Monday, June 28. 2010
Rob Harvilla confirms that Jazz Consumer Guide will run in The Village Voice this week. Should be on the streets in New York on Wednesday. They wanted to slightly truncate one review, but it sounds like all the records made it in.
Working through my various trays, even pulling one record from the bottom priority set, and a couple of vocals. Was prepared to consign the new old Art Pepper to superfluous high-B+ status but the last two cuts were impossible to deny. Mail deliveries seem to be erratic, but a lot of uncatalogued stuff showed up today.
The Jim Baker/Mars Williams album was an anomaly: something I played/rated long ago, misfiled, forgot about, rediscovered, accidentally gave a second chance. I get letters now and then urging me to listen further to records, and they are almost always fruitless. I don't doubt that there are records I'd move up on if I gave them more time, but I'm surprised by how far I moved this time. Only similar case I can think of was a John Butcher album that went the other direction.
Steve Davis: Images (2009 , Posi-Tone): Trombonist, b. 1967 in Binghampton, NY, studied with Jackie McLean, who steered him to Art Blakey. Looks like he has about 18 records since 1996 (mostly for Criss Cross; his MySpace page says 13, AMG lists 17 and misses this), more than 100 side credits. This is a sextet, three horns (Josh Evans on trumpet/flugelhorn, Mike DiRubbo on alto sax) with piano, bass, and drums. Big, brash postbop outing, a lot of bounce to it. Not sure why I don't find it more appealing: too bright? not enough trombone? Don't think the problem is DiRubbo, who's choice for an album dedicated to Jackie McLean. B+(*)
Vincent Herring & Earth Jazz: Morning Star (2010, Challenge): No recording date. Credited with "saxophone" -- both alto and soprano are pictured in booklet, and that's his basic kit. Has a steady stream of records since 1990, when he broke in and seemed likely to be a major force, but I haven't heard much since then. Group includes Anthony Wonsey on piano, Richie Goods on bass, Joris Dudli on drums, with Danny Sadownick adding percussion on 6 of 10 tracks. After initial misdirection on "Naima," this soon settles into a funk groove album, with Goods the prime mover, Wonsey playing what sounds like electric piano. Wonsey wrote three songs, Dudli two, Goods one, Herring only one -- the one he sounds most eloquent on. B+(**)
John Fedchock NY Sextet: Live at the Red Sea Jazz Festival (2008 , Capri): Trombonist, b. 1957, based in New York, mostly identified with his New York Big Band which first appeared on record in 1992, and appears to still be active. Same basic sextet lineup as Steve Davis uses: trumpet-trombone-sax horn line, piano, bass, drums. Scott Wendholt plays trumpet, Walt Weiskopf tenor sax, Allen Farnham piano, David Finck bass, Dave Ratajczak drums (all but Weiskopf and Finck from the Big Band). More of a swing player than Davis, especially with Farnham, which may be why he can run the horns in unison without cloying. B+(***)
3ology: With Ron Miles (2008 , Tapestry): Longmont, CO-based trio: Doug Carmichael on saxophones, Tim Carmichael on basses, Jon Powers on drums. Looks like they have two previous albums (or CDRs), an eponymous one in 2007 and Out of the Depths in 2008, but they had nothing to do with a 1995 Konnex album called 3-Ology (Santi Debriano, Billy Hart, Arthur Blythe). Miles plays cornet and has a substantial discography that far transcends his Colorado base. He adds an extra dimension here, but the group really hums even when he lays out. Doug Carmichael plays interesting, aggressive freebop sax, while Tim Carmichael keeps a steady rhythmic buzz going on bass. A-
Aldo Romano: Origine (2009 , Dreyfus Jazz): Drummer, b. 1941 in Belluno, Italy, but moved to France in 1950s and has been long based in Paris. Has a couple dozen albums under his own name since 1977, and a lot of credits -- AMG, which misses a lot in Europe, has a long page starting with Gato Barbieri and Don Cherry in 1965, Steve Lacy in 1966, Rolf Kuhn in 1967, Joachim Kuhn and Steve Kuhn in 1969. Romano composed these pieces, probably over the course of his career, with Yves Simon adding lyrics to "Jazz Messengers" which Romano sings in a touchingly offhand way. Lionel Belmondo arranged the pieces for a large orchestra -- no strings but flutes, English and French horns, bassoon, and tuba, along with the usual reeds, limited brass, piano, bass, and drums -- which the notes fairly describe as "sumptuous." B+(**)
