Rhapsody Streamnotes: May 12, 2015

Two days short of a month since April's column. As I approach the end of each column, I think I should hustle around and round up something special I haven't publicized before, but I've only added six albums since the latest Music Week, and it's just as possible that the most timely adds (Rhett Miller, Best Coast) got rushed. Playing Kamasi Washington as I write this, at least partly to forestall adding anything else late -- it's a 3-CD debut called The Epic which is sure to try my patience, but that can wait for later.

I won't bother repeating my comments from the last four Music Week columns, but check them for more info on, e.g., why I bothered with all those old Charles Lloyd albums. I will remind you that reviews with no bracketed source (e.g., "[cd]") are things I found on Rhapsody (hence the column name). As of Jan. 2014 I folded what was previously Jazz Prospecting into here, figuring that my share of jazz promos was declining and would continue to diminish. Still, I have 45 [cd] tags in the following, 4 more [cdr], but no [dl] -- a tag indicating a download link, usually something publicists prepare and send out. There should be more of the latter -- Lord knows I get 5-10 in emails per day, but the extra hassle rarely seems worth the trouble. (Actually, I do have quite a bit of new ECM piled up. But for me at least, the hassle is not just in the downloading but also in the playing. And I still don't have that Jack DeJohnette that everyone likes so much.)

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 14. Past reviews and more information are available here (6396 records).

Recent Releases

Tony Adamo: Tony Adamo & the New York Crew (2015, Urban Zone): Does something he calls "hipspokenword" -- a fast-paced narration-commentary set against a fast swing rhythm, with trumpet (Tim Ouimette) and alto sax (Donald Harrison) for accents and swirls. You get a capsule history of several decades of jazz, plus some Pablo Picasso stories. Four previous albums, so maybe this isn't sui generis, but it's close. B+(***) [cd]

Alabama Shakes: Sound & Color (2015, ATO): Alabama group with a black female singer-guitarist who does a remarkable Otis Redding impression, originally a covers band and not far beyond that on their debut, but this album makes a strong move toward finding their own sound. I'm duly impressed, especially on the title song, but not consistently so, and sometimes they get on my nerves. B+(*)

Harry Allen: For George, Cole and Duke (2015, Blue Heron): A batch of Gershwin, Porter, and Ellington standards, played by the tenor saxophonist, backed by Ehud Asherie (piano), Nicki Parrott (bass), and Chuck Redd (drums and vibes), and Little Johnny Rivero (percussion, three cuts), with the seductive Parrott singing three tunes. Lovely, but perhaps a little too easy. B+(***)

Dmitry Baevsky: Over and Out (2014 [2015], Jazz Family): Alto saxophonist, mainstream guy, from St. Petersburg in Russia, based in New York, fourth album -- only other one I've heard was his second, Down With It (2010), superb. Three originals, most of the rest shows a jazz pedigree -- a Jobim, a Monk, two Ellingtons. Very facile with a lovely tone, he continues to impress. A- [cd]

Juan Pablo Balcazar: Reversible (2013 [2015], Fresh Sound New Talent): Spanish bassist, sets up attractive rhythms for piano trio with Marco Mezquida and Carlos Falanga, then adds tenor saxophonist Miguel "Pintxo" Villar for some added color. B+(**)

Perry Beekman: S'Wonderful: Perry Beekman Sings and Plays Gershwin (2015, self-released): Guitarist-singer, based in the old Borscht Belt, third album of standards (pecking order was Cole Porter, then Rodgers & Hart). Great songs. Not so great singer. Accompanied by Peter Tomlinson (piano) and Lou Pappas (bass). B [cd]

Thomas Bergeron: Sacred Feast (2015, self-released): Trumpet player, don't know if he's related to big band specialist Wayne Bergeron but after this record I should be able to tell them apart. "Inspired by the music of Olivier Messiaen" -- his previous album did something similar with Debussy -- who like most classical composers is mostly a namecheck to me. Melodies have some promise, and the trumpet is neatly woven in, but Becca Stevens' diva act is a huge turnoff. C+ [cd]

David Berkman: Old Friends and New Friends (2014 [2015], Palmetto): Pianist, ten albums since 1995 although he seems to have stalled after 2004. Three saxes here -- Dayna Stephens, Billy Drewes, Adam Kolker -- plus bass (Linda Oh) and drums (Brian Blade). B+(**)

Best Coast: California Nights (2015, Harvest): California duo, Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno, third album as they try to update, or just slog behind, LA's pop legacy. Too much wall of sound for me to hear anything clearly or sort any of it out. If they've gotten deeper, tell me. If they've just gotten louder, forget it. B+(*)

Pat Bianchi Trio: A Higher Standard (2015, 21-H): Organ, guitar (Craig Ebner), drums (Byron Landham) trio. Standards are mostly jazz fare, but start with "Without a Song" and end with Stevie Wonder, sneaking in two Bianchi originals. B+(*) [cd]

Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers: Loved Wild Lost (2015, Little Sur): When a review suggested a back-to-the-country '70s hippie sound, I flashed on Joy of Cooking which isn't off by much. Real attractive sound, but the songs still need some sorting -- may just be that Joy was lead by two distinctive women whereas the Gramblers are led by the singer's husband. B+(**)

Joshua Breakstone: 2nd Avenue (2014 [2015], Capri): Guitarist, has close to twenty albums since 1983, subtitles this one "The Return of the Cello Quartet" -- meaning Mike Richmond on cello, Lisle Atkinson on bass, and Andy Watson on drums. Mostly jazz standards, with one original each from Breakstone and Atkinson -- the former include an "I'm an Old Cowhand" cribbed from Sonny Rollins. B+(*)

Chicago Reed Quartet: Western Automatic (2014 [2015], Aerophonic): Saxophone quartet with the occasional clarinet thrown in: Nick Mazzarella (alto), Dave Rempis (alto, tenor, baritone), Mars Williams (sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor), and Ken Vandermark (tenor, baritone, clarinet, bass clarinet). Lot of action especially on the baritone. B+(**) [cd]

Christine and the Queens: Saint Claude (2015, Neon Gold, EP): French group, or duo, or maybe just Héloïse Létissier, debut album (Chaleur Humaine) popped up on French EOY lists last year. Five cuts, 18:38. B+(**)

