Streamnotes: November 30, 2018

Starting to sift through and sort out EOY lists, including my own Jazz and Non-Jazz lists. I've also started to compile this year's EOY Aggregate list. Not enough lists yet for the latter to be of much use.

Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on October 31. Past reviews and more information are available here (12132 records).

Recent Releases

Juhani Aaltonen/Raoul Björkenheim: Awakening (2016 [2018], Eclipse): Two of Finland's most famous jazz musicians, the former established himself as a tenor saxophonist in the late 1970s, the latter as an electric guitarist in the 1990s. Duo here, opting for softer instruments -- flute vs. 6- or 12-string guitar or viola da gamba -- not that they roll over and play nice. I'm not much of a flute fan, but nothing here makes me regret the times I've voted for him in polls. B+(**)

Ambrose Akinmusire: Origami Harvest (2018, Blue Note): Trumpet player, from Oakland, major label has given him a big profile and encouraged him to break new ground, attempting here a novel mix of chamber jazz and hip-hop -- most songs have lyrics from Victor Vasquez (Kool A.D.), one from Terrard Robinson (LMBR-JCK T). Reminds me how after dragging my feet what finally sold me on hip-hop was the beats, mostly because they're so slack here: Marcus Gilmore programs as well as drums, but the music is mostly plain strings (MIVOS Quartet). B+(*)

Joey Alexander: Joey. Monk. Live! (2017, Motéma): Pianist, from Bali, Indonesia, father named Denny Sila, dropping the patronymic name seems to be common there. Third album, cut at Lincoln Center shortly before he turned 14. I'm not easily impressed by prodigies, but his first album was a pleasant surprise, helped more than a little by adults on bass and drums. Scott Colley and Willie Jones III fill that role here, after opening with a solo "Round Midnight." B

Joey Alexander: Eclipse (2017 [2018], Motéma): Fourth album, eight trio tracks with Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums, plus three with Joshua Redman on tenor sax. The latter are quite nice, especially the opener ("Bali"). Not my idea of a great pianist, but technically he's very solid. B+(**)

Amu: Weave (2018, Libra, CD+DVD): Part of pianist Satoko Fujii's album-per-month 60th birthday celebration, a trio with Natsuki Tamura (trumpet) and Takashi Itani (drums) plus "percussive dancer" Mizuki Wildenhahn -- although not percussive enough to make much of an impression on the CD. She does fare better on the DVD (if you're into that sort of thing), at least filling in some of the otherwise unintelligible stretches. Also helps when the piano and/or trumpet explode, although not by changing the video focus. B+(*)

Anderson .Paak: Oxnard (2018, Aftermath/12 Tone Music): Working his way up the California coastline, perhaps on his way to Big Sur to complete his transformation into hippiedom (or underground literary renown). I haven't sorted this all out -- doubt I ever will -- but it's as fetching as his previous one. A-

Ethan Ardelli: The Island of Form (2018, self-released): Drummer-composer, from Nova Scotia, based in Toronto, first album, an alto sax quartet featuring Luis Deniz, with Chris Donnelly (piano) and Devon Henderson (bass). Lovely tone on the alto, nice flow throughout with just enough tension to keep it interesting. B+(***) [cd]

Mandy Barnett: Strange Conversation (2018, Dame Productions/Thirty Tigers): Country singer, first claim to fame came in 1995 when she starred in a Patsy Cline tribute, but didn't follow up her superb 1998 I've Got a Right to Cry until 2011, and this is the first I've noticed in 20 years. Covers of pop obscurities, most terrific -- my pick is the doo-wop of "It's All Right (You're Just in Love)," originally by the Tams. Christgau's favorite is a rockabilly piece called "The Fool." The only one I immediately recognized was from Sonny & Cher. Archivalism on a par with prime Ry Cooder. A-

Pat Bianchi: In the Moment (2018, Savant): Organ player, seems like he's been around a while but he's only 42, just a couple albums under his own name. Trio with Paul Bollenback (guitar) and Byron Landham (drums) plus various guests: Peter Bernstein, Carmen Intorre Jr., Joe locke, Kevin Mahogany, Pat Martino. B

Big Bold Back Bone: Emerge (2015 [2018], Wide Ear): Jazztronica group, I guess: Marco von Orelli (trumpet/slide trumpet), Luis Lopes (electric guitar and objects), Travassos (electronics), Sheldon Suter (prepared drums). Scattered sounds, improvised without much beat. B+(*) [cd]

BROM: Sunstroke (2017 [2018], Trost): Russian avant sax trio -- Anton Ponomarev (tenor sax), Dmitry Lapshin (electric bass), Yaroslav Kurillo (drums) -- started around 2008 (first two), sax shows a strong Brötzmann/Gustafsson influence, but the bassist rocks. Probably too tricky for metalheads and noise freaks, but up their alley. B+(**) [bc]

Magnus Broo Trio: Rules (2017 [2018], Moserobie): Swedish trumpet player, best known in groups like Atomic and the Godforgottens and side-credits, but recorded four quartet albums 1999-2008. This frames him nicely in a trio with Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten on bass and Hĺken Mjĺset Johanson on drums, relatively short at 35:11. B+(**)

Bobby Broom & the Organi-sation: Soul Fingers (2018, MRi): Guitarist, group is a trio with Ben Paterson on organ and Kobie Watkins on drums, plus you get the occasional guest. Mostly chintzy pop trifles ("Come Together," "Ode to Billie Joe," "Do It Again," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Summer Breeze," etc.): problem with such tunes is that they inevitably taste of Muzak, not that this isn't a cut above that. B [cd]

Peter Brötzmann/Heather Leigh: Sparrow Nights (2018, Trost): Leigh plays pedal steel guitar; Brötzmann credit reads: "b-flat/bass/contra-alto clarinet, alto/tenor/bass saxophone." Duo has recorded several albums since 2015, but never struck me as an especially good fit. The extra range of horns helps. B+(*) [bc]

Don Byron/Aruán Ortiz: Random Dances and (A)tonalities (2017 [2018], Impakt): Duets, clarinet/saxophone and piano, the latter from Cuba with a strong run of recent records (mostly trios), the former an instant star on jazz clarinet with his 1992 debut but hasn't led an album since his 2006 Jr. Walker tribute. Patient listening here, an even match which doesn't blow you away but is always interesting. B+(***) [cd]

Francesco Cafiso Nonet: We Play for Tips (2017 [2018], EFLAT/Inciipt): Alto saxophonist, from Italy, was 12 in 2001 when he cut his first record. Two trumpets, trombone, three saxes (each also on a clarinet or flute), piano-bass-drums. B+(**)

Rosanne Cash: She Remembers Everything (2018, Blue Note): Singer-songwriter, born into country music but retains little beyond a basic naturalism and an eye for detail. Good songs here. Also perks for Elvis Costello and Kris Kristofferson. B+(***)

Annie Chen Octet: Secret Treetop (2018, Shanghai Audio & Video): Chinese singer-songwriter, born in Beijing but based in New York, nominally jazz although I hear more affinity to light opera. The singer is counted in an octet with trumpet, alto sax, piano (Glenn Zaleski), guitar, violin, bass, drums. B [cd]

Neneh Cherry: Broken Politics (2018, Smalltown Supersound): Afro-Swedish singer, original surname Karlsson, mother married trumpet player Don Cherry, grew up in US and UK, sang in punk bands including the Slits, recorded two brilliant hip-hop albums 1989-92, then nothing until The Cherry Thing (with Norwegian avant-jazz trio Thing) in 2012. This one is produced by Kieran Hebden (dba Four Tet), electronics that sneak up and grow on you. B+(***)

