Monday, April 28. 2008
Late breaking news today is that the Village Voice has postponed my Jazz Consumer Guide another week. It had been scheduled for this week, but I hear that the section got space squeezed at the last minute. So I've been promised the May 6 issue.
Prospecting is short this week. I had to pack and drive to Detroit, where I will be away from my normal working environment for the next week or two. Very awkward place to work, with many distractions, so I don't expect I'll have much to show for it. One added strangeness is that I'm breaking in a new laptop. Some nice things to it, best being Ubuntu Linux pre-loaded with drivers that make everything work. Keyboard is awful. Bought a small USB mouse, which works but I don't like the unsmooth wheel. External USB disk drive plugged right in and worked, too. Haven't tried the wireless yet -- will be a first for me, but I expect it to work too.
Meanwhile, here's the prospecting I got done before I took off. Don't know whether I'll do more next week. I brought 200 CDs with me -- about 65-70% unrated jazz, so in theory I could work on them, but I didn't bring the packages or paperwork, so it may be hard, and I'm likely to have other distractions. Playing a new CD now, but I've already forgotten what it is. Not very good, sorry to say. (Oh, yeah, new Bobby Watson, on Palmetto. Let's try the new Fieldwork, on Pi. There, that's better.)
Mail's being held, so I'll catch up with it when I get back to Cowtown.
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey: Lil' Tae Rides Again (2007 , Hyena): Tulsa group, mainstays are keyb player Brian Haas and bassist Reed Mathis, with newcomer Josh Raymer taking over the drums slot. Not sure what producer Tae Meyulks actually did, but there are various electronics undercurrents, and that seems to be his bag. Minor groove pieces, various ambiences, nothing dislikable or compelling. B+(*)
JD Allen Trio: I Am I Am (2008, Sunnyside): Proof that my eyes are shot to shit, although I could try blaming the typography, which at worst is illegible and even at large sizes sows confusion. But it doesn't reflect well on my brain either. Since I got this I had it filed under unknown Jo Allen. Finally it dawned on me that we're talking J.D. Allen. I should have realized that immediately, or no later than when I played the record. Allen's a tenor saxophonist, from Detroit, b. 1972 (AMG sez 1974), broke in with Betty Carter, won some prizes for his 1996 debut, and has stood out everywhere he's played since then. This is basic sax trio, riding on the leader's tone and dynamics, which are classic. Hype sheet starts by comparing him with Joe Henderson. That's a good start, although I wouldn't go on to call him "the Tenor of our Time." But it was stupid on my part to have forgotten about him. B+(***)
Claudio Roditi: Impressions (2006 , Sunnyside): Trumpet player, from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, b. 1946, moved to US in 1970 to study at Berklee, on to New York in 1976. I tend to think of him as a dependable sideman, but he has about 20 albums under his own name, starting from 1984. Leans toward hard bop -- one of his best regarded albums is a Lee Morgan tribute. Cut this in Rio with a local band I don't recognize: Idriss Boudrioua on alto and soprano sax, Dario Galante on piano, Sergio Barroso on bass, Pascoal Mereilles on drums. The rhythm sways to the local beat, but the program is straight out of jazz mainstream, including four Coltrane tunes. B+(*)
John McNeil/Bill McHenry: Rediscovery (2007 , Sunnyside): McNeil is a veteran trumpet player; McHenry a relatively young tenor saxophonist. Both mainline boppers, McNeil particularly keyed to west coast cool. The rediscoveries are mostly bop era pieces, 1940s-1950s, including George Wallington, Wilbur Harden, Russ Freeman, and Gerry Mulligan. Each contributes an original, McNeil to open, McHenry to close. B+(**) [May 6]
The Harry Allen-Joe Cohn Quartet: Stompin' the Blues (2007 , Arbors): Allen is one of my favorite tenor saxophonists, and his collaboration with guitarist Cohn (Al Cohn's son) continues to be fruitful. The medley of "It Might as Well Be Spring" and "Spring Is Here" is especially delightful. Still, this record doesn't quite deliver on its promise. One problem is that "special guest" Scott Hamilton, who pretty much invented the "young fogey" genre, never seems to mesh well with Allen: the two distinctive tones don't fit together nicely, and when they trade lines Allen may be too deferential. Hamilton only appears on three cuts here, but seems to influence more. Or maybe it's a weakness in Allen's originals (4 of 10, more than usual), including the title cut, which doesn't stomp nearly hard enough. On the other hand, the other "special guest" is a solid contributor throughout: trombonist John Allred. B+(**)