Ciara: Jackie (2015, Epic): Soul singer, still under 30 but she's been around more than a decade and this, named after her mother, shows signs of advance and maturity, not to mention tighter songwriting and stiffer resolve. She's not always a "bad motherfucker," but can rise to the occasion. B+(***)

Steve Coleman and the Council of Balance: Synovial Joints (2014 [2015], Pi): Alto saxophonist, former M-Base impressario, comes up with a 21-piece orchestra (counting vocalist Jen Shyu, fair because she just blends in) that feels rather smaller, often playing a unison line that rarely shakes the idiosyncratic beat. Remarkable stuff, although I'm not that much of a fan. B+(***) [cd]

Marilyn Crispell/Gerry Hemingway: Table of Changes (2013 [2015], Intakt): Piano-drums duo, recorded live at various spots in Europe. Third album by the Duo since 1992, although they go back further to Anthony Braxton's famed 1980s Quartet (with Mark Dresser). The knockabout opener is as remarkable as anything the format gets -- cf. Cecil Taylor and Irène Schweizer with various drummers -- and while they don't sustain that intensity, they serve up plenty of interesting variations. A- [cd]

Dead Sara: Pleasure to Meet You (2015, Pocket Kid): Hard rock band from LA, singer is Emily Armstrong (also on rhythm guitar), lead guitarist is Siouxsie Medley, with males filling in on bass and drums. Pretty good tune sense and a no shit attitude, but hard rock remains the opposite of nimble, and I'm not a volume person. B+(*)

Death Grips: The Powers That B (2014-15 [2015], Electro Magnetic/Harvest, 2CD): From Sacramento, sort of a trash metal group lead by math rock drummer Zach Hill plus a rapper, Stefan Burnett nudging them into hip-hop or plain old brutality. I've never cared for them, still don't, but their noise attack is not without interest. Album incorporates last year's downloadable, Niggas on the Moon, with its Björk samples, not that I noticed much difference. The second disc is Jenny Death. B+(*)

Michael Dees: The Dream I Dreamed (2014 [2015], Jazzed Media): Classic crooner, has been hired to fill in where Frank Sinatra was called for but unavailable (e.g., for HBO's The Rat Pack documentary, and for a Simpsons episide. Past 70, but doesn't seem to have much recorded. Surprise here is that he's doing all originals, while keeping the sound down pat. Mostly backed by Terry Trotter's piano trio, with a little sax from Doug Webb (aka Lisa Simpson). B+(***) [cd]

Roberta Donnay & the Prohibition Mob Band: Bathtub Gin (2015, Motéma Music): Former singer for Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks does another batch of 1920s standards. B+(*)

Dave Douglas: High Risk (2014 [2015], Greenleaf Music): There was a buzz in jazz circles a decade or so ago over something called jazztronica. The main source was Thirsty Ear's (or should I say Matthew Shipp's) Blue Series, but many others dabbled, especially trumpet players (who could look back to Miles Davis, or forward to Nils Petter Molvaer), including Douglas, who resumes his interest with this quartet: Jonathan Maron (electric and synth basses), Mark Guiliana (acoustic and electric drums), and Shigeto (electronics). Still, I don't think I've ever heard electronics employed with such restraint, so what you get is elegiac trumpet, often quite lovely, over an indecipherable haze. B+(**) [cd]

Harris Eisenstadt: Golden State II (2014 [2015], Songlines): Drummer-composer, originally formed this as a sort of chamber jazz group around his wife's bassoon (Sara Schoenbeck), with Nicole Mitchell on flute and Mark Dresser on bass. Second album was recorded live in Vancouver, with clarinet (Michael Moore) instead of the flute. B+(***) [cd]

Lorenzo Feliciati: Koi (2015, Rare Noise): Electric bassist, sometimes fretless, also plays guitar, keyboards, and does some programming here. Core group is a bass-keyb-drums trio, but there's also a horn section and various guests. Fusion, but much more going on. B+(***) [cdr]

Hugo Fernandez: Cosmogram (2014 [2015], Origin): Guitarist, not sure where he's originally from (more specifically than "the American continent") but studied in New Orleans and at Berklee, moved to Madrid in 2006. Second album, quartet with tenor and soprano sax (Ariel Bringuez), bass (Antonio Miguel), and drums (Antonio Sanchez). Straight postbop, a little grit in the sax. B+(**) [cd]

Oleg Frish: Duets With My American Idols (2014 [2015], Time Out Media): Russian singer, entertainer, TV personality, member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, moved to New York in 1992, reputed to sing in 24 languages. American idols? Connie Francis introduces, followed by Peggy March, Ben E. King, B.J. Thomas, Chris Montez, Lainie Kazan, Tony Orlando, Melissa Manchester, Lou Christie, Bobby Rydell ("Volare") -- it's hard to doubt a foreigner whose taste in Americana runs to such kitsch. B+(***) [cd]

Ghost Train Orchestra: Hot Town (2013 [2015], Accurate): Trumpeter Brian Carpenter's third dive into "music from 1920's Chicago and Harlem, with a group more postmodernist than antiquarian: Dennis Lichtman, Andy Laster, and Petr Cancura on reeds, Curtis Hasselbring on trombone, Cynthia Sayer on bajo, Ron Caswell on tuba, and when they want to break out the train sounds Colin Stetson drops in on bass sax. Mazz Swift's two vocals aren't high points, but her violin adds something beyond trad. B+(***) [cd]

Ben Goldberg: Orphic Machine (2015, BAG): Clarinetist, has a substantial discography since 1991, describes this as his "most ambitious project" -- seems a fair assessment. The nine-piece band is intricate and precise, more tightly controlled than you'd expect with improvisers like Myra Melford and Nels Cline. Only three horns -- Rob Sudduth's tenor sax adds depth and Ron Miles' trumpet shine -- with violin and vibes in the mix. Violinist Carla Kihlstedt also sings, the lyrics from the late poet/critic Allen Grossman (1932-2014), a mentor of Goldberg's. B+(***)

