Rhapsody Streamnotes: May 3, 2014

Last Streamnotes column came out April 15, so I figured I'd play it safe and set up the next draft file for May. That was all the hint I needed to wait until the calendar turned, even though this one had grown exceptionally large (102 records, second only to March 19's 109). Until recently, the mix was tilted heavily toward old music, so I've spent the last week trying to narrow the difference. Also hit a lode of exceptional records at the end -- added Biskin, Strypes, and Supreme Cuts as I was trying to wrap this up, with the two African collections (from Jason Gubbels this week) and Deena added just last night.

The "Old Music" section continues my search for Penguin Guide 4-star albums, something I've written about quite enough already. My current estimate is that I'll find another 200 such records on Rhapsody. Looks like about one-third of those will wind up with A- (or better) grades, very few of the rest falling below mid-B+. Penguin Guide has never been a perfect guide, but it remarkable both for its breadth and depth of survey.

As my old music searches have tended to be thematic lately, I thought it would look neater to break out new reissues, compilations, and vault music. I don't normally come across a lot there, but maybe this will spur me on.

A bit less than half of the new music is jazz reviewed from my dwindling queue of promo CDs. It's fairly arbitrary now what comes in and what doesn't, but something I've resolved not to worry about. Still haven't transitioned meaningfully away from writing about music to other things, but the floor has started to tilt that way.

If you are following me on Twitter you will already have seen most of the grades here with necessarily briefer notes.

These are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Rhapsody. They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on April 15. Past reviews and more information are available here (4795 records).

New Releases (More or Less)

Kris Adams: Longing (2012-13 [2014], Jazzbird): Jazz singer, studied at Berklee and New England Conservatory, currently teaches at Berklee. Third album. Three originals, one preferring pulled pork to pasta bolognese (in Italy no less), not-quite-standard covers -- a Cole Porter, a Joni Mitchell, one from Brazil (but not Jobim), two from Norma Winstone, one Abbey Lincoln. Nice sax breaks. Too much scat. B [cd]

Rodrigo Amado: Wire Quartet (2011 [2014], Clean Feed): Portuguese tenor saxophonist, has always leaned free but seems more prickly than usual here, all the better to match up with guitarist Manuel Mota. Three long joint improvs, backed on bass and drums by Hernani Faustino and Gabriel Ferrandini -- perhaps you recognize them as two-thirds of RED Quartet? A- [cd]

Marsha Ambrosius: Fvck & Love (2014, self-released, EP): Brit neo-soul singer, has a 2011 LP that wasn't very good but turned some heads with this six-track EP, about 25 minutes, though I'm not hearing much more than the slow grind and soft moans of simulated sex. B+(*) [dl]

Bobby Avey: Authority Melts From Me (2012 [2014], Whirlwind): Pianist, AMG lists two albums but I've heard three, reportedly draws on experiences in Haiti for the struggle here but it's hard to hear that. Also unclear what guitarist Ben Monder brings to the party, but Puerto Rican alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, well, this is his best performance in years, especially with the pianist providing the dense undergrowth for his jungle bop. A- [cd]

Drake Bell: Ready Steady Go! (2014, Surfdog): B. 1986, and he really knows how to make you feel old: e.g., "produced by Bell's childhood idol, Stray Cats founder Brian Setzer," which means this copycat rock and roll is at least four generations removed, enough that covering Billy Joel and Freddie Mercury seems no further off the mark than Ray Davies and Roy Wood. B-

Andy Biskin Ibid: Act Necessary (2012 [2014], Strudelmedia): Clarinet player, says his original idea for this group was a chamber jazz thing with three horns and bass, but when he replaced the bassist with a drummer the music opened up. Sure did. Helps that the drummer is Jeff Davis, and the brass contrast is provided by Kirk Knuffke (cornet) and Brian Drye (trombone), but no one made more of the freedom than the leader. A- [cd]

Mark Buselli: Untold Stories (2013 [2014], OA2): Trumpet player, also has a big band working out of Indianapolis (Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra). This is a quintet, mainstream leaning toward swing, Danny Walsh on sax, Steve Allee on piano (Allee wrote 4 pieces, Buselli 2, Ellington 1). B+(**)

Brian Charette: Square One (2014, Posi-Tone): Organ trio with Yotam Silberstein on guitar and Mark Ferber on drums. Some of this sounds conventional, most notably the opening groove, while some is something else, but when the organ backs off there's not much left. B+(**)

Ty Citerman: Bop Kabbalah (2013 [2014], Tzadik): Guitarist, first album after a decade with the group Gutbucket. Quartet, two horns -- Ben Holmes on trumpet and Ken Thomson on bass clarinet, a nice combination -- plus drums, picks up pieces of klezmer then improvises them away. B+(***) [cdr]

