laster, Jamie Saft, Dave Douglas, Gerry Hemingway, Assif Tsahar,
Satoko Fujii, Matthias Lupri, Mark O'Leary/Tom Rainey.) Quartet
here, with Speed on unspecified reeds, Stomu Takeishi on bass
guitar, and Ted Poor on drums. These are interesting musicians,
but here at least together they tend to congeal into sludge. The
bass lines don't go much beyond heavy metal, the electronics
aren't clear, and I don't have a clue what Speed is doing. At
least the trumpet has some contrast.
Mike Walbridge's Chicago Footwarmers: Crazy Rhythm
(1966-2007 , Delmark): Born 1937 in Los Angeles, Walbridge
moved from trumpet to sousaphone in his high school band, moved
to Chicago after a stint in the military, joined the Original Salty
Dogs, and founded the Chicago Footwarmers Hot Dance Orchestra in
1958, playing tuba. That trad jazz never changes is proven by the
near-seamless pairing of a 1966-67 9-track LP with 8 new tracks
from 40 years later. What holds it together is fellow Salty Dog
Kim Cusack, who plays clarinet and alto sax on both sessions. He
goes back even further, recording most frequently with James
Dapogny, Ernie Carson, and Bob Schulz, although he also has a
nice 1967-2007 pair of credits with Jim Kweskin and Maria Muldaur.
While the 1967 sessions have extra piano, the most distinctly
satisfying thing about this record is its elemental foursquare
structure -- clarinet over tuba, banjo with drums -- as basic
as trad jazz gets.
Aaron Weinstein & John Pizzarelli: Blue Too
(2007 , Arbors): Don't have a birth date for Weinstein, but
when his first album (A Handful of Stars) came out he was
still in his teens. A violinist, cites Joe Venuti at the head of
his list of influences. For his debut, Weinstein tapped Bucky
Pizzarelli for his Eddie Lang. Here he settles for the son, who
turns out to be a pretty good match, and a steady next step after
his star-studded debut showed so much taste and erudition.
Westchester Jazz Orchestra: All In (2007, WJO):
First time through I liked this relative no-name unit, presumably
based in the Westchester suburbs although most likely there are
a few ringers from the city present, more than I do Gerald Wilson's
(not to mention Maria Schneider's) expensive all-stars. (For the
record, I recognize 7 of 17, some barely.) So maybe it doesn't
just come down to money (except come Grammy Time). Music director
here is Mike Holober, who turned in a nice big band record a few
years back called Thought Trains (Sons of Sound). But the
arrangements come from all over, including non-members, and the
one cut I don't care for is Holober's Beatles arrangement ("Here
Comes the Sun"; hard to imagine that one ever working). Otherwise,
the horns snap, the band swings, they have a lot of fun.
Westchester Jazz Orchestra: All In (2007, WJO):
Close enough to New York that music director Mike Holober -- who
did a good big band record under his own name called Thought
Trains a few years back -- can draw on plenty of top-notch
musicians, bringing this up to above-average in all the usual
respects. But I'd advise against tackling any Beatles song (much
less "Here Comes the Sun") given badly they've been chewed up
and spit out as muzak. This one is better than I expected, but
still not good enough.
Lauren White: At Last (2006 , Groove Note):
Singer, from Dallas-Fort Worth area, reported to be 20 years old.
Three songs look like originals, credited to "(L White, W White)";
rest are covers, mostly Gershwin-Porter era standards, but also
Roy Orbison's "Blue Bayou," Leon Russell's "Superstar," and Lee
Ann Womack's "Why They Call It Falling." Some good musicians,
including tenor saxophonist Ricky Woodward on 4 cuts, guitarist
Anthony Wilson on 4, and pianist Bill Cunliffe on 3. All that
suggests good taste, albeit nothing distinctive or idiosyncratic.
Not much of a jazz singer, though.
The Whit Williams' "Now's the Time" Big Band: Featuring
Slide Hampton and Jimmy Heath (2004 , MAMA): Pretty
descriptive title, as best I can parse it. Williams came from North
Carolina, settled into Baltimore after the Korean War, and has run
an unsung local big band since 1981. This is their first album.
Hampton and Heath are guest stars, and they brought big chunks of
their books with them, joining three Williams originals, "Una Mas"
(Kenny Dorham), and "Little Rootie Tootie" (Thelonious Monk). Crisp
solos, solid section work, plenty of swing, pretty much what you'd
expect in a big band these days.
The Willie Williams Trio: Comet Ride (2007, Miles
High): Common name: Wikipedia has six entries, none of which work.
