Monday, March 30. 2009
Electricians returned on Tuesday, promising to get the upstairs rewiring done this week. They left on Friday: I wouldn't say defeated, but worn down and out. Should return later this week with new switches, hoping that that'll fix it. Did a little work on kitchen each day, but not much. Cut out the wood for a little cabinet extension that will wind up holding my spice racks, but didn't get it joined or assembled, much less installed and painted. Need to figure out how to match my router to an incompatible router table. Did manage to get a gaping hole in the ceiling plugged, but still have to skim the edges and sand and paint. Did paint a bunch of loose shelves and the bathroom vanity cabinet, and put a new medicine cabinet up on the wall: cheap thing we bought then repainted; don't particularly like it, but for now it will do. Got hit by a substantial blizzard. A few miles west of here it dumped over two feet of snow, but our official count was 7 inches, since it started here as rain, then sleet and ice pellets before turning to snow overnight. Power went out, late at night when I was painting. Tried to finish up by flashlight. I usually figure it's good to cook when we're snowed in, but didn't have much available. I did pull a slab of salmon from the freezer, marinated it in sake/soy/sugar, and shoved it under the gas infrared broiler -- first time I had used the oven in the new Capital range. Fried up some frozen gyoza on the range at the same time -- big complaint about the old KitchenAid was that you couldn't use oven and stove top at same time. Salmon teriyaki was crispier on top without overcooking. Gyoza came out a bit too crispy, and my dipping sauce could have used fresh ginger and scallion, but it all worked out pretty well. Once we get organized it'll go smoother. Still need to get the stainless steel counter around the range built, plus the nearby pull-out pantry units. The big south-wall cabinets need to be secured and wired, plus another coat of paint. The corner pantry needs its cover door. Dropped ceiling needs a few more panels. I need to upgrade some outlets to GFCI. Shades are still on order. Floor has a lot of stray paint which will be a pain to remove. At the present rate it could take 3-4 weeks to get those things all worked out, but it's coming around.
Meanwhile, I listened to a little jazz this week. Every now and then I write up an honorable mention or a dud. Draft needs a week to finish, but I haven't had one lately, so it keeps growing. Need to get to it. Meanwhile, I try to keep from falling too far behind.
Greg Diamond: Dançando Com Ale (2007 , Chasm): Guitarist, b. 1977 in New York, has one Colombian parent (other Jewish), spent at least part of his early life in Bogotá, Colombia. Debut album. Looks mostly Brazilian to me, although he covers "Libertango" (Astor Piazzolla) and "Sofrito" (Mongo Santamaria). Wrote 5 of 10 songs, none with English titles. Band features Seamus Blake on tenor sax, a smart move. Nicely percolating "All or Nothing" to close. One vocal, by a Vanessa Diamond, with a voice I really dislike. B+(*)
Bridge Quartet: Night (2007 , Origin): Second album from this group, which was pulled together by drummer Alan Jones on a break back home in Portland, OR, from his usual haunts in Europe. They're basically a small time bar band, playing covers of pieces like "Green Dolphin Street" and "Bemsha Swing." Thing is, they're really good at it -- maybe because Jones recruited a couple of ringers. Pianist Darrell Grant has a substantial catalog, and saxophonist Phil Dwyer came all the way from Toronto. He holds his own on Sonny Rollins' "Strode Rode," and does a mean Charlie Parker on Victor Feldman's "A Face Like Yours." He doesn't have a lot out under his own name, but has an intriguing sideline: the Phil Dwyer Academy of Musical and Culinary Arts. He's cookin' here. B+(***)
Ben Markley: Second Introduction (2008 , OA2): Pianist, from Longmont, CO, leads a standard bop quintet, with Greg Gisbert on trumpet and Jim Pisano on tenor sax. Nothing much wrong with it -- lots of energy, some postbop innovation -- but nothing that strikes me as out of the ordinary, either. B