The Nels Cline Singers: Macroscope (2013 [2014], Mack Avenue): Guitarist Cline is credited with "voice," but that's just something fed into one of his effects gadgets -- no singing here. With Trevor Dunn on bass, Scott Amendola on drums, everyone on effects, and scattered guests including Zeena Parkins' electric harp, fusion with a lot of shine and shimmer, but they always seem to come up lame at the end when they should be doubling down. B+(***) [cd]

Rodney Crowell: Tarpaper Sky (2014, New West): After albums where he played second fiddle to Mary Karr and Emmylou Harris, Crowell returns with his best collection of original songs in years. Especially the last two, one dedicated to Guy Clark with just that craft, the other to John Denver a soporific too pretty to bemoan. A-

Deena: Rock River (2014, Verbena Music): Cucumbers girl Deena Shoshkes keeps hanging in there, releasing records every couple years with a few songs that remind you of the great album she and Jon Fried released in 1987, but never this many before. The first song I noticed here was the one with her riff on Superman the slob, but after several plays it's slipped behind the pack, mostly put over by her giant smile of a voice. A- [cd]

Jeff Denson & Claudio Puntin: Two (2008-10 [2014], Pfmentum): Denson plays double bass, while Puntin's credits read "clarinet, bass clarinet, analog preparations, tarcas, but Denson has the upper hand, generating a wide range of sound from his instrument while Puntin fills in the cracks and pretties up the noise. Except when Denson uses his voice -- kind of hard to clean that up. B+(**) [cd]

Jeff Denson & Joshua White: I'll Fly Away (2013 [2014], Pfmentum): Bass and piano, respectively. Three takes of the title tune fairly leap out of the grooves, at least the heads, while the various improvs on them wander amusingly. Other standards -- "Down at the Cross," "Amazing Grace," "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," "When the Saints Go Marching In," "Crying in the Chapel" -- get the same clever treatment but the earthly melodies are what stick with you. B+(***) [cd]

Thom Douvan: Brother Brother (2013 [2014], self-released): West Coat guitarist, grew up in Ann Arbor, played with the Funk Brothers 1985-92 and styles this as a tribute to them: mostly Motown classics, group includes sax (Tony Malfatti), organ (mostly Duncan McMillan), and drums (five guys). Easy groove music plus a bit of nostalgia. B [cd]

Fear of Men: Loom (2014, Kanine): British trio, singer-lyricist named Jessica Weiss, has bits of shoegaze and trip hop and possibly "the broken optimism and beleaguered pop genius of the Smiths" -- hooks anyway, I'm really lousy at deciphering lyrics, even (perhaps especially) "jarringly direct lyrics of existential angst and emotional bankruptcy" (quotes from Fred Thomas at AMG). All I know is that they've got an interesting sound, and if there's any real depth to them they could be worth digging into. B+(***)

Lisa Ferraro: Serenading the Moon (2013 [2014], Pranavasonic Universal): Standards singer, previously known as Lisa Yvonne Ferraro, is based in San Francisco, has a handful of albums since 2002, sometimes appears in a duo with guitarist Erika Luckett. Not exceptional but she gives fine readings of timeless songs, and was smart and/or fortunate enough to come up with an all-star band: she gives Houston Person "featuring" credit on the front cover, as she should, but John DiMartino, James Chirillo, Ray Drummond, and (especially) Lewis Nash are also names worth bandying about. B+(***) [cd]

Future: Honest (2014, Epic): Atlanta rapper, Nayvadius Wilburn, second studio album, credits list runs 75 deep and co-writers include Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, and André Benjamin. Has a nice ring to it, cluttered but contained. B+(**)

Paulinho Garcia: Beautiful Love (2013 [2014], Shrinktunes): Brazilian guitarist-vocalist, from Belo Horizonte, moved to Chicago in 1979, has a handful of albums. Mostly American standards, one Jobim, one original. Has a slight, scratchy voice that ultimately proves charming. B+(**) [cd]

Rich Halley 4: The Wisdom of Rocks (2013 [2014], Pine Eagle): Tenor saxophonist from Portland, has been on a furious run since he retired from his day job, mostly with this quartet, which deserves another hearing in no small part because trombonist Michael Vlatkovich has never pushed the leader harder. A- [cd]

Elias Haslanger: Live at the Gallery (2013 [2014], Cherrywood): Tenor saxophonist based in Austin, TX -- I guess that nominates him for membership in the long line of Texas tenors -- with a handful of albums since 1994. Backed here by organ, guitar, bass and drums, all good for a groove-oriented blowing session. B+(*) [cd]

Homeboy Sandman: White Sands (2014, Stones Throw, EP): New York rapper, prefers to release records in vinyl-length doses, this one typical at seven cuts, 26:32, and in most other respects too. B+(***)

Kelis: Food (2014, Ninja Tune): Previous best record (by far) was called Tasty. This isn't. B-