Aruán Ortiz Quartet: Alameda (2006 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Pianist, b. 1973, from Santiago de Cuba, passed through Spain and France before moving to US in 2003, to study at Berklee and wind up in New York. Cut an album of Cuban standards in 1996, a trio in 2005, and now this augmented quartet. The extra is tenor saxophonist Antoine Roney, who joins in on three cuts and gets a "featuring" shout out on the cover. The quartet includes Eric McPherson on drums, Peter Slavov on bass, and Abraham Burton on alto sax. Roney's the better known name, and I like him well enough, but Burton carries this record, as he has regularly done throughout his career. Ortiz plays some electric. Doesn't make much of his Cuban roots, but I don't doubt he could. B+(**)
Rosario Giuliani: Lennie's Pennies (2009 , Dreyfus Jazz): Alto saxophonist, b. 1967 in Terracina, Italy. Tenth album since 1997. Mainstream piano-bass-drums quartet, with Pierre de Bethmann also playing electric piano. Bright, bouncy, beautiful tone especially on classics like "How Deep the Ocean," some fast bebop turns. B+(**)
Trichotomy: Variations (2007 , Naim Jazz): Piano trio, from Australia: Sean Foran on piano, Pat Marchisella on bass, John Parker on drums. First album, or third if you count two released in Australia under the name Misinterprotato. One track adds violin-viola-alto sax; another adds trumpet-electronics. Foran composed 5 pieces, Parker 4, and one was a joint improv. They have a brash, beatwise, populist feel, not unlike EST or Neil Cowley, and it suits them well. B+(***) [July 13]
Prime Picks: The Virtuoso Guitar of Larry Coryell (1998-2003 , High Note): Robert Christgau once wrote: "Larry Coryell is the greatest thing to happen to the guitar since stretched gut." But looking through his Consumer Guides, I don't see any Coryell albums that Christgau actually liked much -- unlike John McLaughlin, Sonny Sharrock, and James Ulmer -- and he seems to have given up listening shortly after 1979. This samples five 1998-2003 albums, with two solo cuts and several small groups that hop around randomly -- two with trumpet, two with vibes, four with John Hicks on piano, two "Power Trio" cuts with bass and drums. Best thing is the guitar, as silvery as Coryell's hair. B+(*)
Corey Christiansen Quartet: Outlaw Tractor (2008 , Origin): Guitarist, b. 1971, father taught guitar at Utah State for many years; moved to St. Louis where he was AR director at guitar-oriented Mel Bay for seven years, then eventually moved back to Utah, where he is Director of Curriculum for The Music School. Third album since 2004. Guitar-sax-organ-drums quartet. I run across a dozen-plus such albums every year and usually have little trouble dismissing them, but this is one of the better ones, and surprisingly it's not David Halliday's sax that stands out but Pat Bianchi's organ -- by now, surely the most clichéd of all instruments. Guitar grooves too. B+(**)
Peter Epstein & Idée Fixe: Abstract Realism (2008 , Origin): Alto saxophonist here, plays soprano elsewhere. Had a 2005 album, Lingua Franca, which made JCG A-list, and another album this year, The Dark, by EEA, which made the dud list. This isn't a return to form so much as yet another bold move in some other direction. There are points of electronic drone where this sounds industrial -- Andy Barbera's guitar, and possibly Sam Minaie's bass, are suspects, along with the also unknown drummer Matt Mayhall. But mostly Epstein labors mightily against dark tableaus. This wallows a bit, but when he's working he makes a strong impression. Two "special guests" also play reeds: Brian Walsh on bass clarinet, Gavin Templeton on alto and soprano sax. No idea what they're doing here. B+(***)
Wellstone Conspiracy: Motives (2009 , Origin): Quartet, new group name but familiar components: Brent Jensen on soprano sax, Bill Anschell on piano, Jeff Johnson on bass, John Bishop on drums. Anschell and Jensen each wrote three of seven originals; Johnson wrote one, and Anschell arranged Billy Strayhorn's "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing" for the closer. Jensen has developed into the finest mainstream soprano sax specialist around, so normal here you'd hardly guess what he's playing. The others are solid pros, a reputation the album consolidates without adding much to. B+(**)
