Jazz Consumer Guide (23):
These are the prospecting notes from working on Jazz CG #23. 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 February 8, 2010 to May 31, 2010, 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 207 (plus 125 carryovers). The
count from the previous file was 219 (+124).
(before that: 225, 226, 230, 293, 291, 240, 259).
Juhani Aaltonen Quartet: Conclusions (2009 ,
Tum): Finnish tenor saxophonist, b. 1935, not well known here but
should be recognized as a major figure -- I have yet to track down
his well-regarded 1970s recordings, but I can highly recommend two
relatively recent ones, Mother Tongue and Reflections.
Quartet includes Iro Haarla (piano and harp), Ulf Krokfors (double
bass), and Reino Laine (drums), with Haarla and Krokfors contributing
four and two songs respectively -- Aaltonen the other four. He has
a marvelous sound on tenor, more lyrical here than in the past,
but I especially enjoy it when he roughs things up a bit. My main
reservations at first were the two flute and one alto flute pieces.
I never cared much for the sound, but he's as expert at it as any
saxophonist I can think of -- Lew Tabackin, or perhaps Vinny Golia,
someone not overly smitten by the Pied Piper notion, nor squarely
centered on bop (James Moody) and/or swing (Frank Wess).
Jason Adasiewicz's Rolldown: Varmint (2008 ,
Cuneiform): Vibraphonist, based in Chicago, the guy everyone else
in Chicago goes to when they want a splash of vibes. Second album;
the group now named after their first album. In Josh Berman (cornet)
and Aram Shelton (alto sax, clarinet) he has two first-rate horn
options, each contributing remarkable solos here. In Jason Roebke
(bass) and Frank Rosaly (drums) he has a flexible rhythm section.
All four are well known from numerous Chicago groups. Loose freebop,
lots of space for the vibes to open up.
Abraham Inc.: Tweet Tweet (2010, Dot Dot Dot Music):
Ad hoc group. Klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer has worked with hip
hop sampler/vocalist Socalled before, but rather than faking the funk
they've brought in lifetime funk permit holder Fred Wesley, formerly
of the Horny Horns and before that the JBs (as in James Brown, need
I add?). Various others pop in unannounced -- another cheapo advance
with limited credits and little info, even though "Fred the Tzadik"
and "Moskowitz Remix" got to mean something. The obligatory "Hava
Nagila" has me confused, but mostly I don't care, especially when
the trombone is pumping. May be just a novelty, but I'll take it.
Abraham Inc.: Tweet Tweet (2010, Table Pounding):
I erroneously identified the label as Dot Dot Dot Music.
Absolute Ensemble: Absolute Zawinul (2007 ,
Intuition/Sunnyside): Part of an annoying trend where labels put
what used to be the booklet into a PDF file on the disc where
you can't access it while listening to the CD. (I suppose that's
better than not providing anything, which has often been the
case, but it cramps my working style.) Hence I'm working mostly
off the web here. Absolute Ensemble is a string-heavy orchestra
led by Kristjan Järvi -- he is Estonian, but I don't know about
the group. AMG considers them classical, but their first album
included a take on "Purple Haze," and they've evidently done an
Absolute Zappa before this. Zawinul plays here, presumably
shortly before his death in September 2007. The record resembles
his extravagant world music c. Faces and Places more than
Weather Report. On the other hand, Zawinul seems to drop out for
"Ballad for Two Musicians," which is as ripe as classical gets.
Nothing here sticks with me, although it has moments when it
seems it might.
Aida Severo (2007 , Slam): British free jazz
quintet, led by pianist Philip Somervell who is in the thick of it,
with two horns -- Joe Egan on trumpet, Chris Williams on alto sax --
flying off at odd tangents or piling on. With Colin Somervell on
bass and Vasilis Sarikis on drums.
Geri Allen: Flying Toward the Sound (2008 ,
Motéma Music): Established major league pianist, 20 or so albums
since 1984, started well out of the box but become more mainstream
and developed an affection for Mary Lou Williams. I thought 2004's
The Life of a Song was a superb piano trio record, but dudded
the gospel-drugged follow-up, Timeless Portraits and Dreams.
Got a terse "thanks for the Geri dud" from the publicist, who then
dropped me from his list, then I didn't get this on a new label that
usually sends me their stuff. Guess that's show business. In any
case, this is solo piano, not normally my cup of tea. Starts out
fluffy and ornate, but gradually deconstructs to series of rhythmic
patterns, then starts to put things together.
Mose Allison: The Way of the World (2009 , Anti-):
Pianist-singer, b. 1927, first albums date back to mid-1950s; first
album since 2000. Joe Henry produced, presumably came up with the
idea. Songs are uneven, but "My Brain" is a cool little cluster of
perpetual inquisitiveness, "Modest Proposal" is the best one I've
heard in quite some while; he's also the only jazz singer perfectly
at home covering Loudon Wainwright III.
The American Music Project: On the Bright Side (2004-05
, Inarhyme): Quartet with Dane Bays (alto sax), Keith Javors
(piano), Dave Ziegner (bass), and Alex Brooks (drums) providing the
jazz backbone, plus two vocalists: singer Curtis Isom and rapper
Dejuan "D Priest" Everett. Bays wrote the music, except for a John
Coltrane piece ("Lonnie's Lament"); Everett wrote the words, including
a "Welcome" that spells everything out literally. I won't argue that
this isn't quintessential Americana, but neither the rapper -- who
sounds a bit like Chuck D but less so -- nor the singer hold their
own, and while there's nothing wrong with the band -- I'll never
complain about too much sax -- they're not really the point.
Ehud Asherie: Modern Life (2009 , Posi-Tone):
Pianist, b. 1979 in Israel, based in New York, third album -- after
a trio and a quintet with Grant Stewart and Ryan Kisor. Mainstream
player, crosses bop and swing, cites Errol Garner as an influence.
Two originals; eight covers, the bop side drawing on Hank Jones and
Tadd Dameron, the standards songbook more dominant. One reason this
quartet is a tad more retro is that it features tenor saxophonist
Harry Allen, and he pretty neatly turns it into a Harry Allen album,
which is fine by me.
Pablo Aslan: Tango Grill (2010, Zoho): Bassist,
born in Argentina, based in New York, has several records based
on tango themes -- 2007's Buenos Aires Tango Standards is
one I particularly recommend. New one is more of the same -- an
assortment of old tango tunes given a jolt of jazz improv, with
piano and trumpet kicking in as well as the usual bandoneon and
Svend Asmussen: Makin' Whoopee! . . . and Music!
(2009, Arbors): Danish violinist, b. 1916, modeled his style on Joe
Venuti, emerging before WWII. Evidently cut this shortly before his
93rd birthday, with Richard Drexler on piano and organ, Jacob Fischer
on guitar, Tony Martin on drums, and Tom Carabasi with his name on
the cover for reasons I've yet to discern. Not a lot of whoopee here:
the title track and others like "Singin' in the Rain" and "Nuages"
and "Danny Boy" and "Just a Gigolo" are taken at a measured pace
with sly elegance. Someone I've long meant to track down, but this
looks to be just a pleasant footnote. I have his Shanachie DVD,
The Extraordinary Life and Music of a Jazz Legend -- need
to play that some day.
Michaël Attias: Renku in Coimbra (2008 ,
Clean Feed): Alto saxophonist, b. 1968 in Israel, moved to US in
1977, bounced back and forth between US and Europe until settling
in New York in 1994. Group is a trio with John Hebert on bass and
Satoshi Takeishi on drums; same group recorded Renku in
2004. Attias wrote two pieces, Hebert three (including the one
reprised at the end); the two outside pieces are by Lee Konitz
and Jimmy Lyons, touchstones for Attias. Russ Lossing joins in
on piano on one cut, but in three plays I have to admit I didn't
notice him. Tight group, the sax not unusual for free jazz, the
bass and drums busy but not overbearing.
Tommy Babin's Benzene: Your Body Is Your Prison
(2010, Drip Audio): Bassist, b. 1973 in Nova Scotia, now based
in Vancouver. Plays both acoustic and electric; not specified
here, but electric is my guess. Has a few side credits including
NOW Orchestra going back to 1999, but this looks to be his first
album. One title piece, runs 49:41, breaks up into nine sections --
I'm reluctant to call them movements or it a suite. Hype sheet says
file under "Jazz/Improv/Space Rock." Not sure about the latter, as
this is more intense than spacey, and it doesn't exactly rock even
when it brings the noize. Quartet: Chad Makela (baritone sax), Chad
MacQuarrie (guitar), and Skye Brooks (drums). The sort of thing
that Anders Nilsson's Aorta Ensemble does -- a little less fancy
on the guitar, a little more oomph from the bass and bari.
A- [Apr. 13]
Jeff Baker: Of Things Not Seen (2006-07 , OA2):
Vocalist, most likely Seattle-based, fourth album since 2003's inevitable
Baker Sings Chet. This one is gospel-themed -- Curtis Mayfield's
"People Get Ready" threw me off for a minute, but two straight songs
with "Thou" in the title steered me back. Stylistically he reminds me
of Kurt Elling without the numerous annoying tics. Cut in Seattle with
Origin's all-stars -- the Bill Anschell-Jeff Johnson-John Bishop trio
is impeccable, and Brent Jensen is superb as always. Not into the songs,
although the unlisted 12th song, with uncredited violin and backup
singer, has some grace within it.
Stefano Battaglia/Michele Rabbia: Pastorale (2009
, ECM): Italian pianist, b. 1965, has a couple dozen albums
since 1987, mostly on the Italian Splasc(H) label, which kicks out
a lot of albums I never get a chance to hear. Third album on ECM.
Rabbia also b. 1965, credited with percussion and electronics, has
one album under his own name. Scattered effects here, most enticing
when Battaglia's piano joins in the percussion, sometimes aided by
preparation. On a couple of occasions reminds me of Harry Partch.
Marco Benevento: Me Not Me (2008 , Royal Potato
Family): OK, found an advance buried in the unplayed baskets -- don't
I keep harping on how stuff like that runs a real risk of slipping
through the cracks? Advance doesn't have any credits, and I can't
find the hype sheet, but AMG tells me that Reed Mathis plays bass
here, and it's either Matt Chamberlain or Andrew Barr on drums. Most
of this is fuzzily indistinct, tethered to rockish beats. This works
best on "Friends" where it gets unruly.
Marco Benevento: Between the Needles and Nightfall
(2010, Royal Potato Family): Pianist, b. 1977 in Livingston NJ, lived
in Colorado for a while, studied at Berklee, based in Brooklyn. Trio
with Reed Mathis on electric bass, Andrew Barr on drums/percussion,
and Benevento supplementing his piano with "optigan, circuit bent toys,
and various keyboards." Groove-centric, a little fuzzy on the edges.
My paperwork indicates that somewhere I have his 2009 record Me
Not Me. Will keep an eye out for that.
Roni Ben-Hur: Fortuna (2007 , Motema):
Guitarist, from Israel, moved to US in 1985, on sixth album
since 1995. With Ronnie Matthews on piano, Rufus Reid on bass,
Lewis Nash on drums, and Steven Kroon adding a little extra
percussion. Light, elegant lines, the best Wes Montgomery
impression I can think of in quite some time, with backup
that feels the grooves. Matthews has a couple of complementary
solos. Reid's been popping up a lot this week. It must be a
pleasure playing with Nash.
Curt Berg & the Avon Street Quintet: At Stagg Street
Studio (2009, Origin): Trombonist, originally from Iowa,
studied at Drake and USC. Broke in with Woody Herman c. 1970, and
has several more big band credits -- Don Ellis, Jim Self, Vince
Mendoza. First album, with saxophonist Tom Luer and pianist Andy
Langham, plus bass (Lyman Medeiros) and drums (Bill Berg, don't
know if related). Berg wrote all of the songs, including three
he dedicated to Gary Foster, Eliot Spitzer, and Moacir Santos.
Trombone almost always plays in unison with the sax -- soprano,
alto, and tenor are listed in that order -- for a harmonic effect
I don't care for, but the rhythm is gingerly sprung.
Sean Bergin's New Mob: Chicken Feet: Live at the Bimhuis
(2007 , Pingo): Dutch saxophonist, also on the line here for
flute, ukulele, and vocals, although most of the vocals belong to
Una Bergin and Felicity Provan. They are sometimes distracting,
sometimes surreal, which underscores the comic vein in the Dutch
avant-garde. Not all that easy to follow, but sneaky clever when
you let it go.
Jerry Bergonzi: Three for All (2008 , Savant):
Tenor saxophonist, plays some soprano, also get a piano credit here,
which suggests some overdubbing. With Dave Santoro on bass and Andrea
Michelutti on drums. Bergonzi has been on a terrific run lately, with
two straight A- albums (Tenor Talk and Simply Put), and
nothing very far off the mark. This has a couple of blemishes which
I blame on the soprano. Terrific tenor player, deep tone, has all
the moves; group lets him play.
Peter Bernstein Quartet: Live at Smalls (2008 ,
Smalls Live): Guitarist, eighth album since 1992, first I've
heard but I've heard him on a lot of other people's albums,
where he routinely stands out. Jim Hall protege, although I
usually think of him as a Montgomery camp follower, especially
when he works blues lines. Richard Wyands plays piano, John
Webber bass, and Jimmy Cobb gets big type on the cover for
drums. Wyands is a complementary player, and in a long live
set gets some space. Cobb, of course, goes back far enough
to recall when this kind of mainstream was new. Reportedly,
there's a lot of live tapes in the Smalls archive, and this
is one of the first six. Sound isn't great, but it gives you
a good sense of how Bernstein works.
The Bickel/Marks Group With Dave Liebman (2009
, Zoho): Pianist Doug Bickel, bassist Dennis Marks, with
Marco Marcinko on drums, Matt Vashlishan on alto sax, and Dave
Liebman on soprano and tenor sax (mostly soprano). Bickel and
Marks came up through the Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson, and
Arturo Sandoval bands, winding up with one or two albums each
under their own names, plus this joint operation. They play a
jaunty postbop, and Liebman adds something -- this is a rare
outing where I think he might justify his soprano.
Big Crazy Energy New York Band: Inspirations, Vol. 1
(2008 , Rosa): Leader here is Norwegian trombonist Jens
Wendelboe, who cut a couple of non-NY Big Crazy Energy Band albums
in the early 1990s. He plays, conducts, produces, wrote or co-wrote
5 of 9 songs, and keeps the energy level high. Still, as Wolfgang
Pauli would say, his high energy physics isn't crazy enough. Can't
say I like closing with a Beatles tune either.
John Blake Jr.: Motherless Child (2010, ARC):
Violinist, b. 1947, Philadelphia, half-dozen albums since 1983,
some possibly credited without the "Jr." Mostly gospel pieces
powered by the Howard University Jazz Choir, who are up to the
task if you're into that sort of thing. Spine credits Blake's
Quartet, which I take to be Sumi Tonooka on piano, Boris Kozlov
on bass, and Jonathan Blake on drums. Front cover cites Mulgrew
Miller as a special guest, but his two cuts are hardly more
special than Tonooka's four. Still, the real treat here is the
Salvatore Bonafede Trio: Sicilian Opening (2009
, Jazz Eyes): Pianist, b. 1962 in Palermo, in Sicily. Has
a dozen, maybe more albums, since 1990. Piano trio with Marco
Panascia on bass, Marcello Pellitteri on drums. Light touch,
even temper. Does a Beatles piece, which I always dread, but
acquits it nicely.
Ralph Bowen: Due Reverence (2009 , Posi-Tone):
Tenor saxophonist, mainstream player, consistently impressive. Last
record rated an HM. This has comparable strengths when he's on, but
I've played it a lot and keep losing the thread. Strong quintet, with
Sean Jones (trumpet), Adam Rogers (guitar), John Patitucci (bass),
Antonio Sanchez (drums).
The Wayne Brasel Quartet: If You Would Dance
(2009 , Brajazz): Guitarist, from California, based in
Norway now, teaching at the University of Stavanger. Seventh
album since 1996. Quartet includes two well known players --
pianist Alan Pasqua and drummer Peter Erskine -- as well as
bassist Tom Warrington and percussionist Satnam Ramgotra --
that makes five, so I'm not sure how the quartet concept works.
Brasel's guitar has a soft, sliky tone which doesn't do much
to get your attention. Pasqua has some stronger runs, but it's
not his album.
Tom Braxton: Endless Highway (2009, Pacific Coast
Jazz): Saxophonist, tenor first, then soprano, alto, flute, keybs.