Ayelet Rose Gottlieb: Roadsides (2014, Arogole Music): Canada-based Israeli vocalist offers this "possible peaceful vision of the Middle-East through a wise arrangement of Israeli and Palestinian poetry" (quote from Eyal Hareuveni's review), sung in Hebrew (with English trots in the package I don't have), so much of that I'll have to take on faith. Anat Fort's piano is delicate and precise, Ihab Nimer adds oud and violin, and the band includes guitar-bass-drums. B+(***)

Rich Halley 4: Creating Structure (2014 [2015], Pine Eagle): Tenor saxophonist from Portland, has created an impressive body of work since he retired from his day job. Quartet with Michael Vlatkovich on trombone, Clyde Reed on bass, and son Carson Halley on drums. His sax intro is as impressive as ever, and when the trombone enters they bat things around at a furious pace. I wondered whether the ending was too much -- reportedly this is all free improv, by-product from another session -- but after many plays it fit right in. A- [cd]

Lauren Henderson: A La Madrugada (2015, self-released): Latin-tinged jazz singer from Massachusetts, has Latin roots and sings several songs in Spanish, wrote more than half the bunch (including the four Spanish titles). Jazz combo includes two trumpets and alto sax, but doesn't have much more than the usual Latin tinge. B+(**) [cd]

Hu Vibrational: Presents the Epic Botanical Beat Suite (2014 [2015], MOD Technologies): A group of seven drummers, principally Adam Rudolph, credited with "compositions and organic arrangements" -- the only other name I recognize is Brahim Fribgane, whose favored drum is cajon (none of the seven use a trap set). The rhythm is as pleasant as one could imagine, and "special guests" (most famously Eivind Aarset on guitar and Bill Laswell on electric bass) add some tinsel. B+(***) [cd]

José James: Yesterday I Had the Blues: The Music of Billie Holiday (2015, Blue Note): Nine songs well remembered from Holiday's songbook, saving "God Bless the Child" and "Strange Fruit" for last. James is sauve and tasteful, and the band is far more understated than you'd expect from Jason Moran, John Patitucci, and Eric Harland. B+(*)

Tyler Kaneshiro & the Highlands: Amber of the Moment (2013 [2015], self-released): Trumpet player, based in New York, first album, intricately (and sometimes lushly) layered postbop, with Chad Lefkowitz-Brown on tenor sax, both guitar and piano, bass and drums. Stefon Harris produced. B+(**) [cd]

Kirk Knuffke: Arms & Hands (2015, Royal Potato Family): Cornet player, has been very prolific since 2007, especially in group or supporting roles -- his website lists 11 "upcoming in 2015" albums, three under his own name, and notes four more recorded but not yet scheduled. This is a trio with Mark Helias on bass and Bill Goodwin on drums, with guest spots for Brian Drye (trombone), Daniel Carter (alto sax), and Jeff Lederer (soprano/tenor sax). The Ernest Tubb closer "Thanks a Lot" is a delight. B+(***)

Heikki Koskinen/Teppo Hauta-Aho/Mikko Innanen: Kellari Trio (2011 [2015], Edgetone): Finish group, translates as Cellar Trio (founded in Hauta-Aho's cellar), trumpet-bass-alto sax respectively although all play related instruments (trombone-cello-bari sax/flute) and get credits for percussion. Still, short on beat, feel close to chamber jazz but less classical than horror soundtrack. B+(*) [cd]

Urs Leimgruber/Jacques Demierre/Barre Phillips: 1 - 3 - 2 - 1 (2012 [2015], Jazzwerkstatt): Avant sax trio, with Demierre on piano and Phillips on bass, the leader playing tenor and soprano. Fifth group album since 2001, the leader having a couple dozen since 1983. Title simplified above -- it actually includes various symbols and arrows. RAther abstract and not particularly gripping. B

Charles Lloyd: Wild Man Dance (2013 [2015], Blue Note): Six-part suite commissioned by Jazzlopad Festival in Wroclaw, Poland, where this was recorded live. The saxophonist brought a piano trio for backup -- Gerald Clayton, Joe Sanders, Eric Harland -- and picked up Sokratis Sinopoulos on lyra and Miklos Lukacs on cimbalom, who set up the eerie opening texture. Builds powerfully when the old man gets on his horn, but you get a lot of set up before much happens. B+(**)

Joe Locke: Love Is a Pendulum (2014 [2015], Motéma Music): Vibraphonist, prolific since 1990, supplements his piano-bass-drums quartet (Robert Rodriguez, Ricky Rodriguez, co-producer Terreon Gully) with guests -- notably Rosario Giuliani on alto sax and Donny McCaslin on tenor, but also bits of guitar and steel pans and a Theo Bleckmann vocal -- for some sprightly and exceptionally complex postbop, most interesting when the timing gets slippery. B+(***) [cd]

LoneLady: Hinterland (2015, Warp): Julie Campbell's second album, her early work described as "art-punk," perhaps moderated by working on an electronica label although her song craft remains sharp and pointed. B+(***)

Lord Huron: Strange Trails (2015, Iamsound): Originally from Michigan, now based in LA where their indie folk shtick has picked up resonances from the Byrds to the Eagles. B+(**) [Later: B+(***)]

Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas: Sound Prints: Live at Monterey Jazz Festival (2013 [2015], Blue Note): This comes down to chops, which is what you'd expect from two of the very top musicians on their instruments, tenor sax and trumpet, respectively. They're backed by Lawrence Fields (piano), Linda Oh (bass), and Joey Baron (drums): your basic hard bop lineup. Six pieces, two each from the leaders, plus two from Wayne Shorter to evoke the heyday of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. A-

Low Cut Connie: Hi Honey (2015, Ardent Music/Contender): From Philadelphia, third album, AMG classifies them as "retro-rock" but I don't see them as going back so much as plundering the past with postmodernist glee. Basically a guitar band until you notice the Jerry Lee piano -- where most groups are advised to find their own distinct sound, this one revels in all of them. A-

Harold Mabern: Afro Blue (2015, Smoke Sessions): Mainstream pianist, will turn 80 next year, backed by John Webber on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums, with Eric Alexander's tenor sax on ten (of 14) tracks, Jeremy Pelt's trumpet on six, Steve Turre's trombone on four, and Peter Bernstein's guitar on one. So far, so good, but they decided to fill the album up with guest singers -- Gregory Porter, Norah Jones, Jane Monheit, Kurt Elling, Alexis Cole. The only one of those I would have kept was Jones, and maybe just on "Fools Rush In." B

