Jazz Consumer Guide (26):

These are the prospecting notes from working on Jazz CG #26. 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 December 14, 2010 to April 10, 2011, 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 227 (plus 96 carryovers). The count from the previous file was 248 (+113). (before that: 218+96, 207+125, 219, 225, 226, 230, 293, 291, 240, 259).

Dan Adler/Joey DeFrancesco/Byron Landham: Back to the Bridge (2010, Edman Music): Organ trio, obviously. The guy you don't know gets top billing, slightly larger type (but fewer letters), is pictured on a bridge with a guitar -- what more do you need to know? Web bio includes everything I want to know except year born -- probably mid-late 1960s, in Israel. Trained as a semiconductor engineer/computer scientist, has an impressive resume there including notable open source software work. Moved to New York in 1986. Picked up guitar in 4th grade. Studied with Gil Dor, and cites a lot of other musical influences -- Roni Ben-Hur stands out, but also DeFrancesco's usual sidekick Paul Bollenback. First album. Nothing ambitious or pretentious, just does a nice job of laying in the groove. B+(**)

Aeroplane Trio: Naranja Ha (2008-09 [2010], Drip Audio, CD+DVD): Trumpet-bass-drums trio out of Vancouver: JP Carter, Russell Sholberg, and Skye Brooks respectively. Carter's the only name registered in my memory: no albums under his own name, but was in the Inhabitants and I could swear more places than the 7 credits AMG lists. He can play free, make an impression solo, or toot along when bass-drums work up a groove. Some tentative spots hold me back, plus I haven't seen the DVD yet (and in most cases never do). B+(***)

Afrocubism (2010, World Circuit/Nonesuch): Cuba was the only new world post where slaveholders didn't try hard to strip the roots of their chattels, so the island developed as a microcosm of the mother continent, with well-defined religious and musical tribes mapping straight to Senegal, Nigeria, and Congo, permitting hybridized African music to flow back into Africa itself. But Africa is a big and diverse continent, and Mali was isolated, much of its land parched, its music simpler and more ethereal, which oddly enough has lately turned Mali's musicians -- especially kora master Toumani Diabaté into the continent's most prolific musical diplomats. This is their record, aided by a few Cubans like Eliades Ochoa, primed with Benny Moré and Nico Saquito songs, with a sweet but slight "Guantanamera" to ice the cake. B+(***)

Afterfall (2008 [2010], Clean Feed): Ad hoc group names cause paperwork headaches trying to keep track of jazz releases, and this label is particularly fond of concocting such names. I filed this under guitarist Luis Lopes, figuring he was the first named and held home court recording in Lisbon. Moreover, he's on a run, his guitar the steely backbone of at least four fine records in a row, most with horns which add to but scarcely eclipse him. Jazzloft, on the other hand, filed this under soprano saxophonist Joe Giardullo, older and no doubt better known in America but not exactly a household name. Giardullo mostly plays tenor here, not all that distinctive, but the extra heft and depth sounds good, especially mixed with Sei Miguel's muted pocket trumpet. Also working here are Benjamin Duboc on bass and Harvey Sorgen on drums. A little more inside than Lopes's Humanization 4tet records, which makes this a tad less impressive, but that seems to be Lopes's knack: to make good records without showing off much flash. B+(***)

Howard Alden: I Remember Django (2010, Arbors): Of course, being b. 1958 Alden has no direct connection to Django Reinhardt -- the title comes from a song, mixed in with "Nuages" and "For Django" and other things less obvious. Swing-oriented guitarist, lots of records since 1986, coached Sean Penn for Woody Allen's Django-inspired Sweet and Lowdown. Seems a bit off the mark here, with Matt Munisteri's second guitar and Jon Burr's bass but no Grappelli. On the other hand, we are treated to five cuts with Anat Cohen on clarinet, plus four with Warren Vaché on cornet. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

Geri Allen & Timeline: Live (2009 [2010], Motéma Music): Pianist, b. 1957, several dozen albums and scads more credits since 1984 -- a major jazz pianist by any reckoning. Two Jazz CG appearances: an A- for her superb trio The Life of a Song, and a dud for the sprawling Timeless Portraits and Dreams. Haven't gotten anything from her since, including two well-regarded albums this year. Flying Toward the Sun got nearly all of the poll attention, finishing ninth at Village Voice, but it takes something really exceptional in a solo piano record to hold my interest. This has more rhythmic push -- a trio with Kenny Davis on bass and Kassa Overall on drums, plus something extra in tap dancer Maurice Chestnut. The piano remains impressive when it breaks out, the rhythm helps sustain things, and the taps are hard to figure. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Ernestine Anderson: Nightlife (2008-09 [2011], High Note): Veteran r&b singer, came up with Johnny Otis 1947-49, moved on to Lionel Hampton, and has been moving ever since. Cut some records 1956-60, then dropped out of sight until Concord revived her in 1976 with 12 albums through 1993, and now has 3 since 2003 on High Note, this one sampling two Dizzy's Club Coca Cola sets straddling her 80th birthday. Voice is a bit gruff; songbook is mostly blues. Should be ordinary but actually she gives a remarkable performance, with a big boost from the label's resident saxophone genius, Houston Person. B+(***)

Vijay Anderson: Hardboiled Wonder Land (2008 [2010], Not Two): Drummer, based in Oakland. Works with Lisa Mezzacappa's Bait & Switch (real good album on Clean Feed) and Aaron Bennett's Go-Go Fightmaster (haven't heard their record, but I've bumped into Bennett on Mezzacappa's record and an even better one by Adam Lane). First album under his own name. Two guitars (Ava Mendoza and John Finkbeiner), two reeds (Sheldon Brown on alto/tenor/soprano sax, Ben Goldberg on clarinet), and vibes (Smith Dobson V). Starts with slick textures, and the horns always remain rather soft, rarely standing out. Nice feature with the vibes. B+(**)

Laurie Antonioli: American Dreams (2009 [2010], Intrinsic Music): Singer, b. 1958 in California, based in Oakland; third album since 2005, including a duo with Richie Beirach. Wrote most of the songs -- co-credited with five others, so I figure her for the lyricist. Covers include "Moonlight in Vermont," "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning," and a dreadful "America the Beautiful." Arty high voice. Good band, usually picks up when she lets go. Especially notable is soprano/tenor saxophonist Sheldon Brown. B-

Lynne Arriale: Convergence (2010 [2011], Motéma): Pianist, b. 1957 in Milwaukee, more than a dozen albums since 1993, teaches in Jacksonville, FL. Trio, with Omer Avital on bass and Anthony Pinciotti, expanded on most cuts with tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry. Half originals, half covers, drawn from the rock era -- Beatles and Stones to Trent Reznor. She cracks "Here Comes and Sun" and "Paint It Black" down to melodic fragments which pop up here and there offering the barest whiff of the songs -- very effective, nice work by Avital with the sax laying out. McHenry returns on "Call Me" (Blondie); he mostly gets the upbeat pieces, and is superb, as usual. B+(***)

Artvark Saxophone Quartet: Truffles (2010, Challenge): Dutch sax quartet: Rolf Delfos (alto), Bart Wirtz (alto), Mete Erker (tenor), Peter Broekhuizen (baritone). Delfos appears to be the oldest, with about 20 years experience vs. 10 (9-12) for the others. Covers include one by Corea and two by Ibrahim, plus one trad; originals include one called "Ornat 'King' Coleman." The altos tend to lead, and the others keep the bounce clean and stress-free. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Gilad Atzmon and the Orient House Ensemble: The Tide Has Changed (2010, World Village): Saxophonist, alto is his mainstay but I hear a lot of soprano here, some clarinet. From Israel, b. 1963, based in London. Writes a lot of political screeds about Israel, which I mostly agree with but he has a chip on his shoulders I don't share. Names his band after the headquarters of the PLO in East Jerusalem. Combines traditional Jewish and Arab music, a dash of Weimar cabaret, some Coltrane-ish sax, accordion, some exceptionally lovely piano. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Patti Austin: Sound Advice (2010 [2011], Shanachie): Soul singer, church-style although she actually got her first break with song-and-dance-man Sammy Davis. Checkered career, her RCA contract at age 5 doesn't seem to have left anything in her discography, then there were patches from 1976 with CTI, Qwest in the 1980s, and GRP in the early 1990s. She probably has more records than any soul singer who never appeared in Christgau's Consumer Guide. Probably one of the most famous singers I've never heard before this album. This one wasn't easy either: in some sort of "wardrobe malfunction" the disc I received, with her name and number clearly printed on it -- final product, not an advance -- has someone else's music on it: no idea who, but the lead instrument is some kind of electronic keyboard backed by chintzy Latin percussion and virtually no vocals (not that I bothered listening to much of it). Finally resorted to Rhapsody (although I won't flag it as such, since I do have the packaging, just didn't get the music). Mixed bag of things, including a sturdy "Lean on Me," but I found the cleanup slots (4-5-6 if you're not into baseball) to be rather disorienting: the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want," McCartney's "Let 'Em In," and Dylan's morosely Manichaean "Gotta Server Somebody" -- annoying in any context, but certainly Christianist here. I've rarely hated a song more, although the grade doesn't really reflect that. B

Dmitry Baevsky: Down With It (2010, Sharp Nine): Alto saxophonist, b. 1976 in Russia; moved to New York in 1996, studying at New School. Second album. Half quartet, with Jeb Patton (piano), David Wong (bass), and Jason Brown (drums); four cuts add Jeremy Pelt for a classic bebop quintet. Indeed, this is classic bebop, with a couple of songbook standards, Ellington's "Mount Harissa," and everything else from 1950s boppers (Bud Powell, Clifford Brown, Gigi Gryce, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins). Not sure he's doing anything Gryce didn't do, or for that matter Parker -- whom he reminds me more of, at least when Pelt is goosing him along, but his ballad tone is lighter and cleaner. Has one of the worst Flash websites I've ever seen; bet it cost him a fortune. A- [Rhapsody]

Chase Baird: Crosscurrent (2010, Junebeat): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1988 in Seattle, grew up in Salt Lake City then San Francisco, studied in Los Angeles. First album. Cites Gato Barbieri and Michael Brecker as influences/models -- bold, straightforward players, and Baird makes a strong impression in their wake. Group includes piano, guitar, bass, drums, and percussion -- possibly a bit much as the record loses momentum when the sax lays out. Could be a guy worth watching. B+(**)

The Lynn Baker Quartet: Azure Intention (2010, OA2): Saxophonist, opens with soprano but also plays tenor, b. 1955, grew up in Oregon, teaches in Denver at Lamont School of Music. First album, sax-piano-bass-drums quartet, lively postbop, gets a lot of mileage out of pianist Reggie Berg and gives bassist Bijoux Barbosa some quality time. B+(*)

Billy Bang/Bill Cole: Billy Bang/Bill Cole (2009 [2011], Shadrack): The violinist you must know by now. He had my jazz record of the year last year, and that wasn't the first time he did that. Cole you should know: I credit him with two A- records, 2002's Seasoning the Greens and 2008's Proverbs for Sam, both group albums. His duo albums, like this one and previous work with Bang and William Parker and others, are a bit sketchier. He was b. 1937 in Pittsburgh; wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on Coltrane; teaches at Syracuse; mostly plays non-Western wind instruments. He faces off Bang's violin here with digeridoo, nagaswarm, sona, flute, and shenai, ranging from deep throated background to even squeakier than Bang's violin. Takes off slow, wanders a lot; while Cole eventually comes up with some interesting flurries, Bang pays close attention but never really takes charge. B+(*)

BANN: As You Like (2009 [2011], Jazz Eyes): Acronym group, quartet: Seamus Blake (tenor sax), Jay Anderson (bass), Oz Noy (guitar), and Adam Nussbaum (drums). Anderson leads on points: he's credited with "recorded, mixed and mastered"; also wrote 3 of 5 new songs -- one each for Noy and Nussbaum, four covers (Jerome Kern, Thelonious Monk, David Crosby, and Joe Henderson). Anderson is a bassist from Canada: a couple of albums in the 1990s, a long list of side credits starting with Woody Herman in 1978. He keeps the rhythm loose and limber here. Nussbaum is the only American, same type of drummer. Blake is a saxophonist from England, a mainstreamer with a big, bold tone, always a welcome presence. Noy is an Israeli, probably a good deal younger, does some of his best work here. B+(***)

Patricia Barber: Monday Night: Live at the Green Mill Vol. 2 (2010 [2011], Fast Atmosphere): Appears to be download-only, same for the first volume which dates back several years. Barber sings and plays piano, with guitar-bass-drums. Seems under the weather at first, hard to sort out, but fares better with songs I recognize, closing with her own "Post Modern Blues" followed by "Smile," "The Beat Goes On," and "Summertime." B [Rhapsody]

Matt Bauder: Day in Pictures (2010, Clean Feed): Plays tenor sax and clarinet. Fourth album since 2003, not counting a duo with Anthony Braxton and I'm not sure what else. Passed through Ann Arbor and Chicago; now in Brooklyn. Quintet with Nate Wooley (trumpet), Angelica Sanchez (piano), Jason Ajemian (bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums). Wooley and Sanchez have good spots on their own, but aren't a lot of help overall, except in some fluttery free spots where it all evens out. What's more striking is when Bauder's tenor sax goes solo or with minimal bass/drums. Turns out he could carry a mainstream sax ballad album, although he's still a little restless to settle into that. B+(**)

Bedrock: Plastic Temptation (2009 [2010], Winter & Winter): Uri Caine's electric keyboard group, the main reason he polls so high on an instrument that's actually a small part of his toolkit. WIth Tim Lefebvre on electric bass and guitar, and Zach Danzinger on drums, probably others popping in here and there -- vocalist Barbara Walker with a big-time gospel sample is one. Two previous Bedrock albums broke my A-list, so I was keenly interested in this one. But Rhapsody cut short nearly all of the 18 cuts, turning this into an annoying hodge podge. Not fair, for sure, but I'll note this with a placeholder grade -- it's probably better but it's not inconceivable that it's worse. [B] [Rhapsody]

Han Bennink Trio: Parken (2009, ILK): With Simon Toldman on piano and Joachim Badenhorst on clarinet/bass clarinet: their names and instruments are on the cover, following Bennink's, but most sources attribute as above. The New Dutch Swing idea is reinforced with three Ellington pieces, passages running wistfully sweet as well as cacophonous, and some fancy unorthodox drumming. Ends with the title song with a vocal by Qarin Wikström -- has a bit of Robert Wyatt flare to it. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Jerry Bergonzi: Convergence (2008 [2011], Savant): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1947 (Wikipedia) or 1950 (AMG, AAJ), website doesn't offer an opinion; has thirty-some records since 1983, the ones I've heard (i.e., since 2006) consistently excellent. This one has bass, drums, two cuts with piano, and a fair amount of overdubbed soprano sax, a self-interaction that pushes him to new heights. A-

Natalia Bernal/Mike Eckroth/Jason Ennis: La Voz de Tres (2010, Jota Sete): Album cover just lists the three last names, one per line; spine and elsewhere sticks with last names separated by slashes. All this underscores the tight group dynamic, but Bernal comes first not just alphatetically. A singer from Chile, based in New York, she wrote three songs and most likely picked the rest, some from her native Andes, most from Brazil -- most striking for me is the one US cover, "Tenderly." Eckroth plays piano/keyboards; Ennis 7-string guitar. B+(*)

Tim Berne: Insomnia (1997 [2011], Clean Feed): Note first that this has been kicking around for a long time. I was asked a while back to write something nice about Clean Feed for the label's 10th anniversary, and I utterly failed to find any way to structure that -- in large part because I've always been so defensive, and so rebellious, about getting boxed in to anyone else's notion of what I ought to write. But one thing I can say about Clean Feed -- one of the things that distinguishes them from virtually every other jazz label -- is that they won't hesitate to take a flier on something everyone else has passed over. And while one might suspect that a label with their demographic would leap at the opportunity to add Tim Berne to their catalogue, more likely it's that Pedro Costa has heard something he wants to give a chance. Berne has released a superb string of records starting around 2003 -- my pick hit is Pre-Emptive Denial, attributed to Paraphrase, from 2005 -- but I rarely cared for his earlier works: he emerged around 1980 as a Julius Hemphill protégé and often seemed to be biting off more than he could chew, making music too complicated to finally come together. That's sort of the problem here, except that the final quarter does come together, and the more you listen to the complex noodling up front the more its incoherent strands take on their own logic. Big, and actually very talented, group: Baikida Carroll (trumpet), Michael Formanek (bass), Marc Ducret (guitar), Dominique Pifarely (violin), Erik Friedlander (cello), Chris Speed (clarinet), Jim Black (drums), Tim Berne (alto and baritone saxes). The core of the group -- Berne, Speed, Formanek, Black, sometimes Ducret -- was working as Bloodcount at the time, and their excellent Seconds spent ten years on the shelf before Berne released it himself. Someday I should go back to Berne's early records and try to figure out whose fault it was that I didn't like them. B+(***)

David Binney: Graylen Epicenter (2010 [2011], Mythology): Alto saxophonist, b. 1961, also plays soprano (especially well on this record); AMG lists 16 albums since 1989, many more side credits, a dozen or so as producer. This runs long (73:43), has a bit of kitchen sink feel -- a second sax (Chris Potter), trumpet (Ambrose Akinmusire), both piano (Craig Taborn) and guitar (Wayne Kravitz), bass (Eivind Opsvik), two drummers (Brian Blade, Dan Weiss) sometimes doubling up plus Kenny Wollesen (percussion, vibes), and occasional vocals (Gretchen Parlato) mostly in spare horn mode. Postbop largesse, plenty of dazzling passages. B+(***)