Fourth album since 1998, dedicated to the late Wayman Tisdale. Pop
jazz, soupy keybs, pumping sax riffs. Closes with three radio edits,
including obligatory vocal fluff.
Dee Dee Bridgewater: Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959)
(2009 , Emarcy): Denise Eileen Garrett, b. 1950, picked up
her stage name when married to trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater in
the early 1970s. Eleanora Fagan (or Elinore Harris) changed her
name to Billie Holiday, claiming Clarence Holiday (a musician
in Fletcher Henderson's band) as her father. Bridgewater has
been working songbooks since the mid-1990s, with Horace Silver
a high point (Love and Peace), Kurt Weill a low (This
Is New), and Dear Ella already checked off the list,
so a swing at Holiday seems inevitable. She's uncertain how she
wants to play this, mimicking Holiday on slower pieces like
"You've Changed" and blasting away on the fast ones. With Edsel
Gomez on piano and arranging, Christian McBride on bass, the
always impeccable Lewis Nash on drums, and James Carter on reeds
and flute -- more interesting though less imposing than on his
own misbegotten Holiday album.
Greg Burk: Many Worlds (2007 , 482 Music):
Pianist, b. 1969, originally from Lansing, MI; studied at New
England Conservatory, taught at Berklee, played in Either/Orchestra;
after 10 years in Boston relocated to Italy (Rome). Ninth album
since 2000, a quartet with Henry Cook on sax (alto, soprano) and
flute, Ron Seguin on bass (contrabass and something he calls
"electric acoustic bass"), and Michel Lambert on drums/percussion.
This struck me as overly ornate at first, with Cook's reeds wispy
and Burk's piano wrapped up in long exploratory runs, but the more
I listen the more it coheres -- especially the physics-inspired
six-part "Many Worlds Suite," which ends in a discordance that
surely isn't mere chaos.
John Burr Band: Just Can't Wait (2007 ,
JBQ, CD+DVD): Bassist, nothing personal in his bio, just work
snippets -- e.g., toured with Tony Bennett 1980-85, scattered
work with Stephane Grappelli, original member of Mark O'Connor's
Hot Swing Trio. Had a couple albums released in the 1990s, and
40-50 side credits as far back as 1977. Wrote all the songs here,
including lyrics for a bunch of singers: Ty Stephens, Yaala
Ballin, Laurel Massé, Hilary Kole, Tyler Burr. Stephens has
some fine moments, especially the title song, which swings as
is Burr's inclination. The ladies fare less well. The other
spotlight moments are instrumental. Burr managed to snag Anat
Cohen, Houston Person, and Howard Alden for a cut each; Yotam
Silberstein for two; Bob Mintzer, Dominick Farinacci, and Ted
Rosenthal for three each; Joel Frahm and John Hart for longer
stretches. I haven't sorted out who did what, but there are
many sparkling moments. DVD has the same songs (minus one),
but slightly different lineups, with less guest starpower.
Haven't watched it -- a rule I almost always follow.
Burkina Electric: Paspanga (2009 , Cantaloupe):
Another African fusion project where a visitor (drummer/electronics wiz
Lukas Ligeti) lands somewhere (Burkina Faso) and hooks up with local
musicians (guitarist Wende K. Blass and singer Maï Lingani), the result
being an African no less syncretic than the natives produce these days,
but better distributed. Ligeti brought a German d/b/a Pyrolator along
for more electronics. The only other credits are two dancers, brought
along to "help us draw audiences into our unusual rhythms" and thereby
to validate them. The rhythms are synthesized from local traditions,
and scarcely feel wanting even if the main reason for going to Africa
is to up the rhythm quotient. The guitar is less slick than the coast
and less rustic than the desert. The vocals are down home, as they
Hadley Caliman: Straight Ahead (2008 ,
Origin): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1932, cut a few albums in the
1970s then nothing until 2008. Second comeback album, with
Thomas Marriott on trumpet, Eric Verlinde on piano, also bass
and drums. Mainstream player, not an especially strong voice,
but his "Lush Life" is particularly nice.
Eddie C Campbell: Tear This World Up (2008 ,
Delmark): Chicago bluesman, plays guitar and sings, b. 1939, in
Mississippi like so many others -- was 6 when he made aliyah. Only
his eighth album since his 1977 debut, first in a decade. Not much
to differentiate him from a dozen others, except that he's still
around and kicking it, and blues authority grows on old guys.
The Ian Carey Quintet: Contextualizin' (2009 ,
Kabocha): Trumpet player, b. 1974, from Binghampton, NY, now based
somewhere in Bay Area. Second album. Basic hard bop lineup, bright
and sunny, with some postbop harmonizing.
Mel Carter: The Heart and Soul of Mel Carter
(2008 , CSP): Singer, b. 1943 (although I've also seen
1939 cited). AMG: "Mel Carter was soul music at its most vanilla,
if indeed he could be characterized as a soul singer at all."
He recorded steadily 1963-70, with a top ten hit in 1965 ("Hold
Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me") and two more singles grazing the top 40.
This is his first album since 1970, a standards set with a jazz
combo, bookended with two takes of Hoagy Carmichael's "Heart and
Soul," with some 1950s doo wop fare, like "The Glory of Love,"
worked into the mix. Don't know his early work other than the
hit(s), but I'd guess the vanilla is mostly in the mix -- not
an issue here, nor need he break new ground. He's a good ballad
singer, and the songs and arrangements suit him fine.
Joe Chambers: Horace to Max (2009 , Savant):
More Roach than Silver, but Chambers is a drummer, even though he
mostly plays vibes and marimba here, with Steve Berrios on the kit.
Nicole Guilland sings two Roach songs, one an Abbey Lincoln co-credit;
I don't really care for either. I'm ambivalent about Chambers' vibes
as well, but the marimba has an interesting sound. Much better is
Eric Alexander's tenor sax. Old Blue Note-style cover art.
The Nels Cline Singers: Initiate (2009 ,
Cryptogramophone, 2CD): Guitarist, b. 1956, had a solid jazz career
with a couple dozen albums since 1980 before he joined rock band
Wilco, leading to stuff like Rolling Stone dubbing him one
of the "Top 20 New Guitar Gods." NC Singers is a long-running trio
with Devin Hoff on bass (acoustic and electric) and Scott Amendola
on drums. Cline gets credits for "voice, megamouth, thingamagoop,"
but those things elide into his guitar effects -- no one actually
sings here. Two discs, the old one studio, one live deal. Live is
better -- more straightforward fusion power, less layering, fewer
mood grooves. Studio packages more ideas more tightly.
Anat Cohen: Clarinetwork: Live at the Village Vanguard
(2009 , Anzic): Israeli reed player, b. 1975, played tenor sax
in the IAF band, studied at Berklee, moved to New York in 1999. Fifth
album, with a healthy amount of side work. Someone complained to me
once about her PR budget like she was violating the Sherman Antitrust
Act, but it netted her enough press attention that she started winning
Downbeat polls, especially on clarinet where the competition
is much thinner than on tenor sax. One indication that she blew through
her budget is that after the lavish promotion of her second and third
albums, I only got a CDR of her fourth -- was promised a final copy
by Anzic's head but he never delivered -- and this crummy advance.
Nothing crummy about the music, of course. I've always preferred her
tenor sax for its soulful tone and occasional honk, but there's little
to fault here. Maybe I could complain that she picks a couple songs
that beg comparison to Barney Bigard, but she measures up well enough,
and anyone who reminds me of Bigard is all right in my book. Giddins
can add her "Body and Soul" to his all-time list, and the set bookends,
"Sweet Georgia Brown" and "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," are all
hers. Hope they send me a real copy this time. Then again the two
PR-heavy albums were her weakest. This time she put her money into
the band. Pianist Benny Green has rarely impressed me this much.
Peter Washington and Lewis Nash always do.
A- [advance, Apr. 13]
Steve Colson: The Untarnished Dream (2009 ,
Silver Sphinx): Pianist, aka Adegoke Steve Colson, b. 1949, Newark,
NJ, hooked up with AACM in the early 1970s, but doesn't seem to have
recorded much -- AMG lists a side credit with Butch Morris in 1996
and one previous album from 2004 co-credited to wife-vocalist Iqua
Colson. This is mostly piano trio, with Iqua singing on four tracks.
She is off-tune and rather clunky, which doesn't always fail to work.
Colson plays piano somewhat like that, too, but then it's hard to
keep everything straight when you're depending on Reggie Workman
and Andrew Cyrille for rhythm. They, no surprise, save the day.
Marc Copland: Alone (2008-09 , Pirouet):
Postbop pianist, b. 1948, closing in on his 30th album since 1988,
should be a major figure but they're so many pianists. As the
title explains, solo. Very measured, quiet even, exactly the sort
of thing that never commands my attention in a solo piano record.
Starts with "Soul Eyes"; includes three originals and three Joni
Mitchell songs among ten total. Intelligent and lovely, of course.
George Cotsirilos Trio: Past Present (2009 ,
OA2): Guitarist, originally from Chicago, graduated from UC Berkeley
and studied classical guitar through San Francisco Conservatory of
Music. Based in (or near) San Francisco. Third album. Don't know
much more. Guitar-bass-drums trio. Mix of originals and well worn
standards. Precise, articulate, typical jazz guitar.
François Couturier: Un Jour Si Blanc (2008 ,
ECM): French pianist, b. 1950, only his third album, second for ECM.
Solo, slow, thoughtful, with hommages to J.S. Bach, Arthur Rimbaud,
and Andrei Tarkovski.
Bill Cunliffe/Holly Hofmann: Three's Company
(2009 , Capri): Piano and flute respectively. Hofmann's
in the upper ranks of Downbeat's poll because there's
hardly anyone else, and Cunliffe doesn't place because there
are jillions of good pianists (though somewhat less that are
better than him). Most tracks add a guest, which usually helps --
the contrast with Terrell Stafford's trumpet yields a choice
cut (the title track), where the three contributors abstractly
lean against each other. The other guests spots: Regina Carter
(violin), Ken Peplowski (clarinet), Alvester Garnett (drums).
Darunam/Milan: The Last Angel on Earth (2008 ,
64-56 Media): Darunam is a group/duo of guitarist Radovan Jovicevic and
vocalist Manu Narayan. Jovicevic is Serbian; Narayan Indian-American.
They met up in New York, and have one previous album. Milan is Milan
Milosevic, clarinet player, also from Belgrade (presumably not the
Bosnian basketball player). Songs are based on various angels, saints,
or deities, including Bacchus, Raphael, Cupid, Karl [Marx], Mahatma
[Gandhi], and Theresa [Mother]. Mostly in English -- Vanessa Ivey also
sings some -- sort of world fusion with Balkan and Indian elements but
nothing that clear. Interesting sound mix; less sure about the themes.
Dan Dean: 251 (2009 , Origin): Bassist;
credits don't specify, but pictures show him playing electric.
First album, although AMG lists about 50 credits going back to
1976. The songs here are covers, most well known standards
("'S Wonderful," "One Note Samba," "All the Things You Are,"
"In Walked Bud," "Body and Soul," etc.) done as duets with
various keyboard players: George Duke, Larry Goldings (organ),
Gil Goldstein (also plays accordion), Kenny Werner. Werner's
cuts are brightly pianistic; Goldings is Goldings, and there's
not much a bassist can do about that.
Graham Decter: Right on Time (2008 , Capri):
Guitarist, from and based in Los Angeles; studied at Eastman School
of Music in Rochester, NY; plays in Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.
Debut album, a quartet, backed by the Clayton-Hamilton trio: John
Clayton on bass, Jeff Hamilton on drums, Tamir Hendelman on piano.
Needless to say, they swing. Program includes one original, two
Ellingtons, Johnny Hodges' "Squatty Roo," pieces by Ray Brown and
Thad Jones, a Jobim, other standards. Decter's guitar complements
the trio, adding texture and pushing them a bit.
Tineke de Jong/Albert van Veenendaal/Alan Purves/Hans Habesos:
Midday Moon (2008 , Brokken): Dutch group. De Jong
plays violin, van Veenendaal (prepared) piano, Purves percussion,
Hasebos marimba. De Jong's notes describe herself as "a classical
violinist inspired by jazz standards" and van Veenendaal as "an
improvising pianist without style boundaries." In other words,
she's more conventionally boxed in, whereas the pianist easily
breaks convention. Especially striking when the drums and marimba
expand on the prepared piano's percussion; less so when de Jong
returns to chamber jazz, which predominates.
Jorrit Dijkstra: Pillow Circles (2009 , Clean
Feed): Dutch saxophonist, plays alto and lyricon, has 10 or so albums
since 1994, based in Boston. This is an octet with a few American
names I recognize -- Tony Malaby, Jeb Bishop, Jason Roebke, Frank
Rosaly -- and a few Europeans I don't. With viola and guitar/banjo,
plus three users of Crackle Box ("a small low-fi noisemaker invented
by Dutch electronic musician Michel Waisvisz"). Only instrument that
registers much for me is Bishop's trombone. Otherwise I find it
vaguely symphonic, swooning in swirls of slick harmony, but somehow
it grows on you.
The Dominant 7/The Jazz Arts Messengers: Fourteen Channels
(2009 , Tapestry): Two groups, a septet (plus a guest on one
cut) and a nonet, each good for seven cuts, no more than two in a
row. The groups come from Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts
(CCJA), directed by Paul Romaine. Never heard of anyone listed, or
for that matter of CCJA. Much of the growth in jazz over the last
10-20 years, at least in the US, has been fueled by jazz programs
in music schools, where the most likely result is classical-trained
postbop with an emphasis on intricate arrangements and complex but
annoying harmonies. I've long been suspicious of this, and will
continue to be, but these sets are surprising on many levels. The
groups provide the range of big bands with chamber intimacy, so
there are plenty of solo options but little section bombast and
relatively simple harmonic ranges. The two groups fit nicely
together, and there are no dominant players or auteurs: each of
the 14 pieces is credited to a different composer, and the solos
are scattered widely. The sum lacks the raging individualism I
think I prefer, but there's nothing here I don't enjoy -- even
the flute solos.
Scott DuBois: Black Hawk Dance (2009 ,
Sunnyside): Guitarist, b. 1978, fourth album since 2005, second
I have heard. His 2008 album Banshees got shortchanged in
Jazz CG (19) with a high HM. This is only slightly less striking,
probably because he slows the pace more, and defers less to his
sax/bass clarinet player, Gebhard Ullman. Quartet is filled out
capably by Thomas Morgan (bass) and Kresten Osgood (drums).
Ullman has never sounded more like a mainstream bopper, which
actually suits him well.
Lajos Dudas: Chamber Music Live (1990 ,
Pannon Classic): Not sure why I have this down as a 2009 release:
it was mastered in 1997 and most likely released shortly after
that. Jewel case is a little worn, too. Dudas plays clarinet,
was born 1941, don't know how many records he has but he sent
me one in 2008, Jazz on Stage, that made my HM list.
This was recorded live in Bonn, with Sebastian Buchholz on
alto sax and "buch-horn" -- the two horns provide a sharp-shrill
contrast, vigorous when it's just the two of them. The third
participant is vocalist Yldiz Ibrahimova, who has one of those
operatic voices I can rarely stand.
Paul Dunmall/Chris Corsano: Identical Sunsets (2010,
ESP-Disk): Dunmall's bagpipes, played solo on the first cut, are the
most hideous sound in all of jazz. He digs a deep hole there, although
I suppose you could give him points for novelty. Dunmall's tenor sax
is something else: fiercely engaged, sometimes brilliant, always noisy.
Corsano is a drummer I had forgotten about -- has one album under his
own name, unheard by me, and a few side credits, including a Nels
Cline-Wally Shoup dud from 2005 where the noise got the best of the
music. He digs in hard here, apparently a fair match for an effort
that sinks or swims on Dunmall.
EEA: The Dark (2008 , Origin): EEA stands
for Peter Epstein (alto and soprano sax), Larry Engstrom (trumpet),
and David Ake (piano). Mostly Ake, who wrote all of the pieces
except for three group improvs, two by Duke Ellington, and one
by Egberto Gismonti. Ake studied at UCLA, teaches at University
of Nevada Reno; has a book Jazz Cultures, and a couple of
previous albums. I don't have a firm opinion on his piano, but
I must say that the idea of going without bass and/or drums is
a real drag. Epstein has some remarkable work in the past -- one
I highly recommend is Lingua Franca, with Brad Shepik --
but he's bland here, while Engstrom makes even less impression.