Chicago Edge Ensemble: Insidious Anthem (2018, Trost): Chicago avant quintet, I figure guitarist Dan Phillips for the leader, with two Vandermark 5 founders -- Mars Williams (saxophones) and Jeb Bishop (trombone) -- Krzysztof Pabian on bass and Hamid Drake on drums. Often terrific, but stumbles here and there. B+(***) [bc]

Lando Chill: Black Ego (2018, Mello Music Group): Rapper, "equal parts west coast funk and deert trip-hop," clever music obscured the lyrics at first, then got a bit too clever as I lost my way. B+(*)

The Chills: Snow Bound (2018, Fire): Pop rockers from New Zealand, principally Martin Phillipps, started around 1980, peaked with two 1990-92 albums, split up, regrouped, lost more than a decade before coming back in 2013, 2015, and here. Unmistakable sound, just not as struck by the songs here as last time (Silver Bullets). B+(**)

Eric Church: Desperate Man (2018, EMI Nashville): Country singer-songwriter, seemed headed for rock stardom a few years back, sporting one of the loudest bands in Nashville. Dials it back a bit here, giving the songs more air and resonance, leaning toward Steve Earle territory. Happy to hear more of that. A-

Richie Cole: Cannonball (2018, RCP): Alto saxophonist, started recording in 1976, prolific through the 1980s, slowed down later but never skipped more than five years, and has rebounded a bit lately. Back cover lists a sextet here, with trombone (Reggie Watkins) the other horn, plus guitar, piano, bass, and drums, swinging through Cannonball Adderley's songbook, but this sometimes sounds more like a big band -- indeed, the notes inside list additional musicians, including singer Denia on two cuts. B+(**) [cd]

Collective Order: Collective Order Vol. 3 (2018, self-released): Toronto outfit, 21 members listed, no idea of the internal dynamics and relationships, probably because it's too much work to care at this distance. I will say too many vocals. Also that I did hear some interesting music, but no longer recall where or when. B [cd]

The Chick Corea + Steve Gadd Band: Chinese Butterfly (2017 [2018], Stretch/Concord, 2CD): Piano and drums for the leaders, the drummer four years younger -- they played together as far back as 1976 (My Spanish Heart), reunited in 2006's Super Trio (with Christian McBride). With Steve Wilson (sax/flute), Lionel Loueke (guitar), Luisito Quintero (percussion), and Philip Bailey (vocals, featured on one track but present elsewhere). Voted Jazz Album of the Year by Downbeat readers, doesn't strike me as offering much beyond pleasant background groove. B+(*)

Roxy Coss: The Future Is Female (2018, Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist (also plays bass clarinet), originally from Seattle, now New York, fourth album, postbop quintet with guitar (Alex Wintz), piano (Miki Yamanaka), bass and drums. Woke titles, the guitar often stealing solo space, the sax more engaging, but rather thick and slick. B

Mario Costa: Oxy Patina (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): Portuguese drummer-composer, debut album, with Marc Ducret (guitar) and Benoît Delbecq (piano) -- both formidable musicians. B+(**)

Andrew Cyrille: Lebroba (2017 [2018], ECM): Legendary drummer, with even bigger names just below the title: Wadada Leo Smith (trumpet) and Bill Frisell (guitar). All three contribute pieces (Smith's by far the longest): abstract, scattered, often evocative, but nothing much in the way of flow. B+(***)

Josephine Davies: Satori (2016 [2017], Whirlwind): British saxophonist, photos show tenor but I'm also hearing soprano, leads a trio with Dave Whitford (bass) and Paul Clarvis (drums), live at Iklectik in London. I may be a sucker for sax trios, but only if they're as consistently on point at this one is. A-

Josephine Davies' Satori: In the Corners of Clouds (2018, Whirlwind): Tenor sax trio again, same bassist (Dave Whitford), new drummer (James Madden). Pretty much the same sound and dynamics as on her group-defining Satori. A- [bc]

Doctor Nativo: Guatemaya (2018, Stonetree): From Guatemala, first album, Christgau noted a rhythmic likeness to Manu Chao (which was enough to get me interested). Roger that, although he's less cosmopolitan and more rooted in cumbia, namechecked with some frequency here. A-

David Dominique: Mask (2018, Orenda): Credited with "flugabone and voices," claims Mingus as a "major influence," but also Zappa -- neither occurred to me, but the latter explains a lot. With three saxophonists, viola, guitar, bass, and drums. C [cd]

Kaja Draksler/Petter Eldh/Christian Lillinger: Punkt. Vrt. Plastik (2016 [2018], Intakt): Piano trio, the pianist from Slovenia, bassist Swedish, drummer German. Hard to say what makes this one of the year's finest piano trio albums: maybe inner strength, which gives her unpredictable moves an air of destiny. An attentive rhythm section helps, too. A- [cd]

Open Mike Eagle: What Happens When I Try to Relax (2018, Auto Reverse, EP): Rapper, underground, points out "some people are dummies but I'm intellectual"; true that, but he doesn't separate himself from the dummies. Six cuts, 19:41. B+(***)

Kurt Elling: The Questions (2017 [2018], Okeh): Jazz singer, used to do lots of fancy inflections and such that I never much cared for. Lately, seems to have lost his shtick as well as his voice, leaving rather little. B-

John Escreet: Learn to Live (2018, Blue Room): Pianist, half-dozen albums so far, opens with electric keyboard here, adding trumpet (Nicholas Payton), sax (Greg Osby), bass, and two drummers for fusion groove -- sometimes packed with tension, sometimes cheesy. B

The Gil Evans Orchestra: Hidden Treasures Monday Nights: Volume One (2016-17 [2018], Bopper Spock Suns Music): Produced by Noah Evans, co-produced by Miles Evans (trumpet), executive producer Anita Evans, core band has 10 members, 15 more guests here and there, most fairly famous, I count 13 in the inside jacket picture. Closes with two Gil Evans pieces, after five from five others (including one by Miles Evans). No doubt where the ideas come from, but little memorable ensues. B+(*) [cd]

Marianne Faithfull: Negative Capability (2018, BMG): Past 70 now, if you thought her voice was shot a decade ago, you should hear her now -- starting excruciatingly rough, gradually gaining hard-earned grandeur. Many songs are familiar, including her Nth "As Tears Go By" and a particularly affecting "Witches Song" (from her masterpiece, Broken English). Nick Cave and Ed Harcourt contribute songs and help out. "No Moon in Paris" is such a perfect closer you forgo the extra "Deluxe Edition" cuts. B+(***)

Alan Ferber Big Band: Jigsaw (2016 [2017], Sunnyside): Trombonist, has often worked in large groups and goes whole hog here, with a conventional 17-piece big band -- mostly name players, working in New York, including some crack soloists. Ferber's pieces, with a little Latin tinge. B+(**)

Birgitta Flick Quartet: Color Studies (2018, Double Moon): Tenor saxophonist, based in Berlin, two previous Quartet albums, also two with her Flickstick group, and a duo with Carol Liebowitz (below). With piano (Andreas Schmidt), bass (James Banner), and drums (Max Andrzejewski). B+(**)

Michael Formanek Elusion Quartet: Time Like This (2018, Intakt): Bassist, an important figure and leader since 1990. Quartet with Tony Malaby (tenor/soprano sax), Kris Davis (piano), and Ches Smith (drums/vibes/Haitian tambou) -- stars in their own right, but here they shape their efforts to add color and (rarely) spice to the bassist's compositions. B+(**) [cd]

James Francies: Flight (2018, Blue Note): Young pianist (23), from Houston, based in New York, first album. Derrick Hodge produced, throwing a lot of flash and muscle his way: Chris Potter sax, Mike Moreno guitar, vibes, two drummers, "three uniquely powerful singers . . . highlight one track apiece." The singers aren't the only problem here, but they detract from whatever jazz promise he had. Hope he escapes soon. Also hope he retains Potter's business card. B