Bizingas (2008 [2010], NCM East): Quartet, led by Brian Drye (trombone, piano, synth). Also includes Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Jonathan Goldberger (guitar, baritone guitar), and Ches Smith (drums, glockenspiel). Drye: b. 1975 in Rhode Island, father musician, studied at University of Miami in Florida, based in Brooklyn, has a couple dozen side credits since 2001, some rock (Clem Snide), some world-ish (Slavic Soul Party; Brooklyn Qawwali Party but no record yet). Trombone/cornet harmonics yield a signature sound, the guitar carrying the group through its circus curlicues. Interesting mix. B+(***)

Tyler Blanton: Botanic (2010, Ottimo): Vibraphonist, first album, wrote all the songs. Joel Frahm gets a "featuring" cover credit, playing tenor sax on two cuts and soprano on five of the other six -- typically superb, the best thing on the album, but the vibes do make a nice contrast, and AMG's crediting the album to Frahm was larcenous. B+(*)

Dan Block: Plays the Music of Duke Ellington: From His World to Mine (2009 [2010], Miles High): Block plays tenor and alto sax, various clarinets, and basset horn. First album under his own name; I'm having trouble tracking down his side credits, which may include some classical performances as well as a fair number of more or less trad jazz groups -- I get more hits grepping my notebook for him than AMG lists (Linda Ronstadt's big band, David Berger's Sultans of Swing, George Gee, John Sheridan's Dream Band, Michael Camacho, Chris Flory, Jerry Costanzo/Andy Farber [on baritone], Marty Grosz's Hot Winds, Catherine Russell). Ellington and Strayhorn tunes, none of the really obvious ones you've heard hundreds of times (although I've certainly played "Mt. Harrissa" that much, enough to recognize it even without the original's pyrotechnic brass), given the small group swing treatment, sometimes with Pat O'Leary's cello and no drums; about half in a septet with Mike Kanan on piano, James Chirillo on guitar, and Mark Sherman on vibes. Lovely stuff -- Block favors his clarinet but I'm partial to his tenor sax. B+(***)

Jane Ira Bloom: Wingwalker (2010 [2011], Outline): Soprano saxophonist, one of the few specialists; b. 1955, thirteenth album since 1980. Quartet with Dawn Clement (piano, Rhodes), Mark Helias (bass), Bobby Previte (drums). Eleven originals, ends with "I Could Have Danced All Night." B+(***)

Matt Blostein/Vinnie Sperrazza: Paraphrase (2010 [2011], Yeah-Yeah): Alto saxophonist and drummer, respectively, split writing credits 4-4, have a couple previous albums together. Quartet with Geoff Kraly on electric bass and Jacob Garchik on trombone -- Garchik seems to be the key player, slowing things down and adding depth. B+(**)

Blue Cranes: Observatories (2009 [2010], Blue Cranes): Portland, OR group; second album since 2007. Two saxophones (Reid Wallsmith on alto, Sly Pig on tenor), keyboards (Rebecca Sanborn), bass and drums. The horns are mostly yoked together, slowed down and muscled up with a harmonic fuzz I don't much care for -- reminds me of rock opera more than anything else. Three cuts add strings, four guitar, the closer adds a "family percussion section" that concludes with a shout-out. B-

Ralph Bowen: Power Play (2009 [2011], Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist, can't find any record of when born but 1965 is a fair guess; 7 or 8 albums since 1992, more going back to 1985 if you count his group Out of the Blue. Mainstream player, imposing on tenor, plays a little soprano or alto (not specified which) here, not his strong suit. Quartet with pianist Orrin Evans, who does what the role requires but doesn't make his usual strong impression. "My One and Only Love" is a highlight. B+(**)

Anthony Branker & Ascent: Dance Music (2010, Origin): Composer-arranger, b. 1958, evidently started off playing trumpet but just runs things here. Second album, mostly a sextet plus vocalist Kadri Voorand, who wrote lyrics to four Branker pieces. Not so danceable, but bold compositions, strong sax breaks, especially tenor Ralph Bowen. B+(**)

Amy Briggs: Tangos for Piano (2005 [2010], Ravello): Pianist, exclusively classical as far as I can tell, although this is only her first album under her own name. Solo piano. The 22 tangos include one by Piazzolla, but are mostly by composers not normally associated with tango -- some I more/less recognize are Stravinsky, Nancarrow, Rzewski, Harrison, but most are too obscure for me. Drama and panache, of course, and in some ways it's refreshing not to carry along the standard instrumental baggage. B+(*)

Dave Brubeck: Legacy of a Legend (1954-70 [2010], Columbia/Legacy, 2CD): The key to parsing the awkward title is the relatively narrow timespan covered, limited to Brubeck's Columbia recordings, now managed by Sony's Legacy division. That cuts off the important early recordings and interesting later ones swept up in the excellent The Essential Dave Brubeck, released in 2003 and a better place to start if you want an overview before delving into his many worthwhile individual albums. Some solos, but mostly delectable quartet with Paul Desmond, three vocal spots that should have been better (Jimmy Rushing, Carmen McRae, Louis Armstrong), and winding up with two cuts featuring Gerry Mulligan. B+(***)

Henry Brun and the Latin Playerz: 20th Anniversary (1992-2010 [2010], Richport): Drummer, congalero, "Mr. Ritmo" to his friends, formed his Latin Playerz group in 1989, but I'm not finding much discography for them -- AMG only lists one record, Spiritual Awakenings (2005, Mambo Maniacs), but doesn't, for instance, list this one. Two songs date from 1992, one 1993, one 2000, one 2004, three 2006, most newer. The booklet doesn't list the Playerz, but does spotlight Judi Deleon, presumably the singer. She takes some overworked standards like "Lullaby of Birdland," "Lover Man," and "Bye Bye Blackbird," and turns them all into high points. B+(**)

John Bunch: Do Not Disturb (2010, Arbors): Pianist, b. 1921 in Indiana; plane was shot down in WWII and he finished the war in a German POW camp. Played with Eddie Condon, Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson; from 1966-72 was Tony Bennett's music director. Cut his first record in 1975; in the 1990s mostly recorded as New York Swing Trio with Bucky Pizzarelli and Jay Leonhart. Returns to that same piano-guitar-bass format here with Frank Vignola and John Webber, reprising the title song of his first album ("John's Bunch") and a bunch of standards, the most modern from Brubeck and Parker. Turns out to have been his final studio album, a long but relaxed 71 minutes. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

David Caceres: David Caceres (2010 [2011], Sunnyside): Vocalist-alto saxophonist, b. 1967 in San Antonio, TX; family includes several musicians, including Ernie Caceres, who played sax for Benny Goodman and Woody Herman. Studied at Berklee; teaches at University of Houston. Second album, with Gil Goodstein arranging and playing keybs on most of the pieces; Aaron Parks playing piano on others. Voice strikes me as a broad, sly smile, and his sax is even warmer. Margret Grebowicz duets on one piece. B+(*)

Roger Cairns and Gary Fukushima: The Dream of Olwen (2010, AHP): Vocalist and pianist, respectively. Cairns was b. 1946 in Scotland; is based in Los Angeles; has two previous albums, his 2006 debut titled A Scot in L.A. All standards, Alec Wilder and Marilyn and Alan Bergman getting multiple calls. Very minimal, like Tony Bennett and Bill Evans, not quite that special. B+(*)

Vinicius Cantuária & Bill Frisell: Lágrimas Mexicanas (2011, E1): Brazilian singer-songwriter, b. 1951, has more than a dozen albums since 1983, a name I've often run across but never before managed to check out. Plays guitar and percussion, sings all the songs, light and lyrical, naturally. Frisell, of course, also plays guitar. He presumably adds something, but for once it's hard to pick out. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

Andrea Centazzo/Perry Robinson/Nobu Stowe: The Soul in the Mist (2006 [2007], Konnex/Ictus): Part of my Nobu Stowe backlog, but the pianist plays a relatively minor role here. Centazzo wrote the pieces, plays percussion, also credited for "Mallet Kat Keyb., Sampling"; record feels like the work of a percussionist, jumpy abstractions with everything else reduced to color, especially Robinson's clarinet. B+(*) [advance]

Chaise Lounge: Symphony Lounge (2010, Big Round): Charlie Barnett group: he plays guitar, sings a little, writes most of the songs. Lead singer is Marilyn Older, and the group includes Gary Gregg (sax, clarinet, flute), John Jensen (trombone), bass and drums, but gets stretched out this time with Capital City Symphony adding strings and who knows what else. Two covers -- "Do Nothing 'Till You Hear From Me" and "Luck Be a Lady" -- define the milieu as retro while Barnett's own songs fit in as period obscurities -- titles include "Dude, She's Waiting," "In Walked Mo," "Blue, the Distracted Reader," "Lonely Is as Lonely Does." B+(***)

Mina Cho: Originality (2010, Blink Music): Pianist, b. 1981 in Seoul, South Korea, started playing gospel in church, moved on to Berklee, and now has her first album. Piano itself is rich and flowing, with Andrew Halchak's soprano sax or Shu Odamura's guitar adding to the lushness. Bonus track is the only non-original, with a David Thorne Scott vocal in the usual hipster style. B+(*)

Fay Claassen: Sing! (2009 [2010], Challenge): Standards singer, b. 1969 in the Netherlands, 7th album since 2000. Backed by WDR Big Band Cologne, who do their best to remain anonymous, and fortified on four cuts by WDR Rundfunkorchester, who hardly bothered me at all. Wide range of material -- fellow vocalist heroes Betty Carter and Abbey Lincoln; fellow feminists Miriam Makeba, Joni Mitchell, and Björk; a bit of Louis Jordan sass; the obligatory Jobim ("A Felicidade" no less); a tortuous "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing"; still, I was most struck by the two most pre-feminist cuts, a very antiquarian "Tea for Two" -- I hadn't really noticed the line about not disclosing that they had a telephone before -- and the submissive "A Good Man Is Hard to Find." No idea if there's a hidden message here, or it's just stuff they thought might be fun to try. B

Mike Clark: Carnival of Soul (2010, Owl Studios): Drummer, b. 1946, got a fusion rep playing in Herbie Hancock's Headhunters. Here he reaches back deeper, mostly to the organ-fueled soul jazz circa 1960, rotating three organ players, with honking sax from Rob Dixon, and a "Cry Me a River" vocal by Delbert McClinton. Seems like basic stuff, but "T's Boogaloo" is irresistible. And for his finale, he namechecks a drummer great from further back. Calls that piece "Catlett Outa the Bag." B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Clayton Brothers: The New Song and Dance (2010, ArtistShare): Bassist John Clayton and reedist Jeff Clayton (alto sax and alto flute this time) are the brothers. They got their start in the Basie Orchestra, then formed the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra with drummer Jeff Hamilton -- the group Diana Krall tapped when she wanted a big band like Sinatra used to use. The quintet includes a third Clayton, John's son Gerald on piano, plus Obed Calvaire on drums and Terrell Stafford on trumpet and flugelhorn. Despite the small group size, they know how to make a splash. It's usually Stafford up front, of course, but the band swings at unit force, and the sax is much more than a foil for the trumpet. B+(**)

Todd Clouser: A Love Electric (2010 [2011], Ropeadope): Guitarist, b. 1981 in Minneapolis, studied at Berklee, based in Baja, Mexico -- wanted a slower paced life in which to develop his own voice. Second album, fusion that grows out of the 1970s but isn't contained by it. No credits breakdown I can see: Bryan Nichols on Rhodes, Julio de la Cruz on piano, and Jason Craft on B3 would seem to be either-or; same for the two bassists (Gordy Johnson and Adam Linz) and the two trumpeters (Steven Bernstein and Kelly Rossum). One cover, Harry Nilsson's "One" -- smartly reinforcing the period thing. One uncredited vocal, on "Mo City Kid" -- unpro but sly. B+(**)

Avishai Cohen: Introducing Triveni (2009 [2010], Anzic): Anat Cohen's trumpet-playing, third-world loving brother -- not the bassist of the same name, although it's worth knowing that Rhapsody has this under the wrong guy -- leading a trio with Omer Avital on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums. Wrote four originals. Covers Don Cherry, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Cole Porter. Puts his chops on fine display. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Richard Cole: Inner Mission (2007 [2010], Origin): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1957, based in Seattle, name inevitably recalls alto saxophonist Richie Cole (nine years older, presumably unrelated, recorded extensively 1976-88 and not much since). Fourth album since 1994, all on Origin. Front cover says "featuring Randy Brecker" -- the trumpet player on 5 of 9 cuts, with Thomas Marriott on trumpet on two others. Bill Anschell plays piano on 6 cuts; John Hansen on two others, and bassist and drummers come and go. Cole takes Henry Mancini's "Slow Hot Wind" on soprano. I don't get much out of the postbop arrangements here, but the sax is often impressive. B

David Cook: Pathway (2010, Bju'ecords): Pianist, based in Brooklyn, looks like he has one self-released album back in 2002, otherwise this piano trio is it. One cover, Ellington's "Come Sunday"; eight originals, crisp, thoughtful postbop. B+(*)

The Cookers: Cast the First Stone (2010 [2011], Plus Loin Music): Supergroup -- Billy Harper (tenor sax), Craig Handy (alto sax), Eddie Henderson (trumpet), David Weiss (trumpet), George Cables (piano), Cecil McBee (bass), Billy Hart (drums), with Azar Lawrence joining on 4 of 7 cuts (3 on tenor sax, 1 on soprano). Second group album, after 2010's Warriors, which got a lot of favorable notices but didn't come my way. Weiss is probably the least well known, but he's the arranger, that's his specialty. I recall Harper and Henderson teaming up before, on Harper's Live on Tour in the Far East series (Volume 2 is exceptional), so no surprise that the horns are roaring. Good to hear Cables, not just comping but weaving it all together. B+(***)

Patrick Cornelius: Fierce (2009 [2010], Whirlwind): Alto saxophonist, b. 1978, AMG credits him with two records but his website claims four going back to 2001. Trio plus two extra horns -- Nick Vayenas on valve trombone and Mark Small on tenor sax -- what he calls his Chordless Jazz Ensemble. Solid postbop effort, bold even, fierce too. B+(**)

Roxy Coss: Roxy Coss (2009 [2011], self-released): Tenor sax, soprano sax, flute. From Seattle, based in New York, first album. Money quote from someone at AAJ: "just like Coltrane, Coss achieves a perfect balance of lyricism and intensity in her improvisations through a superb sense of timing, rhythmic and harmonic structure." Not "just like Coltrane"; not remotely near. Much of the album is wiped out by a pop jazz rhythm section, and the flute adds no significant weight. When the drummer drops down to brushes she finally gets a chance, shows some poise and taste. Just not like Coltrane. B-

Jacques Coursil: Trail of Tears (2010 [2011], Sunnyside): Trumpet player, b. 1938 in Paris, parents from Martinique, cut a couple of well-regarded avant albums in 1969 and pretty much vanished until 2005. Title comes from the 1830s expulsion of the Cherokee from the Carolinas and Tennessee to the future Oklahoma. Packaging includes a couple of maps tracing the route. I first learned about this in 8th grade -- the only person I recall learning much from was my 8th grade American history teacher -- but I never quite visualized the routes before: one by river seems convoluted but obvious, descending the Tennessee to the Ohio to the Mississippi, then upriver on the Arkansas to Fort Smith and into Oklahoma; the other a land route further north, across Kentucky and Missouri where I would have expected a more direct southerly route. The music is muted, somber, brief, with relatively minor contributions from Mark Whitecage, Perry Robinson, Bobby Few, Sunny Murray, and others who normally don't blend into the vintage woodwork. B+(**)

Sylvie Courvoisier/Mark Feldman: Oblivia (2009 [2010], Tzadik): I've seen the artist-order presented both ways here. Feldman's name is to the left on front cover, but the print only runs from top to bottom, not from left to right, and other sources credit Courvoisier first. (The spine is usually more definitive, but rarely scanned.) Piano-violin duets, sharp and prickly. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

Neil Cowley Trio: Radio Silence (2009 [2010], Naim Jazz): English piano trio, third album. I figure Cowley has been most influenced by Esbjörn Svensson (aka EST), a much more prominent force in European jazz than over here. I got an advance of their first album, Dis-Placed, and wrote it up in an early Jazz CG, but they never bothered to send me anything more. Like the other albums, this one is sharply played, beat-wise, catchy, and just tough enough no one will mistake it for pop. Could aspire to popular, though. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Patty Cronheim: Days Like These (2009 [2010], Say So): Singer-songwriter, b. 1960, probably based on New York, first album. Wrote 7 of 10 songs, covering "Summertime," "Superstition" (lists Stevie Wonder's Talking Book as a desert island disc), and "Bye Bye Blackbird." Has a slight scratch to her voice, which works well in a jazz context. Covers aren't especially notable, although her "Bye Bye Blackbird" is the best of three I've heard in the last week -- she lets it romp free instead of using it to end the Beatles' "Blackbird" on an up note. Originals are pretty solid, with "Don't Work Anymore" outstanding. And she gets terrific sax breaks from Dan Wall. B+(**)

Tom Culver: Sings Johnny Mercer (2010, Rhombus): Singer, based in Los Angeles, second album, does a nice job on 18 Johnny Mercer songs, with enough grit and resonance to salvage even things like "Moon River." B+(*)

Dadi: Bem Aqui (2009 [2010], Sunnyside): Brazilian singer-songwriter, full name Eduardo Magalhães de Carvalho, b. 1952 in Rio de Janeiro. Hard to find much info: has at least one previous album (Dadi, from 2005, released on a Japanese label) and some (maybe a lot) of session work -- was on a Mick Jagger record, and several by Marisa Monte. He plays guitar, keyboards, percussion, and sings. This one has been sitting patiently in my queue for over a year now. Got zero metafile mentions. All in Portuguese, one cover (Chico Buarque), only one solo credit among the remaining eleven songs, several shared with Marisa Monte or Arnaldo Antunes -- makes me wonder if he isn't some sort of Billy Joe Shaver-type songwriter recycling his hits-for-others. Reinforcing that is that everything here is catchy, the quirks engaging, the flow irresistible. A-