The Magic Words: The Day We Ran Away (Magic Words Demos) (2015, self-released): Lisa Walker (of Wussy fame) side project, released a very limited edition album (Junk Train in 2006, recycled as a digital album last year. No info on when these demos were done, but only one song ("Watch Yer Back" in two takes) reappears. Demo-quality sound, rather down in the dumps. B+(*) [bc]

Phil Maturano: At Home Everywhere (2015, self-released): Drummer-led piano trio -- actually two, one with Matthew Fries and Phil Palombi, the other with Christian Torkewitz and Michael O'Brien or Irio O'Farril -- four (of nine) pieces by the drummer, one by Fries, others from jazz sources (Shorter, Gillespie, Carrisi). First album. Leader pushes them hard. B+(*) [cd]

Donny McCaslin: Fast Future (2014 [2015], Greenleaf Music): Terrific tenor saxophonist, at least when he gets to blast through a solo on someone else's record. His own albums tend toward fancy postbop, but keyboardist Jason Lindner steers this toward dance grooves, which sort of confuses everyone. B+(*)

Barney McClure: Show Me! (2014 [2015], OA2): Organ player, has a handful of albums since 1998, this one exceptional in that he's backed by a full big band (Central Western University Jazz Band, conducted by Chris Druya), mostly Phil Kelly arrangements. They breathe some fresh life into the old humdrum. B+(*) [cd]

Metallic Taste of Blood: Doctoring the Dead (2015, Rare Noise): Led by Eraldo Bernocchi (guitars, electronics), second group (bass-drums-keybs) album since 2012. Bass-heavy lead riffs, far short of heavy metal in intensity, which is to say more bearable, some kind of fusion form. B+(**) [cdr]

Marcus Miller: Afrodeezia (2015, Blue Note): Funk bassist, has a couple dozen albums since 1983, nothing I've paid much attention to but this one has some prestige due to the label and his recent "work as a UNESCO artist for peace." Core group with sax, trumpet, piano, guitar and drums, plus a long list of guests climaxing with Chuck D. Album has its moments: "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" is one tune which holds up to the minimal bass fuzz technique, Ben Hong's Bizet feature is lovely, and Mocean Worker creats a soft cell for D's short rap. B+(*)

Rhett Miller: The Traveler (2015, ATO): Leads a pretty decent alt-rock band called Old 97's since 1992 but has a half-dozen solo albums, some pretty good (too), most with titles like this (The Instigator, The Believer, The Dreamer, a covers album The Interpreter). The solos are a bit lighter, more keyb than guitar. This starts off remarkably jaunty, but my one-spin intuition is that the songs won't stick. B+(**)

Allison Moorer: Down to Believing (2015, E1): Country singer/songwriter, ninth album since 1998, has a credit in all the songs here except for the John Fogerty cover. Recently divorced from Steve Earle -- never struck me as a match but this one is much stronger than her last few (e.g., "Mama Let the Wolf In"). B+(**)

The Mowgli's: Kids in Love (2015, Republic): L.A. pop group, named after a dog named after a Kipling Jungle Book character, with a gratuitous apostrophe noted on Wikipedia as "sic." Seven players, boy and girl lead singers and everyone joining in the crowd choruses. When I was growing up irony provided a refuge for art, but these days you're more likely to hear that irony is dead, so maybe it's time someone made something out of such earnestness. I might have hated them forty years ago -- indeed, I recall groups like them then -- but they're one of the few things that make me feel good about kids today. Wonder if they know Kipling's a notorious racist? I'm sure they'd be appalled. A-

Brad Myers: Prime Numbers (2014-15 [2015], Colloquy): Guitarist, second album (at least), in a quintet with tenor sax (Ben Walkenhauer), vibes (Chris Barrick), bass and drums. Has a background playing funk, but this is straight up postbop, with nice little accents. B+(*) [cd]

Pascal Niggenkemper: Look With Thine Ears: Solo (2014 [2015], Clean Feed): Bassist, describes himself as German-French, based in New York, has a few records under his own name, more as PNTrio and Baloni. This is solo, bass and "preparations" which set loose a wide range of industrial klang, some quite captivating. B+(**) [cd]

Michael Oien: And Now (2014 [2015], Fresh Sound New Talent): Bassist-composer, first album, postbop quintet leads with guitar (Matthew Stevens), layering the piano (Jamie Reynolds) and alto sax (Nick Videen), adding an extra tenor sax (Travis Laplante) on the third song for a high point. Three "Dreamer" parts follow, where the bass comes back into focus. B+(***) [cdr]

Opus: Definition (2014 [2015], BluJazz): Jazz quintet from Wisconsin, look like they've been around a while but first album I can find. Electric guitar, bass, and keybs, plus Curt Hanrahan on woodwinds (four saxes and quite a bit of flute). B [cd]

Mario Pavone: Blue Dialect (2014 [2015], Clean Feed): Bassist, has a couple dozen albums since 1982. This is a piano trio, with Billy Mitchell and Tyshawn Sorey, and it's lively, inventive, what you'd hope for in a piano trio. Still, after four or five plays, this never did more than impress me. I wondered if maybe it's that "problem" I have with piano trios, but I looked it up and found I gave Pavone's previous piano trio, 2013's Arc Trio, an A-. That one was with Craig Taborn and Gerald Cleaver. B+(***) [cd]

Peach Kelli Pop: Peach Kelli Pop III (2015, Burger, EP): Third short album (10 songs, 20:24) for Allie Hanlon's lo-fi punk/pop project, this one assembled as a band. B+(*)

Plunge: In for the Out (2014 [2015], Immersion): Third group album I've been filing under trombonist Mark McGrain, who dominates even with two saxophones, aided no doubt by Kirk Joseph on sousaphone. Robert Walter moves things along with a funk groove on organ. B+(*) [cd]

Protoje: Ancient Future (2015, Indiggnation Collective/Overstand): A young reggae artist, gets something of the traditional sound with a more contemporary sheen. Interesting how something so basic still sounds so compelling. A-

