Monday, December 10. 2012
Music: Current count 20786  rated (+32), 592  unrated (-23).
Made a big dent in the new jazz queue, even a few vocal albums. With next to nothing incoming, I even feel like I'm liquidating my backlog -- the unrated count finally dropped under 600, probably for the first time ever (at least, since I've been tracking it). Sent my Jazz Critics Poll ballot in, fairly well shuffled from the first-pass I posted last week. Main drop was Vijay Iyer -- actually played the record twice, enjoyed it, but didn't think it had any special edge over a dozen or two others. Fact is, aside from Steve Lehman in the number one slot, it's not clear to me how to rank most of the A-list jazz records this year, so I went with things I thought might be interesting to write about -- a definition that didn't leave much room for piano trios.
One thing I always wonder about is what am I missing, and one way to measure that is how long it takes to find something I did in fact miss. For the A-list, that turned out to be just a few hours -- see Kyle Brenders, below. The Eric Revis album took another day or two, but none of numerous the high B+ grades below came very close. Most of what's left -- other than the Whammies, playing now -- doesn't look that promising, but you never know. Twice in the last few years I've found top-ten records in my queue that I had missed, and every year I find a handful of A-list extras.
By the way, I've started adding EOY lists to the metacritic file. I probably have about a third of the EOY lists I'll wind up with. (I currently have 23 major publication lists, which should be a bit less than half; some examples: American Songwriter, Clash, Drowned in Sound, Filter, Jazzwise, Magnet, Mojo, NME, Paste, PopMatters, Q, Rocksound, Stereogum, This Is Fake DIY, Uncut, Wire.) Below are the top 25. Totals include review scoring, but the numbers in brackets are the raw EOY list counts (some top-10 picks get an extra point), so higher counts there show gainers (Tame Impala, Kendrick Lamar) and droppers (El-P, Cloud Nothings).
The jazz subset is in a bit better shape this week. As you can see above the sources rarely focus on jazz, but I've picked up a dozen-plus lists from JJA members, an actual subset of the voting public. Cherry and Glasper are crossover records which won't do so well (see the bracketed counts). Again, the current top 25:
The bracket numbers aren't readily available -- perhaps omething I should write some software to fix. I expect Iyer to win in a landslide -- probably a reason I didn't feel the need to pile on, but I'm happy with all my picks, and there are many more fine albums I left out. Not so happy with the reissues category, which I wound up boycotting, in part because it's been boycotting me.
The Julian Bliss Septet: A Tribute to Benny Goodman (2012, Signum): Clarinettist, of course, b. 1989 in England, has a couple of classical records under his belt and has designed his own clarinet. Septet adds piano, vibes, trumpet, guitar, bass, and drums, of which guitarist Colin Oxley is the most important, even if he's more Eddie Condon than Charlie Christian. B+(*)
Kyle Brenders Quartet: Offset (2012, 18th Note): Plays sax (soprano, tenor) and clarinet (plus bass), based in Toronto where he is artistic director of AIMToronto Orchestra. Has a handful of albums since 2008, including one of duets with Anthony Braxton. Quartet adds a contrasting horn -- Steve Ward's trombone -- plus bass (Tomas Bouda) and drums (Mark Segger). Likes to roll up repeated rhythmic figures, but he can just as well bust loose and run away with a solo. A-
Zach Brock: Almost Never Was (2012, Criss Cross): Violinist, b. 1974, has several previous albums (although AMG doesn't seem to know about them). Quartet with piano (Aaron Goldberg), bass (Matt Penman), drums (Eric Harland), an impeccable postbop group, on three originals, six covers -- including Monk, Henderson, and a not-very-energetic Hendrix. B+(*)
Jeff Coffin & the Mu'tet: Into the Air (2012, Ear Up): Saxophonist, has more than eight albums since 1997, but may be better (at least more widely) known as a side man to Béla Fleck and Dave Matthews. Formed his Mu'tet in 2001, and this is their fourth album -- first I've heard, not that his mild-mannered funk is especially memorable. With Bill Fanning on trumpet, and an electric bassist named Felix Pastorius. B
Avishai Cohen: Triveni II (2009 , Anzic): Trumpet player, from Israel, brother of Anat Cohen, has more than seven records since 2002 (AMG's count, missing at least two Third World Love albums). "Triveni" is Sanskrit for three rivers meeting, hence his trio, with Omer Avital on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums. The format puts the trumpet up front, and he sounds terrific. His songs are less imposing, with three (of four) originals up front, the six covers including two from Ornette, one from Don Cherry, one from Mingus, and the odd juxtaposition of "Willow Weep for Me" and "Woody n' You." B+(**)