David's Angels: Substar (2009 [2010], Kopasetic): David is presumably Swedish bassist David Carlsson, although the key person in the group is Sofie Norling, who sings and wrote all but two of the tracks. Other angel candidates are keyboardist Maggi Olin and drummer Michala Østergaard-Nilsen. They are also joined here by well known trumpet player Ingrid Jensen. Pieces are slow and moody, some sort of churchly (or classical) chamber effect, which I've yet to break through. B

Ernest Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble: The Prairie Prophet (2010 [2011], Delmark): Saxophonist, alto and tenor, b. 1953, based in Chicago. Group adds two trumpets, trombone, guitar (Jeff Parker), bass, and drums. The prophet is the late Fred Anderson, the patron saint of the Chicago avant-garde. Dawkins has long had a thing for South African music -- his previous albums include Jo'burg Jump and Cape Town Shuffle -- and he starts this off by reworking an Abdullah Ibrahim title, "Blues for a Hip King," into "Hymn for a Hip King." He also remembers Lester Bowie, and titles his last two pieces "Mesopotamia" and "Baghdad Boogie" with snatches of old war songs. The horns come hot and heavy; Parker's guitar is superb throughout. A-

Joey DeFrancesco/Robi Botos/Vito Rezza/Phil Dwyer: One Take: Volume Four (2010, Alma): Something the label and producer Peter Cardinali do: round up a set of musicians, bust them loose on standard songs with no rehearsals, everything done in one take. Lineup varies a little. Volume One had DeFrancesco, Guido Basso, Lorne Lofsky, and Rezza; Volume Two had Dwyer, Botos, Marc Rogers, and Terri Lyne Carrington; Volume Three went with Don Thompson and Reg Schwager. Volume Four returns with four repeaters from previous lineups. DeFrancesco does his usual organ shtick, although with out his usual guitarist he stands out a bit more, even with the Botos' contrasting keyboards. But Dwyer is key -- one of those broad-toned tenor saxophonists born to play soul jazz. B+(**)

Todd DelGiudice: Pencil Sketches (2010 [2011], OA2): Saxophonist, alto then tenor, also clarinet and bass clarinet; grew up in Florida, studied University of Miami; moved to New York, then on to Eugene, OR for more classical study, playing clarinet in the Oregon Mozart Players and joining symphony orchestras wherever he landed -- currently teaching near Spokane, WA. First album, quartet with piano, bass, and drums, all originals except for "All the Things You Are." Mainstream, gorgeous alto tone, effortless swing. I haven't been holding many records back for future consideration because I'm so jammed I often just want to check things off, but I want to hear this again. [B+(***)]

Todd DelGiudice: Pencil Sketches (2010 [2011], OA2): Highly improbable sax hero -- put more time into his classical study than into jazz, hopped around various symphonies, wound up teaching on the scablands of eastern Washington -- nothing sketchy to his originals, but the bright lustre to his tone and rich ambience really come out on the sole cover, "All the Things You Are." B+(***)

De Nazaten & James Carter: For Now (2009 [2011], Strotbrock): The Offspring, formerly of libertine Prince Hendrik, a mixture of Dutch and Surinamese musicians, have been around since 1995 -- I had the Dutch muddled in my memory and started to refer to them as the Bastards, which they probably wouldn't find offensive. The apinti drum and skratyi are not just exotic; they make for fine party instruments, accenting the comic potential of a group that already had sousaphone and bass sax before teaming up with a world class baritone saxophonist. Back cover shows them all hopping, with no one getting a bigger kick than Carter. A-

Carlo De Rosa's Cross-Fade: Brain Dance (2009 [2011], Cuneiform): Bassist, b. 1970, moved to New York 1993; first album, although I see scattered side credits -- Luis Perdomo, Amir ElSaffar, Samo Salamon, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Arturo O'Farrill. Quartet with Mark Shim on tenor sax, Vijay Iyer on piano, Justin Brown on drums. Shim is a guy I'd pretty much forgotten about: two quite good albums for Blue Note 1998-2000, only scattered side credits since then, 2-3 per year. Shim is, however, superb here, right on the edge. Brown's drums shift the beat all over the place, opening up vast spaces for Shim and Iyer to work in. A-

Mike DiRubbo: Chronos (2010 [2011], Posi-Tone): Alto saxophonist, b. 1970 New Haven, CT, studied under Jackie McLean, six albums since 1999, starting with mainstream mainstays Sharp Nine and Criss Cross. Sharp player, runs very fast postbop races, lovely tone and soulful touch on ballads. This one's a trio, with Brian Charette on organ and Rudy Royston. Six DiRubbo originals, three by Charette. I don't find the organ all that interesting, but DiRubbo's one to keep an eye on. B+(**)

Dollshot: Dollshot (2010 [2011], Underwolf): Group, or project, or something like that: Rosalie Kaplan (voice), Noah Kaplan (sax), Wes Matthews (piano, sometimes prepared), Giacomo Merega (bass, sometimes prepared). First album. Noah Kaplan has a previous album with Merega and guitarist David Tronzo. Rosalie Kaplan has one of those operatic soprano voices I can't stand, all the more so with so many songs by Arnold Schoenberg, Francis Poulenc, and Charles Ives. One original by Matthews, one by Noah Kaplan, an uncredited "Postlude." The instrumental passages are more intriguing, and I do like the dusky sax leads. [B]

Kenny Dorham: The Flamboyan, Queens, NY, 1963 (1963 [2010], Uptown): Hardbop trumpeter, had a strong run 1955-64, sliding off to a premature death in 1972. Live set, picked up from a broadcast tape with three stretches of MC Alan Grant talking between six songs -- two Gershwins, two Dorham originals, "Autumn Leaves," and one from pianist Ronnie Mathews. Dorham is in fine form; tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson lays back a bit at first, but earns his "featuring" cover credit. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Dave Douglas & Keystone: Spark of Being: Expand (2010, Greenleaf Music): The new record, or three, or you can buy them all in a box, or download, etc., in some sort of subscription -- the business plan behind this product is more complicated than the music. Expand is the second disc if, e.g., you buy the box, and it's the only one on Rhapsody. The first is Spark of Being: Soundtrack, the edited soundtrack to a Bill Morrison "multimedia collaboration." Expand is made up of seven long-ish pieces before they got hacked up for the soundtrack. The third is Spark of Being: Burst, which are ten more pieces written for the film but not used. Group includes Douglas on trumpet and laptop, Marcus Strickland on tenor sax, Adam Benjamin on Fedner Rhodes, Brad Jones on Ampeg baby bass, Gene Lake on drums, and DJ Olive on turntables and laptop. The keyb and electronics are as tightly integrated and integral as ever, maybe more so. The horns are far less bracing, but that goes with soundtrack mode. I'm reluctant to rate this higher without being able to see the rest of the puzzle. But Douglas is in a prolonged creative stretch, albeit sometimes a puzzling one. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Colin Dean: Shiwasu (2010, Roots and Grooves): Bassist, b. and raised in Long Island, studied at New School, first album, composed all the pieces. Quartet with Sean Nowell on tenor and soprano sax, Rachel Z on piano, and Colin Stranahan on drums. Nowell and Nicolazzo make typically strong impressions, the pieces are thoughtfully constructed and flow effortlessly. B+(**)

The Dymaxion Quartet: Sympathetic Vibrations (2010, self-released): Drummer Gabriel Gloege, student of Bob Brookmeyer and fan of Buckminster Fuller, wrote all nine pieces here, arranged as three sets of three labelled Hong Kong, Paris, and Manhattan. Dymaxion is Fuller's term, fused together from dynamic, maximum, and tension and used for all sorts of wild and wooly ideas. This one is a pianoless quartet: Michael Shobe's trumpet and Mark Small's tenor sax are the free horns, with Dan Fabricatore on bass. Seems more composed-through than maximally dynamic, a neat effect but maybe too neat. B+(**) [advance]

Yelena Eckemoff: Cold Sun (2009 [2010], Yelena Music): Pianist, from Russia, in New York since 1991. Most of her reputation is based on classical music, but this is jazz, a low-key but smart and sharp piano trio, with Mads Vinding on bass and Peter Erskine on drums. B+(**)

Taylor Eigsti: Daylight at Midnight (2010, Concord): Pianist, b. 1984, got one of those prodigy hypes cutting his first album in 2001; Concord picked him up in 2006, releasing his third album, one annoying enough I singled it out as a dud. Haven't heard much from Concord since then, although Eigsti's only one of many possible explanations. It's not that he can't play, but he doesn't have very interesting ideas: here, some trio, occasional electric keybs, some Julian Lage guitar, five songs handed over to vocalist Becca Stevens -- a wet blanket on an otherwise ordinary set. B- [Rhapsody]

Shauli Einav: Opus One (2010 [2011], Plus Loin Music): Saxophonist, b. 1982 in Israel, based in New York, second album. Has a silky, slinky postbop sound; helps when it's offset by Andy Hunter's trombone. B+(*)

Kurt Elling: The Gate (2010 [2011], Concord): Male vocalist, automatic pick for Downbeat's polls. Between his hipsterism and penchant for slipping in unnecessary notes I've never cared for his records. This is less idiosyncratic than most, less defined, quieter. Not the worst "Norwegian Wood" I've heard. Not much else either. B- [Rhapsody]

Erika: Obsession (2009 [2010], Erika): AMG finds 10 entries for "erika"; no idea which one this one is. Booklet makes a point of always printing "ERIKA" all caps. Actual name: Erika Matsuo. Very striking on the right song -- opener "Night and Day" and the sure-fire "Moondance"; otherwise she leans heavily on Brazilian music: Jobim, of course, but also Nascimento, Djavan, Caymmi, Lins, nicely done -- the band includes Paulo Levi and Yosvany Terry on saxes, Romero Lubambo on guitar, Essiet Essiet on bass, and Nanny Assis on percussion. B+(*)

Kellylee Evans: Nina (2010, Plus Loin Music): Singer, second album, songs more or less associated with Nina Simone. Doesn't have Simone's voice, which leaves the most familiar of these songs a bit hollow. B-

Exploding Star Orchestra: Stars Have Shapes (2010, Delmark): Rob Mazurek big group, not really a big band given no sense of sections: one cornet (Mazurek), one trombone (Jeb Bishop), three reeds (Matt Bauder on clarinet and tenor sax, Jason Stein on bass clarinet, Greg Ward on alto sax) plus flute (Nicole Mitchell), double up on bass (Matthew Lux and Josh Abrams) and drums (John Herndon and Mike Reed, plus Carrie Biolo percussion); also piano (Jeff Kowalkowski), vibes (Jason Adasiewicz), "word rocker" (Damon Locks), and various "electro-acoustic constructions" (Mazurek's main interest -- "rain from the Brazilian Amazon, insects at the turn of an eclipse, the hammering overdrive of bicycles in Copenhagen, stacked muted cornets run through various filters drones built from electric eels and piano feedback, hi-frequency sinuous lines from tone generators, pitched bass guitars, and other prepared instruments"). Dedicated "in memory of Bill Dixon and Fred Anderson," who've livened up previous group albums, something missing here. Played it three times and am still not sure what I think. [B+(**)]

Exploding Star Orchestra: Stars Have Shapes (2010, Delmark): Rob Mazurek group, fourteen players but they play relatively minor roles filling out details in Mazurek's electronic plateaux -- long on atmospherics, reminds me of '70s prog-jazz only chilled out, reconceived after trip-hop. Mazurek's cornet occasionally shoots across the horizon, while Jeb Bishop's trombone lurks ominously. B+(**)

Andy Farber and His Orchestra: This Could Be the Start of Something Big (2009 [2010], Black Warrior): Conventional big band, just the way Count Basie intended -- four trumpets, four trombones, five reeds (plus the leader, so make that six), piano, guitar, bass, drums; one-cut guest slots for Mark Sherman on vibes and Jerry Dodgion on alto sax, plus two vocal tracks with Jon Hendricks. B+(**)

Lorraine Feather: Ages (2008-09 [2010], Jazzed Media): Daughter of jazz encylopedist Leonard Feather, b. 1948, full name Billie Jane Lee Lorraine Feather, the first for a godmother named Holiday -- not the first comparison a fledgling jazz singer wants to bring to mind. Cut an album in 1979, not regarded as much, then restarted her career in 1997, this her eighth album. She wrote the lyrics, picking up music from her band and guests -- guitarist Eddie Arkin; pianists Shelly Berg, Russell Ferrante and Dick Hyman; banjoist Béla Fleck. Several striking songs, like "The Girl With the Lazy Eye," "Two Desperate Women in Their Late 30s," and "I Forgot to Have Children." B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Cynthia Felton: Come Sunday: The Music of Duke Ellington (2010, Felton Entertainment): Vocalist, based in Los Angeles, goes by the honorific Dr. on her business card as Artistic Director of The Ethnomusicology Library of American Heritage, whatever that is. First album covered Oscar Brown Jr. This aims for bigger game, although Ellington doesn't necessarily give a singer much to work with, and those who have been most memorable have broken rules that Felton wouldn't dare monkey with. B

Scott Fields/Matthias Schubert: Minaret Minuets (2010 [2011], Clean Feed): Guitar/tenor sax duo. Guitarist Fields has a couple dozen albums back to 1993. Schubert has four albums since 1992, including the well-regarded Blue and Grey Suite from 1994. They previously played together on Fields' 2006 album Beckett. They're careful here to match up their tones, so you get close listening and interaction, even balance. Does run on rather long. B+(**)

Amina Figarova: Sketches (2010, Munich): Pianist, b. 1966 in Baku, currently Azerbaijan; studied in Baku, Rotterdam, and at Berklee; based in Rotterdam; 8th album since 1998. The piano leads are very striking, but most cuts add horns -- Ernie Hammes on trumpet, Marc Mommaas on tenor sax, Bart Platteau on flute -- which seem less focused. B+(*)

Billy Fox's Blackbirds & Bullets: Dulces (2009 [2010], Clean Feed): Percussionist, credited only with maracas here, has two previous albums, The Kaidan Suite and Uncle Wiggly Suite, and a couple of side credits -- e.g., worked with Bobby Sanabria. So how does a maracas player sustain interest? He recruits players I've barely (or never) heard of, spread out among two saxes, trumpet, keybs, a one-track violin guest, and gives them each a few minutes to stand up and out. Also does a superb job of working out horn charts for transition. B+(***)

Dave Frank: Portrait of New York (2009 [2010], Jazzheads): Pianist, based in New York, fourth record since 1997, most or possibly all of them solo. Does the one thing that most helps carry a solo piano recording: keeps his own rhythm churning. B+(*)

Free Fall: Gray Scale (2008 [2010], Smalltown Superjazz): Ken Vandermark's clarinet trio, modelled on Jimmy Giuffre's famous trio, with Håvard Wiik on piano for Paul Bley and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on bass for Steve Swallow. Fourth album for the trio. I've always found this to be the hardest of Vandermark's groups to connect with, but then I was mostly baffled by Giuffre's Free Fall album -- unlike the Steve Lacy-Roswell Rudd School Days, inspiration for one of his most boisterous groups. Still, this record has slowly gained on me, in part because the piano moves beyond prickly abstract to provide a multi-faceted structural underpinning, partly because of the way Vandermark can muscle up his clarinet, and partly because working all that tension out the group can occasionally just relax and enjoy the flow. Memo to self: should pull Free Fall out some time and give it another chance. A-

Agustí Fernández Quartet: Lonely Woman (2004 [2005], Discmedi): Spanish pianist, b. 1954, hangs in avant-garde circles; AMG credits him with 7 albums since 2000, which is way short -- doesn't include this one, or two recent ones I was looking for, or, well, his website lists 32 solo, duo, trio, and leader albums since 1987, plus 9 collaborations. Rhapsody gave this one a 2010 date, fooling me into putting it on, and it was good enough I let it spin. Quartet with sax (Liba Villavecchia), bass and drums; don't have song credits but some (most? all?) come from Ornette Coleman -- "Lonely Woman" and "Virgin Beauty" I recognize, and "Latin Genetics" is irresistible. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Paolo Fresu: Mistico Mediterraneo (2010 [2011], ECM): Italian trumpet player, b. 1961 in Sardinia, has 30-some albums since 1985, mostly on small Italian labels; second release on ECM, or third if you count Carla Bley's The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu. The idea here seems to be to come up with a sunnier version of Jan Garbarek's Officium collaborations with the Hilliard Ensemble. The vocal ensemble here is A Filetta Corsican Voices -- seven voices, lead by Jean-Claude Acquaviva, who wrote 5 of 13 pieces. Also playing is Daniele di Bonaventura on bandoneon. The other pieces, from Bruno Coulais, Di Bonaventura, and Jean-Michel Giannelli (using texts by Corsican poet Petru Santucci) appear to be contemporary. Lovely, of course. B+(**)

Erik Friedlander: Fifty: Miniatures for Improvising Quintet (2008 [2010], Skipstone): Reading the cover I get 50 Miniatures for Improvising Quintet, but Friedlander's own sources spell out Fifty, so I compromised above. Each miniature is a 14-note figure having something to do with a Hebrew letter, but they've been glommed together for seven pieces ranging from 3:53 to 6:26. Quintet is Friedlander on cello, Jennifer Choi on violin, Sylvie Courvoisier on piano, Trevor Dunn on bass, and Michael Sarin on drums. String sounds dominate, but they have a cutting edge, and while the miniatures can break abstractly they can also flow together powerfully. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Ricardo Gallo's Tierra de Nadie: The Great Fine Line (2009 [2010], Clean Feed): Pianist, b. 1978 in Colombia; studied in Bogota, later at UNT. Has divided time between Bogota and New York. Fifth album since 2005. Tierra de Nadie is a New York group, with Ray Anderson on trombone, Mark Helias on bass, either Satoshi Takeishi or Pheeroan Aklaff on drums, often with Dan Blake on soprano (6 cuts) or tenor (2 cuts) sax. Lucid, flowing freebop, very impressive when it all connects. B+(***)