Mark Egan: Truth Be Told (2009 , Wavetone):
Electric bassist -- "fretted and fretless" is how he puts it --
b. 1951, has eight or so records since 1985, plus a large number
of side credits going back to 1977 -- Pat Metheny, Bill Evans
(the saxophonist, who plays here), Gil Evans, Mark Murphy, Jason
Miles, Joe Beck. Basically a funk-fusion quintet, like Weather
Report at their most homogenized, with less distinctive players
at every slot: Egan, Evans, Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), Roger Squitero
(percussion), and especially Mitch Forman (keyboards).
John Ellis & Double-Wide: Puppet Mischief
(2009 , ObliqSound): Tenor saxophonist, also plays bass
clarinet here, b. 1974, sixth album since 1996. Seems that he
has been aiming at some sort of a popular mainstream synthesis --
past album titles emphasize a common touch ("Roots Branches and
Leaves," "One Foot in the Swamp"), and his Double-Wide aims low
even when the shot drifts high. Blues are part, but also this
veers toward circus music -- maybe it's Matt Perrine's sousaphone
in lieu of bass, or Brian Coogan's organ (also in lieu of bass).
The fourth group member is Jason Marsalis on drums, but things
are made more complex with two guests: Alan Ferber on trombone
and Gregoire Maret on harmonica, both quality additions.
Amir ElSaffar/Hafez Modirzadeh: Radif/Suite (2009
, Pi): ElSaffar is a trumpeter, Iraqi father, American mother,
b. 1977 in Chicago, studied at DePaul, has one previous album, Two
Rivers, in 2007. Modirzadeh plays tenor sax, Iranian father,
American mother, b. 1962 in North Carolina, teaches at SF State,
has 6-7 previous albums as well as side-credits back to 1987, many
with the Asian Improv crowd (Fred Ho, Francis Wong, Anthony Brown).
Each wrote a long suite-like piece here: Modirzadeh's "Radif-E Kayhan"
and ElSaffar's "Copper Suite." Rhythm section is Alex Cline on drums
and gongs, Mark Dresser on bass. Both pieces sound like freebop to
me, with nothing special suggesting Iraq or Iran (except for ElSaffar's
Empty Cage Quartet & Soletti Besnard: Take Care of
Floating (2008 , Rude Awakening): LA-based pianoless
freebop quartet, with Kris Tiner (trumpet), Jason Mears (alto sax,
clarinet), Ivan Johnson (bass), and Paul Kikuchi (drums), on their
sixth album since 2006 -- expanded to a sextet this time with the
addition of two French musicians: guitarist Patrice Soletti and
clarinettist Aurélien Besnard, for more complex interaction, but
tends to unsharpen the angles. Soletti and Besnard have several
albums each, including at least one duo. I'm rather taken with
Besnard's MySpace influences list: Berne, Ducret, Sclavis, Eskelin,
further down adding Dolphy, Ayler, Coleman, Davis, Braxton, and
Damian Erskine: So to Speak (2010, DE): Bassist,
primarily or perhaps exclusively electric bass guitar; based in
Portland, OR. Second album, after Trios in 2007. Group adds
guitar, piano, drums, percussion, with occasional addition of a
horn or yet more percussion -- tenor saxophonist John Nastos is
the only name I recognize. Basically a shifting groove album; I
can't quite call it hard-edged or relentless, but it trends that
Oran Etkin: Kelenia (2009, Motema): Two Malians,
on balafon and vocals, lay out gentle grooves for Etkin's reeds,
and various guests work their way in and out. Caught my fancy
less this time than before.
[formerly B+(***)] B+(**)
Orrin Evans: Faith in Action (2009 , Posi-Tone):
Pianist, b. 1975 or 1976 (seen both cited) in Trenton, NJ; raised
in Philadelphia, studied at Rutgers (e.g., Kenny Barron), based in
Philadelphia. Tenth album since 1994, most on Criss Cross. First
one I've heard, partially plugging one of the larger gaps in my
listening. Piano trio with Luques Curtis on bass, various drummers
(Nasheet Waits, Rocky Bryant, Gene Jackson). Mostly Bobby Watson
songs (5 of 10) -- Evans has appeared on a couple Watson albums,
and Watson wrote an appreciative note on the inside, something
about finding the portal and unlocking the compositions. That's
too technical for me: what I hear is a first-rate postbop pianist
picking his way through intricate material, impressive enough but
nothing quite grabs me. Need to listen to him more, but that's
true of a lot of more/less equivalent pianists.
Alan Ferber: Music for Nonet and Strings/Chamber Songs
(2009 , Sunnyside): Trombonist, b. 1975, based in Brooklyn, third
album including a previous nonet on Fresh Sound I was impressed with,
plus quite a bit of side work -- John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble stands
out. I recognize about half of the strings, conducted by J.C. Sanford,
from previous jazz work. The nonet has a wide pallette of sounds,
notably including Scott Wendholt on trumpet, John Ellis on tenor sax,
and Nate Radley on guitar. Takes some concentration to get past the
third stream thing, but lots of rewarding details.
Ambrose Field/John Potter: Being Dufay (2007 ,
ECM New Series): Field is credited with "live and studio electronics";
Potter as "tenor," meaning a vocalist with classical standing. Record
is "based on vocal fragments by Guillaume Dufay (1397-1474)," a
Franco-Flemish composer of the early Renaissance. The electronics
separate this from any baggage I associate with classical music.
The voice wends through the words without excessive drama or
disruption. Lovely, actually.
Scott Fields Ensemble: Fugu (1995 , Clean Feed):
Chicago guitarist, has a couple dozen albums since 1993, of which this
original 1995 recording was his second, brought back on a new label.
Group wobbles between Matt Turner on cello and Robert Stright on vibes,
the former slowing things down and sapping them up, the latter bristling
with energy. Group also includes bass and percussion. Fields has some
very nice runs, and the vibes are terrific.
Fight the Big Bull: All Is Gladness in the Kingdom
(2009 , Clean Feed): Virginia big band, was 9 pieces last time,
now 11-12, with Steven Bernstein the big name pick up. Erstwhile
leader is guitarist Matt White, who wrote most of the pieces, save
two from Bernstein and an old Band song ("Jemina Surrender") that
Bernstein arranged. Sometimes it seems like their main trick is to
kick up the volume; sometimes it works really well.
Carl Fischer & Organic Groove Ensemble: Adverse Times
(2009 , Fischmusic): Trumpet player (also flugelhorn and valve
trombone here), second album. Played with Maynard Ferguson Big Bop
Nouveau Band 1993-98, winding up as music director, and returning for
spots up to 2004. Otherwise, resume mostly features performances (but
I don't see any recording credits) with pop stars: Dianne Schuur, Mary
Wilson, Blood Sweat & Tears, Dells, Four Tops, Will Smith, Shakira,
Sam Moore, Sophie B. Hawkins, Mariah Carey, Billy Joel. Organic Groove
seems to mean Hammond B3, guitar, tabla, and Latin percussion. Two
vocals by Brent Carter are definite downers. The trumpet does remind
a bit of Ferguson, to whom the album is dedicated.
Roberto Fonseca: Akokan (2008 , Enja/Justin
Time): Cuban pianist, b. 1975, has six or so albums since 2001.
Has a light touch, speed, and sophistication when out in the lead.
His accoutrements are less impressive. Javier Zalba plays flute,
clarinet, and baritone sax, none particularly apt. Several vocals
also produce mixed effects. Few Afro-Cuban trademarks, which is
neither here nor there.
Free Unfold Trio: Ballades (2009 , Ayler):
Piano trio, led by Jobic Le Masson, with Benjamin Duboc on bass
and Didier Lasserre on drums. Two (or four) pieces, composed (or
improvised) by the group, totalling a scant 28:39. French group,
has one previous album together, and Le Masson has a trio album
under his own name. Ballade means slow here, a untethered set
of ambient abstractions, interesting but likely to slip past
without much notice.
Satoko Fujii Ma-Do: Desert Ship (2009 ,
Not Two): Japanese quartet, with Fujii on piano, Natsuki Tamura on
trumpet, Norikatsu Koreyasu on bass, and Akira Horikoshi on drums.
Played this five times in a row and don't have a lot to say about
it. Seems to work in bits without taking shape as a whole. Tamura
as many strong spots, and the bass is a powerful presence. Fujii,
too, when she feels like it, which isn't all that often.
Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo: Zakopane (2009
, Libra): Conventionally-sized big band: 5 reeds, 4 trumpets,
3 trombones (no bass trombone), guitar, bass, drums, no piano --
Fujii composed and conducts, but does not play.
Andrea Fultz: The German Projekt: German Songs From the
Twenties & Thirties (2009, The German Projekt): I
figure my own fondless for these famous Brecht/Weill and Hollaender
tunes is so indelibly personal that I faded my grade. But what
the hell: I'd rather hear these stretched, smeared, scorched
renditions than dig out my old Lotte Lenya records.
[formerly B+(***)] A-
Hal Galper: E Pluribus Unum: Live in Seattle
(2009 , Origin): A very good albeit not all that well
known pianist, now in his 70s, in a trio with Seattle stalwarts
Jeff Johnson (bass) and John Bishop (drums). Dense, deliberate,
interesting, but less compelling than his 2009 Art-Work,
which was elevated by Reggie Workman and Rashied Ali.
Garaj Mahal: More Mr. Nice Guy (2009 , Owl
Studios): Guitar-keybs-bass-drums quartet, seventh album since 2003,
the first three titled Live. I filed them under guitarist
Fareed Haque since he was the one I recognized and he was listed
first on the back cover, but keyb man Eric Levy strikes me as more
central, and drummer "the Rick" sings two pieces. The groove tracks
are agreeable enough, rhythmically complex and often clever, but
the vocal tracks are vapid, which undercuts everything else.
Garaj Mahal & Fareed Haque: Discovery: The Moog Guitar
(2010, Moog Music): Haque is a regular member of the quartet -- along with
Eric Levy on keyboards, Kai Eckhardt on bass, and Sean Rickman on drums --
so it seems a bit untoward to single him out here, but the point of the
record is to show off the Moog guitar he plays, and he is by far the best
known member of the group. No vocals this time, so the attractive grooves
just work their sinuous ways.
Maxfield Gast: Eat Your Beats (2009 , Militia
Hill): Saxophonist (alto, soprano, EWI; also trumpet, synth, and drum
programming) from Philadelphia. First album. Occasionally adds keybs,
bass, and/or drums, but sometimes just does it all himself. One of his
web pages describes this as "a combination of old-school instrumental
hip hop, drum & bass, soul, and funk." I wound up refiling it as
pop jazz, which isn't quite fair: it isn't slick or smooth or catchy,
and it doesn't make you feel like wretching. On the other hand, it
doesn't do much else either. Minor grooves, nothing to get your
attention (least of all the saxophone), yet it doesn't slip into
Gato Libre: Shiro (2009 , Libra): Trumpet
player Natsuki Tamura's group, with wife Satoko Fujii taking a
back seat on accordion, Kazuhiko Tsumura on guitar, and Norikatsu
Koreyasu on bass. At its best (cf. Nomad) this group could
channel a Euro folk vibe, largely aided by the accordion; here
it tends to flounder, with the guitar lyrical, the accordion in
the background, the trumpet neither here nor there. Second album
in a role I found myself focusing on Koreyasu.
Tobias Gebb & Unit 7: Free at Last (2009
, Yummy House): Drummer, from and in New York, with college
detours to Berklee and the Bay Area (tempting to guess Berkeley).
His debut Trio West album was an HM in these parts, but I didn't
get inspired to play his Xmas album when it was in season -- it's
still around here somewhere and someday I'll get to it, well, maybe.
Unit 7 is a larger group, but not a septet, and not evidently a
regular group: I count five or six musicians. Eldud Svulun plays
piano on all eight, with the smaller group adding Mark Gross (alto
sax), Joel Frahm (tenor sax) and Ugonna Okegwo (bass); the larger
group features Bobby Watson (alto sax), Joe Magnarelli (trumpet),
Stacy Dillard (tenor sax), and Neal Miner (bass), for a thick postbop
stew. Title track offers "a special thanks to Barack Obama." Closer
is "Tomorrow Never Knows," which I'd hazard a guess (but not a bet)
is the Beatles tune most often recorded on jazz albums -- a big part
of why jazzing up the Beatles never seems to work, although Frahm
gives it a good run, and the sitar adds a little frizz.
Dave Glasser: Evolution (2010, Here Tiz):
Alto saxophonist, worked his way through the Basie ghost band
with Frank Foster, the Gillespie ghost band with Jon Faddis,
and the still living and vital Basie-Ellington alum Clark
Terry's quintet. Most likely they are all fond of his tone,
which Phil Woods likens to Benny Carter. Glasser was last
heard swinging on Arbors, but here he turns a bit "Monkish" --
one of his titles, while his pianist John Nyerges contributes
a complementary tune called "Monk's Blues," and to drive the
theme home the quartet does "Rhythm-a-Ning." Slim slipcover
slipped in with the advances, but doesn't include any of the
usual intimidating promo talk, so I assume this is finished
product. Didn't even scratch out the UPC.
Frank Glover: Abacus (2009 , Owl Studios):
Plays clarinet and soprano sax. Based in Indianapolis. Has a half-dozen
or so albums since 1991. This one is for quartet plus orchestra, the
latter conducted by Dean Franke -- credits only list names, nineteen
of them. The orchestra tends to overwhelm the clarinet, and early on
this reminded me of the classical music I used to zero the volume on
during my "required listening." Gets better toward the end, mostly
because the rhythm picks up.
B- [May 11]
Jon Gold: Brazil Confidential (2010, Zoho): Pianist,
got a Ph.D. in chemistry at UC Santa Cruz, moved to Rio de Janeiro
to teach chemistry, picked up an interest in Brazilian music. First
album. Has a chintzy, slick, 1960s bossa nova feel, pretty close to
perfect with Tatiana Parra's sole vocal, slightly less on Leah Siegel's
two vocals. A lot of musicians slide in and out -- Anat Cohen is the
one you'll recognize, Harvie S of course, maybe Zack Brock (violin,
a standout), and percussionist Ze Mauricio is critical. Works more
often than it should, especially when Jorge Continentino forsakes
the softer woodwinds for a sax solo.
Jon Gold: Brazil Confidential (2010, Zoho):
Artist's second album -- not his first as I had noted. Gold also
tells me that his interest in Brazilian music predates his moving
to Rio, and was in fact the reason to make the move.
Ben Goldberg: Go Home (2009, BAG): Clarinet player,
from Colorado, studied in Santa Cruz, birth date unknown but started
recording with New Klezmer Trio in 1990 and has been prolific ever
since, with ten albums under his own name, plus three New Klezmer
Trios, one Hasidic New Wave, two Tin Hats, a Clarinet Thing, and
various interesting combos with John Zorn, Marty Ehrlich, Charlie
Hunter, Steven Bernstein, Myra Melford, and Allen Lowe/Roswell Rudd.
This is a quartet with Ron Miles (cornet, trumpet), Charlie Hunter
(7-string guitar), and Scott Amendola (drums). Goldberg wrote all
of the songs (except "Ethan's Song" co-credited to Ethan Goldberg),
but this feels more like Hunter's gig, with rockish grooves and
guitar twang driving everything. In fusion formula you'd expect
synth but the clarinet dresses up the grooves nicely, while Miles
occasionally jumps in front.
Jon Gordon: Evolution (2009, ArtistShare): Alto
saxophonist, also plays some soprano. Has a dozen or so albums
since 1989, mostly on Criss Cross and Double-Time. This one is,
well, complicated. Five of nine pieces are cut with a large
ensemble, including John Ellis on tenor sax, Doug Yates on bass
clarinet, plus trumpet, trombone, guitar, piano, bass, drums,
percussion, and strings. First track opens with just the strings:
two violins and a cello, with a quasi-classical feel. A couple
of other tracks pair Gordon off with Bill Charlap on piano.
Kristin Berardi pops up here and there with vocals. Couldn't
listen closely in two plays, but doesn't seem promising enough
to explore further, which isn't to say there isn't anything of
Bob Greene: St. Peter Street Strutters (1964 ,
Delmark): Pianist, b. 1922, later organized a group called World of
Jelly Roll Morton -- they have a record recorded in 1982, released
by GHB in 1994; as far as I know Greene's only other record. Group
here is a very trad jazz quartet, with Ernie Carson on cornet, Shorty
Johnson on tuba, and Steve Larner on banjo. Carson, 27 at the time,
is by far the best known. So old-fashioned swing would be showing
off. Still, I've been enjoying this a lot, especially driving around
where I'm not obligated to figure things out.