Jure Pukl: The Life Sound Pictures of Jure Pukl (2014, Fresh Sound New Talent): Saxophonist (tenor, soprano) from Slovenia, has a couple albums, this one recorded in New York with Sam Harris (piano), Adam Rogers (guitar), Joe Sanders (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums). Strong driving originals, a solo (tenor) take on "Lush Life," a guest vocal by Sachal Vasandani. B+(**)

Billie Rainbird: Deep Blue (2015, Phantom): Canadian singer-songwriter, also does some modeling and acting, figures this her "major album" debut, produced by drummer Simon Phillips who keeps it rocking hard. B+(*) [cd]

The Rempis Percussion Quartet: Cash and Carry (2014 [2015], Aerophonic): Dave Rempis, first noticed on alto sax when he replaced Mars Williams in the Vandermark 5, where he was so impressive he started crowding Vandermark out of the tenor sax slot (plays some impressive baritone here too). Fifth album by his two drummer (Tim Daisy and Frank Rosaly) quartet, with Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on bass. Basically a blowing session, recorded live at the Hungry Brain in Chicago -- what more could you ask for? A- [cd]

Gloria Reuben: Perchance to Dream (2014 [2015], MCG Jazz): Canadian actress, from Toronto, parents from Jamaica (mother black, father Jewish), had a role on ER for six years. Wikipedia lists 19 films and 14 television series she appeared in, but no records. Standards (but not very), arranged by trombonist Jay Ashby, her voice grows on you. B+(**) [cd]

Eve Risser: Des Pas Sur La Neige (2013 [2015], Clean Feed): Solo piano, mostly prepared, but goes for long stretches at a barely audible level -- makes it hard to focus or say anything, although the plucked strings and klang are not without interest. First album, after a half-dozen side credits since 2009. B [cd]

Claire Ritter: Soho Solo (2014 [2015], Zoning): Solo piano, mostly original pieces plus one by Ran Blake and one by Harold Arlen. Takes some time to settle in, but I particularly liked her The Stream of Pearls Project (2011), so gave it the extra spins. B+(***) [cd]

Harvie S/Sheryl Bailey: Plucky Strum (2014 [2015], Whaling City Sound): Bass-guitar duets, the former, oft-misspelled Mr. Swartz well established even under his adopted name, the latter a guitarist with eight (or so) albums since 1995. Not as amusing, or as light, as the cover suggests. B+(*) [cd]

Marta Sánchez Quintet: Partenika (2014 [2015], Fresh Sound New Talent): Pianist from Madrid, Spain, debuts with a "New York Quintet" including two saxes (Jerome Sabbagh and Román Filiú), bass and drums. Postbop, the saxes adding to the pervasive sense of flow. B+(**) [cd]

Nisse Sandström Quintet: Live at Crescendo (2014 [2015], Moserobie): Swedish tenor saxophonist, b. 1942, not as well known as Bernt Rosengren but their 1984 album together was titled Summit Meeting. Quintet includes a second tenor, the much younger Jonas Kullhammar, an avant player with respect for his elders -- his superb Gentlemen from last year included a few cuts with Rosengren. Mainstream, a friendly pairing, reminds me of those Al Cohn-Zoot Sims soirées. B+(***) [cd]

Elliott Sharp: Octal: Book Three (2013 [2015], Clean Feed): Solo guitar, third in this series but there must be dozens in Sharp's vast catalogue. Manages both to coax unusual sounds from the instrument and to marshall them in unexpected ways, but they feel like sketches, almost as if he were presenting assignments for his I Never Meta Guitar series colleagues to follow up on. B+(***) [cd]

Shlohmo: Dark Red (2015, True Panther Sounds): Henry Laufer, LA beatmaker, goes for shrill synths to open but soon finds one of the more compelling rhythm runs of recent times. B+(***)

Adam Shulman Sextet: Here/There (2014 [2015], OA2): Pianist, has a few records, Sextet includes trumpet and two saxes, good enough for the usual range of postbop sonorities. B [cd]

Skrillex/Diplo: Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü (2015, Mad Decent/OWSLA): I've seen the artists listed both ways, in and out of the title. Skrillex provides his usual outlandish sonic fireworks, but at least they have some content to support -- presumably thanks to Diplo, although all but the intro have feat. credits -- Justin Bieber, Bunji Garlin, 2 Chainz, etc. Tatum says this is a "nonstop pleasure machine." B+(***)

Steve Smith and Vital Information NYC Edition: Viewpoint (2011 [2015], BFM Jazz): Fusion/crossover drummer, called his 1983 debut Vital Information and has enjoyed that as a band name ever since -- the qualification suggesting some recent personnel juggling. Indeed, only bassist Baron Browne and guitarist Vinny Valentino return from previous albums; the newcomers are Mark Soskin (keybs) and Andy Fusco (alto sax), with tenor saxophonist Walt Weiskopf joining for a couple cuts. Aims less for pop jazz than for its own classic status, including covers of "Bemsha Swing," "Take Five," and "Oleo." B+(*) [cd]

Mavis Staples: Your Good Fortune (2015, Anti, EP): Produced by Jeff Tweedy, four songs, 14:05: a first-rate protest anthem in "Fight," one on luck, one on death, one on God, each brought with the conviction of one of the great gospel singers. B+(***)

Sult: Svimmelhed (2014, Humbler/Conrad Sound): Norwegian group, two contrabasses, acoustic guitar, percussion -- third album, more like experimental noise than jazz although I don't doubt an improvisational element. B+(**) [cd]

Tal National: Zoy Zoy (2015, Fat Cat): Group from Niger, second album (at least outside of Niger), brings the Sahara's spare desert aesthetic to more sophisticated sources, triangulating between Senegal's ever-shifting Afro-Cuban rhythms and Kinshasa's junkyard percussion -- fancy and crude at once, and overpowering. B+(***)

Toro y Moi: What For? (2015, Carpark): Chez Bundick, from South Carolina, cranks up the Beatles-ish harmonies for his fuzzy electropop. B+(*)

Boubacar Traoré: Mbalimaou (2014 [2015], Lusafrica): Guitar and vocals from a Malian (and Parisian) singer-songwriter, with a soft touch and reassuring but resonant voice, about as basic as desert blues can get. B+(**)