Hal Galper/Reggie Workman/Rashied Ali: Art-Work (2008 , Origin): Subtitle: "Live at the Jazz Room/William Patterson University." Piano trio, of course. No excuse for any jazz fan not to recognize all three names, but Galper certainly deserves more recognition. He has a couple dozen albums since 1971, including a couple on my A-list (Portrait from 1989; Just Us from 1993). Influenced by Bud Powell. Taught by Jaki Byard. This was cut shortly before his 70th birthday, and he sounds superb at high speed, even better when he slows it down a bit. He cut a good album for Origin a couple of years ago using the home team rhythm section (Jeff Johnson and John Bishop) -- competent as they are Workman and Ali are in a whole nuther league. (I don't catch much live jazz, but quite a while back I caught Workman with Mal Waldron and spent the whole set fixated on him: totally changed the way I hear bass.) [A-]
John Stowell: Solitary Tales (2008 , Origin): Guitarist, based in Portland, OR, has a career stretching back to the 1970s but most of his dozen or so recordings are since 2000. This one is solo, picked out on a nylon-stringed guitar built by Mike Doolin, who recorded this at home. One song each from Bill Evans and Ornette Coleman; rest are originals. Steady, assured, expert; not stuck in any of the obvious jazz guitar ruts. B+(**)
Matt Blostein/Vinnie Sperrazza: Ursa Minor (2006 , Envoi): Front cover lists drummer Sperrazza first; everywhere else, including spine, lists alto saxophonist Blostein first. Google swings both ways. CDBaby has Blostein first, so that won out. First, and thus far only, record for both/either -- a couple of years old, but Blostein sent it after I complimented him for Liam Sillery's Outskirts. Alto sax has a light tone, searching, thoughtful, intricately postbop, even when complemented by Mike McGinnis on tenor sax (2 cuts) or clarinet (1 cut). Most cuts also include Khabu Young on guitar, Jacob Sacks on piano, and Thomas Morgan on bass. Most interesting when they wander into free territory. B+(*)
Al Hood: Just a Little Taste: Al Hood Plays the Writing of Dave Hanson (2008 , CDBaby): Trumpeter, originally from upstate New York, wrote his doctoral dissertation on Clifford Brown, teaches at University of Denver since 1999. Don't know what else he's done, other than play in Phil Collins' big band. This seems to be his first record, although he's probably well past 50. Hanson is harder to sort out from the Google chaff. Pianist, based in Denver, plays here, arranges and conducts. Only wrote 4 of 12 pieces, so the "writing" Hood plays is mostly his arrangements. The small group stuff is real solid: Hood has a broad, commanding tone; stands out cleanly amid the orchestral muck -- the high-rent district of the woodwind section -- Pam Endsley on flute, Lisa Martin on oboe, Susan McCullough on horn -- and/or a shitload of strings. I suppose that makes the arranger feel like he's earning his dime. B
Matt Renzi: Lunch Special (2007 , Three P's): Plays tenor sax and clarinet. Not very forthcoming on biography: father played flute in SF Symphony; studied at Berklee with George Garzone (like, who didn't?), and in India with R.A. Ramamani; has een all around the world; sixth album since 1998. Only other one I've heard, The Cave (on Fresh Sound New Talent), made my HM list. I described it as "centered," adding that "Renzi plays difficult music but makes it looks easy because he doesn't go in for the stress and force of most avant saxophonists." Don't have much more to add on this trio with Dave Ambrosio (bass) and Russ Meissner (drums) yet. [B+(**)]
Diana Krall: Quiet Nights (2009, Verve): Pretty simple concept, almost inevitable given Krall's market profile: ballads with some light Brazilian froth (two Jobim standards, Paulinho da Costa's percussion), swimming in Claus Ogerman's soft-toned arrangements backed by a massive string orchestra whose main job is to swoon gently in the background. Can't think of anyone else who could pull it off. I'm not sure this will hold up, but it's been a sheer delight ever since I popped it and heard "Where or When." It's not the commanding performance From This Moment On was -- more Bennett than Sinatra. [A-]