Coat Cooke/Rainer Wiens: High Wire (2011 , Now Orchestra): Cooke is a saxophonist, based in Vancouver, Canada; he founded NOW Orchestra in 1987, which continues as one of the world's premier avant-big bands -- their recordings seem to be limited to when guests arrive (Barry Guy in 1994, George Lewis in 2001, Marilyn Crispell in 2005). Cooke has a trio album, and two new duos. Wiens plays guitar and thumb piano, a bit ambient, but that draws out the scratchy sax. B+(***)
Coat Cooke/Joe Poole: Conversations (2011 , Now Orchestra): Another duo, pitting Vancouver saxophonist Cooke with drummer Poole, a slightly more conventional match up than the one with Cooke and Rainer Wiens (guitar, thumb piano), losing just a tad on variety and surprise, but louder. B+(***)
Roger Davidson Trio: We Remember Helen (2011 , Soundbrush): Pianist, has specialized in Latin (especially Brazilian) music since 2000, although you would never guess that from this mainstream trio record, supported by David Finck on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. "Helen" is Helen Keane, a jazz producer and manager who died in 1996, and who had been a critical supporter of Davidson at least since 1987. Keane introduced Davidson to Finck for a record they cut in 1991. Not clear what Nash's connection to Keane is, but he's peerless as a mainstream drummer -- who wouldn't want to work with him? B+(***)
Ingebrigt Haker Flaten New York Quartet: Now Is (2011 , Clean Feed): Norwegian bassist, doesn't have a lot under his own name but I've probably heard him on 50 albums, to no small extent because he's managed to collect most of them on Bandcamp. Main groups are Atomic and The Thing, plus various Vandermark projects, and lots more. With Joe McPhee (tenor sax), Nate Wooley (trumpet), and Joe Morris (guitar). All joint credits, but without a drummer the scratchy makeshift music seems to well up from the bass, gain volume through the guitar, and richochet off the horns. B+(***)
Letizia Gambi: Introducing Letizia Gambi (2012, Jando Music): Singer, from Naples, Italy; first album. Attracted the interest of drummer Lenny White, who co-wrote several songs with her, and rounded up a roster of famous names who chip in for a track or more, not that you'd notice or care -- front cover touts Gato Barbieri, Ron Carter, Chick Corea, Gil Goldstein, Wallace Roney, Patrice Rushen, and White. Covers include Italian favorites, Prince, Björk, opera, damn near anything theatrical. C+
Joe Gilman: Relativity (2010 , Capri): Pianist, b. 1962, eighth album since 1991, a classic quintet with trumpet (Nick Freney) and tenor sax (Chad Lefkowitz-Brown), although it's more postbop than hard -- thick and lush and a bit tricky. B+(*)
Hardcoretet: Do It Live (2010 , Tables and Chairs): Self-released in 2011, picked up for a reissue; second album. Seattle quartet, members listed alphabetically: Tarik Abouzied (drums), Art Brown (alto sax), Tim Carey (electric bass), Aaron Otheim (keyb); five tracks, all contribute, two from the drummer. The sax has some charm, but the electric instruments are stuck in soft-edged fusion. Docked a notch for the misleading name. B-
Ig Henneman Sextet: Live @ the Ironworks Vancouver (2012, Wig): Viola player, from the Netherlands; AMG credits her with eight albums, plus she played on at least the latest Queen Mab album. Her sextet expands upon Queen Mab (Marilyn Lerner on piano, Lori Freedman on clarinet/bass clarinet), adding Ab Baars (tenor sax, clarinet, shakuhachi), Axel Dörner (trumpet), and Wilbert De Joode (bass). With no drummer, this tends to wander, the clash of strings and horns somewhat random. B+(**)
Fred Hess Big Band: Speak (2012, Alison): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1944 in Pennsylvania, moved to Colorado in 1981, where he has played a major role above and beyond his own work -- sixteen albums under his own name, plus some other groups. Third Big Band album, with ringers John Fedchock and Matt Wilson cited on the cover. Hess wrote 5 (of 6) pieces, and is probably the saxophonist who first breaks out of big band orthodoxy and gets this cooking. B+(***)
Benedikt Jahnel Trio: Equilibrium (2011 , ECM): Pianist, b. 1980 near Munich, Germany. Third album, first for ECM, a piano trio with Antonio Miguel on bass and Owen Howard on drums. Has a nice rhythmic roll, toned down, of course. B+(**)
Dave King: I've Been Ringing You (2012, Sunnyside): Drummer, plays in Happy Apple and the Bad Plus; third album under his own name, a piano trio with Bill Carrothers and Billy Peterson, seven standards, one joint credit. Fine pianist, but very quiet, you hardly ever notice that there is a drummer, much less King. B+(*)
Chris Lawhorn: Fugazi Edits (2012, Case/Martingale): As best I can tell, Lawhorn is a DJ, runs a blog aimed at selecting workout songs, not sure what else. Twenty-two cuts, each composed from instrumental fragments of several songs by the 1987-2002 hardcore band Fugazi. I didn't enjoy the group's well-regarded first album, and never gave them another chance, but the dense guitar offers a nice fusion crunch here. [Bandcamp] B+(***)
