Monday, October 14. 2013
Music: Current count 22187  rated (+42), 579  unrated (-0).
Wrapped up that Recycled Goods '60s special. Tom Lane wrote in to take exception to my (implicit) dis of Three Dog Night and Fifth Dimension -- "Good singles acts, I'd say" -- so, recalling that my brother was a fan once and that I could recall some singles I sorta liked, I went on to work as far through the former as I could stand. None of the albums hold up very well, but more surprisingly few of the 17 top-20 singles they scored 1968-74 are things you'd ever want to hear again. (Anyone else in that period comparable? Chicago? John Denver? Too early for Journey.) One thing that helped them then and not now was their knack for blowing up singer-songwriters that were too sketchy for AM: listeners today are more likely to hear Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson than Three Dog Night, some of us even know Thomas Jefferson Kaye better, and I found myself wanting to play some of those old Hoyt Axton albums my first wife loved so much. Fuller report next time. Fifth Dimension remains a SFFR: my vague recollection/expectation is that the singles are better but the albums are worse, but we'll see.
Meanwhile, some Jazz Prospecting. The breakout records this week are avant, with Darius Jones and Rodrigo Amado doing most of the squawking but the controls are held by bassist Adam Lane and guitarist Luis Lopes -- two musicians who have regularly impressed me. The Lopes album is a good deal rougher, but also peaks higher. I should have written up a second album by Lopes here, but he sent me an LP and I've been to lazy to put it on. I have several other pieces of vinyl pending, including a huge, lovely box of 1960s New York Art Quartet sessions that cost someone a small fortune. Presumably the turntable still works, but it's been so long I may have forgot how to run it.
Windows computer glitch is temporarily fixed, so I'm back on Rhapsody again, and way behind the curve for recent releases, so I may lean that direction instead of Jazz Prospecting the next week or so, especially as I don't seem to be that far behind my jazz backlog. Also, I am working on the promised post-Christgau piece -- it's just coming slow as it tumbles gently in my mind.
Dave Askren/Jeff Benedict: It's All About the Groove (2013, DaWay Music): Guitar and alto sax, leading a quartet with John Belzaguy on bass and Ramon Banda on drums. Askren has three previous albums, starting with a guitar trio take on Bill Evans. Benedict has two previous albums. Forget the title's suggestion of pop jazz. This is mainstream, maybe even a little retro-swing, so yes there's a groove, just not standard groove music. Reminds me more than a little of the group Dave Stryker and Steve Slagle ran, and those are pleasant memories. B+(**)
Jim Beard: Show of Hands (2012 , Sunnyside): Pianist, b. 1960 in Philadelphia, sixth album since 1990, side credits with Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin, David Liebman, Mike Stern, Peter Erskine, Michael Brecker. Solo, 12 originals (several named after Haiku), 8 covers including "But Beautiful" and "Honeysuckle Rose." B+(*)
Wilford Brimley With the Jeff Hamilton Trio (2012 , Capri): Veteran character acter specializing on old West coots, b. 1934 in Salt Lake City, got into movies as a stunt man, had a recurring role in The Waltons, and has appeared in dozens of movies, most often in in roles "Sheriff" or "Grandpa." Cut a record in 1990 called I'm Old Fashioned, and another recently with Riders in the Sky, Home on the Range. This one is with a drummer-led piano trio -- Tamir Handelman is the pianist -- songbook standards with no country/western identity. Neither slick nor deep, but he's nimbler than you'd expect, even on a too-slow ballad like "This Love of Mine." B+(*)
John Escreet: Sabotage and Celebration (2012 , Whirlwind): Pianist, fifth album since 2009, seems to be an exceptional player and ambitious composer. This is a stellar quintet -- David Binney and Chris Potter on saxes, Matt Brewer on bass, Jim Black on drums -- plus guests plus, at least part of the time, a string section and/or a brass section. Starts off with a really dreadful string intro, and the strings never get better, but when they lay out the group is every bit the powerhouse you imagine. B+(*) [October 15]
Brian Haas/Matt Chamberlain: Frames (2013, Royal Potato): Piano and drums, respectively. Third album under Haas' name, most of his work having appeared as the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. Chamberlain has done a lot of (mostly rock) session work since Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians in 1990, including some things that lap over into jazz, like Bill Frisell's Floratone group. Repeating patterns, improvisations in riddim. B+(*) [October 15]
Mike Jones Trio: Plays Well With Others (2012 , Capri): Pianist, b. 1962, sixth album since 1993, trio with Mike Gurrola on bass and Jeff Hamilton on drums. Two originals, rest standards with "Besame Mucho" leading off and "Corcovado" midway, the rest songbook fare like "It's a Wonderful World" and "I'm Old Fashioned." Doesn't push any boundaries, but all rather delightful. B+(**)
Adam Lane Trio: Absolute Horizon (2010 , NoBusiness): Bassist, justly known for his compositions but decided to wing it here with a full set of spontaneous improv. Trio includes Darius Jones on alto sax and Vijay Anderson on drums. Jones is an imposing player in his own right -- still disappointed that AUM Fidelity stopped sending me new records, especially Jones' latest -- and does a nice job of threading the rhythm here. Seems too easy, but that's what talent does. A-