This Willie Williams was born in Philadelphia in 1958, plays tenor
and soprano sax, has four albums under his own name (first in 1988,
last before this in 1993). Studied with Marshall Taylor, did a turn
with Arthur Taylor's Wailers, worked in Odean Pope's sax choir and
Clifford Jordan's big band. Wrote all the pieces here except for
"Caravan" and the Eddie Harris-Jimmy Heath collage he arranged as
"Freedom Suite." Basically a hard bop player with more grit than
The Willie Williams Trio: Comet Ride (2007, Miles
High): Sax-bass-drums trio, nothing fancy, just hard, fast bop,
swinging especially hard on the closing "Caravan."
Larry Willis: The Offering (2007 , High Note):
Piano trio on 5 of 8 tracks, nice postbop stuff, much as you'd expect
with Eddie Gomez and Bily Drummond in tow. The other 3 tracks add
mainstream tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander. He's a fair match for
Willis, and does pretty much what you'd expect, fast or slow, up or
down. On the other hand, so much as expected gets ordinary fast.
Gerald Wilson Orchestra: Monterey Moods (2007, Mack
Avenue): I suppose Gil Evans got there first, but Wilson seems like
the founder of the post-big-band modern jazz orchestra, centered on
an arranger, assembled from time to time from spare musicians, often
of stellar quality. Wilson got his break long ago, replacing Sy Oliver
as Jimmie Lunceford's arranger, but he didn't emerge in his own right
until the early 1960s, when he cut a series of albums for Pacific Jazz,
drawing on west coast musicians who were particularly adept at carrying
big band harmony into the bebop era. He vanished during the 1970s, but
in the 1980s came back and has come up with commissions and albums
every few years, lately with some really high-powered bands, peaking
well into his 80s with In My Time. This one is less immediately
persuasive, and there are still things I'm unclear about, and don't
feel like forcing right now.
Gerald Wilson Orchestra: Monterey Moods (2007,
Mack Avenue): A big band with a lot of star power -- nearly
everyone on board is a name I've heard of, the five trumpets
starting with Jon Faddis and ending with Terrell Stafford,
the rhythm section Renee Rosnes, Peter Washington, and Lewis
Nash. The material is more hit and miss, but "Latin Swing"
really takes your breath away, and "Blues" follows strongly,
with son Anthony Wilson finding a solo role for the guitar.
Wilson pčre didn't spend a lot of time on titles: three swing,
two waltz, one goes "Allegro," one is just "Bass Solo."
Tony Wilson 6Tet: Pearls Before Swine (2007,
Drip Audio): Another common name. AMG lists 15, including a
few Anthonys. The best known is probably the English record
producer and Factory Records founder. My favorite is the Hot
Chocolate bassist, especially for his 1976 solo album I
Like Your Style. Among jazz guitarists, Gerald Wilson's
son Anthony is much better known. This Tony Wilson comes from
Vancouver and also plays guitar. The 6Tet adds trumpet, sax,
violin, bass, and drums, with some electronics mixed in, for
a full-bodied sound that maps closest to fusion, sometimes
fevered approaching avant, sometimes not. I go up and down
Tony Wilson/Peggy Lee/Jon Bentley: Escondido Dreams
(2007, Drip Audio): This is both more interesting and less satisfying
than the 6Tet album. Where the 6Tet tends to go over the top hoping
to sweep you away, this is pretty minimal, which puts it more clearly
in avant territory. Bentley plays tenor, soprano, and C melody sax,
but tends to follow rather than lead, adding color to the abstract
frameworks. Lee's cello is more central, setting the pace and tone
for the others. Wilson plays kalimba and charango as well as guitar,
and they emerge more fully than in the 6Tet.
Michael Winograd: Bessarabian Hop (2007 ,
Midwood Sounds): Klezmer clarinetist, based in Brooklyn, works
with the Klezmatics, Frank London, numerous others. Strikes me
as more klezmer than jazz, or maybe I mean that it repeats
familiar motifs without mixing them up in surprising ways.
Lovely clarinet, spritely group play, pretty solid within its
Raya Yarbrough (2006 , Telarc):
Singer-songwriter, from Los Angeles. First album, eponymous, like
a star the whole world has just been waiting for, a simple revelation
of her just being herself. Most jazz singers are interpreters, partly
because they've been driven out of rock and pop by songwriters who
have found their adequate voices workable. But lately we've seen a
few singer-songwriters slotted as jazz, a bit of niche marketing
that rarely seems appropriate (but sure paid off for Norah Jones).