Brian Groder/Burton Greene: Groder & Greene
(2007 , Latham): I little more schizzy than I recalled,
with the piano-trumpet dithering spare on one side, overpowered
by Rob Brown on the other.
[formerly B+(***)] B+(**)
Tord Gustavsen Ensemble: Restored, Returned
(2009 , ECM): Pianist, b. 1970, from Norway, has three
previous trio albums on ECM, slyly simple and elegant things
that put him in the upper tier of ECM's ambience. This is a
slightly bigger production, in which he plays slightly less.
Several pieces are built around W.H. Auden poetry, sung by
Kristin Asbjørnsen, who gives them a sultry musicality far
removed from the archness that most found poetry results in.
Tore Brunborg plays tenor and soprano sax, gently caressing
the melodies and filling them out.
Jim Guttmann: Bessarabian Breakdown (2009 ,
Kleztone): Bassist, a founder of Klezmer Conservatory Band back in
1980, a Boston-based klezmer outfit with a dozen albums up through
2003. Debut album. A large group of musicians, although I'm not
sure how many play on which cuts -- looks like they're just listing
soloists. Went back and checked out one of KCB's better regarded
albums, Old World Beat (1992, Rounder), for reference, and
found it more orthodox and less lively, although the lack of vocals
here may have made for part of the difference. I'm also tempted
to credit Frank London and Alex Kontorovich, although I can't
isolate them here. Swings hard, picks up some gypsy flavor, and
maybe a little clave.
Dana Hall: Into the Light (2009, Origin): Drummer,
first album although he has a couple dozen side credits going back
to 1998, including two with trumpeter Terell Stafford, who leads off
here. Quintet, sort of post-hard bop, with Tim Warfield on tenor sax,
Bruce Barth on piano/Fender Rhodes, and Rodney Whitaker on bass. The
horns crackle, but come off a bit sloppy, with Warfield never clearly
establishing himself. The drummer asserts his control by playing even
louder, and is dazzling at best.
Darryl Harper: Stories in Real Time (2009, Hipnotic):
Clarinet player, b. 1968, has four previous records as the Onus --
the one I've heard an HM. Teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Organized this group as a clarinet quartet with piano, bass, and
drums, plus occasional vocalist Marianne Solivan. Sometimes goes
for a chamber jazz/quasi-classical sound, and sometimes makes it
work, although he can also throw out a piece of light funk like
"Tore Up." Don't care for the singer, although she's not without
interest, at least on the "Saints and Sinners" suite.
Tom Harrell: Roman Nights (2009 , High Note):
Trumpet, flugelhorn, b. 1946, one of the best known players of his
generation. I've occasionally been blown away by him, but haven't
heard much that I've liked lately. This at least is swaggeringly
upbeat, which suits tenor saxophonist Wayne Escofferey and pianist
Danny Grissett as well.
Jeff Healey: Last Call (2007 , Stony Plain):
Canadian guitarist-singer, blinded at age one by eye cancer, formed
a blues band in mid-1980s and sold a ton of records. Always had a
passion for old jazz records, which he finally turned into a second
act as a trad jazz artist, picking up trumpet as well. Died in 2008
at age 41 after another bout of cancer. This is presumably his last
studio album. Trumpet switches off his vocals, but recorded guitar
ahead of time, citing Eddie Lang as an influence but he hits it
harder with more sting, almost getting a banjo sound. Drew Jureeka
plays Joe Venuti on violin, and Ross Wooldridge plays piano and
clarinet. Half the songs are pretty familiar.
Pablo Held: Music (2009 , Pirouet): Pianist,
quite young (b. 1986), from Germany, leading a trio with Robert
Landfermann on bass and Jonas Burgwinkel on drums on his second
album. Covers from Olivier Messaien and Herbie Hancock, plus eight
originals. Starts quiet and cautious, but gradually opens up.
John Hicks & Frank Morgan: Twogether (2005-06
, High Note): The sort of record that would be dismissed as
lazy by living artists but turns into a poignant souvenir now that
they've passed. Three piano solos -- one each on Bud Powell, Duke
Pearson, and Billy Strayhorn -- plus four duos with alto saxophonist
Morgan, as standard as "Round Midnight" and "Night in Tunisia."
Dave Holland Octet: Pathways (2009 , Dare2):
Also buried among the advances -- doubt I'll ever see a final copy.
Recorded live at Birdland, so there are some intros and shout outs.
Not sure if/when Holland has used the octet format before, but it
splits the difference between his quintet (Chris Potter on tenor
sax, Robin Eubanks on trombone, Steve Nelson on vibes, and Nate
Smith on drums) and his big band, adding three more horns (Alex
Sipiagin on trumpet, Antonio Hart on alto sax, and Gary Smulyan
on baritone sax). Mostly Holland pieces, with Potter and Sipiagin
contributing one each. A lot of firepower -- Potter and Eubanks
caught my ears, but Hart and Smulyan also got called out, and
Nelson gets his space. I figure this for smart postbop, and can't
get excited about it, but there's much to admire, so I'll let it
sit for now. Given the reputations of all involved, this will no
doubt fare well in year-end polls.
Vivian Houle: Treize (2008 , Drip Audio):
Canadian vocalist, works through 13 tracks each with a different
musician. Some pieces lean toward art song, or even opera, while
others match the instrument head on -- especially the duo with
drummer Kenton Loewen. I'm duly impressed, but can't say as I
enjoyed much of it.
Abdullah Ibrahim & WDR Big Band Cologne: Bombella
(2008 , Sunnyside): Steve Gray, who died between the recording
and its release, arranged and conducted ten Ibrahim pieces. The WDR
Big Band is one of the better jazz repertory big bands around, with
power and polish and a roster that can be counted on to nail a solo
slot. Ibrahim plays piano, starting solo on "Green Kalahari." He is
a consistent delight here. The band works wondrously sometimes, but
sometimes seems a bit off. You can substitute piccolo flute for
pennywhistle, and "Mandela" will be wonderful as always.
The Inhabitants: A Vacant Lot (2007 , Drip
Audio): Vancouver group, credits in order listed: Skye Brooks (drums),
J.P. Carter (trumpet), Pete Schmitt (bass), Dave Sikula (guitar).
If I read the icons right, Carter wrote 4 songs, Brooks and Schmitt
2 each, and Sikula mixed the thing. Richly textural with a tendency
to swell and get dense, sort of prog rock but that does this a
Sherman Irby Quartet: Live at the Otto Club (2008
, Black Warrior): Alto saxophonist from Alabama, b. 1968, sixth
album since 1997, the first two on Blue Note should have established
him as one of the brightest young mainstream players around -- cf.
Big Mama's Biscuits -- but he disappeared for six years before
coming back on his own label. Otto Club is in Napoli, Italy, which
flavors the quartet -- Nico Menci on piano, Marco Marzola on bass,
Darrell Green on drums. One original and five jazz covers, with only
Roy Hargrove's "Depth" of postbop vintage. The opening and closing
bop classics ("Bohemia After Dark" and "In Walked Bud") shine, but
the slower pieces don't stand out much, and the pianist doesn't do
much with his spotlight.
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey: One Day in Brooklyn
(2009, Kinnara): Group, originally from Tulsa, led by pianist
Brian Haas, with Chris Coombs on lap steel guitar, Matt Hayes
(replacing longtime member Reed Mathis) on double bass, and
Josh Raymer on drums. On past albums, Mathis had managed to
produce some strange fuzziness on the bass, but Hayes melts
into the mix, leaving Haas more out front than ever. A Monk,
some stuff by Lennon and McCartney, a couple of originals.
Not bad, but not worth spending a lot of time figuring out
whether it should be rated a notch higher.
Michael Janisch: Purpose Built (2009 , Whirlwind):
Bassist, on his debut album favors acoustic over electric 9 cuts to 3.
Originally from Wisconsin, wound up in London, but recorded this in
Brooklyn. Jonathan Blake plays drums; everyone else rotates with Aaron
Goldberg (piano: 2 cuts), Jim Hart (vibes: 4), Jason Palmer (trumpet: 3),
Paul Booth (tenor sax: 3), Walter Smith III (tenor sax: 4), Patrick
Cornelius (alto sax: 2), Mike Moreno (guitar: 3), and Phil Robson
(guitar: 2). This yields a duo with drums, two piano trio cuts, a
third with guitar, and various combos with horns and sometimes vibes
up to a highly juiced bebop-retro sextet. Focusing on the bass helps
pull it back together, but as with many debut albums the tendency
is to show off more combinations than makes sense.
Gabriel Johnson: Fra_ctured (2009 , Electrofone):
After Robert Christgau A-listed this, citing Jon Hassell and Nils Petter
Molvaer (and Miles Davis) as antecedents, and Chris Monsen added it to
his 2010-in-progress list I had high expectations here, but never could
quite hear whatever it was that I expected -- beats, I think. Rather,
what I'm hearing (after way too many plays) is soundtrack electronica,
closer to Morricone than to Miles, darker but with grandiose gestures.
Don't get much out of his PR bios, which are as oblique and opaque as
his music. Seems to have played everything here, or at least sampled it,
but the trumpet is authentic.
Barb Jungr: The Men I Love: The New American Songbook
(2009 , Naim): English vocalist, b. 1954, based in London, more
than 10 records since 1996, including one called Chanson and
one dedicated to Nina Simone. Every now and then a jazz singer tries
her hand at rock-based singer-songwriter fare from the 1960s and 1970s,
and the results usually range from uninspired to lame, but this is as
much of an exception as I can recall. Readings are straightforward,
and the band, with cello and flute, is unnotable, but she salvages a
couple of songs I wouldn't touch -- "My Little Town," "Wichita Lineman,"
"Once in a Lifetime" -- does a nice job of bundling "This Old Heart of
Mine" with "Love Hurts" (actually from the 1950s, unless she first
heard it from Nazareth, or as I did, from Jim Capaldi), makes good
use of Neil Diamond ("I'm a Believer" and "Red Red Wine"), and wins
my seal of approval with Todd Rundgren's "I Saw the Light" -- rivals
Bruce Springsteen's "The River" for the best thing here.
B+(***) [May 11]
Kalle Kalima & K-18: Some Kubricks of Blood
(2007 , Tum): Guitarist, from Finland, b. 1973, studied in
Germany with Raoul Björkenheim among others; has a couple albums,
maybe two dozen side credits, many with Jazzanova. Unusual group
sound here, with Ville Kujala's quarter-tone accordion, Mikko
Innanen's saxes (alto, soprano, baritone), and Teppo Hauta-aho
on double bass -- no drummer, which helps explain why this gets
stuck in weird eddies. Compositions are keyed to various Stanley
Kubrick films. Packaging, liner notes, and artwork are superb,
as usual for this label. Despite the disconnects, interesting
in various spots.
Phil Kelly & the Northwest Prevailing Winds: Ballet of
the Bouncing Beagles (2009, Origin): Big big band -- 22
pieces, plus string programming -- from Seattle, with a couple of
recognized names but not many -- Jerry Dodgion, Pete Christlieb,
Grant Geissman, Jay Thomas are the names I know. Third album for
composer-arranger Kelly, who came out of Texas, where he was
arranger for the Fort Worth Symphony Pops for 25 years. Reminds
me of Kenton, sometimes even at his best, hardly ever at his
Dave King: Indelicate (2009 , Sunnyside):
Happy Apple/Bad Plus drummer, goes solo for his debut album with
his drum track alongside an indelicate piano track. King wrote
all the pieces. Probably unfair to say he plays piano like he
plays drums, but the repetitive riffs and frills could easily
have been conceived on drums; on the other hand, he never adds
the sort of frills that are as natural to pianists as limbering
up. Interesting, but not very compelling.
Oleg Kireyev/Keith Javors: Rhyme & Reason (2009
, Inarhyme): Kireyev is a tenor saxophonist, b. 1964, Russia,
somewhere way out in the Urals; came to US in 1994, studied under
Bud Shank. Website lists 10 previous albums going back to 1989,
most on Russian labels (one Polish, one American). The latter was
Mandala, from his Feng Shui Jazz Project, a world-fusion
thang I liked a lot. This, however, is pure mainstream -- one
might even say a perfectly good Bud Shank album. Javors is a
pianist, b. 1971 Carbondale, IL; studied at UNT; taught various
places; has several albums since 2000, and has shown up in
contexts like the American Music Project. Boris Kozlov plays
bass; E.J. Strickland drums. Lovely album.
Thomson Kneeland: Mazurka for a Modern Man (2007
, Weltschmerz): Bassist, in New York, first album, although
he has three previous with or as Kakalla, a similar group with
less emphasis on the horns. Group here has David Smith on trumpet,
Loren Stillman on alto sax (4 of 9 cuts), Nate Radley on guitar,
and Take Toriyama on drums/percussion, except for one track in the
middle which has trumpet (Jerry Sabatini), accordion, violin/viola,
and drums. Balkan influence, bebop drive, although the violin cut
aims for something more chamberish, and is less convincing.
Kirk Knuffke: Amnesia Brown (2008 , Clean Feed):
Trumpet player -- website announces he plays cornet now, but credit
here is trumpet; originally from Denver, based in New York since 2005;
has a bunch of new/recent records, including a duo with Jesse Stacken
on Steeplechase, plus several trio records with various lineups. This
trio includes Doug Wieselman on clarinet and guitar and Kenny Wollesen
on drums. Wieselman's guitar is surprisingly effective. His clarinet
provides a contrasting tone which sometimes slows things down, but
they mostly mix well. Nice artwork, although the back is impossible
Sofia Rei Koutsovitis: Sube Azul (2009 ,
World Village/Harmonia Mundi): Singer, from Buenos Aires, Argentina,
studied at New England Conservatory, now based in New York; second
album, all in Spanish, mostly originals, with an expert set of
musicians, with mostly Cuban-oriented percussionists, and jazz
names at piano (Geoff Keezer and Leo Genovese) and clarinet (Anat
Ralph Lalama Quartet: The Audience (2009 ,
Mighty Quinn): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1951, 7th album since 1990
(first 5 on Criss Cross), with John Hart on guitar, Rick Petrone
on bass, Joe Corsello on drums. Mainstream, more bop than post,
with Rollins an obvious model -- "I'm an Old Cowhand" is a nice
touch even if it falls well short of Way Out West. Hart
has a good day.
Brian Landrus: Forward (2007 , Cadence Jazz):
Reedist, b. 1978 in Reno, NV, based in New York, plays baritone sax,
bass clarinet, and alto flute here, on his first album. Most cuts
include Michael Cain (piano), John Lockwood (bass), Rakalam Bob Moses
(drums), and Tupac Mantilla (percussion), but one is solo, one each
drop Cain or Mantilla, and several add extra horns: George Garzone
(2: tenor sax), Allan Chase (2: alto sax), Jason Palmer (3: trumpet).
Avant-oriented label, but sounds pretty mainstream, with a steady
rhythm, even a bit of swing. Sole cover is T. Monk's "Ask Me Now."
Babatunde Lea: Umbo Weti: A Tribute to Leon Thomas
(2008 , Motéma, 2CD): Drummer, I'm finding very little useful
biography: grew up in New York and Englewood, NJ; now based in San
Francisco, evidently since the late 1960s. ("In the late 1960s the
youthful 49 year old percussionist migrated westward to the Bay
Area": when was he 49? If in the late 1960s he'd be 90 now, which
he sure doesn't look; if now he would have left NY/NJ by the time
he was 10, hardly grown up.) Released an album in 1979, then nothing
until 1996, a half-dozen (more/less) since. Leon Thomas (1937-99)
might have been a blues shouter but he ran into the avant-garde,
cutting six 1969-73 albums, plus appearing on albums by Pharoah
Sanders, Oliver Nelson, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Archie Shepp, Mary
Lou Williams, and Santana. His discography is spotty after that --
a 1988 Blues Band album I rather like, a 1998 duet with Jeri
Brown, not much more. This was cut live at Yoshi, with Dwight Trible
carrying the vocal burden, Ernie Watts waxing eloquent on tenor sax
where Sanders and Shepp turned shrill, Patrice Rushen on piano and
Gary Brown on bass.
Jerry Leake: Cubist (2009 , Rhombus Publishing):
Percussionist employing almost every instrument from around the world,
graduated from Berklee, teaches at New England Conservatory and Tufts,
has published eight books, released four records. This one marks a
move towards assembling a band -- nominally an octet, but only
guitarist-producer Randy Roos joins Leake on a majority of cuts.
Some cuts develop an impressive African vibe; others add Turkish
and Indian flavors.