Maxfield Gast Trio: Side by Side (2010, Militia Hill): Saxophonist, credits list soprano, alto and tenor here. First album he tried doing a hip-hop beat thing with EWI and it didn't work out so well. This time he's running a straight sax trio with Brian Howell on bass and Mike Pietrusko on drums, and turns in a very solid performance. B+(**)

Eddie Gomez/Cesarius Alvim: Forever (2010, Plus Loin Music): Gomez is a bassist, b. 1944 in Puerto Rico, AMG credits him with 17 albums since 1976, plus more than a hundred credits, with Bill Evans looming large on the first page, also Chick Corea. Don't know much about Alvim: I've seen him described as "Brazilian-French"; AMG lists one more album (from 2000) and a few side credits, starting in 1982 playing bass with Martial Solal. (Discogs has three 1976-79 credits with Alvin playing bass with pianist Jean-Pierre Mas.) Plays piano here, not very splashy. Low key, intimate, rather lovely duet. B+(**)

Gord Grdina Trio with Mats Gustafsson: Barrel Fire (2009 [2010], Drip Audio): Grdina, from Vancouver, plays guitar and oud. He has an interesting string of recent records, none of which quite prepare you for the electric charge he shows here. The hint you do get is the presence of Norwegian saxophonist Gustafsson, who has a group called the Thing which specializes in free jazz blowouts of postpunk rock tunes and has a long history of jousting with Ken Vandermark in various groups, including the three-for-all Sonore. Also key is bassist Tommy Babin, whose highly flamable Benzene group pointed this way. Gustafsson comes out loud and ugly, but Grdina rises to the occasion. Then, surprisingly, he picks up the oud and cranks it to another level, with Gustafsson's noise tunnel trailing in his wake. A-

Charlie Haden Quartet West: Sophisticated Ladies (2011, Decca): Just a quick impression here -- I'm rather surprised not to have been serviced on this, something that no doubt can be remedied easily enough. New drummer in Quartet West, Rodney Green, doesn't have much to do. Ernie Watts' tenor sax is as delicious as ever, but 6 of 12 tracks are given over to pianist Alan Broadbent's string orch, and 6 of 12 (the same save one) have guest vocalists, spread out with instrumentals. The ladies: Melody Gardot, Norah Jones, Cassandra Wilson, Ruth Cameron, Renee Fleming, Diana Krall. The one I did a double take on and had to look up: Fleming. Which isn't to say that I didn't prefer Jones and Krall. Ends with the quartet alone playing "Wahoo" -- something I could have used a lot more of. Not sure how many Quartet West albums this makes -- at least a half-dozen, plus a best-of, since 1986. At best a terrific group, given to gimmicks, like patching vocals by Billie Holiday and Jo Stafford into Haunted Heart. Haden's a soft touch, and he's never been mushier than with this group. I could see loving this, as I do Haunted Heart, or not. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Jim Hall & Joey Baron: Conversations (2010, ArtistShare): Guitar-drums duo, of course. Hall just turned 80 on Dec. 4. His discography starts in 1957 with the straightforwardly titled Jazz Guitar -- about the same time as Wes Montgomery, Tal Farlow, Mundell Lowe, Herb Ellis, Kenny Burrell, Jimmy Raney, Charlie Byrd, a bit after Barney Kessel, the generation that established postbop/pre-fusion jazz guitar. I missed most of his early work -- except, of course, the ones with Evans, Rollins, or Desmond -- but he has a distinctive style and sound. This is fairly minor, pretty much by intent, but a nice taste. Baron is a fine drummer, of course, and has the added virtue of even less hair on top than his senior partner. B+(**)

Scott Hamilton/Rossano Sportiello: Midnight at NOLA's Penthouse (2010 [2011], Arbors): Duets, tenor sax and piano respectively. Sportiello is a swing pianist, b. 1974, modeled on Ralph Sutton and many others from Earl Hines to Bill Evans; has some solo albums, a couple of duos with bassist-vocalist Nicki Parrott, but has never been so completely at ease as here. Same for Hamilton, a very relaxed, easy swinging set. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Joel Harrison String Choir: The Music of Paul Motian (2010 [2011], Sunnyside): Guitarist, has a lot of half-baked ideas like Harrison on Harrison, where he plays George Harrison songs. This one is, well, different. Paul Motian's songs are much more difficult and much more intriguing. Arranging them for string quartet draws out the abstractness and sharpens the edges. No doubt it helps that his string section is made up of jazz musicians: Christian Howes and Sam Bardfield on violin, Mat Maneri or Peter Ugrin on viola, and Dana Leong on cello. He also plays guitar, as does Liberty Ellman. Two non-Motian compositions: "Misterioso" (Thelonious Monk) and "Jade Visions" (Scott LaFaro), both completely appropriate. B+(*)

Laura Harrison: Now . . . . Here (2010, 59 Steps): Vocalist, from Canada, studied at University of British Columbia, got a DMA from University of Southern California. First page of booklet mostly talks about crooked lawyers and how much pain and expense it took to get a Green Card. First album. Classically precise voice, although she starts out with credible scat on "Shulie A Bop" (misspelling Sarah Vaughan on the credit). Three originals, nine covers ranging from Bizet to Ellington to Sting. B+(**)

David Hazeltine: Inversions (2010, Criss Cross): Pianist, wrote a song here "For Cedar" (Walton) which helps establish his niche, although there have been days when I'd take him for a bit less florid Oscar Peterson. Runs a quintet here which provides too many distractions to focus on his piano, but Eric Alexander is back in typical form at tenor sax, and Steve Nelson has a particularly bright and sunny day on vibes. With John Webber on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums, natch. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Benjamin Herman: Hypochristmastreefuzz [Special Edition] (2008-09 [2010], Dox, 2CD): Title broken up onto three lines on front cover, but one word on spine, and one word as a song title. I probably put this off thinking Xmas music, a big mistake that should have been flagged by the subtitle: More Mengelberg. The Dutch pianist doesn't play, but did write all but two compositions, and emerges for a short interview fragment at the end of the first disc -- in Dutch, natch. Herman is a Dutch alto saxophonist, b. 1968, has a healthy list of albums since 1999, including Plays Misha Mengelberg in 2000 and Plays Jaki Byard in 2003. Looks like Hypochristmastreefuzz originally came out as a single in 2009, then was reissued in 2010 with a second disc, "Live at the North Sea Jazz Festival." I recognize Mengelberg (b. 1935) as one of the giants of the European avant-garde, but I've actually listened to very little by him (or his longstanding ICP [Instant Composers Pool] Orchestra), so the big surprise for me here is how this all jumps. Mostly sax-bass-drums, a little guitar, one track with mellotron, one with a Ruben Hein vocal, another with a bit of choir. Manages to be edgy and catchy at the same time. Several songs reappear on the live disc, looser and rougher, as you'd expect. A-

Benjamin Herman: Hypochestmastreefuzz [Special Edition] (2008-09 [2010], Dox, 2CD): Playing this a lot, both discs interchangeable, the only flaws being the Dutch speech at the end of each, although the Mengelberg interview sounds amusingly loopy, and the live intros shout out. Found a quote I used in the review, Herman's self-description: "surf-guitar based, Dutch-impro, cocktail-jazz sort of thing"; Goudsmit also talks about Dick Dale. Other trivia: on Dutch Wikipedia page, the list of musicians Herman has played with starts with Candy Dulfer, not a real avant-garde icon. [was: A-] A

Yaron Herman Trio: Follow the White Rabbit (2010 [2011], ACT): Pianist, b. 1981 in Israel, studied at Berklee, fifth album since 2003. Trio with Chris Tordini on bass and Tommy Crane on drums, recorded in Leipzig, Germany. Four covers plus ten originals (one group-credited); covers include one from Nirvana and one from Radiohead. B+(*)

Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica: The Unforgettable Sounds of Esquivel (2010, Tiki): That would be Juan Garcia Esquivel (1918-2002), from Mexico, who led a big band c. 1956-62, hawking his tricked-up standards as exotica, space age pop, lounge, and latin-esque. In the intensely homogeneous 1950s it didn't take much to qualify as exotic. Mr. Ho is percussionist Brian O'Neill, and his 23-piece Orchestrotica from spare parts in greater Boston. O'Neill is also involved in the similarly inspired Waitiki. Band has some punch to it -- Russ Gershon is the most recognizable name -- and most of the songs are proven standards. Not sure what's so exotic or supersonic about them, but then I never paid much attention to Esquivel. B

Ben Holmes Trio (2009, self-released): Trumpet player, based in Brooklyn, first album, trio with Dan Loomis on bass and Vinnie Sperrazza on drums. Four originals, two trad. (one Romanian, the other Turkish, I think), plus a piece called "Lev Tov" by H. Schachal. B+(***)

John L. Holmes y Los Amigos: The Holmes Stretch (2010, self-released): Guitarist, b. 1950 in Walla Walla, WA. Can't find much on him, can't read the microscopic type in the booklet, don't recognize anyone he's playing with. Could be that he's still based in Walla Walla. Did see a review that tried to sandwich him between George Benson and John McLaughlin; he's more interesting than that. B+(**)

Honey Ear Trio: Steampunk Serenade (2010 [2011], Foxhaven): Erik Lawrence (tenor, baritone, alto, and soprano sax), Rene Hart (bass, electronics), Allison Miller (drums, percussion). Miller had a very good record with a completely different trio last year. Lawrence has been around since at least 1991 without making any notable impact -- AMG lists a couple dozen side credits, none I've heard (although I have the latest New York Electric Piano in the queue). Evidently a lot of Lawrence's bread-and-butter work comes from touring with Levon Helm. About all I know about Hart is that he's married to Lawrence's sister, and was involved with him, Miller, and Steven Bernstein in an "acid jazz" group called Hipmotism (note to self: check that out). Originals by all three, including one by Lawrence on Eyjafjallajokull -- last year's top natural disaster, already so dated. Rigorous sax trio, rough and tough, except for a touchingly tender "Over the Rainbow." A-

Robert Hurst: Unrehurst Volume 2 (2007 [2011], Bebob): Bassist-led piano trio, with Robert Glasper on piano and Chris Dave on drums. The previous Unrehurst Volume 1 was recorded way back in 2000 and released in 2002, also with Glasper -- must have been quite young then but I can't find any reference that gives a firm birthdate (one source says "1979?"). Two Hurst tunes, one by Glasper, one Monk, one Cole Porter. Skillful but fairly ordinary neobop, nice to mix the bass up a bit. B

Robert Hurst: Bob Ya Head (2010 [2011], Bebob): Bassist, b. 1964, side credits kick off around 1986 with Woody Shaw, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Donald Brown, and Vincent Herring; released two records on DIW 1992-93, one on his Bebob label in 2002, two more this year. A lot of scattered ideas here, mostly tied to upbeat grooves, the flaring horns of "Alice and John" most impressive; a couple of cuts feature girlie choruses, not far removed from disco, but different, of course; "Unintellectual Property" features sound bites from noted standup comic G.W. Bush; ends with a bass solo. B+(**)

ICP Orchestra: ICP 049 (2009 [2010], ICP): Cover lists the musician names, alternating black and gray; under that ICP Orchestra in red; at bottom ICP 049 in black and gray. Spine reads: ICP (049) Orchestra. Pretty sure this is the ICP Orchestra record Francis Davis picked as last year's best. The group -- ICP stands for Instant Composers Pool -- dates back to 1967, founded by Misha Mengelberg, Han Bennink, and the late Willem Breuker. Current lineup is named on the cover: Mengelberg (piano), Bennink (drums), Tristan Honsiger (cello), Ab Baars (reeds), Ernst Glerum (bass), Michael Moore (reeds), Thomas Heberer (trumpet, Mary Oliver (violin, viola), Tobias Delius (tenor sax) -- at least four expats settled in Amsterdam (Moore, Oliver, and Honsiger from US; Delius from UK; not sure about Heberer, from Germany, does play with a lot of Dutch musicians). Have a lot of catching up to do, especially on Mengelberg, but this sums up the usual virtues of the Dutch avant-garde: continental culture, with a delirious twist. A-

Vijay Iyer with Prasanna & Nitin Mitta: Tirtha (2008 [2011], ACT): Piano-guitar-tabla. Prasanna's guitar propels the flow, the most distinguishing feature here, very attractive at times with the soft tap of the tabla. Iyer elaborates but rarely breaks loose. B+(***)

Jaruzelski's Dream: Jazz Gawronski (2008 [2010], Clean Feed): Italian sax trio, with Piero Bittolo Bon on alto (and smartphone), Stefano Senni on bass, and Francesco Cusa on drums. Don't know where they came from, what they've done in the past, or why they're obsessed with all things Polish. I can begin to unravel such jokes as "Soulidarnosc" and "Mori Mari Curi" (the discoverer of radioactive elements like "Polonium" that killed her) but not "Swiatoslaw" or "Zibibboniek" or "Maria Goretti Contro Tutti." Presumably the group name honors (if that's the word) the last Communist dictator of Poland, Wojciech Witold Jaruzelski. Gawronski, however, appears to be an Italian politician, prominent in Berlusconi's Forza Italia, first name Jas, easy enough to play off. Gruff, garulous free sax, with enough beat to keep it steady. For a while I thought "Sei Forte Papa" was "New York, New York." I wouldn't put anything past them. B+(***)

Raúl Jaurena & His Tango Orchestra: Fuerza Milongnera (2008 [2010], Soundbrush): Bandoneon player, from Uruguay, based in New York but recorded this in Montevideo. Group features four bandoneons, two violins, viola, cello, piano, guitar, bass, and Marga Mitchell sings a couple of tunes. Pablo Aslan produced but doesn't play. Deep, rich, sounds very old-fashioned, downright classical. B+(**)

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: Vitoria Suite (2009 [2010], Decca, 2CD): Cover also adds: Featuring Paco de Lucia. That would be the famous flamenco guitarist, a sop to the home crowd as Marsalis takes LCJO on the road to Spain, and tries his hand at writing his own "Sketches of Spain." It sprawls over two discs, slipping into occasional dull stretches but mostly feeding clever arrangement details to what's become a very imposing big band -- the all-star trumpet section is if anything topped by the reed section (Sherman Irby, Ted Nash, Walter Blanding Jr., Victor Goines, Joe Temperley). B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Jazz Folk: Jazz in the Stone Age (2008 [2010], 1 Hr Music): Piano trio, with Peter Scherr on bass, Simon Barker on drums, and Matt McMahon on piano, listed in that order. Hype sheet treats this as Scherr's record, with minimal bio on him -- lives in Hong Kong -- and nothing on the others. The eight songs are all covers, with "stone age" mostly meaning rock: three from Beck, two Velvet Undergrounds ("Pale Blue Eyes" and "All Tomorrow's Parties"), one each from Taj Mahal, Joni Mitchell, and the Grateful Dead. Of course, I was most moved by "Pale Blue Eyes," and baffled by the Beck pieces. B+(*)

The Jazz Passengers: Reunited (1995-2010 [2010], Justin Time): Group formed in late 1980s by Roy Nathanson (alto sax), Curtis Fowlkes (trombone), with Bill Ware (vibes) a long-time member. Cut six albums in 1990s, starting out as an avant-skronk group with occasional novelty vocals and winding up as a showcase for ex-Blondie Debby Harry. First new album since 1998, although Nathanson has had several increasingly vocal albums in the meantime. Mostly new, that is, because it ends with two live cuts from 1995 with Harry singing -- "One Way or Another" is a special treat. The other outlier is a cover of "Spanish Harlem" with Fowlkes and Susi Hyidgaard vocals and Spanish intro and outro chatter, cut in 2010. The rest were cut in 2009, with guest Marc Ribot on guitar and Sam Bardfield on violin -- the 1995 cuts included a lineup credit with Rob Thomas on violin. The one cover in that group is the title song, a 1978 hit for Peaches & Herb, the perfect joke for breaking a decade-long hiatus. Elvis Costello warbles another, strategically placed first. B+(***)

Norman Johnson: If Time Stood Still (2010, Pacific Coast Jazz): Guitarist, b. in Kingston, Jamaica; studied at Hartford Conservatory, was dean there for nine years. First album under own name, has scattered credits, mostly backing vocalists. Credits George Benson for inspiration, and Earl Klugh as an influence; sole cover is from Pat Metheny. Plays some nylon-string as well as electric and acoustic. Mostly stays in comfortable grooves with piano-bass-drums-percussion, dressed up with string on one cut, brass (Josh Bruneau and Steve Davis) on three, with Chris Herbert's sax on more, flute on one. B

Darius Jones/Matthew Shipp: Cosmic Lieder (2010 [2011], AUM Fidelity): Avant alto sax/piano duo. Jones emerged with a most impressive album in 2009, Man'ish Boy (A Raw & Beautiful Thing), then followed it up last year with Throat, attributed to Little Women, which crossed my threshold for how much ugly bleating I can stand, but turns out to have been admired elsewhere -- the record got six votes in the Pazz & Jop poll, third best among jazz albums (behind Jason Moran and Mary Halvorson). I'm caught in between here, finding Jones a bit awkward, doing nothing naturally and getting by forcing it. Shipp too, although what he does fits in as comping, even if it's exceptionally brutal. B+(*)

Matt Jorgensen: Tattooed by Passion: Music Inspird by the Paintings of Dale Chisman (2009 [2010], Origin): Drummer, b. 1972, based in Seattle, sixth album since 2001. Not familiar with Chisman, although his abstracts in the package and booklet are interesting and attractive. Music is conventional postbop quintet, with Corey Christiansen's guitar in lieu of piano, and Thomas Marriott and Mark Taylor the horns, trumpet and sax. Three cuts add some strings, and one Richard Cole's clarinet. B+(*)

Stacey Kent: Raconte-Moi . . . (2010, Blue Note): Singer, b. 1966 in South Orange, NJ; lives in England, and (this time at least) sings in French. Thirteenth album since 1997. Light touch, an elegant stylist. Starts with a particularly charming translation of Jobim. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