Live From Festival Au Desert Timbuktu (2013, Clermont Music): Eighteen cuts by as many acts, some known beyond their Saharan range, some not. Most I find rather harsh, and while some manage to come together powerfully, thus far they are in the minority. Christgau told me this is the one record from 2013 that really grew on him. My two spins may not give it justice, but at least they gave it a shot. B+(***) [dl]

Dominic J. Marshall Trio: Spirit Speech (2013 [2014], Origin): Pianist, b. 1989 in Scotland, raised in Salisbury, now based in Amsterdam. Third album, a trio with Tobias Nijboer on bass and Jamie Peet on drums. Postbop, often striking. B+(*) [cd]

Mike Marshall/Turtle Island Quartet: Mike Marshall & the Turtle Island Quartet (2013 [2014], Adventure Music): Mandolinist, started in bluegrass then discovered mandolins have a role in chorro and plunged deep into Brazilian music. Not much evidence of that here, but well-traveled new age string quartet benefits from the mandolin's pluck. B [cd]

The Menzingers: Rented World (2014, Epitaph): A punkish band of some repute if little distinction, probably a good personal resolution not wanting "to be an asshole anymore," maybe not the sharpest move artistically. B

Sei Miguel: Salvation Modes (2005-12 [2014], Clean Feed): Trumpeter, b. 1961 in Paris, based in Portugal since the 1980s, dusts off some old compositions, three pieces with different groups but a similar hushed underground murkiness. B+(*) [cd]

Roy Nathanson's Sotto Voce: Complicated Day (2013 [2014], Enja/Yellow Bird): Alto saxophonist, co-leader of the Jazz Passengers (with trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, who appears here), has an admirable knack for combining avant and pop in ways that are true to both, but not everything he does works, especially his indulgences in vocals. This is his third Sotto Voce project, rotating vocals democratically throughout the band, none terribly good but occasionally charming, especially on a song like "Slow Boat to China." B+(**)

The Ocular Concern: Sister Cities (2013 [2014], PJCE): Portland quintet, principally Dan Duval (electric guitar) and Andrew Oliver (electric piano), with clarinet, drums, and vibraphone, plus bandoneon and three-fourths of a string quartet on their "Sister Cities Suite." Chamber jazz, I guess, eclectically quasi-classical. B+(*)

Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri: Two Men Walking (2013 [2014], Leo): Tenor sax and viola duet, the two following the same general path but separately, sometimes acknowledging the other but not tracking too closely. Avant purists may give this the edge over Perelman's more conventional trio and quartet records -- two just released -- because this one is freer, but that also makes it more difficult, more work and less fun. B+(***)

Ivo Perelman: Book of Sound (2013 [2014], Leo): Sax trio with William Parker on bass but no drummer -- pianist Matthew Shipp has to suffice, but he plays as though there is no such thing as the drummer's job. Terrific pianist, of course -- no one has more experience comping behind avant-sax greats (e.g., David S. Ware). Not sure Perelman is one, but he's very good, and has developed a technique with short curved lines, kind of like Van Gogh's maddest strokes. B+(***)

Ivo Perelman: The Other Edge (2014, Leo): Recorded in January, first I've noticed this year. Conventional sax quartet with Matthew Shipp (piano), Michael Bisio (bass), and Whit Dickey (drums), which is to say Shipp's most common piano trio. A regular beat pumps up the energy level, and when the beat strays Perelman just works harder. The best of this batch, and one of his best ever. A-

Xavi Reija: Resolution (2013 [2014], Moonjune): Spanish (or Catallan) drummer, leads an "electric trio" with Daisan Jevtovic on guitar and Bernat Hernandez on bass. Sharp beats, not that they're all that regular but they keep it moving, and the guitarist is someone to remember. B+(***) [cd]

Jason Roebke Octet: High/Red/Center (2013 [2014], Delmark): Chicago bassist, has played with everyone in town, has a couple previous albums (including a solo) but this is his big move so he rounded up the stars: Greg Ward (alto sax), Keefe Jackson (tenor sax), Jason Stein (bass clarinet), Josh Berman (cornet), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Jason Adasiewicz (vibes), and Mike Reed (drums) -- doesn't seem to be a piano town. My first reaction was to note how bassist-composers tend to follow Mingus, but the liner notes suggest that he's aiming for Ellington. Hits the mark here and there, too, e.g. in "Dirt Cheap." B+(***) [cd]

Mehmet Ali Sanlikol: Whatsnext? (2014, Dunya): Turkish composer and ethnomusicologist, studied classical piano in Boston, worked his way through the musical crossroads of Instanbul, wound up here "full circle" in big band jazz -- which seems to mean Third Stream with the occasional ney. B+(*)