Branford Marsalis Quartet: Metamorphosen (2008 , Marsalis Music): I've long thought that the first brother was lucky to get to pick tenor sax first, because it gave him a broader and more open model (Coltrane) than the second could do on trumpet (Davis). Despite their fame, both have stayed within their bounds: it's just that Branford gives you the sense that he really enjoys where he is, whereas Wynton won't be satisfied until he turns into Napoleon. One indication of Branford's comfort zone is that this quartet -- Joey Calderazzo on piano, Eric Revis on bass, Jeff "Tain" Watts on drums -- has been together for 10 years now. Their first album, Requiem (for Calderazzo's predecessor, Kenny Kirkland), is still my pick from the series, perhaps because the solemn occasion brought them together, but they've almost always made solid albums, and this is one more. Everyone in the group writes -- Branford himself is down to one song plus "Rhythm-A-Ning" -- creating a bit of a jumble, but Revis's "Sphere" (following the Monk cover) and Watts's "Samo" are first rate. I've never like Calderazzo on his own, but he fills in admirably here. And Branford has mostly switched to soprano sax, which pace my instincts may be a good thing. All of Coltrane's children thought they had to master the second horn, but damn few did -- Marsalis is about as good on it as Wayne Shorter is, which is saying something. B+(***)
Miles Okazaki: Generations (2008 , Sunnyside): Guitarist, from Washington state, based in New York. Does his own graphic art, which gives his two albums -- Mirror came out in 2007 -- a common brand look. Another thing the two albums share is powerhouse saxophone -- Miguel Zenón, David Binney, and Christof Knoche appear on both; the first album also had Chris Potter on one cut. New this time is vocalist Jen Shyu. Okazaki trends toward fusion, but mostly flows in and out around the frontliners. The saxophonists make a strong impression. On the other hand, I don't care for Shyu at all: something hymnal to her voice, trying to add a luminous aura to the melodic lines. B [Apr. 7]
Ben Wendel: Simple Song (2007 , Sunnyside): Credit reads: saxophones, bassoon, melodica. Cover shows a tenor sax. Born Vancouver, raised in Los Angeles, attended Eastman School of Music, based in Santa Monica, CA. First album, but has piled up a couple dozen side credits since 2002. Mostly originals, plus covers from Coltrane and Strayhorn ("A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing"). With Larry Koonse on guitar, Darek Oleskiewicz on bass, Nate Wood on drums, and any of three pianists, the best known Taylor Eigsti. Postbop, nicely done, probably more substance than I'm giving it credit for, but nothing much grabbed me -- not even Koonse, who has sent me to the credit sheets the last half-dozen or so albums he's been on. B
Marc Copland: New York Trio Recordings, Vol. 3: Night Whispers (2008 , Pirouet): Same trio as Vol. 1 back in 2006: Drew Gress on bass, Bill Stewart on drums. (Vol. 2 went with Gary Peacock and Paul Motian.) Actually, Copland's most common trio. Not leftovers, but it starts slow -- the first of three takes of "Emily" -- and is relatively difficult to hear clearly. Includes some intriguing stuff, but not the place to start. B+(*)
Pirouet Jazz Compilation, Vol. 1: The Best Is Yet to Come (1992-2008 , Pirouet): Then, like, why not wait until you get it before issuing a label compilation? German postbop label, a home for underappreciated Americans like Marc Copland and Bill Carrothers, plus copasetic Germans most likely also underappreciated. The latter include clarinettist John Ruocco, tenor saxophonist Jason Seizer, and pianists Pablo Held, Achim Kaufmann, Walter Lang, and John Schröder -- piano is a big thing with this label. The latter are new to me -- evidently the label/publicist are only pushing American names over here. Lang's duet with Lee Konitz is choice. The only pre-2006 cut is from Carrothers' rediscovered debut. B+(*)
Sarah DeLeo: I'm in Heaven Tonight (2008 , Sweet Sassy Music): Singer. Second album. Does standards. "Rockin' Robin" is a strong first move, but the only thing like that -- "On the Street Where You Live" and "You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me" are more typical. Backed with guitar, organ, occasional horns -- Jay Collins works some nice sax in. Not sure about the voice or delivery, which have a few quirks but limited interest. B
Iron City: Put the Flavor on It (2008 , Carlo Music): Had artist on this in my queue as Charlie Apicella & Iron City, but don't see any reason from the package -- my filing system is hopeless right now, so the odds of finding the hype sheet are slim to none. Guitarist Apicella is clearly the leader, writing 5 songs vs. 4 covers -- "Walk On By," "Hey Western Union Man," "And Satisfy," and one from Apicella's mentor Dave Stryker. Group includes Beau Sasser on organ, Alan Korzin on drums. Don't know where the name comes from -- group itself is from Amherst, MA. Light funk. Mostly harmless. B- [Apr. 7]