Majid Khaliq: The Basilisk (2010 [2011], self-released): Recording date presumed -- got this so early it couldn't have been recorded this year, but it could have been recorded earlier. (Website says he "will release" this record in late 2010, but publicist gives 2/15/2011 as the release date.) Violinist. Grew up in New York, cites Ray Nance as an inspiration, but mostly cites Wynton Marsalis. First album, with trumpet (Charles Porter), piano, bass and drums. Wrote 5 of 8, with "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" plus one each by McCoy Tyner and Charlie Parker. Flows along nicely. B

Soweto Kinch: The New Emancipation (2010, Kinch): Alto saxophonist, b. 1978 in London, parents from Barbados and Jamaica. Has an Ornette-ish twist to his alto, something he could build on, but he's got this idea of doubling up as a rapper and spinning complex story lines about life in his 'hood -- interesting idea, but hard to follow, tripping up both on accents and beats. B [Rhapsody]

The Kora Band: Cascades (2010, Origin): Seattle group, seems to mostly be the project of pianist Andrew Oliver, but Kane Mathis is the indispensible kora player. More than half of the 13 tunes are African, mostly trad. from Gamaia, Mali, and Guinea but also from Les Tetes Brulees and Ntesa Dalienst; four originals, three from Oliver, one from Mathis. Group includes Chad McCullough on trumpet/flugelhorn, Brady Millard-Kish on bass, and Mark DiFlorio on drums. More synthesis than ersatz, the brass a nice touch. B+(*)

Boris Kozlov: Double Standard (2007 [2010], self-released): Bassist, b. 1967 in Moscow, moved to New York in the 1990s, joined the Mingus Big Band in 1998, has had a lot of side-credits since 2000 or so. First album, solo bass, two and a half originals -- the fraction mixed in with a Mingus piece. A little narrow and subdued to focus on, which tends to be the nature of the beast. B

Irene Kral: Second Chance (1975 [2010], Jazzed Media): Singer, b. 1932 in Chicago, younger sister of Roy Kral (pianist-vocalist, mostly of Jackie & Roy fame); bounced through several big bands, getting her name first on a 1958 album with Herb Pomeroy (The Band and I). Most of her recordings cluster around 1974-77, just before she died in 1978 of breast cancer. This is the second 1975 live session the label has come up with (after 2004's Just for Now). Accompanied by pianist Alan Broadbent, superb in this context. Some standards, some pop songs of more recent vintage, mostly ballads which she nails, but ends on a very upbeat "Nobody Else but Me" and nails it too. Never heard her before -- just a name I recognized but couldn't place. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Kristy: My Romance (2010, Alma): Standards singer, full name Kristy Cardinali, from Montreal; first album, but popped up on Mario Romano's Valentina album recently. Cover throws a "featuring" credit to pianist Robi Botos. Nice voice, picks great songs, makes them feel comfy -- "You Don't Know Me" is an inspired choice. Second album I've seen lately to pair "Blackbird" with "Bye Bye Blackbird," but here as separate songs rather than mashed into a medley. Cut idea, but the Beatles' songs remain obdurately jazzphobic. I would have preferred more comfort food along the lines of "It Could Happen to You" and "Teach Me Tonight." B+(**)

The Brian Landrus Quartet: Traverse (2010 [2011], Blueland): Plays baritone sax and bass clarinet, b. 1978, grew up in Reno, NV; studied in Boston, based in Brooklyn. Has a couple previous albums on Cadence, but doesn't seem that far out -- at least he not with this group: Michael Cain (piano), Lonnie Plaxico (bass), Billy Hart (drums). B+(**)

Erik Lawrence & Hipmotism (2007, CDBaby): CDBaby describes this as acid jazz, but while most of the songs offer (or can be adapted to) funk grooves, and the bassist (Rene Hart) and drummer (Allison Miller) try to go that way for the first half-plus of the album. The horns have more leeway: the notes cite Lawrence on baritone sax and Steven Bernstein on slide trumpet; can't swear they stick to them. The two Lawrence originals break out into relatively free jazz, and their take on Fats Domino's "Going to the River" is as stretched out as their Pink Floyd ("Shine On You Crazy Diamond") is compressed. Toward the end you can feel the future Honey Ear Trio trying to break out. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

Daniel Levin Quartet: Organic Modernism (2010 [2011], Clean Feed): Cellist, b. 1974 in Burlington, VT; seventh album since 2002, plus such notable side credits as Soulstorm with Ivo Perelman. Quartet with Nate Wooley on trumpet, Matt Moran on vibes, and Peter Bitenc on bass. This feels very compressed, with Wooley in particular working inside the cello lines. B+(**)

Pete Levin: Jump! (2008-10 [2010], Pete Levin Music): B. 1942, started out playing French horn in Gil Evans' orchestras, then around 1980 switched to keyboards, eventually settling on the organ. Straight, upbeat soul jazz session, with Dave Stryker adding quite a bit on guitar, plus Lenny White on drums and Manolo Badrena on percussion. Closer was a 2008 "Honeysuckle Rose" with the late Joe Beck on guitar, rescued from the archives and spruced up a bit. B+(*)

The Dave Liebman Group: Turnaround: The Music of Ornette Coleman (2009 [2010], Jazzwerkstatt): Quartet, with Vic Juris on guitar, Tony Marino on bass, and Marko Marcinko on drums. Liebman's done a lot more Coltrane over the years than he's done Coleman, but does a fine job on nine covers and one original -- his soprano seems better suited than usual, and he also plays some wood flute. Juris is more key than ever. B+(**)

The David Liebman Trio: Lieb Plays the Blues à la Trane (2008 [2010], Challenge): With Marius Beets on bass, Eric Ineke on drums. Three Coltrane pieces, sandwiched between Miles Davis's "All Blues" and Duke Ellington's "Take the Coltrane" -- all ruggedly blues-based, with snakey soprano sax twists and more muscular tenor sax. Liebman has well over a hundred records since the early 1970s, when he came up in Miles Davis's group. It used to be that saxophonists would strive to establish their own unique sounds, but Liebman is still a fan, wearing his heroes on his sleeves -- he's done a Homage to John Coltrane, his own version of John Coltrane's Meditations. Recently took a shot at Ornette Coleman too, but this is closer to his heart, and really the whole reason for his soprano. I still much prefer to tenor, but he makes both work here. B+(***)

Dave Liebman Big Band: As Always (2005-07 [2010], MAMA): Liebman plays soprano sax and wooden flute, in front of a big band led by saxophonist Gunnar Mossblad: five reeds, four trumpets, four trombones, piano (Jim Ridl), guitar (Liebman's long-time collaborator Vic Juris), bass (Tony Marino), and drums (Marko Marcinko). Liebman's tunes, arranged by various others. Dense, complex, not much stands out. B

Elisabeth Lohninger: Songs of Love and Destruction (2009 [2010], Lofish Music): Singer, b. 1970 in Austria, based in New York since 1994. Third album since 2004. Was immediately struck by how strikingly her voice reminded me of Joni Mitchell, but stupid me, it was just a Joni Mitchell song, "River" no less. Followed that with K.D. Lang, same trick, but my interest was waning. Then came one in Spanish, and a Beatles tune, but the album recovered some after that. Bruce Barth is a superb pianist for this sort of thing, and two guest spots each for Ingrid Jensen and Donny McCaslin shine things up. Choice cut is "No Moon at All," with Christian Howes violin. B+(*)

Joe Lovano/Us Five: Bird Songs (2010 [2011], Blue Note): Second album by Lovano's two-drummer quintet, with Otis Brown III and Francesco Mela the drummers, Esperanza Spalding on bass, and James Weidman on piano. Charlie Parker compositions, except for "Lover Man" and the Lovano original "Birdyard" -- wonder if anyone thought of that before. (AMG sez no.) None of the sonic crudeness that always turned me away from Parker's records, nor any of the daring crunchiness that made Bird such a legend. Don't know why Lovano decided to play this so sweet, other than that the band isn't really up to it. B+(**)

Brian Lynch: Unsung Heroes (2008-09 [2011], Hollistic Music Works): Trumpet player, b. 1956, 15-plus albums since 1986, started out as a hard bopper, then made a big splash in Latin bands. Pays tribute here to trumpet players, mostly from 1950s and 1960s: Tommy Turrentine, Idrees Sulieman, Louis Smith, Claudio Roditi, Kamau Adilifu, Joe Gordon, Ira Sullivan, Donald Byrd, Howard McGhee, Charles Tolliver -- mostly adapting their songs, sometimes writing new ones. Lynch has done this before, in 2000's Tribute to the Trumpet Masters, where he picked off the more obvious names (Freddie Hubbard, Thad Jones, Lee Morgan, Booket Little, Woody Shaw, Kenny Dorham, Blue Mitchell, Tom Harrell, and Tolliver again). Crackling trumpet, helped out by Vincent Herring on alto sax; congas on two tracks. B+(***)

Russell Malone: Triple Play (2010, MaxJazz): Guitarist, tenth album since 1992. Strikes me as about midway between Wes Montgomery's fluidity and Bill Frisell's poise on standard American fare, which is a pretty neat trick when no one gets in the way, or when he lets things get too complicated. No problems on either count with this guitar-bass-drums trio. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Karen Marguth: Karen Marguth (2009, Wayfae Music): Standards singer, raised in Livermore, CA; based in Fresno, CA. Fourth album since 2005. No background given, but most likely well into middle age. Six cuts are voice-bass duets, which she carries ably, and "Everything Happens to Me" is just mandolin -- gives it a Tiny Tim-like feel although her voice is no joke. The other nine cuts add guitar, electric piano, and drums, turned out nicely. B+(**)

Marhaug: All Music at Once (2007-08 [2010], Smalltown Superjazz): Lasse Marhaug, b. 1974 in Norway, has ten or so albums since 2001, does electronics -- at least that's the credit on 3 of 6 cuts here; others are piano on 2, scrap-metal on 2, and noise on the title track, not that I notice much difference between electronics, scrap-metal, and noise, or recognize much in the way of piano. More evident are the guitars of Jon Wesseltoft (4 cuts) and Stian Westerhus (the other 2), although they're more electronics than strings, and can pass for noise as well. Interesting stuff, but I'm not very acclimated to it. B+(*)

Delfeayo Marsalis: Sweet Thunder (2008 [2011], Troubador Jass): Subtitled "Duke & Shak" -- Shakespeare, which Ellington flirted with a bit on his album Such Sweet Thunder. Long section in the fold-out booklet sheet "On the Music" -- have to admit I didn't read it (fit of bad eyesight) so I don't know how much of this is Ellington as opposed to Marsalis playing Ellington or what any of it has to do with the Bard. A lot of work went into the packaging -- unwraps to four panels, lots of details, plus the booklet, all lavishly produced. Musicians vary, but run between 5 and 8 per song, more often 8, with piano-bass-drums, Tiger Okoshi on trumpet, Marsalis on trombone, and three reeds -- Mark Gross, Mark Shim, Victor Goines, Jason Marshall, Branford Marsalis (just soprano on 4 cuts). Does a nice job of getting the Ellington look and feel. B+(*)

Mike Marshall: An Adventure 1999-2009 (1996-2009 [2010], Adventure Music): Mandolinist, started out in bluegrass with a 1987 album called Gator Strut, but eventually took a liking to Brazilian choro and set up shop, releasing a few dozen records by a wide range of Brazilian artists; this samples his own grooveful string-driven oeuvre, working back to his first Brazil Duets. B+(**)

Rebecca Martin: When I Was Long Ago (2010, Sunnyside): Singer, b. 1969, half a dozen albums since 1999. My impression (cf. People Behave Like Ballads) was that she wrote her own material and was only accidentally classified as jazz as opposed to folk or mild rock), but here she sings standards, barely accompanied by Larry Grenadier on bass, with occasional incursions (or excursions) by Bill McHenry on tenor, alto, or soprano sax. Brings out levels of nuance in her voice I've never suspected before. B+(***)

Mason Brothers: Two Sides One Story (2010, Archival): AMG lists two albums, but they're by different pairs of Mason Brothers: the other one has James Mason and Christian Mason playing guitar, presumably something country-rock. This one has Brad Mason on trumpet and flugelhorn, Elliot Mason on trombone and bass trumpet, playing mainstream postbop. From England, b. 1973 (Brad) and 1977 (Elliot), both studied at Berklee; Brad has more session work going back to 2004; Elliot holds down a chair in JLCO. Wynton Marsalis wrote the liner notes. The band shows how well connected they are: Chris Potter (sax), Joe Locke (vibes), David Kikoski (piano), Tim Miller (guitar), Scott Colley (bass), Antonio Sanchez (drums). Don't have (or can't read) track breakdowns, but you'd think that if Potter, to say the least, had played through I'd have noticed him. Did hear a lot of trombone, tight, snug between the lines. B+(*)

Lisa Maxwell: Return to Jazz Standards (2010, CDBaby): Singer, b. Nov. 29 sometime in the 20th century; second album, standards as advertised -- Porter, Gershwin, Rodgers & Hart, Loesser, the obligatory Jobim -- produced and arranged by pianist George Newall, replete with goopy, anonymous strings. Nice voice, all smiles. B

Donny McCaslin: Perpetual Motion (2010 [2011], Greenleaf Music): Tenor saxophonist, you know, an awesome player when he builds up a full head of steam. Most tracks have Fender Rhodes (Adam Benjamin, sometimes on piano; two tracks add Uri Caine on piano, and one subs Caine on Fender Rhodes), electric bass (Tim Lefebvre), and drums (Antonio Sanchez or Mark Guiliana). Dave Binney produced, dabbles in electronics, and plays alto sax on one track. The Fender Rhodes/bass grooves go on way too long and rarely rise above the pedestrian. The sax is something else, but you know that. B+(*)

Chad McCullough/Michal Vanoucek: The Sky Cries (2009 [2010], Origin): McCullough plays trumpet/flugelhorn, is based in Seattle, has a previous record plus a later one in my queue -- I've been negligent getting to this one. Vanoucek is a pianist, b. 1977 in Slovakia; studied in Bratislava and The Hague. No idea how he hooked up with McCullough, but together they've "toured major venues in Washington, Oregon and Idaho." They split ten compositions, with a post-hard-bop quintet, Mark Taylor on alto sax, Dave Captein on bass, Matt Jorgensen on drums. Lively compositions with fluid piano leads. B+(*)

Barton McLean: Soundworlds (2010, Innova): Avant composer, b. 1936, student of Henry Cowell. The five pieces date from 1984-2009; don't know if those are composition or recording dates, since no separate recording dates are given, and the groups vary although most was worked out by McLean on his computer and/or tape recorder. Opener is a concerto with piano solo with Petersburgh Electrophilharmonia. Closer picks up some Amazonian and Australian bird samples. B+(**)

Terrence McManus: Brooklyn EP (2009 [2010], self-released): Solo guitar, five tracks, only 16:52, just a few bites, albeit tasty ones. Better is his duo with Gerry Hemingway, Below the Surface Of, and not just because drums make life better. B+(*)

Misha Mengelberg Quartet: Four in One (2000 [2001], Songlines): Homework, as I try to get some deeper sense of the Dutch pianist and ICP Orchestra leader. Not much of his several dozen albums available through Rhapsody, but this item popped up: a quartet with Dave Douglas on trumpet, Brad Jones on bass, and Han Bennink hitting things (credit says: percussion). Three Monk pieces in the middle of a lot of originals, many recycled (Monk-like) from earlier efforts. The trumpet seems a little thin, but the piano is cagey, darting in and out unexpectedly. A- [Rhapsody]

Misha Mengelberg: Senne Sing Song (2005, Tzadik): Piano trio, produced by John Zorn with Zorn's house rhythm section, Greg Cohen on bass and Ben Perowsky on drums. Without the strings and horns of ICP Orchestra to compound his mischief, the pianist has to step up and carry the tunes, which he does. I don't often find a review worth quoting, but Dan Warburton at AMG has this one figured out: "Mengelberg's music remains a quintessential example of how recognizable idioms -- from Baroque counterpoint to the Duke-ish left-hand thunks and Monk-ish whole-tone runs -- can be extended (and subverted) into something both musically profound and profoundly musical." A- [Rhapsody]

Stephan Micus: Bold as Light (2007-10 [2010], ECM): German composer, b. 1953, plays various zithers, flute-like things, and percussion instruments from all around the world. Has a couple dozen albums since 1976, most on ECM. Did this solo, including three cuts where he multitracked his own voice. Too exotic to fall into the New Age genre AMG assigned him to; too minimalist for AMG's Ethnic Fusion style. An interesting set of upset expectations. B+(**)

Soren Moller: Christian X Variations (2009 [2011], Audial): Christian X was king of Denmark from 1912-47. He was credited with resisting the Nazis and protecting Danish Jews ("The king declared that all Danes would wear the Star of David in the event that the Nazis forced Denmark's Jewish population to do so.") Moller plays piano in a quartet with Dick Oatts on sax, Josh Ginsburg on bass, and Henry Cole on drums. The "variations" are organized for quartet or nonet -- the latter is accomplished by adding the Kirin Winds, a group of classical wind instrumentalists (flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon) which adds some fancy overtones. B+(**)

Moon Hotel Lounge Project: Into the Ojalá (2010 [2011], Frosty Cordial): Tom Moon project, first record I'm aware of, wrote all but one of the songs, plays credible tenor sax against a swishy background of guitar, bass, electric piano, vibes and percussion. I'm mostly familiar with Moon as a rock critic, author of 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die: A Listener's Life List, which aside from a few dozen nods to the Euroclassics that I'm sure will remain unheard when I die, is a pretty useful guide. And this is a remarkably enjoyable record, its lounge concept neither camp nor corny, easy listening where everything else that conventionally goes by that label turns dull and tedious. A-