Jenny Scheinman: The Littlest Prisoner (2013 [2014], Masterworks): Probably the best jazz violinist around, I was rather taken aback in 2008 when she released a vocal album as some sort of country chanteuse. I much preferred the jazz album she released at the same time, and had forgotten about her as a singer in 2012 when she released Mischief & Mayhem, even better. Now she's back singing again, her voice flavored with a whiff of high and lonesome, and her songwriting has matured so much that every song offers real human interest. Takes the occasional fiddle break, too. A- [cdr]

Sara Serpa & André Matos: Primavera (2013 [2014], Circle Music): Singer, has a handful of albums including one with Ran Blake, teams up here with a Portuguese guitarist with a similar set of minor works. She plays keyboards on a few cuts, Leo Genovese guests on a couple tunes, and Greg Osby and Pete Rende show up once each. Has an approximate Brazilian vibe but is really too awkward for that. C+ [cd]

Bruce Springsteen: American Beauty (2014, Columbia, EP): Four songs, 14:44, outtakes from High Hopes released on vinyl for Record Store Day and dumped on digital. Two ballads are minor. Two ravers are weirdly distorted. C+

Peter Stampfel and the Brooklyn & Lower Manhattan Banjo Squadron: Better Than Expected (2014, Don Giovanni): No idea who the banjoists are but none sound like anyone I'd recognize. Most of the 16 "songs" have titles like "G Tuning #3" or "Vocal Exercise" or "Group Improvisation." That leaves the "Sukiyaki" cover, "Castor and Pollux," "Eat That Roadkill," "Theme for the Exodus from Bushwick to Ridgewood," and the hitbound "NSA Man" -- no doubts about who the singer is. B+(**)

The Strypes: Snapshot (2013 [2014], Virgin): I suppose it's inevitable that youngsters will approach vintage rock and roll through intermediaries, but better Rockpile than the Stray Cats -- not just better models but closer to the source. This Irish group covers Nick Lowe and wrote one new song that's a near clone, but they also cover Willie Dixon, Bo Diddley, and "Rollin' & Tumblin'" -- their debut album is styled as a snapshot of their live act -- while the originals reflect and refract the Yardbirds' guitars. I can't complain about imitation: this makes me feel exactly like Having a Rave-Up did fifty years ago. A

Supreme Cuts: Divine Ecstasy (2014, Dovecote): Chicago laptop duo (Mike Perry, Austin Keultjes), second album, mix up all sorts of things but never lose track of the dance beat. A-

Yosvany Terry: New Throned King (2013 [2014], 5Pasion): Cuban saxophonist, moved to New York in 1999, looks back here not just to Cuba but through it back to Africa via the Arará culture, one of several African religions to survive slavery. Heavy on percussion and vocals, including Ishmael Reed reading a poem. Could use more sax. B+(***) [cd]

Tweens: Tweens (2014, Frenchkiss): Bridget Battle's riot grrrl band, likes to reach for the pop hook then bury it in distortion, which hardly qualifies as a pop hook, and I'm not so sure about the rest. B

Colin Vallon: Le Vent (2013 [2014], ECM): Swiss pianist, leads a trio with Patrice Moret on bass and Julian Sartorius on drums. Precise, thoughtful, hits that moderate pace so favored of ECM pianists. B+(**) [dl]

Jerry Vivino: Back East (2013 [2014], Blujazz): Tenor saxophonist, plays in Conan O'Brien's house band, has a couple albums, backed here by Brian Charette on organ, Bob DeVos on guitar, and Andy Sanesi on drums, mostly standards and vamp pieces as he goes for a soft soul jazz album. Starts with a bit of spoken word. Ends with his vocal on "Squeeze Me." B+(**) [cd]

Ken Watters/Ingrid Felts: Watters/Felts Project (2013 [2014], Summit): Trumpet player and singer, respectively, backed by piano, bass, drums, and percussion. First cut, "Fine & Mellow," is terrific, as is the mostly vocalless closer. B+(***) [cd]

David White Jazz Orchestra: The Chase (2013 [2014], Mister Shepherd): Trombonist-led conventional big band, second album, six cuts, runs 34:12. B+(*)

Jessica Williams: With Love (2013-14 [2014], Origin): Solo piano, something she's done a lot of, all but one standards here (including "Summertime" and "Somewhere"), done rather slow without dwelling on the obvious. B+(**) [cd]

Norma Winstone: Dance Without Answer (2012 [2014], ECM): British jazz singer, has a long career on the periphery of the avant-garde, backed here by Glauco Venier (piano) and Klaus Gesing (soprano sax, bass clarinet), all of which nicely frame her voice. A mix of originals, trad pieces with new lyrics, covers (Nick Drake, Tom Waits, Madonna, Fred Neil), "It Might Be You." B+(**) [dl]