John Tropea: Gotcha Rhythm Right Here (2014 [2015], STP): Guitarist, cut his first album in 1975 after side credits with Deodato and Billy Cobham, may explain the heavy disco vibe to his "gotcha rhythm" here. B- [cd]

Tyler, the Creator: Cherry Bomb (2015, Odd Future): After two records where Tyler Okonma seemed intent on establishing his own peculiar twist on juvenilia, he's growing up a bit. Still not ready to emerge clearly from the murk, but now he's wondering if murk isn't its own reward. B+(*)

Viet Cong: Viet Cong (2015, Jagjaguwar): Guitar band from Calgary, had an EP last year that got some attention but I thought undistinguished. On their debut album here, however, they have a coherent sound, a fast-paced metallic clang and drone, just one that has yet to generate substantial songs. B+(**)

Eli Wallace/Jon Arkin/Karl Evangelista: Cabbages, Captain, & King (2014 [2015], Edgetone): Cover just has title, so a good case can be made for that as the group name, but I cribbed the artist name off the hype sheet and prefer the extra information. Besides, this is very much Wallace's album, all compositions his, his piano much more prominent than Evangelista's guitar or Arkin's drums. Eloquent, too, and develops some edge. B+(***) [cd]

Katharina Weber/Fred Frith/Fredy Studer: It Rolls (2014 [2015], Intakt): Piano-guitar-drums trio, although it's less than obvious that Frith's unexpected sounds come from a guitar. Weber is Swiss, from Bern, with a couple previous albums. Her piano provides a solid center here; less sure what to make of Frith. B+(**) [cd]

Daniel Weltlinger: Koblenz (2012-13 [2015], Rectify): Violinist, from Australia with "French-Hungarian-Israeli" roots, goes for a gypsy jazz vibe, rotating many guest-collaborators in and out, including a guitarist named Lulo Reinhardt. B+(**) [cd]

Ben Williams: Coming of Age (2014 [2015], Concord Jazz): Bassist, second album, won one of those Monk prizes which condemns you to record for Concord. Group includes both guitar and piano aiming at their least common denominator, middleground melodic mush, and he gets surprisingly little out of Marcus Strickland. The guests, including vocalist Goapele, add little, not that I didn't enjoy W. Ellington Felton's "Toy Soldies" rap. B-

Dwight Yoakam: Second Hand Heart (2015, Warner Brothers): Strikes not one but two rockabilly poses on the cover, and truth is he rocks this album harder than ever before, while his voice still has enough twang to hold his audience -- and if that doesn't work, he covers "Man of Constant Sorrow." I should be pleased, but mostly I'm just annoyed. B

Young Fathers: White Men Are Black Men Too (2015, Big Dada): Not really fair to judge this on one spin, but I don't feel like giving it another, even hearing things that are new and pathbreaking. Nominally a hip-hop trio from Edinburgh, there is little rap here -- murk more like Black Messiah done up by Death Grips. Title song, by the way, is more qualified: "some white men" which strikes me as something else. [OK, gave it a second spin, and nudged it up a little.] B+(**)

Young Guv: Ripe 4 Luv (2015, Slumberland): Solo project from Fucked Up guitarist Ben Cook, eschews the group's post-hardcore sound for a sprightly beat and some guitar jangle while kicking the vocals into a much sweeter register. B+(***)

Zubatto Syndicate: Zubatto Syndicate 2 (2015, Boscology): Fourteen-piece big band from Seattle led by guitarist Andrew Boscardin, group includes two brass, three saxes, five other reeds including oboe and two bassoons, electric keybs -- instrumental prog rock more than anything else, not that I feel like dissecting it. C+ [cdr]

Zun Zun Egui: Shackles' Gift (2015, Bella Union): UK funk-metal-worldbeat-pop group from Bristol, led by Mauritian singer-guitarist Kushal Gaya and Japanese keyboardist Yoshino Shigihara. B+(*)

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Art-i-facts: Great Performances From 40 Years of Jazz at NEC (1973-2008 [2010], New England Conservatory): A little scattered, but they must have had tons of material to pick from, so eclecticism is diplomacy. The lineup reads like a hall of fame of jazz education -- George Russell, George Garzone, Gunther Schuller, Bob Brookmeyer, Jimmy Giuffre, Steve Lacy, Rakalam Bob Moses, Ran Blake -- with the fine print filled by students (probably some famous names there too). Highlights include Garzone showing us how to play Coltrane, and Schuller dredging up old ragtime. B+(***) [cd]

James Booker: Gonzo: Live 1976 (1976 [2014], Rockbeat, 2CD): The fanciest of New Orleans pianists, dead young at 43 in 1983, his thin catalog mostly recorded live with these sets from Germany adding a couple hours -- redundant in some cases, remarkable in most. A-

Wild Bill Davison: The Jazz Giants (1968 [2015], Delmark/Sackville): Cornet player, came up in Eddie Condon's group, his first recordings under his own name in 1943 for Commodore (cf. The Commodore Master Takes, collected in 1997 by GRP and highly recommended). Standard trad fare here, a sextet with Herb Hall on clarinet, Benny Morton on trombone, and Claude Hopkins on piano, his own tone towering and shining. A- [cd]

Dion: Recorded Live at the Bitter End August 1971 (1971 [2015], Omnivore): Author of many doo wop hits in the late-1950s, Dion DiMucci had a notable second act as a folksinger -- see Bronx Blues: The Columbia Recordings (1962-1965) -- and a couple not completely unsuccessful comeback years later (2012's Tank Full of Blues is one of the better ones). Tempting to say this is where he hit bottom, but that's the inevitable thinness of solo performance, with just his acoustic guitar for comfort. Only reprises two of his hits far down the set list, but finds something in "Too Much Monkey Business" much weightier than what Chuck Berry had in mind. B

The Kingbees: The Kingbees (1980 [2015], Omnivore): Rockabilly revival band led by Canadian-born Jamie James, who went on to release a couple solo albums after two group albums. This is the first, the original ten cuts (two covers, Don Gibson and Ahmet Ertegun) expanded to eighteen cuts -- the last three show them to be a first-rate cover band ("Bo Diddley," "Not Fade Away," and a "Somethin' Else" uncannily echoing the Flaming Groovies version from a decade earlier). B+(**)