Moss (2008, Sunnyside): Eponymous group album, the group consisting of five vocalists: Theo Bleckmann, Peter Eldridge, Lauren Kinhan, Kate McGarry, and Luciana Souza. Ben Wittman produced, plays drums and some keyboards. Other musicians include Keith Ganz and Ben Monder on guitar, Tim Lefebvre on bass, and Eldridge on piano. Kinhan is best known from New York Voices. The rest have solo catalogs that have never appealed to me, with the exception of Bleckmann, whose sweet, angelic timbre has on occasion been put to interesting ends (cf. Las Vegas Rhapsody: The Night They Invented Champagne). As long as Bleckmann reigns here the layering is oddly intriguing, and at least the Neil Young and Joni Mitchell songs hold up to the treatment (the Mitchell less so). C+
Tom McDermott and Connie Jones: Creole Nocturne (2007 , Arbors): McDermott's an old timey pianist, b. 1957 in St. Louis, moved to New Orleans in 1984 and made himself at home. Scattered discography includes a 1981 New Rags on Stomp Off; 1995 Tom McDermott and His Jazz Hellions on Jazzology; a a flurry of releases c. 2003 on STR Digital including a foray into Brazilian called Choro do Norte and one on Latin New Orleans called Danza, with Evan Christopher. Jones is an older cornet player. Don't know much about him, but there's a photo here of him on stage with Jack Teagarden and Don Ewell in 1964, and he shows up later with McDermott's Jazz Hellions and the Crescent City Jazz Band. Jones sings two songs with a gravelly voice -- a McDermott original called "I Don't Want Nuthin' for Christmas" is charmingly modest. Title cut is Creolized Chopin. Closer is "King Porter Stomp." Sparse, as duets tend to be -- bass and drums would fill out the sound and move things along. B+(*)
Shot x Shot: Let Nature Square (2007 , High Two): Trivia: type "shot x shot" into google and it returns: 1 shot x shot = 1.96783571 × 10-9 m6. No idea what that means, but typographically the 'x' in the group name is a multiplication sign, so I figure they're somehow related. Philadelphia group: two saxes (Bryan Rogers on tenor, Dan Scofield on alto), bass (Matt Engle), and drums (Dan Capecchi). Almost everyone writes (Rogers missed out this time). Second album. Free jazz, rocks abstractly. The two saxes don't diverge as much as similar sax/trumpet groups, which may be why their stuff blurs a bit. Two good solid albums. Someday a great one? B+(***)
Alex Graham: Brand New (2007 , Origin): Alto saxophonist, based in Michigan (Music Director at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in the summer, Royal Oak in winter). Sixth album since 1995, a sextet with Jim Rotondi (trumpet), Steve Davis (trombone), David Hazeltine (piano), Rodney Whitaker (bass), Carl Allen (drums), all well known names. Songs include standards, originals, pop tunes from the Stylistics and Isleys. The pieces vary in interest quite a bit. The postbop harmony is something of a turnoff. B
Dawn Clement: Break (2007 , Origin): Pianist, from Seattle, sings some, somewhat awkwardly, but can be effective. Has a previous album, Hush, and appears on albums with Julian Priester and Jane Ira Bloom. Trio with Dean Johnson on bass and Matt Wilson on drums. I'm unconvinced one way or another about the piano, which strikes me as serious but studiously mainstream. Johnson and Wilson offer dependable support. B+(*)
And these are final grades/notes on records I put back for further listening the first time around.
Bob Belden: Miles . . . From India (2007 , Times Square/4Q, 2CD): Got the final packaging, which is a nice double fold-out thing with a 16-page booklet tucked away. No artist name on spine, but front cover says "Produced by Bob Belden" below the title and "A Celebration of the Music of Miles Davis" above. Concept is to round up a bunch of Davis veterans, mostly from the 1970s (although Jimmy Cobb and Ron Carter go back further), mix in a bunch of Indian musicians (American alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa is a plausible ringer; Badal Roy and U. Srinivas are among the better known natives). Of course, they needed a trumpet also, hence Wallace Roney. Although the band is touring, the record itself was pieced together in multiple sessions with various combinations. One notable exception is John McLaughlin, who only appears on one cut, the title track, the only one not from Davis. A mix of good and bad but mostly obvious ideas -- I could have done without the chants which hold it too close to India. Miles always preferred to move on. B+(**)
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