Young Thug & Bloody Jay: Black Portland (2014, self-released): The former is Jeffrey Williams, an Atlanta rapper with a well-regarded mixtape last year plus ties to Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka Flame. Know nothing about his partner, who presumably has something to do with the snarky beats and turgid mix. B- [dl] [Later: A-]

ZZ Quartet: Beyond the Lines (2012 [2014], In + Out): The Z's are Ratko Zjaca (guitar) and Simone Zanchini (accordion, live electronics), backed by bass and drums (Adam Nussbaum). Second album together, first as ZZ Quartet. The accordion gives it a European folk jazz feel, eliciting some swing. B+(**) [cd]

Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Balani Show Super Hits: Electronic Street Parties From Mali ([2014], Sahelsounds): From Mali, starting with DJ Balani and DJ Bamanan and picking up another half-dozen artists I've never heard of. Don't know when these were recorded, but the drum-heavy style started in the late 1990s and "continues to evolve." A- [bc]

The Beatles: A Jazz Tribute (2002-05 [2014], High Note): The standard jazz songbook hasn't changed much since the 1950s, but here and there somone tries to squeeze in a pop tune from the '60s or '70s -- rarely much later (Bad Plus on Nirvana and the Thing on Yeah Yeah Yeahs are exceptions that come to mind and basically prove the rule). None have been tried more often than the Beatles, and more often than not to awful effect. This isn't so bad, but due to label limits draws three George songs from Joel's Harrison on Harrison and leans picks up a couple vocals, including a short bit of Sheila Jordan. B [cd]

Joe Beck: Get Me (2006 [2014], Whaling City Sound): Late guitarist (1945-2008), had close to thirty records starting in the late 1960s, perhaps the best known working with singer Esther Phillips. This is a live date at Annie's Jazz Island in Berkeley [CA], mostly ballads backed with bass and drums, a fair amount of patter including a story about partying with Jobim, introducing "Corcovado." Very personable, works nicely as memorabilia. B+(***) [cd]

Decaler Balani (2011, Masalacism, EP): The French notes here suggest the Malian electronic music known as Balani (see Balani Show Super Hits) was invented in 2006. Don't know whether these remixes date back from the release year, but they flesh out the drums-first tracks a bit without much change. B+(***) [bc]

The Jimmy Giuffre 3 & 4: New York Concerts (1965 [2014], Elemental, 2CD): Archive dig uncovers two live sets: the first a trio with Richard Davis (bass) and Joe Chambers (drums); the second a quartet with Don Friedman (piano), Barre Phillips (bass), and Chambers. Giuffre plays clarinet and tenor sax, the pieces (originals except for Ornette Coleman's "Crossroads") moving well into free territory. B+(***) [cd]

Moreno and L'Orch First Moja-One: Vol. 2: More Pili (1981-83 [2014], Sterns Africa): Kenyan band, led by Moreno Batamba (d. 1993), not sure exactly when these were cut but the West African soukous is as upbeat and inspired as the previous volume, the vocals a bit harsh but the guitar sheer paradise. A-

Old Music

Guy Barker: Soundtrack (2001 [2002], Provocateur): British trumpet player b. 1957, has ten albums since 1991. No idea why the unappetizing title -- most reviewers suggest a tribute to the 1940s (or 1950s), the supple textures of the septet little shy of sumptuous. The band notably includes pianist Bernardo Sassetti, who's done remarkable soundtrack work himself. B+(***)

Gordon Beck Trio: Gyroscope (1968 [2002], Art of Life): British pianist (1936-2011), relatively early trio with Jeff Clyne on bass and Tony Oxley on drums, following his marvelous Experiments With Pops (an early side credit for John McLaughlin). Oxley tries to draw out Beck's inner Cecil Taylor, but doesn't quite succeed. B+(**)

Gordon Beck: One for the Road (1995, JMS): Solo piano, with bits of organ, Fender Rhodes, and Korg M1 synth slipped in -- minor shifts in color and tone. Follows his superb Bill Evans tribute (For Evans' Sake). B+(*)

Gunnar Bergsten & Peter Nordahl: Play Lars Gullin (2000 [2004], Proprius): Bergsten (1945-2011) was a Swedish baritone saxophonist, as was their subject here, the great Lars Gullin (1928-76). Nordahl plays piano, and these are straightforward duets on Gullin's compositions. Fairly minor, but lovely. B+(***)

Peter Bernstein + 3: Heart's Content (2002 [2003], Criss Cross): Guitarist, fifteen albums since 1992 -- including a tribute to Tal Farlow, one reference point, although in many ways he's right in the middle of everyone from Montgomery to Metheny -- plus lots of side credits. This particular album is distinguished by the "+3" -- Brad Mehldau (piano), Larry Grenadier (bass), and Bill Stewart (drums) -- but both sides of the equation make rather nice. B+(***)

Paul Bley/Gary Peacock: Mindset (1992 [1997], Soul Note): Piano-bass duo, caught with the pianist in a particularly reflective mood, so not much action or volume, not that there needs to be. The bassist is attentive as usual. B+(**)