Gabriela Friedli Trio: Areas (2015 [2018], Leo): Swiss pianist, second trio album with Daniel Studer (bass) and Dieter Ulrich (drums). Rigorously avant, keeps you off guard. B+(**)

David Friesen: My Faith, My Life (2017-18 [2018], Origin, 2CD): Best known as a bassist, also a composer of notes, has headlined albums since 1976, summing up his career here with one disc of solo bass, a second of solo piano. Easily proficient at the latter, but I prefer the bass work, spiced with a bit of shakuhachi. B+(***) [cd]

Full Blast: Rio (2016 [2018], Trost): Avant sax trio -- Peter Brötzmann credited with reeds, Marino Pliakis "E-Bass," Michael Wertmüller drums -- recorded live in Brazil but otherwise making no concessions to their hosts. Group name from their 2009 album. Not quite as full a blast as expected: maybe Brötzmann is mellowing a bit at 75, or maybe my ears are finally adjusting. B+(***) [bc]

Aaron Goldberg: At the Edge of the World (2016 [2018], Sunnyside): Pianist, originally from Boston, records start in 1999, trio here, with Matt Penman on bass and Leon Parker on drums and "vocal percussion" -- playing this after Amu made me think of tap. B+(**)

Randy Halberstadt: Open Heart (2018, Origin): Pianist, from Seattle, previous albums date back to 1991. Septet: three horns, vibes, piano trio, originals sprinkled with classics -- I prefer the Gershwin to the Chopin -- some quite nice, some run on a bit. B+(*) [cd]

Clay Harper: Bleak Beauty (2018, self-released): Singer-songwriter from Atlanta, started in a group called the Coolies, third album since 1997. B+(*)

David Hazeltine: The Time Is Now (2018, Smoke Sessions): Mainstream pianist, been around, trio with Ron Carter and Al Foster. Six originals, some nice standards. B+(*)

Claus Hřjensgĺrd/Emanuele Mariscalco/Nelide Bendello: Hřbama (2017 [2018], Gotta Let It Out): Trumpet/keyboards/drums trio, the leader (and label) Danish, produced by Tomo Jacobson. Tightly wound, relatively short (32:54). B+(*) [cd]

Christopher Hollyday: Telepathy (2018, Jazzbeat Productions): Alto saxophonist, originally from Connecticut, recorded six albums 1985-92, moved to California in 1993, and this is his first album in over 25 years. Classic bop quintet with trumpet (Gilbert Castellanos), piano (Joshua White), bass and drums, doing standards and classics -- nothing more recent than Freddie Hubbard. Six tracks, 33:01, "I've Got the World on a String" certainly does. B+(***) [cd]

Homeboy Sandman & Edan: Humble Pi (2018, Stones Throw, EP): New York underground rapper Angel Del Villar II, working with Edan Portnoy's beats. Considers this an album, but like most of his output is within EP range (seven tracks, 22:57). B+(**)

Adam Hopkins: Crickets (2018, Out of Your Head): Bassist, from Baltimore, based in Brooklyn, first album after a 2017 EP and a fairly wide range of side credits (e.g., Quartet Offensive, Ideal Bread, Dave Ballou & BeepHonk). Sextet, three saxophones (Anna Webber, Ed Rosenberg, Josh Sinton, ranging from tenor to bass plus bass clarinet), guitar (Jonathan Goldberger), and drums (Devin Gray). B+(**) [cd]

Jason Kao Hwang Burning Bridge: Blood (2018, True Sound): Violinist, has done a lot to incorporate traditional Chinese music into avant-jazz. Band here includes erhu (Wang Guowei) and pipa (Sun Li), as well as Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet), Steve Swell (trombone), Joseph Daley (tuba), Ken Filiano (bass), and Andrew Drury (drums). A- [cd]

Rocco John Iacovone/Jack DeSalvo/Mark Hagan/Phil Sirois/Tom Cabrera: Connoisseurs of Chaos IV (2018, Woodshedd): Should probably file this under drummer Cabrera, as he's the only constant over four volumes, or for that matter on all six tracks here: the alto saxophonist (who usually dba Rocco John) but drops out on two tracks (a bass-drums duo and a guitar-bass-drums trio). DeSalvo plays guitar. Hagan and Sirois split the bass duties. B+(***) [bc]

Tomo Jacobson/Maria Laurette Friis/Emanuele Maniscalco + Karlis Auzixs: Split : Body (2016-17 [2018], Getta Let It Out): Originally a cassette release, the trio (bass, voice/electronics, piano) filling one 44:08 side, the other a 40:56 soprano saxophone solo. The first piece doesn't make much of an impression, but the solo is rather engaging, even given the usual limits. B+(*) [cdr]

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: Handful of Keys (2016 [2017], Blue Engine): Title suggests Fats Waller to me, but the uptown rulers opted for a more generic piano-focused program, featuring six pianists in age from 13 (Joey Alexander) to 89 (Dick Hyman). Starts with James P. Johnson's "Jingles" (Hyman) and a standard Waller used to play ("Lulu's Back in Town") before they move into the modern era with pieces by Tyner, Evans, Kelly, Peterson, and in a startling departure from their canon, Myra Melford. B+(**)

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: Una Noche Con Rubén Blades (2014 [2018], Blue Engine): Latin night, the big band positively bubbling with enthusiasm. The Panamanian singer, who seemed poised to be a huge star back in the 1980s -- there was even talk of running for president -- has settled into a steady career. Here he slips in a couple of English-language standards with Sinatra-esque flair, notably "Too Close for Comfort." B+(**)

Jentsch Group No Net: Topics in American History (2016 [2018], Blue Schist): Guitarist Chris Jentsch, with a nine-piece group conducted by JC Sanford -- flutes, clarinets, saxophones (Jason Rigby), trumpet (David Smith), trombone (Bryan Drye), piano (Jacob Sacks), bass, drums. Postbop, lush, a bit overgrown. B+(**) [cd]

Russ Johnson: Headlands (2018, Woolgathering): Trumpet player, quartet with Rob Clearfield (keyboards), Matt Ulery (double bass), and Jon Deitemyer (drums). B+(***) [bc]

Frank Kimbrough: Monk's Dreams: The Complete Compositions of Thelonious Sphere Monk (2018, Sunnyside, 6CD): Seventy tracks, not the first to tackle them all -- Alexander von Schlippenbach did that in Monk's Casino (2005, 3CD) -- nor the only one to act on the idea during the centennial of Monk's birth (see guitarist Miles Okazaki's Work). With Scott Robinson (saxophone and trumpet), Rufus Reid (bass), and Billy Drummond (drums). Way too much for me to let it sink in, but Robinson both does a perfect Charlie Rouse but can switch up on the horns to give you some variety. Meanwhile, the others understand that much of Monk's appeal is rhythmic, and they're up to it. A-

Roy Kinsey: Blackie: A Story by Roy Kinsey (2018, Not Normal): Chicago rapper, "fourth album but first physical offering," a story cycle that starts in "Mississippi Mud" and migrates north, inspired y his late grandmother. B+(***)

Simone Kopmajer: Spotlight on Jazz (2018, Lucky Mojo): Standards singer from Austria, thirteen albums since 2004, sings in English, backed by piano, guitar, bass, drums, plus some tasty sax and clarinet by Terry Myers, putting the spotlight on songs like "Struttin' With Some Barbecue" and "Stompin' at the Savoy," "Mood Indigo" and "Poinciana." Closes with a jumpier remix of "Dig That Riff." B+(**) [cd]

Fredrik Kronkvist: Kronicles (2017 [2018], Connective): Swedish alto saxophonist, fifteen records since 2003, this a quartet with Orrin Evans (piano), Martin Sjoset (bass), and Jeff 'Tain' Watts (drums). Rhythm section is roiling, and the sax wants to soar. B+(**)