Mark O'Connor: Jam Session (2000-04 , OMAC): Whiz-kid bluegrass fiddler, b. 1961, won some prizes when he was young, one result being that Country Music Foundation's compilation of his 1975-84 work is called The Championship Years. Gradually gravitated toward jazz, where he seems stuck on Stephane Grappelli. These cuts actually come from four sessions, two with mandolinist Chris Thile and guitarist Bryan Sutton, one of those plus the other two with guitarist Frank Vignola, with either Jon Burr or Byron House on bass. Informal fun, but doesn't impress me much one way or the other. B
Art Pepper: Unreleased Art, Vol. V: Stuttgart May 25, 1981 (1981 , Widow's Taste, 2CD): Yet another installment in Laurie Pepper's catalog of late Pepper bootlegs, eleven days after The Croydon Concert which appeared as Vol. III in 2008, eight days before Art Pepper With Duke Jordan in Copenhagen 1981 (released by Galaxy in 1996 and a favorite of mine ever since), then there is the Nov. 22, 1981 Abashiri Concert (Vol. 1 in this series). With Milcho Leviev on piano, Bob Magnuson on bass, and Carl Burnett on drums: a common tour group for Pepper, although only Burnett was a frequent player on Pepper's Galaxy albums of the period -- George Cables was his most common pianist. I'm not sure you need all of these, but after a while one starts looking for idiosyncrasies, and this one has plenty. Leviev is much rougher than Cables and tends to run on, but he is explosive here. Pepper has his ordinary moments, but "Landscape" on the first disc is magnificent; on the second he tears at "Over the Rainbow" trying to come up with something new after thirty years of playing the song, and he succeeds, then celebrates by burning through "Cherokee." A-
Tide Tables [Paul Kikuchi/Alexander Vittum]: Lost Birdsongs (2005 , Prefecture): Both Kikuchi and Vittum are credited with compositions, percussion, and electronics. Kikuchi is from Seattle, drummer for Empty Cage Quartet, has another collaborative record -- with Jese Olsen as Open Graves -- in my unplayed box. Vittum is based in/near San Francisco. Doesn't seem to have any other credits. This was recorded live in Seattle with a group of musicians: Daniel Carter (alto sax, flute, trumpet), Brian Drye (trombone), Matt Goeke (cello), Matt Crane (percussion), Sam Weng (percussion). CDBaby page describes this as "Milford Graves meets Aphex Twin meets Konono #1." Graves is wishful thinking, but the other two bracket the percussion range, and from the "Recommended if you like" list we can throw in Harry Partch for orientation. Package I got is a clear plastic sleeve with a folded print insert. I'm tempted to treat it as an advance, but if you pay cash you'll probably get the same. B+(**)
Open Graves [Paul Kikuchi/Jesse Olsen]: Hollow Lake (2009, Prefecture): Bay Area-based Olsen is "founder and director of Deconstruct My House, an organization dedicated to presenting and fostering experimental music in socially conscious ways"; also "half of the experimental folk duo Ramon & Jessica." Sounds like a noble calling. For Kikuchi, see above [Tide Tables]. Not sure what Olsen does -- uncredited instruments here are "guitar, voice, slit drum, trombone, bells, walkie-talkies, and Kikuchi and Keplinger instruments" -- but he manages to ground whatever percussion Kikuchi attempts. This "seeks resonant spaces and uncommon environments," which means it is ambient and droney, not uninteresting, but demands attention it doesn't entice. B
Jamie Cullum: The Pursuit (2009 , Verve): Released Mar. 2. Never got a real copy, just this "watermarked" advance with my name ominously stamped onto it, and no info on credits -- big band, string orchestra, banks of backup singers, no doubt a cast of thousands. Maybe then got confused about the packaging -- AMG lists eight editions, including packages with bonus tracks, a "deluxe edition," variants with DVDs, and the "Barnes & Noble Exclusive." With so much marketing, you'd might think he was popular, but as far as I can tell he remains a Harry Connick wannabe, handicapped by writing slightly over half of his songs. On the plus side, he's managed to shed most of the tics that made Catching Tales so annoying. That leaves him with . . . uh, nothing. C [advance]