Jane Ira Bloom: The Red Quartets (1997-99 [1999], Arabesque): Soprano saxophonist, one of the few specializing in the instrument. Two sessions but only one quartet here, with Fred Hersch on piano (rich and intricate), Mark Dresser on bass (firm but tricky), and Bobby Previte on drums (dependable). A-

Don Braden Septet: After Dark (1993 [1994], Criss Cross): Tenor saxophonist, mainstream guy with a large, warm tone that should be a nice fit for a little quiet storm romance, but the extra horns -- Scott Wendholt (trumpet), Steve Wilson (alto sax), and Noah Bless (trombone) -- crowd out the intimacy, even while the rhythm section (notably Darrell Grant on piano) warms it up. B+(**)

Ruby Braff: Braff Plays Wimbledon: First Set (1996, Zephyr): Cornet player, a swing throwback in the bebop '50s and still following his own muse as he nears 70. A live set with Brian Lemon on piano and Howard Alden on guitar, with Warren Vaché (flugelhorn) and Roy Williams (trombone) joining in for a couple cuts. B+(***)

Ruby Braff: Braff Plays Wimbledon: Second Set (1996, Zephyr): Another hour-plus, pretty much interchangeable with the first, no songs repeated. B+(***)

Anthony Braxton: News From the '70s (1971-76 [1999], Felmay): Six pieces from five scattered sessions, three with different quartets, one duet with bassist Dave Holland, two relatively short solo pieces; the only non-Braxton composition is a quartet piece by Holland. Nothing super-compelling, but a good sampling of Braxton's more intimate work from the period. B+(***)

Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Coventry) 1985 (1985 [2002], Leo, 2CD): Two sets with Braxton's great quartet of the decade -- Marilyn Crispell (piano), Mark Dresser (bass), Gerry Hemingway (drums) -- averaging 41 minutes, each opening a disc that concludes with a 30-minute interview with Braxton. The interviews are interesting but not something you'll want to return to with any frequency. B+(*)

Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Birmingham) 1985 (1985 [2002], Leo, 2CD): Two 45-minute sets plus a brief encore, each set made up of four Braxton compositions, not separated into tracks because each of the four musicians pick them up at different spots. Wouldn't make much of a difference anyway: from a distance they're interchangeable, but up close you notice remarkable passages from everyone. B+(***)

Anthony Braxton: Quartet (London) 1985 (1985 [1990], Leo, 2CD): Looks like the bigger the city, the longer they play -- the two sets are 56:10 and 65:30 this time. Similar to the Birmingham and Coventry dates, a marvelous quartet cycling through various pieces that give them maximum opportunity to improvise. A-

Anthony Braxton: Eugene (1989) (1989, Black Saint): Eight compositions recorded at the University of Oregon with Braxton conducting a local 16-piece band, the Northwest Creative Orchestra as well as taking his usual spectacular solos. The band is loud and ugly, impressive and annoying by turns. B+(*)

Willem Breuker Kollektief & Loes Luca: Deze Kant Op, Dames!/This Way, Ladies (1992 [1993], BV Haast): Theatre music, text by Ischa Meijer, featured vocalist the operatic Loes Luca though she's hardly the only singer. I can't follow the book (presumably in Dutch), but I do appreciate the influence of Kurt Weill on the music, plus a bit of Ellington. B+(*)

Willem Breuker Kollektief: The Parrot (1980-95 [1996], BV Haast): Thirteen tracks from seven sessions over fifteen years, the personnel change is massive aside from the leader and pianist Henk de Jonge, but every combination is loud and rowdy and more or less amusing, depending on how the marches and polkas and boogie woogie and art-song and whatever strike you. Some of this is wonderful, like "Wolkbreuk III" -- at least until the circus break. B+(**)

Willem Breuker Kollektief/Loes Luca: Kurt Weill (1983-97 [1998], BV Haast): Sixteen Kurt Weill tunes from eight sessions, always a touchstone for Breuker, and treated more respectably than usual, giving the album more consistency than its scattered sources suggest. Luca sings on six tracks. B+(***)

Willem Breuker: Psalm 122 (1998, BV Haast): Bible text, recorded in Posthoorn Church, Amsterdam, with a huge choir, the Trytten Strings, and the usual suspects. Choral music is a big turnoff for me, nor does this improve much once the band takes over. B-

Baikida Carroll: Shadows and Reflections (1982, Soul Note): Trumpet player from St. Louis, only has a handful of records under his own name (and Rhapsody files this one under drummer Pheeroan Ak Laff -- they systematically screw up Black Saint/Soul Note artists, so best to search by title). Strong date with Julius Hemphill (alto sax), Anthony Davis (piano), Dave Holland (bass), and Ak Laff. B+(**)