Rich Krueger: NOWThen (2018, Rockin'K Music): Born in New York, based in Chicago, singer-songwriter, wrote some songs back in 1985-98 while he was training to become a doctor, then set them aside until 2007, when he started writing new material. This combines both early ("Then") and late ("NOW") material. Something about his sound bothers me, but he's smart and literate and I can imagine warming to his recent albums -- this follows one called Life Ain't That Long -- even though I'm not quite there yet. B+(***)

Ingrid Laubrock: Contemporary Chaos Practices: Two Works for Orchestra With Soloists (2017 [2018], Intakt): Alto saxophonist, working with a large orchestra -- strings, a full assortment of winds, voices (although I never seem to notice them) -- conducted by Eric Wubbels (title piece) or Taylor Ho Bynum ("Vogelfrei"). The other soloists are Mary Halvorson (guitar), Kris Davis (piano), and Nate Wooley (trumpet). The huge scale is striking, the details interesting. B+(***) [cd]

Lawful Citizen: Internal Combustion (2018, self-released): Canadian quartet, led by tenor saxophonist Evan Shay (born in Seattle, based in Montreal). First group album, with guitar (Aime Duquet), electric bass (Antoine Pelegrim), and drums (Kyle Hutchins). Stated influences include metal, but really they just like a little noise. B+(*) [cd]

Robbie Lee & Mary Halvorson: Seed Triangular (2018, New Amsterdam): Lee, has a couple albums, credited here with baroque flute, 8-key flute, chalumeau [clarinet], soprillo [sax], melodica, and bells; Halvorson with guitar and banjo. B+(**)

Ravyn Lenae: Crush (2018, Atlantic, EP): Neo-soul singer from Chicago, third EP (5 tracks, 16:33), still in her teens, produced by Steve Lacy, a little choppy. B+(*)

LFU: Lisbon Freedom Unit: Praise of Our Folly (2015 [2018], Clean Feed): Nine-piece free jazz ensemble, Portuguese as far as I can tell -- best known musicians here are Luis Lopes (guitar), Rodrigo Amado (tenor sax), and all three members of RED Trio (Rodrigo Pinheiro, Hernani Faustino, Gabriel Ferrandini). Most impressive flat out, but when they hold back you can feel the tension build. A- [cd]

Carol Liebowitz/Birgitta Flick: Malita-Malika (2017 [2018], Leo): Duets, piano and tenor saxophone, most hauntingly slow pieces with delicate shading but nothing remotely resembling cocktail or chamber cliché. Liebowitz also credited with voice, singing "September in the Rain" and "You Don't Know What Love Is" -- brings to mind Sheila Jordan, not nearly as expert but clearly an inspiration. B+(***) [cd]

Chris Lightcap: Superette (2018, The Royal Potato Family): Bassist, called a 2002 album Bigmouth and has since used that title for a group name, switches to bass guitar here, adds guitar (Jonathan Goldberger and Curtis Hasselbring) and drums, plus guests John Medeski (organ) and Nels Cline (more guitar). Seems too subtle for fusion, but develops a bit under pressure, and the surf echoes appeal. B+(*)

Lithics: Mating Surfaces (2018, Kill Rock Stars): Portland, Oregon postpunk band, two-guitar quartet, songs tight, guitars sound a lot like Wire, vocals only a bit less. ["abridged": 6/12 cuts] B+(***) [bc]

Maisha: There Is a Place (2018, Brownswood): London group led by drummer Jake Long, nominally a sextet -- best known is saxophonist Nubya Garcia -- but has more credits, including a bunch of strings, including harp. B+(*)

Roc Marciano: RR2: The Bitter Dose (2018, Marci Enterprises): Rapper Rakeem Calief Myer, with a solid sequel to last year's Rosebudd's Revenge. B+(***)

  • Thomas Marriott: Romance Language (2017 [2018], Origin): Trumpet player, from Seattle, close to a dozen albums since 2005, goes for ballads this time and come up with a lovely set (but "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is a bit much). Backed by Joe Locke (vibes), Ryan Cohan (keybs), Jeff Johnson (bass), and John Bishop (drums). B+(**) [cd]

    Christian McBride: Christian McBride's New Jawn (2017 [2018], Mack Avenue): Bassist, pretty much the top mainstream guy ever since his major label debut in 1995, last heard fronting a big band that did him no credit. Here he goes for the other extreme, with a talented pianoless quartet: Josh Evans (trumpet), Marcus Strickland (sax), and Nasheet Waits (drums). Everyone kicks in two songs, with the closer from Wayne Shorter. B+(**)

    Donny McCaslin: Blow. (2018, Motéma): Tenor saxophonist, has few peers in terms of chops, but I've rarely taken to his albums -- 2006's Recommended Tools is an exception, and he can tear the roof off other artists' albums, as he did with Art Hirahara's Sunward Bound earlier this year. His most famous side-credit was on David Bowie's Blackstar, and he seems to be intent here on producing a sequel, studded with various Bowie-isms, rendered by a bunch of guest vocalists (Mark Kozelek is the one I recognized). B+(*)

    Makaya McCraven: Universal Beings (2017-18 [2018], International Anthem): Drummer, pieced this album together from four sessions (each given an LP side) recorded by different groups in New York, Chicago, London, and Los Angeles -- the rhythm a unifying thread, whether with the softer New York instruments (harp, vibes, cello, bass) or the horns that pop up elsewhere. A-

    Joakim Milder/Fredrik Ljungkvist/Mathias Landraeus/Filip Augustson/Fredrik Rundkvist: The Music of Anders Garstedt (2016 [2018], Moserobie): Two tenor saxes (latter also credited with soprano and clarinet), plus piano-bass-drums. The composer was Swedish, played trumpet, died in 2000 at age 31, didn't leave any records under his own name, not many side credits either (one each with Fredrik Norén and Christian Falk). The musicians claim ties to him, and bring his music brilliantly to life. A [cd]

    Rhett Miller: The Messenger (2018, ATO): Singer-songwriter, mostly with the Old 97's, but has seven solo albums since 2002. Nothing very pop, but soft-edged and tuneful, songs that could grow on you but won't knock you over. B+(**)

    Mr. Fingers: Cerebral Hemispheres (2018, Alleviated): Chicago DJ Larry Heard, started in the 1980s (guess that makes him house), had a group in 1988 called Fingers, Inc., released three albums as Mr. Fingers 1988-94, returns to the alias here with a rather chill downtempo album, brightened by bits of Zachary McElwain tenor sax. B+(**)

    Kyle Nasser: Persistent Fancy (2018, Ropeadope): Tenor saxophonist (also soprano), from Massachusetts, second album, sextet with Roman Filiu on alto sax, plus both guitar and piano as well as bass and drums. Postbop leaning toward groove, or vice versa. B [cd]

    Jorge Nila: Tenor Time (Tribute to the Tenor Masters) (2018 [2019], Ninjazz): Tenor saxophonist, offers this "tribute to the tenor masters" -- pieces by Dexter Gordon, Hank Mobley, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Sonny Stitt, Harold Vick, Tadd Dameron, and, well, Stevie Wonder. Ably backed by guitar (Dave Stryker), organ (Mitch Towne), and drums (Dana Murray). B+(***) [cd]

    John O'Gallagher Trio: Live in Brooklyn (2015 [2016], Whirlwind): Alto saxophonist, with Johannes Weidenmueller (bass) and Mark Ferber (drums), coming off two excellent albums (The Anton Webern Project and The Honeycomb). Strong performance here. B+(***)

    Old Man Saxon: The Pursuit (2018, Pusher, EP): Los Angeles rapper, first song has a metalic thrash like Death Grips, second dials it back to beats, then works within that range. Single is called "Stop Shooting." Five tracks, 18:55. B+(*)