Yarbrough is part of that incursion, but she's also got a terrific
voice, and her jazz moves are better than Amy Winehouse's. Starts
off with a blues, "Lord Knows I Would," that had me thinking she
could crack the A-list, although I was still a bit worried about
all the special guests, many armed with string instruments. By
the time the record ended, I was thinking she could be as flat
out annoying as Meatloaf. Clearly an uncommon talent. Don't know
what the hell to do with her yet.
Raya Yarbrough (2006 , Telarc): The leadoff
blues "Lord Knows I Would" is a choice cut, and her "Mood Indigo"
shows she could be a standards threat. But her singer-songwriter
fare is overorchestrated, pretentiously so -- I'm reminded of such
long-forgotten pop-rock icons as Andy Pratt. As rockers figured
out, such affectations do little to make us care about the songs,
which at bottom is what songwriting is about. As such, it's hard
to find reason to care about these. She's talented, but it's not
clear what for.
Libby York: Here With You (2007 , Libby York
Music): Singer, from Chicago but spent the 1980s in New York, studying
with Abbey Lincoln and Judy Niemack. Started singing professionally
at 35, and now had 3 albums in her mid-40s. Sings standards ("You
Go to My Head," "But Beautiful," "Azure Te," "Flamingo"). Mid-range
voice with precise intonation, able to wrap old chestnuts in fine
leather or lace. Guitarist Howard Alden gets credit for arrangements,
but yields to Russell Malone on three cuts. Renee Rosnes gets credit
as Production Assistant ("the world's most overqualified"), but no
piano, a clever omission which leaves plenty of room for Warren
Vaché's delectable cornet -- much better than his duet on "Walkin'
My Baby Back Home," which is sort of winning nonetheless.
Jon Zeeman: Zeeland (2008, Membrane): Plays
guitar, keyboards. Based in New York. Touring credits include
Susan Tedeschi, Janis Ian, the Allman Brothers. Second album.
Straight funk-fusion, sometimes with organ. Refiled this under
Pop Jazz, at which point the guitar emerged as better than
ZMF Trio: Circle the Path (2005 , Drip
Audio): ZMF stands for Jesse Zubot (violin), Jean Martin (drums),
Joe Fonda (bass). Label describes them as international: Zubot is
from Vancouver, Martin from Toronto, Fonda is well known on the
avant-garde in New York. Zubot is also involved in the rockish
Fond of Tigers group, and he runs the label, which has branched
out beyond his own work -- a few more items are on my shelf,
including a new John Butcher album, and he seems to have something
by Leroy Jenkins in the pipeline. Other than that, don't know
much about him. This is avant, by turns aggressive and moody.
Martin wrote one piece, Fonda three, Zubot four. The only outside
credit is to Anthony Braxton. Didn't catch enough of it first
time through, but will play more.
John Zorn: The Dreamers (2007 , Tzadik):
Not much evidence of Zorn's alto sax here. In some ways this more
closely resembles his Film Works, although having heard only
one or two of what are now 19 volumes hardly makes me any kind of
expert. A dozen groove pieces, most led by Marc Ribot's guitar,
with keyboards (Jamie Saft), vibes (Kenny Wollesen), bass (Trevor
Dunn), drums (Joey Baron), and percussion (Cyro Baptista). Several
build into substantial pieces of music, while most ingratiate and
beguile. An earlier album, The Gift, is reputed to be
John Zorn: Filmworks XIX: The Rain Horse (2008,
Tzadik): Might as well check out some of the latest film music
while I'm at it. Zorn is prodigious, especially since he started
his own label. The label doesn't provide any promos to reviewers,
a big disappointment when I started Jazz CG. I've picked up his
records when I had the chance, but have only heard a dozen or so
out of more than 100 -- some wonderful, at least one awful. This
one was written for a film by Russian animator Dmitri Geller.
The pieces are played by Rob Burger on piano, Erik Friedlander
on cello, and Greg Cohen on bass. Minor charms, the kind of
thing that slips into a film without you noticing too much, but
stands up to playing on its own. Leans a bit toward Russian, by
which I mean Jewish, chamber music.
The following records, carried over from the
done file at the start of this cycle, were
also under consideration for this column.