Bob Rodriguez: Portraits (1994 , Art of Life): Pianist, originally from Cleveland, moved to New York in 1989 to study with Richie Beirach. Cut a 1994 album on Nine Winds; a couple more since then. This is an old/early session, solo. A little slow, thoughtful, in very rich sound. Not bad if you like that sort of thing. B
The Thing: Now and Forever (2000-05 , Smalltown Superjazz, 3CD+DVD): An acoustic jazz trio from Norway, badder than the Bad Plus in every sense of the word. Drummer Paal Nilssen-Love and bassist Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten grew up in rock bands before venturing into free jazz not least because it was noisier and more abrasive. They're best known in the US for Ken Vandermark projects like School Days. The third wheel is Mats Gustafsson, who early on invited Vandermark to gig with his Aaly Trio, and later joined him and Peter Brötzmann in Sonore. He plays tenor sax when he wants to rip at alto speeds, but these days mostly blows heavy metal baritone. Gustafsson comes from the snorting beasts school of post-Ayler sax -- chances are you either love him or hate him. The group name comes from a song by Scandinavian folk hero Don Cherry. Their first (and best) album is all Cherry, except for a couple of short improvs. It's included here along with a follow-up made with Joe McPhee mostly playing pocket trumpet, adding a contrasting tone and a more human touch. The third disc here is a DVD of the group playing an outdoor concert at Řya in Sweden, with Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore joining in for one non-song -- really just a noise rant. Key thing to watch here is Flaten doing everything to his bass but chewing it up and gargling. Over time, the Cherry repertoire gives way to rock tunes -- PJ Harvey, White Stripes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs: it helps a lot to start with a beat before you rip it to shreds. But they're just as likely to start with nothing, as on the previously unreleased single-piece fourth disc, something called "Gluttony" because it's meant to gross you out. B+(**)
Anthony Braxton/Kyle Brenders: Toronto (Duets) 2007 (2007 , Barnyard, 2CD): Two discs, two compositions; two reed players -- Braxton plays sopranino, soprano, and alto sax; Brenders clarinet, soprano and tenor sax -- tracking each other closely, with occasional give-and-take, slightly more so on "Composition 356" (the second disc). Not much dissonance, nor much range or color -- the soprano/sopranino dominate, but don't squeak much. Little things count. B+(**)
Martin & Haynes: Freedman (2008, Barnyard): Drummer Jean Martin, credited here with "suitcase." Guitarist Justin Haynes, credited here with ukulele. Title references Myk Freedman, a Canadian lap steel player who wrote (almost) all of the 17 songs here -- titles lke "Zombies Love Dancin' to This Number," "My Technical Difficulties Led to Rhythmical Complexities," and "Where the Tulips Blow in My Imaginary Orchestra." One of those ideas that never amounts to much: hard to be John Fahey on a ukulele, or Rashied Ali on a suitcase. Still, it eventually settles into enough of a vibe to show that the idea wasn't totally crocked. B
Meryl Romer: So Sure (2008 , Lady Pearl Music): Singer, based in Boulder, CO; b. 1951, started her jazz career in 2002, and dedicates this album "to all those who have waited long enough." Took it seriously when she started, studying with Casey Collins (producer here, and co-author with Eric Moon of three originals) and Erik Deutsch (pianist here, arranger), and sought out further pointers from Sheila Jordan and Jay Clayton. Attractive voice, best on songs with a little wit like "Lady Is a Tramp" and "Big Spender," and her "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" is touching. Band fits well. Hard not to root for her. B+(**)
No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further listening the first time around.
For this cycle's collected Jazz Prospecting notes, look here.
Unpacking: Found in the mail this week:
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