Bob Marley & the Wailers: Easy Skanking in Boston '78 (1978 [2015], Island/Tuff Gong): Possibly the beginning of a flood of live Marley on top of the two live albums released in his lifetime -- the magnificent Live (1976) and the tedious Babylon by Bus (1978) -- this at least delivers greatest hits with a little extra heat, and reminds me that while they yearned for peace they didn't expect it to come easy. Probably packaged with a DVD, which I haven't seen (and probably never will). A-

Next Stop Soweto, Vol. 4: Zulu Rock, Afro-Disco and Mbaqanga 1975-1985 (1975-85 [2015], Strut): This series has generally tried to stay off the beaten path that produced such classic compilations as The Indestructible Beat of Soweto (five volumes), The Kings and Queens of Township Jive, and Soweto Never Sleeps, the result being second-rate trivia. Same here, but the rock and disco here is deliriously derivative, transposing familiar riffs into an alternate universe where they become iconic. Fun, too. A-

PC Music Volume 1 (2013-15 [2015], PC Music): Sampler from a UK label, ten short songs (29:46) by seven artists (two each by Hannah Diamond, A.G. Cook, and GFOTY), mostly cartoonish dance-pop with "high-pitched, cutesy female vocals." B+(**)

Punk 45: Burn Rubber City, Burn! Akron, Ohio: Punk and the Decline of the Mid West 1975-80 (1975-80 [2015], Soul Jazz): A relatively small scene, but it produced Chris Butler and Ralph Carney and their bands (Tin Huey, the Waitresses), Devo, the Bizarros, Rubber City Rebels, Jane Aire, Chi Pig, a few more -- nice to see them rounded up like this. B+(***)

Punk 45: Extermination Nights in the Sixth City: Cleveland, Ohio: Punk and the Decline of the Mid West 1975-82 (1975-82 [2015], Soul Jazz): My recollection was that Cleveland was always a bit less populous than Baltimore, and by 1975 Houston (and possibly others) were larger, but Cleveland's bona fides were such that they built a Rock & Roll Museum there. The obscure punk bands archived here were sharp as tacks, and Pere Ubu was brilliant (for some reason Rhapsody omits two Pere Ubu cuts plus one from the related Rocket From the Tombs -- songs I know so well I can fill them in from memory; beware they're also missing from the MP3 release). A-

Leroy Smart: The Don Tells It Like It Is . . . (1972-77 [2013], Kingston Sounds): Prolific reggae musician -- Discogs credits him with 39 albums and 368 singles, and lists this as a compilation, with Bunny Lee as producer, Jackie Mittoo on piano, Sly & Robbie the rhythm. Still, I was only able to track down half the songs, some (like "Pride and Ambition") appearing several times, some with variant titles (e.g., "Man Is Great" vs. "Man Is So Great"), so my dates are little more than a guess -- the main clue being that Smart started producing himself in 1977. B+(***)

Old Music

James Booker: Junco Partner (1976, Rounder): First record by the New Orleans "piano wizard," shows his classical pedigree by opening with a Chopin waltz, then moves on to "Goodnight Irene," "On the Sunny Side of the Street," "Make a Better World," and a medley that wraps it all up and throws in the kitchen sink. Sings some, too, which isn't his forte. B+(**)

Jaki Byard and the Apollo Stompers: Phantasies II (1988 [1991], Soul Note): A cutting-edge postbop pianist usually heard in small groups, surprisingly comes up with a retro-flavored big band, complete with singers Vincent Lewis ("June Night") and Diane Byard ("Send in the Clowns"). B+(**)

King Curtis & Champion Jack Dupree: Blues at Montreux (1971 [2005], Atlantic/Rhino): Basically, the New Orleans piano blues master's standard set, something he started working out in the 1940s -- see New Orleans Barrelhouse Boogie (1940-41 [1993], Columbia/Legacy) -- and aged like fine wine up to 1991's Forever and Ever (Bullseye). But the tenor saxophonist was built to play blues riffs, and he not only answers every line Dupree feeds him, he elicits some spectacular piano. A-

Ben Goldberg: Eight Phrases for Jefferson Rubin (1996 [1998], Victo): In memory of Jefferson Darrow Rubin (1959-95), a sculptor and childhood friend of Goldberg's. Clarinet, with Larry Ochs (tenor/soprano sax), John Schott (guitar), bass and drums. A little flighty at first, but Ochs pushes it over to the free side. B+(**)

Coleman Hawkins/Henry "Red" Allen: Reunion in Hi-Fi: The Complete Classic Sessions (1957-58 [2009], Lone Hill Jazz, 2CD): Rhapsody has a different cover and subtitle (Complete 1950s Studio Recordings), drops Allen from the credit, and lists the label as Plenty Jazz, but it looks to match this set from the Fresh Sound subsidiary. Hawkins and Allen met in Fletcher Henderson's orchestra and recorded together in 1934, hence the reunion. Hawkins moved on through bebop in the 1940s, so this is one of his few later trad-oriented recordings: indeed, the first disc is a session that was originally released under Allen's name as Ride, Red, Ride (1957) and reissued as World on a String (1991, RCA -- I gave it a full A). The second disc includes three sessions, released on two LPs and collected as Standards and Warhorses (1987, Jass). I gave the latter a B, but no longer hear much drop off. For Allen's classic work, see his 1929-30 New York Orchestra (two volumes on JSP), his 1930s recordings on Collector's Classics (four volumes, especially the first), and his 1933 with Hawkins, but he never sounded better than on the first disc here. Hawkins was always great. A-

Charles Lloyd: Discovery! (1964, Columbia): After associations with Chico Hamilton and Cannonball Adderley, the tenor saxophonist's first album, a quartet with Don Friedman on piano, Eddie Kahn or Richard Davis on bass, J.C. Moses or Roy Haynes on drums. Reveals an impressive new "voice" on tenor sax. Also a guy who plays more flute than is warranted. B+(**)