    Evan Parker/Eddie Prévost: Tools of Imagination (2017 [2018], Fundacja Sluchaj): Tenor sax and drums duo, although the latter's percussion includes metallic drones as well as thumps. One long piece (58:24), much of it rather tentative, although they do have moments -- some that put you on edge. B+(*)

    William Parker: Flower in a Stained-Glass Window/The Blinking of the Ear (2018, Centering/AUM Fidelity, 2CD): Two albums packed together, continuing the bassist's recent interest in singers. The first features Leena Conquest, mostly declaiming slogan-worthy political screeds, things I mostly agree with but are mixed blessings as music. The band -- five piece including Steve Swell on trombone, plus two extra alto saxes on three pieces -- is quite interesting on its own. Second is another quintet -- Swell again, Daniel Carter, Eri Yamamoto on piano -- is if anything more potent, but I find mezzo soprano AnnMarie Sandy harder to listen to. B+(**)

    Chris Pasin: Ornettiquette (2018, Piano Arts): Trumpet player, third album, playing five Ornette Coleman tunes, one from Ayler, two originals. Karl Berger is especially notable on vibes and piano, along with Michael Bisio (bass), Harvey Sorgen (drums), with Adam Siegel (alto sax) and Ingrid Sertso (vocals) on a couple tunes. B+(**) [cd]

    Hanna Paulsberg Concept & Magnus Broo: Daughter of the Sun (2018, Odin): Norwegian tenor saxophonist, fourth album with this group, adds a trumpet this time. Seems unhelpful at first but eventually finds his stride. B+(**)

    Ken Peplowski Big Band: Sunrise (2017 [2018], Arbors): Conventional big band (both piano and guitar), leader and whole section credited with saxophone/clarinet/flute, mostly familiar names at the label, swing-to-bop standards, Mark Lopeman and Billy May the main arrangers.

    Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Mark Feldman/Jason Kao Hwang: Strings 1 (2018, Leo): Avant tenor saxophonist, from Brazil, releases records in bunches. Maneri plays viola, the others violin -- instruments I almost automatically associate with dreaded classical music, although this trio breaks that mold in distinctive ways. B+(***)

    Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Hank Roberts/Ned Rothenberg: Strings 2 (2018, Leo): Tenor sax and viola on all tracks, Roberts (cello) on 7 (of 9), so the strings aren't so overwhelming here. Also, Rothenberg plays bass clarinet on 4 tracks, in a reminder of Perelman's summer batch of bass clarinet duos. B+(**)

    Lucas Pino's No Net Nonet: That's a Computer (2018, Outside In Music): Tenor saxophonist, also plays bass clarinet, group has two brass, three saxophones, guitar, piano (Glenn Zaleski) trio. Opens with nicely layered, interesting postbop, but I start to lose interest when the voice (Camilla Meza) joins in. Then I get confused when they go Latin for the closer (not bad). B+(*)

    Pistol Annies: Interstate Gospel (2018, RCA Nashville): Country supergroup, although only Miranda Lambert was well known before their 2011 debut. Group went on hiatus after their 2013 album, with Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley as well as Lambert releasing pretty good solo albums. Still, this is a group effort, with nearly all songs jointly credited. A-

    Charlie Porter: Charlie Porter (2018, Porter House): Trumpet player, from Portland, first album (as far as I can tell), eleven pieces (originals plus an Ellington), using various groups from solo to sextet "and back again" with a total of 21 musicians -- perhaps there's a syndrome for trying to do too much on a debut. Sounds pretty respectable, just not that interesting. B+(*)

    Quoan [Brian Walsh/Daniel Rosenboom/Sam Minaie/Mark Ferber]: Fine Dining (2017 [2018], Orenda): Quartet, with two avant horns from Los Angeles -- (clarinet, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet) vs. (trumpet, piccolo trumpet, flugelhorn) -- fired up by bassist and drummer from New York. B+(**)

    Nikita Rafaelov: Spirit of Gaia (2016-17 [2018], Gotta Let It Out): Pianist, born in Russia, based in Finland, first album, on a Danish label, solo but multilayered, aiming at a dense minimalism. B+(**) [cd]

    Ernesto Rodrigues/Guilherme Rodrigues/Bruno Parrinha/Luís Lopes/Vasco Trillo: Lithos (2017 [2018], Creative Sources): Portuguese group -- viola, cello, bass clarinet, electric guitar, percussion -- looks a bit like avant-chamber but feels closer to ambient industrial. B+(**) [cd]

    Rich Rosenthal/Jack DeSalvo/Tom Cabrera: Connoisseurs of Chaos (2018, Woodshedd): First of four volumes released this year -- don't have recording dates -- all with drummer Tom Cabrera, his name always listed last so my rules file then under other artists. Rosenthal plays guitar. DeSalvo switches from the guitar he plays in other volumes to cello and bass ukulele here. B+(**) [bc]

    Renee Rosnes: Beloved of the Sky (2017 [2018], Smoke Sessions): Pianist, from Saskatchewan, 18 albums since 1989, wrote 7/9 tracks here. Group features Chris Potter (sax and flute), with Steve Nelson (vibes), Peter Washington (bass), and Lenny White (drums). [6/9 tracks] B+(**)

    Rudy Royston: Flatbed Buggy (2018, Greenleaf Music): Drummer, third album, quintet with a soft front line -- John Ellis (bass clarinet/saxophones), Gary Versace (accordion), Hank Roberts (cello) -- and bass. Takes a bit to find its center. B+(**)

    Jerome Sabbagh/Greg Tuohey: No Filter (2017 [2018], Sunnyside): Quartet actually, leaders, who attended Berklee together in the early 1990s, play tenor sax and guitar, backed with bass and drums. Sax seems typical of Sabbagh's soft-edged postbop, but guitar doesn't add much. B

    Dave Sewelson: Music for a Free World (2017 [2018], FMR): Baritone saxophonist (also sopranino), first album with his name up front but he's been around a while: I think I first noticed him in Microscopic Septet (or maybe its Fast 'N' Bulbous spin-off), but he's also been in William Parker's orchestras and is on a couple albums with Peter Kuhn. Freewheeling two-horn quartet here, with Steve Swell (trombone) facing off, Parker on bass, and Marvin Smith on drums. A little ragged, but freedom's like that. A- [cd]

    Julian Siegel Quartet: Vista (2018, Whirlwind): British tenor saxophonist (also soprano sax/bass clarinet), first album 1997, only a few widely scattered since, this one with Liam Noble (piano), Oli Hayhurst (bass), and Gene Calderazzo (drums). Solid mainstream effort. B+(**)

    Paul Simon: In the Blue Light (2018, Legacy): New recordings of ten songs from previous albums, four from 2000's You're the One, one each from six other albums spanning 1973-2011. A songwriter I never liked except when he picked an outstanding rhythm and baited his hooks liberally. He does none of that here, but doesn't make himself obnoxious either. B

    Esperanza Spalding: 12 Little Spells (2018, Concord): Started as a promising mainstream jazz bassist, then started to sing and crossed over into a form of r&b that doesn't really succeed at either. B-

    Vince Staples: FM! (2018, Def Jam, EP): Off the mean streets ("Don't Get Chipped") and into the warm sun ("Feels Like Summer"), runs through 11 tracks in 22:16 -- one skit, two very short interludes, but still nothing runs over 3:08. B+(**)

    Marcus Strickland Twi-Life: People of the Sun (2018, Blue Note): Tenor saxophonist, first appeared as a mainstream player with tremendous chops, but Blue Note's tempted him to cross over to their "new groove" hip-hop fusion model -- possibly the worst idea a major label has embraced since soul-fusion destroyed Blue Note back in the early 1970s. This is sharper than 2016's Nihil Novi, but mostly on the strength of the leader's towering lines. Beyond that, I have little idea, but note that the label's hype doesn't offer any credits info, perhaps because none is merited. B