Joe Morris/Luther Gray: Creatures (2010, Not Two): Guitar-drums duo, both based in Boston where they frequently play together, especially in an explosive trio with Jim Hobbs; Morris quite prolific since 1990. Starts out so slow that it takes Gray a while to come up with something to do, but this come together, intimate, interactive, interesting. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Joe Morris: Camera (2010, ESP-Disk): Much like the guitar-drums duo with Luther Gray, except that here the group is expanded to four, with Katt Hernandez on violin and Junko Fujiwara Simons on cello. The strings blend well enough with guitar, but have a sharper sound, and Morris tends to slip into the background. Thoughtful avant noodling, interesting as long as you can focus on it. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

Mostly Other People Do the Killing: The Coimbra Concert (2010 [2011], Clean Feed, 2CD): Already forget where -- think it was that Spanish poll I forgot to vote in -- but I recall MOPDTK named as best live jazz group, something I have no opinion on not least because I can't recall the last time I even saw a live jazz group. I suppose I could try to form an opinion on the basis of live records, but then you'd have to compete with something like the Vandermark 5's Live at Alchemia -- 12-CDs that just grow and grow on you. MOPDTK sail through the first one here in dazzling fashion, but stall a bit on the second. And where their studio exercises are full of surprises -- and nicely documented in the liner notes so you don't miss them -- recycling their past deconstructions leaves them a bit short in their strong suit: the unexpected. B+(***)

Ted Nash: Portrait in Seven Shades (2010, Jazz at Lincoln Center): Saxophonist, b. 1959, played mostly alto early on but (I think) mostly tenor now. Uncle was a well known saxophonist, also named Ted Nash; father played trombone. Broke in with Quincy Jones at age 17, played in big bandsa (Louie Bellson, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Don Ellis, Gerry Mulligan, Mel Lewis, most recently the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, while knocking out ten or so albums under his own name, some quite good. It's real hard to judge this one by streaming it: the sound isn't coming through loud or clear enough to catch the details, so I'm tend to give Nash credit for things I can't quite follow, but perhaps not as much as he deserves. Pretty impressive sax player when he bothers to get out front. Also, I'm a little confused about those shades, since the seven pieces are named for actual painters: Monet, Dali, Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh, Chagall, Pollock. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Negroni's Trio: Just Three (2010, Mojito): Piano trio, fourth album since 2003. The pianist is José Negroni, from Puerto Rico; his son, Nomar Negroni, plays drums, and Marco Panascia plays bass. Fast, percussive, not much more. B+(*)

Willie Nelson/Wynton Marsalis: Here We Go Again: Celebrating the Music of Ray Charles (2009 [2011], Blue Note): Pretty simple, the Marsalis quintet (Walter Blanding on tenor sax, Dan Nimmer on piano) play twelve obvious songs from the Charles songbook for a live audience with Nelson and Norah Jones trading vocals -- sometimes Jones has a bit of trouble getting on track, but Nelson is always right in the groove. Nothing wrong with the horns, either. Still, a pretty unnecessary album. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Jovino Santos Neto: Vejao O Som/See the Sound (2009-10 [2010], Adventure Music, 2CD): Pianist, b. 1954 in Rio de Janeiro, played with Hermeto Pascoal 1977-92, Sergio Mendes, Airto Moreira, Flora Purim. Seven albums since 1997. Twenty duets with as many guests, some well known (Moreira, David Sanchez, Bill Frisell, Joe Locke, Anat Cohen, Paquito D'Rivera), others obscure (to me, anyway); five vocals, five horns (plus a harmonica), an accordion, a couple guitars and a couple more mandolins, one piano duo, some percussion. Varied as it is, it still flows nicely, avoiding the thinness that often mars duets. B+(**)

Margaret Noble: Frakture (2010, Amnesty International): Sound artist, former DJ, some press suggests she started in Chicago, is now in San Diego, plays turntables and analog synths. Website lists three albums, but this is the first one cited by places like AMG. This is presented as George Orwell's 1984 "remixed into sound art album." The music is intriguingly electronic, with lots of spoken word samples. I'm not making a lot of sense out of the Orwell thing -- a book I've largely managed to avoid -- but the electronic collage is interesting. Proceeds go to Amnesty International. B+(**)

Mike Olson: Incidental (2009 [2010], Henceforth): Composer, from Minneapolis, plays keyboards but looking at his web site there is little there other than his compositional theories and focus. Six numbered pieces here. Haven't found any other albums by him. Large cast of musicians, including strings, flutes, bassoon, guitars, and the usual jazz horns. Fairly dense and gloomy; makes for an interesting framework. B+(**)

Harold O'Neal: Wirling Mantis (2008 [2010], Smalls): Pianist, b. 1981 in Tanzania, raised in Kansas City -- father and uncle were leaders in Black Panther Party in KC; uncle remains "in exile" in Tanzania. Studied at Berklee and Manhattan School of Music. First album, quartet, with Jaleel Shaw on alto sax, Joe Sanders on bass, Rodney Green on drums. Postbop, Shaw roughs it up a bit, piano whirls around making a nice impression. B+(***)

Markku Ounaskari/Samuli Mikkonen/Per Jørgensen: Kuára (2009 [2010], ECM): Subtitle "Psalms and Folk Songs"; Jørgensen appears after the title on the front cover line, on the second line of the hype sheet preceded by "with" but the spine merely lists him last (although AMG parsed this backwards and credits the album to "Jorgenson"). Drums, piano, and trumpet/voice respectively. Ounaskari (b. 1967) and Mikkonen (b. 1973) are Finnish, and don't appear to have much prior discography; Jørgensen (b. 1952) is Norwegian, has a couple of albums, and appears on at least ten more (Pierre Dørge, Jon Balke, Anders Jormin, Marilyn Mazur, Michael Mantler, etc.). The psalms are Russian; the folk songs Finno-Ugric: Vespian, Karelian, Udmurtian. Ounaskari and Mikkonen wrote three originals. Much of this is very captivating, but once again I get thrown off by the occasional vocal. B+(**)

Chris Parrello: + Things I Wonder (2010 [2011], Popopomo Music): Probably should attribute whole title to group name and consider album eponymous but I didn't want to write both twice (the style I've been leaning to lately) or italicize it all (a style I've long used). Parrello plays guitar, composed the songs; Karlie Bruce wrote and sings the lyrics. Other people I've never heard of play trumpet, sax, cello, bass, drums, and pedal steel. (Hype sheet just mentions five names: Parrello, Bruce, Ian Young [tenor/soprano sax], Rubin Kodheli [cello], and Kevin Thomas [bass]. Website shows one photo, a lineup of five.) They're probably easier to take as a rock band than as a jazz group: Bruce sings wordlessly on several occasions, but she's better when she has something to say; while the sax and cello avoid rock usages, the guitar and bass don't, and they seem to be happier playing a groove and riffs. B+(*)

Jeremy Pelt: The Talented Mr. Pelt (2010 [2011], High Note): Trumpet player. I first bumped noticed him as a Downbeat poll rising star, and when I finally heard him I thought he was worthy, brilliant even. Now this is his eighth album since 2002, and I've yet to see much from his undoubted talent. This is livelier than most, as it should be with tenor saxophonist J.D. Allen sharing the front line, Danny Grissett on piano, Dwayne Burno on bass, and Gerald Cleaver on drums, but he's yet to break loose over a full album. B+(*)

Danilo Pérez: Providencia (2010, Mack Avenue): Pianist, b. 1966 in Panama; father was a bandleader; studied and now teaches at Berklee. Not someone I've followed closely, but has a solid reputation, with ten or so albums since 1992, including one dedicated to Monk. Mixed bag: impressive enough solo or trio, especially memorable when Rudresh Mahanthappa joins in on alto sax, but some cuts add classical orch instruments (flute, oboe, French horn, bassoon) and/or Sara Serpa vocalizing. The one with flute and Serpa would be unlistenable except for Pérez fighting back with his most bracing piano. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

Jay Phelps: Jay Walkin' (2010, Specific Jazz): Canadian trumpet player, been in UK since he was 17; first album at 28, which I guess would make him b. 1982. Kind of a hard bop throwback, with piano-bass-drums and Shabaka Hutchings on tenor sax, clarinet, and bass clarinet. A couple of hipster vocals by Michael Mwenso, and occasional guests, all reinforcing the band feel. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

The Pickpocket Ensemble: Memory (2010, self-released): San Francisco group, fourth album since 2003, plays "café music" -- "the inversion of folk," as leader Rick Corrigan (accordion, piano) puts it. Band includes violin (Marguerite Ostro), guitar/banjo (Yates Brown), bass (Kurt Ribak), and percussion (Michaelle Goerlitz), with Myra Joy on cello but evidently not in group. Hype sheet talks about them picking up elements from all over the globe, but nothing very clear emerges from the cosmopolitan mishmash. B

Adam Pieronczyk: Komeda -- The Innocent Sorcerer (2009 [2011], Jazzwerkstatt): Saxophonist, b. 1970 in Poland, plays soprano and tenor, has a dozen-plus albums since 1996. Komeda, of course, is Krzysztof Komeda (1931-69), the pianist-composer who seems to be the root of all subsequent Polish jazz. Komeda may be best known for his soundtrack to Rosemary's Baby. I'm not nearly familiar enough with his dozen or so records, but regard Astigmatic as one of the high points of European jazz in the 1960s. Komeda has also been the subject of such notable tributes as Tomasz Stanko's Litania, and this is another one. With Gary Thomas on tenor sax, Nelson Veras on guitar, Anthony Cox on bass, and Lukasz Zyta on drums. A-

Chico Pinheiro: There's a Storm Inside (2009 [2010], Sunnyside): Guitarist-vocalist, from Brazil, 5th album since 2003. Mostly originals, a couple co-written with Paulo César Pinheiro; two English lyrics: Gershwin's "Our Love Is Here to Stay" and Stevie Wonder's "As" -- the latter a guest spot for Diana Reeves. The other name guest is saxophonist Bob Mintzer. Pinheiro's a talented guitarist and a tossaway vocalist, backed by large bands of evanescent texture -- on three cuts fortified with a large string section. Oddly brilliant, but I can't say I enjoyed it. C+

Leslie Pintchik: We're Here to Listen (2010, Pintch Hard): Pianist, based in New York, third album since 2003 although she dates her trio and collaboration with bassist-guitarist Scott Hardy back to 1992. This adds Mark Dodge on drums and Satoshi Takeishi on percussion. Thoughtful, deliberate. I also have a DVD of here around here somewhere, but you know how it is with DVDs. B+(*)

Suzanne Pittson: Out of the Hub: The Music of Freddie Hubbard (2008 [2010], Vineland): Singer, don't know how old, teaches at City College in New York, has two previous albums, one from 1992, the other from 1999; both appear to be substantial projects to pull new vocal music out of relatively untapped sources: Blues and the Abstract Truth (the Oliver Nelson classic), and Resolution: A Remembrance of John Coltrane. She, and/or husband-pianist Jeff Pittson and/or son Evan Pittson wrote new lyrics for six Hubbard pieces; they picked up other lyrics for two more, and included three covers ("You're My Everything," "Moment to Moment," and "Betcha by Golly, Wow!"). Half the tracks add Jeremy Pelt, who does a pretty good Hubbard impersonation, and Steve Wilson, who at least at first threatenes to run away with the record. The hornless cuts are less exhilarating, although Pittson is a technically impressive singer and scatter, and the project is ambitiously conceived and executed. B+(**)

Plunge: Tin Fish Tango (2010 [2011], Immersion): New Orleans trio, "chamber-jazz group" as they call themselves, led by trombonist Mark McGrain, with Tim Green on sax, James Singleton on bass, and others as works out -- Tom Fitzpatrick and Kirk Joseph also play sax on this record. Been around a while -- AMG lists seven records since 1996. Dominant sound is the trombone growl, contained in their chamber framework, with the sax a bit lighter and sweeter. B+(**)

Noah Preminger: Before the Rain (2010 [2011], Palmetto): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1986 (not in current "long bio" but in my previous notes), based in Brooklyn, second album (AMG only has one, but I have two, and recall that his first won the Voice Critics' Poll's debut section). Quartet, with Frank Kimbrough on piano, John Hébert on bass, Matt Wilson on drums. Wrote 4 of 9 songs, picking up 2 from Kimbrough, 1 from Coleman (pretty sure that's Ornette), two standards ("Where or When," "Until the Real Thing Comes Along"). Preminger has a lot of potential, but the more I play it the more I suspect he's awed by his band, who try to be supportive but tend to stand out. B+(**)

Gene Pritsker: Varieties of Religious Experience Suite (2010, Innova): Following spine here; cover has two blocks of type: on top, "Varieties of Religious Experience Suite Gene Pritsker's Sound Liberation"; below and larger, "VRE Suite." Pritsker is a guitarist and -- sometimes but not here -- rapper. Can't find much discography, but website claims Pritsker "has written over three hundred ninety compositions, including chamber operas, orchestral and chamber works, electro-acoustic music, songs for hip-hop and rock ensembles, etc." This group is string-driven, with two guitars, cello, bass and drums. Title comes from William James, who is namechecked in 3 of 8 titles; Tolstoy gets one more. B+(**)

Don Pullen: Plays Monk (1984 [2010], Why Not?): The last pianist to work for Charles Mingus is an odd choice to play Monk, and I suspect he gave little thought to the project; he keeps wanting to work in his trademark flourishes, dazzling of course, but excess baggage especially when playing songs that hide their odd note choices in a cloak of primitivism. B [Rhapsody]

Eric Reed: The Dancing Monk (2009 [2011], Savant): Mainstream pianist, recording steadily since the early 1990s, in a trio with Ben Wolfe on bass and McClenty Hunter on drums, plays ten Monk songs, with a little more dexterity and a lot less mystery than Monk himself. Interesting that music that was so idiosyncratic as to be unplayable in the 1950s now seems so routine. B

Tom Rizzo: Imaginary Numbers (2009 [2010], Origin): Guitarist, based in Los Angeles, plays in the Tonight Show Band, before that with Maynard Ferguson. First album, looks like it was originally released in 2009 then picked up by Origin. Runs a bigger group than necessary -- five horn credits including Bob Sheppard on soprano and tenor sax and four brass including French horn and tuba -- but the guitar is the most memorable. B+(*)

Mario Romano Quartet: Valentina (2010, Alma): Pianist, from or at least based in Toronto, Canada. First album, but he's been around since the early 1970s. Quartet with Pat LaBarbera on tenor sax, Roberto Occhipinti on bass, and Mark Kelso on drums, with someone identified only as Kristy singing one song (Romano's "Those Damn I Love Yous" -- only song he wrote here, although Occhipinti wrote one for him, "Via Romano"). LaBarbera is drummer Joe LaBarbera's older brother; b. 1944, joined Buddy Rich in 1968, has a scattered career after that, with a half-dozen records on his own. He's an impressive mainstream player, a fine counterpart to the pianist. Mostly covers from 1950s and 1960s, many I associate with Miles Davis ("Nardis," "On Green Dolphin Street," "Someday My Prince Will Come"); one Beatles song ("Norwegian Wood"), which hardly spois the day. [PS: Kristy is Kristy Cardinali; turns out I have her debut album, My Romance, in my queue.] B+(**)

Kurt Rosenwinkel and OJM: Our Secret World (2009 [2010], Word of Mouth Music): Guitarist, b. 1970 in Philadelphia, based in Berlin, Germany; tenth album since 1996 -- a prominent figure, but one I haven't followed closely. OJM is Orchestra de Jazz de Matosinhos, a Brazilian big band conducted by Carlos Azevado and Pedro Guedes, with Ohad Talmor also arranging. Most impressive when the guitar is cruising away from the band. B+(*)

Alison Ruble: Ashland (2009 [2010], Origin): Singer, second album, mix of traditional standards -- "S' Wonderful," "Let's Fall in Love," "Night and Day" -- and rock-era pieces, if only up to the early 1970s -- "Route 66," Dylan, King Crimson, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris. Arrangements by guitarist John McLean, flute and sax by Jim Gailloreto, Hammond B3, cello, bass, and drums. Pieces are handsomely framed and elegantly sung. B+(*)

Salo: Sundial Lotus (2009 [2010], Innova): Bassist Ben Gallina wrote all of this (except for an extract from Hindemith), and it's very much a composer's album -- the three reeds, guitar, piano, bass and drums deployed precisely, working out an impressive series of postbop progressions. B+(**)

Angelica Sanchez: A Little House (2010 [2011], Clean Feed): Pianist, b. 1972, moved to New York 1994, third album since 2003; has a list of 13 groups she is "a regular member of" -- nearly everyone mention is someone I want to hear everything by, and while I've never heard of Kevin Tkacz, "Kevin Tkacz's Lethal Objection w/ Paul Motion & Ralph Alessi" has got to be a winner. This one is solo piano. Doesn't amount to much as background, except for the bit on toy piano, but when I sat down at the computer to dismiss it I started hearing things that intrigued me. Takes focus. B+(**)

Antonio Sanchez: Live in New York at Jazz Standard (2008 [2010], CAM Jazz, 2CD): Drummer, from Mexico, b. 1971, studied at Berklee and New England Conservatory; second album under his own name, but has scads of side credits. All-star two sax quartet, Miguel Zenon on alto and David Sanchez on tenor, with Scott Colley on bass. Often turns into a thrilling sax chase, not that far removed from Gordon and Gray, or Stitt and Ammons. B+(**)

Heikki Sarmanto: Moonflower (2007, Porter): Finnish pianist, b. 1939, discography at Wikipedia lista 38 albums since 1969 but misses this one (AMG has 7 including this); his website claims 30 and shows 21 (but not this). I ran across him on a fusion album by Eero Koivistoinen, but that seems to have just been a 1970s phase. Porter, which reissued Koivistoinen's 3rd Version, has several albums by Sarmanto, so I was expecting more of the same, but this appears to be a new recording. Quartet, with Juhani Aaltonen on tenor sax, brother Pekka Sarmanto on bass, and Craig Herndon on drums -- just plays acoustic piano here, nicely setting up Aaltonen, who makes his usual big impression. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Heikki Sarmanto/The Serious Music Ensemble: A Boston Date (1970 [2008], Porter): Parsing the cover: "The Serious" is in much smaller print than "Music Ensemble" so maybe I shouldn't take that so seriously; the title is also followed by "1970" which is useful but far enough off I omitted it from the title. Other references vary. Quintet, led by Juhani Aaltonen's tenor sax, really superb free bop. Cover appears to show Sarmanto on an electric, but his piano sounds more acoustic, with sharp accents and smart bridges. Guitarist Lance Gunderson also helps connect the dots. Not sure where in Boston this was recorded, but starts with a piece called "Top of the Prude" -- I'm guessing that means the Prudential Center. A- [Rhapsody]