Charles Lloyd: Nirvana (1962-65 [1968], Columbia): Skipping past Of Course, Of Course (I have the 2006 Mosaic reissue, a very solid A-), Lloyd's third (and last) Columbia album didn't appear until his Atlantic success. Album is split: Side A is attributed to "Charles Lloyd & His Quintet" but sources credit Gabor Szabo, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams (or Pete LaRoca); Side B is an older 14:38 track from Lloyd's tenure with the Chico Hamilton Quintet (also with Szabo). B+(**)

The Charles Lloyd Quartet: Dream Weaver (1966, Atlantic): The saxophonist had already cut three albums for Columbia (including the excellent Of Course, Of Course), but this was the first on Atlantic and his first with these young future all-stars -- Keith Jarrett (21), Cecil McBee (31), and Jack DeJohnette (24). My main quibble is that Lloyd opens and closes on flute. B+(***)

Charles Lloyd: Forest Flower: Charles Lloyd at Monterey (1966 [1968], Atlantic): Lloyd's early tenor sax style was often dismissed as "Coltrane light" but he takes that as a badge of courage here, and even shows a nice ballad style. Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette are rarely short of brilliant, and Cecil McBee's bass ties it all together. A-

The Charles Lloyd Quartet: The Flowering of the Original Charles Lloyd Quartet (1966 [1971], Atlantic): Drawn from two live dates in France and Norway (the latter also the source for Charles Lloyd in Europe). Seems like a lot of flute here: one plus is that it doesn't overwhelm the very bright rhythm section. B+(**)

The Charles Lloyd Quartet: Charles Lloyd in Europe (1966 [1968], Atlantic): Live set, recorded Oct. 29 in Oslo, Norway, again with Jarrett-McBee-DeJohnette. All Lloyd originals this time, starting with two name-checking India ("Tagore" and "Karma"). B+(**)

The Charles Lloyd Quartet: Love-In (1967, Atlantic): Recorded live at the Fillmore in San Francisco, the cover wrapped in day-glo, a plunge into the hippie market with pieces like "Tribal Dance" and "Temple Bells," a Beatles cover, two pieces by enfant terrible pianist Keith Jarrett, and a blues jam. Sounds a little thin, but a credible attempt to sell avant-jazz to the masses. Ron McClure replaces Cecil McBee on bass. B+(***)

The Charles Lloyd Quartet: Journey Within (1967, Atlantic): More from the Fillmore, and more scattered, with some upbeat boogie/blues, more avant edge, especially on the cut where Jarrett jumps in on soprano sax -- always a scary proposition. B+(*)

The Charles Lloyd Quartet: Charles Lloyd in the Soviet Union (1967 [1970], Atlantic): Recorded live in Tallinn in the Estonian SSR, four longish cuts totalling 47:54 -- by all reports a very successful tour by one of the period's most successful jazz groups. All of Lloyd's 1960s albums have leaned avant, but he's rarely come out as aggressively as here. And when he does back off (actually, switch to flute) Jarrett is quick to pick up the slack. B+(***)

Charles Lloyd: Soundtrack (1968 [1969], Atlantic): Actually, another live quartet album, this one from Town Hall in New York City. Four pieces, a Latin groove on the 10:26 opener and a rockish one on the 16:51 closer, both busting open by Jarrett and DeJohnette -- soon to leave Lloyd for Miles Davis, then go on to major careers as leaders (although DeJohnette wound up playing in Jarrett's Standards Trio for more than thirty years). B+(***)

Paul Motian: The Story of Maryam (1983 [1984], Soul Note): Rhapsody, which has a habit of misfiling records on Black Saint and Soul Note, lists this under Joe Lovano. Motian led a long-term trio with Lovano and Bill Frisell, expanded here to quintet with Jim Pepper on tenor/soprano sax and Ed Shuller on bass. B+(**)

Paul Motian Quintet: Jack of Clubs (1984 [1985], Soul Note): Same group, better balance, which is to say Frisell's guitar and Pepper's soprano sax are more evident, amplifying the warped indeterminacy of Motian's zen beat. But wanders more too. B+(**)

Manfred Schulze Bläser Quintett: Nummer 12 (1985 [1986], FMP): German baritone saxophonist (1934-2010), only led a handful of records. For this one he assembled a sax choir (two sopranos and a tenor) plus Johannes Bauer on trombone, a wild card as usual. One 40-minute piece, split on the original LP. B+(**) [bc]

Leroy Smart: Superstar (1977, Justice): First proper album after a number of singles, produced by Bunny Lee, engineered by King Tubby and Prince Jammy, effectively the confluence of all those sources with due respect to Jah. But for a singles artist he doesn't seem to have a well developed feel for the hook. B+(**)

Stooges Brass Band: It's About Time (2003, The Gruve Label): New Orleans brass band, formed by Walter Ramsey in 1996 after seeing Rebirth Brass Band and thinking he could do the same thing only hipper and more raucous. Group's still kicking around, with some recent live albums I've looked for but haven't found. Stumbled on this debut. Horns owe more to Fred Wesley than to Kid Ory, the polyrhythms run amok, the raps fall short of state of the art. B+(**)

Cecil Taylor Workshop Ensemble: Legba Crossing (1988 [1989], FMP): One of eleven CDs released from the avant-jazz pianist's big month in Berlin, a ten piece orchestra with flute, oboe, three saxes, trombone, violin, piano (Paul Plimley, not Taylor), bass, and drums, plus Trudy Morse's voice, with Taylor directing the controled chaos. B+(***) [bc]

Additional Consumer News:

I went with the original LP lineups for Charles Lloyd's Atlantics above. They have been much reissued on CD, often in "twofer" (2-on-1) formats. I have one combining Journey Within with In Europe (1966-67 [1998], Collectables), and a 2-CD combination of Dream Weaver and Love-In released as Just Before Sunrise (1966-67 [1999], 32 Jazz, 2CD). Collectables also released twofers of Soundtrack/Charles Lloyd in the Soviet Union (1999), and The Flowering of the Original Charles Lloyd Quartet/Warne Marsh (1999), the latter having nothing to do with Lloyd. A better deal is Forest Flower/Soundtrack ([1994], Rhino/Atlantic) -- currently the easiest way to find the former, and the latter drops off very little.


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