    Yuhan Su: City Animals (2018, Sunnyside): Vibraphonist, born in Taiwan, based in New York, second album, fanciful cover shows penguins flying over Battery Park. With Matt Holman (trumpet), Alex LoRe (alto sax), bass and drums. B+(**)

    Subtone: Moose Blues (2018, Laika): German group (I think): Magnus Schrieft (trumpet/flugelhorn), Malte Dürrschnabel (tenor sax/clarinet/flute), Florian Hoefner (piano), Matthias Pichler (bass), Peter Gall (drums) -- Hoefner, the one I'm familiar with, wrote four songs, Schrieft four, Gall three. Bright and cheery post-bop. B+(*) [cd]

    Jay Thomas With the Oliver Groenewald Newnet: I Always Knew (2018, Origin): Plays alto/tenor sax, but trumpet is his lead credit here. Arranger Groenewald also plays trumpet, as does Brad Allison, credited as "lead trumpet." Ten-piece group, nicely layered, favors those trumpets. B+(*) [cd]

    Trio Heinz Herbert: Yes (2018, Intakt): Swiss fusion (jazztronica) group -- Dominic Landolt (guitar/effects), Ramon Landolt (synthesier/sampler/piano), Mario Hänni (drums/effects) -- novel sounds, nothing slick, some intense. B+(***) [cd]

    Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty (2018, Sunnyside): Guitar-bass-drums trio -- Brandon Ross, Melvin Gibbs, JT Lewis -- fifth album since 1998. Dense, heavy riffs, seems a bit monochromatic without the guest trumpet that lifted their last two albums (especially Araminta, with Wadada Leo Smith). B+(*)

    The David Ullmann Group: Sometime (2018, Little Sky): Guitarist, has a couple previous records, core group includes organ, drums, and extra percussion, but most songs pick up horns, also some keyboards, guitar-like instruments (tres, sitar, mandolin), and vibes. Fusion with a full kitchen sink. B [cd]

    Piet Verbist: Suite Réunion (2018, Origin): Bassist, from Belgium, third album plus one by Mamutrio and a couple of side credits. Postbop quartet, no idea what "Suite" means here but the group is stocked with early collaborators, notably Bart Borremans (tenor sax) and Bram Weijters (piano), plus drums (split in two). B+(***)

    Harry Vetro: Northern Ranger (2018, T.Sound): Canadian drummer, leads a sextet on six (of 12) tracks, which drops down to piano or guitar trio, solo piano or guitar, and string quartet. Still flows nicely, with scattered riches. B+(**) [cd]

    David Virelles: Igbó Alákorin (The Singer's Groove) Vol I & II (2017 [2018], Pi): Pianist, born in Cuba, moved to New York in 2009, studying with Henry Threadgill. Combines two volumes on a single CD: the 35:19 "David Virelles Introduces Qrquesta Luz de Oriente" and the 23:17 "Danzones de Romeu at Café La Diana." The latter are duos with güiro player Rafael Abalos, offering an engaging code to the main action, which is the medium-sized orchestra with lead singers Alejandro Almenares and Emilio Despaigne Robert. I often find myself enjoying Latin jazz groups yet wondering what if anything makes one special. No doubts here, not that I can really explain it. A- [cd]

    Cuong Vu 4Tet: Change in the Air (2017 [2018], Rare Noise): Trumpet player, from Vietnam, left for Seattle at 6 (1975), has a dozen albums since 1997. Quartet with Bill Frisell (guitar), Luke Bergman (bass), and Ted Poor (drums), one piece from Bergman, three each for the others. B+(**) [bc]

    David S. Ware Trio: The Balance (Vision Festival XV+) (2009-10 [2018], AUM Fidelity): Tenor saxophonist, Ayler school, his long-running Quartet exemplified free jazz in the 1990s, died in 2012 after kidney problems. Fourth posthumous release, combining a Vision Festival performance with out-takes from Onecept, both with William Parker (bass) and Warren Smith (drums). B+(***)

    Becky Warren: Undesirable (2018, self-released): Nashville singer-songwriter, second album after 2016's excellent War Surplus. This lacks that album's overarching concept, but extends its sensibility. Rocks harder, too. Occasionally reminds me of Lucinda Williams. A-

    Trevor Watts & RGG: RAFA: Live in Klub Zak Jazz Jantar 2018 (2018, Fundacja Sluchaj): Cover seems to list RGG -- Polish piano trio of Lukasz Ojdana, Maciej Garbowski, and Krzysztof Gradziuk -- first, but the alto avant-saxophonist is the guest and the star at this Gdansk festival. Didn't recall the "probably greatest Polish piano trio," but their Live @ Alchemia with Evan Parker (2017) was even better. B+(***)

    Way North: Fearless and Kind (2018, self-released): Toronto group: Rebecca Hennessy (trumpet), Petr Cancura (tenor sax), Michael Herring (bass), Richie Barshay (drums). Postbop with some edge and freedom. B+(**)

    Kenny Werner: The Space (2016 [2018], Pirouet): Pianist, first album came out in 1978 (The Piano Music of Bix Beiderbecke/Duke Ellington/George Gershwin/James P. Johnson), several dozen since then. This one is solo, quiet, thoughtful, a mix of originals and unobvious covers. B+(*) [cd]

    Jeff Williams: Lifelike (2017 [2018], Whirlwind): Drummer, originally from Ohio, discography stretches back to 1975 but only a handful of albums under his own name. This was recorded live in London with trumpeter Gonçalo Marquez "featured guest" -- also John O'Gallagher (alto sax), Josh Arcoleo (tenor sax), Kit Downes (piano), and Sam Lasserson (bass). The trumpeter (elsewhere known as Marques) makes an impression, the saxes even more so. B+(***)

    Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

    Dexter Gordon Quartet: Espace Cardin 1977 (1977 [2018], Elemental Music): Previously unreleased live set, from Espace Pierre Cardin in Paris, with Al Haig (piano), Pierre Michelot (bass), and Kenny Clarke (drums). A typical set, the songs averaging 10+ minutes, in fine form throughout, maybe a hair better than the Tokyo 1975 release earlier this year (although I'm bothered by the discrepancies between the LP and digital releases). [LP has 4 songs, Napster has 5/6]. B+(***)

    Charlie Haden & Brad Mehldau: Long Ago and Far Away (2007 [2018], Impulse): Recorded at a festival in Mannheim, Germany, just bass and piano. Not revelatory, but lovely nonethless -- you don't often hear sensitize comping behind tear-jerking bass solos every day, but Haden often brought such emotion to bear. A-

    Jimi Hendrix: Both Sides of the Sky (1968-70 [2018], Legacy): A compilation of "posthumously released 'archival recordings'" post-Electric Ladyland, a reorganization that has now run to three CDs -- after Valleys of Neptune (2010) and People, Hell and Angels (2013). I haven't heard those two, and I'm not enough of a fan to be able to identify how any of them maps onto previous waves of posthumous releases. (Wasn't First Days of the New Rising Sun, in 1997, supposed to be the official fourth Hendrix album? I've heard lots of late Hendrix, but somehow missed that one). Mixed bag here, with "Georgia Blues" outstanding, "Mannish Boy" fine -- found the latter on Blues (1994), the former on Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: Jimi Hendrix (2003). Some terrific guitar scattered amongst lots of filler. B+(**)

    Fred Hersch: Fred Hersch Trio '97 @ The Village Vanguard (1997 [2018], Palmetto): Previously unreleased tape, with Drew Gress and Tom Rainey, predates four other Village Vanguard records I've heard, and probably the best of the bunch. Came at a time when he was releasing a series of songbook albums. Two originals, one from the bassist, five standards -- got the mix just right. A- [cd]