Carmen Souza: Protegid (2010, Galileo Music): Cape Verdean singer, b. 1981, third album since 2006, backed by an international band with Portuguese bassist-percussionist Theo Pas'cal especially prominent, but Cuban pianist Victor Zamora reminds me of the herky-jerky rhythms unusual in post-Portuguese music (although Tom Zé is an exception -- maybe psychedelic tropicalia has something going here). Her vocals are heavily mannered, sometimes so Sprachgesang I expect to grasp some German words, but the lyrics look to be all Portuguese, with a thick booklet of trots I haven't bothered with (and in any case would find arduous to read). Played it enough to detect that there is something highly unusual going on here, but still too far out for me to get. B+(*)
Domenic Landolf: New Brighton (2009 , Pirouet): Swiss tenor saxophonist, b. 1969, also plays bass clarinet and quite a bit of alto flute here. Third album since 2004. Trio backed by Patrice Moret on bass and Dejan Terzic on drums, who keep it simple, straightforward, and thoughtful. Mix of Landolf, Moret, and group pieces, with a lovely cover of "My Old Flame" to close. B+(**)
Beat Kaestli: Invitation (2009 , Chesky): Standards singer, from Switzerland, based in New York. Fourth album since 2002. Subtitled his last one A Tribute to European Song, but this one is All American -- spine inset refers to it as "The New York Sessions" -- standards you know played by pros who keeps discreetly to the background: Kenny Rampton (trumpet), Joel Frahm (tenor sax), Paul Meyers (guitar), Jay Leonhart (bass), Billy Drummond (drums). Soft, pliable voice. Horns don't have much to do, but Meyers sets a nice tone. B+(**)
Sarah Partridge: Perspective (2009 , Peartree): Singer, based in NJ, fourth album since 1998. Did some acting 1983-93. Duet with pianist Daniel May. Two originals, the rest standards. Never breaks out of a rather bland rut. B-
The Waitiki 7: New Sounds of Exotica (2009 , Pass Out): Sounds like the old sounds of exotica, as far as I can bother to recall, except maybe louder. Group is led by bassist Ray Wong, with soprano sax/flutes, violin, piano, vibes/xylophone, drums, and a percussion guy who doubles on bird/animal calls. Some old Martin Denny pieces; some new ones. Packaging includes a Chee Hoo Fizz recipe which I'm not about to mix up. B
These are some even quicker notes based on downloading or streaming records. I don't have the packaging here, don't have the official hype, often don't have much information to go on. I have a couple of extra rules here: everything gets reviewed/graded in one shot (sometimes with a second play), even when I'm still guessing on a grade; the records go into my flush file (i.e., no Jazz CG entry, unless I make an exception for an obvious dud). If/when I get an actual copy I'll reconsider the record.
Steve Davis Quintet: Live at Smalls (2009 , Smalls Live): Similar to Davis's Images studio disc -- bright, energetic, straightforward hard bop -- but cut down a bit with just trombone and Mike DiRubbo's alto sax up front, and an upgrade on piano to Larry Willis. The live album artifacts help out, like the short playlist (four songs) padded out with more improv, or don't much hurt, like the extended bass solo and the patter. DiRubbo takes at least one song at Parker speeds -- he's always impressive -- and I like Davis's slow intro to "Day Dream." B+(**) [Rhapsody]
No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further listening the first time around.
Re-grades trying to sort out the surplus:
Jim Baker/Steve Hunt/Brian Sandstrom/Mars Williams: Extraordinary Popular Delusions (2005 , Okka Disk): Couldn't recall playing this before, so put it on by accident. Played it twice before I went to write it up, then found that I had already (mis)rated it. Baker is a Chicago pianist who works in an avant-garde scene that doesn't find much use for pianists. Hunt plays drums, and Sandstrom plays bass and electric guitar. They each make interesting noise, helping out in all sorts of ways. Still, this is mostly about Williams, who initially emerged as Hal Russell's heir apparent, played second sax in the original Vandermark 5, then took his chances with acid jazz. He's back in full bloom here, fierce, rough, raunchy. Played it a third time thinking I should dial back toward my original grade. Nah. [was B+(*)] A-
Unpacking: Found in the mail this week:
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