Dick Cary's Tuesday Night Friends: Got Swing? (2000 [2001], Arbors): Cary (1916-94) played piano and trumpet, wrote vast numbers of tunes, and cut Dick Cary & His Tuesday Night Friends a year before he died. That last band returns here -- actually their second album -- with Dick Hamilton moving from trombone to trumpet and leading. Cary arrangements for 8-10 musicians, half originals, half covering names like Armstrong, Ellington, and Henderson. B+(**)

John Coltrane: Live at the Village Vanguard: The Master Takes (1961 [1998], Impulse): Following the 1997 release of the 4-CD The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings, this adds two tracks (28:32) to the 1962 LP's original three (36:11). Coltrane's quartet is nearly doubled here -- McCoy Tyner remains the sole pianist, but add Reggie Workman on bass, Roy Haynes on drums, and most importantly Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet and alto sax. Coltrane has rarely played with more passion (and that's saying something), but extraordinary as this is, the box never tails off either. A

Jon Corbett/Steve Done: Another Fine Mess (1994 [1995], Slam): Trumpet-guitar duo, both British free jazz players. The trumpet has a relatively hollow feel, the guitar even more sketchy, but the combination remains interesting. B+(**)

Andrew Cyrille/Jeanne Lee/Jimmy Lyons: Nuba (1979, Black Saint): Alto saxophonist Lyons is terrific here, and the drummer does his usual impeccable job. Only caveat is Lee, who is an arresting singer (here and elsewhere) but voice-as-instrument is almost never a welcome addition, even with a voice as remarkable as hers. B+(***)

Andrew Cyrille: Good to Go, With a Tribute to Bu (1995 [1997], Soul Note): Rhapsody files this one under bassist Lisle Atkinson, and it's hard to find by title because the silly search does an OR instead of an AND. Begins and ends with takes of "A Tribute to Bu" -- that would be Art Blakey, but you'd know that if you heard it. A trio with flautist James Newton -- I dare say never better. A-

Satoko Fujii/Mark Dresser/Jim Black: Toward, "To West" (1998 [2000], Enja): Avant piano trio, AMG's review says, "the dynamism of Cecil Taylor and the serenity of Abdullah Ibrahim" -- pretty close, but bassist and drumer want to push her toward, and past, Taylor, and they have their way. A-

Satoko Fujii Orchestra: Jo (1998 [2000], Buzz): Big band, 15 pieces, looks to be mostly from New York and Boston. Rowdy group, even break out in song at one point; complex and rarely chaotic, but nothing grabs me either on energy or finnesse. Title translates as Beginning. B+(**)

Stan Getz/Bob Brookmeyer: Recorded Fall 1961 (1961 [2002], Verve): The trombonist wrote three (of six) tunes -- the others are standards -- and generally takes the lead, which is not generally how I would produce it, but then I'll never be mistaken for Creed Taylor. Steve Kuhn is a bright spot at piano. B+(**)

The Stan Getz Quartet: Pure Getz (1982, Concord Jazz): Quartet with Jim McNeely on piano, Marc Johnson on bass, and either Billy Hart or Lewis Nash on drums. All covers (one from McNeely), ending with a rousing "Tempus Fugit." B+(***)

Terry Gibbs: Dream Band, Vol. 6: One More Time (1959 [2002], Contemporary): Vibraphonist, came up through big bands (Tommy Dorsey, Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Benny Goodman). He put his LA-based Dream Band together 1959-62 and belatedly released five volumes of their work 1986-92, then discovered this sixth on the shelf a decade later. Live shots from two shows in Hollywood, the band includes some names I recognize (like Conte Candoli and Mel Lewis), but they are loud and rowdy, everyone kicking up a ruckus, except when the lady sings -- Irene Kral for three tracks before they end with 10:32 of "Jumpin' at the Woodside." A-

Jimmy Giuffre: The Jimmy Giuffre Clarinet (1956 [2001], Collectables): Giuffre started out in Woody Herman's sax section -- the famous Four Brothers, named for his song -- but soon after switched to clarinet, shedding virtually every trace of bop or swing in favor of what he called "blues-based folk jazz" -- really a particularly austere form of free jazz. This is early, a set of rough sketches with various lineups including a solo opener. B+(***)

Benny Goodman: Plays Eddie Sauter (1939-46 [1997], Hep): One of several compilations Hep put together to focus on Goodman's arrangers -- Plays Jimmy Mundy and Plays Fletcher Henderson are the others. These pieces are later, about half with vocals. Would help to have a good booklet to put the arranger into better context, but you'd have to check the actual CD to see whether that's the case. B+(**)

Jon Gordon: Along the Way (1997, Criss Cross): Alto saxophonist, more than a dozen albums since 1989; this one backed by Kevin Hays (piano), Joe Martin (bass), and Billy Drummond (drums), with Mark Turner joining in on tenor sax. B+(***)