    Keith Jarrett: La Fenice (2006 [2018], ECM, 2CD): Umpteenth solo piano album, from a concert at Teatro La Fenice in Venice, Italy, parts of the title piece extending well into the second disc, ending with "My Wild Irish Rose," "Stella by Starlight," and "Blossom", running 97:39. Crowd is enthusiastic. B+(*)

    Jazz at the Philharmonic [Oscar Peterson/Illinois Jacquet/Herb Ellis]: Blues in Chicago 1955 (1955 [2018], Verve): Not a group per sé, just an ad hoc collection of stars who Norman Granz brought together for jam session shows all over the world. Just three names on the cover, and Jacquet only appears on 3 (of 4) tracks, same as unlisted stars Flip Phillips, Lester Young, Dizzy Gillespie, and Roy Eldridge. The rhythm section -- Peterson, Ellis, Ray Brown, and Buddy Rich -- are on all four. Starts with 20:00 of "The Blues" -- same title as on JATP's 1944 First Concert starring Jacquet -- backed with a 13:06 "Ballad Medley" giving each horn player a solo. Rounded out with two shorter pieces, "The Modern Set" (Gillespie and Young) and "The Swing Set" (Eldridge, Phillips, and Jacquet). A-

    The Gene Krupa Quartet: Live 1966 (1966 [2018], Dot Time Legends): Drummer (1909-73), rose to fame with Benny Goodman, led his own big band and small combos, the most famous with Anita O'Day and Roy Eldridge. He mostly recorded for Norman Granz 1953-62, and trailed off after that, with nothing after 1965. Recorded at the Indiana Jazz Festival in Evansville, a small swing combo with Eddie Shu (sax), Dill Jones (piano), and Benny Moten (bass, not to be confused with pre-Basie pianist Bennie Moten). Unremarkable, except that some of the drum parts couldn't be anyone else. B+(*)

    Thelonious Monk: Mřnk (1963 [2018], Gearbox): Quartet set, recorded live in Copenhagen with Charlie Rouse (tenor sax), John Ore (double bass), and Frankie Dunlop (drums). Limited edition vinyl, collector-priced, good sound on classic tunes, nothing you haven't heard before, but superb. A-

    Frank Morgan/George Cables: Montreal Memories (1989 [2018], High Note): Alto sax/piano duets, previously unreleased live tape. Morgan had made an impression as a be-bopper early on, but landed in jail in 1955 and didn't get out until 1985, when he started out on an impressive comeback, recording regularly up to his death in 2007. Boppish program here, with "Now's the Time," "A Night in Tunisia," and "Confirmation" in the first half, separated by "All the Things You Are" and "'Round Midnight." Cables, who had done similar work with Morgan's old San Quentin bandmate Art Pepper, is perfect here. B+(***)

    Outlaws & Armadillos: Country's Roaring '70s (1971-79 [2018], Legacy, 2CD): Discogs only lists a 12-track LP, but I slogged through the entire 35-track stream, collated from more than just Sony's back catalogue (mostly Columbia and RCA), the emphasis on covering all the bases in Texas (Jerry Jeff Walker and Terry Allen bring up the armadillos), including some blues as well as a lot of Lubbock. B+(**)

    Art Pepper: Unreleased Art Pepper Vol. 10: Toronto (1977 [2018], Widow's Taste, 3CD): Much discussion here of this being Pepper's first-ever band tour, which seems strange given that he toured relentlessly in his last years, up to his death at 56 in 1982. He had spent the better part of 1954-65 in jail, and didn't record much in the following decade, until the superb Living Legend in 1975, starting one of the most extraordinarily productive runs in history. The best place to start is his big (16-CD) box of Complete Galaxy Recordings: dive in anywhere and be amazed. Another choice is his pivotal 1977 Village Vanguard Sessions, originally released in four volumes then boxed up complete for 9-CD. Then there are the live bootlegs from the period, which Laurie Pepper has collated into ten volumes: nearly every disc has its share of breathtaking stretches, and this one is no exception. This is touted as a tune-up for the Village Vanguard stand, but the rhythm section here (Bernie Senensky, Gene Perla or Dave Piltch, Terry Clarke) was to be replaced by much more familiar names (George Cables, George Mraz, Elvin Jones). Still, Pepper adjusts by blowing even harder. Third disc is padded out with a 30-minute interview, which I may not play again but was never for a moment tempted to eject. Among other things, he talks about falling in love with Miles Davis' Live-Evil, and wishing to play with that rhythm section. Too bad that never happened -- would have been especially poignant given that one of his first great albums was a chance meeting with Davis' famous 1957 rhythm section. A- [cd]

    Art Pepper: The Art Pepper Quartet (1956 [2017], Omnivore): Recorded a couple months before his famed Meets the Rhythm Section (with Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones from Miles Davis' first great hard bop quintet), this rhythm section epitomized West Coast cool: Russ Freeman (piano), Ben Tucker (bass), and Gary Frommer (drums). Filling the CD out with alternate takes (including a false start) brings this to an odd end, but the original record is superb -- as was pretty much everything Pepper did during this brief period between jail terms. A-

    Art Pepper: Blues for the Fisherman: Unreleased Art Pepper Vol VI (1980 [2011], Widow's Taste, 4CD): Live at Ronnie Scott's in London, recorded over two nights, with what was probably Pepper's most regular quartet lineup: Milcho Leviev (piano), Tony Dumas (bass), and Carl Burnett (drums). At the time, the publicist (or label) balked at sending out full sets, so all I received was a useless sampler. Looks like the digital is released in four parts, but it would be a hopeless task to choose between them. Only repeats are "Ophelia" and "Make a List." Even though he talks about being nervous the first night, all four discs are terrific -- better than the earlier Toronto, enough so that I can imagine eventually bumping the grade. And while that's mostly Pepper, the band has grown (especially Leviev). A-

    Woody Shaw/Louis Hayes: The Tour: Volume One (1976 [2016], High Note): Recorded at Liederhalle Mozartsaal in Stuttgart, Germany, a crack hard bop quintet with the leaders on trumpet and drums, plus Junior Cook on tenor sax, Ronnie Matthews on piano, and Stafford James on bass. Hot stuff, Shaw is in especially good form. A-

    Woody Shaw/Louis Hayes: The Tour: Volume Two (1976-77 [2017], High Note): Six cuts from the same tour, collected from five more shows, mostly in Germany (one in Austria), mostly with the same band (René McLean replaces Junior Cook for the 1977 Munich track). As on Volume One, the trumpeter is in imposing form. B+(***)

    Joe Strummer: 001 (1981-2002 [2018], Ignition, 2CD): Singer-songwriter (with Mick Jones) in the Clash, which released two insanely great albums in 1977 and 1979, two merely great ones in 1978 and 1980 (the latter sprawling over 3LP), and a swansong in 1982 which only disappointed in context. After that, Mick Jones left for Big Audio Dynamite -- I loved their first album, but Christgau panned it, and I quickly lost interest in later albums -- while Strummer released a final album under the Clash brand (Cut the Crap), and occasionally popped up with something or other, including a band called the Mescaleros shortly before he died in 2002 (age 50). None of that seemed to work, although I thought his half of the soundtrack to the 1988 film Permanent Record showed that he could still do something terrific. It turns out that he left thousands of tapes when he died, and 16 years later we're finally getting a glimpse of what he had been working on. Slightly more than half of this came out on various albums and soundtracks, but not much here that really stands out -- just little bits that invariably remind you of better work on older albums (like the still marvelous "Trash City," from Permanent Record). [Napster omits 6/32 tracks. More extravagant product offerings add some extra material.] B+(**)

