Monday, January 15. 2007
A recovery week, getting back to work. I started with easy stuff -- items from the ancient unrated pile and a few library borrowings, then went to the Recycled Goods backlog and started working my way through the low-lying fruit, especially the rotten stuff that can be disposed of in a single play. (Thanks to Randy Haecker, who may have done this on purpose, all 13 of the bottom rated reissues on my 2006 list came from just two artists: Barry Manilow and Journey -- or three if you insist on breaking out count two Steve Perry solo joints. Actually, the next dozen lowest-rated reissues came out on Legacy as well, but by then you're getting into more varied acts -- Boston, Nina Simone, Julio Iglesias, Rick Springfield.) Only got to the jazz pile at the end of the week, so I don't have much to show here. But my week's rated count came to an exceptionally high 36, so I guess I'm back in business. Quite a bit of new jazz in the queue, especially 2007 items I've been holding back on. Quite a bit on the replay shelf too.
Revenge of Blind Joe Death: The John Fahey Tribute Album (2006, Takoma): The various artists here hew so closely to Fahey's guitar style that this tribute not only flows smoothly, it comes close to converging into a single mind -- compensation, for sure, for the fact that Fahey is no longer with us. One cut that stands out is Henry Kaiser and John Schott on "Steamboat Gwine 'Round the Bend/How Green Was My Valley," where they amplify Fahey's tone and double it up. B+(**)
Eli Degibri: Emotionally Available (2005 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Israeli tenor saxophonist, "with Bulgarian and Persian roots," as his fancy website puts it, in a quartet with New Yorkers Aaron Goldberg, Ben Street, and Jeff Ballard. This has some good spots, particularly the cut with guest Ze Mauricio on pandeiro, although that's mostly because the sax perks up there. But more often his tone is a bit dull, and his play indistinct. B
Mikkel Ploug Group (2006, Fresh Sound New Talent): Guitarist, don't know anything more about him. Went to his website, which responded: "At present it's not possible to view the text in Firefox. Sorry for the inconvenience." Fuck you, too. Recorded at "Location Studios," wherever that is. The Group includes Jeppe Skovbakke on double bass and Sean Carpio on drums, whoever they are. The featured guest is Mark Turner, who they hardly need name given how clear and distinctive he sounds. (Cf. Eli Degibri, whose rating suffered in comparison.) Will write more when I've cooled off a bit. Seems like a good support guitarist behind a really good tenor saxophonist. [B+(**)]
Nicolas Masson: Yellow (A Little Orange) (2004 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Swiss, plays tenor sax and bass clarinet, recorded this in Geneva, but has lived in NYC, studying with Chris Potter and Rich Perry. Two horn quartets on the avant side tend to let the horns fly free; on the mainstream postbop side they tend to be shackled together, which is mostly the case here. The other horn here is Russ Johnson on trumpet. Looks promising on paper, but thus far it's only impressive in spots. [B]
Mel Davis: It's About Time! (2006 , TomTom): Davis plays Hammond B3, runs through a mess of shoogity boogity pieces, with guitar, drums, sometimes a little extra percussion and/or horns. Davis also sings four pieces, improving none of them. C+
Russell Malone: Live at Jazz Standard: Volume One (2005 , MaxJazz): A guitarist, Malone has always struck me as a very straightlaced Wes Montgomery acolyte -- a style I've never much cared for, although I can point to exceptions in Montgomery's own catalog. This is lightweight, but as likeable as I've ever heard him, mostly fast groove pieces from his own pen, plus a slow, pretty one by Milt Jackson. Pianist Martin Bejerano can hold a solo too. [B+(**)]
Nancy King: Live at Jazz Standard With Fred Hersch (2004 , MaxJazz): This won the Voice Critics' jazz poll as best vocal album of 2006, so I figured I should check it out. Vocal jazz is many things, and this is one of them: a standards singer with a lone pianist for support. Hersch is in pure support mode here -- if he takes a single solo it slipped past me. His patterns have little interest in themselves; they merely serve as foils for King. She too keeps this low key: it took a while before I noticed her subtleties rising to the surface -- the emergence of "Day by Day," the details to "Everything Happens to Me," little bits of inconspicuous scat. Didn't have this when the poll closed, not that it would have made any difference to me. It's the sort of thing that could slowly grow on you, but Diana Krall blew me away from the start, as did Maurice Hines, and there's maybe a dozen more jazz vocal albums higher on my 2006 list. But that's just my take: of the many things comprising vocal jazz, each has its own distinct appeal, defying easy comparison. B+(*)
And these are final grades/notes on records I put back for further listening the first time around.
Sonic Liberation Front: Change Over Time (2006, High Two): Kevin Diehl's Afro-Cuban percussion continues to amaze, especially when Dan Scofield's avant-rooted sax skips and skids over the complex beats. If this fails to live up to the previous one, Ashé a Go-Go, it's because the two vocal pieces are more mojo than magic. A-
Hat: Hi Ha (2005 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Sergi Sirvent is an up and coming Spanish jazz pianist with a handful of impressive records over the last few years. Here he adds guitarist Jordi Matas to his trio and finds the perfect balance. At first it sounds like a mistake when he tries to sing one, but even that he puts over on pure emotion. A-