Joëlle Léandre/François Houle/Raymond Strid: Last Seen Headed:
Live at Sons D'Hiver (2009 , Ayler): Bass, clarinets,
percussion, respectively. Léandre has a substantial reputation and
discography as an avant-garde bassist, but I've managed to hear very
little of her work. She dominates here, carrying the melodies as well
as providing most of the noise, with Houle -- always an attractive
and intriguing player -- complementing.
Mike LeDonne: The Groover (2009 , Savant):
Keyboard player, mostly organ these days, something he's been getting
progressively better at. The soul jazz formula is a dime a dozen,
but you can't fault him for skimping on ingredients: Eric Alexander
on tenor sax, Peter Bernstein on guitar, Joe Farnsworth on drums.
Alexander's swoop through "On the Street Where You Live" is a high
point, and Bernstein is always good for a few tasty solos.
Carolyn Leonhart: Tides of Yesterday (2009 ,
Savant): Singer, b. 1971, father is bassist Jay Leonart; backup
singer on a couple of late Steely Dan albums; fifth album since
2000, second to feature husband-tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery,
who gets his name and picture on the cover, but Leonhart's name
is alone on the spine. Escoffery doesn't steal the show, but he
is a tower of strength every time he emerges. Mostly standards,
with Mingus and Donald Fagen outliers, and an original to start.
Band has a Latin tinge, with Jeff Haynes' extra percussion
limbering up his four tracks.
Erica Lindsay/Sumi Tonooka: Initiation (2004 ,
ARC): Quartet actually, led by two fifty-somethings who would be cult
figures if only they were better known. Lindsay plays tenor sax; b.
1955, San Francisco, cut an album in 1989 that I noted in my database
due to favorable notice in Penguin Guide, then nothing more
until a live album in 2008. Tonooka plays piano; b. 1956, Philadelphia,
cut a record in 1984, two 1990-91, one in 1999, one more in 2004 --
Long Ago Today, should have been an HM but somehow slipped by
me. Both are based in New York now. They lead a quartet here, with
Rufus Reid on bass and the late Bob Braye on drums. Postbop shaded
somewhat toward avant-garde, more so when Lindsay plays roughly than
when Tonooka is on top. Lindsay plays sparely where Tonooka comes off
little short of loquacious, a contrast in styles that thrashes a bit,
but at any given moment is likely to impress.
Little Women: Throat (2009 , AUM Fidelity):
Brooklyn group, second album after a 2007 debut (Teeth, at
18:45 more of an EP); quartet with two saxophones (Travis Laplante
on tenor, Darius Jones on alto), guitar (Andrew Smiley, replacing
Ben Greenberg), and drums (Jason Nazary). One piece, uncredited,
split into seven chunks, starts out in full cacophony mode, returns
to same here and there, with intermediate breaks of patterned noise
and a couple of spots where you can hear individuals doing things
(including one section of grunts, burps and howls). Dominated by
Smiley, who seems to have mastered the art of frenzied free bass
and made it louder. I'm sure Steven Joerg thinks it's beautiful,
and I've found some reviewers who agree. I'd like it better if I
could stand it. Jones has an A-list album pending, so this should
probably balance it as a dud. But I can't say I'm that upset --
it does achieve the wanted effect.
Pete Lockett's Network of Sparks: One (1999 ,
Summerfold): Percussion ensemble, released on Bill Bruford's label,
as Bruford joins in and gets a "featuring" credit. Reissue of first
album, released on Melt 2000 in 1999 or 2000, with same cover plus
the legend across the bottom: "Rhythms and pulses from around the
world." Lockett has five or more later albums, most or all with
Nana Tsiboe (from Ghana, plays congas and djembe) and Simon Limbrick
(mostly plays marimba and vibes), who are spotted here on about half
of the cuts, along with Bruford (5 tracks, mostly drum set), Pam
Chowhan and Johnny Kaisi (one track each). Lockett is credited with
dozens of things, including samplers and sound treatments. Two pieces
by other drum ensemble pioneers (Max Roach, Pierre Favre), the rest
The Giuseppi Logan Quintet (2009 , Tompkins
Square): Saxophonist, b. 1935 in Philadelphia, cut two freewheeling
1964-65 quartet albums for ESP-Disk (with Don Pullen, Eddie Gomez,
and Milford Graves), and was never heard from again -- until now.
Leaving aside co-producer Matt Lavelle for the moment, this tries
to get the old spirit back, tapping Dave Burrell, François Grillot,
and Warren Smith for piano-bass-drums. Actually, only Burrell is
really up to it -- he's worth the price of admission, especially
at a time when piano is being phased out as a backing instrument.
I take Lavelle to be the mover and shaker here, the one who put
this deal together. He expands the group from four to five, playing
bass clarinet to shade Logan's sax -- credit doesn't specify tenor
or alto; he's played both -- and trumpet for contrast although he
doesn't push it. Three covers are most amusing, especially an "Over
the Rainbow" that winds up someplace else.
Rudresh Mahanthappa & Steve Lehman: Dual Identity
(2009 , Clean Feed): Not sure when the release date is on this,
but the label was so excited it sent out advances, just in time for
March Madness. Mahanthappa and Lehman are rivals for Downbeat's
Rising Star at alto sax. Not sure who wins here, but clearly they are
way out ahead of their class. Liberty Ellman's guitar weaves between
them; Matt Brewer plays bass, and Damion Reid drums. Thrilling from
start to finish.
Olivier Manchon: Orchestre de Chambre Miniature, Volume 1
(2010, ObliqSound): Violinist, from France, moved to US in 1999,
studying at Berklee, then on to Los Angeles and New York. Second
album. Chamber group includes viola, cello, and double bass, but
they add little to the striking violin. Seven of eight tracks add
an extra player: Hideaki Aomori (2 tracks clarinet, 1 bass clarinet),
John Ellis (3 tracks tenor sax, 1 bass clarinet), or Gregoire Maret
(1 track harmonica). The Maret feature whines and drags a bit, but
Ellis is terrific, just the touch to pull this out of its miniature
Mitch Marcus Quintet: Countdown 2 Meltdown (2009
, Porto Franco): Tenor saxophonist; put his group together
in Indiana then moved to Berkeley. Third album. Despite the
reinforcement of a second saxophonist -- Sylvain Carton on alto --
the dominant player, and possibly major talent, here is guitarist
Mike Abraham, knocking out a hard fusion-funk groove and dressing
it up on his solos. At best this reminds me of Anders Nilsson.
The Zeke Martin Project: U4RIA (2009, Zeke Martin
Project): Drummer, b. 1973, Brussels, Belgium; at age 12 played
with Steve Lacy; moved to Cambridge, MA for high school, then on
to New York, then back to Boston. Group is a quartet with Sean
Berry (sax), Yusaku Yoshimura (keyboards, harmonics), and Rozhan
Razman (bass). Seven cuts, all standard jazz/pop covers, only
one I didn't recognize is Jaco Pastorius's "Teen Town." Little
new here, but they bring graceful swing and good cheer to the
project. One vocal: Nina Parlour on "Summertime."
Nilson Matta's Brazilian Voyage: Copacabana (2008
, Zoho): Bassist, from Brazil, don't know how old, but hair
looks gray; moved to New York in 1985, currently based in NJ. Third
album since 2000, plus quite a few side credits -- Don Pullen tapped
him for his wonderful Brazilian-flavored 1992-93 albums, Kele Mou
Bana and Ode to Life, as did Eliane Elias for her best-ever
Sings Jobim. Cover spotlights Harry Allen (tenor sax, elegant
as ever) and Anne Drummond (flute, floating on the groove). Klaus
Mueller plays some flashy piano, Mauricio Zottarelli drums, and Zé
Mauricio adds percussion. Some bass solos, which I consider a plus.
John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension: To the One
(2009 , Abstract Logix): McLauglin attributes this record to
two things: hearing John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, and "my
own endeavors toward 'the one' throughout the past 40 years." The
one thing I recognize here is the fundamental unchangeability of
McLaughlin's fusion synthesis over those 40 years. A quartet with
Gary Husband on keyboards and sometimes on drums, Etienne M'Bappe
on electric bass, and Mark Mondesir on drums. Mostly roiling grooves
with occasional incursions of mood music, neither mystical nor
metallurgical, just basic Mahavishnu.
Brad Mehldau: Highway Rider (2009 , Nonesuch):
One quick play and there's way too much here to sort out or dismiss.
Haven't sorted out who's on which cuts, but the maximum configuration
is Mehldau on piano, Joshua Redman on tenor sax, Larry Grenadier on
bass, Jeff Ballard and Matt Chamberlain on drums, and Dan Coleman
conducting an orchestra of 30-40 more -- mostly strings, although
I'll note that there is both a bassoon and a contrabassoon. I'm not
inclined to like the orchestral wash, but thus far it sounds fine.
Redman could be more aggressive, but it's Mehldau's thing. I've heard
a fair amount of his piano trios and regard him as quite talented but
still a project for some future day.
Sebastiano Meloni/Adriano Orrù/Tony Oxley: Improvised Pieces
for Trio (2008 , Big Round): Piano-bass-drums trio,
respectively. Meloni and Orrù live in Cagliari, Italy; they have a
short discography which hasn't come to AMG's attention yet. Credits
are split 7 for Meloni, 7 for the group (one is just an Orrù-Oxley
duo). Meloni plays sharp and percussive, able to take the lead when
he sees fit. Oxley is relatively famous: a major drummer of Europe's
avant-garde, past 70 now, with a Penguin Guide crown album
to his credit (1969's The Baptised Traveler).
Pat Metheny: Orchestrion (2010, Nonesuch):
A solo album, of sorts, consisting of a huge array of mechanized
instruments that can be programmed like a player piano -- the
orchestrionics -- with guitar improvisation on top. The machines
were custom-built: pianos, marimba, vibraphone, bells, basses,
guitarbots percussion, cymbals and drums, blown bottles, "and
other custom-fabricated acoustic mechanical instruments." Could
have used more pictures and diagrams, although the cover hints
at what's going on, not least through the absence of any humans
in charge. The music itself is less eventful, an envelope of
orchestration wrapped around the guitar, Metheny making his
way through six long-ish, typically propulsive pieces.
Paul Meyers Quartet: Featuring Frank Wess (2007
, Miles High): Nylon string guitarist. I screwed up his
biographical data last time, and I'm not totally clear now, but
looks like he was b. 1956 in New York, attended SUNY Potsdam
and New England Conservatory. Fifth album since 2004, but side
credits go back to 1989 or 1981 or even 1974. Has an interest
in Brazilian music -- not evident here. Wess, on flute as well
as tenor sax, is counted in the Quartet, along with Martin Wind
on bass and Tony Jefferson on drums. Andy Bey is "special guest"
on "Lazy Afternoon" -- quite enough, I'd say, as he's even more
mannered than usual. Guitar has a soft, sweet twang, tasty
alongside Wess's tenor sax (caveat emptor on the flute).
Sei Miguel: Esfingico (2006 , Clean Feed):
Trumpet player, b. 1961 in Paris, lived in Brazil, based in Portugal
since 1980s, lists 9 records (not counting this) on his website,
going back to 1988 (AMG has one, not this). Plays pocket trumpet
here, a nice contrast to Fala Mariam's alto trombone. The other
credits are Pedro Lourenço (bass guitar), Cesár Burago (timbales,
small percussion), and Rafael Toral (some kind of electronics:
"modulated resonance feedback circuit"). Rather schematic, and
a bit on the short side (39:56), but he's onto something that
might be worth exploring.
Melanie Mitrano: All Things Gold (2009 ,
Big Round): Singer-songwriter, "Dr. Mitrano" on her website:
"first woman to receive a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from
the New England Conservatory in Boston" -- doesn't say when,
but she started teaching in 1996. Resume seems to be mostly
classical, which is how AMG files her -- her MySpace page starts
with "What's a nice classical singer like me . . ."
Second album since 2006. Backed with a piano trio plus guest
horns here and there. Voice doesn't set off any opera alarms;
she goes with the flow, and the band swings. Has some things
to say too.
Soren Moller & Dick Oatts: The Clouds Above
(2007 , Audial): Moller is a Danish pianist, 34 (b. 1976?),
based in New York where he is part of NYNDK. Second duo album
with Oatts, credited here with "saxophones and flute" -- usually
plays alto. Oatts has eight albums since 1998 on the Danish label
Steeplechase (which I don't get), plus quite a few side credits
going back to 1978 (with Mel Lewis). I wasn't much aware of him
until I saw him doing a teaching session at Wichita State. (David
Berkman had been advertised, but limited his contribution to
heckling from the audience.) I figure him for a high quality
journeyman, able to fit into most contexts. Moller wrote all
of the pieces except for something from Prokofiev, and takes
the lead here, but Oatts does a lovely job of coloring -- can't
even complain about the flute near the end.
Marc Mommaas: Landmarc (2009 , Sunnyside):
Tenor saxophonist, b. 1969 in Netherlands, grew up in Amsterdam,
moved to New York in 1997. Third album. Basically a trio with
Nate Radley on guitar and Tony Moreno on drums, plus an extra
guitarist on 5 of 9 pieces -- two with Rez Abbasi, three with
Vic Juris. The guitars are sweet and slinky; the sax tends to
Ben Monder/Bill McHenry: Bloom (2000 ,
Sunnyside): Guitar-tenor sax duets, improvised, mostly slow and
moody, some interesting, some not.
Stanton Moore: Groove Alchemy (2010, Telarc):
I asked for this, and was promised a copy, but it never came.
Drummer, b. 1972, fifth album since 1998, basically a guy whose
rhythmic sense runs from funk to post-disco. This one's just an
organ trio, with Robert Walter on the Hammond and Will Bernard
on guitar. I don't really understand why this formula still
finds enthusiasts, but Walter is a hot shot on the instrument
and leans toward boogie woogie when he switches off to piano,
and Bernard is fascinated with Grant Green grooves.
Maria Neckam: Deeper (2009 , Sunnyside):
Singer-songwriter, born in Austria, lived in Netherlands before
winding up in Brooklyn. First record. Mostly backed by a slinky,
slippery group consisting of Aaron Goldberg on piano, Thomas
Morgan on double bass, and Colin Stranahan on drums, with a
horn or two added on 5 of 10 songs. Peter Eldridge also sings
on one song. Lyrics are buried in a PDF on the extended CD,
but 90% of "Missing You" is rote repetition of "missing you,"
and I didn't notice anything else much, uh, deeper.
Dave Nelson & the 32nd Street Quintet: 32nd Street
(2007 , Independently Released): Cover touts this as "Easy Listening
Jazz." Another common name: AMG's "Dave Nelson [trumpet]," to whom this
record is linked, played with his famous uncle but died in 1946; uncle's
name? King Oliver. Most likely this one was born in the early 1940s,
grew up in Seattle, "played at clubs all over Saskatchewan and Alberta,"
and wound up cutting this record in Brooklyn. Wrote 4 of 9 songs, mixed
in with standards like "My Favorite Things" and "Softly as in a Morning
Sunrise," and sang two. Not much of a singer, but his trumpet earns our
respect and even has some edge to it, and Joel Frahm's tenor sax is a
treat, as expected.
The New York Allstars: Count Basie Remembered, Vol. 2
(1996 , Nagel Heyer): Sometimes with Rhapsody you get faked out,
with what looks at first to be a new record -- title "Swingin' the
Blues", release date 2009, label Nagel Heyer -- only to find no
collaboration elsewhere. The new artwork is what did it, but the songs
and lineup match this oldie: Randy Sandke, Dan Barrett, Brian Ogilvie,
Billy Mitchell, Mark Shane, James Chirillo, Bob Haggart, Joe Ascione.
I've heard Vol. 1 and wasn't much impressed by it, but this grabbed
me right away, at least enough that I didn't feel like ejecting it.
File under Sandke.
New York Art Quartet: Old Stuff (1965 ,
Cuneiform): Short-lived (1964-65) group fronted by trombonist
Roswell Rudd and alto saxophonist John Tchicai, with various
bassists (Don Moore, Lewis Worrell, Reggie Workman, here Finn
von Eyben) and drummers (JC Moses, Milford Graves, here Louis
Moholo). Cut an eponymous album on ESP-Disk which has remained
more/less in print, a second album (Mohawk) on Fontana
which no one seems to have heard, and a 35th Reunion
on DIW with Graves and Workman (and Amiri Baraka). Consists
of two radio shots from Copenhagen, one from Montmartre and
the other from the radio studio, resulting in two takes of
the title cut. Rudd was doing terrific work at the time, and
Tchicai lets him run more than Archie Shepp did, resulting in
an intricate balance of forces. ESP album is at least this
good, and historically significant, but is 60% longer (70
minutes to 43), a happy find.