    Ben Webster: Valentine's Day 1964 Live! (1964 [2018], Dot Time): Recorded at the Half Note in New York, with Dave Frishberg (piano), Richard Davis (bass), and Grady Tate (drums). Sound is a bit iffy, and early on the pieces run faster than you'd expect, a roughness that pays dividends in places. B+(***)

    Old Music

    Mandy Barnett: The Original Nashville Cast Recordings of "Always . . . Patsy Cline": Live at the Ryman Auditorium (1995, Decca): Cline's picture on the cover, with no mention of Barnett, who established her own name with an eponymous album in 1996 and a still better one in 1999, but most sources file this under Barnett. She was the singer, with her perfect renditions of Cline's hits. In between you hear uncredited narrative from a Houston fan Cline befriended, Louise Seger. Author Ted Swindley has restaged the show regularly, showcasing many Patsy Cline impersonators, but Barnett set the standard. B+(*)

    Mandy Barnett: Sweet Dreams (2011, Opry Music): Not sure why she didn't follow up her 1996-99 albums, but aside from a Christmas album distributed by Cracker Barrel, this was her first in 12 years, a return to Patsy Cline's songbook, suggesting that's how she made her living. My guess is that this was recorded as a fungible souvenir of her live act. Near perfect, so much so it can't avoid charges of redundancy. B+(**)

    Jimi Hendrix: First Rays of the New Rising Sun (1968-70 [1997], MCA): With the Hendrix Estate taking charge of what had been a messy scattershot of posthumous releases, this appeared as an imagined fourth album along with remasters of the three he released during his brief life. Nothing actually new here, as the tracks had been previously released on The Cry of Love (1971), Rainbow Bridge (1971), and War Heroes (1972). (Nor was this an original idea, as 1995's Voodoo Soup started with the same idea, but added extra dubs so the Estate quashed it.) Could have been tightened up a bit for a proper release, but pretty unique. A-

    Allan Holdsworth: I.O.U. (1982 [1985], Enigma): British fusion guitarist (1946-2017), I knew his name, noted his recent death, had him filed under rock, listing three albums highly rated by AMG, none heard by me. I probably would have left it at that, but he's finished second in Downbeat's Readers Poll the last two years (losing first to Wynton Marsalis, then to Ray Charles, and not by much). Lots of their picks are dubious: e.g., this year Snarky Puppy won Jazz Group, and Trombone Shorty topped the list of trombonists, but those are picks I know better than, whereas I knew next to nothing of Holdsworth. This seemed to be the place to start (second, album, but "the first solo album over which he had full artistic control"). Guitar not bad but not up to the brag of his 12-CD box set (The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever). Vocals by Paul Williams explain why this was taken (and ignored) as rock. B

    Allan Holdsworth With I.O.U.: Metal Fatigue (1985, Enigma): Alan Pasqua joins on keyboards, a respected jazz pianist mostly wasted here. Vocals on only three (of six) tracks, the three shortest, with Paul Korda replacing Paul Williams on the last (and best). Nothing here makes me think "guitar genius." B-

    Allan Holdsworth: Atavachron (1986, Enigma): Plays SynthAxe (a fretted, guitar-like MIDI controller) as well as guitar, using bass (Jimmy Johnson) and alternating between two keyboardists (Alan Pasqua on three tracks) and three drummers (Gary Husband on four, Tony Williams on one). Vocals down to one (Rowanne Mark). C+

    Allan Holdsworth: Sand (1987, Relativity): No vocals, more sound effects (John England's credit), Alan Pasqua on keyboards, a split decision on bass and drums. His most fusion-sounding album to date, though I can't say that means he's getting better. B-

    Allan Holdsworth: Secrets (1989, Intima): Vocals return: one track each from Rowanne Mark and Craig Copeland, plus some spoken word -- nothing out of the ordinary. C+

    Allan Holdsworth: Wardenclyffe Tower (1992, Restless): Still Jimmy Johnson on bass, but various keybs and drums, including three tracks with Gordon Beck, a fine jazz pianist who worked with Holdsworth early on (and before that discovered John McLaughlin). B-

    Allan Holdsworth: The Sixteen Men of Tain (2000, Gnarly Geezer): Skipping ahead a few albums, nothing much has changed: well, drop the keyboards, add a trumpet, but still, nothing much. B-

    Allan Holdsworth/Alan Pasqua/Jimmy Haslip/Chad Wackerman: Blues for Tony (2007 [2009], Moonjune, 2CD): Presumably Tony Williams, the young drummer in the 1965-70 Miles Davis Quintet who went on to run a pathbreaking fusion group in the 1970s. Holdsworth appeared on the 1975-76 New Tony Williams Lifetime albums, and Williams played on a couple of the guitarist's efforts, along with Pasqua. Yellowjackets bassist Haslip adds some muscle at bass, and Wackerman establishes himself early with a big drum solo. B+(*)

    Joakim Milder: Ways (1990-92 [1993], Dragon): Swedish tenor/soprano saxophonist, 20+ albums since 1988, seven in my database as Penguin Guide picks but none I've heard (although I A-listed 2014's Spark of Life, filed under Marcin Wasilewski). Thought I'd look him up after I got a new record, but only found this one item: eleven pieces by various lineups mostly with piano and strings (drums on less than half). Probably not the place to start, although note that the one cut with conventional tenor sax-piano-bass-drums, "Buurgogne," really stands out. B+(*)

    Red Mitchell/Joakim Milder/Roger Kellaway: Live in Stockholm (1991 [1993], Dragon): Bass-tenor sax-piano, recorded at Jazzclub Fasching a year before the bassist died. "Sophisticated Lady" drags a bit, but good solos in "Life's a Take." B+(**)

    Frank Morgan: City Nights: Live at the Jazz Standard (2003 [2004], High Note): Alto sax quartet, with George Cables (piano), Curtis Lundy (bass), and Billy Hart (drums), doing a classic bop set, starting with a "Georgia on My Mind" (gorgeous) and "Cherokee" (rip roaring), ending with a couple of Coltrane tunes. A-

    Frank Morgan: Raising the Standard: Live at the Jazz Standard Vol. 2 (2003 [2005], High Note): Same group, recorded over three days so some sorting has been done, pushing the fast ones out on City Lights, with enough left over for a Vol. 3 in 2007. They slow it down here, starting with "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," ending with "Bessie's Blues," highlighted with two Ellingtons. A-

    Louis Prima/Keely Smith With Sam Butera and the Witnesses: The Wildest Shoe at Tahoe (1957, Capitol): Smith is by far the more presentable singer, but Prima gets top billing and his Italian "Zooma Zooma" shit is the most distinctive. Still not as wild as 1958's Live From Las Vegas. B+(**)

    Woody Shaw: Live Volume One (1977 [2000], High Note): The trumpeter's recordings are mostly divided between Muse and Columbia, so not too surprising that a bunch of live tapes wound up in the hands of Muse co-founder Joe Fields. This is the first of four volumes, year listed but no specific dates, with Carter Jefferson (tenor/soprano sax), Larry Willis (piano), Stafford James (bass), and Victor Lewis (drums). B+(***)

    Woody Shaw: Live Volume Two (1977 [2001], High Note): Again not seeing many details, same group as above except that Steve Turre (trombone) replaces Carter Jefferson (tenor/soprano sax) on 3 of 4 long tracks. B+(**)

    Woody Shaw: Live Volume Three (1977 [2002], High Note): Live from the Keystone Korner in San Francisco, two quartet tracks with Stafford James (bass), Victor Lewis (drums), and either Larry Willis or Mulgrew Miller (piano), plus three tracks adding Steve Turre (trombone). B+(*)

    Woody Shaw: Live Volume Four (1981 [2005], High Note): Again from Keystone Korner, a few years later with no sax but trombonist Steve Turre nearly stealing the show. B+(***)


    Everything streamed from Napster (ex 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