- Eric Alexander: Temple of Olympic Zeus (2007, High Note) B-
- The Harry Allen-Joe Cohn Quartet: Music From Guys and Dolls (2007, Arbors) A-
- The Jimmy Amadie Trio: The Philadelphia Story: The Gospel as We Know It (2006-07 , TP) B+(**)
- Chris Barber: Can't Stop Now (European Tour 2007) (2007, MVD Audio) B+(**)
- Jerry Bergonzi: Tenorist (2006 , Savant) B+(***)
- Carla Bley: The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu (2007, Watt) B+(**)
- Paul Bley: Solo in Mondsee (2001 , ECM) B+(**)
- Bloodcount: Seconds (1997 , Screwgun, 2CD+DVD) A-
- Rob Brown Trio: Sounds (2006 , Clean Feed) B+(**)
- Evan Christopher: Delta Bound (2006 , Arbors) B+(**)
- Joe Cohn: Restless (2006 , Arbors) B+(***)
- Lars Danielsson & Leszek Mozdzer: Pasodoble (2006-07 , ACT) B+(***)
- Kenny Davern/Ken Peplowski: Dialogues (2005 , Arbors) B+(***)
- Ernest Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble: The Messenger: Live at the Original Velvet Lounge (2005 , Delmark) B+(***)
- Alessandro D'Episcopo Trio: Meraviglioso (2005 , Altrisuoni) B+(**)
- Ted Des Plantes' Washboard Wizards: Thumpin' and Bumpin' (2006 , Stomp Off) A-
- Dave Douglas Quintet: Live at the Jazz Standard (2006 , Greenleaf/Koch, 2CD) B+(***)
- The Engines (2006 , Okka Disk) B+(**)
- Alvin Fielder Trio: A Measure of Vision (2005-06 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Erik Friedlander: Block Ice & Propane (2005 , Skipstone) B+(***)
- Dennis González NY Quartet: At Tonic: Dance of the Soothsayer's Tongue (2003-04 , Clean Feed) B+(**)
- Bobby Gordon: Plays Joe Marsala: Lower Register (2007, Arbors) B+(***)
- Joan Hickey: Between the Lines (2006, Origin) B+(**)
- Hiromi's Sonicboom: Time Control (2006 , Telarc) B-
- Lauren Hooker: Right Where I Belong (2006 , Musical Legends) B+(***)
- Jason Kao Hwang/Sang Won Park: Local Lingo (2006 , Euonymus) B+(**)
- Jon-Erik Kellso: Blue Roof Blues (2007, Arbors) B+(***)
- Nigel Kennedy: Blue Note Sessions (2005 , Blue Note) B+(***)
- The Ray Kennedy Trio: Plays the Music of Arthur Schwartz (2006 , Arbors) B+(***)
- Omer Klein/Haggai Cohen Milo: Duet (2006, Fresh Sound New Talent) B+(**)
- Alex Kontorovich: Deep Minor (2006 , Chamsa) A-
- Joachim Kühn/Majid Bekkas/Ramon Lopez: Kalimba (2006 , ACT) B+(***)
- Steve Kuhn Trio: Live at Birdland (2006 , Blue Note) B+(***)
- Steve Kuhn: Pastorale (2002 , Sunnyside) B+(***)
- David Kweksilber + Guus Janssen (2003-06 , Geestgronden) B+(***)
- Mário Laginha Trio: Espaço (2007, Clean Feed) B+(**)
- Brad Leali Jazz Orchestra: Maria Juanez (2004 , TCB) B+(***)
- Steve Lehman Quartet: Manifold (2007, Clean Feed) B+(***)
- George Lewis: Sequel (For Lester Bowie) (2004 , Intakt) B+(***)
- Lisbon Improvisation Players: Spiritualized (2006, Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Mat Marucci-Doug Webb Trio: Change-Up (2006 , CIMP) B+(***)
- Kate McGarry: The Target (2007, Palmetto) B-
- Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble: Black Unstoppable (2007, Delmark) B-
- Mi3: Free Advice (2004 , Clean Feed) A
- Ravish Momin's Trio Tarana: Miren (A Longing) (2006 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Shamokin!!! (2006 , Hot Cup) A
- Paul Motian Trio 2000 + Two: Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 1 (2006 , Winter & Winter) B+(**)
- Enrico Rava: The Words and the Days (2005 , ECM) B+(***)
- Bernardo Sassetti: Unreal: Sidewalk Cartoon (2005-06 , Clean Feed) B+(**)
- Cynthia Sayer: Attractions (2006 , Plunk) B+(***)
- Maria Schneider Orchestra: Sky Blue (2007, ArtistShare) B
- Matt Shulman: So It Goes (2006 , Jaggo) B
- Territory Band-6 With Fred Anderson: Collide (2006 , Okka Disk) B+(***)
- Frank Vignola: Vignola Plays Gershwin (2006 , Mel Bay) B+(***)
- Dan Willis: Velvet Gentlemen (2003 , Omnitone) B+(***)
- Saco Yasuma: Another Rain (2006 , Leaf Note) B+(***)