Wycliffe Gordon: What You Dealin' With (2001, Criss Cross): Trombone player, early album, a sextet with Ryan Kisor on trumpet and two saxes (Victor Goines and Herb Harris) but no piano. Features four Ellington tunes, one from Dizzy Gillespie, "Cherokee," and the title funk thang -- wouldn't say he was trad but definitely steeped deep in the tradition yet he breaks with it in interesting ways. B+(***)

Simon Goubert: Haïti (1991, Seventh): French drummer, first album (Discogs lists 14 to 2011), first side includes a long Coltrane-ish "Take Five" and a shorter "Naïma"; second Goubert's 21:39 title cut. The rhythm section unleashes the saxophonists -- Jean-Michel Couchet on alto, Steve Grossman on tenor and soprano -- and the drum solo is pretty intense too. A-

Dusko Goykovich: Portrait: A 70th Birthday Celebration (1949-99 [2001], Enja): Yugoslavian trumpet player, b. 1931 in Bosnia but ethnically Serbian (if you care) -- in any case, spent most of his career in Germany, finally emerging with a series of fine albums in the 1990s (e.g., Bebop City). Got the dates from Penguin Guide, but otherwise don't know the providence of this Festschrift, but no matter how scattered the pieces, they flow together just fine. A-

Jerry Granelli UFB: Broken Circle (1996, Intuition): Drummer, tends toward fusion but not that simple -- he likes to work with guitar, and this group (second of two UFB albums) gives him two (Kai Bruckner, Christial Kogel) as well as bass (Andreas Walter). Most compelling upbeat, but "Crazy Horse's Dream" calls for deeper space. B+(***)

Jerry Granelli: Music Has Its Way With Me (1999, Perimeter): Last-name only on the front cover, but the only band member not listed under "featuring" is the drummer: his bassist son J. Anthony Granelli is listed along with Christian Kögel (guitar), Jamie Saft (keybs), and DJ Stinkin' Rich (vocals, turntable), nowadays better known as Buck 65. DJ's beats are central here, the jazzmen stretching them out in offhanded ways. B+(***)

Stéphane Grappelli/Joe Pass/Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen: Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark (1979 [1990], Pablo/OJC): Violin, guitar, and bass, respectively, playing old standards: "It's Only a Paper Moon," "How Deep Is the Ocean," "I Get a Kick Out of You" -- the odd one out is "Crazy Rhythm," which I associate with Grappelli's old Hot Club de Paris partner, Django Reinhardt. B+(**)

Green Room: Live Trajectories (1996, Leo Lab): Scottish avant trio: David Baird (chapman stick), Chick Lyall (piano), David Garrett (percussion), each with asides that make for a wide range of experimental, often random sound. B+(**)

Frank Lowe: The Flam (1975 [1993], Black Saint): Three horns in front of bass and drums, with Leo Smith (trumpet) and Joseph Bowie (trombone) vying with the tenor saxophonist on perhaps the most inspired free dash of his career. Rhapsody, by the way, files this under bassist Alex Blake, who makes a big impression indeed. A-

The Albert Mangelsdorff Quartet: Never Let It End (1970 [2008], MPS): German trombonist (1928-2005), a key figure in the European avant-garde -- don't know about his albums back to 1962 but this one with Heinz Sauer (tenor and alto sax), Günter Lenz (bass), and Ralf Hübner (drums) is pretty far out there. The key, though, isn't in the occasional erruption but how menacing the tension is because that's when you hear the growl of the trombone. A-

Albert Mangelsdorff: A Jazz Tune I Hope (1978 [2008], MPS): Another quartet, with Wolfgang Dauner (piano), Eddie Gomez (bass), and Elvin Jones (drums), so trombone is the only horn. That limits the noise level, and Dauner and the Americans are happy to leave this in the mainstream, even swing a little. B+(**)

Louis Sclavis: Clarinettes (1984-85 [1985], IDA): Early in the French clarinetist's career, mostly solo clarinet and bass clarinet (two tracks add a bit of percussion), originals plus covers of Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker, trying to explore the limits of the instruments. B+(***)


Records I looked for but didn't find on Rhapsody:

  • Eric Church: The Outsiders (2014, Capitol Nashville)
  • J. Spaceman and Kid Millions: Live at the Poisson Rouge (2014, Northern Spy)
  • Nickel Creek: A Dotted Line (2014, Nonesuch)


Everything streamed from Rhapsody, except as noted in brackets following the grade:

  • [cd] based on physical cd
  • [cdr] based on an advance or promo cd or cdr
  • [bc] available at bandcamp.com
  • [sc] available at soundcloud.com
  • [os] some other stream source
  • [dl] something I was able to download from the web; may be freely available, may be a bootleg someone made available, or may be a publicist promo