Mary LaRose: Reincarnation (2011 , Little(i) Music): Singer, based in Brooklyn, fifth album since 1995, one on avant label CIMP with Steve Swell, Jeff Lederer, and Dominic Duval. Lederer (clarinet, tenor sax) appears on three cuts here, with Kirk Knuffke (cornet) on three more, but the band is dominated by strings (2 violin, viola, cello, bass) for an arch chamber feel. Mostly jazz pieces by Coleman, Mingus, Dolphy, or Ayler with lyrics by LaRose -- the odd song out is Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." B+(*)
Jeff Lederer: Jeff Lederer's Swing n' Dix (2012 , Little(i) Music): Saxophonist (tenor, alto, plays some clarinet too), second album, side credits mostly with Ted Kooshian and Matt Wilson. Wilson is drummer here, with old-fashioned brass -- Kirk Knuffke on cornet and the redoubtable Bob Stewart on tuba. Starts with "Honeysuckle Rose," includes pieces by Duke Pearson and Pee Wee Russell, also a trad Shaker hymn, plus originals by Lederer, Knuffke, and Wilson. Mary LaRose sings the Shaker hymn, and the group semi-sings the closing title piece. But all through it's the tuba that keeps this moving. B+(***)
Luis Lopes/Humanization 4tet: Live in Madison (2011 , Ayler): Guitarist, from Portugal, has several albums with this quartet, mixing it up with tenor saxophonist Rodrigo Amado, backed by Texan brothers Aaron and Stefan González. Leads off with Arthur Blythe's "Bush Baby" where the see-saw leads are especially infectious. Rest are originals, three from Lopes, one from Amado, and a roughhousing blues from Aaron G. A-
Bill Mays Inventions Trio: Life's a Movie (2012 , Chiaroscuro): Pianist, b. 1944, AMG lists 18 albums since 1982; he has dabbled in classical, and done a lot of LA studio work. Trio adds Marvin Stamm on trumpet and Alisa Horn on cello, a small group that covers a lot of instrumental range without much harmonic depth. Starts with a "Homage to Bill Evans" and ends with a "Monk Tribute." In between there's a 4-part Mays original, "Life's a Movie: 4 Cues in Search of a Film," and short takes of "Concierto de Aranjuez" and Chick Corea's "Spain." B
Mike McGinnis: Ängsudden Song Cycle (2012 , 482 Music): Clarinet/bass clarinet player, two new albums out, a previous one from 2000 as well as membership in the Four Bags (four albums 1999-2012). This project started out as a set of paintings and poems in Tagalog by visual artist MuKha. They were translated into Swedish and English, and are sung here by Kyoko Kitamura to McGinnis' music, arranged for clarinet, bassoon, cavaquiño, guitar (Sean Moran), viola (Jason Kao Hwang), bass, and percussion (Harris Eisenstadt). Slow, abstract, arty, interesting. B+(**)
Carol Morgan: Retroactive (2012 , Blue Bamboo Music): Trumpet player, fifth album, mostly with guitar-bass-drums, Rhodes added on three cuts. The guitar, split between Chris Cortez and Mike Stern, is often striking. Four Morgan originals, plus one by Cortez, and give covers, ranging from "Jitterbug Waltz" to "Tea for Two" to "When the Levee Breaks -- the former especially enchanting. B+(**)
Chris Parker: The Chris Parker Trio (2013, GPR): Drummer-led piano trio, with Kyoko Oyobe on piano and Ameen Saleem on bass. Parker has at least one previous album under his own name, a group called Toph-e & the Pussycats, plus many side credits going back to 1969 (Earl Hooker), more with rock singer-songwriters (Don McLean, Bonnie Raitt, Todd Rundgren, Phoebe Snow, Lou Rawls, Sinead O'Connor, Loudon Wainwright III, Natalie Cole) than in jazz contexts. Oyobe has a previous album, Cookin' at Smalls. She contributes two songs here, Parker three, plus six scattered covers. B+(**)
RED Trio: Rebento (2012 , NoBusiness): Piano trio from Portugal: Rodrigo Pinheiro (piano), Hernani Faustino (bass), and Gabriel Ferrandini (drums). Their eponymous debut (on Clean Feed) was one of the most exciting piano trios of 2010, and they've since recorded albums with John Butcher and Nate Wooley. Here they're back to trio form on an LP/download deal. First side is sharp as ever, but the slower second is harder to hear. B+(*) [CDR]
Swing Fever Presents Clark Terry/Buddy DeFranco/Terry Gibbs and Guest Vocalist Jackie Ryan: Grand Masters of Jazz (1998-2001 , Open Art, CD+2DVD): Swing Fever is a band led by trombonist Bryan Gould, usually five horns plus guitar, bass, and drums. Not sure if they have any albums on their own, but in the four concerts these cuts were selected from, they form the sturdy backup for guest stars Terry (trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals), DeFranco (clarinet), Gibbs (vibes), and Ryan (vocals). This comes from four sessions, two with Terry, one each with DeFranco and Gibbs -- Ryan appears in all four. The DVDs add some patter like Gibbs' story about Benny Goodman not being able to memorize any names, and it's worth watching Clark Terry work off a lyric sheet in his "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone" duet with Ryan. The audio CD hits the highlights -- about half vocal pieces -- with brief intros. The Gibbs set appears to be the same on both DVDs. B+(***) [October 15]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
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I grew up on AM Top 40 radio from the late 60's/70's so I have a fondness for acts like Three Dog Night, Carpenters, etc. And also 70's Chicago (Bread as well). John Denver's singles sound okay whenever I still hear them on Sirius. So, I stand by my appreciation of TDN and 5th Dimension's hits. But all of the above names released sketchy albums during their heyday. Thus, singles compilations are the way to go with them.
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