Sam Newsome: Blue Soliloquy (2009 , Sam Newsome):
Solo works for soprano saxophone, 15 of them, 14 with "blue" or "blues"
in the title -- the other one is called "24 Tones" -- 14 originals, the
exception there is "Blue Monk." Works about as well as these things can
work, probably because the repeated use of blues form keeps it simple.
Marius Nordal: Boomer Jazz (2005 , Origin):
Pianist, third album since 1996, don't know much more about him
but he's probably a boomer, especially since he defines the period
as 15 years after WWII, encompassing 76 million kids. Having been
born in 1950, I'm less certain that I should be included. Those
born 1946-48 were the leading edge of the population explosion,
and as such got a jump on a rapidly expanding economy. Just one
example was that they got quickly hired into academia, whereas
the tail end of the generation found far fewer opportunities.
Another, of course, was that they caught the 1960s when everything
seemed to be possible, whereas my sub-generation (and I was a bit
slow in this regard, for personal reasons I won't bore you with)
rattled around in their wake. So mashing all these short time
sequences never made much sense to me -- I recall that at one
point generations were held to cycle every three years. As for
this record, Nordal plays solo piano on 10 songs from the 1960s,
ending with one he wrote (presumably much later). These were, of
course, songs that I grew up with, but even in the 1960s most
were songs I associated with an older sub-generation, one that
was more condescending to rock and roll. Three Beatles songs were
from McCartney's arty-nostalgic phase; Simon & Garfunkel were
even stuffier (well, "Scarborough Fair" was; "Mrs. Robinson" had
a beat); and Roberta Flack, Jack Jones, and Bread were anything
but hip. I favored the Rolling Stones over the Beatles at the
time, and read Allen Ginsberg instead of Simon's Robert Frost.
So the only thing here that much impresses me is Chuck Berry's
"School Days," done up cleverly as boogie-woogie -- a choice
Norrbotten Big Band: The Avatar Sessions: The Music of Tim
Hagans (2009 , Fuzzy Music): Big band, based in Luleå
in northern Sweden. Has a dozen or more records, but they tend to
get filed under whoever they play with. This one could easily be
filed under trumpeter Tim Hagans, who wrote the music, hogs the
solo spots, and moonlights as the band's artistic director. Other
big name (front cover) guests: Randy Brecker, Peter Erskine, George
Garzone, Dave Liebman, and Rufus Reid. Good big band, especially
when they get to power punch as opposed to finnessing spots where
Hagans gets cute, with crackling solos -- from the stars, of course,
but also from Karl-Martin Almqvist on tenor sax and Peter Dahlgren
Gia Notte: Shades (2009 , Gnote): Standards
singer, from New Jersey, based in West Orange, also known as Margie
Notte, the name on her first album (Just You, Just Me, &
Friends: Live at Cecil's). Nice voice, works both on ballads
and on swingers, complemented by a band that features Don Braden
on sax and flute. A couple of Ellingtons, excellent takes on "Love
Me or Leave Me" and "Speak Low."
Arturo O'Farrill: Risa Negra (2009, Zoho): Pianist,
son of legendary Cuban arranger Chico O'Farrill, inherited his father's
Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, scored a coup by cornering the Latin Jazz
franchise at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Seventh album since 1999. Knows
how to work those tricky Afro-Cuban rhythmic shifts, exciting at first
but they often wind up throwing me. The horns -- Jim Seeley on trumpet
and David Bixler on alto sax -- shine here, and Vince Cherico's drums
and Roland Guerrero's percussion keep things moving.
Organissimo: Alive & Kickin' (2008-09 ,
Big O): Organ trio, with Jim Alfredson on the Hammond (err, make
that "hammond-suzuki xk3/xk system, leslie 3300 & synthesizers"),
Joe Gloss as Grant Green, and Randy Marsh on drums. Pretty limited
niche, and sometimes it's best just to aim low and enjoy yourself,
which is pretty much what they do here. Inspired title: "Jimmy
Smith Goes to Washington." Less inspired title: "Groovadelphia."
Michael Pagán Trio: Three for the Ages (2009 ,
Capri): Pianist, from Ravenna, OH, near Cleveland; fifth album since
1995. Trio with Bob Bowman on bass, Ray DeMarchi on drums. One
original tune, one from Enrico Pieranunzi, a Brazilian piece from
Chico Buarque, a bunch of standards ranging from two by Irving
Berlin to one by Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice.
William Parker: At Somewhere There (2008 ,
Barnyard): Solo, mostly acoustic bass, especially on the 48:11
"Cathedral Wisdom Light," but also dousn'gouni on the 5:48 "For
Don Cherry" and double flute on the 3:50 "For Ella Parker." The
bass is mostly arco, so there's a lot of sawing back and forth,
up and down. But this comes off a good deal more melodic than
Parker's earlier solo efforts (e.g., 1998's Lifting the
Sanctions), and the good-natured play flows readily into
the novelty instrumentals.
Kat Parra: Dos Amantes (2009 , JazzMa):
Singer, b. 1962 in Detroit (AMG, which also describes her as "a
Northern California native who lived in Chile as a teenager"),
based in San Jose, CA. Third album. Picks her way around Latin
musics, including a special interest in Sephardic Jewrs, tracing
their music from Spain to North Africa and singing in Ladino --
she calls her group The Sephardic Music Experience. All this
would be fascinating if only she were better at it. Her voice
has little appeal, the backing singers (where used) add clutter,
the Sephardic pieces lack the kick of the Afro-Cubans, and a
piece of Afro-Peruvian Landó is even duller.
Nicki Parrott/Rossano Sportiello: Do It Again
(2009, Arbors): Did it the first time on People Will Say We're
in Love, an HM in 2007. She's a bassist from Australia; sings
a little, rather limited range, but I find her utterly charming.
Italian pianist, has a solo on Arbors and shows up here and there.
He can swing, but he can't budge Schumann, a dull spot here; he
also can't sing, as his duet on "Two Sleepy People" proves. Didn't
count the vocals, but half is close. The instrumentals are a bit
underpowered, and the song selection rather scattered. Still,
this has its charms.
Peggo: In Love (2009 , Big Round): Not much
info here, although the "enhanced CD" sticker promises more if I
pop the CD into a computer. Don't have recording dates, so 2009 is
a guess; don't have musician credits. Singer's full name Peggo
Horstmann Hodes, where Horstmann is the surname of her grandfather
Henry -- cited as her introduction to these old standards -- and
Hodes is her husband's surname, congressman Paul (D-NH). First
album, although she has a couple of early-1990s children's albums
as Peggosus, and there are three evidently folkie Peggo & Paul
albums. This one is straight standards, all indelible classics,
with a "Medley of Love" mopping up nine more. The anonymous band
does its job; a plain-sounding male singer joined in for the last
two cuts, contrasting with her somewhat theatrical pitch.
Jeremy Pelt: Men of Honor (2009 , High Note):
Trumpeter, tabbed as a rising star a few years back, certainly has
the chops, but with seven albums since 2002 hasn't delivered much.
This is a hard bop quintet, with J.D. Allen underutilized at tenor
sax, Danny Grissett fancy on piano, Dwayne Burno on bass, and Gerald
Cleaver anything-but-hard-bop on drums. The free-ish "Danny Mack"
sounds like a way out, but it's followed by a conventional ballad
that only briefly reminded me of Mingus chanelling Ellington, then
settled into postbop slumber.
Ken Peplowski: Noir Blue (2009 , Capri):
Plays clarinet and tenor sax. I prefer the latter, but he prefers
the former. Basically a "young fogey" -- part of the postbop
generation of swing-oriented players like Scott Hamilton and
the Vaché brothers -- with an extensive discography of good
but rarely outstanding records. Compatible quartet here: Shelley
Berg on piano, Jay Leonhart on bass, Joe LaBarbera on drums.
Nice tenor work. Wish there was more of it.
Gail Pettis: Here in the Moment (2008-09 ,
OA2): Standards singer, b. 1958 in Kentucky, grew up in Gary, IN;
now based in Seattle. Second album, split between two piano trios.
Most songs have been done a lot -- "Night and Day," "Day in Day
Out," "Nature Boy," "I Could Have Danced All Night" -- but she
handles them with authority and a touch of soul.
Jean-Michel Pilc: True Story (2009 , Dreyfus):
French pianist, b. 1960, has recorded frequently since 2000, although
he evidently has a few scattered earlier albums. Piano trio, with
Boris Kozlov and Billy Hart. Can be a powerful, dynamic, lightning
fast performer, although that is only occasionally evident here.
John Pizzarelli: Rockin' in Rhythm: A Tribute to Duke
Ellington (2010, Telarc): Mostly vocal pieces -- "Just
Squeeze Me" is an exception with the Pizzarelli guitar trimmed
down to an intimate level. (Of course, I can't swear that the
Pizzarelli isn't Bucky.) He's always been a slight vocalist,
with tomes on Cole and Sinatra inevitably coming up pale, but
Ellington's own choice of vocalists was so checkered Pizzarelli
would have sat in handsomely. The songs are indelible -- even
the Kurt Elling-aided vocalese intro to "Perdido" has charm --
and the band is often impressive, ranging from Aaron Weinstein's
fiddle to Harry Allen's magesterial tenor sax.
Tineke Postma: The Traveller (2009 , Etcetera
Now): Alto saxophonist, some soprano, b. 1978, Netherlands. Fourth
album, this one fronting a quality American quartet: Geri Allen on
piano, Scott Colley on bass, Terri Lyne Carrington on drums. Pushes
hard on the edges of postbop, but doesn't make much of a breakthrough.
Chris Potter/Steve Wilson/Terrell Stafford/Keith Javors/Delbert
Felix/John Davis: Coming Together (2005 , Inarhyme):
Originally intended to be the first album by saxophonist Brendan
Edward Romaneck, 1981-2005, who wrote 8 of 11 tracks -- three covers
are "My Shining Hour," "Nancy With the Laughing Face," and "Killing
Me Softly With His Song." After Romaneck's "sudden and tragic end,"
the sax role was picked up by Chris Potter (first six tracks) and
Steve Wilson (last five tracks). Potter's quartet sessions jump off
to a fast start with a tour de force attack on "My Shining Hour."
Romaneck's compositions are less compelling but provide plenty of
scaffolding for Potter. Wilson's quintet sessions, with Terell
Stafford on trumpet/flugelhorn, are less sharp, of course, but
still of a high order.
Q'd Up: Quintessence (2009, Jazz Hang): Utah group,
fourth album since 1999, with previous iterations of the group going
back to 1983. Steve Lindeman (piano, keyboards) and Jay Lawrence
(drums, vibes) write most of the pieces, with a couple of assists
from vocalist Kelly Eisenhour (who sings three cuts) and a couple
of standards. Ray Smith plays various saxophones and woodwinds,
Matt Larson plays acoustic and electric bass, and Ron Brough plays
vibes when not switching off for drums. Overall they claim 25
instruments, which varies the sound in ways hard to pigeonhole,
except what you get from postbop.
RED Trio (2008 , Clean Feed): Rodrigo Pinheiro
on piano, with Hernani Faustino on bass, Gabriel Ferrandini on drums.
First album, I think. Based in Portugal, although Ferrandini was born
in California, his father a Portugese from Mozambique, his mother an
Italian-Brazilian he picked up along the way. Pinheiro plays prepared
piano, making the instrument more percussive than melodic. Faustino's
bass sounds like he's monkeying around too. The result is more avant
noise than piano trio. I find it refreshing and exhilarating.
Eric Reed & Cyrus Chestnut: Plenty Swing, Plenty
Soul (2009 , Savant): Two mainstream pianists, live
at Dizzy's in Lincoln Center, with Dezron Douglas on bass and
Willie Jones III on drums. Reed came out of Wynton Marsalis's band,
piling up 15 albums since 1990. Chestnut is as church-scooled as
they get, with 18 albums since 1992 -- AMG counts this one under
Chestnut, although Reed, who's recorded with the label before,
is listed first on the cover and the spine. I don't have enough
stereo separation to try to figure out who does what, and doubt
that it matters much. They are very complementary players, have
figured out subtle ways to add something here and there, and take
a few thoughtful solos.
Rufus Reid: Out Front (2008 , Motema):
Bassist-led piano trio, with Steve Allee on piano and Duduka
Da Fonseca on drums. Reid has nine albums under his own name,
plus a vast number of side credits going back to a 1970 gig
with Gene Ammons and Dexter Gordon. Allee, a fine mainstream
pianist with four albums since 1995, has yet to break out of
the pack. Da Fonseca is a Brazilian drummer/percussionist
with several albums of his own. All three contribute songs,
plus there are covers from Marcos Silva, Tadd Dameron, and
Eddie Harris (another former Reid employer). "Out Front"
means more bass solos. With Reid that's nothing to complain
Terry Riley: Autodreamographical Tales (2010, Tzadik):
Two multipart series, the title piece spoken word over ambient sounds,
"The Hook Lecture" built around piano pieces (with some spoken word)
that are somewhat more than minimalist. The spoken word isn't without
interest, although it can be slow going. The piano is richly textured.
I suppose there's a classical analogue, but don't know enough to pin
it down, partly because I've never heard classical piano I liked quite
Wallace Roney: If Only for One Night (2009 ,
High Note): Trumpet player, been around, 15th album since 1987;
seems like a basic hard bop guy, but often runs in a fast crowd,
including saxophonist-brother Antoine Roney, who unlike the last
few outings doesn't steal the show here, and pianist-wife Geri
Allen, who doesn't appear at all -- looks like he's pitching to
a younger woman on the cover. Live, recorded at Iridium. Francis
Davis wrote the liner notes and proclaims it Roney's best, but
I find it pretty scattered, the unison postbop harmonics annoying,
the fusion nods unconvincing, the trumpet articulate and sometimes
Bernardo Sassetti Trio: Motion (2009 , Clean
Feed): Portuguese Pianist, b. 1970, doesn't really fit the label's
avant focus but he's their hometown hero and bestseller, a remarkable
player in his own right. Calm and focused, spare but ornately pretty,
a combination that works out as serene.
Scenes: Rinnova (2009 , Origin): Guitarist
John Stowell, leading a trio with Seattle stalwarts Jeff Johnson
(bass) and John Bishop (drums). Second album as Scenes, plus an
earlier quartet album titled Scenes. Stowell's credits go
back to the mid-1970s. AMG credits him with 13 albums and a few
more credits, mostly since 2000. Has an engagingly subtle style,
calmly picking his way through intricate sequences. Need more
time to decide just how substantial this is.
Steven Schoenberg: Live: An Improvisational Journey
(2006-08 , Quabbin): Pianist, b. 1952. AMG lists him as Classical,
but doesn't list any classical recordings by him. Rather, we have an
1982 album Pianoworks reissued on his label in 2007, plus
one more -- none reviewed or rated. His website is on of those
Flash things designed to make extracting information so painful
you give up. Seems to do film and theatre work. Married his his
school sweetheart, Jane, who works with him in some capacity, but
not on this solo set, improvised live at Smith College, Northampton,
MA (except for two cuts recorded later). Doesn't strike me as very
jazz-oriented, but likable as piano music goes, rhythmically regular
with a lot of harmonic fill.
Christian Scott: Yesterday You Said Tomorrow
(2009 , Concord): New Orleans trumpeter, Donald Harrison's
nephew, studied at Berklee, cut a record for Concord at age 22,
is back for his fourth here. Got name checked on HBO's Treme,
on a list of New Orleans trumpets who succeeded elsewhere by not
playing New Orleans music -- Marsalis and Blanchard headed that
list. Scott has his fans, but I'm not yet one of them. This one
sounds like he's been studying the Miles Davis mute, which is OK
as far as it goes, but he really needs a band he can play off of,
and none of these guys impress me.
Karl Seglem: NORSKjazz.no (2009 , Ozella):
Norwegian tenor saxophonist, based in Oslo, don't know old but
he's recorded extensively since 1988 -- website lists 26 albums,
AMG has noticed 11. Has the calm, steady sound I associate with
other Scandinavians like Arne Domnerus and Bernt Rosengren, or
more recently with Trygve Seim. Quartet with piano, bass, drums.
Dave Sharp's Secret Seven: 7 (2009 , Vortex
Jazz): Bassist, mostly electric, from Ann Arbor, MI. Group actually
a quartet -- Chris Kaercher (various saxes, flute, harmonica), Dale
Grisa (Hammond B3, piano), Eric "Chucho" Wilhelm (drums, percussion) --
with extras added here and there. Sharp and Kaercher share writing
credits. Mostly funk grooves, with honking sax blasts; harmless.