Heikki Sarmanto Quintet: Counterbalance (1971 [2008], Porter): Nearly the same group as on A Boston Date -- Pekka Sarmanto plays bass replacing George Mraz (who was probably a one-shot replacement in Boston; he was a student attending Berklee at the time) -- but the sound and gestalt is markedly different, with the leader playing tinkly Fender Rhodes and Juhani Aaltonen forsaking his saxophone for flute. I should have cited his flute on my Downbeat ballot -- by any fair measure he's one of the best jazz flute players ever -- but I'd rather he give the instrument up. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

Dolores Scozzesi: A Special Taste (2010, Rhombus): Singer, b. in New York, don't really grasp her comings and goings but wound up from 2005 on producing cabaret programs, the first called "Stuck in the 60s." Covers not quite standards -- Bob Dylan gets two calls. Voice takes some getting used to but has authority. Mark Winkler produced. B

Serafin: Love's Worst Crime (2010, Serafin): Singer, from Canada, b. in Vancouver, grew up near Toronto, surname LaRiviere, third album. Touts a five octave vocal range that effectively made the opener "Comes Love" sound female, becoming more ambiguous later on. He wrote most of the songs -- the other covers are "My Baby Just Cares for Me," "Don't Explain," and "Skylark." Has a cabaret feel, most seductive in the dark. B+(***)

Elliott Sharp: Binibon (2010 [2011], Henceforth): B. 1951, plays guitar, synths, a little clarinet and sax; has seventy or so records since 1977, mostly outside the jazz, rock, or classical categories. Composed and plays everything here, which is pleasing but relatively inconsequential. The main point is the spoken word libretto written by Jack Womack and performed by five characters. Has something to do with an artsy "cafe and 24-hour hangout at 2nd Avenue and 5th Street in the East Village . . . during 1979-81" -- too specific not to be real, too mythic to be remembered precisely. Might like it more if I followed it better, or might follow it better if I liked it more. B+(*)

Marcus Shelby Orchestra: Soul of the Movement (2010 [2011], Porto Franco): Bassist, b. 1966, seventh album since 1997, delving into black history last time for Harriet Tubman, and again here. Heavy with gospel, from "There Is a Balm in Gilead" to "Go Tell It on the Mountain" to "Take My Hand Precious Lord" with the iconic "We Shall Overcome" in the middle; four new Shelby pieces on key moments in the civil rights struggle, and a few more things that seemed like they'd fit -- can't go wrong with "Fables of Faubus," can you? Big band: five trumpets, four trombones, five reeds plus Howard Wiley toward the end, lots of vocals. Very nice packaging, things everyone should know and appreciate. I find it overwhelming, and itch to move on, before I start to get annoyed. B+(*)

Suresh Singaratnam: Lost in New York (2009 [2010], Suresong): Trumpet player, born in Zambia, moved to UK then Toronto then New York, studying at Manhattan School of Music. Has some classical music on his resume. First jazz album, fairly dense and fancy postbop with Jake Saslow on tenor sax, Jesse Lewis on guitar, piano, bass, drums, plus a guest vocal I could do without. Lewis has the key support role; trumpet is bright and bold. B+(**)

Jeremy Siskind: Simple Songs: For When the World Seems Strange (2010, Bju'ecords): Pianist, b. 1986 in California, based in New York; second album. Mostly piano trio, with Chris Lightcap on bass and Ted Poor on drums. Some songs add Jo Lawry singing. Piano often impressive, don't mind the vocals, but overall I'm not getting much traction, finding myself with little to say. B+(*)

Harrison Smith Quartet: Telling Tales (2007 [2008], 33 Records): Tenor saxophonist, with soprano sax and bass clarinet for change-ups. From England, b. 1946. AMG lists one previous album, from 1998, but played in District Six for much of the 1980s with South African pianist Chris McGregor, and also shows up with the London Improvisers Orchestra. Quartet, with piano (Liam Noble), bass (Dave Whitford), and drums (Winston Clifford). B+(*)

Sean Smith Quartet: Trust (2010 [2011], Smithereen): Bassist; bio says he "has been an integral part of the international jazz scene for more than 20 years" but what if anything does that mean? AMG lists about 15 Sean Smiths; turns out he's the one listed under Folk, where he's described as "one of the busiest young players on the international jazz scene." Looks like he has a handful of previous records going back to 1999, a good deal of side credits -- website claims over 100 but lists under 20. Wrote all the pieces here. Quartet includes John Ellis (tenor and soprano sax), John Hart (guitar), and Russell Meissner (drums). Light and elegant postbop, tasty even. B+(***)

The Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra: Exploration (2007, Spartacus): A Scottish big band, organized by Smith after he returned to his homeland in 2002. Don't know how young the players are -- no one I recognize other than the guests, notably vibraphonist Joe Locke, who gets a "featuring" credit on the cover. Smith conducts and arranges but doesn't play. The best known cuts are the best by far: a rollicking "A Night in Tunisia" and a spiffy "Cottontail," with Locke in particularly good form on the former. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

Tommy Smith/Scottish National Jazz Orchestra: Torah (2010, Spartacus): Five pieces, each named for a book of the Torah or Bible, performed by a conventional big band (four trumpet, four trombones, five reeds, piano, bass, drums) led and dominated by Smith's exceptional tenor sax. One stretch where he plays solo is mesmerizing, rising to magnificent when the band joins in. But mostly the band camouflages the leader, making this one of his less distinctive albums. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Sonic Libreration Front: Meets Sunny Murray (2002-08 [2011], High Two): Philadelphia group, led by percussionist Kevin Diehl, who specializes in Lukumi bata drums (Afro-Cuban, more specifically Yoruba) but has one paw rooted in the avant-garde, in no small part due to his relationship with avant-drummer Sunny Murray. Fourth album since 2000 -- the other three I recommend highly, especially 2004's Ashé a Go-Go. This one sweeps up two sessions with Murray on board, one from 2002, the other 2008. Murray's drums are worth focus, but the band sometimes loses its focus in long ambling patches, only to burst to life when Terry Lawson cuts loose on tenor sax. B+(***)

Joan Soriano: El Duque de la Bachata (2010, IASO, CD+DVD): Supposedly the rougher, cruder country version of merengue, fit for small-time royalty, the 7th of 15 children with scant education, just a fine sense of how to keep a guitar rhythm rolling, with a seductive voice. DVD gives you more personal sense, less music. B+(***)

Colin Stranahan: Life Condition (2009 [2010], Tapestry): Drummer, from Colorado, third album since 2004, basically a sax trio with Ben Van Gelder on alto and Chris Smith on bass, with Jake Saslow joining on tenor sax on 2 of 8 cuts. Snakey freebop, the beat lagging behind not so much to steer the sax as to steer our ears. B+(**)

Milton Suggs: Things to Come (2009 [2010], Skiptone Music): Vocalist, b. 1983 in Chicago, grew up in Atlanta but is back in Chicago, having studied at Columbia College and DePaul; second album. Has an old-fashioned crooner style with a hint of vocalese, feels much older than he looks. I didn't like his style at first, and found the nostalgic "Not Forgotten" almost morose, and I'm not sure I'll ever acquire the taste, but he does some remarkable things with it. Tasteful horns, everything neatly in place. B+(*)

Will Swindler's Elevenet: Universe B (2010, OA2): Saxophonist, alto then soprano, studied at UNT, teaches at Colorado State. First album. Eleven-piece ensemble, shuffling some of the 14 credited musicians in and out, but basically breaks down to 3 reeds, flute, 2 trumpets, trombone or euphonium, French horn, piano, bass, drums. Five originals, covers from Miles Davis (arr. Gil Evans -- a key influence), Billy Strayhorn, and George Harrison. Took me a while to get used to the harmonics, but the arrangements have a silky flow -- not much solo and not much mass. B+(*)

Jamaaladeen Tacuma: For the Love of Ornette (2010 [2011], Jazzwerkstatt): Bass guitarist, b. 1956 as Rudy MacDaniel in Hempstead, NY; played on a couple of essential Ornette Coleman records -- Dancing in Your Head (1976) and Of Human Feelings (1979) -- back when Coleman was incorporating electric guitar and bass and putting forth his harmolodic theories (Tacuma also appeared on James Blood Ulmer's Tales of Captain Black. Tacuma's own records start in 1983 as he attempted to build on his free funk patterns. AMG lists this as his 17th album, not counting things like his Vernon Reid collaboration as Free Form Funky Freqs. Here he returns to Coleman, or maybe one should say Coleman returns to him -- the great man plays alto sax here, as unmistakable as ever, but strangely subdued, with Toni Kofi's tenor sax more often up front, and bits of piano and flute floating in the ether. B+(***)

Tarbaby: The End of Fear (2010, Posi-Tone): Group's MySpace website explains: "We are not TAR BABY ...... JAZZ is ..... We simply want to hug him for as long as we live." Site lists (in this order) band members as: Nasheet Waits (drums), Stacey Dillard (sax), Orrin Evans (piano), Eric Revis (bass), but Dillard doesn't appear on this, the group's first record. Instead, we have "special guests" JD Allen (tenor sax), Oliver Lake (alto sax), and Nicholas Payton (trumpet). Two group songs, two from Revis, one each from Evans and Waits, one from Lake, outside pieces from Sam Rivers, Bad Brains, Fats Waller, Andrew Hill, and Paul Motian. With Dillard this would have been a tough postbop group, but with Lake and Allen it's something else, and they bring out a dimension in Evans I've never heard before. B+(***)

Tarbaby: The End of Fear (2010, Posi-Tone): Philadelphia group, mostly. Four cuts are piano trio: Orrin Evans, Eric Revis, Nasheet Waits); eight add guest horns: Nicholas Payton (trumpet, 5 cuts), J.D. Allen (tenor sax, 2 cuts), Oliver Lake (alto sax, 5 cuts, one of the above with all three). I always assumed this to be Evans' group but I've seen it billed as Nasheet Waits' Tarbaby; all three write. Previous album had Allen; touring group includes Stacy Dillard, so I figure this is transitional, trying to juggle as the group evolves, but the one thing that underscores is that the concept seems to be sax-piano-bass-drums quartet rather than trio+horns, and among the former you get the feeling this one is aiming at the Coltrane Quartet, albeit through the back door. I never sorted this fully out, but Lake is especially terrific, giving them an edge they wouldn't have otherwise found, but having found it they really run with it. [Was: B+(***)] A-

Dan Tepfer Trio: Five Pedals Deep (2010, Sunnyside): Pianist, b. 1982, in France but parents American. Looks like fourth album since 2004 -- AMG lists three, and missed one called Twelve Free Improvisations in Twelve Keys (2009, DIZ). Only one I've heard is a duo with Lee Konitz last year, which made my HM list. Trio includes Thomas Morgan on bass and Ted Poor on drums. Couldn't follow this closely (my fault) but parts were dazzling, and the closing coda from "Body and Soul" ended things on a nice note. Will return later. [B+(***)]

Dan Tepfer Trio: Five Pedals Deep (2010, Sunnyside): Piano trio, with Thomas Morgan on bass and Ted Poor on drums. I have nothing but admiration for the carefully crafted record -- especially the solo "Body and Soul" at the end -- but also nothing much to say. Seems unfair, but after 5-6 plays I don't know what else to do. B+(**)

Toots Thielemans: European Quartet Live (2006-08 [2010], Challenge): B. 1922 in Brussels, Belgium, played some guitar early on but distinguished himself on harmonica to the point that he has dominated Billboard's miscellaneous instrument category for ages now. His records start in 1955 and continue with few gaps -- only four in the last decade but mostly toward the end. Quartet with piano (Karel Boehlee), bass (Hein Van de Geyn), and drums (Hans van Oosterhout, so he carries almost every moment selected here from various unspecified concerts. Mostly venerable standards, ending with two originals he did much to turn into standards. His tone is as striking as ever, but that's about it. B+(*)

Toca Loca: Shed (2010 [2011], Henceforth): Two pianos -- Simon Docking, from Australia, and Gregory Oh, from Toronto, although he's also studied in Michigan and worked in San Diego (Toronto seems to be where the action is, but the record label has a San Diego address) -- plus percussionist Aiyun Huang, born in Taiwan but also based in Toronto (teaches at McGill) and also passed through San Diego (UCSD). Oh seems to be top dog, as he's also credited as conductor. Album doesn't have a jazz feel, and I've shuttled it over to my vaguely defined "avant-garde" file (mostly following AMG, which pretty much ensures vague defs). Four 11-22 minute cuts, composed by others -- Frederic Rzewski is the only one I recognize but further research would probably put them all into the post-classical avant-garde. One cut has some guests on clarinet, cello, french horn and flute; another has extra percussion, but mostly I'm hearing piano abstractions varied with the extra percussion. Mostly interesting stuff, but nothing to sweep you away. [PS: Digging a bit deeper, Toca Loca has one previous album, P*P. Oh also scored a "doll opera" called "XXX Live Nude Girls!" which the poster warns: "contains crude language. adult sexual content. doll nudity. not suitable for children." See the website for samples of the doll porn.] B+(*)

Gabriele Tranchina: A Song of Love's Color (2008 [2010], Jazzheads): Singer, b. in Germany, based in New York, second album, the first self-released in 2003. Most songs are credited to pianist Joe Vincent Tranchina; one based on Hindu trad, another a trad Spanish lullaby. Multilingual: English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, the latter leaning heavily on Jobim. Band mostly piano and Latin percussion: Bobby Sanabria, Renato Thoms, Santi Debriano on bass. B+(*)

Tribecastan: 5 Star Cave (2009 [2010], Evergreene Music): New York group -- that much shouldn't be hard to figure out -- with pretensions to exotica rooted in the real world today, very much including Afghanistan but not limited by it, as opposed to Esquivel-ish fantasies of Polynesian fleshpots. Principals are John Kurth and Jeff Greene, each with a dozen or more obscure instruments, most with strings, some flute-like or percussive. Group is rounded out with Todd Isler on more percussion and Mike Duclos because music always sounds better with a bassist on hand, and sprinkled with a dozen "special guests" -- the sort of people easy to find in New York (some names I recognize: Steve Turre, Charlie Burnham, Al Kooper, Badal Roy). Samantha Parton sings one song, a cool breeze with words by A.P. Carter. Everything is very mild and painless; I guess not like the real Afghanistan. B+(**)

Paul Tynan & Aaron Lington: Bicoastal Collective: Chapter Two (2009 [2010], OA2): Trumpet/baritone sax respectively, met at North Texas State, nowhere near any coast. Quintet, with Scott Sorkin's guitar central and essential. B+(**)

The Warren Vaché/John Allred Quintet: Top Shelf (2009 [2010], Arbors): Cornet and trombone for the leaders, piano (Tardo Hammer), bass (Nicki Parrott), drums (Leroy Williams). Vaché followed Ruby Braff in keeping the swing revival going, reverting from trumpet to cornet, with dozens of albums since 1976. Allred is a decade younger, the son of a similar-minded trombonist, Bill Allred. Vaché, of course, isn't the first cornet player to appreciate the value of keeping a trombonist on tap -- Louis Armstrong never went anywhere without one. Only thing unusual here is that while nearly half of the songs are Tin Pan Alley standards, the rest come from the bop-era -- Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Clifford Brown, Benny Golson, Cannonball Adderley, the title track from Blue Mitchell. But in these hands the once radical break from swing to bop has blurred to nothing. Booklet credits Vaché with the vocal on "East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)" but sounds like Parrott to me. B+(***)

Chucho Valdes & the Afro-Cuban Messengers: Chucho's Steps (2009 [2010], Four Quarters): Cuban pianist, b. 1941, son of famed pianist Bebo Valdés, now in his 90s and at least recently active; led Irakere from 1972, and has released a steady stream of records under his own name since 1986 including several on Blue Note. He is still a spectacular pianist, the kind that reminds one of Art Tatum although Tatum never tackled such tricky rhythms. With trumpet and tenor sax that don't often add much, lots of percussion, a chorus for one song. Swept the Voice poll's Latin Jazz category -- an obvious choice although it strikes me as a bit out of sorts. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Roland Vazquez Band: The Visitor (2010, RVD): B. 1951 in California, drummer, AMG credits him with 7 albums since 1979's Urban Ensemble. His band is a big one -- four trumpets, four trombones, five reeds, piano, guitar, electric bass, drums, congas, vibes. Vazquez composed and conducts but doesn't play. A lot of star power in the band, but it rarely stands out. B

Melvin Vines: Harlem Jazz Machine (2010 [2011], Movi): Trumpet/flugelhorn player, b. 1952 in Toledo, OH; "mis-educated in the Ohio public school system for 12 years"; taught himself trumpet, inspired by Hugh Masekela. First album, as far as I can tell. Harlem Jazz Machine, a large unit with 8-10 players, has been touring since 2005, especially in Japan, home of Vines' wife, vocalist Kay Mori. Record starts with two Vines originals, one by pianist Chip Crawford, a Mori vocal on "My Heart Belongs to Daddy, then winds up with four covers from trumpet players -- Masekela (vocal by Makane Kouyate), Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan (twice). Impressive sax work by Yosuke Sato and/or Tivon Pennicot; snazzy Latin percussion by Roland Guerrero; Masekela's township jive is a highlight. B+(***)