Vincent Lyn: Wing Sing (2012, Budo): Kung fu fighter, at least in the movies, turned pop jazz keyboardist. His acoustic piano is respectable enough, the electric a bit chintzy. Michelle Bradshaw sings two songs, adding substance, and fluffs a bit on "Walk On By," which we'll generously consider a joke. B
Cristina Morrison: I Love (2012, Baronesa): Singer, actress, originally from Florida but also lived in Quito and Rome. First album, wrote lyrics on six (of nine) songs, the music by alto saxophonist Christian Hidrobo, favoring Latin percussion (Sammy Torres), looking as much to Gregoire Maret's harmonica for soaring breaks as to the saxes (Hidrobo and Alex Harding). The three covers are especially striking. B+(***)
Kat Parra: Las Aventuras de ˇPasión! (2012, JazzMa): Singer, b. 1962, based in San Francisco, fourth album, all more or less Latin-themed, with a special interest in Sephardic styles. Starts upbeat, turning "Iko Iko" into a bomba, but tails off, especially when she brings out the strings. B-
Dave Phillips & Freedance: Confluence (2011 , Innova): Bassist, son of legendary bassist Barre Phillips; fourth album since 2000, all with Freedance either as group name or part of the title -- the lineups change, but "Freedance" is easier to search on than "Dave Phillips" -- I looked through about 30 of the latter at AMG. Current lineup: John O'Gallagher (alto sax), Rez Abbasi (guitar), Jon Werking (piano), Tony Moreno (drums), Glen Fitten (percussion). All Phillips originals, steady flow with complex postbop harmonies, few rough edges. B+(**)
Eric Revis 11:11: Parallax (2012, Clean Feed): Bassist, b. 1967, two previous records (2004, 2009), several dozen side credits, ranging from Branford Marsalis to Avram Fefer. Dream quartet here with Ken Vandermark (tenor sax, clarinet), Jason Moran (piano), and Nasheet Waits (drums). Half Revis originals, two group improvs, one Vandermark tune, one each from Fats Waller and Jelly Roll Morton, all of interest, perhaps not adding up to more than the sum of the parts but brilliant musicians like these manage to hold their own. A-
Carol Saboya: Belezas (2012, AAM): Singer, from Brazil, daughter of pianist-composer Antonio Adolfo (on piano here, the songs focusing on Ivan Lins and Milton Nascimento). Has close to a dozen albums since 1997, many looking back to the music of her father's generation (Bossa Nova, Nova Bossa, Bossa Nova Forever). Nice guitar (Claudi Spiewak), and guests spots by Dave Liebman and Hendrik Meurkens brighten it up. B+(*)
Tessa Souter: Beyond the Blue (2011 , Motéma): Singer, b. 1956 in England, based in New York; fourth album since 2004. Has a torch singer's voice, lots of emotion. For this album she raided her classical archives for melodies -- Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Chopin, Debussy, Ravel, Borodin, Fauré, Albinoni, Rodrigo -- adding her lyrics to make songs that don't come close to triggering my classical gag reflex. One big help there is a band that could hardly be improved on: Steve Kuhn, David Finck, Billy Drummond, Joe Locke, Gary Versace (accordion), and Joel Frahm -- especially the latter, whose saxophones make for every singer's nonpareil duet partner. B+(***)
Tim Sparks: The Nutcracker Suite (1993 , Tonewood): Guitarist, has ten or so albums, most solo, most rooted in Eastern European music. This looks like a reissue of his first, which I've seen dated 1992, 1993, or 1995 -- back cover mentions 1993 as the date he won the National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship playing Tchaikovsky's famous suite. It fills the first half of this album, familiar even to someone who swore allegiance to Chuck Berry back in the 1950s. Second half is Sparks' "Balkan Dreams Suite," arranged from Greek, Albanian, and Romanian folk songs. B+(*)
Mikolaj Trzaska/Olie Brice/Mark Sanders: Riverloam Trio (2011 , NoBusiness): Sax-bass-drums trio. Trzaska, b. 1966 in Poland, plays alto sax and bass clarinet; has a large pile of albums since 1992, including jousts with Joe McPhee and Peter Brötzmann, with guitarist Noël Akchoté, and trios with the Oles Brothers. This was released as 2-LP vinyl, limited 300 copies. Free jazz -- breaks little new ground, but no doubt Trzaska can play in this league. B+(**) [advance]
Allison Wedding: This Dance (2012, GroundUp Music): Singer-songwriter, b. 1972, grew up in Dallas and studied at UNT; went west, to Los Angeles, then Melbourne in 2001 and back to New York in 2007; has several previous albums, released in Australia. Produced by bassist-guitarist-Snarky Puppy leader Michael League, Wedding's soprano voice is surrounded by strings (including Zach Brock), which often enough provide just enough support to let the songs work -- "Carry On" is one that soars -- not that I wouldn't mind hearing more of Chris Potter, who guests on one track. [Bandcamp] B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
The author does not allow comments to this entry