Ends with two "bonus tracks": a "radio edit" of the opener, and a
vocal also pegged to radio, an r&b cover called "Can I Be Your
Lee Shaw Trio: Blossom (2009, ARC): Pianist, from
Oklahoma, b. 1926, played a little and taught a lot over the years,
but didn't start to establish a discography until a mid-1990s trio
with bassist Rich Syracuse and husband-drummer Stan Lee. Stan died
in 2001, replaced (on drums, anyway) by Rich Siegel. Mostly Shaw
originals, with one from Siegel, two from Syracuse, and two 1940s
bop pieces from Fats Navarro and Johnny Guarnieri.
Matthew Shipp: 4D (2009 , Thirsty Ear): Solo
piano. I've lost track of how many solo albums Shipp's done since the
late 1980s -- half a dozen I'd guess. Seems like he's moved away from
developing melodic lines and into rhythmic patterns built from dense
chords, which sort of parallels his group context work, but is more
bare and sparse here. Some covers on the home stretch, not that they
Liam Sillery: Phenomenology (2008 , OA2):
Trumpeter, b. 1972, from New Jersey, fourth album since 2005, a
hard bop quintet with name players -- at least in my book: Matt
Blostein (alto sax), Jesse Stacken (piano), Thomas Morgan (bass),
Vinnie Sperrazza (drums) -- and postbop airs but also rough edges.
Best when they pick up the pace.
Matt Slocum: Portraits (2009 , Chandra):
Drummer, from Minnesota, now based in New Jersey, looks like his
first album, although AMG has him confused with another Matt Slocum
who plays guitar and cello, particularly in the band Sixpence None
the Richer. Piano trio plus guest sax on 4 of 9 cuts. The pianist,
who lays out on two of the sax cuts, is Gerald Clayton, impressive
here. Bassist is Massimo Biolcati. Walter Smith III and Dayna
Stephens play tenor sax on two cuts each, with Jaleel Shaw on
alto on a cut with Stephens -- Smith's two cuts stand out.
David Smith Quintet: Anticipation (2009 ,
Bju'ecords): AMG lists 50 Dave or David Smiths, none obviously the
right one, which makes no sense. Trumpet player, from Canada, based
in Brooklyn, second album -- first was a quintet with Seamus Blake
on Fresh Sound New Talent, Circumstance, which I should
have flagged as an HM but somehow escaped -- plus thirty-some side
credits. Kenji Omae replaces Blake on saxophone, and new bass and
drums, but guitarist Nate Radley is a significant carryover.
Crackling postbop, especially the trumpet. Tough name to make
one with, but if I were running AMG I'd flag him in bold.
Bob Sneider & Paul Hofmann: Serve and Volley
(2008 , Origin): Guitarist and pianist, respectively, in a
duo. Sneider has five previous albums, including a couple of Film
Noir Projects with Joe Locke, and two previous duos with Hofmann.
I find this a little light and sketchy. Title piece, by the way,
is a 22:32 five-part suite.
Emilio Solla & the Tango Jazz Conspiracy: Bien Sur!
(2009 , Fresh Sound World Jazz): Argentine pianist, based in
New York, second album I'm aware of, probably has more. Tango forms,
but mostly jazz musicians, notably Chris Cheek on soprano, tenor,
and baritone sax, and Richie Barshay on drums and percussion. In
his liner notes, feels a bit uncomfortable taking jazz liberties
with his national music, but the record splits the difference
Somi: If the Rains Come First (2009, ObliqSound):
Singer, born in Illinois, parents immigrated from Rwanda and Uganda;
spent some time in Zambia growing up, and spent more time in East
Africa after graduating college. Still, she doesn't sound very
exotic, or for that matter very distinctive, although she works
with a band that can turn on the percussion every now and then.
Hugh Masekela guests on one cut.
Tomasz Stanko Quintet: Dark Eyes (2009 ,
ECM): Venerable Polish trumpet player. Started out in avant-garde
c. 1970. Has mellowed out, which is practically mandatory at ECM,
but remains a strikingly lyrical player. After several albums
with Marcin Wasilewski's piano trio, has a new group this time,
a quintet with Alexi Tuomarila on piano, Jakob Bro on guitar,
Anders Christensen on bass, and Olavi Louhivuori on drums --
haven't heard of any of them, but expect we will, especially
Tuomarila. Record came out late last year in Germany, making
some year-end lists. Doesn't blow me away, but is remarkably
pleasing, and not all pretty.
John Stein: Raising the Roof (2009, Whaling City
Sound): Guitarist, from Kansas City, MO; discography (8 records)
starts in 1995 but he appears to be older. Quartet with piano,
bass, drums, same group as on his previous Encounter Point.
Mostly bop standards (Silver, Timmons, Thad Jones, Gillespie),
with two originals, a Jobim, and "Falling in Love With Love."
Has a light, silky touch that slices neatly through this material.
Kelley Suttenfield: Where Is Love? (2007 ,
Rhombus): Standards singer, based in New York, probably young,
debut album, backed by piano-guitar-bass-drums, nobody I've
heard of. Has an exceptionally nice voice, measured delivery
with nothing terribly idiosyncratic about it. I don't care much
for the song selection, with "And I Love Her" and "Ode to Billy
Joe" the sore points, but she covered Veloso instead of Jobim,
tried on a Betty Carter piece, sashayed into vocalese on "West
Coast Blues," and did well by "Nature Boy." Most effective was
"My One and Only Love" -- probably because it was the simplest.
Nelda Swiggett: This Time (2009 , OA2):
Pianist-vocalist, based in Seattle. Second album, or third if
you count the 1993-recorded, 2008-released Room to Move Sextet
No Time for Daydreams, where Swiggett wrote most of the
songs, played piano, and sung on two cuts. She sings on three
cuts here, not that I even noticed the first, and not a strong
point on the others. Nice mainstream pianist, bright tone,
Tom Tallitsch: Perspective (2009, OA2): Saxophonist
(tenor, soprano), b. 1974, based in New Jersey, closer to Philadelphia
than to New York. Third album, a quintet with guitar and piano but
no more horns. Strong postbop set, has an attractive sound to his
tenor; soprano less so, of course.
Tierra Negra & Muriel Anderson: New World Flamenco
(2009 , Tierra Negra): Tierra Negra is a pair of German flamenco
guitar players, Raughi Ebert and Leo Henrichs. They have at least 9
albums since 1997. Anderson is an American guitarist, based in Nashville,
considered Folk by AMG, credited with "classic & harp guitar" here.
She has more than a dozen albums since 1989. Her website includes recipes
but no biography. Most cuts include bass, drums, percussion; some palmas,
but mostly the percussion is secondary. Nothing cooks, but intricate
guitarwork can be its own reward.
Tin Hat: Foreign Legion (2005-08 , BAG):
Originally Tin Hat Trio, four albums from 1999-2004, with Rob Burger
(piano), Mark Orton (guitar, dobro), and Carla Kihlstedt (violin).
Now regrouped as a quartet, with Burger gone, replaced by Ben
Goldberg (clarinet) and Ara Anderson (trumpet, pump organ, piano,
glockenspiel, percussion). Goldberg notes that he played as a
guest at the first-ever Tin Hat Trio concert. His clarinet fits
right into the chamber jazz concept with the violin and Orton's
central guitar/dobro -- Orton wrote 11 of 15 pieces here, so I
figure him for the leader. Chamber jazz might suffice, but the
wild card is Anderson. His pump organ animates several pieces,
and he plays a mean trumpet when he has a mind to.
Samuel Torres: Yaoundé (2010, BLC): Percussionist,
specifically congalero, from Bogota, Colombia; b. 1976, second album;
side credits include Shakira. Splashy Latin jazz group, with Joel
Frahm on saxophones, Michael Rodriguez on trumpet, and Manuel Valera
on piano/keyboards; guests include Anat Cohen (clarinet) and Sofia
Rei Koutsovitis (vocals), one track each.
The Trio [Peter Erskine/Chuck Berghofer/Terry Trotter]:
Live @ Charlie O's (2009 , Fuzzy Music): No
idea how many groups have called themselves The Trio over the
years. Certainly enough to have made my pet peeve list. Seems
like an exercise in ego, but pianist Terry Trotter has done
a remarkable job of avoiding the spotlight since when? The
1960s? AMG credits him with two albums, having overlooked a
ouple of Trotter Trio outings. AMG and All About Jazz have no
biographies, and Trotter has no web page, let alone MySpace.
Wikipedia has two lines: "studio pianist living in Los Angeles."
Bassist Berghofer, by comparison, is widely known, and drummer
Erskine even more so -- even if you're not a Weather Report
fan. No song credits, but looks like standard fare, done with
polish and aplomb.
Trombone Shorty: Backatown (2010, Verve Forecast):
Aka Troy Andrews, Treme legend, reportedly had a club named for him
at age eight, when his moniker was no doubt cuter. Still young at
24 for a major label debut after a handful of local releases going
back to 2002. Tries to do something new here, but comes up with a
lot of bad ideas, tricking up the usual horn line with synth beats,
bringing in guest vocalists Marc Broussard and Lenny Kravitz, and
trying to sing himself.
Chris Tunkel: Grey Matters (2007, Tunk Music):
Percussionist (congas, djembe, bongos, shakers, bells, guiro),
vocalist from Virginia, based in Brooklyn. First album, a bit
old, but came with a note from the author announcing that he's
rehearsing a trio with Greg Lewis (organ) and Anders Nilsson
(guitar, one of the best guitarists working). Neither appear
here, although the group features organ/piano (Brian Marsella),
two guitars (Aaron Dugan and Aaron Nevezie), bass, drums with
extra percussion (sangba, kenkini, timbales, bells), and singer
Amy Carrigan. Mostly a vocal album, with a sly soulfulnes to it,
juiced up by the percussion.
Warren Vaché-Tony Coe-Alan Barnes Septet: Shine
(1997 , Zephyr): Looking for a new Vaché record -- Top
Shelf, with John Allred, on Arbors -- I stumbled instead on
a batch of old ones, and couldn't resist interrupting what I was
doing to play this one. Coe and Barnes are trad-leaning British
reed players -- Coe tenor and soprano, Barnes baritone and alto,
both clarinet -- and Vaché plays cornet. Title cut starts with
just the three horns winding sinuously around each other, before
the band chimes in. The sax work is often elegant, and Vaché is
sharp, but not everything comes together. Title cut gets a second
take to end on a high.
The Vinson Valega Group: Biophilia (2009 ,
Consilience Productions): Drummer, b. 1965, fourth album since 2001,
leading a postbop sextet -- two saxes, trombone, piano, bass, drums --
with no one I recognize, although he gets pieces from four of them,
plus writes 6 of 15 himself. Seems like an interesting guy, with
intelligent liner notes on global warming and E.O. Wilson's title
concept. Music is unpretentious postbop, lots of neat little twists,
a few smart nods to the tradition (Ellington, Monk, Berlin, Ornette
Coleman). Nothing that especially caught my ear, but nothing wrong
with what I did hear.
Petra van Nuis & Andy Brown: Far Away Places
(2009 , String Damper): Van Nuis sings, b. 1975, based in
Chicago, is married to Brown, a guitarist. Brown has a previous
album, Trio and Solo. Van Nuis has two, with pianist Bradley
Williams getting top billing on Revenge of the Kissing Bug;
she also has a demo with a trad jazz band, Recession Seven. This
is an intimate little duo, all standards, double dipping into
Cole Porter, with an obligatory Jobim among the few more recent
tunes. Very minimal, just guitar and voice, threatens to get
cute, but the guitar manages to keep it all stable and calm.
John Vanore & Abstract Truth: Curiosity
(1991 , Acoustical Concepts): Remix/reissue of a 1991 album,
the second of a half dozen under Abstract Truth, a brass-heavy
(5 trumpets, 2 trombones, French horn, but only two reeds) big
band. Group has ensemble punch and some solo swagger. Don't know
squat about Vanore, other than that he plays trumpet/flugelhorn,
wrote or arranged most of the pieces here. Presumably the same
John Vanore has a slew of engineer/producer credits listed at
B+(**) [Apr. 6]
Matt Vashlishan: No Such Thing (2008 , Origin):
Alto saxophonist, b. 1982, from the Poconos, based in/near Miami,
latched onto Dave Liebman, adopting not just his sound but his look
as well, and more importantly a big chunk of his band for his debut
album: Vic Juris on guitar, Tony Marino on bass, Michael Stephans
on drums, Liebman himself on soprano and tenor sax. Paired the saxes
tend to run in boppish chase sequences, light-footed and fleet. A
couple of change of pace pieces show nice form and tone. Juris gets
in some tasty solos, too.
Robin Verheyen: Starbound (2009, Pirouet):
Saxophonist, lists soprano ahead of tenor, b. 1983 in Belgium;
studied at Manhattan School of Music; based in New York. First
record, a quartet with Bill Carrothers on piano, Nicolas Thys
on bass, Dré Pallemaerts on drums. Wrote 9 of 11 pieces, with
one by Thys and "I Wish I Knew" (Harry Warren, Mack Gordon).
VW Brothers: Muziek (2010, Patois): Guitarist Marc van
Wageningen and drummer Paul van Wageningen, from Amsterdam, Netherlands,
relocated to US in 1976-80, winding up in Oakland, CA. Names seem
familiar to me, but I'm working blind, having trouble googling, finding
the hype sheet, and reading the microtype on the package. Record starts
out with marginally avant sax, then evolves through Latin to plain funk.
Ray Obiedo and Wayne Wallace co-produced, so blame the Latin on them.
Mostly interesting, especially when whoever plays sax climbs out on a
limb, but I don't get whatever they're getting at.
Torben Waldorff: American Rock Beauty (2009
, ArtistShare): Guitarist, b. 1963 in Denmark, based in
Sweden, has five or so albums since 1999, the last couple on
my HM list. I can't say as I have a good feel for his guitar,
mostly because he keeps using tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin,
who keeps blowing everyone else away.
David S. Ware: Saturnian (Solo Saxophones, Volume 1)
(2009 , AUM Fidelity): Practice as slow-motion performance:
the inevitable solo album, tenor sax (of course), also stritch and
saxello which are a bit funkier, perhaps because they're hard to
play without thinking of Rahsaan Roland Kirk. But Ware, always a
methodical guy, only plays one at a time.
Tim Warfield: One for Shirley (2007 , Criss
Cross): Tenor saxophonist, part of the "tough young tenors" generation,
with an impressive debut album in 1995, but this is only his fifth
album, the first since 2002. Shirley, of course, is Shirley Scott,
the legendary soul jazz organ player, with Pat Bianchi filling her
role here. No bassist necessary, but drummer Byron Landham gets
reinforcements from percussionist Daniel G. Sadownick, and Terell
Stafford slip in some trumpet -- not a soul jazz standard, but
Stafford and Warfield are a frequent team. Aims low, and succeeds
simply, although not as simply and elegantly as Scott's usual tenor
player, Stanley Turrentine, could do.
Mark Weinstein: Timbasa (2008 , Jazzheads):
Flute player, has more than a dozen albums since 1996, some klezmer
but mostly Latin jazz, including some serious efforts at uncovering
complex Cuban rhythms. Can't find a birthdate, but he describes
this record as "my attempt to reinvigorate a 69 year-old body with
the youthful energy of Cuba." Nothing much caught my ear here, and
I disliked the uncredited vocal, although the batás and guiro and
such seem like a good idea.
Sam Weiser: Sam I Am (2009 , Disappear):
Violinist, 15 years old (so that's 1994?), New Yorker, Mets fan,
studied with Mark O'Connor, won some prize named for martyred
journalist Daniel Pearl. Advance copy, no musician or session
credits, a puke-yellow hype sheet with nothing I want to know.
Main vocalist (6 cuts) is presumably Sonia Rutstein of folkie
duo Disappear Fear who also does business as SONiA -- somebody
else leads on Eddie Palmieri's "Azucar," a token piece of Latin
jazz that gets away from everyone. Otherwise the catholic song
selection works reasonably well, with Rutstein's three songs
guarding against over-familiarity. The violin leads are rich
and plush, the band swings; I wouldn't say anyone's improvising
or even trying anything novel, but it's pretty listenable. Some
day maybe Weiser will grow up and hire a real publicist.
Dan Weiss Trio: Timshel (2008 , Sunnyside):
Drummer-led piano trio, with Jacob Sacks on piano and Thomas
Morgan on bass -- Morgan seems to be everywhere these days.