Vlada: All About You (2003-08 [2010], Glad Vlad): Singer, family Serbian, given name Vladimir Tajsic, raised in Switzerland, majored in English and economics at University of Zurich, wound up in Nashville. First album, assembled from band sessions in Switzerland in 2003, 2006-07 sessions in Nashville, and some final touches back in Switzerland. Tajsic wrote all the tracks, with some lyrical input from Sonya Hollan. Don't recall why I had filed this under gospel, but there is a lot of that. Band includes some pop-jazz notables, like Paul Jackson Jr. and, featured on three cuts, Kirk Whalum. Singer has his idiomatic English down smooth: my first reaction was that he's listened to a lot of Smokey Robinson. Backing vocals from part or all of Take 6. B+(**)

Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quartet: To Hear From There (2010 [2011], Patois): Trombonist, from San Francisco, b. 1952, has eight albums since 2000; side credits go back to the 1970s: r&b, Latin jazz, Anthony Brown's Asian American Orchestra. Trombone with piano-bass-drums-percussion; a couple guest vocalists. Originals for the most part, neatly labelled as jazz-timba or jazz-bolero or Cuban son-jazz or cha-cha-cha or whatever, with four covers ranging from Tito Puente to Juan Tizol's "Perdido." B+(*)

Doug Webb: Renovations (2009 [2010], Posi-Tone): Saxophonist, plays 'em all but is pictured with a tenor, and that's mostly what I hear. Lives in LA, where he's done a ton of studio work. Second album on mainstream-focused Posi-Tone -- has also recorded for avant-oriented Cadence/CIMP in a group with Mat Marucci. Quartet, with bass (Stanley Clarke), drums (Gerry Gibbs), and a changing cast of pianists. All covers, like "Satin Doll" and "They Can't Take That Away From Me." Big, bold sound, perfect for saxophone lovers. B+(***)

Walt Weiskopf: See the Pyramid (2010, Criss Cross): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1959, grew up in Syracuse, has taught at Eastman School of Music and Temple University, co-wrote a book on Coltrane; 14th album since 1989, most on Criss Cross. Quartet with piano (Peter Zak), bass (Doug Weiss), drums (Quincy Davis). Wrote 5 of 10 tracks, including the first four, but the record only takes off with "Call Me," the first cover, which dispenses with postbop ideas and peels back the delicious theme like old-fashioned bebop. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

Bob Wilber: Bob Wilber Is Here! (2010, Arbors): Trad jazz player, plays clarinet, soprano sax, and alto sax; b. 1928 in New York, played in a high school band with pianist Dick Wellstood, studied with Lennie Tristano, but broke in playing with Eddie Condon and Buddy Hackett, was a protégé of Sidney Bechet's who he has long honored in his Soprano Summit group with Kenny Davern. Clarinetists Antti Sarpila and Nik Payton are introduced here as Wilber's protégés, and I can't begin to sort out who's playing what when here. The rhythm section supplies the necessary swing: Jeff Barnhart on piano, Nicki Parrott on bass, and Ed Metz on drums. Mostly delightful, although it seems a bit diluted. B+(**)

Howard Wiley and the Angola Project: 12 Gates to the City (2008 [2010], HNIC Music): Saxophonist, tenor and soprano, born in Berkeley, CA, based in LA. Previous album was called The Angola Project, named for Louisiana's notorious prison, and he intends to keep working that theme. That means dragging in gospel singers and a rapper or two (Bicasso? Bisco?), carrying social and political messages including a lecture on the linkages between prison and slavery that, well, mostly rings true. In between we get some of Wiley's saxophone, unspectacular but gritty and soulful, and like everything else he aspires to, true. B+(***)

Matt Wilson: Matt Wilson's Christmas Tree-O (2010, Palmetto): Read the end of the title as a pun on Trio, which is what Wilson assembled here: Paul Sikivie on bass; Jeff Lederer on various saxes, clarinets, piccolo, and toy piano; the leader on drums. Songs are mostly trad, but Wilson (like myself) is just the right age to include Dr. Seuss and "The Chipmunk Song" among the classics, and for good measure he works in a solemn "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)." Not so solemn are the classics, with "Angels We Have Heard on High" warming to a free sax freakout, and "Hallelujah Chorus" full of squawk and tympani. Can't recall hearing this at the mall this year; for one thing, it would have lifted my spirits. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

World Saxophone Quartet: Yes We Can (2009 [2011], Jazzwerkstatt): Live in Berlin, about two months after Obama took office as president of the United States. WSQ dates back to 1977, their initial album (Point of No Return) also released on a German label (Moers). Back then the foursome were Hamiet Bluiett (baritone), David Murray (tenor), Oliver Lake (alto), and Julius Hemphill (alto): four major players each in his own right, but Hemphill was arguably the leader, the one most focused on the harmonic possibilities of four saxophones and nothing else. With Hemphill's death in 1995, the survivors diversified, sneaking in drums, auditioning a wide range of fourth horns, even juking up a terrific collection of Political Blues. This one goes back to their roots, four saxes, nothing else. Not sure why Lake sat it out; his alto is replaced by Kidd Jordan. The other slot goes to James Carter, playing tenor and soprano; not only a great player in his own right, but early in his career he was played on Hemphill's sax-only Five Chord Stud, and briefly ran his own sax choir, recorded as Saxemble. As much as I admire the individuals in WSQ, I've always found the sax-only palette to be a bit narrow, and that's a limit here, which they work around ingeniously. B+(***)

Samir Zarif: Starting Point (2010 [2011], Mythology): Saxophonist (tenor on 6 cuts, soprano on 3), b. 1980 in Houston, first album under his own name -- was in a group called The Paislies which released an album in 2007 (not a very good one). His saxophone work is consistently impressive here. He also dables in electronics (2 tracks) and vocals (4 tracks, twice joined by Maria Neckam). The vocals add a spacey otherness to the record, something I'm rather ambivalent about. B+(**)

Zed Trio: Lost Transitions (2009 [2010], Ayler): French trio, don't know much about them, but here goes: Heddy Boubaker (b. 1963, Marseille, father Tunisian), plays alto and bass sax, mostly free jazz but has also played in gnawa bands, name listed on a couple other albums; David Lataillade, electric guitar; and Frédéric Vaudaux, drums; no further discography. Choppy free improv, tends to get noisy, which I like to a point but they do push it. B+(***)

John Zorn: Interzone (2010, Tzadik): Lost track of whether Zorn succeeded in his quest to release one record for each month of 2010, but this is Miss November. It's also the one that sounds most like a standard-issue John Zorn record: screechy sax, open spaces, lots of scattershot percussion. John Medeski's "keyboards" sound like they include a piano; Marc Ribot plays guitar-like instruments; Trevor Dunn basses; Cyro Baptista, Ikue Mori, and Kenny Wollesen are responsible for the bumps and blips. Theme has something to do with William Burroughs and Brion Gysin, which in Zorn's hands means comic book punk jazz with surreal or absurdist interludes -- the sort of thing he used to do c. Spillane and Spy vs. Spy before he got all Jewish on us and/or discovered he discovered he could throw a bunch of index cards at other musicians and get them to record 3-4 times as many records under his name as he could do himself. So this feels a bit like a con, but Ribot is terrific, there are some utterly sublime oases amidst the chaos and cartoon violence, and, well, unless Medeski somehow snuck a Cecil Taylor sample into his synth I for one have never heard him play piano like this. Very tentative grade: A- [Rhapsody]

John Zorn: What Thou Wilt (2009 [2010], Tzadik): Composition only, no Zorn playing. Main group consists of piano, three celli, and viola, but there's also the Tanglewood Orchestra on the 13:37 opener, "Contes de Fées," with more violins than I can count, another phalanx of celli, and the occasional oboe, bassoon, or flute. Demands a high tolerance for abstract string sounds, especially on the first piece. The remaining two pieces bounce the piano off the strings, which is more entertaining to say the least. B [Rhapsody]

Carry Over

The following records, carried over from the done and print files at the start of this cycle, were also under consideration for this column.

  1. Jason Adasiewicz: Sun Rooms (2009 [2010], Delmark) B+(***)
  2. Aida Severo (2007 [2009], Slam) B+(***)
  3. Marshall Allen/Matthew Shipp/Joe Morris: Night Logic (2009 [2010], RogueArt) B+(***)
  4. Rodrigo Amado: Searching for Adam (2010, Not Two) A-
  5. Hugo Antunes: Roll Call (2009 [2010], Clean Feed) B+(***)
  6. David Ashkenazy: Out With It (2009, Posi-Tone) B+(***)
  7. Pablo Aslan: Tango Grill (2010, Zoho) B+(***)
  8. Michaël Attias: Twines of Colesion (2008 [2010], Clean Feed) B+(***)
  9. Roni Ben-Hur: Fortuna (2007 [2009], Motema) B+(***)
  10. Carlos Bica + Matéria-Prima (2008 [2010], Clean Feed) B+(***)
  11. Ketil Bjørnstad: Remembrance (2009 [2010], ECM) B+(***)
  12. BLOB: Earphonious Swamphony (2010, Innova) B+(***)
  13. Anthony Braxton: 19 Standards (Quartet) 2003 (2003 [2010], Leo, 4CD) A-
  14. Anthony Brown's Asian American Orchestra: India & Africa: A Tribute to John Coltrane (2009 [2010], Water Baby) A-
  15. Kenny Burrell: Be Yourself (2008 [2010], High Note) B+(***)
  16. Hadley Caliman & Pete Christlieb: Reunion (2009 [2010], Origin) B+(**)
  17. James Carney Group: Ways & Means (2008 [2009], Songlines) B+(***)
  18. Commitment: The Complete Recordings 1981/1983 (1980-83 [2010], No Business, 2CD) A-
  19. Conference Call: What About . . . ? (2007-08 [2010], Not Two, 2CD) A-
  20. Contact: Five on One (2010, Pirouet) B+(***)
  21. The Convergence Quartet: Song/Dance (2009 [2010], Clean Feed) B+(***)
  22. Correction: Two Nights in April (2009 [2010], Ayler) B+(***)
  23. Mirio Cosottini/Andrea Melani/Tonino Miano/Alessio Pisani: Cardinal (2009, Grimedia Impressus) B+(***)
  24. Marilyn Crispell/David Rothenberg: One Night I Left My Silent House (2008 [2010], ECM) A-
  25. Stephan Crump with Rosetta Trio: Reclamation (2009 [2010], Sunnyside) A-
  26. Stephan Crump/James Carney: Echo Run Pry (2008 [2010], Clean Feed) B+(***)
  27. Chris Dahlgren: Mystic Maze & Lexicon (2008 [2010], Jazzwerkstatt) B+(***)
  28. Dawn of Midi: First (2010, Accretions) B+(***)
  29. Decoy & Joe McPhee: Oto (2009 [2010], Bo Weavil) B+(***)
  30. The Dynamic Les DeMerle Band: Gypsy Rendezvous, Vol. One (2008 [2009], Origin) B+(***)
  31. The Dominant 7 and The Jazz Arts Messengers: Fourteen Channels (2009 [2010], Tapestry) B+(***)
  32. Paquito D'Rivera: Tango Jazz: Live at Lincoln Center (2010, Sunnyside) A-
  33. Ismael Dueñas Trio: Jazz Ateu (2009 [2010], Quadrant) A-
  34. Hilario Duran Trio: Motion (2010, Alma) B+(***)
  35. Peter Epstein & Idée Fixe: Abstract Realism (2008 [2010], Origin) B+(***)
  36. Ellery Eskelin/Gerry Hemingway: Inbetween Spaces (2010, Auricle) A-
  37. John Fedchock NY Sextet: Live at the Red Sea Jazz Festival (2008 [2010], Capri) B+(***)
  38. Oscar Feldman: Oscar e Familia (2009, Sunnyside) B+(***)
  39. Ken Filiano & Quantum Entanglements: Dreams From a Clown Car (2008 [2010], Clean Feed) B+(***)
  40. Anat Fort Trio: And If (2009 [2010], ECM) B+(***)
  41. Stephen Gauci/Kris Davis/Michael Bisio: Three (2008 [2010], Clean Feed) B+(***)
  42. Dave Glasser: Evolution (2010, Here Tiz) B+(***)
  43. Bob Greene: St. Peter Street Strutters (1964 [2009], Delmark) B+(***)
  44. Henry Grimes/Rashied Ali: Spirits Aloft (2009 [2010], Porter) A-
  45. Rich Halley Quartet: Live at the Penofin Jazz Festival (2008 [2010], Pine Eagle) B+(***)
  46. Matt Herskowitz: Jerusalem Trilogy (2009-10 [2010], Justin Time) B+(***)
  47. Humanization 4tet: Electricity (2009 [2010], Ayler) A-
  48. Jon Irabagon: Foxy (2010, Hot Cup) A-
  49. Joan Jeanrenaud/PC Muñoz: Pop-Pop (2010, Deconet) B+(***)
  50. Theo Jörgensmann/Marcin Oles/Bartlomiej Brat Oles: Live in Poznan 2006 (2006 [2007], Fenomedia) B+(***)
  51. Jin Hi Kim/Gerry Hemingway: Pulses (2009 [2010], Auricle) B+(***)
  52. Barb Jungr: The Men I Love: The New American Songbook (2009 [2010], Naim) B+(***)
  53. Eero Koivistoinen & Co.: 3rd Version (1973 [2010], Porter) A-
  54. Andrew Lamb Trio: New Orleans Suite (2005 [2010], Engine) B+(***)
  55. Brian Landrus: Foward (2007 [2010], Cadence Jazz) B+(***)
  56. Lean Left: The Ex Guitars Meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark Duo, Volume 1 (2008 [2010], Smalltown Superjazz) A-
  57. Lean Left: The Ex Guitars Meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark Duo, Volume 2 (2008 [2010], Smalltown Superjazz) B+(***)
  58. Gianni Lenoci: Ephemeral Rhizome (2008 [2009], Evil Rabbit)B+(***)
  59. Charles Lloyd Quartet: Mirror (2009 [2010], ECM) B+(***)
  60. The Giuseppi Logan Quintet (2009 [2010], Tompkins Square) B+(***)
  61. Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Accomplish Jazz (2009, Hot Cup) B+(***)
  62. Mike Mainieri: Crescent (2005 [2010], NYC, 2CD) B+(***)
  63. Rafi Malkiel: Water (2009 [2010], Tzadik) B+(**)
  64. Alexander McCabe: Quiz (2009-10 [2010], CAP) A-
  65. Terrence McManus/Gerry Hemingway: Below the Surface Of (2008 [2010], Auricle) A-
  66. John McNeil/Bill McHenry: Chill Morn He Climb Jenny (2009 [2010], Sunnyside) B+(***)
  67. Sebastiano Meloni/Adriano Orrù/Tony Oxley: Improvised Pieces for Trio (2008 [2010], Big Round) B+(***)
  68. Lisa Mezzacappa's Bait & Switch: What Is Known (2009 [2010], Clean Feed) A-
  69. The Microscopic Septet: Friday the Thirteenth: The Micros Play Monk (2010, Cuneiform) A-
  70. Rakalam Bob Moses/Greg Burk: Ecstatic Weanderings (2002 [2010], Jazzwerkstatt) B+(***)
  71. Marcin & Bartlomiej Brat Oles: Duo (2008, Fenomedia) A-
  72. William Parker & the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra: For Percy Heath (2005 [2006], Victo) A-
  73. Ivo Perelman/Dominic Duval/Brian Wilson: Mind Games (2008 [2009], Leo) A-
  74. Ivo Perelman/Brian Willson: The Stream of Life (2008 [2010], Leo) B+(***)
  75. Ivo Perelman/Gerry Hemingway: The Apple in the Dark (2010, Leo) A-
  76. Ivo Perelman/Daniel Levin/Torbjörn Zetterberg: Soulstorm (2009 [2010], Clean Feed, 2CD) A-
  77. Profound Sound Trio: Opus de Life (2008 [2009], Porter) A-
  78. Sun Ra Arkestra [under the direction of Marshall Allen]: Live at the Paradox (2008 [2010], In+Out) B+(***)
  79. Mike Reed's People, Places & Things: Stories and Negotiations (2008 [2010], 482 Music) B+(***)
  80. Júlio Resende: Assim Falava Jazzatustra (2009, Clean Feed) B+(***)
  81. Scenes [John Stowell/Jeff Johnson/John Bishop]: Rinnova (2009 [2010], Origin) B+(***)
  82. Adam Schroeder: A Handful of Stars (2010, Capri) B+(***)
  83. Archie Shepp: The New York Contemporary Five (1963 [2010], Delmark) B+(***)
  84. Trygve Seim/Andreas Utnem: Purcor (2008 [2010], ECM) B+(***)
  85. David Smith Quintet: Anticipation (2009 [2010], Bju'ecords) B+(***)
  86. Wadada Leo Smith and Ed Blackwell: The Blue Mountain's Sun Drummer (1986 [2010], Kabell) A-
  87. Jason Stein's Locksmith Isidore: Three Kinds of Happiness (2009 [2010], Not Two) B+(***)
  88. Nobu Stowe: Confusion Bleue (2007 [2010], Soul Note) B+(***)
  89. Steve Swell's Slammin' the Infinite: 5000 Poems (2007 [2010], Not Two) A-
  90. Ben Syversen: Cracked Vessel (2010, Ben Syversen) B+(***)
  91. Tide Tables [Paul Kikuchi/Alexander Vittum]: Lost Birdsongs (2005 [2010], Prefecture) B+(**)
  92. Trichotomy: Variations (2007 [2010], Naim Jazz) B+(***)
  93. The Ullmann/Swell 4: News? No News! (2010, Jazzwerkstatt) B+(***)
  94. Matt Vashlishan: No Such Thing (2008 [2009], Origin) B+(***)
  95. Rob Wagner/Hamid Drake/Nobu Ozaki: Trio (2005 [2007], Valid) A-
  96. David S. Ware: Onecept (2009 [2010], AUM Fidelity) A-