Second album for Weiss, plus a list of 30 or so side credits
since 1999, including impressive work on tabla for Rudresh
Mahanthappa and Rez Abbasi. Wrote all the pieces, including
ones called "Prelude," "Interlude" and "Postlude." I like the
bits where the piano reduces to a rocking rhythm instrument.
Less impressive is the slow stuff influenced by the 'ludes.
Mort Weiss: Raising the Bar (2009 , SMS
Jazz): Clarinetist, started his musical career after he retired
from a bread-and-butter career, and has put together a string of
engaging albums ever since, with a mix of swing and bop moves.
This one is solo clarinet, two originals, a bunch of well worn
covers, the better known the better. Normally I would complain
about the lack of balance/momentum/something that is inevitable
with solo efforts, but he more than makes up for that in charm.
Closes with "My Way" -- and earns it.
Phil Woods/Lee Konitz 5Tet: Play Woods (2003 ,
Philology): Another record where Rhapsody's 2010 date threw me, but
it's a record I've been wanting to hear -- one of a batch of joint
Woods-Konitz records from the 2003 Umbria Jazz Festival, along with
Play Konitz and Play Rava and others. Philology is an
Italian label which released so much by Woods one wonders if there
isn't some sort of connection. The quintet is rounded out by Andrea
Pozza on piano, Massimo Moriconi on bass, and Massimo Manzi on drums,
but the interest is in the great alto saxists.
Phil Woods/Lee Konitz 5Tet: Play Konitz (2003 ,
Philology): Woods started as an orthodox bebopper and eventually turned
backwards, offering tributes to Benny Carter and Johnny Hodges on the
Play Woods set. Konitz was also deeply influenced by Charlie
Parker, but never looked back -- at least any further than his own
"Subconscious-Lee" which kicked his career off 60 years ago and gets
a reprise here. As good as the Play Woods set but in different
ways: this is tougher and more idiosyncratic, more into how the horns
diverge than into their glorious union. Barbara Cassini sings two
Jobim tunes at the end.
Phil Woods with the DePaul University Jazz Ensemble:
Solitude (2008 , Jazzed Media): Watched a
documentary tonight where DePaul played a significant role:
American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein.
Of course, I shouldn't blame DePaul's Jazz Ensemble for
the University denying Finkelstein tenure. They seem like
a nice enough bunch as they work through a set of Woods'
compositions. Sometimes a bit of solo caught my ear: the
piano may have been ringer Jim McNeely, and the alto sax
was likely Woods, but the trombone would have been a student,
most likely Bryan Tipps. Good luck with that.
Aaron Immanuel Wright: Eleven Daughters (2009
, Origin): Bassist, b. 1979, from Oregon, studied in
California, got a BA in philosophy, based now in New York.
Wrote (or co-wrote with drummer Brian Menendez) 6 of 7 songs,
with a cover of "Laura." Group is a quartet with Tim Willcox
on tenor sax and Darrell Grant on piano. I suppose one way
you can tell it's the bassist's record is that neither sax
nor piano ever break loose. Such balance may be admirable,
but it doesn't do much to get your attention.
Brandon Wright: Boiling Point (2009 , Posi-Tone):
Tenor saxophonist, from NJ, studied in Michigan and Miami, 27 (b. 1983?),
based in Brooklyn, has some big band experience. First album, staffed
his quintet with well-known players -- Alex Sipiagin on trumpet, David
Kikoski on piano, Hans Glawischnig on bass, Matt Wilson on drums --
wrote 5 of 8 songs (covers: "Here's That Rainy Day," "Interstate Love
Song," "You're My Everything"), and cranked up the heat. He's a very
impressive player running in fast company. Reminds me some of the
young Tommy Smith, which if he pans out could eventually make this
Zora Young: The French Connection (2007-08 ,
Delmark): Blues singer, b. 1948, fifth album since 1991 -- third
on Delmark -- cut with three different French bands. Uneven sound --
sometimes seems a bit distant, although she has that basic Bessie
Smith projection that doesn't need a microphone, and that carries
a record that is strongest at its most retro.
Denny Zeitlin: Precipice (2008 , Sunnyside):
I'm not good with solo piano, and I'm in no shape to sort this
one out right now, but I can't just dismiss it either. Zeitlin
is in his 70s, has had a long career making small scale piano
albums -- solos, duos, a lot of trios. I've only heard a few --
notably missing his Columbia sessions from the 1960s which were
wrapped up neatly in a 3-CD Mosaic Select box last year.
Never found an album I can flat out recommend, but never been
John Zorn: Femina (2008 , Tzadik): A tribute
to the ladies. The CD is organized as Parts 1-4, but the website
notes that Zorn composed (doesn't play) this using his "file card
technique," and the granularity includes references to: Hildegard
von Bingen, Meredith Monk, Simone de Beauvoir, Frida Kahlo, Madame
Blavatsky, Isadora Duncan, Hélène Cixous, Gertrude Stein, Abe Sada,
Sylvia Plath, Louise Bourgeois, Margaret Mead, Loie Fuller, Dorothy
Parker, Yoko Ono, moon goddess En Hedu'Anna, and others. Players
are: Jennifer Choi (violin), Okkyung Lee (cello), Carl Emanuel
(harp), Sylvie Courvoisier (piano), Ikue Mori (electronics), and
Shayna Dunkelman (percussion), with Laurie Anderson offering some
words at the beginning. While the action can shift dramatically,
it mostly meanders unimpressively.
The following records, carried over from the
done and print
files at the start of this cycle, were also under consideration for
- Eric Alexander: Revival of the Fittest (2009, High Note) B+(***)
- Ben Allison: Think Free (2009, Palmetto) A-
- Rodrigo Amado/Kent Kessler/Paal Nilssen-Love: The Abstract Truth (2008 , European Echoes) B+(**)
- Rodrigo Amado: Motion Trio (2009, European Echoes) B+(***)
- Bill Anschell/Brent Jensen: We Couldn't Agree More (2008 , Origin) B+(***)
- Dan Aran: Breathing (2009, Smalls) B+(**)
- David Ashkenazy: Out With It (2009, Posi-Tone) B+(***)
- Fernando Benadon: Intuitivo (2009, Innova) B+(**)
- Borah Bergman Trio: Luminescence (2008 , Tzadik) A-
- Seamus Blake Quartet: Live in Italy (2007 , Jazz Eyes, 2CD) B+(**)
- Theo Bleckmann/Kneebody: Twelve Songs by Charles Ives (2008 , Winter & Winter) B+(**)
- Blink.: The Epidemic of Ideas (2007 , Thirsty Ear) B+(***)
- Ralph Bowen: Dedicated (2008 , Posi-Tone) B+(**)
- Michiel Braam's Wurli Trio: Non-Functionals! (2009, BBB) B+(**)
- Anthony Branker & Ascent: Blessings (2007 , Origin) B+(***)
- Anthony Braxton/Maral Yakshieva: Improvisations (Duo) 2008 (2008 , SoLyd, 2CD) B+(***)
- Randy Brecker: Nostalgic Journey: Tykocin Jazz Suite/The Music of Wlodek Pawlik (2008 , Summit) B+(***)
- Alison Burns and Martin Taylor: 1: AM (2008 , P3 Music) B+(***)
- Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra: Where or When (2008 , Owl Studios) A-
- Butcher/Muller/van der Schyff: Way Out Northwest (2007 , Drip Audio) B+(**)
- Francesco Cafiso Quartet: Angelica (2009, CAM Jazz) B+(**)
- James Carney Group: Ways & Means (2008 , Songlines) B+(***)
- Ralph Carney's Serious Jass Project (2009, Akron Cracker) A-
- Teddy Charles: Dances With Bulls (2008 , Smalls) B+(**)
- Chicago Underground Duo: Boca Negra (2009 , Thrill Jockey) B+(**)
- Gerald Clayton: Two-Shade (2009, ArtistShare) B+(***)
- David Crowell Ensemble: Spectrum (2009, Innova) B+(***)
- Joey DeFrancesco: Snap Shot (2009, High Note) B+(***)
- The Dynamic Les DeMerle Band: Gypsy Rendezvous, Vol. One (2008 , Origin) B+(***)
- Empty Cage Quartet: Gravity (2008 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Oran Etkin: Kelenia (2009, Motema) B+(**)
- Bill Frisell: Disfarmer (2008 , Nonesuch) A-
- Andrea Fultz: The German Projekt: German Songs From the Twenties & Thirties (2009, no label) A-
- Jan Garbarek Group: Dresden (2007 , ECM, 2CD) A-
- Gaucho: Deep Night (2008 , Gaucho) B+(**)
- Stephen Gauci's Basso Continuo: Nididhyasana (2007, Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Stephen Gauci's Stockholm Conference: Live at Glenn Miller Café (2007 , Ayler, 2CD) B+(**)
- The Godforgottens: Never Forgotten, Always Remembered (2006 , Clean Feed) A-
- Bobby Gordon: Plays Joe Marsala: Lower Register (2007, Arbors) B+(***)
- The Gordon Grdina Trio: . . . If Accident Will (2007 , Plunge) B+(***)
- Brian Groder/Burton Greene: Groder & Greene (2007 , Latham) B+(**)
- Jonathon Haffner: Life on Wednesday (2008 , Cachuma) B+(**)
- Steve Haines Quintet with Jimmy Cobb: Stickadiboom (2007 , Zoho) B+(**)
- Ken Hatfield and Friends: Play the Music of Bill McCormick: To Be Continued . . . (2008, M/Pub) B+(***)
- Yaron Herman: Muse (2009, Sunnyside) B+(**)
- John Hicks: I Remember You (2006 , High Note) B+(**)
- Rainbow Jimmies: The Music of John Hollenbeck (2007-08 , GPE) B+(***)
- Jon Irabagon: The Observer (2009, Concord) B+(***)
- Keith Jarrett: Paris/London: Testament (2008 , ECM, 3CD) B+(**)
- Aaron J Johnson: Songs of Our Fathers (2007 , Bubble-Sun) B+(**)
- Darius Jones Trio: Man'ish Boy (A Raw & Beautiful Thing) (2009, AUM Fidelity) A-
- Jones Jones: We All Feel the Same Way (2008, SoLyd) B+(**)
- Nigel Kennedy: Blue Note Sessions (2005 , Blue Note) B+(***)
- The Ray Kennedy Trio: Plays the Music of Arthur Schwartz (2006 , Arbors) B+(***)
- Ruslan Khain: For Medicinal Purposes Only! (2008, Smalls) B+(***)
- Komeda Project: Requiem (2009, WM) B+(**)
- David Kweksilber + Guus Janssen (2003-06 , Geestgronden) B+(***)
- Matt Lavelle and Morcilla: The Manifestation Drama (2008 , KMB Jazz) B+(***)
- Led Bib: Sensible Shoes (2008 , Cuneiform) B+(**)
- Gianni Lenoci: Ephemeral Rhizome (2008 , Evil Rabbit) B+(***)
- Rozanne Levine & Chakra Tuning: Only Moment (2008 , Acoustics) B+(**)
- Frank London/Lorin Sklamberg: Tsuker-Zis (2009, Tzadik) B+(***)
- Luis Lopes/Adam Lane/Igal Foni: What Is When (2007-08 , Clean Feed) B+(**)
- Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Accomplish Jazz (2009, Hot Cup) B+(***)
- Tony Malaby's Apparitions: Voladores (2009, Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar: Devla: Blown Away to Dancefloor Heaven (2009, Piranha) A-
- Nellie McKay: Normal as Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day (2009, Verve) A-
- Eric McPherson: Continuum (2007 , Smalls) B+(***)
- Memphis Nighthawks: Jazz Lips (1976-77 , Delmark) B+(***)
- Minamo: Kuroi Kawa -- Black River (2008 , Tzadik, 2CD) B+(***)
- Dom Minasi String Quartet: Dissonance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder (2009, Konnex) B+(**)
- Josh Moshier & Mike LeBrun: Joy Not Jaded (2009, OA2) B+(**)
- Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Forty Fort (2008-09 , Hot Cup) A-
- Maria Muldaur & Her Garden of Joy (2009, Stony Plain) A-
- Ben Neill: Night Science (2009, Thirsty Ear) B+(**)
- The New Jazz Composers Octet: The Turning Gate (2005 , Motema Music) B+(***)
- The Nice Guy Trio: Here Comes . . . the Nice Guy Trio (2009, Porto Franco) B+(***)
- Anders Nilsson's Aorta Ensemble (2008 , Kopasetic) A-
- Gia Notte: Shades (2009 , Gnote) B+(***)
- NYNDK: The Hunting of the Snark (2008 , Jazzheads) B+(***)
- Michael Occhipinti: The Sicilian Jazz Project (2008 , True North) B+(**)
- Linda Oh Trio: Entry (2008 , Linda Oh Music) B+(***)
- Gary Peacock/Marc Copland: Insight (2005-07 , Pirouet) B+(***)
- Ben Perowsky Quartet: Esopus Opus (2009, Skirl) A-
- Houston Person: Mellow (2009, High Note) B+(**)
- PianoCircus Featuring Bill Bruford: Play the Music of Colin Riley: Skin and Wire (2009, Summerfold) A-
- Enrico Pieranunzi/Marc Johnson/Joey Baron: Dream Dance (2004 , CAM Jazz) A-
- Dafnis Prieto Si O Si Quartet: Live at Jazz Standard NYC (2009, Dafnison Music) B+(**)
- Quartet Offensive: Carnivore (2008 , Quartet Offensive) B+(***)
- Radio I-Ching: No Wave au Go Go (2009, Resonant Music) A-
- Andrew Rathbun: Where We Are Now (2007 , Steeplechase) B+(***)
- Edward Ratliff: Those Moments Before (2009, Strudelmedia) B+(***)
- Rempis/Rosaly: Cyrillic (2009, 482 Music) B+(***)
- Matt Renzi: Lunch Special (2007 , Three P's) B+(***)
- Júlio Resende: Assim Falava Jazzatustra (2009, Clean Feed) B+(***)
- The Rocco John Group: Devotion (2008 , Coalition of Creative Artists) B+(**)
- Roberto Rodriguez: Timba Talmud (2009, Tzadik) A-
- Roberto Rodriguez: The First Basket (2009, Tzadik) B+(***)
- Timucin Sahin Quartet: Bafa (2008 , Between the Lines) B+(***)
- Cynthia Sayer: Attractions (2006 , Plunk) B+(***)
- Jacques Schwarz-Bart: Abyss (2009, ObliqSound) B+(**)
- Scottish National Jazz Orchestra: Rhapsody in Blue: Live (2009, Spartacus) B+(**)
- Will Sellenraad: Balance (2007 , Beeswax) B+(***)
- Edward Simon Trio: Poesia (2008 , CAM Jazz) B+(***)
- Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls: Seize the Time (2008 , Naim) B+(***)
- Wadada Leo Smith: Spiritual Dimensions (2008-09 , Cuneiform, 2CD) A-
- Tyshawn Sorey: Koan (2009, 482 Music) B+(**)
- Sorgen-Rust-Stevens Trio: A Scent in Motion (1994 , Konnex) B+(**)
- Ben Stapp Trio: Ecstasis (2007 , Uqbar) B+(***)
- Dan Tepfer/Lee Konitz: Duos With Lee (2008 , Sunnyside) B+(***)
- Rob Thorsen: Lasting Impression (2008 , Pacific Coast Jazz) B+(**)
- Nicolas Thys: Virgo (2008 , Pirouet) B+(***)
- Ton Trio: The Way (2008 , Singlespeed Music) B+(**)
- Tribecastan: Strange Cousin (2008 , Evergreene Music) B+(**)
- Gebhard Ullman: Don't Touch My Music I (2007 , Not Two) B+(***)
- Gebhard Ullman: Don't Touch My Music II (2007 , Not Two) B+(**)
- Ken Vandermark/Pandelis Karayorgis: Foreground Music (2006 , Okka Disk) B+(**)
- Cedar Walton: Voices Deep Within (2009, High Note) B+(**)
- Gerald Wilson Orchestra: Detroit (2009, Mack Avenue) A-
- Frank Wess Nonet: Once Is Not Enough (2008 , Labeth Music) B+(**)
- White Rocket (2008 , Diatribe) B+(**)
- Wolter Wierbos: 3 Trombone Solos (2005-06 , Dolfjin) B+(***)
- Matt Wilson Quartet: That's Gonna Leave a Mark (2008 , Palmetto) A-
- Mark Winkler: Till I Get It Right (2009, Free Ham) B+(***)
- John Zorn: Alhambra Love Songs (2008 , Tzadik) A-